[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----LA., USA, IOWA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jun 21 23:16:36 CDT 2005
State's high court will decide if death penalty will be an option
The Louisiana Supreme Court will hear the appeal of a Texas man who for
the 2nd time faces the death penalty in connection with the 1989 slaying
of a Bossier City man.
The decision handed down late Friday means the prosecution and defense
will know going into the trial if the death penalty will be an option if
James Crandell, 57, is convicted a 2nd time, Bossier-Webster District
Attorney Schuyler Marvin said.
"It's really a good thing because we will know pretrial if we can seek the
death penalty and we won't waste taxpayers' money arguing this on an
appeal after the trial," Marvin said.
So far, a district court judge and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal have
sided with Marvin and his plans to seek death as an option in Crandell's
first-degree murder trial. The appellate court decision in February
stated, "the death penalty is permissible as a sentencing option upon a
retrial of this charge."
Pam Smart, who is representing Crandell, was in court Monday and not
immediately available for comment.
Crandell has been serving a life sentence since his conviction in 1991 for
the beating death of Charles Parr, 48. A federal court overturned his
conviction in August after Crandell successfully challenged the manner in
which grand jury forepersons once were selected.
A Bossier Parish grand jury indicted Crandell in September, and Marvin
announced plans to seek the death penalty if Crandell is convicted.
Crandell received the life sentence in his 1st trial because the jury
could not unanimously agree on whether he should be put to death.
For at least 24 years, state court decisions have held that prosecutors
are prohibited from twice seeking the death penalty. Crandell's case is
different in that the federal court's ruling nullified his entire 1st
A trial date will not be set in Crandell's case until the Supreme Court
rules, Marvin said. He anticipates it will be 60 days before a decision is
Crandell was convicted of killing Parr in a room Crandell shared with his
girlfriend, Gail Willars, at the Beacon Manor Motel in Bossier City.
(source: Shreveport Times)
Death penalty debate finally produces useful result
For the past half century, the nation has been locked - deadlocked might
be a better word - in a bitter debate over the death penalty. But what if
there is a middle ground?
With little fanfare, a compromise has been gaining favor more than a
decade, drawing support as DNA evidence has exonerated inmates on death
row. Last week, it reached a milestone. Texas, site of 1 in 3 executions,
gave juries the option to sentence defendants in capital cases to life
without parole rather than death.
All but one death-penalty state, New Mexico, now offers that choice, a
marked change from the era when life sentences were a meaningless
illusion. But why stop at making life without parole just an optional
alternative to execution? It is a fitting replacement, assuring severe
punishment for the worst of crimes but with a safety valve to protect
those falsely accused or wrongly sentenced.
Evidence of the need pours in weekly now.
5 times in the past 7 months, the Supreme Court has had to rein in state
courts that mishandled death penalty cases. On Monday, the court ordered a
new sentencing trial in a Pennsylvania case involving shoddy work by the
lawyer for an accused murderer.
Last week, the court sent back cases from Texas and California that reeked
of racial discrimination in jury selection. Earlier, the court ruled
against Texas (again) and Missouri (twice) in cases of excluding relevant
evidence, making defendants appear in shackles and executing juveniles.
Just last week at the state level:
- An Oklahoma appeals court ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to
death in a 1982 murder on the basis of testimony from a police chemist who
has since been fired for poor and unreliable lab work.
- An Illinois man jailed for 8 months and facing the death penalty in his
daughter's death was released when a long-overdue DNA test finally came
back - negative.
- A former North Carolina judge urged the state Legislature to impose a
2-year moratorium on executions.
Against this backdrop, the rate of executions has dropped 40% from its
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the Supreme Court has
tried to make clear that it is to be applied carefully and evenhandedly.
Nevertheless, cases of incompetent lawyering, suppression of evidence,
local prejudice and other affronts to justice keep appearing.
The result is evident in the numbers who narrowly escaped execution: While
972 people have been put to death since the 1970s, at least 119 have been
taken off death row because of evidence they were wrongly convicted or
According to a Gallup Poll in May, 74% of the public supports the death
penalty, but backing for capital punishment drops to 56% when respondents
are given the alternative of life without parole. Even in Texas, a
Scripps-Howard poll last October found that while 75% supported the death
penalty, 78% favored the option of life without parole.
Already, life without the death penalty is the norm in a growing number of
states. In addition to the 12 that don't allow it, 5 others have had no
executions in more than 30 years; 6 have used it only once in that time.
Abolishing the death penalty and using life without parole instead can't
fix all the injustices exposed in courts across the nation. But at least
no one would be executed as a result.
(source: Editorial, USA Today)
Death penalty works
In 2 recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned death sentences
of convicted murderers, sparking renewed calls for an end to capital
A shifting majority on the court has struggled with the death penalty in
recent years, sometimes exceeding its authority to grant new rights to
murderers. But the two newest decisions focused on case-specific issues,
adding very little to the larger debate. Both involve clearly guilty
murderers who won new trials because of procedural errors:
- Ronald Rompilla was sentenced to death for the robbery and brutal
stabbing murder of an Allentown, Pa., bar owner in 1988. The high court
overturned his sentence with a narrow holding that his attorneys were
ineffective because they failed to thoroughly investigate the record of
his 1974 conviction for raping a woman at knifepoint.
- Thomas Joe Miller-El received a death sentence for the 1985 execution of
a Holiday Inn employee during a robbery. He left a second victim
permanently disabled. The high court granted him a new trial because
prosecutors might have intentionally excluded some blacks from his jury.
Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and biased jury selection are
made in thousands of criminal cases each year. These claims rarely raise
questions about the defendant's guilt and do not justify abolishing
A growing body of research suggests that ending the death penalty would
result in more murder victims. Studies released over the past several
years by economists from Emory University, the University of Colorado,
Clemson University, State University of New York, Western Illinois
University, University of Houston and the University of Chicago, among
others, found that for each murderer executed, 5 to 18 murders are
And in direct conflict with opponents' claims, recent Gallup and
TNS/Washington Post/ABC polls have reported that public support for the
death penalty has either remained steady at 65% or increased from 63% to
70% over the past 5 years. The fact that there have been nearly 27,000
fewer murders over this period may explain why Americans are not ready to
abandon the death penalty for our worst murderers.
(source: Michael Rushford is president of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation, which is based in Sacramento; Editorial, USA Today)
IOWA----female gets federal death sentence
Jury recommends death penalty for Johnson
Angela Johnson should be put to death for her role in the drug-related
slayings of five people in 1993, a jury recommended Tuesday.
Johnson, 41, was convicted last month in federal court of 10 counts of
aiding former boyfriend Dustin Honken in the execution-style slayings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams argued for the death penalty for
Johnson because of the role she played in planning the murders, the
killing of innocent victims and her lack of remorse.
Prosecutors said she conspired with Honken to kill former dealers-turned
informants, Terry DeGeus and Greg Nicholson, along with Nicholson's
girlfriend Lori Duncan and her daughters, Kandi, 10 and 6-year-old Amber
in 1993. Their bodies were found in 2000, buried in 2 shallow graves in
fields near Mason City.
(source: Associated Press)
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