[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MISS., FLA., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Nov 4 13:33:12 CST 2007
Gillett gets death penalty
The fate of Roger Gillett was finally decided Saturday when a jury
sentenced him to death for two counts of capital murder after more than 2
hours of deliberation.
Gillett, 33, was found guilty Friday in the slayings of his cousin, Vernon
Hulett, and Hulett's girlfriend Linda Heintzelman in March 2004.
For the victims' families it was an ending they had been waiting 3 years
"I don't really want him dead. I want everything taken away from him,"
said Caroline Hester, Hulett's mother.
Forrest County Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich set Gillett's execution
for Dec. 19 at the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Gillett will have the right to an appeal, defense attorneys said.
Gillett's former girlfriend and accomplice in the murders, Lisa Jo
Chamberlin, received the same fate during her trial in August 2006.
Together, Gillett and Chamberlin tortured then mutilated the bodies of the
victims before stuffing them in a deep freezer and transporting them to
Russell, Kan., in a stolen truck owned by Heintzelman.
The bodies were discovered by agents with the Kansas Bureau of
Investigations during a drug investigation on a farmstead owned by
Speculation arose that Chamberlin may be called as a witness in Gillett's
trial, but District Attorney Jon Mark Weathers denied those claims.
"I think at one time (that) might have been a possibility, but she never
agreed to it," Weathers said.
Saturday's sentencing proceedings were the 1st time the defense called any
witnesses to stand. All eight spoke on behalf of Gillett's morale
character in hopes of curtailing the jury from delivering a death
Dick Allison, former pastor of University Baptist Church, told jurors he
met Gillett through the prison ministry.
"Roger wanted very much to be baptized," Allison said. "Roger's faith is
absolutely genuine. I believe fully that his life, even in prison, can be
a benefit to many people."
The most emotional testimony Saturday came from Gillett's aunt, Marsha
Gillett, and his mother, Vicki Hulett, who both shed tears during their
In her 2-hour pre-recorded testimony, Vicki Hulett began crying at just
the mention of her son's name.
When defense attorney James Lappan quizzed her about Vernon, she said, "I
think about him all the time. I loved him very much."
Vicki Hulett's testimony was chaperoned by a parade of childhood photos
taken of Gillett as a baby and on into adulthood.
"When Roger was a small child, my brother was an alcoholic," Marsha
Gillett told jurors. "He was more like my son than my nephew. It's very
hard for my family to have to live through this."
In his closing arguments at the sentencing Saturday, Assistant District
Attorney Ben Saucier asked jurors not to be swayed in their decision by
baby pictures and the witnesses' tales of the defendant's melancholy
"Lots of people have hard times," Saucier said. "Does that separate you
from anyone else?
"All I saw (today) was people who knew him. I think everyone in this
courtroom can get a group of people together to say 'Can you spare his
life?'" Saucier said.
After the verdict was announced and Gillett escorted to the Forrest County
Jail in handcuffs, family members shared hugs with Weathers for helping to
bring justice to their loved ones.
"The hardest part was knowing what the family was going through," Weathers
told reporters. "I'm going to sleep well tonight."
(source: Hattiesburg American)
Don't rush to resume lethal injections
There is no reason to rush back into executions now that the Florida
Supreme Court has given the state's lethal injection protocols the
thumbs-up. The U.S. Supreme Court has a case before it that could render
the lethal 3-chemical cocktail used by Florida and most other death
penalty states legally invalid. So it just makes good sense to wait for
the nation's high court to rule before resuming executions.
On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court found that the lethal injection
procedures in place in the state are constitutional and do not amount to
cruel and unusual punishment. Florida's procedures have undergone various
reviews and refinements since the botched execution of Angel Diaz in
Diaz's execution team pierced his vein and was forced to inject a second
set of chemicals into his other arm, where again the drugs were pumped
into Diaz's tissue rather than through his veins. Diaz took more than 30
minutes to die, and it is possible that he felt severe pain during the
process but was unable to cry out due to the effects of pancuronium
bromide, a paralytic drug that prevented movement.
If the anesthetic sodium pentothal is not administered correctly, an
inmate may regain consciousness during the execution and experience pain
from the 2 other lethal drugs. Yet, even after the state's protocol
revisions, a qualified medical expert is not required to administer the
drugs or evaluate an inmate's level of consciousness.
The state high court found it sufficient that the warden ensure
unconsciousness by calling the inmate's name and shaking the inmate before
proceeding with the administration of the pain-causing lethal drugs.
Now before the U.S. Supreme Court is Baze vs. Rees, a case out of Kentucky
that challenges the use of the lethal 3-drug cocktail, primarily because
the paralyzing effects of pancuronium bromide can make it impossible to
communicate pain. The high court has stayed 3 executions since it agreed
to review the legality of lethal injection. But in Florida, both the state
Department of Corrections and the state attorney general's office have
indicated that they plan to move forward on executions despite the high
What's the hurry? There are outstanding federal constitutional issues with
direct implications for Florida, and the state should be willing to wait
until those are resolved. Gov. Charlie Crist should place a moratorium on
executions until the U.S. Supreme Court rules.
(source: Editorial, St. Petersburg Times)
Warrant in Philadelphia Cop Slaying
Police identified a suspect and issued a warrant for his arrest on Sunday
in the shooting death of an officer who walked in on a robbery at a
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson identified the suspect as John
Lewis, 21. Johnson said Lewis was armed with at least 2 guns and should be
considered extremely dangerous.
Officer Chuck Cassidy, 54, died Thursday, a day after a gunman shot him in
the head when Cassidy interrupted an armed robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts.
Witnesses have said the gunman went into the shop and demanded money just
before the policeman opened the door. The man then spun around and shot
Cassidy before the officer could react.
A public viewing and funeral service will be held Wednesday for Cassidy at
the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in downtown Philadelphia.
More than $153,000 has been donated as a reward for finding his killer.
(source: Associated Press)
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