[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ARIZ., N.Y., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 5 07:07:56 UTC 2007
4 executions are postponed in Tennessee
Gov. Phil Bredesen postponed four executions Thursday so the state could
review and better document its procedures for lethal injection.
Bredesen, a Democrat, reiterated his support for the death penalty but
said he was issuing the reprieves because he was concerned the written
protocol for execution wasn't specific enough.
"The document describes the drugs to be used; it doesn't describe how much
is to be used. That's a huge failure of that document," Bredesen said.
Bredesen said a review should be complete by May 2.
The inmates who received the 90-day reprieves were identified as Edward J.
Harbison and Daryl Holton, who were to be executed later this month, and
Michael J. Boyd and Pervis T. Payne, who were scheduled to be put to death
Harbison, Boyd and Payne have been on death row since the 1980s. Holton
was sentenced in 1999.
Tennessee has executed 2 inmates since 1960.
The ruling comes as states nationwide are scrutinizing lethal injection
procedures. Florida placed a moratorium on executions after a lethal
injection was botched. Executions also are halted in Missouri, California
and North Carolina.
(source: Associated Press)
Bredesen's Death Penalty Order and TCASK's Response
Governor Phil Bredesen's executive order putting a halt to executions for
90 days gives a reprieve to four inmates on death row but is not likely to
end protests over capital punishment.
On Thursday, Bredesen, a supporter of capital punishment, said problems
with the current written procedures in cases of lethal injection "raise
concerns that they are not adequate to preclude mistakes in the future."
He added that there were no problems with two executions carried out in
this decade, including the death by lethal injection of Sedley Alley in a
Shelby County case. He said they were carried out "constitutionally and
"There did not appear to be any difficulties with those executions," he
Bredesen granted reprieves until May 2nd to four death-row inmates
scheduled to be executed in the next 90 days: Michael Joe Boyd, Edward
Jerome Harbison, Daryl Keith Holton, and Pervis T. Payne.
Bredesen ordered the commissioner of corrections to review all death
penalty protocols including written procedures and the use of scientific
and medical experts. The order applies to executions by lethal injection
or electrocution. Both of the most recent Tennessee executions were by
On Friday, the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (TCASK) said
"Tennessee's death penalty system suffers from a number of problems and
deficiencies well beyond the scope of the governor's expressed concerns."
TCASK executive director said the system "unfairly targets the poor,
racial minorities, and people with mental illness. We can't even trust our
system to always sentence those truly guilty of murder."
Last year TCASK rallied to the defense of Alley, who was executed for the
brutal rape and murder of a woman who was jogging in Millington in 1985.
Capital punishment opponents include those who assert the innocence or
possible innocence of death-row prisoners as well as people who think
state killing is wrong under any circumstances. Bredesen's order is not
likely to satisfy the 1st group and certainly not the 2nd.
- John Branston
(source: Letter to the Editor, Memphis Flyer)
Thomas says public defenders are slacking on death-penalty cases
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office, fearing delays in death-penalty
cases because there are not enough qualified attorneys to defend those
cases, has asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to order the
county's public defender agencies to make their lawyers take more
The demand came as response to a defense attorney's request to postpone a
murder trial until a death-qualified attorney could be appointed to the
case. Deputy County Attorney Patricia Stevens asked the court to deny the
request. The judge's decision is pending.
"Our state constitution gives victims the right to a speedy trial, and a
stay denies those rights," said County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
On Friday, Judge Andrew Klein stated that the court needed to weigh that
right against the defendant's rights to competent counsel and a fair
Persons facing the death penalty are appointed 2 attorneys, who must meet
specific qualifications. There are currently more than 130 death penalty
cases pending in Maricopa County Superior Court, and more than a dozen
cases that cannot be assigned to attorneys.
Klein asked that a hearing be held in front of the presiding criminal
judge to discuss all of those unassigned cases.
But Stevens' brief is the latest step in a burgeoning battle between
Thomas and defense attorneys. Last month, Thomas told the Republic that
the county's defense attorneys have a "leisurely workload" and accused
them of "stepping up their efforts to delay those cases and frustrating
the state's ability to prosecute murderers."
James Haas, the Maricopa County Public Defender countered the allegation.
"He clearly doesn't know what he is talking about," Haas said. "The
lawyers who take our capital cases are the hardest working I've ever
"If it's such a leisurely workload, why do we have such difficulty getting
people to do it?"
Very 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 at the County's
four 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
repeatedly said that he has run out of attorneys to appoint to
death-penalty cases. He claimed that he has 15 such cases for which he is
"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.
Haas said that reasonable workloads are ruled by "a long line of federal
cases." But Thomas pointed out that his prosecutors handle up to seven at
a time, and he thinks that public defenders should do the same.
But defense attorney Vikki Liles claimed that defense attorneys have more
investigation to do than prosecutors.
"The cops have done all the work for them," Liles said. "We have to start
from Ground Zero."
"There's an ethical situation here," Liles said. "A lawyer can only take
what a lawyer can handle."
Stevens' brief to Judge Klein also suggested that the court look at how
the lawyers are appointed to cases, citing instances where two
"first-chair" or lead attorneys are sometimes appointed to a single case.
The qualifications for "first-chair" are higher than for "second-chair."
Kennedy bristled at the suggestion that Thomas' office be allowed to
meddle in defense decisions.
"He is not going to have a say in how the lawyers are apportioned,"
Kennedy said. "He is not going to dictate to my lawyers how many cases
they can handle at one time. These people are being pushed as far as they
"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," he said. "They are
the hardest cases there are to defend."
(source: Arizona Republic)
Convicted Hit Man Could Face Death Penalty
A federal jury in Brooklyn is set to reconvene next week to consider the
death penalty for a drug kingpin convicted in a murder-for-hire case.
That same jury found Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff guilty Thursday of paying
$50,000 to have 2 rivals killed in 2001.
Prosecutors charged McGriff with funneling more than $1 million in drug
proceeds through rap label Murder Inc.
The label's founder Irving Lorenzo and his brother Christopher were
acquitted of money laundering charges in 2005.
McGriff's lawyers claim he "went straight" in the late 1990s after doing
time on a drug conviction.
Killer's sentence sparks a debate ---- Death penalty foes say prosecutors
in police murders ducked law
New York could see its first execution in more than 40 years now that a
federal jury has sentenced a 24-year-old member of the Bloods street gang
to death for 2 detectives.
Should Ronell Wilson of Staten Island receive a lethal injection, it would
be the state's first execution since Eddie Lee Mays was strapped into the
electric chair in 1963 -- and the first in a federal case since convicted
Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg met their fates in 1953. They were
joined in death a year later by a bank robber who killed an FBI agent.
Critics, though, said the verdict springs from a prosecutorial "end run"
of a state Court of Appeals decision that effectively overturned New
York's death penalty in June 2004.
Such "forum shopping" from state to federal court is inappropriate and
transparent, the critics said, pledging to work to reverse the verdict.
"The death penalty will not restore the lives of the 2 dedicated police
officers that were so wrongly and tragically taken," said Donna Lieberman,
executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Resorting to
this, no matter how heinous the crime or how contemptible the defendant,
is an affront to civilized society."
After the Court of Appeals' 4-3 decision declared the death penalty
unconstitutional, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr.
asked the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn to take over his case.
Wilson was found guilty last month, after a 3-week trial in Brooklyn, of
fatally shooting two undercover New York Police Department detectives
during a weapons sting on Staten Island on March 10, 2003. The 2 were
posing as gun buyers when Wilson shot them in the back of the head with a
On Tuesday, a jury voted for capital punishment after deliberating for 2
The case could go to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan and,
if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court, before Wilson would be executed.
The Court of Appeals is also expected to revisit the capital punishment
issue this year.
The Wilson case highlights serious problems with the federal death penalty
system which relies heavily on testimony of former friends and associates
of defendants, who can gain by cooperating with the prosecution, David
"And it comes at a time when clear public opinion has changed and polls
indicate that life without parole is preferable," said Kaczynski,
executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty.
No one has been put to death in New York since former Gov. George Pataki
reintroduced capital punishment in 1995.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of the mentally
retarded and 3 years later banned capital punishment for crimes committed
Without minimizing Wilson's crime or the effect it has had on the
officers' families, Kaczynski said state lawmakers last year already took
steps to address the lack of capital punishment by increasing the maximum
penalty for the murder of a police officer to a life sentence without the
possibility of parole.
Even so, he said, the Department of Justice continues to "shop" for cases
in New York. Which is odd, he said, "since you typically think of the Bush
administration as touting the autonomy of states and here you have a very
activist government trying to force the death penalty on 19 million
A Department of Justice spokesman had no comment.
Retired Colonie Police Chief John Grebert, though, said the police
officers' murder was not just a crime against those men, "it was a crime
against the whole criminal justice system and its foundation of law and
"We support completely the decision for the death penalty in this case,"
said Grebert, now executive director of the New York State Police Chiefs
While recognizing opponents' concerns about racial bias and the potential
for wrongful convictions in death penalty cases, Grebert said a move last
year to expand the statewide DNA database was a good step toward ensuring
justice. So would be requiring a higher standard of proof, he added.
Opponents insist capital punishment is inhumane, unnecessary and
New York has spent more than $170 million administering death penalty
cases since 1995 but never executed anyone, Kaczynski pointed out.
And figures provided by the Death Penalty Information Center show the
average cost of prosecuting an authorized federal death penalty case, not
including costs for investigators and experts, is $365,000.
A case in which the attorney general does not authorize seeking the death
penalty is set at $55,772.
There are now 47 inmates on federal death row nationwide, including
Wilson. A 10-year death penalty moratorium ended in 1977 with the
execution by firing squad of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore.
In New York, about 1,130 executions were carried out between 1600 and
The state also earned the dubious honor of being the 1st to use the
electric chair in 1890.
(source: Albany Times Union)
Aiding Executions Betrays Medical Values, Lancet Says
Doctors who aid in executions by injecting convicts with deadly drugs
betray the core values of medicine, an editorial in The Lancet medical
"Lethal injection is a perversion of healing,'' Leonidas Koniaris and
fellow researchers of the University of Miami wrote in the editorial.
A series of botched executions in California recently led U.S. District
Court Judge Jeremy Fogel to conclude that the state's implementation of
lethal injection is broken and demanded that the government review the
process. Other states, including Florida, are also reviewing their
execution protocols. These reviews imply that medical and scientific
experts should evaluate and perfect executions, the article said.
Appropriating doctors' knowledge "to kill is an appalling betrayal of the
core values of medical research,'' the authors said.
Amnesty International says 128 countries have abolished the death penalty
in law or practice, while 22 countries are known to have executed
prisoners in 2005. Of those executions, 94 % occurred in China, Iran,
Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
(source: The Lancet)
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