[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, WYO., N.Y., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 10 10:04:16 CST 2005
U.S. quits pact used to fight death penalty
The Bush administration has decided to pull out of an international
agreement that opponents of the death penalty have used to fight the
sentences of foreigners on Death Row in the United States, officials said
The U.S. is withdrawing from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations.
The protocol requires signatories to let the International Court of
Justice make the final decision when their citizens say they have been
illegally denied the right to see a home-country diplomat when jailed
In recent years, some countries have successfully complained before the
World Court that their citizens were sentenced to death by states in the
U.S. without receiving access to home-country diplomats.
The U.S. Supreme Court has before it the case of a Mexican death row
inmate in Texas who is asking the justices to enforce a World Court
decision in favor of Mexico last year.
The administration's decision doesn't affect the remainder of the Vienna
Convention, which requires its 166 signatories to inform foreigners of
their right to see a home-country diplomat when detained overseas.
The administration decided to grant 51 Mexicans on death row in the U.S.
new state court hearings, as the World Court ordered. But withdrawal from
the protocol means the U.S. won't have to bow to the World Court again,
legal analysts said.
(source: Washington Post)
Child homicide: When parents kill their own -- In the wake of three infant
homicides, local child advocates say there are no simple answers in
pinpointing why a parent kills a child
It's the kind of crime that most can't comprehend.
While the deliberate killing of young children happens with far less
frequency than homicides among adults, when such slayings do occur,
parents or caretakers typically are charged.
"Statistically, child deaths as a result of abuse by parental actions are
actually quite rare," said Michael Daley, professor of social work and
director of the social work program at the University of South Alabama.
Despite that fact, three south Alabama parents have been charged with
capital murder in recent weeks in connection with the deaths of their
infant children. The latest victim was 6-week-old Ashley Austin, whose
father, David Allen Austin, 23, could face the death penalty in his
daughter's Feb. 23 killing.
"I think what draws our attention to it," Daley said of the deaths, "is
the fact that it's so extreme and so foreign to most parents, the idea
that a parent would harm a child so badly."
Communities, he said, often are left wondering what went wrong. Were there
warning signs present before a parent attacked?
In the wake of the three infant homicides, local child advocates say there
is no simple answer in pinpointing why a parent or caregiver kills a
"I believe there has been a general breakdown in society," said Pat
Guyton, director of Mobile's Child Advocacy Center. "The youngest human
beings are not protected as much as they used to be."
The center helps prosecute offenders who sexually and physically abuse
children and offers counseling for the victims and their families.
Cases only reach the center when the abuse rises to the level of a felony,
meaning Guyton usually only sees the worst of the worst. There are
typically 20 cases a year in Mobile of "severe physical abuse perpetrated
on children below 24 months."
He estimates that at least 80 % of the child abuse cases that come through
the center in some way involve alcohol or other drugs.
"It's amazing to me," Guyton said. "I'm always stunned. It's like people
don't use good judgment."
There are a number of reasons why parents get to the point of causing a
serious injury or death to children, Daley said.
"One of the things that happens is that parents get so desperate from
living under stressful conditions that they can't see taking care of a
child anymore," he said. "They are essentially getting rid of the child to
help relieve part of their burden."
Sometimes, parents inappropriately begin attributing adult behavior to
their children. "They either identify the child with someone they really
don't like or they attribute normal child behavior as willful behavior to
antagonize them," Daley said of parents who hurt their own.
He said it's not an excuse: "I say that from a standpoint of getting
inside the logic of the people who do that."
Daley said another reason some adults have been known to cause harm to
children is because of misplaced jealousy.
"Adults will see children as competition for attention of other adults,"
he said. "So they harm the children to keep them from damaging the
He said a small percentage of cases can be attributed to "people who are
just absolutely impaired due to drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness."
Daley pointed to Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned and beat her
children to death, as one of the most famous cases in recent years of a
mentally impaired parent killing her children.
"We tend to have waves of this kind of thing where you have a large number
that come to public attention and raise public awareness and motivate us
to do something about it," Daley said. "But most of the time people are
not thinking about this."
In 2003, the last year complete statistics were available, there were 53
child homicides reported in Alabama. A child is defined as a newborn up to
Of those 53, 6 were from Mobile County. Three of those deaths were
reported in infants less than 1 year old, according to state records. The
other 3 homicides involved an 18-year-old and two people who were 19.
No homicides of anyone under age 20 were reported in Baldwin County in
2003, according to records from the Alabama Department of Public Health's
Center for Health Statistics.
Sherrie Bourg Carter, a forensic psychologist and co-director of the
Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
said about 1,300 child deaths in the United States were the result of
abuse or neglect in 2001. She's not aware of more recent statistics.
"Infants are more likely to be killed by their mother during the first
week of life," Carter said, "but are more likely to be killed by a male,
usually their father or stepfather, thereafter."
Children who are at the highest risk of homicide tend to be very young,
from newborns to age 4, and older adolescents, ranging in age from 13 to
17, she said. Parents and stepparents are the most frequent perpetrators
of death among very young children, she said.
She said half of all infant homicides occur by the 4th month of life, and
the risk of infant homicide is highest on the day of birth.
Other area parents charged with killing their children in recent weeks
Marsha Gossett Colby, 40, whom Orange Beach police arrested Feb. 10 after
autopsy results showed that her newborn son drowned after being born
alive, likely on Feb. 3 at a Baldwin County residence. Charged with
capital murder, she disputes the claim and is being held without bond in
the Baldwin County Corrections Center in Bay Minette.
Charles Thomas Johnson, 33, is in Escambia County's jail, charged with
killing his 6-month-old son Feb. 20, when the baby wouldn't stop crying,
police said. The mother was asleep in another part of the house when her
husband allegedly beat, bit and asphyxiated the child, police said. He is
being held without bail, facing a capital murder charge.
"It breaks my heart what happened here," Guyton said of the recent infant
deaths in south Alabama. "We've got to come to some way of saying to
people, 'We as a society are going to hold you responsible for how you
raise your kids.'"
(source: Mobile Register)
Death Penalty Doubts by Bush?
As governor of Texas, George W. Bush claimed to harbor few doubts about
the death penalty. Now, as president, he seems to have a few.
In his State of the Union address, the president acknowledged growing
public worries that a flawed legal process had sentenced innocent people
to death. He proposed a $50-million, three-year program to improve
training for defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges in state capital
cases. Last week's presidential order involving Mexican nationals on death
row in California, Texas and other states is another step in the right
Bush's order was triggered by a recent World Court ruling that the United
States had violated the Vienna Convention by failing to notify Mexican
officials when their citizens were arrested and charged with serious
crimes. The Vienna treaty also protects Americans when they live or travel
abroad, but U.S. police and prosecutors had widely ignored the pact when
it came to foreign nationals in custody in this country.
In his order, Bush asserted that as president he could direct state courts
to comply with the treaty by holding new hearings. The order will apply to
the 28 Mexicans on California's death row, 15 in Texas and others in
Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Oregon. Courts in those
states must now reconsider the convictions and sentences of each of the
Mexicans to determine whether failure to warn them of their right to help
from their government caused unfairness in their trials or sentences.
The declaration, which may also extend to dozens of other condemned
foreign nationals in this country, is a long way from the systematic
national review of the death penalty we'd like to see. But for the man who
as governor once parodied the clemency pleas from a desperate Texas
prisoner, it's a start.
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
WYOMING----stay of impending execution
Judge grants Harlow stay of execution
Twice-convicted murderer James Harlow, sentenced to death for killing a
Wyoming State Penitentiary guard during an escape attempt in 1997,
received a stay of execution this week from U.S. District Judge Clarence
Harlow filed a motion Feb. 9 asking the federal court to appoint an
attorney to help him draft a petition for habeas corpus -- to physically
appear before the court -- and to halt his scheduled March 31 execution
until the court rules on the petition.
Brimmer granted the motions on Monday, and the orders were filed with the
court on Tuesday.
Brimmer wrote that he had to look outside Wyoming to find a qualified
lawyer in matters of habeas corpus in a death penalty case. He selected
Sean O'Brien of Kansas City, Mo., to represent Harlow.
O'Brien, Brimmer wrote, will need to learn about the case and probably
will not be able to do so before March 31.
"In granting this stay, it is not the Court's intent to delay the legal
process any longer than necessary," Brimmer wrote. "The Court simply
wishes to ensure that the case is handled in a manner that will ensure
both an expeditious and just result."
State District Judge Wade Waldrip set the date after the Wyoming Supreme
Court in February rejected Harlow's appeal that he did not get a fair
trial because he was shackled in the courtroom -- the 2nd time in as many
years the court had rejected an appeal from Harlow.
Harlow has been an inmate at the Wyoming State Penitentiary since 1988,
when he was given a life sentence for the rape and murder of 16-year-old
Tammy Shoopman of Rock Springs.
In 1997, Harlow and 2 other inmates, Bryan Collins and Richard Dowdell,
killed prison guard Wayne Martinez while trying to escape. Harlow was
sentenced to death; Collins and Dowdell were given life sentences.
(source: Casper Star-Tribune)
Senate approves death penalty bill -- Version would impose life without
parole if jury is deadlocked on sentencing; Assembly action unclear
The death penalty moved a step closer to being restored in New York on
Wednesday, but the law's fate remains uncertain in the Assembly.
The Senate passed a bill, 37-22, designed to address constitutional flaws
in the law, but the Assembly isn't expected to act on the legislation
until a report from its 5 hearings is made public.
Although death penalty supporters said last week the law is essential to
keeping the crime levels down, the floor debate Wednesday over the bill
was lackluster. At one point, less than 1/3 of the Senate was in the
chamber, and just 7 Republican lawmakers were listening to the debate.
While senators who oppose the death penalty quoted testimony given earlier
this year at Assembly hearings to back up their opposition to the bill,
legislators who back the death penalty didn't mention the hearings and
berated the Court of Appeals for overturning the law.
They also mentioned the victims of the seven convicted murderers, who New
York juries said warranted the death penalty before the law was
"We need to enact this bill into law to ensure that a capital punishment
law is in place and can be used to protect New Yorkers and prevent
dangerous, violent criminals from getting back on the streets," Senate
Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said in a statement after the vote.
The Court of Appeals ruled in June that the sentencing provision of the
death penalty statute was unconstitutional because judges warned juries
that, if they could not agree on either death or life in prison without
parole, the murderer would be a given a sentence that included a chance
for parole. The court said those instructions might lead jurors to chose
death to avoid the possibility of parole.
The Senate bill passed Wednesday gives juries all three sentencing
options, but imposes life without parole if the jury is deadlocked.
When the ruling came last year, a quick-fix seemed likely as all three
state leaders, Gov. George Pataki, Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver, have supported the death penalty.
But getting a new capital punishment law has proven to be difficult. After
nearly a decade, no one has been executed and the cost of the law is
estimated between $150 million and $200 million. For opponents and those
who did not feel strongly either way, the high cost, waning public support
and low effectiveness in executing the worst criminals warranted another
The Assembly agreed and scheduled two public hearings, which turned into 5
as dozens of people showed up to testify.
The Senate refused and said nothing had changed since the law was signed
in 1995. Hearings, the Senate majority said, were a way for the Assembly
to drag its feet and not put the law back on the books.
To increase public pressure for the bill, the Senate created a Web site at
http://www.Death PenaltyNY.com where people can register their support for
the law. The site does not accept opposition to capital punishment.
The Assembly hearings might have changed some lawmakers' minds, but that
won't be known until the death penalty comes up for a vote. Several of
those who supported the death penalty in 1995 have said their minds might
be changed. Some backed capital punishment because there was no option of
life in prison without parole, which the state now has.
Pataki applauded the Senate's vote, and encouraged the Assembly to follow
suit. "The Assembly has held hearings," he said. "Now hold a vote."
(source: Albany Times-Union)
Senate-OK'd death penalty has uncertain future
The state Senate Wednesday voted to reinstate New York's death-penalty
statute after a three-hour, pitched debate, even though it faces long odds
in the Assembly.
Voting largely on party lines as expected, the Republican-dominated Senate
approved the measure, 37-22.
New York's top court last summer ruled that the state's death penalty,
enacted in 1995, was unconstitutional. In a 4-3 ruling, the court
determined that deadlocked juries, forced to choose between a death
sentence and a life sentence with a chance for parole after 20 years,
could be coerced into voting for death.
The court indicated a quick fix could be had if lawmakers rewrote the
statute to order that when a jury can't reach a sentencing decision, a
life-without-parole sentence would be automatically imposed.
Republican Gov. George Pataki and the Senate back such a change.
Supporters contended capital punishment was a murder deterrent and it was
a useful tool for prosecutors in obtaining plea deals.
"If you want to get a life-without-parole (plea bargain), you have to have
capital punishment to get to that," said Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece,
Opponents countered murders have declined in states without capital
punishment, that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on
death-penalty cases could be used elsewhere and that, unlike the Assembly,
the Senate has not held hearings on such a controversial topic.
How they voted
Mid-Hudson Republican senators -- William Larkin Jr. of New Windsor,
Vincent Leibell of Patterson, Steve Saland of Poughkeepsie and John
Bonacic of Mount Hope -- voted in favor of the bill.
(source: Poughkeepsie Journal)
Ban on death penalty advances
A bill to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut won easy approval in
the state Legislature's Judiciary Committee last night, just 2 months
before Connecticut's first scheduled execution since 1960.
Under the bill, seven death row inmates would see their sentences
commuted, including serial killer Michael Ross, scheduled to die May 11,
pending the outcome of a competency hearing.
Committee members voted 24 to 15 in favor of the bill, which would
designate the sentence for capital murder as life in prison. It now moves
to a vote in the House of Representatives.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell has repeatedly said that she favors the death penalty
for Ross and cases like his and she said she would likely veto any bill
that would stop his execution.
Yesterday's debate included several references to Ross. Death penalty
opponents said he should be forced to face his crimes for the rest of his
life. Supporters of the death penalty said the viciousness of Ross' crimes
make him a poster boy for keeping it.
Current law imposes life in prison without possibility of release or the
death penalty as the two options for sentencing for capital murder, which
is murder of a police officer, of more than one person at a time, of a
child or of someone when the offender is already convicted of another
22 senators and representatives on the 42-member joint committee poke
during the 2 1/2-hour debate chaired by the Judiciary Committee
co-chairman, state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford.
McDonald, who supported the bill, said he was surprised by the margin of
victory for a bill that divided lawmakers more along ideological lines
than strictly by party.
Among lower Fairfield County lawmakers on the committee, McDonald and
state Rep. Gerald Fox III, D-Stamford, voted in favor of abolishing the
death penalty. State Reps. Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk and Claudia
"Dolly" Powers, R-Greenwich, voted to keep current law and retain the
McDonald closed out debate by saying he believes in forcing murderers such
as Ross, who killed eight young women and raped most of them, to spend the
rest of their natural days in prison having to face the consequences of
Ross, 45, who has already spent 20 years behind bars, has said he wants
all appeals stopped and the death penalty to be imposed.
"It is in fact, in my estimation, a harsher penalty for him to sit in
prison, or rot in prison, for the rest of his natural life," McDonald said
during debate. "He is choosing death. I don't think he should have that
McDonald said Ross should have to spend the next 30 or 40 years behind
bars. "He doesn't want it. I think he should have it," McDonald said.
State Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-West Haven, the committee's House
co-chairman, said of life in prison without release, "This is the one
penalty that Michael Ross fears the most."
Others argued that the death penalty is no deterrent to future crimes and
ends up costing taxpayers more in the long run for lengthy appeals.
"Canadian homicides were 23 % lower after they abolished the death
penalty," said state Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford. "I submit there is no
argument for deterrence."
State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said her research found that
prosecuting death penalty cases costs taxpayers more than noncapital
murder cases in the 36 states with active death penalty statutes.
"We should choose to put our resources where they can support life," she
Death penalty supporters argued that the debate wouldn't even be happening
if it weren't for the Ross case, which has drawn national attention for
several recent last-minute reprieves. They reminded legislators last night
of Ross' crimes.
"I can't imagine the horror of the one girl who saw her friend raped and
murdered and knew she was next," said state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.
"And we're going to commute his sentence? I don't want to be a party to
Cafero, arguing that the death penalty should remain, said state residents
have made it clear through polls and through their representatives over
the years that they want "a rarely used, incredibly difficult to obtain
death penalty, in only the most severe, most serious, heinous cases
imaginable. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we have."
Doing away with the death penalty would be "a slap in the face to the
families of the victims," said state Rep. David Labriola, R-Naugatuck.
Those in the committee room listened intently as state Rep. Jeffrey
Berger, D-Waterbury, spoke. He is a former police officer whose partner at
the time was the first to respond when Walter Williams III, 34, a
Waterbury police officer killed in the line of duty in 1992, was shot.
Berger's partner, Tim Jackson, cradled Williams head in his hands while
Williams lay dying, Berger said. Williams' convicted killer, Richard
Reynolds, is one of seven inmates on Connecticut's death row whose
sentence would be commuted to life without possible release if the bill
"You should all put yourselves in that situation, in finding and
determining what you think is a just penalty for Richard Reynolds," Berger
said of his partner.
Debate had been scheduled at 10 a.m. but harsh winter road conditions due
to Tuesday's snowstorm caused postponement until 4:40 p.m., after House
and Senate sessions. As a result, the committee room in the Legislative
Office Building was nearly empty of spectators during the debate, other
than media representatives.
The exchange was subdued. Several supporters of the death penalty said
they understood and respected those on the other side who believe that the
state should not be involved in taking a life, no matter how heinous an
act a criminal has committed.
The last time the Legislature took up the death penalty was in 2001 in two
amendments in the House. An amendment to abolish the death penalty and one
to impose a moratorium both failed.
House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, a death penalty proponent, has said
he nevertheless believes the issue should be debated in both the House and
Senate and said he will bring it to the floor for a vote. Lawlor said he
expects the bill to reach the House floor in the next two to 3 weeks.
(source: Stamford Advocate)
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