[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ILL., CONN., MO., MD., IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 16 09:51:08 CST 2005
Leaving no doubt
Illinois came dangerously close to executing some innocent men. That
knowledge was so frightening that the governor imposed a moratorium on
capital punishment and the legislature moved to eliminate doubt about the
guilt of those who face a death sentence.
Most of the reforms enacted in recent years have focused on changing the
practices for investigating and prosecuting a crime. New lineup procedures
are being tested to see whether they improve the accuracy of eyewitness
identifications. Police soon will start electronically taping
interrogations of homicide suspects to protect against coerced or false
confessions. Judges have been undergoing more training to better
understand how to run capital trials.
Now some legislators want to get right to the point: The lawmakers want to
require that jurors determine they have no doubt about a defendant's guilt
before they sentence him to death.
The Illinois House is considering legislation that would establish a
higher burden of proof in capital case sentencing. Judges and jurors in
criminal trials would still apply the time-tested standard of guilt
"beyond a reasonable doubt." But the standard to impose a death sentence
would be even higher. Under the legislation, the court would tell jurors
that they may impose a death sentence "if the jury unanimously determines
that the evidence leaves no doubt respecting the defendant's guilt."
If jurors had any residual, or lingering, doubts, they would impose a
sentence of life in prison.
One might suspect this push comes from opponents of the death penalty. In
fact, it's largely coming from those who believe that Illinois should have
capital punishment, and it should be administered with greater moral
The chief sponsor, House Republican Leader Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, was
a Kendall County prosecutor. Two other sponsors, Rep. Jay Hoffman and Rep.
Chapin Rose, were also prosecutors. Another supporter, Rep. John Millner,
was the police chief of Elmhurst.
A similar effort is under way in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Mitt
Romney is attempting to re-establish the death penalty. Romney is seeking
to reduce opposition to that by establishing a "no doubt" standard.
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that juries can consider any reason
why a defendant should not be sentenced to death, but defendants have no
specific right to have residual doubt considered. A 1995 case that went to
the court showed that jurors can get confused. 2 jurors voted to impose a
death sentence but said later they had had some lingering doubts about the
guilt of the defendant. They would have voted for life imprisonment had
they been instructed that they could consider those doubts in sentencing.
What Cross' bill does is guarantee that jurors will consider at sentencing
this fundamental issue: Are they certain that the person to be executed
committed the crime.
In all likelihood, this bill would have only a narrow impact. Studies have
shown that few jurors who vote for conviction in capital cases harbor
lingering doubts about guilt. And of those who do have doubts, the vast
majority vote to impose a life sentence, not death.
At times, though, there are those uncertainties, there are those doubts.
Given the deeply troubling experience in Illinois, it should be easy for
supporters and opponents of capital punishment to agree on this: When the
state is going to impose the ultimate, irreversible punishment, there
should be no doubt that the person paying for the crime is the one who
That's the purpose of Tom Cross' bill, and that's why it should be law.
(source: Opinion, Chicago Tribune)
New jury being picked in death penalty case
Jury selection has begun for a 2nd penalty trial that could return a
Waterbury man to death row.
A pool of 50 potential jurors was brought in to Superior Court Tuesday for
the second penalty phase hearing of convicted killer Todd Rizzo, who
admitted bludgeoning a boy to death with a sledgehammer in 1997 to watch
Rizzo, 26, pleaded guilty to capital murder in 1999 for killing
13-year-old Stanley Edwards IV. A jury then sentenced him to die, but the
state Supreme Court last fall overturned the death sentence because the
judge did not properly instruct the jury during Rizzo's 1st penalty phase
Judge Thomas O'Keefe told potential jurors that the jury will have one job
_ to determine whether Rizzo should die by lethal injection or spend the
rest of his life in prison without the possibility of release.
O'Keefe said jury selection will take some time. He scheduled the hearing
to begin on May 9 and expects it will last 4 weeks.
The jury will be charged with determining whether the brutality of the
crime, an aggravating factor, outweighs mitigating factors, such as
Rizzo's upbringing and work record.
The Supreme Court overturned Rizzo's initial death sentence because jurors
were not instructed that aggravating factors had to outweigh mitigating
factors beyond a reasonable doubt.
(source: Associated Press)
Graves discusses violent crime, death penalty cases at university
U.S. Attorney Todd Graves was a dozen miles from the site of one of the
most gruesome murders in Missouri history, a case he will be prosecuting
as one of the government's top lawyers, a case he will be preparing for
until the trial a year from now.
But Graves, who was speaking at Northwest Missouri State University on
Monday to business ethics students, did not say a word about Lisa
Montgomery or the crime she is accused of - killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett in
Skidmore and cutting the baby girl from Stinnett's womb. Montgomery
pleaded not guilty to the crime, although she confessed to investigators,
and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Missouri will
prosecute the case in April 2006.
And although he did not mention the case directly - in fact, he has not
made public comment about the case since Montgomery's plea in January,
when he indicated that the Department of Justice would seek the death
penalty - Graves did talk to the students about the enjoyment he gets from
winning violent crime cases and digging into the minds of accused
"There's a lot of satisfaction in trying those cases, if you get a good
outcome," Graves said.
Graves was invited to speak by the campus chapter of Students in Free
Enterprise. Jason White, a university professor and advisor of the group,
said they bring a speaker to campus about twice a year to talk about
various topics within the realm of business ethics.
When asked by a student what were some of the "most interesting" crimes
he's ever prosecuted, Graves said he is interested in the psychological
analysis of defendants in death row cases. Psychology is bound to play a
large role in the Montgomery trial, since her attorneys will likely use an
"You really spend a lot of time on what causes people to do bad things,"
As U.S. attorney, Graves oversees 60 attorneys who prosecute over 500
criminal defendants every year. Nearly 450 of those defendants receive
prison sentences. The office also participates in hundreds of civil cases
and have a 3-to-1 victory margin.
His Kansas City-headquartered office is one of 93 U.S. Attorney's offices
in the country, and Graves is one of only 100 political appointees in the
entire Department of Justice.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Graves said the Justice Department's mission has
"Our No. 1 priority is terrorism," he said. "A lot of resources have been
committed to that."
The office's 2nd priority is keeping guns out of the hands of convicted
felons, a program called Project Ceasefire. The program is especially
important in Kansas City.
"Kansas City has 8 % of the population of the state of Missouri, and 43
percent of the homicides," he said. However, in recent years the murder
rate in Missouri's most populous city has decreased, and Graves says
Ceasefire plays a large part in that.
Other priorities include "white collar crimes," Graves said, such as money
laundering and identity theft, and violent crimes.
Violent crime cases that cross state lines end up in the U.S. Attorney's
office, instead of in one particular state's jurisdiction. That's how the
Stinnett murder found its way into the federal system: after removing the
baby, Montgomery apparently crossed into Kansas, where she was later
During his speech, Graves also shared "dumb criminal" stories with the
students. He spoke of a bank robber who wrote "Give me all the money" on
the back of his own deposit slip with his name and phone number on it; and
a man who was pulled over for driving erratically and claimed he had been
trying to calm down his children in the back seat, even though the police
officer's report said there were no children in the car.
Graves grew up on a farm near Tarkio. He served as an assistant Missouri
attorney general, and as a lawyer in private practice, before being
elected Platte County prosecutor. In 2001, Graves was appointed by
President Bush as an associate U.S. attorney.
(source: Maryville Daily Forum)
Death penalty to be sought against one in killing at mall
Baltimore County prosecutors filed notice yesterday of their intention to
seek the death penalty against one of the men charged in the fatal
shooting of a respected private school educator last month in the parking
garage at Towson Town Center.
John Edward Kennedy Jr., 18, of Essex is accused of firing the shotgun
blast that killed William A. Bassett, a science teacher and dean of
faculty at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, about 8 p.m. Feb. 18 on
the fifth floor of the mall parking garage.
Kennedy and co-defendant Javon Clark, 18, of Middle River were indicted
Monday by a grand jury on charges of 1st-degree murder, attempted armed
robbery and attempted robbery, said Stephen Bailey, county deputy state's
Kennedy was also indicted in an armed robbery in the Overlea area the
night before the Towson Town Center shooting.
Clark will face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
INDIANA----national tv program
TV show details Williams death row clemency
Darnell Williams came within a week of being executed last year when his
life was spared by former Gov. Joe Kernan.
"American Justice: Countdown to an Execution" takes a behind-the-scenes
look at the Gary mans escape from death row in Michigan City.
The program airs at 7 tonight on the A&E cable network.
Convicted at age 20 in 1987 for the 1986 shooting deaths of John and
Henrietta Rease, Williams spent 17 years on death row.
The cable show follows his attorney, Juliet Yackel of Indianapolis, as she
criss-crosses the state searching for evidence and support for her client.
The show includes interviews with Thomas Vanes, who prosecuted Williams,
and John Gnajek, a juror. Both men pleaded for clemency for Williams.
His mother, Shirley Williams-Greer, of Gary, is also interviewed.
"The elements of the story were amazing," associate producer Sarah Pargura
said. She said a film crew followed Yackel as she gathered clemency
petitions for Williams, whos now serving a life sentence without parole.
On Friday, a Lake Superior Court judge lifted the death penalty from his
co-defendant, Gregory Rouster, who was later determined to be mentally
Judge Clarence Murray re-sentenced Rouster, now known as Gamba Mateen
Rastafari, to 60 years.
(source: Gary Post-Tribune)
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