[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----VA., OHIO, N.MEX., USA, KY.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Aug 12 17:54:17 CDT 2011
Arlington prosecutor candidates differ on death, drugs and experience
At first glance, the race to become Arlington County’s next prosecutor wouldn’t
seem to be a close call: Theo Stamos, a 24-year veteran prosecutor, backed by
all the political might and money of Arlington, versus David Deane, a criminal
defense lawyer with less than 3 years of prosecution experience in Fairfax
But Deane is raising some interesting issues that might gain some traction in
the hard-left leaning districts of Arlington, particularly his view that he
would never seek the death penalty if elected. Which is quite a thing for any
prosecutor to say. Whether anyone is paying attention right now, that’s another
First, some context. Criminal prosecutors, called commonwealth’s attorneys in
Virginia, are quietly powerful people. They decide who gets charged with
crimes, and chances are if you get charged with a crime, you’re gonna get
convicted. That’s a lot more power than any state delegate or senator can wield
in court. But for some reason, when prosecutors’ elections are held, they don’t
attract much interest from voters or the media. Maybe because there aren’t many
differences on the key issues. ”I’ll be tough on criminals.” “I’ll be tough on
There are only 2 prosecutors’ elections in Northern Virginia this year: the
Democratic primary in Arlington (which also handles Falls Church City) on Aug.
23, which will decide the successor to retiring Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard
Trodden; and a general election in Loudoun County in November between incumbent
Republican Jim Plowman and Democrat Jennifer Wexton. The incumbents in Fairfax
(Ray Morrogh) and Prince William (Paul Ebert) are unopposed, and Alexandria’s
election is in 2013.
Theophani Stamos, 53, is a Chicago native who still has the accent and South
Side edge that have endeared her to cops, fellow prosecutors and even defense
attorneys, who respect rather than badmouth her. She is also a recovering
newspaper reporter, with a journalism and political science degree from
Northern Illinois University, and stints at Chicago’s legendary City News
Bureau (sort of that city’s own wire service in newspapers’ heyday, with
graduates such as Kurt Vonnegut, Mike Royko and Herblock), the Bureau of
National Affairs and The Washington Times.
But she wanted to be a participant, not an observer, so she began going to
night law school at American University, and when she graduated in 1987 a
vacancy had just opened in the Arlington prosecutor’s office. She was hired by
then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Helen Fahey, and has never worked anywhere else
She has been Trodden’s chief deputy for the last eight years, has handled
numerous big cases including a dozen murder trials and an estimated thousand or
so bench trials. She won convictions in the 2003 triple murder trial of Zachary
Cooper and the 2006 decapitation murder by Matthew Pahno, among many other
David W. Deane, 39, the son of an FBI agent and grandson of a Greene County,
Va., sheriff, grew up in Chesapeake. (His uncle is current Prince William
Police Chief Charlie Deane.) He earned his bachelor’s degree in political
science from James Madison University and his law degree from George Mason, and
was hired as an assistant prosecutor by then-Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney
Robert F. Horan in January 1998.
He was not in the office long enough to try many heavy-hitting cases; he went
into private practice in October 2000 with the firm of Albo and Oblon, where
he’s been ever since. Deane argues that yes, Stamos has been a prosecutor for
24 years versus his less-than-three, but he’s practiced in state and federal
courts on “both sides of the aisle. I kind of bring a new set of eyes to this
Other new eyes Deane would bring in, he says, would be Spanish-speaking
prosecutors, of which there are none in the Arlington office now. Arlington has
a sizable Hispanic population which would be better served with prosecutors who
could speak directly to victims, rather than through interpreters, Deane said.
Stamos said police and prosecutors have long experience dealing with
non-English speakers from many different backgrounds, and represent them just
as well in court.
Deane said he is completely opposed to capital punishment. He said it is far
more costly to prosecute someone all the way to the death chamber, it has no
deterrent effect on crime, and “it’s hypocritical. It’s the state saying, ‘You
murdered somebody, so we’re going to murder you.’ As a society, we need to say
we’re better than those people.”
At a public forum, Deane said he would not have sought the death penalty for
D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad. He said the life-without-parole punishment of
Muhammad’s co-conspirator, Lee Boyd Malvo, is ”harsher than getting a needle in
your arm.” Deane also said that in Arlington “a lot of people I’ve talked to
oppose the death penalty, so this would be taking the community’s sensibility
Stamos, while wondering whether some of Deane’s stances are newly tailored to
Arlington’s liberal community, said, “My position’s been consistent. There are
certain cases where the community needs to weigh in on whether the death
penalty is an appropriate sentence.” In Virginia, juries impose sentences as
well as decide guilt or innocence, and though judges can reduce a jury
sentence, they rarely do.
“The community decides the penalty,” Stamos said. “I think it’s the
responsibility of the prosecutor to put the question to the community in the
appropriate cases.” She sought death in the case of Cooper, who killed his
wife, girlfriend and child, but the jury gave him a life sentence.
So why not bring capital murder charges in every murder case, and let the
juries sort them out? “That’s where my 24 years of prosecutorial discretion
comes into play,” Stamos said. She said there are cases where the best result
is not the death penalty, where it’s not worthwhile to pursue it, and that she
is best qualified to decide when that is. She said her experience plays into
all levels of cases, not just murders, which are infrequent in Arlington and
Deane also favors starting a drug court in Arlington, with more intensive
supervision of drug defendants. Stamos said “you have to work very hard to get
incarcerated in Arlington for drug possession,” and that with shrinking
judicial resources she would rather press for better use of probation and
Deane has an uphill battle. If money matters, he has raised less than $8,000,
and had less than $2,200 on hand as of June 30.
Stamos has raised nearly $100,000, and had more than $60,000 on hand as of June
30. Her website notes that the Arlington and Falls Church police officers’
associations endorse her, as do four of the five members of the Arlington
County Board, various other elected officials and prosecutors from around the
(source: Washington Post)
OHIO----new death sentence
Judge: Ohio killer of 11 deserves to die
A serial killer deserves the death penalty for murdering 11 women and dumping
their bodies around his property, a judge said Friday.
Judge Dick Ambrose announced the decision after a 45-minute analysis of Anthony
Sowell's crimes and background factors in Sowell's favor. Formal sentencing was
to follow a series of statements from the relatives of victims.
Sowell slumped back in his chair without emotion as the judge announced his
Dozens of relatives were in the courtroom. As the sentencing hearing began,
deputies passed around boxes of tissues to the relatives and warned against any
outburst. Those asking to address the court included the daughter of 1 victim
and a woman whose niece was killed by Sowell.
Court administrator Greg Popovich said that with a number of people expected to
make statements, the hearing could run up to 3 hours.
Sowell was seated in court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed
with waist chains. He was arrested on Halloween 2009, 2 days after police went
to his house on a sexual-assault complaint and began finding bodies.
He went on trial in June and was convicted July 22 on 82 counts: aggravated
murder, kidnapping, corpse abuse and evidence tampering.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Pinky Carr has said the case "screamed
death penalty." Her prosecution colleague, Richard Bombik, said "if this guy
doesn't get the death penalty, nobody should."
Sowell's defense team, John Parker and Rufus Sims, rested without calling
witnesses and instead focused on sparing his life with sympathetic testimony
about his troubled childhood, his Marine Corps service and good behavior while
serving 15 years for attempted rape.
The women began disappearing in 2007, and prosecutors say Sowell lured them to
his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police discovered the 1st 2
bodies and a freshly dug grave in late 2009 after officers went to investigate
a woman's report that she had been raped there.
Many of the slain women had been missing for weeks or months, and some had
criminal records. They were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets,
then dumped in various parts of the house and yard. There was little left of
one victim: a skull in a plastic bucket with non-human bite marks on the edge.
The rotting bodies created an overpowering stench that neighbors blamed on an
adjacent sausage factory. The owner spent $20,000 on new plumbing fixtures and
sewer lines, to no avail.
Most of the victims were nude from the waist down, strangled with household
objects and had traces of cocaine or depressants in their systems. All the
victims were black, as is Sowell.
Jurors sat through weeks of disturbing and emotional testimony before
convicting Sowell. They saw photographs of the victims' blackened, skeletal
corpses lying on autopsy tables and listened to police describe how their
bodies had been left to rot in Sowell's Cleveland home and backyard.
Sowell took the stand Monday to make an unsworn statement in which he
"The only thing I want to say is I'm sorry," Sowell told the jury. "I know that
might not sound like much, but I truly am sorry from the bottom of my heart."
The jury didn't buy it: They said his statement, which was guided by questions
from Parker, sounded rehearsed and lacked remorse.
Sowell wasn't subject to cross-examination, so prosecutors didn't get to ask
why he killed the women and lived in the house for two years with their remains
bagged in corners or buried in the backyard.
Sowell mostly sat impassively during the trial but smiled at childhood
recollections by a half-brother and a greeting from his stepmother's
88-year-old mother, who looked up from the witness stand and seemed surprised
to see him.
(source: Associated Press)
Ohio serial killer Sowell gets death penalty
A judge on Friday sentenced serial killer Anthony Sowell to death and set his
execution date, heeding the recommendation of the jury that convicted the
ex-Marine earlier this week.
Judge Dick Ambrose sentenced Sowell, 51, to death on all 11 counts of murder
and gave him the maximum sentence on the other charges, bringing a sentence 264
years in prison.
Sowell's execution date was set for October 29, 2012.
Sowell was convicted last month of 82 counts of kidnapping, assault, rape,
murder and attempted murder.
In 2009, police attempting to arrest Sowell for rape and assault found the
decomposing bodies of 11 women in his house and buried in the back yard.
Sowell, handcuffed and shackled, had his eyes closed as the sentence was
He was unresponsive as the judge asked if he understood his responsibility as a
sex offender and his right to automatic appeal.
Astorga loses key death penalty arguments
A District Court judge sided with the state on all three motions in the death
penalty sentencing case against convicted cop-killler Michael Astorga.
Astorga has already been convicted of killing Bernalillo County Sheriff Deputy
James McGrane during a traffic stop in 2006.
But today Judge Neil Candelaria agreed with the state that Astorga’s defense
team must give the state a list of witnesses who will take part in the
The judge also agreed with the state’s argument that Astorga’s defense cannot
reintroduce evidence to try to convince the sentencing jury that Astorga is
That issue has already been decided, Candelaria ruled.
Extra security was on hand as Astorga was escorted into the court room this
His sentencing phase will take place next month and is expected to last 4
(source: KOB News)
The Ugly Business of Lethal Injection----Attorneys trying to prevent the
cruelty of a botched execution are challenging states' efforts to conduct
experiments on their clients with new execution drugs.
The pretense of lethal injection as a peaceful and painless way to execute
prisoners is unraveling, and this may change the face of the death penalty in
the United States.
In September 2009, the state of Ohio tried to execute Romell Broom. The
execution team, with Broom's cooperation and even assistance, poked and prodded
him with needles for more than 2 hours but was unable to find a usable vein. It
wasn't the first bungled lethal injection in Ohio, but it was the first to end
with the inmate still alive.
Since 1977, states have adopted the Orwellian practice of staging executions to
look like benign medical procedures. This charade was designed to obscure
reality. But now botched executions, such as Broom's, and increasingly pointed
objections from the pharmaceutical industry, have focused attention on the
legally and ethically dubious ways lethal injection actually works.
In March 2010 Hospira Inc., the sole Food and Drug Administration-approved
manufacturer of sodium thiopental, formally asked Ohio prison officials and
other states not to use the drug for executions. This plea fell on deaf ears,
so in January 2011 Hospira ceased its production.
A mad scramble for a new source ensued. But in a globalized pharmaceutical
marketplace, the search for sodium thiopental collided with the rest of the
world's growing opposition to the death penalty. Novartis, a Swiss-based drug
company, quickly announced that it would prevent the export of its generic
version of sodium thiopental to the United States.
Several states acquired it from Dream Pharma, a small distributor operating out
of a driving school in London, but much of it was confiscated by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency due to its questionable origins. Nebraska purchased its new
sodium thiopental from Kayem, a supplier in India. Like Hospira and Novartis,
Kayem tried to disassociate itself from lethal injection, stating that it would
no longer sell the drug for use in executions, which it said aren't consistent
with the "ethos of Hinduism." In the end Nebraska destroyed its newly purchased
Without reliable sources of sodium thiopental, states have turned to a new
anesthetic, pentobarbital, manufactured by Denmark-based Lundbeck. On June 23
of this year, Roy Blankenship was put to death in Georgia with Lundbeck's drug,
even though the company had declared it was "not safe" and asked the Peach
State not to use it. Pentobarbital, like sodium thiopental, is an anesthetic,
and its purpose in executions is to render the prisoner unconscious so that the
killing drugs that follow do not cause excruciating pain. Instead, Blankenship
reacted strongly to this anesthetic, jerking his head, blinking rapidly,
lunging and mouthing inaudible words.
Rather than halting executions temporarily to conduct a full investigation of
what happened to Blankenship, the state responded to this debacle by agreeing
to another death row inmate's demand that the next execution be videotaped. The
inmate wanted to prove that this drug could cause pain and suffering.
This response illustrates the relentless enthusiasm with which Georgia and some
other states pursue executions. Eager prosecutors and prison officials, with
the support of compliant courts, have managed to keep death chambers active.
There have been more than 90 executions since the bungled lethal injection
attempt of Romell Broom.
But this may soon change. Attorneys trying to prevent the cruelty of a botched
execution will continue to challenge states' efforts to conduct experiments on
their clients with new execution drugs. In fact, states with small death rows
and few executions, seeing costs but no benefits to being associated with such
a sordid spectacle, will likely opt out by abolishing capital punishment
outright, following the examples set by New Jersey, New Mexico, and Illinois.
Recent developments have permanently destroyed the myth of the humane
execution. Lethal injection has been exposed as an ugly business, designed to
divert attention from the even uglier reality that states are carrying out
deliberate pre-meditated killings.
And in the end, that's what's wrong with capital punishment.
(source: OtherWords; Brian Evans is with Amnesty International USA's Death
Penalty Abolition Campaign. www.amnestyusa.org)
After 75 years, last public hanging haunts city
Bob Howe points to an overgrown, muddy patch of land in a cemetery in
Owensboro, gesturing to where the grave of the last man publicly executed in
the United States may be.
"I think it was over there," said Howe, an 81-year-old lifelong Owensboro
resident and retired county coroner. "I used to pass it on the way to school.
That's what I was told. It was over there somewhere."
The grave is anonymous and unmarked, like other places associated with Rainey
Bethea's hanging on Aug. 14, 1936. As the 75th anniversary of the execution
approaches, it is something some in Owensboro would like history to remember
Bethea, a farmhand and sometime criminal, went to the gallows near the banks of
the Ohio River before a throng of people estimated at as many as 20,000 strong.
The execution drew national media coverage focused on a black man being
executed by a white, female sheriff with the help of a professional hangman.
"It was not a carnival in the end," insisted 85-year-old James Thompson, the
son of then-sheriff Florence Thompson.
Still, Kentucky lawmakers cited the negative publicity surrounding Bethea's
hanging in ending public executions in the state in 1938. Kentucky was the last
state to do so. Later, Gov. Albert B. "Happy" Chandler expressed regret at
having approved the repeal, claiming, "Our streets are no longer safe."
By the time Bethea went to the gallows, most states had long since closed
executions to the public and started using the electric chair because hangings
were becoming "ghoulish public events" said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University
law professor who studies the death penalty.
"There was a feeling that with the pain and botched hangings ... it was
inviting the worst in human behavior," Denno said.
That's certainly the way Bethea's death was portrayed nationally.
Headlines from around the country screamed news. From Chicago — "Death Makes a
Holiday: 20,000 Revel Over Hanging." From Evansville, Ind. — "Ghostly Carnival
Precedes Hanging." From Louisville — "'Did You Ever See a Hanging?' 'I Did,'
Everyone in this Kentucky Throng can now Boast." Newspapers described vendors
selling hot dogs, popcorn and drinks.
"Every bar was packed to the doors. Down the main street tipsy merrymakers
rollicked all night. 'Hanging parties' were held in many a home," Time magazine
reported in an Aug. 24, 1936, article.
Sheriff Thompson consulted with a priest before deciding to go through with the
hanging, the magazine said: "Nevertheless, soft-hearted Sheriff Thompson
sighed: 'I suppose I will spend the rest of my life forgetting — or trying to
"It was quite a burden on her," her son said.
Bethea, convicted of rape, was 26 or 27 at the time (records listed only his
year of birth, 1909), and he appears young and thin, wearing a cross on a chain
around his neck, in a photo of his last meal.
Pictures taken the morning of the hanging show a large crowd — men and women,
some holding children — standing in downtown Owensboro, some on the rooftops of
brick buildings. They watched as the execution team put a black hood over
Bethea's head. Then they saw Bethea fall through the trap door. Doctors
pronounced him dead about 10 minutes later.
Perry Ryan, an assistant attorney general in Kentucky who wrote a 1992 book
about Bethea's hanging, "The Last Public Execution in America," said witnesses
didn't recall a rowdy atmosphere as Bethea died.
"I think it was an event they found to be kind of scary," Ryan said. "They just
The crime for which Bethea was tried had played as big news in Owensboro: A
wealthy, white, 70-year-old widow, Elza Edwards, was raped and strangled in her
bed. After less than 5 minutes of deliberation, a jury convicted Bethea of
Under the law at the time, the maximum penalty for a rape conviction was
hanging in the county where the offense occurred. Public hangings had a long
history in many states and sometimes created a spectacle. Just a year before,
in Smithland, Ky., a convicted rapist scolded the crowd and argued with his
accuser before telling the sheriff, "Do a good job with that knot."
No such theatrics occurred at Bethea's hanging, handled by an execution team
headed by professional hangman Phil Hanna of Epworth, Ill. A former Louisville
police officer pulled the trip lever. Sheriff Thompson, who declined that task,
watched from a car near the scaffold.
Had Bethea been convicted of Edwards' murder — prosecutors never pursued that
charge — the sentence would have been a private execution in the electric chair
at the state penitentiary. And since his death, executions have been done in
private, following a precedent set by New York when it switched to the electric
chair in 1898.
The recent video recording of Andrew Grant DeYoung's execution in Georgia for
the 1993 murders of his parents and sister has raised some concerns about the
continued privacy of executions. The video came at the request of defense
attorneys who want to document the effects of the sedative pentobarbital, part
of the lethal injection method. Denno, the Fordham professor, said the video
provides "a big step toward transparency" in capital punishment, but is not a
harbinger of a return to public executions.
"Occasionally, you hear 'Why don't we televise them?' That never really goes
too far," said Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center in
Washington, D.C. "And, it probably won't."
Bethea made a final request in a note to his sister, Ora Fladger, in Nichols,
S.C.: to take possession of his remains and bury them with other family
"So good by and paray that we will meet agin," Bethea wrote.
His remains were not sent east, and there is no record of why. Fladger died in
1980, and letters sent by The Associated Press to other family members drew no
Bethea's body went to a pauper's grave in Rosehill Elmwood Cemetery in
Owensboro, according to Howe, the retired coroner, who at age 6 was deemed too
young by his parents to watch the hanging.
"No one knows where he's buried," said Sheila Heflin, information services
manager at the Daviess County Public Library, which has an archive of materials
related to Bethea's case.
Most remnants of Bethea's hanging are gone from Owensboro, a city of 57,265
about 40 miles east of Evansville, Ind. The gallows are lost to history and the
site where they stood is under development as part of an effort to revitalize a
stretch along the Ohio River.
But, the stigma of having conducted the last public execution in America
Heflin recounted a story of how the library acquired photos of the hanging: A
man walked in with an envelope marked "1937 flood and hanging" and handed the
photos over, saying his family wanted to get rid of the images.
"I don't even know who he was," Heflin said.
The Voices of Elmwood Society, a small group of re-enactors who portray the
lives of famous people buried in the cemetery, has avoided taking on the Bethea
case. Dariush Shafa, a member of the society in Owensboro, said no one has
wanted to raise the ghosts of the execution.
"It's still a sore spot," Shafa said.
As for Florence Thompson, who had succeeded her husband Everett as sheriff upon
his death in 1935, she received both death threats and marriage proposals after
the execution. But she won election to the remaining two years of the term in a
landslide on Nov. 3, 1936.
Still, James Thompson said his mother lived with the decision to carry out the
execution until she died in 1961. Thompson describes his mother — and by
extension, Owensboro — as hard working and committed to carrying out her duties
"She did a good job in the end," Thompson said.
(source: Associated Press)
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