[Deathpenalty] [SPAM] death penalty news----FLA., MD., CONN., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Feb 12 14:02:47 CST 2012
Inmate on death row for 3 decades scheduled to be executed for slaying of St.
A twice-convicted murderer who has lived on Florida's death row for more than 3
decades is scheduled to die by lethal injection this week for killing a St.
Petersburg mother — but like many executions, why he is being killed now and
why it didn't happen years ago are both something of a mystery.
If 65-year-old Robert Brian Waterhouse is executed Wednesday at Florida State
Prison near Starke, he will have lingered on death row longer than any of the
previous 276 people executed by the state, according to the Department of
Corrections. He's spent more than 31 years mostly by himself in a 6-by-9-foot
cell as his various appeals worked their way through the courts.
Just 18 of the 395 people currently on death row have been there longer than
Waterhouse, who was sentenced in September 1980 for raping and killing
29-year-old Deborah Kammerer.
No one in Gov. Rick Scott's office would talk in detail about the process that
led him to pick Waterhouse over others whose appeals have run their course.
It's the 3rd death warrant Scott has signed since taking office in January
"Governor Scott takes his legal duty to sign death warrants very seriously and
is committed to following the law in as thoughtful and deliberative a manner as
possible. There are many factors that bear upon the governor's decision each
time he must choose to sign a death warrant, which is always on a case-by-case
basis," his aides said in a statement.
Asked about it at an appearance in Tampa last week, Scott said he sits down
with a team of staffers and goes through the roster of death row inmates who
have exhausted their appeals.
"I spend a lot of time praying about it and thinking about it, and it's a hard
decision," he said. "There is not ever one issue" that leads to an inmate being
selected to die.
Others familiar with the process say that because many condemned inmates' cases
are in various stages of appeal and new litigation is filed all the time, there
is never a clear choice for the governor.
The attorney general's office is charged with keeping track of the status of
cases, and generally responds to requests from the governor regarding
individual inmates who've been through their major appeals and the clemency
process, and would likely be unsuccessful with any appeals filed after the
death warrant is signed. Typically, they're inmates who haven't initiated any
new litigation in a number of years.
Craig Trocino, who handled death row appeals for years before going to work for
a University of Miami law school clinic, said the "incredibly secretive" nature
of the governor's selection process has always disturbed death penalty
"There was no logic to any it, as far as we could tell, and nobody was speaking
about it," Trocino said. "If it's really above-board, the governor would open
his book and say 'This is the procedure I take in determining this.'"
University of Florida law professor George R. "Bob" Dekle, a former prosecutor
who sent notorious serial killer Ted Bundy to death row, said Florida governors
have rarely been forthcoming about the reasons they select one inmate over all
the others for execution.
Dekle said appellate lawyers do their best to make sure it's not an easy choice
for the governor. They file whatever they can for as long as they can to keep
their cases alive in the courts. New issues based on recent court rulings and
changes in the law provide new fodder for appeals all the time, he said.
"It's guerilla warfare," Dekle said. "As long as you can put it off, as long as
you can delay, as long as you can keep the thing going in any way, shape or
form possible, that's how much time you've got."
Time appears to be running out for Waterhouse, whose latest appeal to the
Florida Supreme Court was denied Wednesday. Federal appeals are expected to be
mounted as his execution approaches.
The body of Waterhouse's victim was found washed up on the tidal flats of Tampa
Bay on Jan. 3, 1980. She'd been raped, beaten and dragged into the surf, where
Unable to identify her immediately, police turned to the public for help.
Neighbors identified Kammerer's body, and an anonymous tipster led police to
Waterhouse, who was on parole for a New York killing. He had pleaded guilty to
2nd-degree murder for killing a 77-year-old Long Island woman during a 1966
burglary. He was sentenced to life but was paroled after 8 years.
In the Kammerer case, a bartender had seen her and Waterhouse leave a St.
Petersburg bar together. Blood, hair and fibers in Waterhouse's car were linked
to the victim. Waterhouse admitted having sex with Kammerer but denied killing
Gov. Bob Graham signed a death warrant for Waterhouse in 1985, but his
execution was delayed by an appeal that eventually got him a new sentencing
hearing. That hearing in 1990 ended like the first, with a jury recommending
execution by a 12-0 vote and a judge sentencing him to death.
One of Kammerer's daughters told the Tampa Bay Times that she didn't know yet
if she or any of her siblings will come to Florida to witness the execution.
"It's long overdue," said Wendy Mistry, 43, who lives near Dallas. "We didn't
forget about it, but we put it in the back of our minds. You don't really ever
(source: Associated Press)
Stephens sentencing could test Maryland death penalty law----DNA provision in
law makes for new question for jury, judge
This week's sentencing of the prisoner convicted of killing a correctional
officer will be the 1st case in Maryland in which prosecutors must establish a
DNA "link" in order to pursue a death sentence, and it could become the 1st
real test for the state's new capital punishment law.
The Anne Arundel County jury — or judge, depending on who does the sentencing —
will have to decide if prosecution evidence that the victim's blood was on the
defendant's clothes is conclusive enough to consider putting Lee Edward "Shy"
Stephens to death.
Stephens, 32, was convicted Thursday of 1st-degree murder in the fatal stabbing
of Cpl. David McGuinn at the now-closed House of Correction. His sentencing is
scheduled to begin Monday.
The hearing will be watched closely in Maryland, where Gov. Martin O'Malley and
the General Assembly moved in 2009 to limit the death penalty to 1st-degree
murder cases in which there is biological or DNA evidence, a video recording of
the crime or a videotaped confession.
"To my knowledge, this is the 1st one that is testing the DNA section of the
statute. Anytime you are the 1st one you are in uncharted waters,' said Scott
D. Shellenberger, state's attorney for Baltimore County.
His office recently sought the death penalty for Walter P. Bishop Jr., who was
convicted in a murder-for-hire plot, but that effort was based on a confession.
The jury sentenced Bishop to life in prison.
The big question for the judge or jury in the Stephens case, experts say, will
be whether the DNA evidence "links the defendant to the act of murder." They'll
also have to decide what that wording means.
"This is a unique provision in death penalty statutes across the country, so it
has never been interpreted by a Maryland court or any other court," said
Michael A. Millemann, a University of Maryland law professor who has been
involved in capital defense work. "It is likely in this case that if the jury
returns a death penalty, the Maryland Court of Appeals will have to interpret
All death sentences are automatically appealed to the state's highest court.
McGuinn's blood was on Stephens' clothing, according to testimony for the
prosecution during the trial. But the defense contended that the victim's blood
was spread over a large area, including other cells, and claimed that evidence
was improperly handled and contaminated.
McGuinn, 42, was ambushed by two prisoners who emerged from cells as he was
doing the 10 p.m. prisoner count on July 25, 2006, on a tier of the Maryland
House of Correction, prosecutors told jurors during the trial.
In addition to Stephens, Lamar (also spelled Lamarr) Cornelius "Junebug"
Harris, 41, is also charged, but his trial date has not been set, amid
questions about whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.
One issue the defense may raise is whether the law refers to the victim's DNA
or the defendant's.
A major concern with the death penalty has been over how the state can make
sure it never executes an innocent person. During chaotic hearings on proposed
restrictions to the death penalty law, legislators heard examples of DNA
evidence showing that prisoners did not commit the crimes of which they'd been
convicted — for example, another person's DNA might be found at the crime
In this case, however, testimony during the trial said the victim's DNA found
on the defendant, not the other way around.
State Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who drafted the 2009
changes to the law, said the law doesn't specify the victim's or defendant's
"The application [of the law] in this case is appropriate," he said.
There are other questions about the law that this case may illuminate, Milleman
"How closely must the DNA evidence link the defendant to the act of murder?
What burden of proof must the state meet?" he asked.
The law doesn't say.
The 2009 changes add to already complex death penalty issues and the sentencing
process. In Maryland, only in death penalty cases can the jury determine the
Stephens must say Monday whether he wants to be sentenced by the jury that took
nearly 6 days to convict him or by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner,
who presided over the trial. Whichever he chooses, the process remains the
Meanwhile, Hackner's gag order on all trial participants remains in effect.
Nobody involved with the trial is allowed to comment on the proceedings.
If the jury — or judge — finds that the DNA evidence shows Stephens is eligible
for a death sentence, a second part of the sentencing will begin. The various
circumstances the jury must consider when deciding whether to impose the death
penalty are spelled out in state law, and legislators did not change that
aspect of the law 3 years ago.
"What the jury does is it balances the aggravating circumstances and mitigating
factors," said Shellenberger.
That Stephens was in prison when McGuinn was slain is an aggravating factor. He
was serving a sentence of life plus 15 years after being convicted of murder in
the April 1997 killing of a man outside a Salisbury nightclub. Stephens was 17
at the time.
The list of mitigating factors includes whether the defendant's actions were
the immediate cause of death and whether he acted under duress. It also has a
catch-all provision, where jurors can consider such testimony as whether the
defendant endured a miserable childhood.
The sentencing hearing could continue into the following week.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
State may consider repealing the death penalty----Opponents were waiting for
end of home-invasion trials
With both killers in the Cheshire home invasion facing death row, legislation
may now come forward that would abolish the death penalty in Connecticut for
State Sens. Edith Prague of Columbia and Andrew Maynard of Stonington were the
two Democratic legislators who abruptly changed their minds last year about
voting to end capital punishment after emotional meetings with Dr. William
Petit, the lone survivor of the 2007 triple slaying.
At that time, only one of the murderers, Steven Hayes, had been tried and
convicted. The trial and sentencing of Joshua Komisarjevsky would not finish
until after the General Assembly session, and the state senators said they
didn't want to affect the outcome of the proceedings out of respect for the
Petit family. "I just feel that if there is anything I could do to help this
man at all, I've got to do it," Prague said when explaining her decision.
So a bill that would have "prospectively" ended the death penalty for future
crimes didn't come up for a vote in either legislative chamber - despite strong
support in the House - as Prague and Maynard's switches made the Senate tally
19 to 17 against it.
With the new legislative session under way, Maynard says his vote is back in
the repeal column because the last home invasion trial is over. "If the vote
comes forward today, I will vote for repeal," said Maynard. Last year, with the
trials unfinished, "I just didn't think we could have had a dispassionate
debate," he said.
Sources say that Prague has expressed interest in possibly rejoining the repeal
camp if certain caveats are added to the bill.
But when asked by The Day how she stands on the issue, Prague said last week
that she was still deciding whether to keep the death penalty or end it.
"I'm doing a lot of soul-searching here," said Prague, who returned for the
short session after experiencing a minor stroke in December. "It's not an easy
The veteran lawmaker was a reliable supporter of capital punishment in the
1990s until changing her views several years ago over the case of James
Tillman, a black man who served 18 years for rape and assault convictions
before his exoneration by DNA evidence.
Opponents of the death penalty say there are too many wrongful convictions,
especially of racial minorities.
Crucial 18th vote
Yet if repeal advocates are determined to force a bill through the legislature
this year, they may not need Prague's vote.
Maynard's flip would add an 18th vote against the death penalty, provided that
no other senator has changed his or her intent. So if Prague were to vote to
keep the death penalty, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman would then be called to break the
chamber's 18-18 tie.
Wyman said Friday that she would vote for repeal, provided that the bill is
prospective and keeps the death penalty for the 11 convicts on Connecticut's
"I have always been against the death penalty," Wyman said. "I would prefer
that these people be put in jail and stay there forever."
The shifting votes are stirring nervousness among capitol punishment
proponents. State Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, recently said he is skeptical
that another round of appeals from Petit would have the same effect on
legislators as it did before the Komisarjevsky trial.
Mikutel pointed out that public opinion polls consistently show a majority of
state residents supporting the death penalty, and he said it would be wrong for
the General Assembly to take action that "misrepresents the will of the
"It would be a slap in the face to all victims of murder to abolish the death
penalty," Mikutel said.
"The people of Connecticut want the death penalty for serious, outrageous
crimes, and legislators should stop interfering and just accept what the courts
have said and what the people of Connecticut want."
Repeal activists once thought 2011 would be their year.
There was a new Democratic governor in office who pledged to sign legislation
to end the death penalty if it reached his desk. Former Republican Gov. M. Jodi
Rell had vetoed such a bill in 2009, a bill that had easily cleared the House
but barely passed the Senate with a 19-17 vote at 4 a.m. after almost 11 hours
Bill's prospects grow
The bill that emerged last year from the legislature's judiciary committee,
sponsored by state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, would have replaced
the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole. To gain votes, it was
crafted to apply to only future crimes, so current death row inmates would
still face execution.
Holder-Winfield never doubted the bill's chances in the House, but knew the
Senate vote tally would be close.
In an interview last week, he said he anticipates the judiciary committee
raising the bill again this year. He acknowledged the possibility of using the
lieutenant governor's vote to push it through the Senate, but said he doesn't
want to rely on a tie-breaker to pass such key legislation.
Although Holder-Winfield wishes that his bill ended the death penalty
completely, he said there is not enough support for legislation that would
spare those already on death row.
During a committee hearing last year on Holder-Winfield's bill, both Chief
State's Attorney Kevin Kane and Chief Public Defender Susan O. Storey said that
any "prospective" law that ended the death penalty for future crimes would
likely result in appeals by death row inmates that would overturn their
If such a scenario plays out, both Prague and Maynard could end up voting for a
bill that inadvertently spares the lives of Hayes and Komisarjevsky.
State Rep. Gerald Fox III, D-Stamford, judiciary committee co-chairman, said
that members will do additional research into that question once the repeal
bill comes up again.
(source: The Day)
Westerfield Convicted Of Kidnapping, Killing Danielle Van Dam, 7
In 2002, Westerfield was convicted of kidnapping and killing his 7-year-old
neighbor, Danielle Van Dam.
The trial was covered live and transmitted all over the world. In the appeal,
Westerfield's lawyers claim that the media was creating a "lynch mob mentality"
and that the jury was "under siege."
David Steinberg, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, reviewed
the brief for 10News and agreed.
"This trial was conducted under a microscope," he said.
However, Steinberg said he does not buy into that as a very persuasive
"Trial publicity is not your best argument for reversing a conviction," said
Steinberg. "Your best bet typically is that there's some evidence introduced
that should not have been."
Westerfield's attorneys argued that search warrants were illegally obtained.
They also argued that trial judge William Mudd abused his discretion many times
by not granting motions for a mistrial, not sequestering the jury, keeping some
jurors despite defense protests and not excluding child pornography charges in
a capital murder case.
In the appeal, 28 reasons were listed for reversal, including the argument that
the California death penalty is unconstitutional.
There are more than 700 inmates on death row and 13 have been executed in the
past 2 decades. No one was executed for the 25 years leading up to 1992 because
it was judged unconstitutional during that time.
Death penalty appeals are usually successful. There is a 70 % success rate for
these appeals, but Steinberg believes the Westerfield team has a real uphill
"I would be very surprised if there is a reversal--either of his guilt or on
the death penalty," he said.
(source: KGTV News)
California's death penalty law: It simply does not work----We believed the
Briggs initiative — the death penalty measure we wrote in 1977 — would bring
greater justice. We were wrong.
In 1977, my dad, former state Sen. John Briggs, my brother-in-law and I got
together to discuss California's death penalty. We agreed it was ineffective
and decided a ballot initiative was needed to expand the number of murder
categories eligible for capital punishment. We felt such changes would give
prosecutors better tools for meting out just punishments, and that a broadened
statute would serve as a warning to all California evildoers that the state
would deliver swift and final justice.
We thought we were creating a national model for capital punishment.
On a shoestring budget we collected more than 1 million signatures to put the
proposition on the ballot. Half the signatures came via first-class business
reply mail, which my wife, Kelly, and I manually processed. We didn't have
laptops or self-adhesive stamps then, although we did have a bomb scanner,
which we'd been trained to use by the FBI after they discovered a terrorist
plot to kill my dad.
On Nov. 7, 1978, California voters passed the Briggs initiative on the death
Back then, my future brother-in-law was Dad's district chief of staff and I
proudly served as my father's personal aide. Today Dad is retired, my
brother-in-law is a California Superior Court judge and I am in my 2nd term as
a county supervisor representing rural District IV in the county of El Dorado,
east of Sacramento.
Recently, the 3 of us sat together under a rose trellis in the quiet cool of
morning to talk politics. Each of us remains a staunch Republican conservative,
but our perspectives on the death penalty have changed. We'd thought we would
bring California savings and safety in dealing with convicted murderers.
Instead, we contributed to a nightmarish system that coddles murderers and
enriches lawyers. Our initiative was intended to bring about greater justice
for murder victims. Never did we envision a multibillion-dollar industry that
packs murderers onto death row for decades of extremely expensive
incarceration. We thought we would empty death row, not triple its population.
Each of us, independently, has concluded that the death penalty isn't working
I am entering my 5th year as a county supervisor, an office that has given me
firsthand experience of the fiscally ruinous effect of our death penalty
initiative. Each capital case the district attorney files drains about $1
million from local coffers. And that's just the expense to the county. Much
more state and federal money is spent on special incarceration and on appeal
after expensive appeal. If a retrial is ordered, our county has to foot the
bill all over again.
The politically conservative county of El Dorado is in the Sierra Nevada
foothills. Ours is a small and close community. Kelly and I have a dear friend
whose husband was shot to death in their home, and we have another friend whose
son was murdered. Every 5 years they are forced to attend parole hearings for
the murderers of their loved ones. The anguish, anxiety and grief in their eyes
A couple of years ago I became acquainted with a woman who in 1981 survived
being abducted, raped, thrown down a gully naked and shot multiple times. For
good measure, her attacker threw rocks at her head. On that same day, the man
murdered the woman's friend. Because of the death penalty system we put in
place, the survivor, a fragile mother of 3, had to find courage to face her
would-be killer again after he weaseled a technical appeal 26 years after the
crime, forcing a full retrial here in El Dorado. It yielded the same verdict,
and it took a huge human toll on his living victim.
If the murderer had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of
parole rather than to death, the long cycle of appeals could have been avoided.
I cannot think of a single turning point in my thinking on the death penalty.
My Catholicism teaches me that all life is precious, and that's certainly part
of my viewpoint these days. But what resonates more in my mind is Dad's
fondness for saying "facts are stubborn things." With hindsight's 20-20 vision
and 3 decades of obstinate data, it's clear to my family that we created a
fiscal monster that's taking a human toll on the very people we wanted to
The ineffective legal beast created by California's death penalty laws costs
taxpayers more than $100 million annually and ties up the lives of prosecutors
and victims who could be moving on to other things.
We thought our 1978 initiative created a system to support victims' families.
It didn't. The only people benefiting today are the lawyers who handle
expensive appeals and the criminals who are able to keep their cases alive
The Briggs death penalty law in California simply does not work.
Had I known then what we do today, I would have pushed for strong life
sentences without the possibility of parole. I still believe that society must
be protected from the most heinous criminals, and that they don't deserve to
ever again be free. But I'd like to see them serve their terms with the general
prison population, where they could be required to work and pay restitution
into the victims' compensation fund.
There are few "do-overs" in life, especially in politics. With the death
penalty, though, 34 years later I have an opportunity to set things right. The
Briggs family has decided to endorse the SAFE California campaign, a fall 2012
ballot initiative that would replace the death penalty with a punishment of
life without the possibility of parole. The state has another chance at real
justice. We should embrace it.
(source: Op-Ed; Ron Briggs is a member of the Board of Supervisors in El Dorado
County, Los Angeles Times)
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