[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ARK./MO., MD., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 28 22:41:50 CST 2005
Execution of confessed killer turns on diagnosis of mental
defect----Rickey Newman is outraged that he hasn't been put to death.
Rickey Newman confessed to a brutal crime in western Arkansas and was
sentenced to die. Almost 3 years after Newman personally asked jurors for
a death penalty, he still is alive.
Newmans execution date was set. Just hours before the state planned to
execute him last September, the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed his
execution because of a loophole in state law. Newman is outraged.
"I'm a stone cold killer, ma'am," said Newman in a recent interview inside
the Varner Maximum Security Prison in Grady, Ark.
Newman wants justice. And it's not the kind of justice requested by most
death row inmates.
"I want to be executed," he said.
Newman admits he killed a woman and mutilated her body in Crawford County
"I murdered Marie Cholette in cold blood and set her up to do so and
enjoyed every minute of it," he said. "Marie Cholette represented herself
as a member of our gang and tried to affiliate with our gang. She was
murdered for it - tortured, murdered and set on fire."
Based on his confession, Newman was tried, convicted and sentenced to die
in June 2002. Newman waived all his appeals and even asked both the
governor and the Arkansas Supreme Court for a death penalty.
"I think if you're man enough to do the crime, you should be man enough to
take the punishment," he said.
Just hours before he was supposed to die, an aunt by marriage filed an
appeal on his behalf, claiming he is mentally retarded. The Arkansas
Supreme Court stayed the execution and appointed a public defender against
Newmans wishes. The murderer is outraged.
"Right there, it says I have no mental disease or mental defect, by the
Arkansas State Hospital," he said.
The court wanted to make sure it could thoroughly examine whether Newman
is indeed mentally retarded.
"I feel like people need to stay out of my business and let me be
executed," said Newman.
Courts across the country are increasingly giving death penalty cases more
scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries have to recommend a
death penalty before a judge can impose it. Now its using a case from
Missouri as it mulls whether 16-year-old and 17-year-old killers can be
"These are very crucial because were talking about a life," said Rep.
Craig Bland, a Democrat who represents part of Kansas City in the Missouri
Legislature. "We're talking about someone who needs to be represented in
the best way possible because this is a mans life."
Bland proposed a bill that would halt executions in Missouri until a
commission could study the death penalty thoroughly.
"It gives an opportunity to save some people who are innocent," he said.
The Missouri Supreme Court seems to agree. It's now taking a more careful
approach to the death penalty. It didn't set any execution dates in 2004
and only 2 in 2003. In February, the court set an execution date for March
16 for Stanley Hall, convicted in 1996 of kidnapping and killing a woman
in St. Louis County in 1994.
It's often been far too long for victims, especially in death penalty
cases," said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.
Nixon has had to explain to victims why the process halted so long.
"The bottom line is we have a court system that should be designed on
predictability and anything that takes away from that adds stress to the
system," he said.
Lawmakers like Bland says Missouri is plagued with cases just like
Newman's that seem simple but aren't.
Even Newman admits some of his confession doesn't match evidence that
detectives found at the scene.
"I took all her body organs out and cooked 'em," he said. "The autopsy
report shows all organs were there and they were normal and not cooked --
Newman thinks that shouldn't matter. He says his word should be enough for
Arkansas to execute him.
"I came here to die, maam. People don't understand I came here to die," he
The Arkansas Supreme Court sent Newman's case back to a circuit judge, who
ruled Newman is sane and able to represent himself during trial. Some
attorneys, however, say forms of mild retardation sometimes go unnoticed
by an untrained person. Experts say it takes a highly trained doctor or
attorney to pick up on that and, usually, public defenders and judges dont
have that kind of training.
(source: KYTV News)
Death-penalty appeal claims discrimination
4 days after a Baltimore County judge signed a death warrant for convicted
murderer Vernon L. Evans Jr., the man's lawyers asked the judge Monday to
postpone the execution and overturn a sentence that they contend was based
on a "racially discriminatory" application of the death penalty by
Baltimore County prosecutors.
The legal pursuit launches Evans' attorneys into the company of a growing
number of advocates for death-row inmates who have based appeals of their
sentences on a University of Maryland study conducted by professor Raymond
Paternoster that found geographic and racial disparities in the
application of the death penalty.
In the Evans appeal, however, lawyers for the 55-year-old man convicted in
1984 of the contract murder of a federal witness and a bystander seem to
go a step further, using data that specifically assess Baltimore County
prosecutors' record of seeking or not seeking the death penalty in
In a footnote to their appeal, Evans' lawyers wrote, "While the Baltimore
County State's Attorney's Office has suggested that it seeks the death
penalty in every death-eligible crime, Paternoster's research shows that
the office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in only 99
of 152 death-eligible cases."
Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor has said that her
prosecutors seek the death penalty in every death-eligible case that meets
the state's legal requirements, that does not rely solely on the testimony
of a co-defendant and in which the victim's family understands and is
willing to endure the lengthy process.
But Jeffrey B. O'Toole, one of Evans' lawyers, argues that that is not the
case. "It is clear that discretion is being exercised," he said Monday.
"It is our position that that discretion is being exercised in a racially
Evans is black; his 2 victims were white.
John Cox, an assistant Baltimore County state's attorney and one of the
prosecutors handling the Evans case, said he had not yet seen Evans'
latest court filings but disputed the assessment.
"I've been in this office almost 19 years now, and I can absolutely tell
you that race has never played a factor in our decision in seeking the
death penalty," he said. "They can throw all the numbers they want at you,
in effect, to play games, but it's absolutely not a factor."
Cox said he did not know how researchers determined which cases were
death-eligible [em dash] meaning the cases met Maryland's legal
requirements that a first-degree murder defendant be proven to have been
the wielder of the murder weapon and that there be an "aggravating
circumstance," such as a murder committed as part of a kidnapping, rape,
arson or robbery.
Cox said that researchers working with Paternoster sent Baltimore County
prosecutors lists of cases that they had preliminarily identified as
death-eligible that included some that were not.
"I can't say for sure whether those mistakes were corrected," he said,
"and I can't say for sure where they're getting the numbers that they're
citing right now."
Attempts to reach Paternoster at his College Park office for comment were
Evans and drug kingpin Anthony Grandison were convicted and sentenced to
death in the April 1983 killing of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan
Kennedy at the Warren House Motor Hotel in Pikesville. Grandison paid
Evans $9,000 to kill Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl, who were to testify
against Grandison in a federal drug trial. Kennedy was working for her
sister Cheryl that day, and prosecutors said at the trial that they
believed Evans mistook Kennedy for her sister on the day of the killings.
Grandison remains on death row.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl signed on Thursday a
death warrant for Evans, ordering that he to be put to death by lethal
injection sometime during a five-day period that begins April 18.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Report: several factors contributed to death row escape attempt
Several factors that contributed to an unsuccessful escape attempt from
Ohio's Death Row Feb. 2 by condemned killers Richard Cooey and Maxwell
White, according to a report released Monday:
-Failure of the Death Row unit manager and security chief to pass on a
tipster's information about an attempted escape in the works.
-The chain link covering on top of the recreation cage was easily
-A large pile of snow was allowed accumulate in a corner of the outdoor
-Cooey and White weren't properly searched before being taken to the cage,
as written orders required.
-Cooey and White were allowed to accumulate a large amount of property to
make their escape attempt possible.
-Twice hourly security checks of the outside recreation area weren't
conducted, as required.
-Death row guards and supervisors reported they had repeatedly sought
clarification from the security chief on issues such as outdoor recreation
and property limits for inmates, but weren't given direction or guidance.
(source: Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)
(source: Associated Press)
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