[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, TENN., FLA., N.C., CONN., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 19 20:35:56 CDT 2007
Bryan man could face the death penalty for allegedly murdering his
Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in the capital murder
trial of a Bryan man accused of killing a neighbor.
Christian Edward Olsen was arrested for the murder of Ettie Jean Westbrook
Olsen is also facing 1st degree murder charges after police found
Geraldine Lloyd's decomposing body buried in her back yard in the 3500
block of Oak Hollow Drive.
Olsen had been living at that home.
(source: KCEN TV News)
Court Ruling Halts Tennessee Executions
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Tennessee's new lethal injection
procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, interrupting plans to execute
a killer next week.
The protocol "presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain" and
violates death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison's constitutional
protections under the Eighth Amendment, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger
The new protocol, released in April, does not ensure that inmates are
properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, Trauger
said, which could "result in a terrifying, excruciating death."
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said officials are
reviewing the ruling and haven't decided whether to appeal. Gov. Phil
Bredesen's office had no immediate comment.
Harbison was scheduled to be executed Sept. 26 for beating an elderly
woman to death during a burglary in 1983.
Trauger did not issue a stay or throw out the death sentence for Harbison,
who has lost all his appeals. He can be legally executed once the state
adopts a valid method of execution, she said.
Another federal judge in Nashville this year ordered a delay in the
execution of convicted killer Philip Workman, citing the likelihood that
the state's new guidelines could still cause unconstitutional pain and
suffering. But a 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
lifted that temporary restraining order, and Workman was executed by
lethal injection May 9.
Bredesen, a Democrat, in February placed a 90-day moratorium on executions
because of several glaring problems with the state's execution guidelines,
including conflicting instructions that mixed lethal injection
instructions with those for the electric chair.
George Little, State Department of Correction commissioner, adopted the
new protocol despite having knowledge about the remaining risks of
excessive pain for inmates, Trauger said. A spokeswoman for Little did not
immediately return a message seeking comment.
Little did not give enough consideration to a recommendation to discard
the standard 3-drug lethal injection cocktail in favor of a single drug
method, Trauger said. Current training and medical expertise are not
sufficient to ensure a painless execution, she said.
Most states use 3 drugs thiopental, an anesthetic; pancuronium bromide, a
nerve blocker and muscle paralyzer; and potassium chloride, a drug to stop
the heart. Each is supposed to be capable of killing by itself, but if
not, the anesthetic is supposed to render the inmate unconscious while the
other drugs do the job.
Lethal injection has been adopted by 37 states as a cheaper and more
humane alternative to electrocution, gas chambers and other execution
methods. But at least 11 states suspended its use after opponents alleged
it was ineffective and cruel.
The issue came to a head last year in California when a federal judge
ordered that doctors assist in killing Michael Morales, who was convicted
of raping and murdering a teenage girl. Doctors refused, and legal
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month lifted a more than
year-old stay on executions in Missouri, refusing to block capital
punishment while a death-row inmate asked the U.S. Supreme Court to
declare the state's form of lethal injection to be an unconstitutionally
Tennessee executed convicted child killer Daryl Holton last week in its
first electrocution since 1960.
Bredesen on Friday commuted a death sentence for Michael Joe Boyd because
of "grossly inadequate" legal representation during post-conviction
hearings. Boyd, who now goes by Mika'eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad, was
convicted of murdering a man during an armed robbery in 1986. The death
sentence was commuted to life without possibility of parole.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty jury selection starts
Jury selection continues today in the death penalty trial of a convicted
murderer who pleaded guilty last year to a 2nd killing.
Prosecutors said James Darrell Lewis, 37, confessed to the April 19,1999,
beating death of Donald Kirby, a homeless man whose body was discovered in
a ditch alongside railroad tracks in Rockledge.
According to police, Lewis -- currently serving two back-to-back life
sentences for another 1999 slaying -- struck a sleeping Kirby several
times in the head with a solid metal pipe, fracturing his skull.
He then dragged Kirby across the tracks and threw the body into a ditch, a
police report said. Lewis took money from Kirby's wallet, which he later
threw into the woods.
Lewis pleaded guilty in February 2006 to 1st-degree murder and robbery
with a deadly weapon in connection with the slaying.
A 12-member jury panel will decide whether to recommend a death sentence
for Lewis. Attorneys began questioning jurors Monday, and prosecutor Russ
Bausch said he expects that to roll over into tomorrow.
Circuit Judge Lisa Davidson will preside over the trial.
The death penalty trial is similar to one held following Lewis' 2003
1st-degree murder and robbery conviction in the November 1999 beating
death of 77-year-old Michael Proko.
Prosecutors said Lewis beat Proko with a wrench in his West Melbourne home
and robbed him of $300 to buy crack cocaine.
Jurors in that case opted against the death penalty, and instead sentenced
Lewis to life in prison without parole.
(source: Florida Today)
Trial opens in the case of man accused in ASU student's death----Potential
jurors are queried on their views about death penalty
Kyle Triplett, 23, is 1 of 3 men charged in the killing of Stephen
Harrington, 19, in November of 2005.
Jury selection began yesterday in the capital-murder trial of Kyle
Triplett, 23, who is charged in the killing of a student at Appalachian
By the end of the day, 12 potential jurors had been excused because they
oppose the death penalty. Another man was excused because he said he would
prefer that Triplett get the death penalty if found guilty.
Triplett and 2 other men - Brandon Dalrymple, 22, and Neil Sargeant, 26 -
are accused of killing Stephen Harrington, a 19-year old ASU student from
Raleigh. Harrington's body was found Nov. 8, 2005, in the trunk of his
car. His face was covered with duct tape, his arms were bound behind him
with duct tape, and he had been set on fire.
All 3 men have been in custody since the day that Harrington's body was
found. Authorities said that the killing was drug-related.
All 3 men have pleaded not guilty. Dalrymple agreed last week to testify
against the co-defendants, and in exchange, no longer faces the death
penalty. The 3 men will be tried separately.
All face 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges. If convicted of
1st-degree murder, the only sentencing options are death or life in prison
Triplett's trial got under way Monday in Watauga Superior Court with
jurors filling out questionnaires in another room, as the lawyers argued
about motions most of the day.
During yesterday's jury selection, potential jurors were brought into the
courtroom in blocs of 12, while the rest of the jury pool waited in
another room. District Attorney Jerry Wilson and defense attorney Jeffery
Hedrick were allowed to question each potential juror, as did Judge James
Baker. A woman who plays piano at her church told the court that during
the trial, her opposition to the death penalty would be foremost in her
"I believe that only God has a right to take a life," she said.
Another woman, a teacher, said she could consider the death penalty but
didnt think that it would be an option she could pick.
Several men and women said they opposed capital punishment on religious
and moral grounds.
"While I know it's wrong to take a life, I dont believe it's my place to
take another one," said a woman who opposes the death penalty for
By the midafternoon break, 10 potential jurors had been excused because of
their opposition to the death penalty. One juror said he saw the death
penalty as the only appropriate sentence in a case such as this. He, too,
2 more anti-death-penalty jurors were excused after the break.
Prosecutors used challenges to excuse 2 other potential jurors who had
said they struggled with feelings about capital punishment, but had not
been excused by the judge.
4 others in the jury pool were excused for other reasons, including one
who said she was a close friend of Triplett's.
On Monday, the judge denied a defense motion to compel the state to do
further testing on a wad of duct tape recovered from Harringtons body. The
State Bureau of Investigation's lab had found no fingerprints on the
outside of the tape, and said that pulling apart the stuck-together mass
would destroy any prints. Hedrick had wanted the FBI to do more tests.
He also asked the judge on Monday to not allow the state to argue that
Harrington was alive at the time of the fire. Wilson said that was
something for the jury to determine. The judge said that the state could
make that argument if it showed evidence.
Hedrick also asked the judge to delay a hearing on a defense motion to
suppress a statement that Triplett gave to investigators.
In that statement, Triplett said that he was asleep when Harrington was
wrapped in duct tape, but that he set him on fire.
The defense motion said that Triplett wasn't properly advised of his
rights and was under the influence of controlled substances during his
Hedrick told the judge that he expects the hearing on his motion to
suppress the statement to take longer than a day.
(source: Winston-Salem Journal)
Groton Man Held In Death Of 2-Year-Old --- Police withholding details, but
say suspect, 32, has confessed
A Groton man has been arrested on a capital murder charge after police say
he killed a 2-year-old girl at his residence on High Rock Road and then
confessed to the crime in gruesome detail."
Craig Betancourt, 32, of 164 High Rock Road was charged Monday with
capital felony murder. Under state law, a person convicted of killing
someone under the age of 16 could face the death penalty.
Emergency personnel arrived at the house at about 10:25 p.m. Sunday and
found an unresponsive child. Town police Lt. Steven Sinagra said the child
was found in the bathtub, but he would not provide details on how the
Sinagra did not release the girl's identity, pending notification of next
of kin. He said Betancourt was babysitting for the child. He said the
victim is not related to Betancourt but may be related to a woman whom he
would not identify who lives at the house but was not home at the time.
Land records show the house is owned by Kimberly Ann Bemis. Public records
show Betancourt also lists that address as his residence.
Sinagra said an autopsy would be performed to determine the cause and
manner of the girl's death.
Early Monday morning, three police cruisers and a van from the state
police Major Crime Squad lined the street. Police could be seen inside the
At 7:20 a.m. the front porch light remained lit. An angel lawn ornament
decorated the front yard. A white Dodge Neon was parked in the driveway.
Neighbors said they knew the occupants of the house only in passing, but
often waved to several children who played on a large trampoline in the
back yard. The beige, ranch-style house is across the street from the
Birch Plain Golf Course.
Betancourt, a cook at a Groton fast-food restaurant, was arraigned in New
London Superior Court Monday afternoon. Prosecutor Michael Kennedy said
the state has "an extremely strong case" against him, including his
confession of "a cold-blooded murder."
Relatives or friends of Betancourt filled several rows of benches in the
courtroom, some of them crying as they listened to the proceeding.
Judge James W. Abrams ordered Betancourt held on $3 million bond and
transferred the case to the Part A court, where major crimes are tried.
Betancourt's next court date is Oct. 9.
Public defender Kevin Barrs asked that Betancourt be placed on suicide
Records show that Bemis and Betancourt had a daughter in 2000. Sinagra
said a 6-year-old child who lives at the residence may have been there at
the time of the incident. He said the Department of Children and Families
was called to assist in determining the welfare of the 6-year-old.
Gary Kleeblatt, spokesman for DCF, issued a written statement Monday
noting that at the time of the 2-year-old's death, the department had
opened a negligence case involving the toddler. Kleeblatt said the toddler
was not a foster child and that the neglect did not occur at the house
where the alleged murder took place.
Kleeblatt also said the negligence case did not involve Betancourt or the
person who had legal custody of the child, but he would not name the
child's custodian. He would not elaborate further, except to say that the
department was "deeply saddened and troubled by the death" and would be
working with the Child Welfare League of America to conduct a "full and
independent review of what happened to determine what can be learned from
Betancourt has no recent criminal record. He was sentenced to 20 days on
Nov. 29, 1995, for 1st-degree reckless endangerment and failure to appear
in court. On Jan. 2. 1996, he was sentenced to a suspended 3-month
sentence and one year of probation for four counts of issuing a bad check.
In addition to town police, the Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department, the
Submarine Base Fire Department Ambulance, and paramedics from Lawrence &
Memorial Hospital responded to the scene.
Is separation of medicine and state the answer?
A number of things make for strange bedfellows, perhaps none more so than
government and medicine.
In the last 7 years, it seems every time we open a newspaper we see this
"Honeymooners"-esque relationship playing out whether it concerns the
particulars of stem cell research, the rights of comatose patients, or
women's right to choose. More recently however, the headlines have more to
do with ethical dilemmas that occur when these crazy kids cozy up just a
bit too close to each other.
We have heard about psychologists developing interrogation techniques for
Guantanamo Bay detainees and doctors forcing feeding tubes into the same
detainees that are carrying out hunger strikes in protest to their
Both of these scenarios are currently receiving plenty of scrutiny by
members of the medical community, public opinion and the media, but they
are certainly not without their own champions from the political world and
even those in the medical community that find these practices perfectly
These scenes are a world away to most people, but there is yet another
secluded area where these two, government and medicine, are sneaking off
to pitch woo. Moreover, this place is on our own soil.
In the 37 states that utilize lethal injection to carry out capital
punishment, many, including Florida, Missouri, Texas and North Carolina
require the presence of a physician to at least pronounce the time of
death of the condemned. Some require the doctor to administer the 3 drug
cocktail, consisting of an anesthetic, a paralytic, and then a fatal does
of potassium chloride. Some only ask that the doctor locate a suitable
location for the injection and prepare the site.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has recently made a hard ruling
that any of these activities violates their code of ethics, citing that
medicine is first and foremost a life preserving practice and
participation in executions brazenly violates the mandate that a doctor,
"above all, do no harm."
The AMA further charged, any physician(s) that participate in any capacity
will face revocation of their membership in the association and could also
face license challenges in the states where they practice.
To protect doctors from these complications, Florida, for example, has
gone as far as to make participating physicians don full moon suits with
dark visors so no witness can identify and report them to their state's
Most states feel that the presence of a physician legitimizes the
execution process and further protects it from any 8th Amendment
challenges against cruel and unusual punishment.
It should not take much imagination to see that if the AMA got their way
and no physicians were present to administer the drugs properly, the black
hood and needle would be handed to Bob the Prison Guard and the prisoner
would surmise that the prospect of dying will be the least of his
So, why, if it is ethically questionable and socially controversial, would
any doctor choose to participate in capital punishment?
According to a 2006 article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr.
Atul Gawande, M.D., M.P.H., some do it out of a sense of civic duty.
These physicians feel that a jury of the condemned's peers, through
deliberation and the legal process, concluded that the individual was too
dangerous to be allowed to live and must be removed.
Society has asked these physicians, as the persons most qualified to do
so, to carry out the sentence.
Others, according to Gawande, participate regardless of their own stance
on capital punishment and adopt the outlook that if we have capital
punishment and if it is to be carried out, it should at least be done in
the most humane way possible. They see the participation of fully trained
doctors as the only method that insures it happens that way.
So, there you have it. State governments need doctors to carry out
executions and are willing to protect their identities to do so.
The AMA says the whole affair violates the standards of ethical behavior
for the medical profession.
Though a domestic example, it adds to the growing list of conflicts that
seem to emerge when medicine chooses to waltz with government, be it
federal or state.
Clearly a comprehensive separation of medicine and state just is not
We have to rely on a body of some authority to regulate the education and
licensing requirements of doctors, otherwise any snake oil salesman with a
stethoscope could set up shop.
Further, we need to rely on the government oversight to some extent to ask
if certain research projects and their methods are beneficial to society
and can be conducted in an ethical manner.
Could a graded separation be possible?
Perhaps, but regardless of such a separation's prospect for success, what
we have seen with recent postures of both the American Psychological
Association and the American Medical Association is that some legislative
construct is going to be necessary to preserve the autonomy of medical
practice and prevent it from becoming a convenient instrument of the
(source: Opinion, Stuart Reeves,The Current)
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