[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, OKLA., S.C., MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 12 15:55:31 CST 2008
Ohio man pleads not guilty in neighbor beheading
A northeast Ohio man has pleaded not guilty to charges he killed and
beheaded his neighbor in a mobile home park.
William Perry of North Canton entered his plea Thursday in Stark County
Common Pleas Court, telling the judge in response to a question that he
understood he faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
2 days earlier, the 41-year-old Perry was indicted on two counts of
aggravated murder and other charges.
Judge Lee Sinclair set a June trial date.
Perry is accused in the death of 34-year-old Brett Smith, who was found
decapitated by another neighbor on Oct. 4. Authorities say Smith died of
Perry has been jailed since Oct. 7, after investigators said he damaged
the electric meter box on Smith's home.
(source: Dayton Daily News)
Judicial error takes Nicole Diar of Lorain off death row, for now
A Lorain woman sentenced to death for murdering her 4-year-old son in 2003
will be removed from death row because of a court error, the Ohio Supreme
Court ruled Wednesday.
Nicole Diar, 1of only 2women in the state on death row, will be
re-sentenced at a later date in Lorain County.
The Supreme Court upheld Diar's aggravated murder conviction but
determined the lower court made a mistake during her sentencing in 2005 by
not informing the jury that a single vote could prevent the woman from
receiving the death penalty.
The ruling is not final because the Lorain County prosecutor has 10 days
to file for reconsideration.
Prosecutors said Diar killed her son, Jacob, then set her Lorain apartment
on fire to cover up the crime. At the time, the Lorain County coroner said
the boy died in an undetermined manner before the blaze.
Diar denied killing her son, but a jury found her guilty of aggravated
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office had expected the
decision from the Ohio Supreme Court.
"The proper instruction was not given by the court, and we conceded it,"
Will said. "We will set up a new mitigation hearing, and we will go from
Will said it was unclear whether officials would try to bring back the
original jury or bring in a new one for the new sentencing hearing. It is
still possible for Diar to receive the death penalty, Will said.
Diar is being held at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. Her
lawyer during the trial praised the ruling.
"We are certainly happy that she will be taken off death row," Jack
Bradley said. "It's always been my position that in any case where there
is residual doubt concerning the person's guilt, they should not receive
the death sentence."
(source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Dip in Oklahoma executions raises questions
In 2008, the number of inmates put to death in Oklahoma reached its lowest
level in more than a decade.
2 convicted killers received death by lethal injection at the Oklahoma
State Penitentiary in McAlester. That was the fewest executions in
Oklahoma since 1997, when 1 inmate was put to death.
Death penalty experts say the dip in executions in Oklahoma had little to
do with a de facto moratorium on the death penalty issued earlier this
year while the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of
execution by lethal injection.
Rather, its the cyclical nature of when death sentences are handed down
and when inmates exhaust the lengthy appeals process in capital cases.
"We'd like to think the numbers are down, but it's really hard to say,"
said Jim Rowan, a veteran capital defense lawyer in Oklahoma City and the
chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "The
people they execute were convicted 10 or 15 years ago, so it's really hard
to measure trends.
Other factors, like the option of life-without-parole sentences and a ban
on executing offenders with mental retardation, also likely have
contributed to the decline.
What the data shows
Numbers on Oklahoma 1st-degree murder convictions show 11 killers were
sentenced to die in 2008 alone. State corrections records show 13 received
the same penalty between 2005 and 2007. Rowan said prosecutors seem to be
taking a more reasoned approach in determining which death penalty cases
to pursue, given the tremendous cost and manpower involved.
District Attorney Richard Smothermon, past president of Oklahoma's
District Attorneys Council, said pursuing a death penalty case takes
tremendous resources, but he said that shouldn't be a deciding factor in
whether to pursue a case.
"You're talking about someone's life," he said. "I don't think costs
should be a deciding factor."
Smothermon, who has sought the death penalty twice in 6 years as the top
prosecutor in Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties, said he first decides if
a case meets statutory criteria for the death penalty. Then he meets with
the victim's family and reviews mitigating evidence.
"My personal opinion is that the death penalty is reserved for the worst
of the worst," he said.
(source: Associated Press)
SC man pleads guilty in stabbing death of inmate
A South Carolina inmate serving 2 life sentences for separate murders in
Oconee County has pleaded guilty to killing a fellow inmate, which could
allow a judge to sentence him to death.
Kenneth Henry Justus on Thursday admitted stabbing 22-year-old Justin
Bregenzer to death in 2005 at the Lieber prison in Ridgeville. Prosecutors
then sought the death penalty.
Justus' plea means Judge Diane Goodstein will decide his fate. Her options
are death or a 3rd life sentence.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Friday the sentencing phase
will begin Monday.
Bregenzer was initially sent to prison for breaking into a vehicle and
later walked away from a trash detail. The James Island man had about two
months remaining on his sentence for escape when he was killed.
(source: Associated Press)
Commission votes to recommend Md. death penalty repeal
Maryland's commission to study capital punishment announced this morning
that its members had voted 13-9 to recommend repealing the death penalty.
Its report to the General Assembly outlines the commission's findings
after listening to 35 hours of testimony over five months, including the
determination that it is possible to execute an innocent person and that
racial and jurisdictional biases play into the application of the death
The report is expected to form the basis for a push during next year's
legislative session to outlaw the death penalty, a topic that has divided
the General Assembly in recent years.
"There is no good and sufficient reason to have the death penalty,"
Chairman Benjamin R. Civiletti said at a news conference. Explaining the
commission's recommendation of repeal rather than reform, he said, "There
are so many faults, so many flaws within the system that we could not
imagine ... ways in which to cure it."
The report also includes the minority dissenting opinion, written by
Baltimore State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger and signed by seven other
commission members. One commissioner voted against repeal but did not sign
the dissent. Shellenberger said at the news conference that prosecutors
must be able to "reflect the will of the people." He argued that the state
should retain the death penalty as a tool to wield against "the worst of
Shellenberger was initially critical of the commission, appointed by Gov.
Martin O'Malley, who is opposed to capital punishment. But after the news
conference this morning, Shellenberger said he thought his 21 fellow
commissioners were fair and open-minded. "I don't at all feel like the
deck was stacked."
Several legislators on the commission said they would urge the General
Assembly to pursue a repeal in the legislative session that begins in
5 General Assembly members served on the commission. Sen. James N. Robey,
a Howard County Democrat; and Del. William J. Frank, a Baltimore County
Republican, signed Shellenberger's dissent.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat; Del. Adrienne A. Jones, a
Baltimore County Democrat; and Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore City
Democrat, all favored repealing capital punishment.
O'Malley released a statement on the commission, thanking members for
their review of the issue.
"I look forward to reviewing the Commission's final report which was
developed after countless hours of testimony and hearings," he said in the
statement. "I also recognize that this is a very personal issue for
members of the General Assembly, families of victims, law enforcement and
the public, but it is my hope that we can all take the time to review the
facts presented in this report thoroughly and with an open mind."
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Death Penalty Should Be Abolished in MD, Commission Recommends
A commission set up to examine the death penalty in Maryland is
recommending that the state abolish it.
Here's the full report:
Today, Chairman Benjamin R. Civiletti and the members of the Maryland
Commission on Capital Punishment presented their final report which, after
studying the key factors required by statute, recommended that capital
punishment in Maryland be abolished.
"I am honored to have served with such dedicated individuals on this
Commission and the citizens of Maryland should be proud of their work,"
said Chairman Civlietti. "After hearing from many experts and families who
have had the misfortune of going through the process of capital
punishment, I am confident that we have examined every angle and come to
the conclusion that best serves our fellow Marylanders."
During the 2008 Legislative Session, The Maryland Commission on Capital
Punishment was created by an act of the Maryland General Assembly for the
purpose of studying all aspects of capital punishment as currently and
historically administered in the State. The Commission presented this
recommendation in a final report and a minority report in accordance with
2-1246 of the State Government Article, to the General Assembly.
The Commission's findings from the final report are as follows:
1. Racial disparities exist in Maryland's capital sentencing system.
2. Jurisdictional disparities exist in Marylands capital sentencing
3. Due to a lack of research on socio-economic disparities in Maryland,
the Commission does not reach a conclusion on this matter.
4. The costs associated with cases in which a death sentence is sought are
substantially higher than the costs associated with cases in which a
sentence of life without the possibility of parole is sought.
5. While both life without the possibility of parole and death penalty
cases are extremely hard on families of victims, the Commission finds that
the effects of capital cases are more detrimental to families than are
life without the possibility of parole cases. The Commission recommends an
increase of the services and resources already provided to families of
victims as recommended by the Victims Subcommittee.
6. Despite the advance of forensic sciences, particularly DNA testing, the
risk of execution of an innocent person is a real possibility.
7. While DNA testing has become a widely accepted method for determining
guilt or innocence, it does not eliminate the risk of sentencing innocent
persons to death since, in many cases, DNA evidence is not available and,
even when it is available, is subject to contamination or error at the
scene of the offense or in the laboratory.
8. The Commission finds that there is no persuasive evidence that the
death penalty deters homicides in Maryland.
9. Ultimate Recommendation: The Commission recommends abolition of capital
punishment in the state of Maryland.
The Commission also presented their minority report to the General
Assembly which detailed the opposition to the abolition of the death
penalty in Maryland and maintained that the State has in place the tools
needed to prevent the unfair application of this practice.
"The close vote on the Commission's findings regarding the death penalty
in Maryland demonstrates that this is an issue upon which reasonable minds
can differ," State's Attorney for Baltimore County Scott Shellenberger
said as the representative of the views of the minority vote. "It is my
strong belief that the death penalty should remain a sentencing option for
those prosecutors who wish to seek it.
The statute passed by the General Assembly called for the Commission to be
comprised of 23 appointees 13 Commissioners were gubernatorial appointees
and 9 were non-gubernatorial appointees. Further, the Chair was jointly
selected by the Governor, the Speaker of the House and Senate President
and as the Statute requires, the Commission represents the broad diversity
of views on capital punishment, as well as the racial, ethnic, gender, and
geographic diversity of the State.
The Commission held five public hearings where testimony from experts and
members of the public was presented. The Commission also held five
additional meetings where the testimony and evidence presented to the
Commission was discussed and later voted upon. The Commission has made a
recommendation concerning the application and administration of capital
punishment in the State so that they are free from bias and error and
achieve fairness and accuracy.
The final vote count on the recommendation to abolish the death penalty
was thirteen members in favor of abolishment and nine members in
opposition of that view. Secretary Maynard of the Maryland Department of
Public Safety and Correctional Services abstained from voting. Detailed
vote counts on each of the findings of the Commission are contained in the
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Maryland Commission on
Capital Punishment website at
http://www.goccp.org/capital-punishment/index.php to view the progress of
the Commission. Once the final report is released, DVDs of the report will
be available by request and will also be posted on the Commission website
found at the link above.
STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR MARTIN OMALLEY ON MARYLAND COMMISSION ON CAPITAL
PUNISHMENT FINAL REPORT
Governor Martin OMalley today issued the following statement in response
to the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment final report released
"On behalf of the citizens of Maryland, I want to thank Chairman Civiletti
and all the members of the Capital Punishment Commission for their work in
examining the process and administration of the death penalty in Maryland"
"I look forward to reviewing the Commission's final report which was
developed after countless hours of testimony and hearings. I also
recognize that this is a very personal issue for members of the General
Assembly, families of victims, law enforcement and the public, but it is
my hope that we can all take the time to review the facts presented in
this report thoroughly and with an open mind."
Anti-Death Penalty Advocates Cheer Commission's Report
Proponents of abolishing the death penalty in Maryland were cheered Friday
when the Commission on Capital Punishment issued its final report,
recommending the Free State abolish the practice.
Commission member and former death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth, who was
wrongly convicted of murder in 1985, says no one should have to go through
what he did.
"With repeal of the death penalty, we won't have to worry about it and
there will never be another Kirk Bloodsworth," Bloodworth said, referring
Bloodsworth voted with the majority on the commission to abolish the death
Panel members say they found fundamental flaws in the way capital
punishment is administered in the Free State, including serious racial
In the last 30 years, Maryland has executed 5 people, all were convicted
of killing white victims. "And yet in the state 2/3 of the victims of
homicide are non-white," said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, who represents
Silver Spring and Takoma Park. "That tells you pretty much everything you
need to know about the way the system operates."
The panel also points to the cost of administering the death penalty,
which is estimated to be 3 times the cost of a non-death penalty homicide
prosecution. There are also concerns about ongoing risks of wrongly
Despite advances in DNA testing, the commission found there was still a
risk of sentencing innocent people to death -- either because DNA evidence
is not available, or because it is contaminated.
But not everyone agrees, including commission member and former police
officer Percel Alston.
"I think there is a need for the option for capital punishment," he said.
The panel approved the recommendation in a 13-7 vote last month.
The recommendation followed months of hearings. It carries no force of
law, but proponents hope it will spur new legislative action to change
state law. Previous efforts to abolish the death penalty have died in the
Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he hopes the report will cause lawmakers to
take "a fresh look" at the issue and approve banning the death penalty in
Maryland. He says the death penalty is ineffective.
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