[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.J., FLA., OHIO, N.C., CALIF.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 10 10:54:47 CST 2006




Jan. 10



NEW JERSEY:

New Jersey legislature suspends death penalty -- Concerns over fairness in
application, waste of public money spark action


New Jersey lawmakers approved a moratorium on the death penalty Monday,
becoming the first U.S. state legislature to block executions since the
Supreme Court reinstated the punishment in 1976.

The state Assembly voted 55 to 21 with 2 abstentions to suspend the death
penalty until a commission report due to be given to lawmakers and the
governor by Nov. 15. The state Senate approved the measure last month.

The commission will study whether the death penalty deters crime and
whether there is a significant difference between the cost of the death
penalty and that of life without parole.

New Jersey is one of 38 U.S. states that have the death penalty, although
it has not executed anyone since 1963. 10 people are currently on the
state's death row.

The bill is expected to be signed by acting Gov. Richard Codey, a
Democrat.

2 other states, Illinois and Maryland, have placed a moratorium on the
death penalty by the governor's order, although the Maryland measure has
now expired. Texas, on the other hand, leads the nation in executions,
putting to death 355 people since 1976.

Death penalty has failed

"By any measure, the death penalty has failed the people of New Jersey who
have come to know that it risks executing innocent people and wastes
millions of taxpayer dollars," said Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New
Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a campaign group.

U.S. public support for the death penalty has dropped to a 27-year low of
64 percent in October 2005 from 80 percent in 1994, according to Gallup
opinion polls.

The number of executions in the United States dropped to 60 in 2005 from
98 in 1999, the largest number since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the
death penalty in 1976 after declaring it unconstitutional in 1972.

Doubts rise as wrongful convictions do

Public doubts are based on increasing evidence, particularly from DNA
testing, of wrongful convictions and an increasing willingness of courts
and attorneys to revisit old cases, according to Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that campaigns
against the policy.

Nationwide, 122 people have been freed from death row since 1973 because
of evidence they may not be guilty, Dieter said.

Support for the death penalty has also waned because of the increasing
availability of life-without-parole sentences, which are now provided by
all but one of the death-penalty states.

In 2004, the United States conducted the 4th-largest number of executions
of any country in the world, exceeded only by China, Iran and Vietnam,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Reuters)

***************

CONCERNS: Cost of drawn-out appeals, chance of error; REPORT DUE:
Commission to study impact, alternatives----Death penalty put on hold for
study


An official yearlong moratorium on capital punishment is one step away
from reality after the full Assembly on Monday approved a measure to
create a Death Penalty Study Commission.

The commission would study the economics, ethics, effects and possible
alternatives to the death penalty in a report due Nov. 15. The bill also
would enact a moratorium on executions until January 2007.

The Assembly approved the measure 55 to 21 without debate; 2 lawmakers
abstained.

While not an explicit abolition of the death penalty - not used in the
state since 1963 - the measure has spurred debate on whether the penalty
should remain on the books in New Jersey.

Death penalty opponents say capital punishment should be replaced by life
without parole because death sentences result in costly, drawn-out appeals
that are hard for victims' families and because of fears of executing
someone who is later found innocent.

Proponents say people who commit gruesome murders deserve death when there
is no doubt of guilt, but they are divided over whether the lengthy
appeals process should be shortened or is a needed step to ensure no
innocent person is executed.

The think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective started the volleys with a
report last fall that showed the death penalty has cost New Jersey
taxpayers $253 million - with no executions - since it was reinstated in
1982.

The Assembly vote was greeted by cheers from members of New Jerseyans for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Celeste D. Fitzgerald, the group's executive director, said she wasn't
surprised Assembly members didn't debate the usually divisive issue.

"This is mainstream. I'm not that surprised," Fitzgerald said. "It's a
common-sense bill. The death penalty as it's constituted in New Jersey
isn't working."

Fitzgerald wouldn't predict what the study commission would conclude.

Assemblyman Christopher J. Connors, R-Ocean, a member of the Assembly
Judiciary Committee who supports capital punishment, said he would support
studying the death penalty but opposes another moratorium in a state that
hasn't executed anyone since the 1960s.

"We haven't committed the death sentence for anyone for 43 years.
Effectively we have a de facto moratorium in place," Connors said.

Connors said he hopes the study commission will find a "more efficient and
effective way of carrying out capital punishment."

Gov. Codey, who voted for the measure when the Senate approved it 30 to 6
last month, is expected to sign the moratorium into law, his spokeswoman,
Kelley Heck, said.

The death penalty is already on a court-ordered moratorium in New Jersey
on technical grounds until the state adopts new execution procedures.

(source: Asbury Park Press)

*************

Assembly approves death penalty moratorium


New Jersey is on the brink of becoming the 1st state in the nation to
enact a law mandating a moratorium on its death penalty.

The Assembly yesterday gave final legislative approval to a bill that bans
executions for a year to allow a commission to study the issue. Illinois
is now the only state with a moratorium on executing death row inmates,
but that ban was instituted by executive order in 2000 by then-Gov. George
Ryan.

"We must look at all the issues surrounding the use of capital punishment
and decide once and for all whether this policy should be continued,"
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the bill's sponsors, said
following the Assembly's 55-21 vote passing the bill.

The Senate passed identical legislation last month, and Gov. Richard Codey
is expected to sign it into law.

Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the
Death Penalty, said it is "common sense" to examine a system that has not
resulted in a single execution since the state reinstated capital
punishment in 1982.

"The death penalty system isn't working and has failed the people of New
Jersey, who have come to know that it risks executing the innocent," she
said after last evening's vote. "It's unfairly applied, it's failed its
victims and law enforcement, and it's wasted millions of the taxpayers'
money."

In November, opponents of capital punishment and a Trenton-based liberal
think tank released a study that contends the death penalty has cost
taxpayers $253 million since it was reinstated.

The bill (A2347) would create a 13-member commission to study whether
capital punishment is "discriminatory in any way" and "consistent with
evolving standards of decency." The commission would have until Nov. 15 to
report, but the moratorium would remain in place for another 60 days.

Sharon Hazard-Johnson, a death penalty advocate whose parents were
murdered in 2001, she said would support the commission "as long it is not
meant to push somebody's hidden agenda."

"The optimistic point would be this is yet another part of the process,"
said Hazard-Johnson, who had lobbied against the bill. "But those that are
against it are so vocal, and for those of us who are victims' survivors of
vile murders, we look at the long period of time as being a stall tactic."

This is the 2nd time the Legislature has passed a bill to study capital
punishment in New Jersey. Then-Gov. James E. McGreevey vetoed a proposal
two years ago because he said the death penalty had already been
"continuously studied in painstaking detail."

There are 10 prisoners on New Jersey's death row. New Jersey last executed
an inmate in 1963. Maryland also banned executions through an executive
order, but has since lifted the suspension.

(source: Newark Star-Ledger)

***********************

Vote to suspend death penalty


New Jersey lawmakers have approved a moratorium on the death penalty,
becoming the 1st US state legislature to block executions since the
Supreme Court reinstated the punishment in 1976.

The state Assembly voted 55 to 21 with 2 abstentions to suspend the death
penalty until a commission report due to be given to lawmakers and the
governor by November 15. The state Senate approved the measure last month.
The commission will study whether the death penalty deters crime and
whether there is a significant difference between the cost of the death
penalty and that of life without parole.

New Jersey is 1 of 38 US states that have the death penalty although it
has not executed anyone since 1963. 10 people are on the state's death
row.

The Bill is expected to be signed by Acting Governor Richard Codey, a
Democrat.

2 other states, Illinois and Maryland, have placed a moratorium on the
death penalty by the governor's order, although the Maryland measure has
now expired. Texas, on the other hand, leads the nation in executions,
putting to death 355 people since 1976.

"By any measure, the death penalty has failed the people of New Jersey who
have come to know that it risks executing innocent people and wastes
millions of taxpayer dollars," said Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New
Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a campaign group. US
public support for the death penalty has dropped to a 27-year low of 64 %
in October 2005 from 80 % in 1994, according to Gallup opinion polls.

The number of executions in the US dropped to 60 in 2005 from 98 in 1999,
the largest number since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty
in 1976 after declaring it unconstitutional in 1972.

Public doubts are based on increasing evidence, particularly from DNA
testing, of wrongful convictions and an increasing willingness of courts
and attorneys to revisit old cases, according to Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, a group that campaigns
against the policy.

Nationwide, 122 people have been freed from death row since 1973 because
of evidence they might not be guilty, Mr Dieter said.

Support for the death penalty has also waned because of the increasing
availability of life-without-parole sentences, which are now provided by
all but one of the death-penalty states.

In 2004, the US conducted the 4th-largest number of executions of any
country in the world, exceeded only by China, Iran and Vietnam, according
to the Death Penalty Information Centre.

(source: News.com.au)

********************

Death penalty moratorium won't halt Morris murder cases----Study won't
hold up, change hearings


The 3 capital murder cases winding through the court system in Morris
County will not be derailed or altered by a Death Penalty Study Commission
that is expected to be approved in the next week by acting Gov. Richard J.
Codey, Morris prosecutors said Monday.

The state Assembly on Monday passed a measure to create the study
commission, and Codey -- who supported it with his vote in the state
Senate last month -- is expected to sign the bill creating the commission
before he leaves the governor's office on Jan. 17.

There are three pending capital murder cases in Morris County --and 17
statewide -- and prosecutors have not said yet whether they will ask a
grand jury to authorize pursuit of the death penalty for Jonathan Zarate,
who is charged with murdering and mutilating 16-year-old Jennifer Parks in
Randolph on July 30.

County Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio said the commission's review of
the viability of the death penalty will not, at least for now, force any
changes or put a hold on any hearings in the three pending cases.

While the commission studies the morality, financial impact and possible
alternatives to the death penalty, there also will be a moratorium on any
executions until January 2007 -- a moot point since none of the 10 people
currently on death row has exhausted appeals. No one has been executed in
New Jersey since 1963.

"We're going to still proceed and prosecute cases," Rubbinaccio said. "In
essence, the moratorium is only on executions and not on capital
prosecutions." If the death penalty statute in New Jersey winds up being
outlawed, he said, sentences for people convicted of capital crimes would
be changed to life in prison.

FuncoLand case

Early Monday, Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto asked lawyers during
a status conference for accused killer Omar Thomas how the commission and
moratorium might impact the case. County Assistant Prosecutor John
McNamara Jr. replied that nothing has changed. After the hearing, McNamara
said to change course now "presupposes a result" that the death penalty
doesn't exist in New Jersey.

Thomas is an Irvington resident charged with shooting Erik Rewoldt, 26,
and Jeff Eresman, 22, to death during a robbery on Dec. 1, 2002, at the
FuncoLand game store in Roxbury. A new defense attorney has been assigned
to the Thomas case, and a judge is still in the process of hearing
testimony about several statements that Thomas gave police. The next
hearing for Thomas is set for Feb. 27.

Delay 'wasteful'

Putting off capital prosecutions on the chance the death penalty could be
outlawed in a year means wasted time for families of victims, attorneys
and the defendants, Assistant Prosecutor John Redden said.

No trial dates have been set for any of the 3 capital cases in Morris
County. The oldest pending case involves Porfirio Jimenez, who is charged
with stabbing and sexually assaulting 10-year-old Walter Contreras
Valenzuela in Morristown on May 20, 2001. Jimenez's case already is on
hold while the state Supreme Court decides what procedures should be
followed to determine whether Jimenez is mentally retarded, as defense
lawyers contend.

A 2nd capital murder defendant, James Howard Vaughn, is next due in
Superior Court on Jan. 19. A judge is expected then to decide whether
statements Vaughn gave police may be used against him at a trial on
charges of fatally shooting Maxine McCaden, 72, in Morristown, and
wounding her daughter, Ruth Bernadette Kennedy, on July 19, 2003.

The 3rd capital prosecution involves Omar Thomas.

(source: Daily Record)






FLORIDA:

HALLANDALE BEACH STABBING----The brutal, shocking demise of Lola Salzman


For years, her kids agonized over how their mother, who suffered from
mental illness, should be cared for. In the end, authorities say her
caregiver murdered her.By SARA OLKONsolkon at MiamiHerald.comLola Salzman was
brainy, ambitious and, at times, a royal pain in the neck.

In her 30s, she was a stunning mother of three, an auburn version of 1960s
screen siren Janet Leigh. She lived on Long Island, had deep dimples,
arched brows and a bouffant hairdo.

Her death some 40 years later was graceless and cruel. She was stabbed 43
times inside her low-rise Hallandale Beach condominium.

Police say the 71-year-old woman died at the hands of an employee Salzman
had found in the classifieds of a free weekly, someone she'd hired to help
out with errands and cleaning.

Her accused killer, Charlene Rosa, a 36-year-old immigrant from Jamaica
and mother of 3 sons, was on the lam for nearly 3 years. In August, U.S.
Marshals caught up with her on the island.

Salzman's death in the summer of 2002 marked the end of a complicated,
fiercely independent woman who repeatedly rebuffed the attempts of her 3
children -- who all live up north -- to govern her affairs. Her story,
while extreme, is emblematic of the difficulties faced by adult children
who live thousands of miles from aging parents.

Her kids agonized over how their mother, who suffered from mental illness,
should be cared for. They feared her exploitation. She wanted total
autonomy.

"Once you take away everyone's rights, it's like the last nail in the
coffin," said Broward Circuit Judge Mark Speiser, who presided over
Salzman's guardianship and was a frequent target of her ire. "Her scenario
is not very different from that of many elderly people."

A grandmother of five, Salzman had problems when she failed to take her
psychiatric medication. She would spend hours on the phone, dialing
imagined enemies over and over.

Shrouded in cigarette smoke, she sent off angry letters to Speiser. She
was banned from the Wal-Mart in Hallandale Beach for yelling profanities
at customers and employees.

In the 1960s, Salzman was diagnosed as paranoid-schizophrenic, a disease
that causes victims to lose touch with reality.

When she didn't take her medication, her symptoms would emerge, said her
eldest daughter, Shelley Levitt.

"She had an illness that clearly affected her, affected the whole family,"
Levitt said. "There were amounts of absolute pain and torment."

BRIGHT SIDE

Still, she was a brilliant woman who championed the arts and espoused
feminist ideals long before they became fashionable. She taught math to
elementary and junior high kids, and later earned a degree in interior
design.

In 1978, after her children had grown, Salzman divorced her husband and
moved in with her parents, who had a condo in Hallandale Beach on
Northeast 14th Avenue.

"It was very painful for her to stay in New York," Levitt said. "It was a
new start, she wanted to be on her own and help with her parents." Her mom
died in 1984, her dad four years later.

BREAKDOWNS

After that, Salzman started to get sick more often, Levitt said,
estimating that her mother was hospitalized for nervous breakdowns every 2
or 3 years.

"We couldn't convince her to take her medication," her daughter said.

As Salzman became increasingly estranged from her family, Levitt led an
effort to have a court-ordered guardianship set up to protect her mom and
ensure that she was getting the psychiatric treatment she needed. The
guardianship was also designed to help her handle her finances.

Mark Moening, who serves on Broward's Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental
Health Planning Council, said some mental health clients chose not to take
their medication because it leaves them feeling zombie-like.

BIPOLAR

"Even if I am symptomatic, I still have a sense of self," said Moening,
49, who was diagnosed in 1986 with bipolar disorder.

A hallmark symptom of a paranoid-schizophrenic is the belief that others
are conspiring against them, said Randy Otto, an associate professor in
the department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South
Florida.

Salzman wrote to Speiser about this in February 1997.

"These medications are dangerous. . . .I need my good name back," she
wrote. In July 2000, Speiser appointed the South Florida Guardianship
Program, a nonprofit based in Sunrise, to watch over Salzman. Under
Florida law, the court must choose the least restrictive arrangement and
review the plan annually.

FRAGILE STATE

"She was in and out of the guardianship because of her fragile mental
health," said Robert Trinkler, the guardianship's general counsel.

Thick court files reflect protracted legal battles between Salzman and her
kids over the degree she was allowed to control her finances.

Levitt and professionals close to the case also recalled periods in which
Salzman was in decent shape, able to care for herself and direct her
affairs.

In the weeks before her murder, the court ordered her guardian to give
Salzman $1,200 every 2 weeks. This money would go for her bills, including
the cost of hiring caretakers who would help her around her home and drive
her on her errands.

Salzman didn't want her appointed guardian to pick out her caregivers
because his office would use a licensed, bonded agency -- a place likely
to screen its workers and require certification. However, that would be
more expensive than choosing random workers through a free weekly.

VERY FRUGAL

"She was very thrifty and figured she could do it cheaper," Trinkler said.
Police believe Salzman saw Rosa's ad in the Hallandale Digest, titled
"Companion Driver," who promised to "take you anywhere." Her rates were
not advertised.

>From phone records, Hallandale police Detective Ron Beukers, the lead
investigator on the case, learned that Rosa had called a woman named
Maxine Hylton from Salzman's condo on the morning of July 4, 2002 -- the
day police suspect Salzman was murdered.

"The old woman won't pay me," Hylton said Rosa told her over the phone.
Less than 2 hours after the phone call, Rosa made flight plans back to
Jamaica, according to Rosa's cellphone records. Salzman was missing about
$1,200 from her purse, 2 cashier's checks totaling $2,500 and some
jewelry.

Hylton and a former boyfriend of Rosa's helped police gather evidence.
Separately, the pair got Rosa to admit involvement in Salzman's death,
according to court records. On one tape, Rosa admits that she left Salzman
"there to die."

Rosa's trial could be at least a year away. Rosa, who is due back in court
in February, has no prior convictions. Her lawyer, assistant public
defender Tom Gallagher, declined to talk about the case.

Jamaican authorities allowed her extradition this summer on the condition
the state waive the death penalty.

"The sheer brutality of the crime was a shock," said David Frankel, the
assistant state attorney prosecuting the case.

"This definitely was a death penalty case."

(source: Miami Herald)

**************

Trial of inmate accused of killing female prison guard delayed


In Punta Gorda, the trial of a prison inmate accused of killing a female
guard during a botched escape attempt has been delayed to allow the
defense to analyze new DNA evidence.

Dwight T. Eaglin's trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but Circuit Judge
William Blackwell agreed to postpone the trial until Feb. 20 because the
defense just a week ago received the evidence that prosecutors say links
Eaglin to the deaths of corrections officer Darla Lathrem and inmate
Charles Fuston.

According to the new evidence, Lathrem's blood was found on one of
Eaglin's boots, and Fuston's blood was found on Eaglin's pants, Assistant
State Attorney Bob Lee said.

Monday's trial date had been set before the defense learned that
prosecutors were re-examining several pieces of evidence for DNA and
bodily fluids, said Douglas Withee, Eaglin's attorney.

The defense needs about 4 weeks to take additional depositions from the
prosecutors' lab analysts and have out-of-state experts review the
evidence, Withee said.

State investigators said Eaglin, 30, was 1 of 3 prisoners who attacked
Lathrem, beat her to death and stuffed her body into a locked mop closet
at the Charlotte Correctional Institution on June 11, 2003. Fuston died
several days later from injuries sustained in the attack.

Lathrem was armed only with pepper spray and a radio. She was the first
female officer ever killed in Florida.

Eaglin and inmates Michael Jones and Stephen Smith each were charged with
2 counts of 1st-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jones' trial is scheduled to begin April 17, and Smith is scheduled to
stand trial June 12.

(source: Associated Press)






OHIO:

Spirko execution put off to July 19 for DNA tests


For the 3rd time in four months, death-row inmate John Spirko has dodged a
date with the executioner.

He now has at least until July 19 before facing lethal injection for the
slaying of a rural western Ohio postmaster in the summer of 1982, a crime
Spirko says he had nothing to do with.

On Monday, Gov. Bob Taft postponed Spirko's Jan. 19 execution date for six
months. Taft said in a statement that he agrees with Attorney General Jim
Petro that "additional investigation and analysis of the evidence in the
kidnapping and murder of Betty Jane Mottinger are warranted."

Petro asked for a 180-day reprieve last week, saying that complex DNA
testing of the evidence would likely take months to complete.

The parade of executive reprieves in this complicated case began in early
September, after The Plain Dealer reported that a top Petro assistant made
several misstatements about the evidence during Spirko's marathon clemency
hearing before the Ohio Parole Board in late August.

Petro said he stood by his staff members, but he offered to have them
appear before the board again. On Sept. 8, Taft granted the board's
request for a reprieve, delaying Spirko's execution from Sept. 20 to Nov.
15.

Then came an even longer parole-board hearing on Oct. 12, followed by a 6
to 3 vote against clemency - the same margin as before - but with the
minority issuing a spirited dissent.

In a case without physical evidence pointing to Spirko, and with lingering
questions about the quality of the prosecution and the integrity of the
lead investigator, the minority said there was too much doubt on too many
points to allow Spirko to be executed.

The dissenters also chastised officials for never following up on a lead
from former house painter John Willier, who had implicated his former boss
in the Mottinger case in a 1997 interview with law enforcement.

A week after the hearing, The Plain Dealer found Willier in a small town
in Tennessee.

He agreed to - and later passed - a polygraph test regarding his 1997
statement, prompting Spirko's lawyers to demand DNA testing on the
paint-covered shroud in which Mottinger's body was found.

On Nov. 7, a week before Spirko was scheduled to die, Petro asked for -
and Taft granted - a 60-day reprieve so that state technicians could do
DNA testing on the shroud and other evidence in the case. Last week, Petro
and his staff reported that several hairs had been found on the duct tape
used to wrap the shroud around Mottinger's body, but that an outside lab
must be hired to test it.

The attorney general said all tests should be completed in 6 months.

(source: Plain Dealer)

****************

3RD REPRIEVE ---- Spirko's execution pushed back 6 months


The execution date for John G. Spirko Jr. was moved to July to allow for
DNA testing in the 1982 murder of a postmistress.

John G. Spirko Jr. will see another spring and summer before DNA testing
that may decide his fate is complete.

Gov. Bob Taft yesterday approved a 6-month reprieve for Spirko, who was
scheduled to be executed Jan. 19 for the 1982 abduction and murder of
Betty Jane Mottinger, the postmistress in Elgin in northwestern Ohio.

It was the third consecutive reprieve for Spirko, 59, who also had been
scheduled for execution on Sept. 19 and Nov. 19. The new dte is July 19.
In a statement, Taft said he agreed with Attorney General Jim Petro's
opinion that "additional investigation and analysis of the evidence" are
needed.

Petro asked Taft last week to postpone Spirko's execution to allow time
for additional DNA testing, specifically on hairs found on duct tape used
to wrap Mottinger's body in a tarp. It was found in a farm field in
northwestern Ohio about 3 weeks after she disappeared.

The testing Petro ordered involves mitochondrial DNA, a new type of
testing that focuses on maternally inherited DNA. Since the Ohio Bureau of
Criminal Identification and Investigation does not do that type of
testing, the attorney general is contracting with a private lab.

In addition, Petro's office said it might take time to get DNA samples for
comparison with other possible suspects in the case.

Spirko, his attorneys and supporters have mounted a highpressure campaign
protesting his innocence. He was convicted largely based on information
about the crime that prosecutors said only the killer could have known.

All state and federal courts have affirmed his guilt and death sentence.
The Ohio Parole Board twice voted 6-3 against clemency for Spirko.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

*****************

Kenny speaks to rally from death row


Death row Scot Kenny Richey has recorded a message to be played at an
anti-death penalty rally being organised by Amnesty International.

Richey, 41, was sentenced to death in 1987 for murdering 2-year-old
Cynthia Collins by setting fire to an apartment in Ohio.

Despite winning an appeal in January last year he is still on death row as
the state of Ohio fights attempts to free him.

His case was taken up by human rights groups, including Amnesty, who see
it as a compelling case of a miscarriage of justice.

The group has organised an event, Women Against The Death Penalty, in
London tomorrow which will feature a talk by Sister Helen Prejean, the
anti-death penalty campaigner who wrote Dead Man Walking.

Kenny's fiance Karen Richey will also be speaking at the event. She said:
"Kenny has recorded a message for the Amnesty event, which will give
people there an idea of his life in prison, and also give him a chance to
thank the people who have supported his campaign. It is really hard for
him at the moment, as all of the time inside has affected his health, so
all the support over Christmas was really appreciated.

"It is so frustrating to be almost exactly where we were a year ago, but
we have to keep fighting."

(source: Edinburgh News)






NORTH CAROLINA:

New facts at heart of appeal


Perrie Dyon Simpson's attorneys on Monday filed a 2nd motion for
appropriate relief with the North Carolina Superior Court, claiming two
new mitigating circumstances as potential grounds for a new sentencing
hearing. The motion includes a sworn affidavit by a juror who served
during Simpson's 1993 sentencing who claims that the judge in that trial
entered the jury room during deliberation and told the jurors Simpson
"would be out on the street in one to five years" if they recommended life
imprisonment.

Simpson's defense contends that this statement, delivered outside the
presence of Simpson or his lawyers, unfairly persuaded jurors to recommend
the death penalty.

Simpson's attorneys also point to their client's right frontal lobe
syndrome, a brain disorder they say impacts Simpson's impulse control.
Joseph Gram, an attorney with Simpson's defense team, noted that treatment
for this condition is entirely possible.

"With appropriate structure, that condition can be addressed," said Gram.
The defense says evidence of this condition was noted in early psychiatric
evaluations of their client, and that its existence was unfairly withheld
from jurors who might have considered it as a factor when recommending his
sentence.

The motion came on the eve of today's clemency hearing before Gov. Mike
Easley. Also on that day, Stephanie Eury, Simpson's co-defendant in the
1984 murder, sat for an interview with The Reidsville Review at the
Southern Correctional Institute in Troy, N.C., where she is presently
serving a life sentence. Throughout the interview, she spoke candidly of
her role in the slaying of the Rev. Jean Darter at his Courtland Avenue
home. She also spoke of her relationship with Simpson, whose execution
will be carried out Jan. 20 unless he receives clemency from the governor
or relief from the Superior Court.

Eury repeatedly expressed remorse for the murder and her part in it, but
she maintained her stance that she was an unwilling participant.

"Of course I regret it," she says. "That crime is going to be with me for
the rest of my life."

The 37-year-old woman, who has been classified as developmentally
disabled, was 16 when she entered prison. Eury, who was 8 months pregnant
at the time of the murder, has so far served more than 20 years of her
life sentence. She became eligible for parole in 2004, but has twice been
denied because, she says, the parole board believes she is still a threat
to society. Her next hearing will be on or about July 19, according to the
state Parole Commission.

After Eury was arrested in late 1984, her attorneys successfully
petitioned for a change of venue, and her trial was relocated to Stokes
County.

She pled not guilty, claiming that she was not an active participant in
Darter's murder. In the end, the jury rejected her assertion, finding her
culpable and sentencing her to life in prison shortly after her 17th
birthday. Given the number of years she has spent in custody, she refutes
the idea that she still poses a danger.

"I'm not going to sit up here and say I shouldn't be here. I should be in
prison to a certain extent," Eury says, adding: "I feel like I've been
punished enough for my role."

For Eury, the jury's sentence was the culmination of a long, disastrous
relationship with her co-defendant. Her recollection of how she met Perrie
Simpson is hazy ? the intervening years have obscured the finer points of
their time together, but their lives contained some notable similarities:
like Simpson, Eury moved frequently in her childhood, attending several
different schools and churches in Guilford and Rockingham counties. A
habitual runaway who divided her time between her father's home in
Greensboro and her mother's home in Reidsville, Eury says she met Simpson
at a homeless shelter when she was 12 or 13, and continually ran off to be
with him. To her, these were the actions of an irrational teenager.

"I was 'in love'," she says, gesturing quotations around the last 2 words
with her fingers. She says she sincerely believed she loved Simpson at the
time, and her complicity in the Aug. 27, 1984 murder came as a direct
result.

She remembers Darter as a nice man who opened his door to the young
couple, offering them food and what little cash he had. Indeed, part of
what convinced juries for both Simpson and Eury to impart such severe
sentences was the fact that on the night before the murder, the minister
had invited the 2 into his home and sent them away with a bag of food and
the $4 in his possession. This initial kindness, they felt, made the
ensuing crime all the more senseless.

Simpson, in his signed confession, included an exchange with Eury after
the pair's first meeting with Rev. Darter, implying that both of them
demonstrated forethought in planning the murder.

"Stephanie said she knew that old preacher had some more money and that we
should go back one night and see," Simpson told investigators at the time
of his arrest. His account of their conversation immediately before they
committed the murder was similarly damning.

"Stephanie said we were going [to Darter's house] for one reason and one
reason only, which was to take money from the preacher, and I agreed.
Stephanie said if we go in there and rob the man, we can't let him live,
and I said that's the truth," Simpson said.

Simpson's past defense teams have, over time, seized on this exchange to
paint Eury as the de facto architect of the crime. In their petition for
clemency submitted last week, Simpson's lawyers insinuate that Eury held
sway over their client and, at least to an extent, steered his actions.

"[Simpson's] desperation and emotional deprivation left him susceptible to
the influence of people like Stephanie Eury and the possibility of
criminal conduct," they write.

Eury scoffs at the suggestion that she wielded such considerable influence
over Simpson.

"I was 16 years old," she says emphatically, "I didn't have no control
over no one at 16 years old." Further, she disputes the idea she conspired
to murder Darter, saying that while she and Simpson fully intended to rob
him, she had no idea he would go so far as to murder the 92-year-old. Her
role, she claims, was that of an observer, her crime one of concealment.

"I was going to go to the police," Eury says, adding that her reason for
staying quiet was simple: "I was afraid for me and my baby," she says.
Thinking that her silence was protective, she says she told no one of the
murder until she was arrested.

Gram pointed to Eury's upcoming parole hearing to explain why she might
attempt to minimize her role in the murder.

If Eury's account is to be believed, it's undeniable that her strategy of
silence ultimately failed: she gave birth to her son about a month before
entering prison, and while she has seen him since her incarceration began,
she says she's had no contact with him recently. The boy, who was adopted
by members of the Eury family, just turned 21.

Eury freely expresses remorse for what she sees as her part in the crime.
Even by Simpson's own account, Eury did comparatively little in the way of
direct bodily harm to Darter. Though she denies being an active
participant at all, she says she has no anger toward Simpson.

"I'm not a cold-blooded person. I'm not mad at nobody. I don't have no
hate in my heart right now," she says. She said she believes both she and
Simpson deserve punishment, but in her opinion, the time she has already
served is sufficient.

"I feel like I've been punished enough for my role," she says. She's
equally adamant that Simpson does not deserve to die.

"It ain't nobody's place to take nobody's life," she says quietly. Eury
also reflected on what she might say to the victim's family, given the
opportunity.

"I just hate that the crime happened," she says. "If I could change what
happened, I would."

At the time of her interview, she said she didn't remember the last time
she spoke with or saw Simpson, and she doesn't remember the last thing he
said to her. Her unit manager confirmed Monday afternoon that Eury spoke
with Simpson briefly via telephone after she spoke with The Reidsville
Review, though he could not divulge the contents of their conversation.
The two were forbidden from speaking about the crime itself, but this
parameter likely did not hinder the one message Eury told The Reidsville
Review she wants to send the father of her child.

"I just want him to ask God to forgive him for what he done," Eury said.

(source: Reidsville Review)

****************

Sharpsburg Police Remove Photo Of Man Convicted In Chief's Death


Amid concerns of racism, police have removed a photo from their station of
the black man convicted in the 1997 slaying of the town's white police
chief.

Sheila Williams, mayor of the town of about 2,500, asked police last week
to remove the photo of Abner Nicholson, 40, from the wall where it has
hung for 8 years. He is on death row for the slayings of Chief Wayne
Hathaway and Nicholson's wife.

The photo had been displayed with the phrases "Don't Never Forget This
Face" and "Dead Man Walking."

Williams did not return calls seeking comment. Town Commissioner Cheryl
Walker-O'neal said the photograph and text were inappropriate because it
could make visitors to the police department uncomfortable.

"I'm quite sure that some people will look at it as a racial slur,"
Walker-O'neal said.

Commissioner Bill Sharpe agreed that the photo served no public purpose.

"He's already been tried and convicted," Sharpe said. "If it's a wanted
poster, put it on the wall. But the man's not wanted."

Police declined comment on the issue and directed questions to interim
town administrator Victor Marrow, who also declined comment.

Hathaway's sister, Monica Worsham, said the photo served as a daily
reminder to police officers of her brother and his killer.

"The only reason they had it up there is that he killed the chief of
police. What's wrong with that?" Worsham said. "I could walk in there and
feel like nobody forgot my brother."

(source: The Associated Press)






CALIFORNIA:

Moratorium on Executions Is Urged----Author of state's death penalty
initiative and other prosecutors send a letter to the Assembly backing a
bill seeking a 2-year suspension.


A group of current and former prosecutors - including the author of the
state's 1978 death penalty initiative and Ira Reiner, whose office sent
dozens of people to death row when he was Los Angeles County's district
attorney - endorsed a moratorium Monday on executions in California.

The group sent a letter to members of the state Assembly on the eve of the
1st hearing on a bill that would place executions on hold for 2 years
while the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice
examines the problem of wrongful convictions in the state.

The 13-member commission was created by an act of the Legislature last
year, and includes proponents and opponents of the death penalty.

"The execution of an innocent person is unacceptable, and it is imperative
that California takes every precaution that it never happens," the letter
states. "This is not just a matter of justice for these individuals. It is
a matter of public safety." If an innocent person is convicted, that means
that the true perpetrator may well still be free to commit more crimes."

In addition to Reiner, who served as Los Angeles County district attorney
from 1984 to 1992, signers of the letter included Sacramento attorney
Donald Heller, author of the 1978 Briggs initiative that created the
state's death penalty statute; Jon Willis, a deputy district attorney in
Imperial County; Michael Hennessy, the sheriff of San Francisco County;
and former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin.

Some of the signatories oppose the death penalty, and some favor it as a
philosophical matter but have developed concerns in recent years because
of revelations that individuals slated for execution were wrongfully
convicted, the letter states.

"We agree that a temporary suspension of executions in California is
necessary while we ensure, as much as is possible, that the administration
of criminal justice in this state is just, fair and accurate," the letter
states.

In New Jersey on Monday, lawmakers approved a suspension of executions,
becoming the 1st state legislature in the country to do so since the death
penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

Heller, in an interview, said his opposition to the death penalty, from
both a "practical and moral perspective," had developed in the years after
he left the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento.

He acknowledged that "the California death penalty law had met
constitutional muster". I think it was written to provide a fair method.
In practice it has not worked out that way."

"There are too many variables law can't control," Heller said. Prime among
them, he said, is the quality of representation a defendant receives in a
capital case. Heller said that since being in private practice, he has
observed "a lot of marginal and submarginal lawyers."

In contrast, Reiner said in an interview Monday that he still favored the
death penalty as a philosophical matter, and is scheduled to debate actor
Mike Farrell, a longtime death penalty foe, later this week.

But Reiner quickly added: "I don't see any appropriate argument against a
brief moratorium on executions while the death penalty process in
California is examined very carefully by serious people."

"If the state is going to have the moral authority to take a life," he
said, "it has to be done when there are no questions about the fairness of
the trial."

Proponents of the moratorium said that California has released at least 6
men who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death during the last
25 years.

David LaBahn, executive director of the California District Attorneys
Assn., said his organization is opposed to the moratorium bill, sponsored
by Assemblywoman Sally J. Lieber (D-Mountain View) and Assemblyman Paul
Koretz (D-West Hollywood).

"We are not persuaded that the capital punishment system in California
needs reform," LaBahn said.

He also said the organization believes there is "no need" for a moratorium
in the state and that 2 prosecutors - George Williamson of the Solano
County district attorney's office and Dane Gillette, chief of the
California attorney general's office - plan to testify against the bill
today in Sacramento.

California has the nation's largest death row, now numbering 646
residents. However, since the 1978 law ushered in the modern death penalty
era, only 12 people have been executed. The gap between the time they were
sentenced and put to death averaged 15.9 years, LaBahn said. He added that
the cases are reviewed very thoroughly by courts in California.

Clarence Ray Allen, 75, who arranged a triple slaying in 1980 while in
prison for another murder, is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday, and
it is anticipated that a judge soon will set a date for the execution of
46-year-old Michael Morales, who raped and killed a 17-year-old girl in
1981.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

**************

Ca. case has local lawyers locked up


THE CASE

A grand jury indictment accuses 40 people of 50 criminal acts, including a
1999 prison killing in Marion, Ill., and several other murders or
attempted murders.

THE ATTORNEYS

Some of the region's top defense lawyers represented the three accused in
Marion, including one now suspected of being a top gun in the Aryan
Brotherhood.

In October 2002, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned what some
authorities called the most massive criminal indictment in U.S. history.
It claims a gang called the Aryan Brotherhood operated a prison-based
criminal enterprise for more than 25 years.

The 110 pages of charges accuse 40 people of more than 50 overt criminal
acts, including 32 murders or attempted murders dating to 1979.

As a byproduct, the case has disrupted the professional and personal lives
of several of the St. Louis region's top criminal defense attorneys, who
became increasingly absorbed by what seemed at the start to be a simple
prison murder case.

They spent 7 months in 2003 and 2004 representing 3 men in a federal trial
85 miles away in Benton, Ill.

Some of them may be spending a substantial amount of time away from home
again this year - or even 2007 - defending the same defendants in a
retrial almost 2,000 miles away, in California.

The 5 lawyers include 3 from Missouri, Burton Shostak and Richard Sindel,
who practice in Clayton, and Joseph Green, based in St. Louis; and 2 from
Illinois, Dan Schattnik of Rosewood Heights, near Wood River, and John
O'Gara of Belleville.

In recent interviews, they discussed their views of the case, what they
learned about life behind bars and what the protracted work has done to
their own lives.

The defenders

It began as a simple weapons possession case against a prisoner at the
federal supermaximum-security prison at Marion, Ill., explained Shostak, a
dean of the St. Louis criminal defense bar.

A federal public defender, citing a conflict, asked Shostak in 1999 to
represent David Sahakian, accused of hiding a homemade knife in his
rectum.

It became far more complex when the Los Angeles indictment identified
Sahakian as one of the Aryan Brotherhood's national top guns. It said that
before Marion, Sahakian and another inmate controlled narcotics
trafficking at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. Later,
Sahakian supposedly ran day-to-day gang operations at Marion.

Sahakian, now 49, faces the possibility of a death sentence on murder and
conspiracy charges. He is accused of ordering 2 other white inmates,
Richard McIntosh and Carl Knorr Jr., to kill a black inmate, Terry Walker,
in May 1999 in a race war at the prison.

Shostak, a longtime member of Missouri's Public Defender Commission, has
represented a number of high profile, white-collar defendants, including
Tom Zych, former president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, in a
well-publicized scandal over St. Louis cable television. Lawyers from all
over the country represented other defendants; Shostak won the only jury
acquittal.

Shostak enlisted Green, who has specialized in complicated criminal cases
as an assistant public defender and later in private practice.

Green said he has tried 24 death penalty cases in Missouri and Illinois
and has disposed of 25 others through pleas or dismissals. Among his
famous clients were Matt Funke, accused killer of a teenage girl in
Breckenridge Hills, and St. Louis County courthouse shooter Ken Baumruk.

Over more than two decades, Sindel has represented a range of clients,
from mobsters to Ellen Reasonover, who won release from prison after 16
years of protesting her innocence of murder.

Sindel became Knorr's lawyer in 1999, also at the request of a federal
public defender. He brought in Schattnik, who specialized in criminal and
insurance defense after working as an assistant prosecutor for seven years
in Madison County. Schattnik currently represents James Miller, accused of
the murders of 2 people outside an Alton nightclub in a death penalty
case.

Schattnik worked in the past with O'Gara, who with co-counsel Charles
Rogers of Kansas City had represented McIntosh in the Benton trial. O'Gara
has represented a wide range of defendants in the Metro East area, from
political figures such as East St. Louis' Kelvin Ellis, recently convicted
of vote fraud and tax evasion, to serial killers. O'Gara recently won an
acquittal for James Wiley, accused of murdering his wife in Waterloo.

O'Gara lectures on the death penalty. Like Shostak and Sindel, O'Gara was
in the Benton case early, hired to represent McIntosh within months of
Walker's murder and unaware then that the government would place his
client in the middle of a race war conspiracy 3 years later.

O'Gara has decided, he said, that 7 months in trial in Benton and away
from his family was enough. For family reasons, he has bowed out of
McIntosh's defense in California.

The Brotherhood

In 2004, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner told the New Yorker
magazine that the Aryan Brotherhood "may be the most murderous criminal
organization in the United States."

In the charges, an FBI agent suggests that while the Brotherhood accounted
for no more than 1 % of the federal prison population, it was responsible
for 25 % of the violence.

Founded in 1964 by bikers and neo-Nazis in California's San Quentin
prison, the Brotherhood was said to be a white response to the Black
Guerrilla Family, an African-American gang.

The price of admission to the Brotherhood, authorities allege, is to kill
someone; the only way out is death.

Members are known for body tattoos such as the letters AB, or the numbers
666 - a biblical reference to evil - or a green shamrock.

The Brotherhood has controlled drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling
and extortion within prison walls and extended its influence beyond,
according to the government's claims.

"The AB enforces its rules by, among other tactics, murdering or
assaulting those who are considered to be a threat to the organization,
including those who act as informants for law enforcement officials,"
wrote Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Debra Wong
Yang, in a statement accompanying the indictment.

The charges say the ring and its leaders were guilty of violations of the
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, multiple murders and
multiple conspiracies. Officials served 80 search warrants, most in prison
cells in 12 states.

Part of the roundup included Sahakian, Knorr and McIntosh, at Marion.

The Marion prison

The U.S. penitentiary at Marion opened in 1963 about the same time that
the infamous Alcatraz prison was closing. Until late 1994, when a new
supermax opened in Colorado, Marion became home to the federal system's
biggest challenges - drug lords, mob bosses such as the late John Gotti,
murderers, bank robbers, even the spy Jonathan Pollard.

On just one day in 1983, two inmates, both said to be in the Brotherhood,
fatally stabbed two guards. A few days later, Marion went on lockdown,
with the inmates confined to their cells 23 hours a day. In subsequent
years, more than two-dozen inmates were murdered there, but no more
guards. One of the later victims was Terry Walker, 37, a bank robber from
Atlanta, stabbed on May 19, 1999.

Sahakian, Knorr and McIntosh were the 1st of the 40 defendants from the
Los Angeles indictment to go to trial. It began in a heavily secured court
in the rural community of Benton on Sept. 8, 2003, and continued for 7
months.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Carr alleged that Sahakian ordered
Walker's death as part of a race war, and that Knorr and McIntosh
complied. Jurors heard about 80 witnesses.

Fact or fiction?

All 5 defense attorneys insisted that the grandiose conspiracy was more
fiction than fact.

Shostak argued that it would be physically impossible for 54 so-called AB
leaders, scattered at different locations, to control mayhem in the
federal and California penal systems. He said the Brotherhood was no
different from other prison gangs.

"The trial was a question of culture versus conspiracy," Green said.
"These are inmates trying to live one day at a time, trying to survive.
They have a strong moral code among themselves when those grills are
closed. They have rules and codes by which they live."

That way of life wasn't lost on Sindel, who said he learned "a simple
thing: understanding how integrity and morality can shift depending on the
society you are forced to live in. The moral code from a prison
perspective is as important and related to the way they live than any
moral code on the outside."

Sindel, Schattnik and O'Gara said it was Walker who attacked Knorr and
McIntosh, who killed him in self-defense. There were no links, the lawyers
argued, to any hit list by Sahakian or the Brotherhood.

O'Gara said McIntosh was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and joked that
McIntosh considered the Brotherhood too liberal. One of the government
informers testified that the head of the El Rukins, a black gang with
roots in Chicago, provided McIntosh with the murder weapon. That made no
sense either to the defense lawyers or the jury, O'Gara said.

Sindel said Knorr, a bank robber, "never was and never wanted to be a
member of the Brotherhood." He had no tattoos, the lawyer said, but did
have a strong relationship with his wife and an independent streak - and
he had turned down overtures from the gang to join.

On March 2, 2004, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert declared a mistrial
in Benton after jurors failed after two weeks of deliberations to reach
verdicts on any charge but one - they convicted Sahakian of weapon
possession for the knife that guards found on him.

All over again

The mistrial means the defendants will be tried again. Mrozek, of the Los
Angeles federal prosecutor's office, said recently that 20 of the original
40 defendants have pleaded guilty. The remainder have been divided into
several groups for trials, with one tentatively set for this month in
Santa Ana, Calif.

Schattnik says he expects that the four St. Louis-area defense lawyers
still involved will be in the Los Angeles area late this month to waive an
arraignment for the trio they represent. That would open the way for the
Justice Department to begin the process again to seek the death penalty
against Sahakian, Knorr and McIntosh. Schattnik said the trial probably
won't start until late this year or early next year.

Schattnik recalled the Benton trial as personally difficult. "Seven months
was way too long and rough on the family," said the lawyer, whose daughter
was then in the 6th grade. He had been a soccer coach and a volleyball
coach, but "that was the year I missed pretty much the whole year."

The lawyers would go to Benton on Sunday and return home on Thursday night
- every week of the trial, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At the Thanksgiving break, Green said, his children, then 7 and 8, asked
him: "Daddy, are we from a broken home?"

Sindel said the months away from Clayton were difficult on his family and
he had to let his law practice slide.

"I was really worried about it, living in a motel room, away from family,
losing new clients," he said. "But you know what, I got to do exactly what
I was trained to do. I got to do what I got into this business for. I got
to be a lawyer."

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)





*************

Stop Clarence Ray Allen's Execution


The sun will rise at 7:23 AM on Tuesday, January 17, 2006 in San Quentin,
California. But Clarence Ray Allen won't see it. He'll be dead, dispatched
at midnight by an executioner on behalf of the good people of California.
But then, he would not have seen the sunrise anyway; he's blind.

He will be given a chance to utter his last words but there likely will be
none. Hes deaf, too. And he will probably roll, not walk, his "last mile"
- not on a gurney but in his wheelchair. He is too feeble to walk.

This assumes that Ray Allen stays alive until January 17th. He turns 76 on
January 16th. A heart attack last September nearly cheated the hangman but
Allen was resuscitated by the medical staff. (What a lucky guy!) If he
does survive until January 17th, Ray Allen will become the oldest inmate
executed in the United States in 50 years.

If ever there were a case that reduces capital punishment to its essence,
this is it. Ray Allen lost his liberty and his future 32 years ago. We
cant deprive him of his ability to communicate; his sight and hearing are
gone. We can't take his mobility, thats gone too. Good health? Gone, swept
away by diabetes and hypertension.

What's left of Ray Allen for the state to take? Only his innermost
thoughts and whats left of his drug-mediated metabolism. Taking those will
only be the coup de grce to a life that will end soon enough on its own.

Death penalty supporters cite the usual reasons why Ray Allen should be
executed even now. We need to carry out the will of God, show respect for
the rule of law, obtain justice for the victims, provide support for the
survivors, deter future criminals, and eliminate the cost of keeping the
man alive, among others. One group even advances the outrageous theory
that his execution will be good for the environment (no, I cant imagine
how either).

None of those arguments changes the facts surrounding this execution. Ray
Allen is a threat to no one. He is close to the end of his life anyway.
His execution will deter no one; it will save no money. Survivors of his 4
victims (one in 1974 and three in 1982) will get along as they have gotten
along for decades. The victims are still dead and call to no one from
their graves for retribution. Justice, if that's what Ray Allen's
execution might have been, has been so long delayed that it's already been
denied.

What do you call an execution that advances no cause, makes no point,
supports no theory, satisfies no moral imperative, saves no money, fills
no hearts with peace, and deters no crime? I call it a gratuitous killing,
nothing more. It is murder carried out in the people's name. I always
thought we were a decent and compassionate people. But killing Ray Allen
is not decent and compassionate; its not even humane. It's vengeful,
barbarous and sadistic. As a society, we should hang our heads in shame.

Clarence Ray Allen is blind. If we allow his execution to proceed, so are
we.

(source: OpEdNews - Rick Wise is managing director, ValueNet
International, inc., Hartford, CT.)

*************

Calif. inmate says he's too old, ill to die


Less than a month after the uproar over gang leader Stanley "Tookie"
Williams' clemency bid and execution, California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger has another mercy plea on his desk.

Though both involve multiple killers, Clarence Allen's case bears little
resemblance to Williams'.

Allen, scheduled to die next Tuesday by lethal injection at San Quentin
State Prison, makes no claim of redemption through good works, as Crips
gang co-founder Williams did. Allen has no stable of celebrity supporters
or Nobel Peace Prize nominations on his resume, no plaudits for a crusade
to steer children away from gang violence, as Williams did.

Allen's argument is more basic: He says he's too old and too sick to be
put to death. More than 2 decades on death row, marked by what his
clemency petition calls San Quentin's "chronically deficient health care
system," is punishment enough, he says.

The 75-year-old Allen, involved in the murders of 4 people, is diabetic,
legally blind and confined to a wheelchair outside his cell. He has had 2
heart attacks and a stroke and is too weak to grant interviews, one of his
lawyers says.

"He's been reduced to an incapacitated old man, near death already," says
Michael Satris, Allen's chief appeals lawyer. "To put him to death on top
of that is beyond the borders of civilized behavior."

Allen's clemency petition also claims that he didn't get a fair trial in
1982 because testimony from witnesses with criminal records was
unreliable. State and federal appeals courts have rejected those
arguments.

No age limit on executions

Allen would be the 2nd-oldest inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court
lifted its capital punishment ban in 1976, according to the National
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The oldest was John Nixon, who was
77 when he died by lethal injection on Dec. 14 for a 1985 Mississippi
murder.

The Supreme Court has restricted applying the death penalty if condemned
inmates are mentally ill at the time of execution or were under 18 when
they committed their crimes. Under a 1986 ruling, for example, if an
elderly death row inmate were incapacitated because of Alzheimer's
disease, execution would violate the Constitution's Eighth Amendment
prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. But the justices have made no
such stipulation regarding old age.

"It's totally related to mental status," says Elisabeth Semel, director of
the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California-Berkeley law
school. "Age alone hasn't been raised as a legal issue."

The Supreme Court has found capital punishment acceptable under the Eighth
Amendment on two grounds: retribution or deterrence. Allen's lawyers argue
that neither purpose would be served because he's so ill - physically and
mentally. "He's been fully punished and deterred by the 23 years he's
spent on death row facing execution," Satris says.

A former San Quentin warden, Daniel Vasquez, says Allen poses no threat.
"He has tended toward passive acceptance and reconciliation rather than
active rebellion and conflict," Vasquez says in the petition.

Says he didn't get medications

When James Hubbard faced execution in Alabama, his lawyers raised some of
the same issues now before Schwarzenegger. Hubbard was 74 and had cancer
and emphysema. He had been on death row 27 years, and in August 2004
became the oldest inmate put to death in the USA since 1941.

Because of the slow pace of capital punishment appeals, death row inmates
in many states are more likely to die from illness or suicide than
execution.

Only 12 killers have been executed since California reinstated the death
penalty in 1977, but 48 others died before appeals ran their course.

31 died from what the state Department of Corrections calls "natural
causes." Suicide claimed 12, and "other" causes such as drug overdoses
claimed 5.

Allen's is the 4th clemency petition before Schwarzenegger since he took
office in November 2003. He had denied 3, including the one from Williams
in December. "I don't think Schwarzenegger has created reason for
optimism" in Allen's case, Semel says. "On the other hand, it's not over
until it's over."

Allen was convicted in the 1974 murder of a 17-year-old robbery accomplice
who had snitched on him. While in prison, he ordered the murders of 3
witnesses who had testified against him. He was sentenced to death in 1982
for those killings.

"The fact that Allen has been able to live his life after depriving so
many innocent people of theirs is no reason to show him mercy," says the
state attorney general's petition opposing clemency.

The California Supreme Court is also weighing Allen's claim that execution
would be cruel. A ruling could come this week. Schwarzenegger announced
last week that he would decide clemency without holding a private hearing
in Sacramento, as he did in Williams' case.

Allen's petition says that at different times, San Quentin denied him his
medication for heart disease and diabetes. "The kindest slant you can put
on it was it was your typical bureaucratic inadvertence," Satris says.
"But who knows." Several calls to San Quentin seeking response to Allen's
claims weren't returned.

The quality of health care in California's 165,000-inmate prison system is
under federal court scrutiny. Last month, a judge ordered Schwarzenegger
to take immediate steps to resolve problems that result in the death of an
average of one inmate a month.

Allen's execution would be the 3rd in California in less than a year. That
pace could accelerate in the state with the nation's biggest death row
population - about 650 - even while a blue-ribbon panel studies the
fairness of the death penalty and a state Assemblybill calls for a
moratorium. A 2001 Field Poll found that 73% of Californians favor a
moratorium, even though about two-thirds support the death penalty.

4 other killers could be executed this year, according to the state
attorney general's office.

(source: USA TODAY)

****************

Bill to delay executions faces 1st hurdle today----Assembly committee will
consider bid for 3-year moratorium


As California braces for its second execution in less than 2 months, a
legislative committee today will consider a bill to place a 3-year
moratorium on the death penalty.

The fate of Assembly Bill 1121 will not be decided soon enough to affect
Clarence Ray Allen, 75, the mastermind of a triple murder who is scheduled
to die Jan. 17, but the bill potentially could affect dozens of other
death row inmates.

AB 1121's proposed moratorium comes at a time of substantial public debate
over the death penalty, prompted in part by last month's execution of
Stanley Tookie Williams, 51, a quadruple murderer and founder of the Crips
street gang who later urged abandonment of gang violence.

Assembly Democrats Paul Koretz of West Hollywood and Sally Lieber of
Mountain View are joint authors of the measure, which faces its 1st
legislative hurdle today before the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Koretz and Lieber said a three-year moratorium would provide time for the
state to study whether the death penalty is being implemented fairly and
whether additional safeguards are needed.

A newly created panel, the California Commission on the Fair
Administration of Justice, is charged with completing such a study and
making recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2007.

San Quentin's death row currently contains nearly 650 convicted criminals,
including more than 20 who are in the final stages of appeal before an
execution date is set.

"With the flurry of executions facing us, there's a chance that we could
possibly execute an innocent person," Koretz said. "It only makes common
sense that if you're studying things that go wrong with the death penalty,
you don't keep executing people while you're doing that study."

But opponents of AB 1121 claim it represents a 1st step toward banning the
death penalty.

"This is nothing more than trying to pull the rug out from underneath the
justice system," said Assemblyman Jay La Suer, R-La Mesa.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, ripped AB 1121 as the "be kind to cop
killers act."

Marc Klaas, a crime-victims advocate whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly,
was kidnapped and murdered in 1993, blasted AB 1121 as an affront to
families devastated by violent crime.

"Myself and hundreds of other individuals who are waiting for justice to
be carried out will be sorely disappointed and again victimized by a
system that seems to pay more attention to those who commit crimes than
those who suffer from crimes," Klaas said.

Supporters of AB 1121 counter that the criminal justice system sometimes
convicts the wrong person.

More than 120 people have been released from death rows nationwide since
1973, according to an analysis of AB 1121 by the Assembly Public Safety
Committee.

Six convicts have been released from California's death row since 1981
after substantive questions emerged about their convictions and charges
later were dropped or they were acquitted in retrial, according to Koretz.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, opposes AB 1121.

"No innocent person in this state has ever come close to being executed,"
said Nathan Barankin, Lockyer's spokesman.

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully said numerous checks and
balances - from prosecutorial charging decisions to jury findings and
lengthy appeals - are built into the criminal justice system to protect
defendants' rights.

Since 1992, 12 California death row inmates have been executed in this
state, and 1 in Missouri. Their average stay on death row was 17 years,
state records show.

"We already have a de facto moratorium in California - and it's a heckuva
lot longer than 3 years," Scully said of multiple appeals. "In some cases,
it takes a lifetime."

Lieber said the new death penalty commission should look at things like
the disproportionate number of African Americans on death row, 35 percent,
and whether laws governing special circumstances in capital cases are
applied fairly.

"Let's make sure that people are getting executed because of the crime,
not because of who the victim was or where the crime was committed," said
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who chairs the Public Safety
Committee.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez have taken no
position on AB 1121. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata said he supports
it but does not expect it to pass the Legislature in this election year.

(source: Sacramento Bee)









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