death penalty news----MISS., MASS., ARIZ., N.C., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 16 22:04:49 CST 2005
Nixon's death row odyssey is a pathetic joke
The death penalty in Mississippi - currently invoked by Mississippi juries
for 69 inmates who killed people while in the commission of another felony
like robbery, rape or kidnapping - remains a pathetic joke.
It's meaningless. Mississippi doesn't carry out the death penalty. We just
talk about it incessantly in the appellate courts and during political
Consider the case of Mississippi Death Row Inmate No. 41484 - John B.
Old John's a hit man. And when I call him "Old" John, I'm not
exaggerating. Nixon's been on death row for over 2 decades.
20 years on death row?
Nixon, 77, a former Utica auto repairman, was convicted of capital murder
in the Jan. 22, 1985, murder-for-hire slaying of Virginia Tucker, 45, in
her Brandon home. Tucker's ex-husband, Elester Joseph Ponthieux of
Raymond, is serving a life sentence for hiring Nixon to kill her.
Virginia Tucker's husband, Thomas Tucker, was wounded in the attack as he
fled their house. Tucker survived and identified Nixon as the attacker. 2
of Nixon's sons and a friend also went to prison for their roles in the
Nixon's a prince of a guy. He pleaded guilty to a rape charge in Texas in
But the truth of the matter is that Nixon has been in more danger of
falling and breaking a hip or strangling on his dental adhesive than of
getting the lethal injection a group of Mississippi jurors said he had
coming for his crime.
Nixon could well die of old age before the state gets around to executing
him for the contract killing of a Brandon woman.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied yet another appeal by Nixon.
Attorney General Jim Hood's office immediately filed a motion with the
state Supreme Court to set a Dec. 14 date for Nixon's execution - based on
the belief that Nixon's failed appeal may have represented his last hope
to avoid execution.
But Nixon's attorney answered with yet another emergency appeal to the
state Supreme Court rehashing issues that the federal courts have already
Executions rarely happen
Between 1940 and 1952, Mississippi executed 75 prisoners in the old
portable electric chair. From 1955 to 1964, the state executed another 29
inmates in the gas chamber.
Yet, between 1964 and 1989, only 4 inmates were executed in the gas
chamber - Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983, Edward Earl Johnson and Connie Ray Evans
in 1987, and Leo Edwards in 1989.
Since 1989, only 2 death row inmates were executed - cop killer Tracey
Alan Hansen and rapist/murderer Jessie Darnell Williams, both by lethal
injection in 2002.
Statistics show that over the last 41 years, only 6 Mississippi inmates
condemned to suffer the death penalty have actually been executed.
The rest of death row's inmates are wards of the state and daily the meter
spins on the high cost of maximum security incarceration and of the
endless cycle of state and federal appeals.
As long as Mississippi fails to provide for a state indigent defense
system that verifiably provides competent counsel for murder defendants
that is comparable to the state trial court prosecutorial system, the
farce that is the death penalty in Mississippi will continue.
The state Supreme Court knows the revolving door of death row appeals, but
has yet to order the state to fund indigent defense sufficient to avoid or
lessen the delay of these incessant appeals.
One has to wonder just how much punishment exists in putting a 77-year-old
man to sleep like a distempered dog - that is, if the state gets around to
(source: The Clarion Ledger)
Another defeat for death penalty
The Massachusetts House of Representatives resoundingly defeated Gov. Mitt
Romney's proposal to reinstate the death penalty yesterday despite
arguments that new scientific safeguards would remove all doubt about
The House vote was 100 to 53 against capital punishment.
During a debate that stretched from early afternoon into the evening,
opponents of the death penalty said it would not be a deterrent to crime.
Some predicted it would disproportionately target minorities, based on
statistics in other states.
"Our current system meets the requirement of harsh punishment and meets
the requirement for deterrent without engaging in the financial and moral
costs of capital punishment," said Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, D-Chelsea.
O'Flaherty is the House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which voted
17-1 to oppose Romney's capital punishment bill.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey called the vote "very disappointing." It was a lost
opportunity for Massachusetts to lead the way in genuinely innovative
approaches to law enforcement. I had hoped that the Legislature would take
a serious look at this legislation and realize that it was unique and
unlike any legislation they had considered in the past on the death
Supporters of bill said Romney had come up with a narrow death penalty
statute that removed all doubt on convictions, in part by requiring an
independent scientific review of the evidence, including DNA.
Romney's legislation would allow death by lethal injection for those
convicted of terrorism, mass murder, killings involving torture, and the
slaying of law enforcement officials, judges, lawyers and witnesses.
Convicts who commit murder while already serving life without parole would
also be eligible for the death penalty.
Rep. Cleon Turner, D-Dennis, said it was not possible to remove all doubt
in death penalty convictions, and he urged lawmakers to vote against the
"The difficulty with the governor's death penalty bill, as conceded even
by its proponents, is that it cannot be infallible," Turner said. "That
fact means that rather than never convicting or executing an innocent
person, we might only convict or execute fewer. One mistaken execution
would be far too many."
Rep. Jeffrey Davis Perry, R-Sandwich, argued in favor of the bill.
"It's about punishing the people who murder innocent people," Perry told
the House. "It's about deterrence. And it's about justice." I want to
applaud the governor for having the political courage to take this issue
on. It's something he talked about during his campaign. He put together a
commission to study the issue."
Perry said the law was narrow enough that only one or two murders a year
would qualify, based on testimony at a public hearing this year.
Romney based his bill on the findings of the expert commission that
studied the death penalty last year. It would establish a new standard of
"no doubt" in capital cases, tougher than the "beyond a reasonable doubt"
required for criminal convictions.
But the legislation faced long odds in the House, which has now rejected
the death penalty 4 times since 1997, when it was defeated by a tie vote.
This time, it was opposed by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston. The
margin is getting wider. In the last vote, in 2001, the House voted 92-60
against capital punishment.
Yesterday's vote means Massachusetts remains 1 of 14 states in the nation
without the death penalty. In 2 of those states, Kansas and New York,
death penalty laws were declared unconstitutional by each state's high
Rep. Shirley Gomes, R-Harwich called Romney's proposal a "much improved
death penalty bill, but it's not foolproof."
Rather than spend money putting inmates on death row, Gomes said, the
state should "give our law enforcement officers the tools, the training,
the laws, the money and manpower to do their jobs."
(source: Cape Cod Times)
Prof: victims affect sentence -- New study finds childhood experience
linked to violent crime
The social standing of murder victims has a direct impact on what kind of
sentence convicted killers receive, according to the research of a UA
James Clarke, a political science professor, studied the cases of 179
convicted killers whose cases were tried in Pima County between 1991 and
The most startling finding to come from the study was that 89 % of the
victims of death-row inmates were middle class, while 83 % of the victims
of nondeath-row inmates were poor or unskilled, Clarke said.
"Prosecutors and judges place less importance on lower class victims,"
Clarke said. "The value of a victims life varies with his or her social
The criteria for the study were accessibility of the inmates files and the
completeness of these files, and only those who had direct involvement in
the crime were considered for the study, he said.
"We didn't select people who were riding in the back of the car during a
drive-by," Clarke said.
Clarke used sources such as crime scene documents, spoken and written
statements by the perpetrators, and psychological evaluations to conduct
Of the 179 convicted killers in Pima County, 10 % were sentenced to death,
a figure Clarke said is twice as high as the rest of the state.
One similarity among nearly all of the convicted killers was their social
background, something that Clarke believes factors into all violent crime
cases. Because social behaviors stem from early childhood, efforts to
reduce violent crime should focus more on family life, he said.
"Adult violence is so clearly associated with childhood experiences,"
About 79 % of the convicts studied had inadequate parenting, which Clarke
defined as "absent, incompetent, negligent or abusive parents."
A strong relationship between children and their parents is extremely
important as the child grows older, Clarke said.
"A child's conscience emerges out of the attachments it forms with its
parents," Clarke said. "If moral values are not taught during the
preschool years, a childs future as a teen and an adult is virtually
A person without a good conscience will act only on the basis of
expedience, Clarke said.
As the convicts aged, many showed signs of sociopathic behavior, but
Clarke was quick to point out that not all sociopaths are incarcerated.
"Some are in corporate boardrooms," Clarke said.
As teenagers, 57 % of the convicts were involved in anti-social behavior
that brought the attention of authorities, and 52 % had been suspended or
expelled from school.
For these reasons, when the killers were convicted, Clarke said, it
probably came as no surprise to the social workers, teachers and
counselors who had been in contact with them as children.
"Efforts to reduce violent crime in the long term should focus on families
and children," Clarke said. "Every kid needs a loving mother and father."
(source: Arizona Daily Wildcat)
The Governor's Decisions
Gov. Mike Easley didn't grant clemency to a man from Surry County who was
executed last week, but he still faces the heavy responsibility of
deciding whether to grant clemency to 2 more inmates from North Carolina's
death row whose executions are fast approaching.
Kenneth Lee Boyd is scheduled to die Dec. 2 for the fatal shooting of his
estranged wife and her father in Rockingham County. Elias Syriani is set
to be executed at 2 a.m. Friday for the fatal stabbing of his wife with a
screwdriver in Mecklenburg County. Syriani's 4 children, now adults, have
all asked that his life be spared.
Neither of the men is claiming innocence. But as Easley considers each
case, he should keep in mind that, even though the movement for a
moratorium on the death penalty in the state has stalled, there's good
reason for it - including questions in general about competency of counsel
and tactics of prosecutors, and the sometimes arbitrary nature of who gets
the ultimate punishment and who doesn't.
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
Sarah Positano's killer has been sentenced to die.
Judge John Enlow followed the recommendation of a jury today and sentenced
James Trimble to die by lethal injection, the Canadian Press is reporting.
The trial took place place in Ravenna, Ohio, where Trimble had already
been convicted for kidnapping and murdering Positano, who was 22 at the
time of her death.
The young Saultite had been a physical education student at Kent State
University, when she was slain in her condo.
Trimble chose the home at random while on the run from police.
Just hours earlier, he'd used an assault rifle to kill Renee Bauer and her
seven-year-old son Dakota.
The 45-year-old man was found guilty by a jury of all 9 counts against
him, including 3 of aggravated murder, stemming from the shooting rampage.
Last week, the jury recommended the death penalty.
The court heard victim impact statements before Judge Enlow delivered
death sentences on all 3 murder counts.
Positano, a gifted gymnast, was beginning her last term at Kent State.
The Akron Beacon-Journal is reporting today that Trimble lash out at
Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci in a statement to the court.
Trimble accused Vigluicci of making the decision to send a sniper into the
He maintains he didn't want to kill the Saultite, but his hand slipped off
a gun he was holding to Sarah's head when he noticed the sniper entering
Trimble also claimed that it was his intent to plead guilty but Vigluicci
refused to accept the plea.
Vigluicci referred to Trimble's accusations as "the ramblings of a
remorseless, cold-blooded murderer who has made excuses for his conduct
throughout the trial."
(source: Sault Ste. Marie News)
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