[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., N.Y., S. DAK., NEV., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 10 16:28:46 UTC 2007
Survey finds more people against death penalty
More Pennsylvanians prefer life sentences for convicted murderers to the
death penalty, according to a poll released yesterday.
The poll, administered by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State
Harrisburg, found that of 865 respondents, 42.9 % preferred the death
penalty while 45.1 % chose life with or without parole, a difference
within the poll's theoretical margin of error of 3.4 %.
The remaining 12 percent answered "don't know/not sure" or refused to
Karl Keys, spokesman for Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death
Penalty, said the poll is indicative of changing attitudes in the state
over the last decade.
"We would prefer it to be outside the margin of error," he said. "But the
results show a dramatic shift from past polling on the death penalty."
Mr. Keys' group was 1 of 5 agencies that commissioned the survey, along
with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Amnesty
International USA, Jewish Social Policy Action Network and the
Pennsylvania Council of Churches.
The results have both the ACLU and Pennsylvanians for Alternatives asking
state government to halt executions until an investigation is done into
how the system is working.
"We're optimistic it will be better received than requests in the past,"
said Larry Frankel, legislative director for the ACLU.
The poll comes one week after a New Jersey state commission recommended
abolition of the death penalty. The commission found there is no evidence
the death penalty "serves a legitimate penological intent" in the state
and that life imprisonment is a cheaper alternative.
Mr. Frankel cited Pennsylvania's 6 death-row exonerations compared with 3
executions since 1976 as "proof the system doesn't work all the time."
Currently, 12 states do not use the death penalty and 10 more have
suspended it while they investigate.
"Whether you are for or against the death penalty, there have got to be
realistic changes to what it is today," Mr. Keys said.
The Pennsylvanians for Alternatives were formerly called Pennsylvania
Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, but announced a name
change in tandem with the poll's results.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
NEW YORK----re: federal death penalty trial
Death Penalty Phase For Cop Killer Postponed
The penalty phase for convicted cop killer Ronell Wilson in Brooklyn
Federal Court has been postponed.
Wilson could face the death penalty for killing undercover detectives
Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin during a botched gun buy and bust
operation on Staten Island.
The penalty phase of Wilson's federal trial has been put off until January
16th. More evidence will be presented and victim impact statements will be
read during the process. Wilson will also have the chance to take the
The U.S. Attorney is also trying to show the jury a documentary featuring
Nemorin talking about his fear of being murdered on the job.
Legislators: death penalty reform will 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, said state Rep.
Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, the Republican leader in the South Dakota
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 grappling with 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
California's, was declared unconstitutional in November by a federal
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 assure 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 says that could happen, but
that isn't unusual and it 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 that's 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 either residents or legislators would agree to
repeal the death penalty.
"It's something people want, reserved for heinous crimes," Moore said. "I
don't see much support for getting rid of it."
(source: Sioux City Journal)
Nevada High Court Reverses Ruling in Death Penalty Case
The Nevada Supreme Court, ruling on procedural grounds, has revived an
appeal from Donald Sherman, a paroled Idaho murderer convicted of beating
to death his ex-girlfriend's father with a claw hammer in Las Vegas.
The ruling overturns a decision by Clark County District Judge Valorie
Vega. While Sherman already has refiled his petition, the Supreme Court
says its order is still needed to clear up the record in his case and get
rid of any "issues of procedural default."
Sherman was sentenced to death for the May 1994 murder of Lester Bauer, a
retired doctor. He also had been convicted of killing an Idaho grocery
store owner he was trying to rob in 1981. He was on parole for that crime
when he killed Bauer.
(source: KRNV News)
Death penalty sought for man charged in murder of 3-year-old
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man charged with
murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old son, who authorities allege was
tortured before he died.
Alex Kermith Mendoza, 28, has been in custody at Robert Presley Detention
Center since August 2005.
Michael "Mikey" Vallejo-Seiber died Aug. 29, 2005, during surgery - a day
after his mother and Mendoza brought the boy's lifeless body to the
An autopsy showed Michael had a lacerated liver, broken ribs, burns to his
feet, injuries to his rectum and genitals and bruising on his body.
Mendoza was charged with murder with the special circumstance of torture,
and assault on a child under 8 years old likely to produce great bodily
injury resulting in death. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney's
office, said a decision was reached to seek the death penalty in the case.
"The decision has been made and we have filed a document notifying the
court of our intention," she said.
Mendoza is also charged with elder abuse in the alleged mistreatment of
his 87-year-old father, who was under his care. He has pleaded not guilty.
Calls to Mendoza's attorney were not returned.
(source: Associated Press)
Life in the balance----Attorneys tussle over Cooper claims
An attorney for Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper urged a panel of federal
judges Tuesday not to "rubber stamp" Cooper's quadruple murder conviction,
saying more review is needed to examine his long-standing claims of
During a fast-paced hearing in front of a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals, attorney Norm Hile said previous judges who reviewed
Cooper's conviction have ignored key developments in the case that could
help Cooper prove his claims that he was framed.
"Every place we have pushed, we have found new evidence," the attorney
argued. Prosecutors argued back that Cooper should have been executed long
ago for the 1983 hatchet and knife murders of four people in Chino Hills.
He is "guilty as sin," and he only remains alive because the courts have
indulged his "implausible" conspiracy theories and outlandish appeals for
more than 2 decades, Deputy Attorney General Holly Wilkens argued.
"There is no doubt as to Kevin Cooper's guilt," Wilkens said.
Cooper is on death row for the murders of a Chino Hills family and their
houseguest. Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and
11-year-old houseguest, Christopher Hughes, were slaughtered as they slept
inside the Ryen home.
The Ryens' 8-year-old son, Joshua, survived a slashed throat.
Cooper escaped from the nearby California Institution for Men state prison
just days before the killings. He has admitted to hiding in a house next
to the Ryens', but has claimed corrupt and inept police framed him for the
The attorneys touched on a handful of issues Tuesday, but the one the
judges seemed most interested in involved a bloody T-shirt found near the
In 2001, Cooper became the first Death Row inmate in the state to get
post-conviction DNA testing of evidence in his case when blood stains on
the shirt were examined to see who they came from.
They proved to be from Cooper and the victims, undermining Cooper's claims
that the shirt would help set him free.
Cooper subsequently claimed his blood must have been planted on the shirt,
and asked for more tests to help him prove it.
He was nearly put to death in February 2004, but a full panel of 9th
Circuit judges spared him in the final hours and ordered an additional
round of scientific testing on the shirt to see if it contained EDTA, a
chemical used to preserve blood in crime labs.
A federal judge in San Diego, Marilyn Huff, ordered the tests performed in
2005, but ultimately ruled they were unreliable and inconclusive.
Huff also shot down a handful of other appeals by Cooper in a lengthy
ruling affirming his guilt.
On Tuesday, Hile argued that the EDTA tests weren't conducted correctly,
and he accused Huff of being unfair and biased toward Cooper.
Hile argued that the testing done in San Diego was "botched and useless"
because the piece of the shirt that was tested for EDTA was not first
tested to see if, in fact, it also contained Cooper's blood.
"That is the crucial part to our argument here today," Hile said.
Judge Margaret McKeown, one of the three jurists hearing the arguments
Tuesday, appeared skeptical about ordering more tests for EDTA.
She said when the court requested the testing in 2004, judges believed
Cooper's contention it would quickly and easily resolve the claims of
That no longer appears to be the case, McKeown said Tuesday.
"Is the net result of all this testing a wash?" the judge asked. "That it
doesn't prove anything at the end of the day one way or another?"
Wilkens jumped on the question, saying prosecutors contended from the
start the tests would prove worthless and scientifically unreliable.
"All of this testing shows nothing, and it cannot show anything," Wilkens
The judges allotted each side only 30 minutes apiece to argue the 10 legal
issues most recently raised by Cooper.
None of the 3 judges were physically present in court. Two of them, Ronald
Gould and McKeown, appeared via videoconference link. The third, Pamela
Ann Rymer, participated by telephone.
McKeown peppered the attorneys with questions throughout the hearing.
Rymer and Gould chimed in sparingly.
The judges will issue a ruling on the case at a later date.
Outside of court Tuesday, attorneys for both sides said they were pleased
by the arguments and believed the judges would rule in their favor.
"I thought it went very well today," said David Alexander, another of
Cooper's attorneys. "The judges were well-prepared, and I thought they
were on to the issues."
Wilkens said she believed the court would reject Cooper's appeals, putting
him back on track for execution.
"I think the court is going to do the right thing," Wilkens said.
"Judge Huff's decision is very thorough, and I expect it will be upheld."
Dozens of Cooper's supporters began to gather outside the downtown San
Francisco courthouse about 2 hours before the hearing began.
Some wore bright yellow T-shirts with "Free Kevin Cooper" printed in large
black letters across their chests. Others carried signs urging an end to
the death penalty.
After the hearing, they rallied on the courthouse steps and passed around
cans collecting donations for Cooper.
Cooper released a statement on the hearings via a Web site maintained by
In it, he cheered the court's willingness to consider the merits of his
"All I have ever asked, and all that I have a right to ask, is that the
whole truth be told about this case," he wrote. "So far, despite what the
state claims, this has never happened. I am not asking for just my side to
be told in this, and I most definitely don't want just the state's
one-sided side to be told as it has been with the help of the mainstream
(source: Daily Bulletin)
Death row inmate's lawyer says his client was framed----The attorney
requests that Kevin Cooper's case be returned to a lower court for further
More than 20 years after Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death for brutally
murdering 4 people in Chino Hills, his attorney told a federal appeals
panel Tuesday that questions about the case remained unresolved and that
Cooper was entitled to further hearings and testing to clear up the
During oral arguments before the panel, defense lawyer Norman Hile
suggested that Cooper had been framed, that prosecutors at trial withheld
material evidence that could have cleared him, and that his client had not
received a full and fair hearing from U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff in
San Diego, the last jurist to consider the case.
But a veteran appellate lawyer for the California attorney general's
office countered that Cooper was "guilty as sin" and that it was time to
bring the case which has been the subject of numerous appeals to a
close. "Enough is enough," said Deputy Atty. Gen. Holly D. Wilkens.
Cooper was sentenced to death in Riverside County Superior Court for a
1983 rampage in which a married couple and two children were hacked to
death in Chino Hills.
Prosecutors alleged at trial that Cooper, then serving time for burglary,
had faked a medical condition to escape from the state prison in Chino in
1983, then took refuge in a small house with a view of the hilltop home of
Douglas and Peggy Ryen.
Two nights later, prosecutors stated, he broke into the Ryens' home and
used a hatchet, knife and ice pick to kill the couple; their daughter,
Jessica, 11; and houseguest Christopher Hughes, 11.
Prosecutors said Cooper also slashed the throat of the Ryens' 8-year-old
son, Joshua, who lay next to his mother's body for 11 hours before he was
found. He survived and later testified against Cooper.
Cooper, now 49, admits that he hid in the house near the Ryen residence.
But he has steadfastly maintained that he hitchhiked out of the area and
that he was not involved in the murders.
In February 2004, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a vote of 9 to
2, granted a last-minute stay of execution and ordered new testing of
blood and hair evidence in the case. At the time, Barry Silverman, one of
the judges in the majority, said: "Cooper is either guilty as sin or he
was framed by the police. There is no middle ground."
More than a year later, after hearing testimony from 42 witnesses and
reviewing test results, Huff in San Diego concluded in a 150-page ruling
that Cooper should not receive any legal relief from the courts.
Noting post-conviction DNA testing that linked Cooper to a drop of blood
in the hallway outside the Ryens' bedroom, saliva from cigarette butts
found in the hallway and blood smears on a T-shirt abandoned outside a bar
near the murder scene, Huff wrote that she was convinced that Cooper "is
the one responsible for these brutal murders." She added that Cooper "is
simply making unsubstantiated allegations of tampering as to evidence that
was used against him at trial, or that subsequently confirmed his guilt
from post-conviction DNA testing."
But Cooper's lawyers contend that Huff abused her discretion by denying
some discovery and additional forensic testing. Hile, the defense lawyer,
urged the appeals court to send the case back to Huff and order further
testing, as well as admission of evidence about "3 suspicious men," one
wearing bloody clothes, who reportedly were seen shortly after the murders
in a bar not far from the crime scene.
The three judges hearing the appeal are Pamela Ann Rymer of Pasadena, an
appointee of former President George H.W. Bush; Margaret McKeown of San
Diego, an appointee of Bill Clinton; and Ronald Gould of Seattle, also a
Clinton appointee. Whatever they decide, the ruling is likely to be
appealed to a larger 9th Circuit panel and eventually to the U.S. Supreme
Rymer and Gould, both of whom rejected Cooper's bid for a stay in 2003,
appeared skeptical Tuesday of defense claims of evidence-tampering.
McKeown asked several questions related to footprints of Keds shoes found
inside the home and on a spa cover outside the master bedroom. Prosecutors
stated at trial that the shoes were prison-issue and could not have been
bought from a store.
Hile said Tuesday that when the former warden of the prison at Chino heard
the prosecutors' contention, she called the San Bernardino County
sheriff's office to tell them that the shoes could have been bought at a
store. The defense was not informed of the call, a violation of the
prosecution's obligation to turn over any potentially exculpatory
evidence, Hile said.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Wilkens countered that there was no doubt Cooper was
wearing that type of shoe at the time of the murders. Even if the shoe was
commercially available, it proves nothing, she said.
After the hearing, a group of death penalty foes, some holding placards
proclaiming "Free Kevin Now," held a rally outside the courthouse.
Attorney Natasha Minsker, the death penalty coordinator for the American
Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said it was very troubling
that there were so many unresolved questions about the case so long after
She said the case showed that the state had "insufficient standards and
safeguards" for the handling of forensic evidence. That issue, and related
ones, are to be taken up in Sacramento today at a hearing of the
California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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