[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., ARK., CALIF., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 21 18:24:10 CDT 2005
The Wrong Man----An exonerated ex-prisoner talks about finding his way on
The scene has become a staple of the evening news: An innocent man walks
out of prison and into the glare of television cameras, his family by his
side. For Nicholas Yarris, that moment came shortly after 1 p.m. on
January 16, 2004, when he was freed after spending more than 2 decades in
solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's death row.
After the news cameras disappeared, another struggle awaited him: the
battle to create a new life for himself at age 42. The documentary After
Innocence, which won a special jury prize at Sundance and opens at the
Quad this week, chronicles his post-prison journey and that of 6 other
wrongfully imprisoned men.
>From his new home in England, Yarris spoke to the Voice about his 1st 630
days of freedom. How did you feel in those very first hours after leaving
prison? The strongest sensation was the assault on my senses from having
lived 23 years in a controlled environment - being inundated with
temperature change, barometric change, noise. I liken it to all those
times you see a music video in which the central character stands in
complete passivity while the world rushes around him.
How did you feel when your family touched you? The last contact visit that
I was permitted while still on death row was in November of 1989. I did
not touch another human being until December of 2003. I waited 14 years to
be held by my family. When you're not touched for that long and someone
puts their hands on you, this surge of warbling energy goes through you
and makes you aware of being in contact with something you never realized
was gone until it was taken for a very prolonged time.
What kind of job did you get after leaving prison? Because I was not
guilty, I was not entitled to any parole services. So I was not given any
job training or job placement. I went to work scrubbing Budget shuttle
buses at the Philadelphia airport for an ex-felon at $5 per bus. He was
the only one that would hire me. So I worked beside a toothless heroin
addict named Butch, and the 2 of us scrubbed these buses at $5 a bus in
freezing-cold January weather.
Did you get any money from the state of Pennsylvania after your
exoneration? When I was released from prison, I got $5.37 of my own money
and wastold goodbye.
How did you feel the 1st time you saw After Innocence? I cried. I cried
for Mrs. Dedge [the mother of another exonerated man], who was sitting
next to me. I know that woman waited 22 years for her son, and there isn't
anything different between her and my mother. I held her hand a lot, and I
Nearly 650,000 people leave prisons across the country every year. How do
you think your homecoming experience differed from theirs? It's completely
different. I'm one of only 14 human beings sentenced to death that have
been exonerated by DNA testing. After I sought DNA testing in 1988, they
deliberately tried to destroy the evidence that later on proved my
innocence. It took me 15 years to get out. I am so different in so many
different ways from the average person being released because the
government tried to kill me. That's what propels me to speak all over the
I heard that you recently married a woman you met while giving a speech in
London about the death penalty. What are your days like now? I came out of
prison after 23 years and realized I was a stranger in my own life, I was
a stranger to the family who had lost me, and I was a stranger to
everything around me. I gave up everything that was close to mein terms of
my family - for a family with Karen. She came along and gave me a whole
world that removed me from everything that was going to tear me apart.
I remember they had me filling out documents in prison like, "What do you
want us to do with the disposal of your remains?" Now I've got the gift of
a child on the way. I've got one of the greatest lives you can imagine. I
ride around on a motorcycle, I have pets, I have the love of a woman, and
I've got a country that doesn't want to kill me.
(source: Village Voice (For more information about Nicholas Yarris, visit
his website, nickyarris.com )
Tuesday the office of governor Mike Huckabee announced an execution date
for current death row inmate Eric Randall Nance.
Nance, who was tried in Hot Spring County court and convicted of capital
murder on March 31, 1994, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal
injection Nov. 28.
The murder victim, Julie Diane Heath, 18, of Malvern, was reported missing
Oct. 13, 1993, following the discovery of her abandoned 1987 Iroc Camaro
two days prior.
Her body was found by a landowner in a clearcut near Highway 171 nearly a
According to affidavits submitted by the Arkansas State Police, Nance
voluntarily committed himself to the Arkansas State Hospital soon after
Heath's body was discovered.
Hospital officials became suspicious of the patient and notified the
authorities after he appeared to be distressed due to some incident in
which he may have been involved', as the affidavit states.
Shortly before the murder, Nance had been released from the Oklahoma State
Penitentiary after serving 11 years of a 20 year prison sentence for rape
On Aug. 31 of this year, a last minute appeal was made on Nance's behalf
to allow the further examination of DNA evidence collected from Nance's
Judge Phillip Shirron denied the petition for testing, stating that since
"[both sides'] theories were fully developed and defended in the
trial...and that the jury's obligation was to find if he raped her, such a
DNA test would not prove his innocence [of either crime]."
Shirron also mentioned that the testing methods were fully available at
the time, yet were not utilized.
Hot Spring County Chief Deputy Lee Motes, who was employed by the
sheriff's department at the time of the Nance investigation, says that he
believes that Nance's November execution will provide the victim's family
with an ending to the ordeal.
"The wheels of justice might turn slowly, but they're steady," Motes
commented on Wednesday afternoon. "I hope that this gives [Heath's] family
some kind of closure - it's always hard for anyone to find, though, when
they've had a family member taken from them prematurely."
(source: Malvern Daily Record)
9th Circuit Panel Fumes Over Forced Medication
The federal government drove Abisai Rivera-Guerrero to the brink of sanity
-- and 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt doesn't like it one bit.
In a unanimous opinion Wednesday, Reinhardt became the latest in a line of
federal judges to express acute discomfort with the government forcing
anti-psychotic medications on mentally ill patients to make them competent
"The administration of involuntary medication ordinarily constitutes a
serious and substantial violation of a defendant's liberty interest,"
Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous 3-judge panel.
While the 9th Circuit was ostensibly considering the narrow question of
whether U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. improperly denied the
defendant a continuance, Reinhardt took the opportunity to offer some
pointed criticisms of the government's desire to forcibly medicate someone
"I'm not quite sure if one should read it as a slap on the hand for the
district court, as a ringing endorsement of due process or both," said
Diane Amann, a professor at UC-Davis' King Hall School of Law and a former
federal public defender.
But Rory Little, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Hastings
College of the Law, saw little ambiguity there.
"That's the use of dicta to make law. That's what Reinhardt is so good
at," he said. "I know he believes he's doing the right thing, and maybe he
is doing the right thing."
Since the opinion is based on the narrow continuance issue, Little added,
there's little possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court would accept it.
"Judge Reinhardt is sort of well known for writing more broadly when he
knows he has the opportunity, especially in cases that are cert proof," he
On the surface, the case of Rivera-Guerrero -- a mentally ill Mexican
national -- gives one pause because he has been held for more than two
years on charges of illegally re-entering the United States, a crime that
generally results in a light sentence.
Ever since the court determined Rivera-Guerrero to be incompetent to stand
trial shortly after his arrest in 2003, the government has been pushing
hard to medicate him.
After a hearing last year in which government doctors proposed a
medication regimen with a list of side-effects -- nausea, diabetes, an
irreversible facial tick syndrome, to name a few -- that arguably rival
psychosis in terms of sheer discomfort, Rivera-Guerrero's lawyer requested
a continuance before presenting rebutting testimony. She said that the
government had not provided her with the list of medications before the
hearing, and she therefore could not present her own expert.
But a magistrate judge refused to allow the continuance, as did Jones, of
the Southern District of California, who got the case on remand after an
initial 9th Circuit appeal.
Reinhardt found that to be particularly galling since it "resulted in the
defendant's inability to present any evidence that might rebut the
government's medical assertions."
He cited a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Sell v. U.S., 539 U.S. 166,
that says medication may only be administered if it is in "the patient's
best medical interest in light of his medical condition." Because the
government began medicating Rivera-Guerrero after the continuance was
denied, Reinhardt ruled Wednesday that the district court must get a new
report on the defendant's medical status and, depending on his medical
status, prosecute, release or attempt to commit him.
Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Clifton and Senior U.S. District Judge Charles
Weiner -- sitting by designation from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
-- joined Reinhardt in the opinion.
Amann and Barry Portman, a San Francisco federal public defender, said the
remand addressed an important issue: Mentally ill criminal defendants
often end up waiting for years while lawyers fight over whether they can
This can amount to de facto incarceration, Portman said, even though
government mental institutions "are supposed to be the resort of last
But there are no easy solutions, he said. Amann agreed, adding that she is
particularly uncomfortable with medicating someone just for a trial.
"There's something unsavory, if you will. To put someone in jeopardy,
further jeopardy for the liberty," she said, "you're just sort of trying
to get them OK for the short period of time with no promise that you'll
Little said that Reinhardt's opinion should make prosecutors more cautious
about that problem.
"This case will be used, without a doubt, as a case to provide guidance in
involuntary medication cases," he said, "even though it's not a case based
on that law."
The case is U.S. v. Rivera-Guerrero, 05 C.D.O.S. 9125.
(source: The Recorder)
Speaker discusses 1993 prison riots
Author Staughton Lynd presented his thoughts on the 1993 Lucasville Prison
riots and their Youngstown connection. Lynd's speech on Tuesday offered
insight into the Ohio prison system, its prisoners and the human spirit.
Lynd, a scholar, activist and attorney for more than 50 years, recently
released "Lucasville," which delves into the controversial issue of
inequality in the American prison system. The 1993 uprising at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville left nine prisoners and
one hostage dead after 11 days.
The 5 men were convicted and sentenced to the death penalty for the murder
of Officer Robert Vallandingham, a guard they took hostage during the
uprising. They were known as the "Lucasville Five", and are argued by Lynd
to be innocent with compelling evidence he gathered in his book.
"Lucasville" also dealt with larger issues like cooperation. The
Lucasville Five consisted of members of Muslim faith, the Aryan
Brotherhood, the Black Ganger Disciples and other groups often at war with
one another. Lynd stressed that members of those groups working together
was a feat within itself.
He also showed pictures of the prison after the riots, noting graffiti on
the walls that was never shown by media sources. Images included the words
"black and white together," "convict unity," and "convict race," on prison
Lynd was quick to point out that the riots have a number of quick
connections to Youngstown.
"You might be saying 'What does this story have to do with you?'" Lynd
said to the audience. "This story is really about you."
Lynd contends the Ohio State Penitentiary, a super-maximum security prison
built in Youngstown in 1998, was built as a response to the Lucasville
"It was a message to the world from prison administrators," said Lynd.
"They were saying 'no one escapes, no one dictates what goes on besides
The facility houses about 230 inmates, including 30 death row inmates
relocated there from Mansfield Correctional Institute this week. The
supermax can hold more than 500 prisoners, but has never operated at full
Youngstown's supermax doesn't have a traditional recreation yard and
inmates were locked up for 23 hours of the day. When they would leave,
they were always shackled and were strip-searched every time they left and
entered their cells.
Those treatments lead Lynd to head a class action suit against the prison
system claiming that treatment is harsh, unfair, and is based on reaction
the Lucasville riots and not actual security needs. In 2002, U.S. District
Judge James S. Gwin agreed with Lynd, commenting on the prison during his
"This prison has 504 cells, but it was built for only 5 people [the
Lucasville Five]," said Gwin.
An important debate in that case was the moving of death row prisoners to
Youngstown from Mansfield. The inmates had moved from Mansfield to
Lucasville in 1995.
Lynd says prison administrators testified prisoners were moved from
facility to facility, not for security reasons as they law says they
should be. Lynd claims prison administrators say that death row inmates
are very relaxed and cooperative compared to other inmates. Lynd says that
these inmates and prison officials often create a bond which makes it hard
for prison officers to send inmates to be executed. This bond is the
reason for the transfer of prisoners to Mansfield and then to Youngstown,
Lynd insists that the relationship between prisoners and security are
major failures in the prison system.
"Officials don't see prisoners for who they are, they don't see them as
humans. The only thing they see is a workforce created by housing the
prisoners," said Lynd.
Lynd closed by saying his ideas aren't necessarily always right, but he
hopes they continue to inspire thought.
"I put these ideas on the table," Lynd said. "Hopefully, they get you to
think about opening your mind to creative thought on the subject."
(source: The Jambar)
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