[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ARIZ., ALA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 18 17:25:31 CST 2006
Carlson focuses on political ideas of justice -- What role does religion
play in shaping the political ideas of justice?
What does justice require or entail?
Can capital punishment or war ever be justified?
If so, under what circumstances?
Such questions may not occur to most people, but to John Carlson, who was
named associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and
Conflict this year, they are a life's work.
Carlson, also an assistant professor in the Department of Religious
Studies, where he teaches classes that explore religious perspectives on
war, violence and peace, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the
intersection between religion, politics and justice.
"I started this project through a range of coursework I was doing in
theology, political philosophy and 'moral anthropology' at the University
of Chicago," he says. "The role of human nature in justice wasn't being
talked about, which seemed odd.
"There was a gaping lacuna. My concern was to investigate what else falls
through the cracks - what gets lost, politically and ethically speaking -
when we ignore what it means to be human."
Human nature, Carlson says, is a central concern of theological writings.
"I wanted to look at justice as conceived through those 2 lenses: human
nature and notions of transcendence or God," he says.
It is tempting to think of justice only as a means of retribution, or as
"just desserts," but Carlson says the idea is much broader.
In an essay on religion and the death penalty, titled "Human Nature,
Limited Justice, and the Irony of Capital Punishment," Carlson offers his
"working definition" of justice.
"In a rough and ready fashion," he states, "we might say that justice
involves the proper ordering and balance of human relations within a
social and political community, including the right relations of citizens
to one another and vis--vis the state."
Justice has to do, Carlson says, with "how we as communities live together
and relate, what values we cherish, and how we orient our lives to each
other and to God."
Americans, he says, "have perhaps too narrow an idea of justice; often we
think of justice as the moment when the judge hands down the verdict."
In his dissertation, Carlson examines how thinkers such as Plato, Hobbes
and Marx viewed justice, based on their beliefs about human nature and the
John Calvin, for example, believed in pervasive human sinfulness and an
inscrutable God; such a belief can lead to calls for harsh punishment and
rigorous, pious forms of "ultimate justice." (The Taliban is a recent
exemplar of "ultimate justice.")
Theologians and philosophers such as St. Augustine and Camus, however,
have anthropological and theological views that point to more modest
aspirations of "limited justice."
The discussion ultimately turns back, Carlson says, to human nature.
"Any discussion of justice should take human nature into consideration,
however unwilling many contemporary philosophers have been to do so," he
says. "When you don't take stock of human nature, including its
limitations, one can launch easily into other forms of ultimate justice'
that are problematic. Confronting this involves understanding how our
nature limits our ability to achieve the justice we seek."
(source: Arizona State University)
Parker's attack insults court
It's the United States Supreme Court that is the highest court in the
land, not the Alabama Supreme Court. That point appears to elude Justice
Tom Parker of the state Supreme Court, who attacked his colleagues for
following U.S. Supreme Court precedent in a recent case.
That, of course, is precisely what the other justices should have done. If
lower courts are not going to follow the precedents established by the
nation's highest court, the stage is set for anarchy in the courtroom. In
essence, nothing would ever be decided -- and deciding issues is what the
judicial system is all about.
The case that prompted Parker to launch his unannounced attack on his
colleagues in an op-ed article in the Birmingham News involved a death
sentence given a defendant who was 17 at the time of his crimes. In Roper
v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court held the execution of juveniles to be
unconstitutional. Following that precedent, 8 justices of the Alabama
Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and sent the case of Renaldo
Chante Adams back to the lower court, where the defendant is expected to
be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Parker had to recuse himself from the case because he had been involved in
the prosecution of Adams during his time in the attorney general's office.
(Curiously, in his op-ed article he misidentifies the attorney general he
worked for at the time. It was not Jeff Sessions, who had already taken
office as a U.S. senator when the crime occurred, but Sessions' successor
Parker, predictably, lashed out at "liberal activists" on the U.S. Supreme
Court and criticized the Roper decision. It's one thing to criticize the
decision, but it is a flying leap across the line of propriety to state
that the court on which he serves should ignore the decision and uphold
He was "surprised, and dismayed," he wrote, that his colleagues on the
court "not only gave in to this unconstitutional activism without a word
of protest but also became accomplices to it by citing Roper as the basis
for their decision to free Adams from death row."
As responsible jurists -- a concept seemingly lost on Parker -- they could
not have done otherwise. Indeed, Parker's approach could well be labeled
judicial activism, a practice he purports to deplore.
Instead of trying to subvert the Supreme Court in the politically
transparent manner of his mentor Roy Moore, the justice should instead
turn his energies to bringing his workload up to the standards of the
court on which he sits. A check last fall found that Parker had produced
less than half the number of opinions of any other justice in the same
You've got a job to do, Mr. Justice, and it is unlikely to get done while
you're whaling away at your colleagues and at the nation's highest court.
(source: Montgomery Advertiser)
Lawyer cites ethical tangle as reason to delay execution
In Ventura, prosecutors from San Joaquin County are expected to obtain a
death warrant today for condemned killer Michael Angelo Morales of
Stockton despite a failed attempt by his attorney to derail next month's
Morales' Los Angeles attorney, David Senior, said he is objecting to the
Feb. 21 execution, citing a conflict within the San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office.
Senior contends there's an ethical tangle, because Assistant District
Attorney Craig M. Holmes, the office's second-highest ranking jurist,
represented Morales 25 years ago on when Holmes worked as an attorney in
the San Joaquin County Public Defender's Office.
It was that murder trial that landed Morales, 46, on San Quentin State
Prison's death row, where he waits today.
Senior, expressing outrage at the apparent conflict, said he wanted the
entire district attorney's office disqualified from Morales' case because
"Mr. Morales' trial counsel - Craig Holmes, now assistant DA - is taking
action adverse to his former client in the same proceeding," Senior said
Tuesday. "That is unethical, to say the least."
Senior raised the issue of a possible conflict at a hearing last week. A
Ventura County Superior Court judge dismissed those claims Tuesday.
Morales was convicted for the 1981 murder and rape of 17-year-old Tokay
High School senior Terri Lynn Winchell. Morales, whom Senior said has
expressed remorse about the crime, killed Winchell as a favor to his
cousin, Rickey Ortega.
The case garnered so much public interest in San Joaquin County that it
was moved to Ventura County for trial.
According to court testimony, Ortega was jealous of Winchell, because she
dated a young man with whom Ortega had a homosexual relationship. Ortega
was given a life sentence in prison for his part in the killing.
Senior said Holmes represented Morales for more than 2 years throughout
the trial and sentencing. Holmes did not respond to a request Tuesday for
Chuck Schultz, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office
prosecutor who is expected to appear today in Ventura County Superior
Court, said Holmes' apparent conflict was addressed and resolved in court
He said Holmes is prohibited by a court order from talking to anybody in
his office about Morales' case. And when Holmes' ethical dilemma arose
again in 1999, Holmes signed an affidavit further promising he would
exclude himself from the case or any discussions of it.
Schultz said Senior failed at delaying Morales' execution.
"It was an issue without any merit at all, and Mr. Senior made it sound as
if it was brand new," Schultz said.
"All that remains is to sign the death warrant and execute Michael
(source: Stockton Record)
Executing Clarence Ray Allen----The Crime of Giving the Orders
Legalized killing requires official justifications. The execution of
Clarence Ray Allen early Tuesday morning was no exception.
A prosecutor explained that "he masterminded the murders of 3 innocent
young people and conspired to attack the heart of our criminal justice
system."And California's governor was stern when he denied a clemency
request for the 76-year-old prisoner.
"The passage of time does not excuse Allen from the jury's punishment,"
Arnold Schwarzenegger said. Allen had been convicted of enlisting a fellow
prisoner to kill witnesses against him in 1980.
Allen "was blind and mostly deaf, suffered from diabetes and had a nearly
fatal heart attack in September only to be revived and returned to death
row,"the Associated Press recounted. His last breath would be determined
by the state's timetable.
Around midnight, Allen "was assisted into the death chamber by four large
correctional officers and lifted out of his wheelchair"-- just before the
lethal injection. Righteously deploring murder, the state murdered again.
To recap, the prosecutor said that Clarence Ray Allen "masterminded the
murders of three innocent young people"and "conspired to attack the heart
of our criminal justice system."What could an intrepid prosecutor say
about the machinations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as they pushed
ahead for the U.S. war effort in Iraq? And why shouldn't rigorous
investigations be underway to probe evidence that Bush and Cheney have
engaged in systematic lawbreaking?
Such questions should be loud, public and insistent. While people in
Washington's highest places demand endless benefits of countless doubts,
we need to insist on accountability at the top of the U.S. government.
A jury condemned Clarence Ray Allen despite the fact that he did not pull
the trigger on the sawed-off shotgun. The charge was that he got someone
else to do it.
President Bush doesn't pull triggers. He commands. Like the official lying
that preceded the Iraq war and sustains it, the killing is nonstop. And a
constant media barrage conveys the deceptive assumption that legitimate
authority is giving the orders.
(source : CounterPunch - Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy:
How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.)
Death row elder needed 2 injections----Last words: 'Hoka hey, it's a good
day to die'
In the end, California's oldest condemned inmate did not seem quite as
feeble as his attorneys made him out to be in their efforts to save his
With the help of 4 big prison guards, Clarence Ray Allen shuffled from his
wheelchair to a gurney inside San Quentin's death chamber early Tuesday, a
day after his 76th birthday.
Though legally blind, Allen raised his head to search among execution
witnesses for relatives he had invited.
"Hoka hey, it's a good day to die," Allen said in a nod to his Choctaw
Indian heritage. "Thank you very much, I love you all. Goodbye."
Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison
authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his
execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.
"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison
spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute
But the barrel-chested prisoner's heart was strong to the end: Doctors had
to administer a 2nd shot of potassium chloride to stop it.
"It's not unusual. This guy's heart had been going for 76 years," said
Warden Stephen Ornoski.
Allen, condemned for ordering behind bars a hit that left three people
dead, was the 2nd-oldest inmate executed in the United States since
capital punishment resumed nearly 30 years ago, behind only a 77-year-old
in Mississippi last month.
His attorneys had pleaded with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the U.S.
Supreme Court to spare his life, claiming that executing a man as old and
feeble as Allen amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and that the 23
years he spent on death row were unconstitutionally cruel, too.
Among other things, Allen was nearly deaf and had diabetes. Medical
records show he was indeed ailing, and prison officials did not dispute
his condition. However, some observers saw a man in better condition that
he had been portrayed.
"For 76 years old, he looked to be in remarkably good shape," said
Republican Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who witnessed the execution as a
member of a legislative committee debating a moratorium on the death
Allen died wearing a beaded headband, a medicine bag around his neck and
an eagle feather on his chest. Two Indian spiritual advisers visited with
him in the hours before the execution. His last meal included a buffalo
steak and Indian pan-fried bread.
The family of one of Allen's victims, Josephine Rocha, said in a statement
that Allen "abused the justice system with endless appeals until he lived
longer in prison than the short 17 years of Josephine's life."
(source: Associated Press)
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