[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----MONT., CALIF., MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu May 22 18:37:15 CDT 2008
Anti-death penalty group hosts Helena event
A Helena group is fighting to end the death penalty in Montana, with free
popcorn and a movie.
Tonight the Montana Abolition Coalition is hosting a free screening of the
film "At the Death House Door."
The film follows a death house Chaplain as he presides over 95 Texas
executions including the world's first lethal injection.
Montana Abolition Coalition President, Moe Wosepka: "What the coalition is
trying to accomplish is by showing a variety of perspectives on the death
penalty, we hope to bring out more and more information and we hope to
change people's minds."
The coalition says they hope to hear from people both for and against the
death penalty by holding a discussion after the screening.
The event started at 7 p.m. at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena.
(source: LPAX TV News)
Prosecutor: Arsonist should suffer same fate as Cathedral City victims
A man convicted of setting fires that killed 2 women in their 80s a decade
ago in Cathedral City should suffer the same fate as his victims, a
prosecutor told a jury today during the sentencing phase of his trial.
Michael Cook, 36, was found guilty April 22 of 2 counts of murder, 3
counts of arson, 7 counts of burglary, attempted burglary and auto theft
stemming from crimes he committed between January and April 1998.
Cook went into mobile home parks and set trailers afire, then burglarized
neighboring units, according to Deputy District Attorney Tricia Fransdal.
Florence Mash, 84, was burned to death in her trailer at the Date Palm
Mobile Home Park in Cathedral City on Jan. 24, 1998, and 86-year-old
Lucille Quigley died in similar circumstances in her trailer at Desert
Shadows RV Resort on April 22 of that year, according to trial testimony.
Jurors must decide whether Cook should receive life in prison without the
possibility of parole or a death sentence.
The defense claims Cook is mentally disabled and was abused as a child.
"What I'm going to ask you to do I in no way take lightly ... it's a
choice that you have to make based on the law, and it's not going to be
easy,'' Fransdal said during her closing argument.
She told jurors they must ask themselves what is justice for the crimes
that Cook committed.
She noted the women suffered a "horrific death.'' when they were "burned
alive'' in a place ``that should have offered them protection.''
Their lives meant nothing to Cook, she said.
"I'm asking you to look inside yourself ... and when you do that, you are
going to see that justice demands a death sentence,'' she said.
She reminded the jury that when Cook testified in his own defense, he said
he was "proud'' of his criminal lifestyle and that he couldn't put a
number on how many burglaries he had committed.
"He understood the criminality of his actions,'' she said.
She also asked jurors to feel compassion for the victims and not the
The defense will tell them that "this punishment is state-imposed murder,
but it is not state-imposed murder,'' she said. "They will try to get you
to feel the compassion that he has never felt. Don't do it.''
Pointing at pictures of the victims, she asked, "did he give them any
compassion?'' and then answered, "he didn't.''
"Tell me that these 2 women don't scream out for justice,'' she said.
She also said the defense will tell jurors Cook had a rough life and
suffered a lot of abuse, but noted that his sister testified that she was
also abused, but had not turned to a life of crime.
When court resumes, the defense is to give its closing argument.
On Wednesday, the defendant's foster mother, Georgia Cook, testified Cook
had been beaten by his natural mother's boyfriend and that he used to wake
up screaming at night.
Cook's younger sister, Tina Franklin, testified they were both beaten by
their mother's boyfriend when they were young, "but I don't think he has
an anger problem.''
Under questioning by Fransdal, she admitted had heard her brother had
burned trailers in other states, and that she once told a district
attorney's investigator he told her he wanted to blow up his mother's
"But he wasn't an angry person,'' she insisted.
A man testified that Cook stabbed him 8 times in his Cathedral City RV in
February 1998, and Cook's former girlfriend testified that he raped her at
knifepoint after he allowed her and her son to stay with him in a garage
one night in Cathedral City.
Defense attorney John Hemmer argued that his client is mentally disabled
and cannot be put to death due to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that
found executing a retarded person is cruel and unusual punishment and
unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
Jurors rejected the retardation claim, clearing the way for the penalty
phase to begin.
(source: The Desert Sun)
Md. gov. to start process to develop death penalty protocol
Gov. Martin O'Malley, an opponent of capital punishment, said Thursday he
will "sadly" move forward with getting Maryland's execution protocol
approved, a step required by the state's highest court before another
execution can take place.
The Court of Appeals ruled in late 2006 that the state could not hold
another lethal injection until a legislative committee gave proper
approval to the rules about how executions are carried out.
O'Malley has backed a repeal of capital punishment, but legislation to
replace a death sentence with life in prison without possibility of parole
has failed for two consecutive years in the Maryland General Assembly.
"I wish we would arrive at a point where we repeal the death penalty, but
I do not have the luxury in this job, or the permission in this job, only
to enforce laws that I'm in favor of and that I agree with," O'Malley told
O'Malley considered whether to include the execution protocols as part of
the death penalty study, but he decided the two would proceed on "2
The commission is set to submit its findings by Dec. 15.
"The rulemaking doesn't have that time limit, but I anticipate they'll
probably both take at least the balance of the year to conclude," O'Malley
The governor said he would soon direct Maryland Department of Public
Safety and Correctional Services Gary Maynard to begin developing the
protocols, which include what chemicals are used during the lethal
injection process, the dosages and other medical aspects of the procedure.
O'Malley said he had not put the procedure in motion earlier to get proper
approval because the repeal legislation was pending in the General
Assembly, and because he was waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court
would decide in its evaluation of lethal injection. In April, the Supreme
Court upheld Kentucky's method of lethal injection, which is the most
commonly used method in the country.
In December 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals found that Maryland's
lethal injection protocol manual was never submitted to a joint
legislative committee or given a public hearing before it was adopted, as
required by Maryland's Administrative Procedure Act.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeals concluded that the current protocol is
consistent with state law. However, the court also concluded that a
legislative committee charged with reviewing the protocol "may have a
The legislative committee that has to approve the protocol is the Joint
Legislative Committee on Administrative and Legislative Review.
Maryland currently has 5 men on death row. 5 inmates have been executed
since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker, who was
put to death in December 2005, was the last person to be executed in
(source: Associated Press)
'I knew right away who did it'----Death penalty and custody issues follow
death of Washington County woman and police officer
Alison Munson 's family had no idea she had been in an abusive
David Shackelford, Munson's uncle, said before a Nov. 1, 2007, assault
charge against her former boyfriend, she never said anything was wrong.
After that, she confided in him that the abuse had been going on for
"He beat her up pretty bad that time," Shackelford said. "We were very
close and we talked a lot, but I wish she would've explained to us earlier
what had been happening. When he came around, he always acted like he was
such a nice guy and so good to her."
Munson filed domestic violence claims against Pryor in September 2000,
March 2002 and August 2002, in addition to the Nov. 1, 2007, charges,
according to court records.
Six days before Christmas 2007, Smithsburg police officer Christopher
Shane Nicholson, 25, was killed in a shoot-out while investigating the
fatal stabbing of Munson, 31, earlier that evening.
The suspect in both killings, Douglas W. Pryor , 29, of Smithsburg, is
Munson's former boyfriend and the father of her 2 children.
Munson, of Halfway, was a 1995 graduate of Berkeley Springs High School
and former homecoming queen. She had filed a petition Dec. 4, 2007, for
child support against Pryor, who according to court records had been
ordered in November to avoid contact with his former girlfriend.
Pryor had recent charges of 2nd-degree assault and malicious destruction
pending at the time of Munson's and Nicholson's deaths.
Nicholson tracked Pryor to his home on Welty Church Road after Pryor fled
Munson's apartment in Halfway, according to the Washington County
Sheriff's Office. Nicholson was shot in a driveway while awaiting
Police eventually found Pryor in Ringold. Pryor was wounded during an
exchange of gunfire and was taken to Washington County Hospital with
injuries that were not life-threatening.
In February, Pryor was charged with first-degree murder and other charges
in connection with the deaths of Munson and Nicholson. He is awaiting
trial and Washington County prosecutors have said they will seek the death
Nicholson's aunt, Kimmy Armstrong, and Munson's sister, Tori Landers,
lobbied against a repeal of the Maryland's death penalty during the
General Assembly this year.
Shackelford, who works at a K-Mart store close to his niece's apartment,
said he was the first family member to arrive at the scene.
"When my sister called and told me Alison had been murdered, I knew right
away who did it," he said.
Munson's and Pryor's children are being cared for by their paternal
grandparents, Donald and Joellen Pryor, who initially were granted
custody, and their paternal uncle and aunt, Troy and Geri Pryor. Custody
issues involving the Pryors and Jacqueline Shackelford Smith, Munson's
mother, and her stepfather, Steven Smith, are ongoing, according to the
office of Washington County Circuit Court family law master Daniel P.
Reached by phone, Donald Pryor said he did not want to comment on his
son's situation or ongoing custody issues.
Nicholson, single with no children, graduated from the police academy in
July 2006. Smithsburg has three full-time officers and he was the only one
on duty the night of Munson's murder.
"Chris was a nice young man," Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore
told officer.com after the shooting. "He was proud to be a police officer.
It's all he wanted to do."
Originally from Winchester, Va., Munson worked as a dental hygienist
assistant at Oral and Facial Surgery in Hagerstown.
"She was just a wonderful person, a loving person, a loving, caring mother
and granddaughter," said her grandmother Alice Shackelford. "I don't know
what else to say."
(source: Frederick News-Post)
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