[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, IND., USA., ALA., N.J., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Nov 25 18:43:17 CST 2007
Ohio clergy urge halt to use of death penalty
Clergy in Ohio are currently seeking signatures to a letter to Gov. Ted
Strickland, calling for a death penalty moratorium.
The punishment applies disproportionately to the poor and people of color;
furthermore, the justice system continues to make fatal mistakes in
sentencing innocent people to death, the letter states.
Concerns about the death penalty have reached the U.S. Supreme Court,
which in September agreed to hear a Kentucky case on the constitutionality
of using lethal injection. Of the 38 states that have the death penalty,
37 use lethal injection, a 3-drug cocktail that anesthetizes the
individual, paralyzes the lungs, and stops the heart.
Early next year, the justices will hear arguments that lethal injection
violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and
The high court also agreed recently to decide a death penalty case from an
Idaho inmate who claims his lawyer gave him ineffective advice. The lawyer
urged his client to reject a plea bargain that would would have avoided
the death penalty.
Earlier this fall, the American Bar Association criticized Ohio for its
use of the death penalty, calling for a temporary halt in executions in
Jeffrey Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Ohio and an attorney with 20 years experience in death-penalty cases, also
spoke at the forum about the inequities in Ohio's system. In theory, the
death penalty should be used against the "worst of the worst," criminals
guilty of the most heinous crimes, Gamso said. In reality, of the 188
people on death row in Ohio, fewer than 35 fall into that "worst of the
"And some percentage are innocent," he asserted. "We make mistakes.
Nationwide, 125 people have been released from death row, exonerated."
(source: Cleveland Jewish News)
It's been 2 years since Parke County sought the death penalty against Chad
Cottrell----Some in Parke County question whether capital case worth
Brittany would have turned 14 just last month; her little sister, Tori,
would be 12. The 2 girls and their mother might be preparing for the
upcoming holidays, shopping for gifts, spending time with family.
But all 3 lives ended hideously, abruptly, violently 2 years ago.
It has been a little more than 2 years since prosecutors in Parke County
filed their intention to seek the death penalty against the accused killer
in one of the most heinous crimes in Parke County in recent memory.
But some Parke County residents are questioning whether the cost of
seeking the death penalty is worth the possible financial strain on the
Chad Cottrell, 37, of Rockville is charged with the shooting of his
29-year-old wife, Trisha Cottrell, and her 2 daughters, Brittany Williams,
12, and Victoria "Tori" Williams, 10, in the Cottrell home in late October
2005. The children had been molested prior to being killed, according to
Cottrell, an early suspect in the case, fled to Minnesota, where officers
apprehended him Nov. 1, 2005 after a high-speed chase. He was extradited
Parke County Prosecutor Steve Cvengros filed an intention to seek the
death penalty Nov. 10, 2005. He was not required by law to seek the death
penalty, but the circumstances surrounding the crime made it eligible. It
is Cvengros' 1st capital case, and the 1st in Parke County in a very long
time. Cvengros said the last time there was a death penalty case in the
area was in the 1860s.
The cost of the trial has been estimated to cost the county more than
A 0.25 percent increase in the Parke County Economic Development Income
Tax was approved in April by the Parke County Council and went into effect
Oct. 1 to pay for the capital trial. The tax will last 3 years, and is
expected to bring the county $586,900 for 2008 alone, according to Parke
County Auditor Diana Hazlett.
The case is scheduled for trial in Hamilton County Superior Court in
Noblesville in February. Cottrell was granted a change of venue after
defense attorneys claimed a fair trial in Parke County was unlikely. The
accused is represented by public defender and Terre Haute attorney Jessie
Cook, a regular defender in capital cases. Cottrells other attorney is
Eric K. Koselke, based in Indianapolis.
Dollars and Sense
While much is disputed between those who favor the death penalty and those
who want it abolished, everyone can agree that seeking the sentence is
During a meeting Nov. 13 of the Parke County Quality of Life Council a
local citizens group dedicated to making life better for the people of
Parke County about 18 people listened to a public defense expert discuss
the costs involved in a death penalty case.
Larry A. Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender
Council, explained the many reasons why those costs are so high.
Cook, who was not available the night of the meeting, invited Landis to
speak to the group.
The State of Indiana will pay the costs for the prosecution, but ensuring
the accused gets the best defense possible is what makes death penalty
cases so much more costly than other types of trials. An estimated
$180,000 has already been spent on Cottrell's defense, according to
After the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s, Landis explained,
public defenders were appointed by judges to defend capital cases. Lawyers
back then would be paid a flat, contracted amount for an unlimited amount
of work, and there was no money available for bringing in expert witnesses
or doing detailed investigations.
"There was a lot of concern about the quality of defense in death penalty
cases," Landis said. "They tried [capital cases] just like any other
burglary with no additional resources or investigation."
The reversal rate on capital cases was nearly 50 % from the 1980s through
the early 1990s, and most of the convictions that were overturned were
because of "ineffective assistance of counsel," he said.
As a result of the Supreme Court's dissatisfaction with the reversal rate,
Landis said, a new procedural rule was passed, requiring 2 attorneys to
defend the accused. Those lawyers have to be paid by the hour and they
have to have available to them resources that allow them to put on a
proper defense, including expert witnesses, and resources to investigate
and provide evidence that might persuade a jury that the death penalty is
Death penalty filings have gone down, he said, because the rules have made
capital cases "enormously expensive," compared to murder cases in which
the prosecution seeks life without parole.
"That has changed the whole landscape of how many people actually get the
death penalty," Landis said.
He added that because of the delays and appeals associated with capital
cases, only 3 % of those cases filed as death-penalty cases actually
result in an execution.
That number takes into account cases that were filed seeking the death
penalty, but were pleaded out before going to trial, and those in which a
jury recommends life without parole, he said.
Landis estimated the cost of the Cottrell case could reach $1.3 million
before any appeals have begun.
Cvengros, who was not made aware of the meeting, said later during a phone
interview that if Cottrell is found guilty by a jury, then in the
sentencing phase, "the jury would have to come to a unanimous decision on
whether to recommend the death penalty or life without parole, or a fixed
term of years [which would have the possibility of parole]."
The judge would then be bound by the jury's recommendation. But if the
jury is not unanimous about the sentence, then the judge determines the
sentence, Cvengros said.
The citizens group expressed concern that such a large amount of money
could be spent for Cottrells defense and then, even if he is found guilty,
he may not be executed.
David Martin, a member of the Parke County citizens group, said, "The way
I look at it, every dollar spent on something like this is a dollar that
we can't use for other things [in the county] we've heard about."
The Cost of Justice
Some say trying to do a cost-benefit analysis of justice is inappropriate.
Parke County Commissioner Jim Meece, who was not at the meeting on Nov.
13, said later during a phone interview that while he appreciates the work
of those trying to make good decisions for Parke County, "We can't be
making prosecutorial decisions based upon what it's going to cost.
Otherwise you'd get to where wed not prosecute people because you didn't
want to spend money on them. That's probably not the best way for
government to be making decisions.
"If state law calls for this to be a capital case, I'd be hard-pressed to
second-guess [Cvengros] on how he should run his office," Meece added.
"It's not my realm to make that decision. That's why we elect a prosecutor
to make those decisions."
Meece said he wished it didn't have to cost so much, but the raising of
the CEDIT is to be used solely for the trial, and nothing else. The tax
then "goes away," he said.
Although Parke County is always in need of money for infrastructure and
the county is hoping to develop an industrial park, making a decision on
how to handle a murder case "wouldn't be something you would do for the
cost," Meece said. "You need to do the right thing."
Death penalty abolitionists have long cited the enormous costs of
defending (and prosecuting) capital cases as one of many reasons to end
the practice altogether. But as pro-death penalty supporters often point
out, the cost of incarcerating an offender for 30, and sometimes 40 or 50
years, is not cheap either.
Landis added that a typical LWOP trial could cost the county between
$70,000 and $100,000. Cvengros said those cases can be appealed, too. In
death penalty cases, the Indiana Public Defender Commission, which was
created in 1989 to help pay for capital cases, can reimburse counties up
to 50 % of expenses associated with the case.
One person present at the Parke County citizens group meeting said, "It
seems like the county becomes the victim."
The Victims' Voices
Although the murder victims' family members do not make the final decision
about how the case is filed, Cvengros said he has talked with them at
"I'm going to put a lot of weight on what they say and their wishes," he
said. "I can also say just from talking to some folks around the community
there are people a number of people in the community that believe [the
death penalty] is worth pursuing."
Rick Zaikovsky and Trish Parker-Zaikovsky, of Terre Haute, say the cost of
seeking death for Cottrell should not be a factor.
The Zaikovskys have brand new school clothes from 2005 hanging in their
closets for granddaughters Brittany and Tori Williams. Still adjusting to
what Trish calls their "new normal," the couple rely on their faith,
family and close friends to help them sort out the nightmare that took
their daughter (Trish's stepdaughter) and 2 grandchildren 2 years ago.
At the time, Brittany was living with the Zaikovskys; Tori had been living
with her father and stepmother, Ryan and Starla Williams, in Rosedale. The
2 girls had gone to visit their mother and stepfather (Cottrell) for the
weekend leading up to Halloween.
Trish Parker-Zaikovsky, who discovered her slain family members on
Halloween morning, said during a recent phone interview that she often
gets hit with such overwhelming emotion that she has to pull her car over.
"If you wouldn't have the death penalty for this," she said, "what would
you have it for?"
Rick Zaikovsky, during a recent phone interview, said, "Anyone who has not
suffered a loss at the hands of another, they don't have a vote in my
opinion I don't think they have earned the right to say this costs too
"What is the proper dollars and cents amount that you put on justice?" he
continued. "What does justice cost and where do we say no, this costs too
" As good-hearted and as well-meaning as [the people of Parke County] are,
they may be sending absolutely the wrong message to evil people that if
you're going to kill somebody do it in a county where they can't afford
justice," Rick Zaikovsky said.
A Life Sentence
Cvengros said the citizens group that met to discuss the costs may have
been part of an overall strategy from those who are against the death
penalty to get rid of it this way, since "they haven't been able to get it
abolished through the legislature."
He added that he is more than happy to talk about any of the issues
surrounding death penalty cases in general, including the costs, although
he is prohibited by law from discussing particular aspects of pending
"The [Parke County Quality of Life] group hasn't contacted me yet,"
Cvengros said. "I would be more than happy to attend their next meeting."
As members of the Parke County community continue to debate the cost of
justice, family members of the slain woman and her daughters will wait to
see what happens.
Trish Parker-Zaikovsky said she and her husband are already serving a life
Nobody is going to come back and say, 'OK, here's your kids back, you've
suffered enough,'" Rick Zaikovsky said. " Why should [Cottrells] sentence
be equal to or less than ours?"
Cottrell's next court date is Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. in Hamilton County
Superior Court in Noblesville. He remains in the Parke County Jail
Death penalty punishes victims' families, too
My daughter Deirdre was 25 when she was murdered. She was an artist, a
painter, and was hoping to get a job in an art gallery. Her paintings
still hang on the walls around our house. They're damn good. And I don't
say that just because my little girl made them.
A bipartisan commission conducted a study of New Jersey's death penalty
last year. One of the things it considered was what would best serve
people like me, families who have had their lives ripped apart by murder.
They sensibly decided that New Jersey should get rid of its death penalty
and replace it with life without parole. The Legislature should heed their
I say this not because I think these people deserve to live. I don't. But
I've lived through the state's process of trying to kill one of them, and
I can say without hesitation that it is not worth the anguish that it puts
If you haven't lived it, you can't know. But I lived it. And I know.
A serial killer ripped Deirdre away from us in 1982. My family had no
idea, then, that our ordeal was just beginning. All we knew was that the
worst of the worst had happened, and the person who did it should pay the
ultimate price -- the death penalty.
>From 1982 until 1990 I lived day to day, appeal to appeal, decision to
decision. We woke up every day wondering what might happen that day. Will
there be another appeal? Another motion? What new decision might come
The toll it took on me and my family was horrendous. And my experience was
not unique. A Department of Justice study found that 70 % of husbands and
wives in my situation divorce, separate or start abusing drugs or alcohol.
Family members have different views on capital punishment, and the process
eats away at us and tears us apart.
The last straw for me came in 1990, 8 years after the 1st trial. We were
sitting through another retrial of the penalty phase. The judge had asked
the jury during jury selection, "Could you be fair and impartial even if
you knew that this man had committed another murder in Florida? Even if
you knew that he had committed murder 12 days before his 1st trial? Even
if you knew that he had already been convicted of murder in this case?"
I listened to those questions and I thought, my God, of course this man
should be put to death. As the trial proceeded, I thought, this is a lock.
Soon we'll be done. And my emotion built as my confidence in the outcome
solidified. And 3 hours later the jury came back deadlocked, and the man
who killed my daughter was re-sentenced to life without parole. The trauma
of that moment was indescribable. It was the 1st time I cried in a long
8 years of trials and retrials changed my mind about the death penalty. I
learned the hard way that the death penalty is an albatross over the heads
of victims' families.
I often hear death penalty proponents say that it is needed to bring
closure to victims' families. And I hear victims' families who morally
oppose the death penalty say there is no such thing as closure.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. When the final appeal, the final
retrial is over -- really over-- you come as close to closure as possible.
There will always be articles, scenes, experiences that remind you of it.
In 2005 alone there were 2 documentaries made about our case. And your
loved one never comes back. So it's never fully over. But it's very
different once you're not in the middle of the process.
In that respect, there is some closure, and the death penalty forces that
closure further away than any other punishment on the books.
I have no sympathy for killers. I certainly will never forgive the one who
took my pretty, compassionate, precious daughter away from me. But the
punishment that most promised me a sense of justice only made my pain
worse. Much worse.
The state of New Jersey can make sure that not one more surviving family
goes through what I had to endure. I learned the hard way. Let the
Legislature learn from me, as the commission did -- end the death penalty.
Life without parole is effective, swift and sure. And that is what
victims' families need more than anything else.
(source: Commentary;Jim O'Brien served as director of the New Jersey
Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Now living in Maryland, he
is a former Mendham resident and a former Morris County freeholder----The
What we already knew about the death penalty
"An eye for an eye"-----Exodus 21:23-27
The New York Times had to take a deep breath, but did report that
approximately twelve recent studies have determined that the death penalty
saves lives and serves as a deterrent. Of course instead of the title:
Death Penalty Saves Lives, the NY Times masked the clear results by giving
it the title "Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate." Upon reading,
it is clear that all of the studies quoted showed that it does save lives,
with some saying that for every execution up to 18 murders are prevented.
Once I was asked whether I was for or against the electric chair. The
moderator knew the answer, but was shocked when I answered that I was
against it. He asked why, and I said I opposed the use of the chair
because we had waited too long. Rather, I was now in favor of electric
bleachersso we could do some catching up.
My father was in law enforcement and I have seen the worst of mankind. And
it was not just at our family Thanksgiving dinners. It is very clear to me
both on an intuitive and practical level that certain and swift
consequences for killing (and in my view molesting or raping) another
person should be imposed by our society. In short, we simply should say
that "if you kill someone, we will kill you back." I am sure the actual
statute would contain more legal verbiage than that, but the message
should be the same.
Now there is always the liberal knee-jerk reaction that we, in the course
of frying 1000 of our lowest forms of life, might convict an innocent man.
But in my view, that is the cost of doing business. Yet I would say to
these folks that with advances in DNA evidence, surveillance cameras and
other law enforcement technologies, there will be fewer mistakes in the
In reading Norman Mailers obit recently, I was reminded that this liberal
icon was the toast of New York City and the media when he won the release
of a convicted murderer. But there was just a small footnote: the guy
murdered again within weeks of his release. Oops! Remember, liberals want
a moratorium on the death penalty just for the murderer, not his victims.
I encourage you to read about the "BTK killer" (Blind, Torture and Kill),
who murdered 10 people from 1974 until 1991. If you dig past the 2005
arrest headlines that he was his congregation president, you will discover
a fact that is very telling. By his own admission he stopped in 1991 when
Kansas adopted the death penalty.
If you have ever sat on a trial, you know that almost all the benefit of
the doubt goes to the defendant. We, through our tax dollars, provide an
inordinate amount of legal support to capital murder defendants. Just read
my column on Atlanta court house murderer Brian Nichols called "Justice is
more than a blank check to attorneys" at (www.ronaldhart.com). Millions
have been spent on his defense even though Nichols shot deputies and
others on camera. Believe me, if someone goes to trial for murder, there
is overwhelming evidence because states cannot afford too many of these
For us to be ashamed in the worlds eyes for employing the death penalty is
misplaced. We have as evolved a legal system as any country in the world.
For that, we should make no apologies. Many Middle Eastern countries
barbarically cut off hands for stealing, and cut off operative body parts
for adultery. Thus, Bill Clinton does not travel to these countries.
I have full confidence in juries across the country to do the right thing
when it comes to voting for a murder conviction (except L.A.). Every jury
that I have sat on has given me a good feeling about the people in the
The profiles of capital cases are so high, and there are so many
anti-death penalty groups out there that will pounce on egregious
prosecutions, I feel justice is served. Yet, even if convicted, murderers
sit on death row for appeal after appeal until they die of old age. Scott
Peterson, who killed his pregnant wife, might be young enough to actually
live through years of appeals to actually be executed on death row. I
would love to pull the lever on that one.
To me, it comes down to the simple view that the most violent among us
only understand the fear of such violence on themselves. Reasoning with
them and "trying to understand them" just does not work. And clearly, we
have to be careful about executing minors. It is something that we rarely
do, but when done, it certainly makes teenagers think twice about carrying
a fake ID.
(source: Commentary; Ron Hart is a Southern libertarian columnist who
writes a weekly column about politics and life. He worked for Goldman
Sachs and was appointed to The Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar
Alexander----The Walton Sun)
30 years of death; Headland man made his life's work researching
Watt Espy spent more than 30 years of his life researching death. His mind
still teems with the details of his work.
He recites information without even so much as a notecard in front of him.
He recalls dates, names, ages, races and events details that earned Espy
recognition as one of the countrys foremost historians on the death
His work is known as the Espy File by the Death Penalty Information Center
and the Espy Papers at the University of Alabama School of Law, where he
was provided an office for more than eight years. Hes been interviewed for
magazines, books and newspapers at least twice by The New York Times. His
research has been referenced in books on the death penalty and is used by
the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.
But at 74, his body cant keep up with his mind.
Espy lives in a modest brick home in Headland near the local school. On
mornings and afternoons, school children and parents clog the street in
front of his home. Inside, Espy is in his bed or wheelchair unable to walk
after diabetic neuropathy cost him the use of his legs. Caretakers stay
with him around the clock.
Despite his physical frailty, he stays on top of the news and has definite
opinions on the state of the country. Reporters and researchers call him
from time to time, and the room next to where he sleeps contains file
cabinets with notecards and information on his research.
Espy's research is now available over the Internet, but his life
documenting executions started with a book.
"I have always been a crime buff," Espy said recently. "I read a book
somewhere that someone had been executed who I knew had not been."
So he contacted the state of Tennessee, where the execution supposedly
took place, and asked for a list of executions in the state. There was no
complete list of people who had been executed. Espy, who lived in
Birmingham at the time, began digging. He used newspaper accounts and
other materials. He found 4 prisoners who were executed that were not even
on Tennessee's list. It got him to thinking about information for other
states. There should be some kind of record, he thought.
In 30 years, the former salesman and antique dealer documented nearly
20,000 government-sanctioned executions. The research dated back to 1608
in colonial Jamestown. Before home computers and the Internet, he relied
on newspaper accounts and cooperation from state and county officials.
"It wasn't long before I reached 10,000, and I thought maybe I'd bitten
off more than I could chew," Espy said. "But thinking again, I thought
nobody else is going to do it."
He supported the death penalty. As Espy started his research, he found a
rush to execution in the early days of America's justice system Georgia
had a 30-day waiting period between sentencing and execution. Unlike
todays system where years and years can go by before an execution, there
were no appeals.
Espy found plenty of macabre tales. A black man accused of raping a white
woman and murdering her and her husband talked into pleading guilty by a
judge in order to avoid being burned by a mob. He was hung after a speedy
trial; his gallows built in front of a courthouse window for full view by
the public. Another black man stood trial for killing a white man. The
victim's brother shot the defendant in the back of the head during court.
Even though the defendant was dying, the trial was rushed and the
He was sickened by tales he found a 67-year-old New York man believed to
have murdered 20 to 30 children and to have eaten parts of their bodies
executed in the 1930s after raping and killing a young girl.
Espy found sons hung from the same gallows as their fathers and uncles. He
read newspaper accounts of public executions and parents holding up their
children to witness. He documented executions of slaves. He learned of
hangings, electrocutions and lethal injections that went awry.
He found no evidence of executions as a deterrent to crime.
"I learned that capital punishment is wrong," Espy said. "I'm a Christian.
The Bible says thou shall not kill; It does not say thou shall not kill
except for murderers ... Theres no way on Earth that you can kill somebody
in a humane and painless manner."
(source: Dothan Eagle)
N.J. leaders trying to end death penalty
With the backing of Gov. Corzine and its 2 top Democratic legislators, New
Jersey may soon become the first state to legislatively abolish the death
penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the ultimate punishment 3
Legislative leaders have called for a vote before the current lame-duck
session ends in early January. The timing would allow almost a quarter of
the state lawmakers - 27 who are retiring or were defeated this fall - to
vote during their final weeks in office without fear of political
The move to end capital punishment has been fueled by waning public
support for executions, doubt about its deterrence, and growing worries
about the fairness of a significant number of convictions, said Assembly
Speaker Joseph Roberts, the Camden County Democrat whose party controls
the lower chamber.
Corzine, Roberts, and Senate President Richard J. Codey (D., Essex) all
back changing the law to substitute life without parole for the death
Corzine "is quite passionate about this," Lilo Stainton, his press
secretary, said last week. "He's always been staunchly opposed to the
death penalty. He just feels it's morally wrong."
The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the measure Dec. 13. The Senate
hasn't set a date, but Codey has pledged it will take the matter up before
the session ends Jan. 8.
The effort gained momentum early this year when a New Jersey study
commission voted, 12-1, to recommend that the state drop the penalty.
"There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with
evolving standards of decency," the panel wrote. Among other factors, the
commission cited polls indicating growing support among New Jerseyans for
sentences of life without parole, and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions
since 2002 banning execution of retarded or juvenile killers.
The commission added: "Executing a small number of persons guilty of
murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an
The "machinery of death," as a U.S. Supreme Court justice once called it,
has been still in New Jersey for more than 40 years.
New Jersey's last execution was in 1963, and its death-row population of
eight is down from a high of 17 in 2001. In recent years, the state's
liberal Supreme Court has set aside numerous verdicts and systemically
narrowed the grounds on which people could be put to death.
Nationally, the death penalty is effectively on hold as the U.S. Supreme
Court considers appeals that question the constitutionality of lethal
injections on the ground that they are cruel and inhumane. Of the 37
states with the penalty, all but one perform executions through injection.
More than 225 convicted murderers await lethal injection in Pennsylvania,
where Gov. Rendell is a supporter of capital punishment. Pennsylvania has
executed three killers since 1995, but only after each had dropped
Though they believe that the abolition of the death penalty will pass,
Democratic officials in New Jersey don't guarantee it.
With party discipline stricter in the Assembly, the change should pass
more easily there. In the Senate, "we expect the vote to be close," said
Jim Manion, spokesman for Senate Democrats.
Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R., Morris) said Republicans in his
chamber, like those in the Senate, had no party line on the issue.
"I'm not convinced as yet that we should give up on the death penalty,"
DeCroce said. But, he added, "I could change my mind by the time of the
vote. It depends on how my district feels."
Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and prominent opponent of the
death penalty whose story was featured in the movie Dead Man Walking, came
to Trenton this month to add star power to the push to pass the
"This is such a special moment," she said. "New Jersey is going to be a
beacon on the hill."
In an interview, Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death
Penalty Information Center, a Washington research group that urges an end
to executions, said recent legislative moves to stop capital punishment
had fallen a few votes short in Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico.
If abolition passes in New Jersey, Dieter said, "it could snowball."
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R., Bergen), one of the most conservative
lawmakers in Trenton, promised to lead a last-ditch effort to block the
"There are crimes so shocking and despicable that the only just response
is the imposition of the ultimate penalty - death," Cardinale said.
At a news conference last week, he was joined by New York Law School
professor Robert Blecker, who Cardinale's staff said had been described as
the "leading voice in academia in favor of the death penalty."
Blecker said a series of recent research studies suggested that murders
dropped in states as executions climbed.
"The evidence is mounting, and it's become very embarrassing to the
abolitionists," he said.
Celeste Fitzgerald, executive director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives
to the Death Penalty, disputed Blecker's characterization of the studies.
Her special commission examined them, Fitzgerald said, and believes that
the research was inconclusive.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Hargrove to try again to end Va. executions----Hanover delegate hopes 8th
time is charm with anti-death-penalty bill; Delegate wants to end capital
punishment in Virginia
Frank D. Hargrove Sr., at 80 the oldest and one of the most conservative
of Virginia's 100 state delegates, will again -- and perhaps for the last
time -- try to stop executions here.
"I'm coming, probably, to the end of my active legislative career," says
Hargrove, R-Hanover. "I'd like to leave the General Assembly with a
momentum toward the abolishment of the death penalty."
Hargrove, who once advocated the return of public hanging, has been the
unlikely sponsor 7 times of legislation to end capital punishment in
Virginia. His bills have never made it out of subcommittee.
He hopes the 8th time will be a charm, though even many death-penalty
opponents doubt it. Virginia is 2nd only to Texas in the number of
killers, 98, put to death in modern times.
Hargrove, however, points to the current hiatus on executions -- the U.S.
Supreme Court has been staying them until it rules on the
constitutionality of lethal-injection methods next year -- and hopes his
next attempt in the upcoming session will be different.
This time, he says, he wants to educate his legislative colleagues on what
he says is the futility and uselessness of the death penalty and get more
of them thinking about it.
Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, a fellow Republican conservative, has
agreed to disagree with Hargrove on the issue.
"I think the chances of success are modest as they have been in the past.
It's an important issue . . . and we try and give Frank and the other
advocates a fair shake every year this issue come up," Bell said.
The death penalty is needed to deter certain crimes, he said, for instance
to keep a kidnapper from killing an abductee. Also, he said, "there are
certain crimes so vile, so reprehensible that we think it warrants
society's ultimate punishment."
"For that very narrow category of 1st-degree murders . . . a majority of
legislators, and for that matter a majority of Virginians, believe the
death penalty is appropriate," Bell said.
Jonathan Sheldon, who represents death-row inmates and is on the board of
directors of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, concedes
that at present, "it's unlikely there's broad enough support for a bill to
abolish capital punishment."
"But I think as the people of Virginia learn more about the death penalty,
there will be broad enough support, and I think that day is coming soon."
When that happens, he believes, "the legislature will follow."
He disagrees that the death penalty is reserved for the worst crimes. For
the most part, Sheldon said, "the person who gets the death penalty in
Virginia did not commit the worst crime but had the worst defense lawyer."
He contends "support for the death penalty isn't deep . . . if people are
asked whether they support life without parole or the death penalty in
Virginia, it's a very close call."
A 2005 Virginia Tech poll found that 73 % of Virginians support capital
punishment. But when asked about an alternative punishment of a life
sentence without parole, 46 % favored elimination of the death penalty.
First elected in 1982, Hargrove, has easily been re-elected since taking
his public stance on the death penalty. Of all General Assembly members,
only state Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-Prince William, 81, is older than
"I feel pretty passionate about it, and I recognize the political
consequences of it, but I don't think that's important," he said.
Hargrove cites religious reasons in explaining his position on the death
penalty. He is a member of the United Methodist Church, and not all
members of his church agree with him, he acknowledges.
His doubts about capital punishment grew stronger in 2000 after DNA
testing revealed that Virginia once came close to executing an innocent
man, Earl Washington Jr. He first sponsored a bill to abolish the death
penalty in the 2001 General Assembly.
Hargrove said he hopes to find a new way to persuade his colleagues to
join him. His major argument against the death penalty is that it is not a
deterrent, though in recent years some studies suggest executions do
prevent other killings.
Likewise, he does not believe the loved ones of murder victims feel
closure after the execution.
According to Hargrove, "there's momentum building in opposition to the
death penalty. A significant momentum."
"A number of [House colleagues] privately communicate with me that they
think I'm right but that they're too afraid of the reaction from their
constituents," he said. "I don't think that's a good reason, but if it's
their reason, then I have to accept that."
(source: Richmond Times Dispatch)
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