[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----FLA., N.H., OHIO, CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 12 12:12:18 CST 2006
High court told Florida lethal injection method cruel punishment
Florida's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional cruel and unusual
punishment, a lawyer for one of two inmates facing execution later this
month told the state Supreme Court during oral argument Wednesday.
D. Todd Doss, representing death row inmate Clarence Hill, asked the
justices for a hearing to determine the validity of new evidence he said
shows that the same procedure has resulted in painful executions in other
Inmates are injected with drugs to deaden the pain and paralyze their
bodies in addition to the lethal chemical, potassium chloride. A study
published last year in The Lancet medical journal indicates the pain
killer, sodium pentathol, wares off before the inmates die.
"Essentially, they are aware, they're conscious and they're able to feel
pain, yet they can't say anything whatsoever in regards to what's going
on," Doss said.
Hill, 47, of Mobile, Ala., is scheduled for execution Jan. 24 for fatally
shooting Pensacola police officer Stephen Taylor during a 1982 bank
The Supreme Court has received the same argument in writing on behalf of
Arthur D. Rutherford, 56, who is set to die Jan. 31 for killing Stella
Salamon at her Santa Rosa County home in 1985. Rutherford had done some
repair work for the victim, whose body was found submerged in a bathtub
where she had been drowned or asphyxiated.
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski argued for the state
against ordering a hearing on the study that was conducted by Dr. David A.
Lubarsky, chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative
Medicine and Pain Management at the University of Miami School of
She said there's nothing definitive in Lubarsky's study, which was based
in part on autopsies conducted in other states that use the same lethal
"There's no evidence that anybody suffered any pain in those other
executions," Snurkowski said. "It's all 'maybe,' 'should,' 'possibly,'
'some may.' That's all it says."
Justice Harry Lee Anstead questioned whether it makes sense to deny an
evidentiary hearing to a convict facing imminent execution while a trial
judge has granted one on the same issue to another condemned inmate not
yet under a death warrant.
Snurkowski said the state also opposed that hearing for Ronald Knight, who
killed 2 gay men in Palm Beach County in 1993. Justice Charles Wells
interjected that court rules provide for such hearings during an inmate's
1st post-conviction appeal. Hill is on his 3rd.
Rutherford's appeal includes an argument that newly found evidence could
have swayed jurors who had recommended his death sentence by the narrowest
margin, 7-5. The Supreme Court last year had urged the Legislature to
require unanimous sentencing recommendations and lawmakers are considering
it. Judges are not bound by the recommendations, but they must give them
Gov. Jeb Bush said on Wednesday that the push for unanimous death
recommendations had nothing to do with his decision to sign Rutherford's
death warrant. Rutherford simply had run out of appeals, Bush said.
"I have a duty to sign death warrants when it's appropriate to do so," he
"If the Legislature proposes a change in the law, I'll look at it then.
I'll have a chance to opine by signing the bill into law or vetoing it."
Man sentenced to death in retired Pensacola officer's slaying
A man convicted of killing a retired Pensacola police officer has been
sentenced to death.
Circuit Judge John Kuder sentenced Ryan Thomas Green to death on
In October, a jury convicted Green of 1st-degree murder for the slaying of
James Hallman, attempted murder for shooting a 2nd man and robbery with a
firearm. The jury also recommended 10-2 that Green be put to death for
fatally shooting Hallman on Feb. 23, 2003.
Green, 22, was also sentenced Wednesday to 2 consecutive life terms
without the possibility of parole for the attempted murder and robbery
with a firearm of housepainter Christopher Phipps.
The death sentence will be appealed automatically.
Green apologized Wednesday to Hallman's and Phipps' families. "From the
bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry," he said.
He testified during his trial last year that he fatally shot Hallman
because he believed the University of Alabama "A" on the victim's ball cap
signified he was the Antichrist. He also testified that he had set out to
take his own life but that a talking bull, religious signs, colors and
symbols influenced him to shoot Hallman and Phipps.
Phipps, who remains confined to a wheelchair, was shot at his home where
Green stole his car and a gun. Green then shot a bull in a pasture before
Green's trial was delayed more than a year after he was declared mentally
incompetent. He later was found competent for trial after undergoing
He also had received treatment at a mental health facility before the
Green's relatives said Wednesday that sentencing a mentally ill person to
death was "cruel and inhumane."
"The family did everything we could to get him help and protect him from
himself. Ryan has felt a lot of remorse and guilt over this, and we truly
believe that he was not in his right mind," said Green's mother, Cynthia.
"I am very sorry that this has happened. But our family has been ripped
apart as well."
Hallman's son applauded the death sentence.
"I will feel closure when I watch his last breath, just like he forced us
to watch my father's last breath," said James Hallman III.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Legislature considers death penalty ---- Proposals would ban or expand
Lawmakers began considering dueling death penalty laws yesterday, one that
would eliminate executions, another that would extend that punishment to
While both proposals drew support yesterday, they will face a battle in
Gov. John Lynch has said he will veto any bill abolishing the death
penalty. And the second proposal, extending the death penalty to more
homicide cases, would cost the state millions of dollars, according to
Nina Gardner, executive director of the state Judicial Council.
While New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939, state law does
make the death penalty available in limited cases: the murder of a police
officer or judge, murder for hire, and murder during a kidnapping, rape or
some drug crimes. An inmate serving life without parole who commits murder
can also be charged with capital murder.
The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard about 90
minutes of testimony on the 2 bills yesterday, almost all of it from death
penalty opponents. The 2 exceptions were Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and
Berlin police Chief Pete Morency, who spoke on behalf of the state's
police chiefs association. They said the death penalty is a valuable
deterrent and sends an important public safety message.
Following the hearing, Chairman David Welch, a Kingston Republican, sent
the bills to a subcommittee for further study.
Ray Krone traveled from Pennsylvania to tell lawmakers yesterday what it
was like to be wrongly convicted of murder in Arizona in 1992 and
sentenced to death. Without physical evidence, the police focused on the
bite marks on the victim's body. At the request of detectives, Krone bit
into a Styrofoam cup so his bite could be compared with the one on the
victim. His crooked teeth, combined with the fact that he knew the victim,
led to a conviction. Krone was ultimately cleared when DNA proved he
couldn't be responsible. When he left prison in 2002, Krone was the 100th
person cleared of capital murder since 1973.
"I was one of those people they said they needed to rid society of,"Krone
said. He went on to wonder whether New Hampshire's low homicide rate (20
in 2005) was tied to the state's limited experience with executions.
"Is it because you don't reciprocate murder with murder?" he asked.
Public defender Barbara Keshen said she first learned the agony of
handling capital murder cases in 1990 as a prosecutor with the state
attorney general's office. While the office did not ultimately pursue the
death penalty, the prospect was emotionally painful for the staff, she
"We felt life was sacred," she said. "There was a huge evacuation of
attorneys from our office."
Later, when Keshen went to the public defender's office, she was one of
three attorneys assigned to defend a man facing the possibility of a
capital murder charge. "No attorney can say, 'I am completely competent. I
have the intellect and I have the energy to have someone's life in my
hands,'" she said. "It tears you apart to represent one of these people."
The bill to abolish the death penalty would replace executions with life
in prison without parole. The 2nd bill would expand the death penalty to
all 1st-degree murders and some 2nd-degree cases. Only 2 people spoke in
support of that proposal yesterday, the co-sponsors Rep. David
Bettencourt, a Salem Republican, and Rep. Paul Mirski, an Enfield
They said the death penalty law as written makes some murders more
significant than others. Their bill, they said, would make the law more
Few death penalty opponents bothered yesterday to address Mirski and
Bettencourt's bill. They focused themselves on abolishing executions.
Several members of the clergy spoke in favor of replacing death with life
sentences. Rep. Jim Splaine, a Portsmouth Democrat who co-sponsored the
bill to abolish the death penalty, said that too often only the poor and
marginalized end up on death row.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington D.C., urged lawmakers to look beyond New Hampshire for
guidance. He said executions are down across the country from 300 a year
in the 1990s to about 100 last year. Public support for the death penalty
is also dropping, he said, from about 80 % in 1994 to 64 % last year.
Dieter said an increasing number of states are eliminating their death
penalty law or reviewing them, including New York, New Jersey, Kansas,
California and North Carolina.
(source: Concord Monitor)
Ohio legislators consider renewal of DNA testing law----State may renew
inmates' right to DNA test
Lawmakers are considering renewing a DNA testing law that expired nearly 3
months ago and that last year helped free 2 wrongly convicted Ohio
State Sen. David Goodman, D-Bexley, who sponsored the original law, and
state Rep. Kathleen Chandler, D-Kent, said they are each considering
sponsoring legislation that would give inmates the right to ask for DNA
testing after they've been convicted.
The old law, which expired in October, played a key role in the
exoneration and release last year of Donte Booker of Cleveland and
Clarence Elkins of Stark County.
Booker served 17 years for a rape he didn't commit and Elkins spent 7
years in prison for 2 rapes and a murder he had nothing to do with.
Since 1989, more than 150 prisoners in the United States have been proved
not guilty through post-conviction DNA testing, according to the Innocence
Project, based in New York.
Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project at University of
Cincinnati's law school, said DNA, a constantly evolving technology, is
the most important tool in proving someone's innocence.
Under the old law - which Goodman would like to simply renew, but without
an expiration date - inmates had to meet certain criteria. They could be
granted the right to have their DNA tested if they hadn't pleaded guilty,
if the test could change the outcome of the case and if DNA testing wasn't
available when they were convicted.
The old law was in effect for 2 years and Ohio's defense attorneys believe
it had too many limitations.
"There are so many obstacles and hurdles and the class of people permitted
to get testing has been so small," said Barry Wilford, president-elect and
legislative director of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Of the state's 45,000 inmates, 307 asked for DNA testing and 202 requests
were denied, according to the state attorney general's office. 90 requests
are pending and 15 have been granted, leading to 2 exonerations - Elkins
"It's too narrow and everybody who has been convicted - pleaded guilty or
not - if there's DNA in their case, the state should give them the
opportunity to have testing," said Melinda Elkins, who fought for her
husband's release for 7 years.
Rep. Chandler wants a law that would be less restrictive and allow those
who have pleaded guilty to be eligible.
John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys
Association, disagrees. His group would oppose broadening the law to
include inmates who pleaded guilty and would oppose leaving the law open
forever, rather than sunsetting it.
"If the guy was not guilty, he shouldn't have pled guilty," Murphy said.
It is unfair to crime victims who think a plea agreement ends the case, he
There is no state law or standard for how long prosecutors or police are
required to keep DNA evidence collected at crime scenes.
Attorney General Jim Petro, who joined the Ohio Innocence Project in
calling for Elkins' exoneration based on DNA tests, said innocent people
may plead guilty in some circumstances so perhaps the testing should be
open to them as well.
Chandler said: "This whole bill is not about the person incarcerated or
about the victim. This is about justice. This is about all of us in a
society. . . .
We have a responsibility as a state to give equal justice to everyone."
(source: Dayton Daily News)
Scot 'will stay on death row at least 18 months'
The fiance of Kenny Richey said last night that the Scot will have to wait
at least 18 months on death row before there is any chance of his release.
Despite a complicated legal battle which almost saw him released last
year, Richey, 41, who is facing execution for the killing of a child in a
fire in Ohio in 1986, will mark 19 years on death row on 27 January.
Yesterday Karen Torley told a London meeting of women anti-death penalty
campaigners, organised by Amnesty International UK, that the last year has
been "the best and worst". She said: "We will have to wait for at least a
year and a half for any chance of his freedom. Kenny is caught in a
wrangle over power between two courts.
It hasn't got anything to do with evidence for the case."
Richey, of Edinburgh, was on the verge of freedom last year after an
appeal court overturned his conviction and death sentence. But he remained
on death row after the US Supreme Court ordered the lower court to
reconsider its decision in November.
Ms Torley, 42, of Cambuslang, Glasgow, added: "The November decision was a
kick in the guts, a severe blow.
"Kenny has tried to remain positive but he has had his hopes dashed so
many times. Where he is, hope can be a dangerous thing."
(source: The Scotsman)
Missionary Society wants commutation standards for death sentences
The legal arm of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ
asked the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to compel a state board to come
up with regulations for commuting death sentences.
James Wade, a lawyer working for free for the Missionary Society of
Connecticut, argued that the Board of Pardons and Parole should have set
standards to help it decide whether to reduce an inmate's death sentence
to life in prison without parole, or another charge.
"What are the standards for commutation?" asked Wade. "If we're going to
kill them, there ought to be a process that's recognized."
The Missionary Society, which opposes capital punishment, has said it
believes commutation hearings should be mandatory in all death penalty
The group made similar arguments last year when serial killer Michael Ross
was facing execution. At the time, Ross was refusing a hearing because he
said he was willing to be put to death for his crimes.
A trial court later ruled that the Missionary Society did not have the
legal standing to force the board to hold a commutation hearing for Ross,
who was put to death by lethal injection last May and became the 1st
person executed in New England in 45 years.
Wade is appealing that decision. It is expected to take the state's
highest court about 6 weeks to determine whether the trial court's ruling
Wade said he's appealing the decision because he still has not been able
to persuade the Board of Pardons and Parole to draft regulations.
"What they're doing is effectively ignoring me," he said. "We have a board
that is operating ad hoc. They're running the show the way they want to
run the show."
But Assistant Attorney General Steven Strom, who is representing the
parole board, said that if the Missionary Society wants regulations on
commutations, they should ask the state legislature to change the law and
require the board to craft regulations. They would then have to be
approved by the legislature's Regulation Review Committee.
Strom said current law only requires the board to come up with written
policies. There is no mandatory language that compels the board to write
regulations, he said.
That is not unusual, he said. Strom argued it would be impossible for
state government to function if every state policy required going through
the regulations approval process.
At one point in Wednesday's hearing, Chief Justice William J. Sullivan
asked Wade whether he has asked the legislature to change the law and
require commutation hearings for all death penalty cases, or require the
Board of Pardons and Parole to create regulations outlining the rules and
standards for commutations. Wade said he had not, but would not rule out
doing so in the future.
Legislative leaders have said they don't expect there will be enough time
during the upcoming legislative session to deal with capital punishment.
The Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, president of the Missionary Society, said
she expects the issue will be revisited in 2007.
(source: Associated Press)
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