[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 13 22:42:25 UTC 2006
US Supreme Court action gives trooper's killer new sentence hearing
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review an appeals court
decision throwing out the death sentence for the man who shot to death a
state trooper 10 years ago during a traffic stop.
The ruling means Maxwell D. White Jr. will get a new sentencing hearing.
His attorneys argued for a new sentence because a juror said during jury
selection that she was biased in favor of the death penalty.
A state court ruled the juror was not biased. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court
of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned that decision but upheld White's
aggravated murder conviction.
Ashland County Prosecutor Ramona Francesconi-Rogers said new jurors will
be chosen and all the evidence will have to be presented again for them to
make a decision.
White, 41, was convicted of killing trooper James Gross in 1996 when the
trooper pulled him over after motorists reported his vehicle was
travelling eratically. White wounded Gross when he approached, then shot
him in the back, according to the records.
The appeals court now must issue an order giving the state 180 days to
hold a new sentencing proceeding for White.
(source: Associated Press)
Forum calls for end to racist death penalty
Student workers had to keep setting up chairs as the crowd swelled to over
250 in the University of Toledo Student Union on Oct. 29. The program was
the last in a 10-stop tour called "Witness to an Execution," organized by
the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Community members of all ages and
nationalities mixed with students to hear Barbara Becnel, long-time friend
of the late Stanley Tookie Williams and editor of his books.
Conveners of the program called for a moratorium on the death penalty
because it is racist, targets the poor, is barbaric and doesnt deter
crime. In addition, it murders the innocent.
Washington Muhammad from the Nation of Islam expressed Minister Louis
Farrakhan's support for Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of the
Lucasville 5 wrongly convicted for the death of a guard in connection with
a 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio. He declared that the
conviction of Imam Hasan was due to "fear of a warrior" and "fear that we
might unite across racial boundaries, economical boundaries and religious
Hasan was an imam, or prayer leader, for the Sunni Muslims in the
Lucasville prison and their spokesperson before and during the rebellion,
which led the prosecution to target him for capital crimes.
Hasan sent a taped statement from death row. A judge on Aug. 14
recommended denial of his petition for habeas corpus and request for an
evidentiary hearing. Hasan's attorneys filed objections to the
recommendations and the ACLU filed a friend of the court brief. However,
Hasan may be nearing the end of his appeals at the federal level.
The tape pointed out that prosecutors played to anti-Islamic prejudice and
racism in his trial. As an illustration of the racism of the death
penalty, Hasan quoted statistics that 80 % of executions are for killing
whites, whereas only 13 percent are for killing Black people.
Hasan stated, "We have to strive, to struggle to bring about change in the
criminal justice system, just like the people of Toledo stopped the
neo-Nazis from marching. Join forces. Its going to be a long road." (See
"Nazis kicked out of Toledo," Oct. 18, 2005, and "Cops defend Nazis as
hundreds protest," Dec. 15, 2005, at www.workers.org.)
The audience then warmly greeted featured speaker Becnel, who had been
present at the execution of Tookie Williams on Dec. 13, 2005. She was also
a witness at a hearing to determine if something was wrong with the way
the State of California had carried out Williams' execution.
According to Becnel, the California standard is that "some pain is okay
but excruciating pain is unconstitutional." She stated, "I knew that Stan
had been tortured to death. When I came out and spoke my truth, they said
I was hysterical. They said, 'Don't believe untutored eyes.'" This is the
`st time in the history of San Quentin prison that a federal judge ordered
an execution team to testify under oath. By the end of the first day of
testimony, it was admitted that the execution was "bungled."
Becnel related the testimony of a veterinarian at the September hearing
who stated that the protocol used by the State of California is a process
he would never use to euthanize an animal. Asked why not, he answered,
"Because I have ethics. I have standards. I wouldn't do something that
would cause the animal pain."
The hearing revealed that the state of California uses a "3-drug cocktail"
to kill. The 1st drug makes the prisoner lose consciousness instantly, but
it has a rapid half-life, losing its potency in 2 to 3 minutes. The
botched process that Williams was subjected to took 10 minutes, allowing
him to regain consciousness.
The 2nd drug is a paralytic agent, affecting all parts of the body,
including the lungs. The veterinarian at the hearing stated there is no
medical purpose for this drug. "Its purpose is to fool everybody in the
audience." As his consciousness returned, Williams inability to breathe
"was like someone was choking him to death."
The third drug provokes a heart attack. With returning consciousness,
Williams was forced to experience the severe pain of the heart attack. In
Becnel's words, "It was a torture. It was a murder."
Becnel summarized, "We're waiting to hear if the judge will rule that the
death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. But we already knew that it
"We have an opportunity to unravel the death penalty. Let us all come
together. Stop the injustice, inhumanity and immorality of the death
Activists in Ohio plan to step up the fight to free the Lucasville Five.
In a recent letter from death row to Workers World Party's Cleveland
branch, Hasan declared, "I am committed to ending this racist and barbaric
practice which targets the poor, so look for us to make an immense amount
of political and revolutionary noise in Ohio."
(source: Workers World)
Court reinstates Calif. man's executiion
The Supreme Court on Monday moved to reinstate the death penalty for a
California man convicted of murdering a 19-year-old woman during a
Justices reversed an appeals court ruling that threw out Fernando
Belmontes' death sentence because the trial judge misled jurors who were
considering whether to give Belmontes the death penalty or life in prison.
The 5-4 decision was the court's 1st since starting its new term in
October. It reflected an increasingly common division in death penalty
cases between the court's conservative and liberal blocs.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said it was implausible to conclude that jurors
failed to take all the evidence into account before settling on a sentence
Belmontes beat Steacy McConnell to death with a dumbbell bar in the
burglary of her Victor, Calif., home in 1981. He was convicted of the
crime and sentenced to death, a decision upheld by state courts and a
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, however, twice commuted the
sentence. The 2nd time was after the Supreme Court told it to reconsider
Belmontes' sentence under a decision that restored the death penalty in
another California murder case.
The appeals court said the trial judge misled jurors about whether they
could consider the prospect that Belmontes could live a productive life
behind bars based on his good behavior during an earlier commitment to a
California correctional facility for youth.
"It was mistaken...to find a 'reasonable probability' that the jury did
not consider respondent's future potential," Kennedy wrote in his majority
opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined Kennedy's opinion.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the majority opinion
reaches a "strange conclusion" based upon speculation. "I simply cannot
believe that the jurors took it upon themselves to consider testimony they
were all but told they were forbidden from considering," Stevens said,
also writing for Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David
The case is Ayers v. Belmontes, 05-493.
(source: Associated Press)
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