[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----IDAHO, PENN., FLA., N.H.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 22 23:50:35 UTC 2006
Father of abducted Idaho girl supports Duncan plea deal
The father of abduction victim Shasta Groene says he is satisfied with the
Idaho state court plea agreement under which Joseph Edward Duncan III
pleaded guilty to 3 counts each of murder and kidnapping.
Some family members of the victims have criticized the deal, but Steve
Groene said the agreement struck by Kootenai County, Idaho, Prosecutor
Bill Douglas is notable because it retains a death penalty option for
Duncan, who this week admitted killing one of Groene's sons and his
Next, federal authorities are expected to prosecute Duncan in the 2005
abduction of Shasta, then 8, and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, and
Dylan's subsequent slaying.
"I personally think that Bill Douglas and his entire staff should be
commended," Steve Groene wrote in an e-mail posted by KREM-TV of Spokane
on its Web site Thursday night.
"As most people know, in this world, to get, you gotta give," wrote
Groene, who is recovering from throat cancer surgery and cannot speak.
"Not only did they (prosecutors) work on this case for over a year for
something that ended up being a 45 min. court case, but they also salvaged
75 to 85 % of the original plea deal, and kept the death sentence on the
table," he wrote.
Last Monday, the day Duncan's triple murder trial was to begin in 1st
District Court in nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the defendant pleaded
guilty to kidnapping and murdering Brenda Groene, 13-year-old Slade Groene
and Brenda's fiance, Mark McKenzie, at their rural home near Coeur
He was immediately sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison
without the possibility of parole for the kidnappings. Sentencing on the
state murder counts was deferred pending federal prosecution.
In court documents, prosecutors say Duncan committed the slayings so he
could kidnap the two younger children for sex. Dylan was killed during the
seven weeks the siblings were in captivity. Shasta was rescued at a
Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene on July 2, 2005.
The federal government has said it intends to seek the death penalty for
Duncan in the abductions and slaying of Dylan.
Under the plea deal, if the federal government does not secure conviction
and a death sentence, Duncan must be returned to Kootenai County, where
Douglas will pursue the death penalty on Duncan's confessions to the 3
The state deal became controversial immediately for two reasons: While it
saved Shasta, now 9, from having to testify against Duncan in state court,
the girl may still have to face him in federal court.
Also, Duncan was not required to provide to law enforcement officers the
password or key to his encrypted personal computer files, which are
thought to contain evidence of his criminal activities. He was required to
give the password only to a defense lawyer, who is not required to share
the contents of the computers with law enforcement.
Those provisions drew criticism this week from relatives of Brenda Groene
and McKenzie, who said they had been under the impression Duncan would
have to reveal his computer password to police, and that Shasta would
never have to testify against the registered sex offender in any court.
In an earlier plea offer that was rejected by prosecutors, Duncan had
offered to confess to crimes against the 2 younger children, and to give
his computer password to law enforcement officers, in exchange for
avoiding the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Rockview once home to all Pa. electrocutions
While the death penalty remains a topic of often-heated debate, the
execution of prisoners is an indisputable part of our history. And, for
better or worse, capital punishment has been part of local history as
A previous Looking Back told the story of Bert Delige (although the photo
that accompanied the essay was apparently that of a hanging in Huntingdon
County). Delige, who lived in Scotia and was convicted of murdering
another resident of that once-thriving town, was the last person to be
publicly hanged in Centre County.
That morbid and very well-attended spectacle occurred April 25, 1911.
A few years later, after the State Correctional Institution at Rockview
was created and electrocution became the legally authorized means, Centre
County's penitentiary became the site of all inmate executions in
Local historian Cordes Chambers III, a retired state policeman and author
of the multivolume "The Mountaintop Thru Newspaper Accounts," has
collected a volume of material on the creation of Rockview and the death
sentences that have been carried out there.
Here are some excerpts, all from The Centre Democrat:
- Aug. 31, 1911: "Centre County may be chosen for the site for the
proposed new penitentiary and farm prison, to be built by the state, and
in which will be confined the inmates of the Western Penitentiary, at
Pittsburgh, and the Eastern Penitentiary, at Philadelphia. ... The state
will purchase about 3,000 acres of land as a site. ... Aside from
overcoming the congestion in the eastern and western penitentiaries, the
chief object of the proposed new prison is to afford inmates an
opportunity along industrial lines."
- Dec. 21, 1911: "Last week when The Centre Democrat went to press early
on Thursday morning, the following semi-official announcement was made to
its readers: 'At the hour of going to press, we feel justified, for
reasons known to ourself, in saying: The new penitentiary will be located
at McBride Gap, and the decision will likely be made public by the time
The Centre Democrat reaches its readers.' This prediction was verified
that same afternoon when Warden John Fancies called up the publisher of
this paper by phone and authorized the statement ..."
- April 17, 1913: "If the new Hess Bill, establishing electrocution as the
legal form of inflicting the death penalty, becomes a law, and there is
every reason to believe that it will, Centre County will be the scene of
all future executions in the state."
- Nov. 12, 1914: "New death house is now completed -- First permanent
building to be finished -- A marvel of completeness -- Centre County soon
to be scene of executions of many condemned murderers."
- Jan. 7, 1915: "The 1st man to be electrocuted in Pennsylvania at the new
penitentiary at Rockview will be John Talap, who killed his wife in
Montgomery County and was convicted of murder in the first degree." - Feb.
25, 1915: "The 1st electrocution in Pennsylvania was witnessed by 27 men.
This included the officials of the Buchanan Electric Company, 3
physicians, 6 newspaper reporters, 2 spiritual advisers and a jury of 6
- Feb. 27, 1931: "Mrs. Irene Schroeder, who was a front page headliner
ever since that afternoon, Dec. 27, 1929, when she and her illicit lover,
Warren Glenn Dague, figured in the killing of Sate Highway Patrolman Brady
Paul, held steadfastly in the spotlight until her final ignominious end in
the electric chair at Rockview on Monday morning. And whatever she may
have been in her brief life of 22 years, those who condemned her most
could not but admire her courage with which she met her fate. ...
Applications poured into the governor's office imploring him to intervene,
or at least grant another respite, as no woman had ever been electrocuted
in this state, but the governor was obdurate and refused to intervene in
Pennsylvania's electric chair is stored in a basement cell at Rockview. It
was last used in April 1962, when Elmo Smith was executed.
This is part of a series, appearing Sundays, of historical photographs
from the Centre County region. If you have a historical photo that can be
used for publication, contact Rich Kerstetter at 231-4621, or via e-mail.
(source: Centre Daily Times)
Get it Right
Donna Moonda isn't getting special treatment in her upcoming trial in the
shooting death of husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda, on the Ohio Turnpike on May
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Dowd did what more judges should
do in death penalty cases - made sure a defendant has capable lawyers.
To that end, Dowd appointed s "death-qualified" attorneys to Moonda's
publicly funded defense team. The 47-year-old Hermitage resident faces the
death penalty after federal authorities charged her with murder for hire,
aiding and abetting interstate stalking and abetting the use of a firearm
during interstate stalking and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm
during the crime of murder.
The judge also expressed concern about the circumstances surrounding the
case, especially the 14 months between the murder and charges being filed,
and Moonda's possible drug dependency at the time of the crime.
The judge's approach might have some people grumbling that only criminals
However, it's important for everyone who is interested in this matter to
remember that in death penalty cases it pays to dot legal "i's" (capable
defense attorneys) and to cross forensic "t's" (DNA evidence) with great
care because first-degree murder convictions are automatically appealed.
By getting it right from the start, Dowd's decisions will benefit the
defense and the prosecution.
(source: Beaver County Times)
Evil among us: 3 days that changed our city forever
Newer residents would not recognize the Gainesville of fall 1990, when 5
college students were brutally slain in their homes and life in the city
turned into a horror story overnight.
Women - and men - were too afraid to walk alone after dark, certain they
could fall prey to the killer. A helicopter routinely buzzed overhead,
shining a wary, watchful spotlight across the University of Florida
campus. College students who had scrambled to find their own dorm room or
apartment before classes started sought safety in groups, taking shifts
sleeping and keeping guard over bolted doors and locked windows. And
everyone lived in fear, worried each time police sirens wailed that a
murderer had struck again.
There was an evil in the college town's midst. And Gainesville had
suddenly learned no place, no matter how quiet or out-of-the-way, is
For those who lived here at the time, it was a painful, depressing lesson
and one that for some has been resurrected by convicted killer Danny
Rolling's scheduled execution at Florida State Prison north of Starke
Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"The week prior to the murders, things were on the up note around town.
There was a brand new president at UF. There was a brand new football
coach. I saw that up note turn into a grip of fear," said Spencer Mann, an
investigator and spokesman for the 8th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's
Office in Gainesville.
16 years ago, Mann was working at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office when
officers began making the grisly discoveries. Each day headlines reported
another body had been found, another suspect had been named, or another
slew of students had left UF, too frightened to remain in town.
Sonja Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach, and Christina Powell, 17, of
Jacksonville, both UF freshmen, were the first to be found slain in their
Williamsburg Village apartment on SW 16th Street on Aug. 26, 1990, the
Sunday before classes were set to start.
The next day, officers located the body of 18-year-old Alachua County
Sheriff's Office records clerk Christa Leigh Hoyt, of Archer, in the
duplex apartment on SW 24th Avenue, where she lived alone.
On Aug. 28, 1990, the bodies of Tracy Paules and Manuel "Manny" Taboada,
both 23, high school friends from Miami, were discovered in their
Gatorwood apartment off Archer Road.
The crime scenes were the worst he has ever seen, said Alachua County
Sheriff's Lt. LeGran Hewitt, 1 of the officers assigned to a multi-agency
joint task force investigating the killings.
Each of the 5 students had been stabbed multiple times, sometimes as they
struggled to overcome an attacker who surprised them as they slept or as
they stepped into their apartment. 3 of the women were sexually battered.
Some of the bodies had been mutilated and posed. One had been decapitated.
9 anxious months would pass after the killings before Rolling, a drifter
and career criminal from Louisiana, was publicly named a suspect in 1991.
And, although many college students returned to Gainesville about a week
after the killings, others said it seemed like a lifetime before they felt
safe in the city.
Media from around the state and world flocked to Gainesville, with
then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather calling the city "perhaps the most
dangerous place in America." Phone lines at law enforcement agencies
registered thousands of calls from residents looking for information or
offering tips, everything from reports that a boyfriend had behaved
strangely to someone spotted wearing camouflage clothing.
Whistles and alarms were distributed to students. Concealed-weapon permit
applications quickly rose in Alachua County. Then UF President John
Lombardi told students who left town fearing for their safety they would
be welcomed back without penalty., leaving professors trying to honor his
Some people believed there was a Ted Bundy copycat on the loose, Mann
recalled. A serial killer and rapist, Bundy had been executed in Florida
the year before the attacks in Gainesville.
Days after the bodies were discovered, officers were looking at several
suspects, including a car salesman wanted in the mutilation-murder of his
former girlfriend in Ohio. Also among them was a UF freshman, Edward
Humphrey. The 18-year-old had begun exhibiting bizarre behavior after he
stopped taking medicine prescribed for manic depression and, when
questioned by officers, implied he knew about the murders. Circumstantial
evidence seemed to connect Humphrey to the slayings, such as a claim he
had been romantically interested in one of the victims, dressed in
military-type fatigues and went on late-night "reconnaissance missions"
carrying a hunting knife.
In October 1990, Humphrey was convicted on a lesser charge of battery,
after prosecutors alleged he had beaten his grandmother in Brevard County
on Aug. 29, 1990. But he ultimately was dropped as a suspect in the
Still, some in Gainesville refused to accept Humphrey wasn't involved.
Others speculated not 1 but 2 killers were stalking students. Just one
person couldn't be responsible for the savage slayings, they reasoned.
Meanwhile, 10 days after the killings, Rolling had ended up in custody at
the Marion County jail where he was being held on robbery charges. Then 36
years old, Rolling had a history of robbery and theft convictions and left
Shreveport, La., shortly after he was accused of shooting his father, a
retired police officer. He was added to a list of suspects in the
Gainesville slayings after Florida authorities learned he could be
connected to a similar, triple killing in Louisiana. DNA evidence was
gathered from Rolling, who had been jailed in September 1990, and compared
to crime scene evidence.
Hewitt, now with the Civil Bureau at the Sheriff's Office, interviewed
Rolling at Florida State Prison near Starke where he first confessed to
officers he was the killer.
In 1994, as jury selection began, Rolling entered a guilty plea to the
slayings. "I've been running from first one thing and then the other my
whole life . . .," Rolling said. "There are some things you just can't run
away from, and this is one of those." The 3-man, 9-woman jury unanimously
agreed on the death penalty, a sentence later handed down by Circuit Judge
Rolling, now 52, has been held at prisons in Bradford and Union counties
during his years on Florida's Death Row. He has continued to draw and
write poems, among them works that have made their way to online sites
that sell collectibles from convicted killers.
Some thought Rolling's guilty plea, coupled with the heinous nature of his
crimes, would speed up the appeals process.
"5 years," Mario Taboada yelled at the man who killed his brother, Manuel,
in an Alachua County courtroom. "You're going down in five!"
Instead, it was 12 years, about the average span of time for a death
penalty appeal, before Gov. Jeb Bush signed Rolling's death warrant on
Over the years, Rolling's lawyers have argued he should have been given a
new sentencing hearing because it was impossible for an Alachua County
jury, living in a community traumatized by the killings, to fairly hear
Questions over the state's lethal injection process have dominated the
courts this year and have been at the heart of Rolling's latest appeals.
The U.S. Supreme Court had stayed one Florida death row inmate's execution
in January to review if federal civil rights law could be used by an
inmate to challenge the state's execution method. In June, the justices
unanimously ruled lethal injection could be appealed as unconstitutionally
cruel punishment and sent the case back to the lower courts.
Weeks later Bush, who had halted executions while the appeal was before
the U.S. Supreme Court, again started signing death warrants, saying he
wanted to urge the courts to decide the case. 2 inmates have since died by
lethal injection. Meanwhile, the state and federal courts have rejected
arguments that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
This week Rolling and his attorneys are waiting for a final decision from
the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rolling's "infamous notoriety" has some worried over what will happen
outside Florida State Prison if he's executed. Death penalty opponents
fear the scene could turn into a circus, reminiscent of the 1989 execution
of serial killer Ted Bundy when hundreds gathered and cheered at news of
his death. Officers expect a crowd, especially since the prison is less
than an hour's drive from Gainesville.
But Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner, whose office helps provide
security during executions, said deputies don't expect problems.
Like the families of Rolling's victims, Hewitt sees the execution, set for
Wednesday, as a long-awaited, last step in a lengthy legal process. Many
have called for Rolling's death. But it won't bring closure, he said.
"I believe that it's the final process in the judicial system that is owed
to us as the public," Hewitt explained. "People talk about closure. But I
don't believe closure will ever happen. The only way it would make it
better would be if we could put the loved ones with their families.
They've lost loved ones and there's no closure to that."
(source: Gainesville Sun)
Jim Davis became a quiet leader in the Florida House, went to Congress,
and now aspires to become a Democratic governor.
It was 1988, and Jim Davis, a young Tampa lawyer making his 1st bid for
public office, faced a quandary. How would he separate himself from the
field of 10 candidates, each a political novice, to win a coveted seat in
His sister, Kimberly Davis, recalls those days of door-to-door
''It was grueling in the Florida heat. We'd do this all day long,'' she
said recently. 'He'd turn to me and say, `Two more precincts?' And we'd
lose him. He'd be in someone's kitchen having lemonade.''
Those kitchen klatches about crime and schools paid off. Davis easily
eluded the pack, winning the Democratic primary, a runoff and the general
18 years later, Davis, 49, eyes a more daunting challenge, and a more
coveted seat in the Governor's Mansion.
He spent 8 years in the Florida House of Representatives, rising to
majority leader in the waning years of Democratic state power, before
venturing to Congress in 1997.
Davis' tenure in Tallahassee says much about the political style he would
bring to the governor's office, say those who know him: a serious manner,
given more to quiet negotiation with friend or foe than to pork-barrel
Yet those same traits, some say, are the very reason he is such a long
shot for the state's highest office: He may be too low-key for the grand
Year in, year out in Tallahassee, Davis won solid, though not spectacular,
As House majority leader, he held a post known for its political muscle --
a label that never fit the wiry politician.
''Jim Davis was not your out-front type of leader who would be known
either for legislation or a powerful hand even in a committee,'' said Dan
Webster, a Winter Garden state senator who served in the House Republican
leadership at the time. "He was a nice guy, but I don't think anybody saw
him as the enforcer.''
Says Davis: "I'm a workhorse, not a show horse.''
THE PULL OF POLITICS
When he first ran for that House seat from Tampa in 1988, it was an era of
crime -- but little punishment -- in Florida. Headlines across the
Sunshine State detailed the early release of prisoners, who were serving
little more than 1/3 of their time behind bars to make room for the
legions of new criminals.
''I was struck by how many people had security bars on their windows,''
Davis said recently. "People felt like prisoners in their own homes.''
He was an attorney at a well-known law firm at the time, but felt the pull
toward politics after serving as a board member and legal advisor for an
area homeless shelter, and as Sunday school teacher at St. Andrew's
Davis emerged as the fundraising leader among the seven Democrats and
three Republicans seeking the open seat. None had held office before, but
Davis' 1-on-1 contact resonated at the polls.
Back home after his first session in 1989, Davis told the Young Democrats
of Hillsborough County that 11 of the 19 bills he introduced had passed
but he had lost a bid to exempt low-income housing from real estate taxes,
news clippings say. Alhough he remained upbeat, he warned that Democrats
were losing seats to Republicans, a trend that would affect his own rise
Soon he would cast a vote that dogs his bid for governor.
In May 1990, Davis was among the 6-4 majority that denied $250,000
restitution each to Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, 2 black men who spent
12 years in prison, 9 on death row, for the murders of 2 white men in Port
St. Joe in 1963. Another man had since confessed.
The Pitts-Lee vote exploded on the campaign trail this year when the sugar
industry led an attack that included mailers headlined, 'Jim Davis' Record
Why, after all, had Davis -- whose own grandfather, ''Big Cody'' Fowler,
was renowned for his civil-rights legal work -- voted against compensating
2 men who had been pardoned 15 years earlier?
''He overlawyered it, he overanalyzed it, he went maybe more with his head
than his heart,'' said Peter Rudy Wallace, a close friend and political
confidant of Davis who also voted against compensation that day.
"It was a complicated issue. We sat around that table and wondered who had
that burden of proof, what should someone have to prove in order to be
compensated a halfmillion dollars?''
Last month, Davis sat at a table with Pitts and Lee -- who ultimately did
receive compensation from the state -- and apologized and shook their
''As a young lawyer, I did look at the issue technically, and not in terms
of justice and fairness,'' Davis said recently. "It was a mistake.''
Later in 1990, Davis won reelection without facing a single challenger.
Chairing some legislative subcommittees, he began to make inroads. After
the 1991 and 1992 sessions, a panel of outside experts assembled by The
Miami Herald ranked him 20th in effectiveness among 120 representatives, a
bump up from the modest 2-star ranking of 1990.
''Relative newcomer quietly gaining respect of peers,'' the newspaper
concluded in 1991. A year later: "Poised to move to bigger things.''
In 1993 and 1994, Davis landed at 18th and 24th, respectively.
'There were a couple of members -- it got to the point where I would walk
in and they would say, 'Just tell me how you want me to vote,' and I felt
icky about that,'' said Casey Gluckman, then a Florida lobbyist for
environmental and healthcare interests, who was part of the ranking team.
Davis, she said, asked tough questions first. "You were not let off the
''He was not the kind of person that power changed,'' Gluckman said. "He's
not a lead-the-band and pick-up-the-drum and march-down-the-street and
make-a-lot-of-noise kind of guy.''
His steady climb up the political ladder faced a sudden challenge in 1994.
With Republicans gaining power across the country amid a GOP revolution
that ushered in Newt Gingrich as House speaker in Washington, Davis saw
Democratic colleagues fall in large numbers.
He survived, but barely, defeating a Republican newcomer by a mere 400
votes. Davis had gone door to door again, but this time his visits
included Republican homesteads, a tactical move that likely saved his job.
''I was the only non-minority Democrat left in the Hillsborough County
legislative delegation,'' he said.
PARTY'S POWER WANES
In Tallahassee, the Democrats' lock on the House had withered to a slim
majority, but it was enough to propel Davis to new heights.
Wallace, his close ally and Democrat from St. Petersburg, was House
speaker in the 1995 and 1996 sessions, and he tapped Davis to be majority
leader, responsible for keeping Democratic members in line.
Yet the days of Democrats simply rolling through legislation were over.
Wallace ''was willing to give me a broader brush to paint with, so when
there were committee assignments, the speaker would consult with the
minority leader,'' said Sen. Webster, the Republican minority leader at
the time. "What Peter Wallace did was let me appoint all vice chairs and
give me slots for the committee. It empowered me.''
And it weakened Davis.
''In my mind, he would have been a weaker majority leader than normal,''
It was a numbers game. To keep the emerging Republicans at peace, the
Democrats had to share power. The dynamic fit Davis' style.
''He's always more of a reasoner than an arm-twister,'' Wallace said. "He
wasn't someone who tried to pressure or threaten other members, even
though he was in a powerful position.''
Davis worked with liberal and conservative members to, among other things,
set aside $100 million to reduce class sizes and salvage extra funding for
''Jim was maybe a 3- or 4-star general,'' said John Rayson, a Broward
County Democrat who served alongside Davis. "He executed the legislative
agenda of Speaker Wallace.''
Davis is not the backslapping politician renowned for fire-and-brimstone
speeches, Rayson said, but neither were Democratic governors like Reubin
Askew and Bob Graham.
In Tallahassee, Davis juggled politics and family. His two sons were born
during special sessions of the Legislature, and he was there to witness
each birth. As others jaunted to Clyde's restaurant to mingle with
lobbyists, Davis was taking flights home to Tampa at night and returning
the next morning, leaving his jacket on the back of his chair overnight.
In 1996, he supported a controversial bill on school prayer that would
have permitted county school boards to allow ''nonsectarian and
nonproselytizing'' prayer at middle and high school graduations, sporting
events and assemblies. Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed it after an outcry from
''I was trying to resolve two conflicting interests,'' Davis said
recently. ``I thought children ought to have a chance to exercise their
faith, but only in a way that respected the faith of others. And how you
reconcile that is a challenge.''
How would he vote today?
''What I would support today would be a moment of silence,'' he said. ``If
it goes further than that, I would not.''
He also pressed a successful bill that banned sitting House members from
accepting contributions during the session.
Wallace said: 'The House would be in session, members would be in there
working, and they would get a little business card from lobbyists outside
and it would say, `Please step out. I have a campaign contribution.'
Members would step out of the house, collect a check and walk back in.''
As majority leader in the 1995 and 1996 sessions, Davis cracked The Miami
Herald's House Top 10 rankings for the 1st time, coming in 9th and 6th.
''Was he a strong leader? He led by diplomacy,'' said Broward County Mayor
Ben Graber, who was Democratic whip under Davis.
''He was one of those go-to guys who got in the trenches and got it
done,'' said Marion County Tax Collector George Albright, a Republican
legislator during Davis' tenure. "It never was done in a stellar way, but
he never did anything to embarrass himself.''
Davis can connect over lemonade in his neighbors' kitchen, but can his
style resonate across Florida?
''You have to project leadership, you have to project confidence,''
Albright said. "And whether it's fair or unfair, a more of a low-key
person has a difficulty doing that.''
With polls saying that Davis is headed to his 1st political loss, his
longtime friend Wallace cautions: "People have always underestimated
(source: Miami Herald)
Unseemly enthusiasm ---- Politicians, a.g. in mighty rush to hang Briggs's
Vengeance is a terrible force. Fortunately, our system of justice, with
its deliberate pace and formal customs, tends to mute the fury that the
public feels when a particularly vicious human act strikes at the very
heart of our society.
Our politicians, on the other hand, are not similarly restrained in word
Thus on the day that Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs was shot to
death in the line of duty, and before all the facts of the case were
known, Gov. John Lynch publicly supported Attorney General Kelly Ayotte's
assertion that she would seek the death penalty for Briggs's killer.
The next day, Senate President Ted Gatsas, who faces a re-election
challenge in 2 weeks, went out of his way to provide whatever money
Ayotte's office might need to put the killer to death. Legislators signed
up for a rough opening estimate of $420,000 but offered prosecutors a
In a way, Lynch, Gatsas and the rest were acting reasonably. All they were
saying, really, was that if, under New Hampshire law, the attorney general
found that Briggs's killer should be tried for capital murder, they
supported that decision.
But this rush to hang the killer high was unseemly and unfortunate. At a
time when the public should have been reflecting on Briggs's life of
service and focusing on the quest to determine the facts of his murder,
vengeance filled the air and captured the headlines.
On capital punishment, this state has a peculiar but honorable recent
history. A majority supports the death penalty, but state law on what
constitutes a capital crime is limiting. It singles out people who hire
killers, people who kill in the course of another violent crime and
killers of police officers, judges and prison guards.
This statute has been on the books since 1991, and no one has been
executed under it. In fact, no one has been executed in New Hampshire
During the 1990s, it became popular among Democratic politicians, seeking
to portray their party and themselves as tough on crime, to propose an
expansion of the death penalty. Former governor Jeanne Shaheen did this in
New Hampshire, but the Legislature turned her down.
Personally, I oppose capital punishment. I do not feel as strongly about
this as I did when I was young, perhaps because as a journalist I have
participated in the coverage of so many heinous crimes. But I do not think
the death penalty is a deterrent or can be imposed fairly or without
error. Above all, I do not think the state should be in the business of
I also had a long friendship with a man who served life without parole for
murder. Although his life was not joyless, I believed him when he told me
that his sentence was a fate worse than death. Once, when he heard that a
man in his teens was coming to the state prison as a natural lifer, he
rolled his eyes, chuckled ruefully and said the new inmate had no idea
what a hell of lost time and lost freedom he was entering.
That said, I know my opinion is in the minority. And the moment I heard
that Briggs had died, I knew the authorities would seek to put him to
What I disliked was their enthusiasm for the task. Even Ayotte's embrace
of it seemed premature and possibly even political. She has more facts at
her disposal than the public, but wouldn't it have been better to ponder
the decision carefully until she could explain to the public why this case
warranted the death penalty?
As for the rush by Gatsas and his crowd to offer financial support, there
was no emergency. Ayotte had no reason to fear that a lack of money would
hinder the prosecution.
These officials seemed unable to resist the opportunity to enhance their
own credentials as tough, decisive leaders. They also sent a message to
the public that avenging Briggs's death by putting his killer to death
would somehow make things right. If it happens, it won't.
I wish the attorney general, the governor and the Senate president had
taken a quieter and more respectful approach to this case. I am grateful
that the court process will make the public think long and hard about
However you color an execution, it is the state killing a human being on
the public's behalf. Even for those who believe in the death penalty,
there should be no enthusiasm for it, and certainly no rush.
(source: Opinion, Mike Pride; Concord Monitor)
Homage Paid to Officer Slain on Bike Patrol
Hundreds of police officers on bicycles, motorcycles, horses and on foot
marched more than three miles Saturday to honor a colleague gunned down
while on bike patrol.
Along with a riderless horse, the traditional symbol of a fallen officer,
the procession included Officer Michael Briggs' bicycle, mounted on a
Briggs, 35, was shot in the head Monday in a dark alley while
investigating a domestic violence report. He died the next day.
The procession took Briggs' coffin past City Hall and Manchester police
headquarters before solemnly making its way to the stadium where Briggs
often brought his young sons to watch baseball games.
Michael Addison, 26, was charged with capital murder in Briggs' shooting.
He was arrested Monday in Boston and remains jailed on $2 million bail
while he fights his return to New Hampshire, where prosecutors have vowed
to seek the death penalty
(source: The Buffalo News, AP)
A sea of blue pays tribute to fallen Manchester officer
The streets of this city were flooded Saturday with images of the life and
death of officer Michael Briggs.
His boots were displayed in the window of the Northern Boot Co. on Elm
The bicycle he rode on patrol was mounted on the back of a Manchester
police cruiser, near the head of a 2-hour funeral procession that shut
down city streets.
And his old bulletproof vest was on the chest of Merrimack Special Officer
Dave Mercer, who met Briggs 10 years ago when both got jobs at the
Hillsborough County House of Corrections in Manchester.
"We started at the jail, Valley Street jail, the same day," Mercer said,
riding back from the funeral in a yellow school bus full of Merrimack
officers. "We went to the police academy together."
"When I started here I needed some equipment and he gave me his old
Mercer, who visited Briggs in the hospital Monday, the day he was gunned
down just 15 minutes before the end of his overnight shift, was among the
thousands of police officers from across New England who gathered in
Manchester to honor Briggs.
No one told him then, but Mercer knew how serious Briggs' injuries were;
"In my heart, I knew," he said.
Briggs, 35, a married father of two, died Tuesday. On Saturday, busloads
of police emThe streets of this city were flooded Saturday with images of
the life and death of officer Michael Briggs.
His boots were displayed in the window of the Northern Boot Co. on Elm
The bicycle he rode on patrol was mounted on the back of a Manchester
police cruiser, near the head of a 2-hour funeral procession that shut
down city streets.
And his old bulletproof ptied onto Elm Street before the 9 a.m. procession
from Lambert Funeral Home to the Manchester Fisher Cats baseball stadium,
where the funeral took place.
There were local and state police, sheriffs, corrections officers,
firefighters and prison guards. Marching mostly in silence to the sound of
bagpipes, they created a line of blue that stretched beyond sight.
Most were on foot, but some rode horses, motorcycles or bicycles. Nashua,
Hudson, Litchfield, Pelham, Amherst, Windham and Merrimack were among the
local departments represented.
Some officers knew him; many did not. But they came to support Briggs as
brothers and sisters, Merrimack School Resource Officer Michael Murray
Spectators lined the downtown sidewalks, some waving American flags, a few
with their hands over their hearts. The procession passed the Manchester
Police Department, where Briggs had worked for five years, and the jail
where he met Mercer.
"This is a nightmare," an elderly woman said as the procession passed the
county courthouse. She was seated in a wheelchair across the street.
On Elm Street, near the formation's start, 2 children were watching from
the side of the road, lying on their stomachs on blankets spread across
the ground. Most onlookers were bundled up: the temperature was around 40
The procession passed Rockingham Ambulance, where emergency vehicles were
lined up in front of the building with lights flashing. Hundreds of
motorcycles were parked on either side of Elm Street, near the end of the
march. Riders stood in front of their bikes, saluting the passing
Chris Kean of Manchester stood next to his Harley at the start of the
procession, wearing a leather jacket decorated with police department
patches, including one from Litchfield. Police department honor guards
were forming a line in front of him.
"These guys put their lives in their hands every time they go out, and
this is my way of saying thank you," said Kean, who also attended Briggs'
wake Friday night.
Briggs was gunned down at 2:45 a.m. Monday when he and a fellow bicycle
patrol officer responded to a domestic violence call involving a gunshot.
Briggs' gun never left his holster, but prosecutors say two other officers
shot back as the gunman escaped.
Michael Addison, a man who Briggs once helped save, is charged with
capital murder in the shooting death. In March 2003, Briggs responded to a
shooting at a Manchester apartment. The victim was Addison, who was shot
in the collarbone, police said. Briggs was the first officer on the scene;
he started giving first aid to Addison.
Addison, 26, of Manchester, was arrested in Boston on Monday and remains
jailed there on $2 million bail while he fights his return to New
Hampshire, where he could be sentenced to death if convicted. New
Hampshire's death penalty law applies only in limited circumstances,
including killing a police officer.
On Saturday, Merrimack officers were gathering in a basement break room at
the police station by 6:45 a.m. Detective Denise Roy, the only female
officer and a member of the department's honor guard, gathered her flags
and loaded them onto the bus.
An officer on a motorcycle, followed by a police SUV, escorted the bus to
Manchester with flashing lights. A Tyngsborough, Mass., cruiser passed the
bus as it headed north on the F.E. Everett Turnpike.
This officer's funeral wasn't the first for Roy, who travels throughout
New England with the honor guard to march when police officers die. The
ceremonies are always tough, she said.
"I don't even know what word would describe it. Overwhelming," Roy said of
"In this profession, a lot of people have that block up. They don't show a
lot of emotion. But here the guy next to you could be crying."
Attending a fellow officer's funeral is also about showing support for the
family, she said: Briggs' service will probably leave a lasting impression
on his children.
"His kids are always going to remember this, that all these people showed
up for their father," Roy said.
Merrimack Lt. Lawrence Westholm said Briggs' death is a reminder of how
dangerous police work can be, even in a state like New Hampshire.
"People think, this is New Hampshire, where none of this ever happens,"
Westholm said. "We don't know too many officers in Manchester, but they're
down here with us in the Southern tier, so it brings it closer to home."
Mercer, the officer who wore Briggs' bulletproof vest, said the death of
his friend and former colleague doesn't make him think twice about being a
cop. Instead, he's more determined to do the job.
He described Briggs as "firm, fair and consistent," a person who didn't
sweat the small stuff. Saturday's ceremonies made him think about the
finality of it all, Mercer said - the fact that he is never going to see
(source: Nashua Telegraph)
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