[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, S.C., MO., MD., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Sep 2 19:26:05 CDT 2005
TEXAS----new execution date
Tony Ford has received an execution date for December 7; it should be
A Loss For Juvenile Justice
It seems an impossibility that the anti-death penalty movement would share
common ground with the Texas state legislature. Nevertheless, in the state
that executes more criminals than any other, such an unlikely alliance has
been forged. Governor Rick Perrys signing of legislation that would
provide life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option in
capital cases was taken by the anti-death penalty movement as a victory,
asserting that the existence of such an option presents a more tenable
alternative to the jury-sponsored sanctioning of execution.
However, this collaborative victory is a setback in the cause of juvenile
justice. The bill, SB60, did not possess an exception for offenders who
committed their capital crime prior to the age of 18. Supporters of the
bill, which takes effect September 1, say the new law will provide juries
in capital cases with a new sentencing option. But in the case of juvenile
offenders who are tried and convicted in adult court, the law provides
only one, slightly less draconian penalty.
This past March the Supreme Court ruled, in Roper v. Simmons, that it was
unconstitutional to execute juveniles. In response, Texas lawmakers passed
legislation that requires juveniles convicted of a capital crime to serve
life in prison with no chance for parole. While this has been classified
by the public, with no small degree of participation from the anti-death
penalty movement, as an act that was intended generally towards adult
offenders, the primary motivation behind the bill was to provide a stiffer
brand of punishment to a class of criminal who could no longer be executed
by the state of Texas.
Perry put on fast-track a legislative proposal by State Senator Eddie
Lucio to implement a life- without-parole sentencing option within days of
the Roper decision. A report from the Austin Chronicle stated that Lucio
used the possibility of the 29 youth capital offenders being released as a
result of their sentence commutation to persuade the legislature and the
governor to pass the bill, leading the senator to state that if they had
passed the measure a few years prior, "We wouldnt have 29 [youthful
offenders] now with the possibility of parole in Texas."
Prior to SB60 being passed into law, Texas prosecuted juvenile capital
offenders in one of two ways. Historically, most juveniles accused of
capital crimes were transferred to adult court where they were subject to
adult prosecution, adult sentencing, and, as seen in the case of 13 youth
offenders, execution by the state. The other way has come about in the
past 10 years, where youth offenders convicted in a juvenile court are
subject to a potential maximum of 40 years. Nonetheless, as a result of
Texass system of blended sentencing, the convicted youth offenders split
their incarceration time between juvenile and adult facilities and
offenders as young as 16 can be moved into adult prisons.
Texas legislators have been eager to point out that the advent of
determinate sentencing has meant fewer juveniles being tried as adults. In
1994, the year before determinate sentencing was extended to capital
crimes, 158 homicide cases were transferred to adult court. In 2002, the
number dwindled to 18. However, in that same year, of the 48 dispositions
that resulted in prosecutions, only 9 were conducted in juvenile courts.
The previous year, in 68 prosecutions, 10 were in juvenile court and 34
were in criminal court with youths tried as adults. This in spite of the
fact that only 17 and 12 juveniles were charged with capital murder in
2001 and 2002 respectively.
But what puts Senator Lucios advocacy into the realm of the demagogic is
the notoriously low rate at which paroles are approved within the Lone
Star State. At one point the jurisprudential history of Texas had a fairly
high parole approval rate, exceeding 79 %. But the "truth-in-sentencing"
movement of the mid-1990s, which was focused on increasing the amount of
actual time served by criminals, drastically modified the face of
sentencing in the state. The combination of the federal government
attaching contingencies of longer sentences to grant money and the Texas
state legislature taking on this endeavor with a certain verve created the
current reality: parole no longer resides in the world of probability, but
is firmly affixed in the finite area of infinitesimal possibility. In 1996
the parole approval rate nationally was at 44 percent while in Texas it
was only 21 %. Today, the parole approval rate is 25 percent and the rate
for violent offenders, which would include capital offenders, is 22 %.
Additionally, a parolee within this sliver would have served an average of
61 % of his or her sentence. Generally, violent offenders by the end of
the 1990s served just under 76 % of their sentence with a projected future
figure of over 89 %. In this landscape, it is highly unlikely that those
who were given a reprieve from death would ever spend a day of their
borrowed time outside of prison, as Senator Lucio suggested. Perversely,
the previous sentence of life with the possibility of parole in 40 years
coupled with inordinately low parole approval rates almost entirely denied
the potential for separate, precise justice. Now as a result of SB60 its
denial is unequivocal.
In writing for the majority of the Supreme Court in Roper, Justice Kennedy
spoke to the difficulty that practitioners have in determining the
existence of anti-social, psychopathic tendencies in a youth offender.
Kennedy asserted that because of this difficulty doctors typically do not
make these diagnoses prior to the subject reaching the age of 18. What is
also relevant is the potential for such an offense to occur as a result of
an impulse control disorder, or intermittent explosive disorder, which
culminates in uncontrolled acts of violence, possibly of an extreme
nature, according to the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders). The current sentencing law ignores these realities and
regards an offender with an undeveloped mental capability the same as one
who exhibits psychopathic behavior - the same, even, as a rational adult.
What Texas has done, in the past and now, is fall into the trap of
allowing the gravity of murder to overwhelm the notion that normally
exists with youth offenders; that they do not bear the same degree of
culpability that we expect from adults. This philosophy goes back to the
genesis of juvenile justice, the first juvenile court in Illinois in 1899,
and the theory that when addressing a youth offender the state should not
act as the ultimate purveyor of justice, rather as a surrogate parent. In
1967 the Supreme Court substantiated this theory in In Re Gault where the
Court held that juveniles are subject to the same constitutional rights in
court even when they are tried in a separate juvenile proceeding.
However, where youth capital offenders are tried and summarily punished as
adults, the only way to ensure separate justice is through the application
of parole. When applied properly, parole is a tool that can separate those
who should remain in prison from those for whom this engenders no benefit
to the prisoner or society.
But it is not only the Texas legislature that has succumbed to this
perceptual trap. While only 34 % of Texans polled were in favor of the
death penalty for juveniles, 78 % of Texans favored life without the
possibility of parole as a sentencing option. This statistic was utilized
by Senator Lucio to argue in favor of SB60 and it likely provided a degree
of political cover to ensure the bills passage.
The reason that Texas was 1 of 3 states not to have the
life-without-parole option was to increase the prospect of a jury
rendering execution as the proper punishment. Based on the preeminent
place that Texas holds for state-sponsored executions, it was a fairly
successful method. Governor Perry and the legislature have effectively
overturned the Supreme Courts ruling in Roper. Texas is now, with the
uncommon exception of commutations, completely unable to execute precise
justice where it is warranted, specifically for those who committed their
crimes as youths. For the anti-death penalty bloc, this victory is akin to
the slaying of the gorgon, a victory of some mythic proportions.
Conversely, for those who also look to curtail the figurative death of
youth offenders, this was a dramatic loss. SB60 is a death warrant and, as
of September 1, convicted youth capital offenders are just as good as
(source: Z Magazine -- David Mikhail teaches criminal justice and
political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He has worked with
the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City and the U.S.
Department of Justice in Washington, DC.)
Death row inmate gets life sentence for different murder
A man on death row for shooting a Myrtle Beach police officer has been
sentenced to life in prison after a Marion County jury found him guilty in
a different killing.
Luzenski Allen Cottrell and his roommate Frederick Halcomb Jr., forced a
Myrtle Beach man to dig a grave in November 2002, then killed and buried
him, prosecutors said.
A jury took about an hour Thursday to convict the pair of murder in the
death of Michael Jonathan Love.
Cottrell was sentenced to death earlier this year for the slaying of
Myrtle Beach Police Officer Joe McGarry.
Circuit Judge Michael Baxley ordered Halcomb to serve his life sentence
after finishing a 5-year sentence on a drug charge.
(source: Associated Press)
Locals continue to fight executions
Beneath the shadows of the columns in front of the Boone County Courthouse
on Tuesday afternoon, a small group of protesters stood as strong as the
concrete pillars beside them. Signs written in black read "capital
punishment is murder by the state" and "violence begets violence" were
clasped firmly in sweaty palms. In the 83-degree heat Jeff Stack, a
coordinator with the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation - the group
that planned the protest - didnt seem to notice the sweat running down his
"We're a seasoned bunch of people, we've done this a few times before,"
Stack said, squinting into the light. "Considering whats being planned a
few miles away, standing in the sun is kind of a luxury."
Stack was referencing was the execution of Timothy Johnston, a 44-year-old
convicted of beating his wife to death in 1989. Members of FOR gathered
Tuesday at a vigil for his Wednesday morning execution.
The group said they assembled not to defend Johnston's crimes, but to
protest the nature of his punishment.
"We feel (Johnston's) violent death at the hands of the state of Missouri
replicates evil. It won't wash it away," Stack said. "He's a human being,
he's remorseful for what hes done and there's nothing he can do to bring
back his wife. Now there will just be another group of people to mourn the
loss of a loved one."
Johnston is survived by his mother and several brothers.
Johnston's death was almost delayed Tuesday when the 3-judge panel of the
8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a temporary stay on his
execution. Johnstons attorney, Chris McGraugh, said the court granted the
stay at about 3 p.m., but reversed its decision at 9 p.m.
McGraugh said appealing for a stay of execution was a response to
Johnstons claim that the lower court had used unfair legal standards and
had not granted enough time for proper investigation.
"Obviously I'm disappointed," McGraugh said. "All along, all we really
asked for is what any other civil litigate gets. I think we were put on a
fast track. I dont think Tim got a fair opportunity in court."
Stack, who has lobbied against the death penalty in Missouri since 1987,
said the stay was set because 2 circuit court judges believed death by
lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. After the majority of
the court disagreed, the stay was lifted.
Stack said his group protests the death penalty any time Missouri executes
Since 1989, 65 people have been executed in Missouri, the 4th-highest
execution rate in the nation.
Protester Gene Murray said she has attended vigils for the past 5 years.
"I know (Johnston) killed his wife. I think that's horrible. That's
killing too," she said. A fitting punishment, she said, would have been a
"The death penalty is used capriciously," said Murray, a registered nurse
in Columbia. "I don't think it's right."
Some people expressed opposing opinions.
"Just as we were leaving, a man swerved his car over to the curb and
yelled really loud, 'They're gonna fry him up tonight in the name of the
Lord!'" protester Robert Heinz said. "Those words ring in my ears."
(source: The Maneater)
State rejects claim of bias in death penalty case----Evans was convicted
in 1983 murders; Lawyer says client's sentence should be overturned based
on study citing Maryland's history of discrimination
A lawyer for the state rejected the claim today that racial bias played a
role in the death sentence of Vernon Evans Jr., telling the Court of
Appeals Evans was sentenced to die because his crime "ranks up with there
with the worst" in the history of Maryland.
Evans would have received a death sentence "whether he was white, black,
pink or purple," Assistant Attorney General Annabelle Lisic said.
Evans lawyer, A. Stephen Hut Jr., said the sentence should be overturned
because there is a history of racial bias in the use of the death penalty,
as demonstrated in a study conducted for the state by Raymond Paternoster,
a professor at the University of Maryland College Park. Paternoster found
that prosecutors are most likely to seek the death penalty for black
suspects when the victims are white.
Evans was sentenced to death for the murders of Scott Piechowicz and his
sister-in-law Susan Kennedy, who were gunned down in the lobby of a motel
in Pikesville in 1983. While admitting that he was paid $9,000 by drug
dealer Anthony Grandison, Evans argued that he was merely a middleman.
Grandison, who is also on death row for his part in the murders, wanted
Piechowicz and his wife dead because he believed they were going to
testify against him in another trial. Evans killed Kennedy by mistake
after incorrectly identifying her as Piechowicz's wife, who was her
Hut argued that the Baltimore County state's attorney's office violated
Evans' constitutional right to equal protection of the law by
discriminating on the basis of race in deciding to try him for capital
murder. He said the office was more likely to seek the death penalty for
blacks who killed whites than for whites whose victims were of either race
or for blacks whose victims were black.
He said Evans should have the right to try to demonstrate at a new hearing
that race played a role in the decision to seek the death penalty.
"The state has to come forward and prove that discrimination didn't affect
the death sentence (of Evans). We don't believe they can do that," Hut
Lisic said the reason Evans was sentenced to death "is because of the
nature of the crime he committed, cold-bloodedly killing two innocent
In addition to Evans, three other people sentenced to death have
challenged their sentences because of Paternoster's findings. He
determined that black defendants who killed whites were most likely to be
charged with capital murder and sentenced to death in Maryland. He also
found that the likelihood of prosecutors seeking capital murder charges in
Baltimore County is 13 times greater than in Baltimore.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Ga. Courthouse Gunman Lawyers Seek Papers
In Atlanta, lawyers for accused courthouse gunman Brian Nichols asked
prosecutors to turn over any records that may show he was mentally or
emotionally disturbed when he allegedly killed a judge and 3 others.
The lawyers in a motion released Thursday also said they want the state to
produce any records that show Nichols reasonably believed he had "moral
justification" for allegedly escaping March 11 from the Fulton County
Courthouse during his rape trial and committing the murders.
Defense attorney Jacob Sussman declined to say if Nichols would argue
insanity but indicated more motions may be filed.
"We filed the motion for evidence to ask if the state has anything that
speaks to it," Sussman said, declining to elaborate.
The defense also asked that the case be moved out of the downtown
courthouse where the shooting rampage started, noting that it is the crime
scene. The motion did not suggest an alternative site.
Prosecution spokesman Erik Friedly declined to comment on the defense
motions. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8. No trial date has been set.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Nichols is accused of overpowering a deputy, grabbing her gun and entering
the courtroom where his rape trial was scheduled to resume. There,
authorities say, he killed the judge presiding over the trial and a court
reporter. Police say he then killed a sheriff's deputy who chased after
him and, that night, a federal agent at a home north of downtown. He was
captured the next day after, police said, he took a woman hostage in an
Other things the defense asked for in the motion include any evidence that
shows Nichols has felt remorse for mistakes he's made in his life and any
information that would support any possible mitigating circumstance that
Nichols might present to the jury at his trial.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty