[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MONT., MD., ILL., S.C., CALIF., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 16 04:14:30 UTC 2007
Senate panel recommends abolishing death penalty
The state shouldn't be in the business of killing people, members of a
Senate panel said Thursday in recommending the death penalty be abolished.
The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill, 8-4, sending it to the
Senate floor for further debate, as Montana joins a number of states
scrutinizing capital punishment.
Supporters of the measure by Sen. Dan Harrington, D-Butte, said the death
penalty could never be administered fairly and argued violence should not
be used to stop violence. The bill would commute death sentences to life
in prison and abolish capital punishment in the future.
"I don't think we always know who's innocent and who's guilty," Sen. Carol
Williams, D-Missoula, said. "As long as I feel there's the potential that
somebody may be innocently convicted of something, I think the government
shouldn't be in the business of executing Montanans."
Opponents said capital punishment can be a deterrent to criminals, and
must be kept on the books as an option for prosecutors.
"We're all given a choice in this life as to how we're going to live. ...
There comes a time where a society has a right to say 'No. No more,'" Sen.
Dan McGee, R-Laurel, said.
Efforts to abolish the death penalty have failed in each of the past 3
legislative sessions. There are 2 prisoners on death row in Montana. The
state has executed 3 people since the death penalty was reinstated in the
1970s, including convicted murderer David Dawson this past summer at the
Montana State Prison.
Nationally, the number of death sentences handed out dropped in 2006 to
the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated 30 years ago.
Executions have also fallen to their lowest level in a decade.
The death penalty is also under more scrutiny from lawmakers around the
country and the courts.
Illinois is in the 7th year of its moratorium on executions, and
executions are effectively halted in New York because of a 2004 court
Questions about whether lethal injection is inhumane have put executions
on hold in nine states _ Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida,
Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush
put a stop to capital punishment in Florida following the botched
execution of a convicted killer in December.
In Montana, McGee said there must be consequences for murder and other
heinous crimes, while Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, said he's confident the
death penalty has been used properly in Montana, unlike other states.
Other opponents suggested it's the only appropriate form of justice for
"There are some people who are so evil that there is not any
rehabilitation ever," Sen. Aubyn Curtiss, R-Fortine, said. "To sentence
them to life in a maximum security facility is sentencing them to a very
poor quality of life."
Sen. Gary Perry, R-Manhattan, called life in prison "a death sentence in
itself" and asked lawmakers to consider if they have the right to take
another person's life.
"The system we have isn't perfect, yet we are willing under our current
arrangement to impose an absolutely perfect solution - death," Sen. Dave
Wanzenried, D-Missoula, said. "We are fallible. ... For those reasons, I
think we need to abolish the death penalty."
The bill is Senate Bill 306.
(source: Helena Independent Record)
Inmate challenges death penalty in prison bus slaying----Johns' lawyers to
pursue insanity defense; trial set to begin July 16
A state prison inmate charged with strangling another inmate aboard a
prison bus is challenging the state's plan to seek the death penalty by
claiming, among other things, that he is mentally ill.
Attorneys for Kevin Johns Jr. filed the motion in Harford County Circuit
Court, where arguments on pretrial matters will be heard April 16. It is
among 28 defense motions filed Tuesday.
Johns also has raised insanity as a defense in the case.
Ann Brobst, a Baltimore County assistant state's attorney who is
prosecuting the case, said the defense motions filed Tuesday are typical
of death-penalty cases and have no merit. Prosecutors have until March 5
to file written responses.
Johns, 24, is charged with 1st-degree murder and other offenses in the
death of his cellmate, Philip Parker Jr. Parker was killed Feb. 2, 2005,
aboard a Division of Correction bus that was carrying a group of inmates
from Hagerstown to the maximum-security Maryland Correctional Adjustment
Center in Baltimore.
On the day before Parker died, he had testified at Johns' sentencing for
the 2004 murder of a prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Training Center
near Hagerstown. Johns, who was originally imprisoned for murdering an
uncle in Baltimore, told the judge at the Hagerstown hearing that unless
he received psychiatric treatment, he would kill again.
Johns' trial is tentatively set to begin July 16, but Brobst said it may
(source: Associated Press)
Jury out on death penalty case
A jury will now decide if Laurence Lovejoy should be put to death for the
brutal murder of his stepdaughter in March of 2004.
At approximately 3:17 p.m. Thursday, the same jury that convicted Lovejoy
of killing 16-year-old Waubonsie Valley High School student Erin Justice
last week, began their deliberations on whether Lovejoy should become the
11th person added to death row in Illinois.
New: Jury out on death penalty caseProsecutors have argued that Lovejoy
meets the requirements to be sentenced to death because of the cold,
calculated murder that he committed on March 27, 2004, which they claim
was an effort to keep Erin from talking about a rape.
On March 3, 2004, Erin reported that Lovejoy raped her. While Naperville
police were waiting for DNA results to come back in that investigation,
police say Lovejoy entered Erins mothers Aurora home then stabbed,
poisoned and finally drowned the teen.
"1 word sums up Laurence Lovejoy he' evil,"DuPage County States Attorney
Joe Birkett said in closing arguments Thursday. "He led a horrible life.
He is the worst of the worst."
Defense attorneys contend that Lovejoy's crime and background do not merit
execution. Testimony has been presented that Lovejoy grew up with an
absent father and tumultuous mother. His attorneys contend that Lovejoy
was not a brilliant criminal, but a blundering and nave man of
"If this guy is any sort of criminal mastermind, his actions over the
years dont show that," attorney Stephen Richards said. "Growing up,
Laurence is not dealt the best hand and it gets worse along the way."
Lovejoy did not testify at any point in the trial. However, Thursday
morning, the jury had to face not just executing Lovejoy, the convicted
murderer, but Lovejoy, the father of a 9-year-old girl.
A DVD of Lovejoy's daughter Alexis talking about the good relationship she
has with her father was played for the jury.
"He was funny and fun and we would go places," Alexis said on the video.
"We had a really close relationship. We were really close to each other."
Alexis said they liked to go to the park, the bowling alley and take silly
pictures of each other.
"There is good in Laurence Lovejoy," Richards argued.
Jury deliberations could last late into the night. Judge Kathryn Creswell
has said she would sequester jury members if they have not completed their
deliberations by this evening.
The trial started nearly a more than a month ago with a two-week jury
selection process. After the 12 jurors and 4 alternates were selected, the
guilt phase of the trial began.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Lovejoy, who has always denied any
part in the murder, admitted to going to Erins home on the far East Side
of Aurora the morning she was killed.
A small cloth print matching gloves Lovejoy wore at work was found in the
bathroom where Erin's body was found by her mother. The key piece of
evidence was a heel print discovered, in blood, on a tile in the same
After about 5 hours of deliberations, the jury found Lovejoy guilty of 1st
degree murder last week.
The same jury then began the eligibility phase of deliberations. After
more than 6 hours, they determined Lovejoy met the requirements to face
the death penalty.
If the jury were to determine Lovejoy should not be put to death, the
judge would determine his sentence. Lovejoy is eligible for between 20
years and life in prison.
(source: Beacon News)
An Outsiders Murder Trial Shakes a Southern Town
It was a dispute over 20 feet of mean-looking land, a deadly squeeze of
the trigger three years ago backed by pure conviction and an unwavering
The Bixby family refused to budge for a highway-widening project, out of
belief. Live free or die, cried Steve Bixby, bespectacled and rigged out
in camouflage and guns the day of the shooting, in a challenge to the
authorities, witnesses said.
Mr. Bixby, 39, and his father, Arthur, 77, are accused of murder in the
fatal shootings of 2 law enforcement officers who were trying to seize the
land on behalf of the State of South Carolina. Both men face the death
penalty. Mr. Bixbys mother, Rita, 74, was indicted as an accessory.
Now, with the opening Wednesday of Mr. Bixbys trial in the murder of
Deputy Sheriff Danny Wilson, 37, and Donnie Ouzts, 63, a state constable,
this Old South town with its intense Confederate heritage is reliving the
winters day in 2003 when the reclusive Bixbys held off the local police
for 14 hours, after the shootings of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Ouzts.
The town is doing so gingerly. There were no supporters of the Bixbys on
hand Wednesday as a jury sat in judgment over what the authorities say was
Mr. Bixby's deadly act of resistance to authority. He is reviled in
Abbeville, and the prosecutor had to pick his jury 160 miles away.
What the authorities said was Mr. Bixby's armed refusal to give up a small
piece of his land for the widening of Highway 72 "We will protect it to
our last breath," he is reported to have proclaimed is regarded here as
senseless. Guns at the ready, Mr. Bixby was primed and waiting for his
face-off with the police, witnesses said.
On the other hand, symbols of resistance to central authority, some of the
Souths most hallowed, abound here, lovingly tended in the quaint little
town billing itself for passing tourists as the "Birthplace and Deathbed
of the Confederacy."
Up the street from the mellow brick courthouse is the white-columned
mansion where Jefferson Davis had his last cabinet meeting; nearby, one of
the 1st rallies demanding secession was held in 1860. The monument to the
Confederate dead outside the courthouse proclaims that "the soldiers who
wore the gray and died with Lee were in the right;" the Confederate flag
flies high above the highway; and a bookstore off the old brick square
sells titles like "The South Was Right" and "Myths of Slavery."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization in
Montgomery, Ala., says the Abbeville area, in the western part of the
state, has attracted others like the Bixbys fanatics about property
rights and resistance to authority who find the Confederate heritage
nourishing. "We've pointed out that that area is one of the hotbeds," said
Mark Potok, a staff director at the center.
Residents deny that there is any connection between the regions
Confederate heritage and a violent property-rights ideology.
"I have no clue why the Bixbys moved here," said the man running the
bookstore, Robert Hayes, who also is the state director for the League of
the South, a neo-Confederate group still pushing for Southern
independence. "He could have picked any place in South Carolina."
Indeed, one the first things people here say about the Bixbys is that they
were "outsiders," as Mr. Hayes put it, "not us." About 10 years ago they
moved from New Hampshire, where they were involved with an
anti-tax/anti-zoning group, and had had run-ins with a judge.
Why the family chose Abbeville is, people here say, a mystery. "Abbeville
is just not like that," said Cheri Standridge, executive director of the
Chamber of Commerce.
Amanda Dean, who runs a coffee shop on the square, said the family had the
wrong idea about the town. "This is a good, strong family town," Ms. Dean
said. "It's just such a shame. They could feel like they're coming to
their homeland, and thats whats so sad."
The Bixbys may have warmed to Abbeville, but the feeling was not
reciprocated by the genteel town. Steve Bixby, heavy-set and marginally
employed in construction and food-concession vending, a sometime karaoke
singer at a local bar, remained an outsider, while he and his parents
fulminated together in the modest little clapboard house about the horrors
of government interference. It is still pock-marked with bullet holes.
Indeed, the culture clash between the Yankee Bixbys and their reluctant
Southern hosts was on vivid display in the trial's opening testimony
Wednesday. Several witnesses plain-talking highway engineers who had
encountered the Bixbys in the days before the shootings on Dec. 8, 2003
testified with shock about the family's propensity for profanity.
"During all this they continued to cuss," said Drew McCaffrey of the South
Carolina Department of Transportation. "There was a lot of cussing from
Steve and Rita," Mr. McCaffrey said.
"They were cussing an awful lot, him and his mom," said Mr. McCaffrey's
colleague Dale Williams, who recalled the "No Government Agents" sign in
the front yard. Michael Hannah, another department employee, recalled,
"They basically started making some threats, and there was cussing."
The verbal violence "ranting and raving," Mr. Williams called it
presaged the physical, the witnesses said. A chilling scene confronted him
when he drove by on the morning of the shooting: Steve Bixby, framed by
his house, "a pistol in his right hand and a long gun in his left." The
witness added soberly, "I knew at that time the officer was in trouble."
Mr. Wilson was shot in the chest and Mr. Ouzts in the back, at the
Both men were well-known and well-liked; a young man, asked if he knew
them, bit his lip and ducked his head as he hurried out of the coffee shop
on the square. "They want to put it behind them," said Bill Greene, a
retired electrical technician, of the townspeople. "Lot of times, people
move into these little towns, they think they can have things their way.
But you have to obey the laws."
(source: New York Times)
Jurors in Brothers murder case say delivering death penalty would be
In Bakersfield, jury selection continued Thursday with another panel of
potential jurors for the Vincent Brothers murder trial.
Several people took the stand Thursday and said they couldnt hand down the
Its possible jurors will never have to decide that if they find Brothers
not guilty in the murders of his wife, their three children, and his
mother-in-law in July 2003.
But the judge said the jurors must be able to consider capital punishment
and a life prison sentence if Brothers is convicted.
The jurors were dismissed.
Brothers has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.
The trial is set to begin next Wednesday.
(source: KGET News)
Legislation filed to free Paul House from death row----Resolution
Introduced to Free Paul House
Representative Mike Turner has introduced a resolution to the State House
of Representatives calling on Governor Bredesen to grant Paul House a full
pardon. Having the legislature go on record as supporting freeing an
innocent man from death row would be of tremendous help in convincing the
Governor to do the right thing and send Paul House home to his mother.
In addition to TCASKs November-December letter writing/postcard campaign
and the Free Paul House Concert, the week before Christmas also included a
visit by a group of clergyincluding Stacy Rector, Charles Strobel, and
Becca Stevensto the Governor's office where the three met with the
Governor's deputy legal counsel and a special assistant to request a full
pardon for House. The group was assured that the Governor's office had
received a large number of letters and postcards (thanks to all of you!)
asking for the pardon and that Governor Bredesen would look closely at the
case. Almost two months have passed, and though the Governor has issued a
90 day moratorium on executions, there has been no word on Paul's case
from the Governor's office.
Here's some background on the case:
It should be an easy call. The U.S. Supreme Court should grant Paul
Gregory House's request for a new trial, thus encouraging the state to set
him free to live out his blighted life with as much dignity as he can
The prosecution's case disintegrated long ago, yet the former Union County
resident has spent the last 20 years slowly falling victim to despair and
the ravages of multiple sclerosis on Tennessee's death row.
2 bloggers on the case: A.C. Kleinheider, Adam Groves.
And this: In what state officials are describing as a rare - if not
altogether unprecedented - move, a sitting state legislator has formally
asked Gov. Phil Bredesen to pardon a man on death row.
Here's the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
>From the Nashville Scene: For 2 decades Paul House has fought to prove hes
innocent, and after countless court hearings, appeals and denials, his
fate now rests with a single judgethe very same judge who upheld his
conviction and death sentence years ago, despite new evidence that even
the U.S. Supreme Court determined would have resulted in acquittal.
The controversial case was reassigned to U.S. District Court Judge James
H. Jarvis last week, and on Tuesday House filed a motion asking the
federal judge in Knoxville to release him from his illegal conviction and
death sentence unless the state grants him a new trial within 90 days.
(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
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