[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, ALA., MISS., MD., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 26 11:07:09 CDT 2007
Anti-execution march moves to Houston----Ex-death row inmates to take on
Harris County's sentencing record
Former death row inmates Clarence Brandley and Kerry Max Cook will be
keynote speakers Saturday at a Houston anti-death penalty march and rally
expected to draw protesters from throughout the state and nation.
Normally held in Austin, the march, now in its eighth year, was moved to
Houston to protest Harris County juries' record of leading the nation in
assessing death sentences, said event organizer Gloria Rubac. Since
executions were resumed 25 years ago, 102 killers from Harris County have
been executed; 122 remain on death row.
The March to Stop Executions will assemble at 2 p.m. at Emancipation Park,
3018 Dowling, then proceed to SHAPE Center, 3815 Live Oak, for a 3:30 p.m.
The theme of the event is "Celebrating Our Victories, Remembering Our
Losses; Continuing the Fight for Abolition!"
Brandley, who was convicted of the August 1980 rape-murder of Cheryl Dee
Ferguson, a 16-year-old volleyball player at Conroe High School, spent a
decade on death row before prosecutors dropped charges against him.
Investigators' failure to compare a Caucasian hair found on Ferguson's
body with that of other possible suspects in the case was among presumed
irregularities in the case cited by Brandley's advocates.
At the conclusion of an evidentiary hearing in October 1987, state
District Judge Perry Picket called on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
to grant Brandley a new trial. "The litany of events graphically described
by the witnesses, some of it chilling and shocking, leads me to the
conclusion the pervasive shadow of darkness has obscured the light of
fundamental decency and human rights," he wrote.
After unsuccessfully appealing to stop a new trial, the prosecution
dropped charges in October 1990.
Cook spent 22 years on death row after he was convicted of the 1977
rape-murder of Linda Jo Edwards, a Tyler woman. He was tried three times
and twice condemned. After he won a new trial in 1993, Cook was freed from
prison based on time served after he entered a no contest plea. Months
later, DNA linked Edwards' murder to another man.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
'Killer Keller' rebuked over death-row plea
A Texas judge faced a widespread rebuke from lawyers yesterday for
refusing to keep her courthouse open after 5pm to hear a last-minute
death-row appeal. The prisoner was executed hours later.
In an extraordinary protest, the National Association of Criminal Defence
Lawyers filed an official complaint against Sharon Keller, the presiding
judge on the Texas court of criminal appeals, who is nicknamed "Killer
Keller" for her tough stance. Several Texas judges joined the protest, and
more than 300 lawyers in Texas have demanded the courts accept appeals
filed electronically to prevent similar action in the future.
The uproar against Judge Keller followed her refusal late last month to
wait 20 minutes to receive an appeal on behalf of Michael Richard, who had
been condemned for the rape and murder of a mother of seven. Richard was
scheduled for execution later that night.
His lawyers had suffered a computer breakdown and said they were unable to
file the appeal within regular working hours. They had begged Judge Keller
for more time and she refused.
Her decision might have gone unnoticed had the supreme court not
announced, on September 25, that it was reviewing a challenge to the
legality of lethal injection.
The announcement set off a flurry of appeals from death-row inmates and it
is believed Richard's execution most likely would have been halted, to
await the supreme court decision, had he been granted a hearing. 2 days
after Richard was executed, the supreme court blocked a lethal injection
in Texas. Judges in Alabama and Kentucky have also stayed executions,
bringing in an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty.
"This execution proceeded because the highest criminal court couldn't be
bothered to stay an extra 20 minutes on the night of an execution," Andrea
Keilen, of Texas Defender Service, told reporters.
But Judge Keller told the Houston Chronicle: "The question ought to be:
why didn't they file something on time? They had all day."
(source: The Guardian)
Judge Slammed For Allowing An Execution----The Skinny: Refused To Let
Lawyers File Appeal After 5 p.m., Despite Computer Problems
Rarely are computer problems matters of life and death. But they were in
Texas a month ago, the New York Times reports, and now a judge who allowed
a man to be executed because his technical-difficulty-plagued lawyers
couldn't get to the court in time to file a final appeal is drawing a
Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Appeals, turned
away the last appeal of a death row inmate because the rushed filing was
delayed past the court's 5 p.m. closing time. As a result, Michael Richard
was executed for a 1986 sexual assault and murder - the last person to die
in Texas while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of
Keller has said that she didn't know that Richard's defense lawyers in
Houston were having computer problems when they asked the court for 20
more minutes to deliver their final state appeal to Austin hours before
the scheduled execution on Sept. 25. Without a definitive ruling from the
state court, the lawyers could not properly appeal to the United States
Supreme Court to block the execution.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a complaint
against Keller - the first judicial complaint the group has ever filed.
Now lawyers' groups are filing complaints against Keller left and right.
One group is circulating a petition calling for the court to accept
Keller defended her actions in the Austin American-Statesman, saying "I
just said, 'We close at 5.' I didn't really think of it as a decision so
much as a statement."
2 days after Richard was executed, the Supreme Court blocked another
lethal injection in Texas, and there have been no executions since.
(source: CBS News)
State's new execution procedure detailed----New method aims to ensure
inmate is unconscious
Under a new procedure intended to ensure that Alabama's condemned inmates
are unconscious when executed, a prison guard will call the inmate by
name, brush his eyelashes with a finger and pinch his arm, a Department of
Corrections spokesman said Thursday.
Gov. Bob Riley announced Monday that a new execution procedure had been
adopted, but disclosed no details. Thursday, Department of Corrections
spokesman Brian Corbett discussed the new procedure, which will come after
a drug causing unconsciousness is administered, but before the
administration of drugs meant to kill the inmate.
"It's simply a consciousness check after the first drug has been
administered," Corbett said.
The addition to the state's execution protocol was developed after the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Kentucky case challenging the
constitutionality of that state's lethal injection procedure. Alabama
keeps most details of its execution procedure secret, but lawyers
representing death row inmates have said that Alabama's procedure was
identical to Kentucky's before the change was made.
According to court filings in death penalty cases, Alabama, Kentucky and
most other states use a combination of three drugs to execute prisoners.
Lawyers representing convicted killer Thomas Arthur said in court
documents that Alabama uses Thiopental, Pavulon and potassium chloride.
Arthur was issued a 45-day stay last month pending implementation of the
new procedure. A new date for his execution has not been set.
Thiopental is a barbiturate that experts say causes unconsciousness.
Pavulon causes paralysis and halts breathing, and potassium chloride stops
Corbett said that, after the first drug is administered, a member of the
security detail assigned to the condemned prisoner will follow the new
procedure to assure he is unconscious. Then the execution will continue
with the administration of the final 2 drugs.
Medical professionals said the procedures being adopted by the state are
commonly used to assess consciousness. A person who is conscious will
blink when his eyelashes are brushed, and will withdraw his arm when
pinched, they said.
Death penalty opponents said the procedure will do little to ensure the
inmate doesn't suffer a horrible death.
"These additional steps are by no means sufficient to ensure that the
inmate will be unconscious," said Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death
Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
The clinic represents death row inmates.
The risks involved:
Death penalty protocols typically are developed and used in secrecy,
meaning qualified medical personnel don't have input, and the result is a
system that can suffer catastrophic failure, she said.
Problems inherent to lethal injection have been well-documented in
lawsuits arguing that it violates the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment
prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, Semel said. Those lawsuits,
including suits filed on behalf of Alabama death row inmates, argue that
Thiopental could lose effectiveness before death, leaving the inmate
conscious but paralyzed and in extreme pain.
Those suits also argue that, because qualified medical personnel routinely
refuse to participate in executions, it's more likely that the wrong
dosage of one of the drugs will be administered, or that an IV will be
improperly inserted, leading to a painful death.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty
Information Center, said Alabama is far from alone in revisiting its
lethal injection procedures. Nevada has proposed doubling the dosages it
administers of all three drugs in the common cocktail, and North Carolina
has proposed using an electronic monitor to assess consciousness. Some
states are building new execution chambers.
Dieter, whose organization does not take a position on the death penalty,
said most states are waiting on direction likely to come from the Supreme
Court in the Kentucky case of Baze v. Rees.
While the court is unlikely to address the procedure adopted by Alabama,
it likely will provide guidelines that will determine how states will
execute prisoners, he said.
(source: Birmingham News)
Halt executions for review of rules
We agree with Gov. Bob Riley that the crimes for which Daniel Lee Siebert
was sentenced to die were "monstrous, brutal and ghastly." He was
convicted of murdering 2 women and 2 children, ages 4 and 5, in 1986.
We also agree with state prosecutors that Siebert's claim that the state's
lethal injection drugs could interact with his cancer medication, causing
him needless suffering as he died, is not supported by evidence.
Yet the ruling of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to
stay the execution, which had been scheduled for Thursday, until the U.S.
Supreme Court hears a lethal injection challenge in Kentucky was
undoubtedly correct. It would be wrong to kill Siebert with the question
of the legality of lethal injections unresolved.
Riley had promised he would not block the execution but the appeals court
decision left him little choice. The governor is a strong supporter of the
rule of law, not given to grandstanding defiances like former state chief
justice Roy Moore.
If there is any consolation for the governor and others who hoped for
Siebert's execution this week, it is that he will die in prison. The
53-year-old convict has terminal pancreatic cancer and is expected to be
dead within a few months.
Still, the fact that the appeals court ruling left Riley in a difficult
situation is yet another argument for a state moratorium on the death
penalty to allow for a thorough review of the process, incorporation of
relevant higher court rulings and an initiative in the Legislature to
resolve the many problems associated with the administration of capital
punishment in Alabama.
(source: Editorial, Tuscaloosa News)
Attorneys trying to stop execution of state inmate----Man is granted stay
Mississippi is poised to join Texas in being the only states to carry out
executions since the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a challenge to
That some southern states are moving forward with executions isn't
surprising, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty
"Eighty percent of the executions in the past 30 years have been in the
South. That's where the death penalty is carried out," Dieter said.
Executions have been halted in about a dozen states since the U.S. Supreme
Court agreed Sept. 25 to hear a challenge early next year from 2 inmates
in Kentucky who claim lethal injection as practiced by that state amounts
to cruel and unusual punishment.
Efforts continued Wednesday in Mississippi and Alabama to halt executions
scheduled in the next week.
Attorneys for condemned Mississippi inmate Earl Wesley Berry filed
separate but parallel requests to both the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
and the U.S. Supreme Court to try and stop his execution, scheduled for
And in Alabama a federal appeals court granted a stay of the execution of
Daniel Lee Siebert, scheduled for Thursday. But the state's attorney said
he will ask the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to rehear
the stay request.
Every state that uses lethal injections - including Mississippi - employs
the same three drugs. But legal experts say there are differences among
the states in the way the drugs are administered, the way the executioners
who administer them are trained and the dosages given.
Matt Steffey, a law professor at Mississippi College in Jackson, said
there's a strong interest by governors in the South in enforcing the death
penalty, but he said proceeding with executions is unsound.
Texas executed Michael Richard, 49, on Sept. 25, but the Supreme Court
granted Texas inmate Carlton Turner Jr. a reprieve Sept. 28.
Marylanders Lean Left on Gay Marriage, Death Penalty
More than half of Marylanders would prefer that convicted murderers get
life in prison rather than the death penalty, and nearly 6 in 10 support
allowing gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions, according to a new
Washington Post poll.
The findings place Maryland somewhat to the left of the country as a whole
on two social issues likely to be heavily debated when the General
Assembly reconvenes in January for its annual 90-day session.
Death penalty opponents, who count Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) among their
ranks, are gearing up for another attempt to abolish capital punishment.
And supporters of gay marriage have vowed to turn to the legislature after
a court ruling last month that upheld Maryland's 34-year-old law defining
marriage as between a man and a woman.
In the new poll, nearly 6 in 10, or 57 %, support civil unions, up
significantly from nearly four years ago, when 44 $ were in favor.
Meanwhile, 51 % continue to oppose granting full marriage rights to
The poll found the state mirroring national opinion on the presidential
primaries. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former New York mayor
Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) lead the races for their party's presidential
Overall, Marylanders hold nuanced views on both the death penalty and
60% said they support the death penalty for people convicted of murder,
and 35 % said they oppose it. Those numbers are generally consistent with
recent national polls on the issue. But when asked whether they prefer the
death penalty or life without parole as a punishment, 52 % said they favor
life imprisonment and 43 % said capital punishment.
In a Post-ABC News national poll last year, given the choice, 50 %
preferred the death penalty and 46% preferred life without parole.
Many Marylanders have views about the death penalty similar to those of
Carla Hosford of Chevy Chase. She said she came to support the death
penalty when the Washington region was gripped in fear during the sniper
shootings of 2002.
"I was so terrified," said Hosford, a former social worker and
psychotherapist. "I would have killed him myself if I could. We lived it
day to day, hour to hour."
But Hosford said she would prefer a life sentence over death. "If we kill
and they kill, who has learned anything?" she asked.
The new Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 18 through 22 among a
random sample of 1,103 Maryland adults. The results from the full poll
have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
On the same-sex marriage issue, 51 % said they oppose allowing gay and
lesbian couples to marry, and 44 % said they support changing the law to
But Marylanders are far more open to the idea of allowing gay and lesbian
couples to form civil unions, giving them some of the same legal rights as
married couples. 57 % support civil unions; 39 % oppose them.
A national poll last year found that 45 % supported civil unions and 48 %
Jay Dorsch, 52, of West Friendship said he thinks that a gay couple should
be granted some of the legal rights afforded to married couples, even
though he doesn't support gay marriage.
"It seems to me, people should be able to go to a lawyer and get
visitation, inheritance, power of attorney," Dorsch said. "I don't see
anything wrong with that."
The poll found striking differences on gay marriage and civil union based
on age and how often people attend religious services.
Among those who rarely attend religious services, 61 % support gay
marriage and 73 % support civil unions. Among those who attend services at
least weekly, only 25 % support gay marriage and 37 % support civil
Among those younger than 40, 55 % support gay marriage and 64 % support
civil unions. Among those 65 and older, 30 % support gay marriage and 44 %
support civil unions.
Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a group pushing
the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage, attributed the age gap to
an evolving culture.
"Older generations have grown up in a society with deeply entrenched
sentiments that it's wrong to be gay or lesbian," Furmansky said. "We
weren't depicted in mass media."
The poll also found significant racial and partisan divides on the death
penalty and same-sex partnerships.
White Marylanders are almost evenly split on whether they prefer capital
punishment or life with parole, with 50 % preferring the death penalty and
46 preferring imprisonment.
Black residents favor life without parole to the death penalty by more
than 2 to 1: 65 % to 29 %. Given the choice, 64 % of Republicans prefer
the death penalty; 62 % of Democrats and 51 % of independents favor
And although nearly 2/3 of Democrats and independents support civil
unions, 61 % of Republicans are opposed.
On gay marriage, about 6 in 10 Republicans and independents are opposed.
Democrats are closely divided, with 49 % supporting and 45 % opposing.
59 % of white Marylanders favor civil unions. Blacks are split, with 46
percent supporting and 48 % opposing them. Meanwhile, 59 % of African
Americans oppose same-sex marriage, and white are split, with 50 %
supporting and 45 % opposing.
In the Democratic presidential contest, Clinton leads with 48 % of
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in Maryland. She was
followed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), with 29 %, and former senator John
Edwards (D-N.C.), with 8 %. No other candidate received more than 3 %.
Clinton's lead over Obama in Maryland is narrower than it was in a
Post-ABC News national poll late last month, in which Clinton led Obama 53
% to 20 %.
Giuliani was the choice of 39 % of Republicans and Republican-leaning
independents in the state. He was followed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.),
with 18 %; former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), with 14 %; and
former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), with 10 %. No other
candidate received more than 4 %.
Maryland's presidential primaries are scheduled for Feb. 12, by which time
many analysts expect candidates from both parties to have secured the
(source: Washington Post)
Death row inmate dies of cancer----Billy Ray Hamilton was convicted in
contract killings of 3 people at a Fresno grocery store in 1980.
More than a quarter-century after he was sentenced to death, a man
convicted of carrying out the contract killings of 3 people in a Fresno
grocery store has died of natural causes at a hospital in Bakersfield.
Billy Ray Hamilton, 58, used a shotgun in the Sept. 4, 1980, murders of
Douglas Scott White, Bryon William Schletewitz and Josephine Linda Rocha
at Fran's Market.
Hamilton died Monday after a long battle with cancer. He had been
transferred this year from San Quentin State Prison to the medical
facility at Corcoran State Prison, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for
the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
"It's not unusual now to have inmates on death row die before the lawful
justice can be executed," said Ward A. Campbell, a supervising deputy
attorney general who had worked on the case since it started. "I think
it's regrettable for the victims and for the system."
Hamilton committed the murders on behalf of Clarence Ray Allen, a friend
he had met while the 2 served time at Folsom State Prison in the 1970s.
Allen, in prison for arranging a previous murder, paid Hamilton $25,000 to
kill 8 witnesses to that crime. Of Hamilton's victims, only Schletewitz,
27, the store owner's son, was on the hit list. White, 18, and Josephine,
17, were employees.
Patricia Pendergrass, 57, Schletewitz's older sister, said she would have
preferred to see Hamilton put to death. She witnessed Allen's execution
She said she was not happy about Hamilton's death.
"The whole thing is very sad and ugly," Pendergrass said. "He lived a very
hateful, ugly life and died a pretty sad death, I think."
Hamilton, caught after he was arrested as a suspect in a Modesto robbery,
was convicted in 1981 in the grocery store killings on 3 counts of
1st-degree murder with special circumstances, and a jury sentenced him to
death. He entered death row at San Quentin on Oct. 19, 1981.
Allen was executed on Jan. 17, 2006. Another accomplice, Connie Sue Barbo,
is serving life without parole at the California Institution for Women.
Hamilton's case was caught up in challenges to the death penalty in the
1980s; his sentence was reversed by the state Supreme Court in 1985 but
reinstated in 1988.
Executions in California have been halted since February 2006 because of
legal challenges to the use of lethal injection.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Protestors rallying against death penalty stop by San Luis Obispo
2 men walking to courthouses from San Diego to Sacramento to protest the
death penalty make a local stop.
The group "Walk To Stop Executions" is now halfway to northern California.
Today, they stopped by San Luis Obispo's courthouse and met with other
Members are trying to get the attention of the legal community.
"We're very interested in district attorney's because they're the ones who
make the faithful decisions as to whether to ask for the death penalty or
to ask for life in prison without parole in their severe murder cases,"
said Jeff Ghelardi, protestor with Walk to Stop Executions.
California has more death row inmates than any other state.
There has been a moratorium on executions in California since 2006, which
is currently under review.
Governor Schwarzenegger supports the death penalty.
(source: KSBY News)
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