[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ALA., GA., N.Y., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Sep 27 20:27:02 CDT 2007
Alabama changing lethal injection procedure
Attorneys for Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur sought a stay of his
execution based on Gov. Bob Riley's decision Wednesday to change the
state's lethal injection procedures.
Riley decided to change the procedure to provide additional safeguards to
make sure inmates are unconscious before administered drugs to stop the
lungs and heart, said Jeff Emerson, Riley's communications director.
Arthur is scheduled to die at Holman prison near Atmore at 6 p.m.
Thursday, and the change can't be accomplished in time for it, Emerson
The change came one week before a federal court trial challenging whether
Alabama's lethal injection procedures allow inmates to remain partially
conscious and suffer unconstitutionally cruel pain during their deaths.
Arthur's attorney sought to delay the execution based on Alabama's planned
change and on the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing Tuesday to review Kentucky's
lethal injection procedures.
In papers filed with the Alabama Supreme Court, Arthur's pro bono
attorney, Suhana Han of New York, argued that the planned change in
Alabama's procedures should prompt the postponement of Arthur's execution.
"At this point, we are hopeful the fact that the state of Alabama is
essentially conceding deficiencies in its protocol will help Mr. Arthur
gain a stay," she said.
Emerson and Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said the state is not
conceding any deficiencies.
"This is being done even though we believe the current protocol is
constitutional," Emerson said.
Crenshaw, who opposes a stay, characterized the change as very minor and
said it was not in response to Arthur or other inmates challenging
Alabama's procedures. "It's just another way to ensure the inmate is
unconscious before drugs two and three go into the bloodstream," he said.
The details of the change are still being worked out, but Emerson said it
could include more anesthetic and an additional check for unconsciousness.
Court papers filed by the state attorney general's office late Wednesday
afternoon said that in addition to having the warden watch the inmate for
any signs of consciousness, someone else would be in the execution chamber
with the condemned "to assess consciousness."
The court papers did not identify the person's profession or training.
Arthur, 65, was sentenced to death for the 1982 murder-for-hire killing of
35-year-old Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals.
Emerson said the governor's legal adviser began to review Alabama's
procedures after a federal judge ruled last week that Tennessee's
procedures are unconstitutionally cruel.
"Their protocol is very similar to what Alabama does," Emerson said.
Arthur's attorneys also asked the Alabama Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme
Court for a stay of his execution based on the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision Tuesday to review lethal injection as a form of execution in
Alabama's attorney general urged the justices not to step in, arguing that
Arthur is merely trying to delay his execution and that his case is
significantly different from the one in Kentucky.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review Kentucky's lethal injection
policies didn't prevent an execution Tuesday night in Texas.
(source: Associated Press)
Governor Riley Issues 45-Day Stay of Execution for Tommy Arthur
Governor Bob Riley granted a brief stay of execution to Thomas Arthur, a
death row inmate who was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m.
The Governor made the decision to grant a stay of 45 days and met with
Commissioner Richard Allen of the Alabama Department of Corrections on
"The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty and he will be
executed for his crime. The decision to grant a brief stay is being made
only because the state is changing its lethal injection protocol, and this
will allow sufficient time for the Department of Corrections to make that
change," Governor Riley said. "It is my desire that, as soon as the stay
has expired, justice will be administered to Thomas Arthur. I have
encouraged the Attorney General to make a motion with the Alabama Supreme
Court for a new date of execution as soon as possible."
(source: nbc15 news)
Individual DAs ripped in release from King
As part of an ongoing dispute over a death penalty case, Attorney General
Troy King last week sent out critical news releases to members of the
media that in some instances named individual district attorneys across
15 district attorneys were targeted with the customized statements. Their
names were inserted into the releases that went to media in their
A King spokesman said the releases were simply designed to get across his
side and to alert local news outlets that their local district attorney
was involved. An official with the Alabama District Attorney's Association
said the releases were out of line.
"The district attorneys of Alabama find his conduct unfortunate,
inappropriate and sad," said Randy Hillman, executive director of the
Alabama District Attorney's Association. "That is all we are going to say
about this situation."
The releases are the latest episode in the ongoing public dispute between
King and a majority of the district attorneys in the state after the
attorney general took a capital murder case away from Shelby County
District Attorney Robby Owens.
"My instructions to our press office on sending this out was to go to the
media in the circuits of the district attorneys who have either publicly
committed to support and condone Mr. Owens' actions through press accounts
or who physically stood with Mr. Owens at the press conference called by
the District Attorney's Association," said Chris Bence, chief of staff for
Bence said sending out releases with a local connection is standard
operating procedure and said it is something the office does with safe
school awards, senior conferences and some crimes.
The disagreement started Sept. 12, when King's office sent out a release
stating it was taking the case from Owens to try to maintain the death
sentence of a man who did not kill the victims, but was an accomplice.
Both men received the death penalty, but a later U.S. Supreme Court ruling
removed the younger man from death row because he was a minor when the
Owens argued, and a judge agreed, it would not be equitable to keep the
accomplice on death row and not the shooter.
King's first release not only said he was taking over the case, but said
Owens acted on the side of the criminal and shirked his duty.
The Alabama District Attorney's Association supported Owens and asked King
to apologize. Several members said King's actions were political and
initiated because Owens supported Mobile County District Attorney John
Tyson Jr. in last year's campaign for attorney general.
Troy King misjudges role
THE ISSUE: Attorney General Troy King's job is not to win convictions or
death sentences at all costs. It's to do justice.
Give Troy King credit for appreciating a good sound bite, if not the
pivotal role prosecutors are supposed to play in the criminal justice
Alabama's attorney general demonstrated as much in his recent actions with
regard to a death-penalty case in Shelby County and again Saturday in his
remarks to a rally in Birmingham to memorialize homicide victims.
"No more standing with criminals. No more standing against victims," King
said at the National Day of Remembrance for Homicide Victims. "I may stand
alone, but I stand with you."
Of course, nobody wants to stand against those who are traumatized by
brutal, senseless crimes. But King's words - coupled with his actions of
late - suggest the attorney general truly does not grasp the real role
prosecutors are supposed to play in courts of justice.
Justice is the key word here.
In the course of doing their jobs, prosecutors certainly give voice to the
pain and injuries suffered by crime victims. But their job is not to
represent victims or their survivors, or to win convictions, or to ensure
the maximum punishment is inflicted.
Their job, simply put, is to see that justice is done. Sometimes, that
might even mean taking a different view than crime victims or their loved
King demonstrated a lack of appreciation of his responsibilities this
month in seizing control of a Shelby County death penalty case after
accusing District Attorney Robby Owens of taking the side of the
defendants who held up a pawn shop in 1996 and killed the store's owner
Owens' infraction? He concluded that since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling
made it impossible to execute the 16-year-old triggerman, it wouldn't be
fair to execute a 19-year-old co-defendant who didn't kill anyone. He
concluded it wouldn't be justice to execute an accomplice if the actual
killer escaped the ultimate punishment because of his age at the time of
As Owens acknowledges, none of this can be expected to be welcome news to
the families of victims John Burleson and Janice Littleton; their personal
loss is too great. But victims are not required to be dispassionate.
All but one of the state's 42 district attorneys joined in criticizing
King for the "scathing verbal attack" on Owens. A statement from the
Alabama District Attorneys Association said Owens did what prosecutors are
supposed to do - that is, seek justice.
Owens' stance in the LaSamuel Gamble case "epitomizes the fairness and
courage that should be demonstrated when a district attorney is faced with
the daunting task of making a decision concerning the most important and
undeniably the most controversial issue within our criminal justice system
- the fair and equal application of the death penalty," the statement
True, some of these district attorneys don't, in our estimation, always
practice this principle as well as they preached it last week to King. But
that doesn't excuse King's conduct.
King came to the job lacking prosecutorial experience, so maybe he just
doesn't get it. Or maybe he does get it, and he just doesn't care. Either
way, that's not what Alabama needs in its top prosecutor.
(source: Opinion, The Birmingham News)
Georgia death penalty will die
The death penalty is destined to die a slow, lingering death in Georgia.
The Legislature will take no action to end it. Juries in the state may
still impose it from time to time. But the number of convicted murders who
make it to the state's lethal injection chamber will slowly decline over
the next few years to the point where prosecutors will no longer think it
is politically necessary to spend the time, energy and money to seek the
And voters, the prosecutors will eventually discover, won't hold it
against them. They'll be satisfied that putting a convicted killer away
for life, with no chance for parole, makes more sense than taking years
and spending millions of dollars adjudicating the sentence, not the crime.
The trends are already apparent. According to an investigative project by
reporters at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, juries have grown
increasingly reluctant to impose the death penalty over the last five
years, and prosecutors are taking capital cases to juries only about half
as often as they did in the 1980s and '90s.
Then there's Brian Nichols and Stacey Ian Humphreys, the death-penalty
defendants du jour.
Attorneys for Nichols, the accused Fulton County Courthouse killer, have
already charged the state nearly $2 million for defending him, and are now
demanding even more. The Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council, which
is paying the tab, says it has no more money, and wants Fulton County to
pick up more of the costs.
On Monday, the state Supreme Court said Fulton County isn't responsible
for some of the expenses the defense wants paid. Delays in deciding who
pays for these and other defense needs may delay the trial again. It has
already been delayed twice.
The Nichols' courthouse rampage that spilled into Atlanta streets and
claimed four lives occurred in March of 2005. The defense team's strategy
has been to delay the case as long as possible, putting pressure on the
prosecutor to end the ordeal by taking the death penalty off the table and
racking up an enormous bill for state taxpayers.
Humphreys, on the other hand, was accused of killing 2 Cobb County real
estate agents in cold blood in November 2003. Humphreys robbed them in a
west Cobb model home, stole their ATM cards and killed them. When police
arrested Humphreys a few days later in Wisconsin, he had hundreds of
dollars in cash, a gun with DNA of one of the victims on it and evidence
of blood from the other victim on a floor mat of his vehicle. He told
detectives that he would rather plead guilty than face the victims'
Humphrey is defended by 2 lawyers, whose fees are being split between Cobb
County taxpayers and the state. In the nearly 4 years since the murders,
the defense has filed numerous procedural motions, including a failed
effort to suppress Humphrey's statements to police. Citing pre-trial
publicity, they did succeed in getting the case moved to Brunswick, Ga.
On Monday, when it came time for attorneys to present the defense that
taxpayers had financed, they offered none. Not a single witness was
called. The Brunswick jury convicted him Tuesday in less than 5 hours.
But Humphrey's guilt or innocence was never in real question in the trial.
The question has always been whether he deserves to die. That's also what
the Nichols trial is about. In fact, that's why all death penalty cases
cost so much and take so long to come to trial.
That's also why the death penalty in Georgia will slowly die. The
Legislature will never proclaim that the risk of killing an innocent
defendant outweighs the retribution we think we get from executions. It
will never accept that there's no good evidence backing up the claim that
death sentences deter crime, and it will never claim the high moral ground
by banning state-sanctioned murder.
Instead, we'll just figure out it's not worth it.
(source: MIke King, Opinion, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Death penalty unfair, must be abolished----Georgia sentences arbitrarily
driven by race, politics, geography
For criminal cases involving the most severe punishment that society can
inflict, justice has never been blind. As we're learning, it probably
never can be.
In the 4-part series "A Matter of Life or Death," a team of reporters for
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed Georgia murder cases dating
between 1995 and 2004 that could have qualified the killer for the death
penalty. They found that in many cases, the final sentence was influenced
more by trivial circumstances such as geography, a prosecutor's personal
politics or the victim's race than it was by more important
considerations, such as the nature of the killer's crime or its relative
Many of the cases profiled in the series involve acts of horrific and
sickening violence that justify harsh, even lifelong punishment. The
killers did more than cut short the lives of innocent victims, they
attacked the community at large, assaulting the sense of safety that makes
it possible to live together in peace. Some of those defendants also
showed no remorse for their actions, a lack of repentance that makes it
easier to dismiss them as hopelessly depraved creatures who are deserving
of death, the ultimate penalty.
But if society chooses to inflict death, it has an obligation to do so
fairly. A death sentence should not be arbitrary and capricious, imposed
on some but not on others who are guilty of even more heinous crimes.
And because a death sentence is absolute, it should be imposed only in
cases where the person's guilt is absolutely certain, and it should be
imposed based on clear standards in the law, not on the human biases and
prejudices that afflict all of us.
The death penalty as it is imposed here in Georgia does not meet those
District attorneys in metro Atlanta counties such as DeKalb and Fulton
routinely offer defendants in capital crimes the option of pleading guilty
and facing life sentences without hope of parole.
But in similar cases elsewhere in the state, prosecutors seek and win
death penalty sentences, making the punishment irrational.
"It would make as much sense just to execute every 10th or every 100th
murderer [as] it would be to figure out the rhyme or reason for why we're
picking the ones to get the death penalty," as Atlanta defense attorney
Jack Martin noted.
Race has played a role in the administration of justice in this country
since its founding. That ugly and intractable dynamic is still evident
today; according to a statistical analysis of more than a thousand cases,
prosecutors in Georgia were twice as likely to seek the death penalty if
the victim was white than if the victim was black. In the more specific
category of murders carried out during an armed robbery, defendants were
an astonishing six times as likely to face death sentences if the person
they killed was white.
The Georgia Supreme Court has the responsibility to scrutinize death
sentences to ensure the penalty is being applied uniformly statewide,
based on precedents set in earlier cases. But former and sitting justices
openly admit that their "proportionality reviews" have often been woefully
sloppy and inaccurate.
In the vast majority of 159 such reviews undertaken since 1982, the
justices have cited cases as precedent that had actually been dismissed,
overturned or reversed on appeal, including some that had been overturned
by the justices themselves. Only 14 of those 159 proportionality reviews
cited no cases that had been reversed.
In 1972, citing evidence that the death penalty in Georgia was being
applied in a similarly arbitrary manner, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out
death-penalty laws here and in 39 other states as well. Since then, laws
have been rewritten and processes and safeguards allegedly tightened, but
to little apparent effect.
The difficulties of fairly, accurately and efficiently carrying out the
death penalty in Georgia are further illustrated by 2 prominent cases in
the news. The first involves Brian Nichols, charged in a sensational 2005
killing spree that left four people dead, including a judge, his court
reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent. The proceedings have
been repeatedly delayed by controversy over the cost of Nichols'
state-appointed legal defense, which has now reached more than $1.8
The multiple crimes alleged to have been committed by Nichols are at least
as heinous as those that have put other people on Death Row. But even if
Nichols is found guilty, at this point the odds of a death sentence being
imposed and carried out against him appear pretty slim. If that assessment
proves valid, it would add to the already overwhelming evidence of the
arbitrary nature of the death penalty in Georgia.
The 2nd Georgia case involves the fate of Troy Anthony Davis, who was
convicted in 1991 of killing a Savannah police officer and has been
sitting on death row ever since. Davis was convicted based exclusively on
eyewitness testimony, which in other cases has proved notoriously
unreliable, especially when no supporting physical evidence existed. For
example, in cases in which DNA evidence has exonerated felons of crimes
they did not commit, faulty eyewitness reports often turns out to have
played a central role in the original conviction.
In the Davis case, the uncertain nature of eyewitness testimony is
compounded by the fact that most of the prosecution witnesses have since
recanted or contradicted their testimony naming Davis as the killer. Yet
Davis was one day from execution before state officials agreed to a
temporary stay to examine his case more carefully.
Georgia's death penalty law can and should be updated to try to wring as
much unfairness as possible from the system, but reform can never
eradicate the possibility of error, and it can never remove human bias and
prejudice from the process. Imposing the absolute penalty requires
absolute justice, and in the absence of that, the death penalty ought to
(source: Lyle V. Harris, for the editorial board, Atlanta
DA candidate supports death penalty for cop killers
Broome County District Attorney Candidate Michael Korchak is calling for
the death penalty for convicted cop killers if he is elected as the next
In May, the state Senate passed a death penalty bill for the intentional
murder of an officer. Korchak says he will join the New York State Senate
and Governor Eliot Spitzer in lobbying for the state Assembly to act.
Korchak is running against current DA Gerald Mollen, who is in favor of
the death penalty in limited situations. But Korchak says he will seek the
strongest penalty available when prosecuting criminals responsible for the
death of an officer.
Broome County District Attorney Candidate Michael Korchak is calling for
the death penalty for convicted cop killers if he is elected as the next
"It really doesn't seem a coincidence that in the past few years since the
death penalty laws have been stricken down, that there seems to be an
increase on shootings of police officers," said Korchak.
"I understand there might have been some statements made that the death
penalty might lower the crime rate. I think that's kind of a silly
statement, but I think thats not the reason for having the death penalty.
I think there's some heinous crimes where the only just outcome would be
the penalty of death," Mollen said.
Mollen has served as District Attorney for the past 20 years. Korchak
worked as a senior assistant DA in the county for 11 years.
(source: 10now News)
Feds accuse suspended Chicago officer of planning hit, investigate cop
The reputation of the Chicago Police Department has received a battering
at the hands of a federal prosecutor.
First, authorities announced Wednesday that a suspended police officer is
accused of planning the murder-for-hire of a fellow police officer he
feared would testify against him. In connection with that case, U.S.
Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald revealed a federal investigation of a Chicago
police unit that targets drugs and gangs.
He also announced his office is investigating perjury, false statements
and obstruction of justice allegations tied to current federal civil
lawsuits resulting from claims of torture by Chicago police in the 1980s.
A group of Chicago alderman urged Fitzgerald last week to take action in
the torture case, in which detectives in a violent crimes unit were
accused of dunking suspects in water, beating them and subjecting them to
electric shocks to wring out confessions.
While Fitzgerald wouldn't reveal many details, he said the investigation
has been "ongoing a while." And he warned people approached by federal
investigators that they "should be very clear that we expect the truth and
no one should be foolish enough to contemplate lying to us."
A $6 million investigation by two special prosecutors produced a 300-page
report in July 2006 that said police tortured suspects, but the cases were
too old to warrant criminal charges.
Police department critics denounced the report by the special prosecutors,
who were appointed by the chief judge of Cook County's criminal courts, as
politically motivated and a whitewash. While the statute of limitations
may have expired, they said there was plenty of opportunity to bring
criminal charges against any former officer who lied in pending civil
The allegations focus on activities of the Area 2 violent crimes unit
under the command of then-Lt. Jon Burge, who has denied he ever engaged in
torture but was fired after a police investigation found a suspect was
mistreated in his custody.
"I'm happy to hear that the government has announced that they are
investigating at long last the torture at Area 2 by Jon Burge and his
men," said G. Flint Taylor, an attorney for several men bringing lawsuits.
Telephone calls Wednesday to Chicago police for a response to Fitzgerald's
comments were not returned.
When notified of Fitzgerald's remarks, Burge attorney Richard Sikes said
the allegations "have been fairly investigated by the special prosecutors"
who found there were no grounds for criminal charges.
In a related matter, Fitzgerald said the federal government is
investigating a January 1987 arson that killed seven people and injured
many more, a crime that former death row inmate Madison Hobley said he
confessed to after being tortured by Burge and his men.
Fitzgerald did not say that investigators were zeroing in on Hobley, 1 of
4 inmates pardoned by former Gov. George Ryan in January 2003 as he was
preparing to leave office.
But Chicago Corporation Counsel Mara Georges told a City Council Finance
Committee hearing that Hobley was the target of the investigation.
Taylor, who is Hobley's lawyer, said the remarks represented "a smear
campaign by Mara Georges."
While Fitzgerald never used Hobley's name, he did answer a question about
trying a person for the same crime twice.
"If we file charges against someone, if we believe there is evidence
sufficient to prove that they carried out this murder, it would be
irrelevant legally whether or not that person was charged or convicted or
pardoned in the state system," Fitzgerald said. "This would be a federal
Meanwhile, Chicago police officer Jerome Finnigan, 44, appeared in federal
court Wednesday on charges he considered hiring street gang members to
kill a former fellow cop and potential witness against him killed.
Finnigan is 1 of 6 members of an elite Chicago police unit already accused
of using their badges to shake down residents and intimidate people.
He has pleaded not guilty to state charges including armed robbery and
According to federal authorities, the man targeted for death could be a
witness against Finnigan in both the federal investigation of the unit and
the ongoing state criminal prosecution.
Over the past weekend, Finnigan discussed killing three other police
officers he believed to be cooperating in the investigations, according to
the affidavit and Fitzgerald.
"When the person who seeks to hire someone to kill a witness against him
is a police officer, it doesn't get any more serious than that,"
During his brief court appearance, Finnigan - wearing a green sweat shirt
turned inside out and shackled at the ankles - said he understood the
charges against him. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole ordered Finnigan
held until a Monday detention hearing.
Finnigan declined to talk to reporters as marshals led him away, and
defense attorney Michael Ficaro said he would have no comment until he
learned more about the case against his client.
Finnigan is charged with using a telephone to commit murder-for-hire. The
harge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine,
(source: Associated Press)
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