[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----S.DAK., LA., FLA., USA, OHIO, N.M.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Feb 10 15:33:27 CST 2012
Letters From Death Row Inmates
5 men now sit on South Dakota's death row.
And while the living conditions are no secret, a pair of letters from 2002
gives us a glimpse of what life is really like for those waiting to be
In 2002, Joel Schwader was working as a Rapid City newspaper columnist.
"I got the idea to write to the death row inmates because I was curious on what
life was really like on death row. Is it as bad as people thought, or did they
lead a nice, cozy life?" Schwader said.
He wrote to all 5 men waiting to be executed. Charles Rhines, who was sentenced
for Murder in 1993, was the first to respond.
He said, all things considered, his life wasn't that bad. He even had a sense
"Personally speaking, I think I'd likely have gotten another murder conviction
had I been forced to spend the last nine years in a cell with Donald Moeller or
Ron Anderson. They're both okay individuals to speak with, but I don't think I
could handle spending 23 1/4 hours per day in a cell with them without
resorting to violence," Schwader read from Rhines' letter.
A few days later a letter arrived from Robert Leroy Anderson.
"I don't judge people. I just don't. But the sense of evil that engulfed that
letter when I pulled it out of the mailbox was just overwhelming to say the
least," Schwader said.
The serial killer spent much of the letter complaining about the justice
system, politics and perceptions.
"Your story would not enlighten the public to "row" conditions as much as it
would participate a debate on whether or not we're being too kindly treated. I
hold no disillusions on the public sentiment towards me," Schwader read from
Rhines' wrote similar words.
"As for letting the people of South Dakota know what life on death row is
really like, well, perhaps we'd be better off not telling anyone. It's not as
if they chain us to a wall and feed us with sling shots," Schwader read from
Even though conditions are no secret, Schwader says that hearing the first-hand
accounts of the men living there was an eye-opening experience.
"We all know that death is coming eventually. We don't know when, but these
guys do. They know that it's going to come sooner than later," Schwader said.
And although he is not for or against the death penalty, Schwader says he feels
compassion for those who are condemned.
"Some people say that there are some things worse than death. And I would think
that waiting to die would be one of them," Schwader said.
"While I'm getting rather long-winded, supper is nearing. It might even be
edible tonight. It's never fancy, but usually okay. Sincerely yours, Charles R.
Rhines," Schwader read.
Rhines is still awaiting execution for the 1992 killing of Donnivan Schaeffer.
Robert Leroy Anderson committed suicide in prison on March 30, 2003.
(source: Keloland TV)
Death row inmate sells art for profit ---- Stories conflict over ‘muderabilia’
After Louisiana State Penitentiary inmate Derrick Todd Lee released artwork and
a personal letter for sale on a "murderabilia" website, officials at the prison
are questioning whether Lee violated penitentiary rules by seeking profit for
Lee was linked to the deaths of seven women in Louisiana and convicted of
murder on Oct. 14, 2004. He received a death-penalty sentence and is currently
on death row at the state penitentiary in Angola, La.
During his time on death row, Lee has been working on art projects, which he is
attempting to sell online for crime enthusiasts everywhere.
The term "murderabilia," a name for crime-related memorabilia, was coined by
Serial Killers Ink website owners Jessika and Eric Gein. The website features
artwork, letters and other items from criminals of all walks of life, from
Charles Manson to necrophiles and cannibals.
"We created the website because there is a demand for true crime collectibles,
and we wanted to cater to that demand," said Jessika Gein, co-founder of Serial
Lee sent 2 pieces of his work to the website — a sketch of a panda eating
bamboo and an illustration of two swans. The art of the swans sold online for
$75, Eric Gein said. It is now listed on another website for $200. The panda
art was purchased Feb. 7 by a Baton Rouge resident for $100, according to Eric
There has been an on going investigation since Jan. 25 in response to the
online art, said Col. Bobby Achord, head of investigations at the Louisiana
State Penitentiary. He said they were informed on Jan. 27 that Lee received a
Christmas card from Jessika Gein.
"Lee wrote her a letter in response," Achord said. "He hoped to develop a pen
Gein said as a couple, she and her husband Eric send cards to inmates all the
"The card we sent had no mention of art, money or anything of that nature,"
Gein said Lee responded to the card with a letter stating his interest in
selling his work.
In the letter obtained by The Daily Reveille, Lee comments on selling artwork
in the past and how he is interested in sending some of his artwork to Gein.
Lee said he was also able to receive money in a special prisoner's account
"I have a few art pictures that I ask $20 each for them," Lee wrote in the
letter. "I sell them from time to time to help buy things I need in [prison].
If you're interested in any or would like to try'n sell any for me, please let
Jessika Gein said she wasn't aware he had any artwork until he told her.
"Of course I was interested," she said.
Gein said in an e-mail that she and her husband offered Lee his asking price of
$20 for each piece of art.
But Achord said if this proves to be true, Lee will have broken prison policy.
He said if Lee knew the items were going to be posted for sale on the Internet
and if he were to profit from the sale of these items, Lee violated the
Department of Corrections rules.
As of now, there is no law in the state of Louisiana to prevent prisoners from
profiting from their reputations as well-known criminals. A bill titled "Stop
the Sale of Murderabilia to Protect the Dignity of Crime Victims Act" was
introduced by Sen. John Cornyn to the United States Congress in 2009 and 2010,
but has not become law, Achord said.
Cathy Fontenot, Louisiana State Penitentiary assistant warden, said prisoners
at Angola are not allowed to disseminate their materials for profit.
"When we catch them, we will discipline," Fontenot said.
Since the website has acquired Lee's artwork, Gein said it has received
harassment from Warden Burl Cain and other law enforcement officials.
"The warden at Angola has gone out of his way to not only state that we scammed
Derrick Todd Lee, but that I flirted with him to obtain the artwork," Gein
said. "When he was proved wrong, the warden resorted to name-calling, bordering
Warden Burl Cain denied to comment to The Daily Reveille.
Cain was previously quoted by NBC33 News, saying "it was a scam by a trashy
website with no compassion" and, "people are sick to sell it ... and buy it."
Fontenot said penitentiary officials do not want to attract more attention to
"We greatly regret the pain this has caused to the victims' families," Fontenot
Lee is the only inmate from Angola who has been involved with Serial Killers
(source LSU Reveille)
Death penalty sought for alleged cop killer
Prosecutors say a 19-year-old man should be executed for killing a central
Florida police officer in December.
The state attorney's office in Polk County will seek the death penalty for Kyle
Williams in the Dec. 18 slaying of 25-year-old Lakeland Officer Arnulfo
Crispin. The announcement came during a court hearing Thursday in Bartow.
Crispin was killed after telling a dispatcher he was approaching a group of
suspicious people in a park. Williams is accused of shooting Crispin in the
head as the officer did a pat-down for drugs and weapons.
Williams later surrendered at the urging of his mother.
Crispin grew up in nearby Mulberry and had been a Lakeland officer for just 18
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmates sue to stop FDA from allowing importation of drug used in
Death row inmates are suing to stop the importation of a drug used in
Attorneys for the prisoners in Tennessee, Arizona and California argued before
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Thursday that the Food and Drug
Administration is breaking the law by allowing sodium thiopental to be imported
since it is an unapproved drug manufactured overseas.
The Obama administration argues it has discretion to allow unapproved drugs
into the U.S. and wants Leon to dismiss the case.
The drug’s U.S. manufacturer announced last year that it would no longer
produce it, forcing corrections officials to delay many executions. Many of the
nation’s 34 death penalty states switched to an alternative drug,
Both drugs are anesthetics used to put inmates to sleep before other lethal
drugs are administered.
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty Death Watch: Trouble in Ohio
There are 34 states that still allow capital punishment, but some attract more
attention from anti-death penalty activists than others. Texas finds itself in
the limelight with some frequency, since it leads the nation in sheer numbers
of executions. Alabama upset a lot of people when it executed a mentally
disabled man in September of 2010. Ohio didn’t use to come up that often—it was
considered reasonably “good at” applying the death penalty, which I mean to
sound ridiculous—but that’s changed.
I wrote recently about the Charles Lorraine case. No one disputes that Mr.
Lorraine is guilty of murder; he was convicted of killing an elderly man and
his bedridden wife in 1986. But a federal district court judge, Gregory Frost,
halted his execution earlier this year because Ohio has had trouble following
its “execution protocol”—basically the rules say one thing and it does another.
That violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause, which made Judge
Frost grumpy. “This case is frustrating,” he said. “Ohio has been in a dubious
cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its
protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its
The 6th circuit upheld Judge Frost’s decision in January and on Wednesday, the
Supreme Court denied an application to vacate the stay, effectively putting all
executions in the state on hold.
Ohio won’t necessarily join the 16 death-penalty-free states any time soon;
Attorney General Mike DeWine has said he’ll work to resume executions as soon
But the Lorraine case is drawing attention to the cause. Mr. Lorraine is
actually one of several death row inmates suing Ohio, and Judge Frost has
consolidated their challenges so that the whole death-penalty system is under
scrutiny, not just one case.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer ran an article on Thursday questioning the wisdom of
Mr. DeWine’s determination, asking whether Ohio would be better off simply
abandoning the practice.
A few prominent Ohioans have come out against the death penalty. Terry Collins,
a former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction who
personally observed the execution of 33 men from 2001 to 2010, called the death
penalty “expensive, often inefficient and always time-consuming” in a January
op-ed for the Columbus Dispatch.
Justice Paul Pfiefer of the Ohio Supreme Court, who helped write the state’s
death penalty statute in 1981, told state lawmakers in December that “Ohio is
no longer well served by our death-penalty statute. It should be repealed.” He
said that “the death penalty in Ohio has become … a death lottery. The
application is hit or miss depending on where you happen to commit the crime
and the attitude of the prosecutor in that county.”
The “death lottery” formulation is a powerful one — in Ohio and far beyond its
(source: New York Times)
Santa Fe residents to receive 2,500 jury summons for death penalty case
Jury selection for a death penalty trial is on pace to set a New Mexico record
and Santa Fe County residents will play a part in it.
Our media partners at KOB-TV report (http://bit.ly/xd4XCc) that the jury clerk
will send out more than 2,500 jury summons in the death penalty phase of the
Michael Astorga case.
In December, a state District Judge in Albuquerque ordered this phase of the
case be moved to Santa Fe, meaning the potential jurors will all be Santa Fe
County residents and it will be 2,500 Santa Fe County residents receiving those
Astorga was convicted in the 2006 killing of Bernalillo County Deputy James
Officials say the 2,500 summons would be a state record and jury selection
could take up to 2 months.
Jurors in the deputy slaying case will have to decide whether to impose the
death penalty or life in prison for Astorga.
The state Supreme Court said Astorga can still face the death penalty in that
case despite a later repeal of the state's death penalty law.
(source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
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