[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., MASS., COLO., USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Sep 16 11:32:44 CDT 2011
Duane Buck and Texas's fatally flawed death penalty----Governor Rick Perry
claims Texas's capital punishment regime is thoughtful and clear. I've seen at
first hand it's anything but
On Thursday evening, a few hours before Duane Buck was due to be executed for
capital murder, the US supreme court intervened to grant him a stay of
execution. Buck was sentenced to death in part because of his ethnicity: a
psychologist in the original sentencing hearing testified that Buck was likely
to be a future danger to society because he was black. The supreme court was
acting in response to an 11th-hour motion filed by Buck's lawyers to prevent
his execution on constitutional grounds – his state clemency petition having
been rejected earlier this week.
Distressingly, but unsurprisingly, Buck's case is entirely consistent with the
operation of the death penalty in Texas (pdf). A study by the Capital Jury
Project in 2001 found that "white jurors thought black defendants were more
dangerous than white defendants and believed that black defendants could be
paroled sooner from prison than whites even when no evidence had been presented
as to these points."
When asked about the death penalty recently, Texas Governor Rick Perry said
that he "never struggled" with the idea of innocent people being executed on
his watch, arguing that "the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear
process in place." Texas has executed 235 prisoners during Perry's terms as
The case of Anthony Graves, a man who spent 12 years on death row (as a result
of "egregious prosecutorial misconduct") before being declared innocent last
year, contradicts this analysis. I have been fortunate enough to meet Graves,
who now works as an investigator at the Texas Defender Service, and, despite
his warmth and optimism, he is adamant that the state of Texas tried "to
murder" him. Graves was the 12th person on Texas death row to be exonerated
It is not merely a possibility that innocent people have been sentenced to
death in Texas; it is a fact.
Perry's view is reflective of the prevailing societal attitude in Texas, which
I have observed as an intern at the Texas Defender Service, the organisation
which is acting on behalf of Duane Buck. According to the majority public
opinion in Texas, anyone accused of crimes such as Buck's deserves to die and
the question of whether that person receives a fair trial is a peripheral
issue. As a result, many of the fundamental flaws that affect the death penalty
regime in Texas have been ignored.
One of the most significant problems is the "future dangerousness" standard
adopted by the Texas death penalty statute. At the sentencing hearing, the jury
has to find that the defendant poses a "future danger to society". The Texas
appellate court has held that the facts of the original crime – which have to
be proven at the preceding "guilt-innocence" stage of a trial – may be
sufficient to demonstrate that the defendant could be a future danger, an
approach that empties the sentencing hearing of any significance.
It has also been held that psychiatric testimony as to the future dangerousness
question, often given by expert witnesses who have never examined the
defendant, is admissible, despite the inherent uncertainty of predicting
recidivism. This practice has come under severe criticism from the American
Psychiatric Association, which has said that "[t]he large body of evidence in
this area indicates that, even in the best of conditions, psychiatric
predictions of long-term future dangerousness are wrong in at least 2 out of
every 3 cases."
That Buck committed a terrible crime is not disputed. What is problematic is
the notion that a person convicted of a serious crime can thereby be denied his
constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process, and face execution on
the basis of his ethnicity. The fact that the Texas criminal justice system was
prepared even to contemplate proceeding with an execution given this state of
affairs is symptomatic of the flaws that plague the death penalty regime in
Texas – a process that is anything but clear and thoughtful.
(source: James Abbott-Thompson, The Guardian)
Emory Students Petition to Reverse Troy Davis Death Penalty Decision
5 Emory students embarked on the four-hour drive to Savannah, Ga. with other
Atlantans from Amnesty International and Change in one of the last canvassing
efforts to get convicted murderer Troy Davis off of death row before he faces
the death penalty at some point between Sept. 21 and Sept. 28.
In 1989, Davis was convicted of the murder of Savannah police officer Mark
MacPhail and has been on death row since 1991. Seven of the original 9
eyewitnesses to the murder have since recanted their statements, and the
prosecution never presented the jury with forensic evidence.
On Aug. 24, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia
declared that Davis is “not innocent,” following a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court
order for an evidentiary hearing after the recantations by trial witnesses.
While Davis — who has maintained his innocence throughout the years — has had
his execution date postponed on two occasions, the September execution date is
Emory students went to Savannah as part of an effort to collect 10,000
signatures from Davis’ hometown for the parole board hearing on Monday — his
last chance to receive clemency, according to College senior and Amnesty
International President Alleyne Ross. They beat their original goal with an
additional 500 signatures.
“It’s a really powerful and important message to say that the people of
Savannah support him,” Ross said, explaining that during the 1990s Savannah was
originally calling for Davis’ prosecution. “It’s an arbitrary number, but it
was empowering for us to have a goal and actually beat it, and it made us feel
that we were doing something powerful.”
Ross said she feels strongly about the issue because there is a lot of
controversy surrounding the case. She added that she believes going through
with the execution would represent a gross injustice.
“I care if he did it, but I don’t know,” she said. “What matters to me is that
you cannot kill someone if you don’t know for sure.”
Ross joined College sophomore and Secretary of Amnesty International Cara
Sandels to venture through neighborhoods, knock on doors and encourage
community members to sign against the execution.
“Sometimes one voice or one example of success in fighting against the system
like this can really inspire or motivate people and show or prove that this is
not the end and that you have to keep working towards your goals and focusing
on your collective efforts,” Sandels said.
Public motivation, Sandels explained, is the heart of organizations such as
Amnesty International because they are oftentimes met with dissent or ridicule.
To succeed in a goal begins with catalyzing a movement and motivating people to
become involved with a cause, whether it is through rallying support or
spreading awareness about a cause, Sandels explained.
Ross said the canvassing effort was different from most of Amnesty
International’s efforts in trying to enact change within a community because
they were meeting with people who were close to Davis and intimate with the
case, such as his neighbors and a former inmate who served prison time with
To demonstrate support for Davis, Amnesty International, Change and the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are holding a march
that will start today at 6 p.m. at Woodruff Park and end at 7 p.m. in front of
the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
(source: The Emory Wheel)
Apologetic in the end, William Gilday dies----Inmate served life in officer’s
Until the last days of his life, half of which he spent behind bars for killing
a police officer, William “Lefty’’ Gilday insisted he never pulled the trigger.
Among the state’s most notorious criminals, Gilday led hundreds of police
officers on a bullet-filled chase over a week in 1970, the largest manhunt in
New England history.
He remained unapologetic until an interview in June, his last before he died
last Saturday in a Boston hospital. At 82 and suffering from an advancing case
of Parkinson’s disease, Gilday finally acknowledged responsibility for the
slaying four decades ago of Boston Patrolman Walter Schroeder, after whom the
city named its police headquarters.
“I’m very much concerned about my failure to render a condolence,’’ he said
during a Globe interview in a locked hospital room at a medium-security prison
in Shirley. He also said he wanted to address one of the patrolman’s daughters:
“I’m terribly sorry that her father got shot, and that on behalf of myself and
other people concerned, I would ask them to accept my heartfelt condolences.’’
After spending the day curled up on the starchy sheets of a bed in the health
unit of MCI-Shirley, the balding inmate sat up, straightened his pajamas, and
donned a pair of thick prison-issued glasses. His words were labored, his
hearing fading, his hands shaking as he recalled the day that led to his final
arrest, after years of other crimes.
Still, he had a lucid memory of the morning of Sept. 23, 1970, when he helped a
radical group from the Weather Underground rob a Brighton branch of the State
Street Bank and Trust Co.
“I wish we never would have gone to the bank that day,’’ he said of the group’s
failed effort to finance their movement against the Vietnam War.
He recalled the dismal haul - $26,585 - and the others who participated in the
infamous robbery, including Stanley Bond, who died two years later, when a bomb
he built to escape the maximum-security prison in Walpole detonated
prematurely; Robert Valeri and Michael Fleisher, who both testified against
Gilday and were released after serving short sentences; Susan Saxe, who was on
the lam for 5 years before she was arrested and sentenced to 7 years in prison;
and Katherine Anne Power, who eluded authorities until 1993, when she turned
herself in and served 6 years in prison.
When asked whether he would acknowledge his guilt in the shooting of Schroeder,
who was responding to the robbery, Gilday took a long pause.
He said the copper-plated military-grade ammunition ricocheted off a brick wall
before felling the police officer, who was considered a hero on the force for
his bravery in responding to similar robberies. He said the officer was not
targeted but hit accidentally, when Gilday and his fellow thieves decided it
would be a good idea to fire a few shots at the bank to keep anyone from
After another pause, he insisted he didn’t pull the trigger, pointing the
finger at others in the group. But when asked if he felt at least partly
responsible for Schroeder’s death, he bowed his head.
“Of course I do,’’ he said.
Schroeder’s relatives, reached a few weeks before Gilday’s death, said it was
too late for any condolence.
Schroeder, who was 42 years old, had been a police officer for 19 years and was
the father of nine children. His brother, John Schroeder, a detective on the
force, was shot and killed in the line of duty 3 years later.
“I don’t care what he has to say,’’ said one of the officer’s daughters, Erin
Schroeder, who became a Boston police detective, in an interview last month.
“He’s never felt badly before. If he dies unhappy in jail, I’d be happy with
that, especially if it was a long and painful death.’’
Other relatives did not return calls yesterday, and Erin Schroeder could not be
Boston police and the Suffolk district attorney’s office declined to comment
An aspiring baseball player from Amesbury, Gilday had a long criminal record
before he shot Schroeder, with charges dating back to 1947 that include armed
robbery, concealed weapons, and assault with a deadly weapon. In 1964 he was
sentenced to serve up to 25 years for armed robbery. He served only 5.
While in prison he met Bond, and the two enrolled in a university program for
inmates. It didn’t take long before they got caught up in the radical politics
of the era, and the 2 joined a group called Students for a Democratic Society
and later the Weather Underground. They allegedly robbed other banks and led an
assault on a National Guard armory in Newburyport.
Gilday ran in part because he thought he would not have survive his arrest.
Joe Hamel, 67, a news photographer for Channel 27 in Worcester at the time,
witnessed Gilday’s capture and said the fugitive later thanked him for saving
“He said he thought that if I wasn’t there taking pictures, they would have
shot him,’’ Hamel said. “I think there was a good possibility that would have
happened. Given the chase, if he had done anything stupid, I think he would
have been well ventilated.’’
After Gilday’s arrest in Worcester and trial in Suffolk Superior Court in 1972,
he was sentenced to death. But his life was spared by a US Supreme Court
decision that overturned the death penalty nationwide.
Over his 41 years in prison, Gilday made a name for himself as a smart
US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, who represented Saxe and knew Gilday,
described him as an “enormously talented, very smart man.’’
“His life was a tragedy on many levels,’’ she said in a phone interview
yesterday. “His talent was wasted.’’
Jim Pingeon, litigation director at the Massachusetts Correctional Legal
Services, a nonprofit prisoners’ rights group, said Gilday helped reform the
prison system with lawsuits against the state Department of Correction.
With mixed success, he fought the department’s practice of listening in on
prisoners’ phone calls and opening their outgoing mail.
“He was definitely a leader among prisoners,’’ Pingeon said.
Steven Rappaport, a Lowell lawyer who worked as an advocate for prisoner rights
in the 1970s, said he considered Gilday a friend who taught him a lot over the
years. The two met when Gilday served as head of the MCI-Norfolk prisoner
“Often the clients trusted him more than their own lawyers,’’ Rappaport said.
“I think he was a real force in helping inmates.’’
The last time he heard from Gilday was in May, when he received a letter in
which the inmate complained about inadequate medical care.
In his hospital cell at MCI-Shirley, Gilday said he took pride in fighting the
system and took his long years behind bars in stride.
When asked how he had survived for so long in such a difficult place - he was
among the 17 percent of state prisoners serving a life sentence - Gilday said
simply: “You get used to it. You make do the best you can. There’s no sense
weeping about it.’’
He described the prison system as “a big machine’’ that “gets people and keeps
His advice for surviving prison: “Don’t come in.’’
(source: Boston Globe)
Attorneys for Colorado death row inmate hope to chip away at sentence
Attorneys for Nathan Dunlap, who today marks his 5,600th day on Colorado's
death row, attempted to chip away at his ultimate sentence Thursday in federal
The attorneys argued that Dunlap, who was sentenced to die for killing 4 people
at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, should be given a new trial in a
separate case in which he was convicted of robbing a Burger King.
In a court filing, Dunlap's attorneys say the Chuck E. Cheese killings
"generated a firestorm of media attention and community outrage" that made it
impossible for Dunlap to receive a fair trial on the robbery charge in Arapahoe
County. They contend the robbery trial should have been moved, as the murder
"The publicity in this case painted Nathan Dunlap as a pariah in the
community," Dunlap attorney Madeline Cohen argued Thursday before a 3-judge
panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals?.
The robbery trial came after Dunlap's arrest for the killings but before the
murder trial. Prosecutors then used the robbery conviction as a building block
in their case for the death penalty following Dunlap's murder conviction.
Dunlap's defense team hopes, by taking that block out the death penalty
foundation, the whole lethal sentence might collapse like a Jenga stack.
But Colorado Assistant Attorney General Clemmie Engle argued Thursday that the
publicity around the murders didn't taint the robbery trial.
"None of the seated jurors ever entertained an opinion that Mr. Dunlap was
guilty," she said.
The appeal illustrates the deliberate way death penalty cases are litigated in
Colorado. Dunlap is the longest-serving of Colorado's three death-row inmates.
Next month will be the 14th anniversary of the last time a Colorado inmate was
Dunlap was arrested the day after the Chuck E. Cheese killings, in December
1993. He was convicted of the killings and sentenced to death in 1996.
Last year, a federal district judge in Denver rejected an appeal of that
sentence. Dunlap's lawyers then appealed that decision to the 10th Circuit.
Earlier this month, the attorneys filed a 473-page brief in support of the
appeal, arguing that Dunlap was not adequately represented in his trial because
his attorneys then did not present mitigating evidence that Dunlap suffers from
Philip Cherner, one of Dunlap's appellate attorneys, said that appeal will
likely be argued before the 10th Circuit next year.
(source: The Denver Post)
Justice Ginsburg discusses equality, death penalty
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking to law students in San
Francisco, called Thursday for equality for gays and lesbians and said the
court should return to a 1972 ruling that halted executions nationwide.
"We should not be stopped from pursuing whatever talent God has given us simply
because we are of a certain race, a certain religion, a certain national
origin, a certain gender or gender preference," Ginsburg said at UC Hastings
College of the Law.
The court has adopted constitutional barriers against discrimination based on
all those categories except sexual orientation. It could confront that issue in
one of several cases now pending in lower courts, including a challenge to
California's ban on same-sex marriage that is awaiting review by the Ninth U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The justices struck down state laws against gay and lesbian sexual activity in
2003 without deciding how to review other laws that treat people differently
based on sexual orientation. Referring to that case, Ginsburg said the court
"recognized that consensual relations between two people do no harm to anyone
and cannot be subject to government prohibitions."
The subject of capital punishment came up when Hastings Professor Joan
Williams, who conducted the 90-minute question-and-answer session, asked the
78-year-old justice what she would like to accomplish in her remaining years on
"I would probably go back to the day when the Supreme Court said the death
penalty could not be administered with an even hand, but that's not likely to
be an opportunity for me," Ginsburg said.
She was referring to the ruling in a 1972 Georgia case that overturned all
state death penalty laws, which had allowed judges and juries to impose death
for any murder. 4 years later, the court upheld another Georgia law that
prescribed death for specific categories of murder and gave guidance to juries,
a model that California followed when it renewed capital punishment in 1977.
Ginsburg described review of impending executions as "a dreadful part of the
business," and said she has chosen not to follow the path of the late Justices
Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan - who declared in every capital case that
they considered the death penalty unconstitutional - so that she could maintain
a voice in the debate.
Ginsburg, a pioneering women's rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties
Union, was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after 13
years on a federal appeals court. She has had two cancer operations but has
expressed no intention of retiring.
She recalled that Clinton had cleared her nomination in advance with Sen. Orrin
Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose
approval paved the way for the Senate's 96-3 confirmation vote. That would
never happen in today's bitterly divided Congress, Ginsburg said.
"Someday we will get back to the way it once was, but it will take people on
both sides of the aisle who really care ... for making government work," she
She also said the court should not shy away from considering decisions of
foreign and international courts - not as binding authority on the meaning of
the Constitution, but as a recognition that "there are bright minds in other
places struggling with the same human rights issues."
Conservative justices like Antonin Scalia have denounced references to foreign
rulings, but Ginsburg said a majority of the court has recognized their value
when examining universal concerns. She singled out for praise an Israeli
Supreme Court ruling that refused to allow police to torture a man who
allegedly knew where a bomb was set to explode.
"If we allow security concerns to so overwhelm our deep attachment to
fundamental values, to the dignity of each person," Ginsburg told the students,
"we will come more and more to look like our enemy."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Death penalty debate resurrected in 2012 campaign
The death penalty is poised for a comeback. Not the practice of capital
punishment itself -- which is very much alive and well, especially in states
such as Texas -- but the political, hot-button wedge issue of sending people to
death could return. And it could force President Obama to take a stand and pick
Throughout modern U.S. history, the death penalty has proven a big political
issue. Examples of more high-profile and controversial executions include
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who in 1953 became the first American civilians put
to death for espionage charges. Ted Bundy, who confessed to murdering 30 women,
was put to death in Florida in 1989. And Timothy McVeigh faced a federal
execution in 2001 for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building, which left 168 dead, including 19 children in a daycare
Politicians have manipulated the issue of state-sponsored killing to appear
tough on crime. In 1992, Arkansas governor and then-presidential candidate Bill
Clinton flew home to watch the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a 40-year-old,
mentally-impaired black man who was convicted of murdering a black police
Clinton, who once opposed the death penalty in his youth, was influenced by
events 4 years earlier, when then-Democratic presidential nominee Michael
Dukakis lost the 2008 election. Dukakis had appeared soft on crime when asked
during a debate if he would support the death penalty if his wife were raped
and murdered. His response was "I think there are better and more effective
ways to deal with violent crime."
But lately, as a political issue, capital punishment has not received as much
attention in the media. And it has largely faded from public consciousness,
even as executions have continued despite troubling questions over its use, and
the role of DNA evidence in exonerating the innocent. Since 1973, 138 prisoners
in 26 states have been released from death row after evidence proved they were
innocent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. They spent an
average of 9.8 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.
According to Amnesty International, more than 2/3 of the world's nations have
abolished the death penalty. Most of the advanced world has done away with the
practice. And the U.S. is among the top 5 countries that execute its citizens,
putting America in league with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The application of the death penalty in America speaks to a history of
violence, particularly racial violence. It is curiously coincidental that
executions are prevalent in the Southern states, the former Confederacy, where
dehumanization of black folks had been accomplished through slavery, Jim Crow
lynching, and unequal justice meted out by a kangaroo court system.
With poor, black and brown defendants most likely to receive a death sentence
-- often based on a lack of evidence, witness coercion, racial discrimination
and inadequate legal representation -- it is no wonder that some refer to
capital punishment as "legal lynching." And mob justice is the practical result
in an inherently broken system that believes in expediency over affording due
process and determining one's guilt or innocence.
A number of recent events have once again placed executions in the forefront.
For one, on September 21, Georgia is set to execute Troy Davis, who has been on
death row for 2 decades for the 1989 killing of a police officer, despite no
physical evidence tying him to the crime. 7 of the original 9 witnesses in the
case recanted or contradicted their stories, and three of those say their
statements were coerced by the police.
(source: The Grio)
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