[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., VA., S.C., USA, MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 3 18:26:55 CST 2006
Delayed definition / On a capital issue, the court acts for the
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of mentally
retarded criminals violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual
punishments. So far so good.
This ruling -- applauded by the Post-Gazette at the time -- was right as a
matter of humanity and logic. The death penalty is supposed to be about
punishing the most willful and intentional acts of murder, but retarded
people, by definition, don't always fully understand what they are doing.
But what definition? In the 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S.
Supreme Court left the question of what constitutes retardation up to the
states. The Pennsylvania Legislature has yet to pass a law that sets out a
In the meantime, a particularly shocking case was working its way through
the system. Joseph Daniel "Joey" Miller of Steelton, near Harrisburg, was
convicted in 1993 in the deaths of 2 women whose bodies were found in a
landfill. (He has also confessed to killing a 3rd woman and is serving a
life sentence in the death of a 4th.)
Although he was sentenced to death, his punishment was vacated after it
was argued that he was mentally retarded. Last week, the case came before
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In the absence of the Legislature's
direction, the court had to fashion a definition of retardation consistent
with the 2002 case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The result is Joey
Miller may still face a date with the executioner if further proceedings
find that, under this definition, he is not retarded.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, Pennsylvania's top
court rejected "a cutoff IQ score for determining mental retardation in
Pennsylvania," because "it is the interaction between limited intellectual
functioning and deficiencies in adaptive skills that establish mental
retardation." Although we must wait to see how this plays out, it seems
reasonable that the court settled on a sophisticated definition of
retardation rather than some magic IQ number.
The problem is less about the step the court took and more that it was
forced to act. A note appended to the very end of the opinion reads like
an indictment of the Legislature's careless dereliction of duty in a
life-or-death matter. "While we acknowledge that it would be preferable to
have a definition of mental retardation from the Legislature," the note
said, "we have waited nearly 3 years for such a definition and believe we
should not delay announcing a standard under Atkins any longer."
Pennsylvanians who believe in a fair system of criminal justice can be
grateful for that.
(source: Editorial, Pittburgh Post-Gazette)
So why is it OK for the government to kill a human?
At a minute after midnight, most people are in their warm beds, but one
man is taking his last breaths. This man lived anticipating his
state-assisted murder on death row ["Debate continues over death, life of
reformed gang leader," Dec. 14].
We recognize murder as wrong, but many of us use "murder" interchangeably,
so we depend on capital punishment to mold its definition.
Sadly, these same people defend their pro-life stances with biblical
scripture. They also use the Code of Hammura- bi's "eye for an eye"
theory. But where is the Bible when they forget "Vengeance is mine, said
Oh, it's different, they say.
Murder is murder. What's the difference between an MS-13 gang member
shooting someone and a governor refusing to grant clemency to allow a man
Who's playing God now? The governor? What gives him the right to decide if
a man can live or die? A god complex, evidently.
I am a proud Virginian, even though my state executes a larger percentage
of its population than any other state with more than a million in
I am a proud American, though my country has executed the 1,001st person
since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated.
Stanley "Tookie" Williams is a dead man now. We can all breathe a sigh of
relief that a former gang leader is no longer alive, but what does his
state-assisted murder actually do for you?
Does his murder bring back homicide victims? Does it ease your
apprehensions about walking down the street at night?
Better questioning is needed. Where's the justice in murdering a man
accused of murder?
Mr. Williams transformed from a feared gang leader to a changed man. He
wrote children's books urging non-gang activity. He was also instrumental
in mounting the Bloods and Crips truce more than 10 years ago.
But when his "judgment day" came, Gov. Schwarzenegger proclaimed Williams
as a man unchanged and without remorse.
His contribution meant nothing to the California governor. Williams was
just another cold-hearted criminal undeserving of clemency.
Stephen Hicks, Spotsylvania
(source: Free Lance-Star)
Clock ticks in Va. DNA case
With less than 2 weeks left in Gov. Mark R. Warner's term, time is running
out for him to arrange DNA testing that could determine whether Virginia
sent an innocent man to the electric chair in 1992.If the tests show Roger
Keith Coleman did not rape and murder his sister-in-law in 1981, it will
mark the 1st time in the United States an executed person has been
scientifically proved innocent, say death penalty opponents, who are
keenly aware that such a result could have a powerful effect on public
Warner -- a potential Democratic presidential contender for 2008 -- hopes
to complete negotiations over how the test would be conducted before his
term ends Jan. 14, spokesman Kevin Hall said.
Coleman was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of
Wanda McCoy, 19, his wife's sister. She was found raped, stabbed and
nearly beheaded in her home in the coal-mining town of Grundy.The case
drew international attention as Coleman pleaded his case. Time magazine
featured the coal miner on its cover. Pope John Paul II tried to block the
Coleman's attorneys argued that he did not have time to commit the crime,
that tests showed semen from two men was found inside McCoy, and that
another man bragged about murdering her. Coleman was executed May 20,
DNA tests in 1990 placed Coleman within the 2 % of the population who
could have produced the semen at the crime scene. Additional blood typing
put Coleman within a group consisting of 0.2 % of the population. His
lawyers said the expert they hired to conduct the test misinterpreted the
4 newspapers and Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey organization that
investigated Coleman's case and became convinced of his innocence, sought
a court order to have the evidence retested. The Virginia Supreme Court
declined to order the testing in 2002, so Centurion Ministries asked
Warner to intervene.
Warner's decision has been held up in part because the sample is not in
the state's possession, Hall said. The evidence is being stored in a
Richmond, Calif., lab by the forensic scientist who conducted the initial
DNA tests, Edward Blake.
Blake has balked at returning the evidence to Virginia, arguing that
testing should be conducted at his lab. Blake also has argued that
transporting the fragile evidence could destroy it.
Warner, Blake and Centurion Ministries have been trying to negotiate an
arrangement under which an independent lab would test the sample, Hall
If the parties cannot come to an agreement before Warner leaves, the issue
will fall to Democratic Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, who supports DNA retesting
in the case, said Delacey Skinner, a Kaine spokeswoman.
(source: News Observer)
Editor of paper quits after apartment fire
The editor of an alternative weekly in the city has resigned after a fire
in his apartment he believes was set by an unhappy reader or source.
After returning from holiday travel early Saturday morning, Corey
Hutchins, editor of the Columbia City Paper, said he walked into his
Columbia apartment, saw the remnants of a fire and contacted police.
A police report confirmed the fire at the duplex, where Hutchins lived
with 2 other roommates. There was mostly smoke damage, but clothing,
bedding and books totaling $320 were destroyed in the fire, the report
Police said Monday they have no suspects in the case.
"A lot of people have gotten upset about things we have written about, and
I have gotten calls and e-mails anonymously ... but I never thought that
anything like this would happen," Hutchins said. "I never thought that
someone would be personally offended and want to burn my house down or
harm me individually."
The phone calls and letters included people who threatened to sue and
irate readers who bad-mouthed the weekly, Hutchins said.
Columbia City Paper publisher Paul Blake points to several reasons why
Hutchins could have been a target. The newspaper, which began publishing
in August, has drawn resistance from several bars and restaurants in
Columbia, he said.
Not only was Hutchins a crime reporter, but he also wrote about a sexual
discrimination lawsuit at the University of South Carolina and published
Gov. Mark Sanford's personal telephone numbers in an editorial about the
death penalty and the execution of the 1,001st person in the state, Blake
"I do think it's a larger censorship problem," he said. "Here we have to
battle just to be in locations. We've been banned from several of the
businesses in town."
(source: The State)
Novel 'Death Row Defender,' A Legal Thriller By Ray Dix, Is Finalist For A
3rd Literary Award
EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, has announced that
'Death Row Defender,' the mystery / legal thriller by Ray Dix, is 1 of 4
finalists for best mystery novel of 2005 published in electronic format.
In 'Death Row Defender,' retired Public Defender, Woody Thomas, struggles
with his own doubts of his client's innocence, the police, the system, an
assassin, and his own past to exonerate a death row defendant.
Ray Dixs legal thriller / mystery, 'Death Row Defender,' has been named 1
of 4 finalists for an EPPIE Award for best mystery of 2005 published as an
e-book. The EPPIE awards, presented by EPIC, the Electronically Published
Internet Connection, honor the best electronically published books of the
year. The winner chosen from the finalists will be named Saturday, March
18, 2006 in San Antonio, TX, during EPICon 2006. For more on EPIC, EPPIEs,
and EPICon, visit: http://www.epicauthors.org/index.html
This is the third time 'Death Row Defender' has been recognized with an
award for excellence. Prior to publication, Attorney Dixs novel received
awards from the Maryland Writers Association as a 2003 Novel Contest award
winner, and from Authorlink, as a New Author Contest award winner (in 2000
under the title 'Clearwater Run'). 'Death Row Defender' is published in
both electronic format and trade paperback.
Reader reviews for 'Death Row Defender' have also been favorable:
"PD Dude," a California Public Defender with a blog, says of 'Death Row
Defender:' "The story is very interesting, the drama is very real, and
aside from the thriller aspect to the book, it gives a terrific insight
into the life, mindset, and complexity of a defense lawyer." "The book is
a quick read, once you start it is engrossing and hard to put down." For
the complete review, see the 12/22/05 submission at:
"Narayan of Rebeccas reads highly recommends Death Row Defender as an
impressive legal thriller & a must-read for the student of criminal law. .
. right up there with the best lawyer/author writers. . .." (excerpted
from Amazon.com). The full review is found on
William C. McLain, a capital appeals attorney from Tallahassee, Florida,
describes 'Death Row Defender' as: ". . . a page turner. . . compelling .
. . crisp and fast . . . captures the stress, the frustration and the
excitement that accompanies the defending of a capital case through the
courts." (From the back cover of 'Death Row Defender')
In addition to being a member of EPIC, Dix is a member of the Mystery
Writers of America http://www.mysterywriters.org/ and is active in the
organizations Florida Chapter http://www.mwa-florida.org/index.htm. He is
also a member of the Maryland Writers Association
http://www.marylandwriters.org/, and the Florida Writers Association
As a capital crimes defense attorney for the State of Florida, author Ray
Dix helped provide the last line of defense for men and women sentenced to
die. As an Assistant Capital Collateral Representative in Tallahassee, he
reinvestigated murder convictions and assisted in death row appeals. Mr.
Dix also worked as an Assistant Public Defender, where he tried juvenile,
misdemeanor and felony cases, and wrote several hundred appeals. Dix
served in both the Army Security Agency (1966-1970) and the Coast Guard
Reserves (1974-1976). He later designed and built boats on the Chesapeake
Ray Dix lives in Florida, where he enjoys beaches, sunsets and sailing. He
is currently writing the next Woody Thomas Novel.
The publisher of 'Death Row Defender,' Hard Shell Word Factory, is a
royalty paying publisher of works by established and new authors for sale
in electronic and trade paperback format. Hard Shell Word Factory
publishes book-length quality non-fiction and fiction--Romance (all
categories), Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure, Science Fiction,
Fantasy, Horror, Western, Historical, Mainstream, Young Adult and
'Death Row Defender,' is distributed in print through Ingram, and is
available in e-book and trade paperback through on-line and
brick-and-mortar booksellers. The novel is also available directly through
the publisher in both formats on line at: www.HardShell.com
e-book ISBN 0-7599-4259-5 ---- paperback ISBN 0-7599-4260-9
(source: PR Web)
Twenty-First Century Injustice
Here we are in the 21st century, yet the United States is still not fully
civilized. Unlike most other industrialized countries, we still execute
people in the name of the state.
To answer killing with more killing is obviously barbaric, an act of crude
revenge and retribution. Capital punishment is cruel and senseless, a
primitive instrument that brutalizes society by justifying killing as a
means to an end.
Those who are executed, furthermore, are overwhelmingly poor people of
color, often mentally ill, often represented by poorly paid, sometimes
incompetent lawyers - and not necessarily guilty.
Capital punishment does not deter crime, as its vengeance-seeking
advocates assert. Rather, it deters us from trying to rehabilitate rather
than simply punish transgressors, from trying to cure the societal ills
that lead to criminal conduct and from establishing a truly fair and
equitable system of justice.
Nothing has made that clearer than the recent execution in California of
Stanley Tookie Williams, a state-sanctioned killing that understandably
drew widespread international attention and condemnation.
No one denies that Williams had a violent criminal past. As a poor
teenager living in the black ghetto of South Los Angeles, he helped found
and lead the notorious Crips street gang in 1971. There's plenty of doubt,
however, over whether he was guilty of the four 1979 murders for which he
was executed. Much of the case against him was based on circumstantial
evidence and the testimony of an accomplice to the robberies involved who
had very good reason to put the blame on Williams.
Guilty or not, there's also no denying that Williams was a violent
presence on death row, so violent he spent the first half-dozen of his 24
years there in solitary confinement. But then he changed. He began
speaking out and writing against the gang life he had led.
Williams co-authored 8 books on the evils of gangs and violence generally
and 2 autobiographies about his gang life and the perils of prison that
are used in middle and high schools nationwide and in Britain, South
Africa and other countries.
He wrote a model "peace protocol" widely used by gangs seeking peaceful
co-existence and helped arrange truces between them. He often spoke via
videotape and telephone to groups trying to develop ways to end gang
violence. He was nominated six times for a Nobel Peace Prize, with the
support of more than 30 professors at colleges in the United States,
Canada, Britain and Australia. They said Williams probably had saved
hundreds of lives by turning young people away from violent confrontation
and had persuaded thousands to leave or stay out of gangs -- and could
continue to do so.
NAACP President Bruce Gordon said Williams' "unique experiences, insights
and perspectives enable him to reach young people as no other person I
Tookie Williams was, in a word, rehabilitated. He was no longer a danger
to society. He had become a valuable asset.
But that was not enough for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Clearly
seeking to shore up declining support from his conservative base, the
governor turned down Williams' plea for clemency. He said he could not
spare him because Williams refused to confess to murders he denied
committing. The governor insisted on the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth
justice used by gangs, insisted on the state responding to alleged acts of
killing with its own act of killing.
"It would be refreshing to see the state articulate the values of grace,
mercy and redemption," noted State Assemblyman Mark Leno. "Unfortunately,
the governor missed an opportunity to do just that."
And so 51-year-old Tookie Williams was strapped down on a gurney in the
death chamber at San Quentin Prison a few minutes after midnight on
December 13. 39 witnesses stared in mute and horrified or revengeful
witness as a nurse struggled for 12 minutes to insert a needle into his
heavily muscled arm, and for 24 minutes more until the poison finally
Singer Joan Baez, who was among more than 2,000 protesters outside the
prison, aptly described it as "a planned, efficient, calculated,
antiseptic, cold-blooded murder."
That was all right, however, with those who endorsed Schwarzenegger's
Neanderthal brand of justice. "Kill Tookie!" 2 shock jocks broadcasting
live shouted into microphones. Behind them a man carried a sign, "Hang the
Bastard." Several passing motorists rolled down their windows to join in
with choruses of "Kill him!"
One of the many young people who said their lives had been changed by
Williams saw the execution as evidence that "no matter how good you
become, they still crush you. This guy couldn't have got any better."
Could there possibly be a stronger argument against capital punishment?
(source: Z Magazine)
Man's 3rd death sentence to be reviewed----High court also to hear Ocean
Springs' appeal on legality of impact fees
Curtis Giovanni Flowers has been down this road before. Twice, to be
The Mississippi Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 8 on
Flowers' 3rd conviction for capital murder in the deaths of 4 people
during a shooting spree at a Winona furniture store in 1996.
Death penalty cases are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 in Montgomery County.
Twice before, Flowers was convicted of capital murder involving one of the
victims and each time his conviction and death sentence were thrown out on
The 1st time, Flowers was charged with killing Bertha Tardy, 59, the owner
of Tardy Furniture Store. The 2nd time, he was found guilty of killing
store employee Derrick Stewart, 16.
The Supreme Court in both cases held that prosecutors erred in introducing
evidence from the other 3 cases instead of focusing on 1 case.
The justices said prosecutors went too far in the questioning of witnesses
about all 4 murders, in offering photographs of the victims into evidence
and in arguments to jurors linking Flowers to the other crimes.
Flowers, now 35, argued that references to the other killings turned the
jury against him.
In 2004, Flowers was convicted of all 4 murders - Tardy, Stewart, store
employee Carmen Rugby, 45, and delivery man Robert Golden, 42. Flowers
also was convicted of robbing the store of at least $400 that was in the
Prosecutors said Flowers, who had been fired from his job at the business,
had not received his last paycheck. Defense lawyers claimed Flowers was at
a relative's home at the time of the murders.
In another case, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Feb. 15 from the
city of Ocean Springs, which has appealed a judge's ruling that impact
fees are illegal.
Impact fees are charged to developers to finance services required by a
new development. Such fees are used to build streets, sidewalks and sewers
in new developments. The fees also are used to shift the costs of those
services from taxpayers to the development's residents.
(source: Associated Press)
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