[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS., ILL., N.C., PENN., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Apr 10 01:57:36 UTC 2007
Jessica's law could make matters worse
All good citizens want legislation to protect children, especially from
In the race for Texas governor this past election, all 4 candidates
promised to get tough on child sex offenders.
Texas lawmakers filed more than 30 bills this session to crack down on sex
One of those bills, often referred to as what would be Texas' version of
Jessica's Law, is well-meaning. Unfortunately, it goes too far. It
actually could make matters worse.
The House version of this bill has passed. The Senate version has been
approved by committee.
This legislation would allow the death penalty option for repeat child
predators. It calls for minimum sentences of 25 years to life for 1st-time
violent sex offenses against children, younger than 14. It would double
the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children from 10 to 20
years. And it would mandate lifetime monitoring of convicted child sex
offenders by employing global-positioning technology.
So, why do many ardent proponents of laws protecting children from sex
offenders oppose the Texas version of Jessica's Law? It's because they
believe the death-penalty provision is so harsh that it could be
counterproductive. It could become a reason for a victim not to report
sexual abuse cases to authorities, they say.
Many, if not most, of these cases happen within homes in which the
perpetrator is a relative, guardian or family friend. The thought that the
relative might face the death penalty might cause relatives not to report
their suspicions to authorities.
Another reason to oppose the Texas version of Jessica's Law, named for
9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, abused and murdered in Florida, was expressed
by John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted." He believes that a 2-time
predator might be more likely to kill his victim because if caught, the
offense would trigger the death penalty.
Since there would be no additional penalty for killing their victims,
child predators could be motivated to kill witnesses as well.
Lawmakers should drop the death penalty provision.
(source: Editorial, Waco Tribune-Herald)
Lawyers: City ignoring deal on death row case
Lawyers claiming Chicago reneged on a $14.8 million deal with 3 death row
inmates last fall say the city has paid more than $700,000 to its defense
attorneys since then and "the meter is running."
Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard accuse police of torturing
them to give confessions that sent them to death row.
In a recent court filing, plaintiffs' attorneys Jon Loevy and Kurt Feuer
said a Freedom of Information request reveals lawyers for the city got
$700,000 from Sept. 15 to March 15.
They claim the city orally agreed in October to settle lawsuits brought by
the former inmates, but failed to live up to the deal.
They are seeking more than $1 million in sanctions against the city over
The city denies entering a final settlement agreement.
Mayor Richard Daley says he was never presented with such a deal.
(source: Daily Southtown)
NC Policy Watch Unveils Inaugural "Carolina Issues Poll"
Results Show that Voters are Supportive of Public, Humane Solutions in
Mental Health and Affordable Housing
NC Policy Watch, North Carolinas leading provider of commentary and
analysis on state public policy issues, has added yet another feature to
its fast growing menu of products and services the "Carolina Issues
In the poll's inaugural edition, Policy Watch sought to gauge the opinion
of North Carolina registered voters on 2 timely and important policy
topics: mental health and affordable housing.
Results from the poll show that North Carolinians are broadly supportive
of new publicly funded efforts to aid the mentally ill, oppose executing
mentally ill persons convicted of murder and support more public efforts
to ease the states affordable housing and foreclosure crises.
Public opinion polls are an indispensable component of modern day
government policymaking. Unfortunately, too many polls confine themselves
to a narrow band of "safe" issues and avoid questions that might lead
policymakers to draw new and unconventional conclusions about voter
attitudes and opinions. The Carolina Issues Poll is a new (and soon to be
regular) voter survey conducted by NC Policy Watch that seeks to alter
this pattern by asking new and different questions on topics of importance
to North Carolinians and their elected officials.
For the inaugural edition of the Carolina Issues Poll, NC Policy Watch
targeted two broad topics of real and immediate relevance to the state
policy debates: mental health and affordable housing. Though timely and of
obvious importance, public debate surrounding both of these topics has
suffered in recent years because of the "conventional wisdom" that each
was "settled" in the public mind that is, the general perception seemed
to be that voters had little or no interest in public solutions and were
content to leave these difficult challenges to private actors. The poll
also looked at the interrelation between mental health and the death
penalty. North Carolina, of course, executes more people than only a
handful of states and nations and is widely accepted to be a "pro-death
Examining the Results
The results from the new poll cast doubt upon much of the conventional
wisdom that surrounds these issues.
For many years, the policy trend in the area of mental health has been to
de-emphasize public solutions. In general, policymakers have moved to
privatize what were once publicly provided services and resisted efforts
to impose new mandates for expanded private insurance coverage. According
to the new poll results, however, these policies may be at odds with voter
When asked if they supported a new state mandate that would require health
insurance companies to cover the treatment of mental illness just like any
other illness (a requirement commonly referred to as "mental health
parity"), 79% said "yes" and only 14% said "no." Voters were even roughly
divided over the question of mandating insurance company coverage for
persons with substance abuse problems. Here nearly 2 in 5 (38%) said
"yes", 44% said "no," and 18% said they "don't know."
The support for public intervention was also strong when it comes to the
provision of adequate public funding for housing mentally ill persons.
According to the poll, more than 2/3 of voters (68%) said they favor
additional taxpayer-provided funding to help assure that mentally ill
persons are not housed with older, non-mentally ill persons as has been a
common practice due to shortages of beds.
The disconnect between common wisdom and voter attitudes was further
illustrated when the poll asked about the state's application of the death
penalty to mentally ill and disabled persons. As recently as last year,
North Carolina was preparing to execute Guy LeGrande, a man who had been
convicted of murder and sentenced to death despite his demonstrably
unstable and disturbed personality. When asked in the new poll if they
supported use of the death penalty against murderers who had a severe
mental illness or disability at the time of the commission of the crime,
voters disapproved by a wide margin 52% to 30%. 18 % said they didn't
As with mental health, policymakers have long settled for a laissez faire
approach toward the challenges the state faces in adequately housing its
citizens. This hesitance to supplement the private housing market has been
evident both in the level of direct state funding for the construction of
affordable housing for households of modest incomes and in the
unwillingness of policymakers to intervene on behalf of middle class
families in the states mushrooming home foreclosure crisis. This year,
Governor Easley's 2007-08 budget proposes what amounts to a 50% cut in
support for the state's award winning Housing Trust Fund and only a tiny
appropriation for the Home Protection Pilot Program the state's only pot
of money earmarked specifically for aiding families facing foreclosure.
As with mental health, however, public attitudes appear to be ahead of
public policies. Respondents to the Carolina Issues Poll voiced strong
support for increased public expenditures. For the Housing Trust Fund,
voters were in favor of increased state appropriations by roughly a 3 to 2
margin (53% "yes" to 37% "no," with 10% in the "don't know" category.
Almost identical numbers (54% in favor, 36% against) supported increased
appropriations for the Home Protection Pilot Program, which provides loans
to stave off home mortgage foreclosures.
The implications of these poll results for the 2007 session of the North
Carolina General Assembly could be significant. Advocates for the
highlighted issues and causes are certain make use of the results in
support of legislative initiatives. These include:
Mental Health Parity Senators Bob Atwater, Janet Cowell, Linda Garrou and
Malcolm Graham are co-sponsoring legislation this session that would
require health insurers to provide this kind of coverage. In addition to
the results highlighted in the Carolina Issues Poll, the sponsors seem
sure to point out that 37 states already have a similar law on the books.
Mental Health Reform As described on several occasions in the NC Policy
Watch feature, the Fitzsimon File, North Carolina's mental health system
is broken and badly in need of an overhaul. Despite the repeated
documentation of large and unmet needs that include inadequate
institutional and community-based housing and other facilities,
over-worked caseworkers, and lack of overall vision and commitment, North
Carolina continues to muddle along with little apparent commitment
significant change. Governor Easley's proposed budget offers little, if
anything, in the way of the kind of resources that will be necessary for
The Death Penalty As with mental health parity, lawmakers have introduced
specific legislation that would address the concerns of poll respondents
about the execution of mentally disabled persons. According to the
companion bills, a defendant would have the burden of proving to the jury
that he or she suffered from a severe mental disability at the time of the
commission of the crime. At present, neither bill has been heard in
Affordable Housing and Foreclosures Despite the relatively small proposed
appropriations for the state Housing Trust Fund and the Home Protection
Pilot Program contained in the Governors budget, advocates remain
optimistic that legislative budget makers will find additional funds.
Given the strong and broad-based support enjoyed by the Trust Fund and the
states mushrooming foreclosure problem as documented in a recent Charlotte
Observer series, it seems possible that the new polling data could provide
added impetus to successful efforts.
The Carolina Issues Poll was conducted by the private firm of Public
Policy Polling. 574 North Carolina voters were surveyed on March 29 and
30. The survey has a margin of error of 4.1%. Complete results are
attached and can be found here. These include exact question wording and
"crosstabs" broken down by gender, party affiliation, race, and age.
(source: North Carolina Policy Watch)
Give justice a chance
William Blackstone said of the justice system that it would be "[b]etter
that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." Yet many
people do suffer: since 1973, over 230 innocent individuals in the United
States have been wrongfully convicted of crimes for which they were
subsequently cleared proof that our criminal justice system is far from
perfect. What this says to me is that there are flaws in our criminal
justice system that need to be and, perhaps more importantly, can be
Nick Yarris can tell you about flaws in the system. Yarris spent 22 years
on Pennsylvanias death row for the murder of Linda Mae Craig. During his
trial, detectives manipulated witnesses into falsely identifying Yarris
and prosecutors attempted to destroy evidence that could be used to prove
Yarris' innocence. After his conviction, Yarris would spend fifteen years
appealing for DNA evidence to be tested the same DNA evidence that would
finally and conclusively prove his innocence in 2003.
Common sense would say that this would be the end of Yarris' ordeal
common sense would be too much to hope for with the Delaware County
District Attorneys Office. Yarris was released 8 months later "nolle
prosequi" meaning that the DA's office could arrest and retry him on this
same charge at a later date. Further, despite actually being innocent of
this crime, Yarris is still subject to the "3 strikes law:" if he is ever
convicted of another crime, he will be put away for life despite that he
was innocent of those felonies that would qualify him for life in prison
in the first place.
Yarris story demonstrates not only how our criminal justice system is
flawed, but, more powerfully, suggests solutions for how to improve it:
(1)Efficiently test DNA evidence. Yarris spent over a decade on death row
after technology existed that could prove his innocence. Especially for a
death row case, let there be no doubt about the guilt or innocence of the
(2)Improve post-release compensation for exonerees. Exonerees receive less
help than a post-release guilty inmate, who likely receives assistance
with job training, psychological counseling, and other reintegration
services. Currently, a few prisons give "gate money," ranging from $10 to
$200, to exonerees for immediate needs and nothing more.
(3)Automatically expunge the criminal records of released defendants. It
can be years before an exonerees criminal record is finally cleared years
in which the record prevents the innocent individual from securing gainful
Yarris is just one man, but his story is important to us all. We will all
in some way be touched by the criminal justice system. Whether as a
defendant ourselves, as a family member or friend of someone who is
arrested for a crime, as a criminal lawyer, or as a jury member, we all
have a stake in the improvement of our criminal justice system. But don't
take our word for this let Nick Yarris tell you about his story and the
importance of fixing our criminal justice system. Stanford Beyond Bars has
invited him to speak at Cubberley Auditorium tomorrow at 7 p.m.
(source: Op-Ed; The Stanford Daily----Abby Burns writes on behalf of the
Stanford Beyond Bars Executive Board. Stanford Beyond Bars is an
undergraduate student organization dedicated to directly addressing issues
related to incarceration and the criminal justice system)
Take time deciding ultimate penalty
Death penalty opponents in Tennessee say they are not just crying wolf
when they complain a mere 90 days is too little time to review and correct
Tennessees lethal injection policies and procedures.
Gov. Phil Bredesen called for a review and revamping of the state's
execution protocol, calling Tennessee's current procedures "cut and
paste." Little detail beyond that has been given as to how the states
rules for putting an inmate to death by lethal injection have been shared.
Death penalty opponents and defense attorneys in the lone public hearing
set to seek input on Tennessee's death penalty rules said the time frame
was too short and the comment period too little for such a grave topic. We
are inclined to agree.
In truth, people on both sides of the death penalty should want this
review to be thorough and meaningful.
On the one hand, death penalty proponents and prosecutors should want the
state's execution protocol to be airtight. Tennessee's procedures for
lethal injection should be truly humane, scientifically derived and
legally defensible. A shoddy set of procedures should not deter state
prosecutors from utilizing Tennessees capital punishment statutes for fear
of courts finding the process cruel and unusual punishment. The people of
this state have decided that for our societys most heinous crimes that is
a commensurate punishment. The law should be used.
And though it is the death penalty, opponents should want these procedures
to also be as humane as is possible in a capital punishment setting.
Horror stories described in recent Georgia and Florida cases involving
lethal injection is simply an unacceptable way to put to use Tennessee's
death penalty law.
There is also the issue of the men and women of the Tennessee Department
of Corrections who must carry out these executions. Rightfully asked
questions about what the state does to ensure their mental well-being in
the wake of an execution should be answered.
The current process to find a new protocol and the problems with the old
should all be more public and open to scrutiny. 3 months and 1 public
hearing simply do not seem to be adequate time to examine any problems
with the exercise of arguably the government's greatest authority over its
citizens. At a minimum, there should be more time for public input as well
as more explanation of how the process is presently flawed.
(source: Editorial, Nashville City Paper)
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