[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MO., VA., MONT.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 12 00:01:17 CDT 2007
Back in the days when Governor George Bush was only able to screw-up Texas
instead of an entire nation, 57 lawyers representing men - and a woman -
on death row requested commutations so that their clients might receive
life instead of death.
When approached by lawyers representing mentally retarded inmates, Bush
When approached by lawyers representing inmates whose court-appointed
lawyers had slept during their trials, Bush refused.
When approached by lawyers representing men who had committed the crime in
question as juveniles, Bush refused.
In each case, then-Governor Bush felt that the defendants had had full and
equal access to the law.
But now along comes Scooter. President Bush deemed his 30-month sentence
"excessive" and - just like that - commuted his sentence prior to any
judicial review. Libby had the finest legal representation. He never
expressed any remorse for lying to a grand jury or for his role in the
administration's snow job on the American people that led our nation into
a war. Yet Scooter is the lucky soul granted clemency by Bush.
In an article for the once-hyped but now defunct magazine,
Talk,conservative commentator Tucker Carlson interviewed then-Gov. Bush
about Karla Faye Tucker, a woman who had recently been executed after he
denied her clemency. Bush's response struck Carlson as "odd and cruel" and
he described this exchange:
"I watched [Larry King's] interview with [Karla Faye Tucker].," Bush said.
"He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to
Governor Bush?' 'What was her answer?' I wonder.
'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill
Odd and cruel, indeed. Carlson provoked a bit of a media storm for
revealing Bush's callousness at a time when - unlike now - he was still
viewed as Mr. Compassionate Conservative. (The Bush presidential campaign
tried to deny that Bush had made this statement but to no avail.) Bush
seemed all the more cruel given that appeals for clemency had been made by
figures from around the world, including Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, the
Huntsville prison warden and correction officers who testified that Tucker
was a model prisoner and reformed, a prosecutor of her accomplice, the
brother of one of her murder victims, Pope John Paul II and the European
Sister Helen Prejean, one of the preeminent fighters against the death
penalty and the inspiration for the film Dead Man Walking, wrote, "Callous
indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the
only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy, then
lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt." (Prejean
was alluding to George Bush's election-year memoir - A Charge to Keep - in
which he wrote that Tucker's impending execution "felt like a huge piece
of concrete...crushing me.") Preajan described her response when she was
told on Larry King of Bush's final press release before Tucker's execution
in which he stated, "May God bless Karla Faye Tucker.." Prejean wrote,
"Inside my soul I raged at Bush's hypocrisy, but the broadcast was live
and global.. [So] I took a quick breath, said a fierce prayer, looked into
the camera, and said, 'It's interesting to see that Governor Bush is now
invoking God, asking God to bless Karla Faye Tucker, when he certainly
didn't use the power in his own hands to bless her. He just had her
The cruelty described by Carlson and Prejean clearly isn't an anomaly. As
veteran political journalist Robert Sherrill reported in a special issue
of The Nation on the death penalty: "During his presidential campaign
reporters asked [Bush] if he was bothered that some indigents on Texas's
death row had been represented by lawyers who slept though part of their
trials; he responded with a chuckle." The facts around representation for
indigent defendants belie Bush's amusement. Sherrill wrote that as of
2001, only 3 of Texas's 254 counties had public defender programs. In the
other counties judges picked the attorneys "who are [often] personal
friends, political supporters and contributors, and, most of all,
attorneys with a reputation for 'moving' cases fast.. Texas's county
judges have appointed lawyers known to be drunks or drug addicts or both.
Some of these court-appointed hacks know absolutely nothing about capital
jurisprudence. Several have become famous for sleeping through parts of
And Amy Bach revealed in The Nation, "Studies proved inmates had been put
to death in Texas despite representation by disbarred, suspended or
incompetent attorney." She wrote of a Texas State Bar survey that found ".
30 % of judges said they knew colleagues who assigned counsel because they
contributed to their judicial election campaigns. Others confessed to
picking lawyers they knew would move dockets along and not give vigorous
representation." Bach pointed out that this kind of representation
"renders the equal protection clause and the Sixth Amendment right to
counsel virtually meaningless."
Despite this weak public system, and mounting DNA evidence exonerating
convicted death row inmates - including 13 people in Illinois - Bush said
in June 2000 that no innocent person had been sent to death row or
executed in Texas (he had presided over the execution of more than 135
people at the time; Illinois had executed 12 people since 1977).
But Paddy Lann Burwell, who then-Gov. Bush had appointed to the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles, repudiates Bush's claim when it comes to the
case of Gary Graham. Prior to the execution of Graham, the court-appointed
lawyer "performed poorly" to say the least. Graham was convicted by a
single witness who testified to seeing him through a car windshield some
30 to 40 feet away. There was no physical evidence linking him to the
crime. 2 witnesses who said that they had seen the killer and it wasn't
Graham weren't called to testify. Graham was also 17 at the time of the
"He didn't commit the crime we executed him for," Burwell told the Times.
Since those days when Bush was chuckling at those executed under his
watch, the Supreme Court has ruled (for now it was a 5-4 decision) that
capital punishment of juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people is a
violation of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But
that decision came too late for Terry Washington, who Prejean described as
"a mentally retarded man of 33 with the communication skills of a
After then-Gov. Bush's typical 30-minute meeting with legal counsel - you
guessed it - Alberto Gonzales, Bush denied clemency. Washington's mental
handicap had never been brought to the attention of the jury that
convicted him. Gonzales' memo (obtained by journalist Alan Berlow through
the Public Information Act) made no mention of this omission in the trial
or the failure by Washington's lawyer to seek the testimony of a mental
health expert. The post-conviction lawyers found a history of child abuse,
including regular beatings by "whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire
hangers, and fan belts." But none of this would lead to Bush deeming
Washington's penalty "excessive," and commuting a death sentence to a life
When all was said and done, Governor Bush had snickered and mocked his way
to denying commutations to 57 of the more than 150 people executed under
his watch. He then took his moral-certitude-by-any-means-necessary to the
White House where one Scooter Libby would help him mislead a nation into a
human catastrophe in Iraq and then lie about it.
More than 150 men and women are dead and gone with no 2nd chances. But
Scooter, well, one cold night in jail was just too much for his friend the
President to bear.
(source: The Nation)
Hitman who killed woman gets reprieve
A hitman who was paid $2,000 to gun down a San Antonio woman 15 years ago
in a scheme devised by her husband and his brother won a reprieve that
blocked his scheduled execution Tuesday evening.
Rolando Ruiz received a stay from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
more than an hour after he could have been given lethal drugs that would
have made him the 19th prisoner executed this year in the nation's most
active capital punishment state.
Ruiz was condemned for the July 14, 1992, fatal shooting of 29-year-old
Theresa Rodriguez, killed in the garage at her home as she was getting out
of her car with her husband, Michael, and his brother, Mark, at the scene.
"I didn't think I was going to get a stay," Ruiz told prison officials.
"I guess you could say I'm happy."
Ruiz, who had a history of alcohol and drug dependency, implicated the
brothers for hiring him for what authorities said was their plan to
collect more than $250,000 in life insurance.
Ruiz's lawyers argued that a state-appointed lawyer in earlier appeals
failed to identify Ruiz's substance abuse and poor childhood as mitigating
evidence jurors should have been allowed to consider before they decided
on a death sentence.
(source: Associated Press)
Some crimes require final punishment
Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the death penalty as an
appropriate punishment for aggravated murder or other grievous assaults
upon humanity, we should applaud the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
ruling that Missouri's lethal injection procedure is neither cruel nor
unusual punishment. The halting of executions by U.S. District Judge
Fernando Gaitan Jr. was but a blatant subterfuge in tailoring the law by
the imposition of his own personal beliefs in pandering to the anti-death
His ruling that a physician specializing in anesthesia be involved in
these injections could be described as either an exercise in ignorance of
pain control or, more likely, a sop to those who would circumvent the
overwhelming choice of the public. According to those in the medical
professions, anyone competent to administer an IV is more than qualified
to perform such injections. Moreover, anyone who has been exposed to the
combat-related medical expertise of U.S. Navy corpsmen or Army medics
understands the absolute absurdity of Gaitan's ruling.
Is there one person out there who actually believes the insertion of an
IV, the administering of a tetanus or flu shot or even the injection of
the medication to deaden the gums and roof of the mouth by one's dentist
to be cruel and unusual? And, how many are so naive as to consider the
relatively minor discomfort sustained in the administering of said
pain-relieving medications not appropriate for those who have senselessly
murdered, raped and/or beaten their victims?
I do not denigrate the individual/collective right nor the sincerity of
those opposing the death penalty; nevertheless, they continue to be at
odds with upwards of two-thirds of the population. The opposition to
capital punishment predictably adheres to the following rationalizations:
It is a barbaric taking of human life; it serves as no deterrent to
violent crime; and the risk of executing innocents and the excess of
minorities receiving the death sentence are unacceptable.
The first aspect in consideration of capital punishment's application is
that it is neither capricious nor does it absent due process. By any
reasonable definition, the death penalty is not awarded but is, in fact,
earned by the egregious conduct of the one so sentenced. That sentence
must pass also the muster of aggravated circumstances, a unanimous jury
finding and an appellate process averaging 12 years.
To the majority of Missourians as well as the population nationwide, the
notion that the death penalty is an act of barbarism that disregards human
life is rejected as an anomaly. Compared to the wanton brutality in
commission of an aggravated murder, the execution of the perpetrator in
the highly controlled and supervised manner required by law is far more
humane than that suffered by his/her victim(s).
As to the deterrent effect of the death penalty, it is answerable in two
equations. First, the seemingly unending appellate process poses an
unreasonable and unnecessary barrier to that effectiveness. Secondly, no
person who has been executed for murder has ever repeated the crime but,
of some 52,000 inmates serving time for murder in 1984, 810 of those had
been previously convicted of murder and subsequently killed an additional
821 victims. Additionally, prisoners in states having no death penalty are
250 percent more likely to commit murder while in prison or following an
Finally, since 1973, the extraordinary legal protections required have
caused 37 % of all death penalty sentences to be overturned; accordingly,
appropriate safeguards preclude execution of innocents. The taking of
human life is unpleasant and not relished by anyone; however, the public,
with the approval of the courts, has determined there are crimes so
heinous that justice can be served only by capital punishment.
(source: Columbia Missourian -- J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the
U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident)
VIRGINIA----stay of impending execution
Powell's execution stayed by judge
U.S. Eastern District Judge T.S. Ellis III has granted a stay of execution
for twice-convicted capital murderer Paul Warner Powell.
Powell's execution date was recently set for Monday, but it was stayed
until further order of the Alexandria court on Friday.
Powell filed an emergency motion for an immediate stay of execution on
Friday, according to federal court records.
Powell, 29, of Manassas, was convicted in 2000 of the January 1999 attack
on 2 teenage sisters in their Yorkshire home. In 2001, the Virginia
Supreme Court overturned Powell's capital conviction for raping and
stabbing 14-year-old Kristie Reed and murdering 16-year-old Stacie Reed.
The justices declared Powell's actions 2 separate crimes and therefore
ineligible for the death penalty.
Powell was later rescheduled for a first-degree murder trial. While
awaiting that trial, he sent Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert a
boastful letter including information Ebert used to convict him of capital
murder a 2nd time.
The 2nd jury recommended the death sentence for Powell in May 2003. Ebert
said Powell has exhausted all state appeals and that the state Supreme
Court has upheld his convictions.
Powell, who was initially scheduled to be executed in February, received a
stay of execution on Jan. 25.
(source: Potomac News)
New book highlights Montana hangings
"Hanging Around the Big Sky: The Unofficial Guide to Lynching, Strangling
and Legal Hangings of Montana" - By Tom Donovan
Book One: Legal Hangings While most of the famous hangings of Montana have
been written about in various books and local historical publications,
there has never been an attempt made until now to combine all of these
histories into one volume.
"Hanging Around the Big Sky: The Unofficial Guide to Lynching, Strangling
and Legal Hangings of Montana" lists all the two hundred and 35 known
hangings in our state by type, year and by county.
All of the victims of the hangman noose between 1862 to 1943 are listed
but "Book One" details the seventy-one "Legal Hangings" and briefly
describes the cases of "Extra" or Illegal Lynching and Strangling.
In Volume One the seventy-one cases of legal hangings, which took place
between 1875 and 1943 are described in detail the crime, the arrest, trial
including witnesses and jury members and finally the execution and burial.
A chapter is devoted to the history of capital punishment in Montana as
well as a describing the typical hanging including profiling the various
victims, the murderer's occupation, their last words, last meals and even
how long it took for them to die on the gallows.
A detailed history has also been provided of the 2 individual gallows used
to hang the seventy-one condemned men, describing the various types of
scaffolds used in Montana and in some cases even naming the persons
designing, constructing and even painting these death machines. Tables are
provided indicating "Hangings By Year," "By County" and the "Hanging
Judges of Montana." Whenever possible, remnants and artifacts; such as the
gallows, hangman's ropes, murder weapons and invitations to the executions
have been located and the appropriate museums have been listed for those
interested in viewing them.
"Hanging Around the Big Sky" -Book One, is available at most book and gift
stores or directly from the publisher, Portage Meadows Publishing, POB
6554, Great Falls, MI. 59406. ISBN 978~0~9769718
(source: Montana Standard)
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