death penalty news----USA, N.C., N.Y., IND., FLA., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Sep 30 09:53:43 CDT 2005
Groups blast bill they say limits prisoner appeals
As death row and DNA exonerations mount, a bill that critics say would
severely curtail the ability of prison inmates to appeal in federal court
faces a crucial Senate committee vote today.
The Streamlined Procedures Act is aimed at limiting what the original
sponsors of the bill, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Dan Lundgren
(R-Calif.), have described as "endless delays" in carrying out death
But more legal groups, including the American Bar Association and the
Judicial Conference of the United States, an organization of federal
judges, have announced their opposition to the bill.
The ABA said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that
the bill "inadequately protects the innocent" by erecting new barriers to
Since the mid-1970s, more than 100 prisoners have been released from the
nations death rows with innocence claims, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, a not-for-profit group.
(source: The News-Tribune)
Judge says no to death penalty for just driving
In Durhan, prosecutors may not seek the death penalty against Brian Keith
Hargrove unless they can demonstrate he was more than just the driver for
a 2003 shooting spree that killed a woman and destroyed a toddler's eye on
Markham Avenue, a judge ruled Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Carl Fox said the possibility of capital punishment
must be eliminated without evidence that Hargrove left his car, entered an
apartment where the shootings took place and intended that someone would
be harmed or killed.
"The mere presence in the vehicle did not amount to reckless disregard for
human life," the judge added.
Fox said that, during several preliminary hearings in the case, he did not
hear any evidence against Hargrove that would merit the death penalty.
However, he left open the possibility that prosecutor Tracey Cline might
have additional evidence he wasn't aware of.
Cline had no comment when asked about this by The Herald-Sun.
Meanwhile, she told the judge Thursday -- without elaboration -- that
negotiations were in progress for a possible plea bargain that would
require Hargrove to testify against his cousin, Dennis Lamonte Hargrove.
Dennis Hargrove allegedly fired the fatal bullet and shot out the
toddler's eye. Both cousins are charged with first-degree murder and
Dennis Hargrove is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 10 and faces the
possibility of capital punishment if convicted. The only other penalty for
1st-degree murder is life in prison without parole.
A trial date for Brian Hargrove has not been set.
In recently filed court motions, defense lawyers Jonathan Broun and Elaine
Gordon said there was "absolutely no evidence" that Brian Hargrove fired
the fatal shot or that he "personally intended for anyone to die. In fact,
almost all the evidence tends to indicate that [Hargrove] remained in his
car outside of the residence where the shootings happened."
The lawyers cited a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the death
penalty could not be justified for a man who drove a getaway car while his
partner committed a murder and robbery. By the same logic, Brian Hargrove
was ineligible for capital punishment because he "did not actually kill,
intend to kill or participate in a major way in criminal conduct which
resulted in death," the attorneys wrote.
They said that, under the circumstances, it would be unconstitutionally
"cruel and unusual punishment" to subject Brian Hargrove to the death
The Hargroves are accused of fatally wounding Colette Moss, 23, during the
Markham Avenue shooting spree. A 2-year-old, a 14-year-old and a
22-year-old -- all female -- were injured.
The toddler lost an eye.
The shootings apparently were motivated by an unpaid debt on a large drug
deal, according to Cline.
She said in court recently that Thomas Harold Garner Jr., who shared the
apartment with Moss, allegedly was engaged with the Hargroves in a
transaction involving 35 pounds of marijuana and more than a pound of
But Garner was not at the apartment when the Hargroves, bent on collecting
drug money, went looking for him on the night of the shootings, Cline
said. In his absence, the victims may have been shot in an effort to scare
him into paying up, the prosecutor suggested.
If capital punishment was eliminated as an option for Brian Hargrove, he
still could be tried for first-degree murder under a legal theory known as
"acting in concert." It holds that someone can be convicted even if he
wasn't the actual killer, as long as he had a "common plan or purpose"
with the slayer.
Murder Victims Mother Joins Kaczynski To End Death Penalty
Antoinette Bosco will never forget August 12, 1993. That was the day a
Montana sheriff called and explained that her son, John, and
daughter-in-law, Nancy, had been shot to death by an intruder in their
home. John had been sleeping and probably never knew what was happening.
Nancy woke up and was crouched in the fetal position when the murderer
shot her twice at close range.
David Kaczynskis life changed in October 1995 when he read the Unabombers
manifesto in the Washington Post and realized that it could have been
written by his brother.
Both Bosco and Kaczynski - now the executive director of New Yorkers
Against the Death Penalty - told their stories at St. Matthias Roman
Catholic Church in Ridgewood last Monday and gave their reasons for
staunchly opposing the death penalty.
"I'm here to say it's the worst mistake that anyone could make," said
Bosco, the author of 14 books and a syndicated columnist for Catholic News
Service, "to think that another persons death can bring you peace."
Among the reasons she has for opposing the death penalty are the economic:
since New York reinstated the death penalty in 1995, taxpayers have spent
at least $170 million pursuing capital cases without a single execution
There are also wrongful convictions. Since 1973, at least 117 innocent
people have been sent to death row across the country and were later
Then there is the question of racial bias. In New York, those accused of
murdering white victims are more than twice as likely to face the death
penalty as those who murder black victims, according to a recent study by
the Center for Law and Justice in Albany.
But there are no facts and figures as compelling as Bosco's own story.
After she received the call about the murders, she was tormented by
feelings of depression and rage. "You go a little crazy when you hear
something like that," she said. "It was the beginning of a tremendous
interior change for me."
Bosco summoned the courage to travel to the house her son and
daughter-in-law had recently purchased in Bigfork, Montana, where the
murders took place. "I could really feel the evil in that room," she said.
A devout Catholic her entire life, she began to pray.
Before entering the room she felt she could have killed someone with her
own hands, but afterward, she had an epiphany, realizing no person has the
right to take another persons life. "The evil was the fact that a human
being had taken the lives of other human beings," she said.
Eventually, she began praying for the murderer, although it was 4 months
before she found out who he was.
In December, she learned from authorities that the murderer was the
18-year-old son of the former homeowner, Joseph "Shadow" Clark. Clark had
travelled back to his childhood home from his Quaker college in Oregon,
where he was a freshman. The Bosco family still doesn't know if there was
a motive, but they learned that Clark had been having dreams for weeks
about killing the inhabitants of his former home.
Although Bosco had been against the death penalty her entire life, the
question had always been academic until her son was murdered. "We dealt
with this question of forgiveness," she said. "Could we ever really
She could and she has. She wrote to the judge in Montana and asked for
Clark's life to be spared. He was sentenced to 220 years in prison with
the possibility of parole at age 60.
12 years later she got a letter from Clark, apologizing. She also found
out that he was working as a teachers aide in prison, an example of
restorative justice. The concept, which is gaining acceptance, focuses on
rehabilitation for prisoners, allowing them to give back to society.
"Pray for us," she said in concluding her talk. "Pray that there is no
more killing by anyone, ever."
Like Bosco, David Kaczynski never imagined he would have a personal
connection with the death penalty. But, after comparing the Unabomber's
manifesto to letters he had received from his brother, he realized they
could be the same person. By 1995, Theodore Kaczynski had killed three
people and injured many others during a 17-year bombing spree.
"We found ourselves in a nightmarish dilemma, because any choice we made
could lead to someones death," he said, about the decision he made with
his wife to turn in his brother.
The most difficult moment during that time was having to tell his
79-year-old widowed mother what he had done. "It was a very cruel way for
a relationship to be tested," he said. Yet his mother accepted his
decision, which turned out to be the right one for the family.
When Ted Kaczynski was arrested in his Montana cabin, authorities found a
wrapped bomb, prepared for another victim.
Until the arrest, David Kaczynski had worked closely with authorities, but
afterward he watched in horror as the Justice Department refocused its
resources and attention on pursuing the death penalty. The fact that his
brother was schizophrenic and that the death penalty might discourage
others from following his family's example, were two compelling reasons he
saw for a sentence of life in prison.
Ultimately, the reason his brother's life was spared was not because the
Justice Department recognized its error, but because he had great
attorneys. "Most of the people on death row are poor people. Many are
people of color. Almost all of them didnt get adequate representation," he
said. The death penalty was enacted in New York state in 1995. After nine
years, it was effectively abolished by the Court of Appeals. Earlier this
year, the Assembly held public hearings to evaluate the law in light of
new information, after which the Codes Committee voted against its
One of those who spoke at the hearings was Mary Van Valkenburg, a sister
of John Bosco. At the conclusion of her testimony she said, "Hatred
doesn't heal. Mercy, compassion, moving on with life, turning toward good
people, walking into the light of love as much as possible, that's what
victims need. And our lawmakers have the capacity to help us do that by
abolishing the death penalty and along with it, the fantasy that it will
make the pain go away."
(source: Queens Chronicle)
The Issue: Fifth Indiana inmate this year is executed. Our View:
Fortunately, it should be the last for a while.
Indiana has executed its 5th death row inmate this year - that's the most
in any one year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1970. The
Associated Press reports, as well, that this one may have been the last
for this year, that no other executions are imminent.
However, Wednesday's execution of Alan Matheney was significant for
another reason. His horrendous crime, the beating death of his ex-wife in
1989, played a role in the state's ballooning prison inmate population
during the 1990s.
For certain, drug crimes and mandatory sentences for drug criminals
contributed mightily to prison overcrowding. But at the time, Matheney's
crime was seen as a significant setback in efforts to persuade the state
to place greater emphasis on community corrections programs and less on
building new prisons.
Matheney had been sentenced to eight years in prison for the 1987 beating
of his ex-wife, Lisa Bianco, and for confining their 2 children.
Subsequently, as he was doing his time at the Correctional Industrial
Facility near Pendleton, he was given an 8-hour prison furlough.
Unsupervised, he went to Bianco's Mishawaka, Ind., home and killed her.
She never knew he had been released.
Then-Gov. Evan Bayh and state prison officials were sorely criticized for
the handling of Matheney's furlough. Bayh suspended the state's prison
furlough program and went on to champion prison building programs.
The furlough program was later reinstated with tighter restrictions on
prisoner release programs and with new provisions for notifying victims of
such releases. While those steps were needed, the Matheney case was seen
as a setback for community corrections, to the favor of prison building
programs. That trend finally hit a wall only a few years ago when the
state found it had constructed more new prison cells than it had the money
Matheney was executed Wednesday after being denied clemency, even though
his attorneys had claimed he was severely mentally ill.
Only last month, a man about to be executed - and who was said to be
mentally ill - was granted clemency, although it was said to be for
reasons other than his mental condition. Regardless, the U.S. Supreme
Court has ruled that some people who are mentally ill cannot be executed.
Inconsistencies and questions over who is mentally ill and who is not, and
who should be executed and who should not be, provide further reasons why
Indiana should suspend use of the death penalty in favor of life without
Fortunately, that's an issue that won't have to be debated further this
year, because no more executions are expected.
(source: Editorial, Courier-Press)
Court extends deadline for DNA testing----The state Supreme Court will
consider eliminating a deadline altogether for inmates who want to
challenge their convictions.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday extended the opportunity for
Florida's prison inmates to challenge their convictions through DNA
The extension came just two days before a deadline could have barred
courts from hearing requests from inmates trying to prove their innocence
through DNA testing. The court extended the deadline until July 1.
Meanwhile, the court will consider whether to eliminate the deadline
altogether, which the Florida Bar Association recommended in a petition
filed last week.
"People have realized that you can't really put a limit on innocence,"
said George Tragos, a Clearwater attorney who is chairman of the bar's
criminal procedure rules committee. "Why would anyone want to keep an
innocent man in jail just because he missed a deadline?"
The issue of eliminating the deadline also will be taken up in a Senate
bill, said Michelle Fontaine, assistant director of the Florida Innocence
Initiative in Tallahassee.
"We have always wanted there to be unfettered time for individuals to file
these claims," Fontaine said. "The deadline serves no purpose."
The Florida Legislature in 2001 gave prison inmates two years to ask that
evidence in their cases be tested for DNA. Many of the inmates were
convicted of crimes that occurred years before DNA became a common tool in
Defense attorneys suggested it wasn't enough time. What if innocent
inmates didn't learn about the opportunity for DNA testing until it was
too late? What if the requests for testing were backlogged at a lab?
The Supreme Court extended the deadline by two years despite opposition
from critics who said it would cost too much to store evidence, would clog
state labs with unnecessary requests and would deny finality to victims'
Since then, DNA testing has helped to exonerate two men of crimes they
Last year, Wilton Dedge was released from a Florida prison after DNA
testing exonerated him of rape. Dedge had served 22 years in prison for a
crime he didn't commit.
In August, Luis Diaz walked out of a Florida prison after DNA testing
helped exonerate him of several south Florida rapes. Diaz was behind bars
for 26 years.
2 days after Diaz was released, Gov. Jeb Bush signed an executive order
requiring prosecutors to preserve physical evidence so it could be tested
by state prisoners. The order was a reprieve to inmates because it
prohibited prosecutors from throwing away evidence, which they could have
done beginning Oct. 1.
Fontaine, whose office receives about 25 requests for DNA testing a week,
said opposition to eliminating the deadline has dissolved in the last 2
years, primarily because of the Dedge and Diaz exonerations, which
received widespread media coverage.
"There's a human face to it this time around," Fontaine said. "I think the
climate has changed and I don't know that there's going to be any
opposition to this right now."
Fontaine said more Florida exonerations may be announced in the next
month. Nationwide, about 160 prison inmates have been exonerated by DNA
"It's never made any sense to me to have a deadline," said Martin McClain,
who is known for his work defending Florida inmates on death row. "It
seems to me if the person is innocent, that's more important than any
issue of finality."
McClain won't get an argument from the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's
"If someone is innocent and DNA will show that, then we want that testing
to be done," said Doug Crow, an executive assistant state attorney. "We
don't want anyone to be wrongly convicted or wrongly incarcerated.
"I think that's one of the greatest advantages of DNA testing. It not only
can incriminate people, it can exonerate them as well," Crow said. "It's
very powerful in doing both."
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Accused ringleader's boot matches prints at scene of 6 slayings
In Deltona, shoe prints in a house where 6 friends were beaten to death
with a baseball bat matched a bloodstained boot belonging to a man accused
of orchestrating the attacks, according to investigators.
Troy Victorino's size-12, suede Lugz boot matched the tread, dimension and
shape of impressions found on a pay stub, a playing card, a bedsheet and
the front door of the Deltona house, according to Florida Department of
Law Enforcement reports released Thursday.
The boot was recovered from Victorino's home, where he was arrested a day
after the victims were found bludgeoned.
Another pair of shoes from Victorino's home matched prints found on
another playing card and a grocery list in the Deltona house, according to
Authorities said Victorino and 3 accomplices allegedly killed the 6
friends because he thought 1 of the victims kept his Xbox video game
system when he was kicked out of the house.
Victorino, and 19-year-olds Jerone Hunter, Michael Salas and Robert
Anthony Cannon are charged with 6 counts of murder and 8 other felonies
for the Aug. 6, 2004, beating deaths. The state is seeking the death
penalty at their Jan. 3 trial.
Hunter told investigators that Victorino kicked in the house's front door
before the 4 men entered with baseball bats.
Victorino has denied involvement in the slayings, saying he was drunk and
passed out a bar when they took place.
A message left early Friday for Victorino's attorney, James Jeffrey Dowdy,
was not immediately returned.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmate's lawyers ask Taft for help
Lawyers for a death row inmate convicted of killing a northwest Ohio
postmistress in 1982 have asked Gov. Bob Taft for help before their
client's 1nd clemency hearing in 2 weeks.
In a letter sent Thursday, John Spirko's lawyers asked Taft to request any
documents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service that involve an
investigation into the behavior of former postal inspector Paul Hartman,
the state's lead investigator and a star witness in the Spirko case.
Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor's office was reviewing the
Spirko's lawyers also are seeking an interview with Gregory Duerr, a
current postal inspector who wrote in a letter that he witnessed conduct
by Hartman "bordering on criminal." Duerr wrote that more than a dozen
colleagues filed complaints about Hartman in the late 1990s.
Spirko, 59, is scheduled to be executed in November for the murder of
Betty Jane Mottinger, 48, who was the postmistress in Elgin. She was
abducted and stabbed nearly 20 times, wrapped in a curtain and dumped in a
field. Her body was found 3 weeks later.
He has denied any involvement.
Taft delayed Spirko's scheduled Sept. 20 execution to look into whether
prosecutors presented inaccurate information at a clemency hearing in
The parole board, which voted 6-3 against recommending clemency, requested
the rehearing, and the attorney general's office recommended it.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported that Timothy Prichard, director of
the attorney general's capital crimes office, made false statements and
mischaracterized evidence regarding what Spirko knew about the murder and
where he was on the day of the killing.
The newspaper wrote its story after comparing Prichard's statements to the
parole board with the case record.
Spirko's lawyers have asked a federal judge in Toledo to allow testimony
regarding Hartman's behavior, but he won't rule until Oct. 7, 5 days
before the clemency hearing. The lawyers asked Taft to consider delaying
the proceedings if the information isn't provided by then.
(source: The Plain Dealer)
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