[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ILL., N.C., KY., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Feb 21 03:46:53 UTC 2007
Released inmates claim city won't honor $14.8 million settlement
3 men who were pardoned from death row for murder allege the city of
Chicago hasn't honored a $14.8 million settlement on claims of police
Attorneys for Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard claimed a
settlement was approved with the "highest levels" of city government on
Nov. 3, 2006, in a motion filed electronically Monday.
But Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city Law Department, said no
such settlement was reached.
"All of our discussions . . . were confidential, but we did not reach an
agreement," she said.
The alleged settlement comes from claims that former Chicago Police Lt.
Jon Burge and officers working under him tortured the men into confessing
Then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned 4 men, including the 3 seeking the
settlement, in January 2003 when he also commuted the sentence of every
death row prisoner before leaving office.
The 3 men then filed federal suits against the city. They consolidated
their 3 separate cases for settlement purposes, according to the motion.
The men want a court order that would require the city to sign the
settlement and pay $14.8 million. According to the filing, the plaintiffs
seek punitive damages against the city for its "egregious bad faith."
"The motion speaks for itself in terms of the city's conduct at the
highest levels of government," said Orange's attorney G. Flint Taylor.
"The remainder of the shocking details concerning this city's misconduct
will be coming out in the next few days in further documents."
In the filing Taylor wrote that if the city is not forced to honor the
settlement, he and the other plaintiffs' attorneys will ask for a default
judgment against the city and plan to file amended suits naming Mayor
Richard Daley and former Mayor Jane Byrne as defendants.
Burge, who was once the Area 2 commander, was fired after a police
department investigation found a suspect was mistreated in his custody.
Burge has not been charged and his attorney has said Burge never tortured
(source: Associated Press)
Lethal injection changes sought----Execution method called humane is under
30 years ago, Oklahoma lawmaker Bill Wiseman crafted legislation for
Wiseman's method of execution, devised to make capital punishment more
humane than the electric chair, soon spread to all but one of the 38
states with the death penalty.
But now, the procedure Wiseman created with the help of the Oklahoma
medical examiner has come under increasing legal scrutiny, most of it
focused on whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawsuits and a botched execution in Florida have created a death-penalty
standstill. In a dozen states, officials are struggling to change
executions and satisfy the courts.
"This is a question that is arising one lawsuit at a time in several
states," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation, a pro-death penalty nonprofit group based in Sacramento,
Wiseman, an Episcopal priest and university administrator, has granted
several interviews about his role in the creation of lethal injection -- a
part of his history that he has said he now regrets.
In January, a North Carolina judge halted executions for three North
Carolina death row inmates. Prison officials had modified their execution
procedures in an effort to accommodate first a federal judge who required
that a doctor be involved and then the North Carolina Medical Board, which
adopted an ethics policy forbidding doctors from participating beyond
simply being present.
The conflict has created a bizarre situation: A doctor must be present,
monitoring the inmate's vital signs, but can't step in unless there is
some need for medical assistance. Lawyers say that would presumably
involve trying to save the inmate's life.
Raleigh lawyer Elizabeth Kuniholm addressed this death-chamber confusion
in a court filing. "At this point," she wrote, "one assumes that the
efforts will change from death to resuscitation. It is here that the new
protocol defies logic."
The likely outcome, she argued, would be a brain-damaged inmate who could
not be executed and who, because of his or her condition, would require
intensive medical care.
Kuniholm represents James Campbell, one of the three North Carolina
inmates whose execution has been put on hold. The legislation that Wiseman
proposed -- and many states mimicked -- called for the inmate to be
injected with a fast-acting barbiturate followed by drugs to paralyze and
kill the inmate. The 3-drug protocol became:
Sodium pentothal to put the inmate to sleep.
Pancuronium bromide to cause paralysis.
Potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Kuniholm and the other inmates' attorneys say that if an inmate weren't
fully sedated before the other 2 drugs were administered, he or she would
be awake to experience the paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs. Unless a
doctor were involved, no one present would be sufficiently trained to
determine whether the sedation was adequate.
They say that means prison officials can't guarantee a constitutional
execution -- one that is free of cruel and unusual punishment.
Now, North Carolina prison officials are left to negotiate with the
medical board and probably will end up back in court.
(source: McClatchy Newspapers)
Death penalty possible in killing
An Archdale man could face the death penalty if convicted of killing his
wife in a parking lot last year, a judge decided Monday.
Del Ray Wilson Jr., 28, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Dec. 17
death of 23-year-old Rebecca Ann Wilson.
The slaying took place 3 months after she had filed separation papers.
She died after being shot twice with a 12-gauge shotgun, prosecutor Al
Del Ray Wilson Jr. had been arrested twice previously on charges of
violating 4 times a protective order his wife had taken out on him.
She had claimed in court filings that he had threatened to kill her if she
Hubbard said the alleged violations of the protective order constituted
aggravating circumstances that could justify the death penalty in the
Judge John O. Craig III agreed that death could be an option.
The slaying took place as Rebecca Ann Wilson drove into the parking lot of
Allerton Place Apartments off Pleasant Ridge Road.
Later that day, Del Ray Wilson Jr. engaged in an 8-hour standoff with
police at the auto dealership where he worked on West Market Street.
The couple's 2 children were not home when the slaying took place.
(source: Greensboro News-Record)
Death row inmate's attorney says crime lab biased
The Kentucky State Police crime lab may not treat a death row inmate
fairly, so DNA testing in his case should be handled by an outside lab,
defense attorneys argued Monday.
Attorneys for Brian Keith Moore, awaiting execution for a 1979 murder,
said crime lab forensics specialists have given contradictory statements
in another case about whether DNA could be lifted from decades-old
evidence and what type of testing could be used on the evidence.
David Barron, one of Moore's attorneys, said an independent lab should do
the tests to ensure their accuracy.
"The grant of DNA testing is only as good as the results," Barron said.
Assistant Attorney General David Smith said defense attorneys are taking
the forensics specialists' statements in another case out of context.
"What my opponents have done is gouge with a dull knife part of a
statement ... in another case and spin it," Smith said.
Moore, 49, was convicted and sentenced to death for the August 1979
kidnapping and slaying of Virgil Harris of Louisville. Moore is the 1st
Kentucky death row inmate to have been granted DNA testing on old
evidence. Moore claims the evidence will point to another man, who has
since died, as Harris' killer.
Similar tests have resulted in 188 people being freed from prison around
the country - 14 from death row.
Moore's attorneys want DNA testing done by an outside lab or a hearing to
explore possible bias by the forensic specialists. Jefferson County
Circuit Judge James Shake did not immediately rule on either request.
State police initially cited the older DNA test, restriction fragment
length polymorphism (RFLP), last week in the case of Thomas Clyde Bowling,
who is awaiting execution for the 1992 slayings of Eddie and Tina Early
outside their Lexington dry-cleaning store, Barron said. The crime lab
then updated the information with newer tests available after being
questioned about the testing methods, Barron said.
"That calls into question what is going on with their beliefs in this
case," Barron said. "Crime labs and the individuals within them have
Smith said the crime lab is not endorsing the use of a RFLP in Bowling's
case and is showing no evidence of bias against the inmates, Smith said.
Moore's attorneys are simply raising every issue they can find, Smith
"It's creative, I'll hand them that, but I don't think it's credible,"
Bowling, 53, wants a car used in the slaying of the Earleys tested for his
DNA. Prosecutors have objected, saying the car has been exposed to the
elements for too long to yield any testable evidence.
Kentucky adopted a law in 2002 allowing death row inmates to seek DNA
testing of evidence if they were convicted before such tests were
available and the evidence has not been previously tested. The law is
similar to statutes in 41 other states.
Shake found that evidence in Moore's case - the clothes, Moore's
fingerprints on several items belonging to the victim and Moore driving
Harris' car - could be consistent with Moore's claim that someone else
committed or took part in the crime. Shake ruled that was enough to
warrant DNA testing.
There are 3 possible outcomes to the DNA tests: Moore's DNA could show up,
confirming he was at the scene; someone else's DNA could be found, raising
questions about Moore's role; or the tests could be inconclusive.
Kentucky has executed 2 inmates since the reinstatement of the death
penalty in 1976. Harold McQueen of Madison County was put to death in the
electric chair in 1997. Eddie Lee Harper of Louisville became the only
inmate to be executed by lethal injection in 1999.
Death row inmate claims crime lab biased
In Lousiville, defense attorneys for a death row inmate argued today that
DNA testing for their client should be handled by an outside lab.
The attorneys for Brian Keith Moore believe the Kentucky State Police
crime lab may not treat Moore fairly.
Moore is awaiting execution for a 1979 murder. His attorneys say crime lab
forensics specialists have given contradictory statements in another case
about whether DNA could be lifted from decades-old evidence and what type
of testing could be used on the evidence.
Attorney David Barron says an independent lab should do the tests to
ensure their accuracy.
Assistant Attorney General David Smith says the defense attorneys are
taking the forensics specialists statements in another case out of
The 49-year-old Moore was convicted and sentenced to death for the August
1979 kidnapping and slaying of Virgil Harris of Louisville. Moore is the
1st Kentucky death row inmate to have been granted DNA testing on old
evidence. Moore claims the evidence will point to another man, who has
since died, as Harris' killer.
(source for both: Associated Press)
'Snitch evidence' under fire----More cases involving informants overturned
Should testimony by jailhouse informants be allowed?
When David Eddleman was convicted of murder in the 1996 shooting death of
16-year-old Joane Gergescu on Detroit's west side, the jury based its
decision largely upon the testimony of a cellmate who claimed to have
heard him confess.
But a federal appeals panel found that Eddleman's cellmate had plenty of
reason to lie.
Eddleman, who will be freed this month or granted a new trial in the case,
is joining a growing number of defendants whose convictions are being
overturned because of "snitch testimony" by jailhouse informants, a
practice under increasing scrutiny in Michigan and across the nation.
It's also the subject of author John Grisham's first work of nonfiction.
Grisham's bestseller "The Innocent Man" examines the case of Ron
Williamson, who was convicted of murdering a cocktail waitress and
sentenced to death largely on the testimony of snitches and convicts. DNA
evidence later exonerated Williamson.
A 2005 study by the Northwestern University School of Law Center on
Wrongful Convictions found that of 111 death row inmates exonerated since
the 1970s, 46 percent of the convictions had relied on snitch testimony.
Beyond Eddleman's case, Michigan lawyers are alarmed by the recent
revelations related to alleged abuse of confidential informant testimony
by indicted former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino.
"In a perfect world, I wouldn't allow jailhouse informants," said Detroit
defense attorney Mark Kriger.
Lawyers are examining Convertino's cases following his 2006 indictment on
charges of misconduct in prosecuting the nation's 1st terrorism trial
after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The star witness in the terrorism case, Youssef Hmimssa, was exposed as a
serial con artist. In one of Convertino's drug cases under review, federal
court records show the prosecutor arranged a secret early release for Hans
Thomas, a violent convict who had admitted to participating in murders and
shooting into a home with children inside.
Thomas was released pursuant to a sealed order in return for his testimony
against an accused drug trafficker. Thomas was charged with a new murder
within a year.
In return for cooperation in the same drug case, Convertino arranged a
sharp sentence reduction for convict Tali Alexander, who had admitted to
shooting at Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputies; then Convertino arranged
for Alexander to share a cell with another defendant in the terrorism
case, Karim Koubriti, lawyer Carole Stanyar alleged in a court filing.
"Taking full advantage of this golden opportunity," Alexander reported
that Koubriti admitted to him he was a terrorist, according to the court
A terrorism-related conviction against Koubriti was later dismissed.
Convertino has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, obstruction of justice
and other charges and awaits trial in July. His lawyer, William Sullivan,
would not comment on Stanyar's allegations but said Convertino "always
acted zealously to protect the safety of his community, and his ethics are
Kenneth Wyniemko, a Rochester Hills man who spent nine years in prison
before DNA evidence cleared him of a rape he did not commit, said he will
never forget his former cellmate testifying at his trial.
'It was too concise'
"It was almost like his testimony was memorized," Wyniemko said last week.
"It was too concise. It matched almost word for word the (police)
Glen McCormick testified Wyniemko confessed to him in the Macomb County
Jail. Facing a possible life sentence as a habitual offender, McCormick
got less than a year for attempted armed robbery in return for his
He later recanted.
"Judges have to have the courage to ban that type of testimony
altogether," Wyniemko said.
But Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who prosecuted the Eddleman case
and many more murder cases when he worked in the Wayne County Prosecutor's
Office, said jailhouse informants often provide crucial information.
"When people get locked up together they get bored and they just spill
their guts," Cox said.
Cox said prosecutors must use common sense and evaluate the testimony of
jailhouse informants in the context of other facts in the case and
Defense lawyer Kriger said jailhouse informants provide among the most
unreliable types of evidence prosecutors can use.
"Jailhouse informants have the greatest motive to fabricate and are likely
to fabricate in order to extricate themselves from their own
difficulties," Kriger said.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy draws a distinction between the classic
jailhouse informant who claims to have heard a confession and others who
may have been offered deals in return for their testimony.
"Point blank, the only way that we can convict the most serious of
criminals is to use the testimony of other criminals " Murphy said. "(But)
we need to be even more cautious."
(source: Detroit News)
Death penalty is no longer a deterrent to crime
I read with interest the two intelligent and knowledgeable opinions of
Carl Brizzi and David Orentlicher in The Star, Voices, Feb. 18, "The
It's absolutely astonishing how 2 well educated and intelligent people,
who understand law better than I and most other people, can miss the point
on capital punishment to the degree both of them do. While Carl Brizzi
points out the state has a duty to punish murderers of children and police
officers, and David Orentlicher points out how many innocent people have
been sent to Death Row and exonerated with DNA evidence, neither man
addresses the death penalty for what it is supposed to be in the first
All sentences imposed by a judge or a jury regardless of the severity or
nature of the crime are meant first and foremost to be a deterrent to the
defendant from future crimes or to would be criminals. As a supporter of
the death penalty, I have a hard time believing the way the death penalty
is imposed today is anything close to a deterrent. Executing someone 10 or
more years later deters nobody from killing a child or police officer. An
execution that long after a serious crime is nothing less than state
sanctioned cold-blooded murder. If the ultimate punishment is to have a
deterring effect on anybody, it must be carried out immediately after
conviction to mean anything at all. The Supreme Court has made it
mandatory to go through so many appeals after conviction that this
wouldn't be possible.
Unless Congress can amend the Constitution or a new Supreme Court can
change direction regarding capital punishment, we should not be executing
anybody regardless of the severity of their crimes. In order to avoid
wrongfully convicting an innocent person and sentencing them to death,
laws should be passed that sets the bar much higher for conviction and the
ensuing death sentence. If a much higher bar cannot be met, then capital
punishment should not even be considered by the courts or prosecutor. As a
citizen I am not interested in revenge for a killing, I'm interested in
deterring someone who might kill me or my loved ones who otherwise
wouldn't be terribly worried about dying 15 years after the fact.
Greg A. Fecteau----Indianapolis
(source: Letter to the Editor, Indianapolis Star)
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