[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N. MEX., N.Y., OHIO, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 1 08:38:52 CST 2005
State To Seek Death in Slaying of Young Single Mom
The Santa Fe District Attorney's Office announced Monday that it will seek
the death penalty against a 59-year-old woman accused of killing a
19-year-old single mother last year.
Karen Smallwood whose last known residence was in Tucson, Ariz., is
charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in connection with the
Oct. 13, 2004, shooting death of Ursula Duran, 19.
Deputy District Attorney David Foster announced the state's intent to seek
the death penalty against Smallwood during a court hearing Monday. Foster
said Duran's homicide was the killing of a witness to a crime, an element
needed to impose the death penalty.
Duran's mother and boyfriend discovered Duran's body at her aunt's Calle
Cacique home in southeast Santa Fe, where she had been housesitting. She
had been shot multiple times.
Smallwood was arrested in Florida in November 2004, after police tracked
the use of Duran's ATM card after her death.
After Smallwood's arrest in Florida, a search of her vehicle there turned
up a Sig Sauer P226 9 mm pistol and 4 boxes of ammunition, court records
The pistol had blood on it, and shots that were later fired from the
pistol at the state Department of Public Safety Crime Lab matched
projectiles found at the scene of Duran's homicide.
Duran's mother, Elaine Duran, was at the court hearing Monday and spoke to
the media for the 1st time about her daughter's death.
Elaine Duran said that she and her daughter's ex-boyfriend, Thomas Lujan,
are both helping look after Duran's baby boy, Isaiah, who was just 2 at
the time of his mother's death.
She also spoke of the pain of having to tell young Isaiah why his mother
isn't there to take care of him any more.
Elaine said that her daughter will be remembered for her smile. She agreed
that her daughter's murder was senseless.
"I just feel that the way my daughter was killed was worse than you would
have expected of an animal," Elaine Duran said. "You'd have more
compassion for an animal."
Foster, who stood by Elaine Duran while she spoke with reporters, said
that the DA's office consulted with Elaine Duran and other family members
before deciding to seek the death penalty.
Elaine Duran said, "What was taken away from us was someone who was very
valued in this life." It hasn't gotten any easier since Ursula's death,
"There's a void in your life that never gets filled," she said.
Foster's announcement Monday came on the same day that the state House of
Representatives passed legislation that would ban the death penalty in New
Mexico. For such a bill to become law, it must also be passed by the
Senate and signed by Governor Bill Richardson.
(source: Albuquerque Journal)
House repeals death penalty
New Mexicos two death-row inmates, Robert Fry of Farmington and Timothy
Allen of Bloomfield, could still be executed even if a bill to repeal the
death penalty became law, Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque, said Monday
during a floor debate at the Roundhouse.
House Bill 576 passed a short time later on a 38-31 vote. It would take
affect July 1 - if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Richardson
- and would not be retroactive, said Beam, the bills sponsor.
Only defendants convicted from that date forward of a capital felony would
be given a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
instead of the death sentence, she said, adding the governor always has
the power to commute any sentence.
Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, voted in favor of abolishing the death
penalty only after it was made clear to him during the floor debate that
Fry would remain on death row. Begaye, a cousin of one of Frys victims,
also complained the appeal process in Frys case was taking too long.
"In the case of Robert Fry, he committed the crime, he confessed to the
crime. Theres been too many appeals," Begaye said, maintaining death row
was valuable because, "There are individuals who are deranged who just
want to end it.
Beam replied that the state was not in the business of assisted suicide.
Begaye then changed his perspective on the death penalty, saying the
Navajo Nation opposed it.
"We don't believe in the death penalty. Some of our elders say, putting a
person to death is not of their ways but the way of God," said Begaye, a
Navajo tribal member.
Rep. Richard Cheney, R-Farmington, voted against the bill. During the
floor debate he rapidly jumped from one Bible verse to another, quoting
scripture to explain why he believed the death penalty was a necessity.
Cheney also called it a myth that a disproportionate number of minorities
nationwide were on death row. There were 72 executions nationwide in 2002,
he said. Of those, 53 were whites and 18 were blacks.
The delegates struggled with the decision during the floor debate.
"We have a deeper problem - the violent nature of society where the death
penalty does nothing," Rep. Antonio Lujan, D-Las Cruces said. He voted in
favor of repealing the death penalty.
Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, voted against abolishing the death
"The death penalty must remain an evil weapon of the state - a necessary
weapon," he said, comparing its deterrent value to that of the United
States having nuclear weapons.
The death penalty was a deterrent to inmates from murdering correction
officers, pastors and anyone else who they had contact with, he said,
adding, "I hope the death penalty will never be used."
Rep. Daniel Foley, R-Roswell, also voted against the bill.
"I think our state is being very cautious," he said, in reply to Beam's
statement that 118 death-row inmates nationwide were later found to be
innocent. Foley pointed out there were only two people on death row in the
state and that there had only been one execution in New Mexico since 1976.
"We don't live in a perfect society," Rep. Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs, said.
"We have to enact these laws knowing from time-to-time mistakes will be
made." He voted against repealing the death penalty.
4 innocent people were exonerated on death row in New Mexico. Thomas
Gladish, Richard Greer, Ronald Keine, and Clarence Smith all were released
in 1976 after serving 2 years, according to the documentary film
Rep. Nick Salazar, D-San Juan Pueblo, voted in favor of abolishing the
death penalty, saying, "There's no greater punishment (than) to be
sentenced to life - especially if you're a young man."
Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, also voted in favor of abolishing it.
"It's a very dangerous thing to do to allow government to have more power
than individual liberties," he said. "Giving the government the right to
retaliate ... is frightening. The death penalty is not a right that should
exist in government because that right does not exist in a person."
There are 3,455 inmates on death row nationwide. New Mexico, New York and
Wyoming each have 2 inmates on death row [ the lowest of the 50 states.
New Yorks death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 2004 by the New
York Supreme Court.
The top 3 states with the highest number of death row inmates are:
California with 639 death row inmates; Texas with 447 and Florida with
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The bill is HB576, and can be found on the Internet at legis.state.nm.us.
(source: Carlsbad Current-Argus)
Ex-Prisoners Speak About Death Penalty
Imagine spending more than 10 years in prison. Now consider being
sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit. This situation was
reality for Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs and Peter Pringle, who were brought by
the Cornell Death Penalty Project to speak in the Moot Court room at the
Cornell Law School yesterday afternoon.
Both Jacobs and Pringle were exonerated after spending more than 10 years
in prison. Jacobs was released from death row in the United States while
Pringle was freed after being in prison in Ireland for almost 15 years of
a 40-year sentence without parole for the death of a police officer.
Jacobs' story is also told in the play The Exonerated written by Jessica
Blank and Erik Jensen.
Pringle spoke first about his experiences of being convicted and deciding
not to give up. "I knew that if I killed myself they would say that I did
it out of guilt and remorse," he said.
He recalled being very angry at first, and then trying to meditate and do
yoga. "I got a yoga book and was doing postures and positions in my cell,"
Though lacking in formal education, he then began studying law in the
prison to understand his case. A friend helped him by sending him the
necessary papers such as the Irish constitution. After 12 years, he took
his case to the high court in Ireland. Among his many arguments was the
discovery of the notebook of the police officer who had interrogated him.
The officer's written record of the interrogation, allegedly contained in
the notebook, had in fact been written before the actual interrogation.
Pringle recounted an unbelievable story from his case of another police
officer who was called into the court as a witness. When asked to identify
the perpetrator, the officer pointed to a man standing in the public
gallery instead of the accused Pringle. However, this event was wiped from
the official record by maneuvering from the prosecutor. When he was
ultimately released from prison, he was unable to get compensation for
which he is currently in the process of suing.
"I've been very fortunate to be able to let it go and commit to a spirit
of forgiveness," he said. Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs was 27 years old when she
and her husband Jesse Tafero were convicted. She recalled that at the time
she had a 9-year-old son, a 10-month-old daughter, a husband and parents.
When she left prison, she was 45 years old, an orphan because her parents
had died in a plane crash, a widow because her husband had been executed
and a grandmother now that her 9-year-old son had grown up and had a
"Part of my life was taken away; I'm not waiting to be compensated for
that because no one can compensate for that," Jacobs said.
She was with her husband and children, getting a ride with Walter Rhodes,
a friend of her husband, when they stopped at a Florida interstate rest
stop. She remembered that there were police there, who noticed a gun on
the floor of the car and questioned Rhodes. Jacobs then remembers hearing
shots fired, and Rhodes asking her and her husband to get in the police
car. The 3 of them were stopped at a roadblock and taken into custody.
Rhodes requested a plea bargain and after subsequent trials, both Tafero
and Jacobs were given death sentences while Rhodes was given a life
At first in complete despair, Jacobs remained in solitary confinement and
isolation for 5 years, until her appeal.
"I was in a terrible dilemma in my beliefs about God," she said. Anger and
frustration were what she had to deal with primarily. "Everything I had
been taught to believe in was wrong. I believed in truth, justice and the
American way and that God wouldn't let this happen to us," Jacobs said.
She said that she had a choice and that she chose to believe in God, to
have hope, and to use the time to become the best person she could be.
"I wasn't living in denial, I just decided not to dwell on the situation;
I was given the gift of time, to do spiritual work, an opportunity I never
would've had on the outside," she said.
She argued that she wanted to be a loving mother and that she could not do
that if, when everything was finally resolved, she was devastated,
miserable and mentally unbalanced. Like Pringle, she turned to meditation
and yoga while imprisoned and also did push-ups and sit-ups.
In 1990, her husband was executed. According to Jacobs, the natural sponge
on the electric chair had been replaced with an artificial one, so instead
of dying quickly, his head caught fire and he was burned alive on the
"I kept my faith that eventually it would be okay," Jacobs said.
She helped other women prisoners by teaching them yoga and meditation, and
by encouraging them to read. With help from people on the outside, she
went to court again armed with information that had been previously
hidden. She was offered a deal that if she would say that Jesse committed
the crime, she would be released. She said no, and later that week she was
offered a plea that would maintain her innocence but not allow her to sue.
"I went to see my son, who had a wife and child of his own. His daughter
said: 'Grandma, I know why you didn't come to see me, you were lost.' Yes,
I was, but not anymore." She ended by saying, "I'm very glad that I chose
peace and reconciliation." She offered the advice: "Don't ever be ruled by
fear, because it will kill you."
The speakers were met with a standing ovation from the audience in the
Moot Court room. "I thought it was amazing. I don't know how anyone could
listen to a story like that and not be against the death penalty," said
Jacqueline Moessner law.
According to Prof. Sheri Lynn Johnson, law, director of the Cornell Death
Penalty Project, this lecture allowed people to put both faces and
personalities to the names.
"I think it's important for people to hear that there are real, innocent
people convicted to death," she said.
(source: Cornell Daily Sun)
Report Issued on Death Row Prison Break
Unnoticed by guards in one of Ohio's most secure prisons, 2 death row
inmates built a ladder from bedsheets and rolled-up magazines. They also
managed to make a tool to break through metal fences and hoard candy bars
The planned prison break by convicted killers Richard Cooey and Maxwell
White last month was thwarted at the last minute, when alarm bells
But a report released Monday found it shouldn't have happened at all
because a death row unit manager was tipped off ahead of time by an
informant. The report, released at the request of The Associated Press,
said a complacent staff and "gross deficiencies" in supervision of inmates
were responsible for the Feb. 3 incident at Mansfield Correctional
The report was issued by the state Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction. Cooey, 37, is on death row for raping and killing 2 college
students in 1986. White, 39, was convicted of killing a state highway
trooper in January 1996.
On the day of their escape attempt, the men were carrying laundry bags
with several items in them, the report said. Cooey and White should have
been watched in the recreation area and their bags should have been
searched, said Andrea Dean, a prisons spokeswoman.
The inmates fashioned a 13-foot ladder from blankets and hid it ahead of
time under a pile of snow, the prison system said. The ladder's rungs were
made of rolled-up magazines and newspapers. When caught, both had water,
candy bars, matches, extra clothing, an exercise mat and a homemade tool
designed to break through fences, according to the report.
The death row unit manager was tipped on Jan. 20 and Feb. 1 and told the
prison's security chief both times, but the information was never passed
on to the warden, the report said. Instead, Cooey was made a block porter
on February 1, a job that gave him full access to areas inside his death
row housing unit. "There was a notable lack of mid-management supervisory
presence in the entire Death Row Unit," the report said.
The mother of one of Cooey's victims was angered to learn the prison knew
of a possible escape attempt before it happened. "The concept of him being
anything near out and on the street again just revolts me," Mary Ann
Hackenberg said Monday. Eleven people are being disciplined, including a
warden, who will receive a letter of reprimand, Dean said.
On the Web: Mansfield Correctional Institution:
Ohio federal judge halts execution
A federal judge on Monday halted the March 8 execution of a man who claims
an abnormality in his brain may have affected his behavior when he raped
and killed a woman in 1987.
U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel said the claim of the prisoner,
William H. Smith, should be investigated.
"The court is not willing to send a man to his death, without having
turned over every possible stone," Spiegel wrote in his ruling. He said
Smith might have received a lesser sentence under different circumstances.
Defense lawyers urged the judge last week to spare Smith's life. A CT scan
in December revealed an abnormality or damage in a part of Smith's brain
that can affect behavior, defense lawyer Jennifer Kinsley said.
Kinsley argued that the stay was necessary to allow time for a more
precise magnetic resonance imaging scan.
Smith may have suffered the brain damage when he received electric shock
treatment at a hospital between the ages of 9 and 14, his lawyers said.
Lawyers from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's office will ask Spiegel to
lift the stay, said Petro spokeswoman Kim Norris.
The judge stopped the execution before he could see the results of an MRI
taken at a hospital Friday, Norris said. She declined to discuss what the
Kinsley said she had received a 1-page summary from the hospital of the
MRI test. She said, however, that she would not comment on the results
until after she receives film from the test.
Smith, 47, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the murder,
rape and robbery of a Cincinnati woman.
(source for both: Associated Press)
War on terror, death penalty racist: Ex-panther Davis
Angela Davis, a radical civil rights activist who briefly appeared on the
FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, denounced the war on terrorism and the death
penalty as outgrowths of racism in a Monday lecture that capped Black
Calling the death penalty "proof that slavery wasn't really abolished,"
Davis said, "All of us, regardless of race or ethnic background, live with
this slavery, and are affected by it."
She also said that Black History Month and the practice of celebrating
"firsts" can be misleading.
"I would gladly relinquish the celebration of the 1st black woman
Secretary of State in exchange for a white male Secretary of State who
might give us some guidance on how to get the United States out of the
racist war on terror," she said, eliciting applause from the audience.
Despite the heavy, wet snow that fell most of Monday, McCosh 50 was nearly
filled for Davis's talk, titled "The Role of the Arts in Achieving Social
Davis, a former member of the Black Panthers, spent 16 months in prison
before being acquitted of charges of conspiracy and murder. She ran for
vice president on the Communist party ticket in 1980.
She now teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz - despite
former California Gov. Ronald Reagan's pledge that she would never work in
the UC system.
"Angela Davis is one of the most recognizable faces in terms of powerful
women in the history of our country, so it's pretty amazing to get to hear
her speak," said Marisol Rosa-Shapiro '07, who attended the talk.
Davis made an impression of quiet dignity as she stood behind the lectern
in a flowing black pantsuit. But her speech was punctuated by impassioned
wakeup calls about the nature of contemporary racism and parallels between
the current political climate and the African-American struggle against
racism throughout history.
"The law has been pretty much purged of its overt racism," she said,
"[but] racism still resides in the structures of society. The economy is
still structured by racist hierarchies; punishment is very much structured
by racism. Race matters when it is a question of who goes to prison and
who does not."
Davis also talked about what she sees as an oppression of civil rights in
the name of protecting the nation against terrorist threats.
"It's not so much a war on terrorism as it is a quest for empire," she
Toward the end of her talk, Davis emphasized the need to connect across
oppressed groups. Invoking her own experience in prison and the
international network that fought for her acquittal, she spoke about the
need for solidarity.
"What I want to talk about are those connecting circuits that invite us,
black Americans and all others who join in the historical legacy of
struggle, to join in the continuing fight," she said.
Afterwards, Ernie Mitchell '06, who attended the lecture, said, "I think
she helped us to see connections between structures that we might not
ordinarily think of as related."
"She definitely opened my eyes to connections among social, political and
psychological phenomena that I had just never thought about before,"
(source: Daily Princetonian)
I need someone to explain something to me. If your grandmother or other
relative was brutally murdered like Marie Lindgren, how could you not want
the death penalty for the low-lifes who did it? I don't want the
perpetrators to be able to watch cable, get educated, spend my hard-earned
tax dollars and eventually come out into the world again.
They took a human life and - in my eyes - they would do it again!
I say give the death penalty without any appeals! Silvia
(source: Letter to the Editor, Philadelphia Daily News)
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