[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----GA., FLA., N.C., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Sep 22 10:46:53 CDT 2007
Patterns of disparities----In Georgia, race of victim, location of crime
among factors that may influence which killers live, which die.
The death penalty carries a racial bias in Georgia, but it's not what most
White killers are more likely to face capital prosecution and land on
death row, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. The reason: White
killers are more likely to kill white people.
A statistical analysis shows Georgia prosecutors were more than twice as
likely to seek the death penalty when the victim was white.
The newspaper and University of Maryland criminologist Ray Paternoster
analyzed 10 years of death-eligible murder convictions, asking: Does who
or where murderers kill affect their chances of getting death?
The answer was yes to both.
Clear patterns in the data show Georgia's 49 judicial circuits carried out
the death penalty in starkly different ways, Paternoster said.
"There's no Georgia capital punishment law," he said. "There's one in one
county, and in another county there's a totally different one."
Paternoster, who did a similar study in Maryland, used statistical tools
to control for key differences between cases, including the number of
victims, evidence of rape, torture or drugs, or a confession. He also took
into account the racial population in the county of crime.
The disparity between prosecutors' treatment of killers of whites versus
killers of blacks was most pronounced in less severe cases, the analysis
found. The discrepancy nearly disappeared for the most severe murders.
"Black victims have to be really, really brutalized before they're treated
the same as a white-victim case," Paternoster said.
The imbalance was greatest in northern and southwestern Georgia. In DeKalb
and Fulton County, however, a white victim had no impact.
The analysis showed a similar difference in sentencing. When facing
capital prosecution, killers of whites were more than twice as likely to
land on death row. 18 of the last 20 murderers executed in Georgia were
white. All but 1 of their victims were white.
2/3 of respondents in a poll conducted for the newspaper last fall said
they did not believe prosecutors pursued execution more often for the
killers of white victims.
Critics of the death penalty say such findings show the judicial system
consciously or not values white life more. Supporters say the studies
fail to consider the complexity of cases.
Researchers don't have a simple explanation. But Paternoster said
historical differences between whites' and minorities' support for the
death penalty, and their relationship with authorities, could help explain
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that patterns of discrimination do
not prove unconstitutional bias in a specific case, essentially blocking
the use of such statistics in death appeals.
Race and geography are intertwined, Paternoster said. But he found Georgia
court circuits' handling of the death penalty varied widely even when the
victim's race was taken into account.
Prosecutors were 4.5 times more likely to seek death in the circuit that
includes Augusta than in Cobb County, for instance. In terms of
sentencing, central Georgia killers were more than 3 times as likely to
end up on death row as killers in the 11-county metro Atlanta area.
The findings show the death penalty is not applied uniformly in Georgia,
Paternoster said, but it is not beyond repair.
"Is it all bad?" he said. "No. There is rationality in the system. We can
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
High court hears appeal of woman under death sentence
Virginia Larzelere deserves a new trial because her former lawyer abused
drugs and alcohol during her 1992 trial on charges she murdered her
husband, an attorney argued Friday before the Florida Supreme Court.
The widow who was once the only woman on death row also deserves to be
resentenced because her lawyers were ineffective during the penalty phase
of her case, said David Hendry, her appeals lawer. A reversal could mean
the difference between death by lethal injection or a prison term.
Hendry also argued evidence of sexual abuse by a family member was not
presented as a mitigating factor during the penalty phase.
He then turned his attention to misconduct by one of Larzelere's lawyers,
Jack Wilkins, who was later convicted of tax evasion, sentenced to 5 years
in federal prison, and disbarred.
Wilkins' problems came to light in 2002 when 3 witnesses came forward.
They claimed substance abuse and financial problems were keeping him busy
during the trial of Larzelere, who was convicted and sentenced to death in
1993 for arranging the shooting death of her dentist husband, Dr. Norman
Larzelere, 39, in his Edgewater office, Hendry argued.
"He's destroying financial records that had been subpoenaed by the
governement; he's running out of this office with a giant bottle of vodka
in the middle of the afternoon, and snorting cocaine off a strip club
toilet seat," Hendry said of Wilkins.
"In the years I've been up here, I do not remember a situation where we've
had as many problems with lawyers," Justice Charles Wells said during oral
arguments on various issues of the appeal. "And a trial judge making a
determination they did not provide effective counsel. I just am concerned
this case needs to move along here and have a new penalty phase."
But Hendry urged the court to "go beyond the judge's findings." Arguing
for a reversal of her conviction, he challenged how the jury was
instructed. Larzelere was charged with premeditated first-degree murder,
Hendry said, but the jury was instructed on conspiracy. "The jury, being
instructed on conspiracy, believed conspiracy was met and convicted based
Assistant Attorney General Barbara Davis argued against the new
sentencing. In the state's appeal against Circuit Judge John Watson's
ruling that Larzelere should get a new sentencing, she said Larzelere's
attorneys made a strategic decision not to call witnesses to discuss
Larzlere's claims of sexual abuse.
"The minute you go into how that affected her, you get into the real
Virginia Larzelere," Davis argued, suggesting Larzelere had tried to kill
two former husbands. "(Larzlere) exposed her own children to sexual abuse
from the same man who sexually abused her," Davis said.
The court will rule on both sides of the appeal later. The decision could
mean the difference between life and death for Larzelere, now 54.
Her son Jason, 18 at the time, was acquitted at trial of charges accusing
him of being the gunman. Prosecutors said the motive was $2 million in
life insurance money.
Judge: Medical board can't punish execution docs
The N.C. Medical Board does not have a right to discipline doctors who
participate in executions, a Wake Superior Court judge ruled today.
Judge Donald Stephens said the state's obligation to have a doctor "attend
and provide professional medical assessment" during executions trumps the
Medical Board's authority to make sure its doctors are being ethical. The
Medical Board has said that doctors who participate in executions could be
disciplined, because a doctor's role is to preserve life.
Lawyers for the state Department of Correction and the Medical Board,
adversaries in a lawsuit over the board's ethics policy, argued for nearly
two hours Aug. 29 before Stephens. They could not agree on what lawmakers
meant when they said a doctor must be "present" at executions.
The board says lawmakers defined present as "in view" of an inmate. But
prison officials say it means that a doctor must monitor an inmate for
undue suffering during executions.
Stephens denied the Medical Board's motion to dismiss suit, filed by state
prison officials. The suit sought to stop the board from disciplining
doctors who monitor executions.
It was unclear immediately how the ruling would affect a halt on
executions in the state.
Jerry Conner, one of a handful of inmates whose executions have been
stayed, could be up first for lethal injection. He had been scheduled for
execution last year; the other inmates' execution dates were set for this
Last year, a judge issued an order allowing prison officials to execute an
inmate using a new lethal injection protocol. That protocol required
doctors not only to be present, but to monitor inmates for undue
In January, the Medical Board passed the ethics policy, allowing doctors
to be present for the executions but to take no active role.
The Council of State, a group of top elected state officials, approved the
protocol, but doctors refused to monitor the inmates because of the
Medical Board's ethics policy.
Prison officials, in turn, filed the lawsuit against the Medical Board.
Attorneys for prison officials maintained that the Medical Board was using
its policy to halt to executions, though the board denied that.
(source: News & Observer)
Lifetime Achievers----Jerold Solovy, Thomas Sullivan, Jenner & Block
Thomas Sullivan started practicing law at Jenner & Block in 1954. Jerold
Solovy followed the next year. According to Solovy, that gave Sullivan an
unfair advantage. "Tom is like the little rabbit that the dog chases
around the track," says Solovy, who is Jenner's chairman. "I've been
chasing Tom my entire life."
If so, Sullivan gave Solovy a great target. Over the last half-century,
the two 77-year-old men have compiled astonishing records of public
service and pro bono accomplishments, including representing scores of
indigent criminal defendants and devoting themselves to capital punishment
reform. And their example is followed throughout their firm: For 15 years,
Jenner has ranked in the top ten in The American Lawyer's pro bono survey.
"The tradition of pro bono is in the DNA of that law firm," says Winston &
Strawn partner Dan Webb. "They're recognized in the Chicago legal
community as real standard-bearers for pro bono."
As young lawyers at Jenner, both men took a stream of court-appointed
indigent criminal cases. "Robbery, rape, child molestation, murder, you
name it, we did it," Sullivan recalls. From that unheralded start they
rose to play essential roles in the criminal justice system. Sullivan went
on to become U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 1977
to 1981. During his tenure, he began the far-reaching probe into judicial
corruption in the Cook County courts known as Operation Greylord. On a
different front, Solovy advanced the effort to clean up Chicago's courts
by heading a commission that identified ways to avoid another
During his career, Solovy argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court,
including three for indigent defendants. He notes that he lost those
three, including Kirby v. Illinois, in which the Court held in 1972 than
an indigent is not entitled to counsel for a preindictment lineup.
Solovy cites another Supreme Court case he worked on (but did not argue)
as one of the proudest achievements of his career. In Witherspoon v.
Illinois, Solovy, Sullivan, and Albert Jenner, Jr., were appointed counsel
to Bill Witherspoon a few weeks before his scheduled execution. The Jenner
lawyers got a postponement of the execution, and in 1968 Jenner convinced
the high court to reverse the death sentence because prosecutors had
excluded any juror who opposed capital punishment. "That stopped the march
of the death penalty for about 10 years," Solovy says. An estimated 350
people on death row were resentenced following the decision.
Recently, Sullivan continued his work on capital punishment reform by
serving as cochair of the Illinois governor's Commission on Capital
Punishment, started by former governor George Ryan. In 2002 the commission
issued a report with specific recommendations to make Illinois's capital
punishment system more "just, fair, and accurate." Since then, Illinois
has adopted several of these recommendations, including the nation's 1st
law requiring the electronic recording of custodial interviews in
potential capital cases.
Author and lawyer Scott Turow-whom Sullivan hired out of law school as a
federal prosecutor-served on that commission and praises Sullivan's
dedication. "Tom Sullivan worked the hardest of all," Turow says. "Tom
really set the standard for all of us. He truly is really, really
The commission's work has made a difference. From 2003 to 2006, only ten
individuals have been sentenced to death row in Illinois-the same number
sentenced in 2000 alone. Sullivan continues to campaign for recording of
interviews across the country. Today, 6 other states and the District of
Columbia require them, and hundreds of local police departments have
voluntarily adopted recording rules. Sullivan, who is currently serving as
chairman of the Illinois Capital Punishment Study Commission, is blunt
about his feelings regarding the death penalty: "It's stupid."
Sullivan is similarly outspoken about Guantnamo Bay: "It's a scandal." He
and other Jenner lawyers represent 18 prisoners at the military prison,
which he's visited four times. (He is scheduled to return in September.)
He describes these cases as "terribly, terribly frustrating" because of
the absence of due process protections and the harsh conditions of
confinement. Solovy also maintains an "indigent stable" of cases,
including representation of a woman who lost her house in a tax sale, and
supervision of several appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Despite the similarities in their careers, Solovy and Sullivan are "dead
opposites," Solovy says. Webb describes the 2: "Sullivan is one of the
most dedicated, serious lawyers you'll ever run into. He's very
soft-spoken and modest and unassuming. . . . Solovy is more outgoing and
is a great salesman for his firm." Webb, who considers both to be his
friends, adds, "Both are real decent people."
Representing clients whose liberty or life is at stake takes an emotional
toll. Solovy recalls the gut-wrenching ordeal of having his client,
Hernando Williams, executed: "Although this guy was a really bad guy, it's
hard to lose somebody that way." Solovy is still troubled by the "Baby
Richard" case, in which he represented pro bono the adoptive parents of a
child whose natural father sued to reclaim custody. Four years after the
adoption, in 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the natural
father. "I still think about that," says Solovy. "Poor adoptive parents.
That was awful."
Sullivan is succinct when he explains how he balanced a lifelong
commitment to public interest work with a practice for paying clients: "I
worked a lot." He adds, "When I look back on my career of 54 years, the
cases I remember are not the big-money cases for big-money companies, but
the pro bono cases." The cases for which he's billing fat fees and
immersed in document production are "drudgery work," he says. "But when
you can get into a case for people who are desperate-some of whom have
been accused of horrible crimes, but they need a lawyer-that's more
(source: The American Lawyer, Sept. 1)
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