[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., USA., IND., MASS., OKLA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Nov 8 21:32:54 CST 2007
Death row inmate to get a new trial
A judge has ordered a new trial for a Hickory man on death row since 1994,
saying the lead investigator in the man's double-murder case withheld
critical evidence and lied on the stand. In a 186-page ruling issued
Tuesday, N.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin also said Glen Edward
Chapman's 2 defense attorneys did a poor job of investigating the two
killings, missing evidence that 1 of the victims was alive after Chapman
last saw her and that she may have died of a drug overdose.
1of the 2 defense attorneys was Tom Portwood, whose representation of at
least 2 other men, 1 executed in 2001, has been challenged in court.
Portwood, who died in 2003, had testified that he was an alcoholic and
drank every evening during several death penalty trials.
A jury convicted Chapman, now 39, in November 1994 for the killings of
Betty Jean Ramseur, 31, and Tenene Yvette Conley, 28, whose bodies were
discovered in abandoned houses in Hickory in August 1992.
The cases were combined for trial, and prosecutors alleged Chapman killed
the women, hid the bodies, and twice burned the house where he had stashed
Ramseur's body to conceal evidence.
But Ervin found that, among other failings, the Hickory Police
Department's lead investigator, Dennis Rhoney, withheld information that a
key witness in the Ramseur case identified someone other than Chapman in a
Ervin also said investigators withheld information about witnesses who
said they saw Conley alive after prosecutors said Chapman killed her.
Frank Goldsmith, a Marion lawyer representing Chapman on appeal, said the
ruling represents the first step toward justice for a man he believes is
"I've been practicing law for 37 years, and I have never encountered a
case that made my blood boil like this one," Goldsmith said. "It was
really atrocious, at multiple levels."
Attempts to reach Rhoney, now a patrol sergeant with the Burke County
Sheriff's Office, at his home and office failed Wednesday. The case's lead
prosecutor, Jason Parker, called Ervin a fair judge and said his office
can only try cases on the evidence it's given. A retrial date hasn't been
Ervin was ruling on a 2003 motion by Chapman's attorneys to have the
convictions reversed; the judge has held 6 hearings in nearly five years
on the case.
Ervin found that Rhoney withheld information, then lied under oath when he
testified that he had provided to prosecutors all evidence that might have
pointed to Chapman's innocence. Prosecutors would then have been required
to turn it over to defense attorneys.
Among Ervin's other findings:
Witness Alvin Ray Creasman, a vagrant then living at a house on Highland
Avenue, told police he had seen a man and woman at the house around
daybreak on June 12, 1992, when prosecutors alleged Chapman beat Ramseur
to death and started a fire at the house to conceal the killing.
But that December, Rhoney showed a photographic lineup to Creasman, who
identified someone else as the man he had seen. Rhoney never told
prosecutors about the identification, and the lineup photos are missing.
--A man jailed in Catawba County jail in 1992 told Rhoney he overheard an
inmate, referring to Ramseur, say: "What I done with her, I thought they
would never find her unless they tore the damn house down."
Rhoney later determined that the man knew Ramseur and had a history of
But Rhoney never filed a report on the conversation, admitting during a
later hearing that he had "no excuse" for not following up on the lead.
--The 2nd fire at the house where Ramseur's body was discovered happened
in November 1992, 3 months after the body was found. Police never turned
over an N.C. State Bureau of Investigation file on that fire, allowing
prosecutors to suggest at trial that Chapman set both fires before her
body was found.
--Police never provided prosecutors with information from at least 2
witnesses who said they saw Conley alive on Aug. 14, 1992, several hours
after prosecutors alleged Chapman had killed her. At least 1 witness would
have testified that he saw her that night with a boyfriend known to be
violent with her.
--A forensic pathologist who testified during one of the post-conviction
hearings said Conley may have died of a drug overdose. He cited the lack
of any obvious lethal trauma to the body. Prosecutors alleged that Conley
had been strangled.
--The investigation of the killings by Robert Adams, Tom Portwood's
co-counsel and the lead defense attorney during the trial, was "rather
limited, to say the least," Ervin wrote. It was Adams' first time as lead
counsel in a capital case.
The attorneys used court-appointed investigators to look into Ramseur's
killing but not Conley's, and the investigators' activity reports reveal
only one attempt, which was unsuccessful, to locate a witness.
(source: Charlotte Observer)
Put away all the death penalty machinery
As a practitioner of the death penalty, the United States is now in
virtual moral solitude among civilized nations. So it's sometimes hard not
to see the raging debates over capital punishment in this country as
somewhat arcane, and just a little bizarre.
That couldn't be truer than with the argument, set to reach the Supreme
Court this term, over whether the current protocols for lethal injection
amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution. Turns out
some prisoners may be feeling pain during the procedure, but they're
unable to express it because they're paralyzed, and unconscious.
Now, the high court has never concluded that, say, sending 2,000 volts
through a prisoner's body is unconstitutional. The justices have never
hinted that sticking a prisoner in an airtight chamber with a mix of
cyanide and sulfuric acid is cruel, or unusual. Indeed, even hanging has
never been ruled unconstitutional in America.
States abandoned those procedures on their own, as conventional wisdom and
medical science came to agree that lethal injection was a more "civilized"
way of taking someone's life. So it would be a little strange, to say the
least, if the court were to now say that a certain way of mixing deadly
chemicals in a syringe was cruel and unusual; clever states might just
revert to the chair, or the gas chamber, as an easy response, right?
But all this is a just the absurd fallout from a discussion that has
itself become daffy. The debate over capital punishment seems terminally
hobbled by the internal inconsistency of trying to apply the rule of law,
and proper procedure, to the willful taking of life by the state. It's
trying to put a square argument in a round hole.
The better course might be to follow the advice of justice Harry Blackmun,
who announced in 1994 that he would no longer "tinker with the machinery
of death." Stop quibbling about how, and why and with what method to do
it, and begin talking forthrightly about whether the greatest nation on
Earth ought to engage in behavior that you have to visit Tehran or Rangoon
to see elsewhere.
It's the only death penalty question really worth answering anymore.
(source: Editorial, Detroit Free Press, Nov. 1)
No Verdict on Death Penalty Deterring Crime
As an attorney who represents people charged with capital crimes, I read
with interest the claim that the debate over the capital punishment's
deterrence effect had been resolved ("Capital Punishment Works" op-ed by
Roy D. Adler and Michael Summers, Nov. 2).
Messrs. Adler and Summers announced new research showing that each
execution deters 74 murders. This claim, presented as an unassailable
fact, ignores the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The authors purportedly compared the national number of executions to the
national number of murders in the U.S. from 1979 to 2004 and concluded
that there is an "obvious negative correlation." In other words, they
looked at a graph with both the murder rate and the execution rate plotted
in time, a correlation study.
One does not have to be a statistician to know the inherent danger of
mistaking correlation for causation. A common illustration of this basic
point is that children with larger shoe sizes perform better in reading
tests. While this may be true, it is age, not shoe size that correlates
with improved reading.
Another flaw in the analysis is the false comparison between national
crime statistics and national death penalty statistics. The death penalty
is not a federal penalty and it is not applied or available in several
states with high crime rates. There are other credible studies comparing
death penalty states with non-death penalty states that have found no
evidence that executions have any effect on murder rates.
Cassandra Stubbs----Staff Attorney----ACLU's Capital Punishment
I don't have a strong view on the death penalty. But the debate over
whether it should be part of our justice system raises important and
difficult issues that should be dealt with in a methodologically competent
and rational fashion.
Merely eyeballing the chart accompanying the op-ed should put one on
notice that something may be amiss. The authors purported to identify an
astonishingly strong relationship between execution and murders, yet one
can tell from inspecting their graph that this relationship does not hold
for the years 1988-1993, when, as the execution rate increased, so did the
murder rate. Why would this be so if executions had a dramatic effect on
The answer is that other variables are at play. This is the first of three
errors the authors make.
All their study shows is that there is a correlation between executions
and murder rates in these years, but there are innumerable such
correlations. I could just as easily show that population growth during
this period correlates well with declining murder rates.
Note a more devastating error. During the period that obviously drives
these results -- from the early 1990s on -- crime rates were falling
dramatically across the country. Crime rates were falling across the
board, not just for homicide. And so Messrs. Adler and Summers could also
draw a graph showing that executions caused the crime rate to fall for
burglary, robbery, assault and so on, which is implausible.
And now the most devastating error. The homicide rate more or less fell
everywhere and not just in states that executed people. So in essence, the
model of these authors attributes the declining murder rate in, e.g., New
York to the executions that occurred mostly in southern states. Is that
plausible? Of course not.
Research efforts are under way to see if the deterrent efficacy of capital
punishment can be determined. This is all the more reason not to distract
the debate over capital punishment with simplistic studies that do not
meet the normal standards of scientific inquiry. Debates over important
policy choices that could affect the lives of innocent people should be
conducted at the highest intellectual plane, in a careful and rational
Ronald J. Allen----Professor of Law----Northwestern University----School
of Law----Evanston, Ill.
(source: Letters to the Editor, Wall Street Journal)
Welch speaks out against death penalty----Father of McVeigh victim visits
Bud Welch, the father of one of the 168 people who died in the Oklahoma
City bombing, spoke against the death penalty during Wednesday's Right to
Life meeting in LaFortune.
"Normal human beings do not feel good out of watching another human
being's last breath," Welch said. He said Americans have a limited
understanding of the death penalty and need to learn more.
"Education, education, education," he said.
During his talk, Welch focused on his struggle to forgive Timothy McVeigh,
who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April
19, 1995. Welch's daughter, Julie, who worked at the Oklahoma City federal
building, was among the people killed.
Welch was devastated when his daughter died. He wanted to see McVeigh
"All of my life I opposed the death penalty. Now, I didn't even want them
to have a trial," Welch said. He turned to alcohol to ease the pain.
But one day, as he stood in front of the memorial that was built up in
front of the Federal Building, Welch realized he needed to move forward.
"Julie not only opposed the death penalty, she was active against it,"
Welch said. Three weeks after he stood in front of the Federal Building,
Welch decided the death penalty was wrong. He started to speak out and
tell Julie's story.
As a teenager, Julie Welch was very interested in foreign language. She
traveled to Spain as an exchange student during her junior year of high
school and later got a scholarship to Marquette for her achievement in
foreign language. She attended Marquette and, during her sophomore year,
went abroad again. She got her degree in Spanish and became a translator.
When Welch saw Bill McVeigh, Timothy McVeigh's father, doing an interview
on television shortly after the bombing occurred, he decided he wanted to
meet him and tell him he did not blame Bill McVeigh for what his son had
done. 3 years later, he got his chance.
Welch visited Bill McVeigh in Buffalo, N.Y., in the house where Timothy
was raised. While he was at the house, he also met Timothy's sister,
Jennifer. The 3 of them sat at the dining room table and talked.
After a couple hours, Welch got up to leave. He shook Bill McVeigh's hand,
and when he went to shake Jennifer's hand, she hugged him instead. They
began to cry, and he looked her in the eye and said, "I don't want your
brother to die, and I'll do everything I can do to make sure that doesn't
Despite Welch's efforts, on June 11, 2001, McVeigh was killed.
"They took Timothy McVeigh out of his cage and killed him," Welch said.
"When parents die, we take them to the hilltop and bury them. When
children die, we bury them in our hearts."
The Notre Dame Against State Killing campaign brought Welch to campus as
the fourth speaker in its fall event series. Notre Dame Right to Life and
the Law School's Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty co-sponsored
Welch's visit. Welch will speak today at 12:15 in room 101 of the Law
School and again at 7:30p.m. in room C-103 of the Hesburgh Center.
(source: The Observer)
House rejects death penalty
The state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday against
reinstating the death penalty in Massachusetts.
The 110-46 vote was by a larger margin than past years, and came after a
little more than an hour of debate.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick had pledged to veto the bill if it were approved.
The bill defeated yesterday was almost identical to legislation filed by
former Gov. W. Mitt Romney, who wanted to create a "gold standard" for
Backers of the legislation said the state should have the right to use the
death penalty in the most heinous cases, such as the killing of a police
officer or a child. They said capital punishment can be an effective
deterrent and can provide justice to society and families.
"There are some cases that are so heinous, it's an appropriate
punishment," said Rep. Mary S. Rogeness, R-Longmeadow, who supported the
Opponents said the death penalty is too expensive and immoral. They also
questioned whether the death penalty can be administered without errors.
"I have always been opposed to the death penalty," said Rep. Sean F.
Curran, D-Springfield. "The justice system is made up of people, and
sometimes people make mistakes. When you're talking about the death
penalty, there is no room for error."
Rep. Angelo J. Puppolo Jr., D-Springfield, said he did his homework and
then voted against the bill.
"I do oppose the death penalty," he said. "Until we can be 100-percent
sure that we're not going to take the life of an innocent person, I don't
feel comfortable supporting that."
DNA evidence in recent years has freed dozens of wrongly convicted
death-row inmates in the country. The only Democrats from Western
Massachusetts to vote in support of the death penalty yesterday were Reps.
Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow, and Joseph F. Wagner, D-Chicopee.
Republican Reps. Donald F. Humason Jr. of Westfield and Todd M. Smola of
Palmer joined Rogeness in voting for the bill.
The last executions in the Bay State were in 1947, when 2 men were
electrocuted after being convicted of murdering an accomplice in a
In 1997, the House initially approved the death penalty in a dramatic
81-79 vote. But a House member switched his vote on the final tally that
year, and the bill was defeated on a tie vote.
In 1999, the House voted 80-73 against the death penalty, and in 2001 the
vote was 92-60 against it.
In 2005, the House voted 99-53 to defeat the death penalty when Romney was
Last month, Patrick issued a statement that questioned why legislators
conduct an "annual spectacle" of a death penalty hearing when there are
more urgent concerns about public safety.
Kevin M. Burke, public safety secretary, read Patrick's statement during a
legislative hearing on the death penalty.
(source: The Republican)
Okla. Death Penalty Foe Commits Suicide
Defense attorney Lisa McCalmont was well-known nationally as an outspoken
critic of lethal injection and amassed a trove of information about
problems with the 3-drug cocktail that is at the very center of a case the
U.S. Supreme Court will hear early next year.
Colleagues say McCalmont, 49, was looking forward to the Supreme Court
case as a momentous event in her career.
But then, last week, she hanged herself at her home in Norman a suicide
that stunned and baffled some of those who knew her.
"She seemed like she was on top of the world," said Dr. William Kinsinger,
an Oklahoma City anesthesiologist who worked with McCalmont on a capital
case. "I'm absolutely dumbfounded."
Her husband, Craig Dixon, a geophysicist, would not discuss what might
have troubled his wife. She left no suicide note.
At the time of her death, she was a consultant to the Death Penalty Clinic
at the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, and worked
passionately to save the lives of death row inmates. She advised attorneys
across the country who were working on challenges to lethal injection.
McCalmont was not directly involved in the Kentucky case before the
Supreme Court, in which two condemned men claim lethal injection amounts
to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
But colleagues said she helped lay the groundwork for similar challenges
in other jurisdictions. She argued that if the drugs were not properly
administered, the condemned could suffer excruciating pain without being
able to cry out.
"We wouldn't be where we are today with lethal injection cases if it were
not for her," said Ty Alper, a colleague of McCalmont's at the Death
Penalty Clinic. "In large part due to the work of lawyers like Lisa,
lawyers in every death penalty case are challenging the method of lethal
injection in their cases."
In agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court appears to have put a halt
to executions in the U.S. for now.
"I think that she was glad the high court had stepped in to resolve this
because the lower courts were all over the place," said a colleague of
McCalmont's George Kendall, a New York-based lawyer and board member at
the Death Penalty Information Center. "This is a major-league
constitutional issue the court announced it will attempt to decide."
McCalmont brought a scientific background to the job: She had a successful
career in the 1980s and early 1990s as a geologist for Houston-based
Conoco Inc. She received a bachelor's degree in geology at Dickinson
College in 1979 and pursued graduate studies in geology at the University
"She was able to leverage her great scientific expertise and mind and use
it to great effect in the lethal injection work, which is all about
medicine and science," Alper said. He said she also had a "great legal
mind" and was "very compassionate and dedicated to her clients."
A 1996 graduate of the University of Tulsa College of Law, McCalmont
previously worked for the federal public defender's office in Oklahoma
City, where she successfully argued a federal appeal on behalf of Oklahoma
death row inmate Glenn Anderson, convicted of a triple killing.
McCalmont argued that during the death penalty phase of his trial, his
attorney failed to investigate potential mitigating evidence. Anderson was
resentenced in June to life without parole.
Some of those who knew McCalmont said she did not appear to be despondent
John McShane, founder of the Dallas-based Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a
support group for attorneys, said depression can be an occupational hazard
"The best and most compassionate lawyers are the most vulnerable to mental
illness," McShane said. "Your job is to protect your client from all the
things that can go wrong, and you're hyper-vigilant about all the
negatives associated with a situation."
(source: Associated Press)
Hearings on lethal injection delayed----The postponements indicate that
the state's moratorium on executions is likely to extend well into 2008.
A federal judge in San Jose has postponed 2 key hearings in the legal
battle over lethal injection, meaning that the state's 21-month moratorium
on the death penalty is likely to extend well into next year.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel issued an order this week calling off a
formal site review of the new death chamber at San Quentin State Prison
later this month and postponing hearings on the case scheduled for Dec. 10
and 11 in his courtroom.
Fogel had planned those steps as part of his review of the state's lethal
injection protocols, which have been challenged in the courts as cruel and
unusual punishment. His delay signals that it will take even longer for a
decision to be made on the state's ability to legally conduct executions.
Fogel's decision comes in the wake of an injunction issued last week by a
Superior Court judge that barred the state from implementing a new plan to
execute inmates using lethal injections. Fogel said he was taking this
action at the request of lawyers for the state attorney general's office
and death row inmate Michael Morales.
California last held an execution in January 2006. A month later, state
officials called off the execution of Morales -- who has been on death row
for nearly 25 years for the murder of Lodi teenager Terri Winchell --
because of a challenge to the state's lethal injection procedure.
In December 2006, Fogel ruled that California's lethal injection protocol
exposed inmates to the unnecessary risk of excessive pain, in violation of
the 8th Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment. Five months
later, corrections officials issued a new protocol, saying the changes
would "result in the dignified end of life" for condemned inmates.
State officials also said that they would complete this month construction
of a larger, better illuminated death chamber specifically designed for
lethal injection executions, unlike the old facility, which was built in
1937 as the state's gas chamber. Morales' lawyers say aspects of the new
protocol are even worse than objectionable practices under the old
And that new protocol came under additional criticism last week when Marin
County Superior Court Judge Lynn O'Malley Taylor ruled that the state
broke the law by redesigning its execution procedures without seeking
public comment or submitting them to review by an independent state
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary James
Tilton said he would appeal that decision and that litigation could also
take many more months to resolve.
In his Monday order, Fogel set a new status conference for Jan. 17, 10
days after the U.S. Supreme Court is to hear a challenge to Kentucky's
lethal injection procedures. The case is likely to affect the litigation
in California and dozens of other states where inmates have alleged that
lethal injection procedures violate the 8th Amendment.
California, like 3 dozen other states, uses a 3-drug cocktail for
executions in a procedure where an inmate is strapped to a gurney and
hooked up to a line where the chemicals are injected intravenously.
The chemicals are sodium thiopental, an ultra-fast acting barbiturate
aimed at anesthetizing the inmate; pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes
the inmate; and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.
Critics contend that the 2nd drug can prevent the inmate from speaking or
otherwise reacting to extreme pain from the heart-stopping drug.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Walking to stop executions
The 800-Mile Walk to Stop Executions marched into Santa Cruz on Wednesday
and about a half-dozen people participated in the noon rally in front of
the courthouse to ask District Attorney Bob Lee to oppose the death
Santa Cruz County is one of 15 counties the walkers will stop in during
their protest, which ends at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 30.
The effort tries to draw attention to the death penalty and encourage
district attorneys not to seek capital punishment. California has the
highest rate of death penalty sentencing in the nation, according to
For information, visit walktostopexecutions.blogspot.com.
(source: Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Death penalty in disarray
California's stalled death penalty plunged deeper into disarray when a
judge tossed out the state's new lethal injection method.
The judge's ruling Wednesday added to the growing uncertainty over the
status of capital punishment in the state.
Marin County Judge Lynn O'Malley Taylor invalidated the state's new
procedure because state prison officials failed to treat the new execution
method as a new state regulation, which mandates public comment among
Taylor's ruling came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it would
continue to halt executions nationwide until it decides a challenge to
Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.
California prison officials in May overhauled their process for injecting
condemned inmates with a deadly three-drug combination. That was in
response to a federal judge's ruling that California's execution procedure
was so badly designed and carried out that it was likely to cause
unconstitutional pain and suffering.
Violating the law:
Taylor's ruling did not touch on any of the constitutional issues before
the U.S. Supreme Court and federal court system.
Instead she said prison officials violated an arcane administrative law
that required them to treat the revised lethal injection procedure as a
new regulation that required public comment and approval from the Office
of Administrative Law.
"The means by which we execute people is a very substantial public issue,"
said Brad Phillips, an attorney representing the two condemned inmates who
sued the state in Marin County to stop their executions. "The lethal
injection protocol in California is of great statewide prominence."
Deputy Attorney General Michael Quinn argued unsuccessfully that the new
execution method, which includes the remodeling of the death chamber to
make it more spacious and better lit, is limited only to San Quentin
Prison in Marin County and therefore not a statewide regulation.
"It applies to a small range of prisoners for a specified time at a single
facility," Quinn argued Wednesday morning before the judge issued her
final ruling. Quinn said he was unsure what the state would do next.
Hundreds on death row:
All state executions take place at San Quentin. There are 667 inmates
currently on death row, including 15 women held at a prison in Madera
County. No executions have been carried out since January 2006.
The next month, prison officials called off the execution of Michael
Morales hours before he was to die for the rape and killing of 17-year-old
Terri Winchell in a Lodi vineyard 26 years ago.
Prison officials said they could not comply with U.S. District Court Judge
Jeremy Fogel's order that licensed medical professionals assist with the
execution.Fogel said in December he would declare the state's lethal
injection process unconstitutional unless prison officials improved the
procedure with better trained staff and improved conditions in the death
(source: Associated Press)
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