[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----COLO., NEV., ALA., VA., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Dec 10 17:04:52 CST 2008
This is why Colorado has the death penalty
There is perhaps no better candidate for the death penalty than Sir Mario
The 23-year-old man killed 3 people, 1 of them a witness about to testify
in a murder trial.
The most troubling aspect of Owens' behavior isn't that he tried to get
around the law. It's that he displayed the arrogance of someone who thinks
he's above the law and is willing to kill to defend that position.
The Post has historically opposed the death penalty, and that has not
changed. We're glad death penalties are rare in Colorado, a function of
the strict standards prosecutors must meet in seeking the punishment.
One of the "aggravating factors" that prosecutors must prove, according to
Colorado law, is that a witness to a criminal offense was intentionally
killed. And that's exactly what Owens did. The facts in the case are a
numbing recitation of shootings, deaths and convictions.
Javad Marshall-Fields, who saw his friend shot to death by Owens, was
trying to do the right thing. He was set to testify against Owens'
accomplice, and eventually Owens, when the threats began.
People told him the word on the street was that he was a marked man.
"They are going to kill me," Marshall-Fields told his friends. The next
night, he and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were gunned down on an Aurora
That should send a chill down the spine of anyone who cares about the
integrity of the judicial system. If such an atrocity were to go
unpunished, or even underpunished, it would be a blow to the very
foundation of our courts.
It also would be an affront to the loved ones these 2 promising young
people left behind. Our hearts go out to their families and friends.
At a hearing Monday before Arapahoe County District Judge Gerald Rafferty,
Wolfe's mother spoke of the devastation Owens caused. Marshall-Fields'
mother talked about the pain and loss.
Owens, according to a Rocky Mountain News report, looked at the mothers
and grinned. Unbelievable.
Given the appeals process, it likely will take a decade for the sentence
to be carried out. But there could hardly be a more clear-cut death
(source: Editorial, Denver Post)
Herda's killer avoids death penalty -- Victim's family members say life
term not harsh enough
A jury on Tuesday spared the life of the man convicted of killing Las
Vegas businessman John Herda and sentenced him to life in prison without
the chance for parole.
Bryan Crawley, 41, was convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing Herda, a
World War II combat veteran who later founded Herda's Discount TV and
"Crawley is simply not the worst of the worst offenders," said Tony Sgro,
one of Crawley's attorneys.
The jury decided that Crawley's tragic childhood and his statement of
remorse, among other things, outweighed his life of crime. The jury also
found that Crawley didn't deserve to die because the slaying of Herda
during a home invasion and robbery wasn't premeditated.
"We were obviously really relieved," said Christopher Oram, Crawley's
Herda's family was unhappy with the sentence. Susan Herda, the slain man's
daughter-in-law, said the family was hoping the jury would sentence
Crawley to death in part so he would be kept away from the general prison
population. They believe Crawley has friends in prison with whom he can
She said Crawley is not afraid of life behind bars and his life sentence
amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Crawley shot Herda six times and killed him in Herda's Spanish Oaks home
in 2006. Herda, 83, managed to shoot Crawley with a .22-caliber pistol
before he died. After the slaying, Crawley fled to Mexico to get a bullet
removed from his side.
"He was a fighter, so he went like a fighter," Herda's grandson Jonathan
Herda said during an earlier hearing. "I can't see it going any other
The jury convicted Crawley of 24 charges, including murder, armed robbery,
attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder. Prosecutors Marc
DiGiacomo and Lisa Luzaich Rego told the jury that before he was arrested,
Crawley stabbed a man during a bar fight and tried to kill a woman during
After he was arrested, Crawley tried to fabricate evidence and hire a hit
man to kill 3 witnesses against him.
A co-defendant in the case, Christopher Brewer, earlier pleaded guilty and
was sentenced to spend eight to 20 years in prison. Brewer, a close friend
of the Herda family, approached Crawley about robbing the businessman.
Brewer knew the victim's schedule and other personal information.
Herda's relatives said they will attend every one of Brewer's parole
hearings to make sure he stays behind bars.
On Monday, the jury learned that Crawley's mother worked as a high-priced
call girl in Las Vegas and introduced him to drugs and sex at an early
age. Witnesses also told the jury that Crawley was abused.
Although he won a sports scholarship to Texas A&M and once owned a
successful cleaning business in Las Vegas, Crawley's life was defined more
by crimes than by good deeds, authorities said. Before Herda's slaying,
Crawley had been in and out of prison for various offenses, including
conspiracy to commit robbery.
Crawley said Monday that he was sorry for his crimes, an apology that
Susan Herda said rang hollow.
"I felt it was the biggest pile of horse manure I had walked in, in my
life," she said. "And that's putting it nicely."
(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The state of Alabama has already scheduled five executions for 2009
THE ISSUE: The state of Alabama already has scheduled 5 executions for
Alabama officials want to waste no time in putting condemned inmates to
death. As of this past week, five execution dates had been set for 2009.
And if Attorney General Troy King has his way, those won't be the last
"It's been too long," King said.
King's belief is that families of the victims have been waiting for years
to see justice done, and an execution cannot happen too soon for them.
That's no doubt true for many of the grieving survivors, and most of us
would probably feel the same in their shoes.
Killers don't give their victims endless appeals. But as a society, we
must show more respect for life than murderers do - even for the life of
As a newspaper, we feel that should mean no executions, period. Life in
prison with no chance for parole is enough to punish the killer and
protect the public. If ending the killer's life would bring back the
victim, maybe executions could be justified. But it doesn't work that way.
If we continue to use the death penalty, we must ensure it is imposed
accurately and fairly. Unfortunately, too many public officials like King
are less interested in seeing executions done right than they are in
seeing them done quickly.
Which brings up an interesting point.
A number of prosecutors like to complain about the length of time it takes
to carry out death sentences. Years too many - sometimes decades, they
say. Yet they seldom point out what holds up executions many times is
improper shortcuts taken by investigators and prosecutors.
Prosecutors say the courts scour these cases, and the inmates are afforded
too many rights. But while prosecutors well know death penalty cases get
special attention from judges, they still sometimes do things like
withholding favorable evidence from the defense. These kinds of mistakes
lead to delays and sometimes even new trials.
King, whose office handles all the death penalty appeals, is a strong
supporter of the death penalty. He's entitled to that view.
But King isn't just the lawyer for families of victims. He's the lawyer
for the people of Alabama. As such, he has a responsibility to ensure the
ultimate punishment is imposed in proceedings that are exceedingly fair.
As it stands, it's all too clear that arbitrary factors like race play far
too big a role in deciding who lives and who dies, that state law makes
ridiculous distinctions between what is a death-penalty offense and what
is not, and that much more needs to be done to provide a good legal
defense for poor people accused of capital crimes.
We understand King likes leading the charge to get executions done in a
hurry. But, oh, how we wish he would also lead the charge to ensure they
are done right.
(source: Birmingham News)
The Virginia State Crime Commission yesterday unanimously endorsed
emergency legislation allowing volunteer lawyers to notify felons that
potential DNA evidence has been found in their old forensic case files.
Under the legislation, the state police will be permitted to provide the
lawyers with what would otherwise be confidential criminal history
information - provided the lawyers agree not to further disseminate it -
to help find people convicted of crimes decades ago.
3 years ago then-Gov. Mark R. Warner ordered what has turned out to be the
review of more than 530,000 case files from 1973 through 1988, before DNA
testing was available. Several state forensic serologists taped swabs or
snippets of biological material in the old files.
Warner ordered a sample testing of 31 cases in 1994 after 3 men were
exonerated of rape convictions by DNA testing of the material discovered
in the case files.
There were two more exonerations in the 31 sample cases leading Warner to
order a full review. In eight of the 34 cases completed since, the DNA of
the suspect was not found by testing, though that does not mean any of the
individuals are innocent.
According to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science yesterday, 2,178
files held evidence suitable for testing and also had a named suspect. Of
that number, 740 were convicted of serious crimes against people, such as
rape, murder or assault.
Of the 740, 592 have been sent to an outside lab for testing and the
evidence returned in 406 cases. Certificates of analysis have been issued
for 34 of those cases.
A total of 1,050 people - some were not convicted of serious crimes - are
to be notified the material was found and that it may or may not be
tested. More than 200 of them are known to have died.
Many are still in prison and others have been notified by mail. But it is
not clear where hundreds of them are. Some 200 lawyers and others across
the state volunteered to help find and notify them earlier this year.
In October the commission, impatient with the slow pace of notifications,
created a study group to find ways around legal impediments barring
volunteer lawyers from assisting. It was that groups recommendations that
were endorsed yesterday.
If the General Assembly passes the legislation on an emergency basis, the
volunteers could get to work next month.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Judges differ as Davis seeks new trial----Death penalty awaits: 2 jurists
question viability of condemned mans claim; a third takes issue with
Federal judges weighed Tuesday whether condemned inmate Troy Davis has
presented enough evidence to stop his execution.
Last month, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in Atlanta halted Davis scheduled execution - the 3rd time his life was
spared shortly before he was to be put to death. The judges called their
stay "conditional" and scheduled arguments on the appeal.
One judge, Joel Dubina of Montgomery, indicated Tuesday he did not think
Davis' claims are compelling enough to warrant a new court hearing.
Another judge, Rosemary Barkett of Miami, said she would like to see Davis
innocence claims fleshed out in court.
The 3rd judge, Stanley Marcus of Miami, closely questioned lawyers as to
whether Davis had cleared the enormously difficult legal thresholds needed
to allow his appeal to go any further.
Davis, 40, sits on death row for the 1989 killing of Savannah police
Officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail was working off-duty when he was gunned
down in a Burger King parking lot.
The 27-year-old former Army Ranger and father of two was unable to draw
his weapon. He was shot 3 times.
Since the 1991 capital trial, 7 of 9 witnesses who testified against Davis
have recanted their testimony.
Relatives of the slain officer listened to Tuesday's arguments from the
front row in the courtroom. Across the aisle sat members of Davis family.
MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, called the repeated appeals and
stays of execution "frustrating" and said Davis' time for judgment has
come. "We've suffered through this, the whole family," she said outside
the courthouse after the arguments had ended.
Martina Correia, Davis' sister, standing a few feet away, said her brother
is innocent. "This is not family against family," she said. "We have no
animosity or ill will against the MacPhail family. But killing Troy is not
going to bring justice."
At the close of Tuesday's hearing, Dubina called the appeal "a very
difficult case." He did not indicate when the 11th Circuit would issue a
During the arguments, the judges asked whether the federal courts could
even entertain a case involving a wrongly convicted death row inmate at
this late stage in the appeals process.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Boleyn told the court that, in
extraordinary cases, such a claim could be heard.
But Davis' case is not such a case, Boleyn said. The recantation evidence
is untrustworthy, she said, and courts have long held that recantations
should be considered with the "highest suspicion."
Boleyn reminded the judges that Davis previously has been denied relief by
the state courts, the 11th Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court and the state
Board of Pardons and Paroles.
But Marcus and Barkett punched holes in the state's case against Davis.
Marcus noted that, since the trial, 3 witnesses have come forward
implicating Redd Coles, who was also at the scene, in MacPhail's killing.
Davis became the prime suspect after Coles went to police the day after
the killing. He also testified against Davis at trial. Coles, in a
previous interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, declined to
Barkett expressed frustration that none of the eyewitnesses was shown
Coles' photo or presented with a lineup with him in it. Perhaps, Barkett
said, Savannah police faced so much pressure to quickly solve the cop
killing they did not focus enough on Coles.
As bad as it would be to execute an innocent man, Barkett said, "it's also
possible the real guilty person who shot Officer MacPhail is not being
Still, Marcus called Davis' innocence claims "murky." They do not have the
kind of forensic DNA evidence that categorically clears him, said the
judge, a former U.S. attorney.
At least one eyewitness, Stephen Sanders, who testified he saw Davis shoot
and kill MacPhail, has not recanted his trial testimony, Marcus said. The
judge recounted Sanders' testimony during the 1991 capital trial, "You
don't forget someone who stands over and shoots someone."
But Tom Dunn, one of Davis' lawyers, said Sanders' testimony was not
credible. Sanders initially told police he could not identify the shooter,
meaning his memory had to improve with time, Dunn said.
THE STORY SO FAR
Previously: Troy Davis is sentenced to death in 1991 by a Chatham County
jury for the 1989 murder of Savannah police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
The latest: The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears his plea to halt
What's next: The federal judges will decide whether to grant a new hearing
in which Davis can present evidence supporting his innocence claims.
Nichols juror may have taken evidence
As the jury in the Brian Nichols' murder trial entered its 2nd day of
deliberations over life and death Wednesday attorneys in the case and
Superior Court Judge James Bodiford tackled a significantly less weighty
Did an alternate juror who will not decide Nichols' fate violate court
rules and take a copy of evidence from the courtroom?
The issue came up Tuesday night, after the jury had finished its 1st day
of sentencing deliberations, when Fulton County district attorney Paul
Howard's office got a call from a man who described himself as a friend of
The man, who was not identified in the courtroom Wednesday, reportedly
told the DA's office that Juror Number 16 had talked to him last week,
saying that he was on the case.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard taped two conversations with
the man Tuesday night. The man revealed that the juror showed him a copy
of a "geneogram" that charted alcohol and drug abuse in Nichols' family.
The chart was produced by a defense expert who testified about Nichols'
Bodiford played down the seriousness of the allegation, if proven to be
"My reaction is, thank goodness this isn't our 1st rodeo," said Bodiford,
indicating that the problem was one that he and probably all the attorneys
in the room had dealt with before in their careers.
Bodiford said he planned to call in the juror after the lunch break and
ask him about it. He said deliberations of the 12 jurors, who are
stationed in a separate room from the 4 alternates, continue unabated.
The alternate jurors have, for their part, been watching movies in their
room. Bodiford said as an additional precaution, the door to the alternate
jurors' room will stay open and a deputy will be stationed outside so he
can overhear their conversations.
source for both: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Troy Davis and the rhetoric of insanity
The Troy Davis case indicates just how subjective the legal system really
is. The federal 11thCourt of Appeals deals with cases in Florida, Alabama
and Georgia. A panel of three judges selected from this court considered
the Davis case yesterday. Rosemary Burkett, a Clinton appointee with both
Arab and Hispanic ethnic roots, would like to see a full airing of the
facts surrounding the Davis case. According to the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, Burkett finds it troubling that 7 of the 9 original
witnesses have changed their stories and that one of the 2 witnesses
sticking to his story has allegedly admitted to killing Savannah officer
Mark Allen MacPhail.
Davis became the prime suspect in the case when Sylvester Coles told the
Savannah police department that Troy was the killer. According to media
accounts, Judge Burkett is wondering why Coles was never considered as a
suspect. It's bad enough that we may be on the verge of killing an
innocent man, she told the court during yesterday's hearing, but "it's
also possible the real guilty person who shot Officer MacPhail is not
Why, Barkett asked yesterday, were none of the witnesses in the case shown
a photo array including a picture of Coles? "It seems police were so
anxious to get somebody that they didn't pursue Coles," Barkett observed.
Judge Stanley Marcus, also a Clinton appointee, was less outspoken than
Judge Barkett, but the testimony he was hearing bothered him as well.
Since the 1991 trial, 3 witnesses had signed statements saying that
Sylvester Coles admitted to the crime over a beer or between tokes.
True, a single witness, Stephen Sanders, is sticking by his story. At the
1991 trial, Sanders said, "You dont forget someone who stands over and
However, as defense attorney Tom Dunn reminded the court yesterday,
Sanders originally told police he wouldnt be able to identify the shooter.
Memory usually gets fuzzier over time.
According to the Atlanta Progressive News, the hearing revolved around two
questions: "First, given the evidence available Tuesday, is it likely a
jury would not convict Davis? Second, did Davis exercise due diligence in
providing new evidence?"
Susan Boleyn, Senior Assistant Attorney General in the State of Georgia,
argued the status quo position. Troy Davis has presented no hard evidence
of actual innocence, she told the judges. Davis's claims have been denied
relief by the state courts, the 11th Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court and
the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, she reminded the court. At some
point you no longer get another bite of the same apple.
But when do you toss the apple core into the trash, and who decides?
Asked why 3 witnesses are primed and willing to testify that Coles
privately confessed to murdering officer MacPhail, Boleyn rattled off a
few theories. Colesmight have been drunk or high on marijuana; or perhaps
Coles was trying to impress his listeners with a bold lie.
Boleyn reminded the judges that the reliability of recanting witnesses has
traditionally been held in low repute. The fact that a witness admits that
they once lied under oath (for whatever the reason) should be enough to
undermine their credibility.
Taken together, Boleyn's arguments boil down to this: yall cant prove your
man is clean, so we get to kill him.
Boleyn was also critical of defense counsel for not bringing their
concerns forward in a more timely manner. This raises an interesting
question: what happens when defense attorneys don't file their briefs on
time? Should the defendant suffer for the mistakes of the people charged
with his defense?
Well, yes, if precedent is anything to go by, he should.
The smooth running of the judicial machinery trumps all other concerns.
The law requires finality. You cant have witnesses changing their minds
willy nilly, especially in a capital case. Therefore, it is generally
agreed that witness testimony should be taken at face value and that once
a witness speaks the words are set in stone. Recantations undermine the
finality prised by the legal system.
Unless, that is, a case achieves the kind of attention the Troy Davis case
is currently receiving. When both sides are free to make their arguments
and the media is paying attention (sort of), the immovable object ("we
can't execute a man who might be innocent") runs up against the
irresistible force of legal precedent ("a jury found him guilty and a
string of courts have backed up their verdict, so hes a dead man").
Generally, a tie goes to the state. Not this time.
Does Susan Boleyn and her buddies at the Georgia Attorney General's Office
know for sure that Sylvester Coles is innocent, Troy Davis is guilty, and
the 7 recanting witnesses are all lying through their teeth? Of course
not. How could they possibly know these things? They dont care because
they don't have to. Accused murderers are run through a complex game of
musical chairs and when the music stops and they haven't found a seat,
they die. We don't have to know for sure that youre guilty, nor do we have
to care. Justice is defined as whatever the legal system decides to do. If
a case proceeds through the proper channels justice has been served.
If Susan Boleyn worried too much about these things she wouldn't be able
to sleep at night. Cut the poor woman some slack; she's just doing her
job. The Senior Assistant's role in the Troy Davis melodrama is to argue
for the state of Georgia no matter how nonsensical her arguments may sound
to the uninitiated. Hers is not to reason why, nor can she allow her
private judgment to intrude into the matter. The decision was made by her
bureaucratic superiors and she is paid to spout their arguments in public
even when it makes her look like an escapee from a Monty Python sketch.
Generally it doesn't matter because no one from the outside world is
If folks had given up on Troy Davis he would be long dead. But because a
shining slivver of humanity is paying attention and a handful of reporters
are still pressing pen to paper Troy Davis clings to life.
It's got nothing to do with fairness or even common sense; it's all about
finality and bureaucratic efficiency.
(source: Friends of Justice)
Jury Continues to Weigh Death Penalty for Atlanta Courthouse Shooter
Jurors are continuing to deliberate whether to condemn gunman Brian
Nichols to death row or sentence him to life behind bars for murder in the
deaths of a judge and 3 other people in violence that began at a downtown
The jury reached no decision Tuesday on the fate of Nichols after spending
much of the day considering the case.
The panel met again Wednesday morning and resumed deliberating after
breaking for lunch.
Nichols, who turned 37 Wednesday, was found guilty last month of murder
and dozens of other charges for killing the judge, a court reporter and a
sheriff's deputy at the courthouse and a federal agent in an Atlanta
neighborhood on March 11, 2005.
He could be sentenced to death or to life in prison with or without the
possibility of parole.
(source: Fox News)
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