[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, CALIF., PENN., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 15 04:16:22 UTC 2007
Jessica's Law would allow death penalty for some child predators
A get-tough measure to punish sex offenders who abuse children, one of the
top issues for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the legislative session, was
filed Wednesday with minimum 25-year sentences for 1st convictions and the
death penalty option for repeat molesters.
Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, filed the bill that has raised concerns
among prosecutors and victims' rights groups. They worry the tougher
measures could make it harder to get convictions in cases that are already
difficult to prosecute and could lead to even more violence against
Legal experts question whether the death penalty is constitutional in a
If passed, Deuell and Dewhurst called the bill a major deterrent to stop
"We want to spread the word: Don't molest kids," Dewhurst said. "Justice
will be severe."
Gov. Rick Perry also has given the bill emergency status for the session.
The bill has 4 major provisions:
Minimum sentences of 25 years to life for first time violent sex offenses
against children under 14.
Lifetime global positioning satellite tracking for offenders.
Allow for the death penalty for a second offense against a child under 14.
Double the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children from 10
to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a death sentence for a Georgia
man convicted of raping a woman, calling it an "excessive penalty for the
rapist, who as such, does not take human life."
Five other states have passed similar death penalty laws to the one
proposed in Texas. Although no one has been executed, one Louisiana inmate
is on death row for the rape of an 8-year-old girl. That case is still
being reviewed by state and federal appeals courts.
Dewhurst said he discussed the issue with prosecutors and several judges
on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which handles death penalty
appeals. He believes the bill would be constitutional because it is
narrowly tailored to a second offense against a child victim.
Dewhurst declined to identify whom he spoke with among the 9 appeals
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault previously opposed the death
penalty in child sex cases for fear it could lead to victims being killed.
Spokeswoman Torie Camp backed off that stance Wednesday, saying it would
likely only be sought in the worst, most violent cases. The death penalty
provision would not be mandatory.
"We'll leave that up to our prosecutors," she said. "If they feel like
they can succeed. then we can be supportive."
More troublesome for victims' groups is the 25-year minimum sentence for a
first-time offender. As most child sex abuse is committed by a family
member or close friend, families may be reluctant to report the crime if
it means a long sentence for a loved one, Camp said.
"We predict reporting rates will go down," she said. "That's a big concern
Cost estimates of the lifetime GPS monitoring would be about $14 a day, or
$5,110 per year per offender, Dewhurst said.
The bill is titled "Jessica's Law," after Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl
who was abducted and killed in March 2005.
The Jessica's Law bill is SB 5.
(source: Associated Press)
Denham seeks San Quentin shutdown
State Senator Jeff Denham, R-Merced, today introduced legislation to close
San Quentin State Prison by Dec. 31, 2012, and move the state's death row
to another location.
Senate Bill 228 would also authorize the governor to designate which state
prison would house condemned inmates, and where executions would be
While the site could not be used for industrial development, commercial or
housing development would be encouraged.
In May 2004, the Governor's "High-Value Urban Properties in the State's
Inventory" report, the state "identified nearly 50 properties across the
state which warrants additional evaluation or disposal efforts." San
Quentin was one of those properties.
"San Quentin State Prison is the state's oldest and most expensive state
prison," said Senator Denham. "The state needs to rid itself of this
decaying liability. If California sold the San Quentin prison property and
moved death row, the state could possibly gain as much as $2 billion to
spend on new prisons or expanding current prisons."
San Quentin State Prison was originally built in 1852 by the prisoners who
would reside in it. The Governor's 2008 Budget proposes spending $336.5
million on a new death row at San Quentin, instead of the once estimated
amount of $116.5 million.
SB 228 states the following initial details and timelines:
The Governor, in consultation with state and local leaders, would make a
decision no later than March 31, 2009 regarding which prison would house
future death row prisoners and the site for executions.
Bids on the purchase of San Quentin and the land would commence on
January 1, 2009 and end on December 1, 2009. Full payment of purchase
price would be due no later than June 30, 2010.
Bids on a new death row and execution site would commence on September 1,
2009 and end on March 31, 2010.
Construction on death row shall begin immediately after announcement of
the winning bid and shall be completed no late than June 30, 2011.
All non-death row criminals would be moved out of San Quentin by June 30,
San Quentin State Prison would close no later than December 31, 2012.
The building of a new death row at another prison, demolition of San
Quentin and subsequent development of the site would be exempt from the
California Environmental Quality Act.
The proceeds from the sale of the prison site are exempted from
Proposition 60a and shall go to the building of a new death row at another
The San Quentin site could not be used for industrial development, but
commercial and/or housing development is encouraged.
(source: The Salinas Californian)
New Death Sentence In Pennsylvania Gay Murder
A Pennsylvania man for the 2nd time has been sentenced to death for the
1987 murder of local artist Anthony Milano.
Richard Laird, 44, stood and briefly turned his head from the jury as the
verdict was read on Wednesday.
Milano's father and sister held hands as the verdict was read.
Laird was convicted of the killing 1st in 1988 and sentenced to death. His
accomplice, Frank Chester, was sentenced to life in prison.
Laird appealed his death sentence and last August a federal appeals court
ordered a new trial for him, citing errors in the original trial but
declined to order a 2nd trial for Chester because he had not faced the
Last week at his new trial Laird was found guilty, with sentencing put off
until this week.
The 4 day trial covered most of the same ground as the original.
Milano, 26,, was found murdered along a road in Bristol Township near his
burning car. He had been beaten and slashed in the head and face, and his
throat was cut so many times that his spinal cord was severed.
Laird and Chester, believing Milano to be gay, harassed and humiliated him
as he tried to get a beer and sandwich, forced him to buy them drinks and
then left the bar with him.
Laird's attorney, John Kerrigan did not deny his client had killed Milano.
"This is a brutal, horrible, senseless killing, but it is not 1st-degree
murder," he told the court. But he said that Laird was so drunk he was
incapable of forming the intent needed for 1st-degree murder and should
not face the death penalty.
Prosecutor Michelle Henry scoffed at the argument.
"He's saying, 'I'm a killer, but excuse me. Excuse me for the savage
brutality I did, because I drank too much," Henry told the jury.
Bills address nuances of executions
The furor over the death penalty continued last week with SB 89,
introduced by state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange), which would form a
15-member legislative study committee to review North Carolina's lethal
injection procedure. (See "Death penalty issues bounce back to judge,"
Feb. 7.) Fellow Triangle delegates state Sens. Bob Atwater, Janet Cowell
and Vernon Malone co-sponsored the measure.
"I think we need to pause," Kinnaird said of the controversy. "I don't
think any of us have a sense of it."
The commission would consider several aspects of executions, including the
chemicals to be used, the medical soundness of the procedure and the
people permitted to administer the drugs.
Although judges and juries could sentence offenders to death during the
study, there would be a moratorium until June 1, 2009, after the
committee's final report to the General Assembly.
The N.C. Medical Board has determined it violates a doctor's oath to
assist executions; the state's nursing board is also considering similar
ethical questions. The Pharmacy Board has yet to chime in, but Kinnaird
said, "It should violate the ethics of a pharmacist to deliver deadly
chemicals. That leaves med techs, but that's practicing medicine without a
But executions wouldn't qualify as practicing medicine, under SB 114,
introduced by Republican Phil Berger of Rockingham. In addition, the
measure creates loopholes for medical licensing boards, prohibiting them
from disciplining doctors, nurses or pharmacists for participating in
Within the next few weeks, Kinnaird plans to introduce another death
penalty-related bill that would ban executions of the mentally ill. In
1986, the Supreme Court ruled that such executions are unconstitutional,
but didn't define competence. Nor did the court mandate procedures to
determine if an inmate is legally insane. According to Amnesty
International, 100 inmates diagnosed with mental illness have been
executed in the United States, including three in North Carolina.
Death penalty issues bounce back to judge----Council of State approves
protocols for lethal injection; legislature likely to grapple with larger
Rick Eddins visited a man in prison just to watch him die. "I didn't shed
a tear," the former state legislator told his colleagues on the House
Select Committee on Capital Punishment. "I wasn't behind glass. We were
all sitting at one table. I was there until he drew his last breath."
Eddins, whose uncle had been murdered years earlier by a different man,
was invited to the execution by then-Gov. Jim Hunt. "My uncle didn't get
to say goodbye to his family," added Eddins, a Wake County Republican. "He
didn't get a Coke and a cinnamon bun before he was murdered."
The emotional tenor of the committee's final gathering on Monday served as
a prelude to Tuesday's pivotal, but less dramatic, Council of State
meeting. There, the heads of 9 state departmentsincluding Auditor Les
Merritt, a certified public accountant; Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry,
who owned a company that produced spark plug wires; and State Treasurer
Richard Moore, a former federal prosecutor and legislatorvoted on an issue
largely beyond their bailiwick: to approve the state's controversial
The revised protocol, which calls for a more restrictive role of doctors
in executions, was presented to the council for review four days prior. It
details the equipment and drugs to be used in executions and the personnel
qualified or required to attend or participate in them.
The measure passed, although Insurance Commissioner Jim Long, Secretary of
State Elaine Marshall and Superintendent of Public Instruction June
Atkinson voted against it.
Marshall and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue participated in the meeting via
speakerphone, as they were overseas.
"I feel like we haven't impeded the process, but we haven't resolved it,"
The death penalty protocol fell into the lap of the council, which
generally weighs such perfunctory matters as transportation rights-of-way,
after Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled that a 1909
state law requires it to approve the revised protocol. In the meantime,
Stephens stayed the execution of 3 death-row inmates.
"I don't believe this suggests a moratorium on capital punishment," said
Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley. "It's essentially an
For the men on death row and the victims' families, the council's decision
reverberates beyond a simple yes-no vote. The council's approval sends the
protocol back to Stephens, who will determine if the loophole in the law
has been closed. Kelley said the Attorney General's office would ask
Stephens to lift the execution stay, although the judge can choose not to.
And if Stephens allows the executions to continue, it is likely lawyers
for the offenders will appeal.
"It seems like this is a collision course," Marshall said.
The protocol itself is contentious, as the N.C. Medical Board has stated
that while doctors may attend executions, assisting violates a doctor's
oath to "do no harm." Florida and Ohio have protocols similar to North
Carolina's; both have moratoriums on capital punishment because of botched
If the board, the courts and the Department of Corrections can't concur on
a physician's role, the disagreement could function as a de facto
"The court will have to work out the differences between the legislative
mandate and the medical board," Easley added. "I think it will be quite
some time before it's resolved."
Ann Groninger and Elizabeth Kuniholm, attorneys for James Thomas and James
Campbell, respectively, spoke after the council meeting. Stephens stayed
the executions of Campbell, Thomas and Marcus Robinson.
"It was represented to the council this is the only way to get the issue
before the court," Kuniholm said. "That's not accurate. The issues can be
litigated while the executions are stayed. It's evident that everything is
The debate will likely reach the General Assembly, where it will open the
Pandora's box of the death penalty. And if the committee hearing that
preceded the Council of State meeting is any indication, the capital
punishment debate will pit legislator against legislator, victims'
advocates against death-penalty opponents.
Committee co-chair State Rep. Beverly Earle said the committee's job is to
correct errors in a flawed court system. "This committee is not about
doing away with capital punishment. Maybe some think the court system is
fair, perfect and unbiased, but I assure that's not the case. Racial
discrimination is alive and well. I want to think that none of us want to
see an innocent person put to death."
Eddins, who supported inserting in the law racial discrimination as
grounds for appeal, even after the trial, still cautioned: "I can see down
the road, some juror is going to have a change of heart and say, 'I did it
because the guy was black or Indian.' It's going to create additional work
for the courts."
While the committee tackled easy issues, it set aside thornier topics,
such as rewriting the criminal statute, for further study. And in a
surprising 10-9 vote, the committee voted against proportionality, which
would require the N.C. Supreme Court to review not only other death
penalty sentences but also life sentences when ruling if capital
punishment is justified.
Proportionality is required in the N.C. Constitution and needs to be
written into state law, state Rep. Rick Glazier argued, because some
counties dole out the death penalty for cases that in other places merit
only a life sentence without parole. The court is divided on the issue.
Appealing to the governor
"It's an important protection," said Glazier, one of 44 lawmakers,
including 11 from the Triangle, who that morning sent a letter to Easley
asking him to stay all lethal injection executions. Perdue also called for
a moratorium until constitutional issues are resolved. "We're trying to
avoid someone being sent to death because of geography."
"The way I'm reading it," said former state Rep. Wilma Sherrill, "is that
it's a way to get rid of the death penalty."
"This is about making the death penalty fair," countered state Rep. Paul
Luebke, a Democrat from Durham. "You're just wrong using an emotional
argument. It's not my position to abolish the death penalty. I think the
people of North Carolina want a fair death penalty."
Three progressive committee members, including Durham Rep. Mickey Michaux,
didn't attend the meeting; with their votes, the proportionality
recommendation could have passed. It likely will be introduced in a House
bill, although without the symbolic consent of the committee. Michaux did
not return phone calls.
Ironically, while Michaux and others were absent, a former legislator led
the charge against many of the recommendations.
"You don't need a doctor at an execution," Eddins said. "It's easy to
forget about victims down here. Each one of you has victims in your
(source for both: Independent Weekly)
More information about the DeathPenalty