[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----DEL., LA., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 18 10:38:54 CST 2005
Jury weighs death penalty for Jones--22-year-old convicted in two killings
has brain dysfunction, lawyer argues
Superior Court jurors will continue deliberating this morning on whether a
convicted double murderer should be executed or live the rest of his life
The same jury last month convicted Michael L. Jones, 22, of two counts of
1st-degree murder in the deaths of Maneeka D. Plant, 24, and Cedric U.
Reinford, 30. Superior Court Judge Peggy L. Ableman will make the final
decision on Jones' sentence based on the jury's recommendation.
Jones' co-defendant, Darrel D. Page, 28, also of Wilmington, was convicted
of the murders in June 2003. A jury recommended 8-4 that he be executed,
but he has not yet been sentenced.
In pleading for his client's life, attorney Kevin J. O'Connell asked
jurors to look at the circumstances in which Jones was raised, including a
criminal surrounding, the lack of a positive father figure and a brain
dysfunction that affects his moral judgment.
"If you allow yourself to be moved, then you will bring an end to the
cycle of violence and death," O'Connell pleaded. "Choose life, ladies and
gentlemen. Choose life."
Suggesting that Jones is a victim is "ridiculous," prosecutor Stephen M.
Walther said in his rebuttal. Prosecutors not only said that Jones can
distinguish between right and wrong, they brought up another murder he is
accused of committing in Hartford, Conn.
"He's a ruthless, violent murderer who has murdered repeatedly,"
prosecutor John A. Barber said. "What mitigating circumstances could
possibly outweigh the aggravating circumstance?"
According to prosecutors and court testimony, Jones and Page forced
Reinford to give them the combination to his home safe before shooting him
3 times on Nov. 21, 1999. Jones and Page then set Reinford and his 1999
Lexus on fire.
Afterward, the men went to Reinford's Alban Park house and found the safe,
which at times stored $30,000 to $40,000. To eliminate witnesses at the
home, prosecutors said, Jones shot Plant and Muhammed Reinford, Cedric
Reinford's younger brother.
Plant was killed as she pleaded for the life of her 7-week-old son. The
boy, found in bed with her, was not harmed.
Muhammed Reinford survived the shooting and was able to identify both men.
Plant was the granddaughter of state Rep. Hazel D. Plant, D-Wilmington
Central, who sat through most of the closing arguments Thursday wiping
tears from her eyes.
Mississippi man faces possible death penalty
A Mississippi man has been convicted of 1st-degree murder for the fatal
shooting and stabbing of a retired minister.
35-year-old Robert Coleman, of Tylertown, Mississippi, was found guilty
late yesterday of the killing of 70-year-old Julian Brandon in 2003. The
sentencing phase of the trial begins this morning before District Judge
Authorities say Brandon was killed during a home invasion and robbery that
also left his wife shot and critically wounded.
Coleman faces either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Authorities say Brandon's body was discovered on January 5th, 2003, 4 days
after the shootings, when a friend went to his home to find out why he had
not heard from Brandon. Brandon's wife, who had lay wounded in the house,
never fully recovered and was unable to testify during the trial.
(source: Associated Press)
Critics hit legal training funding----Bush budgets far less than law
sought for capital case attorneys
In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush declared his
commitment to improving legal representation for defendants facing the
death penalty. But the details of his budget proposal suggest something
less than full-throated support for such a measure.
Little more than three months after signing legislation that called for
boosting the training of lawyers involved in capital cases, Bush proposed
in his budget to dramatically scale back funding for the effort.
Instead of spending more than $350 million over 5 years, as proposed in
the earlier legislation, the president's new plan outlines $50 million
over 3 years, beginning with $20 million in the fiscal year 2006 budget,
to address what many legal observers say is one of the biggest flaws in
the criminal justice system.
Critics have been skeptical of Bush's interest in addressing the issue,
especially since as governor of Texas he presided over more than 150
executions, often turning aside claims from death row inmates that defense
lawyers were ineffective.
Some proponents of the legislation Bush signed in October--the Justice for
All Act--welcomed the president's attention to the problem but voiced
concern about the administration's dramatic reduction in funding.
'A noble commitment'
"It was a step forward for the president to at last acknowledge the
problem of indigent defense in state capital cases, and we welcome the
president's words," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chief Senate sponsor
of the Justice for All provision that called for improving capital defense
work. "But any serious commitment to addressing this problem must start
with the counsel program authorized in the Justice for All Act."
The law, which drew bipartisan support, represented "a noble commitment to
put politics aside in the interest of improving the quality of justice for
all Americans," Leahy said, but he added that it "will not become a
reality until the new law is funded and implemented."
He called on Bush and Congress to "follow through on that commitment" by
approving the necessary funding.
Key Republican supporters of last fall's legislation were more hopeful,
saying that in light of cuts to other domestic programs the smaller amount
for improved legal training was welcome.
"I'm not disheartened by it at all. Obviously we'd like to have more money
to get the program going. . . . But I think that we have to be realistic,"
said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.). "Everything around here is being cut. When
the president is eliminating 150 programs and reducing a lot of others,
given those set of circumstances, any money is encouraging."
Funding for DNA programs
The president's budget proposal also addresses the need to reduce backlogs
in DNA testing throughout the country.
The Justice Department plans to spend $236 million for DNA-related
programs, but only $20 million is earmarked for the training of lawyers in
death penalty cases, according to department spokesman John Nowacki. The
$20 million is part of the three-year, $50 million Capital Defense
Initiative that Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address.
The budget document does not mention a congressional plan that provided
more funding for various DNA initiatives as well as the much higher amount
for the lawyer training in capital cases.
"The president's budget does not specify that money is under the Justice
for All Act," Nowacki said, but noted that the funding does pay for some
of the programs covered by the act.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
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