[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.C., FLA., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu May 12 18:04:26 CDT 2005
Hunt, others call for moratorium on executions ---- Attendees at meeting
urged to ask Rep. Larry Brown to vote in favor of bill
If state Rep. Larry Brown gets many postcards about the death penalty, he
can thank Darryl Hunt and others who recently spoke in favor of a
moratorium on executions.
Hunt, who was imprisoned for 18 years for a murder he didn't commit, told
a Kernersville audience that if he had been put on death row, he probably
would have been executed in 1994 - 10 years before he was exonerated.
"The way the system is now, it is not fair and just," Hunt said. "It is
Hunt was one of the speakers at a meeting sponsored by the N.C. Coalition
for a Moratorium, a group that is advocating a two-year moratorium on
executions in the state.
Hunt was sentenced to life in prison in the 1984 murder of Deborah Sykes
in downtown Winston-Salem. But DNA testing late in 2003 linked another
man, Willard Brown, to the crime.
Brown has since pleaded guilty to the murder, and Hunt was exonerated in
February 2004. A Forsyth County jury rejected the death penalty for Hunt
at his first trial.
About 20 people attended the meeting, which was held in Main Street United
Methodist Church. Some people said they were concerned that more people
didn't attend the event.
The organizers encouraged the audience to send postcards to Brown and
persuade him to vote for the moratorium bill in the N.C. House.
Brown, R-Forsyth, said recently that he had not heard from anyone in his
district about the moratorium, said Stephen Dear, a coalition member and
the executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.
Organizers provided the audience Brown's e-mail address. Brown is not one
of the bill's sponsors.
After the meeting, Brown sent the news media an e-mail.
"The issue of the death penalty moratorium needs to be framed in terms of
justice for the victims, not the criminals," Brown wrote. "It is important
to note that the death penalty can be studied without a moratorium."
District attorneys use the death penalty as a bargaining chip to get
murder defendants to agree to life imprisonment, Brown said., and the gap
of eight to 15 years between death sentences for 1st-degree murder
convictions and executions provides each inmate a personal moratorium.
The proponents of the moratorium said last week that they were not
advocating an end to the death penalty. They said they want a 2-year halt
on executions so that the issues around the death penalty can be examined.
"It doesn't matter if you are for the death penalty or against it," Hunt
said. "It is about justice and fairness."
Moratorium advocates said that the number of people removed from death row
when their innocence was proved demonstrates that the potential for an
innocent person to be executed is too great. They said that people on
death row do not have adequate defense counsel.
Race and class bias taint the system, they said, and the application of
the death penalty is arbitrary. Moratorium advocates said that it costs
the state an extra $2 million to carry out an execution, compared to the
cost of sentencing someone to life imprisonment. Tom Ross, a former
Superior-Court judge, said he concluded that there are problems with the
death penalty as it is being applied.
"Now there is a life without parole (sentence) in which someone can't get
out," Ross said. "There is an alternative. It is time that we step back
and see if there is a way that the death penalty can be applied fairly,
and if there isn't, maybe we shouldn't have it at all."
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
McCord lawyers criticize prosecutors for characterizing evidence in murder
Lawyers for a Weston man accused of killing his wife gave jurors a
blistering critique Wednesday of what they call prosecutors' attempts to
twist even the most benign evidence into sensational, misleading
"We are in a world of no facts, we are in a world of `he said, she said'
that lets [prosecutors] interpret things in a certain way," said Jeanne
Baker, 1 of 2 attorneys representing Maxwell McCord on first-degree murder
charges. "Max's statements have been wrenched completely out of context."
The defense rested its case late Wednesday, prosecutors will have a 2-hour
rebuttal this morning and jurors are scheduled to begin deliberating by
McCord is accused of killing wife Marie Noguera at their home on Aug. 2,
2001, and staging an elaborate coverup that included his claim she was
kidnapped from the Broward Mall while the couple shopped with their
Investigators said McCord wanted to collect an insurance settlement and
end his marriage so he could pursue his passion for prostitutes. Defense
lawyers argue that McCord is being victimized by myopic investigators who
didn't look at other suspects.
McCord, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Denmark, faces a
possible death penalty if convicted. That has caught the attention of
Danish citizens and politicians, and Svend Roed Nielsen, the consul
general of Denmark, attended closing arguments.
He said his country is strongly opposed to the death penalty and is
monitoring the case. If McCord is convicted, jurors will decide his fate
after a separate penalty phase.
1985 bombing in Philadelphia still unsettled
The last block of Osage Avenue is a half-abandoned and lonely place. Most
of the houses on the narrow street are boarded up. Twenty years ago this
Friday, city police dropped a bomb on this block and let it burn. Five
children and six adults, members of a small radical collective called
MOVE, died; 61 homes in a middle-class neighborhood were destroyed. As the
nation watched, Philadelphia became the city that bombed its own people.
A generation later, MOVE is still around, its members still agitating for
the release of 8 who have been in prison since a 1978 cop-killing. Most of
the other 2 dozen or so members, all of whom take the surname Africa, live
in a house 3 miles from Osage. The mayor who approved the bombing, Wilson
Goode, 66, is a pastor who runs a youth-mentoring program. And the
residents of Osage Avenue are still trying to get their homes back.
Philadelphia has spent $42 million in financial settlements, investigation
and rebuilding to try to fix what happened that day. It was a law
enforcement failure so spectacular that it would not be equaled until the
siege near Waco 8 years later. A month ago, 24 homeowners won a $12
million suit against the city for the botched rebuilding and repairs of
"We're still in it," says Mayor John Street, who was a city councilman in
1985. "It's the never-ending story."
The memory of the bungled decisions and bad judgment that led police to
drop a satchel of explosives from a helicopter onto a residential
neighborhood - and the horror that resulted - still stings.
"Every year when May comes around, I think of it, of course, because I'll
never forget that it's May 13, 1985," says Mary Ellen Krober, a lawyer for
the city who negotiated settlements with 11 MOVE families.
'Grossly negligent' actions
When the Rev. Isaac Miller arrived in Philadelphia shortly after the
bombing, there was little discussion of it, he says. It was too
disturbing: The city's 1st black mayor had dropped a bomb on a black
"In many ways, for African-Americans, it's painful to remember," says
Miller, an Episcopal priest who will speak Friday at a commemoration. "But
... it has to be" remembered.
A commission that investigated found that Goode and two other officials,
police commissioner Gregore Sambor and fire commissioner William Richmond,
had been "grossly negligent." The deaths of the MOVE children "appeared to
be unjustified homicide," it said. Police had not taken them out of the
house when they had the chance. They had used excessive force in firing
10,000 rounds of ammunition into the house. The plan to drop explosives
was "reckless" and "unconscionable." And they let the fire burn until it
was too late to control.
Sambor resigned 6 months later. Richmond retired in 1988. Goode apologized
tearfully on TV and was re-elected in 1988.
"Everybody was shouting at the television set, 'Put out the fire!'" says
Carl Singley, a lawyer who was counsel to the MOVE commission.
That 5 children died, huddled in the basement of the MOVE house, brings
tears to his eyes. "I imagine those last hours down in the basement," he
Police have changed tactics
The confrontation came after months of complaints from neighbors about
MOVE, which is not an abbreviation for anything. Members broadcast
political harangues on bullhorns day and night, threw garbage and filth
into their yard and kept their children naked as part of a dedication to
"Mom Nature." The violence was touched off when police tried to evict
members and arrest some of them.
"You can say whatever you want about the adult MOVE people in the house
and whether they got what they deserved," says John Anderson, co-author of
Burning Down the House, a book about MOVE. "But there were kids in the
8 years later, the standoff between federal agents and the Branch
Davidians near Waco, Texas, echoed the MOVE scenario. Since then, says
Henry Ruth, who served on commissions investigating MOVE and Waco, police
have changed their tactics. In 1996, the Montana Freemen standoff ended
peacefully when federal agents simply waited out the Freemen. "They
learned a lot from Waco, and I think they learned from MOVE about the
inevitability of tragedy when you start raiding a cult where you have no
contingency plan," Ruth says. "Law enforcement has seen the need to wait
and wait and wait. I think we've learned a lot of lessons. But it took
MOVE and it took Ruby Ridge and it took Waco to learn that, and that was
over 100 lives."
1 of the 2 who escaped the fire, Ramona Africa, 49, spent 7 years in
prison for riot and conspiracy. Today, she earns her living speaking about
MOVE and Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death-row inmate convicted in an unrelated
1981 killing of a police officer.
"I am angry, and bitter, and justifiably so," she says. "Not a single
official went to prison for murdering my family," referring to the whole
Africa clan. The bombing, she says, was "not bad judgment. That is
Members now live in a big house in West Philadelphia, eat "a lot" of raw
food, Africa says, and home-school their children. But the tactics have
changed, she says, since the bombing drew the world's attention. "It's not
necessary for us to be on the bullhorn now. People are calling us for
Today, the site of the bombed house, 6221 Osage, is occupied by the police
Civil Affairs Unit. The city rebuilt Osage Avenue, but the construction
was so shoddy that years of repairs failed to fix the homes. Finally, the
city condemned them and offered owners $150,000. Many took the buyout, but
24 families went to federal court. The city is appealing the judgment.
"I'm really disgusted," says resident Nan Chainey. I'm tired, and I want
to end this thing."
Twenty years of struggle left the residents of Osage Avenue distrustful of
the government they asked in 1985 to help them with their neighbors.
"They want us, the people, physically out," says Gerald Renfrow, a roofer
who has lived on the block since 1959. "When we're out, that means there's
no one left on Osage to tell the story of what happened."
(source: USA TODAY)
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