[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, N.Y., WASH., US MIL., N. M.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 31 16:44:09 UTC 2007
Texas executes man for killing 2
A man was executed Tuesday for killing his pregnant wife and mother-in-law
4 years ago.
Christopher Swift, who spurned appeals that could stop or delay his
execution, made no final statement.
"Receiving the death penalty is what he's wanted from Day 1, from the
first day I met him," said Derek Adame, one of Swift's trial lawyers.
Swift was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., 7 minutes after the dose of drugs
began, in front of five friends. No relatives of survivors attended the
Evidence showed Swift's 5-year-old son watched as the former laborer and
parolee stabbed and strangled his 27-year-old wife, Amy Sabeh-Swift, in
the family recreational vehicle in Irving. She was eight months pregnant.
He then took the boy to Lake Dallas and strangled his wife's mother,
Sandra Stevens Sabeh, 61, at her home.
The boy was found the next day, April 30, 2003, wandering the lobby of a
hotel in Irving where his father had rented a room. Swift had left after
the child fell asleep. Hotel staffers fed the boy breakfast and let him
watch cartoons in the lobby but called police after no one claimed him and
he grew frightened.
When police arrived, the child told them his father had killed his mother
and grandmother. Officers found their bodies, and Swift was arrested
Defense lawyers tried to show Swift should be found innocent by reason of
insanity. Prosecutors presented witnesses who said Swift knew what he was
doing and was not insane.
"He never denied doing the killings," prosecutor Lee Ann Breading said.
(source: Associated Press)
Federal death penalty jury: NYPD officers' killer had no remorse
Ronell Wilson proclaimed at his federal death penalty trial last week that
he was "truly sorry" for the execution-style slayings of 2 undercover
detectives during a gun buy gone awry.
On Tuesday, he learned the hard way that the jury didn't buy it.
Jurors - after unanimously agreeing that they believed Wilson was still
dangerous and had no remorse - made him the first federal defendant in
more than 50 years to receive a death sentence in New York City. The last
time was in 1954 for a bank robber who killed an FBI agent.
The jury had found Wilson, 24, guilty last month of 2 counts of murder,
along with robbery, carjacking and firearms charges.
At the guilt phase of the trial, prosecutors claimed the defendant knew
that Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin were undercover New York Police
Department detectives when he climbed into the back seat of their unmarked
car on the pretense of selling them an illegal gun on Staten Island in
2003. Both officers took bullets to the head, Nemorin after he pleaded for
An accomplice testified that he and Wilson were in on a plot by a violent
drug gang to rob the undercover detectives, believing they were carrying
$1,200 to buy guns. But the defense contended there was no convincing
evidence the men knew their victims were police officers.
"I'm not good with words," Wilson read from a statement last week,
addressing the victims' families. "I wish I could explain myself more
better, but I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused them all."
On Tuesday, the jurors left the courthouse in Brooklyn without speaking to
reporters about their two days of deliberations at the trial's penalty
phase. But a verdict form that asked them to weigh several competing
factors told part of the story.
According to the form, all 12 jurors agreed with the defense that Wilson
suffered through a rough background - that he was "exposed to drugs and
violence," that his "parents were substance abusers, which resulted in
poor parenting," and that he had a history of physical and mental problems
as a youth.
But asked to list the number of jurors who thought that Wilson had taken
responsibility for his actions, the response was zero. It was the same
when asked if the defendant "has remorse for the murder of detectives
Andrews and Nemorin."
The jury also agreed that Wilson "represents a continuing danger to the
lives and safety of other persons," even behind bars. The prosecution had
presented evidence that the defendant had made threatening phone calls
from jail while awaiting trial.
As the jury foreman announced the death sentence in a packed courtroom,
Wilson showed no emotion.
But one person seated with the victims' families could be heard calling
Wilson a "dead man." A union official later claimed the defendant stuck
out his tongue in defiance before he was led away; his lawyers said they
didn't see it.
"I just want to say thank you to God and thank you to the jurors," Rose
Nemorin, the widow of one of the slain officers, said outside court.
The same courthouse has been the venue for an unprecedented 3 simultaneous
death penalty trials - Wilson's and those of a notorious druglord and a
gang member accused of shooting a man in the head to pay off a debt to a
Jurors were still deliberating in the druglord's case. Another jury
convicted the gang member but spared his life when it failed to reach a
unanimous verdict on a death sentence.
There are fewer than 50 inmates nationwide on the federal death row. 3,
including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, have been put to death
Wilson was 1 of 7 people arrested in his case; the other 6 pleaded guilty
to various charges.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty sought in 4 Kirkland slayings----Conner Schierman's bail is
A Kirkland man who was serving in Iraq when his family was stabbed to
death and their house set on fire supports the King County prosecutor's
decision to seek a death sentence for the accused killer.
"It's not just a tragedy -- there is a person behind this," Army National
Guard Sgt. Leonid Milkin said Tuesday. "4 beautiful people have been
Prosecutor Norm Maleng's decision was announced Tuesday in a Superior
Court hearing for Conner Schierman, 25, a hotel maintenance worker who
lived across the street from the 2 women and 2 young boys he is accused of
It is the 1st time the elected prosecutor has sought the death penalty
since making a controversial plea deal in 2003 with Green River serial
killer Gary Ridgway, who was allowed to trade information about the 48
women he killed for his life.
Schierman's attorney, James Conroy, said he is already planning to
challenge Washington's death penalty and the idea that a prosecutor should
be able "to pick and choose who they decide to seek the death penalty
A March 26 trial will likely be delayed.
Maleng -- who has sought the death penalty in 13 percent of aggravated
murder cases in King County in the past decade -- firmly believes that
Schierman's fate should be decided by a jury of 12 people, said Deputy
Prosecutor Scott O'Toole.
In court documents, Maleng stated only that there was not enough reason
As with many of his death penalty decisions, the eight-term prosecutor --
who reviewed confidential information provided by Schierman's lawyers
about the young man's history and also had discussions with the victims'
family -- did not elaborate on his reasoning.
Schierman's relatives were "taken aback" by the decision and remain
supportive of the young man, Conroy said. His mother and sister sat
quietly when the decision was announced and quickly left the courtroom
Schierman is charged with 4 counts of aggravated murder and one count of
arson in the July 17 slayings of Milkin's wife, Olga, 28; her sister,
Lyubov Botvina, 24; and the Milkins' 2 sons, Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3.
A motive remains elusive. Schierman told police that he drank too much
vodka and awoke to find himself covered in blood in the victims' home,
then doused it with gasoline and set it on fire, according to court
Investigators have sought DNA testing of evidence from the victims to help
determine whether there had been any sexual contact.
The mother of the two women who were killed, who is also named Lyubov
Botvina, said she believed that Maleng's decision was fair and necessary
to protect society.
6 members of the National Guard came to the King County Courthouse in
uniform Tuesday to support Leonid Milkin.
"We want to help him get through this period," said 1st Sgt. Timothy
Meyer, who said the man was coping "remarkably well."
Milkin called Maleng's decision "very appropriate" for the man accused of
killing his family, whom he said he would be with again someday, but he
said that would not take away his pain.
Superior Court Judge Greg Canova revoked Schierman's bail, which was
already set at $10 million. He remains in the King County Jail.
If he is convicted as charged, a jury would decide whether he should live
or die. Anything short of a unanimous death sentence would send him to
prison for life.
Maleng has sought the death penalty in about a quarter of the aggravated
murder cases in the county since the state's current death penalty was
enacted in 1981, but he has sought it less frequently in the past decade.
Schierman's case marks the 4th time Maleng has sought execution in his
office's 31 aggravated murder cases since 1996.
The most recent was the trial of Kevin Cruz, who killed two men and
wounded two others in a 1999 shooting at Northlake Shipyard in Seattle.
Jurors, who heard that Cruz had mental health problems, spared his life.
Maleng recently opted against the death penalty for Naveed Haq, accused of
killing 1 woman and wounding 5 others at the Jewish Federation of Greater
Seattle on July 28, citing Haq's apparent mental health problems.
Some legal observers predicted that the 2003 plea deal for Ridgway would
end capital punishment in Washington. Defense lawyers argued that no one
could fairly be executed when the state's worst serial killer was allowed
Last year, however, the state Supreme Court rejected that argument,
narrowly upholding the state's death penalty law.
There are currently 7 men on death row in Washington.
In the past 10 years, King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng has
filed aggravated-murder charges, the state's most serious crime, against
31 people. He sought the death penalty in only 6 of those cases and
withdrew the decision in 2.
Maleng did not seek the death penalty: 25
Sought the death penalty but later withdrew: 2
Sought the death penalty, sentenced to life in prison: 2
Currently seeking the death penalty: 1
On death row: 1
(source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Washington executions are few and far between
Of the 1,060 people executed in the U.S. since individual states brought
back the death penalty starting in 1973, four were in Washington state.
While that number is dwarfed by the 381 executions in Texas since 1974,
the 98 in Virginia and the 84 in Oklahoma, it's comparable to the numbers
of executions in many of the 38 states that currently allow the death
Oregon has put 2 people to death since 1978, Idaho has executed one and
Montana has executed 3.
California and Nevada, with the most executions in the Western states,
have put to death 13 and 12 people, respectively.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the nation's death-penalty
laws in Furman v. Georgia, saying the death penalty was unconstitutional
because it was being applied randomly, capriciously and so infrequently as
to nullify its deterrence value.
Lawmakers rewrote the death statutes following the 1972 ban and
re-established capital punishment in 38 states, but death-penalty
opponents say they never fully rectified the basic issues of fairness
raised in Furman.
In 2004, capital punishment in New York state and Kansas was ruled
unconstitutional by those states' supreme courts. Neither state has thus
far sought to reinstate the death penalty.
In addition, executions have been suspended in Illinois by a moratorium
and in New Jersey by a state Supreme Court temporary injunction, which
leaves 34 states currently permitting executions.
A proposed bill in Washington state, introduced this session, is calling
for the creation of a study commission to review the state's
capital-punishment laws and applications.
Other states have already created, or are seeking to establish, similar
review boards to discuss the impact of race, ethnicity, economic status,
gender and costs on how the death penalty is applied and when, said
Seattle attorney Mark Larranaga, a former president of the Death Penalty
Some of the momentum for the review could be due to highly publicized DNA
exonerations of death-row inmates, death-penalty opponents said.
But the larger movement is fueled by revisiting the constitutional issues
of fairness that were raised by the Furman decision, Larranaga said.
"What we are seeing is a movement that is asking us to look back at the 2
decades that we've had these executions," he said.
"People are saying, 'Let's stop them for a while, review them and see if
the state statute has accomplished what it was set out to do,' " he said.
Of the 4 people executed in Washington, which reinstated the death penalty
in 1975, 3 of them either asked for a death sentence or refused to seek
appeals. The last person to be executed in Washington state was James
Elledge, 58, in August 2001 for the 1998 strangling and stabbing of Eloise
Jane Fitzner, 47, at a Lynnwood church.
Executions in Washington
Since the state's death penalty was reinstated in 1975, four men have been
put to death:
James Elledge, 58, killed by lethal injection in August 2001 for the 1998
strangling and stabbing of Eloise Jane Fitzner, 47, at a Lynnwood church,
where he worked part time as a janitor.
Jeremy Sagastegui, 27, executed by lethal injection in 1998 for the 1995
murders of 3-year-old Keiven Sarbacher; the boy's mother, Mellisa
Sarbacher, 21; and her friend, Lisa Vera-Acevedo, 26.
Charles Rodman Campbell, 39, hanged in 1994 for the 1982 murders of Renae
Wicklund, 31, her daughter, Shannah, 8, and a neighbor, Barbara
Hendrickson, 51, in Snohomish County.
Westley Allan Dodd, 31, hanged in 1993 for killing 3 boys, William Neer,
10, Cole Neer, 11, and Lee Iseli, 4, in Clark County in 1989.
(source for both: Washington Times)
The execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik
On Jan. 31, 1945, Hamtramck-born Eddie Slovik was executed by a firing
squad near the French village of Ste-Marie aux Mines for the crime of
desertion. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme allied commander, personally
ordered the execution during the closing days of World War II to deter
other potential deserters.
During World War II, some 21,049 American military personnel were
convicted of desertion, with 49 sentenced to death, but only Pvt. Slovik
paid the ultimate price. In fact, he was the only American soldier to be
executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
(source: Detroit News)
Death-penalty ban faces hurdles
Allen Sanchez, Executive Director of New Mexico Conference of Catholic
Bishops speaks during the death penalty bill at the capital on Tuesday
afternoon. From left, Marie Ellis, Chairman Gail Chasey, D-Bernalilio and
Andrea Vigil listen on. Ellis and Vigil spoke about their family members
who were murdered. The bill passed 4-3.
Once again, a bill to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico is moving
through the Legislature, passing successfully through its first House
But will Gov. Bill Richardsons campaign for president ultimately hurt the
chances of House Bill 190?
The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 for a do-pass
recommendation for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque.
It was a strict party-line vote with Democrats in favor, Republicans
Richardson, a Democrat, always has been in favor of the death penalty.
"He's willing to listen to the proponents, but he still supports
preserving capital punishment for the most heinous crimes," an aide, who
asked not to be identified, said Tuesday.
Richardson isn't actively lobbying against Chasey's bill, the aide said.
"He's concentrating on his agenda, and that's not part of it," the aide
Conventional wisdom holds that opposing the death penalty is fatal to a
In 2004, for instance, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., previously a
death-penalty opponent, altered his position, saying he supported
executions for terrorists.
2 years ago, when asked about how a bill to abolish capital punishment
would affect a Richardson presidential campaign, Larry Sabato, director of
the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told a reporter, "That
bill is deadly to his campaign if he becomes a candidate for president.
It's a no-win proposition for him. He needs to make certain that bill
never makes it to his desk."
However, Sabato now says he doesn't think signing a death-penalty bill
necessarily would sink Richardson's presidential dreams. In fact, he said,
it could help during next years primary season.
"Opposing the death penalty is certainly not a plus in the general
election, and a Republican nominee would be sure to use it against
Richardson," Sabato said in an e-mail in response to a reporter's question
"But Richardson's big problem is getting nominated, and opposition to the
death penalty would help, especially in Iowa, where anti-death penalty
fervor is substantial among the voters who participate in the early
caucuses," Sabato said.
Chasey noted that other governors such as New Jersey's Jon Corzine and
Maryland's Martin OMalley have come out against capital punishment. Both
states are considering banning executions. "Someday I'm sure Jon Corzine
will run for president," Chasey told a reporter.
"I'm not sure that (signing her death-penalty bill) would help Governor
Richardson win the presidency," Chasey said. "But as far as the rest of
world goes, it would sure emphasize his terrific foreign-policy
experience. The United Nations is against the death penalty. In Europe, he
would be a hero."
Despite getting a majority of the committee's vote Tuesday, the bill did
suffer one setback. Rep. W.C. "Dub" Williams, R-Glencoe, who last year was
1 of 5 House Republicans to vote for a death-penalty ban in 2005, voted
Williams was persuaded by law-enforcement officers who testified against
the bill on Tuesday, he said after the vote.
In 2005, a death-penalty abolition bill passed the House by a 38-31 vote.
However, it died by a 1-vote margin in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
Lawmakers consider repealing death penalty
3 relatives of murder victims provided legislators with vastly different
perspectives on the death penalty Tuesday.
2 loved ones of murder victims urged the House Consumer and Public Affairs
Committee to support a bill to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico.
The 3rd relative argued that execution was the only "equal and just"
penalty for the crime of murder.
The committee voted 4-3, along party lines, to endorse the bill. It would
replace the death penalty with a "true life sentence" without the
possibility of parole. A similar bill in 2005 passed 38-31 in the House,
but died in the Senate.
While the death penalty is typically an emotional issue each year there is
a 60-day session, it is seldom used in New Mexico. Only one execution has
taken place since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s Terry
Clark, who was put to death in 2001.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, argued that the death
penalty did not deter crime, is more expensive than a life sentence and
that statistics show it is more likely to be applied in cases where the
defendant is a minority and the victim is Anglo.
"If I thought it would prevent one murder, I might rethink my position.
But the data shows it doesn't," Chasey said.
Andrea Vigil, whose husband was murdered seven years ago, and Marie Ellis,
whose son was murdered, both were seated next to Chasey in supporting the
"Another killing by the state doesn't help. It wont bring my Carlos back,"
Nearly 20 people spoke out against the death penalty, including religious
leaders, the state's chief public defender and advocates for the poor.
The Rev. Holly Beaumont of the New Mexico Council of Churches said the
courts were fallible, and there are examples of people convicted in
death-penalty cases who were later exonerated by DNA evidence.
"We are flawed human beings, and that in itself should humble us to repeal
the death penalty," she said.
Donald Gallegos, president of the state's District Attorneys Association,
and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White both opposed the bill. White
said the murder last year of Deputy James McGrane demonstrates the need
for the death penalty.
"We need to hold people accountable, especially people who kill police
officers," White said.
Patti March, whose son Gary was murdered in a case not involving the death
penalty, said the risk of letting murderers back on the street was greater
than the risk of executing an innocent person.
The bill next goes to the Judiciary Committee before it will be heard on
the House floor.
House Bill 190 can be found on the Internet at legis.state.nm.us
(source: Farmington Daily News)
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