[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, MD., VA., MO., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 3 11:20:30 CDT 2007
High Court Ruling Could Mean More Death Sentences
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the disqualification of a
juror who expressed doubts about the death penalty, combined with an
increasing number of U.S. citizens who say their moral convictions make
them ineligible to serve as jurors in capital trials, could mean future
juries will be less representative of the country's diversity and more
likely to hand down convictions, death penalty opponents say.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the death sentence imposed by a
trial court in Washington State in the case of Cal Brown, convicted of
raping and killing a woman in a Seattle motel in 1991. The Court ruled the
trial judge was correct in disqualifying a man from serving as juror
because he had expressed doubts about the death penalty. The Court's 5-4
decision overturned an earlier one by a federal court of appeals.
In May, Juan A. Luna Jr., who was found guilty of killing seven people in
a fast food restaurant in Illinois in 1993, was spared the ultimate
punishment because one juror voted against sentencing him to death. In
Illinois, as in most of the 38 states which have the death penalty, a
death sentence must be unanimous.
"We are observing a decline in the use of the death penalty in the last
six to ten years," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death
Penalty Information Centre, a group opposing the death penalty. "Much of
this is due to a change in public opinion about the death penalty."
Disqualified and dissenting jurors reflect this trend. Jurors are less
willing to impose the death penalty, a fact illustrated by justice
department statistics showing a steady decline in death sentences. In the
1990s, about 300 people were sentenced to death every year. In 2005, the
number had dropped to 128. Last year, the number of death sentences
reached the lowest level in 30 years, according to the Death Penalty
A recent poll commissioned by the Centre, sampling 1,000 adults across the
country, revealed that almost 40 % of U.S. citizens felt that they would
be disqualified from serving on capital juries. The numbers increase
significantly for certain groups: 68 % of African-Americans would exclude
themselves, 48 % of women, and 47 % of Catholics. The margin of error for
the survey was plus or minus 3 %.
Dieter and other experts attributed the increasing lack of support for the
death penalty to various factors, including reports of DNA exonerations,
belief that the death penalty is not a deterrent for future crimes, and
moral objections to taking a person's life.
Among citizens in general, 87 % said they believed that an innocent person
had been executed in recent years, according to the Death Penalty
Information Centre poll. Concern about the possibility of executing the
innocent was also found to be a significant reason for drawing back from
imposing a death sentence. "Among jurors, innocence continuously came up,"
Dieter told IPS.
The availability since the 1990s of a life sentence without the
possibility of parole is another major factor in the drop in the number of
death sentences. But citizens are almost evenly split between their
support for the death penalty and life without parole as a punishment for
premeditated murder, according to a Gallup poll last year.
The "single biggest" reason for imposing the death penalty was to prevent
the convicted person from killing again, Eric M. Freedman, a law professor
at Hofstra University and an expert on the death penalty said, adding:
"The effect of life without parole is permanent incapacitation."
But Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School and a supporter of
the death penalty for the "worst of the worst" offenders, disagrees.
"Even in life without parole, a person can kill again," Blecker told IPS.
"He can kill fellow prisoners, officers, or medical personnel. Life
without parole doesn't mean isolation. And life without parole sentences
can be commuted by the executive."
Blecker also disagrees with poll findings. He argues that if people were
asked about specific, concrete examples of the worst crimes, instead of
only about the appropriate punishment for "murder", polls would show a
much greater support for the death penalty.
He believes the Supreme Court was right in its recent ruling,
acknowledging that it could have long-term consequences on decisions in
capital punishment cases.
In capital cases jury selection occurs under a process known as "death
qualification". Potential jurors are asked about their views and
willingness to impose the death penalty. If their unequivocal opposition
or endorsement of the death penalty is considered likely to impair their
ability to follow the law, judges can exclude them from serving as jurors.
"Under pre-existing Supreme Court law, people who were opposed to the
death penalty could be excluded. But if a juror simply expressed doubts,
the juror had to be allowed to serve on the jury because they represented
the majority of the country," said Freedman. "With the recent Supreme
Court decision, we're more likely to get people on juries who are inclined
to convict in the first place."
Brooke Butler, a legal psychologist at the University of South Florida who
studies capital punishment juries, would agree. She has found that "death
qualified" jurors tend to be "male, Caucasian, moderately well-educated,
politically conservative, Catholic or Protestant, and middle-class." They
also tended to have a high regard for authoritarian beliefs, were more
prejudiced, pro-conviction and pro-death.
Country-wide "abolitionists far outweigh pro-death penalty people," Butler
told IPS. The Supreme Court ruling was "going to systematically exclude a
vast number of people," she said.
Opponents of the death penalty also expressed concern that the resulting
un-demographic make-up of future juries not reflecting the diversity of
views of the American public, would result in more death sentences and
convictions of innocent people.
But they also say that the Supreme Court decision could have a "boomerang"
effect over the long-run.
"The impact of this Supreme Court decision is self-defeating," said
Freedman. "If prosecutors were to press this case, they would convict more
innocent people. And then if that were revealed, it would invalidate the
(source: IPS News)
Fred W. Bennett; Lawyer Led Death-Penalty Appeals
Fred Warren Bennett, 65, a former public defender who served as lead
counsel on death penalty appeals cases in Maryland and was regarded as one
of the top appellate lawyers in the state, died July 1 at Baltimore
Washington Medical Center after a 2-car accident in Anne Arundel County.
Mr. Bennett was driving eastbound on Route 100 in Glen Burnie when he made
a U-turn and started heading north on Route 10, Maryland State Police
said. Mr. Bennett's car and a southbound vehicle collided.
Mr. Bennett's legal efforts have gained reduced sentences, new trials or
the outright release of dozens of criminal defendants over a legal career
that began in the late 1960s.
In recent years, Mr. Bennett successfully appealed the conviction of James
R. Logan, a Prince George's County man convicted of killing two county
sheriff's deputies in 2002. Logan's retrial ended in a hung jury last
month. Mr. Bennett argued that Logan was criminally insane at the time of
Mr. Bennett attracted wide attention for his defense -- which lasted more
than a decade -- of Steven H. Oken, who was executed in 2004, the state's
first execution since 1998. Oken was put to death for a 1987 rampage in
which he sexually assaulted and murdered three women from Maryland to
Mr. Bennett became known inside the courtroom as a voluble, sometimes
bullying figure in defense of his clients. He often contended that
Maryland law was unconstitutional because of the standard that judges or
juries were to use when deciding whether to put someone to death.
When Oken's final appeal was denied, Mr. Bennett told reporters: "It's
like my own son being killed. He was a good man; he was not a monster. He
was sick. He was mentally ill. You should not kill mentally ill people."
Mr. Bennett was born in Bay City, Mich., June 15, 1942. He was a graduate
of American University and George Washington University Law School, where
he also received a master's degree in law.
He was a defense lawyer at Washington area private practices before
becoming a Prince George's public defender in 1978, the year Maryland
re-instituted the death penalty.
He was a Baltimore-based federal public defender from 1980 to 1992. Among
those he defended were Ronald W. Pelton, a former National Security Agency
communications expert, and John A. Walker Jr., who led a Navy spy ring.
Both defendants sold secrets to the Soviets and received life sentences.
In the 1990s, Mr. Bennett taught law at Catholic and American
universities. He also began a law practice, now in Greenbelt, that focuses
on state and federal criminal defense.
In 2004, he made news by hiring as a partner his longtime legal antagonist
Gary E. Bair, solicitor general in the Maryland attorney general's office
who had also been chief of the criminal appeals division.
"He wore people down," Bair said yesterday. "He was aggressive, tenacious.
He treated every motion, every evidentiary ruling, every little point as
if it were the most important thing. A lot of lawyers might say, 'I'm
going to let that point go to concentrate on a more important thing.' "
Mr. Bennett lectured widely on federal rules of evidence and federal
sentencing and wrote more than 30 articles in the legal press on criminal
law, evidence and trial practice issues. He received several Maryland bar
association awards for his work in criminal law.
Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Susan Smith Bennett of Gambrills;
2 daughters, Stephanie Mackall of Catonsville and Melanie Waligoske of
Eugene, Ore.; a brother; 2 sisters; and a granddaughter.
(source: Washington Post)
Suspect in minister's beating death could face death penalty
A man accused of beating a Snow Creek minister to death during a robbery
in her parsonage could face the death penalty.
A Franklin County grand jury indicted 40-year-old Charles Vincent Cobler
of Martinsville yesterday on charges of capital murder and robbery in the
April murder of Nancy Copin.
Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Cliff Hapgood says he hasn't
decided whether he will pursue the death penalty against Cobler. He
declined to say why he chose to upgrade the charge from 1st-degree murder
to capital murder.
According to court evidence, Cobler admitted to police that the night of
April second, he went to Copin's house intending to rob her. He asked to
use her phone, then attacked her in the house.
Authorities have said Copin, who was 60, died from blunt force trauma.
Cobler was arrested several days later in Ohio and was later charged with
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmate seeks medical parole
The Missouri Parole Board is considering a rare request for a medical
parole for a death row inmate, Brian Kinder, who says he is in grave
condition with throat cancer.
Relatives of Cynthia Williams say they will fight to keep Kinder, 47,
behind bars for her 1992 rape and murder in Crystal City.
"I just want to let people know what he's trying to do," Donielle
Williams, 27, the victim's daughter, said Monday. "I'm going to do
everything and anything I can to stop it."
Kinder's lawyer, Fred Duchardt Jr., said his client has complained for
years that the Department of Corrections did not provide proper care for
his symptoms. Kinder's voice box was removed because of the cancer, the
"He persistently made requests for treatment over the years and was put
off by the system until the thing really reared its ugly head in the last
year," Duchardt said.
Kinder made the request himself after a doctor evaluated his condition,
The Parole Board will interview Kinder and his doctor and review a stack
of reports before making a decision. The victim's family will get a chance
to be heard, said Brian Hauswirth, a Corrections Department spokesman.
The department pays a flat $9 a day for each inmate's health care under
contract with Correctional Medical Services but does not pay for a
parolee's expenses, Hauswirth said.
Officials said they would look into allegations that Kinder did not get
proper care but defended their medical service, which costs about $100
million a year.
"We believe our inmates receive excellent medical care," Hauswirth said.
The Parole Board grants about 20 medical paroles a year, officials said.
Hauswirth said that if Kinder were freed, he could be returned to prison
if his condition improved.
Duchardt, who is not representing Kinder on the parole request, said he
does not know whether doctors consider Kinder's death imminent.
Donielle Williams said she doesn't know and doesn't care.
"My mom didn't have a choice for medial care," she said. "There was no one
to see after her when he raped and beat her."
Williams said she got a certified letter from the state on Saturday. The
news frightened relatives who testified against Kinder, she said.
Cynthia Williams, 32, a distant cousin of Kinder's, was a mother of three
and a clerk for the St. Louis County recorder of deeds when she was beaten
to death with a metal pipe in her home three days before Christmas in
Kinder has always maintained that he is innocent, and Duchardt said an
appeal for a new trial is pending after the Missouri Supreme Court ordered
new DNA testing last year.
Donielle Williams said she has asked to see the Parole Board face to face
before it decides on the parole. She was told the process may take 2
"When you're on death row, you are supposed to be in jail until you die,"
she said, "not inside a nursing facility where there is no security and he
could harm someone else."
Missouri officials said they could not recall a medical parole from death
row. Faye Copeland, who was released to a nursing home in 2002, had served
time on death row, but her murder conviction was already reduced by a
federal judge to life in prison.
Oklahoma executed a terminally ill inmate on June 26. Jimmy Dale Bland,
who was told he had less than six months to live after radiation and
chemotherapy for lung cancer, was put to death for killing his employer.
In California last year, condemned inmate Clarence Ray Allen was revived
after a heart attack only to be executed several months later.
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Illinois Inmate Requests Parole From Death Row
A Missouri prison inmate sentenced to death for killing a Crystal City
woman seventeen years ago has applied for parole, based on health
Brian Kinder is on death row for the 1990 murder of Cynthia Williams.
While state law prevents Missouri Department of Corrections officials from
discussing details of Kinder's health, they confirm that Kinder has
applied for something known as medical parole.
Brian Hauswirth is a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of
Hauswirth said, "I think it's important to note just because the person
has applied, or someone has applied for medical parole on behalf of the
inmate, doesn't mean he's going to get it."
Donielle Williams finds it ironic that the man convicted of killing her
mother is getting any consideration, based upon health concerns.
Williams said, "My Mom didn't get a choice. My Mom didn't have medical
care, she didn't have 24-hour care, someone trying to watch over her while
she was laying there, trying to breathe, or whatever the case was, when he
did what he did to her in 1990."
A Missouri Corrections Death Row website outlines details of the case. It
reads as follows: On Friday, December 21, 1990, at about 6:30 p.m., Kinder
went with Don Williams to the home of Williams' estranged wife, Cynthia
Williams, to pick up 2 of the Williams' children for the weekend.
The Williams' 3rd child, Donald Culton, remained at his mother's home for
the evening. Cynthia Williams came home from work and then went out with
relatives on that Friday evening.
At about 10:00 or 10:30 that same night, Kinder returned to his own home.
Earl Smith, who was at the Kinder home, saw Kinder with a pipe that had
black tape on one end. Kinder left his home at about 11:00 or 11:30 p.m.
At about 12:00 or 12:30 a.m., Kinder, with pipe in hand, was standing
outside of Gibb's Esquire Bar, which was 40 yards from Cynthia William's
home, and while there he got into an argument with Dwayne Wingo.
Wingo left the area at about 1:00 a.m., drove past Cynthia William's home
to a restaurant, and then returned to the bar. During the trip he saw
Kinder coming out of Cynthia Williams' home, and on his return, he saw
Kinder back in front of the bar.
At some point after midnight and after Cynthia Williams had returned home,
Donald Culton, Cynthia's son, was awakened by a noise that sounded like a
briefcase or shoes dragging on the floor.
He also heard "the sound of someone trying to breathe." The next morning,
Donald found his mother's unclothed body lying on her bed in a pool of
blood. He then went to his next-door neighbors' house and told them his
mother was dead, and the police were called.
A pathologist determined that Cynthia Williams died from extensive head
injuries caused by multiple blows with a reasonably heavy blunt object,
and that her injuries were consistent with being beaten with a pipe.
Hauswirth outlined the eligibility requirements for Missouri prison inmate
medical parole. He says an inmate must be diagnosed with a terminal
disease, with less than six months to live, or be in need of long-term
nursing home care, or in a situation where continued confinement would
shorten his or her lifespan.
Hauswirth says victim impact statements will be considered by parole board
"The victim's family has been contacted," said Hauswirth. "Obviously the
board will consider the victim's family's comments. They'll also consider
the seriousness of the crime, and the fact that this is a capital
Hauswirth says in 2006, the Missouri Parole Board held 7,929 actual parole
hearings. In 2005 the number of parole hearings board members attended was
8,728, and in 2004 the number was 8,719.
Still, Hauswirth says this medical parole hearing process is largely
administrative, and there will be no actual meeting held, for board
members to consider the matter. As a result, Hauswirth says a decision
could be made in days, weeks, or months.
Cynthia Williams' daughter remains resolute, in her feelings about Kinder.
"Death row, to me, you're in jail until you're electrocuted or until you
pass away, or die, or whatever the case may be. So for him to apply for
medical parole due to any type of health care that he may have, it's
appalling. He's dangerous; he's a threat to the community, Jefferson
County, Festus, Crystal City, he's just dangerous."
(source: KSDK News)
Marshallese woman will not face death penalty if convicted
Lorita Lanej, a 23-year-old charged with murder of a toddler in her care,
will not face the death penalty if convicted, according to prosecutors in
the case. Lanej, a Marshallese residing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, pleaded
not guilty in December, remaining in jail in lieu of a quarter million
bond. Last week, the Washington County prosecutors were asked by Lanej's
lawyer to declare their intent on requesting either the death penalty or
life in prison if Lanej is found guilty.
Lanej was arraigned on capital murder charges after the autopsy.
Prosecutors say she "shook, squeezed and applied extreme force to
23-month-old Kwadik Dale Annam, causing internal injuries, asphyxiation
and, ultimately, death."
When police arrived at the caretaker's apartment on November 16, the
23-month-old toddler was dead. They found severe burns on his hands and
feet which Lanej said was due to disciplinary action.
Junious K. Annam and Elmitha Saito, the parents of the dead boy, are
accused of permitting the abuse of a minor, and face 3 to 10 years in
prison and fines up to $10,000 if convicted. They are out on bail until
the trial for all 3 which is scheduled for August 20.
In another Northwest Arkansas case involving a Marshall Islander, the
state is seeking the death penalty for Abon Tili, who is accused of
killing Emiti Freddy, a 10-year-old Marshallese girl in his care. After
delays due to lack of an interpretor, the case will go to trial on July 9.
(source: Yokwe news)
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