[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----OKLA., N.J., N.C., USA, VA., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Aug 21 21:54:06 UTC 2006
OKLAHOMA----impending execution delayed until the end of the month
Testimony delays execution
A death-row inmate scheduled for execution Tuesday got a reprieve today
until the end of the month so he can testify in a hearing for another
James Patrick Malicoat was to be executed Tuesday for the beating death of
his 13-month-old daughter nine years ago. The Court of Criminal Appeals on
Monday reset the execution for Aug. 31 so he can testify in a case
involving Gary Thomas Allen, also a death-row inmate.
The warden at the state penitentiary raised a question about Allen's
competency to be executed.
Allen's scheduled execution was stayed and a jury trial on the issue of
competency is schedule for December in Pittsburgh County.
On Aug. 14, Allen's attorney interviewed Malicoat, whose cell is directly
above Allen's on death row, the Court of Criminal Appeals said.
The interview was videotaped.
The videotape shows Malicoat has relevant and material information
concerning Allen's claims.
Allen's counsel attempted to get a stipulation from the district attorney
in Pittsburgh County to let him enter the videotape into evidence, the
appellate court said. The assistant district attorney handling the case
said his office could not enter into a stipulation to allow the videotape
to be used.
Allen's counsel then filed for a temporary stay of execution for Malicoat
so Malicoat could appear as a witness at Allen's trial or appear at a
deposition hearing on the Allen case.
(source: The Oklahoman)
Oklahoma Alters Execution Procedure
Oklahoma has changed the way it administers fatal drugs during executions
amid 3 court challenges to the process.
Under the revised procedure, a death row inmate will receive a larger dose
of anesthesia before being injected with the drug that stops the inmate's
The old process called for an inmate to receive one dose of a sedative and
then two injections of sodium chloride, which would cause the inmate's
heart to stop. After that, the inmate would receive another dose of the
Anesthesiologist Doctor Mark Dershwitz from the University of
Massachusetts Medical School suggested that there was no reason for the
2nd dose of the sedative.
Now, an inmate will be injected with a double dose of the sedative at the
Dershwitz says that change further reduces the chance that a condemned
inmate will wake up after the sedative has been administered and before
the lethal drugs take effect.
Inmate James Patrick Malicoat is scheduled to be executed Tuesday.
(source: Associated Press) *********************
Inmates fight to the death-----Lawsuits try to execute lethal injection
Oklahoma's method of executing condemned inmates remains under fire as at
least 3 inmates have filed federal lawsuits contending it violates their
Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Corrections Department officials said the lawsuits have not changed the
agency's annual review policy.
"We believe that our procedure should always be reviewed," said general
counsel Richard Kirby.
The latest change came after state officials consulted an anesthesiologist
with experience in lethal injection procedures as they prepared for an
Aug. 8 hearing in death row inmate Eric Allen Patton's lawsuit.
Kirby said officials have always thought the state's procedure is
constitutional, but they needed an expert's testimony to rebut the
concerns raised by Patton's attorneys.
Dose of sedative raised
Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical
School, suggested some changes, so it made sense to implement them, Kirby
The revised procedure calls for a larger dose of anesthesia before the
drug that will kill the inmate is administered.
U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot on Aug. 8 denied a request to put off
Patton's scheduled Aug. 29 execution, noting 2 experts hired by his
attorneys agreed 2,400 milligrams of thiopental is sufficient to sedate
inmates before they are executed.
Patton's attorneys contend the new protocol does not eliminate the risk
that inmates could suffer unnecessary pain when they are executed. They
have taken that argument to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A similar lawsuit filed by 2 other death row inmates is scheduled for
trial in April 2007.
Constitutional grounds at issue
Inmates in a number of states are questioning lethal injection on
Oklahoma was the 1st state to choose lethal injection to execute condemned
inmates. 37 of the 38 states that allow capital punishment use some
version of it. Nebraska uses electrocution.
Oklahoma law calls for condemned inmates to be injected with a lethal
quantity of an ultra-short acting barbiturate in combination with a
chemical paralytic agent until they are pronounced dead. Details are left
up to the Corrections Department.
Kirby said the warden at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, where inmates are
executed, is responsible for the procedure, with input from other
department officials. Medical professionals are consulted when needed.
Backup IV line a good policy
Dershwitz, the anesthesiologist hired by state officials, said he
considered the pharmacology of the 3 drugs Oklahoma uses in its executions
and the way they are administered.
He said Oklahoma's practice of using 2 intravenous lines is a good one
since it provides a backup in case one line fails.
Dershwitz suggested changing the procedure that had been in place since
2005 because there was no reason to administer the prescribed drugs and
then repeat them in reverse order.
That meant inmates would receive a 2nd dose of the sedative thiopental
after 2 injections of sodium chloride already had caused their heart to
Now an inmate will be injected with a double dose of the sedative at the
Dershwitz said that means there will be an even smaller chance the
condemned inmate wakes up after the sedative is administered, providing
sufficient time for the lethal drugs to take effect.
Experts who testified on Patton's behalf at the Aug. 8 hearing suggested
Oklahoma's execution procedure should include someone experienced in
administering anesthesia, but Dershwitz dismissed that suggestion.
He said setting up the intravenous line is much more important than
administering sedatives in an execution.
Most hospitals use technicians with a high school education and on-the-job
training for that task, Dershwitz said.
(source: The Oklahoman)
Good intention, but bad execution
In Dumont, the Borough Council has rescinded an ethics code because it was
not created according to state guidelines.
The all-Democrat council wrote and adopted the ethics code in May to
address issues such as nepotism and pay-to-play. They also intended to
appoint a 3-member board.
But according to state statute, a council cannot establish an ethics code;
it must first appoint a six-member ethics board, which will then draft the
"We put the cart before the horse in our zeal to get the ethics code in
place," said Mayor Matthew McHale. "But it happens, it's human error."
The problem with the ethics code was discovered by Republican council
candidate Bob Zeitlinger a few days before the council intended to
announce the 3 appointees to the ethics board.
"It borders on negligence that six members of the council, mayor, borough
attorney and borough administrator could all review and pass this and no
one could realize that they weren't doing it the right way," Zeitlinger
McHale said he and the council will "step up and take corrective action."
A 6-member ethics board will be appointed in September and will then draft
the code, McHale said.
"A lot of time and effort went into creation of the [ethics code]," McHale
said. "We're not backing off our efforts to reform local government in
(source: New Jersey.com)
DNA may, may not be enough to save inmate
Depending on who is asked, a DNA test on a death row inmate convicted of a
1990 rape and double murder doesn't clear him or could be enough to halt
A judge ultimately will have to decide. No hearing date has been set.
In May, a judge ordered that DNA testing be performed on Jerry Wayne
Conner, who was scheduled for execution May 12. The state Supreme Court
halted the execution so a DNA test requested by the defense could be
Conner was sentenced to death for the 1990 shotgun slayings of Gates
County store clerk Minh Rogers and her 16-year-old daughter, Linda, who
The test results sent to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham
appeared to show that one sample from the rape victim had a similar
genetic marker as Conner.
"Jerry Conner and his relatives cannot be excluded as the source of the
male DNA in this sample," said the report from LabCorp, dated Aug. 14.
Defense lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt said the report indicates "there still is
doubt" that Conner committed the crime. He said the genetic marker is the
same as carried by 62 % of men in a statistical sample.
Mike Johnson, an assistant district attorney in Elizabeth City, said the
testing "doesn't appear to clear him."
"It appears to be it's saying he's not being excluded, but it's not
conclusive," Johnson said. "That's what the situation was before."
District Attorney Frank Parrish, who wasn't available for comment Friday,
has said there was enough evidence to convict Conner without DNA.
Parrish also said Conner's shoe print was found in the blood of a victim
and a shotgun found in his bedroom was similar to the weapon used in the
Conner confessed twice, but the defense said he didn't sign the
(source: Associated Press)
1 in 8 murderers halted their appeals to speed execution
Executions in America continue to generally decline, according to state
and federal records, but one trend remains constant: 1 in 8 convicted
murderers who are executed "volunteer" to die by abandoning their legal
Death row volunteers account for 123 of the 1,041 executions carried out
since capital punishment resumed in 1977, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, a group in Washington, D.C., that opposes the death
penalty. That rate - about 12% - has held constant for nearly 30 years.
The phenomenon "is something that hasn't gotten much attention, but that
is changing," says J.C. Oleson, author of a 2006 law journal article about
volunteers. "Why do they do it? And how should the legal system regard
someone who just doesn't want to participate? It raises real questions."
This year, 5 of the 37 murderers put to death were volunteers. Two of the
remaining 14 prisoners scheduled for execution have asked to die. Some
volunteers, such as Elijah Page - scheduled for execution in South Dakota
next week - give no reason for their choice.
Michael Ross, a murderer of four Connecticut women executed last year,
said continuing his appeals risked the "living hell" of reliving his
"absolute worst deed." Confessed killer Aileen Wuornos, the subject of the
2003 movie Monster, said she wanted to "get right with God" before her
2002 Florida execution.
Death-penalty opponent Robert Nave argues that isolation on death row and
anxiety caused by years of appeals produce mental instability that causes
volunteers to make an "essentially irrational" choice.
Oleson says that choosing death is "not necessarily an unreasonable or
unprincipled thing to do."
He says that lawyers should ask, "What's in my client's best interests at
the end of the day?"
In South Dakota last week, a judge questioned Page for about 20 minutes
before deciding that he was mentally competent and entitled to abandon his
This year, Page wrote a letter to South Dakota newspapers saying he wished
to "face execution" and that a man convicted of helping him rob, torture
and kill a 19-year-old Spearfish, S.D., man was wrongly charged. His
accomplice has not volunteered to be executed.
(source: USA Today)
Lethal Injection -- Still Lethal----Fighting the death penalty by calling
lethal injection "cruel" misses the crucial objection.
IT LOOKED LIKE AN INGENIOUS WAY around the familiar and so far unavailing
argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional. Instead of focusing
on the what of capital punishment - state-sanctioned killing - lawyers for
death row inmates would take aim at the how of most executions - death by
Sure enough, courts began to entertain the argument that lethal injection
could amount to cruel and unusual punishment, either because insufficient
painkillers were administered or because the physiology of some prisoners
made pain-free injection impossible. Even the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that a prisoner could use a federal civil rights law to challenge the
lethal injection methods by which Florida proposed to put him to death.
Death penalty opponents were energized by this seeming end run around
capital punishment. In February, after California postponed the execution
of Michael Morales in response to a federal judge's ruling, Century City
lawyer Stephen Rhode told The Times that states were "hitting the wall in
the futile search for a humane death penalty."
But that wall may be crumbling. Earlier this month, a federal judge in
Oklahoma refused to stay the execution of a convicted murderer after the
state announced that it would double the dose of a sedative used to block
pain when fatal chemicals are injected. Other states are likely to follow
suit if the alternative is a moratorium on executions. Beyond that
practical reality, challenges to lethal injection are a sideshow in the
debate about whether capital punishment as it exists today violates the
8th Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishments."
The phrase "as it exists today" is necessary because that is the benchmark
properly used by the Supreme Court in 1972 when it struck down state death
penalty laws then on the books. In one of the leading opinions in that
case, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that the legal systems of the time
permitted the death penalty to be "wantonly and freakishly imposed."
Stewart noted that "these death sentences are cruel and unusual in the
same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual."
Although the court later upheld revised death penalty statutes, Stewart's
insight remains apt. The death penalty in 2006 is still cruel and unusual
punishment in part because only a fraction of convicted murderers are put
to death - some because they live in a particular state, others because
they had a bad lawyer - and even then execution comes years or decades
after conviction. (Most of the death penalty cases decided by the Supreme
Court in its recent term involved murders committed in the 1980s.)
In the real world, capital punishment is cruel and unusual whether death
is delivered by an electric current, a hangman's noose or a chemical
cocktail. That is the argument that death penalty opponents need to be
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
Innocents often confess falsely to big crimes ---- Experts say they do it
for attention or may be mentally ill
>From the O.J. Simpson case to the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's baby,
famous crimes often attract confessions from people who have nothing to do
And this week's admission by John Mark Karr that he played the lead role
in JonBenet Ramsey's brutal death is raising suspicions that the former
Petaluma schoolteacher may have pulled off a giant hoax.
"People just don't believe that someone could confess to something they
didn't do," said Saul Kassin, a psychology professor at Williams College
in Massachusetts and an expert in confessions. "It happens with a good
amount of regularity, particularly in high-profile cases."
There are many reasons why, including a chance to be in the limelight or a
pathological need for fame.
But experts agree it usually boils down to one thing: The person is deeply
"Sometimes you run into people who because of some mental illnesses are
delusional and might actually believe they were part of the crime," Kassin
Following his arrest Wednesday in Bangkok, Karr allegedly told authorities
that he had sex with the child beauty queen. He also told reporters that
he was with her when she died and that her death was an accident.
There are aspects to his story, however, that just don't seem to add up.
Investigators concluded there was no semen on JonBenet's body when she was
found dead in the basement of her Colorado home the day after Christmas in
1996. An autopsy also showed that she died from strangulation after being
beaten so badly that she suffered a fractured skull -- hardly an accident.
And Karr's ex-wife has said she doubts he committed the crime because the
couple spent that holiday season together in Alabama where they were
living at the time.
Karr, 41, is awaiting deportation from Thailand to face charges of
1st-degree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault. Authorities in
Thailand said he would be returned from Bangkok today.
In the days since his arrest, his bizarre obsession with JonBenet has come
to light, along with a history that includes marrying teenage girls,
behaving inappropriately around children in the schools where he taught
and, according to authorities, possessing child pornography.
He wrote her love poems -- one called "JonBenet, My Love" -- exchanged
volumes of e-mails with a University of Colorado journalism professor who
produced documentaries on the case, sent letters to JonBenet's mother,
Patsy, and researched the case on his own.
But it remains to be seen whether he actually had anything to do with the
crime or, instead, made a voluntary false confession.
It would hardly be the 1st time.
In 1932, more than 200 people came forward to claim a role in the highly
publicized kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son. Investigators in
the O.J. Simpson case have said that a dozen people claimed to have
stabbed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman to death in 1994.
The 1947 Black Dahlia murder also prompted scores of people to confess to
killing 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short, whose body was found cut in
half in a vacant lot. One man reportedly paid so many visits to Los
Angeles police that detectives gave him the nickname "Confessin' Tom."
One of the country's most sensational false confessions came from Texas
prisoner Henry Lee Lucas. During the 1980s, he said he killed more than
600 people, including his mother and Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa who
disappeared in 1975.
Lucas told stories of cannibalism and necrophilia, and his tips about
unsolved cases earned him perks such as a private jail cell and unlimited
cigarettes and cheeseburgers. Eventually, he recanted and insisted that
the only person he had really killed was his mom.
Typically, the false confessions in high-profile cases never make the
headlines because they often involve little more than a brief phone call
between police and the confessor. Someone calls to falsely report his
involvement in a crime, detectives ask for a detail about the crime that
was never made public and the exchange ends there.
Modesto police Sgt. Al Brocchini, who worked as a detective on the Laci
Peterson case, said that in his six years working homicide cases, he has
never known anyone to come forward to take responsibility for a crime they
didn't commit hoping to achieve 15 minutes of fame.
"If that happened and somebody called and said, 'I did that crime, I
committed that murder,' a police department isn't going to go over there
and handcuff the guy and place him under arrest," Brocchini said. "We're
going to see if he was in the place at the time of the murder. Get the
Still, Richard Ofshe, a UC Berkeley sociology professor who has worked on
many high-profile cases of false confessions, said, "It's a very common
"The people who confess to crimes they didn't commit are not thinking
clearly," he said. "The people who do it, everyone agrees, are unbalanced
and it's done for attention."
Such people often don't consider the long-term consequences of giving a
false confession, including the possibility of being convicted for a crime
you didn't commit, Ofshe said.
"They're obviously disturbed," he said. "Their reasoning is not working."
But it's not just fame that drives people to make false confessions.
He said people also confess to crimes they didn't commit to protect a
family member or because they were coerced into a confession during an
Ofshe is currently involved in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which
five black and Latino teenagers confessed to raping a white woman, an
investment banker. DNA later linked an imprisoned murderer to the attack
In the case of Karr, Ofshe believes his reported admission of guilt may be
the result of an interrogation, rather than one driven by a desire for
"This may be, and in all likelihood is, an interrogation-driven
confession," he said, adding that confessors typically are able to provide
significant details about the crime, whereas Karr has publicly, at least,
When asked what happened when JonBenet died, Karr told reporters, "It
would take several hours to describe that. ... It's very painful for me to
talk about it."
But when asked if he was an innocent man, Karr flatly responded, "No."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
'Convict Christ' explored in book
As the years go by - the kind of years that are often marked off on
concrete walls with a contraband pen - Jens Soering seems to be separating
into 2 different people.
Not in the clinically schizophrenic sense, as one might expect from
someone sentenced to life in prison for committing a double murder.
Rather, there is the Inside Jens and the Outside Jens.
The Inside Jens remains imprisoned at the Brunswick Correctional Center
near Lawrenceville, about as close to the ends of the earth as you can get
in Virginia. I know - I've been there. But despite his presence in a
"correctional" institution, he declines to stand corrected. More than 20
years after Derek and Nancy Haysom were found stabbed to death in their
home on Holcomb Rock Road and 16 years after Soering (a German citizen)
was convicted of the crime in Bedford County Circuit Court, he still
maintains his innocence.
The Outside Jens, meanwhile, has somehow managed to float above the razor
wire and the Southside - and, in a way, the history of the crime for which
he was convicted - and into bookstores, computers and churches. He has a
Web site (www.jenssoering.com), and a following. The forward to his 3rd
book, "The Convict Christ: What the Gospel Says About Criminal Justice,"
was written by Walter Sullivan, the Catholic Bishop Emeritus of the
Diocese of Richmond.
Yet while you can visit Soering's site and sign on to a cyber-petition to
have him released on parole and deported back to Germany, you can't e-mail
him directly. Nor can he be directly paid for his writing.
"The Convict Christ" was published in March, and a copy sat on my desk for
quite some time before I looked at it. I'm not sure why - perhaps because
it was a "timeless" sort of story, not tied to any particular deadline.
Occasionally, I'd get a note from Soering (as I'm sure other reporters
around the state did) asking if I'd read the book and planned to review
There was also the question of Soering's guilt or innocence. Obviously,
that's a terribly important question to him, but a moot point for me. He
has exhausted his appeals, and unless someone else pops up and confesses
(a highly unlikely scenario after two decades), he's stuck with his guilty
I'd be lying if I said that Soering isn't persuasive, and on the 3
occasions when I've visited him, I've always left with a kernel of doubt
in my head. Then I re-read all the evidence, and I'm confused again. The
bottom line for me is, I wasn't there when the Haysoms were killed, and
there was no hard DNA data available back then, so I ultimately have to
throw up my hands and say: "Who knows? Anything is possible."
Soering's early writings - while useful and even inspiring in a general
sense - always had his guilt or innocence as a strong subtext. "The
Convict Christ," I discovered when I finally started reading it, is
Almost without exception, most books written by inmates who have "found
religion" while in prison are cathartic. Along with the spiritual part,
they always castigate themselves for being their prior selves and throw
themselves on the mercy of the reader. These books also tend to be
somewhat narrowly focused on the individual doing the writing.
"The Convict Christ," on the other hand, is as much about other inmates
Soering has known in his 20-plus years of incarceration as about himself.
And he has not only adopted a uniquely spiritual kind of Catholicism into
his personality, but incorporated it into his intellectual side.
Whatever one may think of Jens Soering, his keen intelligence has never
been an issue, and "The Convict Christ" is a smart book. He uses Scripture
- both Old and New Testament - like a doctor's instruments to dig out what
he sees as the decay and rot of the current prison system. He anticipates
all the counter arguments to his own and addresses them. Most of all, his
image of Jesus Christ as a death row prisoner is starkly compelling.
In my mind, at least, whether or not Soering had a hidden agenda in
writing this book (or, for that matter, his guilt or innocence) is
If you're someone familiar with the crime for which he was convicted, the
best thing to do is to pretend that "The Convict Christ" was written by
somebody else. Separate the words from the wordsmith, and it just might
change your mind about a very large national issue.
(source: Lynchburg News & Advance)
Escaped inmate apprehended after Va.Tech campus shut down for search
In Blacksburg, police say they have captured a fugitive suspected of
killing a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy near the Virginia Tech
William Morva, 24, had been seen near the campus, authorities said
Montgomery County Sheriff's Cpl. Eric E. Sutphin was closing in on the
fugitive Monday morning along a trail off the university campus when he
was fatally shot, the sheriff's department said.
Officials canceled Monday's 1st day of classes for the more than 25,000
students at Virginia Tech as a precaution.
"The suspect is armed, he has no problems with shooting. ... We don't need
innocent people being around the area," said Kurt Krause, a Virginia Tech
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he dispatched "considerable" Virginia State
Police resources to the 2,600-acre campus and assured students' parents
that every effort was being made to minimize the danger.
Students heeded the warnings to remain inside as heavily armed police
patrolled, witnesses said.
"It's very scary," said sophomore Kelly Engbersen of Williamsburg. "Every
person you see you look hard (and wonder) 'Is that him?'"
Morva was described as wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and khaki shorts. Police
said he had shed his orange prison jumpsuit after the hospital shooting.
"The fact that the guy can blend in so well with campus students is kind
of scary," said Josh Burnheimer, 20, a Virginia Tech junior from Ashburn,
Va. "Everywhere you look there are police snipers on the roof."
Morva, an inmate at Montgomery County Jail, had been taken from the jail
to Montgomery Regional Hospital for treatment of a sprained leg and wrist.
He escaped early Sunday after overpowering a sheriff's deputy, taking the
deputy's gun and then shooting the unarmed hospital security guard,
authorities said. The hospital guard was identified as Derrick McFarland,
26. The deputy was in stable condition with injuries he suffered in the
Morva had been jailed awaiting trial on charges of attempting to rob a
store last year.
Authorities used helicopters and dogs to sweep an area that included the
university campus, about one block from the Blacksburg Police Station.
"Whatever it takes, until he's caught," said police Lt. Joe Davis.
(source: Associated Press)
Former Parchman Warden Takes Over Harrison County Jail
There's a new warden at the Harrison County Jail. Don Cabana is the former
warden at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm.
The leadership change was made Friday morning by Sheriff George Payne.
The move comes as the jail is under investigation for the death of Jessie
Lee Williams. Williams died after he was beaten while in jail custody in
February. His family has sued the Sheriff's Department.
Just last week, a former jailer pleaded guilty to charges related to
Williams death. That jailer is cooperating with authorities.
Don Cabana replaces warden Diane Gatson Riley, who's been the warden since
Riley, Sheriff Payne and several deputies are named in a multi-million
dollar lawsuit filed by the Williams Family.
Donald Cabana has a long history in corrections in Mississippi. He served
for 5 years as the warden at Parchman in the 1980s. He also served as the
Acting Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections from 1986
Cabana detailed his experiences at Parchman in a 1996 memoir, Death at
Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner.
After leaving Parchman, Cabana served as the Chair of the Criminal Justice
Department at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He
also spent time as an anti-death penalty speaker.
He left USM on May 1, 2004 to work again at Parchman as Superintendent.
Cabana has also worked as a warden in other facilities in Mississippi, as
well as in Missouri and Florida.
(source: WLOX News)
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