[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----KY., TENN., USA, GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Sep 13 12:29:50 CDT 2007
KENTUCKY----stay of impending execution
WAS SCHEDULED TO DIE SEPT. 25----State Supreme Court stays execution of
The execution of Ralph Baze Jr., convicted of the 1992 slayings of two
police officers, has been stayed by the state Supreme Court.
In its order released yesterday, the court said it needed more time to
consider Baze's appeal challenging whether his original case was
improperly moved to Rowan Circuit Court in 1993. Baze had been scheduled
to be executed Sept. 25.
This is the 2nd time in 7 years that the execution of Baze, who was
convicted of killing Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and Deputy Arthur
Briscoe in Powell County, has been stayed. His execution was first set for
April 10, 2001, but was postponed. In 2005, Baze came close to execution
again but no date was set.
He has three appeals pending before the state Supreme Court, two cases in
the federal court and one appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Baze's
lawyers also filed a new lawsuit yesterday, challenging the state's use of
an emergency medical technician during the lethal injection procedure.
They said that the state Supreme Court's decision validates what they've
been saying since Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed Baze's death warrant Aug. 22
-- that the order of execution was signed too soon.
"I believe that this vindicates our arguments that the warrant was signed
prematurely and that there were appeals still out there," said David
Barron, one of Baze's lawyers.
But for the families of Bennett and Briscoe, yesterday's Supreme Court
decision was a blow. After 15 years of waiting, they had hoped that in 2
weeks Baze would finally be out of their lives.
"I'm disappointed that he has another stay," said Dennis Briscoe, the
deputy's son. "I know for a lot of my family it's going be like being
victimized all over again. They've already went through this a couple of
times and it keeps getting harder."
Once a stay has been issued by a court, another execution date must be
A hearing on whether the case was heard in the appropriate court is
scheduled for Nov. 15 before the Supreme Court.
The decision by the court to issue a stay was unanimous. Justice Will T.
Scott recused himself from hearing the case at the request of Baze's
lawyers. Scott, according to court documents, made comments about the Baze
case in advertisements during his 2004 successful bid for the high court.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office represents the state during the
appeals process, said yesterday he would make sure that the 1993 jury
decision to end Baze's life is completed.
"My office will continue to work to see that the verdict of the jury in
the Baze case is carried out," Stumbo said in a written statement. "We are
confident that any remaining issues will be resolved in the Commonwealth's
In the Franklin Circuit Court case, Baze's attorneys are challenging
whether it's appropriate for an emergency medical technician to insert an
intravenous tube to deliver the three-drug cocktail that is part of the
lethal injection process.
According to the lawsuit, an EMT must be supervised by a paramedic, and a
paramedic must be supervised by a medical doctor, according to Kentucky
law. But no doctors are part of the execution team and therefore the EMT,
who is not named, is violating state laws by inserting the IV, the lawsuit
Dennis Briscoe said he hopes Baze's appeals will be heard quickly and that
another execution date will be set soon.
"I was hoping that this whole chapter in all of our lives was going to be
over," he said. "We're going to have to wait a little longer."
Kentucky execution put on hold ---- High court wants time to see if Baze's
trial handled properly
Death-row inmate Ralph Baze has received another reprieve, this time just
13 days before he was to be executed for murdering a sheriff and deputy in
The Kentucky Supreme Court stopped Baze's Sept. 25 execution by lethal
injection, ruling yesterday that the court needs to decide whether his
initial trial was moved improperly.
The high court set a hearing date for Nov. 15, making it unlikely Baze
could be executed this year.
"This vindicates our argument that it was premature for them to sign the
death warrant when they did," said public defender David Barron, one of
Baze's attorneys. ". Once the execution is over, there's no way to go back
and correct any errors."
But the families of Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and Deputy Arthur
Briscoe, who were shot to death in 1992 trying to serve Baze with arrest
warrants, say the delay is another heart-wrenching setback.
"We're fed up with the whole thing," said Carl Briscoe, Arthur Briscoe's
brother. "This man has been tried by a jury, convicted and sentenced to
death. . It's a slap in the face of taxpayers and the (victim's)
Baze, one of 40 inmates on death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at
Eddyville, was sentenced to death in 1994. In 2001, Gov. Paul Patton
signed an execution order for Baze, but his April 10 date was postponed by
a federal judge on April 5, 2001.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a death warrant for Baze last month and set
Sept. 25 as his execution date.
Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said in a statement yesterday that "the
governor shares the frustration of the Bennett and Briscoe families, who
have waited 15 years for justice."
Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said in the one-page ruling that Baze
appealed the decision to move his trial before Fletcher signed the
warrant, so Baze has the right to have the issue heard.
Barron said Baze's trial was initially moved from Powell County to
Franklin County because of pretrial publicity. But the trial was later
moved to Rowan County, which Barron said was improper.
Baze, 52, told The Associated Press that he was "tickled" by the court's
"I prayed about it," Baze said. "I just believed if there was any justice
in this world at all, I would get an opportunity to show this stuff. It
came in God's time."
Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo released a statement saying his
"office will continue to work to see that the verdict of the jury in the
Baze case is carried out. We are confident that any remaining issues will
be resolved in the Commonwealth's favor."
Barron, however, said there are still other issues pending in the courts
that have "extremely strong merit."
Baze filed another state lawsuit yesterday in Franklin Circuit Court
claiming that procedures of the execution team violate state law.
The suit alleges that it is against the law for an emergency medical
technician to insert an intravenous line without a supervising doctor
present. Kentucky law prohibits doctors from taking part in an execution.
Baze would be the 1st inmate executed in the state since 1999, when Eddie
Lee Harper was executed by lethal injection.
Minor burns during execution called normal
An autopsy of convicted child-killer Daryl Holton, who was put to death
Wednesday morning in Tennessee's electric chair, showed he suffered minor
burns during the execution, the state's medical examiner said.
But the minor burns on Holton's head and legs are the kind typically seen
in electric chair deaths, and there was nothing unusual about the inmate's
autopsy, Dr. Bruce Levy said.
Last week, the man who modified Tennessee's electric chair in the 1990s,
Jay Wiechert, an electrical engineer from Fort Smith, Ark., told The
Tennessean that minor burns are normal.
Holton, 45, was the 1st inmate to be put to death in the electric chair in
Tennessee since 1960, and the only prisoner to be electrocuted in the U.S.
since July 2006, when Virginia used its chair.
"The electricity generates a lot of heat, and there can be very
significant burns at the site of skin contact," Levy said. "Because they
were using sponges soaked in saline solution, there was 1st-to-low-level
2nd-degree burns, similar to what you see with severe sunburn."
Shock stops heart
Holton's cause of death was high-voltage electrocution, which stopped his
heart from beating, Levy said.
The former mechanic and Gulf War veteran had been on death row since 1999
after a Bedford County jury convicted him of murdering his 3 sons, ages
12, 10 and 6, and the 4-year-old daughter of his ex-wife.
Holton was shocked twice with 1,750 volts of electricity. Reporters who
witnessed the execution said they could see Holton jerk up while grasping
the arms of the chair with his fingers when he was shocked with the first
jolt of electricity.
The Tennessee execution manual says an inmate is supposed to be shocked
once for 20 seconds, followed by a 15-second pause, and then shocked again
for 15 seconds.
"I'm certain that the 1st jolt of electricity claimed his life," said
Scott Couch, an anchor and reporter for WZTV-Channel 17, who witnessed the
Holton rose up again when he was shocked again.
Holton was wearing what appeared to be an old-fashioned football helmet
that contained a saline-soaked sponge inside.
He was strapped into the chair, arms and ankles restrained.
Prison officials covered his face with a shroud for the execution.
Chair worked properly
After Holton was pronounced dead, a spokeswoman for the prison system said
the execution had been carried out according to Tennessee law.
Days before, the man who built Tennessee's electric chair in 1989 said he
feared the contraption had been modified in such a way that Holton would
Fred Leuchter, the Malden, Mass., man who built the chair, had asked Gov.
Phil Bredesen not to use it.
But Wiechert, the engineer who modified the chair, had said repeatedly
that it would work as intended and that Leuchter's original chair was
States Weigh Compensation for Inmates
When Antonio Beaver was freed from prison by DNA evidence, he was
overwhelmed by supporters eager to help him return to normal life after
spending nearly 11 years behind bars.
After his release in March, some promised jobs. Others set up a charitable
fund in his name. Relatives offered assistance, too. But 6 months later,
Beaver was quick to list the number of people he could still count on:
"You got to fend for yourself," said Beaver, who was wrongly imprisoned in
1997 for a violent carjacking. "Everybody's making promises: 'We're going
to do this and do that.' Ain't nobody done nothing yet. I got to deal with
it, man. It's just the way our society is."
Beaver is more fortunate than many inmates because Missouri compensates
exonerated prisoners. DNA cases such as his have led many other states to
consider policies that would offer such inmates tens of thousands of
dollars for the time they were locked up.
"In the vast majority of these cases, the DNA analysis has left absolutely
no doubt that the person was innocent. So people have begun applying for
automatic compensation, which is really not adequate," said Rob Warden,
executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the
Northwestern University School of Law.
Most states offer no automatic compensation to exonerated inmates. Of the
22 states that do, the amount of financial assistance varies greatly.
In states without compensation programs, some inmates sue and are
awarded millions of dollars. Others have no grounds for a lawsuit and get
Inmates like Beaver accept whatever the state deems appropriate - in his
case, $50 for each day spent in prison. He will receive more than $181,000
from the state, paid in annual installments of about $36,500.
Earlier this year, inmate advocates made a largely unsuccessful push in 13
states to update or expand compensation programs, according to The
Innocence Project, which represents inmates fighting to have their
Vermont was the only one to create a new compensation program, agreeing to
pay inmates at least $60,000 a year, with no maximum. In Texas, lawmakers
doubled compensation payments from $25,000 to $50,000 for each year
served. New Hampshire pays no more than $20,000, regardless of the length
of time spent in prison.
The federal prison system has one of the most generous compensation
policies, paying up to $50,000 a year to exonerated inmates and $100,000
for those on death row.
Warden said compensation programs are spotty because exonerations were
rare in the past - just 1,300 in U.S. history.
But genetic testing has made them more common. By late August, 207
prisoners were exonerated by DNA, according to the Innocence Project. More
than half of those exonerations happened in the last 6 years.
Many cases were similar to Beaver's in Missouri. His conviction was based
largely on the victim's testimony that he resembled the assailant. There
were blood samples in the car from the attacker, but they were too small
to be tested at the time.
Beaver lobbied for years to have the samples tested. A judge finally
allowed the test, which proved his innocence in March.
By July, Beaver was getting to know the son he had been separated from for
more than a decade. He was hired briefly at a laundry service, but said he
was fired after a disagreement over sick time.
The state compensation check has helped, he said, but it isn't enough to
help him get back on his feet.
"They should have said: 'Here's a job working for the city,'" he said.
If there is no compensation law, inmates often find it difficult to sue
the state, said Jenny Greenberg, director of the Innocence Project in
Florida. Inmates often must prove that authorities purposely put them
behind bars on false pretenses, she said.
If lawsuits go through, the payout can be huge. Illinois inmate James
Newsome, who was freed in 1994, was awarded $15 million in federal court
Just as taxpayers receive the benefits of the justice system, "we need to
assume some of the burden when that system errs," said Utah state Rep.
David Litvack, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought passage for a
compensation bill this year.
In Florida, a proposed compensation law has failed three years in a row as
lawmakers battle over a "clean hands" provision that would bar
compensating anyone with prior convictions.
"You always want to compensate someone who is convicted incorrectly, but I
don't think the public would approve of us compensating people who were
wrongfully convicted of one crime but had a rap sheet that is nine pages
long," said Florida's Republican House Whip Ellyn Bogdanoff.
Greenberg, with the Innocence Project, said she has opposed "clean hands"
provisions because they would prevent many exonerated inmates from being
"Almost every one of our guys has a prior conviction - that's why they
have pictures to wrongly identify them," Greenberg said.
(source: Galveston Daily News)
Human rights groups seek money for indigent defense in Ga.
Human rights groups urged state leaders Wednesday to pony up more money
for Georgia's indigent defense system, which has faced funding problems,
job cuts and a cash drain due to the death penalty case of accused
courthouse gunman Brian Nichols.
The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, whose primary source of
funding is criminal and civil fines and court fees, needs more money to
meet its obligations to poor defendants across the state, the advocacy
groups said at a Capitol news conference.
Fully funding the system should be a state priority if Georgia "wants to
be in the business of taking a human life," said Laura Moye, deputy
director of the Southern regional office of Amnesty International.
Moye was joined by officials from several human rights groups, including
the American Civil Liberties Union and the Georgia State Conference of the
Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue said it's hard
to say right now whether the public defender's council will get additional
money in a supplemental state budget.
"Some, particularly the capital defenders, interpret that constitutional
rights as you just sign the check and let us fill in the amount," Perdue
said. "I think there's got to be some balance in there."
He added that he believes the state should do the right thing when it
comes to the constitutional right of representation.
"But I don't think we have an obligation to sign a blank check to every
defense attorney and every expert witness that they want to have out
here," Perdue said.
Perdue said at a separate appearance Wednesday that the amount needed for
indigent defense will be determined in the budgeting process.
"We won't determine that by press conference or allegation," Perdue said.
In May, budget woes at the state public defender's office led the agency
to announce that it would cut jobs and expenses. The council said it voted
for $4.25 million in budget cuts so it can operate within a $35.4 million
appropriation granted by the state Legislature for fiscal 2008.
The bulk of the budget cuts involve eliminating 41 full-time and all
part-time jobs, the agency said at the time.
The funding problems also have forced several delays in Nichols' murder
trial, which has now been pushed back to Oct. 1.
Some observers have questioned the expenditures for Nichols' defense,
which is being picked up by the public defender's office.
The total cost of defending Nichols, who is charged with killing a judge
and three others during a shooting spree that began in a courthouse in
March 2005, could reach $2.4 million by the end of the trial.
The projection by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council would be
six times the average cost of a death penalty case paid for by the agency
from a person's arrest through the initial appeal following a conviction.
The human rights groups that gathered Wednesday to urge more state funds
for the state public defender's office said the Nichols case is unusual
and shouldn't define the debate.
(source: Associated Press)
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