[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., USA, OHIO., VA., MO.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 7 22:36:26 CDT 2007
Killer's appeal turned down
The state Supreme Court has rejected the latest appeal from a death-row
inmate who claims he was wrongfully convicted of killing a fellow inmate
at the Lake Correctional Institution 9 years ago.
Allen W. Cox, 44, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 1998 stabbing
death of Thomas "Venezuela" Baker Jr., 25, who was accused of taking $500
that Cox had stashed in his cell at the Clermont prison.
Cox claimed he was failed by his public defender.
But the high court unanimously ruled Cox was fairly tried, convicted and
sentenced to death, making special mention of a "thorough and
well-analyzed" ruling by Lake Circuit Judge T. Michael Johnson.
"Because the stakes are so high in death-penalty cases, this type of
detailed order from the trial court greatly assists the [Supreme] Court's
review," the justices noted.
Dubbed a career criminal by prosecutors, Cox received the death penalty,
in part, because of his record of violent crimes, which include the rape
and attempted sodomy of a convenience-store clerk and the beating of a man
with a 3-hole punch. A psychiatrist who evaluated Cox said he had no
positive feelings toward others.
Cox can still challenge his conviction in federal court.
(source : Orlando Sentinel)
The Wrong Place to Treat Mental Illness
Last month the Supreme Court rightly blocked the execution of Scott
Panetti, a Texas man who was convicted of a double murder and who suffers
from delusional schizophrenia. The case drew public attention to the
intersection between mental illnesses and executions.
But what about those who are mentally ill and imprisoned, but not on death
row? A national conversation on this issue is urgently needed.
There is a pervasive attitude in this country that such people are getting
what they deserve: After all, like Panetti, they are in jail for
something.P> But did you know that the Los Angeles County Jail houses the
largest psychiatric population in the country? That's not justice. That's
emblematic of a national emergency.
Before the 1960s, people with mental illnesses were generally cared for in
institutional settings, mostly state-run psychiatric facilities. Many
advocates rightfully saw this as "warehousing" people who could be cared
for in less restrictive settings. Federal legislation and the courts
powered a move toward deinstitutionalization, calling on states and
counties to provide resources for social services, vocational
rehabilitation and treatment services. The introduction of effective
antipsychotic medications also drove the trend toward
In the decades since, community-based services have helped many people.
But the situation today constitutes a national failure.
What's gone wrong?
Most important, the necessary community resources didn't materialize in
anywhere near the level that was needed. Also, antipsychotic medications,
while powerful treatments, don't work in isolation. Patients need a
relationship with a psychiatrist, clinic or other stabilizing force to
ensure adherence to drug regimens and achieve the best possible recovery.
Deinstitutionalization has succeeded in decreasing the overall number of
hospital beds, but an unforeseen consequence has been the proportional
increase in the number of people with mental illnesses housed in the
criminal justice system. Worse, once imprisoned, people with mental
illness are shown to have much longer incarcerations than other inmates,
primarily because a prison environment and lack of treatment aggravate the
very illness that has led to their objectionable or antisocial behavior.
While no one would argue that Scott Panetti belongs on the streets, his
case compels us to consider the justice system's role: Is it to mete out
punishment that seeks retribution, or are there cases where real justice
means effective treatment that seeks rehabilitation?
Consider again Los Angeles County: In 2002 there were 38,600 psychiatric
evaluations at the inmate reception center of the Twin Towers jail. Of
these, 23,190 people (60 %) were found to be in need of mental health
treatment. A reasonable person could not fail to see the correlation
between decreased funding for mental health resources, the closure of
hospital beds, homelessness and the criminalization of mental illnesses.
Untreated and lacking access to long-term care, people with mental
illnesses often end up with symptoms and behaviors that result in jail
Cuts in state Medicaid budgets promise to exacerbate these problems. Not
only is this shift in funding a blight on our society, it also costs money
-- a lot of money. Corrections officials, mental health workers,
medication, amortization of buildings and time spent by police in court
all cost more than treating patients appropriately in their community.
This doesn't make financial sense, much less humanitarian sense.
When considering the direction of public policies that affect those with
mental illnesses, politicians and other officials must be guided by the
Government-funded studies have shown in recent years that jail-diversion
programs, which help people get the treatment they need, result in
positive outcomes for individuals, communities and the criminal justice
system. While jail diversion does generally result in lower
criminal-justice costs and greater treatment costs, studies are underway
to analyze the differential.
The question the court answered in the Panetti case was about one's
fitness to be executed, but in many more cases, the question is about the
appropriateness of incarceration at all.
(source:Marcia Kraft Goin; Washington Post (The writer is a past president
of the American Psychiatric Association and director of residency training
in the Psychiatric Outpatient Department at Los Angeles County General
Hospital/University of Southern California School of Medicine)
It is so moving to see how a willing executioner can soften into a man of
compassion - for cronies
It has been a truly moving experience to witness the concern and
compassion the president of the United States can show towards a convicted
felon. Particularly someone accused of such grave offences as Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. On March 6 2007
Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice, making false statements to
the FBI, and twice committing perjury before a grand jury. According to
the charge sheet, Libby "did knowingly and corruptly endeavour to
influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice by
misleading and deceiving the grand jury". So it wasn't a case of
That is why George Bush's act of mercy is so inspiring, especially when
one considers that compassion is not something generally associated with
him. When he was governor of Texas, for instance, there were quite a
number of convicted felons towards whom he didn't show much compassion at
all. In fact he insisted they receive the full penalty of the law, which
in their case was somewhat more severe than in Libby's. They were
executed. When Bush became governor in 1995, the average number of
executions in the state was 7.6 a year. During his time in office, he
managed to put down a further 24 humans a year, bringing the annual number
of executions up to 31.6; it is heartwarming to see how his attitude to
convicted criminals has softened.
The president said the sentence imposed on Libby was "excessive", and that
he had suffered enough punishment without it. "The reputation he gained
through his years of public service and professional work in the legal
community is for ever damaged," said Bush. "His wife and young children
have also suffered immensely."
Now this will be good news for critics of the current system of justice.
For some time, defence lawyers have been complaining that sentences are
too harsh, that defendants' positive contributions to society are ignored,
and that collateral damage caused to defendants' families is disregarded.
Only last month the US attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, announced that
the justice department would push for legislation to make federal
sentences even tougher and less flexible. How delighted the critics of
such harsh attitudes must be to see that the president has now come around
to their way of thinking.
Mind you, Bush's softening of heart can only have happened in very recent
days. A couple of weeks ago, in an eerily similar case, Victor Rita was,
like Libby, convicted of perjury, making false statements to federal
agents, and obstruction of justice. Like Scooter, Rita has an unblemished
record of public service - 25 years in the armed forces with 35
commendations, awards and medals - and yet he was handed a 33-month jail
sentence without even a message of condolence from the president.
In another recent case, the justice department tried to have Jamie Olis
put away for more than 24 years for accounting fraud. In the end he got 6
years inside. But then I suppose fiddling the accounts isn't on a par with
trying to obstruct an investigation into a breach of national security.
So I thoroughly approve of the president's change of heart towards
convicted criminals, and hope it will continue until his term of office
expires - and that in the future we shall witness increasing moderation in
the justice department's insatiable urge to punish, imprison and execute.
And I sincerely hope that the commutation of Libby's prison sentence will
usher in a new era of clemency, compassion and human forgiveness, under a
president who otherwise has so much blood on his hands.
(source: Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python; The Guardian)
Our Opinion: A shameful look inside the Gonzales Justice Dept.
The politically tinged firings of 9 U.S. prosecutors last year has taken
on a much more troubling tone with recent testimony from the fired U.S.
attorney for Arizona.
Testimony indicates that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was cavalier in
seeking the death penalty, even when the prosecutor most familiar with the
case said that the chance of executing the wrong man was "too high."
It is perhaps the most serious accusation made about the Bush
administration's blunt-force efforts to politicize the Justice Department.
It is akin to the prosecutorial meddling that got a state's attorney fired
in North Carolina over the Duke University lacrosse team rape case.
And thus, Gonzales should be fired.
In late June, Paul Charlton testified before a Senate subcommittee
reviewing use of the federal death penalty.
Charlton was fired last year as U.S. attorney for Arizona, allegedly for
performance-related issues. It later was revealed that he and eight peers
were fired for political disputes with the Bush administration.
Details of why Charlton was fired are chilling, given the authority that
is vested in a federal prosecutor.
Charlton testified that he clashed with Gonzales over a case in which a
methamphetamine dealer was accused of killing his drug supplier.
Gonzales ordered the death penalty be sought over Charlton's repeated
objections. Charlton felt that evidence, including that no body was found,
didn't support the death penalty.
Charlton pressed his objection and was told by an aide to the attorney
general that Gonzales had spent a significant amount of time on the issue,
"perhaps as much as 5 to 10 minutes," and would not back down.
Charlton asked to speak directly with Gonzales. That led one Gonzales aide
to send an e-mail to another, writing, "In the 'you won't believe this
category,' Paul Charlton would like a few minutes of the AG's time."
It is disturbing that Gonzales was unwilling to discuss a case in which he
wanted a man executed. Charlton's principled stand cost him his job.
The State Bar of Arizona recently honored Charlton for representing the
public's interest with integrity, fairness and professionalism.
Gonzales and top members of his staff exhibit none of those traits.
(source: opinion, Tucson Citizen)
OHIO----female could face death sentence
Moonda Convicted, Could Face Death Penalty
A federal court jury in Akron has found a Pennsylvania woman guilty of
murder for hire in the shooting death of her wealthy husband along the
Donna Moonda's lover had testified that she offered him half of her
husband's multimillion-dollar estate if he would kill his 69-year-old Dr.
She was also convicted of interstate stalking and 2 counts of using or
carrying a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
Moonda could face the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Former Death-Row Inmate Officially Declared Innocent
Earl Washington Jr., a mildly mentally retarded man who was nearly
executed in Virginia for a rape and murder he did not commit, walked out
of prison 6 years ago after he was exonerated by DNA evidence. This week,
Virginia officially declared him innocent.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) issued an absolute pardon, which acknowledges
that Washington was wrongly convicted of capital murder and rape. In the
3-page pardon, Kaine said DNA evidence and the recent conviction of
another man in the 1982 slaying provide conclusive proof that Washington
had no connection to the crime.
"It is now evident that Mr. Washington was and is innocent," Kaine wrote.
For several years after the DNA cleared him and pointed to the other man,
the special prosecutor in the case still insisted that Washington was a
Washington's story, which helped spark changes in Virginia's criminal
justice system, has long been considered one of the nation's most
troubling instances of a wrongful conviction. He came within days of
His legal team yesterday hailed the pardon as a final step in a 2-decade
battle to clear Washington's name and erase any lingering doubts.
"Anybody who continues to think Earl was possibly involved in this thing,
this pardon says get over it," said Robert T. Hall, one of Washington's
attorneys. "It's now recognized . . . that Earl Washington Jr. was
actually innocent of that crime. Symbolically, it's a great day for Earl."
Washington, who has since married and works as a maintenance man in
Virginia Beach, answered with one word when his lawyers told him about the
pardon. "He said, 'Finally,' " Hall said.
Washington's case inspired a 2001 law allowing inmates who claim innocence
to seek DNA testing at any time, loosening what was then the toughest rule
in the nation on new evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court cited his case in a
footnote of a 2002 decision to abolish the execution of mentally retarded
In April, Kenneth M. Tinsley, who was serving life in prison for a 1984
rape, pleaded guilty to Williams's rape and murder. He was sentenced to 2
additional life terms.
Washington, a former farm worker who has an IQ of 69, was convicted and
sentenced to death largely based on a confession his attorneys say was
coerced. A jury found that he raped and stabbed Rebecca Williams, 19, 38
times while she was in her Culpeper apartment with 2 of her children.
In 1994, then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D) commuted Washington's sentence to
life in prison after forensic tests cast doubt on his guilt. 6 years
later, then-Gov. James S. Gilmore III issued a pardon after more advanced
testing failed to connect Washington to the crime and revealed the
presence of Tinsley's DNA at the scene. Gilmore's pardon was on the
limited grounds that a reasonable jury would not have convicted him based
on the evidence as it was then known. Kaine's pardon actually proclaims
This year, Virginia officials agreed to pay Washington $1.9 million to
settle a lawsuit he had filed against law enforcement officials. His
lawyers said the payment is being managed by trustees who provide regular
payments to Washington to supplement his income.
(source: Washington Post)
Supreme Court upholds new hearing for death row inmate
A divided state Supreme Court ruled Friday that a death row inmate
convicted of strangling a 13-year-old girl deserves a new sentencing
hearing because his defense attorney did not call enough witnesses.
By a 4-3 vote, the state's highest court upheld a decision last year by a
lower court judge granting Travis Glass a new hearing on whether he should
be sentenced to death or life in prison for the May 2001 murder of
Steffini Wilkins, of Hannibal.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the lower court's decision to keep
his conviction intact.
During Glass' trial, his attorney called 10 witnesses including family
members, friends and former co-workers to try to make the case that he
should not be sentenced to death.
But Callaway County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler later ruled the
attorney was ineffective for not also presenting testimony from a variety
of other people, including Glass former teachers, probation officers and
medical professionals who had examined him.
Among the potential witnesses cited by the judge was a doctor who treated
Glass for bacterial meningitis in 1981, when Glass was just 23 months old.
The Supreme Court majority agreed that the doctor could have provided
mitigating evidence about the long-term effects of meningitis and Glass'
impaired mental abilities.
Teachers could have explained that Glass had difficulties learning and had
been harassed by other students for being overweight, Oxenhandler had
ruled, and his probation officers could have spoken of his good behavior
The lower court judge also said Glass' attorney was ineffective for not
calling a neuropsychologist, learning disability expert and toxicologist,
the latter of whom could have testified Glass was so drunk that he couldnt
fully comprehend his criminal actions at the time he killed Steffini.
Judge Richard Teitelman, who authored the majority opinion, acknowledged
there are numerous cases where the Supreme Court has upheld a judge's
decision that an attorney was not ineffective for declining to call
But "many of these decisions are premised in large part upon the fact that
this court will defer to the motion court unless there is a showing of
clear error," Teitelman wrote. "That same deferential standard of review
applies" when the lower court finds there was ineffective aid.
Teitelman was joined by Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith and judges
Michael Wolff and Ronnie White, whose last day on the Supreme Court was
Friday. Judges had scrambled to get the decision out before White's
resignation kicked in.
In a dissent, Judge Mary Russell said Oxenhandlers re-sentencing decision
should have been overturned, because the defense attorney had shown proper
diligence in his decisions about which witnesses to call.
Under the lower court's decision, defense attorneys could have had to call
an additional 26 witnesses, many of whose testimony merely would have been
repetitive of points made by others, Russell said.
Following the lower court's reasoning, an effective attorney "would have
to investigate and call as mitigating witnesses essentially every person
who has ever encountered Glass throughout his life," wrote Russell, who
was joined by judges Stephen Limbaugh Jr. and William Ray Price Jr. "This
reasoning is impractical and illogical."
(source: Associated Press)
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