[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS, WYO., TENN., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 3 17:18:09 CDT 2008
Concert fights death penalty
It may not be common knowledge that Texas executes more people annually
than any other state in the nation, but one group is working to change
The Music for Life Tour, a series of concerts geared toward raising
awareness about the death penalty in Texas, concluded last night in Austin
at Scholz Garten. Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sponsored
the event, which showcased a mix of speakers and musical performances by
"What better way for you to learn about a very difficult topic to have
fun in that Austin sort of way," said coalition member Vicki McCuistion.
Originally, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty approached
Austin-based musician Sara Hickman about a single benefit concert, but
during their dealings, the idea of a yearlong tour emerged.
"What really struck me was that no one in the state of Texas was really
talking about the death penalty," Hickman said of her decision to expand
The tour started in October 2007 and has been active since. Music for Life
has visited 12 Texas cities in 12 months, including Huntsville, San
Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Beaumont, El Paso, Denton, San Angelo,
Fort Worth, Dallas and Waco. Last night's event was the 13th and final
concert in the series.
The finale, like the previous 12 concerts in the series, featured a blend
of music and dialogue on the death penalty. The performances all came from
Texas talents, including Sara Hickman, the Austin Lounge Lizards, Shelley
King, Jon Hogan and the mayor of El Paso, John Cook, who joined the tour
when Music for Life came to his town.
Last nights event was an informal but passionate affair. Fiddles and
acoustic guitars warmed up on the stage as the night began, and musicians
such as the Austin Lounge Lizards mingled with those in attendance. Kinky
Friedman, who read a personal essay about a man he knew on death row,
smoked a cigar at his table, and families enjoyed food and drinks on
Scholz's patio. Black and white photographs of people executed on Texas'
death row, taken by local artist Alan Pogue, stood on easels between the
tables as tributes to the nights cause.
The songs of the evening, which had country and bluegrass roots, consisted
of material that was generally relevant to the evening's cause, with
lyrics such as "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Friedman offered his views against capital punishment: "It's a much more
reasonable thing to do, in terms of putting people away forever," he said.
"Never let them see the light of day. Don't kill them."
Friedman said that if he runs for governor again, he plans to bring the
issue to light, claiming it's a topic most politicians today refuse to
The overall goal of the evening was simply to generate dialogue on the
death penalty, and Hickman said that throughout the series, her goal hasnt
been to sway anyone.
"I'm just there to get people talking," she said.
She said audience participation has consistently been one of the most
exciting parts of the tour.
Kay Silkenson, attendee and resident of Elgin said, "I've been against the
death penalty for a long, long time." She stated that the event was
"really designed to make people think, and that she believed that it had
succeeded in accomplishing that goal.
Audiences have consisted mostly of people sympathetic to the tour's cause,
but people with opposing views have been welcomed throughout the concert
series as well.
"Everyone can learn something from that," Hickman said.
Artists' CDs and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Music and people are best
live" were sold at the event, with the proceeds going toward the Texas
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to fund further education on the
death penalty in Texas.
"I like to see this kind of thing going on," said Lutheran pastor Karl
Gronberg. "The sanctity of life is such an important thing."
(source: Daily Texan, Oct. 2)
2 jurors overrule 10 others who were in favor of death penalty for Rolle
She still hears Jennifer Randel's voice.
Randel's screams on a 911 call linger in her mind weeks after she heard
them the 1st time.
One of the 12 jurors who found Donald Rolle guilty of Randel's brutal
kidnapping and murder said it will be a while before she stops thinking
about the evidence. It will take a long time before she stops seeing
photos of Randel's beaten face.
"You can't get that out of your head," she said, speaking on the condition
of anonymity. "You dream it -- you can't sleep."
The jury spent more than three weeks learning about the events that led to
Randel's death, from the abuse she suffered at Rolle's hands during their
relationship, to a savage attack on a remote road west of Casper.
The same jury ultimately spared Rolle's life on Tuesday.
Sometime before her murder, Randel made a frantic 911 call where she
begged for help and said she was being held in Rolle's truck.
That haunting voice from that call told the juror Rolle had "tortured and
terrorized" the woman he once dated. The juror believed that was enough to
warrant the death penalty.
To give a man life or death is a decision most people never make. This
juror, like 9 others in the room, wanted death, but was overruled by two
who would only support a life sentence.
The trial outlined Randel's murder, including testimony from Rolle's
previous girlfriends, psychologists and family members.
After more than two weeks of listening and watching, the jury's 1st
decision focused on guilt: first-degree murder, second-degree murder or
The jurors deliberated for 6 hours.
"It's like a debriefing. You have not been allowed to talk about it at all
with anyone, not with each other, not with family, with no one," she said.
"So that's the first chance you get to voice what you have been hearing
Some of the jurors supported 1st-degree murder and some second, she said.
A few thought premeditated meant the defendant planned the murder hours or
even days in advance.
But the jury's instructions told them premeditated could be simply a
series of thoughts before the murder. Their unanimous vote was ultimately
for 1st-degree murder.
Then came the 2nd phase.
With a verdict of 1st-degree murder, the eight men and four women had the
ability to sentence a man to die.
The 1st vote was split, 7 for the death penalty and 5 against, she said.
After reviewing all of the evidence, testimony and jury instructions, she
thought he deserved the death penalty. But some of the jurors thought the
mitigating factors, such as Rolle's abusive childhood, were too important
and he should live.
More discussion led to additional polls, but the jury couldn't reach a
"It would have been life or a hung jury," she said.
She didn't know which of the mitigating factors convinced the jurors to
vote for life in prison. Some members, she said, would only cast their
vote and not voice their opinion.
"It's one thing to sit in a history class and say you are for or against
the death penalty. It's a whole other thing to sit there and have to
decide someone's fate," she said. "I could tell everybody in there took it
very, very seriously."
Rolle testified twice during the trial, once where he claimed Randel tried
to attack him with a knife and again during sentencing when he told jurors
he believed in an "eye for an eye."
Even though the juror said she can't speak for the other 11 members, she
didn't think Rolle's testimony had much of an effect on the trial's
outcome. She said they knew he was lying.
She was bothered by Rolle's apparent lack of remorse during the sentencing
phase, she said. It seemed like he was asking for the death penalty, but
she didn't know if that had an impact on anyone's decision.
A day after the trial ended, she reflected on how much she learned and how
much more complicated the judicial system is than she thought. Neither of
the decisions were black and white. The jury, she said, functioned in a
Sitting through the trial was hard, as was being sequestered from family
and friends for nearly a week.
The jury members could call home, but they weren't allowed to have
physical contact with anyone, including spouses and children.
"It weighs heavy on you. You have a job to do on the jury, but it doesn't
relieve you of any of your responsibilities," she said, like husbands,
wives, or even pets.
But, she added, it's not about the jury.
"It's one of the best things you can do to give back to your country," she
said, about being on a jury. "I believe in our system of justice and I
think that's very important."
She thinks about Randel's family and knows they were disappointed with the
"But you're not on anybody's side ... you are there to get justice for the
victim," she said. "I hope her family can find some peace now, some
This was her first trial as a juror, and while she said she wouldn't mind
being part of a panel again, she doesn't want to serve on another capital
The countless hours of sitting, listening and thinking constantly about
the trial took its toll on her. She doesn't want to spend another
three-and-a-half weeks waking up in the middle of the night listening to
Mostly, she doesn't want to hear another 911 call, another person's voice
screaming and crying for help that never came.
(source: Casper Star-Tribune)
Judge denies mistrial in death penalty case
A judge said jurors at a federal death penalty trial in Chattanooga have
not been influenced by hearing about media reports that the black
defendant described them as "racist rednecks."
U.S. District Court Judge Curtis L. Collier in an order Friday denied a
defense motion to declare a mistrial in the sentencing of 24-year-old
Rejon Taylor. Collier also denied a defense request for a special hearing
to question jurors further before the sentencing phase of the trial starts
Attorneys said at a Thursday hearing that 11 members of the panel of 12
jurors and 6 alternates privately told the judge they know about media
reports in which a prosecutor said Taylor described them as "racist
On Sept. 8, the jury deliberated less than four hours before convicting
Taylor in the August 2003 abduction and fatal shooting of Atlanta
restaurant owner Guy Luck on a rural roadside near Chattanooga.
(source: Associated Press)
Supreme Court upholds death penalty sentences
The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld the capital murder conviction and
death sentence of a man convicted of beating a Boaz convenience store
clerk to death with a metal pipe and a 6-pound can of peas.
The court Friday upheld a decision of the Alabama Court of Criminal
Appeals confirming the death sentence of 39-year-old Rick Allen Belisle.
He was convicted of the May 19, 1999 beating death of Joyce Moore.
The Supreme Court also upheld the capital murder conviction and death
sentence of 31-year-old Michael Brown. He was convicted of killing
66-year-old Betty Kirkpatrick after breaking into her home in Hueytown in
Prosecutors said Brown tried to smother the woman and then cut her throat.
(source: Associated Press)
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