[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IND., LA., VA., S.C., S. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 29 21:11:26 EST 2006
'I was that juror'
A grave confession stirred inside the Rev. Joseph Cunningham, Valparaiso
University pastor, Monday night as he listened to Sister Helen Prejean
discuss the role of a jury in capital punishment cases.
"All you gotta do is convince one of those jurors that this person
shouldn't die," said Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking."
"I was that juror," Cunningham whispered, seemingly out of nowhere.
The talkative Prejean stopped in mid-argument.
"Did you hold out?" she asked. "Did you not vote for death?"
Cunningham hung his head. No, he hadn't. He sentenced a man to die.
In 1995, when Cunningham was living near Evansville, he served on the jury
in the murder trial of Eric Wrinkles, a man who shot and killed his
ex-wife, brother-in-law and sister-in-law in front of their children.
Cunningham, who was the foreman for the conviction phase, said he was put
on the jury because he opposed the death penalty. Ultimately, the gruesome
way Wrinkles killed his 3rd victim -- she was shot in the face as she
tripped while fleeing -- moved him to change his stance.
The evidence against the methamphetamine-addicted man was overwhelming,
Cunningham said, but that doesn't make it any easier.
"I ache every day," Cunningham said to Prejean just minutes before she
spoke to the VU community. "That's why I wanted to meet you. I'm a wounded
Prejean, on campus to talk about her lifelong mission to abolish the death
penalty, sat stunned. She brushed off requests to cut the conversation
short because of time limitations and instead began a conversation with
"Boy, put me in that situation -- put any citizen," she said. "This is
what you do to keep the community safe, it's the law, our Supreme Court
has approved it, people quote religion and what are you gonna do?"
"As a juror," Cunningham said, "when you hold the gun, when you smell the
blood on the sheets... all that, just every day I relive all that. The
pictures and the children."
Cunningham has made contact with Wrinkles, who is on death row in Michigan
City, but has not gone to see him. His execution has not been scheduled,
as his case remains in the appeals process.
"I'm a relational person in my ministry," Cunningham said. "Developing a
relationship with him and then having to watch him die or know that he
died and that I..."
Prejean interrupted, "It's a distancing thing."
In an attempt to comfort an obviously distraught man, she explained the
trauma that jurors experience after being exposed to that degree of
"You're decision partly came out of a very traumatized man," she said,
squeezing his arm.
But Cunningham's uneasiness throughout his time with Prejean made it clear
the healing process was far from over.
"I dread the day he's executed," he said.
(source: Northwest Indiana News)
Free at Last----Exonoree speaks against death penalty
Juan Melendez spent 17 years, eight months and 1 day on death row for a
crime he didnt commit.
He battled a language barrier, suicide and a system he says failed him in
Dressed in a Bob Marley T-shirt and wearing a gold image of the Virgin
Mary around his neck, Melendez spoke to students at the Paul M. Hebert Law
Center on Tuesday about his experience and why he thinks the death penalty
should be abolished.
Melendez was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in
After he was exonerated in 2002 Melendez began traveling the country,
speaking out against the death penalty and telling his story and he hopes
to inspire others to take up the fight against what he calls a racist and
He also works in Florida, where he served his term, and across the country
to promote legislation that would decrease prosecutorial immunity and
provide financial compensation for the wrongfully convicted.
Melendez, who said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, speaks
out for inmates and the wrongfully convicted.
"Just like we got rid of segregation, just like we got rid of slavery, we
can rid of this killing," Melendez said.
Melendez called the death penalty a flawed system that can never be
Judi Caruso, an attorney who formed Voices for Justice with Melendez, said
legislatures should begin assessing problems with the death penalty within
Caruso said she thinks states will find the system is not reformable.
"No matter how many reforms we do, we cannot reform, we cannot reform a
system that could execute an innocent man," she said.
Melendez, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Puerto Rico, was arrested
in 1984 while he worked as a migrant field hand in Pennsylvania.
Melendez said he will never forget that day: Monday, May 2, 1984. He was
picking apples and peaches on a farm a few months after leaving Florida.
Federal agents identified Melendez, arrested him and extradited him to
Since he grew up in Puerto Rico, Melendez said his only language was
"Imagine yourself in a courtroom, and you've been wrongfully accused, and
you have no idea what they're saying," Melendez said. "If I spoke 5 words
of English, three of them were curse words."
He said he had a court-appointed attorney. Jury selections began on a
Monday, and he was sentenced by Friday.
Melendez said after he was convicted, his "heart was full of hate," and he
became severely depressed and contemplated suicide.
Melendez talked about how easy it would have been for him to commit
suicide and how other inmates sometimes encouraged it.
"'You said you didn't do it, they don't believe you, they're going to kill
you anyways,'" Melendez said of the advice he received from other inmates.
"After 10 years, I was tired of it, and the only way out was to commit
suicide, and many of my friends did commit suicide."
For the price of 4 postage stamps, a non-death row inmate would sneak in
garbage bags, which could be fastened into nooses, he said.
But Melendez didn't use the noose he received to kill himself - instead he
said he found comfort in his dreams of freedom and his religion.
Melendez said his mother wrote him a letter that said she prayed 5
rosaries a day and put her trust in God that one day he would be free
It was the encouragement of his mother and his own faith, he said, that
kept him going the last 7 years.
The other inmates on death row taught Melendez how to read, write and
After 3 appeals, he received a new attorney, the miracle for which
Melendez said he prayed and waited.
The new attorney discovered that the court-appointed defense attorney had
received a taped confession for the murder by another person a month
before the trial but had never introduced it in court.
Further investigation found that the prosecutor not only had the
confession, but he also had 16 corroborating statements.
Melendez said the other miracle that saved him from death row was that the
attorney who represented him in the 1st trial had now become a judge,
creating a "conflict of interest."
The trial had to be moved to another county.
The new judge issued a statement after reviewing the evidence, accusing
the defense and prosecuting attorneys of misconduct and ordering a new
trial, Melendez said.
The prosecutor then decided not to pursue a 2nd trial, and Melendez was
released in January 2002.
Melendez, who returned to live with his mother in Puerto Rico after his
release, said he now works on a plantain farm with high-risk children.
Melendez said he teaches the teenagers how to grow plantains organically,
tells them his story and hopes he will be able to set them straight before
they get into trouble.
"I survived on the inside," he said. "If I put my faith in God, I'll be
able to survive on the outside."
(source: The Reveille - Louisiana State University)
Kill him and thrill 'em
Zacarias Moussaoui isn't fighting for his life. The surly character who
has been chosen as the hangman for the U.S. Justice Department's case
against al Qaeda is clearly fighting for his death.
Facing 6 counts of conspiracy, Moussaoui took the stand Monday. And stand
he did. A man that other al Qaeda members identify as a bungling idiot
claimed that he was supposed to pilot a 5th plane on Sept. 11 and fly it
into the White House.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who organized the attacks, gave a deposition from
his Central Intelligence Agency detainment that stated otherwise.
Moussaoui is glorifying his role in an effort to call down the full extent
of the law's punishment and become a martyr. He has created a grandiose
lie that is almost too good to disregard. And the prosecutors aren't about
to. They are pushing the jury to believe that Moussaoui did indeed mean to
crash a plane into the White House. They don't want to be painted as the
prosecutors who let live a terrorist with admitted machinations to kill
Americans and destroy one of the primary symbols of U.S. government, not
to mention probable hopes to kill the President.
A death sentence of Zacarias Moussaoui, however, would set a dangerous and
inappropriate precedent that it does not take unquestionable evidence of
wrongdoing to be killed by the American government.
The defendant has definite ties to al Qaeda, and was ostensibly preparing
to take part in a hijacking. According to the indictment, he purchased and
owned training videos on how to fly a Boeing 747. He was and is by no
means a well-meaning resident. In fact, he's undeniably deserving of some
sort of punishment.
But in order to kill Moussaoui, the jury needs to believe that he
contributed in some way to the deaths of Sept. 11 victims. This is where
the deliberation process is likely to create heated conflict, as the
question becomes, "What constitutes a tangible contribution?" He did not
take part in any of the attacks, nor does it seem he aided in their
invention or preparation.
The prosecutors had Moussaoui identify 15 of the 19 original hijackers, to
establish a visual connection to the group, according to CBS News' legal
analyst Andrew Cohen, which is only appropriate in a case for which
appearance is everything.
Americans want terrorist blood, specifically that of the terrorists who
struck our country 4 1/2 years ago. It's only patriotic to want the heads
of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And we have one of them,
and he has confessed to his role in the attacks. Justice will come. No
matter how long the wait, putting Mohammed to death will be a moment of
great retribution for the lives of the 3,000 Sept. 11 victims.
But dropping the lethal dose too early on the wrong man will do several
things. It will set a horrible precedent. It will also mitigate the impact
of killing the right men.
The prosecutors and other proponents of the death of Zacarias Moussaoui
should ask themselves what message it is they intend to send. The
pursuance of the death penalty smacks of the sentiment of George Bush's
perhaps ill-chosen words shortly after Sept. 11, "There's an old saying in
Texas. Wanted, dead or alive."
Not every member of al Qaeda deserves to die. One does not qualify for the
death penalty until it can be proven that they have committed a crime that
is regarded as worthy of it. The death by association clause has yet to be
written into law.
Assuredly many Americans will laud and cheer and laugh and play if the
jury, which is expected to deliberate as early as Wednesday, decides that
Moussaoui should be put to death. The ramifications, however, could set
the bar terribly low for what degree of rationality our justice system
will uphold when punishing terrorists. The law should not adapt to the
social climate and should not reflect a nationalistic lust for revenge.
Killing Moussaoui will only damage the reputation and validity of the U.S.
(source: Mike Flatt, Managing Editor, The Spectrum; University at Buffalo)
WIS speaks with therapists opposed to death penalty for repeat child
A proposal that could sentence some sex offenders to death is gaining
momentum. The state senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that
would allow people convicted twice of raping a child under 11 to get the
The bill's sponsor, Senator Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson), says the punishment
fits the crime, "When you have a raped a child, you have taken something
very precious from this child that they will never recover from. That's
just as bad as taking a life."
But WIS talked to 2 sex therapists who oppose the bill.
Therapist Jack Luadzers counsels child sex offenders, "Certainly it's very
serious and a very great concern for the community to save our children
and protect our children, but unfortunately, there's a wide perception
that sex offenders are not treatable."
He's worked with sex offenders for a quarter century, and says 97 percent
who complete programs like his never reoffend. So he has problems with the
death penalty proposal, "To say we're going to select a group of people
who've offended twice, or let's say they've offended twice and have never
been treated, that's very much an assumption that they must be put to
He says when a person convicted of a child sex crime gets out of prison,
there are conditions, like outpatient counseling and monitoring.
That's for some. The worst of the worst end up in the Sexual Violent
Predator Program. They're confined to the old death row at the Department
of Corrections. The bulk have committed a crime against a child, have at
least two victims, and 2 convictions.
"That is why the Sexual Predator Program was designed, so that our
communities, our children, sisters are protected," says Darcy Luadzers.
Launders is a sex therapist with her husband.
Both support the death penalty for murder, but not for repeat child sex
offenders, "And we don't want to use the death penalty in case there's a
mistake. Mistaken identity, and, 7 % of child rape allegations turn out to
They say the solution is greater support for what's in place, not a new
(source: WIS TV News)
South Carolina Bill Pushes Death Penalty For Child Rapists
In Columbia, the South Carolina state Senate has endorsed making rapists
eligible for the death penalty.
Currently, the only crime eligible for the death penalty is murder in the
state of South Carolina.
According to CBS news, the proposal allows prosecutors to seek the death
penalty for sex offenders who are convicted twice of raping a child
younger than 11.
The proposed legislation is known as "Jessica's Law", named after a
9-year-old Florida girl who was allegedly kidnapped and killed last year
by a convicted sex offender.
(source: All Headline News)
Prosecutor rules out death penalty
The state will not seek the death penalty against a Pierre man who is
charged with killing his wife, Hughes County State's Attorney Tim Maher
said Tuesday at an arraignment hearing for Brad Reay.
Reay, 46, pleaded not guilty to alternate counts of 1st-degree murder and
1st-degree manslaughter. He also pleaded not guilty to aggravated
The nude body of Reay's wife, Tami, 41, was found Feb. 9 west of Oahe Dam
in Stanley County. She was reported missing after failing to show up for
work. The couple had reportedly been talking about divorce.
The charges allege that Tami Reay was abducted and slain Feb. 8 in Hughes
Brad Reay, a balding man with a slight build, softly answered in the
affirmative Tuesday when circuit judge Kathleen Trandahl of Winner
explained his rights and asked if he understood.
The judge said he could be convicted on only one of the murder or
(source: Associated Press)
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