[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.Y., WYO., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Feb 16 18:15:45 CST 2008
Albany forum hosts death penalty foes
Alan Newton knows first hand how the justice system can go terribly wrong
and now uses his experience to talk about the time and money be says is
wasted on supporting the death penalty. Newton was sentenced in 1985 to 40
years in prison for raping a woman in an abandoned Bronx building in June
1984. He sat there for 22 years before DNA evidence cleared him and he was
released in 2006.
"During the time this state had a death penalty, $200 million was wasted
on it," Newton said today in Albany. "That is money that could have gone
toward rehabilitation or crime prevention. I can tell you that we have
brothers and sisters leaving the penitentiaries just as ignorant as they
were when they went in. We should be doing something about that."
Newton was one of the anti-death penalty panelists who spoke about
problems in law enforcement and the death penalty during this weekend's
37th Annual Legislative Conference of the New York State Association of
Black and Puerto Rican Legislators meeting at the Empire State Plaza.
There were no death penalty supporters on the panel.
In 1995, the state Legislature voted, at the urging of the new governor,
George Pataki, to reinstate the death penalty. The Court of Appeals
effectively overturned the mandate in 2004.
Steven Mollette of Peekskill was forced to face the issue in a Schenectady
County courtroom in December 2006.
Mollette lost his daughter Unishun Mollette, 19, who was killed by bullets
meant for someone else as she sat in the back seat of a car in Hamilton
Hill in September 2003. Kenneth Portee is serving 50 years to life.
"I sat in that courtroom every day during the trial and there was no
question in my mind he was guilty," Mollette told a gathering of about 50
people at the session held in a concourse meeting room. "Part of me wanted
him to die too. But during the sentencing his daughter and mother were
there and the compassionate side of me came out. I thought I did not want
that man's mother to go through what I went through."
Mollette said he believed less money should go to vengeance and more to
"There should be more reaching out to teach men, for instance, to help out
and be more responsible for their families, their own lives and their
communities," Mollette said.
David Kaczynski, who heads New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, also
spoke at the session. The brother of "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski said the
law has many gray areas and has cost millions in taxpayer money that could
have been better spent.
To date, 213 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA
testing, including 16 who served time on death row, according the
Innocence Project, a justice research group.
"It did nothing to protect us," Kaczynski said of the death penalty.
"Crime is still up and people are still getting wrongfully convicted and
it is no secret that people of color are more likely to face the death
The gathering from across the state saw a full day of individual
discussion sessions Saturday on topics such as labor unions, parenting,
gang violence, education, health and law enforcement and the death
penalty. There was also Youth Hip Hop Summit held at the Swyer Theater on
The association's conference continues Sunday with information booths and
crafts, fashions and music sales, a morning church service, awards
ceremony and a gala scholarship benefit banquet.
For more information, see http://www.nysabprl.com/main02.htm
(source: Albany Times-Union)
Judge orders new trial for death row inmate
A federal judge has thrown out the conviction of a Wyoming inmate
sentenced to die nearly a decade ago for the killing of a correctional
officer during an escape attempt.
U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer set aside the death sentence and
ordered a new trial for James Martin Harlow, who'd been convicted of
murdering Cpl. Wayne Martinez in 1997. Harlow was one of only 2 inmates on
Wyoming's death row.
In his 232-page ruling, released Friday, Brimmer cited several reasons for
throwing out Harlow's conviction:
* Conflicts between Harlow's trial attorney, Keith Goody, and former state
Public Defender Sylvia Hackl;
* The Wyoming Public Defender's Office failure to provide enough money for
an adequate investigation into circumstances related to the case;
* The withholding by state prosecutors of files pertaining to inmate
witnesses who testified against Harlow;
* Trial Judge Kenneth Stebner's refusal to allow Harlow's attorney to
adequately question potential jurors about the death penalty and other
"Numerous errors were present in the trial of James Martin Harlow,"
Brimmer wrote. "Individually, any one of them likely would have altered
the outcome of the trial verdict, or possibly the appeal."
Brimmer gave prosecutors 120 days to grant Harlow a new trial.
Attorney General Bruce Salzburg did not respond to a message left Friday
afternoon seeking comment on the ruling.
Cindy DeLancey, the chief prosecutor for Carbon County, where Harlow was
originally convicted, said Friday afternoon she couldn't comment on the
case because she hadn't had an opportunity to review it yet or confer with
the Attorney General's Office.
Reached at a death penalty conference in California, Goody called the
judge's decision, "the best news I've had in years.
"It was a terrible miscarriage of justice and my guy was on the row," he
said. "And they were trying to kill him."
Goody said he was fired from the Public Defender's Office for publicly
insisting at the time of the trial he wasn't getting the resources to
Brimmer found that Harlow's trial counsel failed to conduct a reasonable
investigation into Harlow's background and character because of a "budget
conscious head of the state public defender's office."
"When a man's life was at stake, there was surely $20,000 to be found for
such an important investigation, either in the public defender's budget or
the governor's contingency fund," Brimmer wrote.
Sean O'Brien, the Kansas City, Mo. attorney whom Brimmer appointed to the
case three years ago, said he was pleased with Brimmer's ruling, but
called the case tragic.
"There is no good outcome when somebody as good and decent as Wayne
Martinez is murdered," O'Brien said. "But we are glad and hopeful the
judge has done the right thing."
Martinez died during a July 1997 escape attempt at the maximum-security
unit of the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins. Harlow held Martinez
while two other inmates, Bryan Collins and Richard Dowdell, stabbed the
27-year-old correctional officer and struck him in the head with a fire
extinguisher, according to court documents.
All three inmates were tried and convicted in Martinez's death. Harlow
received the death penalty. The other 2 men were sentenced to life behind
The Wyoming Supreme Court upheld Harlow's conviction in 2003, but two
years later, Brimmer ordered a stay of execution after he received
Harlow's petition for federal court review.
O'Brien and Terry Harris, a Cheyenne attorney also appointed by Brimmer to
represent Harlow, used federal subpoenas to secure records from the
Wyoming Department of Corrections and other state agencies that had never
been turned over to Harlow's previous attorneys in his original trial or
state Supreme Court appeal.
In hearings before Brimmer in late 2006, Harlow's attorneys asserted that
prosecutor Tom Campbell and lawyers from the state denied requests from
their client's original trial lawyers for information about other inmate
witnesses who testified against him.
Lawyers with the attorney general's office argued that while it was
unfortunate Harlow's original team didn't receive the records, withholding
them neither affected the outcome of the trial nor violated Harlow's
Harlow remains held at Wyoming State Penitentiary, according to Department
of Corrections spokeswoman Melinda Brazzale.
With Brimmer's ruling, Dale Wayne Eaton becomes Wyoming's only death row
inmate. In 2004, a Natrona County jury sentenced Eaton to die for the 1988
kidnap, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell.
(source: Casper Star-Tribune)
Accused killer may face death penalty if convicted----Prosecutors seek
special circumstances surrounding murder of St. Mary's professor
Troy Thomas, accused of killing a St. Mary's College professor at the
man's home in the Oakland hills, was charged Wednesday with special
circumstances murder, Tom Rodgers, Alameda County assistant district
Thomas, 43, could face the death penalty because the charge is murder with
special circumstances. The special circumstances include burglary,
financial gain and being a convicted murderer.
Thomas is accused of killing John Alfred Pierre Dennis Jr., 59, a faculty
member at St. Mary's, who met Thomas decades ago during an Oakland youth
A San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy found Thomas sitting in Dennis' car at
Montera State Beach on Saturday night. Upon further investigation, the
deputy saw Dennis' arm protruding from under a blanket in the rear seat of
Thomas was arrested and Oakland police were notified. Oakland police then
went to Dennis' home on Hansom Drive and found evidence of a bloody
Police said Thomas admitted to the shooting and said he was seeking
financial gain when he arrived at Dennis' home Saturday. He also said he
drove to San Mateo County in hopes of dumping Dennis's body.
Dennis met Thomas 3 decades ago when Dennis was mentoring inner-city
youths in Oakland. The relationship continued after the program. Sources
said they had a sexual relationship that turned violent.
While Dennis continued teaching, both at St. Mary's and City College of
San Francisco, Thomas became a repeat criminal.
Thomas has 5 convictions for auto theft and numerous felony convictions,
including felon with a firearm. Rodgers said Thomas has also been
convicted for murder, a crime that sent him to state prison.
(source: Contra Costa Times)
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