[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TEXAS, USA, OKLA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 19 21:42:26 CST 2006
Salazar loses bid to block execution
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week denied a stay of execution
for a Lubbock death row inmate condemned to die later this month.
Robert Madrid Salazar, 27, has remained on death row since his 1999
conviction for beating to death a 2-year-old girl. He is scheduled to be
executed by lethal injection on March 22.
The issue before the court of appeals last week was whether Salazar was
mentally retarded and could be executed.
"He did not show facts that he was entitled to relief," said Edward Marty,
general counsel for the court, although he could not comment further on
A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibited the practice of executing
inmates who were mentally challenged, finding that capital punishment in
those cases was "excessive," according to court documents.
Since that decision, Marty said a number of death row inmates have sought
stays of execution on claims of mental retardation. Although he did not
have exact numbers, he estimated about 1/3 of Texas death row inmates with
a pending execution date have made those claims.
Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney Matt Powell said he has never
believed the man he prosecuted is retarded.
"He's not retarded," Powell said of Salazar. "He's just evil."
Salazar severely beat his girlfriend's daughter, Adriana Gomez, to death
while she was in his care. According to testimony during the trial,
Salazar inflicted enough damage to kill her 3 times over.
Adriana's abdomen was crushed against her spinal cord. She suffered blows
to the chest that drove a bruise completely through her heart. And she
suffered a head injury that was consistent with Salazar picking her up by
the ankles and slamming her against a piece of furniture or a wall.
Autopsy results revealed the girl died of multiple blunt force injuries.
"These are the types of injuries you see in a car crash," Powell said.
"They were that severe."
A paramedic who testified at Salazar's trial began to cry when he was
asked to recall the girl's condition.
He told the court her arm was twisted and broken and the back of her head
felt like "Jello."
Salazar, after delivering the fatal beating, tucked the girl into bed and
went to a friend's house to drink beer.
Powell recalled that the men sat on porch and drank while they watched the
ambulance that would tend to Adriana's injuries go by.
A jury deliberated for more than seven hours before condemning Salazar.
Powell - who has prosecuted four of five Lubbock County death row inmates
- said his office takes death penalty cases seriously, and in Salazar's
case the crime fit the punishment.
"This was as bad a beating case as I've ever seen," he said. "Adult or
A New Mexico attorney who has represented Salazar during his state and
federal appeals, said the execution should be stopped.
Michael Charlton said that a Lubbock police officer who served on the jury
played a pivotal role in Salazar receiving the death penalty by telling
jurors that if they sentenced Salazar to life in prison, he would serve
only between 20 and 25 years.
The appeals that addressed Charlton's claims were denied.
"It's been denied on issues that don't address what happened," Charlton
said. "There was nothing that denied the event occurred and people changed
their minds because of it."
Salazar can still explore the possibility of filing motions in the federal
If no stay is granted, the state will move forward with the execution.
"The evidence screams for him to get it," Powell said.
(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
True-crime writer's latest centers on McFarland case
There is a certain element that draws New Braunfels true-crime writer
Diane Fanning to a story. After all, she says, crimes happen all the time,
but not all grab her attention. Sometimes, it is the way a criminal's mind
works. Other times, it is the way victims become heroes.
In the case of Susan McFarland, it was the character herself.
"Susan grabbed me," Fanning says. "I felt her, and when I saw her face, I
felt I could see a piece of her soul."
It is why, in her latest book, "Gone Forever: A True Story of Marriage,
Betrayal and Murder" (St. Martin's Press, $6.99), Fanning describes going
through a period of grieving after hearing story after story about the
former SBC manager and mother of 3:
"Then the realization struck - I would never be able to talk to her. I
would never bump into her at Central Market. At that moment, I was struck
by a sense of loss so visceral it took my breath away and formed pools of
water in my eyes."
In 2002, the McFarland boys were ages 6, 8 and 11 when their father,
Richard McFarland, murdered their mother Susan and drove 25 miles to a
deserted farm in Bexar County where he set her body on fire.
"If a woman like Susan can be a victim, any of us can," Fanning reasons.
Susan's journal entries in the book detail Richard McFarland's erratic and
expensive shopping sprees, numerous times when he forgot to pick up the
kids from school and various times he medicated himself and the kids.
Fanning details Susan's driven desire to fix things in her family, and she
ends her book with a list of statistics on domestic violence and why it
was important to tell Susan's story.
"There are some important life lessons to be learned from true-crime
books," Fanning says.
One reader knows this too well.
In an e-mail sent to Fanning, the reader identified herself as Tracy, the
shelter manager and court advocate at a domestic violence shelter in North
Carolina. She wrote: "I truly believe that we can make a difference, and
books like yours, that are so well written, can bring this blight on
society called domestic violence out of the shadows and shine the light of
day upon it, so good people can take a stand to stop it."
Fanning begins to tell the story, through family and friends, of how
Susan, a successful businesswoman rising up the career ladder, was afraid
she could possibly lose custody of her boys to Richard McFarland, who had
assumed the responsibility of primary caregiver.
Because Fanning, herself the mother of 3, felt a connection with Susan,
she became involved in the McFarland case almost immediately.
"I followed the story very closely," she says. "I called in to volunteer
to help with the search when I went on break for Christmas, but they
called off the search during the holidays."
During that time, she had signed on with St. Martin's Press for a two-book
deal. But before she could deliver the McFarland book, publishers wanted
the story about Michael Peterson.
"Written in Blood" (St. Martin's Press, 2005, $6.99), about the murder of
Kathleen Atwater by her husband, novelist Michael Peterson, is up for the
Mystery Writers of America 2006 Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime
Category. The winner will be announced April 27.
As Fanning went to work on the Peterson case, she continued to keep a
close eye on the McFarland story.
She noted right away that Richard McFarland's behavior was not
"During 53 days of searching, he never helped out. Not even once," she
His odd behavior caused problems for him even after he was convicted and
sent to jail, causing him to be transferred from one facility to the next,
"He is very lacking in social skills," she says. "He makes inappropriate
comments. He is not a very personable man."
Fanning includes some of the correspondence she received from Richard
McFarland in her book: "'The Lord loves us and doesn't want us to gossip
about others, even those who have done something wrong.' The message from
Rick McFarland was as subtle as a tsunami."
Fanning has no qualms about getting letters from convicted killers ... and
that is plural. Serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells, the same man who pleaded
guilty to murdering 9-year-old Mary Bea Perez in San Antonio, confessed to
another murder (that of 10-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick) in correspondence
"I'm not stupid about it," she says. "I do use a P.O. box."
Sells' execution is scheduled for May 17.
Fanning's interest in real crime began after her own near-abduction when
she was 9 years old. Fanning was almost pulled into a car by a man. It was
then that a motorist coming up over a hill saw what was happening and laid
on the car horn, she recalls.
"The man (suspect) drove off with the car door still open," Fanning says.
"I had been watching 'Dragnet,' so I remembered to memorize the license
When police tracked down the suspect, he was charged with the assault and
murder of an 8-year-old girl from a few weeks earlier.
For Fanning, knowing more about real crime has been empowering. And she
continues to pass on those important life lessons through her books.
"I talked to one mom who said 'Through the Window' (St. Martin's, 2003,
$6.99) saved her child's life," Fanning says. "She had a very trusting
child and had her child read the book."
That book, about Sells, prevented her 14-year-old daughter from possibly
being abducted, the mom claims.
In "Gone Forever," Fanning includes all the details a true-crime fan would
want to know, including information about forensic evidence.
What readers might not expect is, just like Fanning, how well they will
get to know Susan McFarland.
They will learn why only bright colored balloons would do for her memorial
service and why even Kate Kohl of the Heidi Search Center could not remain
tearless through it all, after watching the three motherless McFarland
All 3 have homes now. The two youngest have been adopted by their foster
family. The oldest boy was adopted by a single parent.
Richard McFarland will be eligible for parole in 2024, when he is 67 years
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Is it ever a mistake to forgive?
ABA GAYLE'S daughter was murdered in 1980 at the age of 19. Her murderer
was sent to death row at California State Prison in San Quentin in 1982.
But, Aba Gayle recalls, "(after his conviction) I continued to struggle
through many years of grief, anger, and rage."
The mother nursed her bitterness until one day in April 1992, she says, "I
was directed by a loud, clear voice that I must forgive the man who
murdered my daughter and that I must let him know."
She wrote a letter and offered forgiveness and sent blessings from Christ
to the killer. This woman says, "The act of mailing this letter gave me
instant release from deep anger and rage. In its place I was filled with
love, joy, and peace."
According to the Oxford dictionary, forgiveness is giving up resentment
against someone; it is pardoning someone. In other places, the act has
been described as 'the elimination of all desire for revenge and personal
ill will toward those who deeply wrong or betray us'.
Who benefits when we decide to hold on to thoughts of revenge and hate?
According to counselling psychologist, Benita Morrison, who is an
associate at Family Life Ministries in Kingston, forgiveness is important
as, in addition to emotional healing research has also shown that there
are physical problems as a result of unforgiveness.
Constant feelings of resentment are accompanied in some individuals by
nervousness, hostility, and anger. The feelings of anxiety, and sometimes
depression, placed a lot of stress on the body. The effects of stress have
been well documented. According to Miller (1998) and Pike (1997), stress
and upsetting emotions can affect the immune system in ways that cause
susceptibility to disease.
"From the outset, I would say a big NO! Forgiving is never a mistake," she
It is obvious that the individual who is being asked to forgive is one who
has been wronged, hurt, or injured in some way. That person has a reason
to feel resentment ? to want revenge. You may say, 'How can I forgive
someone who has hurt me so much', or 'I won't forgive him/her because
he/she needs to pay for what he/she has been done. I am not the one at
fault, so why am I being asked to forgive?'
Writer Noel F. McInnis (2001) gives a number of reasons for forgiveness,
quoting several other writers:
Resentment has been compared to holding on to a burning ember with the
intention of throwing it at another, all the while burning yourself. When
we feel resentful, we feel strongly the pain of the past again and again.
Not only does this take an obvious and dramatic toll on our emotional
well-being, it can powerfully and negatively impact our physical
well-being as well.
(source: Jamaica Gleaner)
Bill to execute child molesters in Oklahoma raising
skepticism----Constitutionality in question, and some say it could hurt
Sponsors say a bill to permit repeat child molesters to be executed is
neither cruel nor unusual, but experts say it could make matters worse for
victims of sex crimes.
The measure by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, flew though the Senate last
week, 40-7. It goes on to the House, where it is sponsored by Rep. John
Carey, another Durant Democrat.
"I anticipate it will come out of the House with flying colors," Mr. Carey
The most obvious question about the bill - its constitutionality - was
raised during debate on the Senate floor by Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City.
Mr. Cain, a lawyer, called it "a redneck re-election bill."
It's been more than four decades since a person was executed for a sex
crime in the U.S., and in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked an
execution in a rape case, ruling it was cruel and unusual punishment.
Legal scholars say that although myriad capital crimes are still on the
books in many states, the Supreme Court has effectively limited the
nation's ultimate punishment to murder cases.
Mr. Gumm says the Supreme Court has changed so much, "I feel confident
this bill would be upheld."
"I consider this to be the most horrible of crimes," he said. "I think it
is every bit as bad as murder, if not worse, because the ripples of child
sexual abuse goes through the victim's life."
Even those who feel as strongly as Mr. Gumm about the seriousness of
sexual offenses, however, are not as sure such legislation would pass
"I would be a little bit surprised if the Supreme Court approves of that,
but I have been wrong before," said Wes Lane, Oklahoma County district
"Nobody around here has any sympathy for child molesters," added Mr. Lane,
saying he would gladly enforce such a law if it were upheld by the Supreme
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
in Washington, D.C., said that Louisiana passed a similar law several
years ago, and that one man has been convicted under it and sent to death
Mr. Dieter said his organization takes no position on the death penalty
but serves as a resource, supplying information on the fairness of the
death penalty's application and the possibility of someone being
wrongfully put to death.
Along with the question of the constitutionality of the proposed Oklahoma
law, he said, there are other problems with the proposal.
"It takes away the disincentive" for the offender not to kill the victim
and eliminate the only witness to the crime, he said.
"There would be no more punishment associated with that. It does create a
danger to victims in that sense," Mr. Dieter said.
He added that in family situations, it would make family members more
reticent to come forward and expose an offender, which is already
"It actually could make matters worse," Mr. Dieter said.
The last execution for a sex crime in the U.S. occurred in 1964, when
Ronald Wolf was put to death in a rape case in Missouri.
Before the Supreme Court rulings in the 1970s, the death penalty was
imposed for a number of crimes, including criminal assault and kidnapping
in California in the 1960s.
(source: Associated Press)
ACLU Targets Death Penalty Drug----The group's suit says a paralyzing
chemical used during executions conceals whether the inmate has been truly
Contending that a drug used during executions prevents inmates from
showing their pain by paralyzing them, the American Civil Liberties Union
has filed a lawsuit alleging that the procedure violates the 1st
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the liberal Pacific News Service in San
Francisco, is the latest challenge to the state's use of lethal injections
for capital punishment.
Such executions have been challenged in a number of states recently.
The practice was temporarily halted in California in February, when state
officials called off the execution of murderer Michael A. Morales because
a federal judge said more evidence was needed to determine how much pain
he might suffer while dying.
(The judge, Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, gave the
state the option of proceeding with the execution if it could get medical
professionals to stand by, but officials couldn't meet that requirement:
Doctors, as a rule, deem it unethical to participate in executions.)
In California and elsewhere, controversy over lethal injections has
focused on whether the method causes deaths so painful that they violate
constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.
But the ACLU suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court of the Northern
District of California, approaches the issue from a different angle: It
challenges not the method's alleged cruelty but rather its alleged
potential to mislead the public.
According to the lawsuit, one of the drugs used during California
executions conceals inmates' reactions to the other two drugs by
preventing muscle response.
That makes it impossible for a dying convict to writhe, flinch, convulse,
make sounds or otherwise communicate pain to journalists who are
witnessing the execution, ACLU attorneys maintain.
The drug, pancuronium bromide, is a paralytic agent. It is the second of
three drugs administered during execution. The first drug is a strong
tranquilizer to render the inmate unconscious, and the final one is a
heart-stopping agent that causes a deadly, potentially painful heart
"We believe the second drug is only used to mask potential problems with
the first," said Jon Streeter, a lawyer with the San Francisco firm Keker
& Van Nest and a pro bono attorney for the ACLU in the case.
"If the inmate is not unconscious - it could be that for about 10 or 15
minutes he is laying on the table in excruciating pain but unable to
express that. In effect, the state is throwing a chemical curtain - a mask
- over what is happening in the death chamber."
Streeter cited prior court rulings that held it was a violation of press
freedom for the state to bar reporters from executions or to use curtains
to conceal portions of the process.
Similarly, use of a paralytic drug presents "a false picture of what's
happening by effectively putting a gag" on the inmate, Streeter argued.
The state has not yet filed a formal response to the lawsuit, and Nathan
Barankin, a spokesman for the California attorney general's office, said
the office has not decided whether to do so.
But he dismissed the suit's contentions, saying the paralyzing drug serves
not only to keep the inmate motionless but also to stop his breathing. Its
purpose, he said, is to hasten death. The state holds that its use with
the other 2 drugs is constitutional, he said.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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