[Deathpenalty] death penalty news------N.C., WIS., TENN., IDAHO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jun 26 01:14:16 UTC 2006
Debate over death penalty continues
The death penalty is a controversial subject around the country and North
Carolina is no different. There's a push to stop executions and study them
but others say there's no need.
2 overturned death penalty cases in recent years have fueled the fire for
"There's many that's still in prison on death row that's innocent," said
Darryl Hunt, who was wrongfully convicted.
"Every trial lawyer who's even tried any criminal case knows jurors
frequently find people guilty who are not guilty," said defense attorney
"Over the past few years, we have had many headlines about death penalty
convictions overturned," said NC House Speaker Jim Black. "I believe we
need to review our death penalty laws and protocols."
Since 1910 when the state took over executions, North Carolina has
executed 403 people. There are currently 171 people on death row. 92 are
black, 66 white and 4 are women.
In 1998 the state stopped electrocutions and made lethal injection the
But in recent months, that method brought on controversy. Opponents
believe defendants still feel pain before they die. The state agreed to
have a brain monitor on Willie Brown the night of his execution.
"What I saw tonight does not change my concerns nor meet Judge Howard's
concerns or in his first order," said Brown's lawyer, Don Cowans, said at
Last year the legislature set up a special committee to take on the death
"This committee is not about doing away with the death penalty," Rep.
Beverly Earle (D-Mecklenburg) explained. "Anyone who says it is is
obviously misleading the public."
Instead, it's studying if laws need to be changed or if the state should
stop executions to study the issue for 2 years.
"The committee ought to narrow the range of the capital statute," added
UNC Law Professor Jack Boger. "Right now we have a statute so broad that
700 people are potentially eligible for capital punishment."
But some lawmakers and state officials believe the death penalty doesn't
"We've increased our use of DNA," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy
Cooper. "We're making sure people who believe they're innocent have the
right to prove their innocence."
Branson Vickory III of the NC Conference of District Attorneys said,
"Every person convicted of first-degree murder has a moratorium, it's
between 8 and f15 years between the time they're convicted and the time
they're actually executed."
"Nobody wants to execute a person who's not guilty but I think we really
got a lot of good checks and balances and we got what we need," added Rep.
Russell Capps (R-Wake).
In recent months, the legislature made it clear nothing will get done with
the death penalty this year.
"I do not believe we'll be in a position to make recommendations for the
short session," said Rep. Joe Hackney (D-Orange.)
In the meantime, those who simply want the death penalty abolished
continue to protest outside the prison for each execution. Recently 10
protesters were arrested and convicted for trespassing.
"I would say they were on the property 20-25 feet," said Sgt. Wes Starling
of the State Capitol Police.
Death penalty protestor Bill Gural said, "If a greater wrong is going to
take place then you have a moral obligation to stop it from happening."
Another death penalty protestor, Beth Brockman, added, "You know it's true
we crossed a line when we went to Central Prison but I feel that long ago
a line crossed us, the line between justice and vengeance and the line
between what's morally right and what's morally wrong."
Even though the judge punished them, he made a point to give them credit
for their cause.
"Having grown up in the 60's, I admire you completely," the judge told
(source: Charlotte News Channel)
Man's tragedy leads him to seek exemption from death penalty case
Brian Green wanted to do his civic duty and serve on the jury deciding
Timothy Lanier Allen's fate. But, tragedy in his own life led to him
asking to be excused from service Friday.
Green is the son of Gladys Green, who was killed in a head-on collision
Jan. 15, 2005, on Fifth Street in Roanoke Rapids. The man believed
responsible for the accident still faces trial for 2nd-degree murder in
I don't need to be trying anything. We're trying hard to get this young
man behind bars, he said of Steven Craig Jones as he explained his
situation to visiting Superior Court Judge Richard Parker of Manteo.
Green said he would find it hard to concentrate on the Allen case while
preoccupied with his mother's death and the court proceedings that will
follow. Parker excused him.
Meanwhile, 7 jurors have been seated and 7 more - including 2 alternates -
must be chosen in the Allen case.
There are 12 jurors left in the 3rd pool of 25 and they were asked to
return to court on Monday at 10 a.m. Besides Green, 6 other jurors were
excused because of their varying views on the death penalty, one of the
options the jury has in the case. The other option is life in prison.
Allen's guilt was established when a jury in 1985 agreed he murdered N.C.
Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Worley on May 14, 1985. He was sentenced to
death that December.
In 1997, however, just as he received his final meal, an appeals court
upheld a federal judge's order stopping the execution. That ruling was
based on a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that instructions telling jurors to
unanimously find mitigating factors was unconstitutional. A resentencing
hearing was ordered for Allen.
The Jones case
Jones was indicted by a grand jury for charges of second-degree murder and
DWI and also faces charges of careless and reckless driving and possession
of a spirituous liquor by a person 19 or 20.
He also faces a DWI charge stemming from an Oct. 2, 2004 incident on
Interstate 95 in which his blood alcohol content at the time was allegedly
0.14 %. He was also charged with driving after consuming when less than
21, failing to comply with license restriction, failing to reduce speed,
fictitious or revoked registration card or tag, following too close and
possession of an open container. Jones's appeal on that case will be heard
sometime in August.
According to investigators in the January accident, Jones was traveling
east on Fifth Street at a high rate of speed when he crossed the center
line and entered the westbound lane, striking a Dodge Neon operated by
Derrick Green. Mrs. Green, a passenger in the car, died. The accident
report said Jones was traveling 61 mph in a 25 mph zone when the collision
(source: Roanoke Daily Herald)
Wisconsin puts death to a vote
More than 150 years separated the murders of Bridgett McCaffry and Teresa
Halbach, but they may prove to be historic bookends to Wisconsin's
century-and-a-half-old law preventing the execution of convicted killers.
Voters in Wisconsin will be asked in November whether the Legislature
should enact the death penalty, ending America's 2nd-longest prohibition
on capital punishment.
While the vote is advisory, the outcome is awaited with great anticipation
by partisans on both sides of the roiling capital punishment debate
because votes on the death penalty usually are confined to legislative
chambers and courtrooms. Referendums have been rare in the volatile public
arena, where years of polls show consistently strong support for capital
The upper Midwest states have long histories of resistance to the death
penalty, and the coming Wisconsin vote is the first potential crack in
that fortress. If the referendum is approved, the pressure will build on
Wisconsin lawmakers - they effectively told voters they want their opinion
- to respond to public sentiment.
"I'm certainly worried about it. I take it very seriously," said E.
Michael McCann, Milwaukee County's district attorney and a longtime
opponent of the death penalty.
The last execution in Wisconsin was in 1851. Nearly 3,000 people showed up
in Kenosha to watch the hanging of John McCaffry, convicted of killing his
wife, Bridgett. McCaffry struggled at the end of the rope for several
minutes before dying, according to local reports at the time, and two
years later the state outlawed the death penalty.
Through generations of occasionally horrific murders - most notably those
by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 men and boys between 1978
and 1991 - the state's death penalty ban has endured, in spite of repeated
legislative efforts to overturn it.
Whether by coincidence of events or the persistence of death penalty
advocates, official political resistance shifted after the murder last
Halloween of Teresa Halbach, a young freelance photographer. Steven Avery,
who had been released from prison in 2003 after being wrongfully convicted
of an assault, has been charged with Halbach's death near Manitowoc.
Avery is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 16, three weeks before the vote.
The timing of the trial has provoked charges from death penalty opponents
that this effort smacks of election year politics. That charge has been
dismissed by death penalty supporters, including state Sen. Alan Lasee,
who has been pushing for the death penalty for 28 years.
A "number of vicious murders over the years - and one in particular,"
Lasee said, referring to Halbach, helped clear the way for a public vote.
"I believe a majority of Wisconsin citizens strongly support the death
penalty," he said.
Polls suggest Lasee is right. A late March/early April poll by the St.
Norbert College Survey Center and Wisconsin Public Radio found that 61
percent of those questioned said they would vote for a referendum question
similar to the one heading for the November ballot. 33 % were opposed. A
recent USA Today/Gallup Poll showed similar support nationwide - 65 %
favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder. 28 % opposed it,
the poll said.
"What's happening in Wisconsin is in response to a particular crime," said
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, a Washington advocacy group that has criticized the way capital
punishment has been applied in the United States.
"Legislators would be hard-pressed to reject the public's sentiments, but
there are public policy reasons for doing so," Dieter argued, pointing to
the January 2000 decision by then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan to impose a
moratorium on the death penalty after an investigation by the Chicago
Tribune raised questions about the fairness of how it was applied. The
moratorium is still in effect.
"The death penalty used to be an easy sell," Dieter said. "Now it's a
Opponents of capital punishment argue that support for the death penalty
has dropped in recent years. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976, though, public support has remained fairly consistent,
around 65 percent, according to Gallup.
12 states and the District of Columbia do not allow the death penalty, and
in some of them the prohibition is deeply rooted. The death penalty ban
has been part of the Michigan Constitution since 1846.
Minnesota's last execution was in 1911; in Massachusetts it was 1947. Yet
legislatures in each of those states - usually in response to specific
murder cases - have recently tried to overturn death penalty bans.
Voters in Oregon have voted four times in the past century on the death
penalty - twice approving it and twice rejecting it. The most recent
tenure of capital punishment has been in effect in Oregon since the
mid-1980s. A campaign to repeal the death penalty in 2002 was abandoned
after polls showed overwhelming support for capital punishment.
"This is a decision that each state has to make individually, and a lot of
times it depends on what's going on (like) a particularly horrific set of
murders," said Joshua Marquis, the Clatsop County, Ore., district attorney
and vice president of the National District Attorneys Association.
"Generally you have different states with different philosophies. ... I
think this vacillating back and forth will continue for a long time," said
Marquis, a death penalty advocate who supports letting citizens vote on
If Wisconsin voters approve the death penalty referendum by a margin that
reflects national polls, it likely would create a new and contentious
chapter in the state's death penalty politics, one influenced by an
unusual entrant - a public referendum.
Keith Findley, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and
co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which provides legal
assistance to inmates who believe they have been wrongly convicted, said
it will take a "seismic change" to overturn generations of cultural
opposition to the death penalty in Wisconsin.
"We haven't had it since 1853. Certainly a lot of people want it (death
penalty) but a lot of people don't," Findley said, pointing to judges and
prosecutors, such as Milwaukee County's McCann.
"This is an advisory referendum, and even if it passes, it will not mean
by any stretch that we'll have it. It would still have to pass the
Legislature," Findley said. "If it passes, I'm not sure what it means."
(source: Chicago Tribune)
State scheduled to execute Reid, Alley on Wednesday----Appeals pending;
Alley's lawyers want DNA testing
Tennessee has executed only 1 death row inmate since the Supreme Court
decided to allow states to reinstate the death penalty in 1976.
But that could change Wednesday with inmates Paul Dennis Reid and Sedley
Alley scheduled to be executed by lethal injection within hours of each
other on the same day.
With appeals pending, it's still possible that both men could get a stay,
but correction officials are getting ready for a double-execution just in
"We're going forward as if both executions will happen that day," said
Correction Department spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.
Even though the death penalty remains politically popular in Tennessee, it
hasn't been used since 2000 when the state executed child killer Robert
Glen Coe by lethal injection.
The most recent time 2 people were executed in the state was 1955, and the
most executions in one day were 4 in 1922.
Carter said the state can handle multiple executions because the death
watch area, where prisoners are moved 3 days before their scheduled
execution, has 4 cells.
"Both men would be placed there," Carter said.
Reid, 48, was convicted of 7 murders at fast-food restaurants in Nashville
and Clarksville during a 3-month period in 1997. He received 7 death
Court records and previous testimony say Reid is mentally ill, brain
damaged and that he believes he is being monitored and tormented by a
military government. Although he has been granted 2 previous stays, Reid
has refused to sign legal papers to continue his appeals.
Earlier this month, Reid's sister filed a motion asking that her brother's
execution be postponed because he's incompetent. On Friday, she asked the
Tennessee Supreme Court to stay his execution on grounds that he's
The sister is not talking to reporters, and Reid's attorney refused to
comment, but the motion filed earlier this month says a Montgomery County
Circuit Court judge was wrong for not granting a stay of execution and for
failing to conduct a competency hearing.
Reid dropped his appeals on two of his death sentences in 2003, clearing
the way for his execution in April of that year. But another sister
appealed to a federal appeals court, which delayed his execution.
The other inmate, Alley, is accused of kidnapping, sexually mutilating and
killing a 19-year-old woman near Memphis in 1985.
Attorneys for Alley, 50, are trying to get DNA testing of murder-scene
evidence they say could show he didn't comment the murder and possibly
provide information about who did.
A state appeals court refused last week to order DNA testing on
crime-scene evidence, but Alley's lawyers say they will continue his
"Mr. Alley should be entitled to DNA testing," said Kelley Henry, an
assistant federal public defender on Alley's case.
Alley confessed to the murder but argued at trial and on earlier appeals
that he was not legally responsible because he suffered from multiple
personalities. He began arguing his innocence in 2004.
Barry Scheck, co-founder of the nonprofit legal clinic called the
Innocence Project and a member of Alley's legal team, contends a
comparison of DNA found on the murder weapon, the victim's clothes and
other murder-scene evidence might turn up a new suspect if compared with a
national database of DNA from convicted criminals.
Scheck also contends the victim's former boyfriend, who has never been
accused in the killing, could be a suspect.
(source: Associated Press)
Idaho man facing death penalty for murders
In Nampa, prosecutors said Friday they will seek the death penalty for a
man accused of beheading his wife, then killing a woman and her 4-year-old
daughter in a botched suicide-by-car accident attempt.
Her decapitated body was found after Time, carrying the severed head in
his pickup truck, deliberately swerved into oncoming traffic and collided
with a sedan, killing Samantha Nina Murphy, 36, and her daughter, Jaelynne
Grimes, prosecutors said. The impact caused the head to fly onto the road.
Time is also charged with 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder in the deaths of
Murphy and Grimes.
(source: Associated Press)
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