[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----S. DAK., MD., N. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 31 22:18:41 UTC 2006
Stay gives new life to death penalty foes
South Dakota, already a battleground state on the contentious issue of
abortion, could be thrust under a national spotlight for another moral
debate -- this time on the death penalty.
Fresh off Gov. Mike Rounds' last-minute execution reprieve for Elijah Page
Tuesday night, Amnesty International USA says it plans to help groups in
the state lobby the Legislature to overturn South Dakota's execution law,
which is unused in the modern era, said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director
of Amnesty International's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Gunawardena-Vaughn said South Dakota, like many Western states, has a
small death row and lacks a cultural affinity for the death penalty. But
its citizens and lawmakers have been lulled into complacency because they
haven't had to deal with a pending execution, she said.
"I think that this is sort of a wake up call that this can actually
happen," she said.
Deb McIntyre, director of the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, said
the Amnesty International support is welcome news as the center is
planning to launch a new statewide campaign to abolish the death penalty.
"I think maybe they see that there's some hope here," McIntyre said.
Page, 24, of Athens, Texas, had asked to be executed for the gruesome 2000
slaying of Chester Allan Poage, 19, of Spearfish. He had been scheduled to
die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. CDT Tuesday, but Rounds and Attorney
General Larry Long delayed the execution because of a problem with state
Most states with lethal injection use a 3-drug combination, but South
Dakota's law, dating to 1984, only specifies two. Using 3 drugs, as the
state planned to do, could have put the people who carried out the
execution at legal risk, Long said.
The Legislature soundly defeated measures to repeal the death penalty in
1999, 2004 and 2005.
But South Dakota -- a state that hasn't executed a person in 59 years --
now has a name attached to the debate.
"Now it is a very immediate issue," said Jennifer Ring, executive director
of the American Civil Liberties Union of the Dakotas. "Now there is
somebody who is tired and wants to die. So the state of South Dakota has
to seriously think about whether it wants to be in the business of
State Sen. Dan Sutton, D-Flandreau, a death penalty opponent, said he
expects the Legislature to refuse a repeal, but public pressure might
"I believe there is going to be much more public interest in this issue
because of the high visibility this case have brought to the state," he
Sen. Bill Napoli, who supports the death penalty, worries the issue will
consume the lawmaking session.
"It's going to burn up two months worth of time and be a huge emotional
issue," said Napoli, R-Rapid City. "Simply because we did not follow state
law we're right back to square one in talking about the death penalty,
which we have done over and over again."
The Rev. Blase Cupich, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, said
he sensed "a collective sigh of relief" with the stay and it has opened a
possibility of a public discussion. People are increasingly concerned that
violence begets more violence, he said.
Cupich said whenever a state governor commutes a sentence or issues a
stay, it prompts widespread national debate on the issue.
"These things are followed nationally, and there is a growing opposition
to the death penalty in the country," he said.
Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said he hopes the Legislature confines itself to making the
change requested by the governor.
Abdallah said he supports the death penalty and hopes lawmakers stick to
their prior decisions to keep it on the books.
"I hope it's just a technical thing we can change in the Legislature," he
Ring said the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and it's
Page and Briley Piper, 25, pleaded guilty, and a judge sentenced them to
die. The 3rd man, Darrell Hoadley, 26, fought the charge, was convicted
and sentenced to life in prison with no parole.
"That seems to be an unequal type of situation which could be addressed by
not having the death penalty," Ring said.
Many lawmakers feel that voting against the death penalty is political
suicide, but Gunawardena-Vaughn said Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proved
that theory wrong. Residents of Virginia, which is second only to Texas in
its number of executions, elected Kaine despite his open opposition to the
Gunawardena-Vaughn said many lawmakers support the death penalty because
they feel it makes people safer, a position she disagrees with.
On the Net:
Amnesty International USA: http://www.amnestyusa.org/
South Dakota Peace and Justice Center: http://www.sdpjc.org/
(source: Associated Press)
Rounds Interview On Execution Decision
There's disagreement surrounding coverage of Governor Mike Rounds'
decision to delay Elijah Page's execution.
At issue is a 1984 South Dakota law which states only two drugs are to be
used during a lethal injection. But that wasn't the plan in place at the
penitentiary. The attorney general's office said it knew for months the
procedure wasn't consistent with state law.
A lawyer for Donald Moeller, another death row inmate, filed court papers
citing the differences.
While state law requires two drugs be used in lethal injections, the
Department of Corrections was going to use 3. Page wanted to die, so the
Attorney General's office didn't believe there would be any legal problems
with the execution, regardless of the number of drugs used.
Larry Long: "From a legal point of view, that issue was largely resolved
as it relates to Mr. Page on August 14th."
So when did the Governor find out there might be a legal problem? Shortly
after a story aired on KELOLAND News at Six, the governor's office called
to express concerns that we had taken part of the interview out of
context. Here's the portion they didn't agree with.
Rounds: "The first time we knew there was an issue was yesterday
But that's not entirely true. So we show you Governor Round's entire
answer to the question we asked him earlier, so you can decide for
Lou Raguse: "How long did you know that the number of drugs could end up
being an issue in this case?"
Rounds: "We had, uh, I was looking at testimony that Mr. Page was
providing to his attorney. It was found, in an August 14th court document
that I was reviewing, I had requested a copy of his competency hearing to
review for himself. And in that hearing, Mr. Butler had raised a question
to Page on the stand. I received that court document, in which he had
general questions about it, about the 21st or 22nd of August. Based upon
that, there were a number of questions that I asked for my staff and the
Attorney General to follow up on. This was one of the remaining questions
that had not been resolved, uh, and, uh, and the Attorney General had
remained in contact yesterday, midway through the afternoon the Attorney
General contacted me the issues as discussed concerning constitutionality
had been resolved, there was not an issue there, however, there was an old
law, the 1984 law, that hadn't been updated and that we needed to talk
about it. So, the 1st time we knew there was an issue was yesterday
afternoon. We talked about it between 4 and 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon
knowing there was a series of go, no go issues on the execution. This was
one that had been identified by us in our office about a week or so
earlier just for a follow up to see if there were any issues. This issue
was raised specifically yesterday afternoon."
Raguse: "So, you knew about it for a week about the possibility of it
becoming an issue?"
Rounds: "I had asked for information about a week earlier, that's right."
Raguse: "Regarding that the law says that it's 2 and the Department Of
Corrections was planning on using 3?"
Rounds No. That showed up yesterday."
(source: KELOLAND TV)
Does Maryland Need a Stronger Death Penalty?
The men who want to be the next attorney general in Maryland are talking
about whether they'll try to toughen the state's penalty.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler decided against seeking
the death penalty for sniper John Allen Muhammad.
In Maryland death penalty law, shootings have to be considered one event.
Gansler says characterizing the sniper shootings as one incident was too
high a hurdle.
Gansler tells WTOP he would favor adding a statute for serial killers to
the current law. But as for being an advocate to change the law?
"The death penalty is not a priority. We talk about it way too much in our
society and dealing with criminal law issues," Gansler says.
Democratic candidate for attorney general Stuart Simms is opposed to the
"I'd express my personal view to the public and legislation and certainly
whatever they decide I'd be in accord with and compelled to follow," Simms
Republican candidate Scott Rolle says he would advocate to change the law.
"Gansler says he's for the death penalty, yet he's never sought it in 8
years. If a prosecutor won't seek the death penalty during the sniper
case, then when?" Rolle says.
NORTH DAKOTA----possible federal death sentence
Student's killer facing possible death penalty
A federal jury declared a convicted sex offender guilty yesterday in the
kidnapping and killing of college student Dru Sjodin, whose body was found
abandoned in a Minnesota ravine.
The verdict against Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. clears the way for the first
death penalty deliberations in North Dakota in more than a century.
Rodriguez stared straight ahead as the verdict was read.
Sjodin, 22, a University of North Dakota student from Pequot Lakes, Minn.,
was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall Nov. 22,
Her body was found the following April in a ravine near Crookston, Minn.,
where Rodriguez lived at the time.
Prosecutors said Sjodin was stabbed, raped and left to die.
The jurors deliberated for less than four hours before returning the
They are to reconvene next Tuesday to deliberate if Rodriguez is eligible
for the death penalty.
North Dakota does not have the death penalty, but it is allowed in federal
Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, and father, Allan Sjodin, stared straight
ahead as the verdict was read, but family members shared hugs later
outside the courtroom.
Rodriguez's mother, Dolores, wiped her face with a tissue.
Bob Heales, a Sjodin family friend, said, "we've been asked not to
comment. We just have to wait."
In closing arguments Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley told jurors
Sjodin fought for her life and left "unmistakable" evidence of the crime.
(source: Associated Press)
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