[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., MASS., ARIZ., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jul 20 17:34:27 CDT 2005
Inmate on death row suspected of taking lethal injection of heroin
A convicted murderer awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison has
died of an apparent heroin overdose -- making him California's 1st inmate
to OD on death row.
Nicholas Rodriguez, a 27-year-old Los Angeles gang member, was sentenced
to die in 2001 for shooting 2 teenagers to death while fleeing a robbery
and for strangling a fellow gang member and gouging out his eyes before
dumping the body in a canyon.
While the clock ticked on his date with a lethal injection of potassium
chloride, Rodriguez somehow managed to score enough drugs and the
paraphernalia to get high.
Apparently a little too high. Early the morning of July 10, Rodriguez was
found unconscious in the 5-by-8 cell where he spent 20 hours a day. He was
rushed to a medical triage area, where a doctor declared him dead less
than 20 minutes later.
"We found a syringe and heroin, so we suspect it was that," San Quentin
spokesman Vernell Crittendon said after authorities searched Rodriguez's
East Block cell.
Marin County assistant coroner Gary Tindel said his office was awaiting
the results of toxicology tests before declaring a cause of death. He
declined to speculate whether drugs were to blame.
Corrections Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said 42 other Death Row
inmates have either committed suicide, been killed or died of natural
causes during the state's nearly 30 years of record keeping. But none had
died of a drug overdose until now.
Michael Camacho, the L.A. deputy district attorney who prosecuted
Rodriguez for the 1999 crimes, said the apparent overdose didn't surprise
him. Rodriguez had a history of drug use, he said, and drugs are easy to
get in prison -- even on death row. In other words, there are many
channels for contraband to reach prisoners.
An in-house investigation is under way to try to determine just which
channel Rodriguez used to get his fix.
To Suhr with love: The ricochet from San Francisco police Deputy Chief
Greg Suhr's abrupt transfer from department command staff to guarding the
city's dam and sewer system continues around City Hall.
For starters, the "done deal" doesn't appear to be all that done.
Suhr was reassigned last week after a beat cop got his head cracked in a
confrontation with a splinter group of anarchist demonstrators who had
gone on a rampage in the Mission District. Suhr came under fire for having
pulled back the city's riot squad just before the attack.
Within days of the incident, Chief Heather Fong announced that Suhr was
being reassigned to a yet-to-be-created security job at the city's Public
Fong said that the transfer had been in the works "for quite a few months"
and that her intention had always been for it to happen in July.
Last week, however, as political heat mounted over handling of the Mission
District protest, the move got a big push from the mayor's office. And not
only was the transfer news to Suhr -- it seems PUC General Manager Susan
Leal, who had been discussing the idea with Fong, wasn't all the way on
As much as Leal respects Suhr's credentials, she said Tuesday that the PUC
wants to make sure whoever is picked is "extremely qualified."
"This is not a dumping ground," she said.
Leal said an outside expert would be brought in to make sure Suhr is the
right fit for the job. Leal is also holding off on any final say until
Fong completes an internal report on the Mission incident.
It's no secret that Suhr and Fong had not been getting along even before
the protest, and that for months, he'd been outside the chief's loop of
Suhr, however, is not fighting the change and has asked his supporters in
the community not to make waves. That message appears to have taken hold,
with one notable exception.
Capt. Rick Bruce of the Bayview station -- a longtime friend of Suhr's who
himself was demoted from the command staff by Fong when she took over the
department -- has sent the chief a letter urging her to reconsider the
"You still have time to do the right thing," Bruce wrote.
Bruce said the timing of Suhr's transfer sent the message to the troops
that if something goes wrong, "as it does every day in police work, the
'leaders' of this department do not have your back and will offer you up
as a sacrificial lamb to detract attention from themselves."
For her part, Fong said Tuesday that "I do not expect everyone to agree
with me. My decisions are made based on what is good for the entire
department and our responsibility to serve this city."
Slightly slighted?: It was duly noted that while Metropolitan
Transportation Commission President Jon Rubin was invited to Monday's Bay
Bridge deal signing by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, none of the top
commission staffers got a call.
What makes this possible slight notable is that under the deal allowing
construction on the eastern span's suspension portion to proceed, it's the
commission that will oversee the project.
On the other hand, those same commission staffers were also some of the
biggest opponents of Schwarzenegger's call to change the bridge design in
midcourse, which was what the fight was all about in the first place.
For the record, Caltrans spokesman Mark DeSio said the governor's office
intentionally tried to limit the size of the gathering. "It wasn't an
attempt to slight anybody," he said.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Prosecution Rests Case in Transgender Killing
The prosecution has concluded its case in the murder trial of 3 men
accused of killing a transgender teenager.
Jason Cazares, Jose Merel and Michael Magidson, all 25, are charged with
1st-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo.
Araujo, who was born a boy named Edward but had been living as a woman for
some time, was killed after her biological identity was revealed at a
party at Merel's house in October 2002. The teenager was savagely beaten
and strangled. Her body was buried in the Sierra foothills. A previous
trial ended with a hung jury last year.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
No Death Penalty For Oakland BART Station Murder
A jury has decided that an Oakland man doesn't deserve the death penalty
for murdering a 22-year-old college student by stabbing her in the head
and the chest during a robbery near a BART station.
After just over two days of deliberations, jurors on Tuesday recommended
life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty for 29-year-old
Marques Lott for killing Lisa Smith on June 10, 1997, as she walked home
from the Rockridge BART station in Oakland.
Lott is scheduled to be sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge
Allen Hymer on Aug. 29, but the hearing will just be a formality because
Hymer doesn't have the option of changing the jury's recommendation and
imposing the death penalty.
Smith grew up in Rocklin, was a senior English major at St. Mary's College
in Moraga and was taking summer Chinese language courses at the University
of California, Berkeley. She had sublet an apartment on Manila Avenue for
less than 2 weeks before she was killed.
Jurors also convicted Lott of escaping from the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in
Oakland on Nov. 6, 1997, at the conclusion of his preliminary hearing and
of mayhem and assault for attacking and biting off the ear of a fellow
inmate at the Santa Rita county jail in Dublin on Feb. 14, 2001.
(source: Bay City News)
Legislature should act on death penalty
Gov. Mitt Romney last week again outlined for the Legislature his proposal
to reinstate the death penalty. The governor has done everything possible
to craft, in his words, "as foolproof a death penalty as exists." It's
time legislators restored this important deterrent to our state's
Romney's death-penalty proposal, which the governor has been pushing for
much of his term in office, would allow executions in cases of terrorism,
for murder of law-enforcement officials, multiple killings, torture, and
when the defendant has a previous first-degree murder conviction. The law
would require a jury to have "no doubt" of the defendant's guilt, rather
than the usual "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. Cases would
automatically be reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court and require
corroborating scientific evidence.
The people of Massachusetts have long desired a reinstatement of the death
penalty, but legislators or courts have thwarted them at every turn. In
1982, voters approved a constitutional amendment restoring the death
penalty only to see the SJC declare that effort unconstitutional in 1984.
Govs. William F. Weld and A. Paul Cellucci both backed the death penalty.
A bid in 1997 fell one vote short in the House.
That close vote during the Cellucci administration came just after the
brutal murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley. Without such a compelling
case behind it, any new effort to pass death penalty legislation will
likely fail. But it's important to keep pushing the measure until the will
of the public is accepted. It's important to put legislators on the spot
and force them to back up their rhetoric with votes.
While no human endeavor is free from the risk of human error, modern
technology such as DNA screening can establish guilt to the point of it
being an almost absolute certainty. And there are certain crimes so
heinous that their perpetrators have forfeited their right to live.
We expect that, given the standards of evidence and limits on its reach,
the death penalty would be used rarely in Massachusetts. But the death
penalty is available to prosecutors on the federal level and in 37 other
states. It should be here as well.
(source: Editorial, Gloucester Daily Times)
ARIZONA----new death sentence
Serial killer given death in 5 slayings
Convicted serial murderer Cory Morris was sentenced to death Tuesday.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury brought back 5 death penalty
verdicts, one for each of the five destitute women Morris strangled during
sex in his camper van and then defiled again after death.
Morris, 27, sat quietly as the verdicts were read, much as he sat quietly
through 7 weeks of trial resulting in a guilty verdict July 11.
Before dismissing the jurors, Judge Douglas Rayes told them that the
county would provide them with counseling if they needed it to cope with
the graphic testimony they heard and the even more graphic photographs
they saw over the course of the trial.
None of the jurors chose to speak to the media.
The sisters of 3 of the victims sat through much of the trial, but none
attended the jury's verdict.
Between September 2002 and April 2003, Morris killed Barbara Codman,
Shanteria Davis, Jade Velazquez, Sherry Noah and Julie Castillo. He was a
suspect, but was never charged, in the death of a 6th woman, Janice Irvin,
whose body was found in July 2002. All of the women but Noah were
Prosecutor Juan Martinez contended that Morris killed the women for his
own sexual pleasure and then relished and ravished their decomposing
corpses. Afterward, he would drag the bodies into a central Phoenix alley.
He was caught when his uncle noticed a strong smell and a cloud of flies
around a camper parked behind his house. The uncle found the badly
decomposed body of Castillo, Morris' last victim.
(source: Arizona Republic)
Culture of Death
Now that a jury of what I can only imagine to be his peers -- a jury
composed of fine, upstanding Vermonters -- has sentenced convicted
murderer Donald Fell to death for the 2000 slaying of "North Clarendon
grandmother Terry King," I think it's time to take a closer look at this
"culture of life" everyone keeps talking about.
By "everyone," I mean the righteous, the "eye for an eye, tooth for a
tooth" people. Mainly, these are "fundamentalist" Christians, who believe
-- no matter which "testament" it comes from and no matter when, where or
by whom the texts were translated -- that the published Bible is the
"literal" word of God. You can't argue with people like that and I dont
see why anyone would try. It is their job not to think. They most
certainly should never be allowed on juries.
Of course the spirit of vengeance -- the eye for an eye -- knows no creed,
denomination or nationality. It is the law of the ape. It includes
whacked-out Muslims, who think that blowing up buses and skyscrapers is
the right response to Western policy in the Middle East. It includes
Jewish settlers in Palestine, who refuse to give up "their" property on
the grounds that there is such a thing as "Greater Israel" (a biblical
idea). It includes Native Americans, African Americans, gay Americans --
all Americans who think that a terrible wrong has not been made right. It
also includes George W. Bush, who stole the term "culture of life" from
the late pope, John Paul II, and now uses it for political purposes.
Hush your letters of protest -- I don't want to hear them! Was it not
Bush, during the Terri Schiavo spectacle, who urged us to "foster a
culture of life," to "build a culture of life" and to "err," if necessary,
on a "presumption in favor of life?"
It was. We all know he was lying -- ask anyone in Iraq. Bush doesnt give a
damn about "life" if it gets in the way of money and oil, whereas I think
the Pope, somewhere among those robes, crowns and jewels, actually did. A
little history: It was in 1993, in a speech in Denver, Colorado, that the
now-to-be-canonized John Paul II told a throng of nearly a million people
that every human life was worth the same as any other, and fully as much,
and that there was no exception to this rule. No exception. I guess the
phrase "beyond redemption" didn't enter his head, and that he was also
familiar with the wisdom of Solomon, which treats cases that cant be
resolved in earthly terms by cutting the baby in half. Normally, I
wouldn't drag myself for candy to defend the Catholic Church, but in this
case I can't help myself.
"In our present social context," John Paul declared in Denver, "marked by
a dramatic struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death,
there is need to develop a deep critical sense capable of discerning true
values and authentic needs."
Note that, please: A deep critical sense. It might be argued -- it has
been argued -- that the vicious murder of Terry King supersedes all other
values and needs. But in Denver the Pope wasnt talking just about
"hot-button" issues -- abortion, euthanasia, cloning, etc. -- but
specifically, also, about war and capital punishment, which he fully and
completely and forever condemned. The death penalty, he said, was
justified only "in cases of absolute necessity - when it would not be
possible otherwise to defend society." This is not the case with Donald
Fell, already locked up in perpetuity, however painful that fact might be
for the Kings.
For the record: The death penalty in Vermont was "discarded" in 1965, and
eliminated altogether in 1987. Terry King herself was murdered in New York
State, and the only way they could try Fell in Burlington (where the crime
was not committed), and later determine to kill him in turn (though he
will not be executed here), was through some technical shenanigan of
federal law -- "crossing state lines," I believe, about which the Bible
has nothing to say. "Caesar and God," maybe, but that's as far as it goes.
Neither Caesar nor God made the laws of Vermont, and neither will bring
Terry King back to her grieving family. Neither will the willful murder of
Donald Fell. The jurors who have perpetrated the outrage of this death
sentence, who have offended the living ethic of this state, and who have
extended the suffering of the King family by many decades -- Fell will be
alive for a long time, and will "cost more" on appeal than he ever could
as a locked-up prisoner -- should indeed "go back to their lives," as it
was put last week by the local daily: "Some of them to haggard
apartments," some to "luxury homes at the end of dirt roads with
mountaintop views," some "to cozy, side-street Dutch Colonials and large
wood-framed homes on bustling main roads," and some "all the way back to
the Northeast Kingdom." As if that were China, which, right now, it might
as well be.
When they do go back, the jurors in this case should hang their heads in
shame. No "emotional testimony," no consideration of the "barbaric"
details of Terry King's death -- as opposed to whose 28 children blown up
on Sunday in Iraq? -- can excuse this violation of the wisdom and good
nature of the people of Vermont, who, long ago, abolished the death
penalty, as did every civilized society on earth.
(source: Peter Kurth, Dissent Voice)
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