[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jun 22 12:41:54 CDT 2005
Victim's mother testifies at trial in Farmersville slaying----Collin: 'I
kept calling Rachelle's name,' she tells jury on 1st day
Alternately sobbing and clenching her jaw in an apparent effort to stem
the flow of tears, Pam O'Neil testified about the day she discovered her
infant granddaughter home alone - a discovery that sparked the search for
Ms. O'Neil told her story Tuesday while facing Moises Sandoval Mendoza,
who is accused of killing 20-year-old Rachelle O'Neil Tolleson.
"I kept calling Rachelle's name. I walked in the bedroom," Ms. O'Neil said
in a shaky voice with a soaked tissue in hand. "And I was still calling
her. ... Avery was on the bed. I called out again. I couldn't figure it
In the 1st day of the capital murder trial, Ms. O'Neil's testimony sparked
emotional outbursts from the overflowing courtroom in McKinney. Family and
supporters wore purple ribbons in memory Ms. Tolleson, who police say was
kidnapped from her Farmersville home, forced to leave her 6-month-old
baby, raped and strangled last year.
Mr. Mendoza, 21, has confessed to strangling and stabbing Ms. Tolleson but
denied raping her or burning her body. Most recently, he told The Dallas
Morning News he had help in the killing. Police, however, have said they
believe he acted alone.
Mr. Mendoza's attorney, Juan C. Sanchez, had no comment Tuesday outside of
court proceedings. He also did not make an opening statement Tuesday.
If Mr. Mendoza is convicted, the Collin County district attorney will seek
the death penalty.
The night before the kidnapping, Ms. O'Neil said her daughter had dinner
with her uncle to discuss filing for divorce from her estranged husband,
Andrew Tolleson. She asked to see her uncle's divorce paperwork.
"She wasn't sure how to go about visitation with Avery," Ms. O'Neil said.
"Her uncle had been through that, and she wanted to look at his
Ms. O'Neil said she drove Ms. Tolleson to Mr. Tolleson's house later that
night to pick up diapers and baby formula. Afterward, she said, she tried
to convince her daughter to rest at her childhood home rather than going
back with the baby to her own house, near downtown Farmersville.
"She said she didn't feel good. She had a sinus headache," Ms. O'Neil
said. "She said she wanted to go home and be in her bed."
Ms. Tolleson drove home. Mother and daughter talked on the phone once more
that night, the last time Ms. O'Neil spoke to her daughter.
Ms. Tolleson's burned body was discovered in a creek bed in far eastern
Collin County after days of searching by family and friends. During her
testimony, Ms. O'Neil ran her finger over a gold, heart-shaped charm on
her necklace with Ms. Tolleson's picture embossed on its face. Other
family members wore copies of the necklace, a gift from a New York
relative in the weeks after Ms. Tolleson's death.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Daily News Goes Overboard On Death Penalty Coverage
A Daily News editorial urged Gov. Rick Perry to call a moratorium on death
The Galveston County Daily News went overboard with its "Supreme Court
shows flaws with death penalty" (The Daily News, June 16).
You claim, in overturning the death row case of Miller-El, that the U.S.
Supreme Court found that the Texas judicial system cant handle capital
cases fairly and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cannot be
The decision was, literally, one case out of a thousand Texas cases.
Prosecutorial misconduct was found in excluding black jurors in the case
Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the 5th Circuit. Such
disagreements are common with all of the circuit courts.
The Supreme Court was also divided over this case - 6-3. The Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals sided with the 5th Circuit and 3 justices on the
Supreme Court on this case - hardly radical company.
The major fact, which The Galveston County Daily News should not have left
out, is that Texas is near the very top of the death penalty states when
it comes to death penalty cases being affirmed - or approved - by all the
federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Possibly, your readers should have been treated to more facts and less
Dudley Sharp, Houston
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Galveston County Daily News)
Juveniles in the Adult Justice System
In the United States, young people under age 18 can't vote, purchase
cigarettes or alcohol, drive alone without restrictions in some states, or
participate in many other activities our society reserves for adults.
Children under age 18 arent legally considered adults yet, and as a
result, many laws are designed especially to protect them. But there is a
crucial exception: Almost 250,000 young people under 18 are transferred
into the adult criminal justice system each year. Children and youths are
being criminalized at younger and younger ages and often for behavior that
used to be handled in the principals office.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, major policy changes in virtually every
state re-categorized many juvenile offenses as adult crimes and juvenile
offenders as adult criminals. Many Americans might assume that only young
people who commit the most violent crimes are at risk of being tried as
adults and incarcerated with adult prisoners. But the majority of teens
who are tried and sentenced in adult court arent the serious, violent,
chronic offenders who might have been subject to the death penalty, which
was only recently struck down for juvenile offenders. Juvenile court
judges have always had the power to evaluate those kinds of serious
violent offenders and send them to the adult system if they thought it was
warranted. Today many states have passed new laws that require automatic
transfers of juvenile offenders to adult court without any individualized
evaluation of their cases based simply on the nature of the offense or the
young persons age.
In many states, prosecutors are required to file certain cases in adult
court even if it's against their better judgment. In fact, nearly 90 % of
youths transferred to the adult system nationwide are there because of a
lowered age of adulthood in 13 states. This means they are automatically
tried in the adult system solely because their state has lowered the age
of adulthood in the criminal code. In these states, any young person
accused of an offense who is 17 years old - or 16 years old in 3 of the 13
states - will be sent into the adult criminal justice system for any
offense whether it is serious or not. Each year, as many as 218,000 youths
under age 18 are automatically excluded from the juvenile justice system
solely because of their age. This growing trend is threatening to get even
worse: right now, both the House and Senate are considering bills that
would make transferring youths easier and more likely at the federal
level. The House version has already been passed. It was introduced partly
in response to recent gang activity involving teenagers and young adults.
But will treating more juveniles as adult criminals help stop juvenile
crime or simply provide them worse criminal mentors?
In reality, transferring youths has already been proved to be a failed
public policy. The facts show that trying and sentencing youths in adult
criminal court is harmful rather than helpful. Research shows over and
over that prosecuting young people as adults increases rather than reduces
youth crime. Jails and prisons are crime schools. We already know that
compared to young people prosecuted as juveniles, young people prosecuted
as adults are more likely to commit a greater number of crimes upon
release; commit more violent crimes upon release; and commit crimes sooner
upon release. Not only is it not effective public policy, but holding
youths in adult prisons and jails also has dangerous consequences for the
young people themselves. Compared to youths held in juvenile facilities,
young people incarcerated with adults are 5 times as likely to be sexually
assaulted by other inmates; are twice as likely to be beaten by staff; are
50 % more likely to be assaulted with a weapon; and are 8 times a s likely
to commit suicide.
What does work? Prevention is one key piece of the puzzle. Research
clearly shows the effectiveness of focused family interventions in saving
children and money. Some school-based interventions, including bullying
and drug abuse prevention programs, and some sound mentoring programs like
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America have also been proven effective. Above
all, studies have shown that comprehensive, collaborative and locally
tailored strategies are the most effective in preventing gang and youth
violence. Existing state legislation is more than adequate to
comprehensively address youth violence.
Increased federalization of juvenile crime and increasing the numbers of
juveniles transferred to the adult system are not the answer. The
responsibility of Congress to the young people of this nation and to all
citizens in ensuring public safety requires finding solutions proven to be
effective. Why are some policymakers insisting on approaches that lack any
evidence of actually deterring and reducing violent youth crime and that
punish without protection? Why is the only thing our nation will guarantee
every child a detention or jail cell after they get into trouble? When are
we going to provide all children the healthy and fair start in life that
keeps them out of jail?
(source: Commentary; Chicago Defender - Marian Wright Edelman is CEO and
founder of the Children's Defense Fund and its Action Council whose
mission is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child a Healthy
Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life
and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and
The death penalty is not solely an issue of morality and justice. The
state and counties face costs, which taxpayers finance. From the murder
trial through execution, the death penalty is expensive. In fact, it costs
taxpayers more to execute someone than it costs to incarcerate the same
person for life without parole.
State legislators know this because the Legislative Service Agency issued
fiscal-impact statements earlier this year for two death-penalty-related
bills filed in the General Assembly. As the state is preparing to execute
three men in the next two months, including former Allen County resident
Joseph Corcoran, Hoosiers ought to ask: If its less expensive to lock a
murderer away for life, why is the death penalty an acceptable option?
For victims families, the choice is simple - revenge. And if justice were
based on visceral reactions to crime, then the death penalty would make
sense. However, American justice has moved beyond an eye-for-an-eye order
of punishment. If we did live in such a place, then all punishment would
be based on the extreme margins of cruelty.
People recoil now when they hear that some nations lop off the hands of
thieves and the heads of adulterers. But when it comes to particularly
heinous murders, many Hoosiers accept execution, an act of revenge, as a
civil course of justice.
Lets face it: The state doesnt get much out of executions. The deterrence
argument is dubious, as is the notion that its better for the publics
As for costs, the state and counties spend on average $741,000 over 16
years to execute a 30-year-old offender sentenced to murder, according to
the Legislative Service Bureau. The figure includes jail costs,
prosecutors and defenders fees from murder trial through appeals, and
It costs states and counties $622,000 to lock the same person up for life,
estimated to be 47 years in prison. That includes appeals, which arent
automatically triggered as they are in death penalty cases, as well as
health care costs. It costs $506,000 to imprison someone sentenced to 65
years with a 50 % reduction for good behavior.
The money saved could be redistributed to the juvenile justice system,
victims assistance, offender re-entry schemes, grassroots police programs
and social service agencies that work with at-risk youth.
The money and resources saved by ending the death penalty would have a
more profound effect to the greater good of Indiana than executing
Other than politics, why is the death penalty immune to Indianas budgetary
(source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
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