[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., US MIL., MD., PENN., USA, N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 8 04:15:23 UTC 2006
9th Circuit Judge Protests Proposal for New Breakaway Circuit----Plan for
12th Circuit with no Hispanic judges draws fire
The long-simmering debate over splitting the nation's largest federal
appellate court heated up last month when one 9th Circuit judge complained
that a new breakaway circuit would have no Hispanic judges.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently considering S. 1845, a bill
that would split the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with California,
Hawaii and Guam in a new, shrunken 9th Circuit. A new 12th Circuit would
be composed of Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Montana
"I'm a Republican and an appointee of President Bush, and it dawned on me
that the resulting 12th Circuit would be without a single Hispanic judge.
Nobody is focused on this," said Judge Carlos T. Bea of San Francisco.
Bea joined the court in 2003. He was raised in Spain and is one of six
Hispanic judges among the 9th Circuit's 49 active and senior judges.
In general, Republican lawmakers have pushed the split efforts while
Democratic legislators generally oppose the move. A majority of the
circuit's judges oppose a split, according to Chief Judge Mary Schroeder.
Arizona, with a population that is 25 percent Hispanic, and Nevada, with a
20 % Hispanic population, would join the Pacific Northwest states, but
without Hispanic judges, Bea said.
The circuit's Hispanic judges, Arthur Alarcon, Ferdinand Fernandez, Kim
Wardlaw (whose mother is from Mexico), Richard Paez, Consuelo Callahan and
Bea, all California-based judges, would remain on the split 9th Circuit.
Diarmuid O'Scannlain, a Portland, Ore.-based 9th Circuit judge who has
backed a circuit split since the mid-1990s, declined to comment on Bea's
O'Scannlain, who testified on Sept. 20 before the Senate Judiciary
Committee in support of the split, said his concern is with effective
judicial administration. He believes the circuit has become too large to
manage. The restructuring of the court should not be based on Supreme
Court "batting averages and public perception of any of our decisions.
"I am quite confident the circuit will be split someday ... but I have no
idea when that may be," he said.
Bea said his concern "is important to the Hispanic bar and the Hispanic
community." He said Hispanics "like to be represented the same as blacks.
It is a sign you are accepted in the community. People I talk to are upset
... they want to see Hispanics achieve and be recognized."
TIED TO IMMIGRATION?
"We see this as tied to the immigration debate," said James Reyna,
president of the Hispanic National Bar Association and an international
trade partner at Williams & Mullen in Washington, D.C.
"The bill as it is now written would take the most integrated and diverse
circuit, with good representation of Hispanics, and split it with a new
12th Circuit with no Hispanics," he said. "The concentration of Hispanics
has a direct adverse impact on the Hispanic community.
Reyna said the split would also impose a larger caseload on the remaining
judges in a new California-centered 9th Circuit because it would retain 80
% of the caseload, more than 500 cases per judge, as opposed to 350 for
the 12th Circuit.
Among the circuit's district courts, which would be divided along the same
state lines, half the 5,700 immigration-related criminal offenses in 2005,
such as illegal re-entry, come from Arizona and Nevada, while most of the
rest came from Southern California. Among the 6,200 asylum and other
immigration appeals to the 9th Circuit so far in fiscal year 2006, more
than 5,000 arise in California alone, according to circuit statistics.
(source: National Law Journal)
Sailor Sentenced to One Year in Iraqi's Slaying ---- Navy corpsman admits
his role in the killing and asks forgiveness of the victim's family. He
will testify against 7 Marines in the incident.
In Camp Pendleton, a Navy corpsman was sentenced Friday to one year in the
brig after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping in the death of
an Iraqi man and agreed to testify against 7 Marines charged with murder.
In an emotional statement at his court-martial, Petty Officer 3rd Class
Melson Bacos admitted his role in killing an unarmed man and asked
forgiveness of the dead man's family.
"I also apologize to our country, to the Navy and the Marine Corps for not
living up to the values of honor, courage and commitment," he told the
judge, Col. Steven Folsom. "I've learned from this mistake, and to tell
the truth is the only honorable thing I can do."
Bacos, 21, said he was sickened as he watched Marines fatally shoot
52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a disabled Iraqi who had been dragged
from his home shortly after midnight April 26 in Hamandiya, west of
"I felt shocked and sick to my stomach," Bacos testified.
He said he knew that what the Marines were doing was illegal but he felt
powerless to stop it.
"They were going to do what they were going to do," he said. "I felt I
couldn't do anything else."
But he added that later in the night, he told a fellow corpsman about his
dismay over what the Marines had done, saying: "I want you to remember
something we're different. We're not like these men."
Bacos testified that the Marine squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins
III, had hoped to capture and kill a "high value" Iraqi long suspected of
planting bombs. When the original target could not be found, Hutchins
allegedly decided to kidnap and kill Awad, who had also been suspected of
insurgent connections. The squad was on a late-night ambush mission to
catch insurgents planting roadside bombs.
Bacos said he watched the Marines line up and fire at Awad. Hutchins then
did a "dead check" on Awad, firing 3 more rounds into his head, and Cpl.
Trent D. Thomas fired seven to 10 rounds into him, Bacos testified.
Bacos said he had earlier asked Cpl. Marshall Magincalda to release Awad
but Magincalda refused, telling Bacos he was being a weakling. As a
corpsman, Bacos was assigned to provide additional firepower as well as
emergency medical help to the Marine squad.
"Why didn't I do more to stop it?" Bacos said in his statement to Folsom.
"Why didn't I just walk away? The answer is I wanted to be part of the
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison and a
dishonorable discharge. Defense attorneys said a term of several months
would be sufficient.
Folsom said Friday that he would have sentenced Bacos to 10 years in
prison and a dishonorable discharge but that he was bound by the plea
agreement already approved by the top general that mandated 1 year in the
brig and no discharge. The secretary of the Navy or the Marine brass,
however, could move to discharge him under less than honorable
In exchange for his guilty pleas, a murder charge that could have brought
the death penalty was dismissed.
Bacos agreed to testify against the Marines, who were once his comrades in
Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
In the original charges, Bacos faced a murder count even though he was not
alleged to have fired his weapon. That charge was based on the theory that
any co-conspirator is equally guilty when a murder is committed.
The Marines and Bacos were charged with leaving an AK-47 and shovel near
the body to suggest that Awad was an insurgent caught burying a roadside
Bacos testified that he stole an AK-47 from an Iraqi home and fired it
into the air so the Marines would have shell casings to leave beside
Bacos, who is married to a Navy corpsman, had been held at the brig at
Camp Pendleton with the other 7 defendants since being returned from Iraq
in May. But once the plea bargain was reached, he was moved to the brig at
Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego for his safety.
Marine Pfc. John Jodka also has been moved from the brig at Camp
Pendleton, suggesting that another plea deal is underway. A gag order
prevents lawyers from discussing his case.
Bacos was on his second deployment to Iraq; in his first tour, during the
battle in Fallouja in late 2004, he received a Purple Heart after being
wounded and a Combat Action Ribbon.
Initially, the Marines told their superiors that Awad had been killed
after he was discovered planting a roadside bomb to explode beneath a U.S.
military or Iraqi civilian vehicle. But the Marine Corps launched an
investigation after Awad's family protested that he had been taken away
without provocation and was not connected to the insurgency.
Folsom watched a 19-minute tape of Awad's relatives explaining their
version of the April 26 killing before he handed down the sentence. The
Iraqi's brothers described Awad as a disabled police officer and father of
11 who bore no malice toward American forces in Iraq.
On Friday, an attorney for one of the Marines asked the judge to close the
hearing to the media so Bacos' comments would not be made public and
possibly taint any jury pool. Folsom denied the request from attorney
David Brahms, who is representing Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington.
"This is not a game," Brahms told reporters. "This is real. I have a man's
life in my hands."
The Hamandiya incident is the first of two high-profile cases of alleged
brutality against Iraqis by Marines from Camp Pendleton to come to
Two dozen Marines are being investigated in a November incident in which
24 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed in the town of
A preliminary investigation has concluded that some of the Marines should
face murder charges. But Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis Jr., commanding general
of Marine Forces Central Command, is still reviewing those recommendations
and has not decided whether charges will be filed.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Death penalty is sought in killing of guard
Anne Arundel County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for two
prisoners charged in the stabbing death of a correctional officer inside
the Maryland House of Correction in July, the county state's attorney
The decision was made after consulting with prosecutors, Maryland State
Police investigators and the family of David McGuinn, the 42-year-old
correctional officer who was killed the night of July 25. "The family is
very supportive of the death penalty in this case," said State's Attorney
Frank R. Weathersbee.
Charged in the killing are Lee E. Stephens, 27 and Lamarr C. Harris, 35,
who both have been charged with 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to commit
They currently are serving life sentences in other cases and both have
pleaded not guilty.
Weathersbee said there are several aggravating factors in the case that
make it eligible for the death penalty: the killing took place in prison;
the accused are serving life sentences; and the case involves the killing
of a law enforcement officer. He added that the state must prove that both
accused men wielded the knife that was used to kill McGuinn.
In a news conference held at his office, Weathersbee said he hopes that
seeking the death penalty in this case will serve to deter crime against
correctional officers, and he denied that seeking the death penalty in
this case was politically motivated.
Weathersbee, a four-term Democrat, is up for re-election. His challenger
is Republican David W. Fischer, a criminal defense attorney.
"If it was about the election, I would have waited until a week before the
election" to make the announcement, Weathersbee said. Instead, his
office's decision comes about two months after Stephens and Lee were
indicted, which is the typical amount of time it takes to reach such a
decision, he said.
Fischer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ron Bailey, executive director of the American Federal of State, County
and Municipal Employees Council 92, the union that represents Maryland
correctional officers, said he is pleased with the decision to seek the
death penalty and also hopes that it acts as a deterrent.
"I'm hoping this will send a message that correctional officers are not
and will not be a target," he said. "The message has to go out: If you
inflict harm or death to a correctional officer, this is what you can
expect. You can expect the death penalty."
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Colon Guilty of Murder; Penalty Phase to Begin
The jury in the case of Joshua Colon is expected to reconvene this morning
for sentencing. A jury found Joshua Colon guilty of 1st degree murder
He's 1 of 3 men charged in the shooting death of 15 year-old Tiffany
Colon, who was no relation to the suspect. The murder happened on Maple
Street in May of last year. 2 other suspects, John Cole and Jose DeJesus,
are awaiting trial in the case. The jury will decide between the death
penalty or life in prison.
(source: WFMZ News)
'Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable'
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist used to lure stray cats into his home,
feed them, pet them, then operate on them, killing them in the process.
According to a Boston Globe article, and many other sources I could cite,
including Frist's oft-quoted accounts, he did such things in order to get
ahead at Harvard's tough medical school. When he ran out of strays he
began visiting animal shelters and convincing personnel that he was there
to find homes for pets.
George W. Bush used to stuff firecrackers in the mouths of living frogs,
light them, and toss them into the air to watch them explode, according to
childhood witnesses quoted in an article by Nicholas Kristof, May 21,
2000, in the New York Times.
Such evidence, buried deep in puff-piece stories, should have been
warnings to us all. You don't put animal abusers in top positions of
Psychologists will tell you that animal torture is often indicative of
deep mental disturbances that can surface as public or private dramas
years later. Others address such issues more simply.
"Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable," Tennessee Williams wrote.
Evidence suggests the people in charge of our country and our world are
either guilty of deliberate cruelty or else they're just incapable of
empathy. How else do you explain our network of secret prisons complete
with water boards, ceiling restraints, whipping wires, attack dogs,
electrodes, and worse? How else do you explain efforts to legitimize such
instruments during the past 5 years, even in the face of overwhelming
evidence that they're counter productive?
Research it yourself. Look up Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The lies we forced
that mentally deranged man to tell during "aggressive interrogation"
became a centerpiece in our case for the bombing, invasion and occupation
of Iraq. Tens of thousands of corpses later, Congress shamelessly
rubberstamps such techniques.
Cruetly? Lack of empathy?
How else do you explain photographs of Condoleezza Rice laughing and
joking with the leader of Israel even as American-made missiles reduced
much of Lebanon to rubble?
How do you explain Frist coming out in favor of making it legal once again
to inflict deliberate pain upon Tennessee walking horses? Incredibly he
used almost the same language in defense of this practice as he and Bush
use when talking around the issue of torture. He said he wanted to
"clarify" just what acts constitute "soring." That's the practice of
wounding horses so that they experience pain when walking. It's what makes
them appear to prance so grandly. Others obtain similar results without
the torture, I understand, but Frist evidently sees a need to allow some
version of such practices to continue.
During Bush's short tenure as governor of Texas he oversaw the execution
of 131 inmates, more than any other governor since capital punishment was
made legal again in 1978. According to the June 11, 2000, Chicago Tribune,
these included "inmates whose cases were compromised by unreliable
evidence, disbarred or suspended defense attorneys, meager defense efforts
during sentencing and dubious psychiatric testimony." According to the
Boston Globe they included the mentally retarded, the mentally deranged,
the abused, the coerced and the born again. Quite probably they included
O.K., maybe you see capital punishment as a necessary evil. Unfortunately,
your president took a rather less thoughtful attitude toward it. Consider
this piece of witnessing by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, who
interviewed Bush for Talk Magazine in September 1999.
"In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, a number of protesters came
to Austin to demand clemency for Karla Faye Tucker. 'Did you meet with any
of them?' I ask.
"Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,'
he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question
ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for
it. I watched his interview with Tucker, though. He asked her real
difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'
"'What was her answer?' I wonder.
"'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation. 'Don't kill
"I must look shocked-ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has
since been executed seems odd and cruel-because he immediately stops
(source: Op-Ed; Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist for the
Knoxville News-Sentinel and the founding editor and publisher of New
Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary writing. His awards
include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism
Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism
Prize----Knoxville News Sentinel)
Man convicted in 1992 murder to get new trial
Charles Walker, sentenced to die 11 years ago in a Greensboro killing,
will get another day in court.
The N.C. Supreme Court declined Thursday to hear the states appeal of a
lower court ruling authorizing a new trial.
Guilford County Superior Court Judge John O. Craig III ordered the new
trial for Walker in January, citing concerns about information police did
not turn over that might have helped his defense.
Walker, 41, was sentenced to die in 1995 in the killing of Elmon Tito
Davidson Jr. 3 years earlier. He came within hours of execution in 2004
before Craig issued a stay to consider defense arguments.
The state Supreme Courts decision not to hear the appeal should be the
last hurdle before Walker gets a new trial, said his attorney, Jonathan
"Its news that we expected, and its news that Charles expected," Megerian
said. "I assume and I believe that its the last step in getting him the
new trial hes been expecting."
Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann, who tried the original case,
said Friday that the courts decision wasnt a surprise and that Walker will
be tried again on capital murder charges.
"Were ready to try him as soon as we get in a position to do so," Neumann
said. "And thats what we intend to do."
Lee Walker Jr., the lead detective on the case who is now retired, said in
January that the information that wasnt turned over was irrelevant. It had
to do with the shooting of Ben Simmons Jr. in the same neighborhood 9 days
A witness claimed that one of the other men charged in the Davidson
killing confessed to her that he was involved in the Simmons shooting and
that the same gun was used in both incidents. That information wasnt
turned over to prosecutors or defense attorneys in the Charles Walker case
and was part of the basis for Craigs decision to order a new trial.
Walkers death sentence was unusual because Davidsons body was never found.
At his first trial, the jury determined that Walker did not fire the fatal
shot but acted in concert with two others . Davidsons body was thrown into
a trash bin and later disappeared.
At the time of the killing, Walker was a New Yorker who ran an illegal
drug operation in Greensboro, according to testimony.
Because of Walkers past history of escape attempts he got away from a
Guilford County jail transportation van in 1993 the district attorneys
office will likely ask that he remain at Central Prison in Raleigh until
his new trial, Neumann said.
Megerian said he planned to give the news to Walker today when he is able
to visit him in Raleigh.
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