[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Aug 23 15:29:46 CDT 2007
Protesters keep vigil in front of Walls Unit
Sweat dripped down the sides of his face as David Attwood laid out a "Stop
As founder of Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, this wasn't
Attwood's first protest.
With their signs, candles, and Catholic rosaries, residents opposing
capital punishment gathered Thursday evening outside the Walls Unit to
protest the execution of Johnny Conner.
"I don't come out for every execution," Attwood said. "I have a quiet
vigil in Houston when I can't make it to town."
Attwood left the city at 4:30 p.m. to make it to the 6 p.m. execution.
"Today, I'm here for the cause. I haven't visited with Johnny Conner
personally, but the objective is still the same," he said.
Others didn't have quite the commute.
Dennis Longmire, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State
University, has been attending execution protests since he moved to
Huntsville in 1984.
"Back then, there used to be a whole bunch of people out here with signs
supporting the death penalty," Longmire said. "For years, I stood out here
by myself as the only one against it. The only time people came out is
when it made the broadcast so that they could possibly get on television."
Now he stood accompanied by about 13 people.
Although the protesters and signs around Longmire were in alignment with
his views, he admits his colleagues are not always as supportive.
"Most scientists are supposed to be unbiased, but when I got my degree, I
never took an oath to not have any morals," he said. "A lot of them think
I have abandoned some scientific roots but it doesn't affect my research.
If anything, it makes it better."
Despite some critics, protesters of all ages made an appearance at the
"I'm glad to see the younger people are here." said protester Kelly
Epstein, who traveled to the protest from Spring. "Honestly, we're all
kind of tired. At the same time, we hope they won't have to carry it on."
While all of the protesters carried the same agenda, only one of those
attending had seen the death penalty in action.
As an advocate against the death penalty, Ward Larkin travels from Houston
twice a month to visit with inmates on death row.
"I've seen 3 executions take place, but I've been invited to 4," Larkin
As a death row inmate, prisoners are allowed to invite up to 5 people to
witness the execution on their behalf.
In the past, after developing relationships with death row inmates, Larkin
has received a few.
"The 1st invitation was a surprise," he said. "I guess they just need
someone there who will be sympathetic."
The execution of Conner marked the 400th execution in the state of Texas.
According to the 2007 Texas Crime Poll, 74 % of Texans are in favor of
"Texas is not ashamed of this benchmark," Longmire said.
(source: Hunstville Item)
2 Texas Inmates Go on Hunger Strike to Protest Their Executions----Kenneth
Foster Jr., And John Joe Amador
2 inmates from Texas death row will begin a hunger strike on August 23 to
protest their upcoming executions. Kenneth Foster Jr., and John Joe Amador
are to be executed by lethal injection one day apart from each other.
Amador is to be executed on August 29 for the murder of 32 year old Reza
Ayari, a cab driver from San Antonio. Amador has been on death row since
1995 and was 18 years old at the time of his offense. Ayari was shot in
the back of the head, and his companion was shot in the face, but survived
the attack according to TDCJ's website.
Foster is to be executed on August 30 for driving the car during a robbery
in 1996 when Michael LaHood Jr. 25, was shot and killed during an
attempted robbery.The man who shot and killed him, Mauriceo Brown has
already been executed on July 19, 2006 for this crime. Brown confessed to
the shooting and claimed he acted solely alone, and that the other
defendants had no knowledge of the shooting.
Although Foster never left the car, and never touched the gun, he was
sentenced under "The Law of Parties", where a defendant can be sentenced
to die for being at the scene of the crime. 2 other defendants in this
crime Julius Steen and Dewayne Dillard, however were sentenced to long
Fosters case has received notoriety through the media, because he was the
get away driver, and not the trigger man. Family, friends and supporters
of Foster have rallied for a clemency from Governor Perry. Foster's story
has been on national as well as international news. The case will be
reviewed by the Board of Parole and Pardons sometime around August 28th,
just 2 days before Foster's scheduled execution.
Foster is the founder of D. R. I. V. E. a non violent activist group with
members on death row. The site is maintained by Charles Peroud, a long
time supporter of Foster. They maintain they do not condone violence, and
strive for change through peaceful measures.
The two inmates have announced through an open letter circulated by the
"Kenneth Foster Jr. Campaign Yahoo group" received from Foster that they
will not eat any more meals served to them and they will only drink
liquids, starting on August 23. They will be placed in "death watch" cells
one week prior to their executions where they will be watched from video
Texas leads the nation in executions and is called the nations "busiest
killing state." Texas has executed 19 inmates in 2007, more than any other
state. One other execution is scheduled for August 28, Daroyce Mosley.
(source: Associated Content)
Quote of the Week
"230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a
European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long
ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment
for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens.
While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our
state, and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just
fine governing Texas."
- Robert Black for Gov. Rick Perry, in response to the European Union's
appeal that Texas enact a moratorium on the death penalty
(source: Austin Chronicle)
Is death a just sentence?
Saddened, not surprised, at what you left out
Re: "Helping kill or just the driver? - 90 feet from murder in '96, Texas
robber still fighting execution," Monday news story.
I was disappointed but not surprised that The Dallas Morning News would
characterize this as questionable justice. The article's tone questioned
Kenneth Foster's level of involvement. It stated that his supporters
maintain this was just a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nowhere did the article mention Mr. Foster's gang affiliation or that of
The News too often paints capital murderers as misunderstood delinquents
who just happened to go bad for a brief period, while giving their victims
an obligatory paragraph or 2.
Like many of your readers, I would feel better served if more substance
was provided regarding the unfortunate victims, as opposed to lengthy
essays of defense attorneys' latest techniques attempting to free guilty
Brad Kirk, Heath
A worthier choice would have been to walk away
As a retired police officer, I am well aware that armed robbery is a
high-risk crime to the suspect and especially to the victim.
There's always the chance something will go awry. Cliff Herberg with the
Bexar County District Attorney's office had the right idea with his
comparison to the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Kenneth Foster obviously knew what was happening. If he really had a
problem with it, he should have gotten out of the car and walked away. If
these people are looking for a cause to champion, I'm sure there are
others much worthier.
Eric A. Liptak, Tyler
Survey: Are bad days worse than no days at all?
Gosh, I hate to read that Kenneth Foster is having some "pretty bad days."
We can't have that. Maybe we need to do a survey to find out how many
death row inmates are having bad days.
Then again, it's too bad that Michael LaHood, the murder victim, will
never have the opportunity to experience a few bad days.
Rick Brown, Richardson
(source: Letters to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)
A Cruel and Unusual Excuse: Texas Evades EU Call to Conscience
In order to stop the killing at Texas death row, the European Union on
Tuesday, through the office of its Presidency, asked the Governor of Texas
to declare a death-penalty moratorium. But the Governor's reply was quick
and flippant. He did nothing to stop the 400th killing Wednesday evening,
and it is becoming horribly apparent that he will do nothing to intervene
in the 3 executions scheduled for next week -- not even for Kenneth Foster
who never killed anyone.
"We believe that elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the
protection of human dignity, and to the progressive development of human
rights," argued the EU. "We further consider this punishment to be cruel
and inhumane. There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death
penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime and the
irreversibility of the punishment means that miscarriages of justice -
which are inevitable in all legal systems - cannot be redressed.
Consequently, the death penalty has been abolished throughout the European
In reply to the EU's four carefully worded reasons, the Texas Governor
answered that "Texans are doing just fine governing Texas."
"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate
punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens,"
said the Governor in an oddly titled "Statement by Robert Black." Does the
Governor have in mind some joking reference to the film, "Meet Joe Black"?
Speaking for the Governor, Mr. Black reminded the EU that the USA was born
out of a revolution "to throw off the yoke of a European monarch."
The reply by the Texas Governor is a logical embarrassment, because it
waves around an issue not disputed by the EU while failing to provide any
reason beyond state's rights for why the long-ago decision by Texans
should be considered reasonable.
When the Governor calls the death penalty "just and appropriate" we first
wonder if he means to suggest that anything whatsoever can be just and
in-appropriate. The construction of the Governor's conjunction signifies a
careless haste in thinking precisely in a moment when careful
considerations are most called for - that is, on the eve of the state's
If Texas has good reasons for deciding that the death penalty is a just
basis for killing 400 people, and if the killing is to continue with an
even broader scope to include people who drive cars for killers, then a
"decent respect to the opinions of mankind" would compel the Governor to
treat the matter with the logical seriousness that it deserves. Instead we
get an anti-littering slogan on retreads: "Don't Mess with Texas."
Perhaps the Governor means for his readers across the Atlantic to infer
that where a "most horrible crime" has been committed, a most terrible
punishment is not to be considered cruel or unusual. An eye for an eye, a
life for a life. If this is the Governor's intent, we would prefer that he
state his reasons more clearly so that the discourse may continue on open
In matters of judgment and punishment we may allow the Governor a point,
despite the atrocious rhetoric that he uses to put it across. The law does
seem to demand a certain reciprocal retribution for wrongdoing. But in all
other cases, the lawful currency of punishment is put in terms of cash
damages or some manner of restricted freedom, up to and including life in
prison. If we don't literally take an eye for an eye, on what basis do we
decide to take a life for a life? Texas has enough prisons to hold 400
killers for life.
The Governor's failure to state the case more clearly not only deflects
dialogue on the second point raised by the EU; it also serves to fog the
fact that the Governor completely evades the other three issues raised. If
Texas takes the position that death for death is just, based on the
horribleness of the crime, where does Texas stand on the other 3 issues
raised by the EU?
Does Texas not believe that an eventual end to the death penalty is
demanded by "the protection of human dignity, and to the progressive
development of human rights"? The Governor's reply to the EU waves the
bloody shirt of a 230-year-old war, but what about the progressive
evolution of law in the USA since that time? Didn't Texas and USA follow
several European examples in the abolition of slavery for example? Is the
Governor suggesting that such monumental achievements of legal progress in
Texas will require the world to apply the same methods that put an end to
slavery? As for the third point raised by the EU, where does Texas stand
on the question of deterrent effect? Does the Governor ease his own
conscience by thinking about deterrence or not?
And what about the grave problem of irreversibility?
Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for starting a fire that
killed a person. But the Texas Governor refused to consider expert reviews
declaring that the fire could not have been arson in the 2st place (Mills
and Possley, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 2004).
Ruben Cantu went to his execution in 1993 claiming that he had been
framed. A dozen years later, both his accomplice and a witness now say
Cantu spoke the truth (Olsen, Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2006).
Carlos De Luna was killed by the State of Texas in 1990, but there is good
reason to believe that another man was the more likely killer (Possley and
Mills, Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2006).
"I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered," said Shaka Sankofa
(Gary Graham) before his execution in June of 2000 (Wikipedia).
In the case of Kenneth Foster -- who is today on a hunger strike in
protest of his scheduled execution next Thursday - the State of Texas does
not even claim to be executing a killer. Foster drove the car that a
killer rode in. The killing was impromptu and took place about 80 feet
from the car. Foster was not part of any conspiracy to murder (Editorial,
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 19, 2007).
As the EU says, mistakes in human judgment are inevitable. Does the
Governor believe that Texas is infallible? A decent respect for world
opinion requires the Governor to answer the question as if the moral life
of his state depended upon it.
By what principles in the 21st Century does the Governor carry his
conscience when he acts as if carefully planned killings are necessary to
his lawful rule? His reply to the EU, that he executes people because the
people of Texas long ago made up their minds to let him, displays a cruel
and unusual disrespect toward the ongoing discourse that conscionable
(source: Texas Civil Rights Review)
Alabama death row inmate faces lethal injection for 1988 slaying
Luther Jerome Williams awaited death by lethal injection in an Alabama
prison Thursday for the 1988 shooting death and robbery of a man abducted
at random while checking a problem with his pickup truck on an interstate
Williams, 47, set to die at 6 p.m. at Holman prison near Atmore, had lost
appeals to state and federal courts, including a lethal injection
challenge in his final days. A petition for a stay was pending Thursday
before the U.S. Supreme Court.
< Gov. Bob Riley refused to intervene, saying there was no reason to delay
the execution of a man convicted in a "random, cold-blooded crime" almost
20 years ago.
Williams was sentenced to death for the robbery and shooting death of
63-year-old John Robert Kirk on Jan. 23, 1988. Williams of Birmingham
maintained his innocence, blaming the killing on 2 companions who got life
terms for their involvement.
Kirk of Gordo was led into the woods, shot in the head and robbed when he
stopped his truck on an Interstate 59 exit ramp to check a vehicle problem
while driving home from work in Helena. Kirk's sister, Peggy Kirk Guy, and
her son were expected to witness the execution.
Two others convicted in the Kirk murder received life sentences. Trosky
Eric Gregory, 43, was paroled in 2005, but returned to prison earlier this
year after his parole was revoked. Albert Carmichael Jr., 45, was paroled
Tuscaloosa attorney Joel L. Sogol, who helped wage Williams' appeal, said
Williams steadfastly claimed he was passed out drunk in the car when Kirk
was shot by one of his two companions that Saturday afternoon.
According to the court record, Williams stole a car from a motel parking
lot in Birmingham and found in the vehicle a .22 caliber pistol, which
became the murder weapon.
Jurors in Tuscaloosa County voted 10-2 for the death sentence. At
sentencing in 1989, the judge considered several factors, including
Williams' unstable childhood, his "anti-social personality disorder" and
his extensive drug and alcohol abuse.
Williams had no history of violence, according to the court record. But
the judge described these mitigating factors as "weak," and no reason for
him to choose an optional sentence of life in prison without parole.
With the execution imminent, Sogol had asked Riley in a letter to delay it
until challenges to lethal injection in other states.
In a statement Thursday, Riley, pointing to court rulings against
Williams, declined to intervene, saying, "there is no justifiable reason
to delay it."
In his U.S. Supreme Court petition, Williams' attorneys said the inmate
filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of Alabama's lethal
injection protocols five months ago. State's attorneys claim he waited too
late to raise the issue.
The appeal contended the execution procedures lack the "medically
necessary safeguards to ensure that he will remain fully anaesthetized
throughout the execution."
As a result of that, Williams claimed in his Supreme Court action that he
will suffer "excruciating pain" during the injection, which would violate
his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
State's attorneys have defended the execution procedure, pointing out that
two emergency medical technicians are present to prepare the inmate for
the injection. The procedure does not create "a significant and
unnecessary risk" that an inmate will suffer pain, according to the
Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Williams never filed any
evidence to support his claims on lethal injection.
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in Montgomery earlier had dismissed
Williams' claim and a 3-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals agreed with the dismissal in a split vote.
The 11th Circuit's 2-1 decision said Williams didn't sue until 5 years
after Alabama began using lethal injection.
"Both the State and the victim's family have a strong interest in the
timely enforcement of Williams' death sentence," Judge Joel Dubina wrote
in the majority decision.
In dissent, Judge Rosemary Barkett said Williams filed his suit 16 days
after the attorney general sought an execution date and that should be
considered filing promptly. She said Williams' claim about the state's
death penalty procedures should be heard in court.
"A civilized and just society would surely want to assure itself that it
does not administer executions in a manner that is needlessly painful and
unconstitutionally torturous, especially when the solution - to provide
sufficient anesthetic to safeguard against painful death - would appear so
simple and easy to accommodate," she wrote.
In the U.S. Supreme Court appeal, Williams' attorneys said the 11th
Circuit "appears to have erected an absolute bar against any
method-of-execution claim that is brought 'less than a year' before
execution, regardless of whether an execution date has even been set at
the time suit is commenced."
On the Net: Execution List: http://www.doc.alabama.gov/execution.asp
(source: Associated Press)
Riley Won't Stop Execution
Governor Bob Riley says he will not stop the lethal injection execution of
Luther Jerome Williams, set for 6 p.m. today at Holman prison.
In a statement, Riley said Williams committed a "random, cold-blooded
crime that took the life of an innocent man almost 20 years ago." Riley
says he "will not intervene in this scheduled execution because there is
no justifiable reason to delay it."
Williams' attorneys have asked the U. S. Supreme Court for a stay of
execution. They are awaiting that ruling this afternoon.
The 47-year-old Williams, of Birmingham, was convicted in 1989 of shooting
63-year-old John Robert Kirk of Gordo, Ala. Kirk was assaulted when he
stopped his pickup truck alongside Interstate 20/59 to check the engine.
He was led into the woods and shot in the head during a robbery.
A Tuscaloosa County jury recommended that he be sentenced to death. The
trial judge concurred and imposed the death penalty.
(source: WTOK News)
Death-row inmate wants conviction set aside
The attorney for Kentucky death-row inmate Brian Keith Moore asked a
Jefferson Circuit Court judge today to set aside Moore's conviction
because 2 pieces of crucial evidence wanted for DNA testing cannot be
Judge James Shake did not issue a ruling today
. In May, four pieces of clothing, including a shirt and black jacket,
were supposed to be taken to the crime lab for testing. But a pair of
black pants and black corrective shoes that prosecutors say place Moore at
the scene of a 1979 murder in Louisville cannot be found.
The attorney general's office listed the shoes and pants as available for
testing in an inventory submitted to a judge in May 2006.
David Smith, an Assistant Attorney General, said today that Moore's
attorney was trying to "capitalize on a clerical error."
Smith said an assistant with the Jefferson County Commonwealth's
Attorney's Office prepared an inventory without checking to make sure each
piece of evidence was still available. When the defense looked for the
shoes and pants, they could not be found.
It is unclear when the evidence disappeared.
"It would be a different thing if someone laid eyes on them and then they
went missing," Smith said. "If we had the stuff, we'd turn it over. We
Public defender David Barron said prosecutors need to find the evidence,
and if they are unable, the conviction needs to be set aside.
"We think it still could be out there somewhere," he said.
Barron said the missing evidence could clear Moore, given the advanced DNA
Moore, 49, was sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing Virgil
Harris, a Louisville man who was on his way to his 77th birthday party.
Moore has claimed he was set up by another suspect in the killing, who
turned in Moore to reduce a pending sentence in another case. That person
has since died.
Shake found that the evidence in the case -- the clothes, Moore's
fingerprints on several items belonging to the victim and Moore driving
Harris' car -- could be consistent with Moore's claim. Shake ruled that
Moore made a compelling enough case to warrant DNA testing.
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