[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----N.C., PENN., ARK., ORE., USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Oct 9 09:12:31 CDT 2011
NC murder rate falls while death penalty sleeps
The state Supreme Court issued an opinion today on a rather complex and obscure
matter related to the process used in the adoption of the state’s execution
“protocol.” The decision serves to highlight once again the fact that the death
penalty has not been carried out in the state in more than 5 years.
This got me thinking: If death penalty proponents like state Rep. Paul Stam are
right, this should have produced a spike in crime and killings given the
supposed deterrent effect of executions.
Then I looked at the statistics. This is what I found — someone correct me if
I’m looking at the wrong numbers or crunching them incorrectly:
In 2005 — the year before the de facto state moratorium on the death penalty
went into effect – there were 575 murders in a state of 8.685 million people.
In 2010 — the last full year for which we have statistics — there were 468
murders in a state of 9.535 million people. According to my math that’s a per
capita drop of more than 25% — from a rate of roughly 0.0000662 to 0.0000491.
Rather than encouraging murder, it would appear that the absence of the death
penalty has, if anything, reduced the cycle of violence in our state. That
sounds like a good pattern to nurture.
(source: Rob Schofield, The Porgressive Pulse)
Case spotlights lawyers' role in Pa. death penalty
A legal battle currently being waged before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—with
the chief justice as a central figure—could dramatically transform how death
penalty appeals are handled in a state with 208 people on death row but only 3
executions over the past 5 decades.
The issue, which has arisen from the case of a man convicted of killing 4
people in the mid-1990s, is being pushed by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, who
has leveled charges of improper tactics and unethical lawyering against the
Defender Association of Philadelphia's capital case appeals unit.
Last week, a majority of the divided high court ordered the federally funded
association to list all of the death row defendants it represents, explain its
authority to work in state courts and provide other information.
The latest court order follows a blistering 34-page opinion that Castille wrote
in April. The chief justice, joined by 2 others, said much of the high court's
time was being consumed by what he called "strategic diversions" in an effort
by the lawyers to undermine the death penalty, largely through numerous lengthy
filings that cause delays.
"When faux outrage about the delays their overall strategy necessarily induces
serves their purpose, they forward that claim, accusing Pennsylvania courts of
incompetence or laziness, their argument unencumbered by concerns for accuracy,
honesty and candor," Castille wrote.
"This is what federal judicial financing of the (association's) state court
litigation strategy has wrought in Pennsylvania," he said. "When the families
of murder victims and other concerned citizens ask why there is no effective
death penalty in Pennsylvania, the dirty secret answer is: ask the federal
Neither Castille nor the Defender Association would comment, and the filing is
due later this month, but Leigh Skipper, the chief federal public defender in
Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in May that their lawyers cannot
choose which defendant should get their best efforts.
"We take the cases as we find them," he told the paper. "We can't differentiate
between 'good murderers' and 'bad murderers.' A lawyer has an ethical
Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed said prosecutors around the
state feel the death penalty case lawyers from the Defender Association do not
play by the rules.
"A fair and level playing field is what we're looking for," Freed said. "When
the highest court in the commonwealth has recognized these issues, it's pretty
fair to say it's a problem."
The defendant in the case currently at issue is Mark Newton Spotz, 40, whose
1995 killing spree began with the death of his brother in Clearfield County and
continued with the slayings of three older women in Cumberland, York and
In April, the Supreme Court upheld his Cumberland County murder conviction in
the shooting death of Betty Amstutz, and Castille wrote separately to express
his criticism of the role the Defender Association's death penalty appeals unit
plays in state court proceedings.
Justice Seamus McCaffery supported the chief justice's opinion, and Justice
Joan Orie Melvin agreed to the concluding section in which Castille called for
new limits on the size of defense filings and an overall review of procedures.
Justice Thomas Saylor said he would refer the matter to the court's lawyer
Spotz's lawyers sought reargument and Castille's removal from the case in May,
after which the Cumberland County district attorney's office asked the high
court for legal sanctions, saying the defense tactics were precisely the sort
of abuse that Castille had raised.
There were subsequent filings and counterfilings, culminating on Oct. 3 with
the Supreme Court's order directing Leigh Skipper, who heads up the office, to
respond within 10 days. Baer dissented, joined by Todd, saying the order could
be construed as a discovery demand placed on a litigant by a court, and that
the motions the defense filed should simply have been denied or allowed to have
The reasons for Pennsylvania's de facto death penalty moratorium have long been
Back in January, then-Gov. Ed Rendell chose one of his final news conferences
while in office to say the death penalty should be revamped or simply replaced
with a sentence of life without parole. He noted that he and his 5 predecessors
had approved 386 death warrants. Gov. Tom Corbett, his successor, has signed 8
more this year.
Rendell blamed "a system of endless appeals," but defense lawyers point to the
state's underfunding of criminal defense, saying that results in flawed trials
that the appellate courts can't ignore. As evidence of that, they point to
death penalty cases that have been overturned on appeal, including by the state
The Inquirer said in May that the association's death penalty team has a $14
million annual budget, most of it from the federal government. Castille said he
was uncertain about their funding, but that the policy of federal money going
toward state-level murder appeals "has been determined and implemented without
the consultation and involvement of this court, or of any commonwealth
Late last month, the high court ordered that a Philadelphia senior judge look
into whether the legal fees the city pays for lawyers in capital cases are "so
inadequate that it can be presumed that counsel is constitutionally
ineffective" on a global scale, or if that analysis is better done on a
Freed said he has no problem with death penalty cases getting extra levels of
judicial review, as long as the court's rules are followed.
"There's a feeling in the anti-death-penalty crowd, 'We're going to do whatever
it takes, because whatever is right and just is on our side,'" Freed said.
"Well, we've got the law of Pennsylvania on our side, and we're going to do
what's right every time."
(source: Associated Press)
Federal appeals court upholds ruling that allows Ark. prison system to set
A federal appeals court has turned down appeals by eight Arkansas death row
inmates who claim that the state's rules and procedures for executions are
Marcel Wayne Williams filed 1 lawsuit and 7 other condemned inmates filed a
similar court action. A 3-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in St. Louis addressed both lawsuits in its Friday ruling, saying the inmates
raised only speculative concerns.
A related lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court is under appeal by the state.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/9eghoo ) that Circuit
Judge Tim Fox ruled in August that a portion of a law the Legislature passed in
2009 governing executions is unconstitutional.
Fox found that the law improperly gave the Department of Correction too much
authority in choosing drugs to be used in lethal injections.
The state has no scheduled executions.
The other inmates suing are Jack Harold Jones, Don William Davis, Alvin Bernal
Jackson, Stacey Eugene Johnson, Kenneth Dewayne Williams, Jason Farrell McGehee
and Bruce Earl Ward.
U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes dismissed the lawsuits in 2010, after finding
that the inmates raised only speculation that the Correction Department would
change execution procedures without notice. The inmates also argued that giving
the department the power to set execution procedures instead of the Legislature
induced anxiety as they worried that the department could change procedures.
But the appeals court agreed with Holmes, writing that a "conceivable" risk
does not rise to the level of a "significant risk" of increased punishment.
(source: Associated Press)
'I'm ready,' Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen tells judge; may face
execution Dec. 6
This time, Gary Haugen made no long speeches about how the legal system is
broken and its money misspent. No talk about dying with dignity or any detailed
explanation about why the 49-year-old twice-convicted killer would rather end
his life than spend his days on Oregon's death row.
Instead, Haugen, his graying hair pulled back in a ponytail, said he would keep
his comments to a minimum.
"I can't go on," he said in a low, calm voice. "This is going to be one time
where I just don't do a lot of talking, because I'm ready, your honor. Because
Shortly after, Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond found Haugen legally
sane to be put to death, leaving little left to stop Oregon from carrying out
its first execution in 14 years.
In Friday's hearing, the judge asked Haugen a series of questions to determine
his understanding of legal options and the reasons for his execution. Guimond
told Haugen that he anticipates signing the inmate's death warrant, which the
state is expected to file in the coming weeks. Prosecutors said the state wants
a tentative date of Dec. 6 to administer the lethal injection.
This is the 2nd time Haugen has been on the path to execution. He has waived
his appeals. In May, Guimond found Haugen competent and set an Aug. 16
The Oregonian’s continuing coverage of Gary Haugen, an Oregon death row
prisoner, who wants to initiate the execution process.But Haugen's attorneys at
the time argued that a Portland neuropsychologist had examined Haugen and found
him delusional. Over Haugen's objections, they asked the Oregon Supreme Court
The justices ruled in July that Haugen needed to undergo a full evaluation and
ordered Guimond to cancel the execution.
A different Portland psychologist, Richard Hulteng, examined Haugen and
concluded that he was mentally competent.
Haugen's current attorney, Gregory Scholl, told the judge that he and Haugen's
other two attorneys have come to that same conclusion based on their own
interactions, Hulteng's evaluation, other psychological assessments, as well as
discussions with other professionals.
"Mr. Haugen is competent and his waiver is valid," Scholl said.
Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, Scholl said he and his
colleagues, Steve Gorham and Kathleen Dunn, are committed to fulfilling their
professional responsibility to advise and consult with their client on his
"It is the defense's position that he deserves to have an advocate who will
represent him and his interests, regardless of who disagrees with those
interests or even what his advocates might personally believe," Scholl said.
Haugen praised his current attorneys for setting aside their personal beliefs
and being brave enough to face "the sewing circle" of death penalty opponents.
His execution would be Oregon's first in 14 years. Harry Charles Moore, who
similarly had waived his appeals, was put to death in 1997.
"They're going to pay the price for that, and they're willing to do that not
just to protect my rights but (those of) every indigent defendant on the row's
right ... to have a voice," he said.
He also fired some parting shots at his previous attorneys, W. Keith Goody and
Andy Simrin, saying they were unethical and unprofessional in ignoring his
desires and painting him as mentally incompetent.
"Wherever you are," he called out to them, "how do you like those apples?
Because you're sitting where you're sitting and this is what it is."
He ended his comments by cursing two other lawyers who also tried to halt the
Haugen has said he does not believe he deserves the death penalty for the 2003
killing of fellow inmate David Polin. But he is going through with the
execution in part to protest the legal system as well as to afford himself the
chance to die "with dignity," he has said in interviews.
Haugen has been in prison since he was 19, when he first arrived at the Oregon
State Penitentiary to serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole for
the 1981 beating death of Mary Archer of Portland, his ex-girlfriend's mother.
Ard Pratt, Archer's first husband, attended the hearing, saying he was glad the
case is proceeding. "I will hold my breath until it happens," he said.
Opponents said they are still looking at options to stop the execution,
including asking Gov. John Kitzhaber to step in. Although Kitzhaber has said in
the past that he is opposed to the death penalty, he allowed the last two
executions -- which occurred during his previous administration -- to go
"It's really not about what Mr. Haugen wants," said Tom O'Connor, a spokesman
for Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "It's about what Oregon
wants as a state and its own sense of humanity and identity ... Are we a state
that cheers when somebody is executed or are we a state that thinks this is not
really what we stand for?"
(source: The Oregonian)
Haugen's execution date set----Judge rules inmate is mentally competent to drop
his appeals, and tentatively sets date for lethal injection in December
A Marion County judge on Friday cleared the way for the execution of Oregon
death row inmate Gary Haugen, deeming him mentally competent to drop his
appeals and legally sane to be put to death.
Lethal-injection execution of the 49-year-old twice-convicted murderer
tentatively is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Oregon State Penitentiary in
If carried through, the execution will be the state's first in 14 years.
Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond said he intends to sign Haugen's death warrant
soon, officially authorizing the execution.
The Salem prison has been preparing for possible execution duty for a number of
months. Corrections officials say it will be handled in solemn, professional
fashion by an all-volunteer team of prison employees.
If all goes as planned, Haugen will be swiftly killed by a combination of 3
drugs: pentobarbital (induces unconsciousness), pancuronium bromide (halts
breathing) and potassium chloride (stops heart).
In the last moments, an executioner, or executioners, will push a series of
plungers, sending the fatal drugs through tubes connecting to IV catheters in
The state Corrections Department purchased supplies of the lethal drugs from
Cardinal Health, an Ohio-based wholesale drug supplier.
Oregon's execution machinery hasn't been used since Salem double killer Harry
Moore was put to death shortly after midnight on May 16, 1997.
Like Haugen, Moore waived his legal appeals and asked to be executed.
In court Friday, Haugen reaffirmed his often-stated desire to proceed with his
"I can't go on," he said. "This is going to be one time where I just don't do a
lot of talking, because I'm ready, your honor; because I'm ready."
During Friday's hearing, Haugen answered a series of questions posed by Guimond
as part of the process required by law to determine whether he is mentally
competent to drop his appeals.
In addition to the formal question-and-answer session, Guimond also relied on
the recent findings of a clinical psychologist, Richard Hulteng, who evaluated
Haugen and found him fit to make reasoned legal decisions.
Haugen's mental condition previously was called into question by his former
attorneys, Andy Simrin and Keith Goody.
They argued in a letter to the Oregon Supreme Court that Haugen was delusional
and mentally incompetent, prompting the high court to order Guimond to cancel a
previous Aug. 16 execution date and conduct further inquiries into the inmate's
On Friday, Haugen blasted Simrin and Goody, saying they pursued their own
anti-death penalty agenda rather than advocating for his objectives. "Wherever
you are," he said, "how do you like those apples? Because you're sitting where
you're sitting and this is what it is."
Haugen and another inmate, Jason Brumwell, landed on death row in 2007, when
both were convicted of killing a 3rd inmate at the state penitentiary.
At their joint trial, Haugen and Brumwell were convicted of aggravated murder
for the 2003 slaying of David Polin, who died from a crushed skull and 84 stab
Prosecutors maintained that Haugen and Brumwell killed Polin because they
mistakenly believed he snitched to prison officials about their use of drugs.
At the time of Polin's murder, Haugen was in prison for the 1981 murder of Mary
Archer of Portland, his ex-girlfriend's mother.
(source: Statesman Journal)
Death Penalty Needs Change: While Proper Punishment, Needs to Be Used Correctly
If a person can’t be proved innocent, are they guilty? If you can’t prove that
you are innocent, can it immediately be assumed that you are the wrongdoer?
Capital punishment is a major part of American society, and is what the
American justice system is based on. I think there have been a number of court
cases where people have been convicted for a crime and punished when there
isn’t a conclusive amount of evidence.
A person has to be properly represented and all evidence has to be properly
taken into consideration. This is stressed especially in situations where a
person’s life is being laid on the line. If a person is convicted of a crime
and is later found to be innocent, you have to stop and raise an eyebrow at how
court systems are going about allowing cases to be closed without proper
presentation of all evidence.
If a group of individuals are going to come together as a whole and decide
whether or not someone deserves to live, you have to have the full story, or at
least as much as humanly possible to the full extent of everyone’s
Troy Davis was executed on Sept. 21 for the alleged murder of police officer
Mark MacPhail in Savannah. The U.S. District Court in my opinion failed to
follow procedure in attempts to get the full extent of the truth in order to
prosecute Davis as fairly as possible.
There were a lot of situations where major turns in the case were revealed to
be hearsay or where a witness to the crime would later change their
recollection of what happened in their affidavits. Some of the changes even
suggested someone other than Davis actually committed the murder.
Even if there is the smallest possibility that a person did not commit a
murder, they shouldn’t be put to death. The Troy Davis Case is the perfect
example of how the steps involved in capital punishment aren’t being followed
correctly, and in turn the punishment is being abused.
Capital punishment isn’t here to prosecute the most likely to be guilty or to
serve the benifit of the doubt. It is a part of the justice system to prosecute
individuals that have been convicted of a capital crime.
Every tax payer deserves a fair and thorough justice system that stands by its
rules and if any court isn’t able to follow those rules and hold a fair case
then they shouldn’t be allowed to carry out capital punishment. Today’s citizen
is entitled to being prosecuted as righteously as possible to the full extent
of the law, both that of the court systems and of the defendant.
A human being should not be allowed to make the decision to end a person’s life
unless they know enough to make a solid decision without any holes in it.
Capital Punishment is necessary in so many situations, but it can’t be
inflicted without proper evidence.
If any court system can abuse the right to capital punishment then the entire
system fails. If this judicial hat becomes just and unjust will turn into an
obscured and unreadable line, and slowly the justice system will fail to show
proper representation at all.
(source: Brandon Bond, The Summit, Benjamin E. Mays High School--Atlanta)
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