[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----PENN., OHIO, MISS., USA, UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 14 16:02:14 CDT 2007
The only valid argument against execution----Where the death penalty
exists, innocents will die.
As someone fundamentally opposed to the death penalty, I confess I am not
impressed by most of my side's arguments.
Take deterrence. Depending on which study you choose, you can summon
numbers to support the idea that executions deter murder, or not. The data
are inconclusive. My friends in the anti-execution crowd feel that this
removes one of the chief rationales for putting people to death.
As I see it, the balance tilts the other way. One thing is certain: The
executed man murders no one else.
I also suspect that execution cuts down on murder rates in general,
particularly when it happens often, cruelly and publicly. Those seeking
deterrence need look no further than Iran, where group hangings are staged
in public places, sometimes from the backs of trucks that serve as rolling
gallows. The methods predate even 19th-century Western reforms, which
sought execution methods that were swift and humane. In Iran, the victims
simply hang by the neck until they strangle - arguably a more effective
approach for those seeking to spread fear. No doubt about it, if
deterrence is your goal, then sharia is the answer.
And with all due respect for turning the other cheek, there is inherent
fairness in putting a murderer to death. A life for a life makes more
sense and feels more just than limitless forgiveness, which demands
saintly forbearance. Somehow locking someone in a room with clean sheets,
TV, 3 meals a day, regular exercise, and access to the prison library will
never equate with a burial plot. Score two for the executioners.
The most audacious argument against the death penalty is that it costs
more to execute someone than it does simply to lock him away for life.
While unquestionably true, it is so only because of the extensive
safeguards and appeals built into the process (mostly by tenacious
death-penalty opponents). The appellate process and mandated case reviews
can extend death-row stays for decades. It is like blaming a sprinter for
losing a race after you have shot him in the foot.
No, the only strong argument against execution, and the one that cannot be
overcome, is the imperfection of human beings. Just as we are imperfect,
our society is imperfect, and our criminal-justice system is imperfect.
Even if we were capable of imagining a flawless system, it would be run by
fallible human beings. In our judicial system, the rights of the
individual generally trump the rights of the state. Most of us accept the
principle that sometimes the guilty must go free in order to protect the
basic rights of us all. This is true even for those we strongly suspect
are guilty of multiple murders - like, say, O.J. Simpson.
There is no more drastic way for the state to deprive people of their
rights than to kill them. There is no remedy for it. By the same judicial
logic that forbids illegal search and seizure, it is better to forgo the
advantages and emotional satisfaction of executing a hundred convicted
killers than to risk executing one innocent man.
This is not just a hypothetical argument. Where the death penalty stands,
innocent people have and will be executed. In Pennsylvania, more death-row
inmates have been exonerated by DNA testing in recent years than have been
put to death: five convicted men have been released since 1973, three
executed. Similar revelations of innocent men on death row have happened
all over the country, and have prompted some states to impose an immediate
moratorium on executions.
Decrying this squeamishness, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted in
an opinion last year that not one instance of an innocent man being
executed had been presented to the court. "If such an event had occurred
in recent years," he wrote, "we would not have to hunt for it; the
innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition
lobby." Note that Scalia did not claim that innocents have not been
executed - our history is full of examples - or predict that it won't
Last week, the American Bar Association recommended a series of reforms in
Pennsylvania to safeguard against executing innocents, urging among other
things that biological evidence be safely stored, that defendants be given
consistently competent legal counsel. It noted that for similar crimes,
African American defendants are far more likely to be sentenced to death
than white ones, and that eyewitness identifications (a central
prosecutorial tool) have been proved notoriously unreliable. But the flaws
revealed in its study - incompetence, racial bias and misjudgment - are
human failings, problems that will not be corrected by any reforms.
Gov. Rendell has said he would consider the ABA recommendations. He should
implement them immediately. On the other hand, it might be better in the
long run if he doesn't. No matter how many reforms are adopted, it is only
a matter of time before the state executes the wrong man. Then, as Scalia
says, we will have a case to shout from the rooftops. We can hope it will
never happen, but don't bet on it.
For the American Bar Association's report on Pennsylvania's death penalty,
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer - Mark Bowden is a former staff writer)
State review of death penalty warranted after 4-year study
The exoneration of 6 death row inmates in Pennsylvania since 1986 has
already made a compelling case for a moratorium on capital punishment
while problems in the legal system can be investigated.
Now, a study by the American Bar Association has cited "substantial" flaws
in the state's death penalty system and raises serious questions about the
legal representation of minorities, who make up a high proportion of those
awaiting execution in Pennsylvania.
Minorities and the poor are often the most victim ized, given their
limited resources to hire seasoned crim inal defense attor neys and
investigators, according to the report.
The 4- year study by a team of legal professionals with "varying
perspectives" on capi tal punishment ech oed many of the issues raised
previously by organizations such as the Innocence Project, the
Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the NAACP and the American Civil
Moreover, while not all the cases involved inmates facing death,
Patriot-News reporter Pete Shellem has gained national recognition for
investigative work in recent years that has lead to freedom for several
people found to have been wrongly convicted and sent to prison on murder
The ABA study supported a moratorium on the death penalty and suggested
Pennsylvania consider several recommendations for capital cases:
- Requiring the preservation of all biological evidence, which the state
currently does not do.
- Requiring all defense attorneys to have achieved the level of legal
training recommended by the bar to work on death penalty cases.
- Mandating legal representation during the state appeals process.
Currently, inmates are not guaranteed a lawyer on appeal if they can't
- State funding for adequate legal counsel as opposed to county
governments providing public defenders, whose competency in capital cases
The ABA recommends Pennsylvania do its own comprehensive study of its
death penalty system. We concur. We also again call upon Gov. Ed Rendell
to change his position and agree to a moratorium until such a review can
We are not calling for a end to capital punishment in Pennsylvania, and
suspect the vast majority of the state's death row inmates are guilty of
the crimes of which they were convicted.
But the mounting volume of evidence -- the studies, the work of reporters
like Shellem, and the previously noted exoneration of 6 death row inmates
who spent a collective 57 years behind bars -- signals that something is
(source: The Patriot-News)
Pennsylvania must listen to ABA warning, improve reliability of
Occasionally, innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit.
It's a tragedy when this costs someone their freedom. But when the crime
is murder and the penalty is death, can American society afford the
injustice? This question is at the heart of the national debate over the
death penalty. Last week, the American Bar Association's Death Penalty
Moratorium Implementation Project issued a report critical of the
application of the death penalty in Pennsylvania. While it didn't call for
a moratorium in the state, it did recommend steps that would make applying
the death penalty fairer.
''When you're dealing with the death penalty,'' said ABA President-elect
H. Thomas Wells Jr., ''you have to be right. This is not a system that
delivers the justice citizens of Pennsylvania expect.''
In short, nobody in Pennsylvania can guarantee that an innocent person
will never be executed. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978,
the state has executed three people, the last one in 1999. But since 1986,
the state has also freed six individuals from death row -- an indication
that the system isn't perfect. Are there other innocents among the 228
prisoners awaiting the ultimate sentence on Pennsylvania's death row?
As long as the state allows the death penalty, it must do everything
possible to administer it fairly. According to the ABA study, that isn't
happening. In fact, of 93 protocols that the ABA recommends to make sure
capital punishment happens fairly, Pennsylvania complies with only seven,
while partially complying with another 26 -- hardly reassuring.
Bruce Castor, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys
Association, plans to object to the ABA report. The Montgomery County
district attorney says those who suffer the most from the ''inadequacies
in the death penalty system are the survivors of homicide victims who
never see justice carried out.'' Nonetheless, he supports statewide
minimum standards for death penalty cases.
(source: Opinion, The Morning Call)
Richey sees his retrial as 1st fair shot----'They knew I was innocent,'
U.S.-Scottish citizen insists
Kenneth Richey doesn't really care if anyone believes him when he says
Awaiting a retrial on charges he set a fire at a Columbus Grove apartment
that killed a 2-year-old girl in 1986, Richey is hardly the first person
behind bars to claim he didn't do it.
"They don't have to believe me," Richey said in a telephone interview from
the Putnam County jail. "The evidence speaks for itself. If they want to
know the truth, then [expletive] read it."
Now 43, the U.S.-British citizen has been locked up for 21 years most of
those sitting on Ohios death row. He was convicted of aggravated murder
and aggravated arson and sentenced to death by a 3-judge panel in Putnam
County Common Pleas Court in 1987.
Years of appeals culminated this summer when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals reversed his conviction and ordered the state to either release
him or retry him. The court said he deserved a new trial because his
defense attorney failed to challenge questionable arson evidence presented
at his 1st trial.
With a prestigious Boston law firm fighting for his freedom, Richey, who
speaks in a thick Scottish brogue despite leaving his native Scotland when
he was 18, said he doesn't see the new trial as a 2nd chance but a first
"The 1st time around, I never had any chance," he said.
Angry at his original court-appointed attorney, William Kluge of Lima, and
angrier still at former Putnam County Prosecutor Randall Basinger, who now
is a common pleas judge, Richey said the deck was stacked against him.
2-year-old Cynthia Collins, whose mother, Hope, allegedly had asked Richey
to baby-sit that night, was dead, and Richey was the 1st and only suspect.
"They were just looking for someone to convict. They didn't give a damn,"
Richey said. "They knew I was innocent. They didn't care. Anyone reading
that bloody trial transcript can see that."
Despite defense attorneys contention that the states case has weakened
significantly in the last 2 decades, Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers
said his office is proceeding on the original capital murder indictment
and largely on the same theory of what happened that night.
"My initial reaction is it's likely, but we're still talking with the
state fire marshal and getting their sense and interpretation of some of
these things and how they feel about some of the conclusions," Mr. Lammers
In winning Richey's appeal, Ken Parsigian, Richey's attorney since 1993,
hired some of the world's top forensic experts who analyzed the evidence
and agreed there was no reliable evidence of arson, that the evidence
actually was consistent with an accidental fire.
Had experts such as these been contacted during Richey's 1st trial, the
appeals court found, their testimony "would have severely undermined the
states case against" Richey.
Mr. Parsigian said prosecutors will be hard-pressed to prove their case
beyond a reasonable doubt when so much has changed in 21 years. One of the
state's foremost witnesses in the first trial, assistant state Fire
Marshal Robert Cryer, suffers from dementia and no longer remembers the
Another key witness, Juanita Altimus, has died. Ms. Altimus testified that
she heard Richey threaten to burn down the apartment building the
afternoon before the fire, and 2 days after the fire say, "It looks like I
did a hell of a good job, doesn't it?"
Mr. Lammers said testimony from the first trial was given on the record,
under oath, and was subjected to cross-examination. He said he intends to
have such testimony admitted as evidence even though those witnesses can't
Whether or not he will be allowed to do that remains to be seen.
Richey's successful appeal turned largely on the fact that his attorney at
the time did not challenge the arson evidence presented at trial.
"That's why they threw it out," Mr. Parsigian said. "All of Cryer's
testimony goes to arson, and you have a right to confront your witnesses."
To supporters of Richey many of whom embraced his cause from across the
Atlantic in Great Britain the state's theory of how Richey committed the
crimes was not only complicated, but downright far-fetched.
Prosecutors claim Richey set the June 30, 1986, to get back at a former
girlfriend, Kandy Barchet, and her lover, Mike Nichols. Ms. Barchet lived
in the apartment directly below the unit where Cynthia Collins lived with
With his arm in a sling he had a broken hand at the time and drunk by
all witness accounts, prosecutors alleged Richey stole gasoline and
turpentine from a nearby greenhouse, carried it back to the apartment
complex, scaled a storage shed, climbed onto a balcony, spread the
accelerants around the living room and balcony, and left by climbing down
the shed. The containers were never found. No traces of gas or paint
thinner were found on his clothing.
"I'm Spiderman," Richey says in a spiteful tone. "How retarded can you be
to believe that [expletive]?"
Disputing the 'facts'
He refutes every point other than the fact that his hand was broken and
that he was intoxicated that night.
Ms. Barchet, he insists, was not his former girlfriend but someone he
slept with "now and then." He wasn't angry with her, he said, and if he
had been, he wouldn't have set a fire in the apartment above her.
"I served in the Marines. I could break a man's neck or a woman's neck
like a twig. I have no qualms whatsoever about that," he said. "If I want
to kill someone, I would take the direct route. If I've got a problem with
someone, I'll take it to them. I've always done that. I've always gone
He said Hope Collins didn't ask him to baby-sit the night of the fire, but
more or less told him to as she was leaving with a boyfriend to go out for
"She didnt say, 'Kenny, will you watch Cynthia for me?' She told me,"
Richey recalled. "She said, 'Kenny, watch Scooter for me.' No, she didnt
even say Kenny. She just said, 'Watch Scooter for me.' I shook my head no,
I said uh-uh. Whether or not she heard me, I had no idea."
Hope Collins, 21 at the time, later pleaded guilty to involuntary
manslaughter in connection with her young daughter's death.
Richey said he's sure the people who claimed he threatened to burn down
the complex known as A-building misconstrued a comment he made that night.
He said some people were talking about how a new manager at the apartment
complex planned to evict Hope Collins and another neighbor, and he
responded by saying he'd blow up the manager's car.
Held under a $10 million bond he considers ludicrous, Richey does not shy
away from talking about the night of the fire, but it's unlikely he'll
take the stand when it goes to a jury trial before a visiting judge early
next year. Even he knows he wouldn't make for a model witness.
"Probably not because I'm a very aggressive individual. I tend to speak my
mind, not hold back," Richey said. "I let my mouth do the talking. I let
my anger get the best of me."
And angry he is.
"I've got a lot of anger and a lot of hatred in me for the 21 years they
stole from me for a crime I didn't commit and they know I didn't commit,"
His attorneys have asked that his trial be moved to Franklin County, where
they contend they would have a better chance of seating an impartial jury.
Mr. Lammers, who is expected to fight to keep the trial in Ottawa, shied
away from talking about any possible plea deals.
"I've decided to retry the case," he said. "The case was put back in my
lap, and I've made my decision."
If Richey is exonerated and he insists there's no plea agreement he would
take he plans to return to Scotland with his ex-wife, Wendy, and their
son Sean, who turns 22 later this month. He said he doesnt know what he'll
do there, doesnt know how hell cope after spending nearly 1/2 his life in
Richey said he's turned down 2 plea bargains one offered before his 1st
trial would have had him plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and get
out of prison in 11 years.
The other, he said, came about 9 years ago when he was on death row and
was told he could be moved to a prison in Scotland, released if Scottish
authorities saw fit, so long as he never returned to the United States.
"If I was guilty I would've taken one of those bloody deals. I definitely
would've taken the 2nd one, but I'm not guilty and I don't care who
believes it," Richey said. "I don't care what people think about me. I'm
going to prove my innocence or die trying."
(source: Toledo Blade)
Death penalty: Who're the victims?
Does lethal injection as a method of execution and - more to the point -
as implemented by the Mississippi Department of Corrections constitute
"cruel and inhumane" treatment?
Mississippi death row inmate Earl Wesley Berry's attorneys say Berry
thinks so and will file his own challenge to the constitutionality of
Berrys appeals are exhausted and the state Supreme Court has set an
execution date for him for Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. Berry was sentenced in
Chickasaw County in October 1988 for the Nov. 19, 1987, murder of Mary
Bounds of Houston.
Bounds was beaten to death after leaving her weekly church choir practice.
Berry was convicted of murdering her during a kidnapping.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused earlier this month to hear Berry's appeal
based on the facts of his case or on post-conviction appeals regarding
possible procedural errors
But the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel argued in a
response motion to the state Supreme Court that no execution date should
be set and a stay should be maintained until the U.S. Supreme Court
reviews 2 Kentucky cases to determine if lethal injection is cruel and
Currently, 65 Mississippi inmates face the death penalty - 62 men and
three women ranging in age from 21 to 70. Mississippi and 30 other states
use lethal injection as the means of executions.
The last inmate executed in Mississippi was Scott County double-murderer
Bobby Glen Wilcher, who was executed last year at Parchman. Wilcher died
by lethal injection.
Mississippi's Department of Corrections follows the same lethal injection
procedures as does the federal government - the same procedures the
government used in executing Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001.
The majority of Mississippians supports utilization of the death penalty
as the ultimate penalty for the most heinous of crimes. Mississippi's
lethal injection procedures are on par with those used by the rest of the
So the question before the U.S. Supreme Court is - or should be - whether
the lethal injection procedures being followed by the federal and state
governments are the best and most humane possible.
In the final analysis, few of the victims of those being executed were
spared any measure of suffering. There were no judges to order less
suffering or more anesthesia for those being murdered by these criminals.
Mississippians should be better than that. We should demand of the
government that executions be carried out in the most humane way possible.
But the U.S. Supreme Court should not under any circumstances impede the
use of the death penalty as a means to take the most dangerous criminals
out of society's misery or to make us any less safe.
(source: Jackson Clarion-Ledger)
A pivotal review for death penalty----HIGH COURT TO CONSIDER FATE OF
Firing squads. Hanging. The electric chair. The gas chamber.
None of these methods of execution tossed the nation's capital-punishment
system into as much disarray as lethal injection, the supposedly
antiseptic solution to concerns about how best to put condemned killers to
A metastasizing legal furor over lethal injection has forced the U.S.
Supreme Court to examine a method of execution for the 1st time since
1878, effectively halting capital punishment around the country. One legal
expert has dubbed it a "molasses moment" in death-penalty history.
A confluence of historical, legal and social factors have pushed the
showdown over lethal injection onto the high court's docket - a paradox
for an institution that never considered whether the hangman's noose or
"Old Sparky" were constitutional ways to put someone to death.
With society's view of cruel and unusual punishment shifting dramatically
in recent decades, legal experts say the almost universal embrace of one
form of execution - a lethal dose of drugs - has made the time right for
an unprecedented review of how states end the lives of condemned killers.
Most of the 38 states with the death penalty rely on the same three-drug
combination to execute inmates, including California, where a challenge to
lethal injection has put executions on hold for nearly 2 years. The U.S.
Supreme Court's recent decision to review Kentucky's lethal injection
method has ensured a near-moratorium on executing the more than 3,300
condemned prisoners in the United States will last until the justices rule
In recent years, the conservative, closely divided Supreme Court has
scaled back the death penalty somewhat - barring the execution of
juveniles and the mentally retarded. At the same time, the court made sure
most death sentences were preserved.
Legal experts say the justices could not wait any longer to weigh in on
lethal injection. Lawyers for death-row inmates, armed with evidence of
botched executions in states such as Ohio and Florida, have flooded courts
around the country with legal challenges in the past few years.
"I think the court felt absolutely compelled to step in and make some
sense of this," said Michael Laurence, director of California's Habeas
Corpus Resource Center, which represents death-row inmates. "There is also
the idea that the states need to get it right."
For all practical purposes, the Supreme Court has never addressed what it
takes for states to "get it right" when it comes to executions. There is
surprisingly sparse precedent on the subject, and the justices have never
outlawed a form of execution.
Most legal experts do not expect the Supreme Court's ultimate ruling in
the Kentucky case to end the death penalty. Instead, the consensus is the
court will provide guidelines for what states must do to ensure that
executions are carried out humanely, whether in the types of drugs they
use or in the safeguards put in place during executions.
A number of judges around the country have found serious flaws in state
lethal injection methods. Last year, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in
San Jose declared California's process "broken." Fogel is considering
whether to put that legal challenge on hold while the Supreme Court
reviews the Kentucky case.
Legal experts predict the Supreme Court will follow the approach used
several years ago when ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute
mentally retarded inmates - rather than lay out a rigid protocol, the
justices left it to the states and lower courts to set the standards for
mental retardation in capital cases.
"They are going to want to make sure executions continue," said Deborah
Denno, a Fordham University law professor and lethal injection expert.
"But at the same time, there is going to be some sort of compromise."
The challenges to lethal injection center on the argument that the
combination of drugs, coupled with sloppy procedures and inadequate
medical training, create an unnecessary risk that death-row inmates will
suffer painful executions. That, lawyers argue, violates the Eighth
Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
No precedent to follow
But even the handful of Supreme Court decisions touching on execution
methods have not dealt with whether the mechanics of any particular method
amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Legal experts say the
lethal-injection issue will put the Supreme Court in uncharted territory.
"There is certainly no case on point," said Ellen Kreitzberg, a Santa
Clara University law professor and death penalty expert. "There is no case
where there is precedent they need to follow."
Cases tucked in old law books aren't expected to provide much guidance. In
1878, the Supreme Court refused to block the firing-squad execution of a
condemned murderer in Utah, but the ruling dealt primarily with whether
the states could choose their execution method as long as it wasn't cruel
and unusual. Rather than address the pain and suffering that might result
from death by gunshot, the justices simply asserted: "The punishment of
shooting as a mode of executing the death penalty for the crime of murder
in the first degree is not included in that category."
The Supreme Court later took the same approach in two cases involving the
electric chair, including a 1947 ruling that repeated malfunctions of
Louisiana's electric chair did not subject condemned killer Willie Francis
to cruel punishment. Five aborted attempts to execute Francis, the court
said, were nothing that "amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in the
The Supreme Court has not addressed an execution method in the past six
decades, as states continued to hang, shoot, electrocute and use lethal
gas to carry out death sentences until the 1990s. At that point,
ironically, the threat of court fights prompted most states to shift to
lethal injection. 2 key legal battles in the mid-1990s are likely to be
examined as the Supreme Court weighs lethal injection.
In 1994, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a
bitterly divided 6-5 ruling, found that Washington's hanging method was
constitutional because the state took precautions to ensure a swift and
painless death. But two years later, the 9th Circuit concluded that
California's gas chamber was unconstitutional because of evidence that
inmates had suffered during executions. That ruling spurred the state to
switch to lethal injection.
But over the past five years, as virtually all states migrated to lethal
injection, court battles heated up, producing conflicting rulings in
different courts - and a scattershot approach to executing inmates from
state to state.
Last month, the Supreme Court decided not to wait any longer to settle the
confusion, agreeing to review the appeal of 2 death row inmates from
Kentucky, where the state Supreme Court rejected a lethal injection
challenge last year.
"The Supreme Court realizes it is writing the map," said Douglas Berman,
an Ohio State University law professor whose criminal justice blog is
widely read on subjects such as lethal injection. "No matter what they do,
they can't make it worse."
source: San Jose Mercury News)
Pointing Out the Monsters among the Sheep
They beat a 14-year-old child to death for a minor offense and the law
says they did no wrong. Emmett Till was 14 when he was beaten to death in
Mississippi back in 1955. He had supposedly whistled at a white woman but
that minor offense carried a death sentence. Martin Lee Anderson had
stolen his grandmother's car and was sentenced to boot camp where he was
executed for his crime.
Remember the outrage in the white community when OJ Simpson beat the
murder charges against him? The evidence was compelling and appeared
overwhelming yet the prosecution did not have the smoking gun of the
murder weapon. They jury acquitted Simpson because they could not prove
beyond a reasonable doubt he had committed the crime. Imagine the outrage
if Simpson had committed those murders on videotape and the jury still
allowed him walk away.
Maybe then you might understand how the black community feels about the
Martin Lee Anderson verdict. How ironic it is that parents can be brought
up on charges for striking a child yet the state can beat a child to death
and a jury decides there was no wrong doing. If the court had given Martin
Lee Anderson a death sentence he might have received some assistance. The
state will defend inmates it plans to execute there is no safer place for
an inmate in prison than on death row.
The state would have dealt harshly with these officers had they murdered
someone the state had condemned to death. The state maintains that it is
their right alone to execute prisoners and will brook no interference from
amateurs. But Martin Lee Anderson was sentenced to a boot camp modeled
after American military style boot camps. Can officers hit the recruits in
American military boot camps? The answer is no, can they shove ammonia
capsules up their nose and sit on their chests? The answer is again no.
The purpose of boot camp is peer group training the breaking down of
personal patterns to be remolded to fit into the peer group. Identical
hair and clothes and hazing routine until the boot learns to fit in with
the group think. The difference is the military has a message and a goal
for its recruits the prison inmates in boot camps only goal is to get out.
We use that word boot camp to describe such institutions because it is an
American term and we are comfortable with it.
In Russia they would call this a reeducation camp or a gulag in Nazi
Germany a concentration camp. In Iraq they would call it a terrorist
detention facility in Cuba they would call it Guantonomo. A rose by any
other name would smell as sweet and a camp by any other name is just as
cruel. Oh, but I can feel the outrage from here, How dare you compare our
prisons to gulags and death camps! Well, the results are the same aren't
they? After all you beat a 14-year-old child to death and your legal
system ruled no harm done.
I think of the film Twelve Angry Men how Henry Fonda stood up to the other
eleven jurors in defense of a young man much like Martin Lee Anderson. How
the other eleven had to be convinced point by point of the suspects
innocence. Despite the premise innocent until proven guilty it was far
easier to just go along and trust the system so that they could get back
to their own lives. But there was no Henry Fonda on the jury in Florida,
no details about alibis or pocket knives but eyesight, put your prejudice
aside and open you eyes for just one minute and watch seven officers beat
a 14 year old child to death on a videotape.
It is easy enough to look away to say, it wasnt my child. To say, well he
deserved it he resisted just as the young man at the University of Florida
resisted and got tasered for resisting assault and not shutting up. Or the
woman police say strangled herself on her handcuffs or the young girl who
was tasered and pepper sprayed for a curfew violation. We live in the age
of the hidden cameras but what good do they do if they only see what we
want to see?
We are taught to respect authority but in turn as innocent until proven
guilty we are to be respected as well even inmates in a boot camp. Im sure
some where it says in the boot camp manual dont kill the inmates. But
power is intoxicating; history has shown it so again and again. People in
authority with no check or control become progressively crueler.
I am reminded of an incident in World War 2 an American had been rounded
up and sent to a concentration camp, the American was outraged by his
Each camp was designated by nationality and the American was put in with
the Poles. He yelled to a passing German officer "I am an American and I
demand to be taken to the American camp!" The officer nodded and told a
soldier, "take this man to the American camp." The soldier with out a word
took the man and headed for the woods a few moments later a gunshot was
He had indeed been taken to the American camp when you give unchecked
power and authority to armed men this is the result. Not sometimes or most
of the time but every time. The taser, the club, the fist, like the video
camera we look in the mirror and see only what we want to see to justify
the Gitmo's and Hidithas and Abu Ghraib's as necessary.
We are all the victims here and we are as well all to be condemned for we
have become callused and conditioned to brutality and misery done in our
name and the majority will gladly explain it away and trust the system. We
ask ourselves, how could the German people have allowed such atrocities to
be committed but now we need only to look in the mirror. When Emmett Till
was murdered there was a national outcry for justice in both the white and
black communities. It was considered beyond the limits of humanity to
murder a child for a minor offense.
In 1968 the Mie Li massacre in Vietnam brought outrage and condemnation on
the US forces involved. The American public was outraged that American
troops could behave so barbarously and demanded justice. Yet in Iraq the
public is content to trust the system and let the military handle these
things quietly. Even the President has said about the recent Blackwater
shootings, "we will investigate and if any wrong doing is found those
people will be punished." What do you think? Are the Blackwater employees
losing any sleep?
Or as Prime Minister Al Maliki said, "There is nothing so cheap in Iraq
right now as our blood." Like wise the value of American blood goes down
precipitously as well.
We are the good guys and you'll hear no clicking jack boots on our streets
just keep telling yourself that while you're trying to forget they beat a
14 year old child to death and an all white jury of his peers found no
(source: OpEdNews.com----Authors Bio: I was born and raised in Chicago in
a liberal Democratic home my Grandfather was a labor union organizer my
Father a Democratic district committeeman my Mother was an election judge.
My earliest memories were of passing out Kennedy yard signs from the back
of the car, late in 1962 we moved to Dallas and if it hadn't been raining
that morning in November I would have been in Dealey plaza while my Father
was sitting in the Trade mart. In 1965 we moved to Montgomery Al. and I
witnessed the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1967 we moved back to
Chicago and my sister was selected as a page for the Illinois delegation
of the Democratic National Convention as you can Imagine she never made it
inside the building. In 1972 my mother passed away and the family
disintegrated, by age 17 I was homeless----- David Cox)
High court should ban lethal injections
The Supreme Court should outlaw lethal injection as cruel and unusual
This term, the nation's highest court has agreed to hear a case
challenging lethal injection on the grounds that it violates the Eighth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Introduced in 1978, lethal injection was supposed to be a better
alternative to hanging, the gas chamber, firing squad and electrocution -
a clean, clinical, painless, more humane and therefore more acceptable
form of capital punishment. It is used in 37 of the 38 death penalty
states. Only Nebraska still prefers the electric chair.
Almost all states use the same 3-drug cocktail of sodium thiopental
(sodium pentothal), which induces unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide (or
Pavulon), which causes muscle paralysis; and potassium chloride, which
stops the heart.
But there are problems with lethal injection.
Death penalty critics say that sodium thiopental can wear off before the
patient's heart stops, causing extreme physical and mental anguish.
Moreover, the prisoner is in a chemical straitjacket and cannot tell
anyone that he or she is in pain.
In its recent report, "Execution by Lethal Injection: A Quarter Century of
State Poisoning," Amnesty International notes that Texas, which executes
more people than any other state, has banned the use of these chemicals on
cats and dogs because of the pain they can cause.
The botched execution of Angel Diaz has added urgency to this case. The
state of Florida put Diaz to death on Dec. 13, 2006. But it took 37
minutes and 2 administrations of the drugs to get the job done. The 1st
needle missed his vein, and Diaz was seen moving, blinking and mouthing
words for 24 minutes.
Two Kentucky death row inmates - Ralph Baze, 52, and Thomas Clyde Bowling
Jr., 54 - sued their state in 2004 and have brought this challenge to the
Supreme Court. It marks the first time the Supreme Court has considered
the constitutionality of a method of execution since 1879, when the court
upheld Utah's firing squad method.
But this case is not just about Baze or Bowling. And it's not just about
the lives of the 3,281 men and 59 women who are on death row.
It's also about what kind of country we are.
The justices should realize what more and more Americans are beginning to
understand: There is no way to make lethal injection, or any other form of
execution for that matter, humane.
Capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment, whether a person is
beheaded, strapped to a chair and electrocuted or laced to a gurney and
injected with a deadly cocktail. It is a barbaric practice that most of
the developed world, including the European Union, has outlawed, and it is
a violation of international human rights law.
If these lethal injections are not suitable for pets, surely the court
ought to find they are unsuitable for human beings as well.
(source: Opinion, Athens Banner-Herald; David Love is a lawyer in
Philadelphia. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of
liberal commentary on domestic and international issues affiliated with
The Progressive magazine)
When justice grinds to a halt----After 20 years, a killer languishes in
prison without a lawyer - and without a date with death
Survivors are fed up with delaysThe state of Utah wants to execute Ralph
He kidnapped Maurine Hunsaker, a Kearns mother of three, from her night
job in 1986, took her to Big Cottonwood Canyon and slit her throat.
But nearly 20 years after a judge put him on death row, Menzies has no
date with the executioner.
No lawyer is both qualified and willing to represent Menzies in his effort
to overturn his conviction. And without an attorney, the killer cannot be
put to death.
Menzies' case is the first death-penalty appeal in Utah that has been put
on hold for lack of a defense lawyer, but it might not be the last.
Though there are just 9 inmates on Utah's death row, the state struggles
to find attorneys to represent them. The situation is prolonging the
already-complicated process of carrying out death sentences. And it is
prolonging the grief of survivors who are expecting an execution to bring
them justice and relief.
"It's ridiculous the ways things have been going on," says Gary Oleson,
whose mother was murdered 22 years ago. "It's just been appeal after
appeal, delay after delay."
'Critical errors': The latest delay for Douglas Stewart Carter, who killed
Eva Oleson during a robbery in her Provo home, was argued earlier this
month when his two attorneys asked to be let off his case.
Mark Moffat, of Salt Lake City, and Leo Griffard, of Boise, have not been
paid a dime for hundreds of hours of work on Carter's behalf. Moffat also
says he was never qualified to handle Carter's appeal in 4th District
Court but reluctantly took the case because he feared the inmate would be
left to fend for himself. In retrospect, that was a mistake, he says.
"Due to the involvement of unqualified counsel to date, there have no
doubt been critical errors and omission in the pursuit of Mr. Carter's
claims," Moffat wrote in his request to withdraw from the case.
The Utah Attorney General's Office is opposing the request, as well as a
related motion that new lawyers be appointed for Carter. After the Oct. 2
hearing, 4th District Judge Lynn Davis took the matter under
Under court rules, one, sometimes two, attorneys must be assigned to each
capital case, and the legal team must meet certain experience and
education requirements. Also, the state has relatively few death penalty
cases, the pool of qualified lawyers numbers fewer than 10, for appeals
beyond the 1st appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.
Another problem is money: The Utah Division of Finance caps the total
amount paid to defense attorneys in an appeal at $37,500. Lawyers,
however, can easily clock 2,000 hours working on post-conviction relief
proceedings and end up earning a fraction of their usual pay of $150 to
$250 an hour.
In addition, that time is taken away from paying clients, a serious loss
for small firms or solo attorneys trying to cover their overhead.
Attorneys have learned the hard way how a capital case can put them in
financial peril, according to a brief by the Utah Association of Criminal
Moffat says he put more than 500 hours of work into the Menzies case. Had
these hours been spent on work for paying clients, his firm could have
At this point, though, Moffat could collect only $10,000 from the state.
Splitting the payment with Griffard would give him $9.88 an hour. The 2
men have said they will forgo the money if they are allowed to withdraw
from the case.
Richard Mauro did a little better. For the 700 to 800 hours he worked on
the case of death-row inmate Von Lester Taylor, the Salt Lake City
attorney earned about $17 an hour, much less than the $150 an hour he
billed regular clients at the time.
The situation is different in the federal courts. A newly created unit at
the Federal Defender's Office in Salt Lake City now handles appeals that
go to U.S. District Court. And if private attorneys have to be appointed
to a case, the federal government pays them $163 an hour.
Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general, says that before the
state began providing money in 1997 for post-conviction proceedings, there
was no problem getting lawyers because law firms would handle the cases
for free. He acknowledges that funding could be a problem in certain cases
but says most of the money complaints stem from "wasteful, redundant"
appeals of issues that have already been resolved.
Executions on hold: Whatever the cause, the difficulty in finding lawyers
for death-row inmates is slowing the pace of Utah capital cases, none of
which has a pending execution date.
Condemned inmates in the United States typically spend more than a decade
awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in
Texas, which carries out nearly half the executions in the nation, has the
shortest waiting period, 7 to 10 years. The average time in the other 37
states with capital punishment is about 15 years, and some prisoners stay
on death row for more than 20 years, the center says.
Utah's current death-row inmates have been there between 8 and 22 years.
Another factor adding to delays is mistakes by attorneys who had
difficulty navigating complex death-penalty laws that lead to retrials or
resentencings in 2/3 of the cases.
Carter first landed on death row in late 1985, the same year he committed
his crime. While burglarizing the home of 57-year-old Eva Oleson, Carter
stabbed her 10 times and shot her in the head, using a pillow to muffle
His original death sentence was reversed by the Utah Supreme Court in
1989, but a new jury in 1992 resentenced him to die. The high court has
upheld that sentence.
Carter now is pursuing his second post-conviction appeal in 4th District
Court, which his current attorneys say is close to forcing them out of
business. Attorney Heidi Nestel, who represents the Oleson family,
expressed her concerns to Judge Davis at the Oct. 2 hearing at which
Carter's attorneys requested to be dismissed.
"How do you put a price on justice for the victims in this case?" she
asked. "This case may come to a grinding halt if these 2 counsel are
allowed to withdraw."
Menzies case stalled: The Utah Supreme Court upheld Menzies' conviction
but reopened an appeal Dec. 15 because of his appeals attorney's
"deplorable" representation. Menzies now has the opportunity to argue for
a new trial or a new sentencing hearing, which could lead to his removal
from death row.
But the lawyer who got his appeal reopened stepped down because of a
conflict of interest and a long search has failed to find a new attorney.
More than a dozen attorneys in Utah, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico have
declined to take on the case. Mark Field, a staff attorney for the Utah
Administrative Office of the Courts, says most cited monetary reasons for
Hunsaker's survivors are furious at the continuing delays. "He was tried
and convicted by the laws of the state and given the death penalty," says
Betty Sudweeks, Hunsaker's mother. "The sentence should be carried out.
It's frustrating the way he plays the system."
The situation is so frustrating to 3rd District Judge Stephen Roth that he
is thinking about forcing a lawyer to represent Menzies. He recently asked
state and defense attorneys for their opinions on whether he has that
The state Attorney General's Office says nothing in state law directly
permits an unwilling attorney to be compelled to take a case. But nothing
in the law forbids it, either, because the lawyer has the right to
challenge the adequacy of the pay, according to Brunker and assistant
attorney general Erin Riley.
Brunker and Riley, who take no position on whether Roth could force a
lawyer to represent Menzies, suggest that the attorney can litigate with
the Division of Finance for more money, if needed.
On Friday, the state's attorneys said that they intended to seek a
legislative amendment that would put the payment structure in law, rather
than in administrative rules. Under the change, judges would have
discretion to exceed funding limits if certain criteria were met.
Good pay = due process: Brunker disputes that Menzies and Carter are
entitled to court-appointed counsel in their post-conviction appeals.
But to lawyers Troy Booher and Michael Zimmerman, there's no doubt that
condemned inmates have a constitutional right to legal help at the
post-conviction stage to ensure their sentences are appropriate before
they are put to death.
In a friend-of-the-court brief submitted on behalf of the Utah Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Booher and Zimmerman ask Roth to declare that
the state must provide adequate compensation before new counsel is
Their brief contends adequate pay and good lawyering will benefit everyone
by moving cases along and bringing finality for the loved ones of murder
"If you want the death penalty implemented in a reasonable amount of time,
you provide for adequate counsel," says Zimmerman, a former chief justice
of the Utah Supreme Court. "The money the state makes available is
'It's got to end'-----Survivors are fed up with delays----As death penalty
cases creep along, families of victims want justice
When justice grinds to a haltSome grew up without a mother. Some are
growing older without their sisters.
Others have raised kids who never had a chance to know their grandmother,
who likely would have delighted in seeing the youngsters mature into
And all of the survivors of the murder victims are tired of the appeals of
the killers who took their loved ones away.
"Every time there's a delay, there's more frustration," said Kim Salazar,
who has spent almost half her life without her mother, Joyce Yost.
Matt Hunsaker was only 10 when his mother died at the hands of Ralph Leroy
Menzies in 1986. His children, now 11 and 9, have missed out on knowing
"It's getting harder and harder to get to court," Matt Hunsaker said. "He
[Menzies] gets three hot meals and a place to stay and we go to a cold
cemetery to visit my mom."
As death penalty cases go nationwide, the ones in Utah are moving slowly
through the appeals process. Two of the matters, including Menzies', have
recently been halted because post-conviction lawyers say they are unable
to afford to do the work required and still make a living.
Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general who is opposing the
death-row prisoners' cases, suggested that the 2 condemned men represent
"The state at this point has a strong interest in finality," he said.
The families of the victims say they do, too.
Earlier this month, Gary Oleson sat through a hearing where 2 attorneys
asked to be relieved of representing Douglas Stewart Carter, who murdered
his mother almost 23 years ago. If the lawyers' request is granted,
Carter's case likely will stall while replacement legal help is sought.
After 2 sentencings - the first was overturned - Oleson is fed up.
"24 people convicted him to die," he said. "There's no point. It's just
costing taxpayers money. It's got to end."
Barbara Noriega, whose sister and mother were killed in 1990 by death-row
inmate Von Lester Taylor, agrees. Noriega wonders how different her life
would be with sister Kaye Tiede at her side and wonders if their mother
would still be with them, too. She said Taylor's execution may ease the
pain one day.
"I think any time justice is carried out, it can heal."
(source for both: Salt Lake Tribune)
More information about the DeathPenalty