[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, VA., WIS., USA, S. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Mar 20 10:04:53 CST 2006
Couple charged with capital murder in baby's death
In San Marcos, a couple has been charged with capital murder in the death
of their 2-month-old daughter. Cipriano Gonzales IV and Esther Marie
Gonzales, both 23, were in custody in Michigan, where they returned after
their baby died of severe head trauma, police said.
Just days after the family moved to San Marcos from Michigan, their
youngest daughter Cynthea was taken to the hospital. She died March 11 and
an autopsy showed she had a fractured skull and multiple rib fractures.
"A 2-month-old baby is about as helpless an individual as there is," San
Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said. "For someone to abuse it the way
this child was abused, it is just inhuman."
The couple has a 3-year-old daughter who is with relatives in Michigan,
San Marcos police said.
Death penalty sought in children's deaths
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for a Midland woman
accused of killing her two children in a house fire.
Lisa Louise Greene, 40, is charged with intentionally setting the Jan. 10
fire outside a bedroom where her children Addison, 8, and Daniel, 10, were
Assistant District Attorney Ashlie Shanley said Friday that several
aggravating factors contributed to the state's decision.
The children "were screaming and they were awake in the bedroom with the
door closed," Shanley said. Both children also had asthma and were afraid
of fire, she said.
One of Greene's defense attorneys, Lisa Dubs of Hickory, said after a
hearing Friday that there's no evidence that Greene deliberately murdered
Greene is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of
1st-degree arson and 1 count each of possession of marijuana and
possession of drug paraphernalia.
She cried at Friday's hearing while her attorneys played the 911 call her
neighbor made that night. Greene can be heard screaming in the background.
The 911 call shows that she tried to get help for her children, Dubs said.
"There is no motive," she said. "There is no insurance policy -- she had
an entire family and community to help her take care of her children."
(source for both: Associated Press)
YATES CASE REKINDLES EMOTIONS----Latest chapter in an unforgettable saga
is scheduled to unfold today in a Houston court
It was a painful moment in Houston's history - the drownings of five young
children by their mentally ill mother in a quiet suburban neighborhood, a
most unlikely place for such ghastly violence.
In a downtown Houston courtroom today, attorneys are scheduled to begin
choosing a jury to consider evidence from that tragedy and decide the fate
of Andrea Pia Yates, whose capital murder conviction for 3 of her
children's deaths was thrown out by an appeals court last year.
Having rejected a plea offer that would have put her in prison for 35
years, Yates will again stand trial and try to convince the jury she is
not guilty by reason of insanity.
It is the latest chapter in a case that, as one former juror said last
week, never seems to go away.
What police found inside Yates' Clear Lake-area home on the morning of
June 20, 2001, was unforgettable - the wet footprints of an adult and
child covering the living room's tile floor, a dog barking inside its
kennel, a small child's arm sticking out from under a sheet in the master
Under that sheet were the bodies of four of Yates' children - John, 5;
Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months some with a frothy substance around
their noses and mouths, indicating their lungs had burst. In the bathroom,
police found Yates' oldest child, 7-year-old Noah, floating face down in
Yates, a former M.D. Anderson Cancer Center nurse who was valedictorian of
her high school class and had never before been in trouble with the law,
sat calmly on her living room couch as stunned officers tried to take in
For months to come, pictures of the Yates children's beaming faces
dominated TV broadcasts as the public sought to understand how such a
thing could have happened.
Few cases in recent years have aroused as much as emotion. Public outrage
was directed at the children's parents, while some expressed compassion
for the disheveled, gaunt mother who suffered from postpartum depression
and told psychiatrists she had killed her children to save them from
Now the debate is set to ignite yet again as a new jury prepares to
consider Yates' mental health history of hospitalizations and suicide
attempts, and whether she knew right from wrong when she killed her
Jury selection is expected to proceed more quickly than last time because
state District Judge Belinda Hill is not allowing attorneys to interview
panelists individually. Attorneys on both sides are predicting this jury
could be chosen in 1 or 2 days.
The new jury also cannot consider the death penalty, since jurors in
Yates' 1st trial 4 years ago rejected that option and sentenced her to
life in prison.
The new trial will determine whether Yates goes back to prison or remains
in a state mental hospital, where she has been since her release on bond
several weeks ago. The trial also could spotlight what some see as
shortcomings in the state's insanity law.
But the defense team will face significant hurdles, some predict. Several
Texas mothers accused of killing their children have used insanity
defenses since Yates' 2002 trial. As a result, jurors may be more
"The prejudice of the general community toward the insanity defense is
probably greater than when Yates was tried the first time," said F.R.
"Buck" Files, a Tyler attorney.
Files represented Deanna Laney, the North Texas mother who beat her three
children with large rocks, killing 2, but was found not guilty by reason
of insanity in 2004.
Another problem is that jurors are not explicitly told the consequences of
an insanity verdict, one law professor said.
So jurors may be reluctant to consider that option, fearing the accused
person will be set free, which rarely happens, said Sandra Guerra
Thompson, criminal law professor and director of the Criminal Justice
Institute at the University of Houston Law Center. Attitudes leaning
toward conviction are much stronger since jurors often feel a
responsibility to keep such defendants off the streets and prevent them
from having more children, Thompson said.
"There are cases all over the country where defendants have put forth
really overwhelming evidence of insanity - people who've had serious
problems since they were children - and they're still convicted, still
found not to be insane by juries," she said.
Harris County prosecutors would not discuss their strategies for the new
trial. But court papers show they could introduce new evidence, including
copies of more than 200 letters Yates wrote in jail and testimony from two
of her former cellmates, who said she showed no remorse while discussing
her children's deaths.
One of those witnesses, Felicia Doe, 27, of Alvin, said Yates advised her
on how to feign mental illness so she could "beat" her case.
Yates' attorneys will focus on whether her psychiatric afflictions meet
Texas' legal definition of insanity, saying they didn't spend enough time
on that issue during the first trial. "We clearly have a whole different
program," said defense attorney Wendell Odom.
Summoning former inmates to testify could be a risky for prosecutors, one
"The problem with these types of witnesses is they can collapse like wet
cardboard boxes," said Gerald Treece, a constitutional law professor at
the South Texas College of Law. "Inmate testimony doesn't have that great
a ring of credibility."
Odom also expressed skepticism. "The state better be very careful here.
This is how they got in trouble the last time," he said, referring to
forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz's mistaken testimony about a nonexistent
episode of the Law & Order TV show.
In the 1st trial, Dietz claimed that Law & Order - which Yates once avidly
watched - had aired an episode about a woman who drowned her children in a
bathtub, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was acquitted. Dietz
said the episode aired shortly before the Yates children were killed.
After convicting Yates, but before considering her sentence, the jury was
told that prosecutors had learned that no such episode existed. The 1st
Texas Court of Appeals threw out the conviction last year because of
concerns that Dietz's erroneous testimony may have affected jurors'
Prosecutor Joe Owmby bristled at Odom's warning, arguing that the trouble
started when defense attorneys asked Dietz an irrelevant question.
"The state is always careful," Owmby said. "If the defense had been more
careful, we would have concluded the trial already. They asked the
question. They planted a seed that caused the trial to be reversed. For
them to say we better be careful is ridiculous."
Prosecutors have subpoenaed Dietz once again for Yates' new trial, as well
as another forensic psychiatrist who will evaluate Yates. Defense
attorneys will call their own mental health experts to testify.
Despite the notoriety surrounding the case, seating a jury should not be a
problem, said Robert Carp, a professor in the University of Houston's
political science department. Jurors will be asked to put their opinions
aside and decide Yates' case according to law.
"I think Houston is big enough that you can do that ... The Enron case
isn't a perfect analogy, but there's some strong feelings about that here,
too," Carp said. "People said jury selection was going to take months, and
they seated a jury in one day."
Those chosen for the new jury will be permanently affected by the
experience, said Alice Beshears of Pasadena, a juror in Yates' 1st trial.
"It's going to change their lives forever," Beshears said. "I never look
at children the same anymore. I never look at the bathtub the same ... I
haven't served on a jury since, and I don't think I ever will, if I have
anything to do with it."
Yates, Beshears added, "never seems to go away."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Testimony in Moussaoui's Trial to Resume
After an extraordinary week in which confessed al-Qaida terrorist Zacarias
Moussaoui's death-penalty trial was sidetracked to plumb the depths of a
government lawyer's misdeeds, the jury is returning to hear evidence by
the FBI agent who arrested Moussaoui weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001
The prosecutors' case against Moussaoui had verged on collapse but
received a reprieve from the same judge who put the government's case in
jeopardy just days earlier.
FBI agent Harry Samit has testified that Moussaoui's lies after his August
2001 arrest prevented him from persuading the bureau to launch the kind of
investigative blitz that might have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Defense lawyers were set to begin their cross-examination of Samit on
Resumption of testimony follows a one-week delay ordered by U.S. District
Judge Leonie Brinkema after she learned that a lawyer with the
Transportation Security Administration, Carla Martin, had improperly
coached witnesses on their testimony by urging them to read trial
transcripts. That violated a court order sequestering witnesses from
exposure to trial proceedings.
Brinkema scheduled a hearing to look into the matter and uncovered even
more misconduct. Martin falsely told defense attorneys that two TSA
employees sought by the defense as potential witnesses were unwilling to
meet with the defense, witnesses testified.
Brinkema considered tossing out the government's death-penalty case
entirely, but instead ruled that the government could not present any
testimony about aviation security in their case to the jury.
Prosecutors responded that Brinkema's order amounted to pulling the plug
on the entire case and asked her to reconsider. They said the excluded
testimony was crucial because they needed to show the jury what security
measures could have been implemented at the nation's airports if aviation
officials had known of the threat posed by Moussaoui and his al-Qaida
Brinkema relented on Friday and revised her ruling, allowing prosecutors
to present testimony from aviation witnesses who were unexposed to
Defense attorneys asked Brinkema late Friday to question Martin about her
actions before allowing any aviation testimony, but they got no immediate
Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country with the 9/11
attacks. He pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with al-Qaida to hijack
aircraft and commit other crimes. The sentencing trial now under way will
determine his punishment: death or life in prison.
To obtain the death penalty, prosecutors must prove that Moussaoui caused
at least one death on Sept. 11. They argue he did just that by lying to
agents after his August 2001 arrest and refusing to reveal his al-Qaida
membership and his terrorist ties.
Moussaoui denies he had anything to do with 9/11 and says he was training
for a future attack.
(source: Associated Press)
Wisconsinites must reject death penalty
A great deal is at stake in Wisconsin this autumn. The proposed
constitutional amendment to define marriage is galvanizing proponents and
detractors alike. Gov. James Doyle is slouching toward the November
election with black clouds overhead. A September primary will determine
whether Rep. Mark Green or County Executive Scott Walker will challenge
him at the polls. A season of decision is shaping up.
Yet one decision Wisconsinites may face looms above the rest. As the
autumn leaves begin to change hue, voters will likely be asked to vote on
a matter that, quite literally, is one of life or death.
Recently, the state Senate approved a resolution calling for a statewide
advisory referendum on the death penalty. If the measure passes the state
Assembly this spring, the electorate will sound off during the Sept. 12
The Senate should be commended; voters should have a chance to weigh in on
the weighty issue. Voters should, however, vote no.
The death penalty has no place in Wisconsin. Principled points of
opposition abound, but even on a practical, experience-based level, the
death penalty seems to fit our state about as well as a Shaq sneaker fits
a 12-year-old. Wisconsin has been without it since an explicit ban in
Unfortunately, the grisly death of Theresa Halbach will likely be used as
leverage in the political push for capital punishment. Surely the alleged
acts of Steven Avery and his nephew rank as some of the most despicable in
recent times. The monstrous memories of killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed
Gein also hit home here in Wisconsin. No matter how heinous the crime,
though, extinguishing the life of a fellow human being without
justification based on self-defense or national defense seems unnecessary.
3 main defenses seem to summarize support for the death penalty. Capital
punishment, it can be argued, has 3 positive outcomes: it deters, punishes
and removes a threat. All these points of support, however, seem
insufficient under scrutiny.
Deterrence depends on a certain level of cognition in a would-be criminal.
By and large, those who commit crimes "worthy of the death penalty" are in
some sort of mental derangement that precludes awareness of a legal
consequence. Psychology should in no way excuse the product of a persons
actions, but it should be considered when devising a penalty mechanism. A
public quartering might have served a deterrent purpose for law-abiding
citizens in the past, but the modern reality of relatively sterile,
concealed executions in other American states today has diverged from that
In assessing the punitive death-penalty rationale, questions also arise.
If unnecessary to protect life or liberty, is authorized vengeance that
results in death a fitting punishment? Does the finality of death prevent
some offenders from later realizing the enormity of their crimes, actually
diminishing the punitive element? Does the irreversible nature of the
punishment and the imperfections of the judicial system call the practice
into question generally? Given the lack of a definitive answer to these
questions, it seems best to err on the side of no capital punishment.
Finally, capital-punishment advocates can submit the most legitimate
defense of their position: incapacitation. The death penalty removes a
threat from society. It certainly does - as well as some non-threats. In
frontier Wisconsin, before Madison had even been founded, this argument
rightly won the day. Death was the only effective way of truly eliminating
a serious threat to society.
As Pope John Paul the Great pointed out in the tract "Evangelium Vitae,"
however, the modern prison system offers a similarly reliable means of
preventing a violent criminal from interacting with society, saying the
death penalty should be used only "in cases of absolute necessity, in
other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.
Today, however, as a result of steady improvement in the organization of
the penal system, such cases are rare, if not practically nonexistent."
Technological advancements and security realities have created a serious
contender for the utter effectiveness the death penalty alone could
provide in the past. Maximum-security detention facilities make any
manifestation of the death penalty - whether a firing squad in Utah or a
hanging in Delaware - look excessive.
This is not to condone the fact that Wisconsin Supermax inmates have
televisions and air conditioning. Prison should not be a trip to the day
spa. It should be punishment. It should also recognize the possibility for
reformation, however. Even the worst of offenders can repent. Notorious
Crips gang leader Stan "Tookie" Williams, for example, had taken to
writing childrens books before his execution in California last year.
Personal reformation is not necessarily a justification for release.
Instead, it is merely a consideration in this debate. Individuals can,
absent the death penalty, transform themselves and become moderately
productive. Costs can certainly be prohibitive, but reducing prison
amenities is a better solution than continuing to kill criminals.
Finally, for those who loathe abortion, opposition to the death penalty
makes for a more consistent pro-life ethic. It is easy to empathize with
proponents who point out the deep suffering and trauma of family members
affected by the worst types of sexual assault and murder, but it raises
questions about just how dearly a pro-life individual holds his conviction
about the bedrock dignity of all human beings. While a serial killer harms
society more than an innocent fetus, the belief that human life is
sacrosanct should trump punitive motivations for capital punishment.
Admittedly, the death penalty fits squarely into the tradition and culture
of the West. Progress, however, allows American society the opportunity to
step beyond a traditional practice based on grim realities and
necessities. We have arrived at a time when we can do better than the
death penalty. It is possible to secure the peace, prevent recidivism and
mete out appropriate justice without stooping to the level of taking an
eye for an eye. Tradition is a valuable guide, but it should not be an
There is much at stake when the geese fly south again this year. If you do
head to the polls to have your say on the death penalty, Wisconsins
tradition for the last 150 years is the one to keep foremost in your mind.
(source: Opinion; Brad Vogel (bvogel at badgerherald.com) is a senior
majoring in political science and journalism; The (Univ. Wisconsin) Badger
Referendum would measure citizen opinion
I remember picking up the newspaper in Madison on the day I was first
sworn into office and seeing a picture of a missing 10-year-old girl named
Paula's picture was on the front page of the newspaper for three days as
family, friends and community members persistently searched for her. A few
days later, they found Paula's body, raped, murdered and left lying in a
This really hit home with me, as the parent of a little girl. I thought
the only punishment that could fit this despicable crime was death.
It makes no sense that an individual this evil and with so much disregard
for human life could someday get out of prison - which is exactly what
happened to Paula McCormick's killer.
Since I was first elected to the Wisconsin state Assembly in 1974 and to
the Senate in 1977, I have always been an outspoken advocate for enacting
the death penalty.
Wisconsin has had numerous horrific and vicious murders over the past 20
years. These murderers have not only taken the lives of their victims but
stolen the lives of their surviving family and friends. After meeting with
several of the families and hearing their horror stories, I have come to
the conclusion that sometimes the death penalty is the only ultimate
justice to fit the crime.
This legislative session, I decided to let democracy take its course and
authored Senate Joint Resolution 5 to allow for an advisory referendum on
the death penalty in Wisconsin. This bill overwhelmingly passed the State
Senate by a margin of 20-13.
It calls for a non-binding referendum that asks whether the death penalty
should be enacted in Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is
convicted of a first-degree intentional homicide if the homicide is
vicious and the convictions are supported by DNA evidence.
This bill is awaiting a vote in the Assembly, and I urge Speaker John Gard
(R-Peshtigo) and the Assembly leadership to schedule this resolution for
debate and a vote when the Legislature reconvenes next month.
Thirty-eight states have the death penalty. Wisconsin is just one of 12
states that don't have the death penalty option available to a jury.
The United States government and the U.S. military also have the death
I believe, like citizens in the other 38 states, that an overwhelming
majority of Wisconsin citizens strongly support the death penalty.
An advisory referendum is about democracy and listening to the voice of
the Wisconsin people.
This bill will allow the citizens of Wisconsin to decide how they want to
sentence horrific and vicious murderers in their neighborhoods. In fact,
these are the same citizens whom we place our trust in to act on our
behalf as a jury in our judicial system.
I do not believe that opponents of the death penalty should silence the
wishes of the public by stating an advisory referendum is a waste of time.
I believe that the opponents are afraid of the outcome of what their
fellow citizens might feel about enacting the death penalty.
The media always portray sympathy and empathy toward death row inmates and
try to scare the public into believing that an innocent individual may be
put to death. Television and newspaper outlets cover the protests and the
number of hours left before another heinous murderer is put to death.
You never hear about the victim whom this murderer has raped, tortured or
Yes, innocent people have been found in prison, but the innocent people
have been exonerated and found innocent because our justice system works.
Furthermore, with the improvement of forensic sciences, including DNA
testing, an innocent person being put to death is almost non-existent in
We also have an intricate appeals process for death row inmates all the
way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, including a chance to request a stay of
execution from the governor or from the president.
The U.S. justice system provides so much due process and legal protections
for serious murderers that many innocent individuals have been killed by
these same individuals while they were incarcerated, escaped or released
Unlike the opposition, when discussing the death penalty, I focus on the
victims and their families instead of discussing empathy for the vicious
and despicable murderers in our society. I have empathy for the families
of the victims that haven't slept a full night since the death of their
Opponents always argue that a better sentence is to leave serious
murderers sit in prison for life.
What the opponents forget to state is that many murderers kill again and
have escaped from prison. In fact, there have been numerous murders
committed by escaped prisoners that were sentenced to life in prison.
How does one tell the family of Nancy Thao from Green Bay that the
murderer who killed their 5-year-old girl will never kill again? Johnson
Greybuffalo was an escapee from the Brown County Jail at the time that he
broke into a bedroom window and stabbed little Nancy 19 times in the head,
neck and abdomen and then threw Nancy's body in a trash bin outside the
house for her mother to find the next day.
How does one tell the family of Amy Breyer that justice has been served
for the murder of their daughter and granddaughter?
Little Amy was abducted from her parents' home, sexually assaulted, raped
and killed just 24 hours after her killer, Kelly Coon, was released from
The family of Amy Breyer has publicly stated that the death penalty was
the only punishment that fit the crime. Amy's grandfather, Bill Breyer,
states that "anyone who is opposed to the death penalty should spend some
time with me at Amy's grave."
Many families of the innocent victims feel the only closure to the crime
is when they know the murderer will never kill again.
David Spanbauer raped and killed 10-year-old Ronelle Eichstadt in 1992 and
12-year-old Cora Jones just two years later in Waupaca. Spanbauer grabbed
these little girls while they were riding their bikes and dumped their
bodies in remote areas.
Spanbauer was sentenced to 3 life sentences for these murders. The untold
story about Spanbauer is that in 1960, he broke into a home, tied a baby
sitter to a bed and viciously raped her at knifepoint, then waited for her
uncle to come home and shot him in the face at point-blank range.
In May 1972, just 12 years later, he was paroled. Within months, Spanbauer
had raped another teenager and then killed Ronelle and Cora.
The judge in the Spanbauer case stated during sentencing that if he had
the opportunity to impose a more severe sentence, he would have done so,
referring to the death penalty.
Spanbauer eventually died in prison of liver and heart problems.
Cora's mother, Vicki, stated after the death of Spanbauer that "it is kind
of a relief. It is a weight off of our shoulders. We know how bad death
is. But after what he did to Cora he didn't deserve to live."
Cora's father, Rick, stated, "I always look at my check stub at my taxes,
and I always knew that I was paying for the health care for the guy who
killed my daughter. At least my tax dollar is no longer going to keep him
The death penalty is very seldom used, but, in some cases, the citizens of
Wisconsin and a 12-person jury of their peers should be given the option.
The death penalty is the only appropriate response by society to the type
of predatory animals who commit such horrendous murders on citizens and
Enacting the death penalty doesn't mean that Wisconsin has to put anybody
to death. If there are no vicious murderers, no one needs to die.
I think Wisconsin citizens realize that victims' rights are more important
then murderers' rights.
Let democracy take its course by letting the people of Wisconsin have
their voices heard by adopting the legislation that will allow this
(source: Sen. Alan J. Lasee (R-Town of Rockland) is president of the State
Senate; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
U.S. Judges Reject Use of Lethal Injection
Despite strong opposition from the ruling Republican Party to those
demanding the abolition of death penalty, many judges in the United States
seem increasingly willing to stop the scheduled executions -- at least
Since the beginning of this year, court rulings have let as many as eight
death row prisoners to live on, following legal arguments that the use of
lethal injection as a method of execution causes pain and suffering. The
appeals on behalf of the death row prisoners assert that the injection
method is in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,
which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
It is not clear whether state who want to continue executions will have to
resort to using the electric chairs again. In one California case, the
prosecutor said at a hearing that changes would be made in which drugs the
state would use to ensure that prisoners "would not experience wanton or
Still, those closely studying various aspects of the capital punishment
believe that growing legal challenges to the injection method are likely
to have a positive impact on the campaign to abolish the death penalty.
"Over the past few years, the public support for the death penalty has
declined," said Richard Dietor, executive director, Death Penalty
Information Center, a Washington, DC- based group that keeps track of
death penalty cases. "The injection issue is just a part of that larger
debate. It will be resolved only after stopping the death penalty."
In his view, the death penalty could possibly continue for many years in
the U.S., but he is confident that the trend among the lawyers community
and judges reflects that change is in the offing, because wrongful
convictions have raised serious questions.
Last month, despite court orders, 2 anesthesiologists in California
refused to observe an execution on the ground that their professional
ethics do not allow them to ensure whether, after being injected, a
prisoner is unconscious or not. Judge Jeremy Fogel then ordered a licensed
medical professional to do the job, but was turned down. As a result, the
prisoner's death warrant expired.
The prisoner, Michael Morales, is now waiting the judge's decision on his
lawsuit filed against the application of injection method. Published
reports suggest that Fogel had ordered the presence of a licensed medical
professional in Morales execution after studying the medical records of
executed prisoners which raised" substantial" questions whether prisoners
were still conscious after being injected with a paralyzing drug.
A similar case is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, along with seven
others in which the courts have granted a stay of appeals against
executions by injections in Missouri, Maryland, Ohio, and Washington, DC.
On average, nearly 50 people are executed in the United States every year,
according to the Death Penalty Center, which, however, points out that the
numbers are gradually increasing. For example, in 1999, there were 98
prisoners who were executed, but so far this year only 9 have faced the
Currently, 38 states carry out the death penalty. All but one allow
authorities to use lethal injections as a method of execution. Only the
state of Nebraska still uses the electric chair. The U.S. is the only
country that employs the electric chair, according to Amnesty
International. China, Guatemala, Philippines and Thailand also use lethal
injection to kill people.
The injection method was introduced to U.S. prisons in 1977. Before that,
for almost 100 years, jail wardens used electrocution as the main method
of execution, according to historians. Prison authorities in the U.S. have
also used gas chambers and firing squad in the last century. Prior to
that, hanging was the basic method of execution.
Published studies explain that when the injection method is used, the
prisoner is usually bound to a gurney and a member of the execution team
positions several heart monitor on his skin.
"Two needles are then inserted into veins, usually in the arms. Long tubes
connect the needle through a hole in a cement block wall to several
intravenous drips," according to "Perfecting death: When the state kills
it must do so humanly," a 1994 study authored by William Ecenbarger, an
The first is considered harmless saline solution that is started
immediately, Ecenbarger explains. Then, at the warden's signal, a curtain
is raised exposing the inmate to the witnesses in an adjoining room. After
that, the inmate is injected with sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, which
puts the inmate to sleep. Next flows Pavulon or Pancuronium Bromide, which
paralyzes the muscle system and stops the prisoner's breathing. Finally,
the flow of potassium chloride stops the heart.
In the injection method some doctors participate, but only to confirm the
death. None takes part in the killing since doing so is in violation of
medical ethics. Studies suggest that an overwhelming majority of those
facing death penalty are either Black or Latino while prosecutors
responsible for capital punishment happen to be around 98 % white.
Death penalty foes speak out
A group says it's time to put urgency into its message of opposition to
capital punishment because the state's first execution since 1947 has been
A judge has set the last week of August for the execution of Elijah Page,
convicted of the torture slaying of Chester Poage of Spearfish in 2000.
Hearings and other legal matters could postpone the execution.
Members of the Interfaith Task Force Against the Death Penalty say the
execution date has given death penalty foes a new sense of urgency and
passion in their fight. They say they hope that Page's scheduled execution
will prompt talks.
"We're no longer talking about something that's 10 years down the road,"
group member Karl Kroger said.
"The real deal is going to take place, and now is the time for us to step
out and get the message out: We don't want our government to kill people."
People don't think about capital punishment very much unless there's an
active case to consider, said Scott Moeller, another member of the group.
Group member Mark Sanderson of Sioux Falls said the number of people
involved in the effort varies.
"The news of this, and being in the front pages of the paper, brings this
topic to the forefront," he said. "Maybe this trauma will really hit home
for people. We the people of South Dakota are actually killing one of our
The group's 9th-annual vigil at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in
Sioux Falls is set for April 14.
The group said it also might use the state's new abortion ban to try to
persuade legislators to eliminate the death penalty.
Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in
Washington, said debate over the death penalty tends to increase when a
state prepares for an execution.
"When the death penalty becomes real, it focuses people on the issue,"
The 1st execution in a long time typically involves someone such as Page
who asks to waive appeals, he said.
"There's still debate, but it doesn't frame the issue as strongly as
someone who's saying the statute is unfair or begging for his life,"
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty