[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, TEXAS, NEV., IND., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 14 09:43:49 CST 2005
Death row numbers continue to decline----Drop in murder rate, more juries
giving life terms are seen as reasons
The ranks of people sentenced to death and the number executed declined in
2004 as the nation's death row population kept shrinking, the government
Last year, a dozen states executed 59 prisoners, six fewer than in 2003,
according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The report also said 125 people, including 5 women, who were convicted of
murder received a death sentence last year. That was the smallest number
Last year, 22 death row inmates died of natural causes or committed
suicide, while an additional 107 had their sentences commuted, tossed out
or overturned. As of Dec. 31, there were 3,315 people on death row,
compared to 3,378 a year earlier.
Tracy Snell, one of the report's authors, said the number of prisoners
under death sentences has declined 4 years in a row, the result of a
murder rate at its lowest level in 40 years.
One death penalty advocate said the threat of harsh punishment is
responsible for that falling rate.
"There are less murders, less murder victims and less death sentences
because, in our view, we have been giving this problem the right
medicine," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation in Sacramento, Calif.
"Most states have effective habitual offender laws. These laws take the
most likely group of potential capital murderers off the street," said
Rushford, whose public interest law group works "to strengthen law
enforcement's ability to assure that crime does not pay," according to its
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington, said jurors increasingly are reluctant to recommend the
death penalty. "What we're witnessing is a pullback from the death penalty
across the country," Dieter said.
Today, 37 of the 38 states with death penalty laws allow juries to
consider life without parole as an alternative. That option may come to
have a large effect in Texas, which in 2004 executed 23 prisoners, or more
than 3 times as many death row inmates than any other state. A Texas law
that took effect Sept. 1 allows capital murder juries to consider life
without parole for convicted offenders.
California had the largest death row, with 637 inmates at the end 2004.
California, Florida and Texas together account for 44 % of the nation's
death row population.
The report also said:
The 59 inmates executed in 2004 had spent an average of 11 years on death
Of those executed, 36 were white, 19 black and three Hispanic, and one was
Asian. One inmate was electrocuted; the rest were put to death by lethal
10 federal prisoners were sentenced to death in 2004, or twice as many in
any year since 1973.
52 women were on death row, 5 more than a year earlier.
The oldest death row inmate was 89; the youngest was 18.
Preliminary data show that this year 13 states had executed 49 inmates as
of Nov. 9, or 7 fewer than during the same period a year earlier.
On the Net:
Bureau of Justice Statistics http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
Criminal Justice Legal Foundation: http://www.cjlf.org/
Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/
(source: Associated Press)
Yates dreads going to trial again, her lawyer says----This time, he
predicts jurors will rule her not guilty due to insanity
In a telephone interview, Parnham said Yates had been informed about the
appeals court's decision before he met with her.
"What she personally dreads does not equal a legal decision," Parnham
said. "Nobody would desire to have to face what she faced (in the 1st
trial) again. That does not mean we are not ready to go. We are."
"We are going to present overwhelming evidence of her psychiatric illness
and fully expect a jury of non-death-qualified jurors to find her not
guilty by reason of insanity."
Parnham was reluctant to discuss Yates' mental state, which will be an
issue in her new trial.
Parnham said that Yates "does not want to go through that horrible torture
of seeing her childrens' memories paraded before a jury in crime-scene
videos. I think that is absolutely understandable."
Harris County prosecutor Alan Curry already has said the state will seek a
new trial for Yates.
However, the criminal appeals court's decision last week means she cannot
be retried on the same 2 capital murder charges because the jury did not
recommend the death penalty.
Parnham said that a "non-death penalty" jury would be more likely to
"Quite frankly, how many respected psychiatrists are going to be taking
the witness stand and testifying that this woman was not legally insane on
June 20, 2001?" Parnham said. "I can't think of one. ... There is the one
that testified (during the first trial), but, of course, we know that in
at least one respect he didn't tell the truth."
Parnham was referring to the prosecution's star witness, Dr. Park Dietz, a
forensic psychiatrist and consultant for the Law & Order television
series. During his testimony, Dietz said that shortly before drowning her
children, Yates had watched an episode of that show about a woman who
drowned her children, claimed insanity and was found not guilty.
No such episode of the TV show ever existed.
Jurors in the 1st trial were informed about Dietz's false testimony before
sentencing Yates, but the 1st Court of Appeals said the judge erred in not
granting Yates a new trial.
The 1st Court of Appeals wrote: "Dr. Dietz was the only mental health
expert who testified that appellant knew right from wrong. Therefore, his
testimony was critical to establish the State's case. Although the record
does not show that Dr. Dietz intentionally lied in his testimony, his
false testimony undoubtedly gave greater weight to his opinion."
Parnham said that Dietz's testimony undoubtedly influenced the jury.
"People lose sight of the fact that not only did he say such an episode
existed, he compounded the falsity by stating that he was a consultant on
that show," Parnham said.
Parnham predicted that Dietz will testify in Yates' new trial.
He noted that Dietz was the only psychiatric witness at Yates' 1st trial
who did not think she was legally insane when she drowned her children.
Under Texas law, a person must prove a serious mental illness or defect
and the inability to understand that his or her actions are "wrong," in
order to be considered legally "insane."
"Even with the archaic definition of insanity that we have in Texas, I
fully expect that Andrea will be acquitted," Parnham said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Inmate waives appeals, wants execution
A death row inmate who maintains his innocence in the 1988 killing of a
Reno woman waived his appeal (last) Wednesday and was ordered to be
executed in what his lawyer says amounts to "state-assisted suicide."
Daryl Mack, 47, will be executed by lethal injection at the Nevada State
Prison in Carson City sometime from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, under the order
signed by Washoe County District Court Judge Robert Perry.
"He does not admit to the killing he's being executed for, but he's not
going to contest the finding that he's guilty," his lawyer Marc Picker
said after the hearing.
"He told me his decision in July 2004 and has never wavered from that
since then," Picker told The Associated Press.
Mack was in prison for murdering Kim Parks in 1994 in a Reno motel when he
was linked through DNA evidence to the murder of Betty May.
May, 55, was sexually assaulted and strangled in her Reno home in a case
that had remained unsolved for more than a decade.
Judge James Hardesty, now a Nevada Supreme Court justice, found Mack
guilty of killing May, and a 3-judge panel sentenced him to death in 2002.
Before being linked to May's murder, Mack was serving a no-parole life
"He's been in the system a long time," Picker said. "He does not want to
be on death row anymore. He said he's made peace and he's ready to move
on," he said.
"He knows the outcome of his petitions and other avenues of appeal would
take a long time and he'd not be looking at freedom anytime soon if he was
Mack had little to say during a 40-minute hearing.
"I'm prepared to sign the order that ultimately is going to lead to your
execution," Perry told him.
(source: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza)
New sentence delayed for couple's killer
Francis "Bud" Benefiel sat on the wooden bench outside the Indianapolis
courtroom, holding his cane and fighting back tears.
After 12 years of waiting for justice for his parents' killer, he had just
been told he would have to wait some more.
In 1998, the Indiana Supreme Court tossed out Charles Barker's death
sentence. Then last week, because of a newly discovered issue with that
ruling, his resentencing was postponed -- again delaying closure for
Benefiel and his family.
"We just want the nightmare to end," Benefiel said.
It began on the night of Aug. 3, 1993, when Barker broke into the Westside
home of Francis and Helen Benefiel. He fatally shot the couple, then
kidnapped their granddaughter, Candice -- his former girlfriend -- and the
1-year-old daughter he had fathered with her. Barker was apprehended in
Tennessee and convicted of the murders in 1996.
The state's high court rejected his death sentence because the jury had
not been told that a life sentence was an option. Because of legal
maneuverings, the 47-year-old Barker has yet to receive a new sentence.
For the victims' family, each court hearing conjures memories of that
"It's just like it happened again," said Bud Benefiel's wife, Diane.
The memories are never far away for the couple, who bought the house where
the slayings had occurred. Although the home has been remodeled, Bud can
still picture his 65-year-old mother lying dead in the bathroom, where she
had taken Candice's daughter, Ashley, in an attempt to spare her life.
Barker pushed open the door and, leaning inside, fired a bullet into
Helen had fretted aloud about Barker's history of violence, and she had
made a vow. Before she would let Charlie harm Ashley, Diane Benefiel
recalls Helen saying, "he would have to kill her."
Bud's father also died trying to protect his family. Awakened by Barker's
threats to Candice, the 66-year-old man jumped on Barker's back in a
For Bud, the years have been filled with pain, physical as well as
emotional. He suffered two broken legs and a brain injury when a vehicle
struck him while he crossed a street. The wounds left him unable to work.
He forgets things, though never that summer night in 1993.
"There's not too many times a day I don't relive it," he said.
His daughter Candice lives in Hendricks County and works for the Indiana
Department of Revenue. Ashley is now 13 and in 7th grade. She is shy and
does not speak of her father.
Mainly to protect the girl from further reminders of the killings, the
family signed off on prosecutors' decision to seek a new sentence of life
without parole. But before this could be done, the issue with the 1998
Supreme Court ruling was found.
Deputy Prosecutor Larry Sells said that in throwing out the death sentence
and sending the case back for resentencing, the court was silent on
whether it also wanted Barker resentenced on the 111 years of prison time
imposed for related convictions, included kidnapping. Sells said it seems
obvious the court intended to address only the death sentence, but he said
there can be no resentencing until the matter is clarified.
The hearing has been rescheduled for next month. Bud Benefiel will be
Only when he sees his parents' killer put away for a lifetime will he have
a measure of peace.
"We're ready to move on," he said.
(source: Indianapolis Star)
'Execution Is Not A Solution'----At Capitol Rally, Foes Say Death Penalty
Debases Us All
About 50 people attended a rally Sunday on the steps of the state Capitol
to urge an end to the death penalty.
The demonstration was held in anticipation of the country's 1,000th
execution since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed reinstitution of
the death penalty. The 1,000th execution is scheduled to take place Nov.
29 in Ohio.
The rally also marked the six-month anniversary of the execution of serial
killer Michael Ross, the first in Connecticut since reinstitution of the
death penalty. After the rally, participants walked across Bushnell Park
to Center Church for an interfaith service.
Participants held signs that read, "Stop the death penalty," "Do not kill
in my name" and "Execution is not a solution." Sen. Mary Ann Handley,
D-Manchester, said the rally marked a somber anniversary.
"This is something we hoped would never happen," she said. "The deaths of
1,000 people have reduced all of us. We must make a change in our death
penalty laws. We must end it."
Robert Nave, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the
Death Penalty, urged churches and other places of worship to ring bells
the night of the Ohio execution.
"Imagine if you will what that will sound like if every bell in the state
were to ring in unison," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of murders have
plagued our streets. Not only are we breeding and nurturing a culture of
violence, we are handpicking a select few to target for extinction to
satisfy our anger and lust for vengeance."
The Rev. Gordon S. Bates of the United Church of Christ said the real cost
of the death penalty is "the cost we face as a people and nation."
"It's a debasing and dehumanizing thing," he said. "As small a group as we
are and as small a minority as we are, we are the wave of the future. We
don't want people killed in our name."
Torrington resident Elizabeth Brancato, whose mother was murdered 26 years
ago, said she recently visited death-row inmates and their families in
Texas, the nation's leader in executions with 352.
"Their pain and anguish is just as deep as the family of murder victims,"
she said. "We perpetuate the violence. The world will never be peaceful
until we eliminate all violence. I urge everyone to do something each week
to work toward abolishing the death penalty. We are all responsible for
the world we live in."
(source: Hartford Courant)
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