[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Sep 11 09:44:45 CDT 2007
Court restores death penalty for 30-year-old killing of USC student
A federal appeals court, dividing sharply over the use of biblical
quotations in the jury room, reinstated a Los Angeles man's death sentence
Monday for the murder of a student librarian nearly 30 years ago.
Stevie Lamar Fields' case is one of the oldest on California's Death Row,
where 667 inmates are imprisoned. The 9-6 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in San Francisco leaves him with only 1 appeal remaining,
to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is among a handful of prisoners whose cases
have advanced that far.
Fields, now 51, was on parole for manslaughter when he went on a
three-week wave of violent crimes in September 1978. He had been out of
prison for just 2 weeks.
Fields was convicted of 3 rapes, 1 robbery, 2 kidnappings and the murder
of Rosemary Cobbs, a 26-year-old graduate student and librarian at the
University of Southern California. According to the trial record, he tied
her to the rails of his bed, forced her to write checks to him, ordered
her into a car, then shot her 6 times and beat her until she died.
His murder conviction has been upheld during a lengthy series of appeals,
but his death sentence was overturned in 2000 by a federal judge who said
Fields should get a new penalty trial because the jury foreman had cited
biblical teachings to his fellow jurors.
After one day of deliberations - which, according to Fields' lawyer, ended
with a 7-5 vote for a life sentence - the foreman returned the next
morning with a list of reasons for and against death. The rationales for
execution included several biblical passages, such as, "Whoso sheddeth
man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," and "He that smiteth a man,
so that he dies, shall surely be put to death."
The jury voted unanimously for death later that day.
Defense lawyers argued that the passages violated Fields' right to be
judged solely on courtroom evidence and were also an improper injection of
religion into the case. But Judge Pamela Rymer said in the majority
opinion Monday that the biblical language merely expressed "notions of
general currency that inform the moral judgment that capital-case jurors
are called on to make."
Although it would be improper for a prosecutor to invoke the Bible in
support of a death sentence, Rymer said, jurors are entitled to rely on
their life's experience and morality in reaching a penalty verdict. She
also said the foreman's conduct, whether proper or not, had no effect on
the verdict because the prosecution's case was strong and jurors had been
instructed to follow the law.
But dissenting Judge Ronald Gould said the biblical passages, which
prescribed death for all murderers, probably influenced a jury that was
previously inclined to spare Fields' life. In a separate dissent, Judge
Marsha Berzon said the verses counseled jurors to disregard the judge's
instructions in favor of a higher law.
Defense lawyer David Olson said he plans a Supreme Court appeal if Fields
consents. The appeals court is "condoning a jury's right to decide a
criminal case based on that jury's interpretation of biblical mandates,"
But Deputy Attorney General Kristofer Jorstad said the court had followed
the rule of "not getting inside the jury room and jurors' heads" to
overturn a verdict.
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Board rejects clemency for inmate who killed Pa. woman in '91
A plea for forgiveness by an Arkansas death-row inmate who admitted raping
and strangling a Bald Knob bookkeeper and severely beating her young
daughter is not enough to halt his looming execution, the state Parole
Board said Monday.
The board unanimously recommended no clemency be given to Jack Harold
Jones Jr., 43. Jones was convicted of capital murder and rape in Mary
Phillips' death, as well as the beating of her 11-year-old daughter Lacy.
He faces an Oct. 16 execution. The board made no comments in its
In 2005, Jones pleaded guilty to the 1991 rape and slaying of a
Pennsylvania woman who was visiting Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He received a
life sentence in the death of Lorraine Barrett, 32, of Bridgeville
Gov. Mike Beebe will weigh the board's recommendations. Jones also has
asked a federal court for a stay, challenging Arkansas' procedure of
lethal injection as unconstitutional.
Jones appeared before the parole board Friday, telling members that he did
"own" responsibility for the June 6, 1995, crimes. A pale,
wheelchair-bound Jones, who suffers from severe back pain, said he had
done paintings, writings and "made a tremendous amount of friends" while
in prison. However, he acknowledged his apologies mean "nothing, that it
doesn't replace the person."
Lacy Phillips declined to speak before the board, but told reporters Jones
was "an evil person" who deserved to be executed.
Prosecutors said Jones had earlier painted a sign outside of the shop
where Phillips worked as a bookkeeper. They said Jones later that day
returned with latex gloves, wire and a BB gun.
Jones robbed the business' cash register, forcing Phillips and her
daughter into a small break room before separating them. Jones then
strangled Mary Phillips first with his hands and "finished his work" with
the cord from a nearby coffee maker, prosecutors said.
Jones returned to strangle the girl and beat her hard enough to fracture
her skull, the prosecution claimed. Police found her mother's body the
next day. Officers discovered Lacy, beaten and bloody to the point they
first assumed she had already died, after noticing blood pooling out from
underneath a doorway.
(source: Associated Press)
Parole board rejects death row inmate's clemency request
In Little Rock, the state Parole Board on Monday unanimously recommended
that Gov. Mike Beebe deny executive clemency for a death-row inmate who
admitted to raping and strangling a Bald Knob bookkeeper and severely
beating her daughter 16 years ago.
Beebe has set an Oct. 16 execution date for 43-year-old Jack Harold Jones
Jr. A spokesman for the governor said Monday that Beebe has not made a
determination on the Jones' clemency request but has thoroughly read the
transcripts of Jones' trial to make sure that everything was covered.
The board made its recommendation without comment Monday after holding
hearings on his clemency request last week.
Jones was convicted in White County Circuit Court of capital murder, rape
and criminal attempted capital murder in the June 1991 slaying of Mary
Phillips of Bradford.
The murder occurred at a bookkeeping and tax service in Bald Knob where
Phillips worked. Her 11-year-old daughter, who was at the business at the
time, was tied to a chair and beaten.
Jones has exhausted all of his state and federal appeals but has asked a
federal judge to stay his execution while considering his lawsuit
challenging the constitutionality of the state's use of lethal injection,
the state attorney general's office said Monday.
(source: Arkansas News Bureau)
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