[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IND., ILL., USA, N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 19 15:13:03 CST 2005
Mom angered by letter from suspect----Man accused of raping, killing her
daughter issues apology
An Indianapolis mother was enraged Friday by a letter she received from
the man accused of raping and killing her daughter.
In a Feb. 13 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Indianapolis
Star, Jeffrey Voss apologized for killing Michelle Tedder's daughter and
told her to move on with her life.
"Christina died about as fast and peaceful as possible," Voss wrote. "I'm
sorry Michelle, but that is all I can do or say. I can't undo what is
In the 2-page letter, Voss, 39, denied raping or torturing the girl.
Prosecutors say DNA evidence proves he is lying and filed death penalty
charges March 7.
"I hope somehow you can find the strength to get on with your life," Voss
wrote. "Do not think about taking your own life. None of this was your
fault. I wish I would have not stopped by to wish you a merry X-mas, then
none of this would have happened."
The letter was discussed in court Friday as Voss sat at the defense table,
flanked by his 2 court-appointed attorneys. Michelle Tedder sat in the
gallery about 20 feet away, her face reddened as she leaned forward in her
seat and stared toward him.
Ruling that Voss had violated a no-contact order, Superior Court Judge
Grant Hawkins took away his letter-writing privileges to anyone but his
Voss is being held in the Pendleton Correctional Facility while he awaits
trial on murder and other charges.
In the letter, he expressed his belief that Tedder hired someone to kill
him. Tedder's attorney, Kiki Gaither, strongly denied the claim.
Prosecutor Carl Brizzi declined to comment on the letter, which was not
entered into evidence Friday. Defense attorney Robert Hill also refused to
talk about the letter. He said Voss is scared and remorseful.
"Of course he was apologetic; that makes him look good," Tedder said after
the hearing. "She's a 12-year-old girl that lost her innocence and lost
her life on Christmas Eve, and she has nothing to live for no more."
According to court records, Voss told police he killed Christina after he
accidentally struck her in the eye with a CD case.
Voss was on probation for robbery. In the letter, he blamed the victim for
the killing, saying he feared he would be sent back to prison if Christina
"I would be facing a Class B felony battery of a child, 10 years of
revoked probation and 30 years for the habitual offender," he wrote. "A
possible 60 years for an accident."
Police say Voss handcuffed Christina and took her to a home he was
house-sitting in the 10500 block of Folsom Drive, where he bound her with
duct tape and strangled her with a vacuum cleaner cord.
Christina's body, dressed only in socks, was found Dec. 30, frozen in a
creek near McCordsville.
"You can continue hating me," Voss wrote, "but it will only eat you up in
the long run. Move on and try to experience whatever peace and happiness
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Garnati pleads with Senate to vote down death penalty bill
Williamson County State's Attorney Charles Garnati says legislation in the
state Capital in Springfield would effectively abolish the death penalty
in Illinois. That is why Garnati is pushing for the bill to fail in the
The bill, which passed the House on Wednesday by a 66-49 vote, requires
that a judge or jury be absolutely convinced of a criminal defendant's
guilt, without any doubt, before that person can be sentenced to death.
"In my opinion, it will for all practical purposes, eliminate the death
penalty in the State of Illinois," Garnati said. "The jury would have to
find that the defendant was guilty beyond all doubt to get the death
Garnati has fashioned a letter to state legislators expressing his
concerns about the legislation. He is urging residents in the area who
share his support of the death penalty, to do the same.
"I believe that if we are going to be a civilized society, we need to set
some kind of minimum standard," Garnati said. "If you go below that
minimum standard, you must pay the ultimate penalty."
Presently, law requires that a person be found guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt to be convicted. That same level of "beyond a reasonable doubt" is
the burden for a jury to be convinced that a person should be sentenced to
"For over 200 years it has been guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Garnati
said. "Now we feel that it can confuse a juror on a death penalty case."
Garnati said he is also concerned that by adding the new standard of
proof, jurors may believe a person must be guilty beyond all doubt in
order to vote for even a conviction.
"That's a very serious concern," he said.
Garnati said the rules in place now make it almost impossible to obtain a
death penalty. He referred to his most recent attempt at securing a death
penalty, the case against three men who killed a 78-year-old Hurst woman
in June of 2000.
"It took over 3 1/2 years to get that case settled and cost the taxpayers
hundreds of thousands of dollars," Garnati said.
The case eventually ended with two of the defendants, 22-year-old David
Hernandez of Hurst and 24-year-old Lucas Duvall, pleading guilty to
1st-degree murder in exchange for 75-year prison sentences.
The 3rd defendant, 26-year-old Christopher Alexander, only went to trial
after Garnati dropped his request for the death penalty in the case.
Alexander was convicted, and sentenced to 60-years in prison.
"It's very difficult to advise any family to put all of that time and
effort into something that won't probably come to fruition," Garnati said.
"A lot of family members feel that they can't get any closure without the
death penalty." Illinois halted executions in 2000 when then-Gov. George
Ryan set up a commission to study flaws in the system that had executed 12
people since 1977 but had released 13 during the same period because of
new evidence or faulty trials.
Ryan cleared death row before leaving office in 2003, commuting 167 death
sentences to life in prison and pardoning 4 men.
Garnati has successfully sought the death penalty in 4 cases. However,
none of the 4 have been executed.
Garnati added that he believes the measure is a back door attempt to
eliminate the death penalty.
"If these people want to abolish the death penalty, then they need to have
the guts to put up a bill to abolish it and vote it up or down," he said.
(source: Marion Daily)
Teenagers and the death penalty
Of the 72 inmates who were spared execution by a recent U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that abolished the death penalty for juveniles, 15 were Latino and
29 were Black. This means that groups making up only 30 % of the total
population of this country comprise more than 60 % of juveniles sentenced
to die for acts committed at an age when they cannot legally drink
alcohol, vote in an election or even enlist in the armed services.
Such racial bias cannot be allowed to exist in the institutions of the
planet's supposedly most inclusive democracy. For this reason, we applaud
the Supreme Court decision.
The March 1 ruling bars execution of people convicted for crimes committed
when they were under the age of 18. The court ruled 5-to-4 that such
executions are cruel and unusual punishment and thus violate the Eighth
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Hispanics and Blacks of all ages are disproportionately represented among
prison populations and prisoners on death row. Around the country,
Hispanics were caught up in a spike in juvenile crime in the late 1980s
and early 1990s that resulted in an unprecedented number of young
offenders on death row.
Of the 28 juvenile offenders on death row in Texas, President Bush's home
state, 21 were Black, Hispanic or Asian. 9 of 13 such offenders executed
since 1982 were minorities.
Last June, a Court of Appeals struck down the death penalty in New York
State. And by a margin of 46 to 42 %, New Yorkers do not want to see the
death penalty reinstated.
Since 1973, we have seen 117 prisoners on death row exonerated in this
country. We continue to advocate a sentence of life without parole as an
alternative to the death penalty. We hope that in the continued face of
public skepticism, judiciaries and legislatures will go beyond the March 1
decision and dismantle this barbarous practice altogether.
(source: Editorial, El Diario)
A Conservative Case For Capital Punishment
Since the dawn of creation the law of God to man has been "Whoso sheddeth
man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Today, we refer to this
biblical principle in public law as capital punishment.
Interestingly, regardless of the fact that the death penaltys origin is
found in the Bible, every society, religious or not, has adopted the death
penalty as a suitable way to deal with murder. There is a good reason for
this: The death penalty makes sense.
Think about it. As harsh a sentence as death is, the penalty fits the
1. Murder is a crime for which the victim cannot come back and say, "I
refuse to press charges." The victim has no voice.
2. Murder is a crime for which no payment by the criminal will ever fully
satisfy the debt incurred. If one robs a store, the captured thief can pay
back the debt, and in fact, under biblical law (which is better than
todays law) would be tasked to work for the man he robbed until the debt
was satisfied seven times the value of the good stolen. With such a
bounteous payback, the thief is then freed, and by his honorable labor,
restored to a position of trust.
But a murderer can never bring back life. Thus, no matter how hard he
labors, he can never regain societys trust. His victim is dead and will
3. The legitimate role of government involves the protection of life,
liberty and property. Just as the role of the government is to raise an
armed force and rain down deadly force upon a bloodthirsty invading army,
so also the government is duty bound to inflict death upon the man who
chooses to slaughter fellow citizens in her own backyard.
Few, if any, object to the use of deadly force against an invading army.
Yet those invading soldiers, ordered to fight and likely whipped up by
propaganda to go into battle, are far less deserving of death than the
assailant who has been proven guilty and convicted in a court of law, by a
jury of his peers, of shedding the innocent blood of his neighbor - and
this of his own free will. Yet we do and must condone war in such
situations. Governments must protect life. This is no less true regarding
4. Murder eventually revokes the full array of rights of citizenship. Some
defend the murderer with the claim that he/she, like anyone else, has
certain rights, including the right to life, which can never be taken
away. This is true, prior to conviction. In this country we assume a
person is innocent until proven guilty.
Therefore, the accused has all the same rights in the legal system as
anyone else: i.e., the right to know the crime for which one is being
charged, the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to counsel, the
right to face ones accusers, the right to trial before a jury of ones
peers, the right against forced self-incrimination, the right not to be
tried twice for the same capital crime (if declared innocent the first
time around), and the right to appeal.
But after all this has taken place and the jury proclaims guilt and
decrees a sentence and the convicted criminal has exhausted all appeals,
his rights as an American citizen ought to end. He freely chose to break
the law and take the life of a fellow citizen; he must not now be free to
avoid the consequences of his heinous choice. If the jury assigns death,
his fate ought to be sealed, his right to life terminated.
5. The Death Penalty is not, as social activist lawyer Clarence Darrow
once claimed, "an act of revenge"; it is an act of justice.
Liberals and Libertarians have made hay of a few people, once upon a time,
driving by a penitentiary in Michigan City, Ind., shouting "Burn, baby,
burn!" as a man, who raped and strangled a mother and drowned each of her
three children one by one, was electrocuted.
As to the "burn, baby, burn," lets address a more important issue. Even if
the account is true, why do we suppose some people react that way? Could
it be they are bearing testimony to the slayer and to future would-be
slayers that murder hurts? Could it be they are witnessing to the murderer
and to those who take murder lightly that murder is not just a crime
against an individual, but against all those who loved that individual,
all those who depended upon that individual, all those who were and may
yet have been influenced by that individual, and all those who fear that a
similar act might someday befall upon them or their loved ones?
Certainly, no sane human being pastes on his face a perpetual smile after
a family member or fellow citizen has been brutally murdered, nor should
Consider the counsel of King Arthur to Sir Lancelot in the movie "First
Knight": "A man who doesn't fear anything is a man who loves nothing." Or
with slight adaptation: "A man who has never felt anger has never known
love." Or, as founder Thomas Paine reflected on the proper reaction to the
deaths, tortures and rapes being inflicted by the British upon Americas
sons and daughters, brothers and wives, neighbors and countrymen: "He that
feels not now is dead."
Love is a very good and strong emotion. When the object of that love is
threatened or destroyed, people who possess moral and emotional sense
ought to react with equally strong emotion, if not outrage. Nor can anyone
fully understand such emotions until they have been there themselves.
And so we wonder, could it be that some activist lawyers and pundits - who
dont believe in Judeo-Christian morality anyway - are guilty of
intentionally confusing revenge with righteous indignation and true love?
One can be angry; one can insist that stiff penalties including death be
administered as remedies, without being filled with hatred and
Again from Thomas Paine, regarding Americas call to arms against England:
"Say not that this is revenge, call it rather the soft resentment of a
suffering people, who, having no object in view but the good of all."
Even so, in an imperfect world, a spirit of revenge will exist in the
hearts of some victims. Their bitterness, however, does not change the
nature of the crime, the proof of the murderers guilt, nor the necessity
for proportional justice. Murder is still murder, regardless of emotion
and the imperfections of victims.
6. The justice of the death penalty is strengthened, not weakened, by the
advent of new technologies such as DNA testing, which have recently been
utilized to more firmly establish guilt or innocence. It does not
logically follow that the death penalty should be abolished because such
evidence "might" have reversed the fate of some previously put to death.
Its too late for that. Whats past is past.
7. Racial profiling and rich/poor lawyer success rates are poor excuses to
eliminate the death penalty, and thus rob justice. That some people
inevitably "get off" because of the skill of a lawyer, because of
celebrity status, or because of political power does not negate the
validity of and necessity for laws and penalties. It should only motivate
us to find a way to make these "untouchables" accountable before the law
as well. We cant have anarchy.
8. Life imprisonment is a poor, immoral substitute for the death penalty.
Such a plan heaps additional punishment upon victims by insisting that
they pay for the living expenses, the education expenses, the recreation
expenses, the medical expenses of the man who killed their kin. Such a
plan is in fact socialism on behalf of butchers.
But even worse, life imprisonment unnecessarily puts at risk prison
guards, lesser criminals, survivors, jurists, judges, lawyers, witnesses,
family members, little children ... everyone.
Face it, murderers have been known to kill in prison, order a hit on a
civilian while in prison, and to kill once they get out of prison. Thats
why the average murderer on death row has killed three people before
finally being put to death. Further, who can doubt that their murderous
attitudes influence other less violent prisoners to adopt similar
tendencies when they are set free. Permitting a murderer to live is a
paltry example of the so-called "progress of the law." Putting a man to
death the first time around is better. It saves lives.
9. The swift use of the death penalty - besides eliminating the
possibility of follow-on murders - deters (not eliminates) the commission
of murder in the first place. An ancient prophet asked: "Now, if there was
no law given - if a man murdered he should die - would he be afraid he
would die if he should murder?"
This question wont go away. To assume and/or manipulate statistics in
order to say that the death penalty does not deter crime is at best
thoughtless, and at worst smacks of ulterior motives. The desire for
rewards and the avoidance of punishments affect every human being. We
spend our entire lives pursuing the one and avoiding the other, to the
degree that the law and our native common sense and abilities aid us in
that quest. Just look at the free market. Just look at the influence of
religion. Just think about how our driving speed is affected by the
presence of a police officer. To claim that the fear of punishment, and
such a final punishment, does not deter murder is illogical. Our justice
systems failure to swiftly and consistently apply justice, that is to
swiftly and consistently administer the death penalty is the real
deterrence to deterrence.
10. A society that honors the sanctity of life by putting to death those
who are destroyers of life is not murderous but Godly. Allies of
eliminating the death penalty often flout the religious command "Thou
shalt not kill" back in the face of religious folks who advocate the death
penalty. This presumptuous and fanatical approach to a command of God
certainly misses the mark on the spirit of the commands intent and the
commands supporting doctrines.
The Hebrew translation of the same scripture reads, "Thou shalt not
murder." Murder is defined doctrinally not merely as killing, but more
precisely as "shedding innocent blood." Putting to death a convicted
murderer who has been afforded a fair trial, and who has exhausted every
appeal, is not the shedding of innocent blood, and thus is not murder. As
already cited at the start of this article, the Father of heaven and earth
has also commanded: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be
In this regard, we read also in Holy Writ: "For a commandment I give, that
every mans brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image
have I made man." And then again: "Ye shall defend your families even unto
bloodshed." Likewise, "[defend your] lands, [your] country, [your] rights,
and [your] religion" even unto death.
Therefore, when "Thou shalt not murder" is placed right smack in the
middle of the big picture - as all religious principles ought to be - we
realize the commandment incorporates the inalienable right to self-defense
and the moral duty to protect the life of those within our jurisdiction as
parents, neighbors, citizens, and/or officers of the law.
Again, Thomas Paine persuades: "My own line of reasoning is to myself as
straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all the treasures of the world,
so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war,
for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and
destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are
in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I
to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or
a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an
individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things
we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we
should punish in the one case and pardon in the other."
The punishment that common moral sense signified was death to the villain
or to the villains. Paine reminds those who would shrink at such a high
moral duty: "[T]he blood of his children will curse his cowardice."
11. Finally, I address a question already alluded to but taken to an even
greater extreme by a June 2000 National Review feature article, "The
Problem With the Chair: A Conservative Case Against Capital Punishment."
The question was asked: "If a democratic society executes criminals with
the foreknowledge that some percentage of them are innocent, are all
members of that society implicitly guilty of murder themselves?"
This off-the-mark, self righteous, and insulting question, nevertheless,
deserves a frank answer. God is more just and merciful than that. It seems
best to trust, as did our forefathers, that if we do the absolute best we
can to uphold the laws of God and man, He will judge us by the intent of
our hearts in those areas where we may have remotely failed. It is He who
established the law for the death penalty. His law is good. To abolish His
just and compassionate law in defense of criminals fairly tried and fairly
convicted defies common sense, and strikes a legal blow at the laws and
justice of God, whose laws are at the root of the American judicial
Van der Weyde, William, ed. "The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Volume
II." New Rochelle, N.Y.: Thomas Paine Historical Association, 1925, pp.
(source: American Daily (American Daily columnist Steve Farrell, is
associate professor of political economy at George Wythe College, the
former managing editor of Right Magazine, a pundit at America's News Page,
U.S. Bishops to Launch Campaign to End Death Penalty
Catholic opposition" to the death penalty, are launching a campaign to end
The "Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty" will be
Among those scheduled to help launch the event are Cardinal Theodore
McCarrick of Washington, D.C., and John Zogby, who conducted the survey
that showed U.S. Catholics' opposition to the death penalty.
In a statement the bishops' conference said the new campaign will include
new teaching and educational resources, a Web site, continuing legal
action, ongoing legislative advocacy at state and federal levels, and
links to the Church's pro-life and "faithful citizenship" efforts.
"The campaign is being launched at the beginning of Holy Week, a time when
Christians mark the execution of Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago,"
added the conference.
(source: ZENIT News)
Nun brings anti-death penalty drive to S.J.----'Dead Man Walking' author
says U.S. sentiment shifting
Support for the death penalty is a mile wide and an inch deep, says Sister
Helen Prejean. And it's drying up every year.
Hundreds turned out at Rutgers-Camden Friday to hear the Louisiana nun
talk about her campaign against capital punishment, which has taken her
around the world and turned her into an international figure.
The plain-spoken, outgoing sister who wrote the book Dead Man Walking was
the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Romero Lecture at the Gordon
Theater, presented by the Romero Center in Camden.
She is on a tour to promote her latest work, The Death of Innocents: An
Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (Random House, 2005, $25.95).
There was little interest in ending the death penalty when her 1st book
was released, she said during a break. But now, the bookstores are packed
with people who want to hear her speak.
"People are recognizing now that we make mistakes," said Prejean. "It's a
She believes a moratorium is within reach. In New Jersey, she said,
"there's been a huge shift. The citizens of New Jersey are willing to look
not only at a moratorium but they would prefer life without parole and
restitution to victims over a death penalty."
11 men are on death row in New Jersey, which has not carried out an
execution since 1963. A moratorium is temporarily in place, as a result of
a lawsuit concerning the guidelines on administering lethal injection.
Less than 1 % of the nation's executions are carried out in the Northeast,
"That's not a serious intent to practice the death penalty," said Prejean.
"You just need to tip it over a little bit more here in New Jersey and
you've got it."
Prejean lectured without notes for more than an hour, explaining how she
was awakened to the need to work for social justice. She took small steps.
The first was answering a letter from a death row inmate.
She compared herself to a little drop in a wave and encouraged her
listeners to work for change.
"Let me give my gift for all I'm worth," said Prejean to applause. "Is
that not what we are called for?"
Prejean, 65, has worked in the Louisiana prison system since 1982, when
she began acting as spiritual adviser to a death row inmate. The
experience opened her eyes to what she believes are the injustices of
She has accompanied 6 men to their executions, and has counseled their
families as well as the families of murder victims.
She is now counseling a seventh inmate, and visiting 4 times a year with a
woman on death row in Texas. She believes both are innocent.
The death penalty, Prejean argues, is unnecessary in a society that can
imprison people for life. It is unfairly applied, she says, especially to
the poor who cannot afford adequate legal defense.
She points out the cases of 117 people released from death row in the last
3 decades, thanks to DNA and other evidence, as more reason to abolish
The daylong event also included a screening of the Academy Award-winning
film inspired by her 1993 book, as well as workshops and a panel
discussion about the death penalty.
Jennie Fair, 47, of Philadelphia, attended the panel discussion and
lecture. She was once dismissed from a jury because she wasn't sure if she
was for or against the death penalty. She has since made up her mind.
"I don't know how you can believe in the Gospel and put people to death,"
said Fair. "How can you say there's no chance for transformation in
(source: Cherry Hill Courier Post)
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