[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MISS., NEV., CONN., WASH.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 17 02:12:04 CDT 2007
Berry asks Miss. court to delay execution
Earl Wesley Berry has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to delay his
scheduled Oct. 30 execution.
In an order signed this past week, Presiding Justice Bill Waller Jr. said
nothing prevents the court from setting the execution date.
However, in motions filed Monday, Berry said the Mississippi court should
reconsider because it ignored his challenge to the legality of lethal
injections, an issue now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Berry
contends that if the case is decided in a Kentucky inmate's favor, it
would affect his own death sentence appeal.
Also, Berry said the Mississippi court had ignored stays of execution that
it granted when the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of the
mentally retarded and juveniles.
Waller had said any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of
lethal injections would effect future death sentence cases, not existing
ones such as Berry's.
Berry was convicted and sentenced to death by a Chickasaw County jury for
the 1987 killing of Mary Bounds. Bounds was beaten to death after leaving
her weekly church choir practice, and her body was found just off a
Chickasaw County road near Houston, Miss.
Berry admitted to the killing, and the confession was used against him at
The U.S. Supreme Court case involves two Kentucky death row inmates' claim
that lethal injection as practiced in Kentucky violates the Constitution's
ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Every state that uses lethal injections - including Mississippi - employs
the same 3 drugs, but there are differences among the states in the way
the drugs are administered, training of executioners who administer them
and dosages, legal experts have said.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case early next year.
Robert M. Ryan, an attorney with the Mississippi Office of Capital
Post-Conviction Counsel and who represents Berry, said the Mississippi
court has delayed executions in past cases after issues have been accepted
by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Berry is asking this court for the same consideration," Ryan wrote in the
motion. "Absent a stay of execution, Berry's legitimate claim will not be
resolved prior to the unconstitutional administration of his lethal
Berry also asked the Mississippi court to remove the attorney general's
office from the appeal and appoint a special prosecutor.
Berry contended that comments made by Attorney General Jim Hood to the
news media about Berry show his office cannot be fair and unbiased.
Hood, in interviews on the Berry case, said the victim had been in his
mother's Sunday school class in Chickasaw County and that his office was
"going to do everything we can do to move forward" against Berry.
"Politics has no place in a fair and unbiased court system," Ryan wrote.
"Likewise personal associations have no place in the administration of
justice especially when violations of constitutional rights are at stake."
The attorney general's office has not yet filed a response to Berry's
(source: Associated Press)
A Reprieve in Nevada Adds to Lethal-Injection Drama----With Supreme Court
Taking On Issue, Some States Apply Brakes to Executions
An 11th-hour reprieve in Nevada last night for condemned murderer William
Patrick Castillo marked the latest victory for opponents of the death
penalty who do not regard lethal injection as the humane method of
execution that its supporters say it is.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the subject in
the coming months, and death penalty opponents plan to argue that the
3-chemical cocktail used by most of the 37 states that carry out lethal
injection immobilizes the condemned and hides the pain they experience
before they die. They say the process violates the Eighth Amendment's ban
against cruel and unusual punishment.
Under the procedure followed by most states, the condemned inmate is
strapped to a gurney, sedated with sodium thiopental, injected with
pancuronium bromide to collapse the diaphragm and lungs, and then
administered potassium chloride to stop the heart. Death penalty opponents
have argued for years that the procedure is a cold and painful way to kill
people, and that even veterinarians do not recommend it in the
euthanization of animals.
Condemned inmates are "alive all the way through the process, feeling pain
until the bitter end," said Lisa McCalmont, a lawyer and consultant to the
death penalty clinic at the University of California at Berkeley's law
State corrections officials say lethal injection is a sound,
scientifically tested and suitable alternative to the electric chair. They
assert that challenges to the method are often attempts by death penalty
opponents to end capital punishment. Still, several states have modified
lethal-injection protocols to address concerns raised in lawsuits.
The case before the Supreme Court originated in Kentucky, where inmates
Ralph Baze and Thomas C. Bowling, both convicted of double murders,
challenged the state's protocols, saying they violated federal and state
The court must now determine the effectiveness of the drugs used by
Kentucky, McCalmont said. With the high court set to hear the case, more
than a dozen courts, state commissions and governors have delayed lethal
injections. Among those waiting are Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, North
Carolina and California.
Nevada joined that list last night, as its Supreme Court postponed all
scheduled executions for the next 20 days. Castillo's death warrant is set
to expire at week's end.
"It's really wonderful," Nancy Hart, president of the Nevada Coalition to
End the Death Penalty, said after last night's court ruling. "This court
did not want to stand out there and be the only state to go ahead with an
Other states, such as Georgia, intend to go ahead with executions.
Nevada officials attempted to go forward with the Castillo case largely
because Castillo waived the remainder of his appeals and asked to die
rather than live on death row. The appeal that halted the lethal injection
was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of those who
witness executions and argued that the paralytic effect of the pancuronium
bromide creates a false impression of the event.
Even if the court ultimately agrees with opponents of lethal injection,
the opinion probably will not stop the method, many legal experts say.
Rather, they predict, the court will demand that the federal government
and states consider stricter and more uniform standards.
In the 30 years since lethal injection was first proposed in Oklahoma,
lawsuits have challenged the methods states have used to carry out the
punishment in the absence of specific federal regulations. Some have
accused the executioners of being poorly trained and unable to position a
"I think the thing that the Supreme Court has recognized is that different
states are applying different legal standards to the Eighth Amendment
claim about lethal injection, and people are living and dying based on the
differing application," McCalmont said. "Lethal injections can be
performed humanely, they just simply are not being performed humanely by
departments of correction."
A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said a
pharmacologist who was hired to review the state's lethal-injection
protocols after a court challenge found that the procedure does not
"unwontedly inflict unnecessary pain."
"That's what we stand by," said the spokeswoman, Michelle Lyons. "We would
stress that our method of execution is constitutional and does not pose a
substantial risk of pain."
Lyons said officials who administer the injections are medically trained
volunteers who must attend at least four executions as part of their
training before being allowed to participate. Lyons said the specifics of
their medical training is withheld to protect their identities.
Last month, the Supreme Court halted an execution in Texas by granting a
reprieve to Carlton Turner Jr., who was convicted of killing his adopted
parents 9 years ago. Turner and his lawyers asked the court to review the
constitutionality of the state's protocols.
About a week later, a Texas appeals court stayed the execution of another
convicted killer, Heliberto Chi, giving the state 30 days to explain why
the sentence should be carried out. Lawyers for Chi, who was convicted of
killing a store manager, argued that Texas injections are unconstitutional
because the chemicals paralyze the condemned as they slowly and painfully
Veterinarians are reluctant to weigh in on lethal injection. A spokesman
for the American Veterinary Medical Association said his group does not
take issue with state protocols for the procedure, but the organization
does not recommend anything similar in the euthanization of animals.
In a 2000 report, the association recommended using barbiturates to
depress the nervous system and inhalant anesthetics to stop breathing and
induce cardiac arrest. The use of other chemical agents on animals was
considered to be excessive, the spokesman said. The association attached a
caution to its report telling opponents and supporters of lethal injection
for condemned inmates that the recommendations have no bearing on the
The history of how the 3-drug combination came to be used is spelled out
in a lawsuit that delayed the scheduled execution of Michael Angelo
Morales in California.
30 years ago, an Oklahoma legislator "sought a cost-effective alternative
to fixing that state's broken electric chair," the California suit said.
The legislator turned to the state medical examiner, who had no experience
in lethal injections, but came up with a procedure that the lawmaker
A year later, the state legislature adopted the recommendations almost
verbatim: "An intravenous saline drip should be started in the prisoner's
arm, into which shall be introduced a lethal injection consisting of an
ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic."
(source: The Washington Post Company)
State justices halt inmate's execution
The Rev. Charles Durante of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Carson City
leads a group of more than 50 people in prayer Monday outside the Nevada
State Prison. Although death row inmate William Castillo was given a stay
of execution, the crowd continued to pray, sing and stand for peace. "We
stand here for peace, nonviolently, and for the end of the death penalty,"
Death row inmate William Castillo seemed "very disappointed" Monday night
that the Nevada Supreme Court canceled his execution about 90 minutes
before he was scheduled to have a lethal injection.
"He asked if it was possible to get more medication to calm him," Nevada
Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolink said of Castillo's
reaction. "He wanted something to take the edge off."
The court convened at 4 p.m. to hear arguments and about 7 p.m. stayed the
execution and gave the American Civil Liberties Union and the state
attorney general 20 days to file briefs regarding the ACLU's last-minute
request that the execution method is unconstitutional because the drugs
masks the inmate's reaction, denying news media the First Amendment right
to report the actual effects of the injection.
The ACLU petition came on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court review of the
constitutionality of lethal injection methods in a Kentucky case.
Lee Rowland, the ACLU coordinator in Northern Nevada and the lawyer who
argued the case, termed the decision "clearly correct legally and
"Now, we are charged with convincing the Nevada Supreme Court that this
stay should remain in place until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled," she
said. "This will put us in line with the rest of the country in awaiting
guidance from the court as to whether lethal injection is cruel and
Castillo, 34, who has been imprisoned since 1996, had declined to file
appeals of his own.
"The elderly relatives of the victims had hoped for closure, and they
didn't get it tonight," Skolink, who told media of the court's decision,
said at the prison in Carson City. "The inmate had prepared himself for
the execution, and now it will be at least 60 days before he's going to
know what happened to him."
Castillo was sentenced to death for the tire-iron beating of Isabelle
Berndt, 86, a teacher who lived in Las Vegas. His female accomplice is
serving a term of life with parole.
2 of Berndt's elderly relatives had driven to the prison, were told of the
cancellation and never went inside.
Skolink said Berndt's family said they were going to ask the state supreme
court and ACLU for their travel expenses for a "trip that need not have
Castillo family members were not at the prison Monday night.
About 50 people chanted in protest against the death penalty. Some carried
signs that said: "Every Human Life is Sacred," "Why Do We Kill People Who
Kill People to Show that Killing People is Wrong?" and "We Remember and
Pray for Isabelle."
Earlier, Castillo had taken a Valium to calm his nerves, talked on the
phone with his family and had his last meal: a cheeseburger, a half gallon
of Dreyer's pralines and almond ice cream and three root beers.
Skolink said Castillo was in a pleasant mood with the staff and felt bad
for asking for an additional piece of cheese on his burger, which he got.
The food was prepared by prison staff.
The protesters huddled across the street from the prison, holding candles
near parked police cars. The Rev. Charles Durante of St. Teresa of Avila
Catholic Church in Carson City read a history of Castillo's legal case and
said that he had suffered abuse as a child.
"What else?" Durante asked the group. "We need to take the energy we have
that made us come out here and move it to work for change. Send an e-mail
to your legislators or our brilliant governor. We don't want this in our
"We don't need the death penalty."
The stay pleased the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which
filed a separate last-minute petition to block Castillo's execution and
one of another death row inmate, Pedro Rodriguez, who has a pending
appeal. Coalition President Nancy Hart said it didn't matter that Castillo
wanted to die and wasn't fighting his death sentence.
"In general, our focus is on the process," she said. "It's about
unconstitutionality, not about what he wants to do."
Hart attended the court hearing and said the justices did not explain
"I'm sure (Castillo) had a hard day and is not happy we intervened against
his wishes, but it's important for people to follow the law and
Constitution," she said. "It's not about him. It's not about what he
wants. After he gets over his disappointment, I hope he appeals."
Also standing in the cold protesting the death penalty was Sister Marie
McGloin of St. Teresa of Avila and Ruth Gordon. They said they knew it was
possible the execution could be stayed before they arrived to protest.
"We as a state need to look at what we're doing," Gordon said. "I wouldn't
want life in prison, and it was a horrible crime, but that doesn't mean we
have a right to assist his suicide."
McGloin said killing Castillo would not bring back his victim.
"Why are we killing people to show that killing people is wrong?" Gordon
asked. "Why don't we get it?"
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Sept. 25 to take a hard look at the method
of lethal injection most states use. The high court will hear a challenge
early next year from 2 inmates in Kentucky who claim that lethal injection
as practiced by that state amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in
violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Executions in at least 10 states have been halted as a result of the
litigation over lethal injections.
The injections, devised as a humane alternative to electrocution and the
gas chamber, have come under attack in recent years amid reports that the
3-drug cocktail doesn't always work as quickly as intended and that
inmates are subjected to excruciating pain before they die.
Nevada's lethal injection formula includes sodium thiopental, a "downer"
that would have made Castillo unconscious and can cause death, followed by
pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant that paralyzes the lungs, and a 3rd
chemical, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
In the ACLU's petition, Rowland said the doubling of the pancuronium
bromide would make Castillo look serene -- and that's a violation of a
constitutional First Amendment right of reporters and other witnesses to
observe the actual effects of an execution.
The violation occurs because the person getting the injection "portrays a
look of serenity regardless of what the inmate is actually experiencing,"
Castillo worked on a roofing job at Berndt's home and found a hidden house
key. He and a female companion returned, burglarized the home and murdered
Castillo set the home on fire to destroy evidence, but he later admitted
the murder to a co-worker and confessed to police. His companion in the
burglary and murder was Michelle Platou, now serving a life term with the
possibility of parole.
12 men, all but 1 of whom refused appeals, have been executed in Nevada
since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for capital punishment to
resume in 1976.
Daryl Linnie Mack, 47, was the last man to die in Nevada by lethal
injection. He was executed April 26, 2006, for the rape and murder of a
Reno woman -- a crime he denied committing. Mack was the first Nevada
convict to be executed based solely on DNA evidence. He also was the first
black convict to be executed in Nevada since capital punishment was
(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)
Nevada court stays execution of murderer at 11th hour
The execution of a convicted murderer in Nevada was stayed at the 11th
hour on Monday after an appeal by rights groups over the method of lethal
injection to be used.
William Castillo had been due to be executed at 8:30 pm (0330 GMT) but was
spared following a last-ditch legal bid by the American Civil Liberties
Union to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The ACLU petition argued that one of the lethal drugs due to be pumped
into Castillo was so potent that it made it impossible to determine if the
recipient was in pain when the execution was carried out.
"We're obviously delighted that the court has made the right decision,"
said ACLU attorney Lee Rowland, who presented oral arguments to the court.
"It's not only legally correct, it's also morally correct."
Under the terms of the order, the ACLU must present further arguments to
the court within 20 days for a full review of claims made in their
petition, Rowland told AFP.
Castillo, 34, was sentenced to death for beating an 86-year-old Las Vegas
woman to death with a tire iron during a burglary in 1995. He had not
sought to appeal the death sentence.
However rights groups had argued that the method of execution due to be
used on Castillo made it impossible to gauge whether or not he was
It followed months of nationwide controversy over lethal injections, the
most commonly used execution method in the US.
On September 25 the Supreme Court said it would sit to determine the
constitutionality of lethal injections, examining the cases of 2 men on
death row in Kentucky.
Executions in several states across the US have been postponed pending the
Supreme Court hearing, which is expected in early 2008.
During execution by lethal injection, 3 drugs are administered to the
condemned person: 1 to sedate him, 1 to paralyze him, and 1 to stop the
However, there is no national protocol for administering the drugs and it
is not always done by a medical professional.
While the prisoner may appear calm, several studies and botched executions
have shown that death may in fact be prolonged and quite painful.
A 2005 study showed only small amounts of sedatives in the bodies of the
condemned, leaving open the possibility that they were awake when the
other 2 medications were injected.
In Florida in December, Angel Nieves Diaz, his eyes wide open, grimaced
and shook for more than 30 minutes before finally suffering convulsions
Authorities later found that the needles were inserted too far and the
lethal cocktail was injected outside his veins.
The high court has never ruled on a particular method of execution.
Instead, under legal challenge, states that used gas chambers, hanging or
electric chairs switched to lethal injection.
(source: Agence France Presse)
Jury gives death penalty to Peeler
Russell Peeler Jr. should get the death penalty for ordering the execution
of a city woman and her young son eight years ago, a Superior Court jury
Peeler showed little emotion as the jury of 6 men and 6 women announced
its verdict. Sitting at the defense table scratching his right leg, Peeler
turned to his three lawyers and asked, "Do we have to go through all
Peeler will be sent to death row for orchestrating the killing of Karen
Clarke and her 8-year-old son, Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr., in 1999 at the
hands of his younger brother, Adrian. The murders took place a few days
before the boy was to testify as a witness against Peeler in another
Judge Robert Devlin Jr. continued the case for sentencing at a date to be
determined, but by law he must impose the jury's verdict on Peeler.
Following the verdict, State Police, several armed with assault rifles,
escorted the van that carried Peeler, 35, from the courthouse.
"On behalf of the people of the state of Connecticut I would like to
express my appreciation to the 12 courageous jurors who decided this
case," said State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, who with Senior Assistant
State's Attorney Joseph Corradino, tried the case for the state. "Our
thoughts remain with the family of Karen and B.J."
The victims' family said the verdict finally brings them closure.
But Peeler's lawyer, Jeffrey Beck, said there will be an appeal.
"Obviously we are disappointed with the verdict. Mr. Peeler is upset, but
he looks forward to his appeal and we will take it from there," he said.
"God have mercy!" juror Charles McKissick cried after he and 11 other
jurors delivered the verdict.
"I was very upset," McKissick said later. "I was thinking about the young
man and I was asking God to have mercy on his soul."
Peeler was convicted in 2000 of ordering his brother Adrian to kill Clarke
and B.J. on Jan. 7, 1999, in their Earl Avenue home. The boy was scheduled
to testify against Peeler for his role in the 1998 murder of Clarke's
fianc, Rudy Snead, in a Boston Avenue barbershop.
Peeler was convicted of 2 counts of capital felony, but the jury in 2000
deadlocked on whether he should get the death penalty. The state Supreme
Court later ordered that another death penalty hearing should be held with
a new jury.
During the 16-day hearing, Benedict and Corradino presented a condensed
version of the case used to convict Peeler. Among their 38 witnesses was
Josephine Lee, a crack-addicted prostitute who lived across the street
from the victims.
She testified Peeler gave her a handful of crack cocaine to let him know
when the boy and his mother were home. On the evening of Jan. 7, 1999, she
called Peeler after she spotted the victims arrive home after going to a
local supermarket. A few minutes later, Lee testified, Adrian Peeler
arrived at her house.
Lee said she knocked on Clarke's door, and when she opened it, Adrian
Peeler rushed into the house. Lee tearfully related that Peeler killed
Clarke as her wounded son screamed for his mother and then shot the boy in
Russell Peeler's former cohorts in his drug ring testified Peeler
repeatedly told them he was going to kill B.J. to prevent him from
The prosecutors had to prove 3 so-called aggravating factors: Was
Josephine Lee paid for her part in the crime; was B.J.'s murder carried
out with the intention of also killing his mother, and were the murders
carried out in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner?
Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Monday, the grim jurors filed out of the
deliberation room, the foreman holding the 19-page jury verdict form. The
foreman handed the form to a judicial marshal who handed it to Judge
Devlin. As the judge leafed through the verdict form, his face did not
betray the jurors' recommendation. He then handed it down to clerk Thomas
St. John, who read the verdict aloud.
In the verdict form, the jurors checked that the aggravating factors had
been proved against Peeler. The jury also was asked to determine whether
any statutory mitigating factors exist: Was Peeler only an accessory in
the crime and his role minor; or could he not have foreseen that the
gunman would actually kill the victims? Neither was proved, the jury
The jury was asked by the defense to consider so-called non-statutory
mitigating factors. The major one was that Adrian Peeler, the shooter, was
convicted only of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 20 years in
prison for the crime. Others included that Peeler is loved by his 3
children and the claim that he was upset as a child when he learned his
father had an affair with a white woman.
In the verdict form, the jury checked that it had found one of these
mitigating factors, but that it was outweighed by the aggravating factors.
"It is therefore, persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that death is the
appropriate punishment on this count," the verdict form stated.
After the verdict was read, Peeler's lawyers asked the judge to poll the
jury. Each juror, called by name, firmly agreed with the verdict when
asked by the judge.
The jury was then sent back into the deliberation room to await the judge.
(source: Connecticut Post)
Election 2007----Few cases warrant death penalty, candidates say
In 2003, in a SeaTac motel room, Dan Satterberg, Norm Maleng, King County
Sheriff Dave Reichert and a victims' advocate met with the families of 44
women slain by Gary L. Ridgway, the Green River killer.
Maleng, the King County prosecutor, had decided against seeking the death
penalty, and wanted to explain it to the families. Under the plea deal,
Ridgway would admit to 48 killings and lead authorities to the remains of
4 victims whose bodies had not been recovered.
"At the end of spending time with all of these families, I was convinced
and remain convinced that this was the right thing to do in that case
because it was about finding justice for the victims of those crimes,"
said Satterberg, who was Maleng's chief of staff at the time. "And justice
was finally knowing the truth."
A prosecutor's weightiest decision is whether to seek the ultimate
sanction in a murder case. Satterberg, who has consulted with Maleng on
every death-penalty case in King County over the past 17 years, said he
would pursue the sentence only "when there is a complete absence of
He said death-penalty cases result in more than a year of pretrial motions
and can lead to decades of appeals. The sentence holds out false promises
to families of victims who "feel like they have to be for the death
penalty because that somehow is a measure of the value of the life that
was taken," he said.
"But we don't do it very well here in Washington," he said. "I want to be
realistic about the practical ramifications of seeking the death penalty.
I will be very conservative in how we apply it."
Satterberg's Democratic opponent, Deputy Prosecutor Bill Sherman, also
believes Maleng made the right choice in the Ridgway case.
Sherman said there are "troubling examples where DNA evidence has
exonerated people who have been sentenced to death, and we've seen cases
where the death penalty is applied in disparate ways across racial groups,
income levels and even geography."
He said he supports a gubernatorial moratorium on executions while those
imbalances are studied. But as a prosecutor obliged to apply existing law,
he said he would make death-penalty decisions on a case-by-case basis.
(source: Seattle Times)
More information about the DeathPenalty