[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----CALIF., USA, FLA., CONN., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 7 20:12:13 CST 2007
Court hearing on executions in California is postponed
A federal judge postponed Tuesday a scheduled Dec. 10 hearing on
California's proposed overhaul of its procedures for executing prisoners
by lethal injection, the subject of a related case pending before the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel had planned a 2-day hearing in his San
Jose court on whether the revisions minimized the risk that an anesthetic
would fail to work and a prisoner would be left conscious and paralyzed
while dying in agony from the last of three lethal chemicals.
He ordered a postponement at the request of both the state and lawyers for
a condemned Stockton murderer. The request was made after the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed to review a Kentucky case raising similar issues, and a Marin
County judge ruled last week that California prison officials were
required to invite public comment before adopting their new procedures.
Fogel scheduled a hearing Jan. 17 to discuss the status of the case.
Executions in California have been on hold since February 2006, when Fogel
granted a stay to Michael Morales, convicted of raping and murdering
17-year-old Terri Winchell in a vineyard near Lodi in 1981. After
testimony from medical experts, Fogel ruled last December that the state
lacked safeguards against a botched execution and would violate the
constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment unless it made major
The state's new procedures, announced in May, include adjustments in drug
dosages and equipment, plans to improve staff selection and training, and
a new execution chamber that is nearing completion at San Quentin State
(source: San Francisco Chroniclce)
2 Men Responsible for Liquor Store Killing Face Death Penalty
Prosecutors are expected to announce today whether they will seek the
death penalty against two men accused of robbing and killing of an El
Cajon liquor store co-owner and one of her employees.
Jean Pierre Rices, 26, and Anthony James Miller, 22, are charged with
murder, murder during a robbery and murder during a burglary in the March
1, 2006, slayings of 22-year-old Heather Mattia 23-year-old Firas Eiso.
Prosecutors also allege that Rices was personally armed during the attack
in which both victims were shot in the head.
Prosecutors are expected to tell Superior Court Judge Christine K.
Goldsmith whether Rices and/or Miller will face the death penalty or life
in prison without parole should they be convicted.
Police said the suspects entered Granada Liquor about 11 p.m., wearing ski
masks, hooded jackets and gloves.
Dwayne Hooks, whose sister was dating Rices at the time, testified at a
preliminary hearing in July that Rices told him that he shot Eiso and
store co- owner Mattia after Eiso ripped his mask off.
Hooks' sister, Debbie Mays, testified that Rices told her that he shot
Mattia because she wouldn't open a safe.
(source: Fox6 News)
Execution machine switched off
THE MACHINERY of death in the U.S. has been halted.
On October 30, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped an execution in Mississippi
minutes before it was due to take place--on the grounds that the justices
are considering a different case in which the constitutionality of the use
of lethal injection to kill condemned prisoners is at stake.
Opponents of the death penalty have held their breath with each
approaching execution after the Supreme Court said it would hear the
lethal injection appeal. State officials and lower court judges continued
to sign off on planned executions--in effect, a challenge to the legal
tradition of delaying related decisions until the Supreme Court sets a
precedent on a case it has taken up.
But last week's stay is one of several, indicating that a majority of
Supreme Court justices are pretty certain to stop anyone from being put to
death until they rule on the lethal injection issue in a Kentucky case,
Baze v. Rees.
The justices will hear arguments in the case in January, and a decision
won't be announced until the spring. Until then, there will be a de facto
moratorium on executions in the U.S.
THE HALT on executions underscores the shift in the politics of the death
penalty since the late 1990s, when the number of people put to death in
the U.S. each year hit a high point. For the current Supreme Court--packed
with right-wing justices appointed by Republican presidents--to stop
executions, even temporarily, while it decides the Kentucky case, shows
just how discredited the death penalty system has become.
A majority of people favor capital punishment when asked in opinion polls,
but that support drops when they are given the option of lesser sentences,
and an equally large majority wants a moratorium on executions until the
many flaws that have been revealed about the death penalty system are
investigated and addressed.
Even defenders of the death penalty admit their system is plagued by
failures. The tide of men and women sentenced to death, only to be proven
innocent and released, often after years behind bars, has continued. The
most basic investigation shows how the system is stacked against the poor
and people of color.
The immediate issue taken up by the Supreme Court--whether the technique
of lethal injection amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment"--seemed
technical to many opponents of the death penalty.
But the stories of death row prisoners who appeared to be conscious and in
excruciating pain as the lethal cocktail of chemicals was pumped into
their veins have given a shocking look at the usually shrouded execution
Like previous anecdotes about the electric chair setting its victims on
fire, the issue of lethal injection has come to symbolize the arbitrary
and barbaric nature of capital punishment--and serve as a lightning rod
for further questioning about it.
The death penalty system is clearly in decline. The number of executions
nationwide has fallen steadily, to nearly 1/2 the number of the peak year
of 1999. The number of death sentences imposed by juries dropped to the
lowest number since executions were legalized again in 1976. The Supreme
Court itself has limited the use of the death penalty with bans on
executing the mentally retarded and juvenile offenders.
Will the Supreme Court rule that lethal injection is "cruel and unusual
punishment"--which would all but abolish the death penalty in the U.S.?
That's possible, but by no means certain, given the core of very
conservative justices on the court.
The Supreme Court could also set out new standards to make lethal
injection more "humane," leading to executions restarting. But states
would have to take more time to work out their procedures, extending the
de facto moratorium for a time. Meanwhile, the debate before the court and
in the media is bound to confirm growing doubts about the death penalty
and reinforce the trend toward its disuse.
This effective halt to the execution machine is a vindication of the many
people who have worked long and hard to oppose the death penalty.
Their efforts--whether inside or outside the courtroom--have exposed the
ugly injustices of capital punishment in the U.S. Campaigns around
specific cases--like the struggle that saved Kenneth Foster Jr. in Texas,
the belly of the death penalty beast--have put a human face on this issue
and contributed to the shift in climate.
There's no right way to do the wrong thing. The execution system should be
abolished once and for all--and all those who care about justice need to
show how the barbarism of the death penalty is reflected at every level of
the criminal injustice system.
(source: Socialist Worker)
Death to death penalty
No one should fail to note the significance of the Supreme Court's
decision to block an execution in Mississippi, which has been widely
interpreted as a signal by the justices that states should not carry out
further executions until the high court rules next year on a key death
The Senate's leading critic of capital punishment, Wisconsin Democrat Russ
Feingold, put things in perspective when he said, "This de facto
moratorium on executions by lethal injection gives us a chance to
recognize just how deeply flawed the implementation of capital punishment
in this country is."
"Indeed," said Feingold, "the Supreme Court's stay comes just one day
after a call by the American Bar Association for a nationwide moratorium
on capital punishment based on its detailed study of state death penalty
systems, which found racial disparities, convictions based on bad
evidence, grossly inadequate indigent defense systems, and a host of other
problems with the implementation of capital punishment in this country. We
should take advantage of this apparent pause in executions to consider the
severe injustices within the system as a whole."
Feingold's right. While there is every reason to be excited about the fact
that the Supreme Court may finally address the deadly inequities
associated with capital punishment, it is necessary to remember that there
are no guarantees with the courts. The cause of justice must be advanced
on every front, and it is essential that senators sign on to Feingold's
legislative response to the racial, economic and political injustices
associated with the death penalty.
Feingold needs co-sponsors for his Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act.
And the first name on the list should be that of Wisconsin's senior
senator, Herb Kohl.
(source: Editorial, The (Madison, Wis.) Capital Times)
Death penalty continues vicious cycle of violence----Nov. 9 forum
discusses the ills of capital punishment
I am many things at Drury University: a student, president of Amnesty
International and SEEDS sociology club, and an avid collector of library
and parking fines. However, I am also the loved one of a murder victim.
Our society and criminal justice system usually assumes that the loved
ones of murder victims favor capital punishment.
This assumption often silences the voice of loved ones who actually oppose
the death penalty. Additionally, death penalty abolitionists are often
accused of focusing on the plight of the murderer on death row at the
expense of focusing on the suffering of the victim and the victim's loved
ones. It is for this reason that I'm not going to describe how the death
penalty is racist and classist, how it is actually more expensive and
fails to deter crime, or how it executes innocent people. Instead, I am
going to share my story because I do know firsthand the suffering
inflicted on the victim's loved ones and I do not wish to perpetuate that
cycle of vengeance and violence.
My grandparents were on the brink of divorce at the time of my
grandmother's murder. My grandfather was having an affair and my
grandmother was, of course, devastated. In the middle of an argument, my
grandfather left, he had a plane to catch for a business trip. Late that
night, my grandmother decided to go after him and work things out. R.
Spears murdered my grandmother that night, making the last words she and
my grandfather spoke to one another words of anger and hurt.
My father and my aunts resented my grandfather, blaming him for my
grandmother's death. My siblings, cousins, and I watched our family fall
apart as our parents, unable to cope, turned to drugs and alcohol. I
watched my father and my great-aunt (my grandmother's sister and best
friend) channel their emotions of grief into hate and vengeance, fixating
on the death penalty, thinking it would bring them relief and closure.
But loved ones of murder victims who focus on the death of the killer as
opposed to the healing process prolong their own grief and thus, my family
found no relief. My mother says I have been a death penalty abolitionist
my whole life and my grandmother's murder did not change that. I wouldn't
say that forgiveness has necessarily been a part of my motivation. This
man did murder my grandmother in cold blood for his own gain. She is
absent every Hanukah and won't be at my graduation or ever hold her
I don't want revenge to be my motivation, either. Instead, my conviction
comes from knowing that no person should be simply reduced to their worst
act. It is dehumanizing. With the suffering that murder inflicts upon a
family, they need all of the humanity that they can get.
Think about the worst thing you've ever done: whether it be lie to your
parents, cheat on a test, steal from the mall, or drive drunk. Is that all
you are? Spears may be a murderer to me, but he is also a son, a husband,
and a father to someone else. They know him as their loved one, not as a
As a death penalty abolitionist, I've had to be very sensitive at home
because my family was very divided over the issue. In 2005, I went home to
California to visit my family during winter break. In what became a very
tearful conversation with my father and my great-aunt, they brought up my
grandmother. My aunt told me that she often thinks of Spears' twin
children and my father described the pain he had to hold onto in order to
be able to support the death penalty. He realized how the death penalty
failed to provide him any closure but instead inflicted the pain of our
family onto Spears' family.
My family has since reconciled and I believe that through this
reconciliation, we have finally healed. My family now stands firmly
against capital punishment and while some of them aren't ready to become
abolitionist activists like myself, they believe all killing is wrong.
They know because they've experienced it firsthand.
The reasons we oppose capital punishment vary, but we all agree that as
victims, we have a vested interest in the moral culture of America. The
death penalty should not be the final word on violence in our society.
On that note, I would like to invite the Drury community to attend a guest
speaker presentation with Mr. Randy Steidl this Friday, November 9 at 3
p.m. in the Diversity Center. Food and drink will be provided. Mr. Steidl
will share his experiences as an innocent man who spent 12 years on
Illinois' death row before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Sponsored by
Amnesty International, the Diversity Center, MSU Criminology Department,
Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Witness to Innocence, I hope
you will join us in this important conversation about the death penalty
and human rights.
(source: Jessica Schneider, senior ---- The (Mo.) Drury Mirror)
Accused murderer may face possibility of death penalty
Jeremy Sly, 37, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the 1991 deaths that
went unsolved for over a decade
Though no notice has yet been filed, the State Attorney's Office is likely
to seek the death penalty against Jeremy Sly, 37, charged with 1st-degree
murder in the Dec. 19, 1991, shootings of Paul and Rita Stasny in their
Port Charlotte home. Sly is also accused of killing a man and three
children in North Port the same evening.
During a hearing Tuesday morning, Assistant State Attorney Bob Lee
indicated he would seek the death penalty for Sly, though he has yet to
file notice. Sly is currently serving a life sentence for a Collier County
murder that occurred in November 1991. He was not present in court
The hearing before Judge Lynne Dailey at the Charlotte County Justice
Center was scheduled to discuss several motions filed by defense attorney
Kevin Shirley, who was appointed to represent Sly after his previous
attorney quit the case because it was economically unfeasible for him to
take it on given changes to how court-appointed attorneys are paid in
Florida. Discussions concerning the appointment of co-counsel and experts
for the defense were postponed until after Lee files a notice of his
intent to seek the death penalty.
Dailey granted Shirley's motion to appoint an investigator to help him
with the case, which went unsolved for 15 years.
Court denies execution delay for child killer
The Florida Supreme Court today rejected another request to postpone the
execution of Mark Dean Schwab, a child killer who is set to die on Nov.
15. In 1992, Schwab was sentenced to die for the kidnap, rape and murder
of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.
Justice Barbara J. Pariente wrote in an opinion that it should be up to
the U.S. Supreme Court to issue Schwab a stay if it intends to impose "a
de facto moratorium on the death penalty."
Nearly a dozen executions have been stayed across the country since the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments about lethal injection in a
Kentucky case, which will likely be decided next summer. The issue is
whether the protocols for administering the fatal drugs qualify as cruel
and unusual punishment.
Although Pariente noted in her opinion that courts can't tell legislators
what to do, she recommended they explore using other drugs that may carry
"less risk of pain" for the condemned than the pancuronium bromide and
potassium chloride now used.
Pancuronium bromide is used to stop an inmate' breathing, while potassium
chloride stops the heart.
2 justices -- Harry Lee Anstead and Peggy Quince -- dissented from the
majority opinion. Anstead wrote that a stay "will result in no detriment
to the state" because Florida would be free to execute inmates after the
U.S. Supreme Court renders its decision in the Kentucky case.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
63 % of Connecticut residents support the death penalty
Most Connecticut residents' views about the death penalty have not changed
since the killings of a Cheshire woman and her 2 daughters during a home
invasion in July, a Quinnipiac University poll has found.
The poll, released Wednesday, found that 63 % of the more than 1,000
registered voters surveyed supported the death penalty for convicted
murderers, while 27 % were opposed. 3 of every 4 voters said the home
invasion did not change their opinions.
But when asked whether the 2 men charged in the killings should be
executed if they are convicted, 73 % said yes and 23 % said no,
Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, were
held hostage for several hours and killed during the invasion at their
home on July 23. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was beaten but
managed to escape from the house, which was set on fire and destroyed. <>P
2 paroled burglars, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 27, of Cheshire, and Steven
Hayes, 44, of Winsted, are charged with capital felony, murder and other
crimes in the killings. They face the possibility of being executed by
lethal injection if convicted.
State residents also said they were taking more precautions at their homes
because of the homicides.
"2/3 say they are more diligent about keeping their doors and windows
locked," said Douglas Schwartz, Quinnipiac's poll director. "It stirred up
some apprehension. But only a handful have bought new locks, installed an
alarm or bought a dog for protection."
About 1 in 4 residents felt less safe at home because of the events in
Cheshire, the poll found. Of those surveyed, 85 % said crime is a very
serious or somewhat serious problem in the state, and 29 % said
Connecticut has become less safe in the past 5 years.
The percentage of Connecticut residents who support the death penalty has
changed little over the past 9 years. The last poll, in January 2005,
found that 59 % were in favor of executing convicted murderers. In 2003
and 2001, 60 % favored the death penalty.
But when asked whether convicted murderers should receive the death
penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole, 47 % said the death
penalty and 44 % said life in prison.
"When you give people a viable alternative to the death penalty, many
people will take that option," Schwartz said. "It's sort of a different
Only 1 in 3 state residents supports a so-called "three strikes" law that
would send people to prison for life for a 3rd violent crime conviction.
State officials say such a law would not have had an effect on
Komisarjevsky or Hayes, who had no violence in their criminal histories
After the Cheshire killings, Gov. M. Jodi Rell suspended parole for
violent offenders. Some state lawmakers were concerned the move would only
add to the crowding problem in state prisons.
Nearly 1/2 of state residents believed Connecticut should build more
prisons to deal with overcrowding, while 39 % said inmates should be
released earlier. About 6 in 10 residents said they were willing to pay
higher taxes to increase community supervision of offenders.
The poll also showed Rell's rating approval remains high. 77 % of those
surveyed approved of the job she is doing.
Quinnipiac's poll, taken from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5, has a margin of error of
plus or minus 3 % points.
(source: Associated Press)
"I'm ready to go," said former Gov. George Ryan, who planned to caravan
with his family to the federal prison in Oxford, Wis., today.
"Look, I'm fine. It's the beginning of a journey I hadn't expected, but it
isn't over," Ryan told Sneed in an exclusive interview Monday night.
"I was innocent then and I'm innocent now ... and we are still pressing
ahead in our legal battle.
"But it certainly has been a 10-year nightmare."
So the man who once wept when he met South African President Nelson
Mandela -- but has maintained a dry-eyed stoicism since his conviction on
corruption charges -- spent his final night at home, with his wife, Lura
Lynn, his extended family . . . and a piece of banana cream pie.
He also got out his favorite pan and warmed up his final meal: tortellini
soup prepared by Ryan and his son-in-law a few days before.
"We are going to eat soup and talk over the good times we had as a family
at the [governor's] mansion," he told Sneed Monday night.
"My conscience is clear and my family close," Ryan said. "That is what has
enabled me to endure and move ahead."
Last Friday night, an excited Ryan and his entire family of 30 quietly
headed to a Bulls game at the United Center.
On Sunday, he went to the Asbury Methodist Church in Kankakee, where
members of his family filled up four front pews and Ryan addressed the
"I just want to thank you for all your prayers and support over the
years," Ryan said. "Please keep the prayers going for Lura Lynn and
On Monday, the Ryans went out for pizza.
Then -- on Tuesday, Ryan got out his suitcase.
"I'm not taking much," he said. "I can't take much. They'll send back the
clothes I'm wearing. I packed medicines, my glasses. But I can't take
books or newspapers. That has to be ordered or sent.
"I can't even take pictures along of my family. That has to be sent, too.
But I can take my wedding ring."
Married for 51 years to his high school sweetheart courted at a Kankakee
drugstore, Ryan initially didn't want wife Lura Lynn to accompany him to
But he yielded to her plea. "I needed to see it. I needed to be there. I
needed to know where my husband was going to be living," said Lura Lynn,
who will continue to live at their home in Kankakee.
So what has fueled Ryan's stoicism?
"He has 6 kids and 17 grandchildren and he needs to be strong for them,"
said a close Ryan friend.
"But he also believes in his innocence, and that results in peace."
A former soldier, Ryan is preparing to enter prison as a boot camp,
according to a close friend.
"The rest of us will continue to work on his behalf for his fight against
the death penalty," said former Chicago Schools Supt. Joe Hannon, a
frequent dinner mate.
"I told him I'd give him a pedometer to stay fit in order to climb the
stairs in Stockholm, when he receives the Nobel Peace Prize," added
Hannon, a former Marine.
(University of Illinois College of Law Professor Francis Boyle, who has
nominated Ryan for the Nobel for his worldwide work speaking out against
the death penalty, tells Sneed he is renominating Ryan.)
"You learn in the service, never to leave a wounded comrade on the
battlefield," said Hannon. "It is so easy for us to love George. Respect,
humor, love, friendship. That's what it's all about."
Former Near North insurance magnate Mickey Segal, who is serving time at
Oxford prison, described prison life to Sneed during an interview this
"We eat breakfast at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 10:30 a.m., then dinner at 3:30
p.m. . . . And no cocktails on the veranda," he quipped.
"There are four people in my dorm section. And we are allowed 300 minutes
a month in phone calls . . . and allowed attorney calls. There is a
no-tolerance policy here. . . . And if you are a problem, you get shipped
to another camp.
"They run a good ship here and even have a salad bar, but everybody has a
Former Oxford inmate Dan Rostenkowski, former head of the powerful House
Ways and Means committee, who was fully pardoned by President Clinton, has
talked frequently to Ryan.
"George Ryan is going to stick his nose in books, write his biography and
lose weight," said Rosty. "Prison life at Oxford is like an army camp.
He'll go through orientation for a month. And they'll assign him a duty."
Duty for Ryan at home is done for now: He finally repaired his broken
porch swing and tucked away his cookie sheet.
But he will take something with him. "I was very blessed when Monsignor
Ignatius McDermott left a message for me 2 days before he died that I'd be
"I take that to be a good omen."
(source: Chicago Sun-Times)
More information about the DeathPenalty