[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., ALA., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 21 10:28:04 CDT 2005
San Francisco Mother Charged With Murder
A woman seen dropping her 3 young sons into San Francisco Bay from a
downtown pier was charged with murder Thursday while anguished relatives
kept vigil and rescuers combed the chilly water for the bodies of two of
Lashuan T. Harris, 23, was being held in a hospital jail ward after police
saw her pushing an empty baby stroller away from the pier where a witness
reported spotting a woman drop the children into the water Wednesday
The body of Harris' middle child, Taronta Greeley, 2, was recovered late
Wednesday about two miles from the 10-foot pier not far from Fishermen's
Wharf, a major tourist spot.
The other children -- Treyshun Harris, 6, and Joshoa Greeley, 16 months --
were missing and presumed dead Thursday after more than 24 hours in water
with a swift current.
The sheriff's department would not say why Harris was in the hospital, but
she suffered from schizophrenia and had threatened to hurt her children,
according to Britney Fitzpatrick, her 16-year-old half-sister.
"She told my mama she was going to feed them to the sharks," Fitzpatrick
said. "No one thought it was that serious."
The mother told investigators she had taken the anti-psychotic drug Haldol
and then stopped once her symptoms diminished during the summer, according
to a police report. But she began hearing voices again Tuesday night, and
they were still with her when she dropped the boys into the bay.
Asked why she didn't seek help from a doctor Wednesday, she said she
thought the clinics would be closed.
The Coast Guard called off its search, but the San Francisco police and
fire departments continued to scour the bay for the two bodies. "We are
going to be out here until we find them," said police spokeswoman Maria
The district attorney's office charged Harris, of Oakland, with three
counts of murder and 3 counts of assault on a child with great bodily
Because multiple murder charges are involved, she could face the death
Harris was scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, officials said.
About a dozen family members spent Thursday afternoon meeting with police
investigators and praying near the pier. They described Harris as a
devoted mother who used to work as a nurse's assistant at a retirement
home in Oakland, but over the last year and a half fought an increasingly
unsuccessful battle with mental illness.
"It's confusing. I just want to know why she did it," said Demarcus
Harris, a cousin.
Lashuan Harris, the 3rd oldest of 7 siblings, had been living with her
children in a Salvation Army shelter in Oakland since early September,
said her oldest sister, Telicia Harris, 26.
Before that, she lived with her mother in Oakland, with another sister in
Jacksonville, Fla., and with the father of her children. She had been
taking medication for her schizophrenia, but Telicia Harris said she did
not know how consistently.
Court says execute Crips founder
The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to take the case of California death row
inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a founder of the Crips street gang whose
later work for peace won him Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
Williams, who has been praised for his childrens books and efforts to
curtail youth gang violence, likely will be executed in December if Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger does not grant clemency. The 51-year-old former gang
member claims Los Angeles County prosecutors violated his rights when they
dismissed all potential black jurors.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Governor Should Grant Clemency to 'Tookie' -- But Will He?
Editor's Note: If California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks he can win
votes by denying clemency to an ex-gang-member-turned-Nobel Prize nominee,
he's making a strategic and moral mistake, the writer says.
By now many know the story of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, courtesy of the
smash performance by Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx, who played
Williams in the made-for-TV film "Redemption." The story of the co-founder
of the Crips street gang is a gory tale of mayhem and destruction -- and
also a saintly tale of spiritual renewal, public service and human
achievement. The whole of Tookie's story could be headed for a tragic end
when his execution date is formally set. That could happen at an Oct. 24
hearing in Los Angeles.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has made it clear that he'll push
hard for an execution date. On Oct. 11 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
reopen Williams' case. That pretty much slammed the legal door shut on one
of America's most famous death row inmates. Williams, convicted of four
murders committed during 2 robberies, has languished on death row for
nearly a quarter of century. He says he is innocent and claims he got a
bad shake: a mostly white jury convicted him, he got a sub-par legal
defense and his case was based largely on testimony from jailhouse
A national campaign has been launched to prod Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
to grant Williams clemency. California is one of 14 states where governors
have sole authority to commute a condemned killer's sentence. But a
commutation would buck precedent. In the nearly four decades since Ronald
Reagan granted clemency to a brain-damaged death row inmate, no California
governor has waved a death sentence. And Reagan took action only because
the latest scientific test to determine brain damage was not available at
the time of the condemned killer's trial.
Tookie Williams, on the other hand, seems a prime candidate for clemency.
His prize-winning children's books, Nobel Peace Prize nomination and
anti-violence messages have been the stuff of public acclaim. His radical,
life-affirming about-face has made him a near-universal symbol of hope
that even the most bitter and incorrigible street thug can find salvation.
But that's not necessarily enough, and Schwarzenegger has said as much.
The governor has flatly refused to grant clemency to two condemned
murderers. Both times he publicly declared that model behavior behind bars
doesn't absolve prisoners of culpability for their crimes.
Schwarzenegger is not unique among governors when it comes to quashing
clemency appeals. True, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, calling the
state's capital punishment system "arbitrary and capricious," commuted the
death sentences of all 156 condemned killers on Illinois' death row before
departing office in 2003. But that was a rare exception to the unwritten
rule that governors don't grant clemency. They're scared stiff of being
tagged as soft on crime and being insensitive to victims. In the 40 years
prior to Ryan's humane action, only one death row inmate in Illinois got
executive clemency. Since his mass clemency, only 7 other persons have
gotten their death sentences commuted nationally.
Even if Schwarzenegger were inclined to grant Williams clemency, he may
feel trapped by the relentless politics of crime and punishment and his
nosedive in popularity. His ratings wallow at the bottom of the tank along
with President Bush's. A majority of California voters blast him for
ramming a costly and unnecessary special election onto the Nov. 8
William's personal turnabout is exemplary, and sparing his life is morally
the right thing to do. Clemency, after all, is not the same as freedom --
Williams will still likely spend the rest of his days in prison. But 2006
is an election year in California, and the last thing that Republican
Schwarzenegger wants is to be plastered with is the "soft on crime" label
for sparing the life of a black, ex-gang leader and convicted multiple
Playing hardball with the lives of prisoners who have turned their lives
around may seem like a sure way for a politician to snatch votes. But
Williams is no Willie Horton, the convicted murderer and rapist who was
released from a Massachusetts prison on furlough and committed more
assaults. Republicans used Horton to bash Massachusetts Gov. Michael
Dukakis in the 1988 presidential elections. Schwarzenegger almost surely
knows that Tookie Williams can't be used in the same way. Williams,
through his remorse and good deeds, deserves the second chance at life
he's worked hard for. Schwarzenegger should give it to him.
(source: Commentary; Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a Pacific News Service
Prosecutor says Jones inflicted panic in victim's family
State prosecutor William Dill told jurors Thursday that suspected serial
killer Jeremy Bryan Jones had inflicted "panic, terror and horror" on the
family of Lisa Marie Nichols when he raped and killed her in September
But defense attorney Greg Hughes said police had wrongly arrested a drug
addict who would tell them anything they wanted to hear.
Both sides presented their opening arguments Thursday in the capital
murder trial of Jones, who is charged in the rape and killing of Nichols,
44, of Turnerville.
Jones, 32, of Miami, Okla., has maintained his innocence. If convicted, he
could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Jones has also been charged with murder in separate slayings in Georgia
and New Orleans, and investigators in several other unsolved slayings have
expressed an interest in Jones.
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.
Dill said Jones burned Nichols' body in her mobile home in an attempt to
destroy evidence. Nichols, a grocery store worker who lived alone in the
rural community, had been shot three times in the head. Dill said Jones,
who was staying with a neighbor of the victim, later refused to help the
victim's daughters when they discovered the body.
Wearing a sport coat and tie, Jones sat between his 2 defense attorneys
and appeared attentive when Dill pointed to him and said, "Jeremy Jones
didn't try to help because he knew - he knew - it was his handiwork."
In an opening statement for the defense, Hughes conceded that Jones'
statements to detectives about the case led to his indictment, but he
argued that police arrested the wrong man. He said Jones was addicted to
methamphetamine and, because of his drug use, had been "awake for several
days" when officers arrested him.
The defense attorney said Jones agreed to give multiple statements to
investigators "to get out of miserable living conditions" in a cell used
for inmates considered at risk for suicide, and he would tell detectives
"anything they want to hear."
Prosecution witness Chris Hill, 23, of Satsuma, said he knew Jones, a
carpenter, only by the nickname "Oklahoma" and had worked with him a few
years ago in Mobile County.
Hill testified that Jones came to his house looking for some gasoline
about 8 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2004, as Hurricane Ivan neared the area. They
got gas from Hill's neighbor and Jones left, Hill testified.
Jones returned about 2 a.m. on the day of the murder. Hill said he used
some crystal meth with Jones. Hill said Jones asked where he could "hook
up with a woman."
"He was acting wacked out," Hill said.
Hill said Ivan had knocked out electrical power. Hill and Jones rode
around until about 5:30 a.m. Later that morning, he saw Jones for the last
time cleaning up some hurricane debris. They drank a few beers, Hill said.
Other testimony Thursday came from the slain woman's co-workers and
neighbors and will continue Friday.
State Attorney General Troy King sat at the prosecution table Thursday
with the victim's 23-year-old daughter, Jennifer Murphy. King's office
took over the case in April when the victim's daughter complained about
delays in the prosecution.
King, a Republican being opposed in next year's election by Mobile
County's Democratic district attorney, John Tyson Jr., said, "It's not
political for me. There was no campaign going on when the victim's
daughter came to me."
Authorities have said Jones confessed to or is being investigated in the
deaths of a couple and the disappearance of two teenage girls in Oklahoma,
as well as the killing of another woman in Georgia.
Amanda Greenwell's father, Rick Greenwell of Douglasville, Ga. said he had
been attending Jones' trial since Monday to support the Nichols' family.
Greenwell described Jones as a "charmer, but a harmer." He didn't recall
seeing Jones when Amanda was killed, but said they lived in the same
trailer park. "I remember his girlfriend. I guess he was a night owl."
Greenwell said it was a 6-hour drive from his home to Mobile and that he
plans to attend the trial until Friday and then return home.
(source: Associated Press)
DA to seek death penalty for N.C. murders
The Stokes County district attorney says he plans to seek the death
penalty against a man accused of killing a Pinnacle couple in August.
District Attorney Ricky Bowman says in papers filed last week that he
intends to seek the death penalty against Cobey Wade Lakemper, who's
accused of killing William Covington, a retired mail carrier, and his
wife, Joyce Covington.
Bowman said he intends to seek the death penalty for each death.
One of Lakemper's defense attorneys says the filing was expected.
The Covingtons were found shot to death in their home August 7th. Warrants
were then issued for Lakemper, who was captured August 24th in a bar near
Authorities also were searching for Lakemper in connection with an August
3rd robbery in Kansas City and a robbery in Georgia on August 19th.
(source: Associated Press)
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