death penalty news-----USA, IND., ILL., N.Y., WIS., PENN., MISS.,
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 30 00:35:28 CST 2005
Death Sentences Show Decline Nationwide----When they have the option,
jurors prefer a sentence of life without parole, experts say.
The number of death sentences imposed by juries around the country has
plummeted since 1999, according to a study released Wednesday by the Death
Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.
In 1999, 276 death sentences were imposed. The figure has dropped every
year since, falling to 125 last year. With 10 days to go in 2005, 96 death
sentences are projected to be handed down this year, the lowest total
One of the most striking statistics comes from Harris County, Texas, which
has sent more people to death row than any other county in the state that
leads the nation in executions. Harris County has generated two death
sentences this year; Houston, its largest city, has been referred to as
"the capital of capital punishment."
Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the center, based in Washington,
D.C., said several factors had contributed to the decrease in death
sentences - prime among them the fact that jurors in all but one of the 38
states that had capital punishment laws were able to render sentences of
life without parole. Jurors, he said, are becoming increasingly
comfortable with voting for such sentences rather than death.
Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Astoria, Ore., who is spokesman
for the National District Attorneys Assn. on death penalty issues, said he
thought that executions were down because of the overall decrease in
violent crime around the country. He also said that he thought that tough
sentencing laws - such as three strikes, mandatory minimums and death
sentences - "have had a clear deterrent effect."
There is no question, Marquis said, that when life without possibility of
parole is an option, "it is the preferred choice of most juries."
Dieter said that although a significant majority of Americans - 64% in the
latest Gallup poll, down from 80% in 1994 - supported the death penalty,
there was growing skepticism about the fairness of its use. He said that
was attributable, at least in part, to the growing number of death row
inmates released after it was established that they were wrongfully
That number now stands at 122.
The number of executions also has dropped sharply, from 98 in 1999 to 60
in 2005. Texas led the field with 19 executions this year, a slight
decrease from 23 in 2004 and a sharp decline from the peak year of 2000,
when that state executed 40 people.
Since 1973, Texas has executed 355 people, about a third of the national
total of 1,004. Virginia is 2nd, with 94 executions, but it has carried
out none this year.
16 states have held executions this year, with about 2/3 taking place in
Southern and Southwestern states.
California, the nation's most populous state, has the largest death row,
with 648 inmates. The state has executed 12 people since reinstituting
capital punishment in 1978. California executed 2 men - Donald Beardslee
and Stanley Tookie Williams - this year, and expects to execute two more
in the first two months of 2006.
In one respect, California went counter to national trends this year,
sending 18 people to death row, twice as many as in 2004. But that is
considerably fewer than the 42 death sentences meted out in 1999, the peak
Death penalty foes also were heartened by several other developments:
Illinois continued a death penalty moratorium for the 6th year.
And in November, the New Jersey senate passed a bill that would suspend
executions and create a commission to study the state's capital punishment
The bill is set to be considered in the state Assembly in January. If the
measure passes, New Jersey would become the 1st state to legislatively
impose a death penalty moratorium.
Sentiment has mounted against capital punishment there, even though New
Jersey has one of the nation's smallest death rows, with 14 inmates, and
has not held an execution since 1963.
The high cost of the death penalty may be a factor, according to the
report released Wednesday. A recent study by a public policy organization
in New Jersey found that the state had spent $283 million on capital cases
since 1983, the year after it reinstituted the death penalty.
The California Legislature is scheduled to consider a death penalty
moratorium in January, but passage is far from assured.
Death penalty foes also garnered significant victories in court this year.
In Kansas and New York, the states' highest courts overturned death
penalty statutes. Kansas has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court; in New
York, the statute would have to be changed legislatively, something
lawmakers there have declined to do.
4 states - Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin - considered
reinstating the death penalty, but efforts to do so failed.
In March, the Supreme Court concluded that there was a national consensus
against executing individuals for murders committed as juveniles, and the
justices barred the practice. The ruling meant that 71 death row inmates
had their sentences commuted to life.
The high court issued 2 other significant pro-defendant rulings in capital
cases, one involving racial bias in jury selection and another dealing
with poor representation during a trial. The Supreme Court has 3 major
death penalty cases on its docket in the current term.
Dieter said he thought that 2005 might "be remembered as the year that
life without parole became an acceptable alternative to the death penalty
in the U.S." He noted that Texas became the 37th of 38 states with the
death penalty to adopt this option for its juries.
Moreover, he said, even in notorious cases such as that of Eric Rudolph -
who killed two people at a family planning clinic and set off a bomb at
the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta - federal prosecutors accepted a guilty plea
and a sentence of life without parole. So did Kansas prosecutors in the
case of Dennis L. Rader, the BTK murderer who received 10 consecutive life
terms for 10 slayings.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Death penalty case is a first----County known for its covered bridges
prepares for trial of triple-slaying suspect
Parke County officials are worried about the mounting expense of a death
penalty case in a county that had just 17,241 residents in the 2000
Price tag: "We're looking at $1 million," said Parke County Auditor Diana
Hazlett. "As a small county with not much property base, it's going to be
Help: Hazlett hopes the county, which has an annual budget of about $12
million, will be able to recoup 50 % of the costs from the state.
It's been nearly 30 years since deputies in Parke County have investigated
a multiple homicide.
And no one in the west-central Indiana county about 75 miles from
Indianapolis has faced the death penalty.
Prosecutors say Chad A. Cottrell, 35, should be the first. Cottrell is
accused of killing his wife and 2 stepdaughters on Halloween weekend. He
was captured in Minnesota 2 days later.
As the case heads to a pretrial hearing today, investigators say Cottrell
cooperated early on, admitting in a taped interview to beating to death
10-year-old Tori Williams and shooting 12-year-old Brittany Williams and
29-year-old Trisha Cottrell. Hours after the killings, he reportedly left
a voice mail message for a friend, saying, "I have reached the end of my
dusty trail. Tell my family I love them, what's left of them," according
to court documents.
Parke County Sheriff Charles L. Bollinger calls Cottrell's case the worst
he's seen since the February 1977 slayings of four teenage boys. The four
men convicted in the Hollandsburg killings did not get the death penalty
because the murders occurred 8 months before the state's current death
penalty law took effect.
In documents filed in court last month, Parke County Prosecutor Steve A.
Cvengros says the death penalty is justified because more than one person
died, one of the victims was younger than 12 and another crime -- child
molestation -- was attempted at the time of the killings.
"This guy deserves whatever he gets," said Bollinger, whose office last
investigated a murder in Parke County in 1998.
The few details of the killings that have been released indicate that both
Brittany and Tori were sexually molested just before or as they were
killed in the Rockville home Chad Cottrell shared with his wife of about 4
That's been especially difficult for the girls' maternal grandparents,
Rick and Trish Zaikovsky, to comprehend because both girls were sexually
molested by another relative, starting when they were 5 and 6.
David A. Thomas, the longtime companion of the girls' paternal
grandmother, was convicted of 5 counts of child molestation earlier this
year and is serving a 30-year sentence.
Trish Zaikovsky remembers Brittany being "absolutely scared to death" to
testify against Thomas during the five-day trial. But the 6th-grader told
her grandparents she had to take the stand because "there are so many
other little girls out there, and it has to stop now."
There's not a doubt in Trish or Rick Zaikovsky's mind that the right
person was convicted of molesting their granddaughters.
But that's not what Sue Williams, the girls' paternal grandmother, thinks.
She insists Thomas, her companion of nearly 20 years, didn't abuse her
granddaughters and points the finger at Chad Cottrell.
"There's a reason he killed my babies," she said.
That's not the reason, according to Sheriff Bollinger, who's been the lead
investigator in the triple homicide. The deputy prosecutor who handled
Thomas' molestation case in April agrees.
"When I heard what had happened, I never once thought, 'We have the wrong
guy,' " said Chris Wrede, an attorney in Terre Haute, who also works part
time for the Vigo County prosecutor's office.
He notes that 3 victims -- Brittany, Tori and another young girl --
testified in court that Thomas repeatedly abused them for more than two
years. Child protection workers learned of the abuse in early 2004 when
one of the girls told someone at school.
Relatives say Chad Cottrell could not have abused the girls because their
mother, Trisha Cottrell, had only supervised contact with Brittany and
Tori during much of the time they were molested. Ryan Williams, the girls'
father, notes the 3rd victim never spent any time with Chad Cottrell.
Jessie Cook, one of Cottrell's two court-appointed attorneys, declined to
comment on how she and Indianapolis attorney Eric Koselke will defend
their client, but the Terre Haute lawyer said the right person is in
prison for the earlier abuse.
Cook said she's thinking about asking that the trial be moved to another
county because of the attention the death penalty case has received in an
area best known for its annual covered bridge festival.
Meanwhile, the Zaikovskys, who became Brittany's legal guardians in the
past year, say it doesn't matter to them if the case ends in an execution
or life in prison.
"It doesn't change anything," said Rick Zaikovsky, who also lost his only
biological child, Trisha Cottrell. "The only thing is that we want him off
But the girls' father thinks that if Cottrell is convicted, he should die
"If there's ever an argument for the death penalty, I think this could
change a lot of people's minds," said Ryan Williams, who, after his
daughters' killings, dropped out of Indiana State University, where he was
studying to be a social studies teacher. "This absolutely has to happen."
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Man contends possible death penalty in trooper's death is unfair
A Chicago man charged with killing an Indiana state trooper is trying to
prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in his case.
Attorneys for 21-year-old Darryl Jeter argue in a court filing that jury
death penalty procedures are flawed.
Jeter is pleading innocent to murder in the December 2003, shooting death
of Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick.
The motion contends that jurors often decide on the death penalty before a
trial's penalty phase, that the jury selection process fails to remove
"death-biased" jurors, and that jurors often misunderstand and ignore
death-penalty phase instructions.
Patrick was shot in the neck while responding to a report of a disabled
car on an exit ramp of Interstate 80/94 in Gary.
(source: Associated Press)
Death sentence changed to life in prison
Instead of fighting for his life, admitted murderer Charles Barker agreed
to spend his entire life in prison. "It's the best deal I could get."
It's a deal the children of Barker's victims agreed to, ending what they
call 12 years of unbearable misery.
Francis Benefiel, the son of one of the victims, is "glad it is over. I
won't ever have to come back to this building or these courtrooms no
Barker murdered Francis and Helen Benefiel in the summer of 1993;
kidnapped their granddaughter Candice, a former girlfriend of Barker; and
their 1-year-old child.
His capture, conviction and death sentence is a relief to the Benefiel
Candice is "glad he is going to die."
An appeals court later overturned the death sentence. Jurors weren't told
they should also consider sentencing Barker to life in prison without
Pursuing another death sentence, the prosecutor says, would involve
retrying the 12-year-old case with a brand new jury, something the
Benefiels didn't want to endure.
Candice says, "I agree with the deal."
It's a deal that Chief Deputy Prosecutor David Wyser says leaves Barker
hopeless. "He's waived all his appeals. If he had the death penalty he'd
still be appealing. There would be hope for him. At this point he has no
hope, he will die in prison."
When asked if he was sorry, Barker said, "Yeah, I'm sorry," a similar
apology made to the Benefiels in court.
"God may forgive him," says Francis Benefiel, "but I never will."
(source: Eyewitness News)
Advocates: Mentally retarded need greater protection in death penalty
Anthony Porter gained notoriety in 1999 when he became the 10th man to be
released since 1977 from Illinois' Death Row for a crime he did not
commit. Porter was perilously close to death - he was to be executed
within 48 hours - when his lawyers won a temporary stay from the Illinois
Supreme Court so they could gather evidence to prove Porter was mentally
At that time, Illinois law only required that for defendants to be
eligible for the death penalty, they had to understand the charges against
them and the punishment they faced.
Ironically, that extra time allowed a group of Northwestern University
journalism students to obtain a videotaped confession from another man
that he - not Porter - killed a young couple in 1982 in a South Side park.
But as it turns out, Porter was mentally retarded. Then 44, Porter scored
a 51 on an IQ test, a number roughly equivalent to the mental age of a
6-year-old and well below the yardstick score of 70 used by the American
Association on Mental Retardation.
According to published reports, during the IQ test Porter asked the
examining psychologist what the word "execution" meant.
3 years later, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing
mentally retarded criminals was "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited
by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The court noted that mentally retarded people "face a special risk of
wrongful execution" due to their limited ability to understand and dispute
the charges against them.
But the court left it up to each state to set its own standards on who
could be considered mentally retarded.
Spurred partly by the recommendations of former Gov. George Ryan's
Commission on Capital Punishment, the Illinois General Assembly in 2003
unanimously voted to set IQ levels of 75 and below as evidence of mental
The new law also specified that the judge, not a jury, will ultimately
determine the defendant's mental capacity, and that a mental competency
hearing will take place before the trial - unlike in Porter's case, when
the hearing was granted 2 days before his scheduled execution.
"It is actually one of the most progressive [laws] in the nation because
it sets the IQ standard so high, and it's structured to allow the judge in
the case to weigh in on whether the defendant meets the standard," said
Jane Bohman, director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty. But legal experts say the controversy of executing the mentally
retarded is far from resolved.
"We certainly don't think [the Illinois law] is any panacea on the issue
of the death penalty," Bohman added. "But it is a step in the right
The difficulty centers on the fact that many defendants with mental
retardation are not only unable to assist in their own defense, but often
cannot understand the consequences of their actions.
According to some experts, relying only on an IQ test to determine mental
retardation is dangerous because scores can fluctuate by as much as 15
points, depending on variables like the emotional state of the defendant
and how the test is administered.
An IQ test is designed to measure the ability to understand concepts and
solve problems. Sections of the test often include logic and language
skills, as well as spatial perception and memory ability.
While some members of the legal community see the required score of 75 as
an improvement over the previous standard, they still feel the IQ test is
a potentially flawed method for determining eligibility for execution.
"The danger is that the test could show someone with an IQ of 77 who has a
very low score on the judgment portion of the exam, but scores higher in
other areas to give them a high enough score to be executed," said Kristin
MacRae, president of the Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens.
While acknowledging the potential for errors, Stephen Richards, deputy
defender with the Death Penalty Trial Assistance Division, said that
setting the bar at 75 neutralizes those mistakes.
"The problem with these cases is there's always a fudge factor or margin
of error," said Richards, whose state agency provides legal assistance to
poor defendants facing the death penalty. "The [state standard] tries to
take into account that margin of error so that nobody with an IQ under 70
will face the death penalty."
But Bohman cautioned that just raising the score does not make the capital
punishment system error-free.
"I don't think anything guarantees that a mentally retarded person won't
be executed," she said. "The prosecutors are clearly going to be
aggressive when going after borderline [mentally retarded] defendants in
death penalty cases."
At least 1 medical expert also disagrees with the way an IQ test measures
a defendant's intelligence.
"It focuses too much on the number," said Diane Goldstein, of the
Chicago-based Isaac Ray Forensic Group, "and it can lead the examiner to
ignore other factors of a person's intelligence."
Bernard Murray, chief of criminal prosecutions for the Cook County State's
Attorney's Office, said prosecutors know the tests aren't always reliable
when they decide whether to seek the death penalty.
"The number is not the only determining factor we use," he said. "We also
look at other parts of the defendant's life, like educational background
and life behavior. Can they get around on their own? Stuff like that."
In Porter's case, prosecutors alleged he faked his retardation. They said
Porter was able to play chess with the death row inmate in the next cell
by maneuvering a mirror so he could see into the cell - an activity hardly
possible for someone with the mental capacity of a 6-year-old.
Bohman expressed doubt that prosecutors weigh both sides in high-profile
"When they're facing an ugly murder case, [prosecutors] are going to want
to have the death penalty on the table," she said. "It's the
politicization of the process that sometimes trumps the medical facts of a
On Dec. 6, the Will County State's Attorney's office appealed a judge's
ruling that a former Bolingbrook man was mentally retarded and therefore
could not be sentenced to death if convicted of killing his next door
neighbor. The woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a
baseball bat. The man scored between 64 and 72 on one IQ test and between
70 and 79 on a 2nd test, leading the judge to rule out the death penalty.
Regardless of what experts think of the reliability of the Illinois
standard, safeguarding the rights of the mentally retarded is a continuing
"You're talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society, "
MacRae said. "We should be doing everything we can to protect them, not
Randall Jarrett and his attorneys might agree.
In 2004, Cook County prosecutors sought the death penalty against Jarrett
after he was convicted of murder for stabbing and beating a man with a
Jarrett had previously scored a 75 on an IQ test in Alabama after a theft
conviction in 1996. Because that score would have qualified him for
protection under the Illinois law, prosecutors asked the judge to order
Jarrett take the test again.
Timothy Cummings, who worked in the forensic clinical services division of
Cook County Circuit Court, testified that Jarrett scored an 85 on the
second test. But Jarrett's attorney claimed Cummings twice added words to
Jarrett's answers to boost his score.
Cummings, who reportedly attributed the discrepancies to a copy machine
error, left the forensic services office 2 months later. Efforts to
contact Cummings were unsuccessful.
Cook County Circuit Judge Kenneth Wadas threw out Jarrett's 2nd score,
declaring Jarrett mentally retarded and ineligible for the death penalty.
He was sentenced to life in prison in May 2004.
Despite Jarrett's reprieve from a lethal injection, the question of how to
ensure the mentally retarded are treated fairly remains.
"When people with mental retardation end up in the criminal justice
system, it's just very scary to me," MacRae said. "I think, as a society,
we can do a whole lot better."
(source: Chicago Defender)
Bid to restore state death penalty fails
Gov. George E. Pataki's attempt to restore the death penalty for killing a
police officer was scuttled Wednesday, as he and state lawmakers agreed on
a new law requiring mandatory sentences of life without parole for those
convicted of such crimes.
In the special session called by Pataki after two recent killings of New
York City police officers, the Legislature also backed tougher penalties
for selling or possessing illegal firearms.
Pataki's plan would have restored a part of the state's now defunct death
penalty law, which became unusable last year after the state's highest
court tossed out a key sentencing provision. The Democratic-led Assembly's
rejection of the latest death penalty proposal cemented a movement to
block restoration of a law Pataki had hailed as his top criminal justice
achievement when it was adopted in 1995.
Legislators, however, acknowledged that death penalty advocates lost a
major battle when the Assembly declined to back the measure for those who
kill police officers.
"We are getting a result, and life without parole is a lot better than
where we are now in terms of punishment," said State Senate Majority
Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick.
While halting the death penalty measure, the Assembly Democrats suffered a
political defeat Wednesday with the gun trafficking bill.
They backed down from threats not to pass any bill unless it included new
restrictions on gun dealers and banned possession of armor-piercing
bullets. The gun lobby opposed both provisions.
"What we're doing is closing the front door but leaving the back door wide
open," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said of Wednesday's
deal that he insisted does not go far enough to keep guns out of the hands
The new law will mandate a sentence of life without parole for anyone
convicted of intentionally killing a police officer; current law gives
sentencing judges discretion of life without parole or sentences of 20 to
25 years to life, with parole.
The new law also provides longer prison terms for attempting to kill or
menacing a police officer with a weapon.
The gun trafficking bill will sharply increase penalties for possession
and sale of illegal guns. Current law treats possession of as many as 20
such guns as a misdemeanor.
The new law, signed Wednesday night by Pataki, lowers to three the number
of illegal guns that would be considered a felony, punishable by at least
two years in prison. Possessing 10 or more illegal guns can lead to 10
years in prison.
Pataki and Silver had sought stronger sanctions against armor-piercing
bullets, which Senate Republicans opposed. That provision was dropped,
Pataki said, to focus on winning approval of the gun trafficking and
police protection measures.
(source: Buffalo News)
Wisconsin and the death penalty
Wisconsin's U.S. House representatives need to become leaders in the fight
for abolition of the death penalty.
Forty members of the House are sponsoring new legislation to abolish the
federal death penalty But, as of now, the vast majority of this state's
delegation is missing from the list of co-sponsors.
This legislation is of particular importance to Wisconsinites because our
state is one of a dozen nationally that bans capital punishment. The
citizens of Wisconsin do not allow their tax dollars to be used to execute
human beings. Unfortunately, our federal tax dollars fund the dirty work
of the government-sanctioned killing of individuals who, while they may
have committed heinous crimes, pose no further threat to society. Thus,
while the state does not carry out killings in our name, the federal
There is no question that the death penalty is a flawed tool for fighting
crime. As U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who is the chief
sponsor of the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act, says, "The death
penalty is not an effective deterrent. Homicide rates in states with the
death penalty are no lower than rates in abolitionist states. Of the 12
states without the death penalty, 10 have murder rates below the national
It is, as well, a flawed tool for seeking justice. As Kucinich notes,
since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 122 men and women have
been released from death row due to evidence of innocence.
"I strongly believe that violent offenders must be severely punished and
prevented from committing future crimes," argues Kucinich. "However,
capital punishment is not the answer. The death penalty is not a
deterrent, allows innocent people to be executed, and marginalizes the
United States in the fight for human rights in the international
What Kucinich says is true. Yet it will, necessarily, ring truer in some
parts of American than others. Some regions of the country have long
recognized that the death penalty is wrong, both practically and morally.
And Wisconsin, which has barred capital punishment for more than 150
years, has understood that reality for a longer time than just about any
place on the planet.
At this point, however, only one Wisconsin representative Milwaukee
Democrat Gwen Moore is a co-sponsor of the Federal Death Penalty Abolition
Act. The rest of the delegation needs to get on board. On this issue,
above all others, Wisconsin's representatives in the House should as Sen.
Russ Feingold is in the Senate be the leaders.
(source: Editorial, The Capital Times)
Death warrant signed for man convicted in cousins' killings
Gov. Ed Rendell on Wednesday signed an execution warrant for a Berks
County man convicted in the drug-related shooting of 2 cousins in 1998.
Shawnfatee Michael Bridges, 28, an inmate at Graterford state prison, was
scheduled for a lethal injection Feb. 16.
Bridges was convicted as an accomplice in the murders of cousins Damon and
Gregory Banks, also of Berks County.
Rendell has signed 43 death warrants since taking office in 2003.
The 3 people executed in Pennsylvania since the death penalty was
reinstated in 1978 all ended their appeals voluntarily. As of Dec. 1, 223
men and 5 women were on the state's death row, according to the state
Department of Corrections.
(source: Associated Press)
Enforcing death penalty will work
You show pictures of 70 death-row inmates ("Mississippi's Death-row
inmates," Dec. 11 Perspective section). Some have been on death row for
over 20 years, being fed, housed, provided medical care and benefits some
people on the outside don't have, all at taxpayer expense.
Their victims have been dead even longer. Does this sound a bit stupid?
Why have a death penalty if it isn't enforced?
If the jury has the remotest doubt about guilt, then don't give the death
penalty. Once it's given and appeals heard, get on with it.
Joe T. Reeves----Carthage
Death penalty challenges our faith
With current events as they are, quite a few people are writing letters on
capital punishment. Invariably, some of the writers will cite Old
Testament Scripture as part of the justification for keeping and carrying
out the death penalty.
The Old Testament Mosaic Law that preached "an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth" was an improvement over a system that allowed for severe
retribution in the face of a modest wrongdoing.
Jesus took things even further by declaring that we were to love our
enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us.
A literal reading of the Scripture as seemingly advocated by this position
means that - if we are to be consistent - we must also invoke such Old
Testament standards as those that permitted fathers to stone their sons to
death outside the gates of the city for disrespectful language and/or
I ask: Now, who among us is ready to embrace that authorization?
That is part of the entire problem of trying to take literally all that
the Bible says for all time and all people.
Jesus does not say it is OK to execute a murderer or anyone else. The
assertion that, by going to the cross Jesus submitted to capital
punishment, therefore endorsed it, is flimsy at best, and does not hold up
to even the most cursory scrutiny.
Any attempt to justify capital punishment by the words of the Old
Testament and the misinterpretation of the ethic of Jesus is, in my
opinion, an effort to avoid the really hard work of doing what a Christian
is called to do.
It's easy to seek retribution and revenge under the guise of "justice."
It's tough to forgive when you or one of those you love has been wronged,
but personal tragedy does not excuse us from the call of Jesus to do good
to those who harm us.
Rather, it implores us to allow the healing of the Messiah to show through
That is part of what would make us more Christ-like - the ability to allow
the compassion of the Savior to rule over our human longings for revenge,
even when it is clothed in the name "justice."
I hope that I never receive true justice from God. What I want is mercy.
And if God is willing to show mercy to me, am I not, as one who calls
himself "Christian," charged to show that same mercy to others in Christ's
name - no matter how hard it may be and how unfair it may seem?
That seems to me to be the real challenge to my faith and practice.
(source for both: Letter to the Editor, Clarion Ledger)
MURDERS IN MYAKKA----State will seek death penalty for Henderson
8 days after a grand jury indicted Richard E. Henderson Jr. on 4 counts of
first-degree murder, state prosecutors announced they will seek the death
penalty if he is convicted.
Henderson, 20, confessed to investigators that he beat four of his family
members to death in their home near Myakka City on Thanksgiving, according
to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. He said he used a 2-foot metal
pipe to kill each of them in separate rooms, one by one.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown on Wednesday unveiled the state's
decision to seek Henderson's execution.
"The senior attorneys discussed it and talked about the facts. We came to
the decision that the death penalty is warranted," he said.
The state had 45 days from last week's arraignment to make the decision.
At the arraignment, Assistant Public Defender Carolyn DaSilva entered a
plea of not guilty for Henderson, who waived his right to appear.
The discovery process is now in motion, and the state has 3 weeks to turn
over to the defense confessions and other statements made by Henderson to
law enforcement officials.
Henderson's arraignment on charges of killing his father and mother,
Richard Sr. and Jeaneane, grandmother, June, and 11-year-old brother,
Jacob, is scheduled for Dec. 30.
That same day, he also has an arraignment on an attempted robbery charge
that stems from the day he was arrested in connection with the slayings.
Henderson also is scheduled for a misdemeanor arraignment Dec. 29 on
charges of giving a false name and possession of drug paraphernalia when
he was arrested Nov. 27.
Search warrant records released recently revealed some of Henderson's
whereabouts the day after the slayings, as well as items discovered in his
backpack and his father's van.
Henderson was carrying the backpack when he was apprehended while walking
in Ellenton the evening of Nov. 27.
In the days following the slayings, Henderson reportedly drove his
father's 2003 turquoise Chevrolet van for "several days before driving to
Wauchula and leaving the van in a parking lot," according to the warrant.
Less than 24 hours after the killings, Henderson made a trip to a local
pawn shop and liquor store. Two search warrants filed Dec. 16 revealed
receipts from the ABC Fine Wine and Spirits liquor store, 813 301 Blvd.
W., and Value Pawn and Jewelry Store, 5524 14th St. W. One of the receipts
was found in Henderson Sr.'s van and the other in Henderson's black, gray
and tan Trailmaker backpack.
The liquor store receipt was dated Nov. 25 and had a transaction time of
3:10 p.m. A 1.75 liter bottle of Absolut vodka, which sells for $35.99,
was found in the backpack.
During a Dec. 1 interview with The Herald, Henderson said investigators
found liquor in his backpack but that he "didn't like drinking," because
"it made me sick as hell."
Also during the interview, Henderson discussed his plan to kill himself
with a drug overdose after spending time with his girlfriend.
"On Friday I got the stuff to O.D. I pawned a TV, an Xbox and movies, but
I used over half of the money on a hotel. But I still had enough,"
He said he dropped his girlfriend off Nov. 27 and stopped by a house in
Ellenton "to get a hold of my dealer."
But his plan was cut short when he was stopped by the police that night
after leaving a house on U.S. 301 in Ellenton.
In addition to the receipts, detectives located a metal tube that
contained Brillo, a gray T-shirt with a blood stain on it and a Ziplock
bag with "green leafy material."
During the Dec. 1 interview, Henderson said he had smoked crack a few
times, but marijuana was his drug of choice.
Henderson Sr.'s van was discovered by the Wauchula Police Department in a
Kash -n- Karry parking lot in Hardee County just hours before Henderson
was located Nov. 27.
Detectives took a swab of blood from the vehicle's inside front passenger
door panel, according to one warrant.
Manatee County Sheriff's Detective Darin D. Bankert applied for the
warrant Nov. 30 to search and examine Henderson's backpack and Henderson
Sr.'s van. Steven Schaeffer, the public defender for Henderson, was
unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Calls made by The Herald to Value Pawn's corporate office and Bankert were
(source: Bradenton Herald)
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