[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----CALIF., PENN., IND.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Oct 25 13:56:20 CDT 2011
The Next Death Penalty Battleground
Georgia's decision to go forward with the execution of Troy Davis in the face
of an international outcry calling for time, clarity and justice has, once
again, galvanized anti-death penalty consciousness here at home. What passes
for fairness in parts of this country, and make no mistake, we're talking about
"parts of this country," is the issue. 16 states in the U.S. have no death
penalty, 4 of them having done away with it since 2007. Of the remaining 34,
some use it so rarely their citizens forget it's actually on the books. A quick
glance tells us the most active killing states comprise the "Old South," and a
look at the racial makeup of death row today suggests to many that it is a
relic of slavery. But a closer look tells us even more.
One of the reasons the death penalty was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in
1972 was the arbitrariness of its application. 2 identical crimes committed in
the same state often resulted in different penalties: one death, the other
life. That was supposedly fixed by the Court's Gregg decision reinstating
capital punishment in 1976, which ordered "safeguards" to protect against that
flaw and others. However, a recent study by the Death Penalty Information
Center shows that 32% of the executions in the U.S. since 1976 came from
prosecutions in only 15 counties, a number amounting to less than 1% of the
total number of counties in killing states. Of those 402 executions, all but 20
(10 each in Arizona and Ohio) came from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Alabama.
Clearly, one cannot rule out that racism and arbitrariness abound today.
Justice Potter Stewart's determination that death sentences are "cruel and
unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual" is
no less true today than it was when he wrote this. Beyond reasserting his
innocence and offering God's blessings on the soul of the guards poised to take
his life, Troy Davis said of the struggle to end this barbarism, "I ask my
family and friends to continue to fight this fight."
We believe this fight must be won. And as the effort goes forward in courts, on
the streets and in legislatures across the U.S., our sense is that the politics
and culture of California make it an excellent battleground for the next death
penalty fight. California has a peculiar relationship with the death penalty.
On one hand, California rarely executes people -- 13 killings in 33 years, the
last of which was in 2006. In that same period, three times as many death row
inmates have committed suicide or died of natural causes. On the other hand,
California's courts sentence people to death faster than any other state,
creating the country's largest death row by far, with 715 condemned men and
women. More than 20% of death row inmates in the U.S. live at San Quentin. Two
years ago, Los Angeles County alone sentenced more to death than the entire
state of Texas. Long seen as a "liberal" state, California's embrace of capital
punishment is odd. In part, the dichotomy reflects the state's politically
diverse population, which spans the ideological, ethnic, cultural, and economic
spectra. With vast areas of both urban and rural populations and strong,
conflicting pockets of conservative and liberal voting blocs, it is actually
more a plaid than a red or blue state.
However, this very diversity is the reason California, a bellwether, can lead
the way in ending state killing in the U.S. Unlike most states, California
cannot end its death penalty in the legislature; it must be done at the ballot
box. The voters themselves -- in all their many creeds and colors -- must make
that choice. And they are ready to do so. New polls tell us that 54% of
Californians prefer life without parole to death. That support is even higher
among California's new majority, comprised of Latino, African American and
Asian voters. Californians are becoming increasingly aware that the death
penalty costs hundreds of millions of dollars more every year than life in
prison without parole. And, in what is one of the most significant developments
regarding this issue in decades, opposition to the death penalty is now much
less a partisan issue. Today, conservatives recognize it as an inefficient
government system with costs that are out of control.
Work has already begun to give California voters a chance to replace the death
penalty at the polls in November 2012. The SAFE California Act will replace
capital punishment with life in prison without parole, require convicted
murderers to work and pay restitution to a victims' compensation fund, and
direct some of the money saved to solving more rapes and murders. It will bring
the sharpest decline in U.S. death sentences, the largest reduction in the
national death row population, and it will make a statement by the largest
number of voters that public safety will be best served by ending the death
Troy Davis wasn't the first arguably innocent person executed in the United
States, and he isn't the only potentially innocent person to sit on death row.
Perhaps he understood, better than anyone, that Georgia's decision to take his
life could pave the way to end executions across the United States. The price
paid in such cases is a steep one. It now falls on us to see this hope become
To help Californians do their part, please support, volunteer, and donate to
the SAFE California Campaign.
(source: Alec Baldwin and Mike Farrell, Huffington Post)
Historic Turn Away from the Death Penalty in California----Strong Preference
for Life Without Parole Among Voters
For the 1st time, a statewide poll conducted by Field Poll confirmed that more
voters in California prefer a sentence of life without the possibility of
parole over the death penalty.
“This is heartening news for SAFE California. We see this as a historic shift
that will carry us through to the elections,” said Jeanne Woodford, former San
Quentin warden and spokesperson for the campaign to put an initiative on the
ballot to replace the death penalty with life without parole at the November
The Field Poll results document a 15-point shift over the last decade in
support for life without parole over the death penalty. In 2000, polling
numbers were at 37% to 44%, with the death penalty edging out life without
parole. Last year, the same polling firm reported results of 42% to 41%, with a
1-point preference for life without parole over the death penalty.
“What we have today is an 8-point preference for life without parole. This is
very significant in terms of a shift in public opinion in support of replacing
the death penalty that bodes very well for the ballot initiative,” said David
Binder of David Binder Research. “It’s important to note that when voters hear
the specifics of the measure—that convicted murderers will be required to work
and pay restitution into a victims’ compensation fund and how much money will
be saved—a strong majority of voters support the initiative.”
The SAFE California campaign also sets aside $100 million in budget savings in
the “SAFE California Fund” to investigate open rape and murder cases.
“Once voters understand that the death penalty is far more expensive than life
without parole we are sure that support will grow even stronger,” added
Woodford. “While we pour money into a broken system, 46% of murders and 56% of
reported rapes go unsolved every year in California. The poll results show
California voters are ready to dump this dangerous system for one that actually
provides savings and real public safety.”
Support for life without parole was particularly strong among Latino and
African-American voters, at 55% and 66% support for permanent imprisonment over
the death penalty respectively.
The SAFE California Campaign is supported by a coalition of law enforcement,
murder victim family members and exonerees, along with a broad range of
organizations, that will soon begin gathering signatures to place an initiative
on the ballot to replace California’s costly death penalty with life in prison
without possibility of parole.
(source: Huffington Post)
Alleged child murderer appointed death penalty lawyer
A Souderton man accused of raping and killing a 9-year-old girl will be
represented by a prominent Montgomery County lawyer if he is convicted of
1st-degree murder and his case moves to a death penalty phase.
Well-known Norristown criminal defense lawyer John L. McMahon Jr. has been
appointed by a panel of county judges to represent James Lee Troutman if
Troutman faces the specter of death by lethal injection in connection with the
May 9 death of Skyler Rae Kauffman.
Troutman, 24, will continue to be represented by his privately retained lawyer,
Wm. Craig Penglase, during the evidentiary portion of the trial.
“It’s very difficult for trial counsel, in the event that a defendant is
convicted of first-degree murder, to be able to transition immediately into
handling the penalty phase,” McMahon, speaking in general terms, explained
Tuesday, adding there have been death penalty sentences reversed by appellate
courts due to issues arising from defense lawyers handling both evidentiary and
death penalty phases of trials.
The generally accepted notion is that trial lawyers must be focused on the
evidentiary phase of a trial and therefore, might not have sufficient time to
prepare to wage the death penalty battle in the event a defendant is convicted
of 1st-degree murder.
“Certainly, it’s a heavy task to handle, particularly given the type of case
that we’re dealing with here. This is a case where there is going to be a lot
of emotion. It’s the type of case that there is clearly going to be a call for
retribution if he’s convicted,” McMahon conceded.
“I will do everything I can do to represent Mr. Troutman to the best of my
ability, just like I would any client,” McMahon added.
There are a limited number of lawyers who are authorized by the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court to handle death penalty cases, based on their educational
training and experience.
The appointment by the county judges means McMahon will be paid with public
funds to represent Troutman during any death penalty hearing. The trial is
slated to begin Jan. 9.
The stipend paid to lawyers appointed to handle death penalty cases is
typically less than what privately retained lawyers would charge to handle such
cases. Typically, those appointed to handle such cases are paid up to $150 an
hour, depending on whether their work is conducted out of court or in court.
“I didn’t agree to take the case based on financial considerations. I was asked
by the court to represent this individual in a very difficult case and I
believe I have a duty to take on the request and to represent this man to the
best of my ability,” McMahon said.
McMahon, who served as a county prosecutor before going into private practice,
is very familiar with murder- and death penalty-related cases, having handled
many in his past.
Troutman, who is being held at the county jail without bail, is awaiting trial
on charges of first- and second-degree murder, rape of a child, involuntary
deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, kidnapping, false
imprisonment and abuse of a corpse in connection with Kauffman’s death.
District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman previously said prosecutors are seeking the
death penalty against Troutman in the event he is convicted of 1st-degree
murder, which is an intentional killing. In order to seek the death penalty,
prosecutors must show that aggravating factors, things that make a killing more
heinous, existed at the time of the murder.
The aggravating factors against Troutman, according to court papers, include:
the victim was a child under 12 years old; Troutman committed the killing while
in the perpetration of other alleged crimes, namely sexual assault, kidnapping
and false imprisonment; and that Troutman killed Kauffman to prevent her from
testifying against him.
During a death penalty phase, defense lawyers can argue there are mitigating
factors associated with a killing and that those mitigating factors outweigh
any aggravating factors.
Jurors who determine that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors must
sentence a defendant to death. If jurors determine mitigating factors outweigh
aggravating factors, then the punishment must be life imprisonment.
Penglase, of Doylestown, previously hinting at potential defense strategies at
trial, said, “mental health will be an issue in this case.” Penglase previously
said Troutman reported suffering from autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
Troutman and Kauffman were neighbors at the Souderton Garden Apartments at
Second and Chestnut streets.
Kauffman, authorities alleged, went missing while she was playing in the
courtyard of the apartment complex where Troutman also lived around dinnertime
on May 9. Minutes before midnight Souderton police found Kauffman’s body
wrapped in a comforter under bags of trash in a Dumpster behind the apartments.
An autopsy determined Kauffman died of asphyxia and blunt force trauma,
according to court papers.
Police found both blood and a clog that was similar to one Kauffman had been
described as wearing in the basement area of one of the apartment buildings,
according to court papers.
While interviewing neighbors of the girl, authorities noticed what appeared to
be blood on one of Troutman’s sneakers, according to authorities. When
detectives searched Troutman’s apartment, where he lived with his fiancée, they
found bloody clothes, according to a criminal complaint.
Later asked by detectives why he killed the little girl, Troutman allegedly
said he had to because once he took her down to the basement he knew she could
get him in trouble, according to arrest documents.
(source: The Mercury)
Prosecutor considering death penalty for Ison
If found guilty of 5 murders, David Ison, 46, Glenwood, could be sentenced to
death “if I ask for it,” Franklin County Prosecutor Melvin Wilhelm explained
“The state has to be the one to do the proper filings.” The prosecutor is in
the middle of death penalty research and plans to make the decision before the
end of the year.
Ison is accused of shooting a family (Roy Napier, 50, his estranged wife Angela
Napier, 47, and their children Jacob Napier, 18, and Melissa Napier, 23) Sept.
25 inside of a mobile home and a neighbor, Henry X. Smith, 43, outside across
Stipps Hill Road near Laurel, according to a probable cause affidavit filed
Oct. 7 in Franklin Circuit Court.
A police investigation determined Ison and Roy Napier may have fought over the
price of narcotic painkiller oxycodone pills Napier was supposed to sell to
Ison that afternoon.
Ripley County Sheriff Tom Grills utilized “lots of security ... uniformed
(Indiana State Police and Ripley County Sheriff’s Office) officers” when Ison
He was detained Sept. 28 in the Ripley County Jail, Versailles, after being
charged with the May 9 attempted armed robbery of Triplett’s Drug Store,
Osgood, then moved to the Franklin County Security Center, Brookville, Oct. 12,
at 2 p.m.
Judge Steven Cox conducted an initial hearing that day about an hour later in
Franklin Circuit Court Division 1.
Melissa Wilhelm, the county’s chief deputy prosecutor, advised Ison he was
charged with 5 counts of murder, the prosecutor reported. Ison said he
understood his rights and entered a not guilty plea.
The judge appointed public defender Hubert Branstetter, Brookville, to
represent the man.
Cox did not set a bail amount. According to Melvin Wilhelm, “The defense
attorney may ask for bail. If he does, we plan to object and ask for no bail
.... Anybody charged with ... 5 different deaths should not be allowed to have
bond. He’s presumed to be innocent, but in order to protect the community, it’s
incumbent upon me to ask for no bail.”
Wilhelm noted that the crime of murder is in a special category above the four
classifications of felonies (D-A). “That’s why it has its own penalties.”
If the defendant is found guilty by a jury, possible punishments besides death
range from a minimum of 45 years in prison to a maximum of 65 years for each
murder, which equates to a range of 225-325 years if sentenced to consecutive
When asked how the case is progressing, Wilhelm said, “The majority of the
investigation is complete. I think there are some loose ends they’re tying up.
I know we’re waiting on (forensic) reports.”
The next date in the process is a pretrial hearing Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. in the
same court. The prosecutor said, “We will make sure discovery is mostly
completed and try to work toward a trial date.”
(source: Batesville Herald Tribune)
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