[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----S. DAK., NEV., MD., GA., UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 8 16:46:08 CDT 2007
1 in 9 on death row don't pursue appeals
Almost 1 of every 9 persons sentenced to death since 1977 has asked, as
Elijah Page did in South Dakota last summer, to have all legal appeals
ended and the execution carried out, a University of Colorado death
penalty scholar says.
Michael Radelet, a nationally known death-penalty expert at the University
of Florida before joining the sociology faculty at the University of
Colorado, said that has happened more often in recent years and it's more
common with a younger convicted killer.
Page, 25, waived his appeals last summer and was scheduled to die by
injection in August. A conflict between law and corrections department
policy about the drugs to use prompted a delay while legislators clarified
the law. The execution now is scheduled for sometime this week at the
state penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
"It's not all that uncommon for a person on death row to give up appeals
and want to get it over,'' Radelet said. "That's happening increasingly
now, and especially with younger inmates.''
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1972 invalidated death sentences. The court
later said capital punishment could be mandated with conditions. South
Dakota re-enacted its death penalty in 1979. The statute, changed in 2004
to prohibit a death sentence for anyone under 18 at the time of the crime,
has withstood several attempts at repeal.
Since states began to re-enact their death penalties in 1977, Radelet
says, 1,083 people have been executed in the U.S. Of those, 126 gave up
their appeals, which can stretch for several years.
"That's 11.6 % who ended appeals and asked that the sentence be carried
out,'' he said.
South Dakota's last execution was of George Sitts in 1947. He was
electrocuted for crimes that included killing a law officer.
Page is scheduled to die for his part in the torture-murder of Chester
Allen Poage in the Black Hills in 2000.
During the last legislative session, as lawmakers tried to fix the
conflict in state law over drug protocols, they also debated two proposals
to repeal the death penalty entirely. One died 11-1 in a House committee,
the other 7-1 in a Senate committee.
State Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, was the lone vote for repeal in
the Senate panel. He also tried and failed to have a moratorium on
executions in the state to allow time to study the practice, state
policies and the process used. Life without parole is a preferable
solution, he said.
"My objection to the death penalty has always been that it's not the
proper role for government,'' Nesselhuf said. "The state shouldn't be in
the business of killing people, regardless.''
The fact that Page waived appeals is immaterial, he added.
"I don't particularly care whether he's ready or not. This isn't his
decision,'' Nesselhuf said. "I don't think it's up to Elijah Page to have
any say in what we do.''
State Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre, said it's clear that a majority of South
Dakotans want the death penalty available for the worst murder cases.
"Anytime you have anybody who wants to die, it's going to weigh on you.''
The state's last execution happened 25 years before he was born, and he
said the idea of capital punishment has largely been an abstract one until
the Page case began to speed up.
"Here we are nearly on the eve of an execution, and as a legislator, it
weighs on you,'' Gray said. "But when I look at the people on death row, I
also think about their victims, what they did to their victims.''
(source: Argus Leader)
Former death-row Inmate Recalls His Ordeal
After spending 13,695 days behind bars in the Louisiana State
Penitentiary, Moreese Bickham wanted nothing more than to pray on the
steps of the Supreme Court for his 90th birthday.
So last week, on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that
temporarily abolished the death penalty and saved his life, the oldest man
to sit on death row and be released did just that.
"I am thankful for the men and women who worked to abolish the death
penalty," he said in a quivering voice, at the top of the Supreme Court
steps. "There was a time in jail where all I could think about was getting
out. According to the system, right now I should be dead."
Bickham, who is black, was sentenced to death after being convicted of
killing two police officers outside of his home in Mandeville, La.
Shootings, he said, for which he prays every day for forgiveness, but were
only done in self-defense.
On a July night in 1958, the 2 officers came to his house at 3 a.m to
arrest him for a bar fight earlier in the night. Bickham said that he was
shot first in the chest and said the police officers were known members of
the Ku Klux Klan. After 2 1/2 hours, the all-white male jury found Bickham
guilty and sentenced him to death.
"At that time, I was surprised I even made it to the courtroom," Bickham
said. "During that time, I should have been hung."
Bickham spent 14 years and 10 months on death row. At one point, he came
within 14 hours of execution.
But after the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the death penalty was cruel
and unusual punishment, Bickham and 588 other inmates on death row had
their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Bickham served 38 years
before being released on Jan. 10, 1996, at the age of 78.
Bickham's attorney, Michael Alcamo, clearly remembers the night that
Bickham was released from prison.
"He wanted to be out at midnight, not a second later," Alcamo said. "So,
we picked him up, and he was out a minute past midnight."
Bickham returned to his hometown in Mississippi, to pay tribute to his
mother who died while he was locked away.
Now an ordained Methodist minister, Bickham said he tries not to hold any
regrets in his life, but he does regret the time he missed with his family
while he was incarcerated. He now lives with his family in Klamath Falls,
Ore., and spends as much time as he can fishing.
He also goes on tours speaking out against the death penalty, with The
Journey of Hope, an organization comprised of murder victims' family
members who support life in prison instead of the death penalty.
With a weathered face and bright smile, Bickham said he is happy because
he gets to interact with new people almost every day.
"I've been out for 11 years now and I still love meeting people," he said.
"Every day is another day to put a smile on someone else's face."
(source: Scripps-Howard News Service)
Letter: Death penalty deters? Evidence says no
Recently, The Gazette published an AP article by Robert Tanner whose
headline claimed "Death penalty deters crime." He notes that "what gets
little notice ... is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen
years that claim ... the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder." Yet
the studies he cites are actually several years old. 2 respected scholars,
John D. Donohue of Yale Law School and Justin Wolfers of the University of
Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business published an April 2006 article
stating that recent studies claiming to show that the death penalty deters
murders are "simply not credible." They state that using the same data and
proper methodology could lead to the opposite conclusion.
As one of the most studied phenomena in the social sciences, the vast
preponderance of empirical research suggests that the death penalty does
not deter crime.
Here are some undisputable, hard facts: 84 % of expert criminologists
polled from around the country concluded that the death penalty did not
act as a deterrent to murder. Generally, states without the death penalty
have consistently lower murder rates than states with the death penalty;
and contiguous state comparisons reveal that states without the death
penalty usually have a lower murder rate than neighboring states with the
death penalty. In fact, Montana's only neighbor without the death penalty
- North Dakota - routinely benefits from lower homicide rates per capita
than Montana (or any of its other neighbors).
For more information, please see www.mtabolitionco.org. Ginger Aldrich --
Deputy Public Policy Director, American Civil Liberties Union of
(source: The Billings Gazette)
Doubt still surrounds Rover execution
A long-standing story goes that J. W. Rover, hanged in Reno in 1878 for
murder, was, indeed, innocent. Rover was arrested and convicted for the
murder of business partner Isaac Sharp following Sharp's disappearance and
the subsequent discovery of his dismembered body by the Humboldt County
sheriff. Nevada newspaper accounts in 1899 wrote of a deathbed confession
exonerating Rover made by his other business partner and accuser, Frank
McWorthy, in Arizona Territory.
Sharp, McWorthy and Rover were business associates in a sulphur mine near
Rabbit Hole Springs just outside the Block Rock Desert in what was then
Humboldt County. McWorthy and Rover accused each other of the April 1875
murder. However, it was McWorthy who rode to the county seat of Winnemucca
and swore out a complaint against Rover.
Based essentially on McWorthy's court testimony and circumstantial
evidence, Rover was convicted of murder. Rover failed to convince the jury
that McWorthy had actually killed Sharp and framed him for the brutal
The case was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City,
overturned on the technicality that the jury did not explicitly state
conviction for 1st-degree murder, and a retrial ordered. The trial outcome
in 1876 was the same, except that Rover was now found guilty of 1st-degree
A 2nd appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court also resulted in a retrial
because of a district judge's erroneous instruction defining reasonable
doubt. However, due to a depleted jury pool in Humboldt County, the venue
was changed to Washoe County.
A 3rd trial in Reno ended in a hung jury, but the 4th and final trial in
1877 sealed Rover's fate. He was again found guilty of murder in the 1st
degree and sentenced to die on February 19, 1878. This time, the Supreme
Court did not concur with the arguments made on appeal and directed the
Washoe County sheriff to carry out the sentence. A petition for
commutation from Humboldt County citizens to the State Board of Pardons
was also not entertained.
Yet one more effort was made to save Rover's life. Based on an obscure and
rarely used law, the condemned man's attorneys demanded that a "sheriff's
jury" be called to determine Rover's sanity. 7 of the 12 jurymen deemed
Rover sane; five weren't sure. Hopelessly deadlocked on the morning of the
execution, the jurors were dismissed.
Although the state legislature had made public executions illegal in 1875,
that didn't stop Sheriff Albion Lamb from inviting some 200 guests to
witness the hanging on the courthouse grounds behind an enclosure. Rover's
last words took 52 minutes to share with the gathering as he professed his
innocence to the end, and blamed McWorthy for Sharp's murder. A black hood
was pulled over his head and the gallows' trapdoor sprung. Later, the rope
was cut and Rover's body transported to the nearby Catholic cemetery for
burial. Reno had experienced its only legal execution and Washoe County
sent Humboldt County the bill for the trials and the hanging.
The story didn't end there. Eilley Orrum Bowers, the well known eccentric
"Washoe Seeress," claimed that Rover's spirit had come to her and declared
his innocence. For a while, it was popular to hold sances to contact
Others who had visited the Rabbit Hole Springs mine swore that Rover
haunted the area, and refused to work there after dark. Even without
Bowers' psychic pronouncement of Rover's innocence and the talk of his
tormented ghost, newspapers for years noted the doubts among some that he
was guilty of murder.
In fact, a story originating in the New York Engineering and Mining
Journal was reprinted on July 22, 1899 in Winnemucca's Silver State,
Carson City News, and probably other newspapers claiming, "It afterward
developed that Rover was innocent of the crime for which he suffered.
McWorthy died a few years ago in Arizona, and on his deathbed confessed
that he was the murderer of Sharp." A lengthy story on the Rover case in
Winnemucca's Humboldt Star in 1928 took it as fact that there had been a
deathbed confession. So have others even today.
< Actually, Frank McWorthy returned to his wife, Helen, and family in
Oakland after the lengthy trials, dying in California sometime after 1900.
A squib in the Reno Evening Gazette of July 24, 1899 has been somehow
overlooked which noted, "The News is mistaken, for McWorthy is alive today
and lives in Oakland. Rover killed Sharp and paid the penalty with his
The Oakland Tribune of October 19, 1898 briefly mentioned a lawsuit over
mining property in Plumas County, Calif., involving McWorthy. However, the
definitive evidence is found in the 1900 U.S. Census. J. Franklin
McWorthy, age 74, was enumerated as living with wife Helen in Eden,
Alameda County, Calif.
Despite 3 juries finding Rover guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt,
given Rover's accusation that McWorthy killed Sharp, there will always be
some doubt that Rover was the murderer. However, a thorough examination of
census records for California and other sources leaves no doubt that
McWorthy's so-called deathbed confession was an unfounded rumor embraced
by some as fact.
(source: Reno Gazette-Journal ---- Guy Rocha is the Nevada state
Ire Over O'Malley's Inaction on Executions----Delay of New Rules Forms De
More than 6 months after Maryland's highest court ordered the state to
halt executions, Gov. Martin O'Malley has delayed issuing new rules to
allow them to resume, frustrating some prosecutors and lawmakers who say
he has a duty to carry out the death penalty law.
The governor says he might wait until next year to give the legislature a
second chance to repeal the death penalty. His stance, in effect, blocks
executions at a time when 6 inmates are on death row and has emboldened
those lobbying for a repeal, who see the inaction as advancing their
Maryland has had a de facto moratorium on executions since December, when
the Court of Appeals ruled that the state's lethal injection procedures
had not been properly adopted. O'Malley (D) said in an interview that his
administration might not issue regulations allowing executions to resume
before the legislature reconvenes in January.
O'Malley opposes the death penalty and sought its repeal during this
year's legislative session, which ended in April. Legislation to replace
the death penalty with life without parole failed by a single vote in a
Senate committee in March, effectively ending debate on the issue for the
"We're studying the issue and looking at the next session and trying to
assess the possibility of people changing their minds," O'Malley said. "I
think that opinions have shifted somewhat in the General Assembly. . . .
What, in essence, we're considering is, 'Should one promulgate regulations
for a law that may be on its way out?' "
Several prosecutors interviewed recently argued that the court ruling
should have prompted the administration to issue the new regulations.
Under Maryland law, those guilty of 1st-degree murder are eligible for
execution if prosecutors can prove at least 1 of 10 aggravating factors,
such as killing a law enforcement officer or committing murder while in
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said Maryland law does not dictate
how quickly regulations must be issued, so the O'Malley administration is
under no legal obligation to act now.
But Gansler, a death penalty supporter, added, "The longer we have a death
penalty statute on the books but an inability to carry it out, the
frustration will undoubtedly mount among prosecutors and families of
victims of crime."
Joseph I. Cassilly (R), the state's attorney in Harford County, said: "The
governor, who took an oath to uphold the law, needs to do something to put
the law into effect. It seems to me, the administration, because of the
oath to uphold the law of Maryland, is supposed to get going on this."
Washington County State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. (R), whose office
is seeking death for a man charged with killing a prison guard, expressed
a similar view, as did Patricia C. Jessamy (D), Baltimore's state's
O'Malley has also drawn criticism from one of the state's most powerful
legislators, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who said recently
that he does not expect the administration to issue regulations, although
he believes it should.
"He tends to go with his gut on certain issues, and his mind is firmly
made up on this one," Miller (D-Calvert), a death penalty supporter, said
of the governor.
Just more than a month after taking office, O'Malley testified before the
legislature in favor of the repeal bill, calling capital punishment
"inherently unjust." O'Malley argued that the penalty does not serve as a
deterrent to murder and saps resources that could be better spent on law
O'Malley said that no decision has been made about whether to issue
regulations allowing capital punishment to resume. But several death
penalty opponents said they do not expect new rules.
"No action, in effect, is an action," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince
George's), a death penalty opponent who co-chairs a legislative committee
that reviews administration regulations. "I'm pleased with it. I applaud
The pace of executions in Maryland pales in comparison with that of many
other states -- 5 prisoners have been put to death since the U.S. Supreme
Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 -- but the issue has generated
considerable debate in recent years.
Prompted by concerns about racial disparities in the death penalty's
application, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) imposed a moratorium in
2002. That was overturned in 2003, when Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. became
Maryland's 1st Republican governor in a generation. 2 inmates were put to
death during Ehrlich's tenure.
The high court's December ruling postponed the execution of Vernon L.
Evans, who was convicted of 2 murders in 1983. The current limbo has
already prompted legal wrangling on other cases.
Defense attorneys for Brandon T. Morris, who is charged in last year's
death of a correctional officer in a Hagerstown hospital, argued last
month that the lack of a proper execution protocol required the state to
withdraw its notice of intent to seek the death penalty. The lawyers
argued that Morris would otherwise be denied due process because he would
face trial without knowing what punishment he could receive.
A trial court judge in Howard County, where the case is being heard,
rejected that argument, finding "no indication that the Court of Appeals
intended to impose a general moratorium on the bringing of death penalty
Absent new regulations from the administration, the high court ruling in
December offered one other scenario that would allow executions to resume:
a bill passed by the legislature explicitly authorizing capital punishment
without new procedures on lethal injection. A bill attempting to do that
last session generated little support.
O'Malley said support for repealing the death penalty could grow as
lawmakers hear from constituents.
He offered a contrary view in March, when his administration was exploring
the possibility of a compromise that would limit circumstances under which
murderers could be eligible for execution.
At the time, O'Malley said one reason to consider a compromise was that
most lawmakers seemed firm in their views on the death penalty. "I don't
see that changing a lot in the 4 years ahead," he said.
Asked about those comments, O'Malley said: "I may have been too
Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who chairs the Senate committee that
rejected the repeal bill last session, said he is not aware of any votes
that have changed on his panel. "I don't think abolition is going to pass
the Judicial Proceedings Committee this term," said Frosh, who supports a
Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick), who was considered the swing vote on
the committee last session, said he continues to think about the issue but
added: "Nothing's really changed that would make me think a full repeal is
a good idea."
But some repeal advocates are optimistic.
Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore) said he had "good reason" to
believe a bill would pass next session, although he would not elaborate.
In the meantime, Rosenberg said, he "certainly" doesn't expect the
O'Malley administration to issue regulations to allow the death penalty to
"While we're in the midst of considering repeal, you don't move us back in
the other direction," he said.
(source: Washington Post)
Georgia May Execute Innocent Man in 9 Days
In 9 days, on July 17, 2007, Georgia may execute an innocent man, after
both State and Federal Courts refused to hear the recanted testimony of 7
out of 9 witnesses in his case, Atlanta Progressive News has learned. Is
Davis innocent? Is he guilty? We may never know, and that's the problem.
The Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear Troy Anthony
Davis's death row case on June 25, 2007, leaving little legal recourse for
4 days after the decision, the State of Georgia petitioned for a death
warrant, and the execution date is now set for July 17, 2007, in Jackson,
"By refusing to review serious claims of innocence, the Supreme Court has
revealed catastrophic flaws in the US death penalty machine," Larry Cox,
Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), said in a press
release obtained by APN.
A jury convicted Davis in 1991 of murdering Police Officer Mark Allen
McPhail in Savannah, Georgia, and he has since gone through numerous
'I am demanding justice for Troy and Officer Mark McPhail," Martina
Correia, Davis' sister, told APN. "I won't rest until they put me in my
APN reported previously that 7 of 9 witnesses who testified against Davis
in 1991 have either recanted or contradicted their testimony in that time;
no murder weapon was ever found; and no physical evidence exists linking
Davis to the crime.
"If we got a new trial, I don't know what evidence the state would have,"
Jason Ewart, one of Davis' lawyers with Washington D.C.-based Arnold &
Porter, LLP, told APN.
"If they don't care about innocence, they don't care about the law,"
Correia said of those who refuse to examine new evidence in the case. "The
police officers that coerced these witnesses, they didn't do anything to
honor their comrade."
Ewart said his team is working around the clock trying to get a new case
in Savannah based on new evidence that could absolve Davis.
"We want an evidentiary hearing," he said. "A Court should at least take a
look at [the evidence] to see if it is credible. We think we have a strong
argument and we think the Judge will be fair and listen to what we have to
Correia has been writing letters to organizations on Davis's behalf ever
since he was arrested in 1989.
"Nobody believed me because everybody thought I was biased," Correia told
APN of her struggles to convince people her brother is innocent.
She credits a February 2007 AIUSA report on Davis's case as the point when
many started to seriously reexamine his case.
Davis is scheduled to appear before the Georgia Board of Pardons and
Paroles (The Board) on July 16, 2007, in which The Board could decide to
grant Davis clemency.
Since executions resumed in the United States in January 1977, 40
prisoners have been put to death in Georgia. In the same period, prisoners
have been granted clemency, according to AIUSA's report on Davis.
"Our strongest hope is with the Parole Board," Laura Moye, Deputy Director
of AIUSA's Southern Regional Office, said. "It is the only entity as
citizens we can petition."
"If they would listen to the case, it's kind of hard not to see the
evidence is compelling," Gregory Joseph, State Policy Director of the
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said. "We hope the Board
will take a very deliberate approach."
"The Pardons and Paroles Board is in a unique position, Ewart said. "It
has time [to consider the evidence]. It is their job to make time."
NCADP and AIUSA are conducting ongoing letter-writing campaigns asking
people worldwide to urge The Board to grant clemency.
Moye said her office has received about 3,000 letters and cards so far and
more are coming.
"Troy's case symbolizes what's wrong with the death penalty," Joseph told
APN. "There is police intimidation involved, unreliable witness
testimonies I believe we have a very compelling case of innocence here."
Davis' case marks the 1st time NCADP has ever handled an individual case.
"It is dangerous to have a death penalty case with no physical evidence.
You can pressure witnesses into making statements that are not true," Moye
AIUSA will hold a press conference on July 10 at 10 a.m. in front of the
Floyd Building where The Board is headquartered. Speakers will discuss
Davis's case and urge The Board to grant clemency.
"He's a very prayerful person and he's asking God to help," Correia said
of Davis. "More and more people are contacting him from everywhere. He
knows there are thousands of people writing letters and making calls. He
knows that people are working hard. We are not giving up at all."
(source: Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta
Guards making a break for it at Phillips
Staffing is so short at a north Gwinnett prison that guards from other
institutions were brought in this week to help maintain order, state
Department of Corrections officials said Friday.
There are 52 vacancies out of 282 security positions at Phillips State
Prison in Buford - not far from the Mall of Georgia. 16 guards have
resigned in the past month, prison officials said. The prison's rolling
property, off of Hamilton Mill Road in a once-rural area, is increasingly
surrounded by upscale housing and shopping.
Being in metro Atlanta is part of Phillips' problem, DOC spokesman Paul
Czachowski said. Starting pay for a prison guard is $23,613 a year. "In
the Atlanta area, that's not much," Czachowski said.
In rural areas of the state, where most prisons are located, such salaries
- along with state medical and retirement benefits - are more attractive
to prospective employees with fewer career options.
Czachowski said security has not been compromised at Phillips, but he said
tactical squads from other prisons began patrolling cellblocks this week
to help with the labor shortage. Czachowski said tactical squads consist
of 12 guards, but he declined to say how many were deployed to Phillips.
Phillips is a close-security facility that holds about 1,300 convicted
felons, including many who live in units designed for the mentally ill.
Close security is one step below maximum security.
Prison guards at Phillips also have been leaving for higher-paying jobs
with local sheriff's offices in Hall and Gwinnett, which run jails.
Alicia Kerber, a former guard at Phillips, turned in her resignation last
week because of what she termed "intolerable working conditions."
Kerber said guards are pressed to work double shifts, often working 16
hours a day for several days. She disputed prison officials' assertion
that Phillips is safe, saying inmates could take over if they wanted.
"The officers are overworked," she said. "You cannot expect the place to
run properly when officers are extremely tired from being overworked.
Inmates feel sorry for the officers."
Czachowski said the vacancies are "not a problem that snuck up on us." The
prison system has been struggling to hire and retain employees at Phillips
and other high-security institutions near Atlanta, including Metro State
Prison in southeast Atlanta and the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification
Prison in Jackson, which houses the state's death row.
Czachowski said the prison system is promoting ways to recruit and retain
guards, including salary bumps for continuing education.
(source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Accused Killer Could Become Youngest On Death Row
An 18-year-old man whom police say has a violent history has been charged
with a 1st-degree felony murder charge in connection with a Salt Lake
Samuel Paul Krokaugger was charged Friday in 3rd District Court for
allegedly killing 17-year-old Luis A. Trujillo on June 24.
Trujillo was a passenger in a car on Interstate 15 when he suffered
multiple gunshot wounds -- including one to the head -- by a gunman in
If convicted on the murder charge, Krokaugger could face the death penalty
and become Utah's youngest death row inmate.
In addition to the murder charge prosecutors filed 1 2nd-degree felony
count of possession of a dangerous weapon and 2 3rd-degree felony counts
of discharging a weapon from a vehicle.
"He is dangerous,'' said South Salt Lake Police Capt. Tracy Tingey.
South Salt Lake police have questioned Krokaugger about the June 29
shooting death of Aaron Wheelwright at an apartment complex.
Prosecutors have also filed weapons and other charges against Krokaugger
for a Salt Lake City drive-by shooting that same day that left 1 man with
a gunshot wound to his hip.
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