[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.H., N.C., MISS., ALA., MD., CONN., OHIO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Oct 21 11:27:32 CDT 2011
Death penalty option for all murder cases?
The death penalty would become an option in any pre-meditated murder under a
bill a House committee endorsed Thursday.
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-6 to recommend that
the House pass the measure, HB 162, when it meets in January.
The most recent change to state capital murder laws came earlier this year,
when it added home invasion cases to the list of killings in which a death
sentence can be ordered. The House voted in 2009 to repeal the death penalty,
but the effort died in the Senate.
Current law limits capital punishment to killings of judges and law enforcement
officers, those committed during rapes, kidnappings and drug deals, and those
committed by someone already serving a life sentence. That would change under
the bill which says, "A person is guilty of capital murder if such person
purposely causes the death of another."
Rep. Phil Greazzo, R-Manchester, sponsored HB 162, and said his bill is a
matter of fairness. He said the state Constitution says all people “should be
protected equally under the law.” Selecting the murder of certain people for
punishment by death violates that principal, he said.
“This law needs to apply to everyone or to no one,” Greazzo said.
Rep. Roger Berube, D-Somersworth, objected to the bill.
“Just the idea that this is out there is unbelievable,” he said. Among other
problems, are the certainty the state will be locked in decades of appeals.
There is no proof that the death penalty deters crime, he said.
Greazzo answered that he did not file the bill as a deterrent. “It's a matter
of equality,” he said.
He pointed out that the bill does not require the seek death penalty in any
case, but it gives prosecutors the option in every case of murder.
Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, said he thinks current law strikes the right
balance and that life without parole is a fitting sentence in most cases.
Judges, police and others in law enforcement, he said, “are people we pay to
take a bullet for us, and I think that is appropriate.”
He noted the state now has one person on death row, who would be the first to
be executed since 1939. But the state has no place or person to carry out an
execution. Plans to build a death chamber at the state prison carry a price tag
of more than $4 million, he said.
Rep. Gene Charron, R-Chester, a former house of corrections superintendent,
said he sees no difference in the costs of life-without-parole sentence and the
legal thicket that death sentences create.
“We're still paying no matter what,” he said. “I didn't think I'd ever be
talking the way I am now, but a life is a life is a life…
“I have to vote from here,” he added, pointing to his heart.
Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, the only Democrat to vote for the bill,
said, “An eye for an eye. It's in the Bible.”
(source: Concord Monitor)
Life or death? Sometimes juries balk at the latter
Americans seem to be losing faith in the death penalty.
That’s the gist of a recent Gallup poll that found support for capital
punishment among Americans is at its lowest level in 39 years.
Here’s what a story in the Winston-Salem Journal said about the poll:
“61 % of Americans approve of using the death penalty for people convicted of
murder, the poll released last week said. That’s a 19-%-point drop over the
past 17 years and a 3-point drop from last year, when 64 % of Americans polled
said they supported the death penalty. In 1972, 49 % of Americans polled
supported the death penalty. That year was also when the U.S. Supreme Court
suspended the death penalty. Executions resumed in 1977.
“The poll also found that 52 % of Americans said the death penalty is applied
fairly, down from 58 percent last year, and 40 percent of Americans believe the
death penalty isn’t imposed often enough. Republicans, men, whites and
Southerners are more likely to support the death penalty, the poll found.”
Alamance County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case of Dennis
Mills. Mills agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to shooting Charles Madden and
Gary Allred to death in 2010. A jury must be seated for the sentencing phase.
Despite the plea, Mills could still be put to death.
Putting someone to death is serious stuff and, it seems to me, fewer and fewer
people are willing to do it.
I’ll forever be on the fence about capital punishment, and which side I’m
leaning toward isn’t of much interest to anyone. My point today is that I think
capital punishment is on the way out in this country, and I think it will be
sooner rather than later.
This state is under an execution moratorium and has established a first of its
kind Innocence Inquiry Commission that can, with a unanimous decision by a
3-judge panel, negate a conviction. The state of Illinois has banned
And it’s not the innocence investigations, or the lawsuits or the protests that
will end the death penalty. It’s not the exonerations by DNA evidence or the
fact that it’s such a glacial process that we have had one man, Wayne A. Laws,
sitting on North Carolina’s death row since 1985.
It will be the voices of the people, the gradual unwillingness of jurors to
enact it and the voters telling the legislative branch they have had enough,
that will do it.
Alamance County hasn’t sought the death penalty since 2009, when prosecutors
tried Lawrence Donnell Flood. Flood was eventually convicted of the 1st-degree
murder of 16-year-old Gregory Jerrod Watlington but the jury chose to spare his
In 2005, a jury in Graham convicted Jerry Lynn Stuart of killing his
girlfriend, April Renee Greer. The 20-year-old was 7 months pregnant. Stuart
cut her throat in their Moran Street apartment. He dismembered her body and
dumped her in Back Creek.
I thought to myself at the time, if there’s a reason for the death penalty,
this guy is it. After a 3-hour deliberation, the jury went in a different
direction, as the corporate-speak saw goes. They decided to send him to Central
Prison, where he’ll have all his needs cared for by the largess of the
taxpayers of the great state of North Carolina as long as he is able to live.
The bottom line for me is that if we the people aren’t willing to give death to
men who kill 16-year-old boys and pregnant women, we aren’t willing to execute
And that’s why capital punishment in the United States isn’t going to last much
(source: Editorial; City editor Brent Lancaster, Times-News)
Death penalty sought in slaying
Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Shaun Yurtkuran tells The
Clarion-Ledger ( http://bit.ly/q5purD) the district attorney's office will seek
the death penalty against 19-year-old Dante Evans at his scheduled March 19
Yurtkuran says the key reason for seeking the death penalty is the wishes of
the victim's family.
No decision has been made about whether to seek the death penalty against
Evans' co-defendant, 24-year-old Bennie Gunn.
Yurtkuran says Evans is going to trial first because he is the alleged shooter.
Evans and Gunn are charged with capital murder in the Sept. 10, 2010, fatal
shooting of 45-year-old William Morris in the parking lot a Jackson convenience
Evans' attorney says he hopes the district attorney's office will reconsider
because he doesn't believe his client should face the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Alabama executes Christopher Johnson despite mental health doubts----Prisoner
had shown signs of mental illness, making it against the constitution to put
him to death, say campaigners
The American state of Alabama has put to death a prisoner who over many years
showed signs of mental illness – in spite of the US supreme court outlawing the
execution of mentally ill people on the grounds it is unconstitutional.
Christopher Johnson died by lethal injection at Holman prison in Atmore,
The Equal Justice Initiative pointed out that Johnson was in and out of
psychiatric hospitals throughout his childhood and was put on anti-psychotic
drugs. On death row he kept away from other inmates, spent all his time alone
in his cell and showed erratic behaviour including attempting to kill himself
by eating toilet paper and slamming his head against the cell wall.
Several US supreme court judgments have underlined that putting mentally ill or
incompetent people to death is against the constitution. Yet no court ever
evaluated whether Johnson was mentally competent to face execution.
Johnson insisted on representing himself during key parts of his trial. He was
put on death row for killing his 6-month-old son Elias in February 2005.
After the sentence he consistently declined any offers of legal advice and
requested no further appeals against his execution. Academic studies have found
that about 80% of so-called "volunteer" cases like his – where the prisoner
voluntarily brings on his own death – show signs of serious mental illness.
Opponents of Johnson's death said that it amounted to state-assisted suicide,
which is illegal in the US.
Esther Brown of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, a group whose board
consists of Alabama death row prisoners, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are
with Christopher Johnson's family members, who are also the murder victim's
family. We will not condone state-assisted homicide, even when the individual
Johnson is the 6th person executed this year in Alabama, the state with the
highest execution rate per capita in America.
(source: The Guardian)
Judge asks for Wallace motions on death penalty, trial change be put in writing
A Franklin County judge will hear written arguments to throw out the death
penalty and move the trial for a man accused of killing his mother in 2009.
Marcus Wallace appeared in Franklin County Court on Thursday for a hearing on
Defense attorneys filed motions to move the trial outside of Franklin County
and to take the death penalty off the table in the case.
Judge Richard Walsh did not hear any arguments on these motions Thursday but
ordered that prosecutors and defense attorneys file written briefs within 28
days of the filing of a transcript from Thursday's hearing.
Defense attorney Michael Toms said he does not intend to withdraw the request
to move the trial to a new venue. He said traditionally, the issue has been
brought up closer to the time of jury selection.
The case is currently slated for a two-week jury trial beginning April 9.
Wallace, 40, is charged in the fatal beating of Consuella "Consi" Wallace, 70,
on Dec. 10, 2009, in the bedroom of her Hamilton Township home. She was flown
to Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and died Feb. 9, 2010, after being
transferred to a local nursing home.
Wallace is charged with 1st and 2nd-degree murder, burglary, criminal trespass,
attempted criminal homicide, aggravated assault and criminal mischief. He is
held without bail at Franklin County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since
Dec. 15, 2009.
During the hearing Thursday, Walsh admitted several items into evidence,
including search warrants, charging documents, DNA lab reports, audio of police
interviews with Wallace, and waivers indicating Wallace was aware of his rights
in the interviews with police.
Defense attorneys said Wallace could not recall signing the 2nd waiver but did
not object to it being admitted into evidence.
In motions filed previously, Wallace 's defense team asked Walsh to exclude
evidence they say was obtained illegally. This includes statements their client
made during 2 interviews, items seized from his home and a DNA sample taken
from his mouth.
Trooper Michael Dick, the lead investigator, testified Thursday that Wallace
freely consented to the 2 interviews.
Dick interviewed Wallace at the Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg,
barracks twice in December 2009. Wallace did not have an attorney present
during either interview, and was asked questions about the assault of his
At the hearing Thursday, District Attorney Matt Fogal played audio clips from
the start of the interviews where Dick informed Wallace of his rights.
Defense attorney Michael Palermo questioned a statement Dick made during one of
the interviews when Dick said the waiver form was "only a formality because
you're in orange," referring to the orange prison jumpsuit Wallace was wearing.
Dick responded that Pennsylvania State Police had no charges against Wallace,
and Miranda rights only apply if you are in custody. When police interviewed
Wallace, he was incarcerated in Franklin County Jail on unrelated charges from
"Had he not been in custody, he would not have been Mirandized," Dick said.
(source: Public Opinion)
Komisarjevsky might address jurors during penalty phase of Cheshire triple
Joshua Komisarjevsky’s attorneys might have him make some form of unsworn
statement to jurors in an effort to save his life during the upcoming penalty
phase of the trial.
Komisarjevsky might address the jury, as did Jonathan Mills at the end of his
triple homicide trial in 2004. Those jurors, who convicted Mills of murdering
Katherine Kleinkauf and her 2 children, sentenced him to life in prison without
parole, rather than the death penalty.
The jury in the Komisarjevsky trial on Oct. 13 convicted him of all 17 counts
in the Cheshire triple homicide. His partner during the July 2007 home
invasion, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death.
The Komisarjevsky jury is due back Tuesday to hear evidence in the penalty
phase. It was pushed back one day to allow arguments on a suppression motion.
The defense does not want jurors to hear Komisarjevsky’s statements in 2002 to
police about his 18 burglaries.
A source said Komisarjevsky’s defense team is considering filing a motion
asking Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue to allow an unsworn statement. In such
situations, the defendant is not sworn in nor subject to cross-examination by
New Haven Chief Public Defender Thomas Ullmann, who was unable to prevent Hayes
from receiving a death sentence last year, but was successful in saving Mills,
recalled Thursday that Mills spoke to jurors for about 45 seconds.
“He said he was remorseful,” Ullmann said. “He apologized. He said he loved
those kids and was horrified by what he did.”
The jurors found that mitigating factors, such as Mills’ drug addiction,
childhood abuse and remorse, outweighed the heinous nature of the crime.
Komisarjevsky’s attorneys also will cite his drug addiction and early abuse as
Prosecutors will argue the strangling of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and smoke
inhalation deaths of her daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, after being
tied to their beds, were so cruel the death penalty is justified.
Blue, who also presided over the Mills trial, agreed to Ullmann’s motion in
that case to let Mills address the jury.
State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, the prosecutor for both the Mills and
Komisarjevsky trials, opposed Mills addressing the jurors because he would not
With the Komisarjevsky jurors on recess, defense attorneys and prosecutors
Thursday made legal arguments and worked out logistics for the penalty phase.
Blue denied the defense motion that the death penalty not be considered because
it is “unconstitutional” and not evenly administered. Blue said he cannot
overrule the state Supreme Court.
Blue did grant a defense motion allowing each side to make opening statements
during phase 2.
The defense attorneys renewed their motion, denied by Blue in February, to let
the defense team switch desks with prosecutors in order to be closer to the
Defense attorney Walter Bansley III said the first phase proved the presence of
lone survivor Dr. William Petit Jr. and his family in the front two rows on the
jury’s side of the courtroom was “intimidating” to jurors.
But Dearington said, “It demeans the intelligence of the jury to say it would
affect their judgment.”
Blue said prosecutors could remain where they are while presenting their
evidence, but the defense could be moved closer to the jury when presenting its
arguments, which could last five to six weeks. The Petits can remain in their
(source: Torrington Register Citizen)
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