[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Mar 6 15:40:09 CST 2006
Is Texas ready for Governor Kinky?
The line of well-dressed young executives stretches down a hallway, past a
table of Kinky Friedman talking action figures and straight up to the
candidate for Texas governor in the black cowboy hat.
"I'll sign anything," country singer and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman
assures the crowd arriving for a downtown luncheon speech as they snap up
Kinky T-shirts, bumper stickers and posters sold to finance his
independent -- and decidedly nontraditional -- bid for governor.
With a blizzard of one-liners, a campaign slogan of "Why the Hell Not?"
and an eclectic blend of policy ideas from all sides of the ideological
divide, the former frontman for the band Kinky Friedman and the Texas
Jewboys says he wants to "change the world one governor at a time."
Friedman hopes to tap voter frustration with Republican Gov. Rick Perry,
Texas Democrats and politics in general to become the latest celebrity
governor, following wrestler Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and actor Arnold
Schwarzenegger in California.
"People are drooling for the truth, they are begging for a little honesty
from officials and they aren't getting any," the black-clad,
cigar-chomping Friedman told Reuters. "This is the moment in history if
Texas can grab it."
Friedman's independent crusade kicks off on Wednesday, the day after the
Texas primary, when volunteers can begin to gather the signatures needed
to get him on the ballot in November.
He has 64 days to get 45,540 signatures of registered voters who did not
vote in the primary, a stringent requirement that prompts an urgent plea
'SAVE YOURSELF FOR KINKY'
"Don't vote in the primary. Save yourself for Kinky," he tells his
audiences, typically split between supporters and the simply curious.
His candidacy already has enlivened a governor's race involving Perry, who
took over when George W. Bush moved to the White House, 2 Democrats and
Republican state Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, who also is running as an
Saying "there's plenty of room in the hot tub," Friedman welcomed
Strayhorn, mother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, into the
race. But there has not been an independent on the Texas ballot for
governor in modern times, and the last one elected governor was Sam
Houston in 1859 -- a fact Friedman calls "shameful."
"Independence is the Texas way. It ain't the easy way, but it's the cowboy
way," Friedman said. "The parties are doing a disservice to Texas. They
are monopolising democracy."
Friedman, whose support was at 10 % in recent polls, hopes to raise $6
million by November, enough to air television ads down the stretch but not
enough to make a big splash in Texas, where candidates spent $100 million
in the last governor's race.
His prospects are routinely dismissed by pundits and Texas politicians,
but "the people are taking me very seriously. They're taking me more
seriously than I take myself," Friedman said.
"I'm a compassionate redneck, I'm an unabashed dreamer, but I'm not a
politician," said the author of more than 20 books, including a string of
mystery novels featuring a detective named Kinky Friedman.
He is best known for his days leading the Texas Jewboys, an Austin band
known for politically incorrect blasts such as "They Ain't Makin' Jews
Like Jesus Anymore" and "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the
"I wrote the songs to express truth as I see it, and that has not changed.
>From the music to the books, I've been a truth teller," he said. "Being a
humorist helps, because you can sail as close to the truth as you can get
without sinking the ship."
He announced his campaign last year with a quip -- "I need the closet
space" -- and he fires off a steady stream of one-liners and slogans like
"How Hard Can it Be?"
"He Ain't Kinky, He's My Governor," reads a Friedman bumper sticker, while
his 13-inch-high (33-cm-high) talking action figure, a popular seller at
$29.95 each, spouts lines like "I'm gonna de-wussify Texas if I have to do
it one wuss at a time."
Kathryn Lott, who bought 3 bumper stickers, a poster and a button before
listening to Friedman in Houston, said she plans to vote for him.
"We need some freethinkers in government. Why not take a chance with
someone new?" said Lott, a marketing director for the Houston Grand Opera.
Mary Lane, a Houston realtor, said Friedman has "a definite shot. People
are tired of politicians and politics."
He promises to bring musician pals like Willie Nelson into his
administration, and says he will rename major highways after Texas musical
icons like Nelson, Bob Wills and Buddy Holly.
"Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won't get a lot
done in the mornings, but we'll work late and be honest," he said.
Friedman, whose parents were educators, is serious about the state's
education system, promising to turn school choices back to teachers and
create a "Texas heroes" program to lure retired experts into schools.
He would boost pay for teachers, police and firefighters, he says, and
fund it with legalised casino gambling and a 1 percent tax surcharge on
Texas oil and gas companies.
He supports gay marriage, saying "they have every right to be as miserable
as the rest of us," and prayer in the schools. He is against the death
penalty -- a view he likens to "looking into your political grave" in
"I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions,
toll roads and property taxes," Friedman says. But if he loses he promises
to ditch Texas and head to Hawaii.
"If I lose this race I will retire in a petulant snit," he said. "I'm not
going to go out gracefully, I promise you."
Death row inmate dies in hospital
A man on death row for gunning down a federal agent has died at a
Galveston prison hospital of natural causes.
Texas corrections officials say 65-year-old Anibal Rousseau died early
yesterday. Rousseau had been taken the previous day from death row outside
Livingston to the prison hospital.
He had been on death row since July 1989.
Rousseau was convicted in the fatal shooting of David Delitta during a
robbery outside a Houston restaurant. Delitta was an agent with the
Environmental Protection Agency.
The case was being appealed after attorney found a bullet from a gun
linked to the agent's death had been used in a slaying after Rousseau's
A native of Cuba, Rosseau emigrated to the United States in 1962.
(source: Associated Press)
Federal death penalty difficult to obtain----Changes in law give rise to
Even the "trial of the century" was a hurry-up affair by today's
In 1935, it took jurors just 11 hours to find Bruno Hauptmann guilty of
kidnapping and killing the Lindbergh baby and to decide he should be
Jurors now must clear many more hurdles to make the same leap from guilt
After 3 decades of Supreme Court decisions designed to make the use of the
death sentence less arbitrary, juries decide punishment in a distinct and
elaborate penalty phase of state and federal trials, as in the case of
terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
This has given rise to a relatively new breed of defense advocates known
as "mitigation specialists."
They delve into the social history of criminals, looking for a troubled
childhood, a hard life or any such information that might sway jurors to
act with compassion.
A death sentence is far from a foregone conclusion once a jury assigns
guilt in a capital case.
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, in cases where
juries have reached the point of choosing between life and death, they
have imposed 93 life sentences and 49 death sentences, according to the
Capital Defense Network, which supports defense lawyers in death penalty
On state-level convictions where the death sentence is an option, juries
choose execution roughly half the time, according the Death Penalty
Information Center. It attributes the higher odds of a death sentence in
state cases to lower-quality legal representation.
Moussaoui's case is unique
Moussaoui's sentencing in federal court will be anything but typical.
The confessed al Qaeda conspirator pleaded guilty to conspiring to fly
planes into U.S. buildings, although he claims to have had no role in the
terrorist plot of September 11, 2001.
Jurors at Moussaoui's penalty trial will first decide whether his actions
qualify him for the death penalty and, if so, whether he deserves it. If
either answer is no, he will get a life sentence.
Opening arguments an the first witnesses are expected Monday.
The sentencing phase of trials increasingly is divided into 2 parts. One
determines if the crime warrants the death penalty; the 2nd decides if
that particular criminal warrants execution.
A trial's penalty phase sometimes is called a trial for life.
"It is a trial for life in the sense that the defendant's life is at
stake, and it is a trial about life, because a central issue is the
meaning and value of the defendant's life," law professor Gary Goodpaster
wrote in 1983.
2-part penalty trial
The 2-part trial gives criminals a chance to plead for their lives,
express remorse and explain their behavior after they have been found
guilty -- something foolish to do before a verdict had been returned.
It offers a venue, too, for victims' loved ones to speak about the pain of
Defendants, the Supreme Court said in one case, must be treated as
"uniquely individual human beings." The justices called for paying special
attention to "the compassionate or mitigating factors stemming from the
diverse frailties of human kind."
With that kind of guidance, lawyers now poke through a defendant's life
history, sometimes going back 3 generations, looking for anything that
might move jurors toward mercy.
The American Bar Association now says no defense team in a death penalty
case is complete without a mitigation specialist.
It takes special skills to ferret out useful information because the
defendant and family members may be embarrassed to acknowledge past abuse,
neglect, drug use, mental problems or other mitigating factors.
"If I were on trial for my life, I'd want a dozen mitigation specialists
to figure out ways to frame this trial in ways that would save my life,"
said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and a
specialist on sentencing.
Moussaoui's lawyers would not discuss their strategy. Their legal filings
indicate they plan to highlight Moussaoui's difficult life as part of a
broken family with a history of mental illness and suggest he fell under
the influence of radical clerics in London when his personal life was in
Victim impact statements
Prosecutors have laid out plans to call about 45 victims and relatives to
testify in what is sure to be wrenching terms about the losses they
suffered from the 2001 attacks.
In 1987, the Supreme Court banned victim testimony from capital sentencing
trials, saying it could only inflame jurors and deny defendants a fair
sentence. A more conservative court reversed course in 1991, allowing
juries to take into account the suffering of relatives.
Defense lawyers say victims' testimony often is so compelling that it
makes it hard for juries to make a rational decision on punishment and can
turn sentencing hearings into memorial services.
"It may be more than the law should expect of the human beings who sit on
juries," said capital defense specialist David Bruck.
The sentencing in 2001 of 2 men convicted in the terrorist bombing of a
U.S. embassy in Africa, in which 11 people died, could be instructive for
Moussaoui's defense team.
The jury deadlocked twice on whether to impose the death penalty for
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, effectively
sentencing both followers of Osama bin Laden to life in prison just months
before the September 11 attacks.
The jurors had used lengthy "verdict sheets" to help them make their
decisions. In al-'Owhali's case, for example, 10 jurors felt that killing
him would make him a martyr, 9 doubted it would relieve the victims' pain,
five found life in prison a greater punishment and four took note that the
defendant had been raised in a different culture and belief system.
Death sentences decline
Overall, fewer death sentences are being imposed nationwide -- 125 in
2004, compared with 300 in 1998.
Possible explanations include less confidence about verdicts, growing
questions about the fairness of the death penalty, prosecutors less
frequently seeking the death penalty and growing confidence that an
alternative sentence of life without parole truly will keep someone behind
Only 3 federal executions have taken place since the death penalty was
reinstated, most notably that of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
In that case, jurors had weighed a series of aggravating and mitigating
factors, the latter including the facts that he had no criminal record and
had earned a Bronze Star in the first Gulf War. Jurors wept as victims and
family members testified about how their lives had been devastated by the
McVeigh later said he thought the jurors "ruled too much on emotion," but
he did not fight his sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
The death penalty and Catholic morality ----The issue of whether or not
the particular people arrested and punished for various crimes are in fact
guilty is a matter of the effectiveness of our methods of gathering and
On January 18, 2003, Thomas Roeser, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times,
wrote an article entitled "Is the Death Penalty Moral?" In it he argued
that the death penalty should be "curtailed severely." Roeser based his
argument on 2 basic points. Firstly, like governor Ryan of Illinois, who
recently exonerated all death row inmates in his state, Roeser made the
claim that since many people are wrongfully imprisoned or cannot afford
decent attorneys, the death penalty should be severely limited or
Secondly, Roeser made use of recent comments by Pope John Paul II, in
order to argue that the nature of the death penalty, even when there is
certitude of the guilt of the condemned, is in itself harsh and
un-merciful. Both of these arguments, although commonly used by modern
well-meaning Catholics, are without logic or merit.
Arguing for the curtailing of the death penalty, Roeser said, "One reason
is that there have been proven police brutalities and modern tests of DNA
that overrule other evidence. A second is that the poor are not equipped
as are the wealthy to mount a vigorous defense."
If these facts put forth by Roeser are sufficient to curtail the death
penalty, why would they not be sufficient to justify the immediate release
of all prisoners throughout the country? The issue of whether or not the
particular people arrested and punished for various crimes are in fact
guilty is a matter of the effectiveness of our methods of gathering and
evaluating evidence. It is not a question of whether our means of
punishment are proper. It would be illogical to argue that the police
should never arrest or imprison anyone because of the possibility of
convicting the wrong person.
Roeser, a Catholic, then moved on to the essence of the question of the
morality of the death penalty. He quoted Pope John Paul II as having said
that the death penalty should only be used in "strict necessity." The
Pope's personal opinion, emanating in part from the Vatican II document
Dignitatis Humane, is based on the idea that man has been created and
redeemed by God and therefore has an ontological dignity. According to
this theory, man's dignity is so ingrained in the person that even the
most violent and evil criminals posses it and, therefore, should be
treated with dignity and not be put to death for their crimes.
In Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II wrote, "The problem [of the death
penalty] must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever
more in line with human dignity." The American Bishops believe in this
idea so strongly that they say all sentencing should be used in order to
rehabilitate criminal offenders rather than to punish them
(Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective
on Crime and Criminal Punishment, USCCB).
The idea that there should be no death penalty because of the dignity of
the human person is completely new to Catholic theology. In the Old
Testament, God Himself ordered Moses to tell the Israelites that they
should condemn to death those who murder (Exodus, Chapter 22, 3). Also, at
the words of St. Peter, God struck Anaias and Saphira dead because of
their actions (Acts, ch. 5, vs 1-10). St. Thomas also gave many reasons
for which the death penalty should be used when the crimes go against the
public good, as is the case with murder and heresy. "They deserve not only
to be severed from the Church by excommunication, but also severed from
the world through death" (Summa, Pt. II-II, Q. 11, Art. 3).
The constant teaching of the Church on the death penalty has also been
upheld as recently as 1952 by Pope Pius XII. (Papal Address to the First
International Congress on the Histopathology of the Nervous System,
September 14, 1952). The Vatican City itself had the death penalty until
It does not appear that Our Lord or the Catholic Church place the same
value on the dignity of the human person as do the American Bishops or
Roeser when it comes to the death penalty. One important reason for this
is that the American Bishops put all their emphasis on the ontological
dignity of the human person as opposed to the operative dignity. In other
words, the American Bishops believe that one is due particular treatment
because of the fact that he is human and not because he operates or
behaves in a moral way befitting what God expects of humans. The Church
has always taught that when one commits an evil act he looses his
operative dignity. This is why God could have told Moses to condemn
murderers to death even though they possessed human ontological dignity.
People are not rewarded or punished for what they are, but for what they
One last argument that Roeser made against the death penalty was, "A
vitally important argument is that no matter how long it takes for
execution, the death penalty may well cut off the time needed for remorse
or contrition, which in the Christian sense is needed for redemption of
It appears obvious that if we were to adopt this idea as the basis for a
law, no sane criminal would ever admit to converting or repenting in order
that his execution would not be carried out. Another important point is
that the death penalty actually fosters repentance because the criminals
are often made to consider their sinful state before they "meet their
Maker." This is seen many times throughout history including in the case
of Timothy McVeigh who asked for the Last Sacraments from a Catholic
priest just minutes before being executed even though he declared himself
an agnostic the night before his death.
In his article, Thomas Roeser claimed that the death penalty should be
"severely curtailed" because some people will be found guilty who are
innocent and because the Pope believes that humans have a dignity so
profound that even if they kill, they should not be punished by death. I
do not believe these ideas can stand up to serious scrutiny. If there is a
danger of wrongfully convicting a criminal, the system should be fixed,
but we should not allow serious offenders to go without appropriate
punishment. Instead of looking to novel ways of examining our societal
problems, we should look to what the Church has always and infallibly
taught both in Sacred Scripture and in Dogma. If the death penalty was
just and moral enough for God and the Apostles to order its use, then it
should be just and moral enough for 21st Century Americans.
(source: Commentary, Spero News)
Moussaoui death penalty trial opens
A federal judge on Monday seated the jury that will decide whether
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
is executed for conspiring with the terrorists.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema impaneled 18 jurors and alternates in
90 minutes, clearing the way for opening statements and the 1st testimony
in the afternoon. One who appeared upset at being chosen was excused,
meaning the trial will proceed with 12 jurors and five alternates instead
of 6. Moussaoui, a 37-year-old French citizen, has acknowledged his
loyalty to the al-Qaeda terrorist network and his intent to commit acts of
terrorism, but denies any prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot.
Frequently ejected from the courtroom earlier because of his outbursts
against his court-appointed attorneys, Moussaoui sat quietly through the
opening of his trial, gazing often at the jurors or the gallery.
At the end of the morning hearing, he spoke to one member of his defense
team: "Just to let you know, you're not my lawyer, thanks a lot."
His mother, Aicha el-Wafi, spoke up for her son in a CNN interview. "All
they can have against him is the things that he said, the words that he
has used," she said, "but actual acts that he committed, there aren't
But D. Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, Md., who lost his father Donald and
stepmother Jean on hijacked Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania,
declared, "I want accountability."
"I believe Moussaoui is an excellent candidate for the death penalty," he
said outside the courtroom. "He is nothing less than a mass murderer."
The jury included a high school math teacher who has traveled widely in
the Middle East, a Sunni Muslim woman who was born in Iran and a man who
served as a Navy lieutenant in the Persian Gulf during the Desert Storm
war with Iraq in 1990-91.
Only two of the 21 prospective jurors with some connection to the Sept. 11
attacks made it on the final panel of 17.
One was a woman whose brother-in-law works for the New York City Police
Department and helped with rescue at the World Trade Center. The math
teacher had a more remote connection: The fathers of two of her pupils are
firefighters who responded to the 9/11 crash at the Pentagon. She helped
freshmen make a quilt to give to the fire department.
One woman who was seated said earlier that she would tend to assume an
al-Qaeda member is evil. Jurors also included a mental health researcher,
a man whose father retired from the CIA just before 9/11, a man who serves
in the military reserves and a federal government employee who said he
thought there was a lack of communication between the FBI and CIA before
The defense and prosecution, whittling down prospects from a pool of more
than 80, both managed to avoid the jurors they objected to the most.
After the jurors were seated and sworn in, one asked to speak to the judge
and after a bench conference, she was excused for unspecified personal
reasons. That left 10 men and seven women to hear the case.
Members of the jury pool generally kept their eyes away from Moussaoui and
those who did not make the final cut appeared relieved. "I'm so happy,"
one woman said as she walked out.
Those selected will not know who is a juror and who is an alternate until
late in the trial.
The jury pool already had been qualified to serve during a two-week
process in which prospects were quizzed individually by Brinkema and
filled out 50-page questionnaires asking their views about the death
penalty, al-Qaeda, the FBI and their reactions to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Arrangements for the trial have been years in the making. Victims of the
terrorist attacks and their families can watch the trial on closed-circuit
TV at federal courthouses in Boston, Central Islip, N.Y., Newark, N.J.,
Philadelphia and in Alexandria, thanks to legislation passed in Congress.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with al-Qaeda to hijack
planes and commit other crimes. The trial will determine Moussaoui's
punishment, and only 2 options are available: death or life in prison.
To obtain the death penalty, prosecutors must first prove a direct link
between Moussaoui and the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui denies any
connection to 9/11, but says he was training for a possible future attack.
Prosecutors will try to link Moussaoui to 9/11 by arguing that the FBI
would have prevented the attacks if only Moussaoui had told the truth to
the FBI about his terrorist links when he was arrested in August 2001.
The defense argues that the FBI and other agencies knew more about the
hijackers' plans before 9/11 than Moussaoui and still failed to stop the
(source: Associated Press)
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