[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----IDAHO, MO., ILL., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 28 15:03:47 CDT 2007
Boise principal works to free man convicted of 2 murders----The prosecutor
calls Mark Lankford, who was condemned in 1983 but recently won a new
trial, 'a severe danger to society.'
A Boise school principal is leading an online effort to support and free a
man on death row for murdering a Texas couple who were camping in 1983.
Rick Bollman, principal of Cynthia Mann Elementary School, 5401 W. Castle
Drive, sends regular e-mail messages to about 100 people proclaiming Mark
Lankford's innocence and updating them on Lankford's legal status and
But in documents filed Friday in 2nd district Court in Grangeville,
Lankford's brother Robert described him as "a sociopath of the first
order" who might have killed at least 6 people in Texas.
Lankford, 51, was on Idaho's death row for the 1983 murders of U.S. Marine
Capt. Robert Bravence and his wife, Cheryl, on the South Fork of the
Clearwater River. He was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to death.
Lankford's brother, Bryan, was convicted too, but avoided the death
penalty by testifying against his brother.
On Oct. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 1 let stand an appellate court
ruling allowing a retrial of Mark Lankford because of a faulty jury
instruction. The trial is set for Feb. 4. Lankford is currently in the
Idaho County Jail.
Prosecuting Attorney Kirk MacGregor filed the documents Friday to support
an earlier motion to set Lankford's bail at $10 million. A hearing to
discuss bail, as well as DNA tests, is scheduled for Thursday.
"The state believes the defendant is a severe danger to society,"
MacGregor wrote in the court document.
Robert Lankford, 49, an electrical engineer in Texas, said he and his
family are afraid of Mark.
"I fear for my family, and my family agrees with me that he will seek
revenge on us all," Robert said, according to the document, in which he
also listed six homicides he suspects his brother committed.
In recent messages, Bollman has offered to handle any donations for
Lankford, and give them to him upon his release, which he maintains is
He says he has been Lankford's spiritual adviser for 9 years.
"It was one of the things I felt God was telling me to do was to visit
someone in prison," Bollman said. He said he has never talked to his
supervisors in the Boise School District about his association with
"I think the people I work for are pretty open about that as long as it
doesn't impede my performance," he said. "And it doesn't."
Bollman first offered simply to listen to Lankford. "At first I was
skeptical," Bollman said.
He continued to follow his Christian mission and visited Lankford every 2
to 3 weeks.
"Over the years, his story has never changed," Bollman said. Within 2
years, Bollman was convinced of Lankford's innocence.
Bollman is quick to say Lankford is innocent of murder but did assist his
brother Bryan with hiding the bodies and stealing the couple's vehicle and
other items. "There is no question he came back on the scene after the 2
people were killed," Bollman said. "He was a part of all that."
Bollman's role evolved from one of listening to one of action.
"I am opposed to the death penalty," he said. Others who provide e-mail
and Web site information about Lankford have the same stance, he said.
Bollman continues to be in regular contact with Lankford, who was moved to
Idaho County for the retrial.
Contact has been hindered a bit, Bollman said, because Lankford doesn't
yet have a phone card.
He said Lankford has sent him one letter since his move to Idaho County 2
weeks ago, and the tone was positive: "I think he does feel that the judge
is going to be pretty fair in this case."
(source: Ihado Statesman)
Brother says Lankford might have killed six people in Texas
The brother of a man convicted and sentenced to death row in the slaying
of a couple in northern Idaho in 1983 says his brother might have killed
at least 6 people in Texas.
Robert Lankford says his family is afraid of his brother, Mark Lankford.
51-year-old Mark Lankford has been granted a new trial because of an error
in jury instructions during his 1984 trial.
Robert, who is 49, is an electrical engineer in Texas.
The statements he made were contained in court documents submitted
yesterday by Idaho County Prosecuting Attorney Kirk MacGregor.
MacGregor has asked for a $10 million bail for Mark Lankford, and the
documents he submitted are in support of that request.
(source: The Associated Press)
Rally set in East St. Louis today for death row inmate in Chain of Rocks
Documentary filmmakers Damon Davis, of Belleville, and Lenard Blair and
Ronnell Falaq Bennett, both of St. Louis, are holding a rally today in
support of Reginald Clemons, 1 of 4 men convicted in the 1991 murders of
sisters Robin and Julie Kerry at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
The rally runs from noon to 6 p.m. at the lake house in Jones Park.
The three are making a documentary of the case, which they say will
highlight legal injustices Clemons has suffered.
Clemons, Daniel Winfrey, Antonio Richardson and Marlin Gray were convicted
of murdering Julie Kerry, 20 and Robin Kerry, 19, on April 4, 1991.
Clemons is the only 1 of the 4 who remains on death row. Richardson is
serving life in prison, Gray was executed in 2005 and, according to Brian
Hauswirth of the Missouri Department of Corrections, Winfrey was released
on parole June 2007.
(source: Belleville News-Democrat)
Drop costly pursuit of death penalty
In regards to the budget shortfall in DuPage County, before the county
goes to the taxpayers for more money I think they need to re-examine some
of their current spending decisions.
Will DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett please tell the public why
he insists on wasting hundreds of thousands of tax dollars by pursuing the
death penalty against Brian Dugan? While I support the death penalty and I
think Brian Dugan is deserving of the death penalty if convicted, he is
already in prison serving a life sentence or 2 and will never get out.
Spending taxpayer dollars to prosecute him is a waste of valuable time and
money that would be better directed toward much needed services in the
Not only are the taxpayers paying to prosecute him but they will pay for
his public defense. If Dugan receives the death penalty, he will get
automatic appeals that will continue to cost taxpayers money. I heard it
could cost more than $1 million to prosecute Dugan.
Most of the time I support and respect the decisions made by Joe Birkett
and the DuPage State's Attorney's office, but I find this decision very
irresponsible to the taxpayers of DuPage County.
(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Herald)
Ryan's lost appeal
Thursday's appeal vote in the George Ryan case is cause for many things.
* Sober reflection on the need to reform Illinois' election, ethics and
lobbying laws, among the worst in the nation.
* Taking time to remember that while there was wrongdoing, there were also
moments that genuinely helped the community.
* Considering that the final verdict in life belongs with the historians,
as much as it does with the judges.
* Most of all, a reinforcement of the idea that public jobs and contracts
must go to the best-qualified instead of the best-connected.
Thursday morning, a rare en banc poll of federal appeals court judges
decided 6-3 that Ryan was not entitled to a new trial. His legal argument
had been that two jurors favorable to him had been unfairly dismissed.
Both had previous run-ins with the law that they failed to explain on
their required jury questionnaires, which led to their dismissal.
Ryan had been granted the rare right to stay out of prison while his
appeal was heard. His only remaining legal avenue, it would seem, is the
U.S. Supreme Court. Ryan's legal team will pursue that option, but experts
say it's a long shot.
As soon as the official word of the case heads back to trial judge Rebecca
Pallmeyer, Ryan will have four days to report for imprisonment. That will
be appealed, too. Ryan's attorneys, though, plan to ask the court that he
report Nov. 7, if that appeal fails. That would, they say, give the family
Throughout the hearings, Ryan has defiantly maintained his innocence. He
stoutly believes he did not do anything wrong. The courts have steadily
ruled otherwise. Ryan stands sentenced to 6 1/2 years, convicted on all 22
counts. Operation Safe Roads, the investigation into the sale of driver's
licenses by the Secretary of State's office under Ryan, has piled up more
than 50 convictions at lower levels.
Ryan, certainly, is not the first Illinois governor in recent years to be
convicted on federal charges. Otto Kerner was convicted in 1973 of
bribery, tax evasion and perjury. He was released from prison two years
later, dying of lung cancer. Dan Walker was convicted in 1988 of misusing
funds in a savings and loan scandal. Now free, he works with the homeless
and has written an autobiography.
There is a lesson there. Few lives are either all good or all bad. Ryan's
inside knowledge of years of national, state and local politics should be
set down for the ages. Personally brusque at times, Ryan could be
devastatingly effective in government, uniting persons on both sides of
the political aisle for projects, something the current governor is unable
to do. He leaves a legacy of new classrooms, bridges, roads and fire
stations in Kankakee County and across Illinois.
Neither of the Walker and Kerner cases, though, seemed to turn Illinois
politics. Ryan's woes did. In 1994, Republicans won every statewide race.
Twelve years later, in 2006, they lost every one, as attack ads linked
Republicans to Ryan.
Yet today, both parties need to act to clean up Illinois politics. A bill
that would end "pay-to-play" politics remains bottled up in the state
Senate. It would end donations from all businesses that do $25,000 or more
worth of work with the state; require all bidders to disclose political
contributions; and prohibit elected officials and their spouses from
making money on state contracts.
What Ryan did was wrong, yet entirely within a sad history of Illinois
politics. The key now is not to relive the past, so much as it is to learn
from it. We must turn to a politics of ideas, and away from a politics
where donations are linked to jobs, contracts and favorable treatment.
We would go much further, but would certainly take that amount of progress
for now. Ryan himself could immensely help this process by speaking out
for reform, in the same way he has crusaded for death penalty reform and a
more liberal attitude toward Cuba.
Last year the voters clearly said they had had enough with the system. Now
the judges have weighed in, too.
Those in state politics should finally join in, too.
(source: The Daily Journal)
Grief resurfaces for victim's family as execution nears
Earl Wesley Berry will die with a prison-issued needle in his arm at
sunset Tuesday - if the courts do not stop it.
But this is not a story about Berry. It is about Berry's victim, that
church-going mom, Sunday school teacher and a lover of horses who suffered
a frightening death on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in her 57th year of
Much of the story about Bounds comes from her daughter, Jena Watson, 48,
who is angry and sad and, now that it appears as if Berry is about to pay
for what he did, is unexpectedly re-experiencing the grief she felt 20
"When we were told an execution date had been set, it seemed to bring back
her death all over again. I didn't expect that," Watson said. "You work
for 20 years through the grief, and it's just all brought back."
The woman who died in 1987 as Mary Bounds started life as Mary Springer, a
child of the Great Depression, born to a hard-working couple in rural Clay
She adored music, and she sang in the church choir as a way of connecting
with that love. When she was a teenager, her family moved to neighboring
Houston, the sparsely populated seat of Chickasaw County.
One day, Mary met a young man named Charles Bounds, who lived in Calhoun
County and had a cousin in Houston who set the 2 up.
"We never quit going together," said Charles, now 79 and a man of few
Back then, young Charles, too, had a love for music. And he proved it with
his band, Charles Bounds and the Blue Sky Playboys.
The band traveled from radio station to radio station across the South, as
was the norm in the 1950s, singing live bluegrass and country on the air.
The band produced a couple of albums and had modest success.
Then Charles popped the question.
"I remember being just thrilled with that," said Rosemarie Kellar, who
remembers sitting on the family's sofa right next to young Mary on that
day. "We all had just fallen in love with her."
Kellar, who was a child of 5 or 6 back then, had grown up around her uncle
Charles. She said the family took to Mary immediately.
"She was like a daughter in the family, not a daughter-in-law," said
Kellar, who now lives in Brookhaven.
Not long after the wedding, Charles was drafted into the Army and spent 18
months fighting in the Korean War.
When he got home, he drove a truck, hauling caskets across the Southeast.
Nov. 29, 1987: Mary Bounds, 57, is reported missing.
Dec. 1: Bounds? vehicle is located in Houston. Spattered blood is found
around the driver?s-side door. Her body is found nearby. She had been
severely beaten. It was determined she died of head injuries from repeated
March 1, 1988: Earl Wesley Berry is indicted in the murder and kidnapping
of Bounds and as a habitual criminal. He eventually is convicted of
capital murder and sentenced to death.
Earl Wesley Berry is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m.
Tuesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.
Mary worked in a factory in Houston, overseeing the manufacturing of
Their only daughter was born in 1959.
Mary was a busy woman - church and the choir, Sunday school teaching and a
full-time job. She got so busy that she'd developed a reputation for
running late and showing up for things in the nick of time.
When she was not working or teaching, she used to minister to young
ladies, often poor women, single moms who, through word of mouth, Mary
came to know needed help.
She would buy groceries for them. Often, she'd bring her daughter along on
Watson remembers one such trip, in particular.
Mother and daughter brought groceries to a woman with seven children.
These children had no shoes, even though it was quite chilly outside.
Because of this, they did not go to school.
Flummoxed, Mary developed a plan: She went to her car, got her daughter's
school notebook, and traced each child's foot onto notebook paper. Beside
each footprint, she wrote a child's name.
She bought 7 pairs of shoes, sized to fit the tracings.
"She worked in a factory, so her income was not a tremendous amount,"
Watson said. "But she just had a heart for people."
And so it was this Mary who was leaving church on a Sunday evening, Nov.
Charles was out of town then, on the job, and their now-grown daughter was
an hour away in Grenada, where she lived with her family.
That day, Mary had given a teenage girl a ride to church, and the girl
apparently had gotten her own ride home. Worried about the young lady,
Bounds, 56, prepared to drive to the girl's house to make sure she was OK.
She approached her car, and then was approached by a stranger, Earl Wesley
Berry, who was 28 - the same age as the Bounds' daughter.
In his confession, Berry, who is listed as 6 feet,1 inch tall and 255
pounds, described what he did on that evening as this:
He was driving his grandmother's car through Houston when he happened upon
Bounds as she prepared to enter her car.
He intended to rape her.
Berry approached her, hit her, dragged her into his grandma's car and
drove out of town. Mary's purse and Bible lay abandoned on her car's front
Berry took her to the woods and ordered her to lie down, but he did not
Kellar likes to believe that her aunt was ministering to Berry throughout
her time with him; perhaps this made the difference.
In any event, according to Berry's confession, he put Bounds back in the
car and said he would take her back to town.
But something made him change his mind. So he drove elsewhere in the
woods, dragged Mary from of the car, and beat her to death with his bare
hands. This, kidnapping and murder, led to where Berry, 48, is now, on
Mississippi's death row with 64 others.
Over the years, in court testimony, a vague picture of Berry emerged. He
was a disturbed young man who'd twice tried to kill himself, once by
swallowing razor blades.
He had spent time in mental institutions at least twice, once being
treated for paranoid schizophrenia. He lived with his grandmother and had
an IQ that doctors estimated to be well below average.
He spent time in prison, too. Berry's convictions between 1979 and 1981
included simple assault on a law enforcement officer, grand larceny,
perjury, burglary and escape.
Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say he has a clean prison
As courts consider the constitutionality of lethal injection, Berry is the
only inmate in Mississippi with an execution date.
On Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Berry's appeal. He
should not have waited until execution was imminent before challenging the
state's method of carrying it out, according to the ruling.
His fate now rests with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Berry's attorney, Jim Craig, said the fight to keep him alive is not about
the man's guilt or innocence. Legally, the fight is about whether
Mississippi should be allowed to kill a man with injections of sodium
pentothal, Pavulon and potassium chloride, or if such a death is painfully
But really, Craig said, the fight is about right versus wrong.
"A civilized society does not respond in kind to evil," he said.
But Attorney General Jim Hood said the law provides for punishment by
death and that attorneys are sworn to uphold the law. "Just because you
don't morally believe in something doesn't give you the right to violate
the law," Hood said.
Watson, Mary's daughter, does not want to talk about politics and the
death penalty, crime and punishment, the power of the people or the power
She wants to talk about her mom and about how it is because of Berry's
choices that her own four children do not know the woman who gave so much.
This was a woman who laughed at herself and whose 1st concern was always
other people. Bounds was a woman who likely would have helped Berry, too,
if only he'd asked.
(source: Clarion Ledger)
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