[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., OHIO, FLA., VA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Apr 22 15:49:01 CDT 2012
North Carolina judge commutes death sentence, cites jury race bias
A North Carolina judge on Friday commuted the death sentence of a black man
convicted of the 1991 murder of a white teenage boy after finding that state
prosecutors had deliberately excluded blacks from the jury.
In the 1st test of North Carolina's controversial Racial Justice Act,
Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks said he found intentional
and systematic discrimination by prosecutors over 2 decades against black
jurors in death penalty cases.
North Carolina Judge Finds Intentional Racial Discrimination in Death Penalty
April 22 marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in McCleskey
v. Kemp, in which the Court ruled that a defendant cannot rely upon statistical
evidence of systemic racial bias to prove his death sentence unconstitutional,
no matter how strong that evidence may be. McCleskey has been roundly condemned
as a low point in the quest for equality that begs to be revisited. To mark the
occasion, every day this week the ACLU Blog of Rights will feature a new post
about McCleskey and its legacy.
In a remarkable victory over racial bias in the death penalty, Marcus Robinson
will not be executed by the State of North Carolina but will instead spend the
rest of his life in prison after a judge ruled today that his death sentence
was tainted by racial discrimination in jury selection. The central dispute in
Robinson's case, the first test under North Carolina's new Racial Justice Act,
boiled down to a fundamental question: is it fair to use statistical evidence
to show racial bias in capital jury selection?
In Robinson's case, powerful statistical evidence of racial bias in jury
selection was introduced, including a study from Michigan State University
finding that North Carolina prosecutors were twice as likely to remove
qualified Black jurors from jury service as other jurors, even after the
researchers controlled for alternative explanations such as criminal background
or reservations about imposing a death sentence.
The state offered no meaningful rebuttal to the statistical evidence. No
statistical expert testified for the state that race did not play a role in
jury selection. Rather, the State lodged a frontal attack on the concept of
statistical evidence itself. In its closing argument, the prosecution argued
that the problem with the Robinson's statistical evidence is that it tries "to
get people to lose sight of the trees and focus on the forest." At the end of
the argument, the prosecution was even more direct: it pleaded with the judge
not to make a decision "with respect to the Racial Justice Act based upon
The State's forest and trees analogy was a useful one. For years, prosecutors
have been able to deny discrimination on a tree-by-tree basis — in individual
cases — arguing, for example, that the real reason a Black juror was struck was
because she was too old. Or too young. Or went to college. Or didn't graduate
from high school. But not that she was Black. Under the new legal standard of
North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, however, defendants can rely on
statistical evidence from cases statewide. What statistics allowed Robinson —
and all of us as citizens of North Carolina — to do was compare the
prosecutors' explanations across cases. The forest view of North Carolina jury
selection is a picture of discrimination. The evidence shows unequivocally that
among old people and young, college graduates and high school dropouts, single
and married folks, death penalty opponents and supporters, Black jurors were
struck at higher rates than their white counterparts. Statistics allowed that
picture to come into crystal-clear focus.
Today, the judge applied the plain language of the statute permitting
statistical evidence, and weighed all of the evidence — including the unrefuted
and powerful statistics. He found pervasive evidence of bias over the last 20
years in North Carolina jury selection, and he ruled for Marcus Robison. It
probably didn't hurt that the statistical evidence confirms what all trial
lawyers know to be true: race matters in jury selection. For years, it has been
an open secret that prosecutors and defense lawyers strike jurors based on
racial stereotypes. Both sides strike based on the view — often erroneous —
that white jurors are good for the prosecutors and Black jurors are good for
The judge's decision is an important victory for more than just Marcus
Robinson. Looking back, the Robinson decision is really the first significant
win since the Supreme Court dealt a blow to fairness in the death penalty 25
years ago this Sunday, ruling in McCleskey v. Kemp that statistical evidence of
systemic racial disparities could not be used to overturn death sentences
because such disparities were "inevitable." Today's decision, and the RJA
itself, stand as a powerful rebuke to the Supreme Court's defeatist view of
discrimination. It signals both that North Carolina will not tolerate a system
of capital punishment built on the back of rampant discrimination and that it
is possible to take systemic discrimination seriously.
The decision is also important for what is says about the future. It provides
North Carolina prosecutors — and defense counsel — with an opportunity to take
a hard look at the role race has played in jury selection and make the
necessary changes to ensure that jury selection is no longer tainted by racial
stereotyping. Should State prosecutors choose to ignore the Robinson decision,
and go about business as usual in capital jury selection, they will do so at
their own peril. Changes in jury selection are important for the fair selection
of capital juries, but also for all of us. Discrimination in the selection of
juries inflicts harm and humiliation on excluded jurors and undermines the
integrity of the courts system and our democracy as a whole. Today's judgment
firmly steers us towards a future without race based jury selection, and
towards a restoration of trust and integrity to the courts.
(source: Cassandra Stubbs, ACLU Capital PUnishment Project)
Foes of executions re-energized----Faith community leads opposition to death
Capital-punishment opponents promise more vigils, saying the resumption of
executions in Ohio after a 5-month pause has re-energized the movement.
2 years ago, the Rev. Georgina Thornton witnessed something she hopes to never
The pastor from Grace AME Church in the northeastern Ohio city of Warren
watched the state execute Death Row inmate Darryl Durr. He reacted to the
lethal-injection drug used at the time by raising his head and shoulders and
grimacing before his head fell back, his eyes closed, his chest heaved and his
“It just destroyed me,” said Thornton, who sobbed for several minutes after
watching Durr die. “ It was a very, very, very hard thing to witness, and I
hope I never have to do it again.”
Many fellow members of faith communities in Ohio also pray that Thornton — and
anyone else — will never again watch the state put an inmate to death.
Following a 5-month break in lethal injections in a state that had been
scheduling one each month, an inmate was executed on Wednesday. Although the
resumption was disheartening for those who oppose capital punishment, many said
that their movement has been re-energized to renew its message.
The execution was a “wake-up call” for activists, said the Rev. Timothy Ahrens
of First Congregational Church Downtown.
“The moratorium, obviously, gave everyone hope that the time had come that we
would turn and realize for every imaginable reason that the death penalty is
wrong,” Ahrens said.
Executions tend to focus the attention of faith-based activists on capital
punishment, said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied
Politics at the University of Akron.
“We know historically that executions themselves, when they actually happen, it
is a strong motivation for political activity for people who oppose the death
penalty,” he said.
Minority churches, Protestants and Roman Catholics tend to oppose the practice,
but each group includes activists who support executions, Green said.
Islam and Judaism are more decentralized but tend to be skeptical of the death
penalty, he said.
Capital punishment in Ohio already had received renewed attention in recent
months: a review of the state’s process by an Ohio Supreme Court panel, and two
bills in the General Assembly seeking to ban the practice, said Jerry Freewalt
at the office for social concerns of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus.
In advance of Wednesday’s execution of Mark Wayne Wiles, more than 230 leaders
of various faiths had joined in a written request for mercy to Gov. John
Freewalt said opponents will continue to pray and hold vigils at the Statehouse
to coincide with each execution.
“We think the tide is turning to build a culture of life,” he said. “We’re
trying to teach people that increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes
Rabbi Harold Berman at Congregation Tifereth Israel on the Near East Side said
he’s also optimistic that the call for change will continue.
“We would hope that people would look much more carefully at what the process
is and move in the direction of removing the death penalty entirely,” he said.
In 2001, Muslim Imam Kamal Najib watched the state execute a murderer he had
come to know through counseling as a respectful, funny, easy-to-like guy. He
said he’d do the same for another inmate if asked, but, like Thornton, would
prefer to never again witness an execution.
“It’s an emotionally very draining thing,” said Najib, who works as a chaplain
at prisons in Mansfield and Grafton. “I hope to never really need to go to one
“It put me in a little bit of a tailspin.”
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
FLORIDA----new death sentence
Jacksonville man sentenced to death in Christmas Eve 2009 double-murder
When Terrance Tyrone Phillips looked back, there may have only been 3 women
there to support him. But that was better than nothing. Mateo H. Perez had no
one. Neither did Renaldo Antunez-Padilla.
Both of the men had immigrated to the United States for work, for a life better
than what they left behind.
But instead they were figured to be easy targets in a robbery plot that ended
in their murders.
In January a jury found that Phillips, 20, was the hired gun who shot Perez,
26, and Antunez-Padilla, 30, in a Christmas Eve 2009 ambush at their
Jacksonville apartment. Phillips was sentenced Friday to the death penalty.
“It’s very sad that individuals that come to our country for a better life are
targeted by certain members of our community because they think they are not
going to report things to the police or that law enforcement does not value
their lives,” prosecutor London Kite said.
Kite said the slayings came as part of a wave of attacks against Hispanic
immigrants, often here illegally. They make good prey, a detective said, for
criminals who are looking for cash and a victim who may be hesitant to contact
“This let’s the community know that we do take these things seriously and that
they should not be targets,” Kite said.
But it wasn’t Phillips who sought out his victims. That was the work of a
woman, his cousin’s girlfriend, who shared a brief conversation with the men at
a convenience store near their apartment.
With a phone number exchanged, 20-year-old Barabara Anna Anders then met with
Phillips, her boyfriend, Antonio Lorenzo Baker, and 19-year-old Shanise
Together the 4 went to the men’s apartment with a plot to rob them, with the
women acting as prostitutes, prosecutors said.
But when Phillips, armed with a pistol, and Baker rushed in, the supposedly
easy targets fought back in what authorities later described as a bloody battle
for their lives.
Witnesses placed Phillips as the only one armed with a gun inside the unit when
the shots were fired.
Defense attorney Jerry Shea maintained Friday that no one actually witnessed
his client fire the shots. But he added that Phillips had no business going
into their apartment, led there by Anders and Bing.
“What happened to these young men has weighed heavily on him,” Shea said. “… If
he could have that day back, obviously he would never have shown up there.”
Like Phillips, Baker, 22, was found guilty in February of 2 counts of
1st-degree murder, burglary, attempted armed robbery and conspiracy to commit
armed robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Anders pleaded guilty to burglary, attempted armed robbery and conspiracy to
commit armed robbery. Bing pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed
robbery. Both await their sentencings.
(source: Florida Times-Union)
US Urged to Execute Killer of Bulgarian Tycoon's Sister
Russian Natalia Wilson, who is charged with killing Bulgarian Slavka Naydenova,
and her 8-year-old son in the United States last year, should be executed by
electric chair, the father and grandfather of the victims have said.
"First let me say that I am glad that they have caught her and she has
confessed. I want the US court to stick to the law and execute her by the
electric chair. Unfortunately nothing can bring back my dead children," Pavel
Naydenov said in an interview for 24 Hours daily.
Naydenova, sister of Bulgarian tycoon, founder and President of the Multigroup
Corporation, Iliya Pavlov, who was shot dead in 2003, and her son Paul Wilson
were stabbed to death in their home in Dale City, Virginia on February 2, 2011.
Naydenova's current husband came home from work to find their bodies about 11
p.m., police said. He has been ruled out as suspect.
At the beginning of March, the Russian woman confessed she committed the murder
out of jealousy.
The confession was made after a lengthy 20-hour interrogation. Natalia Wilson
claims that she was in an emotionally affected condition when she killed
41-year-old Naydenova. Wilson also confessed of killing Naydenova's 8-year-old
Lawyers for Natalia Wilson claimed statements she made to police were coerced.
Prosecutors are pressing for death penalty.
Natalia Wilson is the second wife of Lester Wilson, an American national whom
Slavka Naydenova divorced.
Naydenova is reported to have met her current husband – Filip Nikolov – at the
funeral of her brother. Nikolov used to be one of the bodyguards of Iliya
Pavlov. He currently works in the US as a janitor. Naydenova's second husband
is not a suspect.
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