[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, FLA., MO., ARIZ.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Oct 24 17:02:45 CDT 2011
Hoban to host author of book following production of ‘Dead Man Walking’
The debate over the death penalty will take center stage at Archbishop Hoban
High School with the visit of social justice advocate Sister Helen Prejean,
CSJ, to coincide with the school’s production of “Dead Man Walking” by the
award-winning Hoban Troubadours.
Hoban will host a dialogue after opening night on Nov. 3 with Sister Helen,
whose acclaimed 1994 book “Dead Man Walking” was the basis for the play and a
major film. There will be a book sale and signing. The play runs Nov. 3 at 6:30
p.m. and Nov. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m.
You can order $11 reserved seats and $7 general admission online at
www.hobantroubadours.org. Tickets will also be sold at the door. Directions to
Hoban are at www.hoban.org. Become a friend of the Hoban Theatre Series on
The play portrays Sister Helen's experiences and insights as she ministered
with men facing execution, and then to the families of murder victims. It
allows the audience to see the reality of murder and of punishment from many
Out of that dreadful intimacy comes a profoundly moving spiritual journey
through our system of capital punishment. Confronting both the plight of the
condemned and the rage of the bereaved, the needs of a crime-ridden society and
the Christian imperative of love, “Dead Man Walking” is an unprecedented look
at the human consequences of the death penalty, a play that is both
enlightening and devastating.
The show is part of the national Dead Man Walking School Theater Project out of
Boston. To learn more about the project, go to www.dmwplay.org.
Sister Helen began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to
the poor of New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas housing project, she
became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of 2 teenagers,
sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison.
Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book that not only made the 1994
American Library Associates Notable Book List, it was also nominated for a 1993
Pulitzer Prize. “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty
in the United States” was No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31
weeks. It also was an international best seller and has been translated into 10
15 years after beginning her crusade, the Roman Catholic sister has witnessed
five executions in Louisiana and today educates the public about the death
penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. As the founder of "Survive," a
victim's advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only
inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims, as well. To learn
more about Sister Helen, go to www.prejean.org.
In January 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring
Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. Produced by
Polygram Pictures, the film was directed and written by Tim Robbins who also
wrote the stage play. The movie received four Oscar nominations including
Robbins for Best Director, Penn for Best Actor, Sarandon for Best Actress, and
Bruce Springsteen's "Dead Man Walking" for Best Song. Sarandon won the award
for Best Actress.
Instead of taking the play to Broadway, Robbins decided to use the play as a
tool to create deeper reflections on the death penalty in our nation's high
schools and colleges. He required that any school producing the play must also
agree to involve at least two other academic departments (law, sociology,
criminal justice, etc.) to provide courses related to the death penalty and
Dead Man Walking. Art and music departments were also encouraged to develop
related creative projects. Discussion groups, prison visitation and other
activities were soon added to the mix.
Since the launch of the project in the fall of 2003, more than 200 high schools
and colleges across the country have produced the play, conducted academic
courses on the death penalty, and brought the issue to life on their campuses
through art, music, and public education and action events.
(source: The Suburbanite)
Attorneys in 2006 death penalty case claim they’re not getting paid----Jury
selection was to be held this month
Forsyth County’s district attorney argued Friday that the lawyers who represent
one of three defendants in a death penalty case that dates to 2006 have
themselves to blame for not getting paid.
Penny Penn made the claim in a hearing before Forsyth County Superior Court
Judge David L. Dickinson.
The hearing was scheduled after attorneys for Marcin Sosniak filed a motion
asking to have the case dismissed. Dickinson said he’d issue a written decision
on the matter this week.
The trial for Sosniak, who has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in
connection with a March 19, 2006, massacre has been delayed three times since
The attack claimed the lives of 4 people and injured 3 others at a farmhouse
off Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
Dickinson denied a request Oct. 6 by Sosniak’s appointed attorneys, Charles
Haldi and Bill Finch, to continue the case.
Jury selection in the trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 10.
The day after their request was rejected, they filed a motion contending their
client’s constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated because the
case had taken so long to get to that point.
Furthermore, they contend the state has not paid them for Sosniak’s defense,
which has prevented the case from going forward.
The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council is responsible for paying
attorneys who represent indigent defendants in capital cases.
The council suffered a financial crisis in 2008. And in 2009, attorneys
statewide began asking to withdraw from cases because of the council’s
inability to pay them.
Frank Ortegon and Jason McGhee, who also are charged in connection with the
farmhouse attack and face the death penalty, are being tried separately.
Like Sosniak, they are represented by appointed attorneys. Penn said the state
plans to try Sosniak’s case first.
Friday, she argued that Haldi and Finch hadn’t received any money, short of
$2,400 they got after they submitted an invoice to pay an expert last fall,
because they hadn’t sent any documentation to the state showing what they
“The defense continues to make the argument that they have been unable to go
forward because of a lack of funding,” Penn said. “I don’t know how it is that
you are supposed to get paid if you don’t ask for it.”
Haldi said Friday that the notion that it’s the defense’s fault the attorneys
hadn’t received any money was “lunacy,” adding that it’s the state’s mandated
duty to give them funding.
He noted that Griffin Circuit Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford, who was
director of the council until October 2010, had testified in Forsyth County
about the council’s lack of funding. Crawford did so after Ortegon’s attorneys
filed complaints they had not been getting paid.
“I suppose we could’ve filed motions alleging we weren’t getting paid,” Haldi
said. “We shut up and took it. We worked the case. We didn’t delay it.”
Haldi went on to say that since last year he and Finch had told “everybody”
they needed money.
“The state of Georgia by and through (Penn’s) office is trying to kill my
client,” Haldi said. “Every avenue the law allows us we are going to utilize to
make sure that Marcin Sosniak does not have happen what they want.”
Penn also argued that the matter has been delayed from going to trial twice at
the defense’s request.
Although it is not legally required, she noted a demand for a speedy trial had
not been filed on Sosniak’s behalf. She said the last thing Sosniak wants is to
“The bottom line judge is we got played,” Penn said. “The court got played, the
state got played. Sadly and most important is the victims, their families and
the citizens of this community got played.”
(source: Associated Press)
Sister shares experience with death penalty
To die or not to die, that is the question.
On Thursday, Oct. 20 in the Kemper Recital Hall, inside Leah Spratt Hall,
Sister Christine Martin shared her experience corresponding with a death row
inmate, Moses Young, in Potosi, Mo.
She shared her thought and views about the death penalty while using her
experience with Young and what she called a broken system.
“I think our system is broken. I think our system has many flaws, some
seemingly built in flaws,” Martin said.
Martin spoke of her belief that Young was innocent and that his trial was an
example of a broken system.
“After talking with him [Young] and hearing what he had to say about his
innocence, which he maintained for 18 years, I do believe for sure that he was
innocent,” Martin said. “Young’s experience with his public defender was
horrendous. His trial took only two days for a death penalty case and I feel
like he was let down by the system.”
Sister Martin gave her Power Point presentation with many pictures of the
prison. These pictures were powerful and captured the cold, harsh realities of
a controlled environment.
It was a heartwarming tale of human compassion crippled by laws and rules of
the prison system.
Martin shared a story about a man just hours away from execution that was
unable to touch or hold his children or his wife.
Many people could argue that death row inmates don’t have these rights, but
Martin pointed out that to deny a human being of human touch, especially loved
ones, before their death is unheard of.
Students at Western have mixed feelings about the death penalty.
Kathy Whitley is a senior here at Western with a double major in social work
and sociology. Whitley hosts a talking circle for the Native American inmates
at the women’s prison in Chillicothe, Mo., and said she has a higher percentage
of lifers attending her religious circle than any other in the prison. This
alone has an effect on Whitley’s opinion.
“I have good feelings about my lifers. They have better character, in my
opinion, than many of my short-timers,” Whitley said. “I’m very conflicted
about the death penalty.”
Religion plays a big part in the views of many when it comes to the death
penalty, and Western student Kate Fimple expressed her religious beliefs.
“I think the death penalty is very controversial, but my religious belief tells
me it’s not right to knowingly cause someone’s death,” Fimple said.
While it is so easy to argue both sides, the real issue is whether or not the
men and women who end up on death row are given fair and competent trials.
Martin explained that Young’s defender was proven to be an alcoholic and did
very little to defend him in a reasonable way. The same public defender was
shortly disbarred by a judge who found him inadequately doing his job, but the
fate of Young was sealed.
According to Martin a team of lawyers who believed in Young’s innocence
assembled in Kansas City, Mo., but were unable to save him before his
execution. She said a witness had come forward declaring Young’s innocence, but
it did little to help him and this is part of the broken system she speaks of.
Martin is a part of the Saint Francis Commune in Savannah, Mo. Martin and all
the sisters there have at one time or another, and still do, correspond with
other death row inmates.
(source: The Griffon News)
Death penalty must stop now
Just this month, on Oct. 12, Attorney General Tom Horne's office petitioned the
State Supreme Court for warrants to execute Robert Towery and Robert Moorman.
Why does Arizona have one of the busiest "death houses" in the country? Is it
because when we kill a prisoner we have made ourselves safer? No. All the
evidence contradicts that claim.
Is it because we are frugal taxpayers and cannot suffer the cost of housing
criminals? No. It is far costlier to seek and impose a death sentence than a
sentence of life in prison without parole.
Is it because vengeance is the highest aspiration of our legal system? No. We
have always claimed a presumption of innocence, and we require proof "beyond a
reasonable doubt" because we have always believed that it is better to let a
guilty defendant go free than to punish the innocent.
In other countries and other states, where governments are not allowed to
punish killing with more killing, the homicide rates are lower. Here, where
homicide is legitimized when committed in the name of the state, violence
begets more violence.
The death penalty has been used as a threat to coerce false confessions. It has
been shown to be applied with racial bias. It is regularly used as a tool for
political advancement by elected prosecutors hoping someday to win higher
Since 1973, 138 people in 26 states have been released from death row with
evidence of their innocence - eight in Arizona alone. We have replaced the
lynch mobs of the past with a far more "civilized" form of mob retribution.
Those who enjoy such things get months of entertainment from televised and
tabloid coverage of the crime, the victim, the family, the accused. Through a
ritualized process the accused is given a "fair" trial before the foregone
conclusion of punishment is pronounced.
But somehow, the cases of perjured testimony or of evidence suppressed or
manufactured never get the same TV ratings. Georgia's recent experience with
the execution of Troy Davis showed that even when eight eyewitnesses recant
their testimony not even the U.S. Supreme Court will stop an execution.
I believe that Arizona kills more of our own citizens than most other states
primarily because politicians are afraid to be labeled "soft on crime." It
comes down to that.
In a state in which the political temperament seems to favor smaller
government, we do not flinch at more prisons, more prosecutions and more
executions. We may want less government, but we sure do like our small
government to be tough.
If it were not so tragic it would be pathetic. As the Arizona Supreme Court
ponders the fate of Towery and Moorman they also have an opportunity to break
with the past and take a small step toward making Arizona a better place - a
place where no one faces the possibility of being killed because career
politicians want to look tough and no innocent people are sent to death row,
because death row, like the lynch mob, would be a thing of the past.
(source: Editorial; Bob Schwartz is president of the Coalition of Arizonans to
Abolish the Death Penalty----Arizona Republic)
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