[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----FLA., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Mar 3 11:03:41 CST 2006
Trial for man charged with killing deputy remains in Lake County; Trial
will remain in Lake County for a man accused of fatally shooting a
sheriff's deputy during an ambush, a judge has ruled.
In Taveres, defense attorneys requested a change of venue for Jason
Wheeler because of media coverage in the area.
"I have to try and pick a jury here first, and that's what I intend to
do," Lake Circuit Judge T. Michael Johnson said Thursday.
Wheeler has been charged with 1st-degree murder of a law enforcement
Deputy Wayne Koester was killed and Deputies Bill Crotty and Tom McKane
were wounded in Feb. 9, 2005 near the Lake County town of Paisley. They
were responding to a domestic violence call from Wheeler's girlfriend.
The incident left Wheeler paralyzed from the waist down.
He also has been charged with 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder of
an officer and 2 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm on an
Trial is scheduled to begin in May.
(source: Associated Press)
Fla. sheriff gives inmates cold case cards
First came celebrity poker for charity. Now, there is inmate poker for
closing cold homicide and missing persons cases.
Figuring no one knows more about crimes committed than criminals, the Palm
Beach County Sheriff's Office plans to deal out playing cards to jail
inmates displaying information about unsolved murder or missing persons
The reward for inmate tips: a potential $1,000.
"Who knows better where and who these criminals are than the people they
deal with, the other criminals," said Wayne Cross of Heartland Crime
Stoppers, who worked with law enforcement in Polk County to roll out the
first batch of cards.
Investigators hope the plan will help them close some of the county's more
than 250 cold cases dating back 40 years.
Polk County, just east of Tampa, initiated the program last year. Sheriffs
there have arrested two murder suspects and 4 fugitives based on tips
generated from the cards. Other agencies around the nation are now
considering similar plans.
Cross said the idea came from cards distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq
shortly after the 2003 invasion, displaying the names and likenesses of
that country's most wanted fugitives, including the Ace of Spades, Saddam
Cross said cards are also being printed for three other Florida counties
and Pensacola. The state Department of Corrections has expressed interest
in distribution in prisons and agencies in Boulder, Colo., and Odessa,
Texas, are exploring the idea, he said.
Palm Beach will disperse its cards in a few months, distributing up to
3,000 decks to about 2,500 inmates. At least indirectly, the inmates will
be footing the $7,500 cost because it will be covered by funds seized in
arrests, said sheriff's Capt. Jack Strenges.
' The decks also include a how-to guide to playing poker, listing the best
hands in descending order.
Wendy Balazik, of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said
the Florida initiative is the 1st time the group has heard of such
innovative efforts to closing cold cases.
"Agencies are always looking for new ways to solves crimes and this sounds
like a great idea," Balazik said.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty foe wins ruling----Cary man can sue state, judge rules
A Cary man who sued the state last year for the manner in which it carries
out the death penalty will have yet another day in court.
On Thursday, a judge ruled that Jim French could proceed with his case
that claims state executions offend Christians like him.
During the 30-minute hearing, an attorney for the state argued that French
has no standing to file such a lawsuit.
A decision in the case could influence the execution of Patrick Lane
Moody, 39, who is scheduled to die March 17 for the 1994 murder of Donnie
Ray Robbins in Davidson County.
French first sued North Carolina over lethal injection in 2003, but his
case was dismissed at its 1st hearing. At the time, the judge said he had
no "genuine controversy" with the state.
In the latest lawsuit, French challenged state executions as a violation
of his religious freedom. He wants to end what he calls the "Last Supper"
ritual in which condemned inmates receive their last meal on Thursday
night just a few hours before a lethal injection early Friday morning.
He believes the custom is similar to the Bible's telling of the death of
Jesus, who gathered his disciples for a Passover meal on what Christians
commemorate as Holy Thursday. The Crucifixion is remembered the next day,
But French, a death-penalty opponent, never got a chance to explain that
piece of the argument Thursday.
Instead, he spent 20 minutes offering his newest argument to the judge:
challenging the statutes that govern executions.
He questioned the state law that allows the warden of Central Prison, the
site of the state's execution chamber, to "obtain and employ the drugs
necessary to carry out" capital punishment. He argued that there can be no
exception for non-medical personnel, such as correctional officers, to
carry out the duties of medical personnel -- or for medical personnel to
participate in a killing.
His time ran out before he could argue the religious basis of his latest
The complaint names more than two dozen people, including Gov. Mike
Easley, Central Prison warden Marvin Polk and the state boards that
regulate medicine, pharmacy and nursing.
Special Deputy Attorney General Thomas Pitman, who represented the state
and its agencies, said French won't be personally harmed by an execution.
"He's not a medical provider, so he can't be forced to participate. He is
not in prison under the sentence of death, so he can't be the person who
receives the act of a medical provider," Pitman said. "His interest is to
have the death penalty abolished, and as long as it continues, then he's
going to feel harmed. But that's a moral or a political issue -- not a
legal issue. In the legal issue, he has no standing. He can't bring this
A half-dozen death penalty opponents attended the hearing, including John
Strange, spokesman for the Carrboro-based People of Faith Against the
"I think it's too soon to say if this is going to help our cause or not,"
he said. "We have a case of a private citizen who also happens to be a
lawyer who has taken some time out of his own life to figure out what the
state does when it kills somebody."
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood gave both sides until 5 p.m. Monday to
file any additional information with the court before he renders a
(source: The News & Observer)
States need to review their process on the death penalty
On Feb. 27 in the Annenberg Forum, a man by the name of Darryl Hunt spoke
concerning the reversal of his conviction and exoneration for being
falsely accused in the murder of Deborah Sykes. A packed room sat silent
as this relatively young and soft-spoken man spoke about the 20 years of
his life undeservedly and unconscionably taken from him by a faulty
Having studied and heard Hunt's story before in a religion class with
Stephen Boyd, a professor of religion, I regained those initial thoughts
of anger, rage and even guilt for something that had happened to an
innocent teen in the 1980s.
Let me say that as a senior political science and religion major, I
recognize the intellectual capital attained by examining this case as an
indictment of the judicial system and furthermore the larger society.
However, I remain perplexed that such a highly-profiled case remains a
relaxed reminder to our elected officials. There exist people whose lives
are unfathomably and irreconcilably controlled by the unwarranted command
of a "protector" of justice.
Perhaps it isn't enough that the endearment of silence suffocates our
rights. But to me, such retardation in acting on the issue of illegitimate
prosecutions and convictions frustrates my conscience and compels me to
think about ways I can tangibly contribute to the diminution of this
issue's point of contempt.
I mean this to be neither anything more or anything less than a perception
of this case's cataclysmic indictment on the inefficacy of our political
leaders to push the judicial system in ways that truly protects the rights
of the innocent.
After reading several articles and reviewing the timeline for Hunt's case,
whats baffling isn't just the judicial "mal-jurisprudence," but the
political impotence of a self-proclaimed "progressive" state; that being
North Carolina. Hunt's case exposes deeply-rooted cleavages in North
Carolina progressivism that makes this seem to be an issue of political
hypocrisy - even at the highest levels.
North Carolina is one of the few states in the country where the governor
has sole authority of the clemency process. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center, North Carolinas governors have issued 5 clemencies
since 1976. The good news is that North Carolina ranks in the top 10 in
most clemencies granted.
The bad news is that's 5 out of nearly 360 people put to death in North
Carolina since 1976; a record that I'm sure North Carolina takes pride in.
In the case of Illinois Gov. George Ryan, there exists a need, beyond the
reasonable conviction of justice, to examine the slaughter of innocent
human beings and the system that assembles them for slaughter.
Hence, my remarks are intended to serve as an innervating reminder of the
political implications associated with cases such as Hunt's. Participants
in the electoral system must shoulder the responsibility of change that
comes at the tip of a pencil or at the push of a button.
Voting, in my mind, is one way that humans save the lives of their
neighbors, both home and abroad, even when it appears that their neighbors
are guilty until proven innocent.
As idealistic as this seems, I wish to convey that voting is the publics
way of dealing with this issue head-on. While there are legislators
fighting to decrease the accessibility of death, the voting populous must
be willing to reasonably accept the charge in protecting the dignity of
Even as students at this university and as eligible voters, perhaps I
contend that voting for candidates who support the rights of the innocent,
is truly supporting and protecting life. Hunt's story sparked another
nerve at this panel discussion that I hope others share.
While the issue of investigations merits seriously complex discussions,
students and the general public should at least do their part and make
these investigations possible. Governing the populous is not easy; neither
is putting their children to death. Help protect life in North Carolina
and around the country by keeping Hunt's vision alive.
(source: Old Gold & Black (Wake Forest University) -- Reggie Mathis is a
senior political science and religion major from Wilmington)
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