[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, ILL., IND., MAINE
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 17 09:00:37 CST 2005
Inmate wants to hurry, not delay, execution
Dennis Wayne Bagwell, 41, sentenced to die for the 1995 capital murders of
four family members, is scheduled to die tonight shortly after 6 p.m. at
the Huntsville "Walls" Unit.
"My hope is: Hurry up and go through," Bagwell told the Associated Press
Wednesday from a small visiting cage outside death row. "I've been waiting
for this for over a year now."
While maintaining his innocence and crediting his appeals attorneys for
caring and trying to save him, "I'm just ready to get it over with," he
"If they offered me a life sentence, I wouldn't take it. I'm not walking
through these hallways as an 80- or 90-year-old for something I didn't
According to the Texas Attorney General's office, Bagwell was found guilty
in November 1996 by an Atascosa County jury for killing his mother, Leona
McBee; her 14-year-old granddaughter, Tassy Boone; his half-sister, Libby
Best; and her 4-year-old daughter, Reba Best.
In 1982, Bagwell was sentenced to 18 years in state prison for attempted
capital murder, and was on parole for this crime at the time of the 1995
Bagwell's appeals lawyers did not return telephone calls from The
Associated Press. A clemency petition to the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles was rejected Tuesday by a 7-0 vote.
According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Bagwell
received poor legal help before and during his trial and jurors were not
properly informed and couldn't consider Bagwell's traumatic childhood
where he was abused by an alcoholic stepfather.
In 1995, Bagwell and his girlfriend, Victoria Wolford, were living in a
small travel trailer which Bagwell had parked on property in Wilson County
that belonged to his mother and stepfather, Ron Boone. McBee and Boone
lived on the property in a mobile home with a 2 bedroom addition. Libby
and Reba Best and Tassy Boone lived with McBee and Boone.
On returning home from work on Sept. 20, 1995, Boone entered his home and
found the bodies.
McBee and Tassy Boone had been strangled and had numerous bruises and
abrasions all over their bodies. Libby Best died from two gunshot wounds
to the head. Reba Best had been beaten about the head, neck and upper back
with a blunt object.
Court testimony revealed that about two weeks before the killings, McBee
asked Bagwell and Wolford to stop living on the property. The 2 then moved
in with friends in San Antonio.
Bagwell testified that he expressed frustration to his former stepmother 2
days before the killings that McBee had not paid him for a travel trailer.
Wolford told authorities she and Bagwell drove to his mother's house on
Sept. 20 to borrow money, and when they arrived, Wolford retired to the
travel trailer because she had a headache. A short time later, Bagwell
returned to his girlfriend and told her his mother would only give him
Bagwell then went back into McBee's house. Wolford stood outside the
travel trailer. Through the window, Wolford saw Bagwell strike McBee, then
heard screams and two popping noises. She heard Tassy Boone yell, "No,
no," and heard Reba Best scream.
She testified that everything was quiet for a while, then she heard McBee
yell at the dogs and gasp for air. Through the window, she saw Bagwell hit
McBee with a long-handled gun.
Wolford said Bagwell took some towels and wetted them with a water hose.
He wiped off a hammer and told her he was going to go inside and wipe off
fingerprints he might have left in the house.
He also told Wolford he was trying to make the crime look like a robbery
and rape of Tassy Boone.
Bagwell's criminal history played a major role in sentencing. He was
ordered to wear leg restraints during the capital murder trial because of
numerous threats he had made to law enforcement personnel.
Bagwell has appealed his conviction and sentence to the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals, a state district court, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which denied relief.
At the punishment phase of his trial, the state presented evidence about
Bagwell's potential for future danger, a key factor in the death sentence.
Bagwell had a prior conviction for misdemeanor assault in addition to his
1982 attempted capital murder conviction.
The state also presented evidence that only 2 weeks prior to the capital
murders Bagwell had murdered the elderly custodian of a business in
Seguin. In 1997, Bagwell was convicted of murder and sentenced to life.
Further, Bagwell had a history of parole violations and a lengthy history
of threats of violence, disciplinary violations and refusals to accept
psychiatric treatment while in prison.
(source: Huntsville Item)
Death penalty flaws remain----Blagojevich, panel in no apparent hurry
A state committee established as part of the much-heralded death penalty
reforms enacted in November 2003 met for the 1st time Monday--3 months
after it was supposed to issue its first report.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, authorized by the General Assembly to name one
person to the 15-member committee, did not make his appointment until
November, a year after he agreed to the legislation.
Meanwhile, a system many Illinois citizens hoped would be vastly improved,
if not fixed, with the landmark 2003 legislation, continues to reveal
flaws, officials from the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
The flaws include coerced confessions, crime-lab errors, prosecutors
withholding key evidence from defense attorneys, using paid informants,
seeking the death penalty for mentally ill defendants and pursuing capital
punishment when guilt is not certain, the coalition said in releasing a
In one case, a forensic psychologist was accused of altering answers to an
IQ test to make a defendant appear eligible for the death penalty, the
report said. When the reforms were enacted, the legislature outlawed death
penalties for mentally retarded defendants, as mandated by the U.S.
And the General Assembly has failed to consider further needed reforms,
particularly establishing a statewide review committee to determine when
capital punishment should be pursued, said Jane Bohman, coalition
executive director. That would make application of the death penalty more
uniform, she said.
"We need to see a vigorous debate about the future of capital punishment,"
Bohman said. "We have an ongoing problem with the death penalty in
Bohman and her colleagues fear that passage of reform legislation, and the
moratorium on executions enacted by former Gov. George Ryan and maintained
by Blagojevich, has allowed legislators to set aside the issue. And they
believe citizens alerted to capital punishment flaws by the release of 18
men from Illinois death row might have been lulled into a false sense of
If they knew of ongoing problems and the much higher costs of pursuing the
death penalty instead of life in prison, a majority might favor repeal of
capital punishment, the coalition believes.
"We think once we have that debate, people will come out and say, `This is
a waste,'" Bohman said.
"The governor's office is not in control of" the Capital Punishment Reform
Study Committee, said Gerardo Cardenas, a spokesman for the governor. "We
had one appointment to make, and we made it."
Cardenas noted the governor has maintained the moratorium, which
Blagojevich has said he will not lift until the reforms are shown to be
working. But he declined to say why the governor took a year to make his
appointment to the committee.
"The governor has not lifted the moratorium," House Minority Leader Tom
Cross of Oswego noted. "Should the group have met earlier? Perhaps. But
there's no harm at this point."
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Downers Grove Republican who helped pass the
reforms and sits on the committee, said the governor's late appointment is
typical of Blagojevich but did not cause any harm.
"The governor is historically a little slow in making his appointments,"
Dillard said, adding that the committee could not start work before the
governor made the appointment.
"Perhaps the most important appointment is the governor's representative,
because the governor is the ultimate death penalty player" with his power
to issue a moratorium, stay executions and sign legislation, he said.
"The governor's delay really was not that big of a deal, in that the new
changes really take a while to kick in," Dillard added.
When the committee met Monday for the 1st time, its members elected former
U.S. Atty. Thomas Sullivan as chairman.
Sullivan, now in private practice, was appointed by Ryan to head up a
commission that studied the death penalty issue after Ryan enacted the
moratorium in 2000. Bohman noted the delay in the committee's work while
announcing release of "Capital Punishment in Illinois: A Crisis
Unresolved," a 23-page report on Illinois capital punishment in 2004.
There were 195 death penalty cases, with 165 in Cook County, pending that
year, the report stated, contending that was similar to the number of
cases in years before reform was enacted.
But "only four death sentences were returned by judges and juries in 2004,
continuing a downward trend," the report stated. At least 29 capital cases
ended without a death sentence, it stated.
Of 6 people put on Death Row after Ryan pardoned or commuted the sentences
of all death row inmates,five are mentally ill or impaired, Bohman said.
In 2 cases, doubts about guilt have been raised, she said.
- - -
Highlights of a report by the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death
- At least 195 death penalty cases, 165 in Cook County, were pending;
- At least 29 of the cases ended without a death sentence; judges and
juries handed down a death sentence in 4 cases;
- In 7 capital cases, prosecutors sought the death sentence in cases that
ended in acquittal or the dropping of charges;
- 2 more former death row inmates won new trials, while 5 others claimed
- Across the nation, 130 death sentences were handed down in 2004, more
than 50 % fewer than in 1999. Executions dropped to 59 from 98 in 1999;
- New York and Kansas death penalty statutes were declared
unconstitutional by the highest courts in those states.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Prosecutor to announce death penalty decision
County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi will announce today whether he will seek the
death penalty against two siblings accused of killing their mother and
grandparents. A news conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
Multiple charges of murder, conspiracy and robbery were filed last week
against Kenneth L. Allen, 29, and Kari Allen, 18.
The victims were their mother, Sharon Allen, and their grandparents,
Leander and Betty Bradley. The bodies were buried in concrete in the
basement of the Bradleys' Indianapolis home.
Authorities learned of the homicides after the pair were stopped on a
Missouri highway Feb. 8 en route to Las Vegas.
Investigators have said Kenneth Allen wanted to steal $200,000 that his
grandparents had saved, and he killed his mother because she would not
help him get that money.
Kenneth Allen has admitted his guilt and has asked that his sister be
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Poorly executed 'Death penalty' bill a waste of lawmakers' time
Before they are finished for the session, members of the 122nd Maine
Legislature will deal with some 2,000 bills this year.
Is there a need for that many new laws? Of course not.
Only about a third of these bills actually will find their way into the
statute books, although perhaps "only" is not quite the right word. It is
still represents a pretty hefty increase in the amount of regulation to be
folded into the ever-growing body of state law.
Why should so many new proposals be introduced, anyway? You would think
that after nearly two centuries' worth of statute writing, they would have
gotten it about right by now, aside from budget matters and other stuff
that needs revising and updating in the ordinary course of conducting the
Still, new bills get dropped in the hopper by the hundreds annually. It is
the nature of the beast: Storekeepers keep stores, firefighters fight
fires and lawmakers make laws.
Many of the "new" bills are in fact retreads of measures that come up time
and again and almost never get anywhere.
My own personal nonfavorite among these recurring chestnuts is the death
penalty, a proposal guaranteed to trigger a lot of overheated debate and
not much else.
This hoary "oh no, not again" proposal is back once more this session. It
has as little prospect of passage as countless other death penalty bills
that have floated through the legislative chambers in the 118 years since
Maine outlawed the practice.
The story of how this state became one of the earliest to ban capital
punishment is familiar but bears repeating, if only to remind ourselves
why we remain comfortable with that humanitarian decision.
Maine inherited the death penalty as part of a large body of laws from
Massachusetts when we became a state in 1820. From the outset, however, it
was clear we were never quite comfortable with our inheritance.
Within the 1st decade of statehood, the Legislature began to retreat from
the harshness of the law by steadily reducing the list of capital crimes.
Then, in 1837, lawmakers pretty much disengaged themselves from the law
altogether, passing along all responsibility for carrying it out to the
Anyone convicted of a capital crime was to be jailed for a year, after
which it was left to the chief executive to assign an execution date. The
governor hated this buck-passing arrangement and got around the law simply
by ignoring it.
This continued until Maine's most famous military figure, Gen. Joshua
Chamberlain, returned home following the Civil War and was elected
governor. He promptly challenged the Legislature to abolish the death
penalty or take back responsibility for putting convicts in the gallows.
The governor began signing death warrants for formerly spared miscreants,
thereby getting the attention both of legislators and the public. This
ploy, plus a couple of botched executions in the years ahead, led to a
growing popular movement for abolition.
It took a couple of decades, but capital punishment in Maine was finally
outlawed in 1887 following grisly news accounts of the prolonged hanging
of Daniel Wilkinson, a British seaman convicted of the murder of a Bath
To say that we have never looked back since then would be incorrect. It
has been brought up in the Legislature numerous times over the years,
usually in some variation to make it apply to particularly unsympathetic
offenders, such as cop killers or murderers of children.
In its latest incarnation, sponsored this year by Sen. Jonathan T.E.
Courtney, R-Sanford, the penalty would apply to domestic violence cases
ending in murder. Such deaths account for nearly 1/2 of all homicides
committed in Maine. Courtney argues that that the threat of execution
might lower the rate by getting abusers to think twice before making a
deadly assault upon a relative.
The trouble with most of these efforts to revive capital punishment is
that they are framed in that context of "sending a message" to a
particular category of offenders rather than as a debate about the
morality -- or immorality -- of state-sponsored killing in the name of
However, there has never been any credible evidence that the death penalty
has reduced crime. Indeed, Maine consistently registers one of the lowest
crime rates per capita in the country.
I nominate this year's effort to restore capital punishment for two top
awards in the "recurring bills" category: least likely to succeed and
least worthy of consideration.
The Legislature did the right thing back in 1887. Let's leave it at that.
(source: Jim Brunelle of Cape Elizabeth has commented on Maine issues for
more than 35 years; Kennebec Journal)
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