[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.J., COLO., CALIF., ALA., MO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Aug 26 20:36:40 UTC 2006
After 3 weeks, lockdown at prison is lifted
In Trenton, officials have ended a lockdown of New Jersey's
highest-security state prison after three weeks, acting Corrections
Commissioner George Hayman announced Friday.
Visits were halted, inmates' movements were severely limited and prison
programming stopped Aug. 4 after a loaded gun was found in the secured
perimeter of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
The lockdown was lifted Friday. Visits were scheduled to resume Saturday
and inmates' movements were to be restored over the next several days.
During the lockdown, Corrections officials installed metal screening
devices throughout the prison.
No additional weapons were found in a search of the facility.
The prison, which had more than 1,800 inmates as of Aug. 1, is where the
state's death row is housed.
(source: Associated Press)
State program aims to free aging inmates -- 4 convicted of murder in late
'70s will be first
Scattered around the prisons of Colorado are 430 lifers, mostly convicted
murderers, who could someday be free.
Sentenced before 1990, when Colorado law changed to allow life without
parole, they are an aging group, and officials say many no longer pose a
threat to society.
The Colorado Department of Corrections is launching a program to prepare
these inmates for release and steer them into halfway houses. The first 4,
who will be sent to a minimum-security camp next month, could be placed in
Community Corrections within about 18 months.
Officials say "Lifeline" will be the 1st program of its kind in the
nation. The inmates will work closely with former prisoners who spent
decades behind bars, to learn to adjust to freedom and to avoid the
pit-falls that could land them back in prison.
"You look at how much it costs the taxpayers to house these offenders for
that period of time, it's staggering," said Tim Hand, DOC assistant
director of adult parole and community corrections. "Our goal is to move
offenders into the community and no longer have them be a taxpayer
It's already controversial.
In considering eligibility, DOC officials contacted families of victims
and, in some cases, the police who investigated the crimes. At least 2
killers from Colorado Springs were considered but not placed in the 1st
group of Lifeline inmates, in part because of the reactions.
One was Michael Corbett, 51, a former Fort Carson soldier serving 3 life
sentences for a 1975 killing spree, who has been called a model inmate.
The other was John Huckleberry, 50, who killed his wife, Beverly
Huckleberry, in 1983.
Both could be considered for the program in the future, and that concerns
Lou Smit, a former Colorado Springs police detective who helped put
Corbett in prison.
"As far as I'm concerned, they've killed someone. They committed a crime
10, 20 years ago and people forget. But I don't forget," Smit said.
Lifeline is modeled after a program in Canada, where it has been credited
with reducing the prison population as well as recidivism among those
Hand said only inmates serving life sentences who are eligible for parole,
have shown a desire to improve and have not had many rule violations are
being considered for the Colorado program.
The 4 approved for the program were convicted of murder in the late 1970s.
Ricky Orr, 52, and Condie Velasquez, 54, were convicted in Denver; Dennis
Prentiss, 54, in Jefferson County; and Douglas Schlegel, 51, in Larimer
"I'm looking at people who were pretty darn young when they went in," Hand
said. "Now they're 50 and they don't appear to be the same individual as
when they went into the system at a young age."
Normally, they would go before the parole board every 1 to 5 years, and
few would be paroled. Also, Community Corrections is reluctant to accept
"It's hopeless. There's a number of offenders, hundreds of offenders, for
that matter, who really have no hope of getting out," Hand said.
The first 4 inmates will be sent next month to the Colorado Correctional
Center in Golden, where they will take part in programs to prepare them
for release. Within six months to a year, if they are completing the
programs, they could be sent to the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center, a
prerelease prison in Colorado Springs.
>From there, they would be released to a Community Corrections halfway
house in the Denver area for 6 to 12 months, followed by six to 12 months
of intensive supervision, while living in the community, followed by a
lifetime of parole oversight.
"The responsible thing to do is to take the most likely offenders who
could be released in the future and provide them with some skills," Hand
"Let's have a step-down process. Let's talk about some of the struggles
that may be involved with being released."
Colorado Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, a prisoner
advocate group that sent representatives with Hand to Canada last year to
see the program there, applauded the change.
"I think it's a great benefit for people that are aging and older in the
prison system and can be transitioned out and be a taxpaying citizen,"
said Chairwoman Dianne Tramutola-Lawson.
Kathy DeMarco, who in 1975 was married to Winfred Profitt, one of
Corbett's] victims, was alarmed when she learned he was being considered
He was on death row before the state Supreme Court declared the death
penalty he was sentenced under unconstitutional in 1978.
"I know people can change, but he didn't care about the victims," DeMarco
said. "I don't understand how the laws are, how somebody got the death
penalty and then they changed the rules."
Robert Russel, 4th Judicial District attorney from 1965 to 1985, helped
put both Corbett and Huckleberry in prison.
He said he could agree with the Lifeline program for inmates who may have
committed murders as a crime of passion, but not premeditated killings.
"To me, they are death penalty cases and as far as I'm concerned, they
should never be released," Russel said.
HOW IT WORKS
Aging inmates serving life sentences who are approved for the program work
with former prisoners to learn how to rejoin society. The participants
then would be released to a halfway house, followed by a lifetime of
(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)
Prison loses its 'heart and soul'
After a 29-year career at one of the most infamous prisons in the world,
the man known as "the heart and soul of San Quentin" has hung up his keys.
Lt. Vernell Crittendon, who retired Aug. 18, is probably best known as the
public information officer who emerged from the prison's yellowed walls to
give grim updates as condemned men such as Stanley "Tookie" Williams
exhausted their appeals before execution. He also mystified the public in
2005 with news that wife killer Scott Peterson was receiving a hundred
letters of support each day from female admirers.
But Crittendon's role at the prison was much broader than that. His
straightforward manner and reputation for honesty gained him the respect
of prisoners, guards and the public.
And he used this unique status to be the driving force behind the most
extensive community volunteer program in the state.
"Prison should not just be gun towers and electric fences," Crittendon
"Many of these men have never been around people of integrity. They need
good citizens to come into the prison and to start building bridges from
the inside out."
Crittendon coordinated prison access for 3,000 volunteers who provide a
variety of services such as teaching college-level courses, conducting
workshops in parenting skills, instructing yoga classes and coaching
The scope of San Quentin's volunteer program is unparalleled. The only
other state prison that comes close is the California Institute for Women
in Riverside County, which had 600 community volunteers in 2004, said
former Department of Corrections Secretary Jeanne Woodford.
Woodford instituted many of the programs Crittendon oversaw while she was
warden at San Quentin.
"Vernell put in a tremendous amount of extra time making sure things went
right with these programs. He oversaw all the groups, workshops, classes
and baseball teams. People are not going to know how much work he's done
until he's gone," Woodford said. "He's the heart and soul of San Quentin."
The walls of Crittendon's cluttered office in the prison's 93-year-old
Administration Building are covered with photos of prison athletic teams,
inmates posing with dogs they trained and autographed glossies of
television legends Ed Bradley and Larry King.
On a filing cabinet near his desk are the Department of Corrections
Distinguished Service Medal for a body of work and the 2006 Best in the
Business Award from the American Correctional Association.
On a recent afternoon before his retirement, Crittendon sat at his desk
and talked about his career, death row and the best chances for reforming
inmates who genuinely want to change their lives.
A history buff and avid reader, Crittendon reached into a stack of books
on his desk and retrieved a copy of Warden Clinton Duffy's "The San
Quentin Story," published in 1950. He flipped open the shopworn cover and
proudly displayed Duffy's signature.
Known as a reformer, Duffy abolished physical punishment, founded the
prison night school and was the first warden to introduce an Alcoholics
Anonymous program to a prison institution.
"Warden Duffy was a visionary who truly embraced the belief that people
can be redeemed," said Crittendon, who kept a framed picture of Duffy on
his office wall. "Thanks to him, there are now AA programs in every prison
in the country."
After such a long career in the penal system, one might think that
Crittendon would be soured on redemption. After all, 77 % of California's
171,000 prisoners are likely to reoffend after their release, according to
Department of Corrections statistics.
But that's not the case. When Crittendon talks about San Quentin's
volunteer program, he sits forward in his chair, and his voice rises an
octave or 2.
"There are thousands of guys who are just knuckleheads and belong in
prison, but there are hundreds who are doing the hard work, taking
classes, learning how to be parents, learning to control anger, so they
can change," he said. "If we can support those hundreds, they don't have
to go home as liabilities. They can be assets to their families and
The best way to increase the likelihood that the hundreds will succeed is
by bringing volunteers into the prison to set examples, Crittendon said,
to show support and decrease the sense of social isolation most offenders
experience in and out of prison.
One ex-offender who took advantage of the volunteer programs at San
Quentin is Pastor Michael Tomlinson. A former hard-core criminal,
Tomlinson spent 18 years behind bars. He has been out for 12 years and he
wrote "From the Pit to the Pulpit," an autobiography that chronicles his
transformation. He is married with 3 sons and runs a transitional program
"I'll never go to prison again, but if I did, I would want to go to San
Quentin," Tomlinson said. "It was a changing point for me. Most prisons
put you on the same level as puke, but at San Quentin you can take
classes, interact with people from the outside and that makes you feel
your worth. Vernell is a big part of that. I have to attribute him with
being part of the success in my life."
Crittendon, who has been an integral part of the state's 13 executions
since 1992, said he struggles with the death penalty. He was instrumental
is establishing the 1992 execution protocol for Robert Alton Harris, the
1st man to die in the gas chamber since 1967.
He is convinced that California has never executed an innocent man or
woman, but he said it is a crapshoot as to who will be sentenced to death.
"A person can receive a death sentence for a murder in Los Angeles County,
but if he commits the exact same murder in San Francisco, it's very
unlikely he will be tried for a capital crime," he said. "It's my duty to
carry out the law of the state of California, but I'm a human being, too."
Despite his retirement, Crittendon is not planning on slowing down anytime
soon. He will continue to sponsor community programs at San Quentin, and
he plans to expand the hours at the San Quentin Museum. He is popular at
speaking engagements and, though he is careful not to disclose exactly
where he lives, he has been casting a coy eye at a possible run for the
Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.
"I've talked to a campaign manager or two," he said vaguely, and then
added with some political polish, "I want to make a difference in my
community and have a positive effect on Contra Costa County."
Crittendon's retirement has caused uncertainty among many program
volunteers. Crittendon himself is concerned about changes in the prison
"When I see people like Secretary Jeanne Woodford appearing to be forced
out, I question the direction we're going in," he said. "I pray that
future administrations recognize the value of community involvement and
allow the inmates the space, opportunity and time for transformation."
Name: Lt. Vernell Crittendon
Education: San Francisco City College
Occupation: Public information officer at San Quentin Prison
Family: Wife, Beverly; 2 sons ages 14 and 30
Residence: Contra Costa County
Claim to fame: Known as "the heart and soul of San Quentin"
(source: Contra Costa Times)
Alabama appeals court upholds Houston County death sentence
An Alabama appeals court upheld a death sentence Friday for a man who
killed an elderly Dothan woman and took her Cadillac.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals also issued orders for lower courts
in Etowah and St. Clair counties to take another look at claims by death
row inmates that they had ineffective attorneys in their trials.
In a 5-0 decision, the court affirmed Antonio Devoe Jones' capital murder
conviction for the beating death and burglary of Ruth Kirkland and said
the death sentence was appropriate for the crime.
Kirkland, an 80-year-old widow who lived alone, was beaten to death with
one of her walking canes and a chair leg on New Year's Eve of 1999. Jones
was arrested that night in Dothan while driving the victim's white
On appeal, Jones argued that a death sentence was not appropriate, but
Judge Kelli Wise wrote that the appeals court had upheld death sentences
in similar cases where frail, elderly women were beaten to death by "a
large male defendant."
In another capital murder case, the Court of Criminal Appeals told a
Etowah County Circuit Court judge to take another look at claims by
Michael Shannon Taylor that he had an ineffective attorney when he was
convicted and sentenced to death.
Taylor was 19 and absent without leave from the Navy on Nov. 4, 1991, when
he caught a ride to his hometown of Gadsden and went to the home of his
friends, Ivan and Lucille Moore. After the Moores gave him a snack, he
beat them to death with a metal rod and stole their money and car.
He used the money for a shopping trip to the Galleria shopping mall in
Hoover, where he was arrested.
This marks Taylor's 2nd round of appeals.
In a capital murder case from St. Clair County, the Alabama Supreme Court
told a circuit court judge to take another look at Frederick Woods' claims
of ineffective counsel at his trial.
Woods was convicted of the shooting death of Rush "Doc" Smith during the
theft of more than $200 from the Mountain Top Beverage Store near Ashville
in St. Clair County on Sept. 10, 1996.
Woods is also on his 2nd round of appeals.
(source: Associated Press)
Kansas City police had suspected different man in slaying
Police initially suspected someone else of one of the 13 killings with
which a man prosecutors have called Missouri's most prolific serial killer
is now charged.
But prosecutors did not pursue charges against that suspect, according to
testimony that was part of hearing Friday involving a half dozen pretrial
motions filed by prosecutors and defense attorneys for Lorenzo J. Gilyard,
56, who is charged with strangling 13 women - most of them prostitutes -
between 1977 and 1993.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John O'Malley ruled from the bench on
only one of the motions, agreeing to continue the trial of Gilyard from
October until March 5. O'Malley took the other issues under advisement.
Gilyard, who appeared in court dressed in an off-white polo shirt and
khaki pants, was arrested in April 2004 after the crime lab used money
from a federal grant to begin DNA testing of evidence in the city's
cold-case files. Gilyard is being held without bond.
The revelation that police had suspected another man in one of the
killings was made as defense attorneys sought to prevent prosecutors from
seeking the death penalty. The defense told O'Malley that sanction would
be appropriate because law enforcement destroyed a blue coat recovered
from Gilyard's apartment while investigating the death of Shelia Ingold,
36, who was found dead in an abandoned van in November 1987.
At the time, authorities cut from the coat swatches with blood on them and
tested them, but the results did not match Ingold or Gilyard, and Gilyard
was eliminated as a suspect. The swatches were put in the crime lab's
freezer, where they remained even after the coat was destroyed in 1998.
When detectives began investigating cold-case files, evidence on the
swatches was tested again and matched the DNA profile of Carmeline Hibbs,
who was found dead in a parking lot in December 1987. Gilyard is now
charged with Hibbs' death but had not been a suspect in the slaying at the
Maj. Ron Hundley said he signed off on destroying the coat after reviewing
homicide records in the Ingold case. The records showed police had
identified someone else as a suspect, but prosecutors decided there was
not enough evidence to pursue charges against that man.
Robert Frank Booth, a longtime employee at the Kansas City Police
Department Crime Laboratory, testified that sufficient evidence remained
on the swatches for the defense to conduct its own DNA testing.
Dan Miller, an assistant prosecutor, asked Booth if anything found on the
coat could eliminate Gilyard as a suspect.
"I can't think of anything," Booth said.
Also Friday, prosecutors sought to have the cases tried in at least 2
different groups, largely because of logistical problems with assembling
more than 160 witnesses. After the hearing, Miller said trying the cases
in groups would give prosecutors more than one shot at a conviction.
But defense attorney Tom Jacquinot objected, in part because the
prosecution would want to discuss killings that aren't the subject of the
trial during the penalty phase.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys also sparred over whether the defense
could cast suspicion on others. Jacquinot said that in four cases, there
was direct evidence that others were involved.
Attorneys also discussed whether to allow evidence about the victims' drug
use and sexual histories. Jacquinot said such evidence would likely be
pertinent, noting the prosecution is proceeding under the theory that the
last person who had unprotected sex with the victims killed them.
"I think we would do this as delicately as possible," Jacquinot said.
Gilyard's next hearing date is Sept. 7, for motions dealing with evidence
in the case.
(source: Associated Press)
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