[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., OHIO, GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 2 15:25:45 CDT 2007
Easy living on death row
Ken Hairston is confident he won't die in prison.
Which says a lot, considering Hairston, 56, sits on death row at the state
prison in Franklin Township, Greene County, convicted of bludgeoning to
death his wife and 14-year-old son in June 2001.
He might not be far from the truth.
Pennsylvania hasn't executed anyone since Gary Heidnik on July 7, 1999.
Heidnik, who tortured women in his Philadelphia basement, is one of only 3
killers executed since 1995, when the state changed from the electric
chair to lethal injection.
The appeals process takes years.
And in May, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, and the American Civil
Liberties Union proposed a 2-year moratorium on executions until the
state's death-penalty law can be reviewed.
Similar proposals in 2001 went nowhere.
Critics argue the death penalty is unequally applied among whites and
minorities, and point to advances in DNA technology -- and, in some cases,
exonerations -- as reasons to halt executions.
"Since the '80s in Pennsylvania, six people have been exonerated on death
row," said Ferlo, who opposes the death penalty. "Constitutionally,
morally, we have this perception of equal justice under the law. But you
can see class, race and money can come into play."
District Attorney James Martin, of Lehigh County, president of the state
District Attorney's Association, disagreed.
"You have checks and balances built into the sytem," Martin said. "I think
the safeguards are already in place. ... Effectively, we've had a
"I don't think you can conclude, in what DNA has done in certain cases,
that the system is somehow broken beyond repair. DNA is a scientific fact
of life, and it works far more in our advantage than our disadvantage."
The death penalty actually serves as a deterrent to murder, according to a
series of studies, including one last year by an economics professor from
the University of Colorado at Denver.
But Stephanie Walsh, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Center for
Victims of Violence and Crime, endorsed a moratorium.
"There needs to be a discussion," she said. "Victims and witnesses of
crime, they want justice.
"They don't want any more injustices."
Ferlo's proposal is a move that could have a profound impact on the
state's 225 death-row inmates.
But what's it like waiting to die? Held captive in a 7-foot-by-13-foot
concrete cell? With only a narrow window to look out into the world?
Allowed outside your cell for just one hour a day? Permitted one shower a
Pretty good, if you ask Hairston.
"My life is great," he said. "I'm sober. My mind is alert.
"It's nowhere near what I expected. It's clean. The food is decent. We
have our own rooms, color TV. I have cable."
Handcuffed and wearing the traditional orange prison uniform, Hairston,
formerly of Garfield, painted himself as a reformed man.
Different than the one who used a 10-pound sledgehammer to fatally beat
his wife and son.
Different than the man sentenced in 2002 to up to 122 years in prison for
repeatedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter.
A year and a half ago, he says, he found at the bottom of his storage box
a Bible that his sister had sent him.
"One day a voice told me to take it out and read it," he said, his voice
echoing through a glass window partition.
Hairston says he has read it three times over since November. And he
prays. He prays a lot. For his family. For his wife's family. For world
leaders. For those who prosecuted him.
He didn't care that he sounded like a cliche.
"It doesn't mean I'm praying because I'm sorry," he said. "I haven't
prayed for forgiveness. I pray for deliverance for people and myself."
He doesn't pray for his wife, Catherine, or son, Sean, who was just 14
when he died.
"Praying for my wife and son now is too late," he said. "It's my desire
that they are in heaven with God."
He spends about 6 hours a day reading the Bible, he said, in between
catching episodes of "The Price is Right," "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune"
and any of the 3 "Law and Order" shows. He gets 43 channels on his 13-inch
color TV, cable he pays for with money his family in North Carolina sends
"I'm comfortable, very comfortable," said Hairston, a self-described
alcoholic who smoked pot every day before being arrested. "It doesn't feel
like I'm in prison.
"I can't wait to get up in the morning."
He is served 3 meals a day and has a menu of options, from pastries,
cereal and coffee for breakfast to pizza, spaghetti, soup and cake for
dinner and dessert.
When he was free, he said, he was lucky to eat 2 meals a day.
"I don't miss nothing that's out there in the world," said Hairston, who
turns in for bed by 8 most nights. "I don't miss sex. I don't miss drugs.
I don't miss alcohol. I have everything I need."
Besides his Bible and game shows, one other desire fills Hairston's days,
one that has gone unfulfilled -- he wants to talk with Catherine's family.
"I would like to stand in front of them and speak to them," he said. "I've
been working on what I would say."
Only one thought consumes Catherine's family when it comes to Kenny
Hairston, as her survivors call him: Kill him.
"He's scarred my wife, my children; my wife will never be the same. My
mother-in-law will never be the same," said Theodore Jones, 58, of
Friendship, Catherine's brother-in-law and family spokesman. "I want to go
and witness him being executed. My tax dollars should not go to keeping
Kenny Hairston (alive), to maintaining Kenny with a color TV and three
meals a day."
An execution date hasn't been set for Hairston. If one is, he said, he
would request his last meal be a Wendy's burger, cheesecake and a Frosty.
But he doesn't believe it will come to that.
"I think God has a plan for me," he said. "I'm here for a reason."
Besides Kenneth Hairston, 10 other death-row inmates were convicted in
Allegheny County. Here's a look at who they are and why they were
Richard S. Baumhammers
Date of sentence: Sept. 6, 2001
What he did: The former Mt. Lebanon lawyer, targeted and killed six racial
and ethnic minorities in a shooting spree April 28, 2000.
Date of sentence: March 31, 1987
What he did: Bryant stabbed and killed a fellow inmate at the State
Correctional Institute in Pittsburgh on May 15, 1984. He was serving a
life sentence for murder at the time. His death sentence was vacated in
1998, and he awaits a new penalty-phase hearing Sept. 24.
Date of sentence: Feb. 7, 1995
What he did: Fears admitted he molested and strangled 12-year-old Shawn
Hagan on the banks of the Monongahela River on June 18, 1994.
Anthony J. Fiebiger
Date of sentence: March 1, 1999
What he did: Fiebiger strangled to death his live-in girlfriend, Norma
Parker, in 1989 and fatally stabbed 16-year-old Marcia Jones in 1982.
Date of sentence: Nov. 1, 1989
What he did: McCullum raped, robbed and fatally beat 83-year-old Tillie
Katz at a Squirrel Hill nursing home five months earlier.
Wayne C. Mitchell
Date of sentence: Dec. 8, 1999
What he did: Mitchell fatally stabbed his wife, Robin Little, 19, Sept.
Date of sentence: June 7, 1993
What he did: Santiago shot and killed clerk Patrick Huber during a robbery
of a South Side print shop in 1986.
Date of sentence: Jan. 11, 2002
What he did: Taylor killed 3 people March 1, 2000, during a racially
motivated shooting spree in Wilkinsburg.
Date of sentence: Dec. 13, 1996
What he did: Watkins received 3 separate death sentences for killing his
ex-girlfriend, her son and Watkins' infant daughter July 20, 1994.
Connie J. Williams
Date of sentence: March 25, 2002
What he did: Williams dismembered his wife, Frances Williams, in their
Crafton Heights home Aug. 18, 1999. He served 20 years in prison for the
murder of his North Side landlord in 1974.
Family sues over execution
The mother of a condemned inmate who told an execution team "it dont work"
while they struggled to inject him with lethal drugs sued the head of
Ohios prisons on Monday.
It took almost 90 minutes to carry out the execution of Joseph Clark in
The lawsuit in a Cincinnati federal court said the execution amounted to
unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
In a separate lawsuit, a group of 15 inmates are challenging the states
injection process, arguing the procedure may cause prisoners to suffer
during an execution.
Prison staff had problems finding a useable vein on Clark and one vein
they did use collapsed. The execution team also apparently tried to
administer the lethal drugs through the original IV line by mistake,
according to written accounts of the execution.
During the 1st injection attempt, Clark finally pushed himself up and
said, "It dont work."
During the 2nd attempt at finding a vein, he asked, "Can you just give me
something by mouth to end this?"
Clark, 57, was sentenced to die in November 1984 for killing gas station
attendant David Manning in Toledo.
The problems during the execution led the state to change its lethal
But in May, an execution team again struggled to find veins in another
inmate's arm. Christopher Newton died nearly 2 hours after the scheduled
start of his execution.
A message seeking comment was left for the prisons department.
(source: The Enquirer)
Troy Davis deserves to die
I was glad to see the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the 1991
conviction and death sentence for Troy Anthony Davis, who shot and killed
27-year old Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in the parking lot of
the Greyhound bus terminal in 1989, in a robbery gone awry.
I remember this event. Davis was caught with the gun in his hand, gloating
over the fallen officer's body. I will never forget the sneer on his face
your photographer caught when taking a picture of the cops hauling him off
to jail. He looked so proud of what he had just done; it was disgusting.
He had no clue how stupid he was, or how hurtful he had just been, to an
innocent human being who was just doing his job -- trying to protect the
rest of us from such a low-life like himself.
For Troy Davis to claim innocence, now, when he was caught red-handed, is
cowardly and despicable. For Amnesty International to decry the Supreme
Court's refusal to review this crime and the resulting sentence as
"revealing catastrophic flaws in the U.S. death penalty machine" is
pathetic and inane, and just goes to show that they wouldn't know justice
if it bit them on the leg.
Larry Cox, director of Amnesty International, should be on the receiving
end of a gun held by such a thug as Troy Davis, before he makes such
pompous and asinine comments.
There was never any doubt that Troy Davis shot Officer MacPhail
deliberately and for no good reason whatsoever. The only travesty in this
case is that Davis still lives, while Mark MacPhail's wife and kids have
had to learn to live without their husband and father.
RAPHAEL B. SEMMES
(source: Letter to the Editor, Savannah Morning News)
Death Clock Ticking for Troy Anthony Davis; But Is He Really Guilty?
Attorneys for Troy Anthony Davis, an African American convicted of killing
a White Georgia police officer in 1989, say that if their client is put to
death in less than 3 weeks, it would be the biggest miscarriage of justice
Davis is scheduled to die the week of July 17, according to the death
warrant, for killing Officer Mark Allen MacPhaill, 27, who was shot
repeatedly after responding to a fight outside a bus station. But not only
is the physical evidence lacking in the case, but 6 of the 9 prosecution
witnesses who implicated or named Davis as the killer have recanted their
"I never had any gun powder residue, strange for someone who committed 3
separate shootings in one night," Davis says on his Web site
(www.troyanthonydavis.org). "They never tested Mr. C., also none of the
shell casings matched the initial shooting. No one publicized the fact
that I voluntarily turned myself in to the Sheriff's Department. The
police department was not satisfied with that; they brought me to the
police station downtown, to make it look like I was captured and paraded
me in front of the news cameras for their glory.
"My plan was to finish working this job in Atlanta, Georgia, save a little
money and join the United States Marine Corps. Many people told me I
should have ran but I said no, that is not the answer for an Innocent Man;
you must stand up and make the justice system work. I would also never put
my family through such an ordeal, I love them and the idea of never seeing
them would have been death for me."
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Davis' final appeal.
"This is a travesty," Jason Ewart, one of Davis' lawyers, told The
Associated Press. "We have the vast majority of witnesses at trial who
recanted. We have other new evidence that shows Troy is innocent. No judge
has ever looked at it."
In Davis' latest appeal, his lawyers have been unable to get this
Ewart said that he and other attorneys will seek a stay of execution and
may even ask the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the death
sentence based on Davis' claims of innocence.
But Russ Willard, a spokesman from the Georgia Attorney General's Office,
said the federal courts have considered "all of these alleged inconsistent
statements" and rejected them, AP reported.
"The state has no problem carrying out the lawful sentence against Troy
Davis," Willard said.
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