[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----WIS., ILL., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Mar 9 11:43:13 CST 2006
Death-penalty vote would be knee-jerk reaction
The likelihood that you will be able to let the state Legislature know how
you feel about the death penalty, or lack thereof, in Wisconsin this fall
is a day or two from becoming a certainty. An advisory referendum on the
subject will probably go to voters in September.
As much as the topic is worthy of discussion and referenda have their
merit, the timing couldn't be worse.
Steven Avery's trial probably will be starting right around then, and the
public will be reintroduced to the horrific details of his case all over
again after months of trying to forget about Calumet County Dist. Atty.
Ken Kratz's graphic press conference last week. Voters once again will be
angered, shocked and saddened as the murder trial plays out.
Those are not the emotional states in which any decision should be made,
let alone one as monumental as whether the death penalty should be
Longtime capital punishment advocates such as state Sen. Alan Lasee see
the Avery case as their new Exhibit A in the debate over whether some
people should be killed for their crimes.
They want to strike while the iron is hot and force Wisconsin voters to
the booths while Avery's alleged mutilation and murder of a young woman is
fresh in their minds.
While that's a smart move for their cause, it's a poor one for the state
as a whole.
Emotional thinking makes for bad decision-making. Knee-jerk reactions to
public incidents have made for some bad law in the past - some provisions
of the Patriot Act are the most recent example.
Making rash decisions in one's personal life is a no-no; the public sector
is no different, and the death penalty is arguably the most serious issue
in any state.
In a society in which human life is the ultimate value, the discussion of
why, how and when to take it is a debate of the highest order. That
doesn't mean it isn't a debate worth having, or that the public's opinion
isn't one of the most important components of that debate. But just as
taking one's temperature when feverish is not indicative of his or her
overall health, asking a citizenry how it feels about punishing criminals
while it watches a trial for a vicious murder is unfair and exploitative.
The death penalty in Wisconsin is a subject worth talking about. Just not
(source: Editorial, Appleton Post-Crescent)
Senate OKs death penalty advisory vote
Efforts to restore the death penalty in Wisconsin advanced further Tuesday
than at any time in the last seven decades, as the Republican-controlled
state Senate voted to put an advisory referendum on the ballot in
"This is a big deal," Senate President Alan Lasee, R-DePere, for more than
30 years one of the Legislature's staunchest death penalty advocates, said
after the 20-13 vote. "We've never gotten this far on this issue."
The joint resolution, SJR-5, still must pass the GOP-led Assembly before
going to voters. Unlike bills, joint resolutions don't require the
governor's signature, which means Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, a death
penalty opponent, can't block the effort.
Nor would passage of the nonbinding referendum necessarily bring back the
death penalty, which was abolished in 1853. The referendum asks whether
the punishment may be considered in "vicious" murder cases in which there
is DNA evidence to support a conviction.
The evidence provision was intended to assuage death penalty opponents who
fear innocent people could be executed.
But opponents - all Democrats - weren't moved. Several noted that Illinois
suspended its death penalty 5 years ago after a Chicago Tribune
investigation found 1/3 of the capital convictions from 1977 to 1999 had
been reversed due to "fundamental error." Thirteen were ultimately
released from death row.
"There is absolutely no foolproof, positive, 100 percent guarantee in the
world that we will ever have a system that will never execute an innocent
person," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D- Middleton. "One out of a billion and
the system is flawed."
Democrats also objected to placing the measure on the Sept. 12 primary
ballot, when large numbers of Republican voters are expected to turn out
for the GOP gubernatorial and attorney general primaries. Supporters hope
a strong showing would spur lawmakers to adopt the death penalty in the
next legislative session.
Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, accused Republicans of moving on the
resolution, first introduced more than a year ago, in response to the
high- profile arrest of Steven Avery and a nephew in the rape, murder and
mutilation of photographer Teresa Halbach.
Plale said he would "probably relish" an opportunity to get the two
suspects in a room alone with a lead pipe.
"But that's the dark side of my nature, that's the dark side of all human
nature," Plale said. "We have a calling to rise above that intense need
Lasee said the resolution had nothing to do with Avery, who wouldn't
qualify for the new punishment if he were convicted. But he recounted
stories of other horrific murders, mostly of children, since he joined the
Legislature in 1975.
"All this time, I wondered what is the proper punishment for such
despicable crimes," he said. "Putting somebody in jail, giving them three
square meals a day just doesn't cut it with me."
Lasee stressed that the resolution doesn't restore the penalty but seeks
to gauge the public's view of it. The Legislature would have much more
work to do if it chose to actually write the punishment into law as 38
other states have done, he said. The governor also would have a say in any
death penalty legislation.
All of the Senate's 19 Republicans and Democratic Sen. Roger Breske of
Eland voted for the measure.
The resolution also drew unanimous statements of support from the two
Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Green Bay and
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker; and the GOP candidates for
attorney general, Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher and former
U.S. Attorney J.B. Van Hollen.
Since a bill to restore the death penalty was introduced in 1937 following
the kidnapping and killing of Charles Lindbergh's baby in 1937, lawmakers
have sought to put the punishment back into law or have voters weigh in
with referendums at least 59 times, according to the Legislative Reference
Tuesday's vote was only the third time such a measure has made it to the
floor of one house or the other for a vote and the first time either house
has approved one.
The resolutionHere is the wording of the proposed resolution on the death
penalty adopted by the state Senate Tuesday. If the Assembly concurs, the
following question will appear on the ballot for the Sept. 12 primary:
"Should the death penalty be enacted in the State of Wisconsin for cases
involving a person who is convicted of 1st-degree intentional homicide, if
the homicide is vicious and the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?"
(source: Wisconsin State Journal)
State may push for death penalty
A Wauconda man accused of beating his 20-month-old stepgrandson to death
in January pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Lake County Circuit Court to
Assistant State's Atty. George Strickland said his office may seek the
death penalty against Ernest Willingham, 33, because of the victim's age
and because his death may be considered "brutal and heinous."
Willingham, of the 1200 block of Water Stone Circle, was arrested last
month after Deandre Jones died of blunt force trauma in Advocate Good
Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, authorities said.
The toddler had a lacerated spleen, liver and kidneys; a bruised heart and
lung; and broken ribs, according to authorities.
Associate Circuit Judge George Bridges set a May 2 deadline for the
state's attorney's office to announce its decision on the death penalty.
Willingham is being held in Lake County Jail in lieu of $5 million bail.
He was convicted in 2004 of aggravated domestic battery in Elmhurst for an
incident that involved the toddler's mother, Raven Williams, 16,
authorities said. She is the daughter of Willingham's wife, Kimberly.
Williams lived with Ernest and Kimberly Willingham at the time of her
son's death, authorities said.
It was not clear whether Willingham was allowed to have contact with his
stepdaughter after his release. A spokesman for DuPage County State's
Atty. Joseph Birkett, whose office prosecuted Willingham in 2004, did not
return calls Wednesday.
Willingham and his wife were the only adults present Jan. 31 when Deandre
was taken by ambulance to the hospital after Kimberly Willingham called
911 when the toddler stopped breathing, authorities said. Willingham's two
children, ages 3 and 5, also were present and have been placed with
relatives by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services,
according to authorities.
Diane Jackson, a DCFS spokeswoman, said eight children who were living in
the Willingham house have been placed in protective custody. The agency
has opened an investigation of Willingham and his wife, Jackson said, but
she was not able to provide details on any past contact the agency might
have had with the family.
The Lake County state's attorney's office does not often seek the death
penalty. It is pursuing the death penalty against Jerry Hobbs, who is
accused of stabbing to death his 8-year-old daughter and her friend, a
9-year-old girl, last May in Zion. That case was the 1st time since 1996
that the state's attorney sought the death penalty.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
Death sentence upheld
In Columbus, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Wednesday
for a man who shot a bystander after his brother was stabbed in a fight
outside a strip club.
In a 6-1 ruling, the court rejected arguments by James Conway that he
didn't receive adequate legal help and there wasn't enough evidence for an
aggravated murder conviction in the 2002 shooting.
Conway was convicted of inadvertently shooting Jason Gervais as Conway
tried to shoot Mandel Williams, a man Conway believed had stabbed his
Conway also argued that his rights were violated because prosecutors used
evidence from a jailhouse informant.
The justices agreed, saying the prosecutors were barred from using
evidence after the informant officially began to work for them.
But the error was harmless because most of Conway's statements to the
informant came before that, they ruled. In addition, the evidence was
already strong against Conway, they said.
Conway also faces a death sentence in an unrelated 2001 case in which a
man was kidnapped and killed with a pickax. The court heard Conway's
appeal in January in that case and has not ruled.
(source: Associated Press)
Execution date set
Convicted Lucas County killer Joseph Clark is scheduled to die for his
crimes in May.
The Ohio Supreme Court has set May 2 as the date for Clark's execution by
lethal injection. Clark killed two gas station employees in 2 days back in
January of 1984. Police say Clark killed an employee at the Lawson's at
Hill and Wenz and then a day later gunned down David Manning during a
hold-up at the Clark station on Airport near Byrne Road.
Clark admitted to shooting Manning after he was arrested for robbing a
bank. 13abc spoke with the victim's brother, who says he feels the
execution date is a step closer to justice being served.
If Clark's execution does take place May 2, he will become the 1st person
from Lucas County put to death since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in
(source: ABC Local News)
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