[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 6 18:14:25 CST 2005
TEXAS----female could face death penalty
Mother Faces Capital Murder Charges in Child Death
A San Antonio mother had charges against her upgraded to capital murder
after police said she beat her 5-year-old daughter death, News 4 WOAI
Ruby Jacquez is accused of beating her daughter Daisy Perales into a coma
last December. The little girl died on her 5th birthday.
A grand jury upgraded the charges from injury to a child to capital
murder, and that means Jacquez could face the death penalty if she is
convicted, officials said.
Jacquez is expected to be back in court on May 9th for a pre-trial
(source: WOAI News)
LATEST RULING INDICATES SHIFT IN SUPPORT FOR DEATH PENALTY
Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger sniper of the notorious spree-killing duo that
haunted metropolitan Washington, D.C., in 2002, no longer stands in danger
of the death penalty.
Neither does Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he kidnapped a Missouri
woman, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge. Neither does Larry
Jenkins, who was 17 when he took a Georgia mother and her 15-year-old son
from a Laundromat, robbed them and shot them both dead.
Their crimes were heinous. They showed their victims no mercy. But the
U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing in rejecting capital punishment for
their offenses. With last week's ruling, the court merely recognized the
obvious: Juveniles cannot be expected to show the maturity and judgment
that are expected of adults.
"Once the diminished culpability of juveniles is recognized, it is evident
that the penological justifications for the death penalty apply to them
with lesser force than to adults," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in last
week's majority opinion.
It is enough to keep young killers locked away from civilized society for
the rest of their lives. Malvo, for example, is already serving life
without parole in Virginia. But prosecutors in Louisiana and Alabama
wanted to try him on capital charges for killings there.
Why? There is no point in exacting a savage retribution. It wouldn't bring
back the innocent victims or restore families broken apart by grief.
This is no brief for young psychopaths, no apology for children who were
never socialized, no defense of young thugs. They have murdered and
maimed, and they deserve to be severely punished.
The family of Terry and Michael Ralston -- mother and son -- was
devastated by their deaths at Jenkins' hands in Jesup, Ga., in 1993. Alan
Ralston said he was left to rear his surviving children alone and lost his
job "because I was not altogether there." Later, another son died of a
drug overdose. Ralston understandably takes little solace from the high
But a modern society has room to recognize the difference in the
development of an adolescent and a full-fledged adult. We do not allow
17-year-olds to drink, vote, or run for high political office, and there's
good reason for that.
While the line between youth and adulthood is not as sharply drawn as age
limits suggest, there is a common understanding that teenagers usually
lack wisdom and maturity. In recent years, scientific studies have begun
to underscore that conventional wisdom; the adolescent brain may undergo
dramatic and unsteadying shifts in the areas that dictate decision-making
and self-control, these studies suggest.
Teenagers are also much more susceptible to outside influence, both from
peers and from adult mentors. Malvo is a clear case of a misguided and
possibly deranged young man who mistook a violent criminal for a father
figure. Witnesses who encountered Malvo with John Allen Muhammad, who
received the death penalty for his part in the Washington-area shootings,
remembered a teenage boy who was in thrall to the older man.
The court's latest death penalty ruling is part of a decades-long shift
that recognizes changing times and evolving conventions. Just 17 years
ago, the high court excluded those 15 and younger from capital punishment
but sanctioned executions of 16- and 17-year-olds. 3 years ago, the court
banned capital punishment for mentally retarded criminals.
Those rulings have occurred against a backdrop of declining support for
the death penalty; as evidence increases of the likelihood of wrongful
convictions, the public has grown more wary of the ultimate sanction.
Instead, more violent felons are being sentenced to life without the
possibility of parole, which assures they will leave prison in a pine box.
In a 1958 ruling, the Supreme Court spoke of "evolving standards of
decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Perhaps this nation
is nearing a maturity that will do away with the death penalty altogether.
(source: Op-Ed; Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta
The Next Chief Justice No Longer?----Kennedy's 'Roper' stance seen as
hurting his chances of heading the Supreme Court
2 short years ago, the buzz in Washington was that if Chief Justice
William Rehnquist retired, Justice Anthony Kennedy had a good shot at
Kennedy was seen spending quality time with first lady Laura Bush on a
civic education initiative Kennedy launched in the wake of the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks. He was speaking out on drugs and prison sentences, and
his former law clerks were well-placed in Bush administration jobs.
But then came June 2003 and Kennedy's majority opinion in Lawrence v.
Texas, which struck down sodomy laws and breathed new life into the gay
Last week, Kennedy did it again. In a stunning reversal for the Court and
himself, Kennedy led the Court in striking down the juvenile death
penalty. Writing for the 5-4 majority in Roper v. Simmons, Kennedy cited
social science research on adolescents and the strong worldwide consensus
against the practice.
Nobody is talking about Anthony Kennedy for chief justice anymore.
Instead, conservatives and others whom Bush might have counted on for
support for Supreme Court nominations took turns lashing out at Kennedy's
opinion in terms usually reserved for the likes of the late liberal
justices Harry Blackmun and William Brennan Jr.
"Increasingly over the years, Kennedy has disappointed conservatives, but
this decision is so pernicious and dangerous that it will bring our
disappointment with him to a whole new level," says Gary Bauer, president
of American Values and a former Republican presidential candidate. "I
don't see anything in the oath of office he took that would open his
deliberations to that area." Bauer was referring to the foreign legal
sources Kennedy cited in Roper.
The Wall Street Journal attacked the decision as a "legislative diktat in
the guise of a legal decision," and added, "If there is a silver lining to
this case, it is that it probably disqualifies Justice Kennedy from any
consideration to be promoted to Chief Justice."
And from the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon, was
nearly apoplectic about Kennedy's opinion, decrying it as an
"indefensible" example of judges substituting their views for those of
elected officials: "The Court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our
nation's moral standards."
That viewpoint reverberated in Congress, where Kennedy's opinion
re-energized efforts by Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., to pass a resolution
against using foreign court decisions in judicial opinions.
"This is a clear-cut example of policy-making from the bench," said a
statement from Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, who supports the resolution and
chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.
As a result of the ruling, Kennedy may even be replacing Justice David
Souter in the minds of conservatives as Exhibit A for the proposition that
the leanings of the next justice must not be left to chance.
President Ronald Reagan picked Kennedy in 1987, after the nominations of
Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg collapsed.
"This shows how enormously significant it is whether you get a Kennedy or
a Bork. It isn't just one or two cases over the next 10 years," says
conservative Court-watcher Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department
official in Republican administrations. "Kennedy is sort of a trial run of
what the difference between having an authentic conservative and a pastel
version of a conservative means for constitutional law."
This criticism of Kennedy for betraying his conservative roots is reaching
new levels in the wake of Roper, but it has dogged him at other times
during his tenure on the Court. Early on, when critics compared Kennedy to
Blackmun, who was perceived to have gotten more liberal over time,
Blackmun wrote Kennedy a note reassuring him, "Don't worry, it's not
Even before the Texas sodomy case, Kennedy wrote Romer v. Evans in 1996, a
precursor ruling that barred singling out gays for disfavored treatment.
Kennedy was part of the trio that rescued Roe v. Wade in Planned
Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 case. His First Amendment rulings have won
praise from liberals, and some of his positions in church-state cases have
angered the Christian right.
Pepperdine University School of Law professor Douglas Kmiec says he saw
early signs that Kennedy was "softer on some of the hard issues."
Kmiec headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel when
Kennedy, then a judge on the 9th Circuit, was being vetted for the
nomination; Kmiec read Kennedy's Circuit opinions extensively. "I was
present at the creation," Kmiec says. "He was 3rd on the list for a
But after Bork was defeated and Ginsburg withdrew, the White House was
eager to nominate a winner, and Kennedy, a one-time Sacramento, Calif.,
lawyer and lobbyist, had strong connections with Reagan aides. "The
decision was made to look past these philosophical differences," says
Kmiec. The Senate confirmed Kennedy unanimously in February 1988.
Nonetheless, over the years, Kennedy tacked back to the conservative side
often enough in criminal cases and elsewhere to remain on the Republican
radar screen for chief justice. In the 2000 case Stenberg v. Carhart,
Kennedy voted in favor of a law banning partial-birth abortions, though he
was in dissent. He also dissented from the 2003 majority decision in
Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action. And last week, in
oral arguments a day after the decision in the juvenile death penalty
case, Kennedy seemed ready to vote in favor of Ten Commandments displays
in public places. He pointedly criticized society's "obsessive concern
with any mention of religion."
How can Kennedy's jurisprudence be explained?
"He wants the Court to be on the right side of history. He wants to be on
the right side of history," says Edward Lazarus, a former Blackmun law
clerk who was critical of Kennedy in his 1998 book "Closed Chambers," but
now finds more to like. "The ghosts of Earl Warren and William Brennan
live in Tony Kennedy."
The longer Kennedy has been on the Court, Lazarus says, the more
comfortable he has become in using judicial power to rule, in an almost
romantic way, "as he thinks a great judge should rule." Once in Scalia's
orbit, Kennedy is now repelled by his stridency, Lazarus asserts. "Kennedy
is the compassionate conservative on the Court," though not the kind that
appeals to Bush, Lazarus adds.
In addition, by now, Lazarus speculates that Kennedy, who is 68, "has got
to figure he's not in the running anymore" for chief justice. "So maybe
he's playing for posterity. He wants someone to say 50 years from now that
he was one of the great justices of the late 20th century."
But Kennedy fans reject the view that he is currying favor with history or
imposing his own grandiose vision on society.
"It's hard to believe that his own views on the juvenile death penalty
have changed" since he voted for it in 1989, says Columbia University law
professor Michael Dorf, an early Kennedy clerk. "I think he was persuaded
by the consensus against it. It was not Kennedy imposing his own values.
He was looking outside himself."
Another former Kennedy clerk, who declined to be named, adds, "He is an
independent thinker. He is not above re-examining his views, and that's a
good thing. He's no Blackmun."
Pepperdine's Kmiec says, "Every justice writes for the history books, but
hopefully not for vainglory. Justice Kennedy wants to get it right."
Kmiec disagrees with Kennedy's rulings when they are "not rooted in text,"
but adds, "He is a justice of intellectual integrity. Some people will
never forgive him for particular outcomes, but I think he tries to read
the Constitution in a way that is largely consistent with a conservative
Some see Kennedy's fondness for international law as a byproduct of his
frequent involvement with foreign legal programs, including an annual
pilgrimage to Salzburg, Austria, where he has taught at the McGeorge
School of Law's summer programs for decades.
"It's not that he doesn't want to be shunned at the cocktail parties,"
says Columbia's Dorf. "It's that he thinks, in a grand policy way, that
the United States should not be a laggard with respect to human rights."
Others last week were ascribing Kennedy's "evolution" to the hydraulic
pressure to the left exerted by D.C.'s cultural and media elites -- even
though Republicans are in charge. When senior D.C. Circuit Judge Laurence
Silberman once labeled the phenomenon as it relates to judges as the
"Greenhouse effect" -- a reference to presumed liberal New York Times
reporter Linda Greenhouse -- he had Kennedy in mind. "It's a well-defined
trend in D.C.," sighs Bauer. "You come here and you 'grow,' which always
means you move to the left. It may be nothing more than that with
Not so, Kennedy fans counter, noting that decisions like the Texas sodomy
case and the juvenile death penalty bring him scorn, not plaudits, from
his peers. "The circles in which he travels are fairly conservative," says
Dorf. "They're more likely to be disappointed in him."
As an example, Dorf recalls the last reunion of Kennedy law clerks in
2003, not long after the Lawrence decision came down: "I looked around and
could count on the fingers of one hand the liberals in the room. Most [of
his clerks] were quite disappointed in Lawrence." How does Kennedy handle
a situation like that? Dorf replies, "He says, 'Look, we disagree,' and
(source: Legal Times)
Doubts on death row----book review
The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions By
Sister Helen Prejean; Random House, 310 pages, $35.95
When I was asked by The Globe and Mail to review The Death of Innocents, a
new book by Sister Helen Prejean, I leaped at the opportunity. She has
been one of my heroes for a long, long time. We have worked together on
many occasions over the years.
The Death of Innocents only demonstrates the human insanity in which we
live. If you believe in, or have faith in, the correctness of the criminal
justice system as it is presently being administered, don't read this
book. It will blow your mind, your faith and your belief, leaving you with
the knowledge that, in the criminal justice system, innocence means
nothing and retribution means everything.
Sister Helen's account of her experiences with the criminal justice
system, as a spiritual adviser to those condemned to death, is a
wonderfully sad and disheartening expos of a system where truth does not
count -- only procedures. In the 1st chapter, she speaks of Roger Coleman,
a Virginia coal miner who was executed in Virginia on May 20, 1992,
because of a procedural technicality. His rookie lawyer, trying her 1st
capital case, filed Coleman's petition one day late -- 24 hours late --
and so they took his life.
I had the opportunity to speak with Coleman one day before the state of
Virginia executed him. Having been in that same position myself, I was
impressed by his presence of mind, given the dreaded thing that was
waiting to shock the life out of his body.
At one point, a prison nurse, who was concerned that Coleman had missed
his scheduled medication for a sore shoulder, interrupted our
conversation. I said to him, "Brother, this is absolutely insane. Here the
state of Virginia is about to take your life, and they're concerned about
your health!" He laughed, and I laughed too.
But I cried the next day when I saw him being carried from the prison in a
Roger Coleman is very much in the news again today, because the state of
Virginia is refusing to release the DNA specimen that might provide
evidence of his guilt or innocence. The system is afraid it may have
executed an innocent person.
The Death of Innocents is a profoundly disturbing and horrifying
demonstration that, once a jury has found a person guilty, it takes a
monumental effort to reverse that decision. That's why competent counsel
is necessary. There is a great deal at stake in upholding criminal
convictions. Careers, political and otherwise, are built on these
convictions. Successful police officers are promoted, successful
prosecution attorneys become judges, and a successful judge is one who is
seldom reversed on appeal.
Even at the best of times, nobody likes to admit fault. But when admitting
that a mistake has been made begins to threaten one's own professional
standing -- one's own career -- then justice becomes a very personal
matter. Establishing that one, or one's colleague, did not make a mistake
becomes much more important than the possible innocence of the person
There are many people in prison today who find themselves standing on the
wrong side of the law not because they went astray, but because the law,
having been placed in the wrong hands, strayed from the right path. Many
instances of this have occurred right here in Canada. For instance, Guy
Paul Morin was convicted of raping and killing nine-year-old Christine
Jessop. Christine's parents told the police that they had returned home at
a particular time and found her gone. The time they gave made it
impossible for Morin to have committed the crime. Under questioning from
the police, the mourning mother admitted she could have arrived home at a
different time. Her original statement would have seriously weakened the
case against Morin. The changed version strengthened it. And an innocent
person was convicted of a horrible crime.
"Junk science" and "forensic fraud" were also involved in this case. Hairs
found in Morin's car were presented to the jury as consistent with hairs
from the murdered girl, but the link turned out to be a weak one.
Thankfully, Morin was eventually exonerated by DNA evidence.
Sister Helen details very succinctly the flaws and the mistakes of our
criminal justice systems in North America, and even offers solutions. To
prevent or to stop bad cases, prosecutors and police officers, especially
senior ones, must learn to recognize the "telltale signs" that a case may
be, as the lawyers say, "not safe" -- that there may be something wrong
with it. Having spotted the signs and looked carefully into the case, they
must be prepared to stop it. This is one of the most difficult things to
get people to do. These telltale signs are: the absence of hard evidence;
witnesses who change their testimony after conferring with the police;
inconsistent police reports and notes; and unreliable witnesses,
especially "jailhouse snitches," who should almost never be believed.
The two most dominant telltale signs of a bad case and, surely the cause
of many wrongful convictions, as chronicled in The Death of Innocents, are
eyewitness testimony and retracted confessions. Eyewitnesses are
notoriously inaccurate, especially in cases of cross-cultural
identification. They may be entirely credible, but nevertheless wrong.
Unfortunately, juries tend to believe eyewitnesses much more than they
Likewise, confessions that the accused retracts should have little or no
weight. A person who wishes to confess would plead guilty. But if that
person pleads not guilty, then it should be obvious that he is not
confessing. Yet "confessions" carry a great deal of weight with juries,
even when the confession is repudiated or when there is clear evidence
that the confession was coerced.
If any of these "telltale signs" are present, and particularly if more
than one of them are present, prosecutors and Crown attorneys should
immediately worry that the case may not be a good one.
Sister Helen Prejean is an old-fashioned lover of liberty; she administers
the kind of service the world loves, one person -- alone -- who speaks the
truth, mocking the enemies of justice, freedom, truth, beauty and good.
Just a few years ago, Sister Helen and I had the enormous pleasure of
participating in a "journey of hope" at a children's crusade in northern
Pennsylvania, where children from 57 different countries were represented.
The three-day conference demonstrated very clearly how Sister Helen serves
all of mankind, not only as spiritual adviser to those in prison facing
the death penalty, and not only to her best friend, Ann, who was dying of
cancer, but also to young people all over the world.
Thank you, Sister Helen.
(source: Toronto Globe and Mail - Rubin Carter, sometimes known as
Hurricane, is executive director and chairman of the board of Innocence
International, an organization dedicated to uncovering wrongful
convictions. He spent 20 years in a New Jersey state prison, narrowly
escaping the electric chair, for a triple murder he did not commit.)
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