death penalty news----N.H., KY., PENN., IND., N. MEX.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 2 00:31:05 CST 2005
NH responds to the ruling barring execution of young killers
Reaction in New Hampshire to the Supreme Court's death penalty ruling
ranged from celebration to deep disapproval.
"That's an extraordinary ruling," said Claire Ebel, executive director of
the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. "It gives me a sense of hope that
perhaps we're not as uncivilized as we sometimes appear to be."
"There's nothing cruel or unusual about it," Rep. Richard "Stretch"
Kennedy, R-Contoocook, said of the death penalty for juveniles. Kennedy
said there are some criminals who are so barbaric that it is dangerous to
keep them around, regardless of whether they are 17 or 18.
"It's not unusual; executions have been going on for years. It's not
cruel; an intravenous injection is the most peaceful death you can ever
have," Kennedy said.
Execution can be by injection or hanging. The state's last execution, in
1939, was of a man who molested and killed a 10-year-old.
A bill to raise New Hampshire's minimum age for the death penalty from 17
to 18 vetoed last year by Gov. Craig Benson and back this year for
consideration by lawmakers - was rendered moot by yesterday's court
ruling, but one of its sponsors says he hopes it will pass anyway.
"At the very least we should pass it symbolically and as housekeeping,"
Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, said. "It gives us a chance again to
revisit the bigger issue of the death penalty and consider what we might
want to do with that in the future."
Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Vallaincourt, R-Manchester, said he wasn't
surprised at the Supreme Court decision.
"This sends a message that we won't be doing this kind of thing,"
Supporters of House Bill 147 argued that 17-year-olds can't vote, enlist
in the military, buy cigarettes or buy alcohol, but can be put to death.
Opponents countered that 17-year-olds are old enough to be treated as
House Speaker Doug Scammon, R-Stratham, said he had not yet read the
court's decision, but feels that the death penalty overall is warranted in
some cases, especially if a killing is premeditated or carried out during
an armed robbery.
But he noted: "I don't think we should be executing 17-year-olds."
David Welch, R-Kingston, is chairman of the House Criminal Justice and
Public Safety Committee. He said he has no problem with the high court's
decision or House Bill 147.
Welch said he would oppose any death penalty if the state had none and
wanted to impose one, "but the restricted death penalty we have has not
been abused and I am comfortable with it."
The Legislature voted to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty entirely in
2000, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it. An override attempt failed
by 34 votes in the House. Another attempt in 2001 to repeal the law failed
by eight votes.
New Hampshire has no one on death row. The law applies to those who murder
A police officer, judge or similar official acting in the line of duty or
killed in retaliation.
During a kidnapping.
By hiring another to commit murder.
While serving a life prison term without parole.
During a rape.
During certain drug crimes.
The last person charged with capital murder was Gordon Perry, who was
accused of killing an Epsom police officer in 1997. Perry was 22 at the
time. The case never went to trial because a 1st-degree murder plea was
(source: Union Leader)
U.S. Supreme Court's death penalty decision met with mixed reactions
Death penalty opponents in Kentucky praised the U.S. Supreme Court's
ruling Tuesday that declared it unconstitutional for states to execute
juvenile offenders, while prosecutors said they were disappointed.
Kentucky was one of 19 states that still allowed the execution of
juveniles who committed murder before reaching age 18. In a 5-4 decision,
the high court ruled that such executions violate the Eighth Amendment,
which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Kentucky does not currently
have any death row inmates who were age 18 or younger at the time of their
However, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said he
believes there are some instances in which aggravating circumstances
should warrant the death penalty for some juvenile offenders.
Larson said there are cases pending in Lexington to which the court's
ruling could apply. Now he intends to seek life sentences without parole
against the accused offenders in each of the cases, Larson said.
"The Supreme Court has once again slammed the door of the justice system
in the face of the victims. And I know that they're getting tired of it,"
Larson said. "It's no wonder they have little or no confidence in the
criminal justice system."
The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, head of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, hailed the Supreme Court ruling Tuesday.
"It's a great decision because it's another step in the direction of
repeal of the death penalty in Kentucky for all people," "It's exciting
that we are slowly evolving as a nation in seeing that the use of this
penalty is inappropriate."
With Tuesday's decision, the nation's high court reversed its 1989
decision involving former Kentucky death row inmate Kevin Stanford. That
ruling said states could execute juveniles older than 15. Stanford was 17
when he raped and killed gas station attendant Baerbel Poore in Louisville
As he left office in 2003, former Gov. Paul Patton commuted Stanford's
death sentence to life imprisonment. Patton was governor for Kentucky's 2
executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Both inmates
were adult offenders.
In a telephone interview, Patton lauded the court's latest decision. He
commuted Stanford's death sentence because juveniles "have a lack of
maturity" and should be held to a different standard than adults, Patton
"While there's no way to tell when an individual becomes truly
responsible, as a matter of law, we've decided it's at 18," Patton said.
"I certainly understand that immature people can do grievous things, and
they ought to receive some consideration for that."
State Rep. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, withdrew proposed legislation that would
have banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders in Kentucky. Sen.
Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, withdrew a similar bill pending in the Senate.
"I was elated," Webb, who has filed similar bills in the past, said in a
phone interview. "We are separated now from the handful of countries that
still execute children."
Beth Wilson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Kentucky, said without the court's ruling, Kentucky's political climate
would probably have not allowed for such legislation to pass soon.
"As a society, people are becoming more and more uncomfortable with the
barbaric practice of executing people," Wilson said. "I think we would
eventually get there, but I'm glad the Supreme Court has done this so we
don't have to wait for public opinion to catch up."
Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo said he was disappointed by the
court's decision. Still, prosecutors would have to accept it, Stumbo said.
"I personally believe that the punishment ought to be consistent with the
hideous nature of the crime," Stumbo said. "But it's the law of the land."
(source: Associated Press)
Fair trial / A death row inmate may get what he deserves
In April 1996, Ernest Simmons was just 4 days away from being executed for
the brutal murder of an 80-year-old Johnstown woman before he was granted
a temporary stay. Last week, after noting widespread misconduct by the
original prosecutors, a federal judge ordered a new trial.
Among the irregularities in Simmons' 1993 trial was that prosecutors did
not disclose that star witness Margaret Cobaugh, who claimed that Simmons
had admitted the murder while raping her, could not initially identify him
in a lineup. The prosecution also never revealed that hair samples found
on Ms. Cobaugh did not match Simmons and that prosecutors helped her avoid
a prison term for an illegal gun purchase.
In 2003, she told a reporter from the Innocence Institute at Point Park
University that she fingered Simmons only after a detective told her that
he was certainly guilty but they "didn't have a witness." The institute is
a partnership between the university and the Post-Gazette that probes
allegations of wrongful convictions while helping student journalists
learn investigative reporting.
In his 52-page opinion ordering a new trial, U.S. District Judge Sean J.
McLaughlin called the original verdict "fundamentally unworthy of
confidence" and said that "although we cannot say with certainty that the
jury would have reached a different conclusion on its verdict, Simmons has
demonstrated a reasonable probability that it would have done so."
Rather than apologize for the egregious misconduct by the prosecutors in
the original trial, Cambria County District Attorney David Tulowitzki has
vowed to appeal Judge McLaughlin's ruling, ultimately to the U.S. Supreme
The appeals may take years, during which time Simmons will continue to sit
Although many aspects of the death penalty are controversial, the belief
that innocent people should not be executed is not.
118 people have been released from death row since 973 because of DNA or
other exculpatory evidence. In Pennsylvania, death row inmate Nicholas
James Yarris was released after DNA evidence exonerated him in 2003. After
13 Illinois death row inmates were exonerated, Gov. George Ryan commuted
the death sentences of 156 inmates rather than risk getting the blood of
an innocent person on his hands.
[my note----Ryan commuted 167 inmates]
Ernest Simmons may be innocent, or maybe not. But, like any other
American, he deserves a fair trial. He didn't get that in 1993, and if
Cambria County prosecutors have their way he won't get one for some time,
if at all.
That only begs the question: If they are so certain of Simmons' guilt,
what aspect of a new trial are they afraid of? Certainly not getting blood
on their hands.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Judge stays execution of Pittsburgh killer
A federal judge has stayed the execution of a Pittsburgh man for the 1994
shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and 2 children.
Gerald Watkins, 35, an inmate at Greene state prison, was scheduled to
receive a lethal injection on March 29 under a death warrant signed last
month by Gov. Ed Rendell. Watkins faces 3 death sentences for the murders
of Beth Ann Anderson, their infant daughter and her 9-year-old son in
The stay was issued Monday by U.S. District Judge David Stewart Cercone.
(source: Associated Press)
Pennsylvania Child Advocates Pleased With U.S. Supreme Court's Decision to
End Juvenile Death Penalty
Contact: Tyler Prell or Crystal Streuber, 202-518-8047, both for the
Juvenile Law Center
Juvenile Law Center, which filed amicus briefs along with 49 other child
advocacy organizations calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to ban the
juvenile death penalty, today applauded the Court for upholding a lower
court's finding that the juvenile death penalty is unconstitutional.
Marsha Levick, Esq., Legal Director at Juvenile Law Center, commented on
the impact of the decision.
"Today the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed what many states, the scientific
community and virtually all other countries believe: the execution of
juvenile offenders is cruel and unusual punishment and cannot be tolerated
in civilized society.
Children are distinctly different from adults in culpability, judgment and
blame-worthiness, facts that make them ineligible for the death penalty.
Christopher Simmons was 17 when he committed murder, an age at which
adolescents' brains are not fully developed and teens may not understand
the full consequences of their actions.
We exclude minors from society in both significant and trivial ways. They
cannot vote, enlist in the military, sit on juries or even get tattoos.
The Court has now brought their eligibility for the death penalty in line
with those exclusions.
We are very pleased the Court has not only confirmed what we believe and
science has proven -- that executing juveniles is wrong -- but also that
the Court has now ended the isolation of the U.S. from most of the rest of
the world in imposing and carrying out such executions."
The Missouri Supreme Court last year ruled that the Constitution forbids
the execution of Christopher Simmons, who was 17 at the time of his
offense. This ruling will impact 72 juvenile offenders currently on death
row in the United States.
(source: U.S. Newswire (Founded in 1975, Juvenile Law Center (JLC) is a
public interest law firm and one of the oldest organizations in the US
dedicated to protecting and advancing children's rights. JLC works to
ensure that children are treated fairly by public systems intended to help
them, and that they receive the full measure of the services they deserve.
Website: http://www.jlc.org )
Death row inmate says he has changed since killing family of four
A man facing execution later this month said in a death row interview he
has changed since he murdered an Evansville couple and their two children
25 years ago and does not want to be remembered as a "raving maniac."
"I would like people to know I'm rational. I'm not a raving maniac,"
Donald Ray Wallace told Indianapolis television station WTHR in an
interview broadcast Tuesday. "I'm not hostile, that I'm not whatever you
think a murderer is supposed to be."
Wallace, 47, was scheduled to be executed March 10 at the Indiana State
Prison in Michigan City.
In 1982, Wallace was convicted of the Jan. 14, 1980 murders of Theresa and
Patrick Gilligan and their children Lisa, 5, and Gregory, 4. Authorities
said Wallace - who had been released from prison just two months earlier -
bound the victims and shot them to death after they surprised him while he
burglarized their home.
Wallace claimed for years that an accomplice had committed the murders,
but later admitted in letters to Theresa Gilligan's sister and again in
the WTHR interview that he killed the family.
Wallace said he had not intended to kill anyone and described the murders
as "a moment of utter madness."
"It was panic, because my original intention was not to kill anyone, it
was to get the situation under control, and Patrick attacked, which I
can't blame him for. I would, too, if I were in his position. Once the
shooting started, all hell broke loose."
He said he could not explain why he murdered the children.
"It was almost like watching a movie or something, like I became
completely disconnected from everything that was going on," he said.
Wallace offered an apology to Theresa Gilligan's sister Diana Harrington.
"I wish I could take it back, but I can't. I can't change the past," he
Wallace exhausted his appeals late last year and signed a waiver giving up
his right to seek clemency.
He filed a lawsuit Friday to stop the Indiana Department of Correction
from performing a post-execution autopsy on his body, saying he objects on
"moral, religious and practical" grounds.
(source: Associated Press)
About the federal death penalty
The death penalty has had a long, turbulent history in the courts.
The Supreme Court first ruled it unconstitutional in 1972 in the case of
Furman vs. Georgia. The court found the statute was being applied
arbitrarily both at the state and federal level and could be considered
"cruel and unusual" punishment. (The federal government executed 34 people
between 1927 and 1963.)
In 1976, however, the Supreme Court reversed itself in Gregg vs. Georgia,
reinstating the death penalty. That ruling gave the federal government the
right to sentence prisoners to die, although the death penalty was not
re-enacted officially until 1988.
60 additional capital offenses were added as part of the 1994 omnibus
crime bill, including murder for hire, fatal drive-by shootings and murder
of certain government officials.
That law also stated that in federal sentencing, the manner of execution
would be determined by the state in which the sentence is handed down.
Colorado allows for lethal injection.
If a state does not allow the death penalty, the judge may designate
another state to perform the execution.
The federal Bureau of Prisons recently finished construction on a death
row in Terre Haute, Ind. The facility includes a federal execution chamber
to administer lethal injection. It is at this location that Timothy
McVeigh is scheduled to die.
(source: Gary Tribune)
'Stop the machine of death' -- Former Illinois Gov. Ryan says death
penalty reform is needed.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT DEBATE
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who drew national attention for his 2003
blanket commutation of the sentences of the state's 167 death row inmates,
brought his anti-death penalty message to South Bend on Monday.
He said he's striving to "stop the machine of death" across the country.
In a lunchtime chat with Saint Mary's College students and an evening
address at the University of Notre Dame, Ryan detailed how appalling
breakdowns in the state's judicial process ultimately motivated him to
issue the historic decision and why he believes the nation's broken system
is beyond repair.
"My efforts to reform the death penalty in Illinois, both then and now,
and here in Indiana and in Michigan and in other states around, is an
attempt to sweep away a curtain of ignorance and denial," Ryan said.
In a post-lunch interview with The Tribune, Ryan declined to answer
questions regarding the federal indictment he faces on racketeering, fraud
and conspiracy charges.
The indictment alleges Ryan engaged in a pattern of corruption that
included awarding lucrative government contracts and using state resources
for personal gain and to benefit members of his family, friends and
"I've got no comment at all on that," he said.
But to skeptics who theorize he emptied Illinois death row, commuting all
sentences to life in prison while pardoning 4 others, to deflect attention
from the burgeoning scandal and improve his legacy, he said his decree did
just the opposite.
"It gave my critics more of an opportunity to say that's why I did it,"
As for the commutations and his earlier decision to place a state
moratorium on executions, Ryan, a Republican, said Illinois' system was so
busted it left him with no other choice.
"The problem is, the system doesn't work," he said.
In the days leading up to his January 2003 decision, shortly before he
left office, Ryan said he agonized over the decision -- often bouncing
back and forth -- while reviewing case files and meeting with everyone
from prosecutors and the police to victims' families.
"After a lot of discussions and personal reflection, there was no doubt in
my mind that the system was arbitrary, capricious, unjust and racist and
was unfair to the poor," Ryan said. "There was no just and fair way to
say, 'You're guilty and you're innocent,' so I decided to commute all the
"... I didn't want to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life and
read one day in the South Bend Tribune that so and so was executed and to
find out that he was really innocent."
>From 1977 to 2002, 13 of Illinois' 25 death row inmates were exonerated, a
glaring statistic that Ryan cited in the interview and during his talk as
the main example of why the system represented a miscarriage of justice.
"If an airplane had 25 flights and 13 crashed and 12 made it, we'd ground
that plane in a heartbeat," he said. "So I grounded the system in
Ryan, a former pharmacist from the eastern Illinois city of Kankakee, was
a supporter of the death penalty throughout his political career, but said
he always thought about the concept in the abstract. But when he became
governor in 1999, he was afforded an up-close opportunity to view the
process and began to rethink his position after reports of wrongful
convictions began to surface.
He rejects assertions that a death sentence is more cost-effective than
life in prison, an effective method of retribution or a source of closure
for victims' families.
Ryan declined to stay one execution before he issued the moratorium, an
act he called the "toughest thing I ever did." His blanket commutation
earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
2 protesters greeted Ryan as he arrived at the DeBartolo Center for the
Performing Arts, and he spoke with them before entering the theater. No
other demonstrators were present and he was greeted by applause from the
The talk was part of a series of events at Saint Mary's and Notre Dame
focusing on the death penalty.
Michigan does not have the death penalty. Indiana and Illinois -- although
the moratorium remains in place -- are 2 of 38 states where the death
penalty is legal. Ryan wants to change that.
"We in the U.S.," Ryan said, "should join the rest of the world in
rejecting capital punishment as a deterrent to crime."
(source: South Bend Tribune)
Ultimate sanction varies by county jurisdiction
New Mexico has executed one person in the past 45 years, and Bernalillo
County is not likely to add to that anytime soon - even without the repeal
of the death penalty.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said she could not recall any coming
trials in which the death penalty is being pursued.
Murder trials for Jeffrey Galindo and Royce Chinana are scheduled next
month, but neither is facing the death penalty.
That's despite the argument their case could fit the criteria necessary to
seek the death penalty. Both men are accused of killing Moriarty teen
Chris Hanson and terrorizing his friends in a Northeast Heights park in
Brandenburg said she did not know why the death penalty was not being
sought in the case.
In Sandoval County, Zacharia Craig is awaiting trial for the 2001 death of
State Police Officer Lloyd Aragon of Grants. District Attorney Lemuel
Martinez said if Craig is found guilty, the state would pursue the death
In Santa Fe County, District Attorney Henry Valdez said he is pursuing the
death penalty in 2 cases and considering it in three others, including the
case of Karen Smallwood, who is accused of killing a young mother last
The last person executed in New Mexico was Terry Clark in 2001 for the
1986 rape and murder of 9-year-old Artesia girl Dena Lynn Gore.
Clark was the 1st to die in New Mexico by lethal injection; 19 men have
been executed by hanging, seven on the electric chair and one in the gas
Only 2 inmates are on New Mexico's death row: Robert Fry of Farmington,
convicted in 2000 of the bludgeoning death of a Shiprock woman; and
Timothy Allen of Bloomfield, convicted in 1995 of killing and raping a
Neither is expected to be executed for many years. Their death sentences
would not be affected by the bill to repeal the death penalty, which was
passed by the state House on Monday and now heads to the Senate.
(source: The Albuquerque Tribune)
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