[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 9 23:55:44 CDT 2007
2 Texas death row inmates lose at Supreme Court
A convicted murderer condemned for fatally shooting a Port Arthur
firefighter nine years ago lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court
when justices refused to review his case.
Elroy Chester, 38, confessed to the slayings of at least four other people
during a 6-month crime spree. He pleaded guilty to killing Willie Ryman
III, who was trying to keep Chester from raping his two nieces at their
Port Arthur home. Ryman, who frequently checked on the girls when their
mother was at work, had interrupted Chester's burglary of the home and the
A Jefferson County jury in 1998 took just 12 minutes to decide Chester
should be put to death.
His appeal was one of two involving Texas death row inmates that the
Supreme Court refused to consider Tuesday. In the second case, the
justices rejected a review for Derrick Sonnier, a suburban Houston man
convicted of beating, stabbing and strangling a woman and her 2-year-old
son in 1991.
The Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of mentally retarded
people, and a federal judge that year ruled Chester's trial court never
determined whether he was retarded. A federal appeals court in 2003
refused to rule on Chester's appeal until all state appeals were
exhausted. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in February had refused to
overturn a lower court ruling that said Chester was not mentally retarded.
Chester does not have an execution date.
He was on mandatory supervision, a form of probation, when he went on the
crime spree that left 5 people dead, 2 people sexually assaulted and at
least 5 homes burglarized. Court records show he also fired shots at at
least five other people.
Chester also confessed to killing John Henry Sepeda, 78, and Etta Mae
Stallings, 87, during burglaries; Cheryl DeLeon, 40, whom he stalked and
fatally beat with his gun as she arrived home from work; and Albert Bolden
Jr., 35, who was his brother-in-law and was shot in the head. According to
court documents, Chester told police he killed Bolden for beating his
sister or for setting him up with a date with a woman who turned out to be
The killings all took place in the Pear Ridge neighborhood of Port Arthur.
Sonnier has an execution date for early next year but Harris County
prosecutors said Tuesday they would move to withdraw the date until the
Supreme Court resolves a Kentucky case that challenges the
constitutionality of lethal injection procedures. Kentucky and Texas use
the same procedures and the courts in recent weeks have stopped 2
executions in Texas after appeals were raised citing the challenge from 2
condemned Kentucky inmates. The high court is expected to rule on that
case by next June.
Sonnier was convicted in 1993 in the 1991 stabbing deaths of Melody
Flowers and her 2-year-old son, Patrick. Prosecutors said Sonnier lived in
the same Humble apartment complex as Flowers and had bothered her several
times, including 2 break-ins at her apartment. Both times, prosecutors and
witnesses said, Sonnier laughed and jokes about Flowers' fear.
In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused a rehearing he
requested after the court rejected an appeal that argued his trial lawyer
had been ineffective.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Death Penalty Derailed)
ELIZABETH SCHULTE reports on the Supreme Courts decision to take up the
issue of lethal injection.
THOUSANDS OF death row prisoners received a reprieve after the U.S.
Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments on whether execution by
lethal injection is constitutional.
The court will consider the cases of two Kentucky death row inmates and
rule on whether the execution method used by all but one of the 38 states
that have the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore
in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
The justices are supposed to issue their judgment sometime during the
current session, which began October 1 and ends in June 2008. Until then,
it appears that most, if not all, states will halt executions--a de facto
national moratorium on the death penalty.
When capital punishment was reinstated 30 years ago after being halted in
early 1970s, lethal injection was supposed to be a "humane" alternative to
other execution procedures, such as hanging and the electric chair.
It is a three-step process. First, a prisoner is injected with a chemical
that is supposed to sedate them and keep them from feeling pain. This is
followed by a chemical that paralyzes, and then another that stops the
But according to witnesses, lethal injections more resemble torture than a
humane procedure. It took an hour and a half for Joseph Lewis Clark's
"humane" execution in Ohio in May 2006. "It don't work, it don't work,"
Clark cried, shaking his head, as technicians struggled to find a vein.
During Angel Nieves Diaz's half-hour lethal injection ordeal in Florida,
his executioners mistakenly pushed the needles through his veins and into
the flesh of his arm, leaving chemical burns. One can only imagine the
agony Diaz suffered before he finally died.
According to a report that appeared in the Lancet medical journal in 2005,
of 49 executions examined, 21 were probably conscious when they received
the last drug that stops their heart.
Even before the Supreme Courts decision to consider the question, 11
states that use lethal injection had put executions on hold because of
legal challenges. When news of the high court's action hit, more states,
including Alabama and Oklahoma, put a halt to executions.
Even Texas joined in. As a result of the Supreme Court decision to hear
arguments on lethal injection, Carlton Turner Jr.'s execution was stayed
on September 27, hours before it was to have taken place. 5 days later,
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted a scheduled execution and
granted a 30-day stay for Heliberto Chi.
But justice didnt come quickly enough for Texas death row prisoner Michael
Richard. Richards lawyers couldnt get a request for an appeal into the
judge's office by 5 p.m. on September 25, the day the Supreme Court agreed
to hear the lethal injection case, due to a computer crash. When they
asked for time to file the appeal, appeals court Presiding Judge Sharon
Keller refused to even think about extending the deadline.
"We close at 5," Keller responded, according to the Austin
American-Statesman. Richards life hung on the difference of 20 minutes,
and Judge Keller cut that lifeline.
Texas officials say they will continue to schedule dates for executions,
so there will be more challenges to the seeming moratorium there and in
FOR THE time being, however, executions appear to be halted. And when the
Supreme Court hears arguments in the case, the barbarity of the death
penalty will be on display for all to see.
"The anti-death penalty community needs to take this spotlight that's
being put on the lethal injection issue to build our forces and make a
wider case about why the death penalty is wrong," said Marlene Martin,
national director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
"No matter how the chemicals are mixed, there's no humane way to kill
someone. This is a perfect opportunity for abolitionists to make the case
about why the death penalty is wrong on many fronts and push abolition."
The fact that the Supreme Court has been forced to put lethal injection
under scrutiny is another blow to the system among several others over the
last decade--including moratoriums in Illinois and Maryland, and Supreme
Court bans on executing juveniles and the mentally retarded--that have
shifted public support for capital punishment.
Internationally, the U.S. stands alongside China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan
in its use of the death penalty--prompting the European Union to propose a
resolution for a worldwide moratorium at the new session of the UN General
Assembly taking place in New York City.
"The lethal injection issue is one of many reasons the death penalty is
wrong, that the death penalty is cruel and unusual," Martin said. "There
are 3,700 people on death row, and even if they were to figure out a more
humane way to kill them, it's still wrong.
"If you look at these 3,700 people, 95 % of them couldn't afford their own
lawyers. A disproportionate number are African Americans or Latinos are
accused of killing white victims. And we know there are innocent people on
death row. That's the definition of cruel and unusual."
(source: Socialist Worker)
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