[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MISS., USA, OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Dec 4 20:54:11 CST 2005
No more mistakes----One wrongful Texas execution is too many
2 years ago, Hollywood released The Life of David Gale. Its fictional
protagonist is a professor and anti-death-penalty activist in Austin who -
after a couple of bizarre events - finds himself mistakenly convicted of
killing a fellow activist and on Texas' death row.
Mr. Gale decides to reveal his innocence to a journalist, but only in the
days preceding his scheduled execution. He realizes that the machinery of
death will not halt until and unless an innocent person is executed.
Seeing that his cause will be better served by his execution than his
exoneration, Mr. Gale decides to sacrifice himself upon this altar.
For a long time, death-penalty abolitionists have feared that a real David
Gale would report for duty. And as detailed recently in the Houston
Chronicle, compelling evidence now indicates that Texas executed an
innocent man named Ruben Cantu 12 years ago.
But unlike David Gale, Ruben Cantu was not ready to die. Notwithstanding
Mr. Cantu's protestations of innocence, Texas executed him for his alleged
role in a murder-robbery. Whether this mistaken execution will throw a
wrench into that machinery of death turns on our willingness to admit that
such errors are, in the main, unforgivable.
According to the Chronicle, Mr. Cantu should never even have been
convicted - a fact on which the prosecutor, defense attorney, sole
eyewitness and the head juror involved with the case all agree. They now
attribute Mr. Cantu's fate to 2 causes: 1st, the extraordinary police
pressure exerted on immigrant Juan Moreno - the crime's sole surviving
witness - to finger Mr. Cantu in testimony; and, 2nd, the failure of Mr.
Cantu's co-defendant, David Garza, to speak up earlier to clear Mr.
Cantu's name. (Mr. Garza and Mr. Moreno have since said someone else
actually committed the crime.)
As the head juror said, "We did the best we could with the information we
had, but with a little extra work, a little extra effort, maybe we'd have
gotten the right information. ... The bottom line is, an innocent person
was put to death for it."
The jury convicted Mr. Cantu - who was admittedly no Eagle Scout - on the
basis of eyewitness testimony, which is, especially during any period of
great trauma, notoriously unreliable. Thus, without physical evidence, no
confession and no other government evidence - aside from now-recanted
testimony - Mr. Cantu was eventually executed for a crime he did not
Maybe this seems like the perfect confluence of random coincidences. But
those familiar with the criminal justice system - like the former district
attorney in Mr. Cantu's case - see this as business as usual, precisely
because there are "so many places where [the evidence] could break down."
The new facts about Mr. Cantu's case have made the Bexar County district
attorney's office anxious enough to reopen the investigation.
Understandably so, since, if the Chronicle's reporting is correct, Mr.
Cantu's case would represent the first wrongful execution since 1976, when
the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.
Since that year, 122 men and women have been exonerated while awaiting
execution. That means 122 inmates already convicted by a jury beyond a
reasonable doubt were later found innocent.
The nontrivial risk of error and the irrevocable nature of the death
penalty are only two reasons policymakers sympathetic to retributive
justice should oppose the death penalty. The state should refuse to impose
a punishment that prevents it from later acknowledging - and making amends
for - its own wrongful acts to its own unintended victims.We have found
our David Gale. It's time to call a moratorium on executions. Absent
compelling evidence that executions (even of innocents) are saving lives
through deterrence, one lost innocent is too many. Any more would be a
(source: Dallas Morning News -- Dan Markel teaches law at Florida State
The question only Texas can answer----State must convene a panel to
investigate whether innocent men have been executed
A recent Houston Chronicle investigative report raises a question that
only the state of Texas can answer: Was Ruben Cantu innocent of the crime
for which he was executed?
The Chronicle story, ("The Cantu case: Death and doubt / Did Texas execute
an innocent man?," Nov. 20, Page One) strongly suggests that Cantu was
innocent of the crime in question. Specifically, the report shows that:
- The surviving victim and sole witness now says that Cantu did not shoot
him - but that he felt pressured by police to identify Cantu as the
- The convicted co-defendant, who pleaded guilty, has signed a sworn
affidavit saying that Cantu was not present at the killing.
- The judge, prosecutor, head juror and defense attorney all acknowledge
that Cantu's conviction seems to have been built on omissions and lies.
- The police reports have unexplained omissions and irregularities.
- The investigation focused on Cantu only after he shot an off-duty police
officer in an unrelated bar altercation months later.
While the Chronicle has established a strong case that Ruben Cantu was
executed for a crime he did not commit, it is incapable of answering the
question with the certainty that Texans deserve. Only the government can
do that, because only the government can empanel an expert, objective
panel of fact finders and compel the documents and testimony necessary to
determine if an innocent person has been executed.
This question transcends differing positions on the death penalty. That's
because nobody benefits when an innocent person is executed: not the
victim, the police, the prosecution or the legal system - and certainly
not the public. The only person who benefits is the real perpetrator.
The harm is inflicted upon not only the crime victim, the executed
innocent and their families, but also Texans' faith in their justice
system and future jurors' confidence in evidence of guilt presented to
Cantu is not the only Texas execution where serious questions about
innocence linger. As the Texas Senate Judiciary Committee heard earlier
this year, despite his vehement claim of innocence, Cameron Todd
Willingham was executed for the arson/murder of his daughters, who died in
a fire that consumed their trailer. The state relied upon an outdated
arson theory to convict him of setting the fire.
Texas exonerated and compensated another person, Ernest Willis, who had
been convicted based on that same arson theory, after agreeing with the
expert testimony proving the arson theory invalid. Despite his pleas of
innocence - and his lawyer's last-minute efforts to have the state review
the case in light of the Willis exoneration - Willingham was executed.
That arson theory is now completely discredited.
Consider also the execution of Claude Howard Jones, whose capital murder
conviction was based primarily on accomplice testimony. Jones - no angel
he - nonetheless protested that he did not commit the murder. Texas law
requires that accomplice testimony be corroborated by independent evidence
in order to convict, and in this case that evidence was a hair left at the
crime scene. At trial, a Department of Public Safety forensic analyst
testified that microscopic analysis indicated that the hair could have
been Jones', but couldn't have been the victim's or the accomplice's.
On the day of Jones' execution, Gov. George W. Bush's office inquired of
DPS about the possibility of obtaining "m-DNA (mitochondrial DNA) results
from a 1[-inch] head hair fragment" left at the scene.
DPS did not directly answer that question. It's not clear if DPS told the
governor's office about the known problems with microscopic hair
inclusions and exclusions, or about the ability of mitochondrial DNA
testing to more reliably exclude suspects and point to inclusions, nor if
Gov. Bush was aware of this inquiry. DPS did suggest that the governor's
office "contact Joe Dizinno, FBI Lab, at 202-324-4416 to discuss
likelihood of obtaining M-DNA results from a 1[-inch] head hair fragment."
There is no record of that call ever having been made. The hair was not
tested. Jones was executed.
We have no idea whether DNA testing would generate evidence showing that
Claude Jones was guilty, innocent or that the evidence against him was
legally insufficient. It is our understanding that the hair found on the
counter was made a court exhibit at Jones' trial and might be available
for mitochondrial DNA testing at this time. Court exhibits containing
physical evidence used to convict executed individuals are not available
for public scrutiny or testing under the existing law of Texas. They are,
however, available to the government. The hair should be tested.
Texas must convene an expert, objective commission and empower it to
investigate these compelling questions of the whether or not Texas has
executed an innocent person. Texans deserve to know.
(source: Editorial, Houston Chronicle -- Barry Scheck is the co-director
of The Innocence Project. Ellis, a Democrat, represents District 13 in
Houston, Dec. 3)
Cantu's legacy----Bexar County district attorney's probe is only the 1st
step needed in a comprehensive re-evaluation of executed man's case.
The conviction and execution of Ruben Cantu could turn out to be the 1st
documented example of the state of Texas carrying out capital punishment
on an innocent man. As reported by the Chronicle's Lise Olsen, the
evidence brought against the then-17-year-old for a 1984 murder committed
during a robbery has since splintered.
The sole eyewitness, one of the shooting victims in the robbery, has now
recanted his testimony and claimed he was pressured by police to identify
Cantu as the assailant. The accomplice in the crime now says someone else
was the gunman. The Chronicle located a man who confirms that Cantu was in
Waco and not in San Antonio the night of the killing.
The finality of the death penalty makes it impossible to reverse a
miscarriage of justice. Cantu steadfastly maintained to his death that he
had been framed. What remains for legal authorities is the duty to examine
the case record, determine if indeed the San Antonian was wrongly
convicted and, if so, make recommendations that will keep other innocent
people from suffering a similar fate. In cases like his where eyewitness
identification is the only evidence, new safeguards are clearly needed for
the application of the ultimate penalty.
Such an examination must be carried out by an impartial legal authority or
commission. Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed is to be commended
for reopening the records of Cantu's case for review, but her involvement
in the chain of events leading to his execution should mandate a higher
level review as well by people unconnected to the matter.
Before being elected district attorney, Reed was the state district judge
who denied Cantu's final death sentence appeal in 1988 and then set
Cantu's August 1993 execution date. She was not the trial judge.
Reed now says she doesn't remember the case and had only minimal judicial
involvement. In an indication of priorities, Reed told the Chronicle she's
more concerned about whether a murderer remains at large and whether
perjury that led to a wrongful execution occurred. While those issues are
important, equally critical is an examination of the facts in order to
change the way Texas courts handle the application of the death penalty.
Reed is qualified to lead a search for the real killer, if one is out
there. And no one is questioning her motives or ethics in investigating
the outcome of the case. But her previous involvement could taint public
perception of the impartiality of the examination.
More desirable are the recommendations by Texas Innocence Network director
David Dow and Houston state Sen. Rodney Ellis that the governor's Criminal
Justice Advisory Council undertake the job of an independent review of
Cantu's case. "The reality that Texas may have executed an innocent man
should shock us all into action," said Ellis, who characterized the known
facts of the Cantu case "as pointing toward a catastrophic failure of the
entire Texas criminal justice system."
It's unfortunate that Gov. Rick Perry is of the opinion, as he indicated
through his spokeswoman, Kathy Walt, that his advisory council is an
unsuitable venue for examining individual criminal cases. Even if Perry
set up the council to deal with broader judicial issues, the notion that
an innocent person was executed is an urgent matter worthy of attention at
the highest level. According to Walt her boss is unlikely to take any
action on Cantu's case before Reed finishes her review. That's
Walt suggested that Cantu's case might not be unique and that such claims
of wrongful executions have come up before. Rather than a defense for
inaction, this was a chance for the governor of a state that executes more
inmates than any other to declare that even one wrongful death is too
many. He should have pledged to fully examine the facts of Ruben Cantu's
execution and order the Criminal Justice Advisory Council to immediately
undertake a thorough and speedy evaluation of this exceedingly disturbing
(source: Editorial, Houston Chronicle, Dec. 3)
Death row inmates require counsel
John Nixon's life should be spared.
Perspective Editor Sid Salter laments the fact that Nixon has been on
death row for 20 years not because he has any sympathy for Nixon, but
because he believes the state should have executed him long ago ("Nixon's
death row odyssey is a pathetic joke," Nov. 16 column).
But ironically, Salter actually reveals the main reason why Nixon's life
should be spared by conceding that Mississippi does not "provide for a
state indigent defense system that verifiably provides competent counsel
for murder defendants that is comparable to the state trial court
Nixon, and the vast majority of death row inmates who grew up poor, did
not receive adequate counsel.
In fact, Nixon's initial trial lawyers did not present any mitigating
evidence at the sentencing phase to counter the state's aggravating
If they had done their job effectively, Nixon's lawyers would have
revealed to the jury that Nixon served in both the Navy and the Army
during World War II and received honorable discharges for his enlistments;
they would have lauded the fact that Nixon pulled a woman from the burning
wreckage of a plane crash and saved a drowning boy from an irrigation
ditch; and they would have asked the jury for sympathy for a man who
suffered from a severe passive-aggressive personality disorder and who had
witnessed and suffered repeated beatings by his alcoholic father.
But the jury didn't hear any of this evidence because his attorneys never
It has taken 20 years for Nixon's sentence to get this close to the point
of execution for good reason - the same reason why his sentence should be
commuted to life imprisonment.
Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel----Jackson
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Clarion Ledger)
Assessing A Lethal Landmark In U.S. -- Deep Divide Persists After 1,000
Kenneth Lee Boyd would have died an obscure killer on a gurney in a
Raleigh, N.C., prison but for the dubious distinction of being the 1,000th
convict executed since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 gave the green light
for states to resume executions.
And he died regretting his newfound notoriety.
"I'd hate to be remembered as that," he said in one prison interview. "I
don't like the idea of being picked as a number."
Boyd was sentenced to die by lethal injection for shooting to death his
estranged wife and her father in 1988. He was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m.
Death penalty opponents say the 1,000 mark is significant - a milestone to
rattle the public conscience at a time when death sentences and executions
are on the wane. Proponents of the death penalty see the mark as specious
at best; one said perhaps the opponents should turn their energies and
attentions to the number of U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq,
which recently reached the 2,000 mark.
The debate is alive, although most executions are given little, if any,
attention by the media.
And the executions continue, a steady drumbeat that most U.S. allies find
highly offensive. Not 24 hours passed before the milestone of 1,000 gave
way to 1,001 - with the execution in South Carolina Friday night of Shawn
Humphries for shooting to death a convenience store clerk. And more than
3,400 inmates await their fates on death row.
In Connecticut, the historic significance hits close to home.
Friday's lethal landmark was reached the same year that Connecticut serial
killer Michael Ross became the first convict executed in New England in 45
years. His May 13 execution was No. 966.
The year began with the execution of James Porter in Texas. Strapped
firmly to a gurney, he expressed remorse for stomping to death a fellow
inmate, apologizing to his own family and the family of his victim for the
pain he had caused them. The sister of his victim watched him die, but
found little solace.
"He was taken out too easily," Anna Acevedo said.
The count to 1,000 began Jan. 17, 1977, in Utah, when convicted killer
Gary Gilmore commanded a firing squad, "Let's do it." Gilmore's real
notoriety came posthumously, with the 1979 publication of Norman Mailer's
book, "The Executioner's Song," chronicling Gilmore's life and death.
Only one other execution in the modern era was done by firing squad, also
in Utah. John Albert Taylor was executed in January 1996 for the rape and
murder of an 11-year-old girl.
Most of the 1,000 were obscure in life, known by an inmate number behind
bars, and their executions registered nary a blip on the national radar
The exceptions are few and far between. John Wayne Gacy. Karla Faye
Tucker. Timothy McVeigh.
Boyd will be remembered as a number. A week ago, he was a long shot for
such recognition. Robin Lovitt of Virginia was expected to become number
1,000 last Wednesday, but Gov. Mark Warner granted him clemency. Still,
church bells tolled and candles were lit that evening by death penalty
opponents uncertain of when the mark would be reached.
The executions of another condemned killer in Virginia and one in Nevada
were stayed, leaving Boyd next in line.
"Even in reaching this number, it shows how arbitrary the death penalty is
in terms of when or whether it's imposed," said attorney Stephen Bright,
director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights and a
leading expert on the death penalty.
Bright said the 1,000th execution should be noteworthy.
"It reminds people just how many executions have been carried out in this
country," he said. "And it really should raise the question of what we
accomplish by having it. If you take 1,000 and look at the number of years
since the [Supreme Court ruling permitting the reinstatement of capital
punishment,] it's roughly 35 a year. That's an enormous amount of money
and tears and tragedy expended to get 35 executions a year in a country as
large as the United States."
The number of executions peaked in 1999, when 98 convicts were executed.
The number of people being sentenced to death has dropped dramatically,
though, from an average of 320 a year in the late 1990s to 125 last year,
That 122 death row inmates have been exonerated and freed based on fresh
evidence of their innocence has spurred calls for moratoriums on use of
the death penalty and bolstered the ranks of opponents.
Boyd became the 55th person executed this year; Humphries the 56th. 5 more
executions are scheduled before the year is out, including the
controversial execution of Stan "Tookie" Williams in California Dec. 13.
Williams was co-founder of the Los Angeles Crips gang, and was convicted
in 1981 of 4 murders he maintains he did not commit. He has since become
an acclaimed author of children's books that warn about the perils of drug
and gang involvement, and has been nominated for a Nobel Prize.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has scheduled a closed-door clemency
hearing for Williams on Thursday. California has so many inmates on death
row - 650 - it is considering building a separate prison for condemned
Bright noted that although California has the largest death row population
of any state in the country, it has executed only 10 convicts in the past
30 years. Texas, by contrast, has executed 355. "No other state is over
100 right now and here's Texas with 355," he said. The only woman executed
this year, Frances Newton, was put to death in Texas in September.
In Connecticut, 8 men sit on death row - 7 under a sentence of death and
1, Ivo Colon, whose death sentence was vacated. He is awaiting a new
Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly has put 6 of those men there,
Connelly said he believes the death penalty protesters who have expended
so much time and passion in marking the 1,000th execution should focus
their energies instead on the war in Iraq.
"If they want to protest an injustice, they should be protesting the young
men and women being killed in Iraq, instead of being concerned about the
people on death row," Connelly said. He noted that the country just weeks
ago somberly noted the death of the 2,000th American soldier killed in
Iraq. "And they're concerned about a thousand people who committed brutal
Maryland, which has executed 4 inmates since 1977, is scheduled to put
convicted killer Wesley Baker to death by lethal injection this week. His
execution could take place anytime within a 5-day window, beginning
(source: Hartford Courant)
Misuse of Bible blamed for US death penalty culture
Human rights and church groups have joined the international outcry over
the death penalty after murderer Kenneth Lee Boyd became the thousandth
American prisoner to be executed since the reinstatement of capital
punishment in 1976.
But experts also say that "unwavering belief in retribution" based on the
selective interpretation of biblical texts by Christian fundamentalists is
part of what keeps the "state killing culture" alive.
In spite of a record 105 countries choosing to abolish capital punishment,
America has continued to embrace it, accounting for most of the world's
known executions, along with China, Iran and Vietnam.
"God bless everyone in here," said Mr Boyd, before he was wheeled into the
death chamber in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday. He was forcibly
strapped to a stretcher and killed by lethal injection.
Similar protests have greeted recent executions in Singapore, Iran and
Saudi Arabia. But campaigners are particularly angry that the US maintains
what many regard as a barbarous practice while lecturing others on human
"This execution is a milestone we should be ashamed of," said Mr Boyds
lawyer, Thomas Maher, outside the central prison where the execution took
place. Over 100 protestors were there, maintaining a dignified vigil,
including priest and nuns.
"Compared to Europe, we [in the USA] have a much higher homicide rate,"
commented Tom Smith of the University of Chicago's National Opinion
While the American rate is down from recent years, it is still among the
highest in the world, showing that the death penalty is no deterrent, say
Support for state executions is partly related to the fact that the
country has the largest concentration of hard-line evangelical Christians
"who believe in - the punishment of sin, and that capital punishment is
biblically ordained," said Mr Smith.
He added: "That tradition is stronger in the United States than any
European country," and it accompanies a frontier tradition of "swift and
sure justice to deal with criminals ... You catch a cattle rustler, you
string him up."
The Roman Catholic Churches and members of the historic Christian
denominations in the US oppose capital punishment, but they are
considerably outweighed by the Christian right.
Peace churches like the Mennonites and the Quakers are often outspoken in
critiquing the partial and nave interpretation of the Bible underlying the
majority cultural view.
It is harder to prove that racism is involved, the researcher claimed,
though statistics show black people are on death row in numbers far
disproportionate to their population density of 14 %.
However, Dr Deanne Bonner, clinical professor of social work at the
University of Boston, claims the country's history of racism is a strong
"There are many people who believe that capital punishment has replaced
lynching ... the vast majority of those executed are African-American
males," she declared.
(source: Ekklesia (UK) )
We're better without capital punishment
In the wee hours Friday, state prison officials strapped double murderer
Kenneth Lee Boyd to a table and slid a needle into his arm. They injected
a mix of 3 lethal drugs.
By 2:15 a.m., our state had the kind of honor that is no honor at all. We
executed the 1,000th person since capital punishment was reinstated in
We're better than that. The 37 other states that still administer the
death penalty are better than that, too.
It is past time to end capital punishment in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently restricted the death penalty with
rulings barring the execution of children and the mentally disabled.
But our country is still alone among western, industrialized nations in
executing its citizens. Every other major democracy has long moved on, and
more than 60 countries have gotten rid of the death penalty since 1977.
We should move on, too.
First, our justice system sometimes makes mistakes, and there is no way to
prevent that. Second, the defendant with money does better in court than
the defendant without money.
Rewind about 10 years. Do you think O.J. Simpson murdered his ex-wife,
Nicole Brown Simpson?
Do you think he would have walked had he not been able to afford his Dream
Team of lawyers?
Now imagine the case the reverse way. What if O.J. was just some dude and
not a rich, well-known football star? What if he had been tried in Texas,
where a nation-leading 355 convicts have been put down in the modern era?
Would this anonymous O.J. have walked? Or would he have ended up like
Cantu, 17, was executed in 1993 allegedly for a murder and robbery in San
Antonio. A week ago, it was revealed that the eyewitnesses against him
recanted, and evidence suggests Cantu was nowhere near the crime. An
innocent man - gone.
This does not mean we should stop arresting and charging criminals. A
certain amount of error is the price we pay for a system that overall does
a decent job in bringing people to justice.
But when were talking about putting a man to death, 5 % error is too much.
1 % error is too much.
Lets go deeper.
No study has shown that capital punishment deters murder, and no study
will. For one, the deterrent effect is blunted by the lengthy time between
sentencing and punishment.
That time is required for appeals. I know some people dont like the
appeals process, but I dont want to live in a country where a man can be
sentenced one day and dead a few days later.
A society cant work that way and claim to be free. The possibility of
error increases the speedier the sentence is carried out.
Locking up a criminal for life does the same thing as killing him would,
which is to get him off the streets for good. (Locking up someone for life
is also cheaper, but money should not be the main factor in this debate.)
What the death penalty ultimately satisfies is our sense of retribution or
to put it less charitably, revenge.
"What if someone killed your mother?" a reader will ask me. Of course, I'd
want the SOB dead.
But I am merely an individual. The government has a higher responsibility.
Years ago, someone broke into my car and stole my stereo. I'd have been
happy if I learned later that someone broke into the thief's car and stole
But the state of North Carolina should not be the one breaking in. The
state should oppose theft, period.
Similarly, it is perfect justice for the state to execute Tilmon Golphin,
who along with his brother, Kevin, killed law officers Ed Lowry and David
Hathcock. No one can deny he deserves to die.
But in executing him, the state of North Carolina sanctions killing. I see
no clear way around that view.
This month, North Carolina lawmakers are going to convene a task force to
look at how death penalty cases are handled. Among the task force members
will be death penalty supporters and opponents.
They will discuss reported problems in evidence presented at trial,
including eyewitness testimony and presentation of evidence favorable to
Rep. Rick Glazier, a member of the task force, says he supports capital
punishment but thinks the state should enact a proposed 2-year moratorium.
Under the moratorium, prosecutors can still bring capital cases, but
certain executions would be halted.
"You don't want to be executing someone while you're saying there's a
problem with the system," Glazier says, "and later find out they were a
victim of that problem."
North Carolina is 6th in the country in executions, with 39. Last year,
death row inmate Alan Gell was freed when new evidence surfaced; he is one
of 122 death row inmates freed nationwide since 1977.
Such evidence should be enough for state legislators to enact a moratorium
to make sure everybody on death row deserves to be there.
And at some point down the road, I believe we will decide the right thing
to do is put away the needle for good.
(source: Fayetteville Observer--guest columnist Myron B. Pitts)
I've been hanging round this popsicle stand way too long, Warden
On Thursday, Kenneth Boyd gained an unenviable place in history: he became
the 1,000th person to be executed in the United States since a moratorium
on judicially-sanctioned killing ended 28 years ago.
In 1972, the US Supreme Court had ruled that federal and state laws which
allowed discretion in the implementation of the death penalty were
unconstitutional, because they were "arbitrary and capricious", and
therefore "cruel and unusual". Executions in the US had, in fact, ceased
several years earlier. The pause had been the consequence of opposition
from voters, politicians, lawyers and judges.
The death penalty made a comeback, however. States in the South,
particularly, soon had popular majorities in favour of its return, and
laws were adjusted to get round the Supreme Court's objections. Executions
restarted with the killing by firing squad of Gary Gilmore on Jan 17, 1977
in Utah. Every year since then, the number of people who have been killed
as a result of a guilty verdict from the courts has increased.
Boyd, who was killed in North Carolina in the early hours of December 2 by
lethal injection, seemed less concerned about being remembered as someone
who murdered his estranged wife and her father - crimes which he admitted
- than being known as the 1,000th prisoner to be executed. "I'd hate to be
remembered like that," he said. "I don't like the idea of being picked as
That, however, is the only way in which he is likely to be remembered.
Support for the death penalty has fallen across the US recently. "Life
without parole" is growing in popularity as the preferred punishment for
first-degree murder, partly as a result of the development of DNA evidence
which has proved significant numbers of innocent people have been
Nevertheless, 2/3 of the electorate still supports executions. Capital
punishment is not likely to end soon in America.
We print here the last words of some of those executed in just 1 state -
Texas - over the past 28 years. The statements can be read in full at the
website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at
G W Green, age 49
Shot dead a Montgomery County juvenile probation officer and reserve
deputy sheriff during an attempted armed robbery with two accomplices to
steal his gun collection. One accomplice shot the officer three times but
resisted Green's alleged urgings to kill the man's wife and daughter, 13.
Executed on November 12, 1991
"Let's do it, man. Lock and load. Ain't life a [expletive deleted]"
Edward Ellis, age 38
Murdered a 74-year-old woman in the bath. Her hands had been handcuffed
and a pillowcase tied around her neck so she suffocated. Her death and
that of 2 other women became known as "The Bathtub Slayings."
Executed on March 3, 1992
"I just want everyone to know that the prosecutor and Bill Scott are sorry
sons of bitches."
Lionel Thomas Herrera, age 45
Shot a policeman who stopped him for speeding. Before he died, the officer
identified a police mugshot of Herrera as the man who shot him. It was the
only evidence against him.
Executed on May 12, 1993
"I am innocent, innocent, innocent. Something very wrong is taking place
tonight! May God bless you all. I am ready."
Markum Duff-Smith, age 46
Convicted for his part in the strangulation of his wealthy adoptive mother
in 1975. He had also wanted his step-father killed at the same time but he
had been away on business. Duff-Smith was arrested only in 1979 on
suspicion of masterminding the murders of his sister, brother-in-law and
their 14-month-old son in order to gain control of their estate.
Executed on May 12, 1993
"I am the sinner of all sinners. I was responsible for the '75 and '79
cases. My trial was not just. It was not fair. They lied against me."
Raymond Kinnamon, age 53
Small-time robber and thief who pulled a gun in a bar and asked everyone
for their money. When one of the drinkers resisted, Kinnamon shot him in
the chest. He then took the man's wallet - which contained $250.
Executed on December 11, 1994
"I am not ready to go but I have no choice. I want to say goodbye again to
my boys. I know I'm missing somebody, but if there's anything I have left
to say, it would be that I wish I had a Shakespearean vocabulary. But I
missed out on some of my vocabulary. If my words can persuade you to
discontinue this practice of executing people, please do so. If the
citizens don't do away with the death penalty, Texas won't be a safe place
to be. I have no hate because revenge won't solve anything."
Earl Behringer, age 33
With an accomplice, he shot dead a 22-year-old man and his 21-year-old
fiancee, whose car was parked in a field. Both were shot repeatedly in the
head. His wallet and her purse were taken.
Executed on June 11, 1997
"It's a good day to die. I walked in here like a man and I am leaving here
like a man. I had a good life. I have known the love of a good woman, my
wife. I have a good family. Thank you for your love. To [my victims']
family, I am sorry for the pain I caused you. If my death gives you any
peace, so be it."
Charles Livingston, age 35
Livingston attempted to rob a 38-year-old woman. She resisted. During the
struggle, he shot her twice in the throat before fleeing with her purse.
Executed on November 21, 1997
"You all brought me here to be executed, not to make a speech. That's it."
Frank McFarland, age 34
Sexually assaulted and murdered a 26-year-old woman. She was raped, then
stabbed 50 times - but before she died she identified McFarland as one of
Executed on April 19, 1998.
"I owe no apologies for a crime I did not commit. Those who lied and
fabricated evidence against me will have to answer for what they have
done. I know in my heart what I did and I call upon the spirit of my
ancestors and I swear to them - and now I am coming home."
William Davis, age 42
Murdered a 60-year-old man during an attempted robbery of an ice-cream
company. Davis had his execution stayed twice and believed he would escape
the death penalty but prosecutors continued to press for it. At the third
attempt, they got it.
Executed on Sept 4, 1999
"I would like say to the [victim's] family how truly sorry I am in my soul
and in my heart of hearts for the pain and misery that I have caused by my
actions. I am truly sorry. I hold nothing against no man. I hope that by
donating my body to science that some parts of it can be used to help
someone. And, oh, I would like to say in closing: What about those
Cowboys?" [A reference to the American football team, the Dallas Cowboys]
Robert Atworth, age 30
Robbed and murdered a man whose body was found between two rubbish
dumpsters. The victim had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head,
torso and groin area, as well as knife wounds to the abdomen and chin. His
wallet was missing and the little finger from his right hand where he wore
a ring had been severed.
Executed on December 14, 1999
"Remember this, if all you know is hatred, if all you know is blood love,
you'll never be satisfied. For everybody out there that is like that and
knows nothing but negative, kiss my proud, white Irish ass. I'm ready,
Warden. Send me home."
James Moreland, age 33
Stabbed Clinton Corbet to death, and also indicted in the death of John
Royce Cravey. Both had been stabbed multiple times in the back.
Executed on Jan 30, 2003
"I'm sorry and I really mean that - it's not just words. My life is all I
can give. I stole 2 lives and I know it was precious to ya'll. That's the
story of my whole, that's what alcohol will do for you. Oh, Jesus, Lord
God, take me home. Precious Lord, take me home, Lord. Take me home, yes,
Granville Riddle, age 33
Bludgeoned a man to death after breaking into his house to rob him. Riddle
was 18. The evidence of a friend who drove him to the residence on the
fatal evening was critical to his conviction.
Executed on Jan 30, 2003
"I have no grudges against anyone or for any of the things that have gone
wrong. I would like to say to the world, I have always been a nice person.
I have never been mean-hearted or cruel."
Henry Dunn, age 28
With 2 accomplices, he abducted a man, stole his wallet, made him strip
naked, then shot him 15 times.
Executed on February 6, 2003
"Texas has executed innocent people, and tonight Texas has shown just how
broke and unfair its system is. There is no clemency in Texas. The Texas
justice system needs to be fixed. When an attorney can dismiss your appeal
process, by missing a filing deadline or for failing to file documents on
behalf of a client, that is not due process of law as guaranteed under the
US Constitution. To my family and friends, and the many supporters around
the world, I love you dearly. Please continue to struggle and fight
against the death penalty, as its only use has been for revenge, and it
does not deter crime. Its time for a moratorium on death in Texas."
Richard Williams, age 33
Murdered a woman by stabbing her in the chest and throat with an 8in-long
steak knife. He was paid $400 to do the killing, although he said he had
been promised $12,000. Converted to Islam while in prison.
Executed on February 23, 2003
"A system that is supposed to protect and uphold what is just and right
has shown it is as crooked as I am said to be. Who wins? No one does.
There's no victory, no heroes, no happiness - except with Allah. I leave
with Allah's blessing as well as mercy. I am free now."
Billy Vickers, age 58
Career robber and burglar who shot and killed a man with two accomplices
as he returned home with the day's takings from his business. He used his
last statement to try to get his accomplices off.
Executed on January 28, 2004
"Tommy Perkins - the man that got a life sentence for murdering Kinslow -
did not do it. I did it. He would not have had anything to do with it if
he had known that I was going to shoot the man. He would not even have
gone with me if he had known. And Martin, the younger boy, did not know
what it was about. He thought it was just a robbery... [Vickers then went
on to admit his part in 14 other murders]... All of these - it was never
nothing personal. It was just something I did to make a living. I am sorry
for all the grief I have caused, that is all I have to say."
Kelsey Patterson, age 50
Shot a man and his secretary outside their office. No motive was ever
established. The prosecution claimed that Patterson had once had an
argument with his victim over who was the better football player:
Patterson or the son of the man he would later shoot.
Executed on May 18, 2004
"I am not guilty. There is no kin and no friend here. No kin to you
undertaker. Murderer!.. [the record then "omits a portion of the statement
due to profanity"]... Get my money. Give me my rights. Give me my rights.
Give me my rights. Give me my life back."
Jasen Busby, age 28
Murdered Brandy Gray, a 16-year-old girl.
Executed on August 25, 2004
"Brandy and I had a suicide pact, and I just didn't come through with it.
That didn't come out at my trial." [Busby did not mention that he had also
killed the girl's companion and shot another man in the neck - the latter
survived to be the principal witness against Busby. That did come out at
George Hopper, age 49
Murdered a woman after being hired to kill her for $1,000. He broke into
her house, tied her to a bed, stripped her, then tried to rape her. When
she freed one of her arms and started to hit back, Hopper shot her twice.
Executed on March 8, 2005
"I apologise to you. I am sorry. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life.
The things I did changed so many lives. I can't take it back. It was an
Douglas Roberts, age 42
Stabbed a man 7 times, then ran over his body because he "wanted to get it
Executed on April 20, 2005
"Warden, I've been hanging around this popiscle stand way too long. But
before I leave. I want to say: When I die, bury me deep, lay 2 speakers at
my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I'm
dead. I'll see you in heaven someday. That's all, warden."
David Martinez, age 29
Sexually assaulted and murdered a 24-year-old woman, cutting her throat
with his pocket knife.
Executed on July 28, 2005
"Only the blue sky and the green grass go on for ever. Today is a good day
to die. Warden..."
Frances Newton, age 40
Shot her husband for the life insurance policy she had taken out in his
name. She was arrested on the day she put in her claim.
Executed on September 14, 2005.
The offender declined to make a last statement.
Charles Thomas, age 34
Shot a man from whom he was buying drugs in the dealer's home, then went
upstairs and shot the man's 2 children.
Executed on Nov 16, 2005 [the most recent execution in Texas]
"I am nervous. It is hard to put my thoughts together. Sometimes you don't
know what to say. I don't know what to say. Let everyone know I love them
- and love is unconditional, as Mama has always told us. I may be gone in
the flesh, but I am always with you in spirit."
(source: The Telegraph (UK) )
Foreign Office seeks pardon for Richey
The UK government is to begin work on controversial plans to have the US
formally pardon Kenny Richey, a Scot who has spent almost 2 decades on
In a move that reflects concern among officials over the case, the Foreign
Office has granted a meeting with human rights campaigners and Scottish
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael this week to discuss a plea for
clemency for Richey, convicted in 1987 of murdering a child by setting
fire to an Ohio flat.
Richey, who grew up in Edinburgh, had been expected to return to Scotland
this year after a decision in January by the 6th US Circuit Court of
Appeals to overturn his conviction. But last week the US Supreme Court
threw that out and effectively sent him back to death row.
The latest ruling means Richey will have to wait at least a year until the
state appeals court reconsiders his case.
In the US, no formal clemency appeal can be made until all legal avenues
are exhausted. But the Sunday Herald has learned that Foreign Office
officials are to begin unofficial talks with the office of Ohio governor
Bob Taft to secure a deal that would see Richey walk free.
An insider confirmed officials were examining "every avenue" to have
Richey freed, including behind-the-scenes discussions to secure a clemency
order if Richey failed to win his freedom through the courts.
The news comes at a time when the Bush administration is facing a backlash
over the death penalty after Friday saw double murderer Kenneth Boyd
become the 1000th inmate executed since capital punishment was
reintroduced in the US in 1976.
Any moves to secure clemency for Richey would signal an escalation in the
governments support for the Scot, who has maintained his innocence over
the murder of 2-year-old Cynthia Collins.
High-profile supporters, including the late Pope John Paul II, actress
Susan Sarandon and writer Irvine Welsh, have all appealed on his behalf.
According to Amnesty International, Richey has "one of the most compelling
cases of innocence" it has seen.
Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, who has been a vocal supporter of
Richey, confirmed the meeting with the Foreign Office on Thursday would
involve discussions about how to take forward a clemency appeal. He said:
"I will try to persuade them that this work should begin now and the
representations should be made at ministerial level, if not Prime
Richeys fiance Karen Torley, from Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire, said
she hoped for a retrial: "For almost 20 years Kenny has been behind bars
and fought for justice. Tony Blair should go direct to President [George
W] Bush and ask him to grant a retrial to prove he did not commit this
Irvine Welsh, the author, said he was "disgusted and shocked" by the
Supreme Court decision. "It's almost beyond comprehension that the
judicial process of a modern democracy can be allowed to function in this
way. This behaviour seems more suited to a mediaeval fiefdom than an
Ken Parsigian, Richey's lawyer, said if a retrial was granted the state
would "have no chance" of proving him guilty. "The notion that someone
could be executed on evidence as thin as this is absurd."
Speaking from Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio, Richey, 41,
said: "Freedom on its own is not enough. I do not want to be simply freed.
I want the truth to be told and the only way it will happen is with a
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the case was being monitored
closely but a clemency appeal would not be made "at this stage." "We are
in contact with his legal team and are considering next steps in
consultation with them."
A spokesman for Ohio governor Bob Taft said a request for clemency could
not be considered as the case was still in the appeals process.
(source: Sunday Herald (UK) )
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