[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----USA, OHIO, PENN., ORE., UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Dec 29 23:46:03 CST 2005
Taking Innocent Life
Earlier this month, the state of North Carolina executed Kenneth Boyd --
who became the 1,000th person put to death in the United States since the
Supreme Court permitted executions to resume in 1976. The 1,001st, Shawn
Paul Humphries, was put to death in South Carolina hours later. The
1,002nd, Wesley Baker, followed in Maryland the next week, the 1,003rd in
California and the 1,004th in Mississippi. At this rate, the next thousand
will not take anything like 3 decades.
And that, in all likelihood, means that an innocent person will be
executed relatively quickly. While these five men were not innocent, it is
exceedingly improbable that all of their fellow inmates were rightly
convicted. The faster the death chambers do their work, the sooner an
innocent person will be put to death.
The latest probably erroneous execution to come to light is that of Ruben
Cantu, who was executed more than a decade ago in Texas for a brutal
robbery-murder that took place in 1984, when he was 17. Recently, the
Houston Chronicle published a remarkable series revealing that the lone
eyewitness, who was shot multiple times during the incident but who
survived to testify against Mr. Cantu, has recanted. The evidence against
Mr. Cantu was limited to the testimony of this man, Juan Moreno. Likewise,
Mr. Cantu's co-defendant now says that he and another teenager committed
the robbery. David Garza, who served a sentence for his role, now says
that "Ruben Cantu had nothing to do with the murder. . . . I should know."
This isn't the 1st time serious questions of innocence have arisen after
an execution. Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported on the case of
Cameron Todd Willingham, who was also executed in Texas. The case against
him for burning down his home and thereby killing his children was, the
paper reported, "based primarily on arson theories that have since been
repudiated by scientific advances." More recently, prosecutors in St.
Louis reopened the case of Larry Griffin, whom the state of Missouri
executed in 1995; they are no longer convinced that the state convicted
the right person. Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) reportedly may order
the retesting of physical evidence in the case of Roger Keith Coleman, who
went to his death in 1992 proclaiming that "an innocent man is going to be
It is certainly possible, in any of these cases, that the evidence of
innocence is chimerical and that the conviction was correct. But in the
long run a society that insists upon an irrevocable punishment guarantees
(source: Editorial, Washington Post)
Triple-homicide suspect may face death penalty
The man accused of committing a triple homicide Tuesday remained behind
bars Wednesday night on a $1 million bond.
Commonwealth's Attorney Jack Porter said he must decide whether to seek
the death penalty against Michael Richardson Sr. No one has been sentenced
to death in Campbell County since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the
death penalty in 1976.
The 45-year-old pressman is charged with three counts of murder.
Newport police said he killed his wife, Joyce Richardson, 45; his
daughter, Sunshine Richardson, 18; and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Phillip
Leslie. The bodies were found Tuesday morning at the family's yellow Cape
Cod home on Laycock Lane.
The family's pet dog also was found shot to death.
Investigators said weapons had been stashed throughout the home, including
a .50-caliber rifle on a tripod in the living room aimed at the front
Police filed papers in Campbell District Court Wednesday that said
Richardson gave a recorded statement. He will be arraigned at 9 a.m. today
in District Court. A preliminary hearing will likely be Jan. 5.
Newport police spokesman Tom Collins said Richardson told investigators
that family problems had been growing and he just "snapped" after having a
difficult day at work.
Richardson left his job at Coral Graphics, a printing company, around 3
a.m. Tuesday saying he was going to get some lunch. He never returned.
Relatives, family and investigators gave no more clues Wednesday about
what could have triggered the shooting.
Richardson does not have a criminal record in Campbell County.
He recently had sued the parent company of bigg's grocery stores.
Richardson claimed he slipped and fell Sept. 6, 2003, in the Florence
Lawyers defending bigg's claimed in court filings that Richardson had a
prior back injury.
Sunshine, who was with her father when he fell, had been deposed by a
bigg's lawyer this year.
During that deposition, Sunshine was asked to talk about the relationship
she had with her father. She said her father enjoyed taking her fishing at
A.J. Jolly Park, but that catching fish to eat made her sad.
Sunshine said she planned to major in psychology at Northern Kentucky
University after graduating from Newport High School in May.
Neighbor and family friend Chrissy Jones said Richardson had recently
complained to her about not being able to get prescription narcotics for
back pain. She said she thought the pain came from an injury received in a
car wreck several years ago.
Jones said Richardson never mentioned any family problems.
(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)
Death penalty formally opposed
The United States recently captured world attention with the execution of
the 1,000th person since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in
In December, the State College Friends Meeting formally adopted the
"We oppose the use of capital punishment as an instrument of public
People who have lost loved ones to violent crimes experience unimaginable
pain; however, justice is not served by taking another life. Let us not
kill people to prove that killing is wrong."
On Dec. 13, California executed Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of a
street gang who later wrote anti-gang books for children and received wide
acclaim, even a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
The United States remains the only Western democracy using the death
penalty, a penalty that specialists have never found to be an effective
deterrent to crime.
Reed M. Smith----State College
(source: Opinion, Centre Daily Times)
High court questions death penalty tossing
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a
mentally retarded Steelton man convicted 12 years ago of killing two
In its ruling Tuesday, the court threw out a Dauphin County Court decision
to vacate Joseph D. Miller's death sentence and replace it with
consecutive life sentences for the murders of Selina Franklin and
Stephanie McDuffey in the late 1980s.
The state Supreme Court reviewed the case after the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled in June 2002 that executions of mentally retarded criminals violate
an Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Dauphin County Judge Jeannine Turgeon vacated Miller's death sentence and
imposed life sentences in December 2002. Turgeon failed to establish that
Miller was mentally retarded under the guidelines cited in the case before
the U.S. Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court ruled.
"We are not discounting the very real possibility that [Miller] is
ineligible for the death penalty," the state justices wrote. "We simply
cannot agree with the court's resolution of that issue."
Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. hailed the court's
Marsico said that he plans to present testimony that Miller, despite
having a low IQ, was smart enough to kill and cover his tracks.
"Joe Miller is a poster child for the death penalty," Marsico said. "He's
a serial killer, obviously guilty."
Intelligence tests performed on Miller indicated his IQ ranged from 55 to
81. An IQ score of 75 is considered the cutoff for significant limitations
in intellectual function.
Turgeon did not return a call seeking comment. In her three-sentence order
in 2002, she said evidence "clearly" establishing that Miller "suffers
from mental retardation" was presented at his trial and subsequent
Robert Dunham, a lawyer with the Defender Association of Philadelphia,
which represented Miller, did not return a call.
In addition to the 2 slayings for which he was convicted, authorities said
Miller killed 2 other women and attacked 2 more with the intention of
killing them. Authorities said race might have been a factor. Miller is
white and the victims were black.
Miller, who was married with 3 children and had held jobs, was captured in
1992 after a Conrail security officer found him attacking a Harrisburg
woman on Conrail property in Susquehanna Twp.
The woman had been bound with duct tape and raped. Miller told her he was
going to kill her, authorities said.
Miller led authorities to a landfill in Swatara Twp., where they found the
bodies of Franklin and McDuffey. Miller confessed to raping and
Miller confessed to the murder of Jeanette Thomas at the same landfill. A
man who pleaded guilty in her slaying was released after a DNA test
confirmed Miller's confession.
Miller also killed Kathi Novena Shenck by running over her after she fled
his car at a dump in Perry County. He was convicted and sentenced to life
in jail for Shenck's 1990 slaying.
"While his IQ may indicate that he is borderline mentally retarded, you
have to look at more than just that number under the law," Marsico said.
"You have to look at his ability to adapt and function. He was married,
held a job and committed premeditated murders, and he was able to avoid
detection for several years."
The state Supreme Court agreed, citing two mental health organization
definitions of mental retardation, stating that "a low IQ score is not in
itself sufficient to classify a person as mentally retarded." The court
ruled someone must show limitations to "practical skills that have been
learned by people in order to function in their everyday lives."
Mark J. Murphy, executive director for the Disabilities Law Project, said
the result of the court's ruling is that "the commonwealth gets to argue
that Miller does not have mental retardation, and Miller will argue that
Murphy's organization filed briefs on behalf of advocacy groups for the
mentally disabled, which asked the court to spare Miller from execution.
The state Supreme Court said that it "would be preferable to have a
definition of mental retardation from the Legislature."
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union agreed with the ruling
and called on lawmakers to pass legislation "that would prohibit the
execution of individuals with mental retardation."
(source: The Patriot-News)
The ultimate sanction ultimately saves lives
Many people have read columnist Steve Duin's 5-part saga of the murder of
Rod and Lois Houser and the thus-far 17-year voyage of their killer, Randy
Guzek, through the legal system.
The Oregonian's editorial board expressed its own frustration over the
irony that Guzek survives and is likely to for at least another decade or
two. I have strong feelings on the case, having twice argued the death
penalty for Guzek to Deschutes County jurors and want to respond to some
of the letters and one commentary by William Long ("Facing the failings of
our death penalty law," Dec. 16) on the case.
Long argues that life without parole should replace the death penalty as
the ultimate sanction. But what would happen if we substituted "life" for
"death"? If the past is any indication, we should expect more innocents to
die. People will die at the hands of killers serving "life" whether they
did their time and were released (Richard Marquette of Salem) or escaped
(Carl Cletus Bowles of Eugene). I have no doubt that without the specter
of death for some of the worst killers (like Edward Morris, who
slaughtered his family in rural Tillamook County, and child-killer Ward
Weaver) they would never have agreed to forgo a trial in return for a
sentence of life without parole.
The resources and time invested in aggravated murder cases in which death
was not a possibility is almost as great as capital cases. Oregon provides
a very high level of defense for those indigents accused of murder, as it
should. But to claim, as one letter writer did, that "if Guzek were a rich
celebrity [he] would be a free man" is ridiculous. Guzek's guilt has never
been questioned since a jury convicted him in 1988. He may not be a
celebrity, but he has had and continues to receive the defense of a very
Another series of letters, some by sincerely dedicated foes of Oregon's
death penalty, claim that capital punishment is neither a deterrent nor
justice. Honest people can differ on the morality of the state-sanctioned
taking of a killer's life, but recent studies from Emory University, the
University of Colorado and several other academic institutions show that
for every death penalty that is carried out, approximately 17 murders are
The research is so compelling that it has led progressive legal scholar
Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago to publish a provocative paper
titled "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life
Tradeoffs." Sunstein argues that if we know with certainty that using
capital punishment saves roughly 18 lives by preventing that many murders
for each execution, how can we justify not employing the death penalty?
The studies he relies on are conducted mostly by nonideological
economists, one of whom even made a point of expressing his own dislike
for capital punishment, believing it was racist.
No one has been released from Oregon's death row because anyone argued he
was factually innocent. The racial composition of Oregon's death row
mirrors the overwhelmingly white population of the state, while several of
the victims of those on death row were people of color.
Oregon's prosecutors continue to be appropriately sparing in the number of
times they seek the death penalty. Oregon juries are even more
discriminating in when they impose it. It seems the one thing we can all
agree on is that waiting 20 to 30 years for a killer to be punished is
(source: Commentary; Joshua Marquis is Clatsop County district attorney
and prosecuted the Guzek case in 1991 and again in 1997. He is co-author
of "Debating the Death Penalty" and is vice president of the National
District Attorneys Association----The Oregonian)
Death-penalty plan's passage doubtful----Child-killers: It's sponsor, Rep.
Ure, admits an automatic execution law has little chance
A Utah lawmaker's quest to "automatically" execute murderous child
molesters probably never will be written into law.
Though Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas, still is working with legal advisers to
draft a bill for the 2006 Legislature that would require the death penalty
upon conviction for killing a child in connection with a "vicious" sexual
crime, even he has his doubts that such a proposal is legally viable.
"Right now I'm not sure, constitutionally, I can do it," Ure said.
Ure began work on the bill in reaction to last May's kidnapping and sexual
abuse of 2 Idaho children. The brother was found dead; the sister was
Joseph Edward Duncan III, who has a history of violence against children
and failed mental health treatments, is charged with kidnapping and
murder. Investigators suspect Duncan also killed 3 members of the
children's family. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
"He had been charged with several other crimes across the United States,"
Ure said of Duncan. "He jumped bail and committed more crimes. I don't
want that kind of person on the streets."
But experienced prosecutors say an automatic death penalty would run
against a long trend of court rulings.
"The problem I'm having, according to the Supreme Court cases and
Constitution, is that a verdict and sentence has to be handed out by a
jury of his peers," Ure acknowledged.
The Summit County Republican hopes he can modify the bill, perhaps to make
the execution the default penalty after a conviction for child sexual
abuse and murder - unless the jury intervenes to change it to life
imprisonment. The law, in any case, still would allow appeals, Ure said.
But the death default on a guilty verdict would take pressure off jurors
to actively seek the death penalty, he said.
"The juries will often convict a person, but after conviction, they think,
'I don't want that guy's death on my shoulders.' Then they give him life."
Paul Boyden, director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, says
existing Utah law already offers juries the choice of the death penalty
option at the sentencing stage for heinous crimes, including rape and
Most prosecutors are satisfied with Utah's death penalty law and juries'
willingness to invoke it. They fear any modification would actually
undermine it by opening it to more appeals, Boyden says.
"We will work with Rep. Ure to make sure the law is not weakened."
The American Civil Liberties Union Utah branch opposes any mandatory
minimum sentencing law that takes discretion away from judges and juries.
"It's not news that we think that the death penalty is the ultimate
deprivation of a person's civil rights," says Dani Eyer, the group's Utah
Ure's bill, however, actually might make it harder for Utah to execute
criminals, she says.
"This would potentially create more problematic procedural issues for the
state [in carrying out the death penalty]," Eyer says.
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
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