[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MONT., LA., CALIF., USA, ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 5 06:58:39 UTC 2007
In Montana: Death penalty needs to be abolished
After 30-plus years of public service, I am coming to the end of my term
in the Montana Senate. It seems altogether fitting that I conclude my
service fighting for an issue I fought for when I began as a member of the
Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972. I am pleased to sponsor Senate
Bill 306 a bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana.
I opposed capital punishment back then, and for numerous reasons, I oppose
it even more today.
One major reason is the simple fact that since 1973, more than 123 death
row inmates have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were
accused. Innocent people are being executed in the United States. The
Stanford Law Review has detailed 23 cases where innocent people have
already been executed. Columbia University professor James Liebman
conducted a study of thousands of capital sentences reviewed by courts in
34 states from 1973 to 1995 and concluded, "1 in 20 death row inmates is
later found not guilty." In Montana, wrongful convictions have already
occurred in non-capital cases. For example, Jimmy Ray Bromgard was
convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated burglary and
sexual intercourse without consent. After almost 16 years in prison, he
was exonerated by updated DNA technology.
The death penalty comes from earlier days of barbarism when slavery,
whipping, branding, and other corporal punishments were commonplace. Like
those other practices, state-sponsored executions have no place in a
civilized society. Of all Western industrialized nations, the United
States alone engages in this lethal practice.
Capital punishment denies due process of law. Its imposition is often
arbitrary forever depriving an individual of the opportunity to benefit
from new evidence or the setting aside of a death sentence.
Opposing the death penalty does not mean sympathy with convicted
murderers. Murder clearly demonstrates a lack of respect for human life.
Murder is abhorrent and a policy of state- sponsored killing is immoral.
Killing more people only epitomizes the tragic brutality of violence,
rather than utilizing reason to solve difficult social problems.
A society that respects life does not deliberately kill human beings. An
execution is a violent public spectacle of official homicide, one that
endorses killing to solve problems the worst possible example to set for
the citizenry. The benefits of capital punishment are illusory, but the
bloodshed and the resulting destruction of community decency are real.
Approximately 90 % of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer
when they were tried. A defendant's poverty, lack of firm social roots in
the community, inadequate legal representation at trial or on appeal all
these have been common factors among death-row populations.
In Montana, the death penalty is applied discriminatorily. 74 individuals
have been executed in the name of the territory and state of Montana. Of
those, almost 23 % have been minorities.
According to U.S. Census data from 1870 to 1990, the minority population
has never been more than 11.1 % in Montana. Thus, the rate of executions
of minorities in Montana is almost twice the highest-occurring minority
percentage of the population.
Research shows that juries are more likely to convict defendants of color.
Between 1995 and 2000, 75 % of federal cases in which juries recommended
the death penalty involved black or Latino defendants.
Does the death penalty deter crime? To cite one example among many, the
FBI reports that homicide rates for North Dakota, Montana's only
abolitionist neighbor, are consistently lower than Montana's rates of
Does the death penalty save money? Every state that has done a cost study
of its death penalty system has found it to be substantially more
expensive than cases where prosecutors instead seek life without parole.
For the above reasons and many more, I hope you will join me in abolishing
the death penalty in Montana.
(source: Democrat Dan Harrington represents Buttes Senate District 38. He
has served 2 terms in the Senate and 12 terms in the House, starting in
1976; Opinion, The Montana Standard)
Judge tosses Koon murder convictions
Walter "Joey" Koon no longer is a convicted triple murderer.
U.S. District Judge James Brady has tossed out the verdict and ordered a
new trial for the Denham Springs man who admits he killed his estranged
wife and her parents nearly 13 years ago.
In a scathing 46-page ruling issued Thursday, the Baton Rouge federal
judge characterizes the work of court-appointed lawyer Kevin Monahan who
represented Koon during the trial as "egregious," "unprofessional" and
"The court is disturbed by Monahan's performance," Brady writes. "Had
Monahan investigated the case, outside of simply relying on what Koon told
him, there is a reasonable probability that Koon would not have been found
guilty of 1st-degree murder. Confidence in the outcome of the trial has
Attempts to reach Monahan Friday were unsuccessful. District Attorney Doug
Moreau said prosecutors "respectfully disagree with Judge Brady's ruling"
and will appeal the decision before embarking on a new trial.
A jury deliberated just 20 minutes in March 1995 before convicting Koon of
first-degree murder in the slaying of his estranged wife, Michelle Guidry
Koon; her 73-year-old father, Richard Guidry; and her 66-year-old mother,
Felicie Guidry. Jurors took less than an hour to recommend the death
2 years earlier, Koon armed with a semiautomatic pistol drove to his
in-laws Audubon Avenue home. In the backyard, he shot his wife twice, then
went into the house and shot Felicie Guidry as she tried to call
authorities. He later shot Richard Guidry twice in the chest then, after
he had fallen, moved closer and shot him twice more at close range,
During the trial, Monahan tried to persuade the jury that Koon "snapped"
and killed the 3 in the "heat of passion" after taking drugs and
discovering moments earlier that his wife was having an affair with a
Brady began reviewing the case after the Louisiana Supreme Court refused
to do so. New trials are granted in death penalty cases if a defense
lawyers errors "permeate the entire trial with obvious unfairness" and
there is "more than a reasonable possibility" it contributed to the
Among the reasons Brady cited in his decision to toss out Koon's
- Monahan alone defended Koon after another lawyer, Denise Vinet, withdrew
from the case as it went to trial, saying she "had never been asked to do
a thing on this case."
Both the American Bar Association and the Louisiana Supreme Court require
that at least 2 attorneys be appointed to a capital case.
Writes Brady: "There is reasonable probability that had Monahan fulfilled
his professional duty and used the assistance of co-counsel, the outcome
of the trial would have been different."
-The court gave Monahan money to pay a psychologist as an expert witness 6
months before the trial, but the defense lawyer didnt hire Dr. Marc
Zimmerman until the day before the proceedings began.
Zimmerman's 1-hour assessment of Koon was shot down by the prosecution's
expert witness, Dr. Donald Hoppe.
"What little mental health testimony was presented in support of Koon's
defense was attacked to a devastating level," Brady writes. "Monahan was
completely unprepared to address Dr. Hoppe's testimony."
- Monahan never interviewed the only eyewitness to the crime, Sarah
Robinson Garcia, one of Koon's employees.
At a hearing on the matter before Brady in February 2006, Garcia admitted
she lied numerous times under oath during the trial because she feared
being charged as an accessory in the crime if she told the truth. She also
said she would have cooperated with Monahan had he approached her.
"Even more shocking than hiring his chief expert witness 1 day before
trial," Brady writes, "was Monahan's complete failure to investigate the 1
and only eyewitness to the incident."
- For the penalty phase of the case, Brady writes that Monahan "conducted
very little investigation into Koons background," contrary to American Bar
"The only family member to testify on behalf of Koon in mitigation of
death was Koon's mother," Brady writes. "Her testimony takes up a lonely 2
pages in the record. He did not investigate, prepare or in essence even
present a case in mitigation of death."
Brady contends that "telling a positive life story about a person" is
critical because "all that was required was 1 juror to vote against the
death penalty and Koons life would have been spared."
Koon will remain behind bars pending further legal wrangling.
When prosecutors appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a
decision from that court could take another year or 2. Either side could
appeal that outcome to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take another
year or longer.
If Brady's ruling stands, however, Baton Rouge state prosecutors must try
Koon's attorney, Jim Boren, said in an interview Friday that death penalty
cases are "particularly difficult" for lawyers.
"They call upon lawyers to investigate areas of fact and law we're not
trained for in law school, and for which specialized training is needed,"
he said. "What we see often is that lawyers who do good work in other
cases do bad work in death penalty cases. What happened in this case is
that the judge concluded the lawyer didnt do the investigation that was
necessary, and thats why he ruled the way he did."
(source: The Advocate)
Critics assail governor's plan to begin prisoner transfer----CALIFORNIA:
The moves begin in 60 to 90 days. Guards fear inmates will respond by
The state will begin shipping thousands of inmates to out-of-state prisons
against their will over the next 60 to 90 days under a $50 million measure
to reduce prison crowding that already faces challenges, the governor said
Corrections leaders said they will begin transferring as many as 5,000
inmates to private prisons in Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma.
Corrections officials plan to start by targeting undocumented inmates
facing deportation upon release.
Unions predict the plan will incite widespread violence throughout the
prison system. 2 unions, representing 44,000 prison officers and staff
members, have sued to block the transfers. During a special session in
August to address the crowding, the Democratic Legislature killed the same
proposal amid concerns that it violated state law and inmates' rights.
The forced transfers could affect inmates in four Inland prisons: Ironwood
State Prison and Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, California
Institution for Men in Chino and California Institute for Women in Norco.
The transfers would not include prisoners with serious mental health or
medical needs, death row inmates, those serving life terms, or maximum-
and minimum-security inmates. Mainly medium-security inmates slated for
deportation would be tapped for the move.
Gov. Schwarzenegger issued an emergency proclamation in October allowing
the state to get around a law that prohibits such transfers. Since then,
the state has attempted, with little success, to lure inmates to
out-of-state prisons by choice. So far, only 380 have gone voluntarily to
Tennessee and Arizona.
Officials believe few signed up because some inmates expect to be released
under a possible court order on overcrowding and because prison gangs
discouraged their members in order not to lose power, said Assemblyman
Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, the Assembly GOP caucus's point man on prison
There are about 174,000 inmates in California's 33 prisons, which were
designed to hold about 100,000 inmates. Roughly 16,000 prisoners sleep in
triple bunks, gymnasiums and dayrooms, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for the
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
"Our big goal is not to run out of beds," Sessa said. "If that happens,
we'll end up overrunning the local jails because, by law, if we run out of
room, the jails have to house our inmates."
County jails around the state have already begun releasing inmates
convicted of misdemeanors to make room for the more serious offenders, he
Limit on Inmates Sought
A November lawsuit on behalf of inmates seeks to force the state to cap
the inmate population at 111,000 to 138,000, alleging the crowding leads
to cruel conditions.
The state could run out of beds by August, predicted James E. Tilton, the
department secretary. The transfers would buy California 10 more months
before that happens, he said.
The corrections department contracted with two private prison firms to
spend about $50 million to house California prisoners over 5 years. The
companies, the Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America, operate
prisons in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arizona. It will cost the
state $63 a day to house inmates out of state compared with $123 a day in
California, said Sessa.
Safety Cited, Too
More than the cost savings, the move will improve safety for the inmates,
the staff and the public by reducing the crowding and the violence that
can come with it, he added.
Opponents of the plan disagree.
The government is spending millions for sweetheart contracts with private
executives, charged Lance Corcoran, spokesman for the California Peace
"Just because an inmate is subject to deportation, it doesn't mean he
doesn't have family connections," Corcoran said. "If they are deprived of
those visits, it may spur them to act violently. We are concerned about
the safety to the staff and the risk to the public as well as the inmates
if there is some sort of major uprising because of this."
Attorneys for the union will argue their case in Sacramento Superior Court
later this month. Locally, officers worry that inmates will riot or
assault staff in order to avoid transfer, said Joe Bauman, an officer at
the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.
'Disaster in the Making'
"They know all they have to do is assault staff, and then they won't be
eligible," he said. "This is a disaster in the making."
However, Schwarzenegger said he had no choice but to order involuntary
"The safety of our correctional officers is threatened, we have the
highest recidivism rate in the country because there is no room for
rehabilitation, and we face the possibility of court-ordered early release
of felons," he said in a statement.
Republican lawmakers praised the administration's announcement.
"Hallelujah," Spitzer said, adding that he thinks the state's actions will
withstand a court challenge because the involuntary transfers will target
"They have no rights on where they do their time," he said.
State Sen. Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, called the
governor's order outrageous. It's unconstitutional, and the courts will
probably overturn it, she said.
"This directive today is akin to the governor running up a big, white flag
and telling the rest of the nation that California just can't do it,"
Approximate number of inmates in California's 33 prisons: 174,000
Maximum number the prisons are designed to hold: 100,000
Number of prisoners who have volunteered to be moved out of state: 380
Maximum number to be forcibly transferred out of state: 5,000
Stay of executions----After a generation of recklessly expanding the death
penalty, the pendulum is swinging back.
LURKING LARGELY beneath the radar the last few weeks, while media coverage
has focused on the perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial of I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby and the Bush administration's flip-flop on domestic
surveillance, were a series of important legal and political developments
in the increasingly muddled world of capital punishment in the United
Nearly 13 years after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously
promised that he would no "longer tinker with the machinery of death,"
judges and politicians are tinkering - and doing so in ever emboldened
ways. From Jan. 19 through Jan. 26, reports the Death Penalty Information
Center, eight executions were stayed in North Carolina, Ohio and Texas -
with 4 more postponed Thursday in Tennessee.
In North Carolina, a state judge blocked three executions after death row
inmates challenged the state's lethal injection procedures. In Ohio, 3
more executions were stayed pending more thorough clemency reviews. 2
Texas capital cases were halted, one by a state judge and 1 by the U.S.
And in California, a federal trial judge in December declared
unconstitutional the state's method of lethal injection. Even the
conservative U.S. Supreme Court, which in large measure has the final say
on whether and to what extent capital punishment may be used, has begun to
pay more attention to death penalty procedures. The justices in January
heard three capital cases out of Texas and agreed to hear another out of
Washington state before the end of the term.
But it's not just the judiciary that gummed up the machinery of death last
month. In Maryland, legislators proposed a measure that would ban capital
punishment in the state, a bill Gov. Martin O'Malley said he would sign
into law. In the Ohio cases, Gov. Ted Strickland, new to his post,
declared that he has "serious questions" about capital punishment, and a
former corrections director who oversaw executions in the Buckeye State
said he favors the end of capital punishment. In New Jersey, a state
commission recommended the abolition of the death penalty in that state
too. And it was Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen on Thursday who declared a
90-day moratorium on executions, halting the four in that state.
None of this means the end of capital punishment is near. A majority of
Americans still support capital punishment in one form or another (and
there are still states, mostly in the South and the West, where juries are
still handing down death sentences for murder). But there is a clear,
marked trend toward limiting the circumstances in which capital punishment
is applied and the manner in which executions are performed. As the Death
Penalty Information Center notes, "The number of death sentences per year
has dropped dramatically since 1999."
In some cases, the architects of this national change are loyal to capital
punishment and only want to protect it from substantive challenge by
firming up the fairness in its procedures (which, trust me, needing
firming up). These folks argue - and with good reason if Supreme Court
precedent is any guide - that if more isn't done to ensure that death
sentences are fairly meted out, they will one day be halted. In other
cases, it is the opponents of capital punishment who have been able to
muster support for their cause by using compelling statistics that show
the failure of the death penalty as a deterrent.
In part, the refined attitudes about the death penalty also have come
about because of advances in technology. New DNA testing and, just as
important, a newfound willingness by judges and prosecutors to revisit old
capital cases have led to many well-publicized exonerations of death row
inmates, each one cutting into the core of confidence that people have
about the reliability and accuracy of capital punishment. Since 1973,
reports the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 120 people on death
row have been exonerated for one reason or another.
Where is capital punishment likely to be at the end of this mini-upheaval?
I have no idea. But I am willing to offer an educated guess: The death
penalty will exist in fewer states than it does now. And in those states
where it still exists, capital procedures, from jury selection through
lethal injection, will be subject to a much more rigorous judicial review.
Politicians may be more willing to ensure that capital defendants get
decent representation at trial, and when they do not, judges may be more
willing to toss tainted convictions. And DNA, the latest "great
equalizer," will loom in the background of every capital case that does
not otherwise involve irrefutable evidence.
After a generation of often reckless expansion of the death penalty, the
pendulum is starting to swing back. The change didn't start in January
But it sure looks like it is picking up the pace.
(source: Los Angeles Times -- Andrew Cohen is CBS News' chief legal
U.S. executions under renewed scrutiny
The death penalty is under what may be an unprecedented review in the
United States, mostly involving questions about lethal injection, by far
the most common method of execution.
"Although many of the stays of executions are due to the lethal injection
process, the openness of courts, of governors and legislators to
reconsider issues that were thought to be settled is a sign of broad
discomfort with the death penalty," said Richard Dieter, head of the Death
Penalty Information Centre, which works against capital punishment.
About 1/3 of the 38 states that allow capital punishment have halted or
delayed executions while legal and ethical challenges are resolved.
The latest was Tennessee where the governor recently ordered a 90-day halt
to executions, including 2 that were scheduled for February. He called for
a comprehensive review of current execution procedures and future
Gov. Phil Bredesen said he supports capital punishment, but the state, in
preparing to address a legal challenge to lethal injection, had found
"deficiencies with our written procedures that raise concerns that they
are not adequate to preclude mistakes in the future."
One issue in Tennessee involves vagueness on how much of the deadly drugs
need to be administered, he said. Nationwide, some state lawmakers and
courts are debating whether the condemned unduly suffer during execution,
in violation of the Constitution's guarantee against cruel and unusual
Last year, Florida halted executions after a convicted killer took 34
minutes to die when the needles carrying the drugs were improperly
'UNPRECEDENTED IN THE MODERN ERA'
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a stay of 3 executions a few weeks ago so
he could closely evaluate appeals for clemency. North Carolina called a
temporary halt to capital punishment as it weighs whether doctors need to
be present when executions are carried out.
"The breadth of the states halting executions and the number of issues
being reviewed is unprecedented in the modern era of the death penalty,"
Dieter told Reuters.
"The public is also beginning to wonder whether a program with so many
problems and risks is worth keeping, for whatever supposed value it might
have," he added.
There have been 4 executions in 2007, 3 in Texas and 1 in Oklahoma,
bringing to 1,061 the number of executions carried out in the United
States since capital punishment was restored in 1976.
In January, there were 8 executions stayed in as many days. The reasons
varied. Last year, the 53 executions carried out were the fewest in 10
69 territories and countries, including the United States, use the death
penalty, while 128 countries have abolished it, according to Amnesty
International, a human rights group that works to end capital punishment.
According to Dieter's group, Illinois and New Jersey have a formal
moratorium on all executions, while lethal injection issues have also
halted them in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and
South Dakota, in addition to the other states mentioned.
Polls indicate a majority of the U.S. populace supports capital
punishment, though the numbers have dropped since some states adopted
life-without-parole options for courts to consider.
SPIES OR VICTIMS?
ON a visit to New York's notorious Sing Sing prison where their parents
were on death row, 9-year-old Michael Rosenberg clasped the hand of his
younger brother Robert and asked to see the electric chair.
Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel, who fervently denied having passed
nuclear secrets to the Russians, had told their sons that they weren't
afraid of "Old Sparky". And Michael wanted to prove he wasn't either.
"I remember one conversation when I asked: 'Look, are you really
innocent?' and they responded: 'Of course we are,'" recalls Michael, who
is now 64. "Later someone told me they were quite upset I asked that
question - that even we would doubt them.
"But I'm the one who, when I went into the jail at the age of nine, said
to the guard: 'Can I see the electric chair?' because I wanted to show I
wasn't afraid of it.
"My parents weren't scared. Every time we saw them they weren't scared."
Michael and Robert, six at the time, certainly needed to be brave. When
their parents went to the electric chair on June 19, 1953, branded as Cold
War spies in an America delirious with anti-Communist hysteria, there was
little sympathy for the orphaned brothers.
Stigmatised as the sons of traitors who were deemed worse than the Nazis -
FBI boss J Edgar Hoover called it "the crime of the century" - the boys
were abandoned by their family and shunned by friends.
Shunted between care homes and foster parents, schools refused to teach
them. They were later adopted by another Jewish couple, Anne and Abel
Meeropol, and now take their surname.
Now the brothers believe their persecution was a result of a terrible
miscarriage of justice.
This conviction is captured in a documentary made by Michael's daughter
Ivy, Heir To An Execution, shown on BBC4 this week.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had protested their innocence to the very end -
even issuing this statement from prison: "We told you the truth, we are
innocent. The truth does not change."
And in her final letter to her sons, Ethel wrote: "Always remember that we
were innocent and could not wrong our conscience."
Believing their parents to have been framed, the brothers were stunned
when deciphered Soviet documents identified their father as an agent,
codenamed "Antenna" and "Liberal", who had passed information to the KGB.
Even so, from these papers, known as the Venona files and released by the
US government in 1995, it appears that Julius was involved in passing
scientific and military information to Russia - but not atomic secrets.
Crucially, the files also said only that Ethel knew of her husband's work
and made no suggestion that she was actively involved in it.
ROBERT says: "They didn't do the thing they were killed for - and that's
the key. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg did not steal the secret of the
Michael adds that their mother was effectively murdered by the Eisenhower
administration. He believes her arrest was a failed attempt to force
Julius to confess to his part in a spy ring and name his co-conspirators.
He says: "If Venona is true, the US government stands accused of doing
exactly what they condemn terrorists for doing when they take a hostage
then murder the hostage when the other side doesn't come up with the
"They were playing a game of chicken, they put a gun to her head and said
to Pop: 'Talk or we will kill her.' She would have had to repudiate her
marriage, testify against her own husband.
"She would have had to live her entire life, bringing up Robert and me,
having testified against our father. She would know that some day, when we
were adults, we would hate her for it."
The case against Ethel was flimsy. She was convicted on the evidence of
her brother, David Greenglass, who said she had typed up notes containing
US nuclear secrets.
Greenglass, who had been arrested for passing secrets from the Los Alamos
atomic project, agreed to testify to save his life and protect his wife
from prosecution. He was jailed for 10 years, but in 2001 he appeared on
TV in disguise to say he had given false evidence against his sister.
AT the time, the authorities made it clear that a confession would commute
her punishment to life in prison. Yet Ethel chose, like Julius, to go
silent to the grave.
In a last attempt to win clemency she wrote to President Eisenhower,
saying: "Take counsel with the mother of your only son. Her heart, which
understands my grief so well and my longing to see my sons grown to
manhood like her own, with a loving husband at her side."
It was not to be. The couple were known to have been "Commies", although
they'd ceased all open political activity in 1943. Their trial, set
against anti-Communism fervour and the McCarthy witch-hunts, lasted just
23 days and on June 19, 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed.
In her final minutes her rabbi begged her to testify against others, but
she said: "No. I have no names. I am innocent and I am ready."
Knowing that Julius had just been killed there, Ethel was strapped into
Sing Sing's electric chair. A massive charge was passed through her body
and the attendants unstrapped her, but her heart was still beating. The
whole process was performed again - up to 5 times.
As the Daily Mirror reported in January 1954, Michael and Robert heard
about the executions on the radio. Michael shouted into it:
"Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, Poppa." The Rosenbergs, who were the only
Americans ever executed for espionage in peacetime, were vilified. Their
funeral was attended by just Julius's mother, Sophie, and supporters
seeking a plot for their graves had to lie about whose remains would be in
Ethel had asked her brother-in-law and his wife to adopt their boys but
they refused - and later changed their name to Roberts to escape the
Although the children were blameless, the fear of Communism blighted their
Stints with foster parents ended badly when schools refused to accept the
"sons of spies".
Even an appeal to raise money for their education was slammed as a ruse to
raise the boys as "Reds". Eventually, they found stability and a loving
home with the Meeropols.
As far as the brothers see it, their parents had just been ordinary
Americans eking out a meagre existence in a one-bedroom apartment in New
York's Lower East Side.
Tragically, when the FBI burst in to arrest them on those fateful days in
1950, it shattered the lives of more than 1 generation...
September 28, 1915: Ethel Greenglass born.
May 12, 1918: Julius Rosenberg born.
Summer 1939: Ethel and Julius marry.
1943: Soviet spymaster Alexander Feklisov first meets Julius.
1946: America breaks the Venona code.
August 1949: Russia detonates its first Atom bomb.
June, 1950: Ethel's brother David Greenglass names Julius as a Soviet spy.
July 17, 1950: Julius Rosenberg arrested.
August 11, 1950: Ethel Rosenberg arrested.
February 1951: David Greenglass changes his story to implicate his sister
March 6, 1951: Trial begins.
March 29, 1951: A jury finds the Rosenbergs guilty of conspiracy to commit
April 5, 1951: They are sentenced to death.
June 19, 1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed.
(source: The (UK) Mirror)
Is a society that puts people to death 'civilized'?
We all want justice for the 4 lives Conner Schierman is accused of
stealing. And I also want revenge for what a bastard did to my friend
Justice in both cases can be served without resorting to the death penalty
-- that's just more bloodshed on top of bloodshed.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said this week that Schierman should
die if convicted of heinously stabbing 2 women and 2 kids last summer,
then torching the Kirkland home the bodies were in.
And then there's Kristin.
During high school in suburban Philly, I was linked alphabetically to the
pretty, dishwater blonde. She sat in front of me in homeroom.
Each morning, when the teacher called the roll and reached her name, I
would lift my head knowing mine was next.
"Kristin Huggins," the teacher would say.
"Here," Kristin would respond in a soft, willowy voice before doodling
curlicues on a notebook or turning around to chat.
Kristin had a cool, '80s-pop style, a punk sartorial flair. She had a
penchant for daring hairdos that defied gravity. She liked to blow Bubble
Because of Kristin, I learned the Dead Kennedys were about music -- not
politics. I became hip to vintage clothes. She helped persuade me to run
for student government.
After high school, I headed west. She stayed back east to study art. She
remained a sweet memory, a secret crush.
Then one day in December 1992, my mother called. "Kristin's dead. She was
Kristin had gone to Trenton, N.J., across the river from where we grew up,
to paint a mural for a private club.
Outside the club, she crossed paths with a bad guy -- out to rob someone.
According to police, Kristin was kidnapped and stuffed into a trunk of a
car. She was raped. Police later found her body under a thin blanket of
dirt in an industrial section of town. She had been shot twice in the
Ambrose Harris was convicted in her slaying.
Her story -- like the one involving Schierman -- got intense media
coverage, partly because of the wrenching details. She had begged for her
life. She and her killer were from different worlds: Kristin, 22, was a
nice white girl from suburbia; Harris is a black man with a history of
urban rage. He was sentenced to die in 1996.
Harris, still on death row, is back in the news because New Jersey is
considering something bold: ending the death penalty. Officials there
believe capital punishment has spawned elaborate litigation, including
layers of appeals, and is a poor deterrent to crime. The process, they
argue, wastes time and money, puts victims' families through the anguish
of repeated trials and is not consistent with "evolving standards of
decency," according to a state legislative report.
New Jersey may opt for life sentences in maximum- security prison, with no
chance for parole.
If New Jersey can choose life over death, then why not progressive-minded
King County? Why not Washington?
The issue in Washington is a bit different. 3 of the 4 people executed
here since the reinstatement of the death penalty decades ago either
requested it or waived appeals. Still, the possibility for tortuous
appeals exists. And the state has squandered millions pursuing
unsuccessful death penalty cases over the years.
Then there's the reliability of the guilt of people on death row. DNA
science has freed dozens of wrongly convicted folks across the country,
sparing them from an irreversible mistake.
Sociology and subjectivity factor in, too. The rush to death row at times
seems to be more about who gets murdered than that a murder occurred. Some
believe the hunger to mete out revenge against Schierman is fueled by the
fact that his victims were young, middle-class women and children.
In the infamous Green River murders, where the victims were mostly poor
and street hookers, Maleng cut a deal in 2003 to spare the life of their
killer, Gary Ridgway, in exchange for information about his victims'
whereabouts. Would Maleng have cut a similar deal had these victims been
sorority girls from affluent families? Would the public accept such a
deal? Both are fair questions.
4 people on the Eastside will never come back even if the death penalty is
sought. That's also true for Kristin, even as I shudder to think about her
in a trunk pleading for her life -- and the man responsible for her final
A society that relishes the ultimate payback forgets one old saying at its
peril: An eye for an eye leaves us all blind.
(source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer----Column, Robert L. Jamieson Jr.)
County Attorney wants backlog of death-penalty cases cleared up
A judge has been asked to order public defenders in Maricopa County to
take more death-penalty cases to clear up a current backlog in court.
People facing the death penalty are appointed 2 attorneys - each of whom
must meet specific qualifications.
There are more than 130 death-penalty cases pending in Maricopa County
Superior Court and more than a dozen cases that cannot be assigned to
On Friday, Judge Andrew Klein of Maricopa County Superior Court asked that
a hearing be held in front of the presiding criminal-case judge to discuss
all of those unassigned cases.
Klein said the court needs to weigh the right to a speedy trial against
the defendant's rights to competent counsel and a fair trial.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas claims the county's public
defenders have a "leisurely workload" and accused them of "stepping up
their efforts to delay those cases and frustrating the state's ability to
James Haas, head of the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, said
Thomas "clearly doesn't know what he is talking about" and "the lawyers
who take our capital cases are the hardest working I've ever seen.
But few defendants can afford the $200,000 to $400,000 it costs to defend
against capital murder charges. Nearly all are appointed attorneys paid by
the county. If there are no qualified attorneys available from the
county's 4 public defender agencies, the cases are referred to the Office
of Contract Counsel, which appoints and pays attorneys in private practice
to take the cases.
Mark Kennedy, the former prosecutor in charge of that office, has said
repeatedly that he has run out of attorneys to appoint to death-penalty
"We're trying as hard as we can," Kennedy said.
Defense attorneys interpret American Bar Association standards as meaning
they should not handle more than 2 or 3 death-penalty cases at one time.
Thomas said his prosecutors handle as many as seven at a time and believes
public defenders should do the same.
"If Andrew Thomas thinks my lawyers are lazy, he needs to come over here
some time in his career and defend one of my cases," Kennedy said. "They
are the hardest cases there are to defend.
(source: KVOA. Tucson)
Death penalty makes mistakes permanent
Regarding Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' "My Turn" ("Capital
punishment delayed is justice denied for victims and citizenry" (Opinions,
Predictably, Thomas continues to beat the drums for more and quicker
executions. And, sadly, he ignores the facts and continues to believe that
the death penalty deters crime and is the ultimate penalty.
Texas and Virginia use the death penalty more than all other states, yet
they have very high murder rates.
It was only 5 years ago that Ray Krone was finally released from Arizona's
death row. Ray Krone was a victim of overzealous Maricopa County
prosecutors. Had the current Maricopa County attorney had his way with
speedy executions, Krone might have been murdered by the state of Arizona.
When Krone was released in 2002, he represented the 100th person finally
released from the death rows across our nation because it was discovered
that someone else had committed the crime.
Unless you are God or acting in self-defense, one should think very long
and very hard before executing another. When it comes to killing,
deliberate trumps speedy.
And speaking of God, I doubt that God sees death as a penalty. I suspect
that living with the knowledge of who you are and what you have done is
the ultimate penalty.
David W. Gallagher, Lakeside
(source: Letter to the Editor, Arizona Republic)
More information about the DeathPenalty