[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, FLA., N.C., ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 3 12:50:41 CST 2005
Death penalty's waning support bolsters justice
When Bill Clinton was running for president in January 1992, he left the
campaign trail to fly back to Arkansas for the execution of Rickey Ray
Rector, convicted of killing two people, including a Conway, Ark., police
officer, in 1981. Clinton's trip back home was a deliberate tactic
designed to prove that he was no criminal-coddling liberal but, instead, a
hard-nosed Democrat who knew how to deal with vicious predators.
That was then.
Last week, lame-duck Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, mentioned as a Democratic
candidate for president, commuted the death sentence of Robin Lovitt,
convicted of the murder of a pool hall night manager in 1998. If Warner
seeks the presidency, the commutation is unlikely to hurt him. Indeed,
Warner's ally, Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, won the governor's race last month
despite his opposition to the death penalty - a stance his opponent,
Republican Jerry Kilgore, denounced.
In the 13 years since Clinton made a point of upholding an execution,
public support for the death penalty has declined dramatically. According
to Gallup, support for capital punishment reached its apex in 1994, when
80 % of Americans said they favored it. Now, only 64 % do. Illinois and
New Jersey have imposed moratoriums on executions; New York state has
allowed its death penalty statute to lapse.
The sharp nationwide drop in violent crime has no doubt reduced the appeal
of eye-for-an-eye justice. So has the realization that the criminal
justice system sometimes - in convicting the innocent - takes the wrong
When Clinton made his stand, urban areas were still reeling from the
crack-induced wave of violence that started in the 1980s. And Republicans,
who like to claim the mantle as the law-and-order party, were still
pounding Democrats with charges they were soft on crime - appeasers who
allowed thugs to prey on law-abiding citizens.
An infamous example of that strategy dates back to the 1988 presidential
campaign, when George H.W. Bush ran an incendiary TV ad tarring his
Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, with the furlough
of a black inmate, Willie Horton, who later raped a white woman. Dukakis,
who opposed capital punishment, also flubbed an answer to a question about
the death penalty in a televised debate, leaving the impression that he
had little empathy with the victims of violent crime. He couldn't overcome
the soft-on-crime label.
But violent crime is no longer the hot-button issue it was back then.
Murders have fallen sharply around the country as the crack cocaine trade
has dropped off, and the population of young men, who commit most violent
crimes, has aged. In addition, tougher sentencing laws have filled prisons
with men - and women - predisposed to violence, taking many repeat
offenders off the streets. Safer streets have reduced public demand for
But perhaps nothing has tempered the demand for capital punishment more
than the stark realization that the innocent sometimes end up on death
row. As criminal forensics have become more advanced, the public has
learned that eyewitnesses may be confused, police may be biased or
incompetent and the innocent, oddly, sometimes confess. Over the past
decade, more than 100 wrongly convicted persons have been released from
death row with the help of DNA evidence. (Warner commuted Lovitt's
sentence to life without parole because DNA evidence that Lovitt claimed
could have exonerated him had been illegally destroyed.)
For decades now, social scientists have produced studies showing that the
death sentence is not meted out fairly, that a murderer is more likely to
get capital punishment for killing a white person, for example, than a
black person. But those "soft" studies haven't made much of a dent in the
The certainty of hard science has. With the release of so many who were
wrongly convicted - and with the implicit understanding that others on
death row may also be innocent - Americans have had to come to terms with
a discomfiting truth: We have probably executed the innocent. And, when we
do that, we become murderers ourselves.
On Friday, North Carolina put to death Kenneth Lee Boyd for killing his
estranged wife and father-in-law; he was the 1,000th person executed since
the Supreme Court restored the death penalty nearly 30 years ago. But the
court has prohibited the death penalty for the mentally retarded and for
persons younger than 18. Perhaps, over the next decade or so, this country
will do away with it altogether. Any advantages of capital punishment are
simply not worth its huge downside - a mistake that cannot be corrected.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Today, the 1000th execution took place in the United States since the
reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977. The United States Supreme
Court authorised this reinstatement on 2 July 1976 mainly because it
believed lethal injection to be a reasonable method of execution.
The World Coalition against the death penalty is joining with other
American organisations, most of which are part of "The 1000th Execution
Working Group", to deplore the fact that the American justice system has
allowed the executions of 1,000 death row prisoners in almost 30 years,
which amounts, on average, to 33 executions each year.
The World Coalition would like to stress that, despite this symbolic
figure, the death penalty is on the decline in the United States: death
sentences have decreased by more than 50% since the 1990s and the average
number of executions is continually falling. 80% of executions are
concentrated in the Southern states; New York state has recently renounced
the death penalty whilst Illinois and New Jersey have suspended
executions. Lastly, the death penalty does not apply to minors and
mentally handicapped persons.
The World Coalition is calling for a suspension of executions and points
out that studies have shown that it is ethnic minorities and the poorest
in society who suffer the most from the death penalty, that 121 innocent
people have been released from death row (how many innocent people still
await their execution?), that the social cost of the death penalty is
becoming more and more unacceptable leaving, as it does, entire families
traumatised by the execution of one of their loved ones. More than 3,400
prisoners on death row await their execution under continuously worsening
conditions of imprisonment.
The World Coalition calls on Americans to be aware of their isolation on
the international stage as the United States is one of the last
industrialised democracies to resort to this vain and cruel punishment.
THE WORLD COALITION AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY
Composed of NGOs, attorneys' bars, local groups, and trade unions, the
World Coalition against the death penalty, created in Rome on May 13,
2002, aims at strengthening the international dimension of the fight
against the death penalty, and contributing to permanently ending death
sentences and executions. The World Coalition endeavors especially to
facilitate the forming or development of national coalitions against the
Contact : Executive Secretariat of the World Coalition ECPM :
coalition at abolition.fr 00 33 1 47 07 61 60
(source: World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Dec. 2)
With the United States nearing its 1,000th execution since 1976, we might
want to examine the social injustices and economic burden that the death
penalty has placed on common Americans.
Since 1973, the United States has released 121 people from death row
because of evidence of their wrongful conviction. This suggests that many
innocents could still be behind bars awaiting execution. Recent disturbing
evidence also indicates that among those executed thus far, some may have
been innocent. Officials in Missouri believe that they may have executed
an innocent person -- Larry Griffin, in 1995 -- and are investigating the
case. The more people we put to death, the greater the risks of killing
Conservative estimates indicate that more than $2 billion has been spent
on executions since the 1970s. A large portion of these funds could have
been better spent on social programs such as improving education,
strengthening law enforcement and providing services to victims. Instead
of spending the money to exact vengeance, it is better to use funds on
those in need.
We urge all Americans to consider the unnecessary costs that the death
penalty imposes and make sure the money is spent to improve life, not
JEFFREY WICKS -- Death penalty committee chairman, Kansas Association of
Criminal Defense Lawyers, Wichita
(source: Letters to the Editor, Wichita Eagle, Dec. 1)
1,000 Down, 599,000 to Go: Why America Needs More Executions
Kenneth Boyds execution in North Carolina this week marked only the
1,000th time the death penalty has been used since the Supreme Court
reinstated it in 1976.
But a simple comparison of the number of murders to the number of
executions shows that the murderers are winning-by a long shot.
According to the Justice Department, 32,665 people were murdered in
America in 2003 and 2004. In those same 2 years, according to the Death
Penalty Information Center, 124 murderers were executed. That was 0.0037%
executions per murder.
Michael Paranzino, who heads Throw Away the Key, a group supporting the
death penalty, said, "During these 1,000 executions, we've had 600,000
murders. We're only executing a tiny sliver of the number of murderers in
Boyd, who earned the dubious distinction of being the 1,000th person
executed since 1976, was convicted of shooting his estranged wife Julie
nine times and killing her father in front of his 2 sons.
Paranzino believes politicians who fail to enforce the death penalty
despite widespread voter support for it should pay a political cost. "We
will hold politicians like [Virginia Gov.] Mark Warner accountable when
they side with the killers and against the working families of America."
But he is pleased the debate between pro- and anti-death penalty groups is
happening. "We're trying to turn their milestone on its head and show in
fact, the milestone is 600,000 murders and it's those people we should be
mourning and it's for those people we should be praying for today."
(source: Amanda Carpenter is Assistant Editor for HUMAN EVENTS)
Condemned man avoids execution----After a Supreme Court ruling, Nathan Joe
Ramirez's sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.
Twice, juries found that Nathan Joe Ramirez committed one of the most
heinous crimes in Pasco County history. Twice, they decided he should die
But in a hearing Friday morning, Circuit Judge Daniel Diskey resentenced
the 28-year-old to life in prison without parole.
The sentence came in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in March that
says to execute those who commit crimes as juveniles is unconstitutional.
"It's ironic to me, Mr. Ramirez, that the judicial system now shows you
the mercy that you could not show Mrs. (Mildred) Boroski," Diskey said,
with evident disgust.
In 1995, at 17, Ramirez and a friend broke into Boroski's home to steal
the widow's birthday presents. They used a crowbar to sodomize her and
beat the life out of her miniature poodle, Chippy. Then they drove the
71-year-old to a grassy field where they shot her twice in the head with
her late husband's .38-caliber revolver.
Their take: 2 guns, a pair of handcuffs, a ring, a cordless phone and
about $30, which the teenagers used to play video games the next day.
The other teen, Johnathan Grimshaw, was 18 at the time. He was sentenced
to death in 1996, but a judge determined the jury received incorrect
sentencing instructions. The judge gave the case to another jury, which
recommended life without parole.
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
I was amazed and, honestly, left speechless by your Thursday editorial
urging that Gov. Mike Easley should spare convicted murder Kenneth Lee
Boyd. Why on earth would or should he?
Some crimes are intrinsically so heinous that the death penalty is clearly
warranted. Boyd [who was executed Friday morning] did not deny his guilt.
If he had in any way truly reformed or achieved a higher state of
awareness or spirituality, then, in my belief, he could have gone to his
death honorably and with a heartfelt apology to those whom he has
traumatized and brutalized.
Phyllis Hedrick -- Elon
(source: Letter to the Editor, News Observer)
7 Death Penalty Abolition Activists from across the United States Arrested
for attempting to stop the 1000th execution
On December 1, 2005, the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks's act of civil
disobedience on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, 17 people were arrested in
Raleigh, North Carolina in an attempt to enter Central Prison where
Kenneth Boyd was to be executed for the crime of killing members of his
At 11:30 p.m., less than three hours before the scheduled 1000th execution
in the United States since 1977, a group, loosely calling themselves the
Rosa Parks Affinity Group, made their way down the prison driveway towards
the front doors of the death house in an attempt to disrupt the flow of
deadly chemicals into Kenneth Boyd's veins.
When approached by Capitol Police, the group explained their intentions
and attempted to continue on, inviting the police to join them. When
further progress towards the prison was inhibited, all 17 people sat down
in the driveway. Some read lamentations from the Bible while wearing
sackcloth and pouring ashes (Christian signs of mourning and repentance).
Others pleaded with the police to stop the execution.
After refusing to leave the area, police arrested all 17, including one
juvenile, while the eyes of the world and the media were watching.
Represented in the affinity group were a former death row inmate, murder
victim family members, a former state legislator, human rights activists,
Christian peacemakers, students, and directors of several national and
state death penalty abolition organizations.
Of those arrested, Renny Cushing carried a statement in his pocket which
read, "Tonight, with the 1000th execution imminent, remembering the
principled act of Rosa Parks, reminds us of the moral challenges that
confront us at this point in history."
Cushing's statement went on to read, "Human Rights involve
responsibilities. A fundamental responsibility of us all is to be vigilant
in protecting the human rights of others. Tonight, my personal conscience
accepts the human responsibility to oppose the violation of human rights
that is the death penalty. Acting with the power of nonviolence in the
face of violence, I enter the grounds of the Central Prison to defend
human rights, bear witness against killing in my name, killing in the name
of victims, killing in the name of society. I seek to occupy the death
house to halt the 1000th execution, and with my body prevent the flow of
poison to the prisoner's veins. My intention is not to commit a crime, but
to prevent one."
In an act of mourning, members of local North Carolina Christian
communities read from the Book of Lamentations while being arrested. "When
all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot, when human rights
are perverted in the presence of the Most High, when one's case is
subverted - does the Lord not see it? Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands, to
God in Heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled, and your have not
forgotten. My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of
my people. My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the
Lord from heaven looks down, and sees."
The arrestees all were cited on two violations, and those from out of
state were each required to post a $1000 bond. The defendants were charged
with second degree trespass and "resisting, obstructing, and delaying a
public officer." The group will return to Raleigh on January 24, 2006 for
an arraignment hearing.
David Arthur - member of Isaiah House in Durham, NC
Ethan Bodnaruk - graduate student in Raleigh, NC
Abe Bonowitz - director of a national death penalty abolition
organization, based in FL
SueZann Bosler - murder victim family member from Miami, FL
Beth Brockman - community organizer and mother of two in Durham, NC
Renny Cushing - murder victim family member and former state legislator
Shujaa Graham - former Californian death row prisoner, lives in MD
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove - graduate student and member of Rutba House in
Leah Wilson-Hartgrove - member of Rutba House in Durham, NC
Sarah Jobe - graduate student and member of Rutba House in Durham, NC
Scott Langley - member of the Raleigh Catholic Worker in Raleigh, NC
Sheila McCarthy - graduate student in Durham, NC
Jack Payden-Travers - director of a state death penalty abolition
organization in VA
Kate Ranganath - death penalty abolition organizer and graduate student in
Dan Schwankl - member of the Silk Hope Catholic Worker in Silk Hope, NC
Sheila Stumph - member of the Raleigh Catholic Worker in Raleigh, NC
David Zoppo - high school student in Wake Forest, NC
For information on how to support the defendants at trial and in the time
leading up to trial, please contact Scott Langley at (919) 833-4129 or
scott at langleycreations.com
No executions yet as state death row inmates await court rulings
Landmark legal battles have left Arizona's death chamber unused for 5
years and it doesn't appear as if anyone will be executed soon in the
When the next person is put to death will depend on the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco, where 11 Arizona death row inmates are
awaiting rulings, some for as many as 9 years.
"Then they still get a chance to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," said
assistant Arizona attorney general Kent Cattani, chief counsel over
Don Jay Miller, a Tucson man convicted of murdering an 18-year-old woman,
was the last person to be executed in Arizona, on Nov. 8, 2000.
At the time, Arizona was ranked 9th nationally in the number of inmates
executed since capital punishment resumed in 1976 with 22.
Shortly afterward, all Arizona death penalty appeals were put on hold
until June 2004, when the last of a number of landmark cases in federal
court was resolved, said Dale Baich, who is in charge of the Federal
Public Defender's Capital Habeas Unit.
The most significant of those was Ring v. Arizona, in which the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that juries rather than judges should decide death
penalty cases, forcing the state to change its law.
Ring was decided in June 2002, but cases couldn't move forward because the
high court didn't say whether the ruling was retroactive.
85 death row inmates in Arizona and 25 in other states waited two years
before the Supreme Court said Ring wasn't retroactive.
A death row inmate gets a set of appeals in state courts and then moves
onto federal court to what are known as habeas corpus appeals.
The federal appeals process looks at whether there were any constitutional
mistakes at the state level.
The cases of 77 of Arizona's 108 condemned inmates are in federal court,
10 of them having been there more than a decade, according to a chart
prepared by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
Congress is now looking at limiting the ability to appeal in federal
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., authored the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005,
which could come to a vote in the Judiciary Committee early next year. A
similar bill is moving through the House of Representatives.
(source: Associated Press)
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