[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 21 22:03:47 CDT 2005
Death penalty more like 'state-sanctioned murder'
Texas made history recently by executing its first African American woman
since the Civil War. However, it wasnt the historical significance that
should have made the papers; the important part was the still lingering
questions about the guilt of this woman.
Perhaps a bit of history about the case would be helpful in explaining the
regrettable circumstances. Frances Newton was convicted in 1988 for the
murder of her husband and two small children. The prosecution claimed that
the motive for the murder was to collect on an insurance policy taken out
weeks earlier. They also had a gun that supposedly connected her to the
crime. Seems pretty simple, but as with most things in life, it wasnt that
There were inconsistencies about the case in several different areas. One
is the motive. Prosecutors said that she did it to collect on an insurance
policy she recently took out. What they didnt say was when she got the
policy. She went to buy car insurance and it was only after the saleswoman
convinced her that she agreed to get the life insurance. And she didnt get
it because she had planned on killing her family, more likely it was
because recently her aunts house had burned down, killing her children and
the family didnt have enough money to bury them. That seems like a pretty
logical reason to agree to life insurance.
There is still the physical evidence. The police connected her to a gun
that she led them to. Apparently the reason she had the gun was pretty
benign as well. Her husband, Adrian Newton, had been having a drug problem
and it created strains on their marriage, but earlier that day he promised
her that he had stopped. Curious as to whether he was telling the truth,
Newton looked in the cabinet where he normally stored his drugs and
instead saw a gun. She was worried because earlier her husband and his
brother were talking about having problems with his drug dealer so she
took the gun.
Later that day, while at her cousins house, she hid it in an abandoned
house near her cousins home. After that, she and her cousin went back to
Newtons house, where they discovered the bodies. Her husband and 2
children had been shot execution-style and lay in a bloody mess. According
to the prosecutions timeline, Newton would have had to kill her family,
dispose of the evidence, including her bloodied clothes, and get to her
cousins house within a half-hours time.
It didnt matter that Newton was clean of any traces of blood, after
participating in a very bloody act that left a trail throughout the house.
It didnt matter that her husbands brother told police that Adrian Newton
owed a drug dealer $1500 and gave the cops his address. That point was
left uninvestigated; the drug dealer was never visited. Additionally, it
was later revealed that detectives came across two separate guns instead
of just the one. It will never be known which gun actually matched the
And yes these are all very important points, and most respectable defense
attorneys would have brought these up at trial. But Newton was unfortunate
enough to get stuck with the infamous Ron Mock. So infamous in fact for
his failure at death penalty cases that he was called Death Row Mock. Not
only did he fail to investigate these plausible alternatives on behalf of
his client, he failed to even question any of the witnesses, or bring any
witnesses for the defense on the stand. Adrian Newtons parents even wanted
to testify on Newtons behalf but they were never called to the stand. This
defense attorney has been so negligent in his cases that he has been
brought before the State Bar 5 times for misconduct and is currently
suspended until 2007.
And yet despite all of this, Frances Newton was executed on Sept. 14 by
lethal injection. Inconsistencies like these are all too common in capital
punishment cases. The injustices of our court system are spectacular. Race
is consistently a factor. Although African Americans make up only 13 % of
our population, the death row population is 41.7 % black.
Additionally, a huge issue in death penalty cases is the quality of
representation. In just about all of the capital cases the defendant
couldnt afford his or her own lawyer. In these life or death situations
court appointed lawyers have been known to fall asleep during the trial or
come in intoxicated. I doubt that is what the framers of our Constitution
had in mind when they spoke of proper representation. And then comes the
important question of guilt. Over 114 people have been exonerated from
death row since 1973. If this many people have been cleared then it seems
pretty inevitable that innocent people have been executed in the past and
some are awaiting their deaths today.
Aside from all these discrepancies we really should be asking ourselves if
this is the kind of society we want to live in. Are we really as civilized
as we claim to be with state-sanctioned murder? My dictionarys definition
of murder is the killing of a person inhumanely. And humane is defined as
kind, tender, sympathetic. I dont see how killing can be done kindly. Are
those that support the death penalty doing so out of the kindness of their
hearts? I doubt it.
Aside from all these judicial and societal questions, the best one that
remains is what my young cousin asked, his innocence and simplicity
explaining it best: "We kill people who kill people to show that killing
people is wrong?" It just doesnt make any sense.
(source: Column, Megan McGowan, Collegiate Times)
Prosecutors Ask For Death Penalty In Murder Case Without Body----Defense
Says No Body Means No Crime Committed
In Miami, a South Florida jury was asked Wednesday to give the death
penalty to a murder suspect, despite the fact that authorities have never
found the body of the alleged victim or a murder weapon.
Juries sometimes convict even in cases in which physical evidence is
sparse, such as the Scott Peterson or Shannon Melendi cases.
Images: Body Still Missing
Prosecutors hope their circumstantial case is strong enough to win them a
conviction and a death sentence against Jesus Rodriguez, whose estranged
wife, Isabel Rodriguez, has been missing for nearly 4 years.
"There is no body. The defendant made sure we'd never find a body,"
prosecutor Abbie Rifkin said.
Jesus Rodriguez has denied killing his wife, and his lawyers called the
"Sometimes a lack of evidence is not proof of the perfect crime. Sometimes
it means no crime was committed," Rodriguez's lawyer, Andrew Rier, said.
Jesus Rodriguez is accused of killing Isabel Rodriguez at her home,
stuffing her body in the trunk of his Lincoln and disposing of her body on
his east Everglades ranch so well that 3 intensive high-tech searches
turned up nothing.
However futile the search for clues on Rodriguez's ranch, prosecutors said
a volatile, talkative defendant has bolstered their circumstantial case.
Missing persons detective Giancarlo Melito testified that the defendant
was teary-eyed, then hateful when questioned about his missing wife.
"His eyes would just turn pure white and he'd state she was the devil,"
Jesus Rodriguez called his wife "the devil" in a letter he wrote to the
judge and is accused of threatening her when she enforced a stay-away
order against him, prosecutors said.
Defense lawyers objected to this, saying witnesses never heard a death
The defense told jurors that any suggestion that Jesus Rodriguez built a
fire on his ranch and burned the body are ludicrous. Their research for
the case included a visit to a Miami crematory. They said ovens that can
destroy remains require higher temperatures than any open-air fire can
The defense also said that inmate witnesses who will claim Jesus Rodriguez
incriminated himself to them should not be believed, since Rodriguez stuck
to denials through hours of police questioning.
"Then, the same man gets into jail and -- 'I did it, I did it! It was me!'
Yeah, right," Rier said.
The trial might last more than a month, and Jesus Rodriguez take the stand
before the trial ends.
(source: NBC6 News)
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