[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MO., MD., N.Y., N. MEX., COLO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 22 23:17:54 UTC 2007
Federal jury weighs possible death penalty in Joplin killings
A reputed gang leader from Oklahoma convicted in the killings of 2 Joplin
residents should be spared execution because the government's case was
flawed, the man's lawyer told a federal jury weighing his fate.
But an assistant U.S. attorney prosecutor said Wednesday that Thomas ''Mad
Dog'' Smith, found guilty last week of conspiracy to commit murder, would
remain dangerous to others even if he were sentenced to life in prison.
''Isn't he going to do the exact same thing in prison as he did when he
was on the outside?'' prosecutor Randy Eggert asked the jury, noting
testimony that Smith assaulted two inmates while in federal custody
The U.S. District Court jury of 10 men and two women deliberated 6 hours
Wednesday before breaking for the night. Deliberations were set to resume
Smith, 33, who prosecutors say led a cell of Bloods gang members from
Tulsa, was charged in connection with the 1999 execution-style slayings of
Paris Harbin and Chandy Plumb in a Joplin apartment house.
Prosecutors said the gang members sold crack cocaine in the Joplin area
from September 1998 to December 2000. Smith was tried under the theory
that Harbin, 20, and Plumb, 25, were killed over stolen drugs and money.
Smith was all ''about selling crack cocaine and making money,'' Eggert
said during Wednesday's closing arguments.
But defense attorney Susan Hunt argued that the death penalty should be
reserved ''for the worst of the worst'' defendants, and that Smith is not
one of them.
''He's never going to be free,'' Hunt said. ''He's never going to walk the
Hunt pointed to problems with the federal government's case as reasons for
the jury to be reluctant to impose the death penalty.
''The evidence shows that 2 people did this, and there's only one who's
been charged,'' she told the jury.
One of the government's own witnesses, gang member Israel Ward, testified
that another gang member, Brian McDaniel, actually killed Plumb and then
gave the gun to Smith to kill Harbin.
Hunt said the prosecutors' case took so many twists and turns over the
years, with Ward even having been co-indicted with Smith at one time in
the murders, that it is clear the government still ''doesn't really know
who killed who.''
The defense listed 27 factors it said should lead the jury to opt for a
life sentence, including Smith's impoverished Tulsa childhood, his
parents' drug addictions and his own children's need for a father.
''Thomas Smith is a human being just like you and me,'' Hunt said. ''But
the government wants to take all those human qualities away.''
(source: Associated Press)
Missouri groups lobby for death penalty moratorium
State Rep. Bill Deeken promised no miracles Tuesday when he talked about
his bill seeking a three-year moratorium on Missouri executions.
"I feel very confident that we will get a hearing this year, which is, I
think, the most important thing," said Deeken, R-Jefferson City. "Will we
get it passed this year? No.
"I've found out that you just don't come up with a bill and get it passed
Deeken's bill would place a moratorium on all executions in Missouri until
Jan. 1, 2011, and create a 10-member Commission on the Death Penalty to
study the use of the death penalty and recommend changes to state laws and
court rules regarding death penalty cases.
That commission would include lawmakers, defense and prosecution lawyers,
the Attorney General and family members of a murder victim and of a death
Deeken told more than 50 Missourians who came to Jefferson City to lobby
for the bill that the Missouri Catholic Conference asked him to sponsor
"The 1st thing I told them was, I am in favor of the death penalty,"
Deeken reported, "but we've got to do something about the people that are
being put to death that are not guilty - and we're finding this out more
and more, all the time."
Tom Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor with a 50-year history of legal
battles, co-chaired Illinois Gov. George Ryan's Capital Punishment Study
Like Missouri, Sullivan said, Illinois' system had a lot of "bias in the
application of the death penalty" because each county's prosecutor decides
which cases to prosecute as death cases, with no systematic review of what
they do - so you'll see a very great disparity among the cases that are
selected for death."
Ultimately, Sullivan said, Missouri should join the dozen other U.S.
states that don't have a death penalty.
"The deterrent effect of it is a joke," he said. "The death penalty is a
dumb law - stupid, costly and far more expensive than to put somebody in
jail, if they did it.
"And if you make a mistake, it's irreversible."
While many in the crowd agreed with Sullivan, they were encouraged to
lobby only for the moratorium right now.
Redditt Hudson, Racial Justice manager for the American Civil Liberties
Union of Eastern Missouri, told the crowd: "Our mission is worthy ...
moral (and) just."
Hudson struggles with the issue of the criminal justice system's just-ness
and fairness, when there have been 128 exonerations nationwide "where
innocent people have been shown to be innocent, yet (are) on death row,
scheduled to be executed."
"It doesn't mean I'm pro-criminal," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm
"It means that as a human being, and for the sake of our collective
humanity, we have to do a better job of delivering the justice process to
the people who are in our system."
(source: News Tribune)
Md.'s Governor Testifies in Favor of Death Penalty Abolition
Gov. Martin O'Malley testified Wednesday in favor of ending the state's
death penalty law, citing statistics he said appear to indicate capital
punishment not only fails to deter crime but makes society more violent.
"It would appear then that the death penalty is not a deterrent, but very
possibly an accelerant to murder," O'Malley, a Democrat, said.
O'Malley testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and
the House Judiciary Committee in a rare showing of support by a Maryland
governor for measures not proposed by the executive branch. While he
didn't take questions from legislators, other supporters of the repeal
faced some tough questioning by several lawmakers who want to keep capital
punishment on the books.
Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican who represents Harford and Cecil counties,
said the death penalty is the only strong sanction left for inmates
serving life in prison who kill while in prison. As an example, Jacobs
cited the case of David McGuinn, a correctional officer who was murdered
July 25 at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. One of the men
accused of killing McGuinn, Lee Stephens, already was serving life in
prison, she said.
"Basically, this was a freebie for him," Jacobs said, referring to
Stephens. "I mean, he's basically getting away with murder."
Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty for Stephens
and another inmate charged in the slaying, Lamarr Harris.
In his testimony, O'Malley focused on statistics he believes indicate the
death penalty fails to deter crime. He said the murder rate in states that
had the death penalty was 46 % higher in 2005 than in states without it.
He also said that while the murder rate has been on the decline since
1990, it has fallen by 56 % in states without the death penalty, compared
to a 38 % drop in states that have capital punishment.
O'Malley also cited research by Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Dale
Cathell in 2002, in which the judge found that processing and imprisoning
a death penalty defendant costs $400,000 more than confining a prisoner
serving a life sentence. In a state where 56 people have been sentenced to
death since 1978, Maryland has spent about $22.4 million more than it
would have cost to have them serve life imprisonment, O'Malley testified.
Death penalty opponents, including several men who spent time on death row
before they later were proven innocent, spoke out in favor of the
measures, which would replace a death sentence with life without
possibility of parole.
Meanwhile, death penalty supporters prepared to push to end a de facto
moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland that resulted from a Court of
Appeals ruling late last year. The state's highest court barred Maryland
from executing anyone until lawmakers officially clarify the lethal
Death penalty opponents are hoping questions with the procedure have
opened a window for repeal.
Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man who spent two years on death row and was
later released from prison after his sentence had been reduced because of
DNA evidence, said at a news conference it was time to end a law that
could cause an innocent person to be put to death.
"We stand here united today -- a pact of people -- because the truth is
this: If it can happen to an honorably discharged Marine Corps veteran
with no criminal history, honorably discharged, it can happen to anybody
in the state of Maryland, in the country," Bloodsworth said.
Capital punishment was not a major campaign issue for O'Malley, who first
expressed his personal opposition to the death penalty years ago. Last
month, he indicated he would sign legislation for a death-penalty repeal
after lawmakers introduced the measure.
Lawmakers also were scheduled to hear a measure that would clear the way
for executions to resume by exempting the state's execution protocol from
needing to be adopted by the state's Administrative Procedure Act. That
bill, sponsored by state Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, and backed
by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, would enable the state to
proceed with executions in wake of the ruling by the Court of Appeals.
Stone said Wednesday he didn't believe the death penalty should be blocked
because of a legal technicality.
"It's a very serious thing to take anybody's life," he said, "but people
who have life without parole have nothing to lose if they kill another
prisoner or a guard and there's no death penalty."
Miller, for his part, predicted the de facto moratorium will stay in
"I don't think there's going to be enough push on either side to get a
change," Miller, D-Calvert, said.
Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick is considered to be a possible swing vote on
the 11-member Senate Judiciary Committee where a close vote is expected,
said he's "not 100 % either way."
"On the death penalty I'm just kind of in the middle," Mooney said. "I
don't think I'd vote to repeal it in all cases, but I did vote for the
moratorium 4 years ago."
Maryland has executed 5 people since the death penalty was reinstated in
1975, and there currently are 6 men facing death sentences. A University
of Maryland study conducted by criminologist Raymond Paternoster indicated
racial bias in the state's implementation of capital punishment, and
indeed, all of the persons executed since 1975 or currently on death row
were convicted of killing whites.
Maryland's death penalty law also is being reviewed in federal court in
Baltimore. U.S. District Judge Benson Legg is considering a challenge by
death row inmate Vernon Evans, whose lawyers argue that the state's lethal
injection process is severely flawed and could violate the constitutional
ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawyers say the execution team
members are not qualified to know if Evans is adequately anesthetized
before a very painful and fatal drug is administered.
(source: Associated Press)
Listen to Kirk Bloodsworth; Stop Capital Punishment
Kirk Bloodsworth does this for a living now, telling people who truly
believe that killing a killer is the right and just thing to do that they
are mistaken, that man is too flawed, too prone to error, to render the
kind of final judgment that we read about in Scripture.
Bloodsworth tells his story nearly every day. And still, his voice
thickens, and still, the big man shudders and stifles a sob, as he did
yesterday before a Senate committee in Annapolis that is considering
repealing Maryland's death penalty. Bloodsworth -- a former waterman who
grew up on the Eastern Shore, served in the Marine Corps and had never
been arrested -- spent eight years, 11 months and 19 days in prison and
two of those years on Maryland's death row, until his brute persistence
finally persuaded authorities to conduct a DNA test. Bloodsworth, it
turned out, did not commit the rape and murder of which he was convicted.
Kimberly Ruffner committed those crimes, and in 2004, he pleaded guilty.
The taxpayers of Maryland paid Bloodsworth $300,000 as compensation for
the income he lost during all those years. That's $92.39 a day, $23,000 a
year. That doesn't include the millions the state spent to convict him,
twice. Or the millions it cost to keep him on death row. It doesn't begin
to compensate him for the fact that while he was wrongly kept in a box, he
lost his mother. "And I lost my dignity," he told me. "Everybody said they
were doing the right thing. And everybody was wrong."
On too many nights, even now, 14 years after his release, Bloodsworth's
wife, Brenda, must shake him awake because he is in distress, in a cold
sweat, having yet another nightmare about Maryland's death chamber, the
room he slept under for hundreds of nights.
On this day, Bloodsworth told his story to men and women who have been
elected by their fellow citizens to decide whether it is right to take the
life of a fellow man who committed a terrible wrong. On their foreheads
this day, several of those who must make this decision bore the sign of
the cross in black ash.
They had taken time out of their workday to have a priest mark them in
recognition of their penance. The priest had blessed them with these
words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."
On this Ash Wednesday, Maryland's governor, having received his blessing,
made a rare appearance before members of the legislature to urge them to
do as his conscience commanded him to do and repeal the death penalty.
Martin O'Malley did not run for governor with any promise to abolish
capital punishment. This new governor entered office looking to avoid the
most volatile issues, hoping, he said, to focus on "the things we agree
But now O'Malley told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that "the
death penalty cannot coexist with a republic founded on the belief in the
inalienable dignity of the individual." The governor urged lawmakers to
accept that the death penalty is "inherently unjust," that it is
preposterously, pointlessly expensive, that it is flawed and therefore a
danger to the innocent, and that it plain doesn't work as a deterrent.
"Repeal the death penalty in our state this year," he said. Capital
punishment is on hold in Maryland following an appeals court's ruling last
year stopping lethal injections until the state issues new regulations for
Neither Brenda nor Kirk Bloodsworth had any strong view about the death
penalty before it became the defining concept in their lives. Most of us
don't have to have a position on capital punishment. Politicians do, and
their stands tend to be sharply defined; their jobs depend on it.
So turning around a state's policy on this issue is no simple task. Yet in
one state after another this year, lawmakers are voting to repeal or put a
moratorium on capital punishment. The death penalty seemed right to so
many for so long, but now, in this era of DNA evidence, in this time when
people are questioning the nature of truth and evidence in so many spheres
of life, it just doesn't seem quite as clear.
Sen. Lisa Gladden from Baltimore, sponsor of the repeal bill, handed her
colleagues dimestore mirrors to help them examine themselves before
deciding whether the state should be in the killing business.
But if yesterday's parade of witnesses slamming the death penalty as a
counterproductive, flawed, expensive relic changed any minds, nobody was
admitting to it. The committee is expected to say no to a repeal, probably
by a 1-vote margin.
Nobody on the committee argued that the death penalty is fairly
administered, not in a state where every single man executed since 1978
killed a white person, not where every single executed prisoner committed
his crime in Baltimore city or county. And nobody argued that the system
No, the politicians who still believe in the death penalty were relegated
to grasping at straws, repeatedly asking what the state would do without
having the ultimate punishment to use against prisoners who are serving
life sentences and then kill a prison guard. "What punishment do we give
that guy?" asked Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican who represents Cecil and
No one had an answer for her. The voices on the other side of the issue
were looking at this from a completely different altitude. Bloodsworth
told the politicians this: "The possibility that we could kill an innocent
person -- that trumps it all."
(source: Column, Marc Fisher, Washington Post)
A chronology of the death penalty in Maryland since 1972
A timeline of the death penalty in Maryland: -1972: U.S. Supreme Court
halts the death penalty in 40 states, including Maryland.
-1975: Law reinstating Maryland death penalty goes into effect.
-1987: Gov. Harry Hughes commutes death sentence of Doris Ann Foster
because of doubts about her guilt.
-1994: John Thanos becomes 1st person executed in Maryland since
reinstatement of death penalty.
-1997: F. Gregory Hunt is executed.
-1998: Tyrone Gilliam is executed.
-2000: Gov. Parris Glendening commutes sentence of Eugene Colvin-El
because of doubts about his guilt.
-2001: Maryland Court of Appeals rules death penalty is constitutional by
a 4-3 vote.
-2002: Gov. Parris Glendening declares a moratorium on the death penalty
pending a study of racial bias by University of Maryland criminologist
-2003: Pasternoster study finds significant racial and geographic
disparity in implementation of the death penalty.
-2003: Newly elected Gov. Robert Ehrlich lifts moratorium, saying he would
personally review each case to ensure fairness.
-2004: Steven Oken is executed.
-2005: Wesley Baker is executed.
-2006: Court of Appeals rules that parts of Maryland's execution manual
that direct how lethal injection is carried out were not adopted correctly
under state law and "may not be used until such time as they are properly
adopted." --- On the Net: Maryland Citizens Against State Executions:
http://www.mdcase.org/civicspace Death Penalty Information Center:
(source: Associated Press)
O'Malley lobbies for repeal----Governor urges an end to death penalty in
Expending valuable political capital early in his term, Gov. Martin
O'Malley appeared before 2 General Assembly committees yesterday to make a
forceful call for repealing the death penalty. O'Malley, a Democrat, told
lawmakers that the death penalty does not deter crime, carries excessive
costs and damages human dignity.
"If the death penalty as applied, my friends, is inherently unjust and
without a deterrent value, we are left to ask whether the value to society
of partial retribution outweighs the cost of maintaining the death
penalty," O'Malley testified to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
"Very mindful of and sensitive to the closure, and in some cases the
comfort, that it brings to the unfathomable pain of families who have lost
loved ones to violent crime, I believe that it does not."
The repeal's sponsors are hopeful that O'Malley's public lobbying - an
unconventional move for a governor not advocating for his own measure -
could sway critical votes on the Senate panel and on the House Judiciary
Committee, which is also considering the bill.
Maryland lawmakers are wrestling this year with how to respond to a Court
of Appeals ruling in December that stated lethal injection procedures
should be reviewed by the legislature. The court decision effectively
instituted a moratorium on executions until that process is in place.
The ruling leaves lawmakers with a pressing problem - a fact that has
forced the governor into the debate earlier than expected. Officials must
decide whether to draft the necessary regulations to comply with the Court
of Appeals decision, leave a de facto moratorium in place or support a
Maryland, a Democratic stronghold, would appear to be politically
predisposed to a repeal, but with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in
office for the past four years, proposals have stalled in the General
Five convicted murderers have been executed in Maryland since 1978.
The battle over the death penalty, once fought more along party lines, has
emerged nationally as among the most challenging issues, falling at the
sometimes hazy intersection of politics, public policy and religion. In
light of increasing evidence of wrongful convictions and, in the case of
Florida, a botched execution, at least a dozen states have imposed
moratoriums. New Jersey is moving toward a repeal.
"Scientific analysis of evidence has raised serious questions and doubts
about the death penalty, and the public senses this concern," said Robert
Schmuhl, a professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame.
"I think that there's a new mood in the country, and it might not lead to
the complete abolition of the death penalty, but it's clear that
government officials are taking a more cautious approach."
Matthew A. Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political scientist, said
O'Malley has "political cover" for coming out strongly against the death
penalty so early in his term. With several other states struggling to fix
their systems or looking to abandon capital punishment altogether,
O'Malley is moving with public opinion, Crenson said.
"I don't think he has anything to lose," he said. "His base of support is
going to include a substantial majority of people who have doubt about the
With O'Malley's backing, advocates for the repeal are hoping momentum is
finally on their side.
Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat sponsoring the House bill,
made an impassioned plea to his fellow legislators, saying the time is now
to repeal the death penalty.
"It cannot be made right in this state or any other state," he said. "Our
legislative colleagues across the country recognize that. It's time, very
simply, that we do the same. ... We will cast no more important vote in
our careers as public servants than the vote on this bill."
Baltimore Democrat Lisa A. Gladden, the bill's Senate sponsor, distributed
hand-held mirrors to her colleagues at the outset of debate to emphasize
how deeply personal the issue is for lawmakers.
"This issue transcends race, class and party," she said. "It is about us,
and it is about how we look at ourselves in our own personal mirrors."
The governor, reading largely from an op-ed article he wrote that appeared
this week in The Washington Post, argued before the Senate and House
committees that the death penalty since 1978 has cost the state about
$22.4 million more than the cost of life imprisonment. That money, he
said, could have paid for an additional 500 police officers or drug
treatment for 10,000 addicts.
"Unlike the death penalty, these are investments that actually do save
lives and prevent violent crime," the governor said.
Advocates for repeal, including 7 wrongfully convicted men from across the
country, came to Annapolis yesterday on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of
the Lenten season of reflection and fasting for Catholics.
Several Catholic lawmakers wore cross-shaped ashes on their foreheads from
earlier visits to church. O'Malley's was not visible, but an aide said he
had attended Mass in the morning at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis.
The Roman Catholic Church opposes the death penalty.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney - a Frederick Republican whose vote on the Senate
committee is expected to determine whether the repeal bill makes it to the
floor for debate - is struggling to reconcile his religious and political
Mooney posed questions yesterday that hinted at a reluctance to vote for
the repeal. He asked Kirk Bloodsworth, a former death row inmate in
Maryland who was wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a 9-year-old
girl, whether he would oppose capital punishment if a corrections officer
was killed, in situations of multiple murders or if an individual
confesses to a crime.
Released in 1993, Bloodsworth, whose face at times turned red and grew
contorted as he struggled to hold back tears while he shared his story,
told Mooney the death penalty amounts to letting criminals "off the hook."
Bloodsworth also said that the conviction of just one innocent man
indicates a flawed system. He said that if he, an honorably discharged
Marine Corps veteran, could wind up on death row, anyone can.
"E Pluribus Unum," he said, beginning to weep as he quoted the country's
motto. "From many, one."
Ray Krone, who spent 10 years in prison in Arizona for the brutal stabbing
of a cocktail waitress before he was cleared, told the Senate committee
that the death penalty system failed him and his family. Branded the
"snaggletooth killer," he spent 2 years on death row.
"I'm a death row survivor," he said, gripping the lectern. "I was that
monster, that animal that people wanted to kill."
Those testifying for the repeal included advocacy groups, such as the
American Civil Liberties Union, and several officials, including former
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., Prince George's County State's
Attorney Glenn F. Ivey and Stuart O. Simms, a former state Cabinet
Opponents of the repeal argued that the victims of violent crimes deserve
justice and that putting a person to death ensures that a convicted killer
will never harm anyone again.
"I believe in the deterrence of one," said Baltimore County State's
Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, a Democrat. "When you're dealing with the
worst of the worst of criminals, sometimes you have to come down to the
Shellenberger also said that Maryland has applied the death penalty
judiciously. "We are not Texas. We are thoughtful. We do use our brains,"
Texas has carried out more executions than any other state.
Harford County's top prosecutor, Joseph I. Cassilly, said that not all
lives are equal. Drug dealers and rapists, he said, are "not worth what
someone's life is worth who's doing good."
"There is no justice without the death penalty," Cassilly said. "What
coarsens and cheapens a life is when we allow a victim to be murdered, and
society does nothing about it."
Near the end of an afternoon of testimony, Mooney said he has never
supported an outright repeal of the death penalty but would consider an
amended bill that limits the use of the punishment to the most heinous of
cases. He also said he would consider voting for the repeal legislation in
committee so that the measure could be debated by the full Senate.
"I am still taking it all in," he said. "It will take a couple of days to
consider all that's been said. Both sides have made some good points."
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Kirk Bloodsworth, First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Testing, to
Kirk Bloodsworth will recount his experience with wrongful conviction on
Monday, March 5, in Gannett Auditorium of Palamountain Hall.
Bloodsworths case was the 1st capital conviction to be overturned as a
result of DNA testing in the United States. A former Marine, he was
convicted of sexual assault, rape, and first-degree premeditated murder
and sentenced to death in 1984. The ruling was appealed on the grounds
that evidence was withheld at trial, and he received a new trial. He was
found guilty again and sentenced to 2 consecutive life terms.
After Bloodsworth fought for years for a DNA test, evidence from the crime
scene was then sent to a lab. In 1993, final reports from state and
federal labs concluded that Bloodsworth's DNA did not match any of the
evidence received for testing. By the time of his release, Bloodsworth
spent nearly 9 years in prison, including 2 on death row.
Almost a decade later, on September 5, 2003, the Maryland State's Attorney
announced that a DNA match had been made in the nearly 20-year-old case.
That person pleaded guilty on May 20, 2004 to the murder for which
Bloodsworth had been wrongfully convicted.
Today, Bloodsworth is a program officer for the Justice Project's Campaign
for Criminal Justice Reform and the Justice Project Education Fund, and he
has been an ardent supporter of the Innocence Protection Act (IPA) since
its introduction in Congress in February 2000. The IPA, which includes the
"Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program," a program that
will help states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing, was
signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2004.
Bloodsworth has spoken about the injustices of the capital punishment
system on numerous television shows, including Oprah and Larry King Live,
and his story has been featured in national publications, including the
New York Times Magazine.
The dramatic story of Bloodsworths 20-year journey is chronicled in the
book Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated
by DNA by Tim Junkin.
Bloodsworth's visit is sponsored by the Law and Society Program.
(source: Skidmore College News)
Stop killing the convicted----Why is the United States the only Western
nation where the death penalty is still legal?
"People who commit acts of violence deserve to be held accountable, and
the rest of us deserve to be protected from them. Surely, we can do that,
though, without acting just like them and becoming killers ourselves." -
Michelle Giger, whose father was murdered in Santa Rosa.
Every two years, for the last several 60-day legislative sessions, state
Rep. Gail Chasey has introduced legislation to abolish the death penalty
and replace it with life in prison without parole.
Death penalty opponents, including most of the faith community in New
Mexico, hope this will be the year it happens.
This year's bill, HB 190, passed the house 41-28 last week and is headed
for the Senate.
No doubt it is a tough political position to take - fighting the death
penalty. We want our politicos to be tough on criminals, especially those
who commit the most heinous crimes.
But while it might make us feel better, it does not make us safer. Study
after study has proven that the death penalty does not deter crime, that
it is applied unfairly based on race and income, and that it has been
carried out erroneously, among several other flaws.
It is misused. Researchers at Northeastern University have documented at
least 23 cases where innocent individuals were executed. A 1993
congressional study found that since 1973, more than 120 people have been
released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
It is unfair. The American Bar Association found that in 96 percent of the
states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there
was a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant
discrimination, or both. The bar association has called for a moratorium
on executions because of serious concern with these racial disparities and
the failure to provide adequate counsel to capital defendants.
It is not a deterrent. A recent New York Times survey found that states
without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than those with it,
and most criminal experts agree that there is no credible research showing
the death penalty is a deterrent.
It is wasteful and costly. Among several studies, one by Duke University
estimated the cost of death penalty trials in North Carolina was more than
$2 million higher than non-death-penalty murder trials.
It isolates us. The United States is the last remaining Western country
that allows the death penalty. Of the more than 2,000 executions in 2005,
94 % were in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States - not exactly
the company we want to keep.
It isn't working. Since 1979, prosecutors in New Mexico have sought the
death penalty 207 times, and the death penalty was imposed only 28 of
those times. 19 of those sentences were overturned, and only 1 prisoner
A recent poll in New Mexico found that 58 % of New Mexicans prefer life
without parole and victim restitution over the death penalty. Life without
parole would not only address concerns that convicted murderers could kill
again. It would also put our state on the right side of fairness,
effectiveness and real justice - for victims, taxpayers and defendants.
(source: Albuquerque Tribune; Eric Griego is an Albuquerque writer and
former City Council member)
Prosecutor to seek death penalty in slaying of witness, fiance
Prosecutors said Wednesday they will seek the death penalty against 2 men
accused of killing a witness in a murder case and his fiancee.
Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray face 1st-degree murder charges in the June
2005 shooting deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe, both 22.
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said she decided to seek
the death penalty after discussing the case with her staff and talking to
the victims' families. She said the families support pursuing the death
Chambers declined to discuss the specifics that led to her decision.
"The bottom line for us has to be that we provide a fair trial when
seeking such a profound result," she said.
Prosecutors said Marshall-Fields was a witness in the shooting death of
Gregory Vann at an Aurora park on July 4, 2004, and was scheduled to
testify against Owens and Ray.
Ray was convicted of being an accessory to murder in Vann's death and was
sentenced to 108 years in prison. Owens was convicted of 1st-degree murder
in Vann's death and faces life in prison without parole when he is
sentenced April 3.
If a jury convicts Owens and Ray of 1st-degree murder in Marshall-Fields
and Wolfe's deaths, it would then decide whether the death penalty should
No trial dates have been set. Chambers said several hundred motions likely
will be filed in the case.
Wolfe and Marshall-Fields were shot several times while they sat in a car
at an Aurora intersection. They died later from their wounds.
They were recently engaged and had planned to move to Virginia, where
Marshall-Fields had a job lined up.
(source: Summit Daily News)
Clerical Error Could Prevent Death Penalty For Ray
A clerical error on the original court filing informing a judge that the
Arapahoe County District Attorney planned to pursue the death penalty
against Robert Ray could eventually prevent Ray from facing a death
Carol Chambers, the Arapahoe County district attorney, announced Wednesday
she was planning to seek the death penalty against Ray and Sir Mario Owens
for the alleged murders of Javon Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian
Wolfe in June of 2005.
Their killings happened just before Marshall-Fields was set to testify
against the suspects in another murder trial.
The clerical error was found on a court document filed on Jan. 26, the
last day to prosecutors could file a notice to pursue the death penalty in
The document named Robert Ray as the defendant at the top, but then showed
Sir Mario Owens name in the official notice of intent to seek the death
"It is the grossest incompetence imaginable in a death penalty case, to be
this sloppy," said David Lane, a local defense attorney. "This kind of
mistake will result very possibly in striking the death penalty against
The district attorney's office submitted an amended notice on Feb. 8.,
after the deadline to inform to the court of an intent to seek the death
penalty in the case.
Ray's attorney filed documents asking the court to prohibit prosecutors
from seeking the death penalty against his client. A judge was set to hear
the case in a few weeks.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office said Chambers believes
the death penalty case against Ray will move forward. The clerical error
does open the case to the possibility of appeal.
In a similar case in Washington State, a convicted murderer was sentenced
to death, but the state Supreme Court there overturned the sentence
because the prosecutors had missed a deadline for filing paperwork on the
(source: CBS News)
Victims' moms laud decision on death penalty
Christine Wolfe wakes up every morning knowing she will never see her
daughter. By the end of the day, Wolfe said, that's enough to make her
want to die.
Then she thinks of the 2 men accused of killing her daughter. They already
face life in prison but have the luxury of being able to say hello to
"My daughter cannot do that. I cannot even see my daughter," Wolfe said.
Wolfe and Rhonda Fields, forever united by the death of their children,
Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields, were hoping prosecutors would seek
the death penalty for the accused killers.
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers announced Wednesday she
has decided Sir Mario Owens, 22, and Robert Keith Ray, 21, should be on
trial for their lives.
Chambers said her decision is supported by the residents of the 18th
"I think that the people I represent largely favor the death penalty," she
Owens and Ray can't look forward to ever leaving prison after their
convictions in the 2004 slaying of 20-year-old Gregory Vann during a
Fourth of July party at Lowry Park.
But it's the slaying of Wolfe and Marshall-Fields, both 22 and scheduled
to be married, that might land Owens and Ray on death row.
Wolfe and Marshall-Fields were shot several times while they sat in a car
at an Aurora intersection and later died from their wounds.
Marshall-Fields was a witness in the shooting death of Vann and was
scheduled to testify against Owens and Ray.
Ray was convicted of being an accessory to murder in Vann's death and was
sentenced to 108 years in prison. Owens was convicted of first-degree
murder in Vann's death and faces life in prison without parole when he is
sentenced April 3.
A third man, Parish Carter, 24, also was indicted last March for the
deaths of Wolfe and Marshall-Fields but is undergoing a competency
evaluation before entering a plea.
Chambers said a gag order prevents her from talking about specifics of the
case and evidence, but added there were aggravating factors that allow
prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
"Sometimes, the appropriate level of punishment might be death," Rhonda
Simply adding more years to the prison sentences of Owens and Ray if they
are convicted of 2 more murders "just didn't seem fair," Fields said.
But although Wolfe also applauds Chambers' decision, it doesn't change the
grief she feels every day for her daughter.
"I don't think I'm going to be the same as before my daughter died," Wolfe
said. "Nothing is going to repair my daughter's death."
(source: Rocky Mountain News)
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