[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MD., MISS., N.Y., MO., N.C., OHIO (
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 29 07:23:10 UTC 2007
O'Malley would OK death penalty ban----Bill faces uphill battle with
Busch, Miller opposing
Nicholaus Kipke looks like a man condemned to death row when the question
comes: Where do you stand on capital punishment?
The freshman Republican delegate from Pasadena sighs and pauses for a
moment, looking for the right words to frame his own conflicting feelings
on the highly charged issue, up for debate in the State House again as
opponents try to repeal Maryland's ultimate sanction.
Despite being a proponent of the death penalty, "the facts are causing me
to have doubts," he said.
Ending capital punishment has been an almost annual debate in Annapolis
since former governor Parris Glendening imposed a moratorium on the death
penalty in 2002, only to have his decision reversed by his successor,
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Though the debate has been largely academic in years
past, failing to reach the floor of the General Assembly for a vote, this
year opponents of the death penalty have the state's chief executive on
Gov. Martin O'Malley said last week he would sign a bill to repeal the
state's death penalty if it makes it to his desk, breathing new life into
languishing efforts to halt executions in the state.
Death penalty on trial
Though the governor has made it known he will sign the bill - in careful
words that do not suggest he will actively campaign for its passage -
proponents admit they still have an uphill fight to get the death penalty
repealed, replaced with life without parole. Sen. Lisa Gladden,
D-Baltimore, a public defender by trade and one of the measure's key
sponsors, estimates the bill is still one vote short of making it out of
the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Even if the bill does make it to the General Assembly for a vote, both
Speaker of the House Michael Busch, D-Annapolis, and Senate President
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, Prince George's, have come out in
opposition of lifting the death penalty.
"People really have issues of conscience they vote on," Mr. Busch said
Friday. "One of them is abortion, the other is the death penalty."
A February 2005 Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters found more than
half of the state - 56 percent of respondents - supports the death
penalty, but 63 percent would accept life without parole as an acceptable
alternative. Opposition to the death penalty was highest among blacks and
those who identified themselves as non-religious.
However, religious leaders threw their support behind repealing the
state's death penalty at a rally Thursday morning.
Richard Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference,
called it the "ultimate moral question."
"The Church stands for human life and dignity from conception to natural
death," he said. "We also believe in redemption. Everyone should have the
opportunity to redeem themselves."
Families of some victims are also asking the state to halt executions.
"Years of appeals only prolong our pain," said Vicki Schieber from
Montgomery County, whose daughter, Shannon, was raped and murdered in
Philadelphia in 1998.
Beyond a reasonable doubt
"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone in this room and in the
state," said Kirk Bloodsworth, speaking at last week's rally.
Mr. Bloodsworth was wrongfully sentenced to death in 1985 in Baltimore
County for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl, serving 8 years in
prison only to be exonerated by DNA evidence.
Mr. Bloodsworth's case - the 1st death row conviction overturned by DNA
testing - is considered a watershed for the movement to repeal the death
penalty, and it's the potential for mistakes that even gives some capital
punishment proponents pause.
"It's got to be beyond a reasonable doubt," said Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale,
who favors the death penalty but suggests maybe the state should require
DNA evidence for a capital conviction.
In 2002 Mr. Glendening put a halt to the death penalty after a University
of Maryland study found a pattern of racial and geographic disparities in
its application. Mr. Ehrlich immediately lifted the moratorium after
assuming the Governor's Mansion in 2004.
Steve Oken, who killed two women around Baltimore and one in Maine, was
the last person in the state to be put to death, executed by lethal
injection June 17, 2004.
Mr. Onken's case, in which three women were raped, brutalized and
ultimately, murdered, highlights the need for the ultimate sanction,
according to Mr. Miller.
"People who kidnap and sodomize little children ought to get the death
penalty," he said.
Death becomes Maryland
Though executions have been increasingly rare, Maryland has historically
been a pro-capital punishment state, repeatedly re-adopting the death
penalty twice in the 1970s after Supreme Court challenges invalidated
portions of the law in several states.
Maryland has only executed 83 men and no women since 1923, 4 of those from
Anne Arundel - 2 for rape, 2 for murder. There are 8 men on death row in
Maryland now, but some of them are having their sentences reevaluated and
may not face execution, according to the Department of Public Safety and
Though the state has used the death penalty sparingly, particularly in
recent years, the racial disparities in its application are gaping. More
than 3/4 of the state's executions have been black men, which prompted a
state moratorium in 2002.
Along with the racial disparities, some prosecutors say Maryland's entire
capital punishment process has major flaws.
Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee called most death penalty
cases "a waste of time." Mr. Weathersbee lamented the lengthy, expensive
appeals process that taxes both county and state budgets to pay for
prosecutors and defenders as cases drag out for years.
"If you want to change it, that doesn't bother me because I think in
Maryland it's ineffective. But it's a law on the books and we'll keep
asking for it," he said.
(source: Annapolis Capital)
Catholic leaders seek end to death penalty in 2 states
In separate actions the Maryland Catholic Conference and Bishop Blase J.
Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., have called for an end to the death penalty in
Both states currently face a de facto moratorium on executions because of
legal difficulties over the use of lethal injection to carry it out.
Maryland Catholic Conference executive director Richard J. Dowling Jan. 25
urged the state's General Assembly to adopt legislation that would
substitute life imprisonment without parole for all crimes currently
punishable by death in Maryland. The conference is the public policy
agency of the bishops of Maryland.
"Most Marylanders are ready for repeal" of capital punishment, Dowling
said in a one-page statement that noted the Catholic Church "has long been
a leader on this issue."
He said a poll 2 years ago showed that 63 percent of Marylanders of voting
age "viewed life without parole as an agreeable alternative to death by
The same day, the chief sponsors of identical repeal bills in the Senate
and House of Delegates held a news conference announcing their plans to
introduce the legislation.
Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters he would definitely sign such
legislation if it passed. "We waste a lot of money pursuing a policy that
doesn't work to reduce crime or save lives," he said.
Bishop Cupich appealed for the abolition of the death penalty in South
Dakota in a 2-page article in the Jan. 29 issue of America, a New
York-based national Catholic magazine.
He linked the issue to the state's efforts last year to ban abortion
except to save the mother's life.
He acknowledged that many wish to keep the two issues separate. But he
argued that when the question is viewed through the lens of the sanctity
of human life, a state that protects the lives even of those who commit
"monstrous crimes" would "be consistent in defending the inherent and
inalienable value of every human life."
"South Dakotans have a unique opportunity throughout the coming year to
witness to our nation and the world that the sacred right to life is
universal and God-given," he wrote.
Last December the Maryland Court of Appeals, hearing an appeal by
death-row inmate Vernon L. Evans Jr., halted executions until a committee
of state senators and delegates reviews the rules and procedures for
administering lethal injections. The court, which is the equivalent of the
supreme court in most states, said the rules must be regarded as state
regulations and had not been subjected to the public review required for
The Maryland ruling followed close on the heels of the suspension of
executions in Florida following a botched execution there and in
California at the order of a federal judge.
In South Dakota, Gov. Mike Rounds issued a stay of execution last August
for Elijah Page when he learned that the state law still called for a
two-drug combination, instead of the three-drug protocol that has been
adopted by all other states that use lethal injection. Page would have
been the first man executed in South Dakota in 59 years.
Bishop Cupich wrote that legislators in South Dakota have "announced their
intention to fix what is now known as 'the cocktail problem,' so that the
death penalty can be carried out."
Instead, he called on legislators to rely on the principles they espoused
last year when they adopted legislation outlawing virtually all abortions
in the state. Voters subsequently defeated that legislation by referendum.
In the debate over that legislation, the bishop said, its proponents
"forcefully argued that the right to life is universal and God-given. The
statute they supported did not refer to degrees or gradations of the right
to life, nor did it rest on an individual's quality of life, age or moral
Applying that principle to the death penalty debate, he said, "A state
that rejects in principle the execution of even those individuals whose
crimes are unspeakable bears powerful witness to the unconditional nature
of the right to life. ... A state that refuses to use the death penalty
advances a culture of life with great power of witness precisely because
it protects the lives of those who have been judged least worthy of its
(source: Catholic News Service)
Dismissal sought in Seale case----Attorney says statute of limitations on
federal charges expired in 1969
Federal charges against James Ford Seale are invalid because of a change
in the kidnapping statute made 39 years ago, his court-appointed attorney
Seale, a 71-year-old former crop duster, pleaded not guilty Thursday to 2
counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy in connection with the
May 2, 1964, abduction, beating and killings of Henry Hezekiah Dee and
Charles Eddie Moore.
In a motion filed Friday afternoon seeking a dismissal, Assistant Federal
Public Defender Kathy Nester wrote, "During the calendar years of 1964
through 1966, the maximum penalty provided under (the statute) was death.
However, in 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the language ... that
provided for the death penalty was unconstitutional."
Without the death penalty, the kidnapping statute would be subject to a
5-year statute of limitations, she wrote. That would mean the last year
Seale could have been prosecuted for the kidnapping was 1969, she wrote.
Although the new kidnapping statute allows the death penalty in cases that
result in death, it's not proper to prosecute an old crime under a new
statute, she wrote.
U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said Friday evening he had not seen the motion
and could not comment.
Seale remains behind bars in the Madison County Jail and will have a
hearing at 1:30 p.m. Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson
to determine whether he'll be freed on bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dowdy has said he'll argue for Seale to
remain behind bars. Nester has said she will argue Seale, who has cancer,
should be freed because of his poor health.
His trial is set for April 2 before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, but
that date is expected to be pushed back. If convicted, Seale could be
sentenced to life in prison.
Seale's arrest is the 28th in connection with a civil rights-era slaying
since 1989, when Mississippi reopened its investigation into the 1963
assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in Jackson.
In 1997, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the defense challenge in the
case of Byron De La Beckwith, who was convicted in 1994 of murdering
Evers, and in other cases that followed, but Seale's is the 1st to involve
federal kidnapping charges.
His defense's position that the statute of limitations ran out on
kidnapping is an interesting one, said Michael Waterstone, a professor of
law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, "But it would seem to me the
government would have the better part of the argument."
If Wingate were to throw out the charges against Seale, it would still be
possible for state authorities to pursue murder charges. In fact, state
authorities could pursue murder charges even if the federal kidnapping
charges remain intact.
District Attorney Ronnie Harper of Natchez said he's weighing whether to
go forward with murder charges.
"In my opinion, this is an unsolved murder, and it doesn't matter whether
it happened two weeks ago or 40 years ago," he said. "My job is to
prosecute murder statutes."
Throughout the FBI's reinvestigation of the slayings of Dee and Moore,
Harper said he's been talking with Lampton, and the two talked again this
Harper said he will consider this possibility after discussing the matter
with other agencies and after studying the evidence that federal
authorities have in the case. "We want to bring justice in the end."
(source: Clarion Ledger)
'ABSURD' JUDGE OUSTS 2 JURORS OFF DEATH TRIAL DAY AFTER HE MOCKS FEDS'
An irreverent Brooklyn federal judge had to dismiss 2 jurors from a
capital murder case yesterday after his mocking statements about the
defendant's possible death sentence wound up splashed across city
Judge Frederic Block told lawyers earlier this week that the feds' bid to
have drug lord Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff - who is charged in 2
murder-for-hire schemes - put to death was "absurd."
The jury and the press were not in the courtroom when the judge made the
unusual comments, but a copy of the public court transcript wound up in
reporters' hands - and then became fodder for the following day's news
Morning talk-radio shows then picked up the story. And Assistant U.S.
Attorney Caroline Pokorny complained to Block yesterday morning, as he
launched a bid to discover whether the jury has been tainted.
McGriff, a legendary Queens drug kingpin, is on trial for plotting the
deaths of 2 rivals in 2001. The judge said that, based on the jury's
demeanor and the evidence presented during the initial phase of the trial,
which ended yesterday, "there's no chance in the world there would be a
death-penalty verdict in this case . . . This is an absurd prosecution,
based upon what I have heard." He asked Pokorny to send a letter to U.S.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, telling him that he didn't support
proceeding with the penalty phase of the trial. Federal death-penalty
cases require 2 trials - one in which jurors decide the defendant's guilt
and, if there's a conviction, a separate trial in which they say whether
he should face life in prison or death.
It's unclear what impact the judge's suggestion will have on the case.
Yesterday, he admitted he'd made a mistake by allowing the comments to
become public - but didn't seem to regret making them. "Everything I said
I stand by, but, unfortunately, I didn't get around to sealing [the
transcript]," he said.
The judge then called the jury into the courtroom and asked whether any of
the 12-member panel had seen or heard any news regarding the case. One
juror raised his hand and was dismissed.
Coincidentally, a second juror also had to be let go after recognizing
someone in the gallery of the courtroom. The panel is supposed to be
anonymous for its own protection.
Before letting them go for the day, Block reminded jurors to "really,
really, really not read the newspapers. Stack them up, and you can read
(source: New York Post)
Mo. governor backs mandatory executions, despite precedent
Gov. Matt Blunt wants Missouri to create a mandatory death penalty for
criminals who murder a police officer or prison guard, but experts on
capital punishment believe the courts would strike down such a law.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that other states' mandatory death
penalty laws were unconstitutional, and it hasn't reversed course. 38
states have capital punishment laws, but Missouri apparently would be the
only one in the nation to try to impose a mandatory death penalty.
"It would be a major change to allow a mandatory death penalty. It would
upset 30 years of law," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the
Death Penalty Information Center. "Human dignity is embodied in the Eighth
Amendment. Not to take into account the human characteristics of the
defendant in sentencing would be unconstitutional."
So two days after the State of the State address in which Blunt called for
mandatory executions, his office softened the tone. Spokeswoman Jessica
Robinson said Friday that the proposed legislation would allow criminals a
chance to prove other circumstances that could spare their lives, although
she indicated the death penalty would be mandatory without any mitigating
factors. Under current law, some of the mitigating factors juries consider
when deciding whether to impose the death penalty include having no prior
criminal record and the person's age.
Even that idea may go against the judicial principle that the government,
not the defendant, must prove its case for a conviction or sentence, a
legal expert said.
"It would raise serious constitutional issues so long as they say it's
mandatory that the jury has to impose it," said Edward Hunvald, a
professor emeritus of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law.
Another hurdle to the proposal is that a federal judge has effectively
blocked Missouri from carrying out executions, finding the state's lethal
injection procedures could subject condemned prisoners to cruel and
The Missouri governor's proposal also comes at a time when capital
punishment is being scrutinized around the nation. The number of death
sentences handed out in the United States dropped in 2006 to the lowest
level since capital punishment was reinstated 30 years ago, and executions
fell to the fewest in a decade.
In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory death penalty laws in
North Carolina and Louisiana. The Louisiana law applied the automatic
death penalty to particular offenses, including killing a law enforcement
officer. The North Carolina law made death the penalty for anyone
convicted of 1st-degree murder.
In 1987, the Supreme Court again ruled against mandatory capital
punishment, turning aside a Nevada law that imposed death on a criminal
who killed someone while in prison for another murder.
The exact wording of Blunt's proposal hasn't been released. Killing a law
enforcement officer is already one of 17 aggravating factors a Missouri
jury can consider in deciding whether to impose the death penalty on
someone convicted of 1st-degree murder.
Warren County prosecutor Mike Wright said he needs to see the bill before
deciding whether to support it, but he agreed there are constitutional
concerns. He also said prosecutors generally have concerns with mandatory
"Not all cases are the same. Each case has its own specific fact
situation, which is the reason we have ranges of punishments for virtually
all our offenses," said Wright, chairman of the Missouri Association of
Prosecuting Attorneys' legislative committee. "When you start saying it is
a specific sentence for a specific crime and there's no movement on it, it
can cause problems in the prosecution of the case."
Blunt's idea is drawing cautious reaction from legislators.
"Obviously, politically it's very popular," said House Speaker Rod Jetton
of Marble Hill, a Republican like Blunt. "But sometimes ... there could be
a situation where that kind of death occurred and maybe the death penalty
would be a tad bit too harsh. That's kind of why you have judges to look
at those situations."
House Judiciary Committee chairman Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, called the
idea "very intriguing" and said some might want to expand the mandatory
death penalty to include other offenses, such as the murder of a child
that also involves a sex crime.
"You will see many members of the General Assembly that will look to add
to the list," he said.
Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,
supports Blunt's idea but doubts it could stand up in court. Still, he
noted the Supreme Court's members have changed, so there's always a chance
of a different interpretation.
He also said singling out murderers of law enforcement has merit.
"You show an enormous disrespect for the law and no fear," he said. "Cop
killers are a special class of murderers."
(source: Associated Press)
Death-penalty moratorium gets momentum----Opinions differ on whether
legislators will take action
The postponement this week of two scheduled executions adds fuel to a
movement by state legislators and advocates who for years have been
calling for a temporary suspension of the death penalty in North Carolina.
Combined with recent decisions by other states questioning the use of the
death penalty, a Wake County judge's ruling Thursday to delay the
execution of two convicted murderers will bring more attention to some
legislators' ethical concerns about how the state uses capital punishment.
But ethical concerns are one thing; passing a bill that would suspend all
executions in the state is something else entirely.
In interviews this week, supporters of a two-year suspension, or
moratorium, on the death penalty expressed sharply divergent views about
the likelihood of that happening this year.
"It is very likely. We've got very strong support as far as numbers go,"
said Jeremy Collins, the campaign coordinator for the N.C. Coalition for a
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird helped write a letter to Gov. Mike Easley this week,
which was signed by 30 legislators calling for a moratorium. She is less
optimistic about a moratorium.
"I think that would have a very tough road ahead of it," said Kinnaird,
Supporters of a moratorium say that the state should suspend executions
while it studies whether the death penalty is used fairly and equitably.
They point to Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush imposed a moratorium in
December after a lethal injection was administered improperly, causing the
condemned inmate to take more than 30 minutes to die. North Carolina and
Florida use the same procedure for lethal injection.
Complicating the matter further is a recent ethics decision by the N.C.
Medical Board that prohibits doctors from assisting in executions, despite
a state law that requires that a doctor be present at all executions. A
narrow legal issue arising from that conflict was the basis for the
postponement of the executions of Marcus Robinson and James Thomas, which
had been scheduled for this week and the next.
"At this point, with all the issues surrounding the death penalty and the
issues that have made it be in the forefront, we just need to stop and
look at all the flaws in the system," said Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth.
Parmon, who signed the letter to Easley, said she supports the death
penalty, but only if it is carried out correctly.
Bills that would enact a two-year moratorium have been introduced in North
Carolina before. The N.C. Senate passed such a bill in 2003 by a vote of
29-21, but there has never been enough support to pass it in the House.
This year, another moratorium bill is sure to be introduced. Kinnaird said
she also plans to introduce a bill that would bar execution of the
A lot will depend on a new crop of Democratic legislators entering their
first terms this month. Most Democrats support a moratorium, and the party
increased its majorities in the House and the Senate this year. But the
views of the incoming Democrats - many of whom are on the conservative
side of the party - are unknown.
In addition, many people are looking to the new speaker of the House, Rep.
Joe Hackney, D-Orange, to see if he will use the position to push through
a bill containing a moratorium.
Hackney has been one of the biggest supporters of a moratorium in past
years, but in the 3 days since he became speaker, he hasn't made it a big
issue. He did not mention it in his acceptance speech, and later, when
asked whether it will be a priority for him this year, he was
"We have not had the votes in the past, and we'll probably count votes,"
he said. "I don't know where we are."
Hackney's right-hand man, Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, the House
majority leader, does not support a moratorium. In 1985, his 16-year-old
daughter was fatally stabbed. Her killer confessed to the crime and was
later executed. Holliman said in an interview earlier this month that he
knows from personal experience that the system works.
As majority leader, however, Holliman said he wouldn't speak out against a
moratorium if it were on the Democratic agenda - though he would vote
Since 1984, when North Carolina reinstated the death penalty, 43 people
have been executed. There are currently 163 men and 4 women on death row.
Collins said he is seeing more and more people - both in the legislature
and in the public - who are questioning the death penalty.
"Some of the more conservative folks are starting to ask some of the same
questions," he said. "I think the real change is not what's happened in
the Democratic Party. It's what's changed on the landscape of North
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
EASLEY UNLIKELY TO CHANGE STANCE----N.C. bucks executions trend; In past 7
years, more states have suspended practice to rethink issue
More states are following the lead set 7 years ago in Illinois by
suspending the death penalty while the issue of capital punishment is
North Carolina isn't part of that group -- yet.
But after a judge halted two executions this week and new lawmakers
arrived at the statehouse, death-penalty opponents are hoping lawmakers
will impose a moratorium on executions.
"The dynamic of this body has changed and continues to change with each
legislative session," said freshman Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake. "I think that
there's, hopefully, a growing re-examination of how this whole approach to
crime and punishment is evolving."
Harrell was the only freshman who sent a letter to Gov. Mike Easley asking
him to suspend executions until the state can confirm lethal injection
does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
The letter cited Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's recent decision to institute a
moratorium after a botched execution and noted that 8 other states have
halted executions to review the lethal injection process.
On Thursday, a Wake County judge stopped two executions, saying a recent
decision to change the role a doctor plays in the process must be approved
by the governor and the Council of State. The change came after the N.C.
Medical Board decided that any participation by a doctor, beyond merely
attending the execution, violated its ethics policy.
Although the ruling addressed a narrow area of procedure, it effectively
"throws open the public debate on the whole issue" of capital punishment,
said state Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird, D-Orange, one of the letter campaign's
But Kinnaird and other opponents of capital punishment aren't likely to
win over Easley, a Democrat and a former prosecutor who is a death-penalty
supporter and has repeatedly said he sees no need for a moratorium.
Such measures have a history of failure in the House.
In 2003, the state Senate became the South's 1st legislative body to
approve a moratorium. But even a watered-down bill lacked enough votes for
passage in the House.
Another moratorium proposal failed to reach a vote in the following
session. Instead, then-Speaker Jim Black created the House Select
Committee on Capital Punishment in late 2005 to examine the "accuracy and
fairness" of North Carolina's death penalty. New House Speaker Joe
Hackney, who co-chaired the panel, said members will meet one more time to
finalize their recommendations.
While Hackney, D-Orange, said he had not had a chance to discuss the issue
with new House members, leaders of anti-death-penalty groups hope that new
members such as Harrell and Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, will help the
moratorium's prospects in the House. Blue is a former speaker who has
backed a moratorium in the past.
Others believe the House is just as opposed now as it has been in past
"I really don't think the members have changed that much," said Rep. Hugh
Holliman, D-Davidson, whose teenage daughter was murdered in 1985. He
witnessed the execution of her killer 13 years later. "I don't see a lot
of people who have changed their minds one way or the other."
Meanwhile, death-penalty supporters such as Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson,
said stays like those issued Thursday prove that, while elements of
capital punishment may merit study, a moratorium is unnecessary.
(source: Charlotte Observer)
DEATH PENALTY | Real life at odds with faith----Witness for the execution;
Brother of sister murdered by Jeffrey Lundgren finds consolation in seeing
"More than anything, I needed to know that he would never be able to do to
another living soul what he had done to my family."
Donald Bailey didn't know how he would react when he first saw the man
convicted of killing his sister.
But when prison officials led Jeffrey Lundgren into the execution chamber
at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in October, Bailey walked from
the back of the chambers witness room to the glass separating them.
"I don't know if he ever really took note of me," Bailey said. Prison
officials told Bailey that Lundgren would be able to see the witnesses
through the glass.
"I would like to think he knew I was there," Bailey said recently at his
home near Oak Grove in Jackson County, "but I don't think he even knew who
I was. All he knew was that some big, shaggy-looking person was glaring at
him through the window as he faded from life."
For Bailey, watching the execution was the final act in a 16-year personal
ordeal in which his profound anger at the murders of his sister, her
husband and three children commingled with his regret that he had not
somehow interceded in the events leading up to them.
But that's not all. Bailey also experienced a point-blank view of capital
punishment that few ever will know.
For Bailey the experience took place in context of an evolving stance
toward capital punishment within the Community of Christ Church, for which
he once served as a pastor. At its 2000 world conference in Independence,
delegates approved a resolution opposing the death penalty as well as
support for seeking ways to achieve "healing and restorative justice."
Meanwhile, some members of the Independent Restoration Branch Movement, a
conservative branch made up of former members of what is now the Community
of Christ, are likely to support capital punishment.
Although Bailey is not now active with any formal congregation, he
describes himself as a "restorationist," which he defines as a fundamental
faction of the original church restored by Joseph Smith Jr., Mormon
Bailey believes the death penalty was appropriate.
"I can find some consolation in the fact that Lundgren now has paid the
price for those deaths, and maybe in that I can begin to find an end to it
For Bailey the tragedy begins with the 1984 world conference of the
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in
Independence and today known as the Community of Christ. At that
conference, delegates voted in support of the ordination of women as
To some, Bailey included, the vote symbolized a long-simmering
disagreement among church members over doctrine and direction. For years
some church members had been dismayed at the churchs apparent move toward
a more mainstream Protestantism, said William Russell, a history professor
at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.
"For many, the ordination of women was the straw that broke the camels
back," Russell said. Over the next 6 years, about 20 percent of active
members split from the church, he added.
Among those to split were Bailey's sister, Cheryl, and her husband, Dennis
Avery. Through the 1980s, the Cheryl Avery and her husband Dennis attended
services in an Independence congregation of the RLDS church to hear the
lectures of Lundgren, who belonged to a conservative faction.
"My sister was not a person to compromise her faith," Bailey said, "and
Mr. Lundgren appeared to have the answers at a time when answers were
In the late 1980s Lundgren led a small sect of about 30 followers to a
rented farm near Kirtland, Ohio. When Bailey learned that Cheryl and her
husband had decided to leave Independence in 1987 and follow Lundgren to
Ohio, he didn't contest it.
"My family was not looking for any more controversy," said Bailey, who
added that ongoing changes in the RLDS Church profoundly affected his
But by January 1988, officials of Lundgrens Ohio congregation began
growing concerned over his behavior. That October, Lundgren withdrew his
membership in the RLDS Church.
Ohio prosecutors believe that Cheryl and Dennis Avery were growing
suspicious of Lundgren and that in April 1989 he shot Cheryl and Dennis as
well as their children, Trina, 15; Rebecca, 13; and Karen, 7. Nine months
later authorities found their bodies in a pit in an Ohio barn.
"Over the past 16 years I have gone through a whole spectrum of emotions,"
Bailey said. "A lot of guilt, a lot of shame, a lot of feeling that I let
Cheryl and her family down."
Lundgren, convicted of the murders, was sentenced to die in 1991. Appeals
soon began. Bailey, then living in Washington state, resolved that he
would witness the execution.
"I knew that if I could, I would be (there)," he said. "More than
anything, I needed to know that he would never be able to do to another
living soul what he had done to my family. Had he stayed in prison for
life, there was the possibility that someday somebody might have paroled
On Oct. 24 Bailey went to the execution chamber and saw Lundgren.
"There wasn't any dramatic moment when he actually slipped away," Bailey
said. "He just simply faded off to sleep and was pronounced dead."
Before Lundgrens execution, the Community of Christ issued a statement
saying that it continued to be "deeply saddened at the pain and suffering
caused by the actions of Lundgren and his followers," adding that his
viewpoints and practices were "in complete opposition to beliefs of
Community of Christ."
The statement also reiterated the churchs opposition to the death penalty.
The churchs death penalty resolution in 2000 represented more than just
opposition to capital punishment, said Roy Schaefer, a Community of Christ
official who helped draft the resolution.
"When you deal from a Christian view of life as a gift given by God, then
that God is much more interested in restoring you rather than destroying
you," Schaefer said.
W. Grant McMurray, RLDS Church president when the resolution was adopted,
said it stands as part of a larger process through which the church has
grappled with several issues, among them economic justice and war and
"It is part of the maturing process as the church moves from a more
sectarian viewpoint to one that is culturally diverse," he said. He also
sympathizes with the Bailey family.
"This guy put a gun to the head of three little children and their
parents," McMurray said. "Its the most horrible thing you can imagine, and
I can completely understand how some sense of closure maybe comes from
experience of witnessing the death of somebody responsible.
But I am personally skeptical that that really does bring about closure."
Many members of Restoration congregations, however, would support capital
punishment in many instances, said Rudy Leutzinger, secretary of the Joint
Conference of Restoration Branches.
"We believe in accountability and enforcement of the law," said
Leutzinger, who also is pastor and presiding elder of the Independence
Restoration Branch, which has 65 members.
Another member of the Restoration community is personally unsure about the
"I don't think the death penalty serves any useful purpose from a
Christian standpoint," said Frederick N. Larsen, a great-great-grandson of
Joseph Smith Jr. and president, prophet, seer and revelator of the Remnant
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in Independence.
The Remnant Church, which claims about 1,400 members in the United States,
has no official position on the issue, Larsen added.
Bailey will not criticize the Community of Christ statement regarding
"I can understand how a religious body, particularly a Christian body
believing in redemption and reconciliation and the Gospel of the Christian
faith, would think that it would be better to forgive," he said.
"In all honesty, it's possible that, had she had the opportunity, my
sister would have forgiven. On the other hand, I really dont know what she
would have thought under these circumstances. She and her family tried
very hard to be the best Christians they knew how to be, to keep the
Gospel in every way they could."
As for himself, Bailey said, forgiveness may not be his to bestow.
"Spiritual judgment belongs to God," he said. "I just felt that justice
was needed for the protection of other people."
A Mormon timeline
Joseph Smith Jr. founded a church on April 6, 1830, in upstate New York.
Smith said that in 1827 an angel had lent him golden plates from which he
translated the Book of Mormon.
Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church, or
Mormons), which is based in Salt Lake City, and the Community of Christ
formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints both trace their roots to Smith and his teachings.
Today the LDS church has more than 12 million members around the world.
The Community of Christ, based in Independence, has about 250,000 members
around the world.
The Community of Christ has been ordaining women since the mid-1980s. The
LDS church does not ordain women.
Delegates to the 2000 world conference of what is now the Community of
Christ adopted a resolution opposing the death penalty. The LDS church,
meanwhile, regards the issue as a matter to be decided solely by the
prescribed processes of civil law. "We neither promote nor oppose capital
punishment," an LDS spokesperson said.
(source: Kansas City Star)
Exoneration Sought for 2 Convicted Killers
In Cleveland, 2 men convicted of beating an elderly woman to death should
be cleared or given new trials because of shoddy police crime laboratory
work by an analyst accused of missing blood stains in the investigation, a
legal advocacy group said Friday.
The Innocence Project, which works on behalf of criminals whose
convictions have been challenged as unfair, said the crime lab review
prompted by the exoneration of an accused rapist disclosed serious
problems with at least a half-dozen cases, including those of the two men.
The group may challenge the other convictions.
The project asked a court to throw out the convictions of Thomas Siller,
51, and Walter Zimmer, 50. Both are serving long prison terms.
The 2 were convicted in the June 1997 beating of a 74-year-old Cleveland
woman, Alice Zolkowski, and ransacking her home.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said the Innocence Project materials
were under review.
According to the Innocence Project, affiliated with the Cardozo School of
Law at New York's Yeshiva University, the same laboratory technician whose
work was cited in the exoneration of a convicted rapist was instrumental
in the convictions of Siller and Zimmer.
Barry Scheck, the Innocence Project co-director, by coincidence outlined
the defense motions filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court during a
break Friday in a Case Western Reserve University law school seminar on
According to the Innocence Project, forensic analyst Joseph Serowik either
lied about or failed to conduct thorough blood tests on the clothing of an
eyewitness who said Siller and Zimmer had beaten the woman into a coma.
Serowik's testimony amounted to perjury on behalf of the state's case,
Instead of a single bloodstain from the victim on the pants of eyewitness
Jason Smith as Serowik testified, there were at least seven, according to
Scheck. Scheck said the finding called into question the prosecution claim
that Siller and Zimmer and not Smith had beat the victim.
Scheck said the sloppy work by Serowik was deliberate and reflected a
pattern in Serowik's career.
Smith, 37, struck a deal with prosecutors and got three years in prison
after pleading guilty to aggravated burglary.
Assistant Prosecutor Rick Bombik said Serowik's incompetence was exposed
by the defense in Siller's murder trial. Siller and Zimmer were convicted
of attempted murder and later were convicted of murder when the comatose
Serowik worked for two years teaching forensic science at Youngstown State
University after he was fired by the city of Cleveland but his contract
wasn't renewed last May, the university said. A campus review said Serowik
hadn't informed recruiters about his firing in Cleveland.
Serowik could not be reached for comment. A phone listed under his name in
Cleveland has been disconnected and there is no listing under that name in
The Innocence Project's selection of the case angered assistant Prosecutor
Rick Bombik, who handled the case.
"The totality of the evidence in this case, no one is going to walk away
and say Tom Siller and Walter Zimmer are innocent. That's laughable," he
"They were bilking her out of her life savings to feed their crack cocaine
habit. All you're trying to do here is spring 2 demons from hell."
He said Serowik's incompetence already was exposed in the 2nd trial when
he re-examined the eyewitness' pants and found a blood drop.
"So they did more testing and they found 6 or 7 more micro-specks. You
would have expected the person who did the beating to have a lot more
blood on him," Bombik said. "The clothes should have been painted red with
the victim's blood."
Michael Green, 41, whose 1988 conviction in a rape and robbery in
Cleveland were overturned in 2001 based on DNA genetic evidence, appeared
with Scheck and said he hoped the outside review of the Cleveland
laboratory work would benefit anyone wrongly convicted.
"I'm glad the audit went through," Green said. The $1.6 million settlement
of his civil lawsuit included a provision that 17 years of work of the
police laboratory get an outside review directed by a former federal
Green said he was surprised at the audit findings. "I didn't expect too
much to come about," he said. Since the Cleveland audit, similar efforts
have been launched in Houston, Virginia, Massachusetts and Montana.
Scheck also mentioned reviews in Boston and New York and by the FBI
involving laboratory work or police techniques including fingerprinting.
Michael Bromwich, a former U.S. Justice Department official hired as the
special investigator, issued an independent report in 2005 that said the
Houston crime lab for 15 years employed workers with inadequate resources
and support. The employees failed proficiency tests, botched analyses and
taught themselves scientific technique by reading books at home,
Bromwich's report said.
Earlier this week, Jeffrey Todd Pierce, who spent 15 years in prison for a
rape he did not commit, settled with Oklahoma City for $4 million over
botched testimony by a police chemist.
Pierce was released from prison in 2001 based on DNA testing that showed
sperm and hairs taken from the scene of a rape at an apartment complex
could not have been his.
The police chemist, Joyce Gilchrist, has denied wrongdoing. She was fired
in 2001 after investigations of her work in a number of cases, including
some death row convictions. An FBI report found that Gilchrist
misidentified hair and fibers in at least 6 criminal cases and gave
testimony that went beyond what her science showed.
(source: The Associated Press)
Death row Richey: I'll be free or executed by August
KENNY Richey, on death row in the United States, said yesterday he
believed he would either be executed or free to return to Scotland by the
The 42-year-old from Edinburgh has always protested his innocence over his
conviction in Ohio two decades ago for an arson attack which claimed the
life of a toddler.
Judges in Cincinnati have been considering this week whether evidence that
emerged after the original murder trial should be re-examined.
Speaking from jail at Mansfield, Ohio, Richey told Scottish TV last night:
"I believe I'll be home this year. Hoping by August.
"I miss just walking around the streets. That's one of the things I think
I'll do when I get out - go on a long walk around Edinburgh."
Today, Richey starts his 21st year on death row.
He said: "It shouldn't have gone on this long, but it has.
Justice is paid for like a commodity in [the US]. You have money, you can
get justice. You don't, you're pretty much screwed."
(source: The Scotsman)
Ohio death penalty defended ---- Prosecutors fight study, say system
works; critics see bad convictions
Ohios legal system hasnt sent anyone to Death Row who doesnt belong there,
the head of the state prosecutors association says. He is urging Gov. Ted
Strickland not to support a capital-punishment study.
"There are no mysteries here. The death penalty is in fact being applied
to exactly those persons and to those crimes for which it was intended,"
John E. Murphy wrote in a Jan. 15 letter to the Democratic governor.
Murphy said a study, long advocated by capital-punishment opponents and
Attorney General Marc Dann during his campaign last year, would "send the
wrong message to the citizens of this state that there is something wrong
with our death penalty."
The only thing wrong, Murphy added, is that "it takes too long to get the
Strickland, who last week granted temporary reprieves for three men
scheduled to be executed within the next month, "has not yet indicated a
preference" about a study, spokesman Keith Dailey said.
Strickland, a Democrat, supports capital punishment.
Ohio has executed 24 men since resuming capital punishment in February
Murphy, who represents county prosecutors as executive director of the
Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told Strickland that a study is
unnecessary because the law has been thoroughly tested legally.
A study, while not a moratorium, would turn into one if the Ohio Supreme
Court declined to set execution dates until the study was concluded,
"A study commission would solve nothing. It would only be a vehicle for
those opposed to the death penalty to cause further delay."
State Sen. Shirley A. Smith, D-Cleveland, introduced proposals for a
death-penalty study in the past 2 legislative sessions. Her 1st proposal
was folded into another bill that was approved by the Ohio House but died
in the Senate.
Smith's bill in the last session went nowhere.
Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker strongly disagreed with Murphy's
assurances about wrongly convicted inmates.
"There are a dozen cases right now where there is considerable evidence
that the guy is innocent," he said.
"The problem is unringing the bell. If theres a conviction, the system is
not likely to want to reverse the situation."
Bodiker said Murphy and many county prosecutors take the attitude, "You
havent caught us, so nothings wrong."
Jim Tobin of the Catholic Conference of Ohio said a study has always been
a goal of Ohioans to Stop Executions. He said the group has had
conversations with Strickland and Danns staff about a study.
"We would strongly encourage a nonbiased, professional study, an open
dialogue and discussion," Tobin said. "That way we can avoid the 'We
believe' statements on both sides."
There are questions about the fairness of the capitalpunishment system,
Tobin said, and about the humaneness of lethal injection.
He said there are deeper concerns about who is indicted on death-penalty
charges and how that is affected by the defendants race, his financial
ability to hire legal counsel and the countys handling of the case.
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
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