[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., N. MEX., ARIZ., S. DAK., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 7 06:04:45 UTC 2007
Victim's sobbing son testifies in Brooklyn death-penalty case
A weeping teen left jurors crying in a hushed Brooklyn courtroom as he
testified Tuesday in the death penalty case against a notorious drug lord
convicted of hiring hitmen to kill the boy's father.
"My father was a wonderful human being," said 14-year-old Troy Singleton
Jr. before dissolving into tears as convicted killer Kenneth "Supreme"
McGriff sat impassively at the defense table. McGriff was convicted by a
federal jury last Thursday of paying $50,000 to have two rivals killed _
including Troy Sr.
The youth was 1 of 3 witnesses called by prosecutors in the death penalty
phase of the case against McGriff, 46, 1 of the most infamous crack
dealers in Queens. He was the founder of the Supreme Team, a wealthy and
violent drug crew, in the 1980s.
The witnesses were relatives of the slain men, with each one choking up
while recalling their loved ones. The most wrenching scene came when the
slight Singleton walked through the quiet courtroom and took the witness
stand to remember his father.
"If he was here, my life would be much better," he said between sobs as
jurors wiped at their eyes. "Without him here, all I can do is cry. ... I
miss him so."
The same jury that convicted McGriff returned Tuesday to start the death
penalty portion of the trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Jones told the
panel that McGriff was deserving of lethal injection.
"Supreme McGriff bought drugs and sold drugs, and he bought and sold
people's lives," Jones said in his opening statement. "He left behind
bodies like garbage in the middle of the street. ... He never showed any
mercy, and the government believes he doesn't deserve any."
Defense attorney Jean Barrett told the jurors to consider that McGriff's
other option was dying behind bars. If the jury doesn't return the death
penalty, McGriff will serve life without parole.
"His life has value," Barrett said. "It should not be wiped off the face
of the earth."
Last week in the U.S. District Courthouse, the killer of two undercover
police detectives was sentenced to die _ the first federal defendant
sentenced to death in New York City since 1954.
According to authorities, McGriff went back to drug dealing after getting
out of prison in the 1990s. He paid a Harlem hit team to kill Singleton
and another man, a rapper named E-Money Bags, in retaliation for the
slaying of a McGriff associate.
Both slayings occurred in 2001.
(source: Associated Press)
An industry on lockdown: How the 'prison-industrial complex' gained
INTERVIEW. The nation's prison system's main purpose is to incarcerate,
and its critics say it is local communities and economies that are held
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 2
million inmates held in prisons throughout the country. Each one of those
inmates represents dollar signs to communities looking for jobs and
improved infrastructure, said Dr. Adolphus Belk, a political science
professor at Winthrop University in South Carolina.
Metro spoke with Belk about the surprising allure of prisons, the
advantages of an inmate constituency and the blurred purpose of the
nation's corrections system.
What has led to the "prison-industrial complex?"
During the last 25 to 30 years, a number of issues have coalesced around
crime and incarceration. The decline in industry has hurt towns built
around certain industries like steel mills and textile plants, and has
left communities trying to attract entities that will create more jobs.
You have rural communities lobbying legislators for prisons in their
districts because they see prisons as a way to create jobs in an
non-polluting, environmentally safe fashion.
If an expanded criminal system indicates more crime and, thus, more law
enforcement, who really benefits?
There are a number of different interests that include politicians,
communities, businesses that provide services to those facilities and
businesses that use prison labor, which would include Texas Instruments,
Victoria's Secret and Target. One of the other effects is that Census
money follows the inmate. If you have an inmate from New York City and he
is sent up to Seneca Falls, N.Y., he's counted as part of that district.
Elected officials then represent an increased number of constituents
despite the fact that those new constituents can't vote. For example, I
looked at Sussex County, Va., which from the mid-'90s until 2000 was one
of the fastest growing counties in the nation. However, it was growing
because the county had built 2 maximum security prisons and was housing
death row inmates.
Are there any drawbacks for communities that may be considering this
It can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000 to house an inmate over the
course of a year. Plus, if there's an emergency at the site, it is up to
local services to respond at a cost to the communities. Often, communities
are worried about escapes but they're also worried about new people moving
into their communities to be near incarcerated loved ones. One community
in upstate New York was quoted as saying they didn't want "city trash
moving in." They counter this by routinely transferring inmates.
If you're in a struggling community, what are your alternatives?
The solution is to get smarter on crime rather than tougher. A lot of
states do this through prison re-entry programs that ask "How can we
prevent this person from returning?" and try to reduce the rate of
recidivism. Through job programs, drug rehab programs and other plans,
states spend a fraction of the cost to incarcerate and try to ensure
ex-offenders will remain ex-offenders. Prisons are supposed to punish and
rehabilitate criminals. Some time during the 1970s, they abandoned the
rehabilitation portion of that mission and just now they're starting to
return to it.
(source: Metro New York)
Death penalty ruled out in Santa Fe murder case
Prosecutors have been blocked from seeking the death penalty against a
woman accused of killing a 19-year-old house-sitter in Santa Fe.
The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that a prosecutor missed a deadline
for filing notice that the state wanted to seek the death penalty in the
case, according to a copyright story in The Santa Fe New Mexican.
Karen Smallwood, a 61-year-old drifter, has been charged with murder in
the October 13th, 2004, shooting death of Ursula Duran.
Duran's body was found at the Santa Fe home of her aunt and uncle, where
Duran had been house-sitting.
Smallwood was a house-sitter for Duran's aunt and uncle about 6 years
(source: Associated Press)
Senate committee approves death penalty bill
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' pitch to speed up death penalty
trials passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, despite strong
objections from opponents who warned it could backfire and cost taxpayers
The bill, SB1286, which spells out the proposed rights of crime victims,
also calls for capital punishment trials to start 18 months after a
defendant makes a first appearance in court.
The measure, which was written by Thomas and sponsored by Sen. Chuck Gray,
RMesa, passed along party lines with four Republicans voting in favor and
three Democrats opposed.
Supporters of the plan argue that the family members of victims have as
much of a right to a speedy trial as defendants. But under the current
system, defendants can also delay the start of a trial with numerous legal
Opponents caution that rushing a case to court could open legal loopholes
and result in the reversal of convictions when appealed to higher courts.
That, detractors warn, could cost taxpayers millions of dollars because
defendants must go through a 2nd trial or sentencing hearing.
"It's easy for (Thomas) to introduce a bill like this so he looks tough on
crime," said Jim Belanger, the presidentelect for Arizona Attorneys for
Criminal Justice. "But in the end, it will cost taxpayers millions of
dollars in post-conviction reviews at the state and federal levels."
Defendants sentenced to die in Arizona have their cases automatically
appealed to the state Supreme Court. If the conviction is upheld, a case
can be appealed in the federal court system.
Jim Keppel, the presiding criminal judge for Maricopa County Superior
Court, also questioned the legality of the proposal.
"I think it violates the separation-of-powers rule that the Legislature
can't get involved in this process," he said during a committee hearing.
Keppel raised concerns about the ability of prosecutors and defense
attorneys to adequately prepare for a trial under stricter timeliness.
"It cannot be done correctly if it is rushed through the system," he said.
Currently, death penalty cases must begin within 18 months after it's
taken to court. But the proposed bill would limit further delays to a
maximum of 30 days after the scheduled start date.
It would also require that a request for delaying the trial be submitted
in writing to the Arizona Supreme Court.
And with more than 100 death penalty cases pending in Superior court,
Keppel said the tighter schedule would add even greater stress to public
There are about 130 death penalty cases pending in Maricopa County
Superior court. More than a dozen defendants in those cases dont have
attorneys, according to Maricopa County officials.
"We seem to have a lack of qualified attorneys to take these cases," said
Tony Novitsky, chief of the major crimes division at the county attorneys
He said, however, that moving up the start of trial dates would not keep
attorneys from putting together a good criminal case.
He said it takes an average of 3 years for a death penalty case to go to
"Victims should not have to wait that long," he said.
(source: East Valley Tribune)
Death Penalty Repeal Fails In South Dakota Senate
An effort to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota failed Monday in the
The Senate State Affairs Committee killed a bill 7-1 that would have ended
capital punishment and required that the sentences of 4 men on death row
be commuted to life in prison without parole.
Those who supported SB161 said the government has no right to kill people
and that modern prisons can keep society safe from the most dangerous
"We, as South Dakotans, should work to secure non-lethal punishments that
still respect the dignity of all human life," said Travis Benson, lobbyist
for the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.
Larry Nelson, lobbyist for the National Coalition To Abolish The Death
Penalty, said it is doubtful that having the death penalty on the books
There also is the chance that innocent people will be executed, he said.
Nelson said 118 people on death row have been exonerated by DNA testing in
the United States since 1972.
It also is cheaper for taxpayers to keep someone in prison for life than
to bear the expense of the lengthy appeals process in death-penalty cases,
But those who opposed the bill said even people on death row can kill
again, placing prison guards and other inmates at risk.
Neil Fulton, lobbyist for Gov. Mike Rounds, said the death penalty should
not be repealed.
"There are those individuals in society who commit the most violent and
most heinous of crimes and who deserve the ultimate sanction," Fulton
South Dakota is scheduled to have its 1st execution in a half century in
July when Elijah Page faces death for the 2000 torture and slaying of
Chester Allan Poage, 19, of Spearfish.
Page, 25, has given up the appeal process and asked to be killed.
Arguing against SB161, state Sen. Scott Heidepriem, D-Sioux Falls, said
just having the death penalty on the books can cause some criminals to cut
deals with prosecutors and avoid the cost of expensive trials.
"If a defendant knows that failure at trial could result in death it may
make you more likely to plead guilty in exchange for a deal that puts you
in prison for life," he said.
Also arguing against the bill, Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, said it
is not unheard of for people who are in prison for life to kill guards and
other inmates. Some people are so dangerous that they must be put to death
to avoid those situations, he said.
"We don't have guarantees that these people that are sentenced to life are
going to stay there," Abdallah said, adding that people can kill again
after escaping from prison or even having their sentences commuted.
But Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, said the government has no right to
claim someone's life.
"I just absolutely refuse to turn that kind of power over to the
government," said Nesselhuf, the lone vote in favor of the repeal bill.
(source: Associated Press)
House Passes Death Penalty Measure
The state House of Representatives has approved a measure that would clear
the way for South Dakota to hold its first execution in nearly 6 decades.
The bill was suggested by Governor Mike Rounds to take care of a problem
that caused him to call off the scheduled execution of convicted murderer
Elijah Page in August.
Rounds postponed Page's execution because state law required the use of 2
specific drugs for lethal injection in South Dakota, but prison officials
intended to add a third drug to the mix. That 3-drug mix is the common
practice in other states that use lethal injection to carry out the death
The bill approved by the House would remove the legal reference to
specific kinds of drugs. It would allow state prison officials to
determine the substances to be used in an execution.
The measure next goes to the Senate.
(source: Keloland TV News)
Wright joins request to suspend death penalty
On the eve of a historic discussion by the Council of State on the way
North Carolina puts convicts to death, state Rep. Thomas Wright has joined
43 other Democratic lawmakers in asking Gov. Mike Easley to halt
executions until the lethal injection method is shown to be
Wright, D-New Hanover,was one of 14 state lawmakers who added their names
Monday to a Jan. 23 letter to Easley signed by 30 legislators. No other
Wilmington-area lawmaker has signed the letter, which comes at a moment
when lethal injection is under review in 9 states.
Governors of 2 states, Florida and Tennessee, have suspended executions
while the method, which some argue has the possibility of causing
suffering, is studied. The halt in Florida came in December after prison
officials inserted needles into a convict's flesh, rather than his veins,
causing chemical burns before his death.
Today, Easley will serve as chairman of a meeting of the Council of State,
which will discuss how to proceed since the N.C. Medical Society has said
its physicians may not participate in executions. A judge has also stayed
2 executions, in part because of changes to the method with respect to a
doctor's presence were not approved by the council as required by law. 3
executions had been scheduled between Jan. 26 and Friday.
"We respectfully ask that you suspend those and all other executions until
our lethal injection procedures, which are identical to Florida's, can be
reviewed fully," the lawmakers wrote.
The 9 a.m. council meeting will be broadcast over the Internet at
(source: Wilmington Star)
No job for nurses
As an advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nurse, I am stunned and
saddened to read of the Council of State's possible consideration of using
nurses to assume the functions outlined in the execution protocol which
were previously performed by physicians (news story, Feb. 1). Since 1984,
the American Nurses Association, through its Ethics and Human Rights
Committee, has opposed nurses' participation in capital punishment. The
current revision clearly states, "Nurses should refrain from participation
in capital punishment and not take part in assessment, supervision or
monitoring of the procedure or the prisoner; procuring, prescribing or
preparing medications or solutions; inserting the intravenous catheter;
injecting the lethal solution; and attending or witnessing the execution
as a nurse." (ANA, 1994).
Regardless of the individual nurse's point of view about capital
punishment, nursing's mandate is to "promote, preserve, and protect human
life." Nurses have long been viewed as the compassionate caregivers.
I strongly urge the N.C. Nurses Association and the N.C. Board of Nursing
to step forward and publicly declare support for the ethical traditions of
our profession and the position already taken by the national voice for
nurses, the ANA.
Carolyn V. Billings, R.N.-----Raleigh
(source: Opinion, News & Observer)
Fix flawed system----Council of State should suspend N.C. executions
When the N.C. Council of State convenes this morning in Raleigh, it will
be confronted with an issue it is not well equipped to handle: deciding
how to alter the state's method of executions. The council can't fix
what's wrong with the state's criminal justice system in one meeting.
Instead, it should suspend executions in North Carolina and provide
sufficient time to develop a better system.
The Council of State comprises 10 public officials elected statewide,
including the governor and lieutenant governor and such specialized
offices as commissioner of agriculture, state auditor and superintendent
of public instruction. It normally meets to handle such issues as land
purchases and sales.
But today it meets to discuss what to do, if anything, about 2 recent
court decisions that delay three planned N.C. executions. Wake Superior
Court Judge Donald Stephens postponed the executions after he found that
one part of the execution process did not follow state law. The question
is whether the method North Carolina uses for lethal injections is lawful.
Nationally, there's a debate whether lethal injections violate the U.S.
Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At least 10 states,
including Florida, Maryland and Tennessee, have suspended executions until
they can determine whether lethal injections cause excruciating pain.
North Carolina's lethal injection process requires a licensed physician to
be present so that an execution can be halted if it goes awry. But
recently the N.C. Medical Board banned physicians from participating in
executions. It said doctors who do so could lose their licenses to
Judge Stephens ruled in January that simply having physicians present and
available to sign a death certificate did not comply with a 1909 law that
requires any change in death penalty procedures to be approved by the
governor and the Council of State. Thus the council meets this morning to
decide what to do next.
At least 44 members of the N.C. General Assembly, including 6 members of
the Mecklenburg delegation, have urged the governor to suspend all
executions "until we can be assured that North Carolina's method of
execution clearly meets the U.S. constitutional requirement that the
punishment is not cruel and unusual." It's the most rational thing to do
at this point.
Suspending executions would not abolish the death penalty. It would not
interfere with the courts' ability to sentence murderers to death. It
would stop the rush to execute more inmates at a time when questions
abound about lethal injections. The public supports the death penalty for
the worst crimes but expects it to be administered fully according to the
law. There is insufficient time to attempt to fix today what has taken
years to break.
A moratorium on executions is clearly the right choice.
(source: Editorial, Charlotte Observer)
Lawmakers spar over death penalty
On the eve of a meeting where state leaders are to consider a new
execution procedure, lawmakers bickered Monday about when they should join
the debate over the role a doctor plays when the state puts an inmate to
The meeting of the House Study Committee on Capital Punishment, formed
last year to consider issues such as racial equity in jury selection and
ethical behavior by lawyers in capital cases, ended with a tense exchange
over questions of whether its work is a veiled effort to abolish capital
Co-chair Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, quelled the argument by asking
members to remember their assigned mission is only to find and fix errors
in the state's death penalty system.
"I would want to think that none of us would want to see an innocent
person put to death. I would want to think that, but it's beginning to be
kind of hard," she said. "I would think that we'd want to put all the
safeguards that we can in place to make sure that that doesn't happen."
The council is considering the new protocol after a judge put three
planned executions on hold. The committee's meeting came a day before the
Council of State -- the governor, lieutenant governor and the elected
heads of eight state government agencies -- is due to take up a new
"execution protocol" that requires a doctor's participation. That
apparently conflicts with the state medical board's recent declaration
that physicians violate medical ethics by taking an active role in a
The council is considering the new protocol after a judge put three
planned executions on hold, cited a law written in 1909 that says the
governor and the Council of State must approve any change in the execution
"With all due respect -- the secretary of agriculture, commerce, the
treasurer -- I don't know that they are properly trained to make those
decisions, life or death decisions," Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford,
said after the meeting.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue's office released a written statement late Monday
saying Perdue supported suspending executions until constitutional
questions related to how the death penalty is administered are "clarified
by the courts."
The statement said Purdue, a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in
2008, remained a proponent of capital punishment but didn't say how Perdue
would vote Tuesday.
Panel co-chairman and House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said the
ongoing debate prompted him to ask committee staff to draw up legislation
that would suspend the death penalty while the Legislature studies lethal
A similar moratorium and study is under way in Florida, where then-Gov.
Jeb Bush put executions on hold in December and created a commission to
examine whether improvements can be made to the way lethal injections are
Hackney's suggestion sparked the tense debate, and although the panel
ultimately decided against discussing the matter until the courts and
Council of State have time to act, some committee members insisted the
debate belongs before the Legislature.
"I have never seen legislators run as fast away from taking on their
legislative responsibilities as I have today," said Rep. Paul Luebke,
D-Durham. "I don't understand ... why the General Assembly would not want
to clarify the statute if we have the medical board saying a doctor can't
participate even if the needle is put in improperly."
The debate grew more heated as former Rep. Rick Eddins, R-Wake, recounted
witnessing the execution of his uncle's killer and cautioned other panel
members against losing sight of the victims of capital crimes.
"I'm not going to be here to represent the victim," said Eddins, who lost
his re-election bid in last year's GOP primary. "But each one of you has
victims in your district, I guarantee that."
The panel did agree to recommend some legislation, including a bill that
would allow a claim of racial discrimination to be introduced at any point
in the appeals process.
It also recommended legislation to provide for further study on
restructuring the state law defining capital murder and felony murder;
methods to ensure fairness in jury selection, including minority
representation; racial discrimination in capital sentences; and mental
competency issues in capital cases.
(source: RDU News 14)
State Leaders To Discuss Death Penalty Protocol
The governor, lieutenant governor and the elected heads of 8 state
government agencies will meet today to discuss North Carolina's "execution
At issue is a doctor's required participation in executions in the state.
That part of the process conflicts with the state medical board's recent
declaration that physicians violate medical ethics by taking an active
role in an execution.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue issued a statement Monday night saying she
supports a moratorium on the death penalty until the constitutional issues
are resolved in the courts.
Monday, a legislative committee studying the death penalty ended its final
meeting in a tense exchange. Committee members did agree on recommending
some legislation, including a bill that would allow a claim of racial
discrimination to be introduced at any point in the appeals process.
(source: Associated Press)
Lobbying intense on death penalty-----Perdue calls for a moratorium as the
Council of State gets an earful on doctors' role in executions
The Council of State, a panel of top elected leaders that will plunge into
the death-penalty debate today, has been inundated with e-mail messages,
letters and phone calls from people who want it to ask the legislature to
decide what role doctors should play in executions.
Late Monday, one of those leaders -- Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue -- called for
an execution moratorium in North Carolina until the settling of
constitutional questions about how and whether a physician can help in a
But a key group of lawmakers on Monday gave up a chance to weigh in on the
issue that has derailed 3 executions. Instead, the House Select Committee
on Capital Punishment, which met to approve bills for the legislative
session, proposed only minor changes to the administration of the death
"It was disappointing," said Dick Taylor, who heads the N.C. Academy of
Trial Lawyers. "These are policy issues that will have to be resolved in
the legislature. They could have begun to work on that."
North Carolina's death-penalty controversy dates to April when a federal
judge asked prison officials to ensure inmates are sedated before being
injected with fatal drugs. Prison officials bought a brain-wave monitor,
and the federal judge was satisfied that the execution was constitutional
because a doctor would monitor the inmate's level of consciousness.
But last month, the N.C. Medical Board passed an ethics policy stating
that doctors can be present at executions but cannot assist in any way,
such as monitoring vital signs. Prison officials then said a nurse and a
paramedic would monitor the medical equipment.
Inmates' attorneys sued in state court, arguing to a Wake County judge
that only a doctor can decide whether an inmate has been sedated.
A judge's response
However, the judge hit upon a state law that requires Gov. Mike Easley and
the council's approval of the qualified personnel involved in executions
-- an endorsement that hadn't been secured and led the judge to halt 3
executions. North Carolina has joined a growing number of states from
California to Tennessee where questions about lethal injection have
derailed the death penalty.
Perdue, a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2008, said in a
statement that a moratorium should be in place while the courts clarify
such constitutional questions.
"Lt. Governor Perdue has long stood and continues to stand as a supporter
of capital punishment," read the statement from Perdue's office. "At the
same time, she believes and has a demonstrated record in favor of
insisting upon fairness in its administration."
Perdue was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.
The focus will turn this morning to the Council of State, whose members
have received thousands of communications about the issue, spokesmen said
Monday. Before what is expected to be an overflow crowd, the panel that
meets monthly to approve leases and land condemnations will wade into
unfamiliar territory for some members, including the state auditor and
Back to court
Any resolution by the council today will send the case back to court,
where the same judge will have to decide whether North Carolina's method
of ending inmates' lives is constitutional.
Regardless, many think, state lawmakers will have to ultimately step into
a dispute over whether they intended a doctor to act as a physician at an
execution when they passed a state law requiring one to be there.
On Monday, near the end of the Committee on Capital Punishment's meeting,
House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, offered a draft bill
to delay executions based on questions swirling around lethal injection.
Rep. Ronnie Sutton, a Lumberton Democrat, objected.
"Why don't we let it take its course?" he asked.
And with that, a committee meeting that had been amiable got heated. Rep.
Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, remarked, "I've never see legislators
running so fast to get away from an issue."
Sutton responded that he was not running from his responsibility.
That exchange prompted Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, to say
he respected both their viewpoints, but "today is not the day" to wade
into this issue.
But even Glazier conceded, "I think it will ultimately come back here. I
see no way around that."
Not everyone was disappointed with the legislature's inaction.
Peg Dorer, executive director of the N.C. Conference of District
Attorneys, said the Council of State should have its say first. And Mark
Kleinschmidt, who runs the Fair Trial Initiative, which trains lawyers to
handle death-penalty cases, said he was pleased to hear lawmakers discuss
the question of when it is appropriate for them to step into the debate.
That's not to say Kleinschmidt was pleased with the committee's progress
"I was disappointed that they weren't able to tackle more substantive
issues," he said.
For now, tinkering
The committee recommended minor proposals but left more significant
changes to the capital punishment system for future debate.
Lawmakers agreed to introduce bills to require law officers to turn over
all their files to prosecutors and to require that officials of the State
Bar, which disciplines lawyers, be notified if a defendant receives a new
trial because of lawyer misconduct.
The committee also approved a proposal to allow defendants to appeal if
they think they received a death sentence based on racial discrimination
-- either in the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty or the
jury's decision to impose a death sentence.
Committee members said a handful of other issues warrant further study.
(source: News & Observer)
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