[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MD., N.C., FLA., S. DAK., IDAHO, LA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Feb 6 10:22:02 CST 2012
Deliberations to resume in Arundel death-penalty trial ---- Convicted killer
accused of slipping out of cell, murdering guard
Jury deliberations in the death-penalty trial of a convicted killer charged in
the murder of a correctional officer are scheduled to resume Monday morning in
Anne Arundel County.
Jurors already have deliberated for a day and a half in the case of Lee Edward
Stephens, 32, 1 of 2 prisoners accused of fatally stabbing Cpl. David McGuinn
as he performed a prisoner count at the House of Correction in July 2006.
The long-troubled and antiquated maximum-security prison in Jessup was closed
in March 2007 after a new corrections chief said it could not be made safe. 3
inmates were slain there during the summer of 2006, and another correctional
officer was ambushed and stabbed in early March 2007 but survived.
(source: The Baltimore Sun)
Race and Death Penalty Juries
North Carolina courageously passed the Racial Justice Act in 2009, making it
the 1st state in the country to give death row inmates a chance to have their
sentences changed to life without parole based on proof that race played a
significant role in determining punishment.
A state court is now hearing the 1st challenge to a death sentence under that
law. Marcus Robinson, who has been on death row since 1994, must prove that
state prosecutors discriminated against blacks in selecting juries, affecting
the outcomes of cases, including his. His lawyers presented a notable study by
researchers at Michigan State University showing this kind of bias.
In 173 cases between 1990 and 2010, the study examined decisions involving
7,421 potential jurors (82 % were white; 16 % were black). In 166 cases, where
there was at least 1 black potential juror, prosecutors dismissed more than
twice as many blacks from the jury (56 %) as others (25 %). With black
defendants, like Mr. Robinson, the disparity was even greater. Even accounting
for “alternative explanations” besides race for different “strike rates” — for
instance, excluding those who expressed ambivalence about the death penalty —
the study found blacks were still more than twice as likely to be dismissed.
Under a 1986 Supreme Court case, it is unconstitutional for a prosecutor to
strike any potential juror on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender. But the
court allowed dismissals of jurors for other reasons — like their attitude
toward the death penalty or even their demeanor. Prosecutors often use these
reasons as pretexts to eliminate blacks from juries. North Carolina’s Racial
Justice Act expressly allows consideration of a pattern across many cases. The
study found a regular pattern of state prosecutors intentionally discriminating
against potential jurors because of race, even though a judge had ruled that
the potential jurors could be counted on to render a fair verdict and sentence
in a death penalty case.
This bias is not news in North Carolina. Since colonial times into recent
decades, racial prejudice has been a huge factor in the imposition of death
sentences in the state. The Racial Justice Act, a response to that terrible
history, uses statistical studies in regulating the death penalty, as the
Supreme Court said legislatures could properly do in a 1987 case. Opponents of
the law are battling to repeal it and have scheduled a hearing on it this week.
The evidence of gross racial bias presented in Mr. Robinson’s case calls for
commuting his sentence — but also for abolishing the death penalty in North
(source: Editorial, New York Times)
Equal Time: ‘The other Robert Waterhouse’ says don’t execute
He hasn’t asked me, but I have written to tell my namesake and friend Robert
Waterhouse that I will not be at his execution if it takes place as scheduled
on Feb. 15.
In my book, capital punishment is murder in cold blood. I will not be party to
I’m a British journalist who happens to carry the same name as the man
convicted of murdering Deborah Kammerer at St. Petersburg, Fla., in January
1980, the man also convicted of murdering Ella Mae Carter at Greenport in 1966.
I have known my namesake for 11 years since I “discovered” him on Google. I’ve
visited him several times, regularly exchanged letters with him and met his
wife. I have tried to help him.
Throughout our friendship I have accepted his story — which he maintains to
this day — that he did not murder Ms. Kammerer.
But forget about the guilt/innocence issue for a moment. Let’s look at what my
namesake has been through since he was arrested.
He was first put in a county jail cell with many others, where he was alleged
to have incriminated himself. He was then tried and convicted by the press in
advance of court procedures. At the trial his defense offered no credible
support for his story. Prosecution evidence was flawed. It was a circumstantial
case. No hard proof linked him to the killing.
Convicted of 1st-degree murder, he arrived on death row in September 1980. An
initial death warrant was stayed at the last minute in 1985 when pro bono
lawyers established that mitigation issues had not been raised at his
sentencing. At a 2nd sentencing trial he was again given death.
Since then my namesake has worked his way through a variety of appeals, always
attesting innocence, appeals denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Several years
ago he exercised his right to have DNA testing of the case serology only to
discover that all physical evidence had been inadvertently destroyed.
Testing might have established his innocence, but the court would not accept
this blunder as cause for retrial. Think of it. The serology could also have
been very damning. So why did he wish it to be tested?
Life on death row is no fun. Recent photographs show Robert Waterhouse as a man
suffering hugely from his 31-plus years there. Incredibly, 27 others have been
there longer than he. Currently, Florida is executing its 395 death row
prisoners at just one or two a year. My namesake, again, won the wrong lottery.
I once visited Greenport and met Troy Gustavson, among others. I understand why
there is little sympathy for my namesake in your community. However, for Mr.
Gustavson to claim that he has “decidedly liberal tendencies” but approves of
capital punishment makes little sense.
I suspect his “eye for an eye” is a nod in the direction of his readers. No
doubt the event will give him another story.
Executions are ritual murder in cold blood.
I will not be there.
Mr. Waterhouse is a freelance journalist who lives in France. To read his
reporting on the Florida Waterhouse case, visit
(source: Suffolk Times review)
Rodney Berget sentence expected Monday
Rodney Berget has admitted to killing Correctional Officer Ronald Johnson
during a failed escape attempt at the South Dakota State Penitentiary last
Last week we watched Berget's sentencing phase unfold as Berget told the court
he deserves the death penalty for what he did.
Monday Judge Brad Zell is set to decide if Berget will die for the crime.
It's impossible to say what Judge Zell will decide for Berget, either the death
penalty or another life sentence.
The inmate was already serving life for rape and attempted murder when he
killed Officer Ronald RJ Johnson.
But we do know Berget's accomplice Eric Robert also pleaded guilty to the
murder and the judge did sentence Robert to death.
While we can't predict Monday's outcome, we can take a look back at this week
Rodney Berget's sentencing phase began Monday January 30th. South Dakota
Attorney General Marty Jackley and Defense Attorney Jeff Larson gave their
opening statements, setting the tone for the week.
Jackley said, "your honor, the state will demonstrate that Berget's extreme
violent actions coupled with his intensive escape history that death is the
appropriate and indeed the only viable conclusion for this court to reach."
Larson said, "you will hear testimony of some of the humanity people see in
him, that too often we want to deny exists in people that are in situations
On Tuesday, 2 of Berget's victims from prior crimes spoke to court. A woman
Berget is convicted of raping and Beatrice Miranda, an ex-girlfriend Berget
tried to kill.
Miranda said, "by the time I turned around he was already at my bedroom door so
I just started shooting (Jackley) were you scared? (Miranda) yes."
After the victims' testimony, Officer RJ Johnson's wife and 2 children took the
stand. Lynette Johnson told the court there was no reason for her husband to
Lynette said, "they could've just tied him up, if he knew they were gonna hurt
him and take him away from me, he would've gave them his uniform, just to stay
On Wednesday 3 defense witnesses took the stand and on Thursday Berget finally
spoke for himself.
Berget said, "I believe I deserve the death penalty for what I've done. That's
all I have to say."
After that both sides rested their case and left the decision in Judge Brad
Zell's hands for Monday.
Attorney General Marty Jackley asked RJ Johnson's son Jesse and daughter Missy
if Berget deserves the death penalty.
Jesse told the judge to do whatever his heart feels is right and Missy said she
thinks Berget does deserve to die for killing her father.
Judge Zell will discuss his decision starting at ten Monday morning at the
Minnehaha County Courthouse.
(source: KSFY News)
Changes for state execution policy and procedures
Right after Paul Rhoades became the 1st person executed in Idaho in more than
50 years, department of correction administrators reviewed the execution and
felt some changes needed to be made prior to any future executions.
IDOC director Brent Reinke said his department has sense made changes in the
standard operation procedure.
"This needs to be flawless and we need to do the right job for our state. It's
a significant undertaking and it's something that we wanted to make sure as we
debrief and find areas where we can improve the process," Reinke said.
Under the improved operating procedure, the warden will no longer be solely in
charge of every aspect of the execution.
"There's just too many areas around the facility for that individual to take
care of in this kind of setting so we have an administrative team that can be
spread out a little more," Reinke said.
The administrative team will handle most of the logistics surrounding the
execution while the warden continues to focus on the day-to-day operations.
Members of the media are usually selected as witnesses of the execution but in
the past, the selection occurred on the day of the event. Under the new policy,
members of the media will be selected 7 day in advance.
"That will give us some time to work with those media witnesses prior to them
representing the public in that event," Reinke said.
The new policy also allows additional witnesses related to the case to view the
When Paul Rhoades was put to death, executioners used a 3-drug protocol to do
the job but for future cases, executioners will have the option to use a single
lethal dose of drugs.
"we want to have in our standard operating procedure the flexibility to either
use the three as we did and that would be our intentions, but if there were
some reason that we would want to use the one drug protocol that is a part of
the three, then we would have the flexibility to be able to do that," Reinke
During past executions, the team responsible for administering the lethal
injection was labeled the injection team but Reinke said their title has
changed to medical team.
There are other ideas Reinke would like to put in place regarding execution
procedures and policies but KBOI was told those specific recommendations would
require approval from state law makers.
(source: KBOI News)
Coleman penalty testimony continues
Julie Lloyd gulped sobs as she described a close-knit family torn apart by the
murder of her father Julian Brandon in 2003.
Lloyd and her sister Dawn Finley were the final prosecution witnesses in the
sentencing hearing for Robert Coleman Sunday. A Caddo Parish jury Friday found
Coleman guilty of the attack that killed Brandon and permanently disabled his
wife, Alice Brandon. The jury could decide today whether to sentence Coleman to
death or to a life in prison.
Coleman was convicted of the same crime and sentenced to death in 2005.
However, the Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed the conviction in 2007 and
ordered a new trial. For a 2nd time, Lloyd and Finley had to talk about family
vacations, describe photos of happier times and talk about how their parents
shared the same birthday.
“Every evening we sat down together and ate dinner together,” Lloyd said.
“There would be no distractions, no TV on. It was the highlight of our day.”
Alice Brandon never recovered completely from a gunshot wound to the head. She
died in 2008.
Earlier Sunday, psychologist Mike Chafetz testified that he believes Coleman
doesn’t fit the psychological or legal criteria for mental retardation. The
defense contends that Coleman is retarded, a factor the jury is supposed to
weigh when deciding on the death penalty.
Chafetz described the tests he gave Coleman during a jail visit in July. He
administered intelligence tests, questioned Coleman about how Coleman would
handle everyday activities and tested Coleman’s ability to address an envelope
and write out a check, among other skills.
“It’s not about coming to a single IQ score,” Chafetz said. “It’s about trying
to capture the man’s intelligence.”
(source: Shreveport Times)
More information about the DeathPenalty