[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----US MIL., MD., IDAHO, LA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Dec 16 17:04:50 CST 2008
4 Marines might face death penalty in double slaying
In a courtroom yesterday, prosecutors said they're considering whether to
seek the death penalty against 4 Camp Pendleton servicemen accused of
executing a Marine sergeant and his wife in October.
On the base, commanders are working to get the defendants out of the
Pvt. Kevin D. Cox and Lance Cpls. Emrys J. John, Tyrone L. Miller and
Kesaun K. Sykes are charged with shooting Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and his wife,
Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, on Oct. 15 in the southwestern Riverside County
city of Winchester. They also are accused of torturing the couple,
sexually assaulting Jenkins-Pietrzak and setting a fire to destroy
Yesterday, the 4 Marines sat shackled in Riverside Superior Court as
attorneys discussed upcoming proceedings.
Daniel DeLimon, a Riverside County deputy district attorney, said the
prosecution and defense will meet Jan. 22 to debate the death-penalty
charge. DeLimon said he plans to introduce statements made by the
defendants that show their motive for the double slaying.
In court documents, investigators said Miller confessed to entering the
Pietrzaks' home by making threats with a shotgun. He and John accused each
other of the sexual assault, while Sykes admitted cutting off
Jenkins-Pietrzak's clothes, investigators said.
The suspects allegedly rummaged through the house for valuables,
authorities said. A pair of shoes that matched impressions left at the
crime scene and on Pietrzak's body was found in John's barracks.
The victims' parents said they believe the killers were racially
prejudiced. Pietrzak was white, and his wife was black. Authorities have
said only that the defendants, all of them black, staged a robbery.
Rod Pacheco, the district attorney, is expected to make the death-penalty
decision by Feb. 2.
"I think there are some strong reasons why Mr. Miller should not receive
the death penalty," said his attorney, Jeff Zimel. "It does not appear
that (the defendants) went to the house to kill these people. . . . It may
be a money thing."
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps is moving to oust the defendants through an
administrative process called separation. It can take the action before a
Marine is pronounced guilty or not guilty in court.
(source: San Digo Union-Tribune)
Report may put final nail in death penalty
In the report from the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, the
people of this state and their elected representatives have all the
evidence needed to abolish the death penalty, once and for all, in the
next session of the General Assembly.
But even more than that, the report presents the state with a chance to
reform its criminal justice system by diverting funds from the costly and
ineffective death penalty into law enforcement, juvenile intervention,
medical therapies and educational and vocational services for inmates -
things that, unlike capital punishment, might actually do some good.
In its report, the commission concludes that, over the past 30 years, the
death penalty in Maryland has been expensive and ineffective, riddled with
error and tainted with racial and geographic disparities beyond reform. It
should be abolished.
The commission arrived at that recommendation after careful review of
research into the familiar points of debate - the alleged biases that make
the administration of the death penalty unfair, the costs of death
sentences over life without parole, the benefits of executions to the
Former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti chaired the commission. He
joined with the majority in voting to recommend abolition.
The final vote was 13-9, with one abstention. That's a solid majority, to
be sure. But far more revealing - and damning - was the commission vote on
what, in the minds of many, is the first and last question when it comes
to the death penalty: Has its application been affected by racial bias?
By a vote of 20-1, members of the commission said yes - while there is no
evidence of intentional discrimination, racial disparities exist when the
race of the defendant and the race of the victim are taken into account.
Studies of more than 1,300 "death-eligible" homicide cases from 1978 to
1999 revealed that killers of white victims were 2 1/2 times more likely
to face the death penalty than killers of African-Americans.
One of the studies found that, in all cases that ended with death
sentences since 1978, none of the victims was African-American, though 43
percent of death-eligible cases during that period involved
African-American victims. Seventy percent of the cases resulting in the
death penalty involved African-American killers of white victims, though
that racial combination constituted only 23 percent of all death-eligible
cases in Maryland.
"The death penalty, in many ways, reflects our criminal justice system's
ultimate authority," Bryan Stevenson, who has represented death row
inmates in the South, told the commission in July. "That ultimate
authority comes with an ultimate responsibility, and if [we] don't
exercise that responsibility fairly, reliably, in a non-racially
discriminatory manner, the implications for this broader story about race
and the criminal justice system get larger."
Experts told the commission that the amount of discretion in the process -
from a given prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty to the
decision by judge or jury to sentence a defendant to death - makes capital
cases particularly vulnerable to bias.
Similarly, the commission voted 20-1 in agreement that another bias has
been evident in the application of the death penalty here: geography and
jurisdiction. Where someone kills another determines whether prosecutors
seek the ultimate punishment.
"The fact that similar capital offenses perpetrated by similar offenders
are treated so differently depending on where the crimes are committed
renders the administration of capital punishment irretrievably
inconsistent, non-uniform and therefore unfair in Maryland," the
commission concluded. "The problem of jurisdictional disparities ... is
evidently so deep as to confound any efforts at reform that the Commission
The commission also looked at the cost of doing the executioner's business
here and found that state expenditures associated with capital cases, from
jury selection through appeals, are "substantially higher" than those in
which the sentence is life without parole. The Urban Institute figured
capital cases cost us about $186 million from 1978 through 1999. While
some commission members and other experts disagreed with the methods for
calculating this, "every Maryland attorney who testified before the
Commission acknowledged that capital cases are more expensive and exploit
more resources than non-capital cases," the report said.
And what do we have to show for the past 30 years of the death penalty in
Maryland? Not much.
There have been 77 death sentences. There have been 5 executions, 2
commutations and 3 natural deaths. There are 5 defendants on death row at
a cost to the state of $68,000 a year each.
That leaves 62 cases that have been reversed. "The significant expenditure
of time and resources that the state of Maryland has put into its capital
punishment system has resulted in only five executions and an error rate
of 80 %," the report said. "There are other areas in the Maryland criminal
justice system where such resources could be applied and significant
results could be expected."
You think? We still have a system that prefers costly imprisonment to
progressive, crime-preventing interventions, particularly among at-risk
kids. We still incarcerate far too many drug addicts who need medical
treatment, not punishment. We don't give offenders nearly enough in the
way of rehabilitative services; we just send them through the prison's
revolving door. The report of the Civiletti commission gives the General
Assembly an opportunity to abolish the death penalty, swollen with costs
and infested with bias, and to channel resources into making streets
safer, stemming violence, protecting at-risk kids, freeing communities
from career criminals, providing treatment-on-demand for the drug addicts
and reducing recidivism.
For the Senate and the House of Delegates to do otherwise, in the face of
this report, would constitute dereliction of legislative duty at best,
intellectual dishonesty at least, and immoral surrender to political
concerns at worst.
(source: Column, Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun)
Ordeal not over for slain woman's family----Idaho justices rule that
Darrell Payne, on death row for the rape-murder of a BSU student, must be
The family of a Boise State student murdered in 2000 will have to live
through her rape, kidnapping and killing once again - and that has her
father questioning why Idaho keeps a death penalty on the books at all.
The Idaho Supreme Court overturned convicted killer Darrell Payne's 2003
death penalty Monday -and Idaho's chief justice blamed 4th District Judge
Thomas Neville for the errors that will require Payne to be sentenced by a
jury a second time.
The 8-year ordeal has been hard on Samantha Maher's family.
"Why should we have to go through this again and be spun round and round
and round?" said Paul Blomberg, Maher's father. "If we are going to have a
death penalty and not enforce it, then the state of Idaho needs to step up
and change the law."
Idaho has executed only 1 person since reinstating the death penalty in
1977 - double murderer Keith Eugene Wells in 1994 because he dropped all
his appeals and demanded a lethal injection. Every other person on Idaho's
death row has successfully fought execution, including Lacey Sivak, who
was sentenced to death in 1981.
Blomberg told the Idaho Statesman Monday he and his family are incredibly
disillusioned by the process and are not looking forward to the
"It's hard to explain to people. Samantha needs ... we need closure. The
sentence needs to be confirmed one way or the other," Blomberg said. "We
believe the death penalty is just. We think it is appropriate (for Payne).
But if the state of Idaho is going to have a death penalty and never
enforce it ... why have one in the first place? Victims have no idea what
they are in for."
Monday's Idaho Supreme Court opinion means Payne is now off the death row
roster - for now.
Neville will have to schedule a new sentencing hearing and pick a jury,
whose job it will be to determine whether Payne will be put to death for
Maher's rape and murder. That hearing will likely take weeks and include
hours of graphic and difficult testimony. No hearings have been scheduled
at this point and it could take months, or longer, for that to happen.
The Idaho Supreme Court originally overturned Payne's death sentence in
June but withdrew that opinion and replaced it with a more nuanced opinion
In the June opinion, the justices said a 4th District judge other than
Neville could preside over a new sentencing hearing. Monday's opinion
calls for a jury, not a judge, to make the decision on the sentence in
order to comply with Idaho's 2003 death penalty law.
Monday's opinion cited the same reason for dismissing Payne's death
penalty - that victim statements made by Maher's family and friends in the
sentencing phase of Payne's original trial were unconstitutional.
The court found that Neville erred when he allowed Maher's family and
friends to comment on Payne's personal characteristics - calling Payne
evil, a sociopath and a monster and expressing wishes that he rot in hell
or be tortured - when they presented victim impact statements.
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann chastised Neville in the ruling
on Monday, saying Neville did not do the appropriate research into the
restrictions the U.S. Supreme Court has placed on victim impact statements
or the appropriate case law established in federal appeals courts.
"One month prior to the sentencing hearing, (Neville) stated in open court
he was unfamiliar with the restrictions the U.S. Supreme Court had placed
on victim impact evidence," Eismann said in the ruling. "Had (Neville)
become informed of ... and chosen to follow those opinions, we would have
affirmed Payne's conviction and sentence.
"Because of (Neville's) failure to do so, the victims will have to go
through the trauma of another sentencing hearing."
Neville was in trial Monday and not available for comment.
Blomberg said he is very concerned that the legal system seems so
concerned about protecting Payne's rights and feels that Maher's family
and friends are being unfairly blamed for the resentencing hearing.
"Judge Neville is a decent guy. Judge Eismann is a decent guy," Blomberg
said. "It's the system that is broken."
Ada County prosecutors said Payne carefully planned to abduct a woman and
sexually assault her the day before he carried out that plan and kidnapped
Maher, a random victim who was on her way to class at BSU when she was
abducted July 6, 2000.
Payne is accused of raping and killing Maher at an unknown location before
dumping her body at his rural Nampa home and driving her car to a motel in
He was arrested at the motel July 8, after calling his wife and telling
her that a woman's body was on their property.
Payne also pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 2 14-year-old girls in
Barber Park - more random victims - just weeks before he killed Maher.
(source: Idaho Statesman)
Death penalty possible for suspect in deputy death
The Lafourche Parish district attorney says prosecutors will seek the
death penalty against Billy Joe Daigle, who is accused of first-degree
murder in the death of a Lafourche Parish sheriff's deputy.
The 41-year-old Daigle pleaded not guilty Monday in the death of Martha
Woods Shareef. Prosecutors allege that Daigle ran over Shareef with a
stolen pickup truck, after she responded to a burglar alarm at a
convenience store in Chackbay last August.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty