[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----CALIF., N.J., ORE., FLA., N.C.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Oct 10 12:12:36 CDT 2011
Repeal of death penalty could save millions of dollars, analysis finds
A nonpartisan analysis of a California ballot initiative to abolish the death
penalty found that it could save the state and counties in the "high tens of
millions of dollars" every year.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office review of the proposed initiative, which
hasn't been cleared for signature gathering yet, put it in the middle of a
debate over what the death penalty costs and what should be done about it. Some
critics of the death penalty think it actually costs much more than the
analysis said, while supporters of capital punishment think executions should
be streamlined, not stopped, in order to cut costs.
The initiative was proposed in August after a bill to repeal the death penalty
stalled in the state Legislature. In addition to eliminating capital
punishment, the measure would require those convicted of murder to work in
prison and provide $100 million over four years to local law enforcement to
help solve homicide and rape cases. The proposal likely faces a rough road
ahead, as a recent Field Poll [PDF] found a strong majority of Californians
want to keep capital punishment, even as an increasing number prefer life in
prison without parole.
The analyst's office report found a variety of savings to the state and
counties, as well as some smaller increased costs.
For example, eliminating the death penalty would shorten murder trials, which
would lower costs for prosecutors, public defenders and police. Also, death row
inmates are kept in isolation and escorted with two guards each, whereas those
with life sentences can be housed together at a lower cost. In addition, the
lengthy appeals process in capital cases, the report states, costs $50 million
On the other hand, the analysis noted, prosecutors sometimes get offenders to
plead guilty, avoiding a costly trial, in exchange for not seeking the death
penalty. If the possibility of execution didn't exist, more cases might go to
trial and "the magnitude of these costs is unknown," the report states.
Jeanne Woodford, a former warden at San Quentin State Prison who is pushing for
the ballot initiative, said some costs were "lowballed" in the analyst's office
"You have to work with death row inmates to understand all the costs that are
associated with them," said Woodford, former head of the California Department
of Corrections and Rehabilitation and now executive director of Death Penalty
Woodford said costs are an important element of the debate because taxpayer
money can be better spent on improving schools and law enforcement
investigations. Life sentences without parole, she said, are a safe, cheaper
Death penalty supporters, however, blame opponents for driving up the costs
with excessive appeals.
"They’re using the excuse that it costs so much," said Harriet Salarno,
president of Crime Victims United of California. "They’re the ones that raise
Salarno said California should limit the appeals process. Actually executing
people, she said, would be a lot cheaper.
Woodford said limiting appeals would prompt due process problems.
"To say that we’ll just make it quicker doesn’t solve a growing concern
regarding the number of innocent people that are being found in our prison
system," Woodford said.
Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell, co-author of a recent study on the
cost of California's death penalty, said the analyst's office report "severely
underestimated" costs to taxpayers. Her study [PDF], written with U.S. 9th
Circuit Court Judge Arthur Alarcón, found that California has spent $4 billion
on the death penalty since 1978 and $184 million in 2009 alone. It was critical
of past estimates by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Mitchell said it was disappointing that the latest report did not include the
hundreds of millions of dollars it would take to build a new complex for death
row inmates, "which will be required if California keeps the death penalty."
"If the initiative process in California is going to function as an effective
part of the democratic process, voters MUST be fully informed about the full
costs of the programs they are asked to vote for or against," Mitchell wrote in
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the
argument over costs should be separated from the philosophical decision on
whether to execute prisoners. Because most Californians support the death
penalty, he said, the focus should be on how to lower the costs and eliminate
"We waste money all the time," Coupal said. "California tends to do things far
more expensively than it needs to do."
Coupal advocates privatizing prisons and streamlining the appeals process.
"Cost effective means swift justice. Justice delayed is justice denied," he
(source: California Watch)
Death penalty: this time the politicians did the right thing
The international protest that erupted over the execution of Troy Davis last
month was a reminder of the wisdom shown four years ago by the New Jersey
Senate and Assembly and then-Gov. Jon Corzine when they made this state the
first since 1972 to abolish capital punishment by legislative action.
Davis was put to death by the state of Georgia in spite of the fact that his
conviction 22 years earlier for the murder of a police officer had become a
travesty of the concept of reasonable doubt. Most of the eyewitnesses recanted,
saying they were frightened into identifying Davis by police, and ballistics
evidence was called inconclusive. Former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict
XVI and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were among those calling for a new trial or
evidentiary hearing. But Georgia’s judicial system, and the U.S. Supreme Court,
refused to intervene, and the death sentence was carried out.
This kind of conscience-rending event can’t happen in New Jersey. In December
2007, Corzine signed a bill into law implementing a study commission’s
near-unanimous recommendation that capital punishment be replaced by life in
prison without parole. Since then, the practice has been abandoned in New
Mexico and Illinois, bringing the total of states without a death penalty to
There are folks who cling to the idea that the prospect of execution is a
deterrent to murder, despite evidence to the contrary. There’s also a
widespread belief that some crimes are so savage, so cold-blooded, that
execution is a state’s only proper response. Even Assemblyman Reed Gusciora
(D-Princeton Borough), a co-sponsor of New Jersey’s death sentence repeal,
feels that way. “As a municipal prosecutor, I’ve seen some really bad cases,
where the death penalty may well have been appropriate,” he said.
But, Gusciora added, he has no regrets about his role in enacting that law.
Execution is so final, so irreversible, that the guilt of the accused has to be
certain — not certain beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt at all —
and the punishment must be applied without arbitrariness and discrimination.
The problem is that a uniform and consistent standard to achieve this kind of
certainty and equity is simply beyond the reach of human beings.
That didn’t stop Georgia from ending Troy Davis’ life by lethal injection, and
it hasn’t prevented Texas from executing convicted prisoners wholesale. Since
1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment to be
constitutional, Texas has put 475 people to death, including some based on
evidence even shakier than that which convicted Davis.
Nationally, however, both the number of executions and the number of death
sentences has declined. There seems to be a growing realization that
governments don’t always get it right: that unreliable witnesses, misbehavior
by police or prosecutors, incompetent defense lawyers and other flaws can put
the wrong people on Death Row. In Illinois, a few years ago, Gov. George H.
Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions after 13 prisoners facing that fate had
been exonerated by DNA tests, recanted testimony and other developments. Ryan
declared the system “so fraught with error that it has come close to the
ultimate nightmare, the state’s taking of innocent life,” and commuted the
sentences of all 167 Death Row residents, most of them to life terms without
Before New Jersey repealed its death penalty, this state’s Supreme Court, in a
sustained effort to impose perfection on an inherently imperfect system,
allowed repeated appeals and ordered frequent stays, reversals, remands,
procedural reforms and proportionality reviews. The result of all this was that
the state executed zero condemned murderers after 1963.
In the process, though, it spent extravagant sums. Every step in a capital case
costs more than its equivalent in a non-capital case, and in New Jersey these
added up to an estimated $4.2 million for each unconsummated death sentence.
The expense factor probably tipped the balance toward repeal for many
legislators who had no moral qualms about state-imposed executions.
The same motivation now is pushing other states to consider eliminating capital
punishment, reports the Associated Press. “It’s 10 times more expensive to kill
them than to keep them alive,” said Donald McCartin, a California jurist who
sentenced 9 men to Death Row (none of whom, because of protracted appeals,
actually was executed) and, after his retirement, became an advocate of repeal.
The death penalty is “a waste of time and money,” McCartin said. “The only
thing it does is prolong the agony of the victims’ families.”
The bill to abandon the practice in New Jersey passed by a close margin; in the
Senate, it squeaked through with the minimum 21 votes needed. Even so, there
has been no talk of turning back. Capital punishment is a non-issue in this
fall’s campaign to fill the 120 seats in the Legislature, and the Department of
Corrections has converted the never-used lethal-injection chamber at New Jersey
State Prison in Trenton to office space. The politicians at the Statehouse
often pass up the opportunity to do the right thing.
This time, they didn’t.
(source: Commentary, George Amick, The Times of Trenton)
Routines on death row are 'mind-numbing,' condemned man says
Condemned killer Gary Haugen sums up life on Oregon's death row this way: fatty
food, stagnant cell time, mind-numbing routines.
"It kills your spirit," the 49-year-old twice-convicted murderer told the
Haugen is unique among the 37 residents of "the row," as he calls it. He is the
only one volunteering to be executed.
Weary of life on death row and fed up with Oregon's legal system, Haugen has
waged a months-long fight to drop his future legal appeals and clear the way
for his death by lethal injection.
On Friday, a judge put the once-derailed execution back on track by finding
Haugen mentally competent to waive his appeals. Barring another twist, he will
be put to death on Dec. 6 at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
As Haugen tells it, dying is preferable to a prolonged, dreary existence on
"It's not that the row is hard time, right," he said during one of several
interviews with the newspaper. "But in a way it is, because every day they drag
this out. It's cruel and unusual punishment to be facing death for 20 or 30
Most of Oregon's condemned killers occupy death row cells in a stand-alone
building at the state penitentiary. The walled prison along State Street is the
state's sole maximum-security prison.
Housed on the row are some of the state's most notorious murderers. Among them:
-Christian Longo, sentenced to die for the December 2001 murders of his wife
and their 3 small children in Lincoln County. He suffocated all 4, stuffing
their bodies in suitcases and sleeping bags and throwing them into ocean
-Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, a father and son sentenced to death for building
and planting a bomb that exploded at a bank in Woodburn in December 2008,
killing 2 law enforcement officials and severely injuring another.
-Dayton Leroy Rogers, sentenced to death for killing 8 women whose bodies were
found during the summer of 1987 at a remote wooded area near Molalla. All the
woman had been stabbed or slashed. Some of the victim's feet had been sawed
Collectively, death row residents are a middle-aged lot; 46 is the average age.
The youngest is 32, the oldest is 63.
29 of the condemned killers are white, 4 are black, 3 are Hispanic, 1 is Native
Marion County juries have sent 8 of the 37 to death row, more than any other
county. 4 of the 8 received death sentences for murdering fellow prison
2 of the condemned are housed apart from the rest: Alberto Reyes-Camarena is at
the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, where he receives dialysis
treatment necessary to keep him alive; Angela McAnulty, the only woman awaiting
execution in Oregon, is housed at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in
Wilsonville, the state's prison for women.
Daily routines on death row revolve around regimented solitude. Inmates spend
most of each day locked down in their cells.
"We get 90 minutes a day five days a week outside in the open air," Haugen
said. "We have some exercise equipment and stuff. Inside the unit, we get a
40-minute walk where you can shower, clean up and walk around and communicate
with other people, if that's your thing."
Staying fit on the row is not easy, Haugen said, complaining about starch-laden
"They want to make you fat and sluggish and tired so you will just lay around
in your bed," he said.
Death row inmates are permitted the same types of personal property as other
prisoners. They can purchase television sets and radios to keep in their cells.
Small comforts don't mask the essential role of death row, Haugen said.
"They can give you all the amenities, but the underlying vein is they want to
kill your ass," he said.
Dozens of death sentences reduced through court system
Death row has a revolving door.
Since Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, dozens of death row
inmates have been handed reduced sentences through appeals, court rulings and
plea deals with prosecutors.
The long-running and costly legal machinations that come with capital
punishment cases often are decried by death penalty proponents and opponents,
but for very different reasons.
Proponents say drawn-out appeals effectively nullify capital punishment by
stalling executions indefinitely. They also complain about cases in which legal
technicalities have unlocked death row's door for killers sentenced to die by
Opponents assert that capital punishment should be abolished, in part, because
trials and appeals cost untold millions every year.
It would be far cheaper to lock up the condemned for life, generating cost
savings that could help combat crime, drug addiction and other social ills,
Amid the clashing debate, this much is certain: Contrary to its image as the
last stop for the condemned, death row often functions as a temporary warehouse
because of court rulings.
In the 1990s, death row rosters were reshuffled in Oregon and across the
country in the wake of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Penry v. Texas. The
high court ruled that death penalty juries must consider mitigating
circumstances, if any exist, before passing a death sentence. Because of that
ruling, at least 16 Oregon death penalty cases were sent back to county circuit
courts for resentencing hearings. In many cases, prosecutors cut deals that
resulted in life sentences for the resentenced inmates — plea bargains aimed at
saving money and sparing victims' families from reliving their anguish.
3 killers initially sentenced to die for Salem-area slayings — Stephen Farrar,
Ronald Moen and Michael Tucker — wound up with life sentences in the wake of
the flurry of resentencing cases triggered by the Penry ruling.
Another former death row inmate, Jeffrey Wagner, escaped from the penitentiary
after he was resentenced to life in prison, with a 30-year minimum, in a
In 1992, Wagner escaped from the maximum-security prison by hiding in the back
of a sawdust truck that carried him outside.
Wagner later walked to a north Salem adult bookstore on Portland Road NE, where
he posed as an FBI agent conducting a sting. The store owner got into a tussle
with Wagner, slipped away and called police. The escapee soon was recaptured
and returned to prison.
While dozens of Oregon killers have exited death row during recent history,
only one has been set free.
Scott Harberts got out of prison a decade ago after the Oregon Supreme Court
vacated his conviction on grounds that his constitutional right to a speedy
trial had been violated.
Harberts previously had been sentenced to death in Clackamas County for the
July 1989 rape and beating death of 2-year-old Kristina Hornych. After the
Supreme Court set aside his conviction, prosecutors accused Harberts of
sexually abusing three of Hornych's relatives in the 1980s. Harberts was
acquitted of all but one count. After serving his time for the sole conviction,
he walked out of prison in 2001. Oregon is far from alone when it comes to
shuffling inmates off death row.
"Nationally, the most comprehensive study of death penalty appeals found that
2/3 of death sentences were overturned, and upon reconsideration over 80 %
received an outcome of less than death," states a report issued this year by
the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes
The report concludes that capital punishment "is a broken and unreliable
system, compounded by wide disparities between states.
"In some states most death sentences are overturned and almost no one is
executed, but in others, like Texas and Virginia, where reversals are rare,
over 575 people have been executed since 1976, almost half of the national
Anti-death penalty activists say the biggest risk of capital punishment —
putting to death an innocent person — has been underscored by numerous cases in
which people sentenced to die were exonerated while waiting to be executed.
"We're all fallible. We make mistakes, but we shouldn't be making mistakes when
it comes to people's lives," Illinois lawmaker Karen Yarbrough said during a
visit to the Oregon Capitol during the 2011 legislative session.
Leaders of Oregon's anti-death penalty movement arranged for Yarbrough's visit
after she championed legislation this year to repeal the death penalty in
Since 1973, 138 people have been exonerated and freed from death row
nationally, according to a 2009 report by the Death Penalty Information Center.
"In many of these cases, the appeals process was critical in overturning an
unfair conviction and allowing a new trial at which the defendant was
acquitted," the report says. "In other cases, even the appeals failed to find
evidence of innocence or a constitutional flaw in the process that led to
conviction, but the process at least allowed for the passage of time, during
which exonerating DNA evidence was discovered and tested, or the person
actually responsible for the crime was identified."
Unlike some states, Oregon doesn't have any history of pinning the death
penalty on innocent people, said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney of
Clatsop County, who has prosecuted capital cases and authored a book about the
Oregonians strongly favor capital punishment as the appropriate punishment in
selective cases, Marquis said.
"It is rarely asked for, it is rarely used, and it is rarely imposed," he said.
Legal safeguards associated with the death penalty don't come cheap, but they
are necessary to ensure the integrity of the system, Marquis said.
"The reason the death penalty is so expensive, both in Oregon and the United
States, and not inappropriately, is to protect the rights of the defendant," he
said. "You could save money but the only way to save money is by cutting down
on the due process."
(source for both: Statesman Journal)
The last word: covering the execution of Manuel Valle
I stared at Manuel Valle as he lay restrained to a gurney in the execution
chamber at Florida State Prison. He shut his eyes and said he didn’t have any
But he did.
After the 1st of 3 deadly drugs was administered, Valle suddenly came to life.
His feet shifted. His eyes flashed open. He turned to the warden — and spoke.
The microphone was off. I couldn’t hear him. I worried I had missed the most
important part of his execution.
Most journalists who witness lethal injections have never seen or heard the
condemned until they appear in the death chamber, minutes before they die.
But I had encountered the 61-year-old Valle in a Miami courtroom two months
before his execution. He wore an orange-and-blue prison uniform. He smiled
weakly at his family. He referred to the judge as “Your Honor.”
Reporters make a point of keeping a distance from our subjects — especially
with executions. Inmates live in faraway prisons. They almost never give
interviews. Their relatives rarely want to speak. We write our stories, as a
result, with a certain degree of detachment.
For my 1st execution, it would have been easier to remain dispassionate. But I
didn’t have that luxury.
Sitting a few feet from Valle when he was alive altered my lens. I felt pity.
Valle committed a fierce, horrendous crime. He killed Coral Gables Police
Officer Louis Pena, a father of four, in 1978. Valle shot Pena in the neck. He
shot another cop in the back.
Yet when I first saw Valle, more than three decades later, he did not look like
a threat. He was a meek and submissive old man who turned to a gaggle of
courtroom guards to return to prison instead of sitting through the remainder
of the hearing.
“If you guys want to go...” he said, asking for permission.
I followed the complicated turns of Valle’s final legal appeals. I sifted
through yellowing newspaper clippings about his first trial. I met two of
Pena’s children, so desperate for closure, for justice.
The execution day came — an odd, somber occasion made more tense by a late
delay by the U.S. Supreme Court.
When the court stalled the proceedings, 5 reporters and I were already inside
the prison in Starke, carrying only our driver’s licenses. 4 hours we waited in
a bare canteen, beige and antiseptic. We wrote drafts and doodled using pencils
and notepads provided by the department of corrections. We made small talk. We
If it was this difficult to wait locked up for 4 hours for a date with death, I
can’t imagine what it would be like to wait for 33 years.
After he was declared dead at 7:14 p.m., Valle’s inaudible last words still
I imagined him crying out in pain. Remembering an important message to his
In a news conference more than an hour later, I found out the truth. And it was
A spokeswoman for the corrections department relayed to the press Valle’s words
to the warden: Valle asked if he should start counting backwards again.
Asking for permission. This time, like a patient going into surgery.
The warden told him to close his eyes. He did.
They didn’t open again.
(source: Commentary, Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald)
NC Supreme Court Lets State Council Set Execution Standards
The wrangling over the death penalty in North Carolina has had its share of
twists and turns over the last few years, but it’s so complicated that even
when the state’s supreme court rules on the matter, it remains unresolved.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has cleared the way for 10 elected officials
to continue setting execution protocol for death row inmates, affirming the
state’s lethal injection procedures, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
In a decision Friday, the court said the Council of State has the authority to
set execution standards, ruling against death row inmates who argued the
Council didn’t follow state statutes when they established new procedures in
2007. The Council of State consists of elected officials, ranging from the
lieutenant governor to the attorney general to the commissioners of
agriculture, insurance and labor.
The ruling isn’t likely to change the de facto moratorium on capital punishment
in the state, since other legal challenges to the death penalty still exist on
the state and federal level, as a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney
General’s office told the AP.
The last time an execution was carried out in North Carolina was 2006. The
following year, a group of inmates challenged the execution methods as cruel
and unusual, which brought about the de facto moratorium. Anti-death penalty
critics point out that state statistics show a per capita decrease of 25% in
the murder rate from 2005 to 2010.
Many death row inmates in North Carolina have also taken advantage of a state
law that lets them use statistical evidence to show racial bias played a role
in their case, as the ABA Journal noted earlier this year. A divided state
House voted in June to nullify that law, but the state Senate pushed
consideration of the matter to 2012, Greenboro’s News & Record reported.
(source: Wall Street Jouranl)
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