[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----W. VA., ALA., US MIL., CALIF., DEL. N.H.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Dec 1 10:21:00 CST 2008
Pro-death----Revenge mentality; Gradually, most of the civilized world has
abolished the death penalty. Conscientious people everywhere now realize
that killing prisoners is a medieval barbarism suited for dictatorships,
but not for modern democracies.
Gradually, most of the civilized world has abolished the death penalty.
Conscientious people everywhere now realize that killing prisoners is a
medieval barbarism suited for dictatorships, but not for modern
Of course, some murderers don't deserve to live, but that's not the point.
Educated, enlightened governments shouldn't stoop to the murderers' level
by killing them.
Of course, most people have a natural thirst for revenge after a heinous
crime - but society shouldn't be rooted in such primal instincts.
It's a shame that America is almost the last pro-death democracy, ranking
alongside brutal dictatorships such as China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the
like. America was tainted, for example, when former Texas Gov. George W.
Bush set an all-time record of putting people to death - and mocked one
woman about to be killed.
We're proud that West Virginia rose above this status long ago by ending
state executions. We're always pleased when another state takes the same
step. New Jersey did so last year.
Now it seems likely that Maryland will follow. The Maryland Commission on
Capital Punishment voted strongly to eliminate executions. The
commission's findings, to be given to legislators Dec. 15, reportedly
--Prosecutors are more likely to seek death when victims are white. They
show less concern when a black is killed.
--Executions do not deter murders.
--Capital cases cost taxpayers much more and take substantially longer
than non-capital murder cases.
--Rather than providing "closure" for a victim's family, the drawn-out
appeal process adds to the family's stress.
--Risk of executing an innocent person is strong, because many death row
convictions have been found faulty.The ultimate punishment is spotty by
geography. Prosecutors in Baltimore County are 13 times more likely to
seek execution than are those in the city of Baltimore. Much of the world
regards America as a brutal place where people are put to death. We hope
that Maryland and other states join West Virginia in rising above that
(source: Editorial, The Charleston Gazette)
Federal bench short on diversity
Other actions that presidents take may get more attention in the short
term, but few have more long-term implications than appointments to the
federal courts. These are lifetime appointments, and as such can continue
to exercise influence decades after a president has left office.
Although appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court prompt lots of discussion,
and rightly so, presidents also leave a huge impression on the judiciary
with their appointments to the federal district and circuit courts. A
president will make scores of these appointments. President Bush, for
example, has named 322 district and circuit judges. President Clinton
In Alabama, there is a lamentable lack of racial diversity in the
appointments made to the federal district bench in the past
quarter-century. We hope to see that change under the Obama
administration, which will have one immediate vacancy to fill upon taking
office in January.
Judge U.W. Clemon, who serves in the Northern District, is leaving the
bench. Clemon and Judge Myron Thompson of the Middle District were the 1st
2 black federal judges in the state. Both were appointed by President
Carter in 1980.
That was 28 years and four presidents ago. No black Alabamian has been
named to the federal bench here since. President Clinton did nominate a
well regarded Birmingham attorney, Ken Simon, in the last months of his
administration in 2000, but that nomination was opposed by Republican Sen.
Richard Shelby, who contended that the incoming president should make the
There is some gender diversity on the federal bench here, although none in
the Middle District of the state. Here, the district judges-- Thompson,
Mark Fuller, Keith Watkins and Senior Judges Truman Hobbs, Harold
Albritton and Ira DeMent -- are all male.
In the Northern District, four of the 12 judges are female. The 4 judges
on senior status are all male. Senior judges continue to hear cases on a
In the Southern District, 2 of the 4 judges are female. The one senior
judge is male.
Race is in itself neither a qualification nor a disqualification for a
federal judgeship. However, federal courts that do not to at least some
reasonable degree reflect the populations whose cases they hear can lose
the confidence of the people. Minorities who aspire to the federal
judiciary have to wonder about how realistic their goals are.
"I don't believe in setting quotas for judgeships, but at the same time
there has not been a black person appointed to the bench since 1980," U.S.
Rep. Artur Davis said in an interview with the Birmingham News. "I think
it's impossible to suggest that there hasn't been a talented, qualified
black lawyer in that time."
Of course it is. The record is as troubling as it is clear -- 2
appointments made 28 years ago, 1 late-term nomination 8 years ago that
never had a chance, and not even so much as a nomination of a black woman,
(source: Montgomery Advertiser)
Defense wrapping up witnesses in fragging trial
Defense lawyers plan to present their final witnesses as the military
murder trial of a New York Army National Guard soldier wraps up in a Fort
The defense said last week it would present witnesses Monday in the
court-martial of 41-year-old Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez of Troy, N.Y. He
is charged with premeditated murder and faces a possible death sentence if
The military judge has said closing arguments and jury deliberations could
begin Tuesday if the defense completes its examination of rebuttal
Martinez is charged in the 2005 deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito of
Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis Allen of Milford, Pa. Both men were
members of the 42nd Infantry Division.
(source: Associated Press)
Federal judges to rule on Calif. prison crowding
California's day of reckoning has finally come for 3 decades of
tough-on-crime policies that led to overcrowded prisons and
unconstitutional conditions for inmates.
The federal courts have already found that the prison system's delivery of
health and mental health care is so negligent that it's a direct cause of
A special 3-judge panel reconvenes Tuesday and is prepared to decide
whether crowding has become so bad that inmates cannot receive proper
care. If they do, the panel will decide if lowering the inmate population
is the only way to fix the problems.
That could result in an order to release tens of thousands of California
inmates before their terms are finished, a move Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Republican lawmakers say would endanger public safety.
"The time has come: The extreme, pervasive and long-lasting overcrowding
in California prisons must be addressed," attorney Michael Bien,
representing inmates, told the judges during the opening of the trial.
Bien and other civil rights attorneys want the panel to order the prison
population cut from 156,300 inmates to about 110,000. That still would be
above the capacity of California's 33 state prisons, which were designed
to hold fewer than 100,000 inmates.
To relieve some of the crowding, state corrections officials have
transferred nearly 6,000 inmates to privately run prisons out of state and
have another 11,000 living in conservation camps or private prisons within
The overcrowding is apparent in many prisons. Nearly 14,000 inmates sleep
in three-level bunk beds in converted gymnasiums and classrooms. The
arrangement gives each inmate about six square feet of living space while
increasing the risk of violence and the spread of disease, according to
testimony from prison guards.
Some inmates are forced to use water stored in garbage cans to bathe
because there are too few showers.
Sick inmates can wait in line for hours to receive medical care, while the
mentally ill can wait more than a year for a bed in a treatment unit. The
state's inmate suicide rate is double the national average, yet suicidal
inmates are held for hours in cages the size of telephone booths because
there aren't enough crisis cells.
Two of the three judges hearing the case previously ruled that the state
is violating inmates' constitutional rights by providing such poor medical
and mental health care.
Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections,
blamed California's adoption of tough drug laws and three-strikes
sentencing laws since the 1970s. The state has added more than 1,000
felony sentencing laws during the past 30 years, and its criminal code
gives judges little leeway in deciding punishments.
"They went from being one of the most progressive systems in the country
to one of the most overcrowded," Beard testified. "California has this
problem that has just been going on for years and years and years, and
nobody seems to be willing to step up to the plate and fix the problem."
Most inmates live in prisons with populations the size of small towns.
Nearly half the prisons hold 5,000 prisoners or more, while nine exceed
4,000 inmates. Beard said the limit should be 3,300.
The administration argues that conditions are improving, in part because
of the out-of-state transfers and because the state is spending more on
medical and mental health care.
It will spend $2.2 billion this year to treat, house and guard physically
and mentally ill inmates, a 550 percent increase since 1995. The prison's
population grew about 30 percent during the same period.
Annual health care spending has increased from $2,714 per inmate in 1995
to $13,778 this year, according to the state Department of Finance.
Administration lawyers credited a court-appointed receiver's oversight of
inmate health care for many of the recent, if costly, improvements. But
the administration is fighting the receiver's demand for an additional $8
billion to build seven inmate medical and mental health centers at a time
when the state faces an $11.2 billion budget deficit.
Schwarzenegger and Republican state lawmakers promise an appeal directly
to the U.S. Supreme Court if they lose the case.
The state is trying to focus the judges' attention on the consequences of
ordering prisoners freed before they complete their full sentences.
"Releasing 50,000 inmates to the streets is obviously a public safety risk
and it doesn't fix the problem," Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said
in an interview. "There are still underlying problems and we want to fix
them. Early release, though, isn't the way to do that."
The judges are acting for the 1st time under the federal Prison Litigation
Reform Act of 1995. The act requires the judges to initially find that
crowding is the main cause of substandard conditions, a ruling they are
likely to make this week.
They then can order inmates released only if they find there are no other
options for improving care. The judges hope to complete the second phase
of the trial by Christmas.
"No one's on the same track as California at this point," said Amy Fettig,
a prison lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It tells you
they're in deep, deep trouble."
(source: Associated Press)
Death Row Appeal From Jackson Rejected
The latest appeal from Delaware death row inmate Robert Jackson III was
rejected last week.
Judge Richard Cooch said Jackson was not entitled to any relief on the ten
Jackson, who was charged for murder, says he is not a violent person and
was not working alone. He also claimed he was not given a fair trial and
that his lawyers had conflicts of interest.
Jackson is also the lead plaintiff in a separate lawsuit challenging
Delaware's lethal injection policy.
The state has made changes to their policy, but the case remains pending.
(source: WMDT News)
Penalty phase of NH murder trial continues
The penalty phase of Michael Addison's capital murder trial will continue
with testimony from another corrections' officer and some of Addison's
Addison was convicted last month of murdering Manchester police Officer
Michael Briggs 2 years ago. Jurors deciding whether to sentence him to
death or to life in prison have been hearing from Briggs' family as well
as those familiar with Addison's criminal record.
Last week, corrections officers from Massachusetts testified that Addison
was a problem inmate who did not seem to care about rules and regulations
while behind bars in the Bay State nearly a decade ago. Testimony resumes
(source: Associated Press)
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