[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ARIZ., ILL., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 17 12:47:51 CST 2005
Death-row inmate gets 20 years tacked on for kidnapping
A Tucson man sentenced to death row last month was sentenced today to an
additional, consecutive 20-year sentence for kidnapping.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell could have given Cody
Martinez as little as seven years, but decided that the aggravating
circumstances in the case outweighed any mitigating factors.
Martinez, 23, was convicted in the 2003 shotgun slaying of Francisco
Aguilar, 19, and sentenced to death by a Pima County jury Nov. 18. It was
left up to Fell to decide what sentence was appropriate for Aguilar's
According to prosecutors, Martinez decided on June 12, 2003, that he
wanted to rob Aguilar of some drugs. Together with some friends, Martinez
kidnapped Aguilar from a friend's home and drove him to Aguilar's
apartment where he stole the drugs along with some other items.
Members of the group then took Aguilar out to the desert where he was
stabbed, beaten and shot to death. His body was then set on fire.
Aguilar's defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that another co-
defendant was responsible for Aguilar's death. After Martinez's
conviction, they argued that his life should be spared because the others
involved in the case received far lesser sentences. They also said
Martinez grew up in a highly dysfunctional family with a drug- addicted
During the hearing today, Martinez objected to a lengthy and consecutive
sentence, saying his involvement in the kidnapping was "very, very slim."
"I know I can't cuss, but I feel like it," Martinez said. "I feel like I
got shafted during my whole trial, you know what I mean?"
Fell reminded Martinez that death penalty cases are automatically
appealed. Martinez responded by saying, "A lot of stuff went on during the
trial that I didn't agree with and I wasn't in a position to speak up
Martinez is Pima County's 25th death row inmate.
(source: Arizona Daily Star)
She'd lift ban on executions, Topinka says
Staking out a tough law-and-order stance as she introduced her new running
mate, Judy Baar Topinka pledged Thursday to lift Illinois' 5-year
moratorium on executions if she is elected governor.
The Republican candidate called the moratorium "a temporary condition"
that she will end -- a position embraced by many in her party's
conservative wing, including her choice for lieutenant governor, DuPage
County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett.
"Yes, I will lift the moratorium," Topinka said as she flew around the
state to introduce Birkett as her running mate. "It's a temporary
condition. It is not forever. It is not the law."
In 2000, Republican Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions
and later commuted the death sentences of 156 prisoners after the Illinois
Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions of 13 former death row
'It was political, it was wrong'
After taking office, Gov. Blagojevich continued the moratorium -- a policy
Topinka said she would quickly end. If the ban on executions had been in
place earlier, even serial killers like John Wayne Gacy -- convicted of
killing 33 people -- would have been spared, she said.
"Stop and look at some of the folks who have been executed in this state,
you know, like a John Wayne Gacy. I'm not going to stand and kind of
defend a person of that nature," she said.
Birkett, for his part, called Ryan's decision to impose a moratorium "an
abuse of power."
"It was political, it was wrong, and we need to move forward," said
Birkett, a 3-term state's attorney.
Topinka's stance on the issue, coupled with her partnership with Birkett,
appear designed to elevate her law-and-order credentials with conservative
voters who have been highly skeptical of her candidacy. She repeatedly
cited Birkett's law enforcement background during stops in Chicago and
Springfield, saying the 50-year-old Wheaton Republican is a strong choice
to help her purge state government of corruption.
"He's fought public corruption wherever he's found it, he didn't care who
it was or what political party they came from," Topinka said of Birkett.
"That makes him uniquely qualified to deal with the 1st mission of our new
administration, which is cleaning up the mess and scandals that have
rocked Rod Blagojevich's administration."
Federal investigators have delivered 3 rounds of subpoenas to Blagojevich
administration officials, reportedly focusing on hiring practices in
several state departments. Blagojevich has pledged to cooperate with the
At the same time, Topinka defended her failed effort to write off $40
million in controversial, state-backed hotel loans, and predicted her
office is in the clear from a federal inquiry 3 years ago into the
possible misuse of her employees for campaigning on state time. No one was
ever charged with any wrongdoing.
"We have not heard a thing from them in 3 years, and to my knowledge, they
haven't talked to any of our staff people, they've not [impaneled] a grand
jury, they have not done anything, and I don't expect we're going to hear
anything," Topinka said.
(source: Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 16)
Society should show mercy to criminals, as Jesus would
I must respond to a letter regarding us bleeding hearts who do not condone
The writer stated that it is not the job of society to show mercy. He said
that remains the job of a higher power. I take it that he is a religious
man. If so, I believe he is misguided.
Jesus Christ sought out the sinners of the world to save them, not to
execute them. He said we should forgive, not seek vengeance. He said not
to judge men, but to help all the needy. This does not go hand in hand
with capital punishment. That is man's solution. Funny how we celebrate
the birth of a child every year, but turn a deaf ear to His words.
Many who would fight to have the Ten Commandments hung on every judicial
wall in the country forget about one important command. "Thou shalt not
kill." That's a pretty straightforward command from that higher power. I
don't go to church, but I follow the words of Christ as best as I can; and
they do not lead me to an execution chamber.
That is a path only man dares to tread. If the majority wants capital
punishment, then so be it, but I think I'll stand with the greatest
bleeding heart of all time, Jesus Christ.
Joe Hartman, Townsend
(source: Letter to the Editor, The (Del.) News Journal)
We can't kill our way to justice
For a nation that in the most recent election proved that if you called it
"family values" you could make boys kissing more important than
21st-century imperialism and job outsourcing, this nation shows a
remarkable lack of exactly those values.
A few days ago, we watched as a man was executed for a crime he was
convicted of committing more than two decades ago ["Debate continues over
death, life of reformed gang leader," Dec. 14].
Stanley Williams was killed by lethal injection in California on Dec. 13.
He has become famous for his change of heart from gang leader to anti-gang
So once more, this nation, which recently eclipsed its 1000th execution
and which holds more people in prison and on death row than any other
nation on Earth, has proved that it cannot escape barbarism.
Once more, the country has proved incapable of discerning a difference
between justice and vengeance.
Apparently, we Americans have decided that the best way to prevent
violence is to violently murder, and anyone who has watched an execution
by either electric chair or lethal injection knows it is violent.
Americans have forgotten the biblical resources brought up during the
Terri Schiavo case saying "Thou shalt not kill," and decided to state
loudly that murder is fine as long as you have a state politician's
(source: Letter to the Editor, The (Va.) Free Lance-Star)
Needles or gas, bullets or gallows: Executions wrong
It's nearly Christmas and I'm not getting much mail. Let's see if we can
stir up a little.
Let's begin by pointing out that two more men were executed this week in
the United States, bringing to a little more than 1,000 the number of
people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976.
Stan Tookie Williams, 51, took the syringe early Tuesday in California for
four murders 26 years ago, and the next day, John B. Nixon Sr., 77, met a
similar end in Mississippi for a 20-year-old killing. Both men went to
their deaths insisting on their innocence.
Williams' case earned wide attention because of claims the gang founder
had been rehabilitated during his prison years and had worked extensively
to prevent young people from joining gangs.
A scan of the statistics shows that 22 of those executed in 32 states were
under 18 when they were killed; 831 were dispatched by lethal injection,
152 electrocuted, 11 in a gas chamber, 3 by hanging and 2 by firing squad.
Of those who died with a squirt, zap, hiss, thud or bang, more than 1/3
were black, and a few more than 1/3 of all executions took place in Texas.
No matter the age, race, location, gender or crime that led to the
executions, all were wrong, the act of a native human desire for revenge
that is masked with the faux dignity of state-sponsored punishment.
In a nation that labels itself Christian and touts, at least at election
time, a desire to protect the unborn because those lives - real or
potential, depending on one's view - are important, there is a
Either all life is important or else its worth is arbitrary, leading to
determinations that no human should have the burden or right to make.
The Old Testament is replete with the eye-for-an-eye style of justice that
inspires so many. But often ignored is the divine sense of mercy-filled
justice surrounding the Bible's "first recorded murder," when Cain, who
killed his brother in a fit of jealousy, is spared by God and is sent
instead to exile, marked with a protective sign lest anyone try to kill
him (Genesis 4:15).
When Jesus happened across a group of men about to legally kill a woman
for adultery, he prevented her stoning. Indeed, for a figure who is the
model for those who call themselves "Christian," Jesus' life was about
loving, forgiving and mercy, even though his life ended with execution.
Unlike the murders that send most people to death row (crimes usually
occasioned by rage, malice, drugs, alcohol, outright craziness),
executions by definition are premeditated, cold-blooded, even if carried
out in the name of justice. The state's executions are the ultimate in
cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
And, alas, those who die at the hands of the state are disproportionately
poor and members of minorities.
A state surely is right to defend itself against immediate international
or even civil threats, but the death penalty is not that; it is the
killing of a prisoner who could be dealt with by less harsh,
life-respecting means. It is, in a gruesomely real sense, a mirroring of
the very act it condemns.
We the People, once upon a time, talked about absolute, Creator-endowed,
inherent and inalienable rights, among them life itself, for which reason
government should be instituted and to which it ought to dedicate itself.
To boil it down: Though sanctioned by courts and preachers alike and
historically a symbol of the way we handle killers, executions aren't
particularly humane, Christian or American.
(source: Marvin Read, The (Colo.) Pueblo Chieftain)
Protest, don't create heroes
Convicted contract killer John B. Nixon Sr. was executed without much
fanfare Wednesday evening. No celebrities were present.
There were no outbursts from witnesses, no threats of rioting, no national
news cameras. A small group of protesters, mostly nuns and other committed
death-penalty foes, huddled in their cars to escape a gloomy downpour
outside the walls of the state prison in Parchman, Miss.
Mr. Nixon, in short, was a hapless nobody compared with Stanley Tookie
Williams, the all-star celebrity prisoner whose execution in California 42
hours earlier caused such an uproar.
Unlike Mr. Williams, Mr. Nixon did not found an internationally famous
criminal gang franchise, did not write children's books, was almost
certainly never mentioned in the same sentence with the words "Nobel Peace
At 77, Mr. Nixon was the oldest person to be executed in the United States
in more than a century, but that was not sufficient to make him a cause
celebre in the most glamorous ranks of the anti-capital punishment
Yet I suspect those quiet, anonymous protesters who mourned the passing of
John B. Nixon did less damage to their cause than the movie stars and
musicians and strident demonstrators who tried to save Mr. Williams.
Simply put, trying to make heroes out of reprehensible killers is about
the dumbest public relations tactic imaginable.
It drowns out the dignified moral argument against state-sponsored
execution. Instead, it focuses public attention on the fruitcake fringe
that sees nobility in a man who could shotgun somebody to death and laugh
Mr. Nixon, like Mr. Williams, was a bad man who was convicted of an
appallingly cruel crime. He was sentenced to death for the 1985
murder-for-hire of a woman named Virginia Tucker, whose ex-husband paid
him $1,000 to do it.
According to trial records, Mr. Nixon, accompanied by his two adult sons
and a family friend, burst into the home of Mrs. Tucker and her new
husband and said, "I brought y'all something!"
Thomas Tucker tried to bargain, offering to pay Mr. Nixon to spare their
lives. Instead, Mr. Nixon shot them both. Mrs. Tucker died; Mr. Tucker
survived to identify her killer.
It was a venal, vicious crime, made even more revolting by the assailant's
apparent good humor. You could pretty much say the same of Mr. Williams,
who killed 4 people during a 1979 robbery spree and reportedly bragged
about the gurgling noises one of his victims made while dying.
It's details like that that fuel my maddening ambivalence over the death
I have philosophical and practical reservations about capital punishment,
chiefly because it is arbitrary and irrevocable.
As a matter of public safety, life imprisonment without parole
accomplishes the same goal as execution.
On an emotional level, though, I can't imagine feeling sympathy - much
less admiration - for people who have committed these crimes.
Yet the admiration shines through in a statement by actor Mike Farrell,
president of the anti-death penalty group Death Penalty Focus, in which he
called Mr. Williams "a force for good in our society and an example of
hope for our misdirected youth."
Beg your pardon? I like to think that even the most misdirected among our
youth are aiming for more than to commit horrible crimes, then use their
leisure years in prison to "repent."
Even if it's genuine jailhouse repentance for the slaughter of innocent
people, it does not rise to the level of an "example of hope." A better
"example," in my book, would be somebody who has not, say, killed anybody.
Those who lionized Stanley Williams are just as shortsighted and
counterproductive as bloodthirsty hotheads who want to see public hangings
on the courthouse square. Their arguments are long on emotional zeal, but
bereft of logic.
As with so many issues in our often-divided culture, I wish the debate
over capital punishment was not dominated by shrieking extremists.
So I don't mourn the passing of John B. Nixon, but I can respect those who
At least they had the good sense not to turn him into a hero.
(source: COlumn, Jacquielynn Floyd, Dallas Morning News)
Death penalty: Is support really waning?
Despite growing signs of public worry that some innocents may be
mistakenly sentenced to death, the failure of a celebrity-laden campaign
to block California's execution Tuesday morning of Crips founder Stanley
"Tookie" Williams reflected a national political landscape in which the
public has yet to turn against capital punishment on moral grounds.
The execution of Williams, who supporters said found redemption and turned
into an anti-gang proselytizer in the 20-plus years since his conviction
for four murders, came less than 2 weeks after North Carolina executed
double-murderer Kenneth Boyd, marking the nation's 1,000th execution since
the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
And it occurred against a backdrop of indications that the national
appetite for executions is on the wane. Williams was the 59th prisoner put
to death this year, down from a high of 98 in 1999. Juries last year
sentenced only 125 defendants to death, compared with more than 300 per
year during the mid-1990s.
Gallup polls this year show public support for the death penalty at 64 %,
down from 80 % in a 1994 poll.
But even death penalty opponents concede that those numbers indicate
primarily practical concerns - public reaction to dozens of cases in which
DNA has provided indisputable proof that individuals were wrongly
convicted, questions about the competency of defense lawyers appointed to
represent death-eligible defendants, and strong indications that capital
sentences disproportionately are imposed on minorities.
Williams, who centered his effort to get clemency from Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger and his public appeal on redemption in prison rather than
innocence, and on support from a celebrity crowd that included actors such
as Mike Farrell and Jamie Foxx and rapper Snoop Dogg, was not
well-positioned to benefit from those concerns.
"There were complex and complicating factors," said David Elliot,
communications director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty. ". . . It was a difficult case. But any time we get to have a
conversation with the American public about the fairness of the death
penalty, it helps us."
"This was a very bad person for them to choose for their stand," said
Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a
pro-death-penalty California group. "They had all the ingredients except
the central part of it. Tookie was a terrible, remorseless murderer. I
think they lost some traction. I don't think anyone's mind was changed on
the death penalty, and some people in the middle may have said, 'This is
Capital punishment foes such as Elliot remain optimistic about the broader
battle. While public support for making the death penalty available to
punish murderers remains well over 60 %, he notes, other polls show that
when given the option between execution and life without parole, barely 50
% of the public favors death. Texas, which leads the nation in executions,
recently adopted a life-without-parole option, which could further shrink
the number of executions.
And there are also signs of political shifts. 2 states - California and
North Carolina - have commissions studying the fairness of their death
penalty schemes. In Virginia, which ranks second to Texas in executions
since 1976, outgoing Gov. Mark Warner, a Democratic presidential
contender, commuted a death sentence in late November, and an
anti-death-penalty Democrat beat a Republican who supports it in the race
to succeed Warner.
"It's no longer the 3rd rail of American politics," Elliot said.
Other observers, however, say opponents may be making less progress than
they may think. Scott Keeter, a pollster at the Pew Research Center, says
overall support today stands at the same level it did in the early 1950s.
"The questions about fairness has raised questions in people's minds, but
it still polls very well," he said.
And Rushford says the reduction in death sentences reflects a dramatically
reduced national murder rate, not skepticism about the death penalty. He
says claims about innocents getting death sentences have been exaggerated,
raising public concerns but not shaking underlying support.
"The public doesn't want to give up on it," he said.
Death of 'Tookie' calls for re-examination of values
Mention the name of Stanley "Tookie" Williams in most black communities
across America, and rarely will you get a null response. Say the name in
most white communities, and all too often you will get a "Tookie who?"
Stanley "Tookie" Williams, convicted murderer, creator of the Crips gang,
found in prison, on death row and in death a notoriety that few others
>From children in the Gaza Strip to those in East L.A., "Tookie's" presence
has been felt.
It is hoped that the peace that Williams could not find in life is now his
in death. It is hoped that the thousands of victims, not only those
directly impacted upon by Williams but those indirectly through the gangs
that he spawned will also find peace. But this peace, I fear, is long in
Williams, abandoned by his father, without a mother, found himself preyed
upon by his own community. Thugs would bet on children fighting, as one
would upon dogs or roosters.
He thus started a brotherhood of kids, street tough, who violently bonded
together over blood, crime, and vengeance. Tookie is dead, and though he
tried to undo the damage birthed through his own pain, the gangs survive
How many more Tookies are out there, and how many are in our very towns?
We know that gang violence, crime and presence are quite apparent
throughout - even here in communities in Cincinnati and Hamilton. We know
that the thug culture is more emulated among youths.
This thug culture is not only evident among the poor - we can see their
presence even on college campuses. We might further ask why it is that
even among college students, the "gangster" or thug mentality and culture
is perpetuated. The answers, I would venture to guess, might shock many.
Simply put, we have failed to provide an adequate response to the
purported fame, glamour and success offered by the "gangsta." The image of
the conscientious college student is a nerd. The message that we
consistently tell our youth is that hard work produces boredom. Fun, sex
and money go to those who are willing to violate the laws. Only boredom
comes from the mundane, tedious life of accomplishment. Why work hard when
you can get all that matters - money - by being slick, quick or devious?
The only way we can alter this is to change our views. It's one thing to
say that we value education, hard work and diligence, it's another thing
to show it. But the thugs and gangsters among us capture our actions, our
media images, and our attention.
So, Tookie who? Look at your children - do you see Tookie?
(source: Opinion, Rodney D. Coates is a professor of sociology,
gerontology and Black World Studies at Miami University of Ohio;
Death-penalty dilemma never goes away
The execution of mass murderer Stanley "Tookie" Williams on Tuesday
morning left me with the dilemma I've had about the death penalty for many
On the one hand, my old liberal bones creak and groan as they assume the
usual posture. I know all the arguments against killing by the state. Just
because some conscienceless thug murders someone - or, in Tookie's case,
some 4 - what do we prove by lowering ourselves to his barbarous level and
taking his life?
And then there is the London pickpocket argument. Pickpockets had become
so numerous and so skillful in London by the 18th century, it was made a
capital crime, punishable by public hanging.
The executions became hugely popular. People came from all over England to
see the pickpockets swing in the breeze. Bursts of applause and cheers
came from the crowd when the trap was sprung.
But while most eyes were on the gallows, other thieves were busy at work,
lifting wallets and purses. The public hangings, in fact, became the
greatest assemblages of pickpockets in the tight little isle.
So, if the death penalty can't even stop pickpockets, how can we expect it
to be a deterrent against murder?
But then the other half of my alleged brain kicks in.
I spent more than 35 years covering major crimes and murder trials. Among
those trials was the Theodore Bundy case. He was tried in Miami for the
murders of two sorority sisters as they slept in their dorm at Florida
State University in Tallahassee.
He had grabbed a log from a pile of firewood outside the Chi Omega house
and roamed through the sleeping quarters like some ravenous beast, bashing
and strangling and biting.
But the aspect of this crime that intrigued me was the fact that Bundy had
escaped from a courthouse in Colorado just weeks before he showed up at
Police suspected him of at least 36 murders of young women.
He had been arrested and charged twice before coming to Florida. Each
time, he had escaped custody. And each time he escaped, people died. He
had escaped custody in Colorado by jumping out a 2nd-floor courthouse
window just before heading for Tallahassee.
After his final conviction and while awaiting execution in the Florida
State Prison death house, he had a file smuggled in to him and had sawed
part way through some of the bars on his cage.
But my dilemma on the death penalty came years before the Bundy rampage.
It happened, strangely enough, during a flower show.
The inmates at Florida State Prison are allowed to pursue hobbies if their
behavior warrants such largess, and some choose horticulture. Once a year,
they have a show and compete for blue ribbons in various categories.
I was assigned by my paper to write a feature on the flower show. One of
the top winners in several categories was a short, muscular man with razor
scars prominent on his face. I asked him what he was doing time for, and
he answered in matter-of-fact fashion, "Murder one."
What was his sentence for 1st-degree murder, I inquired, and he said,
Have you been here long, I asked?
"Yeah," he replied, "but not this time. I was here twice before."
What were the crimes, I asked?
"Murder one," he said.
"Both times?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said.
And the sentences each time?
So, each time he had been paroled from his life sentence, he went right
out and killed somebody else. If he had been executed the 1st time, at
least 2 people would not have been slain.
So, in his case, the death penalty would have been a deterrent. It would
have deterred him.
(source: Opinion, George McEvoy, Palm Beach Post)
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