[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, TENN., MO., MD., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jan 15 22:29:24 CST 2008
Lubbock Public Defender Office Ready for Capital Murder Cases
The state's 1st public defender office for capital murder cases is now
open in Lubbock. As NewsChannel 11 first told you last summer, the Lubbock
based office will encompass over 80 counties, from the tip of the
panhandle down to San Angelo.
Typically, one death penalty case costs counties and taxpayers anywhere
from $150,000 to $500,000. Now, the public defenders office will pick up
"We'll be providing the two attorneys that are required by statue," said
Jack Stoffregen, Chief of the West Texas Region Public Defender for
Capital Murder Cases. "The mitigation that's required by statue as well as
a fact investigator. "
The office is funded for the next 4 years by state grant funds. Once that
money runs out, all participating counties will pick up a portion of the
cost. For Lubbock county, that will be more than a $144,000.
The office started taking death penalty cases this month.
(source: KCBD News)
Supreme Court refuses to consider appeal of Lufkin man on death row
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the death row appeal of a
Lufkin man convicted twice of killing a woman during a burglary of her
home almost 21 years ago.
David Lee Lewis, 42, who was sentenced to death in 1986 and again in 1993,
was appealing his case on claims that he is mentally retarded.
The court's ruling comes more than 13 months after a state appellate court
rejected Lewis' appeal, upholding former state district Judge David
Wilson's findings and conclusions of the appeal September 2006. The action
moves Lewis close to execution, although a date has not been set.
Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington said he was relieved by
the court's decision.
"It's always a relief," he said.
Lewis, now 42, was convicted of shooting 74-year-old Myrtle Ruby in the
face with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle. Ruby surprised Lewis in the
hallway of her home as she returned from a church choir practice and while
he was burglarizing the place.
Records show Lewis then stole her car, drove to his uncle's home and went
on a hunting trip. He was arrested when he returned and confessed. At the
time of the slaying, he had been paroled from prison on mandatory
supervision after serving about 6 weeks of a 2-year sentence for burglary
in Brazoria County, the Associated Press reported.
His capital murder conviction and death sentence were reversed in 1993 by
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because part of his court record was
lost. He was retried later that year, was convicted and again sentenced to
Lewis' attorney had recently appealed the 1993 death row conviction,
arguing Lewis was mentally retarded. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court
abolished the execution of the mentally disabled as cruel and unusual
Herrington said evidence that Lewis passed a GED exam while in prison
awaiting his 2nd trial proves Lewis is not mentally retarded.
The U.S. Supreme court also refused 2 hear 2 other death row appeal cases.
Justices refused to review the case of Virgil Martinez, convicted of the
October 1996 rampage at his former girlfriend's mobile home near Alvin,
south of Houston. The court also refused to hear the case of Jeffery Lee
Wood, convicted of killing a convenience store clerk during a January 1996
robbery in Kerrville, the Associated Press reported.
(source: Lufkin Daily News)
Commuted death row inmate says past kept him in prison
A man whose death sentence has been commuted to life in prison says his
lengthy criminal record is mainly why he's still behind bars.
John Spirko says he realizes his past turns many people against him.
He was moved last week from Ohio's death row, where he'd been awaiting
execution for the 1982 killing of a northwest Ohio postmistress. Governor
Strickland commuted the sentence because of a lack of physical evidence
tying Spirko to the crime as well as a slim doubt about his involvement.
Spirko says an investigator who provided key evidence against him lied.
The governor declined to offer a pardon or allow Spirko to be released for
his time served.
(source: Associated Press)
Killer Faces Death Sentence, Then Life Behind Bars
A 2-time killer who raped and murdered an elderly Memphis woman will still
have a life sentence hanging in Mississippi after his death sentence has
been served in Tennessee.
46 year-old Richard L. Odom has been on Tennessee's death row since 1992
for murdering 77 year-old Mina Johnson, who was killed while Odom was on
the run from a murder sentence in Mississippi.
3 Tennessee juries sentenced Odom to death, but the 1st 2 sentences were
overturned on appeals.
Judge Chris Craft handed down Odom's 3rd death sentence Monday.
Craft also ruled that the death sentence and Odom's unfinished life term
in Mississippi must run consecutively, meaning 1 must end before the other
starts -- and the Tennessee sentence goes 1st.
The judge called him "one of the worst of the worst."
(source: Associated Press)
Court upholds death sentence, says defense must prove retardation
The state Supreme Court narrowly votes to uphold a death sentence for a
Columbia man convicted of killing 3 people.
Ernest Lee Johnson has been sentenced to death 3 times for the 1994
killing of 3 convenience store employees. On his 3rd appeal, he argued
that prosecutors must prove that he is not mentally retarded.
A divided court ruled that the defense must prove mental retardation. The
U.S. Supreme Court doesn't allow mentally retarded people to be executed.
The majority opinion noted that no state requires prosecutors to prove
that someone is not mentally retarded.
Dissenting judges said there should be a new death sentence hearing with
the state proving whether Johnson is mentally retarded.
(source: Associated Press)
Repeal of death penalty gaining momentum
Late last year, against the advice of state political leaders and most
members of his own staff, Gov. Martin OMalley took on the states lingering
fiscal crisis. He took it on and he prevailed.
Now is the time for the governor to take on a lingering problem of a
different kind the death penalty.
He's already made his position clear on the matter. His commentary, "Why I
Oppose the Death Penalty," was printed in The Washington Post on Feb. 21,
2007. Citing Marylands execution of John Thanos for the random murder of
three teenagers, he wrote, "Did this one relatively humane execution
balance out a violent murder much less 3 violent murders? Can any
execution really be said to 'even the ledger' for the taking of anothers
The governor answers no, because the death penalty does not balance the
demands of justice, it distorts them. He is joined by an increasing number
of victims' family members, like Vicki and Syl Schieber of Chevy Chase
whose daughter was murdered. They oppose the death penalty because their
daughter opposed it, and because they know that the pursuit of capital
punishment prolongs suffering of surviving families, sometimes for
decades, and "revictimizes" them with every court hearing.
Law enforcement officers also favor repealing the death penalty and
replacing it with life without the possibility of parole. As the governor
once testified, avoiding the high cost of the machinery of death would
mean nearly $22 million for 500 additional police officers, protective
equipment that saves officers lives, or drug treatment for 10,000 of our
addicted neighbors. Unlike the death penalty, these are investments that
can actually spare more potential victims of violent crime.
And there are savings of another kind. Since 1976, while there have been
1,099 executions nationally, there have been 126 exonerations of innocent
people from death row. That is one exoneration for every 9 executions.
With an error rate that high, it is reasonable to conclude that some of
the executed also were innocent.
Maryland occupies a unique place in the history of exonerations, being
home to the first DNA-based exoneration in the country: Kirk Bloodsworth,
who spent eight years in prison before being freed.
Public support for capital punishment has reached its lowest level in 25
years, following a decline in support for 5 straight years. A poll
commissioned last year by the Maryland Catholic Conference found that 61 %
of Maryland voters believe that life without parole is an acceptable
substitute for the death penalty.
New Jersey's recent abolition of its death penalty has shown that
gubernatorial leadership matters. With Governor O'Malley's continuing
leadership, Maryland can join its neighbor in the vanguard of a growing
national movement that is intent, in the spirit of a civilized society
that values due process, on abolishing this anachronistic institution.
The Maryland public is prepared to take the governors lead in supporting
life without possibility of parole over capital punishment. And despite
reported hurdles, the General Assembly is closer to repealing the death
penalty than it has ever been. All eyes in Maryland and the eyes of many
across the country are on Governor OMalley. We stand ready to support his
lead. We are confident the great majority of Marylanders will, as well.
Susan Goering is executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of
Maryland; Richard Dowling is executive director Maryland Catholic
Conference; and Jane Henderson is executive director, Maryland Citizens
Against State Executions.
(source: The Gazette)
An Odd Argument on the Death Penalty
Jon Yorke, a British law lecturer who has written widely on the U.S. death
penalty, argues that the laws focus on the actual act's pain (Baze v.
Rees, presently pending in the Supreme Court, asks how courts should
consider the risk of pain during execution) may be misplaced:
While hypoxia might meet the approval of some, others argue that focusing
on the dying moments of a prisoner is a distraction to the wider issue -
the mental trial of being on death row for months or years.
"No method of execution can prevent the knowledge that you are going to
die by the state in the future," says Jon Yorke, a law lecturer who has
done extensive death penalty research in the US. "That will have a
psychological impact, it can never be humane."
The so-called "death row phenomenon" affects an inmate in 2 ways, says Mr
Yorke. One concerns the mind. In 1986 in Florida, Alvin Ford escaped the
death penalty because he had become insane on death row.
The other is the physical impact of the structure in which an inmate is
being held. In Oklahoma, where cells on death row are deprived of
sunlight, a prisoner may endure 25 years without Vitamin D.
This argument is not unique to Mr. YorkeU.S.-based opponents of the death
penalty have raised it increasingly of late. It is an odd point: that the
exercise of the judicial process, with standard incarceration during that
time (in Baze, for example, no one disputes that Mr. Baze shot a sheriff
twice in the back before finishing him off execution-style, a crime surely
punishable by incarceration), is itself a possibly cruel and unusual
One is almost tempted to say that the convicted felon generally has the
power to hasten the appeals process, perhaps by years or even decades, if
the pain of suffering it is itself too great. To the extent that this
happens only rarely, perhaps we can conclude that convicted
criminalsalmost always cold-blooded murderersare not quite convinced by
the argument Yorke raises.
(source: The Foundation)
More information about the DeathPenalty