[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----S.C., N.C., OHIO, CONN., MO.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Feb 15 09:25:20 CST 2012
More death penalty sentences in home invasion cases?
State Lawmakers are considering a bill that would add new crimes to the list of
offenses eligible for the death penalty.
The bill would make it easier for convicted home invaders responsible for a
murder to receive the death penalty, and also potentially increase the length
of home invasion crime penalties.
Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree said the bill would only have a minimal
impact on statutes already in place regarding capitol punishment for home
invasion crimes, but the small impact could provide prosecutors another tool to
"[It] closes that loophole and that's got some value," Hembree explained. "Even
though [the situation] might not come up that much, [for example, if] we have
ten home invasions and it doesn't count in nine of them, in the tenth one it
might, and that's worthwhile."
Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick said the actual impact on home
invasion crimes will likely be minimal, but added he could not think of a
reason any law enforcement agency would object to the Home Invasion protection
"Most criminologists would agree it's now going to have a wide ranging, easily
discernable impact on the home invasion scene," Frederick stressed. "But if it
deters one person, that's great."
Residents of the Woodlyn Meadow Neighborhood in Little River, where a violent
armed home invasion occurred days before Christmas in 2011, say they worry
about home invasions daily.
"I feel like the legislature is way behind, this should have been done years
ago," said a resident of Woodlyn Meadow who chose to identify himself only as
C.W. "They need to set some examples, and I think it would be a deterrent to
Hembree says criminals convicted of burglary, armed robbery or kidnapping
charges combined with a murder are already eligible for death sentence.
Several versions of the bill, including one that deals with punishment based on
the severity of the incident, are currently being considered by legislative
(source: WMBF News)
Death penalty Catch-22
Final arguments are under way in the state's first Racial Justice Act trial,
taking place in Cumberland County.
Lawyers for death row inmate Marcus Robinson argue his sentence was based on
racial bias because, statistically, prosecutors dismiss potential black jurors
more often than white jurors.
Robinson, convicted in 1994, had a jury of 9 whites, 2 blacks and 1 Native
Because RJA claims rely almost exclusively on statistics rather than the facts
of the case itself, numbers have been the focus throughout the course of this
trial. The defense has employed a highly publicized Michigan State University
study, while the state has called on statistician Joseph Katz to refute it.
One interesting fact that has come out presents a kind of Catch-22.
When seating a jury in a death penalty case, prosecutors routinely dismiss
prospective jurors who say they oppose the death penalty.
Surveys consistently show that blacks are much more likely than whites to
oppose the death penalty.
But, according to the RJA, if blacks are disproportionately dismissed from jury
pools, that's evidence of racial bias by the prosecution.
Let's see how Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks sorts that out.
Then we can watch the same or similar dilemmas present themselves in the next
150 or so RJA cases, including five in Guilford County. Maybe they'll all get
done in, oh, about 20 years.
(source: Greensboro News-Record)
It's past time to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina----Those who do
wrong must be punished, but this system is flawed.
>From John Moore of Charlotte, on behalf of the Charlotte Cooperation Circle of
the United Religions Initiative. The URI is a global organization composed of
persons of diverse religions and spiritual traditions dedicated to interfaith
cooperation and peace:
Now that Gov. Bev Perdue is free to follow the better angels of her nature, we,
the Charlotte Chapter of United Religions Initiative, urge her to declare a
moratorium on capital punishment and urge the N.C. legislature to change the
Criminal Code to abolish capital punishment as a penalty. In the words of
Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, "the death penalty diminishes all of us,
increases disrespect for human life, and offers the tragic illusion that we can
teach that killing is wrong by killing."
We acknowledge that in a society that values both order and liberty, those who
do wrong must be punished with penalties severe enough to deter others who are
on the path of lawlessness. We acknowledge that the threat of capital
punishment is a powerful weapon in the prosecutor's arsenal when negotiating
with alleged criminals to accept a plea agreement instead of a trial. We fully
support the power of the court to hold the convicted person fully responsible
for the crime. We acknowledge the feelings of loved ones of victims of brutal
crimes, and can only imagine the anguish they have suffered. Some of us have
experienced this anguish as well.
All of us need to take a new and closer look at the practice of capital
punishment itself. Just what is its purpose and what does it accomplish? Can
the system be fixed to always convict the right person and to administer the
death penalty by a truly objective standard? Are there any benefits to be
gained which would outweigh the horror of the execution of an innocent person?
Until these questions are answered, we support a moratorium on the death
Respect for justice is lost
We would further state that the institution of capital punishment not only
hurts those who die at the hands of the government, but also harms the
community. Respect for justice is lost when the state sponsors violence. We as
a society must not allow human life to be subject merely to administrative
efficiency or to long-standing tradition. Capital punishment is wrong
regardless of how it is imposed, what alleged advantages it provides the state,
how much it costs to impose, or how long it has been practiced. Let us never
again discover innocence too late. Let us never again see a picture of laughter
at a gallows.
We call all people of this state to contact our governor and their elected
state representatives to ask for the abolition of capital punishment from the
laws of North Carolina. This will not happen until our elected leaders realize
that abolition of the death penalty is the will of the electorate. We must join
together with one voice: loud enough, numerous enough, and persistent enough
that our elected leaders will choose to end state-sponsored violence. North
Carolina needs to join other states and countries that have taken this action
to uphold justice.
(source: Editorial, Charlotte Observer)
Ohio justice rejects death penalty law he wrote
As a young state senator 30 years ago, Paul Pfeifer helped write Ohio's death
penalty law. Today, as the senior member of the state Supreme Court, he's
trying to eliminate it.
It's not uncommon for sitting judges to change their mind on the death penalty
— U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously said in 1994 he would no
longer "tinker with the machinery of death" — but Pfeifer may be the only one
to argue so ardently against a capital punishment law he himself created, and
yet continue to rule on death penalty cases.
"I have concluded that the death sentence makes no sense to me at this point
when you can have life without the possibility of parole," Pfeifer said in his
most recent public comments, testifying in December in favor a bill to abolish
Ohio's law. "I don't see what society gains from that.
After the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in
1972, states spent several years rewriting their laws. Ohio's 1st attempt, in
1974, was found unconstitutional, but the second try, when Pfeifer was chairman
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was enacted in 1981 and has never been
successfully challenged. Lawmakers pledged at the time to draft a law reserved
for the most heinous murders.
At least 2 county prosecutors say Pfeifer should stop ruling on death
sentences, including Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters, who said that
Pfeifer's actions were inappropriate. "It gives rise to a credible inference
that he cannot be fair to both sides," Deters said recently.
Pfeifer's position is unusual but on solid legal ground as long as he keeps his
opinions out of his rulings, said Marianna Bettman, a University of Cincinnati
law professor and former state appeals court judge.
Ohio has 148 inmates on death row. Executions are temporarily on hold while
federal courts review the state's lethal injection procedures, but that delay
is not expected to last forever. The Democrat-sponsored bill to abolish the
death penalty has little chance of passing.
Pfeifer, a Republican, has always charted his own course on the court. For
years he was a member of a foursome — 2 Democrats and 2 moderate Republicans —
dubbed "the Gang of Four" for a series of 4-3 rulings that critics said were
anti-business and favored Democrats and their causes. He's also not afraid of
mud-slinging: in his spare time the lifelong farmer raises Black Angus cattle.
Pfeifer had been on the court only two years when, in 1994, he dissented on a
vote upholding the death penalty for a man sentenced to death for shooting his
ex-girlfriend at the elementary school where she worked as a custodian.
Already, he appeared to be having his doubts, writing that "the death penalty
is special" and should be "reserved for those committing what the state views
as the most heinous of murders." That defendant, John Simko, died of natural
causes on death row in 1997.
Pfeifer made similar statements in court opinions over the years. He took his
position public in 2001, calling unsuccessfully for an independent panel to
review the law. He began to complain that prosecutors were overusing the
statute, seeking death sentences in domestic quarrels that went bad instead of
for the worst of the worst killers.
He often cites the case of Richard Nields, who murdered his girlfriend in their
southwestern Ohio home in 1997, then stole her car and travelers' checks, as an
example of overreaching by prosecutors.
"This case is not about robbery," Pfeifer wrote in his dissent to the court's
2001 decision upholding Nields' death sentence. "It is about alcoholism, rage
and rejection and about Nields' inability to cope with any of them."
Ultimately, Gov. John Kasich agreed and last year changed Nields' sentence to
life without parole.
In January 2011, Pfeifer made his strongest statements to date, calling on
Kasich to empty death row.
Pfeifer says he's required as a judge to take positions to make laws better,
hence his current stand. He's also required to rule according to the law and
the Constitution, which he says he does. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice
Maureen O'Connor says she's comfortable Pfeifer is following the law and not
Since 2001, Pfeifer has written the majority opinion upholding death sentences
in five cases, dissented in two others, and upheld death sentences while
disagreeing on aspects of the decision in four other cases.
As recently as December, Pfeifer set an execution date, signing the order for a
man who raped and killed his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.
Ohio first allowed the option of life without parole instead of a death
sentence in 1996, then changed the law in 2005 to make it even easier to put
killers behind bars for life while skipping death penalty charges altogether.
Pfeifer says those changes have made the death penalty unnecessary.
State Rep. Ron Young, a conservative Republican, challenged Pfeifer on this
point in December, arguing that removing the death penalty would create a
slippery slope where eventually life without parole would be challenged as too
Pfeifer's experience as a death penalty supporter turned opponent is not
Gerald Kogan, a retired chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court who
prosecuted death penalty cases early in his legal career, now says the death
penalty should be abolished, with the possible exception of worst of the worst
defendants such as Osama bin Laden or a mass serial killer.
Rudy Gerber helped write Arizona's death penalty law in the 1970s but now
opposes capital punishment and represents death row defendants trying to escape
the law he created.
In California, Don Heller authored a 1978 ballot initiative that created the
state's death penalty law. Thirty years later, with more than 700 inmates on
death row, Heller has changed course and is advocating the law's demise, saying
it's too prone to human error.
(source: Associated Press)
State democrats hope to end death penalty
Democrats in the state legislature are optimistic that this will be the year
they succeed in abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut.
New Haven representatives Gary Holder-Winfield and Roland Lemar are leading a
campaign to end capital punishment in the state, the latest in a series of
efforts in Hartford that have so far been unsuccessful. Holder-Winfield said
the Judiciary Committee will likely raise a bill repealing the death penalty in
early March, at which point it will be presented at a public hearing, and the
committee will likely vote on the bill in late March. Legislators said they
believe that the bill can pass the State House of Representatives and Senate,
and Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he will sign it into law if it arrives at his
“Anything is possible,” Holder-Winfield said. “I will be doing everything
possible to get the requisite number [of votes] to my position.”
With Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman at the helm of the state’s executive
branch, a death penalty abolition bill passed by the House and the Senate would
not face the same fate as the one passed by both houses in 2009 only to be
vetoed by former Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. Still, Holder-Winfield said, public
opinion will likely pose a challenge to repeal.
Holder-Winfield said public opinion in Connecticut is currently skewed in favor
of retaining the death penalty, with recent polls showing 78 percent of state
residents in favor of capital punishment. Resistance to death penalty
abolition, he said, often stems from a misunderstanding about the possible
consequences of abolishing the death penalty, he said. Opponents worry that
without the death penalty, criminals would be able to get out of prison after
serving only a part of their terms, he said, but the bill would actually
replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole in order to
prevent this outcome.
Given a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole,
Holder-Winfield said recent polls show 48 % of Connecticut residents in favor
of death penalty and 43 % in favor of imprisonment without parole.
Lemar said public opinion remains influenced by the 2007 Petit family triple
murder, in which two men invaded the home of William Petit and sexually
assaulted his wife and two daughters before killing them and setting their
Cheshire, Conn. house on fire. Because of the severity of the incident, the
perpetrators of which have been sentenced to death, constituents have been more
sympathetic toward capital punishment, he said.
Holder-Winfield criticed the media for over-publicizing the Petit case, arguing
that its notoriety has been an obstacle to public persuasion.
“To the media, Petit’s case is sensational and it drives viewership and
readership,” he said. “However, we need to question why there is so much of
incessant focus on this [Petit’s] situation.”
Despite persistent popular support of the death penalty, Holder-Winfield said
he remains convinced that its repeal is necessary. The capital punishment
system costs much more than lifetime incarceration, he said, and several
studies have shown that the death penalty’s administration has been racially
“We cannot say the justice system is just if different people can get different
results through the system,” he said. “If we can make the system more just,
even if we get nothing else, that’s enough for me.”
Lemar said his support of ending the death penalty stems from his belief that
the punishment itself is “simply unjust and unworthy of civilization of the
21st century,” and that it offers no “added protection” to society. The state
has the duty to protect its citizens, he said, rather than condemn them to
Proponents of the bill will face a tight vote, Lemar and Holder-Winfield
“We will be doing a careful head count and make sure we have at least 18 state
senators ready to vote for repeal,” said Martin Looney, majority leader of the
State Senate, which has 36 members. “If we reach that number we will bring that
bill forward for debate.”
Should the Senate be split exactly down the middle, Wyman has said she would
break the tie in favor of repeal.
On campus, the Yale College Democrats are continuing to support legislators’
fight to abolish the death penalty. Dems President Zak Newman ’13 said repeal
will “serve as a message to the rest of the country that this form of
punishment is intolerable.” Newman added that the Dems will be canvassing,
writing letters and lobbying representatives in support of death penalty
There are currently 11 men on death row in Connecticut.
(source: Yale Daily News)
Mo. lawmaker wants audit for using death penalty
A Democratic lawmaker from St. Louis wants the Missouri auditor's office to
investigate the cost of applying the death penalty.
State Sen. Joe Keaveny says the audit would be the 1st comprehensive study in
Missouri to compare the cost of the death penalty with sentencing an offender
to life in prison without parole. Keaveny filed a bill seeking the audit this
Keaveny says the goal is to determine the cost of capital punishment, not to
analyze whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.
(source: Associated Press)
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