[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., VA., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Mar 26 18:28:49 EST 2006
Crime cards could be a real deal in aiding authorities
Crime Stoppers hopes to shed light on unsolved crimes by distributing
playing cards with information about cold cases to inmates in a West Texas
The cards will display images of victims of unsolved homicide cases,
missing people thought to be victims of foul play and fugitives wanted for
homicide, said Susan Rogers of Odessa Crime Stoppers.
"There's something about the criminal element where you have inmates that
talk amongst themselves, and hopefully, if they do the right thing,
they'll tell the authorities, who may at least have leads to work with,"
The Odessa Police Department and Ector County Sheriff's Office both said
they'll help pay for the cards, which will be made available to inmates in
the Ector County Detention Center.
Sheriff Mark Donaldson said inmates will be able to purchase the cards
with their commissary accounts.
"Any chance we have an opportunity to close an old homicide case or
missing persons case, we'll do everything we can," Donaldson said. "We
just hope we have the right person looking at the cards so we can close
Rogers said she got the idea at a conference last year.
A similar program has helped authorities in Polk County, Fla., solve two
homicides and arrest 6 fugitives, she said.
The deck's aces will contain information about the federal penalties for
convicted felons caught with weapons, she said.
Inmates who provide information that leads to a case being solved could
receive up to a $1,000 reward, Rogers said. Texas law funds Crime Stoppers
reward money through probation fees paid by people convicted of anything
worse than a class C misdemeanor.
Jackie Kemp said she'd be grateful if the cards helped break open the case
of her sister Judie Munguia, who went missing 25 years ago. Authorities
think foul play was involved.
(source: Associated Press)
The KKK strikes again
Bennie Jack Hays of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan was itchin' for a lynchin'.
The year was 1981, 17 years after the Civil Rights Act had left the KKK
feeling emasculated, impotent and irrelevant.
Klan membership had shriveled, but Hays - grand dragon of Mobile's Klavern
900 of the United Klans of America - was still vexed by the concept of
Hays often lectured his acolytes about "sending a message" to Alabamans
that the KKK was still a player.
The idea of a testimonial lynching became his fetish, and as spring
approached in 1981 he seized upon a criminal case that he viewed as the
perfect vehicle to deliver some old-fashioned Klan shock and awe to Dixie.
Josephus Anderson, a black man, had been charged with the murder of a
white Birmingham cop. His trial ended in a hung jury, and a second trial
was moved to Mobile, on the Gulf Coast four hours south of Birmingham.
At a weekly Klan meeting on March 17, 1981, Bennie Hays promised racial
retaliation if Anderson was not convicted.
Using a racial epithet, Hays told his fellow zealots, "If a \[black man\]
can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away
with killing a \[black man.\]"
The Klan's Mobile chapter included perhaps a dozen active members, and
Hays, who owned a filling station, was the most accomplished citizen among
His son, Henry, had the title of exalted cyclops. But his father, infamous
for berating, beating and belittling his kin, had a less-exalted name for
him: "Half-Assed Henry."
On March 20, a jury of 11 blacks and one white announced it was deadlocked
in the second trial of Anderson, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Klavern 900 sprung into action.
Burning Klan symbol
Bennie Hays and his men set a cross afire on the Mobile courthouse lawn
Henry Hays, 27, and James (Tiger) Knowles, 17, were assigned to the
They trawled Mobile until they found Michael Donald, 19, walking alone at
11 p.m. They pulled a gun, forced him into Hays' Buick Wildcat and drove
east across Mobile Bay to the piney woods, where the Klansmen administered
a savage beating. Donald, a student at a trade school, was stomped,
pummeled and beaten with a tree branch. Hays and Knowles finally killed
him by slitting his throat.
They dumped the body in the trunk and drove back to Mobile to show their
trophy to other Klansmen.
As dawn approached, they went to Henry Hays' apartment at 111 Herndon St.,
at the seedy western edge of downtown Mobile. There they placed around
Donald's neck a 13-coil hangman's noose, carefully fashioned by Knowles,
and hoisted the body up into a scraggly camphor tree just a few paces from
Bennie Hays and other Klan members stood watching from Henry's porch when
police arrived to cut down the body.
Detectives questioned the Hayses within hours of the lynching, but the men
refused to submit to lie-detector tests. This stymied Mobile cops, who
shrugged, shuffled their feet and scratched their heads as the months went
Police pursued a lame theory that Donald was killed in a drug deal, but
that fell apart and the investigation, such as it was, dead-ended.
It might have stayed there had it not been for the steely resolve of the
victim's mother, Beulah Mae Donald.
She helped organize a protest march in Mobile that drew 8,000 people,
including the Rev. Jesse Jackson. She also hired Michael Figures, an
up-and-coming black lawyer in Mobile whose brother, Thomas, worked as a
Thomas Figures needled the feds to intercede in the case. When the FBI
finally arrived, Agent James Bodman needed only a few weeks to do what
local cops hadn't accomplished in 2 years.
Tiger Knowles, fearing that he was about to be sold out by Half-Assed
Henry Hays, agreed to tell all.
Knowles was the key prosecution witness at Henry Hays' 1984 murder trial.
The jury of 11 whites and one black convicted him but surprised Judge
Braxton Kittrell by handing down a life sentence. Kittrell overruled them
and ordered execution.
Outside of court, Bennie Hays said the conviction was a plot by "liars and
"I'm the one they're picking on," he said. "To get to me, they got my
son." Beulah Mae Donald then teamed with the Southern Poverty Law Center
in Montgomery, Ala., to press a historic civil lawsuit against the Klan
that sought to hold the organization financially responsible for the
Knowles addressed Mrs. Donald at that trial: "I can't bring your son back.
God knows if I could trade places with him, I would. I can't."
She replied, "I do forgive you. From the day I found out who you all was,
I asked God to take care of you all, and He has."
In 1987, an all-white jury found the KKK liable and ordered a judgment of
$7 million. The verdict bankrupted the United Klans of America, which was
forced to surrender its assets, including its national headquarters in
Alabama brought murder conspiracy charges against Bennie Hays in 1988, but
a mistrial was declared when he collapsed in court. Hays and prosecutors
played a game of cat-and-mouse for five years, with Hays claiming that
mental and physical maladies inhibited his ability to face criminal
He was arrested in 1992 at an Ohio nursing home and hauled back to Mobile,
but he died in 1993 before the trial.
On June 6, 1997, Henry Hays took a seat in "Yellow Mama," as Alabama's
electric chair was nicknamed. Beulah Mae Donald, an opponent of capital
punishment, was not alive to witness the execution of her son's murderer.
She had died of natural causes in 1988.
Today, the lynching of Michael Donald 25 years ago is regarded as a
turning point in Mobile, which had escaped the racial strife that scarred
Birmingham and Montgomery in the 1960s. The city of 200,000 now has a
population that is 50% white and 47% black.
Last year, it elected its 1st black mayor, Samuel Jones.
(source: New York Daily News)
Details emerge on execution process
Much of the lethal-injection procedure in Virginia has long been public.
But a brief filed this month with the U.S. Supreme Court by lawyers for
death-row inmate Darick Walker reveals some once-secret details about the
procedure and the people who carry it out. The brief, Walker's lawyers
tell the court, is based on documents and the depositions of Virginia
Department of Corrections' execution-team members, whose identities cannot
be made public. The following account is based on the brief as well as
information already available:
Members of the execution team are volunteers who have other full-time
prison jobs. They bring the inmate into the execution chamber, place the
inmate on a table and secure the straps while witnesses watch from a
Once the inmate is strapped down, curtains are drawn as the execution-team
members, using needles, place two intravenous lines in the body of the
inmate, usually one in each arm. The inmate also is connected to a cardiac
Once the IV lines are in, the curtains are reopened so the witnesses can
view the execution.
When the order is given to carry out the sentence of the court, the
execution begins. From behind a screen where the execution team works, the
drugs are injected into a tube in one of the two IV lines -- tubing
extensions are used so the IV lines can reach the inmate. The
execution-team leader decides into which line he will inject the drugs.
The only member of the execution team who can see the inmate is the team
leader, who can look through a porthole in the screen. In any case, the
state's protocol does not require him to monitor the inmate, according to
First, 2 grams of sodium thiopental, a fast-acting sedative, are injected.
Second, 50 milligrams of the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide are
administered. Last is 240 "milliequivalents" of potassium chloride, an
electrolyte than can stop the heart.
After the last drug is administered, the state protocol calls for a
physician to observe the heart monitor and pronounce death at the
appropriate time. The doctor also is stationed behind the curtain and
cannot see the inmate.
If death does not occur within 10 minutes, the pancuronium bromide and
potassium chloride are to be administered again but not the sodium
When officials are told death has occurred, the curtains are closed and
the witnesses are escorted from the viewing room.
Execution by injection faces scrutiny----Legal battle reveals
controversial details of state's procedures
Lawyers for death-row inmate Darick Walker claim Virginia needlessly risks
inflicting excruciating pain when performing lethal injections. Under the
procedure, an inmate appears to die peacefully after three drugs are
injected intravenously. But according to briefs filed by Walker's lawyers
in a Florida case, Virginia's secret lethal-injection protocol reveals
"either a lack of concern about the infliction of pain or ignorance of how
each chemical operates."
As federal courts across the country consider challenges to
lethal-injection methods in Virginia, California and Florida, the question
being debated is this: Does the method of execution -- how the procedures
are followed and carried out -- constitute cruel and unusual punishment?
In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Walker's lawyers wrote that
"the executioners led by a high school graduate with no medical training
whatsoever -- have no idea how to determine whether an inmate has achieved
a sufficiently deep level of sedation that he is adequately shielded from
the agonizing pain caused by lethal chemicals."
They say "the state has fought tenaciously to shield its procedures from
public view and judicial review."
Injection is the most widely used form of execution in the U.S. Since it
was introduced in Virginia in 1995, 67 inmates have elected to die by
injection; only three opted for the electric chair.
Walker's suit does not challenge the constitutionality of lethal
injection, only the way it is conducted in Virginia. Details about the
state's lethal-injection procedures were handed over to Walker's lawyers
under court order.
The lawyers, citing a judge's order, have refused to comment on their
case, which is pending in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. But they
filed a brief this month with the Supreme Court in a Florida case,
bringing to light previously undisclosed information about Virginia
executions by injection.
According to the brief, the state has revealed that "several times,"
Virginia execution-team members did not follow their own rules when they
administered, for the second time, the last of the 3 drugs -- potassium
chloride -- without waiting the prescribed 10 minutes.
If death has not occurred within 10 minutes, the state's lethal-injection
protocol does not require re-administering the 1st drug, an anesthetic,
according to the brief. Therefore, Walker's lawyers allege, the anesthesia
could wear off.
. . .
Some physicians and advocates for condemned inmates contend that improper
sedation could leave inmates fully conscious and experiencing severe pain
as they die -- but unable to move or indicate distress because they are
They charge that the 2nd drug administered, which stops the use of
skeletal muscles, is not needed to kill but is used for cosmetic reasons
-- so the inmate and the procedure will appear serene.
Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said he could
not comment on the training given execution-team members. "This
information is considered security information and therefore not
releasable," he said in an e-mail.
He also could not talk about issues that involve pending litigation,
including whether lethal drugs have ever had to be administered twice. The
Virginia attorney general's office likewise declined to comment because of
the pending suit.
. . .
The way lethal injection is performed is under challenge by death-row
inmates across the country. First, a barbiturate sedative is injected,
followed by pancuronium bromide that causes paralysis and finally,
potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Last month, the federal executions of 3 members of Richmond's Newtowne
gang were stayed because of the Florida case, now before the Supreme
Court, in which an inmate says the procedure might violate his civil
rights. In California, an execution was postponed when a judge ordered
physicians to administer the sedative and to intervene if the prisoner
woke up or appeared to be in pain.
The physicians refused, citing the ethical guidelines. The American
Medical Association's code of ethics says physicians should not
participate in executions or to even pronounce death, as do physicians in
A 1994 opinion from the Virginia attorney general's office held that the
medical association's code had no legal bearing on physicians fulfilling
their role in Virginia executions.
Capital-punishment defenders point out that even the electric chair has
not been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, although at least
one state supreme court, Georgia's, has banned it.
Unlike lethal injections, in which the prisoner appears to die peacefully,
electrocutions can make bodies jump, limbs and heads smoke and mouths
"If electrocution wasn't cruel, putting someone to sleep can't be," said
Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and death-penalty advocate. "There is
no more humane method to kill someone."
Marquis dismisses as "Hail Mary passes" the challenges to lethal injection
based on the Eighth Amendment right not to suffer cruel and unusual
Oregon's "Death With Dignity Act" began allowing assisted suicides in
1998. According to the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted
Suicide, barbiturate sedatives -- also used in lethal injections -- were
used in virtually all of the 246 assisted suicides in Oregon through 1995.
. . .
Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School, is critical of lethal
injections for the opposite reason of Walker's lawyers: He argues that
lethal injection is too "medicalized."
Not all condemned inmates deserve pain, but Blecker said "we should not
kill the worst of the worst, whom we rightly despise, in the same manner
we lovingly end the suffering of the terminally ill by lethal doses of
He said he rejects torture and said that although the Constitution
prohibits torture or a "lingering death," condemned killers do not
necessarily have a right to an absolutely painless death.
Tennessee's Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the way that
state conducts lethal injections. Thirty-seven of the 38 states with
capital punishment at least make lethal injection an optional form of
execution, and most of the procedures are similar.
. . .
Walker's lawyers complain that the state's own disclosures show "Virginia
does not even bother to monitor the anesthetization process while it is
taking place to determine whether or not any problems are occurring."
In their brief, they argue that "if Virginia wishes to use these
unnecessarily risky procedures, then it must take steps to ensure that the
inmate is free from excruciating pain."
Those steps could include using drugs that do not risk an inmate being
paralyzed and in great pain or using the same drugs but having a trained
person make sure the inmate is properly anesthetized, they say.
As suggested by assisted suicides in Oregon, a higher dose of a
barbiturate sedative alone could be used to kill an inmate without risk of
a prisoner regaining consciousness.
But Dr. Jonathan I. Groner, a professor of surgery at the Ohio State
University's College of Medicine and Public Health, said that procedure
would take much longer to kill than the 3-drug procedure.
And, he said, it's messy.
"Everybody agrees on every side of the execution issue that 5 grams of the
sodium thiopental properly administered is fatal," he said. But the
prisoner "would probably linger for a while, and they would die of oxygen
deprivation, and that just doesn't look that pretty."
And that, said Groner, a capital-punishment opponent, "is clearly the
warden's problem, not the inmate's problem."
Details emerge on execution process Drugs used in executions
The controversy over lethal injection includes the 3 drugs that are used
in executions. The identity of the drugs, similar to those used in other
states, was made public by the Virginia Department of Corrections in 2004.
They are, in the order injected:
Sodium thiopental, a barbiturate sedative, is used as anesthesia to render
the prisoner unconscious. The drug is also called thiopental sodium or
sodium pentothal. Critics say the sedative can wear off and it is not
administered or monitored by someone experienced in assessing its
Pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant that can stop the use of skeletal
muscles, is used to stop breathing. Opponents contend this drug is used
only to prevent the prisoner from convulsing or otherwise disturbing the
decorum of what appears to be a serene medical procedure. They say
pancuronium bromide should not be used because it prevents observers from
determining if a prisoner has regained consciousness.
Potassium chloride is an electrolyte that in high doses stops the heart.
(source for both: Richmond Times Dispatch)
Moussaoui his own worst enemy in death penalty trial
The prosecution may have rested in the death penalty trial of confessed
al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, but legal experts say one more
witness still could prove a major boon to the government's case.
Moussaoui, who shouts "God curse America!" and "God bless al-Qaida" during
court recesses, says he will testify.
"It's a defense lawyer's nightmare," says Washington attorney Andrew
McBride, a former federal prosecutor.
It could be "a court-assisted suicide," says Michael Mello, a University
of Vermont law professor who for years represented defendants in capital
cases. McBride, Mello and other observers of the 2-week-old case say it's
hard to predict whether prosecutors will convince a jury that Moussaoui
contributed to the Sept. 11 attacks. To do so, they must prove that
Moussaoui's lies, when he was interrogated after his Minnesota arrest in
mid-August 2001, prevented investigators from stopping at least 1 of the 4
hijackings. Moussaoui's testimony, McBride said, "could put them over the
"This defense team has done an excellent job," he said, "and their client
may undo it for them."
As Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers opened their defense Thursday in
the 1st phase of the 2-stage sentencing trial, he vowed during a recess to
exercise his constitutional right to testify.
"I will testify," the erratic, 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent
shouted. "Whether you want it or not, I will testify."
Moussaoui has had strained relations with his lawyers almost since the
inception of the 4-year-old case, and in 2002, he demanded and won the
right to represent himself. But U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema,
citing his inflammatory comments in voluminous court filings, revoked that
right about 6 months later.
Nearly a year ago, over his lawyers' objections, Moussaoui pleaded guilty
to 6 conspiracy counts, three carrying the death penalty.
McBride and Mello said his right to testify, unless he is found to be
mentally incompetent, is all but absolute. Brinkema has said he is
Mello, who has closely followed the case, said Moussaoui's attorneys'
chief objective is to keep him alive, but Moussaoui's goal "seems to be to
mount a soapbox and tell the world what he thinks about America."
"It's not clear to me that Moussaoui wants to die," he said. "It is fairly
clear to me that for Moussaoui, death is an acceptable price to pay for
getting his message out."
McBride, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said he suspects
defense lawyers "are apoplectic, and they're trying to think of any reason
they can" to avoid Moussaoui's testimony.
But he said prosecutors must be salivating, because "the meat for
cross-examination of this guy is just awesome."
Mello said that the defense case should provide the greatest boost to
Moussaoui's chances of escaping with a sentence of life in prison without
"But ironically, I think the government's case is going to be the part
that's going to help him," he said. Defense lawyers have repeatedly
focused the jury's attention on FBI and CIA intelligence sharing and
counterterrorism lapses in the months before the deadliest terror attack
in U.S. history.
Moussaoui is not expected to testify until the end of the defense case
late this week or next week. First, his lawyers plan to present
declassified substitutes of statements from senior al-Qaida captives held
overseas. These figures' statements to interrogators are expected to
dismiss Moussaoui as a minor player who didn't know the details of the
Sept. 11 plot.
Even if Moussaoui is found eligible for the death penalty, jurors must
then weigh aggravating and mitigating factors in a 2nd phase before
deciding whether he should live or die. Moussaoui could testify in that
(source: McClatchy News Service)
Attorney speaks out on death penalty
Adam Tebrugge takes pride in his persuasive powers.
After all, he makes a living convincing juries and judges as a public
Nowadays, Tebrugge is using his skills to influence people on a hot topic
recently debated by state legislators: the Florida death penalty.
The former New College student has spoken out against the death penalty in
Catholic churches and other organizations for 6 months.
When Tebrugge heard about the Catholic church's renewed push last year to
urge lawmakers in the country to abolish the death penalty, he volunteered
to speak out, from a criminal-justice perspective. He has worked for 20
years as a public defense lawyer.
"I don't offer any spiritual teaching," said Tebrugge, who was born to a
Catholic family but attends churches of other denominations.
His most recent speech at a Bradenton Catholic church came in the same
week that one of his clients, Joseph P. Smith, was being sentenced to
death for the slaying of Carlie Brucia, 11.
"When you're talking about the death penalty, people think about the worst
crime they heard about," said Tebrugge, who has defended capital cases
The response from his dozen talks at various churches and groups,
including a local chapter of the NAACP, has been interesting, he said.
"Not everyone agrees with me," Tebrugge said. "But it leads to intelligent
In his talks, Tebrugge said Florida is the only state among the 38 in the
country that has a death penalty that does not require a unanimous jury
vote to decide whether a person is eligible for the death penalty and to
recommend a death sentence.
Florida lawmakers are taking notice after the Florida Supreme Court
suggested it review the issue, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death
Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
A piece of legislation to change the law was introduced but was shot down
before the start of this year's legislative session.
Debra Johnes Riva, the prosecutor in the Smith case, attended the debate.
She argued against the changes, saying that the law has survived
constitutional scrutiny from the high courts.
"One of our points is that if there was a change in the capital sentencing
scheme, it would invite new challenges," she said. "People on death row
would want to review their cases."
But Tebrugge does not view the legislative failure as a defeat - yet.
"Very few reforms in human history had been passed in a single legislation
session," Tebrugge said.
Besides legal technicalities, Tebrugge often reminded his listeners of the
trauma that comes with these cases, citing the Smith trial as an example.
"It seemed to me that the trial did as much damage to the real people," he
said. "What were we trying to achieve? To conclude the case and to do
something for the victim."
The lengthy death penalty trial, and the appeals the case goes through
after the sentencing, is akin to picking at old wounds for the families of
the victim and the defendant, he said.
"We didn't conclude the case," he said. "And we were broadcasting lurid
details of the crime."
Without the death penalty, Tebrugge argued, the defendant could have
pleaded guilty and received a life sentence in prison without parole.
"He'd be forgotten, there would be no trial, no photos, no stress," he
said. But State Attorney Earl Moreland said prosecutors have a statutory
duty to seek justice.
"I think it's important that we don't go for death penalty for all other
cases," Moreland said. "We are careful in the cases we pursue."
The 12th Circuit Court in Manatee currently has six death penalty cases on
its agenda. Among those scheduled to go to trial this year are Gary Cloud,
the man accused in the slaying of actress Barbara Laney; and Blaine Ross,
Richard Henderson Jr. and Clifford Davis, three men charged in the deaths
of their family members.
As for Tebrugge, he will be preparing for the trial of Elton B. Murphy.
Murphy, 47, was accused of murdering gallery owner Joyce Wishart in
January 2004. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.
Out of court, Tebrugge said he will continue to speak out against capital
punishment, as long as he is invited.
Through his talks, he hopes to create dialogue on whether the state's
criminal justice system is infallible when it sends someone to death row.
"The question is not whether a criminal deserves to get the death
penalty," he said.
(source: Bradenton Herald)
More information about the DeathPenalty