[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ARK., WIS., S.C., USA, PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Aug 28 15:28:56 UTC 2006
ARKANSAS----female to face death penalty
Sevier trial on hold: Capital murder trial postponed until February
Samantha Sevier Smith wont face a Miller County jury in a double capital
murder case until Feburary.
Jury selection was to begin Monday in Miller County Circuit Court but
Sevier-Smith changed lawyers on the eve of her trial, postponing it until
Sevier-Smith, 19, of Texarkana, Ark., is to go on trial on Feb. 5 for her
alleged role in the deaths of Patrick Alan Dickey and Billy Drumm III on
Feb. 15, 2005.
Drumms and Dickeys bodies were burned following their shootings. They were
placed in a car, had tires heaved on top of them and the car was set on
fire in a southern area of Miller County.
Prosecuting Attorney Brent Haltom of the 8th Judicial District-South says
he could not fight the delay.
"The constitution allows a person to be represented by the lawyers that
they want," said Haltom, of Texarkana, Ark.
Haltom says if the lawyer switch happens again, he will argue to press
forward with the trial.
Neither Sevier-Smith's mother nor her 2 lawyers, Charles Hancock or
Jonathan Lane of Little Rock, could be reached to find out why the switch
Sevier-Smith is also charged with 1 count of arson, 1 count of hindering
apprehension or prosecution and 2 counts of abuse of a corpse.
Haltom said the death penalty is still on the table in the case.
Capital murder is punishable by either the death penalty or life in
prison. Haltom is seeking the death penalty against Sevier-Smith.
Haltom says the delay does not change how he will prepare the case for
Existing motions Sevier-Smiths former lawyer, John F. Stroud III filed,
will still have to be argued.
However, the new lawyers have the right to file their own motions, which
will have to be heard and decided upon by Circuit Judge Joe Griffin.
One motion common in death penalty cases is that of mental capacity.
Sevier-Smith has already been tested and passed a mental evaluation. This
means she knows the difference between right and wrong and can assist her
lawyers in her defense.
(source: Texarkana Gazette)
State voters to sound off on death penalty
"Should the death penalty be enacted in the state of Wisconsin for cases
involving a person who is convicted of first-degree intentional homicides,
if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?"
Advisory (nonbinding) referendum question on the Nov. 7 election ballot
Controversy has surrounded the death penalty in this nation for decades.
Now Wisconsinites will be given a voice in the matter.
Legislators have given the public an opportunity to vote on an advisory
referendum during the Nov. 7 general election to re-instate the death
penalty in Wisconsin.
The referendum comes after hundreds of calls were made to legislators in
reaction to the current Steven Avery case. Avery is charged with the
murder of Teresa Halbach, three years after Avery's rape conviction was
overturned by DNA evidence.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes in Fond du Lac is taking a
corporate stance declaring opposition to the death penalty. Fond du Lac
County's Republican District Attorney Thomas Storm has gone on record
voicing his opposition.
And U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., issued a statement to The Reporter
voicing his concern.
"I am disappointed that this referendum will be included on the November
ballot and as a Wisconsin voter, I oppose it. Although the outcome of the
referendum is not binding, it certainly seems timed to be used as another
election-year wedge issue," Feingold said.
The Reporter was unable to reach U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., by deadline.
His office said he has long been an opponent of the death penalty.
The Congregation of St. Agnes said its stance is based on a commitment to
the marginalized of society and the economically poor.
"90 % of inmates on death row cannot afford an attorney and are people of
low social status," stated Sister Joann Sambs, general superior of the
The state of Wisconsin abolished the death penalty in 1853. It has been
over 155 years since an execution, making it the longest any state has
gone without doing so.
Fond du Lac County District Attorney Thomas Storm said while he is
obligated to uphold the law and certainly does so, he believes Wisconsin's
judicial system has functioned well for over a century without the death
"I'm personally, philosophically opposed to the state using death as a
penalty for a crime that it prohibits. There are better ways to allocate
prosecutory resources," he said, noting seemingly endless appeals and
costs that go along with capital punishment in other states," he said.
First Assistant State Public Defender in Fond du Lac Bill Retert agrees
with a statement of opposition issued by the Wisconsin State Public
"I personally think the death penalty is wrong. It's very expensive and it
doesn't deter homicide, and no matter how thorough the investigation,
every once in awhile a mistake is made," he said.
Sambs said the value of human life does not support executing an offender.
"We believe the death penalty diminishes all of us in our society and
reduces us to the barbarism of those who committed murder. We know that
killing another human being does not bring back the victim or comfort the
family who is in deep emotional pain nor does it bring closure to those
who grieve," she said.
A Madison survey, sponsored by WISC-TV, found that a majority of likely
voters said they favor legalizing the death penalty when the question
appears in the November referendum. The survey found that 54 % favor the
death penalty and 39 % oppose it. 7% said they're undecided.
Feingold said public safety goals can be achieved by sentencing offenders
to life without parole.
"I have long opposed capital punishment and have proposed legislation at
the federal level to put a moratorium on the federal death penalty. I'm
very proud to be from a state that abolished the death penalty more than
150 years ago, and I hope the voters of Wisconsin defeat this referendum,"
(source: Fond du Lac Reporter)
Death penalty inspires debate among discussion group-----By decree of a
12-member Georgetown County jury, Stephen Stanko, the now convicted
murderer and rapist, is the 60th person on S.C.'s death row. He joined 5
others from our area.
How should we feel about that and the death sentence in general? Should
the defense's arguments about brain damage have affected the jury's
decision? Or should the jury have focused more on the brutality of his
crimes and his long track record of criminality?
Plenty of readers have told me "I'd want him to die if he had harmed my
I put the question to our weekly discussion group. Their answers were
varied. I'll share the pro-death penalty responses this week and follow
with the opponents next week. I will try to post all of them in length on
our Web site next week as well.
But first, I wanted to share this small excerpt from "The End of Faith:
Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris. He included a
segment of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's 2002 speech at the
University of Chicago Divinity School.
It is one illustration of how faith and ethics play out in the real world
and at the highest level:
"This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul ... The core of
his message is that government - however you want to limit the concept -
derives its moral authority from God. ... Indeed, it seems to me that the
more Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard the death
penalty as immoral. ... I attribute that to the fact that, for the
believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an
innocent person is a big deal: It is a grave sin, which causes one to lose
his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? ... For the
nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his
existence. What a horrible act!"
Rev. Tim Holt: I guess I'm in this conversation because I'm a pastor. I'm
a pastor because I love Jesus, and Jesus loves people. I love people, too.
The value of a human life is expressed fully in the cost of saving that
life - Jesus Christ.
Nothing more perfect, more pure, could be offered as evidence of the value
of human life. I get to walk with wonderful people who go through horrible
pain and loss.
It is a privilege to be invited into this sacred arena where the abused
has to deal with the abuser, or at least the memories and repercussions.
I have also spent time with murderers. I have been a chaplain. I have sat
for hours on end listening and yes, squirming on my bunk edge trying to
understand how this seeming innocent, blue-eyed, blonde-haired country boy
I'm looking at could kill, rape and devastate so many families.
I have also, after many conversations, and years, watched the tears of
repentance, and words of remorse finally come.
Biblical justice seems to emphasize a criminal's repentance and his making
victims whole. But how does that happen when the victim's life has been
taken? How do we get someone to make a public statement to the fact that
what they took is now being repaid in kind? What kind of restitution must
the criminal pay that declares the value of that which was taken? The
scales of moral justice seem to require a rebalancing.
I don't like this topic. I would much rather talk about something else. I
have seen both sides of this issue, and I do believe God's grace is
available to all, the offender and the offended. I wish we were able to
identify, and help those who are at risk for this kind of behavior so as
to intervene early on.
But we live in a broken world that must have a system of justice, a fair
system. It's not about revenge. It's about justice. It's about our
judicial system protecting the innocent as well as seeing that restitution
is paid in kind.
Before that blue-eyed country boy paid the full amount of his restitution,
he admitted it was only right. He had taken, and now he would have his
I cried, for the victims and for him. My consolation is that God's
restitution, Jesus, is enough to cover the sins of everyone who call upon
Him. In Jesus, mercy triumphs over judgment.
Bailey: Robert Meek said in his job he has seen the worst of men, and
that's why he believes capital punishment is warranted. The results of
such inhumanity showed up in the emergency room where he saw a young boy
had been raped by an adult relative. You might think more sternly, he
said, if you should ever be so unlucky as to the physical result of a
6-year-old boy who has been raped.
Meek: Revenge? Had it been my child? Absolutely. How it makes one feel to
see the results of an adult doing that to a child. Once you start seeing
this stuff, you do get a very different outlook. I won't deny that at all.
If we did not administer the death penalty, if we accepted the people who
do such things as "brain-damaged," if we assumed that they needed
treatment, what would that be?
Where is there any evidence we have any other means by which to make sure
that such a person does not commit the same crime again?
To me, there is no other way.
John Richards: I agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent to
potential murders. It is, however, the ultimate deterrent to the specific
In my opinion the death penalty should be reserved for those who are an
imminent threat to others. No jail is escape-proof, and there have been
plenty of instances of murderers escaping and killing again.
David Altares: I feel that if a person has demonstrated, and it has been
proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are a threat unless held at
bay 24/7, that they should be eliminated. To my thinking that is the
humane thing to do for them and for society.
I feel that jail is slow torture and that we should not have the specter
of this individual and what they could do if they escape hanging over our
Capital punishment should be used as a way to rid society of the burden of
dealing with this kind of person. Sometimes people are just plain bad and
can never be fixed.
What would Jesus do? In my heart I feel that he would forgive this man. He
would also cure him of his ills and make him whole, sane and normal. We as
ordinary people cannot do this, no matter how much we would like to. Some
people cannot be rehabilitated and made whole.
Cynthia Cardinal, Longs: I feel that this individual should be held
responsible for his actions and judged for those actions by the laws
established in this country. He should be held accountable for his actions
through the law established by those written in the Laws of Christianity.
(source: Myrtle Beach Sun News)
Death penalty shouldn't hinge only on witnesses
So I read in the paper where another man is about to be lied to death. The
first such story I am aware of was published last year in the Houston
Chronicle. It concerned a street punk named Ruben Cantu, who was executed
in 1993 for shooting 2 men, killing 1. Cantu was sentenced based on the
word of a single witness, the shooting survivor. That man now says it
wasn't Cantu who shot him and that he was pressured to say otherwise by
police. The Chronicle concluded that Cantu almost certainly did not commit
the crime for which he was killed.
Ruben Cantu, meet Tyrone Noling. Noling is a resident of death row at Ohio
State Penitentiary whose story was told last week by the Cleveland Plain
Dealer. Noling, a petty thief, was convicted of the 1990 murder of an
elderly couple. The case against him was based on testimony from three
members of his gang who told the court Noling forced his way into the home
of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig and shot them to death.
All three now say they were lying, two in exchange for lesser charges and
a third in exchange for immunity. They say they were coached and coerced
by Ron Craig, an investigator for the prosecutor's office. For instance,
Butch Wolcott, the man who received immunity, could not describe the
murder scene until Crag took him there. Wolcott told the Plain Dealer the
investigator also gave him access to the evidence file.
Wolcott still had trouble getting his story straight. He claimed Noling
used a phone cord yanked from the wall to bind his victims. But the phone
cord was found intact and the couple was not tied. And yet on the word of
this man and 2 others - one of whom recanted on the witness stand - Noling
was sentenced to death. No murder weapon, no DNA, no fingerprints, no
nothing except the word of three thieves.
Noling was 18 at the time of the murders. I am no fan of capital
punishment under even the best of circumstances. Its faults are legion,
including that it's biased by race, gender, geography and class, more
expensive than lifetime incarceration, has no deterrent value and once
applied, cannot be reversed in the event of error. The death penalty is a
crude, vestigial remnant of frontier justice and an embarrassment to any
sense or pretense of moral authority this nation might claim. The best
thing we can do with it is end it.
But, even if I didn't feel that way, I'd still be appalled by the idea
that a man can be sent to death row based on little more than some guy's
Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci feels differently. He told the paper none of
this causes him to lose sleep, which is pretty much what you'd expect him
to say. Belief in the death penalty requires a facade of certitude.
Conscience is an inconvenience. Facts even more so. Don't know what you
know. Don't ask; don't tell.
Tyrone Noling was a punk. Ruben Cantu was, too. And it is easy, from the
perch of middle-class respectability, middle-class fear, not to care
overmuch that they were treated unfairly. It requires only moral cowardice
and a willingness to look the other way. These things we have in
What we have in lesser supply is the guts to see and say the obvious: The
law should not allow the death penalty in cases hinging solely on witness
testimony. That has nothing to do with sympathy for devils. It has
everything to do with the integrity and credibility of a broken system.
If we don't care about Cantu or Noling, we should at the very least care
(source: Opinion, Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald)
Controversial Death Row Inmate Mumia Abu Jamal Featured in New Nex
Respect The Culture, LLC, a Philadelphia-based record label and
multi-media company, has released Nex Millen/Retrospective's debut solo
album, "Who is Mumia Abu Jamal?" The new CD features the spoken word of
controversial death row inmate and political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal.
Nex Millen's alternative, soulful beats accompany the spoken word of
Jamal, recorded from death row at Huntingdon State Prison and S.C.I.
Greene. The album also includes guest appearances by Assata Shakur, Allen
Ginsberg & Jello Biafra.
"A diversion from the smooth rhyme style featured in Nex
Millen/Retrospective's work with former groups, Souls of the Lost Elements
and the Group of Pimps, Millen's latest effort features his skillful
production and a message in his music the message of death row inmate
Mumia Abu Jamal," said the album's Executive Producer Marci Krufka. "From
the haunting keyboards of 'To Be Like Malcolm, A Message To Mumia' to the
funky, up-tempo sound of 'A Bright Shining Hell' to the subtle scratching
in 'Statement of the Facts' and 'Legalized Crime' to the moving strings of
'The Depth of Our Courage,' Millen's beats artfully support the powerful
lyrics without detracting from the purpose of the piece to allow
listeners to hear the voice of Jamal and his supporters many for the 1st
Nex Millen/Retrospective is a Philadelphia-born artist, producer and DJ.
He is a co-founder of Camden, New Jersey-based Breakbread Projects and a
member the critically-acclaimed group Nuthouse. Millen has performed
across the United States and throughout Europe and was the Music
Coordinator for the Digable Planets 2005 Reunion Tour UK. He has released
several recordings with former groups, produced numerous singles, albums
and mix tapes for other artists and was the Music Supervisor for the very
successful And1 B-ball mix tapes.
Mumia Abu Jamal is an award-winning journalist who exposed police violence
against minority communities. Imprisoned in 1982 for the alleged murder of
a Philadelphia policeman, Jamal maintains his innocence, citing the lack
of evidence, racial bias in jury selection, improper tactics by the
prosecution and ineffective counsel from the public defender at trial as
well as new forensic and other evidence in his defense.
During his 20 plus years of incarceration, Jamal has published numerous
recorded and written essays regarding his political and social beliefs via
www.prisonradio.org. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this CD
will be donated to The International Concerned Friends & Family of Mumia
Respect the Culture LLC is a Philadelphia-based record label and
multimedia company, featuring hip hop and other artists, local events and
performances via its subsidiary CultureNights, and a clothing line,
CultureWear, featuring original apparel with a spiritually and socially
"Who is Mumia Abu Jamal?" is available for purchase at
www.cdbaby.com/cd/nexmillen, ITunes, Rhapsody, MSN Music, Sony Connect,
Verizon Wireless and other music sites online as well as in retail stores
in the tri-state area.
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