[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, CONN., FLA., GA., ALA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Feb 25 11:59:35 CST 2012
Who Helps the Exonerated Men of Texas?
A lot of men from Dallas County have been exonerated—27 at the latest count—and
James Waller is one of the more memorable. He was convicted of the 1983 rape of
a twelve-year-old boy—mostly on the word of the boy—and given thirty years for
the crime. When DNA tests became available a few years later, he asked for one
but didn’t get it. He kept asking, even after he was paroled in 1993, because
he was considered a sex offender and couldn’t get a job or even go to parks
when children were present. He finally got a test in 2001, but it was
inconclusive. A second one in 2007 finally pardoned him, 24 years after he was
When TEXAS MONTHLY did a photo shoot of DNA exonerees back in 2008, Waller was
one of the clear leaders. He had known a few of the men in prison, and he had
gone out of his way to contact some of the others after they got out, knowing
how hard it was to go from wrongly-convicted-man to free-man. He would even
appear at hearings when a new exoneree was getting out, to talk with him, offer
advice, let him know he could call him for help. Waller is tall and quietly
charismatic and speaks in a deep, country accent. In a room full of men with
hard-luck life stories, his stood out. For example, 2 days before that hearing
to determine if he should get a second DNA test, his wife Doris, who was eight
months pregnant, died in a car wreck.
Waller soldiered on, refusing to let his troubles destroy him or his spirit. In
our interview in 2008, he memorably said, “God didn’t forget about me. That’s
the main thing. There were times where I forgot about him, but he never forgot
about me. And that’s why I’m still here. But I’m not gonna live in Texas no
more. I already have my house up for sale. I’m going to move back to
2 years later, he sold his house in Dallas and moved back to his hometown of
Haynesville, a small town twenty miles northeast of Shreveport, near the
Arkansas border. But he refused to leave behind the men whose cause he shared.
He recently started a nonprofit called Exonerated Brothers of Texas, along with
fellow exonerees Billy Smith (vice-president), James Giles (co-treasurer),
Johnnie Lindsey (co-treasurer), and Thomas McGowan (secretary). The men had all
become friends after they got out, getting together to talk about their
challenges and struggles, sharing how they were coping with their families and
Waller wants to harness this energy for the ones he knows will follow in their
footsteps. “When I got out,” says Waller, who is 55, “there was no help, no
support. Nobody listened. I was alone. I didn’t know any exonerees.”
That won’t happen anymore. Exonerated Brothers of Texas will focus on things
like counseling, family services, and job and vocational training. Mostly,
though, its goal is to let the exoneree know he’s not alone. “Our purpose is to
be there when they walk out and then later for support and counseling—because
they’re going to need some counseling. When you’ve been gone from society for a
long time, things are different. We’re trying to help guys getting out and
trying to help guys who don’t want to go back.”
In fact, Waller and nine other Texas exonerees were in a Dallas courtroom
Wednesday when Richard Miles was exonerated after fourteen years. They all
hugged their new comrade and welcomed him to the brotherhood.
Waller sees his long, hard journey as having a larger purpose. “We were
exonerated for a reason, besides to just sit around and do nothing. We
shouldn’t just sit back and not do something for somebody else. If I can help
another person, I will: help people in prison, help people who get out. Help
them connect to a person.”
Exonerated Brothers of Texas will launch a website next month and plans on
holding a fundraiser in July in Dallas.
(source: TM DAily Post)
Lethal injection costs increasing
The switch to a substitute drug for executions has driven up the cost of
capital punishment in Texas.
A year ago, the European supplier of sodium thiopental, bowing to pressure from
death penalty opponents, stopped making it.
When no other vendor could be found, the drug was replaced by pentobarbital as
1 of the 3 used in the lethal injection process.
With sodium thiopental, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the
cost of lethal injection cocktail was $83.35.
It is now $1286.86, with the higher cost primarily due to pentobarbital,
officials said. The other drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
"Our responsibility is to carry out carry out the executions and when sodium
thiopental was no longer available, we had to find another drug with similar
properties and this is it," agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Friday. "And
it's more expensive."
The increase in drug cost first was reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's a very small amount when compared with our
entire budget," Lyons said. The department's budget for 2012 is just over $3
A dozen executions have been conducted with the new lethal cocktail in Texas
and at least 5 are scheduled in the coming months, including 1 next week.
According to the new numbers, Texas has spent more than $15,400 -- versus
$1,000 -- to carry out those 12 executions.
Prison officials have declined to identify the state's drug supplier and the
specific amount for each drug and are awaiting an opinion from the Texas
attorney general on whether they can keep that information confidential.
(source: Associated Press)
Key Lawmaker Ties Death Penalty Vote To Repeal Of Early-Release Credits
State Sen. Andrew Roraback, a longtime opponent of the death penalty, said
Friday he would not back a repeal bill unless lawmakers also reverse a series
of changes to the state's criminal justice policy.
Roraback's vote is considered key if capital punishment is to be abolished in
Connecticut this year.
The legislature's judiciary committee announced earlier this week that it
intends to raise the issue this session.
In past years, a repeal bill has passed the House by a wide margin but vote
counts in the Senate have been much closer.
Roraback, a Republican from Goshen, is running for Congress in the 5th District
and has been hammered by opponent Lisa Wilson-Foley for his opposition to
capital punishment. Wilson-Foley began running radio ads this week attacking
"the liberal politicians and special interests in Hartford trying to eliminate
the death penalty" and urging listeners to call Roraback's office.
"Nothing has changed with respect to my thinking on the death penalty,''
Roraback said. "I don't believe the state should be in the business of
extinguishing life but I also this year want to make sure the state isn't in
the business of breaking its promises.
"Last year we passed an early-release bill that was a breach of faith with
victims of crime ... and their families because it is breaking a promise that
was made at the time of sentencing,'' Roraback added.
He is referring to a bill approved during the 2011 legislative session that
establishes an early-release program for prisoners, including some who were
convicted of violent offenses such as rape and arson. Roraback and other
members of the Republican caucus who oppose the bill called it bad public
Under the policy, inmates may earn up to five days a month off of their
sentence for good behavior and participation in programs that aim to reduce
recidivism. The credits can be revoked if prisoners misbehave or fail to comply
with the program.
Michael P. Lawlor, Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice
issues and the architect of the new policy, said it cannot be repealed
But Roraback said he intends to offer an amendment to a death penalty repeal
bill that would also repeal the early-release credits.
"We have an opportunity to, in connection with the death penalty vote, to
restore integrity to our sentencing system,'' he said. "I will vote to repeal
the death penalty if this provision is included, Otherwise, I will not.''
Roraback said his congressional aspirations and Wilson-Foley's criticism have
nothing to do with his desire to link his vote on the death penalty with his
drive to repeal the criminal policy changes.
"I'm running for Congress, she's running for Congress, and the issues important
to that campaign are the national deficit, an economy on the ropes, national
security, and energy Independence,'' he said. "I have been, and will continue
to be, a vocal opponent of the early release program. I'm going to use my
position as a state senator to try and undo that ill-advised initiative."
The repeal bill's fate in the Senate has always been tumultuous. In 2009, it
passed the chamber after several longtime opponents, among them Democratic
Sens. Gary LeBeau and Edith Prague, changed their vote. But the measure was
vetoed by Gov.M. Jodi Rell.
In 2011, death penalty opponents thought they would prevail, thanks to the
election of Malloy, a capital punishment foe. But the issue never came up for a
vote after Prague and Sen. Andrew Maynard announced their opposition to the
repeal bill. Both lawmakers cited the brutal home invasion in Cheshire and the
quiet persuasion Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor, as reasons for their
reversal. The trial Joshua Komisarjevsky, 1 of the 2 men charged in the Petit
killings, was playing out last spring, when lawmakers were pondering the bill.
He has since been convicted and sentenced to death, as has Steven Hayes, who
was also charged in the case.
Maynard's aide said Friday he will likely support the repeal; his main
objection last year was the timing of the debate as Komisarjevsky was on trial.
Prague could not be reached for comment, but earlier this month The Day of New
London reported that she said she was wrestling with the issue.
Ben Jones, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death
Penalty, said he hopes the issue does not become entwined in election-year
"This has been an issue that has received bipartisan support and I'm hoping it
doesn't become a partisan bill this year,'' he said.
"When it's election time, sometimes people like to take cheap shots on this
issue..it's unfortunate when the debate goes in that direction because this is
a serious public policy issue."
Jones said he has always had a lot of respect for Roraback, who bucked many in
his caucus to support the repeal effort.
Added Lawlor, "all I know about Andrew Roraback is that he's arguably the most
principled legislator here, Democrat or Republican ... he's a man of principle
and he votes his conscience more than anyone else I know."
(source: Hartford Courant)
Connecticut Sen. Andrew Roraback won't vote for death penalty repeal without
end to prison release credits
Death penalty repeal advocates may have 1 vote fewer locked down. State Sen.
Andrew Roraback says he will not vote for repeal unless changes are made to the
Roraback, from Goshen, currently running for the Republican nomination to
Connecticut’s 5th Congressional district, voted in favor of repeal 2 years ago,
when a similar bill made it to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, where it was vetoed.
Though he said his position is not related to the 5th district race, one of his
Republican rivals, Lisa Wilson-Foley, jumped on the issue Wednesday after
Roraback voted in favor of raising the bill in concept, a small step forward.
“All Republicans need to be counted and I urge state Sen. Andrew Roraback to
reconsider his position and vote to keep the death penalty the law of the
land,” Wilson-Foley said in a release.
To be clear, Roraback has not changed his position on capital punishment.
“I do not believe the state should be in the business of extinguishing life,”
But he is linking the debate to another issue, and is refusing to vote in favor
of repeal if another law isn’t repealed as well.
“I also don’t think that the state should be in the business of lying to the
victims of crime and their families,” he said.
Last year, a bill was passed that allows convicted criminals access to Risk
Reduction Earned Credits. Those credits, said Mike Lawlor, under secretary for
state Office of Policy and Management’s Criminal Justice Planning and Policy
Division, allow an inmate to get a sentence reduction of up to 5 days per
To earn those credits and receive that sentence reduction, an inmate must “do
certain things” based on an individualized plan, Lawlor said, such as obtain a
high school diploma and complete classes specific to the offense. If convicted
on a drug offense, an inmate must complete drug rehab classes — if a sex crime
was the conviction, then appropriate classes must be completed.
According to data issued by the OPM, 2,710 offenders received these earned
credits between September 2011 and October 2011, some of them incarcerated in
maximum security settings (though convicted murderers are not eligible). And,
for now, the rolls are closed.
“Anybody who was going to get any credits has gotten them at this point,”
Though Lawlor said the system is a common one across the country and has been
shown to reduce the recidivism rate in other states, Roraback argues the law,
which he argued and voted against last year, demonstrates how the sentencing
system in Connecticut is “broken.”
Under state law, violent criminals must serve no less than 85 percent of their
sentence, regardless of behavior. Roraback said the earned credit system
violates that principal.
“Last year we passed an early release bill that allows the state to break its
word to the victims of crime and their families,” he said. “I will not vote to
repeal the death penalty unless we restore integrity to the system and repeal
the good time sentencing.”
Roraback said he intends to propose an amendment to the repeal legislation,
both in committee and on the floor of the Senate, but it’s not clear how the
loss of his vote will affect the passage of the death penalty repeal bill,
should his amendment not fly.
The Senate minority leader, state Sen. John McKinney, said he expects the bill
to “squeak” by the senate, and even with 2 Democrats voting against the bill in
the Judiciary Committee, it was still moved forward to public hearing by a wide
McKinney said Roraback’s shift “might” change his initial projections,
“depending on a number of circumstances” — how widespread support is for repeal
of risk reduction credits, for example.
“The landscape of our political justice system has changed as a result of these
risk reduction credits,” he said.
(source: New Haven Register)
Jury: Larkin deserves death
After convicting Gregory Larkin of 1st-degree murder for the April 2009
slayings of his parents, a jury ruled unanimously Friday that he should be
sentenced to death.
12 jurors concluded that the crime's heinousness and its multiple victims
formed the aggravating factors needed to impose the death penalty.
Circuit Judge Robert Foster will impose his judgment Thursday at 1 p.m.
Painting a portrait of a killer devoid of remorse, Assistant State Attorney Wes
White told jurors Larkin, 38, beat his parents Dick and Myra to death with a
baseball bat without pity.
"This defendant waited until they were separated, he waited until they were
engaged in their favorite activities, he waited until they were vulnerable,"
said White during closing arguments. "... The death penalty is the only
appropriate penalty for this defendant."
Flanked by his standby counsel - Assistant Public Defender Brian Morrissey -
Larkin offered no closing arguments, no mitigating factors and no evidence and
called no witnesses to his defense.
Instead, Morrissey called Dr. William Meadows to testify. Morrissey's
examination of Meadows reaffirmed the forensic psychologist's previous concern
that Larkin may have been "hiding" or "minimizing" an underlying mental illness
during one of three separate evaluations to determine whether he was competent
Larkin dismissed several attorneys, alleging that they were colluding with the
State Attorney's Office to secure his conviction, and represented himself at
his January trial in Nassau County Circuit Court. After he was convicted,
Morrissey expressed concern that Larkin might suffer from "psychotic
disturbances," prompting Foster to order the evaluations.
But during his cross-examination of Meadows on Friday, White revealed that
Larkin had no history of drug, alcohol or sexual abuse in his family. Nor was
he prescribed medication or seeking treatment for any psychological disorders.
In all he underwent three evaluations, with two of the three doctors finding
him competent to proceed.
Meadows conceded that Larkin's test results indicated he did not suffer from
psychosis, but he suggested the defendant's guarded responses could have
affected the results.
He told White that Larkin was coherent, intelligent and had an appreciation for
the charges leveled against him. The defendant exhibited appropriate courtroom
behavior, he admitted.
"So he was able to control himself?" White asked.
"Yes, sir," said Meadows.
Cleanly groomed and clad in a navy blazer, Larkin sat quietly through the
proceedings. Though unshackled, he seemed restrained, his eyes fixed at times
on a window far to his right. The only departure from his reserved disposition
was his deadpan response to Foster - "I'll be available" - when asked if Feb.
23 was an acceptable date for the trial's next hearing.
Larkin has maintained his innocence since his arrest in April 2009, contending
he was on a job interview in Mexico when his parents were killed and that
prosecutors failed to establish a motive, proper timeline or provide adequate
DNA evidence connecting him to the murders.
Prosecutors said he killed his parents with a bat and smashed his father's head
with a statue at their Caprice Lane home after he became enraged over their
plans to sell a failing family business he had been running in Costa Rica.
(source: Fernandina Beach News Leader)
Death for Bridgeton man who murdered ex's son
A local man who was convicted of murder in Newton County, Georgia, after
driving there from Bridgeton and killing his ex-girlfriend’s son, was sentenced
to death this week over the tearful objections of cousins, friends and his
Rodney Young, 43, was convicted of murder, 2 counts of felony murder,
aggravated assault and burglary on Friday, Feb. 17, then sentenced to die on
Family members of the victim, 28-year-old Gary Lamar Jones, said that while the
sentence brings them some closure, nothing can ever bring back a life that was
cut far too short.
“Gary was everything. He was a model, a boxer, he went to church faithfully.
You couldn’t find anything wrong with him. He treated all the women in his life
like they were queens,” said his sister-in-law Malissa Solomon. “He worked with
kids at a school in Salem. He worked at the Devreux School for autism. And he
had just gone for his first orientation to be a sheriff’s deputy.”
Jones had moved to Georgia in 2001 and become a corrections officer before
starting to work at a Red Lobster in Covington, Ga., the city in which he was
His mother, Doris Jones, moved down there with him after a tumultuous seven
year on-again off-again relationship with Young.
On March 30, 2008, she came in the front door of her son’s home and found him
stabbed and beaten to death.
He had just come home from church and was still dressed in his Sunday clothes,
and had been tied to a chair with a telephone cord. A bloody butcher knife and
hammer were on the floor next to him and his cellular phone was missing.
According to a courtroom transcript, Young was not even on the investigators’
radar until he called Doris Jones a day after the murder to convince her that
Gary had come to him in a dream and told him to take care of her.
“She said that he had been crying and offered to come and get her and take her
back. . . Rodney Young told her he had a dream where the victim came to him and
told him to take care of his mom . . . she had heard Rodney Young had been in
the area when Gary Jones was killed,” the court notes read.
The investigators checked his place of employment, Aunt Kitty’s Foods, and saw
that he had requested off March 26-28 of 2008, a Wednesday through Friday. The
murder occurred Sunday and Young arrived 4 hours late for work that Monday.
He had requested those days off March 3.
Though he initially denied to investigators that he had even been in Georgia,
his cellular phone records showed that he had not only been in that state but
had only been two miles from the victim’s home.
Furthermore, the investigators found Jones’ cellular phone in Young’s bedroom.
He also had cuts on his knuckles that he claimed were from an unidentified
Young had exhibited violent tendencies during his relationship with Doris
According to court records from the penalty phase of the trial, she made an
unannounced visit to his home one night and he was noticeably displeased and
argued with her, then choked her.
She said in Aug. 2006 he started to call her telephone and bang on her house
window. When she looked outside, he smashed a brick into the hood of her car
and ran away.
She said she reunited with Young because he was persuasive, and after the
choking incident had started calling her and sending her nice gifts.
Jones lamented her son’s murder and said it had affected her life in strange
“G’s death has impacted my life drastically. There are days I don’t even want
to get out of bed. . . I am always depressed and find it hard to overcome. . .
I wake up screaming some nights because of the scene of my son’s death
replaying . . . I have a fear of unlocking doors,” she said in the court.
She sounded drained on the phone Friday afternoon, but said she and the rest of
Young’s family felt that justice had been served.
“I just got back last night,” she said.
She said she and about 10 other relatives traveled to Newton County to watch
When asked if she was satisfied with the outcome of the trial, she said, “He
did what he did. And no, God don’t choose no one to take no one’s life. But,
the judge went by the book, and actually everything he (Young) did fell right
underneath the death penalty requirements. I wasn’t the jury, my son can’t be
brought back, but it means some type of closure. It means that justice was
After Young’s conviction, some witnesses called by the defense asked for the
more lenient sentence of life in prison.
Mary Beth Galex, a former Bridgeton High School teacher, said she had tried to
teach he and other students that education was the way to a better life.
“Obviously we failed,” she said, adding, “We did what we could do. . .we were
the people who became their family.”
Wayne Hendricks, who knew Young since high school, said he could demonstrate
the value of life if they did not sentence him to die.
Young’s 16-year-old daughter, known only as A.R., said she wanted to go to
Clark Atlanta University to be close to her father, and then simply begged the
jury, “Please don’t kill my Dad!”
The jury of 7 women and 5 men unanimously sentenced him to death.
Malissa Solomon’s son, 8-year-old Terrance Jones, sat with her on Thursday as
he remembered his uncle Gary.
The 2 used to play baseball and football together, and he even recalled a time
when he was sitting in the rear seat of a car which his uncle was driving when
they hit a deer.
“I never liked (Young). The first time I met him he said ‘Hi,’ to me and I
didn’t say anything. I didn’t like him. I thought he was scary,” he said.
Solomon, who said the murder had a permanent negative affect on her
relationship with Terrance’s father, added that having her beloved
brother-in-law taken from her was a uniquely tragic experience.
“It’s a different cry when your life gets taken away by someone, than when
somebody dies of natural causes,” she said.
(source: The News of Cumberland County)
ALABAMA----new execution date
March 29 execution date set for Arthur ---- Execution set for 5th time
Death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who escaped a Decatur work-release program and
killed a Muscle Shoals man 30 years ago, is scheduled to die by lethal
injection March 29.
The Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday that the state Supreme
Court set Arthur’s execution date.
Arthur was sentenced to die in 1983 for the Feb.1, 1982, contract killing and
robbery of Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals. Arthur, who grew up in Colbert
County, was scheduled to be executed 4 other times but has managed to avoid
Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Arthur, 69, has exhausted his
normal appeals, but he expects defense attorneys will file numerous challenges
seeking to halt the execution.
“His attorneys continue to file frivolous litigation, and I suspect they will
continue to file litigation right up until the execution is carried out,”
Crenshaw said. “I don’t expect any of the litigation they’ve filed so far to
hold up the execution.
“But he may not have used up all of his 9 lives. We will have to wait and see
2 motions filed by Arthur’s defense attorneys are pending before the U.S.
Supreme Court. One challenges Alabama’s method of administering lethal
injections. The other asks that a U.S. District Court judge be allowed to
review evidence from a confession made in 2008 by another inmate, who claims to
have killed Wicker. The confession came 3 days before Arthur was scheduled to
be executed on July 31, 2008.
In the confession, Bobby Ray Gilbert, who is serving life without parole for
another murder, claimed he had an affair with Judy Wicker, the victim’s wife,
and that she asked him to kill her husband.
During a 2010 hearing in Birmingham, Judy Wicker testified that she did not
know Gilbert and insisted that Arthur killed Troy Wicker. She testified against
Arthur during his appeal trials, too.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pulliam called Gilbert’s claims
bogus after DNA testing of evidence taken from Wicker’s home failed to link
Gilbert to the crime. The testing also failed to link Arthur to the crime,
court officials said.
Gilbert and Arthur were inmates at Atmore’s Holman Prison before Gilbert was
transferred to another state facility.
The hearing was held in Birmingham because that was where Arthur’s last trial
was held. Arthur was convicted in 1987 after his initial conviction was
overturned on a technicality and convicted again in 1991 after the second
conviction was overturned.
In an emailed statement, defense attorneys Suhana S. Han and Jordan T. Razza,
expressed disappointment that an execution date was set for Arthur while they
continue seeking additional DNA testing of evidence used to convict him. They
contend additional testing would vindicate their client.
“We are deeply concerned that the Alabama Supreme Court has set an execution
date for Thomas Arthur without allowing further DNA testing of critical
evidence that could substantiate another man’s sworn confession to the murder
of Troy Wicker.
“Mr. Arthur has maintained his innocence for 30 years and now stands to die
despite significant doubts that remain about his culpability,” Han and Razza
wrote. “If the state of Alabama is certain that the right man will die,
agreeing to this limited request can only add to the legitimacy of its actions.
“There won’t be a second chance to get this right if Mr. Arthur is executed.”
Judy Wicker initially claimed an unknown intruder killed her husband.
After an investigation determined that Wicker had hired Arthur to kill him, she
was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. She later recanted her
initial statements to police and testified against Arthur after his 1st
conviction was overturned.
Judy Wicker was released from prison after serving 10 years.
On the day of the murder, Arthur, according to prosecutors, left the state work
release program in Decatur and drove to Muscle Shoals. He is accused of killing
Troy Wicker while he slept in exchange for $10,000.
(source: Decatur Daily)
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