[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, FLA., CONN., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Mar 18 20:14:40 CST 2006
Mohawk: The death penalty is really problematic
Not long ago, headlines reverberated with the story of Stanley "Tookie"
Williams' death sentence and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's
denial of clemency and his statement about why clemency was denied.
Williams was a founder of the Crips, a street gang with a notorious
history of violence, and had been convicted of several murders.
Schwarzenegger's rejection of Williams' appeal for clemency, leading to
Williams' execution, is not surprising. No governor of California has
granted clemency since 1967. The public attitude seems to be that if
someone commits a crime, if it's enough of a crime to deserve death, they
die. The debate over capital punishment in America has been stuck in
neutral for a long time. There are those who would not support capital
punishment under any circumstances; and some, even in the courts, who
would kill prisoners who might be innocent. That's a pretty good range of
Williams was an unusual case. He was a former gang leader accused of
multiple killings who wrote children's books while on death row. Not many
do that, but does it provide a reason to extend clemency? The issue was
not about putting him on the street here, but simply commuting the death
sentence and keeping Williams behind bars, not killing him.
Texts that talk about crime and punishment describe the various
punishments and reflections on whether society places any value on the
life of the accused. Accordingly, some are minor criminals who don't even
deserve incarceration; some are more serious criminals; some deserve life
sentences, some death. The death sentence is society's ultimate judgment
on the absence of value to society in the life of a miscreant. Such people
(and there have been a number of them) have no redeeming qualities, have
not achieved any redemption.
Some people in the criminal justice system will be returned to society and
can be rehabilitated. At least, that was the proposal some decades ago:
that rehabilitated people would be returned to society ready to resume
But the worst were too dangerous to return to society, and society wants
to extract what can only be described as revenge.
The issue around capital punishment revolves around ideas about
redemption, rehabilitation and revenge. Other considerations, including
compassion or a sense of the level of civilization one inhabits, have been
off the table and I won't address them here. The other major issue, the
fact that a significant number of people who have been convicted of very
serious crimes later turned out to be innocent, hasn't been widely
embraced in the argument thus far, although that could change.
I have a problem with the death penalty as a way of resolving the revenge
issue. This culture is immersed in stories of revenge, one of the major
themes of fiction in the culture since the time of Shakespeare, at least.
Under the revenge theory, Williams was killed because he killed others. An
eye for an eye, as per an ancient story about that. I'm not on board on
this, but for other reasons. It has to do with the nature of death.
Go to any palliative care facility, and you will meet people who are
innocent, who have spent their lives in service to their families and
communities; in short, good people. And these people often suffer from
life-ending conditions, including cancers or degenerative disease like
diabetes, and many others. And they are often in pain and dying slow,
The federal government at this time is waging a campaign against pain
management for these innocent people, threatening and even prosecuting
doctors who prescribe pain medications for terminal patients who, without
that medication, will suffer to the end. The thinking seems to be that
prescribing pain medication could be abused and, even in cases where
intended abuse is largely unproven, federal authorities are persecuting
doctors who do pain management. I'm talking about pain management for the
Meanwhile, the march to the execution chamber is on full press. The
presumed guilty - society's monsters - are subjected to painless,
drug-induced death. The culture's elders and unfortunate victims of
disease are meanwhile condemned to painful, torturous death at the hands
of some malady or another. They are the truly innocent and they do the
most suffering. People put to death by the state miss this experience, but
I would hope we can change things so innocent people miss it, too. At the
present time, at least the absence of compassion is spread around equally,
if you think that a virtue.
When you factor in the possibility that some of those who are condemned
are likely innocent, and that society seems curiously unwilling, mostly,
to prosecute people who aggressively seek convictions knowing that the
rights of the accused have been abused, we have a pattern that leaves me
unwilling to support the death penalty. Prosecutors who are dishonest, who
do not present evidence they know might support the defense, are not only
unethical, they are criminal and they do a great disservice to the justice
system. The damage is so great that, like technicians who fudge scientific
evidence, prosecutors who do this - a likely minority - should face civil
and criminal liabilities.
Society should reconsider its thinking about this issue. Williams probably
did enough things to raise his value to society from zero to some value
deserving of clemency from death. Treated thusly, he might have spent the
rest of his life behind bars (assuming he was guilty) and died a natural
death behind prison walls. He, or someone else, might have been proven
innocent, which is truly moot if one is dead when the proof arrives.
And Williams or any other who might gain the life skills might have done
more things beneficial to society before dying. For the worst, living a
sterile existence for decades without hope is indeed a very powerful
punishment, even bordering on torture. It is more powerful than wheeling
them to a chemical death, the kind that sounds too compassionate to our
drug enforcement people of the moment for the benefit of people in the
palliative care institutions. I don't get the thinking here.
(source:John C. Mohawk, Ph.D., columnist for Indian Country Today, is an
associate professor of American studies and director of Indigenous studies
at the State University of New York at Buffalo)
Capital Punishment is Still Pro-Life
"Kill them all, let God sort them out." That was the saying displayed
defiantly on the T-shirt of the ex-Marine I was working with. Obviously,
that is well beyond an extreme position in terms of respect for the
sanctity of life.
However, objections have been raised, originating from both the secular
and religious camps, which go to the opposite extreme in an attempt to
repudiate the death penalty for even the most extreme cases.
Many secularists would appeal to the use of the "cruel and unusual
punishment" clause of the Constitution, as an argument against capital
punishment. Their world view often brandishes what British philosopher
Mary Midgley dubs, "the Escalator Myth," in regards to the assumed
progressive direction of human discourse. This idea is best embodied in a
ruling by the late Chief Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, who said that
the meaning of "cruel and unusual" punishment in the Constitution is in a
state of flux. According, the definition reflects the evolving standards
of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. That is taking
quite a bit for granted.
Likewise, many Christians, in endeavoring to maintain a consistently
pro-life position, have taken a perspective that is equally unbiblical and
fundamentally false. While I respect their intent to preserve life, the
idea that the state never has the right to take the life of another
person, is theologically, constitutionally and historically flawed.
A big problem arises from the misuse of the commandment in Exodus, "Thou
shall not kill." Virtually every modern translation of the Bible, renders
"murder" in place of "kill," to better reflect the meaning of the original
Hebrew text. Furthermore, executions by the state, killing in legitimate
warfare, accidental deaths and appropriate self-defense, are not
considered to be murder.
Genesis 9:6 ought to have gone far in settling the matter. "He who sheds
the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." This illustrates
several principles. First it provides that God has indeed delegated
authority to human institutional authorities to take the life of another.
According to Romans chapter 13, the state has the authority and duty to
use the sword of wrath against the evil doer. So execution is the duty of
the state, but only God has the right to determine eternal rewards or
punishments. Many sincere religious folks confuse the jurisdictions of the
temporal and eternal domains.
They might argue that Christ repudiated capital punishment with his
command to forgive others. Forgiveness is an act of charity between two or
more parties; the one who in some way was offended, and the offending
party. Grace and forgiveness come from the individual and from the church.
The function of the state is to execute remedial justice. While a court
may show leniency due to some extenuating circumstances, they have no
general obligation to set aside the punishment of one who is found guilty.
Thus, the true understanding of church/state separation, embodies the
grace versus justice dichotomy. It is consistent with biblical teaching,
that one could be forgiven by a victim or their family, and be forgiven by
God, yet suffer punishment from the state in this life as consequence for
their transgression. That could and should include capital punishment when
A perfect example is the thief who hung on the cross next to Christ. He
repented and received assurance of his eternal state from Christ (I say to
you this day thou shall be with me in paradise). However, this act of
contrition didn't save his physical life. The thief, in fact, admitted
that he was getting what he deserved in suffering his death sentence.
Sometimes the claim is made that capital punishment is not forgiving or
compassionate. It is very compassionate to the "would be" victims, that
often become statistical tragedies due to the will of lenient courts. How
is capital punishment any less forgiving then putting someone behind bars
People frequently claim that capital punishment has no effective
deterrence quality, as though that should be the only objective of
criminal punishment. The execution of a murderer provides, however, that
such a malefactor will never kill anyone again--the ultimate deterrent.
Capital punishment is pro-life because it defends the right of the
innocent by mandating the life of the guilty offender be taken. Those
against capital punishment for the sake of consistency, while sincere, are
simply misguided in their theological or philosophical perspective and
(source: Bob Meyer, National Ledger)
Victim's mom witness as murder trial begins----Her son by the suspect was
beaten and shaken to death and her daughter gravely injured.
That violent day in 2003 began much like any other in the tiny Westside
apartment Kristie Gergely shared with her boyfriend, Bubba, and her 3
young children in Jacksonville.
By the time it was over, the couple's 4-month-old son had been beaten and
shaken to death, Gergely's 16-month-old daughter was in grave condition in
a hospital and Bubba had disappeared in a stolen car with a flare gun and
her 5-year-old boy.
2 days later, Anthony "Bubba" Oyibo shot himself in the mouth with the
flare gun as police surrounded a vacant Vero Beach house where he was
hiding. They arrested him on a Jacksonville warrant charging murder,
kidnapping, child abuse, carjacking, burglary and attempted armed robbery.
Gergely is a pivotal witness scheduled to testify today at Oyibo's
1st-degree murder trial, which began Thursday after 3 days of jury
selection. Assistant State Attorney Mose Floyd told jurors Gergely will
testify that she lived in fear of Oyibo, fled the apartment after he hit
her in the head with a log and that she returned with police to find the
lifeless body of their infant son, Jacob, and her battered daughter,
But Hank Coxe, Oyibo's court-appointed attorney, said evidence will show
parts of Gergely's story don't add up and that she once threatened to "cut
this baby out of me" when pregnant with Jacob.
As for 5-year-old Deven, Coxe noted that Oyibo delivered the boy to
relatives in Vero Beach. They immediately notified authorities.
"He is hanging on to Deven to get him to safety," Coxe said.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Oyibo, 23, after plea
negotiations fell through last week. The trial is expected to last 2
According to Floyd, Oyibo was angry May 6, 2003, because the children woke
him up and Gergely hadn't fixed anything for him to eat.
"This case is all about control and authority," Floyd said. "This
defendant insisted that he and he alone dictated what went on in that ...
Floyd said Oyibo locked Gergely in the bathroom and returned a few minutes
later holding Anayah by her shirt. When he closed the door, she said she
heard two loud thumps. Then Oyibo returned to tell her Anayah was bleeding
and it was Deven's fault. He wouldn't let her tend to Anayah, Floyd said.
But a few minutes later, he took Gergely out of the bathroom, shared a
cigarette with her, then ordered her to get on her knees, Floyd told the
jury. Oyibo attempted to strangle her with an electrical cord, and when
she resisted, he hit her on the head with a log, Floyd said. She managed
to get away, and as she ran out the front door, Oyibo yelled, "'Don't put
our business in the street. I'll kill you,'" the prosecutor said.
Gergely called 911 twice, and police arrived 10 minutes later. Inside they
found Jacob dead on a mattress with whiplash and blunt trauma injuries all
over his head and neck.
Anayah was in her crib, covered with a blanket and lying in a pool of
blood. She was bleeding from the mouth, and police noticed her blood and
impressions in the walls, like someone had slammed her head against the
wall. An emergency helicopter flew her to Shands Jacksonville, where she
Coxe said the impressions on the wall were more consistent with someone of
Gergely's height than Oyibo's.
Meanwhile, a neighbor told police she saw Oyibo dragging Deven through the
apartment complex to a boat yard next door. Floyd said they hid in a boat
until dark, stole its flare gun, then attempted to flee in a customer's
truck. When that didn't work, Oyibo used the gun to torch the truck and
forcibly stole a car from a woman who had come to the boat yard to meet
her boyfriend, Floyd said.
>From there, Oyibo drove to Vero Beach, where he left Deven with his
brother's girlfriend and found an abandoned house to hide in, Floyd said.
Oyibo has been ill since his arrest from injuries he suffered when he shot
himself with the flare gun. Floyd said his mouth and throat were charred
Thursday, Oyibo vomited in the courtroom just before the lawyers' opening
(source: Florida Times-Union)
Suspect's Lawyer Challenges Death Penalty In Deltona Mass Murder Case
Late Friday morning, a judge heard more arguments ahead of a mass murder
trial in Volusia County. A lawyer for the men accused of murdering 6
people in a Deltona house in August 2004 tried to challenge whether the
defendants should face the death penalty.
There was more housekeeping Friday, as the judge clears the way for the
trial that is just weeks away. Surprisingly, Friday morning, the most
heated discussion was not about the 6 people who were killed, but rather a
The attorney for Michael Salas tried to separate his client from the other
defendants when it comes to the charge of cruelty to animals. Among the 6
human bodies that were found in the Deltona home in August 2004 was also
the body of a dog that was beaten to death.
Salas' lawyer said the other defendants testified that they killed the
dog, Salas. The lawyer believes testimony about cruelty to animals could
sway a jury, even in a case where 6 people were killed.
"Some jurors, I've had the experience, value animal life over human life,
if you hear them talk," said Jeff Dees, Salas' attorney.
The state said Salas was in on the planning, he was in on the murders and
he should be held accountable for the dead dog. The state also reminded
the defense the case is really about human beings.
"I find it hard to believe that Mr. Salas is going to be overtly
prejudiced by the death of a dog, when there are 6 dead human beings that
we are dealing with in this case," said assistant state attorney Sean
The judge decided he would not separate the charge for Salas. He also
struck down 8 of the defense's motions saying the death penalty is
unconstitutional and chided defense attorneys for not providing their
witness list to the state with only 3 weeks until the trial.
April 10 is the big day. Before then, possibly next week, the defense will
move to throw out the testimony of Robert Cannon. He's the 4th suspect and
has already pleaded and made a full confession.
(source: WFTV News)
DNA Turns Cold Case
Of all the cold cases on Det. Bill Werle's desk, the death of young Cherie
Morrisette was the oldest and most troubling.
Werle, of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office in Florida, and himself a
father, could not forget the 11-year-old Jacksonville girl who was found
dead in December 1996, floating in the chilly St. Johns River. He would
periodically flip through the thick, black binder and request that the
Florida forensic laboratory retest small samples of semen taken from
Cherie's body and her panties.
In December 2005, after a new sample had been submitted because of better
technology, a national DNA database matched it with the genetic makeup of
Robert Shelton Mitchell, a registered sex offender living in New Britain.
Werle was in Connecticut Thursday as Mitchell, 43, was arraigned in
Superior Court in New Britain as a fugitive from justice in connection
with the case. Mitchell will be returned to Florida, where he will be
formally charged with 1st-degree murder and capital sexual battery, more
than 9 years after Cherie's death.
Werle and his partner, Det. Tim Burres, along with New Britain police
arrived Wednesday at Mitchell's apartment, where he had been living with
his brother since being released from a Connecticut prison in 2004.
Mitchell had served a year and a half for improper sexual contact with a
minor in Windsor Locks in 2002.
Now Mitchell could face the death penalty in the Florida case.
On Thursday, authorities in Connecticut and Florida held press conferences
announcing the arrest in the decade-old case to point out the importance
of nationwide DNA databases that catalog known sex offenders and felons.
"The message this case brings," said New Britain State's Attorney Scott
Murphy, "is if you commit a crime no matter where it was or how long ago
it was, you should not rest easy because the police and the forensics
people do not give up."
Mitchell, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound construction worker, had his arms shackled
across his chest during his arraignment. Superior Court Judge Patrick J.
Clifford set bail at $5 million. Mitchell waived extradition to Florida,
which will speed up his return. Officials from the St. Johns County
Sheriff's Office in St. Augustine say Mitchell has confessed to raping
Cherie, whose cause of death was drowning. They declined to comment on the
evidence for the murder charge, but said Mitchell showed little remorse at
the time of the confession. "This little girl was a victim of this guy, of
his sexual needs," Werle said. After Werle and Burres were notified that
there was a possible match in Connecticut, scientists from the Connecticut
Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden retested Mitchell's profile. Then
DNA scientists there retested DNA samples sent by Florida to confirm their
Meanwhile, the detectives researched Mitchell's past and learned that he
had been in Florida working in the area where Cherie disappeared in 1996.
Before the DNA hit, all leads had been exhausted in the case, said Werle,
an eight-year police veteran who inherited Cherie's case a few years ago.
"We're always involved in cold cases, but none that have been this old,"
he said. "It did kind of go cold."
Michael Bourke, a lead criminalist at the state laboratory, said newer
technology allowed scientists to test a much smaller sample and then
generate a profile. The sample taken had been emerged in water for six
days, but the river was chilly in December and the semen was preserved,
"These people are the silent heroes," said renowned forensic scientist
Henry C. Lee, director emeritus of the Connecticut laboratory. "This shows
an example of teamwork."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who also attended the press conference held at the
Colchester state police barracks, said Mitchell's arrest shows how
important it was to enact the law in 1995 that required all convicted sex
offenders to provide DNA samples. She said it also shows why sex
offenders, particularly those who prey on young children, should receive
the harshest sentences.
"This gives us hope that more and more of the cold cases we are hearing
about will be solved," Rell said, adding that she advocates passing a new
law that would require mandatory sentences of 25 years for certain
The New Britain neighborhood where Mitchell had been living is full of
families with children. Neighbors said he lived with his brother on the
top floor of 8 Kelsey St., upstairs from a family with young children. He
would often sit on the stoop and intently watch people come and go,
neighbors said, making those who knew his criminal history uncomfortable.
Some neighbors said they had instructed their children to stay away from
him and to immediately call for help if he approached.
Others were unaware of his history. They said he seemed like a nice man
who would spend time outside during the summer with friends and families
from the neighborhood.
In 2003, Mitchell was convicted of third-degree assault against his wife,
Ann Mitchell. It is unclear whether they are still married. He also was
convicted in 2003 of improper sexual contact with a person younger than
16. The victim was a relative, said Windsor Locks police Capt. Chester
DeGray. Mitchell received a total effective sentence of six years in
prison, suspended after 1 years, followed by 25 years of probation.
Police in Connecticut and Florida said they would be investigating whether
Mitchell had committed any other crimes since 1996, when Cherie was
reported missing from her apartment in Jacksonville.
Her mother, Elizabeth Walters, had gone to a line-dancing class on Dec. 2,
1996, leaving Cherie at home with her 12-year-old sister. The two argued
over a video and Cherie ran away about 7:30 p.m. She returned briefly to
retrieve her coat, and was never seen alive by her family again.
Walters, of Jacksonville, who attended a press conference Thursday at the
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, said she has spent 10 years wondering
who killed her daughter, according to news reports. She told reporters she
would watch cold case and forensic shows and hold out hope that one day
the killer would be found.
She said she has had many nightmares about her daughter's death, including
one in which Cherie is fighting someone on top of a bridge and she can't
get there in time to save her. "She was my little cuddle bug," Walters
Courant Staff Writers Dan Goren, Hilda Muoz, and Monica Polanco
contributed to this story.
(source: Hartford Courant)
Is the death penalty dead in Illinois?
As Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine sees it, the people of
Illinois have a simple choice: Either lift the death penalty moratorium or
abolish state executions altogether.
"It is wrong to have the death penalty on the books, to have it there in
theory, but for it to have no presence in reality," Devine said during a
recent speech to members of the Union League Club of Chicago. "I will
follow the law, but at the same time the legislature has to decide whether
we're going to have a death penalty or not."
It has been 6 years since former Gov. George Ryan suspended executions and
created a commission to reform the capital punishment system in Illinois.
The death penalty still exists, however, and 7 men have been sentenced to
Meanwhile, the legislature has yet to come up with a revised law
incorporating suggested capital punishment reforms that will please Gov.
Only the governor has the authority to lift the moratorium. So the winner
of next November's gubernatorial election could determine whether the
moratorium remains in place or is lifted.
3 gubernatorial candidates, Republicans Judy Baar Topinka, Jim Oberweis
and Bill Brady feel the moratorium should be voided.
Devine would also like to see it lifted. He recently authorized his
assistants to seek the death penalty for convicted murderer and rapist
Paul Runge. For Devine, Runge is "the face of the death penalty."
In Feburary a Cook County jury found Runge, 36, guilty of raping and
murdering a North West Side woman and her 11-year-old daughter. After
binding them with duct tape and raping them, Runge slit their throats and
set their bodies on fire.
If a criminal court judge approves the sentence, Runge will become the 8th
man to sit on death row since Ryan commuted 167 death sentences in 2003.
Critics say before any of the condemmed men is placed on the lethal
injection table at Pontiac Correctional Center, the state's death penalty
process must be thoroughly overhauled.
Anti death penalty advocates point out that 13 death row inmates were
wrongfully convicted in Illinois. They say there are some unresolved
questions on why some convicted murderers are sentenced to die while
others are spared.
They note, for example, that those who kill white victims are more likely
to be executed.
"The system is still incredibly arbitrary,' said Jane Bohman, executive
director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Candidates split on issue
As Tuesdays gubernatorial primary election approaches, Republican
candidates Topinka, Brady and Oberweis are campaigning on a promise to
immediately lift the moratorium.
"Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich has not lifted the moratorium, nor has he
indicated what, if any, additional reforms he wants," Topinka, the current
Illinois State Treasurer, wrote in an e-mail response to Medill News
Service. "With many of the legislature's reforms in place, I believe it's
time to lift the moratorium."
Gerardo Cardenas, Blagojevich's press secretary, said the governor will
not lift the moratorium until death penalty reforms are proven successful.
"Gov. Blagojevich supports the death penalty in some cases, and he's not
going to lift the moratorium until we have a clear sense that there are
reforms in the criminal justice system in which no innocent person would
be sent to death row or would be executed," Cardenas said.
Brady, who is currently an Illinois Representative (R-44th), said Ryan
abused his governing powers when he imposed the moratorium in 2000.
"The governor ought to handle death penalty situations in a case-by-case
basis in order to uphold the law of Illinois," Brady said. "I support the
death penalty in limited circumstances, and I think it's incumbent upon
the governor to make sure that innocent people are not put to death. We
don't need a moratorium to do it for us."
Oberweis, a dairy owner, has a personal interest in the death penalty
debate. If elected, he would immediately lift the moratorium. In 1993 his
sister-in-law was shot to death in her home. The shooter was sentenced to
die but was one of the death row inmates whose sentence was commuted by
He is currently serving a life sentence without parole.
"With reforms put in place so far and with DNA evidence, the chances of an
innocent person being put to death are non-existent,' said Oberweis.
The remaining primary candidates, Republican Ron Gidwitz and Democrat
Edwin Eisendrath, both said reforms need to take effect before there can
be any discussion about permanently removing the moratorium.
Fixing the system
Following his January 2000 decision to halt all executions in the state,
Ryan created the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment. The
commission's members, who include state's attorneys, public defenders,
judges and the best-selling legal novelist Scott Turow, were appointed to
evaluate a broken capital punishment process.
In 2002, the commission released a report that contained 85
recommendations for reform. The report concluded that wrongful convictions
often resulted from cases that lacked solid physical evidence, or hinged
on the uncorroborated testimony of so-called "jailhouse snitches," inmates
who stood to gain by implicating others in crimes.
In response to the report, the General Assembly passed the Capital
Punishment Reform Study Committee Act in 2003, which created a panel to
oversee that reforms were made in the criminal justice system. The
committee will release its final annual report in 2008.
Committee Chairman and former U.S. Attorney Tom Sullivan said the General
Assembly approved only one-third of the recommendations. They include
electronically recording all police interrogations in homicide cases,
holding a pretrial hearing to determine if an inmate's testimony is
reliable in court and not seeking the death penalty when a defendant's
conviction is based on the testimony of only one witness.
But the legislature refused to pass all recommendations. Sullivan said he
is "upset" that state politicians cherry-picked the reforms they wanted to
"You can't just pick and choose which reforms you want to use at your
pleasure," Sullivan said. "The committee recommended 85 reforms and I
believe that most of them, if not all, should be implemented in order to
help fix the death penalty process in Illinois."
The rejected reforms included forming a statewide panel to review death
sentences, creating an independent DNA crime lab and reducing the number
of death penalty eligibility requirements from 21 to 5.
"Since the reform process is not complete, that alone is a reason to
continue a moratorium on execution," Bohman said.
Although the commission found no evidence that a suspect's race determined
whether he lives or dies, a convicted murderer is more likely to receive a
death sentence if his victims are white.
"Which is perhaps more insidious, to say that because I'm a middle-class
white person, it's more important that my death needs to be avenged,"
After a jury on February 27, recommended the death penalty for Runge,
Devine held a press conference lauding the jury's decision. But Bohman
criticized Devine for using Runge's case to rally support for lifting the
"Devine is trying to play a whole emotion-driven game," Bohman said. "He's
used these heinous murders committed by Runge, which appeals to the
public's sense of fear. But it's imperative that reforms to the death
penalty continue without an appeal to emotion in order to circumvent
future wrongful convictions."
Devine said Runge's crimes were the perfect examples of when prosecutors
should seek the death penalty.
"What other case are we supposed to use?" Devine said. "All of these cases
are heinous. Don't say that someone is trying to skew the debate because
they use Paul Runge as an example."
Runge has also been charged with the rapes and murders of five other women
between 1995 and 1997 in Cook and DuPage Counties. Evidence of each of
these crimes was presented during the death penalty hearing.
Bernie Murray, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted Runge, said
he and his colleagues evaluated every aspect of Runge's alleged crimes to
determine whether or not to seek the death penalty. After completing a
six-year investigation into the murders, Murray said he was sure that
Runge was the prototype for a death penalty candidate.
"Paul Runge has redefined the death penalty in Cook County," Murray said.
"It's our opinion that the moratorium be lifted now because in 7-to-10
years, when the appeals process is over, we want to know that Runge faces
the sentence that a jury of his peers chose for him."
But if the moratorium continues, Runge's death sentence will unofficially
turn into a life sentence. For Ramon Rivera, the father of Yolanda
Gutierrez , who, along with her daughter Jessica Muniz, was brutally
murdered, there will be no satisfaction until he is put to death.
"I am not a hateful person, but I hope he burns in hell for what he did to
my daughter and granddaughter," Rivera said. "There will never be complete
closure, but until I see him strapped to that gurney with a needle in his
arm, I won't be satisfied."
Runge's death sentence will not be official until Judge Joseph Kazmierski
signs the order for it on March 28. Because the case involved a death
penalty sentencing, it will be automatically appealed to the Illinois
Regardless of whether Kazmierski signs the order or not, Runge will not be
put to death anytime soon because the moratorium is in place.
The outcome of November's gubernatorial election could decide whether
Runge faces a lethal injected or sits in a cell for the rest of his life.
"I'm not saying that Paul [Runge] is innocent of his crimes, a jury has
already been convinced that he's not," said Woody Jordan, Runge's
"But the fact remains, in my opinion, that death may not be the
appropriate sentence here. It is our duty to make sure justice is properly
carried out, and the moratorium helps us do that."
(source: Seth Goldstein and Andrew Harmon, for the Medill News Service)
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