[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ILL., MISS., NEB., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Feb 19 23:07:02 CST 2008
Do not resume executions
LAST WEEK, state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, and DuPage County
State's Attorney Joseph Birkett teamed up to urge Gov. Rod Blagojevich to
lift the state's death penalty moratorium and resume the practice of
Reboletti has introduced a House resolution asking the governor to end the
state's 8-year moratorium on executions. He and Birkett said Illinois'
capital punishment system, overhauled after an examination by a 14-member
commission, has been fixed.
We welcome the debate this resolution may bring on the Illinois House
floor, but we believe lawmakers should arrive at a different conclusion
than that of Reboletti and and Birkett.
WE BELIEVE that any system that logged a record of 12 executions and 13
wrongful convictions should not be fixed. It should be scrapped.
The problems identified by Gov. George Ryan's commission certainly made
the system in Illinois more likely to sentence innocent people to death.
Coerced confessions, insufficient legal representation, questionable
testimony from jailhouse snitches and lack of DNA resources were among the
problems the commission found and Illinois law addressed.
But we think those were mere symptoms of the real problem. The real
problem is the death penalty itself, which will always use the weight of
emotions to tip the scales of justice.
Scott Turow, the best-selling author and former federal prosecutor who
served on Ryan's commission, outlined the problem brilliantly in a 2003
essay in The New Yorker magazine.
"Capital punishment is supposed to be applied only to the most heinous
crimes, but it is precisely those cases which, because of the strong
feelings of repugnance they evoke, most thoroughly challenge the detached
judgment of all participants in the legal process - police, prosecutors,
judges, and juries," Turow writes. (The full article can be found by
searching for "Turow" in the archive section of www.newyorker.com.)
Turow points out that the wrongly accused are particularly susceptible to
landing on death row because they are unlikely to accept plea bargains
with lesser sentences for crimes they did not commit. They demand trials,
then face juries that - by Supreme Court ruling - can't empanel anyone who
voices opposition to capital punishment.
WE ALSO FIND an ugly irony in Birkett's involvement in this call to resume
Birkett is now seeking the death penalty for Brian Dugan in the 1983
kidnapping, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. Perhaps more
than any other, the Nicarico case became synonymous with wrongful
prosecution in Illinois when 2 men, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez,
were wrongfully sentenced to death. Dugan had confessed to the Nicarico
murder when the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office embarked on a
second trial of Cruz and Hernandez. Eventually, 3 DuPage County
prosecutors and 4 police officers were indicted - and later acquitted -
for their handling of the case.
Birkett was not involved in the Cruz/Hernandez prosecutions, but he was an
assistant state's attorney in the DuPage office during the process. His
exposure to those cases should have taught him how public pressure for
revenge can impinge on the judicial system's duty to impose justice.
IN THEIR press conference last week, Birkett and Reboletti said even if
the moratorium were lifted today, Illinois would not see an execution for
10 years due to legal appeals guaranteed to Illinois' 13 current death row
inmates. In our view, that is all the more reason to stop pursuing
executions. The appeals process is cumbersome and expensive, as is the
process of housing prisoners on death row. New Jersey decided as much in
December and abolished capital punishment.
In Illinois, though, we think any decision on capital punishment need only
come down to the state's horrid record. A state that measured 12
executions against 13 near executions of innocent people should not ever
purport to restart a "just" system of capital punishment.
(source: Opinion, Springfield Journal-Register)
US Supreme Court declines to hear appeal from Miss. death row inmate
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Mississippi
death row inmate Mack Arthur King.
King was appealing a 2007 ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court, which
ruled King was not mentally retarded and would not be given money to pay
for another mental evaluation.
The nation's high court without comment Tuesday declined King's request to
review his case.
King had sought an order that Lowndes County provide him with money to
hire an expert to try to prove he is mentally retarded. A trial judge
denied the request in 2003.
Prosecutors had argued that a mental evaluations conducted in 1983 were
adequate for the trial judge to rule King was not mentally retarded. They
said the trial judge had expert testimony about the results of the tests
to rely on.
Defense attorneys contended the 1983 testing was invalid now under
procedures put in place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in a
Virginia case that it's illegal to execute people who are mentally
retarded. The court said it would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment
prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" to execute anyone with a
combined IQ of 75 or lower.
King's case was before the Supreme Court for the 4th time.
King was first sentenced to death in 1980, then again in 1998 and again in
2003 for the killing of an elderly Lowndes County woman.
King was convicted for the 1980 murder of 84-year-old Lela Patterson. The
woman was beaten, strangled and drowned at her home during a burglary. Her
body was found in a bathtub. When he was arrested, King had some of her
belongings, according to court records.
In dispensing with dozens of mental retardation claims from Mississippi's
death row, the Mississippi Supreme Court has required the inmates to
produce an expert opinion that the defendant possessed an IQ of 75 or
below and that further testing showed the inmate was not malingering.
The Mississippi court in 2007 said King did not present enough evidence to
support his claim of mental retardation to require the hiring of an
(source: Associated Press)
Crime lab, ME: Investment price of death penalty
As reported in The Clarion-Ledger on Sunday, 2 cases only a few miles
apart but both involving expert forensic testimony and DNA evidence have
created a furor.
On Friday, a judge dismissed capital murder charges against Kennedy Brewer
and set Levon Brooks free on bond. Brewer spent 15 years behind bars -
more than 10 of them on death row - and Brooks spent 18 years imprisoned
for crimes that were eerily similar. They took place in Noxubee County in
the early 1990s, and, in each, a 3-year-old girl was sexually assaulted
In 1992, a dentist hired by the state testified that marks on Courtney
Smith's body showed Brooks had bitten her. 3 years later, he testified
that marks on Christine Jackson's body showed Brewer had bitten her.
Brewer sat on death row until DNA testing confirmed he was innocent in
A new investigation by Attorney General Jim Hood's office led to capital
murder and sexual battery charges against Justin Albert Johnson, 51, of
Brooksville, who has now reportedly confessed to the killings that put
both Brooks and Brewer behind bars.
"These 2 guys were both convicted of capital murder ... and both of them
are completely innocent," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence
Project that along with other lawyers represented the men.
The death penalty is still conducted in Mississippi, although the American
Bar Association has called for a freeze, citing:
Spotty use of DNA evidence, which has exonerated more than 200 inmates.
Misidentification by eyewitnesses.
False confessions from defendants.
Persistent racial disparities.
Brewer's case represents the first time in Mississippi that DNA evidence
has led to a murder conviction being overturned. But that doesn't mean
that inmates haven't wrongly been convicted.
In Mississippi, the state is plagued by a Crime Lab and a forensic system
that are woefully in need of updating. The lab, chronically underfunded,
has routine staff vacancies and has had backlogs of up to 1,000 cases more
than a year old. The state medical examiner position has been vacant since
The lab is asking $9 million for fiscal 2009 - up nearly $1 million; the
medical examiner vacancy has led to one pathologist responsible for more
than 1,500 autopsies annually - an impossible standard.
If Mississippi wants to continue to impose the death penalty, it must
fully staff and equip a modern Crime Lab, including fast, accurate DNA
testing, hire a full-time medical examiner, and upgrade forensic training
and investigation statewide.
The use of capital punishment requires these steps to ensure the state
gets it right.
(source: The Clarion-Ledger)
Exonerated inmate to tell his story
Curtis McCarthy stared death in the face, but unlike many who escape
deaths grip through a moment of fate, McCarthy stared it in the eye every
day of his 22 years in prison, 19 of which was spent on death row.
McCarthy was the 124th person of 127 nationwide who have been exonerated
through new DNA evidence testing that proved him to be an innocent man. He
is one of 127 people who have become the primary battle cry of death
penalty opponents across the nation. As the Nebraska Legislature prepares
to enter this emotional debate, McCarthy is coming to Nebraska to tell his
In cooperation with Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty and sponsored by
The Witness to Innocence Project, McCarthy will be conducting a free
lecture series throughout the state, which will begin Thursday, Feb. 21,
in Omaha. He has several speaking sessions lined up in Omaha that includes
a 7 p.m. session at First United Methodist Church, 7020 Cass St.
On Friday, Feb. 22, McCarthy will be at Nebraska Wesleyan University in
Lincoln. On Saturday, Feb. 23, he will be at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln and on Sunday, Feb. 24, McCarthy is scheduled to be at
the First United Methodist Church in Lexington at 10 a.m. At 3 p.m., he
will be at Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island.
"Our hopes are that this person will help people understand that innocent
people are on death row," said Lori Jensen, of the Lincoln County
Democrats and a death-penalty opponent.
"We are hoping that Curtis can help Nebraskans understand that we are
better off with life without parole as an alternative to the death
penalty. We see that as a better option and we see Curtis as evidence of
Nebraska is currently without a means to perform an execution after the
State Supreme Court's ruling that effectively abolished the electric chair
several days ago. The electric chair was the state's only means of
execution. Without an alternative means of execution, the death penalty in
Nebraska, if upheld by the Legislature, is effectively in limbo.
Jensen hails the courts decision as the right one and sees it as a
positive step in the right direction.
"I am absolutely satisfied with the court's decision," she said. "I'm
unsure where this debate is going and it's certainly not getting the
problem solved, but it's a step in the right direction."
(source: North Platte Telegraph)
NE Death Penalty Debate Continues
The death penalty debate continues in Nebraska.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers says Attorney General Jon Bruning's current
stance on electrocution contradicts statements Bruning made years ago when
he was a state senator.
Chambers say's back in 2001, Bruning told leglislators electrocution was a
"cruel and unusual punishment."
Chambers' comments come after Bruning filed a motion with the State
Supreme Court Tuesday, asking for another hearing in the case where the
high court banned electrocution.
Bruning downplayed Chambers' remarks Tuesday, saying back in 2001, he was
simply trying to persuade the legislature to switch to the less cruel
method of lethal injection
As of now, Nebraska's high court decision has left it with no way to
carryout the death penalty.
(source: KCAU TV News)
Death penalty can't be justified
The old adage that justice must be seen to be done is one that the United
States appears to be casting aside, with the planned show trials of the
alleged September 11 terrorists.
I say alleged because the 6 men who are to be tried by the military court
confessed to their supposed crimes under torture.
That is bad enough, as torture is clearly a heinous violation of human
rights, but the prosecutor in the cases of these men is pressing for the
death penalty in the event of convictions.
What happened on September 11, 2001 was a major crime against humanity, an
act of pure evil that ended thousands of innocent lives.
But the magnitude of the atrocity cannot justify a potentially horrendous
miscarriage of justice that might have the effect of giving legitimacy to
the terrorists who masterminded and carried out the 9/11 attack.
I seem to recall another case where 6 men stood accused of a terrorist
outrage, not on the scale of 9/11 but heinous enough to be described as
the worst mass murder in British history.
The men were tortured into making false confessions and then convicted of
the Birmingham pub bombings.
The judge who sentenced them said he wished he could impose the death
penalty, but he couldn't -- which was just as well, because the men were
It would be a sad day for the so-called "civilised" free world if men who
were tortured into confessing to a crime were convicted on the basis of
such confessions and then executed -- judicially murdered -- by a country
that claims to be the fairest and most democratic nation on earth.
If this happens, America will be no better than the Iranians who hang
convicts from cranes, the Saudis who behead people, or the Chinese
executioners who dispatch prisoners with a shot to the back of the neck.
America can never again criticise cruel regimes around the world if it
ceremonially kills 6 inmates of Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.
LOWER COYNE STREET, CALLAN, CO KILKENNY
(source: Letter to the Editor, Irish Independent)
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