[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----W. VA., USA, NEB., IND., N.C.

Rick Halperin rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jun 8 11:49:06 CDT 2007

June 8


Practice turning the other cheek

Capital punishment and West Virginia recently cropped up in the news. A
federal jury convicted 2 people of murder that took place in the Mountain
State and sentenced them to death. West Virginia does not have the death
penalty, but the federal government does.

Frankly, I'm proud to live in a state that does not have the death
penalty. I'm morally opposed to executions.

One of the thoughts that keeps going through my mind is how are we any
different from the person we are putting to death because they've killed
someone. When you break it down to its essential point  killing someone
aren't we doing exactly what weve condemned the person for?

Now, I'm not going to be so naive as to sit here and say that if someone I
love were to be murdered, that I wouldn't scream for vengeance  an eye for
an eye. I don't know how I'd react in such a situation. I'd hope I'd be
true to my convictions. I hope I never have to find out.

Capital punishment is about vengeance and nothing else. It doesn't prevent
capital crimes. If it did, there wouldnt be so many people on death row.

I remember a few years ago, Sen. Jay Rockefeller hosted a conference at
Shepherd University  then College  on crime. The head of the FBI at that
time was one of the presenters, which was pretty impressive in and of

Anyway, he said there were 5 factors consistently found at all murder
scenes: a gun; alcohol (not drugs, but alcohol); the killer and the victim
knew each other and were often related; the murder happened at or near one
of the person's home; and the 5th one I can't remember.

There are plenty of other factors that affect murders, but these were the
most common features found at murder scenes.

Most murders are crimes of passion, in the heat of the moment, under the
influence. People dont think, "Ooh, I better not shoot him, because I'll
get the death penalty," when they're all drunked up and there's a gun in
the house and you just caught your brother cheating at cards.

I also don't understand how people who can be so adamantly opposed to
abortions can be so adamantly in favor of executions. That's not
consistent thinking; it's not a rational thought process.

What if we could determine if a fetus was going to commit a murder
someday? Would capital punishment advocates want to abort it? What if they
were opposed to abortions, too? Wow, what a predicament.

Did you see where abortions are down by 14 % in West Virginia? That's good
news. I thought it would bring out our regular letter writers praising the
fact that abortions have decreased dramatically in the state. Wrong.
Apparently, praise is not a part of their vocabulary.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision putting greater restrictions on
abortions for the first time in more than 3 decades should have brought
out some positive response from our regular letter writing tag team, I
thought. Wrong again.

With the release of Dr. Kevorkian, euthanasia was back in the news this
week. This is a real puzzler for me. I absolutely wouldnt want to start
down that slippery slope of state-sanctioned mercy killing. That's as
immoral as executions, in my opinion.

However, if I were suffering from insufferable pain, if I had absolutely
no hope left, I'd want the option of checking out of this taco stand in my
own time, in my own way.

But what if you're too debilitated to pull the trigger yourself?

Should I be able to get help without the person helping me being held
responsible for my decision? Should a doctor be able to help me go
painlessly, peacefully, with some dignity without being held responsible?

Again, I truly hope I never have to make that call.

And again, it befuddles me how the same people who are for the death
penalty are the same people opposed to euthanasia. And again again, that's
irrational thought.

A fanatical proponent of pulling the switch at least admitted to me that
the only good thing the death penalty does is the person who gets fried
won't do again whatever they did to get themselves into trouble.

This guy also wants to sterilize people he doesn't think should have

I know I'm going to get all sorts of comments about this column, but check
out Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to Matthew before calling or
e-mailing, phoning Journal Junction or writing a letter to the editor,

(source: John McVey is editorial page editor of The Journal; He can be
reached at jmcvey at journal-news.net)


Ginsburg Finds Majorities Harder to Come By Without O'Connor

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no need any longer for her "I'm Ruth, Not Sandra"
T-shirt. She could, however, use Sandra Day O'Connor's vote.

O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court last year, replaced by a man. Her
departure almost certainly cost Ginsburg's side a victory in an abortion
case, decided 5-4 in April, and might have been a factor in a wage
discrimination lawsuit the Court decided last week, also by a 5-4 vote,
against a woman and in favor of her employer.

Ginsburg and O'Connor, the only women among the 110 justices in U.S.
history, were not always on the same side. O'Connor, who has her own "I'm
Sandra, Not Ruth" shirt, dissented from Ginsburg's very first opinion on
the Court.

Yet they often were together on issues of particular concern to women,
notably abortion rights.

Twice this term, Ginsburg has written sharp dissents that were made more
notable because she took the unusual and dramatic step of reading them in
court. The last time she read even one dissent from the bench in a term
was 3 years ago.

Calling the Court's decision to uphold a nationwide ban on an abortion
procedure "alarming," Ginsburg said it "cannot be understood as anything
other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by
this Court -- and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to
women's lives."

The majority chose not to require doctors to explain different abortion
procedures and their risks, she said. "Instead, the Court shields women by
denying them any choice in the matter. This way of protecting women
recalls ancient notions about women's place in society and under the
Constitution -- ideas that have long since been discredited," Ginsburg

Last week, the Court threw out a discrimination suit by Lilly Ledbetter, a
longtime Goodyear supervisor who was paid thousands of dollars a year less
than her male peers. "In our view, this Court does not comprehend, or is
indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay
discrimination," Ginsburg said.

The Court met again Monday and Ginsburg read from her unanimous opinion
denying attorney fees to a woman who sued for the right to protest in the
nude on a Florida beach. Her opinion cautioned that the Court took no
position on First Amendment protections for artworks that involve nudity.

The 74-year-old justice has said more than once that she is lonely without
O'Connor on the Court, even though the retired justice maintains an office
next door to Ginsburg's. In January, asked to assess how O'Connor's
retirement would affect the Court, Ginsburg told USA Today, "This term may
be very revealing."

Ginsburg declined to be interviewed for this story.

Her legal writings have mainly marked Ginsburg as a justice who avoids
personal attacks on her colleagues and seeks common ground, said Laura
Krugman Ray, a Widener University law professor who has written about
Ginsburg's opinions.

"Her voice has been one that has always tried to draw people together,"
Ray said.

The more personal tone, particularly in the abortion dissent, suggests
Ginsburg may not be as comfortable working with Chief Justice John Roberts
and Justice Samuel Alito as she was with the late Chief Justice William
Rehnquist and O'Connor, Ray said.

The Court is going through a transition, in which conservative justices
more often have the upper hand and the two new justices have joined seven
others who have been together since 1994.

"You wonder with the turnover whether she feels a kind of movement
backward and whether that may have energized her," Ray said.

Ginsburg is a former women's rights lawyer who argued discrimination cases
before the Supreme Court in the 1970s.

"Both cases touched a raw nerve beyond disagreeing with the majority
decision. Both cases reflected a paternalistic attitude toward women in
the workplace and their role in society more generally," said American
Civil Liberties Union legal director Steven Shapiro. "That is an issue
that has been at the core of her professional life for as long as she's
been a lawyer."

Leonard Leo, who helped marshal support for the Roberts and Alito
nominations, said Ginsburg's opinions in the two cases would be helpful in
rallying conservative support if President Bush gets another chance to
pick a justice.

"The more vituperative and incendiary it becomes, the more ammunition it
provides to the conservative base," said Leo, the executive vice
presidential of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Leo
said he was offering his own opinions, not speaking for the society.

Ginsburg once said that having two women justices showed that the days of
"one-at-a-time curiosities" were over for women at the Supreme Court.

That was 6 1/2 years ago.

More recently she said of O'Connor, "I didn't realize how much I would
miss her until she was gone."

(source: Associated Press)


Why We Can't Let Them Tamper with Habeas Corpus

"Habeas corpus": it sounds like Latin (which it is), complicated, and
user-unfriendly. An exotic form of the verb to have  the second person
singular of the present subjunctive, according to my dictionary  and
something about a "body," apparently. But hardly anything to get excited

In reality the ancient judicial writ known as "habeas corpus" is the most
elemental, existentially relevant pleading in Anglo-American legal
practice. It is the form of words that seeks to protect us from
indefinite, anonymous, uncharged imprisonment, and that gives a prisoner
sentenced to death a last chance to reverse the trial verdict, or at
least, the sentence.

Protection Against Indefinite Confinement

The writ stands in opposition to the practice of taking a human being into
government custody and thereafter disappearing him or her in indefinite
confinement. It is the remedy sought by the Argentinian mothers who
assembled each year in the Plaza de Mayo to demand information about their
missing children.

The writ is directed to the warden running the prison in which the missing
person is thought to be confined. Imagining myself as that prisoner, a
petition for writ of habeas corpus says, in effect: "Mr. Warden, we want
to see Mr. Lynd. Bring him into open court. Tell us what he is charged
with. Assure us, by actually showing us his body, that he is still alive,
that he has not been tortured."

Even in the repressive ambience of apartheid the government of South
Africa dared to do away with habeas corpus only gradually. Prime Minister
Vorster introduced a 90-day detention law in 1963. Then the initial
detention term was doubled to 180 days, and in 1967 detention was made
open-ended. Deaths in detention began within a few months of passage of
the 1963 law. In 1977 prisoner Stephen Biko was murdered.

I first encountered the absence of habeas corpus when visiting occupied
Palesine in the early 1990s. Representatives of the State of Israel take
Palestinians into custody and keep them there without charging the
prisoner with a crime. Every six months the prisoner is brought before a
magistrate who reauthorizes the detention. Approximately 10,000
Palestinians are held as prisoners in Israel, many if not most of them in
this state of undefined, indefinite confinement.

Under the United States Constitution, the power to suspend habeas corpus
is a power of the Congress and Article I, Section 9 states: "The privilege
of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases
of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." A remarkable
decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the midst of our
Civil War, Ex parte Merryman, holds that neither the Presidents officers
nor the President himself can suspend the writ, even in time of war.

In recent years the suspension of habeas corpus has gained a foothold in
the United States in circumstances that cannot fairly be described as
rebellion or invasion. The several hundred prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are
presently denied access to the federal courts by means of a habeas corpus
petition. Instead, special military tribunals have been authorized to
consider charges against so-called enemy combatants. These defendants are
denied rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution and
taken for granted by criminal defense attorneys. For example, the accused
is restricted in selecting a lawyer, and the accused does not have the
right to see all the evidence against him.

As I write, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights has been
accused of misconduct in connection with a list of all the prisoners at
Guantanamo. This is the core issue: whether the government may apprehend
persons whose very names become state secrets and whisk them away to
nobody knows where for nobody knows how long.

Protection Against the Death Penalty

The writ of habeas corpus also remains the last resort of defendants
sentenced to death. This is because the early appeals available to
death-sentenced prisoners are to elected judges in state courts. In any
jurisdiction where majority opinion still favors the death penalty, relief
in a state court is unlikely.

Congress, under President Clinton, endeavored to prevent prisoners from
accessing federal courts. The Prison Litigation Reform Act made it more
difficult for a prisoner to file a law suit to begin with. The
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act seeks to restrict what a
death-sentenced prisoner can do once having arrived in federal court by
means of a habeas corpus petition.

What is to be Done?

The writ of habeas corpus as we know it was created by 800 years of
popular struggle.

It all began with the ambiguous language of Chapter 39 of Magna Carta,
which stated: "No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised
[that is, deprived of his property] or outlawed or exiled or in any way
victimized, neither will we attack him nor send anyone to attack him,
except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."

Over the centuries these words were gradually given more specific meaning.
According to historian Peter Linebaugh, it was Sir Edward Coke who
asserted that Chapter 39 declared the ancient law of England and specified
that it prohibited torture, provided trial by jury, and required what Coke
called "due process of law."

And Coke paid for saying so. He was dismissed as Chief Justice of Kings
Bench and imprisoned in the Tower of London. There he helped to draw up
the Petition of Right of 1625 and worked on a book about Magna Carta. As
he lay dying, "his chambers were ransacked and his manuscripts
confiscated. At the beginning of the English Revolution, Parliament
ordered their recovery and they were published in 1642."

Others, too, sacrificed to expand the rights of the people in the 1640s
and 1650s. "Freeborn" John Lilburne confronted the judges of Star Chamber
unaccompanied by counsel and without the protection of due process
concepts such as innocent until proven guilty. So often was he imprisoned
that in one of his pamphlets he speaks of returning to his old and
familiar lodgings in the Tower.

Now it is our turn. Why not make 2007-2008 the Year of the Rescued Writ?

(source: Staughton Lynd ---- Mr. Lynd ran for president of the American
Historical Association in 1969 on a program of opposition to the Vietnam
War. His most recent book is Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison
Uprising (Temple University Press)----History News News)


Teen could face death

As Michael Grandon awaits his trial, the 18-year-old could face the death
penalty if he is convicted of 1st-degree murder. Such action would make
Grandon one of the youngest persons to receive the death sentence in

Grandon has been charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts
of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. His girlfriend, Alisha
Ochoa, 15, is also facing 2 1st-degree murder charges.

The pair is being held in connection with the murder of Ochoa's mother,
38-year-old Lori Solie, and half sister, 5-year-old Tiara Solie, who were
found dead in their apartment on May 17. Lori was apparently struck with a
blunt object and stabbed repeatedly, while Tiara was similarly stabbed
several times and possibly strangled.

If convicted and sentenced to death, Grandon would only be the 3rd person
to receive the death penalty in Lincoln County, according to information
from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

State records show Roy Roberts was sentenced to death in Lincoln County in
1915, but his sentence was commuted in 1917. Similarly, Charles Simants
received the death penalty in 1976, which was commuted in 1980.

Grandon would also be one of the youngest people to receive a death
sentence. In the Charles Starkweather case, which has some striking
similarities to the recent double homicide, Starkweather was 20 when he
was sentenced to death, and he was executed at the age of 21.

Starkweather was 19 when he killed 11 people while fleeing from police
with Caril Fugate, his 14-year-old girlfriend. Fugate received a sentence
of life in prison, and she was paroled in 1976.

While Grandon may face the death penalty, Ochoa will not. In 2005, the
U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for those who are under 18
years of age at the time they committed their crimes.

Prior to this ruling, minors were subject to the death penalty in many of
the states where capital punishment is practiced. According to the Death
Penalty Information Center, the 1st execution of a juvenile offender was
in 1642 with Thomas Graunger in Plymouth County, Mass.

In the 360 years since that time, approximately 365 persons have been
executed for juvenile crimes, which is 1.8 % of roughly 20,000 confirmed
American executions since 1608.

In addition to minors, no mentally retarded person can be executed in
Nebraska. In 1998, the Nebraska Legislature prohibited execution of the
mentally retarded. As a result, 2 men were removed from death row.

Only 23 people have been executed in Nebraska since the state took over
the responsibility of carrying out executions in 1903. Prior to that,
executions were handled in the county in which the offense took place.

In the first 10 years that executions were overseen by the state, inmates
died by hanging. In 1913, the electric chair became the sole method of
execution in Nebraska.

There are currently 9 inmates on death row in Nebraska. The last person to
be executed in Nebraska was Robert Williams in 1997. It is only the 3rd
execution since the state ended a 35-year hiatus on executions in 1994.

Death row inmate Carey Dean Moore was supposed to be executed on May 8 of
this year. Just 2 days before he was scheduled to go to the electric
chair, the Nebraska Supreme Court stayed the execution.

Moore had been sentenced in 1980 for the murders of 2 Omaha cabdrivers. He
was 21 at the time of his sentence. If the execution had been carried out
as planned, Moore's execution would have been 1st in 10 years.

The ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court to stay Moore's execution
stated that before anyone on death row can be executed, the court must
first decide if electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.

Currently, 38 states allow the death penalty. While most state use lethal
injection as the method of execution, several states allow inmates to
choose an alternative method. Nebraska is one of only four states that
still mandates electrocution as the only means of execution.

There have been several attempts to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska.
In 1981, Governor Charles Thone vetoed a bill passed by Nebraskas
unicameral that would have repealed the death penalty. As a result, the
organization Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty was formed later that
same year.

For more than 3 decades, state senator Ernie Chambers has also introduced
a bill at the beginning of every legislative session to abolish the death
penalty. This year was the 1st time in 20 years that his proposal reached
the floor for debate. However, it failed to advance by 1 vote.

(source: North Platte TGelegraph)


Killer deserves the death penalty

Michael Lambert is a killer, a guy who shot a police officer in cold blood
17 years ago. He has been kept at taxpayer expense long enough, and it is
time he received the penalty for his actions, namely the death penalty.

We do not need a lecture on penalties not serving as a deterrent.

The death penalty is not a deterrent. It is a consequence, like all other
penalties. We feel complete sympathy for the victim and his family, none
for the murderer.

Jim Irwin----Indianapolis

(source: Letter to the Editor, Indianapolis Star)


Slain officer's widow opposes clemency for death row inmate----Cop killer
learns fate Friday

The Indiana Parole Board will decide Friday whether death row inmate
Michael Lambert deserves clemency. He's scheduled to die by lethal
injection in one week for killing Muncie police officer Gregg Winters 16
years ago.

Ever since the jury's guilty verdict, Winters' widow has fought to see the
death sentence carried out.

A jury convicted Lambert in Officer Winters' killing over 16 years ago.
For these past 16 years, much of Molly Winters' life has been about her
husband's death as she works to keep a vow she made to him, their children
and herself.

"I will pursue justice. No matter how long it takes. I will pursue
justice, every single day until we get it," Winters said.

It's been nearly 6,000 days since Michael Lambert shot Winters in the back
of the head while the officer drove him to jail on a charge of public

A jury convicted Lambert, and the judge sentenced him to death.

Barring clemency from Governor Mitch Daniels, Lambert will be executed
next Friday.

"How do you prepare your self for justice to be finely served -to know
that any time between now and next Thursday he could receive another
stay?" Winters asked.

Two years ago, days before Lambert's scheduled execution in the middle of
his final clemency hearing, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened.
Molly Winters calls it the lowest of all days.

"I thought we were going to have justice and Gregg would be able to rest
peacefully. And at the last minute when we had the stay of execution, it
was like everything I had fought for and everything Gregg had stood for
was for not."

A single mom, Molly raised 2 small children while championing the rights
of other families. Molly became an advocate for the survivors of other
police officers killed in the line of duty and has embraced the mother of
her husband's killer.

"She didn't raise her son to be a cop killer, and I know he's devastated
their lives as well. And I know she is hurting," Winters said.

After the hearing 2 years ago, Molly met Michael Lambert for the 1st time.

She was seeking answers, "I want to know everything that happened in that
car, and he doesn't remember. He was so drunk."

Lambert was seeking forgiveness.

On Friday, the Indiana Parole Board picks up where it left off two years
ago. Lambert's attorney claims that various appeals courts have failed to
correct a glaring error in the case. Alan Freedman of the Midwest Center
for Justice wants to stop what he calls an "arbitrary and freakish
punishment" and is asking the death sentenced be commuted to life without

After the board makes its recommendation, that decision is up to Governor
Mitch Daniels.

(source: WTHR News)


Death penalty to be sought in killings

Wake County prosecutors announced Thursday that they would seek the death
penalty against Charles Dickerson and Jakiem Lance Wilson, both accused of
killing women they were involved with.

Charles Dickerson is facing a 1st-degree murder charge following the
February 2006 death of Brenda Fox. Fox, 42, was bludgeoned to death the
day before her wedding. Prosecutors believe Dickerson, whom she once
dated, was upset about the impending marriage.

Wilson is accused of killing his wife, Nneka Wilson, 24, the mother of 2
small children, at their home Feb. 12. In court, Wake Assistant District
Attorney Teresa Postell said Jakiem Wilson called 2 friends and told them
to help him clean up evidence of the murder.

Postell said he then called emergency dispatchers and told them he
discovered his wife's body and suspected someone had broken into the home.

Both men are being held in custody pending trial. Dickerson will be tried
in January. No trial date was set for Wilson.

(source: The News & Observer)

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