[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, S. DAK., VA., N.Y., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 9 22:45:01 UTC 2007
We need humane ways to conduct executions
YES, this is the 21st century, but when it comes to capital punishment in
California, how far have we advanced? At least, we've done away with
hangings and firing squads. But given the growth and evolution of
available technology, our state has much farther to travel.
Apparently, we're not alone in thinking this way. Lethal injection has
been this state's - indeed our nation's - choice for executions. But U.S.
District Judge Jeremy Fogel late last year put his foot down on the system
and halted all executions in California. He gave the state 30 days to come
up with an alternative plan.
Fogel said a "deeply disturbing," and "pervasive lack of professionalism"
plagues our system to the point where it crosses the line of cruel and
The San Jose-based judge proclaimed this "an important opportunity for
executive leadership." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the cue and ordered
state officials to comply with the judge's ruling. But did he really have
Procedures for execution in this state had been ignored. Now we're finally
taking a closer look, and what we're seeing isn't a pretty picture. Fogel
saw numerous problems, including poor screening of executioners;
inadequate training and oversight of execution team members; sloppy
handling of the drug cocktails used in executions; unreliable execution
records; an improper mixing of the 3 drugs used; and an antiquated,
cramped death chamber designed as a gas chamber, not for lethal
The judge's ruling came on the same day that Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida
halted lethal injections after one execution took 34 minutes - twice as
long as it was supposed to - because the first dose was wrongly
California officials have insisted the state's lethal injection procedure
is constitutional, and for years death penalty advocates went along with
this, as long as those who committed the worst crimes paid the ultimate
But, early last year a legal challenge from death row inmate Michael
Morales made us take a hard look at our execution procedures. Morales was
found guilty of the rape and murder of a 17-year-old Lodi girl in 1981.
Last February, he was granted a reprieve while the judge and state
considered the lethal injection issue.
Perhaps it's a stalling tactic, but John Grele, one of Morales' attorneys,
said, "The importance of the decision is to look at these issues
thoughtfully and carefully." That is sound advice.
If we are to maintain the death penalty in California - there are 650
death row inmates - we must make a thorough examination of our procedure.
It's time we build an execution facility that meets federal standards,
adequately train those who perform executions and ensure that our method
doesn't constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Schwarzenegger ordered his administration to consult with "the best
experts in other states." That's a good start. We can utilize science and
technology to help find a humane means of executions.
This is the 21st century. Let's not lower ourselves to the level of these
convicted criminals. The state should strive to find the right answer. To
be honest, public hangings and firing squads aren't very appealing.
(source: The Argus)
Death-penalty reform to go forward
Legal questions about the death penalty in other states likely won't stop
South Dakota legislators from rewriting the state's lethal-injection law,
according to a legislative leader.
Most South Dakotans favor the death penalty and support legislative
efforts to clarify the protocols used for injections, according to state
Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, the Republican leader in the South
But, he said, "I think a lot of the stuff happening in other states
(could) influence the way we in statute leave authorities enough latitude
for the protocols to adjust to best methods and changing technology."
Last summer, Gov. Mike Rounds delayed the planned execution of Elijah Page
because of a conflict on whether the injection should involve 2 or 3
The governor ordered the delay, saying it would give legislators time to
correct the conflict. Page's execution now is scheduled for early July.
Other states are facing similar issues. In California, a federal judge
said the state's execution procedure was unconstitutional and extended a
moratorium on executions.
In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all executions there after a bungled
execution in December. Missouri's injection method, which is similar to
Californias, was declared unconstitutional in November by a federal judge.
State Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood, had planned to co-sponsor a bill
to fix the state's death-penalty protocols, but he and other sponsors
backed off when Rounds and Attorney General Larry Long made it known they
were working on such a bill.
Turbiville, whose legislative district includes the site of the murder for
which Page was convicted, expects lawmakers to make whatever changes are
needed to ensure that the lethal-injection law is workable and adaptable
to changing methods.
The issues in Florida and other states shouldn't affect that, Turbiville
"I read about that deal in Florida, where there were indications of some
muscle response or body functions," he said. "I don't think that's going
to be a major issue here. It is a thought, but not enough for South Dakota
to do away with the death penalty entirely or put it on hold."
Some legislators have predicted that opponents of capital punishment will
see the bill to update the state's injection law as a way to introduce a
proposal to repeal the law entirely. Rhoden said that could happen but
that it isnt unusual and isn't likely to be successful.
"Anybody can make an attempt to change any law, whether there's an issue
pending or not," he said. "I don't think thats something the (Legislature)
will agree to do."
Democrat Garry Moore, who will be a House member this session after 8
years in the Senate, doubts that either residents or legislators would
agree to repeal the death penalty.
"Its something people want, reserved for heinous crimes," Moore said. "I
don't see much support for getting rid of it."
(source: Rapid City Journal)
Legislators Will Deal With Death Penalty Reform
Legislative leaders don't forsee any roadblocks when they consider
rewriting South Dakota's lethal injection law this year.
Legal questions about the death penalty have surfaced in other states. But
House Republican Leader Larry Rhoden says most South Dakotans favor the
death penalty and support legislative efforts to clarify the procedure for
The scheduled execution last summer of Elijah Page was delayed because of
questions over using 2drugs or 3. Legislative leaders don't expect any
major effort to repeal the death penalty while they clarify the law that's
already on the books.
Dueling Death Penalty Legislation in 2007---- But could capital punishment
be gone in 5 years?
Among the legislation members of the Virginia General Assembly will
consider during the 2007 session in Richmond are three bills that would
expand the instances when capital punishment could be used and one that
would abolish it altogether.
The expansion bills were introduced in the house early in last years
session and wound their way through various committees to the house floor,
where delegates voted in favor of them by overwhelming margins.
House Bill 1018 would add premeditated murder of Virginia judges to the
list of what constitutes capital murder (and thus a punishment of death),
while H.B. 1311 would include premeditated murder of a witness in a
criminal prosecution or investigation to the same list. Proposed
amendments in H.B. 782 would eliminate the "triggerman rule" that limits
use of the death penalty to the person who actually commits murder.
With house and senate elections on the horizon in November, it remains to
be seen whether these bills renew the kind of contentious political
maneuvering about the Commonwealth's use capital punishment that marked
2005's governors campaign. In that race, Republican candidate Jerry
Kilgore attacked Democratic opponent Tim Kaine's opposition to the death
penalty, using family members of murder victims in television ads against
Kaine. In one of Kilgore's ad, Stanley Rosenbluth, whose son and
daughter-in-law were murdered, said "Tim says that Adolf Hitler doesn't
qualify for the death penalty." Kaine ultimately won the race, becoming
the first governor elected in the South to oppose capital punishment.
At least one local delegate doubts that the bills will spark strife in the
"In Richmond, 99.5 percent of what we discuss is not contentious. It's
cordial; we treat each other with respect," said Sal Iaquinto, a
Republican from Virginia Beach. He said people perceived Kilgore's ads as
negative. In his own 2005 race, however, the death penalty played an
insignificant role, yet Iaquinto joined several members of the Beach
Republican delegation in co-sponsoring H.B. 1018 and 1311; he believes
capital punishment deters crime.
Among politicians in Richmond, however, the political alignment of those
in favor of capital punishment and those against its use do not fall along
neat party lines.
Delegate Frank Hargrove, a Republican who has represented Hanover County
north of Richmond since 1982, said last week he once again prefiled
legislation with the house clerk to eliminate capital punishment in
Virginia. The bill introduced in last year's session as House Bill 859
would trade use of the death penalty for life without parole. Last year,
Hargroves effort was left in the Courts of Justice Committee.
"The death penalty in Virginia is used I think only Texas executes more
It does not have a deterrent effect. We've come perilously close to
executing the wrong person on several occasions," Hargrove said in a phone
interview. "For many years I voted for the death penalty and extensions of
it. It's a political thing. Most of my constituents are for it. Up to 70 %
are for it."
Despite that support, Buddy Fowler, one of Hargrove's legislative aides,
said even in conservative Hanover County support for capital punishment is
"What we see in this district here when we do the polling is the
percentage of people who support the death penalty has been dropping a
little bit each year and every year," he said. Fowler attributed the drop
to religious opposition to it, "common sense" and other factors. Asked
about the timing of the current crop of bills that would expand use of the
death penalty, Fowler said "sometimes politics rears its head."
Jack Payden-Travers, the director of Virginians for Alternatives to the
Death Penalty, one of the state's largest groups that organizes against
capital punishment, said measures like those that would expand the death
penalty give delegates and senators the "political illusion" of being
tough on crime in an election year.
"Here we are about to celebrate 400th founding of Virginia and we're
continuing a practice started in 1607," Payden-Travers said. "Virginia
politicians are having their last fling and trying to increase the number
of capital indictments coming down."
Hargrove also believes the Virginia death penalty is on its last legs.
"You will see a number of states this year, perhaps 3 or 4, repeal their
death penalty statute. Its still a sensitive political issue here in my
own county," Hargrove said.
"I think you will see Virginia death penalty repealed within 5 years," he
(source: PortFolio Weekly)
N.Y. should end death penalty ---- AT ISSUE: Follow N.J. panel's advice on
A commission examining capital punishment in New Jersey has recommended
that state abolish the death penalty.
We believe New York should follow that advice as well.
The foremost reason for abandoning the death penalty has always been
clear: It's not the place of any court to take a human life.
But there's evidence a growing number of people see the death penalty as
inhumane, inaccurate and ineffective. For example, the number of death
sentences handed out in the United States dropped in 2006 to the lowest
level since capital punishment was reinstated.
>From the 13-member commission's report to New Jersey lawmakers:
"There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with
evolving standards of decency. The alternative of life imprisonment in a
maximum security institution without the possibility of parole would
sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and
penological interests, including the interests of the families of murder
There has been strong support for capital punishment in Florida, yet
former Gov. Jeb Bush suspended executions there after it took 34 minutes
for one inmate to die from lethal injection. Federal judges have ruled
that California and Missouri's lethal injection executions violate the
U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Despite all the appeal opportunities awarded to those convicted of capital
crimes, innocent people end up on death row. DNA evidence has exonerated
death row inmates. A legal system committed to protecting the innocent
cannot condone a practice that carries with it the very real possibility
of murdering an innocent person.
Statistics do not support the idea that the death penalty deters crime.
The crime rates in states with the death penalty are not lower (and are
sometimes higher) than in states without it. With a statute that calls for
life in prison without any possibility of parole, there is no reason to
fear that those who commit the most heinous crimes will be freed.
New York's capital-punishment law was effectively suspended in 2004 by the
state's highest court, which ruled parts of it unconstitutional. But it's
time to officially rescind the death penalty and state firmly that New
York does not support murder.
(source: Utica Observer-Dispatch)
4 jurors picked for death-penalty case
A nurse and a security guard were among the 4 jurors selected to hear a
death penalty homicide case Monday in Fayette County Court.
The slow process includes questioning each juror individually about views
on different things, including their willingness to sentence Edward Belch
to death if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Belch, 45, of 148 Blaine Ave. is charged with two counts of criminal
homicide for allegedly running down Terri Lynn Gresko, 44, of Edenborn and
Thomas D. Myers, 54, of Masontown on May 10, 2005.
Gresko, Belch's ex-girlfriend, was a passenger on Myers' motorcycle when
Belch, driving a pick-up truck, allegedly swerved in and out of Route 21
traffic to run them down. As Gresko was lying on the ground, dying,
witnesses told police that Belch walked up to her, yelling at her.
State police said that Belch saw Gresko and Myers at the Wal-Mart in South
Union Township, and followed them after they left the store.
Belch is only eligible for the death penalty if convicted of first-degree
murder. To make such a finding, jurors must believe that Belch had a
premeditated desire to kill Gresko and Myers.
If they make that finding, jurors will then go on to the penalty phase,
where they will hear testimony about aggravating and mitigating factors.
They must unanimously agree on a death sentence, or the sentence would
automatically be life in prison without parole.
One of the pieces of defense evidence that jurors will hear deaths with an
alleged mental infirmity that Belch's attorneys believe should mitigate
his conviction. In court papers filed last month, Belch's attorney
indicated that a psychiatrist found he was unable to form homicidal
specific intent in the death.
If he cannot form intent, then Belch cannot be convicted of murder.
Jury selection started off promising - the first panelist subjected to
individual questioning was accepted. The retired homemaker, a Belle Vernon
woman, said she and her husband and only moved into Fayette County in
June, and was surprised by the jury summons.
The remainder of the morning passed without a 2nd juror selected. 3 were
picked during the afternoon session.
Attorneys for both sides went through 21 jurors yesterday and 24 are
returning this morning to be questioned. Defense attorneys and prosecutors
each have 20 preemptory strikes, meaning they can disqualify a perspective
juror for no reason.
By the day's end, prosecutors had used 5 and defense attorneys had used
nine. Three jurors were struck for cause, meaning a reason existed to
remove them from the panel. One woman knew both Belches and the one of the
victim's families, another man had a business trip planned next week, when
the trial will likely still be going.
Public Defender Jeffrey Whiteko and Assistant Public Defender David Kaiser
represent Belch. Attorney Mark Mehalov will represent Belch if his trial
goes into the penalty phase. Assistant District Attorneys Peter U. Hook
and Phyllis A. Jin are prosecuting the case.
Judge John F. Wagner Jr., who is presiding over the trial, will reconvene
jury selection this morning at 9 a.m.
(source: The Herald Standard)
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