[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----AUG. 13-AUG. 4

Rick Halperin rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Aug 14 19:12:30 CDT 2012

AUGUST 13, 2012:


Maintain Gov. John Kitzhaber's death penalty moratorium on Gary Haugen

The Oregonian's editorial "Time to let Haugen die" (Aug. 7) provides a review 
of the Gary Haugen saga. I take exception, however, both to the title and to 
the conclusion. The title frames the issue -- inappropriately in my view -- as 
a question of Haugen's "right to die." Oregonians have compassionately provided 
such a right to those whose lives are being artificially prolonged and to 
terminal patients under carefully defined circumstances. Haugen falls into 
neither category, and framing the issue in this way obscures what is really at 
stake. A more frank and accurate title for the editorial would be "Oregon 
should kill Gary Haugen now."

So what is the rationale for this position?

The writer assumes that Judge Timothy Alexander's decision settles the issue 
legally. It doesn't. In reality, his opinion is based on an archaic 1833 U.S. 
Supreme Court doctrine that was rejected by that court in 1927. Because the 
doctrine, concerning the effectiveness of a governor's clemency order, found 
its way into decisions of the Oregon Supreme Court, Alexander felt compelled to 
follow it.

The issue is a serious one of constitutional law and deserves to be 
reconsidered by the Oregon Supreme Court. It's not "too bad" that the governor 
may appeal, and it's far from a "bizarre sideshow."

The writer also appears concerned about the cost to taxpayers of the governor 
pursuing such an appeal. That cost, however, is minuscule compared with the 
millions of taxpayer dollars spent every year pursuing death sentences, and it 
is probably substantially less than the cost of conducting Haugen's execution.

Like the rest of his companions on death row, Haugen was condemned to die for 
committing horrific murders. He's not a sympathetic figure. What distinguishes 
him from them, however, and the reason he's front-page news, is that he is 
"cool" with being executed. The bottom line for the editorial is a mere guess 
that it's "cool" with most Oregonians, too.

For me, and I expect for other readers, there's something unsettling both about 
giving Haugen so much publicity and about acceding to his death wish. It raises 
issues both of his mental competence and of who is in control of determining 
the appropriate punishment for his crimes. Under these circumstances, I 
couldn't "pull the trigger" (or push the syringe) and therefore don't support 
my government doing it either.

Oregon deserves a serious debate on the death penalty, and Gov. John Kitzhaber 
has invited us to have it. Besides the issue of morality, upon which good and 
decent people differ, there are important practical questions to consider:

-- Is it effective to deter murder?

-- Does it keep us safer than life in prison with no possibility of parole?

-- Are we certain we will never execute an innocent person?

-- Is it fairly imposed, i.e., are only the worst of the worst sentenced to 

-- Are the millions we spend on it a good use of tax dollars?

Since the answer to all these questions may well be "No," let's accept 
Kitzhaber's invitation and consider them carefully.

Gary Haugen can wait.

(source: David McNeil is a retired attorney and a member of the board of 
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; The Oregonian)


Gautier judge tells Steven Michael Brown he could face death penalty

Judge Jason Thornton told Steven Michael Brown Sr. of Fairhope today in Gautier 
Police Municipal Court that he could face the death penalty for capital murder 

Brown -- handcuffed, shackled and wearing an orange inmate jumpsuit -- had 
about a 5-minute initial appearance in front of Thornton.

Reading from a state statute, Thornton told Brown he was being charged with 
capital murder -- that he willfully and unlawfully caused death during an armed 
robbery on Aug. 8.

When asked if he had an attorney, Brown replied, "No, my wife was trying to get 
one this morning."

Brown may opt to waive his preliminary hearing and have the case go straight to 
the grand jury, Thornton said.

Thornton set Brown's bail at $1 million because he is from out of state and a 
greater flight risk.

"If he gets an attorney, he can always request a bond reduction hearing," 
Thornton said.

Brown was arrested Thursday on a charge of capital murder in the death of Jacob 
"Jack" Thomas Markowitz, whose body was found in a burning pickup truck 
Wednesday morning.

Tips from passing motorists Wednesday morning, calling about a truck near the 
scene of crime, helped investigators identify the suspect.

The arrest was made "in part to several concerned citizens who called the 
police department to report seeing the suspect's vehicle -- a black, 2008 
quad-cab Dodge pickup with a utility cage -- at the scene of the crime," 
Hoggatt said.

The time frame in which witnesses called about the truck was "between 9 and 11 
a.m. The first responders got on scene shortly before 11," he said.

Police and firefighters found the charred remains inside a burning maroon Dodge 
Ram on Firestone Road off Miss. 57 just south of Interstate 10.

Hoggatt said the suspect and the victim were "known to each other" or they were 

Hoggatt said the suspect voluntarily walked into the police department to talk 
with officers about the incident and was later arrested at the police station.

"He came to the station to speak with us and we arrested him here," Hoggatt 
said. "We can't go into detail of any interviews, but I can tell you we 
arrested him here."

When asked if the suspect surrendered or confessed, Hoggatt declined to 
comment, citing the active investigation.

Brown is being held in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center.

(source: Mississippi Press)

AUGUST 12, 2012:


Last words of Texas death row inmates: a kind of gallows poetry

Texas executed a man with an IQ of 61 last week for murdering a 21-year-old 
police drug informant in 1992.

Lawyers for Marvin Wilson, 54, had battled his execution for years, building a 
mountain of appeals that Texas prosecutors demolished again and again until the 
executioner finally strapped him down. There, Wilson uttered his last words on 

???Y'all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint,??? he 
said. ???Take me home, Jesus, take me home, Lord, take me home, Lord. I ain't 
left yet, must be a miracle. I am a miracle. I see you, Rich. Don't cry, son, 
don't cry, baby. I love y'all. I'm ready.???

Then Wilson was dead, the 7th inmate executed in the state this year and the 
latest in a long line of convicts whose last words have been preserved for 
posterity by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Published on the department???s website, the inmates??? last prayers, apologies 
and insults form a 30-year database of grief and outrage, studded with protests 
of innocence and requests for absolution. Taken together, they form a kind of 
gallows poetry in verses both long and short.

Charles William Bass, executed April 12, 1986, kept his to eight words: ???I 
deserve this. Tell everyone I said goodbye.???

???Is the mic on???? Dale Devon Scheanette asked on Feb. 10, 2009. Known as the 
???Bathtub Killer,??? he was convicted of raping and strangling one woman and 
suspected of raping and drowning another. "My only statement is that ??? no 
cases are error free. You may proceed, warden."

His executioner did, filling Scheanette with lethal poison until his heart 

On July 9, 1985, Henry Porter faced down his executioners. ???From there you 
call me a cold-blooded murderer,??? he said. ???I didn???t tie anyone to a 
stretcher. I didn???t pump any poison into anybody???s veins from behind a 
locked door. You call this justice. I call this and your society a bunch of 
cold-blooded murderers.???

Kelsey Patterson seemed confused by the invitation to speak. ???Statement to 
what? State what???? Patterson said on May 18, 2004.

He insisted he was innocent of shooting two people to death. The Texas Board of 
Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency to Gov. Rick Perry, who rejected 
it. Part of Patterson???s protest -- ???Go to hell??? -- has been redacted from 
the record because Texas officials deemed his profanity insensitive.

Patterson's last words: ???Get my money. Give me my rights. Give me my rights. 
Give me my rights. Give me my life back."

By and large, however, Texas convicts have gone peacefully. Inmate after inmate 
has apologized for their crimes, for taking the lives of victims who never got 
the chance to utter last words of their own. Some convicts used the opportunity 
to proclaim the glory of God and to tell their families that they loved them.

???Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,??? Larry Davis 
said on July 31, 2008. ???It is finished.???

Davis and two other men perpetrated a 1995 robbery-murder in which the victim, 
Michael Barrow, was hit in the back of the head with a dumbbell, tied up, 
stabbed with a knife, stabbed with an ice pick, stabbed with a butcher knife, 
struck with a pipe and kicked. Finally, Davis told an accomplice to step on 
Barrow???s throat to suffocate him.

In 2011, Humberto Leal asked for forgiveness, said he was truly sorry, and 
said: ???Let's get this show on the road.???

Then he added: ???One more thing: Viva Mexico. Viva Mexico.???

An analysis finds ???love??? is the most common word in Texas??? execution 
chamber, followed by ???family,??? ???thank,??? ???sorry??? and ???God.???

???I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you too 
bro,??? Rogelio Cannady said on May 19, 2010, addressing his family. ???Take 
care of y???all. May God have mercy on my soul.???

Cannady kept talking as he faded out.

???I thought it was going to be harder than this," he said. "I am ready to go. 
I am going to sleep now. I can feel it, it's affecting me now." (source: Los 
Angeles Times)


Jury selection to begin in death sentence case in Westmoreland torture killing

Starting Monday, Westmoreland County prosecutors and defense lawyers will seek 
to seat a jury to consider the death penalty for a man who pleaded guilty to a 
crime that investigators have described as one of the most brutal in recent 

Jury selection will begin for the sentencing of Melvin Knight, who in April 
pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and other charges in connection with the 
Feb. 11, 2010 torture slaying of Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old mentally 
disabled woman from Mt. Pleasant.

Knight, 22, along with his 5 roommates, are accused of holding Daugherty 
captive for more than two days, beating her and torturing her before she was 
fatally stabbed in the heart.

The victim was beaten with a towel rack and a vacuum hose while held captive in 
a bathroom. She was forced to ingest concoctions of cleaning liquids and bodily 
fluids and prescription medications.

Her body was stuffed into a trash can and left under a truck in a local school 
parking lot. The victim was wrapped in Christmas lights.

District Attorney John Peck contends Knight should be executed because he 
tortured and raped Daugherty.

???The underlying facts of the crime can never be divorced from the jury???s 
consideration,??? St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak said.

The defense will seeking to give jurors a reason to spare Knight???s life. That 
evidence is expected to focus on Knight???s mental health and his decision to 
accept guilt by virtue of his plea.

Peck will also seek the death sentence against Ricky Smyrnes, 26, and Amber 
Meidinger, 22, for their roles in Daugherty???s death.

Smyrnes??? trial is slated to begin this month.

Meidinger, who had a child with Knight and claims they were engaged, has 
cooperated with prosecutors but is still awaiting trial.

She testified against Angela Marinucci, now 20, who was convicted last year of 
1st-degree murder. Peggy Miller, 29, and Robert Masters, 38, have agreed to 
help prosecutors and are attempting to negotiate plea bargains to lesser 

The Knight jury will be the 1st death-qualified jury seated in Westmoreland 
County since 2005, when jurors condemned convicted cop killer Michael Travaglia 
to death.

Travaglia had been convicted and sentenced to death in 1981 for shooting Apollo 
police Officer Leonard C. Miller. Travaglia and John Lesko were both sentenced 
to die for the Miller killing but appeals required new juries to sentence them.

Lesko was resentenced in 1995.

About 400 prospective jurors will be summoned to the courthouse in Greensburg 
for the case against Knight this week.

Before any jurors are questioned on Monday morning, Westmoreland County Judge 
Rita Hathaway is expected to rule on a defense request to have the jury 
sequestered for the duration of the trial.

(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)


Increase Costs questioned in failed death-penalty case

Brian Richardson was already serving the rest of his life in prison for armed 
robberies. Now he had methodically killed his cellmate at the U.S. Penitentiary 
in Atlanta. After repeatedly stabbing and then strangling the 60-year-old man, 
Richardson decided to shave before alerting guards.

But the government didn???t get the death penalty for Brian Richardson. His 
jury could not reach a unanimous verdict so, by law, he received life without 

In the meantime, Richardson???s case required more than 20 lawyers and consumed 
thousands of hours of their time. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in 
fees from expert witnesses, some who cost the government $1,900 an hour but 
were never allowed to testify. And it derailed the careers of 2 federal 
prosecutors ??? one accused of defying a court order, the other caught making 
outrageous comments to a snitch on a recorded phone call.

???This was a colossal waste of taxpayer money,??? Brian Mendelsohn, one of 
Richardson???s lawyers, said. ???Brian was willing to plead guilty in exchange 
for a life sentence from day one. This entire episode could have been 

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said her office stands by its decision and holds firm 
to the belief Richardson will kill again. ???I don???t have any trepidation or 
second thoughts as to whether it was appropriate to seek death in this case.???

The 4-year-long prosecution culminated in a 9-week jury trial this spring. 
Yates declined to provide records detailing the cost of the prosecution.

But among the costs to taxpayers was more than $150,000 billed by mental health 
experts who planned to testify against Richardson but were prohibited from 
doing so. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper barred the testimony after 
finding prosecutors misled him as to how the government???s experts would 
conduct Richardson???s evaluation.

The prosecutors no longer work for the U.S. Attorney???s Office in Atlanta and 
are being investigated by the Justice Department???s Office of Professional 

Yates admits mistakes were made. But ???we don???t believe that any of our 
prosecutors intended to mislead the court,??? she said.

???I???m gonna kill somebody???

Court records show the U.S. Attorney???s Office assigned eight prosecutors to 
the case. It flew in victims of crimes committed by Richardson years ago to 
testify at trial. And it helped get reduced sentences for a number of inmates 
who cooperated with the prosecution.

The Federal Defender???s Office also devoted enormous resources. It assigned 
four attorneys and two investigators to Richardson???s defense. It spent almost 
$200,000 for its experts and expenses.

In addition, 20 private attorneys were appointed ??? and paid $125 an hour ??? 
to represent inmates asked by prosecutors to testify against Richardson.

At the time of the July 2007 murder, Richardson, 49, had almost 50 years left 
on a 65-year prison sentence. An Alabama native and a former Marine, Richardson 
has several striking tattoos, including a swastika, skulls and the initials CWA 
(???Cracker With Attitude???).

Previously in lockup, Richardson splashed bleach in a guard???s face and 
stabbed other inmates. He was accused of talking a troubled inmate into 
committing suicide.

Transferred to Atlanta because he???d recently attacked an inmate at a Florida 
prison, Richardson was put in the same cell with a child molester. Once a 
predator, Steven O???Bara had become easy prey.

In his confession, Richardson told FBI agents he killed O???Bara because he was 
a pedophile. He said he stabbed O???Bara nine times with a shiv fashioned from 
a fire extinguisher pin. He then choked him by stepping on his throat before 
wrapping a sock around O???Bara???s neck and strangling him.

After he killed O???Bara, Richardson coldly told agents, ???Somebody else is 
gonna get skinned up bad. First chance I get, I???m gonna kill somebody.???

U.S. attorneys off case

When the death-penalty notice was filed, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Alley 
and Matt Jackson cited Richardson???s future dangerousness, present lack of 
remorse and violent past.

By the time the case went to trial, Alley and Jackson were no longer on the 
prosecution team.

Jackson was removed after Richardson???s lawyers came across recorded 
conversations he had with Jack Morris, an inmate serving time for dealing crack 
cocaine and who was cooperating with the prosecution, discussing his expected 
testimony. The calls were recorded as a matter of routine at the prison.

During one call, Morris said he???d ???murder her verbally??? on the witness 
stand, referring to one of Richardson???s lawyers. To which Jackson replied, 
???Or you can just jump over the podium and go over and stab her. We???ll go 
light on you. If you do kill her, a day of community service.???

After the U.S. Attorney???s Office found out about the phone calls, Jackson was 
taken off the case and prosecutors decided not to use Morris as a witness. Even 
so, Morris received a 53-month reduction of his sentence as credit for his 
cooperation, court records show.

Cooper, who presided over the case, disqualified Alley from the case after 
finding he may have had a conflict of interest because an inmate was alleging 
Richardson made threats to kill Alley. But Alley violated Cooper???s order by 
continuing to stay involved in the case, including giving Morris a cover story 
to keep other inmates from knowing he was a government snitch, a defense motion 

Neither Jackson, now a federal prosecutor in Florida, nor Alley, now in private 
practice in Atlanta, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Psychiatric testimony axed

Before trial, a key thrust of Richardson???s defense was to present testimony 
from experts who believed he suffered from schizophrenia, which could be 
managed with proper medication.

To rebut that evidence, the U.S. Attorney???s Office hired The Forensic Panel. 
The practice was founded by forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, who has 
testified in numerous high-profile cases.

Welner pioneered a peer review process to safeguard the validity of his 
findings, using up to three mental health experts in a case instead of one. In 
Richardson???s case, Welner contracted neuropsychologist Joel Morgan to 
interview and evaluate Richardson. Welner also hired neuropsychologist Bernice 
Marcopulos and psychiatrist Robert Trestman to review Morgan???s work.

The review went forward, but Cooper, the trial judge, found prosecutors misled 
him as to how Richardson???s evaluation was to be conducted.

In an order, Cooper said he was led to believe Morgan would draft a report free 
of input and influence from anyone else and that would be later reviewed by 
Marcopulos and Trestman. Instead, Cooper found that Morgan consulted with 
Marcupulos and Trestman before interviewing Richardson and then, after 
conferring with Trestman, changed his initial diagnosis that Richardson 
suffered from schizophrenia to an opinion that he suffered from antisocial 
personality disorder.

This meant there was no longer a level playing field ??? the government now had 
three mental health experts and the defense had one, Cooper found. The judge 
said that, while ???grave,??? his only remedy was to exclude The Forensic Panel 
experts from testifying.

This meant jurors never heard prosecution testimony that Richardson had an 
antisocial personality disorder. This would have been akin to calling 
Richardson a sociopath ??? a person with no regard for right and wrong and who 
has no remorse for his violent behavior. It also meant jurors did not hear from 
Welner, who was going to testify Richardson was a future danger and could 
commit violent acts again.

???It can be quite powerful testimony in a capital trial,??? said David Bruck, 
a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. ???It can give 
jurors something to hang their hats on when deciding to impose a death 

Yates said it would be ???pure conjecture??? as to whether the loss of the 
experts??? testimony would have made a difference at trial. She said her 
office???s conversations with jurors ???indicated that those who voted in favor 
of life in prison did so for reasons other than Richardson???s mental health 

Welner said Morgan would have contradicted testimony that Richardson would be 
an unremarkable inmate if given the right medication. The defense, Welner said, 
fabricated a tale the jury could digest, and The Forensic Panel would have 
shown Richardson???s violent history was at odds with that narrative.

Welner was also prohibited from testifying as a prosecution witness that 
Richardson was a future danger. Welner declined to go into the specifics of his 
planned testimony, but he revealed the gist of it in a statement to The Atlanta 

???That [the] defense endeavored to exclude my testimony without knowing what 
it even would be speaks to how obvious and frightening Mr. Richardson???s 
future risk is...,??? he wrote. ???Really, now, would any participant in this 
case whose relative is doing time want them anywhere near Brian Richardson????

The Forensic Panel billed more than $150,000 to the government, Yates 

Welner charged $475 an hour for his time and for the time of each of his 
peer-review panel experts. This meant that when Welner and his three experts 
had a conference call, it cost $1,900 an hour, although Welner said this 
happened on very few occasions and was a small percentage of his overall 

Court records show The Forensic Panel paid $275 an hour to Morgan and Trestman 
and $250 an hour to Marcopulos for the work they did on the Richardson case. 
Yates, the U.S. attorney, said she had been unaware of the $200-$225 difference 
in how much Welner billed for his experts??? work and how much he paid them 
until it was disclosed during a hearing during the trial.

Welner said the difference helps pay expenses, the overhead at his New York 
office, salaries of his staff and the teaching and research The Forensic Panel 
provides at no profit. ???Like any institution whose doctors practice under its 
banner, whether it is a medical center, private hospital or others, doctors who 
bill for their time are paid a portion of that fee and a portion of that fee 
goes to the institution,??? he said.

Welner said his peer-review process safeguards objectivity, promotes diligence 
and ensures adherence to updated standards. ???There are many attorneys who 
decide that the costs we save them in the quality of our work outpace the costs 
of not using this practice,??? he said.

Jury split on death penalty

Mendelsohn, one of Richardson???s defenders, said that before the trial his 
office brought in people who would have qualified as jurors. They were told 
about the murder, Richardson???s violent past and the fact O???Bara was a child 
molester. Half voted for death and half for life, Mendelsohn said.

At the end of Richardson???s trial, seven jurors voted for the death penalty 
and five for life, prosecutors and defense lawyers said.

The victim???s brother, Scott O???Bara, supported the decision to seek death 
for Richardson and said prosecutors ???did a great job as far as I???m 

???Unfortunately, for as long as he lives in prison he may have an opportunity 
to kill again,??? O???Bara said. ???For those jurors who voted against the 
death penalty, or who were undecided, should it be a prison guard with a family 
just doing their job, your vote against or your undecided vote will be 
something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.???

Stephanie Kearns, who heads the Federal Defender???s office, called the outcome 
a just result.

???Brian Richardson was a very sick man,??? she said. ???His untreated mental 
illness and the culture that had been engrained in him over the two decades he 
spent in the most violent prison systems of this country, coalesced into the 
perfect storm when he found himself locked in a cell with a convicted 

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Jury to decide if Pa. man deserves death penalty or life in prison for 2010 
torture killing

Jury selection has begun to decide whether a western Pennsylvania man deserves 
the death penalty or life in prison for the torture killing of a mentally 
disabled woman.

KDKA-TV (http://cbsloc.al/Nu2G3Y ) says 2 women were chosen Monday for the 
Westmoreland County penalty trial of 22-year-old Melvin Knight, who pleaded 
guilty in the February 2010 killing of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.

Judge Rita Hathaway denied defense motions to sequester jurors to keep them 
from seeing news reports and to bar prosecutors from telling them that 
Daugherty had a mental disability

6 people were charged after authorities said Daugherty was beaten in 
Greensburg, forced to undress and made to drink a concoction of human waste, 
bleach and prescription drugs, then stabbed to death.

1 person was convicted last year. 4 await trial.

(source: Associated Press)


Life or death: Weighing the cost of capital cases

Jonathan T. Patterson is spending the rest of his life in prison. At the age of 
19, he has no chance of getting parole. Ever.

His aggravated murder trial in April lasted 2 weeks. In the end, a jury spared 
him from a death sentence for killing a man during a home-invasion robbery.

There was no crush of media. No drawn-out deliberations, nor elaborate security 
measures. But when the trial was over, Patterson???s was the most expensive 
capital case of the last eight years, so far costing Stark County $75,500.

The high cost of trials and appeals in capital cases, coupled with 
cash-strapped county budgets and juries reluctant to support death sentences, 
are fueling the ongoing debate over reserving the death penalty for only the 
worst cases, or as both a current Ohio Supreme Court justice and a former 
director of the state???s prison system have suggested, abolishing it in favor 
of life without parole.

Local prosecutors say they apply the law equally to the cases that come before 
them. If one meets the criteria outlined in the state???s death-penalty law, 
that???s the punishment they pursue.

???The law???s the law; we???re going to follow it,??? Stark County Prosecutor 
John D. Ferrero said.

Others argue the public is served better by a more targeted approach that saves 
money and preserves resources while accounting for specifics about the crime 
and the defendant and trends among juries.

???It???s not cost so much as it is reality,??? Stark County Common Pleas Judge 
Lee Sinclair said.


In the 3 decades since Ohio reinstated the death penalty, Stark County has sent 
6 men to death row. The sentence of one was commuted to life in prison. The 
others still are alive.

Of those 6 men, 5 were convicted of killing more than one victim and or killing 
a child.

Half of the death sentences were imposed in the 1980s. The other three were 
handed down since 2000.

A lot of cases can be pegged as capital cases, but ???realistically, we know 
that peg???s not going to fit with a jury,??? said Sinclair, who teaches about 
capital cases for the National Judicial College and has written on the subject.

The trend around the country, and around the state, is that juries are less 
likely to vote for death. As a result, some states are abolishing capital 
punishment ??? in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to do so ??? and 
other states are keeping it only for ???the worst of the worst??? cases, 
Sinclair said.

In Ohio, the death sentence was imposed at a rate of 10.5 percent between 1982 
and 2005, according to a 2007 American Bar Association study of the state???s 
death penalty system, which is being reviewed by an Ohio Supreme Court task 

While people might say they support the death penalty, when they get on a jury, 
they ???don???t want to pull the lever,??? especially when they can chose life 
in prison without parole, Sinclair said.


Jurors aren???t alone in holding the option of life without parole. State 
lawmakers in 2005 gave prosecutors the ability to seek that punishment from the 
start of an aggravated murder case without first bringing a death-penalty 

Since then, Stark County prosecutors have sought the death penalty 17 times ??? 
twice successfully, another case is pending ??? and life without parole 10 
times, according to the Stark County clerk of courts.

The cost of those capital cases to the county, including partial reimbursement 
from the Ohio Public Defender for attorney fees, has exceeded $565,000 to date, 
according to an analysis by The Repository.

That figure includes the cost of experts, attorneys, security overtime and 
lodging, meals and pay for jurors during the trial stage of the case. It 
doesn???t include expenses related to appeals or the cost of jailing a 

The cost of the 10 non-capital aggravated murder cases was around $29,000 
before reimbursement, according to information from the clerk???s office and 
Common Pleas court.


Ask county prosecutors how they decide on which cases to seek the death 
penalty, and Dennis Barr, chief of the criminal division, pulls out a copy of 
Ohio???s capital-murder law.

The pages outline the factors that make a defendant eligible for capital 
punishment, among them: Killing a child, killing a law-enforcement officer, 
killing more than one person, killing for hire, killing a crime witness or 
killing a person during the commission of an aggravated robbery, aggravated 
burglary or aggravated arson.

???The law in the state of Ohio doesn???t say the death penalty is only for the 
worst of the worst,??? Barr said.

When a murder case comes to the prosecutor???s office, it is checked against 
those legal elements and presented to a grand jury.

???If the shoe fits, the defendant has to wear it,??? Barr said.

To seek the death penalty on some eligible cases and not others, Ferrero said, 
could open his office to claims of selective prosecution by defendants, as well 
as criticism from the public and the families of victims.

???What???s the worst of the worst???? he asked. ???Anyone who loses a family 
member in a murder case, that???s what they express to us.???


Sinclair and John G. Haas are the only sitting Stark County judges to have 
sentenced a defendant to die. They also teach fellow judges in Ohio how to 
handle capital cases.

???It???s the Super Bowl of trial practice,??? Haas said. ???It doesn???t get 
any more meaningful than when someone???s life is on the line.???

And it???s expensive.

Defendants are entitled to 2 specialized attorneys who must hire experts and 
file upwards of 70 motions. Then comes the expense of bringing in, at minimum, 
300 potential jurors and selecting a panel of 12 plus alternates, all of whom 
are paid for their service. The court also has to feed and house the jury 
during sequestered deliberations.

Fees for attorneys and experts are generally the main drivers of costs, and 
those expenses are incurred whether the case goes to trial or the defendant 
pleads guilty.

Even the least expensive capital case since 2005, that of Darnell Goodgame, who 
pleaded guilty in 2009 to killing a retired Canton police officer and is 
serving life in prison without parole, cost $19,214.

Noncapital aggravated murder cases ??? requiring fewer attorneys, experts and 
jurors ??? have been routinely handled for less than half that amount.

In the case of a life sentence, there???s one automatic appeal instead of the 
15 years or more of appeals that follow a death sentence, and studies in other 
states indicate that life without parole is less expensive than the death 
penalty, although the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction 
doesn???t track the difference in cost between a prisoner on Death Row and one 
in general population.


County prosecutors have discretion when deciding whether to seek the death 

Former assistant public defender Jean Madden, who squared off with prosecutors 
in several capital cases, framed the choice in a question.

???Is he the worst of the worst???? Madden asked. ???Is he somebody you want to 
take off the face of the earth, permanently????

The way the crime was committed, the defendant???s past record and the wishes 
of the victim???s family are all factors to consider, she said.

John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, 

???This is not an automated process,??? Murphy said. ???The prosecutor is an 
elected official with a lot of discretion and is expected to use that 
discretion ... .???

Some counties, such as Franklin County, appear to have changed their approach 
over the years.

For example, Franklin County had 36 capital cases in 2004, according to numbers 
from the Ohio Supreme Court. Since then, it has pursued the death penalty 23 

By comparison, slightly larger Cuyahoga County has had 250 capital cases during 
the same time frame, according to Supreme Court statistics.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O???Brien declined to comment for this story, 
but in December he told Columbus Monthly that his office now looks at cases 
from the start to determine whether there is a legitimate chance of a defendant 
getting the death penalty.

Ferrero said he???s not aware of Franklin County???s approach.

Although he knows the expense involved, as long as Stark County is financially 
able, and the facts of a case fit, his office will continue to pursue the death 

???We???ve been very consistent in Stark County in how we apply the law to a T, 
which is what we have to do,??? Ferrero said.


If capital cases are becoming a financial burden to counties across the state, 
state lawmakers could narrow the scope of the death penalty, for example 
reserving it for the murders of police officers, children or multiple victims, 
Ferrero said.

Madden, the former defense attorney, agreed to an extent.

???I do think (the death penalty) has to be reviewed in light of making it 
reserved for the most serious of murders,??? she said, but she argues 
prosecutors still can be consistent by seeking it in only the worst cases.

Murphy said his group feels the law is appropriate as written.

Sinclair and Haas said lawmakers already have narrowed application of the death 
penalty by allowing prosecutors to seek life without parole, although they 
acknowledge that deciding how to pursue cases is for the prosecutor, not the 
court, to decide.

All judges can do is make sure each side is prepared, the defendant???s rights 
are protected, and if there is going to be a plea, it happens as early as 
possible to minimize cost, Haas said.

The prosecutor???s concern over consistency is understandable, he said, but 
???it comes down to if this is the case to expend the resources on.???

(source: Canton Repository)


Gregory Powell, 'Onion Field' killer, dies at 79----Gregory Powell and Jimmy 
Lee Smith killed an LAPD officer in an onion field near Bakersfield in 1963. 
The story was made famous in Joseph Wambaugh's book. Powell spent the rest of 
his life in prison.

Gregory Ulas Powell, one of the notorious "Onion Field" murderers whose 1963 
slaying of a Los Angeles police officer shattered the image of the invincible 
cop and changed police practices, has died. He was 79.

Powell, who served 49 years of a life sentence, died Sunday at California 
Medical Facility in Vacaville, part of the state prison system, according to 
Lt. Andre Gonzales, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and 
Rehabilitation. He had prostate cancer.

On March 10, 1963, Powell and accomplice Jimmy Lee Smith kidnapped 2 police 
officers in Hollywood and drove them to an onion field outside Bakersfield, 
where they killed Officer Ian James Campbell. The other officer, Karl 
Hettinger, escaped.

Smith and Powell were convicted and given the death penalty, a sentence that 
was commuted to life in prison after capital punishment was briefly outlawed in 
California. Powell was denied parole 11 times, most recently in January 2010, 
when he told a panel of the California Board of Prison Terms that he had 
terminal cancer and wanted to be freed before he died. In October 2011, the 
board denied his request for compassionate release.

Described by Joseph Wambaugh in the 1973 bestseller "The Onion Field" as an 
"institutional man," Powell, who was born Aug. 2, 1933, grew up in a 
dysfunctional family in Michigan. His music teacher-father was often away 
earning a living and his mother was a sickly woman, leaving Powell to take care 
of three younger siblings. Temperamental and sexually confused, he spent most 
of his youth and young adult years in and out of correctional facilities.

He and Smith, who also had a long criminal record, were driving through 
Hollywood looking for a liquor store to rob when they were pulled over on Gower 
Street by the two officers. What began as a routine traffic stop quickly turned 
into a nightmare. Powell pulled a gun on Campbell and ordered Smith to take the 
officer's gun away. After Powell threatened to kill Campbell, Hettinger 
surrendered his service revolver.

Abandoning the police car by the side of the road, the ex-cons forced the 
officers into their maroon Ford coupe and sped off toward the freeway, not 
stopping until they reached a desolate spot in Kern County between 2 onion 

According to Wambaugh's re-creation of that night, Powell had considered 
letting the officers go but changed his mind because of an erroneous 
assumption. "We told you we were going to let you go," Powell told Campbell, 
"but have you ever heard of the Little Lindbergh Law?"

Powell believed that kidnapping the officers was automatically a capital 
offense under that law. He did not know that the Little Lindbergh Law calls for 
the death penalty only if the kidnap victim is harmed during the crime.

So Powell shot Campbell in the mouth. Then either he or Smith shot four more 
rounds into the officer as he writhed on the ground, killing him.

In the chaos of those moments, Hettinger fled. Bullets flew in his direction, 
but it was a cloudy night with only intermittent glimmers of moonlight. While 
the kidnappers ??? now murderers ??? fumbled for a flashlight and more bullets, 
Hettinger ran several miles to a farmhouse, where he called for help.

Powell was captured within a few hours; Smith was apprehended the next day.

6 months after the killing, both men were found guilty and sentenced to death, 
but the state Supreme Court nullified the verdicts. Retrials brought a life 
sentence for Smith but another death sentence for Powell.

In 1967 Powell attempted to escape from San Quentin's death row with 3 other 
convicted murderers but was foiled when a guard spotted him outside his cell.

His sentence was dropped to life after the state's death penalty law was ruled 
unconstitutional in 1972. (It was later reinstated.) He became eligible for 
parole several years later and was described as an exemplary prisoner.

In 1982, both Smith and Powell were scheduled for release, but only Smith got 
out. Powell's parole was revoked after a public outcry spurred in part by a 
television broadcast of the movie "The Onion Field," in which Powell was 
portrayed by actor James Woods.

In 1986, in one of the final decisions issued under Chief Justice Rose 
Elizabeth Bird, the California Supreme Court overturned the parole board, once 
again opening the way for Powell to be freed. When Bird and two other liberal 
justices were ousted in a recall election, his hopes for release were quashed 
by the court's new conservative majority, which upheld the board's decision to 
keep the killer in prison.

Smith died in 2007 in a Los Angeles jail, where he was being held after one of 
many parole violations.

Hettinger died in 1994. Only 59, he had been haunted by the crime for years ??? 
plagued by survivor's guilt, shunned by fellow officers who blamed him for his 
partner's death, caught shoplifting and forced to leave the department. He 
eventually put his life back together, moved to Bakersfield and entered 
politics, serving as a Kern County supervisor during the 1980s.

During one of Powell's unsuccessful bids for freedom, Hettinger told the parole 
board why he believed the man who murdered his partner should remain in prison. 
"I still get uneasy.... I still can't sleep very well," he said in 1985, his 
voice breaking with emotion. "I can still see their faces."

Last week, the city of L.A. dedicated the intersection of Gower Street and 
Carlos Avenue in Hollywood to Campbell.

"There are no third acts for the conscienceless sociopath," Wambaugh told The 
Times. "Now there is nobody left alive from that tragic nighttime encounter 
that ended in an onion field, where Ian Campbell died and from which Karl 
Hettinger never really escaped."

Information on Powell's survivors was unavailable.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Proposition 34 would end the death penalty in California if approved in 

The death penalty in California would be abolished if voters approve 
Proposition 34 on the November ballot.Lorrain Taylor was sitting in her home in 
February 2000 when she received a devastating phone call that would change her 
life. Her 22-year-old twin sons, Obadiah and Albade, had been shot and killed 
while trying to fix their car in an Oakland parking lot.

Although one suspect was briefly brought into custody, no one was ever charged 
with the double homicide. To this day, Taylor believes police did not conduct a 
thorough investigation of her sons??? slayings. But while she still hopes to 
track down the killer and put that person behind bars, she says she wouldn???t 
push for the death penalty.

???I???ve always looked at the death penalty as revenge, and I think that???s a 
horrible example to set for children,??? Taylor said. ???I wouldn???t feel any 
better knowing that the person who murdered my sons was dead.???

This November, Taylor and other like-minded Californians will have their first 
opportunity in more than 30 years to abolish the death penalty. Last April, 
Proposition 34 ??? also known as the Savings, Accountability, and Full 
Enforcement for California Act ??? qualified for the November ballot. If 
approved by voters, the new law would convert the sentences of death row 
inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

For years, opponents of the death penalty have argued about its morality, drawn 
attention to the possibility of wrongful convictions and attacked the manner in 
which prisoners are executed as constituting cruel and unusual punishment. But 
the supporters of Prop. 34 are taking a different approach; they are focusing 
instead on the financial burden of the death penalty.

According to SAFE California, a coalition formed to abolish capital punishment 
in the state, efforts to enforce the death penalty have cost state taxpayers 
more than $4 billion since 1978.

The coalition argues that eliminating death row would save taxpayers more than 
$100 million each year. Proponents of the initiative suggest using the money 
spent keeping convicts on death row to fund investigations of unsolved crimes.

Taylor is an advocate for SAFE California and tells her story with the hope of 
persuading others to vote for Prop. 34. Taylor said she???d like to see the 
state use the savings to solve crimes such as the killings of her sons, and 
believes condemned inmates should instead work to provide restitution to the 
families of their victims.

Another supporter of Prop. 34 is Franky Carrillo, who was convicted of murder 
in 1991 and spent 20 years in prison before proving his innocence. Although 
Carrillo was not on death row, the chilling thought that he could have been 
wrongfully executed has motivated him to fight against such extreme 

???The process that gets people on death row is a broken process and a waste of 
money,??? Carrillo said. ???The guy who committed the crime that I was 
incarcerated for is still walking free. We need to use that money to catch 
people like him.???

According to MapLight, an organization that examines the influence money has on 
politics, the Prop. 34 campaign has already raised almost $3 million while its 
opponents have raised less than $45,000.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims rights organization, is one of 
the biggest opponents of the initiative and petitioned in May to remove the 
proposal from the November ballot.

???California has turned down these efforts before and I expect them to do it 
again,??? said Michael Rushford, president of CJLF. ???The supporters of 
Proposition 34 sympathize with the murderers. The victims are somewhat down on 
their priority scale.???

John Flinner, whose son is on death row at San Quentin State Prison for paying 
a man to murder his fiance, knows that his son probably won???t be executed 
during his lifetime. But even before his son???s conviction in 2003, Flinner 
said, he was against capital punishment.

???People tell me all the time to just forget about my son because he???s dead 
anyway,??? Flinner said. ???I understand that people will sympathize with the 
families of the victims, but I think they forget that the criminals have 
families too.???

There are currently 725 inmates on death row in California. Since 1977, 
approximately 60 condemned inmates have died from natural causes and 13 have 
been executed.

(source: San Francisco Examiner)


Death penalty measure's accuracy upheld

The state's ballot description of a measure to abolish California's death 
penalty has survived a challenge to arguments about the money Proposition 34 
would save and its requirement that current Death Row inmates work in prison.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley upheld the accuracy of 
the state's official title and summary of Prop. 34 and almost all of the ballot 
arguments of its supporters in time for Monday's deadline for sending the 
materials to the state printer.

The challenge came from prosecutors and law enforcement groups. At a hearing 
Friday, Frawley ordered one minor change in the wording of the arguments, in a 
passage that declared the measure - which would cut current spending on trials, 
appeals and inmate housing - "redirects $100 million to law enforcement to 
solve rapes and murders."

"Redirects" is misleading, Frawley said, because the $100 million would be 
drawn from the state's general fund, not from any savings generated by 
eliminating the death penalty. He ordered the word changed to "directs" to make 
it clear that the money would come from a separate source.

But the judge upheld the state's title and summary, drafted by Attorney General 
Kamala Harris' office, that says Prop. 34 would save the state and local 
governments about $130 million a year. Frawley also upheld ballot language 
saying the measure would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life 
imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and would require convicted 
murderers to work in prison to earn compensation for their victims' families.

Those arguments are potentially important because Prop. 34's backers are trying 
to focus the campaign on the costs of the death penalty and the alternative of 
a life-without-parole sentence rather than on the viciousness of the underlying 
crimes, a key source of public support for capital punishment in opinion polls.

Ex-warden supportive

With Friday's ruling, "the voters will have the opportunity to decide how we 
should use our money," said Jeanne Woodford, a former warden at San Quentin - 
where she presided over four executions - and now executive director of the 
anti-capital-punishment group Death Penalty Focus.

Opponents of Prop. 34 claimed a victory, noting that Frawley agreed with them 
on one point.

The ruling "upholds our position that the proponents of Prop. 34 are waging a 
deceptive campaign in an effort to eliminate the death penalty," said 
Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, a co-chairwoman of the No on 34 

Working in prisons

Opponents disputed the ballot pamphlet's statement that Prop. 34 would require 
convicted murderers to work in prison, noting that current state regulations 
already require inmates to work. Supporters responded that Death Row inmates 
are generally exempted because of security concerns but would have to work 
under a life sentence.

Frawley said the ballot language "arguably is misleading," because of the 
existing work requirements, but was an accurate description of a measure that 
could apply those requirements to more inmates.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Japan studying whether to retire the noose for executions

Japan might turn to a new method for executing death row prisoners amid 
criticism that hanging, which has been used for more than 130 years, is a cruel 
and painful punishment in a modern age where there may be more humane methods. 
Justice Minister Makoto Taki and the 2 politicians who serve as his deputies--a 
senior vice minister and a parliamentary secretary--have been considering 
whether to change the method in closed-door discussions.

???We do not have any specific direction for the discussions, but we will 
gather a broad range of information,??? Taki told a news conference on Aug. 7, 
4 days after he ordered the executions of 2 death row inmates.

The ministry, for example, is studying the method of capital punishment in the 
United States, which replaced scaffolds with electric chairs and gas chambers, 
for the most part, and has introduced lethal injection in most states. But 
officials said failed cases of injections have been reported.

The ministry is looking into the issue because the lay judge system, introduced 
in 2009, has raised public interest in capital punishment. Under the system, 
citizens serve as judges in criminal cases that could result in death 

Whether death by hanging constitutes cruel punishment prohibited under the 
Constitution was discussed during a lay-judge trial over an arson-murder case 
held at the Osaka District Court in October.

The defense argued that hanging causes violent pain and severe physical damage, 
countering the common belief that the hanged would immediately lose 
consciousness and not feel pain.

The lawyers invited a foreign forensic scientist familiar with suicide by 
hanging and other experts and argued that hanging can cause the neck to be 

The Supreme Court ruled in 1955 that hanging is constitutional, saying it sees 
???no reason that it is cruel from a humanitarian point of view.???

In its decision on the arson-murder case, the Osaka District Court supported 
the constitutionality, saying, ???It is unavoidable that hanging comes with a 
certain level of cruelty.???

But the court acknowledged that there is ???a pre-modern aspect??? and that 
there are arguments as to whether hanging is the best means available.

Japan introduced hanging, which was used in Europe, in 1873.

A newspaper reported in 1883 that hanging caused the head to be partially 
severed. Justice Ministry officials said, however, that it cannot occur today 
because the rope length is determined with the height and weight of the death 
row inmate taken into account.

Sadato Goto, who served as a defense lawyer for the arson-murder case, said: 
???The issue must be considered in a public forum, with documents disclosed. It 
will be meaningless unless overseas cases are extensively investigated and the 
issue is examined also from a medical point of view.???

Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a former prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors??? 
Office, witnessed an execution as a prosecutor around 1970.

???I could barely look at a person who was breathing and walking until minutes 
ago hanging and swinging from a rope,??? recalled Tsuchimoto, a professor 
emeritus at the University of Tsukuba.

Even when a doctor checked the inmate's pulse, his legs were jerking as if he 
were kicking in the air, he said.

Tsuchimoto said death by hanging is all but cruel and needs to be reviewed, 
although he supports the death penalty.

???The entire nation must discuss the issue as long as citizens are legally 
responsible for being involved in the death penalty under the lay judge 
system,??? he said. ???The people must also learn the reality of the death 

Keiko Chiba, who became the first justice minister after the Democratic Party 
of Japan took power in 2009, set up a group within the ministry to consider 
whether capital punishment should be maintained or abolished.

4 justice ministers after her did not authorize any executions. In March, the 
fifth justice minister, Toshio Ogawa, suspended the group's discussions and 
ordered executions for the 1st time in 20 months.

(source: Asahi Shimbun)


Taliban execute Afghan man over kidnapping charges

According to local authorities in eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan, 
Taliban militants hanged an Afghan man to death at Qarabagh district over 
kidnapping charges.

Provincial governor spokesman Fazal Sabawoon confirming the report said the 
accused Afghan man who was hanged to death had recently abducted an Afghan 
child and urged his family to pay for his freedom.

Mr. Sabawoon further added Taliban militants arrested the kidnapper five days 
back and asked the tribal elders to sentence the accused man for his crime.

He also said the accused man was hanged to death after the tribal elders agreed 
for his death penalty during a tribal session on Sunday.

This comes as Taliban group shot dead an Afghan woman around a month ago in 
Parwan province of Afghanistan over adultery charges.

(source: Khaama Press)

AUGUST 11, 2012:


Sacramento judge reaffirms wording of California's death penalty measure

Politics and the law collided inside and out of a Sacramento courtroom Friday 
on an issue made to order for such a meeting ??? the death penalty. Superior 
Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley ordered that the ballot label, summary and 
arguments on Proposition 34 to repeal the death penalty can proceed as printed 
??? with minor editing ??? on a day when the campaign played out a bit more 
vigorously in the courthouse hallways.

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully gathered with police chiefs and 
sheriffs and the families of some murder victims whose killers are on death 
row. They argued against Proposition 34 and drew from the language of Frawley's 
rulings to accuse the opposition of running a misleading, hyperbolic campaign.

"We can prosecute for consumer fraud," Scully told reporters. "Unfortunately, 
for our electorate, we have no such standards for accuracy and honesty when it 
comes to political agendas. Otherwise, those who have long sought to eliminate 
the death penalty would not be allowed to use hyperbole and opinion to persuade 
our voters to eliminate the death penalty."

Meanwhile, Proposition 34 supporter Jeanne Woodford, the former state 
corrections director who is now executive director of Death Penalty Focus, 
welcomed the judge's rulings. She said that repealing the death penalty would 
allow the state to spend $100 million or more on solving violent crimes with 
cash that would otherwise be spent on single-cell housing for the state's 724 

"We're saying that solving unsolved murders and rapes is a priority for this 
state and we need to spend our resources on that instead of wasting them on a 
system that's broken," Woodford said outside court.

Frawley reaffirmed from the bench Friday that the state attorney general's 
wording on Proposition 34's ballot label and title and summary is accurate. The 
language says the measure directs $100 million for investigating unsolved rapes 
and homicides and that it "states" ??? from a rule already on the books ??? 
that murderers must work in prison and their earnings may be deducted and sent 
to victims.

His 2nd decision, also reaffirmed, agreed with prosecutors and statewide police 
management and rank-and-file groups that the ballot will not "redirect" $100 
million in general fund money to front-line law enforcement. He said the 
statement is "false and misleading" because it implies the funding would come 
from savings when in fact it would have to be appropriated.

Frawley ordered the secretary of state's office to change the wording from 
"redirects" to "directs." Deputy Attorney General Ryan Marcroft said he would 
have no problem with the change.

(source: Sacramento Bee)


Franklin death penalty murder trial begins Monday

Jury selection for a man facing the potential of the death penalty after being 
accused for his role in the 2010 death of Bobby Tillman is set to begin Monday 

The state is seeking death for 20-year-old Tracen Lamar Franklin in the 
nationally publicized case where Tillman was beaten and stomped to death 
outside of a Douglasville house party on Nov. 7, 2010. That night an estimated 
60 to 80 people showed up at what was supposed to be a small house party on 
Independence Drive in the Governor???s Ridge subdivision in western Douglas 

More than 300 jurors have been ordered to report for duty as the process of 
empaneling a jury to decide the Franklin???s fate. After a day filed with 
motion hearings Friday, Douglas County Superior Court Judge Beau McClain denied 
the defense???s motion seeking get more time to review the data that was used 
to select the pool. It was the first time a new state system was used.

McClain denied the request for more time for data review, reminding the defense 
team that they had originally asked for the new system to be used in a motion 
on May 22.

For Tillman???s family, the beginning of a trial it is yet another painful step 
towards justice for the fallen young man who was a freshman at Georgia 
Perimeter College at the time of his death.

???I just want justice,??? Bobby Tillman???s mother, Monique Rivarde, said. 
???I trust Mr. McDade and his staff to do their job. I trust them 100 %.???

Emanuel Benjamin Boykins, another suspect who had also been facing the 
potential of the death penalty, agreed in April to a plea deal, pleading guilty 
to murder and accepting a sentence of life in prison rather than going to trial 
in which the death penalty was in play.

Life in prison means that Boykins will not be eligible for the possibility of 
parole for 30 years. Boykins was said to be the one who threw the first punch 
in the brutal attack on Tillman, with Franklin then joining in. As part of the 
plea arrangement, Boykins agreed to provide truthful testimony in any 
subsequent legal proceedings or trials.

Franklin had a similar offer on the table, but had declined to accept the 
arrangement that would have taken the death penalty off the table in exchange 
for a guilty plea.

2 other teens, 19-year-old Quantez Devante Mallory and 20-year-old Horace Damon 
Coleman, were charged in the killing, but they aren???t facing the death 
penalty. The 4 were indicted in January by a grand jury on two counts each ??? 
Count 1 for malice murder and Count 2 for felony murder.

The prosecution, with Brian Fortner and Bonnie Smith leading the effort with 
District Attorney McDade, has a witness list that includes 140 names. As many 
as 80 could be called. Jury selection could take up to two weeks, the defense 
team led by Bruce Harvey speculated Friday.

(source: Douglas County Sentinel)


Drug smuggler???s death penalty commuted to life

The Khorfakkan Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld a lower court???s verdict 
awarding capital punishment to an Iranian in absentia for smuggling 18kg of 
hashish and 20,000 tramadol tablets into the country.

The court fined the Iranian, identified as H.A, Dh50,000 and ordered the 
confiscation of the drug haul.The court, however, modified the sentences 
against 4 other accused, all Emiratis, in the same case.

It commuted the death penalty awarded to a UAE national, identified as W.S., to 
life imprisonment for smuggling the drugs into the country. However, he was 
given an additional four years in prison for possessing and consuming 

The court acquitted the 3rd accused, identified as M.M., also an Emirati, of 
drug smuggling but sentenced him also to four years in jail for possessing 
drugs for consumption.

The court cleared 2 other Emiratis, identified as A.M. and S.M., of possessing 
and using narcotics and mind-altering drugs. The lower court had sentenced them 
to 10 years in jail plus a fine of Dh20,000 each on the same charges.

According to the case, the 5 formed a gang to smuggle 18kg of hashish and 
20,000 tramadol tablets into the country.

In December last year, the Anti-Narcotics Department of the Sharjah Police 
received a tipoff about the gang planning to bring a large quantity of drugs 
into the country through Dibba Al Hosn checkpoint bordering Oman.

The police got an arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecution and kept a 
watch for the gang.

As soon as the gang entered the UAE, the police intercepted their car in which 
four Emiratis were found. On searching the car, 18kg of hashish and 20,000 
tramadol pills were recovered.

The 4 suspects were detained and referred to the prosecution. Later, it was 
found out that they had a 5th accomplice, an Iranian. The Iranian???s role was 
to transport the contraband to the four Emiratis, but he managed to escape 
before the police caught the gang.

In May this year, the Court of First Instance awarded W.S. and H.A. death 
penalty, the 2nd one in absentia. The court also sentenced S.M and A.M to 10 
years in jail plus Dh20,000 each in fine and M.M to 4 years in prison.

(source: Khaleej Times)

AU&GUST 10, 2012:


Pa. death-row inmate fights slated Oct. execution

A death-row inmate convicted of killing 2 people in his teens hopes to avoid 
becoming the 1st person executed in Pennsylvania since 1999. Terrance Williams, 
46, is on death row for fatally beating a man with a tire iron in 1984. 
Although he has exhausted his appeals, he has asked a Philadelphia judge to 
halt the scheduled Oct. 3 lethal injection based on new evidence about the 
victim and the key accuser.

"The killing of Amos Norwood was not a 1st-degree murder," Shawn Nolan, a 
federal public defender, wrote in a petition filed on Williams' behalf this 
year. "Terry Williams and the victim ... were involved in a conflicted sexual 
relationship in which Norwood paid teenaged Terry for sex. Norwood escalated 
the violence of their sexual encounters, despite Terry's attempts to stop 

New statements from co-defendant Marc Draper, a policeman's son who testified 
against Williams in both murder cases, support his claims of a sexual 
relationship with Norwood. Jurors never heard about the potential motive, or 
about the deal Draper says he got to testify, Nolan said.

Nor did they hear Williams' claims that he had been physically and sexually 
assaulted throughout his childhood, and gang-raped at a juvenile facility.

Although the state Supreme Court upheld the death sentence,2o judges dissented, 
finding "a fairly stark picture" of ineffective counsel during the 
penalty-phase ??? which consisted of brief, fairly banal comments from 
Williams' mother, the mother of his infant child and a cousin.

"If I had known those circumstances at that time ??? what had led him down that 
path ??? that definitely would have been a factor and my decision would have 
been different than the death sentence," juror Thomas Sturgis told defense 
investigators, according to Williams' petition.

Pennsylvania has executed only 3 people since the U.S. Supreme Court restored 
the death penalty in 1976. All of them chose to end their appeals. The last 
person executed was Gary M. Heidnik, for the murders of two of several women he 
tortured and held captive in his Philadelphia basement.

Unlike them, Williams has asked a Philadelphia judge for a stay of execution. 
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted him, must respond 
to his petition by Sept. 21. The office had no comment Friday on the case, 
spokeswoman Tasha Jamison said.

Williams is also serving a life sentence for 3rd-degree murder for another 1984 
slaying which occurred when he was 17. That victim was also an adult male who 
had sexually abused him, according to his petition. He was also convicted of a 
1982 armed robbery.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed Williams' death warrant on Thursday, as he 
has 15 others. But those inmates have not yet exhausted their state and federal 

"The governor is sworn to uphold the laws of Pennsylvania, including capital 
punishment," Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley said.

(source: Associated Press)


Death Penalty Recommended For Paternity Test Killer

A California jury recommended the death penalty Friday for a man convicted of 
murdering his wife and her daughter after a paternity test showed he wasn't the 
child's father.

A Riverside County Superior Court jury returned the penalty-phase verdict 
against Michael Barbar, 55, after he was convicted last month of 2 counts of 
1st-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Maysam Barbar, and her 6-year-old 
daughter, Tamara, in November 2009.

Michael Barbar had helped raise the child since birth but became suspicious 
after discovering his wife had three separate affairs, prosecutors said.

He pulled Tamara out of school and swabbed her cheek for a DNA sample while 
eating at a McDonald's. When the paternity test showed the child was not his, 
Barbar spent eight days plotting the murders, district attorney spokesman John 
Hall said.

Barbar first strangled his wife with a computer cord as she was handcuffed and 
naked on the floor, prosecutors said, then went to Tamara's room and tried to 
strangle her as she slept. When she struggled, Barbar bashed her head into the 
bedpost as many as 20 times, crushing her skull, prosecutors said.

Barbar was planning to kill his wife's lover in Texas and flee to Lebanon but 
was stopped by police in New Mexico after authorities tracked his cellphone 
signal, according to evidence at the trial.

A check of his computer showed he had been searching for things like coffins 
and articles about well-known multiple murder cases, authorities said.

Barbar's 13-year-old daughter Tarah testified that she heard her younger 
sister's cries and her father marching up and down the stairs carrying garbage 
bags as she lay in bed the night of the killings. The next morning, she found 
her sister's bed covered in blood and her mother's room locked.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 16.

(source: Huffington Post)


Death penalty challenges still haunt NM courts

3 years ago and again last year, the attorney for Michael Astorga argued that 
because we wiped the death penalty from the state's lawbooks before Astorga was 
tried for murder it would amount to cruel and unusual punishment if it were 
still applied to him.

The 1st time that argument was made was before Astorga had been convicted. The 
second time was before he had been sentenced.

The New Mexico Supreme Court passed off the hot potato both times by deciding 
not to decide and left unsettled one of the legal wrinkles left in the wake of 
the Legislature's 2009 death penalty repeal.

Astorga eventually received a life sentence, making the argument moot for him, 
but the court will get other chances to rule on this life-and-death issue.

Robert Fry and Timothy Allen, both sentenced to death years ago, remain on New 
Mexico's figurative "death row." Fry is in Santa Fe and Allen in Los Lunas, and 
they are both at various stages in the drawn-out appeals process that follows 
every death sentence.

Allen received the death penalty in 1995 for the strangulation of a 17-year-old 
girl in Flora Vista in San Juan County. The state Supreme Court last year 
reinstated his habeas corpus petition, which remains pending in state District 
Court in San Juan County.

Fry was sentenced to death for the June 9, 2000, slaying of a 36-year-old 
mother of five from Shiprock, also in San Juan County. (He has been sentenced 
to three life terms for three other murders.) His death sentence has been 
upheld and his habeas corpus petition is also pending in District Court in San 
Juan County.

Both inmates have the further option of federal habeas corpus petitions after 
they have exhausted their remedies in state court.

Meanwhile, attorneys for both men will pursue the argument that the death 
penalty, once repealed in a state, violates the constitutional protection 
against cruel and unusual punishment.

It's an interesting argument that involves all of us, not just the two men 
facing the death penalty. That's because one line of the argument is that when 
a society - in this case us, through our lawmakers - has agreed to no longer 
punish by execution, carrying out a death sentence violates our collective 
standards of decency, which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

You could certainly make the case that capital punishment is unusual when 
you're 1 of 2 guys among a population of 2 million that can be executed by a 
state that has carried out exactly one execution in more than half a century.

Juries here have rarely handed down the penalty, it has rarely been upheld on 
appeal and it has been very rarely carried out.

Allen's attorney, Melissa Hill, described the chances of being put to death in 
New Mexico as "almost a lightning strike." That's being generous. Only one man, 
Terry Clark, has been killed by the state in the past 52 years. New Mexico has 
more than a dozen lightning deaths every decade.

The counterargument on the prosecution side is that we spoke through our 
legislators when the death penalty was repealed and lawmakers were explicit in 
extending the repeal only to murders committed after the repeal went into 
effect. That isn't arbitrary, the argument goes, but the people's will.

And on a national landscape, capital punishment is still the rule, not the 

All of the half-dozen defendants who were in the court system and facing 
possible death sentences when the law was changed were either found not guilty, 
pleaded guilty to lesser charges or, in the case of Astorga, sentenced to life 
in prison when jurors could not agree on the death penalty.

If some older unsolved murders were to be solved, more death penalty cases 
could pop up, but it's only Allen and Fry whose lives depend on the outcome of 
the argument now.

(source: Albuquerque Journal)


Triple killer fights death penalty case

A lawyer for a man who shot 2 adults and a 9-year-old girl to death on a 
Bridgeport street 6 years ago asked a state judge Thursday to cancel an 
upcoming penalty phase trial on whether he should be executed and to sentence 
him to life in prison without parole, citing the state's repeal of the death 
penalty earlier this year.

A motion filed in Bridgeport Superior Court on Thursday and obtained by The 
Associated Press in the case of Richard Roszkowski is the first formal legal 
challenge in a pending death penalty case against the repeal law, which applies 
only to murders committed on or after April 25 of this year.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers across the state had expected death row inmates 
and others facing possible death sentences to challenge their punishments 
because of the repeal.

The repeal law "represents the considered judgment of our legislature and 
governor that the death penalty is no longer consistent with standards of 
decency in Connecticut and does not serve any valid penological objective," 
Roszkowski's public defender, Michael Courtney, wrote in the 57-page motion.

"An execution carried out in the face of this judgment would plainly be cruel 
and unusual punishment and would violate the statutory prohibition against 
arbitrary death sentences and numerous constitutional prohibitions against 
arbitrary criminal laws," Courtney wrote.

Courtney also said it appears that no state prisoner in U.S. history has been 
executed after that state abolished capital punishment.

"There is no history of such a practice because nothing could be more arbitrary 
and capricious than allowing eligibility for the death penalty to depend on the 
date of the crime," Courtney wrote. "Under the statute, a capital felony 
committed on April 24, 2012 is death-eligible, but the exact same crime 
committed on April 25, 2012 is not."

State prosecutor Robert Satti declined to comment on Courtney's claims 
Thursday. A hearing on the motion hasn't been scheduled yet.

Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal capital punishment, and 
the 5th in 5 years. In the past 5 decades, the state has executed only one 
person, serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, who dropped his appeals and pushed 
for his death sentence to be carried out. 10 men are on the state's death row.

Roszkowski, 47, a former Trumbull resident, was convicted of capital felony and 
murder in 2009 and sentenced that year to lethal injection for gunning down his 
ex-girlfriend, Holly Flannery, 39, her 9-year-old daughter, Kylie, and his 
former roommate, Thomas Gaudet, 38. Witnesses testified that Roszkowski stalked 
Flannery after she broke off their relationship and falsely believed Gaudet was 
having an affair with her.

But a judge later overturned the death sentence because of a mistake in the 
jury instructions and ordered a new penalty phase. Jury selection was expected 
to begin in June, but was postponed. No new date has been set.

Last month, death row inmates tried to raise the repeal issue in their 
long-running lawsuit challenging the fairness of capital punishment in 
Connecticut, but a judge rejected the request.

(source: Connecticut Post)


Death sentence stands for decorator's killers

The Federal Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death penalty for 2 murderers 
and ruled that the sentence must stand regardless of whether the dead man's 
relatives waived their right to vengeance or not.

The 2 men were found guilty of premeditated murder after killing a man during a 
botched kidnapping. They had tricked their victim ??? a decorator ??? into 
visiting a warehouse by claiming they needed his services before kidnapping 
him, hoping to hold him to ransom. However, when the decorator realised he was 
in danger he tried to escape and a struggle ensued.

One of the men sat on his chest while the other tied his hands and feet and 
taped his mouth. During the struggle, the decorator was strangled and died, 
after which the men stole his phone and wallet and disposed of his body.

The Umm Al Quwain criminal court ruled they should be tried under Sharia and 
sentenced the 2 men to death ??? a sentence that was upheld by the Appeals 

The pair then appealed to the supreme court, where one of them claimed he only 
led the decorator to the warehouse, but did not play a part in killing him.

A forensics report did not detect his fingerprints on the decorator's neck. He 
claimed that the other man attacked the decorator, punching him twice on the 
nose and face, causing him to lose consciousness.

A defence lawyer representing both men said criminal intent to kidnap could not 
be proven because the decorator came to the warehouse willingly. He said the 
men were planning only to hold him hostage, not to kill him. But the court 
dismissed these arguments, ruling that under Sharia, if a group committed 
crimes, including murder and stealing, even if some within the group did not 
take part, everyone in the group was responsible.

It ruled that in the case of murder those responsible should be killed, even if 
their victim is an infidel, slave or son of a killer.

It added that this was the case whether relatives waived their right to 
vengeance or not.

(source: The National)


2 Nigerians face death penalty in Malaysia for drugs

2 Nigerian men, arrested in Malaysia on suspicion of drug trafficking on 
Monday, could face the death penalty if convicted.

Police chief ACP Yahaya Ramli said the two suspects, aged between 30 and 32, 
had attempted to flee the scene after police seized their car keys.

???Subang Jaya Narcotics Division received a tip-off from a member of the 
public at about 8:15 PM and rushed to the place. After inspecting the car, 
police found 2 plastic packets in a laptop bag, labeled as ???crystal??? 
believed to be syabu.

???The seizure of 1,971.5 grams of the drugs has an estimated value of 
RM200,000,??? he told a media conference at the Subang Jaya police 

It comes less than 1 month after another Nigerian man was arrested with an 
Australian woman in Malaysia on drug charges.

They all would face the death penalty if convicted. The death sentence is 
mandatory in drug crimes in the Southeast Asian country.

(source: Bikya Masr)


28 Kurdish Prisoners Sentenced To Death

The Campaign asks the Iranian Judiciary to launch an independent investigation 
into the claims of suspects who have stated that their actions regarding their 
charges were carried out under pressure and physical and psychological torture, 
and to release the results of their investigations to the public opinion.

According to research, conducted by the International Campaign for Human Rights 
in Iran, there are currently at least 28 Kurdish prisoners sentenced to death 
on political and security-related charges inside Sanandaj, Orumiyeh, Semnan, 
Rajaee Shahr, and Saghez prisons. Seventeen of these individuals have received 
finalized death sentences and 11 have been sentenced to death at their trials 
in lower courts, and are now awaiting appeals rulings by the Supreme Court.

While some of the individuals in this list have received prior media coverage, 
information about many of these prisoners has been limited due to limitations 
security forces impose on the prisoners??? families and the unprecedented 
restrictions on human rights activists to disseminate information within an 
increasingly repressed social and political atmosphere. However, the Campaign 
has obtained information about 17 Kurdish prisoners through their lawyers and 

The list also includes 10 individuals the Iranian Judiciary claims are 
affiliated with Salafist religious groups, and who have been sentenced to death 
by Tehran???s Revolutionary Court for ???participating in armed 
confrontations.??? The names and backgrounds of these individuals are listed at 
the end of this report.

Additionally, family members of three other prisoners, Fakhreddin Faraji, 
Changiz Ghadamkheir, and Shouresh Rezaei, who were arrested during armed 
confrontations have been informed of charges of ???moharebeh??? and according 
to local activists, their families are concerned that they may be facing death 

The Campaign???s research indicates that in many of the referenced cases, due 
process has not been observed, the suspects have not had access to lawyers, and 
their statements during the process have not been noted. In some of the cases, 
the suspects have claimed that they were physically abused and tortured during 
the interrogations. According to families of some of the suspects who have made 
such claims, some through writing letters from prison, the Judiciary has not 
launched independent investigations to review the claims.

The Campaign asks the Iranian Judiciary to launch an independent investigation 
into the claims of suspects who have stated that their actions regarding their 
charges were carried out under pressure and physical and psychological torture, 
and to release the results of their investigations to the public opinion. The 
Campaign also urges the Judiciary to review the sentences in order to ensure 
the legality of the judicial and sentencing process.

Names of individuals sentenced to death are: 1) Habibollah Latifi, 2) Rashid 
Akhkandi, 3) Mostafa Salimi, 4), Shirkoo Moarefi, 5) Habibollah Golparipour, 6) 
Zanyar Moradi, and 7) Loghman Moradi. Additionally, ten others tried in one 
case on charges of ???membership in a Salafist religious group??? have been 
sentenced to death and their sentences have been upheld.

Names of the 11 individuals who have been sentenced to death and are awaiting 
the appeals court decision are: 1) Samkoo Khorshidi, 2) Sirvan Nazhavi, 3) 
Ebrahim Isapur, 4) Razgar (Habib) Afshari, 5) Ali Afshari, 6) Houshang Rezaei, 
7) Reza Esmaeeli, 8) Behrouz Alkhani, 9) Seyed Sami Hosseini, 10) Seyed Jamal 
Mohammadi, and 11) Bakhtiar Memari.

The Campaign believes that the number of individuals who have received death 
sentences may be more than the individuals reflected on this list, as it is 
possible that due to limitations in research and information gathering, the 
list may not be complete. Therefore, local activists and individuals who are 
aware of other cases of death sentences for Kurdish citizens on political and 
security charges are urged to send their information to the Campaign to 
complete the existing information.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Cops to seek death sentence for Mumbai lawyer's murder

Blinded by lust, the security guard at the residential complex lawyer Pallavi 
Purkayastha lived in, fatally stabbed her after she bravely resisted his 
attempt to rape, the police said on Friday, claiming to have cracked the 
sensational murder.

Pallavi (25), daughter of IAS officer Atanu Purkayastha, joint secretary in the 
agriculture ministry, was found lying in a pool of blood in her 16th floor 
apartment at the upscale 'Himalayan Heights' in Wadala by her live-in partner 
Avik Sengupta on Thursday morning.

Sajjad Ahmed Mughal (22), a native of Uri in Baramulla district of Jammu and 
Kashmir, stole the keys to her flat, tried to force himself on her, and 
brutally stabbed her to death when faced with stiff resistance, Joint 
Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy told reporters in Mumbai.

"It is the perversion of the highest order, heinous kind of perversion which 
deserves nothing but death sentence," Roy said, when asked about the motive 
behind the murder.

Giving details of the incident, he said on the fateful night of August 8, 
Pallavi, who worked as a legal advisor with filmmaker Farhan Akhtar's firm 
Excel Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, returned to her rented flat at 11 pm.

Finding that there was no electricity, she texted Sengupta, her senior at 
Indian Law School at Pune, who lived with her. Sengupta advised her to call an 
electrician, who came and set things right.

After some time, power was gone again. She called the electrician who was 
accompanied by Mughal. As the attention of the victim and electrician was 
focused on fixing the problem, Mughal stole the keys to the flat. The problem 
was fixed and Purkayastha retired to her bedroom after switching off the 
high-volt appliances, as advised by the electrician, to avoid tripping.

Roy said Mughal had told his interrogators that he had "manipulated" the 
electric meter of the flat located on the ground floor which led to a power cut 
for the 2nd time.

After entering the flat, Mughal sneaked into the bedroom of the victim and 
tried to force himself on her. A scuffle ensued and Pallavi, a former 
national-level swimming champion, put up stiff resistance. Mughal then stabbed 
her and fled the scene after concealing the murder weapon -- a knife -- under a 
shoe rack on the 3rd floor.

He jumped over the fence to escape the notice of fellow watchmen but was 
apprehended by the police near Mumbai Central railway station before he could 
board a train to Jammu and Kashmir, Roy said.

He said when Sengupta returned to the flat around 5 am, he saw the door ajar 
and a badly wounded Purkayastha lying in a pool of blood. Sengupta tried to 
revive her but failed, Roy said, adding that the neighbours were informed and 
security supervisor and the police called.

On arrival, the police found no signs of a forced entry and was told that being 
a "cautious" girl by nature, she would not have left the door ajar while going 
to sleep.

During the investigations, th epolice said it noticed injuries on the hand of 
Mughal, who on sustained interrogation, confessed to the crime.

To corroborate the truth, the police will match the clump of hair found in the 
hand of the victim with the Mughal's DNA, Roy said.

Describing the murder as a "premeditated kind of an act", the officer said, 
"apparently he was planning it for quite some time".

Asked if Pallavi had made desperate attempts to call her neighbours by pressing 
the door bell but nobody came to her rescue, Roy said the blood stains on the 
bell could be because Sengupta's hand was also soaked in blood when he woke 
them up to inform about the incident.

"But she indeed came out as there was blood outside the flat," he said.

Roy said the four CCTV cameras in the building were also not working for some 

The joint police commissioner also referred to the "callousness" shown by the 
security agency which provided guards to the housing complex.

In the personal information given to the agency, Mughal has mentioned his 
residential address as 'Lal Chowk', Srinagar [ Images ]. "This is like somebody 
showing his address as Flora Fountain or Azad Maidan. This shows callousness by 
the agency," Roy said, adding the police will also examine the role and 
criminal liability of the security agency.

The police, he said, would also look into the reasons for non-functioning of 
the intercom to see if Mughal had tampered with it to prevent the victim from 
contacting other security guards.

Asked if the police had given a clean chit to Sengupta, the officer replied in 
the negative, saying," We have not given a clean chit to anybody."

Mughal has been booked under section 302 (murder) of the IPC and will be 
produced before a court on Saturday.

"We will seek the early appointment of a prosecutor and trial by a fast track 
court where we will seek death penalty for him," Roy said.

(source: Press Trust of India)

AUGUST 9, 2012:


Attorney: Judges can't rule objectively on funding in death penalty cases

An attorney handling two Marion County death penalty cases filed motions to 
attempt to disqualify the court and have it strike down a Florida statute he 
believes is unconstitutional.

Defense attorney Terence Lenamon of Miami, who was able to spare Joshua Fulgham 
the death penalty in April, is making efforts to do the same for James Edward 
Bannister and Michael Lamar Woods.

In the motions, Lenamon claims that recent changes by the state Legislature to 
section 27.5304 of the Florida statutes, which sets the payment for private 
court-appointed counsel, makes it a conflict of interest for judges presiding 
in cases of indigent defendants.

???When it comes to the death penalty, there???s no short order of them trying 
to shortcut in allowing resources for these kinds of cases where they???re 
seeking the ultimate penalty,??? Lenamon said.

He noted that judges must approve all expenses in the cases, from the cost of a 
private attorney for an indigent defendant ??? set at $15,000 for capital cases 
??? to the other costs of preparing the case.

Lenamon said those costs could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but 
the state Legislature has put aside just $3 million in a special judicial 
account designated for those costs.

He argued that $3 million wouldn???t be enough to help pay for the multitude of 
death penalty cases involving indigent defendants across the state.

Once that money in the special account is gone, judges must then decide whether 
to use general funds that also pay for judges salaries, staff, etc. Lenamon 
said that puts the judges in a tough position and creates a conflict of 

???It???s their staff, their budget, versus what???s right for the 
defendant,??? he said.

For that reason, he claims the statute is unconstitutional and urges judges 
across the state to strike down the law.

Lenamon said he has filed the motions in about 7 death penalty cases he???s 
handling across the state.

The two judges hearing the death penalty cases in Marion County have denied 
Lenamon???s motions to disqualify the court. They have not ruled on the 
constitutionality of the statute.

???Therefore, the Defendant argues that an inherent conflict of interest 
arises, calling into question a judge???s impartiality because a judge will 
have to decide whether to award reasonable attorney fees??? to an indigent 
Defendant when the monies being used to pay the same comes from the budget for 
the administration of the court system,??? wrote Circuit Judge Sandra 
Edwards-Stephens in her decision.

Edwards-Stephens is hearing James Edward Bannister???s case.

Bannister was charged with four counts of murder after he allegedly shot and 
killed his girlfriend, Jocalyn Gray; her mother Bridget Gray; and two children, 
CorDarrian Hill, 8; and his sister, 6-year-old CorDerica Hill.

He reportedly set fire to the house with the victims inside last August.

In the other case, Lenamon is representing Michael Lamar Woods, who was charged 
with killing Marshall Pardee and his girlfriend, Chyavana Hampton, in February 

Another attorney is handling Woods??? 2 other cases ??? the 2007 killing of 
Toni Centracco and a plan to murder a witness in the case. That trial is 
scheduled for January 2013.

(source: Ocala.com)


Delmer Smith Trial: As trial for murder of Dr. James Briles' wife Kathleen 
Briles ends, defense tries to dodge death penalty

The case of accused murderer is now in the hands of the jury.

He's the man prosecutors say killed Kathleen Briles, wife of prominent Manatee 
County doctor, James Briles.

The defense called no witnesses before resting their case Wednesday. During 
closing arguments Thursday morning, the defense argued that the state failed to 
do its job of proving Delmer Smith is guilty and that evidence only links him 
to be in possession of stolen property.

After all, there has been no confession. And no witnesses can place Smith at 
the Terra Ceia home where Kathleen Briles was beaten to death with an antique 
sewing machine in 2009.

However, in key testimony Wednesday, prosecutors were able to connect Smith to 
the scene and the crime in ways that weren't direct -- but they were 

A detective testified that calls and text messages places from Smith's phone 
around the time of the murder used a cell phone tower close to the scene.

And an acquaintance of Smith's said he went with Smith to a pawn shop some time 
after the murder to sell some jewelry Smith had gotten ahold of.

Smith said he'd bought the jewelry from someone. Prosecutors say it was stolen 
-- taken from the Briles' home sometime between when Kathleen Briles was killed 
and when her husband, Dr. James Briles, came home and found her dead on their 
living room floor.

Family members and friends also had the heart-wrenching task of telling the 
jury that items from the pawn shop and items police say were in Smith's 
possession were treasured items that had belonged to Kathleen Briles.

Smith is already serving a life sentence for a crime in Sarasota County. If 
he's convicted of Briles' murder, he faces the death penalty.

A separate, special hearing after the trail would determine whether Smith will 
be executed. Defense attorneys would make a thorough argument for why Smith 
should be allowed to live; prosecutors will argue the opposite.

The same jury that took part in the trial would then decide whether to 
recommend death. If the jury does authorize the death penalty, the judge can 
then declare that to be Smith's fate, or choose a lesser sentence.

(source: WTSP News)


Jury selection underway in death penalty case

Jury selection is underway for a Tucson murder suspect who once told a TV 
reporter he's killed 10 people.

Michael Carlson, 56, is accused of killing Kenneth Alliman, 49, and Rebecca Lou 
Lofton, 52, three years ago. If he's convicted, he could receive the death 

225 prospective jurors recently filled out a questionnaire about such things as 
their trial availability and their views on the death penalty and 124 of them 
were excused prior to Tuesday's start date. Since then, the attorneys and Judge 
Richard Nichols have questioned 39 of the remaining potential jurors and kept 
17 so far. 42 are coming in today for questioning and if they are needed, 
another 19 will be called in next Tuesday.

Back in June 2009, Carlson told Pima County sheriff's deputies he had recently 
Alliman and Lofton and that he had shot his sister to death in May 2003.

Carlson was indicted on 3 1st-degree-murder charges, but the charges were 
dismissed in his sister's case after Judge Christopher Browning threw out his 
confession based on Miranda violations.

Carlson was sentenced to 99 years in a Texas prison for aggravated armed 
robbery in the early 1980s. He was released on parole in May 2003 and moved in 
with his sister in Tucson, according to court documents.

Five months later, Carlson reported that his sister, Maria Thoma, 51, missing. 
Her body was found the same day, and she had been shot four times in the face 
and torso with a shotgun.

Her murder remained unsolved, and Carlson spent the next few years in and out 
of Texas prisons for violating his parole. He eventually absconded and ended up 
back in Tucson in December 2008.

Carlson was named a "person of interest" when Alliman and Lofton disappeared.

Detectives picked Carlson up on the Texas fugitive warrant and Pima County 
Sheriff's deputies found burned fragments of human remains in a fire pit.

When detectives began reading Carlson his rights, Carlson said he knew them, 
repeated some of them back and waived them, according to court documents.

Carlson didn't mention his right to have an attorney present during the 
questioning itself, so it isn't clear if he knew he had a right to an attorney 
at that moment in time.

Judge Browning ruled the deputies should have read Carlson all of his rights, 
noting that the Miranda warnings consist of 55 words, and law-enforcement 
officers carry them around on a card.

(source: Arizona Daily Star)


Former Utah death row inmate Lovell keeps lawyer, moves closer to trial

A lawyer for one-time death-row inmate Douglas Lovell is preparing for his 2014 
murder trial ??? even if Lovell doesn???t want him.

In a letter Aug. 1, Lovell claimed his relationship with attorney Mike Bouwhuis 
had deteriorated beyond repair. Lovell refused to discuss details of the 
conflict in a Thursday hearing with 2nd District Judge Michael D. Lyon, but 
Bouwhuis disclosed he and Lovell disagreed on the course of action to take in 
May after the court denied Lovell???s request for a new judge in what will be 
his second trial in the 1985 murder of Joyce Yost.

Lovell said he had good relationships with the other court-appointed lawyers 
who have handled his lengthy case.

"I???ve had 11 attorneys in 17 years," he said.

Lovell said Bouwhuis "has not made even a grunion of an attempt" to repair the 
relationship since May.

Bouwhuis said he has no problem working with Lovell.

Lyon said he could not order a new attorney without further explanation of the 
conflict and noted that Bouwhuis is one in a limited pool of public defenders 
qualified to litigate a death-penalty case.

"You???ve got a very good lawyer," Lyon said. He ordered Bouwhuis to visit 
Lovell at the prison for a meeting to resolve their differences.

Lovell said he would appeal Lyon???s decision.

Lovell, 54, pleaded guilty in 1993 to murdering Yost to prevent her from 
testifying against him in a rape and kidnapping case, and he was sentenced to 
death. However, the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that he could withdraw the 
guilty plea because he should have been better informed of his rights during 
court proceedings. The ruling overturned a decision by Lyon that the guilty 
plea should stand, and Lovell???s defenders argued that the case should be 
removed from Lyon???s hands. Another judge ruled in May that the case should 
remain under Lyon, and Lovell and Bouwhuis disagreed on how to proceed.

Lyon scheduled Lovell???s new trial for February 2014 ??? nearly 29 years after 
Yost???s murder.

Before that, the court will hear arguments on whether funding for expert 
defense witnesses should be discussed behind closed doors. Prosecutors argue 
that the Weber County Attorney???s office should be present to hear how public 
defense money will be spent, but defenders say that could expose Lovell???s 
defense strategy and the matter should be discussed with only the judge. 
Arguments are scheduled for October.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Conn. killer fights penalty hearing

A lawyer for a Connecticut man who shot 2 adults and a 9-year-old girl to death 
on a Bridgeport street 6 years ago asked a state judge Thursday to cancel an 
upcoming penalty phase trial on whether he should be executed and to sentence 
him to life in prison without parole, citing the state???s repeal of the death 
penalty earlier this year.

A motion filed in Bridgeport Superior Court on Thursday and obtained by The 
Associated Press in the case of Richard Roszkowski is the 1st formal legal 
challenge in a pending death penalty case against the repeal law, which applies 
only to murders committed on or after April 25 of this year.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers across the state had expected death row inmates 
and others facing possible death sentences to challenge their punishments 
because of the repeal.

The repeal law ??????represents the considered judgment of our legislature and 
governor that the death penalty is no longer consistent with standards of 
decency in Connecticut and does not serve any valid penological 
objective,?????? Roszkowski???s public defender, Michael Courtney, wrote in the 
57-page motion.

??????An execution carried out in the face of this judgment would plainly be 
cruel and unusual punishment and would violate the statutory prohibition 
against arbitrary death sentences and numerous constitutional prohibitions 
against arbitrary criminal laws,?????? Courtney wrote.

Courtney also said it appears that no state prisoner in U.S. history has been 
executed after that state abolished capital punishment.

??????There is no history of such a practice because nothing could be more 
arbitrary and capricious than allowing eligibility for the death penalty to 
depend on the date of the crime,?????? Courtney wrote. ??????Under the statute, 
a capital felony committed on April 24, 2012 is death-eligible, but the exact 
same crime committed on April 25, 2012 is not.??????

State prosecutor Robert Satti declined to comment on Courtney???s claims 
Thursday. A hearing on the motion hasn???t been scheduled yet.

Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal capital punishment, and 
the fifth in five years. In the past 5 decades, the state has executed only 1 
person, serial killer Michael Ross in 2005, who dropped his appeals and pushed 
for his death sentence to be carried out. 10 men are on the state???s death 

Roszkowski, 47, a former Trumbull resident, was convicted of capital felony and 
murder in 2009 and sentenced that year to lethal injection for gunning down his 
ex-girlfriend, Holly Flannery, 39, her 9-year-old daughter, Kylie, and his 
former roommate, Thomas Gaudet, 38. Witnesses testified that Roszkowski stalked 
Flannery after she broke off their relationship and falsely believed Gaudet was 
having an affair with her.

But a judge later overturned the death sentence because of a mistake in the 
jury instructions and ordered a new penalty phase. Jury selection was expected 
to begin in June, but was postponed. No new date has been set.

Last month, death row inmates tried to raise the repeal issue in their 
long-running lawsuit challenging the fairness of capital punishment in 
Connecticut, but a judge rejected the request.

(source: Associated Press)


Ormond man's life sentence upheld in N.C. trooper's death

A North Carolina appeals court ruled that a convicted killer captured on video 
ambushing a state trooper during a traffic stop received a fair trial, 
upholding the Ormond Beach man's life prison sentence.

A state Court of Appeals panel rejected Edwardo Wong Jr.'s arguments that the 
emotional testimony deprived him of a fair trial in 2010.

"After a careful review of the record as a whole, and the overwhelming evidence 
of defendant's guilt, we conclude that, even if error occurred, defendant was 
not deprived of his due process right to a fair trial," the court ruled 
unanimously Tuesday.

Wong shot Highway Patrol Trooper Shawn Blanton three times on the side of 
Interstate 40 near Canton in Haywood County despite the 24-year-old law officer 
pleading for his life to be spared. Wong collected Blanton's handgun, threw his 
keys over the guardrail and fled, The Citizen-Times of Asheville reported.

Wong still had the gun when he was stopped and arrested several miles away.

The court cited the 19-minute audio and video recordings of the slaying that 
were captured by Blanton's dashboard camera, along with the testimony of 
witnesses who were driving along the interstate and saw the gun's muzzle 
flashes, and the officers who arrested Wong.

The patrol car's video captures Wong demanding Blanton give up his weapon and 
Wong walking calmly back to his vehicle after the shooting and driving away.

Wong was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury deadlocked on 
whether he should receive the death penalty.

Investigators found Blanton's state-issued Sig Saur handgun in Wong's truck 
along with 2 other guns, 11 ounces of marijuana and 57 tablets of Ecstasy. He 
had $5,000 in cash when he was arrested. The threat of being arrested with the 
drugs and guns, which he was forbidden to possess as a convicted felon, were 
possible reasons Wong shot Blanton, prosecutors said.

Along with life imprisonment, Wong was sentenced to up to 42 years for a series 
of other charges, including robbery with a dangerous weapon and attempted 
1st-degree murder.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge declines to change wording on death penalty measure

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley issued a tentative ruling 
today that rejected efforts by death penalty proponents to change the wording 
on a ballot measure that would repeal capital punishment in California.

Attorneys for the state prosecutors association, as well as Sacramento, Los 
Angeles and Fresno district attorneys Jan Scully, Steve Cooley and Elizabeth 
Egan, charged in a lawsuit that the ballot wording unfairly suggests the 
initiative would save money and force convicted murders to work in prison, 
which they already are required to do.

Frawley has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Friday to give the prosecutors an 
opportunity to change his mind.

The judge said in his tentative ruling he "finds nothing false or misleading" 
in the ballot-label wording on the death penalty measure.

The ballot title and summary "arguably is misleading in that it suggests that 
the measure will impose new work and restitution requirements" on life-term 
prisoners, Frawley said in his four-page ruling. But he said the confusion is 
the result of "the measure itself," and not the Attorney General's wording, 
which he said "accurately summarized what the measure does."

Frawley said that theoretically, the intiative, if it passes, could expand the 
number of life-term prisoners, including murderers, doing prison jobs and 
paying restitution to victims. He said this could occur by removing inmates 
from death row and putting them in the general population where they would 
become subject to work requirements.

(source: Sacramento Bee)


Keep monsters on death row

I am the mother of Michael Lyons. Michael was brutally murdered on May 16, 
1996, in Yuba City. He was 8 years old when he was kidnapped while walking home 
from school. Michael faced the true evil that walks amongst us.

A monster that took Michael, raped and tortured him by inflicting 80 stab 
wounds and then taking his life the following morning. Robert Rhoades 
rightfully received the death penalty in Michael's case.

He also received another death sentence for the brutal murder of Julie Connell 
18, from Daily City in 1984. Our communities have seen the pure evil monster 
that our children came across on those fateful days. So in two cases, the 
members of our communities delivered the only punishment deserving of his 
crimes ??? the death penalty. But he is not alone; he is residing with some of 
the evilest individuals alive: Richard Ramirez, Richard Davis, Scott Peterson 
and let's not forget Eric Houston. I was relieved that they upheld Houston's 
conviction to be executed.

The death penalty will be on the ballot this November. The ACLU has been 
pushing to abolish the death penalty in California, with untrue and hyped up 
facts. There is a motion being filed at 10:30 a.m. today in Sacramento Superior 
Court, Department 29. Please come out and help show them we will never forget 
what these monsters have done, and we will not stand by and allow the state to 
let them walk off death row without a fight.

Sandy Friend


(source: Appeal Democrat)


Counting the Costs----Former warden says California can???t afford death 

>From the time a death penalty case enters the court system in California, the 
count begins. There???s an estimated $40 million a year spent on death penalty 
cases at the county court level. Then $72 million a year goes for housing death 
penalty inmates in state prison. Another $58 million is spent on appealing 
death penalty cases to the state appellate court, and then $14 million is spent 
on federal appeals, including those that make it all the way to the U.S. 
Supreme Court.?

To put it more simply, as U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law 
School Professor Paula Mitchell did in a 2011 report titled ???Executing the 
Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature???s 
Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,??? it???s cost $308 million for 
each of the 13 executions carried out since California???s reinstated the death 
penalty in 1978. ?

Do the math: It???s slightly more than $4 billion spent on executing 13 people. 
And 725 inmates currently sit on death row. Do the math on that.?

Jeanne Woodford knows the numbers intimately, but she knows another set of 
numbers just as well: 30-60 days. That???s the time she had, from the day a 
death warrant was signed by the governor to the actual night of an execution, 
to prepare her staff to kill an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, home to 
California???s death row.?


Woodford spent 26 years at San Quentin, starting as a correctional officer in 
1978, two weeks after she graduated from Sonoma State University with a 
bachelor???s degree in criminal justice. When she left in 2004 to serve as 
director of the California Department of Corrections, she had been warden for 5 
years and carried out the executions of 4 inmates.?

She has trouble remembering their names now. But she has no trouble counting 
the terrible cost the first set of numbers has taken on the state, where 46 % 
of homicides and 56 % of rapes go unsolved.?

???I think it???s important to know we have a criminal justice problem in this 
state and the facts speak for themselves,??? Woodford says. ???Science tells 
you the best way to prevent crime is to solve it.??? Instead of spending 
billions on a handful of people who, without the death penalty, will still die 
in prison with sentences of life without the possibility of parole, Woodford 
says a fraction of that $4 billion could go toward better policing.?

???If you don???t have police on the streets and you???re not solving crime,??? 
she says, ???it makes us all less safe.????

In November, voters will be asked to vote on an initiative that Woodford, who 
now heads the San Francisco-based organization Death Penalty Focus, has 
spearheaded. Prop. 34 seeks to make California the 18th state to abolish the 
death penalty. It also seeks to put a one-time, $100 million fund using money 
currently spent on death row in the hands of law enforcement to solve more 
rapes and homicides. The state estimates it and local governments could save in 
the high tens of millions of dollars annually.?

What it doesn???t seek to do: Open the gates to the prison and empty death row 
onto the streets. Death sentences would be converted to life without 
possibility of parole. ?

???I was always opposed to the death penalty, but I wasn???t passionate about 
it,??? Woodford admits. ???What made me passionate is I came to love public 
policy. Without any emotion, what is the right thing to do on criminal justice 
issues? And I came to realize what a waste the death penalty was.????

Prop. 34 has raised more than $3 million from supporters that include Netflix 
CEO Reed Hastings ($250,000), Nicholas Pritzker of the Hyatt Hotel family 
($500,000) and Stanford University Professor Nick McKeown ($187,500), according 
to a KCET-TV database. The Kern County Prosecutors Association ($10,000), the 
Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Association ($10,000) and the Political 
Issues Committee of the Peace Officers Research Association of California 
($100,000) are opposing it.?

???We have the polling, and it tells us that when people are given the facts 
that life without possibility of parole actually means that??? and that money 
can be better used for public safety, 54 percent of likely voters are likely to 
vote in favor of it.????

If Woodford is right, California???s death penalty ends the day after the 
election. If she???s wrong, we can all go on paying the terrible cost in a 
state ill-equipped to afford it. ?

You can hear her talk about it next week at two appearances in Monterey County. 
Her first appearance takes place at 11:30am Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Hilton 
Garden Inn, 1000 Aguajito Road, Monterey. A ticket to this lunch event is $28. 
She also speaks at 7pm Friday, Aug. 17, at St. Paul???s Episcopal Church, 1071 
Pajaro St., Salinas. That event is free. ?

(source: Mary Duan is the Monterey County Weekly???s editor)


Clergyman???s view on Death Penalty debate in Zambia

(AN edited version of a paper presented by Pastor Conrad Mbewe to the 2nd 
European Union Annual Forum in October 2010 held at the Mulungushi 
International Conference Centre in Lusaka under the theme ???Death has no 
appeal!??? Edited and reproduced by Charles Bota with the permission of the 

???If you do wrong, be afraid, for he (the one who is in authority) does not 
bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries 
out God???s wrath on the wrong-doer??? (Rom 13:4).

It must come as a surprise to many that I, a man of the cloth, should oppose 
the motion ???The death penalty constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment and 
has no place in a civilised society.???

Therefore, let me say this. I love all human beings???including alleged, 
convicted and real murderers. My own church participates actively in reaching 
out to prisons with the gospel of Christ???s love, including Mukobeko Maximum 

In fact, a number of prisoners who were on death-row a few years ago and were 
pardoned by the late president Levy Mwanawasa just before he died are my 
personal friends.

I first met them while visiting Mukobeko prison. Let me also state that I am in 
favour of the President???s Prerogative of Mercy as it stands in our statute 
books, and so I am grateful that some of these friends of mine who truly 
reformed while in prison were its beneficiaries.

Having said all this, I insist that the death penalty should remain in our 
penal code, in our Republican Constitution for the reasons below:

Those who oppose the death penalty do so mainly for the following 7 reasons:

1. The remedial view of punishment: This view asserts that punishment is 
supposed to be curative. If you kill the offender you are not helping him to 
become a better person.

2. The deterrent view of punishment: This view asserts that punishment is 
supposed to deter other would-be offenders. Statistics prove, we are told, that 
the death penalty does not have this effect.

3. The right to life: This view asserts that every human being???even a 
murderer???has an inalienable right to life. No one???not even the state???has 
the right to take his life away.

4. Two wrongs don???t make a right: This view asserts that taking away 
anyone???s life is always wrong. The fact that a murderer took someone???s life 
does not justify the State doing the same thing.

5. The fallibility of human judgment: This view asserts that there have been 
instances when a judgment has been overturned by evidence found later. In the 
case where the punishment was death, it is too late to reverse it. An innocent 
life is lost because of an error in court.

6. The sanctity of life: This view asserts that only God can give life and only 
God has the right to take it away. Anyone who kills is invading a sphere where 
only God has prerogative.

7. The need to turn the other cheek: This view asserts that the Bible commands 
us to leave revenge to God and instead turn the other cheek when we are 
wronged. The death penalty goes against this command in the Bible.

I argue against all these 6 assertions because:

(1) They give a false view of the basis of punishment in general, and;

(2) They give an equally false view of the basis for the death penalty.

The basis of punishment:

The basis of punishment is not curative; it is not how successful it will be in 
rehabilitating the offender; it is not primarily meant to deter other 

The basis of punishment is whether it is fair with respect to the crime 
committed. In other words, the basis of punishment is justice.

In the domestic sphere, our punishment is really a form of corrective 
discipline. The parents??? chief interest is not justice but the positive 
changing of the character of the child.

But that is not the job of the judiciary. The work of the judge is to ensure a 
correct interpretation of the laws enacted by the legislative arm of 
Government, to acquit the innocent (i.e. those who continue to obey the laws), 
and to prescribe fair punishment on those who break those laws.

So, whether the punishment meted out will reform the convicted criminal or 
deter other would-be offenders is not the business of the judiciary. The one 
question they should ask themselves is: ???Does this punishment fit the crime 
that has been committed????

The basis of the death penalty

Once we are clear about the basis of punishment in general, then we are ready 
to address the question of the death penalty.

The one question we must answer is: ???Is it fair to take away the life of a 
person who maliciously takes away the life of another person????

Thankfully, fairness is not a preserve of those with university degrees in law. 
Even a child has an inborn sense of justice.

Many times when a parent or teacher has made a decision that has disadvantaged 
a child beyond what he or she deserves, you will hear the child cry, ???It???s 
not fair!??? Who taught that child the concept of fairness? We are all born 
with it.

So, when you hear a statement like, ???An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, 
a bruise for a bruise, and a life for a life,??? your heart responds, ???Yes, 
that is only fair-that is only just!??? Anything less would favour the 
assailant, and anything more would favour the person assailed.

Justice ensures that the crime-malicious murder- gets a fit punishment-the 
death penalty.

Perhaps this is the best place to address the question of cruelty. Every 
punishment is cruel. If you fine a person, you are taking away his property 
which he has earned after toiling for a period.

Is that not cruel? When you imprison a person, you are taking him away for many 
years from his friends and family and locking him in an overcrowded little room 
where he is most likely going to get TB, HIV, etc. I ask; is that not being 
cruel? To remove cruelty from punishment is to remove punishment altogether.

Rather, the cruelty a person experiences must be equal to the crime committed. 
That is only fair.

What about the question of fallibility? Let us use this argument in the context 
of road and air transport. More people get killed in one country through human 
error on the roads than through the death penalty across the whole globe.

(Also, one error in air transport results in the loss of hundreds of lives). 
Yet, I have never heard any activists arguing for the abolition of road (and 
air) transport because of the possibility of human error. All I am asking is 
that we should be consistent.

In the case of the transport sector we are doing everything possible to reduce 
the possibility of human error. Shouldn???t we be doing the same in the 
judicial sector also?

What about the question of vengeance? I keep being asked, ???God says, 
???Vengeance is mine,??? so why do you still insist that the State should 
inflict the death penalty on convicted murderers???? In answering this, let me 
state that this also answers the accusation of breaching the sanctity of life 
by invading a sphere where only God has prerogative; the sphere of taking a 
man???s life.

The statement ???Vengeance is mine, I will repay??? is found at the end of 
Romans 12. God emphatically states that vengeance is His.

However, at the beginning of Romans 13 (see text at the top of this paper), God 
tells us HOW he will carry out that vengeance. ???If you do wrong, be afraid, 
for [the one who is in authority] does not bear the sword in vain.

For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God???s wrath on the 
wrongdoer??? (Rom 13:4). God tells us here that He allows us to invade that 
sphere; that He will carry out His vengeance through the judicial arm of the 

So, then, as I close, let me ask the question: ???On the basis of justice and 
fairness, what punishment should be meted out on a person who selfishly, 
wilfully, and maliciously murders an innocent person???? Your conscience and 
gut feeling must give the answer???the death penalty!

(source: The Times of Zambia; CONRAD MBEWE is a Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church, 


Death penalty for 3 police officers for murder

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

August 9, 2012

Statement on the death penalty imposed on 3 police officers for extrajudicial 
killing of Kiattisak Thitboonkrong

On 30 July 2012, in the Black Case No. O3252/2552 involving the murder of Mr. 
Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, 17 years, the Criminal Court condemned to death the 
first 3 defendants including Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. 
Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing and Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Phansilp Uppanant. In 
detail, they were penalized for one year in jail for their offence involving 
the removing of dead body to conceal the cause of death and inflicted with 
death sentence for premeditated murder. In the same case, the fifth defendant, 
Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue, was convicted to 7 years in jail for abusing his 
office since he misused his power as an in charge investigator to help other 
persons from being brought to justice. The 6th defendant, Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr 
Nanthasathit, was convicted to life sentence for conspiring to commit a 
premeditated murder. The 4th defendant, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee, was 
acquitted. In this case, the 1st to 6th defendants have been prosecuted for 
conspiring to commit a premeditated murder and removing the body and concealing 
the cause of death and for abusing their power as investigation officers to 
prevent other persons from being brought to justice. The 1st to 3rd defendants 
and the 6th defendant, police officers of the Maung Kalasin Police Station, 
were accused of killing Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, 17 years, an alleged 
offender in a thief offence. After he was brought out of the police station, he 
was allegedly strangled to death and an attempt to conceal the cause of his 
death was made including moving his body to a makeshift in a paddy field in Ban 
Bung Na, Changharn District, Roi Et Province, and having it hung there. 
Eyewitnesses have also been subjected to intimidation. The incidence took place 
around 21-22 July 2004 during the harsh War on Drug by the Thaksin Shinawatra 
government. A number of people were found dead during the implementation of the 
policy to suppress drug trafficking throughout the country including Kalasin 
where the killing of Mr. Kiattisak was supposed to have taken place. There are 
also many other similar cases under investigation.

The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and the undersigned human rights 
organizations would like to express our opinions on the case as follows;

1. Efforts by concerned parties including the affected families, eyewitnesses, 
Department of Special Investigation (DSI), public prosecutors, attorneys of 
co-plaintiffs, and the judges in the investigation should be commended. The 
case is an exemplary attempt to bring to justice any officers committing an 
offence and would help to end impunity among governmental officers. The case 
also reflects many obstacles to the attempt to bring to justice officers who 
commit criminal offences owing to the culture of impunity whereby mutual favour 
is given among officers. In addition, given that the concealing of the cause of 
death and destruction of evidence in this case was committed by police officers 
themselves, it was not very easy to prove their guilt. Several witnesses were 
subjected to intimidation as well. The verdict in this case sets a good example 
that governmental officers who commit any crime should also be brought to 
justice, just like other civilians and other officers in higher ranks. It 
should help to eventually eliminate the culture of impunity among the officers. 
As state officers who have more power than civilians, they shall exercise their 
power cautiously, honestly, justly with integrity and respect in rights and 
freedom and dignity of people who own the country. And to upkeep public order 
and peace, they shall refrain from abusing their power.

2. The case of Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong also reflects decadence of justice 
system in Thailand, particularly the misuse of power by the officers and the 
adoption of cruel and inhumane to penalize the juvenile alleged offenders. The 
officers were involved with deceiving families of the victim, enforced 
disappearance of local people, committing cruel treatment, committing murder 
and concealing the cause of death, all of which are an obvious breach to the 
rule of law and human rights standards including the 1976 International 
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand has acceded 
since 27 October 1996.

3. A lack of respect of due process in a criminal justice process against a 
child under 18 years does exist. And such gross negligence has partly 
contributed to the death of Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong by the act of officers.

4. Concerned agencies involving many other ongoing investigations on similar 
cases in Kalasin are urged to expedite their efforts in order to provide for 
justice of the victims and the innocent persons and to bring light to the 

5. The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and the undersigned human rights 
organizations note that death penalty is still permitted under Section 18 of 
the Penal Code. Capital punishment is an act to destroy the highest value of 
humanity which is life, and as a result human beings should not kill each 
other. Such a notion is also reflected in the Universal Declaration on Human 
Rights (UDHR) which enshrines the right to life and the Second National Human 
Rights Master Plan (2009-2013) indicates as an indicator of success to include 
the review of laws which permit capital punishment and to eliminate capital 
punishment within 2013. That Thailand still applies death penalty is tantamount 
to a breach of fundamental human rights principle and contradicts to the trend 
of respecting human rights within international community since more than 141 
UN member states have revoked death penalty save for 57 countries including 
Thailand. In addition, capital punishment is founded on a premise of an eye for 
an eye and according to studies, it has failed to bring down the prevalence of 
crime. Punishment against a person should be appropriate to the causes and 
should engender a learning process to aid the offenders toward repentance.

With due respect,

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)

Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)

Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)

Peace and Human Rights Resource Center (PHRC)

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental 
organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and 
advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and 
promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

(source: Scoop News)


T&T Govt ???committed??? to keeping death penalty

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan says Government is committed to ensuring the 
death penalty for convicted murderers is implemented.

Ramlogan was responding yesterday to the call by the Inter American Commission 
on Human Rights???to several Caribbean countries including Jamaica, Trinidad 
and Tobago and Barbados???to impose a moratorium in the application of the 
death penalty.

On Tuesday, the Commission said it had examined the death penalty situation in 
Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and 
Tobago and the United States during the last 15 years.

It said: ???Taking into account these standards and developments in the region, 
and in light of the objective of gradually eliminating the death penalty in the 
inter-American system, the Commission urges the OAS (Organisation of American 
States) member states that still have the death penalty to abolish it or, at 
least, to impose a moratorium to its application.???

Ramlogan said yesterday Government is in full support of the implementation of 
the death penalty because it still part of the law in Trinidad and Tobago.

???I do not think that the Government will be in support of the abolition of 
the death penalty,??? Ramlogan said, in a telephone interview.

???What we are in support of, which was reflected in the Constitutional 
Amendment (Capital Offences) Bill which we tabled in Parliament (in 2011) and 
provided for the categorisation of murders. It was intended to reserve the 
death penalty for the most heinous of murders, which is similar to what obtains 
in the US where you have murder in varying degrees. So for example, crimes of 
passion and so on and where you have extenuating circumstances, could be dealt 
with in a different way. In such an instance the death penalty is not mandatory 
or automatic.

???The Opposition had objected to the categorisation and, in order to gain 
their support, we had amended the Bill on the floor to remove the categories. 
We indicated that we were prepared to move from that policy position to accede 
to the Opposition???s request and keep the death penalty for all murders and 
they still did not support the amendment.???

Asked if Government, because of its stance, will consider severing ties with 
international human rights bodies, Ramlogan said it is not a consideration.

???This is not a new position that some international bodies have taken. It is 
a very old debate and there have not been any such moves by either party. There 
are several countries where the death penalty remains valid law. There is no 
international consensus that the death penalty is cruel and inhumane,??? 
Ramlogan said.

(source: Stabroek News)


No takers for hangman???s job

Government is yet to recruit a hangman, a year after advertising for the job 
andhas ???no appetite??? to execute inmates on the death row, Justice and Legal 
Affairs deputy minister, Obert Gutu said yesterday.

Zimbabwe last had executions, 8 years ago.

???We have not found a hangman as yet,??? Gutu told NewsDay in an 
interview.???In my investigations, I found out that the vacancy has not yet 
been filled. However, there is no rush to find one as the Executive has no 
appetite for executions.

???There is virtually a moratorium on executing inmates on death row.

???You find that after the executions of Chidhumo and Masendeke, the Executive 
no longer has the appetite to execute inmates.???

Notorious robbers, Edgar Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo, who committed various 
crimes including murder and escaping from lawful custody at Chikurubi Maximum 
Security Prison, were the last to be sent to the gallows in 2004.

About 60 inmates are on the death row in Zimbabwe.

???There is a defacto moratorium on executions and I don???t see any being 
conducted anytime soon, which is good for the country, maybe on exceptional 
ones such as aggravated murder cases,??? Gutu said.

???What will eventually happen to those on death row is that their death 
sentences will be commuted to life sentences. That is the trend the world over. 
It???s a general precedental practice. In Zimbabwe we have an inmate who has 
been on death row for the past 10 years and you can see that the person is 
already dead considering the torment he has already gone through over the 

Government has been advertising the job for a hangman since 2005 when the 
incumbent retired, but has found no takers.

Some death row inmates were convicted long before then, but are waiting to 
exhaust the appeals process.

The draft constitution, which was released recently, spares female murderers 
from the hangman???s noose as the charter states that no woman shall face the 
death penalty.

It says the death penalty should be considered in ???cases of aggravated 
murder??? and does not apply to those below the age of 21 and those above 70.

Human rights activists and organisations, including Amnesty International, have 
been lobbying government to abolish capital punishment and the exemption of 
women appears to be a compromise to appease the activists.

(source: Newsday)

AUGUST 8, 2012:


Arizona executes man for 1987 rape, murder of co-workers

A man who tortured, raped and strangled 2 co-workers in 1987 was put to death 
in Arizona on Wednesday, more than a year after the Supreme Court temporarily 
blocked his execution to consider whether he had adequate counsel.

Daniel Wayne Cook, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:03 a.m. from a lethal 
injection administered at the state prison in Florence, 60 miles southeast of 
Phoenix, state officials said.

Cook was convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing Carlos Cruz-Ramos, 26, and 
Kevin Swaney, 16, in northwestern Arizona, together with an accomplice, a 
roommate named John Matzke. All four worked together at a restaurant in Lake 
Havasu City.

Cook initially won a reprieve in April 2011 when the nation's highest court 
blocked the execution to consider claims that he did not have effective legal 
counsel during his trial or appeals process.

Lawyers for Cook said previous counsel failed to present evidence that he was 
physically and sexually abused by family members and a foster care worker when 
he was a child, according to court documents.

But the Supreme Court later dismissed the appeal, clearing the way for him to 
be executed.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the victim's family. I know that's not enough," 
Cook said in a final statement before thanking his lawyers, according to prison 
officials. Moments before he was rendered unconscious, he uttered the words, 
"Red robin, yum. I'm done. I love you."

Cook was sent to the state's death row for a brutal crime spree that 
authorities say began on July 19, 1987, when he stole money from Cruz-Ramos, 
who was also his roommate, then tied him to a chair in their apartment before 
he and Matzke began beating Cruz-Ramos with their fists and a metal pipe.

Cook cut Cruz-Ramos with a knife, burned him with cigarettes and raped him 
before he and Matzke lethally crushed Cruz-Ramos's throat with the pipe, 
according to court documents. The ordeal lasted some 6 hours.

Swaney, a dishwasher at the restaurant, arrived the next morning at the 
apartment, where he had been staying as a guest. He was tied to a chair and 
raped by Cook before he was strangled with a bed sheet by Cook and Matzke 
together, court records say.

Cook was later arrested at the apartment, where he told police: "We got to 
partying. Things got out of hand. Now 2 people are dead." He admitted to 
choking Swaney to death, but said: "My roommate killed one and I killed the 

Matzke was persuaded by a friend to go to the police to confess, according to 
court testimony. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified 
against Cook. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and has since been 

Cook, who was sentenced to death in 1988, became the 5th person to die by 
lethal injection in Arizona this year and the 33rd since the state reintroduced 
the death penalty in 1992.

26 people have been executed in the United States this year, according to the 
Death Penalty Information Center; the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 
1976, and the 1st execution to be carried out in the modern era was in Utah, on 
January 17, 1977, when Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)


For Freed Inmate, Painful Memories of Life on Death Row

The execution in Texas of a man alleged to have been mentally disabled has once 
again brought attention to the issue of capital punishment in the United 

Nearly 1,300 people have been executed in the U.S. over the past 36 years. But 
during that same time period, more than 130 have been exonerated, freed because 
of lack of evidence, or found innocent after being re-tried.

One man still bears the psychological scars of life on death row: Shujaa 
Graham. He lives an ordinary life. His favorite Sunday activity is to take his 
grandsons to the creek where he took his own children.

Circle of violence

But Graham has struggled for most of his 62 years. He spent the first 11 years 
of his life in Louisiana???s cotton fields. The next 7 he spent in and out of 
juvenile detention facilities.

Then, a robbery conviction at age 18 put him in adult prison - for life. He 
learned to read and write in prison, and denounced his earlier criminal 
activities. But it was a time of vast prison overcrowding and rioting. Things 
went terribly wrong.

"They opened up a new exercise yard in Soledad state prison," he said. "W.L. 
Nolan and two other blacks were killed - murdered??? pow pow pow. And that???s 
what started the movement. People looked at the situation and said 'We dying.' 
They said, ???Let???s organize ourselves and die together.'"

Graham was later blamed for the murder of a prison guard. He tried to prove his 
innocence for the next 8 years. But after the 3rd trial on the charge, he was 
sentenced to die.

"Did I want to go to death row? No. But if I had to go to death row for my 
conviction, you damn right I???m going. All I wanted to do was to be political 
and expose what was going on in prison," he said.


Finally, after a 4th trial, he was acquitted of the murder - and his robbery 
conviction was also overturned. Since then - for 35 years - his mission in life 
has been to raise awareness about wrongful conviction.

"What has happened to me is over with and done," he said. "No one can bring 
those years back and no one can bring the psychological scars. No one can 
remove the physical scars. But Shujaa Graham can go on and make sure what 
happened to him never happens to anyone else."

Today, he does not look like a man who has faced execution. But his wife 
Phyllis says the experience still weighs on him.

"It???s been a long time now that we???ve been together and he still suffers 
and I think there???s still really ways that he holds on to what that formative 
years of your 20s, is your life, of how you look at the world. His were in 
prison and death row and being tortured," she said.

"Each and every day that I wake up, death row is the first thing on my mind. I 
can look at my children and look at my wife and say what if California 
would???ve had their way, I wouldn???t be here today,??? said Shujaa Graham.

Bearing witness

Graham is an active member of ???Witness to Innocence,??? an organization that 
fights for total abolition of the death penalty.

Last year, 43 prisoners were executed in the United States. Graham says he 
could have been one of them. And he says there???s not a day that passes that 
he???s not reminded of what could have been.

(source: Voice of America News)


Death penalty sought for man accused of killing E. Spencer grandmother with 
baseball bat

The Rowan District Attorney's Office announced in court on Monday that it would 
seek the death penalty against Gary Cureton, accused of killing his ex 
girlfriend in her East Spencer home in January.

Investigators say Joan Marie Lark, 49, was beaten to death with a bat by 
Cureton as her 6 grandchildren slept upstairs. It happened at Lark's home at 
110 W. Spencer Street. Lark's body was found by her grandchildren on the 
morning of January 27.

Cureton had been Lark's boyfriend and had been living in the home with Lark 
until a few weeks before the alleged murder. At the time of her death, 
neighbors and family members told WBTV that Lark had made some decisions to 
"improve her life," and that one of those decisions was to ask Cureton to leave 
her home.

Cureton was arrested at a home on Concord Lake Road in Kannapolis later in the 
afternoon on the same day. A criminal records check showed that Cureton has a 
history of domestic violence. In 2008, he was convicted of 2 counts of 
communicating threats. In 2000, he was convicted of two counts of domestic 
criminal trespassing and assault on a female.

Relatives said Cureton had made several threat against Lark in the days prior 
to her death.

Related article: Woman beaten to death in East Spencer, 6 children in the home

Cureton has been in the Rowan County Detention Center since his arrest, held on 
no bond on charges of first degree murder, burglary, and robbery with a 

(source: WBTV News)


Death penalty shouldn't stand as Oregon law

The Oregonian's Aug. 7 editorial "Time to let Haugen die," about convicted 
killer Gary Haugen's fight to be executed, makes some good points and misses a 
few that should be included.

We agree with the statements that "the governor's qualms" about the death 
penalty "are understandable"; that Judge Timothy Alexander is "no fan of 
capital punishment"; and "You could make a compelling case that Oregon would be 
better off without the death penalty at all."

However, the "guess" that "most Oregonians would probably be inclined to give 
Haugen what he wants" is way off base. Those with retribution as a core value 
might like to see another human being die at the hand of the state, but my 
guess would be that most Oregonians would not want the state to kill another 

Few Oregonians would want to participate directly in that killing, although 
citizens of our state (employees of our Department of Corrections) would have 
to do the actual killing.

We all abhor the crimes that Haugen has committed. Why should we resort to more 
killing to allow a convicted killer to get his wish? Life without the 
possibility of parole might be a more fitting punishment.

The editorial's point that "spending more public money to keep Gary Haugen from 
receiving a penalty he accepts" -- noted in the last line -- is a mere pittance 
compared with the millions upon millions of dollars we waste on our flawed 
death penalty system.

Let's get rid of the death penalty entirely and place those dollars in programs 
that really do work to reduce violent crime and save young children from taking 
the unfortunate path that Haugen was placed on. We encourage Gov. John 
Kitzhaber to appeal and uphold his right to declare the moratorium on 
executions. We encourage all Oregonians to engage in the debate and learn the 
facts about the death penalty. It is a failed public policy that is very hard 
to defend.

(source: Guest Column; Ron Steiner is chair of the board of directors of 
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty--The Oregonian)


The death penalty and Jared Lee Loughner

Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty Tuesday to 19 counts involving a 2011 
shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 others, including then-Rep. 
Gabrielle Giffords, wounded. As part of the deal, Loughner will receive a 
sentence of life without parole. Victims' families have been spared the rigors 
of a trial, prosecutors can be sure that Loughner will never again endanger the 
general public. Thank the federal death penalty, which applied because Loughner 
shot people at a federally protected political event.

Defense attorney Gerald L. Shargel wrote in the Daily Beast that, while it 
would have been a steep climb, Loughner could have won an insanity defense 
given his "long and tortured history of mental illness."

What could prosecutors have done to prevent litigation that would have spanned 
decades? "Obviously, the prosecutors have to give something up in order to get 
the plea," Shargel told me. Not that he sees this as a game, but "the only card 
to play was taking the death penalty off the table."

Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, issued a statement in support. "We don't 
speak for all of the victims or their families, but Gabby and I are satisfied 
with this plea agreement. ... Avoiding a trial will allow us - and we hope the 
whole Southern Arizona community - to continue with our recovery and move 
forward with our lives."

Death-penalty opponents often argue that eliminating capital punishment in 
favor of life without parole would provide swifter resolution for victims' 
families, who would not have to endure years of appeals pending execution. Kent 
Scheidegger of the law-and-order Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, says he 
likes swift resolution, too, but "it only happens when the death penalty's 

It's not even clear that this case would have been concluded without the death 

U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns found Loughner incompetent to stand trial 
in May 2011 and sent him to a prison hospital for help. Successfully for a 
time, defense attorney Judy Clarke fought authorities' efforts to administer 
antipsychotic drugs to treat Loughner's schizophrenia. She did not want her 
client to be well enough to stand trial.

Because of the subsequent treatment, forensic psychologist Christina Pietz was 
able to testify that Loughner "has become human." He regrets his actions, 
especially that he took the life of Christina-Taylor Green, age 9.

In the end, while Loughner was too mentally impaired to rate capital 
punishment, he also was too culpable to escape sure punishment for a 
well-planned killing spree. Prosecutors took the death penalty off the table, 
and Loughner agreed not to appeal the results. Justice will be served.

Robert Hirschhorn, an attorney and jury consultant, does not support the death 
penalty, but he agreed that without it, there would have been no deal.

"You really want to use the death penalty as a bargaining chip?" Hirschhorn 

I don't see Giffords or Kelly complaining.

(source: Debra Saunders, San francisco Chronicle)


Car-lot murderer: Give me death penalty

Convicted murderer and rapist William Davis III began his testimony Tuesday as 
you might expect: He was the son of an abusive father, he said, and had 
struggled for years with mental illness.

Then he made an extraordinary request: He asked jurors to give him the death 

"I am for the death penalty 110 %. I have been for as far back as I can 
remember," he said.

His lawyer, Davis continued, will say during closing arguments today that he 
"is the craziest guy under the sun. I am not. There's nothing I can do to bring 
Ms. Malave back. ??? I firmly believe that you should give ??? me the death 

"I will not spend the next 40 to 50 years in prison," he said.

A 12-member jury is expected to decide today whether to recommend life or 
death. Circuit Judge John Galluzzo will make the final determination next 

In May, the same jury rejected Davis' insanity defense and found him guilty of 
1st-degree murder, kidnapping and rape.

On Oct. 29, 2009, the day of the slaying, Davis confessed to abducting 
19-year-old Fabiana Malave from Super Sport Auto, a car lot on U.S. Highway 
17-92 near Longwood, forcing her at knifepoint to drive to his Pine Hills home, 
then raping and strangling her.

He then loaded her body into his SUV, covered it with a blanket and a garbage 
bag and drove it back to Seminole County, where he was spotted by Seminole 
County deputies.

The 34-year-old Davis talked to jurors for about 20 minutes. He did not say he 
wants to die, only that he does not want to spend the next 40 to 50 years in 

He has been to prison, he said, and it is an ugly place.

Will he get what he wants?

Paula Coffman, an Orlando lawyer and appeals specialist, said that's impossible 
to say, but the judge is precluded from considering what a defendant wants when 
imposing sentence. Galluzzo is allowed by law to consider a closely defined set 
of "aggravators" and a more loosely defined set of "mitigators" when weighing 
what sentence to impose.

If the judge thinks Davis' request is a result of mental illness, he may count 
it as a mitigator and thus a point in favor of a life sentence, Coffman said.

Davis' first words on the witness stand were about growing up with a father who 
sometimes took him outside and "kicked the snot out of me."

Davis said he realized when he was in high school that he was mentally ill but 
said he did not ask for help because his father would see that as a sign of 

Ads by GoogleBeautiful Wedding VideoWedding Videographer in DFW area. Special 
package discounts! www.weddingmediaforyou.comWhen defense attorney Tim Caudill 
asked him how he felt about killing Malave, Davis said, "I'm ashamed. I took 
the life of a young lady, to be honest with you; her life had just begun."

A psychiatrist and psychologist testified that Davis is bipolar, a mental 
illness characterized by dramatic mood swings and periods of mania and 

Davis testified that when unmedicated, he sometimes hears things ??? for 
example, a radio that is not there ??? and sees and smells things. He also 
flies into a rage over insignificant things.

He did not, however, explain what he was thinking the day he killed Malave.

Her mother and family sat in the courtroom listening to his testimony. They 
left without comment after the final witness stepped down from the stand.

Davis now takes anti-psychotic medications provided by the Seminole County 

"Do they work?" asked Caudill. "Yes, sir," Davis said.

Caudill asked whether Davis would have killed Malave if he had been on that 
medication Oct. 29, 2009.

No, Davis said.

He had been off his medicine for 13 months at the time, he said. He had been on 
and off medication for years, he said. He and other bipolar sufferers tend to 
stop taking it once they feel better, he said.

His step-grandfather John Sink took the witness stand earlier in the day and 
asked the jury to impose a life sentence.

"It's a terrible thing Billy has done. ... I would hate to see the wrong person 
put to death. The person who did this is not the Billy I know. ??? I came here 
to ask for mercy."

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Convicted killer asks for death penalty

The man convicted of kidnapping and killing a 19-year-old Seminole County woman 
told a jury Tuesday he wants the death penalty.

William Davis was found guilty of kidnapping Fabiana Malave in October 2009. He 
then took her to his home in Orange County, where he raped and murdered the 

Now, the same jury that found Davis guilty must decide if he should face the 
death penalty.

On Day 2 of the penalty phase, Davis told the jury "if you give me life, you 
are making a mistake." Earlier in the morning, the convicted killer's family 
pleaded for his life.

Tuesday morning's testimony gave an in-depth look into Davis' childhood. Family 
members said he had a troubled youth full of lying and vandalism.

Davis' stepmother said his father was abusive and a manic depressant.

But the real problems, according to Davis' family, came once he was discharged 
from the military, and his behavior turned criminal.

The jury also heard from a doctor who diagnosed Davis as bipolar, but he also 
said that Davis was not insane at the time of the murder.

Closing arguments will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The case will then be 
turned over to the jury.

(source: Central Florida News)


Syrian free speech campaigner may face death penalty: ICJ

Syrian free speech campaigner Mazen Darwish is to be judged in secret by a 
military court and may be sentenced to death without any right to defense, 
appeal or review, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said on 

Syria's Air Force Intelligence, which arrested Darwish on February 16, has 
decided he should be prosecuted by a Military Field Court, the ICJ said in a 
statement, without revealing the source of the information.

Military Field Courts are composed of military judges and have jurisdiction 
over crimes committed during wartime and military operations, said the ICJ, a 
body of 60 lawyers that seeks to promote the rule of law around the world.

"Accused persons before these courts have no right to defense and proceedings 
are conducted in secret. These courts do not apply existing laws or procedures 
and their decisions are final, not subject to any form of appeal or review. 
Under Legislative Decree 109, Mazen Darwish may face the death penalty," it 

Darwish, a lawyer who is also president of the Center for Media and Freedom of 
Expression, was arrested along with 16 of his colleagues, some of whom have 
been prosecuted by the Military Court of Damascus for "possessing prohibited 
materials with the intent to disseminate them", the ICJ said.

The ICJ called on the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally 
release Darwish. It said he had been "subject to forced disappearance" and the 
authorities had revealed nothing about his fate or whereabouts since his 

(source: Reuters)


Court asked to annul Article to commute death sentence

Some private individuals have submitted a case to the High Court asking the 
Article in the laws that affords the authority to the President to commute a 
death sentence or grant clemency be annulled.

The case under the name of five people had been accepted by the High Court 
sometime today. The case further detailed that in Islamic Sharia the ability to 
pardon a convict lies with only the heirs of the victim, who has also the sole 
authority press for the death penalty. It also stressed that once a death 
sentence is delivered by the court, neither the President nor any law 
enforcement authority can have the right to commute it.

The plea also detailed that if such authority is given to the President, it 
violates the rights available to the heirs of the victims and renders the 
process of taking statements of heirs useless.

In addition the Article 10 of the Constitution stipulates that no legislation 
can be enacted that undermines or coincides with a tenet of Islam, which would 
be declared null and void if so according Article 268, the case read.

The charges also underlined that the perpetrators convicted over the recent 
murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb must be dealt with in accordance with the wishes 
of the heirs and subsequent sentence.

(source: Haveeru)


Court observer: Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, confessed to murder of Briton in 

China???s most widely anticipated trial in a generation ended Thursday less 
than 8 hours after it began, with Gu Kailai ??? a daughter of the Communist 
Party???s ???red aristocracy??? and the wife of deposed charismatic leader Bo 
Xilai ??? confessing that she poisoned a British businessman who she believed 
threatened her son, according to an inside observer???s courtroom account.

The observer???s account, buttressed by an official court statement, detailed a 
dramatic case ??? including an e-mailed threat purportedly from the victim, 
Neil Heywood, and a description of how Gu poured a concoction of cyanide into 
Heywood???s mouth after he became drunk, vomited and asked for water. Finally, 
the observer said, Gu stood and addressed the court.

???I committed a crime that brought negative consequences to the party and the 
country,??? Gu said, according to the courtroom spectator, a close associate of 
the defendants who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the 
sensitivity of the case. Gu thanked her lawyers and the judge, as well as the 
prosecutors, who she said ???opened the curtains a little bit, to reveal the 
hidden dirty secrets.???

Gu said calmly that she was ready to face her punishment, according to the 
courtroom observer, and asked for leniency for her loyal household aide, Zhang 
Xiaojun, who was also present. Prosecutors said that Zhang helped her carry out 
the murder but that Gu was the principal offender.

The case sparked China???s most serious political crisis in decades, derailing 
the expected promotion later this year of Bo. It also provoked anger among 
Bo???s many supporters and revealed long-hidden fissures in the top ranks of 
the Communist Party???s normally secretive hierarchy.

With the swift trial of Gu ??? and a sentencing decision expected at a later 
date, following China???s ???usual practice ??? the party seems eager to move 
past the episode before a crucial leadership transition due later this year.

The trial was held in Anhui province, hundreds of miles from Chongqing, where 
the murder occurred. The only reporters allowed inside were from the state-run 
Xinhua News Agency and CCTV, typical for sensitive cases in this tightly 
controlled Communist country. Chinese media outlets relied solely on the Xinhua 
version of the trial, a terse dispatch based entirely on the official court 
statement, which provided few details about the proceedings.

In Chinese courts, unlike those in the United States, defendants often enter no 
plea. Instead, prosecutors outline their evidence and defendants are given a 
chance to speak ??? to rebut the charges, offer a competing narrative or 
suggest mitigating factors. In Gu???s case, the bland court statement said she 
???did not contest??? the prosecution???s case. However, the courtroom observer 
went further, saying in an interview that Gu confessed.

The court statement said that Gu ??? who according to close family associates 
has suffered from severe depression in recent years ??? was not mentally stable 
at the time of the murder and that ???her self-control was weaker than a normal 

(source: Washington Post)


2 get death for honour killing

In an honour-killing case, a Baghpat court on Tuesday awarded the death 
sentence to a man and his son. The man, Maithelesharan, and his son Harendra 
murdered the former???s daughter, Geeta, and her lover Sunil in 2007. Sunil, a 
labourer at a brick kiln and father of four children, had fallen in love with 
Geeta, who was unmarried. Both belonged to the Gujjar community.

On the night of December 27-28, Maithelesharan, along with his 2 sons, caught 
them in a compromising position in an abandoned dwelling adjacent to Sunil???s 
house and hacked them to death and disappeared.

Citing the direction of the Supreme Court that honour killing be treated as 
crimes of ???rarest of rare??? nature, judge Rajendra Babu Sharma termed the 
act ???barbaric and brutal???.

Besides the death sentence, a fine of R80,000 was slapped on Maithelesharan and 
Harendra. Half the amount would be provided to the complainant, Sunil???s 

The case against the third accused, Maithelesharan???s younger son Rahul, is 
currently being heard in a juvenile court.

The judgment has come at a time when panchayats of western UP have often 
defended honour killings to protect social traditions.

Judge Rajendra Babu Sharma last year awarded the death penalty to 10 persons 
accused of honour killing during his posting in Etah district. The case is 
still going on.

(source: Hindustan Times)


Should death penalty be abolished?

December 2010 statistics indicate Tanzania had 295 males and 11 females on the 
death row. But the question remains: don???t these people deserve to be hung as 
per their sentences?

Jack Kevorkian once said: ???I will admit, like Socrates and Aristotle and 
Plato and some other philosophers, that there are instances where the death 
penalty would seem appropriate???

The World Day Against the Death Penalty is marked on October 10 every year and 
it will be globally observed for the 10th consecutive time this year.

The UN will vote for a 4th time in December 2012 when the organization is 
widely expected to support the call for a moratorium by an even higher 

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty already is collecting signatures 
in support of the resolution.

The concept that ???no one can arbitrarily be deprived of his life???, still 
leaves room for states to kill someone where it is not found to be arbitrary.

The word ???arbitrary??? gives states powers to deprive a person of his right 
to life as long as it is done in accordance with the law.

Most of the states, including Tanzania, have made use of this flexibility to 
create laws that allow the state to violate people???s right to life.

The 1977 Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania guarantees the right 
to life, yet law imposing the death penalty violates it by allowing killings 
during lawful warfare and self defence.

Modes of executing the death penalty amongst the states, according to Amnesty 
International, include beheading, electrocuting, hanging, lethal injection and 

The death sentence in Tanzania, according to Cap 21 of the 1985 Criminal 
Procedure Act, is executed by hanging to death.

The law requires heads of state of countries in which the death sentence is 
still in practice to use their powers of signing death warrants, pardoning the 
convicts or ordering the sentence to be substituted and commuted for any other 

Maxim theory explains capital punishment as a reflection of retributive 
justice. It personifies the ancient belief of ???an eye for an eye and tooth 
for tooth???.

As a result of basing on the principle of vengeance, critics, particularly 
Human Rights activists, regard the sentence as outrageous. The Human Rights 
activists??? argument notwithstanding, the death penalty should not be 
abolished. Going by findings of the Harrison poll conducted in the US, over 2/3 
of Americans are still in supports of the punishment.

Considering most of the public voices heard against the capital punishment, the 
overwhelming support of the penalty in the poll findings is surprising.

As if encouraged by the poll results, few countries, including China, Iran, 
Saudi Arabia and some states in the US and Texas, in particular, regularly put 
people to death.

Most supporters believe the death penalty is justifiable on one or more of the 
following grounds: as a means of retribution, as a deterrent to others, as a 
prevention of the danger of re-offending and as a cheapest way of keeping 

The Statistics of Bureau of Justice laments that the support for the death 
penalty keeps increasing, as between 60 and 70 per cent of murder convicts have 
either directly or indirectly committed similar crime.

When a killer repeats the crime, psychologists refer to it as recidivism ??? a 
tendency to return to a previous pattern of behaviour, especially a criminal 

(source: The Citizen; Adam Musa is a JET journalist attached to The Citizen)


Overturn death sentence for drugs offence

The Iranian authorities must urgently overturn the death sentence for a shop 
worker who was tried unfairly on drugs-related charges, Amnesty International 
said, amid fears his execution is imminent.

On 1 August, Saeed Sedeghi was transferred from Tehran???s Kahrizak detention 
centre to Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, 50 km west of the capital.

The transfer came just days after he was brought before Tehran???s 
Revolutionary Court ??? without having a lawyer present ??? and made to sign a 
document informing him that his death sentence would be implemented.

???By transferring Saeed Sedeghi so soon after informing him of the intent to 
carry out his death sentence, we fear the Iranian authorities are gearing up to 
execute him,??? said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa 
Programme Director at Amnesty International.

???His death sentence should be overturned immediately and he should be retried 
in full accordance with international fair trial standards, without recourse to 
the death penalty.???

Before his transfer from the capital, Sedeghi had applied to Iran???s Amnesty 
and Clemency Commission for a pardon, but never received a response about the 

On 2 June 2012, the Revolutionary Court had sentenced him to death for 
purchasing ??? along with three other men ??? and possessing 512 kg of 
methamphetamine (???crystal meth???).

In addition to execution, the court handed Sedeghi a fine of 2 million rials 
(approximately US$163) and sentenced him to 20 lashes for individual possession 
of 21 grams of opium and marijuana.

The convictions came after the shop worker underwent an unfair trial in which 
he had no contact with his state-appointed lawyer before appearing in court.

He told his family he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated while at Kahrizak 
detention centre ??? including having several teeth knocked out by officials 

The Kahrizak detention centre was reportedly closed in 2009 on the order of the 
Supreme Leader following allegations of torture which led to several deaths in 

Subsequently, a new facility is reported to have been opened there under 
another name ??? Soroush 111 ??? though locals in Iran continue to refer to the 
facility as Kahrizak.

The vast majority of executions in Iran in recent years have been for 
drug-related offences, despite there being no clear evidence that the death 
penalty serves as an effective deterrent against such offences ??? the country 
has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in world.

Under Iran???s Anti-Narcotics Law, the death penalty is mandatory in cases of 
possession or trafficking of more than a specified amount of various drugs. In 
December 2010, the law???s scope was expanded to include a wider range of 
illegal drugs, among them methamphetamine.

Under Article 32 of the law, death sentences handed down by lower courts are 
subject to confirmation either by the head of the Supreme Court or the 
Prosecutor General and it appears that those sentenced to death are not granted 
leave to appeal, in contravention of Iranian and international law.

Iran is 2nd only to China in terms of the volume of death sentences carried out 
annually, with many of the more than 600 executions believed to have taken 
place in 2011 carried out behind a cloak of secrecy.

By the 3rd week of July 2012, the Iranian authorities are believed to have 
executed at least 272 people, including 98 executions that have not been 
announced by the authorities. More than 65 % of all executions this year have 
involved drug trafficking.

International standards prohibit the use of the death penalty except for 
???crimes with an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life???, and 
the UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions found that drug-related 
offences do not meet this criterion.

???Drug-related offences like those of which Saeed Sedeghi was convicted do not 
meet the ???most-serious crimes??? threshold prescribed for the use of the 
death penalty,??? said Ann Harrison.

???We urge the Iranian authorities to urgently review the Anti-Narcotics law to 
remove the death penalty as a possible punishment, and to commute the death 
sentences of all prisoners currently on death row.???

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate 
cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, in violation of the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights.

(source: Amnesty International)


IACHR wants Jamaica, other C'bean territories to impose moratorium on death 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on several 
Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, to 
impose a moratorium in the application of the death penalty.

In a statement to coincide with the release of its latest publication titled 
The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions 
to Abolition, the IACHR said that it had examined the death penalty situation 
in nine-member states during the last 15 years.

It said the countries involved are Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, 
Grenada, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.

"Taking into account these standards and developments in the region, and in 
light of the objective of gradually eliminating the death penalty in the 
Inter-American system, the Commission urges the OAS (Organisation of American 
States) member states that still have the death penalty to abolish it or, at 
least, to impose a moratorium to its application.

"In addition, the report recommends the States to ratify the Protocol to the 
American Convention to Abolish the Death Penalty; to refrain from any measure 
that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it (and) 
to take any measures necessary to ensure compliance with the strictest 
standards of due process in capital cases," the statement read.

The IACHR is also calling on states to adopt any steps required to ensure that 
domestic legal standards conform to the heightened level of review applicable 
in death penalty cases, and to ensure full compliance with decisions of the 
Inter-American Commission and Court, and specifically with decisions concerning 
individual death penalty cases and precautionary and provisional measures.

It said that the regional instruments of protection of human rights do not 
prohibit per se the imposition of the death penalty, but they establish 
restrictions and specific prohibitions regarding its application.

"For example, without going so far as to abolish the death penalty, the 
American Convention imposes restrictions designed to delimit strictly its 
application and scope, in order to reduce the application of the penalty to 
bring about its gradual disappearance.

"In this regard, the IACHR notes that there exists a global tendency towards 
the abolition of the death penalty that makes itself evident in the recent 
developments in this matter at the United Nations, regional systems for the 
protection of human rights and in international criminal law," the IACHR said.

In the report, the Commission highlights some advances related to the 
imposition of the death penalty in the region in recent years. Of particular 
importance have been the advances related to the mandatory imposition of the 
death penalty, that is, when this is imposed after a conviction for a crime 
without the opportunity for presenting or considering mitigating circumstances.

As a consequence of the development of Inter-American standards that 
established that the death penalty contravenes the American Convention and the 
American Declaration, as well as of the interaction between the Inter-American 
organs and the judicial bodies of the Commonwealth Caribbean, among other 
factors, there has been progress in the elimination of the mandatory aspect of 
the death penalty in the majority of the countries of the Caribbean.

The IACHR, an autonomous body of the OAS, said it expects that additional 
progress will be made in this direction until its repeal in all the countries 
of the region.

(source: Jamaica Observer)

AUGUST 7, 2012:


Texas executes man despite his claims of low IQ

A Texas man convicted of killing a police informant 2 decades ago was executed 
Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was too 
mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty.

Marvin Wilson, 54, was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m., 14 minutes after his 
lethal injection began at the state prison in Huntsville. Wilson's attorneys 
had argued that he should have been ineligible for capital punishment because 
of his low IQ.

Before the lethal drug was administered, Wilson smiled and raised his head from 
the death-chamber gurney, nodding to his three sisters and son as they watched 
through a window a few feet away. He told them several times that he loved them 
and asked that they give his mother "a big hug."

"Y'all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint," he said. 
"Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord!"

He urged his son not to cry, told his family he would see them again, and then 
told the warden standing next to him that he was ready. He didn't acknowledge 
his victim's father, two brothers and an uncle who were watching through an 
adjacent window. They later declined comment.

As the drug took effect, Wilson quickly went to sleep. He briefly snored before 
his breathing became noticeably shallow. Then it stopped.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Wilson's attorneys had pointed to a 
psychological test conducted in 2004 that pegged his IQ at 61, below the 
generally accepted minimum competency standard of 70. But lower courts agreed 
with state attorneys, who argued that Wilson's claim was based on a single 
possibly faulty test and that his mental impairment claim wasn't supported by 
other tests and assessments over the years.

The Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution less than two 
hours before his lethal injection began. Lead defense attorney Lee Kovarsky 
said he was "gravely disappointed and saddened" by the ruling, calling it 
"outrageous that the state of Texas continues to utilize unscientific 
guidelines ... to determine which citizens with intellectual disability are 
exempt from execution."

Wilson was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jerry Williams in November 1992, 
several days after police seized 24 grams of cocaine from Wilson's apartment 
and arrested him. Witnesses testified that Wilson and another man, Andrew 
Lewis, beat Williams outside of a convenience store in Beaumont, about 80 miles 
east of Houston. Wilson, who was free on bond, accused Williams of snitching on 
him about the drugs, they said.

Witnesses said Wilson and Lewis abducted Williams, and neighborhood residents 
said they heard a gunshot a short time later. Williams was found dead on the 
side of a road the next day, wearing only socks, severely beaten and shot in 
the head and neck at close range.

Wilson was arrested the next day when he reported to his parole officer on a 
robbery conviction for which he served less than four years of a 20-year prison 
sentence. It was the second time he had been sent to prison for robbery.

At Wilson's capital murder trial, Lewis' wife testified that Wilson confessed 
to the killing in front of her, her husband and his own wife.

"Don't be mad at Andrew because Andrew did not do it," Lewis' wife said Wilson 
told them. "I did it."

Lewis received a life prison term for his involvement.

In Wilson's Supreme Court appeal, Kovarsky said Wilson's language and math 
skills "never progressed beyond an elementary school level," that he reads and 
writes below a second-grade level and that he was unable to manage his 
finances, pay bills or hold down a job.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2002 outlawing the execution of the 
mentally impaired, but left it to states to determine what constitutes mental 
impairment. Kovarsky argued that Texas was trying to skirt the ban by altering 
the generally accepted definitions of mental impairment to the point where 
gaining relief for an inmate is "virtually unobtainable."

"That neither the courts nor state officials have stopped this execution is not 
only a shocking failure of a once-promising constitutional commitment, it is 
also a reminder that, as a society, we haven't come quite that far in 
understanding how so many of those around us live with intellectual 
disabilities," Kovarsky said shortly after the court refused to stop Wilson's 

State attorneys say the court left it to states to develop appropriate 
standards for enforcing the ban and that Texas chose to incorporate a number of 
factors besides an inmate's IQ, including the inmate's adaptive behavior and 

Edward Marshall, a Texas assistant attorney general, said records show Wilson 
habitually gave less than full effort and "was manipulative and deceitful when 
it suited his interest," and that the state considered his ability to show 
personal independence and social responsibility in making its determinations.

"Considering Wilson's drug-dealing, street-gambler, criminal lifestyle since an 
early age, he was obviously competent at managing money, and not having a 
9-to-5 job is no critical failure," Marshall said. "Wilson created schemes 
using a decoy to screen his thefts, hustled for jobs in the community, and 
orchestrated the execution of the snitch, demonstrating inventiveness, drive 
and leadership."

Wilson's lawyers also had argued that additional DNA tests should be conducted 
on a gray hair from someone white that was found on Williams' body, suggesting 
someone else killed him. Wilson, Williams and Lewis are black.

Ed Shettle, the Jefferson County assistant district attorney who prosecuted 
Wilson, dismissed the theory of another killer as a "red herring."

"There was some testimony Marvin said: 'We're going to show you what happens to 
snitches around here,'" Shettle said.

Wilson was the 7th person executed by lethal injection in Texas this year, and 
the 484th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 
1982. At least 9 other prisoners in the nation's most active death penalty 
state have execution dates in the coming months, including 1 later this month. 
Wilson becomes the 245th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since 
Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Wilson becomes the 25th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the 
USA and the 1302nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Texas Goes ???Rogue??? and Kills an Intellectually Disabled Man

Today is another sad day for justice in Texas. Texas??? justice system has once 
again blood on its hands. On Tuesday August 17, the State of Texas has killed 
again. This time it is Marvin Wilson, a 54-year-old man. Wilson had an I.Q of 
61 which made him intellectually disabled. The State of Texas recognized in its 
less than sensitive legal lingo that Wilson was ???mentally retarded???. But 
the State just ???didn???t believe that Wilson was ???retarded enough??? not to 
face capital punishment.

The execution today is in flagrant and total breech of a 2002 Supreme Court 
ruling ??? Atkins Versus Virginia- which clearly established that ???the 
mentally retarded should be categorically excluded from the death penalty???. 
Many were hoping that the Supreme Court would intervene to prevent Marvin 
Wilson???s execution, but they declined to do so. Marvin Wilson???s lawyer made 
the following emotional statement after the execution.

???We are gravely disappointed and profoundly saddened that the United States 
Supreme Court has refused to intervene to prevent tonight???s execution of 
Marvin Wilson who has an I.Q of 61, placing him below the first percentage of 
human intelligence. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court categorically banned 
states from executing people with mental retardation. That neither the Court, 
nor state officials have stopped this execution is not only a shocking failure 
of a once promising constitutional commitment, it is also a reminder that as a 
society, we haven???t come quite that far in understanding how so many of those 
around us live with intellectual disabilities.???

The human rights and death penalty abolitionist organization Amnesty 
International took the argument a step further by calling Texas a ???rogue 
State???, and the execution of Wilson ???highly disturbing??? on a 
constitutional stand point in regard to the Supreme Court refusal to act.

???The state of Texas never should have scheduled that execution at all. And it 
is highly disturbing that the Supreme Court has refused to rein in the 
State???s egregious behavior, ignoring its own ruling that someone with mental 
retardation should never be executed. The Texas death penalty, like all capital 
punishment, violates basic human rights,??? said Laura Moye from Amnesty 
International USA.

(source: newsjunkiepost)


Death Penalty to be Sought for Walker County Escapee

A jury will have a life or death decision for the second man to be tried for 
the death of a Walker County corrections officer.

The death penalty will be a possibility for John Ray Falk Jr., the Huntsville 
Item reports. Falk and fellow inmate Jerry Martin were being held at the Wynne 
Unit in 2007 when they escaped custody, stole and truck and hit a horse being 
ridden by TDCJ guard Susan Canfield, who fell and died.

Martin was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to death. He remains on death row.

If Falk were to be convicted of capital murder, the only options for the jury 
would be life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Had prosecutors 
not sought the death option, Falk would have automatically been sentenced to 
life in prison if he was convicted.

The trial could take place later this year.

The Item reports Walker County is asking the state to foot the bill for the 
trial, estimated to cost $500,000. Local officials say since the state was 
responsible in the escape, it should pay for the trial, not Walker County 

The Martin trial cost a reported $400,000, most of which was covered by the 
state. This time, budget issues may prevent them from doing the same.

(source: KBTX News)


Death penalty still undecided in APD Officer Padron shooting case

Travis County prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty 
against a man accused of killing an Austin police officer.

Brandon Daniel, 24, is charged with capital murder. Police say he fatally shot 
Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron on Good Friday inside a North Austin 

Daniel's lawyers appeared in court Tuesday morning, though Daniel did not. They 
say Daniel was using drugs at the time of the shooting and does not have a 
violent past.

"Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty. We just have 
to wait and see," said criminal defense attorney Bill White.

"Of course, that decision ultimately effects what we do on the case. There's 
really a lot of things we can't do until they make that decision," said 
criminal defense attorney Brad Urrutia.

Daniel's next court appearance is set for Sept. 13. Judge Brenda Kennedy says 
the trial will take place sometime next spring.

(source: KVUE News)


Murder suspect has death penalty hearing

A prosecutor announced in court Tuesday that the state is seeking the death 
penalty against a suspect in an April 1 Farmville triple slaying.

The announcement came during a Rule 24 hearing Tuesday morning at the Pitt 
County Detention Center for 20-year-old Xavier Montel Shamble of 3709 Williams 
St., Farmville. At Rule 24 hearings, prosecutors must say in court if the state 
plans to seek the death penalty in a 1st-degree murder case.

Shamble is charged in the shooting deaths of 3 cousins who were preparing to 
close their family business when armed robbers entered the Farmville 
convenience store. 3 others also are charged.

District Attorney Clark Everett announced in court on June 4 the state is 
seeking the death penalty for two of Shamble???s co-defendants. Shamble???s 
attorney, Jon Nuckolls, was unavailable for court that day, and the hearing was 
held open at Everett???s request.

During murder status administrative hearings on Tuesday, Assistant District 
Attorney Kimberly Robb announced the state???s intention in the presence of 
Superior Court Judge Russell Duke, Shamble and his attorney.

???We have given notice we have declared the case capital,??? Robb said. 
Aggravating factors for the death penalty included that the shooting deaths 
occurred during a robbery of the Hustle Mart-3, and robbery was committed for 
monetary gain, she said.

???We knew the state???s intention,??? Nuckolls said. He said the capital 
defender???s office will be notified. 2 attorneys are assigned in capital 

Robb said the district attorney???s office provided discovery to the defense on 
Tuesday. A stack of compact discs sat in front of Nuckolls and Shamble at the 
defense table.

To allow time for review and for further discovery, the case against Shamble 
was placed on the Feb. 5 murder status calendar.

Shamble???s co-defendant, Antwan Andre Anthony, 29, of 3729 Moore Drive, 
Bethel, also appeared in court Tuesday for a murder status hearing.

Robb said a packet of discovery was brought to the detention center and would 
be given to his attorneys. She recommended the case also be continued to the 
Feb. 5 murder status calendar.

???Why so long???? Anthony asked one of his attorneys. The response was not 
audible, and the case was set for an administrative hearing on Feb. 5.

A 3rd defendant, Willie Odell Whitehead Jr., 24, of 101 Devonshire Drive, 
Pinetops, originally was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, but his case was 
handled on Monday. The matter was continued to the next murder status hearing 
on Oct. 2.

The hearings are held every other month to manage the number of homicide cases 
awaiting trial.

(source: The Greenville Daily Reflector)


Dancing Around the Death Penalty----We tie ourselves into knots wondering when 
executions might be defensible, but this is the wrong question to be asking

Death-row inmate Marvin WilsonCentral casting couldn???t produce a better 
illustration of what???s wrong with the death penalty than Marvin Wilson, the 
53-year-old Texan with an IQ of 61 who is (barring an unforeseen stay) 
scheduled for execution this evening. With the mental age of a 6-year-old, he 
reportedly had trouble mastering basic self-care skills like tying his shoes 
and counting change. His alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of police 
drug informant Jerry Williams was always unclear; no evidence or eyewitness 
reports directly linked him to the murder, and his alleged co-conspirator, 
Terry Lewis, escaped with a life sentence (with parole) when his wife testified 
that Wilson had confessed the crime to her.

Yet, the focus on extreme cases like Wilson???s ??? and whether he is legally 
and somehow ???legitimately??? executable despite his mental incapacity ??? 
prevents us from facing a larger truth that all state-sanctioned executions are 
a shameful relic of a bygone era along with the burning of witches and the use 
of child labor in mines.

In nearly every way, we live in a more civilized and less violent world, with 
dramatic declines in homicide, rape, assault, child abuse, animal cruelty and 
discrimination against the vulnerable. We have also acquired an ever greater 
understanding of the biological and social determinants of crime. 
Paradoxically, we tie ourselves in knots with this newfound sophistication, 
searching for a mythical sharp line where mitigating factors may or may not 
justify a death sentence. Does a brain injury from child abuse suffice? What 
about a parentless teenager who was led astray by a sociopath? What about a 
schizophrenic whose paranoia resulted in refusing to take his medications? 
Poverty? Retardation? Autism?

But these mental gymnastics are morally and logically bankrupt, and we cheapen 
ourselves by deploying them. Our eye-for-an-eye approach to the death penalty 
is getting progressively harder to support with reason. We know the death 
penalty doesn???t deter people. We know it is extremely expensive to apply 
???fairly.??? So the only remaining arguments are emotional ??? the most 
compelling of which is that the families of murder victims want it.

Interestingly, the ???closure??? defense of the death penalty only gained 
traction in the early 1990s when deterrence arguments came up short and states 
found it increasingly difficult to bear the costs. Yet, defending the death 
penalty out of revenge or sensitivity to the victims??? families does a 
disservice to the many families who do not want this kind of justice. ???It???s 
almost like if you really loved the person who was killed, you should seek the 
death penalty,??? Kate Lowenstein, program staff at Murder Victims??? Families 
for Human Rights (and the daughter of a murdered father), explained to TIME.

Moreover, many of the people who witnessed the execution of a loved one???s 
murderer have stated that it failed to give them the closure they were looking 
for. This shouldn???t surprise us given renowned Harvard psychologist Dan 
Gilbert???s research on ???affective forecasting,??? and specifically the 
striking inability of most people to accurately anticipate their future 
emotional states. People think something will make them happy; but we are 
actually not very good at forecasting our response to even common experiences.

One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is the delegation of justice to a 
third party rather than to a vengeful mob with flaming torches. It???s true 
that support for the death penalty remains higher (around 2/3 of the 
population) than in 1966 (42%) when the death penalty was illegal. This puts us 
in the dubious company of rogue states like Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. But 
it???s also true that just because the majority wants it does not mean it is 
correct. We cheapen our government ??? and ultimately ourselves ??? by 
requiring the state to have a hand in what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun 
once called the ???machinery of death.???

We can keep ???tinkering??? with the practice of executions, as Blackmun noted, 
keeping Marvin Wilson alive for a few more years while we kill a more obviously 
despicable person, all in the hope that we can keep our hands clean. We 

(source: Erika Christakis, TIME Magazine)


More local attorneys to be used in death penalty cases

For the next 12 to 24 months, the Georgia Public De???fen???der Standards 
Council will appoint local attorneys to future death penalty cases ???in an 
effort to improve the delivery of services,??? according to an Aug. 2 letter 
from Execu???tive Director Travis Sakri???son to Chief Judge Carlisle 

Mon???day was scheduled to be Johnson???s third trial date since his indictment 
in 2009 in the death of Martha Greene. But last month, the third co-counsel 
appointed to Johnson???s case said he couldn???t be ready for trial. Superior 
Court Judge David Roper declared that the Geor???gia Capital Defender Office 
was ???systemically broken??? and threatened to remove public defenders from 
the case.

The office has since contracted seasoned death penalty attorneys Jacque Hawk 
and Peter John???son to assist in the case. There was also a meeting in 
Co???lum???bia County involving Pub???lic Defender Kate Mason, District 
Attorney Ashley Wright, Overstreet, standards council Chairman Ron Cross and 

In court, Wright classified the meeting as an ???airing of grievances??? about 
issues pertaining to local death penalty cases.

Wright said she discussed ???my frustration and inability to get cases into a 
courtroom??? for trial and a ???lack of consistent representation??? by the 
defenders??? office. She questioned why nothing had changed since Superior 
Court Judge Daniel Craig chastised the office last summer for long delays in 
the case of Tony Grubbs.

Instead of starting Johnson???s trial Monday, Roper presented what he viewed as 
evidence that the system was broken, and the defenders??? office answered his 
complaints, contending that it would take more funding from the state 
Legislature to boost the office???s performance.

???The remedy is not in this courtroom,??? Hawk said. ???We can???t fix what 
the Legislature has created and not funded.???

After the hearing, Sakri???son said several measures were in place to improve 
the quality of work, specifically in the Augusta circuit. Chief among them was 
the new policy of hiring local counsel. He also said a regional office was 
opening in Athens, similar to those in Tifton and Brunswick, to eliminate 
excessive travel between Atlanta and Augusta.

???Going forward, the plan is to look at effectiveness,??? he said.

Wright said her goal is to continue pushing the John???son case, which is now 
planned for trial in January. She said local attorneys will have more incentive 
to perform diligently because they know the judges in this circuit.

(source: Augusta Chronicle)


Appeal will halt Haugen's death warrant proceedings

Death-row inmate Gary Haugen will have to wait a little longer for the setting 
of a date for his death warrant.

Although a judge ruled Friday that Haugen has the legal right to reject a 
reprieve from Gov. John Kitzhaber, a hearing for a new date will have to follow 
the conclusion of Haugen???s lawsuit against Kitzhaber.

That is unlikely to occur soon.

Kitzhaber said he would appeal the decision by Timothy Alexander, a senior 
judge from Washington County assigned to the case in Marion County Circuit 

Kitzhaber has 30 days from the time the decision is made official to file an 
appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals. He is represented by the Oregon 
Department of Justice.

???If (and that is the key) either of the parties exercise their right to 
appeal the trial court decision, then that likely would stay any trial court 
proceeding to issue a death warrant,??? said Phil Lemman, a spokesman for the 
Oregon Judicial Department, which operates the courts.

Alexander specified that Haugen would have to request a hearing that would set 
a date for a new death warrant. That hearing also would be in Marion County 
Circuit Court, and Alexander likely would preside.

It was unlikely that proceedings for a death warrant would go forward until the 
current litigation is resolved.

In 1958, the most recent instance in which the governor granted a reprieve in a 
death-penalty case, the courts and then-Gov. Robert Holmes delayed the 
execution of a death warrant for convicted murderer Billy Junior Nunn.

Holmes had been sued by the parents of the murder victim in an attempt to block 
Holmes???s commutation of Nunn???s sentence. The Supreme Court decided that 
Holmes had the authority, the parents lacked legal standing to sue ??? legal 
rights for crime victims were in the future ??? and Holmes commuted the 
sentence to life imprisonment five days before he left office in 1959.

This case is a civil lawsuit by Haugen against Kitzhaber, whose reprieve 
blocked Haugen???s execution that had been set for Dec. 6 of last year.

The Court of Appeals could decide to hear the case itself, either by a panel of 
three judges or a full court of all 10 judges. Some judges might choose not to 
sit in on the case if there are potential conflicts.

The court would require written arguments, known as briefs, before any hearing.

Unlike the previous proceedings in Marion County Circuit Court, Haugen would 
not appear personally at hearings in appellate courts, where points of law are 

The lawyers for both sides could request the intermediate-level court to 
expedite the case to the Oregon Supreme Court. The state???s highest court 
automatically reviews all appeals of death-penalty cases, although this case 
does not fall into this category and does not trigger a bypass.

On a 4-3 decision Nov. 21, the day before Kitzhaber issued his reprieve, a 
divided Supreme Court upheld Haugen???s original warrant issued in Marion 
County Circuit Court.

2 of the dissenting justices, Paul De Muniz and Robert Durham, are scheduled to 
leave the court when their terms end Jan. 7, 2013.

David Brewer, a Court of Appeals judge, already has been elected to succeed De 
Muniz in Position 2. Durham???s Position 3 will await a Nov. 6 runoff between 
Richard Baldwin, a Multnomah County circuit judge, and Nena Cook, a Portland 

Haugen, 50, is seeking to be the 1st to die by lethal injection since Kitzhaber 
chose to allow executions to proceed in 1996 and 1997. Like the others, Haugen 
has chosen to waive appeals.

Oregon had 36 men and 1 woman on death row as of last year. Kitzhaber has vowed 
no executions during his current term, which runs through Jan. 12, 2015, but 
his reprieve applies only to Haugen.

Voters abolished Oregon???s death penalty in 1964 ??? after repealing it in 
1914 and reinstating it in 1920 ??? but then reinstated it for a second time in 
1984. (An earlier ballot measure in 1978 was overturned by the Oregon Supreme 

A death-penalty opposition group sided with Kitzhaber and against Friday???s 

???We feel that the governor is totally within his right to declare a 
moratorium on executions,??? said Ron Steiner, board chairman of Oregonians for 
Alternatives to the Death Penalty. ???And we believe that this decision will be 
overturned upon appeal.???

(source: Statesman Journal)


Suit filed over Colorado death penalty appeals process

The Colorado State Public Defender's office sue in federal court challenging 
the state's unified system of death-penalty appeals.

The lawsuit, filed last week, comes in connection with the case of Sir Mario 
Owens, who was convicted in 2008 and and sentenced to die for killing Javad 
Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe. Marshall-Fields had been scheduled to testify 
against Owens in a separate murder case.

Owens' death-penalty case is the first subject to a unified state appellate 
process, in which conviction and post-conviction reviews are handled in a 
single appeal and can take no longer than two years to resolve.

Previously, the reviews were handled one after the other and could take many 

The state legislature adopted the unified process in 1997 in an effort to speed 
up death penalty appeals. For instance, Nathan Dunlap, who is currently in the 
midst of a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in his last legally guaranteed 
appeal, has been on death row for 16 years.

Under a non-unified system, defendants have two avenues for appeal. The 1st, 
known as a direct appeal, analyzes the validity of a conviction or a sentence 
based on the information presented at trial. The 2nd, a postconviction appeal, 
argues such issues as whether a defendant received competent representation and 
can also introduce new evidence.

In the unified process, those avenues are taken up at the same time, though 
different attorneys are assigned to the two parts.

The public defender's office argues that the unified process creates inherent 
conflicts of interest by pitting the lawyers on the 2 prongs of his appeal 
against one another. Lawyers on the postconviction side, for instance, may want 
to make arguments that undermine the direct appeal side.

Because defendants not sentenced to death don't undergo a unified appeal, the 
lawsuit argues, the appeal process also unfairly singles out death-penalty 
defendants. "This conflict represents a grave constitutional flaw," the lawsuit 

The lawsuit names the 18th Judicial District Attorney's office, which 
prosecuted Owens, and Owens' current appellate attorneys as defendants. They 
have not yet responded to the suit.

(source: The Denver Post)


State Supreme Court Upholds Conviction, Death Sentence for Deputy's Killer ---- 
The killing of the Los Angeles County Sherrif's deputy took place in South 

On Monday the California Supreme Court today upheld the conviction and death 
sentence for a man convicted of murdering a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy 
in South Gate nearly 15 years ago.

The state's highest court unanimously found that the trial court did not deny 
due process to Enrique Parra Duenas by excusing three jurors for cause and 
admitting as evidence an animated re-creation of the shooting which killed 
Michael Hoenig.

Duenas was convicted of 1st-degree murder for the Oct. 30, 1997, slaying of the 
32-year-old deputy. Jurors also found true special circumstance allegations of 
murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties and lying in wait 
and recommended the death penalty, which a judge imposed.

Hoenig initially tried to stop Duenas while he was riding a bicycle without 
lights around 1 a.m. on Seminole Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard in Lynwood. 
Police were stopping and interviewing cyclists because a suspect in several 
recent burglaries had left the scene on a bike.

Duenas showed the officer his middle finger and shouted a expletive before 
riding off, according to facts of the case detailed in the high court's 

The 10-year law enforcement veteran -- who was assigned to the sheriff's 
Century station -- got into his patrol car to pursue Duenas. When Duenas fell 
off his bike and Hoenig started to exit his patrol car, Duenas fired at least 7 
shots with a .45-caliber handgun.

One of the four shots that struck the deputy hit just above his bulletproof 
vest and he was dead within a minute. Duenas left him lying near his patrol 
car, his gun unfired in his right hand.

Duenas was taken into custody less than an hour later after being bitten by a 
police dog while hiding near a garage. The murder weapon was found nearby with 
his fingerprints on it, according to court documents.

When a sheriff's sergeant took the defendant into custody, Duenas said,``Why 
don't you just kill me? I deserve to die for what I did,'' according to 
evidence presented at trial. But the defendant later recanted, saying because 
he was ``tweaking'' on methamphetamine, he couldn't recall the facts and, at 
another time, that the deputy had fired first.

Duenas -- then 26 -- was convicted in December 1998, with jurors recommending 
six days later that he be sentenced to death for his crimes. He was formally 
sentenced to death in January 1999.

Defense attorney Ronald F. Turner unsuccessfully argued that the lower court 
should not have excused three jurors because of their views on the death 
penalty or allowed jurors to view animation illustrating experts' opinions 
about how the shooting took place.

In a 35-page opinion authored by Justice Joyce L. Kennard, the state's high 
court upheld the trial court's actions and also rejected Turner's challenge to 
the constitutionality of the death penalty law.

(source: Lynwood Patch)


When the Financially Corrupt Were Tortured, Hanged and Beheaded

No less than the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) posted a column on the history of 
putting to death those who engage in financial malfeasance.

Jason Zweig, who wrote the WSJ essay, notes, "The history of drastic punishment 
for financial crimes may be nearly as old as wealth itself."

Zweig takes the reader on a quick sweep of history concerning punishment for 
financial misdeeds, of which the following is an excerpt:

In Florence during the Renaissance, the Arte del Cambio ??? the guild of 
mercantile money-changers who facilitated the city's international trade ??? 
made the cheating of clients punishable by torture. Rule 70 of the guild's 
statutes stipulated that any member caught in unethical conduct could be 
disciplined on the rack "or other corrective instruments" at the headquarters 
of the guild.

But financial crimes weren't merely punished; they were stigmatized. Dante's 
Inferno is populated largely with financial sinners, each category with its own 
distinctive punishment: misers who roll giant weights pointlessly back and 
forth with their chests, thieves festooned with snakes and lizards, usurers 
draped with purses they can't reach, even forecasters whose heads are wrenched 
around backward to symbolize their inability to see what is in front of them.

Counterfeiting and forgery, as the historian Marvin Becker noted in 1976, "were 
much less prevalent in Florence during the second half of the fourteenth 
century than in Tuscany during the twentieth century" and "the bankruptcy rate 
stood at approximately one-half [the modern rate]."

And in England, "The British government was so determined to stamp out these 
financial crimes that it put Sir Isaac Newton on the case. Appointed as warden 
of the Royal Mint in 1696, Newton promptly began uncovering those who violated 
the financial laws of the nation with the same passion he brought to 
discovering the physical laws of the universe."

But we are a civilized society for those of the top 1% who defraud customers, 
the nation, and engage in risk taking for profit that undermines the world 
economy. Perish the thought of capital punishment, we don't even put those who 
oversee Wall Street financial malfeasance in jail; heck, we don't even charge 

Yes, a few underlings, "guppies," are arrested now and then, but that is 
because their fraud was not large enough and was strictly personal (such as 
embezzlement). But if it is illegal activity on a massive firm-wide scale, then 
no one is held accountable. The financial giants just get a fine (if that even 
happens) that is less than the amount that they profited from their violation 
of regulations and the law, so they end up with a net revenue gain as a reward 
for their felonious behavior.

Zweig concludes, "Wall Street offers its risk-takers the potential to earn tens 
of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars, when bets pay off, with no 
real penalties when bets go bad. Until ??? or unless ??? that culture changes, 
nothing fundamental will change." But he remains skeptical that holding 
individuals responsible for "too big to fail" illegal behavior will work.

That's his opinion.

In our book, it's still worth a try. Enabling the current double standard of 
putting a person in jail for kiting a few checks, but not even charging anybody 
for pre-meditated actions that lead to billions of dollars in fraudulent 
activity, well that's not only unfair; it results in a nation committing 
financial suicide.



Open Letter on the recent executions

Mr. Makoto Taki

Minister of Justice of Japan

#216 Shugiin Giin-Kaikan, 2-1-2

Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo


Paris 7th August 2012

Your Excellency,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Coalition 
against the Death Penalty (WCADP) join their member organization in Japan, the 
Center for Prisoners??? Rights (CPR), to strongly condemn the execution by 
hanging of Mr Junya Hattori and Mr Kyozo Matsumura on Friday 3rd August. These 
executions bring the number of executions in Japan to 5 this year, and 
blatantly contradict international trends towards abolition.

Junya Hattori was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, yet on the request 
of public prosecutors who had appealed against the original verdict, the Tokyo 
High Court condemned him to death. Kyozo Matsumura???s death sentence was 
finalized when he withdrew an appeal to the High Court, another reminder that 
Japan does not have a mandatory appeal system despite repeated recommendations 
by UN bodies.

In January this year, we wrote to the Government of Japan 
(http://www.fidh.org/Open-letter-on-...) lauding it for not carrying out any 
execution in 2011. However, we strongly believe that this year???s executions 
contradict all past efforts by the Government of Japan to end its use of the 
death penalty. We take this opportunity to remind you that as state party to 
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Japan must respect 
the right to life.

No justice system in the world is perfect and none is immune to wrongful 
convictions of the innocent. The death penalty not only can result in 
irreversible tragedies but also is not an effective deterrent of crimes, as its 
proponents would argue in spite of ample evidence and experience in many 
countries to the contrary. The lack of adequate protection of the rights of the 
accused in Japanese criminal procedures, identified in 2008 in the FIDH-CPR 
fact-finding mission report ???The law of silence, going against the 
international trend??? (http://www.fidh.org/The-law-of-sile...), only adds to 
the risk of wrongful convictions and executions.

FIDH and WCADP call on the Government of Japan to refrain from approving any 
execution order and establish, as soon as possible, an independent, broad-based 
panel of experts, including civil society representatives, to study and make 
recommendations to the government on the abolition of the death penalty. The 
execution orders on Friday 3rd August are even more shocking given that they 
were issued a few days before a meeting you will have with CPR and Amnesty 
International Japan who appealed to you not to authorize any execution.

We hope that you will seriously and urgently take our concerns and 
recommendations into consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen----FIDH president

Florence Bellivier----WCADP president

(source: FIDH.org)


Indians' death sentence overturned by Malaysian court

The death sentences of two Indian nationals on drug trafficking charges were 
set aside on Tuesday by a Malaysian appeals court, which said the lower court 
had not considered the complete evidence in the 2010 case.

The 2 Indians -- Ramjali Sayed Ibrahim and Sayed Ibrahim Mydeen Batcha -- 
walked out free after the Malaysian Appeals Court ruled in their favour and 
allowed their appeals to set aside convictions for trafficking in ketamine 

Justice Abdul Malik Ishak, chairing a 3-member panel ruled that their 
convictions were not safe as many aspects of the evidence were not considered 
by the High Court judge.

The panel set aside the Shah Alam High Court's decision on October 25, 2010 
which found the two guilty of trafficking in the drug and sentenced them to 
death. The duo have been in prison since February 9, 2009.

They were alleged to have carried a bag each containing tins of turmeric powder 
where the drug was found concealed.

The bags also contained prayer items like joss sticks and incense.

Ramjali, 46, a photographer, was charged with trafficking in 14,166.9 grammes 
of ketamine at the Customs check-in counter in the Arrival Hall of the Kuala 
Lumpur International Airport on Feb 9, 2009.

(source: Zee News)


Caribbean countries urged to impose moratorium on death penalty

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on several 
Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, to 
impose a moratorium in the application of the death penalty.

In a statement to coincide with the release of its latest publication titled 
???The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From 
Restrictions to Abolition???, the IACHR said that it had examined the death 
penalty situation in nine-member states during the last 15 years.

It said the countries involved are Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Granada, 
Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.

???Taking into account these standards and developments in the region, and in 
light of the objective of gradually eliminating the death penalty in the 
inter-American system, the Commission urges the OAS (Organisation of American 
States) member states that still have the death penalty to abolish it or, at 
least, to impose a moratorium to its application.

???In addition, the report recommends the States to ratify the Protocol to the 
American Convention to Abolish the Death Penalty; to refrain from any measure 
that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it (and) 
to take any measures necessary to ensure compliance with the strictest 
standards of due process in capital cases???.

The IACHR is calling also on states to adopt any steps required to ensure that 
domestic legal standards conform to the heightened level of review applicable 
in death penalty cases, and to ensure full compliance with decisions of the 
Inter-American Commission and Court, and specifically with decisions concerning 
individual death penalty cases and precautionary and provisional measures.

It said that the regional instruments of protection of human rights do not 
prohibit per se the imposition of the death penalty, but they establish 
restrictions and specific prohibitions regarding its application.

???For example, without going so far as to abolish the death penalty, the 
American Convention imposes restrictions designed to delimit strictly its 
application and scope, in order to reduce the application of the penalty to 
bring about its gradual disappearance.

???In this regard, the IACHR notes that there exists a global tendency towards 
the abolition of the death penalty that makes itself evident in the recent 
developments in this matter at the United Nations, regional systems for the 
protection of human rights and in international criminal law.???

In the report, the Commission highlights some advances related to the 
imposition of the death penalty in the region in recent years. Of particular 
importance have been the advances related to the mandatory imposition of the 
death penalty, that is, when this is imposed after a conviction for a crime 
without the opportunity for presenting or considering mitigating circumstances.

As a consequence of the development of inter-American standards that 
established that the death penalty contravenes the American Convention and the 
American Declaration, as well as of the interaction between the inter-American 
organs and the judicial bodies of the Commonwealth Caribbean, among other 
factors, there has been progress in the elimination of the mandatory aspect of 
the death penalty in the majority of the countries of the Caribbean.

The IACHR, an autonomous body of the OAS, said it expects that additional 
progress will be made in this direction until its repeal in all the countries 
of the region.

(source: Antigua Observer)


SC moved against death penalty law

An application on behalf of the Watan Party was moved in the Supreme Court???s 
Lahore Registry for early hearing of a petition requesting abolition of death 
penalty for it being in violation of the constitution. The petitioner???s 
counsel, Barrister Zafarullah, requested the court to fix the main petition for 
early hearing. In the main petition, the petitioner had stated that use of 
death penalty was not only unconstitutional but also cruel. He had pointed out 
that due to the prevailing corruption in society, the chances of innocent 
people becoming victims of such a law were high. The petition had also stated 
that out of 213 countries of the world, only 68 were in favour of death 
penalty. It had further said that Pakistan was constitutionally a democratic 
country, where the majority believed that the purpose of the constitution was 
to provide the people safety and welfare. The petitioner said that it was 
beyond doubt that there were many miscreants and violators of the law, but 
their behaviour needed to be regulated by punishments, instead of terminating 
their lives. He stated that the right to life was a natural right embodied in 
the Article 9 of the constitution, whereas death penalty was unnatural 
termination of life, therefore it was incompatible with the concept of right to 
life. He further said that the leaders who had drafted the 1973 Constitution 
were aware of the abolition of death penalty in many countries, particularly 
England, whose legal system we had adopted. He also mentioned the case of 
former president and prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged in 1979 
and a presidential reference was recently moved in the Supreme Court to reopen 
the case.

(source: The Dasily Times)

AUGUST 6, 2012:

TEXAS----impending execution

Marvin Wilson, death row inmate diagnosed as 'mentally retarded,' to be 

Marvin Wilson, who has an IQ of 61, should be exempted from death row under a 
Supreme Court ban.

Marvin Wilson, a death row inmate who has been medically diagnosed as "mentally 
retarded" and should be exempt from execution under a Supreme Court ban, is set 
to die on Tuesday in Texas.

Wilson, 54, will be killed by lethal injection, despite a 2002 Supreme Court 
ruling on the Eighth Amendment of the constitution which prohibits "excessive 
punishment" for prisoners who are deemed intellectually disabled, the Guardian 

While states that allow capital punishment responded to the 2002 ruling in the 
case Atkins v Virginia by formulating laws to instruct their courts on how to 
decide cases involving a claim of mental retardation, Texas avoided passing 
such a statute, Salon reported.

"Unfortunately, Texas continues to circumvent the US Supreme Court's 
categorical ban on the execution of offenders with mental retardation by 
developing its own set of determining factors for who will be exempt from 
execution," democratic Texas Senator Rodney Ellis, who is working to overturn 
the execution, said in a news release, the Star-Telegram reported.

Attorneys for the convicted killer are also lobbying the US Supreme Court to 
overturn the death sentence, the Associated Press reported Monday. They argue 
that Wilson's IQ score of 61 qualifies him as clearly mentally impaired and 
thus exempt from execution.

More from GlobalPost: Gary Haugen, death-row inmate, can reject clemency, 
Oregon judge says

"This case really does very much push the line," said Paul Campos, a professor 
at the University of Colorado Law School, who is not involved with Wilson's 
defense, the Huffington Post reported. "We're talking about a mental child."

Wilson was initially convicted in 1992 for shooting 21-year-old Jerry Williams, 
a police informant who had provided information that led to Wilson's arrest for 
drug possession, the AP reported.

Amnesty International also denounced Texas' decision to execute Wilson, calling 
it "utterly shameful" and demanding that the Supreme Court intervene.

"The Supreme Court must hear this case if Texas refuses to commute the 
sentence," Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International's death penalty 
abolition campaign, told the Star-Telegram.

"If Wilson is executed on Tuesday, Texas will be rendering the US supreme 
court's Eighth Amendment prohibition on the execution of mentally retarded 
prisoners a prohibition in name only," said Lee Kovarsky, Wilson's lawyer.

(source: Global Post)


Death penalty 'definite possibility' for Angelina double-murder suspect

A man accused of killing a Lufkin woman and her brother in July could be facing 
the death penalty, according to the Angelina County district attorney.

Clyde Herrington said it is a "definite possibility" that the state will pursue 
the death penalty for Terrance Barnes, 31, who is charged with capital murder.

Authorities believe Barnes stabbed his girlfriend, Rosa Pina, and her brother, 
Pepe Pina, to death at their residence on John Kolb Road on July 26. He was 
arrested in the area that night, following a massive manhunt. Authorities say 
he confessed to the stabbings.

Barnes was in District Judge Paul White's courtroom Monday morning, where he 
was supposed to announce who his attorney would be.

Barnes explained to White that his mother was going to hire an attorney. White 
had Barnes write down her phone number and left the courtroom to call her.

When White returned, he asked why the number did not go through and if he had 
another number.

"I have some numbers in my cell," Barnes said. "I don't remember them off the 
top of my head."

"Well, bring them tomorrow," White said. "We'll have you back over here."

(source: KTRE News)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Judge denies petition for Okla. death row inmate

An Oklahoma death row inmate will appeal a federal judge's refusal to block his 
execution until state officials provide a backup dose of an anesthetic used 
during lethal injections, the inmate's attorney said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange rejected Michael Hooper's request to 
at least temporarily halt his scheduled Aug. 14 execution. Hooper was sentenced 
to death for the December 1993 killings of his former girlfriend, 23-year-old 
Cynthia Lynn Jarman, and her 2 children, 5-year-old Tonya and 3-year-old Timmy.

Hooper's attorney, Jim Drummond, said he is appealing to the 10th U.S. Circuit 
Court of Appeals in Denver.

Drummond filed a lawsuit on Hooper's behalf last month in an attempt to force 
the state to provide a backup dose of pentobarbital, the 1st of 3 drugs 
administered during a lethal injection. At the time, state officials said they 
had only 1 dose of pentobarbital. They have since obtained 20 more doses, but 
Drummond said that doesn't eliminate concerns about the way the state carries 
out executions.

Pentobarbital is used to render a condemned inmate unconscious in Oklahoma's 
lethal injection protocol. Condemned inmates are given a 5,000-milligram dose 
of pentobarbital followed by vecuronium bromide, which stops the inmate's 
breathing, then potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Drummond has said that if the sedative is ineffective, the remaining drugs may 
cause great pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against 
cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit also questions whether the state's 20 new doses of pentobarbital, 
which is similar to a drug used to euthanize animals, were manufactured for 
human or veterinary use, and whether the state's execution protocol is 
constitutional. The suit notes that other states have adopted a one-drug 
process that involves a single fast-acting barbiturate that supporters say 
causes no pain.

But in her ruling Friday, Miles-LaGrange said Hooper's claims are speculative 
and that he "has not made a clear showing that a substantial risk of severe 
pain exists compared to known and available alternatives."

The judge noted the experts have testified that the state's dosage of 
pentobarbital "is 'an enormous overdose' that would render an individual 
unconscious and would result in the cessation of respiration and the drop in 
blood pressure 'to an unsurvivable level.'"

"Further, such a dose will give rise to a virtually nil likelihood that the 
inmate will feel the effects of the subsequently administered vecuronium 
bromide and potassium chloride," Miles-LaGrange wrote.

Hooper, 39, was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in Canadian 
County that recommended he receive the death penalty. The federal appeals court 
upheld Hooper's convictions in 2002, but overturned his death sentences. Hooper 
was once again sentenced to death in 2004.

Prosecutors alleged the victims were with Hooper in a pickup truck in a mowed 
field when Hooper placed the muzzle of a 9mm pistol under Cynthia Jarman's chin 
and shot her. Blood in her lungs indicated she had time to draw a partial 
breath before he shot her execution-style in the right temple, authorities 

Prosecutors alleged that he then shot the children to prevent them from being 
witnesses to their mother's murder. Each of the victims was shot twice in the 
head and their bodies were buried in a shallow grave in a field northwest of 
Oklahoma City.


Appeals court overturns Okla. man's death penalty

A federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of an Oklahoma City 
man convicted of killing his common-law wife and her fetus.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver found that Victor Wayne Hooks 
did not receive effective counsel when he was sentenced in 1989 for the 1988 
beating death of Shalimein Blaine. Hooks was sentenced to 500 years in prison 
for the death of the fetus.

The court said Hooks' attorney failed to thoroughly explore Hooks' background 
that included abuse when he was a child and a head injury in an auto accident. 
The court also said the attorney failed to properly prepare a defense 
psychiatrist for testimony.

State attorney general's spokeswoman Diane Clay said state attorneys will spend 
the next several days reviewing the ruling.

(source for both: Associated Press)


Fish & Richardson Receives 2012 Pro Bono Exceptional Service Award from the 
American Bar Association

Fish & Richardson announced today that it has received the 2012 Exceptional 
Service Award for its commitment and dedication to the representation of 
prisoners on death row from the American Bar Association's Death Penalty 
Representation Project. Fish was selected from a large field of law firms that 
have done significant pro bono work on behalf of death row inmates.

The Death Penalty Representation Project believes that all persons facing a 
possible death sentence should have the assistance of competent, effective 
lawyers at every stage of the proceedings against them. Each year, the Project 
honors firms that have gone above and beyond in their death penalty pro bono 
practice through the number of cases handled, substantial financial and hourly 
commitment, attention devoted to the death penalty debate, and impact rendered 
on the justice system through legal victory, legislation, and litigation.

Since taking on its first death penalty pro bono case in 2008, Fish attorneys 
have developed an in-house expertise in death penalty representation. The firm 
is currently handling five active cases involving 31 attorneys, 10 paralegals, 
and numerous support staff.

The American Bar Association created the Death Penalty Representation Project 
in 1986. Its goals are to raise awareness about the lack of representation 
available to death row prisoners, to address this urgent need by recruiting 
competent volunteer attorneys, and to offer these volunteers training and 
assistance. The Project also works for systemic changes in the criminal justice 
system that would assure those individuals facing death are represented at all 
stages of the proceedings from trial through clemency by qualified, adequately 
compensated counsel.

Fish & Richardson is a global law firm providing strategic counseling and 
litigation services to innovative clients who seek to protect and maximize the 
value of their intellectual property (IP). With more than 375 attorneys and 
technology specialists practicing IP strategy and counseling, IP litigation, 
and business litigation, Fish is known for its superior technical expertise. 
Fish has been named top patent litigation firm in the country for eight 
straight years, a premier IP firm for America's biggest companies, and an elite 
top tier law practice. For more information, visit www.fr.com or follow 
@fishrichardson on Twitter.

[source: Fish & Richardson ]

(source: Sacramento Bee)


Polk County woman: Car-lot killer raped me 9 years ago

William Roger Davis III, a near genius, used a knife to get women to do what he 
wanted, according to evidence at his trial.

9 years ago, he used one when he tried to force a woman he had raped several 
months earlier into his car in a Walmart parking lot in Polk County, his victim 
told jurors Monday.

And on Oct. 29, 2009, he used one to force 19-year-old Fabiana Malave to drive 
him from the used car lot where she worked near Longwood to his home in Pine 
Hills, where he raped then strangled her.

The 34-year-old Davis is back in court this week for the penalty phase of his 
murder trial. 3 months ago, a Seminole County jury rejected his insanity 
defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and rape in 
Malave's case.

The same 12-member jury must now decide whether to recommend that he be given 
the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. The panel is expected to 
begin deliberations Wednesday.

Davis, a former Army infantryman, told Circuit Judge John Galluzzo that he may 
testify Tuesday.

Also on tap for Tuesday: psychiatrist Jeffrey Danziger; a psychologist; Davis' 
father, stepmother and grandparents.

Prosecutors told jurors that Davis' IQ is 127, near genius, but he also has a 
history of sexual violence and mental illness.

During the earlier part of the trial, defense attorneys told jurors that Davis 
is manic-depressive and suffers from borderline personality disorder.

The judge on Monday morning asked Davis before jurors were brought into the 
courtroom if he'd had his medicine. The defendant said yes.

A Polk County woman testified Monday that Davis raped her in 2003.

He was her former boyfriend, she said, but they had broken up. She came home 
one night, she said, to find him in her house.

"I went into my room and smelled cigarette smoke," she said. "He came out of 
the bathroom. ??? He hit me."

He forced her onto the bed, she said, pulled off her clothes and raped her.

He was arrested and pleaded guilty to burglary with an assault and was placed 
on probation, according to Department of Correction employees.

Part of the sentence required him to stay away from the woman, but she 
testified that 6 months later, he put a knife to her throat and tried to abduct 
her by dragging her out of her car and into his in a Walmart parking lot.

She got away, the woman said, by slamming the car door on his leg and speeding 

For that, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for aggravated assault and 
false imprisonment, records show. He was on probation for that crime when he 
killed Malave.

Assistant State Attorney Anna Valentini asked jurors to recommend the death 

Davis has a violent past, she said, and killed Malave although the young woman 
had done everything he'd asked.

Also on Monday, the victim's sister read to the jury a letter written by her 
mother, Gioconda Rodriguez, who said she misses Malave:

"She was fragile. ??? She was so good, she believed everyone was good," 
Malave's mother wrote. "Mr. Davis stole my daughter from me."

Davis confessed the day of the slaying after deputies discovered the victim's 
body in his SUV.

He had loaded her into the vehicle, covered her with a blanket and garbage bag 
and drove her back to Seminole County, where the vehicle was spotted by 

Davis' mother, Barbara Shoop, testified via an Internet video feed.

She described her son as a boy from a broken home whose father was sometimes 
abusive and whose stepmother sometimes treated him as an extra mouth to feed.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Colorado death penalty law unconstitutional, study contends

Colorado prosecutors could seek the death penalty in the vast majority of 
1st-degree murder cases in the state but instead pursue it so infrequently that 
the state's capital-punishment system is unconstitutionally arbitrary, 3 law 
professors argue in a new study.

The conclusion could be earth-shaking for the Colorado criminal-justice system, 
at a time when prosecutors in Arapahoe County are deciding whether to pursue 
the death penalty against Aurora shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes. It could 
have more direct implications in the looming death-penalty sentencing hearing 
of Edward Montour ??? whose defense team initiated the study and included it in 
a motion.

"This is a groundbreaking study," said David Lane, one of Montour's defense 

Colorado law says a person must be convicted of first-degree murder, the most 
serious murder charge, and also meet an extra aggravating factor to be eligible 
for a death sentence. To conduct the study, the professors ??? in a 
first-of-its-kind effort in Colorado ??? assembled a list of all homicide cases 
between 1999 and 2010, then identified which of those cases were first-degree 
murder cases.

The study finds that 92 % of the state's 544 1st-degree murder cases in that 
time span contained at least one of the aggravating factors that make the case 
eligible for the death penalty. But prosecutors filed notices of intent to seek 
the death penalty in only 15 murder cases during that span and pursued the 
death penalty at trial in only 5 of those cases ??? a 1 % rate among 
death-eligible cases.

"Under the Colorado capital sentencing system," the authors write in their 
report, "many defendants are eligible but almost none are actually sentenced to 
death. Because Colorado's aggravating factors so rarely result in actual death 
sentences, their use in any given case is a violation of the Eighth Amendment."

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The study was conducted by University of Denver law professors Justin Marceau 
and Sam Kamin and Rowan University professor Wanda Foglia with funds provided 
by Montour's defense team.

Montour, who pleaded guilty to killing Colorado Department of Corrections 
Officer Eric Autobee, is facing the possibility of a death-penalty sentencing 
hearing as early as the end of this year.

Montour's team has now included the new study into a motion asking a judge to 
cancel Montour's sentencing hearing and find the Colorado death- penalty law 

Prosecutors from the 18th Judicial District attorney's office, which is 
handling Montour's case, have not yet had a chance to respond to the motion.

"A preliminary report has been filed by the defense regarding a motion that is 
presently pending before the Montour court," Chief Deputy District Attorney 
John Topolnicki said in a statement. "The merits of the defense motion are yet 
to be decided and are being contested by the prosecution."

(source: The Denver Post)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Arizona death penalty looms for killer Daniel Cook----Execution is Wednesday in 
'87 murder case

In April 2011, Daniel Cook came within 1 day of being executed for 2 murders he 
committed 25 years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay while it pondered whether to 
consider Cook's claims that he had been poorly represented during his appeals.

This March, the high court turned down the case without comment, and in June, 
the Arizona Supreme Court set another execution date.

Barring another unlikely last-minute stay, Cook will be executed on Wednesday.

Cook, 50, is described by lawyers and prison pen pals as a docile, sometimes 
confused man. The clemency petition written by his attorneys claims he had 
never been violent before he committed the murders and he has not been violent 

At his clemency hearing Friday, he said he had no memories of the murders and 
only learned of them when he woke up after a drug and alcohol binge. Cook said 
that when his co-defendant told him they had committed the murders, "It scared 
me because I'm not a violent person."

But the murders were heinous: Cook and one of his roommates, John Matzke, 
tortured, sodomized and strangled 2 of their co-workers, one of whom was just 

Matzke went to the police, confessed to the murders and implicated Cook. Matzke 
was allowed to enter a plea deal with 20 years in prison in exchange for his 
testimony against Cook. He was released from prison in July 2007.

Like many death-row denizens, Cook came from a shattered family and suffered 
extreme sexual and physical abuse at the hands of family members -- in Cook's 
case, his parents and grandparents, according to his clemency petition.

During his trial, he claimed he had had a perfect childhood. But the clemency 
petition says his father burned his penis with a cigarette when he was an 
infant; his mother and stepbrother sexually abused him when he was a boy; and 
his stepgrandfather forced him to have sex with his older sister and 
photographed them in the act.

When Cook was 14, his mother turned him over to California's child-protection 
services, which sent him to a group home. One of the home's staffers, now 
serving a 214-year prison sentence for sex offenses, would handcuff Cook naked 
to a bed and let others watch through a 1-way glass as he raped him, the 
petition and an affidavit from the abuser say.

When Cook finally left the group home, he resorted to prostitution. He drank 
and used drugs. He practiced self-mutilation, cutting himself, breaking his own 
fingers. He was hospitalized several times for depression and psychosis and 
attempted suicide more than once. He lived as a transient before landing in 
Lake Havasu City, where his mother lived, though she refused to have anything 
to do with him.

Nonetheless, he found a girlfriend and tried to build a family with her and her 
child, but the relationship fell apart. He found work as a cook in a restaurant 
and shared an apartment with Matzke and another co-worker, Carlos Cruz Ramos, 
26, a native of Guatemala.

When the girlfriend left him, he snapped. On July 18, 1987, Cook quit his job 
and started drinking and smoking methamphetamine with Matzke. When Cruz Ramos 
realized that the other 2 had stolen $90 from him and he complained, they 
overpowered him, stripped off his clothing and bound him to a chair.

Then they beat and sodomized him, burned his genitals with cigarettes and put a 
staple through his foreskin. Cook ranted about the CIA and called Cruz Ramos a 
Sandinista spy and waited until midnight, which Cook thought was the best time 
to kill him.

They tried to strangle Cruz Ramos with a sheet and then put a pipe over his 
throat and stood on it until he was dead and threw his body in a closet.

2 hours later, another co-worker, 16-year-old Kevin Swaney, stopped by the 
apartment. Cook took Swaney to the closet and showed him the body. Then, as 
Swaney cried, Cook stripped him and sodomized him, too, and then strangled him.

He later told police, "We got to partying. Things got out of hand. Now, 2 
people are dead."

Cook was tried in Mohave County Superior Court. During his trial, he fired his 
lawyer and defended himself. And when he was convicted, he asked the judge to 
sentence him to death. He never presented any of the mitigating evidence about 
his childhood, which his current attorneys say might have persuaded a judge to 
sentence him to life in prison.

That was the thrust of Cook's appeals in federal court: His attorney during his 
1st appeal had not raised the issue of whether Cook got ineffective 

Cook's attorneys brought the ineffective-representation argument back to 
federal court and were again turned down in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and 
the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arizona state courts denied his argument 
that the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections has too much 
discretion in the execution process. On Friday, the Arizona Board of Executive 
Clemency refused to recommend that the governor grant a stay or a reprieve.

(source: Arizona Republic)


State Supreme Court upholds death sentence in killing of deputy

The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence of a man 
convicted of murdering Los Angeles County Sheriff 's Deputy Michael Hoenig.

In a unanimous decision, the state???s highest court rejected an appeal by 
Enrique Parra Duenas, convicted of fatally shooting Hoenig, 32, in South Gate 
in 1997 when the deputy tried to stop Duenas as he rode by on a bicycle.

Duenas contended, among other things, that three prospective jurors with qualms 
about the death penalty were improperly excused. The court disagreed, upholding 
a trial judge???s decision that the 3 would have been substantially impaired 
from voting for a death sentence, regardless of the evidence.

The court also rejected a claim by Duenas that the prosecution???s showing of a 
computer animation of the shooting ??? a series of mostly still images ??? 
violated his rights. The 4-minute animation demonstrated how the shooting 
occurred based on the views of prosecution experts.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


2 death-penalty cases resume

2 capital-punishment trials resumed Monday, Aug. 06 in Inland courts.

Rickie Lee Fowler is charged with arson and murder for the 2003 Old Fire, which 
burned more than 91,000 acres, destroyed 1,000 houses and claimed 6 lives.

Pushed by Santa Ana winds, the fire destroyed houses in both in mountain 
communities such as Cedar Glen and also in the Del Rosa neighborhood of San 
Bernardino. The Old Fire was one about a dozen wildfires that raged through 
Southern California in late October of that year.

Fowler is charged with five of the deaths, all of them men who suffered heart 
attacks from the stress of dealing with the fire, authorities said.

The jury in San Bernardino County Superior Court heard from final defense 
witnesses Monday. Fowler decided not to testify.

Jurors were excused, but will be back on Wednesday to hear final arguments and 
instruction. Testimony in Fowler???s case began July 9.

In Riverside County, the trial of Michael Barbar is now in the penalty phase.

Jurors convicted Barbar July 13 on 2 counts of murder in the 2009 slayings of 
Maysam Barbar, 43, and Tamara Barbar, 6, in the family???s Perris home.

Prosecutors said Barbar had strangled his wife, Maysam, and bashed Tamara???s 
head against a bedpost eight days after receiving the results of a paternity 
test that revealed the 6-year-old was not his biological child.

When jurors get the penalty case, they will decide whether to recommend life in 
prison without parole or death for Barbar.

(source: Press-Enterprise)


Trial opens for Thai suspects accused of killing Australian tourist on resort 

The trial of 2 Thai men charged with killing an Australian travel agent has 
opened on the island of Phuket.

Michelle Elizabeth Smith was walking near her hotel on June 20 when two men on 
a motorcycle tried to grab her bag and then stabbed her when she resisted. The 
60-year-old walked away from the attack but collapsed and died shortly 

Surasak Suwannachote and Surin Tabthong were arrested within days after a huge 

On their way to court Monday, the 26-yeard-old Surasak told reporters: ???I 
confess??? to the crime. He is accused of stabbing Smith.

The 37-year-old Surin is accused of driving the motorcycle. He denied the 
charges Monday despite having confessed to the killing earlier.

Both men could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Associated Press)


Japan earns international criticism after executions

On Friday of last week, 2 criminals on death row in Japan were executed, the 
1st since March, and bringing the total number to 5 for this year. 40 year old 
Junya Hattori had raped a 19 year old college student and killer her by setting 
her on fire in 2002, while 31 year old Kyozo Matsumura separately killed 2 
family members in order to steal their money. But due to the secretive way that 
capital punishment is carried out in Japan, and because it remains one of the 
few countries that makes use of it, many international groups and foreign 
governments are calling for country to abandon its practice.

Executions in Japan are always carried out by hanging, and there is no notice 
that one will take place before hand, revealing the fact, even to family 
members, only after it has taken place. The Justice Ministry is currently 
debating about changes to the country???s death penalty system, including using 
a different method of execution, or possibly ending the practice all together. 
However, Mokoto Taki, the current Minister of Justice, has said that he is 
still in favor of the death penalty, and that it is an appropriate option in 
the cases of the most heinous criminals. There are now around 130 criminals 
that remain waiting on death row in Japan.

One of the first to speak out against last week???s executions is Amnesty 
International, saying that because the Japanese government doesn???t state when 
they will take place, death row inmates if when they wake up, that will be 
their day to be called. France???s foreign ministry issued a statement that the 
government was requesting Japan bring an end to its use of capital punishment, 
just as 140 other nations before it have established a moratorium on the 
practice. Human rights officials in the government of Germany also condemned 
the way the executions were carried out and also asked for Japan to eliminate 
the form of inhumane punishment.

(source: Japan Daily Press)


Japan accused will be tried as adult

A 19-year-old American accused of the murder of Irish exchange student Nicola 
Furlong in Tokyo should be tried as an adult, a court has ruled

The court recommended a criminal trial for the main suspect, meaning he will be 
tried as an adult and could face life imprisonment.

Furlong (21) was strangled in a Tokyo hotel in May. The man, who cannot be 
named because he is legally a minor in Japan, has admitted killing her but 
denied intent to kill.

The suspect, who was facing a maximum of five years in prison if tried and 
convicted as a minor, could face much tougher penalties, including a possible 
life sentence, if found guilty, the Irish Times reported.

Japan retains the death penalty, but almost exclusively reserves it for cases 
of multiple murder.

Three judges ruled after hearing impact statement from the Furlongs and police 
reports detailing the circumstances surrounding the death. Their decision is 
thought to have hinged around police toxicology reports. The trial will now be 
heard in a criminal instead of a family court.

Meanwhile, friends of Nicola Furlong are organizing a fundraiser to enable her 
parents, Andrew and Angie, to fly to Japan for the trial of her alleged killer.

(source: The Irish Echo)


Thai woman faces death penalty after caught with drugs in Malaysia

Malaysia police reported they had arrested a Thai woman believed to be carrying 
some 38 kilograms of a crystalline substance believed to be the drug syabu.

She was detained at the Bukit Kayu Hitam Immigration Complex on Friday after 
her bag was scanned.

If she is convicted of drug trafficking, the Thai woman could face the death 

Kedah Customs director Abd Aziz Abdul Latif said the drugs were worth an 
estimated RM722,000, which were stuffed into four plastic packets and were 
discovered concealed at the bottom of the bag.

He said the 33-year-old woman, who was travelling with 2 children, was among 
passengers who had come from a bus bound for Kuala Lumpur from Hatyai.

The suspect, who has no previous record, has been detained and will be 
investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for drug 
trafficking which carries a mandatory death sentence.

Meanwhile, he said Kedah Customs seized firecrackers worth RM3,330 in 
???Ramadan Ops??? since August 1.

(source: Bikya Masr)

AUGUST 5, 2012:


Families often victims in death penalty case delays

In shock, Gordon-Richner listened to the sirens approaching her parents??? home 
in Waynesboro, then the news that both her father and stepmother were dead.

???You never think it will be your family, and when it does happen it???s 
completely surreal, like watching a late-night movie,??? Gordon-Richner said.

By the time she arrived from Tacoma, Wash., three days later, investigators had 
arrested Tony Grubbs and charged him with murder in the killings of Ralph and 
Trudy Gordon. The district attorney???s office then announced it would seek the 
death penalty against Grubbs.

But as quickly as the initial events unfolded, the next 2 years slowed to a 

Grubbs was represented by the Georgia Capital Defender office, which has come 
under fire for long delays in bringing cases to trial. In the Grubbs case, 
capital defenders admitted in a hearing last year that after 10 months of 
representation they had not collected any evidence or interviewed witnesses.

More recently, Superior Court Judge David Roper declared the capital defender 
office ???systemically broken??? after delays in the case of Kelvin Johnson. At 
a hearing scheduled for Monday, state defenders will argue why they should 
remain on the case. Roper has threatened to appoint private counsel at the 
state???s expense.

The Georgia Capital Defender Office began representing indigent defendants in 
2005, but has seen its funding drop $2.3 million over the past seven years. In 
both of the pending death penalty cases in Richmond County, capital defenders 
have cited funding issues and excessive caseloads as the sources of delay in 
taking the case to trial.

In a hearing last July, Superior Court Judge Daniel Craig said that if the 
public defender staff is waiting for legislators to come to them asking how 
much money they wanted, ???they will be waiting until Jesus comes.??? Roper has 
expressed similar doubts, saying after the most recent request for delay, ???I 
am going to make sure that the (Georgia) Supreme Court is aware of what trial 
judges, district attorneys and defendants are having to put up with and 
encounter with regard to the Capital Defender Office.???

Stephen Bright, the senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, 
defended the office before Craig last year.

???Judge Roper and other judges are upset when final resolution of some cases 
is delayed because the lawyers, mitigation specialist and investigators can 
only work on so many cases at a time,??? Bright said by e-mail. ???The lawyers 
and others handling Antony (sic) Grubbs were just too busy with other cases to 
be ready on one trial date, but once they got a bit more time they worked it up 
and resolved it with a guilty plea.???

That guilty plea earned Grubbs two life sentences without parole, plus 40 

Gordon-Richner said this week her support for the death penalty was strong both 
before and after her parents??? death. The decision to accept the plea was made 
???for the sanity of our family.??? Instead of stirring up painful feelings 
with every appeal, the family decided to put the case to rest.

Rehashing all the details ???would affect the family deeper than it already 
has,??? Gordon-Richner said.

While the case is technically over, the pain of loss continues to resonate. It 
has affected the health of Gordon-Richner???s daughter, and her sister still 
struggles to talk about the murder. Gordon-Richner doubts she will ever fully 
accept what happened.

???It???s a day-by-day process,??? she said. ???You can get through it, but 
never over it.???

(source: Augusta Chronicle)

AUGUST 4, 2012:

TEXAS----impending execution

Mentally Retarded and on death row

Marvin Wilson, with an I.Q. of 61, is scheduled to be put to death in Texas on 
Tuesday. His execution would directly contradict the Supreme Court???s 2002 
ruling in Atkins v. Virginia that ???the mentally retarded should be 
categorically excluded from execution??? because of ???their disabilities in 
areas of reasoning, judgment and control of their impulses.??? The court should 
accept Mr. Wilson???s case for review and end Texas???s illegal defiance of its 
explicit holding that the death penalty for the mentally retarded is 

The court found a national consensus against executing the retarded. But it 
said states must apply professional standards in identifying people with 
retardation because ???not all people who claim to be mentally retarded will be 
so impaired as to fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about 
whom there is a national consensus.???

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a 2004 ruling perversely read that 
directive to mean that the state could devise its own restricted test for 
retardation. It bluntly rejected the Supreme Court???s ???categorical rule 
making such offenders ineligible for the death penalty.??? It defiantly refused 
to recognize ???a ???mental retardation??? bright-line exemption??? even for 
those who ???legitimately qualify??? as mentally retarded for other purposes.

The Texas court???s ruling was the basis for its rejection of mental 
retardation claims in at least 10 death penalty cases.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has deepened this 
injustice. It has repeatedly denied habeas corpus appeals by death row inmates 
under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, insisting that state 
court rejections of mental retardation claims were not ???contrary to??? or 
???an unreasonable application??? of ???clearly established federal law.???

How much more ???clearly established??? could the federal law be than the 
Supreme Court???s statement that ???the mentally retarded should be 
categorically excluded from execution???? The state???s brazen refusal to 
follow that rule is unreasonable by any but the most extreme view.

Texas has never contested Marvin Wilson???s claim of mental retardation. The 
state has simply refused to accept him as retarded enough to be exempted from 
execution. His lawyers told the Supreme Court in a brief, ???If he does not 
obtain federal habeas relief, he will own the grisly distinction as the Texas 
Atkins claimant executed with the lowest??? undisputed I.Q. score.

The court must stop this cruel and unconstitutional execution of a mentally 
retarded man.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)


Marvin Wilson, Texas Man With 61 IQ, To Be Executed In Days

Growing up in extreme poverty in east Texas in the 1960s, he struggled with 
basic tasks, like tying his shoes, counting money, and mowing the lawn. He 
fared miserably in school, earning D's and F's in special education classes and 
failing the 7th grade. The other kids called him "dummy" and "retarded." He was 
socially promoted to the 10th grade, then dropped out for good.

As an adult, he did manual labor and had a son with a common-law wife. But he 
remained extraordinarily childlike, according to his younger sister, Kim 

"I couldn't believe it when I saw him still sucking his thumb when his son was 
born," Armstrong said in a 2003 affidavit. "Marvin was in his 20s."

Yet Wilson, now 53, was not slow enough for the Texas and federal courts that 
authorized his death by lethal injection next week for a 1992 drug-related 
murder. They have ruled that he is not covered by a 2002 Supreme Court ruling 
prohibiting the execution of the mentally retarded.

Human rights groups, legal experts and a Texas state senator denounced the 
imminent execution as a clear flouting of the law, while Wilson's attorneys 
have filed a last-ditch appeal with the Supreme Court, and requested a stay of 
execution from the Texas Board of Pardons and Gov. Rick Perry.

In their bid to halt the execution, Wilson's allies point to a 2004 
psychological exam that measured his IQ at just 61. In Texas, the benchmark for 
mental retardation is an IQ of about 70 or below. Other states use a threshold 
IQ of 75 or lower.

"This case really does very much push the line," said Paul Campos, a professor 
at the University of Colorado Law School, who is not involved with Wilson's 
defense. "We're talking about a mental child."

But Texas prosecutors saw things differently, arguing successfully that Wilson 
was a street-smart drug dealer who had the acumen to seek vengeance against a 
man who betrayed him to the police.

In 1992, Wilson was arrested and charged with killing of Jerry Williams, a drug 
informant. 4 days before his death, Williams provided information to police in 
Beaumont, Texas, that led to Wilson's arrest for cocaine possession.

Witnesses testified that they saw Wilson abduct Williams from a gas station 
with the help of another man, Terry Lewis. The three men drove off in the 
direction of a local oil refinery. The next day, Williams was found dead, with 
bullets wounds in his neck and head. No forensic evidence or eyewitnesses 
established who pulled the trigger.

Both Wilson and Lewis were tried for murder. Lewis was sentenced to life in 
prison with the possibility of parole. Wilson was sentenced to die.

The crucial evidence establishing Wilson as the shooter came from Lewis's wife, 
who testified that Wilson told her that he pulled the trigger, not her husband.

"She said Marvin confessed to her," said Lee Kovarsky, Wilson's attorney and a 
law professor at the University of Maryland. "Her testimony put Marvin on death 
row, as opposed to her husband."

Campos, the professor, said the circumstances of Wilson's conviction left 
significant room for doubt about his exact culpability in the crime. The lack 
of any aggravating factors -- the murder was not especially heinous or cruel, 
and did not involve multiple victims, a child or police officer -- also made 
it a good case for leniency on the basis of Wilson's mental deficits, he said.

"Obviously all murders are serious, but we're talking about a drug murder under 
ambiguous circumstances," he said. "This is just a very ordinary homicide, with 
a clearly mentally disabled defendant."

Yet in a series of rulings since 2002, Texas courts rejected expert testimony 
and evidence from Wilson's defense team, including his score of 61 on a 
standard IQ test, that seemed to establish him as mildly retarded.

The courts sided instead with state prosecutors, who argued that the IQ test 
was improperly administered, and that Wilson's behavior showed a man of normal 
intelligence. A federal appellate court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, 
declined to overturn the state's decision.

The 5th Circuit justices did find that the evidence of Wilson's retardation was 
"mixed" and that "other fact-finders might reach a different conclusion as to 
whether Wilson is mentally retarded on the evidence before the state." But the 
court said that under current law it was bound to accept the Texas ruling and 
allow the execution to proceed.

Unless the Supreme Court or Texas officials intervene, Wilson's legal battles 
will be over soon. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection in the Texas 
death chamber in Huntsville next Tuesday evening.

The Supreme Court has been asked before to revisit its 2002 ruling, known as 
Atkins v. Virginia, which left it to the states to formulate the standards 
determining which inmates qualified as mentally retarded, but has repeatedly 
declined to do so.

Kovarsky said a failure of the Court to take Wilson's case will prove that the 
Atkins decision "has become a hollow rule."

Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is also unlikely to step in. In 2001, Perry 
vetoed a bill that had passed both houses of the state legislature, with 
bipartisan support, outlawing the execution of the mentally retarded. Perry 
appointed all of the members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, which 
has almost never granted a reprieve to a condemned prisoner during his 

On Friday afternoon, Rodney Ellis, a Texas state senator who authored the 2001 
bill vetoed by Perry, issued a statement denouncing the scheduled execution of 

"We do not execute children in the state of Texas, therefore we should not 
execute those who have the mental capacity of a child," Ellis said. "The 
ultimate penalty should be reserved for those that can clearly comprehend why 
they are going to die."

(source: Huffington Post)


Bartholomew Granger, Accused Texas Courthouse Shooter, Faces Death Penalty

A grand jury has amended the charges against the suspect in a fatal shooting 
outside a Texas courthouse to make him eligible for the death penalty.

Bartholomew Granger, of Jefferson County, is accused of the March 14 death of 
79-year-old Minnie Sebolt. He was set for trial later this month on nine felony 
charges. A grand jury Thursday elevated the charges to include capital murder.

Prosecutors say the 41-year-old Granger was trying to kill relatives in 
retaliation for testimony against him at his sexual assault trial. Sebolt was 
caught in the gunfire.

Assistant District Attorney Ed Shettle says the trial ??? moved to Galveston 
??? now won't start until next year. He says the death penalty isn't likely to 
be waived and prosecutors probably will let a jury decide punishment.

(source: Huffington Post)


Selenski to face death penalty at upcoming murder trial

Hugo Selenski will face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in 
his upcoming trial, a judge ruled Friday.

Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni denied a request to stop the 
prosecution from pursuing capital punishment. Mr. Selenski is accused of 
killing pharmacist Michael Kerkowski and Mr. Kerkowski's girlfriend, Tammy 
Fassett, in 2002. The trial is scheduled to start Sept. 10.

When prosecutors filed a notice of aggravating circumstances to pursue the 
death penalty, they noted Mr. Selenski's "significant history of felony 
convictions involving the use or threat of violence" as grounds for capital 
punishment. Mr. Selenski is already serving 32??? to 65 years in state prison 
on a Monroe County home-invasion conviction.

The prosecution "may not proceed with a capital case where it files an 
unwarranted notice of aggravating circumstances spun from allegations not based 
on verifiable facts" but "has no pre-trial burden to prove an aggravating 
factor," Judge Pierantoni wrote.

"Furthermore, the responsibility of the trial court is simply to ensure that 
the commonwealth is not seeking the death penalty for an improper reason," the 
judge added.

Judge Pierantoni also rejected defense requests to dismiss the homicide charges 
on several grounds, including the long period between the killings in May 2002 
and the filing of charges. The homicide charges were filed in 2006 after Mr. 
Selenski was acquitted in the killings of Frank James and Adeiye Keiler, whose 
remains were discovered in his backyard.

The defense also claimed Mr. Selenski was denied his right to a speedy trial 
because of numerous delays in the case. Judge Pierantoni agreed with the 
prosecution, which claimed Mr. Selenski had knowingly and repeatedly waived his 
speedy-trial rights.

Some delays resulted from Mr. Selenski's decision to abandon his first set of 
court-appointed lawyers and briefly represent himself and from appeals dealing 
with evidence. At least 6 county judges have been assigned to the case.

Shelley Centini and Edward Rymsza have been Mr. Selenski's defense attorneys 
since February. Last year, Mr. Selenski dismissed his attorneys and said he 
would represent himself, only to later ask for new court-appointed counsel.

(source: The Scranton Times-Tribune)


Life on Death Row----Prison allows reporter to tour blocks where killers 
awaiting execution are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades

It is the 1st thing you notice on Pennsylvania's largest death row, at the 
State Correctional Institute Greene, where 157 of the state's most notorious 
killers spend their days.

They are condemned men who murdered cops, children and even entire families. 
Violent men whose crimes cause you to lock your doors at night or think twice 
before letting your kids out to play. Men once feared in the worlds they 

But here, locked away in solitary confinement 22 hours a day, they look aged, 
bored, and starved for human contact. Their lives are restricted to a 
7-by-12-foot cell, with cages awaiting them every time they go to exercise or 
to the library to research their seemingly never-ending legal appeals.

At noon, some are still in bed, sheets over heads blocking out the lights that 
burn at all hours. Others stare blankly at televisions, or through narrow 
windows with views of the concrete prison walls. A few jog the length of their 
cells ??? 3 paces up, 3 paces back.

A Morning Call reporter visited SCI Greene on July 18, the 1st time the 
Department of Corrections allowed a member of the news media extensive access 
to Greene's death row, which holds 3/4 of the state's 203 inmates sentenced to 
die by lethal injection.

The tour offered a look at the bleak living conditions of those slated to 
receive the ultimate punishment, one that Pennsylvania has not carried out 
against an unwilling inmate in half a century. Though no photography was 
permitted, the tour still provided snapshots of the hard life of solitary 

It is an existence that can stretch years, if not decades, given a de facto 
moratorium on executions in the state due to an exhaustive appellate process. 
For critics of the death penalty, it is a cruel and unusual punishment, 
considering the psychological trauma that long periods of isolation can bring.

The super-maximum security prison opened here in Pennsylvania in late 1993. 
Greene's 720 employees oversee 1,750 inmates in 11 blocks, two of which ??? L 
and G ??? hold death-row prisoners.

'I'm loved by some'

Junius Burno has been at Greene for 5 years, sentenced to die for killing 
Carlos Juarbe and Oscar Rosado during a botched robbery at a S. Fourth Street 
apartment in Allentown in 2003.

Life as a condemned man is "terrible," Burno said. He eats alone, exercises in 
a cage and is separated by a plate of glass from his wife and children whenever 
they visit.

"I'm sane. I have all my faculties," said Burno, 44, of Lansford. "I'm loved by 
some people."

Like others on death row, Burno hopes to one day get off it. In 2009, he was 
granted a new trial by Lehigh County Judge Edward Reibman, who found the 
prosecutor had improperly swayed the jury through "highly prejudicial" 
comments, a decision on appeal at the state Supreme Court.

Until then, Burno said he gets through life as "best I can," but there is no 
escaping the monotony.

"What do I do, other than eat and sleep?" Burno asked, thinking it over. Watch 
TV, he answered, and do legal research.

Prison officials defended the conditions, saying they aren't as harsh and 
prisoners aren't as isolated as many believe. The officials said they are not 
invested in the death penalty, calling it a state policy that, if changed, they 
would adjust to.

They also noted that holding death-row prisoners is expensive and 
staff-intensive. According to estimates by the Department of Corrections, every 
capital inmate adds $10,000 in yearly costs to the average prisoner's $33,000 
annual price tag.

"If they said let them out [of solitary confinement] tomorrow, we'd let them 
out tomorrow," Deputy Superintendent Mark Capozza said.

The prison has a decorated superintendent in Louis Folino, who last year was 
named the warden of the year by the North American Association of Wardens and 
Superintendents. Folino, who wouldn't say whether he supports capital 
punishment, said inmates and staff are both aware that there is a de facto 
moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania.

"It changes the way we regard them and how they regard us," Folino said. "When 
the execution order comes down, there isn't this panic or this intense fear. 
The stay [of execution] soon follows."

The morale and atmosphere, Folino said, "is about as positive as you can get."

Of course, that is a relative statement.

'Not the place' to live

Jerry Chambers just wanted to talk about Allentown, where the 40-year-old 
inmate said he lived on and off most of his life.

"Ever been out to that duck pond on Hamilton Street?" he asked.

Ever been to Dorney Park? How about Whitehall?

Chambers, described in court records as a violent drug addict, was sentenced to 
death in 2005 for killing 3-year-old Porchia Bennett, whom he threw against a 
radiator in the squalid south Philadelphia apartment the child and her sisters 
shared with Chambers and their aunt. Wedged between the bed, the radiator and a 
wall, Porchia slowly suffocated.

The hardest thing about death row, Chambers said, is being without his family, 
who are in Chester County, "too far" to regularly make the trip to see him. The 
row, he said, "it's not the place where you want to live."

When death-row inmates get visits from their loved ones or even their lawyers, 
they do so behind glass, with no contact permitted. Every time they leave their 
cells, they are strip-searched and accompanied by guards.

Even their showers are cell-like. Showing a couple of showers on G-block, 
Greene Capt. Wallace Leggett said they used to be separated by a wire 
partition, but solid walls had to be erected because inmates would throw feces 
at each other.

Even now, Leggett said, prisoners will try to do so through the tight wire mesh 
in the shower doors.

The inmates get to bathe 3 times a week for 15 minutes.

5 days a week, they get recreation, when they are allowed outside for 2 hours 
in a chain-link cage with a concrete floor that is perhaps twice the size of 
their cells.

The cages once had basketball hoops, but they were removed after a prisoner 
climbed up one and refused to come down; ceilings made of fencing were added 
after someone tried to escape.

Still, recreation time offers the main chance for human contact, because 
inmates are permitted to share the cage with an inmate of their choice. Typical 
activities include handball, chess, Monopoly and cards, prison officials said.

Another chance to socialize comes at the law library, which prisoners typically 
get to visit 3 times a week for 2 hours a shot. On L-block, 4 inmates sat in 
side-by-side cages in front of computers with access to legal databases.

"Most inmates just use this as a social period," Leggett said. "They talk to 
inmates from other pods that they don't get to see."

'A lot of guys going crazy'

Herbert Blakeney has spent the past decade on death row, and he complains that 
prisoners are mistreated and denied enough time to do legal work on their 

"You got a lot of guys going crazy," Blakeney, 46, said. "Thrown in the hole, 
you can't get out of the hole."

What's it like?

"Lock yourself in the bathroom for a whole weekend and you'll figure out, 
eating there, sleeping there," he said.

The Harrisburg man was sentenced to death for slitting the throat of his 
14-month-old stepson, Basil, in 2000 during a standoff with police. With a 
butcher knife, he cut the boy's neck down to the bone, and didn't stop until he 
was shot three times by an officer, according to court records.

"The victim empathy was just overwhelming from that cell there," Capozza, the 
Greene deputy, said sardonically of Blakeney. "He's a sociopath, and if you 
noticed when he's talking, it's all about him."

Leggett, who is assigned to death row and other solitary confinement cells for 
inmates who misbehaved in prison, said many with capital sentences blame their 
lawyers or anyone else they can.

"We hear that here again and again and again," Leggett said. "It's they 
themselves who put themselves on death row."

The 157 death-row inmates listed at Greene in July had 263 deaths attributed to 
them, according to a Morning Call review of their case histories. 10 were found 
guilty of killing police officers, 20 of raping their victims, and 35 of 
murdering children.

Greene holds four capital inmates each from Lehigh, Bucks and Montgomery 
counties, 9 from Berks, 3 from Schuylkill and 1 each from Monroe and 
Northampton, according to the Department of Corrections.

To a visitor, the lack of activity on death row is striking. Though prisoners 
can call to each other from their cells, voices aren't heard very often. The 
floors sparkle ??? one of the few jobs a death-row inmate can hold is janitor 
??? but no one is on them.

Approaching a cell, the `st thing in view is its steel door, a slot in it where 
inmates' meals are passed to them. The prisoner's name is posted, as are 
dietary requirements like, "No Pork," for those who are Muslim.

Each door has 2 long, narrow windows through which corrections officers can 
look in and inmates can look out. Inside are a bunk with a mattress, a table 
with an anchored metal stool, and a metal sink and toilet combination.

The cells also contain a cabinet, pegs for hanging clothes and a mirror of 
polished metal. There are two sets of electrical outlets and a television cable 

Inmates can dim their lights, but not shut them off. Two more narrow windows 
give a less-than-10-inch-wide view of the grounds outside.

The sparseness of each cell can be offset from the prison commissary, which 
sells food, televisions, radios, clothes, shoes, bathrobes and typewriters, 
among other items.

Once a month, inmates are given new toothbrushes that are "short, very short, 
so they can't make shanks out of them," Leggett said.

Prisoners are permitted books from a library that offers everything from 
westerns to nonfiction, with only pornography and books that advocate 
insurrection ??? think "The Anarchist Cookbook" ??? banned.

Inmates get satellite radio. Their television includes basic cable channels, 
with movies ??? none with R ratings ??? and recordings of religious services 
and sporting events that occur inside the prison but that capital prisoners 
cannot participate in.

"There's no HBO or 'Dexter'-type shows," said Folino, referring to the Showtime 
series about a serial killer. "We don't want them watching 'Dexter.' "

Though death-row prisoners do not have a lot to work with, many have 
established lives in which their individuality appears to show.

A painting hangs in the cell of Henry Fahy, the longest-serving capital inmate 
in Pennsylvania, sentenced in 1983 for raping and murdering a 12-year-old 
neighbor in Philadelphia.

Jose Uderra, convicted in 1993 of a drug-related killing in Philadelphia, keeps 
salsa, jam and peanut butter near books that include a Spanish-English 
dictionary. By his bed are pictures of three scantily clad and provocatively 
posed women.

Edwin Romero, sentenced in 1996 for murdering Allentown architect David 
Bolasky, has photos of hot rods in his cell. George Ivan Lopez, his 
co-defendant at trial, has a football-themed chess set, its pieces the New York 
Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the rooks as goal posts.

"Technically, that's contraband, but we're not going to take that," Leggett 

Leggett said death-row inmates are the easiest he deals with. "For the most 
part, they stay to themselves. ??? They're really quiet, really respectful," he 

And death row isn't as forsaken as many imagine, he added.

"People think it's like some bread-and-water thing," Leggett said. "It's not 
like that at all."

(source: Allentown Morning Call)


Judge: Death penalty can be sought in NE Pa. case

A judge has ruled that prosecutors in northeastern Pennsylvania may continue to 
seek the death penalty against a man accused of having killed 2 people and 
buried their bodies on his property more than a decade ago.

Hugo Selenski, 38, is charged in Luzerne County in the May 2002 deaths of Tammy 
Fassett and Michael Kerkowski. The bodies of the 37-year-old victims were 
unearthed the following year on the Kingston Township property where Selenski 

Judge Fred Pierantoni on Friday denied a defense bid to stop prosecutors from 
pursuing capital punishment in the trial slated to begin next month.

Pierantoni granted defense requests to block some photos from being used and to 
bar prosecutors from mentioning the discovery of other skeletal remains 
allegedly found on the property. But the judge said certain aspects of 
Selenski's financial situation will be permitted along with allegations that 
Selenski had sought money from Kerkowski's father.

The judge issued a split ruling on evidence of prior acts committed by 
Selenski. The (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader says prosecutors will not be allowed 
to mention an alleged robbery/burglary but can question two witnesses about 
other acts, including alleged drug use.

Selenski is already serving 32??? to 65 years in state prison on a Monroe 
County conviction in a home invasion case.

(source: Associated Press)


Outspoken pastor reconsiders view on death penalty after execution invite

"I've been called upon to do a lot of things," Pastor Terry Fox says. "But I've 
got to tell you, this is about the most unique call I've ever received."

The call was from the mother of death row inmate Michael Hooper--convicted of 
murdering his girlfriend and two children in Oklahoma and set to be executed on 
August 14th. She wants Fox--an outspoken supporter of the death penalty--to 
come speak to her son and then be with her as they witness his execution.

"What I've had to ask myself is, will this change my view of the death 
penalty?" Fox ponders.

Fox never met the killer but has known his mother for quite a while. She lives 
in Oklahoma now but lived in Wichita up until about a year ago, and was a 
regular attendee at Summit Church where Fox pastors.

"She is going through something that I don't think anyone can imagine," Fox 

Fox says he's also been asked to serve as spokesperson for Hooper's family.

"I don't think anyone wins in this situation," Fox says.

Fox has earned a reputation for his unwavering conservative views. But he says 
he's learning that talking about something is one thing--confronting it face to 
face is another.

"I think the older you get the more you realize you don't know everything," Fox 
says. And you become more open to things in life--the big issues."

Fox says he's been thinking about the cases of death row inmates later proven 
innocent. He says he's also revisiting the theology of the death 
penalty--considering whether it cuts short the possibility of repentence and 
redemption which he says are major tenets of the faith he preaches.

"It doesn't make you weak or make you a different person than what you were 
because you change your mind on some of these big issues in life."

Pastor Fox says at this point he still supports the death penalty. How that may 
change in coming days is anybody's guess.

(source: KWCH News)


Reprieved Oregon death row prisoner granted right to be executed----Convicted 
murderer Gary Haugen has rejected clemency of Oregon governor John Kitzhaber 
and says he wants to die

America's emotional debate over the role of the death penalty has taken a 
strange new twist after a convicted killer has been granted the legal right to 
insist on his right to be executed.

Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen, who was found guilty of murdering his 
girlfriend's mother and also another prisoner, says he still wants to die ??? 
despite a reprieve by anti-death penalty Oregon governor John Kitzhaber.

Now a court has granted Haugen, 49, the right to reject Kitzhaber's clemency 
move, which was issued just weeks before he was scheduled to be executed by 
lethal injection last December.

Kitzhaber had vowed that no death sentences would be carried out in Oregon 
while he was in office.

But Judge Timothy Alexander has ruled in favour of Haugen, saying that earlier 
cases had established his right not to accept the stay of execution.

"My decision ??? is not intended to be a criticism of Governor Kitzhaber or the 
views he has expressed. I'm required to set aside my personal views and decide 
this case on its merits and the law," the judge wrote in his judgement.

However, the matter is not settled.

The reprieve, which was set to expire after Kitzhaber left office, is now going 
be the subject of a legal appeal by the governor's legal team to get it put 
back place.

Only when that appeal is heard will a new execution date be set.

Haugen was sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of fellow prisoner David 

He and another inmate had stabbed Polin 83 times and crushed his head.

At the time Haugen was serving a life sentence for the murder of Mary Archer, 
who he beat to death to death in 1981.

America has a difficult relationship with the death penalty, which many other 
countries across the world have long abandoned. It varies state-by-state and 
often shifts with public opinion over time.

Oregon has instituted the death penalty and then got rid of it numerous times 
in its history.

At the moment the trend in the US is moving away from it. Since 2007 some 5 
states, including Oregon, have stopped using it, making a total of 16 US states 
that no longer execute prisoners.

(source: The Guardian)


Wanting to Kill

I REMEMBER the phone call from my mother distinctly. It came in February of 
1980. I was 19, a high school dropout working as a tool-and-die apprentice, 
living in my hometown of Bridgeport, Conn.

???Does John have any tattoos???? she asked me.

I knew by the tension in her voice that something was terribly wrong. ???No,??? 
I told her.

???Are you sure, Matthew? Are you sure that your brother doesn???t have any 
tattoos???? She was pleading with me now, while rushing forward before I could 
answer. A body had been found, she said, a body without a distinguishing 
tattoo. The police were sure it was John, but my mother had convinced herself 
otherwise, that he had at least one tattoo on his body. I, however, knew 
better. I had tattoos, as did my brother Mark, but John?

???I???m positive,??? I told her.

My brother had been stabbed numerous times, his throat slashed. The crime 
occurred in a park in South Phoenix. An ex-con from Oklahoma was later found 
guilty of 1st-degree murder.

Overnight, I became a believer in the death penalty. Before John???s murder, I 
thought that killing a person in any form was wrong. ???I want closure,??? I 
would rant to anyone who???d listen. ???I want justice.??? But what I really 
wanted was blood and vengeance.

A few years after John died I moved to Arizona and, several years after that, 
was sentenced to prison. I was a junkie and a petty thief, the latter a direct 
result of the former. Between 1987 and 2002 I was constantly being locked up. 
Aside from time in the county jail, I also served roughly 10 years in both 
federal and state institutions.

In the summer of 1991 I was being held in a Maricopa County jail on three 
felonies: 3rd-degree burglary, possession of narcotics and possession of drug 
paraphernalia. The judge sentenced me to 2 years in an Arizona state prison, 
the same state prison system that housed my brother???s murderer. After being 
transferred to the Arizona Department of Corrections I was taken to an office 
for classification.

???You have a D.N.H. in your jacket,??? the administrator told me.

D.N.H. is an abbreviation for ???do not house,??? as in: ???Do not house 
prisoner Parker with his brother???s murderer.??? Jacket is slang for a 
prisoner???s criminal record. The administrator had my jacket in his hand, and 
he was leafing through it as he sat behind his desk in the cramped office. My 
jacket contained such things as the specifics of my convictions, my criminal 
history and security threat, as well as any propensity for violence or, as was 
the case with me, the lack thereof.

I knew that my brother???s killer was serving a life sentence in an Arizona 
state prison. I didn???t want to confront him; I was in truth scared to death 
at the possibility, however remote. Here I was being sent to the same prison 
system as the man I wanted killed. My thoughts were roiling. What if there 
wasn???t a D.N.H. in my jacket? What if there was a screw-up ??? not unheard of 
in prison bureaucracies ??? and I was sent to the same prison as him? What if I 
ran into him? What would I do? What would he do? That D.N.H. in my jacket made 
me instantly realize just how close I was to an actual death penalty ??? so 
close that I could personally administer it. One little mistake on the part of 
the Arizona Department of Corrections and all my wishes for bloody vengeance 
would have become a reality. ???Here???s your death penalty, son. We???re gonna 
accidentally (wink, wink) put you in the same prison with this dirt bag, where 
you can stab him in his sleep with a homemade shank. Slash him to ribbons with 
a razor blade in the shower. Bash his brains out on the ball field with a 
baseball bat.???

It???s easy enough to think about vengeance, even to declare a desire for it, 
but being confronted with the mechanics of murder is a different matter 
entirely. It forced me to examine my motives more closely, and to think about 
the sheer intimacy inherent in acts of violence. I???d been in fistfights in 
jail and prison ??? fighting is just a fact of life on the inside ??? but they 
were relatively harmless and over quickly. Now I was forced to contemplate 
actual murder, and decided that it just wasn???t in me to attack another human 
being with intent to kill or, a distinct possibility, be killed. It took that 
D.N.H., that rote product of penal bureaucracy, to teach me that I didn???t 
want to kill anybody, and from there it wasn???t much of a mental leap to 
conclude that I didn???t want the state do it for me, either.

That simple D.N.H. in my jacket enabled me to come to terms with the bloodless 
violence inherent in the death penalty, violence made even more insidious when 
??? especially when ??? we clean it up and administer it with clinical 

He is out now, that murderer, paroled after 25 years. But I don???t much care. 
Those 25 years in prison could not have been pleasant for him. It???s not life, 
but for me it???s close enough. I???ve been to prison and I know what it???s 

And although I was able to clarify my thoughts concerning the death penalty at 
that time, it took me another 10 years, and three more trips to prison, to get 
my own life together.

(source: Matthew Parker is the author of the graphic memoir ???Larceny in My 
Blood.???----New York Times)


Mo. to seek death penalty again in 1977 slaying

The St. Louis County prosecutor said he will seek the death penalty again for a 
man whose sentence in a cold-case murder was overturned last year by the 
Missouri Supreme Court.

Gregory Bowman was convicted in 2009 of raping, strangling and cutting the 
throat of 16-year-old Velda Joy Rumfelt in 1977.

In April 2011, the state Supreme Court affirmed Bowman's conviction in the 
killing but reversed the death penalty, sending the case back to the trial 
court for resentencing. The state Supreme Court ruled that during the 
sentencing phase of Bowman's trial, jurors improperly heard information about 
Bowman's convictions in the deaths of a 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old 
woman in Belleville, Ill. Both of those convictions were overturned after a 
sheriff's deputy admitted tricking Bowman into confessing.

Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Thursday he did not find such a 
mention in the transcript from Bowman's 2009 trial, only evidence that the 
state said linked him to the Illinois murders, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch 
reported (http://bit.ly/MhyhRX ).

"It's always difficult to get the death penalty ??? no matter how deserving 
they are," McCulloch said. "But in this situation, the decision makes it more 
difficult because it is unclear what (the Supreme Court thinks) was 

David Kenyon and Robert Steele, 2 lawyers with the capital litigation division 
of the Missouri public defender's office, declined comment after a hearing on 
the case Thursday. Bowman remains in custody, where he has been for most of the 
past three decades. It's unclear when jurors will get the chance to hear the 
case again.

Rumfelt's body was found in a field the day after she disappeared in 1977.

The following year, Bowman was already headed to prison on an unrelated 
conviction when he confessed to killing 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 
21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany. Bowman pleaded guilty in March 1979, only to recant 
several days later, saying his statements were coerced.

An Illinois appellate court overturned his convictions in those cases in 2001. 
Bowman won release on bail in 2007, after which St. Louis County police 
obtained Bowman's DNA profile from Belleville investigators, and used it to 
connect him to the killing of Rumfelt.

He was arrested soon after his release in Illinois and convicted in St. Louis 
County in 2009.

(source: Associated Press)


Lindhurst Shooter's Death Sentence Upheld

The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death penalty for Lindhurst 
High School killer Eric Houston.

Houston was convicted in September 1993 of killing teacher Robert Brens and 
students Beamon Hill, Jason White and Judy Davis on May 1, 1992, when he 
stormed the campus in a deadly siege.

Houston also wounded 10 others and held more than 80 students hostage for 81/2 
hours before surrendering.

The court, in a 58-page opinion, unanimously ruled that Houston received a fair 
trial in 1993. The court also said there was overwhelming evidence the 
disgruntled former student planned the killings, which supported his 
first-degree murder convictions.

"That's the best news I've gotten all month," said former Lindhurst teacher 
Frank Crawford. "I would have been extremely upset if they would have found 
some way to even consider letting out such an evil person."

During oral arguments in May, appellate attorney David Schwartz said Houston's 
conviction and death sentence should be overturned because of evidence 
discrepancies and unclear proof of intentions.

Schwartz's arguments also pointed to poor sound quality in audio testimony, 
contradictory statements and incomplete and erroneous tape transcripts.

Victims' family members who attended the hearing in San Francisco said at the 
time they were optimistic the court would rule in their favor, as evidence 
against Houston was indisputably clear.

Upon learning the good news Thursday, Mary Stickle, mother of slain student 
Jason White, was nearly moved to tears.

"I'm stoked," she said. "I'm so incredibly happy and I'm emotional."

For the court to uphold the death penalty is a victory for the community, 
Stickle said. She only wished those who worked so hard to pursue the original 
conviction who have since passed away were still here to see it.

"I'm just ready for whatever happens next," she said. "You get so angry and you 
carry that anger around with you no matter what. I think as time goes on and 
pieces of the puzzle get put together, I think some of that anger starts to 
subside and we start feeling we can take another step without having to breathe 
so hard."

For Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor, who was among the first law enforcement 
officers to arrive at the scene of the rampage, said to still be disputing 
Houston's culpability two decades later was a tragedy of its own. The court's 
ruling thankfully means no one has to relive the pain of another trial.

"Certainly it serves as an affirmation that there is zero question of the fact 
Eric Houston is responsible for these murders and heinous actions and the 
terror he caused over Lindhurst High and the whole community," Durfor said. 
"Hopefully this moves him closer to the just sentence he was served 20 years 
and seeing it through."

Crawford, who taught Houston for two periods, coached White in sports and 
carried another victim who had been shot in the stomach out of C Building, said 
this ruling should help give closure to some. His only hope now is the death 
sentence will come to fruition.

"If there was an ounce of thought in my mind that someone on death row was 
innocent, I would do everything in my power to free that person," said 
Crawford. "But there is not a shadow in my mind that what he did was calculated 
and unconscionable, and he deserves what the Supreme Court reaffirmed ... If 
anyone deserves it, he's the one right there."

Houston, 41, sits on death row at San Quentin State Prison. A former student at 
the Olivehurst school, his explanation for the murderous rampage was revenge 
against Brens for a failing grade.

(source: The (Marysville) Appeal-Democrat)


Prosecutors use of death penalty waning in Alameda County

A decade ago, a jury's decision to send a murder defendant to death row in 
Alameda County would not have been as such an anomaly as the jury's decision 
last week to condemn triple-murderer David Mills.

In 2002, 3 murder defendants were sent to death row while the county's district 
attorney's office decided to pursue the death penalty against 2 accused 

And a decade before that the death penalty was even more popular as Alameda 
County juries sent 5 defendants to death row.

Yet, this year, Mills will be the only special circumstances murder defendant 
sent to death row from the county while District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has 
declined to seek the punishment against any defendant eligible for lethal 

In fact, since taking over the seat from former District Attorney Tom Orloff, 
O'Malley's office has only sought the death penalty once in a decision that was 
later reversed just before the case went to trial. In that time, there has been 
more than 30 defendants who were eligible for capital punishment.

O'Malley recently said she is not adverse to using the death penalty and still 
considers it a valuable tool to use against certain murder defendants. But, 
O'Malley did not explain why there has been such a dramatic drop-off in the 
number of death penalty cases sought.

Instead, she said, each case that is eligible for the death penalty is reviewed 
by a committee of high-ranking prosecutors which makes a recommendation about 
whether to pursue the ultimate penalty. O'Malley has final say on any decision.

Alameda County's is not alone in its apparent hesitance to seek the death 
penalty. Statistics provided by some local district attorney's offices and the 
state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show that the penalty has 
become less popular throughout the state.

Reasons for the downward trend vary but many experts who study the state death 
penalty and other prosecutors say the state's slow pace at executing death row 
inmates and the costs associated with seeking the death penalty makes it a 
practice of futility.

"The whole tenor in both the criminal justice system and in the community has 
changed in regard to the death penalty," said Laurie Levenson, professor of law 
at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "Prosecutors realize, in the end, it might 
not be worth it."

Defendants who are eligible for the death penalty are already facing a 
punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. As legal 
battles and a long appeals process has virtually prevented the state of 
executing death row inmates, many die as a result of natural causes just as 
they would with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

For Alameda County, those delays have resulted in 42 inmates currently on death 
row with only nine who have had all their appeals exhausted. The longest 
tenured death row inmate from Alameda County has been housed at San Quentin for 
more than 30 years.

With the end result for a violent defendant being the same, prosecutors decide 
against seeking the death penalty to save costs and time, many said. At the 
same time, public opinion against the death penalty is rising.

"Prosecutors are increasingly willing to use the punishment of life without the 
possibility of parole and recognize that it is more acceptable to the general 
public," said Elisabeth Semel, professor of law at Berkeley Law School. "The 
decreasing popularity of the death penalty ... has an influence in the 

It's a decision that prosecutors might not have to make after November when 
voters will be asked to abolish the death penalty in California and give all 
current death row inmates a life without the possibility of parole sentence.

And while a recent Field Poll found continued strong support for the death 
penalty in California, it did reveal "a growing tendency of voters to favor 
life in prison without parole over capital punishment."

Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson said his office's decisions on 
whether or not to seek death against a defendant takes community opinions into 

"People here want us to be tough on crime, but they want us to be smart on 
crime," he said. "Even though we might personally believe a defendant deserves 
the death penalty, it doesn't do us any good to take a hard stance if the 
community isn't going to support it."

Contra Costa County has only one death penalty case currently pending and 
hasn't seen a death penalty verdict against a defendant in more than 2 years.

"The statistics bear out that the number of death penalty cases have gone down 
over the years," Peterson said. "It's been almost two years without a death 
verdict and for the ninth largest county in the state, I think that says a lot.

"For the vast majority of eligible cases, we don't seek the death penalty," 
Peterson said.


DA Jeff Rosen believes in death penalty, reluctant to invoke it

If you blinked at the wrong time, you might have missed a milestone last week 
on a fundamental issue of crime and punishment in Santa Clara County. The 
question: When does someone deserve the death penalty?

For Paul Ray Castillo, 34, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to murdering talk show 
host Cindy Nguyen last year, the question is no longer on the table. He will 
spend life in prison without chance of parole.

The process, however, offered insight into the most important player in the 
criminal justice system: District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

The 45-year-old former homicide prosecutor supports the death penalty. A man 
who often invokes the Old Testament, he regards it as a moral response to the 
ultimate crime.

But in this case, as in the case of child-killer Samuel Corona in early 2011, 
the prosecutors settled for less. When Castillo's lawyers said he was repentant 
enough to take life in prison without possibility of parole, Rosen accepted it.

The bottom line? Rosen is unlikely to bring the death penalty unless 
overwhelming circumstances demand it. And the hurdle looks high.

"I have to have the feeling that I'm compelled, when death in prison is not 
nearly enough," said the DA, who takes a vigorous part in the discussions of 
his death penalty review committee.

You could argue that circumstances in the Castillo case were enough. In a crime 
spree that lasted several days, Castillo kidnapped a complete stranger and 
executed her with a bullet between the eyes.

A lot of DAs would have sought death. Rosen concluded that Castillo's actions, 
while heinous, were not the worst of the worst. The way it was handled says 
three things about the DA elected in 2010:

A) Rosen is pragmatic. Any death penalty prosecution faces opposition from the 
bean counters. A capital prosecution can cost upwards of $1 million, in part 
because of the bill for a second defense attorney. Almost no one is executed in 
California: A convict can spend 25 years on death row. B) The DA is willing to 
take political heat. While this point is truer of Rosen's laudable attempts to 
correct the mistakes from the Three Strikes Law, it factors here too. A number 
of people in the Vietnamese community wanted Nguyen's killer to get death. Even 
Rosen's review committee of attorneys was not unanimous.

C) The top prosecutor knows how to frame the issue. A better politician than is 
commonly understood, Rosen knows how to sell a potentially unpopular outcome: 
The DA has cast this case as death in prison. He made sure that the final 
bargain was explained to Cindy Nguyen's family.

When would Rosen bring a death penalty case? The DA says he would certainly 
weigh it carefully in the case of a cop-killer or mass shooter. No capital 
cases are pending before his death review committee now, although capital 
charges could be brought against the accused killer of Sierra LaMar.

Here's the irony: A prosecutor who believes in the death penalty is reluctant 
to invoke it. And that may say something about our ambivalence as a community. 
Jeff Rosen has a finger not just on the facts of the case -- but on our pulse.

(source for both: Mercury News)


Asia's tough drug laws tempered by new wave of mercy

THE hanging of the young Australian man Nguyen Tuong Van in 2005 for trying to 
smuggle heroin through Singapore was one of the most harrowing episodes 
recently in our relationships with regional countries, showing a wide gulf in 
judicial cultures.

We now face the possibility of similar heart-wrenching executions, with two 
other Australians arrested in Malaysia allegedly in possession of amounts of 
illegal drugs, in this case methamphetamines, that also bring a mandatory death 
penalty if the volume is proved by testing and the fact of possession accepted 
by the courts.

Yet while a fringe of opinion here would no doubt hope to narrow the legal gulf 
by imposing draconian penalties for drug trafficking, there is movement in 
south-east Asia that might spare us more executions, at least of the desperate 
and foolish caught up in low-level drug trafficking.

Last month, Singapore announced that later this year it would amend its laws to 
drop the mandatory death sentence for low-level traffickers. Judges would be 
given the discretion to order execution, or to award life sentences plus 

It's hardly soft, and requires ''two specific, tightly defined conditions'' to 
be met, according to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister, Teo 
Chee Hean, when he announced it. The offender must only be a courier and not 
involved in the supply or distribution of drugs, and the offender must 
co-operate with authorities or be shown to be mentally disabled.

How the new law will define a courier is not yet known, and will be critical. 
Mandatory hanging will still apply for those who manufacture or traffic in 
drugs and those who fund, organise or abet drug trafficking, Teo said.

Singapore has stopped its hangings for a year while the new policy is mulled. 
It would never admit it but the international embarrassment caused by the 
Nguyen case and the jailing for contempt of court of the British writer Alan 
Shadrake over his book Once a Jolly Hangman might have had something to do with 

But domestic opinion is also increasingly uneasy about the death penalty and 
voters are more likely to challenge the policies of the People's Action Party, 
which has dominated government since 1959. With six opposition members elected 
to the 87-member parliament last year, the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, may 
be looking to stop the slide with more liberal thinking.

Changi Jail now has 28 prisoners awaiting execution for drug offences, among 
them a 24-year-old Malaysian, Yong Vui Kong. His case has evoked sympathy as he 
was only 19 at the time of his offence, is illiterate and didn't know about the 
penalty or that the package he carried contained drugs. They will now have the 
chance to apply for resentencing.

Following Singapore's decision, Malaysia's Attorney-General, Abdul Gani Patail, 
said his office was also working on an amendment to the drug laws to give 
judges the discretion not to impose death sentences on couriers.

''We are getting advice from law experts throughout the world regarding drug 
laws and how are they applied in their country,'' Abdul Gani told The Malay 
Mail newspaper. ''Since late last year, we have been doing research and 
studies, and one of the suggestions is that we want to allow those on death 
sentence to be resentenced.''

Indonesia, which has non-mandatory death sentences for drug trafficking and 
still has two of the Bali nine appealing for clemency from death row, also 
could be moderating its stance on penalties, if the recent comparatively light 
sentence imposed on the drug courier Edward Myatt is an indication.

The shift has not yet spread to other Asian countries, notably Vietnam, that 
have mandatory execution, nor has Singapore itself shifted from its stance that 
serious crime and drug-taking needs to be prevented by the ultimate penalty. 
''Our cardinal objectives remain the same: crime must be deterred,'' its Law 
Minister, K. Shanmugam, insisted.

Then he added: ''But justice can be tempered with mercy and where appropriate, 
offenders should be given a second chance.''

That is seen as a significant shift, and more legal bodies, such as the 
Malaysian Bar Council and Singapore's Association of Criminal Lawyers, are 
arguing against the assumption that harsh penalties are effective against the 
drug trade.

Indeed, decades after mandatory death penalties were applied in Malaysia and 
Singapore, young Australians seem to have no trouble finding supplies of heroin 
in places such as Penang, and the use of amphetamine stimulants is spreading 
among the young of south-east Asia, as it is in Western societies such as 

As the recent Herald series on illegal drugs showed, the alternative approach 
pioneered by Portugal - of decriminalising drug taking and possession (up to 10 
days' personal supply) - meets entrenched opposition even in relatively liberal 
societies like ours.

We still ignore the advice of the professionals that narcotic addiction is best 
treated as a medical problem with clean drugs and needles supplied. We cut down 
opium poppies in Afghanistan when they could be diverted to legal 
pharmaceuticals. We choose to ignore the widespread use of recreational drugs 
as ever-larger seizures by police and customs point to a growing market.

Our immediate Asian neighbours are even further away from confronting these 
dilemmas. While the shift signalled by Singapore and Malaysia is welcome, the 
threshold between personal supply and traffickable amounts is so low that many 
more unwary Australians and their children are going to face punishments of a 
savagery they couldn't imagine.

(source: Donnybrook-Bridgetown Mail)

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