[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----DEL., IDAHO, MD., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Oct 31 15:39:49 CST 2005
Murderer longed to kill, attorney says----Brian Steckel scheduled to die
by injection on Friday
Police and prosecutors say Brian "Red" Steckel was a serial killer who
just never got the chance to kill again.
Steckel apparently saw himself the same way.
Before he raped Sandra Lee Long, then set fire to her apartment in 1994,
he boasted to strangers that he'd killed people in other states and that
his tattoos came from prison.
After his arrest, he confessed to several murders he had nothing to do
with, even offering what appeared to be a signature detail -- bite marks
on the buttocks.
Authorities, however, were never able to connect Steckel to any other
killings and eliminated him as the killer in many of the cases.
Steckel is set to die Friday by lethal injection for Long's murder.
Former New Castle County detective John Downs, who investigated the case,
said he believes Steckel "thought about committing a murder for a long
time. We got him relatively early in his career. This was something he'd
In interviews with Steckel, Downs, who is now a prosecutor, said he
detected "a sense of excitement that he had done what he dreamed about."
Even attorney Joseph Gabay, who defended Steckel at trial, said Steckel
"had all the triggers, all the mechanisms" early in his life that turn a
Gabay said Steckel seemed to like the attention his crimes brought, and
his horrendous behavior was a twisted way of exercising control. "He liked
people to be afraid of him."
If Steckel had not been caught, Gabay believes he would have killed again.
Hours after he tortured Long and set fire to her unit in the Driftwood
Club apartments in Prices Corner, Steckel called The News Journal to brag,
giving himself the name "The Driftwood Killer."
He also said he was going to kill again, and gave the newspaper a
prospective victim's name -- which was given to police.
Using that information, police focused on Steckel as the likely killer of
Long and hours later, New Castle County police Patrolman Michael McGowan
picked up Steckel, who was drunk, as he walked down Union Street in
Steckel is an imposing figure, standing 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing
a lean 195 pounds at the time of his arrest. He'd been a furniture mover
and was quite strong. Several months before he killed Long, he got into a
fight with a bartender on Union Street and flattened him with a single
Even though Steckel was clearly drunk, on Sept. 3, 1994, when the officer
encountered him on Union Street, McGowan, now a lieutenant, said he was
wary of approaching Steckel without backup.
McGowan said he wasn't sure the man was Steckel until he saw a distinctive
tattoo on his left forearm -- the name "Ashley" -- and he knew he had his
man. McGowan convinced Steckel he was giving him a break on a public
drunkenness charge and would give him a ride home.
Instead, McGowan drove him to police headquarters, where he was booked for
Once in custody, Steckel mailed more than 75 letters, some confessing to
murders in other states and others bragging about the Long murder or
making threats. In one, to Long's mother, Virginia Thomas, he included the
autopsy report of his victim with a note in the margin, "Happy, Happy. Joy
Joy. Read it and weep. She's gone forever. Don't cry over burnt flesh."
He threatened court personnel and frightened his first team of attorneys,
from the Public Defender's Office, off the case. He also spit on
Thomas Pedersen, who prosecuted Steckel and is now a private attorney,
said it was "the most gruesome case I was ever involved with. ... If the
death penalty is ever justified, Brian's case is probably the best
candidate I can ever think of."
Specifics of what happened that day are difficult to know with certainty
because Steckel has constantly changed his story.
On the night he was arrested, an apparently remorseful Steckel asked the
officers interrogating him, "Don't you get tired of dealing with people
like me? ... Can't you see I'm worthless? I mean, why are you wasting time
on me?" according to a transcript in court records.
Downs responded, "We've got to find out what, what's going on with you."
"I [expletive] killed somebody," Steckel shot back. "What the [expletive]
do you mean 'What's going on?'"
Steckel then went on to say he met "Sandy" through a "sleazy thing in the
neighborhood" and moments later objected to his own description saying,
"She's not sleazy, man. I took her [expletive] life, man. She didn't
deserve to die. ... There is something wrong with me inside of me and I
... I just go off the [expletive] handle man. And it's just not right, you
know what I mean? I guess now I finally got stopped."
During the interrogation, Steckel changed the details several times. At
one point he said he killed Long because she refused to have sex with him.
At another, he said they had had consensual sex several times in the days
before the murder. Later, he said Long was pregnant, possibly with his
child, and that she was demanding support payments.
Months later, in a prison interview with The News Journal, he denied he
had any involvement at all.
"I'm aware of what happened, but I'm not the one who committed the act,"
Steckel said, alleging it was a drug-using married man with children who
He is still changing his story, according to prosecutors at his Board of
Pardons hearing on Friday. In the most recent version, told to a prison
official this month, Steckel alleges Long started the fight by accusing
him of stealing drugs and then attacking him with a frying pan.
On the day he was arrested, Steckel confessed to six other killings, 4 in
Delaware and 2 in Pennsylvania. He claimed one victim was a 15-year-old
paper carrier. He later would confess to other killings in Maine, Las
Vegas, Florida and California.
He told police, "I'm an animal. ... I hurt anybody, man. Been hurting
people for a long time. If you let me walk out the door, I'd go do it
Police checked out Steckel's stories and the next day confronted him with
the fact that someone else had been arrested and convicted of killing the
Steckel immediately recanted: "I was just shooting the breeze, man, and I
was drunk ... when I was saying that ... I never killed anyone else,"
according to court records.
Pennsylvania State Police, however, are interested in talking to Steckel
one last time before he is executed. One of the murders he confessed to --
killing Fountain Hill, Pa., resident Frances Kiefer, a neighbor of his
mother -- remains an unsolved missing person case. Kiefer hasn't been seen
At trial, prosecutors argued that Steckel didn't know Long either at all
or very well. In police interviews, Steckel said he picked Long, who had
long, dark hair, because he thought she was pretty and had a nice body.
Long was a divorced data-entry clerk who lived across the hall from the
apartment where Steckel had been staying with friends for a few weeks.
Long's family would not give interviews before the execution, but at legal
proceedings have described her as a loving person who was close to her
family and friends. She was the youngest of 4 children and also had worked
as a waitress and a saleswoman.
At Friday's Board of Pardons hearing, Long's mother said her daughter was
a giving person who would offer help to whomever needed it.
And on Sept. 2, 1994, Steckel went to her door around lunchtime asking to
use her phone, according to the most consistent version of his confession.
Other tenants said Steckel regularly asked to use people's phones, saying
he needed a touch-tone phone to get his messages.
Prosecutors said Steckel knocked on Long's door intending to rape and
murder her. He was carrying nylon stockings and a tube sock to bind her
and a screwdriver.
Once inside, Steckel unplugged the phone so Long couldn't call 911, then
turned on the 29-year-old. He claimed to have punched her in the face and
thrown her across the room. Long's body had marks on it indicating she
attempted to fend off Steckel's attacks with the screwdriver and teeth
marks on Steckel's finger indicate she bit him, drawing blood.
Steckel said he used the nylons and the tube sock to strangle Long into
unconsciousness, then sexually assaulted her and raped her with the
'I watched the flames'
Steckel then set fire to the bedspread and curtains, he told police, for
"something different, man ... some excitement. ... I watched the flames
and I walked out."
Long woke up afterward, surrounded by flames and thick smoke, and cried
Lane Randolph, a tree trimmer who was passing by and saw the flames,
testified that when he arrived he heard weak calls of, "Help me, please."
He kicked out a window of the basement apartment and called to Long,
briefly grabbing her hand. He had it for 30 to 40 seconds but flames were
"The room was totally black with smoke. Smoke and heat were pouring out. I
pulled with all my might but I just couldn't pull her [to safety]," he
said on the stand.
A co-worker, John Hall, kicked in the apartment door, but flames also
prevented him from getting to Long. "I felt like I was in total hell,"
After the fire was put out, Hall said he went back to look through the
window and saw Long's body. "She was just folded like a flower in a
microwave," he said.
Died of burns, smoke
The medical examiner said Long died from severe burns over 60 percent of
her body and smoke inhalation.
In his initial confession, Steckel said he thought Long was pregnant.
Long's family also believed she was 4 to 5 months pregnant.
An autopsy report at trial that included information on an examination of
Long's uterus showed no indication of pregnancy. Long's family members,
however, wonder if Steckel's brutal attack and the fire eliminated
evidence of a child.
At trial, defense attorneys presented evidence that Steckel had suffered
sexual abuse as a child and had emotional and mental problems as young as
age 12. He'd also spent time in several juvenile facilities.
At Friday's Board of Pardons hearings, relatives testified that Steckel
was not a heartless monster. One aunt, Nancy Renniger said, "You could not
find a more gentle child." Steckel's brother Robert recalled ripping open
Christmas presents with his younger sibling and playing together.
At the time of the murder, Steckel had a daughter. Now 12, she left the
Board of Pardons hearing in tears after her father spoke.
While Steckel offered no excuses on Friday, relatives and attorneys Joseph
Bernstein and John Deckers pointed to a history of mental problems.
Gabay said Steckel was angry and had delusions of grandeur when he was
young -- such as believing he would one day own a professional basketball
team, though he dropped out of school after not doing well, and never held
a job for very long.
In one of his confessions to police, Steckel said he was a messed-up
person. "I was a redhead. People taunted me. People did [expletive] to me.
You know what I mean? Pushing me aside. Step on me. I got tired of that,
man. I just fought back. ... My family loved me and now they're ... scared
of me cause they made me this way. The family. The system. Society."
Seemed to want death
Gabay said that before and during trial, Steckel seemed intent on getting
the death penalty.
"You can explain some actions to a jury," Gabay said. Others, such as
Steckel's taunting letters to the family of his victim, are impossible.
Steckel also refused defense attorneys' attempts to have him evaluated for
mental health problems, and he resisted attempts to show evidence that he
was sexually abused as a child, things attorneys hoped a jury would see as
The jury, which convicted him, ultimately voted 11-1 that he should be put
After the trial, Virginia Thomas said the death penalty was "most justly
When Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. sentenced Steckel to
death in 1997, calling his crime "exceedingly depraved, cruel and
vicious," Steckel smiled.
Gabay said he believes Steckel isn't a threat behind bars.
"Outside, he is a dangerous guy. Very dangerous," said Gabay. "He's just
good at being in jail."
Gabay said that outside, Steckel does not have the 24-hour-a-day structure
that jail provides.
At the Board of Pardons hearing, defense attorneys and relatives argued
Steckel had undergone a transformation, matured and was truly remorseful.
Sandra Jones, a death penalty opponent and an assistant professor of
sociology at Rowan University, said she believes Steckel could make a
contribution even behind bars. Jones has worked with Steckel and other
Delaware death-row inmates for the past year for a book she is writing.
Jones said she could not explain Steckel's crime or his early behavior,
but said that now, "I think there is good reason to believe he could be OK
on the outside," adding that she would not mind having him as a neighbor.
Jones said that when she met him, from press accounts she expected
Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic killer in the movie "Silence of the
Lambs," but the reality "couldn't have been further from the truth."
"He's a really neat guy," she said, adding that he was probably "the type
of kid who tried too hard to get people to like him. A little awkward,
sometimes obnoxious." She said he has a "playful and fun" sense of humor
and is humble.
The Board of Pardons nonetheless refused to commute Steckel's sentence. He
has one appeal left, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gabay said he believes Steckel is remorseful and wants to die for his
crimes, judging by his surprise address to the jury at the end of his
Steckel told the jury, "I didn't know how to say I'm sorry. How do you
tell someone's family you're sorry for strangling them? ... How do you do
such a thing? I don't know. I ask you people to hold me accountable for
what I did. I've gotten away with so much in my life that I stand here
today ... I know I deserve to die for what I did to Sandy. ... I'm
prepared to give up my life because I deserve to."
Brian Steckel was convicted in 1996 of raping and killing Sandra Lee Long
in September 1994. In January 1997, he was sentenced to death.
The Board of Pardons on Friday refused to commute Steckel's sentence to
life without parole.
Steckel's execution is scheduled for Friday. He has 1 remaining appeal: to
the U.S. Supreme Court.
(source: The News Journal)
IDAHO----possible federal death penalty 2 charged in reservation assault
could get death penalty
2 Spokane, Wash., men accused of kidnapping a Lapwai woman at the Nez
Perce Indian Reservation and raping her along U.S. 95 could face the death
penalty after further charges were filed by the U.S. attorney's office.
Arnold Scott, 53, and Gerald Bainbridge, 44, both have been charged with
conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, and aggravated sexual abuse. The
conspiracy charge, which federal prosecutors filed this month, carries a
potential sentence of life in prison or death.
Federal authorities filed the charges because the Justice Department has
law enforcement responsibility on Indian reservations.
Idaho County sheriff's deputies arrested Scott and Bainbridge on April 23
in White Bird after the woman called police and said she had escaped from
a motor home driven by the 2.
According to court records, the men are accused of offering the woman a
ride home from a Lapwai bar on the reservation the night of April 22, then
sexually assaulting her and tying her up inside the motor home.
Authorities said Scott raped the victim while Bainbridge drove and that
Bainbridge later stopped the vehicle in a wide turnout and raped her as
According to court documents, the men planned to kill the woman. The
documents said Scott borrowed a shovel to hit her on the head and bury
her. The 2 also borrowed duct tape under the guise of needing to fix a
"In actuality it was to prepare to kidnap, bind, rape and kill a female,"
a federal indictment says.
The woman contacted authorities from a cafe about 75 miles south of the
reservation the next day.
Both men are being held in the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint and are
scheduled for trial Jan. 10.
(source: Associated Press)
Arundel case may update 'Miranda'----High court to rule on whether a
rights violation can be remedied
The nation's highest court will take up a high-profile Annapolis murder
case tomorrow, looking at an issue that has the potential to alter police
interrogations around the country.
Three years after an Annapolis businessman was fatally shot and run over
by assailants in his carjacked sport utility vehicle, legal experts
believe that the case of freed suspect Leeander Jerome "Sweater" Blake may
provide the U.S. Supreme Court with the opportunity to re-examine, and
possibly ease, a rule that has controlled interrogations since 1981.
At issue is whether police, after violating a suspect's already-invoked
right to a lawyer, can repair the damage so that a suspect can initiate
the questioning. Authorities say Blake implicated himself in the killing,
but his statement to police was tossed out. A judge ruled that the damage
caused by pressing him to change his mind about wanting a lawyer could not
Supporters of the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling that compels
police to advise suspects of their rights - known to many from TV police
dramas - see the Blake case as an alarming threat to a suspect's right to
have a lawyer.
The protection establishes a clear line for what's allowed and what's not,
But advocates for relaxing protections for suspects view the Annapolis
case as a step toward bringing more balance to a justice system that they
believe went too far in coddling criminal defendants. Rather, they say,
there should be a gray area with circumstances that allow for remedying a
violation of a suspect's right to an attorney.
A ruling, which would be made during this court term, could be affected by
the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has not been seen as
friendly toward defendants.
O'Connor, who has said she will stay until her replacement is seated, will
hear the case. But unless an opinion is issued quickly, she - and her vote
- might be gone. That could leave the court split, 4-4. In that case, the
justices could opt for new arguments so a new, ninth justice could
The stakes are high for Blake, 20, because the decision will determine
whether he is tried in the 2002 killing of Straughan Lee Griffin. If
Blake could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Maryland attorney general's office turned to the high court because it
was the only option left for trying Blake.
Anne Arundel County prosecutors unsuccessfully sought to reverse a judge's
ruling that threw out Blake's statement. Under Maryland law at the time,
prosecutors automatically lost the entire case upon losing the pretrial
The Blake case allows the high court to revisit Edwards v. Arizona, a 1981
descendant of the Miranda ruling that took the "you have the right to an
attorney" protection one step further. It says that once a suspect asks
for a lawyer, police must stop all questioning until a lawyer is present;
they cannot prod the suspect to reconsider.
A defendant can change his mind. But that must be voluntary, and he must
initiate the dialogue with police.
The question being argued tomorrow is whether, after police violate the
rule, they can take corrective steps that erase their violation and allow
courts to conclude the suspect voluntarily offered to talk to police. Many
legal experts believe that the justices would not have taken the Blake
case if some were not considering reining in suspects' rights.
"If the court allows this type of conduct, it will effectively gut the
doctrine," said George Washington University law professor Jonathan
Turley, who says police would use it as a "good cop-bad cop" end-run
Police would have nothing to lose by violating a suspect's rights, he
said, because if a judge suppressed the resulting statement, they'd be no
worse off than if they hadn't gone after it.
After all, said University of Michigan law professor Yale Kamisar, the
point of interrogation is "to make the suspect believe he has got to talk
his way out of a jail."
But others say that it is more reasonable to allow police to preserve the
possibility of obtaining a valid and voluntary confession even after a
violation of a suspect's rights - a violation that is not major and is
"It's not unheard of that some young cowboy won't walk by the booking cage
and say something to someone in there. Whatever it is, it is never
helpful," said Dennis Slocumb, vice president of the International Union
of Police Associations. "It is your responsibility to correct him."
"I think they have to be given the opportunity to fix mistakes," said
Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and an officer of the National
District Attorneys Association.
Issues stemming from Miranda warnings are perennials at a Supreme Court
that, legal experts say, has grown increasingly hardened against criminal
Over the years, the court has backed away from what criminal defense
lawyers hoped would be a crisp line for Miranda, creating a patchwork of
exceptions. For example, police need not give the warnings if they believe
there is a public safety emergency. Under some circumstances, a
defendant's statement that was thrown out of court can be used to show he
lied to the jury. And under certain conditions, evidence found as a result
of a tainted confession can be used at trial.
Court observers say that a ruling could depend on what, in Blake's
circumstances, raises each justice's eyebrows; on related issues; or on
interest in tinkering with the Edwards ruling.
Blake and his neighbor in an Annapolis public housing complex, Terrence
Tolbert, then 19, were charged in the Sept. 19, 2002, fatal shooting of
Griffin, 51, as he unloaded his Jeep Grand Cherokee in front of his home
near the State House.
Tolbert was arrested Oct. 25, and blamed the crime on Blake - who in turn
implicated Tolbert, according to police testimony and court records. They
provide this account:
Blake, in his underwear, was pulled from his home before dawn Oct. 26. At
the Annapolis Police Department, he was read his rights, and he said he
wanted a lawyer. He was taken to a holding cell.
Detective William Johns, with then-Officer Curtis Reese, brought him
charging documents with "death penalty" printed on them. The
computer-generated paperwork indicates the maximum penalty for a crime.
"I bet you want to talk now, huh?" Reese told the teenager.
"No. He doesn't want to talk to us. He already asked for a lawyer. We
cannot talk to him now," Johns told Reese in front of Blake.
At 17, however, Blake was a juvenile, too young for a death sentence.
When Johns returned with Blake's clothing about a half-hour later, Blake
said he had changed his mind and wanted to talk with Johns.
Both Tolbert and Blake challenged the admissibility of their statements,
commencing a legal roller coaster.
Prosecutors successfully challenged the ruling barring the confession from
Tolbert, who had not invoked his right to an attorney. Convicted last
winter of 1st-degree murder, he is serving life in prison without parole,
plus 30 years.
But Maryland's highest court upheld the judge's ruling that threw out
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. appealed to the U.S.
Supreme Court, arguing that the point of the Edwards ruling is to ensure
that a suspect who asks for a lawyer is not badgered, but that it lets a
suspect change his mind.
State law has been changed to allow murder cases to go to trial after
prosecutors lose pretrial rulings.
"If Blake wins, because of what the law was at the time of the shooting,
he can say, 'I got away with murder,'" said Anne Arundel County State's
Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee. But the issue, he said, is wider.
Blake's attorney, who says his client is not guilty, agrees that the case
could frame police interrogations for years to come.
Said Kenneth W. Ravenell, Blake's lawyer: "The impact is not just on
Leeander Blake but on law enforcement and many defendants who will come
after Mr. Blake."
Maryland v. Blake
The U.S. Supreme Court takes up a question in a high-profile Annapolis
murder case tomorrow. The question:
"When a police officer improperly communicates with a suspect after
invocation of the suspect's right to counsel, does Edwards permit
consideration of curative measures by the police, or other intervening
circumstances, to conclude that a suspect later initiated communication
with the police?"
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Exonerated man discusses death penalty----Panel including murder victims'
parents share their anti-capital punishment stances
Kirk Bloodsworth named his boat "Freedom."
And as a retired Eastern Shore commercial fisherman who was released from
the state's death row after nine years in prison when DNA proved him
innocent, it's appropriate.
Bloodsworth spoke as part of an anti-death penalty panel Sunday afternoon
at Salisbury University that included the parents of a murder victim. The
panel was sponsored in part by the university's chapter of Amnesty
International, a human rights organization, and organizers said the panel
aimed to give a voice to the death penalty's "unseen victims."
Bloodsworth was cleared in the brutal rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn
Hamilton in 1993 in Baltimore County after 2 jury trials found him guilty.
The former Marine has made appearances before Congress and Oprah Winfrey
on the cause and has had a book written about him.
"I think it's far greater to sit there and think about what you did,"
Bloodsworth said against the death penalty. "If you kill that person,
their pain is over."
Vicki and Syl Schieber spoke about the rape and murder of their daughter,
Shannon, in 1998 as she attended graduate school at the University of
Pennsylvania. Troy Graves, who was eventually arrested and charged in 14
sexual attacks, allegedly broke into her second-story apartment through
her balcony just as the 23-year-old was about to take a bath. Her neighbor
heard screams and called police, who responded quickly and began pounding
on the door, Syl Schieber said. After five minutes of silence, they left.
As Catholics, the Schiebers said they believe in 2nd chances for some
"We both came from tables where two wrongs do not make a right, where
hatred is a sin," Syl Schieber said. "The pursuit of the death penalty has
nothing to do with preventing crime."
All 3 panelists and Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland
Citizens Against State Executions, spoke about the inadequacies of the
police involved in their cases. Bloodsworth said he looked nothing like
police sketches of the man wanted in the Hamilton case, and it took
authorities in Philadelphia years to link Shannon Schieber's rape to
others in the same community months earlier.
They said the death penalty is used to scare suspects into confession or
to give prosecutors notoriety.
"If this is something that is occurring subjectively, erroneously, it is
something we ought to abhor to the extent that we get rid of it," Syl
Some attendants, a few whom were required to attend for class credit, said
the discussion shaped an opinion.
"I enjoyed the two-sides-of-the-story approach," said Hillevi Ets, a
sophomore at the university. "I never really gave the death penalty much
thought, I was just kind of indifferent. Now, I am definitely opposed to
(source: The Daily Times)
Williams case challenges our views on criminal justice -- FORMER GANG
LEADER'S SENTENCE RAISES TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT DEATH PENALTY, PURPOSE OF
His arms and legs are fastened tightly to the table. He cannot move.
In 7 minutes, he will never move again.
A technician swabs alcohol on both of his arms at the elbow. This yields
the desired effect. Two veins rise and reach out for the needle that
enters them. Another technician loads 3 chemicals into a machine that
belongs to the State of California.
The clock reads 12:01 a.m.
The warden gives a signal to the technician. The technician flips the
The 1st thing he feels is the sodium thiopental enter his formerly
muscular arms. He waited 24 years for this moment to come.
His mind is a churning sea of racing thoughts - a man at peace with how he
reformed himself, a man with remorse for the crimes he committed, a man in
fear of the death that is now before him. It is as if all of this thinking
will fend off the unconsciousness that is coming in 60 seconds.
The pancuronium bromide enters next. The body that once resembled a
fearsome NFL linebacker lies prone. The muscles stop moving. The process
is no different from the preparation of a patient for surgery.
Then the potassium chloride enters the bloodstream.
The final act is brief and violent. The heart that gave its first pump of
life on December 29, 1953 rages against the chemical. It fights a losing
The clock reads 12:08 a.m. The sentence handed down by the Los Angeles
Superior Court 24 years ago is served.
In 44 days, this will be the fate of Stanley Tookie Williams.
Our justice system considers this a suitable end to the life of a
quadruple murderer. Other people think this a miscarriage of justice for a
man who is the exemplar for prison rehabilitation.
Tookie Williams was a feared man when he walked the streets of South Los
Angeles. He was barely old enough to get his driver's license when he
established a street gang in his neighborhood. Unlike most neighborhood
gangs, his expanded into a criminal enterprise that now spans across
nearly every state in the nation and several countries on 2 continents.
Thousands of young men today claim the blue flag of the Crips.
Williams went on trial in 1981 for a series of four murders committed over
two weeks in February 1979. The prosecution selected a nearly all-white
jury composed of 10 Caucasians and no African-Americans to hear the case.
The jury saw circumstantial evidence and heard the testimony of three
criminals who testified that he volunteered a confession to them. They
said he was guilty.
The pride and bravado that made him an indomitable criminal on the outside
still carried the day when Williams went to San Quentin Prison. He did not
lose his sense of importance after being imprisoned. In the dangerous
world of San Quentin, Tookie Williams was still a feared man.
It took a 6 1/2 year stay in solitary confinement for Williams to deeply
contemplate the consequences of the life he chose. The isolation of
solitary gave room for him to change the course of his life.
Writing allowed Williams to voice his anguish for his past mistakes. In a
letter simply called "The Apology," he wrote, "I pray that one day my
apology will be accepted. I also pray that your suffering, caused by gang
violence, will soon come to an end as more gang members wake up and stop
hurting themselves and others.
Williams emerged from his confinement intent on making amends for his
criminal past. He wrote 2 books, "Life in Prison" and a memoir, "Blue Rage
and Black Redemption." His series of children's books are hailed for their
anti-violence message. The social impact of his books earned him a
nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
But it is Williams' community intervention that is his lasting testament.
His "Protocol for Peace" document provides a template for rival gangs to
end hostilities. Gangs from cities around the world continue to use the
protocol to reach lasting peace agreements. He spends considerable time
and effort to mentor troubled youths around the world by phone and in
person at San Quentin.
Williams is a perennial nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. President Bush
recognized his volunteer efforts with a Presidential Call to Service
The case of Tookie Williams challenges our fundamental ideas about the
death penalty. In determining his fate, we are forced to think about why
our prison system exists.
We can choose to send a message to society that certain crimes are beyond
the pale. These criminals make their lives forfeit by doing such heinous
acts. Prison is a place to reinforce the idea that they are completely
Our society cannot live in a world that does not recognize the possibility
of the human condition. Such a world casts out not only those behind the
wall. It also casts out the very people Tookie Williams is trying to save.
Thousands of troubled souls look to him for inspiration and guidance. His
life gives a sense of possibility to people who see none.
And that is the ultimate crime in this death sentence. This is a man who
lurked in the darkest corners of society when he was free, a man who
channeled his efforts into activities meant to unravel the threads keeping
society together. Yet, in the darkness of solitary confinement and the
despair of knowing he would never leave San Quentin alive, he committed
the whole of his life to serving others in need.
Governor Schwarzenegger, will you grant clemency to Tookie Williams?
(source: La Voz Weekly)
Foxx Wants a B-Day Present for 'Tookie' ---- Jamie Foxx Wants B-Day
Present From Governator
Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx turns 38 on Dec. 13, and there is only one
birthday present he wants from California Gov. (and fellow actor) Arnold
Schwarzenegger: clemency for Stan "Tookie" Williams.
Williams is an acclaimed author who has been mentioned as a candidate for
the Nobel Peace Prize. He's also a convicted murderer who is set to be
executed on Foxx's birthday after 24 years on death row.
"We can't let it happen," Foxx told me last night at the premiere of his
new film, "Jarhead." "We've got to do everything we can to get the word
out. Do you know they've collected nearly 30,000 signatures so far?"
Williams was sentenced to death in 1981 for the 1979 murder of a Los
Angeles area 7-Eleven manager, and, shortly thereafter, three other people
at a motel. He was already infamous at the time for founding the Los
Angeles street gang the Crips, who were responsible for hundreds of
No one is suggesting that Williams be let out of jail, but in 1992, after
2 Nobel Peace Prize nominations and one for literature, a judge
recommended clemency rather than execution.
Williams, who's 52 and has lived more than 1/2 his life in prison, was the
subject of 2004's masterful made-for-TV film called "Redemption."
(source: Fox News)
Serial-Murder Trial Hinges on DNA Evidence----Genetic markers have already
freed a man once linked to 12 Southside killings. Today it will be used to
When the 1st DNA hits began rolling in on a string of South Los Angeles
strangulation murders, investigators imagined their killer as a Jack the
Ripper type with a rap sheet to match.
But as detectives pursued the suspect, now believed to be one of the most
prolific serial killers in the city's history, they were surprised to find
evidence pointing to Chester D. Turner, a quiet man with a criminal record
primarily of minor drug offenses and a single rape.
Had it not been for genetic links to the rape and killing of a dozen women
between 1987 and 1998, Los Angeles Police Det. Cliff Shepard said, the
former pizza delivery man and father of 4 would not have made it "onto our
Turner, 38, was in state prison for a 2002 rape conviction when he pleaded
not guilty to charges in 10 of the 12 strangulation killings. Turner faces
a preliminary hearing in Los Angles Superior Court today on the charges.
Prosecutors say they have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
He is accused of killing Annette Ernest, 26; Anita Fishman, 31; Regina
Washington, 27; Paula Vance, 31; Mildred Beasley, 45; Andrea Tripplett,
29; Desarae Jones, 29; Natalie Price, 31; Brenda Bries, 31; and one
unidentified woman who appeared to be in her 20s.
Police said he may have been involved in as many as 20 homicides, but
there is no specific DNA evidence to link him to that many.
"Skid Row Slayer" Michael Player was convicted of killing 10 transients in
downtown Los Angeles in 1986. Douglas Clark, called the "Sunset Strip
Killer," is suspected of killing 25; he was convicted of 6 1980 killings.
Although science is expected to take center stage at the hearing,
detectives have said that reconstructing Turner's life - in search of a
clear motive - has been perhaps the hardest part of their investigation.
Irwindale-based defense attorney John D. Tyre said Friday he continues to
delve into Turner's psychological and family history. But whatever he
finds, Tyre said, he believes the case rises and falls on the DNA
"There also are no witnesses to tie him to the murders," Tyre said. "Their
case is based on 20-year-old DNA, and there's going to be issues about
whether it's been properly stored and analyzed."
The defense also could be aided by the case of David Allen Jones, wrongly
convicted in 1995 of three murders, according to police and court records.
Jones, 45, who has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, served nearly
nine years in prison before he was released in March 2004 after DNA tests
run in 2003 by Shepard's cold-case unit exonerated him in two of the cases
and appeared to implicate Turner. Prosecutors, however, declined to charge
Turner with those deaths.
Jones was convicted largely because he confessed, but his lawyers and a
psychologist said he was easily led in questioning; they disputed the
truth of his confession.
Born in Arkansas, Turner moved with his mother to a small home in the 600
block of Century Boulevard during the 1970s, police said.
She worked 2 jobs, and Turner was described as a latch-key kid who stuck
close to home.
"He didn't have a regular childhood. He didn't go nowhere," said a
relative who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He didn't go to the
park, the gym. He couldn't, because his mother would not let him. He was
always at home helping her."
Turner eventually dropped out of high school and began hanging out with
neighborhood kids, portraying himself as a gang member, police said.
Around 1992, Turner began a rocky relationship with a woman named Felicia
Collier, police said. The couple had a child but fought constantly.
During one violent confrontation, a relative of Collier intervened and
Shepard said he believes that Turner's anger and frustration at home were
channeled into the outbursts of violence that claimed his victims.
"I think he wasn't targeting any particular person," Shepard said. "But if
someone crossed his path at the wrong time, he would vent on them."
Turner worked odd jobs as a cook and pizza delivery man. But police say
the pull of drugs and the street was never far away.
During the 11 years when the slayings occurred, Turner moved often,
bouncing between prison, skid row missions, girlfriends' apartments and
the home of his mother and grandfather. During that time, he fathered 3
more children, police said.
He was in and out of prison for years on various convictions, including
theft and drug possession.
For more than a decade, Turner escaped notice amid the largest crime wave
in city history, when killings, concentrated primarily in South Los
Angeles, sometimes topped 1,000 a year.
The crimes Turner is accused of took place mostly in a 30-block stretch of
motels and apartments along the Figueroa corridor next to the Harbor
Freeway, an area still notorious for prostitution, drug crime and
violence. Police have said they believe there were several other serial
killers operating in the South L.A. area frequented by Turner.
Despite a task force of Los Angeles police, county sheriff's deputies and
suburban police officers set up in January 1986 to find the Southside
Serial Killer, police had no description to work with and no eyewitnesses.
Blood-typing technology, a precursor to DNA sampling, was evolving but not
precise enough to narrow a large field of potential suspects.
Because victims in the strangulation cases included homeless women, drug
users and prostitutes, their deaths did not always get much attention. But
in some of the cases, rape kits and other evidence proved useful later.
That, police say, is what ultimately led them to Turner.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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