[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IDAHO, VA., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 4 10:29:26 CST 2008
New trial begins for Idaho man after 2 decades on death row
After more than 2 decades on death row for the slayings of a Texas couple
in the Idaho wilderness, a new jury will begin deciding Mark Lankford's
The 51-year-old Lankford was given a new trial after a federal appeals
court decided there were errors made in the 1984 Idaho County trial that
sent him to death row for murder.
The trial is being held in Shoshone County, where a jury was picked last
Lankford and his younger brother were convicted in the bludgeoning deaths
of U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence and his wife, Cheryl, during a
camping trip in summer 1983.
Lankford was sentenced to death. His younger brother, Bryan Lankford, was
sentenced to life in prison in exchange for testifying against his
brother. Bryan Lankford subsequently confessed the murders.
The trial is expected to last 3 weeks.
(source: Associated Press)
Senate considers bill barring early setting of execution date
Amid the parole-abolition, law-and-order frenzy of the mid-1990s, the
Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that had the effect of
allowing execution dates to be set before appeals are considered by the
U.S. Supreme Court.
The idea was to shorten an appeals process that frustrated not only
prosecutors, but families of murder victims looking for justice and
It seemed to work. Senior Assistant Attorney General Katherine Baldwin
told a Senate committee that the average time between affirmation on
direct appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court and execution was cut roughly
in half, to 3.8 years, after the law took effect in 1995.
But now the General Assembly is considering legislation to change the law.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke, would
prohibit setting an execution date until after the nation's highest court
rules on any appeal on the merits of the case.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 6-5 last week to endorse the
measure, which could be considered by the full Senate as early as
The attorney general's office opposes the legislation. Baldwin told the
committee that the possibility of an execution date being set encourages
death row inmates to file their appeals in a timely manner.
"This was a bill in '95 that was pro-victims and victims' families because
of the horrendous delays," Baldwin told the committee.
Henry County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert L. Bushnell, who heads the
Virginia Commonwealth's Attorneys Association, agreed.
"It provides closure for survivors, but more importantly closure for the
people of Virginia," Bushnell said in an interview.
But supporters of Edwards' bill say the law can put too much pressure on
appellate attorneys, forcing them to draft an appeal, a request for a stay
and a clemency petition in a compressed time period.
"If you're a proponent of the death penalty, the last thing you should
want is a perception of a rush to judgment and undermining the confidence
of the public on carrying out the death sentence," former state Attorney
General Anthony Troy said in an interview.
Troy also spoke in favor of Edwards' bill at the committee meeting. He
noted that every other death-penalty state in the federal 4th
Circuit--Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina _ allow execution
dates to be set only after the Supreme Court has ruled. The other state in
the 4th Circuit, West Virginia, does not impose the death penalty.
"If we're going to impose the ultimate penalty, let them have the one full
review without the pressure of an execution date," Troy said.
Troy and Edwards also argued that the 1995 state law is no longer
necessary because the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act,
passed by Congress the following year, streamlined the appellate process.
The 2 sides disagree on how much time Edwards' bill would add to the
appeals process. Troy said it would be no more than an additional 60 days,
but Baldwin said the delay would be "months and months."
(source: Daily Press)
Senate considers bill barring early setting of execution dates
The General Assembly is considering legislation that would bar the state
from setting an execution date for people convicted of the death penalty
until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on any appeals on the merits of their
A law that took effect in 1995 allowed execution dates to be set before an
inmate's appeals were exhausted. The idea behind the legislation was to
shorten an appeals process that frustrated prosecutors and the families of
The state Attorney General's office says it opposes the legislation.
Supporters of the legislation note that every other death-penalty state in
the federal 4th Circuit - Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina -
allow execution dates to be set only after the Supreme Court has ruled.
The other state in the 4th Circuit, West Virginia, does not impose the
(source: Associated Press)
Cruel and unnecessary
THE ISSUE: 2 families suffered this past week because state prosecutors
were so eager to proceed with an execution. The U.S. Supreme Court, not
surprisingly, stopped it.
The normal path to a killer's execution is terribly hard on two families -
the killer's family, and the family of his victims.
Because issues of life and death are involved, the capital cases receive
extra attention from the courts. They are held to a higher standard, and
they are regularly overturned and sent back for new trials or additional
work. There are execution dates set, followed by delays. At every step
along the journey, hopes are raised on one side, dashed on the other.
So it has been in the case of James Harvey Callahan, who was sentenced to
death for kidnapping, raping and killing a Jacksonville State University
student in 1982. Callahan's 1st conviction was overturned, and more
recently, an execution date was set and then stayed.
But what happened this past week in Callahan's case proved that an
overzealous prosecutor can take a bad situation and make it worse.
To be sure, the victim's family most likely would have liked to see
Callahan's execution go through Thursday, as scheduled. But U.S. District
Judge Keith Watkins in December postponed the execution with good reasons.
Watkins said he wanted first to hear Callahan's challenge of Alabama's
lethal injection procedures. Watkins also said he would not schedule that
trial until the U.S. Supreme Court heard a similar challenge from
Kentucky. It would be a "waste of judicial resources" to do so.
Watkins' ruling came soon after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the
execution of another Alabama inmate - one of a series of decisions that
telegraphed the court's wishes to hold off on executions until it settled
the lethal injection issue.
But instead of waiting for a resolution, Attorney General Troy King
appealed the Callahan stay to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The
11th Circuit ruled Callahan didn't raise his challenge to Alabama's lethal
injection procedures in a timely way, and lifted the stay.
By the time the U.S. Supreme Court intervened to block the execution,
Callahan was just a little more than an hour away from being put to death.
He had visited with his family to say his goodbyes, and the prison system
had gone through the necessary motions to prepare for the execution.
Even worse, the mother and sister of his victim, Rebecca Suzanne Howell,
had already traveled to Atmore to witness the execution. One of them came
from Tennessee. The family called the ordeal "cruel and unusual."
They are right, and King should be ashamed.
King is eager to carry out executions. Tough on crime and all that.
Everyone gets it.
But to appeal Callahan's stay before the Supreme Court had ruled on the
lethal injection case was to waste prison officials' time and to give two
families an extra twist through a wringer that's painful enough.
It was cruel, and unnecessary.
(source: The Birmingham News)
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