[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.J., IND., OKAL., USA, S. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 13 07:26:14 UTC 2007
Prof slams prisons as prejudiced
Faced with white supremacy, exclusionary social institutions and a
criminal justice system that is "racist and deeply unfair," African
Americans become trapped in a cycle of crime and incarceration, religion
professor Cornel West GS '80 argued yesterday during a panel discussion in
Part of Princeton's first-ever prison colloquium "Locked Up and Locked
Out" the discussion was titled "Punishment and its widening circle of
victims: The impact of incarceration on greater society." Focusing on how
the criminal justice system in the United States disadvantages
African-American citizens, the event drew an audience of around 50 people.
West described African Americans' and women's historical struggle for full
citizenship, citing these legacies as influential factors in the current
criminal system. "If you feel that you have no stake or hardly any stake
at all in a society," he said, "then you are more likely to prey upon that
society, especially the weaker members of it."
While these feelings of exclusion may spur minorities to commit crimes
against other citizens, West stressed his belief that nonwhites are
ultimately victims of racist ideology. "White supremacy makes it difficult
for blacks and browns to feel as if they are full-fledged citizens," he
said, "[which] socially, politically, [psychologically] results in them
being the most vulnerable, and thereby finding themselves
disproportionately represented within these [correctional] institutions."
Anthropology professor John Borneman, another panelist, described some of
the challenges democracies face when striving to maintain prison systems.
"Only democratic systems have to uphold the rule of law in order to
maintain social solidarity," he said. "When societies become less
democratic and their justice systems become corrupted subject to the
manipulations of the political and economic elites they begin to seek
substitute victims to punish."
Borneman pointed to the U.S. criminal justice system, citing the political
purposes for which it can be manipulated. "Prisons are one of the primary
institutions for creating an electoral majority in order to help
Republican candidates win office," he said. "Disenfranchisement has been
critical to this majority, accomplished largely by legal means preventing
black prisoners and ex-prisoners from voting."
Psychology professor John Darley, the third faculty member on the panel,
also pointed to problems in the politics of the criminal justice system.
"Politicians want to be sure that they can never be accused of being 'soft
on crime,' " he said.
Consequently, politicians have pushed notable increases in the length of
sentences for convicted felons over the past few decades, Darley said.
Nevertheless, he added, "no modern psychologist would assert that this
incessant ramping up of penalty duration will have much effect on the rate
of the commission of crime."
This growth in the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons from
around 350,000 prisoners in 1975 to 2.2 million today has detracted from
other sectors of society, Darley said. "The more we spend on prisons, the
more we take away from educational institutions."
Panel member Celeste Fitzgerald, program director for New Jerseyans for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty, focused on the racial issues associated
with capital punishment. The death penalty, she said, is highly unfair due
to racial disparities in its implementation.
"If you kill a white victim in the state of New Jersey, you are 2.5 times
as likely to get the death penalty than if you kill a black man,"
(source: Daily Princetonian)
Trial by jury
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a
speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district
wherein the crime shall have been committed Sixth Amendment
In 1999, then-Allen County Prosecutor Robert Gevers offered attorneys for
Joseph Corcoran, facing trial for the brutal murders of 4 people, a deal:
If Corcoran agreed to a trial before a judge without a jury, he would
avoid the death penalty.
Such an inexplicable offer might have saved the county money taxpayers
wouldn't have to pay to bring in, house and feed jurors from another
county but Corcoran turned it down. Had a judge convicted him in a bench
trial, Corcoran's life would be spared. He chose to face a jury and was
handed the death penalty.
No defendant should be punished for exercising the constitutional right to
a trial by jury, U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp properly ruled this week
in throwing out the death penalty conviction. Now, Indiana Attorney
General Steve Carter would best serve justice and his Hoosier constituents
by declining to appeal Sharp's ruling. Heres why:
The ruling is appropriate, fair and just.
Corcoran is unquestionably mentally ill and was mentally ill in 1997 when
he gunned down his brother, his sisters fianc and 2 other men in his Bayer
Avenue home. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled executing mentally
retarded people is unconstitutional. Many court observers expected the
court to extend this protection to the mentally ill.
Elected officials including conservative Republicans are increasingly
taking positions against the death penalty because it is applied so
indiscriminately and because of growing realization of the very real
chance that innocent people have been and could be executed.
Corcoran's case is a prime example of the indiscriminate application. His
death sentence appears to be as in so many other instances a result not
of fairness or justice but money. A bench trial with a judge would have
been cheaper; a jury trial, more expensive.
The system might as well have told Corcoran, "Give up your right to a jury
trial, save Allen County some money, and we'll let you live. Make us spend
money for a jury, and we will kill you."
Judge Sharp made the right decision. Attorney General Carter should, too.
(source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
Is Death Penalty on Shaky Ground Across U.S.?
A federal judge has decided to overturn the death penalty for Joseph
Corcoran, disappointing relatives of some of the victims, and maybe even
Meanwhile, a local defense lawyer believes the ruling in the Fort Wayne
mass murder case is another example of how capital punishment is coming
U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp earlier this week ordered that the
31-year-old Corcoran should be re-sentenced to a term other than death.
Corcoran was originally sentenced to die for the shooting deaths of his
brother, his sister's fianc and two of their friends at a home in Fort
Wayne in July 1997.
Corcoran told police he opened fire because he thought the men were
talking about him.
Corcoran for years called for his own execution, repeatedly refusing to
But Judge Sharp released a ruling on Monday that Prosecutor Bob Gevers
violated Corcoran's 6th Amendment rights by insisting he would face the
death penalty unless he agreed to have a judge, rather than a jury, decide
his fate at trial.
"It was always my impression that Joe was in favor of his own death, and I
have a sneaky hunch that he may be the most disappointed person with this
decision out of anybody," said John Nimmo, one of Corcorans trial lawyers.
Ft. Wayne defense lawyer Don Swanson, who has worked death penalty cases
in the past, believes capital punishment is slowly falling out of favor in
"The integrity of the death penalty sentencing has been seriously
compromised all over the country," says Swanson, who points to a growing
number of cases where death row inmates were later exonerated, as a reason
the death penalty is on shaky ground.
Swanson also feels the move by many states to use alternative sentencing
tools such as life in prison without possibility of parole is also
undercutting support for capital punishment.
Swanson represented another death row inmate who had his sentence
overturned 2 years ago by Judge Allen Sharp, who intervened in Corcorans
proceeding as well.
Corcoran has been ordered re-sentenced in Allen County within 4 months.
(source: Indiana News Center)
No bond for Green----Investigation into killing continues
One day after brutally killing his wife by gunning her down on a Wynnewood
street a murder defendant, dressed in black and white inmate clothing,
appeared to struggle in his attempts to hear a judge take him through his
court arraignment Wednesday afternoon.
Still getting the message he would remain in jail with bond denied was
Franklin Cecil Green, 61, who earlier in the day was handed a 1st-degree
murder charge in the death of Gloria Hunter Green, 60.
Several witnesses told authorities they saw the defendant deliberately and
in cold blood fire the six deadly shots Tuesday morning that killed the
woman near the front of her own barber shop in the 100 block of N. Dean A.
McGee in downtown Wynnewood.
"I'm going to deny bond," Special District Judge Trisha Misak said to
Green during Wednesday's arraignment done with a closed circuit video
monitor system that keeps defendants in jail during the brief proceeding
rather than having them taken to a courtroom.
"If you want the court to reconsider then you'll need to get with your
attorney and ask for a bond hearing," Misak said.
The judge's ruling came after District Attorney Greg Mashburn recommended
that Green remain behind bars and not be given the opportunity to bond out
In fact, the prosecutor is now considering the possibility of seeking the
death penalty in this case.
"Right now I'm strongly considering filing a bill of particulars for the
death penalty," said Mashburn, who stressed more investigation and
interviews are needed before a final decision can be made on that issue.
Green's exchange with the judge during the arraignment included a small
group of people gathered around a monitor screen set up in a county
courthouse hallway allowing public access to these type of court
At various times cries could be heard from supporters of the slain victim,
especially when the automatic plea of not guilty was recorded on Green's
behalf and the announcement one of the defendant's next court appearances
in May is on the birthday of the victim.
An affidavit filed with the murder charge in Garvin County District Court
shows Green's actions were indeed brutal against the woman he had married
only days earlier.
The report prepared by Don Helpingstine, assistant police chief in
Wynnewood, indicates Green fatally shot his wife while attempting to
kidnap her Tuesday morning.
Green initially entered the barber shop in downtown Wynnewood owned by the
woman and forced her outside after revealing he had a .38 caliber
He then took her down an alley.
Green was holding his wife's hand as they walked when she broke away and
attempted to run from him.
That was the moment Green pulled the revolver from his waistband and shot
the woman as she ran south toward a brown mini-van.
He shot her a 2nd time as she ran between the van and a car, which is
where she fell to the ground.
"Franklin Green then went to Gloria Green, kneeled down at her head and
fired 4 shots at her head," Helpingstine stated in his report.
Green then walked to the nearby Wynnewood police station and surrendered
the revolver and himself to officers.
"Franklin Green admitted in 2 separate mirandized interviews to shooting
Gloria with a .38 wheel gun and fired all 6 rounds into her body."
Helpingstine said Wednesday the investigation into the shooting will
remain ongoing mainly because several interviews of witnesses or family
members of the victim are still needed.
"There were plenty of people who witnessed it," he said.
"Unfortunately no one could help her because it happened so fast."
Green had recently been released from prison after serving time since 1980
for the kidnapping of a Durant woman. He is reported to have married
Hunter in late March.
Then came last Saturday when some type of altercation occurred between the
couple, which included reports of Green using a knife to threaten the
According to the filed affidavit, Green admitted to planning to harm his
wife since the Saturday incident.
Officials said Green, who was on federal probation at the time, removed an
electronic monitoring device from his ankle sometime before the slaying.
(source: Pauls Valley Daily Democrat)
The Condemned Reflects Real Life: People Are Disposable
Later this month, The Condemned will open in movie theaters nationwide. In
the film, a wealthy television mogul buys ten inmates from death rows
around the world. He puts them on an island to kill each other, promising
that the last person alive after 30 hours will be set free. The killings
that ensue are then broadcast live on the internet, where the mogul hopes
to draw a bigger audience than the Super Bowl.
Frightening thing is, in real life, he probably would. One woman who saw a
preview of the film said her friend asked if she'd pay money to watch this
happen in real life. She said she wouldn't and her friend replied, "You
are crazy. I would probably miss work to watch this in real life." In her
blog entry, the woman concluded: "I knew that everyone else in the theatre
probably had the same mind set as him. Only confirming the movie's
premonition --- streaming live internet deaths would probably bring in
more viewers than American Idol on elimination night."
Films and video games are getting more violent. One need only compare the
most recent trigger-happy, thuggish James Bond in Casino Royale to his
ancestors in Dr. No and Octopussy to get a glimpse of how extreme,
cover-your-eyes violence has become standard fare in film. And don't even
get me started on video games. I once played "Halo" with my partner's
little brother. I had nightmares for days.
Perhaps it takes the unimaginable, ultimate violence of The Condemned to
reveal our degraded "entertainment" for what it really is. The vast
majority of violent films fall into the simplistic good guy versus bad guy
paradigm, where the violence against the bad guy is only tolerated -- or
even celebrated -- because he's a bad seed. In other words, only by
devaluing the life of those who are killed or maimed can we call it
Yet the unintended brilliance of The Condemned may be that, in portraying
a public hungry for live deaths, it holds up a mirror to real life. I fear
many of us do think that those who have committed crimes, even violent
crimes, are so worthless that it would be perfectly plausible to buy their
lives for televised entertainment. They were going to die any way, right?
Their lives were worthless. They were worthless.
This attitude on our couches easily translates to an attitude in our
courthouses. Why should we spend money on public defenders? Why should we
release sex offenders after they've served their sentences? We act as
though these are the bad characters, irredeemable, as if God scripted them
to be bad from the start.
Recently, in Avon Park, Florida, a six-year-old girl named Desre'e Watson
threw a temper tantrum in her kindergarten classroom. The police were
called and handcuffed the little girl --- around her upper arms because
her wrists were too slight --- and hauled her down to the county jail,
where they took mug shots and booked her. Because Desre'e had kicked a
teacher (resulting in some redness around the teacher's shin), the police
charged the little girl with a felony. When I worked on juvenile defenses
cases in New York City, I saw lots of similar cases, like when a young boy
got mad at his teacher and stormed out of the room, bumping into her on
the way out. The teacher, claiming assault, called the police and the boy
was put in jail. Not insignificantly, Desre'e and the boy in this example
are both black.
Bryan Stevenson, founding director of the Equal Justice Initiative of
Alabama, which represents people on death row, often says, "I believe each
of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done in life." But the
school children described above were quickly presumed all bad, as
worthless and disposable as the inmates in "The Condemned". When they do
something wrong, we're quick to forgive our family members and our
friends. We would never lock up our own children or execute our own
brothers and sisters. But when others do something -- anything -- wrong,
we're quick to condemn. Particularly when those who do wrong are black or
poor or both, our response isn't a helping hand and a 2nd chance, but a
prison cell or a hail of bullets or cuffs around the arms or execution.
What The Condemned illustrates is not its characters' inhumanity toward
each other on film but our inhumanity toward each other in real life.
(source: The Huffington Post)
Former Prosecutor Talks About Wright Case
Death penalty cases have been few and far between in South Dakota. Former
Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten prosecuted the Donald Moeller
case in 1992. Moeller was sentenced to death after raping and murdering a
9 year old girl.
Former States Attorney Jeff Masten says in South Dakota it takes a brutal
crime to convince a jury to sentence somebody to death, and the longer
this jury deliberates at this point in the case the more the case will
lean against the death penalty if Daphne Wright is convicted.
South Dakotans are not known for sentencing criminals to death.
Former Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten says, "In order to
qualify for the death penalty in this state it really has to be a
humdinger of a murder, just you're garden variety killing isn't going to
Former Lincoln County States Attorney Jeff Masten says this case could fit
in that category.
He also says both the prosecution and defense have most likely been
setting up the sentencing phase of this trial for weeks.
Masten says, "The state's laying it's foundation they are showing all the
terrible things that happened because in order to be eligible for the
death penalty it has to fall in 1 of 10 categories."
Masten says the defense most likely made it's move this morning when the
judge gave the jury an option of convicting Wright on 3 other alternate
counts of murder and manslaughter that do not carry a death penalty
Masten says, "You need something in there to get the jury talking. You
need something in there to lay the foundation for maybe this isn't 1st
And the more the jury asks questions and deliberates in this stage, the
more likely the sentence will not be death if Daphne Wright is convicted.
Masten says, "What the defense will be looking for is did they have
trouble getting to that guilt verdict if they had trouble getting there
they are going to be pretty nervous about imposing the death penalty
Masten did not expect the jury to come up with a verdict Wednesday night
because he says they have listened to almost 2 weeks of testimony and
they'll want to take all that into account before they reach a verdict.
(source: KELOLAND TV)
S.D. dismemberment case goes to jury
Jurors were considering capital murder charges against a woman accused of
killing her former lover's friend and cutting apart the body with a chain
The deliberations began Wednesday after lawyers wrapped up closing
arguments in South Dakota's 1st capital punishment case with a female
Prosecutors accuse Daphne Wright, 43, of abducting, killing and
dismembering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42, in February 2006. Remains were
found in a Minnesota ditch and a Sioux Falls landfill. All 3 women were
deaf and knew each other through the deaf community.
"This is not a game. This is real life. And Darlene VanderGiesen is really
dead," said State Attorney Dave Nelson. "This defendant really killed her.
And that's what all of the evidence in this case proves."
Wright is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree premeditated murder
and kidnapping. If she is convicted, prosecutors can ask the jury to
sentence her to death by lethal injection.
Nelson said Wright was jealous of VanderGiesen's friendship with Wright's
former lover. The jealousy turned into a rage that drove Wright to kidnap
VanderGiesen, kill her, cut up the body with a chain saw and burn it, he
Traci Smith, one of Wright's public defense lawyers, said prosecutors
provided no evidence from the day VanderGiesen disappeared to prove
kidnapping or murder, and instead focused on the dismemberment.
"Take yourself outside the emotions of the chain saw. This is a sad case.
Darlene VanderGiesen died, and no verdict you bring is going to bring
Darlene back," she said. "The state wants you to be distracted from the
important aspects of this case: What happened on February 1st, 2006?"
(source: Associated Press)
Laws governing death penalty phase of capital punishment trials
Some statutes governing the death penalty phase of a capital punishment
trial in South Dakota:
23A-27A-1. Mitigating and aggravating circumstances considered by judge or
jury. Pursuant to 23A-27A-2 to 23A-27A-6, inclusive, in all cases for
which the death penalty may be authorized, the judge shall consider, or
shall include in instructions to the jury for it to consider, any
mitigating circumstances and any of the following aggravating
circumstances which may be supported by the evidence:
(1) The offense was committed by a person with a prior record of
conviction for a Class A or Class B felony, or the offense of murder was
committed by a person who has a felony conviction for a crime of violence
as defined in subdivision 22-1-2(9);
(2) The defendant by the defendant's act knowingly created a great risk of
death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or
device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than 1
(3) The defendant committed the offense for the benefit of the defendant
or another, for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of
(4) The defendant committed the offense on a judicial officer, former
judicial officer, prosecutor, or former prosecutor while such prosecutor,
former prosecutor, judicial officer, or former judicial officer was
engaged in the performance of such person's official duties or where a
major part of the motivation for the offense came from the official
actions of such judicial officer, former judicial officer, prosecutor, or
(5) The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder or committed
murder as an agent or employee of another person;
(6) The offense was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in
that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to
the victim. Any murder is wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman if the
victim is less than 13 years of age;
(7) The offense was committed against a law enforcement officer, employee
of a corrections institution, or firefighter while engaged in the
performance of such person's official duties;
(8) The offense was committed by a person in, or who has escaped from, the
lawful custody of a law enforcement officer or place of lawful
(9) The offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering
with, or preventing a lawful arrest or custody in a place of lawful
confinement, of the defendant or another; or
(10) The offense was committed in the course of manufacturing,
distributing, or dispensing substances listed in Schedules I and II in
violation of 22-42-2.
23A-27A-2. Presentence hearing required--Relevant evidence. In all cases
in which the death penalty may be imposed and which are tried by a jury,
upon a return of a verdict of guilty by the jury, the court shall resume
the trial and conduct a presentence hearing before the jury. Such hearing
shall be conducted to hear additional evidence in mitigation and
aggravation of punishment. At such hearing the jury shall receive all
relevant evidence, including:
(1) Evidence supporting any of the aggravating circumstances listed under
(2) Testimony regarding the impact of the crime on the victim's family;
(3) Any prior criminal or juvenile record of the defendant and such
information about the defendant's characteristics, the defendant's
financial condition, and the circumstances of the defendant's behavior as
may be helpful in imposing sentence;
(4) All evidence concerning any mitigating circumstances.
(source: Rapid City Journal)
More information about the DeathPenalty