[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----UTAH, CALIF., USA, ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Oct 25 14:30:33 CDT 2008
Convenience store killing----Potential jurors asked if they could vote for
the death penalty; Jury selection continues for trial of suspect accused
in 1984 slaying
Though Glenn Howard Griffin is presumed innocent, attorneys this week
asked 150 potential jurors whether they could vote for his death by lethal
"We are absolutely seeking the death penalty," said Box Elder County
Attorney Brad Smith on Thursday.
Defense lawyer Randall Richards said his client is innocent of the state's
charge that 51-year-old Griffin, accompanied by Wade Garrett Maughan,
murdered 22-year-old Bradley Newell Perry in 1984 at a convenience store
near Brigham City.
Maughan is also charged with 1st-degree murder and robbery. His trial is
slated for January.
With his hair cut more than a foot shorter since last week and wearing a
new suit, Griffin looked much like any one of the attorneys in the 1st
District Court to the potential jurors.
The defendant spent three days listening to individual interviews with the
strangers who will decide his fate in the capital murder case.
"Life in prison without parole is not an option in this case because of
the laws that were in effect at the time of the murder," Judge Hadfield
told a potential juror. "In this state, there is a presumption in favor of
Yet prospective jurors who said they would not vote for a death sentence
in this case were dismissed from the jury pool, which was initially
narrowed from 250 to 150 largely based on responses to a 63-item
questionnaire they were given this summer.
By Friday, the attorneys agreed on a pool of 58 candidates, who will be
whittled to 12 jurors and 4 alternates Wednesday morning before the the
The death penalty trial was moved from Brigham City to Logan because of
the case's notoriety, Richards said.
Richards encouraged potential jurors to use their moral compass if the
trial produces a guilty verdict. "You have the right to make your own
personal judgment and you have the right to stay with that judgment,"
As is the case with a guilty verdict during the 1st phase of the trial, a
death penalty decision must be unanimous in the 2nd phase, Richards said.
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
The California Prison Disaster
The mass imprisonment philosophy that has packed prisons and sent
corrections costs through the roof around the country has hit especially
hard in California, which has the largest prison population, the highest
recidivism rate and a prison budget raging out of control.
According to a new federally backed study conducted at the University of
California, Irvine, the state's corrections costs have grown by about 50 %
in less than a decade and now account for about 10 % of state spending
nearly the same amount as higher education. The costs could rise
substantially given that a federal lawsuit may require the state to spend
$8 billion to bring the prison system's woefully inadequate medical
services up to constitutional standards.
The solution for California is to shrink its vastly overcrowded prison
system. To do so, it would need to move away from mandatory sentencing
laws that have proved to be disastrous across the country locking up more
people than protecting public safety requires.
In addition, the state also has perhaps the most counterproductive and
ill-conceived parole system in the United States. More people are sent to
prison in California by parole officers than by the courts. In addition,
about 66 % of Californias parolees land back in prison after 3 years,
compared with about 40 % nationally. 4 in 10 are sent back for technical
violations like missed appointments or failed drug tests.
Later this year, the state is expected to begin testing a new system that
redirects the lowest-risk drug addicts to treatment. But that will only
work if the state and the counties dramatically expand treatment slots.
The heart of the problem is that Californias parole system is simply too
big. Most states keep dangerous people behind bars or reserve parole
supervision for the most serious offenders. California puts virtually
everyone on parole, typically for 3 years.
Under this setup, about 80 % of the parolees have fewer than two 15-minute
meetings with a parole officer per month. That might be adequate for
low-risk offenders, but its clearly too little time for serious offenders
who present a risk to public safety.
A good 1st step would be to place fewer people on parole. The 2nd step
would be to reserve the most intensive supervision for offenders who
present the greatest risk.
State lawmakers, some of whom are fearful of being seen as soft on crime,
have failed to make perfectly reasonable sentencing modifications and
other changes that the prisons desperately need. Unless they muster some
courage soon, Californians will find themselves swamped by prison costs
and unable to afford just about anything else.
(source: Editorial, New York Times)
Progress Is Minimal in Clearing DNA Cases
Local and state law enforcement agencies have made uneven progress in
reducing a nationwide backlog of cases awaiting DNA analysis over the past
4 years, according to reports filed by more than 100 agencies with the
National Institute of Justice.
The patchy results came despite stepped-up efforts by the federal
government, including nearly $500 million in grants since 2004, to help
crime laboratories reduce the backlog.
Victims rights groups and some law enforcement officials say the untested
evidence, much of it stemming from sexual assault crimes, leaves open the
possibility that thousands of criminal offenders have gone unpunished or
are on the loose and committing new crimes.
"That's always a concern," said Sharon Papa, an assistant chief in the Los
Angeles Police Department, "because, unfortunately, oftentimes rape is a
The problem seems most severe here in Los Angeles, where the Police
Department has the largest known backlog, about 7,000 cases, including
many with rape kits from sexual assaults.
The backlog comprises a mix of open cases and solved cases awaiting
analysis and entry of DNA into state and national databases.
An audit released Monday by the Los Angeles city comptroller found that
217 backlogged cases here involved sexual assaults so old the 10-year
statute of limitations had lapsed. The audit did not determine how many,
if any, of those cases might have been prosecuted based on other evidence.
The federal government has not quantified the countrys overall DNA
evidence backlog since 2003, when it stood at 542,000 cases, but a
researcher for Human Rights Watch who has studied the backlog, Sarah
Tofte, estimates that it exceeds 400,000.
"People just assumed that we were testing every kit," Chief Papa said,
"and we were not."
About 95 % of state and local criminal cases are resolved through plea
agreements, often before DNA analyses are completed. The police and
prosecutors rely on confessions, witness testimony and physical evidence
like fingerprints and ballistics.
Still, DNA remains the most sophisticated and reliable physical evidence,
especially in cases with no named suspects or promising investigative
2 weeks ago, President Bush signed a bill that includes an additional $1.6
billion over 6 years intended to speed DNA analyses by hiring temporary
crime lab workers, providing overtime pay and renovating crime labs.
But many crime labs are disqualified from receiving more money because
they have failed to spend previous financing in a timely manner. A report
prepared for Representative Howard L. Berman, a Democrat representing a
district in Los Angeles, found that the Police Department had spent less
than half of the $4.4 million in federal money it received from 2004 to
2008. Los Angeles police officials said that they had spent or committed
all but 1/3 of that money but that they had not properly recorded some
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spent less than half of its
$4.9 million in grants, the report said. Law enforcement agencies blame
several factors for the DNA backlogs, including restrictions on how the
federal money can be spent, local staff shortages, bureaucratic delays and
planning problems. Some agencies have also seen the demand for new DNA
analyses outpace efforts to clear old cases, criminalists said.
Pete Marone, chairman of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations
and director of the Virginia state crime lab, said staffing levels at
crime labs had not kept pace with technological advances in DNA analysis.
"Police are starting to send us new work that we couldn't have done
before," Mr. Marone said. "We can do 'touch' evidence now, utilizing DNA
analysis to see whether a defendant even touched a weapon. We can get DNA
evidence from steering wheels. We can go into a room and find drugs on the
floor and well be able to analyze those drugs to determine which hand
threw them down on the floor."
Criminalists said that other kinds of evidence occupied much of their
time. Many crime labs facing hundreds of backlogged DNA cases have even
more shelved fingerprint, serology, ballistics and drug evidence that
needs to be tested.
"DNA really accounts for just 10 % of the caseload in crime labs around
the country," Mr. Marone said. "The majority of our work is analyzing
Processing of a DNA evidence sample takes about a week, said Larry
Blanton, a criminologist for the Los Angeles Police Department.
After a sexual assault, the police try to collect biological material
blood, semen, saliva from the victim and the crime scene. If DNA is
found, a chemical process creates billions of copies. A machine then
produces a profile of 13 unique markers, which are entered into state and
national databases for matches. Each DNA sample costs about $1,500 to
analyze, criminalists said.
(source: New York Times)
Murder suspect will defend himself at death penalty trial ----FRANKLIN
CASE | Judge: 'You're making horrible, horrible mistake'
The man accused of killing pharmaceutical rep Nailah Franklin last year
will be allowed to represent himself at trial in a case in which
prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
Cook County Judge Thomas V. Gainer Jr. granted Reginald Potts' request
Friday, but only after repeatedly warning Potts he was making a big
"Mr. Potts, don't look at me as the enemy," Gainer said. "You understand I
think you're making a horrible, horrible mistake that could end up costing
you your life?"
"Yes, I do," he replied.
Gainer granted Potts' request to dismiss his private attorney, Robert
Johnson, after Potts said he couldn't afford his services. Potts also
repeatedly told Gainer that he didn't want a public defender to represent
In January, Potts had said he would consider acting as his own attorney if
he couldn't find a suitable private lawyer.
Franklin, 28, who lived in University Village, disappeared in September
2007. Her partly decomposed body was found 10 days later in a wooded area
of Calumet City. Potts, who had dated Franklin, says he had nothing to do
with her death.
Assistant state's attorney Maria McCarthy told Gainer in March that the
state was seeking the death penalty it because the murder was "cold and
calculated" and occurred while Potts was committing other felonies against
Franklin. A trial date has not been set.
(source: Chicago Sun-Times)
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