[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----PENN., N.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 23 15:34:35 CDT 2007
Freed says he could not apply death penalty in Freed case
There is, David Freed said, a simple reason why his office didn't seek the
death penalty against Shane Geedy.
"One of the myths that's out there about capital punishment is that
prosecutors can just willy-nilly seek it whenever they want to," said
Freed, district attorney for Cumberland County.
The truth, Freed said, is that state law allows the application of the
death penalty only in the case of first degree murder with aggravating
circumstances. What constitutes an aggravating circumstance is defined by
Pennsylvania statute, he said.
Examples would include killings that happen while in the commission of
another felony offense, Freed said, such as a killing that happened in the
course of a kidnapping. Other examples would be the killing of a police
officer, he said, or the killing of a child under 12.
In Geedy's case, Freed said, although a jury found him guilty of 1st
degree murder in the death of Toni Myers, there were no aggravating
circumstances. Therefore, he said, the most that the state could have
sought was what Geedy got: Life in prison.
At the beginning of the judicial process, Freed said, many victims'
families don't understand that. As time goes on, he said, they usually
become more familiar with the specific law, but "it doesn't mean that they
accept it and are pleased about it."
When there are aggravating circumstances, Freed said, whether or not to
seek the death penalty is completely within the discretion of the district
The issue doesn't come up frequently in Cumberland County, Freed said.
Since 1994, about four people have been sent to death row for criminal
homicides, he said, and there were several cases in which prosecutors
sought the death penalty but were not able to get it.
(source: The Carlisle Sentinel)
Judge Rules in Execution Doctor Case
The North Carolina Medical Board overstepped its authority by threatening
to punish physicians for participating in executions, a judge ruled
Friday, striking down a policy that effectively triggered a moratorium on
the state's death penalty.
Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said state law does not grant the
medical board the right to prohibit doctors from assisting in executions.
"Although the current effort by the medical board to prohibit physician
participation in executions may well be viewed as humane and noble, such a
decision rests entirely with (elected officials)," Stephens wrote. "As of
this date, the legislature has taken no such action."
Stephens also ruled that executions are not medical procedures.
The medical board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in North
Carolina, threatened in January to punish any doctor who takes an active
role in an execution, saying that doing so violates doctors' oath to do no
harm. State law requires that a doctor be present during a lethal
injection, and a federal judge demanded last year that a doctor oversee
the process of putting an inmate to death.
Dale Breaden, a spokesman for the medical board, wouldn't comment on the
ruling, saying officials will discuss the details at their next meeting in
"We certainly hope that the medical board will stand up for its
authority," said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty in Carrboro. "Why have a medical board if we're
going to allow our politicians or our judges to decide the ethical
standards of doctors?"
The state had revised its lethal injection process in an attempt to
satisfy the judge, requiring that a physician monitor "the essential body
functions of the condemned inmate" and notify the warden if the inmate
shows signs of "undue pain and suffering."
Stephens's action could be the first step toward untangling conflicting
state laws and policies that have prevented North Carolina from executing
a condemned inmate since August 2006. In the past year, the debate over
the death penalty has involved at least two state agencies, several
courts, the medical board and the Council of State, made up of Gov. Mike
Easley and nine other statewide elected officials.
The Department of Correction said Friday it has "no plan to resume
executions in the near future."
Easley's office did not return a call seeking comment. The Attorney
General's Office said it was reviewing the decision.
(source: Associated Press)
ACTOR RETHINKS VIEWS ON DEATH PENALTY----In play, he's on death row
When is the state justified in taking a life?
Winthrop University student Jay Kistler has been thinking long and hard
about that question for the 1st time in his life.
A 19-year-old from Columbia, Kistler will play the male lead in the play
"Dead Man Walking," based on a true story about a Louisiana convict on
death row for a murder he was involved with. The man ultimately is put to
death. "Dead Man Walking" also was a 1995 movie, with Sean Penn playing
convict Matthew Poncelet -- a name made up for the adaptation -- and Susan
Sarandon playing Sister Helen Prejean, a death-penalty opponent who
befriends Poncelet and who wrote the original book.
"Before the play, my mind was pretty well made up that the death penalty
should only be used in certain types of brutal crimes like a really
vicious rape. But I've come to realize that as despicable as my character
is, he is still a human being," said Kistler, who is majoring in theater
performance. "And the research I've done to play this role has changed my
mind. I have friends who just say 'cook him,' but I don't think they've
really looked into the death penalty."
Kistler says he's not nervous about his first big role on the stage, but
he admits to some butterflies when he heard that the real Sister Helen
Prejean would be attending one of the performances at Winthrop.
"I mean, it's her life story that we're acting out on the stage," he said.
"But having her come has also become a big motivator for me, because we
all want to do our best in getting her story out there to the public."
Prejean will be at Winthrop on Oct. 29. The appearance by one of the
nation's foremost death-penalty opponents is part of a seven-week Death
Penalty Awareness series at Winthrop this fall.
Virginia Williams, an associate professor of history at Winthrop, has been
putting together the lecture/performance program -- which is free except
for the play, and open to the public -- for 2 years.
"Sister Prejean is a busy woman, and it took this long to work it into her
schedule," Williams said. "Regardless of your thoughts and feelings about
the death penalty, it's a unique opportunity to see and hear this
remarkable woman's story."
Prejean also will participate in the Sunday evening liturgy at The Oratory
in Rock Hill, as well as lectures in Charlotte and Davidson.
Williams also teaches at Winthrop in the newly created minor program of
Peace, Justice and Conflict Resolution. Williams acknowledges that this
series could appear to be a one-sided look at the issue, but she argues
that in the context of this program, scheduled speakers will present
"Capital punishment is an important contemporary issue," Williams said,
"and we felt it's important to expose our students to this issue and let
them make up their own minds."
IN MY OPINION
Winthrop's Death Penalty Awareness Series
THURSDAY, 7 p.m.A showing of "Too Flawed to Fix," a film about capital
punishment, moderated by Adolphus Belk, an assistant professor of
political science. The showing is sponsored by the Winthrop chapter of
OCT. 18, 7 p.m. "The Trials of Darryl Hunt," an HBO Film preview about a
Winston-Salem man who spent 20 years in prison for a murder he did not
commit. Hunt will answer questions after the film at 7 p.m. in Plowden
OCT. 24, 8 p.m. Faye Sultan and Brad Tripp, an assistant professor of
sociology, will lecture on "The Sociology and Psychology of the Death
Penalty" at Owens G 02.
OCT. 29, 7 p.m. Sister Helen Prejean will give a talk, "Dead Man Walking:
The Journey Continues," in Tillman Hall.
OCT. 31--NOV. 3, 8 p.m. NOV. 4, 2 p.m. "Dead Man Walking" will be
performed at Winthrop's Johnson Studio Theatre, directed by Annie-Laurie
Wheat. General admission is $10 for Wednesday-Thursdays shows, and $15 for
(source: Dan Huntley, Charlotte Observer)
More information about the DeathPenalty