[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TENN., ALA., CONN., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 23 15:35:29 CDT 2007
Bredesen: Ruling makes legal executions difficult----Governor says judge
'wrong' on lethal injections
Gov. Phil Bredesen disagrees with a federal judge's ruling that
Tennessee's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional and says it
will be more difficult to appeal than in previous cases.
The state would have a difficult time meeting the criteria to make the
state's lethal injections constitutional under U.S. District Judge Aleta
Trauger's ruling, Bredesen told The Associated Press.
"She's kind of created a Catch-22 for us,'' Bredesen said Friday. "She
decries the lack of medically trained personnel involved in the execution,
and of course it's very hard to get trained medical personnel to
participate in any fashion.''
Bredesen said he hasn't yet decided whether to appeal the case to the 6th
Circuit Court of Appeals, but he acknowledged that any challenge would be
more difficult than previous and successful moves to reverse temporary
injunctions for Tennessee executions.
Trauger said state Department of Correction Commissioner George Little
adopted the new execution protocols in April despite having knowledge
about risks of excessive pain for inmates.
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 also not
sufficient to ensure a painless execution, she said.
Bredesen, a Democrat, defended Little's decision not to go with the
single-drug method, and said he disagrees with Trauger's push for an
untested lethal injection procedure.
"I think this is the wrong decision in this case. I think she's trying to
push us into uncharted territory, which I'm going to have to think
carefully about,'' he said. "And I think she's made it very difficult to
fix the 3-drug protocol.''
Trauger hears testimony
Unlike previous cases, Trauger held a four-day evidentiary hearing that
she said gave her the "opportunity to observe and gauge the credibility of
all the witnesses who testified.''
The hearings included testimony from Department of Correction officials,
the execution team, members of a panel appointed to recommend changes to
the lethal injection protocol and medical experts representing both sides.
Trauger also heard from a neutral medical witness, Michael Higgins, an
anesthesiologist and the chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at
Vanderbilt Medical Center, who testified that the new protocol does not
require sufficient training and expertise.
Difficulties administering intravenous drugs occur "with fairly high
frequency'' in a hospital setting with highly trained professionals,
Trauger found that Higgins' testimony supported by both sides' own
medical experts showed an increased likelihood of an execution going
"These are known risks accidents which, given enough of an opportunity,
will occur for which the executioners are completely unprepared,''
Trauger said. "In many cases, the executioners are not even aware that the
But the state would have a hard time getting medical advice because most
doctors refuse to participate in crafting death penalty procedures.
"If the Vanderbilt anesthesiology department would come over and perform
executions for us, there wouldn't be any issues,'' Bredesen said.
Edward Jerome Harbison was scheduled to be executed Wednesday for beating
an elderly woman to death during a burglary in 1983. The state announced
Friday that it will ask the state Supreme Court to delay Harbison's
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.
(source: Associated Press)
Reasons to halt execution
Arthur Thomas is scheduled to be executed by the state of Alabama on
The conviction of Arthur for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker is based
entirely on circumstantial evidence and on the changed testimony of
Wicker's wife, who was originally convicted, with Arthur, of the murder.
At the trial, Mrs. Wicker had testified that Thomas Arthur had had nothing
to do with the murder, but after serving 10 years of her life sentence,
Mrs. Wicker suddenly changed her story and identified Arthur as the
murderer. She was paroled a year later.
Thomas Arthur has always denied murdering Wicker. When the physical
evidence at the crime scene was tested (before DNA testing), none of it
could be linked to him. Arthur's lawyers have repeatedly tried to obtain
the physical evidence that is in the hands of Alabama authorities for
modern DNA testing (at their own expense), which could possibly exonerate
Arthur, but Alabama will not permit it.
Since 1977, more than 100 capital cases have been overturned based on DNA
evidence. Whether you believe in capital punishment or not, no one should
be executed -- or even imprisoned -- until existing evidence is fully
I urge people to call Gov. Bob Riley's office at (334) 242-7100 and demand
that the execution of Thomas Arthur be stayed until DNA evidence can be
JANET HABIB ---- Mobile
(source: Letter to the Editor, Press-Register)
State tight with jurors' pay
One of the rights that comes with standing trial in a criminal case is
that the accused are entitled to a jury of their peers. That means people
like them sit in judgment.
But is that what they really get in Connecticut in trials that stretch
beyond a few days? Under Connecticut law, an employer is obligated to pay
a worker for only 5 days of jury service, for which the clock starts
ticking on Day 1 of jury selection. And if the employee has to return to
court for a second day of voir dire questioning by prosecutors and
defense lawyers it means that by the time the trial gets started, by law,
the employer has to pay for only 3 more days.
"After that, I'm afraid the compensation is $50 a day," Superior Court
Judge Jon C. Blue informed the umpteenth wave of potential jurors being
considered to decide guilt or innocence recently. "I wish it could be
higher," Blue says. "But that's the compensation that is set by our
Based on a 40-hour work week, that equates to the tidy sum of $6.25 per
hour. You can bag groceries, serve double-shot, no-foam, vente carmel
lattes or sling two all-beef patties for much more 22.4 % more at the
minimum wage of $7.65 per hour. This low pay has implications that go
beyond the economic. It affects the racial, demographic composition of the
jury. If the defendant is young, a minority who comes from a poor urban
area, is a jury comprised of middle-aged whites and retirees from
well-to-do suburbs fair?
The last time Connecticut's General Assembly boosted juror compensation
was in 1989, although its judiciary committee in recent years did consider
raising it twice.
"50 dollars a day in 1989 would equate to $82.86 in 2007 dollars," Todd P.
Martin, an economic adviser to People's United Bank in Bridgeport, says.
"Instead of $6.25 per hour, jurors would have to earn $10.36 per hour just
to keep up with inflation, which has gone up 65.7 % since 1989. Baby
sitters around here make more per hour than that."
At Blue's confirmation hearing before the General Assembly's Judiciary
Committee in 2005, legislators asked the judge to share his thoughts on
enhancing the judicial system.
"In New Haven, I think I can say that minority participation in jury
trials is probably minimally acceptable, but it's certainly something that
could be improved," Blue testified. "And one thing that could really
improve it is an increase in the per-diem amount given jurors, especially
for long criminal trials or civil trials over 5 days. Virtually anybody
who's at the low end of the economic spectrum is not going to be able to
afford to be on the jury if the payment is only $50. And I feel strongly
that that ought to be increased."
It might not cure anybody's reluctance to serve on juries over night. "But
I think it would make a surprising contribution to minority" impressions
about justice, according to Blue. "Not only to the fairness of the system,
but specifically to minority participation in the jury system."
State Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chair of the General Assembly's Judiciary
Committee, doubts that raising juror compensation will make those summoned
more willing to serve.
"It'll help some people," Lawlor, D-East Haven, who is an attorney, says.
"But there's something about jury service that people don't like. It
disrupts their schedule. They don't want to get involved. There are some
things that no matter of money will cure."
2 states, Arizona and Oklahoma, might beg to differ. Both solved citizen
reluctance to serve by creating funds that pay jurors who sit on
long-running trials what they would have earned up to $300 a day had
they gone to work instead. A Connecticut Business and Industry Association
survey of 300 mid- to large-sized employers in 2004 showed that 75 % of
the mid-sized companies and 90 % of the state's biggest firms continued to
pay their employees their full salaries beyond the 5 days set by state
HealthNet of the Northeast, based in Shelton, Sikorsky Aircraft in
Stratford and its parent company, United Technologies, in Hartford, are
among Connecticut's businesses that provide time off with pay to employees
who are selected as jurors.
"Our philosophy is that jury service is part of our civic obligation,"
Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson says, adding that the defense contractor
recognizes the reality that employees have bills to pay. "We encourage our
employees to perform their civic duty. We want them to do it. That's why
we continue to pay them their full salaries" even when the business no
longer has a legal obligation.
"HealthNet's thinking is that we need to provide assistance in the form of
time off with pay to facilitate participation in jury service. So, the
company will compensate employees for 20 days per occurrence in a year,"
Alice Ferreira, vice president for HealthNet of the Northeast, says. "If a
trial goes beyond that, there would be exceptions to this policy. It just
needs the company's approval."
Ferreira found out firsthand nine years ago how worthwhile HealthNet's
juror compensation benefit actually was.
"I got called as an alternate juror in a criminal case that lasted for
more than two weeks. It was an assault involving a kid," Ferreira says. "I
sat there during the voir dire and I did hear stories that did give me
pause. There were people with small businesses, who had no one else to run
them if they were gone, single parents with child care expenses that they
would not be able to meet if they sat on a jury instead of showed up for
New Mexico is the only state that compensates its jurors by the hour based
on its state minimum wage. In Ohio, jurors who serve more than 10 days are
eligible to receive up to $80 per day. Still, Connecticut's payment to
jurors, in terms of absolute dollars, is relatively generous. South
Carolina, for instance, allows jurors to be compensated $2 per day. Texas,
the death penalty execution capital, has a ceiling that allows jurors to
receive a daily maximum of $50. In practice, however, most Texas counties
award them only $6 per day.
Connecticut's payment of $50 a day after 5 days is the same fee set by
Massachusetts after three days of jury service. It is also what Colorado
awards following 3 days of jury service, what Oregon pays as of the 2nd
day of jury service and what both North Dakota and South Dakota compensate
jurors starting with their 1st day.
Legislative history shows Connecticut has adjusted juror compensation 11
times in its history, beginning in 1835 when it set its 1st fees at 67
cents per day. It more than doubled to $1.25 in 1849. After the Civil War,
in 1875, the General Assembly raised jurors' salaries to $2.50 per day.
Nevertheless, it wasn't until World War I that the state raised their pay
to $3 per day the same fee that Congress set way back in 1790 for federal
courts anywhere in the country.
Under Connecticut law, judges have the power to excuse potential jurors if
they believe a severe hardship exists or might result because of serving
on a trial. "The hardship has to be personal to you," Blue warns them.
"Your absence from work might be an inconvenience to your employer. But
the hardship has to be your own."
"The way you have to think of this is something like a military draft,"
Blue tells prospective jurors. "If you're selected, you pretty much have
to serve. If you're not, you're not. I've had people mad at me because
they were placed on a jury. I've had people mad at me because they weren't
placed on a jury. Go figure. Either way, I think you have to be
businesslike about it."
But is jury service really like being pressed into a military draft? Sure,
neither is voluntary. But soldiers earn paychecks. Jurors get a pittance.
The one thing all the parties in a trial impress on everyone summoned is
that jury service is a civic obligation of the highest order. It's part of
our democratic heritage.
And that's the rub.
On the one hand, Connecticut jurors learn that jury service is a form of
payback for living in a democratic society. And it's their obligation. The
money that they receive from the judicial system for serving on a case
that goes beyond five days therefore does not constitute a salary because
being a juror is not a job. What they get from Connecticut is compensation
a token for their time.
Chief Court Administrator Judge William J. Lavery believes the time has
come for the Legislature to reconsider boosting juror compensation.
"It's been a long, long time since this was increased," Lavery says. "It
is time for the Legislature to look at this issue. Most people who are
getting hurt by this are the middle class and the lower class. They aren't
indigent. "But this level of compensation makes it impossible for them to
participate. They just can't afford it. You can't make it so expensive for
them to have access to the courts or be on a jury. When that happens you
don't get a cross section of the community.
In the end, it hurts all the players in the judicial process, especially
criminal defendants, who, under Connecticut's constitution, are guaranteed
a trial by a jury that represents their community, a jury of their peers.
Low compensation to jurors on especially on long-running trials "does a
disservice to everybody," Lavery says. You can't have everybody from
Greenfield Hill as a jury. You need people from Bridgeport, too, to judge
a person because they know and are a part of that community, too."
Arizona took a creative legislative approach in 2004 to the plight of
long-serving jurors. It adopted and extended many of the provisions of a
Model Juror Patriotism Act, drafted by attorneys Victor Schwartz and Cary
Silverman for the American Legislative Exchange Council.
In Arizona, the problem of juror compensation on those trials was
compounded because Arizona employers are not required to pay their workers
anything regardless of how little time they serve.
Arizona became the 1st state to create a lengthy trial fund for jurors
that is financed with civil court filing fees. It puts jurors in the
position they would have been in financially if they had gone to work
instead of court. In 2006, the fund had $735,784 and paid out $167,709 to
jurors who served five days or longer. The fund pays the difference
between the state-mandated $12 a day compensation and the wage a juror
would have earned at his or her regular job up to a maximum of $300 per
"We'd been trying for years to get more money into the hands of jurors.
There was resistance to the idea of raising civil court filing fees $15 to
fund this lengthy trial fund," says Jennifer Greene, a policy analyst with
the administrative office of the Arizona Supreme Court.
"Certainly the aim of this policy is a more representative jury," Greene
says. "You are trying not to eliminate people with financial hardships.
I've heard from jury commissioners that they are seeing fewer people
seeking to be excused for financial hardships."
Connecticut courts took in $28.8 million in fiscal 2007 from 299,529 civil
transactions, and $27.6 million and $27.1 million during the two previous
years from 300,219 and 282,253 transactions. Though civil filing fees vary
depending on the type of transaction, applying a $15 increase along the
lines of what Arizona and Oklahoma have done could provide the seed money
for a lengthy trial fund coupled with enforcing fines for delinquent
jurors. If Connecticut invoked a $15 surcharge on its civil court filing
fees, based on its volume of transactions over the last 3 years, it would
have amassed a $13.2 million lengthy trial fund. Furthermore, if it
enforced fines against delinquent jurors, which is another $9.4 million,
it would have at least $22.6 million more to better compensate jurors.
Lavery endorses the idea of more money for jurors, but not a lengthy trial
fund financed by a boost in civil court fees.
"Filing fees are already too high. This is just another way of jacking up
the price of getting into court. And for some folks it is already way too
high," Lavery says. "When it gets to the point that it becomes too
expensive for people to access the judicial system, people will take their
disputes outside of court. We should pay jurors more. Period. If they earn
$300 a day, that's what we should pay them." But where would the money
"Through an appropriation," Lavery says, "that comes from your taxes. If
we really want people to come to court to resolve their problems, we can't
make it so expensive that they can't access them. We need to spread the
cost of compensating jurors" in a more equitable way that recognizes
Lawlor, the co-chair of General Assembly's Judicial Committee, wonders
whether creating a lengthy trial fund that pays some jurors more than
others based on their documented earnings might expose Connecticut to
claims that it violated jurors' rights to equal protection under the law.
Would some jurors' views, Lawlor wonders, carry more weight in the
Schwartz, the Arizona attorney, dismisses such logic. "2 people can be
waitresses, 1 at a diner, the other at The Palm. At the end of the night,
1 of them gets a $3 tip, the other one goes home with a $100 bill for her
tip.," Schwartz says. "That's just life."
"The bottom line is that this law helps the middle class and blue-collar
folks the most," Schwartz says. "It's intended to put the butcher, the
baker and the candlestickmaker on a jury, to allow them to participate in
a trial without having to worry about what they've got in their
(source: Connecticut Post)
The Turnpike Phantom
John Wesley Wable was convicted of murdering truckers who pulled off the
side of the road to sleep. He died in the electric chair in 1955.
Everyone did it, and it was something that Lester Woodward had probably
done a hundred times before. On a foggy Saturday night, July 25, 1953,
Woodward, 30, an interstate trucker, pulled his rig off the Pennsylvania
Turnpike and into an unlit parking lot to catch a few hours of shuteye.
That isolated patch of gravel would be the end of the road for him.
The next morning, another trucker got lost and found himself on the same
out-of-the-way route. He pulled alongside Woodward's rig to ask
Woodward was slumped in the cab, dead, a .32-caliber slug in his brain.
Police speculated that in the early morning, the killer had pulled his car
up next to the truck, climbed up to the cab, and shot Woodward as he
A 6-car pileup, in which several people died, occurred around the same
time, and it seemed likely that the gunman had caused the accident as he
fled the scene at high speed.
Woodward's wallet was empty, and everyone assumed that robbery had been
3 days later, and 30 miles to the east, the killer struck again.
The victim was Harry Pitts, 39, a driver for the Baker Drive-Away Co. Like
Woodward, he had pulled into an isolated gravel lot to sleep. The next
morning, a fellow trucker recognized Pitts' rig and stopped to chat. But
Pitts was in no condition for conversation. He had been killed around
midnight, shot through the mouth with a .32.
Tire tracks suggested that the killer had screeched across the eastbound
lanes and into the westbound lanes.
Ballistics confirmed that the same gun had killed both men.
'Circling the wagons'
Some truckers started to take precautions, arming themselves with clubs
and firearms. They traveled with buddies, or formed convoys. When it was
time to sleep, they swarmed into the parking lots of restaurants and
service stations and joked about "circling the wagons."
Others, however, saw no danger. One told a reporter that the murders were
probably the work of a man with a grudge.
"Maybe he got the wrong guy the first time and then went back to get the
right one the second time," the trucker said.
Fear gripped the turnpike, and troopers patrolled the roads, waking all
lone, slumbering drivers, sometimes telling them to move along, other
times just to make sure they were not dead.
After another shooting, a day later and in Ohio, 18 miles past the western
end of the turnpike, authorities proposed a different motivation.
"There is a maniac loose on the turnpike," a detective told reporters. The
killer became known all over the country as "The Turnpike Phantom."
John Shepard, 36, was victim No. 3. Like the others, he had pulled off the
road and closed his eyes. The difference was that Shepard lived to tell
what happened next.
"Then a noise like a firecracker went off in my head. I reared up and
yelled for mother. I thought I was at home," he said from his hospital bed
a couple of days later, his mother, Agnes, by his side.
He had a bandage over his jaw. Miraculously, the bullet had done little
Shepard said that after he felt the pain in his head, he heard a
high-pitched male voice. The man said he was out of gas and needed money.
Then he told Shepard to take off his pants. Shepard complied. His
assailant snatched the pants, took Shepard's watch, then leaped into a
car, and roared off.
The bullet taken from Shepard's jaw came from the gun that had killed
Woodward and Pitts.
Police pulled in anyone who looked in the least suspicious in all the
surrounding states. There was a recently married couple who had financed
their cross-country hitchhiking honeymoon by stealing; a businessman with
a .22-caliber automatic in his trunk; three toughs from Florida; and a
carload of gang members from St. Louis.
All had alibis, or could not be connected to the shootings. Several
truckers reported being followed by a man in a car, but he vanished before
police could arrive.
For more than a month there was no progress, despite roadblocks and a
multistate dragnet. Even an $11,000 reward offered by the Pennsylvania
Truck Motor Association failed to bring any meaningful leads.
Then, in early October, Shepard's watch turned up in a Cleveland pawnshop.
Police traced the man who had pawned it - John Wesley Wable - to a
roominghouse in the same town. By the time cops arrived, the suspect had
skipped out, leaving an unpaid rent bill and a baffled blond sweetheart,
Leora Crissey, 22.
Crissey said that she had no idea why her boyfriend vanished. Even more
peculiar was his going-away present - a pistol.
It was the same gun that had wounded Shepard and killed Woodward and
A skinny 25-year-old, Wable was an unemployed factory worker who had been
fired from his job in March. He had no record of violent crime, but had
been arrested on Aug. 6, not far from the scene of the 1st murder, for
failing to return a car that he had rented on July 18. Police held him in
the county jail until Sept. 23, when Wable's father, an unemployed miner,
settled the claim with the car dealer, and the case was dismissed.
Behind bars, Wable was unusually chatty, and blabbed about being the
Turnpike Phantom. But police viewed his confession in the same light as
dozens of others - the ravings of another crackpot. He was set free.
On Oct. 9, a nationwide manhunt for Wable began.
'I'm not guilty'
A day later a New Mexico state patrolman spotted a stolen car near Isleta,
10 miles south of Albuquerque. Inside were three men, wanted in a stickup
of an Albuquerque gas station. Although New Mexico police did not know it
at the time, Wable was one of the holdup men.
With cops on their tail, Wable and his sidekicks - J.D. Francis and Marvin
Pierson - sped off at 100 mph, crashing through two roadblocks. By the
time police caught up with the car, only Francis and Pierson were still
inside. Wable had fled on foot.
A few hours later, an off-duty nurse, Carolyn Smith, and her friend Midge
Harman, spotted a hitchhiker walking toward a local hobo jungle near the
Santa Fe railroad track. On a hunch, Smith reported the sighting to
"I'm not guilty," Wable bellowed as the law closed in. Wable insisted that
he had nothing to do with the murders. He admitted he owned the murder
weapon, but said that a "man I've known a long time" named Jim Parks had
borrowed the gun and had it at the time of the killings.
No one could find Parks, but Wable stuck to his story through his trial,
which started on March 5, 1954. He admitted he had been at the scene when
Shepard was shot, but said it was Parks who had pulled the trigger and
stolen the watch.
Wable said that he bought the watch from Parks, then pawned it.
The prosecution's case was circumstantial, and Wable's father swore his
boy was tucked in his bed, sound asleep, when one of the truckers was
shot. But the verdict, after 4 hours deliberation, was, "Guilty. First
degree. Death Penalty."
Wable died in the electric chair on Sept. 26, 1955, but he was not
forgotten. The lone gunman forever changed the habits of interstate
truckers, who learned that being encased in a steel behemoth offers no
security against a maniac with a gun. They started avoiding secluded, dark
places to sleep and instead crammed themselves into crowded, bright
roadside rest stops before they would close their eyes.
(source: New York Daily News)
More information about the DeathPenalty