[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, MONT., CALIF., MD., US MIL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Nov 23 18:25:53 CST 2008
As he goes about building a new government, one most Americans hope will
put the country on a road dramatically different than the one traveled
over the last eight years, President-elect Barack Obama has been seen in
public only occasionally since capturing the White House on Nov. 4.
Chief task among the work under way behind the closed doors of his Chicago
transition office: Piecing together a presidential cabinet that will
restore a brand of good government sorely missing in the executive branch
since the malfeasant Bush administration arrived in Washington, D.C.
While the first of these key appointments are expected to be officially
unveiled as early as next week, uncharacteristic leaks from the now-former
senator's (Obama resigned his seat this week) team have provided evidence
that these deliberations are being conducted with the same care, respect
for diversity and extraordinary political acumen that vaulted Obama to the
nation's highest office.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Obama was prepared to tap former Sen.
Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services. But naturally, the
news that Sen. Hillary Clinton - with whom Obama competed in a bruising
fight for the Democratic presidential nomination - is being vetted as the
leading contender for Secretary of State-designate has made the biggest
splash thus far.
While there are several hurdles that must be cleared before her name can
be put before the Senate for confirmation - chiefly, unraveling what are
widely believed to be her husband's many post-presidential financial
entanglements with foreign powers - Clinton could be an inspired choice if
she is truly committed to carrying out Obama's foreign policy. She is also
potentially risky: in the confirmation hearings Clinton would have to
undergo, marginalized Senate Republicans on the Foreign Relations
Committee charged with overseeing that process would like nothing more
than to embarrass the new president, by highlighting his and Clinton's
many campaign trail disagreements on foreign policy. Potentially most
explosive would be Clinton's dismissal of certain aspects of Obama's
foreign policy as "irresponsible" and "naive" - specifically, his goal of
re-starting dialogue with the leaders of hostile nations like Iran.
As if his own election victory wasn't sufficiently historic, Obama's
apparent choice for attorney general, former high-ranking Clinton Justice
Department official Eric Holder, would be the 1st African-American to hold
the nation's top law enforcement post.
A respected attorney and former judge who chaired Obama vice-presidential
selection committee, Holder is regarded as a brilliant legal mind who is
unafraid to take unpopular but principled stands (unlike his potential
future boss, he opposes the death penalty and has spoken out on its racial
implications) and has voiced serious concerns about seemingly
extraconstitutional aspects of the Patriot Act.
As these cabinet choices are publicized in the coming days and weeks,
Obama will no doubt be subjected to idle carping from forces on the right
still smarting over the election results; some are already voicing
complaints that too many Washington insiders are up for top posts.
However, if these early selections are any indication, Obama's presidency
will surely represent the departure from the Bush years that voters cried
out for so loudly at the polls.
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Wave Newspapers)
Death penalty unlikely in toddler death
In Great Fallas, County Attorney Brant Light says that he does not expect
to pursue the death penalty against Summer ManyWhiteHorses, accused of
murdering her 2-year-old son.
James ManyWhiteHorses was found dead in the trunk of his mom's car. An
autopsy found the toddler suffered broken bones before his death,
including a skull fracture.
But Light says the facts don't support the death penalty.
Montana law allows the death penalty in murder cases only when there are
certain aggravating circumstances such as killing by means of torture,
lying in ambush or when a sexual assault is involved.
None of those aggravating circumstances are alleged to have occurred in
the Many White Horses case.
Without the aggravating factors, the maximum penalty for murder is life in
(source: Associated Press)
Appeals court sidetracks California effort to resume executions
A state appeals court on Friday ensured further delays in California's
already inert death penalty system, finding that Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's administration did not follow proper procedures when it
attempted to revise the state's lethal injection method to get executions
back on track.
In a 14-page ruling, the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal
upheld last year's decision by a Marin County judge, who found state
officials failed to provide public scrutiny of plans to overhaul
California's execution method. The appeals court ruling, if it stands,
would force the state to go back to the drawing board in its efforts to
bring the execution system into compliance with a federal judge's concerns
that the current method is unconstitutional.
The appeals court ruling will have a ripple effect on California's bogged
down capital punishment system. A broader legal challenge in federal court
to California's lethal injection method cannot move forward until the
state comes up with a revised procedure, and that is now tied up further
as a result of the appeals court's findings.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Ronald Matthias, who supervises the
state's death penalty cases, was still reviewing the decision and could
not predict the next step. But the state can either appeal to the
California Supreme Court or move forward with public review of the
proposed lethal injection reforms, and either process would take months or
The ruling is linked to a long-running challenge from death row inmates
who argue that the lethal injection method is cruel and unusual punishment
because it exposes an inmate to the prospect of an inhumane execution.
Executions have been on hold in California for nearly 3 years as a result
of the legal challenge, one of dozens around the country contesting lethal
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in December 2006 concluded the state's
current lethal injection system is "broken,'' but outlined a number of
steps state officials could take to address his concerns and ensure that
executions are carried out humanely. In response to that ruling, the
governor ordered state prison officials to come up with a new plan, which
was unveiled last year. Among other things, the plan called for improved
training and supervision of execution team members, as well as the
construction of a new, modernized execution chamber, which has since been
But the plan was challenged in state court under the argument it violated
state procedures that require public review. Fogel put the federal case on
hold until that issue is resolved.
In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court this spring upheld a lethal
injection procedure in Kentucky similar to California's, a ruling that
will set the ground rules for California's case when it returns to Fogel.
There are now more than 670 inmates on death row awaiting execution,
including several who have exhausted their appeals and will face swift
execution dates if the lethal injections resume.
Condemned Santa Clara County killer David Allen Raley is among those
inmates who have run out of legal options.
(source: Mercury News)
Panel's death penalty backers still in the minority
2 more members of a state commission reviewing capital punishment
indicated yesterday that they will recommend keeping the death penalty in
Maryland, but a majority of panelists still support abolishing the
At a meeting last night in Annapolis, a representative of Attorney General
Douglas M. Gansler joined the minority that backs keeping the death
penalty, slimming the abolitionists' margin to 13-8 on the 23-member
commission. Also, Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, a panelist
who did not attend yesterday's meeting, told The Baltimore Sun she was
leaning toward voting to retain capital punishment. Gary Maynard,
secretary of Maryland's Department of Public Safety & Correctional
Services, is also on the commission but is remaining neutral.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, a leading death
penalty advocate on the panel, said he hoped the enlarged minority would
decrease the chances of a death penalty repeal by lawmakers. "Any more
votes we pick up makes [a repeal movement] that much more challenged,"
Shellenberger said. "Hopefully, people will read the minority report and
see that there's a lot of logic to it, whether you're a citizen or a
In an interview, Gansler, a Democrat, said that he did not believe
lawmakers would be greatly influenced by the recommendations of a
commission and that he expects the General Assembly to retain the
practice."This commission was stacked from the beginning to come out with
findings against the death penalty," said Gansler, a former chief
prosecutor in Montgomery County. He said he supports the death penalty if
it is handled in a "fair, race-neutral, socioeconomic-neutral way."
The commission was established this year by the legislature amid
nationwide scrutiny of capital punishment because of high-profile
exonerations of wrongly convicted death-row inmates. Last week, a majority
voted to recommend abolishing the death penalty, finding that it could
lead to the execution of innocent people and that it was tainted by racial
bias, among other flaws.
Yesterday, at the commission's final gathering, panelist Oliver Smith
indicated he was considering switching his vote and supporting a ban on
executions. Smith's son, a Washington police officer, was killed in a 1997
"He's going to be in favor [of abolition]," said Benjamin R. Civiletti, a
U.S. attorney general under President Carter and the commission's
chairman, of Smith. "I can feel it in my heart."
The commission's final report is due to the legislature next month.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Minority report submitted on death penalty
A draft minority report supporting Maryland's death penalty law was
submitted Thursday to a state panel that has recommended repealing capital
Scott Schellenberger, Baltimore County state's attorney who supports the
death penalty, is the lead author of the 23-page report.
Schellenberger said the fact that only 5 people have been executed in
Maryland since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978 demonstrates
capital punishment is used judiciously in the state. He also pointed out
that there are only 5 people on Maryland's death row.
"We believe the advances of DNA over the last 20 years substantially
minimizes the chances of an innocent person being put to death,"
The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted last week to recommend
lawmakers repeal capital punishment.
The vote of the 23-member commission initially was 13-7, but a
representative from the attorney general's office is joining the minority,
making it a 13-8 vote.
One member, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Secretary Gary Maynard, is abstaining. Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette
DiPino has not formally recorded a vote yet.
The state commission voted on its recommendation by the majority last
week, saying capital punishment doesn't deter crime and is affected by
racial and jurisdictional disparities. Panel members in the majority also
voted to include in their findings that there's "a real possibility" an
innocent person could someday be executed by mistake.
The 2 reports are due Dec. 15.
There is currently a de facto moratorium against capital punishment in
Maryland because of a ruling in late 2006 by the state's highest court.
The Court of Appeals found that the state's lethal injection protocols
weren't properly approved by a legislative committee. Executions can't
resume until a new protocol is created for the committee to approve.
Corrections officials have said the protocols could be ready to submit to
a legislative committee by the end of the year.
(source: Associated Press)
US MILITARY----impending execution (set for Human Rights Day)
Military sets execution date; First execution since 1961 for the military
A former Army cook convicted of multiple rapes and murders is set to die
next month in what would be the U.S. military's 1st execution in nearly 50
The military said Thursday that former North Carolina soldier Ronald A.
Gray is to be executed Dec. 10 at the federal prison complex in Terre
Gray was arrested in connection with 4 slayings and 8 rapes in the
Fayetteville, N.C., area between April 1986 and January 1987, while he was
stationed at Fort Bragg. He was convicted of murdering two women.
President Bush approved Gray's execution in July, and a month later Army
Secretary Pete Geren set the execution date and ordered that Gray be put
to death by injection. The date was publicly released Thursday.
"The Army is moving forward with plans to fulfill the court-martial
sentence," said Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright.
Gray has appealed his case through military courts and the U.S. Supreme
Court, which declined to hear the case in 2001. Wright said Gray had 2
legal options remaining: filing a petition with a federal appellate court
to stay the execution, or request that the president reconsider approval
of the execution.
Army personnel will be responsible for conducting the execution in Indiana
based on an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Only 10 members of the military have been executed since 1951, when the
Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system,
President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military
execution. That was for John Bennett, who was hanged in 1961 for raping
and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl.
On Feb. 12, 1962, President Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmy
Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life.
Gray, 43, is being confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort
Leavenworth. He was convicted by a 6-member court-martial panel for:
-Raping and killing Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay of Fayetteville on
Dec. 15, 1986. She was shot 4 times with a .22-caliber pistol that Gray
confessed to stealing. She also suffered blunt force trauma over much of
her body. -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.
-Raping, robbing and attempting to kill an Army private in her barracks at
Fort Bragg on Jan. 3, 1987. The victim testified against Gray and
identified him as her assailant. Gray raped her and stabbed her several
times in the neck and side.
Wright said there are 4 other members of the military - 2 soldiers, a
Marine and 1 Air Force airman - under sentence of death.
On the Net: Department of the Army: http://www.army.mil
U.S. Disciplinary Barracks: http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/usdb/
(source: Associated Press)
Mother held in Ky. fire that killed her 2 children
An Army wife charged with setting a fire that killed her 2 young children
at her Fort Campbell, Ky., home was held without bond pending a possible
death penalty trial.
35-year-old Billi Jo Smallwood was denied bond during a federal court
hearing Friday in Gainesville, Ga., where she has family.
The May 2007 fire at Fort Campbell killed 9-year-old Sam Fagan, and
2-year-old Rebekah Smallwood, and injured her husband, Army Spc. Wayne
Smallwood. Their toddler daughter, Nevaeh, was not injured.
U.S. Magistrate Susan Cole said she denied bond because Smallwood was a
flight risk since the indictment against her was released on Tuesday.
She will be transferred to Kentucky next week to face the charges.
(source: Lexington Herald-Leader)
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