[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, N.J., N.C., USA, TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:14:22 CST 2006
TEXAS----new execution date
Judge set execution date for man who hired hitman
A judge set an Oct. 25 execution date Wednesday for a man convicted of
hiring a hitman to kill his adopted family in 1990 so that he could
collect $24,000 in life insurance.
Gregory Lynn Summers, 48, was convicted of capital murder in 1991, a year
after his mother, Helen Summers; his father, Mandel Eugene Summers; and
his mentally retarded uncle, Billy Mack Summers, were stabbed to death and
their home set ablaze. Gregory Summers had been adopted by the family when
he was three days old.
"I just think it has gone on too long," Sandra Mitchell, a relative, said
in Thursday's editions of the Abilene Reporter-News. His execution "should
have happened 10 years ago."
Prosecutors argued that Gregory Summers hired Abilenian Andrew Cantu for
$10,000 to kill his family so he could get $24,000 in life insurance.
Cantu was convicted of capital murder and executed in 1999.
Summers' attorney Danalynn Recer argued during Wednesday's hearing that
setting a date was premature, because pending U.S. Supreme Court cases
could affect Summers' execution.
Taylor County Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dyer wanted a date set.
She said afterward that she was pleased.
(source: Associated Press)
Students take stand against death penalty
Many college and high school students prefer to head somewhere tropical to
spend their spring break, but a few came right here to Huntsville on
Wednesday, and they came with a purpose.
Students from all over the state, and a few from across the country,
flocked to Huntsville to take part in a protest of the execution of Tommie
Hughes. The event is part of the 2006 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative
Spring Break, sponsored by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.
Tommie Hughes, 31, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of
Foluke Erinkitola. He robbed and then shot Erinkitola and her friend,
Roxanne Mendoza, in their car after the women had watched a movie.
Hughes denied he killed the 2 women or planned the robbery and said his
girlfriend at the time, Alina Henry, shot them in a jealous rage when she
found him talking to the women.
Josh Tucker, a student at the University of Texas, came with the group
Wednesday, because he believes it is time for him to make a difference in
the way things are.
"I've seen some horrible things happen and seen people hurt, and I've been
very angry," Tucker said. "You see these things happen, and I had sort of
a moment of pause and said, 'Well, I can either act from this anger or I
can stop and think about what solves the problem. I want to be part of the
solution, not the problem.
"I think that because the death penalty is racist and because it unequally
targets poor people, you're looking at something that doesn't solve the
problem. You're killing somebody to tell people we don't kill people."
During the day Wednesday, students visited the Texas Present Museum and
heard a lecture from the Rev. Carroll Pickett, a former death house
chaplain at the Huntsville "Walls" Unit. Pickett ministered to 95 men on
the final day of their lives and was present in the chamber during their
executions. He drew heavily on his own experience in talking to the
students about spending time with prisoners during their last days.
Joel Pasley and Angela Martellaro are high school students who came all
the way from Shawnee, Kan., to spend their spring break fighting the death
In attending the lectures and learning about the system, Pasley said he
was most shocked to learn about the condition the prisoners live in.
"Some people have letters from pen pals about the conditions," Pasley
said. "For just minor things, their clothes were taken away and their
meals were taken away and it really surprised me that in the United States
that would go on. It seems like something that would go on in another era
in another country."
Martellaro said her vacation has so far been a learning experience for her
in which her beliefs were even more firmly ground.
"We all had a simple understanding of the problems with the death penalty
and after coming here, we've learned so much in detail about what goes on
with capital punishment," Martellaro said. "It's just been so educational,
because we all are in agreement that it is wrong and there are problems
with the system, and this has been so specific, with so much information,
that it really strengthened my beliefs."
By listening, learning and participating, Pasley is hoping to go back home
with a better understanding of how to fight what he believes to be an
"I want to learn how to petition to get a moratorium on the death penalty
in Kansas," Pasley said. "Even though it's suspended right now, why wait
until somebody is executed to try and save more lives."
(source: Huntsville Item)
AG: Death penalty not necessary, not working
The state's top prosecutor supports extending New Jersey's moratorium on
executions, does not think the death penalty is a "necessary tool" for
prosecutors and believes capital punishment does not dissuade criminals.
"I don't think it's a deterrent," Attorney General Zulima Farber told The
Associated Press. "And I understand revenge. I think some people deserve
it. But I don't think it's a necessary tool."
Farber, who spoke to the AP this week in her 1st major interview since
being sworn in Jan. 30, said her opposition to the death penalty stems in
part from its draining of resources and lack of implementation.
"I don't have a philosophical or religious opposition to the death
penalty, I have a practical opposition to the death penalty," she said. "I
don't believe we're less protected in New Jersey in terms of law
enforcement because no one has been executed in going over 40 years."
There are 10 prisoners on New Jersey's death row. While capital punishment
was reinstated in the state in 1982, the last execution here took place in
In January, New Jersey lawmakers voted to suspend executions while a task
force studies the fairness and costs of imposing the death penalty.
A 13-member study commission has until November to report on whether the
death penalty is fairly imposed and whether alternatives would ensure
public safety and address the needs of victims' families. Farber has a
seat on that commission.
"I support the moratorium being extended," Farber said. "I would welcome
the analysis of the data and whatever the commission is going to look at
and I would not oppose cessation."
Farber said she thinks capital cases consume precious state resources
without perfect results.
A November 2005 study by the New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonprofit
liberal think tank, said the average capital trial costs more than three
times a non-capital trial in court time alone. The think tank report also
said that housing a death row inmate in 2006 is estimated to be $26,000
more expensive per inmate.
Ed Martone, of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said
he was pleased to hear Farber's view.
"Many political leaders have come to realize that capital punishment is
expensive and ineffective," he said.
But former Passaic County Prosecutor Ronald Fava said even if the death
penalty doesn't work as a deterrent, it does serve a purpose.
"I don't believe it is a deterrent," Fava said, "but sometimes it may be
36 states allow people to be sentenced to death.
On the Net:
New Jersey Attorney General's Office: http://www.state.nj.us/lps/
(source: Associated Press)
Man's death penalty challenge tossed out
A Cary man who sued the state last year for the manner in which it carries
out the death penalty has had his case dismissed.
This is the 2nd such case filed by James Chapman French that challenges
capital punishment. The 1st was filed in 2003.
In December, French filed another lawsuit, this time against more than 2
dozen people, including Gov. Mike Easley, Central Prison Warden Marvin
Polk and the state boards that regulate medicine, pharmacy and nursing.
His claim said that state executions offend Christians like him who oppose
Attorneys for the state and the N.C. Nursing Board filed motions asking to
have the case dismissed. They said French has no standing to file suit
because he was neither a death row inmate nor representing one.
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood signed an order granting those
motions. French plans to appeal the decision.
(source: News & Observer)
Moody challenging method of execution--Lethal injection cruel, attorneys
say; appeal filed with federal court
Attorneys representing a man who is scheduled to be executed Friday
appealed to a federal court yesterday to stay his execution until claims
against the lethal-injection protocol can be heard in court.
Patrick Lane Moody, 39, is scheduled to be executed at 2 a.m. Friday after
spending more than 10 years on North Carolina's death row for the murder
of his lover's husband, Donnie Robbins, on Sept. 16, 1994.
Moody's attorneys, Charlotte Blake and Don Willey, filed a complaint with
the U.S. Middle District Court challenging the method of lethal injection
in North Carolina, joining a growing number of similar challenges in other
states. Critics say that the method of execution breaches the
constitutional protection against unnecessary pain and suffering.
The state filed a motion to dismiss the claim, but the court dropped that
motion, essentially finding merit in the complaint by Blake and Willey.
The court, however, denied a motion for a preliminary injunction, meaning
that Moody's execution would take place as scheduled.
Blake said last night that she and Willey appealed the District Court's
denial of the injunction to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
yesterday and were waiting for a response. They say they hope that the
court will block Moody's execution until a conclusive court decision is
made about the use of lethal injection.
Several states are considering whether to stop all executions until a
court decides on the use of lethal injection. At issue is whether the
inmate being executed is conscious and able to feel pain but is not able
to express it during the execution procedure.
The method of execution being challenged involves an intravenous injection
of 3 drugs.
The 1st, sodium pentothal, causes unconsciousness. The 2nd paralyzes the
muscles. The final drug stops the heart.
Defense attorneys and opponents of lethal injection argue that sodium
pentothal is active for only a short period of time, allowing the person
being executed to feel the pain of a heart attack, but leaving him
paralyzed by the second drug and unable to show the pain of suffocation.
Also of concern, Blake said, is the design of the execution chamber, the
training of the people administering the drugs, and how the drugs are
Moody has a pending petition for clemency before Gov. Mike Easley, but
Easley "has made it clear that he won't make his decision until all court
proceedings are clear," Blake said. "We're just hoping the 4th circuit
will grant a stay."
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
Death Penalty off the Table for Accused Killer
The death penalty is off the table for a man accused of killing a local
FBI secretary back in 1999. Tyrone Delgado learned in court today the most
he could get if convicted of murder will be a life sentence. The District
Attorney's office will not be seeking the death penalty, but could not
give their reasons for the decision. Authorities believe Delgado strangled
Melissa Mooney in her Wilmington home.
In other developments with this case, the judge is allowing Delgado to
have 2 defense attorneys because this case is so complex. Before Delgado
stands trial for Mooney's murder, he'll be taken to Louisiana to face
charges of aggravated assault against his ex-wife.
(source: WECT News)
The Moussaoui Trial: It's High Time The Death Penalty Is Taken Off the
This week, Leonie Brinkema, the judge presiding over the sentencing trial
of Zacarias Moussaoui, declared, "I don't think in the annals of criminal
law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems."
The occasion for Brinkema's despair was the revelation that government
attorneys had engaged in a panoply of misconduct in trying to obtain the
death penalty. Moussaoui is the only person so far convicted of a crime
even tenuously connected to the 9/11 attacks; the government wants the
death penalty badly in this case, and has gone to extremes to get it.
In this column, I'll argue that the government's conduct has so tainted
this case, that, at a minimum, the death penalty option should be
It is hard to imagine a more noble endeavor than bringing a terrorist
before the bar of justice and exacting punishment and revenge and, perhaps
for a few people, deterrence.
There was a solemn and searing beauty to the trial, conviction, and
sentencing of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst act
of home-grown terrorism this country has ever seen. It was not a process
without flaws. But it was fundamentally fair; it channeled the nation's
retributive impulse on the man most deserving of that ire; and it provided
all of us, but especially the victim's families, a true measure of
The Moussaoui trial is a farce by comparison, and has taken place with not
just the nation but the whole world watching.
The Misconduct: Transforming Fact Witnesses Into Government Lackeys
Here are a few more details of the misconduct in which the government
engaged: First and foremost, a government lawyer had improperly coached
Transportation Safety Administration witnesses about how best to advance
the government's case. This same lawyer also improperly instructed
witnesses not to talk to the defense, while falsely telling the court that
the witness were unwilling to do so. Government counsel also repeatedly
violated a court order barring lawyers from telling witnesses about trial
strategy or prior testimony in the case.
This misconduct is especially serious because it violates our core ideal
as to what a witness should be: A person who provides, under oath, a
recounting of relevant factual events. When factual accounts are mixed
with government arguments, the line between witness testimony and lawyers'
statements - openings and summations - can be fatally blurred. The chance
of a conviction based not on facts, but on rhetoric, looms.
Judges specifically tell juries that lawyers' statements are not
statements of fact, so that juries can rely on the fact that witness
testimony, by contrast, is factual. When witnesses are prepped to advance
one side's arguments, and withheld on false pretenses from contact with
the other side, judges' admonitions, too, become unwitting lies.
What Moussaoui Did, and What He Didn't Do
Here is the most that can be said with any degree of confidence about
Zacarias Moussaoui: He is an unstable, fervent, and dangerous adherent of
Al Qaeda who appears to have been tapped to carry out a post-9/11 assault
on the White House, but who was arrested on immigration charges before he
could effectuate the plan.
What charges would these facts support? They would support charges of
conspiracy to commit terrorist acts - but not the acts of 9/11; Moussaoui
had heard about them, but did not even know their operational details. On
9/11, he was sitting in jail. He had not planned to be part of the 9/11
attacks; early references to him as a possible "twentieth hijacker" have
turned out to be inaccurate. Nor did Moussaoui help plan the attacks.
Nevertheless, the government has somehow made the case against Moussaoui,
a case about 9/11. It is easy to sympathize with the impulse to hold
someone accountable to the full measure of the law for the 3000 lives
mercilessly extinguished on 9/11. But Moussaoui has always been a
troubling choice - one that serves mainly to underscore the failures
plaguing our investigation and prosecution of terrorists.
The Shaky Case for The Death Penalty, and the Nonexistent 9/11 Link
>From the beginning, the government's push to obtain the death penalty
against Zacarias Moussaoui has been a strained and problematic enterprise
- for it rests directly on the gaping flaw in the government's case: its
attempt to link Moussaoui to 9/11.
Moussaoui was charged with and, after several false starts, pled guilty to
conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. But his admission to being a part
of Al Qaeda's overall plot against the United States is not sufficient on
its own to make Moussaoui eligible for the death penalty.
To open that door, the government must show that Moussaoui's conduct had a
direct connection to the terrorist acts of 9/11, and actually helped cause
those murderous acts. And the only way the government has figured out to
try and make this showing is to argue that, if Moussaoui had only told the
truth to government agents when he was arrested in August 2001, then the
information he would have provided would have permitted the FBI to connect
the dots to foil the 9/11 attacks.
The perversity of all this is uncomfortable to confront. It was bad enough
that the government had to use as its showcase the prosecution of an
apparently schizophrenic peripheral player because its other much-touted
terrorism arrests have badly misfired. Now it has compounded its mistake
with misconduct designed to bolster a shaky case. The government could
have made a simple, accurate case that put Moussaoui away for life.
Instead, it has made a misguided bid for death, based on inaccuracy and
The latest turn of events - with the judge appalled at government
misconduct -- only underscores the tragedy of an ill-advised choice based
on an ill-advised theory that, under the intense pressure of the moment,
almost inevitably was going to produce a cascade of governmental
By breaking elementary rules regarding communication with witnesses while
also violating a court order, the government has let slip the moral high
ground in a case that, in a fundamental sense, is about the comparative
morality of our way of life and of governance against those the terrorists
seek to impose.
It is too soon to know what effect the government's misconduct will have
on the outcome of Moussaoui's trial.
The judge is prohibiting testimony from 6 witnesses from the
Transportation Safety Administration, who were to have testified about
what measures the government could have taken to thwart the 9/11 attacks
if only Moussaoui had been forthright when federal agents questioned him
in August 2001. Again, the issue with respect to these witnesses is that
they were improper coached not to recount the facts they knew, but rather
to advance the government's case as best they could.
Still, the judge is not prohibiting the government from seeking the death
penalty, even though it appears that several of the now-excluded witnesses
were to testify for the defense.
All of which means that the trial is likely to be burdened with a
government appeal now -- and a very substantial defense appeal down the
road if the jury imposes the death penalty.
It's Time to Get Rid of the Death Penalty Option in This Irrevocably
Reportedly, the Department of Justice is considering putting a stop to all
this by foregoing the death penalty. It should. Let Moussaoui rot in jail.
This was never the right case through which to seek emotional release for
the families victimized by the 9/11 terrorists. And now it has become a
disastrous case, sure to be counterproductive when it comes to achieving
any conceivable polity objectives it might once have imperfectly served.
There is nobility in having the courage to abandon a death penalty fight
that the government probably should never undertaken, and now has tainted
irremediably by striking a series of low blows. Such courage would far
better reflect the American values we seek to project, than a stubborn
insistence on obtaining a death sentence that has lost the moral weight
that is its only justification.
(source: Edward Lazarus, a FindLaw columnist, writes about, practices, and
teaches law in Los Angeles. He is a former federal prosecutor.)
Murder victims' families no fans of execution
Mother Regina Hockett prays for the 2 young men who shot and killed her
12-year-old daughter in October 1995 outside a Nashville grocery store.
Daughter Adriane Dickerson was getting a quarter for bubble gum when the
two suspects killed her daughter outside the grocery near Hickory Hollow
Mall in Antioch.
It took 3 years before the murderers were charged with Adriane's murder.
"I was able to forgive the 2 young men without even knowing who they are,"
She founded the Murder Victims Families for Human Rights and opposes the
Hockett was one of four panelists speaking Monday during "The Death
Penalty: Distinctive Female Experiences" discussion at MTSU sponsored by
the MTSU Chapter of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing and
the MTSU National Women's History Month Committee.
Associate Professor Amy Staples, who is the faculty sponsor for the campus
coalition group, said the panel was not a balanced view of the death
penalty but 4 women's experiences.
Hockett said she put her daughter's murderers into God's hands.
"They're suffering," Hockett said describing the darkness of death row.
"My heart goes out to them."
Hockett's comments drew the most response from students. 2 students
expressed admiration for the mother who forgave the killers.
MTSU senior T. Danyale Butler said the commandments teach "Thou shall not
"What kind of message does that send?" Butler asked of the death penalty.
Death row inmates must remain secluded 23 hours a day and do not get out
in the sun, she said. Many do not have visitors. She asked what she could
do to ensure the inmates are treated humanely.
"It is up to us to make changes," Butler said.
Another mother, Joyce House, held up a picture of her son Paul who
believed in the criminal justice system when he was tried for rape and
murder of Carolyn Muncey in 1985 in Union County. He was convicted.
DNA testing later showed he didn't rape the victim, House said.
But the court ruled he remained guilty of murder. His case was heard by
the U.S. Supreme Court in January, with their ruling expected in April or
"Now Paul has hope again," House said.
She hopes the justices will release him or order a new trial.
"Otherwise my son will die in jail for a crime he didn't commit," House
Panelist Linda Manning serves as spiritual adviser to Abu-Ali Abdur'
Rahman, who was sentenced to death in the murder of suspected drug dealer
Patrick Daniels in 1986 in Nashville. Rahman doesn't have any family or
"No matter the situation, no human being should have to walk through that
process himself," Manning said.
She visits with him twice a week.
"I have probably learned more spiritually from Abu than he has learned
from me," Manning said.
Attorney Catherine Brockenborough of the Tennessee Post-Conviction
Defenders Office represents 15 death row inmates, 3 of whom she believes
"They've probably been screwed by their attorneys at trial,"
Most death row inmates are poor, black and mentally ill, she said.
She hasn't won a case yet but puts her clients in God's hands, she said.
(source: The Daily News Journal)
Court upholds death penalty in 2001 bait shop murder
Almost a year ago, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a man's
Sullivan County murder conviction and death sentence for killing a bait
This week, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld that opinion and ruled that
Steven James Rollins will remain on death row.
Rollins, 40, was convicted in June 2003 and sentenced to die for the
stabbing death of John T. Bussell, 81, who was found dead inside his bait
shop located at the corner of Fort Henry Drive and Moreland Drive on Aug.
Tennessee Supreme Court Justices William M. Barker, E. Riley Anderson,
Janice M. Holder and Cornelia A. Clark all concurred with the opinion
upholding the appeals court decision.
Justice Adolpho A. Birch agreed with the majority that Rollins' conviction
should stand but dissented as to the death sentence.
"As in previous dissents, Birch wrote that the method used by the court to
review and compare Tennessee capital cases is flawed in his view. State
law requires the court to conduct comparative proportionality review in
each death penalty case to determine whether the sentence is
disproportionate to the penalties in similar cases," said Sue Allison,
public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
In his majority opinion, Justice Barker wrote that the sentence was not
disproportionate because of the nature of the crime and the defendant
"The 37-year-old defendant needed money for drugs and decided to commit a
robbery," Barker wrote. "The defendant planned the robbery and
premeditated the murder to conceal the robbery. The defendant chose as his
victim an elderly widower who lived alone and whose health was failing. He
knew the victim had a reputation of carrying large sums of cash on his
Bussell, who lived in a camper beside his bait shop, was known to get up
at all hours of the night to sell minnows to fishermen. He was scooping
out minnows when Rollins started his attack.
According to evidence presented at trial, Rollins stabbed Bussell 27 times
then shook his body to make sure he was dead before fleeing with cash and
some of Bussell's possessions.
Rollins and two co-defendants, Greg Fleenor and Angela Salyers, used the
money to buy cocaine later that night. Fleenor pleaded guilty to the
murder to avoid the death penalty and is currently serving a life
sentence. Salyers was convicted of a lesser offense - facilitation to
commit robbery. She is serving a 4-year sentence.
In Rollins' appeal, he raised issues about the failure of authorities to
record his interrogations and that his rights were violated in part
because he was questioned without his lawyer being present.
The court justices noted that the interrogation recording issue has long
been rejected and Rollins failed to show any doubt on the soundness of
previous rulings on the issue. The court also rejected the rights
violations because Rollins signed a waiver of his Miranda rights.
The court set a July 26 execution date for Rollins, but he still has state
and federal appeals remaining.
(source: The Times-News)
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