[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Feb 18 21:15:41 UTC 2007
Executions face new legal challenge
2 death row inmates have filed an unusual legal challenge to North
Carolina's capital punishment system, arguing state leaders approved a
rule governing executions without sufficient public input.
The challenge stems from the action taken by the Council of State, a panel
of the state's top elected government officials, in approving a proposed
"execution protocol" that updated the state's procedures for putting an
inmate to death.
The council approved the new procedure after a judge halted three
executions, saying the panel must sign off on any changes to the protocol.
State corrections officials had modified the protocol to change the role a
doctor plays in the process after the state Medical Board threatened to
punish any physician who takes part in an execution.
But attorney Hardy Lewis, who represents inmates Jerry W. Conner and James
A. Campbell, said state law requires that such proposals be published in
the North Carolina Register for review and be discussed at a public
hearing. Only then can the council vote on approving the proposal, he
"We have a lot to say about this rule and a lot to say about the way the
protocol was put together," Lewis said. "There are limits on what an
agency can do."
Lewis said the challenge, filed through the state Office of Administrative
Hearings, will be considered by an administrative law judge.
Even though the council approved the new protocol, Attorney General Roy
Cooper has said he would try to negotiate a compromise with the state
medical board before trying to reschedule the postponed executions.
Gov. Mike Easley has said the medical board's ruling has effectively
placed a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina.
(source: Associated Press)
SCLC, NAACP rally for woman charged with capital murder
David Brown believes his stepdaughter, Shakira Thomas.
He believes what she told him on a warm July day in 2005, that scared and
nervous, the 19-year-old girl walked into the bathroom at her residence
and gave birth to a baby girl. She told him the baby died naturally
moments later, and out of fright and confusion, she put the baby in a
garbage bag and placed it in the woods behind their home.
District Attorney Doug Valeska believes what Thomas told investigators.
After Brown found the baby and called police, Thomas was interrogated and
told police she birthed the baby in the bathroom toilet and left it there
around five minutes. She told police she could hear the baby crying, that
it was alive. She told the police she didn't want the baby, that she
picked the girl up out of the toilet and held it close to her and heard
the baby cry and felt it kick until the baby stopped breathing, then put
the baby in a garbage bag and placed it in the woods behind their home.
A grand jury indicted Thomas for capital murder. Her trial is scheduled
for later this year.
Brown believes his stepdaughter, still scared and confused, told the
investigators what they wanted to hear so she could go home. He believes
she was coerced by police and made the story up about the baby being
Valeska believes Thomas made up the story about the baby dying naturally
in order to avoid punishment.
Brown cites an autopsy report that lists the cause of death as
undetermined, and that there was no indication of external injuries. He
also cites the age of the baby, believed to be between 24 and 30 weeks. He
and Thomas' attorneys, Tom Brantley and Billy Joe Sheffield, believe
Thomas has been overcharged. Brown said the only legitimate charge his
stepdaughter should face is desecration of a corpse.
"My daughter is not a murderer and the facts will speak for it," Brown
Brown contacted the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
for assistance. They came Friday night. A rally for Thomas - who is in the
Houston County jail with no bond - was held at the chapel of Greater
Beulah Baptist Church. The chapel was filled with church members who came
to support Thomas.
"We didnt come here to start trouble," said Rev. A.A. Scales, president of
the Alabama chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "We
came here to bring relief. Were not afraid to march, but now is not the
Franklin Jones, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said the
organizations came to show support for Thomas.
"We're simply asking the court to temper justice with mercy," Jones said.
All present said they did not want to make a racial issue out of the case.
"This case is not about race. It is about lawyering and legal issues,"
Brantley, Sheffield and Valeska are under a gag order imposed by Circuit
Judge Lawson Little and are not allowed to discuss the facts of the case.
When contacted Friday, Valeska said the issues of the case are about facts
that should be determined by a jury in court.
Thomas' statements to police as well as other testimony were offered in
open court during a bond hearing in August of 2005 in which Little denied
bond for Thomas.
Dothan police Sgt. Tony Luker said Thomas told her the baby was alive when
it was born. He said Thomas told investigators she was nervous about being
a mother and felt it would be better if the baby died. He speculated the
baby died either from suffocation in the toilet or suffocation in the
But, according to Brantley, her initial statement to police was that the
baby did not move when it was born.
Sheffield filed a motion to dismiss the indictment earlier this week. A
hearing on the matter is scheduled for the end of the month.
(source: Dothan Eagle)
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