[Deathpenalty]death penalty news---CALIF., TENN., IND., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 13 21:14:36 CST 2005
Death penalty and hesitation to use it both cost California
When prison guards strapped 3-time killer Donald Beardslee to a gurney and
administered a lethal injection just after midnight on Jan. 19, it was the
1st California execution in more than 3 years.
Beardslee, who in 1981 murdered two young San Francisco area women after
he was paroled from a Missouri prison on another murder conviction, waited
21 years for his day of reckoning. He was 61 and had been on death row
longer than the entire life span of one of his victims.
In the quarter century since Californians voted overwhelmingly to restore
the death penalty, county prosecutors and juries have put more condemned
murderers on death row in this state than in any other except Texas.
Despite the public's willingness to hand out death sentences, California
is one of the more hesitant among the 38 capital punishment states to use
the penalty, causing some to question if the enormous cost of capital
punishment is worth the relatively few executions it produces.
California has 640 inmates on death row, about 20 % of the nation's total.
But the state has accounted for only 1 percent of the nation's executions
-- or 11 deaths -- since 1978, when the death penalty was restored.
"What we are paying for at such great cost," said Frank Zimring, a
University of California, Berkeley law professor, "is essentially our own
ambivalence about capital punishment. We try to maintain the apparatus of
state killing and another apparatus that almost guarantees that it won't
happen. The public pays for both sides."
According to state and federal records obtained by the Los Angeles Times,
maintaining the California death penalty system costs taxpayers more than
$114 million a year beyond the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked
up for life and not counting the millions more in court costs needed to
prosecute capital cases and hold post-conviction hearings in state and
With 11 executions spread over 27 years, on a per-execution basis,
California and federal taxpayers have paid more than a quarter of a
billion dollars for each life taken at state hands.
Capital punishment advocates argue that the death penalty saves money by
eliminating state costs of housing the executed inmates. The rare
California executions do produce some savings for the state. For example,
had Beardsley lived to age 77, the average life expectancy for California
males, it would have cost the state an additional $2 million to house him.
But these kinds of savings make only a small dent in the overall sums
needed to maintain the system.
Former California Attorney General Dan Lungren, now a Republican member of
Congress from Sacramento, accuses capital punishment opponents of
conducting a "war of attrition" against the death penalty, jacking up the
cost and greatly prolonging appeals with the intent of making the process
too expensive to keep up.
"I don't think society ought to be forced to give up the death penalty
just because of actions by those who have been ratcheting up the costs,"
said Lungren, who helped write a 1996 federal law attempting to speed up
capital case appeals. "It is very difficult to calculate the human costs
or even the economic costs of those who are not killed because of the
deterrence of capital punishment."
Other states execute much more rapidly than California. 11 other states --
led by Texas (337 executions), Virginia (94) and Oklahoma (75) -- account
for 90 % of all executions in the last 27 years. This is partly because
California, similar to other non-Southern capital punishment states,
dedicates much more time and money to state and federal appeals.
[my note--Texas has carried out 340 executions, including 4 this year]
Another important factor is that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,
serving California and composed largely of Democratic appointees, is more
likely to hear death penalty petitions than the more conservative appeals
courts serving Texas (5th Circuit) and Virginia (4th Circuit).
"We don't turn them [executions] out the way a lot of Southern states do,"
California Chief Justice Ronald George said. "The virtue of our system is
also its vice. We go to such lengths to minimize the possibility of error,
and we've built in a lot of delay. The part I find most dysfunctional is
that we have a delay of 3 to 4 years between the time of the death penalty
judgment is imposed by the trial court and the time the defendant is
George said that 115 death row inmates still have not been appointed
lawyers for the 1st direct appeal to the state Supreme Court that is
mandated by state law. And 149 lack lawyers for state habeas corpus and
executive clemency petitions.
Because of the long appeals process, the delay between sentencing and
execution in California averages nearly 20 years. As a result, there is a
general graying of the population on death row. According to Department of
Corrections statistics, 180 death row inmates are older than 50; 42 are
older than 60.
Prison records show that California death row inmates are far more likely
to die of natural causes than they are at the hands of the executioner.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Will Scott Peterson Be Awarded A New Trial?
Just 72 hours before he could be formally sentenced to death, convicted
killer Scott Peterson will learn Monday whether a San Mateo County judge
has been moved enough by a laundry list of legal arguments to toss out his
conviction and award him a new trial.
Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi delayed Peterson's formal sentencing
for the murders of Laci Peterson and the couple's unborn child until March
16 to allow time to consider several appeals defense attorney Mark Geragos
filed with the court.
Among the issues Geragos allegedly cited in those sealed documents were
allegations of jury misconduct and also violations of discovery rules by
KTVU Fox 2 has learned that one of the discovery violations was based upon
an apparent phone conversation taped between an inmate in Modesto and his
"The tape has a brother outside of jail telling the brother in jail that
he had heard that people had burglarized Laci and Scott's house," said
attorney Michael Cardoza, who has assisted with Peterson's defense. "(It
goes on) that Laci had surprised them and that there were words between
the burglars and Laci and then it went from there."
Another appeal, reportedly, focuses on the alleged 'intimidating behavior'
of juror No. 8 -- John Guinasso. Guinasso told KTVU that a letter he wrote
to Delucchi was the reason juror No. 5 Justin Faulkner was tossed off the
jury early in the trial.
"(The letter to the judge said) you know this process could be tainted by
the comments that are coming out of the juror Number Five's mouth and I'd
rather not continue as a juror if it's not going to be legitimate," he
said he wrote the judge.
Guinasso said that jury foreman Gregory Jackson couldn't get the process
going and that led to a loud argument. Jackson then asked to be dismissed
because he felt intimidated. That request was granted.
"I raised my voice and at that point he said 'I'm writing a letter to the
judge, I want off the trial,'" Guinasso said. "He (Jackson) told the whole
meeting that he's never been in a meeting like that and there's too much
hostility in the room."
In December, Guinasso and his fellow jurors found Peterson guilty of the
Christmas Eve 2002 murders of his wife Laci and the couple's unborn son
and later recommended the death sentence.
Now, Delucchi can either reject or grant the appeals. Veteran legal
analyst Nancy Grace said there was little chance an appeal would be
"Look, Delucchi's no idiot," said Grace at a victim's vigil she attended
with Laci Peterson's mother Sharon Rocha on Saturday. "He is a trial
veteran, he has presided over death penalty cases before, and if there was
cause to start a new trial, I believe Delucchi would have already done
If Delucchi does not grant a new trial; he then has one of two choices
when Peterson is formally sentenced on Wednesday. He can go along with the
jury's recommendation or he could sentence Peterson to life in prison
While Sharon Rocha did not tip her hand as to what she will tell the court
on Wednesday, she did admit she will be happy when the legal drama is
"Yeah, just to get it over with," Rocha said when asked about the trial's
final day. "Absolutely."
If Delucchi does affirms the verdict, the 32-year-old former fertilizer
salesman will be sent to the state's death row at the notorious San
Quentin State Prison, which overlooks the bay where prosecutors say
Peterson dumped his wife's body.
He will have his own cell, he will be allowed outside in the prison yard
for five hours a day and he will be offered 3 showers a week. Meals will
be given at the same hours 3 times a day.
It will be Peterson's routine for decades to come as his case is appealed.
Peterson will sit on death row for more than 5 years before he is
appointed an attorney for his 1st and mandatory appeal to the California
A big reason for the delays is that there are too many inmates with too
few lawyers willing to volunteer for the relatively low-paying job. A
condemned Peterson would join about 120 others who do not yet have
And even when an attorney is appointed, there are no deadlines for
California's high court to act.
Of the 38 states with the death penalty, California moves the slowest
toward executions. The most active death penalty state, Texas, has
executed 23 inmates this year and 336 since 1982, when executions resumed
California only recently executed its 1st inmate -- Donald Beardslee --
since 2002 and the 11th since the state resumed executions in 1992.
Ironically, Beardslee was sentenced to die in the same courthouse as
Once Peterson's state appeals are exhausted, his case would move to the
federal courts, beginning with the district court and then on to the San
Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has overturned
more California death sentences than it has allowed.
(source: KTVU News)
TENNESSEE----new death sentence
Harold Hester Gets Death Penalty
A McMinn County Jury has decided the fate of Harold Hester.
They have condemned him to die by Lethal Injection.
The jury convicted Hester of burning Charles Haney to death and nearly
doing the same thing to his ex-wife, Dora Hester, leaving her permanently
Dora Hester's daughter reacts to the death sentence that is now imposed on
Her sister Kathy also has words now that the death verdict is also handed
"It really means nothing to me because him doing this will effect my
children, their children, it's just unfair that my children have to face
this every day," said Dora Hester's daughter, Kathy Lynn Hester. "And that
my mother has to face this every day, and the Haney's have to face it."
Kathy Lynn says Harold Hester's action scars the entire family including
her mother, Dora.
Actions that began in December of 1999 when Hester went to his ex-wife's
house and asked her for money.
When Dora Hester refused to give him any money, prosecutors say Hester
tied her and Charles Haney up with duct tape, doused them with kerosene,
and set them both on fire.
The 76-year-old Haney died.
Dora Hester lost both legs in the attack, but survived.
Today, the jury that had already found him guilty of murder took on the
task of deciding the fate of Hester.
Life in prison, life without parole, or the death penalty..
After 6 hours of deliberations, a tearful and torn jury returned to the
Their decision, Harold Hester should die by lethal injection
But for Kathy justice would have been better served by a life sentence.
"I wish he would've gotten life in prison, not the death penalty," she
said. "With the death penalty he will be in isolation and with life he
would have been in the general population where he would have been around
other prisoners and served his time."
Hester will be taken to the Tennessee State Corrections Facility in
He will return to McMinn County, August 29th to be sentenced for the 1st
degree attempted murder charges of Droa Hester.
(source: WTVC News)
Ex-Death Row inmate resentenced to 60 years
A Gary man originally sentenced to death for the 1986 slayings of his
former foster parents has been resentenced to 60 years in prison.
Gregory Rouster, 37, was sentenced Friday by a Lake County judge in the
Aug. 12, 1986, shooting deaths of John Rease, 74, and Henrietta Rease, 59,
in their Gary home.
Rouster, now known as Gamba Rastafari, had waged several unsuccessful
appeals to get his death sentence overturned before a U.S. Supreme Court
decision in 2002 deemed it cruel and unusual punishment to execute
mentally retarded individuals.
In 2003, a Lake County judge ruled that Rouster was retarded and therefore
ineligible for the death penalty under the high court's ruling the year
Rouster and his co-defendant, Darnell Williams, were convicted in 1987 of
the Reases' slayings.
Last July, then-Gov. Joe Kernan commuted Williams' death sentence to life
in prison without parole one week before his scheduled execution for the
In his decision to commute Williams' death sentence, Kernan cited the 2003
ruling that Rouster was ineligible for the death penalty.
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Wallace's execution doesn't compare to 1994 death penalty circus in
Donald Ray Wallace Jr., one of Indiana's most heinous criminals, is
finally dead. The wall-to-wall news coverage and widespread community
interest in the case was impressive, but it cannot be compared to the
suburban Chicago circus that surrounded the execution of Illinois' most
notorious mass murderer, John Wayne Gacy.
On May 10, 1994, the night of the execution, workers poured out of the
suburban Chicago factories and into bars where Gacy "execution parties"
had been organized. Tavern televisions were locked in on the nonstop
pre-execution coverage by Chicago-area TV stations.
Probably the most bizarre activity in the hours before Gacy's execution
happened just outside the walls of the State-ville Prison in Joliet.
In what could only be described as a giant tailgate party, hundreds of
anti-Gacy protesters lined up to be as close as they could to the death
chamber, where the killer of 33 young men and boys would be put to death.
It was their way of expressing joy that a killer who had terrorized their
beloved Chicago was not just off the streets, but on his way out of this
Many mocked Gacy by dressing in clown costumes to imitate the days when
the killer worked kids' birthday parties in the Chicago area. Others
carried "Death to Gacy" posters, while some drank openly in the streets,
counting down the minutes to Gacy's departure.
Illinois Department of Corrections officials loaded reporters onto buses
and drove them out of the prison compound to the anti-Gacy tailgate party
so they could snap pictures and conduct interviews.
One bus swung over to the other side of the prison where a much smaller,
and more reverent anti-death penalty rally was under way. Nuns, priests
and other opponents of the death penalty held a candlelight vigil, and
prayed for Gacy's soul as noise from the anti-Gacy death party spilled
into the night.
I didn't get to hang out with the anti-Gacy party crowd, or the anti-death
penalty group. I was one of 12 media representatives chosen to witness
this mass killer's execution.
Inside the death chamber with John Wayne Gacy, there was nothing but
silence. Loud "whoops" from the anti-Gacy party were blocked by the thick
metal death chamber door.
It all came down to those last few moments in a darkened death chamber. A
few witnesses, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, a
medical technician, a few armed guards and Gacy. That was it. No
demonstrators - pro or con - just Gacy and his last few breaths.
By the time I left the death chamber to face a sea of reporters, most of
the demonstrators had gone home. The biblical law "an eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth" had been fulfilled. The party was over.
(source: Courier & Press)
Death is not ours to give
The Supreme Court recently ruled that states cannot execute those who were
minors when they committed their crimes.
First they ruled that you can't fry the legally insane; then they held
that the mentally retarded can't be slipped the Grim Reaper mickey; now
comes the prohibition against hanging murderous children.
We keep on making exceptions like this, and pretty soon we're not going to
have anybody left for the state to kill.
I mentioned this sorry state of affairs to my oldest son the other day.
"Don't worry about it, Dad," Josh said. "We still have plenty of Iraqi
insurgents to kill."
That's my boy for you. Always sees the glass as half full.
Honest to God, I'd like to be in favor of the death penalty. Sometimes, I
can almost get there. I read about the most heinous kind of crime - say,
the murder of a child - and think I could take a crack at the job of
But I keep holding back from a full-throated "string 'em up" because I
just can't imagine God giving his OK to the deal. Which sounds pretty
strange, because God tends to come across as a pretty bloodthirsty "Dirty
Harry" sort of deity. And I'm not one of these guys who wants to bifurcate
God into some Old Testament "bad cop" and New Testament "good cop."
The New Testament vision of the apocalypse outlined in the book of
Revelation is a steel-cage death match for all the marbles, and not for
And the Old Testament, for all its "all God's wrath, all the time"
reputation, shows a surprising number of incidents that showcase God's
mercy at the expense of simple justice.
Cain slew his brother Abel, which was not only a case of fratricide but,
given the fact that there were only 4 people on the planet, also makes it
a gigantic case of mass murder. And what did God do? Sent him into exile,
sure, but with a mark upon him to protect him from those who would do to
him what he did to his brother.
Let's forget for a minute that the death penalty is generally parceled out
to those who can't afford the kind of lawyering that buys a little mercy.
Let's ignore the fact that mistakes are made.
I'm willing to assume we got a guy dead to rights. A stone-cold killer: a
sane, adult, nonretarded killer. Shot a store clerk for a candy bar and a
pack of smokes somewhere in Texas, where they don't piddle around with
this kind of thing.
Now imagine that Jesus shows up. Not a real stretch. Jesus is real big in
Texas. Can't get enough of him down there. He's almost bigger than high
school football on a Friday night.
But no matter how hard I think about it, no matter how bad the criminal, I
just can't picture Jesus with his hand on the switch to Old Sparky.
All I'm left with is hope in the power of redemption.
(source: Column, Michael Riley, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press)
Supreme Court: Death Penalty for States' Rights
The Supreme Court has murdered the Constitution.
It was a subtle murder with no blood visible. We know they did it because
they left a coded confession, in the form of what appears to be a legal
decision. Like many crime scenes, this one is deceptive, at first.
It looks like the Court simply decided the case of Roper v. Simmons, the
juvenile death penalty case from Missouri. But a little C.S.I.
investigation reveals the truth.
There are 2 deaths in this matter. The first was a woman who was kidnapped
from her home by Christopher Simmons. He told his friends in advance what
he was going to do. He "bound her with duct tape and electrical wire, and
threw her off a bridge alive and conscious." He also told his friends that
they couldn't get the death penalty because they were juveniles.
Street-savvy Christopher was "7 months shy of his 18th birthday when he
murdered Shirley Crook."
When this case arrived in the Supreme Court, nineteen states including
Missouri, had laws permitting the death penalty for defendants younger
than 18 years old. Defendants, though their appointed counsel, could argue
youth, inability, bad circumstances. But the ultimate decision rested with
the jury. On the facts of this case, there is little doubt why the jury
decided that Mr. Simmons was an appropriate candidate for death.
But the Supreme Court spared Mr. Simmons. It also spared at the same time
Lee Malvo (the 17-year-old "Beltway sniper" who terrorized the Washington
area a few years ago). The Supreme Court decided that the Eighth
Amendments prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" included the
death penalty for juveniles. Of course, that Amendment meant no such thing
when it was written.
And, but there's this little, tiny, problem with this decision. Just 15
years ago, the Court decided that the juvenile death penalty WAS
constitutional. Furthermore, the Court did not even reverse its prior
decision in patting Mr. Simmons on his tousled head today and sending him
on his way. Now this sounds like the classic mystery - the subject is
dead, but all the doors and windows are locked.
So how did 5 Justices of the Court accomplish this feat?
Well, in the last 15 years the meaning of the Constitution changed, dont
you see? And how was that magically accomplished?
First of all, there was nearly unanimous agreement of worlds other nations
that juveniles should not be subject to the death penalty. (No mention was
made of the fact that in many of these nations young children are turned
into soldiers, or worked to death, or raped and discarded like trash.) The
Court referred to a U.N. Treaty, which the US not only did not ratify, the
US Senate passed a resolution stating why it would not ratify the treaty.
But mostly, the Court claimed that a new "consensus" was reached among the
Where did it find this consensus? 4 states decided to eliminate the death
penalty for juveniles. Add those states to those which have no death
penalty whatsoever (which of course has nothing to do with the tender
youth of juveniles), and voila!, it is a consensus that only the keen eyes
of certain Justices can perceive.
There IS a consensus process in the Constitution. In Article V it says in
English so plain that even a senile Justice should be able to read it,
that 2/3 of each House of Congress, followed by 3/4 of the state
legislatures, are what it takes to amend the Constitution. Nowhere in that
document is there the slightest suggestion that a bare majority of the
Justices can substitute for the House, the Senate, and the state
In short, the Court just killed the Constitution. No longer does the
Constitution remain firm, and binding on everyone including the Court,
until the people choose to amend it. Nope, it's in the hands of the Court
now, and it means no more or less than what any 5 Justices can agree to.
So, we have a corpse. Lying on the floor with a silk scarf around its neck
is the 216-year-old Constitution of the United States. We know that nine
Justices of the Supreme Court were in the room when the victim died. They
had motive, they had opportunity. And 5 of them stated in their
"confession" that the Constitution had it coming.
I'd say the answer is pretty clear. Book 'em, Dano.
(source: About the Writer: John Armor is a First Amendment lawyer and
writer who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina; The Canyon
A focused attack on the death penalty----Lack of balance makes for a
The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.
Sister Helen Prejean. Random House. $24.95. 336 pp.
In the 1990s, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun, put a badly needed
human face on the death penalty debate in the United States with her
deeply personal book and subsequent searing movie, Dead Man Walking.
She remains passionate about capital punishment but her new book, The
Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, is
unlikely to spark the same type of dialogue its predecessor did.
Unlike Dead Man Walking, where the title character, Patrick Sonnier, was
clearly guilty, this book focuses on 2 men, Dobie Gillis Williams of
Louisiana and Joseph O'Dell of Virginia, whom Sister Prejean believes were
The Death of Innocents is most compelling when Sister Prejean writes about
the intimate details of capital punishment: daily life with the specter of
imminent death, the last-minute legal maneuverings to change the outcome,
the laborious process leading to the execution itself.
For most Americans, death row and the death chamber are distant places
they can't quite picture and have little interest in visiting. But Sister
Prejean brings both unnervingly close when she writes about the prison
visiting room decorated with biblical murals, or the warden who exhorts
the condemned to "drink plenty of fluids. It'll help you."
The suggestion is made, Sister Prejean notes, because fluids in the body
will make insertion of the lethal injection needle easier and keep the
veins from collapsing.
Sister Prejean makes no pretense of presenting both sides of the death
penalty issue. Her mission is to "awaken people's souls about the need to
abolish the death penalty ... I will do this work until every gurney and
electric chair and gas chamber sits behind velvet ropes in museums," she
But The Death of Innocents would be a better book if she didn't give short
shrift to the opposing view. Though she painstakingly details why she
believes in the innocence of these 2 men, she says little about those who
prosecuted them and found the 2 men guilty.
The 2nd half of the book, which focuses on the legal machinery of capital
punishment, can be slow going even for those familiar with death-penalty
issues, because it suffers from the same lack of balance. Sister Prejean
broadly paints prosecutors, Southern politicians such as President Bush,
and judges, particularly Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as
overzealous and simplistic in their beliefs.
She likens Bush to a hammer. Presented with a nail, it knows to do only
one thing. Bush, Sister Prejean notes, "was certain that in Texas no
innocent person had ever been sent to death row, much less executed. That
remains to be seen."
In fact, after the book went to press, Texas death row inmate Ernest
Willis was released after prosecutors and judges agreed he did not receive
a fair trial and probably did not commit the crime he had been convicted
of 17 years earlier.
The book also would have been strengthened by more than passing references
to the feelings of victims' families. Sister Prejean quotes victims'
relatives who agree with her viewpoint, but does not give equal time to
those who don't.
That failing is most apparent in the epilogue, where she mentions James
Allridge, a Texas death row inmate who was executed in August 2004.
At the request of her friend, actress Susan Sarandon, who portrayed Sister
Helen in an Oscar-winning performance, Sister Prejean journeyed to Texas
to serve as Allridge's spiritual adviser. Sarandon had corresponded with
Allridge and owned some of the artwork he created during his 17 years on
Allridge, by many accounts, transformed his life while on death row,
becoming an accomplished artist and a model inmate. Sister Prejean writes
movingly of his journey to the death chamber, saying, "I hope I go to my
death with a tiny fraction of the poise and grace James Allridge possessed
as he stepped into eternity."
Indeed, Allridge did exhibit an admirable measure of dignity, apologizing
to his victim's relatives and thanking his own family for their support.
But Sister Prejean never mentions why Allridge was on death row in the 1st
place nor how his victim's relatives felt after Allridge's execution.
Allridge killed Fort Worth convenience store clerk Brian Clendennen, a
former co-worker, by shooting him in the back of the head as he knelt on
Clendennen was also an artist, who "died with his hands tied behind his
back in a stockroom of a convenience store," Clendennen's sister said
after the execution. Allridge "got what he deserved."
To truly spark honest debate on the death penalty, something sorely needed
in Texas, this book would have been stronger if details like that had also
(source: Dallas Morning News)
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