[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ILL., N.Y., PENN., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 26 01:27:59 CDT 2007
Prosecutor weighing death penalty in killing of teacher
Services will be today in Centralia for a Marion County first-grade
teacher killed last weekend while she took a morning walk.
30-year-old Rita Cavaletto's alleged assailant, Neil Barrall, was charged
yesterday with 3 counts of murder in her death last Saturday.
1 of the counts carries a possible death penalty, and the county's
prosecutor says he's leaning toward seeking that against 27-year-old
Prosecutors say Barrall admitted purposely hitting the woman as she walked
near her home in Walnut Hill, then dragging her into the woods, repeatedly
kicking her in the head and sexually assaulting her. Barrall then
allegedly left but came back, stabbing the woman repeatedly.
He's jailed without bond.
Cavaletto's funeral will be at 11 o'clock this morning at Centralia's
Trinity Lutheran Church.P> (source: Associated Press)
Daley ignoring rising toll of rogue cops ---- Lawsuits costing city
millions better spent to protect kids
If Mayor Daley doesn't open his eyes, he's going to pay a high price for
protecting bad cops.
Already, there are rumblings in communities that are under siege by rogue
cops and armed teens that fixing these problems -- not snagging the
Olympics -- ought to be Daley's priority.
Almost daily, someone hits the jackpot because they have been abused by
police. The latest is a $2 million winner on a false-arrest claim. A jury
found Timothy Finwall, a Southwest Side man, was wrongfully arrested by
Chicago Police and charged with attempted kidnapping of a child.
Finwall was acquitted in a criminal trial. But this week, jurors in the
civil case found police "incorrectly" reported in documents that the child
identified Finwall when she hadn't.
Last week, the Police Department agreed to pay Coprez Coffie $4 million
when a jury found in Coffie's favor. The 23-year-old man claimed a police
officer shoved a screwdriver in his behind, while another watched, after
he was stopped and accused of having drugs.
And Tuesday, Wallace "Gator" Bradley was advising media that the city was
nearing a settlement -- expected in the range of $5 million -- in the
Aaron Patterson torture case. Patterson is a wrongly convicted former
Death Row inmate, pardoned by former Gov. George Ryan, who ended up in
prison again in a federal drug conspiracy case.
Enraged residents step up
Bradley, serving as Patterson's "urban translator," said he recently met
with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to push the House Judiciary
Committee to hold hearings to investigate police brutality here.
Bradley also persuaded U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) to intervene on
Patterson's behalf. Davis called the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to ask that
Patterson not be moved from the Metropolitan Correctional Center before
the settlement is struck.
"We do talk to the people in the Bureau of Prisons in these situations,"
Davis told me. "I wanted to provide the opportunity for Aaron to get that
[torture case] completed. The attorney needs to have access to him."
Meanwhile, while the city is paying millions to victims of police
brutality, children are being gunned down in the street by teens who are
in desperate need of costly intervention.
The latest victim, 14-year-old Samuel Benavente, was shot in the head
Sunday after he defended a friend from two boys who demanded the friend's
Last week, 10-year-old Arthur Jones was fatally shot when he was caught in
gang crossfire in the Englewood neighborhood. Lesean Jackson, 17, was
charged with 1st-degree murder in the shooting. Two other teens, a
14-year-old and Steven McCaskill, 17, have also been charged.
Monique Bond, a police spokeswoman, credited outraged Englewood residents
with helping police find the teens responsible for Arthur's murder.
The swift arrests reflect a willingness on the part of citizens in these
communities to give interim Chicago Police Supt. Dana Starks the benefit
of the doubt.
'No one was looking at this'
But Daley's explosive rant against 28 aldermen who are demanding the names
of police officers accused of repeated abuses undermines efforts to
rebuild the department's credibility.
The list of about 662 officers with 10 complaints or more includes some
who have had as many as 50 complaints against them, noted Craig Futterman,
a clinical law professor at the University of Chicago and author of a
soon-to-be released study about police brutality in Chicago.
"We're not talking about a department that is filled with corrupt
officers," Futterman pointed out. "Just 5 % had amassed 11 or more
complaints. But there were some who had over 50 complaints within the last
5 years and had never been disciplined, never been flagged.
"We also saw that abuse charges weren't spread evenly. There were abuse
complaints among groups of officers and victims who were from lower-income
black and brown communities," he said. "What was disheartening was that no
one was looking at this information and really didn't want to know."
So when Daley says it is "easy to criticize the police," he's putting the
blame on the wrong people.
Rogue cops have benefitted from a code of silence. Taxpayers have a right
to know who these cops are and why they are still on the street.
(source: Chicago Sun-Times)
Novelists Grisham, Turow share views on death penalty
Lawyer-novelists John Grisham and Scott Turow covered topics ranging from
the World Series to the death penalty at a discussion benefiting the
Center on Wrongful Convictions, a part of the Northwestern University
School of Law, on Wednesday night.
The audience of about 600 people was a mix of law school students from NU,
lawyers and center supporters. Tickets cost $50 for students and $100 for
The discussion centered on what led the 2 men to oppose the death penalty.
"Growing up the way I did in Mississippi, we all felt the death penalty
was biblical," Grisham told the audience. "Then, when I was researching (a
novel), I went to death row and talked to the inmates, the executioner and
the chaplain ... and became convinced that this wasn't what a civil
society should be doing."
Turow, who grew up in Chicago and attended Winnetka's New Trier Township
High School, also spoke passionately against the death penalty.
"The question isn't whether (dangerous people) exist. The question is
whether we'll ever develop a capital punishment system that will only deal
with those people and not the innocent people, and I came to the answer of
no," he said. "If you think it's such a good idea, go down there and push
the button yourself."
Many of the author's statements received applause from the audience.
Second-year NU law student David Kohn said he was impressed with the
speakers, especially Turow.
"It was a good discussion," he said. "One thing I noticed was, for
instance, Scott Turow was more thoughtful about his position than I
expected him to be."
Grisham also talked about his most recent book, "The Innocent Man." The
book focuses on the story of Ron Williamson, a man wrongfully convicted
and incarcerated on death row for 11 years, who came within 5 days of
being executed before being exonerated by DNA evidence.
"When you sit in prison in Oklahoma and talk to 2 innocent men who've been
in prison for 25 years and will never get out, it stays under your skin,"
Grisham said. "You think 'What a waste.'"
The 2 men also discussed possible reforms to the criminal justice system.
Turow served on the Illinois Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment,
which made 85 recommendations to the state legislature for reforms to the
death penalty system, 1/2 of which were adopted.
But Turow said he is still not satisfied with the system.
"We should be very proud of the reforms that have been enacted," he said.
"But... doubts about the system persist."
The Center on Wrongful Convictions was involved in these reforms as well.
The center, staffed by several lawyers but relying on the work of many NU
law students, actively defends clients who it feels have been wrongly
"Their lives could not be in better hands," said Steven Drizin, the
center's legal director.
The center was launched at NU in 1999 and has represented more than 1/4 of
the 45 individuals exonerated in Illinois since its establishment.
Illinois has exonerated more wrongfully convicted prisoners than any state
in the country, said John Levi, a member of the center's advisory
Pictures of "The Exonerated" were displayed on big-screen televisions
prior to the discussion. Many of them were in attendance and recognized by
The night also included the presentation of the Center on Wrongful
Convictions' Jenner & Block Award to Illinois State Appellate Defender
Theodore A. Gottfried for his lifetime work in improving the criminal
"It is a privilege to receive this award from Northwestern University,"
Gottfried said. "The fine work (the center) is doing here is so important
for the justice system."
(source: The Daily Northwestern)
No to the death penalty
It was the politics of the moment, and the politics of vengeance, that
prevailed in 1995 when the state Legislature voted, at the urging of a
brand new governor, George Pataki, to reinstate the death penalty.
It was, as well, shoddy legislative work that prevailed, leaving New York
with such a constitutionally flawed law that in every case before it, the
state's highest court has had no choice but to overturn a death sentence.
The Court of Appeals did so again on Tuesday, leaving New York without
either a single person on death row or a capital punishment law in place.
The court stood by a 2004 ruling that said the death penalty law unfairly
requires judges to tell jurors that if they deadlocked, the court would
sentence a capital murder defendant to life in prison but with the
possibility of parole. That provision might have made jurors more inclined
to impose a death sentence, rather than face the risk of allowing a
convicted killer to again roam the streets.
"The death penalty sentencing statute is unconstitutional on its face and
it is not within our power to save the statute," the court wrote in a 4-3
"The Legislature, mindful of our state's due process protections, may
re-enact a sentencing statute that is free of coercion and is cognizant of
a jury's need to know the consequences of its choice," the decision
Why, though, would it want to do so?
Why would the Legislature want to begin anew the long march toward the
revival of state-sanctioned execution when judges otherwise retain the
power to impose the just as harsh and just as effective sentence of life
in prison without the possibility of parole?
John Taylor, whose death sentence was vacated by Tuesday's decision, will
now be resentenced to such a severe yet humane punishment for his role in
the 2000 massacre of seven people at a Wendy's restaurant in Queens.
And why would the people of New York want this Legislature in particular
to craft a death penalty law that could withstand all the inevitable
challenges? That's to ask for lawmakers to confront some haunting moral as
well as practical circumstances of a penalty applied inconsistently, quite
possibly under racially discriminatory circumstances.
More troubling still would be the possibility of wrongful convictions
leading to wrongful executions. A study released last week by the
Innocence Project found that seven people wrongfully convicted of murder
in New York have been exonerated by DNA-based evidence since 2000.
The Legislature can best address the ramifications of such a sweeping
court ruling by doing nothing. The Assembly held hearings on the death
penalty in 2005, just a year after a previous and decisive ruling by the
Court of Appeals, and heard from 170 witnesses.
"I believe the death penalty is over in New York," says Kevin Doyle of the
Capital Defender Office, which coordinates the defense of all the state's
potential death penalty cases.
Here's hoping, in the interest of justice and fairness, that he's right.
THE ISSUE: The state's highest court leaves New York without a capital
THE STAKES: The Legislature would do best to leave well enough alone.
(source: Editorial, Albany Times Union)
New York State's death penalty dead
Really, most sincerely dead
New York's top court shoveled dirt atop the now dead death-penalty law
Tuesday, when it ruled that John Taylor, the only person still on death
row in the state, cannot be executed. The law is unconstitutional. The
court said so in 2004, and the Assembly is, fortunately, not of a mind to
resurrect it. May it rest in peace.
(source: Editorial, Newsday)
Jury to consider death penalty today
Florence Pokorny was sobbing even before an Allegheny County jury
convicted a Knoxville man of murdering her son.
"I want my son back," she whispered Wednesday after a deputy sheriff
handed her tissues to wipe away her tears.
Today, jurors will begin to determine whether Leslie Mollett, 32, should
be put to death by lethal injection for fatally shooting state police Cpl.
Joseph Pokorny, 45, during a Dec. 12, 2005, traffic stop in Carnegie.
Mollett, who was convicted of first-degree murder, took the verdict
stoically. Many of Pokorny's relatives, including his teenage daughter,
broke down in tears.
An entourage of uniformed state troopers escorted the Pokorny family from
the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole and walked them to
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Deputy District Attorney Mark
V. Tranquilli said they will not comment until after the trial's penalty
Mollett's mother, Brenda Banks, left the courtroom as soon as the verdict
was read. His relatives, many of whom collapsed in the hall crying,
Defense attorney John Elash railed against the state police presence in
and around the courtroom.
"I think it's typical of this era when there was obvious subliminal
intimidation in this trial," he said. "I don't blame the jury for what
they did. I'm concerned they could not help but be affected by the
intimidation of the state police."
The jury of 8 men and 4 women, which is sequestered for the death penalty
phase, deliberated about eight hours over 2 days before returning the
verdict on the 17th day of the trial. Tranquilli called 67 witnesses and
presented 337 exhibits.
At least 6 people were arrested during the trial, including a North Side
man yesterday who was accused of trying to intimidate the jurors by
telling them to find Mollett not guilty.
Elash called only one defense witness, a criminalist who disputed the
prosecution's theory that Pokorny was kneeling with his hands in the air
when he was shot a 2nd time. Elash said he chose not to put Mollett on the
stand because he didn't want to give Tranquilli the opportunity to
"Les only has a 10th-grade education, and he's not as articulate as some,"
Elash said. "We admit he was in a fight with the trooper. I thought there
was enough doubt that he was shot by someone else -- Jabbar James or Phil
Peterson. The fact that (Pokorny) was shot from an angle shows he was shot
by someone else."
James and Peterson testified that they were riding with Mollett the night
of the shooting after partying at a Downtown nightclub.
Pokorny, a 22-year state police veteran who lived in Moon, attempted to
pull them over for speeding on the Parkway West when Mollett hit the gas.
He eventually wrecked his Mercury on a snowbank in the parking lot of the
ExtendedStay America hotel in Carnegie, police said.
In his closing statement Tuesday, Tranquilli argued that Mollett, who was
on parole from a drug conviction, had a Glock pistol and heroin in his
possession -- both parole violations.
James and Peterson told police in taped statements that they ran away when
Mollett started to fight with the trooper.
To get the death penalty, Tranquilli must prove aggravating circumstances
of the shooting, something he has tried to show through what he calls an
A prosecution expert testified during the trial that Pokorny dropped to
his knees as if to surrender after the 1st shot that pierced both lungs,
his windpipe and carotid artery.
The last person sentenced to death in Allegheny County was Kenneth
Hairston, 56, of Garfield on April 18, 2002. Hairston bludgeoned his wife
and 14-year-old autistic son and set their home on fire.
Lisa Middleman, of the public defender's office, will represent Mollett in
the death penalty phase.
"Obviously, (Mollett) was hoping for something better than a 1st-degree
murder conviction," Elash said. "I hope Lisa Middleman can save his life."
(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
'I spend my days preparing for life, not for death'
The former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent 25 years on death row
in the United States - despite strong evidence that he is innocent. In his
first British interview, he talks to Laura Smith about life in solitary,
how he has remained politically active, and why the Panthers are still
SCI Greene County Prison on the outskirts of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania,
sits low in the rural landscape so that it's easy from the restaurants and
petrol stations on the main road to miss the barbed wire coiled in endless
circles. Inside, the plush leather chairs that squat on shiny floors make
it feel more like a private hospital than a maximum security institution.
But the black men in prison jumpsuits cleaning the floor, eyes downcast,
dispel any such illusions. Signs spell out the rules: no hoods, no
unauthorised persons, only $20 in cash allowed.
Death row - or at least the visiting area - is a curiously ordinary place.
A central waiting room where a guard watches the goings-on. Institutional
doors opening on to small boxes, each furnished with a table and chair.
But then, inside the visiting room, there is the shock of a grown man in
an orange jumpsuit, his hands cuffed, the space small enough for him to
reach out and touch both walls. And between us a layer of thick,
Mumia Abu-Jamal has lived at SCI Greene since January 1995. Convicted and
sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of a police officer in his home
town, Philadelphia, he spends his days in solitary confinement, in a room
he has described as smaller than most people's bathroom. When I arrive, he
puts his fist to the glass in greeting. He is a tall, broad man with
dreadlocked hair, still dark, and a beard slightly greying at the edges.
He has lively eyes.
It is hard to know how to begin a conversation with Abu-Jamal, revered for
his activism around the world as much as he is reviled as a cop killer by
some in his home country. He is careful about who he agrees to see and
rarely talks to the mainstream media - this is the first time he has
granted an interview to a British newspaper. We start with the basics -
the everyday restrictions of prison life. Visits: one a week - though it
is difficult for his family to make the 660-mile, 11-hour round-trip from
Philadelphia. Money: a stipend of less than $20 (10) per month. Phone
calls: three a week lasting 15 minutes each - but a quarter of an hour to
Philadelphia costs $5.69 (2.77).
This being Abu-Jamal, a campaigning journalist who has written five books
about injustice while in prison, it is not long before we are on to the
bigger questions: why SCI Greene, which takes most of its 1,700 inmates
from Philadelphia, was built "the farthest you can be from Philly and
still be in the state of Pennsylvania". "I believe it is intentional," he
says. "I could count the times on my hand when I have seen this whole
visiting area full." And why Global Tel Net, the firm that provides the
prison phone calls, is allowed to charge so much of people who have so
little. His conclusion is characteristically pithy: "The poorest pay the
Abu-Jamal has eight children, the eldest of whom is 38, and several
grandchildren. How does he keep in touch? "Some grandchildren I have not
seen. That's difficult. You try to keep contact through the phone, you
write. I send cards that I draw and paint. To let them know the old man
still loves them." Abu-Jamal's father William died when he was 9; his
mother Edith died in February 1990 - eight years after he was imprisoned.
He goes very quiet telling me this, and there doesn't seem much point
asking how it felt not to be able to sit with her at the end.
Abu-Jamal has been locked up since he was 27. He is now 53. The story of
how he ended up here has been told often. As a teenager he had been active
in the Black Panther party but by 1981, with most of the party's leaders
either dead or in jail, he had become a well-respected radio reporter and
president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Black
Journalists. Radio journalism was not well paid, however, and Abu-Jamal
supplemented his income by driving a taxi at night.
In the early hours of December 9 1981, he was out in his cab when he saw
his brother, Billy Cook, being stopped by a police officer, Daniel
Faulkner. A struggle ensued, during which Cook says Faulkner assaulted
him. Abu-Jamal got out of his cab. Minutes later, Faulkner had been shot
dead and Abu-Jamal was slumped nearby with a bullet wound to the chest,
his own gun not far away.
At his trial in 1982 it appeared an open and shut case. A former Black
Panther with a history of antipathy towards the police (although no
criminal record). A white police officer dead. A succession of
eye-witnesses who testified that Abu-Jamal was the killer. And the icing
on the cake: a confession made by Abu-Jamal himself at the hospital where
he was taken for treatment.
But some inconvenient facts were obscured: Abu-Jamal's gun was never
tested to see whether it had been fired; his hands were never swabbed to
establish whether he had fired it; and his gun's bullets were never
solidly linked to those that killed Faulkner. The crime scene was never
Of the 3 witnesses, 1 has since admitted to lying under police pressure,
another has disappeared amid evidence that she too was under duress, and
the 3rd initially told police that he had seen the killer run away, but
changed his story. Evidence from others who said they saw a 3rd man
running away was played down.
Evidence of Abu-Jamal's confession was equally shaky. Although two
witnesses testified to hearing him shout, "I shot the motherfucker and I
hope the motherfucker dies", the doctors who treated him insist that his
medical condition made such a thing impossible. Neither of the two police
officers who claimed to have heard the confession reported it until more
than 2 months after the shooting - after Abu-Jamal had made allegations of
being abused by police during his arrest. On the contrary, one noted in
his log at the time that "the negro male made no comment" in hospital.
The trial judge, Albert Sabo, was a former member of the powerful police
union, the Fraternal Order of Police, known to favour prosecutors. He
overturned permission Abu-Jamal had obtained to represent himself,
excluded him from much of his own trial, and presided over jury selection
in which the majority of black candidates were removed. A court
stenographer overheard Sabo telling a colleague: "I'm going to help them
fry the nigger."
There were other irregularities, so many that Amnesty International
concluded in 2000 that the trial was "in violation of minimum
international standards", adding, "the interests of justice would best be
served by the granting of a new trial to Mumia Abu-Jamal".
In the 25 years since, Abu-Jamal has appealed against his conviction many
times, and many times has had his pleas rejected. He has had two dates set
for his execution, only for them to be overturned by legal pressure. He is
now awaiting the outcome of his latest appeal; this time by the second
highest court in the US. His lead lawyer, Robert R Bryan, describes it as
"the first time in 25 years that Mumia has had a chance at a free and fair
trial". Abu-Jamal is more circumspect. "I have learned not to do
predictions," he says. "It's not helpful, psychologically. I don't sit and
fret about things."
Instead, he spends his days writing about prison life and social struggles
around the world. He takes reams of notes from books sent in by
supporters, so that he can refer to them when they are taken away (he is
allowed only seven in his cell). "I confess, I am a nerd," he says,
laughing. He uses his weekly phone calls to record radio commentaries that
are broadcast around the world.
Then there are the speeches he records - he spoke at the World Congress
Against the Death Penalty this year and the Million Man March in 1995 -
the cards he paints for his family, and his drawing. He is currently
working on his sixth book, Jailhouse Lawyers, about those prisoners who,
like himself, help prepare legal cases with other inmates. He uses a
beaten-up typewriter; he has never seen a computer. Asked about the work
of which he is proudest, he cites his 2004 book, We Want Freedom, a
history of the Black Panther party.
Abu-Jamal spends 22 hours a day alone in his cell - except at weekends,
when it's 24. For 2 hours between 7am and 9am every weekday he has the
option of going out into the yard - or "cage", as he prefers to call it.
It is 60ft square and fenced on all sides, including overhead. Because
"air is precious", he rarely refuses, but not everyone takes up the offer.
"People have different ways," he says. "I know some guys who play chess
for hours and hours, shouting the moves between cells. Some guys argue
with other guys. Some guys used to enjoy smut books, but they've stopped
those now. A lot of guys don't come out. I think it's depression. You get
tired of seeing the same old faces. The role of television is the illusion
of company, noise. I call it the fifth wall and the second window: the
window of illusion."
Many of the younger prisoners call him "papa" or "old head" and it is
clear that he is touched. "When you are out in the yard, it's dudes
joshing," he says. "Guys being guys, playing ball. You have this
machismo." One of the things that seems to keep him going are these
relationships with other guys in "the hole". Many of them have inspired me
and taught me ... about how things are on the street now, how young people
are talking and walking."
I ask how prison has changed him. "In ways I could not have imagined," he
says. "It has made me immensely patient. I was not before. It has given me
an introspection that I hadn't had before, and even a kind of compassion I
hadn't had before."
In Abu-Jamal's company, it is easy to forget that you are inside prison
walls. As he talks, one is pulled into a world of urgent work that needs
doing, of debates to be thrashed out, of injustices to be tackled. With
characteristic eloquence, he calls Hurricane Katrina "a rude awakening
from an illusion", watching television "a profoundly ignorising
experience" and observes that much commercial hip-hop contains "no
distinction, except in beat and tone, to a Chrysler advert". "If the
message is, I am cool because I am rich, and if you get rich, you can be
cool like me, that's a pretty fucked-up message." On American politics, he
is damning. "You would think that a country that goes to war allegedly to
spread democracy would practice it in its own country."
Born Wesley Cook in the Philadelphia projects, he adopted the name Mumia
as a 14-year-old (later adding Abu-Jamal - "father of Jamal" in Arabic -
when his first son was born). The following year, aged just 15, he helped
found the Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther party after being
handed a copy of their newspaper in the street. "I was like, whoah," he
says. "It just thrilled me. I was like, this is heaven. This is great.
Everything. It was the truth. Uncut, unalloyed. It was everything. It fit
He spent long days helping with party activities, which included free
children's breakfast programmes and the monitoring of police, whose
corruption at that time has since become notorious (at least 1/3 of the
officers involved in Abu-Jamal's investigations have since been found to
have engaged in corrupt activities, including the fabrication of evidence
to frame suspects).
Mostly, as the party's lieutenant of information, he wrote, gathering
stories for The Black Panther, the party's newsletter. "It was great fun,"
he remembers now. "You worked six and 7 days a week and 18 hours a day for
no pay ... When I tell young people that now they are like, what was that
last part? Are you crazy, man? But because we were socialists we didn't
want pay. We wanted to serve our people, free our people, stop the
homicide and make revolution. We thought about the party morning, noon and
night. It was a very busy but fulfilling life for thousands of people
across the country. We were serving our people and what could be better
Subject to relentless disruption by the FBI's Counter Intelligence
Programme, which targeted radical and progressive organisations, and riven
by internal disagreements, the Black Panthers imploded in the early 1970s.
For Abu-Jamal it was a personal tragedy. "Despair," he says when asked how
it felt. "A profound despair."
He is adamant that the party's message is still relevant today. "Millions
of black people are more isolated in economic, social and political terms
than they were 30 years ago," he says. "I remember a photograph of an
elderly black woman (after Katrina) who had wrapped herself in the
American flag and I remember looking at it and being so struck by it.
Maybe she wasn't thinking visually, she was probably very cold and hungry,
but I couldn't help thinking, what does citizenship mean? Are you a
citizen if in the wealthiest country on earth you are left to starve, to
sink or swim, to drown at the time of the flood?"
If Abu-Jamal's latest appeal is successful he could be a granted a retrial
or have the death penalty overturned. If it is not, his execution could
quickly follow. He does not sound afraid. "I spend my days preparing for
life, not preparing for death," he says. "They haven't stopped me from
doing what I want every day. I believe in life, I believe in freedom, so
my mind is not consumed with death. It's with love, life and those things.
In many ways, on many days, only my body is here, because I am thinking
about what's happening around the world."
As we leave, people emerge from other visiting rooms into the central
area. There's a family with teenage children; a young mother whose little
daughter has spent much of our interview peeking through the door - to
Abu-Jamal's delight; a grandfather being pushed in a wheelchair. A mother
says to her children with a forced cheeriness: "That was a nice visit,
wasn't it? I'm sure glad we came."
We step outside into a perfect summer day. All I can think of is my last
view after saying goodbye to Abu-Jamal: a row of men, all black, standing
behind glass. Their hands cuffed, their faces smiling goodbye to their
families, their voices shouting greetings to each other. In a couple of
minutes, each man will trek back to a cell no bigger than your bathroom,
with no company but their own. But for now, just for now, there is the
sight of life. And they're drinking it in.
Killer still hopes to stop own execution----Judge denies Berry's attempt
to stave off death by lethal injection
Convicted killer Earl Wesley Berry continued Wednesday to seek other
avenues to halt his scheduled execution after U.S. District Judge Alan
Pepper refused to grant a stay.
Separate attorneys asked higher courts to stop his death by lethal
Berry is scheduled to die Tuesday. But his attorney, Jim Craig, asked the
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court's decision
that the execution proceed.
Another appeal was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently has
stopped executions in other states amid questions that lethal injection
amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Robert Ryan, head of the Mississippi Office of Capital Post Conviction
Counsel, asked the Supreme Court to halt the execution.
Their filings came on the same day that an Alabama death-row inmate was
granted a stay of execution by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The
decision reversed an order by a lower court.
"We're very encouraged (by that decision)," Craig said. The 5th Circuit
and 11th Circuit courts "tend to think a lot alike," he said.
At least a dozen states have stopped executions since the Supreme Court
agreed last month to review a Kentucky inmate's challenge to lethal
injection. Mississippi has not joined them.
At issue is whether the 3-drug mixture renders inmates unconscious before
they die from the drug-induced cardiac arrest.
Attorneys for Berry and 4 other death-row inmates said the procedure
causes unnecessary pain. Their lawsuit also alleges the state does not
properly train employees who administer lethal injections.
But Pepper ruled the Kentucky challenge does not affect Berry's execution.
"Until 'contrary guidance' is offered by the Supreme Court, this Court is
bound by precedent," Pepper wrote in his ruling.
Berry, 48, confessed to killing Mary Bounds. She was beaten to death in
1987 after leaving her weekly church choir practice, and her body was
found on a road in Chickasaw County.
The Mississippi Supreme Court and Gov. Haley Barbour have denied Berry's
appeals. Attorneys for the state argued in a Tuesday hearing that Berry
never has challenged lethal injection during his 19 years on death row.
However, Attorney General Jim Hood said the U.S. Supreme Court should
"send a signal" and decide whether Berry's execution should be halted.
"It's far better to wait," said Matt Steffey, a professor who teaches
criminal and constitutional law at Mississippi College.
"The governor and everyone else takes an oath to support and obey the
Constitution," he said. "If the governor or anybody else is on notice that
it may be unconstitutional, it seems to me their fidelity to the
Constitution would require them to wait."
Peter Wood, a criminologist at Mississippi State University, said, "We've
arguably moved in the direction of making (executions) less cruel and
Mississippi began administering lethal injections in the mid- 1980s after
years of using the gas chamber.
"For folks against the death penalty, any form of execution is cruel and
unusual," Wood said.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Corrections did not respond
to questions seeking information about the state's lethal injection
procedure and its training of employees administering the drugs. A
spokesman for Barbour referred questions to the Legislature.
The other inmates asking that their executions be halted are Alan Dale
Walker, Paul Everett Woodward, Gerald James Holland and Dale Leo Bishop.
Their appeals are still winding through the legal system.
(source: Clarion Ledger)
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