[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., CALIF., ALA., USA, KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 29 20:42:10 CST 2004
Appeal Filed to Stay Banks Execution
There's a last minute battle to keep mass murderer George Banks alive.
After more than two decades, the execution date is only days away. A judge
in Luzerne County refused Monday to change Banks' date for execution. He's
scheduled to die Thursday for killing 13 people in 1982. Some were his own
His attorneys went to court Monday in the 1st of many expected attempts
this week to save his life. 21 years after a jury convicted Banks in the
Luzerne County courthouse and sentenced him to death, his case was back
there again. His lawyers are asking county, state and federal judges to
spare him. The courthouse was the 1st stop.
It was a case that shocked Luzerne County and drew national attention.
Banks killed 9 people in Wilkes-Barre and 4 in Jenkins Township. Most were
his children and their mothers. Since his conviction the case has been
tied up in appeals.
"I think my comments reflect those of the average person on the street who
looks at the criminal justice system and wants to see the will of juries
carried out," said Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas.
He was pleased when the U.S. Supreme Court put Banks back on death row
this summer. He's happy again now after the Luzerne County judge refused
to postpone Thursday's execution. "I think the public as well as the
victim's need for finality is crucial," Lupas added.
"From my perspective, recognizing how many people he's killed, I can tell
you, there's never been any attempt to delay this case," said Banks'
attorney Al Flora. He filed another appeal minutes after the judge ruled.
He's making the case that Banks is mentally incompetent and should be
"This man is mentally ill. He doesn't understand what's going on at this
point. To execute him at this point will be nothing short of being
barbaric," Flora added.
The defense attorneys will be back fighting in court again Tuesday
morning. They will appear before the state commonwealth court, again
making the case that Banks is mentally ill.
His execution is set forTthursday evening at S.C.I. Rockview near State
(source: WNEP News)
Calif. high court won't consider Peterson appeals
The California Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal by
convicted murderer Scott Peterson seeking a new jury and venue change for
the penalty phase of his trial.
The motions previously were denied by Peterson's trial judge and by the
state 1st District Court of Appeals.
Arguments begin Tuesday in the trial's penalty phase in which the same
jury will decide whether Peterson should get the death penalty or life in
prison without parole.
After 184 witnesses testified over 23 weeks, Peterson was convicted
November 12 of 1st-degree murder with special circumstances in the death
of his wife, Laci, and of 2nd-degree murder in the death of their unborn
Their bodies turned up on the shore of San Francisco Bay in April 2003,
almost four months after Laci Peterson, who was nearly 9 months pregnant,
disappeared from the couple's home in Modesto.
The case was moved from Modesto, where authorities believe the murders
occurred, to Redwood City after a judge concluded that an impartial jury
could not be seated in the couple's hometown.
Peterson's lead attorney, Mark Geragos, argued that the penalty phase
should be moved out of Redwood City because of what he claimed was the
community's animosity toward his client.
Geragos also said that the departure of two jurors during deliberations
had compromised the jury's ability to render a fair verdict.
The 1st District Court of Appeals rejected Geragos' emergency request last
Tuesday. The trial judge, Alfred Delucchi, denied the motion the day
Geragos said "massive media interest in and community fervor" about the
case had polluted the panel.
"That the jury was in fact influenced by such extrinsic factors was
demonstrated by the comments of Juror Number 5, before his dismissal ...
to the effect that 'given what's transpired' in the jury room, he feared
that his ability to weigh the evidence fairly and openly had been so
compromised 'that I would never know personally whether or not I was
giving the community's verdict, the popular verdict, the expected
verdict,' " according to court papers filed November 17.
In documents it filed opposing the defense requests, the prosecution
countered that when asked to explain his comments, the juror "completely
retracted his claim."
"What is of even more significance is that at the time the [juror] made
his statements in a repeated attempt to get off the case, the jury had not
yet taken a vote," the prosecution papers said.
During the second month of jury selection in Redwood City, Geragos
unsuccessfully sought to move the trial to Los Angeles, arguing that an
impartial jury could not be found in the San Francisco suburb about 70
miles from Modesto.
Justices refused to hear appeals of two Alabama death row inmates
The U-S Supreme Court today rejected appeals from 2 Alabama death row
inmates. Justices, without comment, refused to hear the case of death row
inmate Torrey Twane McNabb of Montgomery. He was sentenced to die for
gunning down Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon during a chase in
September 1997. Prosecutors said McNabb was attempting to flee from a bail
bondsman when Gordon was shot 5 times on a west Montgomery street.
In another case -- the high court also turned away the appeal of
52-year-old Gary Key of Anniston. He was convicted of capital murder and
sentenced to die in the August 1998 shooting death of his estranged wife
and wounding another woman, who has since recovered.
Both victims were shot inside a car at a residence in Anniston.
(source: Associated Press)
Rights groups call for 'scrutiny' of Gonzales - Coalition stops short of
Many of the nation's leading civil rights groups expressed "serious
concern" Monday with President Bush's nomination of White House Counsel
Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general, calling for "close scrutiny" by
But the coalition of more than two dozen groups -- including the NAACP,
ACLU and Amnesty International -- stopped short of opposing the
Gonzales is expected to face tough questions during his confirmation
hearings, particularly about a January 2002 draft memo he wrote.
The memo warned Bush administration officials that they could be held
accountable for "war crimes" if they did not agree with the conclusion of
Justice Department attorneys that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to
al Qaeda and Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In a joint letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch,
a Utah Republican, and ranking Democratic member Sen. Patrick Leahy of
Vermont, the organizations listed concerns about Gonzales' role in the
administration's policy on detention, interrogation and torture of
captured battlefield prisoners and terrorism suspects.
"Changes made as a result to long-established U.S. policy and practice
paved the way for the horrific torture at Abu Ghraib," the letter said,
referring to the Iraqi prison where physical and sexual abuse has led to
charges and convictions against several U.S. soldiers.
The human rights, civil liberties and labor leaders -- many of whom
actively supported Sen. John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bid --
issued their call under the umbrella organization Leadership Conference on
"We strongly urge that you engage in a searching and thorough review of
Mr. Gonzales' record, his positions, and his future plans for the Justice
Department," the letter said.
It also urged the committee to determine whether Gonzales will continue
the "troubling record of outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft."
Ashcroft has garnered criticism during his nearly four years as attorney
general over issues like the Patriot Act, which backers say helps the
government in its fight against terrorism and critics say infringes on
A former Texas Supreme Court justice and White House counsel since Bush
took office in January 2001, Gonzalez was nominated November 10.
"His sharp intellect and sound judgment have helped shape our policies in
the war on terror," Bush said at the time. "He has an unwavering principle
of respect for the law."
Among the organizations signing the letter was Human Rights Watch, which
had earlier issued a statement calling the nomination "a poor choice,"
based on Gonzales' January 2002 memo and his support of military tribunals
to try terror war detainees.
Missing from the list of signatories is the Center for Constitutional
Rights, which has issued a statement voicing "strong opposition" to the
nomination, for reasons similar to those of Human Rights Watch.
"I can assure you our position opposed to the nomination has not changed,"
said David Lerner, spokesman for the organization.
A senior Justice Department official, noting the letter's lack of outright
opposition to Gonzales, said the stance reflected a recognition of
"They obviously want the confirmation to be a bumpy ride, but these groups
are politically savvy enough to know that opposing a highly qualified
Latino nominee would not serve their interests," the official said.
Gonzales would be the first Hispanic to serve as attorney general.
'A more uniting figure'
After meeting with Gonzales on Capitol Hill earlier this month, Leahy told
reporters that the nominee was "a more uniting figure" than Ashcroft,
adding that Gonzales "has a far better chance of confirmation with
substantial votes from both sides of the aisle than a divisive candidate."
Leahy said he warned Gonzales the subject of the 2002 memo would be raised
extensively in the confirmation hearings and that he must respond to the
"I think it's important for his own credibility" and the credibility of
the Department of Justice, Leahy said.
Stay must be lifted for inmate's scheduled execution to proceed
Barring any last-minute court action, a state execution scheduled for
Tuesday night likely won't take place as planned.
Thomas Clyde Bowling was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7
p.m. CST Tuesday. However, two courts moved last week to at least
temporarily block the execution of Bowling's death sentence until pending
cases can be decided.
"Everyone that I know of who's concerned with this issue is assuming that
the execution is off, and we did get a notice from the prison that they've
stopped all preparations ...," Susan Balliet, one of Bowling's attorneys,
said Monday. "It's not happening tomorrow."
Bowling was convicted of the 1990 murders of Edward and Tina Earley, who
were shot to death outside the couple's Lexington dry-cleaning business.
Their then-2-year-old son was also shot but survived.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher set Bowling's execution date for Tuesday. However, the
Kentucky Supreme Court and a Franklin County Circuit Court judge last week
both moved to at least postpone Bowling's execution.
The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution, while the Franklin County
court issued a temporary injunction on Bowling's execution.
Kentucky's high court is considering a claim by Bowling's lawyers that he
should not face the death penalty because they believe he is mentally
retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is illegal to execute a
mentally retarded person.
The case in Franklin County Circuit Court questions whether Kentucky's
method of administering lethal injections is constitutional.
As of Monday night, the Kentucky attorney general's office had not
appealed either court's execution postponement, a spokeswoman for the
It would take late court action Tuesday for the execution to proceed as
Balliet said such court action was "very unlikely" to occur Tuesday. As of
late Monday, Balliet said she had not received any notices of appeals to
"The Kentucky Supreme Court said that it was staying the proceedings to
allow that court to decide the mental retardation appeal ...," Balliet
said. "I've never seen them decide a case of that magnitude in anything
less than six months."
The Supreme Court did not offer a timetable for making a decision.
Fletcher had an unplanned meeting on Sunday with Bowling's mother, Iva Lee
Bowling, during an anti-death penalty rally at the Capitol. Bowling's
mother told the governor her son was innocent and that he should "give
this a lot of consideration."
Fletcher said he appreciated and respected her concerns.
(source: Associated Press)
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