[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, OKLA., PENN., COLO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jan 13 19:33:36 UTC 2007
Left hanging----In the aftermath of the controversial execution of Saddam
Hussein, SCOTT TUROW writes, the always thorny issue of state killings is
once again up for debate
The hanging of Saddam Hussein, in the face of ethnic jeers and smuggled
cameras, will likely be remembered as yet another bungled episode in the
Anglo-American misadventure of Iraq, rather than as a provocative example
of what is wrong with capital punishment. But the execution of a person
like Saddam, who committed such monstrous evil, inevitably provides an
opportunity for reflection about this most vexed of all legal questions:
whether the law may ever require the sacrifice of a life.
As a contemplation of what it means in human terms to execute anyone, I
inevitably recommend two prize-winning works of literature, The
Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer (Little, Brown, 1979) and A Lesson
Before Dying by Ernest Gaines (Knopf, 1993).
Mailer's non-fiction book -- which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 --
evoked the contorted life of Gary Gilmore, the first American executed, by
firing squad in Utah, in January, 1977, after the death penalty, which had
briefly been banned in the United States as unconstitutional, was
restored, as it were, by popular demand. Full of all of Mailer's
Nietzschean ruminations, The Executioner's Song is an overpowering
imagining both of what it means to do evil and to address it. Divided into
two sections and based almost completely on interviews with Gilmore's
family and friends, as well as with those of his victims, the book is an
account of a life that ends in disaster, and of Gilmore's trial and
refusal to appeal his death sentence.
In contrast, A Lesson Before Dying tells, in beguilingly understated
fashion, the story of a Louisiana school teacher who, in the late 1940s,
is asked to teach an illiterate young black man, ironically named
Jefferson, to read in the days before his execution for the murder of a
white shopkeeper, a murder he did not commit. Although American racism and
the shortcomings of American justice confine the characters like bad
weather, the novel never wavers from its most fundamental purpose of
exploring what dignifies a human being.
At the other extreme, for those who prefer an analytic approach to the
topic, there is an ultimate resource, The Death Penalty in America:
Current Controversies (Oxford University Press, 1998) by Hugo Adam Bedau,
which collects the leading philosophical, sociological and jurisprudential
essays on the subject. Bedau is probably the foremost academic expert on
capital punishment in the U.S. and a committed opponent of the practice.
But his scholarship is rigorous and uncompromising and his appreciation
for the power of opposing arguments is substantial.
This is also a sourcebook of abolitionism, with an extensive bibliography,
excerpts from important legal decisions and much statistical data,
including murders by type of weapon and length of time spent on death row
As to Saddam, I would argue that from a very restricted legal standpoint,
his execution has little to do with the central juristic question of
capital punishment, which asks whether it is ever right or moral for the
state to take the life of a citizen as the price for violating the law.
Saddam was not condemned for his misconduct as an ordinary Iraqi citizen.
He was punished for his lawless abuse of state power. His execution raises
the singular question of how to respond when a state actor runs amok. This
distinction is what led the Israelis in 1962 to execute Adolph Eichmann,
who had supervised the Nazi death camps, even though their constitution
generally prohibits capital punishment and has kept them from executing
even captured terrorists But the manner in which Saddam's execution was
carried out proves yet again why capital punishment is always a parlous
My own contemplation of the death penalty, as a lawyer frequently involved
with the issue, has led me to conclude that the chief justification for
capital punishment is symbolic. There is little evidence that executions
deter other persons from becoming murderers, nor is death really necessary
in the era of super-max facilities to ensure that the most violent
offenders do not kill again. Some of the surviving loved ones of murder
victims may be assuaged by an execution, but the truth is that no
civilized society allows victims alone to determine the punishment for any
The only rigorous justification for the death penalty, I believe, is as a
symbol of moral restoration. For ultimate evil, the argument goes, there
must be ultimate punishment, because a society needs to make as bold and
emphatic a statement as possible that some crimes go beyond the boundaries
of what we can envisage as human.
The problem, however, is that once we accept that justification for
capital punishment, it must be carried out in a way that preserves its
force as a moral statement. We must faultlessly identify what constitutes
ultimate evil, as opposed to some lesser infraction, and we must ensure
that whoever is punished is guilty without question.
Of course, the reality of capital punishment in the United States is that
it is still imposed with haunting randomness. Variables such as where the
crime occurs (death sentences are more frequent in rural areas), the
wealth of the jurisdiction (the sheer expense of death prosecutions
occasionally deters them), the race of the victim (throughout the U.S.,
whites and blacks are sentenced to death far more often for killing white
people than for killing black people), the native inclinations of the
prosecutor, and the skill and resources of the defence all contribute to
whether or not the death penalty is sought and imposed.
Not to mention the most disquieting fact, that horrible crimes often
propel a rush to judgment that has led 123 Americans to be legally
absolved of crimes for which they were initially sentenced to death.
Because the law fails in these ways rigorously to identify ultimate evil,
the value of the death penalty as a moral statement is largely vitiated in
The same is true of Saddam's execution. If Saddam was being hanged to
demonstrate that a state must always treat its citizens with the respect
conferred by law, the event proved an utter failure by its own terms. The
act was carried out in the same atmosphere as a lynching, even as the
edict of the Iraqi government prohibiting any recording was flouted, with
the bootleg video likely sold at a handsome profit. It demonstrated the
enduring lesson of how hard it is to vindicate either principal or
morality by killing any human being, even one as loathsome as Saddam
(source: Scott Turow is the author of the novel Limitations and of
Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death
Penalty; The Globe and Mail)
Death Knell for the Death Penalty?Nine States Suspend Death Penalty Over
Potential Pain of Lethal Injection
9 states have now suspended executions over concerns about the potential
cruelty of lethal injection, the method used by 37 of the 38 states that
uphold the death penalty.
Last week a legislative commission in New Jersey recommended that the
state abolish the death penalty altogether.
And juries have become more reluctant than ever to impose the ultimate
punishment: U.S. death sentences fell to 114 in 2006, according to an
estimate from the Death Penalty Information Center, reaching their lowest
level since the country reinstated the death penalty 30 years ago.
"Publicity surrounding wrongful convictions is the driving force behind
that decrease," says Richard Dieter, the center's executive director. "The
government has not been doing a good job with the death penalty, and the
public seems to be pulling back."
Executions have declined too 53 last year, the lowest number in a decade.
And that trend is likely to accelerate for one big reason: new challenges
to lethal injection as "cruel and unusual" punishment.
Under this method, an anesthetic is injected first to render the prisoner
unconscious, a second drug paralyzes the prisoner and a third stops the
heart. But when the procedure is not administered properly, it can be
excruciating. If, for instance, the prisoner is not anesthetized
sufficiently, he or she would feel searing pain when the third injection
is given but could not indicate that because of the paralyzing 2nd drug.
Florida suspended the death penalty last month after the botched execution
of convicted murderer Angelo Diaz. It took 34 minutes and 2 doses of
lethal chemicals for Diaz to die because officials improperly inserted the
needles into his arms.
On the same day that Florida stopped executions, a California judge said
the lethal injection protocol violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel
and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional.
Now all eyes are on Missouri, where the challenge to lethal injection
reached a federal appeals court Wednesday. A lower court halted executions
last summer after the doctor who supervised Missouri's lethal injections
admitted he was dyslexic and sometimes "improvised" the deadly mix of
drugs. Lawyers trying to stay the execution of convicted murderer Michael
Taylor received those startling admissions when they deposed the doctor,
identified in court papers as John Doe 1.
One of those attorneys, Ginger Anders, says they discovered that "Missouri
never had a written protocol. John Doe just did what he wanted to do on
the night of the execution."
The lower court ordered that executions in Missouri could not resume until
the state found a board-certified anesthesiologist to oversee them. Try as
it might, however, the department of corrections could not find one doctor
in the state to work the death chamber.
Brian Hauswirth, a spokesman for Missouri's Department of corrections,
says the state now has a written protocol for lethal injection that is
"humane and constitutional," and it should be allowed to resume
executions. But when asked if a doctor helped to prepare the new
procedure, Hauswirth says he was "not aware of any doctors involved in
documenting the protocol."
It may be months before the appeals court decides if Missouri's lethal
injection protocol is constitutional. But as this case has now reached the
highest judicial level, just shy of the Supreme Court, most observers say
other states confronting challenges to lethal injection will be watching
closely and waiting before they use this method again.
Dieter says all these developments indicate that while "the country is not
about to get rid of the death penalty, the tide has turned to a certain
(source: ABC News)
Back From the Dead----By Joan M. Cheever; John Wiley & Sons, 298 pages,
Death row stories come up short
"Back From the Dead: One Woman's Search for the Men Who Walked Off
America's Death Row," by Joan M. Cheever, begins with a great premise. In
1972 the Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty
was unconstitutional (a decision later partly reversed).
The Furman ruling spared the lives of 589 men on death row at the time.
Cheever examines these killers who were given a second chance in order to
shed light on what would happen if the U.S. abolished the death penalty.
She focuses on 322 of the 589 who were released from prison, asking, "Can
they be law-abiding? Can they adapt to life in the Free World? (This is
inmate jargon for the world outside prison.) Will they remain free? What
makes some fail and others succeed?"
Unfortunately, the reader doesn't find out. Upon reading the book, I felt
like I was waiting in a theater to watch a movie, but preview after
preview shows instead of the movie. With each new chapter I thought the
"real" story was going to begin, but each time it turned out to be another
The real subject of the book - the inmates from death row - isn't broached
until page 56; the 55 previous pages concern the author's relationship
with one death row inmate, the author's legal background, and stories from
the author's personal life. Even when she turns to the subject of the
freed inmates, we find out very little about what has happened in their
Cheever was drawn into writing the book because of her nine-year
representation of Walter Williams, a murderer on Texas' death row.
Although remaining professional, she grew close to Williams during the 9
years he was her client, to the extent that she was the only person
present at his execution.
Her grasp of the law is excellent and she clearly explains all the ins and
outs of the death penalty to the reader.
In fact, part of the reason the book doesn't read easily is the author's
skill as a lawyer. She cites facts and cases for almost everything. Each
chapter has myriad footnotes for all sorts of facts in which the reader
would be more than willing to take on the word of the author. The heavy
use of citations prompts 23 pages of footnotes at the end of the 270-page
There seem to be far more footnotes than necessary; for example, does the
reader need to have a newspaper article cited as proof that ex-death row
inmate Calvin Sellars' brother Wesley is dead? That's footnote No. 17 in
Chapter 6. Only a lawyer or an academic would feel the need for so many
footnotes in a creative work.
Cheever's skill as a lawyer, though, also results in one of the most
moving parts of the book. Cheever recounts how she fought for a pardon in
front of the parole board, writing, "But we are right on time this
morning, in Columbia, South Carolina, as I stand before an almost
all-white, almost all-male and definitely all-older Board of Pardons and
Parole. And I know exactly what my message is: (This former death row
inmate) is an example that rehabilitation is possible." When pardon is
denied, the reader feels the injustice deep in the gut, a testament to
Cheever's skill as a defender of legal rights.
If you're a lawyer or interested in topics relating to the legal
profession, this is the book for you; otherwise, the read will probably
leave you feeling unsatisfied and wishing for more on the freed inmates
from death row.
(source: The Capital Times; Stoughton resident Sarah M. Streed is the
author of the nonfiction book "Leaving the House of Ghosts.")
Child-killer accepts deal for life term
With no admission of guilt, Wayne Henry Garrison received a no-parole life
prison sentence Friday for the murder and dismemberment of a Tulsa boy in
Garrison, whose death penalty was overturned on appeal, had waived his
right to a resentencing trial, sparing himself from potentially getting
the death penalty again for the 1st-degree murder of Justin Wiles.
Justin, 13, vanished in June 1989. Parts of his body were found in Lake
Bixhoma and on the lake shore four days after his family last saw him
Justin's mother, Dorothy Farrar, said the resolution means Garrison "will
die in the penitentiary. He'll never hurt another child."
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris dropped a death-penalty request
when Garrison gave up his right to a resentencing trial.
"This is your free and voluntary choice?" District Judge Jesse Harris
"Yes, your honor," Garrison replied. He was represented by Chief Public
Defender Pete Silva and Assistant Public Defender Sid Conway.
Garrison initially said he had nothing to say before being sentenced, and
Judge Harris suggested that perhaps Garrison wanted to tell Justin's
mother and sister that he was sorry that these events occurred.
After some prompting from the judge, Garrison said, "I'm sorry that Justin
died, but I did not . . ."
Judge Harris interrupted before he completed that statement and told
Garrison, "That's not what I am asking you."
After further prompting, Garrison turned toward Justin's family members in
the courtroom and said, "I'm sorry these things happened to you."
Garrison, 47, did not admit any responsibility for Justin's death.
The only other sentencing option was life with parole possible. In
addition to a no-parole life term, the judge imposed a $10,000 fine.
At a 2001 trial, Garrison received the death penalty.
Before being formally sentenced to death in 2001, Garrison told Judge
Harris, "I did not kill Justin Wiles."
The state Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the first-degree murder
conviction in 2004 but reversed the death sentence.
Farrar and Lynn Fielden, Justin's sister, issued a statement after
Friday's court session, saying that "accepting the life without parole
option was a very difficult decision" that they support, although they
believe that Garrison deserved the death penalty.
By pursuing the death-penalty option, the family would continue to be
victimized, with the appeals process and delays in the sentencing
proceeding causing strain on some family members, they said.
Since Justin was killed more than 17 years ago, he "has not been allowed
to rest in peace," the written statement says. "There comes a time in
everyone's life that we must put the past behind us and continue living
for our future."
It went on to say that "if anyone is to blame for the sentencing quandary,
the blame should lie in the appeals process and in the defendant himself,
not the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office."
At the 2001 trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Garrison killed 2
children when he was a boy.
In 1972, when Garrison was 13, he strangled his 4-year-old cousin. That
case was resolved in juvenile court, and he was committed to a state
While on a pass from the hospital in 1974, Garrison smothered a 3-year-old
neighbor. He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and got a 4-year
The appeals court found that Garrison, who was represented at the 2001
trial by 3 private attorneys, likely received ineffective legal assistance
during the sentencing stage.
The appeals court wrote that the defense team should have presented more
information about Garrison's "horrendous past" and his history of being
abused to focus on "the reasons why anyone would commit such inconceivable
During the jury-selection process for his resentencing trial in October,
Judge Harris declared a mistrial when it was learned that prosecutors
hadn't turned over some "discovery" materials to the public defenders who
took over Garrison's defense in resentencing proceedings.
Lawyers agreed a week ago that 498 pages of discovery materials are
missing. Tim Harris has said his office cannot determine what those pages
are and that discovery issues were a catalyst for moving the case toward
Oct. 31, 1972 Dana Dean, 4, is found dead under a house by her father.
Wayne Henry Garrison, the girls 13-year-old cousin, is arrested for
strangling her and hiding her body.
December 1972 Garrison is committed by court order to Central State
(Griffin Memorial) Hospital in Norman for psychiatric treatment.
June 3, 1974 While back in Tulsa on a pass from the hospital, Garrison,
14, kills 3-year-old Craig Neal, whose body is found under a house June 6.
Sept. 9, 1975 Garrison pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter and is
sentenced to four years in prison for Craigs slaying.
March 9, 1977 Garrison is released at age 17 after spending less than two
years in the Oklahoma State Reformatory.
June 20, 1989 Justin Delbert Wiles, 13, is last seen alive with Garrison
in Garrisons car at his business, Choppers Body Shop.
June 24, 1989 Justins dismembered body is found at Bixhoma Lake. Search
warrants filed within days point to Garrison as a suspect.
July 1989 Garrison moves to Charlotte, N.C.
May 1990 Garrison is charged with filing a false insurance claim in
Oklahoma in October 1989 and is arrested in Charlotte. Prosecutors said he
gave furniture and other items to a friend as a gift and then reported
October 1990 Garrison is convicted of filing a false insurance claim and
sentenced to 18 months in an Oklahoma prison.
June 1991 Garrison is released from prison and moves back to North
Feb. 9, 1996 Garrison is arrested in connection with the drugging of an
March 1997 Garrison begins serving a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years
after being convicted of abducting the boy and giving him prescription
August 1999 Justin Wiles' body is exhumed from a Haskell County cemetery
as part of the Tulsa Police Cold Case Squads investigation.
October 22, 1999 Garrison is charged with the 1st-degree murder of Justin
Wiles. Minutes after Garrison is released from the Columbus Correctional
Institute in North Carolina, Tulsa Detective Charlie Folks and North
Carolina authorities arrest him in the parking lot.
November-December 2001 Garrison stands trial for Justin's death. Jurors
convict him and sentence him to death.
November 2004 The state Court of Criminal Appeals affirms the murder
conviction but vacates the death sentence, citing ineffective assistance
from counsel during the sentencing phase.
October 2006 A district judge declares a mistrial during the early stages
of the resentencing trial.
This week District Attorney Tim Harris confirms that he offered Garrison
a chance to avoid the possibility of a death penalty when he is
resentenced as long as Garrison accepts a life sentence without the
possibility of parole. On Friday, District Judge Jesse Harris sentences
Garrison to life in prison without parole.
(source: Tulsa World)
Bill targets cold cases, death penalty
A bill to repeal Colorado's death penalty and use the savings to
investigate unsolved "cold case" murders was introduced Friday by a state
The bill's author, Rep. Paul Weissmann D-Louisville, earned a reputation
as a maverick during an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1996 by
opposing popular issues such as a balanced budget amendment, term limits
and the death penalty.
Weissmann also proposesan increase to state crime lab funding.
(source: Rocky Mountain News)
PENNSYLVANIA----stay of execution
Chmiel's execution called off
As expected, a federal judge has halted the scheduled March 6 execution of
David Chmiel because he has not exhausted appeals of his conviction for
killing 3 elderly siblings in 1983.
Mr. Chmiel, 51, was convicted in the fatal stabbings of siblings James,
Victor and Angelina Lunario, of Throop. Prosecutors said he robbed the
siblings because he needed money to pay for a lawyer to defend him in a
U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane ordered the stay of execution
Thursday at the request of defense attorneys, who argued Mr. Chmiel had
not yet pursued all federal appeals of his death sentence.
Mr. Chmiel has been filing appeals since his initial conviction in October
1984. He was granted a retrial after the state Supreme Court concluded his
attorney was ineffective at trial.
He was convicted again in 1995, but the conviction was reversed 4 years
later because prosecutors improperly used his former lawyer's testimony
from a hearing for a new trial. He also appealed his 3rd conviction,
handed down in 2002, but Lackawanna County Judge Terrence Nealon rejected
the appeal, and the state Supreme Court upheld Mr. Chmiel's death sentence
in December 2005.
Gov. Ed Rendell signed Mr. Chmiels death warrant Jan. 5.
Mr. Chmiel is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Greene
(source: The Times-Tribune)
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