[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, FLA., CALIF., IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 19 16:04:54 UTC 2007
Proposed Jessiica's Law requires caution
It would be easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find someone who
didnt want to do everything possible to protect children from sex
Texas lawmakers have filed more than 30 bills this legislative session to
crack down on sex offenders.
All 4 candidates for governor this past election supported legislation to
get tougher on child sex offenders.
The challenge is to find the best and most effective way to prevent
children from becoming victims of sex offenders.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, and supported by
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst would allow the death penalty option for repeat
The proposed legislation, which would be referred to as Jessica's Law, was
inspired by the death of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, abducted from her
Florida home, raped and killed in March 2005.
This horrific crime has spurred lawmakers in a number of states to pass
stronger child sex-offender laws.
Besides the death penalty option, this version of Jessica's Law also calls
for minimum sentences of 25 years to life for 1st-time violent sex
offenses against children younger than 14; doubles the statute of
limitations on sexual crimes against children from 10 to 20 years; and
mandates lifetime monitoring of convicted child sex offenders by employing
Surprisingly to some, Deuells proposals have drawn opposition from many
prosecutors, victims' rights groups and legal experts. They believe the
death penalty provision is unconstitutional. They also believe it could
hurt, not help, efforts to protect children from sexual predators.
These on-the-ground experts believe juries would be more hesitant to
convict sex offenders if the death penalty looms. They also warn that sex
offenders would be more likely to kill their victims so there would be no
Also, since most child sex abuse occurs in families, the death penalty
might be a deterrent to reporting the crime, which would expose victims to
Lawmakers should listen to the experts. No one wants to make matters
(source: Editorial, Waco Tribune-Herald)
Retrial in 1994 murder-for-hire to start
Testimony is set to begin Monday in the retrial of a man previously
sentenced to death in a murder-for-hire plot.
Howard Paul Guidry was convicted in 1997 as the triggerman and sentenced
to death for the 1994 murder-for-hire slaying of Farah Fratta.
Her death was masterminded by her husband, former Missouri City public
safety officer Robert Fratta.
Guidry will be retried because while he claimed that while he was in jail,
he was apparently tricked into making a confession to police.
In 2004, a federal judge agreed with him and ordered the retrial.
After some 7 years on death row, he will get another say in court.
(source: KHOU News)
Still an eye for an eye in Texas
Americans have a complex relationship with the death penalty, which is
rooted in their national identity and yet which is becoming increasingly
difficult to support. In the 2nd of a 3-part series, Mary Vallis examines
what the changing attitude toward capital punishment means for those whose
lives hang in the balance.
- - -
Ronald Curtis Chambers has been on death row longer than I have been
For the past 31 years, he has lived in a small cell on death row. Most
days, he spends 22 hours inside it. He is the longest-serving inmate in
Texas facing death. When he was convicted of murder in 1975, Gerald Ford
was president. The Vietnam War was ending. Tiger Woods had just been born.
The year's top single was Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and
Tennille. Chambers was just 20 years old when he was convicted. He is now
52. He has spent more time on death row than he did in the outside world.
He has become a grandfather behind bars and watched his 18- year-old
grandson grow up.
He was supposed to die by lethal injection on Jan. 25. Death came so close
that he had ordered his last meal -- sirloin steak, fried shrimp and
German chocolate cake. But 4 days before his execution date, Chambers was
granted a stay of execution on a legal technicality.
On death row, they call Chambers "Old School." He says he's just trying to
get older. But he is certain he will be executed, someday.
"Ma'am, we're talking Texas. We're talking Texas," Chambers said in an
interview, speaking by telephone from behind a soundproof glass barrier.
"I think the whole world can have a moratorium, and Texas would be the
only one that's fighting against it."
Texas is the state most actively killing its prisoners. More than 380
people have been executed in the state since 1976 (Virginia, in second
place, has killed fewer than 100 prisoners in the same time period). And
while the number of executions in the United States declined between 2005
and 2006 (60 and 53 deaths respectively), the number of executions in
Texas jumped 26%.
Nearly 1/2 of all executions in the United States last year took place in
Texas. Lieutenant-Governor David Dewhurst, a Republican, now wants to
extend the death penalty to repeat sex offenders who prey on children.
"There is a strong belief among Texas residents in favour of the death
penalty that punishment should be harsh and swift," said James Volberding,
"It's just an attitude, I suppose, which has developed over 150 years.
Texas is quite conservative, quite independent and expects justice
In Texas, Chambers' case is an aberration. Most prisoners on Texas death
row are there for 10 years before they are executed. Chambers has been on
death row so long that he was originally sentenced to die by the electric
chair, a method the state no longer uses (it now uses lethal injection).
He does not claim innocence. Chambers has been convicted three times in
the 1975murder of a young man abducted outside a Dallas nightclub, and
each time, sentenced to death. His lawyers have simply filed appeals and
defended his right to live whenever possible.
No new date has been set for his execution.
There are nearly 400 men on death row in the state. Since 1999, they have
all lived in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, a series of low, concrete
buildings surrounded by fences and razor wire about 70 kilometres east of
the execution chamber in Huntsville. The state's "least-loved citizens,"
as the local prison museum refers to them, live in individual cells
measuring 60 square feet, roughly the same size as four bathroom stalls.
Every Wednesday is media day. One by one, prisoners are led to the
visitors' centre in handcuffs. Chambers is the last to emerge. He is
locked into a small cage-like booth for the interview, then pushes his
hands through a narrow slot in the door so a guard can remove his cuffs.
He rubs his wrists, smiles broadly and pushes his silver glasses up on his
nose. For him, sitting for an interview is a treat. It is extra time out
of his cell.
This was a good day for another reason -- Chambers was supposed to die the
next day. His most recent reprieve was granted by the United States'
highest court. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ordered that Chambers
should live while the court deliberates on three death penalty appeals in
Texas, in which there are questions about whether jurors were properly
instructed about what factors to consider when sentencing inmates to
death. Mr. Volberding argued in court documents that the same issues are
at play in his case.
He also argued that executing Chambers after three decades on death row
might qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the U.S.
Chambers passes the days by playing chess with other death row inmates he
cannot see. He makes up songs. He reads, when he has books. (Because he
expected to die, he has no new reading material at the moment.)
He escapes into pictures. Pen pals mail him pictures that he stores in a
photo album. His favourite is of a little blond girl wearing a blue coat,
staring at a peacock with her back to the camera. The peacock, Chambers
says, is bigger than the little girl. He likes to imagine what she's
thinking. Every time he looks at it, he imagines something different.
So much time has passed since Chambers was first sentenced to death that
he questions whether he would know how to deposit money in a bank machine,
or put gas in a car. (In his day, the gas tank was under the licence
plate. He fears he would not be able to find it now.)
He boggles over people's use of computers. He saw his first laptop a few
weeks ago, during a visit from his lawyer. He does not have a television
-- he last watched one during a hospital visit years ago, but the nurses
kept making him change from football to soap operas. He listens to the
All of the friends Chambers originally knew on death row are now gone.
When the rules were not so strict, each inmate was allowed to have a last
visit with the other men on death row before his execution. Chambers
eventually stopped going. It was simply too much.
He tries to remain an optimist, saying there is someone somewhere who is
worse off than him. One thing Chambers does not do, he says into the
telephone, is contemplate suicide. He calls himself a survivor.
"We're all survivors," he says, gesturing to the other inmates using
telephones to talk to reporters.
But Janna McMahan does not want Chambers to survive. She wants him to die.
And for her, nothing else will suffice.
Ms. McMahan's brother, Mike, was the 22-year-old man Chambers killed the
night of April 10, 1975. At the time, Chambers was a young man himself,
and the father of a new baby girl. Mr. McMahan was a Texas Tech student
leaving a Dallas nightclub with a friend, Deia Sutton.
Chambers and Clarence Ray Williams abducted the pair at gunpoint, forced
them into Mr. McMahan's car and ordered them to drive to a nearby levee
along Trinity River.
They robbed the couple, shot them both and took off up a hill.
According to evidence presented at Chambers' third trial in 1992, Mr.
McMahan then called out to Ms. Sutton to ask if she was all right, the men
overheard him and returned.
Ms. Sutton, who survived the attack, heard Chambers say, 'They gotta be
dead. I shot 'em in the head."
Williams dragged Ms. Sutton to the river and tried to choke and drown her.
(She survived the attack and still has a bullet lodged in her head.)
Chambers beat Mr. McMahan repeatedly with the shotgun. He died.
At the time of her brother's death, Ms. McMahan was 17 years old and a
high school senior. Williams pleaded guilty and is serving 2 life
"Do I feel sorry for him for being on death row? Absolutely not," Ms.
McMahan said from Washington state, where she works as a security trainer
at a nuclear plant.
"If I think about his family, I'm sure if he's put to death, they're going
to hurt just as much as we did. But he's the one that made that choice to
commit that crime."
What is cruel and unusual, Ms. McMahan says, is to keep her family waiting
for justice this long. The death penalty, she says, is not a deterrent --
it is a just punishment for the crime. An eye for an eye.
"Do you think he thought about the pain and the hell he's put us through
when he was beating Mike? He went off and played dominoes afterwards," Ms.
Back in Texas, Chambers does not want to get off the telephone in the
interview booth -- it means going back to his cell.
Chambers refuses to say anything about his victim's family, fearing it
would be taken the wrong way. Instead, he waxes philosophically about the
"The death penalty is supposed to be an impact experience, but don't it
lose the impact after 30-something years?" he asks.
He says he does as much good as he can for the world from inside his small
He is burdened with the problems of his pen pals, who write down secrets
they cannot tell their boyfriends or husbands. ("I am loaded with
patience," Chambers explains on a German Web site in an appeal for
And he writes to schoolchildren, usually from England, who write for
advice on "what not to do."
"A person that actually went through those bad experiences, they'll listen
to more," he says.
He tells the students to slow down, smell the coffee and listen to their
"They say we're hopeless," Chambers says.
"Where there's life, there's hope."
- Tuesday: The final instalment of the series returns to New Jersey, the
state on the brink of abolishing the death penalty, where a Maryland man
who spent 9 years in prison before he was cleared by DNA evidence embodies
a key argument in the case against capital punishment.
- Wednesday, join the debate: Death penalty abolitionist Richard Dieter
and National Post writer Mary Vallis respond to reader capital punishment
questions and comments.
(source: National Post (Canada) )
Time to scrutinize, not expand, death penalty
States considering expanded use of the death penalty would be wise to
consider why this counters a national trend ("Wider death penalty sought,"
News, Feb. 7).
Following the botched execution of Angel Diaz in Florida this past
December, 4 states Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee have
suspended executions out of concern for the pain and cruelty involved in
In addition, the exoneration of 123 death row inmates has rightfully
stoked fears of wrongful executions.
Meanwhile, studies and crime statistics have made the myth of deterrence
harder to maintain, rendering it difficult for lawmakers to argue that
expanding the death penalty would advance public safety.
The death penalty is now on hold in 13 states and has been declared
unconstitutional in New York.
Add to this the 13 states with no death penalty and it becomes clear that
many Americans are uncomfortable with, if not outright opposed to, the
system as it stands.
(source: Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director, Program to Abolish the Death
Penalty, Amnesty International USA - Washington; USA Today)
US wrestles with execution question
US death penalty opponents are vocal - but perhaps not a majority On a
pitch black winter's night at the Lady of Mercy church in the small town
of Potomac, Maryland, about 50 people have braved sub-freezing
temperatures to hear a chilling tale of an early death.
Vicki Schieber has come to talk about her daughter, Shannon.
Shannon was a student in nearby Pennsylvania.
She was raped and murdered at her hall of residence and the killer was
caught only after he moved to a different state and committed another
A transfixed audience listens to her mother's hushed yet longing tones:
"What do you do when this happens to you? The death of a family member is
a tragedy of unimaginable proportions."
Similar cases are often cited by supporters of capital punishment to argue
that the families of murder victims get "closure" only when the killer is
But Vicky Schieber is talking to an audience of abolitionists - those who
want to end the death penalty in her home state of Maryland.
She says was pressed by state prosecutors to call for the death penalty
for her daughter's killer, but she refused.
"It was against everything I was brought up to believe. Taking another
person's life is wrong. Don't put a question mark where God puts a
period," she told the crowd to spontaneous cheering.
Maryland may be about to become the first state to ban the death penalty
outright since the United States reintroduced it more than 30 years ago.
State Senator Lisa Gladden, a lawyer who has defended those accused of
murder, has introduced a bill to ban executions and has called exonerated
death row inmates to testify this week.
Maryland's new Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley has said he would be
willing to sign any law which ended capital punishment.
Opponents of the death penalty like Sen Gladden believe that if Maryland
outlaws capital punishment, other states will follow suit.
"We have to have courage, we can lead the way - I believe other states
will think the death penalty is more trouble than it's worth and will
repeal" it, she says.
Thirty-eight of the 50 US states have the death sentence on the statute
books - but almost 1/3 of them have placed temporary bans on executions.
The drawn-out execution of Angel Diaz prompted a Florida rethink
The suspensions follow concerns about the possibility of wrongful
convictions in some areas, and worries about the method of execution in
Late last year, the outgoing governor of Florida - President Bush's
brother Jeb - suspended executions when it was revealed it took prisoner
Angel Diaz 34 minutes to die after a lethal cocktail of drugs was
apparently injected into tissue rather than into his veins.
But while many of the temporary bans centre on technical and legal
challenges to the death penalty, politicians in Maryland seem willing to
take on the moral arguments.
The state legislature has a Democratic majority, but that does not mean
Sen Gladden's bill will pass automatically.
Even some Democrats are worried that a full frontal assault on the death
penalty - rather than simply continuing with a moratorium on executions -
could lead to an unwelcome counterattack by populist political opponents
at the next election.
Supporters of the death penalty think it likely that Maryland will
formally abolish the ultimate sanction.
But they say the decision should be in the hands of all voters, and not
just the politicians.
Throw Away the Key
And that is because recent evidence suggests that even in states which
currently have no death penalty, support for capital punishment remains
Wisconsin was one of the first states to abolish capital punishment, in
1853. (Yes, 1853 not 1953).
Yet in a recent referendum, a narrow majority voted to re-instate it for
the most vicious crimes, and on condition that DNA evidence of guilt was
The referendum was not binding and the Democrat-controlled state
legislature is unlikely to pass such a law.
But death penalty supporters cite Wisconsin's vote as an example of the
continuing popularity of the death penalty so long as voters - and juries
- are convinced they are not sentencing potentially innocent people on the
basis of unreliable evidence.
Will of the people?
Mike Paranzino runs the pressure group Throw Away the Key from the town of
Kensington in Maryland and is a former adviser to senior Republican
He says a referendum would better inform the voters of his state, many of
whom would be shocked not at the imposition the death penalty, but about
how rarely it is used.
"At the moment, the people of Maryland don't really know the ins and outs
of how the death penalty is applied," he argues.
"Most child killers are exempt from the death penalty. Serial killers are
exempt unless they kill more than one person on the same day.
"In fact, the death penalty is underutilised -there have been 7,000
intentional murders since the death penalty was restored in Maryland and
only a handful of killers executed."
The anti-death penalty campaigners who listened to Vicky Schieber's
harrowing story were treated to polling evidence commissioned by Maryland
CASE - Citizens Against State Execution.
They said the polls show a narrow majority in the state still supports the
But when asked if they would find life in prison without the possibility
of parole a suitable alternative, 2/3 of them said they would support that
But it's unlikely this issue will be put to a popular vote.
And for the moment, existing evidence suggests Americans may be more
queasy about how people are put to death - rather than why.
(source: BBC News)
Emerging details shed light on firings of U.S. attorneys
All but one of the U.S. attorneys recently fired by the Justice Department
had positive job reviews before they were dismissed, but many ran into
political trouble with Washington over issues ranging from immigration to
the death penalty, according to prosecutors, congressional aides and
others familiar with the cases.
2 months after the firings began to make waves on Capitol Hill, it also
has become clear that most of the prosecutors were overseeing significant
public-corruption investigations at the time they were asked to leave. 4
of the probes target GOP politicians or their supporters, prosecutors and
other officials said.
The emerging details stand in contrast to repeated statements from the
Justice Department that six of the Repub- lican-appointed prosecutors were
dismissed because of poor performance. In one of the most prominent
examples, agency officials pointed to widely-known management and morale
problems surrounding then-U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in San Francisco.
advertisement But the assertions enraged the rest of the group, some of
whom feel betrayed after staying silent about the way they had been shoved
Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., who was asked to
resign earlier than the others to make way for a former White House aide,
said Justice Department officials crossed a line by publicly criticizing
the performance of his well-regarded colleagues.
''They're entitled to make these changes for any reason or no reason or
even for an idiotic reason,'' Cummins said. ''But if they are trying to
suggest that people have inferior performance to hide whatever their true
agenda is, that is wrong. They should retract those statements.''
Justice officials initially sought to obscure the firings even from some
senators, and have since issued confusing signals and contradictory
information about the episode.
One source who was familiar with the episode said last week that an 8th
U.S. attorney was asked to resign in December with the others. The
unidentified prosecutor is negotiating to stay in the job, the source
The end result is an unusual spectacle in which Democratic lawmakers are
bemoaning the firings of Republican-appointed prosecutors. The political
pressure has become so great that Cummins' successor in Arkansas, former
White House aide Timothy Griffin, announced Friday that he had decided not
to submit his name to the Senate for a permanent appointment.
Lawmakers from both parties are pushing to strip Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales of his power to name replacement U.S. attorneys for an indefinite
period, although Republicans blocked that proposal in the Senate last
week. The House Judiciary Committee is planning hearings on similar
legislation in March.
''I don't know how they could have mishandled this any worse,'' one of the
fired U.S. prosecutors said.
''There always have traditionally been tensions between main Justice and
U.S. attorneys in the districts,'' said Carl Tobias, a law professor at
the University of Richmond. ''But it does seem like there's an effort to
centralize authority in Washington more than there has been in the past
and in prior administrations.''
Most of the firings came Dec. 7, when senior Justice Department official
Michael Battle - a former U.S. attorney himself - called 6 prosecutors to
inform them that they were being asked to resign.
(source: Washington Post)
Bills target death penalty----Lawmakers consider creating task force to
check fairness of executions
Less than a year after the state Supreme Court narrowly upheld
Washington's use of the death penalty, some lawmakers wonder why Green
River Killer Gary Ridgway -- who murdered at least 48 women -- can cop a
plea to spare his life while someone convicted of less can be executed.
HB 1518 and SB 5786 would create a death penalty task force;
HB 1707 and SB 5787 would limit capital punishment for retarded people or
those who have a severe mental disorder;
HB 1890 would require DNA evidence before the imposition of the death
The Legislature is considering a bill that would stay executions until
July 1, 2008, and empanel a task force to review whether the death penalty
is imposed fairly and uniformly in Washington.
King County prosecutors spared Ridgway's life to get details on the 48
murders -- allowing human remains to be found and long-suffering families
to get closure.
But cutting that kind of deal in a death penalty case raises important
legal and ethical questions.
The state Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last June that Washington could continue
to impose the death penalty on people whose crimes were less severe than
Ridgway's, but left it to the Legislature to examine the moral
implications of continuing capital punishment.
Dissenting justices compared the state's inconsistent application of the
death penalty sentence to "lightning, randomly striking," saying it sends
the wrong message to potential criminals.
"If you simply hide bodies and are able to blackmail a prosecuting
attorney into offering you a life sentence so as to bring closure to
victims, what kind of deterrence message is that to those who might be
contemplating murder?" said Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, who is the
sponsor of the bill.
"The message would simply seem to be 'hide the bodies.'"
In addition to suspending all death sentences, the legislation would
create a 14-member task force composed of state Supreme Court justices,
lawmakers, attorneys, civilians and law enforcement personnel to review
whether the death penalty is imposed fairly and uniformly in Washington.
Among the issues it would consider are whether race and economic factors
play a role in sentencing and how the costs of capital punishment affect
local government. The task force would have to report its findings to the
governor by the end of the year.
The bill will make it out of committee, key committee heads said, though
it's unclear whether it will pass the full Legislature.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng's announcement in late January that he
will seek the death penalty for Conner Schierman, who is accused of
stabbing 4 people before setting their bodies on fire in a Kirkland home,
raises more questions, Williams said.
"All those bodies were found," he said.
Maleng was unavailable for comment last week.
Since Washington instituted the death penalty in its current form in 1981,
it has executed 4 people.
It has sentenced 30 to death, with 20 of those cases being subsequently
overturned by the state Supreme Court or the 9th District Court of
Tom McBride, executive secretary of the Washington Association of
Prosecuting Attorneys, said the task force wouldn't address the moral
questions the Supreme Court posed to the Legislature last year, but would
only rehash procedural issues that the Supreme Court already addressed in
its ruling last year.
"This task force is not going to give any more scrutiny to these cases
than the court already has," said McBride, whose organization represents
county prosecutors across the state.
"It's just trying to avoid the political question, which is the moral
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, drafted the version of the bill in the Senate
and said the intent of the task force is to "look at the death penalty
from an ideologically neutral point of view."
"This is an irrevocable deed when we do it, and we have to make sure we're
using it effectively if we're going to use it at all," said Kline, who
heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote on the bill.
Some members of that committee expressed concerns that the membership of
the task force could be stacked so that it produces a specific
"What they will do is configure the task force to achieve a desired
outcome," said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.
She said legislators are elected to make these kinds of policy decisions,
and the task force would be unnecessary.
"There is not a widespread problem here," she said. "Gary Ridgway -- that
was a problem. But 2 wrongs don't make a right."
Kline said he was working with other legislators to make the bill as
unbiased as possible and is confident it will move out of committee.
He said he morally opposes the death penalty but wants the task force's
review to be fair and impartial.
Williams said that the task force would have to address whether pursuing
the death penalty makes sense economically -- especially considering the
number of sentences that have been overturned and the decision by 3 of the
4 convicts executed in Washington not to appeal their death sentences,
"essentially volunteering" to die rather than spend life in prison.
"The death penalty is effectively not occurring in Washington state, so I
think it's a legitimate public policy question as to whether we should
expend vast resources doing a sanction that at the end of the day is never
imposed, or whether we should alternatively pursue life imprisonment
without any possibility of parole," he said.
According to a report released in December by the Washington State Bar
Association, death penalty trials in Washington generate about $470,000
more in costs than non-death penalty trials for aggravated murder.
After sentencing, the average appeal costs the defense an extra $100,000,
and prisoners' petitions against personal restraints cost about $137,000
more in public defense funds.
"We believe that it is important for the state to look at the costs
involved with these cases and how they're handled, and how they impact the
various jurisdictions, that is, the counties and the state," said Joanne
Moore, director of the Washington State Office of Public Defense. "It is
expensive at all stages."
Those who testified last Wednesday at hearings for several death
penalty-related bills disagreed about whether Washington's imposition of
the death penalty is racially biased.
Public concern about the death penalty and racial bias is growing along
with general ambivalence about the practice, said James Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
For the first time ever, a Gallup poll from December 2006 showed that more
Americans prefer sentencing criminals to life in prison than sentencing
them to death.
"There's an overall recognition that there may be problems with the death
penalty, and no one wants innocent people executed," Dieter said.
Of the 123 people freed from death row in U.S. history, 14 were exonerated
because of DNA evidence, which may have shaken the public's faith in
capital punishment, he said.
During the last 5 to 10 years, he said, more states have developed task
forces like the one being proposed in Washington to assess their capital
Dieter said a study group is a relatively safe way for politicians to
address concerns about the death penalty without alienating large portions
of their constituents, who have historically been divided on the issue.
Mark Prothero, the Kent lawyer who represented Ridgway in 2003, said that
prosecutors should wonder whether it would be more punishing for criminals
to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
"Ridgway gets an hour out on Tuesday, an hour out on Thursday, an hour out
on Saturday, and spends the rest of his time in an 8-foot by 8-foot cell,"
"That hour out, there's no human contact. He's in a concrete cylinder
that's about 40 feet across and 60 feet high with a cyclone fence on the
top. It's a miserable existence. It's a good alternative to the death
(source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Lethal horror ---- Florida, yet the cruel, inept executioner
It must have seemed like a scene out of a 3rd-world torture chamber, or a
A man was strapped to a gurney, with needles injecting caustic chemicals
into the flesh of both arms. Needles meant to be inserted into veins had
missed, a mistake that would raise foot-long blisters on the condemned
man's arms. Witnesses say he twisted and appeared to be gasping for air --
a reaction that one expert anesthesiologist says might have indicated that
the man felt as though he were suffocating.
The sadistic scene played out for more than half an hour, as appalled
witnesses, including members of the man's family, looked on.
When it was all over, the state of Florida had accomplished its objective:
Angel Nieves Diaz was dead, executed for the murder of a bar manager
nearly 27 years ago. But at what cost?
Many Floridians don't want to ask themselves that question. So long as
executions take place away from their sight, they don't want to think
about the mechanics of state-sanctioned homicide. But when executions go
horribly wrong -- as they did in Diaz's case -- it becomes much harder to
look the other way.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed a commission to look into the Diaz case.
Gradually, a picture of gross incompetence emerged. Poorly trained
personnel were responsible for inserting intravenous lines into Diaz's
arms, but they apparently poked needles through the veins. The executioner
supervising the killing testified that -- by the time Diaz died -- 14
vials of various chemicals had been emptied into his flesh, and that this
execution wasn't the first he'd had trouble with.
The executioner -- whose name was kept secret, even from the commission --
also admitted he'd had very little training and no medical experience.
Experts testified that the 4-person execution team missed several clear
signs that things were going wrong.
This barbaric episode is particularly shocking because lethal injection is
usually billed as the "easy" way to execute criminals: Noiseless, with no
flailing or burning flesh. But even when things go correctly, some experts
believe the relative calm of a lethal-injection scene often hides a
torturous, agonizing death.
Florida, like most states, uses three chemicals: an anesthetic to render
the condemned unconscious, followed by a paralytic and a poison that stops
the heart. But a study of 49 lethal injections published 2 years ago in
the leading British medical journal, The Lancet, found that in 43 cases,
the level of anesthetic in the dead men's bloodstreams fell below the
amount required to cause unconsciousness. In some cases, the study found,
it's entirely possible that the condemned man was awake and aware -- but
unable to move -- while the caustic chemicals flooded his veins.
There's no compelling rationale behind this cruel and unusual punishment.
States that apply the death penalty see no benefit in lower murder rates.
The death penalty is applied so randomly that one Florida Supreme Court
justice referred to it as "lightning striking." And as scientific evidence
of innocence frees more people each year from death row, the doubt grows
about using such an irrevocable means of punishment in such a deeply
The commission's decision should be easy. Lethal injection doesn't work
for Florida, any more than the other methods it tried in the past.
(source: Editorial, Daytona News-Journal)
Milwaukee man might draw death sentence
In Panama City, jurors voted 11-1 Friday to recommend the death penalty
for a Milwaukee man convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a
police officer during a 2005 traffic stop in Florida.
Robert Bailey, 24, fatally shot Panama City Beach police Sgt. Kevin Kight,
No date has been set for Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet to make the
final decision on sentencing.
A telephone message at the office of Bailey's lawyer was not immediately
Wisconsin court records show that Bailey was convicted of burglary and
vehicle theft in Ozaukee County in 2000 and sentenced to three years in
prison. He was convicted in 1999 of criminal trespass and misdemeanor
theft in Milwaukee County.
Kight was attempting to arrest Bailey for having an invalid license when
Bailey pulled out a handgun and shot him, police said.
(source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Mental state key to death sentence----ALLEGED KILLER OF POLICEMAN COULDN'T
BE EXECUTED IF A JUDGE RULES HE IS RETARDED
A prosecutor and a lawyer will square off in a Santa Clara County
courtroom later this week to argue whether DeShawn Lee Campbell could read
a menu, was confounded by the cash registers at Mervyn's and occasionally
put his clothes on backward.
The question Judge Diane Northway will decide after the rare hearing will
be this: Is Campbell mentally retarded?
If Northway decides the answer is "yes,'' then the 27-year-old cannot be
sentenced to death if he is convicted of the 2001 shooting death of San
Jose police officer Jeffrey Fontana. If she decides the answer is "no,''
Campbell could face the death penalty.
The legal battle over his mental condition is the latest in a series of
legal issues that have been delaying the trial, much to the frustration of
Fontana's family and police.
Mildly retarded or simply slow, the state of the suspect's mind is no
minor procedural matter. Campbell's life may hang in the balance.
In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing mentally retarded
people would violate the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual''
punishment. The court left it up to the states to define retardation. But
it's not easy to define. In California, a person can be determined to be
mentally retarded if he or she has a below-average intellect -- around a
70 to 75 IQ -- and significant deficits in conceptual, social and/or
practical skills. And it all must have been measured or observed before
the age of 18.
In the eight similar hearings decided in the state so far, five have been
denied and two have been approved, according to experts. One suspect
committed suicide before the issue was decided.
"This is complicated stuff, the intersection of science and law,'' said
Harry Simon, a federal defender in Sacramento who has tried three such
hearings. "It takes time to work itself out. There a lot of misconceptions
about what retarded people are like.''
Beyond the scientific, philosophical and legal questions, the fate of this
week's hearing carries enormous emotional weight for the families of the
suspect and the dead police officer.
"I think it's another ploy to delay this trial,'' said an openly
frustrated Sandy Fontana, the mother of the slain officer. "We are not
getting a fair trial and Jeffrey's not getting a fair trial.'' She said
she did not believe Campbell is retarded.
"Each and every witness has said that he was not mentally retarded,''
prosecutor Lane Liroff said. "It sounds as if we are talking about two
different people here. Some said he was manipulative, vain, sharp. One
hoped he would go on to junior college.''
Campbell's family declined comment.
But Campbell's attorney, Edward Sousa, denied this is delaying tactic or a
desperate legal reach.
"He has the intellectual level of 8 to 12 years old. Someone with a
6th-grade education,'' Sousa said. "Executing someone like that would be
the equivalent of the execution of a child.''
Experts on both sides of the death penalty say that the case that led to
the decision -- Atkins vs. Virginia -- has not led to a large wave of such
hearings here. But the issue has been hotly contested and controversial.
"In most people's minds, this means that we shouldn't execute a guy that
is not equipped to address the basic things in life. Like Lenny in 'Of
Mice and Men.' Someone who needs someone to take care of him,'' said
Michael Rushford, president of the California-based Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation. "This guy in San Jose is out on the streets fixing to kill a
cop. He doesn't need a helper.''
Opponents say that cases should succeed on their merits -- and there was
no evidence that suspects were pretending to be retarded to save their
"You can't malinger a history. You can't malinger documents. You can't
malinger teachers,'' federal defender Simon said. "It's a silly
Campbell's retardation hearing begins Tuesday -- after which the
long-awaited trial can begin. The question will be decided by a judge --
an option in California. And it will be decided before Campbell has even
been tried for the Oct. 28, 2001, homicide.
Sousa said it is a strategic move, so that he doesn't have to try the
question in front of a jury that has just convicted his client of
first-degree murder. Members of the jury may be biased and not able to
reason as clearly about the complicated issue as a judge, Sousa said.
There is tantalizing evidence on both sides.
The Social Security Administration determined in 1997 that Campbell was
But Liroff pointed out that in 1993 the SSA had ruled he was not retarded
and said 1997 was the same year that his grades vastly improved to A's and
B's in his special education classes in San Jose.
Sousa, who says his client has significant mental deficits, is planning on
bringing in 4 doctors expected to testify that Campbell is mentally
retarded. Liroff is planning on bringing in 10 of Campbell's special
education teachers, expected to say that he isn't.
He apparently could not learn even simple tasks such as how to catch a
fish. Yet Liroff contends that in one conversation, Campbell and his
father are talking over the jail phone and his father suggests he do case
research at the jail's law library.
"Who would send a moron to a law library?'' Liroff said.
One childhood friend told a doctor that Campbell could never figure out
the basic concept of ``hide and seek.'' He would never hide, a friend
said. Yet, Campbell was a successful fugitive from a massive and intense
search for more than a week after Fontana was killed.
Judge Northway is expected to decide another key point soon: whether to
allow the testimony of a woman who says that she overheard someone else
say he had shot the police officer.
(source: Mercury News)
Serial killer: Truth never came out in trial
Serial killer Wayne Adam Ford, in his 1st public comment since he was
convicted last year of slaying four women, said his expected death penalty
sentence "doesn't bother me one bit."
Ford, in an electronic voice file made last week and addressed to a
Press-Enterprise reporter, also said "the truth" never came out during his
"The fact I'm being executed doesn't bother me one bit," Ford said. "But
the fact the truth wasn't told, and the people were hurt beyond what they
should have been hurt, that bothers me."
Ford, 45, was convicted June 27. The same jury recommended the death
penalty on Aug. 10.
Documentary filmmaker Victoria Redstall said Ford believes the truth
involves his blacking out -- the result of head trauma suffered in a 1980
car crash -- during the killings in 1997 and 1998. She said he does not
deny killing the women.
During a telephone interview, she played an audio clip of Ford explaining
his actions during the killings.
"It does not mean I was sitting there, enjoying myself, reviving them and
torturing them," Ford said. "That never happened."
Redstall, 32, of Studio City, said she has collected more than 88 hours of
telephone interviews with Ford, who is awaiting sentencing at the West
Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
Her interviews are for "Room Zero," a nearly complete 90-minute
documentary set to go out for bidding March 16 -- the day when Ford could
be formally sentenced to death.
Ford said in his recorded statement that he has exclusively told his story
"I got into the mind of a serial killer," Redstall said last week. "I
should be respected for that."
Redstall, who also is an actress and model, made national headlines and
appeared on talk shows in August when news came out that she had followed
Ford's prison bus and had sung country music songs with him.
A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy was disciplined after Redstall
had unauthorized contact with Ford while he was in custody. She was banned
from all county jails in August.
Redstall said she seethes at the "idiots" who imply that she is a serial
killer groupie. She said she wants the public to take her seriously as a
"Just because I'm a girl, and just because I'm a model," Redstall said,
"people want to think there has to be a romance."
"Room Zero" is named for a small cabin at the Ocean Grove Lodge in
Trinidad, where Ford stayed the night before he unexpectedly surrendered
to Humboldt County sheriff's officials Nov. 3, 1998.
Ford was not a suspect in the crimes when he surprised authorities by
presenting them with a woman's severed breast.
Redstall said "Room Zero," now in its final editing, aims to determine the
identity of "Jane Doe," the first of four women Ford is convicted of
"We're getting closer every day," Redstall said. "We're trying to piece
together who she is."
Jane Doe, also known as "Humboldt County Doe," was found floating in a
fresh-water slough in October 1997.
An upcoming news release for the film mentions 13 clues about the
unidentified woman, ranging from a mother in her 20s to an
environmentalist with hairy armpits.
Deputy Public Defender Joseph Canty, one of two attorneys who defended
Ford last year, has filed a motion for a new trial. It is scheduled for a
hearing when his client returns to court next month.
Canty based his motion on violations of Ford's constitutional rights,
prosecutorial misconduct and jury selection error.
In court records, Canty accuses former prosecutor Dave Mazurek, now a San
Bernardino County Superior Court judge, of unfairly calling attention to
Ford for declining to take the stand in his defense.
Canty quotes Mazurek during the trial saying that Ford, had he taken the
stand, could have told jurors about performing sex acts on his dead
"Because it really wasn't an accident," said Mazurek, quoted in court
records. "If he told you, you would figure out he really did intend to
kill these girls as the ultimate act of sadism ... sexual gratification
During the trial, court officials played several interviews that police
recorded with Ford within hours of his arrest.
In those, Ford grudgingly describes performing erotic asphyxiation,
restricting the blood flow to the brain to increase sexual pleasure, on as
many as 50 women.
He said he was unable to revive 4 of them.
Ford was the 1st defendant in California charged under the 1998 serial
murder law, which consolidates related killings into one jurisdiction.
Ford was extradited to San Bernardino County in 1999. His 2006 trial was
delayed because of challenges to the new law, the initial prosecutor's
retirement and numerous courtroom motions.
Canty said the law also requires Superior Court Judge Michael Smith to
consider a motion to reduce the death penalty recommendation to life in
prison without parole.
Canty declined to comment about "Room Zero."
Death penalty symposium schedule
Capital punishment, one of the most divisive and controversial subjects of
our time, is the subject of In Our Names: A Community Conversation on the
Death Penalty, 11 days of speeches, debates and performances at Butler
University, Christian Theological Seminary and the Indiana University
School of Law-Indianapolis.
Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call (317)
Speaker: Former Mississippi prison warden Donald Cabana, 7:30 p.m.,
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall, Butler University, 4600 Sunset Ave.
Performance: "In the Penal Colony," 7:30 p.m., Young and Laramore
building, 407 N. Fulton St.
Debate: Participants are Butler University President Bobby Fong, state
Rep. David Orentlicher and attorney Thomas Farlow, 7:30 p.m.,
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall, Butler.
Saturday:----Performance: "In the Penal Colony," 7:30 p.m., Young and
Laramore building. Feb. 25:----Performance: "In the Penal Colony," 7:30
p.m., Young and Laramore building. Feb. 26:
Film and discussion: "The Innocent," Michael Husain's film about Death Row
inmates who have been exonerated, 7 p.m., Shelton Auditorium, CTS.
Feb. 27:----Film: "In Cold Blood," 7 p.m., Shelton Auditorium, CTS. Feb.
28:----Speaker: David Kaczynski, 7:30 p.m., Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall,
March 1: Speaker: Attorney Robert Hammerle, 12:45 to 2 p.m., IU School of
Law's Wynne Courtroom, 530 W. New York St.
Film: "The Exonerated," 7 p.m., Shelton Auditorium, CTS.
Discussion: Religious Views of the Death Penalty. Participants: Judge
David Shaheed, Rabbi Dennis Sasso, Christian Theological Seminary
Professors Wilma Bailey and Scott Seay; 12:45 to 2 p.m., Common Room, CTS.
In Our Names is cosponsored by Butler University's Jordan College of Fine
Arts, Honors Program and the Center for Faith and Vocation; the Indiana
University School of Law-Indianapolis; and the Christian Theological
Seminary, along with the Indiana Information Center on the Abolition of
Capital Punishment and the IU Law Students Against Capital Punishment.
(source: Indianapolis Star)
More information about the DeathPenalty