[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., GA., LA. MONT.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Oct 25 14:31:20 CDT 2008
Death Penalty Report Ignored----Reforms recommended two years ago have yet
2 years ago, an independent panel made 12 recommendations to reform
Florida's death penalty process. That report has since done little more
than gather dust ever since.
None of the proposals from the American Bar Association panel of judges,
prosecutors, defense lawyers and college professors has been adopted by
the state and it's now unlikely any ever will be.
Some panel members say it all comes down to politics: Gov. Charlie Crist
and state lawmakers don't want to appear soft on the death penalty by
adopting measures that would be seen as impeding executions.
Some of the recommendations were controversial. One required that juries
be unanimous in recommending death and would make it illegal for a judge
to overrule a jury that has recommended life in prison instead of death.
Currently, a jury's vote is only advisory and can be split.
Other recommendations included requiring better qualifications and pay for
appellate lawyers; taking steps to eliminate juror confusion on capital
cases; examining racial and geographic disparities in sentencing; and
creating commissions to explore the cause of wrongful convictions and
review claims of innocence.
Christopher Slobogin, a former University of Florida law professor, was
the chairman of the panel. He said state politicians fear that if they
took up the panel's recommendations that "would make them look like they
were anti-death penalty, which is the kiss of death, so to speak, in
But some legislators defended themselves.
"We've looked at all the recommendations that were available and we've
made the necessary changes," said state Sen. Victor Crist, who is not
related to the governor. "Our experts tell us we've done everything we
need to do. Florida has the most highly advanced, most aggressively funded
and most finely tuned death penalty process and representation anywhere in
(source: Associated Press)
Court issues stay of execution for Troy Davis
The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Friday halted Troy Anthony Davis'
execution, the third time his life has been spared shortly before he was
to be put to death.
Davis' claims of innocence, based largely on the recantations of
prosecution witnesses, have attracted international attention and protest.
He was set to be executed by lethal injection Monday evening for the 1989
murder of an off-duty Savannah police officer.
For the 3rd time in 16 months, Troy Davis was granted a stay of
The 11th Circuit's ruling is the latest in what has been a roller-coaster
ride of last-ditch appeals in which Davis, 40, has been repeatedly denied
relief only to be spared again and again.
Martina Correia, Davis' sister, said she and her mother, Virginia Davis,
were packing for the trip to death-row when they got the news.
"I've been praying," Correia said. "He deserves to be free. He at least
doesn't deserve to die for something he didn't do."
Since Davis' 1991 trial, 7 of 9 key prosecution witnesses have backed off
their testimony. Others have come forward and implicated another man in
the killing of 27-year-old Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
The witnesses' recantations have prompted leaders across the globe to call
for Davis' death sentence be commuted. But Chatham County prosecutors say
they are certain Davis is a cop killer and deserves to die for it.
When the 11th Circuit issued its stay, Davis' supporters were holding a
mock funeral at the state Capitol. Demonstrators carried a coffin and a
petition with 140,000 signatures to the state Board of Pardons and
Paroles. Davis' supporters also delivered a letter signed by more than 100
members of Georgias clergy to the Governors office.
Correia talked to Davis after the court issued its stay. "To all the
people around the world working hard and fighting for him, he wants to say
thank you and this fight has to continue," she said.
The officer's 75-year-old mother, Anneliese, expressed fury and
"It's unbelievable," she said. "It's tearing us apart. I'm at the end with
my nerves. I can't sleep, I can't eat. This is ridiculous."
MacPhail's sister, Kathy McQuary, cried when she learned of the stay from
Davis' lawyers expressed hope the stay leads to the new evidence being
presented at a hearing.
"I am extremely relieved that the 11th Circuit, when addressed with such a
grave issue as the innocence of a man set for execution, wants to hear
argument and make a considered judgment," said Tom Dunn, a member of
Davis' legal team.
The state Attorney General's Office canceled Monday's execution, spokesman
Russ Willard said, adding that state attorneys are exploring the their
On Wednesday, Davis asked the 11th Circuit for permission to pursue a new
federal habeas corpus petition - in which an inmate claims he is
unlawfully incarcerated. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 requires a federal appeals court to approve such a request before
such a new lawsuit can be filed.
"Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met
the burden for a stay of execution," the court said in an order issued by
Judges Joel Dubina, Rosemary Barkett and Stanley Marcus.
The judges called the stay "conditional" and said they want to hear more
from Davis' lawyers and state attorneys.
Davis must clear 2 difficult legal hurdles to win a new round of appeals.
First, he must show that his lawyers could not have previously found the
new evidence supporting his innocence no matter how diligently they looked
for it. And he must show that the new testimony, viewed in light of all
the evidence, is enough to prove "by clear and convincing evidence thatno
reasonable fact finder would have found [him] guilty."
The 11th Circuit added a twist. It asked the parties to address whether
Davis can still be executed if he can establish innocence under the 2nd
standard but cannot satisfy his burden under the first, due-diligence
The court gave Davis' lawyers 15 days to file their legal brief and state
attorneys another 10 days to respond.
In July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay less
than 24 hours before Davis was to be put to death. Last month, the Supreme
Court halted Davis' execution with less than 2 hours to spare.
Nichols' mother calls him easygoing, 'a gentleman'----After courthouse
shootings, she wrote she wished him dead
Brian Nichols' mother took the witness stand Friday to testify on behalf
of the son whom she said she once wished had died after he killed 4
Claritha Nichols described a healthy relationship between her son and a
woman whom he was later accused of raping, an act that would later set in
motion what became known as the Fulton Courthouse shooting.
Claritha Nichols described a healthy relationship between her son and a
woman whom he was later accused of raping.Related links:
As the 88th witness testify in the now month-long death-penalty trial,
Claritha Nichols told how she had socialized with the girlfriend's
parents, attended weddings and "pig pickings" together and how their
children seemed to have a blissful relationship during most of the7 years
they were together. She never saw her son argue with or mistreat any woman
much less the woman who would ultimately accuse him of a brutal rape.
"He was always a gentleman," Claritha Nichols said. "He intended to marry
(her) and of course that made me very happy. She was such a fine person
and they were good for each other."
But the woman testified earlier in the trial that the relationship had
deteriorated rapidly in its last year after Brian Nichols had impregnated
another woman. A psychologist testified this week the former girlfriend
was a controlling woman who objected to Nichols friends but apparently was
unaware of heavy daily marijuana use.
Friday, after praying in the corridor before entering the Superior
Courtroom, the 64-year-old, soft-spoken Claritha Nichols painted a gentler
picture of her son who has been portrayed as a monster by prosecutors.
She described an easygoing man who was heavily involved with a small
church in Gwinnett County and someone who had quickly advanced from a
security-guard job to one as an UNIX system administrator at UPS that paid
$80,000 a year once he decided to buckle down.
She said her son and his girlfriend loved the close-knit church and were
baptized together. "It was so small that when the pastor asked the choir
to sing, half the congregation would get up behind the pastor and sing."
She testified that she was extremely disappointed when she learned that
her son had impregnated another woman and that undermined his relationship
with the long-term girlfriend. "I said perhaps (she) was too organized for
you and tried to make you more responsible God knows you needed it,"
Claritha Nichols read from an e-mail that she had sent her son.
The Atanta Journal-Constitution is not the naming the long-term girlfriend
because the paper has a policy of not naming sexual-assault victims. The
woman ended the relationship in July 2004 and she accused Nichols of
raping her on Aug. 19, 2005 after taking her captive in her home.
The mother's testimony came after Mark Cunningham, a psychologist hired by
the defense, testified that her son suffers from delusional disorder, a
mental illness that allows him to act logically and appear normal but
still be so deluded as to believe he was carrying out a "slave rebellion"
by killing a judge, a court reporter and 2 law officers. One of the
officers was off duty at a house he was building, and Nichols said he him
killed out of self defense.
Nichols confessed to committing the killings on March 11, 2005, after he
escaped from custody before his rape trial resumed that morning. He told
police he didnt want to be made into a slave and he viewed the justice
system as racially oppressive and prisons as a substitute for slavery.
Claritha Nichols was thousands of miles away from her Jonesboro home,
working in Tanzania, when her son killed the judge presiding over his rape
trial and the court reporter, using the pistol of a deputy he had
After the killings, Claritha Nichols' shock and anguish came out in an
e-mail to a friend at the Fulton County Sheriff's office who was also a
deacon at Shiloh Baptist Church in Jonesboro to which she and her husband
"Me and Gene are grieving and angry Brian is still alive," she wrote to
the deputy in an e-mail. "If he would've killed himself there would be
finality. We now have to wait years for (the) judicial system to execute
The Altanta Journal-Constitution obtained the e-mails in 2005 through the
state open-records law. Claritha Nichols has said she regretted making the
statement about wishing her son dead. The parents released a statement in
August 2005 in which they said they still loved their son.
Cunningham, the $250-an-hour psychologist hired by the defense, said
Nichols still has delusional disorder as the defendant listened
impassively to the testimony. Cunningham, a professional witness, is being
paid by the state. So far his billed for more than 300 hours would total
at least $75,000.
Psychologist says parents have role in Nichols' problems
2 people who played a role in causing Nichols' illness are his parents,
Cunningham said. He testified the parents both worked long hours when he
was growing up; his father running a series of failed businesses, and his
mother who then worked as a regional manager for the Internal Revenue
Service being absent from home for days or weeks at time.
"I had too much responsibility," Claritha Nichols testified Friday.
Cunningham described her as emotionally absent and disengaged from her two
sons when they were growing up in Baltimore. The psychologist seemed
particularly shocked that neither parent visited Nichols when he was in
the Fulton County jail for seven months before his rape trial. When they
returned to the United States from Tanzania, where Claritha was working,
for a visit, they did not come to Atlanta.
Nichols confessed to killing Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court
reporter Julie Ann Brandau, Sheriffs Deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley at the
courthouse and David Wilhelm, an off-duty federal agent while on the run.
(source for both: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Death penalty option in case----Suspect ruled not mentally retarded
Prosecutors now have clearance to seek the death penalty in Michael
Miller's 1st-degree murder case after his mental health evaluation
concluded that he is not mentally retarded.
The attorneys had a status conference about Miller's mental health Friday
morning, and test results showed that his IQ is at a sufficient level,
according to Miller's attorney, public defender Craig Colwart.
A grand jury indicted Miller on first-degree murder charges in early June
following the December 2007 death of his 7-year-old son, Dylan Louviere,
in Iberia Parish.
The boy, according to autopsy results, died from repeated blows to the
head, causing brain-stem damage.
After evaluating the reports, Iberia Parish coroner James Falterman said
other injuries were visible to Louviere's body, but they did not
contribute to his death.
The boy's father told Iberia Parish sheriff's deputies that he had
accidentally fell on top of the boy with a ladder while decorating for
He originally faced a second-degree murder charge, but the charge was
upgraded after investigators found conflicting facts in Miller's statement
and the autopsy report.
Colwart said the results of the status conference will "get the ball
rolling on the case" as they are set to have a motions hearing on Feb. 26.
Motions have to be filed by Jan. 15.
Colwart asked for his client to undergo mental evaluation to protect his
rights under the December 2002 Atkins v. Virginia Supreme Court decision.
This ruling forbids anyone who is classified as mentally retarded from
being sentenced to death for a capital murder crime.
Miller's IQ scores were in the 80s, indicating that he is not mentally
retarded. Both sides have accepted the evaluation results, Colwart said.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Odinet, who is handling the case for
the prosecution, said the mental evaluation results do not change the
The death penalty is still just an option at this point, as no official
decision about it has been made, he said.
Odinet said for now, they will continue to focus on the discovery process,
which includes interviewing prospective witnesses and gathering more
Colwart and Odinet both agreed that the murder trial may not begin until
late next year, as three older murder cases in the 16th Judicial District
are currently being handled.
In the meantime, Miller's charges of child pornography, sexual battery and
child molestation are tentatively set to be handled at a Dec. 9 trial.
But Colwart and Odinet disagree on the order that the sex charges should
Odinet said the state would rather go forward and get the sex charges out
of the way before starting the murder trial, while Colwart would rather
concentrate on the murder case for now.
The sex charges stem from photographs that were found on Miller's computer
during the investigation of his son's death.
(source: The Daily Advertiser)
Death penalty issue surfaces in Montana's chief justice race
The politically charged issue of the death penalty has surfaced in the
nonpartisan race for chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court, with one
candidate acknowledging he'd have to recuse himself from certain cases
because of his opposition to capital punishment.
Helena attorney Ron Waterman has no qualms about sharing his anti-death
penalty views. And he says he's been such an outspoken opponent that he
would have to disqualify himself from any such cases that come before the
Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath, on the other hand, has been less
forthcoming on the subject. During a recent interview with The Associated
Press, he declined to discuss his opinion on the death penalty, saying it
wouldn't be appropriate for a potential justice to take sides on an issue
that could come before the court.
The state has executed three people since the death penalty was reinstated
in the 1970s. 2 others, Ronald Smith and William Gollehon, remain on
Montana's death row.
On the Net: Montana Supreme Court: http://www.montanacourts.org/supreme/
Montana Abolition Coalition: http://mtabolitionco.org/
(source: Associated Press)
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