[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----IOWA, PENN., KAN., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 17 12:47:06 CST 2005
IOWA----female faces federal death penalty
Judge denies initial appeal in federal death penalty case
In Iowa City, a federal judge has denied a motion for a new trial sought
by Angela Johnson.
She is 1 of 2 people convicted in the grisly, drug related slayings of 3
adults and 2 children in Mason City in 1993.
The ruling by U-S District Judge Mark Bennett clears the way for Bennett
to sentence Johnson to the death penalty next week. That would make
Johnson the 1st woman executed by the U-S government since December 1953.
41-year-old Johnson, was convicted in May of 10 counts of aiding former
boyfriend and drug kingpin Dustin Honken in the slayings, carried out to
undermine a federal investigation into Honken's methamphetamine operation.
The jury recommended the death penalty for her role in 4 of the killings,
and under federal sentencing rules the recommendation is binding on the
Sentencing is scheduled for December 20th in Sioux City.
(source: Associated Press)
DA Considering Death Penalty In Trooper's Murder
In Pittsburgh, District attorney Stephen Zappala says he hasn't made a
final decision, but he is considering going for the death penalty in the
murder of Corporal Joe Pokorny.
Leslie Mollett's attorneys aren't surprised that the DA would consider
going for the death penalty given that the victim was a police officer.
"I fully expected it to be a capital case," said John Elash, one of
Zapalla is promising a "thorough and thoughtful review" before deciding to
proceed with a capital case.
Meantime, court papers provide more detail about what may have happened in
the moments leading up to the murder.
In an affidavit, Mollett admits he and 2 friends were speeding in a
Mercury Sable on the Parkway West. When Pokorny tried to pull them over
they fled, crashing in the driveway of the Extended Stay America motel in
Mollett admits struggling with Pokorny outside the car -- but claims he
broke away and "fled the scene alone" in the sable. His passengers dispute
that. One told police Mollet "resisted and began to fight" with Pokorny.
The other says Pokorny had to "spray Mollett with pepper spray."
The passengers claim they ran into the woods and then heard gunshots.
Defense attorneys declined comment.
"What that affidavit says and what the facts of the case are we'll find
out at the preliminary hearing and later at the trial," said defense
attorney Jim Ecker.
As for the preliminary hearing, it's set for next week.
Mollett's attorneys say he will enter a not guilty plea.
(source: KDKA News)
Sister Therese Bangert monitors death penalty challenges
The death of Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California brought the issue of
the death penalty back to the media limelight, although it is a measure
that many are fighting around the world, across the United States and in
our own neighborhoods.
Sister Therese Bangert, SCL, a chaplain for the Kansas City Kan., police
and fire departments, has fought against the death penalty for years. This
week, she drove to Washington D.C., to sit in on the U.S. Supreme Court as
justices heard arguments on 2 death penalty cases on Wednesday, Dec. 7,
including a case to determine the constitutionality of Kansas' death
"It's not real easy to get a ticket," she said. "I had to explain why I
wanted to be at the court. A group of people stood in line for hours in
the cold to be able to get in. I was grateful to have a ticket."
Once inside, she said there is a respectful reverence in the building, for
the kind of struggles that have happened there.
"There have been dramatic struggles, mostly dealing with cases of civil
rights," she said. "It reminds us how important the court is to our civil
rights. I don't understand the intricacies of the law. I have always been
against the death penalty, as part of the Catholic Church. In March, the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a Catholic campaign to end
the use of the death penalty. My order, the Sisters of Charity of
Leavenworth, stands with Catholic religious women across the country
against the penalty."
>From the KCK area, Sen. David Haley introduced legislation in 2005, Senate
Bill 6, to abolish the death penalty.
"It sits in the judiciary committee and it is live from last year," Haley
said. "When I first came to the legislature, I was a death penalty
proponent. It was through the education of Sister Therese and others like
her who convinced me. We must give credit where it is due."
Haley said there are seven people currently on death row in Kansas and one
is awaiting an appeal. He is the solo sponsor of this bill.
"The death penalty is immoral, inefficient and unproductive," Haley said.
"It costs far less to lock these violent offenders for life than it does
to weave through appeals and pay for them. It makes economic, social and
moral sense to not have the death penalty on the books."
"I have worked with the police and the fire personnel as a chaplain in
KCK," Bangert said. "I have done that since I came to this community. I
have been working in prisons since 1973 as a chaplain."
Part of her job is to be at the scenes of crime in KCK to deal with
"My life has put me in touch with victims and offenders," she said.
The Supreme Court justices have heard, will review and determine if the
Kansas Court's weighting equation is permissible under the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments. In the Kansas v. Marsh case, the constitutionality
of Kansas' death penalty is questioned. It requires that a death sentence
be imposed when a jury finds that aggravating circumstance and mitigating
circumstances have equal weight. The jury in Marsh's death sentencing
hearing was directed, according to the statute, that if it found the
aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances to have equal
weight, the death penalty would be required. Marsh was sentenced to death.
2 additional questions will be reviewed; whether the courts have
jurisdiction to review the judgment of the Kansas Supreme Court and was
the Kansas Supreme Court's judgment adequately supported by a ground
independent of Federal law.
Another issue that has brought the death penalty to the media forefront is
the Dec. 2, execution of Kenneth Boyd, the 1,000th execution since capital
punishment was reinstated in 1976. Kenneth Boyd was put to death by lethal
injection in North Carolina for the murder of his estranged wife and her
father in 1988. He was given 3 drugs. 1 drug put him to sleep, another
paralyzed him and a 3rd stopped his heart.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, almost all people on
death row could not afford to hire an attorney. The quality of legal
representation is a better predictor of whether or not someone will be
sentenced to death than the facts of the crime. The ACLU claims race often
plays a role in determining a capital sentence.
The ACLU reported that during a recent meeting of the European Union's
full assembly, European Parliament president Joseph Borrell called on the
76 countries around the world that continue to retain the death penalty to
discontinue use of capital punishment. He noted that the United States is
the only democratic state that makes widespread use of the death penalty
and that the European Union has a duty to convince Americans to end the
practice. Borrell said in Europe, the right to life is an inalienable
right. Mexico also does not allow the death penalty.
According to Amnesty International, executions were carried out in 25
nations last year. China, Iran, Vietnam and the U.S. accounted for 97
percent of all executions that took place in 2004. Capital punishment is
not allowed in Europe, where no execution has been carried out since 1997
according to Amnesty International.
Bangert said the violence of capital punishment leaves a "ripple effect,"
on the victims, the families of the offenders and society in general. It
can take 15 years for a death row inmate to be put to death.
"The state should not be part and parcel to the violence," she said. "A
lot of people do not think of the ripples that go into the involvement of
putting a person to death. People have to live for those 15 years with
their decisions to put a human being to death, including the
investigators, the lawyers, and everyone else involved. Think of the
families and the children growing up with parents on death row. As I have
walked with the issues through the years, my stance against it becomes
deeper and deeper.
With the high rate of crime in the metro area, she believes the states are
not putting forth a good role model.
"It is horrifying to hear about people in the metro area taking bets on
how many homicides we will have," she said. "The death penalty sets a
climate of not respecting or treasuring one's life,"
Bangert said litigation on the Kansas death statute is not complete. The
Supreme Court is expected to arrive at a decision in the spring.
"I wanted to be present because of the fact that I have walked with this
issue since 1987," she said. "It is a daily issue with some aspect, as a
Sister of Charity, as a Catholic and as a member of the Kansas Coalition
Against the Death Penalty."
"One strong case against the death penalty are the 120 people who have
been exonerated because of DNA evidence since 1972," she said.
This week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he did not give clemency to
Stanley "Tookie" Williams because Williams never admitted his guilt.
"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should
not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the 4 victims in this
case," the governor wrote in a press statement. "Without an apology and
atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no
Across the country, there are many proponents of capital punishment, as
stated in The Death Penalty Center Website www.deathpenaltyinfo.org.
Quoted in the center's information is New York's governor George Pataki
who said in USA Today March 1997, "Capital punishment gives killers good
cause to fear arrest and conviction."
Michael Nevin, wrote in American Daily, May 8, 2003, "The fallacy that
innocent people are being executed cannot be validated."
Peter Bronson, International Herald Tribute, is quoted, "I have heard all
the arguments against capital punishment. Most are easily dismissed. There
are hundreds of good arguments for capital punishment in every state that
has a death penalty. They kill time in prison cells, waiting for a death
that is always more humane than the cruel and unusual ways they murdered
innocent men, women and children."
(source: The Kansas City Kansan)
Pataki Wants Death Penalty for Killers of Police
Gov. George E. Pataki will call state lawmakers into a special session on
Wednesday to vote on new legislation that seeks to curb illegal gun
trafficking and permit the death penalty for those convicted of murdering
a police officer.
Mr. Pataki's push for legislative action comes after the recent fatal
shootings of 2 New York City police officers, Dillon Stewart and Daniel
Enchautegui. The deaths have prompted finger-pointing among Republican and
Democratic leaders in Albany over why antigun measures have stalled.
During a news conference in Manhattan yesterday, Mr. Pataki said that he
would send 2 bills, 1 addressing illegal gun trafficking and 1 addressing
crimes against law enforcement officers, to the Republican-led Senate and
the Democratic Assembly.
"I am hopeful that, working together, we can get more illegal guns off the
streets, and ensure those who injure or kill our police officers face the
maximum penalties," Mr. Pataki said.
Mr. Pataki's legislation may also have the effect of reviving the death
penalty. The state's 1995 law was struck down last year by a state court,
which found a central element of its sentencing provisions
unconstitutional. Assembly Democrats have resisted efforts to address the
"Right now there is no effective death penalty in New York State, although
it is on the books and we're going to continue to push to get it
appropriately interpreted," Mr. Pataki said at the news conference. "With
our bill there would be an effective death penalty."
In recent days, Senate Republicans have accused the Assembly Democrats of
derailing their legislation to toughen sentences for people who use or
sell illegal guns. Assembly Democrats have countered that the Senate has
held up their antigun measures, and is unduly influenced by the National
Under Mr. Pataki's gun legislation, penalties for sale and possession of
illegal guns would be significantly increased. In addition, penalties for
crimes committed against a law enforcement officer would become more
serious and would permit the death penalty in cases where a police
officer, peace officer or corrections employee has been murdered.
Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, immediately issued a
statement in support of Mr. Pataki's legislation. "The Senate is prepared
to act on the Governor's proposals, as well as other measures to protect
police officers and crack down on illegal firearms," Mr. Bruno said.
But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced that he would introduce his
own competing legislation on illegal gun trafficking, saying that he would
go further by imposing stricter regulations on gun dealers.
"The Senate and governor continue to protect loopholes that allow gun
traffickers to evade detection and contribute to the illegal gun market in
this state where criminals can obtain devastating weapons that threaten
our safety," Mr. Silver said.
Charles Carrier, a spokesman for Mr. Silver, said that discussions were
continuing on the governor's bill to increase penalties for those who
injure or kill police officers. But Mr. Silver, who initially supported
the death penalty, now opposes it.
"He no longer supports it because Assembly hearings have shown it is not
the most effective way to improve public safety," Mr. Carrier said.
Still, Mr. Silver has also been under pressure to take action after the
recent shootings of the police officers. He came under criticism last week
after saying, "I don't go to cops' funerals." Mr. Silver later sought to
clarify his comment by adding that he did not see funerals as a place to
score political points.
Mr. Pataki, for his part, sought to play down his differences with Mr.
Silver. "We've had ongoing negotiations," Mr. Pataki said. "There are
still differences, but I think they are reconcilable."
During his weekly radio show, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also called
yesterday for tougher legislation to remove illegal guns - and those who
carry them - from the streets.
"If you're carrying a gun and you don't have a permit, you should go to
the slammer because the only reason you're carrying a gun is because you
think you'll want to kill somebody," the mayor told a caller to his show,
In particularly blunt language, Mr. Bloomberg described those responsible
for the officer shootings as "assassins." He also asserted that the
National Rifle Association has been "phenomenally effective in scaring
legislators from voting to protect you and me, our children, our police
officers, and all of us."
(source: New York Times)
STATEMENT BY DAVID KACZYNSKI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW YORKERS AGAINST
THE DEATH PENALTY, ON GOVERNOR PATAKI'S CALL FOR A SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE
SESSION TO STRENGTHEN PENALTIES FOR THOSE WHO KILL POLICE OFFICERS
We grieve with all New Yorkers for the police officers murdered in the
City, and join in the call for swift and sure justice for their killers.
The death penalty remains the wrong option in this and in every other
case, for it is neither swift nor sure.
As the series of Assembly hearings last winter showed, the death penalty
is unfair, unworkable and far too expensive while having no demonstrable
deterrent value. The $200 million spent in New York during its failed 10
year experiment with the death penalty - a period during which crime
continued to drop and no one was executed-could far better have been spent
on a variety of programs to reduce crime and assist victims and their
Life without the chance of parole is far preferable to the death penalty
as the maximum sentence for those who commit the most heinous crimes. That
is what increasing numbers of Americans in general, and New Yorkers in
particular, have told pollsters. That is what religious leaders, leading
criminologists, increasing numbers of district attorneys and other law
enforcement professionals and the families of murder victims told the
Assemblymembers last winter.
For most people, the exoneration of more than 100 death row inmates
nationwide after post-conviction investigation underscores both the
difficulty in crafting a mistake-proof capital punishment statute, and the
degree to which lawmaking at a time of high emotional moment inevitably
yields bad law.
If those accused of killing the officers are convicted, let them wake up
every day in a prison cell to ponder the heinous impact of their actions.
Let the families of the murder victims know that the certainty of a life
prison term will let them honor their loved ones and seek to go on with
The death penalty, with its decades of appeals and uncertainties, denies
the possibilities of that healing to too many families for far too long.
We hope legislators considering legislation in the wake of the murders of
the police officers learn what the Assemblymembers who considered the
death penalty learned last winter - that we can live without the death
(source: New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty)
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