[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ILL., KAN., N. MEX., VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 26 11:10:01 CDT 2007
End capital punishment; life sentence is more just
We are supposed to be a country that values life and justice. I know that
proponents of the death penalty say that if one does not want to be
executed, then one should not kill. On the surface, that looks good.
However, we have heard all too often of the mistakes our criminal justice
system makes and that innocent people have been killed in the name of
Recently in Texas, a judge refused to keep her courtroom open past 5 p.m.
The defendant was scheduled to die that evening; his lawyers wanted to
file an emergency appeal. The judge said they had had ample time to do it
and should not have asked for the extension. She refused to grant it and
the defendant was executed.
In Canada, a convicted murderer was exonerated because of epidemiological
evidence that proved the time of the victim's death, which in fact cleared
the defendant. He had been sentenced to death in 1958 at the age of 14. 50
years later, he is proved innocent.
These are just 2 examples of what goes wrong that can cost innocent people
their lives. I believe that because these mistakes happen, we as a nation
committed to justice need to be truly committed to that justice.
We should all be outraged at the thought of an innocent person being put
to death. We can never know just how many innocent people have been
Justice can be served when a person is sentenced to life in prison without
the possibility of parole. That sentence is an undetermined length of
time. It could be more than 50 years! That is a tortuously long time to
live behind bars, having lost one's freedom.
However, serving that time also offers the possibility of redemption.
Let us err on the side of caution and abolish the death penalty.
(source: Opinion, Catherine Dean, Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle)
Illinois death penalty trial delayed
One of the first Metro East death penalty trials since former Gov. George
Ryan's freeze will be delayed until next year.
Jason D. Smith, accused of going on a murderous rampage in 2005 that left
four dead in Belleville, will now face a jury in January. He was set for
trial next month, but prosecutors asked for more time to do DNA testing.
Circuit Judge Milton Wharton granted the delay Thursday morning. Smith's
defense attorney's didn't object.
Prosecutors say Smith went on a killing rampage in October 2005, gunning
down Nicole Willyard; her infant son, also named Jason Smith; Mary Cawvey,
19, of Belleville; and Brandon Lovell, 23, of Dupo.
The case garnered a swell of media attention. The infant, 9 weeks old, was
shot in the head at close range with a shotgun. It is unclear whether the
boy was actually the son of Jason D. Smith though that question will
probably be answered in court.
Robert Haida, St. Clair County state's attorney, is seeking the death
penalty against the 30-year-old Smith.
The case has been blanketed with tension.
During a pretrial hearing last year, a fight broke out when 2 family
members of the victims charged the defense table after they said Smith
blew one of them a kiss. Bailiffs broke up the brawl.
Earlier this week, one of the victim's parents under questioning from
Smith's attorney, John O'Gara, during a deposition for the case
complained of chest pains earlier. A stretcher was brought in and he was
No family members attended Thursday's hearing, but Haida said the victims'
families were aware of the situation.
(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Death penalty possible in quadruple murder
3 Wyandotte County men have been indicted in connection to a quadruple
homicide that rocked Kansas City, Kan., 1 year ago.
If the men are found guilty, the death penalty is a possible sentence.
Chief Wyandotte County District Judge Philip L. Sieve on Thursday unsealed
indictments handed up Oct. 10 by a grand jury empanelled in Wyandotte
Those indicted: Ataven Ladwan Tatum, 28; Ernest Leslie King, Jr., 34; and
Kenton Marcus Williams, 29. All three men are Kansas City, Kan.,
The men have been indicted for the shooting deaths of Lawrence Dixon,
Constina Jones, Tracy Montgomery and Marlene Chappel Johnson, which
occurred inside a KCK house on Oct. 14, 2006.
Tatum, King and Williams were each charged with capital murder,
alternatively known as premeditated 1st degree murder, in connection with
the shooting death of Lawrence Dixon. All 3 were also charged with 3
counts of premeditated 1st degree murder in conjunction with the shooting
deaths of Constina Jones, Tracy Montgomery, and Marlene Chappel Johnson,
as well as aggravated kidnapping, attempted aggravated robbery,
kidnapping, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to sell, deliver or distribute
narcotics, and criminal possession of a firearm. Williams was charged with
an additional count of solicitation to commit capital murder.
Williams was arraigned on the indictment on Oct. 16. King was arraigned
Oct. 19, and Tatum was arraigned Thursday. A scheduling conference is set
for 3:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in division 9 of the district court.
At each arraignment hearing, Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A.
Gorman served notice of the State's intent upon conviction of capital
murder to request a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether a
death sentence should be imposed. Kansas law provides that such notice be
given at or within 5 days of arraignment, otherwise the States prerogative
to seek the death penalty is waived.
King and Williams were previously charged in connection to the shootings,
but those cases will be dismissed.
All 3 are currently in the Wyandotte County Jail in lieu of $5 million
(source: Kansas City Kansan)
Court blocks death penalty prosecutions in prison guard's murder
The state Supreme Court has put on hold the death penalty prosecutions of
2 prison inmates charged with killing a guard during a 1999 riot.
The court ruled Thursday that the prosecutions could not move forward
until additional money was provided by the Legislature to adequately pay
defense lawyers who the state contracted with to represent the inmates.
Based on cost estimates provided by the defense teams, the court said an
additional $200,000 must be appropriated before the death penalty cases
could move ahead.
Reis Lopez and Robert Young have been charged with killing Ralph Garcia,
who was a guard at a privately operated prison in Santa Rosa. The state
houses inmates in the prison.
Prosecutors brought charges against 15 inmates but sought the death
penalty against 3. The third defendant, David Sanchez, is not part of the
challenge decided by the Supreme Court.
"Defense counsels' compensation is inadequate under the facts of this
case, violating defendants' Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance
of counsel," the court said in its unanimous ruling.
The attorney general's office and the state Public Defender Department had
argued that enough money had been allocated for an adequate defense of the
inmates. The department is part of Gov. Bill Richardson's administration
and provides defense lawyers often contracting with them for criminal
defendants who can't afford to hire an attorney.
Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson, said the governor's office
needed to review the court's ruling before commenting on whether
additional money for the death penalty prosecutions would be requested
from the Legislature next year by the administration. The Legislature
convenes Jan. 15 for a 30-day session.
Defense lawyers had asked the high court to either allow them to withdraw
from the case, order the state to pay them more or dismiss the death
penalty against their clients.
The defense lawyers contended that enough money has been provided by the
state to allow them to adequately defend their clients against murder
charges if there was no death penalty as a possible sentence.
Contracts with the defense teams expired in November 2003, and the lawyers
have not been paid since then although they have continued to work on the
Fees for the defense lawyers were revised several times, according to the
court, and contract amendments were offered that provided for a total of
$46,500 for each main attorney through trial and $23,000 for each
"second-chair" attorney. The defense lawyers did not sign the contract
amendments, however. In 2005, the Legislature provided an additional
$100,000 for each of the three death penalty defense teams. An extra
$200,000 per defense team had been requested from the Legislature but
lawmakers trimmed the amount.
About $870,000 also had been provided by lawmakers but defense lawyers say
that should go only to pay for expert witnesses.
If the Legislature provides the additional money required by the court for
the death penalty cases to move ahead, the court said, each defense team
will be paid at a rate of $75 an hour for each attorney up to $200,000,
plus the previously offered contract amendments that raised the pay for
The court stressed that its ruling applied only to attorney compensation
in this case and "we make no determination that similar fees or rates are
constitutionally required in other cases."
(source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Death Penalty for Hager?----Jury to deliberate sentence in 1993 murder
Thomas M. Hager stabbed 19-year-old Barbara White 82 times in the bathtub
of her home on Nov. 29, 1993. Hager then left White's 13-month-old
daughter alone in the apartment with her mother's bloody body.
The toddler, who had just begun walking that month and was not injured,
was found more than a day later. The arm of her pajama jump suit was
stained with blood where she reached for her mother in the bathtub. Police
discovered bloody baby footprints throughout the apartment.
This week, prosecutors will try to convince a federal jury why Hager,
already sentenced to 87 years in prison for a 1995 murder, should be
sentenced to death.
"He wanted the torture to begin early and wanted it to last a long time,"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. Mellin told the jury. Mellin and
prosecutor James L. Trump called the murder "gruesome." Hager killed
White, 19, of Fairfax, simply because she learned of the "safe house"
where he was staying in 1993. White was friends with some of Hager's drug
rivals as well as Hager's girlfriend.
When Hager first entered White's home, he used a gun to smack White in the
jaw, knocking out one of her teeth. White begged for her life: "Tommy, I
have a daughter, I have a daughter" as Thomas Hager forced her into a
bathtub and tried to electrocute her with a curling iron.
When that didn't work, he ordered his friends Arlington Johnson Jr. and
Lonnie Tyrone Barnett Jr. to retrieve knives from White's kitchen. They
stabbed her 82 times with numerous knives, and afterwards, Hager pushed
her down into the bloody water to make sure she was dead.
Johnson and Barnett were both sentenced to life in prison after pleading
guilty last year. Both testified against Hager last week. Hager has also
been convicted of the voluntary manslaughter death of a 3rd victim. In
prison, he has attacked at least 3 inmates with "shanks" in the last 7
"No institution is set up to fix his issues," Mellin told the jury, which
convicted Hager of 1 count of murder while engaging in drug trafficking.
White's daughter turned 15 the day the trial began.
The jury will hear arguments from both prosecutors and defense attorneys
this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, before deliberating
whether to impose life in prison or death.
(source: Fairfax Connection)
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