[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TENN., NEV., COLO., PENN., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 9 16:33:07 CDT 2007
Local executions attracted many public viewers
The graphic description of the body of Daryl Holton, who died in the
electric chair Sept. 12, brought to mind some of the descriptions of
people who in earlier years died by the hangman's noose here in Knoxville.
Holton is the 1st person to die in "Old Sparky" since William Tines was
electrocuted for rape Nov. 7, 1960.
Although the state now puts condemned inmates to death by lethal
injection, Holton chose the electric chair. He had killed his 3 young sons
and their half sister on Nov. 30, 1997. Under state, law death-row inmates
can choose between lethal injection and the chair if their crimes were
committed before 1999.
According to Watt Espy a researcher in the University of Alabama Law
Library, more than 200 people were legally hanged in Tennessee before
1916. That year the state stopped hanging in favor of using the electric
chair in Nashville.
Before 1916 Knoxville newspapers often ran stories of the hanging of
convicted criminals. Just as depicted in the movies of the Old West,
people came from miles around to see the event.
Sometimes the executions were held at the Knox County Jail and sometimes
they were held in South Knoxville just beyond the Gay Street Bridge. One
newspaper article describes how many hours it took the long line of
traffic to cross the river for the spectacle. People walked, rode
horseback or came in buggies or wagons.
The execution of a prisoner at the jail in 1890 created a morbid
spectacle. While hundreds of people scrambled to see the event, officials
tried in vain to get a confession from the doomed man. In the end the
hangman's scaffold did not work properly and the prisoner suffered an
The Nov. 22, 1890, Knoxville Journal used its entire front page and then
some to give minute details of the hanging that had occurred the day
before. It described the capture of the suspect, the trial, the man's
appeal to the state Supreme Court and the execution itself. No details
seemed too small to report.
On the day of the hanging, more than 1,500 people turned out to see it.
The crowd was so large Knox County Sheriff Tim Holloway decided against
having a public hanging or viewing of the body afterward. Even so, some of
the more eager members of the crowd crawled up to the 1st floor windows of
the jail and clung to the bars to get a look of the gallows.
The prisoner was 19-year-old Jackson Staples of Anderson County. He had
been convicted of rape but vowed his innocence until the very end. During
his 9 months in jail, the public was kept abreast of his visitors, his
mental attitude, and even the kind of food he ate. His major concern seems
to have been that his family would not claim his body for a decent burial.
Staples was arrested Feb. 19 and remained in jail until the May term of
the criminal court, when his trial was continued until the September term.
His case was heard on Sept. 4-5, and the guilty verdict was returned on
Sept. 6. He was scheduled to be hanged Nov. 7, but the case was appealed
to the state Supreme Court and was affirmed. He was then scheduled to die
On the morning of the execution, the jailer brought the condemned man his
breakfast which consisted of fried potatoes, jelly, steaming hot biscuits,
a cup of coffee and some butter. The prisoner ate heartily and devoted
himself to prayer. After a visit from a minister, he asked to be allowed
Seated in a chair with his hands cuffed behind him, Staples was shaved by
a friend. The jailer then brought in a bundle that included a brand new
black suit, underwear, shirt, collar, and a necktie. His shoes had been
shined, "And he never looked better in his life," said the article.
Since Staples offered no objection, the front of the jail was opened to
the crowd of men and women who were awaiting the execution. They were
allowed to pass through the lower floor of the jail and see him as he
stood in his cell.
At noon, his last meal was ordered. On the tray was an ample amount of
rabbit, potatoes, coffee, cake and pie. Staples was not hungry and ate
only a little pie and cake and drank some of the coffee.
At 2:40 p.m. he walked to the gallows. His hands were cuffed behind him,
and his legs were tied together. The black hood was placed over his head.
After he responded he was ready, the lever was pulled precisely 2:42 p.m.
Unfortunately, the trap had not been set properly, and Staples died not of
a broken neck but of strangulation. For 25 agonizing minutes doctors
examined the body before finally pronouncing him dead. His uncle claimed
the body and returned it to Anderson County.
(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
Inmate Does Not Want Execution Halted
Nevada prison officials say death row inmate William Castillo remains firm
in his decision to not reinstate court appeals that would halt his
execution next Monday.
State prisons chief Howard Skolnik also says Castillo, 34, facing
execution for beating a retired Las Vegas teacher to death with a tire
iron, doesn't want any media interviews -- and wouldn't have any even if
he did want to talk to reporters.
Skolnik said he set the no-interviews policy because of a "media circus"
in 2005, when condemned inmate Robert McConnell told reporters he was
ready to die. A day later, with half an hour to live, McConnell halted his
execution by filing an appeal.
Planning for the execution by lethal injection is proceeding despite the
U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to consider whether such injections
violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
(source: The Associated Press)
DA defends death penalty filings----But critics suspect Chambers' actions
for political gain
District Attorney Carol Chambers leads the state in seeking death for
suspected murderers, with 6 of Colorado's 7 pending death penalty cases
coming from her 18th Judicial District.
Chambers filed 5 of those cases herself, equaling in 3 years the number of
times her predecessor sought the death penalty during his 8-year tenure.
Elected in 2004 as chief prosecutor for the conservative Douglas,
Arapahoe, Elbert and Lincoln counties, Chambers has a reputation for
taking a hard line against criminals, from accused murderers to petty
She has said she believes voters in her judicial district support the
death penalty and her decisions to seek it.
In recent years, she has faced misconduct allegations - including a highly
publicized public censure - and has tussled with everyone from police to
county commissioners and judges.
Now some of Chambers' critics are questioning whether her decisions on the
death penalty may be politically motivated - an attempt to curry favor
with voters or to shift attention away from her troubles.
They also worry that in Colorado, justice isn't equal.
"It's troubling for our office, and I would think it would be troubling
for the people of this state," said Douglas Wilson, the state public
Added Michael Radelet, a nationally known University of Colorado death
penalty researcher who believes capital punishment should be abolished,
"People are supposed to be punished for the crime, not for the place
(where the crime was committed).
"I can't say what's motivating Carol Chambers, but I do know she's had
some political problems. This may be a way to take some of the heat off."
Chambers declined to be interviewed for this article but released a
prepared statement denying she had ulterior motives.
"A decision to seek the death penalty is among the most significant
responsibilities any public official can face . . . It is never a
diversion and, in fact, will always subject me and this office to greater
scrutiny and criticism, not less," she wrote.
"Some members of the criminal defense bar are vehemently opposed to the
death penalty. They will oppose it under any circumstances even though
Colorado law provides for the death penalty when warranted."
Christine Wolfe, whose daughter, Vivian, was murdered with her fianc,
Javad Marshall-Fields, in 2005, said Chambers met with both victims'
parents at least 3 times prior to making a decision on whether to pursue
the death penalty.
"She didn't just go pursue it," Wolfe said.
"They destroyed not just my daughter's life. They destroyed me, my husband
and my family. They should pay."
40 years, 1 execution
Colorado juries have been reluctant to impose the death penalty. In the
past 40 years, just 1 man has been executed, and the Department of
Corrections has 2 people on death row, one of the smallest numbers in the
For a case to qualify as a capital case, the crime must include one of
several aggravating factors outlined by state law.
Historically, it has been reserved for people who kill multiple victims,
whose crimes are "particularly cruel, heinous or depraved," people who
kill children or murderers with particularly violent criminal histories.
Though Colorado always has had death penalty "hot spots" where prosecutors
have been more likely to file capital cases - including Arapahoe County,
Colorado Springs and Jefferson County - Wilson said he remembers no other
time in recent history when one prosecutor had such a large percentage.
Chambers' critics say among her most troubling decisions was to seek the
death penalty against 2 inmates at the Limon Correctional Center, David
Bueno and Alejandro Perez.
Both men are accused of the 2006 stabbing death of a fellow inmate.
It is rare for the death penalty to be sought in an inmate-on-inmate
killing. It has never before happened in Colorado state court, and Scott
Phillips, a professor at the University of Denver, said he never saw it in
the more than 500 death penalty cases that he reviewed while doing
research on Texas courts.
(Federal prosecutors have sought the death penalty against inmates William
and Rudy Sablan for the murder of their cellmate at the federal prison in
Florence. In that case, the Sablans cut open the victim's abdomen, ripped
out his internal organs and strung them about their cell.)
Most curious, critics say, was the timing of Chambers' announcement on
Bueno and Perez.
By law, prosecutors have 60 days from arraignment to file notice with the
court that they will seek death. Generally, they wait until the end of
In the case of Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, accused in the Wolfe and
Marshall-Fields deaths, for example, Chambers' office waited until the
last possible day. In her most recent case - against Jose Luis Rubi-Nava,
accused of the dragging death of his girlfriend - the notice was filed the
day before the deadline, despite defense concerns that Rubi-Nava is
But in the case of Bueno and Perez, Chambers called a news conference Oct.
18, 2006, to announce her decision.
It was roughly 30 days before the deadline - and just five days before a
disciplinary hearing was scheduled to begin in which Chambers was accused
of using her office to intimidate a lawyer trying to collect a debt.
Though she declined to discuss the specifics of the Bueno and Perez case
at the October news conference and again for this article, Chambers has
alluded to her contention that the victim may have been a police informant
or a witness in another case - a claim the public defender says is not
supported by the evidence.
Chambers also told the media that if the trend of witness killings
continues, she may have to use the death penalty more often.
Legal odd couple
Some say Chambers' entire tenure as district attorney - particularly one
not shy about trying to execute killers - is an improbable one.
She was elected in the 2004 Republican primary over a veteran chief deputy
after barely petitioning her way onto the ballot.
And she is married to Nathan Chambers, a defense attorney who has
represented clients facing execution, including Oklahoma City bomber
Timothy McVeigh and most recently, William Sablan.
Carol and Nathan Chambers met while working as prosecutors in the Denver
district attorney's office in the 1980s. They have one daughter.
But her record in office shows Chambers is fiercely independent, and not
afraid of taking on anyone - even when it misfires.
She has filed grievances against the district's public defenders, and once
assigned her deputies to time judges' breaks and lunch hours, convinced
they were costing taxpayers with too many delays.
In 2006, she was publicly censured and ordered to pay court costs
following the aforementioned disciplinary hearing.
The censure stemmed from a complaint filed by an attorney for a collection
agency who was trying to collect a debt from one of Chambers' Republican
colleagues. The attorney said he felt threatened by a voicemail Chambers
left him; Chambers denied any wrongdoing.
Throughout her career, Chambers has been a strong victims' advocate. She
left a career as a nurse to become a prosecutor because in working in the
emergency room at what was then Denver General, she saw the pain victims
experienced and wanted to do something about it, she has said.
Wolfe, whose daughter was murdered, said if people are opposed to
Chambers' decisions, they should take their arguments to the state or U.S.
Supreme Court and try to get the law changed.
"Don't just point at one person," she said.
Phillips, the DU professor, said it's not unusual for one judicial
district to have a much larger number of death penalty cases than other
districts. In Texas, prosecutors in Harris County - which includes Houston
- have sought the death penalty more often than all the state's other
metro areas combined, he said.
"It's the system we've set up," Phillips said. "Prosecutors have such
enormous discretion that a new prosecutor can come in and really change
Defendants with the death penalty pending in state court
Sir Mario Owens and Robert Keith Ray: Charged with killing Javad
Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe in June 2005. Marshall-Fields was set to
testify against Owens and Ray in the murder of Gregory Vann.
Judicial District: 18th
David Bueno and Alejandro Perez: Charged with the stabbing death of
fellow inmate Jeffrey Heird at the Limon Correctional Facility.
Edward Montour: Sentenced to death in 2002 for killing prison guard Eric
Autobee while serving a life sentence for the murder of his daughter. The
Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court this year for a new
sentencing hearing, saying a jury - not the judge - should have sentenced
him to death.
Marco Lee: Accused of killing Colorado Springs police officer Ken Jordan
in December 2006.
Jose Luis Rubi-Nava: Charged with the 2006 dragging death of his
girlfriend, 49-year-old Luz Maria Franco Fierros.
(source: Rocky Mountain News)
Study finds major flaws in Pa. death penalty cases
Pennsylvania's death penalty system has "substantial" flaws that put
potentially innocent death row inmates at risk for execution, according to
a new analysis of the state's capital punishment procedures.
The study, conducted by the American Bar Association, also noted that
minorities comprise a significantly higher proportion of death row
The 4year study conducted by a team of legal professionals contends that
inmates facing death often receive inadequate legal representation,
particularly those from poor and minority backgrounds.
Representatives of the research team and the American Bar Association,
which commissioned the study for Pennsylvania and seven other states, are
expected to discuss the report's findings at a news conference this
morning in Harrisburg.
The association supports a nationwide moratorium on executions to allow
time for states to address what the Bar Association sees as flaws in the
6people who were sentenced to death in Pennsylvania have been exonerated
since the penalty was reinstituted in 1978, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, an advocacy group opposed to capital punishment.
Only 3 people have actually been put to death in that time, the last being
The authors of the report made several recommendations specifically for
Pennsylvania, which include:
Requiring the preservation of all biological evidence in capital cases
throughout an inmate's incarceration on death row, something the state
does not do.
Ensuring all defense attorneys in capital cases have achieved the level of
legal training recommended by the Bar Association for lawyers working on
death penalty cases. The majority of death penalty sentences are
overturned because of poor legal representation.
Mandating that inmates are provided legal representation during the
appeals process at the state level. Currently, defendants are not
guaranteed a lawyer on appeal if they cannot afford one.
Providing statewide funding for adequate legal counsel in capital cases.
Currently, county governments, not the state, are responsible for
providing public defenders in all criminal cases, and their competency
Members of the assessment team that completed the report had "varying
perspectives" on capital punishment and were not required to "support or
oppose the death penalty or a moratorium on executions," the report noted.
The Bar Association said it would like Pennsylvania to complete its own
comprehensive study assessing the death penalty system.
David Hoover, a community organizer with the American Civil Liberties
Union and death penalty opponent, said he and other advocates hope the
report will lead the state to re-evaluate the penalty.
"The real important issue is that Pennsylvania does a comprehensive review
of what's going on with the death penalty," he said. "That's the
responsible thing to do."
Pennsylvania has been criticized in recent years for housing an
inordinately high percentage of minorities on its death row.
In a 2003 study, the state Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender
Bias in the Justice System found more than 2/3 of death row inmates were
minorities, despite the fact that minorities comprised only 11 % of the
total prison population.
An NAACP study released in January reported Pennsylvania had the highest
percentage of minority death row inmates of any state in the U.S. as of
July 2006. The latest figures available from the state Department of
Corrections puts the minority population on death row at about 68 %.
"It's hard for us to say our state system is fair and unbiased if there
are these disparities," Mr. Hoover said.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Pa. death penalty under fire
Pennsylvania needs to make drastic changes to its death penalty system,
including preserving biological evidence until an inmate is released or
executed, a team of prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges recommends
in a study released Tuesday.
The report, which is part of a death penalty project run by the American
Bar Association, found Pennsylvania's application of the death penalty
highly inconsistent. It warns that people convicted of committing murders
under similar circumstances often get very different sentences, with some
facing execution and others decades behind bars.
The state, which has had 6 death row inmates exonerated since the death
penalty was reinstated in 1974, needs widespread policy reforms to
overcome what the ABA called "substantial shortcomings."
Among other things, the team found that there are racial disparities in
the state's capital sentencing system, with blacks being targeted for
execution more often than whites.
The assessment team that reviewed Pennsylvania's death penalty system
found that the state is in full compliance with only seven of the 93
protocols the ABA drafted to ensure that capital punishment is applied
fairly to convicted murderers.
The group, chaired by Villanova law professor and former federal
prosecutor Anne Bowen Poulin, issued 9 broad recommendations in its report
aimed at ensuring that capital punishment is imposed consistently.
Those recommendations include banning the execution of offenders with
severe mental illness and requiring law enforcement to record video or
audio of all interrogations. The team also said the state should adopt
tougher attorney qualifications and monitoring procedures for attorneys in
The report also found that the state fails to protect defendants in
capital cases against shoddy defense attorneys, provides defense attorneys
inadequate access to experts and investigators, and has jury instructions
so confusing that nearly all capital jurors failed to understand at least
some of them.
The state had 228 people on death row as of Oct. 1. Pennsylvania has
executed three people since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, the
last in 1999.
Pennsylvania is the eighth and final state to be assessed by the ABA's
Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, following Georgia,
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia. Unlike several
other state reports, the Pennsylvania panel did not make a recommendation
on whether to enact a death penalty moratorium until reforms were made.
The report and its recommendations have not been presented to the ABA's
House of Delegates and do not constitute ABA policy. The report itself
does not specifically call for a moratorium on executions, though the ABA
has urged one until fairness and due process can be guaranteed.
In 2003, a committee appointed by the state Supreme Court recommended that
Pennsylvania stop executing criminals until it can study the impact of
race in death penalty sentences, but the idea didn't get much political
Other team members were Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Frank Hazel,
Montgomery County prosecutor Mary Ann MacNeil Killinger, Philadelphia
attorney Gregory P. Miller and civil rights lawyer and Penn law professor
On the Net: Pennsylvania report: http://www.abavideonews.org/ABA340/
(source: Associated Press)
Phila. Bar Assn. Commends ABA Report on PA Death Penalty System; Cites
Urgent Need for Improvements
The 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association commended a sweeping report
issued today (Tuesday, Oct. 9) by the American Bar Association citing
several areas in which Pennsylvania's death penalty system falters in
affording capital defendants fair and accurate procedures.
"We commend Pennsylvania Death Penalty Assessment Team Chair Anne Bowen
Poulin and the other Team members for a comprehensive and well-informed 2-
year examination of the Pennsylvania death penalty system highlighting
numerous deficiencies that warrant critical examination," said
Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Jane Leslie Dalton.
Noting that for 10 years the Philadelphia Bar Association has supported a
moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania until such time as the fair and
impartial administration of the death penalty can be ensured and the risk
that innocent persons may be executed is minimized, the Chancellor urged
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to devote all necessary resources to
address the recommendations contained in the report.
The report from the ABA's Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project
targeted a number of areas for reform, including: inadequate procedures to
protect the innocent; failure to protect against poor defense lawyering;
no state funding of capital indigent defense services; inadequate access
to experts and investigators; lack of data on death-eligible cases;
significant limitations on post-conviction relief; significant capital
juror confusion; and racial and geographical disparities in Pennsylvania's
The report includes a detailed series of recommendations to improve
Pennsylvania's death penalty proceedings to ensure fairness at all stages.
They include requiring all law enforcement agencies to videotape or
audiotape the entirety of custodial interrogations; mandatory lineup
procedures that protect against false eyewitness identifications; and
preserving all biological evidence for as long as the defendant remains
Noting that the majority of capital jurisdictions have not yet conducted
comprehensive examinations of their death penalty systems, Dalton praised
the ABA's review of Pennsylvania's death penalty system to preliminarily
determine the extent to which it achieves fairness and provides due
process. In November 1997, the Philadelphia Bar Association joined the ABA
and the Pennsylvania Bar Association in calling for a nationwide
moratorium on executions until policies and procedures are implemented to
ensure due process. The resolution cited "a substantial risk, in
Philadelphia and elsewhere, that the death penalty continues to be imposed
in an arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory manner."
The Chancellor reiterated the Philadelphia Bar Association's longstanding
support for expert advice and assistance to counsel in death penalty
matters. Prior resolutions adopted by the Association include a resolution
supporting the creation of a Pennsylvania Capital Case Resource Center,
and a resolution opposing any reduction in federal funding for capital
case resource centers or post-conviction defender organizations.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Bar is on record against the imposition of
capital punishment on juveniles and the mentally disabled, and has opposed
the automatic issuance of execution warrants by the Governor if the
Governor fails to act once a sentence of death has been upheld by the
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Bar Association leaders have also testified before the Senate
Judiciary Committee in support of a death penalty moratorium and the
creation of a commission to study the death penalty. The Chancellor lauded
the contributions of the Philadelphia-based members of the Assessment
team, including Professor Anne Bowen Poulin of the Villanova University
School of Law (chair); Professor David Rudovsky, senior fellow at the
University of Pennsylvania Law School; and Gregory P. Miller, founding
shareholder of the law firm of Miller, Alfano & Raspanti, P.C.
(source: Philadelphia Bar Association)
'Wall Street Journal' Questions Hayne's Ethics
An editorial in The Wall Street Journal accuses a former state medical
examiner of making mistakes during his examinations -- mistakes that led
to innocent people going to jail.
As a medical examiner, Dr. Steven Hayne testifies in court on a weekly
basis to his findings from autopsies. His business, Pathology Consultation
Incorporated, performs between 1,000 and 2,000 autopsies a year. But an
opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend accuses Dr.
Hayne of making mistakes in those autopsies because he performs too many.
Radley Balko, senior editor at Reason magazine, also claims Hayne's
testimony about his findings often falls in line with what the prosecution
is trying to prove.
Hayne's testimony in the trial of Tyler Edmonds claims from the body he
examined 2 people held the gun that killed the victim. Edmonds was 13 when
convicted. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned that ruling earlier
this year after throwing out Hayne's testimony.
Balko has followed Hayne's work since he started investigating the case
against 21-year-old Cory Maye. Maye was accused of shooting Prentiss
police officer Ron Jones as Jones entered Maye's home to execute a search
warrant. Hayne testified in that trial also, and Maye was given the death
penalty. It was Balko's work that helped overturn that sentence. Maye is
now serving life at Parchman.
Currently, Dr. Hayne receives a lot of business from county coroners who
are overloaded. Each autopsy he performs, Dr. Hayne is paid $550s. Balko
claims that's why Hayne does so many.
Hayne refutes that, saying he isn't the only one performing the
examinations from his office.
Dr. Hayne told WLBT by phone he was tired of the attacks.
"We will address the issue in a court of law, and we will have no
difficulty proving our point," he said.
Balko wants the state to revisit every case Hayne testified in, as well as
requiring contracted medical examiners like Hayne to meet certain
The National Association of Medical Examiners limits the number of
autopsies a medical examiner can perform in a year to 250. After 325, that
organization will no longer certify a medical examiner's practice.
Dr. Hayne says he is certified, but when we talked to him, he could not
remember the name of the organization that certified him.
(source: WLBT 3 News)
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