[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, CONN., USA, FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 9 15:34:13 CST 2005
Study Examines Mental Status and Childhood Backgrounds of Juveniles on
A recent study of 18 juvenile offenders on death row in Texas found that
nearly all participants experienced serious head traumas in childhood and
adolescence, came from extremely violent and/or abusive families, had one
or more severe mental illnesses, and had signs of prefrontal brain
dysfunction. The study, conducted by Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis of Yale along
with other experts, suggests that most of the juvenile offenders on
America's death rows suffer from serious conditions which "substantially
exacerbate the already existing vulnerabilities of youth." In the study,
Dr. Lewis and her colleagues reviewed all available medical,
psychological, educational, social, and family data for each participant
to clarify the ways in which these various aspects of development may have
diminished a juvenile offender's judgment and self control.
The study's findings are similar to earlier research conducted by Dr.
Lewis in 1988. Her work was cited in an amicus brief filed last year by
the Juvenile Law Center and more than 50 other organizations in support of
juvenile offender Christopher Simmons. In his case, Roper v. Simmons, the
Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of executing juvenile
offenders. A ruling is expected before July 2005. The article regarding
Dr. Lewis's latest study,"Ethics Questions Raised by Neuropsychiatric,
Neuropsychological, Educational, Developmental, and Family Characteristics
of 18 Juveniles Awaiting Execution in Texas," was recently published in
the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. (32
American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 408 (December 2004)
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Prosecutors divided over life without parole option
Texas prosecutors are split over a Senate bill that would add life without
parole as a sentencing option for juries who find a defendant guilty of
While some see the bill as a way to alleviate financial and time strains
on counties, others say it could take away a convict's hope of parole.
"If you don't have any hope, you'll do anything," said Harris County
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who opposes the bill. "I believe in
parole as something we ought to have in the code, even for very despicable
Rosenthal said those convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life
with the chance of parole after 40 years have something to work toward.
Without parole, he said there is little incentive to behave in prison.
Supporters of life without parole said violence isn't more likely among
prisoners who aren't eligible for parole than those who are.
They say life without parole would have prevented a case such as that of
Kenneth Allen McDuff, who had his 1966 death sentence for killing 3
teenagers commuted to life and was later released from prison. After his
release, McDuff was suspected of killing five women in Central Texas in
1991 and 1992. He was convicted of two slayings and executed in 1998.
Senate Bill 60, which proposes the life without parole option, was
introduced by Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, in November. It has been
referred to the criminal justice committee.
District Attorney Tim Cole, who represents Archer, Clay and Montague
counties, said he knows some of his peers don't support the option and see
it potentially weakening the death penalty. But Cole said life without
parole could help rural prosecutors.
Capital trials can bankrupt a small county and bring other cases to a halt
while prosecutors focus on one, Cole said.
"As a DA, if I think a death penalty is appropriate, I should be able to
convince a jury with life without parole on the table," Cole said. "I
don't think life without parole is the death penalty for the death
Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District
and County Attorneys Association, said the organization's membership is
"You always hear that prosecutors kill that bill every year, and that is
just not true," he said. "It's a tough bill for us."
Division among prosecutors is a promising sign for life without parole
supporter David Dow, director of the Texas Innocence Network.
"There have always been prosecutors who are in favor of life without
parole, but in the past it has been my sense that a majority of
prosecutors have been against it," he said. "It is an irony because on the
one hand prosecutors claim they want to give jurors the greatest number of
options and here they oppose something jurors want."
Rosenthal said if a new element, such as life without parole, is added
into the existing law, "it is going to lead to more litigation as to when
it should be applicable and when it shouldn't."
Edmonds said there's nothing constitutionally wrong with life without
parole. Some fear, however, if life without parole becomes an option and
if the death penalty were abolished, opponents then would begin attacking
life without parole as too lengthy, he said.
"It is one of those slippery slope arguments," Edmonds said.
Keith Hampton, a lobbyist for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers
Association, said others are concerned that juries would take the option
"in every case." Hampton, however, said he doesn't think that would
"When the state really wants a death verdict on somebody, they normally
get it," he said. "No one should ever underestimate how harsh life without
parole is. It is nothing to sneer at."
The heated debate over the option, and other issues related to the
ultimate punishment in the nation's busiest execution state, have been
going on for years, Edmonds said.
"It has been a long and winding road so far," he said. "Who knows where it
is going to end."
(source: Associated Press)
5 row inmates end hunger strike
5 death-row inmates who waged a hunger strike last week are eating again,
according to the state Department of Correction.
The inmates stopped accepting their meals last Wednesday, demanding to be
allowed to interact with one another and calling their years of solitary
confinement "inhumane and tantamount to psychological torture."
Department of Correction spokesman Brian Garnett declined to identify the
participating inmates, but said they began accepting food "gradually" and
all five had ended the hunger strike as of lunch on Tuesday.
Connecticut's eight death row inmates are alone in their cells 23 hours a
day and each gets an hour of solitary recreation outside the cells. A
prisoner recently described for a federal judge how those on death row
communicate by talking through the air vents.
In a statement released through an anti-death penalty group, the inmates
had asked to be allowed to spend their recreation time with each other.
"Death row inmates are extremely well-behaved and cause no problems or
dangers to the correctional officers or each other," the inmates said in
The inmates said their protest was not about serial killer Michael Ross,
whose execution was put on hold last month to examine whether living
conditions on death row could have contributed to the decision to forgo
Ross is not currently housed on death row. He is still being kept in a
cell at the Osborn Correctional Institution, near Connecticut's death
chamber. But his execution has been postponed indefinitely.
Garnett said the department did not change any of its policies as a result
of the hunger strike.
(source: Associated Press)
Government-sanctioned killing is murder
In this society full of chaos and murder, some state governments allow the
death penalty to punish those who kill. Even though the death penalty has
been reinstated, it does not make our society safer. The death penalty is
wrong, and it is time for the American public to understand that
government-sanctioned killing is murder.
In a Gallop poll taken in December 2004, as many as 62 % of Americans
believed the death penalty was a just punishment for convicted murderers.
Roughly 34 % of those favored the death penalty because they believed it
deters others from committing murder.
When broken down into regions, the South executed 779 people since 1976,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center database. Yet today, the
South has the highest murder rate in the country. The Northeast region of
the country executed 3 people since 1976, and has the lowest murder rate
in the country.
Beyond not being a deterrent, the death penalty does not save taxpayers
money. In fact, states end up spending millions of dollars more for
capital punishment cases then letting a murderer rot in a prison cell for
The Death Penalty Information Center states, "The death penalty costs
California $90 million annually beyond the ordinary costs of the justice
system and $78 million of that total is incurred at the trial level."
The center also states that in Texas, death penalty cases cost roughly
$2.3 million, about 3 times the cost of imprisoning someone for 40 years
at the highest level of security.
Setting aside the fact that capital punishment costs taxpayers dearly
while doing nothing to deter further crime, one crucial element seems to
be forgotten. The death penalty is inhumane and wrong.
In the Old Testament, Genesis 9:6 states, "Who so sheddeth a man's blood
by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." This
passage sanctioned the death penalty from a religious standpoint.
The New Testament, however, clearly abolishes the death penalty when Jesus
did not call for the woman caught in adultery to be stoned and killed. He
said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her."
God's Fifth Commandment clearly states thou shall not kill. This means no
killing. Not in revenge, not in hatred. The death penalty contradicts
God's law. He is the only one who can take life.
As citizens of this country, we must be less vengeful and more magnanimous
in our punishment. Life in prison with no chance of parole is an extremely
harsh punishment. The convicted get to live with their faults every day of
their lives. Life without parole is torture enough without death.
(source: Matt Osman, Stevenson High School, Macomb Daily News)
Reports: Sheriff's brass knew of falsified records
In Fort Lauderdale, prosecutors have released sworn statements alleging
that Broward sheriff's deputies falsely cleared cases because of a
high-pressure culture aimed at containing embarrassing information and
avoiding scrutiny of their records.
John deGroot, former special assistant to the sheriff's inspector general,
told prosecutors in August that sheriff's officials told him "fudging
numbers" was a common practice, according to documents released Monday.
DeGroot testified he discussed the reporting problem last year with the
deputy who compiles crime statistics for the agency's accountability
system and was told "nobody wants to hear about this." In July, deGroot
said, Col. Tom Carney, a top commander, told him "everybody fudges the
Prosecutors have investigated allegations that deputies systematically
falsified crime reports, marking dozens of cases solved by attributing
them to people who did not commit them. This made Broward's clearance rate
appear better than it was.
Those people - most of them suspects in other cases - were never
prosecuted for the crimes they didn't commit. However, because the cases
were marked solved, investigations were closed and the actual perpetrators
were never found. Most of the falsely cleared cases were property crimes,
such as burglaries and thefts.
Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said in July his deputies improperly
closed about 100 cases over 3 years. Last month he announced the transfer
of 29 detectives and sergeants and the retirements of Carney, Lt. Col. Tom
Brennan, who headed countywide operations, and 2 other top officials.
The State Attorney's Office has charged 2 detectives with multiple counts
of official misconduct in using "exceptional clearances," or instances in
which a perpetrator cannot be charged because of special circumstance, to
get rid of cases.
Internal investigators 1st started investigating crime classification
problems in 2003.
(source: Associated Press)
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