[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----VA., GA., LA., CALIF., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 9 11:41:38 CST 2006
Moussaoui had dream to hit W.House: witness
September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui talked of his dream to fly an
airplane into the White House more than a year before the hijacked
aircraft attacks, a witness linked to al Qaeda testified in federal court
Fazi Bafana, formerly a treasurer of a unit of Jemaah Islamiah, which is
linked to al Qaeda, revealed discussion of that dream in videotaped
testimony played during Moussaoui's sentencing trial.
Moussaoui, 37, has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with
the September 11 attacks, but said he took no part in those attacks and
was to be part of a second wave of attacks. The trial is to determine
whether he is to be executed for his crime or will be jailed for life.
Bafana, who said he had been involved in planning possible attacks on U.S.
military installations, said he was arrested in Singapore in December 2001
and ordered by Singapore authorities to testify and cooperate in the
He described meeting in mid-2000 a man he knew only as "John," but who he
later identified as Moussaoui, and whom he said he had allowed to stay at
his home in Kuala Lumpur.
"He told me he had a dream. He dreamed to fly an airplane ... into the
White House," Bafana said. "He told me he informed (Osama bin Laden) what
he dreamed and (bin Laden) said go ahead. He asked me to assist him."
Bafana said Moussaoui spoke of his desire to carry out "jihad,"
particularly against America, and said he needed help with financing. He
was also interested in obtaining ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder --
materials used to make bombs.
Bafana, who was born in Singapore but is a Malaysian citizen, was
interviewed by federal prosecutors at an undisclosed facility in Southeast
Asia. The deposition was made with Moussaoui and U.S. District Judge
Leonie Brinkema through a video hookup to the Alexandria courthouse.
Bafana said Moussaoui had asked Jemaah Islamiah for $10,000 to help him
travel to Europe and then finance flight training in the United States.
The group's commander, Riduan Isamuddin -- better known as Hambali -- told
Bafana to give Moussaoui just S$2,000 ($1,227).
Under cross examination, Bafana said he and Hambali thought Moussaoui was
"cuckoo" and they wanted him to leave Malaysia.
The testimony was the first in the trial from a foreigner detained abroad.
Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, has admitted to being a
member of al Qaeda and pleaded guilty in April to six charges, including
conspiracy to commit terrorism, in connection with the September 11
The statement of facts signed by Moussaoui when he pleaded guilty included
a paragraph that said bin Laden had personally approved of Moussaoui's
plan to attack the White House.
"Bin Laden told Moussaoui: 'Sahrawi, remember your dream,"' it said, using
one of Moussaoui's aliases.
To obtain a death sentence the U.S. government must prove Moussaoui's
actions led to at least 1 death even though he was arrested before the
attacks in August 2001 after he raised suspicions at a flight school.
Prosecutors have said Moussaoui's lies prevented the FBI from stopping the
attacks, in which some 3,000 people were killed. Moussaoui's lawyers have
said it was unlikely he could have told the FBI anything that would have
thwarted the attacks.
(source: Associated Press)
Bill eases killers' path to death row
The murderer of a mother and her 2-year-old baby in Gwinnett County
received a life sentence instead of the death penalty last year because 2
of 12 jurors refused to vote for capital punishment.
Now that sentence, which infuriated other jurors and much of the public,
has sparked legislation that would make it easier to send killers to death
House Bill 1552 - sponsored by state Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) - would
remove a long-standing requirement that death sentences be imposed by a
unanimous jury. If a simply majority of jurors felt a defendant should get
death, the judge could impose a capital sentence.
The bill comes only weeks after an American Bar Association report
recommended the opposite: that Georgia stop all death sentences and
executions and set up a commission to analyze alleged problems with how
the state sends people to death row.
The Bar Association's study group, made up of Georgia legal experts,
claimed in its report that the commission needed a comprehensive
evaluation of the death penalty and moratorium because it cannot ensure
fairness in capital trials and appeals.
Fleming said he is sponsoring the bill in response to the 2005 trial of
Wesley Harris. After carjacking a mother and her 2-year-old daughter,
Harris shot them at point-blank range, stuffed them in the trunk and set
their car on fire.
Fleming said his bill will prevent a few jurors from "sabotaging" a death
penalty case. "This would make it a little easier in very heinous cases,"
Anne Emanuel, associate dean of Georgia State University's law school and
chair of the ABA study, called Fleming's bill "unfortunate."
"The decision on whether to impose capital punishment is at least as
weighty as the guilt-innocence verdict," she said. "Both ought to require
Fleming said he does not expect his legislation to pass this year. "This
just starts the discussion," he said.
At the same time, at least a portion of legislation proposed by a state
senator who opposes the death penalty has passed out of the Senate
Judiciary Committee. The resolution calls for a special legislative
commission to examine alleged problems with the death penalty.
Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who served on the Bar Association panel and
authored Senate Resolution 1030, said the report shows Georgia's death
penalty system needs to be studied. "If we have the death penalty," Fort
said, "the right person ought to be sent to death row."
(source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Hopes of halting death penalty slim----Team fights for fair punishment
One University student would love to see the death penalty removed from
Georgia, but with little support politically, chances for a change are
Alec Watts, co-president of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death
Penalty in Athens, was not always so vehement in his opposition to capital
"I was oblivious to how the system actually worked," he said.
For 18 months, the Georgia Death Penalty Assessment Team, which was
created by the American Bar Association, has examined how the death
penalty was administered in Georgia.
University law professor and assessment team member David Shipley said the
group has no opinion on whether the death penalty should be overturned. He
said the team is more concerned with making sure capital punishment is
carried out as fairly as possible.
In January, the ABA released its findings and called for a moratorium on
the death penalty to further explore discrepancies they found in the
One of the major areas of concern for the panel was the standard for
treatment of mentally retarded defendants on death row.
According to the ABA report, out of 26 states that prohibit the execution
of the mentally retarded, Georgia is the only state that requires the
defendant to prove his retardation beyond a reasonable doubt.
Shipley also pointed to legal representation as an area of concern.
The prosecution is often able to afford high profile attorneys, whereas
the public defender system doesn't always provide adequate counsel, he
"We need to level the playing field," he said.
State senator Brian Kemp (R-Athens) doesnt think a moratorium is needed.
Defendants on death row are getting the full representation afforded to
them under the law, he said.
Shipley also noticed a correlation between race and death row convictions.
"Those suspected of killing whites are 4.56 times as likely to be
sentenced to death as those who are suspected of killing blacks,"
according to the ABA report.
The race of the defendant did not alter the statistic, Shipley said.
In late February, Democratic state senator Vincent Fort introduced Senate
Bill 600, calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in Georgia.
The legislation has failed to gain momentum in the Georgia General
"That bill was ridiculous," Kemp said.
Watts said he was not surprised the moratorium proposal received little
"A great deal of people think the death penalty is needed to keep society
safe," he said. "There are plenty of ways to keep the streets safe without
putting someone to death."
Fort said he would turn his attention to Senate Resolution 1030, which
aims to create a Georgia Capital Punishment Study Commission. If created,
the commission also would call for the suspension of executions in
The resolution was approved by the Senate Judiciary 5-4 committee.
"A lot of people didn't give (the resolution) a chance," he said. "But it
managed to make it out of a Republican committee, which is a good sign."
Heather Hedrick, spokeswoman for Gov. Perdue, said the governor did not
support the moratorium.
"We think the system works as it is," she said.
(source: The (Univ. Ga.) Red and Black)
Shreveport Officers Honored for Capturing Fugitive
6 Shreveport Police Officers are being commended for their role in the
capture of death row inmate Charles Victor Thompson. Sergeant Allen
Johnson, Corporals Kevin Goodwin, Dean Willis, Roy Menefee, Mickey Rellin
and Eric Miles all helped bring Thompson back into police custody.
Last November Thompson escaped from a Houston jail sparking a national
manhunt. U.S. Marshals got a tip that Thompson might be in the Shreveport
area. They alerted local authorities.
"Agents moved into that area and did surveillance, and were able to spot
him and keep him under supervision." said Detective Roy Menefee.
Thompson was tracked down at a liquor store on West 70th street. It wasn't
long before agents apprehended him.
"From the time that we got the call that he was in Shreveport until the
time we had him in custody was about 30 minutes." said Menefee.
Menefee and the other officers are all members of the Fugitive
Apprehension Strike Team or F.A.S.T. A collaborative effort between
federal and local law enforcement agencies, that helps put criminals like
Thompson back in jail where they belong.
"When we go hunt a fugitive, all of the investigators particular
specialties are called into play."
Pooling their resources helps speed up the investigation.
"We are able to gather enough people together where we can arrest, or try
and attempt to arrest one of these individuals in a timely manner. So they
don"t try to commit any crimes in our area." said Menefee.
The F.A.S.T. team is beneficial for both federal and local agencies.
"It's not a one way thing here. They help us and we help them and it's
really been a great effort so far." said Corporal Dean Willis.
2 teams working together, bringing fugitives to justice.
"It's very important. And the end result basically is that the community
wins from us working together." said Willis.
(source: KTAL News)
ACLU says lethal injection violates First Amendment
In San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed in a federal
lawsuit Wednesday that California's lethal injection protocol violates the
First Amendment rights of execution witnesses by not allowing them to see
if the inmate is experiencing pain before death.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, says the only
reason San Quentin State Prison officials inject a paralyzing agent is to
sanitize the execution and prevent witnesses from perhaps seeing
The paralyzing drug, according to the lawsuit, "makes it impossible for
witnesses to determine whether death row inmates in California are being
subjected to substantial and unnecessary pain before dying."
The induced paralysis, the group argued, conceals significant information
to which the public is entitled.
The ACLU, which filed the suit on behalf of San Francisco-based Pacific
News Service, made a similar argument a year ago before the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a condemned inmate. The court
rejected it on procedural grounds, and did not reach the merits of the
In response to Wednesday's filing, Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney
General Bill Lockyer, said "The ACLU does not have a right to determine
what method the state of California should use in carrying out the death
penalty." He said the "paralyzing agent effectively stops inmate
Under California's injection protocol, a sedative, then a paralyzing agent
and finally heart-stopping drugs are injected. The state is seeking court
permission to drip a sedative continually to ensure unconsciousness.
At California executions, about two dozen members of the media, in
addition to public officials and relatives of the slain are present. They
are able to see prison officials strap the condemned man onto a gurney,
see them wrap the inmate's fists into a ball of tape and watch as they
poke him with needles.
Prison officials then move out of public site and the drugs begin pouring.
Wednesday's lawsuit comes 2 weeks after the execution of California
prisoner Michael Morales was called off amid questions of whether inmates
suffer too much pain during the execution in violation of the Eighth
Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Litigation is ongoing in the Morales case, with hearings on California's
injection protocol set to begin May 2 in San Jose federal court. The
Supreme Court has never addressed whether lethal injection amounts to
cruel and unusual punishment, and 37 states use an injection protocol
similar to California's.
The case is Pacific News Service v. Woodford, 06-1793
(source: Associated Press)
Execution dates for members of Richmond gang put on hold
A Washington judge has postponed the May execution dates set for
Richmond's three Newtowne Gang convicts on federal death row.
The order came after a last-ditch lawsuit was filed against the U.S.
Department of Justice in federal court in Washington on behalf of Richard
Tipton, Cory Johnson and James H. Roane Jr.
The lawsuit challenges the federal method of execution by chemical
injection as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual because it may cause
Tipton, Johnson and Roane were scheduled for execution May 8, 10 and 12,
respectively, by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. They were convicted and
sentenced to death in U.S. District Court in Richmond in 1993 for a series
of drug-gang murders. All their appeals had failed by late last year.
A similar case from Florida is before the U.S. Supreme Court on a
procedural question, said Stephen A. Northup, the Richmond lawyer who
Acting on a motion by the plaintiffs, the judge put the executions and the
lawsuit on hold until after the Supreme Court decides the Florida case.
That order was filed Feb. 24.
Northup said the lawsuit argues that the chemicals used in federal
executions carry "significant risk of pain" because the drugs used to make
the inmate unconscious and insensible may not work. When the potassium
chloride that essentially causes a heart attack is administered, the
inmate "might appear serene but feel the pain," Northup said.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
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