[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----KY., CONN., S.C,., ALA., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 14 12:01:38 CDT 2005
Judge denies killer's request----St. Clair asked Waller to withdraw from
Convicted murderer and death-row inmate Michael Dale St. Clair, who is
scheduled to be resentenced this summer, tried without success yesterday
to have Bullitt Circuit Judge Thomas Waller remove himself from the case.
Steve Mirkin, St. Clair's attorney, argued that Waller might not preside
impartially over the August resentencing because he sentenced St. Clair to
death in 1998.
But in denying the request, Waller said that he will have no difficulty in
being fair to St. Clair.
St. Clair was convicted of the 1991 killing of Frank Brady, a Hardin
County distillery worker. St. Clair killed him after escaping from an
Oklahoma prison with another inmate and going on a cross-country crime
St. Clair kidnapped Brady at an Interstate 65 rest area, drove him into a
wooded area of Bullitt County and shot him twice. St. Clair was captured
about 3 months later at a relative's home in Texas.
Last year the Kentucky Supreme Court threw out St. Clair's death sentence
because Waller had not informed the jury that life without parole was one
of its options. In the same ruling, the court upheld St. Clair's murder
Yesterday Waller said he has no animosity toward St. Clair, who in a
January hearing accused the judge of being an alcoholic. Waller thanked
St. Clair for his concern but said he does not drink alcohol.
Yesterday, Mirkin declined to say whether he would appeal Waller's refusal
to step aside.
Assistant Attorney General David Smith, who is prosecuting the case,
argued that Waller shouldn't recuse himself just because he presided over
St. Clair's trial and first sentencing.
St. Clair also has been convicted of 4 murders in Oklahoma and is accused
of one in New Mexico. Prosecutors in New Mexico have not brought St. Clair
to trial, deeming it irrelevant because he was already on death row in
A new jury, which could recommend the death penalty, will have to be
seated for St. Clair's August resentencing. Waller has scheduled several
weeks for the hearing because defense attorneys and prosecutors will have
to present much of their evidence again.
The sentencing hearing will draw heightened security at the Bullitt County
Judicial Center. Extra sheriff's deputies, state troopers and officials
from the state Administrative Office of the Courts are on hand any time
St. Clair makes a courthouse appearance.
"In my mind, a gentleman on death row has absolutely nothing to lose,"
Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim McAuliffe said of the precautionary measures.
"And it's our job to protect the judges, the court workers and the
At yesterday's hearing, officers from the Administrative Office of the
Courts screened everyone entering the building with a metal detector,
which is not normally the case at the courthouse.
3 officers escorted St. Clair, whose hands and feet were shackled, into
the courtroom. Other officers were positioned throughout the building and
in the parking lot.
(source: Courier-Journal, Apr. 12)
Cobb Says He Wants To Drop Appeals, Face Execution
A 2nd inmate on Connecticut's death row has announced his desire to forgo
further appeals and face execution, possibly setting the stage for another
flurry of court action like the one surrounding serial killer Michael
Sedrick Cobb, sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and killing a
23-year-old woman in 1989, said he wants to drop his appeals in a letter
to Superior Court Judge Stanley T. Fuger Jr., The Hartford Courant
reported in Thursday's editions. The court received the letter on April 4.
Fuger presided over a lengthy hearing last year on Cobb's claim that he
was not adequately represented by his lawyers during his trial.
"I do this without stress, mental duress, it's just the right time," Cobb
wrote to the judge. "I request a date in your court to make this official,
so that you can ask of me any questions or concerns that you have."
Ross, on death row for killing four young women in eastern Connecticut in
the early 1980s, faces lethal injection on May 11. He would be the first
person executed in New England in 45 years if the death sentence is
carried out as planned.
Ross' case is now tied up in a hearing in New London Superior Court to
determine if he is competent in deciding to forgo his remaining appeals.
Ross decided to drop his appeals last year and his execution was set for
Jan. 26, but the competency issue has delayed the date several times.
(source: Associated Press)
Execution Date Set for Ross '81
The Cornell graduate who admitted to killing eight women is scheduled for
lethal injection on May 11 after repeated postponements, the last one
coming just hours before his execution time.
The date may be overturned again if Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford
rules in favor of arguments that Michael Ross '81 lacks the mental
competence to volunteer for his own execution.
In 1987, Ross was sentenced to death for the murder of 4 Connecticut women
in the early 1980s. His death penalty ruling was overturned by the state
supreme court in 1995, only to be reinstated in May 2000.
Last year, in a surprising turn of events, the serial killer hired an
attorney to speed up his own execution.
Dr. Stuart Grassian is one of Ross's examiners who testified Monday that
the inmate's judgment has been impaired after years of solitary
"There are people who can't take it anymore, but who are going to show
people how strong and powerful they are," Grassian said at a hearing
reported by the AP. "He's [Ross] trying to go down in a blaze of glory
like these guys did."
An expert on the effects of long-term confinement, Grassian described Ross
as "a narcissist who has no empathy for the victim's families," according
to AP news.
Other doctors disagreed. Dr. Michael Norko, former director of Whiting
Forensic Institute, testified last Thursday that Ross "clearly understands
what's at stake. The evidence is this is his decision, which he makes in
contrast to what his friends, supporters and lawyers have advised him to
do," according to the AP.
Dr. Suzanne Gentile, a suicide expert from Whiting, offered similar
Judge Clifford, who upheld Ross's mental competency last year, must sort
through the conflicting psychiatric evaluations to reach a decision that
could end Ross's life and his nearly twenty years in prison or once again
delay his execution.
Prof. John Blume, law, said that the judge ruling on Ross should consider
his motivations for wishing death.
The Director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, Blume recently
completed a study of death inmates who waived their appeals. His research
shows that the profile of these inmates is similar to the profile of
people who commit suicide, Blume said.
According to Blume, if Ross is attempting to expediate his execution out
of a sense of responsibility and remorse, the judge should waive his
appeal. However, if Ross is motivated by suicidal tendancies, then the
judge should reevalute Ross's case.
"We don't let people commit suicide in free world ... Unless there's some
sort of special affirmative action program for death row immates," the
state should not assist Ross to end his life, Blume said.
Ross' only surviving victim is actually pleading against his execution
after testifying for the persecution in earlier trials.
"I am not him. I will refuse to take his life because he decided to take a
bunch of girls' life," Vivian Dobson said on National Public Radio last
month. "That's not what we're here -- we're not killers. He is, but we're
She does not want Ross's death on her hands, she said.
On NPR, Dobson told the host that she has been living with heavy guilt for
the past twenty years because she survived and the other girls did not.
She will "keep on fighting to get rid of this death penalty so he can
think about and dwell on every little thing he's done to those girls and
what he's done to me," Dobson said.
She added, "He cannot get off that easy."
Between January and February alone, Ross' execution was delayed 4times.
After U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny delayed Ross' Jan. 26
execution to hear more evidence on his mental capacity, another date was
set for Jan. 28.
Hours before the scheduled time, Ross' lawyer, T.R. Pauling, declared a
potential conflict of interest that postponed the date again. It turned
out that Judge Chatigny had threatened to go after Pauling's law license
if he discovered the lawyer withholding evidence about Ross's
On Feb. 10 Judge Clifford set the current execution date and also
appointed Thomas Groak as a special counsel to investigate Ross' mental
soundness. Groak's appointment to the case allows Pauling to fully
represent his client's interests in expediting the execution.
If Judge Clifford rules that Ross is mentally competent, the graduate from
Agriculture and Life Sciences will be the 1st person to be executed in New
England in 45 years.
(source: The Cornell Daily Sun)
SOUTH CAROLINA----impending execution
Judge denies death penalty stay
A federal judge denied an appeal Wednesday in a death penalty sentence
stemming from a double murder conviction in Spartanburg 14 years ago.
Richard Longworth, 36, is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Friday for
his role in the shooting deaths of two Spartanburg movie theater workers
Federal District Judge Sol Blatt denied motions for a stay of execution
and for relief from judgment in an order entered Wednesday.
Prosecutors have said Longworth and David Rocheville shot and killed Alex
Hopps, 19, and Todd Greene, 24, while robbing the Westgate Mall cinema on
Jan. 7. Rocheville was executed in 1999 for his role in the murders.
(source: The State)
In Deal to Avoid Death Penalty, Bomber Pleads Guilty
Declaring himself "bloodied but emphatically unbowed," Eric Robert Rudolph
on Wednesday issued his 1st public explanation for a series of abortion
clinic bombings and an attack at the 1996 Olympics, gloating that his plea
deal with prosecutors "deprived the government of its goal of sentencing
me to death."
In the 11-page statement, devoid of remorse but rife with anti-abortion
and antigay language, Mr. Rudolph said he had originally intended to bomb
the Olympics every day to "confound, anger and embarrass" the government
for legalizing abortion, but was foiled by his own poor planning.
He described watching federal agents who hunted for him in the North
Carolina woods during his five years as a fugitive, and disputed a popular
theory that he was influenced by an extremist Christian sect based on
The statement was released after Mr. Rudolph pleaded guilty to 4 bombings:
the Olympic attack here in the summer of 1996, attacks on an abortion
clinic and gay club here in 1997 and an explosion at a clinic in
Birmingham, Ala., in 1998. Collectively, the bombings killed 2 people and
Mr. Rudolph made the pleas, 1st in federal court Wednesday morning in
Birmingham and later in the day in Atlanta, as part of a deal he struck to
avoid execution. Mr. Rudolph will serve 4 consecutive life sentences with
no possibility of parole.
The statement was a sharply unambiguous follow-up to the 2 hearings, and
left some bombing victims and their relatives with the sense that Mr.
Rudolph was anything but contrite.
In Birmingham, dressed in a red jail uniform and shackled at the ankles,
Mr. Rudolph nodded vigorously as a narrative account of the bombings was
read aloud, and at one point he appeared to wink in the direction of the
"It was very unsettling," said John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice, was
killed in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, adding that he would not
have as readily agreed to the plea deal had he known how Mr. Rudolph would
Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty if Mr. Rudolph admitted
guilt and revealed the whereabouts of about 250 pounds of dynamite he hid
in the North Carolina mountains, including a bomb intended for federal
agents hunting him.
In the statement, Mr. Rudolph described an elaborate plan to kill those
agents, but said he changed his mind at the last minute. "Perhaps after
watching them for so many months, their individual humanity shown through
the hated uniform," he wrote ungrammatically. "It was not that I lost my
resolve to fight in the defense of the unborn."
At a news conference, David E. Nahmias, the United States attorney for the
Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta, said the plea deal resolved a
significant public safety problem posed by the hidden explosives and
avoided the uncertainties inherent in a lengthy trial.
"Eric Rudolph is guilty today," Mr. Nahmias said. "There will be no
further delays in obtaining justice for the public and the many victims of
his terrorist activity."
Mr. Nahmias also noted that life in prison was the most severe possible
sentence for most of the injuries Mr. Rudolph caused. "The families of the
victims for whom we could seek the death penalty accepted this agreement,"
The hearings, in which Mr. Rudolph and his lawyers had to confirm that he
was freely entering into the plea deal and understood its terms, were
primarily a formulaic catechism of "yes, sirs" and "no, sirs."
But when Judge C. Lynwood Smith of Federal District Court in Birmingham
asked Mr. Rudolph if the government had enough evidence to prove its case
against him, he answered, "Just barely, Your Honor."
And when the judge asked if Mr. Rudolph had detonated the clinic bomb,
which killed an off-duty police officer, Robert Sanderson, and maimed a
nurse, Emily Lyons, he replied, "I certainly did, Your Honor."
Ms. Lyons; her husband, Jeff; Mr. Sanderson's widow, Felecia; and Alice
Hawthorne's daughter, Fallon Stubbs, were in the courtroom, but all waived
their right to speak, saying they would wait until the sentencing
hearings. In Birmingham, Judge Smith scheduled that hearing for July 18 -
coincidentally, Ms. Lyons's birthday.
Mr. Rudolph's statement, an amalgam of Biblical quotes, sermonizing and an
oddly passive voice, offered a glimpse of how he planned and carried out
the bombings and of his five years as the nation's most famous fugitive,
celebrated by some for his beliefs, admired by others for his ability to
survive in the Appalachian wilderness, and reviled by many as a domestic
Abortion was his central foe, though the Olympics, he wrote, promoted the
"despicable ideals" of "global socialism" expressed in its theme song,
John Lennon's "Imagine." His goal was to force the cancellation of the
Games, or at least scare people away; at one point, he wrote, he planned
five timed explosions, each preceded by a 911 warning so the affected area
could be cleared.
But there was not enough time - the plan "was a monster that kept getting
out of control the more I got into it," he said.
In the closest thing the statement contained to an apology, he
acknowledged that civilians were at risk: "There is no excuse for this,
and I accept full responsibility for the consequences of using this
After the first Olympics bombing, he decided not to follow through with
the plan, and detonated the bombs at what he said appeared to be a large
construction site east of Atlanta.
As for the attack on the gay nightclub, Mr. Rudolph, who has a gay
brother, wrote that homosexuality practiced in private was acceptable, but
that any effort to "drag this practice out of the closet" and have society
recognize it as legitimate or normal "should be ruthlessly opposed."
By the time of his final bombing, in 1998, he had refined his technique,
designing what he called a "command-detonated focused device" that could
be set off remotely when the desired victim appeared.
After considering three clinics in Birmingham - a location he chose
"purely for tactical reasons" - he settled on the New Woman All Women
clinic where, he said, "every employee is a knowing participant in this
He intended to set off the bomb when the doctor who provided abortions at
the clinic appeared, he said, but was forced to change his plan when
Officer Sanderson, the clinic security guard, discovered the device.
Mr. Rudolph described several attack plans, including an effort to bomb
"an abortion mill" in Asheville, N.C., before the 2000 election, that he
said were never carried out for various logistical reasons, including
periods where he spent much of his time gathering food.
By the fall of 2000, he wrote, he had stockpiled a supply large enough to
last several years.
Almost off-handedly, Mr. Rudolph described his frequent proximity to law
enforcement agents. He used a dugout under a rock to avoid helicopters and
heat-seeking equipment, describing one near-miss with evident
exhilaration: "In defiance I looked toward the ridge into which the
chopper had just gone and said, 'I am still here.'"
He also disputed accounts that he was a "big time drug dealer" and a
believer in Christian Identity, a sect that espouses a white supremacist
theology. He said that he attended the church because he was engaged to a
woman whose father was a member.
"I was born a Catholic and with forgiveness I hope to die one," Mr.
Rudolph said, adding that he never agreed with the "convoluted Identity
argument of racial determinism."
He dismissed another story, that his anger at the government stemmed from
its refusal to approve an experimental cancer drug that might have saved
his father's life, saying he knew nothing about the drug at the time.
Mr. Nahmias, the federal prosecutor, said that while much of Mr. Rudolph's
statement was "garbage," it was useful as a document that filled in the
gaps of the bombing investigation. "I think there's a lot of stuff in
there that no one would have ever known except him," he said.
(source: New York Times)
State is urged to look at claims of innocence
An Illinois group that helped free Keith Harris, a Belleville man wrongly
imprisoned for 22 years for murder, is urging legislators to create a
commission to investigate other questionable cases in the state's criminal
The campaign is based partly on concern that Illinois' aggressive death
penalty reforms may lead to more life sentences for accused killers - and
more possibility that innocent people will be sent to prison.
The Downstate Illinois Innocence Project investigates claims of innocence
among those sentenced to prison or death. Larry Golden, who works with the
group, called on the state to fund an "Innocence Commission" to
investigate claims of innocence. Currently, much of the burden for taking
up the causes of potentially innocent inmates is borne by private groups.
"It should not be the responsibility of the private sector . . . to
correct errors in the public sector," said Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a
former New Jersey boxer who was freed from prison after serving 20 years
for a crime he did not commit. Carter, who works with the group, spoke at
a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol.
Just before he left office in January 2003, former Gov. George Ryan
commuted all death row sentences to life in prison. He had already placed
a freeze on executions after 13 prisoners who were innocent or wrongly
convicted were freed from death row.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has not lifted the freeze, waiting to see if changes
in the death penalty system are successful. The reforms include greater
power given to the Supreme Court to throw out unjust verdicts, more access
to evidence for defendants and barring the death penalty in cases
depending on a single witness.
Golden said although Illinois has become a leader in death penalty
reforms, those changes to the system can make it more difficult to
investigate innocence claims in non-death penalty cases.
"Those who are not sentenced to death, but life in prison . . . those
cases are just as important," he said. Recent reforms to the system have
caused prosecutors to think twice about trying for the death penalty, he
said. People sentenced to life in prison who claim innocence do not have
the benefit of groups like the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project,
Matt Jones, Illinois States Attorney's Association spokesman, said reforms
are not keeping prosecutors from trying for the death penalty when
Prosecutors "take a close look (before deciding to try for a death
sentence), but to say they're afraid to seek the death penalty is silly,"
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
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