[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.MEX., MO., PENN., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Apr 25 16:55:11 CDT 2005
Indigent defense spreads to N.M. -- Financial cost racking justice system
This isn't exactly a news flash - the New Mexico justice system is in
serious trouble because of the escalating cost of indigent defense.
According to state Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson, the system "could
collapse" because of inadequate funding for public defenders for indigent
Welcome to the world of Potter County.
The ever-increasing cost of court-appointed attorneys for indigent
defendants eats up millions in Potter County's budget, and with little
help from the state which mandates court-appointed attorneys, there is
scant relief in sight.
According to Bosson, this problem is now plaguing the Land of Enchantment
as the 2005 Legislature failed to allocate additional money for indigent
defense. Unfortunately, until states recognize this problem, the cost of
indigent defense will continue to strap all levels of government.
Hopefully, the concern of a state chief justice will open a few eyes
before his dire prediction of a "collapse" proves accurate.
(source: Editorial, Amarillo Globe News)
DEATH PENALTY: There must be a better way to serve justice and society
The quality of mercy in America is very much strained and drops more often
on those with the money for quality legal representation.
John Fourgere talks about Room 148 as if it were a tourist attraction.
He's the spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, and one of
his thankless duties recently included taking reporters on a tour of Room
148 - the execution chamber - inside the state prison at Bonne Terre, Mo.
In a recent photograph, Fourgere is shown pointing to the hospital-style
cart on which death-row inmate Donald Jones might well lie down for the
last time on Wednesday unless Gov. Matt Blunt intervenes.
One of the new and improved features of the death chamber, Fourgere says,
is the views it offers witnesses. On Wednesday, though, the section
reserved for witnesses related to the victim is likely to be empty, while
the section for close relatives of the condemned man will be full. In this
case, the two families are one and the same. Jones was sentenced to die
for killing his grandma to get money to buy crack cocaine. The family is
unanimous in its opposition to his execution and has appealed to the
governor to stop it.
I side with the family. It seems to me that justice surely would be served
if Jones were confined to a small cell, denied the bright light of
sunshine and doomed to a lifetime of hours to think about how crack ruined
That's not to say that, absent the crack, Jones was a Boy Scout. Far from
it. But he had the bad luck to become an addict when society's answer to
drug abuse was imprisonment. Society since has been turning more to drug
courts and community sentencing to free up space in state prisons and
lessen the chances of junkies turning into hardened burglars, robbers and
murderers. Had Jones' timing been different, his crack demon might not
have taken him to a lethal dose of poison on a gurney in Bonne Terre.
Jones' appointment with death also comes with society still debating
capital punishment. In recent years, more than 100 people awaiting
execution turned out to have been wrongly convicted and were released from
death row. That alone makes a powerful argument that the system remains
unfair, no matter how much tinkering the courts have undertaken to
neutralize the effects of class and color in the application of society's
Domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph planted a string of bombs, one of which
killed a cop and severely injured a nurse at an abortion clinic in
Birmingham, Ala., yet escaped the death penalty by copping a plea. In
1994, Susan Smith drowned her two children in a South Carolina lake, yet
escaped the death penalty, as did Theodore "Unabomber" Kaczynski. They all
had highly competent legal representation.
The quality of mercy in America still depends, at least in part, on money
and good legal representation. That means that defendants who are poor -
and black - are much more likely to be convicted and executed than those
who are better off. This contradicts the Supreme Court's insistence that
the death penalty be applied uniformly.
Missouri's late Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Baptist and supporter of capital
punishment, summoned the political courage to spare the life of another
death row inmate, Darrell Mease. His crimes were heinous, having murdered
a partner in a drug scheme, the partner's wife and the couple's paraplegic
grandson. When Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in 1999, he stepped
down from the altar and made a personal plea to Carnahan to spare Mease's
life. The governor eventually commuted Mease's death sentence.
It's too bad there's no Pope John Paul II to whisper in Blunt's ear to
spare Jones' life. But it shouldn't take such extraordinary intervention
for the new governor to understand what the former governor eventually
learned: Even a convicted killer deserves mercy.
(source: Column, Robert Joiner, St. Louis Dispatch)
When anethesia fails
Carol Weihrer was anesthetized but awake when surgeons removed her
diseased eye. She says felt the scalpel and knew when the surgeon pulled
her eye from its socket and cut the optic nerve.
Inside, she was screaming -- but no one heard a sound, because her body
was immobilized by paralytic drugs.
Weihrer, of Reston, Va., had such a traumatic experience that she now
advocates for victims of anesthesia awareness -- when a patient under
general anesthesia is not rendered unconscious but instead remains aware
of some or all events that occur during surgery.
The nonprofit Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare
Organizations last year issued a "sentinel event alert" about the problem
to more than 15,000 U.S. health care organizations. The commission,
founded in 1951, evaluates and accredits hospitals and other health care
"As many as 40,000 patients wake up during general anesthesia each year,
and about one-quarter of those patients report feeling pain," the group
reported in October. "This number represents only one or two cases in
every 1,000 general anesthetics administered, but the experience is
traumatic for those patients who experience such an event."
The commission notes that anesthesia awareness occurs most often during
heart surgery, obstetric operations or major trauma cases, when anesthesia
is given in smaller doses to lessen stress on the heart or an unborn
The report urged hospitals to make staff aware of anesthesia awareness, to
monitor patients during surgery, and to provide appropriate post-operative
care, including counseling when needed, for those who report awareness.
Weihrer's campaign, started in 1999, has caught the attention of
television networks and cable news shows. She has appeared on "20/20,"
"Today" and earlier this month on the Montel Williams TV show. The
Discovery Channel featured her in "Anesthesia Nightmare" and "When
Anesthesia Fails," and she currently is working on a third Discovery
Channel documentary, she said.
In cases of anesthesia awareness, medical personnel don't know that a
patient is mentally awake but unable to move. Monitoring designed to check
a patient's awareness may not always work.
"It feels like you are screaming at the top of your lungs, but nothing is
coming out of your mouth," Weihrer said from her home in Reston. "The
paralytic drugs feel like the fires of hell going through your veins."
Weihrer said she gets as many as half a dozen calls a day from people who
claim they had similar experiences. She has spoken personally to more than
2,500 patients, she said.
Like Weihrer, many report recurring fears, nightmares and other symptoms
of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Weihrer has testified before judiciary committees in 9 states, including
Pennsylvania in 2004, about anesthesia awareness during executions by
lethal injection. She was scheduled to speak at a death penalty appeal in
a Kentucky court last week.
Although she does not advocate or oppose capital punishment, Weihrer does
warn about the possibility of awareness during what may appear to be a
peaceful death by lethal injection.
"Our mission is to prevent even one person from experiencing anesthesia
awareness," she said, "and our statement does not qualify whether that
person has to be good or bad."
(source : Pittburgh Tribune-Review (For more about Weihrer's work, contact
Anesthesia Awareness Campaign Inc., P.O. Box 8592, Reston, VA 20195-2492,
or visit the group's Web site at www.anesthesiaawareness.com. )
Death Penalty Evidence Gets Review: U.S. Supreme Court Overview
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether convicted murderers facing the
death penalty have a constitutional right to argue to the sentencing jury
that they didn't commit the crime.
The justices today agreed to review an Oregon Supreme Court decision
letting Randy Lee Guzek present alibi evidence indicating he might not
have taken part in the 1987 shooting of 2 people in their home. The case
was among five new disputes the court in Washington accepted today and
will resolve in its 2005-06 term, which starts in October.
Courts around the country disagree whether the Constitution's Eighth
Amendment, forbidding cruel and unusual punishments, gives defendants the
right to offer "residual doubt" evidence as they seek to avoid the death
"The Oregon Supreme Court's ruling opens the door to relitigation of
defendant's guilt in the penalty-phase proceeding," Oregon Attorney
General Hardy Myers argued in the state's appeal.
The Oregon Supreme Court said it was following the logic of earlier U.S.
Supreme Court decisions.
"The Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence suggests that
defendant's alibi evidence is the type of evidence that a defendant is
constitutionally entitled to introduce during the penalty phase for the
jury's consideration," the Oregon court said.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that sentencing juries need not be
instructed to consider residual-doubt evidence. The new case asks whether,
even in the absence of a jury instruction, defendants have a right to
present that type of evidence.
In other cases, the nation's highest court has said defendants must be
allowed to present evidence suggesting a limited level of culpability --
such as testimony that someone else was the ringleader.
Guzek, now 35, and 2 other men were convicted of shooting Rod and Lois
Houser to death in their rural Oregon home during a late-night burglary.
At sentencing, Guzek's lawyers sought to offer testimony from his
grandfather and mother accounting for his whereabouts at the time of the
The case against Guzek, first sentenced to death in 1988, has moved up and
down the court system for 17 years. The Oregon Supreme Court decision
marked the 3rd reversal of his death sentence.
Oregon has executed only 2 people since the state restored its death
penalty in 1978, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The
state, which uses lethal injections, has 32 people on death row.
The Supreme Court has scaled back the use of the death penalty in some
contexts in recent years. In March, the court, citing the ban on cruel and
unusual punishments, barred executions of murderers who were under 18 at
the time of the crime.
The case is Oregon v. Guzek, 04-928.
The high court today also:
-- Refused to reinstate the death penalty for a mentally retarded Texas
man who was sentenced before the justices barred executions of retarded
people in 2002.
(source: Bloomberg News)
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