[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., OHIO, USA, MONT.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 3 16:55:19 UTC 2006
note----my regular postings to this list will resume on August 11
Clemency Hearing Scheduled For death row Inmate
Attorneys for a death row inmate will ask Gov. Mike Easley to spare their
A clemency hearing will be held Thursday for Samuel Flippen, who is
scheduled to die Aug. 18.
The Forsyth County man was sentenced to death for killing his 2-year-old
stepdaughter 12 years ago.
Prosecutors said Flippen beat the little girl because she was crying.
(source WRAL news)
Appeals court throws out death sentence -- Case involved murder-for-hire
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati threw out the death
sentence of a man convicted in a 1995 murder-for-hire, ruling Wednesday
that co-defendants were spared, so the man should not have been condemned.
In a 2-1 decision, the panel said Jason Getsy's death sentence violated an
Eighth Amendment "arbitrariness" standard because other defendants in the
case were sentenced to life in prison.
Getsy, formerly of Hubbard, was convicted of aggravated murder in the
slaying of Ann Serafino, 68, of Hubbard, and of the attempted murder of
her son, Charles "Chuckie" Serafino.
Prosecutors said John Santine offered Getsy and two others $5,000 to kill
Charles Serafino, a business rival, and any witnesses because of a dispute
over Serafino's landscaping business. Ann Serafino was killed because she
was home when the gunmen attacked, authorities said.
Santine, who was convicted on an aggravated murder charge, and the others
- Richard McNulty and Ben Hudach, who entered guilty pleas - were
sentenced to life in prison. Only Getsy was sentenced to death.
The Ohio Supreme Court left the death sentence intact. But the 6th Circuit
said the sentence was disproportionate because Santine was equally, if not
The appeals court sent the case back for an evidentiary hearing on Getsy's
claim of judicial bias and gave Ohio 180 days to reconsider the sentence.
Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, said the case
was being reviewed and there was no decision on whether to appeal the
panel's ruling to the full court.
Judges Gilbert Merritt and Karen Nelson Moore sent the case back to U.S.
District Court for an evidentiary hearing on Getsy. Judge Ronald Lee
"The majority has not cited a single case in which the Supreme Court has
declared an otherwise lawful death sentence imposed upon an individual
unconstitutional on the ground that another participant in the murder did
not receive the death penalty," Gilman wrote.
Overturned sentences don't bother attorney general
The Ohio Supreme Court's ruling Wednesday overturning the sentence of the
1st woman condemned since the state resumed executions in 1999 was the 3rd
such sentence the court has tossed out this year.
The Ohio attorney general's office, though, does not see it as a trend
toward leniency by the courts.
The court unanimously ruled that the trial judge broke the law by
involving the prosecutor in preparing the opinion in sentencing Donna
Roberts, 62, of northeast Ohio. The Supreme Court let stand her murder
conviction but ordered the trial court to resentence her, with the death
sentence still an option.
Roberts is 1 of 2 women on Ohio's death row. There are 193 men who have
been sentenced to death. Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the court,
said the trial court's delegation of any amount of responsibility in the
sentencing opinion does not comply with Ohio law.
"Nor does it comport with our firm belief that the consideration and
imposition of death are the most solemn of all the duties that are imposed
on a judge," O'Connor said in her ruling. "The scales of justice may not
be weighted even slightly by one with an interest in the ultimate
Attorney David Doughten, who is representing Roberts but did not at trial,
said the ruling it sends a wake-up call to courts to pay closer attention
to sentencing guidelines in death-penalty cases. He said he's not aware,
however, of a pattern of judges consulting prosecutors before sentencing.
The prosecutor in Roberts' case was reading along as the judge announced
the sentence to the court.
"In this case it wouldn't be known if the defense attorney hadn't looked
over and noticed the prosecutor reading a copy of the sentencing opinion,"
The court has thrown out 3 death sentences this year while the state has
executed 3 inmates. In addition, 3 Ohio death sentences have been
overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year.
Attorney General Jim Petro doesn't see a trend developing. Rather, it's
just the courts doing their jobs, Petro spokeswoman Kim Norris said.
"It's perhaps an unusual alignment of reasons," Norris said. "Every avenue
should be explored when you are doing capital cases."
Roberts was convicted of aggravated murder in 2003 by a Trumbull County
jury. Common Pleas Judge John Stuard accepted the jury's recommendation to
sentence her to die for murdering her ex-husband, Robert Fingerhut, 2
A call to Stuard's office Wednesday was not answered.
Nathaniel Jackson, 34, of Youngstown, also was convicted of aggravated
murder and ordered to die for Fingerhut's death, a sentence the Supreme
Court upheld in January.
Fingerhut was shot in the head after arriving home from work. Prosecutors
said Jackson and Roberts were having an affair and Fingerhut was killed so
they could collect a $550,000 insurance policy on his life.
Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said it's not unusual for a
judge to consult attorneys who have won a case on sentencing, but he said
he agreed with the Supreme Court's opinion that sentencing is strictly up
to the judge. He said the crime clearly fell within Ohio's guidelines for
a death sentence.
"We argued for the death penalty. She asked for the death penalty. There's
overwhelming evidence that she conspired with her boyfriend," Watkins
(source for both: Associated Press)
White House Asks Congress to Define War Crimes
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales pressed Congress on Wednesday to
refine the definition of war crimes prohibited under the Geneva
Conventions, as the Bush administration and lawmakers continued to debate
the rules for treatment and trials of terror suspects.
Administration proposals on how to bring suspects to trial had moved
closer to what key senators have said they will demand, but 2 hearings on
Capitol Hill on Wednesday foreshadowed a fight over the definition of
coercive interrogation tactics.
And administration lawyers and senators continued to clash over evidence
obtained through coercion or hearsay and how to deal with classified
The Supreme Court ruled in late June that terror suspects must be extended
the protections outlined in a provision of the Geneva Conventions that
prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, and in particular humiliating
and degrading treatment."
Mr. Gonzales argued that the language of the provision was too vague. And
because the federal War Crimes Act passed a decade ago makes it a felony
to violate that provision, he said that troops could be prosecuted for
interrogation tactics considered too harsh. Congress, he said, could "help
by defining our obligations" under the provision, known as Common Article
Mr. Gonzales, publicly discussing the administration's new proposal for
detainee trials for the first time since the court's ruling, said it would
offer legislation that included a proposal to change the War Crimes Act,
to bring "clarity" in defining which violations of Common Article Three
rise to the level of war crimes.
"The surest way to achieve that clarity and certainty, in our view, is for
Congress to set forth a definite and clear list of offenses serious enough
to be considered war crimes," he said.
But senators said Congress should not endorse any treatment it would not
want used on American soldiers.
"We must remain a nation that is different from, and above, our enemies,"
said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.
The differences between the administration and the Senate were most
pronounced when Mr. McCain asked Mr. Gonzales whether statements obtained
through "illegal and inhumane treatment" should be admissible. Mr.
Gonzales paused for almost a minute before responding.
"The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is, what does it
mean?" he said. "How do you define it? I think if we could all reach
agreement about the definition of cruel and inhumane and degrading
treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer."
Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, said that using illegal and inhumane
interrogation tactics and allowing the evidence to be introduced would be
"a radical departure" from longstanding United States policy.
The court ruled in June that the military tribunals that President Bush
had established for suspects held at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, violated
international law and were not authorized by federal statute.
Lawyers from the Defense and Justice Departments initially tried to
persuade Congress simply to approve the tribunals. By Wednesday's
hearings, the administration had changed its position. "What we are
considering now is a better product," Mr. Gonzales said.
He said the administration proposed enacting a new code of military
justice modeled on court-martial procedures.
The new proposal departs from the initial tribunals in several ways. The
presiding officer would be a military judge, for example, and would rule
on evidence but not participate in the final verdict. The jury would have
5 members, instead of 3, with 12 in death penalty cases. Conviction would
require two-thirds of the jury to agree, and unanimity in death cases.
But the proposal also departs from court-martial procedures, in that
suspects would not be entitled to Miranda warnings, or to Article 32
proceedings, which are similar to a grand jury. It would allow the
introduction of hearsay evidence that the judge ruled "reliable" and would
share classified evidence with the defense counsel, but not necessarily
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said it would "not
serve us well" to ignore the military rules against hearsay.
But Mr. Graham supported a move to refine what kind of treatment violated
the War Crimes Act, under which, he said, a slap could be a crime.
(source: New York Times)
MONTANA----impending volunteer execution
Another execution appeal dismissed
With just days to go before the scheduled execution of David Dawson, the
Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday turned down a 2nd attempt in a week by
civil liberties and religious groups to delay it.
Dawson, 48, who is to be killed by lethal injection a week from Friday,
has asked that his death sentence be carried out.
A coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that lethal
injection, improperly conducted, poses the risk of cruel and unusual
punishment. In their most recent petition, filed Monday, the groups said
that Dawson "has no constitutional right to an unconstitutional
The court's order issued Wednesday said the groups "misread" its first
order last week, and repeated that the coalition had no standing to
intervene. A concurring opinion written by Justice Jim Nelson and signed
by Justice Patricia Cotter referred to Dawson's "unequivocal, intelligent
and knowing repudiation" of attempts to delay the execution until the
court could decide whether lethal injection is unconstitutional.
"I hope now this is the end of the court proceedings," said Attorney
General Mike McGrath.
Not likely, said Ron Waterman, the Helena attorney who filed the petitions
on behalf of the groups.
"We now are back to evaluating the next options and the next
alternatives," he said.
Waterman said there is national interest in the case, which is one of
several around the country being challenged on similar grounds. Lethal
injections have been put on hold in a number of states while courts
grapple with the issue of whether it can cause agonizing pain.
Montana State Prison Warden Mike Mahoney told Dawson about the court's
action late Wednesday afternoon, according to Corrections Department
spokesman Bob Anez.
Anez said Dawson was pleased with the court's order.
If Dawson is executed next week, it will be the 3rd lethal injection in
In the 2 previous cases, in 1995 and 1998, the inmates died within 5 to 7
minutes, according to Department of Corrections logs.
Dawson, who kidnapped a family of 4 in Billings in 1986 and killed 3 of
them, was sentenced to death in 1987.
(source: Great Falls Tribune)
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