[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MASS., CONN., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Nov 13 23:17:19 CST 2005
Dallas police officer killed in shootout
A Dallas police officer was killed in a gunfight Sunday morning as he
chased a suspect in a residential neighborhood. The 28-year old patrol
officer, Brian Jackson, was shot and killed in the 2400 block of Madera
The officer suffered a gunshot wound through the underarm and died at
Baylor Medical Center at 3:52 a.m.
Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle said the officer had responded to a
domestic disturbance in the 2400 block of North Henderson Avenue at about
This is the 1st police officer killed under Chief Kunkle's watch, since he
became chief a year ago.
The chief fought back tears as he recounted the shooting incident and said
that officer Jackson's co-workers said he "had an excellent reputation. He
loved his wife. He loved his job."
The suspect, also 28-years old, was not injured and is in police custody.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Texas inmate who walked out of jail known for charm, manipulation
To many, death row inmate Charles Victor Thompson, who walked out the
front door of the Harris County Jail and was free for 4 days before his
recapture in Louisiana, will remain a manipulative, selfish, directionless
person who shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
"He had nice parents, an upper middle-class home life, a good education.
Some people are just born mean. Some people are born broken and you can't
do anything to fix it," said prosecutor Kelly Siegler, who worked on the
case that sent Thompson to death row in 1999.
But others who know Thompson say the 35-year-old can be redeemed.
"He's a very personable guy," said local anti-death penalty activist David
Atwood, who first visited Thompson on death row 3 years ago. "He's easy to
communicate with. He's easy to like."
Thompson slipped out of his handcuffs after meeting with an attorney in
the Harris County Jail on Nov. 3. He changed out of his prison jumpsuit
into a golf shirt and khakis he had smuggled into jail. He altered his
prison ID card to pose as a staff member of the state attorney general's
office and bluffed his way past at least 4 deputies and out the front
door. He was captured on Nov. 6 in Shreveport, La. and is now back on
Texas death row.
Thompson, of the Houston suburb of Tomball, was condemned for the 1998
shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Dennise Hayslip, 39, also of
Tomball, and her new boyfriend, Darren Keith Cain, 30, of nearby Spring.
He had been brought from death row to Houston after an appeals court
ordered he be resentenced. A new jury resentenced Thompson to death Oct.
28. He was in the county jail awaiting transfer back to prison in
Livingston, about 75 miles to the northeast, when he escaped.
Thompson's problems with law enforcement began in his teens, when he
burglarized homes in the affluent Colorado neighborhood where he lived in,
according to court records. Thompson also developed drug and alcohol
problems, getting arrested for difficulties with both.
Vic Wisner, another prosecutor in his case, said Thompson had an IQ of
"He was just a screw up," Wisner said. "He's just somebody who was given a
lot and he just squandered his life."
Debi French, Thompson's former boss at a Tomball moving company, said
Thompson was charming, sweet and upbeat, but unmotivated.
"He and Dennise, when they would fight, it was because she would complain
about him being immature and not doing anything with his life," French
said. "I would tell him, 'You need to set goals.' He would try."
The brother of Thompson's victim, Dennise Hayslip, said he only saw
peripheral evidence of Thompson's violent nature.
"He hid that pretty well," Mike Donaghy said. "I did see my sister with a
black eye one time, shortly before the shooting. I guess that's why she
got the black eye, because she had broken up with him."
Wisner said Thompson could be violent drunk or sober and he tried to hire
hitmen to kill witnesses against him while he was awaiting trial.
Thompson's lawyer denied the murder-for-hire allegations.
Terrence Gaiser, Thompson's attorney, said the killings were "totally out
of character," triggered by drug and alcohol use.
"We should reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst. This is
not that crime and this is not that person," Gaiser said.
Court documents filed by Gaiser and other defense attorneys in the case
say Thompson was physically and sexually abused as a child. But Wisner
said Thompson never offered proof of the allegations.
Since his time on death row, Thompson has written letters about his
experience that anti-death penalty groups have posted on their Web sites.
In one letter, he proclaims his innocence. In another, he asks people to
correspond with him because death row "can be a lonely experience and a
struggle for mental survival." Many of these letters he signs, "Sincerely
in Christ." During his brief time in a Shreveport, La., jail after his
capture, Thompson asked for a Bible.
Atwood, with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said
Thompson has become a Third Order Franciscan, which permits life outside a
monastery. Atwood believes Thompson's conversion.
"You never know 100 percent about what's going on in a person's heart or
mind," he said. "My take is that over the years, he has changed. At least
that is what my hope was. It still is my hope."
But Siegler said she doesn't believe Thompson has changed, as she got a
threatening letter from him in 2001.
"People expect the typical capital murder defendant is not going to look
anything like him," she said. "He's the average, All-American, some would
say nice looking man. You would never say he is so sick."
French said her feelings about Thompson are torn.
"Dennise was a sweetheart. This whole situation just hurts a lot, all the
way around," she said.
(source: The Associated Press)
Lack of supervision may have aided escape -- A veteran jailer calls it
routine for detention officers to leave their posts
Lapses in discipline and supervision - and not simply human error, as
officials have said - may explain how death row inmate Charles Victor
Thompson walked out of the Harris County Jail this month with relative
ease, according to a veteran jailer and others with access to the jail's
A Harris County jailer with a long career in law enforcement and a union
lawyer described an atmosphere at the jail in which detention officers
routinely leave their posts before the end of their shifts - a factor
Thompson may have capitalized on during his brazen escape from the
facility at 1200 Baker.
The jailer, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, said
some jailers play video games and nap while on duty. The jailer also
contends that many routinely leave their posts unmanned well before their
shifts are up.
"All of these things, I have personally seen," the jailer said.
A department spokesman said policy dictates that jail employees remain on
duty until they are relieved, and the same rule applies to supervisors.
"I don't have any direct knowledge of people leaving early. Especially if
they haven't been relieved," said Lt. John Martin, a spokesman for the
Harris County Sheriff's Office, which operates the jail. "If that is the
case, of course, we need to take appropriate administrative action."
Deputies on duty Nov. 3, the day of the escape, have been questioned in
the department's internal affairs investigation.
When sergeants leave
Harris County's 4 jails are manned by deputies who are fully certified
peace officers and unlicensed detention officers, the jailer said.
Detention officers serve as rovers or as pod and day-room watchers. Pod
watchers are assigned to control centers, or guard stations, and are
responsible for monitoring dozens of prisoners at a time.
Rovers move about the jail, responding to emergencies or relieving pod
watchers during breaks. Sergeants supervise the rovers and pod watchers.
Sergeants, however, report for work 30 minutes before the detention
officers they oversee and leave 30 minutes sooner, the jailer said.
The veteran jailer said some rovers take advantage of the lack of
supervision by leaving shortly after their bosses. The jailer suggested
that such a lack of supervision, as well as a shortage of deputies around
a shift change, may have contributed to the conditions that allowed
Thompson to escape.
Thompson had met with Houston lawyer James Rytting about 1:45 p.m. for
about 20 minutes. Rytting, who wasn't Thompson's attorney of record, did
not help the inmate escape, county officials have said.
Thompson was reported missing about 3:30 p.m.
Richard Cobb, a Fraternal Order of Police lawyer, said there weren't
enough deputies on duty to escort Thompson to see the attorney. He said no
one was available to escort Thompson to the booth, so one deputy, on his
way out for the day, offered to walk Thompson to the booth.
The jailer who spoke on condition of anonymity said rovers frequently must
be reminded to lock the visitor's booth doors after escorting inmates to
and from the rooms. The jailer also said pod watchers do not have keys to
the interview rooms.
"So, a day-shift deputy relieves him and (the rover) just goes home," said
the jailer. "And Thompson's just left in there, and the door's not locked
just because nobody bothered to lock it."
After his meeting with the attorney, Thompson remained in the unlocked
booth where he changed into civilian clothes and shed his handcuffs.
Thompson had been on death row since his 1999 conviction for the slayings
of his former girlfriend, Dennise Hayslip, 39, and her new boyfriend,
Darren Keith Cain, 30, the year before. While in Houston, Thompson was
being held in the "higher-security cell blocks", but the Baker jail is not
considered a maximum-security facility, Martin said.
'Security is extremely tight'
County officials have said the Baker facility was fully staffed when
Thompson escaped. The jail averages one guard per 48 inmates. The
Commissioners Court recently approved adding 60 guards, but the hiring
process is ongoing, Martin said.
The fact that Thompson was able to linger in the booth is not an unusual
occurrence at the jail, said defense lawyer Stanley Schneider. Schneider
said he typically has long waits to see his clients at the jail, and they
have pleaded with him to be sure to tell guards when the meetings are
"From my experience with the Harris County Jail, you can't have personal
contact with the client. You're lucky if you have a slit to slide a piece
of paper through, and you have to tell somebody in advance if you need to
have them sign documents," Schneider said. "Security is extremely tight."
When Thompson made it to the first floor, deputies escorted him from the
secure area to the public lobby and questioned him, officials said. Under
the guise that he worked for the state Attorney General's Office, Thompson
was allowed to leave.
Cobb, however, said he has witnessed investigators being allowed to enter
a jail facility without signing in after flashing county identification.
Thompson, he said, also may have been able to flash his prison ID and walk
out without question.
"You can become so immune - they must have law enforcement personnel from
different agencies. You've got district attorney's office investigators,
Houston Police Department investigators and others going in and out of
there all the time," Cobb said.
Martin disputed that notion.
"Our own detectives regularly complain about not being given more freedom
to come into the facility to interview inmates," he said.
The fact that Thompson had his prison ID card and civilian clothes from
his last court appearance has raised the question of whether Thompson had
inside help. His prison ID should have been stored along with his other
personal items when he was transferred here from death row, Martin said.
His street clothes should have been handed over after his last court
appearance, he added.
Still, Martin said Thompson's capture in Shreveport, La., suggests he may
not have had as much help as was feared.
"The big concern was he would have some means of support, someone hiding
him, providing him with a place to stay, food and moving him around and
making it harder for us to find him," Martin said.
Thompson was arrested while loitering outside a liquor store. He was alone
and had a few dollars. Posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim, he'd been
able to get donations.
County officials insist that their investigation, which may soon be
complete, will determine the exact failures behind Thompson's escape. The
findings could prove unsettling, Schneider said.
"There are too many unanswered questions," the defense lawyer said, "and
there's not a good answer for any of them."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
ENLIGHTENED JUSTICE----District attorney should negotiate a plea bargain
that sends Andrea Yates to a secure mental health facility.
For anyone who believes in the existence of mental illness, the 1st trial
of Clear Lake housewife Andrea Yates for drowning her 5 children provided
convincing evidence that she was a very sick woman under the delusion that
she had to kill her children in order to save them.
Harris County prosecutors convinced a jury in 2002 that Yates knew right
from wrong and therefore was guilty of capital murder in the deaths of 3
of her 5 slain children. But inaccurate testimony by an expert witness for
the prosecution caused a state appellate court to overturn the verdict.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld that decision. The
prosecution's mental health expert, Park Dietz, falsely claimed Yates
could have gotten the idea to kill her children from an episode of the TV
series Law & Order, but no such episode existed.
The prosecution's decision to paint the desperately ill Yates as a
rational and knowing murderess was a mistake the 1st time around. With the
community now facing a possible replay of that miscarriage of justice and
the waste of taxpayer dollars and court time, Harris County District
Attorney Chuck Rosenthal should demonstrate reason and compassion, both
for her and for us. He should work out a plea bargain with Yates'
attorney, George Parnham, that provides for her to be treated in a
nonpenal mental facility with provisions that furnish safeguards regarding
her release. Parnham indicates the defense is open to such an agreement;
the district attorney has not decided whether to try her again.
Since Yates was tried in the deaths of three of her children, those
charges could be dismissed. Under the terms of such an agreement, Yates
would be transferred from the prison mental unit in Rusk to a secure state
nonpenal facility for as long as she was diagnosed by doctors as a threat
to the community or herself.
Since there is no statute of limitations on murder, prosecutors will
retain the option of trying her on the other two deaths if they disagree
with any medical decision that led to her release. Such an arrangement
would serve the best interests of Yates, the community and the district
Betsy Schwartz, the executive director of the Mental Health Association of
Greater Houston, says one of the few good aspects of the Yates trial was
it helped educate families about the seriousness of postpartum depression
and the need for a better definition of mental illness in the state's
criminal code. For those who insist that Yates must be punished for
killing her children, drug therapy has made her rational, and she realizes
the enormity of her actions.
"In Andrea's case, the guilt that she lives with every day is a pretty
dramatic punishment," Schwartz said. "She needs treatment."
Parnham says the only threat his client poses is to herself. Yates
attempted suicide in prison and requires daily monitoring by physicians.
As Yates' former husband, Rusty, told The Associated Press, "I think
everyone would lose if they brought her back to trial." He's right. There
are no winners in this case, but a humane and reasonable plea bargain
would go a long way toward easing the pain and controversy that the deaths
of the Yates children and their mother's trial visited upon this
(source: Editorial, Houston Chronicle)
Sacco and Vanzetti's tale retold----New film highlights private lives of
Leftwing Italian martyrs Sacco and Vanzetti have come to life again in a
new Italian TV film. The 2-part film on Premier Silvio Berlusconi's
flagship Canale 5 channel stars top Italian actors Sergio Rubini and Ennio
Fantastichini as the two Italian anarchists whose murder trial became a
worldwide cause celebre in the 1920s. It recreates the anti-immigrant and
anti-leftist climate of the time, while portraying the main characters in
intimate detail .
"We chose to privilege the human and emotional perspective of the affair,
to tell the dreams and emotions with which Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo
Vanzetti arrived in America, and the complexity of the daily life of
immigrants at that troubled but heroic historical period," the film-makers
said on the Canale 5 website.
"We've made a non-political film with a lot of politics in it," said
Pietro Calderoni and Gualtiero Rosella, admitting it was hard to "break
new ground" compared to a cult movie from the early '70s.
They said the film was "a story of love and friendship - feelings born by
chance but defended up to their final sacrifice."
Rubini (Sacco), whose credits include Fellini's Intervista, abriele
Salvatores' Nirvana and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, said:
"Nothing has changed since that period. We've forgotten what we were 80
years ago. A few days ago I saw a photo of an immigrant captioned 'the new
He added: "I've always seen Sacco as somehow part of the family because
I've always been fascinated by the story of my grandfather who made his
fortune selling ice in America and had to marry my grandma by proxy."
Fantastichini, who has played St.Peter, Napoleon's brother and slain
Italian Mafia-buster Giovanni Falcone in recent TV movies, said: "Let's
hope kids see the movie because it talks about brotherhood in a country
which some people want to split between north and south."
The actor, who is of peasant stock like the heroes, said he had looked to
his late friend Gian Maria Volonte', star of the 1971 film, for
inspiration on how to play Vanzetti.
The new TV film was presented without fanfare but to critical acclaim in
the TV section of this summer's Venice Film Festival.
Berlusconi's Mediaset group is hoping to sell foreign rights worldwide. To
coincide with the two-part mini-serial, expected to draw a huge audience
on Sunday and Monday nights, a tiny publishing house near Salerno is
reissuing Bartolomeo Vanzetti's book Una Vita Proletaria (A Proletarian
The Galzerano Press in the small town of Casalvelino was the 1st - and so
far only - publisher to put out the biography in 1987.
This 2nd edition will include Vanzetti's last letters from prison to
family and friends and his last public statement before he was sentenced
Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested after the murder of 2 shoe factory
employees in a payroll heist south of Boston in 1920.
The arrests came at the height of America's 1919-1920 'Red Scare', the
most intense period of political repression in America's history.
Prosecutors claimed the 2 robbed the factory to fund their political
Witnesses said the gunmen had "looked Italian."
The only evidence against them was that they were carrying guns when they
They both had solid alibis - Vanzetti was selling fish in nearby Plymouth
and Sacco was having his photo taken with his wife in central Boston.
The prosecution made a great deal of the fact that all the corroborating
witnesses were Italian.
Police rejected a 1925 confession by a Portuguese immigrant who implicated
members of a notorious Italo-American gang. The two anarchists were
sentenced to the electric chair in 1921 and executed on August 23, 1927 -
despite a vocal worldwide campaign against their deaths.
In America, luminaries like physicist Albert Einstein and writers John Dos
Passos, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker published articles in support of
They were joined across the Atlantic by philosopher Bertrand Russell and
writers George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.
There were huge protest marches in London, Paris, Mexico City and Buenos
Famous poet Edna St Vincent Millay wrote an elegy on their deaths.
Much later, the two became icons for the post-1968 generation. Joan Baez
wrote a song about them.
OTHER FILMS, POSTHUMOUS PARDON
The Canale 5 movie is the 1st filmed account of the men's last years since
the 1971 film by Giuliano Montaldo, which earned a Cannes Best Actor Award
for Volonte's co-star Riccardo Cucciolla.
Before that, there was a 1960 US mini-film directed by Sydney Lumet and
starring Martin Balsam.
There have also been 2 German films on the affair, in 1927 and 1963, and a
French one in 1967. In 1997 Sacco and Vanzetti finally received official
recognition from Boston when a monument by Mt. Rushmore architect Gutzon
Borglum was erected in the city.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, an ethnic Italian, said: "Our accepting this
work of art is an acknowledgement on the part of the city that these two
men did not get a fair trial."
20 years earlier, in 1977, then Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis
rehabilitated them, removing "all stigma or stain from their names."
EXECUTION, LAST WORDS
On 23rd August 1927, the day of the men's execution, over 250,000 people
took part in a silent demonstration in Boston.
In his last statement to the court, Vanzetti said: "I am suffering because
I am a radical and indeed I am a radical, I have suffered because I was an
Italian, and indeed I am an Italian, I have suffered more for my family
and for my beloved than for myself. "But I am so convinced I am right that
if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other
times, I would live again to do what I have done already"." Shortly
before, he told a reporter: "If it had not been for this thing, I might
have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might
have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. "Now we are not a failure. This
is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do
such work for tolerance, justice, for man's understanding of man, as now
we do by accident. "Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The
taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler -
all! That last moment belongs to us - that agony is our triumph."
Anti-Death Penalty Rally in Hartford
Opponents of the death penalty were at the state capitol Sunday.
The anti-death penalty rally comes at the time of the 1,000th execution in
America, since the death penalty was re-instated in 1977.
This week also notes the 6 month anniversary of the Connecticut execution
of serial killer Michael Ross.
He was the 1st person executed in New England in 45 years.
(source: WTNH News)
Spirko has more than his defense team fighting for his life John Spirko
has had two execution dates postponed in recent months, the second of
which will pass Tuesday.
Twice the governor, on the advice of the attorney general, has postponed
the execution based on challenges to his conviction in the 1982 abduction
and murder of Elgin Postmaster Betty Jane Mottinger.
Spirko's case has become the most widely publicized death penalty case in
Ohio since 1999 when Ohio executed its 1st inmate in more than 35 years.
Since the 1999 execution of Wilford Berry, the state has executed 17 other
inmates. Although all have been publicized, none have gained the attention
that Spirko has received.
One of the groups that joined in fighting the execution is the Center on
Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University led by its legal Director
Drizin became involved after a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer,
who has written a number of articles challenging the conviction, contacted
him. The reporter was troubled by the conviction and asked Drizin to
review the case file, Drizin said. Drizin agreed.
"I was very troubled by the so-called confession of Spirko," Drizin said.
I felt I had to get involved. At that point, I contacted Spirko's
attorneys and said, "What can we do to help?"
That confession is not recorded on audio or videotape. It consists of
notes by an investigator and includes word additions written above
sentences with arrows pointing to a place of insert, he said.
Spirko's confession came through a series of interviews after he had
contacted investigators who had been chasing one unproductive lead after
Spirko was not even on the radar screen until he called offering to trade
information for help in a criminal case that landed him in jail in Toledo.
Investigators said the confessions contained "information only the killer
would know." Drizin said he is troubled by that because the confessions
did not lead investigators to addi-tional evidence or tell them something
they didn't know.
"There was no independent evidence to corroborate it," he said.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions was formed in 1999 and since then its
attorney have helped exonerate 11 of 17 people on Illinois' death row.
They also have helped in as many as 50 cases, Drizin estimated.
The involvement of the center can be as simple as a letter to a court
containing an opinion on a case to taking on a case and representing an
inmate, including at a new trial, Drizin said.
The center has 3 attorneys, including Drizin, and does not take every case
that comes its way. There is criteria, which includes inmates who maintain
their innocence and have at least 10 years left on their sentence or are
facing the death penalty.
Ohio Northern University Law Professor Victor Streib said groups such as
Drizin's typically serve as an outside expert. There are various such
groups throughout the country including a lesser-known group at Ohio
Northern, he said.
Former Allen County Prosecutor David Bowers, who put 3 men on Ohio's death
row in 28 years as a prosecutor, said groups such as Drizin's are needed
to provide balance in the system.
"We've always have got to have two sides to an issue. Issues have got to
be debated and have to run their course," Bowers said.
But on the other hand, Bowers said when groups and lawyers play the stall
game it's not an issue of exploring innocence but rather obstructing
"Mr. Spirko has had a fair trial and it has been reviewed how many times
by how many courts? Certainly his acts are of such an egregious nature
that he deserves to die," Bowers said.
But Drizin does not believe Spirko killed Mottinger. He said Elgin is too
remote of a location to stumble on and the post office would have been a
poor target for a robbery, which was one of the motives in the case. "My
review of the file suggested very strongly whoever was involved in the
crime had some connection to Elgin, Ohio, and kidnapped Mrs. Mottinger
because they had a fear she could identify them down the road," he said.
The latest claim that postponed Tuesday's scheduled execution until Jan.
19 is a request for DNA testing. Spirko's attorneys want to test a
painter's tarp that was wrapped around Mottinger's remains when her body
was found in Findlay 6 weeks after her abduction.
Spirko's attorneys have suggested the tarp may have belonged to another
man who ran a painting business. That man is currently in a Louisiana
prison and a former employee has come forward to suggest his former boss
was the killer.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro stepped in asking the governor for a
60-day reprieve while his office examines the tarp and other articles
found with the body to see if there is any biological evidence to submit
for DNA testing.
Drizin commends Petro for his willingness to examine various avenues and
said the DNA could be linked to other people to investigate. On the other
hand, it could cement the case against Spirko if his DNA is found with the
"The beauty of DNA is it doesn't play favorites," he said.
There's also the chance there will be no biological matter available for
testing, but any that provides a match to someone other than Spirko
provides a starting point, he said.
Drizin also said if someone else's DNA is found, the state will have a
burden to explain how it got on a tarp used in the murder.
Streib said DNA evidence doesn't necessarily point to a killer unless it
was a rape-murder case where the killer left behind DNA during the rape
such as in semen.
"All it does is say at some point in time that person touched that
object," Streib said.
Streib is not exactly sure why the Spirko case has gained so much
He surmises it's because of Spirko's claim of innocent coupled with the
lack of "slam-dunk evidence," he said.
Additionally, the public as a whole, which is usually strongly for the
death penalty, listens more to claims of innocence than other challenges,
(source: Lima News)
Worth a closer look ---- Criminal executions shouldn't proceed when
available DNA evidence hasn't been tested
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro did the right thing by asking Gov. Bob
Taft to postpone a controversial execution to allow for DNA testing of
evidence. Taft granted a 60-day reprieve.
Petro has expressed no confidence in John G. Spirko's claim of innocence
or in the chance that the testing will show that someone other than Spirko
committed the crime of which he was convicted. Since Spirko was convicted
and sentenced to death for the 1982 abduction and murder of Elgin, Ohio,
Postmistress Betty Jane Mottinger, the conviction and sentence have been
upheld at every step of a long appeals process.
Still, DNA testing, which has become a gold standard for analyzing
evidence of crimes, wasn't available when Spirko was convicted. Petro
argues, reasonably, that DNA testing should be performed whenever possible
in serious criminal cases.
In Mottinger's brutal murder, her killer or killers wrapped her in a
tarplike, bloodstained shroud. Hair and blood samples were discovered,
along with fragments of a concrete block found near her body. All of
these, even 23 years later, can be analyzed. If they indicate the presence
of DNA that is neither Mottinger's nor Spirko's, it will be strong
evidence that someone other than Spirko might have committed the murder.
If Spirko is guilty, the DNA testing could confirm that.
Even if Petro is right in his belief that the testing won't prove Spirko
innocent or guilty, the chance of being more certain is too valuable to
Other experts, including some from Capital University Law School and the
Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions,
have expressed doubt about Spirko's guilt and urged Taft to commute his
death sentence or at least grant this reprieve.
The delay is a small price to pay to reduce the chance of a lethal
(source: Editorial, Columbus Dispatch)
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