[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., IOWA, OHIO, ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 4 09:18:58 CST 2006
Chron Cartoon and the Death Penalty
Editor, the San Francisco Chronicle --
George Russell in his cartoon published on the editorial page today, Jan.
3, forecasts that at least 3 men, having been found guilty beyond the
shadow of a reasonable doubt of murder most foul, will most likely be put
to death in 2006 by injection - one hopes after having had their arm
swabbed with antiseptics before the needle is inserted.
Now unlike Mr. Russell, I cannot foretell the future but it is a
reasonable assumption that the number of innocents that will be brutally
murdered in California during 2006 will certainly be more than 3, most
likely will number in the hundreds so your side will still be ahead.
E. David Litvak----San Leandro, Calif.
(source: Letter to the Editor, San Francisco Chronicle)
Convict suicides in state prisons hit record high----'05 NUMBERS PROMPT
CALLS FOR FOCUS ON PREVENTION
A record number of convicts killed themselves in California prisons during
2005 -- double the national inmate suicide rate, according to state
The trend approaching 1 suicide each week is triggering new complaints
from class-action lawyers that the state is stalling prevention efforts.
Prison officials deny delays, saying they thwart the vast majority of
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported 44
suicides in an inmate population that is at an all-time high -- nearly
164,000 -- though inmates' attorneys have so far been able to confirm only
41 deaths as suicides. Either figure is up from 26 suicides in 2004, and
exceeds the previous record of 36 deaths in 2003.
Using the more conservative estimate, the rate is 27 deaths per 100,000
inmates, compared with a national rate of 14 per 100,000 calculated by the
federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. That rate is falling nationally even
as California's rate increases.
The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives puts the nation- wide
prison suicide rate at about 13 deaths per 100,000, compared with 11
deaths per 100,000 in the general community.
Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who chairs two
corrections oversight committees, criticized prison officials for failing
to adopt what she called "no brainer" precautions. She plans hearings this
Seventy percent of inmate suicides in California occur in disciplinary
isolation units, and the rate there was nearly 10 times higher than in the
system as a whole in 2004.
"We try to be there and vigilant," said corrections spokesman J.P.
Tremblay. "It's always a tragedy when anybody commits suicide, but we're
working hard to try to prevent that. We have made some progress, but it's
not going to happen overnight."
Lawyers representing more than 26,000 mentally ill inmates in California
are heading back to a Sacramento federal judge Thursday, accusing the
state of not training guards quickly enough to provide emergency
resuscitation when inmates are found unresponsive. Some prisons have
trained fewer than half of their guards, said Michael Bien, the lead
Prison attorneys countered, saying most prisons have trained at least 75 %
of guards, and many are above 90 %.
"While we don't expect 100 %, it should be at least in the 90s. This is
life and death, for heaven's sake," Bien said.
Previous prison policy let guards wait for medical staff to arrive: "You
could choose not to help someone who was dying at your feet," Bien said.
California officials have balked at replacing overhead air vents in
segregation units with vent covers that have smaller openings to prevent
inmates from stringing sheets or cords to hang themselves. The department
says the smaller vents would restrict air flow, while the inmates'
attorneys say the vents are used in hundreds of prisons, including the
California Men's Colony and Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally
Inmate attorneys are also objecting to prison proposals to reduce the
amount of mental health supervision provided in segregation units.
They hope a federal judge will order a hearing into a 3-year-old prison
policy that treats mental illness as a security danger. The mentally ill
often are sent to more secure prisons where they are housed with violent
inmates and are more frequently locked in their cells with fewer
privileges and amenities.
A special master appointed by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton is set
to soon release a report on the corrections department decision 2 years
ago to stop stationing a guard outside the cells of each 1 or 2
suicide-risk inmates. Now, guards monitor as many as 6 inmates at a time
via television cameras in the cells, which Bien said is far from foolproof
and prevents the human contact that could help deter suicides.
(source: Mercury News)
Iowa Lawmakers Expected to Debate the Death Penalty
Expect the death penalty to be a hot topic as the Iowa Legislature
convenes next week.
Last year, Republican Senator Larry McKibben proposed the death penalty in
cases where a child is kidnapped, raped and murdered.
Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal however says his party will not debate the
Gronstal says it's a waste of time since Governor Vilsack is strongly
opposed to the idea.
(source: KCRG News)
Petro asks for delay in death-penalty case
Death-row inmate John Spirko, scheduled to die in 2 weeks for the 1982
murder of a rural Ohio postmaster, may be headed for another 6-month lease
In a letter late Tuesday, Attorney General Jim Petro's office asked Gov.
Bob Taft for a 180-day delay of Spirko's Jan. 19 execution date so that
complex DNA testing can be performed on hair samples gleaned from the
evidence. The results could then be compared with samples from Spirko and
several others identified by Spirko's lawyers as possible suspects.
Taft made no decision Tuesday; his spokesman said he is reviewing the
request. But the governor has granted two reprieve requests for Spirko in
the last four months, most recently in early November, when Petro asked
for time to initiate DNA testing requested by Spirko's lawyers.
"The attorney general's request for further reprieve is very appropriate
and - indeed - demanded by the current state of the evidence," said Thomas
Hill, a lawyer for Spirko.
Hill said his client has always maintained his innocence, "and we are
certainly hopeful that DNA or other testing will lead to his exoneration."
Spirko's 1984 conviction for the abduction and murder of Elgin postmaster
Betty Jane Mottinger has been dogged by questions about both the quality
of the evidence and the investigation.
While Petro's office says Spirko was justly convicted and the Ohio Parole
Board has twice recommended against clemency, 3 dissenting board members
found that there is too much doubt in the case to execute him.
Spirko's lawyers renewed their call for DNA testing in October, after
former house painter John Willier, who had implicated his former boss in
the crime years ago, passed a polygraph test.
Mottinger's body, stabbed more than a dozen times and wrapped in a
paint-spattered shroud, was found in a Hancock County soybean field not
far from the Findlay homes that Willier and his boss, Dale Dingus, had
been painting that summer.
Willier and Dingus are among several men whose DNA Spirko's lawyers want
compared with hairs found by state lab technicians on duct tape that was
used to wrap the shroud around Mottinger's body in 1982.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather Gosselin said in her Tuesday letter
that the hairs might be suitable for mitochondrial DNA testing, which is
different from - and less definitive than - more conventional nuclear DNA
But the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation
doesn't do mitochondrial analysis, Gosselin wrote, so those tests must be
sent to a private lab.
She also wrote that the state must locate the individuals Spirko's lawyers
want tested, many of whom are out of state, and may have to seek court
orders to obtain DNA samples for comparison.
Gosselin told Spirko's lawyers Tuesday that DNA and other scientific tests
are proceeding on other evidence in the case.
"We believe that 180 days will be sufficient time to complete all
testing," she wrote.
(source: Plain Dealer)
Federal public defenders appeal death sentence
Convicted murderer Rickey Dale Newman was mentally incompetent to stand
trial and had an ineffective attorney, say federal public defenders who
have appealed Newmans conviction and sentencing.
The public defenders filed the 144-page appeal brief in U. S. District
Court in Fort Smith on Friday claiming Newman is innocent of the Feb. 7,
2001, mutilation slaying of 46-yearold Marie Cholette. Her body was found
wrapped in a sleeping bag in a makeshift tent in a transient camp on the
edge of Van Buren.
A Crawford County Circuit Court jury convicted Newman and recommended the
death penalty, which Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell agreed to in sentencing
Newman after a 1-day trial in June 2002. Newman acted as his own attorney
and admitted killing Cholette. He asked to be executed.
After the Arkansas Supreme Court reviewed the conviction and sentence and
Newman insisted he didnt want to contest it, his execution was scheduled
for July 26.
But federal public defenders Bruce Eddy and Julie Brain filed a motion in
federal court for a stay of execution July 22, arguing Newman said July 8
that he wanted his attorneys to pursue appeals for him in federal court.
A U. S. District Court judge on Aug. 8 granted a stay of Newmans execution
after determining Eddy and Brain had the authority to appeal Newmans
conviction and sentence on his behalf.
In the appeal document, Eddy and Brain claim Newman suffers from, among
other things, depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder
and brain damage.
"Taken individually, any one of these impairments might be overcome by a
person who could call on other areas of strength ; but for Mr. Newman, the
combination of impairments rendered him incompetent to stand trial," the
His mental incompetence also made it impossible for him to understand
legal concepts to assist in the preparation of his defense or to make
informed decisions about his legal situation.
Newman's attorney and the judge in the case should have recognized Newmans
incompetence when he refused to wear civilian clothes at trial, instead
choosing to wear an orange jail jumpsuit and shackles in front of the
The public defenders also argued that Newman's counsel at trial, Crawford
County Public Defender Bob Marquette, was "so thoroughly and completely
ineffective that he was the equivalent of no counsel at all." The appeal
says Newman's defense failed to independently investigate the crime, to
obtain expert testimony or to present any evidence of Newman's innocence.
The appeal says Newman is innocent and that the state failed to reveal
evidence that could have proven Newman's innocence. Further, it says that
illegally obtained statements were admitted into evidence, that the jury
was not impartial and that Newman was ineligible for the death sentence.
The appeal also says that Newman's appellate counsel committed errors and
omissions that deprived Newman of effective appeals.
(source: Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
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