[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, CALIF., NEV.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 21 22:33:22 CST 2005
Lubbock Man On Death Row Speaks Exclusively To KLBK-13
For the 1st time, a convicted killer speaks out about murdering his
parents. Michael Yowell, 35, awaits his execution date on death row.
Yowell says capital punishment is nothing compared to the guilt he feels
from killing his family.
"It's a nightmare, a living nightmare ... nothing else but," he says.
Yowell has been on death row for almost 8 years. His story begins on May
9, 1998. Early that morning, he entered his parents house in the 2100
block of 39th Street. He says at the time, he was on drugs and has trouble
remembering what happened next.
"A lot of what I remember doesn't coincide with what actually took place
because a lot of what was going on with me was hallucinations," he says.
"I had been up for the past 2 months on speed and cocaine."
Authorities say Yowell tried to take his father's wallet while he was
asleep. But John Yowell woke up and surprised him. Yowell shot his father,
then strangled his mother, Carole, with a telephone cord.
Today, Yowell claims he wasn't after money and that the murders were not
"I don't think of it as a robbery," he says. "I had money on me. I was
hallucinating real bad and I carried it out from there."
What Yowell "carried out" was a triple homicide. After killing his
parents, he turned on a natural gas jet, causing an explosion that leveled
the home. Yowell's grandmother, 89-year-old Viola Davis, was still inside.
She later died from severe burns.
"The only thing I cared about was destoyed," says Yowell.
Yowell was charged with all 3 deaths, but only stood trial for the murder
of his parents. Court proceedings began in September 1999. The trial
lasted about two weeks. In the end, a Lubbock jury sentenced Yowell to
death. He says it was a punishment that he knew was coming.
"When you get a death sentence, there's a part of you that's gone," he
says. "Reality takes on a whole new perspective that what it never had
Despite his actions, the convicted killer still hasn't given up hope.
"I always felt like there was good in me, that's never changed," he says.
While Yowell lives out his last days out on death row, regret is something
that stays with him.
"Sorry couldn't even begin to tell how I feel about what happened," he
Yowell still hasn't received an execution date. He also hasn't exhausted
all of his appeals with the state. He remains completely isolated from
other people in his cell on death row. The only visitors he receives are
from his cousin and his 2 teenage daughters.
Yowell is 1 of 5 Lubbock men who are currently on death row in Texas. The
only who has received an execution date is Robert Salazar, 27, who was
convicted of beating a 2-year-old to death in 1998.
(source: KLBK News)
Governor Dreading Decision on Life or Death----Without clemency, Williams'
execution is weeks away
It was 1976, according to Stanley Tookie Williams, when he met a young
Austrian bodybuilder along the Venice Beach boardwalk, then the epicenter
of the Southern California muscle culture.
Williams, who was a hard-bodied weight lifter as well as a notorious gang
member, recounted the brief encounter in a book published last year:
Arnold Schwarzenegger was so impressed with Williams' physique, he noted
that Williams' biceps were as big as thighs.
Nearly 30 years later, the 2 men are again crossing paths.
With the world watching, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must decide in the
next few weeks whether Williams will live or die.
Williams, 51, the co-founder of the Crips gang and a 4-time murderer who
has become an anti-gang crusader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is
scheduled to be executed at San Quentin State Prison on Dec. 13.
With court appeals nearly exhausted, Williams has pointed to the
children's books and gang-peace initiatives he has produced from behind
prison walls as proof he is a reformed man and worthy of clemency. Sunday
was the last day of a week-long "Tookie Williams Teach-in" that included a
rally outside the gates of San Quentin on Saturday featuring the rapper
Prosecutors argue that a man responsible for 4 shotgun murders who was
involved in nearly a dozen violent incidents in his 1st decade in prison
-- before he changed his ways -- deserves the sentence a jury recommended.
After a year of plummeting popularity and squabbles with Democrats and
labor unions over sometimes-arcane ideas about ways to change government,
Schwarzenegger now turns to a more basic and far more gut-wrenching task.
He must contemplate crime and punishment, redemption and race. Williams is
asking that Schwarzenegger buck a strong national trend that has turned
clemency based on atonement into a political 3rd rail.
Just a few weeks after a special election that marked the low point of
Schwarzenegger's tenure as governor, he is faced with a decision he
admitted this week that he dreads.
"I know he will agonize over this," said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los
Angeles, who has worked with Schwarzenegger on prison reform and is
advocating clemency for Williams, with whom she met earlier this month. "I
know this governor believes in redemption. He has approached crime and
punishment with a little more thought than just 'hang 'em high.' The
question is whether he will take the political risk."
Clemency is a unique and absolute power bestowed upon the executive
branch; governors and presidents have virtually unchecked authority to
overturn a death sentence or even set someone free. Missouri Gov. Mel
Carnahan commuted a death sentence in his state in 1999, he said, because
Pope John Paul II asked him to. "It's almost a divine power," noted Austin
Sarat, a professor of law and political science at Amherst College in
Massachusetts and author of a book on clemency called "Mercy on Trial:
What It Means to Stop an Execution."
Clemency has become extremely rare. Sarat noted that aside from the mass
death row commutation extended by Illinois Gov. George Ryan in 2003, there
had been only a dozen acts of clemency in the last decade; there were 143
such acts during the 1960s.
Ronald Reagan was the last California governor to commute a death
sentence, in 1967.
Recent governors around the country have virtually abandoned the idea of
"mercy-based clemency," as Sarat describes it: the idea that a condemned
inmate has redeemed himself after conviction.
"There's simply no political gain in it," Sarat said. "If you grant
someone clemency, who's happy? The person on death row, his family; but
there's usually a whole lot more people who are unhappy."
Politicians as diverse in philosophy as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
said as governors they would not consider clemency unless there was
evidence of innocence or an unfair trial.
Bush famously refused to consider pickax murderer Karla Faye Tucker's
conversion to Christianity in prison, and she was executed in Texas in
Williams has never admitted guilt for the crimes he was convicted of: the
murders of Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Yang and Yee-Chen Lin
during 2 separate robberies in 1979. His petition for clemency briefly
alleges that evidence against Williams was circumstantial and that there
was racial bias against Williams, who is black, in the convening of an
Instead, the bulk of Williams' plea making has been in the last dozen
years. Included in the petition for clemency are Williams' books, his
Nobel Peace Prize nomination letter, dozens of e-mails from kids, school
officials and others praising his work, even a movie made about him that
starred Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx.
"The question here is if you don't give clemency based on his personal
redemption, based on the thousands of people he has touched, who would you
give it to?" asked Jonathan Harris, a New York-based lawyer working for
Schwarzenegger has already denied clemency requests from two condemned
inmates, and one of them, Donald Beardslee, was executed in January. But
the governor's feelings about the death penalty are not clear-cut.
In an interview with The Chronicle's editorial board just before the
Beardslee execution, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that he came from a
country where capital punishment is anathema and suggested he still
wrestled with the issue, which he characterized as "heavy stuff."
"I grew up with the mentality that this is an absolute no-no," he said.
"And so you're dealing with that, which is very odd. I mean, very few
people have that chance to live in a body with kind of 2 brains. Kind of
like the Austrian brain and the American brain. ... They're fighting with
each other all the time, you know, where I can argue with myself about
That is a much less black-and-white opinion of the death penalty than many
California politicians running for statewide office would admit. And
without much fanfare, Schwarzenegger has shown significant differences on
crime and punishment policies than the three governors who came before
He added the word "rehabilitation" to the name of the state's prison
system, and he has quietly allowed the parole of 114 California inmates
charged with violent crimes, including 23 people convicted of 1st-degree
That record stands in stark contrast to former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis,
who granted parole to only five inmates in his 5 years in office and
publicly stated he did not believe that murderers deserved a 2nd chance.
Williams' attorneys believe they may have the right governor to plead
their case for a clemency based on good works.
"We know Gov. Schwarzenegger believes in rehabilitation," Harris said.
Legal experts who are familiar with Schwarzenegger's 2 previous decisions
on clemency, however, suggest Williams has an uphill battle.
In denying clemency to Beardslee, who confessed to killing 2 people, and
to Kevin Cooper, who killed a family of four after escaping from prison,
Schwarzenegger focused extensively on the facts of the crimes and was
unimpressed with a religious conversion Cooper experienced in prison,
noted David LaBahn, executive director of the California District
LaBahn said that Williams' refusal to apologize for the crimes he was
convicted of -- Williams maintains his innocence -- could weigh heavily on
"He (Williams) has apologized for the gang lifestyle, but never directly
for the crime and to the victims' families," said LaBahn, who has written
to Schwarzenegger in opposition to clemency for Williams.
Political experts also suggest clemency for Williams would be a stunner.
Noting that 68 % of Californians supported the death penalty in a March
2004 Field Poll, Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, suggested that
clemency "would be a big political risk for a governor probably not that
interested in taking a risk right now." "He's someone who needs to be
moving toward the middle right now, and this is a pretty divisive issue,"
Schwarzenegger could begin reviewing the case as early as today, and an
aide said Andrea Hoch, the governor's new legal affairs secretary, will
lead the review. "This administration takes clemency very seriously," said
Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director. "The governor
approaches this case with no predisposed notions one way or the other."
Schwarzenegger, who was in China last week, was asked by California
reporters there whether he remembered meeting Williams on Venice Beach.
The governor noted that "millions of people have said they worked out with
me," before going on to say he was preparing to review Williams' case.
"I dread that ... but it's part of the job," he said.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Impending Execution of 'Crips' Co-Founder Renews Capital Punishment Debate
The impeding execution of a convicted murderer and co-founder of one of
the nation's most notorious street gangs is bringing renewed attention to
the ongoing debate over capital punishment.
At issue for supporters of Stanley Williams, 52, who has been in San
Quentin State prison in California since 1979, is whether a man who has
reformed his life while in prison should die by lethal injection on Dec.
13 as ordered by a judge after a recent Supreme Court appeal was denied.
On the Christian front, some opponents of the death penalty say any
execution is an affront to human life, while others approach the issue as
"an eye for an eye" matter.
"I think our role as Church people is every time an execution comes up, we
need to be there opposing it. Because each of those people is
significant," said Father Chris Ponnet, pastor of St. Camillus Pastoral
Care Center in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, according to diocese
newspaper The Tidings.
However, others say that the Bible is clear on the issue, allowing for the
court to decide.
"Principally, from a conservative biblical approach, if you shed a man's
blood, by man your blood should be shed," said Kevin Lewis an assistant
professor of theology at Biola University, according to the Los Angeles
Williams, also known as "Tookie," co-founded the "Crips" street gang in
1972 and was convicted in 1981 of killing a 7-Eleven clerk and 12 days
later, 2 motel owners and their daughter. Since then, he has written 9
childrens books decrying street gangs, and encouraging the youth to stay
out of them. The last resort for Williams is for Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger to spare his life by granting him clemency.
Although Williams has maintained his innocence regarding the murders he
was convicted of, law enforcement official Steve Cooley, the L.A. County
District Attorney, called him a "cold-blooded killer," according to the
Los Angeles Times.
A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death
As of July 1, 2005, there were over 3,400 prisoners on death row,
according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Last week, U.S. Catholic bishops released a document called "A Culture of
Life and the Penalty of Death," affirming their opposition to capital
"While the Old Testament includes some passages about taking the life of
one who kills, the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ in the New
Testament calls us to protect life, practice mercy, and reject vengeance,"
states the document.
In support of that position, the document cites an example in the book of
Genesis where Cain is allowed to live but is exiled for life after killing
Abel. They also cited the example of the woman accused of adultery, which
Jesus would not condemn, "reminding us to be cautious in judging others
and to have hope in the possibility of reform and redemption," the
However, the death penalty is not absolutely excluded. The document says
the act is not "intrinsically evil" as in abortion when an "innocent life"
is taken or through euthanasia. Also, according to the document, Church
teaching says that when the State can protect its citizens through other
non-lethal means as it can in contemporary society, it should not use the
On Nov. 14, at a meeting with African American columnists, Richard Land,
President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern
Baptist Convention, spoke out in support of the death penalty but said it
was not being fairly applied in the United States.
"If you are going to support the death penalty then you have to be as
supportive of its equitable and just application," he stated, adding that
it would be immoral to support it otherwise, according to the Baptist
Press. He said that in the United States, a person is much more likely to
be executed if he or she is poor instead of wealthy and of color.
An SBC resolution made in June of 2000 cites Genesis 9, and Romans 13 as
the biblical basis for supporting the death penalty. In the 1st reference,
God tells Noah that "whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his
blood be shed..." In the latter passage, the Apostle Paul speaks about
submitting to the earthly authorities which God has established to carry
(source: Christian Post)
Mother of condemned Nevada inmate seeks execution stay
The mother of condemned Nevada inmate Daryl Mack petitioned the state
Supreme Court on Monday to stop her son's scheduled Dec. 1 execution and
order another hearing to determine whether he was competent to waive
Viola Mack, through Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta,
said in her "next friend" petition that Mack, who says he wants to die
even though he didn't commit the murder that led to his death sentence,
deserves "a full and fair" competency hearing.
Pescetta said the Reno judge who ruled that Mack, 47, was competent to
waive further appeals failed to consider the fact that Mack is being
involuntarily injected with a powerful psychotropic drug. The defender
said the use of such drugs to make Mack competent violates his
Pescetta also said Washoe District Judge Robert Perry failed to consider
whether Mack's claim that he didn't kill Betty May, who was sexually
assaulted and strangled in her Reno home, "is the result of a delusion
produced by mental illness."
The defender added that the judge failed to ensure Mack's right to
effective legal counsel. He added that an attorney in earlier proceedings
didn't seek a hearing where three psychiatrists who had clashing opinions
on Mack's competency could be questioned.
"Mr. Mack is the latest in the parade of mentally ill condemned men who
seek to make the state of Nevada end their lives for them," Pescetta said,
adding that the state has "far and away" the highest per capita rate of
volunteer executions in the nation.
Mack was serving a no-parole life term in prison for murdering Kim Parks
in 1994 in a Reno motel when he was linked through DNA evidence to May's
murder and convicted. A 3-judge panel sentenced him to death in 2002.
11 men have been executed in Nevada following the U.S. Supreme Court's
ruling in the 1970s that cleared the way for capital punishment to resume
in this country. 10 of those who died in Nevada were inmates who declined
to file appeals that would have kept them alive.
The last execution in Nevada was that of Terry Jess Dennis, who died in
August 2004 for strangling a woman in a Reno motel in 1999. Also in 2004,
Lawrence Colwell Jr. was executed for strangling of an elderly tourist in
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
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