[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., OKLA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 23 09:31:02 CST 2005
A Public Plea for Mercy: Open the door to death-row inmates' hearings
If, in Shakespeare's words, mercy "droppeth as the gentle rain from
heaven," Texas just experienced a bracing shower. Last week, Gov. Rick
Perry said for the first time that before the state puts someone to death,
it should hold a public hearing on the prisoner's request for clemency.
He stipulated that the proceeding should be decorous and not like a
"circus." And so it should.
There is nothing more serious - or more irrevocable - that a state can do
than deliberately end a person's life. It follows that every step of the
way should be taken with the utmost seriousness, care and transparency.
Instead, the Board of Pardons and Paroles typically discusses clemency
requests by phone, with no written record of its deliberations, and votes
by fax. It is appalling that, as citizens of Texas, people are being put
to death in our name, and we do not know why their pleas for mercy were
refused. On the international stage, that puts us on a par with nations
such as Uzbekistan, which are just one step removed from totalitarianism.
Clemency is not a pardon. In death penalty cases, it means merely that a
person's life will be spared. It is virtually never granted in Texas;
perhaps because the state does not provide for a sentence of life without
the possibility of parole. That is another change we urge the governor to
consider. Even if Texas is to retain the death penalty, it does us no good
to labor under the global perception that we are not just tough but cruel.
Remember the rest of the Bard's take on mercy - and, in particular, on
mercy as exercised or not exercised by great rulers:
... [Mercy] is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes the throned monarch better
than his crown ...
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
Appeal of death row inmate shot down
The county criminal district attorneys office is free to seek an execution
date for a condemned man after a federal court rejected his appeal. Warren
Goodson, chief of the district attorneys office's appellate division, said
his office would likely submit a motion to set an August execution date
for Robert Alan Shields Jr.
Shields, 30, has been on death row for nearly 10 years. A jury condemned
him in the death of Paula Stiner in October 1995.
Stiner, 27, had been Shields' neighbor in Friendswood.
On Sept. 21, 1994, he broke into her home and waited for her. When she got
home, he beat her with a hammer and stabbed her.
Former Precinct 8 Constable Daniel Cooper arrested Shields 3 days later in
The Woodlands. He was driving Stiner's car.
Shields appeals reached the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which
rejected his claims that he received ineffective assistance and was
wrongly denied the chance to represent himself.
"Shields argument, although novel, is meritless," the justices wrote.
"(N)either we not the Supreme Court has established a constitutional right
The motion to set an execution date will go to the same 122nd State
District Court where the original case was tried.
Judge John Ellisor, who now presides over that court, said he would recuse
himself from hearing the motion, since he was one of Shields trial
"Because I did represent Mr. Shields, it would be an inherent conflict of
interest for me to be involved in any aspect of this end of it," Ellisor
The judge said he would seek the appointment of a visiting judge to
preside over the hearing.
The prosecutors in the case were Michael Guarino, who retired as district
attorney in 2002, and current First Assistant District Attorney Mo
Ibrahim said members of Stiners family had stayed in touch with him since
the Shields trial and had been waiting a long time for justice to be done.
"You don't get involved in a case like this without getting close to the
family," Ibrahim said. "I'm happy for them. After a decade, they can at
last bring some closure to this." Shields was the last person in Galveston
County to be sentenced to death.
Robert Alan Shields Jr. Case
Sept. 21, 1994: Shields kills Paula Stiner, 27, in her Friendswood home.
Sept. 24, 1994: Precinct 8 Constable Daniel Cooper arrests Shields in The
Woodlands. Shields is driving Stiners car.
Oct. 11, 1995: A jury convicts Shields of capital murder.
Oct. 16, 1995: The jury sentences Shields to death.
(source: Galveston County Daily News)
Frey gets wish: Death sentence
James E. Frey Jr., who pleaded guilty earlier this month to 1st-degree
murder and asked that he be sentenced to death, was granted that wish
Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage made the ruling
following a sentencing hearing at which Frey, 46, of Milton, instructed
his attorneys not to present any testimony that could possibly have spared
Frey, accused of kidnapping and killing his estranged wife, Debra Frey,
45, of Sunbury, last year, remained stoic during Tuesdays proceedings,
showing little emotion. He appeared in court in white sneakers and a
bright orange prison uniform with a gray, hooded sweatshirt underneath.
He offered no comment to the media as he was escorted from the courtroom
by county Sheriff Chad Reiner and several of his deputies.
The death penalty imposed by Sacavage marks the 1st time since 1995 that a
murder defendant prosecuted in Northumberland County was ordered to
receive the ultimate punishment. It also was the 1st death penalty
sentence attained by District Attorney Tony Rosini.
Kevin Marinelli, of Shamokin, was sentenced on Aug. 11, 1995, by
then-President Judge Samuel C. Ranck to death for murdering 35-year-old
Conrad Dumchock at his Kulpmont home in 1994. Marinelli, who was 22 years
old at the time of the homicide, was convicted of 1st-degree murder by a
jury and remains on death row.
Ironically, Sacavage, who formerly served as the countys district
attorney, prosecuted the homicide case against Marinelli and was assisted
by Rosini. Supreme Court will review
Frey was scheduled to stand trial this week, but instead entered the
guilty plea on Feb. 8. He will remain incarcerated at Northumberland
County Prison before being transferred to a state prison.
After imposing the sentence, Sacavage explained to Frey that he could file
a post-sentence motion within 10 days in Northumberland County Court or an
appeal to a higher court within 30 days. Sacavage said the Supreme Court
automatically reviews death penalty sentences.
Frey, who could have been sentenced to life in prison without a chance for
parole, is charged by Trooper Douglas Foura of the state police barracks
at Stonington with murdering Debra Frey on Jan. 5, 2004. He is accused of
kidnapping his wife outside her place of employment in Sunbury, then
driving to a cornfield along Keller Road in Upper Augusta Township, where
he allegedly shot her twice, once in the chest and once in the head. Frey
then shot himself, but survived the night before calling emergency
personnel for assistance the next morning, according to state police.
Following a 20-minute hearing on Feb. 8 in which the defendant was found
competent to stand trial, Frey repeatedly stated he wanted to be put to
death for killing his wife. He then pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder
and aggravated assault, and no contest to the kidnapping charge.
The aggravated assault and kidnapping offenses are both felonies and
potential aggravating circumstances that are required in seeking a death
In proving a death penalty argument, the prosecution must prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that aggravating circumstances outweigh any mitigating
Rosini, who outlined the homicide case to the court, was successful in
convincing Sacavage that aggravating circumstances, the kidnapping, did
exist. Rosini also said he was prepared to call 14 witnesses and enter
numerous exhibits, including photographs of the crime scene.
Sacavage then asked Paige Rosini, of Shamokin, one of Freys 2 attorneys
(the other is James Best, of Sunbury), if she had any witnesses or
comments that would show mitigating circumstances. She said she was
prepared to call several witnesses, including the defendant; members of
his family, including his mother, Connie Duncan, and his daughter, Amber
Frey; a psychiatrist; and a chaplain at Geisinger Medical Center in
Danville where the defendant was hospitalized until recovering from his
wounds. But Rosini said it was her clients wishes not to present any
character witnesses or other testimony in an attempt to spare him from the
Paige Rosini did point out that Frey had no prior, significant criminal
history, served 2 tours of duty in the military and earned a college
After asking Frey if he clearly understood his court rights and wasnt
suffering from any mental problems, Sacavage called a recess to review
statements made by members of Debra Freys family. After reconvening about
30 minutes later, Sacavage again questioned Frey, who told the judge he
was satisfied with his legal representation and affirmed his previous
Sacavage then addressed the court by stating, "The commonwealth has proven
at least one aggravating circumstance in the case and no mitigating
circumstances have been presented. I hereby sentence the defendant to
In addition to imposing the death penalty on the 1st-degree murder and
aggravating assault charges, which were merged for sentencing purposes,
Sacavage also sentenced Frey to 2 to 4 years on the kidnapping offense
that will run concurrent to the death sentence.
Victims family speaks
When asked if her family was satisfied with the death sentence, Debra
Frey's daughter, Christina Seiler, 27, of Halifax, stated, "I really cant
answer that because we all had mixed feelings about what he deserved. I
don't think we really had a preference. But I'm just glad he won't be in
the public any more to hurt anyone else. He hurt a lot of people in his
Seiler was among numerous family members in the courtroom when Sacavage
imposed the death sentence.
Paige Rosini, who admitted it's unusual for a murder defendant not to seek
any defense in a case, said, "Mr. Frey was found to be competent and we
felt obligated to abide by his wishes not to present any evidence on his
behalf." Tony Rosini said he believes Frey deserved death.
"He waived his right to a trial and asked for the death penalty. Well, he
got his wish," he said.
The district attorney said there have been only three executions carried
out in Pennsylvania since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974. He
said all 3 of the convicted murderers who were executed sought the death
(source: Shamokin News Item)
Jury to consider death penalty for Eizember
An Oklahoma jury has convicted Scott Eizember in the 2003 deaths of his
Today, the jury in El Reno, Oklahoma, will decide whether Eizember should
get the death penalty.
Eizember was convicted of 1st-degree murder for the beating death of
76-year-old A-J Cantrell. He also was found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in
the shooting death of Cantrell's 70-year-old wife, Patsy Cantrell.
The victims were attacked when they returned to their home in Depew,
Oklahoma. The defense had said Eizember didn't intend to kill the
Cantrells, but merely entered their home to spy on the nearby house where
his former girlfriend was staying.
Eizember was captured outside Lufkin, Texas, after allegedly kidnapping an
Arkansas physician and his wife at gunpoint and forcing them to drive
there. The physician shot him several times with a gun his wife kept in
the couple's van.
Death penalty opponents call for execution study
Death penalty opponents says Oklahoma's capital punishment system should
be examined and innocent people have already been put to death.
Death penalty opponents and members of faith-based groups rallied outside
the Capitol in support of a bill that would create a 13-member task force
to determine whether any defendant convicted of 1st-degree murder has been
mistakenly put to death.
While he wouldn't say which inmate had been wrongly executed, Democrat
Opio Toure says he believes an innocent person has been executed.
Toure says the state has the responsibility to identify innocent
defendants and provide restitution's to do that.
In 2003 Toure wrote legislation that was signed into law by Governor Brad
Henry that allows citizens who are wrongly convicted and imprisoned to
apply for up to $175,000 in compensation.
Oklahoma has executed 158 people, including 3 women, since 1915. Oklahoma
led the nation in the number of executions in 2001 with 18. Oklahoma had
93 inmates on death row at the end of January.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Nothing 'historic' about Bush
President Bush's friend Doug Wead somehow had the impression in 1998 that
Bush would be a "historic figure."
Many of us would be fascinated to know what Bush had done up to that time
to earn such an opinion. What does that say about Wead's insights and
Bush was a controversial governor with more than a few critics even in
Republican Texas. A list of his failures was reasonably extensive. His
education and environmental policies did not improve Texas much. Texas
became "the Execution State" under Bush and his trusty legal adviser, who
is now U.S. attorney general.
Today, this "historic figure" has alienated half the U.S. electorate,
antagonized almost the entire world with a poorly thought out and arrogant
foreign policy, put the country into a debt that will last a generation,
started a war that did not need to be fought in Iraq, and creates a crisis
whenever failures in one area begin to show.
If Wead thinks this is the essence of greatness, I'd love to know what he
thinks a flawed president is.
Hank Rigler, Tempe
(source: Letter to the Editor, Arizona Republic)
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