[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ARIZ., S. DAK., MO., N. DAK., LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 12 06:21:46 UTC 2007
Charlton exit linked to death penalty push
Supporters of former U.S. Attorney Paul K. Charlton say that the former
federal prosecutor clashed with the Bush administration over the death
penalty before he resigned in December.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said Friday the Justice
Department in Washington pressed Charlton to apply the death penalty in
certain cases, but Charlton resisted because he didn't believe it was the
right thing to do. Charlton resigned in December and left office at the
end of last month.
"It's obvious that they may have felt there were more circumstances where
(the death penalty) was warranted than he did," said Woods, who has spoken
with Charlton recently. "I think he should get credit for standing on
principle rather than just doing what he was told so he didn't make waves.
A lot of people don't have the guts to stand up and say 'no.' "
Woods did not know whether the conflicts led directly to Charlton's
departure after serving as the U.S. attorney for Arizona since 2001.
Charlton took a job with a Phoenix law firm.
Charlton did not respond to repeated requests for comment throughout the
week. The 46-year-old career prosecutor told The Associated Press in
December that he had decided it was time to leave. A Justice Department
spokesman was not immediately available for comment Friday evening.
Charlton's resignation came as accusations swirled on Capitol Hill that
the Bush administration had used a provision of the USA Patriot Act to
oust federal prosecutors and replace them with White House allies without
Democrats have accused the administration of punishing prosecutors whose
work targeted Republican allies. Charlton's office handled preliminary
investigations into Republican Reps. Jim Kolbe and Rick Renzi before the
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has denied the charge and promised to
submit every replacement for Senate confirmation. Seven federal
prosecutors have left office in the last year; most, like Charlton,
stepped down in December.
Prosecutor clashed with White House over death penalty
Supporters of former U-S Attorney Paul Charlton say the former federal
prosecutor clashed with the Bush administration over the death penalty
before he resigned in December.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods says the Justice Department
pressed Charlton to apply the death penalty in certain cases.
But Woods says Charlton resisted because he didn't believe it was the
right thing to do. Charlton resigned in December and left office at the
end of last month.
Charlton has taken a job with a Phoenix law firm.
(source: Associated Press)
Prisoner ready for death----Murderer's fate hangs on Legislature's
The man whose life hangs in the balance of South Dakota's death penalty
debate "has nothing to live for" and wants desperately for the state to
execute him, friends of the convicted murderer say.
Elijah Page, on death row for the 2000 torture and killing of 19-year-old
Chester Allan Poage in the Black Hills, had already eaten his last meal
and resigned himself to death when, last August, Gov. Mike Rounds stayed
Rounds cited a discrepancy between state law and the way Page was about to
be executed. South Dakota law calls for a two-drug method for executions,
but Page was about to be killed using a three-drug combination, the most
common method used nationally.
The governor said he made the move strictly to give the Legislature time
to amend the law to match the execution method the state Department of
Corrections had prepared to use.
'Nothing to live for'
Page, who last year ended his appeals process to have his sentence carried
out sooner, hasn't changed his mind and wants to die, friends say.
Page receives visits from family and friends, including Arthur and Pam
Guettler of Spearfish, whose daughter is Page's former girlfriend.
"I think hell will freeze over before he calls it off," Arthur Guettler
said of Page. "They don't know this kid. ... He's got nothing to live for
The past year has been mentally excruciating for Page, says Pam Guettler.
Page has complained about being consumed with guilt and deep depression
over the prospect of life in prison.
"He's willing to pay for what he did," Pam Guettler said this week. "He's
come to terms with everything, and he's ready."
On March 13, 2000, Page and 2 others stabbed and brutally beat Poage, who
died after hours of torture in Higgins Gulch, about 3 miles west of
Attorney General Larry Long said this week that Page's "lack of humaneness
has brought him to this point."
Briley Piper pleaded guilty and also received a death sentence. The third
convicted killer, Darrell Hoadley, was sentenced to life in prison.
'Stop slapping ... wrists'
Poage's mother, Dottie Poage of Spearfish, did not respond to interview
requests this week, but she has said she wants to see Page executed to
show that South Dakota is tough on the most vicious of criminals.
"We need to stop slapping people on the wrists for crimes they commit,"
she said in an interview last year. "They get sent back into society and
go right back into their drug situations or their sexual-assault
Rounds said this week he is taking the necessary steps to make sure that
The Page execution is scheduled for the week of July 9, and Rounds says
legislation now before lawmakers will fix the problem and allow prison
officials in Sioux Falls to carry out the 1st state-sanctioned killing in
South Dakota since 1947, when George Sitts was electrocuted for the murder
of 2 law enforcement officers.
"That's the best we can do," Rounds said.
2 bills updating the law have been sent to the Senate State Affairs
committee but are not yet scheduled for debate.
They include measures that would remove doctors from the execution process
and leave the decision on the drugs used in the execution up to the
discretion to the state Department of Corrections.
Supporters of the bills, including Rounds, say the goal is to have South
Dakota's death penalty procedures match the common practices nationwide
and to help protect the state from potential lawsuits.
"They're trying to give themselves as much leeway as possible to continue
the death penalty in whatever changes may occur in best practices in
lethal injection over the next two, three, four, five years, so they don't
have to go back and amend the law again," said Bill Richardson, a
University of South Dakota political scientist.
Nine states have put the practice of capital punishment on hold over fears
that lethal injection might constitute "cruel and unusual" punishment.
With a three-drug cocktail, a prisoner 1st is rendered unconscious by an
anesthetic. A 2nd drug is used to paralyze the prisoner, and the 3rd drug
stops the heart. Challenges to the method have raised concerns that the
prisoner might experience excruciating pain if the anesthetic doesn't take
"We, as a legislature, need to take responsibility on how the death
penalty is carried out," said Rep. Kathy Miles of Sioux Falls, who opposes
But the legislation is moving swiftly and appears to have strong support.
Pam Guettler, Page's friend, said she has mixed feelings on how the
process is carried out, but she hopes the state will "make sure it's
correct, make sure it's quick, and make sure it doesn't hurt."
(source: Argus Leader)
Lawsuit by former inmate thrown out----Joe Amrine wrongly spent years on
death row, but judge says there was no frame-up.
A federal judge has thrown out a civil lawsuit filed by a former Missouri
inmate who spent 17 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.
In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey wrote that while
she found parts of the states murder investigation "irregular and
troubling," officials did not violate Joe Amrine's rights.
"Even if the police had conducted as thorough an investigation as Amrine
alleges they should have, there still would have been probable cause for
his prosecution," Laughrey wrote. "His trial was not rendered
fundamentally unfair by any recklessness in the investigation."
Amrine was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 for the stabbing death
of fellow prison inmate Gary Barber. The conviction came largely from the
testimony of 3 other inmates who later admitted they had lied one to
deflect suspicion from himself, the 2 others in exchange for favors or
In 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned Amrine's conviction, ruling
that he had presented clear evidence of his innocence. The state declined
to recharge him, and he was freed.
Arthur Benson, a lawyer representing Amrine, said his client had not yet
settled on his next legal step.
John Fougere, a spokesman for the Missouri attorney general's office,
which represented state officials in the suit, said the judges ruling was
"We're thankful that the judge reached that decision," Fougere said. "The
judge came to the conclusion that there were no constitutional rights
violated in the case."
After his release, Amrine sued a Missouri Department of Corrections
investigator, the Cole County prosecutor, a prosecutor's investigator and
a Cole County deputy sheriff, alleging violations of his civil rights,
conspiracy and malicious prosecution. Amrine contended they framed him.
Amrine didn't show that, Laughrey wrote in a related order filed this
"There is no evidence, for example, of bad faith on the part of the
defendants or of any intent by them to deliberately set up an innocent
man," Laughrey wrote.
Benson's case focused heavily on whether authorities had "probable cause"
to suspect Amrine in Barber's murder. Laughrey said the investigators had
adequate reasons to suspect Amrine at the time.
"No one other than Amrine appeared to have a motive," Laughrey wrote. "No
witnesses said anyone other than Amrine had stabbed Barber."
(source: Kansas City Star)
Executing the Execution
North Dakota hasnt executed anyone since the very early 20th century. We
ought to leave execution in the past (for many reason, including moral and
fiscal), but now new reasons have been brought to light.
In December, then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suspended executions after Angel
Nieves Diaz required a 2nd dose of lethal chemicals and took twice as long
as inmates usually take to die. The drugs were mistakenly injected into
his tissue instead of his veins.
Executions also are halted in Missouri, California and North Carolina
because of lethal injection concerns.
Lethal injection can no longer be counted on to be a dignified way to kill
a convicted person. North Dakota should not allow any lethal injection (or
other style execution) to occur within its borders, federal or no. Weve
kept the peace here for near 100 years without killing a convict. We can
continue to put our faith in a death-free criminal system in the future as
(source: KXMC News)
Freed inmate awarded $14 million----Lab report hidden in '85 murder trial
A federal court jury on Friday ordered the Orleans Parish district
attorney's office to pay $14 million to a former death row inmate who
claimed he was wrongly convicted for the 1984 murder of local hotel
executive Ray Liuzza.
The verdict capped a 5-day trial in 44-year-old John Thompson's lawsuit
claiming his rights were violated because a prosecutor on then-District
Attorney Harry Connick's staff hid information that could have helped
District Attorney Eddie Jordan, whose office will have to deal with the
$14 million bill, said he will appeal because the financial burden it
imposes "will seriously affect our ability to execute our present
functions and serve our city."
Taking pains to distance himself from the case, Jordan said, "This
unfortunate incident happened on Connick's watch" and "is in no way
reflective of the procedures and practices of the district attorney's
The $14 million award was viewed as vindication by supporters of Thompson,
who was 22 when he was convicted of Liuzza's murder and swiftly shipped
off to Louisiana's death row.
Liuzza, 34, was gunned down by a robber after midnight Dec. 6, 1984, in
the 1700 block of Josephine Street, just around the corner from his
apartment building. He was shot 5 times, including 3 times in the back.
A neighbor heard Liuzza plead for his life, offering his watch and wallet
to the attacker. "Why did he have to shoot me?" Liuzza asked the police
officer who found him lying near the sidewalk.
Thompson, acquitted of Liuzza's murder by a second jury in 2003, chose not
to testify in his own defense at his original 1985 trial because taking
the stand would have allowed prosecutors to bring up his conviction for
attempted armed robbery in an unrelated case.
At his second trial at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Thompson
was able for the first time to personally profess his innocence to a jury.
During cross-examination, Thompson was repeatedly asked by prosecutor Val
Solino why he had no alibi for the night of the crime. "I was probably
club-hopping," Thompson said, recalling his days as a street-corner drug
dealer who plied customers with "clickums," marijuana laced with PCP. In
the retrial, the state focused on its original theory that Thompson was
guilty because he had at one time possessed the handgun that killed Liuzza
and the gold ring that Liuzza's killer took from him.
Thompson explained he got the ring and the gun through his drug dealing,
and he said it was common in those days to trade in "hot" merchandise.
Thompson's defense learned in 1999 that a former Connick assistant had
confessed as he was dying of cancer that he had suppressed a crime lab
blood report that cleared Thompson of the robbery. The stunning revelation
came weeks before Thompson was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the
Angola state penitentiary.
2 years later, in a decision that paved the way for Thompson to get a 2nd
trial, a state appeals court overturned his 1985 murder conviction on
grounds that concealment of evidence denied him of his right to testify.
In its verdict, reached after about four hours of deliberating, the
federal court jury of 6 women and 1 man concluded Connick did not have an
official policy to withhold exculpatory evidence.
But the jurors agreed that a violation of Thompson's rights in the robbery
case and the murder trial were substantially caused by Connick's "failure,
through deliberate indifference, to establish policies and procedures to
protect one accused of a crime from these constitutional violations."
The Friday verdict is the latest victory won for Thompson by Philadelphia
attorneys Michael Banks and J. Gordon Clooney, who have waged a years-long
pro bono fight to clear his name.
Jurors were told that Disney has approached the two attorneys about doing
a movie on the Thompson case and that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck would
star as the lawyers.
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