[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MO., ALA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 15 12:47:59 CST 2005
TEXAS----death sentence overturned
Death sentence in 1987 killings is overturned
In Fort Worth, a federal appeals court panel upholds a Kennedale man's
conviction but finds fault in how the punishment was decided.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction but overturned
the death sentence of James Eugene Bigby, a paranoid schizophrenic who
drowned a 4-month-old in a sink and fatally shot the child's father.
Bigby was convicted and sentenced to death in March 1991, hours after
Bigby grabbed a loaded gun from a drawer in state District Judge Don
Leonard's bench, charged into Leonard's chambers and pointed the gun at
Leonard and a prosecutor wrestled the gun away from Bigby, and Leonard
continued to preside over the case.
The New Orleans court ruled last week that instructions to the jury lacked
"brevity and clarity" and that jurors were "shackled and confined" when
considering whether Bigby's mental illness was a mitigating factor in
assessing the death penalty.
"We find that Bigby has demonstrated that the contested jury instructions
stripped the jury of a vehicle for expressing its reasoned moral response
to the appropriateness of the death penalty," the judges wrote.
Jerry Strickland, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said
the court's ruling was being evaluated. State and Tarrant County
prosecutors are consulting on whether to appeal, he said.
Chuck Mallin, Tarrant County assistant district attorney and head of the
appellate division, said his office is preparing to revisit the case.
Although the court tossed out only Bigby's punishment, attempting to send
him back to death row will basically reopen the case, Mallin said.
Danny Burns, Bigby's attorney, said he thought the court's decision gave
him enough ammunition to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out Bigby's
"I think it's great. They have pretty much assured that Mr. Bigby will get
another chance, that he should not die, and that is a substantial step,"
Bigby, a Kennedale auto mechanic, was convicted of fatally shooting Mike
Trekell and drowning Trekell's 4-month-old son, Jayson, in a sink on Dec.
24, 1987. Bigby confessed to the slayings but pleaded not guilty by reason
of insanity in the case.
In 2003, a 3-judge panel of the appeals court tossed out Bigby's death
sentence, saying that the jury wasn't properly instructed to consider
Bigby's paranoid schizophrenia -- which the panel said was an involuntary,
permanent and severe mental condition that contributed to his criminal
When the attorney general appealed, the case was heard again by a 3-judge
panel. This panel ruled last week that it was "highly improbable" that the
jury would have reached another verdict in the guilt/innocence part of the
trial. But the court again said that paranoid schizophrenia is a severe
mental illness, and that Bigby has proved he had the illness at the time
of the crimes.
Burns argued that Leonard should have turned the case over to another
judge after Bigby attacked him. The appeals court declined to overturn the
conviction because of that but wrote that Leonard erred in allowing
testimony about the escape attempt to be heard.
Burns said he may use some of the court's comments about the failed escape
in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
"It gives us more fodder for a Supreme Court petition," he said.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Appeals continue in death penalty case
As the state continued preparations Tuesday for its 1st execution in 17
months, condemned killer Stanley Hall said he was at peace during what
could be the waning hours of his life.
Hall, 37, was scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the
Potosi Correctional Center for the 1994 murder of Barbara Jo Wood of St.
Louis County. The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was
considering an appeal, and Gov. Matt Blunt was weighing clemency requests.
"Spirits are high," Hall said in a telephone interview. "I still have hope
and faith that things come out for the better. Still at the same time, I'm
prepared for the worst."
Wood's brother, Mark Velcheck of Florissant, said Hall should be shown no
"The thing that bothers me is people are portraying him as a victim. He's
not a victim. He's a murderer. His time has come," Velcheck said.
The execution would be the 62nd since the state renewed the death penalty
in 1989, but the 1st since John Clayton Smith was put to death Oct. 29,
Hall's attorney, Nelson Mitten, sought to halt the execution based on
testing he recently discovered showing that Hall's IQ at age 7 as measured
at 57. An average IQ is 100.
Subsequent IQ scores for Hall were generally in the 70-75 range. Attorney
General Jay Nixon said that put him in the borderline mentally retarded
The U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of the mentally retarded in 2002,
and Missouri issued a similar ban a year earlier. But there is no ban
against executing the borderline mentally retarded.
Hall grew up in St. Louis, 1 of 4 boys of a single mother, and was often
in trouble. He was convicted of wounding a 4-year-old girl while chasing
and shooting at a a fellow drug dealer in 1987.
He was on parole for that crime when, on Jan. 15, 1994, Hall and a friend
borrowed a car and drove to South County Mall in search of a car to steal
and use in a drive-by shooting.
Wood arrived at the mall for her part-time job at the Famous-Barr
department store. The men pulled a gun, forced Hall into the passenger
seat of her 1991 Geo and drove her to the McKinley Bridge over the
There, Wood was forced out of the car and shot. With Wood struggling and
pleading for her life, Hall lifted her over the bridge railing, and she
dropped 90 feet into the icy water. Witnesses notified police, who
captured Hall moments later.
Hall confessed. Wood's body was found 7 1/2 months later about 70 miles
In an interview, Hall said his life changed in prison. He began mentoring
younger inmates and participated in a program in which troubled youths
visited with prisoners. He said he received many letters from the
youngsters and their parents, thanking him for helping to turn around
"I saw myself in a lot of them," Hall said. "To be able to help those at
that age, to give them the help I didn't receive, that really inspired
Missouri was among the leaders in executions for many years; its 59 from
1989 through 2002 were 3rd only to Texas' 220 and Virginia's 80 during the
In a January interview with The Associated Press, state Supreme Court
Chief Justice Ronnie White said the recent decline is partly due to the
fact that prosecutors are more reluctant to seek the death penalty, partly
due to "a more deliberative approach" by the court since five Democratic
appointees have been appointed.
In the past 2 years, the court has overturned about half the death
sentences it has considered, and the death row population has declined to
54 from 67.
(source: Associated Press)
Dad, 17, charged in baby's slaying---Recent ruling means teen won't face
Huntsville police charged a 17-year-old father with capital murder Monday
in the death of his infant daughter.
Julie Joyce Parrish would have turned 1 month old today, said Sgt. Ed Cain
of the police department's Major Crimes Unit. She was pronounced dead
Monday morning at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children.
Matthew Wade Parrish, 17, was charged with capital murder, according to
Cain said officers were called to the hospital on a report of a suspicious
death. The baby was brought to the hospital by HEMSI paramedics, who
responded to a call around 7:30 a.m. at 4008 Nelson Drive N.W.
Cain said investigators spent most of the day interviewing family members
and the teen before charges were filed.
An autopsy will determine the exact cause of death.
Murdering a child under 14 is a capital crime in Alabama. If convicted,
the punishment is life in prison without parole or execution by lethal
However, Parrish won't face the death penalty because a recent Supreme
Court ruling outlawed it for killers who committed their crimes before
they turned 18.
The 5-4 decision overturned a 1989 high court ruling. In their recent
ruling, justices wrote there was a national consensus that such executions
were unconstitutionally cruel. The ruling ended a practice that had
brought international condemnation.
Parrish will be held in the Madison County Detention Facility without
bond, pending a trial.
(source: The Huntsville Times)
Time out on the death penalty
Ever since 1608, when Capt. George Kendall of the Jamestown colony of
Virginia became the 1st person in U.S. history to be executed, Americans
have debated the wisdom, fairness and morality of capital punishment.
When citizens felt threatened by war or social unrest, the death penalty
became more acceptable, a way to restore social order, an antidote to
fear. Reeling from Depression at home and uncertainty abroad, the nation
executed more people in the 1930s than in any other decade before or
At other times, national sentiment clearly swung toward strictly limiting
its use. That sentiment is building again, giving us a chance to consider
a middle ground -- a moratorium to assess whether the death penalty is
fair, warranted and just.
Action can and should come in states where the death penalty remains on
the books. Some of those 36 are working toward abolishing it altogether:
The New Mexico House voted to do just that last month, while a legislative
committee in Connecticut is also pondering such a move.
It's questionable how far abolition will go, as a majority of Americans --
a shrinking majority -- favor capital punishment.
That's why the most promising development is the accelerating call for a
moratorium, which even public officials, faith leaders and advocacy groups
who do not favor abolition can and do support. You know this idea has
traction when lawmakers in a Southern "red" state such as North Carolina
are expected to approve a moratorium this year.
No doubt the cause was aided by the story of a man freed last year after
four years on North Carolina's death row. The North Carolina Coalition for
a Moratorium contends that one innocent person has been removed from death
row for every 6 people executed in the state.
Concern that the innocent might be executed by the state is fueling the
"If capital punishment is the final, ultimate determination, we need a
high degree of confidence that we are getting it right. And there's lots
of evidence that we're not," says Davison Douglas, a constitutional law
scholar at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
That is why an organization such as the American Bar Association, which
does not support abolition, is pushing hard for a suspension of
"As lawyers, we have a responsibility to protect the accuracy and fairness
of the system," says Deborah T. Fleischaker, director of the bar
association's Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project.
Even some religious leaders who believe that the death penalty is condoned
in sacred texts are joining the chorus of concern about the way it is
implemented. Several years ago, one such group, the Union of Orthodox
Jewish Congregations, called for a moratorium until a "comprehensive
review" is undertaken.
There was a time on these shores when one could be put to death for
stealing fruit or killing a chicken. There is nothing immutable about the
death penalty. It can and should be revisited.
(source: Opinion, Jane Eisner, Philadelphia News)
The right to consul
For a brief period, it looked like the Bush administration had turned over
a new leaf in its general hostility to international institutions.
Acting under a protocol - that the United States itself had proposed - to
a long-standing treaty on consular relations, the International Court of
Justice ordered U.S. state courts to rehear the cases of 51 Mexican
nationals on American death rows. The grounds for the order was that the
inmates had not been granted the prompt access to diplomats from their own
country that the treaty calls for.
In a surprising move, given what the administration normally thinks of
international courts, the Bush administration ordered the states to
comply. (Some states dispute that the administration has this power, but
that's a separate issue.)
Then the White House dropped the other shoe. It abruptly announced that
the United States was withdrawing from the protocol.
The legal implications of this may become clearer later this month when
the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a petition for a new trial by
Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national sentenced to death by a Texas
court for the rape and murder of 2 teenagers.
Mexico argues that its diplomats could have assured Medellin of competent
representation if they had known he was in jail. As it is, they didn't
find out about him until he had been on death row for three years. And
there is apparent merit to their arguments. Medellin was represented by an
attorney suspended from law practice who failed to call any witnesses.
The United States remains a signatory to the Vienna Convention of Consular
Relations that guarantees foreigners placed under arrest prompt access to
their nation's consulates. However, the protocol that the U.S. renounced -
giving the world court jurisdiction to hear these cases - is an incentive
for countries to abide by that treaty.
The United States successfully sued Iran in 1979 over the taking of
hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The world court's ruling might
have influenced Iran not to treat the hostages any worse than they had
In turning its back on this treaty, the administration may well have
weakened a basic protection for traveling Americans.
(source: Editorial, Naples Daily News)
Scalia slams juvenile death penalty ruling
Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the Supreme Court's recent decision to
strike down the juvenile death penalty, calling it the latest example of
politics on the court that has made judicial nominations an increasingly
In a 35-minute speech Monday, Scalia said unelected judges have no place
deciding issues such as abortion and the death penalty. The court's 5-4
ruling March 1 to outlaw the juvenile death penalty based on "evolving
notions of decency" was simply a mask for the personal policy preferences
of the 5-member majority, he said.
"If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you
flexibility, think again," Scalia told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson
Center, a Washington think tank. "You think the death penalty is a good
idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to
abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility."
"Why in the world would you have it interpreted by 9 lawyers?" he said.
Scalia, who has been mentioned as a possible chief justice nominee should
Chief Justice William Rehnquist retire, outlined his judicial philosophy
of interpreting the Constitution according to its text, as understood at
the time it was adopted.
Citing the example of abortion, he said unelected justices too often
choose to read new rights into the Constitution, at the expense of the
"Abortion is off the democratic stage. Prohibiting it is unconstitutional,
now and forever, coast to coast, until I guess we amend the Constitution,"
said Scalia, who was appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1986.
He blamed Chief Justice Earl Warren, who presided from 1953-69 over a
court that assaulted racial segregation and expanded individual rights
against arbitrary government searches, for the increased political role of
the Supreme Court, citing Warren's political background. Warren was
governor of California and the Republican vice presidential nominee in
"You have a chief justice who was a governor, a policy-maker, who
approached the law with that frame of mind. Once you have a leader with
that mentality, it's hard not to follow," Scalia said, in response to a
question from the audience.
Scalia said increased politics on the court will create a bitter
nomination fight for the next Supreme Court appointee, since judges are
now more concerned with promoting their personal policy preferences rather
than interpreting the law.
"If we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and
experience a 'new' Constitution, we should not look principally for good
lawyers. We should look to people who agree with us," he said, explaining
that's why senators increasingly probe nominees for their personal views
on positions such as abortion.
"When we are in that mode, you realize we have rendered the Constitution
useless," Scalia said.
Scalia, who has had a prickly relationship with the media, wasted no time
in shooing away photographers from the public event 5 minutes into his
"Could we stop the cameras? I thought I announced ... a couple are fine at
first, but click click click click," Scalia said, impatiently waving the
During a speech last year in Hattiesburg, Miss., a deputy federal marshal
demanded that an Associated Press reporter and another journalist erase
recordings of the justice's remarks.
The justice later apologized. The government conceded that the U.S.
Marshals Service violated federal law in the confrontation and said the
reporters and their employers were each entitled to $1,000 in damages and
On the Net: Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
(source: Associated Press)
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