[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----WIS., ORE., GA., S.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 8 17:22:53 CST 2006
Death penalty vote gets state Senate OK
The Wisconsin state Senate approved a bill 20 to 13 Tuesday that would
allow Wisconsin residents to vote in a public referendum on the death
The referendum is non-binding and if approved by the state Assembly, it
will allow Wisconsin voters to decide if enough support exists to pass a
proposal reinstating capital punishment 150 years after it was first
Such a bill would allow the state to seek the death penalty for people
convicted of particularly heinous crimes with DNA evidence.
As people take sides on the sensitive issue, the rhetoric continues to
"There isn't a safeguard in the world that is going to be 100 %," said
state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. "Death is as final as it gets.
There aren't any do-overs," he said.
However, some lawmakers contend that justice can be served through capital
"In my own personal view, the death penalty is about justice and it is
about an end point and the ultimate penalty," said state Sen. Carol
Roessler, R-Oshkosh. "In my view, we are about justice in the state of
As Wisconsin's 1st and last execution took place in 1851 - the state
abolished capital punishment in 1853 - the fate of such an issue remains
"I think it's a tough thing to talk about," UW-Madison senior Trevor
Leverson said. "While I think there are some people that are probably a
danger to society in and outside of prison, I don't think the death
penalty makes sense as a punishment."
Moral and ethical dilemmas aside, the economics behind capital punishment
may also be a point of major contention.
The amount of money taxpayers spend on states with the death penalty
cannot be pinned down entirely, but according to the Center for Death
Penalty Information, costs can be substantially higher in death penalty
cases than others. The CDPI said cases in which capital punishment is an
option for the prosecution require more attorneys for both sides, more
experts to be brought in and in all likelihood, more trials.
Reinstating capital punishment in Wisconsin will require leaders in
Madison to address multiple issues. Since the referendum is not yet set,
the debate continues within communities, cites and in the state Capitol.
"There is a big blur when you begin to look at different circumstances,"
said state Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar. "I just don't know how you draw
(source: The Daily Cardinal)
Victims' relatives are mixed on death penalty ----Rogers' sentencing - A
daughter says that "nothing will bring our families back"
Even though Dayton Leroy Rogers murdered her mother 19 years ago, Kelli
Cervantes told Clackamas County Circuit Judge Ronald Thom Tuesday that
executing him is wrong.
"There's nothing that will bring our families back," said Cervantes, 29,
who traveled from New York City to attend Rogers' sentencing trial.
Family members of Rogers' victims weren't allowed to testify during his
3-week resentencing trial, but they got a chance to speak at Tuesday's
sentencing hearing, a formality in which Thom imposed the death sentence
issued by a jury last week.
Several other victims' family members said they want Rogers executed.
A jury decided Friday that Rogers shall be put to death for hog-tying,
stabbing, mutilating and murdering six women in 1987. Twice before juries
have sentenced Rogers to death for those crimes, but the Oregon Supreme
Court overturned both sentences.
Rogers' 3rd death sentence also will be appealed to the state Supreme
Cervantes, who was 10 when Rogers killed her mother, Nondace Kae
Cervantes, said the jury's verdict could bring sorrow to Rogers' family,
such as his son, who was an infant when Rogers committed the crimes.
"After experiencing the loss and pain we've been through, I find it
difficult that we can turn around and inflict that pain on others,"
But Sherrie De Vore, mother of murder victim Cynthia De Vore, said she
wonders whether Rogers will be executed any time soon, if ever, given the
17 years that have passed since his 1st death sentence.
"Will he pay?" she asked. "When is he going to pay?"
Wayne De Vore, Cynthia De Vore's father, said he's tortured by his
daughter's death every day. Some days, he thinks about her every minute.
"I've become a loner in this world," he said. "I'm pretty well withdrawn."
Rogers, who was wearing handcuffs, chains and a white inmate jumpsuit with
the collar turned up, didn't speak. He's been transferred out of Clackamas
County Jail and into the custody of the state prison system.
Justice delayed, justice denied on Death Row
As people began to trickle into Courtroom 5 Tuesday morning, a cuffed and
chained Dayton Leroy Rogers sat alone behind the long defense table
staring up at a ventilation duct.
Even after his sentencing hearing began, and several family members of his
victims took turns urging the court to see his death sentence carried out,
I didn't see his expression change much.
And why would it? For Rogers, as well as the family and friends of the 8
women he brutally murdered, it was the same ol' same ol', the 3rd time
over the past 19 years a jury had sentenced him to death.
Later, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote would tell me the
prosecutors had done their job. The case doesn't make him question the
death penalty, he says, but makes him wish that appeals moved along more
quickly, something he believes is slowly beginning to happen.
You only have to look a little north of Portland to find a longtime
prosecutor who's far less certain about the death penalty than he once
When I telephoned former Texas prosecutor Bruce Baxter and told him why I
was calling, I thought the line had gone dead or he'd hung up on me.
If he had, I'd understand why.
Baxter is now in private practice in Tacoma -- family law, he told me. But
I'd called about his former life, the one in which he persuaded a jury to
give a death sentence in 1985 to Ruben Cantu, a San Antonio teenager
convicted of killing a man with 9 rifle shots from point-blank range.
Cantu was executed in 1993.
4 months ago, the Houston Chronicle published an investigative report in
which the lone witness to the crime -- an illegal immigrant who identified
Cantu as the shooter only after police showed him Cantu's picture on three
occasions -- recanted, saying he felt pressured by police to connect Cantu
with the crime.
As part of the Chronicle's investigation, Cantu's co-defendant, just 15 at
the time of the shooting, signed a sworn affidavit saying Cantu wasn't
with him the night of the killing.
Sam Millsap, the district attorney who decided to charge Cantu with
capital murder, now says he never should have sought the death penalty.
"We have a system," Millsap told the Chronicle, "that permits people to be
convicted based on evidence that could be wrong because it's mistaken or
because it's corrupt."
It was Bruce Baxter who persuaded a jury that Cantu should die. And when
he picked up his phone Tuesday, and I told him I'd called to ask his
opinion about the Cantu case and the death penalty, his long silence
answered my question.
"It's hard to say," he finally said. "It stands that the system needs to
be damn sure it has the right person."
When I pressed him on the Cantu case and the fact that the witness gave a
positive identification only after cops returned to press him a third
time, Baxter said, "I've not been able to figure it out in my own mind. I
just don't know what to make of it."
But Baxter said the Cantu case does not indict the death penalty system in
Texas, home to a third of the more than 1,000 executions in this country
since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Then he volunteered that in the more rural stretches of Texas, it's not
always that easy to get a fair trial. "It very much varies by county. It's
scary sometimes. You hear stories of lawyers falling asleep during murder
trials. It happens. And sometimes there's politics involved."
When I raised the Cantu case with Foote, he insisted Texas has nothing to
do with Oregon. "That's different," he said. "It's a culture you
There's wide agreement, Foote said, that the worst of the worst criminals
in Oregon are on death row, and that as in the Rogers case, there's no
factual dispute about whether the men on death row committed the crimes.
My guess is the prosecutors involved in Texas' Death Row cases would've
said the same thing.
Before the Cantu case.
(source for both: The Oregonian)
Death penalty study narrowly clears committee
A push to study whether the death penalty is administered fairly in
Georgia narrowly cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday, just days before
it must clear the full Senate to have a chance of passage this year.
The resolution, which passed the Senate Judiciary committee on a 5-4 vote,
would create the Georgia Capital Punishment Study Commission to study all
aspects of the death penalty, including whether it is used in a
discriminatory way based on race, economic status or where the defendant
lives in the state.
The vote comes after an American Bar Association report recommended a
freeze on the state's use of the death penalty until flaws in its use are
The report said Georgia is the only state that fails to provide legal
counsel to poor people once they are sentenced to death and the only state
that requires defendants to prove mental retardation beyond reasonable
doubt - the law's highest standard.
The study commission bill was 1 of 2 on the subject sponsored by Sen.
Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. The other, which called for use of the death
penalty to be halted until the commission studies it, was not considered
by the Senate committee.
Last week, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a longtime advocate on
mental health issues, endorsed the moratorium plan.
Georgia, which uses lethal injection, has executed 39 people since 1976
and now has a death row population of 109, according the Washington
D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.
Many state Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, have
defended the state's current application of the death penalty. The bill
was approved Tuesday with one Republican and 4 Democrats voting for it and
four Republicans voting against.
The bill must pass the full Senate by Monday, which is currently scheduled
to be the unofficial deadline for legislation to pass in at least 1
chamber or be declared dead.
ON THE NET----Senate Resolution 1030, http://www.legis.ga.gov/
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty Overturned
It's a crime that shocked a neighborhood. 2 elderly women brutally
murdered at a home off North Main Street in Greenville in 2000. After 6
years, there's a twist in the case. The state Supreme Court says the
killer will have to go back to court for resentencing. This was the scene
6 years ago in the East Montclair area of Greenville. One neighbor, who
did not want to be identified, remembers it like it was yesterday. She
says, "It was sad we heard all the noise and the dogs barking and sirens
In September of 2000, 86 year old Dorothy Hancock and 82 year old Thelma
Godfrey were killed inside Hancock's home. After a trial, Michael James
Laney got the death penalty in 2001. But, today the State Supreme Court
overturned that sentence saying the trial judge did not properly inform
jurors that a life sentence could mean the possibility of no parole. She
says, "I think the law oughta take another look at it, the way he made
them suffer, they were innocent." She says Laney needs to pay for what he
did. After six years, this neighbor says she's extra careful. She say,
"So, I always lock my doors when I go out or come in."
Laney was Hancock's yard man. After brutally killing Hancock and Godfrey
he was found guilty of seven counts related to their deaths, including
criminal sexual conduct. She says, "That's too bad there has to be people
like that in the world. She's missed, the neighborhood is not the same, a
little bit edgy." One neighbor living in a neighborhood just trying to
move on. Laney will be brought back to the courthouse for resentencing at
a later date.
(source: WHNS News)
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