[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MD., PENN., ARK., IDAHO, US MIL., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 28 23:40:22 CDT 2008
Md. begins death penalty review
The death penalty in Maryland is under review.
A panel of supporters and opponents of the death penalty start work Monday
on a study of whether to abolish capital punishment in Maryland.
The group includes former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, who
served under President Carter, and Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Maryland
death row inmate whose case was the first capital conviction overturned as
a result of DNA testing in the United States.
Correctional officers and relatives of crime victims are also on the
The commission was established in the last legislative session. The
commission will submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the
General Assembly by December.
(source: Associated Press)
Capital Punishment Committee Begins Study
A state appointed committee will gather Monday to decide if a Maryland law
is worth abolishing.
Supporters and opponents of the death penalty will review whether to
abolish capital punishment in Maryland.
The group includes correctional officers and relatives of crime victims.
A former death row inmate, whose case was the 1st capital conviction
overturned in the U.S. as a result of DNA testing, is also on the panel.
A report of findings and recommendations will be submitted to the State
General Assembly by December.
DA: No death penalty in Pa. campfire stabbing
Prosecutors in Adams County say they will not seek the death penalty
against a man charged with stabbing a teenager to death and setting his
body on fire.
Jason R. Armstrong, of Carroll Valley, is accused of killing 19-year-old
Andrew Scott Bosley, of Orrtanna, in May.
Prosecutors allege that Armstrong stabbed Bosley 142 times and then set
his corpse on fire. The body was found in a wooded area where the 2 had
been camping near the Ski Liberty resort, where they formerly worked
District Attorney Shawn Wagner calls the case "horrendous," but says the
crime does not fit the legal criteria for the death penalty.
Public defender Jeff Cook says his client is relieved. Authorities have
said Armstrong told an ambulance team that Bosley became enraged and
pulled a knife, and he pulled his own.
(source: Associated Press)
Decay execution halted for appeal
A convicted murderer awaiting the death penalty has received a temporary
stay in his execution to allow more time to file his appeal because the
transcript from his trial is not completed.
Gregory Christopher Decay, 28, was convicted by a jury in April of 2
counts of capital murder for the shooting deaths of a Fayetteville couple.
He was sentenced to the death penalty - the 1st time in Washington County
in more than 26 years.
Decay's attorney filed a motion Tuesday seeking more time to file his
appeal because the transcript from his trial is not completed. The order
staying the execution was signed Wednesday by 4 th Judicial Circuit Judge
(source: Northwest Arkansas Times)
State rests in Gwathney trial; judge denies motions from defense
The state rested its case this morning against a Lee County man accused of
murdering 3 family members over a year ago.
Testimony began Friday in the capital murder trial of Gordon Randall
Gwathney, 47, of Marianna. Gwathney is accused of killing his
mother-in-law Sylvia Reeves, 51, along with her parents, James Oliver
Mitchell, 81, and his wife Evelyn Mitchell, 79, at their residence on
Highway 261, just inside Lee Co., in February 2007. He is also accused of
the attempted murder of his brother-in-law Travis Reeves and former St.
Francis County Deputy Tracy Jackson.
According to reports from Lee County, after jurors were called into the
courtroom this morning, Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long told Judge L.T.
Simes that the state rested its case.
After Longs statement, Gwathneys attorneys asked the judge to hear a pair
of motions, during which the jurors were asked to leave the courtroom.
Gwathneys attorney Chuck Halbert asked Simes to dismiss the jury panel
because he claimed some potential jurors had made verbal excuses to the
the circuit clerk which had not been passed on to the court. Halberts
second motion asked Simes to dismiss the case due to insufficient
Simes denied both motions.
On Friday, Long called several witnesses, including Lisa Reeves, the
estranged wife of Gwathney, who suffered some injuries during the attack
as she fled her mothers home through a window and ran next door to the
home of her brother, Travis, who also testified Friday. Others to take the
stand for the prosecution included Arkansas State Police Troop D
Investigators Dale Arnold and Mike Middleton, along with a state medical
examiner and forensics expert.
The first witness called by the defense this morning was Dr. Rebecca
Rutledge, who testified to Gwathneys mental state. Rutledge told jurors
she had performed several routine mental exams on Gwathney while visiting
him five times during his incarceration in the Lee County Jail at
Brickeys, and has diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rutledge said Gwathney suffers from nightmares and memory problems. "Loud
noises make him anxious and upset and gets his adrenaline going," Rutledge
The 12-member jury hearing this case is made up of i 9 women and 3 men, 6
blacks and 6 whites.
Judge says Duncan can represent himself in death penalty hearing
A federal judge will allow convicted killer Joseph Duncan III to represent
himself in his death penalty hearing.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling this morning after
repeatedly questioning Duncan about his wishes.
Duncan faces the death penalty on 3 of 10 federal charges related to the
2005 kidnapping of 2 northern Idaho children and the slaying of 1 of them.
In May, Lodge suspended the sentencing after Duncan asked for permission
to dump his team of lawyers and serve as his own attorney. Lodge then
ordered a series of mental health evaluations, then ruled last week that
Duncan is at least mentally competent to take part in the sentencing phase
of the case.
(source: Associated Press)
Bush OKs execution of Army death row prisoner
President Bush on Monday approved the execution of an Army private,
administration officials said. It was the 1st time in over a half-century
that a president has affirmed a death sentence for a member of the U.S.
Unlike in the civilian courts, a member of the U.S. armed forces cannot be
executed until the president approves the death sentence. Gray has been on
death row at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.,
since April 1988.
President Kennedy was the last president to stare down this life-or-death
decision. On Feb. 12, 1962, Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmie
Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life.
The death penalty was outlawed between 1972 and 1984, when President
Reagan reinstated it.
In civilian courts in North Carolina, Gray pleaded guilty to 2 murders and
5 rapes and was sentenced to three consecutive and five concurrent life
The court-martial panel convicted Gray of: - Raping and killing Kimberly
Ann Ruggles, a civilian cab driver in Fayetteville. She was bound, gagged,
stabbed repeatedly, and had bruises and lacerations on her face. Her body
was found on the base.
The 6-member court-martial panel returned its unanimous verdict after
about two hours of deliberations. The panel also reduced Gray from Spec. 4
to private, forfeited all his pay and ordered him to be dishonorably
discharged from the Army.
Bush got the secretary of the Army's recommendation to approve Gray's
death sentence in late 2005. Since then, it's been under review by the
Bush administration, including the White House legal counsel.
The court ruled in April to uphold the most common method of capital
punishment used across the United States. The justices said the 3-drug mix
of lethal-injection drugs used by Kentucky and most other states does not
constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling in the case of Baze v.
Rees cleared the way for a resumption of executions nationwide.
It was unclear where Gray would be executed. Military executions are
handled by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Bush's decision, however, is not likely the end of Gray's legal battle.
Further litigation is expected and these types of death sentence appeals
often take years to resolve.
The military also has asked Bush to authorize the execution of Dwight J.
Loving, who has been at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since 1989 after being
convicted of killing 2 taxicab drivers while he was an Army private at
Fort Hood, Texas. But that request is not yet ripe for a presidential
decision. The White House declined to discuss the case.
(source: Associated Press)
THE DECLINE OF THE DEATH PENALTY AND THE DISCOVERY OF INNOCENCE
by Frank R. Baumgartner, Suzanna L. DeBoef and Amber E. Boydstun. New York
and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 292pp. Hardback.
$75.00/45.00. ISBN: 9780521887342. Paperback. $23.99/17.99 ISBN:
9780521715249. eBook format. $19.00. ISBN: 9780511373299.
Reviewed by Priscilla H. M. Zotti, Department of Political Science, The
United States Naval Academy. Email: zotti [at] usna.edu.
Although a number of writers have discussed the problem and consequences
of convicting the innocent and sentencing them to death, the authors of
THE DECLINE OF THE DEATH PENALTY AND THE DISCOVERY OF INNOCENCE take an
interesting and decisively different approach in explaining the current
state of the death penalty in the United States. Frank R. Baumgartner,
Suzanna L. DeBoef and Amber E. Boydstun explore the death penalty in terms
of public policy and public opinion and the collective response over time
to the death penalty as a form of punishment in the United States. The
focus is not on the legal development of the death penalty and provides
the reader little case analysis. Instead the authors focus on the impact
of innocence and how the concept of wrongful convictions has changed
public opinion about the death penalty and in turn affects public policy.
The book is about the media and the coverage of the death penalty rather
than the legality of the punishment and its constitutional status.
The authors assert that the reason for this "reworking" of the death
penalty in the public conscientiousness is due to framing. The process of
framing, defining an issue along a particular dimension, has not only
changed thinking about the death penalty but completely overhauled the
issue. Of course any bureaucratic system run by humans will inevitably
suffer mistakes, but why the current focus on innocence?
Today the concept of innocence pervades public and official discussion of
the death penalty more so than in any period in history. The authors
provide a thorough and interesting historical analysis of the public
discussion of the death penalty. This discussion has widened and refocused
due to the growth of innocence commissions and innocence projects in
journalism and law schools, increased public commentary about error, and
the scientific reliability of DNA as an investigatory tool. Collectively a
shift in attention by legal scholars, judges, and journalists has
contributed to the reframing of public discourse of death penalty policy.
This in term has led to a growing divide between the theoretical
discussion of the death penalty and the more practical one of its usage.
Baumgartner, DeBoef and Boydstun make the case that historical arguments
of capital punishment are morality centered. An "eye for an eye" has long
been justification for state sponsored executions. Legal and crime
fighting arguments have also had a moral [*638] foundation of protecting
the law abiders from the law breakers. The shift to a focus on innocence
and the consequences of wrongful convictions is a monumental change in
policy focus, rarely achieved in discussing complex social issues. The
issue of the death penalty has been completely transformed. One goal of
the authors is to demonstrate and explain to the reader why the new
innocence argument has been so effective in changing public opinion and
public policy. They argue that the death penalty as a social issue has
reached a "tipping point." Change of understanding gives way to change of
policy which in turn continues to further our understanding of the issue.
The core focus of the authors is the nuances of change of public opinion
about the death penalty and the resulting effect on public policy. The
book offers the reader a refreshing vantage point from which to consider
The core of the authors' presentations is framing. The data used to
develop their thesis are based on 3,939 death penalty articles published
in the NEW YORK TIMES since 1960. The authors track the major arguments of
capital punishment, distilling them into major categories of focus:
innocence, humanizing the defendant, constitutionality pro,
constitutionality con, popular support, and eye for an eye from 1964 to
2005. Further analysis includes other media resources which support the
initial findings. Methodologically, the authors use evolutionary factor
analysis, and standard factor analysis used on successive moving windows
of time. These new measures demonstrate the impact of framing issues on
collective public opinion and on policy outcomes.
The framing and reframing of capital punishment begins with a historical
and legal discussion of the status quo, from FURMAN v. GEORGIA and the
brief moratorium that lasted from 1972-1976. The 1976 litigation, which
reinstated the death penalty in the United States, is the beginning of the
modern era. The focus is not on the legal aspect of the death penalty as
punishment but the correlation of the death penalty to public opinion. The
authors note the geographic and racial differences in the use of the death
penalty and relate it to public support. The death penalty is put in
aggregate perspective. Less than one percent of homicides result in a
sentence of death.
Quickly the authors turn to the change in status quo brought about by the
emergence of innocence as a frame for the issue. They document the sudden
rise of the dialogue of innocence resulting in familiarity of the issue by
the average American. A number of various threads of events and knowledge
converge to make the issue persistently part of the death penalty
discussion. Despite the fact that academicians have researched and written
about the fallibility of the death penalty for years, the issue has taken
hold and risen to prominence in the American psyche in the past 2 decades.
The authors make a convincing case when focusing on the changes in
Illinois in the past decade, culminating with the moratorium on executions
and the blanket clemency granted by then Governor Ryan in 2003.
Innocence projects in law schools and journalism schools became more
common. Furthermore, their impact was local, awakening a sense by many
that the problem of injustice was not a distant [*639] or abstract one.
Other states quickly followed suit and began exploring the use of DNA,
considering innocence safeguards and even issuing moratoriums until some
were put in place.
Baumgartner, DeBoef and Boydstun conclude that the innocence frame is the
strongest in modern history, rising sharply in the late 1990s and
transforming the death penalty debate. This transformation is supported by
a changing media tone that has led to a slow but steady decline in support
for the death penalty. This in turn impacts public policy.
The authors conclude with a discussion of the implications of an anti
death penalty trend in media attention and public opinion. No doubt the
focus of the book is on the innocence dimension rather than on the long
standing public support for the use of capital punishment. Still the
authors conclude that the future will bring a more restricted use of the
death penalty. The US Supreme Court ruled in ATKINS v. VIRGINIA in 2002
that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded, and in 2005
in ROPER v. SIMMONS that it is unconstitutional for states to execute
juveniles. The evolving standard of decency, which permeates death penalty
discussion, includes the fallibility argument of wrongful conviction and
executions. Just recently a de facto nationwide moratorium was created by
the Supreme Court as it considered the legality of lethal injection in
BAZE v. REES. The Court ultimately ruled that lethal injection was not a
cruel and unusual method of execution. However in its next breath the
Court found that executing convicted rapists violates the Eighth
Amendment, leaving homicide as the only crime that is death penalty
eligible (KENNEDY v. LOUISIANA).
Still today a majority of Americans support capital punishment. The book
focuses on the affect the discussion of innocence has on subsequent
support for the death penalty by policy makers, courts and the public.
>From 1973 to 2006, 123 individuals were wrongly convicted and sentenced to
death. A bureaucratic institution that is managed by humans, making it
fallible, may diminish its use in part due to the "discovery" of
innocence. THE DECLINE OF THE DEATH PENALTY AND THE DISCOVERY OF INNOCENCE
is a fascinating and refreshing look at capital punishment. I highly
recommend it to any scholar versed in the case law. This scholarly work
provides the reader an additional dimension in understanding the use of
capital punishment in the United States.
ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 534 U.S. 304 (2002).
BAZE v. REES, 07-5439, decided April 18, 2008.
KENNEDY v. LOUISIANA, 07- 343, decided June 25, 2008.
FURMAN v. GEORGIA, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).
ROPER v. SIMMONS, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).
(source: Law and Politics, Book Review)
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