[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., USA, IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 22 08:51:44 CST 2005
CRIMINAL JUSTICE---Ex-prosecutors could defend capital cases
Former prosecutors without experience as defense attorneys could find
themselves appointed to help indigent defendants facing the death penalty.
That was the thrust of legislation that received tentative approval in the
Texas House on Thursday and will receive a final vote today.
The bill by Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, would create a larger pool of
lawyers who could be appointed to represent indigent defendants.
Existing law requires a lawyer to have experience as a lead defense
counsel in a significant number of felony cases, including murder trials,
before appointment to a death penalty case.
Supporters of House Bill 268 say former prosecutors have experience and
skills that defense attorneys lack, including knowledge of what to expect
Critics, however, say the bill is a step backward in the effort to raise
the quality of lawyers in death penalty cases. They support a separate
bill, Senate Bill 1218, by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, which would
increase state funding for indigent defense to reduce the financial burden
on counties, which pay 90 % of the legal fees.
Slain Girl's Father Seeks Death Penalty
The father of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford, kidnapped and killed by a
man identified as a convicted sex offender, wants the suspect to get the
John Evander Couey, 46, was charged with capital murder, battery,
kidnapping and sexual battery on a child under the age of 12, according to
the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. He was to be arraigned on Tuesday.
"I just want him to die," Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, said of Couey
on CNN's "Larry King Live."
"If you commit a heinous crime against a child you should receive the
death penalty," Lunsford said.
Officials said Couey confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica. Jessica,
a 3rd grader, was last seen the night of Feb. 23 when she went to bed
after attending church.
Medical examiners said she was sexually assaulted and died of
asphyxiation. Jessica's body was found early Saturday behind a house about
150 yards from her home, more than three weeks after she disappeared from
Couey entered the Lunsford house through an unlocked door and later
sexually assaulted her, police said. Detectives might never know how long
Jessica was held before she was killed since Couey was under the influence
of drugs, officials said.
Lunsford, Jessica's father, said he felt guilty that he was not at home
that night. "We have to save our children from people like this," Lunsford
said. "It's time to change some of our laws."
Lunsford said he will campaign to get stricter penalties and laws
regarding registering sex offenders. Lunsford added that not everyone has
a computer to look up list of offenders and the lists should be readily
available for all to see.
"They should be tagged, they should be branded," Lunsford said of sex
Gov. Jeb Bush said earlier that he was wary about such proposals. "We
should be cautious about doing something that would expand the net so wide
as to not accomplish the desired effect and get into a problem," Bush
(source: Associated Press)
Ban capital punishment
"A majority of states have rejected the imposition of the death penalty on
juvenile offenders under 18, and we now hold this is required by the
So, the United States Supreme Court on March 1 ruled that capital
punishment of those under 18 at the time of the crime is cruel and unusual
punishment, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The lives of 72
young condemned have been saved.
This ruling in the Rogers v. Simmons case reverses the high court's ruling
in the case of Stanford v. Kentucky on June 26, 1949, when, in another 5-4
decision, the court ruled:
"We discern neither a historical nor a modern societal consensus
forbidding the impositions of capital punishment on any person who murders
at 16 or 17 years of age. Accordingly, we conclude that such punishment
does not offend the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and
If our nation's highest court can so quickly and completely reverse itself
on what is the meaning of, and the effect of, cruel and unusual
punishment, why is it impossible to believe that someday the United States
Supreme Court will rule that all capital punishment is cruel and unusual -
as it surely is.
California's San Quentin Prison is building a new death row to hold the
state's 644 condemned prisoners.
That there are so many condemned and so few executions - just 59 in 2004
in the entire U.S. - makes the death penalty surely unusual.
And who will contend that keeping condemned prisoners in their cells for
23 out of every 24 hours - where they are very carefully deprived of any
opportunity (such as pills) to take their own lives - who will contend
that this and the spread-eagling ceremony are not cruel?
Does anybody seriously contend that the injection of lethal drugs is a
deterrent to murder? If it is believed to be a deterrent, why is the
ceremony hidden, rather than televised?
And if the definition of 1st-degree murder is premeditated killing with
malice aforethought, what could be more premeditated than the very
ceremonial execution - which is surely not mercy, but malice?
This is a process by which the state not only lowers itself to the level
of the murderers, but also runs the horrifying risk of executing the
innocent. More than 100 residents of condemned rows have been saved by DNA
It does not appear at all probable that Beltway sniper Lee Malvo is
innocent of those murders in Maryland and Virginia.
What seems certain is if he is guilty, he and his elder accomplice, John
Muhammad, were in no way deterred by the capital punishment laws of either
Maryland nor Virginia - which is one of the nation's leaders in
executions, 2nd only to Texas.
What seems to be an absolute essential if the U.S. Supreme Court ever
rules that all capital punishment is cruel and unusual is another ruling
compelling life without possibility of parole for all those convicted,
condemned to die and then saved by abolition of the death penalty.
There are criminals like Malvo and Muhammad who, in depriving others of
their lives, should surely be deprived forever of their liberty to kill
(source: WorldNetDaily.com----Les Kinsolving hosts a daily talk show for
WCBM in Baltimore. His radio commentaries are syndicated nationally. He is
White House correspondent for Talk Radio Network and WorldNetDaily. His
show can be heard on the Internet at www.wcbm.com 8-10 p.m. Eastern each
weekday. Before going into broadcasting, Kinsolving was a newspaper
reporter and columnist - twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his
Catholics cooling to death penalty----Survey finds bishops' message
Support for capital punishment among Roman Catholics in America has
dropped below 50 %, according to a poll released Monday as part of a new
anti-death penalty campaign by Catholic bishops.
The poll, conducted in November by Zogby International for the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops, showed that 48 % of Catholic Americans
support the death penalty while 47 % oppose it.
Past surveys put Catholic support for the death penalty as high as 68 %.
With the release of the poll at the start of Holy Week, church leaders
announced the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.
"For us, this is not about ideology but respect for life," said Cardinal
Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., where the initiative was
announced. "We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. We cannot
defend life by taking life."
The survey of 1,785 Catholics across the country had a margin of error of
2.7 %, said John Zogby, who presented his company's poll. It marked
changing Catholic attitudes toward the death penalty, he said.
A CBS News poll in June 2001 found that 68 % of Catholics supported the
An ABC News/Washington Post survey put support at 62 % in October 2003.
Zogby surveyed more than 1,000 Catholics this month and found that support
and opposition were evenly split at 48 %.
The most common reason Catholics oppose the death penalty is out of
"respect for life," followed by the biblical commandment not to kill, the
November poll found.
"This is good news for the bishops' conference. It shows that the message
is getting out, getting out unfiltered," Zogby said.
The poll also found greater opposition to the death penalty from students
in Catholic schools and colleges and from the most faithful attenders of
Mass, Zogby said.
The most intense support for the death penalty was in the South, where 29
% said they "strongly support" capital punishment. Nationwide, 20 % of
respondents strongly support the death penalty.
But 29 % in the South also said they strongly oppose it.
There was no breakdown by state, Zogby said.
The drop in support among Catholics does not come as a surprise, said
Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston.
In recent years, church leaders have strongly opposed the death penalty as
part of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. Pope John Paul II has
worked to eliminate the death penalty throughout the world, Fiorenza said.
"I think that has certainly had a huge effect, so I think you find more in
opposition to the death penalty," he said.
In Texas, Catholic church leaders have lobbied state legislators and the
governor against the death penalty, Fiorenza said. Texas bishops support
efforts to allow for a prison sentence of life without parole, he said.
"Opposition to the death penalty is a very difficult sell in Texas,"
Fiorenza said. "But we believe that the truth of the gospel is more
powerful, and we think we will eventually win the hearts and minds of the
In general, the Catholic church recognizes the right of governments to
protect its citizens from criminals. But the pope has maintained that in
the modern world there are ways to keep even the worst criminals off the
street without the death penalty.
Proponents of capital punishment point out that only a small percentage of
convicted murderers are even considered for the death penalty.
"It is reserved for those who commit the most heinous offenses," said Andy
Kahan, director of Mayor's Crime Victims Assistance Office in Houston. "We
feel it is a useful tool."
David Atwood, a Catholic and founder of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, said that despite the drop in support, "you can go to any
Catholic church and you will have a lot of Catholics who still support the
In general, pastors have been reluctant to discuss the controversial topic
from the pulpit, said Atwood, a Houston resident.
"I'm hoping that (the bishops' campaign) will give them the incentive to
speak about this from the pulpit in a new way."
The campaign will include development of educational materials for
churches and schools and renewed lobbying efforts.
The death penalty is a hard topic for Catholics, said Karen Clifton, a
mother of five and member of the board of Strake Jesuit Preparatory.
As Clifton has participated in conferences aimed at educating against the
death penalty, she has seen opinions change, she said.
"I hear people saying this all the time: 'I was pro-death penalty until I
started hearing the stories, and I changed my mind,' " she said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Catholic bishops begin push to end U.S. death penalty----Several Indiana
inmates may face execution this year
Indiana death penalty opponents received a boost Monday when the national
body of the state's largest church denomination began a renewed push to
abolish government executions throughout the United States.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops marked the start of Holy Week,
when Christians observe the death of Jesus Christ, by announcing it would
step up lobbying against capital punishment at both national and state
levels and increase education in parishes.
"It obviously gives added emphasis to an issue that the (Indiana) Catholic
Conference has been working on for quite a while," said Glenn Tebbe,
executive director of the government lobbying arm of Indiana's five Roman
The U.S. hierarchy's opposition to capital punishment, first stated in
1974, was reinforced in a major 1980 policy paper and other pronouncements
Donald Ray Wallace, who was executed March 10 for the 1980 slayings of an
Evansville family of four, was the 12th inmate put to death by the state
since reinstating the death penalty in 1977.
The 5 Indiana Catholic bishops did not get involved in Wallace's case,
respecting his wishes not to seek clemency, Tebbe said.
"Obviously, there was concern and prayers," Tebbe said. "Our concern is
always the same: We prefer that there not be capital punishment invoked
and there not be executions. If the church can be helpful in helping
others come to that conclusion, we will."
Catholicism is Indiana's largest Christian denomination, claiming 770,000
registered members across the state.
Supporters of the death penalty say it is necessary in some cases. It also
provides a needed tool in plea bargains, which resolve about 98 percent of
all criminal cases, said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who
recently has asked for the death penalty in 2 cases, a triple slaying and
the molestation-slaying of a 12-year-old girl.
"The death penalty is only sought in the most heinous cases and only when
the guilt of the defendant is beyond all doubt," Brizzi said. "There are
some crimes that deserve the ultimate sanction."
7 other Indiana prisoners also could be executed this year, The Evansville
Courier & Press reported last month, citing an aide to Gov. Mitch Daniels
and other legal sources. One has been scheduled for April 21, when Bill J.
Benefiel is to be put to death for the 1987 torture-slaying of Dolores
Wells, 18, of Terre Haute.
Former Gov. Joe Kernan, a Catholic, commuted the death sentences of two
prisoners during his final 6 months in office.
Daniels recently said he has mixed feelings about the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty