[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----UTAH, N.C., USA, N.Y., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 5 18:17:54 UTC 2007
'Devil worshiper' execution on hold
A judge has barred Utah officials from making any preparations to execute
a self-proclaimed devil worshipper until federal appeals of his death
sentence are completed.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell issued the routine order Monday in the
case of Von Lester Taylor, who killed a woman and her mother in 1990.
The Office of the Federal Public Defender was appointed last month to
represent the inmate and requested the stay.
Campbell's order came less than a week after the Utah Supreme Court handed
Taylor a defeat.
On March 28, the high court refused to reconsider its January ruling that
upheld a trial judge's rejection of Taylor's challenge of his death
The condemned man had argued that attorneys who previously handled his
appeals missed legal claims that would have overturned his sentence. He
claimed his lawyers should have conducted an investigation to identify
mitigating factors, including possible brain damage.
The slayings occurred on Dec. 22, 1990, in Summit County. Taylor and
Edward Steven Deli broke into a cabin in Oakley after escaping from a
halfway house, opened Christmas presents they found there and waited for
the occupants to return.
The escapees shot 2 of the 1st family members when they arrived - Kaye
Tiede, 51, and her mother, Beth Harmon Tidwell Potts, 72. Tiede's
20-year-old daughter began praying as her mother and grandmother were
being shot and Taylor told her to stop because he was a "devil
worshipper," according to court records.
Tiede's husband and their 16-year-old daughter arrived next. Taylor shot
Rolf Tiede twice, doused him in gasoline and set the cabin on fire.
He and Deli then drove away in the family car with the 2 daughters. Rolf
Tiede was able to ride a snowmobile for help and the 2 men were arrested
after a police chase.
Deli was found guilty of second-degree murder and is serving a life
sentence. Taylor pleaded guilty to capital murder and a jury sentenced him
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Author speaks out against death penalty
Not many people can say they have seen someone put to death, but Sister
Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking" has, and for years she has
spoken out about the punishment.
Dozens of people gathered at Wake Forest University on Wednesday night to
hear a lecture from Prejean. She spoke about the events that lead her to
befriend a death row inmate.
"I was scared of him and then I realized he's a human being and I didn't
have to worry about what I was going to say in two hours either, He was so
glad to have the presence of someone there who cared about him, he spoke
most of the time during the 2 hours."
Those 2 hours lead Prejean to spend much more time with the inmate. She
was with him when he was executed and now she spends her time speaking out
against the death penalty.
Sister Helen Prejean encouraged the audience to stand behind her cause.
"Did you kill a nobody or did you kill a somebody? All of these factors
are in here in this lottery of death that we have been practicing in this
country for 30 years, Prejean said. "We have killed almost 1,000 people.
We have gassed them, we have hung them, we have electrocuted them, and now
we're lethal injecting them."
Prejean encouraged people to stand behind her cause, something that many
people who attended say they are already doing.
"I was pro death penalty before I saw the movie "Dead Man Walking," and
literally within the course of 3 hours, completely changed the course of
what I believed and I think it led me towards my conversion as far as the
abortion debate, lecture attendee Nicole Sebik said. "I am very much pro
Prejean has written another book called "The Death of Innocents" and
continues to act as a spiritual advisor to death row inmates.
(source: News 14 Carolina)
O'Connor upset by partisan attacks on judges
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said Wednesday that she
has grown weary of partisan attacks on judges, criticisms that she
believes are causing citizens to lose faith in the judicial system.
O'Connor detailed plans to establish a Web site to teach schoolchildren
about the judicial branch of government during a speech to law students,
lawyers and fellow judges at a judicial conference at Southern Methodist
O'Connor, 77, said she finds troubling the "increased number of attacks on
judges that are coming out of the halls of Congress and out of state
legislatures across the country."
Single-issue advocacy groups are tagging judges with labels such as
"activist judges" or "godless, secular humanists" to win passage of
propositions or amendments to state constitutions, she said.
"The founders of our country did not intend that Congress or the
legislative branch dictate results in specific cases," O'Connor said. "I
think we're hearing more criticisms about judges than I've heard in my
very long lifetime."
O'Connor's solution: a Web site about judges and the courts that students
and teachers could use in classrooms. Arizona State University, located
near her hometown of Phoenix, has promised to provide the technical
support for the site, she said.
Citing an American Bar Association survey that showed more people can name
the Three Stooges than the 3 branches of government, O'Connor said her Web
site would help inform the public about the role of judges. Public schools
have de-emphasized civics and government classes to the point where
students are no longer interested in the judicial system, she said.
(source: Associated Press)
NY AG Opts Out of DP Appeal----Attorney General Opts Out Of Last Death
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will not be an intervenor when the Court of
Appeals considers the death sentence of John Taylor, the only remaining
occupant of New York's death row, for killing five people in a Queens
Cuomo spokesman John Milgrim said yesterday that "this office won't be in
the Taylor case" because the Attorney General's Office believes the
state's death penalty statute has effectively been "dismantled."
That will leave Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown to defend the
conviction of Mr. Taylor for capital murder and his subsequent death
sentence for killing five people and wounding two others during a robbery
in a Wendy's in Flushing in 2000. "The Queens district attorney is
perfectly capable of doing a more-than-adequate job with this appeal," Mr.
Milgrim said. "This is not a defense of the statute, this was an
interpretation of a prior ruling from the Court of Appeals."
The Attorney General's Office routinely appears in the Court of Appeals to
defend the constitutionality of state statutes. Mr. Cuomo's predecessor,
now-Governor Eliot Spitzer, did so in four of the death cases where the
constitutionality of the law was at issue. Mr. Taylor's is the 6th case
under the statute to reach the Court.
Briefs filed so far in the appeal by Mr. Brown's office and Mr. Taylor's
attorneys at the Capital Defender Office both focus on an earlier landmark
ruling, People v. LaValle 3 NY3d 88 (2004), but from vastly different
In LaValle, the Court targeted a provision in the statute that required
judges to instruct jurors that if they are deadlocked, the trial judge
would sentence the defendant to a parole-eligible life term.
A 4-3 Court in LaValle accepted the argument that the instruction was
coercive and might persuade a juror to vote for a death sentence out of
fear that the defendant would one day be released.
Mr. Brown's brief insists both the death penalty statute and Mr. Taylor's
death sentence are constitutional, despite LaValle. Mr. Taylor's briefs
say the death penalty was effectively struck down by LaValle and Mr.
Taylor should be sentenced to a non-capital punishment (NYLJ, Feb. 3,
Following the 2004 ruling, the Republican-controlled state Senate and
former Governor George E. Pataki promised to craft legislation to address
the Court's objections to the death penalty statute's sentencing
provisions. But state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called for hearings
and a reconsideration of whether the statute, enacted in 1995 by Mr.
Pataki and the Legislature, had been effective at deterring violent
crimes. The Assembly has balked since at amending the statute.
Mr. Cuomo, then a private citizen, testified at the Assembly hearings in
opposition to reviving the statute. He said it was arbitrarily applied,
expensive and that no conclusive link had been established between the
death penalty and lower crime rates.
"It has been no secret that [Mr. Cuomo] has been strongly opposed to
bringing back the death penalty," said Ronald J. Tabak of Skadden, Arps,
Slate, Meagher & Flom and president of New York Lawyers Against the Death
Penalty. "This not only reflects his long-standing view, but is consistent
with what the Legislature has chosen not to do, which is correct the
constitutional problem identified in LaValle."
James Acker, professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University
at Albany and a death penalty expert, said Mr. Cuomo's decision signals
the attorney general's opposition to participating in death penalty
litigation. "And, in my book, it is quite prudent," Mr. Acker said
yesterday. "I think the political salience of capital punishment has
receded to the point where it is almost counter-productive for public
officials to be advocating for a law that, by all measures, has not served
Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for Mr. Brown said the absence of the attorney
general will have no impact on how Mr. Brown's office presses its case.
"We have put our heart and soul into this," Mr. Ryan said.
"The D.A. made a promise to the families that we would see it through. Our
view is that LaValle, while it certainly dramatically restricted capital
punishment, doesn't totally shut the door and we believe that it is
available in cases such as Taylor."
Mr. Spitzer's spokesman, Paul Larrabee, said yesterday that the governor
had no comment on Mr. Cuomo's decision to stay out of the Taylor matter.
Mr. Larrabee added Mr. Spitzer believes there are a "limited number" of
cases, such as terrorist acts or the murder of a police officer, where the
death penalty should be an option, given that there are procedural
protections in place to assure that capital punishment would not be used
if the guilt of the defendant is not clear.
Kevin Doyle, head of the Capital Defender Office, said, "Nobody wants to
revive the death penalty in New York, not the public and not the
Legislature. It is no surprise that the attorney general will not join in
the attack on the LaValle decision."
In briefs filed before the Court, Mr. Brown argues that LaValle, which
left Mr. Taylor as the only occupant of death row at Clinton Correctional
Facility, Clinton County, did not render the state's death penalty statute
unconstitutional. It did overturn the death sentence in Stephen LaValle's
case due to the "aberrant" sentencing procedures in that case, which the
Court decided were coercive, Queens prosecutors are telling the Court.
Mr. Brown argued that this case is different because then-Supreme Court
Justice Steven Fisher anticipated potential problems with the so-called
deadlock instructions. Justice Fisher told jurors that if they deadlocked,
he would "almost certainly" give Mr. Taylor consecutive sentences totaling
175 years in prison. That took the possibility of parole out of jurors'
minds and coercion to vote for the death penalty out of play, Mr. Brown
argues. Mr. Taylor was convicted and sentenced about 18 months before the
Court's decision in LaValle. "The statute is not unconstitutional as
applied in defendant's case where there is no possibility that the jury's
death verdict was coerced; nor is there any risk that an innocent man has
been sentenced to die, as even defendant acknowledges his guilt of capital
murder 2 times over," Mr. Brown's brief said. "Therefore, this Court
should not only stand by years of precedent, but also by the jury's
unanimous determination that defendant should be sentenced to death for
The capital defenders are urging the Court not to accept a "freakish"
application of the deadlock instructions to jurors as a basis of upholding
Mr. Taylor's death sentence. "Because People v. LaValle held the current
death penalty statute unconstitutionally infirm and unenforceable absent
legislative correction, Taylor's death penalty sentences cannot stand,"
the defense lawyers said in briefs.
They also urged the Court to send Mr. Taylor back to Supreme Court for a
non-capital resentencing, "thus bringing an end to these proceedings and
to efforts to revive the death penalty in New York."
Oral arguments are not expected before this fall at the soonest.
(source: New York Law Journal)
Court again denies inmate's attempt to hasten execution
The Arkansas Supreme Court has again denied a death row inmate's request
for his immediate execution. As the court did in a similar order last
month, it noted that Terrick Nooner's federal lawsuit challenging the way
Arkansas executes prisoners is still pending. Over the past 3 months,
Nooner has tried to get out of the lawsuit and has asked the state Supreme
Court to order his execution.
Nooner was convicted and sentenced to death for the March 1993 robbery and
murder of 22-year-old Scot Stobaugh at a Little Rock laundromat. Stobaugh
was a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Nooner filed the federal lawsuit last year, saying that lethal injection
is unconstitutionally cruel and should be banned. Lawsuits nationwide
claim that injecting prisoners with chemicals leave inmates in pain before
(source: Associated Press)
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