[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IND., VA., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 26 17:14:48 CDT 2005
Inmates shown path to religion----New volunteer faith programs unveiled
Indiana prison officials plan to unveil a new program today that is based
squarely on the idea that religious faith may be the key to turning a
convict's life around.
3 Indiana prisons -- one each for men, women and juveniles -- are joining
a growing trend in corrections by creating segregated housing units for
prisoners who volunteer to be immersed in religious training.
For those uninterested in such lessons -- and to appease critics who call
the faith dorms a tool for state-supported religion -- prison officials
also are offering a secular track that would focus on character building.
But the majority of the first 202 volunteers are going the faith-based
Jacqueline Ayers, associate director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union,
called the idea "an unconstitutional violation of church and state."
Similar reasoning was cited in legal challenges filed against faith-based
prison programs in Iowa.
"I think it is too difficult to find a program that would be inclusive of
everyone's religion," she said.
But David Donahue, who was appointed commissioner of the Indiana
Department of Correction when Gov. Mitch Daniels took office, maintains
the program is critical. He said 97 percent of the state's 25,000 prison
inmates eventually will be released from prison.
"If we don't create an opportunity for them to change, then they are going
to return," said Donahue, adding that nearly 38 % of the state's inmates
released in 2001 were back in jail within 3 years.
The idea is being tested at the Correctional Industrial Facility in
Pendleton, the Plainfield Juvenile Correctional Facility and the Indiana
Women's Prison on the Near Eastside.
Bible studies and clergy counseling -- long a staple in prisons -- are a
part of the program, which would include Jewish, Muslim, Christian and
other options. But the segregated dorms put inmates seeking a spiritual
path to redemption under one roof, where they are encouraged to live as a
There will be classes and assigned readings concerning their sacred texts,
spiritual self-assessments and work on developing a moral code that falls
in line with their chosen faith. They will keep journals, attend small
group discussions and hold personal reflection times, in addition to
regular worship services.
To be eligible, the prisoners must have maintained good behavior. Adults
must have a high school diploma or a GED. Religious preference -- or a
lack of one -- does not factor into eligibility.
Already, inmates who call themselves Catholics and Baptists, Muslims and
Jews, Buddhists and American Indian spiritualists have signed up.
Prison officials hope to find volunteer mentors for each faith, said Tim
Brown, a corrections official who helped develop the program. But if
teachers of pagan, Wiccan or humanist beliefs can't be found, for
instance, other open-minded volunteers will be asked to do the best they
The program has been dubbed PLUS, or Purposeful Living Units Serve. It is
intended to give inmates a focus that will guide them to a more successful
At its core, the PLUS program and others like it throughout the country
are trying to address the ultimate failure of the American correctional
system -- that it actually does little correcting.
Nationally, about two-thirds of the people sent to prison are arrested
again within three years. Nearly half go back to jail.
Housing those inmates costs $59 a day, or $21,535 a year. The state's
correction budget now hovers at $571 million. Faith-based prison programs
aim to curtail those repeat customers.
"What we're doing is not working," said state Rep. P. Eric Turner, a
Marion Republican who champions faith-based dorms. "I certainly think that
based on the results they are having in other states we should give it a
A thin record
Turner cites the most-often quoted study of faith-based prisons, a 2003
analysis done by University of Pennsylvania researchers. It found that
graduates of a faith-based program in Texas -- established by then-Gov.
George W. Bush -- were less likely to get rearrested or return to jail
than those not in the program.
Critics point out, however, that when the analysis includes inmates who
began but dropped out, the program actually had a higher recidivism rate
than a comparison group.
In this year's legislative session, Indiana lawmakers passed a bill that
gave state prisons clear authority to include training in "faith and
Turner said the cost to taxpayers of housing repeat offenders is a key
concern. But it wasn't his driving motivation to back the bill.
"It is changing hearts. Changing individual lives is what drives me,"
Turner said. When Daniels signed the bill into law, he said that faith
ought to play a larger role in prisoner rehabilitation. "I believe there
is clear evidence that it works, or can work in many cases, in many
circumstances and in many lives," Daniels said.
Program has its critics
Still, the program draws strong objections.
Lindsey Mintz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Community
Relations Council, said faith can have a role in prisoner rehabilitation,
but the state shouldn't require it or spend tax money on it.
She expressed concern that inmates might be coerced into faith programs
because they see the dorms as a better living environment or the
associated educational opportunities as better than they might get
"The state should not be in the business of exchanging perks for religious
indoctrination," she said.
Donahue said the PLUS program would require no added state money. The
department is seeking donations for the "The Purpose-Driven Life" books
and other materials that are part of the initiative. Volunteers will
provide the mentoring.
The character-based track, he said, emphasizes universal virtues and so
meets the need for an option for nonbelievers.
"We are providing an opportunity for folks to engage in their own faith,"
Donahue said. "We are also acknowledging that some folks of no faith need
to work on their character."
Already, Donahue said the program, which debuted June 1, is producing
fewer misconduct reports among inmates. Prison officials declined to allow
any media access to the initiative until today's unveiling.
In Oklahoma, the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville is in the
third year of its faith-based program.
"The inmates are absolutely a joy to be around. They are very respectful,
very appreciative," said assistant warden Bill Boyd. While prison
officials expect the program to reduce recidivism, they say it is too
early to judge.
In Florida, a faith-based prison dorm was opened in 1999 but the state did
not track its influence on recidivism, said Franchatta Barber, deputy
assistant secretary of institutions and programs. Now Florida has expanded
its faith-based efforts to cover 2,200 prisoners.
Officials in both states say long waiting lists to enter the programs are
evidence of their success. Donahue, Indiana's prison chief, said he
recognizes that faith-based dorms are unproven. In fact, he said no one
has tried them on teens, as will be done at the Plainfield Juvenile
Donahue plans to keep close tabs on the state's new effort. The department
will track whether participants are less likely to be rearrested and
But given Indiana's lackluster history with turning prisoners into better
citizens, Donahue said it was long past time to try something new.
"If you always do what you have always done," he said, "you will get what
you've always got."
(source: Indianapolis Star)
A jury in Virginia will decide whether Daryl Atkins is intelligent enough
to be executed.
In 1996 he was named in a Supreme Court hearing as being mentally
retarded. Apparently his meetings with his defence team and the
stimulation that produced has increased his IQ to above 70. In 1998 he
scored 59 but in later tests scored between 74 and 76.
Evan Nelson who tested him in 1998 and 2004 suggests that "His constant
contact with lawyers that worked on his case gave him more intellectual
stimulation than he received at school".
(source: London Daily Mail)
Your IQ's gone up - now we can execute you
A convicted murderer spared from death row because he was judged to be
mentally retarded could now face execution after his IQ was found to have
risen by at least 15 points.
Daryl Atkins, 27, who had an IQ of 59 in 1998, scored a historic victory
in the United States Supreme Court three years ago when judges ruled that
executing mentally retarded criminals was unconstitutional.
His legal campaign helped spare dozens of prisoners from death row.
Now, however, he could face death by lethal injection after he recorded a
higher test score of at least 74, placing him just above Virginia's
threshold of 70.
Dr Evan Nelson, who tested Atkins in 1998 and 2004, wrote in a report last
year that "his constant contact with the many lawyers that worked on his
case" gave him more intellectual stimulation in jail than he got during
"That included practising his reading and writing skills, learning about
abstract legal concepts and communicating with professionals."
But prosecutors claim Atkins had covered up his intelligence at the
earlier test and was mentally competent to face the death penalty.
Atkins's fate will be decided in a new trial beginning this week. While
his 1998 conviction will stand, jurors are being asked to decide whether
he meets the criteria for execution. If they rule he is mentally retarded,
he will stay in prison for life.
Commentators say that the case highlights flaws in the US capital
punishment system in which the threshold differs from state to state.
"They're arguing whether an IQ difference of one or two points should make
a difference between life or death," said Richard Dieter, the executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, a pressure group
dedicated to publicising capital punishment issues.
"There is no absolute precision in determining a person's mental state. It
shouldn't require a two-week trial with 90 witnesses."
Prosecutors, however, say that if Atkins was competent enough to use a
firearm and then concoct a story during a police interview, during which
he attempted to cover up his crime, his mental capacity is at a level that
makes him culpable. His crime required planning and forethought, they say.
They also point out that Atkins has previously boasted of being a fan of
television gameshows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and claimed to solve
the puzzles "before anyone else can".
"I know people who are truly mentally retarded, and Daryl Atkins is not
one of them," prosecutor Eileen Addison said in 2003.
Atkins was just 18 when he and a friend flagged down a car driven by an
American Air Force mechanic, Eric Nesbitt, in York County, Virginia, and
forced him at gunpoint to drive to a bank cash machine and withdraw money.
They made off with $260 (150), leaving Mr Nesbitt to die at the side of
the road after shooting him eight times. Atkins and his accomplice,
William Jones, who had spent several hours together drinking beer and gin
and smoking marijuana, blamed each other for the killing.
Atkins was convicted of murder in February 1998. Jurors rejected pleas
from his defence team that he should be spared the death sentence on
account of his mental deficiencies, a claim backed up by a forensic
psychologist who testified that Atkins had an IQ of just 59 - putting him
in the lowest one per cent of the American population.
His supporters also say that his poor school record is further proof of
his mental shortcomings.
(source: The Scotsman)
Prosecutors begin case against Moore----All-white jury chosen for fayette
The prosecution and defense don't disagree on what happened. They just
don't see eye to eye on why it happened.
"He was not crazy; he was mean," District Attorney Chris McCool said of
capital murder defendant Devin Darnell Moore.
"And he didn't intend to be locked up, and he didn't let anyone stand in
his way as long as he had bullets in his gun."
Moore's attorney said the defense didn't intend to refute evidence that
Moore shot and killed Fayette Police officers Arnold Strickland and James
Crump and dispatcher Leslie "Ace" Mealer in June 2003. Attorney Jim
Standridge said there was no excuse for what happened.
But there was a reason.
"We're not going to give you an excuse," Standridge said. "If Devin Moore
intended to do these acts, he's guilty. If, on the other hand, his mind is
sick, [if] he's got a disease of the mind, you can't find him guilty."
After a week of narrowing the jury pool, attorneys in the case seated 12
jurors and four alternates Monday. Attorneys made their opening arguments
to the jury and heard from the prosecution's first two witnesses. Moore is
charged with six counts of capital murder on three separate charges.
The jury of 12 and 4 alternates seated Monday is all white and is composed
of 15 women and 1 man. Moore is black, and while the jury's makeup may
sound surprising, blacks comprise only about 12 % of Fayette County's
population, according to the 2000 Census. Of about 170 people who answered
the jury summons, only 16 were black.
Jurors seemed focused and attentive during the attorneys' arguments. Moore
sat up with his arms resting on the table, sometimes with his face down.
The bench reserved for the defendant's family had only one person sitting
on it, Moore's mother. The benches for the victims' families were packed.
Several members of the victims' families left while the prosecution played
a videotape of the crime scene.
The defense pinned its hopes on proving that Moore suffers from
post-traumatic stress disorder that triggered his actions. But video games
provide the final piece in the puzzle.
"Devin Moore played these video games compulsively; sometimes he played
them all night," Standridge said.
The particular game in question is Grand Theft Auto. The victims' families
have filed a civil suit against the game's maker.
"The way you win this video game is by getting a stolen car, getting
arrested by the police, killing the police and escaping," Standridge said.
"Does that sound familiar?"
McCool summarized the events surrounding the night. He emphasized the
brutality of the killings and showed jury members pictures of the men when
they were alive. He followed that with a videotape of the crime scene
showing their bodies.
"Devin Moore, the man sitting right over there, murdered the entire night
shift of the Fayette Police Department," McCool said. Later, witness Jerry
Porter, then a Fayette County Sheriff's Office dispatcher, recounted how
fireman Johnny Fulmer got on the radio and pleaded for help from any
available Fayette Police officers after finding the bodies. None answered.
McCool said Moore planned his escape and covered his tracks.
"They were just doing their jobs when Devin Moore ended their lives and
his plan succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams," McCool said. "The
evidence will be compelling that he knew what he was doing."
Moore grabbed Strickland's gun while Strickland was fingerprinting him and
shot Strickland twice, once in the head, McCool said. He then shot Crump
twice as Crump emerged from a room into the hallway. As he walked past
Crump, he administered a coup de grace, shooting Crump as he lay in the
McCool noted that the first two victims were armed officers. Mealer, he
said, was unarmed, and Moore shot him 5 times as he sat unarmed in the
police communications room.
While McCool characterized Moore's actions as brutal, cold-blooded murder,
Standridge said they were the actions of a sick man. Moore suffered
extreme abuse as a child, he said.
"What is it about Devin Moore that would make Devin Moore take a gun and
kill these men?" Standridge said.
Standridge said extreme abuse and neglect as a child left Moore with
post-traumatic stress disorder. He said 2 psychologists and a psychiatrist
would testify that Moore has the mental illness commonly known as PTSD.
"That Devin Moore has post-traumatic stress disorder is not in dispute,"
What will be disputed, Standridge said, is the effect PTSD had on Moore. 2
will testify for the defense that the illness caused Moore's actions. A
state psychologist will testify that he has the disorder but it didn't
cause his actions.
PTSD keeps those who suffer from it in a hyper-fearful state longer than
people who don't have it, Standridge said. And people react differently
from its effects.
However, he said jurors were still likely to believe the mental disorder
is not an excuse. That is why understanding the video game's effect is
important, Standridge said.
He noted that the military uses video games to train pilots and soldiers.
Video games program a reaction, allowing people to go on auto pilot, he
"Devin acted a lot like those pilots react," Standridge said.
McCool said that Moore confessed his actions to Alabama Bureau of
Investigation Agent Johnny Tubbs after being captured in Mississippi.
" 'I started looking at his pistol and planning in my mind how I would
escape,' " McCool said Moore told Tubbs. " 'The reason I shot those
officers is that I didn't want to go to jail.'"
Standridge didn't deny that Moore made the statements to Tubbs. But he
countered that Tubbs talked to Moore for 2 hours and 35 minutes. Yet Tubbs
boiled it down to one-and-a-half, handwritten pages.
"What else did he say?" Standridge said. "What's written down is what
Agent Tubbs wants you to hear, wants you to see, wants you to read."
The trial was to continue at 9 a.m. with prosecution witnesses.
(source: Tuscaloosa News)
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