[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jun 23 12:49:02 CDT 2005
Perry pulled out the axe last week to veto several criminal justice reform
measures, including the much hyped HB 2193, which would've retooled the
state's probation system. Perry also killed SB 1195, which would've
required police to document, in writing or on video, a motorist's
permission for police to conduct a so-called consent search (a search
where police lack probable cause). But he did sign into law SB 60,
codifying the life-without-parole sentencing option. (Unfortunately, the
bill removes the life-with-parole option, meaning that in death penalty
cases, Texas' system still only provides 2 options: life-without-parole or
death.) He also put pen to HB 1068, creating a statewide Forensic Science
Commission to oversee all crime lab operations and to investigate
potential problems at individual crime labs.
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Dying for votes
Why must politicians seek to make us do that which is wrong in the name of
"justice?" Do they believe we are simple-minded? Do they care so much
about our votes that they are willing to pervert justice simply to win
That seems to be the case, based on one scenario being played out in
Virginia's race for governor.
Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore is running for governor on a platform
that includes what he has in the past referred to as "enhancement" of the
death penalty. What Kilgore proposes would extend the use of the death
penalty to people who did not even participate in a killing, such as
accomplices or other figures. Kilgore is hoping that Virginians are so
easily frightened by his bogeyman talk that they will forget about
everything, including justice, but their fear.
"There are already questions about the fairness and evenhandedness" of the
death penalty's application in Virginia, Steven D. Benjamin, a past
president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers was
quoted as saying by the Washington Post on Tuesday. If Kilgore's proposal
passes, Benjamin said, "we are eliminating a check on our passion and our
Benjamin is right. Justice, when applied fairly and without emotion, based
on the rule of law and grounded in factual evidence, can be adequately
harsh. It must not be tainted with melodrama or the hysteria of the lynch
There are adequate laws on the books in Virginia that can be used to
sentence murderers, gangsters and rapists to hard time - even death,
should their crimes call for it under the law - without "enhancement."
There are also adequate laws that can be used to sentence lesser criminals
for lesser crimes. People do not have to die just because Jerry Kilgore
wants to be governor.
Twisting or attempting to pervert our legal system into a vote-winning
machine is immoral. We must do better than that, and we must demand more
from any potential future governor.
(source: Editorial, Staunton News Leader (Opinions expressed in this
feature represent the majority opinion of the newspaper's editorial board,
consisting of: Gary Stout, president and publisher; David Fritz, executive
editor; Cindy Corell, city editor; Jim McCloskey, editorial cartoonist;
Dennis Neal, opinion page editor; and Macon Rich, production director)
ACLU sues provider over health care of Mississippi inmates
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the St. Louis-based health
care provider for inmates at Mississippi's Parchman prison, alleging
prisoners have been misdiagnosed and received inadequate treatment.
The federal lawsuit against Correctional Medical Services, Inc., one of
the nation's largest for-profit medical providers for prisoners, was filed
Wednesday on behalf of 1,000 inmates at Parchman's Unit 32.
Other defendants are Chris Epps, the commissioner of the Mississippi
Department of Corrections, deputy commissioner Emmitt Sparkman and other
agency officials. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Greenville.
"We're hoping that the lawsuit is going to make a big difference in
conditions in Unit 32, which we really do think are so grossly inhumane as
to amount to torture," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the
National Prison Project of the ACLU.
Ken Fields, a spokesman for CMS, said the company, which holds contracts
in 24 states, is still reviewing the complaint.
"A review of the facts will show that the quality of care provided to
inmate patients in Mississippi prisons is excellent. The care inmates
receive meets the standards of care in society," Fields said Wednesday.
Leonard Vincent, an attorney with MDOC, said the agency was expecting the
lawsuit and would fight it. "We feel like they're absolutely incorrect in
what they say," Vincent said.
Since 2003, CMS has provided medical, dental and mental health care to
prisoners at the Mississippi Delta prison. The lawsuit, which gives only
one side of the legal argument, alleges CMS employees routinely ignore
inmates' health complaints.
"Many prisoners who have been requesting medical attention for weeks wind
up being taken away from Unit 32 by ambulance, after their condition has
become so urgent and life-threatening that it can no longer be ignored by
prison staff," the lawsuit states.
Winter said Mississippi should have monitored the work of CMS doctors.
"They're responsible for knowing what CMS is doing and taking the contract
away if they don't do right," Winter said.
The lawsuit gives several examples of alleged neglect. The ACLU said a
misdiagnosis of Jeffery Presley, 24, resulted in him losing a section of
his leg. Presley had contracted a serious "staph" infection while in Unit
32, but a CMS doctor diagnosed it as a spider bite.
Other conditions in Unit 32 include isolation, pervasive filth,
malfunctioning plumbing, exposure to human excrement, extreme heat and
uncontrolled infestations of mosquitoes, spiders and other insects, the
ACLU said in the complaint.
The prison unit is housed adjacent to Parchman's death row.
Last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court
ruling that conditions on death row were unconstitutional. Winter said
that ruling affected 60 inmates, and the same conditions apply to the
1,000 in the latest lawsuit.
"No one would sentence a prisoner to conditions like that, no matter what
their crime," Winter said.
(source: Associated Press)
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