[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, NEV., US MIL., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 28 01:00:57 CST 2005
Reprieve. Fight legal injustice and help the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast at
the same time! Reprieve is looking for funds to help families of
death-sentenced prisoners and exonerated death-row inmates who lost
housing and other essentials in the hurricane. Writes co-director Billy
Sothern, "It is folks like these who need the most assistance in putting
their lives back together--lives that were unimaginably difficult before
the storm--and who have been given the least from the government." This is
an entirely volunteer organization with no overhead--its costs are borne
by the Justice Center of New Orleans, an umbrella organization of
nonprofits defending indigents charged with capital crimes in the Deep
South. That means 100 % of your donation goes directly to these extremely
needy people (Reprieve, 636 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA 70113;
(source: The Nation)
Kill the death penalty
I am ashamed that we are approaching the 1,000th execution since the death
penalty was reinstated in 1976. For our society, what does the death
penalty accomplish? Nothing! It places us at odds with the world
community, as we are the only developed country that executes its own
citizens. With China, Iran, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, we are the leading
practitioners of the death penalty.
It does not act as a deterrent. Our Southern states have performed 80
percent of the executions but have the highest murder rates in our
country. The death penalty is not cost-effective. Nationwide it is more
expensive to execute criminals than to allow them to exist in our prisons
for 40 or more years.
As for fairness, ask yourself this: If I were charged with murder, would I
rather be poor and innocent or rich and guilty?
My prayers go out to the families and friends of murder victims, but we
cannot teach that violence is wrong by continuing to carry out executions.
The death penalty does not belong in our country.
(source: Letter to the Editor, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
U.S. Prepares For 1,000th Execution Since 1976
Robin Lovitt might make history next week.
If his execution goes as scheduled, he could be the 1,000th person
executed in the U.S. since the ban against capital punishment was lifted
Lovitt was convicted of stabbing a man to death with scissors during a
pool hall robbery in Virginia.
Initial DNA tests of the scissors proved inconclusive. Later the scissors
were thrown away, supposedly because of a lack of storage space.
One of his lawyers, Kenneth Starr, told Associated Press Television News
he supports the death penalty in principle, but that it shouldn't apply in
Lovitt's case, especially since there was "destruction of the DNA
Opponents of the death penalty said the number of prisoners whose
convictions have been reversed should fuel skepticism.
(source: The Associated Press)
Executions necessary as ultimate punishment----'Life without parole' is
not a reasonable alternative to the death penalty. In prison, these
inmates continue to rape and kill, knowing they cannot receive additional
Capital punishment opponents are concerned, and rightly so, about the
possibility of error and the danger of executing an innocent person.
Capital punishment proponents are concerned about the same issue -
contrary to popular opinion - because the execution of the innocent is
unjust and does not solve the underlying crime.
The real issue, however, is whether the only answer is paralysis of the
justice system or a society where the innocent live behind bars while the
streets are surrendered to the criminals. The idea that capital punishment
must be "infallible" to exist, while noble in concept, ignores the fact
that no human system is perfect.
Murder is defined as the "unlawful" killing of a human being, not just any
killing. Murder (or homicide) is categorized in degrees, depending upon
the nature of the crime. "Capital" first-degree murder (i.e. death-penalty
eligible) is limited to those murders that meet specific statutory
aggravating factors, such as being especially "heinous, atrocious or
cruel," or some similar, specific factor.
Jury trials are conducted in 2 phases, the 1st being the "guilt-innocence"
trial, and the 2nd, the penalty phase. Jurors biased in favor of or
against the death penalty cannot serve unless they can swear to decide the
case on the evidence presented rather than their political or religious
In Florida, the murderer, if sentenced to death, receives an automatic
appeal to the Florida Supreme Court and, if the appeal is lost, the right
to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. If the appeals are lost, the murderer
receives the assistance of specialized counsel and can file a "Rule 3.850"
petition back in the trial court. This petition can ask for a new trial on
the basis of newly discovered evidence, the incompetence of the defense,
counsel-juror bias or any other claim the defendant elects to argue. If
the defendant loses, the defendant receives another appeal to the Florida
Supreme Court and can petition the U.S, Supreme Court. The petitioner can
also file a "state writ of habeas corpus," attacking the appellate review
After exhausting these state remedies, the defendant can then repeat the
entire process of post-conviction review in federal district court and the
11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He can seek U.S. Supreme Court review if he
loses. When all else has failed, the inmate can seek clemency from the
This exhaustive system of checks and double checks is the reason why we
have been able to filter out some 115 "innocent" defendants since 1971
nationwide. That is 115 errors out of thousands of murder trials in 50
states and the territories, from 1952 to 2005.
Innocence, by the way, is a misnomer. Some of the defendants were "legally
innocent" (i.e., the victim of a procedural error) but not "factually"
innocent. Others, such as Florida's infamous Pitts and Lee, were never
found innocent by any court. They were just pardoned in 1975 by then-Gov.
Some suggest that a life imprisonment sentence would serve the same
purpose as capital punishment. That argument is uninformed and borders
upon the factious. Inmates serving "life without parole" have received the
worst punishment they can get. Thus they can run amok in the prisons
knowing that they cannot receive any additional punishment. They rape
other inmates, rob other inmates, attack prison staff, run drug and
gambling schemes in the prison and, most important of all, they go right
on committing murder. If the death penalty is unjust for a murderer, how
much greater is the injustice of death for a non-capital offender?
Of the approximately 40 capital cases I handled, roughly 15 percent
involved inmate-on-inmate murders. One involved a gang called Perjury
Incorporated, which murdered witnesses to cases arising out of the prison.
Another involved a racist operation that required a murder as a condition
Sadly, there is no reasonable alternative to the death penalty for the
most dangerous and vicious killers. It would be legally and financially
impossible to put a killer into solitary confinement for decades, yet the
inmate presents a constant threat for as long as the inmate lives.
The liberal solution, of course, is to throw up their hands, wail about
the unsolvable problem, set up "coping mechanisms" for victims' families
and "counseling" for the killers and wallow in their beloved misery and
malaise. Human society cannot flourish in such a quagmire. Capital
punishment, even not absolutely "perfect," is the only just result.
(source: Mark C. Menser worked in the Criminal Appeals and Capital
Collateral divisions of the Florida Attorney General's Office from 1981
until 2000. He has represented the state in approximately 40 capital cases
(including lead counsel in the Ted Bundy case) and as counsel before the
U.S. Supreme court in the landmark case upholding Florida's 3-part capital
punishment process. Mr. Menser now works for the firm of Viles & Beckman,
handling appellate and victims' rights cases in Fort Myers -- Opinion, The
(Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press)
NEVADA----stay of impending execution
Court grants mom's wishes in issuing stay of execution ---- Justices want
further discussion of Mack's mental competency
A mother's wish was granted Wednesday when the Supreme Court halted the
planned Dec. 1 execution of her son, Daryl Mack.
Justices asked lawyers to prepare legal arguments in the next 20 days on
whether Mack, 47, was mentally competent during a recent District Court
hearing when he requested an end to his appeals and be allowed to die.
But his 86-year-old mother, Viola, on Monday asked the court to stop the
execution, and a panel of 4 justices agreed to do so.
"I can say on behalf of Mrs. Mack that she is pleased that someone will
look into the issues in her son's case," Assistant Federal Public Defender
Michael Pescetta said.
In a document filed Monday, Viola Mack said her son is being forced to
take medication against his will, and that might be affecting his mental
Despite his wish to die, Daryl Mack has maintained his innocence in a 1988
murder and assault of a Reno woman.
Mack was convicted in 2002 of killing Betty May in her Reno home. At the
time of the conviction, he was serving a life sentence for murdering Kim
Parks in a Reno motel.
DNA evidence linked Mack to the earlier murder.
Pescetta, who filed legal documents for Viola Mack, noted that Daryl Mack
is "the latest in a parade of mentally ill men who seek to make the state
of Nevada end their lives for them." 10 of the 11 men executed in Nevada
since the re-establishment of the death penalty in 1977 have gone to their
deaths with opportunities to continue to appeal.
In staying the execution, the justices said they wanted to know more about
why Dr. Thomas E. Bittker did not testify at Mack's last hearing, before
District Judge Robert Perry in Reno. They also questioned the stance taken
by Mack's lawyer, Marc Picker of Reno. Picker said previously that he
could not "advocate for a position" opposed to Mack's request to end his
"I believe my ethical obligation is to advocate my client's position
unless it is contrary to law or my ethical obligation to the court,"
Picker said following the release of the stay order. "We are denying this
person the right to choose his legal destiny."
Picker said a report from Bittker, who believes Mack is not mentally
competent, was given to Perry, although the doctor himself did not
Perry added that he insisted 2 other doctors attempt to determine Mack's
competency before Perry accepted his client's request to withdraw further
appeals. Those doctors found Mack competent.
"The judge made his findings based on the doctors' evaluations," Picker
said. "Mr. Mack wants to give up further proceedings."
(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Patriot Under Fire
James Yee was a U.S. Army captain and Muslim chaplain, stationed at Ft.
Lewis. Then the Army accused him of being a spy and helping terrorist
Faced with the death penalty, James Yee started to fight back.
He recently sat down for an exclusive interview with KOMO 4's Dan Lewis to
talk about his life and his experiences.
Yee grew up in a patriotic family in New Jersey. He says one of his
favorite photos is of his family celebrating the nation's bicentennial.
Another favorite photo is of him, as a West Point cadet.
Although he had been raised a Lutheran, shortly after graduation from West
Point, he began to study Islam.
"I found a lot of things that were very common to Christianity and Islam,
" he says. "But I was drawn by the very simple doctrine of Islam. The
belief in one God and that throughout history there were a certain number
of chosen people by God who taught that message that there was only one
Yee studied Islam in Syria. That's where he met his wife Huda.
In 2002, as one of the first Army Muslim chaplains, he was assigned to
Guantanamo Bay in Cuba That's where the military holds what it considers
the worst terrorists.
His job was to minister to them and help U.S. interrogators better
understand their captives.
In one briefing, Yee caught the eye of a security chief, Army Reserve
Captain Jason Orlich. Orlich is quoted as saying that some of the things
Yee said sounded extremely sympathetic to the detainees and it made the
hair on the back of Orlich's neck stand up at attention.
"Some people later on would say that I was in a no-win situation from the
beginning," says Yee. In a newspaper article, Orlich also says people in
the briefing wondered about Yee, asking if Yee was on their side, or the
"One of the things I did very much stress at those briefings," says Yee,
"was the importance of treating every prisoner humanely."
Yee says everyone at Guantanamo knew they were under surveillance by what
he calls "secret squirrels." Every email, every phone call, was monitored.
He says he became more concerned about mistreatment of prisoners and
reported that to his boss.
"The guards found that when they searched, especially the Korans, it would
upset the detainees," says Yee. "And it was a way to make them upset and
The more Yee helped detainees, the more the suspicions grew about him and
all U.S. soldiers who were Muslim.
"It got so bad that even some personnel would label Muslims that prayed
daily as 'extremists' or as 'the Muslim clique' or as 'Hamas'," says Yee.
On a trip home to Ft. Lewis to see his wife and daughter, he got as far as
That's where the Army arrested him. They accused him of spying, punishable
His first thought was, that's absurd. But, after 76 days in solitary
confinement, James Yee was frightened.
"I was never a spy," says Yee. "I never aided the enemy. I was never
engaged in espionage and I'm not a criminal. The government made a huge
mistake, a gross miscarriage of justice, one that I hope one day I'll
receive an apology for."
Yee says he never passed any information from any detainee at Guantanamo
to Al Qaida and he never passed any information from any detainee to
anyone outside Guantanamo, not even on a personal level.
The Army never charged Yee with spying. They charged him with mishandling
documents, with adultery, and storing pornography on his Army computer.
Six months later, the Army dropped all charges.
The Army insists it did not prosecute only because it would have to
release classified information. "The only information that they did not
want public," says Yee, "was the information that I knew from the
prisoners first hand of the mistreatment and the abuse that were subjected
to down in Guantanamo."
When Yee returned to Ft. Lewis, he says he was warned not to criticize the
Army or he would end up back in jail.
He eventually resigned his commission.
His marriage ended in divorce.
"All of us are really still recovering, mentally, psychologically,
emotionally," he says. "And we're trying to take it one day at a time,
trying to find that level of normalcy."
But Yee says one part of his life will never be normal again.
"I've pretty much accepted that my whole life, until the day I die, I will
be under some type of surveillance," he says.
(source: KOMO News)
Part of death sentence tossed for killer in Eureka Street slayings
In COlumbus, the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed 1 of the death
penalty sentences for a man convicted in the Eureka Street shootings that
killed 2 girls and wounded 6 others in 2002.
The ruling does not take Cleveland Jackson off death row.
The court upheld the remainder of his sentence including another charge
for which he re-ceived a death sentence. But Jackson will have to be
brought back to Allen County to be resentenced for one of the aggravated
murder charges which the court said an error was made during jury
Jackson and his half-brother, Jeronique Cunningham, were convicted in the
Jan. 3, 2002, shooting deaths of 3-year-old Jala Grant and 17-year-old
Leneshia Williams. 6 others were wounded in what was described during
trial as execution-style killings in an apartment over drugs and money.
Cunningham remains on death row and the same court last year upheld his
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick said the ruling will be reviewed
and all options will be explored including seeking the death penalty again
on the one charge, even though Jackson still has one death sentence
Prosecutors may have to impanel a new jury for the sole aggravated murder
charge which was for Grants death. The jury would participate in the
penalty phase of the case, not an entire trial since the conviction on the
charge stands, Waldick said.
Waldick said he is committed to justice, especially with years of appeals
remaining and the case heading to federal court where death sentences are
struck down more often than in state court.
"We want to go into the next round of appeals with as many counts as
possible and as strong of a case as possible. As we've seen in the past
anything can happen in federal court," he said.
The death penalty is the appropriate sentence giving the circumstances of
the crime, Waldick said.
"He deserves to die. We want to make sure that sentence is carried out,"
Jackson's attorney, David Stebbins of Columbus, could not be reached for
The court's ruling said the trial judge erred during jury selection by not
allowing defense attorneys to question prospective jurors on how they felt
about a person who kills a 3-year-old child and what penalty that person
The 6-1 ruling tosses a death sentence handed down for Grant's death. The
court in a 7-0 ruling upheld the death sentence handed out for Williams
"The possibility that one juror might not have fairly considered
sentencing options and may have voted for the death penalty solely because
appellant murdered a 3-year-old child is too great a risk to ignore,"
Chief Justice Tom Moyer wrote.
Justice Alice Robie Resnick disagreed with the other 6 saying she would
have upheld the death sentence in Grant's murder. The jury selection
process was fair and jurors were questioned on whether they would consider
sentences other than the death penalty, she said.
Jackson was convicted of 2 counts of aggravated murder, each carrying a
death sentence, 6 counts of attempted aggravated murder and aggravated
(source: Lima News)
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