[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, CONN., GA., NEV.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Apr 26 16:27:12 CDT 2012
Justices refuses stay for Texas man's execution
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt the scheduled execution of convicted
killer Beunka Adams.
The 29-year-old Adams faces lethal injection in Huntsville Thursday evening for
a slaying a decade ago during an East Texas robbery where 3 people were shot
and abducted and one of the victims was raped. The ruling came about 3 hours
before Adams could be taken to the Texas death chamber.
Adams' attorneys argued the justices should halt the punishment, review his
case and allow Adams to pursue appeals focusing on whether his legal help at
his trial and during earlier stages of his appeals was deficient.
Earlier this week, Adams won a reprieve from a federal district judge but the
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, reinstating the
Adams, 29, would be the 5th person executed in Texas this year. His attorneys
asked the nation's highest court to halt the execution, review his case and let
him pursue appeals claiming he had deficient legal help at his trial and during
earlier stages of his appeals. Adams won a reprieve from a federal district
judge earlier this week, but the Texas attorney general's office appealed the
ruling, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the death warrant
Adams was 1 of 2 men sent to death row for the slaying of Kenneth Vandever, 37.
He was in a convenience store on Sept. 2, 2002, in Rusk, about 115 miles
southeast of Dallas, when 2 men wearing masks and carrying a shotgun walked in
and announced a holdup.
After robbing the store, Adams and Richard Cobb drove off with the 2 female
clerks and Vandever in a car belonging to one of the women.
Testimony at Adams' trial showed he gave the orders during the holdup and
initiated the abductions. They drove to a remote area about 10 miles away in
Cherokee County, where Adams demanded Vandever and 1 woman get into the trunk
of the car and then raped the other woman. Testimony also showed he forced all
3 to kneel as they were shot.
Vandever was fatally wounded. The women were kicked and shot again before Cobb
and Adams, believing they were dead, fled. Both were alive, however, and one
was able to run to a house to summon help. Adams and Cobb were arrested several
hours later in Jacksonville, about 25 miles to the north. Adams was
identifiable because he had slipped off his mask after one of the women said
she thought she knew him.
During questioning by police, Adams "didn't fully say what he did but enough to
show guilt under the law of parties," said Cherokee County District Attorney
That Texas law makes an accomplice equally culpable as the actual killer.
Beckworth said evidence pointed to Cobb as the gunman, although testimony at
trial showed Adams bragged to another jail inmate that he was the shooter.
The law of parties became an issue in some of Adams' appeals, with his lawyers
arguing trial lawyers and earlier appeals attorneys should have contested jury
instructions related to the law.
Assistant Attorney General Ellen Stewart-Klein countered in court documents
that Adams showed "total participation in a capital murder and the moral
culpability required of one sentenced to death."
Cobb, who was 18 at the time of the holdup, was convicted and sentenced to die
in a separate trial 8 months before Adams, who was 19 at the time of the crime.
Evidence tied the 2 to a string of robberies that happened around the same
"You could see with their prior aggravated robberies the level of intensity was
rising," Beckworth said.
Cobb does not yet have an execution date set. At Adams' trial, Adams was
portrayed as "a kind of tag-along" influenced by Cobb, said Sten Langsjoen, a
trial lawyer for Adams. The two had met as ninth-graders at a boot camp.
Evidence showed they began committing burglaries together, then switched to
more lucrative armed robberies.
Adams declined to speak from death row with reporters as his execution date
Vandever had suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident, said
Beckworth, who described him as mentally challenged. He was known around Rusk
for riding his bicycle and keeping folks company at the convenience store, the
prosecutor said. Vandever was in the store's eating area, not near the women,
and the robbers apparently didn't spot him until he got up to leave.
(source: Associated Press)
Connecticut Abolishes Death Penalty – Is Decades of Work Turning the Tide?
Yesterday, Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy quietly signed a bill that would
abolish the death penalty in that state. In doing so, Connecticut became the
17th state to abolish it. The last state to abolish the death penalty was
Illinois, and the next may be Maryland; Kansas and Montana are also considering
it. California has a controversial ballot measure set for November that, if
passed, would move 22 % of the country’s death row inmates in one fell swoop.
NPQ’s reason for taking note of this story is that a number of nonprofits have
waged a long campaign both against the death penalty and against injustices
(racism) in how death sentences are meted out. Just last week, a North Carolina
judge drew upon the state’s new Racial Justice law to reduce a death row
inmate’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The
Madison Times reports that “Judge Weeks’ ruling was grounded in a study of
prosecutorial actions in the death-penalty proceedings of all 160 of the
state’s death-row inmates that was released in December. The study, done by 2
members of the Michigan State University law school, found that over the last 2
decades North Carolina state prosecutors have excluded black potential jurors
from capital murder juries more than twice as often as they did non-blacks.
Prosecutors excluded nearly 53 % of the black potential jurors they questioned
compared to about 26 % of the non-black ones.” Kentucky has a similar law.
While some see the Connecticut move and others as an indication that America is
losing its taste for capital punishment, others do not believe this to be the
case, pointing out that the death penalty is largely being abolished in states
where it is rarely carried out. Since 1976, 1,060 people have been executed in
the South, 150 in the Midwest, 75 in the West and 4 in the Northeast.
Connecticut has put only one person to death during that period.
NPQ recognizes the long decades of work it has taken to get to this point. For
instance, the work of the Innocence Project has probably been pivotal in
helping to expose and publicize cases where people were wrongly convicted and
sentenced to death, although its position has been to call for a moratorium on
the death penalty and this has given pause to many. Amnesty International
monitors the use of death penalty laws internationally and according to the
Hudson Valley Press, the NAACP, which holds elimination of the death penalty as
a major organizational focus, has been working on the repeal in Connecticut for
But in naming a few groups we do not mean to leave the scores of others out.
The repeals we are seeing are a result, in other words, of decades of work by
multiple local, national and international organizations, many of them
nonprofit, and with members that were willing to take a public stand even when
it was enormously difficult to do so.
(source: NonProfit Quarterly)
Play provides thought for death penalty themes
“Burning Man” is not just a play — it’s a conversation starter.
A major capital punishment case coincides with the city’s annual Burning Man
festival in Black Rock City, Nev. Tension builds as the festival progresses and
the characters each explore their different thoughts on the death penalty in
the hours leading up to the trial verdict.
Although the play is occasionally humorous, it also explores many sides of a
complicated, topical issue.
In 'Burning Man,' difficult roles, ‘impossible’ stage directions and heated
issues give actors and audience thought-provoking debate.
“When we were looking for new plays, we had submissions from all over the
country, actually,” said Joelle Re’ Arp-Dunham, producing artistic director for
the Circle Ensemble Theatre Company. “It just kept coming back to my head after
I read it — I just kept thinking about it and comparing everything else to it.
That’s the kind of theatre we like to do, things that will make you think about
things and make you contemplate yourself and what your own values are.”
Playwright Pamela Turner wanted to explore the idea of who owns death in the
“I have mixed feelings on the death penalty myself,” she said. “I think it’s a
conversation we all need to be having.”
The politically charged content of the play is challenging for actors who don’t
share the same views, Re’ Arp-Dunham said, as the actors play positions that
they have never found themselves in morally.
Re’ Arp-Dunham said that the disparity in belief systems is tough, especially
for actors more accustomed to playing naturalistic roles.
“I’m playing the wife of the murdered man, Sarah Claire,” said Lisa Mende,
executive director of Circle Ensemble. “She is a woman who has been victimized
who doesn’t really want to see herself as a victim. And she’s opposed to the
execution of the man who murdered her husband because she’s trying to find
compassion within herself… She has a line that says, ‘I’m afraid of who I am if
I want him to die.’ And I think that kind of encapsulates how she feels about
the execution of the murderer of her husband.”
Another challenging task includes recreating an effigy of a burning man on
“We have to build the burning man on stage during the performance,” Re’
Arp-Dunham said. “There’s a technical challenge there, definitely. We’re trying
to build a full, huge sculpture on stage in the middle of a performance.”
Turner said her work is very visual, and that she’s known for her impossible
But the technical and mental challenges of the play all culminate to make the
audience contemplate a tough issue, fueling small fires of debate concerning
“It’s a wonderful piece,” Mende said. “One of the nice things about it is that
it really lets the viewer come to their own conclusion. It’s not preachy. It
doesn’t say the death penalty is right or the death penalty is wrong, but it
points at all of our frailties.”
Where: Seney-Stovall Chapel
When: April 26-28 at 7:30 p.m., April 28 at 2:30 p.m.
(source: The (Univ. of Ga.) Red and Black)
Inmate who spent decades on Nev. death row dies
An inmate who killed 2 men in the early 1980s and spent 3 decades on and off
Nevada’s death row died at a Las Vegas hospital after suffering from an
unidentified medical condition, the Department of Corrections said Wednesday.
Robert Farmer, 56, died of natural causes Tuesday night.
Corrections spokesman Steve Suwe said Farmer was transferred from Ely State
Prison to High Desert State Prison in southern Nevada on April 18. He was taken
that same day to Valley Hospital in Las Vegas, where he died a week later.
Farmer was arrested in Florida in 1982 and returned to Nevada to face separate
charges in Reno and Las Vegas. According to court records, he was convicted in
Washoe County that same year of armed robbery and 1st-degree kidnapping. In
1983, he was convicted of 1st-degree murder for the death of Thomas Kane, and
possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to life in prison without
In March 1984, Farmer pleaded guilty in Clark County to 1st-degree murder for
the death of Las Vegas taxicab driver Greg Gelunas, and he was sentenced to
death by a 3-judge panel.
But the Nevada Supreme Court vacated his death sentence in 2007, citing an
earlier court decision that said prosecutors cannot use the same element of a
felony murder crime as an aggravating circumstance to justify a death penalty.
Prosecutors then sought a new penalty phase hearing to re-impose Farmer’s death
Farmer appealed, claiming a new hearing based on the same aggravating
circumstances was unconstitutional because it would amount to double jeopardy.
In February, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco
rejected those arguments, ruling that “the state constitutionally may attempt
once against to impose the death penalty, if it decides that justice so
A new hearing to impose the death penalty was not held before he died.
(source: Sparks Tribune)
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