[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, OHIO, DEL., ARIZ., MASS., CONN.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Feb 28 14:05:11 CST 2012
'Texas 7' leader faces execution this week, says he's sorry for killing Irving
George Rivas, the head of a band of Texas prison escapees who killed a
29-year-old Irving police officer on Christmas Eve in 2000, is scheduled to die
for his crimes on Wednesday.
In an interview published Sunday , Rivas tells Fort Worth Star-Telegram
reporter Darren Barbee that he's sorry for shooting Aubrey Hawkins, the
29-year-old policeman who was the father of a 9-year-old boy.
Rivas (right) and his fellow escapees were robbing an Irving sporting goods
store when Hawkins tried to stop them. Rivas, 41, has previously admitted being
the one who fired the shots that killed the officer.
He says now that among his many regrets is that he "didn't find Christ sooner."
He adds: "I take no pride in none of my crimes. Someone like me had to lose
everything to appreciate anything."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Killer Faces Possibility Of Death Penalty----Sentencing Phase Set For Tuesday
A man convicted of killing a homeowner with an ax could be sentenced to death.
A Butler County jury found 26-year-old Victor Gantt guilty last week of killing
75-year-old Leroy Jones last May at Jones' Middletown home.
Jurors will decide whether to recommend that Gantt die for his crimes or
sentence him to life in prison.
If jurors recommend death, the judge can still sentence Gantt to life in
prison, but judges rarely ignore jury recommendations.
(source: WLWT News)
Del. Death Row Inmate Competent to Waive Appeals
A Delaware judge has ruled that a death row inmate who wants to waive all
appeals and be executed is mentally competent to make that decision.
Shannon M. Johnson was sentenced to death in 2008 for the September 2006 murder
of a man who he found sitting in a car with Johnson's former girlfriend.
Johnson later shot the former girlfriend, but she survived.
After the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence, Johnson
said he did not want to pursue any further appeals.
In a ruling Monday in which she cited reports from several mental health
experts, Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady said Johnson's IQ is above 70 and
that he is not mentally disabled. She concluded that Johnson understands the
legal consequences of waiving his rights to pursue further appeals.
(source: Associated Press)
Arizona switching to 1 drug for next execution
The Arizona Department of Corrections will use a single dose of the barbiturate
pentobarbital instead of a 3-drug cocktail to carry out Wednesday's execution
of convicted killer Robert Moormann.
And though Death Row defense lawyers have long lobbied for a "1-drug protocol"
as used in other states, the corrections department did not make the change
willingly. According to a notice filed Monday in the Arizona Supreme Court,
corrections officials discovered during a rehearsal for the Wednesday execution
that the supply of pancuronium bromide, the 2nd drug in the 3-drug process, had
passed its expiration date and could not be used.
The current corrections protocol, however, says that such decisions are to be
provided to the inmate in writing 7 days prior to the scheduled execution date.
Ironically, the Corrections Department was sued in December over its inability
to adhere to its own protocol, but a federal judge ruled that the lapses did
not violate constitutional rights.
A new protocol, which gives broad discretion to Corrections Director Charles
Ryan, went into effect on Jan. 25 and authorized the department to use either
the old 3-drug protocol or a 1-drug protocol. But that protocol has the
7-day-notice clause, meaning that the corrections department is already out of
compliance with its new guidelines for executions.
For years, Arizona used a 3-drug combination of the fast-acting barbiturate
sodium thiopental to anesthetize the condemned person, followed by pancuronium
bromide to cause paralysis, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
When thiopental became unavailable in the U.S. in fall 2010, Arizona, like many
states, began purchasing it from Europe on the "gray market." But in June 2011,
days before a scheduled execution, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
informed the Arizona Department of Corrections that its thiopental had not been
legally imported. The department then switched to a three-drug protocol using
pentobarbital instead of thiopental.
Defense attorneys have argued that the 3-drug protocol carries risks of
suffocation and pain. They reason that if the barbiturate wears off
prematurely, the inmate will be conscious but paralyzed and unable to call out
or signal any distress.
Figures released last week by the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix
showed that the last 5 deaths in executions in Ohio using only one drug
occurred about a minute faster than the last 5 in Arizona using 3.
Moormann will be a subject of 2 hearings before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals Monday afternoon.
(source: Arizona Republic)
Lawyers for Arizona death-row inmate seek stays
The Arizona Supreme Court and a federal court both have refused to stop the
scheduled execution of death row inmate Robert Henry Moormann.
Monday's decision was the 2nd time in 5 days that the Arizona Supreme Court has
denied a stay for Wednesday's pending execution.
The U.S. District Court in Phoenix issued its ruling Monday night and
Moormann's lawyers have appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
The 63-year-old Moormann was sentenced to death for the 1984 killing of his
adoptive mother while on a prison furlough.
Moormann's attorneys claim he was diagnosed in early childhood as being
mentally retarded and therefore the state can't execute him.
They have asked the federal appeals court for a preliminary injunction over
questions regarding Arizona's lethal-injection protocol.
(source: Associated Press)
Amnesty International chapters begin Death Penalty Action Weeks
As part of its campaign to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International USA
has declared Feb. 27 to March 11 Death Penalty Action Weeks. During that period
the group will organize protests, workshops, online forums, and other events.
Although support for the death penalty appears to be dwindling in this country,
there are still 34 states whose laws permit it. Many well-meaning people who
support the policy hold beliefs about it that are not supported by the facts.
Take the following quiz to see how much you know about this important issue.
How much do you know about the death penalty?
True or false?
1. The death penalty deters murder.
2. “Life without parole” (permanent imprisonment) is more expensive than the
3. In most murders, the victim and the murderer belong to different races.
4. People of color are murdered more frequently than whites, proportionately to
their numbers in the general population.
5. Those who murder people of color represent about 80 % of those who have been
6. Most people on death row could afford a lawyer.
7. 29 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death since the 1970s
in the United States.
8. Findings involving DNA are the main reason for death row exonerations.
9. Belarus is the only European country that has the death penalty.
10. In 2009, most of the executions in the world happened in these 5 countries:
China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
1. False. 88% of this country’s top academic criminologists reject the idea
that the death penalty deters crime. States without the death penalty have
lower murder rates. Most murders are crimes of passion and are not
2. False. A death sentence is far more costly than life without parole; legal
expenses are much higher in capital cases and most of those costs are accrued
during the trial, not during the appeals process. States spend millions more
dollars on the death penalty than they would if all death-row prisoners had
been sentenced to life without parole.
3. False. Most murders occur within the same racial group.
4. True. About 1/2 of all murder victims are African-American.
5. False. On the contrary, 77 % of those executed were convicted of killing
white victims. People of color who murder whites are far more likely to be
sentenced to death than whites who murder people of color.
6. False. An overwhelming majority of death-row inmates could not afford a
lawyer and were assigned court-appointed lawyers. Even public defenders who
care about their clients are often overloaded with cases and have few
resources. There have been numerous cases involving public defenders who slept
or were drunk during trials. In Georgia, 5 men on death row had been referred
to with a racial slur in court by their own attorneys.
7. False. As of October 2011, 138 people had been exonerated and released from
death row. It has been estimated that at least 12 persons have been wrongly
executed in recent decades (see the report “Reasonable Doubts” by Equal Justice
USA at www.ejusa.org).
8. False. The majority of death-penalty cases do not involve biological
material that can be tested for DNA. Most wrongful convictions have involved
not DNA, but prosecutorial and police misconduct and mistaken eyewitness
9. True. Only Belarus has the death penalty in Europe, and the European Union
has banned it. South Africa repealed capital punishment when it abandoned
apartheid. South Africans had studied the U.S. death penalty and concluded that
it was not good for a country trying to move toward racial equality. 2/3 of the
world’s nations no longer impose the death penalty.
(source: The Concord Journal)
Death Penalty Commutation
A decent time having elapsed, sort of, since 2 multiple murderers had been
sentenced to death for having 1) beaten with a baseball bat a husband of a
family in Cheshire, 2) forced the husband’s wife to travel to a bank to
withdraw funds for the two murderers, 3) raped the wife and one of the
daughters, 4) bound the daughters to their beds, 5) set fire to the house,
murdering the daughters and their mother, and anti-death penalty legislators in
the General Assembly are planning once again to file a bill that would
prospectively abolish the death penalty, replacing it with a sentence of life
in prison without possibility of parole. Prospective abolition would leave
intact the 11 death penalty sentences of the murderers awaiting justice on
Connecticut’s death row.
Such a bill would leave intact the legislature’s power to commute death penalty
sentences to life in prison at any time after the General Assembly had
abolished the death penalty. Unlike most states, the pardon power in
Connecticut is invested in the legislature rather the governor’s office
(McLaughlin v. Bronson, 206 Conn. 267 (1988), citing Palka v. Walker, 124 Conn.
121 (1938)). The General Assembly exercised this power until it created the
Board of Pardons in 1883. Although the General Assembly had delegated its power
of pardon to a board, it never-the-less retains pardon powers; and since the
power to commute is considered a part of the pardon power (Attorney General’s
Opinion 96-10, citing 59 Am.Jur.2d, Pardon and Parole § 23), it would appear
that the legislature may commute death sentences, according to an Office of
Legislative Research report.
The anti-death penalty legislators did succeed in passing an abolition bill
during the administration of former Republican Governor Jodi Rell, but the
governor disappointed them by vetoing it. Current Democratic Governor Dannel
Malloy has pledged to sign such a bill should it cross his desk. Encouraged by
the governor’s pledge, anti-death penalty proponents in the General Assembly
reintroduced their bill after Malloy’s installation as governor, an effort
doomed by two key Democratic legislators one of whom, state Senator Edith
Prague, withdrew her support for the measure after having had a conversation
with Dr. William Petit, the father of the Cheshire murder victims.
At a time when a jury had convicted and sentenced to death only one of the two
Cheshire murderers, the trial of the second murderer being in process, Prague
emerged from her conversation with Petit firmly convinced that both murderers
should suffer the penalties prescribed for them by a jury of their peers. She
expressed herself on this point in rather unforgiving language: “They should
bypass the trial and take that second animal and hang him by his penis from a
tree out in the middle of Main Street.” At the same time, Prague indicated she
might support future efforts to abolish the death penalty. But she found it
difficult to look Petit in the face and “not give him something that would make
his life a little easier.” The 86 year-old Prague since then suffered a mild
stroke but returned at the end of January to the General Assembly.
Democratic Senator Andrew Maynard of Stonington, meeting at the same time with
Petit, followed Prague’s lead. “It’s a toss-up,” he said, “I don’t support the
death penalty broadly but I don’t support repealing it at this time. For my own
personal reasons and as a matter of public policy, I don’t think it’s the right
way for the state to act. But in this instance there are such mitigating
circumstances, in my mind, that I could not in good conscience vote for repeal
this year.” The mitigating circumstances having disappeared and the timing
being better, Maynard now says “I’m inclined to support repeal.”
Even without the 2 wavering senators, there are, according to some head
counters, enough votes in the General Assembly to pass the death penalty
The inevitable passage of the bill will unleash a flood of appeals that will at
a minimum further delay the executions of Connecticut’s 11 death row inmates.
It is almost certain that at some point in the future a Democratic dominated
legislature supported by a Democratic governor, all of whom will have been
instrumental in abolishing the death penalty, would be morally derelict in
resisting the commutation of the death sentences of the 11 prisoners now
awaiting execution on death row. The death penalty having been abolished for
prospective criminals who in the future might violate Connecticut’s narrowly
circumscribed rarely applied death sentence, no moral justification for the
death penalty could withstand a call for the commutation of those awaiting
execution authorized by a lapsed and outmoded law.
Don Pesci is a writer who lives in Vernon
(source: Opinion; Don Pesci is a writer who lives in Vernon----West Hartford
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