[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, KY., USA, MASS., MONT., NEV., MISS., OHIO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Aug 24 14:16:48 CDT 2011
TEXAS----new execution date
Rodrigo Hernandez has been given an execution date for Jan. 26, 2012; it
shouild be considered serious.
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Prosecutor hints at death penalty filing
The prosecutor in the case of a western Kentucky man charged with killing a
woman says he might seek the death penalty.
Todd Lewis said at a hearing in Benton on Tuesday that if the defense succeeds
in delaying the retrial of George Luna for several more months, he is
considering filing notice of aggravating circumstances. Lewis — director of
special prosecutions in the state attorney general's office — said he had not
filed such a motion earlier because he wanted the case to come to retrial as
quickly as possible, according to The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/qhsab3).
Luna is charged with bludgeoning Debra Hendrickson in September 2007 and
setting her mobile home on fire with her body inside it. His previous
conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
(source: Associated Press)
Opposing the death penalty
When someone like Timothy McVeigh is strapped onto a gurney and gets a lethal
injection for something like the Oklahoma City bombing, I don’t get all
If it’s an R. Gene Simmons and there’s only one degree of separation between me
and the victims of mass murder in Pope County, my reaction is more likely to be
a muttered “It’s about time.”
And if you want to debate the issue from the standpoint of Judeo-Christian
moral views, I’ll take either side.
But when it comes to a simple question of whether society ought to continue
with the use (or attempted use) of capital punishment, I’ll offer two arguments
One is pure practicality; the other is ethical.
First, the current criminal justice system isn’t very efficient at handling
capital cases. To put it more bluntly, we spend a lot of money and don’t
produce that many executions.
A capital case requires a higher standard of evidence and motive, as it should
if someone’s life is at stake. The appeals process is often required by law,
which means the expense of an additional trial. And before the appeals run out,
people may spend years on death row, where the cost of incarceration is
generally higher than for prisoners in a regular lockup.
A 2009 study of cases in Maryland by The New York Times found that a homicide
case in which a death penalty was possible but was not sought averaged $1.1
million. For cases in which the death sentence was sought but was not
successful, the bill averaged $1.8 million. For cases in which a death sentence
was returned, the average cost was more than $3 million.
Beyond mere costs is a higher ethical issue — how often does society execute
people who are genuinely innocent?
That issue was in the news again last week with the new hearing for the West
Memphis 3, one of whom, Damian Echols, had received a death sentence.
I remain amazed at the idea that Echols, who once was only three week away from
execution, went from death row to free man with a single bang of the judge’s
I have no idea as to whether he is innocent or guilty, although the reporting
on his trial in the death of three little boys left me unconvinced of his
guilt. But he is not alone.
Many others have been freed by DNA evidence that proved they didn’t commit a
crime, and there’s a notable Texas case in which the evidence seems far too
weak that a father set fire to his own home and killed his children.
These 2 arguments leave me with serious doubts about executing people convicted
of serious crimes.
Lock them up and throw away the key, perhaps even literally, but don’t risk
putting to death someone who is genuinely not guilty.
(source: Commentary; Phil Lamb, the Cabin)
Sacco and Vanzetti remembered
84 years ago Tuesday, 2 Italian immigrants were executed in Massachusetts or a
murder they may have not committed.
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were put to death for their alleged roles
in a robbery and murder in eastern Massachusetts.
Tuesday, the Hampden County Chapter of the Massachusetts Citizens Against the
Death Penalty held their annual memorial service for Sacco and Vanzetti.
The group hopes to build opposition to any effort to restore the death penalty
Saul Finestone says, “We’re not saying a guilty person should not be punished
but perhaps life without parole would be the right punishment. Once they're
dead if they're found to be innocent it's too late.”
To this day, many people still have reasonable doubt as to their guilt.
The death penalty was abolished in Massachusetts in the early 1980's.
(source: WWLP News)
Christmas Day murders: Suspect's attorneys say death penalty law
Attorneys for a Kalispell man accused of gunning down his ex-girlfriend and her
teenage daughter on Christmas Day told a state judge Tuesday that Montana's
death penalty law should be declared unconstitutional.
Flathead County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Tyler Michael
Miller, 34, who is charged with two counts of deliberate homicide for the Dec.
25, 2010, shooting deaths of Jaimi Hurlbert, 35, and Alyssa Burkett, 15.
On Tuesday, Miller and his attorneys appeared before Flathead District Judge
Stewart Stadler and argued that Montana's death penalty statute violates the
Ed Sheehy, a public defender representing Miller, said the Montana death
penalty law erroneously vests power in the state's judiciary to determine
whether aggravating circumstances exist to warrant capital punishment, rather
than in impartial juries.
"It is only when there are no mitigating factors calling for leniency that the
death penalty can be imposed, and those factors must be decided by a jury, not
by a lone employee of the state," Sheehy said.
Prosecutors assert the aggravating circumstances of the murders lie within the
premeditated and brutal nature of Miller's alleged crime. Those circumstances
support the death penalty under Montana law, which is in line with the U.S.
Constitution, Deputy Flathead County Attorney Lori Adams said.
"We believe the statute is constitutional," Adams said.
Sheehy cited a 2002 Supreme Court ruling - Ring v. Arizona - which holds that
the Sixth Amendment requires an impartial jury to determine the aggravating
factors necessary to impose the death penalty.
Although Montana law prohibits the death penalty when mitigating factors call
for leniency, it prohibits juries from making that determination, Sheehy said.
Sheehy also cited a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Summerlin v. Stewart in which the court held that juries, not judges, must
decide when the death penalty should be imposed.
"Juries are especially situated to ensure that unwarranted imposition of the
death penalty does not occur," Sheehy stated in a written motion arguing the
The public defender also said Tuesday that Montana's death penalty law allows
too much variance between the state's 22 judicial districts in defining
mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
"In 22 different judicial districts we could have 22 different determinations
of what constitutes aggravating circumstances," Sheehy said.
In late September, Miller is scheduled to appear again before Stadler for a
competency hearing to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial. All other
proceedings in the case have been put on hold until such a determination is
Stadler said if Miller is determined to be incompetent he will be admitted to
the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs for 90 days to see if he can regain
If he is determined competent, Stadler said there are too many outstanding
motions that must be ruled on before the trial can begin in November, as
"I don't see this going to trial in November, I'll just be candid," Stadler
(source: The Missoulian)
Murder trial dates set in killing of West Wendover teen
Trial dates for 2 engaged teenagers accused of killing a West Wendover
classmate and burying her body in a shallow grave in the desert have been set.
There are still questions, however, whether either case will be plea bargained
first. And if not, will prosecutors seek a possible death sentence against Kody
Cree Patten if he is convicted?
Patten, 18, and 19-year-old Toni Fratto are accused of killing 16-year-old West
Wendover High School student Micaela "Mickey" Costanzo on March 3. The cases of
each defendant are being held separately. Both were bound over for trial
following preliminary hearings in Elko, Nev.
Fratto's case is now scheduled to begin Feb. 13, 2012, and Patten's on March
12, 2012. Both trials are expected to run 2 weeks.
One of Patten's attorneys is John Ohlson, a Reno-based lawyer who is the lone
defense attorney in the rural regions of northern Nevada qualified to handle
potential death penalty cases. He said it was the only reason he was asked to
be part of this case.
But as of Tuesday, the Elko District Attorney's Office had not filed an
official notice of intent to seek the death penalty should Patten be convicted.
The only indication, so far, was a mention by District Attorney Mark Torvenin
during an earlier hearing that the death sentence was being considered.
"We've been trying to settle our case from the beginning without any success.
If that current attitude remains, then we'll be at trial," Ohlson said.
Attorneys for each defendant are pointing fingers, claiming the other is more
culpable for Micaela's death than their own clients. Fratto's attorneys say
their client, despite a taped confession, is completely innocent and gave a
false confession to show support for her boyfriend.
Patten's attorneys say it was Fratto who was the "freight train" behind the
killing, despite Patten's own taped confession in which he never mentions
Ohlson said Tuesday that the investigator for his office has recently dug up
new information about the case which he declined to divulge Tuesday.
Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Dan Papaz last week in court said 150
prospective jurors would be screened for each trial.
Ohlson said his office would be looking into whether to file a change of venue
motion. In Nevada, a judge will listen to arguments regarding a change of venue
only after all prospective jurors have been interviewed and there is a
determination that a fair trial may not be possible, he said.
For Elko County, it would be the first potential death penalty case in about 15
During a court hearing last week, Patten and Fratto had hearings back-to-back
in the judge's courtroom. While one hearing ended and the other was about to
begin, Fratto and Patten found themselves in the courtroom together. Ohlson
said because of the logistics of moving inmates in and out, they would not have
had an opportunity to talk to each other.
(source: Deseret News)
'US teen faces death penalty on murder'
In this June 26, 2011 frame grab from a security video, people gather in a
parking lot next to the street in Jackson, Mississippi where James Anderson was
killed.A white US teenager, charged with the murder of a middle-aged African
American man in a hit-and-run case in Mississippi, could face the death
penalty, an attorney says.
The 19-year-old Deryl Dedmon was initially charged with murder of 49-year-old
James Craig Anderson.
However, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith said he has new evidence
that shows the victim was robbed before he was killed, which makes it a capital
[punishment] case, CBS news reported.
On June 26, Anderson was beaten and then run over by a group of white teenagers
in a motel parking lot in Jackson, Mississippi.
Police said Dedmon and his friend, John Rice, were seen in a surveillance video
capturing the incident at the scene.
According to the district attorney's office, Dedmon and Rice were with a group
of other teenagers and went out looking for a random black person to assault.
Authorities have not ruled out that others at the scene could be charged.
(source: Press TV)
Killer faces death after Ohio execution delay
An Ohio man condemned to die for fatally stabbing his neighbor 24 years ago
could be the next inmate put to death following a pause in state executions.
Billy Slagle received the death sentence in 1986 for stabbing Mari Anne Pope 17
times in her Cleveland home after a break-in.
A judge's criticism that Ohio follows its execution policies haphazardly
delayed executions scheduled for July and August.
The state responded with an updated set of rules last week.
The Ohio prisons department says the 42-year-old Slagle is still scheduled to
die by injection Sept. 20. His attorneys want the procedure postponed because
of continuing concerns about the policies.
Slagle's attorneys planned to ask for mercy for Slagle before the Ohio Parole
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty