[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Apr 26 20:25:09 CDT 2012
Texas man executed for role in robbery-shooting
A Texas man was executed Thursday for his role in a 2002 robbery in which three
people were shot, one fatally.
The lethal injection of Beunka Adams, 29, was carried out less than 3 hours
after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal to postpone the
punishment, the 5th this year in Texas.
Adams expressed love to his family and apologized to witnesses, including one
of the women who survived the attack and relatives of the man who was killed.
He said he was a stupid kid in a man's body at the time of the crime.
"I'm very sorry. Everything that happened that night was wrong," Adams said.
"If I could take it back, I would. Not a day goes by I wish I could take it
back. ... I messed up and can't take that back."
He asked those gathered to not let any hate they had for him "eat you up."
"Find a way to get past ... I really hate things turned out the way they did.
For everybody involved, I don't think any good came out of it."
Adams took about a dozen breaths, then began wheezing and snoring. Eventually,
he became still. He was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. CDT, 9 minutes after the
lethal drugs began to flow into his body.
His attorneys had 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.
He 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 Wednesday.
Adams was 1 of 2 East Texas 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 1 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.
Adams becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas
and the 482nd overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on December 7,
1982. Adams also becomes the 243rd condemned inmate to be put to death since
Rick Perry became governor of Texas in 2001.
Adams becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death in the USA this year
and the 1294th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
Adams is the 4th person to be executed in the USA since April 18; 4 more
condemned inmates are scheduled to be executed in the country in May.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Shifts detected in support for death penalty
The campaign to abolish the death penalty has been freshly invigorated this
month in a series of actions that supporters say represents increasing evidence
that America may be losing its taste for capital punishment.
As early as this week, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, is poised to
sign a bill repealing the death penalty in that state. A separate proposal has
qualified for the November ballot in California that would shut down the
largest death row in the country and convert inmates' sentences to life without
Academics, too, have recently taken indirect aim: The National Research Council
concluded last week that there have been no reliable studies to show that
capital punishment is a deterrent to homicide.
That study, which does not take a position on capital punishment, follows a
Gallup Poll last fall found support for the death penalty had slipped to 61%
nationally, the lowest level in 39 years.
Even in Texas, which has long projected the harshest face of the U.S. criminal
justice system, there has been a marked shift. Last year, the state's 13
executions marked the lowest number in 15 years. And this year, the state — the
perennial national leader in executions — is scheduled to carry out 10.
Capital punishment proponents say the general decline in death sentences and
executions in recent years is merely a reflection of the sustained drop in
violent crime, but some lawmakers and legal analysts say the numbers underscore
a growing wariness of wrongful convictions.
In Texas, Dallas County alone has uncovered 30 wrongful convictions since 2001,
the most of any county in the country. Former Texas governor Mark White, a
Democrat, said he continues to support the death penalty "only in a select
number of cases," yet he says he believes that a "national reassessment" is now
warranted given the stream of recent exonerations.
"I have been a proponent of the death penalty, but convicting people who didn't
commit the crime has to stop," White said.
"There is an inherent unfairness in the system," said Former Los Angeles County
district attorney Gil Garcetti, a Democrat. He added that he was "especially
troubled" by mounting numbers of wrongful convictions.
A recent convert to the California anti-death-penalty campaign, Garcetti said
the current system has become "obscenely expensive" and forces victims to often
wait years for death row appeals to run their course. In the past 34 years in
California, just 13 people have been executed as part of a system that costs
$184 million per year to maintain.
"Replacing capital punishment will give victims legal finality," Garcetti said.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
which opposes capital punishment, said California's referendum marks a
potentially "historic" moment in the anti-death-penalty movement in a state
where 22% of nation's death row prisoners are housed.
"Repeal in California would be a huge developement," Dieter said. "Just getting
it on the ballot is big."
Nationally, Dieter said, fading arguments for capital punishment as a deterrent
to homicide and mounting numbers of wrongful convictions are "turning a corner"
in the debate.
Democratic state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a sponsor of the bill to repeal
Connecticut's death penalty, said capital punishment's "promise to victims and
taxpayers is hollow." In Connecticut, only one person has been executed in the
past 52 years.
Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association,
said the country's system of capital punishment is in need of change, but not
elimination. He said there is "strong motivation," though, to fix a system that
can take 20 years for offenders to reach the death chamber following
"The vast majority of states (33, not counting Connecticut) still have the
possibility of the death penalty," Burns said.
"I don't see a blowing wind that will dramatically change that," he added.
(source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
Man spared death sentence in federal case in Ga.
A jury on Thursday spared the life of an inmate who faced the death penalty for
killing his cellmate at the federal prison in Atlanta, sentencing him instead
to life in prison without the possibility of release.
The jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on Brian Richardson's fate after
almost two days of deliberating, leading to an automatic life in prison
sentence. The teary-eyed 48-year-old hugged his defense attorneys after the
verdict was read, and his supporters wept in the courtroom.
Richardson was convicted last month of the July 2007 killing of Steven Obara, a
60-year-old who was stabbed and choked before he was strangled to death. The
inmate, who was abused as a child, told authorities he targeted his cellmate
because Obara was serving a prison sentence on child molestation charges.
Prosecutors and federal defense lawyers have devoted considerable resources to
the death penalty case, a rarity in the federal court system. He would have
become the first person to be sentenced to death in federal court since June
2011, and federal juries in Atlanta have imposed just 2 since 1997.
Richardson and Obara were put in the same temporary cell at the federal prison
in Atlanta as they awaited transfers to other facilities. At the time,
Richardson was in the middle of a 65-year sentence for armed robberies while
Obara was near the beginning of a 10 year sentence for possessing child
pornography and child molestation.
Prosecutors say Richardson lulled Obara into believing they were friends after
learning of his criminal record. Then he turned on his cellmate, stabbing him
with a fire extinguisher pin fashioned into a weapon before strangling him with
"It wasn't enough to kill him and make it clean and quick. He wanted Mr. Obara
to suffer," said Bill McKinnon, an assistant U.S. attorney, at the closing of
the six-week trial. "Mr. Obara didn't have a chance."
Richardson's attorney, Brian Mendelsohn, said his client's violent past was
rooted in an abusive childhood that led to his mental illness.
"Brian Richardson is not a stone cold predatory killer," he said. "Brian
Richardson is a mentally ill man who was sorely damaged by the abuse he
suffered as a child, the turning points in his life and a history that none of
us would want for our children."
It took the jury about 2 days to convict Richardson of 1st-degree murder in
Obara's killing, and jurors have spent the last month hearing evidence and
testimony from mental health experts, witnesses, and Richardson's victims and
During the closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors argued that a life in prison
sentence wouldn't do justice to Richardson. They cited a violent history that
included attacks on guards and inmates, and accusations that he threatened
potential witnesses even after Obara's killing.
"Life in prison means nothing," McKinnon told jurors.
But Mendelsohn argued that his client was trying to live up to a misguided
prison code that calls for inmates to rough up child molesters. He said
Richardson still has an opportunity for redemption if a jury shows him mercy,
and that Richardson finally has his mental illness under control with new
"The jury saw that in spite of the tragic death of Mr. Obara that Brian's life
still had meaning and value," Mendelsohn said after the sentencing. "We are
grateful that they reached this just result."
(source: Associated Press)
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