[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, S. DAK., MO., N.C.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Feb 2 16:30:47 CST 2012
SHSU Criminal Justice professor speaks out against death penalty----Criminal
justice prof. shows his anti-execution stance with solitary candle
When someone hears that a criminal justice professor is at an execution, they
may think he's doing research. Not holding a candle in support of human life,
like Dennis Longmire, Ph.D.
Texas has performed over 400 executions since 1976 According to the Death
Penalty Information Center website. The 478th execution happened on Jan. 27 at
the Walls Unit, and Longmire was there like he has been since he moved to
Huntsville in 1984.
Longmire, a criminal justice professor at Sam Houston State University, focuses
his research primarily in capital punishment.
He stood on the corner of Avenue I and 12th Street outside the prison with
other pro death penalty supporters where the executions take place.
"I don't come to the corner for any particular case," Longmire said. "The issue
isn't innocence, [but] when we execute someone, we are taking human life."
At about 5 p.m., the "vigilers" take post and wait for key signs that signal
parts of the execution. Rodrigo Hernandez, an inmate convicted of rape and
murder of a 38 year old woman, was was executed for his role in the crime.
Hernandez was required to provide a DNA sample as part of his parole when he
was released in 2002. He was serving time for "beating a man nearly to death",
according to txexecutions.org. Hernandez's sample matched DNA found on a woman
who was assaulted and strangled back in 1994.
Longmire held a "mother of Mary" candle, while Kelly Epstein, another pro-death
penalty "vigiler" were only two of several pro-death penalty persons at the
They share it with a few members of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement,
including very vocal members such as Gloria Rubac and Pat Hartwell. Rubac and
Hartwell set up poster boards with the words "Honk to Stop Executions" and
"Gov. Perry Texas Owes $800,000 to Clarence Brandley."
The supporters share a common belief that the death penalty is morally wrong,
but take different extremes to get their message across.
"If somebody's being murdered, you should yell and scream," Rubac said.
"How many more millions does it cost to keep a prisoner on death row than it
does for the amount of time you keep them in prison? It's less," Harwell said.
Longmire believes that he is witnessing what he calls "the sin and injustice
that's taking place."
The group knows the moments leading up to execution by watching media, as well
as family members, enter and exit the building.
Standing on the corner passers-by can see straight into the top floor of the
jail, where prisoners stand watching the pro-death penalty supporters. The
prisoners can hear Rubac and others as they shout over the loudspeaker their
"I believe that no matter what the people have done, they're people," Longmire
said. "They are humans, they're part of our spirit and soul. It's incumbent
upon us to try to help the transition for them and ultimately it's our
transition as well."
(source: Houstonian Online)
SD inmate tells judge he deserves death penalty
A South Dakota inmate who has acknowledged killing a penitentiary guard during
a failed escape attempt told a judge Thursday that he deserves to be sentenced
Rodney Berget, 49, pleaded guilty to killing Ronald "R.J." Johnson on April 12
- Johnson's birthday - during the escape attempt with Eric Robert.
"I'm guilty of taking Ronald Johnson's life. I knew what I was doing and I
continued to do it. I destroyed a family. I took away a father, a husband, a
grandpa," Berget told Second Circuit Judge Bradley Zell, adding that he would
not beg the court for his life.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said during pre-sentencing that the
state was seeking the death penalty based on five aggravating factors. They
were: the death of a correctional officer, the manner of death, where and why
it occurred, and the defendants' criminal background. Zell has to find at least
one was present during the killing to sentence Berget to death.
The slaying was "so wanton, so outrageous to satisfy five aggravating factors,"
Jackley said in his closing statement.
Berget is serving life sentences for attempted murder and kidnapping.
Prosecutors said during the pre-sentencing phase that Berget had tried to
escape several times before the April 12 incident.
Berget is beyond rehabilitation and the only way to protect society and other
inmates and officers is to execute him, Jackley said.
Johnson was working alone the morning of his death in a part of the prison
known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs,
custom furniture and other projects. Prosecutors said that after the two
inmates bashed Johnson's head with a pipe, covered his mouth with plastic wrap
and took his uniform, Robert carted a large box toward the prison gate with
Berget inside. Both inmates were apprehended before leaving the grounds.
Robert, 49, also pleaded guilty in Johnson's death. Like Berget, he waived his
right to a jury trial. Robert made an impassioned plea to Zell in October to
sentence him to death, saying that he would kill again and that his one regret
from April 12 is that he did not kill another guard. Zell found at least one
aggravating factor in Robert's case and sentenced him to death. His execution
is scheduled for May.
Jeff Larson, Berget's lawyer, said in his closing arguments that Johnson would
still be alive if South Dakota did not have the death penalty.
"At that desperate moment, they made the horrible decision to shorten their
sentence one way or another," Larson said.
If sentenced to death, Berget will be the second person in his family executed.
His brother, Roger Berget, was executed in 2000 at the age of 39. Roger Berget
acknowledged killing a 33-year-old Oklahoma man in 1985.
The penitentiary made more than a dozen procedural changes less than a month
after Johnson's killing, including adding officers to 3 areas of the prison and
installing additional security cameras. Other changes outlined in a 28-page
report released by the state in May included further restricting inmate
traffic, strengthening perimeter fencing, improving lighting and mandating body
alarm "panic buttons" for staff.
A third inmate, Michael Nordman, 47, is charged with supplying the pipe and
plastic wrap used in the slaying. Prosecutors have not said if they will seek
the death penalty for Nordman.
(source: Associated Press)
Berget's Brother Executed In 2000
Rodney Berget has 3 sisters and 2 brothers; 1 of those brothers was executed 12
years ago in Oklahoma for murder.
Those are just a few of the details that were revealed Wednesday during day 3
of Berget’s death-penalty hearing.
Berget is facing execution for killing South Dakota Correctional Officer Ron
Johnson during an escape attempt last spring.
In an attempt to spare his life Berget's defense attorneys called 3 witnesses
to the stand Wednesday to talk about the inmate's past.
Mary Baker, a paralegal in the Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office, has
talked with Berget nearly 50 times, and said his troubles started at an early
"I guess the tragedy there probably would be his parents divorced when he was
8-year-old and he was placed with his mother and his father was very abusive,"
Berget was later placed with his abusive father. That's when Baker says Berget
started having run-ins with the law.
Baker also said Berget was troubled when his brother, Roger, was executed in
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley: Would it be fair to say that he
was executed by the state of Oklahoma for a murder he committed?
Baker: That is correct.
Baker testified that in her discussions with the convicted killer he has showed
remorse for his previous crimes. That is something that Attorney General Marty
Jackley challenged her on.
Jackley: You had indicated that he indicated some remorse toward the Johnson
family, is that fair?
Jackley: And of course he's pled guilty, so I will ask you the same realm of
questions. To your knowledge has he ever written an apology letter to the widow
of Officer Johnson?
Jackley: Has he ever written an apology letter to the daughter of Officer
Jackley: Has he ever written an apology letter to the son of Officer Johnson.
Jackley: Has he ever written an apology letter to the grandchildren of Officer
Berget's attorneys are expected to call 1 more witness Thursday morning. Berget
himself is also expected to make a statement before this case goes to Judge
Brad Zell who will then decide if Rodney Berget will be sentenced to life in
prison, or be executed for his crime.
Eastern Missouri man could face death penalty for killing, dismembering
An eastern Missouri man could face the death penalty after being found guilty
of killing his girlfriend and chopping up her body, then putting the remains in
a trash bin.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/xrsvJ7) reports that jurors
deliberated about six hours before announcing the verdict Thursday for
39-year-old Vernell Loggins Jr. of Pacific. The jury began deliberating on the
penalty soon after the verdict was announced.
Maintenance workers found the body of 25-year-old Stephanie Fields in a trash
bin at Loggins' apartment complex in 2009. Her head and forearms had been cut
off and were not in the trash bin.
(source: Associated Press)
Judge lifts death penalty for Wayne County murderer
A Goldsboro man on Thursday became the 17th prisoner to avoid the death penalty
under a 2001 state law that prohibits the execution of mentally retarded
Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones vacated the death sentence of Marvin
Williams, 50, who was convicted of murdering Theron Price in 1989 during a
robbery at the company where both men worked.
The law defines mental retardation as having an IQ below 70 and shows poor
basic life skills. Williams has repeatedly scored below that on multiple tests.
"This is not something that I took lightly, nor do I take it lightly now,"
Jones said of his ruling. "This is what the law requires."
Williams was resentenced to life in prison on the murder charge and a 30-year
consecutive sentence for a related burglary conviction.
Because he was sentenced under old structured sentencing guidelines, he can
petition for parole in February 2016.
In 1994, state law eliminated the possibility of parole on a life sentence.
However, the parole commission is obligated to parole offenders who were
sentenced under the previous guidelines.
None of the 16 inmates taken off death row under the mental retardation statute
have been released from prison.
The law also applies to other states, since the U.S. Supreme Court made a
decision, after North Carolina's law passed, banning the execution of people
with mental retardation.
The legal battle became an emotional one Monday as Price's family sat on one
side of the courtroom, hoping for what they see as justice, while Williams'
family sat on the other side, hoping that his life would be spared.
Price's family and other said they are concerned that many judges are
rubber-stamping the issue, simply letting people off death row.
Attorneys who defend death row inmates say that's not the case.
Defense attorney Glen Barfield argued Monday that Williams met both of the
law's criteria for mental retardation at the time of the murder.
Prosecutor Branny Vickory argued that Williams knew exactly what he was doing
when he repeatedly hit Price over the head, dragged his body into a nearby shed
and tried to get into the company's safe with a blow torch.
The victim's nephew, Jerry Price, spoke at Monday's hearing and asked the judge
not to confuse mental retardation with "cold-hearted meanness and laziness and
a total disregard for human life."
(source: WRAL News)
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