[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, CALIF., NEB., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Feb 7 18:03:49 CST 2008
Eric Singer Goes Inside Death Row With the Texas 7
D.A. Speaks Out Against Release of Texas 7
7 years ago, 7 men made one of the most daring prison breaks of all time,
leading to a more than month-long man-hunt. That man-hunt, which began in
south Texas, ended right here in the Colorado Springs area. At the time of
the incident, NEWSCHANNEL 13 anchor Eric Singer had the rare opportunity
to speak with two of the escapees before their capture. Now, 7 years
later, he becomes the first member of the media to talk with one of the
Texas 7 since they were taken back into custody.
On Thursday, January 31st, NEWSCHANNEL 13 at 10:00 aired part one of an
exclusive interview with Patrick Murphy, who was caught at the Holiday Inn
just off Garden of the Gods road on January 24, 2001. Eric traveled to the
Texas prison Wednesday where Murphy is on death row and awaiting
execution. The 3-part series began Thursday at 10:00 and continues Friday
and Thursday, February 7th at 10:00.
The Texas 7 escaped from the John B. Connally Unit, a maximum-security
state prison near the South Texas town Kennedy, on December 13, 2000. At
the time of the breakout, the reported ringleader of the Texas 7,
30-year-old George Rivas, was already serving 18 life sentences. Michael
Anthony Rodriguez, 38, was also serving a life term, while Larry Harper,
37, Joseph Garcia and Patrick Murphy, 39, all were serving at least 50
years. Donald Keith Newbury, the member with the longest rap sheet of the
group, was serving a 99-year term. The youngest member, Randy Halprin, 23,
was serving a 30-year sentence.
The 7 men used several well-planned ploys to overpower and restrain 9
civilian maintenance supervisors, 4 correctional officers and 3 uninvolved
inmates. They stole their victims money, credit cards and clothing and
proceeded to go to the back gate and overpower a guard at the gatehouse.
They then stole a maintenance van and drove away from the prison.
Over the next couple weeks, the group committed a series of armed
robberies. They finally came to stay at an R.V. park in Woodland Park, but
the owner recognized them from a report on America's Most Wanted and
called police. 4 of the escapees were taken into custody, while a 5th
committed suicide during the arrest. The final 2, Newbury and Murphy, were
reported to be hiding at the Holiday Inn 2 days later. It was then that
they made a deal with authorities and gave Eric a phone interview. At that
time, the men strongly denounced the criminal justice system. Be sure to
watch NEWSCHANNEL 13 at 10:00 Friday, and next week to see the complete
coverage of the latest interview.
(source: KRDO News, Colo. Springs)
US: Execution Moratorium May Outlive High Court Ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to outlaw lethal injection, the United
States' main form of execution, when it rules on a test case this spring,
but many states may continue their de facto moratoriums well into the
future, amid ongoing legal battles about the issue in their own state
In September 2007, the Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to lethal
injection as a method of execution brought by lawyers fighting for the
lives of two Kentucky death row inmates. The lawyers charge that the
three-drug cocktail creates a "significant and unnecessary risk of pain".
This would violate a constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment".
The Supreme Court's decision to hear the case -- the first time in a
century that it has addressed the legality of an execution method -- has
resulted in a moratorium on executions in the U.S. Forty people have
received stays of execution since September, according to the Death
Penalty Information Centre.
"The conservative Supreme Court is not expected to prohibit the use of
lethal injection when it rules in the spring," Sarah Tofte, a researcher
with Human Rights Watch, predicted. "It is not going to issue a ruling
that would jeopardise what states can do in terms of lethal injections,"
she told IPS.
But the Supreme Court is likely to issue general guidelines on how lethal
injections should be carried out. This would still leave most of the
current concerns about this form of execution unresolved.
Tofte added: "The Supreme Court will definitely not outlaw executions."
Of the 50 U.S. states, 36 still have the death penalty and all but one of
these rely on lethal injections. Most use the identical cocktail of drugs
now under discussion in the Supreme Court. The first is an anaesthetic.
The second paralyses the muscles. The third brings the heart to a stop.
Arguments against lethal injection have highlighted the fact that in many
states this 3-drug mixture has been outlawed for use in euthanising pets,
out of concern that it causes suffering to the animals.
Human Rights Watch, particularly in its 2006 report authored by Tofte, has
shed light on individual cases showing that usually non-medical personnel
are used to administer the drugs.
Recent media coverage has highlighted how this has contributed to a number
of botched executions, including in Florida and California where it was
obvious that the condemned suffered pain before dying. In Florida in
December 2006, Angel Diaz in obvious pain took 34 minutes to die as an
inexperienced executioner fumbled to find the vein for the deadly
"This is testing America's appetite for the death penalty," Tofte told
IPS. "We don't talk in detail about how we execute people." But now U.S.
citizens were being brought face-to-face with the question of whether
there was such a thing as a "humane lethal injection".
Deborah Denno, professor of law at Fordham University, agreed that the
Supreme Court case on lethal injections was not likely to bring such
executions to an end or silence the growing controversy about this form of
"No matter what the Supreme Court decides, there are going to be ongoing
problems with lethal injection," Denno told IPS.
"The questions about lethal injection cannot be contained. They will
continue to swirl around in the courts. It is inevitable that there will
be more problems and these will be publicised," Denno said. "On an
international level this country is going to be in the spotlight for
having a death penalty and knowingly using a method of execution that
Denno predicted that this would lead to more states declaring their own
moratoriums on capital punishment.
Even before the Supreme Court became involved, 12 states had introduced
informal moratoriums following legal challenges in their courts. Concerns
have often been that the sodium pentothal anaesthetic might sometimes fail
to work effectively and the inmate may die in excruciating pain as the
final drug is administered.
In December 2007, the state of New Jersey became the 1st state since 1965
to abolish the death penalty.
Anxiety over lethal injection and innocent convictions has contributed to
fewer people being executed in the U.S. in 2007 than at any time in the
past 13 years -- some 42. Fewer people have also received a death
sentence, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. Currently,
there are 3,350 people awaiting execution on death row.
Brian Evans of Amnesty International has identified at least 4 states
where there will be serious discussions on whether to abolish capital
punishment -- Nebraska, Maryland, Montana and New Mexico.
"The long-term trend is away from support for the death penalty," Evans
In January, Evans listened to lawyers presenting their arguments in the
Supreme Court lethal injection case and came away in a state of shock. "My
colleagues and I talked about how disturbing it was to hear high-powered
lawyers and justices calmly and politely discussing the best way to kill
someone," he said.
Apart from this troubling issue which had been largely a secret for the
past 30 years, there were others that might also come before the courts
and play a role in bringing an end to capital punishment in the U.S. These
included the "arbitrariness about who is sentenced to death and the fact
that innocent people are being executed", Evans said.
Since 1973, 126 people have been released from U.S. death row with
evidence of their innocence, according to the Death Penalty Information
Centre. Fifteen death row inmates have been released because of
irrefutable DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.
It is this concern over wrongful convictions that was chipping away at
support for capital punishment in such traditionally pro-death penalty
states as Texas, said Steve Hall of StandDown Texas.
"I don't want to paint too rosy a picture," he told IPS. "I think Texas
will be one of the last states to fundamentally change. But a lot of eyes
are being opened due to the fact that innocent people have been sent to
death row. The abolition movement is growing in Texas."
This concern over judicial mistakes and evidence of corruption in the
state's legal system last year played a role in the state's largest
newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, reversing its 100-year-old editorial
support for capital punishment.
"This board has lost confidence that the state of Texas can guarantee that
every inmate it executes is truly guilty of murder," the paper wrote.
(source: IPS News)
Death sentence upheld for Hawthorne man
The California Supreme Court today upheld a Hawthorne man's death sentence
for torturing and murdering an acquaintance, whose body was found at a
campground in Ventura County in 1996.
The state's highest court unanimously rejected Spencer Rawlins Brasure's
claim that errors were made in his trial in Ventura County, where he was
convicted of the September 1996 slaying of Anthony Guest.
Guest was tortured at a Hawthorne home where Brasure and his girlfriend
were living with a friend, eventually driven to an isolated recreation
area, doused with gasoline and set on fire, according to the Supreme
His body was found beneath a partly burned juniper tree on Sept. 13, 1996,
at a campground in the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area near
Gorman, Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote on behalf of the
The state's high court disagreed with Brasure's claim that the trial court
erred in allowing jurors to see several graphic photographs of Guest's
body, noting that the pictures showed the injuries the victim suffered
during the torture and burning.
"The evidence was that Guest died from the severe physical abuse defendant
and others inflicted on him ... from his entire body being doused with
gasoline and burned, or from a combination of these causes," Werdegar
wrote in the 50-page ruling.
Along with 1st-degree murder, Brasure was found guilty of charges
including kidnapping and torture involving Guest. Jurors found true the
special circumstance allegations of murder while engaged in kidnapping and
murder involving the infliction of torture.
(source: The Daily Breeze)
Bill ending Nebraska's death penalty advances
The Nebraska Legislature will once again debate whether to repeal the
state's capital punishment law.
Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee voted 6-1 Thursday to advance a bill
that would replace the death sentence with a mandatory sentence of life
without parole. State Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha was the only committee
member to vote against advancing Legislative Bill 1063 for debate. He said
an amendment adopted Thursday did not address prosecutors' concerns about
the proposed repeal.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha is the bill's sponsor.
Last year, a Chambers-backed bill to repeal capital punishment was debated
by the full Legislature but died after falling one vote short on
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
Repealing death penalty to be debated
For Nebraska's death penalty to stay, it will have to withstand one last
attack from Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha on the floor of the Legislature.
The Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced a bill (LB1063)
from Chambers that would repeal capital punishment and replace it with
life in prison without the possibility of parole. Term limits will push
Chambers, who has introduced bills to repeal the death penalty every year
for the last 3 decades, out of the Capitol after this legislative session.
If the bill advanced Thursday is debated by the full Legislature as
expected, it would be just the second such instance in 20 years. But the
committee's vote to put a death penalty repeal bill before the full
Legislature wasn't a surprise.
Last year, the committee - which is more left-leaning than it has been in
the past - also handed lawmakers a repeal measure from Chambers.
It failed to pass the first round of debate by just one vote. But Chambers
and other death penalty opponents will have to change more than one mind
to achieve their goal this year.
Gov. Dave Heineman has said he would veto a bill that repealed the death
penalty, and overturning a veto takes 30 votes instead of the normal 25
needed to pass a bill.
But the recent history of growing opposition, at least in the legislative
ranks, gives death penalty foes reason to hope this could be the year it
falls. Some were surprised it came so close to getting a first-round nod
"Certainly opposition is stronger now than it was even five years ago, and
I think that's because there's a realization that a lot of the rationale
behind the death penalty doesn't hold up," said Jerry Soucie, an attorney
with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy who represents inmates on
Under Chambers' bill, judges would sentence people who they considered
perpetrators of especially egregious murders to life without parole. Other
murderers would receive life sentences.
Nebraska is the only state that has the electric chair as its sole means
of execution, and the Nebraska Supreme Court is considering whether that
is cruel and unusual punishment.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether execution by
lethal injection - which most other states use - violates the
constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
On the Net: Nebraska Legislature: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov
(source: Associated Press)
State seeks death penalty for King
The state intends to seek the death penalty for Michael L. King, who is
charged in the kidnapping and murder of Denise Amber Lee.
Prosecutors filed a motion announcing their intent to seek the death
penalty yesterday after a grand jury issued an indictment for murder in
the 1st degree against King, 36.
Authorities say King kidnapped Lee from her North Port home on the
afternoon of Jan. 17 as her two young sons napped. King later killed Lee
and buried her in a shallow grave near Toledo Blade Boulevard and
Interstate 75, authorities say.
King remains in the Sarasota County Jail without bail.
(source: Sarasota Herald Tribune)
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