[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----CALIF., LA., ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 12 00:03:23 CDT 2007
Jury Consulted the Bible, but Death Sentence Stands
The federal appeals court in San Francisco yesterday upheld a death
sentence from a jury that had consulted the Bibles teachings on capital
In a second decision on the role of religion in the criminal justice
system, the same court ruled Friday that requiring a former prisoner on
parole to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous violated the First
Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion.
In the capital case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit split 9 to 6 on the question of whether notes including Bible
verses prepared by the jurys foreman and used during sentencing
deliberations required reversal of the death sentence imposed on Stevie L.
Fields in 1979.
Mr. Fields, on parole after serving time for manslaughter, committed a
series of rapes, kidnappings and robberies, and murdered Rosemary Cobbs, a
student librarian at the University of Southern California.
After the jury convicted Mr. Fields and while it was deliberating his
sentence, the foreman, Rodney White, conducted outside research,
consulting several reference works and preparing a list of pros and cons
on the death penalty that he shared with fellow jurors. On the pro side,
he quoted passages from the Bible, including this one from Exodus: "He
that smiteth a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death."
Judge Pamela Ann Rymer, writing for the majority, said there was no need
to decide whether there had been juror misconduct, "because even assuming
there was, we are persuaded that White's notes had no substantial and
injurious effect or influence."
In dissent, Judge Marsha S. Berzon said there was "no doubt that White
engaged in unconstitutional misconduct by injecting his overnight biblical
research into the deliberations." Judge Ronald M. Gould, also dissenting,
said the majority had endorsed "a theocratic jury room" in which jurors
consider "the death penalty in light of Scripture."
In Friday's decision, a unanimous three-judge panel of the court ruled
that a parole officer in Hawaii who ordered a methamphetamine addict on
parole to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous
could be sued by the addicts estate for violating his constitutional
The case was brought by Ricky K. Inouye, who was released on parole in
2000 after serving time for drug crimes. His parole officer, Mark
Nanamori, ordered him to attend A.A. meetings. Mr. Inouye, a Buddhist,
refused. Partly as a result, he was returned to prison.
That violated the First Amendment, the panel ruled. "While we in no way
denigrate the fine work of A.A./N.A., attendance in their programs may not
be coerced by the state," wrote Judge Berzon, who was also one of the
dissenting judges in yesterday's decision.
Most other courts that have considered the question of whether prisoners
and parolees may be compelled to attend A.A. meetings have come to the
same conclusion, usually relying on the programs invocation of a "higher
A member of the staff of Alcoholics Anonymouss general service office in
New York said the organization took no position on the ruling. "We do say
in our literature that we are not a religious program, that we're not
religious but spiritual," the staff member said, declining to give his
full name for publication.
Judge Berzon was joined in the decision by Judge David R. Thompson. Judge
Richard C. Tallman issued a concurring opinion of his own.
(source: New York Times)
Appeals court upholds death sentence
A juror's reciting Bible verses did not taint the verdict for Stevie Lamar
Fields, a panel rules.
A federal appeals court Monday refused to overturn the death sentence of
convicted murderer Stevie Lamar Fields, rejecting claims that the jury
foreman had tainted penalty deliberations by reciting Bible verses,
including "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth."
Fields was convicted in the 1978 rape, robbery and murder of Rosemary Carr
Cobb, a USC student librarian. At the time, he was on parole for a
During penalty deliberations, foreman Rodney White researched and recited
for his fellow jurors several biblical passages, among them, "He that
killeth any man shall surely be put to death." Writing for the 9-6
majority, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Pamela Ann Rymer said that the verses, as
well as White's notes listing pros and cons of the death penalty --
including "deterrence" on the pro side and "human fallibility" on the con
side -- were "notions of general currency that inform the moral judgment
that capital-case jurors are called upon to make."
Rymer said that it clearly was permissible for White to cite the verses
from memory. Consequently, she said, "it is difficult to see how sharing
notes can be constitutionally infirm if sharing memory isn't."
She said the court did not have to reach the issue of juror misconduct on
the foreman's actions. Even assuming White did something wrong, Rymer
wrote, "we are persuaded that White's notes had no substantial and
injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict."
Monday's ruling reverses one rendered seven years ago by U.S. District
Judge Dickran Tevrizian. Although he upheld Fields' conviction, Tevrizian
set aside the death sentence, concluding that the jury's consideration of
biblical references went against the principle that religion may not play
a role in sentencing.
The jury had been deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of sentencing Fields to life
without possibility of parole. But after hearing the foreman, the panel
voted unanimously to send Fields to the gas chamber.
Judge Ronald M. Gould of the 9th Circuit, who wrote one of the two
dissents issued Monday, said Tevrizian's decision should have been upheld.
"It is well settled that religion may not play a role in the sentencing
process," he wrote. White's notes to fellow jurors contained 13 biblical
passages favoring the death penalty and just one opposing it, while
failing to mention others "that might have been marshaled against the
Gould also said it was "fanciful" to say that the biblical quotations were
merely "notions of general currency" given that the foreman had to do
research to find them. "Would the majority say that the same is true if
the foreperson brought in written quotations from other religious texts?"
"The last thing that this country needs, and a thing inconsistent with our
constitutional traditions and the paramount role of the jury in our
criminal justice system, is to have a theocratic jury room in which a jury
foreman can present . . . notes compiled from the Bible with a selected
'pro and con' on the death penalty in light of scripture," Gould added.
At his trial for Cobb's murder, Fields also was convicted of robbing 3
other people and kidnapping and sexually assaulting 2 of them. He
committed those crimes within weeks of his release on parole from a
manslaughter conviction in September 1978.
(source : Los Angeles Times)
Jury begins deliberations in penalty trial of officer's killer
In Martinez, a jury began deliberating today whether Alexander Hamilton's
upbringing impacted him seriously enough to spare him a death sentence for
the murder of a Pittsburg police officer.
Deputy district attorney Harold Jewett said in his closing argument that
despite being raised by a drunken mother and violent stepfather, Hamilton
used his will on April 23, 2005 when he killed 35-year-old Officer Larry
"The fact of the matter here is that you see an Alexander Hamilton who
makes choices ... he's a predator when it comes to people he has no regard
for," he told jurors, raising his voice and pointing at the defendant.
Assistant public defender Robin Lipetzky said that because her client was
born addicted to alcohol and then raised around violent people, factors in
his life beyond his control are responsible for his killing of Lasater.
"He did make a choice on that day. Nobody is saying that he did not."
Lipetzky said. "Can he solely be held responsible ... or are there other
things ... choices he did not make?"
The same jurors who convicted Hamilton, 20, last month of murder and
robbery in Lasater's death heard closing arguments in Hamilton's penalty
The jury will recommend either a sentence of life in state prison without
parole or the death penalty.
Hamilton and his co-defendant, 20-year-old Andrew Moffett, robbed a
Pittsburg Raley's supermarket and a Wells Fargo Bank branch inside the
store on April 23. Hamilton shot Lasater, 35, as the officer pursued him
on the De Anza Trail in Antioch.
Police arrested Hamilton at the scene and found Moffett in a nearby
Jurors convicted both Hamilton and Moffett of murder. However, Moffett was
17 at the time of the killing and not eligible for the death penalty.
Jewett, wearing a tie clip depicting a scale of justice, boomed his voice
throughout the courtroom for much of the morning.
He acknowledged that expert defense witnesses testified that Hamilton's
brain was affected by his mother's alcohol consumption while she was
pregnant with him.
But nobody who knew Hamilton well testified that he was mentally disabled,
Jewett said. He reminded jurors how teachers and friends testified that
Hamilton played chess. A teacher described him as a "philosopher" and "an
old soul" and more mature than most students.
Hamilton's mother and a psychologist testified that Hamilton was molested
as a child. However, Jewett said that the experience did not inspire him
to commit crime.
"How does that translate into robbing a bank and killing a police
officer?" Jewett asked. "What is the logical connection? There is no
Hamilton sometimes looked straight ahead, and other times down at the desk
in front of him as his attorney spoke.
Lipetzky said that people with brain damage from alcohol can be
intelligent and achieve decent grades in school, like Hamilton. But, also
like Hamilton, they suffer from poor impulse control and the inability to
concentrate or plan future events.
"Mr. Jewett would have you believe that he is just bad," she said from her
podium. "That he's mean."
Lipetzky pointed to a kindergarten photograph of her client, smiling in a
San Francisco Forty-Niners sweatshirt. She told jurors to ask themselves
whether he "popped into the world as a bad seed."
Lipetzky reviewed testimony that described how Hamilton lived in a violent
Pittsburg neighborhood with his mother constantly drunk and a stepfather
who beat up people who failed to pay for the drugs he sold them.
She compared raising a child to building a boat with the best materials
possible: a loving relationship and a stable home.
"Alexander had none of that," she said. "He had to make himself a raft. Is
it any surprise that he crashed?"
(source: Mercury News)
Attorneys Ask Court to Declare Death Penalty 'Cruel and Unusual'
Punishment for Child Rapist -- Louisiana Man Is Only Inmate on Death Row
for a Nonhomicide Offense
Lawyers for a Louisiana man who received a death sentence for raping a
child petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to have his case heard
before the justices.
Patrick Kennedy is the only person on death row for a nonhomicide offense.
He was accused of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1998, badly
injuring her during the crime. She testified against him 5 years later at
Kennedy's legal team wants the court to declare Louisiana's law allowing
the death penalty for child rape unconstitutional.
The petition asks the court to consider whether the Eighth Amendment's
Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause permits a state to impose the death
penalty for child rape -- a punishment usually reserved for those
convicted of murder.
If that is the case, Kennedy's attorneys ask a second question: Does
Louisiana's capital rape statute violate the Eighth Amendment because it
doesn't set clear guidelines for juries as to who is eligible for the
One of Kennedy's lawyers, Jelpi P. Picou Jr., director of the Capital
Appeals Project, said that his client "has maintained his innocence since
the beginning." Picou points out that there was "no physical evidence
linking him [Kennedy] to the crime."
The death penalty is used almost exclusively for murderers, though there
are some federal statutes that call for capital punishment even without
the death of a victim.
There has not been an execution for rape in the United States since 1964,
and no one has been executed for such a crime since the death penalty was
reinstated in 1976.
The U.S. Supreme Court last looked at this issue in 1977, when it held
that the death penalty for the rape of an adult was "grossly
disproportionate" and "excessive punishment" and was unconstitutional
under the Eighth Amendment.
The state law that sent Kennedy to death row was enacted in 1995, with few
legislators arguing against it. A year later, the Louisiana Supreme Court,
in a 5-2 decision, ruled that the law was constitutional.
In 1997, a challenge to Louisiana's child rape death penalty law made its
way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court chose not to hear the
In an unusual move at the time, three of the justices John Paul Stevens,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer released a statement that
indicated they had reservations about the law. The justices said that the
decision not to hear the case "does not in any way constitute a ruling on
(source: ABC News)
Stay of Execution Granted for AR Death Row Inmate----Nooner was convicted
of killing a student at a laundromat in 1993.
In Little Rock, a federal judge has issued a stay in an execution
scheduled next week for an Arkansas death-row inmate convicted of killing
a university student at a coin-operated laundry in 1993.
Judge J. Leon Holmes issued the stay for inmate Terrick Nooner, who faced
a September 18 execution date. The stay comes after the 8th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled last month that a request for
mental-health professionals to examine Nooner should be reconsidered in
Lawyers for Nooner have argued their request for the mental examinations
was not an appeal of his original conviction in Pulaski County court.
Instead, the lawyers say, it was an attempt to get examinations the
Arkansas Department of Correction has denied over the last year and a
Since his incarceration, Nooner has made a number of rambling legal
filings and statements about people poisoning his food, sexually
assaulting him, performing witchcraft and "shooting up my blood" with
drugs and poisons.
Julie Brain, a federal public defender for Nooner, declined to comment on
the judge's stay.
(source: The Associated Press)
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