[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TENN., N.H., N.C., N.J., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 11 10:17:52 CST 2006
High court to hear Tennessee death case
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled today to hear arguments in House v.
Bell, a Tennessee death penalty case.
Death row inmate Paul Gregory House claims that new evidence proves he was
wrongly convicted for the murder of Carolyn Muncey in 1985 in Union
Munceys beaten body was found close to her house. It was determined she
died from a blow to her head. Two witnesses said they saw House appear
from the area where Muncey had been found, and that he was wiping his
hands with a dark rag.
Statements from several people and House himself of his whereabouts during
the crime were conflicting. The FBI found blood on his jeans they
determined as coming from the victim and semen on her clothes that they
said likely came from House.
However, during the federal habeas corpus proceedings before the Sixth
Circuit Court, House established that DNA from semen found on Munceys
clothes did not belong to House but to Hubert Muncey, Jr., the victims
husband. New evidence also raised doubts about the blood on Houses jeans.
When presented with the new information, 8 judges of the Sixth Circuit
Court determined the evidence was not enough to grant a new trial with 6
judges concluding that the evidence proved House was innocent and 1 judge
saying the evidence at least called for a new trial.
In the examination of the Tennessee case, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely
to establish how much evidence a convict must bring forth to establish his
or her innocence so that a court can review past claims.
(source: Nashville City Paper)
Proposals to expand and end death penalty compete in Legislature
In Concord, the (New Hampshire) Legislature has competing death penalty
bills on its plate this year -- one to expand, the other to replace it
with a life sentence.
Renny Cushing, a former lawmaker from Hampton, today urged the House
Criminal Justice Committee to eliminate the death penalty in favor of life
in prison. Cushing, whose father was murdered, said capital punishment
would do nothing to help his family's pain
Cushing brought a man who'd been on death row in Arizona and was
exonerated after ten years by D-N-A evidence and several speakers
emphasized the fallibility of the criminal justice system even when people
have the best of intentions.
But Berlin police Chief Peter Morency said eliminating the death penalty
would dishonor police and victims.
New Hampshire's death penalty has not been applied since 1939. It can be
invoked only where a law enforcement officer, judge or prosecutor is
murdered, when kidnapping or rape is involved or in a case of murder for
hire and some drug crimes.
Another bill would expand the death penalty to all cases where a person is
charged with knowingly causing the death of another.
(source: WCAX TV News)
NORTH CAROLINA----impending execution
Easley hears clemency debate----Inmate's lawyers, victim's kin offer input
In Raleigh, an inmate scheduled to be executed next week for the 1984
slaying of a retired, 92-year-old minister deserves to die for his crime,
despite defense claims that he suffers from brain damage and a chaotic
childhood in foster care, the victim's grandson said Tuesday.
Lawyers for Perrie Dyon Simpson, 43, met with Gov. Mike Easley on Tuesday
to request clemency for their client. They also have filed a petition in
Rockingham County Superior Court seeking to overturn the death sentence.
Simpson is scheduled to die Jan. 20 by lethal injection at Central Prison
in Raleigh. He was convicted of killing retired Baptist preacher Jean
Darter's grandson Curtis Faircloth of Savannah, Ga., met with Easley's
lawyer Tuesday and said afterward that even his grandfather would support
Darter died Aug. 27, 1984, after being beaten in the face with a glass
soda bottle at his home in Reidsville. He was tied to his bed, his
forearms cut repeatedly with a blade from his own razor and belts wrapped
around his neck.
Simpson, then 21, and his then-16-year-old girlfriend, Stephanie Eury, had
received food from Darter the previous day, prosecutors say, and went back
to get money.
Eury also was convicted of murder and is serving a life prison sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
Serial Killer, Angry at Sentencing Delay, Stops Cooperating
The New Jersey nurse who confessed to killing 29 people and has spent
nearly 2 years cooperating with investigators decided abruptly on Tuesday
that he would no longer help them.
The nurse, Charles Cullen, 45, was so upset about his sentencing being
canceled last week that he is pulling out of a carefully constructed plea
deal in which he had agreed to help identify his victims in exchange for
not facing the death penalty, his lawyer, Johnnie Mask, said.
The authorities said that his refusal to cooperate could mean that
prosecutors will seek the death penalty. It could also mean that many
mysterious hospital deaths will not be resolved, leaving family members to
forever wonder if their loved ones died naturally or were murdered.
Mr. Cullen has told the authorities he killed up to 40 people, many of
them old and ailing patients whom he injected with lethal doses of heart
drugs. But he did not remember all their names. So investigators have been
struggling to identify them and, until Tuesday, were working closely with
Mr. Cullen, sifting through mountains of medical records in the effort to
jog his memory to determine exactly whom he killed.
The cooperation may now be coming to an end because of a kidney. In a
strange concession to coax Mr. Cullen to come to his own sentencing and
face dozens of grieving family members, New Jersey authorities agreed in
December to allow him to donate a kidney to an ailing friend, as long as
the operation was performed after his sentencing. But last week the
authorities delayed the sentencing indefinitely, saying they needed more
time to investigate hospital deaths in Morris and Essex Counties that Mr.
Cullen may have caused. Mr. Cullen lost his patience, his lawyer said, and
decided he would no longer help investigators.
"The deal is off," Mr. Mask said. "He's done. No more cooperation.
"Now it's on the prosecutors' shoulders whether somebody else dies," Mr.
Mask added, referring to the man who is waiting for a kidney donation.
Peter C. Harvey, New Jersey's attorney general, called that notion
"ridiculous" and said it was not the prosecutors' role to find a new
kidney for Mr. Cullen's friend.
"Our job is to protect the victims," Mr. Harvey said.
He also said, "It's strange that all of a sudden this guy has become a
humanitarian after killing 22 people in New Jersey."
Paula T. Dow, the prosecutor for Essex County, where Mr. Cullen has
admitted to killing several people, said Mr. Cullen's refusal to cooperate
was "a clear breach of the plea agreement" and that "it now exposes him"
to being brought back to court to face trial and possibly the death
But the reality of his ever being executed, at least in New Jersey, is
slim because the state has not put anyone to death since 1963, and this
week the Legislature passed a temporary moratorium on capital punishment.
However, Mr. Cullen has admitted to seven murders in Pennsylvania, which
does have the death penalty.
The authorities said on Tuesday that they were not sure if Mr. Cullen's
action was a ploy to speed up donation of the kidney, or if he truly
intended not to cooperate ever again. They added that they were unsure of
what they would do next.
The development was the latest twist in a long case that began in 1987 at
St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. Mr. Cullen had a history
of mental illness and suicidal behavior and gravitated to the night shift,
where he was known among colleagues as solitary and strange, with a cold
In 1993 he was accused of killing a 91-year-old woman with a single
injection of digoxin, a powerful heart drug that became his weapon of
choice. But somehow he slipped through the cracks of the medical system
and went on to work at 10 places in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania
before he was arrested in 2003.
In 2004, he struck a deal with the authorities in both states to plead
guilty and cooperate in exchange for at least 2 consecutive life terms,
which in New Jersey meant he would not be eligible for parole for 126
years. But in December, as sentencing approached, problems arose, partly
because of a little-known procedural rule that allows a defendant to skip
his sentencing. Mr. Cullen said he might do that and deny his victims'
families a chance to confront him.
Now it is not clear what will happen, with some prosecutors saying Mr.
Cullen will be dragged into court, no matter what, while others are not so
(source: New York Times)
Death-penalty moratorium is a right step
The 1st members of California's Assembly approved a 2-year moratorium on
California's death penalty Tuesday - a decision that should be applauded
for its effort to seek true justice.
The bill, AB 1121 written by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood),
calls on halting executions until the end of 2007 when the bipartisan
California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice is scheduled
to report its findings on whether the justice system allows the innocent
to be convicted. The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the bill,
which is now slated to move to further committees for approval.
Coming on the heels of widespread protests to the execution of Stanley
"Tookie" Williams last month, the initiative calls for a much-needed
investigation on the fairness and status of California's justice system.
Capital punishment might be a valuable tool for crime prevention and
justice, but the ideal is fraught with serious problems - the most
egregious of which being that along with the guilty, innocent individuals
have been executed for crimes that facts later revealed they didn't
While majority rules in a democracy and Californians' support for the
death penalty remains high, delaying any further executions until a proper
independent examination of the justice system is completed is the only
answer to maintain the system's effectiveness.
A justice system that kills innocent individuals is no better than the
murderers it seeks to punish.
"Obviously, it is of great concern to every Californian that the process
be accurate and that we not execute an innocent person," Jon Streeter,
chairman of the commission responsible for the proposed investigation,
told the Los Angeles Times.
The Times also reports that even if the measure were to be approved by
both houses, testimony from representatives of Gov. Schwarzenegger suggest
that he might veto it.
But such a decision would go against the very essence of the justice that
is embedded in the Constitution.
There is no harm in holding these convicted criminals in prisons until
Streeter and his colleagues can properly complete the examination.
The irreversible harm comes when an innocent person is put to death as a
result of a flawed system.
(source: Editors, The Daily Trojan)
State high court declines to block execution
The California Supreme Court refused Tuesday to block the execution of
Clarence Ray Allen, turning down a pair of defense petitions a week before
the ailing man's scheduled date in the state's death chamber.
The court's 2-sentence decision also refused to order medical treatments
that defense lawyers say would help Allen show why he should be granted
The state court's action leaves the condemned man's fate in the hands of
the federal courts and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has declined to
convene a clemency hearing.Michael Satris, one of Allen's lawyers, said
legal petitions will be filed today in the U.S. Supreme Court and federal
district court in Sacramento.
In the California Supreme Court the lawyers argued that executing a
chronically ill, blind 76-year-old man would violate standards of decency
and would serve no purpose because Allen no longer is a threat to anyone.
"Even Iraq and Russia limit executions based on advanced age," they said,
adding that since capital punishment was reinstated in the United States
in 1973, only Mississippi has executed someone as old as Allen.
The California attorney general's office countered in legal papers that
none of the 38 states with capital punishment laws prohibits execution
because of seniority or for any "purely physical disability" other than
insanity or mental retardation.
The state's lawyers argued that Allen chose to engage in crime at an
advanced age and now must pay the price.
At 50, Allen arranged the 1980 murders of 3 people in Fresno to eliminate
witnesses to a murder he was involved in 6 years earlier.
(source: Sacramento Bee)
Sutter DA doesn't support moratorium on executions
Sutter County's district attorney is not among prosecutors supporting a
moratorium on California's death penalty.
A state Assembly committee approved a bill Tuesday that would impose a
2-year moratorium on death sentences in the state.
Proponents, including the prosecutor who authored the state's 1978 death
penalty initiative, say 6 men convicted of murder have been exonerated and
freed since 1980.
Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams said personal views on the
death penalty may vary among his counterparts across the state, with a
majority probably supporting it. But a prosecutor's primary duty is to
uphold the will of the people - in this case the initiative that changed
the state constitution.
"The death penalty was passed by the people and upheld by the court," said
Adams, and the Legislature should not have the authority to suspend it.
The public would be "up in arms" if legislators suspended laws on the
minimum wage and public housing, said Adams.
Only 1 man convicted of murder in Sutter County - Robert Rhoades - is
among 646 inmates on death row at San Quentin State Prison. Rhoades
tortured, sodomized and murdered 8-year-old Michael Lyons of Yuba City.
The moratorium would not affect Sutter County's most famous convicted
murderer, Juan Corona, who is serving 25 sentences of 25 years to life for
the serial killings of farm workers. He was convicted before the
initiative was passed.
Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath was not immediately available
Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes Sutter, Butte and Colusa
counties, came out strongly against a moratorium.
"Instead of renovating the Death Row unit at San Quentin as planned, we
should empty it, as prescribed by hundreds of juries that have found these
violent killers guilty, warranting the highest penalty available, that of
capital punishment," said LaMalfa.
"This legislation represents the kind of backward thinking that shakes the
public's faith in this Legislature. Defying, time and again, the voice and
will of the people, this time on the overwhelmingly passed death penalty
initiative, causes people to think their voice and vote don't count," he
Panel Calls for Moratorium on Executions----An Assembly committee approves
a suspension of up to 3 years to study if the innocent are convicted. A
critic calls idea an insult to victims.
A moratorium on California executions passed its 1st test in the
Legislature on Tuesday, despite objections from prosecutors and others who
said it was unnecessary and would further traumatize relatives of murder
After a 90-minute hearing, the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved a
bill that would suspend capital punishment for up to 3 years while a
commission studies whether the criminal justice system allows the innocent
to be convicted.
Testimony against the proposal from a representative of Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's administration suggested that even if the bill prevails
in both houses, a veto could lie ahead.
Sue Blake of the state Office of Planning and Research said
Schwarzenegger's denial of clemency to convicted murderer Stanley Tookie
Williams and two others "indicates he has a strong faith in the death
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said the governor had not taken
a position on the bill. She said he reviews each request for clemency
independently and on its merits.
The legislation, AB 1121, by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood),
would halt executions at least until the end of 2007, when the bipartisan
California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice would report
At that point, lawmakers could adopt a bill ending the moratorium in 2008
or allow it to expire automatically and executions to resume Jan. 1, 2009.
The 15-member commission, formed by the state Senate, includes
representatives from law enforcement agencies and victims' rights groups
as well as criminal defense attorneys. Topics under scrutiny include the
use of jailhouse informants and police suppression of exculpatory
Supporters of a moratorium say at least six men have been wrongfully
sentenced to death in California since 1973, though the numbers are in
dispute. California's death row currently houses 646 convicts, more than
any other state. About 20 are in the final stages of their appeals.
Koretz said he has conflicting feelings about the death penalty, but
believes errors occur and a 2-year delay is a small price to pay to
"possibly prevent the execution of an innocent person."
Foes argued that postponing executions would be unfair to relatives of
murder victims, who already wait an average of 15 years as the condemned
seek review of their cases in state and federal courts.
"Above all," said Harriet Salarno of Crime Victims United of California,
the moratorium "is an insult to the victims who have been tortured to
their death and are unable to come here to speak to you today."
The 2 Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, while 4
Democrats voted for it and one abstained.
Assemblyman Jay La Suer (R-La Mesa) characterized the moratorium as a
thinly veiled attempt to overturn capital punishment incrementally,
calling it "the 1st bite at the apple."
Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange), said a moratorium was not needed
because the criminal justice system works.
"Can I say for certain that we have never gotten it wrong? No one can say
that," said Spitzer, a former police officer and prosecutor. Still, he
added, "by the time someone is executed . thousands of eyes and minds have
reviewed the case."
Other lawmakers noted that permanently ending capital punishment would
require a vote of the people, because current law was established by
ballot initiative. The Legislature has the power to put such a measure on
State officials estimate that between two and five executions may be
scheduled this year. Barring a last-minute legal reprieve, or clemency
from Schwarzenegger, Clarence Ray Allen next week will become the 13th
person killed by injection since capital punishment resumed in California
Allen, 75, was sentenced to death for masterminding a triple murder while
behind bars. On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court refused to block his
execution. Attorneys for Allen said they planned to file papers in the
U.S. Supreme Court today seeking a stay.
Surveys show that more than two-thirds of Californians support capital
punishment. A Field Poll in 2000, however, showed that 73% of the state's
residents would favor a moratorium while the fairness of the death penalty
On Monday, the New Jersey Legislature became the 1st to enact a
moratorium, a move that enjoyed bipartisan support.
The California bill, meanwhile, moves next to the Assembly Appropriations
(source: Associated Press)
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