[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIF., USA, IND., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 23 15:58:24 CST 2006
Paying the price----Beamon, lawmakers seek death penalty for random
A gang member who fires bullets randomly and kills someone, even
unintentionally, should be eligible for the harshest possible punishment,
local leaders are saying.
"This would be Mynesha's Law," said the Rev. Reginald Beamon, a San
Bernardino community activist and a one-time gang member in Compton.
Mynesha Crenshaw was only 11 years old when gang members fired into a Del
Rosa apartment complex and killed her on Nov. 13. Police have said the
gunmen were trying to kill Mynesha's stepfather, Vincent Hatfield.
In December, state Sen. Nell Soto, D-Ontario, and Assemblyman Joe Baca
Jr., D-Rialto, called for a special circumstance on unintentional
shootings like Mynesha's that would allow prosecutors to seek the death
penalty in a murder conviction.
Beamon is pledging his support along with other members of Mynesha's
Circle, a community partnership created by The Sun in tribute to the
little girl lost. They hope to meet with lawmakers this week, Beamon said.
"We need stiffer penalty sentences for people who do random shooting at
houses," he said. "When you just randomly shoot into somebody's house,
you're just trying to kill anybody who's home, and therefore most of the
time it's innocent people - grandmothers, little children."
There are 22 special circumstances, but none of them addresses the murder
of a child or unintentional deaths by shooting.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office has charged the 7
suspects in Mynesha's killing with murder, 2 counts of attempted murder
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, leaving each suspect to
face about 100 years in jail if convicted.
Cheryl Kersey, a deputy district attorney in the agency's gang-prosecution
unit, said the 22 special circumstances on the books adequately cover the
But a jury must find intent in the action if the death penalty is to be
sought for a gang member, according to the wording of the state penal
"If only they hadn't put that word 'intentionally' in there," Kersey said.
"Mynesha was not the target, obviously."
Soto spokesman David Miller said the legislator hopes to unite the
community to combat the gang problem.
"She's very connected with and interactive with the community, and that
often leads to bill ideas," Miller said. "She would certainly welcome the
discussion with (Beamon)."
Soto's office is still researching the bill, but she might be able to
introduce it in the state Senate this year, Miller said.
Baca Jr. said his office is also working to find ways to hold gang members
accountable once they are released from jail.
"We need a better line of communication once they're convicted of a felony
or a gang crime," he said. "I'm always looking for ways to tighten the
laws and get rid of any loopholes."
He suggests using GPS technology to track parolees who have committed
high-profile violent offenses or are known gang leaders.
Kersey said she is going to reserve judgment until a law is drafted.
"I'd like to see what they propose if they get that far," Kersey said.
"It's good because they're thinking about it, but it's all about the
The death penalty is often a contentious topic, especially in religious
Beamon, who is closely involved with the faith community, attends Living
by Faith Ministries in Loma Linda.
Still, he said he would strongly support the death penalty in a case like
"That could be my kid, and I would be for it if that was one of my kids,"
(source: San Bernardino County Sun)
Bill proposes 2-year halt on death penalty
The California Moratorium Bill, currently on the desk of the State's
Assembly Committee on Appropriations, is attempting to halt the death
penalty in California for 2 years if successfully pushed through the
The bill passed the 1st hearing with the Assembly Committee on Public
Safety on Jan. 10, with a 4-2 vote. Additionally, the bill is enjoying
support from state organizations, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges
who all claim the death penalty system needs reform.
The temporary standstill of Assembly Bill 1121 asks the state of
California to give the death penalty a 2-year break in order to re-examine
the functions and effectiveness of the permanent punishment.
Stefanie Faucher, program director of Death Penalty Focus, an organization
which advocates against state executions, lauded the California Moratorium
Bill, citing that she believes there are flaws in the current system.
"We believe that a temporary halt on executions is something we all can
agree on," Faucher said. "We need to make sure we're getting the right
There are currently 645 inmates on death row in California. Opponents of
the California Moratorium Bill assert that technological advances, as well
as the "numerous" checks and balances within the system, prevent the
execution of innocent people.
Groups such as the Police Officers Research Association of California and
the California Police Chiefs Association include those against the bill,
who question whether the state's current system should be amended.
"This bill highlights the unfortunate aspect of the death penalty - namely
that the convicted murderer appropriates for himself the sympathy and
concerns that more properly belongs to the murdered [victims]," according
to the California Police Officers Association and Police Chiefs
Association in the text of AB 1121.
Supporters of AB 1121 argue that the death penalty is biased toward people
of a certain race and income. The Santa Clara Law Review, a survey
conducted in September 2005, included statistical findings that experts
say support these claims.
A project summary showed that 80 percent of executions in California were
of persons convicted of killing white citizens, while 27.6 percent of
murder victims are white. It is also known that the murderers of
non-Latino whites are over 4 times more likely to be sentenced to death
than those who kill Latinos and over 3 times more likely to be sentenced
to death than those who kill African-Americans citizens.
UC Davis School of Law Faculty Member Jennifer M. Chac??whose research
focuses on criminal procedure, criminal and immigration law, said that she
feels there is a correlation between money and the likelihood of a death
sentence in California today.
"There is evidence that race does play an important role in capital
sentencing," Chac??aid. "It's also clear that class plays an important
role. People who can afford good lawyers do not wind up on death row."
Chac??oted that while initiatives like California's AB 1121 may not be
able to abolish the death penalty, it will raise awareness of human rights
issues echoed by some regarding state executions.
"We are seeing moratoria being declared in a number of states," Chac??aid.
"Although information about the longstanding racial disparities in capital
sentencing [have] not put a stop to the death penalty, concerns about
fairness and innocence are having some effect.? We'll have to wait and see
whether this trend continues."
(source: The California Aggie)
US military issues new execution regulations
In a little-noticed move, the U.S. Army has issued new regulations
governing the death penalty, raising speculation that the military might
be preparing for its first execution since 1961.
"This publication is a major revision," said the document issued January
17 and signed by Sandra Riley, administrative assistant to the secretary
of the Army.
"This regulation establishes responsibilities and updates policy and
procedures for carrying out a sentence of death as imposed by general
courts-martial or military tribunals," the document said.
There are currently six men on military death row in Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas. One, Dwight Loving, is believed to be the leading candidate for
"We're worried these new regulations might be a sign they are getting
ready for an execution," said David Elliot of the National Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty.
Loving, an Army private stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was convicted of
murdering 2 taxicab drivers in 1988. The
U.S. Supreme Court upheld his sentence in 1996.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces rejected his
latest appeal last month. It is unclear what, if any, legal resources, he
has left at his disposal. The execution would have to be approved by
President George W. Bush to go ahead.
In the last military execution to take place, Army Pvt. John Bennett,
convicted of the 1955 rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian
girl, was hanged at Fort Leavenworth on April 19, 1961.
2 servicemen were sentenced to death last year. Sgt. Hasan Akbar was
convicted of killing two military officers in Kuwait in 2003 during the
opening days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A jury also sentenced Senior
Airman Andrew Witt for stabbing to death his wife and another airman. Most
of the changes in the new regulations were technical, clarifying the role
of various officers in the execution procedure. However, one change would
make it possible for executions to take place at sites other than Fort
"This new regulation appears to allow officials at appropriate levels with
appropriate coordination to determine the location of an execution on a
case-by-case basis," said Sheldon Smith, an Army public affairs
specialist, in an e-mail to Reuters.
Anti-death penalty activists said this theoretically opened the way for
foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who might in the
future be sentenced to death by military commissions, to be executed at
Currently, 10 Guantanamo Bay detainees have been charged with various
offenses, but none of these are capital cases.
Panel Recommends No Clemency For Man Facing Execution
The Indiana Parole Board recommended unanimously on Monday that Gov. Mitch
Daniels not grant clemency to convicted killer Marvin Bieghler.
Bieghler is scheduled to die by lethal injection early Friday at the state
prison in Michigan City.
Bieghler was convicted of the 1981 deaths of a rural Howard County couple,
Tommy Miller and his pregnant wife, Kimberly Jane Miller.
The parole board's recommendation is not binding on Daniels.
Bieghler's attorney, Brent Westerfield, said his client deserves clemency
because of questions over whether he committed the slayings.
(source: Associated Press)
Alabama man who killed Pensacola officer in '82 set for execution
Condemned inmate Clarence Hill, scheduled to die Tuesday for the 1982
slaying of a Pensacola police officer during a bank holdup, pressed his
fight Monday to stop his execution.
Hill lost an appeal in federal court in Tallahassee Saturday and had
appeals pending with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and
the U.S. Supreme Court, said Carolyn Snurkowski, a death appeals attorney
for Attorney General Charlie Crist.
Hill's appeals have contended the 3 chemicals used in Florida's lethal
injection method of execution is cruel and unusual punishment because it
Snurkowski said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against inmates in 4
other states on the same grounds.
Hill, who is scheduled to die at Florida State Prison in Starke, also
claimed the he should not be executed since he is mentally retarded. But
that argument was rejected by the state Supreme Court, which noted that a
mental evaluation of Hill showed he was mildly retarded and his IQ was 16
points higher than the standard of 70 or below.
Hill, 48, who has converted to Islam and taken the name Razzaq Muhammad,
says on a Web site,, that he and his friend, Cliff Jackson, both of
Mobile, Ala., were high on marijuana, cocaine and beer when they decided
to steal a car and drive to Pensacola and hold up the Freedom Federal
A teller tripped an alarm. Pensacola police Officer Stephen Taylor, 26,
and his partner, Larry Bailly, responded, stopping Jackson as he ran
outside. Hill came up behind Taylor and shot him in the back from
point-blank range, killing him. He also shot Taylor's partner, Officer
Larry Bailly, who returned fire, hitting Hill several times. Jackson was
shot by another officer as he tried to flee. All 3 survived.
On a Web site, Hill claimed he does not remember shooting the officers.
"I didn't see anyone get shot at any time," he wrote. "I'm pleased my
friend is alive, and very sorry for the police officer who died and the
one who was shot. I am not saying I am all innocent. I know I did a lot of
things wrong that day which I am not proud of, and I wish I could begin
October 19th, 1982 all over again. I would spend it with Allah with the
love and knowledge I have today."
Florida's execution procedure is patterned after the process used by other
states using lethal injection. Strapped to a gurney, inmates are given
three drugs. The 1st deadens the pain, followed by injections to paralyze
the body and the 3rd to cause a fatal heart attack.
The state Supreme Court, by a 6-1 vote, rejected a request for a hearing
on a 2005 study that concluded that a painkiller given condemned inmates
as part of the execution cocktail may wear off before the inmate dies.
The court ruled earlier this month that the study by Dr. David A.
Lubarsky, chairman of the department of anesthesiology at the University
of Miami, was inconclusive.
Taylor's 1st cousin, Gary Mace, plans to watch the execution with Taylor's
brother, Jack Taylor Jr., and Taylor's sister, Linda Knouse. 2 other
sisters will be unable to attend, Mace said.
"It is something we have to carry through for Steve," Mace said Monday. "I
have forgiven Mr. Hill for what he had done, but God is the one who has to
judge. I do feel compassion for his family. It is two families brought
together by tragedy."
Taylor's partner, Bailly, through the Pensacola Police Department, refused
to comment on the execution.
Hill's accomplice, Jackson, was sentenced to life in prison.
If Hill is unable to get a last-minute stay, he would be the 61st inmate
executed in Florida since 1976, when executions resumed after a 12-year
moratorium, and the 257th since 1924, when the state took that duty from
Hill's death is 1 of 2 scheduled this month, after the state executed only
one inmate in 2005. Arthur D. Rutherford, who is scheduled to die on Jan.
31, also challenged the state's use of the execution drugs.
Rutherford, 56, killed 63-year-old Stella Salamon at her home in Santa
Rosa County in 1985. Rutherford had done some repair work for the woman,
whose body was found submerged in her bathtub, where she had been drowned
Hill survived a death warrant signed in 1989 by Gov. Bob Martinez. He is
one of about 3 dozen inmates still alive after having previous warrants
signed more than a decade ago.
Hill has not been a model prisoner in his years on death row, receiving
disciplinary actions for possession of contraband, fighting, disobeying
officers, possession of unauthorized beverages and defacing state
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmate back in court
In Taveres, a 37-year-old man on death row for killing a teller and
leaving another one paralyzed in a botched 1999 Mount Dora bank robbery
was back in a Lake County courtroom today in hopes of getting his sentence
reduced to life in prison.
Defense attorneys are arguing that there are mitigating factors that
should lessen the sentence against Fred Anderson Jr., who was convicted of
1st-degree murder, 1st-degree attempted murder, robbery and grand theft
with a firearm in the robbery at a United Southern Bank branch.
Among the mitigating factors: Anderson was sexually molested as a
pre-teen, officials said. Also, forensic psychologists have been called to
testify about Anderson's mental state.
Heather Young, 39, was killed in the robbery and her co-worker Marishia
Scott, 32, was shot in the arm, neck and spinal cord. Last year, Scott
settled a negligence lawsuit with the company that installed the bank's
security system. Scott's lawyers argued that Anderson decided to rob the
bank because he could see the surveillance-system videocassette recorder
in an office in full view of the public.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ruling: Suspects face death penalty----Florida judge rules 3 men who
allegedly murdered ex-Lowell couple, 4 others, will get death penalty
3 men will face the death penalty in the August 2004 slayings of 6 people
in Florida, including a former Lowell couple, after a judge rejected the
argument that sending the men to death would be unconstitutional.
The men, Troy Victorino, Jerone Hunter and Michael Salas stand to face
trial April 10 on 6 counts of 1st-degree murder as well 8 other felony
charges, including cruelty to animals.
Florida Circuit Judge William A. Parsons last week rejected a defense
attorney's argument that the state's death penalty is unconstitutional.
Parsons' ruling coincided with the state attorney's office release of
about 50 pages of evidence and documents pertaining to the case. Included
in the documents is a series of letters penned by 2 of the suspects, Salas
and Robert Anthony Cannon.
The slayings were the culmination of a chain of events that began when
Erin Belanger, then 22 and a former resident of Lowell, discovered that
Victorino had been illegally squatting in her grandmother's temporarily
vacant home in Deltona, Fla. She subsequently had police remove Victorino
from the property.
In the process, Victorino's Xbox video-game console and some articles of
clothing were left behind. Enlisting the help of Hunter, Salas and Cannon,
Victorino allegedly decided to reclaim the items on his own terms.
Florida attorneys believe that on Aug. 6, 2004, the 4 men, armed with
aluminum baseball bats, stormed the house and found Belanger and her
30-year-old fiance, Francisco Ayo Roman, also formerly of Lowell, home
along with 4 other people -- Michelle Nathan, 19, Anthony Vega, 34,
Jonathan Gleason, 17, and Roberto Gonzalez, 28, all of whom were Florida
The suspects then allegedly proceeded to bludgeon and slash all six people
and a pet dog to death.
The murders, which shocked the quiet Orlando suburb, caused waves of grief
locally that continue to resonate in the hearts of family members and
friends affected by the crime.
"There will never be closure," said Bill Belanger, Erin Belanger's father,
a resident of Hudson, N.H., who has said in the past that he hopes the
killers get the death penalty. "My only child is dead. I'm angry, I'm
hurt, I'm brokenhearted. The person that I was prior to August 6 is gone,
and he's never coming back."
Belanger plans on being present for every second of the court proceedings,
including, he hopes, the conviction, sentencing and execution phases.
Upon hearing the news that the 3 suspects will face death if convicted,
Benjamin Bonilla, the brother of Roman, said, "I'm glad they are facing
the death penalty. They murdered 6 people."
Bonilla, who lives in Lowell, also plans to go down to Florida but not
until after a conviction has occurred.
Some of the documents released by the state attorney tell of how Victorino
and Hunter spent nearly an hour inside the home murdering the 6 people. In
one of the letters, released Thursday, Cannon, who has already pleaded
guilty to all counts and will receive life in prison without parole in
exchange for his testimony, writes that after Victorino killed and then
abused the bodies of some of the victims, he came out and bragged about
Salas, who denies murdering anybody but admits to disposing of a knife he
claims Hunter used to slit the throats of some of the victims, showed
remorse over his involvement, and said Hunter and Victorino were the true
perpetrators the crime.
"He took great pleasure in what he did," Salas wrote of Hunter. "Don't let
him fool you. He is coldhearted like Troy. He loved what him and Troy
Salas added that he hopes Victorino will "fry."
(source: Lowell Sun)
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