[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.Y., KAN., MISS., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 9 15:35:13 CST 2005
[Shari Silberstein note: The first article is incorrect about the DA
count. We are now at 2 DAs testifying for restoring the dp & 2 DAs
DA says public best served without death penalty----Schenectady County's
Robert Carney cites costs, criteria issues
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said Tuesday he
supports the death penalty -- but hopes the Legislature won't reinstate
As the state debates what to do with the overturned 1995 law that has led
to no executions and cost millions of dollars, Carney said the public
would be best served by locking up the worst murderers for life.
He testified Tuesday before an Assembly panel.
Carney's testimony was a departure from previous hearings, during which
many district attorneys and prosecutors came out in favor of the death
"My recommendation does not arise from a philosophical or spiritual
opposition to the death penalty," said Carney. "I do believe it is a
justifiable sanction for the worst of the worst among us."
But, he said, no murder cases he prosecuted met his capital punishment
criteria. To seek death, Carney said, the crime must be committed by the
"worst of the worst among us," shock the conscience of the community and
include evidence against the defendant that is "exceptionally reliable."
Opponents of the death penalty have been pushing for new criteria, such as
mandating videotaped confessions, to keep defendants from being put to
death. Such ideas could gain momentum if the deathpenalty is reinstated
and tie the hands of prosecutors, Carney said.
If the state has to chose between changing criminal procedures in order to
appease death penalty foes, Carney said he would rather lose the death
"Losing this debate in order to advance the goal of obtaining the ultimate
in retributive justice against a handful of capital defendants seems to me
a price too steep to pay," he said.
The price can be measured in dollars, as well. The Capital Defender
Office, created in 1995, is funded with about $13 million a year. That and
other expenses might have cost the state up to $200 million, Carney said.
After the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, ruled last year that
part of the 1995 law was unconstitutional, state leaders vowed to fix the
problem and reinstate the death penalty. The Senate quickly passed its
bill. the Assembly said the cost and the controversy warranted hearings.
(source: Albany Times-Union)
SCHENECTADY DA ARGUES AGAINST DEATH PENALTY----Hearings continue on
question of capital punishment in state
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney argued against
reinstating the death penalty during a legislative hearing Tuesday, saying
it would come at too great a price.
Carney said he is not morally opposed to the death penalty, which was
struck down by the state's highest court last year. Rather, he told
Assembly members, changing the death penalty law so courts could uphold it
could result in prosecutors having a harder time gaining convictions.
And he said the money already spent on the death penalty - which Carney
estimated at as much as $200 million since the statute was enacted in 1995
- could better be spent elsewhere.
"Continuing to spend millions of dollars to take a murder defendant who
has already been caught and subject him to death rather than life without
parole will not prevent the next murder," Carney said.
Governor George Patyaki and the Republican-led Senate want to put in place
a revised version of the death penalty law.
But the Democrats who control the Assembly wanted to hold off, and are
conducting a series of hearings on the issue. Manhattan District Attorney
Robert Morgenthau argued vehemently against the death penalty in an
earlier hearing. The other two district attorneys who restified at
previous hearings - William Fitzpatrick of Onondage County and Michael
Green of Monroe County - called for fixing the law rather than abandoning
Carney has never sought the death penalty, but has considered it in the 12
1st-degree murder cases in Schenectady County over the last decade. All 12
defendants were convicted, and 5 are serving life without parole.
None met his criteria for seeking the death penalty, which included that a
defendant be "among the worst of the worst" who committed a crime that
shocked the community. Carney said he also needed to have evidence that
was "exceptionally reliable."
Carney said other prosecutors are similarly careful, which is why only 7
people have been sent to death row since 1995.
Still, the Court of Appeals has rejected every death penalty verdict that
has come before it.
Carney said he was worried about the effect of the high court rulings. He
cited the one that invalidated the death penalty against James Cahill, who
was convicted of first-degree murder in 1998 for poisoning his wife while
she was hospitalized. She was recovering from severe injuries her husband
caused by beating her with a baseball bat at their home near Syracuse.
The high court ruled the evidence did not support the burglary charge used
as an aggravating factor to support the 1st-degree murder conviction.
"As a prosecutor I am concerned that our continued experimentation with
capital punishment will encourage judges who are reluctant to let a death
verdict stand to engage in strained legal analysis that produces bad law,"
He said he also fears reinstating the death penalty will encourage changes
in criminal procedures, such as requiring videotaped confessions, aimed at
protecting the innocent but making it difficult to convict the guilty.
Carney said the money that now goes to death penalty cases would be better
spent on programs such as Operation IMPACT, which uses state resources to
help counties like Schenectady fight crime.
As at the last hearing in Albany 2 weeks ago, most of the 32 people
scheduled to testify at the hearing Tuesday opposed reinstating the death
But Sean Byrne, executive director of the New York Prosecutors Training
Institute, said he thought a death penalty law could be "appropriately
implemented." Byrne said the death penalty law that was struck down was
considered exemplary compared to those of other states in providing
safeguards for defendants.
The Assembly plans to hold the last of its five hearings on the death
penalty Friday at Pace University in New York City.
(source: Schenectady Gazette)
Court rejects Kline request to reconsider death penalty ruling
The Kansas Supreme Court isn't going to reconsider a recent ruling
striking down the state's death penalty law, rejecting a request from
Attorney General Phill Kline as expected.
Kline argued the court could strike down only the provision of the law it
found objectionable, rather than the entire 1994 statute. He asked the
justices to take up the issue shortly after they ruled in December.
But last week, the court refused, without explanation. Spokesman Whitney
Watson said Kline will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, something he had
already promised to do.
The Kansas court's 4-3 majority invalidated the law over a provision
governing how juries weigh evidence for and against imposing a death
sentence. The law says that if the evidence is about equal, juries must
choose death, which the court's majority said represented cruel and
Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.org
Attorney general's office: http://www.accesskansas.org/ksag
(source: Associated Press)
Miss. condemned inmate argues murder unworthy of death sentence
The attorney for death row inmate Derrick Walker has told the Mississippi
Supreme Court that his client was guilty of a 2001 killing but the
incident did not rise to the level of a capital crime.
Walker was sentenced to death in Lee County in 2003 for the stabbing death
of former Tupelo personnel director Charles Richardson. Walker was
convicted of capital murder and arson.
Police said Richardson's body was found by firefighters answering a report
of smoke coming from his house on July 17, 2001. Authorities said
Richardson had been repeatedly stabbed and slashed.
Tupelo attorney William Housley Jr., arguing Walker's appeal Wednesday
before the Supreme Court, said Walker killed Richardson and stole the
man's car to flee to Chicago. Housley argued the theft of the car was not
robbery, a felony that can be used to support a conviction of capital
In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed along with
the commission of another crime.
"The underlying felony of robbery was not established," Housley told the
justices. "There is a statement that he intended to kill Richardson, took
the car, loaded up his clothes and attempted to go to Chicago. He did not
intend to rob this gentleman. He intended to kill Mr. Richardson and he
According to the court record, Walker was arrested in Forrest City, Ark.,
after making a wrong turn out of Memphis.
Assistant Attorney General Melanie Dotson said Walker was pulled over for
speeding out of a construction zone. Dotson said Walker admitted the car
was not his and was found to be driving with a suspended license, for
which he could be arrested in Arkansas.
Dotson said Arkansas officers became suspicious when Walker changed his
story, saying that he had bought the car from somebody.
"This was a rapid chain of events," Dotson said. "He went from speeding to
suspended license to driving a stolen car to murder."
Dotson said Walker confessed to the murder and gave a statement to law
officers, which Housley wanted suppressed. She said the trial judge
conducted a thorough hearing and ruled the confession was voluntarily
Dotson said the robbery did not have to occur before a death to be used to
support a capital murder charge.
"To be in possession of the victim's property is sufficient for the
robbery claim to go to the jury," Dotson said. "His confession is
sufficient of his intent."
Housley said he asked the trial judge to instruct the jury on Walker's
claim that he was under duress because he feared some family members might
be harmed. Housley said Walker alluded to that fear in his confession but
the trial judge disallowed the instruction.
Presiding Justice Bill Waller Jr. said Walker never testified at trial so
his claim of duress and fear for his family was never documented.
"'He was convicted essentially on his confession," Waller said.
Dotson said Walker's claim of duress was not supported by the evidence.
She said prosecutors showed that Walker had planned the killing of
Richardson for more than a week.
"There was no apprehension of danger," Dotson said.
(source: Associated Press)
French Camp chief shot, killed after chase; teen charged with capital
murder ------ 16-year-old could face death penalty
French Camp Mayor Glen Barlow was joking around with Police Chief Anthony
Lucas at a basketball game Friday night. A couple of hours later, Lucas
was shot to death while assisting the Ackerman Police Department on a
"I never imagined that anything like this would happen to a police chief
of French Camp," Barlow said.
Lucas, who leaves behind a wife and 5-year-old son, is the first law
enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty, Sheriff Doug McHan
"We had just been laughing about Valentine's Day," recalled Barlow, who
had jokingly threatened to give Lucas' paycheck to his wife, Penny.
Lucas joked right back, saying they would both be in the next week's
headlines. "He said, 'I can see it now: Chief's wife arrested for forgery,
mayor accessory,'" Barlow said.
Christopher Fair, 16, of Weir is charged with capital murder and is being
held without bond in the Choctaw County Jail. If convicted, he will face
the death penalty or life in prison.
Fair made his initial appearance in Choctaw County Justice Court about an
hour before Lucas' funeral early Monday afternoon. His preliminary hearing
is scheduled for Feb. 17.
Fair is accused of shooting Lucas with a shotgun at a house on Whites Road
-- off Highway 413 between Weir and French Camp -- at 10:15 p.m. after he
and three other occupants of the car jumped out and ran. Three went into
the house and another ran down the road, Mississippi Department of Public
Safety spokesman Warren Strain told The Associated Press. Fair lived at
the house where the shooting occurred, Strain said, adding that Fair "was
not a stranger to law enforcement."
Officers had been pursuing a car that fled a traffic stop in Ackerman when
the call for backup came in to Lucas.
After the shooting, Fair fled but officers from several agencies and
surrounding towns and counties joined the manhunt. After a National Guard
helicopter shined a spotlight in the woods, Fair walked out on a road and
turned himself in, said Ackerman Police Chief Rickey Thornton said.
"He was just a tremendous guy," said Thornton, who became chief in 1997,
just a few months after Lucas joined the department. He finished up at the
police academy in 1998. "Everybody liked him. Our hearts go out to his
family. He was a tremendous family man."
Lucas, who lived in Ackerman, eventually became a full-time parole officer
with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and spent some time working
for the MDOC in Attala County. His father, Wendell Lucas, was a longtime
conservation officer in Choctaw County.
"Law enforcement was in his blood ... it was all he wanted to do," said
Thornton, who was with the Kosciusko Police Department for 15 years.
Lucas' job at French Camp was part-time with sporadic, as-needed hours,
"He worked a lot more hours than he got paid for," Barlow said. "He did it
because he loved kids, and that showed in the way he did his job."
Lucas didn't have life insurance through the town, so a fund has been set
up for his son, Kyle, at Merchants & Farmers Bank, which is where his wife
The sheriff's department and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are
investigating the incident.
Teenagers were arrested for the last 2 murders in Kosciusko. One of those,
Justin Haynes -- who was 16 at the time he killed Janette Nowell -- was
convicted last week and sentenced to life in prison.
"I wish someone could answer what's going on in the minds of these
teenagers," Barlow said.
A fund has been set up for 5-year-old Kyle Lucas at Merchants and Farmers
Bank. The town had no life insurance on the chief since it is a part-time
(source: Kosciusko Star-Herald)
Feds won't seek death penalty for Walker, Ramsey
The former DeKalb County sheriff's deputy accused of killing Sheriff-elect
Derwin Brown more than 4 years ago will not face the death penalty if
convicted, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
The government will not proceed with its capital cases against former
deputy Melvin Walker or the alleged backup triggerman David Ramsey, who
were acquitted in March 2002 by a DeKalb County jury of charges that they
conspired to gun Brown down in front of his home the night of Dec. 15,
2000, on the orders of Sheriff Sidney Dorsey.
Dorsey lost a re-election bid to Brown, was convicted in his killing in a
separate trial and is serving a life sentence.
Walker and Ramsey were indicted in February 2004 on federal charges of
conspiracy, violations of interstate commerce and firearms crimes.
A federal judge is expected to certify the case as ready for trial by
(source: Associated Press)
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