[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., PENN., S.C., KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 28 10:51:26 EST 2006
Unabomber's brother defends abolition of death penalty
10 years ago, David Kaczynski was forced to make the heart-wrenching
decision of going to the FBI with suspicions that his own brother could be
the infamous Unabomber, who the FBI had been after for 17 years.
"(My wife) and I were the only people in the world who could stop the
violence," Kaczynski told a group of law students and faculty in the
College of Law yesterday. "The thought that we could someday be
responsible for the death of an innocent person was terrifying. We had to
Kaczynski, the executive director of New Yorkers against the Death
Penalty, spoke about his personal connection to the death penalty and the
death penalty as a legal issue.
Although Kaczynski opened his speech by discussing death penalty law and
court cases, the personal stories he shared later on seemed to make much
more of an effect, bringing some audience members close to tears.
"I was extremely moved by his speech," said Katherine Lawler, president of
the St. Thomas More Society, a Catholic law student organization that
sponsored the speech.
Kaczynski told the audience how his wife, Linda, first came to him with
the suspicion that his brother, Ted, could be the Unabomber, who had
placed 16 bombs during a 17-year time span. The Unabomber's bombs had
killed three people and injured many others.
Linda Kaczynski pointed to the Unabomber's connection to Chicago, where
David and Ted had grown up, and the University of California, Berkeley,
where Ted had once taught, Kaczynski said.
"At first, I assumed her imagination had gone way beyond her intuition,"
Kaczynski said. "I said, 'That's nuts!'"
When the Unabomber released his anti-technology manifesto to the media,
Kaczynski was able to read it online.
"After reading the manifesto, I felt pretty chilled," Kaczynski said.
"There were points where it sounded a lot like my brother."
Kaczynski provided the audience with background on his brother who in his
mid-20s had quit his job as a professor and moved to rural Montana, where
he lived in a shack without running water. He said communications with his
brother were very bizarre, and he had a very strong feeling and worry that
his brother was mentally ill.
After a few weeks of poring over letters from his brother as well as the
Unabomber's manifesto, Kaczynski and his wife decided they had to bring
the information to the FBI.
"The realization that if we turned Ted in, there was a chance he would be
executed scared me greatly," Kaczynski said. "I didn't even believe in the
death penalty. I had always been against it."
Throughout his speech, Kaczynski emphasized his belief that there is a
growing sense in the United States that the death penalty doesn't work
because of gaping holes in the system.
"In a justice system the values of justice must be balanced with
efficiency, a system that actually works," he said. "The (death penalty)
system seems powerless to be applied fairly."
Kaczynski said while he personally feels the death penalty is wrong, it is
also impractical. He cited that there are currently 3,500 people on death
row, yet few executions are actually carried out.
In the state of California, each execution costs about $100 million,
"No matter what side you're on, you have to believe that $100 million
could have been better spent on programs to make society better," he said.
He described the death penalty as a strange animal within the legal system
that has been ruled unconstitutional time and again. He cited many court
cases throughout his speech, including two involving the state of New
New York passed a law that made the death penalty mandatory for certain
crimes, and the state Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional, Kaczynski
said. There are currently two bills to bring the death penalty back to the
state, and Kaczynski urged the students to contact lawmakers in opposition
Kaczynski's brother was not sentenced to death, but he said this was not
due to his brother's extreme mental illness, since mentally ill people
often still receive the death penalty. He rather attributed the lighter
sentence to the skill of his brother's lawyers.
"We aren't executing the people who commit the worst crimes," he said. "We
are executing the people with worst lawyers."
Kaczynski spoke of a man who was executed even though his brother had
confessed to the crime, and another man who was executed despite his
extreme mental illness caused by serving in the Vietnam War.
Kaczynski ended his speech saying that he was speaking not because of his
brother, but rather for the people like the two men who had been wrongly
Thomas Maroney, a law professor, stood up after Kaczynski spoke and said
that he had greatly enjoyed Kaczynski's speech, but he wished more people
"I'm struck by the irony of how few people came today," said Maroney, who
said as a lawyer, he had requested the death penalty in some cases.
Audience members appeared visibly moved by Kaczynski's remarks.
"Before coming here, I hadn't really made a decision about the death
penalty," Lawler said. "He made justice the center of his argument, which
made it very compelling."
(source: The Daily Orange)
Death-row inmate sent to new prison
Death-row inmate Ernie Simmons of Johnstown has been unexpectedly moved to
the State Correctional Institution-Laurel Highlands outside Somerset,
reportedly because of medical problems.
Simmons, 48, had been on death row for years at SCI-Greene in southwestern
Pennsylvania for the 1992 choking and beating death of Anna Knaze, 80, of
The state Department of Corrections refused to disclose why Simmons was
But spokeswoman Sue McNaughton said that, ordinarily, death-row inmates
are housed only at Greene or SCI-Graterford in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Laurel Highlands is a minimum-security prison that includes a medical unit
for older or ill inmates, McNaughton said.
She said that, even though its designated as a minimum- security facility,
Laurel Highlands - like others statewide - has maximum-security housing
While Simmons is at Laurel Highlands, hes being housed in a
maximum-security cell in a maximum-security unit, McNaughton said.
He was transferred Feb. 24 to Laurel Highlands, where medical facilities
are available for long-term care.
Meanwhile, the prosecutions appeal of a judges decision overturning
Simmons conviction is still pending in the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of
In February 2005, U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin ordered a new trial
for Simmons. He ruled that prosecutors had withheld evidence at trial that
the defense could have used to attack the credibility of the states star
witness and others.
McLaughlins ruling was appealed by the Cambria County prosecutors. Since
then, both the prosecutors and defense attorneys have filed legal briefs
on the issues, said David Kaltenbaugh, Cambrias chief deputy district
Even though Simmons won a new trial, he has remained in prison because of
the prosecutions appeal.
Lead defense attorney Robert Dunham, with the Federal Defenders
Association of Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment.
Mrs. Knazes son found her body at her Maple Avenue home on May 6, 1992. A
widow, she lived there alone. An autopsy showed her spine had been
severed, all her ribs broken and she had been strangled. Her missing purse
never was found.
(source: The Tribune-Democrat)
Death penalty plan in spotlightAttorney general to advise Senate panel on
proposal for repeat child rapists
State Attorney General Henry McMaster today is to advise a state Senate
panel on a proposal to impose the death penalty on repeat child rapists. A
Senate Judiciary subcommittee last week asked McMaster for his opinion
about whether Sen. Kevin Bryant's proposal is constitutional, and if so,
whether any changes can be made to strengthen it.
Bryant, R-Anderson, who is a subcommittee member, gained national
attention after offering an amendment Wednesday on the Senate floor to a
bill that would toughen penalties for child molesters.
If approved, South Carolina would join Louisiana as the only states that
specifically allow the death penalty for raping young children.
Bryants proposed amendment would permit the death sentence for those
convicted twice of raping a child younger than 11. The only other possible
sentence would be life without parole.
"When a child is raped, there is something special taken from this life,
which is as bad as taking a life," he said Monday. "Most of the time, they
When Bryant first proposed the death penalty for repeat child rapists in
December, his bill went nowhere. It has received renewed attention after
the high-profile arrest of convicted sex offender Kenneth Hinson, a
Darlington County man charged with kidnapping 2 17-year-old girls and
raping them in an underground room behind his home.
Hinson had been convicted in 1991 of raping a 12-year-old girl. Just
before his release from prison in 2000, a review committee recommended he
be committed to a Department of Mental Health facility. But Circuit Judge
Edward Cottingham rejected the recommendation, saying prosecutors failed
to show Hinson would likely offend again.
McMaster, a Republican, supports Bryant's proposal, McMaster spokesman
Trey Walker said.
"The attorney general supports the most stringent penalties allowable when
it comes to these predators," Walker said Monday.
But David Bruck, a death penalty expert known for persuading a jury to
spare the life of Susan Smith for drowning her 2 young sons in a Union
County lake in 1994, doesn't believe the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold
"Life without parole is gracious plenty for someone who has not murdered,"
said Bruck, director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse at
Washington and Lee University School of Law. "What are you going to do to
a person who rapes and kills a child? Boil them in oil?"
Longtime victim advocate Laura Hudson, spokeswoman for the S.C. Victim
Assistance Network, also doesn't believe Bryant's proposal would hold up
in court, though she supports harsher sentences for child predators.
"We don't need to be wasting state money to have an appeal to the (U.S.)
Supreme Court, ... knowing we are going to lose it," she said.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who voiced concerns last week about
the proposal, said Monday he might offer an amendment that would delay
implementation of the law in South Carolina until the nations top court
rules in the Louisiana case.
Since 1995, Louisiana has permitted the death penalty for the rape of a
child younger than 12, though only one person has been sentenced under
that law. In 2003, Patrick Kennedy, then 38, was sentenced to death for
raping an 8-year-old relative.
No one has been executed for a non-murder crime since the death penalty
was restored in the U.S. in 1976. The nation's top court in 1977 banned
the death penalty for raping an adult woman, but has not specifically said
whether it could be applied to child rapists.
Greg Hembree, president of the S.C. Solicitors Association, said he
believes Bryant's proposal should be considered on its merits, not as an
amendment to another bill.
"Its such a bold and revolutionary step that it probably should be a
stand-alone bill," said Hembree, solicitor for Horry and Georgetown
(source: The State)
Supreme Court refuses to reinstate Anderson man's murder conviction
The U.S. Supreme Court refused yesterday to consider reinstating the
conviction and death sentence of a man who spent more than 20 years on
Indiana's death row.
The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago last year overturned the
1983 murder conviction of Mark Allen Wisehart of Anderson. It ruled that a
trial judge should have taken steps to determine whether one juror's
knowledge of a polygraph test had tainted the verdict.
The state attorney general's office had appealed to the U.S. Supreme
Court, but the justices declined without comment to review the case.
Wisehart, 43, was sentenced to death in Madison Superior Court for
stabbing 65-year-old Marjorie R. Johnson 26 times and fracturing her skull
during a 1982 robbery.
In an affidavit presented during a 1994 appeal hearing, one of the jurors
said that she reported for jury duty and was told court would not be held
that day because Wisehart was scheduled to take a polygraph test.
She said she never learned the outcome of the test. Polygraph results are
not admissible as evidence in Indiana courts.
The Indiana Supreme Court denied Wisehart's appeal, saying that he had not
shown any evidence that a single juror's knowledge of the polygraph test
had swayed the entire jury.
But the federal appeals court said that the trial judge should have
questioned the juror to determine whether she or any other jurors had been
influenced by the knowledge.
The appeals court overturned Wisehart's conviction and directed the state
to release him, retry him or conduct a new court hearing to address the
issue of jury bias. He is still being held at the Indiana State Prison in
The state attorney general's office did not respond yesterday to a message
seeking comment on the Supreme Court's action.
(source: Associated Press)
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