[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----VA., N.C., KY., MO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 22 12:24:11 CDT 2005
Virginia Supreme Court affirms sniper's death penalty
In Richmond, the Virginia Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the death
penalty for sniper mastermind John Allen Muhammad.
"If society's ultimate penalty should be reserved for the most heinous
offenses, accompanied by proof of vileness or future dangerousness, then
surely this case qualifies," Justice Donald Lemons wrote.
Muhammad was convicted by a Virginia Beach jury of 2 counts of capital
murder for the shooting of Dean Harold Meyers in Prince William County. It
was one of ten sniper killings that terrorized the Washington, D.C. region
during a three-week period in October 2002.
Lawyers for Muhammad argued on appeal that Muhammad could not be sentenced
to death under state law because he was not the triggerman in the shooting
spree. They also claimed that a new anti-terrorism law used against
Muhammad is unconstitutional and that prosecutors improperly offered
conflicting theories in the trials of Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee
Muhammad's prosecutors portrayed him as a manipulator who molded his
then-17-year-old cohort into a killer, defense attorneys said, while
Malvo's prosecutors described the teenager as a willful, independent
thinker who was free of the older man's influence.
Malvo is serving life in prison without parole for the slayings of
Philadelphia businessman Kenneth Bridges and FBI analyst Linda Franklin.
(source: Associated Press)
Accused 9/11 figure Moussaoui set to plead guilty
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in
connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, was set on Friday to admit his role
in the plot and plead guilty to charges that carry the death penalty.
Rejecting arguments by Moussaoui's attorneys who questioned his mental
competence, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia,
has scheduled a hearing at 3:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) to accept his guilty plea.
Moussaoui, charged 3 months after the attacks in 2001 that killed nearly
3,000 people, is accused of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, commit
aircraft piracy, destroy aircraft, use weapons of mass destruction, murder
U.S. employees and destroy property.
Four of the 6 counts carry the death penalty. Sources involved in the case
said the French citizen of Moroccan descent planned to plead guilty to all
6 counts and that he knows he could get the death penalty.
The sentencing part of the case would be scheduled later if Moussaoui, 36,
goes through with his plans and if the judge accepts his guilty plea.
Brinkema said she found Moussaoui to be "fully competent to plead guilty
to the indictment" after meeting with him and one of his attorneys earlier
in the week.
Government officials said Moussaoui, who wanted to plead guilty three
years ago and then changed his mind, might back out at the last minute,
especially after the judge makes sure he understands his rights.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he backs off," one federal law enforcement
ALLEGIANCE TO BIN LADEN
At the hearings in July 2002 when he changed his mind about pleading
guilty, Moussaoui said he was not involved in the hijackings, but that he
was an al Qaeda member who pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
His trial has been delayed by legal wrangling over a number of issues,
including his mental fitness, whether he could represent himself and
whether he could interview top al Qaeda captives held by the United States
at undisclosed locations overseas.
The U.S. Supreme Court a month ago rejected an appeal by Moussaoui, who
argued that he could not get a fair trial without access to the al Qaeda
captives who could help his defense.
His intended role with al Qaeda has never been clearly explained. The
indictment said he received the same training and preparation as the 19
Moussaoui attended flight training schools in Oklahoma and Minnesota in
2001 and received money from an al Qaeda operative who helped finance the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the indictment.
But just weeks before the attacks, he was jailed in Minnesota on
immigration charges after a flight trainer told the FBI that Moussaoui had
Some U.S. officials initially said they believed Moussaoui was supposed to
have taken part in the Sept. 11 attacks as the "20th hijacker." Others
later said he was supposed to have been part of a "second wave" of attacks
that were never carried out.
NORTH CAROLINA----possible military death penalty
Soldier Guilty of Murder in Kuwait Grenade Attack
A U.S. military court convicted an Army sergeant of murder on Thursday for
killing 2 officers in a grenade attack on his comrades in Kuwait 2 years
ago, military officials said.
The court found Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a former member of the 101st Airborne
Division, guilty by unanimous vote on two counts of premeditated murder
and 3 counts of attempted premeditated murder, officials said in a written
Akbar faces 3 possible sentences: death, life in prison or life in prison
without the possibility of parole. The sentencing phase of the trial at
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was scheduled to begin on Monday.
The charges stemmed from a nighttime attack at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait
on March 23, 2003, as 101st Airborne soldiers awaited orders to move into
Iraq at the start of the war. Akbar was accused of rolling grenades into
soldiers' tents and firing a rifle at those who emerged.
2 officers were killed and 14 troops were wounded.
The last time a U.S. soldier faced a court-martial for murdering a comrade
in wartime was during the Vietnam War and the last military execution was
Akbar's mother and military lawyers said Akbar snapped in the face of
relentless ridicule of his Muslim faith and harassment by fellow soldiers,
according to a published report.
Expert: Inmate may have had pain
Eddie Lee Harper did not have enough pain killer in his blood to properly
anesthetize him, a researcher testified Thursday at the end of the legal
attack on Kentucky's lethal injection procedures.
Pharmacist Dr. William Watson said the autopsy of Harper after his May
1999 execution showed a level of sodium thiopental that was too low to
provide an adequate level of unconsciousness. "He could have experienced
pain," Watson said.
The testimony conflicted somewhat with earlier comments from medical
experts about the 1st of the 3 drugs used in capital punishment. The 1st
drug is designed to put the inmate to sleep. The following drugs paralyze,
2 death row inmates, Thomas Clyde Bowling and Ralph Baze, filed suit to
claim the state's chosen drugs and procedures cause unconstitutional pain
and cruelty. Franklin County Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden halted
Bowling's planned execution in November 2004 just days before it was
Experts brought in by Bowling's Department of Public Advocacy attorneys
have raised questions about the drug combination and other procedures,
such as how intravenous lines are to be inserted.
Watson said the first drug was probably insufficient to provide any
unconsciousness or pain relief except for about 5 minutes.
Records from Harper's execution show the 1st drug was administered 12
minutes before death was declared. But an anesthesiologist testified
Wednesday that it appeared Harper actually died about 5 minutes into the
Crittenden denied a request for a dismissal of the case from attorneys for
the Corrections Department and attorney general's office.
"They haven't shown any evidence that Kentucky doesn't take appropriate
safeguards during an execution," Corrections attorney Jeff Middendorf
Middendorf said the entire litigation was designed to sway public opinion
on lethal injection and the death penalty and said it was an affront to
the victims of the crimes committed by Bowling and Baze.
Public defender Ted Shouse countered that the testimony during the 4 days
demonstrated that Harper was "almost certainly conscious" during his
execution and the modest changes in procedures have done nothing to reduce
that threat for future executions.
Corrections will present its own expert witness on May 2, when the hearing
is scheduled to resume.
After the proceedings, Crittenden will decide whether to lift the stay of
execution he granted for Bowling. His ruling will almost certainly be
appealed however it turns out.
(source: Associated Press)
Giving Cover to Witnesses
In Baltimore, murders are up and convictions are down. You read that
correctly: Even as the city has gained the dubious distinction of having
the nation's highest big-city murder rate, prosecutors say that conviction
rates in homicide cases are falling. The main cause is that, increasingly,
witnesses will not cooperate or testify, often because they are afraid.
And no wonder: Since last September seven witnesses have been shot or
murdered -- a rate of about one a month. Other cases have been dropped for
the same reason, not only in Baltimore but also in Prince George's County.
This venomous trend, says the chief state prosecutor in Baltimore,
Patricia C. Jessamy, "threatens to bring justice to a standstill."
The state is taking a step in the right direction -- albeit a small step
-- by stiffening penalties for witness intimidation and making it slightly
easier for prosecutors to introduce hearsay testimony at trials when
scared (or dead) witnesses will not or cannot appear. The question is
whether more can be done. One proposal is to beef up resources for
existing witness-protection measures, such as funds to put up witnesses in
hotels or to pay their security deposits if they move. But the fact is
that a fund for that purpose in Maryland, administered by the State's
Attorneys' Association and replenished by court costs charged to
defendants, already seems to provide all the money needed; the fund has
never been depleted, and no state's attorney requesting a grant from it
has been turned down.
Another idea, which would require the allocation of more money and
organizational attention, is to create a program that attempts to
replicate on the state level what the federal government does nationally
to protect witnesses (usually from the mob): give them new identities and
permanent new homes, possibly out of state. That approach would require
help from federal authorities, but it may gain appeal as threats and
violence against witnesses become the norm in some neighborhoods that
combine high crime and low income.
Still, the brainstorming of lawmakers may run aground on cultural
realities. Well over half the witnesses in Baltimore who are offered
assistance turn it down. Many of them, criminals themselves, prefer to go
underground or wait out the threat -- anything to avoid the appearance of
cooperating with the authorities, even if it means risking their lives.
Perhaps police and prosecutors should take their cue from a DVD that made
the rounds in tough inner-city neighborhoods a few months ago, warning
people in violent terms to "stop snitching" to the cops. NBA star and
Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony was seen in the video, though he later
disavowed its message. Mr. Anthony, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, and
other popular local figures, such as rap artists and movie stars, should
be urged to make themselves available for a new series of videos
encouraging people to help clean up their own neighborhoods by helping
send bad guys to prison.
Sound futile? To the contrary: What could be more futile than having
police and prosecutors spend time and money pursuing murderers only to see
them go free because witnesses slip from their grasp?
(source: Editorial, Washington Post)
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