[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----GA., ARIZ., N.C., ALA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 22 21:51:28 CDT 2008
GEORGIA----new death sentence
Lithonia man gets death sentence----DeKalb jury delivers rare verdict in
case of wife, twin sons fatally bludgeoned with hammer in '06.
A jury Tuesday delivered DeKalb County's 1st death sentence in 19 years to
a man convicted of bludgeoning to death his wife and their twin 2-year-old
sons with a hammer.
Clayton Jerrod Ellington, standing between his attorneys to receive the
verdict, slumped slightly and then closed his eyes when the jury
foreperson read the word "death" from a written form. He shook his head at
times during the 5 minutes it took to complete the reading of the 3 death
sentences - one each for Berna, Christian and Cameron Ellington.
All 3 were found dead at the family home near Lithonia on May 17, 2006. On
Saturday, the same jury found Ellington guilty of their murders.
The jury deliberated about 5 hours over 2 days before deciding the
Ellington, 31, did not testify at the trial. He told police his wife
killed the children. He said he then killed her in a rage. His lawyers
said she had been distraught over a feared breakup of the marriage.
Prosecutors said Ellington wanted out because he was obsessed with a new
Berna Ellington's father, Bernard L. Judge, said the jury vindicated his
"We are satisfied with the verdict and the sentence, and we'd like to
thank the jurors for seeing the facts that were presented to them. And may
God bless them," said Judge, an associate minister at Bethlehem Baptist
Church in Charleston, S.C.
Berna Ellington, 31, had a degree in biological science and was a water
quality scientist for the Department of Natural Resources, her father
"She was about to move on with her life; she was about to be promoted," he
said. "She taught her children well. She loved her family - her father,
her mother and her twin sister," Judge said. The twins, he added, were
"All she ever did for her husband was help him," he said.
Members of Ellington's family, who were in the courtroom, declined to
Jurors were taken by sheriff's deputies back to a hotel where they had
been sequestered for nine nights and were unavailable for comment.
The jurors rejected the options of sentencing Ellington to life in prison
without parole or life with the chance of parole.
The last death sentence in DeKalb was issued Feb. 3, 1989, to Willie James
Hall. He was convicted of fatally stabbing his wife as a police dispatcher
listened to her cries for help on the phone.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted Hall's sentence to life in
prison without parole in 2004, 1 day before his scheduled execution.
(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
The Death Penalty: The Ultimate Injustice
The state of Georgia is set to kill Troy Anthony Davis on Oct. 27. Earlier
this month, the US Supreme refused to take up Mr. Davis' appeal,
terminating a temporary stay of execution.
Davis was convicted in the 1991 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark
Allen MacPhail. 9 witnesses testified against Davis, but no physical
evidence tied him to the crime.
Since the original trial 7 of the 9 witnesses recanted their testimony,
citing police intimidation or coercion, according to documentation
provided by Amnesty International. 1 of the remaining 2 witnesses who
refused to change his testimony has been blamed for the crime by others.
According to the Innocence Project, witness misidentification is the
single greatest cause of wrongful convictions.
>From the Georgia Board of Pardons to that state's Supreme Court,
responsible institutions have refused to consider the new evidence offered
in Davis' case. When the US Supreme Court refused to take up the appeal,
it basically stated that evidence of innocence is irrelevant when it comes
too late in the process.
Let's face it. This case is not about technicalities. It is about racism.
Mark Allen MacPhail was a young, white policeman. His family deserves to
have his real killer found, but as it stands this has not happened. The
state of Georgia may be killing the wrong man.
Racism plays a determining role in who lives or dies in the US criminal
justice system. In the state of Georgia, fully half of the death row
population are people of color. Of the more than 1,100 executions since
the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, more than 80 % of the
victims in these cases were white, despite the fact that whites and Blacks
are murdered in nearly equal numbers.
6 people convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Georgia have been
exonerated since 1976. Georgia has just days to give Troy Davis the chance
to become the 7th. That some might be exonerated and others killed shows
the deepest flaw in using capital punishment as the ultimate punishment.
Aside from the basic fact that it does not deter crime, is carried out at
a staggering cost, is arbitrarily applied (often with political motives),
has been overturned by many countries around the world, and violates basic
moral principles, capital punishment also fails to deliver justice. In the
case of Troy Anthony Davis, it may deliver the ultimate injustice.
(source: Joel Wendland; Political Affairs)
EU legislature protests US death sentence
The European parliament is strongly protesting plans to execute a man in
the United States who has been sentenced to death for killing a police
Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on Oct. 27, despite
calls from his supporters to reconsider because 7 of 9 key witnesses
against him have recanted their testimony.
EU parliament head Hans-Gert Poettering says all executions are violations
of human rights. He says the condemned American symbolizes the fate of all
death row inmates, and vows the EU legislature "will fight against the
death penalty under any circumstances everywhere in the world."
The 40-year-old Davis was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of
27-year-old Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. His case has also
attracted support from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and South Africa
Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
(source: Agence France Presse)
Emergency actions to save Troy Davis' life
Thousands of people are mobilizing in a last minute effort to stop the
execution of Troy Anthony Davis on Monday, Oct. 27 in Georgia.
Emergency protests are scheduled in many cities on Oct. 23, with a major
rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta from 6 p.m.
until 8 p.m.
Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and
Georgians for an Alternative to the Death Penalty, which has worked
tirelessly over the years to bring justice in the Davis case, report new
letter writing campaigns by professors in Georgia colleges and clergy
members, as well as students rallying on campuses.
The International Action Center has launched an online petition addressed
to dozens of elected officials including presidential candidates Barack
Obama and John McCain, major news outlets, U.N. bodies and the Georgia
Pardons and Parole Board, which has the authority to stop the execution.
Please go to www.iacenter.org and add your name to the hundreds of
thousands who are saying Innocence Matters! Justice Matters!
Davis, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted of the 1989
murder of a Savannah policeman who was working off-duty. The state's case
rested on eyewitness testimony. There was no forensic evidence, no
fingerprints, no weapon ever produced at the trial connecting Troy Davis
to the shooting.
7 of the 9 trial witnesses have since recanted their testimony, several
charging police intimidation and coercion for their false identification
of Davis. Still other witnesses who were never called to testify in court
have signed affidavits implicating another man.
State and federal appeals courts have turned Davis' case down on
technicalities, essentially saying the recantations are either not
sufficient "new" evidence or have come too late. On Oct. 14, the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to take up the issue. The state of Georgia
immediately issued an execution date for Oct. 27.
(source: Workers World)
Psychologist: Nichols had 'delusional disorder'----Defense witness says
part of defendant's brain didnt know right from wrong
A defense psychologist sought Tuesday morning to map out the mind of Brian
Nichols, telling jurors the accused killer didn't know right from wrong in
one part of his mind on March 11, 2005, when he is accused of shooting and
killing 4 people. In another part of his mind, the psychologist says,
Brian Nichols knew the killings were "illegal under Georgia law."
It was the 2nd day on the stand for clinical and forensic psychologist
Mark Cunningham, who is testifying to the heart of Nichols' defense, that
Nichols is innocent by reason of insanity and was delusional when Judge
Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, deputy Hoyt Teasley, and
U.S. Customs agent David Wilhelm were shot and killed.
The psychologist said Nichols was suffering at the time from a "delusional
disorder, with persecutorial and grandiose themes" that made him believe
he was fighting for a greater cause. That delusional disorder, Cunningham
said, was "encapsulated" in his brain, like a tumor that didnt spread to
the rest of his mind.
As a result even though witnesses have testified in his 4-week-long trial
that Nichols appeared to think and act intelligently and methodically as
he plotted out the moves of his escape and rampage he could still be
"crazy," Cunningham testified.
"As he is effectively moving from one carjacking to the next, he's not
going to be thinking weird," said Cunningham, who based his diagnosis on
interviews with Nichols, and others, and reviews of Nichols writings. "The
rest of his mind is working fine as it propels him along the path of his
For the 2nd time in the trial, jurors listened to a witness read from
Nichols writings. Earlier, the prosecution produced writings found in the
holding cell from which he escaped after beating deputy Cynthia Hall
nearly to death.
Cunningham read from a college paper Nichols wrote, entitled "Deep
Thoughts," in which he articulated his belief in a conspiracy against
Black Americans in this country that is being "carried out in a systematic
way." Cunningham said those beliefs "are the seeds of what later grew into
a delusional disorder." In the paper, which Nichols wrote while a student
from 1992 to 1993 at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C., he talks about
the legitimacy of an armed revolt against racism in this country, arguing
that if violence is right in Vietnam and the Middle East "surely it can be
used in South Central Los Angeles."
"It seems funny that the government wants you to fight in Iraq," he wrote,
"and the Iraqis have never called me a 'Nigger.' But I see the word
scribbled on the bathroom door every morning I use it, and have heard the
word used several different occasions since I've been in Newberry."
In the paper he calls slain civil rights leader Malcolm X his "idol" and a
"hero to me because he stood up like a man and fought so strongly for his
beliefs." Malcolm X was assassinated while speaking at a political rally
in New York City in 1965.
Cunningham testified that the "extreme political beliefs" Nichols
articulated in his college paper began evolving into delusions when his
long-time girlfriend broke up with him in the summer of 2004 and his
fragile psyche "cracked." He was accused of raping the girlfriend in
August of 2004.
It was while standing trial for that rape that Nichols is accused of
escaping and going on a killing spree. He was in custody in the Fulton
County jail for about 8 months awaiting trail. Witnesses have testified
that conditions were so bad in the jail that the added stress contributed
to Nichols mental deterioration.
The psychologist told jurors that when Nichols turned violent and killed
people, it wasn't "thug" behavior. "This is very different from an
anti-social attitude," he said, "because he is taking into consideration"
a greater cause.
Nichols said in a 3-hour videotaped confession he gave police when he was
captured the day after the killing spree that the greater cause was a
slave revolt he was trying to start against Fulton County, the state of
Georgia, and the U.S. government.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
County Attorney candidates clash over death penalty
The death penalty emerged as an issue as the candidates for Maricopa
County Attorney, Republican incumbent Andrew Thomas and Democratic
challenger Tim Nelson, squared off in a debate on PBS KAET Channel 8's
"Horizon" program Tuesday night.
Nelson accused Thomas of seeking the death penalty in too many cases,
which drew a question from Thomas.
"Which cases should we not be seeking the death penalty in? I'd like to
know, I think the voters would like to know."
Nelson said it is a court time issue.
"Andy, if you were to try every one of those cases -- if you would start
today and devote every single criminal calendar to a full trial of all of
those cases -- if you went back-to-back and used every single court date,
it would take you 4 years."
While answering one question, Thomas said that Nelson has worked with the
American Civil Liberties Union in the past.
Nelson, asked about that later, said, "I have represented hundreds of
clients in hundreds of cases throughout my career. There have been exactly
three that involved the ACLU and two of them, I was opposed to the ACLU.
So Mr.Thomas' efforts to try to paint me as somehow connected with the
ACLU is just flat-out wrong, and it's the type of labeling that has no
place in this political debate."
Thomas stood firm, insisting Nelson was tied to ACLU lawyers and calling
him a "soft on crime ACLU liberal."
Libertarian candidate Michael Kielsky also took part in the debate.
(source: KTAR News)
Event in Western North Carolina Thursday October 23 7-8 PM UNC-A
The North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium would like to extend an
invitation to you and your organization to participate in a discussion on
efforts to create a coordinated campaign amongst those connected with the
issues of capital punishment reform.
The meeting is scheduled for October 23, 2008 to occur between 7-8pm at
the UNC-Asheville Campus. The Meeting will take place in the "Grotto"
location-basement of the Highsmith Center next to the food court.
The purpose of this meeting will be to bring together representatives from
the legal community, academia, social work and mitigation field and
faith-community groups who are already committed to the issues of reform,
abolition, restorative justice and moratorium efforts. NCCM would like to
connect such individuals//organizations so as issues arise, a central
coalition in Western NC exists to distribute information, discuss future
death penalty reform related plans,coordinate actions, facilitate new
events. It is our intention to extend any necessary resources and work
effort as needed to maintain such a coalition.
(source: Journey of Hope)
AG seeks execution dates for 4 inmates
Attorney General Troy King has renewed his request for the Alabama Supreme
Court to set an execution date for Willie McNair and also requested
execution dates for 3 other inmates.
King said Wednesday he renewed his request for McNair because the high
court hasn't acted on his 1st request filed April 17. McNair was convicted
for the 1990 murder of Ella Foy Riley in Henry County,
King also sought execution dates Wednesday for James Callahan, Phillip
Hallford and Danny Joe Bradley.
Callahan was convicted for the 1982 murder of Rebecca Suzanne Howell in
Jacksonville; Hallford was convicted for the 1986 murder of Charles Eddie
Shannon in Dale County; and Bradley received a death sentence for the 1983
murder of Rhonda Hardin in Piedmont.
(source: Associated Press)
Attorney General Seeks Execution Date for McNair
Attorney General Troy King today is filing a 2nd motion asking the Alabama
Supreme Court to set an execution date for Willie McNair, convicted for
the 1990 murder of Ella Foy Riley in rural Henry County near Abbeville.
Attorney General King filed another motion because the Court has failed to
act on his April 17, 2008 request, made more than 6 months ago.
On May 21, 1990, McNair and another man went to the home of Riley, an
elderly widow who lived alone and had occasionally hired McNair to do yard
work. McNair asked Riley to borrow $20, and when she said she had none to
lend him, he asked for a glass of water. The Attorney General recounts in
his motion to the Supreme Court what happened next:
"Riley invited him in, and when she turned around, McNair grabbed her by
the neck and stabbed her in the throat. When the blade of the knife broke
off in Riley's neck, McNair's companion retrieved another knife from the
kitchen and McNair stabbed Riley in the neck again. The wounds severed
Riley's carotid artery and jugular vein. Evidence indicated that McNair
also strangled Riley, who struggled for several minutes as she bled to
death. After killing Riley, McNair took her purse from the kitchen counter
and fled the scene with his companion. The pair drove several miles down a
rural road, rummaged through Riley's purse, then dumped it. When an
officer came to his house the next morning, McNair admitted killing Riley
and was arrested. He subsequently directed officers to the place where he
had dumped Rileys purse and gave detailed descriptions of the murder to
McNair was tried and found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to
death. He has been on Death Row for 17 years and has exhausted his
Attorney General King stated in his motion that "there can be no dispute
that this case is one of the most important on the docket of this Court
and demands an expeditious ruling. Every day that goes by is denying the
State's duty and obligation to carry out McNairs duly-adjudicated
The Attorney General also filed motions yesterday, asking the Alabama
Supreme Court to set execution dates in 3 other cases: James Callahan has
been on death row 25 years for the 1982 murder of Rebecca Suzanne Howell
in Jacksonville; Phillip D. Hallford has been on death row 20 years for
the 1986 murder of Charles Eddie Shannon in Dale County; and Danny Joe
Bradley has been on death row more than 25 years for the 1983 murder of
Rhonda Hardin in Piedmont.
(source: WTVY News)
Lawyers for Alabama death row inmate Thomas Arthur will get to make their
case early next year for DNA testing
THE ISSUE: Lawyers for death row inmate Thomas Arthur will get to make
their case early next year for DNA testing.
Death row inmate Thomas Arthur will get another day in court - one that
should take place but, at the same time, shouldn't be necessary.
Those who are in line to be executed by the state of Alabama shouldn't
have to fight so hard to get DNA tests on biological evidence collected
before modern scientific methods transformed law enforcement.
State prosecutors and the governor should be willing to use all available
means to make sure an innocent person is not put to death, and they
shouldn't need a court to tell them that's the right thing or force them
to do it. But in Arthur's case and in others, they have resisted appeals
for DNA tests in old capital cases.
As such, Arthur has 3 times come within a day of being executed, all the
while professing his innocence in the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker. Days
before Arthur's most recent appointment with death, another inmate
confessed to the killing, a development that led to renewed calls for DNA
Perhaps even more troubling than the inmate's confession - which even
Arthur's advocates concede may not be reliable - is the state's subsequent
confession that it couldn't find key evidence which could be used to
determine the truth.
Small wonder the Alabama Supreme Court halted Arthur's July 31 execution
and paved the way for the Feb. 17 hearing now set before Jefferson County
Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam.
The new court date is an opportunity to sort out the questions surrounding
this case, questions that are so abundant even some of the victim's family
has been supportive of Arthur's quest for DNA testing.
These questions simply must be answered before an execution takes place.
Arthur was convicted along with Wicker's wife for the crime. Judy Wicker
initially claimed an intruder had killed her husband and raped her. She
later changed her story and admitted paying Arthur to kill her husband in
a deal that won her an early release from prison.
The rape evidence collected from Mrs. Wicker the day of the murder is what
prosecutors now say is nowhere to be found.
Arthur's lawyers say DNA tests on that semen and saliva, along with other
biological evidence from the crime scene, could shed light on Arthur's
claims of innocence and the other inmate's professions of guilt.
At the very least, Arthur's lawyers will now get to make their best case
for requiring the state to redouble its efforts to find the missing rape
kit and to make all the pertinent evidence available for DNA testing.
This is good news - not just for Arthur, who may or may not be innocent,
but for the people of Alabama, who need to know for sure before a man is
put to death in their names.
(source: Birmingham News)
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