[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----VA., WASH., N.MEX., OHIO, N.J, KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 5 07:12:04 UTC 2007
Kaine Expresses Reservations on Expanding Death Penalty
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who ran for office by pledging to
enforce the state's death penalty despite his personal opposition, said he
has strong reservations about efforts by the General Assembly to expand
the crimes that would be eligible for capital punishment.
Kaine, speaking to Washington Post reporters and editors, questioned the
need for new laws that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty
for those who are accomplices to murder, such as Washington area sniper
John Allen Muhammad, and for people who kill judges.
"I do not look at the expansion of the death penalty with a favorable
eye," Kaine said of legislation moving through both houses. Noting
Virginia is 2nd to Texas in the number of executions, Kaine said, "I would
not say that the problem in Virginia is that the death penalty is not
applied enough." Kaine made the comments in a wide ranging, 2-hour
interview Wednesday in which he also discussed 2 contentious Northern
Virginia issues: his decision to build an above ground Metro rail line
through Tysons Corner and Dominion Virginia's plan to build a new,
high-voltage transmission line across scenic land in the region's outer
The death penalty has been a sensitive subject for Kaine since he took
office about a year ago.
During the campaign against former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R),
Kaine pledged to carry out executions even though he said his Catholic
faith leads him to oppose it. Kaine has let 3 executions stand and has
granted one stay of execution.
"Fidelity to the rule of law is a very important moral virtue," Kaine said
in the interview. "Wrestling with how you balance these things out,
there's no easy answer to that.
Kaine noted that convicted sniper Muhammad, who prosecutors wanted to
charge as an accomplice in the cases in which Lee Boyd Malvo -- not
Muhammad -- actually pulled the trigger during their 2002 spree, still
received the death penalty under an existing terrorism statute.
"Well, okay, so. I go back to my question: 'Where's the problem?' " with
the application of capital punishment, Kaine asked. "It's like how many
ways can you ban gay marriage? Virginia would like to do it 9 times rather
than 8 times. The death penalty statute is kind of the same way."
Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), sponsor of the bill to repeal the
triggerman law, said a Kaine veto would be "a direct affront to victims"
of crimes that involve more than one suspect. "When you have 2 people
committing an act that brutal and heinous, they should be treated the same
by law," said Gilbert.
Despite his general skepticism about the need for an expansion of the
death penalty, Kaine said it is still possible that he could be convinced
to sign one of the bills this session.
He said, for example, that he might be able to accept the argument that
judges are members of the law enforcement community, and that killers of
judges should be treated the same way as killers of police officers.
"Are there really instances where there have been murder of judicial
professionals but they haven't been able to be charged with capital crimes
because they . . . are not law enforcement professionals?" Kaine asked.
"If there is some weird gap that wasn't intended, I could see someone
saying, 'see this is a problem.' "
But he added, "You know, I gotta be convinced there is a problem and I
gotta be convinced that the bill fixes a problem."
(source: Washington Post)
New Bill Could Put Death Sentences on Hold
7 inmates sit on death row in Walla Walla, but after numerous high profile
cases around the state, lawmakers are being forced to rethink criteria for
the death penalty.
State law says the death penalty can only be used if the crime is
proportionate to the punishment, prompting lawyers to ask why a serial
killer like Gary Ridgway could get life in prison, but some convicted of a
single murder were sentenced to death.
Some defense lawyers say it's simple politics.
"Prosecutors get elected every 4 years, as do judges, and in order for
them to maintain their political credibility, with the electorate," said
Jim Egan, a Criminal Defense Attorney in Kennewick.
"They sometimes have to do these things."
If the bill passes, all executions in the state would be put on hold until
the commission is finished.
Some in opposition to the death penalty also say punishment depends on
where the crime was committed, because certain counties don't have the
money to pursue death penalty cases.
(source: KNDO News)
Death Penalty Ban Faces Hurdles
Once again, a bill to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico is moving
through the Legislature, passing successfully through its 1st House
But will Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign for president ultimately hurt the
chances of House Bill 190?
The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 for a do-pass
recommendation for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque.
It was a strict party-line vote with Democrats in favor, Republicans
Richardson, a Democrat, always has been in favor of the death penalty.
"He's willing to listen to the proponents, but he still supports
preserving capital punishment for the most heinous crimes," an aide, who
asked not to be identified, said Tuesday.
Richardson isn't actively lobbying against Chasey's bill, the aide said.
"He's concentrating on his agenda, and that's not part of it," the aide
Conventional wisdom holds that opposing the death penalty is fatal to a
In 2004, for instance, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., previously a
death-penalty opponent, altered his position, saying he supported
executions for terrorists.
2 years ago, when asked about how a bill to abolish capital punishment
would affect a Richardson presidential campaign, Larry Sabato, director of
the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told a reporter, "That
bill is deadly to his campaign if he becomes a candidate for president.
It's a no-win proposition for him. He needs to make certain that bill
never makes it to his desk."
However, Sabato now says he doesn't think signing a death-penalty bill
necessarily would sink Richardson's presidential dreams. In fact, he said,
it could help during next year's primary season.
"Opposing the death penalty is certainly not a plus in the general
election, and a Republican nominee would be sure to use it against
Richardson," Sabato said in an e-mail in response to a reporter's question
"But Richardson's big problem is getting nominated, and opposition to the
death penalty would help, especially in Iowa, where anti-death penalty
fervor is substantial among the voters who participate in the early
caucuses," Sabato said.
Chasey noted that other governors such as New Jersey's Jon Corzine and
Maryland's Martin O'Malley have come out against capital punishment. Both
states are considering banning executions. "Someday I'm sure Jon Corzine
will run for president," Chasey told a reporter.
"I'm not sure that (signing her death-penalty bill) would help Governor
Richardson win the presidency," Chasey said. "But as far as the rest of
world goes, it would sure emphasize his terrific foreign-policy
experience. The United Nations is against the death penalty. In Europe, he
would be a hero."
Despite getting a majority of the committee's vote Tuesday, the bill did
suffer one setback. Rep. W.C. "Dub" Williams, R-Glencoe, who last year was
1 of 5 House Republicans to vote for a death-penalty ban in 2005, voted
Williams was persuaded by law-enforcement officers who testified against
the bill on Tuesday, he said after the vote.
In 2005, a death-penalty abolition bill passed the House by a 38-31 vote.
However, it died by a one-vote margin in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(source: Sante Fe New Mexican)
Governor denies moratorium plan for executions----3 scheduled have been
Gov. Ted Strickland said yesterday that anyone trying to read more into
his recent decision to delay three executions will find nothing more than
a need for more time for his office to thoroughly review each case.
"If I were to decide that I was going to have a moratorium on executions,
I would just say so," he said. "People are reading between the lines, and
there's nothing written there."
Mr. Strickland delayed for at least 2 months the 1st 3 executions
scheduled during the first few weeks of his administration, including 1
originally set for January and 2 scheduled for this month. The executions
have been delayed until March, April, and May.
"I wasn't going to be put in a position where I was going to be making a
hasty decision about a matter like this," he said. "Now that I'm in
office, now that we've got our staff in place, as additional executions
are scheduled, we will have time to do reasonable considerations."
The governor's action nearly 2 weeks ago had both death-row supporters and
opponents wondering aloud whether Ohio's 1st Democratic governor in 16
years was preparing to issue a moratorium on executions as has been done
in some other states, most recently Florida.
Mr. Strickland, an ordained minister, has said he supports the death
penalty, but he has also often pointed to a case currently in federal
court in which Ohio's lethal injection procedures are being challenged as
unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
7 inmates, including Toledo native John Spirko in a Van Wert County case,
are death-row plaintiffs in that lawsuit. Others have sought to join the
"You know, I'm glad there is discussion of this issue ... It's an
important issue," Mr. Strickland said. "If Ohioans want to discuss it,
they ought to discuss it."
Mr. Strickland delayed the executions of Kenneth Biros, convicted in a
1991 Trumbull County murder; James L. Filiaggi, convicted in the 1994
shooting of his ex-wife in Lorain County, and Christopher J. Newton,
convicted in the 2001 strangling of his prison cell mate.
The Ohio Parole Board has recommended that the governor not grant clemency
to Biros. Its recommendation on Filiaggi is due today. Newton has dropped
all appeals and had not asked for the governor to intervene.
The governor made his comments following a brief speech before the Ohio
Tax Conference, a meeting of business executives, accountants, and tax
attorneys that the state touts as the largest of its kind in the nation.
Mr. Strickland reiterated his message that his first two-year budget
proposal, due in mid-March, will be tight and that he has no intention of
raising taxes or fees. He also plans to wait for results of the state's
tax reform enacted 2 years, which included a major shift in the how the
state taxes businesses, before recommending any changes.
Despite the changes, Ohio's economy remains sluggish, but Mr. Strickland
said there are early signs that the tax plan may be helping the
(source: Toledo Blade)
Lecture Questions Death Penalty
David Kaczynski, brother of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, spoke Wednesday
on the subject of mental illness and the death penalty, in the 1st in a
series of death penalty-themed events hosted by the university this
The series will culminate in the production of "Dead Man Walking" at
The lecture recounted his experiences with his brother and the trial that
could have sentenced Ted Kaczynski to death, despite the fact that he was
diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
"I had to consider that if I turned my brother in, chances are he's going
to get the death penalty," Kaczynski said. "If in 1995 you made a list of
people who deserved the death penalty in America, most people would have
said 'That Unabomber has got to fry.'"
And that position might not seem unreasonable. Between 1978 and 1995, Ted
Kaczynski was responsible for 16 bombings that killed three people and
However, in addition to his mental illness, the attorneys representing him
were "some of the best and most gifted" in the nation, according to David
The Unabomber ultimately received life in prison without the possibility
"Ted wasn't saved because of his illness, he was saved because of his
lawyers," he said, comparing his brother's defense team to O.J. Simpson's
But such resources are not available to every defendant facing the death
penalty. Kaczynski specifically highlighted the case of Manny Babbitt, a
paranoid schizophrenic who was put to death for the murder of an elderly
Babbitt's attorney was appointed by the court, drank heavily during the
trial, and had never argued a criminal case before.
"Above the entrance to the Supreme Court building, the words 'Equal
Justice Under Law' are inscribed," said Kaczynski. "We're kidding
ourselves if we think that's a reality."
He also pointed out the recent re-evaluation of cases in which defendants
put to death have been found innocent.
"If you make a mistake, you can't revive someone who was executed," he
Kaczynski's words found support among students, with many citing their
Catholic faith as the reason for their support.
"I don't believe in taking a life for a life," freshman Mary-Claire Malloy
said. "That's God's job, not ours."
Other students came away with an entirely new perspective on the issue.
"It definitely changed my mind," junior Andrea Julien said. "I'm now 100 %
The aim of the series is "to bring about discussion and awareness of
alternatives to the death penalty," according to a university news
"We want to encourage dialogue on the issue," professor Deirdre Yates, who
is spearheading the campaign, said. "It's a hot issue of the day."
That is because New Jersey is close to becoming the 1st state to abolish
the death penalty in 35 years, said Celeste Fitzgerald, Program Director
of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP).
In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down most federal and state death
penalty laws. In response, the states that had death penalty laws
rewritten to comply with the court's decision.
Now, the New Jersey State Legislature is looking at 2 bills that would
make capital punishment illegal.
"The eyes of the nation are on New Jersey on the issue of capital
punishment," Fitzgerald said.
(source: The Setonian)
Judge turns away lethal injection challenge - for now
A federal judge turned away a challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection
method Thursday, saying 3 death-row inmates first must file a grievance
with prison administrators.
The inmates claimed Kentucky violated federal laws when buying 1 of the 3
The drug, sodium thiopental, is a controlled substance, and federal law
requires a doctor buy and prescribe it. The state does not make public its
execution protocol - including who purchases the drug for the state's use.
Kentucky also requires doctors to follow American Medical Association
guidelines that bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in
If inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard file
a grievance in the prison system, Department of Corrections administrators
would rule on its merits.
If the grievance fails, U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell left the door
open for the inmates to refile their challenge in federal court.
David Barron, the public defender representing the three men, said a
grievance would be filed, but noted that prison officials have rejected
other challenges to lethal injection.
"We expect they'll do the same thing," Barron said. "Almost guaranteed."
If the grievance fails, the suit will be refiled in federal court, Barron
Jeff Middendorf, general counsel for the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, said
the suit lacked merit.
"Unfortunately, we are entering the point that the Death Row inmates throw
issues against the wall and hope something sticks," Middendorf said. "That
is precisely what happened in this case."
Baze, Bowling and Leonard also asked Caldwell in the lawsuit to declare
that having someone other than a licensed doctor inject sodium thiopental
violated federal law. The 3 men sought an injunction to stop the state
from using the drug unless a doctor administers it. Trained corrections
staff administer drugs at executions in Kentucky.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned away a similar challenge by inmates in 1985.
The inmates argued that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved
the drugs used in lethal injection for use on humans and that the agency
was not enforcing a ban on the chemicals' use. The high court ruled the
FDA has a right not to enforce regulations.
Bowling and Baze, who also challenged lethal injection as cruel and
unusual punishment in a 2004 lawsuit, have received several stays of
execution because of the court challenges. Leonard is on his final appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kentucky has not declared a moratorium on executions but has not scheduled
any since the 2004 lawsuit.
Bowling was sentenced to death for killing Edward and Tina Earley and
shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's Lexington dry-cleaning
business in 1990.
Baze was convicted of killing Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and
deputy Arthur Briscoe during an attempted arrest in 1992.
Leonard, who is also known as James Earl Slaughter, was condemned to death
for the January 1983 murder of Esther Stewart who owned a consignment
store in Louisville.
Kentucky has 40 death-row inmates, including 11 that have been there for
more than 2 decades. The state has executed 2 men since reinstating the
death penalty in 1976, and only 1 by injection: Eddie Lee Harper in 1999.
(source: Associated Press)
Man Accused Of Double Murder May Face Death Penalty
A man accused of a brutal Wayne County double murder may get the death
penalty if convicted.
Police say 43 year old Robert Coy Dennis of Monticello riddled his mother,
Dorothy Dennis, and brother, Gary Lee, with bullets killing them both.
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty.
Robert Dennis is also charged with being a convicted felon in possession
of a gun.
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