[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----N.Y., IOWA, CONN., OHIO, KAN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Apr 13 14:27:44 CDT 2005
Death penalty dying in New York----Assembly vote delays repair of
11 votes in Albany yesterday might have sounded the death knell for New
York's death penalty.
The Assembly's rules committee voted 11-7 not to allow the full Assembly
to consider a law meant to repair the state's death penalty law. A series
of state court rulings had found the 10-year-old law to be
unconstitutional. Yesterday's vote means the Legislature will not fix the
law this year if ever.
No one has been executed in New York since the death penalty was restored
"I think this is an historic step," said Richard Dieter, executive
director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington,
D.C. "States have grappled with the death penalty over the years and
reformed it, but no state has really taken it off the books like New York
has - at least for the time being."
Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams called yesterday's vote
predictable, based on the large turnout by death penalty foes at Assembly
hearings last year and earlier this year.
"I believe that the chances are not strong that we will have a death
penalty that is workable in this state," said Williams, who prosecuted
Larry Whitehurst of Kingston for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Rickel
Knox in 1995. Whitehurst was the first person prosecuted in New York under
the new death penalty law. He eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree
murder and avoided the death penalty.
Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, R-C-Newburgh, agreed with Williams' assertion
about the death penalty hearings, calling them "stacked."
"I do think there are some crimes that are just so awful that they warrant
the death penalty," he said.
David Kaczynski of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty had a different
take on the Assembly's death penalty hearings, saying, "There is
definitely a movement and a shift people understand that it's not really
the answer. Even people who strongly support the death penalty often
express concern about an innocent person being executed."
He called the vote "a giant step toward eliminating the death penalty in
New York." But he also noted that the governor's seat is up for grabs in
New York next year. And in 1994, then-challenger George Pataki rode a
pro-death penalty wave to victory over Gov. Mario Cuomo, who repeatedly
vetoed a death penalty law.
"I think we got this result from public hearings and a process that was
pretty rational," Kaczynski said. "Next year comes the political
campaign." In December 2004, a poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling
Institute found that 62 % of American voters favored the death penalty.
The same poll found that 46 % of voters who were offered a choice
preferred life without parole, while 42 % favored death.
Vincent Aversa of Sparrowbush lost his son, New York State Trooper Joe
Aversa, during a shootout in New York City in 1990. The law that was
passed 5 years later put cop killers on death row.
Aversa favors the death penalty but has mixed feelings about it now.
"The way it's going on now, these people that are supposed to be dead,
it's not happening anyway" Aversa said yesterday. "Sometimes you're better
off dead than being in jail for the rest of your life. Maybe that's worse
than dying. I don't know."
(source: Times Herald-Record)
IOWA----female faces federal death penalty
Attorneys deep into jury selection in death penalty case
Jury selection continued Wednesday in the trial Angela Johnson, accused by
federal prosecutors of conspiring with her boyfriend in the 1993
drug-related slayings of 5 people.
The selection process got off to a slow start Tuesday, and attorneys
brought in a new batch of 10 potential jurors Wednesday. Attorneys will
pick a jury pool of 22 from a list of more than 200 over the next 3 weeks.
Johnson, 41, is charged with conspiring with former drug kingpin Dustin
Honken of killing two of his former dealers -- Greg Nicholson and Terry
DeGeus -- who agreed to cooperate with federal agents investigating
Honken's multistate methamphetamine business.
The other 3 victims include Lori Duncan, the girlfriend of Nicholson, and
her 2 children, age 6 and 10. All 5 were shot in the head and buried near
If convicted, Johnson faces a possible death penalty.
Candidates were being questioned both as a group and individually.
Attorneys asked about their stance on the death penalty, how much they
knew about the case from previous news reports or from conversations with
friends or co-workers.
After selecting a pool of 22 candidates, attorneys from both sides will
each strike 5 more to get to the 12 jurors who will decide the case.
Attorneys will then repeat the process to select 6 alternates.
Honken, 35, was convicted last fall and the jury recommended that he
receive the death penalty, making him the 1st person to face the death
penalty in Iowa in more than 40 years. Sentencing is pending a ruling on
Honken's motion asking for a mistrial.
(source: Associated Press)
Psychiatrist discounts talk of 'death row syndrome'
A psychiatrist testifying for serial killer Michael Ross' attorney Tuesday
dismissed the theory that solitary confinement has made Ross mentally
incompetent to volunteer for what would be New England's 1st execution in
Dr. Suzanne Gentile, an expert on suicide who works at the state-run
Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown, took the stand during the 4th
day of a competency hearing to determine whether Ross' execution should go
forward as scheduled on May 11.
Gentile said there is no evidence that Ross suffers from what another
psychiatrist had dubbed "death row syndrome," or that such a syndrome even
The idea that years of isolation on death row have helped coerce Ross into
accepting his sentence was put forth by Dr. Stuart Grassian, a former
Harvard instructor and an expert on the effects of long-term
incarceration. He testified Monday that Ross is a narcissist who has been
so humiliated by solitary confinement that he is choosing to die.
"I have not found any research that supports his theory," Gentile
testified Tuesday. "There is no evidence that where he has been housed for
close to 20 years has produced incompetence."
Death penalty opponents and a court-appointed attorney have made the death
row syndrome a key part of their arguments to keep Ross from giving up his
Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford, who found Ross competent last year
but who is revisiting that decision now, seemed frustrated Tuesday by the
conflicting reports and psychiatric evaluations.
"I hear you saying you don't want to give me any more reading," he told
Ross attorney T.R. Paulding. "But it looks like you are and it's hard to
do when I'm watching videotape again."
The conflicting testimony is scheduled to continue today with a 4th
psychiatrist expected to testify that Ross is incompetent.
Clifford will have evidence from 2 psychiatrists who say Ross is competent
and 2 who disagree.
(source: Associated Press)
Court upholds death sentence of man charged in 2000 slaying
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the aggravated murder
conviction and death sentence of a man convicted of slitting his
girlfriend's throat and then stealing her ATM card and winter coat.
The court ruled 6-1 in favor of the death sentence for Grady Brinkley of
Toledo, convicted in the 2000 slaying of his 18-year-old girlfriend
Brinkley, 37, killed Smith in her apartment Jan. 7, 2000, then stole her
bank card and coat and fled to Chicago, according to Wednesday's Supreme
The court rejected Brinkley's arguments that prosecutors improperly
brought a capital case by including a charge that Brinkley had robbed a
diner several weeks before the murder.
Brinkley faced a January 2000 trial for robbing Rick's City Diner of
$2,211 in November. Smith posted bond for Brinkley in December.
Prosecutors argued that Brinkley killed Smith to escape trial for that
robbery. A murder committed to avoid apprehension or trial is one of
several charges under Ohio law that can be used to bring a capital case.
Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority, said there was ample
evidence Brinkley killed Smith so she couldn't help police find him once
he left town to avoid trial.
"The jury could have reasonably concluded that Brinkley killed Smith in
part so that she could not help authorities or the bail bondsman locate
Brinkley after he jumped bail," O'Connor wrote.
Justice Paul Pfeifer dissented and voted to resentence Brinkley on a
charge of murder. He said the evidence for bringing a capital case against
Brinkley was weak.
"Although it is possible to 'reasonably conclude' that Brinkley killed
Smith to escape detection, it is at least as likely that he killed her
because he was angry about her perceived unfaithfulness," Pfeifer wrote.
"I need more than a reasonable conclusion before I am comfortable
affirming a sentence of death."
Smith had become romantically involved with another man after Brinkley's
arrest for the diner robbery, according to the ruling.
ON THE NET----Ohio Supreme Court: http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/
(source: Associated Press)
Funeral for Man who Presided over last Kansas Executions
A funeral takes place in Topeka Tuesday, for the man who upervised the
hangings of the two killers immortalized in the book "In Cold Blood."
76-year-old lawyer Charles McAtee died Friday after a 2-year battle with
leukemia. His wife says McAtee had been preparing for a court case just
one day earlier.
A former F-B-I agent who served in the Marines during the Korean War,
McAtee ran several times for Congress and Kansas attorney general.
He was the state's director of prisons when Richard Hickcock and Perry
Smith were executed in April of 1965 for killing the Clutter family of
southwest Kansas. That story -- including McAtee's presence at the
executions -- was recounted in Truman Capotel's classic book "In Cold
Later in 1965 McAtee supervised 2 other hangings -- the last executions
carried out in Kansas.
(source: WIBW News)
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