[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IOWA, GA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 1 10:11:43 CST 2005
Deadlocked Senate headed toward death penalty showdown
The deadlocked Iowa Senate appears headed for a showdown over one of the
most emotional issues lawmakers have faced this session - the question of
reinstating the death penalty.
Republican leaders insist they'll push for a vote on the issue, perhaps as
early as next week. Democratic leaders say they won't allow debate. And
with the Senate split at 25-to-25, the outcome is far from clear.
The debate has erupted in the wake of the abduction and slaying of a
10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl. A registered sex offender is charged with
The Legislature is moving forward with efforts to toughen sex abuse laws,
but some lawmakers also are talking about reviving the state's death
penalty, abolished in 1965, as part of the debate.
(source: Associated Press)
Lawmakers death penalty debate clouds sex offender restrictions
A debate over the death penalty may complicate attempts to boost
restrictions on sex offenders, as Iowa Senate Republicans said Thursday
that capital punishment must be part of the discussion, while Democrats
said such a demand is crass posturing.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said he would not
allow debate on the death penalty because both sides know there isnt
But Republican leaders, who share control of the Senate with Democrats,
said the issue deserves an airing after last weeks kidnapping and murder
of Jetseta Gage, 10, of Cedar Rapids. A convicted sex offender, Paul
Bentley, 37, has been charged in the crime.
"We don't need to wait a year to have a debate that the people of Iowa
want us to have today," said Senate Co-president Jeff Lamberti, R-Ankeny.
"So if Mike Gronstal wants to put a hold on that, then I guess he can talk
to, and answer to, the people of Iowa who want us to have this debate."
The Iowa House passed a bill Thursday inspired by the Cedar Rapids
tragedy, barring sex offenders from living near schools and day-care
centers and requiring them to be closely monitored after leaving prison.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said Monday that there wont
be a death penalty debate in his chamber this year because such a measure
probably wouldnt pass. While the House bill took shape in just a few days,
Senate leaders expect to take weeks, allowing time for testimony from
corrections and mental-health experts.
But senators spent Thursday morning exchanging potshots, with Democrats
accusing Republicans of exploiting the situation for partisan gain.
Sen. Larry McKibben, R-Marshalltown, started the fracas, speaking on the
Senate floor next to blown-up black-and-white photographs of the victim
and her alleged killer.
"Sometimes we all know that it takes tragedy, and sometimes we enlarge
tragedy, to cause us to act," he said.
McKibben said the death penalty should be allowed for people who commit
multiple felonies like kidnapping, rape or murder, otherwise there is an
incentive for criminals to kill witnesses.
A similar argument was made in previous unsuccessful pushes to legalize
the death penalty, most recently in 1997. At that time, Republicans
controlled both houses of the Legislature and had a pro-death penalty
governor, Republican Terry Branstad.
Gronstal said he doesnt want to have the debate all over again because the
death penalty has an even smaller chance of passing and likely would be
vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack. "We're not going to spend our time
on an issue we know is dead," Gronstal said.
Later Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee named a special panel to
study the House bill and look at ways to improve it.
(source: Quad Cities Times)
Town Shocked by Death Row Decision
People in a small Georgia town are trying to make sense of a decision to
allow a convicted killer off of death row. 15 years ago, the town of
Eastman, Ga., was shocked by the murder of a popular businessman.
Now, a Supreme Court decision says the killer cannot be put to death.
It is the kind of town where minor crimes still make headlines, where
murders are as frequent as presidential elections. It's a town where
people like Doug Coley aren't supposed to die the way he died.
"We had to break in and he was there, breathing his last breath," said
Doug Coley's father Buddy Coley.
Buddy Coley still lives right across the street from the grocery store he
used to own, where he and his son worked together. Now it's known as the
place where Doug Coley fell victim to the murder Eastman can't forget.
"It really hurt this town. This was a super nice family, had a great
business, it was just shocking that something like this could happen in
Eastman," said Eastman Police Chief Furman Wiggins.
On February 2nd, 1990, Doug Coley was working late. He was alone in the
store until he was joined by a killer. Coley was stabbed 38 times, his
throat cut, and robbed of his wallet and $500.
Just minutes after the murder police arrested 17-year-old Exzavious Lee
Gibson. He was found at his home, hiding in a closet. The victim's money
and wallet were found nearby. Gibson was charged with murder, tried,
convicted, and sentenced to death.
When they voted for the death penalty, jurors considered not only the
extreme brutality of the crime they also had the taped confession of
Exzavious Gibson. Just hours after the murder, Gibson had no problem
admitting to everything.
Gibson has been on Georgia's death row for the last 15 years. He just
turned 33, but because he was only 17 when he murdered Doug Coley the U.S.
Supreme Court has decided Gibson should not die.
The court points to the 'emotional imbalance' of young people, ruling that
killers under the age of 18 "cannot with reliability be classified among
the worst offenders."
"This is as brutal a crime as you will see committed anywhere by anybody
and I see no way to distinguish what he's done from what someone a month
older than him had done," said Dodge County District Attorney Tim Vaughn.
Gibson was 1 month and 29 days short of turning 18 at the time of the
murder. Had he been 18, he wouldn't be leaving death row.
Buddy Coley sold his store after the murder. 15 years later, Buddy can't
stand on his front porch without looking at the place where his son lost
his life to the kind of murder that's just not supposed to happen in a
town like Eastman.
(source: WXIA-TV news)
Court Bars Death Penalty For Youth Under Age 18
Supreme Court justices were guided in their decision by imaging data
presented by APA and others indicating that the brains of youth are less
capable of good judgment and impulse control than those of adults.
The Supreme Court agreed last month with arguments made by APA and others
that the juvenile death penalty is unconstitutional.
In Donald Roper v. Christopher Simmons, the court voted 5-4 to affirm the
2003 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court that the state's juvenile
death penalty law permitting the execution of individuals under the age of
18 violated the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against
cruel and unusual punishment.
APA, the AMA, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
were among those who applauded the Supreme Court decision. On the basis of
scientific research, they had argued in an amicus curiae brief that
adolescents' brains do not develop fully until adulthood and that
adolescents' maturity, judgment, and decision-making abilities are not the
same as those of adults (Psychiatric News, December 17, 2004).
"I'm pleased that the Court has recognized that executing juvenile
offenders is cruel and unusual," APA Trustee and child psychiatrist David
Fassler, M.D., told Psychiatric News. "The decision acknowledges the
growing body of research data demonstrating that the brains of adolescents
function in fundamentally different ways from the brains of adults.
Although many factors contributed to the Court's decision, I do believe
that the emerging scientific consensus played a significant role. I also
think it was important that a broad coalition of medical groups were able
to speak with a unified voice."
"The Supreme Court's decision confirms what we've known for some time:
executing juveniles is unjust and inhumane," said Michael Faenza,
president and CEO of the National Mental Health Association, in a press
release. "Youth are different from adults. They cannot - and now will not
- be held to the same standards of culpability."
The Court's ruling will spare the lives of Simmons and about 71 other
individuals in 19 states that had permitted the juvenile death penalty for
those aged 16 or 17, according to the Supreme Court opinion. The Court had
already banned execution of youth aged 15 or younger.
Simmons was convicted of brutally murdering a neighbor in St. Louis, Mo.,
in 1993, when he was 17, and was sentenced to die. After the conviction,
Simmons' new counsel alleged in appeals that Simmons had received
inadequate counsel and assistance at trial and that matters related to his
immaturity and impulsivity should have been established in the sentencing
proceeding. The trial court found no constitutional violation in the
assistance and counsel Simmons had received during his trial.
The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision in 2001.
Simmons' attorneys saw another opportunity to appeal his case as a result
of the U.S. Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia, decided in 2002. The
court held that execution of individuals with mental retardation is
prohibited. "Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light of
our `evolving standards of decency,' we therefore conclude that such
punishment [the death penalty] is excessive and that the Constitution
`places a substantive restriction on the State's power to take the life'
of a mentally retarded offender."
Simmons' attorneys appealed his case to the Missouri Supreme Court,
arguing that the reasoning used in Atkins should also apply to cases in
which a capital crime was committed when the murderer was under age 18.
The Missouri Supreme Court agreed and set aside Simmons' death sentence in
favor of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole. The court also
noted that a national consensus had developed against the execution of
juvenile offenders under 18 since the Supreme Court decided the case
Stanford v. Kentucky in 1989. That case was significant because it
affirmed that states could execute 16- and 17-year-olds.
APA's Committee on Juvenile Justice Issues praised the Supreme Court for
reversing its longstanding position on the juvenile death penalty last
month. "The committee has opposed the juvenile death penalty for several
years and engaged in efforts to raise public awareness about the
developmental differences between juveniles and adults," committee chair
William Arroyo, M.D., told Psychiatric News.
The APA committee also joined a coalition of national medical
organizations in advocating against the juvenile death penalty. "There has
been a groundswell of support for abolishing the juvenile death penalty in
the last 5 years, especially since brain research on juveniles was
published in the scientific literature. We now have brain-based evidence
to explain the differences in thinking and maturity between adolescents
and adults," Arroyo said.
The Simmons case gained national and international attention. Briefs were
filed in the U.S. Supreme Court last summer on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize
laureates including former President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Dalai Lama; 9 former U.S. diplomats; legal and
religious institutions; and the European Union, according to the Supreme
"[O]nly seven countries other than the United States have executed
juvenile offenders since 1990: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen,
Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China," stated the Supreme
Court decision. "Since then, each of these countries has either abolished
capital punishment for juveniles or made public disavowal of the
practice... .In sum, it is fair to say that the United States now stands
alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile death
The Supreme Court opinion in Roper, Superintendent, Potosi Correctional
Center v. Simmons is posted online at .
(source: American Psychiatric Association)
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