[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----KY., CALIF., US MIL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Sep 8 10:15:13 CDT 2007
Public Advocate pushes to abolish death sentence
With 2 executions on the horizon and several death row inmates set to
exhaust their appeals, the Kentucky Public Advocate is requesting the
state abolish its law allowing capital punishment.
Kentucky approved the death penalty in December 1976 and since then, only
two inmates have been executed, said Public Advocate Ernie Lewis.
One inmate has been scheduled for execution and another has waived his
appeals to expedite his execution, Lewis said. The DPA has requested
clemency from Gov. Ernie Fletcher in the scheduled execution of Ralph
Baze. Baze was convicted of killing 2 police officers in 1992 in Powell
"I have been a public defender for over 30 years and Kentucky's Public
Advocate for 11 of those years. I have represented numerous men charged
with capital crimes at the trial and appellate levels," he said. "This
experience leads me to the conclusion that the death penalty is a bankrupt
and failed social policy."
The decision to seek the death penalty has more to do with the county the
crime occurred in and the prosecutor than with facts of the case, Lewis
"The worst of the worst are not receiving the death penalty. One would be
hard put to separate out the persons on death row from the persons serving
life sentences in Kentucky prisons in terms of their moral culpability,"
Every commonwealth's attorney who has to make the decision about seeking
the death penalty knows what is a death case and what isn't, said Chris
Cohron, commonwealth's attorney for Warren County.
"The decision to seek the death penalty is not one that's made lightly,"
The Department of Public Advocacy has also filed a lawsuit against
commonwealth's attorneys having sole discretion in seeking the death
penalty, Cohron said.
"But that's exactly why people elect commonwealth's attorneys; there's no
one who knows more about these cases," he said.
Cohron dismisses the notion that the death penalty is unfairly slanted
toward poor or minority clients. Public advocacy has a group of attorneys
who work solely on death penalty cases who are very good at what they do
and are as effective as any private attorney, he said.
Public advocacy also cites a 2006 study from the University of Louisville
that 67 % of Kentuckians believed a sentence other than death is the most
appropriate penalty for aggravated murder.
Cohron said he agrees that the death penalty is not the most appropriate
punishment in most cases.
"Not every case that is death penalty eligible is a death case," Cohron
said. "A lot of things need to be considered, such as severity of the
crime and past criminal history. I do believe that Kentucky residents want
the death penalty as an option in the worst of the worst cases."
In the past year, 2 Warren County juries have chosen to issue the death
penalty in cases that were brought here from Adair County, he said.
Kentucky has 60 to 90 cases a year that are death penalty eligible, but
the sentence is only given an average of 1 to 2 times per year, according
to public advocacy statistics.
Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, also dismissed the idea that the death
penalty is used inappropriately.
"I'm a death penalty supporter," he said. "The punishment has to fit the
State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said he plans to introduce legislation
for the 3rd time that would establish a task force to study the death
But Burch said there are a number of legislators who continue to support
the death penalty.
"I think making someone serve life in prison is much more punishment that
executing them," he said.
The bill has been supported by a number of bishops and other religious
figures in Kentucky who believe in the commandment, "thou shall not kill,"
Typically it is poor people and minorities who end up on death row, he
said. It is also more costly to execute.
"It costs $2.5 million to $3 million to execute someone, while it costs
$600,000 to keep them in jail the rest of their lives," Burch said.
In addition, new technologies could find a person innocent who has been
executed, he said.
Nationwide there have been 200 people cleared of their crimes through DNA,
Lewis said. Of those, 100 were on death row at the time.
Support for the death penalty is wavering in Kentucky, Burch said.
"Every year, I poll all voters in my district and the numbers continue to
go down," Burch said.
(source: The Daily News)
NBC11 Gets First Look At New San Quentin Death Chamber ---- Construction
Starts Friday; To Be Done In November
Construction is set to begin Friday on San Quentin's lethal injection
chamber, NBC11's Mike Luery reported.
The work is going forward despite protests from death penalty opponents
who believe it's a waste of money and immoral.
"I've spent a lot of time at San Quentin. I've spent a lot of time with
the men on death row, " Ellen Eggers of Death Penalty Focus said. "To have
as the penalty something that's unfixable like the death penalty makes no
sense at all to me. I just think it's barbaric."
In polls and surveys, a majority of Californians have come out in support
of the death penalty, Luery said.
The new $850,000 chamber will meet legal guidelines to allow more space
for the lethal injection chamber team and for the families of victims to
attend the ceremonies.
Executions in California have been on hold since a federal judge in San
Jose ruled the lethal injection chamber needed the work to comply with
"It will have more space for the lethal injection chamber team to operate
inside of the actual (chamber), for them to conduct the procedure," said
Seth Unger of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
There will also be more space for the condemned and his family, as well as
more room for the victim's family to witness the execution, Luery said.
Some critics said procedures used to put inmates to death in the old
chamber amount to "cruel and unusual punishment."
Those protests were not related to the San Jose federal judge's decision.
"The ultimate goal of the whole project is for us to be able to lift the
moratorium on capital punishment in California," Unger said.
The federal judge in the case is scheduled to tour the death chamber in
October or possibly November, Luery said.
Once the judge gives the green light, California could resume executions
as early as next March.
(source: NBC News)
Judge allows death penalty in fragging case
A military judge refused to eliminate the death penalty as a possibility
for a soldier accused of killing a Suffern Army captain and another
officer in Iraq, but said defense attorneys representing him could present
evidence of mental retardation.
Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez of Troy, N.Y., is accused of murder in the
June 2005 deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito, 30, of Suffern, who was his
company commander, and Lt. Louis E. Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa., second in
command of the 42nd Infantry Division's headquarters unit.
So far, the defense has not formally raised the issue of mental
retardation as a defense for the accused. But his attorneys have indicated
the defense may raise mental-health issues in response to the possibility
of a death sentence.
A 2002 Supreme Court ruling found that such sentencing for mentally
retarded criminals violated the Constitution's protection against cruel
and unusual punishment.
Martinez has not pleaded to the charges of premeditated murder. The
charges carry a maximum penalty of death.
Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge, made the ruling yesterday morning as part
of his response to defense motions that have been pending since July 15.
Included in the motions was a request for a new Article 32 hearing, a
pretrial investigation, which is the military's equivalent of a civilian
grand jury. Parrish granted the request for a new Article 32, but for a
He directed the general court-martial convening authority, Lt. Gen. Lloyd
J. Austin III, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, to appoint a new
investigating officer. The defense team will be allowed to present to the
investigating officer extenuating and mitigating evidence, and present
evidence of Martinez's mental retardation if they wish, Parrish said,
according to a statement released by Fort Bragg, N.C., where the case is
The original Article 32 hearing was held in Kuwait in October and November
2005. A second Article 32 was held at Fort Bragg in January 2007.
The government initially charged Martinez on June 15, 2005, with two
counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of Esposito and Allen. Both
men were wounded in an explosion June 7, 2005, at Forward Operating Base
Danger near Tikrit. They died the next day.
The deaths at first were considered the result of enemy fire. But the
military soon began a criminal investigation, leading to the murder
Later, the government added charges of failure to obey an order or
regulation (wrongful possession of a privately owned firearm, unexploded
ordnance and alcohol) and damage, destruction or wrongful disposition of
military property (giving printers and copiers to an Iraqi).
The officers' deaths are considered the first fragging incident since the
United States invaded Iraq. "Fragging" is military slang for intentionally
killing a fellow soldier.
Esposito's widow, Siobhan, declined to comment on yesterday's ruling by
Barbara Allen, Allen's widow, said raising mental-health issues was a
"I think the defense knows their client is guilty, and they are looking
for any excuse to get him off. That's their job," Allen said. "You'd hate
to think that anyone who had mental retardation would be allowed to serve
in a war zone."
In his ruling yesterday, Parrish denied the defense's request that the
case not be referred as a capital case to a court-martial but rather be
handled at an administrative level.
The defense had argued that bad pretrial advice was given to Lt. Gen. John
R. Vines, then the commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and the
general court-martial convening authority.
Parrish also denied 3 defense motions to make procedural changes to
They included requests that the court appoint a junior member of the
panel, or jury, as president, rather than the senior member; that the
panel members be polled individually once a decision is made; and that
Parrish should administer the oath to prospective witnesses. The oath
normally is administered by a prosecutor.
(source: The Journal News)
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