[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----LA., FLA., PENN., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 7 18:04:35 CDT 2007
La. rape case may change law
The U.S. Supreme Court returned for its fall session last week and is
likely to take up a Louisiana case that would have national ramifications
on whether some sex offenders can be put to death.
In May, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Patrick
Kennedy, a Harvey man convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in
1998. Since Louisiana passed a law in 1995 allowing capital punishment for
sex offenses against children under 12, Kennedy now sits on death row, the
only man in the nation who could lose his life for a nonhomicide
"Looming over this case is the potential for the defendant to be the 1st
person executed for committing an aggravated rape in which the victim
survived," Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey P. Victory wrote in the
6-1 majority opinion.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case on whether the
Louisiana law was constitutional, citing that no one would be affected
since no one sat on death row for the crime at the time.
But an increasing number of states have passed laws similar to
Louisiana's. 4 other states now allow capital punishment for child
rapists. 3 Montana, Oklahoma and South Carolina passed laws that require
multiple convictions before capital punishment kicks in.
Georgia's law sets the standard for death row rapists of children under
10. The Texas legislature passed a law earlier this year that would allow
death for criminal convicted of multiple rapes of children under 14.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take the Louisiana case.
"It's a huge case and could be a landmark case," Dane Ciolino, a Loyola
University law professor. "It as big a case as we've seen coming out of
Louisiana in a very long time."
And court watchers like Ciolino aren't sure which way the court, which is
more conservative than it was a decade ago, will rule.
"It's too close to call quite frankly," Ciolino said. "But it's on the top
of most court watchers list, as it pertains to the death penalty."
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could not be
imposed for the rape of an adult woman. The justices ruled it would be
cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, since a life
wasnt taken in the crime.
No one has been executed for rape in the nation since 1964. In addition,
no one has been executed for a crime not involving killing since the U.S.
Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The federal government and 16 states allowed death for rape prior to the
U.S. Supreme Court suspending the death penalty in 1972. Since 1930, 455
men were executed for rape in the United States, all but 2 in the South.
In writing the majority opinion sanctioning the death penalty for Kennedy,
Victory said the punishment was warranted because of the brutality of the
crime. The little girl was so badly injured that she required surgery.
Dr. Scott Benton, a New Orleans child-abuse expert, testified in Kennedys
2003 trial that the girl's injuries were the worst he had seen resulting
from sexual assault.
Opponents of the death penalty see the Kennedy case as a chance to outlaw
capital punishment for sexual offenders. Nick Trenticosta of the Center
for Equal Justice in New Orleans has been representing defendants in
capital cases for 20 years.
Trenticosta believes the court will strike down the state laws.
"It's absolutely critical," Trenticosta said of the case. "It will
certainly put a kibosh on state legislatures who think it's a good idea to
execute sex offenders."
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., served in the state legislature when the
law was passed. Vitter, a lawyer, remains a steadfast supporter of the
law. Though not aware of the specifics of the Kennedy case, Vitter said
such crimes are part of the "egregious cases" intended to be resolved by
the Louisiana law.
Kennedy himself seems to show no remorse for his crime. Now sitting in
Anglola State Penitentiary, Kennedy was one of the prisoners who met in
December with presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Kennedy noted that Brownback was "pro-life" and asked whether the death
penalty was right because his victim lived.
Brownback demurred, saying: "I'll pray for you."
(source: Opinion, The ADvocate)
Killer's death row freedom bid fails
A KILLER of Welsh descent who raped and strangled a nurse in America has
been re-sentenced to death.
Roderick Michael Orme hoped a jury would save him from the electric chair
over a desperate plea that he was suffering from manic depression at the
time of the murder.
But Orme, 46, (pictured) is now back on death row after having his plea
that he was suffering from bipolar disorder rejected by a US court.
Orme - who has a tattoo of a Welsh dragon on his left arm - was sentenced
to death in 1993 for strangling nurse Lisa Redd while high on cocaine at a
motel in Panama City, Florida.
Orme stole Redd's car, money and jewellery after the killing and bought
He denied murder but was found guilty after a jury heard how he subjected
his ex girlfriend to a savage beating on March 4, 1992 because she had
split up from him. He was snared by DNA evidence.
In February 2005, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Orme's sentence,
but upheld his conviction and returned him to court for a new penalty
But Orme's plea to escape the electric chair has now been rejected after a
jury refused to accept he was suffering from manic depression at the time
of the murder.
The jury's verdict comes just a year after Orme wrote to Wales on Sunday
in a bid to trace his relatives living in Wales.
Last year, in a letter from the maximum security Union Correctional
Institution in Florida, he wrote: "Wales is where my father's side of the
family come from. Just knowing that I have ties to Wales has given me a
desire to write to someone from there. I wonder about my relatives over in
Wales, sitting down to dinner and laughing. I wonder if they are oblivious
Orme would have been eligible for parole in 10 years if he had been
sentenced to life.
After their verdict, Miss Redd's relatives hoped Orme would now 'rot in
Hell' after being resentenced to death.
Miss Redd's sister Carol Atwell said: "I can honestly say that I hate
Miss Redd's son, Jedidiah Redd, who was 13 years old at the time of the
murder, said: "Only when justice is carried out will my mother truly rest
(source: Wales On Sunday)
Death penalty: Eye for eye----But opponents want moratoriumS to halt
'murder of murderers.'
The Supreme Court of the United States will soon be considering one of the
most important death penalty cases in decades.
The issue centers on the use of lethal injection as the executioner's tool
in a case involving two inmates on Kentucky's death row.
Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr. sued the Bluegrass State in 2004,
claiming the needle amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Locally, some say any form of capital punishment is just plain wrong.
Lehigh University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen is a longtime opponent of the
death penalty. He's even written a book about it -- "Executing Justice:
The Moral Meaning of the Death Penalty."
Steffen is a professor of religion and a minister with the United Church
of Christ, which is taking a strong stand against the death penalty.
Karen Berry, head of the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian
Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, says her church adopted a
moratorium resolution earlier this summer and is hoping for formal action
from the Pennsylvania Legislature to make some type of death penalty
moratorium official statewide.
And during the weekend of Oct. 19-20, Amnesty International is sponsoring
the 2007 National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty when
churches throughout the country will hold events to bring attention to the
The fight is in the courts
This connection between religious and secular organizations is at the
forefront of the struggle to rid states of what organizers see as a
barbaric and unfairly administered penalty for the crime of murder.
The courts are where the fighting has begun.
All 37 states that perform lethal injection use the same three-drug
cocktail, but at least 10 of those states suspended its use after
opponents alleged it was ineffective and cruel, according to the Death
Penalty Information Center.
The 3 consist of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer, and a substance to
stop the heart. Death penalty foes have argued that if the condemned
prisoner is not given enough anesthetic, he -- or she -- can suffer
excruciating pain without being able to cry out.
Baze, 52, has been on death row for 14 years. He was sentenced for the
1992 shooting deaths of Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and Deputy
Bennett and Briscoe were serving warrants on Baze when he shot them. Baze
has said the shootings were the result of a family dispute that got out of
hand and resulted in the sheriff being called.
Bowling was sentenced to death for killing Edward and Tina Earley and
shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's Lexington, Ky.,
dry-cleaning business in 1990.
Lethal injection is just 1 battle; the war consists of opponents fighting
against all forms of capital punishment.
'Seamless garment of life'
When asked if churches have any business getting mixed up in the politics
of whether states should, or should not, execute criminals for the most
heinous crimes, Steffen says, "Sure they should. All the mainline churches
have taken positions opposing the death penalty, and Pope John Paul II has
said the death penalty is inimical to the 'seamless garment of life.' "
Steffen is not encouraging the justice system to let the most vile
criminals out onto the streets, he's just looking for the same kind of
consideration parents use when their kids act out -- give them a time out.
"If people took a time out to study the problem," he says, "they would be
against the death penalty."
Perhaps the Bible verse from Hebrews 10:30 applies here: "'Vengeance is
mine,' saith the Lord." And from Deuteronomy 32:36: "For the Lord will be
judge of his people."
But what do the people do when a Timothy McVeigh blows up an office
building in Oklahoma City, snuffing out 168 souls? Or -- much closer to
home -- when Martin Appel robbed the bank in East Allen Township,
executing 3 to leave no witnesses. Appel was sentenced to death, but got
off death row through appeals.
Death for 'horrific crimes'
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli still chafes at that
"We need to keep the death penalty on the books for any horrific crimes
that come along," Morganelli says. He maintains Appel is one of those
criminals. Besides, Morganelli says Pennsylvania has had a "de facto"
moratorium on death sentences for decades.
"We've only had 3 executions, and all of those came after they stopped
appealing their cases.
Steffen refers to those same 3 cases as "voluntary" executions. He has
visited death rows in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and says death row
confinement usually means solitary confinement for years.
"There are a lot of suicides," he says. "It's torturous for them. All 3
executions have been volunteers. They drop all appeals; it's a mental
Pennsylvania's primary method of execution is by lethal injection which,
according to Amnesty International, is the same method used by China,
Guatemala, the Philippines and Thailand.
New Jersey's method of execution is also by lethal injection. However, The
Garden State does have a formal moratorium on executions, due to
legislation passed in 2006.
Steffen says too many convicts who were innocent slip through the cracks.
"There have been 124 nationwide," he says.
Return to Martin Appel case
When Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted his state's death sentences in a
blanket order in January 2003, he was making a statement against the death
penalty. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for that action and has
stumped in Harrisburg for a moratorium on the death penalty in the
Morganelli, who authored his own book about the Appel case, says those
seeking a death penalty moratorium in Pennsylvania "are all do-good
organizations that don't believe in punishment and that everybody can be
rehabilitated. They're just anti-law and don't carry much credibility."
Morganelli's book's titled "The D-Day Bank Massacre: The True Story Behind
the Martin Appel Case."
Morganelli says he's more concerned about inmates who manage to get
paroled and end up killing again. He names Reginald McFadden and "Mudman"
Simon as 2 examples.
He also says the American justice system already has a built-in safeguard
against making mistakes -- a jury of 12 who must vote unanimously for the
"We just had a case where it went 11 to 1," Morganelli says, citing the
Andrew D. Paschal verdict. Paschal was convicted of gunning down Marcellus
McDuffie outside Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant and Lounge, in Easton on
May 14, 2006.
Death penalty not logical
Maria Weick of the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Killing and the
Pennsylvania Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Amnesty
International, says "Pennsylvania is a really hard case when it comes to
the death penalty."
Both she and Steffen say the single most difficult roadblock to a
moratorium is politicians.
"Pennsylvania politicians," Weick scoffs, "are married to the idea that
supporting the death penalty means they're tough on crime."
Weick says Pennsylvanians are split 50-50 for and against the death
She admits, "Moratoriums are an act of desperation. But they are a way of
getting people to think about the issue."
Steffen says they act to increase public awareness.
Weick adds that the death penalty makes no logical sense.
"Think about it," she says, "Do we drug the drug dealer? Do we rape the
rapist? Then why do we murder the murderer?"
Death row tough goal to achieve----County prosecutors inability to get
death in capital cases part of recent U.S. trend in which legal decisions
Will a jury from Luzerne County ever impose the death penalty against a
Its a question some have begun to raise after a jury last week was unable
to reach a decision in the sentencing phase of the William Rohland case,
resulting in a life sentence for the convicted killer of 2.
The deadlock marked the 9th time since 1985 that a county jury has spared
a convicted murderer's life, including 4 cases since 2003 that have been
tried under District Attorney David Lupas.
William Ruzzo, Rohland's lead defense attorney, seized upon that statistic
following Rohland's trial, defiantly proclaiming that county residents
have sent a message to the district attorney that "we in Luzerne County
are not going to impose the death penalty."
Its a reluctance that's apparently shared by residents in other counties
U.S Department of Justice statistics show the number of death sentences
handed down nationwide has decreased every year for the past 8 years,
falling to 128 in 2005, the last year for which nationwide statistics are
available. Thats down from a high of 315 death sentences imposed in 1996.
Of those 128, 7 originated in Pennsylvania, according to the Justice
In Luzerne County, the last death sentence handed down was in 1993 against
Michael Bardo, who was convicted of murdering his 3-year-old niece, Joelle
A jury selected from Luzerne County recently imposed a death sentence on a
defendant in a Berks County case. But the penalty hearing in that case was
heavily slanted in favor of prosecutors because the defendant opted not to
present any evidence on his behalf.
Why are prosecutors having such a tough time securing death sentences in
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., president of the
Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, cites changes in the law
which he says have stacked the deck against prosecutors.
The most significant changes include the type of mitigating evidence the
defense can present and changes in instructions given to jurors that allow
them to consider more types of evidence, Castor and other attorneys who
specialize in capital cases said.
The changes have been lauded by defense attorneys, who argue the process
should be difficult given a person's life is at stake. Castor said he
agrees, but he questions whether the justice system has gone too far in
skewing the proceedings in favor of the defendant.
"It should be difficult, but it should not be impossible," Castor said.
"The handcuffs being put on us are designed to make it impossible, but we
are still able to get some (death sentences). It's not fair, but we deal
with the law as it is, not as we wish it would be."
Jurors in Pennsylvania and most other states weigh aggravating
circumstances those that make a crime more heinous, such as torture
against mitigating circumstance those that lessen a defendants
culpability, such as a troubled childhood in deciding to impose a
sentence of death or life in prison without parole.
The defense has a significant advantage in the penalty phase, however, in
that it can present virtually any type of evidence, whereas prosecutors
are far more limited.
In the Rohland case, for instance, Ruzzo presented 24 mitigating
circumstances against 2 aggravating circumstances presented by prosecutors
in the penalty phase.
The defense focused on Rohland's background prior to the homicides. Among
the issues raised was the kindness he showed to a nephew and that he had
aided a dying brother. The issues had no connection to the crime, but the
law says they didn't have to, Ruzzo said.
"The universe of mitigation is infinite," Ruzzo said. "Anything in the
character or background or record of the defendant is relevant. It does
not have to have a nexus to the crime."
Prosecutors did not have such wide latitude. They were limited in
presenting fact-specific evidence regarding their aggravating factors
there were multiple victims and Rohland put 2 others present during the
shootings at grave risk of death.
They were also permitted to present victim impact statements from the
surviving family members. Even with that, their case lasted just one hour
and 15 minutes, compared to the 5 hours of testimony presented by Rohland.
Al Flora Jr., a Wilkes-Barre attorney who has defended several death
penalty cases, said defense attorneys nationwide have worked for decades
to win court rulings that established the protocol used in Rohland and
other death penalty hearings.
Those victories include jury instructions that allow the panel to consider
mercy or sympathy for the defendant, which can outweigh all aggravating
factors. In the past, jurors were not instructed they could consider
mercy, he said.
Flora said jurors are also now told during the penalty phase that if they
choose a life sentence it means the defendant can never be paroled.
Previously the defense could not raise that issue.
"You have all these things now that didn't exist in the early 1980s. It
has created an insurmountable obstacle for prosecutors to overcome," Flora
said. "You could probably overcome it in certain circumstances the
killing of a police officer in the line of duty or a mass murder. Short of
that people today don't want to impose the death penalty."
Ruzzo, who staunchly opposes the death penalty on moral grounds, has
argued those obstacles should convince prosecutors to stop spending the
money and resources required in a death penalty case.
But Lupas insists he's duty bound to seek death in cases where aggravating
He has vowed to continue to do just that. Last week he filed notice he's
seeking death for Joseph Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra , who face homicide and
other charges in the slaying of Brian Kocis of Dallas Township.
He's not dissuaded by his lack of success so far, he said in an interview
following the Rohland verdict.
"A jury should decide if a person spends their life in jail or is
sentenced to death. Whatever the jury decides, I can live with that."
County Defendants who escaped death
Since 1985, Luzerne County prosecutors have held 11 death penalty hearings
for defendants convicted of 1st degree murder, securing a death sentence
in 2 cases, 1 of which was later overturned.
Defendants who escaped death and are now serving a life sentence include:
Edward Chaparro convicted of the 1985 shooting death of Diane Hemsley.
Dominick Serratore and Frank Lamasko convicted of the 1986 beating death
of Thomas Gernhart.
Steven Dunn convicted of the 1990 beating death of 16-month-old Brian
Jose Sanchez convicted of the 1989 beating death of Helen Demchak.
James Milliner convicted of the 1992 shooting death of Robert Kline.
Henry Stubbs convicted of the 2001 slayings of Elena Herring and her
6-year-old daughter, Viktoria Ivanova.
Larry Tooley convicted of the 2002 shooting death of Casey Zalenski.
Joseph Gacha convicted of the 2004 stabbing death of Carrie Martin.
William Rohland convicted of the 2006 shooting deaths of Kelli Fasulka
and Joey Hernandez.
(source for both: The Express-Times)
Execution date sought for Arthur
A little more than a week after the execution of Tommy Arthur was
postponed, the Alabama attorney general's office has filed a motion to
schedule a new execution date.
Arthur's New York-based attorney, Suhana Han, said she has received word
that the attorney general's office has petitioned the Alabama Supreme
Court to set a new date for her client's execution.
Arthur, formerly of Sheffield, was scheduled to be executed Sept. 27 for
the 1982 Colbert County slaying of Troy Wicker in a murder-for-hire scheme
involving Wicker's wife, Judy Wicker. Less than 7 hours before the
scheduled execution, Gov. Bob Riley granted a 45-day stay.
A clerk in the Alabama Supreme Court office said it may be weeks before
Arthur's execution date is scheduled.
The date will depend greatly on the state's handling of a request to redo
its lethal ejection process, which is used in executions.
While granting the stay, Riley stressed that his decision had nothing to
do with the question of Arthur's guilt. He added that he intends for
Arthur to ultimately be executed.
"The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty, and he will be
executed for this crime," Riley said in a statement. The governor said he
issued the stay because the state is changing the manner in which it
administers lethal injection.
Riley said the execution should proceed once the lethal injection
procedure is altered.
Riley said 45 days should be enough time for the Department of Corrections
to make the change.
"It is my desire that, as soon as the stay has expired, justice will be
administered to Thomas Arthur," Riley said.
Arthur continues to insist he is innocent of the crime, although 3 juries
have convicted him.
Han said the 45-day window should give state prosecutors plenty of time to
conduct DNA testing on evidence collected at the scene of Wicks' death. He
was shot once in the eye while sleeping at his home in Muscle Shoals.
Han said Friday that she has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court,
asking for DNA testing to be completed. At the time of the crime in 1982,
DNA testing technology was not advanced.
Attorney General Troy King's office has repeatedly said DNA testing
wouldn't establish innocence, no matter what it shows. King said he agrees
with Riley that the evidence against Arthur is overwhelming.
(source: Times Daily)
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