[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., GA., OHIO, DEL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 29 18:44:36 CDT 2008
L.A. announces plan to reduce backlog of unexamined DNA evidence from
violent crimes City officials acknowledge that the funding of the $700,000
effort is uncertain. The proposal is scheduled for a City Council vote
Top city officials Tuesday unveiled a plan to help the Los Angeles Police
Department's crime lab reduce its massive backlog of unexamined DNA
evidence from violent crimes, but they acknowledged that the funding for
the proposal was less than certain.
Under the terms of the plan, which the City Council is expected to vote on
today, the LAPD would allocate $700,000 to hire 16 more DNA analysts and
support staff -- a boost of about 33% over current staffing. The city
would also increase by $250,000 the funds earmarked to pay private
laboratories that the LAPD hires to help with the daunting workload.
200 sex assault cases pass prosecution...Video: Thousands of DNA rape kits
never processed "Our fundamental duty as elected officials is to ensure
the safety and well-being of each of our residents," Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa said at a late afternoon news conference attended by Police
Chief William J. Bratton and City Council members. "When crimes are
committed, particularly the heinous crimes of rape -- we have a solemn
obligation to seek justice."
Despite the rhetoric, however, the proposal is not a panacea and does not
guarantee that the LAPD will have the funds it needs to process the entire
backlog of roughly 7,000 cases, authorities acknowledged. Even if
approved, the plan would still fall about $900,000 short of what is needed
to keep pace with new crimes and meet the LAPD's goal of clearing about
2,500 of the older cases this year. Also, at least $4.2 million in
additional funds would be needed in coming years to fill 20 more analyst
positions and continue the contracts with outside labs. LAPD and city
officials expressed hope that the shortfall could be made up from private
donations and increased federal funding.
"I hope the political commitment being made here today continues in the
next several years," Bratton said. Then, referring to Councilman Jack
Weiss, he added: "As Mr. Weiss has also pointed out, this is not a
one-time fix." Weiss has long fought for increased funding for DNA
analysis and spearheaded the city's current proposal.
The hastily arranged news conference was the culmination of several months
of mounting concern for the mayor, Bratton and top advisors as the LAPD
came under increasing criticism for its efforts to reduce the backlog. In
August, The Times reported that bookkeeping mistakes had resulted in the
LAPD losing nearly $500,000 in federal grant money earmarked for DNA
analysis. And, last week, City Controller Laura Chick released an audit of
the DNA lab, which found that 200 potential sex crime cases have not been
prosecuted because Los Angeles police officials failed to meet legal
deadlines to test DNA evidence.
Rapes, homicides and other violent crimes have fallen dramatically in the
six years since Bratton took over the department. With too few DNA
analysts on staff and too little funding for outsourcing, however,
department officials have said they were helpless to eliminate the
In a tight budget, the funding for the DNA analysts would come at a cost
for the LAPD: It would forgo filling some other civilian positions this
year. The additional outsourcing funds were expected to come from a pool
of healthcare money turned over to the city by a coalition of unions as
part of a cost-saving agreement reached earlier in the year.
At its best, DNA analysis provides detectives investigating violent or
property crimes with nearly airtight evidence to link a suspect to a
crime. The DNA contained in semen collected after a rape, for example, can
be examined through an elaborate process to produce a genetic profile of
The most pressing cases for the LAPD are the roughly 520 cases of sexual
assault, homicide and other crimes in which detectives have requested DNA
analysis to help in their investigation, but have had to wait because of
the lab's limited resources. The remainder of the backlog -- evidence from
about 6,600 alleged sex crimes -- is from cases in which the detectives
have not yet requested DNA analysis. It is unknown how many of those cases
have already been resolved and how many might benefit from an examination
of the genetic evidence. Regardless, LAPD officials, like officials in
other law enforcement agencies facing similar problems, have said they
want to analyze the DNA evidence from all the cases.
Sarah Tofte, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, which has drawn
attention to DNA backlog issues in law enforcement agencies around the
country, raised concerns about whether the LAPD had "a comprehensive plan"
in place that was needed to take advantage of the increased funding. Tofte
said the LAPD would have to make a commitment similar to the one made by
the New York Police Department, which assigned extra detectives to work on
nothing but backlogged cases.
"Getting rid of the backlog won't mean anything to rape victims unless it
translates into more investigations of rape cases, and more arrests,
prosecutions and convictions," she said. "This is like someone trying to
build a house without any blueprints."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Baptist criminal-justice activist applauds Ga. stay of execution
An American Baptist minister who advocates criminal-justice reform hailed
as a "miracle" the latest stay of execution for a black man convicted of
murdering a white Georgia police officer nearly 20 years ago.
Alan Bean of the Arlington, Texas-based group Friends of Justice was one
of about 600 death-penalty protestors who demonstrated on the steps of the
Georgia State Capitol on the eve of the most recent scheduled date for
execution of Troy Davis.
The provisional stay was issued Sept. 24 by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals. It was the 3rd such stay for Davis, 40. His
lawyers were given 15 days to file documents, after which the court will
have 10 days to decide if the case should go back to a lower court, which
could order a new trial.
Bean, best known for bringing attention to alleged racial injustice
related to incidents at a Jena, La., high school in 2006, said the stay of
execution was not expected. Davis has lost several appeals based on claims
he is an innocent man.
Several public meetings and rallies were held in recent weeks around
Atlanta demanding a new trial for Davis. One included about 1,000 people,
who marched from a local park to Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic
congregation once co-pastored by Martin Luther King Jr. and Sr.
About 140,000 people signed a petition to halt Davis' execution by lethal
injection. Pleas for commutation of his sentence came from former
President Jimmy Carter, former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South
Africa and Pope Benedict XVI. Other supporters include entertainer Harry
Belafonte and Sister Helen Prejean, the nun whose anti-death penalty
activism inspired the film Dead Man Walking.
Davis has spent 17 years on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989 murder of Mark
Allen MacPhail, a 27-year-old police officer in Savannah.
People close to Davis say he was wrongly convicted. There was no physical
evidence linking him to the crime, and a murder weapon was never found.
The case against him was solely based on witness testimony implicating
him, and 7 of the 9 witnesses against him have since recanted.
Bean said he doesn't know if Davis is guilty or innocent -- which, he
contends, is precisely why there needs to be a new trial. What is clear
from reading court documents, Bean said in a recent blog, is that "law
enforcement shaped testimony through threats and promises."
"Police officers, outraged by the savage and merciless slaying of one of
their own, rushed to judgment [and] then shaped the 'evidence' to support
a hastily-reached conclusion," he wrote.
Bean said the issue for him is not about Troy Davis or even just the death
penalty. "Ultimately, this new movement is about our broken
criminal-justice system and the urgent need for sweeping reform."
Friends of Justice started in 1999 in response to a drug sting in Tulia,
Texas, in which half of the town's black males were arrested and convicted
on the uncorroborated testimony of an undercover narcotics officer. The
group advocates greater due-process protections for poor people of color,
who populate the criminal-justice system in numbers disproportionate to
their percentage of the population.
Bean labels that disparity the "New Jim Crow" and compares modern-day
justice reform to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He
said the Georgia rally on behalf of Davis "felt like the early stages of a
"If you are the praying kind, please continue to pray for Troy Davis and
for the nation that isn't sure what to do with him," Bean wrote.
(source: Associated Baptist Press)
Inmate who testified against Nichols hospitalized after beating----Tiller
attacked by 5 prisoners shortly after returning to jail from courthouse
A key witness against Brian Nichols was beaten at the Fulton County jail
Tuesday night almost immediately after testifying that Brian Nichols'
killing of a judge was premeditated.
Five prisoners attacked Willie Tiller shortly after he returned from
Fulton County Superior Court, said Riley Taylor, an auditor who is
overseeing the jail compliance with a federal court order designed to make
the jail safer.
Willie Tiller testified Tuesday in Brian Nichols murder trial. He was
beaten shortly after he returned to jail from giving his testimony.
Taylor, a former captain in the Fulton County Sheriffs Office, criticized
jail officials for not protecting Tiller, a convicted armed robber who had
volunteered to testify against Nichols.
Taylor audits the jails progress to meet a 2006 federal court order after
a lawsuit highlighted dangerous and unsanitary conditions in the jail. U.S
District Judge Marvin Shoob?s order, designed to make the jail safer and
healthier, capped the inmate population at 2,250, order $54 million in
renovations, and set minimum staffing levels in part so that there would
be enough guards to keep inmates safe.
"It was clear retaliation for his testimony in the Nichols trial that was
his (Tiller) statement," Taylor said. "They should have taken more due
caution because his testimony was all over the news. But it didnt happen
Tiller identified his attackers from photographs. One of them he
identified was Kenneth Reese, who, like Nichols, is charged with murdering
a law officer and is awaiting his own death-penalty trial. At least two of
the other attackers have murder charges, Taylor said.
Nichols confessed to killing four people including the judge who was
presiding over his rape trial after he escaped from custody at the Fulton
County Courthouse in 2005. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of
Part of Nichols? defense is that the conditions of the jail contributed to
making him insane.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan confirmed the attack but
wouldn't give any details except to say that Tiller's injuries were not
life-threatening. Superior Court Judge James Bodiford, who is presiding
over Nichols' trial, has asked state and defense lawyers officials not to
comment publicly about the case.
The attack happened in the segregation wing of the jail that houses
high-profile inmates and it occurred when guards were serving supper in
another section, Taylor said.
Tiller fought off his attackers, and guards arrived shortly afterwards,
"They found Tiller standing with his face bloody," Taylor said. "His eyes
were swollen from the blows to the head."
Tiller was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital as a precaution in case he
suffered internal injuries, Taylor said.
Tiller had testified at length Tuesday about how Nichols told him he was
planning to kill Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes because he thought
the judge wasn't treating him fairly. Nichols told him he planned to
escape by overpowering a guard, getting a gun and shooting his way to
freedom if necessary, Tiller said.
That is what happened on March 11, 2005 when Nichols killed Barnes, court
reporter Julie Ann Brandau and Sheriffs Deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley at the
Fulton County Courthouse.
He also confessed to killing David Wilhelm, an off-duty federal agent, in
Buckhead while on the run.
A psychologist, hired by the defense, testified that Nichols suffers from
a delusional disorder that made him believe he was leading a "slave
rebellion" against the justice system.
Cellmate says he asked Nichols to give up escape plan
A hardened criminal cried when testifying Tuesday that he shared the blame
for the Fulton Courthouse shooting because he knew of Brian Nichols'
violent escape plan.
Willie Tiller Jr., 39, said he shared a jail cell with Nichols who said
he didn't think he was getting a fair shake at his rape trial from
Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and feared entering prison as a
convicted rapist. Other inmates often harass sex offenders.
Prosecutor Brett Pinion kept a tally Tuesday of improvements Former
appointed Fulton County Jail Receiver John Gibson made at the jail.
"He said if he had his chance, he would kill him, the judge," Tiller said.
"He said 'If he could, he would teach him a lesson. He would show him who
he was playing with."
Tiller said that Nichols believed as it turned out, erroneously that
Barnes had refused to accept a 15-year sentence in exchange for Nichols
pleading guilty to raping his girlfriend. A conviction would have meant
life in prison.
The case went to trial first in February 2004 and ended in a hung jury,
with the majority of jurors favoring acquittal leading Nichols to
believe, Tiller said, that he would get out of jail on bond or he might
not be retried at all.
Instead Barnes ordered the case retried the next week putting the defense
at a disadvantage because a key witnesses would be having a baby and not
be able to testify.
Nichols told Tiller that he planned to subdue a guard when changing into a
suit for trial, get the guards gun and escape, shooting his way to
freedom, if necessary.
That is exactly what Nichols later confessed to doing on March 11, 2005
except he detoured to Barnes chambers, where he took the staff captive,
and killed Barnes and his court reporter, who were in the courtroom for a
civil hearing before Nichols trial resumed.
"He said 'there ain't nothing to do but take it into my own hands,'"
Tiller told the jury. "I asked him not to do it I asked him a thousand
times not to.
"In my time, I've done a lot of dirt but that was too much over the edge."
Tiller, a career criminal who has been in and out prison for 19 years,
said he had promised Nichols not to divulge the escape plans.
Instead, he said he counseled Nichols to "man up," do his time and that he
owed it to his mother "not to do anything stupid and kill somebody."
He last saw Nichols a few days before the courthouse shooting, when Tiller
left to start serving his 10-year sentence for armed robbery.
"When they called my name to pack it up I told him before I left the
room, 'Promise me you won't do nothing crazy. Be a man. Man up.'
"He looked me in the eye and said, 'I promise you Im not going to do it.'
And we hugged and I left."
On the day of the shootings, Tiller said he was called to the prison
wardens office, where he was met by a swarm of law officers. They turned
on the TV, and he saw that Nichols had broken his promise.
He also learned Nichols had also killed a sheriffs deputy who pursued him
outside the courthouse and, later that night, an off-duty federal agent in
a house the agent was building in Buckhead.
Tiller said he told the investigators little and feared being held
accountable for the shooting. Later he wrote a letter to District Attorney
Paul Howard and offered to testify. He said prosecutors offered him
nothing in return for his testimony and that his sentence requires he
serve the full 10 years.
He said he had always liked Nichols. They played chess in jail and were an
unbeaten basketball 2-on-2 team on the jailhouse court. He said he still
considers Nichols a friend but he couldn't condone the killings.
He wiped tears from his eyes when telling how he shouldn't have honored
his promise to Nichols.
"I thought maybe the best thing to do was to tell the truth and get it off
my conscience," Tiller said. "I guess I should have told somebody I guess
it was as much my fault as his fault for not telling no one."
Asked if Nichols, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, ever
seemed mentally off during the months he knew him, Tiller said: "I'm not a
psychologist or anything like that, but, naah, he ain't crazy."
(source for both: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
University Hts.: Sister Helen Prejean to speak on death penalty at JCU
Sister Helen Prejean will speak on what she believes is a flawed judicial
system and the impact of poverty, as it relates to the death penalty, from
5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 5 in Donahue Auditorium at the Dolan Center for Science
and Technology at John Carroll University, 20700 N. Park Blvd.
Prejean, the 2004 recipient of the JCU Cardinal Suenens Award, is one of
the world's leading authorities and outspoken critics of state-sponsored
As founder of Survive, a victim's advocacy group in New Orleans, she
continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of
murder victims as well.
The free event is sponsored by The Cardinal Suenens Center at JCU. Call
(source: The Plain Dealer)
Court upholds execution policy adoption
The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a
lawsuit that claimed that the state's lethal injection policy was
In a 2-page order released Tuesday, the court agreed that Delaware prison
officials did not violate state law in adopting a new lethal injection
protocol without allowing for public review or comment.
The court said state law exempts Department of Correction policies and
procedures from the public review and comment provisions of the
Administrative Procedures Act.
The lawsuit was brought by attorneys representing condemned ax murderer
Robert Jackson III, who is also challenging Delaware's lethal injection
policy in federal court.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty