[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----IND., USA, S.C., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 28 22:13:26 CDT 2005
Killer had dual legacy
His crime was violent and brutal. But his ultimate legacy could save
As Indiana prepared to execute Alan Lehman Matheney early today, the
domestic violence reforms born from his crime live on, protecting victims
across the state.
Domestic violence experts point to the Matheney case as a pivotal moment
in their movement.
Matheney, 54, was set to be executed by lethal injection at Indiana State
Prison in Michigan City just after midnight for killing his ex-wife, Lisa
Bianco, 16 years ago in Mishawaka.
What made this murder a national story, a TV movie and a battle cry for
champions of battered women was that Matheney committed the crime while on
an 8-hour furlough from prison.
This case led lawmakers to create new laws requiring victims of domestic
violence to be told whenever their attacker was released from jail.
Charlotte Conjelko, a spokeswoman for The Caring Place, a shelter for
batter women in Valparaiso, said the legislation was long overdue.
"That's what it took - Matheney taking her life - before Indiana did
something about domestic violence," Conjelko said.
Mary Beth Schultz, director of the shelter, said Porter County has an
effective system in place for notifying domestic violence victims.
Whenever someone is arrested on a domestic violence-related crime in
Porter County, a judge must approve the release before turning the suspect
Once release is granted, local law enforcement will notify the victim.
This system gives the victim plenty of time to make preparations, Schultz
said. In 2004, police have called The Caring Place 196 times, alerting
women there of an inmate's release.
Lisa Bianco was never given that chance.
Matheney had just served his 2nd year in prison for beating and confining
Bianco in 1987 when he was granted an 8-hour furlough, approved by
then-Gov. Evan Bayh. He was authorized to go only to Indianapolis but
instead headed straight for St. Joseph County.
Despite making repeated requests to the prison system to be informed about
Matheneys release, Bianco was never notified. He beat her to death with a
shotgun he took from a friends house.
Domestic violence groups were outraged, and made their anger known to
"It made the police and everyone else more sensitive toward domestic
violence issues and that you have to respond and respond quickly," Schultz
Gary Mayor Scott King remembers the Matheney case clearly. He represented
Matheney in his murder trial as his court-appointed attorney.
The domestic violence issue put this case in the national spotlight.
"It was the cause celeb at the time," King said.
There was so much attention paid to the case that it was granted a change
of venue. Though tried in South Bend, it was presided over by Lake County
Superior Court Judge James Letsinger, and jurors came from Lake County.
"Judge Letsinger worked hard to do his best to level the field in this
case and to keep the publicity from prejudicing my client," King said.
Matheney's insanity defense didn't sway the jury from convicting him and,
subsequently, opting for the death penalty.
Opponents of the death penalty say the Matheney case is a prime example of
why capital punishment should be abolished.
Marti Pizzini of the Duneland Coalition Against the Death Penalty said the
state is just as culpable as Matheney in the death of Bianco. Her group
held a vigil outside the prison Tuesday.
She said the state should never have granted Matheney that furlough,
because, Pizzini said, he was delusional at the time and repeatedly
expressed a desire to kill his ex-wife while he was in prison.
"Now, they (the state) are trying to wash the blood of guilt off their
hands by executing him," she said.
Capital punishment will not deter the mentally ill from battering women or
murder, Pizzini said.
"They are not going to factor in the threat of execution into their
actions," she said.
(source: Gary Post-Tribune)
A Busy Year on Indiana's Death Row
The execution of Alan Matheney will be the fifth of the year in Indiana,
and the pace on death row has certainly picked up in 2005.
5 executions seems like a lot -- but what does that number mean when you
take a look a little further back in history? For an answer to that
question, we talked to Barry Nothstine at the Indiana State Prison.
He says what people have to remember is that for death penalty cases in
our state, there is a 9-step appeal process involving 4 different courts
-- with each court pretty much setting its own timetable. So the cluster
of executions in 2005 is not a result of any recent legal changes -- but
instead, a question of timing.
"We knew about 5 years ago that we were going to have 1 or maybe 2 years
where everybody was going to be coming due at the same time, so it's
nothing more than a time thing, a scheduling thing," Nothstine said during
a phone interview.
Some quick facts about Indiana's death row:
- Since Indiana's death penalty was reinstituted in 1977, there have been
102 death sentences handed down in the state.
- 14 convicted murderers have actually been executed.
- 5 executions in 2005 is the most since the death penalty was
- Matheney's execution will make a total of 85 people executed in Indiana
- There are currently 22 convicted murderers sitting on death row.
(source: WANE News)
What Catholics believe about ... the death penalty
Our 2005 survey shows that there continues to be a sizable gap between
official church teachings about ... the death penalty and the way American
Catholics view the life issue. In the case of the death penalty, it seems
to be narrowing. We also find little or no evidence of a consistent life
ethic in Catholics views about life and death issues.
First, let me describe the context in which Catholics are formulating
their views.... I do this by reviewing ... death penalty trends since the
1970s, examining Americans attitudes on the issue, and summarizing
official church teachings. Then, I will turn to Catholics attitudes.
The number of death penalty cases in the United States peaked in 1930s,
when about 176 Americans were put to death each year. That number dropped
steadily to 72 in the 1950s. There were only 7 executions in 1965, 1 in
1966, and 2 in 1967, when executions were suspended while the courts
considered their constitutionality. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that
existing death penalty laws were unconstitutional. States responded by
revising their laws to satisfy the Court. In 1976, the Supreme Court
reviewed these changes and reinstated the death penalty.
The 1st execution after the moratorium occurred in 1977, when Gary Gilmore
was put to death in Utah. There were no executions in 1978, and only 2 in
1979. The number increased steadily to a high of 98 in 1999. Since then,
the trend line has been downward, from 85 in 2000, to 66 in 2001, 71 in
2002, 65 in 2003, and 59 in 2004.
Americans views on the death penalty have been more volatile. Support for
the death penalty declined in the 1950s and 60s, hitting a low of 42 % in
1966. It rose during the 1980s and 1990s. By the mid-1990s, 75-80 % of
Americans supported it. Most recent polls show support has fallen to about
65 % and that support for the alternative of life without parole is
The church's view of capital punishment is complicated. The "traditional
teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if
this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against
the unjust aggressor," but if "non-lethal means are sufficient to defend
and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit
itself to such means." Alluding to recent advances in the forensic
sciences, and referring to Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium
Vitae, the catechism states that "the cases in which the execution of the
offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically
Catholics also disagree with church teachings about the death penalty. A
majority of Catholics support stiffer enforcement of the death penalty (54
% in 1999, when we first asked this question, and 57 in 2005). However,
our 2005 survey suggests that the gap between church teachings and
Catholics attitudes on this issue might be narrowing. The largest
generational difference on this question is between the 3 older
generations (54 to 61 % of whom approve of stiffer enforcement) and
Millennials (only 41 % of whom approve).
At a glance
Are Catholics who take a pro-life position on abortion any more likely
than other Catholics to take a pro-life position on the death penalty, as
the seamless garment thesis suggests? If so, only slightly. Only 46 % of
Catholics who say one cannot be a good Catholic without opposing abortion
and only 39 % of those who say one can be a good Catholic without opposing
abortion also oppose stiffer enforcement of the death penalty.
If there is any relationship between the 2, some of the connection can be
attributed to religious commitment. Weekly Mass attenders and people who
pray on a daily basis are more pro-life on both issues than Catholics who
go to church and pray less often. But socioeconomic and political factors
also affect the way Catholics think about these issues. Older, southern
Catholics who have a high school education or less and tend to be
Republicans or Independents are most likely to be pro-life on the abortion
issue. However, these conditions do not promote a pro-life view of the
death penalty. Catholics who have a college education and are Democrats or
Independents are most likely to be pro-life on the death penalty, but tend
to be pro-choice on abortion.
In short, there is some decline in the use of the death penalty --
findings that should please church leaders. Americans attitudes about
abortion have not changed much, but their support of the death penalty
seems to be declining. We do not have any trend data showing a decline in
Catholics support for the death penalty, but generational differences
suggest there might be some convergence between church teachings and
Catholics views on this issue. Prayer and Mass attendance foster a
consistent life ethic, but socioeconomic and political influences do not.
Catholics who are pro-life on one issue find themselves in contexts that
make it difficult for them to be pro-life on the other as well. The
consistent life ethic is a compelling theological construct and religious
commitment fosters it, at least to some degree. But, social, cultural and
political influences make it difficult for lay people to embrace it in
their daily lives.
(source: James Davidson, National Catholic Reporter)
U.S. Judges, ABA Assail Death Row Appeals Bill
The policymaking body for the nation's federal judges and the American Bar
Assn. have announced their opposition to proposed legislation that would
limit appeals in death penalty cases.
The authors of the proposed Streamlined Procedures Act, Sen. Jon Kyl
(R-Ariz.) and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River), say the bill would stop
what they called "endless delays" between convictions in capital cases and
executions. Kyl and Lungren said when they introduced the proposal earlier
this year that restrictions on appeals passed by Congress in 1996 were
But in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter
(R-Pa.), the Judicial Conference of the United States called the proposal
unwarranted and said it could "create unreasonable obstacles to
resolution" of death penalty cases.
The judges who make up the conference said in the letter that the data
they had reviewed did not support "the need for a comprehensive overhaul"
of existing federal appeals procedures.
The proposal, scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the committee, could
"undermine the traditional role of the federal courts to hear and decide
the merits of claims arising under the Constitution," they wrote. The
letter was sent to Specter on Monday.
The bar association made similar arguments in a letter sent Tuesday to
Specter and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the
"Contrary to the claimed goals" of the legislation, "this measure would
create a host of new problems," the lawyers group said, noting that it
would overturn several Supreme Court decisions that had interpreted
Congress' last effort to streamline appeals in death penalty cases.
Moreover, bar association members wrote, "the bill inadequately protects
the innocent by proposing virtually unattainable procedural and other
requirements to establish innocence. These requirements will prevent many
innocent prisoners from reaching federal court."
In recent years, federal courts have often overturned death sentences,
including some cases where DNA evidence had shown that prisoners were
wrongly convicted and sentenced to die.
Both the Judicial Conference and the ABA urged Congress to study whether
there was any unwarranted delay in federal appeals of death penalty cases
before moving ahead with new legislation.
In voicing their opposition to the bill, the Judicial Conference and the
bar association joined state chief justices from throughout the country
who passed a resolution of opposition in August.
In July, more than 50 former prosecutors and more than a dozen former
federal judges also said Congress should reject the bill, suggesting that
passing it could lead to the execution of wrongly convicted people.
The bill stalled in the Judiciary Committee over the summer and has since
But the Judicial Conference resolution and the ABA letter say the
legislation still has many problems.
Seth P. Waxman, the U.S. Solicitor General in the Clinton administration,
who testified against the bill at a hearing this year, described the
Judicial Conference letter as potent.
"I would think that when both the state chief justices and the Judicial
Conference have taken an unequivocal position in opposition to
legislation," members of Congress should hesitate to vote for it, Waxman
(source: Los Angeles Times)
U.S. Supreme Court to hear S.C. death penalty case
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a death row inmate
from York County who says he hasn't been allowed to present evidence
another man committed the crime that sent him to death row.
Bobby Lee Holmes, 33, has been convicted twice of killing and raping
86-year-old Mary Stewart of York in December 1989.
But in those trials, the juries did not hear evidence about a man who
Holmes' attorney says has bragged about raping Stewart for years.
In legal circles, the issue is called third-party guilt. It's where a
defendant wants to use evidence that someone else committed the crime.
If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Holmes' favor, he would get a new trial
and the decision could change the South Carolina standard for admitting
"If a jury is going to decide if a guy gets put to death or not, the least
we can give them is all the information," said Holmes' attorney, Bill
But prosecutor Tommy Pope, who sent Holmes to death row, said the evidence
should have to rise to a certain level of credibility before a judge lets
it in or it could unfairly confuse a jury.
In the Holmes case, his attorney wants to produce evidence that
37-year-old Jimmy McCaw White told 4 people he raped Stewart.
In a hearing before Holmes trial, White denied those allegations. Also DNA
from the victim and fibers from her nightgown were found on Holmes'
underwear and a mixture of blood from Holmes and the victim was found on
Holmes' tank top, according to court documents.
"Jimmy McCaw White willingly submitted to a DNA test, and his DNA is
nowhere to be found in the evidence," Pope said.
Nettles said law enforcement officials should have at least questioned
White, but didn't because "they might have found out he was linked to the
crime, and then they would have a mess on their hands."
"It's in their best interest to look at who they've got charged and refuse
to look at anybody else," Nettles said. "That's not how investigations are
supposed to be done."
(source: The State)
State could still see 2nd-highest number of executions
The execution of a condemned killer who dropped his appeals keeps Ohio on
track to put the second-highest number of inmates to death this year since
resuming capital punishment in 1999.
Herman Dale Ashworth, convicted of luring a man into an alley where he
beat him to death in 1996 for $40, said Tuesday he deserved to die.
"A life for a life, let it be done and justice will be served," Ashworth,
32, said in his final statement before being executed by injection at the
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility for the killing of Daniel Baker.
Ashworth became the fourth death row inmate in Ohio since 1999 to drop his
appeals to speed his death sentence.
He refused to try any appeals so his adoptive parents could make the trip
from his native state, hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, to visit him before
Including Ashworth, the state could execute four people this year, 2nd to
last year's total of 7, which also was the 2nd-highest in the nation after
Next month, a Youngstown killer of 4 is scheduled to die, and in November
a man who says he's innocent of killing a northwest Ohio postmistress in a
1982 robbery faces execution.
The state executed William Smith of Cincinnati in March for a 1987 rape
and murder of a 47-year-old Cincinnati woman.
The 6-foot-4 Ashworth breathed calmly as the execution started, then shook
before his breaths became more shallow and rapid. Soon he was motionless,
his white Adidas hightops hanging off the gurney's edge.
He was pronounced dead at 10:19 a.m.
3 witnesses for the state, including Samuel Overly, the husband of Baker's
niece, Tangee Overly, sat largely motionless in one room. Ashworth had no
witnesses on his behalf.
"I can't lie and say that I'm sorry that this conclusion happened because
I'm not," said Tangee Overly, who waited in the prison during the
execution. "Dan was very brutally murdered."
Carol Wright, a lawyer who served as Ashworth's standby attorney after he
had her and another attorney removed as his legal counsel, described
Ashworth as having been at peace in the hours preceding the execution with
his choice not to appeal.
"He was very resolute. I think he felt good. I think he was very certain
of his decision and pleased that it was finally happening," she said.
Ashworth and Baker, who had never met before, had a few drinks and were
walking to a bar in Newark when Ashworth called Baker over to an alley and
beat him with his fists and a 6-foot board and kicked him, according to
court documents and Ashworth's interview with police.
After beating Baker, Ashworth took about $40 from him and went back to a
bar. His girlfriend at the time, Tanna Brett, testified that Ashworth told
her about the beating and said he had to go back to the alley to kill him
to prevent Baker from identifying him.
"No mother can sleep at night knowing that her son was murdered in the
fashion that my uncle was murdered in," Tangee Overly said after the
execution. "My grandparents live with this every day, for the last nine
years. And this has brought closure to my family."
Before he walked into the death chamber, prison medical technicians in a
neighboring room had trouble inserting the shunt into Ashworth's right arm
where the lethal drugs were administered. Workers ran their hands up his
right arm looking for another location for the 2nd shunt after the one in
his left arm went in easily.
Within 10 minutes, they had inserted the shunt. Ashworth stayed calm
throughout, talking with workers in the room.
Ohio has now put 17 men to death since it resumed executions in 1999 with
another volunteer, Wilford Berry.
ON THE NET----Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction:
A look at Ohio's 4 volunteers for the death penalty
A look at the 4 death row inmates to drop their appeals since Ohio resumed
executions in 1999:
- Wilford Berry, 36, of Cleveland, convicted of the shooting death of his
boss, Charles Mitroff Jr., in 1989. Executed Feb. 19, 1999.
- Stephen Vrabel, 47, of Struthers, convicted of the 1989 gun slayings of
his girlfriend Susan Clemente and their 3-year-old daughter, Lisa.
Executed July 14, 2004.
- Scott Mink, 40, of Union, convicted of bludgeoning his parents, William
and Sheila Mink, to death in 2000. Executed July 20, 2004.
- Herman Dale Ashworth, 32, of Newark, convicted of beating Daniel Baker
to death in 1996 in an alley in Newark.
(source: Ohio Department of Corrections)
(sources for both: Associated Press)
One-time execution 'volunteer' wants death sentence thrown out
A convicted Waynesville wife-killer wants his death sentence overturned,
in spite of a sworn statement he mailed to the Warren County prosecutor a
year ago asking to be executed.
Rocky Barton, 49, was unable to think clearly then, his Middletown
attorney argues. In May of this year a prison psychiatrist diagnosed him
as paranoid schizophrenic and severely depressed.
"He was undiagnosed and untreated," Christopher J. Pagan said Tuesday
after arguing an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. "He's since had a
change of mind. He wants to live."
Pagan said Barton now has access to mental health professionals. "That has
allowed him to think clearer than he ever has," Pagan said.
Barton tried to commit suicide after he shot his 44-year-old wife,
Kimberli Jo, to death on Jan. 16, 2003.
Barton wasn't competent when he made other impulsive decisions, including
the suicide attempt, Pagan said. She died in her adult daughter's arms
outside her Bellbrook Road farmhouse. Barton had just been released from a
Kentucky prison after serving nine years for the attempted murder of a
Unless overturned by the Supreme Court, Barton would be executed once all
appeals are exhausted.
By not addressing possible legal errors made when Barton was sentenced to
death by a trial court, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer asked Warren County
Prosecutor Rachel A. Hutzel if she was asking the "legal system to aid an
assisted suicide. That's the feel I'm getting from this case."
That would be callous, Hutzel said, and is not the prosecution's aim. She
pointed to Barton's year-old sworn statement calling a delayed execution
"a burden on the state, also cruel and unusual punishment for his and
victim's families who are one in the same."
Kimberli Barton was trying to retrieve belongings from their home when her
husband went into the garage and emerged with a shotgun. He shot her in
the shoulder and as she tried to flee, shot her again in the back at close
Barton then put the shotgun under his chin and fired again, inflicting a
Kimberli Barton was pronounced dead at the scene, while he was flown to
Miami Valley Hospital. Barton told others that day that he would never go
back to prison, according to Hutzel.
Hutzel said that Barton demonstrated competence by initially insisting on
the death penalty and listing the reasons why.
Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said that the court must be certain Barton
knew what he was doing when he told lawyers not to call psychiatric
experts before his sentencing, and didn't want family members to testify
on his behalf. "He seemed to know what he was doing," Moyer said.
"The defendant knew exactly what he was doing," Hutzel said.
The court could take up to 3 months to rule.
(source : Cincinnati Enquirer)
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