[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MONT., N.J., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 28 22:20:49 CST 2005
Montana State Prison meets lawsuit agreement for inmate medical care
The Montana State Prison has met the requirements for improving inmate
medical care contained in an agreement settling a lawsuit filed by the
American Civil Liberties Union after the 1991 prison riot.
U.S. Magistrate Leif Erickson on Oct. 17 dismissed a major portion of the
lawsuit, dealing with medical and dental care and mental health services.
"With dismissal of the medical complaints, we have reached a significant
milestone in our efforts to create a comprehensive and effective system of
health care at the prison," Corrections Director Bill Slaughter said. "We
did these things because its the right thing to do, not just because of
The state and ACLU remain at odds over whether requirements for other
prison operations - such as level of supervision, staff training and
facility maintenance - are being met. An ACLU spokesman could not
immediately be reached for comment Friday.
The 1994 settlement agreement called for hiring a full-time doctor and a
part-time psychiatrist and hiring more nurses. It also called for medical
screening of all incoming inmates and timely referrals to outside
specialists, and dealt with dispensing of over-the-counter medications,
eye care, annual physicals for older inmates, dental care and mental
Impartial experts were appointed to periodically visit the prison to
monitor the state's progress in complying with the agreement.
Following the latest review of medical care at the prison, the state and
the ACLU agreed to end court monitoring of the medical provisions in the
"I want to commend all of the staff in the infirmary, particularly Health
Care Bureau Chief Kathy Redfern, for their diligence over a decade of hard
work to gain compliance with the standards set for this in this
settlement," said Warden Mike Mahoney.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit after the 1991 prison riot that led to the
murder of 5 inmates in protective custody.
During the riot, inmates prepared a list of demands they wanted the news
media to see. They sought investigations into the quality and availability
of food and medical care, lack of exercise, use of restraints and
discrimination against American Indian inmates.
(source: Associated Press)
High court to hear arguments deciding future of NJ executions
The case of an accused child killer whose lawyers say is mentally retarded
could decide the future of some death penalty cases in New Jersey.
Porfirio Jimenez is in prison, awaiting trial on charges he sexually
assaulted a 10-year-old boy before murdering him in 2001. Lawyers plan to
argue his case before the state's highest court Tuesday, with prosecutors
expected to lobby against an unusual appeals panel decision that ruled
that juries, not judges, should decide whether a defendant is mentally
The August ruling also said that prosecutors seeking the death penalty
have to prove a defendant is not mentally retarded, bucking a national
norm that makes defense lawyers prove their clients are unfit for
The ruling made New Jersey the only state to place such a burden on
prosecutors, according to legal experts.
"I don't know if any other state has gone this far," said Richard Dieter,
executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information
Prosecutors allege that Jimenez, of Morristown, followed Walter Contreras
Valenzuela home from a carnival, lured him into a wooded area, then
sexually assaulted the boy and beat him with a garden tool.
Jimenez's lawyers claimed he was mentally retarded, with an IQ of 68, when
prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. A 2002 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling - called the "Atkins Ruling" - declared that executing
mentally retarded criminals violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and
To prove someone is mentally retarded in a court in New Jersey, a
defendant must have an IQ below 70 and cannot be able to function alone in
society. Also, the retardation must have started before they turned 18.
Prosecutors allege that Jimenez, of Morristown, is not mentally retarded
but falls within the area of "borderline intellectual functioning,"
according to court papers.
(source: Associated Press)
US to hold 1,000th execution
The United States is scheduled this week to witness its 1,000th execution
since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but even as
it reaches this milestone opponents said capital punishment may be falling
out of favor.
Some 997 people have been put to death since the Supreme Court ended a
10-year moratorium on capital punishment that ran from 1967-1977. With
five people scheduled for execution in five different states this week, it
seems almost certain that the landmark of 1,000 will be passed.
"This is a time for somber and sober reflection but the United States is
slowly turning away from the death penalty," said David Elliot of the
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
"Death sentences are down 50 % since the late 1990s to around 150 a year.
Executions are down 40 % from the high of 98 in 1999," he said.
The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that crimes committed by
juveniles could not be punished by death. That resulted in 71 people being
taken off death row and followed another Supreme Court decision in 2002
declaring that it was unconstitutional to execute criminals who are
A Gallup poll last month showed 64 percent of Americans favored the death
penalty -- the lowest level in 27 years, down from a high of 80 % in 1994.
"There's now considerable public skepticism about whether all those being
executed are really guilty and that has cast doubt on the whole system,"
said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Texas, Virginia and Oklahoma account for more than half of the 997
executions performed since 1977. Texas alone has carried out 355.
Death penalty proponents argue that biased media coverage has eroded
support but that Americans still fundamentally support capital punishment.
"Defense lawyers and appeals courts have made it so expensive and
burdensome that prosecutors think twice before filing," said Steven
Stewart, prosecuting attorney for Clark County, Indiana.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress are trying to pass legislation to speed
up executions, complaining that the time between conviction and execution,
which usually exceeds 10 years, is too long.
Stewart has tried four capital cases; twice the jury was hung during the
penalty phase, once the judge set aside the sentence and one sentence was
overturned during the lengthy appeals process. But Stewart remains
committed to the idea of capital punishment.
"There are some defendants who have earned the ultimate punishment our
society has to offer by committing murder with aggravating circumstances
present," he said. "I believe that life is sacred. It cheapens the life of
an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the
murderer from ever killing again."
Among the individuals facing execution this week are Eric Nance in
Arkansas, who was convicted of the 1993 murder of an 18-year-old woman,
and John Hicks in Ohio, who was convicted of suffocating his 5-year-old
stepdaughter in 1985.
If both of these are executed, the 1,000th defendant to die could be Robin
Lovitt, scheduled to be executed in Virginia on Wednesday. His case has
attracted worldwide attention with several prominent conservatives,
including former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr who investigated
then-President Bill Clinton's extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky,
urging Gov. Mark Warner to commute the sentence.
Lovitt was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a night manager in
a pool hall the previous year. He claims another man committed the murder
and his lawyers argued he could have proved his innocence if DNA evidence
used at his trial had not been illegally destroyed.
Warner, a popular Democrat, is widely seen as a possible presidential
candidate in 2008 and his decision will be closely watched. He has denied
each of the 11 previous clemency petitions that have come before him as
If Lovitt is not executed, Kenneth Boyd, scheduled to die Friday in North
Carolina and Shawn Humphries on the same day in South Carolina, could be
the 1,000th and 1,001st executions since the end of what amounted to a
voluntary, decade-long moratorium on executions by the states as the
Supreme Court wrestled with the issue.
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