[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----N.C., OKLA., DEL., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 10 17:17:32 CST 2005
NORTH CAROLINA----impending execution
Powell's execution set for Friday
In less than 24 hours, the state plans to hold its 1st execution of the
Wednesday, the state Supreme Court denied William Powells appeal to stay
Powell is scheduled to die for killing a woman in Cleveland County in
Powell has been on death row here at central prison since 1993. Thursday
morning, he's in the death watch area awaiting the execution.
Also for the first time since Powell has been in this prison, he will be
allowed contact visitation until 11 p.m. Thursday night.
The state Supreme Court denied William Powells appeal to stay the
Powell was convicted for killing Mary Gladden more than a decade ago in
Authorities said Powell beat her to death with a tool used to repair tires
during a robbery.
Now, Powell is scheduled to die by lethal injection. Powell's lawyers,
however, said the crime doesn't rise to the level of other capital
They said Powell was high on drugs at the time and are pushing to have his
sentence reduced to life in prison.
They have petitioned Governor Mike Easley to grant clemency in the case.
They also plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Powell will wait on death watch, where he has access to TV,
radio and a telephone during his final hours.
Powell will eat his last meal Thursday at 5 p.m. The execution is
scheduled for 2 a.m. Friday.
(source: News 14 Carolina)
Execution hinges on 'brain fingerprinting'
An Oklahoma man facing execution next Tuesday for the 1991 murder of a
woman and child is using a little-known procedure called "brain
fingerprinting" to try to prove his innocence.
So far, Oklahoma prosecutors aren't buying it, and the state's judges have
refused to hear it as evidence on procedural grounds. But lawyers for
Jimmy Ray Slaughter have filed an appeal in federal court in hopes of
finding a sympathetic ear for the unusual forensic procedure.
"Brain fingerprinting" is a technique devised in the 1980s by Seattle, by
Larry Farwell, a Harvard-educated neuroscientist who testified earlier
this month in a clemency hearing for Slaughter before the Oklahoma parole
The brain stores memories from one's experiences
Farwell's theory is that the brain stores memories from one's experiences
and they can be detected by reading involuntary brain waves.
In a "brain fingerprinting" test, the suspect is fitted with a
headband-like sensor device and then shown photographs or other evidence
from the crime scene. Seeing something familiar triggers electrical waves
of recognition, which the head device detects and flashes on a computer
"Brain fingerprinting is a way to prove scientifically whether certain
information is stored in the brain. It is not lie detection. It simply
detects, 'does a person know certain things or not know certain things?'"
In Slaughter's case, Farwell said he knew about the crime, but showed no
"fingerprint" when viewing photos of the crime scene.
Slaughter, 57, was sentenced to death for the murders of Melody Wuertz,
29, and her 11-month-old child, Jessica, who was fathered by Slaughter.
'He does not know those specifics about the crime'
Police said Slaughter became enraged after Wuertz obtained a blood test
proving the child was his and filed a paternity suit. He was convicted of
shooting the woman and child in the head and mutilating the woman's
genitals with a knife.
But Farwell said Slaughter's brain waves indicate otherwise.
"What I am here to tell you today as a scientist is not that Jimmy Ray
Slaughter has always told the truth or that he is a nice person, but that
he does not know those specifics about the crime," he told the board.
Prosecutors strongly disagreed.
If brain fingerprinting was legitimate, said Assistant Attorney General
Seth Branham, Slaughter would have shown recognition of the crime scene
because the photos were displayed repeatedly during his six-month-long
"We put the crime scene photographs in his packet. It was shown on
close-circuit TV in the courtroom. Are you telling me he wouldn't remember
that?" he asked.
Farwell, Branham charged, was just trying to sell his machine to Oklahoma
"He's trying to sell it to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and
everybody else in the world. That's fine, small business is great, but
let's be honest about it."
But Farwell said research conducted over the past decade had established
the accuracy of brain fingerprinting.
Legal acceptance has been slow, but it has been used in some criminal
cases. In an Iowa murder case, the conviction of a man was overturned in
2003 after brain fingerprinting, along with other evidence, was used in an
appeal, he said.
Nonetheless, the Oklahoma parole board voted unanimously to deny clemency
for Slaughter, so his lawyers have appealed to the US Tenth Circuit Court
of Appeals, arguing that DNA and ballistics evidence used against
Slaughter was inaccurate.
(source: Wired News)
Judge rejects Tom Capano's plea----Death-row killer said counsel was bad
and cited new Supreme Court rulings
Thomas Capano's latest effort to get himself off death row has failed.
In a 58-page ruling Wednesday, Delaware Superior Court Judge T. Henley
Graves denied Capano's motions for post-conviction relief, rejecting
arguments that Capano had bad legal counsel at trial and that his death
sentence should be set aside because of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Capano's attorney, Joseph Bernstein, said he was disappointed in the
ruling "and an appeal will be forthcoming."
He said Capano can appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court and if that fails,
to federal courts.
Capano is due back in state Superior Court on March 31 to have a new
execution date set by Graves.
Bernstein said the judge may also decide to set the date without a court
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ferris Wharton, who is working with the Delaware
Attorney General's office on the case, said he was pleased with the
"We think it is the right decision and it is what we had argued for," he
Capano, a former state prosecutor and political insider, was convicted for
the 1996 murder of Anne Marie Fahey, 30, the scheduling secretary for
then-Gov. Tom Carper, now a U.S. senator.
A jury recommended the death sentence 11- 1.
Capano's attorneys had argued that under the recent U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Ring v. Arizona, the jury had to be unanimous in its decision.
In Arizona, a judge alone made the decision on death penalty eligibility,
which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional.
In many states, a jury alone makes that decision. In Delaware, when Capano
was convicted, the jury made an advisory finding to the judge, who then
made the final ruling, which has been called a "hybrid" system.
Graves ruled that the Ring decision does not require the jury to be
unanimous in its findings.
Jules Epstein, a visiting professor of law at Widener University School of
Law who specializes in the death penalty, believes Capano will have a
strong case on appeal.
"I respectfully differ with the judge," Epstein said, "This is not a bad
argument for Capano. Mr. Capano's lawyers have a very strong argument to
have his death penalty overturned."
"My understanding of Ring is that the aggravating factor has to be proved
unanimously, the same as any other element of an offense," he said.
And in Capano's case, the jury voted 11-1 that there was an aggravating
circumstance - premeditation - that qualified him for the death sentence.
Epstein said that the 11-1 vote essentially means a hung jury and, if an
appeals court agrees, Capano could get a new sentencing hearing, where he
could argue for life in prison instead of death.
As for ineffective counsel, Graves wrote that Capano, an experienced
attorney, began to assemble his defense team shortly after Fahey's
disappearance in 1996. "Ultimately he chose 4 attorneys to represent him
at trial. Each was known to the defendant and each was a seasoned defense
Capano played role in defense
Graves wrote that the evidence has shown that Capano was an active
participant in his defense, including shaping strategies and tactics.
As an example, Graves cites Capano's involvement in jury selection.
"Capano expressed a strong desire to select young women as jurors. His
attorneys disagreed with the tactic. The defense team believed it was
unwise to seat young women on the jury since the victim of the alleged
murder was a young woman. Nevertheless, Capano thought having young women
would be helpful and that Capano and his defense might persuade them,"
Capano was reportedly "happy" with the final jury, Graves wrote.
He said the issues where Capano is now claiming ineffectual counsel would
not have made a difference to the outcome or were not supported by the
Wharton, who prosecuted Capano with now-U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly,
said, "I think it was evident to anyone who watched the trial that he
received more than effective assistance of counsel."
Professor Thomas Reed at Widener said Capano set the strategy, "and when
an attorney tries to represent himself, and gets what he wants, how can he
say it was incompetent?"
(source: The News Journal)
Death penalty ban passes hurdle----Judiciary panel vote sends bill to
House for debate
A bill to repeal Connecticut's death penalty and substitute life in prison
without the possibility of release passed a key legislative committee
Wednesday by a 24-15 vote.
The Judiciary Committee action clears the way for a state House debate on
repeal of the death penalty, although repeal advocates say they are
uncertain how the legislation will fare in the face of a veto threat by
Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Advocates of repeal argued that the death penalty has become an
unenforceable fraud, a torture for the families of murder victims and a
fiscal and moral burden that Connecticut can no longer afford to bear.
But supporters of the death penalty pointed to the horrific crimes of
serial killer Michael Ross and others on Connecticuts death row, citing
the agony of the victims and what some claimed would be a broken promise
of justice to the victims' families if capital punishment is repealed.
Despite Rell's promise to veto any death penalty repeal, Democratic
leaders in the House and Senate have said they believe there should be a
legislative debate on the issue this year. The last time the House voted
on the issue, in 2001, repeal was defeated 91-55.
The highly emotional debate is being driven by the often-scheduled and
often-delayed execution of Ross.
State officials have now selected May 11 as the tentative date for Ross to
die by lethal injection. His would be the 1st execution in Connecticut and
New England in 45 years.
One immediate impact of the legislation being considered would be the
commutation of Ross' death sentence to life in prison without the
possibility of release.
Lawmakers on the judiciary panel grimly debated the death penalty for
nearly three hours Wednesday, arguing over the morality, finances and
deterrent effect of capital punishment.
"We should not be debating spending $3 million or $4 million to kill one
man when we should be spending that money on school books," said state
House Deputy Majority Leader Toni N. Walker, D-New Haven.
"We should choose to put our resources where we can grant life, not
death," Walker said. "The real moral issue in this argument is which we
are choosing - life or death."
According to Walker, Texas spends $2.3 million on each death penalty case,
North Carolina $2.16 million and Florida $3.2 million each time it sends
someone to death row.
The judiciary panels co-chairman, state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East
Haven, insisted that the unending delays in the Ross case are a perfect
example of how an unenforceable death penalty tortures the families of
victims. Ross was convicted more than 20 years ago.
"Its our fault, the legislature, for allowing this fraud of a public
policy to remain on the books for 45 years," Lawlor said.
State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, cited a litany of statistics
indicating that murder rates in states and nations such as Canada that
have no death penalty are far lower than in states where capital
punishment is legal.
But state Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, insisted that lawmakers must
weigh other types of considerations.
"Let's talk about the costs to those young women - so brutally murdered by
Michael Ross," Cappiello said.
State Rep. David Labriola, R-Naugatuck, insisted that repeal of the death
penalty would be "a collective slap in the face" to the families of Ross
"It's not accurate to state that because it's difficult to enforce - we
should throw (the death penalty) out," said state Sen. John A. Kissel,
Kissel said he couldn't possibly support a repeal measure that would end
Ross' death sentence.
"We're going to commute his sentence?" asked Kissel. "I don't want to be a
party to that."
(source: New Haven Register)
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