[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----FLA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 17 23:05:44 CST 2008
FLORIDA----new death sentence
Estranged wife's killer gets death
A Vietnamese immigrant who stabbed his estranged wife to death in front of
her teenage daughter was sentenced to death Friday by a Seminole County
Tai Pham, 36, was convicted earlier this year of 1st-degree murder in the
death of Phi Ai "Amy" Pham. Pham, 32, was stabbed at least 6 times after
she returned home from a date in October 2005.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty, and in May, a jury recommended death
for Tai Pham.
Pham did not speak to the judge during Friday's hearing. Though he was
shackled, Pham twice made obscene gestures toward family members and
reporters in the courtroom.
Court Judge Marlene Alva recapped details of the crime and testimony made
earlier about Pham's life.
Pham had a difficult childhood -- including working in a prison camp
before fleeing Vietnam. He later lived at an orphanage in Illinois.
But Alva found that the aggravating circumstances in his case outweighed
the mitigating and rendered the death sentence.
Pham, an electronics repairman, and Amy Pham had been separated about 2
years when the slaying occurred.
On Oct. 22, 2005, Tai Pham went to his estranged wife's Altamonte Springs
apartment. The only person home was his stepdaughter Lana, then 13. Pham
grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into her bedroom, where he tied
her up, she testified.
He had 2 knives, and they waited in her room for her mother to return from
her date, the girl said.
When Lana saw her mother in the doorway, she called out a warning, but it
did no good. Tai Pham attacked the woman, Lana said.
When Amy's boyfriend, Christopher Higgins, walked into the apartment, Pham
attacked him as well. He fought back, and he and Tai Pham suffered several
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Americans Hold Firm to Support for Death Penalty----Only 21% say it is
applied too often
Last week's recommendation by a Maryland commission that the state's death
penalty law be repealed contrasts with broad U.S. public support for the
punishment. According to Gallup's annual Crime survey in October, 64%
favor of Americans favor the death penalty for someone convicted of
murder, while just 30% oppose it.
In addition to the majority of Americans who support the death penalty,
nearly half (48%) believe it is not imposed often enough. Only 21% of
Americans say it is imposed too often, with a nearly equal number, 23%,
saying it is imposed about the right amount of time.
The death penalty is favored by most Republicans nationwide, but it also
receives the general support of a solid majority of independents and more
than 1/2 of Democrats.
In its preliminary report -- the final report will be issued next month --
the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment cited evidence that the
death penalty does not act as a deterrent to crime, and that it is
racially biased in its application. Americans don't share the same view on
at least one of these arguments. The slight majority of Americans in the
Oct. 3-5, 2008, poll -- 54% -- say they believe the death penalty is
applied fairly in the country today -- a rough indication that Americans
don't perceive bias to be a major problem with the death penalty system.
On the other hand, previous Gallup research has found that most Americans
believe the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. According to a May
2006 Gallup Poll, only 34% said it was a deterrent, while 64% disagreed.
Open-ended questions asked in previous years have shown that most
Americans who favor the death penalty do so because they believe it
provides an "eye for an eye" type of justice.
Although the current 64% support for capital punishment is high, support
is a bit lower than it has been at other times over the past decade, when
69% or 70% were in favor. Those readings, in turn, are lower than the ones
from the 1980s and 1990s, when support averaged 75%. The highest
individual measure of public support for the death penalty in Gallup's
records is 80%, recorded 14 years ago in September 1994.
Death penalty support was substantially lower from the late 1950s through
the early 1970s. As Gallup has previously reported, it appears that
Supreme Court rulings on the death penalty in the 1970s may have sparked
increased public support for the punishment, starting around 1976.
Death Penalty vs. Life in Prison
Over the years, Gallup has consistently found lower support for the death
penalty when it is offered as an alternative to life imprisonment with no
possibility of parole. Most recently, in May 2006, Gallup found 47% naming
the death penalty as the better penalty for murder, versus 48% preferring
The majority of Americans continue to support the use of the death penalty
as the punishment for murder. Most Americans (71%) also say the death
penalty is used either about the right amount or not often enough.
While Americans generally agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent,
and, as previous Gallup research has shown, widely acknowledge that some
innocent people have been executed, most nevertheless support the death
penalty as punishment for murder. The reason is very likely their concept
of justice. According to a 2003 Gallup study, close to half of Americans
who supported the death penalty cited some aspect of retribution for the
crime as the reason.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged
18 and older, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008. For results based on the total
sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the
maximum margin of sampling error is 3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for
respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for
respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties
in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of
public opinion polls.
(source: Gallup Poll News)
Who would Obama pick for the Supreme Court?----Liberals hope the
president-elect would name someone who could counter the court's
conservative justices. But Obama has hinted that he favors a more moderate
Barack Obama's election probably does not herald a new liberal era at the
Supreme Court, since none of the conservative justices -- who are in the
majority -- is expected to retire in the next 4 years.
But if liberals cannot take control, Obama's win has them pushing for a
strong voice for social justice on the high court.
Public officials compile extensive wish lists for Obama administration
"I think Obama would want to make a statement with his Supreme Court
justices. We hope for a justice who can replace the lost voice of an Earl
Warren or Thurgood Marshall or William Brennan," said Nan Aron, president
of the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of public interest and civil
rights groups. "It's critically important to have an Obama justice who can
be a counterpoint to [Chief Justice John G.] Roberts and [Justice Samuel
And many expect the voice to be that of a woman.
"I think it's a virtual certainty Obama would appoint a woman. It's absurd
that the Supreme Court has only one woman, and everyone recognizes it,"
said Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who practices before the high
3 frequently mentioned candidates are Judges Diane Wood, 58, of the U.S.
appeals court in Chicago; Sonia Sotomayor, 54, of the U.S. appeals court
in New York; and Elena Kagan, 48, dean of Harvard Law School.
Wood knows Obama from her time teaching at the University of Chicago.
Sotomayor could be the 1st Latino named to the high court. Kagan, who
served as a domestic policy advisor to President Clinton, has won high
marks from conservatives for bringing intellectual diversity to the
liberal-dominated law faculty at Harvard.
Among Democrats, Govs. Janet Napolitano, 50, of Arizona and Jennifer M.
Granholm, 49, of Michigan also are being talked about for top legal jobs
in an Obama administration, either as U.S. attorney general or as future
Supreme Court nominee. Both were federal prosecutors and attorneys general
for their states before being elected governor.
It is not clear that Obama hopes to put the kind of person on the court
that Aron and other liberals are dreaming about.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board in October, he
described Warren, Brennan and Marshall as "heroes of mine. . . . But that
doesn't necessarily mean that I think their judicial philosophy is
appropriate for today."
He credited the Warren court with ending segregation and opening doors for
African Americans. "The court had to step in and break that logjam. I'm
not sure you need that. In fact, I would be troubled if you had that same
kind of activism in circumstances today," he said.
Since Richard Nixon's election in 1968, Republican presidents have named
12 of 14 justices to the high court. Yet the court has never become
solidly conservative -- though a victory by John McCain might have
provided an opening to secure a majority on the right by replacing the
older liberal Justices John Paul Stevens, 88, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75.
President Clinton named the only 2 Democrats to the court since the 1960s,
and he steered away from strong liberals, instead choosing veteran appeals
court judges with moderate to liberal records. Ginsburg, soft-spoken and
measured, is a champion of women's rights. Stephen G. Breyer is a
pragmatic problem-solver. Neither has been in a position to shape the
By contrast, Warren, Marshall and Brennan were leaders of the court in its
liberal era. They pressed for civil rights for minorities and women and
strengthened rights for criminal defendants. Brennan and Marshall led the
court in halting the death penalty for a time in the early 1970s and in
striking down laws banning abortion.
The Republican appointees of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush
put a halt to the liberal activism of the Brennan and Marshall era.
Because of Obama's background, he is unlikely to rely heavily on advisors
to select candidates for the high court.
"The lawyer who will have the most influence on court appointments in the
Obama administration will be Barack Obama," said Walter Dellinger, a
Washington lawyer who represented the Clinton administration before the
high court. "He was a highly regarded professor of constitutional law at
Chicago, which has one of the most intellectually intense law faculties in
A Harvard Law School graduate, Obama taught for 12 years at the University
of Chicago and led classes on voting rights and equal protection of the
law. In the Detroit interview, he praised Justices Breyer and David H.
Souter, a Republican appointee, as "very sensible judges. They take a look
at the facts and they try to figure out: How does the Constitution apply
to these facts? They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution,
but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and
not just ignore real life.
"That's the kind of justice that I'm looking for," he went on. "Somebody
who respects the law, doesn't think that they should be making the law,
but also has a sense of what's happening in the real world and recognizes
that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don't have a
He added that the "special role" of the court is to protect "the
vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular
If there is a 2nd most important influence on such appointments, it may
well be the vice president. Sen. Joe Biden served on the Senate Judiciary
Committee throughout his career, and was chairman during the fights over
Supreme Court nominees Robert H. Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Biden, like Obama, knows many of the Democratic appointees to the bench
who could be Supreme Court nominees if a vacancy arises. There is no
certainty that any justice will retire soon. Ginsburg, among others, has
been saying that she has no thoughts of leaving.
The 1st clash between the Roberts court and the Obama administration could
come early next year over the future of the Voting Rights Act.
2 years ago, Congress voted to extend for another 25 years the landmark
law that is credited with assuring that blacks in the South had the right
to vote as well as the political clout that came with it.
But many Southern officials chafe at a provision that requires them to
"pre-clear" changes in voting rules or electoral districts with the
Justice Department. Chief Justice Roberts is no fan of the law and once
called it "sordid" because it required officials to consider the race of
voters when drawing district lines.
In September, lawyers for a Texas municipal district filed a
constitutional challenge to the pre-clearance rule, saying it was unfair
and outdated. The high court will probably take up the challenge after
January, and the Obama administration will be responsible for defending
(source: Los Angeles Times)
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