[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MISS., UTAH, USA, GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 20 13:37:48 CDT 2008
Miss. to execute man not directly at fault in killing----13 states,
military bar execution of criminals in such murder cases
Mississippi prison officials plan to execute Dale Leo Bishop Wednesday -
unless a court halts them.
But this wouldn't be happening to the 34-year-old inmate if he had been
convicted in the neighboring states of Alabama or Louisiana. That's
because 13 of the 36 states with the death penalty - as well as the U.S.
military - bar the execution of a defendant who wasn't directly
responsible for a slaying.
If Bishop, who suffers from mental illness, receives a lethal injection on
Wednesday, he would be only the eighth person put to death - and the first
since 1996 - who did not directly kill the victim (not including contract
killings) in the more than 1,100 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court
reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Under Mississippi law, an accessory before the fact can be convicted of
the same crime someone else commits. Testimony identified Jessie Johnson
as the one who repeatedly hit 22-year-old Marcus Gentry with a carpenter's
framing hammer. Johnson is now serving life without parole in the 1998
killing in Saltillo. Although Bishop held and kicked Gentry, not beat him,
Bishop was sentenced to death.
Bishop's attorneys are seeking stays from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. They're also seeking clemency from
Gov. Haley Barbour.
The execution shouldn't be halted, said Attorney General Jim Hood. "Dale
Leo Bishop was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in accordance with
the laws of the state of Mississippi. Our job is not to retry this case in
the media but to ensure that Mr. Bishop's sentence is carried out in full
... and justice is served."
Glenn Swartzfager, director of the Office of Capital Post-Conviction
Counsel, created by the Legislature in 2000 to help indigent death-row
prisoners with appeals, accused his predecessor, Bob Ryan, of sabotaging
his client's case and suppressing evidence that could have helped spare
Bishop's life. He also said Ryan withheld evidence of mental disabilities
in the 1st appeal of Earl Wesley Berry, who was executed May 21 after
spending 20 years on death row.
Ryan couldn't be reached for comment, but in a previous sworn statement,
he described his office as understaffed and underfunded. At one point in
2003, Ryan said he was the only person working on 21 death-row cases,
which has prompted death-penalty opponents to call for a review of all
Gentry's mother, Kathy, said she had no comment on Wednesday's execution,
but author John Grisham called on authorities to spare Bishop.
"He should be given life without parole in a maximum-security unit, and
perhaps he could serve his time with the man who pulled the trigger,"
Grisham said. "Sadly, these types of cases are not unusual. And bad
defense lawyering happens every day."
Johnson said in a recent sworn statement the killing wasn't planned and
that he and Bishop had been consuming alcohol and taking drugs such as
crystal meth and cocaine before picking up Gentry.
"There was never any plan to kill Mark. I liked Mark a lot," Johnson said.
"Mark and I were living together. Dale and Mark were friends. We were all
friends. I don't remember much about what happened. We never meant
something like that to happen."
Testimony indicated Johnson, Gentry, Bishop and Ricky Myhand were riding
around drinking beer on the evening of Dec. 10, 1998, and an argument
began after Johnson accused Gentry of getting Johnson's brother in trouble
with the law.
According to testimony, the 2 exchanged words, and then Johnson hit Gentry
over the head with a hammer. When Gentry jumped from the car and fled,
Bishop ran after him and took him back to the car, where he was hit and
kicked numerous times.
Myhand reported the killing to police and led investigators to the body.
He was not charged.
According to testimony, Johnson was the only one who hit Gentry with the
hammer. In a Dec. 13, 1998, statement, Bishop acknowledged holding Gentry
while Johnson struck him.
At trial, forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne testified there were 23
injuries to the head, neck and hand produced by a blunt object, such as a
After being convicted of capital murder, Bishop was entitled to a hearing
in which he could present evidence of drug use, details about his past and
his mental illness as mitigating factors. Instead, he waived his right to
a hearing in front of the jury and presented no evidence.
When he took the witness stand, he told the judge he wanted to die.
Circuit Judge Frank Russell replied he was going to grant his wish. The
state Supreme Court has concluded a defendant can waive the right to a
jury trial in the sentencing hearing.
One of Bishop's attorneys, Jim Craig of Jackson, said it's obvious his
client was severely depressed and not competent to waive that right.
"It's like a patient being told after surgery he's going to be a
paraplegic and the patient says he wants to die," Craig said. "Do we call
in Dr. Kevorkian at that point? We don't."
After Bishop arrived in prison, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,
previously known as manic depression.
Bishop's lack of treatment for the disorder before he said he wanted to
die makes his sentence "suicide by judge," said Warren Yoder, executive
director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi. "We've executed one
man who was probably mentally retarded, and it looks like we're going to
execute a man who is mentally ill and had no medication and should never
have been allowed to give up his rights."
In 2003, investigators for the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel
discovered Bishop was mentally ill, but then-director Ryan decided not to
investigate, Swartzfager said.
Instead, Swartzfager said Ryan, the previous director, filed "frivolous
claims," alleging Bishop suffered from mental retardation when he didn't.
Craig said Bishop "has suffered from serious mental illness since he was 4
years old. When he was in middle school, Dale's mother could not get him
the psychiatric hospitalization recommended by school counselors and
doctors because she could not afford the high cost of that care."
Because Bishop's attorneys initially did not present his mental illness as
a reason not to execute him, the courts so far have barred Bishop from
raising it now.
The education system, juvenile mental health system and the legal system
have all failed Bishop so far, Craig said.
"If the death penalty is going to be anything more than just a lottery,
it's not fair for some prisoners to lose appeals just because their
state-paid lawyer discarded valuable, relevant evidence."
Longer death row wait increases cost for state
It will cost Mississippi roughly $14,000 if Dale Leo Bishop is executed as
The state said it would cost about the same to execute any of the 63
people on death row.
The bigger cost comes while inmates await execution.
Housing Bishop on death row for more than 8 years now has cost more than
It cost about $350,000 over the years to house the last inmate the state
executed, Earl Wesley Berry, 49. He had been on death row for 20 years
when he was executed 2 months ago for the Nov. 29, 1987, kidnapping and
beating death of 56-year-old Mary Bounds in Chickasaw County.
"You can see that keeping a person on death row for 10 years versus 20
years is cheaper," said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher
The cost of carrying out an execution doesn't change much, Epps said.
"It's just a 1-time cost," Epps said. "It takes about 90 people
(employees) to prepare for and carry out an execution."
The majority of the cost is for security officers to work overtime, Epps
Personnel were needed Wednesday for a dress rehearsal for the execution
and will be needed again Monday, Epps noted.
Bishop, 34, was convicted and sentenced to death in February 2000 for the
kidnapping and slaying of 22-year-old Marcus Gentry of Fulton. Gentry was
beaten with a claw hammer on a dirt logging road outside Saltillo on Dec.
Bishop was one of 2 men convicted of capital murder in Gentry's death.
Co-defendant Jessie Johnson, who struck the fatal blows, was sentenced to
life without parole.
Bishop told a judge at his sentencing hearing he wanted to be sentenced to
death instead of having a jury decide whether he would get life without
parole or the death penalty.
Marcus Gentry's mother, Kathy Gentry of Fulton, said she believes it is
unfair to the victims' families as well as the inmates for them to remain
on death row for decades.
"If you are going to execute them, it should be carried out," Gentry said.
Bishop's attorneys are fighting to save his life. They say he has a mental
illness and that his attorneys at the time didn't provide him with
adequate legal representation.
Last week, members of Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice spoke out
against the execution during a news conference at the Capitol.
They said that Bishop did not actually do the killing and that he was
known from childhood to need mental health treatment. They said Gov. Haley
Barbour should grant Bishop clemency.
(source for both: Clarion Ledger)
Death row inmate without attorney ---- His previous counsel withdrew
citing lack of financial resources
Death row inmate Michael Anthony Archuleta may get a new attorney as he
challenges his conviction and pending execution.
Who that new attorney will be remains to be seen. The condemned killer
might end up representing himself, or his post-conviction relief case may
be tossed altogether.
Archuleta, 46, appeared this week before a judge in Fillmore's 4th
District Court, where the judge asked him if he wanted new counsel after
his attorney, Ed Brass, had already withdrawn from the case.
"Archuleta said yes," Utah assistant attorney general Tom Brunker told the
Deseret News. "The judge said he would look for new counsel."
Brass filed a motion to withdraw as counsel before the Utah Supreme Court
on June 6 and the high court granted that motion. In his motion to
withdraw, Brass argued the state did not give him sufficient funds to
adequately defend Archuleta.
Archuleta was convicted in the 1988 torture-slaying of Southern Utah State
College student Gordon Ray Church. Authorities said Archuleta and his
accomplice, Lance Conway Wood, met Church at a Cedar City convenience
store where he agreed to give them a ride to Salt Lake City. They drove to
a remote location where Church was beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured
with chains, battery cables and a tire iron, and his body dumped in a
remote part of Millard County.
Wood was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Finding a new attorney for Archuleta could be problematic, Brunker said.
Many attorneys with expertise in death penalty cases have started to
decline cases, citing the lack of financial resources available from the
state to defend a capital case, as well as the massive amount of time it
requires to provide a constitutionally-obligated defense.
In Archuleta's case, Brass told the Utah Supreme Court he had exhausted
the funds to hire expert witnesses in what he called an incredibly complex
case. Brass told the justices he had been forced to spend his own salary
given by the state on the case to pay experts, which still did not leave
enough to hire co-counsel attorneys.
This year, the Utah Legislature passed a bill overhauling some
post-conviction relief efforts, setting statutes of limitation for
challenging a death penalty sentence and caps on how much can be paid to
attorneys. The statute also says that if no defense attorney will take the
case after a 60-day search, the defendant can proceed pro se (on his own).
If he doesn't, the case gets tossed.
"In our view that 60 days has been triggered," Brunker said. "If there's
no counsel found in 60 days you have to give Archuleta a chance to
represent himself or his case is dismissed."
It still won't end the post-conviction appeals, he said. The case would
move to the federal court system, where it will be reviewed.
(source: Deseret News)
Historians hope to pry a few more secrets from Rosenberg espionage case
For 50 years the Rosenberg spy case has been examined and re-examined in
hundreds of books, doctoral theses, documentary films, Hollywood movies,
and even a theatrical production.
It seems impossible that there could be anything left to discover.
But there is. And people may soon have access to it.
2 Philadelphia historians have joined a research institute and library in
seeking what's believed to be the last trove of documents from the
defining espionage case of the Cold War: hundreds of pages of secret
grand-jury testimony that preceded the trial of Julius and Ethel
Rosenberg, who died in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in 1953.
"All of these people who testified, what did they say about the key
participants?" asked Temple University historian Allen Hornblum, one of
the petitioners. "What will underscore what we believe? What will move us
in a new direction?"
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear arguments on whether
the file should be made public. U.S. attorneys have agreed to release
testimony from 35 of the 45 witnesses who appeared before the grand jury
in 1950 and 1951. But they oppose opening material from witnesses who are
still living, could not be found or want their testimony kept secret.
The government mostly consented to the argument of the independent,
non-governmental National Security Archive, located at George Washington
University in Washington, D.C., that the case's historic importance merits
a legal exception to the rule that seals grand-jury records forever.
The Rosenbergs were accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union
during World War II, when the Russians were America's ally. After a
sensational 1951 trial, they were convicted of conspiracy to commit
espionage. Two years later, they became the 1st - and so far the last -
American civilians to be prosecuted and put to death for spying.
Among the witnesses who did not agree to release his testimony is David
Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg's brother and a main witness against the
couple at their trial. He allegedly gave the Rosenbergs secrets stolen
from his job at the Los Alamos research lab, where scientists were
creating the atomic bomb. The National Security Archive says Greenglass
waived his privacy rights by granting interviews to an author and to the
news program "60 Minutes II."
At trial, he said he had passed notes and sketches of the bomb to Julius.
His testimony that tied Ethel to espionage - that she typed his notes -
was recanted decades later. Freed from prison in 1960, Greenglass lives
under an assumed name.
What might the grand-jury minutes contain? Nobody knows for sure.
The Rosenberg case has always been dogged by questions about changed
testimony, the information provided to the Soviets and the government's
insistence on the death penalty. At the least, historians say, the
documents will offer a means to compare the grand-jury and trial testimony
of important witnesses, and add nuance to an episode that has become an
For many, the Rosenberg case endures as a symbol of Cold War paranoia run
amok. Some believe the couple was persecuted because they were Jews.
Others think they were guilty of spying, but that death was too harsh a
penalty. Still others see their execution as justice served.
"We need to know the full story, and we don't," said Katherine Sibley,
chairperson of the History Department at St. Joseph's University and one
of the petitioners.
Even today, said Sibley, the author of "Red Spies in America: Stolen
Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War," elements of the case still shock:
That a couple who seemed so average - he an electrical engineer, she a
secretary - could be spies. That the government would execute not just the
husband but the wife, making orphans of two small boys. That Julius and
Ethel preferred to die for their beliefs rather than cut a deal that could
have spared them.
"When they were on trial, they didn't admit anything," Sibley said. "But
there might have been people in the grand-jury hearings who knew
Robert Rosenberg had just turned 3 when his parents were arrested.
His strongest memories of them come from the prison visits that followed.
His mother seemed short, he recalled, probably because he was growing. And
she was wearing flat, prison-issue slippers.
After his parents were executed, Robert and his older brother, Michael,
were adopted by the songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife. The brothers
have joined those seeking the records.
"Myself and my brother, we have always believed in freedom of
information," Robert Meeropol, 61, said in a phone interview. "We have
always said the most important thing is to get all the material out and
let the chips fall where they may."
Some revelations haven't come easy. The government's 1995 release of the
Venona Files, consisting of deciphered Soviet cables, identified Julius
Rosenberg as a spy who gave up scientific and military information, though
not atomic secrets. The papers suggest Ethel knew of his activity but was
not directly involved.
Ethel, recent court filings say, was twice called before the grand jury
and arrested immediately after her second appearance.
"I'm quite curious about what my mother was asked," Meeropol said. "I
would expect the grand-jury minutes to confirm there was no mention of my
mother doing the typing of David Greenglass's handwritten notes."
Meeropol is executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which
he founded to help the offspring of parents who suffered for their
progressive politics. He is asked: After so long, does the question of
guilt or innocence still interest him?
"Let me preface it with what an atomic scientist told me in the 1970s:
'The most important question is not whether your parents were guilty or
innocent, but, 'Guilty of what?' ... Did they do the thing they were
If you accept the Venona papers as fact, Robert Meeropol said, "You
conclude Julius guilty of non-atomic espionage and Ethel not guilty of
anything. And you look at that and you ask, 'Guilty of what?' "
Hornblum, the Temple historian, plans to be in court on Tuesday to hear
attorneys argue over the records' release.
He's writing a book about Harry Gold, a Philadelphia chemist turned Soviet
spy and key witness against the Rosenbergs. Like others, he hopes the
grand-jury minutes will provide new insight.
"It was the O.J. case for the Jewish community that grew up in the 1930s,
'40s and '50s," he said. "They were spies [but] they should not have been
given the death penalty."
(source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Capital punishment is just when guilt is certain
I would like to express the strongest possible agreement with Debra
Puglisi Sharp's July 8 Delaware Voice article on the death penalty. Her
late husband was cruelly murdered and she was held captive, and raped and
tortured by a monster posing as a human being, Donald Flagg.
As she noted, that monster is now "housed within a dry cell with three
meals and free health care" for the rest of his life at taxpayer expense.
Where is the justice in that?
I would go so far as to say that the failure of the state to execute Flagg
constitutes dereliction of duty. I do not understand how some Christian
religious leader can oppose capital punishment in light of the fact that
the Bible upholds it.
There is nothing cruel or inhumane in executing a person who has taken the
life of another human being deliberately and with forethought as long as
guilt is certain beyond any doubt.
James P. Ward, Claymont
(source: Letter to the Editor, Delaware News Journal)
Spearman may get death penalty
Walton County District Attorney Ken Wynne announced in court this week the
states intention to seek the death penalty in the case of Josh Spearman,
who allegedly killed his parents in early February.
"I don't think that I should comment on my reasons for seeking the death
penalty other than to say that this case qualifies for it under Georgia
law and in my opinion the facts and circumstances of the case merit
seeking the death penalty," Wynne said after the proceedings. This is the
county's 1st death penalty case since 2002, when the death penalty was
sought against Walton County resident Dwayne Eddie Smith for the murder of
Spearman's case has been re-scheduled 3 times leading up to this week for
This was his 1st time the case has been in court since the April
indictment where Spearman was bound over by a grand jury for trial on 2
counts of malice murder, 2 counts of felony murder and 2 counts of
aggravated assault. Finally in court before Judge Eugene Benton, the first
proceeding under the unified appeal took place Wednesday.
The purpose of the proceeding was for the state to put on record the
notice of intent to seek the death penalty and to make sure legal counsel
are death penalty qualified.
The state filed its intent to seek the death penalty July 1.
Wynne and Benton went through a checklist to make sure that lead counsel
for the defense, Dennis Francis Jr. and his co-counsel Jonathan Oden, both
from the Georgia Capital Defenders Office, were qualified.
Spearman only spoke once, when the judge asked him if he had any
objections to his defense council. The defendant stood up donning a suit
and a tie and simply replied, "No sir."
The defense had raised a pre-trial issue where they requested to have the
arm shackles removed from Spearman.
Benton denied the request "for safety issues" and added the court approved
the use of arm and leg shackles, as well as a shock belt.
Spearman will be back in court Aug. 13 where parties involved will review
and go over scheduling, discovery and other issues related to the case.
The bodies of Daryll and Cherri Spearman were found early on the morning
of Feb. 1, victims of apparent blunt force traumas. Spearman, who was
adopted by the couple at a young age, was not initially a suspect in the
crime but became a person of interest when he was "elusive" to Walton
County Sheriffs Office investigators trying to inform him of the deaths.
Less than a day after the bodies were found, Spearman was in custody after
being arrested at a friends house.
(source: The Walton Tribune)
Death penalty expert to testify in Harper, Reynolds case ---- Motion
hearings for Richard Scott Harper and Michelle Sullins Reynolds are
An expert witness will likely dominate two days of scheduled motion
hearings in the death penalty case of Richard Scott Harper and Michelle
Sullins Reynolds on Monday.
The testimony in Floyd County Superior Court before Judge J. Bryant Durham
is from a representative of the Capital Jury Project.
The university-based group conducts research in the decision making
processes of jurors in death penalty cases and determine if jurors make
decisions based on the facts of the case rather than on whim or
Harper and Reynolds face murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery
charges in connection with the stabbing death of Reynolds husband, Thad
Reynolds, on July 5, 2004.
Click here to see Harper-Reynolds coverage including a timeline with links
to previous stories, as well as links to court documents filed in the
The trial, previously scheduled for September, has been removed from the
trial calendar this year because a number of motions will be sent to the
Supreme Court for review before the trial can begin.
The high court is being asked to examine a number of decisions that could
possibly contain a reversible error. These are motions made by the defense
that they feel have been denied incorrectly.
Death penalty cases as a whole take longer than normal court cases because
of extra precautions taken in the pre-trial phase.
As for new motions, Harper's attorneys have filed a supplemental motion
similar to another motion filed June 19 and withdrawn the next day.
The motion asks to dismiss the current indictment because the jury foreman
has 2 misdemeanor criminal convictions, but not a felony conviction as the
previous motion stated.
A misdemeanor is the term used for lesser crimes punishable by a fine or a
sentence of less than 1 year.
District Attorney Leigh Patterson said a misdemeanor conviction on the
juror's record is not grounds for his dismissal from the grand jury.
Defense attorney Christopher Twyman stated the reports they received from
the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conflicted with court records.
Other motions that were heard in the May hearings:
Denied a motion to bar the state from seeking the death penalty
Granted a nolle prosse motion allowing the state to drop the previous
indictment in the issue regarding the previous grand jury
Granted a motion to adopt all motions that had been decided before Harper
Denied the prosecution's request to merge the lesser charges with the
murder charge, which would have essentially dismissed the lesser charges
Denied a motion to reorder the trials so Reynolds can testify as a witness
in the defense of Harper
Granted a motion to close evidentiary hearings to the public and the news
media in order to not taint the jury pool with possibly inadmissible
(source: Rome News-Tribune)
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