[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, S.C., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jan 28 23:08:39 CST 2008
An end to crime
Re: "How about a death penalty without the executions?" by Steve Blow,
I appreciate the humanitarian instincts expressed by Mr. Blow in his
column opposing executions in Texas. But as noble as his instincts are, I
think he is guilty of wishful thinking when he advances the idea of a
death penalty that securely incarcerates condemned inmates for the rest of
Many people who want to abolish all executions are the same people who
find a way to blame a killer's ruthless behavior on various social ills,
and they somehow muster as much sympathy for the killer as for the victims
and their loved ones.
The idea that everyone is capable of rehabilitation and worthy of another
crack at normal society is like catnip to them. The death penalty is
unquestionably flawed, but there is certainty to it. It ensures that a
condemned killer doesn't kill again.
Mark Rice, Dallas
(source: Letter to the Editor, Sat. Jan. 26)
'Radical' on death
Re: "How about a death penalty without the executions?" by Steve Blow,
As a long-time opponent of the death penalty, I have dealt with my fair
share of criticism for my beliefs. Family and friends (even those with a
liberal mindset) view me as a radical, un-American, bleeding heart who is
soft on crime.
Thank you to Steve Blow and Rick Halperin for sharing a different
perspective. Contrary to popular belief, those of us who support the
abolition of the death penalty do not want the guilty to be free to roam
our streets and commit more crimes.
And I would venture to guess that the majority of us support the sentence
of life without parole for the most heinous offenses.
Jennifer Lamb, Dallas
[MY NOTE----Rick Halperin does NOT support life without parole as a
mandatory option to the death penalty]
(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News, Mon. 28)
OHIO----woman faces possible death sentence
China Arnold Facing Death Penalty for Allegedly Killing her Baby in
Jury selection began on Monday in the case against China Arnold, the
27-year-old Dayton, Ohio mother who is accused of killing her baby in a
Arnold has denied any involvement in the death of her 1-moth-old daughter,
telling investigators that she had no idea how her child suffered
high-heat internal injuries. A coroner's official determined the baby must
have been placed inside a microwave because there had been no burn marks
on the childs skin.
According to Arnold, she arrived home after a night of drinking and fell
asleep. She said she was awoken by her daughter's crying at 2:30 a.m. and
warmed a bottle of milk in the microwave, changed her diaper and fell
asleep on the sofa with her baby on her chest.
If Arnold is found guilty in the case she could face the death penalty.
Report: Ohio DNA testing program for inmates deeply flawed; police
routinely discard evidence
Ohio's DNA testing program for inmates seeking to prove their innocence is
deeply flawed, with police routinely discarding evidence after trials and
court-ordered tests never getting done, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Judges also ignore requests for DNA testing, leaving inmates in legal
limbo, and nearly a third of the denials examined by The Columbus Dispatch
failed to cite a specific reason, as required by state law. In other
cases, there's no indication that anyone even read the inmate's request
for DNA testing, the newspaper reported.
Gov. Ted Strickland told The Dispatch he is calling for an overhaul that
would speed up the review process, open up testing to more inmates and
establish statewide standards for preserving evidence.
Across the country, more than 200 inmates have been freed because of DNA
tests, including six from Ohio. 4 of those came before the state created a
formal DNA testing program in 2003. Since then, 313 Ohio inmates have
applied but only 14 tests have been done. In some cases, evidence has been
lost or destroyed, the newspaper said.
Ohio lawmakers, fearing a flood of frivolous applications from prisoners,
tightly restricted eligibility when they created the testing program.
Unlike 22 other states, Ohio has no law requiring criminal evidence to be
catalogued and saved.
"It's a mess and frustrating when you can't keep track of evidence," said
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, whose jurisdiction includes Toledo.
"We have 88 counties with sheriff departments, police departments and
dozens of other entities, and everyone does evidence retention
The problems of lost evidence, tardy responses and un-enforced rulings
have hampered testing requests made by 4 death row inmates, according to
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said he's troubled by the
findings. "When we take someone's life or we take their freedom, we want
to be certain that we've done everything we can," Moyer said.
Judges can lose track of DNA applications, or any court filings by
prisoners, for a variety of reasons, said Mark Schweikert, executive
director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, an advocacy and oversight
organization for judges.
The inmates often don't have lawyers, and paperwork ends up being filed
under the original case numbers, which can be decades old and long-since
labeled as closed, Schweikert said.
The newspaper identified 13 cases in which testing hadn't been done more
than a year after a judge's order, and some orders were ignored for more
than 2 years.
(source: Associated Press)
Winkler death penalty trial underway in Conway
Jury selection started Monday in the Louis "Mick" Winkler murder trial.
Horry County Police charged Winkler with murdering his estranged wife
Rebecca Winkler in March of 2006.
It took a little more than 3 1/2 hours to qualify the 168 potential jurors
who showed up to court Monday morning in Conway.
The jury, once chosen, will decide 2 things: 1st, whether or not Winkler
is guilty of killing his estranged wife inside her Little River home in
If so, that same jury must decide whether Winkler should die, or spend the
rest of his life in prison.
Winkler faces a list of charges: murder, 1st degree burglary, and assault
and battery of a high and aggravated nature stemming from the March 2006
death of his estranged wife.
Winkler sat quietly through the qualification and selection process Monday
dressed this time in a dress shirt and sport coat, much different than the
jailhouse jump suit in his past court appearances.
The judge broke several potential jurors off into separate groups of 5.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers will then interview each person in those
groups individually, each group allotted 1 hour sessions.
Judge James Lockemy and Horry County Clerk of Court Melanie Huggins
scheduled 15 groups of 5 for sessions that ran into Monday night and will
resume Tuesday morning at 10 at the Horry County Government and Justice
The clerk scheduled the 1-hour sessions through Thursday morning, and sent
the remaining pool home for the day.
The court expects the selection process to wrap up sometime Thursday and
opening arguments could begin as soon as Thursday.
The jury, once chosen, will be sequestered and the county will provide the
jurors with food, transportation, and lodging for the remainder of the
Fifteenth Circuit solicitor Greg Hembree told News13 last week he expects
the guilt phase of the trial to last about a week, and the penalty phase
to last another week.
If Winkler is convicted, the jury will then decide between life in prison
(source: South Carolina Now)
Fallible system shouldn't include death penalty
On Jan. 10, the same day a letter to the editor ran supporting the death
penalty ("Capital Punishment Saves Lives"), a front-page article reported
how David Flores may have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in
prison without parole for the shooting death of Phyllis Davis more than a
decade ago ("Another Vows: Wrong Man Convicted").
If Iowa had the death penalty and if Flores had already been executed,
this information would be moot. Thank goodness Iowa is one of 14 states
without the death penalty because there simply is no remedy for the
execution of someone who may be innocent.
According to a 1996 National Institute of Justice report, between 5 and 10
% of the U.S. prison population are factually innocent of the crimes for
which they have been convicted. With the assistance of programs such as
The Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva
University in New York City and Northwestern University School of Law's
Center on Wrongful Convictions, 123 people in 26 states have been released
from death row since 1973.
Although that process may be painful for family members of the murder
victim, it is essential that due process be up held in order to protect
the rights of all.
- Patti Brown, secretary, Iowans Against the Death Penalty----West Des
(source: Letter to the Editor, Des Moines Register)
Religion and the Death Penalty
The best case for the death penalty--or, at least, the best explanation of
it--was made, paradoxically, by one of the most famous of its opponents,
Albert Camus, the French novelist. Others complained of the alleged
unusual cruelty of the death penalty, or insisted that it was not, as
claimed, a better deterrent of murder than, say, life imprisonment, and
Americans especially complained of the manner in which it was imposed by
judge or jury (discriminatorily or capriciously, for example), and
sometimes on the innocent.
Camus said all this and more, and what he said in addition is instructive.
The death penalty, he said, "can be legitimized only by a truth or a
principle that is superior to man," or, as he then made clearer, it may
rightly be imposed only by a religious society or community; specifically,
one that believes in "eternal life." Only in such a place can it be said
that the death sentence provides the guilty person with the opportunity
(and reminds him of the reason) to make amends, thus to prepare himself
for the final judgment which will be made in the world to come. For this
reason, he said, the Catholic church "has always accepted the necessity of
the death penalty." This may no longer be the case. And it may no longer
be the case that death is, as Camus said it has always been, a religious
penalty. But it can be said that the death penalty is more likely to be
imposed by a religious people.
The reasons for this are not obvious. It may be that the religious know
what evil is or, at least, that it is, and, unlike the irreligious, are
not so ready to believe that evil can be explained, and thereby excused,
by a history of child abuse or, say, a "post-traumatic stress disorder" or
a "temporal lobe seizure." Or, again unlike the irreligious, and probably
without having read so much as a word of his argument, they may be morally
disposed (or better, predisposed) to agree with the philosopher Immanuel
Kant--that greatest of the moralists--who said it was a "categorical
imperative" that a convicted murderer "must die." Or perhaps the religious
are simply quicker to anger and, while instructed to do otherwise, slower,
even unwilling, to forgive. In a word, they are more likely to demand that
justice be done. Whatever the reason, there is surely a connection between
the death penalty and religious belief.
What explains this European obsession with the death penalty? Hard to say,
but probably the fact that abolishing it is one of the few things
Europeans can do that make them feel righteous.
European politicians and journalists recognize or acknowledge the
connection, if only inadvertently, when they simultaneously despise us
Americans for supporting the death penalty and ridicule us for going to
church. We might draw a conclusion from the fact that they do neither.
Consider the facts on the ground (so to speak): In this country, 60
convicted murderers were executed in 2005 (and 53 in 2006), almost all of
them in southern or southwestern and church-going states--Virginia and
Georgia, for example, Texas and Oklahoma--states whose residents are among
the most seriously religious Americans. Whereas in Europe, or "old
Europe," no one was executed and, according to one survey, almost no
one--and certainly no soi-disant intellectual--goes to church. In Germany,
for example, leaving aside the Muslims and few remaining Jews, only 4 % of
the people regularly attend church services, in Britain and Denmark 3
percent, and in Sweden not much more than 1; in France there are more
practicing Muslims than there are baptized Catholics, and 1/3 of the Dutch
do not know the "why" of Christmas. Hence, the empty or abandoned
churches, or in Shakespeare's words, the "bare ruined choirs where late
the sweet birds sang."
As for the death penalty, it is not enough to say that they (or their
officials) are opposed to it. They want it abolished everywhere. They are
not satisfied that it was abolished in France (in 1981, and over the
opposition at the time of some 70 % of the population), as well as in
Britain, Germany, and the other countries of Old Europe, or
that--according to a protocol attached to the European Convention on Human
Rights--it will have to be abolished in any country seeking membership in
the European Union; and its abolition in Samoa was greeted by an official
declaration expressing Europe's satisfaction. (To paraphrase Hamlet, "what
is Samoa to them or they to Samoa that they should judge for it?") In
fact, their concern, if not their authority, extends far beyond the
countries for which they are legally responsible.
Thus, the European Union adopted a charter confirming everyone's right to
life and stating that "no one may be removed, expelled, or extradited to a
State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to
the death penalty." They even organized a World Congress Against the Death
Penalty which, in turn, organized the 1st World Day Against the Death
Penalty. They go so far as to intervene in our business, filing amicus
curiae briefs in Supreme Court capital cases.
What explains this obsession with the death penalty? Hard to say, but
probably the fact that abolishing it is one of the few things Europeans
can do that make them feel righteous; in fact, very few. Nowhere in the
new European constitution--some 300 pages long, not counting the
appendages--is there any mention of religion, of Christian Europe, or of
God. God is dead in Europe and, of course, something died with Him.
This "something" is the subject of Camus's famous novel The Stranger,
first published in 1942, 60 years after Nietzsche first announced God's
death, and another 60 before the truth of what he said became apparent, at
least with respect to Europe and its intellectuals. The novel has been
called a modern masterpiece--there was a time, and not so long ago, when
students of a certain age were required to read it--and Meursault, its
hero (actually, its antihero), is a murderer, but a different kind of
murderer. What is different about him is that he murdered for no
reason--he did it because the sun got in his eyes, cause du soleil--and
because he neither loves nor hates, and unlike the other people who
inhabit his world, does not pretend to love or hate. He has no friends;
indeed, he lives in a world in which there is no basis for friendship and
no moral law; therefore, no one, not even a murderer, can violate the
terms of friendship or break that law. As he said, the universe "is
benignly indifferent" to how he lives.
It is a bleak picture, and Camus was criticized for painting it, but as he
wrote in reply, "there is no other life possible for a man deprived of
God, and all men are [now] in that position." But Camus was not the first
European to draw this picture; he was preceded by Nietzsche who (see
Zarathustra's "Prologue") provided us with an account of human life in
that godless and "brave new world." It will be a comfortable world--rather
like that promised by the European Union--where men will "have their
little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night,"
but no love, no longing, no striving, no hope, no gods or ideals, no
politics ("too burdensome"), no passions (especially no anger), only "a
regard for health." To this list, Camus rightly added, no death penalty.
This makes sense. A world so lacking in passion lacks the necessary
components of punishment. Punishment has its origins in the demand for
justice, and justice is demanded by angry, morally indignant men, men who
are angry when someone else is robbed, raped, or murdered, men utterly
unlike Camus's Meursault. This anger is an expression of their caring, and
the just society needs citizens who care for each other, and for the
community of which they are parts. One of the purposes of punishment,
particularly capital punishment, is to recognize the legitimacy of that
righteous anger and to satisfy and thereby to reward it. In this way, the
death penalty, when duly or deliberately imposed, serves to strengthen the
moral sentiments required by a self-governing community.
(source: American Enterprise Institute----Walter Berns is a resident
scholar at AEI. An earlier version of this essay appeared in Democracy and
the Constitution (AEI Press, 2006) )
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