[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----PENN., TENN., FLA., N.C., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 17 02:16:26 CDT 2007
Pa.'s Death Penalty----No return
Americans' uneasy majority support for the barbaric death penalty falters
- as well it should - when they learn that dozens of innocent people have
been sent to death rows across the country. For those citizens, their
approval of capital punishment relies upon an assurance that the death
penalty is applied fairly and, most of all, without running the horrific
risk that the wrong person could be executed.
Well, no such assurances can be made with any confidence, as demonstrated
by study after learned study. And the latest such scrutiny of capital
punishment hits home - in Pennsylvania.
The American Bar Association last week released a study highly critical of
the many well-known flaws in Pennsylvania's death-penalty system.
Due to those flaws, the ABA concludes that Pennsylvania runs the risk of
doing the unthinkable: executing an innocent person.
Having the bar association lend its voice to this cause could be critical
in prompting Harrisburg policymakers to act. At least, Gov. Rendell's
office said the state would review the ABA report.
Short of getting out of the execution business altogether, a moratorium on
the death penalty would be the next best step.
Of course, the governor and state lawmakers had good reason to enact a
moratorium long before now. How so? Because no fewer than five
Pennsylvania inmates who faced execution have been cleared in recent
years. Coupled with the fact that studies show death-row inmates are more
likely to be poor and minority, the state's capital-punishment system
clearly is broken.
Since Pennsylvania's death-penalty law was enacted in 1978, the only
inmates to be executed in the state were 3 men who voluntarily halted all
of their appeals. Yet the state continues to put people on death row. The
count is up to 228. The greater that number, the greater the risk of a
fatal mistake in a system full of shortcomings.
Among those shortcomings, one of the most crucial, said the ABA, is the
state's failure to assure uniform high standards for lawyers handling
death-penalty defenses, as well as adequate resources for court-appointed
counsel for indigent defendants.
In part, that requires spending tax money. A model would be the
Philadelphia public defender office, which has skilled death-penalty
litigators but is limited by its city funding to handling only 20 percent
of the city's death-penalty cases.
Among the dozen reforms the ABA suggests: more rigorous safeguards against
eyewitness errors and false confessions, and better steps to preserve DNA
evidence - all critical to separating the guilty from the innocent.
Credit the ABA for its leadership, as well as good timing: Nationally, the
death penalty is under intense scrutiny as never before.
The U.S. Supreme Court effectively halted executions when on Sept. 25 it
agreed to review the constitutionality of lethal injection. Previously,
the court outlawed executing minors and raised doubts about subjecting the
mentally ill to the death penalty.
Of course, the trouble with mounting an effort to remedy the flaws in the
capital-punishment system is that no set of remedies could guarantee
certainty in death-row cases. Meanwhile, the enormous costs of reform add
to the already huge cost to society of years of death-penalty case
appeals. As a police chief who sat on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study
Commission noted earlier this year, "a fair, accurate and effective system
doesn't exist." That's why the Garden State commission's compelling
recommendation was to repeal the state's death-penalty law.
The ABA report reminds us why Pennsylvania officials also should face up
to the death penalty as a failed crime deterrent and an affront to
American values of justice.
(source: Editorial, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Brother of The Unabomber' speaks out against death penalty
David Kaczynski will never forget the day his wife Linda nervously told
him she had a hunch his brother was a serial killer.
Following a series of bombings that caused three deaths and numerous
injuries over a 17-year span, "The Unabomber" published a manifesto that
ran in newspapers and on the Internet that railed against modern
technology. After checking with letters from his long-estranged brother
Ted, a Harvard graduate and former college professor living in a deserted
cabin in Montana, David realized it could be a match.
"I was stunned," said Kaczynski, the keynote speaker at a capital
punishment seminar held Monday at Kings College. "We shared the same
bedroom as kids, he was a good older brother. Had I really grown up with
an evil human being?"
After making the difficult decision to contact the FBI, David was later
described in media reports as one of the biggest snitches in history. Ted
has refused all communication with his family ever since.
But it was the attitude of law enforcement that sent David reeling.
Despite his brother's troubling history of mental illness in particular
paranoid schizophrenia prosecutors were aggressively seeking the death
penalty. Ted was ultimately given life in prison because he attempted
suicide during the trial, and his family waged a determined campaign.
"I felt betrayed. I really felt violated," David said. "It was daunting to
think I would have to go through the rest of my life with Ted's blood on
my hands. Killing in self-defense can be justified, but not killing in
judgment of another human being."
Now executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, Kaczynski
has spoken hundreds of times across the country to promote his message:
the death penalty is neither fair nor just.
"We're hoping people will listen and take his message to heart," said Pat
McCormick, board member of the Peace and Justice Center that sponsored the
event. "If you receive a life sentence without possibility of parole and
have to spend the rest of your life in a square cell, I would say that's a
worse punishment than death."
In recent years, public opinion has shifted against the death penalty
based on exorbitant costs and DNA testing that have exonerated prisoners
on death row more than anyone expected, said Kaczynski.
By the time every appeal is exhausted, Kaczynski added, an execution can
cost $250 million much higher than the cost of life imprisonment.
"You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its citizens on
the margins." said Ashlee Shelton, director of Pennsylvanians for
Alternatives to Death Penalty. "David Kacyznski's brother would have been
executed had it not been for his family."
(source: Citizen's Voice)
Lawmakers Begin Committee On Death Penalty----Lawmakers and others met at
Legislative Plaze Monday for a forum on the death penalty in Tennessee.
It was the inaugural meeting of a year-long legislative study committee.
The group is made up of lawmakers, defense attorneys, prosecutors and
victims' rights advocates.
Capitol Hill will spend a year investigating the issues surrounding the
death penalty, including fairness, the length of time between sentencing
and execution, and the appeal process.
At the end of the study, the committee will make a recommendation on the
status of the state's death penalty.
(source: WKRN News)
Author of Tennessee Death Penalty Statute Calls for Better Funding
Attorney David Raybin, who wrote Tennessee's death penalty statute when he
was a prosecutor, is urging lawmakers to adequately fund it.
At a meeting of a select committee on the death penalty yesterday, Raybin
told legislators that prosecuting capital offenses is a "luxury item" and
requires adequate funding for defendants.
Among recommendations Raybin made was studying where the bottlenecks exist
in the judicial system, noting executions follow convictions by an average
of 22 years in Tennessee.
4 convicts have been put to death since the state resumed executions under
the current statute in 1977.
However, a federal judge last month declared the method of lethal
injection to be unconstitutional. The state has appealed.
(source: Associated Press)
Author of state death penalty urges adequate defense funding
A former prosecutor who wrote Tennessee's current death penalty statute 30
years ago told a legislative panel Monday that prosecuting capital
offenses is a "luxury item" that requires adequate funding for defendants.
Attorney David Raybin's comments came as the panel of lawmakers, defense
attorneys and others convened for the 1st time to begin their study of the
use of the state's death penalty.
"After 30 years I can tell you categorically that the death penalty is a
luxury ... luxury item, something we want to have," Mr. Raybin said. "But
we want to do it right and just and fair. ... You need to be prepared to
pay for it and administer it in a uniform manner."
Mr. Raybin said polls show some 70 % of Americans back the death penalty.
Mr. Raybin recommended the state provide set amounts of funding for
services such as the hiring of private investigators by defense attorneys
instead of having to run individual expenditures through the judicial
system, including the state Supreme Court.
Other recommendations made by Mr. Raybin included:
* Requiring district attorneys general to share case file information with
defense attorneys in death penalty cases.
* Requiring confessions be tape recorded from "start to finish."
* Studying where bottlenecks are occurring in a capital-punishment system
where the average time between sentencing and execution is 22 years.
Former District Attorney General Al Schmutzer of Sevier County, Tenn., a
panel member who earlier clashed with criminal defense attorneys on the
panel, told Mr. Raybin that some of the issues he raised have a "lot of
Mr. Schmutzer noted that judges now oversee expenditures made by defense
attorney representing defendants in death penalty cases. Those discussions
are held outside the presence of prosecutors, which could generate
problems if other aspects of the case are discussed, Mr. Schmutzer said.
The 16-member panel was created this year by the General Assembly to make
recommendations designed to make capital punishment in Tennessee "uniform
in its application and administration so that the capital process is free
from bias and error."
Earlier, some panel members along with a representative of the Tennessee
Bar Association criticized Tennessee prosecutors' discretion in whether to
seek the death penalty.
Bill Ramsey of the bar association reviewed with members a study the
American Bar Association released in March that attacked Tennessee's
administration of the death penalty.
Mr. Ramsey said the study found "both a racial and a geographic disparity"
in who was sentenced to death. He said 44 percent of all death penalty
convictions came out of Shelby County with the "vast majority" being
The study found it more likely that the defendant would be convicted if
the victim were white, he said.
Tennessee Associate Deputy Attorney General Jennifer L. Smith, who heads
the state's capital case unit, said district attorneys general "base their
decision not only on a knowledge of the statute but a knowledge of their
district -- just a gut feeling about what cases are appropriate and what
cases are not."
She said others may take "a much more strict approach and just go strictly
by the statute and say, well, in this case, I see there are certain
Earlier, Sen. Dewayne Bunch, R-Cleveland, learned that a federal judge in
an East Tennessee case has not moved on a motion for 7 years.
"Seven years? That's impossible," said Sen. Bunch, an attorney.
Committee member Bill Reddick, an attorney specializing in death-penalty
appellate work, questioned whether prosecutors' measurement of community
reaction makes the decision to prosecute a "political decision."
"From the very beginning," said panelist Charles Strobel, of Murder
Victims Families for Human Rights, a death-penalty opponent whose mother
was murdered, "we have a discretion problem." But Verna White, executive
director of the victims' rights group You Have the Power, disagreed,
saying, "I don't really see that as a matter of discretion."
The group was founded by Gov. Phil Bredesen's wife, Andrea Conte, in 1993
following her kidnapping and successful escape.
Tennessee has executed four people since the death penalty was restored in
1977. But the state's system of lethal injection last month was declared
unconstitutional by a federal judge in a case involving a convicted
Chattanooga murderer on death row, Edward Jerome Harbison. The state is
appealing that ruling. (source: Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Verdict stands after botched analysis, judge says
A judge ruled Monday that death-row inmate Clemente Javier "Shorty"
Aguirre does not deserve a new trial, even though a fingerprint expert
botched her analysis and falsely told jurors his print was on the murder
Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr concluded that the jury would have convicted
Aguirre and recommended the death penalty even if it had never heard the
Aguirre, 27, was convicted by a Seminole County jury last year of
murdering 2 neighbors -- a wheelchair-bound woman and her adult daughter.
Carol Bareis, 68, and her daughter, Cheryl A. Williams, 47, were found
slain in their home near Altamonte Springs in June 2004.
At the trial, Seminole County fingerprint expert Donna Birks told jurors
that a palm print found on the murder weapon, a chef's knife discovered in
Aguirre's yard, belonged to Aguirre.
But that turned out to be false. Authorities reviewed more than 300
Sheriff's Office fingerprint cases after a co-worker in March complained
about Birks. They found 10 bad calls by Sheriff's Office print experts, 8
of those by Birks.
She resigned in June a few hours after being told she was about to be
That was the same day Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger announced a
major shakeup in the fingerprint lab.
4 of his fingerprint experts either made bad identifications or verified
bad calls by a colleague.
The Aguirre case was the highest-profile misidentification.
3 weeks ago, Aguirre returned to the Seminole Criminal Justice Center to
ask Eaton for a new trial.
Christina Barber, a print expert with the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement, testified that she looked at the knife from Aguirre's yard in
May, several months after he had been sent to death row.
The print on it, she said, had so little detail, it couldn't be tied to
anyone. Seven other FDLE print experts looked at it about the same time,
she said, and each agreed with her.
On Monday, the judge released a 13-page order saying none of that
mattered. The state's DNA and blood evidence linked only one credible
suspect to the scene -- Aguirre -- the judge wrote.
He also pointed out that Aguirre testified that he had touched the knife.
He told jurors he went into the victims' home after they already were
dead, saw the knife, picked it up and carried it outside, the judge wrote.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Man Gets Death Penalty For Leaving Girl, 5, To Be Eaten By Gators
The man accused of leaving a 5-year-old girl to be eaten alive by
alligators in the Everglades has been sentenced to death.
Harrel Braddy, 58, attacked Quatisha Maycock and her mother after he was
released early from prison in another case for good behavior. He was
convicted in July of 1st-degree murder, attempted murder, kidnapping,
attempted escape and other charges.
He was also sentenced Monday to three consecutive life terms on the
kidnapping and burglary with an assault charges. He also got 30 years in
prison on the attempted murder of the girl's mother, Shandelle Maycock, 15
years on child neglect causing great bodily harm and 5 years on attempted
Prosecutors said Braddy tossed Shandelle Maycock in the trunk of his car
on Nov. 6, 1998, and drove her to a remote sugarcane field, where he beat
and choked her to unconsciousness and left her to die. She survived the
attack, but never saw her child again, prosecutors said.
Maycock's daughter was found floating in a canal near Alligator Alley with
a fractured skull and one arm missing.
Prosecutors said the case took so long because Braddy manipulated the
legal system, firing 10 attorneys and receiving multiple continuances in
an attempt to avoid the death penalty.
14 years before he killed the 5 year old, Braddy had been charged with
attempted murder, robbery, escape, kidnapping, and armed burglary and
sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1997 because of good
behavior and an overcrowded prison system, serving less than half of his
sentence, prosecutors said.
(source: WPBF News)
Final arguments made in death penalty case
Jurors deciding Mario Lynn Phillips fate were given 2 reasons this morning
that he should be executed and 15 reasons to spare his life.
Prosecuting and defense lawyers made their closing arguments for and
against the death penalty to the jury this morning in the sentencing phase
of Phillips trial. He was convicted last week of killing four people and
setting fire to their trailer in the Carolina Lakes mobile home park in
In order for Phillips to get the death penalty, the jury has to reach a
unanimous conclusion that the arguments for execution outweigh the
arguments for leniency.
This jury convicted Phillips of first-degree murder in the Eddie Lynn
Ryals, Carl "C.J." Justice Jr., Joseph Allen Harden and Daryl Hobson.
Phillips was also convicted of the attempted murder of Amanda Cooke
Varner, who was stabbed and shot, but survived.
2 other people, Renee Yvette McLaughlin and Sean Maurice Ray, are accused
of assisting Phillips and are awaiting trial.
Prosecutor Peter Strickland described the crimes as "the case of a perfect
storm of intentional, planned violence and torture. The defendant"s
bloodlust led to every parent's nightmare: the death of a child, a son,
young teenagers. Young, 20-year-old boys."
Strickland said that Phillips, under the law, deserves the death penalty
The murders were committed to gain something of value. In this case,
Phillips and the others stole money, drugs and other property.
The murders were part of a course of violent conduct. Phillips and his
accomplices went into the house and over a period of one to two hours,
shot and beat the victims and had one of the accomplices, Ray, stab them
to make sure they were dead.
Defense lawyer Bruce Cunningham said 15 factors favor sparing Phillips
from the death penalty.
Some of these:
He was addicted to drugs and alcohol.
He has a low IQ, barely able to function in society.
He grew up in horrible conditions.
He had no history of violent crime before these murders.
"He has lost his freedom forever," Cunningham said. "The only choice that
you 12 people have, the only decision to be made is when he will die and
how he will die. You will decide whether or not at 2 oclock in the
morning he will be strapped to a gurney in Central Prison, wheeled into a
small room and killed."
(source: Fayetteville Observer)
Nichols funding dispute called 'classic showdown'
State officials even the governor could be held in contempt of court if
lawyers for courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols don't get adequate
funding, a death penalty expert said Tuesday.
For now, Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller has just ordered officials
with the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to court Monday to
explain why they shouldn't be held in contempt for not adequately funding
Mack Crawford, a former state representative who heads the council, told
Fuller this month the agency has suffered budget cuts and has no more
money for the Nichols case. Council officials say they have spent $1.5
million on Nichols and still have to represent all the state's poor and
capital defendants .
Michael Mears, the former head of the council, said he was never
threatened with contempt during his tenure: "It's pretty unprecedented."
If Fuller holds Crawford in contempt, he could fine the agency or even
In 1991, a Lincoln County judge tossed the entire county commission in
jail overnight for ignoring a judge's order to pay a $6,806 expense by a
defense lawyer. The commissioners were released after paying the attorney
representing Johnny Dee Jones, a death row inmate whose murder conviction
was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court.
But before Fuller finds Crawford in contempt, he would have to determine
that Crawford willfully ignored an order last week to give more money to
Nichols' attorneys. And Fuller has said during previous hearings he does
believe the council's claims that they're financially strapped after the
General Assembly cut their budget.
Nichols' attorneys say they have more than $150,000 in debts, are now
working without pay and can't afford to hire mental health experts,
investigators and paralegals.
The judge can't force state legislators to hand over more money, but he
can haul Gov. Sonny Perdue into court, said Mears, a veteran death penalty
expert who teaches law at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta.
"This is a classic showdown between the powers of government," Mears said.
"It's a major issue looming over the horizon."
In July, the Public Defender Standards Council was moved from the judicial
branch to the executive, putting it under the governor's authority in what
some call a power struggle to control indigent defense spending.
"The governor may have won the battle and lost the war," Mears said.
Perdue could be forced to use emergency funds to pay for Nichols' defense,
Veteran defense attorney Jack Martin said he believes the judge has
another option forcing the prosecution to drop the death penalty and
settle for a life sentence for the man charged with killing a Fulton
County judge, court reporter and two law enforcement officials in March
"The judge's ultimate trump card is dismissing the death penalty," said
Martin, who chairs the legislative committee for the Georgia Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "Then the state would have to make the
decision: If we really want the death penalty, we'll find the money some
Mears, however, believes only District Attorney Paul Howard has the
authority to withdraw the death notice.
Martin and Mears agree that the council doesn't have the money and that
Fuller won't continue Nichols' trial without proper funding.
Fuller is continuing jury selection through the end of the week. Tuesday,
three of six people questioned were cut from the jury pool due to their
views on the death penalty. More prospective jurors will be questioned
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The price for death----Nichols' trial moves forward, Fulton must brace to
pay more for his defense
Fulton County prosecutor Paul Howard has insisted that accused courthouse
killer Brian Nichols get the death penalty. That stance is likely to cost
the county's taxpayers dearly.
Georgia voters and the prosecutors they elect need to come to grips with
the high cost of capital crimes. The Nichols trial presents an
illustration of the complexities and economics of such cases.
When prosecutors spend millions to convict and execute a defendant, judges
overseeing the trial must balance the cost of the prosecution's efforts
against what the defense is able to spend. Howard secured a 54-count
indictment against Nichols and has more than 300 people on his witness
list. That makes it the largest and probably most costly death penalty
case in the history of the state.
Nichols, who was on trial for rape in March 2005, has been charged with
killing four people after he escaped custody, including a Fulton County
judge, a court stenographer, a Fulton County sheriff's deputy and a
federal agent. To prepare to defend their client, 4 lawyers working for
Nichols (one of them volunteering her time) have already spent $1.8
The state's indigent defense fund for capital crimes says it ran out of
money to pay them over the summer, leaving unpaid fees of about $150,000.
Fees for just the lead defense attorney could easily run $300,000 more,
according to legal experts which would put the defense costs well above
But if Judge Hilton Fuller denies or severely limits spending in Nichols'
case and it results in a missed opportunity to mount an effective defense
at trial or in sentencing the case could be overturned on appeal. That
would result in a retrial, which would increase the costs even more.
It is also true that Nichols' attorneys have used the cost of his defense
as a tactic to get Howard to take the death penalty off the table. Indeed,
over the summer when the attorneys were demanding more money from the
state, they asked the judge to order Howard not to seek the death penalty.
Instead, Fuller ordered the trial to proceed, potentially with Fulton
County picking up most of the additional costs. While some Fulton County
commissioners may balk at paying for it, the county must now step up to
The outcome of the trial itself seems in little doubt. The evidence
against Nichols is overwhelming. From the start, the case has centered
more on punishment than on proving guilt.
If Fulton County wants Brian Nichols to be executed, its taxpayers must be
prepared to spend the money the effort will take.
(source: Mike King, for the editorial board, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
More information about the DeathPenalty