[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., S. DAK.,N.J.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 26 17:37:46 UTC 2007
Judge Asks Prosecutors To End Death Penalty Drive
A Brooklyn judge is asking federal prosecutors to spare taxpayers the
expense of lengthy court hearings and drop plans to seek the death penalty
for an accused drug kingpin. The judge explained his request by saying
there was "no chance that 12 jurors will vote for the death penalty in
The unusual request, which has become the talk of New York's small
contingent of death penalty attorneys, came on Wednesday during a recess
in the trial of Kenneth McGriff, who is accused of the contract killings
of 2 rival drug dealers.
"Will you kindly advise Washington that in this judge's opinion, there's
no chance in the world there would be a death penalty verdict in this
case," the judge, Frederic Block of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, told
lawyers outside the presence of the jury, according to a transcript. "If
I'm wrong, I will have egg on my face, but I will not be incorrect."
Judge Block said he based his prediction on his "observation of the
intensity with which the jury is listening to the defense" arguments, as
well as the scope of the evidence presented at trial. The defendant had
been "humanized" before the jury, Judge Block said.
The jury spent yesterday afternoon attempting to arrive at a verdict in
the case. If McGriff is convicted, prosecutors have stated they will ask
the jury to impose a death sentence. That requires a separate sentencing
hearing that can last weeks, as each side calls additional witnesses. A
death sentence requires a unanimous jury. No federal jury has returned a
death sentence in New York since the federal death sentence was reinstated
Death penalty proceedings in McGriff's case would be a "total
misappropriation" of government funds, Judge Block said, according to a
transcript. He ordered an assistant U.S. attorney, Carolyn Porkony, to
relay his request to the office of the attorney general in Washington,
D.C., which is responsible for the final decision in every case in which
the federal government seeks the death penalty.
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment
This is the 1st capital case over which Judge Block, who was nominated to
the bench by President Clinton, has presided.
(source: New York Sun)
Bills would end, fix death penalty----Warden would choose execution method
Bills to repeal the state's death penalty were filed Thursday in the South
Dakota Legislature, along with Gov. Mike Rounds' fix for a conflict in law
that delayed an execution last summer.
Democrats sponsored repeal bills in both houses, although the prime
sponsors said they knew chances were slim that the Legislature would toss
out capital punishment this session.
"Personally, I don't believe in the death penalty, and as a legislator, I
think we should be willing to discuss it," said Rep. Bill Thompson,
D-Sioux Falls. "If there is no dialogue, there is no democracy."
Sen. Sandy Jerstad, D-Sioux Falls, sponsored an identical bill in the
Senate. Thompson said the dual introductions would give lawmakers in each
house the chance to debate the issue.
Jerstad, who said she has taught a class at the state Penitentiary in
Sioux Falls, said she and some other legislators talked with Rounds about
the issue over a recent lunch. That made her question whether "we as a
people should be involved in the taking of someone's life."
She also said she doesn't think the people of South Dakota are ready to
get rid of capital punishment.
Rounds delayed for one year the scheduled execution last August of
convicted killer Elijah Page. The governor said state law conflicted with
planned prison procedure over whether 2 or 3 drugs should be used for the
A Rounds-backed bill introduced in the state Legislature would try to fix
The state Penitentiary warden would decide which drug or drugs and the
quantity that should be used to execute prisoners in South Dakota, subject
to approval of the state corrections secretary, who is hired by the
The measure also would make it clear that the person administering the
lethal dose in an execution need not be a medical professional.
HB1175, if passed by the Legislature, would become law July 1.
Rep. Rich Engels, D-Hartford, said he doesn't like the death penalty but
isn't ready to vote to eliminate it completely. He also said he has doubts
that the warden should be the one to decide what drugs to use in
"I'm not going to be the one to stand up and say Saddam Hussein was
treated harshly. There are those times when it is appropriate," Engels
said. "I don't think the support is there to repeal it."
But he said he couldn't support giving the warden authority to handle the
procedure without some professional medical advice or oversight.
(source: Argus Leader)
Quinnipiac Poll Finds Majority of New Jerseyans ---- Favor Life Without
Parole Over The Death Penalty; Public Support continues to Trend Away from
A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows that New Jerseyans
prefer - by a 10-point margin - the punishment of life in prison without
parole over the death penalty.
By a 51 to 41 % margin, the poll found that New Jerseyans believe that
life in prison without parole is the more appropriate punishment for
"This poll demonstrates that a majority of New Jerseyans agree with the
conclusion of the distinguished Death Penalty Study Commission, which is
that the death penalty in our state is a failed experiment in every
respect and should be replaced with the tough punishment of life in prison
without parole," said Celeste Fitzgerald, program director of New
Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
The poll results reflect a continued trend away from the death penalty,
with an additional 6% of voters choosing life without parole over the
death penalty from the last poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in
This trend away from capital punishment is also seen nationally. Last year
for the 1st time, the national Gallup poll reported that Americans now
prefer life without parole over the death penalty. According to the Death
Penalty Information Center in Washington DC, in 2006, death sentences in
the U.S. dropped to their lowest annual level in 30 years
NJADP has campaigned since 1999 for an end to the death penalty. It is the
core group of more than 200 New Jersey organizations and 10,000 members
representing a wide variety of groups and interests.
(source Quinnipiac University, Jan. 24)
More information about the DeathPenalty