[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, USA, FLA., CONN., CALIF., ORE.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Oct 15 11:53:23 CDT 2011
8 exonerated men released from death row will give presentation in Corpus
Ron Keine came within in 10 days of being executed in New Mexico's gas chamber
before another man confessed.
"If a man is serving a life sentence and you make a mistake you can release
him," Keine said. "If you've made a mistake after you killed him there is
nothing you can do about it."
Keine spent 2 years on death row for the 1974 kidnapping and murder of a
University of New Mexico college student until the killer, Kerry Lee turned
himself in for the murder of William Velten.
Keine is one of eight men, who later were found to be innocent, who on Saturday
will be part of a presentation on life on death row and the death penalty. The
event begins at 4 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church, 6901 Holly Road. Those
scheduled to speak are Clarence Brandley, a former Texas inmate, Dan Bright,
Gary Drinkard, Jeremy Sheets and Greg Wilhoite.
"We're here to put a face on the death penalty," Keine said. "We want people to
know it can happen to anyone, like us, who were just normal people."
The Corpus Christi stop is part of the Texas Witness to Innocence Freedom Ride
which will make presentations in 30 location in 7 days.
"We're hoping that these stories will open the community's mind about problems
in Texas with the death penalty system," organizer Hooman Hedayati said. "We
want to build the support against the death penalty especially for those that
were wrongfully convicted."
In 2009, 52 inmates were executed throughout the country. 24 of those
executions were in Texas.
Ann Smith, a member of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty local
chapter, said the discussion with the men will allow the community to
understand the harshness of the prison and justice system.
"It's very dramatic," she said, "and it says something about human error,
prison costs and how it affected these men."
Keine said that despite another man confessing, he had to wait months for his
release. It wasn't until Lee detailed where Velten's body was hidden and where
to find the murder weapon that Keine was granted a new trial. A judge later
quashed the murder indictments and Keine and three friends were free.
"The death penalty is archaic, barbaric and morally wrong especially wrong,"
Keine said. "No justice system can ever be the best that executes their own
people. There is no reason to kill people."
The Rev. Philip Douglas of Unitarian Universalist said not every person will
agree with wanting to abolish the death penalty, but the men's stories still
should be heard.
"I'm hoping that people will come and listen with open minds," he said.
"Hopefully it will lead to larger and more reasonable conversations about when
we decide as a state or government to take someone's life."
IF YOU GO
What: Texas Witness to Innocence Freedom Ride
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 6901 Holly Road
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday
Information: visit www.witnesstoinnocence.org
(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
Death sentence upheld in YSU student’s slaying
The 7th District Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence of
the man convicted of the 1985 murder of a Youngstown State University student.
Bennie Adams appealed to the court after having been found guilty and sentenced
to death in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in 2008 for the murder of Gina
The appellate court heard oral arguments in the case in August and issued a
Tenney, a 19-year-old YSU student who was Adams’ upstairs neighbor in an Ohio
Avenue duplex, was strangled Dec. 29, 1985. Her frozen body was found in the
Mahoning River near West Avenue the next day.
Adams was indicted for the murder in 2007 after a DNA match was found in
evidence that police had preserved for 22 years. Adams, 54, is on death row.
Undue delay in prosecution is one of the 21 allegations of legal and procedural
error presented by Attys. John B. Juhasz and Lynn A. Maro, who are representing
Adams. The court filing included 528 pages.
(source: Youngstown Vindicator)
The Death Penalty’s De Facto Abolition
A new Gallup poll reports that support for the death penalty is at its lowest
level since 1972. In fact, though, the decline, from a high of 80 % in 1994 to
61 % now, masks both Americans’ ambivalence about capital punishment and the
country’s de facto abolition of the penalty in most places.
When Gallup gave people a choice a year ago between sentencing a murderer to
death or life without parole, an option in each of the 34 states that have the
death penalty, only 49 % chose capital punishment.
That striking difference suggests that more Americans are recognizing that
killing a prisoner is not the only way to make sure he is never released, that
the death penalty cannot be made to comply with the Constitution and that it is
in every way indefensible. But there are other numbers that tell a more
compelling story about the national discomfort with executions.
>From their annual high points since the penalty was reinstated 35 years ago,
the number executed has dropped by 1/2, and the number sentenced to death has
dropped by almost 2/3. 16 states don’t allow the penalty, and eight of the
states that do have not carried out an execution in 12 years or more. There is
Only 1/7 of the nation’s 3,147 counties have carried out an execution since
1976. Counties with 1/8 of the American population produce 2/3 of the
sentences. As a result, the death penalty is the embodiment of arbitrariness.
Texas, for example, in the past generation, has executed 5 times as many people
as Virginia, the next closest state. But the penalty is used heavily in just 4
of Texas’s 254 counties.
Opposition to capital punishment has built from the ground up. It is evident in
the greater part of America’s counties where people realize that, in addition
to being barbaric, capricious and prohibitively expensive, the death penalty
does not reflect their values. (source: Editorial, New York Times)
Death penalty----Growing doubt about fairness
American attitudes toward the death penalty are changing, due in part to the
growing number of wrongly convicted individuals who have been freed after
serving years, even decades, on death row.
The 35 percent of Americans who oppose capital punishment in a Gallup Poll is
the highest since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to resume
use of the death penalty in 1972. There is still strong support with 6 of 10
persons polled favoring the death penalty for murder, but confidence is
eroding. The number of those who believe it is applied fairly as well as those
who say it is not applied often enough have fallen to their lowest levels in a
The timing of the poll may have affected people’s opinions. It was taken just
after the execution of Troy Davis and another Supreme Court case challenging a
death penalty. Davis was put to death for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police
officer even though several key witnesses recanted their testimony against him.
Last week, the high court heard the case of Cory Maples who was denied an
appeal after he missed a deadline to file one because the two lawyers
representing him had left their law firm and failed to notify him or the
courts, a technicality that could cost Maples his life.
Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty, told USA Today, “There’s been a steady erosion in confidence in the
system as more and more people sentenced to death have had their cases
overturned.” Nearly 140 inmates awaiting execution have been exonerated or had
their convictions overturned on appeal, many of them due to the work of the
Its co-director, Barry Scheck, attributed growing public doubt about capital
punishment to the high cost and time involved in prosecuting and then defending
capital punishment cases in the courts. With 700 inmates on California’s death
row, “the amount of time and expense to handle those cases is mind-boggling,”
he said, adding that the public does not view the death penalty as a deterrent
Mr. Scheck noted that the Gallup Poll did not ask Americans if they believe
life imprisonment was a better alternative to capital punishment, which could
show even wider dislike for it.
Other civilized nations have abandoned use of the death penalty. As dozens of
cases have shown, mistakes can be made despite protections built into the legal
system. Innocent people could have lost their lives. The death penalty should
(source: Editorial, Watertown Daily Times)
The Death Penalty – Again
3 significant events relating to the death penalty occurred in the United
States during September. The one that gained the most publicity was the
execution in Georgia of Troy Davis, who had been convicted of the 1989 murder
of Mark McPhail, an off-duty police officer.
Davis’s death sentence was carried out despite serious doubts about whether he
was guilty of the crime for which he received it. Witnesses who had testified
at his trial later said that prosecutors had coerced them. Even death-penalty
supporters protested against his execution, saying that he should be given a
new trial. But the courts denied his appeals. In his final words, he proclaimed
The deliberate judicial killing of a man who might have been innocent is deeply
disturbing. But the execution was consistent with something that happened just
two weeks earlier, at one of the debates between Republican candidates for
their party’s nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year. Texas
Governor Rick Perry was reminded that during his term of office, the death
penalty has been carried out 234 times. No other governor in modern times has
presided over as many executions. But what is more remarkable is that some
audience members applauded when the high number of executions was mentioned.
Perry was then asked whether he was ever troubled by the fact that one of them
might have been innocent. He replied that he did not lose any sleep over the
executions, because he had confidence in the judicial system in Texas. In view
of the record of mistakes in every other judicial system, such confidence is
difficult to justify. Indeed, less than a month later, Michael Morton, who had
served nearly 25 years of a life sentence for the murder of his wife, was
released from a Texas prison. DNA tests had shown that another man was
responsible for the crime.
As September drew to a close, the US Supreme Court reached its decision in the
case of Manuel Valle, who had been sentenced to death 33 years earlier. Valle
had asked the court to halt his execution, on the grounds that to spend so long
on death row is “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore prohibited by the
Justice Stephen Breyer agreed that to spend 33 years in prison awaiting
execution is cruel. In support of that view, he pointed to “barbaric”
conditions on death row, and the “horrible” feelings of uncertainty when one is
under sentence of execution but does not know whether or when the sentence will
be carried out. Breyer then went on to document the fact that so long a period
on death row is also unusual. It was, in fact, a record, although the average
length of time spent on death row in the US is 15 years; in 2009, of 3173
death-row prisoners, 113 had been there for more than 29 years.
So Breyer held that Valle’s treatment was unconstitutional, and that he should
not be executed. But he found no support for his position among the eight other
Supreme Court judges. On September 28, the court rejected Valle’s application,
and he was executed that evening.
The US is now the only Western industrialized nation to retain the death
penalty for murder. Of 50 European countries, only Belarus, notorious for its
lack of respect for basic human rights, still executes criminals in peacetime.
The European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights regards the death penalty as
a human-rights violation.
The death penalty is not an effective deterrent. Murder rates in Europe and
other Western industrialized nations are lower, often much lower, than those in
the US. In the US itself, the 16 states that have abolished the death penalty
generally have lower murder rates than those that retain it.
In the US, however, deterrence is not really the issue. Retribution is often
seen as a more important justification for the death penalty. It is quite
common for family members of the victim to watch the execution of the person
convicted of killing their relative, and afterwards to pronounce themselves
satisfied that justice has been done – it happened again with the execution of
In the rest of the Western world, the desire to witness an execution is widely
regarded as barbaric, and barely comprehensible. The idea that the families of
murder victims cannot obtain “closure” until the murderer has been executed
seems not to be a universal human truth, but a product of a particular culture
– perhaps not even American culture as a whole, but rather the culture of the
American South, where 80% of all executions take place.
In view of the possibility that Georgia recently executed an innocent man, it
is particularly ironic that the South’s voters are America’s most zealous in
their efforts to protect innocent human life – as long as that life is still
inside the womb, or is that of a person who, suffering from a terminal illness,
seeks a doctor’s assistance in order to die when he or she wants. It is a
contradiction that belies what the Republican Party, which dominates the
region, promotes as a “culture of life.”
(source: Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and
Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Practical
Ethics,The Expanding Circle, and The Life You Can Save; Truthout.org)
Florida firing squads? What has death penalty supporters all riled
up?----Heated rhetoric over the death penalty just got hotter with a proposal,
in Florida, that firing squads replace lethal injections. Some see this as a
sign that death penalty supporters are insecure.
A majority of Americans seem to agree: They want the death penalty. And in a
majority of states, the death penalty is legal.
So why are supporters of the death penalty engaging in so much heated rhetoric
when, by all appearances, they seem to have both public opinion and the law on
A case in point: Republican presidential contender Rick Perry received booming
applause from a debate audience last month after he said he “never struggled”
with any of the 234 executions he presided over during his watch as Texas
And now in Florida, a state that already has capital punishment on the books
and carried out an execution as recently as late September, a Republican
lawmaker is proposing a bill to do away with lethal injection and only allow
execution by electrocution or firing squad.
So what is happening here? Some analysts suggest that those who think capital
punishment is the ultimate crime deterrent are becoming increasingly insecure
in the face of a resolute opposition to the death penalty, and that is moving
them to find louder and more visible ways of making their position known.
In Florida, state Rep. Brad Drake (R) said his legislation is in response to
the execution of Manuel Valle on Sept. 29, which was delayed by legal battles
over the mixture of lethal drugs used in the procedure.
In a statement, Representative Drake said he is “tired of being humane to
inhumane people,” and believes harsher punishment is justified to achieve
justice for the most heinous crimes in his state.
“Let’s end the debate. We still have Old Sparky,” he said. “And if that doesn’t
suit the criminal, then we will provide them with a .45 caliber lead cocktail
A firing squad, which most Americans associate with the nation’s frontier past,
is the antithesis of lethal injection, which is considered a more clinical
procedure and therefore less fraught with emotional baggage.
Just 3 people have died by a firing squad since 1976, according to data from
the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.
In cases like Drake’s, extreme remarks about the death penalty are merely “red
meat for a political conversation,” says Douglas Berman, a law professor at
Ohio State University in Columbus, who specializes in death penalty sentencing
“That is part of the broader story of the death penalty. It is much more about
rhetoric than reality,” Mr. Berman says.
What is real, meanwhile, is that there are plenty of reasons for supporters of
the death penalty to feel insecure. Even with the death penalty on the books in
34 states, the number of executions carried out each year has dropped 56 %
between 2000 and 2010, while the number of new death sentences meted out has
fallen 50 % in that same period.
Similarly, fewer states are carrying out executions despite having crowded
death rows, suggesting that the political will is fading due to a combination
of public opposition, heightened DNA testing, and costly legal challenges. For
example, 45 % of all executions in 2010 took place in one state: Texas. Only
one other state came close, Ohio, with 22 %.
Those numbers are reinforcing the belief among capital punishment supporters
that they may be losing the overall battle with death penalty abolitionists.
“The anti-death penalty crowd is committed in a kind of single-issue way, which
is why supporters of the death penalty know they always have to be in some kind
of battle mode. They genuinely believe the abolitionist community is never
going to give up until they get the success they seek, which is getting the
death penalty eliminated nationwide,” Berman says.
As for public opinion, support is showing some signs of eroding. According to
the Gallup polling organization, 61 % of Americans – a 39-year low – approve of
using the death penalty for murder convictions, down from 64 % in 2010.
Abolitionists like Greg Mitchell, author of “Dead Reckoning,” which tracks the
history of the death penalty, say it is mistake to assume, based on polling
data, that the majority of Americans support the death penalty, because the
question does not offer life without parole as an alternative punishment. When
asked in other polls, he says, Americans tend to be more evenly divided.
For example, when Gallup gave the choice between death penalty and life
imprisonment without parole, 49 % choose the former and 46 the latter. (Gallup
did not ask the question this year.)
“There are far fewer executions [than] there used to be because of the
reluctance of prosecutors, because they know the [legal] roadblocks and they
know jurors, when it comes down to it, don’t want to convict,” Mr. Mitchell
says. “Public vengeance is satisfied with life without parole.”
(source: Christian Science Monitor)
Not much relevance in death penalty debate
With the formality of Joshua Komisarjevsky's conviction in the rape and murder
of the Petit family in Cheshire in 2007 out of the way, the court and the jury
will move on to the bigger issue -- whether Komisarjevsky should share the
death sentence already given to the other perpetrator, Steven Hayes. As both
confessed and offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences,
Connecticut now will have another round of debate about capital punishment.
Opponents of capital punishment in Connecticut note that it's a fraud, death
sentences being imposed but never carried out. But the opponents themselves are
the ones who have made it a fraud, stuffing the law with a complicated
balancing test between aggravating and mitigating factors and with mandatory
appeals that have nothing to do with actual guilt. This fraud long has been
Connecticut's political compromise, wherein elected officials have capital
punishment in theory while avoiding it in practice or oppose it only nominally
without putting themselves at much risk, since no one will be executed anyway.
But the atrocity in Cheshire has made the fraud harder to live with
politically. The public believes that the perpetrators should be put to death
irrespective of other questions about capital punishment, and 2 state senators
who supported repealing capital punishment will not provide the crucial votes
before the Cheshire defendants are sentenced.
On top of the legislated fraud, for six years a lawsuit has been crawling
through the courts claiming that capital punishment in Connecticut is
unconstitutional because of racial and geographic disparities in death
sentences -- also irrelevant to guilt.
Indeed, there is no question about the guilt of the 10 men under death sentence
in Connecticut, and there was none about the guilt of the only man executed
here since 1960, the serial thrill killer Michael B. Ross, whose sentence was
carried out in 2005 only after his long struggle to terminate his appeals.
That is, unlike Texas and some other states, Connecticut has not gotten a death
sentence wrong in at least 60 years.
Of course Connecticut always might get a death sentence wrong, which is the
only generally persuasive argument against capital punishment, and in recent
years the state has gotten wrong many serious criminal cases resulting in long
sentences, cases where convictions have been disproved by DNA evidence.
Mortifying as those mistaken convictions should be, they have illustrated a
paradoxical safeguard against mistaken death sentences.
That is, prosecutors and juries in serious cases in Connecticut have two
standards -- the standard they are supposed to use, proof beyond a reasonable
doubt, and a standard of probably guilty. The former standard encompasses
confessions, eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, motive, and opportunity.
The latter standard encompasses mainly circumstantial evidence. These double
standards keep innocent people off death row but destroy their liberty.
Connecticut's capital punishment debate may be most remarkable for its
irrelevance to this more practical question of justice. And yet except for some
reluctant acknowledgment that cross-racial identifications are often wrong,
there has been little discussion of this.
The irrelevance to justice continues with the various forms of opposition to
capital punishment. As long as people have freedom of movement and the work of
the courts is done by people rather than machines, there will be racial,
geographic, and other disparities in all sentences. These are not necessarily
proof of injustice, as crime itself varies with race, geography, and other
things. Most people confined in Connecticut's prison system are members of
racial minorities from poor cities, and it's not all a matter of racism. If
racial and geographic disparities make death sentences unconstitutional, all
other sentences are unconstitutional as well.
The same goes with the claims in the endless appeals in death penalty cases,
claims like ineffective counsel and improperly admitted evidence. Such claims
are common to most criminal cases in Connecticut, yet they are seldom pressed
vigorously, probably because as a matter of political ideology public defenders
are far less committed to undoing wrongful convictions than they are to
nullifying death sentences for the rightly convicted.
The biggest issue here may be simply democracy. The state and federal
constitutions both explicitly recognize the propriety if not the necessity of
capital punishment. The people are entitled to legislate it if they want to.
(source: Commentary; Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer)
The Courant's Mixed Feelings On The Death Penalty
The Courant first ran anti-death penalty opinions more than 2 centuries ago.
But the newspaper hasn't always been consistent in its own view on one of the
great moral issues facing society.
At times, the newspaper has seemed unable to make up its mind.
Mergers, Acquisitions and Takeovers An anonymous writer "for the Connecticut
Courant" in 1791 made what seems a modern-day argument to end capital
punishment, saying that "death makes no reparation to the injured, unless in
gratifying their passion for revenge. By taking away life, reformation is
wholly precluded. The example to others is of little use … in preventing
But by 1843, the Courant was editorializing in florid language rich with
biblical citations that "we hold to the opinion that no Christian legislature
who acknowledges the divine authority of the Scriptures and the obligations of
the law of God can abolish the punishment of death for the crime of murder."
Until 1929, the newspaper seemed ambivalent about capital punishment,
acknowledging that executions were troubling but also worrying that killers
would crowd prisons if they didn't face the threat of death.
The editorials concentrated instead on recommending more humane methods for
executions — and on moving hangings out of the public arena, to make them less
of a "demoralizing," error-prone spectacle.
An 1876 editorial reported that "the best proposal ever made was that of the
Scientific American … that a great electric spark be applied to the victims and
that they be shocked to death. It is sure, instantaneous and uniform."
An 1882 editorial said that "the public hanging must be abolished… They turn
the most awful function of human justice into a holiday amusement."
An example of the newspaper's mixed feelings on capital punishment was a 1919
editorial that said "sentiment against capital punishment is strong" and jurors
were sentencing murderers to life in prison instead. But the public was
learning that "lifers are likely to go crazy [and] the cry now is to let life
prisoners expect to be let out after a while, thus saving their minds.
"In other words, murder increases, but the punishments for it continually
decrease too. Perhaps the latter explains the former condition."
In 1928, the Courant wrote, "We believe that when capital punishment is used
more frequently, we shall have fewer murders and that our present aim should be
not to abandon it, but to apply it."
The turning point came in 1929, when a graphic news story about a hanging so
disgusted Courant Editor Maurice Sherman that he came out swinging against the
death penalty by any method. In a series of editorials that winter, he wrote of
the "inherent fallacies of the death penalty" and quoted, approvingly, former
Sing-Sing prison warden Lewis E. Lawes:
"He is today, as a result of his studies and observations, convinced that
capital punishment is a tremendous mistake. Not only does he find fewer
homicidal crimes in states which have abolished the death penalty that in
those, comparable in character, where it is retained, but he says, 'No
punishment could be invented with so many inherent defects.'"
Another editorial that year argued that there were more homicides in states
with the death penalty and quoted a Windsor Congregational pastor as saying
that execution "seems to me to be matching one horrible murder by another."
The following year, Mr. Sherman, evidently repulsed by the execution of a woman
in Arizona, wrote: "We have hanged men, we have electrocuted and shot them,
stifled them to death in lethal chambers. Yet others continue to murder, and
will continue to do so. … [W]ould we not be wiser to substitute life
imprisonment for a form of punishment that is brutally inconsistent with the
avowed ideals of a Christian civilization?"
Even so, the ambivalence continued. A March 1959 editorial advocated execution
for serial killers: "Indeed it is time to refine our state laws on the subject,
to confine capital punishment to those few beasts in human form who kill
But by June 1981, the editorials had returned to advocating the abolition of
the death penalty, and would continue to do so: "Frustration over the growing
crime rate is understandable, but the death penalty would not curb that rate.
Anger over the assassination, and attempted assassination, of the president or
other high federal officials is understandable, but the death penalty would
merely compound the atrocity."
(source: Carolyn Lumsden is opinion editor of The Courant. Rosa Ciccio, head
librarian of The Courant, researched much of the background for this article)
No Justice In Rage
Should Joshua Komisarjevsky be "hanged by his penis in the middle of Main
Street" for his role in the Cheshire home invasion in 2007? I suspect plenty of
people think so. But when a senior member of the General Assembly, Sen. Edith
Prague, publicly airs such talk, I shudder. The senator's comments last May are
powerful proof that the death penalty is little more than savagery.
Let's make no mistake: The slaughter of members of Dr. William Petit Jr.'s
family in their home four years ago was a dark and despicable act. A jury has
already condemned one of the assailants, Steven Hayes, to death. A different
jury will now decide whether Joshua Komisarjevsky should also die.
The legislature was set to vote on abolition of the death penalty this spring,
as the jury was being selected in Mr. Komisarjevsky's case. Sen. Prague was
expected to vote for abolition. Connecticut would have joined all New England
states but New Hampshire in abandoning state sponsored killing as a form of
Dr. Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, then paid a visit to the
senator. Remarkably, she sat with him, listened to what he had to say and came
out swinging the executioner's rope.
An ancient maxim in the law holds that no person can be a judge in their own
case. We recognize that folks can be rubbed raw by their losses. Justice
requires a calm and steady hand. Thus the state has assumed the role of
prosecutor, deciding whether and when to prosecute a person for a crime. We
substitute the role of professional for that of aggrieved victim — we let
reason work where passions are too easily stirred.
So why did lawmakers back down from a vote abolishing the death penalty?
It was not because the death penalty deters crime. There is no evidence for
that. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that kills
those who break the law. Almost every other country regards the practice as
We kill because it makes us feel good. But the feelings it taps are sentiments
we should fear. When state senators boast about their longing to see a man hung
by his genitalia in public we should shudder. But Sen. Prague stood by her
remarks when challenged. She enjoyed her sense of outrage.
What in the world did Dr. Petit say to her in their private meeting?
I am frequently asked in a somewhat triumphant tone by those favoring the death
penalty how I would react if it were my family that were killed. Would I still
be vocal against the death penalty? Would I still rail against a state that
takes from its citizens what it cannot give — life? Those asking smile as
though they are the cat catching a devious mouse.
"Of course not," I reply. "Kill my family and I will want you dead." I would be
wild with rage. I would expect no one to trust me with deciding what justice
requires. I could not be a judge in my own case. No one can.
We yield too easily to rage in the Cheshire cases. This murder in paradise
mocks us all. Work hard, buy a home in the suburbs, educate your children, love
your wife. Do all these things, and all that is good and true and beautiful
shall be yours. Cheshire is the new Eden.
When Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky rampaged through the Petit home,
they stole that dream from us all. Our restraint was mocked.
Sigmund Freud observed that civilization depends on harnessing the darker
impulses. We repress aggression and rage to meet a higher vision of what is
required to live together in peace. But civilization comes at a cost. Always
and forever, we do the hard work of keeping the beast within chained.
But not in the Cheshire case. This time we're yielding to a self-indulgent bit
of savagery that has senators calling for bodies swinging from lamp posts on
Main Street. Can it be?
The death penalty is savage. Edith Prague proves it. One meeting with a man
undone by violent death and this gentle woman howls at the moon. That so many
of you reading this piece agree with her both proves my point and terrifies me.
(source: Editorial, Norman A. Pattis is a criminal defense and civil rights
lawyer in Bethany; Hartford Courant)
Prosecution to seek death penalty against alleged salon shooter
A string of angry shouts, including "I hate you, I hate you," tore through a
packed Orange County courtroom Friday as the man accused of killing 8 people
and wounding a ninth at a Seal Beach beauty salon made his first court
The defendant, Scott Evans Dekraai, showed no emotion amid taunts from the
audience, which included dozens of family members and friends of the victims.
Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Dekraai, who is
charged with eight felony counts of special circumstance 1st-degree murder, and
one felony count of attempted murder in connection with the worst mass murder
in the county's history.
As Dekraai, 41, was led into the courtroom, some in the audience cried and one
man shouted "coward."
When attorney Robert Curtis asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick L.
Larsh for a continuance in order to assemble a defense team, 1 man in the
gallery buried his head in his hands.
Curtis also told Larsh that a medical order is needed so that Dekraai can
receive his anti-psychotic medication, and to have a spinal cord stimulator to
help control chronic pain that the defendant suffers.
The judge ordered a medical evaluation of the defendant, who is being held
without bail, and continued the arraignment to Nov. 29.
That fueled an already tense scene, as some family members held hands and
others clutched photos of those who perished in Wednesday's assault at Salon
Meritage. Among those in attendance was Butch Fournier, the brother of Michelle
Marie Fournier, Dekraai's 48-year-old ex-wife who worked at the salon and is
believed to have been his primary target.
She and Dekraai divorced in 2007 but were locked in a custody battle for their
8-year-old son. Authorities said Dekraai had talked early Wednesday with
Fournier, who was among the people shot to death at close range.
Outside the courtroom, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he
expected mental health would be part of the defense strategy.
"I won't be surprised if we get an insanity plea," he said.
Hours earlier, in an emotional news conference, Rackauckas released new details
about the attack, painting a horrifying scene in which people were playing dead
and trying to hide anywhere they could.
There were about 20 people in the salon at the time, he said, adding that
Dekraai came "prepared to commit murder."
"Wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with 3 firearms, he walked through the
salon shooting anyone close enough to hit," Rackauckas said. "He stopped to
reload, and then continued gunning people down. He was not satisfied with
murdering his intended target, his ex-wife.
"For almost 2 minutes, Dekraai shot victim after victim, executing eight people
by shooting them in the head and chest," he added. "He was not done. He then
walked out of the salon and shot a ninth victim, a male, who was sitting nearby
in a parked Range Rover.
"The reason for this rampage? Revenge."
Rackauckas also said that Dekraai believed that some of the salon employees
were "enablers" in the custody battle.
"While Dekraai rampaged through the hair salon shooting at innocent victims,
the son he professed to love was sitting in the principal's office ... waiting
for his mom or dad to pick him up," a visibly tearful Rackauckas said. "That
little boy is also a victim. He is now left to mourn the murder of his mother,
and grow up with the knowledge that his father committed a mass murder. What
sick, twisted fatherly love is this?"
The others killed were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann
Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Lee Elody, 46; Christy Lynn Wilson,
47; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; and David Caouette, 64.
The sole survivor, Hattie Stretz, 73, remained in critical condition at Long
Beach Memorial Medical Center. "She was at the salon that afternoon getting her
hair done by her daughter, Laura Elody, who was murdered," Rackauckas said.
Seal Beach Acting Police Chief Tom Olson said Dekraai was armed himself with
handguns - a 9-mm Springfield, a Heckler & Koch .45, and a Smith & Wesson .44
magnum - "and wore body armor because he did not want to be shot by police."
Officials said Dekraai used at least two handguns in the attack, and did not
appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Dekraai had a troubled background, according to relatives and court documents.
A tugboat accident off El Segundo, Calif., in 2007 left him facing multiple
surgeries. Once trim and muscular, he became overweight. He was also paying
$1,500 a month in child support.
Before Friday's hearing, Butch Fournier said of the death penalty charges, "It
is fine with me," adding that his sister "was just a loving caring person. She
didn't have a bad thing about her."
In Seal Beach, where a makeshift memorial continued to grow at the door to the
salon, word of the charges Dekraai is facing drew expressions of relief.
The suspect "put together a plan and then murdered my friends and friends of
this community," said Judy Rodriguez Watson, co-owner of the Bay City Center,
where the salon is located. "He should be punished with the death penalty."
(source: Sacramento Bee)
Death penalty opponent returns----Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking”
fame will speak locally
Sister Helen Prejean sees reason for hope as she returns to Eugene this week to
speak about human rights and the death penalty.
The Louisiana nun is perhaps the country’s best-known opponent of state
executions, thanks to her book “Dead Man Walking” and the Oscar-winning film
of the same name. The book was based on her experience ministering to and
witnessing the electrocution of Elmo Patrick Sonnier for the 1984 rape and
murder of Loretta Ann Bourque, 18, and the murder of her boyfriend David
In a recent interview, Prejean said her fellow Roman Catholics have reached a
tipping point in their death penalty views.
“There’s been a huge shift,” she said, citing a 2005 Zogby Poll showing only 48
% of Catholics supporting capital punishment, compared with 68 % support in a
similar poll in 2001.
“And among (Catholics) younger than 30, only 41 % support the death penalty,”
Prejean said, speaking in a soft drawl. She credited church leaders with
“opposing the death penalty in a vigorous way, connecting it with the pro-life
movement, so that the Catholic Church is not in there with those supporting
According to a nationwide Gallup Poll released this week, 61 % of Americans
still favor the death penalty, but that support is softening. The poll showed
that 35 % of U.S. residents now oppose it — the highest level in nearly 40
years. And only 52 % of those polled said they believe the death penalty is
applied fairly in the country today. The poll was conducted shortly after the
September execution of Troy Davis went forward in Georgia despite evidence that
he may have been wrongly convicted of murdering Savannah police officer Mark
“7 witnesses against him recanted, and there was no direct physical evidence he
committed the crime,” said Prejean, who wrote a second book, “The Death of
Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.” That book was based
on her death row accompaniment of two executed people she believed innocent.
The nun said she was shocked by the high bar for appeals courts to overturn a
conviction, and that procedural errors can be more important than new
information about witnesses or evidence.
“By the time you get to the appellate level, it’s like a calcified court. They
say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to second-guess the (lower) courts,’ or ‘Sorry, it’s
too late, you should have done this sooner.’?”
This even though DNA evidence has now exonerated 273 wrongfully convicted
Americans — including 17 on death row, according to The Innocence Project,
which aids such inmates.
The Death of Innocents is also about a Supreme Court that “believes in ideology
more than justice,” she said.
Prejean advocates reform of the entire criminal justice system, with its racial
and economic inequities.
“The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world,” she said,
“and 1 in every 3 black people in this country age 20 to 29 is in the prison
system. It’s worse than apartheid.”
This is 4th time the University of Oregon law school has hosted Prejean as a
guest speaker. She joked that she keeps coming back because of “a deep mythical
connection between Eugene, Oregon and Louisiana.”
“Actually, the difference in our cultures couldn’t be greater,” she said.
“Louisiana is one of the 10 Deep South states that carries out more than 80
percent of all the executions in the U.S. The last time I was in Eugene, I
attended a class on nonviolent conflict resolution, and one of the young women
in the class said she didn’t know one student who was for the death penalty.”
She called that ironic.
“Oregon and the Northwest have some of the fewest percentages of churchgoers in
the country,” Prejean said. “I come from the Bible Belt where everyone and
their cat goes to church or Mass, but still say, ‘When you have a really bad
crime, it’s OK to kill your enemy. Forget that stuff Jesus says about forgiving
She acknowledged, however, that Oregon has set its first execution in 14 years
for Dec. 6 after a judge found Gary Haugen mentally competent to waive his
appeal rights. Haugen was sentenced to die in 2007 after he was convicted of
killing fellow inmate David Polin at the state penitentiary, where Haugen was
serving time for the 1981 murder of Portland resident Mary Archer.
She was surprised to learn that a Lane County jury recently sent the first
woman in 50 years to Oregon’s death row. Even after hearing how Angela
McAnulty fatally starved, maimed and tortured her 15-year-old daughter,
Jeanette Maples, Prejean reiterated her belief in “true life” sentences without
parole for such murderers.
Justice would be better served, Prejean said, if Oregon devoted the resources
it spends on death penalty cases to finding out “what would make a woman do
such an unspeakable act, what violence was pumped into her that she could do
(source: Register Guard)
More information about the DeathPenalty