[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ALA., UTAH, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 5 16:56:35 CDT 2008
A very important issue in the only state in the country that permits
judges to overrride jury verdicts of life without parole and impose death
sentences without limitation. Approximately 22% of Alabama's death row
received life sentences that were overriden by elected trial judges.
A panel next week will debate Alabama's system of choosing judges. It's a
debate that should take place in the Legislature, too
THE ISSUE: A panel will debate Alabama's system of choosing judges. It's
the season for debates, and Alabama is getting in on the action. No, the
presidential candidates aren't facing off here. But an august panel in
Birmingham on Tuesday will debate the way Alabama chooses its judges.
The thought may not set off your thrill-o-meter. But that doesn't mean you
shouldn't take a minute to consider the event at Samford University's
Cumberland School of Law.
At the heart of the debate is this question: Should Alabamians continue to
pick judges the way we do, in elections with party labels?
This newspaper doesn't think so. Our partisan judicial elections are
costly, vicious and embarrassing free-for-alls pitting big-money business
interests against big-money plaintiff lawyers. These elections feed the
perception that justice is for sale, because, really, why would interest
groups pay top dollar for judicial races if not to buy something?
In our view, a better approach would be to have judges appointed based on
their qualifications, and then held accountable to voters through
But there are differing views about how to change the system or at least
make it less crazy.
Among those taking part in the law school debate is Alabama Chief Justice
Sue Bell Cobb, who advocates nonpartisan elections for judges and
appointments to fill midterm vacancies on the bench. (The latter is a
system already working well in Jefferson County and a couple other
Others who are scheduled to participate are retiring Supreme Court Justice
Harold See, Birmingham lawyer Bill Clark and state Rep. Demetrius Newton,
D-Birmingham. They all have great perspectives on the question of judicial
Whether you're prone to change the system or to keep it as is, the debate
offers an opportunity to consider what Alabama gains, and what it loses,
in choosing judges through partisan elections.
In our view, the state loses more than it gains. The current system
rewards judicial candidates who are the best politicians, the best
fundraisers and sometimes the meanest campaigners, not necessarily those
who have the best legal experience or are best equipped to serve as
Most states don't use partisan elections to pick judges. Alabama is one of
only eight states that do. Back when Democrats controlled the courts, they
liked the status quo and Republicans clamored for change. Now that
Republicans control courts, the parties have traded sides on the issue.
Yet, the costs for our court races have grown ever higher, in terms of
money and public confidence.
At the very least, ideas for improvements should be the subject of debate,
ultimately in the Alabama Legislature, which would have to pave the way
for changes in how Alabama chooses judges. The debate scheduled Tuesday at
Samford is a good place to start.
(source: Birmingham News)
Murder trial set to begin Monday----Double killing led to capital murder
The capital murder trial of a man accused of stabbing and beating 2 men to
death in 2006 is scheduled to begin Monday.
Zache Horton, 28, allegedly killed Ronnie Miller, 49, and Terry Tyrone
Barnes, 34, in the apartment that the 3 shared at Parklane Condominiums,
near Monnish Park on Hackberry Lane.
Police officers found the bodies of Miller and Barnes on March 31, 2006,
after a family member called, concerned because they had not been heard
from in days. Both men had been beaten and stabbed.
Investigators quickly developed Horton as a suspect and jailed him on
April 1 for a probation violation stemming from a previous, unrelated
A grand jury heard the evidence two months later and indicted Horton on
the capital murder charge.
Authorities have said that Horton admitted to driving Miller's car to
Tampa, Fla., and abandoning it at a Motel 6 before returning home on a
Horton was charged with capital murder because he burglarized the
apartment and robbed the victims, police said.
Jury selection will begin Monday. The trial will be held before Circuit
Judge Charles Malone.
(source: Tuscaloosa News)
Man Charged in Cedar City Killings Could Face Death Penalty
Prosecutors in Iron County are deciding whether the man convicted of
killing 2 former Cedar City residents should die for his crimes.
29-year-old Nicholas Sheley is charged with killing 20-year-old Kilynna
Blake and her 2-year-old son, Dayan in Illinois, back in June.
Police say Sheeley is the man behind a Midwest killing spree that left 8
Sheeley is currently being held in the Knox County jail in Illinois, where
prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty. Iron county prosecutors are
still deciding on whether to seek the penalty in their case.
(source: KCSG News)
Justices Return to Work, With Less Meaty Docket
Come Election Day, there will almost certainly be cursing at the Supreme
Court. The justices are scheduled to hear a case that day concerning dirty
words on television, and it will be hard for the advocates in the case to
describe its facts without using 4-letter words. The appeals court
argument, which involves swearing by Cher and Paris Hilton on a prime-time
awards show, would have made a sailor blush.
Another case on the docket for the new term, which starts Monday,
considers whether adherents of a faith called Summum may place a monument
to the "Seven Aphorisms" of their faith in a Utah park that already
contains a monument devoted to the Ten Commandments.
The 2 cases are the most colorful of the term so far, and they involve
significant but perhaps not momentous First Amendment issues. Compared
with the last term, which included historic cases concerning Guantnamo
Bay, the Second Amendment and execution by lethal injection, the new term
is a buffet without entrees. This years intellectual feast Judge Robert
H. Borks hopeful description of the work of a Supreme Court justice is
By happenstance or design, the court will keep a low profile in the
election season. While it is always dangerous to try to identify patterns
in the cases the court accepts, which are after all a subset of the cases
that happen to reach it, the docket so far is consistent with Chief
Justice John G. Roberts Jr.s stated preference for modest and incremental
But there are major cases on the horizon. The court will soon decide
whether to hear challenges to the recent renewal of the Voting Rights Act
and to the presidents power to order the military detention of people
living in the United States.
The court is working at a brisker pace than it has in recent years. It is
accepting more cases and hearing them earlier in the term. In October and
November, the court will hear 3 arguments a day, rather than the usual 2,
returning after lunch for the 3rd one.
By frontloading the arguments to the beginning of the term, which
generally runs from October to June, the court may be able to issue
decisions more regularly and avoid the usual end-of-term barrage of
Still, many of the cases on the docket feel warmed over, representing
opportunities to refine and flesh out relatively well-established legal
doctrines rather than to break new ground. Indeed, it is sometimes hard to
avoid a feeling of dj vu. A death row inmate from Tennessee, Gary B. Cone,
is before the court for a third time. So is a $79.5 million punitive
damages award against Philip Morris.
Perhaps the most significant cases of the term involve pre-emption, a
doctrine that can bar state-court lawsuits over products that met federal
safety standards and one that has repeatedly occupied the Roberts court.
The doctrine is in some tension with the Rehnquist court's attentiveness
to states rights, which had been known for a time as the "federalism
"Corporate America has discovered that they would much rather be regulated
by one government in Washington than by 50 state governments, or by the
most aggressive of them," said Kathleen M. Sullivan, a law professor at
Stanford and a Supreme Court advocate.
The court will also return to an emerging theme of the Roberts court,
which has repeatedly turned back general, or "facial," challenges to laws
in favor of more focused, or "as applied," attacks.
"The one trend that has emerged most clearly from the first three years of
the Roberts court is a certain skepticism about facial challenges," Paul
D. Clement, who was until recently the solicitor general of the United
States, said at a recent briefing at the United States Chamber of
Commerce. That theme will be further explored this term in a case
involving environmental regulations.
Religion and Free Speech
The Ten Commandments monument, donated by a private group, is in Pleasant
Grove, Utah. The city has rejected a similar gift from followers of
Summum, who want to erect a monument devoted to the "Seven Aphorisms" of
their faith. More a case about free speech than religion, Pleasant Grove
City v. Summum, No. 07-665, will turn on whether the Ten Commandments
monument is speech by the government or the monument's donors, and on
whether parks are public forums.
When Cher appeared on the Billboard Music Awards in 2002, she used a
4-letter word connoting sex. The next year, on the same show, banter
between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie included that word and another
obscenity. In Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television
Stations, No. 07-582, the court will decide whether the F.C.C. has the
power to punish broadcasters for airing "fleeting expletives."
Federal courts in California have issued injunctions limiting the use of
sonar in Navy training exercises off Southern California on the ground
that it harms marine mammals. In Winter v. Natural Resources Defense
Council, No. 07-1239, the Bush administration argues that the training is
vital to national security and that the courts should not interfere.
In Summers v. Earth Island Institute, No. 07-463, the court will consider
who has standing to challenge environmental regulations. Winter and
Summers will be argued on Wednesday, and decisions are expected by the
In Entergy Corporation v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 07-588, the
court will consider whether the Clean Water Act authorizes the E.P.A. to
use cost-benefit analysis.
After ruling in May that workers are protected from retaliation under two
federal civil rights laws that do not explicitly provide such protection,
the court will hear arguments on Wednesday in Crawford v. Nashville and
Davidson County, No. 06-1595, about whether a law that does prohibit
retaliation applies to people who cooperate in internal investigations.
In AT&T v. Hulteen, No. 07-543, the court will consider whether failing to
give credit for pregnancy leaves in pension calculations amounts to
The 1st argument of the term will be in Altria Group v. Good, No. 07-562,
on the issue of whether state consumer-fraud laws can be used to sue
cigarette makers for saying their brands are low in tar and nicotine.
Altria, whose Philip Morris unit makes Marlboro Lights, argues that the
Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act should bar the suit because
it pre-empts conflicting state laws in so many words and by implication.
The solicitor general filed a brief arguing against implied pre-emption,
but the brief did not address the express pre-emption argument.
Wyeth v. Levine, No. 06-1249, concerns only implied pre-emption and is
perhaps the most important business case of the term. Wyeth, a drug
company, seeks to overturn a Vermont jury award of more than $6 million to
Diana Levine, a musician who lost much of her right arm in a medical
disaster caused by the injection of a Wyeth anti-nausea drug. Wyeth argues
that it cannot be sued because it had complied with federal safety
In Bartlett v. Strickland, No. 07-689, the court will decide whether a
minority group must constitute a majority in an election district to claim
the protection of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act against having
district lines redrawn in a way that dilutes the groups ability to elect a
representative of its choice.
(source: New York Times)
The essential lessons of the Rosenberg case----The couple's sons say those
in power manufactured evidence and targeted their parents, making them the
focus of the public's Cold War fear and anger.
We are the sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. We were young children --
10 and 6 years old, respectively -- when our parents were put to death in
the electric chair at Sing Sing for passing the secret of the atomic bomb
to the Soviet Union.
For many years after that, we believed our parents to be wholly innocent
of the charges against them. But over the years, and especially as further
evidence became available at the end of the Cold War, we began to question
Now, 55 years after their execution, two recent revelations in our
parents' case have again rekindled fierce debate about their culpability.
But in our opinion, these disclosures -- the release of our aunt's sworn
statements to a grand jury and a surprise new admission by our parents'
codefendant -- have obscured both the essence and the essential lessons of
the Rosenberg case.
Many Americans now living were not born when our parents stood trial in
1951 for conspiracy to commit espionage, so they may not understand why
this case remains one of our nation's most sensational courtroom dramas.
The reason is that, at the height of the Cold War, 2 people were executed
for allegedly giving the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.
Viewed through the lens of 1950s America, it appeared to many that the
Rosenbergs had given our archenemy the means to destroy our nation. The
trial judge justified the death sentences by pronouncing that our parents
made it possible for the Soviets to build their bomb earlier than
expected, causing the Korean War and the deaths of thousands of American
soldiers. "I consider your crime worse than murder," said the judge as he
sentenced our parents to death. "Plain deliberate contemplated murder is
dwarfed in magnitude by comparison with the crime you have committed."
But was that true? Had they in fact passed the so-called secret of the
atomic bomb to the Russians? We have acknowledged for a long time the
possibility that our father may have engaged in non-atomic espionage. The
recent statement by our parents' codefendant, Morton Sobell, confirms
exactly that, and several weeks ago we stated publicly for the 1st time
that we now believe that our father did, in fact, participate in passing
along military information.
But Sobell's recent admission sheds no light on whether our father in fact
stole the secret of the atomic bomb, the crime for which he was executed.
To this day, there is no credible evidence that he participated in
obtaining or passing on any such secret.
In contrast, the newly released grand jury transcript does provide
interesting new information about the case.
At the start of the investigation against our parents, David and Ruth
Greenglass, our mother's brother and sister-in-law, confessed to being
part of an atomic spy ring and cooperated with the prosecution in exchange
for no charges being brought against Ruth and a comparatively light
sentence for David.
Ruth's trial testimony provided the one key piece of evidence that led to
our mother's conviction and subsequent execution. She testified at trial
that our mother typed up notes that contained the "secret" of the atomic
bomb, provided, supposedly, by David, a U.S. Army sergeant with only a
high school education, who was assigned as a machinist to the Manhattan
Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
However, the newly released transcript reveals that Ruth Greenglass' grand
jury testimony included nothing about our mother typing any espionage
notes. The only notes mentioned in Ruth's testimony were ones she wrote
herself, which described the buildings at Los Alamos, not the atomic bomb.
It was not until February 1951, months after her grand jury testimony,
that Ruth gave a new statement in which she reported (we would say
"invented"), for the 1st time, the allegation that our mother had typed
David's handwritten notes describing the atomic bomb. Confronted with
Ruth's revisions, David Greenglass then contradicted his earlier statement
to the FBI in which he had denied our mother's participation in espionage
activities. Subsequently, David and Ruth both testified at the trial that
our mother had typed notes about the secret of the atomic bomb.
In another stunning discrepancy, there is no mention in Ruth's grand jury
testimony of an alleged meeting described by David and Ruth at the trial,
during which David supposedly handed over the "secret of the atom bomb
sketch" -- trial Exhibit 8 -- to Julius. Exhibit 8 was the main evidence
for the government's contention that Julius successfully stole such a
secret. If there is no mention of the meeting in David's grand jury
testimony (which has yet to be released but which is essential to obtain),
the core of the government's case against both of our parents will be
dealt a crippling blow.
Some commentators have, in essence, said that neither this lack of
evidence nor these inconsistencies matter. "The Rosenbergs were Soviet
spies, and not minor ones either," wrote Ronald Radosh in these pages on
Evidently, in Radosh's eyes, our mother remains a spy even though the new
information indicates that the evidence against her was fabricated, and
our father succeeded in passing vitally important data even though there
is no clear proof to this day of the value of the military/industrial
information that he, Sobell or others transmitted.
Radosh's arguments also divert attention from the most important problem
of all: The U.S. government executed 2 people for stealing the secret of
the atomic bomb -- a crime it knew they did not commit.
The central lesson of this episode is that our government abused its power
in dangerous ways that remain relevant today. Those in power targeted our
parents, making them the focus of the public's Cold War-era fear and
anger. They manufactured testimony and evidence. They arrested our mother
simply as leverage to get our father to cooperate.
They used the ultimate weapon -- the threat of death -- to try to extort a
confession. They created the myth that there was a key "secret" of the
atomic bomb, and then devised a strategy to make it appear that our father
had sought and passed on that "secret." They executed our father when he
refused to collaborate in this lie. They executed our mother as well, even
though they knew that she was not an active participant in any espionage
This case provides a crucial warning about the tendencies of our
government to manufacture and exploit public fear, to trample civil rights
and to manipulate judicial proceedings. In our current political climate,
the targets being vilified have changed, but the tactics of those in power
remain much the same.
(source: Opinion;Michael Meeropol is chairman of the economics department
at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass. Robert Meeropol is
the founder and executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children (
www.rfc.org) ---- Los Angeles Times)
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