[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MD., VA., PENN., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 15 10:28:28 CST 2008
In Md., most want option of execution----33% favor ending capital
A month after New Jersey became the first state in decades to abolish the
death penalty, a majority of Maryland voters do not support enacting a
similar repeal, according to a new Sun poll.
57 % said they want the death penalty to remain legal, while 33 % said
they would ban it. About 10 % of likely voters polled said they were not
Support for capital punishment ran the highest among residents of
Baltimore County - where prosecutors are more likely to seek a death
sentence for convicted killers than anywhere else in the state - and in
Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland.
"Why should we support them in jail for the rest of their lives when
they're criminals?" asked Evelyn Larkin of Towson, who does bookkeeping
for her son's party tent rental business. "I believe what the Bible says -
an eye for an eye, and if they kill, they should be killed. I guess I'm
hard-boiled at 85, right?"
The statewide poll of 904 likely voters was conducted Jan. 6 to Jan. 9 for
The Sun by the independent, nonpartisan firm OpinionWorks of Annapolis. It
has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Capital punishment has been the subject of intense debate in Maryland in
the past several years. Opponents question whether there are racial or
geographic disparities in how the death penalty is imposed here, an
argument bolstered by a 2003 University of Maryland study.
Then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening enacted a yearlong moratorium while the
University of Maryland study was completed, but it expired under Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Last year, Gov. Martin O'Malley led a failed attempt
in the General Assembly to abolish capital punishment.
Follow-up interviews with poll respondents who agreed to speak with
reporters suggested that the debates in Annapolis have been mirrored
across the state and continue in the minds of many death penalty
supporters. Many said the decision of whether to support capital
punishment is a difficult one and that they have wavered in their views
over the years.
"I think so. I'm not real sure. It's too hard to say," Terry Kovacina, a
50-year-old Calvert County resident, said in explanation of her support
for the death penalty.
Like many poll respondents who were interviewed, Kovacina expressed
concern about the number of death row inmates who are later exonerated by
DNA evidence and the possibility that an innocent person could be put to
death for crimes he or she did not commit.
"What if they're wrong? What if the decision is wrong and we kill somebody
who didn't really do it?" asked Kovacina, who works as a supervisor at a
direct mailing operation. "In most cases, when they give the death
penalty, the crime is horrendous. But if we kill them and they're not
guilty, we are almost as guilty as we thought they were."
There have been 126 death row inmates exonerated since 1973, according to
the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. The first to be freed
as a result of DNA evidence was Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent nine years in
prison - including one on Maryland's death row - for the rape and murder
of a 9-year-old Baltimore County girl.
The Sun's survey revealed weaker support for the death penalty in Maryland
- one of 36 states with a capital sentencing option for convicted killers
- than in a national Gallup poll conducted in October. In that survey, 69
% of respondents around the country said they were in favor of the death
penalty for a convicted murderer, while 27 % said they were not.
But support for capital punishment drops precipitously when pollsters
introduce the alternative sentence of life in prison without possibility
Asked in 2006 whether death or life without parole is the better penalty
for murder, 47 % chose the death penalty and 48 percent picked life
without parole, according to the Gallup poll.
In Maryland, a poll of 625 registered voters conducted in February by
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research revealed a similar drop. In that statewide
survey, commissioned by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which opposes
capital punishment, 56 % expressed support for the death penalty while 34
% opposed it. But asked a follow-up question, 61 % said they thought life
without parole is a suitable alternative to a death sentence.
Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State
Executions, said the straight yes-or-no question solicits a "gut response"
that convicted killers ought to be punished as severely as possible.
"People think, 'If they're going to get out of prison, I'd rather have
them executed,'" she said. "But if you offer people the option of what
they think is a harsh sentence that doesn't involve an execution, people
will take it."
Kathryn Huggler, 51, of Parkville, said she has wrestled with the issue
for her entire adult life and can't make up her mind. She said she
believes that life without parole is, in most cases, a suitable
alternative - so long as it actually means that the convicted killer has
no chance of ever being released from prison.
"Society is entitled to be safe from monsters," she said.
The Maryland legislature added life without parole as a sentencing option
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, whose office is
now prosecuting seven capital cases, said the poll "solidifies my belief
that the death penalty is still a very important sentence to keep here in
the state of Maryland."
With Maryland lawmakers expected to again debate death penalty repeal
during the legislative session, Shellenberger said, "I hope the General
Assembly takes a look and sees that in this area of representative
democracy, a majority of people in the state are still in favor of this
The Sun last surveyed Maryland voters about the death penalty in 2001 and
2002, though the results are not directly comparable to the current poll.
Those surveys took place amid the debate over enacting a death penalty
moratorium while the state studied whether capital punishment was applied
fairly, and the poll did not directly ask whether voters wanted to ban
capital punishment outright. In 2002, 47 % said they opposed a moratorium
and 45 % said they supported it. The results were similar in 2001.
The state has executed 5 convicted murderers since the legislature
reinstated a death penalty law in 1978.
State executions were halted in December 2006 when Maryland's highest
court ruled that the state's lethal injection procedures were improperly
developed and must be rewritten with the required legislative oversight
and public input.
O'Malley, a death penalty opponent, has held off directing prison
officials to draft new regulations, saying he wants to give the General
Assembly an opportunity this year to debate repeal.
A repeal bill was defeated by one vote in a Senate committee last year.
The Sun poll asked respondents specifically whether Maryland should follow
the lead of New Jersey, which abolished the death penalty in December.
The poll revealed that 2 groups of voters most open to banning capital
punishment are blacks (46 % would ban it; 42 % would not) and Jews (51 %
would ban it; 39 % would not).
Robin Redding, 55, of Hamilton, said her feelings about the death penalty
have evolved, in part, from her Jewish faith.
"If you make a mistake, you can't take it back," the insurance underwriter
said. She added that life without parole is a reasonable alternative to
the death penalty "because they can't get out and do something again but
it's not killing them."
But others said some crimes require more severe punishment than a lifetime
"For certain real heinous crimes, the death penalty should still be
around," said Robert Bolden, 26, an engineer who lives in Garrett County.
"I can see the point somewhat of saying it is cruel and unusual
punishment. But you have to look at the facts of what they did to someone
else. I'm sure that what they did wasn't the nicest of ways to let someone
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Federal Judge Rejects Death Sentence Appeal
In McLean, a federal judge has rejected an appeal from a Virginia death
row inmate who was sentenced to death only after he wrote a taunting
letter to prosecutors that included a detailed confession of his crime.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria rejected arguments by lawyers
for Paul Powell, of Manassas, who was sentenced to death for the murder
and attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl in 1999.
Powell was originally convicted and sentenced to death, but the Supreme
Court of Virginia tossed out the death sentence.
Powell mistakenly thought the court's ruling made it impossible for him to
ever receive the death penalty, so he wrote a letter to Prince William
Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert in which he admitted new details of his
Armed with Powell's confession, Ebert put him on trial again in 2003, and
won a new conviction and a new death sentence.
Powell's lawyer says he plans to appeal the ruling.
(source: WTOP News)
Death penalty sought in Fayette retrial
A Fayette County man who will be retried in a 24-year-old double homicide
should face the death penalty because he put his children's lives in
danger when he broke into a mobile home and shot two women to death,
according to a prosecutor.
Joseph George Nara, 56, was sentenced in 1984 to life in prison after
pleading guilty to the shooting deaths of his common-law wife, DeLorean
Churby, 23, and mother-in-law, Virginia Ruth Churby, 61, at a mobile home
In May, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's
finding that Nara's federal due process rights were violated because he
was mentally incompetent when he entered the pleas.
During a status conference Monday before Judge Steve Leskinen, prosecuting
attorney Christopher M. Capozzi said the presence of Nara's children, then
ages 2 and 4, during the shootings presents an aggravating circumstance
that justifies the death penalty.
Capozzi, of the state Attorney General's Office, said it is believed that
the children were in a room next to the one where the shootings occurred.
Both are now adults. The younger sibling never has spoken of the
shootings, Capozzi said. The eldest child, he said, claims no memory of
the shootings and refuses to speak to prosecutors.
Another aggravating circumstance, Capozzi said, is the belief that the
shootings took place during the commission of another felony, a burglary.
In addition, he said, the death penalty is permissible because the case
involves multiple murders.
Attorney Sam Davis, who is representing Nara with attorney Mark Mehalov,
said the defense will try to show that the children were not in danger. In
addition, he disputed Capozzi's allegations that Nara "shot his way" into
the mobile home before shooting the women.
Davis indicated a mental-health expert will be asked to examine Nara.
Leskinen gave Davis and Mehalov until March 17 to secure the services of
such an expert so that if Nara's mental status becomes an issue before
trial, prosecutors will have enough time to have their expert examine
The earliest the retrial will begin is June. Nara is incarcerated at the
state prison near Waynesburg, Greene County.
The state is prosecuting the case at the request of District Attorney
Nancy Vernon to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Vernon's late father, also an attorney, had brief contact with Nara during
the 1984 court proceedings. At that time, Vernon was working with her
(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Anti-death penalty arguments defy logic
I've been seeing letters in favor of abolishing the death penalty. They
all seem to share common errors.
The most prevalent argument is that a certain number of death row convicts
have been exonerated; therefore the death penalty is unjust. This is
If innocent persons are being convicted, getting rid of the death penalty
will fix nothing. The problem obviously lies with faulty crime scene
investigation or an overzealous prosecutor.
Law enforcement has a lot of unnecessary pressure placed upon it by the
media. We all want the crime to be solved and in certain instances, I'm
sure law enforcement succumbs to the pressure placed on it to solve the
crime, even when all the evidence may not point in a certain direction.
Prosecutors also share the blame. They are judged by the number of
convictions they get. They want convictions, plain and simple.
Americans are also to blame. We have not learned our history and as a
result we have been led down a path regarding the jury system.
In the early days of our republic, it was understood that it was the
jury's right to judge both the facts and the law. Judges routinely
instruct juries to ignore the law and judge only the facts. This is
unjust. It is the right of the jury to judge both the law and the facts.
The jury selection process is also a sham. You are to be judged by your
peers. In former days, that meant your neighbors. I shudder at the thought
of being judged by some of the ignoramuses the public school system is
turning out now. Some jurors may not even be able to read, let alone
formulate a cogent argument and distinguish logic from sophistry.
I have also seen death penalty opponents cite the Eighth Amendment, which
prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The death penalty was routinely
administered at the founding of our republic.
Certainly capital punishment was not considered cruel or unusual. Serial
killer Ted Bundy stalked, raped and killed close to 100 victims.
Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 and ate the remains of many.
What I'm about to say will shock many and can easily be taken out of
context: putting these monsters to death is merciful.
The death penalty is effective and just, so let's keep it.
Jeff Lonigro----St. Charles
(source: Letter to the Editor, (Ill.) Daily Herald)
Death penalty degrades presumed civilized society
A reader wrote, "388 on state's death row? Where is penalty?" (Jan. 2),
denouncing The Palm Beach Post's stand against the death penalty in
Florida. While the letter was certainly emotional, stating, "Being on the
scene where a fellow trooper was shot and killed only strengthens my
resolve to champion capital punishment," the reason implied by the writer
for support of the death penalty is revenge.
The letter suggests that the debate about lethal injection being "cruel
and unusual" should be balanced with the pain that crime victims suffer.
Is this to suggest that society is just like the criminals? Civilized
society should be better than people guilty of capital crimes. Just
because a killer disregards the humanity of his/her victim does not give
society license to be immoral as well. Numerous death row inmates have
been released due to DNA-based evidence and more are being released all
We know that there have been innocent people executed in this country.
Could not the brother or friend of the unfairly executed equally say,
"Being on the scene where my brother was unjustly executed for a crime he
did not commit only strengthens my resolve to oppose capital punishment"?
Who would have the stronger argument? In addition, when the state kills an
innocent man, is it not also guilty of a capital crime?
The United States is one of the last developed countries that still
executes. Even Russia has abolished the death penalty. Capital punishment
is more expensive than the alternatives, and, quite frankly, below the
morality of civilized society. Revenge does not justify the loss of
KIRK KIRKPATRICK----Palm City
Let killers know a moment of what victims' suffered
Regarding the Dec. 26 letter, "Flaws in anesthesia show need to halt
lethal injection," (Dec. 26), once again whining about the poor suffering
of death row inmates: So now lethal injections constitute "cruel and
unusual punishment" and violate their rights under the Eighth Amendment to
the Constitution? Here's a thought: Perhaps while the prisoner is "unable
to make known the excruciating pain he is experiencing because of the drug
that was injected," he can use that time to think about the excruciating
pain he caused his victim, which landed him in his current predicament.
If you want to be sympathetic, try reaching out to the families of murder
victims, and try to do something constructive to ease their pain and
suffering. I am so sick to death of the bleeding-heart liberals who make
it all about the criminals and their rights. They lost any rights to be
treated as a human being when they committed their evil and vicious acts
against another human being. If they feel any pain while their death
sentence is being carried out, tough. At least they had the courtesy of
knowing what was coming to them. Can the same be said for their victims?
JEAN SCHAFER----Port St. Lucie
(source: Letters to the Editor, Palm Beach Post)
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