[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MD., PENN., WASH., N.C.. OKLA., N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 9 01:56:10 UTC 2007
Md. budget, death penalty at brunch
Sen. Richard Colburn expressed concern for Marylands Structural Budget
deficit and verbalized his support for the death penalty at his 13th
annual brunch on Saturday.
More than 100 supporters of Sen. Richard Colburn gathered to dine and
discuss legislation objectives Saturday at the 13th annual brunch at the
Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Salisbury.
Participants included District 38 Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, District 37B
Delagates Jeannie Haddaway and Addie Eckardt, and numerous Republican
Sen. Colburn was greeted with a standing ovation and orated his
expectations for 2007.
Sen. Colburn will begin his 21st session of the Maryland General Assembly
session on Wednesday with new Maryland Gov. Martin OMalley, and many new
senators composing almost one quarter of the senate.
The condition of the state's budget among an atmosphere of political
change is cause for concern for Sen. Colburn.
"The state's fiscal problems are gathering like thunderheads. The number
one priority for the state of Maryland has to be the structural budget
deficit. Starting in calendar year 2008, the states annual revenue
shortfall is expected to reach $1.6 billion," he said.
Sen. Colburn explained that the remedy for Maryland's overspending would
necessitate drastic spending cuts on the part of the state or a tax
increase over the majority of the term for governor-elect O'Malley. Sen.
Colburn attributes the start of the structural deficit to an income tax
cut backed by former Governor Parris Glendening about 10 years ago later
fortified by a mandated increase in spending for education which had no
outlined funding source.
The senator also emphasized his stance on the death penalty in Maryland.
"It's a very controversial issue. There has been a moratorium on the death
penalty in Maryland. I think that it is a deterrent and punishment. We
need that," said Sen. Colburn.
In May 2002, Gov. Robert Ehrlich issued a temporary cessation of the death
penalty in Maryland, pending a study conducted by the University of
Maryland after public concern about racial bias in death sentencing. Since
then, the state examined the morality of lethal injections and discovered
a discrepancy in the administration of lethal injections. In order for
death penalty executions to be lawful; the Committee on Administrative,
Executive, and Legislative Review (a group of 20 legislators) has to
review the procedure before the death penalty is reinstated. Sen. Colburn
hopes the committee will take immediate action.
"The death penalty is underused. How many life terms can you give
somebody,?" he said.
The senator further plans to reintroduce Senate Bill 37 that requires
those imprisoned for a life sentence serve at least 25 years prior to
parole review with no deductions of confinement diminution credit for good
Man may face death penalty
Jury selection begins this morning in the possible capital case of a
Fayette County man accused of ramming his pickup into a motorcycle being
ridden by two people, including a former girlfriend. Prosecutors will seek
the death penalty if jurors find Edward A. Belch, 46, of German Township,
guilty of first-degree murder for the deaths of Terri Lynn Gresko and
Thomas D. Myers.
Gresko, 44, and Myers, 54, died from injuries they suffered after Belch
allegedly slammed his truck into Myers' motorcycle on Route 21, near
McClellandtown, on May 10, 2005. Gresko was a passenger on the bike.
Belch was under a protection-from-abuse order at the time that restricted
his behavior toward Gresko. Hours before the May 10 incident, Belch was in
jail for allegedly assaulting Gresko. He was released after posting $5,000
Belch told investigators he didn't intend to hit the motorcycle, but
wanted to scare Gresko and Myers.
During the trial this week, the public could hear the first details of 2
psychiatric evaluations of Belch in recent months. Judge John F. Wagner
Jr. sealed examinations commissioned by both the defense and the
A defense expert, Lawson Bernstein, issued a report determining that Belch
would have been "unable to premeditate, deliberate and form homicidal
specific intent," according to court records.
Among the elements needed for a conviction for 1st-degree murder is a
finding that a defendant formed a specific intent to kill.
In response, prosecutors hired psychiatrist Bruce A. Wright to examine
Belch the day after Christmas. Court records have not hinted at his
Assistant district attorneys Peter U. Hook and Phyllis Jin will prosecute
The public defender's office is representing Belch, while Mark Mehalov has
been appointed to serve as defense counsel if Belch is convicted of
(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Prosecutor considers seeking first post-Ridgway death penalty
Lawmakers who enacted Washington's death-penalty law 25 years ago had
cases like Conner Schierman's in mind: a young mother, a young aunt and 2
little boys stabbed to death, their house burned to conceal the crimes,
all while the family's father served in Iraq.
But whether Schierman might face execution if convicted is far from
certain. King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng has not sought capital
punishment in the past 3 years ever since he famously agreed to a plea
deal that spared the life of the Green River serial killer, Gary Ridgway,
in exchange for help finding more remains of his victims. Many lawyers
wonder if he will ever seek the death penalty again against lesser
Maleng has sought the death penalty 17 times, or in about one-quarter of
death-eligible cases, over the past 25 years.
Through his spokesman, Maleng declined to be interviewed, noting that his
decision in the Schierman case is due by the end of the month.
"Maleng's in a difficult position," said Eric Lindell, one of the lawyers
who represented Ridgway. "Every time you hear of a case where he doesn't
go death, people say, 'Well, he's not going to after Ridgway.' But he's
never come out and said that. At some point, you've got to be afraid that
Maleng's decision also comes at an interesting time for the death penalty
in Washington. The state Supreme Court upheld the law 5-4 last year, in a
case that questioned how prosecutors can execute anyone if they're not
going to execute Ridgway. A new state bar association report raises
questions about the wisdom of continuing to seek execution, given the
exorbitant costs of such trials and the overwhelming likelihood of
reversal by appeals courts.
And the elected prosecutor of Pierce County, which has sought the death
penalty more than any other Washington county, called the state's
experience with capital punishment "a farce" in an interview and suggested
that the law is so ineffective it should be abolished.
"It doesn't matter how overwhelming the evidence is. Everyone does their
damnedest to give a fair trial ... and the appellate courts reverse it
every time," Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne said. "You say, 'What
kind of steward am I of the public resources, if I know that's going to
happen and I seek the death penalty anyway?'
"Why do we even go through the charade? If they're never going to invoke
the death penalty, the Legislature should do away with it."
Schierman has pleaded not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder.
Prosecutors say he told police that he woke up covered in blood in the
Kirkland home of National Guard Sgt. Leonid Milkin after an alcoholic
blackout last July, and that he burned the house to conceal his crimes.
Milkin's wife, sister-in-law and sons, ages 3 and 5, had been stabbed to
Schierman, 25, has no criminal record, is relatively young and reportedly
had battled alcohol problems, which could be considered mitigating factors
that might spare him the death penalty. But the facts of the case are
heinous. Schierman lawyer Jim Conroy declined to discuss what evidence he
had asked Maleng to consider in making his death-penalty decision.
Though not all potential mitigating facts have been publicly revealed,
some lawyers who have been watching the case believe Schierman's
circumstances are less persuasive than, say, the long history of mental
illness that Maleng cited when he declined to seek the death penalty last
month against Naveed Haq, who is accused of shooting six people at
Seattle's Jewish Federation.
"Mr. Maleng has always been very careful in his evaluation of the facts of
the crime and any offered mitigation," said Jeff Ellis, president of the
Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "He does not make
political decisions. He makes very careful personal decisions, based on
the facts of the case."
Ellis served with other defense attorneys, prosecutors and retired judges
on a Washington State Bar Association subcommitte that issued a report
last month on the death penalty in Washington state. The report said the
question of whether the death penalty is practical is best left to
lawmakers and voters, but also noted that the state has spent millions of
dollars pursuing death in 79 cases over the last 25 years, with 4
executions to show for it. 3 of the convicts excecuted had waived their
appeals and volunteered to be killed.
(source: Associated Press)
District attorney considering death penalty in store shooting
While authorities wait for Sharod Johnson to be extradited back to
Wilmington. The district attorney's office is weighing whether to seek the
Johnson is accused of shooting and killing Mohammed Abdel-Hamid at a
Wilmington convenience store last month.
Feras Abdel-Hamid is the victim's brother. He said, "We're pushing toward
the death penalty. Because of what happened he doesn't need to be on the
streets, because more than likely it can happen again."
While Sharod Johnson awaits extradition back to North Carolina, relatives
and members of the community hope he will face the death penalty if
convicted for the December murder of Mohammed Abdel-Hamid.
Sameer Fattah, one of the victim's relatives, said, "Hopefully we can push
for the death penalty because he took 27 years old with three little girls
left behind and he took out for a long time and he's not coming back. So
he doesn't need to stay around and do more damage."
Authorities arrested Sharod Johnson last Tuesday in Brooklyn, New York.
Johnson is charged with first-degree murder. Police say Johnson shot
Mohammed during a robbery inside the M&M Food Market on Ann Street last
NYPD detectives still have to interview Johnson before he can be brought
back to North Carolina. That process could take as long as several weeks.
Johnson may also try to fight extradition, which could delay the process
"I feel like it was a senseless act of violence. You know, no matter what
race, origin, or neighborhood you are from it was really uncalled for what
he did," Neighborhood resident Robin Clay said. "Considering the clerk had
no other option -- he didn't give him a choice whether he wanted to live
or die, so the death penalty is good."
But Wilmington authorities would have to review the facts for themselves
before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty in the case. In the
meantime, family members continue to remember Mohammed, and hold out hope
that justice will be served.
Police say Sharod Johnson hid out with friends and family in New York.
Detectives tracked him down using the US Marshals task force.
(source: WWAY TV News)
Pace Of Executions Slows In Oklahoma, Nation
A man convicted in the execution-style slaying of 4 people during the
robbery of a fast food restaurant in Tulsa in 1991 is scheduled to become
the nation's 1st inmate put to death in 2007.
And while Corey Duane Hamilton's execution date on Tuesday comes early in
the year, experts say the number of inmates being put to death and the
number of killers being sent to death row is on the decline both in
Oklahoma and across the nation.
After peaking at 98 executions nationwide in 1999, the number of inmates
put to death has dropped dramatically, to just 53 inmates last year, the
lowest number in the last decade, according to the Washington, D.C.-based
Death Penalty Information Center.
"Part of this is especially due to the challenges to lethal injection that
are occurring around the country,'' said Richard Dieter, the center's
executive director. "10 states held up executions last year because of
that, and a lot of those cases have not been resolved.''
In Oklahoma, challenges to the lethal injection method are relatively new
and haven't done much to slow the pace of executions, said Jennifer
Miller, head of the criminal appeals division of the state Attorney
Miller said Oklahoma's pace has been effected, however, by a 2002 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute mentally
retarded defendants. 4 condemned Oklahoma inmates - Victor Hooks, Richard
Smith, Michael Howell and George Ochoa - all were in the final stages of
their appeals and now are arguing they are mentally retarded, Miller said.
Another factor slowing the number of executions nationwide and in Oklahoma
is that juries are more likely to sentence killers to life in prison
without the possibility of parole. Nationwide, 128 people were sentenced
to death in 2005, the lowest number in 30 years, Dieter said.
"There are concerns about the death penalty, its accuracy, and that has
made juries more hesitant to impose it, prosecutors more hesitant to seek
it, and judges more willing to scrutinize it,'' Dieter said. "Together,
it's meant there have been less death sentences, fewer people on death
row, and fewer executions. That's the larger picture.''
Oklahoma executed 4 inmates in both 2005 and 2006, which was the fewest
number in any one year since 1998. Since the death penalty was reinstated
in 1977, Oklahoma reached its highest mark in 2001, when 18 inmates were
put to death, more than any other state that year.
Although Hamilton's execution is the only one set so far for 2007, Miller
said at least 3 other inmates likely will be scheduled for execution this
year, including Frank Welch, Jimmy Bland and Terry Short. Appeals from all
3 have been denied by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver,
prompting an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Oklahoma currently has 86 inmates awaiting death sentences in Oklahoma, 85
men and 1 woman, Brenda Andrew, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for the
shotgun slaying her husband, Rob Andrew.
(source: Associated Press)
Full circle on executionsNow, it seems right that N.J. is moving to
abolish death penalty.
I know this sounds like John Kerry, but I was against the death penalty
before I was for it and then I have been against it again.
Perhaps some of you also have agonized this way over this emotional issue,
swayed, as I have been, by both an extraordinarily vicious crime and a
terrible miscarriage of justice.
If so, do write to me. I'm curious to know how you came by your position
on the death penalty.
For years it was 2nd nature for me to oppose it. Not civilized, I
believed. It was part of my larger worldview, big on compassion.
The event that shook my long-held opposition to the penalty was the
cold-blooded slaughter of the Stuart family in Pine Hill in the 1980s.
A hit man kicked in their door and shot the young couple and their
terrified 3-year-old daughter as a 5-year-old daughter watched from
hiding. The hit man, it turned out, had attacked the wrong house. He was
both cruel and stupid. The victims were innocent of any provocation.
My God, I thought, this could have happened to any one of us.
Because the man convicted of the crime, Louis Giambi, had committed the
murders before New Jersey reinstated the death penalty, he got a lengthy
At the sentencing, the judge described him as "cold and calculating" and
added that "it is this kind of murder the Legislature had in mind" when it
passed the death penalty.
That's when I carved out the cold-blooded-killer exception in my mind:
Such killers deserve the ultimate penalty because clearly they don't
respect human life and therefore have forfeited respect for theirs.
But developments in the years since - mainly the scandalous situation in
Illinois, where DNA evidence cleared numerous death row inmates - have
muddied that clarity.
If we have one of the world's most rigorous criminal justice systems, how
do innocent people end up on death row? Not slightly guilty people. Not
Obviously the system is not foolproof, and executions are irreversible. To
keep the death penalty requires tolerating the occasional state-authorized
murder of an innocent person, writing off that life as if it were taken by
an errant bomb during war. But it isn't reasonable or right to take that
So now that New Jersey is moving to abolish the death penalty, as urged by
a special commission, I am at peace with its decision - and even more so
after speaking to Lois M. Seeligsohn of Collingswood, a longtime opponent
of the death penalty, and reading the testimony of Jo Anne Barlieb, whose
mother was killed by a robber.
Seeligsohn lost a favorite female cousin, killed by a male cousin.
The mothers of both the victim and the killer were "devout Christians,"
Seeligsohn said. "When this happened, they just saw no benefit to more...
killing in her name."
Would they, and she, have felt differently had the killer been a stranger?
"No, not at all," Seeligsohn says.
It takes years to enforce the death penalty, she explains. "The family of
the victim can never begin to heal and go on with life until the trials
and appeals are over," she says.
Life without parole, on the other hand, takes effect immediately.
"I don't say you ever need to forgive the killer; it's just to get him or
her out of your life," she adds.
Citing similar reasons, Barlieb told the study commission she now supports
sentencing killers to life without parole, though she once preferred the
death penalty. (See an excerpt of her testimony alongside.)
Barlieb was 8 when her mother, a Willingboro convenience-store clerk, was
shot by a robber impatient to get into the register.
After 16 years of reliving the trauma in trials and appeals, as
prosecutors pressed for the death penalty, Barlieb was stunned that the
killer of her mother finally got a prison sentence with a parole date.
There is unavoidable tension here between the needs of justice for the
victim and fairness for the accused. Given the discovery of innocents on
death row, however, speedy executions cannot be the answer.
"Given what you know today," a commissioner asked Barlieb, "what would you
advise another family that's facing the death penalty if they're given
that choice, or life without parole, if that truly is what happens?"
Barlieb: "Without a doubt, I would advise them to seek life without
That's my final answer, too.
(source: Porus Cooper, Commentary Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer)
'I sit here... in favor of abolition'Excerpts from the testimony of Jo
Anne Barlieb before the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission:
My story begins 21 years ago. It was July 1985 when Cynthia Barlieb, a
25-year-old mother of four, was brutally shot to death. She was a clerk
for a local Cumberland Farms convenience store.
Her and my father had recently bought their first home, and my mom had
worked part time earning extra money to pay bills. I was 8 years old and
had 3 younger sisters... .
It was a Sunday, at 12:30 in the afternoon, when her assailant boldly
walked into the store, intent on committing armed robbery. As she worked
the store alone, he made idle conversation with her until the other
customers had left, at which time he locked the front door and flipped the
open sign to closed.
Cindy fatally refused his demands to open the register. She was punished
with a shot to her chest. Frustrated with his inability to open the
register, he shot her twice more as she laid facedown at his feet; one
shot in the back of her neck and a final shot to the back of her head... .
Eventually, it was his arrogance, partnered with a small reward, that led
to his capture... .
The defendant was tried and convicted of capital murder, then sentenced to
death by lethal injection. At the time, my sisters and I were too young to
know anything about the trial.
Over the years, I became none the wiser. It was enough for me to know that
the man who viciously took my mother's life was on death row... .
I was introduced to our so-called justice system in 1993 when I first
learned that the killer's death sentence was overturned by the Supreme
Subsequently, the state moved to retry the penalty phase of the case, once
again seeking a death sentence.
... Our family was forced to relive the nightmare. We sat through the
gruesome evidence and vivid testimony that tore at our wounds.
Even more aggravating was that the jury could not know Cindy as a real
person. Her dead body was only evidence of the crime and any personal
information... was withheld so as not to bias the jury... .
The jury once again sentenced him to death, and for the time being, it
seemed that justice had prevailed.
Sure enough, justice was undone eight years later when another appeal made
it to the Supreme Court. During the 2nd trial, it was found that one of
the jurors knew that Cynthia Barlieb was a mother of 4.
At the time, the judge had this juror replaced and resumed the trial.
Apparently, the justices felt that the judge was wrong and should have
declared a mistrial. This, of course, wasn't fair to the defendant, so his
second appeal was granted and the death sentence, once again, overturned.
This time around, thanks to the victim advocates and resulting
legislation, I was able to read a victim-impact statement to the jury.
This was a major breakthrough; we could finally share personal information
about Cindy's life.
Ironically, that same information is what caused the appeal to begin
The jury was deadlocked, and by default, a life sentence of 30 years was
imposed. With 16 years already served, there was no comfort in knowing
that he would be eligible for parole in 14 years. Frankly, it's an insult,
a slap in the face... .
I'd support the death penalty if the state of New Jersey could limit the
appeals process and actually utilize it. Unfortunately, I sit here
following a more realistic approach in favor of abolition... . I promote
the substitution of the death penalty only with a life sentence that truly
means life in prison with no possibility of parole.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
More information about the DeathPenalty