[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----KAN., MO., NEV., WASH.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Aug 15 17:38:26 CDT 2011
Capital Trial for Four Kansas Deaths Could Last Weeks
The capital murder trial for a former Missouri city official accused of
shooting 4 family members in northeast Kansas could last 3 weeks or longer.
Prosecutors are scheduled to begin presenting their case Monday in Osage County
District Court against 48-year-old James Kraig Kahler. They're seeking the
death penalty. The slayings occurred in November 2009 just outside Burlingame,
about 20 miles south of Topeka.
Some evidence is expected to deal with how his estranged wife's alleged
relationship with another woman affected his mental health. One court document
describes it as a lesbian relationship.
The killings came less than 3 months after Kahler was asked to resign as water
director in Columbia, Mo. The victims included not only Kahler's estranged wife
and her grandmother but the Kahlers' 2 daughters.
(source: Associated Press)
An interview with Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean is pleased that the opera does not take sides on the death
penalty issue, she said. She talked to the Beacon about the opera in a
telephone interview from Montana where she has been writing her third book,
"River of Fire," due out in 18 months or so.
"What is important about telling the story in art is that people have an
immediate chance to examine an issue, feel the raw emotion and work that out,"
she said. "We don't preach in the opera, we don't take sides. It gives us a
prism to think about the issues."
In several cities where the opera has played, religious leaders have gathered
for discourses on the death penalty or she has addressed the public at separate
events. From the first when she heard that UAO was doing her story in a church
with the backing of Union Avenue Christian Church, she has been eager and
pleased to see it in a sanctuary. The core Christian mandate to forgive is
important to this opera. And compassion should not just stop with the families
of the murder victims, she said.
"People think that victims are just the survivors of the murdered person but
the family of the murderer is also a victim of the crime," she said. "A big
part of the opera is that you see the pain of the victims' families on one side
but the broader story of the man on death row who did terrible things also has
a mother in pain."
One of her favorite parts in the opera occurs when three mothers sing the same
lyrics mourning their children's deaths, she said. One of those 3 is mother of
the executed man; the other two are the mothers of the teens who were raped and
"The opera uses the story of a man on death row going to his death to bring us
into the deeper more universal need for our redemption," she said.
"The people on the real journey in the opera are the audience," she said.
Prejean, 72, will attend the opening night performance Friday and sign her 2
books in the fellowship hall afterward. Thursday at 8 p.m., the night before
the opera opens. Prejean will talk on the opera set about her ministry as a
spiritual director to inmates and her work as an anti-death penalty advocate
over the past three decades. Thursday night her talk "won't be a lecture, just
story-telling," she said.
>From San Francisco to Dresden her separate events draw good audiences. "Well,
you can't meet Madame Butterfly," she said with a laugh.
In all she has "accompanied" 6 men as their spiritual adviser to their
executions. At least two she believes were innocent. She wrote about them in
her 2nd book the 2004 "The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of
She's a strong advocate for ending the death penalty worldwide and, with
another nun of her order, runs an information project that includes touring the
country giving talks called Ministries Against the Death Penalty. She has great
faith in what she calls the goodness of the American people who can be "waken
up" to look at the issue that innocent men may be killed in the citizens' name.
Now 16 states, including Illinois, have banned executions. Missouri continues
to execute and has killed one man this year, and 68 since 1976 when the death
was reinstated in the U.S. She is encouraged by the drop in executions.
"In Texas, Harris County (which includes Houston) used to have as many as 40
executions a year, but last year two person were given death sentences," she
said. "That means that juries are not handing out death sentences and that
prosecutors are not seeking it the way they once did."
DNA and other new evidentiary proof that have shown that many on death row did
not commit the crime they were convicted of have changed many Americans' stand
on the death penalty, she said. More than 130 people, Prejean said, have been
released from death row since 1973 because evidence has shown they were
innocence of the capital crime.
She won several honors in the South for her decade-long prison spiritual
"accompaniment" before her 1993 novel "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account
of the Death Penalty in the United States." Then, its success topping the New
York Times non-fiction list for 31 weeks and the movie and opera have made her
a go-to person for discussions on the death penalty at university forums and
television news and talk shows.
The same year her 1st book was published she was chairperson of the National
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, whose board she served on for a
The work has not been without controversy, the parent of one of the rape-murder
victims wrote her own book objecting to the nun's work in helping the convict
With help from many religious networks internationally, Prejean hopes to get
the United Nations to have a moratorium on the death penalty. With an Amnesty
International representative and Mario Marizziti of the Rome's religious St.
Egidio community, Prejean presented a petition signed by 2.5 million
individuals to then U.N. secretary General Kofi Annan. This spring she and the
Dali Lama spoke in Arkansas in a public session about public executions, which
he also condemns.
Thursday she might talk about her special concern that the drug long used in
state execution chambers for lethal injection is no longer available, so state
executors are using Nembutal, a sedative commonly used before surgery to induce
sleep. A dose large enough to be lethal takes up four minutes to kill. The
drug's Danish manufacturer has taken many steps to stop its use in executions,
"I don't preach, she said, "it's story telling."
(source: Patricia Rice is a freelance writer who has covered both religion and
music; St. Louis Beacon)
NEVADA----re: foreign national
Serbian government seeks to block execution of citizen who sits on Nevada death
The Serbian government is asking a Nevada court to block the execution of one
of its citizens, saying its consulate was not informed of his 1994 arrest as
required by international law.
Serbia, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed last week in Washoe County
District Court in Reno, maintains the notification would have provided Avram
Nika with assistance that could have spared him the death penalty.
Nika, 41, is on death row at Ely State Prison for the 1994 killing of a good
Samaritan who stopped to help him along Interstate 80 near Reno. He has yet to
exhaust his state and federal appeals.
"(Nika was) particularly vulnerable to the denial of consular assistance due to
his inability to speak English and his lack of familiarity with the U.S. legal
system and culture," Serbia's brief says.
The failure to notify the consulate caused no mitigating evidence to be
presented at his sentencing hearing — such as that he was a hard-working family
man who came from poverty and was discriminated against because he was a member
of a nomadic ethnic group known as Roma, also called Gypsies, according to the
District Attorney Dick Gammick says there was no consulate to contact because
the former Yugoslavia where Nika was from was undergoing drastic change at the
time. Serbia did not exist as a country then, he said, and other countries in
the region came and went.
"If they can be so kind as to tell us which consulate we were supposed to
notify we would have an issue," Gammick told The Associated Press. "There was
no one to contact, there was no consulate. It was a physical impossibility for
us to do what he demanded us to do."
It's not the 1st time a foreign government has appealed to U.S. courts on
behalf of one of their citizens who wasn't given the benefit of their
Last month, Mexico's government unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme
Court to stay a Texas execution to allow Congress time to consider legislation
that would require court reviews for condemned foreign nationals who aren't
offered the help of their consulates. The high court rejected the request 5-4
and the Mexican citizen was executed.
Mexico protested and the United Nation's top human rights official said the
U.S. broke international law when it executed Humberto Leal for a 1994 rape and
The Nevada case marks the 1st time Serbia has tried to enforce its rights under
the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, according to the prisoner
advocacy group Reprieve based in London.
"The state of Nevada must face up to its deplorable failings in this case and
order a new trial," group spokeswoman Katherine Bekesi said, adding the Serbian
consulate could have provided Nika translation, legal advice and key mitigating
Michael Pescetta, a federal public defender representing Nika, said the courts
will have to decide whether Nika was harmed by a lack of access to consular
"We are pleased the Serbian government is interested in the case ... and we are
certainly hopeful their participation will help," Pescetta said. "It's a
situation in which enforcement by the country of its rights may be important to
In December 2008, the Nevada Supreme Court denied Nika's request to overturn
his conviction by a 5-2 vote.
In his dissent, Justice Michael Cherry said jurors had "an incomplete
depiction" of Nika's character because of a lack of mitigating evidence about
his background. Nika's trial lawyers should have sought help from the
Yugoslavian consulate, Cherry added.
Chief Justice Jim Hardesty, who wrote the majority opinion, said it's not clear
what the consulate could have done to help Nika, especially since the victim's
wounds "evince a calculated, deliberate act" of murder.
Richard Cornell, Nika's court-appointed lawyer from 1998 to 2008, said a state
court rejected the defense's attempt to secure funds to learn about Nika's
background. Jurors needed to know more about his culture before rendering a
verdict, he said.
"The fact he's a Gypsy is an important fact in understanding why he did what he
did," Cornell said. "All you're doing is buying 10 more years of litigation
with all of this."
Nika was sentenced to death for shooting Edward Smith in the forehead at
point-blank range. Smith was on his way home to Fallon when he stopped about 20
miles east of Reno to help Nika, whose car had broken down.
(source: Associated Press)
King County's death-penalty dilemma: Soaring cost worth it?
King County is struggling with the rising cost of criminal justice. But while
budget constraints have forced some counties to all but abandon death-penalty
cases, King County currently has 2 active capital cases, which have racked up
more than $4 million in defense costs alone.
The cost of prosecuting two men and a woman accused of two of the most heinous
crimes in King County in recent years is $656,564 and counting.
The cost of defending them is even higher: $4.3 million, and also climbing.
Like other counties in the state, King County is struggling with the rising
cost of criminal justice, which has forced Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to
eliminate the jobs of 36 prosecutors since 2008. But while budget constraints
have forced some counties to all but abandon death-penalty cases, King County
currently has two active capital cases.
A 3rd, last year's prosecution of Conner Schierman for killing a Kirkland
family of four in 2006, has thus far cost the county $2.4 million.
The county's current death-penalty cases include the prosecution of Christopher
Monfort, who is accused of ambushing two Seattle police officers, killing one,
on Halloween night 2009. Two other defendants, Michele Anderson and Joseph
McEnroe, could also face execution if convicted of the slayings of six members
of Anderson's family on Christmas Eve 2007.
While trials for the three defendants are months off, defense lawyers are
racking up costs for expert witnesses, investigators, forensic analysis and
other elements crucial for death-penalty trials. In the meantime, prosecutors,
police officers and crime-lab analysts are also tallying up costs while
prepping for the trials.
Portland-based defense attorney Jeff Ellis, who handles death-penalty cases
across the country, said the high costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases —
which can also include years of appeals — has resulted in a drop in
death-penalty cases. King County, with two cases, is an anomaly, he said.
"There is a downturn in the number of death-penalty sentences being sought and
imposed because of the costs associated with them," Ellis said. "What's
happening now [in King County] is a reverse of what's happening nationwide."
In 2010, there were 46 executions in the U.S., including one in Washington
state — a 50 % drop since 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information
Satterberg defends the county's filing of death-penalty cases despite the high
cost. He blames much of the increased costs on what he calls an "industry" that
has been created by death-penalty attorneys.
"It is the law of our state and a punishment we reserve for the worst of the
worst offenders," he said of the death penalty. "If people want to change the
policy they should do so through their elected representatives. It shouldn't be
done by defense attorneys running up the bill."
The most recent study of state death-penalty costs indicated that a
death-penalty case generates roughly $470,000 more in costs at the trial level
than a murder case in which the death penalty is not sought — plus an
additional $70,000 or so in court costs, a figure that includes courtroom
personnel. The same study, released by the Washington State Bar Association in
2006, found that more than $200,000 on average is spent on appeal costs.
The total cost of prosecuting and defending Schierman, 29, who was condemned to
death last year for killing four members of a Kirkland family in July 2006,
will likely rise much higher than the current $2.4 million. Now that his case
is on appeal, it's unclear how much more will be spent on legal costs and how
long he will be on death row.
Cal Coburn Brown, another King County defendant, was put to death last
September for the May 1991 rape and murder of Holly Washa, 21, in a SeaTac
motel. His execution came more than 16 years after his conviction.
The 7 men remaining on Washington's death row have been there an average of 12
years and four months, according to the state Attorney General's Office.
V. David Hocraffer, who heads King County's Office of Public Defense, agrees
defending people who face execution is expensive, but he believes he has a
"Financially, if the goal is public safety you could save money by not having
the death penalty on the table. There are places where the counties just don't
have the funds," said Hocraffer.
King County's Office of Public Defense funds legal services for people
determined to be indigent, as well as other work performed by the county's 4
public-defense firms. Hocraffer's budget comes from King County's general fund.
In nearly all death-penalty cases tried in Washington, the defendant has been
determined to be indigent and has been assigned a publicly funded legal team.
Hocraffer said he never budgets for a death-penalty case, so at times he goes
to the Metropolitan King County Council for supplemental funding.
Ellis said that capital-punishment defense work is growing in cost because
"lawyers are spending more time to prepare." He said that many jurors want to
know everything about the defendant's life and have become savvy when it comes
to technology, forensics and evidence.
"There are investigative and expert costs; jurors want to know more about
forensics and the human mind, what influences it and what causes a person to do
certain things," Ellis said. "Those are really expensive propositions."
Since 2007, King County has applied annually for assistance under the state's
Extraordinary Criminal Justice Costs Act, which is administered by the state
Office of Public Defense and is designed to help counties defray the costs of
defending capital-murder cases. In 2008, the county received $286,000, said
Satterberg said he has seen a sharp growth in defense costs in capital cases,
including hiring expert witnesses, evidence research and investigations.
"There's an industry that has cropped up around it. It just seems that there's
an acceptance that if it's a capital case it's going to take two additional
years to get to trial. It leads me to the observation that the opponents of the
death penalty are often in charge of running up the costs and delaying the
cases," Satterberg said.
While Satterberg has cut costs in his office through layoffs and by freezing
positions, he says he will not back down from pursuing the death penalty in the
most egregious cases.
Since the arrests and charges of Anderson and McEnroe in connection with the
slayings of three generations of Anderson's family in Carnation on Christmas
Eve 2007, public defenders have spent about $1.7 million on defense costs for
Anderson and about $1.5 million on the defense of McEnroe.
The former couple, who are each charged with six counts of aggravated murder,
are expected to face a jury next year.
Since Monfort's arrest Nov. 6, 2009, public defenders have spent more than $1.1
million preparing his case for trial. Monfort is charged with aggravated murder
for allegedly killing Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton, and with
attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of Officer Britt Sweeney on Oct.
31, 2009. A trial date has not been set.
Dan Donohoe, spokesman for Satterberg, said that the Prosecutor's Office has
spent more than $470,000 on the Carnation case and less than $200,000 on the
Monfort case, figures that include salaries for prosecutors.
The prosecution's expenses include hours logged by the senior deputy
prosecutors trying the case, a paralegal and the cost of expert witnesses. It
does not include costs incurred by police departments or the state crime lab.
(source: Seattle Times)
Ninth Circuit Rejects Dwayne Woods' Death Penalty Appeal
Dwayne Woods, who was sentenced to the death penalty for beating two women to
death with a baseball bat in 1996, has lost another appeal of his case.
In 1997, a jury found Woods guilty on 2 counts of aggravated 1st degree murder,
1 count of attempted 1st degree murder and 1 count of attempting to elude
police officers. A year prior he raped and killed Telisha Shaver and Jade
He also tried to kill Venus Shaver but she survived the attack.
In court, Woods asked for the death penalty, only to turn around and appeal
that decision. In his latest appeal, Woods tried to argue that he was denied
the right to defend himself. He also said, among other claims, that his counsel
was inexperienced and the prosecution withheld material evidence.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal. He previously appealed
his sentence in district court. That appeal was also rejected.
(source: KXLY News)
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