[Deathpenalty] death penalty news---PENN., ILL., MD., UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 29 11:33:52 EST 2006
Pennsylvania appeals ruling against Banks' execution
In Wilkes-Barre, prosecutors have appealed a judge's ruling that mass
murderer George Banks is too mentally ill to be executed.
Luzerne County Court Judge Michael Conahan ruled Feb. 27 that Banks cannot
be put to death because he is too mentally ill to understand that he is
facing execution for the 1982 murders of 13 people.
The state Attorney General's Office on Monday appealed to the state
Supreme Court, arguing that Conahan improperly prevented a prosecution
expert from testifying at Banks' competency hearing.
Banks used a semiautomatic rifle to kill 7 children - 5 of them his own -
plus his 3 live-in girlfriends, an ex-girlfriend and her mother, and a
bystander in the street.
(source: Associated Press)
Treat, don't execute, our mentally ill
Now that the candidates are finished attacking each other in the
primaries, it's time for them to tackle some real issues that affect all
of us: like the fact that the State of Illinois favors execution over
treatment for the mentally ill. Not only is the execution of the mentally
ill inhumane, it is preventable.
Mental health is a public health issue. It affects one out of five
American families. Almost 1/2 of all people with a severe mental illness
do not get the treatment they need. In 2004, for example, 60 % of
emergency physicians reported that the increasing number of people with
mental illness seeking treatment in emergency rooms is hurting patient
care, causing longer wait times and limiting everyone's access to
life-saving treatment, according to the American College of Emergency
Mental health is a public safety issue. Shockingly, police have become the
frontline respondents to youths and adults with severe mental illnesses
who are in crisis. Municipal jails and state prisons have become default
psychiatric treatment facilities. Illinois' prisons simply do not have the
personnel or the resources to properly treat mentally ill inmates.
At least 16 % of Illinois inmates suffer from severe mental illness, and
at least 7,100 of the 44,379 adults in state prisons have been diagnosed
with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or another severe mental illness,
according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The prevalence of mental illnesses among youths in Illinois juvenile
justice facilities is much higher. In Archives of General Psychiatry,
author L. Teplin reports that more than 1/2 of the young people in Cook
County juvenile facilities -- 58.8 % of boys and 66.4 % of girls in 2003
-- have one or more psychiatric disorders.
Mental health is an economic issue. Mental illness can be a significant
barrier to academic success, employment and housing. Roughly 1/2 of all
children with emotional and behavioral disturbances drop out of school,
and up to 90 percent of adults with severe mental illness end up
unemployed, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Untreated mental illness is a leading cause of disability, which can
increase dependency on social services. At the same time, decreased
productivity reduces the local and state tax base.
Public investment in mental health services is a more cost-effective use
of limited resources. Providing critical treatment can manage disorders
and may prevent the mentally ill from landing in the correctional system.
For every $1 spent on mental health services, $5 is saved in overall
health-care costs, according to the American Psychological Association.
Condemning mentally ill defendants to death instead of providing the
services and proper care they need is unjust. It's also costly,
unacceptable, and most of all, preventable.
Don't let the next election pass without demanding that candidates take a
stand on mental health and the need to reform the death penalty system in
Illinois. Each of us must challenge the candidates to address the issues
that affect all of us.
Barbara Doyle, president, Illinois chapter, National Alliance on Mental
(source: Letter to the Editor, Chicago Sun-Times, March 24)
Lawyers: Muhammad Not Competent for Trial
John Allen Muhammad, already sentenced to death for a sniper shooting in
Virginia, is not competent to stand trial or represent himself at his
Maryland trial, his lawyers said.
Muhammad, who is expected to be tried in May for 6 killings in Montgomery
County in 2002, is "psychotic, delusional" and "paranoid," according to a
motion filed Tuesday.
Muhammad was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on his request to fire
his defense lawyers and represent himself. His lawyers filed the motion
and a psychiatric evaluation with Montgomery Circuit Court.
Dr. Dorothy O. Lewis, a Yale University psychiatrist, interviewed Muhammad
twice in September 2003 and for four hours on Monday, The Washington Post
She wrote in the evaluation that Muhammad's judgment and ability to think
logically are "severely compromised" by brain dysfunction and that he
probably suffers from "schizo-affective schizophrenia."
During Monday's interview, Muhammad seemed paranoid, the psychiatrist
He claimed that his attorneys were withholding information that was
important to his defense.
Lewis said Muhammad told her that he is innocent and thinks "his arrest
was the result of an elaborate scheme to frame him for the murders."
She wrote that Muhammad told her he also believes accomplice Lee Boyd
Malvo was "fed information by the police and forced to make a false
Muhammad has refused to assist his attorneys, public defenders Paul
DeWolfe and Brian D. Shefferman, saying that he can't share his "secret
defense strategy" with his attorneys because "they cannot be trusted,"
Muhammad and Malvo are accused of murdering 10 people and wounding three
during the 3-week period in October, and have been tied to killings in
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.
Muhammad was convicted and sentenced to death for a sniper shooting in
Manassas, Va. Malvo also was convicted in Virginia and sentenced to life
Malvo is scheduled to go on trial in Montgomery County in the fall for the
same 6 murders. He is not eligible for a death sentence because he was 17
when the killings occurred.
(source: Associated Press)
Lafferty Challenges Death Penalty Again
One of Utah's most notorious death-row inmates is once again appealing his
This is the 3rd time Ron Lafferty's case has been brought before the Utah
The 64-year-old is challenging a ruling made last November by Judge
Anthony Schofield. The judge denied Lafferty's request for an evidentiary
hearing on his claim that his defense team held back evidence during his
2nd jury trial in 1996.
Lafferty and his brother were convicted of murdering their sister-in-law,
Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter in 1984.
Dan is serving a life sentence in prison without parole.
(source: Associated Press)
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