[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, KAN., USA, CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Dec 5 17:32:12 CST 2005
Gunman could face death penalty
In Fort Worth, prosecutors are likely to seek the death penalty against
the man accused of fatally shooting a Fort Worth police officer, said
David Montague, a spokesman for the Tarrant County District Attorneys
But officials won't make a final decision until they complete a standard
review process, which could take months, Montague said Monday.
Stephen L. Heard, 39, of Fort Worth has been formally charged with capital
murder and aggravated kidnapping in connection with the shooting.
Heard, who remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Monday, has acknowledged
shooting officer Henry "Hank" Nava, 39, in the head as Nava searched for
him inside a northwest Fort Worth mobile home.
Heard said he believed that Nava was someone coming to rob him.
"The last time we had a capital murder involving a police officer shot in
the line of duty that we prosecuted in Tarrant County was the 1983 murder
of a deputy sheriff," Montague said. "We sought the death penalty. We got
a death penalty and that defendant has since been executed.
"That continues to be the philosophy of this office."
The review process includes delving into a suspects criminal history and
mental health issues and holding discussions with a victims family,
"The purpose of the review process is to determine if there are any
extenuating circumstances or extraordinary circumstances that would
dictate we should not seek a death penalty," he said. "Other than that,
well continue to follow our philosophy."
After the shooting, Heard held a 26-year-old woman hostage during an
almost 3-hour stand-off with police following last week's shooting.
Nava, who died Thursday evening, is the 1st Fort Worth police officer to
die in the line of duty since 1994. Officer Jesse Don Moorman, 47,
suffered a fatal heart attack while chasing a burglary suspect.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Kline To Argue For State's Death Penalty Law
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline will plead the state's case this week
before the highest court in the land, asking that the U.S. Supreme Court
uphold the state's death penalty.
Kline will make his arguments Wednesday in Washington. He is seeking a
reversal of a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, which held that the
state's 1994 death penalty law was unconstitutional.
A key question is whether the state's law gives equal protection to those
convicted of murder. The Kansas court struck down the law, saying the
state statute is skewed in favor of a sentence of death. Kline will argue
that the law has been adapted following an earlier state court ruling and
that it is balanced, giving equal weight to aggravating and mitigating
A jury uses those circumstances in determining if a convicted person is
sentenced to death or life in prison.
(source: KMBC-TV News)
New rules needed for death penalty
New evidence emerges daily verifying what most of us have long suspected:
Innocent persons have been put to death in this country for crimes they
didn't commit. We probably will never know how many of the nearly 1,000
executed since 1976 when capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme
Court were not actually guilty of the crimes for which they were
convicted. But just one would be excessive.
Does this mean that the penalty should be abolished entirely? More and
more Americans seem to think so, according to recent polls that show
support for the supreme punishment has declined from 3/4 to
2/3 in the wake of increasing doubts about mistakes. That number
drops to close to 50 percent when the alternative of life in prison
without parole is suggested.
There is no arguing that in any number of death-penalty cases, juries,
judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys have shown a fallibility that is
frightening in its implications. Juries are easily manipulated by slick
prosecutors looking for new scalps; many judges on the local level, where
most of the murder cases are tried, reveal an amazing ignorance about
reasonable doubt and other safeguards; and defense attorneys too often
give capital cases for which they frequently are paid very little by
indigent clients or stingy courts a mere swipe of jurisprudence.
Circumstantial evidence frequently rules the day, and even when there are
eyewitnesses, their identifications are sketchy and suspect. Recanting
testimony has become normal.
The time between sentencing and execution is often beyond ludicrous. The
average death-row stay is something like 18 years. Stanley "Tookie"
Williams, founder of the notorious Los Angeles Crips, has been awaiting
execution in California for more than 24 years, convicted of murders in
two robberies. In that time, he has written children's books, was
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has been a persuasive voice
against the gang violence he helped start. He is nearing the end of his
time unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger steps in, as a number of
celebrities have pleaded. Should we tell him that he has done well and
then kill him?
But then, it is fair to ask, what should be done to those who have
committed sickeningly heinous acts and about which there is absolutely no
doubt of their guilt, including confessions that show no evidence of being
coerced? What about the BTK (Bind, Torture and Kill) creature who worked a
deal to save his miserable hide or any number of misanthropic sociopaths
who have managed to wangle a life behind bars at taxpayer expense? Should
there be a special category for them?
There are no easy answers. Capital punishment in many ways is as barbaric
as the crime committed and utterly contrary to the claims of civility by
the society that imposes it. Yet some form of it seems absolutely
necessary to maintaining law and order. The very threat of death obviously
deters some and forces others to admit to their crimes. Police and
prosecutors have solved any number of outstanding mysteries by using the
extreme penalty as a bargaining chip.
These factors alone are enough to support its continuation. Only when one
adds the need to eradicate society's most noxious weeds for the protection
of the common good is capital punishment justifiable. This should be
coupled with a set of inviolate and uniformly mandated standards for
safeguarding the innocent. Any DNA at a crime scene should be instantly
tested without consideration of cost. Police interrogations and witness
identifications should be rigorously supervised. Lab work should be
reviewed at least once. Videos should be employed from the moment of
In too many cases, the system's reluctance to reopen a case translates to
an unwillingness to admit a mistake.
Some states seem not to feel any remorse in the possibility of putting to
death an innocent person. But even in these places there seems to be a
growing recognition that government is also capable of committing a crime.
(source: Opinion, Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard
Californians Conflicted on Williams' Fate
If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is feeling conflicted as he weighs life or
death in the case of Stanley Tookie Williams, he is not alone.
Bill Knox opposes capital punishment because he believes it has not "been
handled fairly over the decades - especially in the minority communities."
Still, the law is the law. If Schwarzenegger believes, after Thursday's
clemency hearing, that Williams deserves to die for the 1979 murders of
four people, "then he has to carry out the sentence," said Knox, a
57-year-old retired corporate executive in Danville, an affluent suburb
east of San Francisco.
"I don't personally like it, but I have to separate myself from a bigger
system," he said.
Just over Altamont Pass, dotted with churning windmills and grazing cows,
Joe Cisneros is equally torn.
He supports the death penalty "to a certain extent." But the Williams case
is a hard one, he says.
"What he's doing, writing books, trying to keep future generations out of
gangs - that type of a figure kids might want to listen to," said the
58-year-old Cisneros, who has operated a hair salon in downtown Tracy for
nearly 30 years. On the other hand, he said, "You've got to show these
gangbangers if you do the crime, you've got to pay for it."
Cisneros finally threw his hands in the air, literally, his palms facing
the ceiling. "When you're in that position like Arnold is, it's a tough
one," Cisneros concluded. "I can't make that judgment call. I just can't."
Deciding whether someone should live or die with the sanction of the state
cannot be an easy thing. Schwarzenegger has already said he dreads
deciding whether to let the Dec. 13 execution go forward. But although the
judgment will not hinge on politics, the choice is particularly fraught
for Schwarzenegger as he seeks to recover from last month's disastrous
special election and runs for a 2nd term next year.
Abandoned by a large swath of the state's Democratic-leaning electorate,
Republican Schwarzenegger has worked to reclaim his centrist image by
aggressively reaching out to old adversaries, even going so far as naming
a longtime Democratic activist, Susan Kennedy, as his new chief of staff.
Granting clemency to Williams "would fit in with that kind of new
characterization" of the governor as a more "humane, caring individual,"
said Larry N. Gerston, a San Jose State political scientist.
And yet blocking Williams' execution could further antagonize
conservatives already outraged by Kennedy's appointment and
Schwarzenegger's talk of huge new borrowing to pay for improved roads,
ports and other infrastructure projects. "If he blinks on this issue, does
he perhaps add more fuel to that fire and open the possibility for a
primary fight?" Gerston asked.
But public opinion on the matter appears shaded with nuance. In polls
taken over roughly the last decade, a majority of Californians have
consistently said they support the death penalty for serious crimes. At
the same time, some surveys have also found strong support for an
alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A series of random interviews around the state last week - in politically
competitive areas reflecting California as a whole - found similar
ambivalence among nearly four dozen individuals who agreed to discuss
their views on Schwarzenegger, capital punishment and the choice the
Supporters of the death penalty expressed concern about its application,
citing cases of innocent men being freed from death row on the basis of
new DNA evidence. Opponents questioned whether it was fair that Williams'
fame - Jamie Foxx starred in a movie based on his life and has joined
other celebrities in taking up his cause - has given him a shot at
clemency that others were denied.
Lance Leber seemed to be a walking embodiment of on-the-one-hand,
"If someone hurt my family, I'd be quite upset. I don't know what kind of
reaction I'd have," said the lanky 33-year-old, a wine shop owner and
part-time disc jockey in Livermore, on the far eastern reaches of the San
Francisco Bay Area.
"It matters if he's 100% guilty or not. There's some things I've heard
that this guy's done some major repentance. But even with that - does that
Weighing vengeance and mercy as he stood in the middle of a strip mall
parking lot on a cold, blustery day, Leber finally said, "I just don't
think the death penalty would be the right solution in this case. There's
too much controversy."
There were plenty of people who had no doubt, one way or the other - among
them Marie Retti, a 56-year-old cattle rancher who was slinging 20-pound
bags of cat food into her faded red pickup nearby.
"Didn't he kill 4 people? Didn't he influence a lot of people to kill a
lot of other people?" Retti said of Williams, co-founder of the Crips
street gang. "I think evil is evil, and I don't think people change."
400 miles to the south, in the bluff-top suburbs north of San Diego, Marge
Benton said much the same thing. "Right is right and wrong is wrong, and
an eye for an eye," the 81-year-old retiree said after a worker at Solana
Beach's Dixieline Lumber loaded starter logs into the trunk of her white
Lexus. "If you kill somebody, you have to pay the price."
Although Benton is a fan of the governor and King opposed the recall that
carried Schwarzenegger to office, opinions about Williams did not always
divide neatly along partisan lines.
Around the corner at the Pleasanton mall, Democrat Jesus Romero questioned
the sincerity of Williams' jailhouse crusade against violence. "I've seen
him in interviews. I've seen the books that he's written," Romero, 31, a
juvenile counselor, said as he strained to keep an eye on his rambunctious
2-year-old, Isaac. "He's done a lot of bad. He's trying to do good, but in
a way I think he's just trying to save himself."
Conversely, although Republican Chris Rudd was hazy on the facts in
Williams' case, he confessed to being "a little ambivalent" when it comes
to the death penalty in general.
"Without really solid evidence, I know that juries make mistakes," the
72-year-old retired metal parts salesman said as he waited to meet a buddy
for breakfast at an International House of Pancakes in Glendale. "Sad to
say, we all do."
Whatever Schwarzenegger's decision, there was little sense among voters
questioned last week that it would haunt him politically.
Many said they empathized with the difficulty the governor faces, and more
than a few said they were glad it was his responsibility and not theirs.
Even some of those who felt strongly one way or the other said they could
understand the governor's reaching a different conclusion.
"The death penalty is like abortion," said Sherry Cain, 61, as she stopped
by Dixieline Lumber to pick up some poinsettias. "It's a real personal
issue and it's very difficult."
Although opinions were decidedly mixed on whether Schwarzenegger deserves
reelection, not one of those interviewed said they would base their
decision on his actions in Williams' clemency case.
Kathy Kindred, the 43-year-old owner of K2 Knits Yarn Salon in Tracy, is a
staunch Schwarzenegger backer and proponent of the death penalty.
"If he did take the lives of 4, I think he should pay for it, no matter
how good," Kindred said of Williams as she smoked a cigarette in front of
her shop on a downtown side street.
"I think there is a trend in our society now where we make excuses for
things. This gentleman, Tookie Williams, obviously reacted by turning over
a new leaf. But he still should be responsible for what he did," she said.
That said, if Schwarzenegger allows Williams to live out his life behind
bars, Kindred still plans to vote to give the governor a 2nd term.
"I elect somebody not to have to watchdog them. I elect them on their
overall campaign," Kindred said. "Some things Schwarzenegger has done I
don't agree with. But I'm going to do things that people don't agree
(source: Los Angeles Times)
What Tookie's tale teaches us
In a candid and revealing moment, Stanley "Tookie" Williams told a visitor
at San Quentin State Prison in California that he helped found the
notorious Crips street gang because he wanted to smash everyone, make a
rep and get respect and dignity, and that he wanted his name to be known
everywhere. He got his wish in more ways than he ever dreamed of.
The demons that drove Mr. Williams in his reckless push for identity and
prominence also drove him to become the nation's best-known condemned
prisoner. He faces execution by lethal injection at San Quentin on Dec. 13
for multiple murders.
Mr. Williams' revelatory glimpse into his thug past tells much about the
anger, alienation and desperation that have turned legions of young black
men into social pariahs and that propel them to wreak murder and mayhem in
mostly poor, black communities. But today's Tookies didn't crop up from
The transformation in the early 1970s of the old-line civil rights groups
into business and professional organizations and black middle-class flight
from the inner city neighborhoods left the black poor, especially young
black males, socially fragmented, politically rudderless and economically
Lacking visible role models of success and achievement or competitive
technical skills and professional training to compete in a rapidly
shifting economy, they were shoved even further to the outer margins of
Yet the Tookies instinctively know that the material goodies suspended
before them in movies, on TV and in advertisements are the primary
measures of an individual's worth in a consumer-obsessed culture. They
desperately want them, but they know that in many cases they can't attain
them, at least not legally. This increases their frustration and anger.
The American dream may be a dream deferred, but it's still a dream that
many spend their lives in futile pursuit of.
That alone doesn't explain the inner rage that consumes many poor young
black males. They are in a pathetic hunt to live up to the perverse and
distorted image of manhood that American society reserves for white men
and denies black males.
Far too many young black males have become especially adept at acting out
their frustrations at society's denial of their "manhood" by adopting an
exaggerated "tough guy" role. They swagger, boast, curse, fight and commit
violent self-destructive acts. Their tattoos, signs, code language, dress,
gaudy colors, graffiti-tagged walls, drug dealing and gunplay are a ritual
part of the identity and power quest that once pushed Mr. Williams to the
The accessibility of drugs and guns and the influence of violent-laced rap
songs also reinforced the deep feeling among many youths that life is
cheap, expendable and easy to take. In far too many cases, police and city
officials throw up their hands in despair or play down the crime and
violence they commit as long as their victims are other blacks.
The exception is when there's a loud and pained outcry from residents over
an especially heinous and outrageous killing. The body count of unsolved
homicides in predominantly black neighborhoods in Mr. Williams' old South
Los Angeles haunts numbers in the hundreds. The pattern is similar in
Police say it's because the witnesses and victims' relatives and friends
won't cooperate, but often they do and arrests still aren't made. When
they are, the punishment appears less severe than the punishment meted out
to blacks if the victims were not black.
The 4 people Mr. Williams is convicted of killing were white and Asian.
The sense among young black males that their lives are severely
marginalized fosters disrespect for the law and implants the troubling
notion that they have an open license to pillage and plunder their
Mr. Williams was long gone from the scene by the time the Crips devolved
and morphed into the hundreds of factions nationally, and internationally,
that have since become major players in the gun and drug plague. The
memory of the thug life that Mr. Williams helped spawn, as much as the
public demand by the authorities that he pay with his life for the murders
he was convicted of, is why Mr. Williams is still roundly condemned by
But Mr. Williams feels deeply responsible for the Frankenstein monster
that he helped create and has profusely and openly apologized to the
families of the victims of gang violence in letters and taped messages.
His contrition is not too little, too late, but it is still slight
consolation to the victims that his violent quest for identity and manhood
The Mr. Williams that thousands are fighting to keep from a date with the
executioner is not the same Mr. Williams who decades ago wanted to smash
everyone. Yet there are still thousands like him that do. A very much
alive Mr. Williams who understands their anger and alienation could help
lesson their numbers.
(source: Op-Ed, Baltimore Sun; Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a political analyst
and social issues commentator, is the author of "The Crisis in Black and
DEATH AND JUSTICE----A stupid waste; It's foolish to execute a man who
represents a real opportunity to break the cycle of gang violence.
I met Stanley Tookie Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang, at San
Quentin. Several times we sat locked together in a metal cage and talked,
sharing food I'd purchase from the vending machines. He's the same age I
am, early 50s, a big man gone gray at the temples. You can see how
imposing he'd have been in his youth. Now he's surprisingly soft-spoken,
picks his words carefully, has a writer's ear for language.
Before meeting him, I'd read several of his books. "Life In Prison" is an
unsentimental account of his surroundings. It is aimed at young adults,
aimed directly at dissuading them of romantic notions they might hold
about the place. It is knowingly and beautifully written.
His children's book series, written just a few notches above the "see Spot
run" level, are deceptively simple. At first you can't believe he'd be
addressing the grim subjects - coping with violence and drugs and fear and
conformity - to 4th-graders. Then you realize, as Stan did, that if you
don't reach his intended audience at that age, the gangs will have gotten
All this was research for the TV movie I wrote about Stan Williams
"Redemption" - whose premiere attracted many of the people, Snoop Dogg
among them, now calling on the governor to commute Stan's death sentence.
I interviewed Stan to understand him as a character. In doing so, I came
to see him as a man, which is why I count myself among those who believe
that his prison conversion was real. I also believe, as Father Greg Boyle,
director of Homeboy Industries, has said, that Stan is "not the person he
was 27 years ago, and if he is granted clemency, his impact on kids, who
plan their funerals and not their futures, will continue." This is more
important than most people from privileged backgrounds seem to understand
- more important than I understood going into the project.
L.A. County prosecutors, among others, say "Williams deserves to die for
his crimes and for helping start a gang that has claimed thousands of
lives over the years." Although there is more than one account of the
Crips' genesis, Stan himself says he was a co-founder of the gang, and no
one, least of all him, denies that this was a bad thing.
But he's on death row because a jury convicted him of four murders,
period. Justice needs to be specific. If the prosecutors want him killed
for starting the Crips, they need to bring charges, go to trial and get a
conviction. The truth is, a new type of street gang was emerging in Los
Angeles' poor neighborhoods in the early 1970s, and a Crips-like cancer,
with its culture of retaliation and blood vengeance, would have spread
with or without Stan Williams.
Law enforcement officials say that Stan's redemption can't be real because
he refuses to participate with corrections officials in "debriefing"
sessions about gang members. Does this really signal "no redemption" and
"no atonement"? Last month, one prisoner killed another in the lunch line
at the L.A. County Jail. How long do you think Stan Williams would last in
San Quentin, surrounded by Crips, if he started cooperating? His chances
of surviving lethal injection are probably greater. So it's disingenuous
to say his lack of cooperation signals anything but a desire to live.
The district attorney has said that the evidence against Stan is
"overwhelming." To most of us, that means something like several
eyewitnesses, a confession made to a pair of detectives, a crime weapon
found in the possession of the suspect, the suspect's fingerprints on the
weapon, a slam-dunk ballistics test tying the weapon to the crime. In
Stan's case, there was none of the above.
Stan has said, "I will never apologize for capital crimes that I did not
commit." One of the downsides of being a criminal is that people forever
after doubt your word. And generally that's not a bad rule of thumb. But a
study on the death penalty done at Northwestern University, showed that
about 6% of death row inmates in Illinois were later exonerated. Which
indicates that at least some of the guys claiming they didn't do it,
really didn't do it. So even if you believe in the death penalty and don't
believe Stan Williams, there is, statistically, a chance that the guy's
telling the truth.
The families of the murder victims - the Owenses, the Yangs - have lost
what is irreplaceable. The reporting in this paper alone of their pain and
their sorrow and doubts has been searing to read. Perhaps I'm wrong and
they do have a right to more than keeping a guy in jail for the rest of
his life. Perhaps they do have a right to blood vengeance as administered
by the state of California. And maybe the state will get lucky and kill
the right guy.
But the state will also be killing a man who, guilty or innocent, is now
doing far more good than harm. Critics say that all this do-gooding is
just a way for Stan to save his skin. My experience with the guy says no,
he really does want to spare mothers and brothers the agony faced by the
Owenses and Yangs.
In writing "Redemption," I met many young men at risk of joining street
gangs. These young men will not listen to me, will not listen to you, will
not listen to George W. Bush. But they will listen to - and perhaps be
moved and motivated by - Stan Williams.
This prisoner offers California a rare resource with which to interrupt
the cycle that produces crop after crop of killer Crips. To squander that
opportunity in an effort to eliminate one former Crip - who may be
innocent of the murders for which he was convicted - would be plain
(source: Opinion, J.T. Allen, authored the screenplay for "Redemption,"
starring Jamie Foxx and Lynn Whitfield)
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