[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 20 14:01:56 CST 2005
What's next for Raymond Cobb?
Raymond Cobb is looking forward to the day he can touch another person.
More than 8 years in solitary confinement on Texas' death row has been
hard to handle. "I'm looking forward to just being able to rub elbows with
someone other than the prison guards," he said in a recent interview at
the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. "I took a lot of things for granted in
prison, and human contact is definitely one of those things I took for
granted." When, or if, that day will come is still being decided.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 1 that executing people who
committed a murder while under the age of 18 is unconstitutional, it left
many - inmates included - questioning what their new fate would be. The
issue is set to be addressed by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,
making it a state issue rather than a county issue as some had previously
Cobb, who was convicted of the 1993 slaying of Huntsville resident
Margaret Owings and her 16-month-old daughter Kori Rae when he was 17,
said he is relieved to no longer have the death penalty.
"I'm still on guard until I get officially resentenced," Cobb said, "but I
am really just waiting to see what happens."
Rather than giving each of the criminals a re-trial or having a judge
re-examine the cases individually in the counties they were perpetrated,
an investigation will be initiated by the Texas Board of Pardons and
"We are going to be investigating these cases first to make sure that each
of these (offenders) completely fit the criteria established by the
Supreme Court," said Rissie Owens of Huntsville, a member of the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles. "We will review these cases thoroughly and
then make a decision."
According to Kathy Walt, press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, once the
board reviews the cases, it will make a recommendation for what new
sentence each offender should receive. It will then be up to Perry to
either accept or reject the recommendation. Perry sent a request to the
board soon after the Supreme Court's ruling, appealing to the board to
examine these cases expeditiously. Walt said there is currently no
specific time table as to when the recommendations will be made or when
the investigations will even begin.
"There will certainly be no new trial," Walt said. "This will be more
about trial guidelines than about guilt or innocence."
Walker County district attorney David Weeks speculated on what
recommendation the board will make.
"As of the Supreme Court's ruling, they pretty much have a life sentence
and the rest of it is just paperwork," he said. "That's what happens in a
situation like this."
Weeks said he would have preferred the decision be the state
legislature's, but he believes the process is being followed more for
"judicial efficiency" than anything else.
"The Supreme Court ruled it like this, and we have go with it," he said.
While Cobb is happy he is no longer eligible for the death penalty, he has
come to understand the seriousness of his actions as a teenager.
"I don't know what I could say that would make a difference," he said. "I
could say that I am remorseful or that I am sorry, but there really are no
words in existence that could touch that family."
(source: Huntsville Item)
Legal thriller makes case against death penalty
Richard North Patterson is a pop novelist who wants to change the world.
In 12 previous novels, Patterson has taken on date rape (he's opposed),
Watergate-style corruption (also opposed), child abuse (ditto), gun
control (he's in favor) and late-term abortion (see "Protect and Defend"
for his stance on that). In "Conviction," Patterson, a former trial
lawyer, makes a case against the death penalty; more specifically, against
the labyrinthine and counterintuitive laws governing it.
Rennell Price, a hulking, sad-eyed, slow-witted product of the San
Francisco ghetto, along with his Svengali brother, Payton, has been
sentenced to die for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl. Swooping in
15 years after Rennell's conviction is a Justice League familiar to
Patterson's readers: crusading attorney Teresa Peralta Paget, along with
her law partner and husband, Christopher Paget, and Chris' son, Carlo, now
a lawyer, too.
Terri and the gang have two months to derail what increasingly seems like
the inevitable execution of Rennell, who they claim is retarded. A key
witness has died, and the physical evidence is too degraded to test for
DNA, but Terri has determined that Rennell's lawyer at the original trial
was a lazy cocaine addict, and in an 11th-hour confession, Payton
proclaims Rennell's innocence and fingers another suspect in his place.
Terri argues that that's enough for the courts to re-examine the
conviction, but the game is stacked. Terri's appeals climb the judicial
ladder, eventually involving another of Patterson's recurring characters,
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Caroline Masters, who gets to duke it out
with a not-so-veiled Antonin Scalia clone, a capital punishment zealot
aptly named Justice Anthony Fini.
Patterson spends the 1st third of "Conviction" piling on proof that
Rennell is a sick predator worthy of being put to death. A less confident
plotmeister might shrink from the task Patterson then hands himself -- to
rehabilitate Rennell in the story's middle section, rendering him
sympathetic enough to care about. The last third of "Conviction" offers a
revelatory tour of the dark side of the American justice system.
His argument is clear. The law, he says, is bloodthirsty. The best chance
to save the wrongly condemned rests with our governors, and you can see
for yourself how often those guys stroll down Mercy Street. The defendant
is an afterthought.
Patterson is a terrific novelist whose only bar to greatness is, as with
many other popular authors, a slavish devotion to plot. His characters
aren't quite stereotypes, but they often seem to be conceived less as
individuals than as narrative conveniences. Same with the dialogue.
Regardless, "Conviction," though not Patterson's best, has its rewards.
That it tilts more toward educating than entertaining can be blamed on his
decision to push an agenda. But give him credit for backing an underdog.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but at this point in the evolution
of our great republic, it isn't mightier than 50cc of potassium chloride.
CONVICTION----By Richard North Patterson, Random House, 465 pp., $25.95
(source: Washington Post)
Bishops to campaign against death penalty
U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are preparing to begin what they call a major
campaign to end the use of the death penalty in the United States.
A bishop's aide told the Boston Globe the bishops have been emboldened by
two recent Supreme Court decisions that limit executions and by polls
suggesting a dramatic increase in death penalty opposition among U.S.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is scheduled to announced the Catholic
Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty at a news conference in
Washington Monday. The campaign will include legislation, legal advocacy,
education and a new Web site at ccedp.org.
"We think that, with a lot of work, the time will come, not too far down
the road, when the United States no longer uses the death penalty," said
John Carr, director of social development and world peace at the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The campaign marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S. bishops' first major
statement against the death penalty in 1980.
Since 1976, 56 people have been executed in the United States, while 119
death row convicts have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, a group that opposes capital punishment.
(source: United Press International)
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