[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., VA., ALA., USA, NEB., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Feb 11 22:53:30 CST 2008
Suspect's motion to avoid death penalty denied
The 2nd of double-murder suspect Kemar Johnston's efforts to avoid the
death penalty was denied by a judge today.
Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese denied a motion filed by Johnston's
attorney to preclude death based on a 14-state university study of how
jurors decide whether a person will die for a crime, if convicted. It was
the 5th effort by Johnstons attorney, David Brener, to preclude the death
Reese also denied a motion to make the state provide all evidence material
in the case and determine whether they are complying with the rules. Reese
also denied that motion, saying the state has provided all evidence to
defense attorneys and if there are further issues, attorneys can gather
for a hearing.
A 3rd motion Monday, to seal a statement by co-defendant Cody Roux, who
pleaded guilty to several charges in exchange for his testimony, was
continued so an attorney could argue on behalf of the news media.
Johnston is charged in the slayings of Jeffrey and Alexis Sosa, who were
beaten, tortured, shot and killed Oct. 6, 2006 in Cape Coral.
Appeals court rules man not retarded in death row robbery case
In Richmond. a federal appeals court ruled Monday that an inmate convicted
of killing a Brunswick County convenience store owner during a robbery in
1998 hasn't proven that he's mentally retarded, and thus remains eligible
for the death penalty.
Kevin Green challenged his sentence on grounds that he's mentally
retarded, and that his lawyer, through failing to appeal all of his
charges, was ineffective.
Green was convicted of capital murder in the slaying of Patricia Vaughan,
who operated a store with her husband, Lawrence Vaughan. Green shot the
couple and fled with about $9,000.
In its opinion, a 3-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed a lower court decision that Green's intellectual capacity didn't
fall within the established guidelines of mental retardation, and that he
had passed the statute of limitations for claiming ineffective counsel.
(source: Associated Press)
Murderer Wins Stay of Execution
Last September, the Supreme Court decided to hear a challenge to
Kentucky's lethal injection method. No U.S. executions have taken place
since Sept. 25. ATMORE, Ala. James Harvey Callahan, sentenced to death
for the murder of a woman abducted from a coin laundry, won a reprieve
from the U.S. Supreme Court a little more than an hour before he was
scheduled to die by lethal injection. The Supreme Courts brief order did
not detail why it granted the stay.
This would have been the nation's 1st execution since September, when the
high court agreed to consider whether lethal injection is cruel and
Callahan, an Alabama inmate, was sentenced for the 1982 murder of Rebecca
Suzanne Howell, a Jacksonville State University student who was abucted
from a coin laundry and raped before being strangled and dumped in a
Callahan, who has been on death row for more than 25 years, met with some
relatives as his execution neared. He had a cheeseburger and a Coke for
what would have been his last meal.
It was a tale of different emotions for family members. Callahans family
members were overjoyed when told of the stay, the warden said. However,
the victims mother and sister, who had arrived to witness the execution,
only to learn of the stay, talked about the stay as being cruel and
unusual, according to a prison system spokesman.
(source: American Coin-Op)
Bush uninvolved in death penalty decision
U.S. President Bush wasn't involved in the decision to seek the death
penalty for 6 suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the White
The decision to charge 6 detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, was made solely by military authorities, White House
spokeswoman Dana Perino said at a media briefing Monday.
Perino said she wasn't "able to comment about the trial from this podium"
when asked whether some of the confessions may not be admissible because
they were obtained by waterboarding, an interrogation technique simulating
drowning. The CIA has admitted waterboarding was used against some
suspects when in the agency's custody.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, Defense Department legal adviser, said Monday
charges against the 6 detainees include conspiracy, murder in violation of
the law of war, terrorism and material support of terrorists. He said the
military commissioner would be asked to consider the offenses capital ones
and impose the death penalty.
"Obviously, (Sept. 11, 2001,) was a defining moment in our history and a
defining moment in the global war on terror," Perino said, "and this
judicial process is the next step in that story, of the history of this
(source: United Press International)
US: Electric Chair Banned as Cruel, Unusual Punishment----Nebraska Ruling
Brings US Closer to Ending This Inhumane Form of Execution in US
The Nebraska Supreme Court's ruling today that use of the electric chair
violates the state constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment is
an important step toward eliminating inherently inhumane executions in the
United States, Human Rights Watch said today.
Nebraska is the only state to use the electric chair as its sole method of
execution; all other US death penalty jurisdictions use lethal injection.
"This ruling abolishes the barbaric practice of electrocutions in the
state of Nebraska," said Sarah Tofte, US researcher at Human Rights Watch
and co-author of a 2006 report on executions by lethal injection in the
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled today that execution by electrocution
violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment found in Article I,
section 9 of the Nebraska Constitution. "Condemned prisoners must not be
tortured to death, regardless of their crimes," the court wrote.
Since 1994, Nebraska has electrocuted 3 condemned prisoners. Since the
death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976, there have been at least
10 visibly botched electrocutions, including the 1997 electrocution of
Pedro Medina in Florida. During his execution, flames shot out from the
headpiece, filling the execution chamber with a cloud of thick smoke and
gagging the two dozen official witnesses. An official then threw a switch
to manually cut off the power and prematurely end the two-minute cycle of
2,000 volts. Medina's chest continued to heave until the flames stopped,
and then he died.
As a result of today's ruling, the task falls to the Nebraska legislature
to consider an alternative method of execution if it wishes to retain the
death penalty. Although the court contends that lethal injection "is
universally recognized as the most humane method of execution," Human
Rights Watch urged the Nebraska legislature to carefully examine the risk
of suffering posed by the 3-drug protocol currently used in lethal
injections in other states.
In January, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality
of lethal injection. Pending the courts decision, there is a de facto
moratorium on lethal injections in the country.
"Lethal injection is not as humane as it might appear to be," said Tofte.
"There is mounting evidence that condemned prisoners are at risk of
suffering excruciating pain. With today's ruling, the Nebraska legislature
has an opportunity to reject methods of execution that cause inhumane pain
Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an
inherently cruel and unusual form of punishment and a violation of
fundamental human rights.
(source: Human Rights Watch, Feb. 8)
Death penalty moratorium: Back on the burners
DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett along with Republican state
reps Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst and Randy Ramey of West Chicago have
called a news conference for tomorrow at the DuPage County Sheriffs
The lawmakers plan to announce the introduction of a resolution calling on
Gov. Rod Blagojevich to lift the informal, 8-year moratorium on executions
and the introduction of legislation to expand the death penalty by making
those who murder children 16 and under automatically eligible for the
death penalty (the current age under the law is 12 and under).
Anita Alvarez, the Democratic nominee for Cook County State's Attorney,
has also put the moratorium in play, calling during a radio interview over
the weekend for a statewide advisory referendum this fall and saying she'd
like to shrink the number of defendants eligible for the death penalty.
In speaking with host Bill Cameron on WLS-AM 890's "Connected to Chicago"
program, Alvarez said she felt capital punishment is "appropriate for the
most serious cases -- the most heinous of cases," but said there are
currently "way too many qualifying factors and those need to be
As an example she sited provisions in the law that allow for the death
penalty in cases of drive-by shootings.
Alvarez proposed an advisory ballot referendum on the moratorium , and
said she thought it "probably should continue until [state lawmakers]
scale back the qualifying factors."
Former Gov. George Ryan unilaterally declared the moratorium in January,
2000. Gov. Blagojevich has allowed it to continue, though he or a
subsequent governor could lift it at his whim at any time. Capital cases
continue to grind through the justice system.
Host Bill Cameron: Where are you on the death penalty?
Anita Alvarez: The death penalty is still the law in Illinois, and as long
as it's still the law in Illinois, as the chief law enforcement officer in
Cook County, I would abide by that law. I think it's appropriate for the
most serious cases -- the most heinous of cases. But I think what really
needs to be done is that a debate needs to be had down in Springfield. We
need to put it to a vote already, and if the voters of the state of
Illinois don't want it, were still going to do our job, and we're still
going to do our job well. There are things that can be changed about the
death penalty. For instance, the qualifying factors -- what makes it a
death penalty case. There are way too many qualifying factors and those
need to be eliminated. And I would push for that if the death penalty is
going to remain in Illinois. But I really think the debate needs to be had
because I dont know what effect this moratorium is having. Lets put it to
a vote already and let's decide what we want to do, and then that way we
know exactly where to go in our office.
Cameron: By 'put it to a vote,' do you mean in the General Assembly or to
the people by referendum?
Alvarez: Well I would think to the people by referendum and decide what
the constituents -- what the people of the state of Illinois- want.
Cameron: And the question would be, do you want to continue the
moratorium? Is that what you're driving at?
Alvarez: The moratorium probably should continue until they scale back the
qualifying factors. I really want reform. There was that whole [governors
commission] report that was done, and our office agreed to the elimination
of many of those qualifying factors.
Cameron: What are some that should be eliminated?
Alvarez: Drive-by shootings was one. Just because a person is shot from a
moving vehicle, that's a qualifying factor and it's something that our
office we agreed that could be eliminated. Yet nothing has been done. So
the moratorium is on, but nobody's really addressing these issues. Let's
just look at it already and make the changes and keep it or put it to a
vote and see what the voters want to do.
Bill Cameron: So you'd like to see a referendum on the ballot this fall
asking people if they want to continue the moratorium?
Alvarez: Yes, I think that would be be good. Instead of just ignoring it,
let's put it to a vote.
(source: Column, Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune)
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