[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., TENN., ALA., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Aug 27 11:02:27 CDT 2011
Perry delivers on Texas death penalty
As Texas governor, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry has presided over 234
executions. It's a record number, which, the Washington Post reported last
week, bestows on Perry "a law-and-order credential that none of his competitors
can match - even if they wanted to."
Watch how pundits will try to turn that statistic into a political negative -
and paint Perry as the governor with blood on his spurs - even though American
voters overwhelmingly support the death penalty.
The temptation to tout Texas' status as the state with the most executions will
prove too seductive. It won't matter that, as the Post story points out, Perry
has overseen more executions than any other governor in modern history because
his state is the 2nd largest in the country, and he has served as governor of
that state for nearly 11 years. Or that the late Democratic Gov. Ann Richards
oversaw 50 executions during her 1 term - and unlike Perry, she never commuted
a death sentence.
The irony here, points out Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death-penalty Criminal
Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, is that Texas does not deserve its
reputation as the most execution-prone state. Scheidegger crunched federal data
from 1977 to 2009 and found that among the then-34 capital-punishment states,
Texas falls below the mean of 16.5 death-penalty sentences per 1,000 murders.
Delaware and Oklahoma have a higher rate when it comes to executions.
Of course, the other big factor is that Texas is not California. Hence, its
sentences are not crushed under the heel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals. There is no federal judge in the Lone Star State who, fearful lest a
convicted murderer be put at risk of feeling any pain during lethal injection,
issued an order that effectively stayed all state executions since February
2006, as happened in California.
In Texas, a governor actually can carry out the law.
So how do pundits turn that into a negative? Death penalty opponents suggest
that Perry presided over the execution of an innocent man, Cameron Todd
Willingham, in 2004 after Willingham was wrongfully convicted for the 1991
deaths of his three daughters - 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon
Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project in New York, has argued that
an innocent man was executed. Investigators' finding of arson was seriously
flawed. A number of journalists agree.
(Over time, I'll be examining the case - as this controversy will not go away.
On the one hand, I've seen journalists who so want to believe that
mean-spirited law enforcement officials wrongly prosecuted an innocent man that
they've willfully ignored overwhelming evidence of guilt. As Scheidegger noted,
the Willingham case "has been the subject of a lot of selective reporting." On
the other hand, while Perry is right to point out that a jury convicted
Willingham and appellate courts upheld the verdict, his 2009 decision to
dismiss the chairman of a state forensic panel that was supposed to review the
Willingham case works against him. The San Antonio Express-News editorialized
that Perry's political maneuvers to thwart a review were "unconscionable.")
On the compassionate-conservative side, Perry has commuted three death
sentences to life in prison. In 2007, on the advice of the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles, Perry granted a reprieve to stop the lethal injection of
Kenneth Foster, because Foster drove the getaway car, but was not the shooter,
in a 1996 robbery-homicide. Perry also signed the bill that created life
without parole as an alternative to the death penalty.
I think the death penalty could be a much bigger problem for President Obama as
he seeks re-election. Obama says that he supports the death penalty, but his
administration opposed Texas' scheduled execution of Humberto Leal - who was
convicted in the 1994 rape-murder of a 16-year-old - because Leal, a Mexican
citizen raised in San Antonio, had not been advised that he was entitled to
consult with the Mexican Consulate. Perry would not oblige, and Leal was
Also, under the Obama administration this year, the Drug Enforcement
Administration seized the lethal-injection drug sodium thiopental from Georgia,
Kentucky and Tennessee on the grounds that the Food and Drug Administration has
not approved drugs intended to execute convicted killers.
Yes, folks, those are your tax dollars at work in the Obama administration -
funding federal law enforcement raids designed to undermine state laws.
It doesn't matter that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injection by a 7-2
margin in a 2008 ruling. If there is one way Democrats know how to use the
federal government successfully, it is to sabotage state laws they don't like.
(source: Column, Debra Saunders, San Francisco Examiner)
Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in Athens Officer Murder
Prosecutors have filed court papers indicating that they will seek the death
penalty against a man accused of gunning down an Athens police officer.
The county district attorney is seeking the death penalty against Jamie Hood.
Hood is charged with the murder of Elmer "Buddy" Christian.
Christian arrived on the scene of a suspected carjacking and kidnapping case
back in March, where he was shot.
Suspect Jaime Hood was scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, but the court date
was postponed due to the upgraded charge.
Adolpho A. Birch, first elected black justice to Tennessee Supreme Court, dies
Adolpho A. Birch, the first elected black chief justice on the Tennessee
Supreme Court and a consistent opponent of death sentences, has died. He was
Birch's death Thursday was confirmed Friday morning by Chief Justice Cornelia
A. Clark. It was first reported by WTVF-TV.
Birch, who was chief justice in 1996 and 1997, was diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer in 2004 and took a temporary leave from the bench for treatment. The
cause of his death wasn't immediately released.
Birch began his judicial career in 1969 as a General Sessions Court judge in
Davidson County. He went on to become a Criminal Court judge in Nashville and
then a judge on the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
He was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1993 and was elected the
following year. In 1998, he was elected to an eight-year term, which he served
until his retirement in August 2006.
"As the only judge who ever served at every level of our legal system, Justice
Birch had a keen understanding of the law, the judiciary and the people he
served," Clark said in a statement. "That perspective served him well on the
Supreme Court, especially in his role as chief justice. For his entire judicial
career, he continued to blaze trails to ensure justice and access to the courts
for all persons."
He was not the first black justice on the high court. George Brown of Memphis
was appointed to the court by then-Gov. Lamar Alexander in 1980 to fill a
vacancy created by the death of Justice Joe Henry but was defeated for election
later that year when justices were popularly elected.
In dissenting opinions, Birch wrote in several death penalty appeals about
"grave concerns" over the method the court uses to compare capital cases.
He repeatedly declined to uphold executions, arguing that Tennessee lacks an
adequate "proportionality review" of whether death sentences are handed down
fairly and consistently.
Birch was born in Washington, where he grew up. He attended Lincoln University
in Pennsylvania and then received his bachelor's and law degree from Howard
University in Washington.
He practiced law in Nashville from 1958 to 1966, and was an assistant public
defender from 1963 to 1966.
Birch was appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1987, and he was
elected to that court in 1988 and re-elected in 1990.
He was on the teaching faculty at the Nashville School of Law, was a former
associate professor of legal medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville
and had lectured on law at Fisk and Tennessee State universities.
Birch played a key role in adopting a Supreme Court rule that allowed cameras
in state courtrooms, giving media and the public greater access to the judicial
"I think our system needs to be transparent," Birch said when he retired.
"People need to see it."
(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Appeals courts uphold 4 capital murder convictions
Alabama appellate courts have upheld the death sentences of 4 Alabama death row
The Alabama Supreme Court denied an appeal from 41-year-old death row inmate
Melvin Gene Hodges. He was convicted in the 1998 kidnapping and robbery death
of Elizabeth Seaton, whose body was found in Macon County. She had worked with
Hodges at a restaurant in Opelika. The court rejected Hodges' argument that
some potential jurors were not honest when answering questions about their
background during the jury selection process.
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the capital murder conviction and
death sentence of 55-year-old Anthony Ray Hinton, convicted of killing 2 people
during robberies at Birmingham fast food restaurants in 1985. Hinton had
questioned the qualifications of a firearms expert who testified during the
The criminal appeals court also upheld the death sentence of 47-year-old Harvey
Windsor, who was convicted of the 1992 robbery and slaying of Rayford Howard in
St. Clair County. The appeals court turned down Windsor's claim in his appeal
that his attorney was ineffective because he failed to object to a statement
made by a prosecutor during the sentencing phase of the trial.
And the criminal appeals court upheld the death sentence of 45-year-old Anthony
Lee Stanley, convicted of beating Henry Earl Smith to death with a baseball bat
in Colbert County in 2005. Anthony had argued the trial judge did not have
sufficient reason to override the jury's 8-4 recommendation that Stanley be
sentenced to life in prison without parole instead of being given the death
penalty. After reviewing the case, the appeals court ruled that the judge
sufficiently considered the mitigating and aggravating circumstances before
overriding the jury recommendation.
(source: Associated Press)
Court upholds death row inmate's sentence in Torrance slaying
The California Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld an Oregon man's
conviction and death sentence for murdering a father of 2 and sexually
assaulting and trying to kill the man's wife during a home-invasion robbery in
Torrance nearly 2 decades ago.
The state's highest court unanimously rejected Randy Eugene Garcia's claim that
there were errors in his trial for the May 8, 1993, slaying of 29-year-old
Joseph Finzel, who was shot to death when he walked into his bedroom, where his
wife had already been sexually assaulted.
"Here, defendant broke into the Finzel home late at night, while armed with a
gun. One month earlier, he had expressed an interest in raping a woman at
gunpoint. The evidence suggested that he stood in the backyard, smoking, and
peered through gaps in the bedroom blinds before entering the house," Associate
Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote on behalf of the panel.
Garcia "waited until her most vulnerable moment to strike -- while in bed with
a baby by her side," Baxter wrote, noting that the defendant sexually assaulted
and hogtied the woman, positioned the bedroom door to ensure that Finzel "would
be shot by surprise with his own gun" and shot him twice upon his return home.
Garcia shot Finzel's wife to prevent her from summoning help, then stayed in
the house for 2 to 3 hours to collect valuables and repeatedly check on her
condition, waiting for her to die, Baxter wrote. The nude, bleeding woman was
eventually able to crawl to a neighbor's porch, where she collapsed, and needed
emergency surgery to save her life.
"The property he (Garcia) stole from the couple included the wedding ring on
Joseph's finger and anything else he found in his turned-out pockets as he lay
dead or dying on the floor," Baxter wrote.
Garcia was wearing the wedding ring when he was arrested after returning to
The same night, Garcia also burglarized the home of another Torrance couple who
were vacationing in Las Vegas at the time.
He was convicted of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery, attempted forcible
rape and forcible oral copulation. Jurors also found true the special
circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a burglary,
robbery, attempted rape and oral copulation.
Garcia - who had a 1989 conviction for receiving stolen property in Oregon -
was sentenced to death in March 1995.
The state's high court rejected Garcia's contentions that the process used to
select prospective grand jurors resulted in the under-representation of women
and Hispanics and that the prosecution's dismissal of three female prospective
jurors were motivated by gender bias.
Garcia also claimed that the lower court erred in admitting victim impact
evidence from Finzel's wife.
(source: Daily Breeze)
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