[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, MO., IDAHO, GA., US MIL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 5 17:29:47 CST 2007
UT hosts death penalty conference with authors
With a death penalty-related Supreme Court case on the docket for early
2008, capital punishment experts spoke at a conference on Friday on how
past court decisions shape current death penalty policy.
The authors of the upcoming book "Capital Punishment Stories" spoke at the
free two-day conference hosted by the UT School of Law Capital Punishment
Center on Friday and Saturday. The topics included questions on racial
discrimination, mentally challenged offenders and proportionality of the
sentence to the crime.
The death penalty has been in the news in recent months because the U.S.
Supreme Court has decided to hear Baze v. Rees this term. The case made
its way to the high court after the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the
practice of lethal injection as constitutional.
Convicted murderer Ralph Baze argues that the 3-drug combination of sodium
pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride used in lethal
injections does not fully anesthetize the condemned and may constitute
cruel and unusual punishment, making it a violation of the Eighth
Amendment. The case does not argue that the death penalty itself is
"I don't see anything on the horizon," said David Baldus, a University of
Iowa law professor in attendance. "Some people have some faith that the
finding may paint the whole system into a corner and that it will never be
able to start executing again. I don't think that is very likely."
At the event, Baldus spoke on McCleskey v. Kemp, a case that he worked on
that argued the existence of systemic discrimination in the death penalty.
McCleskey, a black man with a prior criminal record, was convicted of
murdering a white police officer.
"I tell you to this day I'm not completely sure why we got him," Baldus
said. "We showed that without taking into account the culpability of the
offenders that people who kill whites were 11 times more likely to get the
death sentence than people who kill blacks. The odds of getting a death
sentence were 4.3 times higher on average statewide if the victim was
(source: Daily Texan)
Filmmaker takes up death row inmate's cause
Belleville resident Damon Davis hopes his documentary about one of St.
Louis' most prominent murder cases will help free a death row inmate.
"I just want to tell the other side of the story," Davis said. "Hopefully,
I can open some eyes."
Davis is filming the documentary, "The Color of Justice," along with
Lenard Blair and Ronnell Falaq Bennett, both of St. Louis, to tell the
story of Reggie Clemons, 1 of 4 men convicted in the 1991 murders of
sisters Robin and Julie Kerry at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
They said the documentary will have 4 parts, the 1st of which will
highlight Clemons' case and the legal injustices they said he has
suffered. The group plans to finish the 1st part by January and show it at
public screenings and film festivals to gain support for Clemons.
"First, I hope it helps Reggie. Then, I hope it connects everyone and
raises the voice of the issue so that people know that they're not alone.
Then they can feel empowered," Bennett said.
Blair said he hopes the documentary will start a dialogue about the death
penalty in Missouri.
"I think people will see the film, see the evidence and at least think
twice about the death penalty," Blair said. "The evidence speaks for
Clemons, Daniel Winfrey, Antonio Richardson and Marlin Gray were convicted
of murdering Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, on April 4, 1991. They
also were charged with assaulting and robbing the Kerrys' cousin, Thomas
Cummins, who was 19 at the time.
Clemons, Winfrey, Richardson and Gray were accused of raping the sisters
and pushing them off the bridge into the Mississippi River, and then
forcing their cousin to jump off the bridge.
Clemons is the only 1 of the 4 who remains on death row. Richardson is
serving life in prison, Gray was executed in 2005 and, according to Brian
Hauswirth of the Missouri Department of Corrections, Winfrey was released
on parole in June.
Davis and Clemons' mother, Vera Thomas, contend Clemons' death sentence is
the result of an unfair trial and investigation, including forced
confessions by means of beatings, procedural moves barring evidence
supporting Clemons' innocence, an incompetent defense counsel and an
Prosecutor Nels Moss saidthere was no evidence supporting the allegations
of coerced confessions and he denied Thomas' allegations that he
threatened Clemons' defense attorney Robert Costantinou and one of the
Judge Edward Peek, now retired, during the trial held Moss in contempt of
the court and fined him $500 for comparing Clemons to serial killers
Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy in the penalty phase after instructing
him not to do so during the guilt phase.
Moss said he forgot about the judge's instruction in the heat of battle,
and that the comparison seemed like a logical response to the defense's
claim of Clemons' prior good character.
"Apparent prior good behavior doesn't guarantee that you cannot do bad
acts," Moss said.
Thomas said the defense asked Peek for a mistrial for Moss' misconduct but
it was not granted.
Peek said he took action against Moss' comments because "the conduct of a
capital murder case is very serious," and "for something to risk the
possibility of error and having to try the case over again, it's important
to teach somebody a lesson not to do that."
Peek said he overruled the motion for mistrial because he had followed the
norm by sustaining the defense's objection to Moss' comments and
instructing the jury to disregard them.
"I think it was a very fair trial," Peek said. "I tried my very best, put
forth a lot of effort and scolded Mr. Moss on several occasions. I did
everything I could to make sure Reggie got a fair trial."
Damon said members of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty
International and the New Black Panther Party have gotten involved in the
Justice for Reggie Clemons campaign.
He said since the Kerrys, Cummins and Winfrey (who was the only defendant
the prosecution cut a deal with) were white, the trials got a lot of
attention for their racial dynamics.
Moss offered Winfrey a 30-year sentence if he plead guilty to
second-degree murder and testified against the other three defendants.
He said he made the offer because he needed someone to describe the event,
because Winfrey had the least amount of participation in the event and
because he was too young to get a death sentence.
Davis said there is more to the injustice than race.
"In my eyes, it's bigger than the black and white thing, it's about the
haves and the have-nots," he said. "For this to be the greatest country in
the world, I think people need to stop and think about how the country
treats the least of its people."
"Hopefully (the documentary will) spark more legal help for the poor,"
Vera Thomas said money has played a factor in her son's case.
"I lost a lot of confidence in fair trials -- unless you've got a lot of
money," she said. "You've always got this image that every case was solved
correctly; you just assume. I did. I found out differently once I was the
one sitting in the courtroom."
She said she also has sympathy for the Kerry family.
"I think about the victims' family. You hurt for all victims involved in
the case, but you still hope for truth too," she said.
The Kerry sisters' parents did not wish to comment.
Thomas attributed many of the mistakes in her son's trial to the family's
inability to pay for a good defense. She said they paid $10,000 for a
defense attorney who was later disbarred for losing records on several
cases, including Clemons'.
Costantinou could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Thomas said her son remains hopeful in the Potosi, Mo.,
Correctional Center despite his death sentence.
"He feels if he keeps fighting, keeps trying to prove his innocence, keeps
trying to prove the injustices in the system, there's hope."
Attorney Michelle Cherande, associate of the New York-based law firm
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which has represented Clemons in all his
appeals, said an action challenging his lethal injection sentence is
Cherande said Clemmons' defense also is putting together a package that
will include a written statement and letters from people supporting the
campaign to free him to present to Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt in an
application for clemency.
The filmmakers and other Clemons supporters spreading the word about his
case through events, a campaign Web site, statements from high-profile
supporters, such as Danny Glover, and a weekly radio segment on WGNU-AM
920 in St. Louis.
For more information, call Davis at 698-1957.
For more information on the Justice for Reggie Clemons Campaign, visit
Court to Hear Idaho Death Case
The Supreme Court stepped into a death penalty case Monday in which a
defendant says his lawyers gave him bad advice by telling him to reject a
plea deal that would have spared him a death sentence.
Maxwell Alton Hoffman was convicted in connection with a revenge killing
in Idaho and sentenced to death in 1989. He appealed, claiming he should
be allowed to take the deal prosecutors offered anyway.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The San Francisco-based
appeals court said the state must either release Hoffman or again offer
him a plea deal that he originally turned down allowing him to plead
guilty in exchange for prosecutors no longer seeking the death penalty.
The state appealed to the Supreme Court. The justices said they would
decide whether Hoffman is entitled to the plea deal, even though he was
later convicted and sentenced in a fair trial.
Hoffman was 1 of 3 men charged with the murder of a man who served as a
police informant in a drug deal.
The other 2 defendants avoided the death penalty. Hoffman, however,
refused to plead guilty on the advice of his attorneys, even though
prosecutors told him that if he refused the plea deal they would seek the
One of Hoffman's attorneys William Wellman told Hoffman he believed that
a recent appellate court ruling out of Arizona showed that Idaho's similar
death penalty scheme was unconstitutional, and that it was only a matter
of time before Idaho's death penalty scheme would be overturned in court.
But Idaho's death penalty scheme wasn't immediately overturned, and on
June 9, 1989, Hoffman was sentenced to death.
The case is Arave v. Hoffman, 07-110.
(source: Associated Press)
Ga. Supreme Court upholds death penalty in 1980 killing
The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a convicted
murderer whose lawyer had argued he has "severe organic brain injury" and
should not be executed.
In a decision released Monday, Georgia's high court unanimously upheld a
Floyd County jury's 2005 finding that James Randall Rogers is not mentally
retarded and is eligible to be executed.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded people in
2002 but left it largely up to the states to set their own standards.
Rogers was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering Grace Perry, his
75-year-old neighbor, by impaling her with a rake handle in 1980 when he
was 19 years old.
(source: Associated Press)
Official recommends death penalty remain an option in Suffern captin's
The case against a soldier accused of killing a Suffern Army captain and
another offlcer in Iraq will remain a death penalty case, a military
official has recommended.
Staff. Sgt. Alberto Martinez of Troy is charged with 2 counts of
premeditated murder in the killings of Capt. Phillip Esposito, 30, and 1st
Lt. Louis Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa. The officers were killed in June 2005
in Tikrit, Iraq.
Their killing is the 1st incident of fragging since the start of the U.S.
war in Iraq. Fragging is military slang for the killing of a superior
The recommendation came earlier today following an appeal by Martinez's
defense attorney's last month. The defense had argued to overturn an
earlier decision that the slaying warranted a capital case.
Col. William Lee Deneke, the investigating officer, however, recommended
that another charge against Martinez - of damage, loss, sale, destruction
or wrongful disposition of government property -be dismissed.
Deneke is authorized only to make recommendations. A final decision will
be made by the Army's convening authority.
(source: Journal News)
Martinez could get death penalty if convicted in officers' deaths
The colonel investigating a New York Army National Guard soldier accused
of killing 2 superior officers is recommending that the soldier face the
death penalty if convicted.
Col. Lee Deneke says the case of Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez should remain
a capital case.
But Deneke says Martinez should not face charges of giving printers and
copiers to an Iraqi national. He says that charge would be difficult to
prove without the testimony of the Iraqi. The colonel also says the charge
is insignificant to the murder charges.
Those recommendations come from last month's Article 32 hearing, which is
the military equivalent to a civilian grand jury.
Martinez is charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of Capt.
Phillip T. Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, 42nd Infantry Division.
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