[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., COLO., MD., KAN., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 22 04:19:31 UTC 2007
Death penalty option dropped----Michael Madeira says he won't seek the
death penalty for a man who is accused of murdering a Penn State student.
The county district attorney announced yesterday he will not seek the
death penalty in the murder case involving a former Penn State football
LaVon Chisley, 23, of Waldorf, Md., now faces life in prison if convicted
of the 1st-degree murder of Penn State student Langston Carraway, 26,
whose body was found with 93 stab and slash wounds June 5 in his
apartment, 110 Northbrook Lane.
Police have said Chisley, who maintains his innocence, and Carraway were
known to be friends.
Chisley also faces a 3rd-degree murder charge.
Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira said he determined the
case lacked elements that would constitute seeking the death penalty for
Karen Muir, Chisley's lawyer, could not be reached for comment on the
decision as of press time yesterday.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Code lays out 18 aggravating circumstances as
requirements for a death penalty case and "those circumstances do not
exist in this case," Madeira said.
Robbery is being investigated as Chisley's alleged motive, but to be
considered an aggravated circumstance it must be proven beyond a
reasonable doubt, which Madeira said he isn't sure he could do.
According to court documents, Chisley owed more than $50,000 to numerous
parties, including sports agents, a dog breeder and a tattoo artist. But
when he wasn't drafted into the NFL as he had anticipated, Chisley no
longer had the means to pay back the money he had promised, according to
However, Madeira said he was not considering charging Chisley with
Another aggravating circumstance discussed in the weeks leading up to the
death penalty decision was torture.
"As heinous as the crime was, I don't believe that the requirements of
what, or the definition of what would be torture, is met in this matter,"
Madeira said. "When you look at those cases and what torture is, we're not
anywhere near that in this case."
The decision to seek the death penalty must be made before the defendant's
formal arraignment -- which Chisley waived his right to -- and is "not
taken lightly," Madeira said.
"I spoke with a member of the [Carraway] family, and he fully understood
when I laid out what the aggravating circumstances were, when I told him
we would not be seeking the death penalty," Madeira said, "... he
understood why I wasn't and was in agreement with it."
(source: Penn State Collegian)
DA to seek death penalty in killing of 2 on eve of trial
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers told a Denver television
station Tuesday that she will seek the death penalty in the June 2005
slayings of Javad Marshall Fields and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe.
Fields was scheduled to testify in a murder trial against Sir Mario Owens,
one of the men who is now charged with killing him and Wolfe.
Chambers told 7News that prosecutors would seek the death penalty against
at least 1 of the men charged in the slayings. Owens and Robert Ray are
facing 1st-degree murder charges for killing the couple the night before
Marshall Fields was to take the witness stand.
A formal announcement is expected today.
In a statement Tuesday, Rhonda Fields, Javad's mother, said, "This
decision sends a very clear message to criminals and the innocent that our
community, our state, will not tolerate the killing of young men and women
who cooperate with the police and prosecutors for keeping criminals off
Owens was convicted in January of 1st-degree murder for killing Gregory
Vann during a Fourth of July celebration at Lowry Park in 2004.
He faces a mandatory life sentence in that case when he is sentenced April
(source: Rocky Mountain News)
O'Malley joins debate on Md. death penalty
Gov. Martin O'Malley will add his opposition to the death penalty to
legislative debates about capital punishment today, a rare show of support
for a Maryland governor.
O'Malley planned to talk to House and Senate committees considering a
repeal of the death penalty in the wake of a court ruling last year that
said lethal injection couldn't be carried out until lawmakers clarified
the procedure. The ruling puts executions on hold until lawmakers act, so
death penalty opponents in the legislature have proposed a repeal.
The governor planned to back a repeal in person. It's a rarity for
governors in Maryland to appear personally at bill hearings for proposals
not their own.
"He doesn't think that the death penalty is a deterrent or that it is cost
effective and that the money could be better used to combat violent
crime," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.
Last month, O'Malley told reporters "we waste a lot of money pursuing a
policy that doesn't work to reduce crime or to save lives."
Death penalty opponents planned a splashy rally before the hearings today,
bringing in 6 men from around the nation who have been sentenced to die
and then exonerated of the crimes.
Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State
Executions, said the exonerated men and O'Malley's personal support could
persuade lawmakers to abolish capital punishment.
"We're very pleased he's coming. It's a way he's showing this is an issue
he thinks is important." Henderson said.
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty Debate Has Legislators Looking Inward----Legislators Grapple
With Death Penalty
Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick) is proud of his conservative record in
the Maryland legislature.
But as a devout Catholic, he is also guided by his religious beliefs.
Today, as Maryland begins to debate the death penalty, Mooney finds
himself wrestling with how to deal with a bill that calls for abolishing
capital punishment and replacing it with life without parole.
"I am conflicted," said Mooney, a member of the Senate Judicial
Proceedings committee, which is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill
today. "I try to look at it from a moral and philosophical point of view.
Is it right to use the death penalty when there is another option, life in
With 5 of 11 committee members signed on to the bill, Mooney could be the
vote that determines whether the repeal legislation gets shelved or makes
its way to the Senate floor. Usually a reliable conservative vote -- he
opposed expansion of the state's hate crimes definition to protect gays
and lesbians 2 years ago and the stem cell research bill last year -- he
said he's undecided.
The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty, and Mooney worries about
innocents being put to death. But the 35-year-old senator said he has
qualms about a complete repeal. He said he wonders whether exceptions
should be made for people who murder police officers or prison guards.
Mooney said the issue is sensitive enough that it might deserve a full
airing on the Senate floor, where amendments could be offered to make the
bill "more moderate." He shakes his head almost in disbelief at his use of
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) plans to testify in favor of repealing the death
penalty during legislative hearings today in the Senate and the House.
Aides said O'Malley, who is Catholic, will argue that the cost of
prosecuting death penalty cases in Maryland far exceeds the cost of
lifelong imprisonment and that capital punishment has not proved to be an
effective crime deterrent. He explained his position in a Washington Post
op-ed article today.
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore), a lead bill sponsor, said O'Malley's
backing of the legislation has made her optimistic about the bill's
"It feels like it has mega-energy," Gladden said. "When you have friends
in high places, it makes some difference. For years, I've been feeling
like I'm whistling in the dark."
The death penalty is an issue, like abortion or same-sex marriage, that
finds many lawmakers firmly planted on one side of the debate.
Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. (D-Baltimore County) is among those who oppose
the repeal effort. Stone introduced a bill that would lift the de facto
moratorium recently put in place by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The
court ruled last year that the state's procedure for carrying out
executions was adopted improperly.
"I just think it does have a deterrent value to it," said Stone, who also
sits on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "What about the person
serving life in prison who decides to kill a prison guard? Do we give him
another life without parole? He only has one life to give."
Unlike Stone, a large number of lawmakers find themselves uncertain,
weighing the political fallout that could come with a vote for or against
a repeal against their moral convictions.
Although polls show that a majority of Americans support capital
punishment, there is evidence of growing unease about executions.
"I'm doing a lot of soul-searching," said Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince
George's). "While I don't believe the death penalty should be used because
of the racial bias that's been proven, the question is: Should it still be
on the books?"
Gladden said if people are wrestling with the issue, they are seriously
weighing the pros and cons, which gives her hope for the repeal.
"This is a very personal issue," Gladden said. "I can't rationalize it for
Advocates for the repeal have been lobbying lawmakers, organizing
individual meetings, holding news conferences and scouring the halls of
the State House for impromptu discussions.
Maryland Citizens Against State Executions scheduled news conferences
across the state last night with former death row inmates cleared of
Proponents of the death penalty have been less vocal.
The Maryland State's Attorneys' Association decided several weeks ago not
to take a position on the legislation.
Mooney said more than a half-dozen of his constituents came this week for
Catholic Day to urge him to vote for the repeal. "I think I've only had
one person come down for Catholic Day in the past," he said.
He has heard from 1 member of his district urging him to vote against the
As Mooney recently strolled along State Circle, making his way to a
committee hearing, he was stopped by Kirk Bloodsworth, who was convicted
of rape and murder in 1985.
"Sen. Mooney, I'd like to schedule a meeting with you," said Bloodsworth,
who was exonerated in 1992 after serving 8 years, 2 on death row.
"Everybody thought I was guilty," said Bloodsworth, who has written a book
about his experience. "I've been going room to room, office to office,
telling them to read my story."
(source: Washington Post)
Why I Oppose the Death Penalty
In evaluating whether Maryland's criminal death penalty should be replaced
with life without parole, one must be guided by the answers to 2 basic
Is the death penalty a just punishment for murder?
Is the death penalty an effective deterrent to murder?
Most of us would point to the execution of John Thanos, here in our state,
as an example of a "just" application of the death penalty. Thanos
murdered 3 teenagers, at random, by shooting them point-blank. He
expressed no remorse, even declaring in court that he wished he could
bring his innocent victims back to life to kill them again. In the end, he
demanded to be executed and was. Most Marylanders felt, basically, that
"hanging was too good" for John Thanos.
Did this one relatively humane execution balance out a violent murder --
much less three violent murders? Can any execution really be said to "even
the ledger" for the taking of another's unique life?
Contrast that with the case of Kirk Bloodsworth, also in Maryland, who was
convicted and sentenced to death for rape and murder in 1985. Eight years
later, DNA evidence proved his innocence and he was released. In Illinois,
12 people have been executed since 1977. But over that same time, 18
death-row inmates have been released after evidence proved they were
These examples prompt a deeper question. Notwithstanding the executions of
the rightly convicted, can the death penalty ever be justified as public
policy when it inherently necessitates the occasional taking of wrongly
convicted, innocent life? In Maryland, since 1978, we have executed 5
people and set one convicted man free when his innocence was discovered.
Are any of us willing to sacrifice a member of our own family -- wrongly
convicted, sentenced and executed -- in order to secure the execution of
five rightly convicted murders? And even if we were, could that public
policy be called "just"? I do not believe it can.
But what about the deterrent value of the death penalty? Does the use of
the death penalty -- while rarely, if ever, "just" -- save more innocent
lives than it takes? The evidence indicates that it does not.
In 2005, the murder rate was 46 percent higher in states that had the
death penalty than in states without it -- although they had been about
the same in 1990. And while the murder rate has gone down across the board
since 1990, it declined by 56 % in states without the death penalty but
only 38 % in states that have it. It would appear that the death penalty
is not a deterrent, but possibly an accelerant, to murder.
And what of the tremendous cost of pursuing capital punishment? In 2002,
Judge Dale Cathell of the Maryland Court of Appeals wrote that, according
to his research, processing and imprisoning a death penalty defendant
"costs $400,000 over and above . . . a prisoner serving a life sentence."
Given that 56 people have been sentenced to death in Maryland since 1978,
our state has spent about $22.4 million more than the cost of life
imprisonment. That's nearly $4.5 million "extra" for each of the five
executions carried out. And so long as every American is presumed innocent
until proven guilty, the cost of due process will not go down.
If, however, we were to replace the death penalty with life without
parole, that $22.4 million could pay for 500 additional police officers or
provide drug treatment for 10,000 of our addicted neighbors. Unlike the
death penalty, these are investments that save lives and prevent violent
crime. If we knew we could spare a member of our family from becoming a
victim of violent crime by making this policy change, would we do it?
And if the death penalty as applied is inherently unjust and lacks a
deterrent value, we are left to ask whether the value to society of
partial retribution outweighs the cost of maintaining capital punishment.
While I am mindful of and sensitive to the closure (and in some cases the
comfort) that the death penalty brings to the unfathomable pain of
families that have lost loved ones to violent crime, I believe that it
Human dignity is the concept that leads brave individuals to sacrifice
their lives for the lives of strangers. Human dignity is the universal
truth that is the basis of ethics. Human dignity is the fundamental belief
on which the laws of this state and this republic are founded. And absent
a deterrent value, the damage done to the concept of human dignity by our
conscious communal use of the death penalty is greater than the benefit of
even a justly drawn retribution.
(source: Opinion, Washington Post---The writer, a Democrat, is governor of
Death penalty repeal is sound policy
Contrary to views expressed by Al Eisner ("Abolishing death penalty would
be grave mistake," Feb. 7 letter), a pending legislative initiative to
repeal Marylands death penalty represents sound, cost-effective criminal
The death as a potential sentence has done nothing to reduce crime in
Maryland or any other state. The families of murdered victims deserve more
aid and comfort from our justice system than the false hope that they can
become reconciled to their loss if their loved one's murderer is executed.
The cost of a life without possibility of parole is less than what the
state spends trying to execute an individual. The decision of who gets
sentenced to death and who does not is arbitrary and capricious, bearing
more of a relationship to whether the victim was black or white than to
the depravity of a murder for which death is sought relative to murders in
which it is not.
The money spent seeking the death penalty against an arbitrary few would
be better spent improving the ability of police and prosecutors to reduce
the overall level of violent crime.
Steven G. Asin, Bethesda
(source: Letter to the Editor, Business Gazette)
Most in Kansas Support the Death Penalty
Many adults in the Sunflower State believe capital punishment should be
permitted, according to a poll by SurveyUSA released by KWCH-TV. 69 % of
respondents support the death penalty.
Since 1976, 1,062 people have been put to death in the United States,
including 5 this year. More than 1/3 of all executions have taken place in
the state of Texas. 14 states and the District of Columbia do not engage
in capital punishment, and moratoriums on executions have been issued in
Illinois and New Jersey.
Kansas has not executed anyone since the death penalty was reinstated. In
all, seven inmates have been sentenced to death in the Sunflower State and
await their appeals at the El Dorado Correctional Center. 56 % of
respondents would choose various forms of life imprisonment instead of
capital punishment for a person convicted of 1st degree murder.
In November 2006, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius earned a new term in
office. In 2004, Sebelius expressed her opposition to the death penalty,
declaring, "There have been way too many instances in way too many states
where, I think, theyve gotten it wrong."
In general, do you support or oppose the death penalty?
27% Not sure----4%
More specifically now, if someone is found guilty of 1st-degree murder,
which of these 4 punishments is best? 1: death. 2: life in prison without
parole. 3: life in prison without parole, with the inmate required to make
payments to the victim's family from work the inmate does in prison. 4:
life in prison, with parole possible after 50 years, if the inmate has
made payment in full to the victims family.
Life In Prison Without Parole----15%
Life In Prison, No Parole, Payments----30%
Life In Prison, Parole After 50 Years, Payments----11%
[source: SurveyUSA / KWCH-TV----------Methodology: Telephone interviews
with 500 Kansas adults, conducted on Feb. 12, 2007. Margin of error is 4.2
(source: Angus Reid Global Monitoring)
On death row, Gray faces new charge in'05 slaying
Ricky Javon Gray laughed and shook his head yesterday when Judge Daniel R.
Bouton of Culpeper County Circuit Court notified him of new charges he's
facing in the case of Sheryl Warner.
Gray, already on death row for killing the Harvey children in South
Richmond, is facing 4 additional charges and a possible death sentence if
convicted in Warner's brutal slaying. Warner, a 37-year-old Reva resident,
was found shot and hanged by an electrical cord in the basement of her
burning home Dec. 18, 2005.
On the anniversary of her death, Gray, 29, was indicted on a 1st-degree
But in court yesterday, the prosecution swapped that charge for a
capital-murder charge, which carries a potential death sentence. A grand
jury also indicted Gray on felony charges of attempted arson, abduction,
use of a firearm in a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted
Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close would not say why the charge was
Gray's court-appointed attorney, Kevin Smith, is not certified as a
capital defender and not qualified to represent Gray on the capital case.
"Would I be able to retain him on the other charges?" Gray asked the
Bouton said Gray's request will be considered, but he tentatively
appointed two Richmond defense attorneys to the case -- Jeffrey Everhart
and Ted Bruns, who represented Gray last year in Richmond, where he
received 2 death sentences for killing the Harvey children.
Gray and his 29-year-old nephew, Ray Joseph Dandridge, were convicted of
killing the Harvey family Jan. 1, 2006. Bryan Harvey, 49, his wife
Kathryn, 39, and their 2 young daughters, Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4, were
found dead in their South Richmond basement 2 weeks after Warner's death.
Their house also had been set on fire.
Upon learning that Everhart and Bruns would represent him again, Gray
said, "At the moment, I'm not satisfied with their prior work for me."
Bouton scheduled a hearing for March 14 at 11 a.m. to give the attorneys
time to meet with Gray and Smith before setting an arraignment. Bouton
added that Gray's counsel will be finalized at the hearing.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
More information about the DeathPenalty