[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., S.C., MISS., ALA., MD., NEV.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Sep 21 09:45:19 CDT 2011
The death penalty fades away
The death penalty might as well be dead in North Carolina.
Take Robert Stewart. He admits to gunning down eight people in cold blood, many
of them elderly and bedridden, at a Carthage nursing home. Because he says he
was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, he's convicted of
second-degree murder. Stewart, 47, is sentenced to 16 to 18 years per murder
victim, which essentially pencils out to a life term.
Then there's Joshua Stepp. A Wake County jury couldn't bring itself to hand
down the death penalty after convicting the Iraqi war vet of sexually
assaulting and murdering his 10-month-old stepdaughter. After the jury hit an
impasse on a sentence recommendation, Judge Osmond Smith sentenced Stepp to
life in prison without possibility of parole.
Who can forget DeMario Atwater? In 2008, he and 17-year-old murder suspect
Laurence Lovette (who also awaits trial in the slaying of Duke graduate student
Abhijit Mahato) allegedly kidnapped Morehead Scholar and UNC-Chapel Hill
student body president Eve Carson. They forced her to withdraw $1,400 from an
ATM and then shot her with a .25-caliber handgun and finished her off with a
blast to the head from a sawed-off shotgun. Atwater was allowed to plead guilty
to numerous federal and state capital charges in exchange for a life sentence
in federal prison.
If these men and their horrific acts can't draw the death penalty, who and what
Tony S. Summers can. Earlier this year he was sentenced to death after a
Guilford County jury convicted him of repeatedly raping Lavell N. Williams in
front of her 2 daughters before stabbing her to death and wounding the
children. I won't second-guess the jury's judgment. But was his crime more
heinous than those committed by Stewart, Stepp and Atwater? Summers' death
sentence appears based more on geography than depravity.
Given the legal morass due to challenges by the North Carolina Medical Society
and inmates who dispute the humaneness and protocol of lethal injection,
Summers may die of old age before he faces the needle. But the cloud
surrounding the state's death penalty appears to have dampened the public
appetite for eye-for-an-eye justice. That reluctance also seems to have
drastically reduced the desire of district attorneys to call for execution.
Thus far, only 9 capital cases have been heard this year in North Carolina.
Summers received the sole death sentence. Last year, 13 capital cases went to
trial, with 4 executions ordered. And in 2009, 9 capital trials were conducted,
resulting in 2 death sentences.
Compare those numbers to those of a decade earlier when 64, 57 and 51 capital
cases went to trial in 1999, 2000 and 2001 respectively, resulting in 56 death
The withering of capital cases and de facto moratorium on executions (the last
here occurred in August 2006) suggests that any serious effort to officially
end capital punishment isn't worth the effort.
I say it is, even if the interest is solely economic.
Philip J. Cook, ITT/Sanford professor of public policy and professor of
economics and sociology at Duke University, calculated that the 25 capital
cases heard in 2007 and 2008 (which resulted in only four death sentences) cost
the state $22 million more than if these cases were adjudicated as non-capital
cases. In his study, published in the American Law and Economics Review, Cook
argues the money would have been better spent in other areas of the criminal
justice system, including allowing district attorneys the resources to
prosecute non-capital cases more fully.
No doubt, any serious campaign to overturn the death penalty in North Carolina
will unleash a barrage of rallies, vigils, rhetoric and competing academic
studies. But the evidence is clear that once North Carolinians are seated in a
jury box, they seem willing to accept just about any legal argument to avoid
imposing the ultimate punishment.
The message jurors are increasingly sending lawmakers is clear. It's time to
put the final nail in the death penalty's coffin.
(source: Rick Martinez, Editorial, News & Observer)
S.C. Supreme Court to get convicted killer's death sentence appeal
On Wednesday, attorneys for a death row inmate convicted of killing a Clemson
student will argue that the death sentence should be thrown out. Lawyers for
Jerry Buck Inman will go before the state Supreme Court in Columbia to appeal
the death sentence. Inman pleaded guilty to raping and strangling Tiffany
Souers back in 2006.
Faith Clark cannot look around her shop in Easley without thinking of Tiffany
Souers. Souers, a Clemson student, volunteered at Clark's store. She sells
children's toys to raise money to provide activities for disadvantaged youth
Clark says Souers was her inspiration. Clark says, “She (Souers) was 20, and
she had all of these big ideas, and I was like, ‘Yay! you go girl.”
Souers' aspirations were snatched from her when Jerry Buck Inman broke into her
apartment, raped and strangled her five years ago. Clark says, “It's hard for
me to talk about this story.”
Through the grieving, Clark started to help others....in an unlikely way that
centers around the man who killed her friend. She started a ministry for
troubled teens when she heard reports about Inman being abused as a child.
Clark says, “I feel sorry for him. That's odd to say.”
Clark says it would be too emotional for her to attend Inman's appeal
Wednesday. Defense attorneys plan to argue that prosecutors intimidated a
witness and the judge wrongfully denied Inman the right to be sentenced by a
Joe Watson is a former solicitor and judge. He is not connected to Inman's
case. Watson says, “Ultimately over 50 % of capital cases get overthrown.”
Watson goes on to says, “If you want me to make a prediction, I would say it
would not succeed at this level.”
Watson thinks it's more likely that Inman's death sentence could get overthrown
based on the advice his defense attorneys reportedly gave him about pleading
Clark says she doesn't know if she wants Inman to be saved from the death
penalty. She says, “I think it's up to the Lord. I think whatever happens will
be what the Lord wants.”
(source: Anderson Independent Mail)
Mississippi teen charged with capital murder in alleged hate killing
A 19-year-old Mississippi man was charged with capital murder Tuesday in the
death of an African-American man who died after allegedly being beaten by a
group of white teens and run over by a truck, authorities said.
Deryl Paul Dedmon, 19, of Brandon, Mississippi was also charged by a grand jury
with hate-crime enhancement in the murder of James Craig Anderson, said Hinds
County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
The indictment alleges that Dedmon killed Anderson while in the commission of
committing felony robbery, Smith said in a statement.
Anderson's family, however, is asking state and federal officials not to seek
the death penalty in the case.
Relatives of Anderson, who died shortly after receiving his injuries on June
26, sent a letter with their request to Smith, saying the family is opposed to
the death penalty partly for religious reasons.
The indictment against Dedmon alleged Anderson was targeted because of his
Dedmon's arraignment has yet to be scheduled, Smith said.
Federal authorities have joined the local investigation, and both authorities
are determining "the appropriate venue for the prosecution of any remaining
suspects," Smith's statement said.
"All options are being considered and with each passing day, more evidence is
being gathered," Smith said.
The death of Anderson, 48, occurred early June 26 in Jackson, allegedly at the
hands of white teens who, after a night of partying and drinking, decided to go
looking for black people to assault, law enforcement officials have said,
quoting one of the suspects in the case.
Anderson's death drew national attention after CNN first reported it and aired
exclusive surveillance video of the killing, captured by a parking lot security
camera in a Jackson suburb.
Smith, the district attorney, has called it "vicious" and a "premeditated hate
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the death as a possible federal
hate crime and assisting local prosecutors. The killing has also prompted
several large marches and prayer vigils in Jackson, a city of about 175,000
A 2nd teen, John Aaron Rice, 18, was initially charged with murder, but a judge
reduced the charge to simple assault because Rice was not believed to be
driving the vehicle used to kill Anderson.
However, Hinds County prosecutors have said they plan to seek indictments
against Rice for murder and a hate crime, and will seek indictments against
other teens who were at the scene.
The district attorney's office has not officially commented on the family's
request for no death penalty in the case.
Last week, the Anderson family filed a wrongful death suit against all seven of
the white teens alleged to have been present at the beating of Anderson that
immediately preceded him being run over by the truck. The Southern Poverty Law
Center, a nationally recognized organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, that
opposes racism and intolerance, joined the lawsuit.
In addition to Dedmon and Rice, the lawsuit names 5 other teens as taking part
in the incident: Sarah Graves of Crystal Springs; Shelbie Richards of Pearl;
and William Kirk Montgomery, John Blaylock and Dylan Butler, all of Brandon.
None of the five has been arrested or charged.
Anderson, a line worker at a Nissan plant, sang in his church choir, according
to the family's attorney, Winston J. Thompson III. He leaves behind his partner
of 17 years.
Attorneys for Dedmon and Rice have not responded to requests for comment from
During a recent bond hearing, Dedmon's attorney told the court he saw nothing
to back up the "racial allegations."
A civil trial can proceed at the same time as a criminal case, but often the
civil case is delayed pending the resolution of a criminal trial. While a
criminal case is pending, a defendant in a civil case may need to invoke the
Authorities believe Dedmon led and instigated the attack, which took place
after a night of drinking in largely white Rankin County, outside Jackson.
The gang of teens climbed into Dedmon's green truck and a white SUV and drove
16 miles to the western edge of Jackson. They would have seen Anderson
immediately as they exited the highway, officials said. He was standing in a
hotel parking lot just beyond the exit ramp.
On the videotape obtained exclusively by CNN, the group of teens is seen
pulling into the parking lot and stopping where Anderson is standing, although
he is just off camera and not visible.
The teens can then be seen going back and forth between their cars and
Witnesses told authorities this is when Anderson's beating took place, as the
teens yelled racial epithets, including "white power."
Authorities allege Dedmon and many of the other teens pummeled Anderson
repeatedly as he crumpled to the ground, although this is not visible on the
tape. After the beating, some of the teens left and others got into the green
At this moment, Anderson becomes visible on the tape as he staggers into view
and walks toward the truck.
"Defendant Dedmon drove the F-250 out of the parking lot and turned right onto
Ellis Avenue," the lawsuit says. "Just as Dedmon turned right, his headlights
shone directly on Anderson, who, having been severely beaten, was stumbling in
a grassy area near the motel's entrance. Dedmon accelerated, drove onto and
over the street curb, and struck Anderson with the front of the F-250."
Shortly afterward, Dedmon allegedly boasted and laughed about the killing,
according to statements some of the teens made to detectives. "I ran that
n----- over," he allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the
The proceedings of the case are taking place in the Hinds County courthouse,
where in 1994 Byron de la Beckwith was convicted in the notorious killing of
civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
Death row inmate asks for last minute reprieves
Alabama death row inmate Derrick O'Neal Mason has asked the Alabama Supreme
Court and Gov. Robert Bentley to stop his execution scheduled for Thursday.
The 37-year-old Mason is scheduled to die for the March, 1994 shooting death of
25-year-old convenience store clerk Angela Cagle during an early morning
robbery of a Majik Mart convenience store in Huntsville.
Mason is seeking a last minute stay of execution from the Alabama Supreme Court
and a reprieve from Bentley, which were both pending Tuesday evening.
Mason has argued that his death sentence should be thrown out because his
defense counsel was ineffective in the sentencing phase of the trial and that
the judge who sentenced him to die has since written a letter asking that his
life be spared.
(source: Associated Press)
Md. Court Upholds Standard for Death Penalty
Maryland's highest court has ruled that the standard jurors use in deciding
whether to impose the death penalty is constitutional.
The Court of Appeals, by a 4-3 vote on Tuesday, disagreed with Jody Lee Miles'
claim that the process for weighing the circumstances of the crime is
unconstitutional in Maryland, because it doesn't use the court's highest
threshold of certainty.
Miles was sentenced to death for the 1997 robbery and murder of theater manager
Edward Atkinson of Salisbury. He is one of five men on death row in Maryland.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty sought for 1 of 3 suspects in Katherine Cole slaying
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 1 of 3 people charged with the July
slaying of 68-year-old Katherine Cole.
Cole's daughter, Autumn Cole, 44, was one of the defendants spared a possible
Instead, prosecutors will seek capital punishment for Joseph Perez, 45, her
boyfriend, and the person authorities think strangled Katherine Cole with a
pillowcase twisted into a ligature.
The district attorney's death penalty committee met Tuesday and also decided
not to seek the death penalty against the couple's friend, Lorenzo
Cardenas-Sanchez, 38, who authorities allege was the getaway driver.
The 3 defendants were indicted by a grand jury last month on multiple felonies,
including murder, robbery and kidnapping charges. They all have pleaded not
guilty to the charges.
A trial date was set for Oct. 24 before District Judge Valerie Adair.
Prosecutors have called the slaying cold-blooded. They allege Autumn Cole and
her co-defendants knew when her mother would be home from work and timed a
break-in accordingly, leading to the strangulation of the woman.
Katherine Cole's body was discovered by police July 29 in the garage of her
home near Valley View and Oakey boulevards.
All 3 defendants are being held without bail at the Clark County Detention
The death penalty committee, whose meetings are not open to the public, looks
at three factors when considering capital punishment: whether there are
aggravating factors in the case, whether a jury would impose the death penalty
as punishment and whether a conviction would stand up under appeal.
If it answered no to one of those factors, the committee would decide not to
seek death for a defendant.
(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
More information about the DeathPenalty