[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, N.J., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 5 02:21:57 UTC 2007
Death row inmate could get a shot at freedom
Texas death row inmate Anthony Graves could get another shot at freedom.
An appeals court ruled that Thursday is the deadline for the state to set
a trial date for Graves or let him go.
Graves has been on death row for eight years for his part in the murders
of six people in 1994.
An appeals court granted graves a new trial because of faulty evidence and
misconduct by the prosecution.
(source: KHOU News)
***************** (the following item is death penalty-related)
Police and family members say a 10-year-old boy who died by hanging
himself from a bunk bed was apparently mimicking the execution of former
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Sergio Pelico was found dead Sunday in his apartment bedroom in the
Houston-area city of Webster.
Webster police Lieutenant Tom Claunch says the boy's mother told police he
had previously watched a news report about Saddam's death.
Claunch says the death appears to be accidental.
An autopsy of the fifth-grader's body is pending.
Julio Gustavo, Sergio's uncle, says the boy was a happy and curious child.
He says Sergio had watched TV news with another uncle on Saturday and
asked the uncle about Saddam's death.
Sergio's mother was at work Sunday while Sergio and other children were
under the care of an uncle. One of the children found Sergio's body in his
(source: KXAN-TV News)
2 Children Die Mimicking Saddam's Execution
2 children, a ten-year-old from Houston, Texas and a 9-year-old from
Pakistan have both died imitating the execution of Saddam Hussein which
they saw on television. Both deaths appear to be accidental.
Mubashar Ali, from Pakistan, tied a rope to his neck and a ceiling fan
with the help of his sister while Sergio Pelico, from Texas, tied a slip
knot around his neck while on the top bunk.
Psychologist Edward Bischof said, "Our gut reaction is that he was
experimenting... I would think maybe this kid is trying something that he
thinks fun to act out without having the emotional and psychological
maturity to think the thing through..."
Girl hangs self after Saddam execution
A teenaged girl in a village of Bharuch district hanged herself to death,
allegedly ''influenced'' by the repeated telecast of former Iraqi
president Saddam Hussein's execution on news channels on Saturday.
Prateeksha Patel (15), of Dhanturiya village in Ankleswaria taluka, was
affected by the hanging scenes, and took the extreme step on Monday night,
family sources said.
Viren Ghadiyali, Principal of her school said, ''Pratiksha was studying in
Class IX. She had repeatedly asked her father regarding the scenes of
execution, about how hanging was carried out, whether it caused pain,
On Wednesday evening, Prateeksha locked herself in a room, after she was
scolded by her brother for not studying and hanged herself, family sources
Her father Mohanbhai Patel, who works with United Phosphorus Limited, has
not yet lodged a police complaint. Ankleswar (rural) police inspector MM
Vasani said he would conduct an inquiry into the incident.
(source: Daily News & Analysis)
Killer gets life sentence after death row appealM
Death row appeals that lasted nearly 2 decades culminated Thursday in a
life sentence for a hired killer.
Anthony DiFrisco, 46, can seek parole in about 12 years under the sentence
by state Superior Court Judge Ned M. Rosenberg. Parole ineligibility was
set at 30 years, but DiFrisco gets credit for 18 years already served on
death row in Trenton.
DiFrisco, of New York, had been sentenced to death after a bench trial in
1988 for murdering pizzeria owner Edward Potcher. He is now to leave death
row at New Jersey State Prison.
Potcher, owner of Jack's Pizzeria in Maplewood, was shot five times at
point-blank range on Aug. 12, 1986.
It might not have been solved, but DiFrisco mentioned it to a New York
City detective in an effort to beat a stolen car charge, said Gary
Bogdanski, an assistant Essex County prosecutor who has been working the
case since a few months after the murder.
In an effort to implicate a superior, DiFrisco told police he was paid
$2,500 to kill Potcher by a New York mobster who feared Potcher was a
police informant. DiFrisco promised to cooperate against the mobster, who
he said drove him to New Jersey and supplied the weapon.
DiFrisco later refused to cooperate, and the mobster was never tried.
However, DiFrisco was linked to the murder because he took a bite out of a
slice of pizza.
"We got impressions of his teeth and it was a perfect match to the pizza,"
Bogdanski has said. "That corroborated his confession."
After five appeals, the death sentence was overturned in July 2006 by the
state Supreme Court on what prosecutors called a procedural technicality.
The successful appeal centered on issues involving the type and timing of
reviews afforded in capital cases. The ruling determined that DiFrisco's
death sentence must be overturned because a majority of justices had voted
- at various times and for various reasons - to sentence him to life in
prison. New Jersey's death penalty is currently on hold because of a
moratorium imposed while a legislative task force studied it. Earlier this
week, the task force recommended abolishing capital punishment in the
state, in part because New Jersey has not executed anyone since 1963.
(source: Associated Press)
U.S. Death Sentences Drop to 30-Year Low
The number of death sentences handed out in the United States dropped in
2006 to the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated 30 years
ago, reflecting what some experts say is a growing fear that the criminal
justice system will make a tragic and irreversible mistake.
Executions fell, too, to the fewest in a decade.
"The death penalty is on the defensive," said Richard Dieter, director of
the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington organization that looks
at problems with the capital punishment system.
Death sentences fell in 2006 to 114 or fewer, according to an estimate
from the group. That is down from 128 in 2005, and even lower than the 137
sentences the year after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976. It is also down sharply from the high of 317 in 1996.
A total of 53 executions were carried out in 2006, down from 60 in 2005.
Executions over the past 3 decades peaked at 98 in 1999.
Among the many causes given by prosecutors, lawyers and death penalty
critics: the passage of more state laws that allow juries to impose life
without parole; an overall drop in violent crime; and a reluctance among
some authorities to pursue the death penalty because of the high costs of
prosecuting a capital case.
But above all, many said, is the possibility of a mistake, made
dramatically clear in recent years. Since the death penalty was
reinstated, 123 people have been freed from death row after significant
questions were raised about their convictions -- 14 of them through DNA
testing, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
"The fact is they've gotten a lot of the wrong guys," said Deborah
Fleischaker, director of the American Bar Association's Death Penalty
Moratorium Implementation Project. "There's no question that has, in the
public, created a lot of doubt about how the death penalty is working."
The turn away from the ultimate punishment also reflects a changing
sentiment among juries and prosecutors, too, said Arthur Green, district
attorney in Bessemer County, Ala., outside of Birmingham. He said he
considers the risk of executing an innocent person in deciding whether to
pursue the death penalty.
"That's one reason I don't do it, except in very, very rare circumstances
-- one, that I'm convinced he or she did it, and number two, it's a
horrible crime," Green said. He has sought and won two capital cases since
becoming district attorney in 2001.
Thirty-seven of the 38 states that have the death penalty on their books
now also allow for life without parole. Texas enacted such a law in 2005.
Life-without-parole laws give another option to jurors who fear that the
death penalty is the only way to keep a killer from getting out on the
The death penalty has also received more scrutiny from lawmakers around
the country and the courts.
Illinois is in the 7th year of its moratorium on executions, and
executions are effectively halted in New York because of a 2004 court
Also, questions about whether lethal injection is inhumane have put
executions on hold in nine states -- Arkansas, California, Delaware,
Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota -- and in
the federal system.
This week in New Jersey, a special commission recommended that the state
become the first to abolish the death penalty legislatively since 1976,
citing "increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with
evolving standards of decency."
Backers of capital punishment say support for the death penalty remains
strong, despite the drop-off in death sentences.
"It's a refinement. I don't think it's an abandonment of the death
penalty, but a recognition that the death penalty should be reserved for
the worst of the worst," said Joshua Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop
County, Ore., and a vice president of the National District Attorneys
"From prosecutors, there's a more discriminating attitude about which
cases to bring," he said. "Juries have been much more picky about
allocating the death penalty and I think that's an appropriate thing to
A Gallup poll in May found that 2/3 of Americans 18 and older support the
death penalty. But when asked which is the better penalty for murder,
roughly half said life without parole and about half said the death
(source: Associated Press)
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