[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., MD., USA, ALA., UTAH
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Feb 13 10:23:35 CST 2012
Inmate set to die for 1980 slaying
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 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 in January 1980.
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 third 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.
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
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.
Prisoner convicted of killing guard faces death sentence today----Lee Edward
Stephens to be sentenced for murdering Cpl. David McGuinn
A prisoner facing a possible death sentence for killing a correctional officer
at the now-closed House of Correction chose Monday to be sentenced by the jury
that took nearly 6 days to convict him of murder.
Lee Edward Stephens, 32, was convicted last week of fatally stabbing Cpl. David
McGuinn 42, as the correctional officer was taking a prisoner count on July 25,
2006. Anne Arundel County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for
Stephens, who was already serving life in prison plus additional years for
murder when McGuinn was slain.
Stephens could become the 1st person sentenced to death under the 2009 changes
to Maryland's death penalty law, which limited when prosecutors can seek a
death sentence. Jurors will return Monday to an Anne Arundel County courtroom
first to decide if Stephens meets the criteria to be considered eligible for a
death sentence before the rest of the sentencing proceeding begins.
A 2nd prisoner was also charged in McGuinn's slaying, and a hearing is
scheduled for April to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial.
(source: Baltimore Sun)
The death penalty debate America isn't having
Several years ago, I reported from Texas on the impending execution of a man
named Derrick Frazier.
There was nothing much, really, to distinguish him from the 478 other criminals
Texas has injected with poison since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital
punishment in 1982.
Like many of them, he was non-white, poor and vicious.
He and his partner charmed their way into Betsy Nutt's home, then forced her to
her knees. His partner shot her dead, as her young son, Cody, knelt beside her,
watching. Frazier's partner then killed the boy, too.
The 2 master criminals were found later in possession of Nutt's truck. Frazier
confessed; then, much too late, changed his story.
I spent some time with Jerry Nutt before Frazier's execution. We visited the
graves of his wife and son, and we had supper together.
Nutt was eager to see Frazier die and he got his wish on Aug. 31, 2006, at 6:18
p.m., a few weeks after we spoke.
'Let 'er rip, warden'
For some reason, I went looking this week for the details of Frazier's
execution, spurred by the lingering memory not just of Jerry Nutt, but the
recent boasts of Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his state's nation-leading
Celebrity human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger is pressuring the British
government to help save the life of a British woman, Linda Carty, who is on
death row in Texas. (Reuters) The information wasn't difficult to find. Texas
not only keeps a public record of all the people executed since 1982, it also
posts their last words on the internet — save for profanities, which are
That's Texas: executions are considered normal, as is keeping a macabre record
of last words. Cursing, though, is out of bounds.
The website is a bizarre, riveting archive of the things men, and a few women,
choose to utter with their last breaths.
The latest, a murderer named Rodrigo Hernandez, had this to say before the
chemicals stopped his lungs and heart on Jan. 26: "I'm gonna go to sleep. See
you later. This stuff stings, man almighty."
Hernandez also proclaimed his love of God, as did the vast majority of those
who faced the needle before him. Men sentenced to death tend to find Jesus, or
Allah, or some other deity, and, in their final fear, they shout their belief.
Quite a few apologize.
"You did not deserve this," Angel Resendiz told the family of his victim in
June 2006. "I deserve what I am getting."
Many of them, perhaps in some final attempt to assert control over something,
long after all control has been taken away from them, save their very last
words to instruct the man presiding over their death.
"Let 'er rip, warden."
"You may proceed, warden."
"All right, warden," said Melvin White in 2005, "let's give them what they
Many, of course, weep during these final moments: "Here I am a big strong
youngster, crying like a baby," said 31-year-old Michael Hall last February. "I
am sorry for everything."
Some choose to describe aloud the first bitter taste of the poison as it
spreads into their bloodstreams. Others spit curses.
Some go out singing. Quite a few denounce the medical reality of what's about
to happen: "They are fixing to pump my veins with a lethal drug the American
Veterinary Association won't even allow to be used on dogs," Reginald Blanton
declared, correctly, in 2009.
Vincent Gutierrez, at the last moment in March 2007, asked where his stunt
Then there was the hair-raising statement of Billy Vickers. In 2004, strapped
on the gurney, he confessed to several murders for which he had not been
convicted, and calmly informed the warden that a few of them had been blamed
unjustly on other men.
And that by far is the most troubling topic in Texas's death row archive: the
possibility of wrongful conviction.
Didn't do it
Every so often, a condemned man insists right until the last moment that he is
Derrick Frazier, with Jerry Nutt watching, did just that.
"I am being punished for a crime I did not commit," he told the collected
>From what I've been able to gather about Frazier, he was lying. He told police
things only someone in the room when the murders took place could have known.
But click through all those dying declarations of innocence, and something
inevitable dawns: By the law of averages alone, at least some of these guys
were probably telling the truth.
Add to that the fact that, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre,
Texas has released 12 men from death row since 1973, usually after prisoners'
advocates discovered new evidence of their innocence, much of it resulting from
To be clear: Texas intended to put 12 innocent men to death. Nationwide, over
the same period, the number is 140.
No official second thoughts
Knowing that, these utterances from the archive are all the more disturbing.
Roy Pippin in March 2007: "You will answer to your Maker when God has found out
that you executed an innocent man. May God have mercy on you - Go ahead,
warden, murder me."
Protestors show their support for death row inmate Troy Davis in September
2011, just days before he was executed by Georgia for the 1989 murder of a
police office. The case attracted international attention after seven of nine
trial witnesses recanted their testimony against him. Cary Kerr, on May 3 of
this year, loudly told the state of Texas he was innocent, then said: "Check
that DNA ... Here we go. Lord Jesus, Jesus."
William Chappell on Nov 20 2002, looking at the mother of the victim: "You know
damn well I did not molest that kid of yours. You are murdering me and I feel
sorry for you ..."
Or, Steven Woods in September 2011: "I never killed anybody, ever - This is
wrong. This whole thing is wrong - Well, warden, - go ahead and do it. Pull the
I don't know much about those men or their specific cases, but I do know I
wouldn't have wanted to be any of those wardens.
I covered an execution in 1985 of an elderly woman in North Carolina, and I had
the chance to ask the warden why he himself didn't push the button, as the law
entitled him to do (he had delegated the job to someone else).
He proclaimed complete confidence in the courts, but couldn't really answer the
question. When I pressed him, he ended the interview.
This is not a subject the American justice system likes to discuss, either.
Exonerating the living is one thing, and it is done regularly here, if often
But exonerating the dead would amount to a state confession of murder and, in
all likelihood, end capital punishment in America.
Such a thing has never happened here.
Once a prisoner has been executed, state and federal prosecutors steadfastly
oppose reopening cases to conduct post-mortem DNA checks or consider any new
The reasoning is obvious: The dead cannot be brought back, and all such efforts
might accomplish is to bring the system of justice into severe disrepute.
The U.S. is just about the only democracy left in the death-penalty club. There
were 43 executions here in 2011, down from a peak of 98 in 1999.
America's enthusiasm for executions is exceeded only by places like China, Iran
and North Korea.
Those countries would just write off the odd execution of an innocent as the
cost of doing business.
But when such a case finally surfaces here, as it almost certainly will, this
deeply religious country might want to pray with the same fervor that so many
of the condemned do as the poison starts to flow into their veins.
(source: Neil Macdonald is the senior Washington correspondent for CBC News,
which he joined in 1988 following 12 years in newspapers; CBC News)
Accused UAH shooter Amy Bishop could face death penalty, rarity for women in
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for accused UAH shooter Amy Bishop,
but not many women receive that sentence in Alabama.
Since the state began keeping records of its executions in the 1920s, four of
the 217 inmates executed have been women.
Of the 197 inmates currently on death row, four are women. Three were convicted
of killing one of their children, and the 4th faces a death sentence for
arranging the murder of her husband, who had testified against her before a
grand jury in a bigamy case.
The last woman executed in Alabama was Lynda Block, in 2002, for the shooting
death of an Opelika police officer.
Bishop, a Harvard-trained biologist and mother of 4, has been in the Madison
County jail since her arrest after the Feb. 12, 2010, fatal shootings at the
University of Alabama in Huntsville of three fellow biology department
colleagues and the wounding of three others during a faculty meeting.MO< She is
charged with killing biology professors Dr. Maria Ragland Davis and Dr. Adriel
Johnson, and biology department chair Gopi Podila. She also is charged with
attempting to kill professors Dr. Joseph Leahy and Dr. Luis Cruz-Vera, and
staff assistant Stephanie Monticciolo.
Bishop is set to go on trial for capital murder March 19, but it is not clear
if jury selection will actually begin on that date.
Her court-appointed attorneys Barry Abston, Roy Miller and Robert Tuten have
petitioned the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to direct the trial judge,
Circuit Judge Alan Mann, to delay the case until the state releases money to
pay for expert witnesses and diagnostic testing of Bishop by a neurologist.
Bishop's attorneys have indicated they will pursue a defense of not guilty by
reason of mental disease or defect. In order for that defense to prevail, the
defense has to show that Bishop had a serious mental disease or defect at the
time the crime was committed and that it prevented her from understanding right
Mann has issued at least 4 orders to the state comptroller's office to make
payments to defense experts, but the state has declined, according to the court
filing by Bishop's attorneys.
Clinton Carter, deputy director of the Alabama Department of Finance, said the
state is preparing its response to the criminal appeals court, which on Feb. 2
gave it 21 days to reply.
Carter said the state maintains the position that the law "does not allow for
the prepayment of expert witness fees prior to the completion of work."
The defense has argued that without the expert witness assistance and related
testing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Bishop's constitutional
right to a fair trial will be violated.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard is prosecuting Bishop, along
with assistant prosecutors Tim Gann and Maggie Golden Wallace.
Judge Mann has issued a gag order in the case, and the attorneys are barred
from commenting on the decision to seek the death penalty and other pre-trial
Mark McDaniel, a Huntsville attorney who has been practicing law for 35 years
and has tried numerous capital cases, said the defense has to tread carefully
with a jury that will consider the question of life or death.
"I always tell lawyers, 'Your primary focus in a capital case is to save your
client's life,' " McDaniel said. "Every case is different, but in 90 percent of
cases it's not a 'whodunit' case, and there is no dispute she did this. If the
case is overwhelmingly against you and if you jump on every state's witness and
attack the prosecutors, then you're going to lose credibility with that jury in
the most important thing you're going to ask them, which is not to kill your
A capital murder trial has potentially 2 distinct parts: the guilt or innocence
phase, and if there is a conviction, the penalty phase. If someone charged with
capital murder is convicted, they can only receive 1 of 2 sentences, life in
prison without parole or the death penalty.
The expert testimony and neurological information being sought by Bishop's
lawyers are likely to play a role in both phases if Bishop is convicted. The
defense has the burden of proof in arguing for "not guilty by reason of
insanity," and Bishop's mental condition at the time of the shootings will be
the focus of those arguments.
There will be much for the jury to consider, but given the low number of
Alabama executions involving women, could Bishop's gender play a decisive role?
"When I first started out 35 years ago, it would have been easier to represent
a woman on a capital murder charge and save her because people just didn't want
to vote the death penalty for a woman in most cases," attorney McDaniel said.
"But those times are over. Given the role of women in the workplace, their
educational backgrounds and the number of women in positions of power, I think
younger and middle-aged jurors would treat a woman defendant the same.
"If I was picking this jury, if the idea is to save her life, I'd want older
jurors. That generation is more likely to say, 'A sane woman wouldn't do
(source: The Huntsville Times)
Alabama death row inmate claims newly discovered evidence could clear his name
An Alabama death row inmate is asking a federal appeals court to review new
evidence in his case that his attorneys say could exonerate him.
Billy Kuenzel was convicted of killing Sylacauga convenience store clerk Linda
Jean Offord during a robbery in November 1987, but he's maintained his
His attorneys are asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday to
grant him a new hearing, but prosecutors say the new information is little more
Kuenzel's defense team claims to have uncovered information that suggests his
roommate had a shotgun that could have been used in the killing, and that
Kuenzel may not have been at the crime scene.
Alabama prosecutors dismiss it as nothing more than "attacks on the credibility
(source: Associated Press)
No Execution Changes Coming in 2012
Utah lawmakers will likely not deal with a change in Utah’s murderer execution
method during the 2012 Legislature.
“The issue has been discussed,” said Ric Cantrell, chief of staff of the Utah
“But there is no bill file for it, there is no sponsor, there is no immediate
need,” said Cantrell.
The bill filing deadline has passed for the 45-day general session, which ends
March 8. A death penalty bill could be filed, but only with a majority vote of
either the House or Senate.
Cantrell and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, an attorney who often carries bills
desired by state court personnel and prosecutors, told UtahPolicy that the
governor’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice has recently discussed
Utah’s death penalty problems.
Like other states, Utah law says that murderers sentenced to death should be
killed with an injection of a combination of lethal drugs. However, one of
those drugs is no longer manufactured in the U.S.
That means states must get that drug from outside of the country, if they no
longer have stocks of it here.
Accordingly, Utah officials say, CCJJ officials have talked to leading
legislators about whether state law should be changed to have a firing squad
execution as a fall back procedure if the lethal drugs can’t be obtained.
The issue comes up at the same time as a Utah judge has decided to honor the
request of death row inmate Michael Archuleta who has chosen the firing squad.
Archuleta is sentenced to die April 5 for a 1988 murder.
When Archuleta was originally sentenced, Utah had the option of a firing squad
– and indeed a Utah inmate was shot to death in 2010 under the same
grandfathered in fire squad clause.
Reinstating the firing squad may be dealt with in a future legislative session,
said Cantrell. “But we don’t see the need to do so now.
(source: Utah Pulse)
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