[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., N.J., ARIZ., S.C., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 22 00:41:40 EST 2006
Clemency for Death Row Inmates to be Discussed
dellacon at buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 ext 1409
Lawyers involved in four highly publicized death-row cases, including the
clemency plea of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, will participate in a panel
discussion on "Executive Clemency in Capital Cases," organized by the
Capital Advocacy Project in the University at Buffalo Law School.
To be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 27 in 106 O'Brian Hall on UB's North
(Amherst) Campus, the discussion is free and open to the public. To
register, send an email to ublaw.cap at gmail.com.
Panelists will include:
* Defense attorney Jonathan Harris, who represented death-row inmate
Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California. Williams, the former Crips gang
leader, was denied clemency and executed in 2005, despite pleas from
supporters who said he presented a compelling portrait of redemption and
* Defense attorney Sarah Nagy, who in 2005 won clemency for Arthur Baird,
a mentally ill death-row inmate in Indiana. Baird was granted clemency
just 36 hours before his scheduled execution.
* Cornell University Associate Law Professor John Blume, who recently
argued a case before the Supreme Court involving South Carolina death-row
inmate Bobby Lee Holmes. In his criminal trial, Holmes was prevented from
presenting evidence that a third party committed the crime for which he
was convicted, although forensic evidence implicated Holmes.
* Connecticut attorney Harry Weller, who prosecuted confessed serial
killer Michael Ross. Ross was executed in 2005 after the U.S. Supreme
Court rejected last-minute appeals from his relatives.
UB Associate Law Professor Teresa Miller will moderate the discussion.
The panel discussion is intended to raise awareness about various defects
in the capital punishment system, according to third-year UB law student
Jenny Mills, founder and co-president of the Capital Advocacy Project.
"Clemency rarely ever is granted, even in cases where there is a clear
argument for clemency," says Mills, who last summer worked with death row
inmates in Kentucky and created clemency materials for one inmate nearing
his execution date.
"Because of the way the justice system is structured, inmates
traditionally are barred from raising various claims during their appeals
and post-conviction proceedings," she adds. "The clemency process is thus
the only time they can raise certain issues, but it would appear that most
clemency petitions are dismissed out of hand."
According to Mills, the goal of the Capital Advocacy Project is to bring
awareness about the death penalty to fellow law students and the UB
community. Project members focus on legal issues in the debate over
capital punishment and are working on a research project involving
aggravating factors in capital cases. When completed, the research will be
disseminated to capital defense lawyers around the country.
(source: University at Buffalo - the State University of New York)
Prosecutors ponder retrial of Marshall----Courts: Death sentence invalid
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it will not hear an appeal of a
lower court ruling that invalidated the death penalty for Robert O.
Marshall, convicted in the contract killing of his wife, Maria, in 1984.
The top court's decision not to hear the appeal means the former Dover
Township insurance salesman, now 66, is off death row permanently, unless
the state convinces a new jury that he should die for hiring a hit man to
kill the 42-year-old mother of his three children. The case was the
subject of a bestselling book and television miniseries.
The state now has 120 days to retry the death-penalty phase of the case,
according to a U.S. District Court judge's ruling in 2004 that was put on
hold pending a conclusion to the appeals process.
If the state chooses not to retry the penalty phase, it would stipulate a
life prison term for Marshall. In that event, Marshall would be eligible
to apply for parole in 2014, after having been incarcerated for 30 years,
said Tom Rosenthal, a spokesman for the state Public Defender's Office,
which has represented Marshall in a long series of appeals.
Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher said Monday he plans to meet
with staff from the state Attorney General's Office to decide how to
proceed and whether any retrial should be moved out of Ocean County. The
first trial in 1986 was held in Atlantic County because of pretrial
In a retrial of the penalty phase, a jury would be asked if Marshall
should be put to death by lethal injection.
Insurance called motive
In the first trial, the jury found Marshall guilty of hiring someone to
shoot his wife during a faked robbery at a staged breakdown of the
couple's car on Sept. 7, 1984. The location was at the now-closed Oyster
Creek picnic area on the Garden State Parkway in Lacey.
The prosecution had argued that Marshall - at the time a prominent member
of the Dover Township country-club set - arranged the killing so he could
collect $1.4 million in life insurance and continue an extramarital
The death-penalty phase occurred during a whirlwind of excitement the same
day the jury convicted Marshall. The jury ordered a death sentence soon
after the attorneys summed up their arguments in the penalty phase.
The Public Defender's Office appealed, saying Marshall received
ineffective assistance from his trial attorney, Glenn Zeitz, who called no
witnesses to ask the jury to spare Marshall's life.
U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas agreed and overturned Marshall's
death sentence in a 2004 ruling. Irenas' ruling was upheld in November by
the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The state Attorney General's Office sought to appeal the ruling to the
nation's highest court, saying that Zeitz did not act ineffectively on
Marshall's behalf but instead made a strategic decision not to present
witnesses during the death-penalty phase of the trial.
Until Irenas' ruling, Marshall had been on death row longer than any other
inmate since New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982.
Kelaher has supported abolishing the death penalty in favor of life in
prison with no parole for certain murderers. Kelaher said he has taken
that position because the state has not put anyone to death in the more
than 23 years since capital punishment was reinstated.
But on Monday, Kelaher did not rule out making one last attempt to put
Marshall to death.
Reactions to the news
Kelaher said he was not surprised the Supreme Court declined to hear an
appeal, noting there was no major constitutional issue in question in the
But Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office,
said his office "had thought the district court's opinion was contrary to
(Supreme Court precedents) on the issue of ineffective assistance of
Rosenthal, of the Public Defender's Office, was cautious about commenting
on Monday's decision.
"We're awaiting the Ocean County prosecutor's decision as to what they
will do next," he said. "The ball is in their court. . . . This matter
isn't over yet."
As is its typical practice, the Supreme Court did not say why it declined
to hear the appeal.
Marshall remains the only person incarcerated in the case. In one of his
last acts in office in January, Gov. Richard J. Codey commuted the 30-year
sentence of a nearly blind hardware-store clerk, Robert Cumber, 68, of
Shreveport, La., who was convicted as an accomplice for what the former
governor said was allowing one of the murder conspirators to use his
The alleged hit man, Larry N. Thompson of Fairview-Alpha, La., stood trial
with Marshall and was acquitted of the murder.
Another defendant, Billy Wayne McKinnon of Greenwood, La., pleaded guilty
to his part in the murder conspiracy and agreed to testify against the
others. He received a five-year prison term and was paroled after serving
The Marshall case was the subject of the Joe McGinniss bestseller "Blind
Faith" and a subsequent television miniseries based on the book.
(source: Asbury Park Press)
Argument for the death penalty
The death penalty is handed out arbitrarily, affects the poor
disproportionately, shows no effectiveness as a crime deterrent and is
meted out so slowly it can hardly be called justice.
Still, the case arguments are a lot of fun.
The Supreme Court holds an argument this morning at the Arizona State
University College of Law.
The case involves 2 German citizens named Michael and Rudi Apelt. The 2
were convicted of brutally killing a woman in 1988 and leaving her body in
the desert in Apache Junction. Michael Apelt, court records say, courted
the woman for three weeks before their Vegas wedding. He took out a
$400,000 life insurance policy and the murder was part of a plot to cash
in, records show.
The case has become big news in Germany, where visions of Arizona as the
Wild West fill newspapers and television.
But the main court battle has been over whether Rudi Apelt is mentally
competent. His lawyers have medical evidence showing an IQ below the level
considered retarded. Prosecutors say hes faking.
Argument begins at 10:30 a.m. Real-life legal drama at its finest.
(source: Arizona Republic)
Darlington County prosecutors to seek death penalty in death of grocery
Prosecutors in Darlington County say they will seek a death sentence if a
man is convicted of killing a grocery store owner in 2004.
Anthony Robinson is accused of killing 70-year-old Richard Griggs at the
store he had owned for nearly 50 years. Griggs was shot several times
during a robbery in September, 2004.
Robinson pleaded not guilty Monday.
Neither Robinson nor his court-appointed attorney, Jim Hoffmeyer, had a
Robinson, Dennis Hunter and a 15-year-old boy from Society Hill were
charged with murder, conspiracy and possession of a weapon during a
Hunter was 17 at the time of the crime. Neither he nor the 15-year-old is
eligible for a death sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear guard killer's appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to consider an appeal of one of
Florida's most notorious death-row inmates, ending his attempt to prove
through DNA testing that he was not the gunman in a 1987 shooting death of
a corrections officer.
William Van Poyck, 51, and co-defendant Frank Valdes were sent to death
row for murdering Fred Griffis in 1987 while trying to free another inmate
from a prison van in West Palm Beach. Van Poyck has taken responsibility
for the slaying but denied he was the triggerman.
The court's refusal means a 2005 decision by the Florida Supreme Court
stands. It concluded "there is no reasonable probability that Van Poyck
would have received a lesser sentence had DNA evidence establishing that
he was not the triggerman been presented at trial."
Jeffrey O. Davis, one of Van Poyck's lawyers, said he was disappointed by
"This is a real injustice. Hopefully, we can find a court that will look
at it and agree with us," said Davis, a Milwaukee attorney. "All Mr. Van
Poyck would like would be to have the fact-finder to know the true facts."
The high court's refusal to hear the case means "he is at the end of the
road" in his appeals, said Carolyn Snurkowski, a death penalty appeals
lawyer for state Attorney General Charlie Crist. However, executions are
on hold until the court hears the appeal of Clarence Hill, who is
challenging the procedure for lethal injection practices.
Van Poyck and Valdes were free on June 24, 1987, when they ambushed two
guards who were taking inmate James O'Brien in a prison van to a doctor's
office in West Palm Beach. Griffis was shot 3 times.
Van Poyck and Valdes were unable to free O'Brien and were arrested a short
time later when Valdes lost control of the Cadillac he was driving and
struck a tree.
In 2003, Van Poyck wrote an autobiography, "A Checkered Past: A Memoir."
The book detailed a downward spiral that began as a child burglar and
ended with his condemnation for the murder.
"I've squandered away my entire life, thrown away everything I might have
been," Van Poyck wrote.
In 1999, guards at Florida State Prison stomped Valdes to death, but no
one was convicted in 2 trials. Prison officials then sent Van Poyck to
Sussex State Prison in Virginia for his own protection. He is still being
That's where he wrote the 324-page book. The central theme is his newfound
belief in God, which he said came to him when he was on the verge of
"There are many questions I cannot answer, but one thing I know for
certain: an innocent man is dead for no good reason, and ultimately, I'm
responsible," he wrote.
(source: Associated Press)
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