[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MONT., CALIF., MO., VA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 30 23:57:24 CST 2005
Death sentence still possible for Jackson
In Chinook, District Judge John McKeon Monday considered and then rejected
an attempt by lawyers for convicted murderer Laurence D. Jackson Jr. to
eliminate execution as one possible sentence for Jackson's 2004 deliberate
The decision was 1 of 3 rulings McKeon handed down ahead of what is
expected to be a weeklong hearing to help determine Jackson's fate.
Jackson was convicted a year ago in the 2003 shooting death of Blaine
County deputy sheriff Joshua Rutherford. He also faces up to life in
prison without parole for attempted deliberate homicide for wounding
deputy Loren Janis in the same shootout near Harlem.
One of McKeon's rulings will seriously affect the format for this week's
sentencing proceedings. McKeon approved a request by Jackson's lawyers to
hold separate hearings on each of Jackson's crimes. Prosecutors Yvonne
Laird, Blaine County attorney, and Carlo Canty, from the state Attorney
General's Office, had hoped for a simultaneous hearings.
A hearing on the deliberate homicide charge will begin at 9 a.m. today in
State District Court in Chinook.
Jackson appeared at Monday's hearing - his 1st time in public in Blaine
County in more than a year - wearing a maroon and black pullover and
jeans. He wore leg shackles, but no handcuffs. About a half dozen
sheriff's deputies and Havre Police officers stood guard inside the
As an added precaution, the 2 dozen audience members were required to pass
through a metal detector and surrender their handbags for searches. Blaine
County Sheriff Glenn Heustis said he wants to be certain that the hearings
are problem free.
Members of Rutherford's family occupied one side of the courtroom Monday.
Jackson's family sat on the other.
Jackson's mother, Rutherford's mother and Deputy Janis were among those
"We're just trying to avoid anything," Heustis said. "If you don't plan
for it, it will happen to you."
In one ruling Monday, McKeon decided that prosecutors did not violate
Jackson's due process rights by initially offering him a plea deal that
included life in prison without parole and later mounting an aggressive
campaign to win a death sentence.
Prosecutors flip-flopped, Jackson's lawyers argued, because they were not
happy that Jackson turned down their plea offer, and now they now want to
get even. State and federal law prohibits retaliation against defendants
for actions they take during the judicial process.
"The punishment between death and a term of years is extremely different,"
one of Jackson's lawyers, Robert Peterson of Havre, said.
But prosecutors reminded the judge that they announced their intent to
seek the death penalty shortly after the shootings took place. They've
never withdrawn that right.
The judge agreed and he denied the motion so the death penalty still is a
Jackson also could receive from 10 years in prison up to life in prison
without parole on each count.
Jackson's lawyers, including Ed Sheehy of Helena and Missoula, are
expected to call a number of witnesses this week to explain why Jackson
should not be executed.
It's not clear who all of them will be.
Prosecutors will call their own witnesses. They also may call victims to
testify in front of the court.
Jackson was convicted after a month-long trial in Missoula late last year.
Prosecutors convinced jurors that Jackson grabbed Rutherford's .40-caliber
pistol and shot him in the chest as the two struggled in the dark. Jackson
also fired the round that hit Janis in the arm.
The officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call involving
Jackson. No one witnessed the shooting, but Janis provided hard-hitting
testimony. Jackson was arrested later that night with help from a local
citizen who heard the gunshots and rushed to the scene.
Jackson is being held at Hill County Detention Center.
(source: Great Falls Tribune)
Calif. court declines to stay gang leader execution
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stop the execution in
2 weeks of former street gang leader and convicted killer Stanley "Tookie"
Williams, whose supporters say has turned his life around in prison as an
anti-gang activist and author.
The court voted 4-2 to deny a motion to reopen the case, shifting the
focus to efforts by supporters of Williams to convince California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant an 11th-hour clemency appeal.
Williams' case has sparked the fiercest battle over capital punishment in
California in years, and comes as the United States nears its 1,000th
execution since 1977, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
Williams, a 51-year-old founder of the notorious Crips gang, is set to die
by lethal injection at California's San Quentin prison on December 13 for
four murders he denies having committed.
Attorneys for Williams had filed a motion to reopen his case on November
10 with California's highest court.
Schwarzenegger, who is scheduled to meet with prosecutors and attorneys
for Williams next week, on Wednesday declined to say whether he would
grant clemency. He has rejected 2 previous clemency requests from death
row inmates, though one of those executions was stayed by a federal court.
"We are going to have (that) hearing and I think we need to do it so that
we make the right decision," the Republican governor told reporters in
Sacramento. "I want to make sure that I make the right decision because we
are dealing here with a person's life."
Supporters, including celebrities such as rapper Snoop Dogg, argue that
Williams' record of turning against violence should spare him execution.
"I believe, and I know you believe, that Stanley 'Tookie' Williams has
made a difference in our lives," California State Sen. Gloria Romero told
public school students at a rally attended by the rapper and actors Jamie
Foxx and Alfre Woodard.
Romero said she met with Williams at San Quentin prison two weeks ago,
calling their discussion "one of the most profound conversations I've had
with any human being."
Foxx starred in a sympathetic 2004 TV movie: "Redemption: The Stan Tookie
Williams was convicted of shooting Albert Lewis Owens to death during a
1979 convenience store holdup and of killing 3 members of an
Asian-American family while robbing their motel.
He maintains his innocence and has written a series of books urging
children to reject violence, a record that supporters used in nominating
him for a Nobel Peace prize. Prosecutors say Williams is an unrepentant
killer who deserves death.
Williams has argued in his appeals that prosecutors tried to keep blacks
off the jury that convicted him and has challenged forensic evidence in
California, which has more than 600 people on death row, has executed 11
convicts since the death penalty was reinstated in the nation's most
MISSOURIANS TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY----P.O. BOX 54----JEFFERSON CITY,
As Nation's 1,000th Execution Approaches, Death Penalty Shows Decline
Executions, Death Sentences Decrease as Public Skepticism Rises
The 1000th person to be executed since resumption of executions in 1977 is
expected to take place at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning, Friday, December 2, in
North Carolina. Members of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty noted
that the milestone fails to reflect a national trend away from the death
penalty. The group also said that a close examination of executions in the
U.S. and in Missouri underscores the need to repeal the death penalty or
halt executions: here in Missouri, three men came close to being executed
before being exonerated, and the conviction of another man, executed ten
years ago, is being revisited because of new and troubling information. In
addition, there are several men on Missouri's death row with credible
claims of innocence or at least reasonable doubt.
"Reaching such an appalling milestone should cause us to examine the
current status of the death penalty," said Rita Linhardt. "In fact, more
than half of the nation's1,000 executions have taken place in just 2
states, Texas and Virginia. Missouri has been 3rd or 4th for much of that
time. Death sentences have dropped by more than 50% since the late 1990s,
and executions are down by 40% since 1999. We are glad for that drop, but
we grieve also for the victims of these murders, and for the many victims
of those who did not get the death penalty."
"The size of death row has also decreased every year since 2001. The trend
is clear, she added. The death penalty is on the decline, and a growing
number of Americans are challenging this practice because the evidence
shows that it is ineffective, unfair, and inaccurate."
MADP NOTED THAT 66 EXECUTIONS HAVE OCCURRED IN MISSOURI. NATIONALLY, 80%
OF THE NATION'S EXECUTIONS THAT HAVE OCCURRED HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN JUST ONE
REGION OF THE COUNTRY; THE SOUTH AND, EVEN THERE, ONLY A HANDFUL OF
STATES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MOST EXECUTIONS, GENERALLY STATES WHICH SAW
MANY LYNCHINGS IN THE PAST, INCLUDING MISSOURI. THE GROUP ADDED THAT MOST
STATES WITH THE DEATH PENALTY HAVE NOT HAD AN EXECUTION DURING THE PAST
YEAR. THIS YEAR MISSOURI EXECUTED FIVE MEN; THE YEAR BEFORE, HOWEVER, THE
STATE EXECUTED NONE.
Members of MADP point out that a look at the executions over the last 3
decades shows other evidence of the death penalty's arbitrariness beyond
geography. More than 80% of the people we have executed in the U.S. were
sentenced to die for crimes involving white victims (76% in Missouri),
despite the fact that only 50% of murder victims are white. Almost all of
those who were executed were poor, many had shoddy representation, and
frequently they suffered from mental illness. Many, such as juvenile
offenders and those with mental retardation, were executed under laws that
are now unconstitutional.
These facts demonstrate the arbitrary nature of capital punishment, and
these problems must be addressed.
In addition to the unfairness of capital punishment, MADP members have
also voiced concerns about the issue of innocence. Since 1973, 121
innocent people have been freed from death row, including the three in
Missouri. In recent years, MADP has urged state lawmakers to institute a
moratorium on the death penalty while studying how these mistakes could
have been made. Similar concerns about innocence and other issues have
prompted state legislators in other states to halt executions or abandon
the death penalty altogether. For example, a moratorium on executions
remains in place in Illinois, and lawmakers in New York decided to drop
the death penalty after a series of public hearings revealed that capital
punishment does not serve any legitimate purpose and may never be able to
work accurately and fairly.
"There is a lot that can be learned by examining the 1,000 executions that
have taken place in the U.S. and by reviewing the experiences of other
states that are working to address capital punishment concerns. The
problems that New York's lawmakers uncovered are not unique to that state.
Missouri too should look carefully at these problems by enacting a
moratorium on the death penalty while a study commission addresses these
issues," concluded Linhardt.
Virginia to end year with no executions for first time since '83
Gov. Mark R. Warner's decision to spare Robin Lovitt's life means that for
the 1st time since 1983, Virginia will go an entire year without executing
Virginia has put 94 men to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated
capital punishment in 1976. Only Texas, at 355, has executed more.
Lovitt's execution would have been the 1,000th nationally since '76 had
Warner not commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole Tuesday.
That distinction now seems likely to go to Kenneth Lee Boyd, whose
execution is set for 2 a.m. Friday in North Carolina.
Execution dates have not been set for Virginia's remaining 22 death row
inmates, ensuring that the string of years with at least one execution
will end at 21, said spokesmen for the Department of Corrections and the
attorney general's office.
Eileen Addison, president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's
Attorneys, said federal and state reforms in 1995 and 1996 allowed the
state to begin executing more people than it was sending to death row.
Virginia's death row population peaked at 58 a decade ago.
"We've eliminated the backlog," said Addison, the chief prosecutor for
York County and Poquoson. "There are fewer people at the end of the
Between 1982 and 1989, Virginia had six years with only one execution
each. The pace gradually increased, reaching a high of 14 in 1999, then
slowed again. There were 5 executions last year.
Steven D. Benjamin of Richmond, past president of the Virginia Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers, agreed that the appellate reforms have led to
While some states have prisoners languish on death row for 20 years or
longer, he said, anyone sentenced to death in Virginia is virtually
assured of execution within 5 years. The perception that criminals have
endless appeals is a myth in Virginia, Benjamin said.
He also said parole abolition in 1994 has had an impact. Before then,
juries were more inclined to choose death because they feared a life
sentence would be drastically reduced by parole, Benjamin said. Now they
are being told that life in prison means just that.
"Now that juries can be assured that person will not get out, they feel
more comfortable rejecting the ultimate penalty," he said.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington, D.C., said death sentences are declining nationally as
well. He said the use of DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted
people has helped reduce public support for the death penalty from 80 % in
1994 to 64 % in a Gallup poll in October.
Benjamin said exonerations also have made juries more cautious. He cited
the case of Earl Washington Jr., who was pardoned after DNA evidence
proved him innocent of the murder and rape that resulted in his death
sentence in Virginia.
"Thinking Virginians understand that no system is perfect, and we've come
awfully close to making an irreparable mistake," he said.
(source: Associated Press)
US taste for executions fed by crime, culture
One of the highest murder rates in the world, a tradition of frontier
justice and unwavering faith in biblical retribution have helped keep the
death penalty alive in the United States even as much of the modern world
has rejected it, experts on the subject say.
In the face of international scorn and a trend that has seen a record 105
countries halt capital punishment, America has continued to embrace it,
accounting along with China, Iran and Vietnam, for most of the world's
Early on Friday, a death sentence is expected to be imposed in North
Carolina. If that happens, it will mark the 1,000th execution since the
country re-legalized the process in 1976 after a 10-year hiatus. Before
then, starting from 1608 in colonial days, the land that became the United
States recorded more than 14,000 legal executions -- and unknown
additional numbers at the hands of vigilantes.
"The first thing is that compared to Europe, we have a much higher
homicide rate," said Tom Smith of the University of Chicago's National
Opinion Research Center. Polls have clearly demonstrated that popular
support for capital punishment rises and falls as homicide rates do, he
While the U.S. rate is down from recent years, it is still among the
highest in the world, behind a number of countries that include Russia,
South Africa, Colombia and Mexico.
Other factors are harder to quantify, Smith said, but one seems to be that
the country has the largest concentration of evangelistic Christians "who
believe in sin and the punishment of sin, and that capital punishment is
"That tradition is stronger in the United States than any European
country," he said, and it accompanies a frontier tradition of "swift and
sure justice to deal with criminals ... You catch a cattle rustler, you
string him up."
That fits with a strong sense of individualism -- that people themselves
and not society are to blame for the bad things they do, he added.
It is much harder to prove that racism is involved, Smith said, though
statistics show blacks are on death row in numbers far disproportionate to
the nearly 14 % of U.S. society they make up.
RACISM AN INFLUENCE
But Deanne Bonner, clinical professor of social work at Boston University,
said the country's "history of racism" is a strong influence.
"There are many people who believe that capital punishment has replaced
lynching ... the vast majority of those executed are African-American
males," she said.
"It's not just racism but our failure to deal with the
institutionalization of racism," as seen in education and poverty, she
said. "It leads to seeing people who commit crimes as ... less human" and
immigration history has also "left us with a more fragmented sense of our
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson agrees, telling Reuters the U.S. system
is "stacked against people who are poor or black or brown ... Jesus was a
victim of capital punishment. A flawed system killed an innocent man.
Let's make every Christian think."
Rick Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School said the United
States has experienced more murders than other Western countries and "We
simply don't know what these other countries would have done had they
experienced similar murder rates -- and similarly media-sensationalized
"In many of these other countries the rejection of capital punishment has
not happened via democratic decision. That is, it is not clear that
citizens in other countries -- as opposed to other countries' governments
-- have views on capital punishment that depart all that radically from
ours," he said.
The U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, leaders of the single largest faith in
the United States, have been on record against capital punishment for the
past 25 years. They recently called it "deeply flawed" and something that
has left the United States "standing almost alone" among democratic and
developed countries in its regular use.
The biblical call of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" should not be seen as
a call for capital punishment but an attempt to "limit the retribution
that could be exacted for an offense," the bishops said.
But historically churches have backed the right of the state to take a
life in the name of justice, notes Cardinal Avery Dulles, a Fordham
University Jesuit who agrees with the U.S. bishops' opposition to capital
"Many governments in Europe and elsewhere have eliminated the death
penalty in the 20th century, often against the protest of religious
believers," he said in a 2003 essay.
"While this change may be viewed as moral progress, it is probably due in
part to the evaporation of a sense of sin, guilt and retributive justice."
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