[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----CALIF., IND., ALA., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 20 10:53:40 CDT 2005
Events to protest the death penalty
RIVERSIDE: 2 activities will be held this weekend to oppose several
Inland residents opposed to the death penalty will sponsor two activities
in Riverside this weekend.
A rally at noon Saturday at Main and Ninth streets will oppose the planned
executions of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, Clarence Ray Allen and Michael
Morales. Verne Schweiger, senior educational specialist in the Office of
Social Concerns of the Diocese of San Bernardino, and death-penalty
activist Carolyn Boyle will discuss "Christian Inconsistency: The Death
Penalty in America" at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Manna Church, which meets in
Watkins House at UC Riverside, 3701 Canyon Crest Drive.
Boyle is coordinator of Inland Empire chapters of Death Penalty Focus and
California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, which are
sponsoring both events.
Williams, scheduled to be executed Dec. 13, is a founder of the Crips
street gang who has been nominated for Nobel peace and literature prizes
for his children's books and efforts to curb gang violence.
Allen, a leader of a Fresno gang who was convicted of murder, is due to be
executed Jan. 17. Morales, convicted of raping and killing a 17-year-old
Lodi girl, is scheduled for execution in February.
Law students sponsoring forum on death penalty
Law Students Against Capital Punishment is sponsoring a 90-minute forum at
4:15 p.m. Tuesday in Lawrence Inlow Hall, 530 W. New York St.
The free public presentation, "The Art Baird Case and the Death Penalty
for the Mentally Ill in Indiana," will feature several speakers, including
Baird's lawyers, Sarah L. Nagy and Jessie Cook. Gov. Mitch Daniels granted
Baird clemency in September, releasing him from Death Row to serve life in
(source: Indianapolis Star)
Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama----A major, thorough report
on capital punishment in Alabama
Opening arguments Thursday in Jones capital murder trial
Attorneys prepared to deliver opening arguments Thursday morning in the
capital murder trial of suspected serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.
Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick and the attorneys began
screening potential jurors on Monday and made the final jury selection at
about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Jurors will be sequestered during the trial
that could last at least a week.
Jones is charged in the rape and slaying of 44-year-old Lisa Nichols of
Turnerville. Her mutilated, burned body was found in her trailer home near
Mobile in September 2004.
Jones has maintained his innocence. If convicted, Jones, 32, of Miami,
Okla., could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Murder charges against Jones in New Orleans and Georgia in separate
slayings and interest in him by investigators handling several other
unsolved slayings have boosted interest in the Mobile trial.
Jones is charged with murder in the death of Amanda Greenwell, a
16-year-old neighbor in Douglasville, Ga., whose remains were found in
April 2004, and Katherine Collins, a 45-year-old New Orleans woman whose
body was found in February 2004.
Authorities have said Jones confessed to or is being investigated in the
deaths of a couple and the disappearance of 2 teenage girls in Oklahoma,
as well as the killing of another woman in Georgia.
(source: Associated Press)
Activists want 3-year death penalty pause
In MOntgomery, activists called for a 3-year moratorium on executions in
Alabama, saying the state's criminal justice system is flawed and unfairly
penalizes the poor and minorities.
Some critics also said Wednesday that Attorney General Troy King
influenced the outcome of high-profile murder cases in Birmingham and
Crenshaw County by pressuring judges to override jury verdicts that called
for life in prison, not execution. King denied the charge.
Alabama Prison Project Director Lucia Penland said King appeared at the
trials of Wesley Devon Harris, who received the death penalty in the
deaths of six members of a Crenshaw County family, and Kerry Spencer, who
got the death penalty in a Birmingham killing of 3 police officers.
King said he was in the Crenshaw courtroom because his office prosecuted
the case. In the Spencer case, King said, he was there because the victims
were police officers and he is the state's top law enforcement officer.
"I don't know what political pressure I applied," King said.
King contends the judges were following state law, which gives them final
authority over capital murder cases. In those cases, King said, jury
recommendations are advisory.
The critics said Alabama is one of only two states that allow judges to
override jury verdicts and that is one thing they want changed. Also, they
want the execution moratorium while the state studies a system of justice
they say is heavy on death penalty sentences compared to other states and
leaves poor people with inadequate defense in court. Their key points are
outlined in a 27-page report released Wednesday, "Broken Justice: The
Death Penalty in Alabama."
Olivia Turner with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama called
for a statewide public defender system.
The death penalty report figures show that Alabama has the sixth highest
execution rate in the country, but no public defender system. About 95
percent of inmates on death row in the state cannot afford to pay an
attorney, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Turner said
innocent people die because they cannot afford legal representation.
Alabama Arise state coordinator Kimble Forrister said while not everyone
may agree on whether Alabama should have the death penalty, he believes a
majority of Alabamians support a moratorium so the state can figure out
the best way to handle the disparities.
"It is just tragic when we execute an innocent person, but it is also
tragic when a perpetrator goes free," Forrister said. "When you execute
the wrong person, that is what happens."
Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said he believes death row justice in Alabama
is broken. Long a supporter of a death penalty moratorium and better legal
representation for the poor, Sanders said he plans to work with the groups
on legislation to support issues raised in the report.
Death row data
Inmates on death row: 189
Black male inmates: 93
White male inmates: 92
Males other race: 2
Black females: 2
White/other females: 0
Death row inmates from Lawrence County: 0
Death row inmates from Limestone County: 2
Limestone inmates, white males: 1
Limestone inmates, black males: 2
Death row inmates from Morgan County: 5
Morgan inmates, black males: 4
Morgan inmates, white males: 1
(source: Alabama Department of Corrections )
(source: Decatur Daily)
Groups say King pressured judges to override death case juries
Groups pushing for a three-year moratorium on executions in Alabama said
Wednesday that Attorney General Troy King put political pressure on judges
in two high-profile murder cases to get them to override jury
recommendations and impose death sentences.
The director of the Alabama Prison Project, Lucia Penland, said King
issued statements criticizing the juries and personally appeared in court
when the judges declined to go along with recommended sentences of life in
prison without the possibility of parole.
Those recommendations came in the cases of Westley Devon Harris, sentenced
to die for the murders of 6 members of a Crenshaw County family, and Kerry
Spencer, given the death sentence for the fatal shooting of three
Birmingham police officers.
"These judges were politically threatened to get them to override the
juries. That's pure politics and it's just not right," Penland said at a
Statehouse news conference in which a report prepared by the American
Civil Liberties Union cited alleged injustices in the way Alabama
administers the death penalty.
King denied that he put political pressure on the judges who sentenced
Harris and Spencer. In the Harris case, King said his office prosecuted
Harris and he appeared in court as the state's chief prosecutor.
"Westley Devon Harris was convicted of the largest mass murder in Alabama
history. My office tried him and I made the argument at the sentencing
that if there was ever a case where the death penalty statute was designed
to be used, this was the case," King said in a phone interview. "He
cold-bloodedly began killing at 8 in the morning and he killed all day. I
asked the judge to do what justice required and to give Westley Devon
Harris the sentence he deserved."
Concerning the Spencer case, King said he attended the sentencing hearing
because three police officers were killed and he is also the state's top
law enforcement officer.
"I don't know what political pressure I applied," King said. He said the
judges were just following Alabama law, which gives final authority over
capital murder sentences to judges and not to juries, whose
recommendations are advisory.
The report presented at the press conference said Alabama is one of only
three states that allows the judge to override the jury's sentence in
death penalty cases.
The report said that judges have overridden the jury's recommended life
sentence 57 times and changed the punishment to death, while judges have
only twice sentenced a person to life after the jury had recommended
"If the override is fair, then we should be seeing the same thing
happening when the jury recommends death," said state Sen. Hank Sanders,
Sanders said he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session calling
for the three-year moratorium on executions. Similar bills have failed in
the Legislature for the past five years, but Sanders said he is more
optimistic this time, citing recent polls which he said indicate Alabama
citizens question whether the death penalty is administered fairly.
"Many legislators are influenced by the positions of their constituents,"
King said it already takes 20 years or longer in many cases before a
convicted murderer is executed in Alabama. He said families of victims in
those cases "think we have a moratorium on the death penalty."
"We do not need to further complicate and delay these cases by imposing a
moratorium," King said.
(source: Associated Press)
Double murder suspect arrested
The prime suspect in a May double homicide outside a club in Talladega has
been arrested on unrelated charges in Los Angeles, according to Talladega
Police Chief Alan Watson.
Isaim Roshune Whitson, 26, formerly of 217C Pineview Landing, Talladega,
has been wanted in connection with the May 29 shooting deaths of Brandon
Drew Bennett, 17, and Kendrick Maurice Elston, 24, both of Talladega. He
currently faces 2 counts of capital murder.
"I dont have any details right now," Watson said, "but I do know that
Whitson is currently in custody in the Los Angeles County Jail, and we are
in the process of faxing copies of our warrants to them. They have placed
a hold on him out there, and I imagine the next step will be to see if he
waives extradition back to Alabama."
Authorities believe that at about 2 a.m. on May 29, Whitson, Clevius
Porter, 24, of 519 Brentwood St., Sylacauga, and Dontorius Hammonds, 24,
of 519 Brentwood Ave., Talladega, drove into the parking lot of Bootsies
Caf on Pulliam Street in a blue 1997 Ford Explorer with the vanity tag "1
CUTTA" printed on it. Whitson allegedly got out of the vehicle and fired
approximately 14 shots from a 9 mm handgun into another vehicle, striking
Bennett and Elston several times.
Both victims were pronounced dead at Citizens Baptist Medical Center in
Investigators say they believe Whitson, Porter and Hammonds then drove to
the residence of a relative of Porters, where they met with Arthur Lamark
"Squinky" McKenzie, 32, of 745 Davis St. McKenzie allegedly drove Whitson
out of town in another vehicle.
Porters relative is not believed to have been involved in the incident.
Porter and Hammonds were arrested for hindering prosecution shortly after
the shooting . A similar warrant was issued for McKenzie, who turned
himself in about a week later. All three are currently out on bond.
Whitson was charged with 2 counts of intentional murder immediately after
the shooting. The charges were upped to capital murder about a week into
If convicted of capital murder, Whitson would face a sentence of life in
prison without possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.
If convicted of hindering prosecution, McKenzie, Porter and Hammonds would
face 1 year and one day to 10 years in prison.
Both the Talladega Police Department and a local business have offered
cash rewards to anyone coming forward with credible information leading to
Whitsons arrest. It was not immediately clear Wednesday night whether
anyone would be able to collect the reward.
Following the shooting, the city of Talladega filed an injunction against
the proprietors of Bootsies to prevent them from operating a club at that
location, which is in the middle of a residential district. The owner of
the building housing the club evicted Bootsies and will likely seek
another use for the building.
(source: Daily Home)
Death penalty may require unanimous jury--Florida's current rules on
execution require only a majority of the jury, which some worry may harm
2 South Florida lawmakers, responding to an urgent state Supreme Court
request, want to fix the state's death-sentence laws by requiring juries
to recommend executions unanimously, rather than by a simple majority.
Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican, and Rep. Jack Seiler, a Wilton
Manors Democrat, say the change is needed to make sure Florida's death
penalty isn't ruled unconstitutional in the future.
"We need to make this as foolproof as possible," said Villalobos, who
along with Seiler has asked legislative staffers to draft a proposed bill.
"The Supreme Court asked us to do this, and this is the morally right
thing to do," Villalobos said. ``If we're going to impose the death
sentence, everyone should agree that the person being executed deserves
Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero issued the opinion in question
last Wednesday, underscoring the need for action in noting that Florida's
sentencing laws are unique when compared to the 38 other death-penalty
"The bottom line is that Florida is now the only state in the country that
allows the death penalty to be imposed'' by simple majority vote, Cantero
wrote. "Assuming that our system continues to withstand constitutional
scrutiny, we ask the Legislature to revisit it to decide whether it wants
Florida to remain the outlier state."
The request was part of a ruling in the case of Alfredie Steele Jr.,
accused of the June 1, 2003, sniper-murder of a Pasco County sheriff's
lieutenant. Steele's trial has been delayed as the courts have mulled the
effects of a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case, Ring v. Arizona, which held
that juries must approve death sentences, not just judges.
Cantero noted that Florida's high court has yet to agree on the scope of
the Ring ruling, and that "uncertainty has left trial judges groping for
answers. This case is an example."
The Pasco County judge overseeing the case used 2 innovative rulings to
make sure that, if tried and sentenced to death, Steele wouldn't go free
under a favorable high court ruling.
First, the judge required prosecutors to tell Steele's lawyers before
trial what aggravating factors -- such as whether the crime was heinous,
against a law enforcement officer, etc. -- they planned to pursue to
persuade the jury to recommend death. The state Supreme Court upheld that
Secondly, the judge invented a special verdict form to specify each
aggravating factor that jurors found, and she required a majority of
jurors to agree on each aggravating factor.
Florida now requires a majority of jurors to find that aggravating factors
existed to justify a death sentence, even if they vote for different
With Justice Harry Lee Anstead and Chief Justice Barbara Pariente
dissenting in part, the court forbade the judge's special verdict form,
pointing out that it was "an ad hoc approach" that could lead to
"disparities" in different proceedings in different courts "contrary to
the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments."
For Rep. Seiler, a self-described "pro-death penalty Democrat," Justice
Cantero's ruling should attract conservatives, who often kvetch about
judges "legislating from the bench."
"He's a brilliant legal mind and he sees a problem with our death penalty
we should fix. So we should fix it. It's pretty simple," Seiler said.
Still, there may be opposition from Seiler's chief, House Speaker Allan
"I'm not inclined to back off on the death penalty. The judges ultimately
decide the sentence anyway," said Bense, who nevertheless promised a fair
hearing on the issue.
The bill should move faster in the Senate, where Villalobos is the
Republican leader and is part of President Tom Lee's leadership team.
Lee said he supports the measure.
"I believe the death penalty should be carried out swiftly and with
certainty," Lee said. "For those interested in retaining capital
punishment in Florida, this issue is worth considering. Particularly if a
unanimous jury recommendation protects the integrity and constitutionality
of the death penalty in Florida. The fact that the Supreme Court justices
are making this argument is significant."
(source: Bradenton Herald)
More information about the DeathPenalty