[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----CALIF,. IND., ORE., LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Nov 20 21:23:37 CST 2005
Images complicate clemency clash
The crime photos tell a tale of shotgun brutality: the bloody torso of
7-Eleven clerk Albert Owens, shot twice in the back from close range; the
blasted left side of Yee-Chen Lin's face; holes in Tsai-Shai's back and
stomach; Yen-I Yang's mangled left arm, his spilling abdomen.
Testimonials from parents, teachers and educators tell a different story:
redemption; atonement; untold young lives saved from virulent gang life
through the words of a man sentenced to die for those 4 1979 murders, a
man who now waits to die by lethal injection in 23 days.
The competing portraits of Stanley "Tookie" Williams will face Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger this week as he weighs the nation's most high-profile
clemency decision since the Texas Board of Pardons and then-Gov. George W.
Bush refused to halt the 1998 execution of confessed killer Karla Faye
In Williams, a founder of the notorious Crips street gang in Los Angeles,
death penalty opponents see a strong test for a virtually extinct notion
of clemency as an act of sheer mercy that looks past the court record.
In Schwarzenegger, they see a governor who has called for a renewed focus
on rehabilitation in state prisons, hoping he will snap a 38-year string
of clemency denials in California.
"He's going to increasingly see the overwhelming support for clemency in
this case," said Lance Lindsey, executive director of San Francisco-based
Death Penalty Focus. "Stan is really a case designed for clemency. He
sticks out in hundreds of ways."
In particular, Williams is noted for a string of children's books that
teach the dangers of gang life and for working from prison to curtail gang
violence around the world. Those efforts have resulted in five nominations
for the Nobel Peace Prize and four nominations for the Nobel Prize for
A decision to grant Williams clemency would be unique in the modern era of
death penalty politics, scholars say. Not since the U.S. Supreme Court
reinstated the death penalty in 1976 has a governor granted clemency on
the sole basis of atonement or good works from prison.
Whether clemency is granted or not, the decision promises a deeper look
into Schwarzenegger's views on the death penalty, support for which has
softened in California over the past decade. While in China this past
week, the governor said he had not yet decided on Williams' petition.
"This is kind of the toughest thing to do when you're governor, because
you're dealing with someone's life," he said. "And so I dread that
situation, but it's something that's part of the job, and I have to do
Schwarzenegger has paroled life prisoners at a far higher rate than former
Gov. Gray Davis, but he also has rejected the only 2 clemency petitions
Donald Beardslee, executed in January, argued for clemency partly on a
good prison record. "I expect no less," replied Schwarzenegger in his
Kevin Cooper, whose execution was stayed under a court order, highlighted
a conversion to faith and his mentorship of other prisoners.
Schwarzenegger said those factors "do not diminish the cruelty and
destruction he has inflicted on so many."
Supporters say Williams' atonement goes well beyond prison behavior, and
his good work travels far past the walls of San Quentin State Prison.
Network news programs have spread his story of transformation from thug to
peace-seeker, spotlighting his children's books and Nobel Peace Prize
nominations and his mentoring of gang youths by phone from prison. Actor
Jamie Foxx portrayed him in a cable TV movie aired last year.
As a former Crips leader, his "peace protocol" commands a rare credibility
with gang-prone youths, his backers say. Clemency would commute his
sentence to life in prison without parole. A living Williams, they insist,
is worth more than a dead one.
Schwarzenegger should also weigh the violent legacy of the Crips, said
David LaBahn, executive director of the California District Attorneys
"When you look at the reign of terror ... how many lives have been
absolutely ruined, how do you balance that?" said LaBahn. "It's like the
guy who created the wildfire, now he's holding the garden hose to it,
saying, 'I'm doing my share.'"
Although Williams has issued a public apology for the gang violence he
helped spawn with the Crips, he maintains his innocence in the murders
that sent him to death row.
Innocent or not, the claim "muddies the water" for mercy, said Elizabeth
Rapaport, a University of New Mexico law professor who has studied the use
of executive clemency.
"Unless his lack of guilt is establishable, you don't want just
redemption. You want remorse," she said.
Williams' plea to Schwarzenegger largely ignores his innocence claim. It
focuses instead on his anti-gang work, and a conception of clemency as "an
act of grace," as defined by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John
Marshall in 1833.
"This petition asks, if Stanley Williams does not merit clemency, what
meaning does clemency retain in this state," it reads.
"There's no question if Stanley were to have said, 'I committed these
crimes and I apologize for them,' that would have made clemency easier for
him," said attorney Jonathan Harris, who wrote the petition. "I do think
that's evidence of his strength, and of his character and of his
Williams claims his conviction was based on shoddy police work and false
testimony by police informants and known criminals offered leniency for
their testimony. He also argued in vain that his trial was marred by
racially biased jury selection.
In a last-ditch appeal to the state Supreme Court, he seeks access to
ballistics evidence, police records related to those who testified and
evidence to show he was drugged while awaiting trial.
Prosecutors have sought to portray Williams as unrepentant. Steve Cooley,
the Los Angeles County District Attorney, responded to the clemency
petition with handwritten notes and a map suggesting Williams plotted to
escape jail and blow up a bus with dynamite while awaiting trial.
He also detailed a record of prison violence at San Quentin, echoing
unusual comments by corrections officials that aim to cast doubt on
Williams' avowed turnaround. The record ends about the time, 12 years ago,
that Williams places his transformation while in solitary confinement.
The last California governor to grant clemency to a death row inmate was
Ronald Reagan, in 1967, based on evidence that convicted killer Calvin
Thomas had a history of brain damage.
Death row scholars note a dramatic political climate change from the
early- and mid-20th century, when governors granted clemency in about one
in 4 death row cases.
"The grounds of clemency in capital cases have narrowed. Almost the only
one that's used now is error correction," said Austin Sarat, an Amherst
College jurisprudence professor and author of "Mercy on Trial: What it
means to stop an execution."
Outside of Illinois Gov. George Ryan's 2003 decision to clear death row of
its 167 inmates because of pervasive questions of injustice, clemency is
rare for condemned inmates. Mental illness concerns, doubts about guilt or
questions of fairness are virtually the only rationales, said Sarat.
Granting clemency for Williams "would be appropriate in the traditional
conception of clemency: 'Why should I do it? Because I want to,'" he said.
"That's not some wild idea. That's the conception defended by the framers
of the Constitution."
Governors are more likely to grant clemency when prosecutors, the trial
judge or relatives of the victims support it. Even then, said Sarat, they
often wait until they are about to leave office.
None of those factors will aid Williams.
Relatives of Owens want Williams dead. In an interview with the Times
earlier this year, his stepmother, Lora Owens, vented frustration at
Williams' growing celebrity.
"He's going to end up a martyr," said Owens, "but I'm not going to let him
forget the name Albert Owens. That's the man he killed. That's the man
he's going to die for."
The danger to Schwarzenegger's re-election bid is far from clear,
political scholars said. He is unlikely to face a viable Republican
challenger, and an attack from Democrats could backfire. Many view him as
having a relatively free hand.
"It's very unlikely the Democrats would attack him over a clemency,
because there are many people in the party who oppose the death penalty
entirely," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna
"The votes Schwarzenegger needs to win back over the next 51 weeks are
going to come back for reasons other than clemency for Tookie Williams,"
said GOP consultant Dan Schnur.
Still, it's a polarizing issue fraught with peril, said Rapaport.
"He could use it in some way to reintegrate youth, to model a life turned
around. It would be a fairly potent argument. On the other hand, you have
the family crying for blood," she said.
"I think the best outcome for Arnie is if he could just make this thing go
Stanley "Tookie" Williams
1953: Born in New Orleans.
1971: Williams helps start the Crips gang with Raymond Lee Washington in
South Central Los Angeles.
1979: Accused of the shotgun killings of Albert Owens at a Whittier
7-Eleven store and Yen-I Yang, his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, and their adult
daughter, Ye Chen Lin, at a Los Angeles motel.
1981: Convicted of the four homicides. Sentenced to die.
1997: Issues apology to the youth of the United States and South Africa
who face daily violence from street gangs. Publishes children's books to
educate kids about the dangers of gangs.
2001: Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2004: "Redemption," an FX cable network film based on Williams' life,
premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.
2005: Williams' autobiography published. U.S. Supreme Court declines to
hear Williams' appeal. Judge sets Dec. 13 execution date.
(source: Contra Costa Times)
Mercy for Williams would be wise policy----Reformed thug model for others
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has made it clear that he'll push
hard for an execution date for Stanley "Tookie" Williams. There's nothing
legally to stop him. On October 11, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
reopen Williams' case. That pretty much slammed the legal door shut on one
of America's most famous Death Row inmates. His execution is set for
Williams, convicted of 4 murders, has languished on death row for nearly a
quarter of century. He contends that he got a bad shake. A mostly white
jury convicted him. He had a subpar legal defense; the case against him
was based largely on testimony from jailhouse informants. This is why
Williams has adamantly refused to apologize or express remorse for the
slayings. He says he didn't do it.
Williams also has a new legal team, and it's upped the ante. His lawyers
claim that police investigators either botched or deliberately tampered
with ballistics and crime-scene evidence. That's a stretch, and that
almost certainly won't go very far.
So it comes down to this: Is Williams worth more to society alive than
dead? That's the issue, and the sole issue, that Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger must grapple with in deciding whether to grant Williams
On the surface, the odds that the governor will let Williams live aren't
good. California is one of 14 states where governors have sole authority
to commute a condemned killer's sentence. But that would buck precedent.
In the nearly 4 decades since Ronald Reagan granted clemency to a
brain-damaged death row inmate, no California governor has waived a death
sentence. And Reagan took action only because the latest scientific test
to determine brain damage was not available at the time of the condemned
killer's trial. Schwarzenegger has flatly refused to grant clemency to 2
other condemned murderers. Both times, he publicly declared that model
behavior behind bars doesn't absolve prisoners of culpability for their
But Tookie is not just another model prisoner. The co-founder of the Crips
street gang's story reads like a gory tale of gang violence, mayhem and
destruction. Yet it also reads like a saintly tale of spiritual renewal,
public service and human achievement. His prize-winning children's books,
Nobel Peace Prize nominations and anti-violence messages have been the
stuff of public acclaim. His radical, life-affirming turnabout has made
him a near-universal symbol of hope that even the most hardened, bitter,
and incorrigible street thug can find salvation.
A very much alive Williams can continue to send the message of hope and
redemption to thousands of other violence-prone young men who wreak havoc
on poor black communities.
True, governors are loath to grant clemency. They feel that the courts
have spoken, and that their interference would be a subversion of the
people's will and a perversion of justice. But that's a rigid, legalistic
view that doesn't take into consideration human circumstances and legal
abuses. Governors have intervened to commute sentences when it does serve
the public good. Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted the death
sentences of virtually all condemned killers before departing office in
Ryan was not a rare and isolated case of a governor tempering justice with
mercy. Former Maryland governor Parris Glendening declared a moratorium on
executions before he left office. There was no loud howl for his political
head when he took the courageous step. The reason was simple. Glendening
crunched the numbers and found that 9 of the 13 men on death row were
black, and in nearly every case their victims were white. That was strong
hint that the death penalty was riddled with racial bias, and needed a
Death-penalty advocates claim that unlike Maryland or Illinois,
California's death penalty is not top-heavy with racial bias and legal
misconduct, and that the public solidly opposes any tampering with the
process. That's not true. In a state where blacks are only 12 percent of
the population, they make up more than 1/3 of those on death row. In
nearly all cases their victims were white. A Field poll in June 2000 found
that nearly 3 out of 4 persons said that they would support a moratorium
on executions. Nearly a dozen California cities have called for a death
Schwarzenegger, unlike former Gov. Gray Davis, has also shown some
flexibility when it comes to prisoner issues. He has approved paroles for
convicted murderers who had shown by word and deed that hard work and a
clean record count. Playing hardball now with prisoners who have turned
their lives around would be a bad public policy shift.
With the handful of convicted killers who have shown by their humane
actions that they have redeemed themselves, it makes no sense for a
governor to hold them hostage to past political fears. Williams is
certainly not Willie Horton, the convicted killer who, after being
released on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison, escaped and
slashed a Maryland man and raped his fiancee. Schwarzenegger almost surely
knows that. Further, clemency is not the same as freedom. Williams will
likely spend the rest of his days in prison. That effectively eliminates
the remote possibility that he could ever pose a threat to anyone on the
The Williams case is unique. If Schwarzenegger grants him clemency, it
won't set a frightening precedent that other condemned killers will
cavalierly be let off the hook. It will simply be recognition that a
prisoner who has shown that he can be a model and productive citizen will
not be denied a 2nd chance to do even more good for society.
Schwarzenegger should give Williams that 2nd chance.
(source: L A Daily News - Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a frequent contributor
to the Daily News and hosts a weekly public affairs TV talk show)
Death-row inmate rekindles debate
Day and night, the condemned - 3,500 men and 54 women - await their fate
in U.S. prisons on death row.
But the life of a single convict scheduled to die by lethal injection at
California's San Quentin prison Dec. 13 - Stanley "Tookie" Williams - has
reignited a passionate debate among people of faith over accountability
and punishment, forgiveness and redemption.
"There's a grass-roots buzz about it. There are a lot of people talking
about it because of who he was here in Los Angeles," said Bishop Kenneth
C. Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, a large,
predominately black congregation.
Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist clerics and scholars said last week
that the Williams case abounds with ethical and moral implications.
How does a society weigh the lives of the 4 murder victims against the
life of a convicted murderer who is said to have reformed? How are
accountability and forgiveness balanced? Even within religions, believers
Williams, 51, co-founded the Crips, the lethal street gang. He was
convicted of the fatal shootings of 4 people in 1979 during 2 Los Angeles
But after nearly 25 years behind bars, he has become for many people an
icon of redemption. He has written 10 children's books imploring
youngsters to stay out of gangs. He helped mediate gang treaties. His life
became the subject of a made-for-television movie, "Redemption," starring
actor Jamie Foxx. Williams continues to profess his innocence.
The cover story in last week's Los Angeles Jewish Journal carried the
headline, "Should Tookie Die?" Across the state, demonstrators and
interfaith groups have implored Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant
clemency, in this case life imprisonment without the possibility of
Challenging that stance, California law-enforcement officials are calling
on Schwarzenegger to allow the execution.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley on Thursday filed its
formal response to Williams' clemency petition, declaring that Williams is
a "cold-blooded killer" who has "left his mark forever on our society by
co-founding one of the most vicious, brutal gangs in existence, the
Schwarzenegger has almost total discretion in deciding clemency.
On Thursday, the governor, speaking to reporters in Shanghai, China, said
he had not made up his mind on the Williams case. He described the
decision as "part of the job" but one he approached with "dread."
At a rally Saturday, rapper Snoop Dogg urged Schwarzenegger to grant
clemency to Williams, so he can continue his work with young people.
"Stanley 'Tookie' Williams is not just a regular old guy, he's an
inspirator," the rapper and former Crips member told a crowd of about
1,000 outside the main gate of San Quentin State Prison. "His voice needs
to be heard."
Snoop Dogg, 33, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, said after he saw
"Redemption," he realized he needed to contribute more to his community
and to young people in particular.
Proponents of the death penalty say that Williams' efforts at amending his
life, while laudable, cannot overcome the debt owed for taking lives.
"Principally, from a conservative biblical approach, if you shed man's
blood, by man your blood should be shed," said Kevin Lewis, assistant
professor of theology and law at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola
University in LaMirada.
Lewis said that if the governor granted clemency, society, under the
concept of retributive justice, would be bearing the consequences of the
crime. He doesn't think it should be allowed in this case.
Lewis' views are at odds with the positions of many U.S. religious
leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the heads of
mainline Protestant churches and a number of Jewish and Islamic scholars.
Last week, for example, U.S. Catholic bishops strongly reaffirmed their
church's opposition to the death penalty. "It is time for our nation to
abandon the illusion that we can protect life by taking life," the bishops
said. They listed 4 reasons:
. Capital punishment violates respect for human life and dignity.
. State executions "in our names diminishes all of us."
. As it is applied, capital punishment is "deeply flawed and can be
irreversibly wrong" and is biased by race, region and the quality of
. Society can be protected by other means, such as life imprisonment
In weighing decisions of life and death, the notion of repentance figures
prominently in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Repentance is more than
saying "sorry." It is turning from old and harmful ways.
That is a problem in Williams' case. Last week, Williams refused to
apologize for murders he said he did not commit. That, said Rabbi Elliott
Dorff, professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism, is vexing.
To be restored, he said, one has to admit to something wrong. "The fact
that he denies he is guilty, frankly, is a problem from the point of view
of trying to apply the [Jewish] laws of 't'shuvah' [restoration or turning
from wrong to right] to this case," Dorff said.
Nonetheless, Dorff said that Williams' good acts since he was imprisoned
would be reason to substitute life imprisonment for death.
Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and
a member of an interfaith coalition to spare Williams' life, spoke of the
Jewish tradition of "nekudah tovah," a point of pure goodness.
"Everyone is created in the image of God and thus endowed with a divine
spark. That divine spark is unique and renders each human being
inestimably precious. It also provides the opportunity for people to make
t'shuvah, to redeem themselves, to turn away from wrongdoing and to do
good," he said.
"No one said they shouldn't be held accountable and shouldn't pay the
price," he said. Life imprisonment would fill that requirement.
It is a view shared by Fathi Osman, director of the Institute for the
Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at Omar Ibn Khattab Foundation in
If it can be proved that Williams has changed and repented, Osman said,
the punishment should not only be reduced, but eliminated.
In addition, if the families of the victims forgive, Islamic law would be
against an execution, said Osman, who opposes the death penalty.
In this case, however, family members devastated by the murders continue
to call for Williams' death. What then? "Their wish is not definite,"
Osman said. "If there are signs and evidence that the person has repented,
nobody can punish him, even the judge himself. Repentance means complete
Moreover, Osman said that any possibility that an innocent man had been
convicted would be enough to stop an execution under Islamic law.
The Venerable Wimalasara, a Buddhist monk who follows the Theravada, or
southern school of Buddhism, said his tradition opposes the death penalty.
"We don't accept that penalty, actually, because we cannot do harm to any
kind of being. This is our major principle. In the lay and monk community
we observe principles and the first is not to harm anybody or any being,"
he said. Imprisonment is punishment enough, he said.
Beyond theology, there are streetwise reasons for allowing Williams to
live, Bishop Ulmer said. To gang members, Tookie Williams is a hero. "If
he's going to be a hero, let him be a hero as one who turned himself
around," Ulmer said.
(sources: Seattle Times & Associated Press)
Rapper Urges Clemency for Killer----Snoop Dogg speaks out at a prison
rally, asking the governor to spare Stanley Williams' life.
A peaceful, multiracial crowd including religious leaders and rapper Snoop
Dogg crammed onto a street outside San Quentin State Prison on Saturday to
urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to spare the life of convicted murderer
and former gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams.
More than 1,000 people attended the protest, described by a California
Highway Patrol official as one of the largest ever against an execution at
the Marin County prison.
"He should be in jail, but the death penalty, that's way too much," said
Nobel Broach, 16, of Oakland, who explained that he was moved by Williams
after watching "Redemption," a TV movie about the convict in which he was
played by Jamie Foxx.
Later in the day, Williams himself addressed a youth conference at a Santa
Clara hotel, calling from prison to urge them to work hard against gang
Williams, who has gained celebrity and Nobel Prize nominations for his
behind-bars campaign against gangs, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 13
for convictions in 4 1979 murders in Los Angeles.
The co-founder of the Crips street gang, Williams denies he committed the
killings, which occurred during two robberies less than 2 weeks apart.
The 51-year-old convict and his supporters, including a notable contingent
from Hollywood, are asking the governor to commute Williams' sentence to
life without the possibility of parole.
Los Angeles County prosecutors, a statewide prosecutors group and
relatives of his victims have adamantly opposed clemency. They say
Williams deserves to die for his crimes and for helping start a gang that
has claimed thousands of lives over the years.
They also doubt his conversion, noting that he has not admitted to the
crimes and has refused to provide information to law enforcement about
other gang members. Williams has said he doesn't want to be a "snitch."
"The family of the victims of Williams' crimes have been living with this
for 25 years," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for state Atty. Gen. Bill
Lockyer. "It's been a very long and difficult time for them. Some of the
individuals expressing support for Williams have not lost a loved one to
Schwarzenegger told reporters Thursday in Shanghai that he had not made up
his mind about whether to grant Williams clemency and was approaching the
decision with dread.
At Saturday's rally, Snoop Dogg, who has spoken with Williams by
telephone, told the crowd that he considered the inmate an inspirational
figure. He said he was so moved by Williams' decision to renounce gangs
that he also wants to spread the anti-violence message.
After watching "Redemption," the rapper said, he decided that he "really
needed to be contacting the kids."
The entertainer said he used to belong to the Crips in Long Beach but
"learned how to better control myself and my attitude."
The rapper was acquitted of murder charges in Los Angeles in 1996 and
pleaded guilty the following year to being an ex-felon in possession of a
Williams' "influence is really rubbing off on me, and I control lots of
people on the streets, and what I do right, they do right," said the
rapper, who wore a white T-shirt with "savetookie.org" in large black
During the rally, the crowd frequently broke into chants: "Long Live
Tookie Williams," and a Buddhist called for a moment of silence for the
victims of gang violence.
Several speakers exhorted the crowd to save their neighborhoods from
Williams has said that he decided while in solitary confinement more than
10 years ago to try to help youngsters avoid his fate. He has written nine
books aimed at youths, and his supporters have nominated him several times
for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature.
Among the speakers at Saturday's rally was Abu Qadir Al-Amin, a
gray-bearded African American whose death sentence was overturned. He said
he went to death row at the age of 19 and eventually was paroled with the
help of an associate prison warden.
"God has me here as a sign that people change," said Al-Amin, who now runs
a juvenile justice program in San Francisco.
Vickie Lindsey, whose son was killed by gang violence in 1995, told the
crowd that she left Los Angeles at 1 a.m. to attend the rally because if
Williams is executed "and they find out it was a mistake, they can't bring
Donald Lacy, who runs a youth group in Oakland, held up a picture of his
late daughter, who was killed at the age of 16 in a drive-by gang shooting
in 1997 "by young, confused brothers."
"We must save [Williams'] life so he can save other lives," Lacy said.
After the rally, Snoop Dogg went to the Santa Clara conference of student
leaders where Williams called from prison to participate in a panel
discussion. Williams told 1,200 rapt high school students at the Santa
Clara Marriott that only hard work and hope will help eradicate gang
"There is no elixir" to end the gang-related murders that plague troubled
cities such as Richmond, Calif., Williams told members of Junior State of
America, a 71-year-old organization designed to inspire high school
students to be active in politics. "There is no quick fix. It will take
your effort, your parents' effort [and] . activists in the immediate
area.. It seems like there is no hope, but there is."
Williams was part of a panel discussion during which young people in suits
and ties asked the condemned man about his prison experience, wondered
what he would say to the parents of gang-violence victims and, in one
case, told him that he's "got mad love coming from L.A."
In barely audible tones, Williams said that he, too, has lost people he
loved to gangs.
"I understand," he said. "I regret it all. I have written an apology to
the mothers of not just South-Central but throughout California and this
nation. I regret that any child has lost his or her life to gang violence
. whether it's to Crips or Bloods . it's a sad thing. That's why I've
written books and continue to do whatever I can."
Williams appeared to downplay the campaign to spare his life, changing the
subject when asked about it.
"That's wonderful that they've been putting forth effort for the
clemency," he said, "but it's very necessary to eliminate all the
violence.. I believe that it can be done with prayers and extreme effort."
In a question-and-answer session with Snoop Dogg, 1 young man asked how he
could claim allegiance to the Crips in his song lyrics when Williams is
fighting to stop the gang that he founded.
"I'm a representation of them," the entertainer said. "I represent them in
a positive manner.. I will always be connected to it.. There's such a
thing as represent it the right way, and that's what I intend to do."
Rebecca Owens, the daughter of one of those Williams was convicted of
murdering, and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders are to
address the conference today from the victims' point of view.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Forgiveness is the 1st step in survivors' Journey of Hope
The Journey of Hope includes family members of murder victims, family
members of death row inmates, family members of someone who has been
executed, exonorees and activists. For 17 days, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 31,
we journeyed through Texas, speaking to groups that invited us, in our
ongoing effort to abolish the death penalty.
Early this year I received email from Bill Pelke, the grandson of Gary
murder victim Ruth Pelke, saying the Journey would be in Texas. I invited
my sisters to come on the Journey with me, promising a life-changing
event. My sister Bess Klassen-Landis, from Vermont, accepted. She shared
her perspective of our mother's murder for the 1st time. Mom was murdered
36 years ago, when Bessie was 13 and I was 16.
People in Michiana will remember Bill Pelke's grandmother. She was killed
by a gang of teenage girls during a robbery in Gary in 1985.
15-year-old Paula Cooper was convicted of the murder and became the
youngest female on death row in America. Bill Pelke eventually forgave
Cooper, and began corresponding with her. He worked to overturn her death
sentence and has visited with her. He founded the Journey of Hope in
Indiana 13 years ago.
On Oct. 14, we were met at the Houston airport by George White, the
Journey's co-founder. In 1985 an armed robber shot George and his wife at
their place of business. 16 months later, White was charged with murdering
Following a capital murder trial, White was convicted and sentenced to
life in prison. His conviction was overturned in 1989 and he was released
from prison, but White remained in legal limbo until 1992, when proof of
his innocence was finally brought forward.
On Oct. 15, 50 of us traveled to Huntsville, to conduct a rally outside
the Walls Unit, which houses Texas' execution chamber. Texas has executed
12 people so far this year, and nine more are scheduled to die before the
end of the year. Many of us wondered how such a brutal and environment
would impact the people who worked within the system. We soon found out.
One of our speakers that afternoon was Ray Krone. In April 2002, Krone
became the 100th innocent person released from prison after having been
sentenced to death. Krone described spending 10 years in prison, including
two years on Arizona's death row, for the murder of a female bartender. He
was freed when DNA testing proved he was not the killer.
As Krone was speaking, a uniformed prison official left the prison, got
into his truck, and pulled it up to the curb just in back of where Krone
was speaking. He left his motor running and cranked up some rock and roll
to full volume.
Because Krone used a bullhorn, we were able to hear him over the music.
But we felt insulted, spat upon. The prison official continued to sit in
his truck with his music blaring. Wearing the badge of Texas, he felt
authorized to limit our free speech. The journalists who were with us
began taking his picture. When the video cameras were trained on him, he
A better representative of Texas is Dave Atwood, founder and former
president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Atwood,
with the help of hundreds of volunteers, served as local coordinator for
the Texas Journey. In November 2004, Dave committed civil disobedience at
the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas, to protest the execution of Anthony
Fuentes. He subsequently spent five days in jail.
When it was time for Bessie and I to leave the Journey, Anthony Fuentes'
stepmother, Ursula Fuentes, drove us to the airport. She is a native of
Germany, a country that does not seek retribution for murder. She
described how the U.S. adversarial system slowly vilified and destroyed
her family. The hugs we exchanged when we said goodbye were hugs of love,
forgiveness and understanding. These hugs are our route to healing.
The Journey of Hope leads from violence to healing. For more information,
please visit www.journeyofhope.org.
(source: South Bend Tribune - Ruth Klassen Andrews lives in Cassopolis.
She is the daughter of Helen Klassen, who was slain in the family's Dunlap
home on March 12, 1969. The murder has not been solved)
Book explores history of execution in Oregon----Other offerings include a
police novel and history of an ancient people
"Necktie Parties: Legal Executions in Oregon 1851-1905," by Diane L.
Readers with an interest in true-crime stories will want this book as will
readers who have an interest in Oregon history.
This book is grim and sometimes disturbing. It relates the history of the
crimes that resulted in execution in Oregon from territorial days until
the official shifting of executions to the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Although the book contains a short history of capital punishment in
America and the Oregon Territory, it concentrates on the stories of 50
murderers who met their fates at the end of a rope. A few cases of
executions of Native Americans are included, although these entries make
it obvious that officials did not consider such executions worthy of note.
In one case, the book points out that it was not clear whether 3 Indians
were hanged or 2.
The book is written smoothly and includes great detail. The voice of the
author is dispassionate, but learned. "Necktie Parties" is an instant
addition to "must-have" Oregon history.
(source: Salem Statesman Journal)
2,500 Arrested Before Katrina Are Still in Limbo----At the heart of the
problem is a public defender system almost too broke to function.
Nearly 3 months after Katrina struck Louisiana, about 2,500 people
arrested on minor charges before the hurricane struck are still in
custody. A number of them have never been charged, many are being held
beyond the time they were due to be released, and hundreds have never had
a court hearing.
Their plight is one of many troubling issues facing the Louisiana court
system, where funding for public defenders, among other problems, has been
further imperiled by the storm.
When the storm struck, about 8,500 people being held in the New Orleans
jails were relocated to facilities throughout - and, in some instances,
outside - the state.
A small group of volunteer defense lawyers has filed writs and obtained
the release of more than 1,800 of the evacuees, said Phyllis Mann of
Alexandria, La., who has been coordinating the effort.
Still, Julie H. Kilborne, a Baton Rouge, La., defense lawyer also involved
in the effort, said Friday she expected that the attorneys would have to
litigate for many more weeks to secure the freedom of the hundreds still
incarcerated on minor charges.
Over the last two weeks, in hearings in Baton Rouge, Judge Calvin Johnson,
the chief criminal court judge from New Orleans, ordered more than a
hundred people released. But the Orleans Parish district attorney's office
appealed; a state appellate court and then the state Supreme Court stayed
the release order.
Asst. Dist. Atty. Donna Andrieu asserted, among other things, that there
was "just cause" for holding the detainees longer because Orleans Parish
prosecutors, dislocated from their office, had not had sufficient time to
make decisions on whether to charge various people.
Andrieu also asserted that among the reasons prosecutors had been unable
to make decisions on whether to charge certain people was the breakdown in
communication experienced by the New Orleans Police Department after the
storm. Defense lawyer Neal Walker cited a breakdown of discipline -
including criminal activity - in the city's police force.
The Louisiana Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the merits of the
arguments early this week.
In a related development, the American Civil Liberties Union filed papers
in a Louisiana federal court Thursday that provided disturbing accounts
about 45 men and women who were incarcerated in the Orleans Parish Prison
when Katrina struck.
"It was like we were left to die. No water, no air, no food. We were left
with deputies that were out of control," said one woman, identified in
court papers as "Inmate #19." She said the women eventually were abandoned
by guards, left with nothing to eat or drink, and that many of them drank
water out of trashcans.
Another prisoner, identified as "Inmate #41," said he saw "a few dead
bodies, and [we] were told not to say anything or we were going to be like
The ACLU represents the prisoners in an ongoing federal class-action
lawsuit that started years ago and led to some reforms.
Meanwhile, the state's public defender system, considered one of the worst
in the nation, suffered a further blow when Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
announced plans to cut $500,000 from its budget.
On Saturday, state Sen. Lydia P. Jackson, a Shreveport Democrat, said she
thought that about half of that money would be restored by the
Legislature, which is meeting in emergency session.
Still, Jackson said, the local public defender offices are in "dire need"
of additional funds because of revenue lost since the hurricane.
In addition, three-quarters of the public defenders in New Orleans, the
state's largest city, have been laid off, and there is no expectation that
they will be rehired soon.
Louisiana is the only state in the country that primarily finances its
indigent defense through traffic fines. In the best of times, this source
of funding is erratic.
There is a clear reason that Louisiana stands alone, said David Carroll,
research director of the National Legal Aid and Defender Assn. "There is
no direct correlation between the ability of a jurisdiction to garner
money through traffic tickets and the resources required to provide
adequate defense services to those unable to hire an attorney," Carroll
Moreover, since Katrina, those funds have slowed to a trickle, as law
enforcement has been writing considerably fewer traffic tickets in the
Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision
stating that Louisiana had failed to adequately fund a program to provide
attorneys for poor defendants, as required by the constitution.
The ruling said that the obligation to provide a properly functioning
indigent defense system, which represents 80% of the state's defendants,
falls "squarely on the shoulders of the Legislature," which "may be in
breach of that duty."
But the decision did not order the Legislature to take any specific
action, and there has been little since then. An indigent-defense task
force, headed by Jackson, the state legislator, authorized further study
of the system - but the hurricane came before it was launched.
Since the hurricane, some legislators, judges, attorneys and others have
been holding meetings on the problem, but there is no imminent solution.
"In terms of indigent defense, the Legislature is doing absolutely
nothing," said Baton Rouge attorney James Boren, former president of the
Louisiana Criminal Defense Lawyers Assn. Moreover, Boren said he was
outraged that as soon as the Legislature convened in special session,
lawmakers approved a bill that would shield from liability the state
Department of Corrections and any local sheriff's department that held
people arrested before Katrina longer than was warranted.
In another sign of the depth of the problems, the Louisiana Indigent
Defense Assistance Board, the agency responsible for distributing funds to
local public defender offices, has not had a meeting since the hurricane
hit because it has been unable to muster a quorum.
Particularly troubled by the situation is Judge Johnson, who has a long
history with the issue. In 1992, Johnson ruled that the state's public
defender system was unconstitutional because it was so underfinanced and
understaffed that poor defendants could not receive an adequate defense.
Johnson acted after hearing from Rick Teissier, the public defender
assigned to represent Leonard Peart, a man charged in the rape, robbery
and slaying of a Tulane student. Teissier said he had a caseload so
excessive that he could not function properly. At the time, Teissier, who
was being paid $18,500 a year as a part-time public defender, was handling
70 active felony cases. He was unable to see a new client until 30 to 70
days after the person had been arrested; in the 1st 7 months of 1991,
Teissier represented 418 defendants.
A 1993 Louisiana Supreme Court decision concluded that defendants in the
division of court where Peart was on trial were entitled to hearings on
the adequacy of their representation. But the justices overturned
Johnson's ruling that the entire system was unconstitutional.
Since that time, there have been numerous scholarly studies criticizing
Louisiana's public defender program.
Johnson has called a conference Monday to discuss the future of the
system. He has ordered the participation of Tilden Greenbaum, head of the
Orleans Parish Indigent Defense Board; lawyers who run criminal defense
clinics at Tulane and Loyola universities' law schools; and Teissier, now
a private defense lawyer in New Orleans.
The judge's order said the Orleans Parish criminal justice system faced "a
crisis . that requires prompt attention."
He said the thousands of pending cases involving indigent defendants there
with a public defender staff of only 9 lawyers created "at least a serious
question, if not prima facie evidence, that indigent defendants in Orleans
Parish are not [receiving], and cannot receive, the effective assistance
of counsel to which they are constitutionally entitled."
Carroll, research director with the national defender association,
prepared a report last year on the problems with Louisiana's public
defender system. He called for the state to spend at least 5 times as it
much it had been for indigent defense.
"I realize that Louisiana has a mountain of problems they have to fix," he
said. But he added that the hurricanes had "hastened the rate at which an
already failing indigent defense system is being pushed closer to complete
devastation." He said that if the state failed to act soon, it would face
a constitutional crisis.
The right to counsel "does not stop when there is a hurricane," Carroll
said. "You can't take away a person's freedom simply because you did not
plan well before a hurricane."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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