[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, KY., OHIO, N.C., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 2 11:14:55 CDT 2007
Deadly Error----Death penalty deserves interim study in Austin
Texas' relentless pace of state-sponsored killing is the greatest moral
challenge facing lawmakers today.
It is past time for them to confront the growing list of concerns about
the liberal use of the executioner's chamber. Legislative leaders should
start the process by ordering Senate and House committees to study capital
justice in Texas and doubts about its fairness.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick will be issuing
long lists of "interim studies" to prepare the Legislature for the 2009
session. It would be a disservice to the public to omit examination of the
grim business of sending people to their deaths.
This newspaper recently called for an end to capital punishment because of
the distinct and unacceptable possibility of deadly error. We know that
leaders in Austin are not deaf and blind to evidence of miscarriage of
justice. We call on them to act accordingly.
The areas of inquiry should include:
Proposals to form a state innocence commission to study the causes of
proven or suspected breakdowns in justice.
Wrongful convictions have been uncovered across the state through DNA
tests and other advances in forensic science.
We feel a great sense of urgency from our vantage point of seeing a series
of ghastly revelations in Dallas County. 13 men have been freed from
prison because of local breakdowns of justice, including faulty police
work and erroneous witness identification. Although these cases did not
involve capital punishment, it is harder to conclude today that the
possibility of fatal error is a remote one.
Consider the 1989 execution of Carlos De Luna of Corpus Christi in the
bloody stabbing death of gas station clerk Wanda Lopez. Officials produced
no physical evidence and no eyewitness to the killing, according to a
Chicago Tribune series, and Mr. De Luna went to his death even though
another potential suspect had been bragging about the killing.
A proposal for an innocence commission along the lines of what has been
suggested by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson cleared
the Senate this year by a 20-10 vote, but it failed in the House. The idea
needs a fuller airing than it got this year.
The plan was a sound one: Create a panel that includes members of the
law-enforcement and legal communities and examine weaknesses in the
justice system. Findings could be used to set new standards for law
The execution of defendants who were involved in crimes but who did not
personally take a life.
The legal term for this is the "law of parties," and it is used to ensure
that all members of a conspiracy pay for a crime they jointly plan and
carry out. Generally, we have no quarrel with the concept. As applied to
capital punishment, we do.
Texas is the only state that executes people through the law of parties.
That is morally objectionable because jurors can guess wrong on a
defendant's level of intent.
When Gov. Rick Perry commuted the sentence of death row inmate Kenneth
Foster on Thursday, he expressed concern that Mr. Foster had been tried
simultaneously with the gunman in that case. That, too, is worth
legislative scrutiny, but the bigger issue cannot be ignored, not with
more than 80 Texas inmates having been convicted of capital murder under
the law of parties.
The expansion of the governor's authority in murder cases.
The office now has limited authority to offer executive clemency, such as
wiping a conviction from the record through a pardon or lessening a
sentence. The governor can only act upon a recommendation of the Board of
Pardons and Paroles.
In death cases, the governor can call a one-time, 30-day reprieve. But the
office lacks the power to call an emergency moratorium on executions. A
bill to provide that authority passed a House committee this year but got
nowhere after that.
The governor should have maximum flexibility to react if events warrant
Calling a moratorium on executions.
This has been our call for some time. Considering the sobering questions
that have been raised across the state, it is appropriate for lawmakers to
give themselves time to take a fresh look at capital punishment.
We're not naive about the Legislature's willingness to take on the
subject, since it would be politically costly to look "soft on crime."
We're looking for political courage, though. We're looking for leadership
that's unafraid to call for debate and thoughtful review on life-and-death
Texas has executed 402 people since capital punishment was reinstated
nationally 21 years ago. That is 4 times the number of the 2nd-most-active
Texas' per capita execution rate is 2nd only to Oklahoma's. 374 people
are now waiting on death row in Texas, including 364 men in Livingston and
10 women in Gatesville
22 men have been executed this year; 5 more are scheduled to die in
[my note: there have be 23 executions in Texas to date]
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
'There will be no execution in Texas tonight'
Kenneth Foster wrote, "I need you all to realize that I am not the only
man on death row sentenced like this." As expected, it was a lonely drive
Thursday morning down Interstate 45 to Huntsville for the kind of vigil
I've come to despise and yet strangely appreciate.
I had made similar trips in the past to wait anxiously outside the walls
of the state's historic red-bricked prison to hear that a dastardly deed
had been completed and one more name had been added to the infamous list
of "Executed Offenders."
On one occasion, I was actually in the execution area to witness a man
being killed in the name of justice.
Memories of all those other times ran through my mind as I thought of
meeting the family and friends of Kenneth Foster Jr., scheduled to be the
3rd man to die on consecutive evenings at the Huntsville Unit last week.
In several columns, I had tried to make him more than a number, and yet
the numbers continued to run through my head: the 24th to be executed in
Texas this year; No. 403 executed in Texas since capital punishment was
reinstated in this country in 1974.
Although I had urged others to stay strong and "keep the faith," I was
losing faith with the passage of every mile marker.
Then around 11:30 a.m., my phone rang, and an excited Adam Axel announced
that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had just voted 6-1 to
recommend that Foster's death sentence be commuted to life in prison.
It's what we had hoped for, prayed for, fought for, but we knew that it
was still up to the governor to grant clemency -- something he was not
keen on doing.
Axel, whom I had never met face to face, is a recent college graduate from
New Jersey who is preparing to go to law school. He pestered me into
looking at Foster's case this summer. When I did, it was clear that a man
who had not planned, participated in or anticipated the murder for which
he was convicted should not be executed for it.
I relayed news of the board's recommendation to a newspaper colleague and
proceeded on my journey with a new hope.
What would the governor do?
I was so engulfed in my thoughts that I heard only part of a news item on
National Public Radio's noon broadcast. I distinctly heard the phrase
"Gov. Rick Perry" and the word commuted, but I didn't hear the name
It must be Foster, I thought as I hurriedly dialed Axel to verify. Waiting
with Foster's families and other supporters across the street from the
prison, he had not heard the news and asked twice, "Are you sure?"
I wasn't sure, but I called my colleague again to see if she could check
it out. She found nothing immediately on the news wires or on the Web site
of KERA/90.1 FM.
Within a few moments, I received back-to-back calls -- one from Axel
saying Foster's attorney Keith Hampton had confirmed the governor's
actions; the other from my colleague, who read from Perry's official
"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the
recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right
and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty
to life imprisonment. I am concerned about the Texas law that allows
capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I
think the legislature should examine."
The tears began to come as I thought about the words of Martin Luther King
Jr., quoting Scripture in that "I Have a Dream" speech, when he longed for
the day that "Justice will roll down like waters and righteous like a
Justice was finally flowing in Texas -- at least for 1 man.
But in one of his last messages to his supporters, Foster reminded them
that others have been convicted under the state's "law of parties," and he
urged that even if he were to be executed, we should continue to work on
Arriving in Huntsville, reuniting with people I'd never met but who felt
like family, I felt a day of mourning turn into one of extreme joy. I was
proud of my governor.
Hampton, an Austin attorney who represented Foster pro bono, can't be
praised enough for his untiring dedication to this case.
"No word in the English language is capable of expressing the way I feel,"
said Foster's grandfather Lawrence Foster, as he hugged me outside the
Foster's father, Kenneth Sr., had just completed his "last" visit with his
son when word of the governor's action came. He said a prison official
allowed him to give his son the good news.
When the senior Foster came out of the prison, he was singing, "There will
be no execution in Texas tonight."
In the days before his scheduled execution, Foster was urging us to
remember others on death row, including John Joe Amador, whose execution
took place Wednesday night.
"As the days wind down I still find myself continually inspired and able
to keep a smile on my face, because I know that RIGHT is on OUR side, and
though they may kill my body they can't kill what we've done," Foster
wrote in his last missive to supporters. "All of you are amazing and I
don't have words right now to thank you all in the way that you need to be
He added: "Regardless of what happens to me, the law of parties still
exists. I need you all to realize that I am not the only man on death row
sentenced like this and it would be a grand insult to me and my plight if
the fight against the law of parties stops with my case. PLEASE do not do
me like that."
He ended his message with other lines from King:
Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Through violence you
may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you
may murder a liar, but you can't establish the truth. Through violence you
may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out
darkness, only light can do that.
"Let's shine to the world," he admonished.
(source: Column, Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
No bones about it: Harris County forensics scientist gets down to
nitty-gritty to solve crimes
If Hollywood were to cast Michele Hunt in the role of a forensic
investigator, some people might have a hard time believing Hunt - with her
long airbrushed fingernails, highlighted hair and perfectly applied
make-up - would actually hold that type of job.
They would be wrong.
Hunt, daughter of Michael and Wanda Hunt of Lufkin, not only works as a
Harris County forensic investigator, she excels at it. In her 5-1/2 years
working for the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, she has been
instrumental in departmental changes and has gone on to earn a "Fellow"
certification with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators
(F-ABMDI) - just 1 of 6 in the state who hold the certification.
Hunt, a former member of the Panther Pride drill team, graduated from
Lufkin High School in 1994. While in high school, she earned her
cosmetology license and began cutting hair.
After graduating, Hunt began attending Angelina College for her basic
courses, and became a Roadrunner cheerleader.
After she had 60 college credits under her belt, Hunt decided to enroll at
With no idea of what degree she wanted to pursue, she by chance sat in on
a forensics course taught by Anthropology Director Susan Maki-Wallace, who
at the time was one of just four forensic anthropologists in Texas. It was
there, under Maki-Wallace's tutelage, that she found her calling.
"During my first semester at Baylor, I was watching crime shows similar to
CSI, and I thought that it looked interesting," Hunt said. Because she
occasionally did hair for a local funeral home, she was not afraid to work
with the deceased.
At the time, Baylor did not offer an undergraduate degree in forensic
science, so she took science- and math-based classes recommended by
Maki-Wallace like anthropology, osteology and calculus. When in 1999
Baylor began offering a forensic science undergraduate degree, Hunt was
among the first to declare it as a major. She also served as president of
the Baylor Forensic Society during her junior and senior years.
A serial killer
A deal struck by a serial killer on death row, to provide the location of
the body of one of his victims, led to an opportunity for Hunt and some of
her classmates to get true "in the field" experience at recovering human
In 1968, Kenneth Allen McDuff was sentenced to death for shooting 2
teenaged boys and a raping and strangling a 16-year-old girl. When in 1972
the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death penalty as unconstitutional,
McDuff's sentence was commuted to life in prison. He had a 2nd stroke of
luck when in 1989 overcrowding in Texas prisons caused him and thousands
of other newly-convicted inmates to be paroled early to free up prison
Just a few years after being released, McDuff, a lifelong criminal, became
the subject of a nationwide manhunt for the murder of 2 women. The remains
of one of the women, Melissa Ann Northrup, 22, of Waco, were recovered
weeks after she was abducted from the convenience store where she worked.
The remains of the second woman, Colleen Reed, a 28-year-old Austin
accountant abducted from a car wash in 1991, were still unaccounted for at
the time of McDuff's arrest in 1992.
McDuff was again sentenced to death, this time for the murder of Northrup,
and became the only inmate in the nation with 2 death row inmate numbers.
In 1998, the Austin American-Statesman reported that McDuff struck a deal
with authorities to provide the location of Reed's remains in exchange for
a reduced sentence for a nephew who had been convicted of drug dealing.
When maps drawn by McDuff failed to lead authorities to the remains,
McDuff was secretly taken out of prison late one night to lead them to the
place he buried Reed - an area along the Brazos River, just outside of
There, authorities found Reed's remains, along with the bodies of 2 other
Maki-Wallace was called in to assist in the recovery of the remains.
"Dr. Maki-Wallace was notified by the authorities and the Texas Rangers
that McDuff had came out to the area to show where he had buried the body
because the maps he had drawn were not a good enough description to lead
them to the body," Hunt said. "After a little digging it was evident that
there were human remains, so myself and a few other students were
contacted and arrived at the scene to assist in the recovery and
documentation with Dr. Maki-Wallace."
Maki-Wallace had previously loaned her time and expertise to law
enforcement in other cases.
"If at anytime the professor was called out on a recovery, she would
contact some of her students to assist her if they were available," Hunt
said. "It gives her students hands-on practice of skeletal recovery with
her supervision," Hunt said.
McDuff was put to death by lethal injection in November 1998.
As part of her degree requirements, Hunt interned with the Waco Police
Department and the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office in Austin.
She graduated from Baylor University in May 2001, one of fewer than a
dozen graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science at that
In January 2002, Hunt was hired as a death investigator for the Harris
County Medical Examiner's Office. Today she works in the Forensic
Investigations Division under Chief Investigator Beverly Begay.
What she does
Forensic investigators are responsible for conducting death investigations
by developing organized, concise and accurate death reports, according to
the departmental Web site.
As an "on the scene" death investigator, Hunt is responsible for
documenting the scene of death through photographs, temperature readings
and written documentation after the police have finished their
"We take possession of the body and determine cause and manner of death,"
Hunt said. "I've been in hostile situations. You just do what you have to
Unlike what is portrayed on some popular television shows, investigations
can take weeks, months and even years to complete, depending on the
circumstances, Hunt said.
"There's no case that's going to be cut and dried, where you're going to
know everything within 30 minutes," she said.
The HCMEO has a deputy chief investigator, 11 forensic nurse investigators
and 12 forensic investigators. The staff works 10 hour shifts, and the
office remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We never have a slow day," Hunt said. "We have to do so much follow-up,
getting additional information, taking death and medical records over the
phone. The office is constantly busy."
Hunt says the best part of her job is when she is able to give a family
closure on why their loved one died.
"The worst part of the job is notifying the family," she said. "I always
make sure someone is with them. If they're present at the scene, then we
sit and talk with them and see if they can give us any more information.
"When it comes time for the questions to be answered, they're looking to
the investigator," she said.
More serial killers
It was while working with the remains of 3 unidentified victims of Dean
"The Candy Man" Corll, Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks, serial killers
responsible for the deaths of 26 young men in Houston and the surrounding
area, that Hunt gathered statistics documenting the need for a forensic
Her documentation led to the formation of the Anthropology Division,
headed by Dr. Jennifer Love, and the addition of 2 forensic
anthropologists and an identification specialist to identify victims of
Hunt also co-authored, with Sharon M. Derrick and Chief Medical Examiner
Dr. Luis A. Sanchez, an abstract detailing the challenges of working on
cold cases such as the Henley/Brooks/Corll murders, and the need for
on-staff forensic anthropologists.
How she copes
Hunt handles death, in some way, shape or form, on a daily basis. Because
of this, she has to find a way to separate her emotions from her job.
"I don't take my work home with me," Hunt said. "If you do, it will affect
your daily life."
She says she finds comfort knowing she did everything she could to help
family members of those who died.
"I leave work wondering, 'Did I do everything possible to assist the
Forensic science today
There are now about 300 declared forensic science majors at Baylor
University, Hunt said.
To graduate, students must take all the premedical requirements, as well
as forensic entomology, forensic anthropology, forensic toxicology,
psychological profiling, hostage negotiation, crime scene investigation,
criminology, death scene investigation, firearms evidence, medicolegal
investigation and forensic pathology.
"Students also have the opportunity to travel to forensic cases that the
professors are involved with," Hunt said. "They get to see firsthand how
to handle the collection of human remains and accustom themselves to
working with decomposing bodies."
Hunt's most recent certification was not easy to come by, explaining why
she is the only one in Houston, and 1 of just 6 statewide, who holds it.
To receive "Fellow" certification, a person must hold a Diplomate
certification, have a degree from a recognized secondary institution and
have 4,000 hours of employment and training with a medical examiners
The test, Hunt said, is extremely difficult and takes 6 hours to complete.
She passed it on her 1st try.
For more information about careers with the Harris County Medical
Examiners Office: www.co.harris.tx.us/me.
(source: Lufkin Daily News)
Trial to begin in Royse City double murder case
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the capital murder trial
of Brandon Dale Woodruff.
Before that occurs, the judge in the case intends to wade through a series
of remaining pre-trial motions filed by Woodruffs defense attorney,
including one which seeks to have Woodruff placed in solitary confinement
during the course of the trial.
It could also be a long trial, as more than 150 witnesses have been
subpoenaed by attorneys for the prosecution, the defense, or both to
appear and testify in the 354th District Court.
Woodruff has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody at the Hunt County
Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. He turns 20 Thursday and has been
indicted on 1 count of capital murder in connection with the deaths of his
parents, who were both shot and/or stabbed.
Prosecutors have waived death by lethal injection as a potential
punishment, should Woodruff be convicted of capital murder.
Dennis Woodruff and his wife Norma were slain inside their home on Hunt
County Road 2648, just northeast of Royse City, in October 2005. Brandon
Woodruff was arrested for the crime and was indicted on 1 count of capital
Hunt County District Attorney F. Duncan Thomas has subpoenaed 105
witnesses to testify, while defense counsel Jerry Spencer Davis has
subpoenaed at least 50 witnesses to testify on Woodruffs behalf, including
Woodruffs sister, Charla Woodruff; several investigators with the Hunt
County Sheriffs Office, as well as the Texas Ranger who headed the probe
into the parents deaths.
Davis has also submitted several recent pretrial motions, including one
which seeks to have Woodruff placed in solitary confinement in the jail
while the trial is on-going. Davis has said the motion is in an effort to
prevent a confidential informant for the prosecution being housed in a
cell with Woodruff and then being called to testify about what Woodruff
may or may not have said about the case.
He is therefore justifiably nervous that someone in the cell with him will
simply make up a story, Davis said in the motion.
Judge Richard Beacom has scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to hear
and consider all remaining pretrial motions in the case.
(source: The (Greenville) Herald-Banner)
Death penalty debate could hinge on local case
The most recent possible challenge to Kentucky's death penalty came in the
form of a motion in Hardin Circuit Court earlier this month to have
Kentucky's death penalty ruled unconstitutional.
Attorney Vince Yustas, who represents convicted murderer Michael St.
Clair, said his argument against the death penalty never has been made in
Kentucky. He claims commonwealth's attorneys across the state have
"unbridled discretion" when deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.
"Whether or not to seek the death penalty rests entirely in the hands of
individual commonwealth's attorneys," Yustas said in a memorandum filed
Aug. 20 in Hardin Circuit Court.
The potential challenge is the 3rd in recent months.
Capital punishment cases can create excessive workloads for Kentucky
prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys.
With only 2 people having been executed since Kentucky reinstated the
death penalty in 1976, some wonder if death penalty cases are worth the
trouble of prosecuting.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed his 1st death warrant 2 weeks ago, for Ralph
Baze, convicted killer of Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and his
deputy, Arthur Brisco.
Baze's attorneys John Palombi and David Barron immediately argued the
warrant was signed prematurely, before Baze exhausted all his appeals.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo argued otherwise.
Kentucky could see its 1st execution since 1999 on Sept. 25 if no
additional lawsuits or challenges delay the process.
3 inmates filed suit against the state claiming lethal injection violates
federal laws because a doctor does not administer or obtain the deadly
concoction of drugs used in the execution procedure.
Another claim by death row inmates Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling alleges
lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, which would make it
In St. Clairs case, Yustas argues that while guidelines are in place to
determine whether a case qualifies for the death penalty, prosecutors have
the final say of whether to pursue capital punishment.
Such disparity in the system "results in arbitrary and capricious
application of the death penalty," Yustas said. "A defendant is faced with
the luck of geography."
Yustas requested a session to determine if a hearing should be held so
Senior Circuit Judge Janet Coleman could consider the motion.
Depending on when a hearingcan be held, Yustas' move could affect the
outcome of Baze's scheduled execution, the attorney said.
Prosecutors working to convict Yustas' client for the 1991 kidnapping of
Bardstown resident Frank Brady whom St. Clair has been convicted more
than once of killing vehemently object to having a hearing on Yustas'
The problem of death penalty case delays lies not with prosecutors and
judges "in the trenches," but in Frankfort n with the governor's office,
where only 1 death warrant has been signed in Fletcher's time in office,
Hardin Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Shaw said.
"How many other death row inmates have exhausted their appeals?" Shaw
asked. "We either need to use it or take it off the books."
Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office did not return phone calls
pertaining to the status of appeals by death row inmates. Officials
overseeing death row were unable to provide an accurate picture of how
many of the 40 death row inmates have exhausted their appeals.
Death penalty eligible cases are difficult for many reasons. According to
Shaw, the pool of jurors is decimated in death penalty cases because some
people have a problem with sentencing someone to death in the name of
Aside from that, those sentenced to death are allowed more appeals
hearings than convicts sentenced to life without parole n thus delaying
resolution of their cases.
Then there are the questions of constitutionality raised by attorneys
representing defendants in such cases.
Challenges also delay death penalty-possible cases and can affect those
already scheduled for execution.
"This could definitely affect Bazes death sentence," Yustas said. "But it
depends on when we can get a hearing scheduled. And that's just a hearing
on a hearing."
(source: The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise)
Records: chances slim for death sentence in slain pregnant woman case
Police records show that a police officer charged with killing his
pregnant girlfriend and her unborn daughter probably won't get the death
Canton Patrolman Bobby Cutts Jr. is accused of murder in the death of
Jessie Davis and her unborn girl in June.
According to an analysis of Ohio Supreme Court records by The Associated
Press, only one in 10 offenders charged with a capital crime in Stark
County have received a death sentence. The state's capital punishment law
took effect in 1981.
Of the 44 death penalty indictments since then, only 5 resulted in death
Many indictments ended in plea bargains.
Canton Defense attorney Frank Beane says option of life without the
possibility of parole is attractive to juries.
Odds against death sentence for Cutts Jr.
The odds are against a death sentence for a police officer charged with
killing his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn daughter, records show.
Only 1 in every 10 offenders charged in Stark County with a capital crime
has received a sentence of death since 1981, when the state's capital
punishment law took effect, according to an analysis of Ohio Supreme Court
records by The Associated Press.
Canton Patrolman Bobby Cutts Jr., 30, could receive the death penalty if
convicted of aggravated murder in the death of Jessie Davis and the unborn
Davis' disappearance in June drew national attention as thousands
including Cutts gathered to search for her in the area surrounding her
Northeast Ohio home. Authorities say Davis was killed June 14 in her home
near North Canton, about 45 miles south of Cleveland. They have not said
how she was killed.
Of the 44 death penalty indictments brought by Stark County prosecutors in
the past 25 years, only 5 resulted in death sentences, the records show.
25 of those indictments ended in plea bargains or 57 % of all Stark
County death penalty cases, according to the records.
Past offenders offered plea deals include James Rash, charged in 1988 with
killing f5 members of a family in a fire and Benjamin Bickel, charged in
1998 with killing 2 people during a failed taxi robbery.
Stark County juries and 3-judge panels spared 14 additional offenders,
including Emmett Mapp, charged in 1992 with beating an elderly couple to
death during a robbery, and Robert Luke, who stabbed his 2 1/2
year-old-son 36 times in 2003.
The county has 4 offenders on death row. A 5th man sentenced to death,
Donald Maurer, had his sentence commuted to life in 1991 by then Gov.
Cutts' attorney Fernando Mack declined to comment, citing a gag order in
the case. John Kurtzman, chief counsel for the prosecutors office, also
declined to comment.
Stark County's policy is not to offer unsolicited plea deals but to listen
to offers brought by attorneys.
The option of life without the possibility of parole is attractive to
juries in Stark County, said Canton defense attorney Frank Beane. Ohio
juries have had that choice since lawmakers amended the capital punishment
laws in 1996.
"When it comes to taking a person's life, I think that jurors are
reluctant to do it," Beane said.
Since 1996, nine men and 2 women in Stark County who faced a possible
death sentence have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. 6 of
those offenders pleaded guilty.
Recent Ohio history is full of examples of high-profile death penalty
cases that end with lesser sentences.
In Shelby County in 2000, Michael Hensley was allowed to plead to life in
prison for killing 3 teenage girls, then driving to the house of a Bible
teacher and fatally shooting him.
The same year, a Butler County judge rejected a jury's death sentence for
Christopher Fuller for killing his 2-year-old daughter after trying to
rape her. Fuller is serving life without parole.
In Franklin County in 2005, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in the case of Vernon
Spence, charged with shooting 3 young people execution-style in a drug
robbery near the Ohio State campus. Spence is also serving life without
(source for both: Associated Press)
N.C. MORATORIUM HAS LASTED MORE THAN A YEAR----Lethal injection dilemma
revives execution debate; Death row prisoners on borrowed time as state
debates how it kills
James Edward Thomas sat behind the thick glass in the visiting room at
Raleigh's Central Prison and slowly listed the men who had been executed
in recent years.
He should have been on that list.
A convicted killer, Thomas was scheduled to die by lethal injection on
But days before his execution date, a Superior Court judge in Wake County
gave Edwards a reprieve, saying a group of top statewide elected officials
must approve the state's lethal injection process. Five other scheduled
executions also have been postponed.
The legal impasse has resulted in a de facto moratorium that has now
spanned just over a year. North Carolina's last execution, of Samuel
Flippen, occurred in August 2006.
Since then, the court order has set off a chain of events in which
doctors, statewide elected officials, legislators, lawyers and advocates
have squared off over how executions should be carried out.
Meanwhile, the families of victims await what some now feel is overdue
justice. And the men on death row bide their time.
The doctors' role
Lawyers for Thomas and four of his fellow inmates sued in state court over
the role of doctors in executions. They argued to Superior Court Judge
Donald Stephens that only a doctor can decide whether an inmate has been
sedated before the lethal injection is administered. If a doctor isn't
involved in the procedure, they argue, an executed prisoner could
experience pain from the other drugs. That, they say, would violate the
U.S. Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.It's
an argument that's been made with some success in other states.
De facto moratoriums on the death penalty are in effect in California,
Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, said Richard Dieter, director of the
Center for Death Penalty Information, a research group that opposes
"Some states are clearly on hold, and there are others that are in flux,"
Dieter said. "Over the course of this year, about 12 states had some hold
What makes North Carolina unique, though, is the active role the N.C.
Medical Board has played in the debate, Dieter said. The board, which
licenses and disciplines doctors, began questioning what doctors were
doing in execution chambers.
"Most states are saying that doctors are needed to confirm that death has
occurred, but not to insert the needle and perform other monitoring,"
Dieter said. "But there needs to be trained medical personnel to do that,
and that's where you get into the gray area."
Injections on hold
Like most states, North Carolina uses a combination of three drugs, the
1st to render unconsciousness, the 2nd to paralyze all muscles except the
heart and the 3rd to stop the heart.
If the 1st drug somehow fails while the others are administered, death
penalty opponents contend, the prisoner could be subject to excruciating
pain that might never be detected.
In 2006, U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard questioned the
constitutionality of lethal injections in North Carolina during a hearing
for Willie Brown, a former death row inmate who had challenged the
Brown's execution could not proceed unless a doctor monitored his level of
consciousness while the lethal drugs were injected, Howard said. Prison
officials presented a new protocol that said a doctor would monitor the
consciousness of inmates using a machine. They persuaded Howard that a
doctor would comply with his orders, and Brown was executed last year,
followed by Flippen.
Those executions are now under additional scrutiny, because a prison
doctor, who was supposed to monitor a medical device that measures
consciousness, said afterward that he did not monitor the machine in
The Medical Board eventually passed an ethics policy barring doctors from
doing anything other than observing an execution.
Now doctors are unwilling to participate for fear of being disciplined by
the board. And without a doctor there, executions cannot proceed.
That dilemma remains unresolved, putting all executions on hold while
state officials -- including Gov. Mike Easley and a panel of top elected
officials -- try to craft a new set of rules for executions.
Throughout all of the legal wrangling, the crux of the matter still hasn't
been fully addressed: Is the state's execution protocol constitutional?
"It's going to be a while before this gets worked out," said Mark
Kleinschmidt, an attorney for 1 of the 5 inmates.
Former Craven County Sheriff Pete Bland is growing impatient. In 1986,
Thomas murdered Bland's niece, Teresa West, a manager at a Raleigh
boardinghouse. Tried twice for her murder -- the 1st conviction was
overturned on appeal -- Thomas has twice been sentenced to death.
Bland, a death penalty proponent, had planned to witness Thomas'
"I feel like the death penalty is a deterrent," Bland said. "It's been a
long, drawn-out thing," Bland said. "I want him to receive all the defense
that can be given to him, but once that's done, I feel that the state
should be zealous in the punishment."
Stephen Dear, executive director of the anti-death-penalty group People of
Faith Against the Death Penalty, said the state should use this as an
opportunity to reflect on life.
"North Carolina should be taking advantage of this pause to study how
expensive the death penalty is, and if it does anything for victims," Dear
said. "Maybe this can allow us to take a really deep look at executions
and that would really be good for everyone in North Carolina."
Thomas believes justice is better served by his being alive. The months
that he has been given while the legal battle rages, he has continued
mentoring younger death row inmates.
"It's through this incident that I was able to realize my responsibility
to everyone," Thomas said. "I'm able to do more by doing the best I can
(source: News & Observer)
Who's next for lethal injection?
With an indefinite hold on the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis for
killing a Savannah policeman, a former Garden City man becomes the next
local convict who could face execution.
In the Davis case, a combination of actions by the Georgia Supreme Court
and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles has put his situation in limbo.
Davis was convicted of murder in 1991 in the Aug. 19, 1989, slaying of
off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. He came within a day
of execution in July before being granted a 90-day stay of execution.
In the meantime, Jack Edward Alderman, now 56, the subject of Chatham
County's oldest pending death-penalty case, remains on death row for the
1974 slaying of his wife, Barbara Jean Alderman, 20.
His is the 2nd-oldest death sentence in Georgia, according to the state
Department of Corrections.
On Sept. 24, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a request for
review of the case. The court typically announces what cases it will
consider in early October.
Meanwhile, Barbara Jean Alderman's family waits for what they consider
justice to be done.
"It won't be over until he's gone," said Rheta Braddy, the victim's
sister. Rheta Blase, the victim's mother, died in 1998.
"That was her last wish, to see justice done," said Braddy, who lives in
Rincon next door to her sister, Debra.
Her property is beside Dasher's Creek, where Barbara Jean Alderman's body
was dumped in an attempt to cover up the slaying.
Both sisters continue to wrestle with the death and Jack Edward Alderman's
fate, Braddy said.
"You have good days, and you have bad days," she said. "The longer it
goes, you do try and forget."
Forgetting - and forgiving - come hard.
"You go along, and things pop up. That will never go away," Braddy said.
"I hope to see him die. I really do. He is the devil."
Alderman's father, whose st name also is Jack, has moved to Americus. He
reportedly has been out of town and did not respond to efforts to reach
him through intermediaries. Alderman 24 years later
Attorney Thomas Dunn, who is with the Georgia Resource Center, and a group
of Washington lawyers represent Alderman.
Their petition to the nation's high court highlights what they contend was
ineffective assistance of counsel on the part of trial attorneys G. Terry
Jackson and Michael Schiavone of Savannah during a 1984 resentencing trial
The petition quibbles with the evidence Alderman's attorneys chose to use
or omit in trying to convince the jury not to recommend a death sentence.
Among defense issues has been the role of Alderman's co-defendant, John
Arthur Brown, the state's key witness against Alderman.
A Chatham County Superior Court jury convicted Alderman, then 24, of
murder on June 15, 1975. He was sentenced to death by electrocution.
Evidence indicated Alderman and a 2nd man, Brown, beat Barbara Alderman
with a wrench, tried to strangle her, then drowned her in a bathtub full
of water in Alderman's Chatham City apartment Sept. 21, 1974.
Then she was taken to Dasher's Creek near Rincon and left in the trunk of
her partially submerged car.
Prosecutors said Alderman engineered the slaying and hired Brown to kill
his wife for $10,000 in insurance money.
U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield overturned the conviction and the
sentence Sept. 9, 1980, and ordered either a new trial or Brown's release.
A federal appeals court later reversed only the sentence and returned the
case for a resentencing trial.
A second jury re-instated the death penalty April 1, 1984.
The jury found, in part, that Alderman murdered his wife to obtain
What was Brown's role?
Key to the defense has been whether Brown had a deal with prosecutors that
might have colored his testimony against Alderman.
He was the key prosecution witness in both trials and blamed Alderman for
Brown was convicted and sentenced to death in December 1975.
3 years later, Brown agreed to plead guilty in return for a life prison
sentence, a deal prosecutors said he initially rejected.
Then District Attorney Andrew J. Ryan III told Edenfield that Brown
testified without any deal on a sentence.
In March 1987, state prison officials paroled Brown for life, with
instructions that he never return to Chatham County.
Brown, 51, committed suicide Feb. 7, 2000, by shooting himself in the head
with a rifle at his home near Parish, N.Y., as police were preparing to
arrest him for falsifying records to obtain an assault rifle.
His death, along with that of former District Attorney Ryan in 1992, left
unanswered whether Brown had a deal with prosecutors, defense lawyers
argue. During Alderman's appeal of his 1st death sentence, Judge Edenfield
ruled Brown was the "major direct link" to Alderman.
He called Brown "an acquaintance and alleged accomplice, who, quite unlike
(Alderman), had a long history of drug abuse and mental instability."
Edenfield said testimony by either defendant was subject to doubt.
Brown subsequently portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the
slaying, but he conceded he "offered some ideas."
15 DEATH SENTENCES, NO EXECUTIONS
None of the 15 death sentences imposed in Chatham County since the U.S.
Supreme Court re-instated the death penalty in 1973 has gone to execution.
For various reasons, all but 5 of those convicts have escaped the death
penalty. In addition to Jack Edward Alderman and Troy Anthony Davis,
Chatham County convicts on death row include:
Roy Willard Blankenship, 27, of Savannah. He was convicted April 24, 1980,
on charges of murder and rape in the March 2, 1978, slaying of 78-year-old
Sarah Mims Bowen at her home. After the Georgia Supreme Court twice
rejected the death sentence, a third jury recommended execution June 13,
1986. Blankenship told jurors he was drunk and taking Quaaludes when he
broke into Bowen's apartment to steal a car. He blamed a 2nd man whom he
did not identify.
Joseph Williams, 30, of Savannah, was sentenced to death April 7, 2004,
for the murder of Michael Kelly Deal, 54, in the Chatham County jail.
Williams pleaded guilty April 5, 2004, to strangling the former police
officer with an Ace bandage outside his cell July 24, 2001. Prosecutors
said Williams and a 2nd inmate feared Deal would tell officials of their
escape plans. A jury recommended the death penalty April 7, 2004.
Frank Dorian O'Kelley, 24, of Savannah, was convicted Nov. 3, 2005, and
sentenced to death Nov. 9, 2005, for the murders of Susan Pittman, 41, and
her 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly, during a burglary at their Whitfield
Avenue home April 11, 2002. Prosecutors said O'Kelley and a 2nd man were
on a neighborhood crime spree when they attacked the Pittmans.
Darryl Scott Stinski, 23, of Savannah, was convicted June 8 and sentenced
to death June 12 as O'Kelley's accomplice in the Pittman case.
(source: Savannah Morning News)
"Stocking Strangler" back in the spotlight amid link to N.Y. slaying
In Columbus, for 8 terrifying months in the late 1970s a killer preyed on
elderly women in this west Georgia city. The "stocking strangler," as he
came to be known, brutally beat and raped his victims before strangling
them, often with their own underwear.
And then, the attacks simply stopped.
6 years later police charged Carlton Gary, a charismatic ex-convict who
had escaped twice from prison, with the killings. A jury took less than1
hour to convict Gary. Last week he marked his 21st year on death row.
The case seemed closed, awaiting only the slow march through death penalty
Instead, it's roaring back into the spotlight fueled by several surprising
A new book by British journalist David Rose, who became a paralegal
investigator for the Gary's defense, has raised disturbing allegations
that prosecutors hid evidence.
An appeal is moving forward in Georgia claiming that a bite left on the
breast of 1 of the Columbus victims doesn't match Gary's teeth.
And, most recently authorities, in upstate New York announced that they
have linked Gary to a 32-year-old cold case there. Syracuse, NY police say
they have matched Gary's DNA to that left at the scene of 40-year-old
Marion Fisher's 1975 rape and strangulation.
On September 19th, Gary's case goes before the Eleventh US Circuit Court
of Appeals after a federal district court judge denied his request for a
(source: Associated Press)
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