[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.Y., PENN., USA, FLA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:23:54 CST 2006
Death penalty is neither a swift nor sure punishment
We grieve with all New Yorkers for law enforcement officers murdered
outside Utica and in the Southern Tier and join in the call for swift and
sure justice for their killers. The death penalty remains the wrong option
in these and every other case, for it is neither swift nor sure.
As the series of Assembly hearings last year showed, the death penalty is
unfair, unworkable and far too expensive while having no demonstrable
deterrent value. The $200 million spent in New York during its failed
10-year experiment with the death penalty - a period during which crime
continued to drop and no one was executed - could far better have been
spent on a variety of programs to support law enforcement, reduce crime
and assist victims and their families.
The state Legislature presumably understood that during a special session
held last December, when it enacted a measure that mandated a sentence of
life without parole for those convicted of intentionally killing a law
enforcement officer in the line of duty. Gov. Pataki signed that measure
But the State Senate apparently has not gotten that message. The Senate
Codes Committee recently passed a bill that would reinstate the death
penalty for those who kill law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
That action, however, appears to be symbolic since it is unlikely the
state Assembly will go along.
A clear and growing majority of New Yorkers has said that life without the
chance of parole is far preferable to the death penalty as the maximum
sentence for those who commit the most heinous crimes. That is what
increasing numbers of Americans in general, and New Yorkers in particular,
have told pollsters. That is what religious leaders, leading
criminologists, increasing numbers of district attorneys and other law
enforcement professionals and the families of murder victims told Assembly
members last year.
For most people, the exoneration of more than 100 death row inmates
nationwide after post-conviction investigation underscores both the
difficulty in crafting a mistake-proof capital punishment statute and the
degree to which lawmaking at a time of high emotional moment inevitably
yields bad law.
If those accused of killing the officers are convicted, they will spend
the rest of their lives confronting the consequences of their actions in
the obscurity of a maximum security prison cell. Let the families of the
murder victims know that the certainty of a life prison term will let them
honor their loved ones and seek to go on with their lives. On the
contrary, the death penalty, with its decades of appeals and
uncertainties, only serves to extend the legal process while conferring a
kind of macabre celebrity on the killer.
The death penalty, with its decades of appeals and uncertainties, denies
the possibilities of that healing to too many families for far too long.
We hope legislators considering legislation in the wake of the murders of
the police officers learn what the Assembly members who considered the
death penalty learned last year - that we can live without the death
(source: Times Herald-Record - David Kaczynski is executive director of
New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty)
Lawyer suspension affects Bedford murder case
In Bedford, an Allegheny County lawyer with a long list of clients in the
Southern Alleghenies region has had his law license suspended, creating
uncertainties over a Bedford County capital-murder case.
The license suspension of veteran lawyer Thomas Allen Crawford of
Wilkinsburg begins March 29 and will continue for 3 months, according to
information provided by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the state
Crawford represents Joseph Clark, the Everett area man charged in the
kidnapping and stabbing death of Holly Notestine 6 years ago.
Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins will seek the death
penalty if Clark is convicted of 1st-degree murder.
The body of the 25-year-old mother of 2 was found in March 2004. Clark,
now 46, of West Providence Township, was charged with her murder in late
Crawford said Tuesday the suspension, the first he has had in more than 30
years as a lawyer, stems from a civil case dating back about a decade.
"It is an old civil case," he said. "The disciplinary board was unhappy
and the people were unhappy with the way I handled it.
"I'm going to serve my 3 months. That's what they tell me I've got to do,
so I do it."
Along with the 3 month suspension, Crawford must make restitution totaling
just less than $18,700 to 26 people from Donora in suburban Pittsburgh.
While specific details on the case were not available Tuesday, Crawford
said he was representing the residents in a battle against the borough
over municipal sewer issues.
Crawford said his license wasn't suspended sooner because "I fought it."
Paul Killion, chief disciplinary counsel for the board, could not be
reached for comment at his Harrisburg office Tuesday.
The primary mission of the disciplinary counsel is the protection of the
public, according to its Web site. It investigates complaints against
lawyers and prosecutes when appropriate.
Word of the action against Crawford has generated concern in the Bedford
County district attorney's office.
Crawford will be unable to offer legal advice to Clark or handle pending
court issues in the criminal case until his license is reinstated in late
And Higgins said he sees long-term problems with the effectiveness of
legal counsel issues that may surface during future appeals.
"The 1st avenue to appeal on death-penalty cases is right to the Supreme
Court, and a lawyer will have to raise the issue of ineffective counsel,"
"Here's a guy potentially sitting on death row and his attorney couldn't
even get into court," during part of the process.
The license suspension also means Crawford cannot render legal opinions or
offer legal advice.
Late last week, the state Superior Court refused to hear arguments by
Crawford seeking to overturn a county court decision not to sever the
charge of arson from the homicide and kidnapping charges in the Notestine
The arson charge resulted in a fire that destroyed Clark's car 6 hours
after Notestine's kidnapping.
Police said he was destroying evidence, though Crawford countered
authorities never proved the fire was arson.
2 other major issues are pending at the county and Superior Court levels.
Crawford is seeking to suppress statements made by Clark to police, as
well as items taken during searches of the suspect's car and his mothers
Higgins is asking the state Superior Court to overturn a county court
decision not to allow into evidence information regarding 11 alleged prior
incidents of violence against women by Clark.
Meanwhile, Crawford said he is in the process of notifying clients about
the suspension. He said he will meet with Clark to make sure he is aware
of the circumstances.
Plans at this point are to turn the cases over to his partner, Barbara
Weiss, until his license is restored.
"What I'll do is withdraw from the case, and Barb will continue to
represent him," Crawford said. "I guess I'll be pretty scarce for the next
(source: The Tribune-Democrat)
Criminal Justice Reform Conference April 20-22
For nearly two decades, Pittsburgh native Thomas Doswell lived a
nightmare, serving a jail sentence of 13 to 26 years in prison for a rape
he insisted he did not commit. As his children grew up without him,
Doswell steadfastly maintained his innocence, even though his refusal to
admit guilt cost him parole four times. Finally, in 2005, DNA evidence
irrefutably proved that Doswell was not the attacker and he was released.
Doswell will share his compelling story as one of the distinguished guests
at next months 6th annual Forensic Science and Law Conference.
Duquesne Universitys Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law
and the School of Law, in partnership with The Justice Project, a
Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan organization dedicated to fighting
injustice, will bring together some of the nations leading legal scholars,
forensic scientists, public policy makers and journalists to explore the
impact of recent advances in forensic science on criminal justice reform.
Justice for All: A National Symposium on the Role of Forensic Science in
the Evolution of Criminal Justice Reform in America will be held Thursday,
April 20, through Saturday, April 22, in the Bayer Learning Center.
Justice for All is co-sponsored by the American Bar Associations sections
of Criminal Justice and Science and Technology Law, along with the
Pittsburgh Institute of Legal Medicine.
Topics to be addressed include DNA testing, the reliability of eyewitness
and "snitch" testimony, scientific and prosecutorial misconduct, and other
issues at the forefront of the criminal justice reform debate. Speakers
include former FBI Director William Sessions, renowned forensic scientist
Dr. Henry Lee, Policy Director for the Innocence Project Stephen Saloom,
and Duquesne University Professor John Rago. The various panels will also
feature talks from Doswell and another who has experienced first-hand the
horror of wrongful conviction-Kirk Bloodsworth, the 1st death row inmate
ever exonerated through DNA evidence.
The Justice for All conference is open to the public and is approved for
Act 48 Continuing Education. Approval is being sought for Continuing Legal
Education (CLE) and PA Coroners Continuing Education.
For more information or to register, visit www.justiceforall.duq.edu or
(source: Duquesne University Times)
SUPPORT FOR DEATH PENALTY SOFTENS IN U.S.
Support for capital punishment is starting to soften even among some
long-time death penalty advocates, writes Mark Sommer, director of the
U.S.-based Mainstream Media Project and host of the award-winning
internationally-syndicated radio programme "A World of Possibilities."
In this article Sommer writes, alongside Iraq, Iran, and China, the United
States remains the sole advanced democracy still cleaving to what much of
the world views as state-sponsored homicide. At 64 %, Americans' support
for the death penalty is 20 % higher than Canada and 40 % higher than
Australia. Nonetheless, it is at its lowest level in 27 years and is
lowest among youth, indicating that a shift may be in the offing.
Surprisingly, this shift is occurring most of all among some of those who
until now have been adamantly opposed to abolishing the death penalty:
Republican officeholders. The reason they are changing their minds is less
ideological than pragmatic -- a realisation that too often the wrong man
is executed and the exorbitant cost of prosecution is stealing resources
from law enforcement programmes of more proven effectiveness.
(source: Inter Press Service)
Death row as source for organ donations?
On any given day in America, at least 94,000 anxious and often demoralized
citizens live with diminishing hope. They are literally running out of
time as the search for life-saving organs goes forward without immediate
These citizens face a desperate battle to obtain a healthy heart, kidney,
lung, liver or other life-sustaining tissue. Modern technology has made it
possible through transplantation to save lives that would otherwise be
lost. While more and more organs are being donated, demand continues to
The result has been that thousands of would-be recipients - including many
young children - die each year while on waiting lists. It's a race to find
enough organs, organs that match, and find them in time.
Resources for such organs continue to be severely limited. Life-saving
donations are available in several unlikely places - including our
nation's death rows, where many healthy organs go to waste. It is no small
irony that while thousands of Americans die needlessly each year because
they lack the requisite organs, others go to their deaths carrying off
healthy organs needed to sustain life.
Does such a suggestion sound macabre? That death row could provide a
significant number of needed organs if a program were scrupulously
developed and carried out among condemned inmates? Suppose, for example,
an inmate facing a death sentence were allowed to donate a major organ in
exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Hundreds
of organs might be harvested. A carefully run plan could - and should - be
developed to save lives instead of wasting healthy organs.
If the nation is going to remain intransigent in its refusal to eliminate
the death penalty, why not make the most of such sentences by allowing
prisoners to make a significant contribution toward the lives of others?
Even if that contribution is made with less than pure altruism, the good
done would be real.
Legal, ethical and moral questions come immediately to mind - but none is
insuperable. Meaningful programs could be developed with suitable controls
to protect those who might, in some ghastly way, be victimized. Safeguards
and controls could be created to ensure the ethical and moral probity of
such programs. For example, so long as the death penalty persists, we
could deny organ-for-life exchanges if an inmate's crimes were deemed too
heinous. True, it seems like a devil's bargain at first glance, since the
choice being offered to the inmate is so stark that it's hardly a choice
at all. One might even see it as coercion or victimization of the donor
pool. On the other hand, the alternative is death. Some donor inmates
would live the rest of their lives with single kidneys or lungs or partial
livers, but many donors have lived full lives under the same conditions.
If such a plan was enacted, two lives would be saved: the life of an
innocent individual who would surely die without the transplant, and the
life of the inmate who once was slated for death.
As life expectancy extends and transplant techniques improve, the need for
organs will inevitably increase. The search for such donations must be
broadened. To extend that search to our prisons is to affirm, not deny,
the value of life.
Why refuse such an idea simply because we are not yet comfortable placing
the value of life on a higher plateau than our need for vengeance and
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer - Claude Lewis)
Carlie Brucia's Rapist, Killer Gets Death Penalty----Mechanic Abducted,
Raped And Strangled Child
The man convicted of abducting, raping and slaying 11-year-old Carlie
Brucia was sentenced Wednesday in Sarasota.
Judge Andrew D. Owens sentenced Joseph Smith, 39, to death for Carlie's
murder, saying, "May God have mercy on your soul."
Smith was led from the courtroom after the judge pronounced the sentence
for first-degree murder. Smith was sentenced to life in prison for both
his kidnapping and capital sexual battery convictions.
Smith showed no emotion when the judge pronounced the sentence.
A jury had recommended by a vote of 10-2 that Smith be executed. Owens was
required by law to give great weight to that recommendation when making
his ruling Wednesday.
During a hearing last month, Smith tearfully apologized for his crimes. He
told the judge that he took large amounts of heroin and cocaine and tried
to kill himself before he abducted Carlie on Feb. 1, 2004.
Smith said he didn't remember much about that day and asked Owens to spare
him for the sake of his family.
Carlie's abduction was caught by a security camera and aired nationally.
Her body was found 4 days after her disappearance on the grounds of a
Owens read a statement during the sentencing.
On Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004, Carlie left a girlfriend's home and was walking
home, the judge said. She cut across the parking lot of a car wash, taking
a shortcut home. A friend of the family saw Carlie walking and sent her
husband to find her. He was unable to locate the girl. After an hour and a
half of searching for Carlie, they called 911.
In their search for the girl, police came across the videotape of Carlies
abduction. A surveillance camera at a car wash showed Smith grabbing the
girl by the arm. When the videotape was released nationally by the media,
several calls came in identifying Smith as the kidnapper. He was wearing a
mechanic's uniform that said "Joe" on it.
Smith was arrested for unrelated drug charges on Feb. 3 and for violating
terms of his probation.
On Feb. 5, John Smith visited his brother, Joseph, who was in police
custody. The suspect's brother then took police to the area where Carlie's
body was left. She was found dead on church grounds in the exact area that
Joseph Smith told his brother she was.
Smith admitted having rough sex with the child and his semen was found on
her clothing, according to Owens.
Owens believes that Smith killed Carlie so that he would not be arrested
in her kidnapping and rape. The judge said that he has no doubt the crime
was sexually motivated. And instead of letting Carlie live after her rape,
he chose to kill her.
Carlie's cause of death was ligature strangulation, the judge said. But
the ligatures were never found.
A doctor's report said that Carlie's hands were restrained during her
strangulation and that the girl had no defensive wounds. The doctor found
that Carlie was conscious when the ligature was put around her neck. So he
found that she must have been restrained before being killed. The court
found that Carlie endured unspeakable trauma that started the moment she
was kidnapped, Owens said. He said the image of the girl being kidnapped
would forever be etched in his mind.
"If ever a victim can be described as defenseless and subdued, it was
Carlie Brucia," Judge Owens said. "He had other options available to him,
but for reasons we'll never know, he chose to ignore them."
The judge said that Smith not only chose to ignore those options, but he
held the ligature so tight against her neck that it dug into her flesh.
After killing Carlie, Smith dragged the girl to a wooded area so as to
avoid detection, the judge said. He then lied to police about his
whereabouts. Owens said that Smith disposed of Carlie's backpack and
clothing in several locations, and admitted doing so in a coded letter to
The judge said that at 11 years of age, Carlie knew what was happening to
her and realized she was going to die. He said the court may never know
how long it took for Carlie to be unconscious, she had already suffered
unspeakable emotional terror and physical terror at Joseph Smith's hands.
Owens said that beyond any reasonable doubt, Carlie's death was heinous
and torturous. And that has been assigned great weight in the sentencing.
For the defendant to achieve his goal of preying on a young child, the
judge said, Smith drove Carlie to a remote area in order to rape her. He
said it was a deliberate and selfish act.
On March 6, 2003, Smith had been convicted on drug charges. That is why he
was on probation, according to the judge.
(source: Associated Press)
Ex-FBI agent loses bid to have murder-conspiracy charge dismissed
Former FBI agent John "Zip" Connolly, donning a red jumpsuit reserved for
the most dangerous inmates, frowned as he listened to the ruling Tuesday.
His attorney had hoped a motion to dismiss a murder-conspiracy charge
against him would be granted. Instead, the motion was turned down flat and
an Aug. 14 trial date was set in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
It was an anti-climactic ending to the hearing for Connolly, 65, whose
association with reputed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger has landed
him in a jail cell 1,500 miles from his home, facing a possible death
In May, a Miami-Dade County grand jury indicted Connolly on conspiracy and
murder charges in the 1982 slaying of former World Jai Alai owner John
Callahan. The businessman's bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of
a Cadillac in a Miami airport parking lot.
That indictment came three years after Connolly was convicted in Boston
and sentenced to 10 years for passing on law enforcement information to
his longtime informants, Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, who
used that information to eliminate their rivals while rising to the top of
Some of the information Connolly leaked, authorities charge, led to
Callahan's death. In 1981, Callahan, who had ties to Bulger's crew, sold
the Miami-based World Jai Alai to an Oklahoma businessman named Roger
Wheeler. Wheeler came to suspect Bulger's guys were skimming profits and
began audits. In 1981, on Bulger's orders, Johnny Martorano and Kevin
Halloran ambushed Wheeler outside his Tulsa country club, according to
court documents. Halloran was later murdered outside a bar.
At Connolly's 2002 trial, Martorano, 70, testified that 20 years earlier
Bulger had told them Halloran was hit because Connolly told him he was
cooperating with the FBI. Connolly also told Bulger that Callahan had to
be killed because he knew too much, testified Martorano, who shot Callahan
and later confessed to 10 murders.
Bulger, a co-defendant in the murder who is 76 if he's still alive,has
been on the lam for more than 11 years, disappearing two days before
Christmas 1994 after Connolly tipped him to an impending racketeering
Last month, Connolly's attorney, Manuel Casabielle, filed a motion to
dismiss the conspiracy charge on the basis that the statute of limitations
had expired. It was dismissed Tuesday before he even had a chance to argue
"I reviewed the motion, I reviewed the case law, the motion is denied,"
Judge Barbara Areces announced immediately after the lawyers entered their
names into the record.
Casabielle said they plan to appeal. He explained the importance of the
motion, saying prosecutors can use hearsay evidence, such as third-party
conversations between Bulger and cooperating witnesses Flemmi and
Martorano, to prove a conspiracy. But hearsay isn't admissible if the only
charge against Connolly is murder.
Without a conspiracy, Casabielle said the case "would come down to finding
Mr. Bulger, which apparently they're having a hard time doing."
(source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Death row dilemma isnt just for inmates
Michael Angelo Morales violently strangled and beat to death 17-year-old
Terri Winchell, then raped her in a horrific crime for which he felt no
In 1983 a jury convicted Morales of murder with special circumstances and
sentenced him to death.
Cruel and unusual
He appealed his conviction to numerous courts, including the California
Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, the latter on several occasions.
As a death row inmate he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection
on Feb. 21 at 12:01 a.m. Morales court-appointed lawyers, supported by the
American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations, sought to stop the
state from executing him under the procedures set forth in San Quentin
operational procedure No. 770, known as Protocol No. 770.
Morales contends that the specific drugs chosen to put him to death in the
absence of a doctor overseeing the execution creates "an undue risk that
he will experience unnecessary and wanton pain constituting cruel and
unusual punishment under the Eighth and 14th Amendments."
If anyone deserves to die a cruel and unusual death it is Morales.
This is one of those rare times that I would like to be a judge, in this
case ruling on Morales' hundreds of court filings - claiming that being
put to death by lethal injection involves unnecessary pain prohibited by
the Eighth Amendment. It would be a short hearing.
Protocol No. 770
Protocol No. 770 involves an extremely detailed Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation (there is a misnomer) procedure involving syringed
dosages of sodium pentothal to render the death row inmate unconscious,
followed by injections of pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, the
latter to stop the heart from beating.
California is one of 38 death penalty states that authorize lethal
injections for executions. Ten states allow execution by electrocution,
with Nebraska as the only state that requires electrocution. 5 states
allow execution by lethal injection or the gas chamber. 2 states allow
lethal injection or hanging and two states allow lethal injection or a
firing squad. I'm liking the firing squad myself.
Morales' battery of lawyers were successful and the state indefinitely
postponed his execution after doctors refused to administer the
injections. But it is just a matter of time.
Death row delays
When it comes to death row executions, time is on the side of the inmate.
The average delay is more than 20 years. Tookie Williams waited 25 years.
It has been 23 years for Morales.
Scott Peterson will be in San Quentin for at least 20 years along with 641
death-row inmates - the largest population in the nation.
Statistically 63 % of Californians favor keeping the death penalty for
serious crimes, a percentage that has declined over the years. The racial
composition of those on death row is 45 percent white, 42 % black, and 10
$250 million per execution
With 11 executions spread over 27 years, on a per-execution basis,
California and federal taxpayers have paid more then $250 million for each
execution. The California death penalty system costs taxpayers more then
$114 million a year beyond the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked
up for life, and that figure does not include millions more for
post-conviction hearings - per a 2005 Los Angeles Times study.
Death penalty debate
Michael Morales will be put to death soon - probably by lethal injection -
probably in the company of medical specialists. He will feel little or no
pain. Unlike his innocent victim.
The debate over the death penalty will continue long past Tookie Williams
and Michael Morales. The ACLU and other organizations maintain effective
national campaigns to abolish the death penalty.
I support abolishment of the death penalty. I've come full circle. Not
because it is cruel and unusual punishment, not even close; but because
the death penalty is a broken system. It is divisive. It drains billions
of dollars of resources. Twenty-plus years on average of costly processing
and delays is inexcusable, especially for obviously guilty perpetrators,
and in the end putting someone to death accomplishes little. Michael
Morales deserves to die, but at what cost and benefit?
I resent entitling Michael Morales and Scott Peterson to $250 million each
of process entitlements, including automatic review by the U.S. Supreme
I am sure there are pro and con studies on the deterrent effect of the
death penalty, but my own instincts suggest that criminals are not
thinking about the death penalty when they commit their crimes at least
with our dysfunctional system.
The death penalty debate is legitimate, but to question whether Protocol
No. 770 makes Michael Morales suffer excessive pain is more then I can
handle. It is time.
(source: Law Review - Jim Porter is an attorney)
Attorney general mulls appeal of quashed death sentence
The California Attorney General's office has a month left to decide
whether it will fight to see Gregory Allen Sturm die.
On March 8, the California Supreme Court overturned the 35-year-old's
death sentence for the August 19, 1990, robberies and murders of Darrell
Esgar, Chad Chadwick and Russell Williams.
Death penalty opponents point to the court's decision as another example
of increasing tensions over methods of criminal punishment in California.
According to the court, however, the 5-2 decision overturning the death
sentence focused on the trial judge's misconduct.
Sturm is still convicted of the crimes, committed at the Super Shops auto
store in Tustin where all of the men were once co-workers.
The judge who presided over Sturm's trial made remarks to jurors that
implied the murders were premeditated and therefore could result in the
The defense, which was led by Deputy State Public Defender John Fresquez,
argued these remarks, coming from the authoritative voice of a Judge
Donald McCartin, unfairly swayed jurors. His defense argued Sturm could
not have planned the murders since he was a cocaine addict and highly
intoxicated at the time.
Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office, said if
the office decides not to appeal, the Orange County District Attorney's
office has plans to retry the penalty phase of the case for the third
time. At that point jurors would decide if Sturm were to receive the death
sentence, or his current default sentence of life in prison without
possibility of parole.
Sturm has resided for more than 13 years on death row in Marin County's
San Quentin State Prison. A retrial would return Sturm to his native
Orange County for proceedings.
While technicalities saved Sturm from a death sentence, larger factors are
raising questions about the future of the ultimate punishment.
Heated debate arose with the much-publicized execution of Stan "Tookie"
Williams, a former Crips gang leader and later author of several books on
fixing gang violence. Williams had a host of supporters who believed he
had reformed; they publicly questioned why the condemned could not be
Williams, like other inmates, waited more than two decades for his
execution, during which time he took up hobbies and social justice
Williams had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel
Prize in Literature.
Within weeks of the Williams' execution, however, another convicted
murderer's execution was canceled.
Michael Morales was spared after the American Medical Association issued a
statement saying physicians cannot participate in executions based on
The statement said: "The use of a physician's clinical skill and judgment
for purposes other than promoting an individual's health and welfare
undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine - first, do no harm.
(source: Inside Bay Area)
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