[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., CALIF., OKLA., IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 15 12:55:44 CST 2005
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
15 March 2005 UA 64/05 Death penalty / Legal concern
USA (Pennsylvania): Kathy MacClellan (f), aged 70
Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have announced their intention to seek the
death penalty against Kathy MacClellan for a crime she is alleged to have
committed last month. Kathy MacClellan is 70 years old: international law
prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on anyone who was over 70 at
the time of the crime.
Kathy MacClellan has been charged with the murder of her 84- year-old
neighbor, Marguerite Eyer, who was found on 7 February in her home in the
town of Easton, in Northampton County, eastern Pennsylvania. She died
shortly afterwards in hospital. She had been bludgeoned about the head.
The prosecution has alleged that she was robbed.
No date has yet been set for Kathy MacClellan's trial. On 12 March, the
Northampton County District Attorney's Office filed notice of their
intention to seek the death penalty against her. It is considered likely
that questions surrounding her mental health will be an issue in the case.
The American Convention on Human Rights prohibits the use of the death
penalty against anyone who was over 70 years old at the time of the crime.
The USA has not ratified the Convention, but signed it in 1977. By
becoming a signatory, the USA obliged itself under international law not
to do anything to undermine the treaty pending its decision on whether to
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally. The death
penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. This
is an outdated punishment, abolished in law or practice in 118 countries.
A small number of countries, including the USA, account for the vast
majority of executions. In China, which accounts for the most executions
each year, there is no upper age limit for application of the death
penalty. For example, Wei Youde was sentenced to death in Hunan Province
in 2002 for a murder committed when he was 87 years old. On appeal in
2004, Wei Youde's sentence was commuted.
Since the United States resumed executions in 1977, 944 men and 10 women
have been put to death in its execution chambers. The US capital justice
system is marked by arbitrariness, discrimination and error, and US
authorities have frequently violated international standards in their
pursuit of judicial killing of prisoners including child offenders, the
mentally impaired, the inadequately represented, people whose guilt
remained in doubt, and foreign nationals denied their consular rights.
In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court outlawed the
execution of offenders with mental retardation. Earlier this month, in
Roper v. Simmons, the Court did the same thing in the case of offenders
who were under 18 at the time of the crime. That ruling brought the USA
finally into line with a global consensus prohibiting the death penalty
for the crimes of children.
Article 4.5 of the American Convention on Human Rights states: ''Capital
punishment shall not be imposed upon persons who, at the time the crime
was committed, were under 18 years of age or over 70 years of age at . The
USA signed the American Convention on Human Rights on 1 June 1977. By
becoming a signatory, the USA bound itself not to undermine the treaty's
provisions. Under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of
Treaties (1979), AA State is obliged to refrain from acts which would
defeat the object and purpose of a treaty when: (a) it has signed the
treaty...until it shall have made its intention clear not to become a
party to the treaty... at .
No one who was over 70 at the time of the crime has been executed in the
USA since 1977. In 1991, Ray Copeland was sentenced to death in Missouri
for a crime committed when he was 71 years old. He died two years later in
prison. Amnesty International is not aware of any other person being
sentenced to death in the USA since 1977 who was over 70 years old at the
time of the crime. In January 2002, a Texas county prosecutor announced
his intention to seek the death penalty against Melvin Hale, charged with
a murder committed two years earlier when he was 72 years old (see UA
08/02, AMR 51/001/2002,
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr510012002). In the event, a
plea arrangement was reached under which Melvin Hale was sentenced to life
imprisonment in return for a guilty plea.
The oldest person currently on death row in the USA is believed to be Viva
Leroy Nash who is 89 years old. He was sentenced to death in Arizona in
1983 for a crime committed in 1982 when he was aged 67. The oldest person
put to death in the USA since executions resumed in 1977 was James
Hubbard, who was 74 years old when he was put to death in Alabama on 5
August 2004. He was under 60 at the time of the crime. Two women over 60
at the time of execution have been put to death in the USA since 1977 -
Betty Lou Beets who was 62 when she was put to death in Texas in February
2000, and Lois Nadean Smith, 61 years old at the time of her execution in
Oklahoma in December 2001.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible
in your own words:
- expressing sympathy for the family and friends of Marguerite Eyer,
explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner of her death or
to minimize the suffering caused;
- explaining that you are not seeking to make any comment about the guilt
or innocence of Kathy MacClellan, but simply to express concern about
Northampton County's intention to seek the death penalty against her;
- pointing out that the pursuit of the death penalty against a defendant
who was over 70 years old at the time of the crime violates international
- calling on the prosecution to drop its pursuit of the death penalty in
Paula A. Roscioli
First Deputy District Attorney
Office of the District Attorney of Northampton County
669 Washington Street
Easton, PA 18042
Fax: 1 610 559 3035
Salutation: Dear First Deputy District Attorney
You may also send a brief personal letter of concern (not more than 250
Letters to the Editor, The Express-Times
30 N. 4th Street
P.O. Box 391
Easton, PA 18044-0391
Email, via website:
Fax: 1 610 258 7130
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and
defends human rights.
This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact
information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help
with this appeal.
Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Email: uan at aiusa.org
Phone: 303 258 1170
Fax: 303 258 7881
END OF URGENT ACTION APPEAL
Death penalty: Use it or lose it
A big topic in the news these days is the "death penalty." The Supreme
Court just made a significant change to it for teens convicted of murder.
But does the death sentence have any relevance in Pennsylvania? I don't
A man named Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for more 20 years. Some
states use this sentence regularly while states like Pennsylvania hardly
ever. Is it better to sentence a person to life in prison, or have him sit
on death row for what seems like forever? By the look of current crime
statistics, it is not a deterrent, so why do we keep hearing so much about
it? As Shakespeare said, it's "much ado about nothing."
Joseph Hamilton -- Philadelphia
(source: Letter to the Editor, Philadelphia Daily News)
Peterson defense argues prosecution withheld evidence
Scott Peterson should receive a new trial in his nationally watched murder
case because prosecutors withheld evidence that might have exonerated him
of the December 2002 killings of his wife, Laci, and their unborn child,
defense attorneys argued.
In documents unsealed today in Redwood City, the defense also claimed that
there wasn't enough evidence to support the verdicts, jurors had gone
beyond what they were allowed to consider during deliberations and the
judge had made several legal errors.
Prosecutors filed a response to the defense motion for a new trial,
calling all the claims unfounded or irrelevant. Both sides are likely to
make oral arguments Wednesday, when Peterson, 32, is scheduled to be
sentenced. The same jury that convicted him recommended in December that
he be put to death.
Judge Alfred Delucchi, who presided over the case, is expected to impose
that sentence if he doesn't grant Peterson a new trial.
In the motion they filed Feb. 25, defense attorneys Mark Geragos and Pat
Harris maintained that the prosecution had failed to disclose information
about a phone call made by a California prisoner to his brother that the
defense says implicated the inmate in a December 2002 burglary at the home
of a next-door neighbor of the Petersons in Modesto.
During the conversation from a state prison near Riverside, the inmate
told his brother that Laci Peterson had confronted him while he was
breaking into the home and that he had threatened her, the defense motion
Geragos and Harris said the prosecution had known about the call but
hadn't told the defense, as required by law. The defense found out only
after prosecutors passed along a letter 6 to 8 weeks before the end of
Peterson's six-month-plus trial, in which a tipster said he had
information about Laci Peterson's disappearance, the motion said. After
interviewing the person, the lawyers learned of the brothers' names and of
their telephone conversation, but by then the trial was over, the defense
"If the evidence were presented at a retrial, it is highly probable a
different result would have occurred," the defense attorneys wrote in
their motion. "One of the often-repeated phrases during the trial was that
there was no alternative theory as to what happened to Laci Peterson. ...
(The burglary tip) presents a plausible explanation as to who could have
murdered Laci Peterson."
Prosecutors Dave Harris, Rick Distaso and Birgit Fladager argued there is
no new evidence that the Peterson defense team can use. They say they
turned over information about the next-door burglary to the defense a year
before opening statements in the trial. The prosecution also argued that
the defense had only 3rd-hand information about the brothers'
conversation, which wouldn't be admissible in court.
"The only 'claimed' witness has refused to talk to the defense (probably
because he was exaggerating his knowledge to gain some importance for his
incarcerated brother)," according to the prosecution's papers.
The defense says that in addition to the newly discovered information,
Peterson deserves a new trial because the jury improperly conducted its
own experiment during deliberations.
The experiment involved the boat that prosecutors say Peterson used to
dump his wife's body in San Francisco Bay. Some jurors who examined the
14-foot aluminum boat tried to rock it and jumped up and down in it,
apparently to test the defense's position that Peterson would have
capsized it had he tried to stand up and drop a body overboard.
Defense attorneys say Delucchi should have let them display their own
videotaped experiment with the boat, which apparently showed it flipping
over in the water.
Geragos and Harris also argue that Delucchi erred when he removed two
jurors from the case and should have declared a mistrial "when it became
clear that deliberations were being influenced by matters outside the
evidence presented in court."
The defense lists various other errors they believe the judge made,
including instructing the jurors that they could vote for second-degree
murder when there was no evidence for it. 1st-degree murder, of which
Peterson was convicted in the death of his wife, requires premeditation;
2nd-degree, which the jury found in the killing of the couple's unborn
child, has no such requirement.
The defense also says Delucchi should have granted its request to move the
trial from Redwood City, for the same reason it was originally moved from
Stanislaus County - extensive pretrial publicity that allegedly tainted
the jury pool.
Prosecutors say Geragos and Harris are simply rehashing arguments they
made during the trial, which Delucchi rejected. They compared the defense
to the "boy who cried wolf" for repeatedly accusing the prosecution of
"Since this is simply the same motion that the defendant made at trial,"
prosecutors wrote, "the court may in its discretion, deny it outright
without additional consideration."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Slaughter Faces Execution For 1991 Slayings----Death Row Inmate Maintains
Claims Of Innocence
A Guthrie man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and their
11-month-old baby in 1991 is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6
p.m. Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Jimmy Ray Slaughter, 57, was convicted in 1994 of shooting, stabbing and
mutilating Melody Wuertz, 29, and fatally shooting their daughter,
Jessica, in Edmond.
Wuertz was shot once in the head and once in the spine. Her sexual organs
were slashed and there was a symbol carved on her stomach.
Her daughter was shot twice in the head.
Prosecutors believe Slaughter, angered over a paternity lawsuit, disabled
Melody Wuertz with the shot to the spine and forced her to lie paralyzed
and conscious as he murdered her daughter.
"Jimmy Ray Slaughter is a diabolically evil man who, in my view, seeks
mercy for something for which he will not seek forgiveness," said Oklahoma
County District Attorney Wes Lane, who helped prosecute Slaughter. "The
evidence against him was overwhelming, and the act was despicable, so,
sadly, he deserves what he's going to be receiving."
Slaughter's attorneys filed several appeals in the case, including one
that was denied Monday by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His
final appeal with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was denied
Norman attorney Robert Jackson said new DNA evidence conducted on a hair
found on one of the victims doesn't connect Slaughter with the crimes, a
theory that prosecutors argued during Slaughter's original trial.
Jackson also disputes an analysis of bullets found in the victims that he
says were linked to Slaughter through an outdated technology called
comparative bullet lead analysis.
Since his conviction, Slaughter has maintained his innocence.
Slaughter is expected to be moved Tuesday morning to a special cell
located next to the execution chamber, where he'll receive his last meal
at about noon.
(source: Associated Press)
Man works to bring victim's families closer to those who committed crimes
He started out as a death penalty opponent. He still is, but he no longer
tries to get people to change their minds about the issue.
Instead, he just tries to get them to communicate.
"I want to try to help the families of victims meet the families of
offenders," Denis Costello said. "I've kind of changed my objective as it
Costello, a native of Dublin, Ireland, has been coming to the United
States for 10 years. "I don't get over as much as I'd like, but I get over
every chance I can," he said.
"I just didn't think the death penalty was an appropriate punishment in
modern democratic states," he said. "You always have the risk of executing
an innocent man. If that's done, there's no going back."
One man on Oklahoma's death row that Costello thinks may be innocent is
Jimmie Ray Slaughter, who is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. Slaughter,
57, was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Melody Wuertz, and their
not quite 1-year-old daughter, Jessica Wuertz.
Slaughter says he didn't commit the crime; that he was shopping with his
wife and daughters in Topeka, Kan., when the 2 were killed. Prosecutors
say he drove from Fort Riley, Kan., to Edmond, killed the mother and child
and drove back to Topeka in an attempt to establish an alibi.
"The whole case was largely circumstantial," Costello said. "You shouldn't
execute someone if there is even the shadow of a doubt, and in my mind
But 12 jurors said Slaughter was guilty and state and federal appeals
courts have upheld his conviction and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme
Court refused to hear his case, paving the way for his scheduled
Basically, prosecutors contend Slaughter drove approximately four and
one-half hours, scaled a six-foot stockade-type fence and murdered Melody
and Jessica Wuertz between 10 a.m. and noon on July 2, 1991, before
driving back to Kansas and meeting his wife and children at a Dillard's
store at 5 p.m. - from which he was able to produce a time-stamped
Dennis Dill, a former Edmond police detective, says the case was hampered
from the start by investigators who weren't willing to look at other
possible suspects. Another investigator says Dill is wrong, that the case
was thoroughly investigated and Slaughter was the killer.
Prosecutors contend that at the time of the murders, Slaughter commonly
went by his middle name, Ray, and that Jessica had been named after him.
An R carved into Melody Wuertz's abdomen looked much like an R on a knife
sheath of Slaughter's, according to Assistant Attorney General Seth
So what makes Costello think the inmate is innocent?
"I've been writing to him for two years," Costello said. "I believe him."
Although he initially came to the U.S. to protest the death penalty
overall, Costello eventually came to believe he should be doing something
else. "Now I kind of operate on my own. I want to try to get the victims'
families and the offenders' families talking.
"That's the only way they'll ever truly understand each other. I'm trying
to be a conciliator."
The issue of the death penalty is always there, he said, adding that he's
found when people begin to talk they often find they have a common bond -
whether they are family members of victims or perpetrators. "I don't try
to persuade people one way or the other," Costello said. "I just want to
get them talking. I think you have to meet face to face and hear someone's
pain. Otherwise you don't really understand."
(source: McAlester News-Capital)
Losing a sister----Aftermath of a killing spree
I woke up this morning, March 10, to a beautiful sunrise. The sun was
bright and clear, and I thanked God I was viewing it. I then remembered
the passage that I had read at the prayer service for my family, "One day
at a time... this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for
it is gone, and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet
come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth
I was then saddened by the thought that there was a father who had just
lost his son and sisters who had just lost their brother. It was a strange
feeling, but I realized that what I had said for years was absolutely
true. I did not hate Donald Wallace, but I hated the crime he committed
and despised the situation he had caused. I was angry about his years of
media coverage and antics. I felt it completely unfair the sorrow, agony
and pain that was placed on so many hearts.
Am I a believer in the death penalty? No. Am I convinced the death penalty
is wrong? No. I am convinced that heinous crimes should have quick and
speedy punishment. The crime and loss of loved ones is enough agony to
bear, much less the constant reminders of the criminal's appeals, protests
and constant disapproval of his rights and living conditions.
I am convinced that when a person has been proven guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt, the rights of the criminal should be forever taken away.
There was never any doubt that this person was guilty. He not only was
sentenced in a court of law but confessed to the brutal crime. The appeals
should have ceased; the rights should have ceased. It is not inhumane to
receive meals, medical attention, dental visits, counseling, clean
clothes, warm surroundings and an education.
When a prisoner has been sentenced to incarceration, it is not permission
for him to take the podium and protest for additional rights, more
comfortable living conditions. It is a time to reflect on the heinous
crime he has committed.
I find it hard to believe anyone on death row could find rehabilitation,
nor could I imagine that person back on the streets. I heard Donald
Wallace talk of his belief in God and in not harming anyone. But his track
record was not good before this crime and certainly did not improve with
the killing of 4 innocent people.
Do I have the answers? No, I am just a victim who has endured too much
pain and suffering and will never find closure in this man's death. But I
will find closure in the memories of my family. I am by no means the only
victim of violent crime. There are thousands and thousands of others. We
do have one voice, however, and that voice is change.
I ask the governor, the state of Indiana and victims of violent crime to
speak out. I also ask advocates for and against the death penalty to speak
out. Instead of the millions spent on criminals, there should be a time
limit on appeals; there should be a final decision if the death penalty
should be carried out or not enforced; there should be a victims' relief
program without an enormous set of rules to even qualify; there should be
years of support for victims who endure anger, suffering, sadness and
Victims now receive nothing. If they need grief counseling, it is out of
their own pockets. So are the expenses of burying loved ones.
The burden for the cost of the penal system and any victims' relief should
come from a self-sustaining correctional process. There should be a
reasonable expectation that incarcerated criminals be sufficiently
productive to support the correctional facility, as well as provide relief
to the victims. This would end the victims' and the taxpayers' burden of
supporting criminals in prison. Perhaps it would be a greater deterrent to
crime if criminals knew they would be forced to work and not be allowed to
keep money they had earned.
It should always be the victims first and the crime remembered rather than
(source: Indianapolis Star----Diana Harrington, of PeeWee Valley, Ky.,
sent a longer version of this letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels and members of
the news media. The letter also was signed by her husband, Ted.)
More information about the DeathPenalty