[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MISS., FLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri May 2 10:53:45 CDT 2008
Hood still pursuing execution----AG rests argument on Supreme Court ruling
affirming lethal injection
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood on Thursday continued seeking the
execution of convicted killer Earl Wesley Berry by saying the state's
lethal injection method is "substantially similar" to one recently upheld
by the U.S. Supreme Court.
To further his point, Hood used testimony from a key prison official who
said the two executions he's overseen since 2005 have been carried out
"without incident." The state also gave more details about execution
Berry's attorney, James Craig, argued the policy "is not as detailed or
mandatory" as Kentucky's, deemed acceptable by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Constitution does not require Earl Berry to hope that the prison
officials will execute him properly," Craig said. "He is entitled to
policies and procedures that reduce the risk of him being suffocated to
death but paralyzed and unable to stop the torture."
The state Supreme Court has not made a ruling on the legal wrangling nor
Hood's request to set an execution date on or before Monday, Berry's 49th
birthday. But as the debate lingers, the state's top corrections official
said he's prepared to fulfill Hood's request.
"Based on my talking with the attorney general's office, we're going to
get a date. It's just a matter of time," said Corrections Commissioner
Berry was sentenced to die for the November 1987 murder of 56-year-old
Mary Bounds, a wife, mother and grandmother who was beaten to death after
leaving her weekly church choir practice in north Mississippi. Berry
confessed to killing Bounds and dumping her body on a rural road near
19 minutes before his execution last fall, the U.S. Supreme Court halted
it while it reviewed a lethal injection challenge in Kentucky.
At issue was whether the three-drug mixture properly sedates death row
inmates before killing them.
That court recently ruled against the Kentucky challenge, clearing the way
for the executions of Berry and inmates in 2 other states.
Earlier this week, Berry's attorneys argued he needs more time to ask for
clemency and a review of Mississippi's lethal-injection procedures. Gov.
Haley Barbour said he will not grant clemency.
In a new twist, Berry's attorneys said he is mentally disabled and
therefore cannot be executed because of a prior U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that disqualifies such prisoners from executions.
Craig said the issue has not been raised before because Berry's former
attorneys didn't follow the state Supreme Court's rules for proving mental
retardation. Hood, though, pointed to psychologists in Berry's original
trial who testified he had brain damage but was not mentally retarded.
Others, including state prison staffers, testified Berry is mentally
In an affidavit submitted by Hood, Lawrence Kelly, superintendent of the
State Penitentiary at Parchman, explained the lethal injection procedures
used there. He said they include several rehearsals prior to the execution
and "2 certified practicing paramedics each with over 20 years of
experience" who insert the drugs.
In the executions he has witnessed, Kelly said, "I witnessed no movement
from either individual following the administration of the sodium
pentothal and could detect no visible signs of movement or signs of
Court Upholds Death Sentence for Woodel
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for Thomas
Woodel, who was convicted of the 1996 stabbing deaths of an elderly couple
in the Four Corners area.
Woodel, 38, was convicted of the murders of Bernice and Clifford Moody,
who were slain Dec. 31, 1996, at Outdoor Resorts of America in the Four
Corners area, where the Illinois couple lived during the winter. He was
sentenced to death for the murder of Bernice Moody and life in prison for
the murder of her husband.
Woodel was working as a dishwasher at a pizza restaurant and lived in the
Outdoor Resorts mobile home park with his pregnant girlfriend.
The couple was killed in a rental unit they owned next to their mobile
home. According to Woodel's confession, he said he encountered Bernice
Moody as he walked home after a night of beer drinking. He told
investigators he stopped to ask her what time it was and she panicked and
came at him with a knife.
Bernice Moody, 74, was stabbed 56 times and hit in the head twice with a
ceramic toilet tank lid, so hard that the lid shattered. As Woodel was
leaving, Clifford Moody, 79, tried to block his way, and Woodel stabbed
him 8 times.
Woodel was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, armed burglary and
Polk Circuit Judge Susan Roberts sentenced him to death in July 2005, the
second time that Woodel received the death penalty for the crime. Circuit
Judge Robert Pyle first sentenced him to death in 1998, after a jury
recommendation of 7-5, and the Florida Supreme Court overturned the
The high court said Pyle's sentencing order failed to adequately evaluate
each circumstance that favored life imprisonment. The case was sent back
to Polk for resentencing, and a new jury recommended death by a 7-5 vote.
Roberts followed that recommendation and imposed a death sentence.
At his sentencing hearing in Polk County, Woodel's lawyer urged the court
to consider mitigating factors warranting a life sentence rather than the
death penalty, including the fact that childhood was marked by rejection
and instability, including 2 years spent in a children's home. The court
was told Woodel was raised by 2 deaf parents and that his alcoholic mother
neglected him and his sister.
(source: The Ledger)
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