[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., N.Y., MONT., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Jan 20 18:14:15 CST 2012
New Delay In Child Killer Howard Ault’s Date With Death
A South Florida man on death row for killing a pair of young sisters in 1996
and stuffing their bodies in his attic went before a Broward judge Friday to
drop his death penalty appeals and fire his attorneys, but once there, told the
judge he had not received his prescribed anti-depressant medication in 2 days.
The judge ordered Broward prosecutors to make sure Howard Steven Ault is given
his medications and ordered him back to court on Sunday in a rare weekend court
This isn’t the first time Ault has delayed a hearing regarding his execution.
In September 2011, Ault appeared in court ready to drop his death penalty
appeals and set an execution day but wavered and said he wasn’t quite sure he’s
ready to die. He also told the judge he had not been given his prescribed
The court could not proceed with the hearing because Ault wasn’t certain about
wanting to drop his appeals.
Ault was convicted in 1999 of raping and murdering 11-year-old DeAnn Mu’min and
murdering her 7-year-old sister, Alicia Jones, in Oakland Park in 1996.
At the time of the murders, the girls’ mother, Donna Jones was homeless and
living with her daughters in Easterlin Park in Oakland Park. Ault had
befriended Jones at the campground.
On Nov. 4, 1996, Ault offered her daughters a ride home from school in his
truck. Instead, he drove them to his house in Fort Lauderdale, where he raped
DeAnn, then strangled her and her sister. He then hid their bodies in his
attic. Their bodies were found 2 days later.
After the original jury recommended the death penalty, Gold sentenced Ault to
death. But the sentence was overturned in 2003 by the Florida Supreme Court,
which ruled that Gold erred in dismissing a potential juror who expressed
opposition to the death penalty.
4 years later, another jury again recommended the death penalty. And again,
Gold sentenced Ault to die.
(source: CBS News)
Man keeps death penalty issues in focus
Scott Langley of Chatham is on a liquid fast, water and juice, through
Wednesday. The fast is part of his protest against the U.S. detention of
prisoners without trial at Guantanamo Bay.
This is part of a larger passion for justice that also includes a strong focus
on the death penalty.
Tomorrow, the 10th anniversary of the first prisoners being sent to Guantanamo,
about 1,000 protesters will form a human chain between the White House and the
Capitol building, in protest of the indefinite detention of persons not only at
Guantanamo, but in Bagram, Afghanistan, and other prisons and “black sites,”
where prisoners are being held without charge.
Langley and his wife, Sheila Stumph, will be taking part in it.
At the end of the chain will be 171 people dressed in orange jumpsuits and
hoods, representing the 171 prisoners who remain at Guantanamo.
Although President Obama said he was shutting down Guantanamo soon after he
entered office, that promise never came true. And so the protests continue,
particularly every Jan. 11 in Washington.
Langley was arrested there a year ago. He sustained damage to his shoulder that
still bothers him from being driven around all night in the back of a police
transport vehicle with his hands cuffed behind his back, he said.
January is a busy month in our nation’s capital for Langley and Stumph, who
just returned from a weeklong retreat in Washington on Faith and Resistance,
which Langley said combines prayer, reflection and action.
Langley will be back in Washington again Jan. 17 to protest the death penalty
in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The event occurs every five years, held to
mark the first U.S. execution in the “modern era.”
Death penalty activists call the “modern era” the period from 1977 onward. From
1972 to 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court had considered the death penalty
unconstitutional, as constituting “cruel and unusual punishment.” In 1976 the
court revised its opinion and states were again allowed to institute the death
The 1st person executed after this decision was Gary Gilmore, who went before a
firing squad in Utah Jan. 17, 1977.
On Jan. 17, members of the Abolitionist Action Committee, of which Langley is
the director, will attempt to take a 30-foot-long banner saying “STOP
EXECUTIONS” up the steps of the Supreme Court.
“That act is illegal,” Langley said. “Once you ascend those steps, free speech
At the last such action, in 2007, all 9 members of the group, including
Langley, were arrested.
“It’s hard to hide a 30-foot banner,” he said. “We’ll try to be creative and
unfurl it in all its 30-foot glory.”
Since 1977, there have been 1,277 legal executions in the U.S. More than 1/3 of
these occurred in Texas, Langley’s home state.
It was in a human rights history class his senior year in college that he first
became interested in the death penalty.
“We covered everything from the genocide of Native Americans to the Holocaust
to the war in Vietnam,” Langley said. “In class we had to do an art project; I
chose to take a few photos around the death penalty issue. I was in Texas,
where executions were happening on a weekly basis.
“That was in 1999, and I haven’t stopped taking photos since then,” he said.
“Whenever possible I go to an execution myself; most recently I was at the Troy
Davis execution in Georgia.”
He does not go out of morbid curiosity or for thrills, though, but out of a
passion for justice. Following the Troy Davis execution, he said, “I had
nightmares for weeks. It was really hard for me.”
For about a decade, Langley has been engaged in the Death Penalty Project,
one part of which is photographing the people and the surroundings of American
“As an activist and a photographer, it’s part of what I can contribute to my
work against the death penalty,” he said.
He said he photographs what happens in the days and hours leading up to the
execution itself: “People holding signs, people crying, family members waiting,
the massive police presence.”
A memorable photo he took at the Troy Davis execution tells a story. It shows
Davis’s sister, the wheelchair-bound Martina Correia. She has just introduced
an Amnesty International volunteer to a student who has driven all the way from
San Francisco to the Georgia execution site. The 2 are speaking to each other,
but Correia is staring off toward the prison at the exact moment her brother
was pronounced dead, not knowing he has been executed.
“In that moment her brother was dying, she was still organizing against the
death penalty, still recruiting people,” Langley said. Correia, 44, died of
breast cancer 10 weeks later. “Martina was an amazing organizer,” Langley said.
“She did so much for the death penalty movement.”
As well as protesters outside the executions, he has also shot the execution
apparatus, the table where the prisoner ate his last meal, the preparation
room, the visitation booths, with a special phone to call people who are not
able to attend.
The other part of the project is the “I oppose the death penalty” project.
“I have a sign that says, ‘I oppose the death penalty,’” Langley said. “I
take pictures of different people holding this sign, focusing on two groups —
exonerated death row prisoners and celebrities, people of some notoriety, such
as former death row wardens, now against the death penalty. Also, movie stars,
musicians, authors; anyone I might have had personal contact with.”
These photos can be seen on line, at deathpenaltyphoto.org: The celebrities
include such names and faces as Martin Sheen, David Strathairn, the Indigo
Girls, Kurt Vonnegut, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Angela Davis, Michael Dukakis,
Howard Zinn and former death row wardens Allen Ault and Ron McAndrew.
And there is also a gallery of exonerated, former death row inmates who were
freed because they were belatedly found innocent. There are currently 22
portraits of exonerated death row inmates holding signs saying, “I oppose the
death penalty,” including Ray Krone, freed after 10 years on death row in
Arizona, Derrick Jamison, freed after 20 years on death row in Ohio, Freddie
Lee Pitts, who spent 12 years on death row in Florida, Darby Tillis, who was 8
years on death row in Illinois and Curtis McCarty, 21 years on death row in
Langley said there’s been a huge decline nationally in the number of people
executed, and a huge decline in the number of people sentenced to death, since
he started working on the project a decade ago.
“I think there are evolving standards of decency,” Langley said. “I’d like to
think society and people are evolving toward a better way of dealing with
“The numbers are down,” he said. “We’re winning. I think it’s a little of
everything — the collective efforts, grass roots activities, state leaders,
non-profit leaders, attorneys.
“The attorneys have been instrumental,” he said. “They know how to work the
legal system. Some people have been stayed from execution.”
In 2012, as many as 5 states could end the death penalty, Langley said.
“Right now, 34 states have the death penalty, 16 have abolished it,” he said.
“But half of those were in the last 5 years.”
(source: Hudson-Catskill Newspapers)
Double-murderer Ronald Smith asks to be spared death penalty
After almost 30 years in an isolation cell at Montana State Prison,
Alberta-born double-murderer Ronald Smith — the only Canadian on death row in
the United States — has formally filed his request for executive clemency to
the state's parole board, submitting a 19-page appeal in which his lawyers
describe the 54-year-old convict as a man who has made "great strides in his
rehabilitation" and exhibits "heartfelt remorse," "a changed heart and mind"
and "a potential for good."
Smith, a native of Red Deer, Alta., was convicted in Montana of killing 2
Blackfeet Indian men — Harvey Mad Man, 24, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20 —
during a drug- and alcohol-fuelled road trip to the U.S. in August 1982. Smith
marched the men into the woods and shot them dead after they had picked up
Smith and two of his hitchhiking friends from Canada.
Smith, 24 at the time of the killings, confessed to the crime and initially
requested the death penalty — and was promptly granted his wish by a Montana
judge. But Smith later launched sentencing appeals to avoid execution, a legal
fight that went on for some 25 years until his appeal options recently ran out.
But citing Smith's record as a model prisoner and his "unusual potential as a
human being," the clemency application points to psychological tests conducted
in 1995 that concluded Smith "is not anti-social and is not cold and callous;
has a valid interest in intellectual pursuits; has made a positive adaptation
to incarceration; and is not grandiose, narcissistic, aggressive, sadistic,
bizarre, or psychotic."
The application also emphasizes Smith's high IQ — described as being in the
"top 13th percentile of the population" — and the fact that "Ron has an above
average capacity and a very good potential for educational pursuits, including
a college degree. This has been borne out by his in-prison completion of
numerous college credits."
And there is a detailed account of the abuses Smith suffered as a child at the
hands of his violent, hard-drinking father.
"In the home and towns that Ronald Smith grew up in, there is a deeply
entrenched culture of alcoholism and abuse," the document states, suggesting
these circumstances had a powerful influence on Smith at the time of the 1982
Greg Jackson, Smith's lawyer in Helena, Montana, told Postmedia News on
Thursday that if the state parole board decides, as expected, to hold a hearing
on the clemency application, board officials will "conduct an investigation
into Ron's background and the circumstances of the offence."
A hearing should occur within four months, Jackson said, adding that the board
would then make a recommendation about clemency that Montana Gov. Brian
Schweitzer would be guided by, but not bound by, in determining Smith's fate.
Accompanying the request for Smith's death penalty to be replaced by a sentence
of life imprisonment are letters from several supporters, including a prison
teacher, a priest and — perhaps most significantly — Foreign Affairs Minister
He states that while the Canadian government "does not sympathize with violent
crime," it is seeking clemency for Smith "on humanitarian grounds."
Baird's letter also notes that the government's backing of the clemency bid
"should not be construed as reflecting a judgment on Mr. Smith's conduct." And
he points out that the Canadian government was "ordered" by Federal Court of
Canada in 2009 "to support Mr. Smith's case for clemency."
Still, the Conservative government's official expression of support for Smith's
bid to avoid execution completes an about-face in a case that, in 2007,
re-ignited a nationwide debate about capital punishment.
At that time — in the wake of a Postmedia News report about attempts by
Canadian diplomats to win clemency for Smith and have him transferred to a
Canadian prison — the Conservative government swiftly withdrew its support for
the initiative and declared that Canada would no longer seek clemency for
Canadians facing execution in "democratic countries, like the United States,
where there has been a fair trial."
As opposition critics assailed the move and controversy over the case flared in
the House of Commons in November 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his
government's decision to abandon Smith was driven by concerns that lobbying for
the killer's life would "send the wrong signal" to Canadians about violent
"We have no desire to open the debate on capital punishment here in Canada —
and likewise, we have no desire to participate in the debate on capital
punishment in the United States," Harper insisted at the time. "The reality of
this particular case is that were we to intervene, it would very quickly become
a question of whether we are prepared to repatriate a double-murderer to
Canada. In light of this government's strong initiatives on tackling violent
crime, I think that would sent the wrong signal to the Canadian population."
But the government's handling of the Smith case was ruled "unlawful" in 2009 by
the Federal Court of Canada, forcing a Conservative retreat on the issue and
leading diplomats to re-launch the clemency bid.
Over the past two years, as Smith's lawyers exhausted all avenues for appealing
the death sentence in U.S. courts, it became clear that the Canadian's fate
probably would come down to a decision by Schweitzer about whether to grant
He has remained noncommital on the question in his public comments about
Smith's case, acknowledging both the difficulty of deciding to send someone a
death chamber and the legitimacy of demands by some relatives of Smith's
victims that he be put to death for his crimes.
However, the document submitted this week to the parole board — members of
which will offer their recommendation to Schweitzer in the coming months on
whether Smith's death sentence should be commuted — highlights one U.S. Court
of Appeals ruling that, according to Smith's lawyers, "took the extraordinary
action of virtually recommending that the governor grant Mr. Smith clemency."
While denying a Smith appeal, the court had noted in its judgment that "by all
accounts, Smith has reformed his life. He has developed strong relationships
with various members of his family and has taken advantage of the educational
opportunities offered by the prison that houses him. He has expressed deep
regret for his deplorable actions. However, consideration of these issues are
beyond our jurisdiction in this case. Clemency claims are committed to the
wisdom of the executive branch."
(source: Montreal Gazette)
CALIFORNIA----new female death sentence
Judge: Manling Williams is 'selfish,' must 'suffer the penalty of death'
In Ponoma, a judge sentenced Manling Tsang Williams to death Thursday for
smothering her 2 young children with a pillow and slashing her husband to death
with a sword in the family's Rowland Heights home in 2007.
The 32-year-old woman sobbed and shook as Pomona Superior Court Judge Robert
Martinez handed down the sentence for the Aug. 7, 2007 murders of her husband
Neal Williams, 27, and their sons Devon, 7, and Ian, 3, at the family's
condominium on the 18200 block of Camino Bello.
A jury convicted her of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in 2010, along with the
special allegations of using weapons and lying in wait. After one jury was hung
regarding whether to sentence Manling Williams to death or life imprisonment, a
second penalty phase jury recommended last year that she be put to death.
Judge Martinez followed that recommendation.
"It is the order of this court that you should suffer the penalty of death," he
told Manling Williams.
Manling Williams, who was dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and glasses and
had her hands shackled at the waist during the proceeding, kept her eyes fixed
on the table in front of her throughout.
Jan Williams, mother of Neal Williams and grandmother to Devon and Ian
Williams, said she was glad to see the trial, now in its fourth year, draw to a
close at last.
"I'm relieved that this chapter is over," she said. "I couldn't take another
She added, "This has had a terrible impact, not just on me and my family, on
the Tsang family, but everyone involved."
The judge reflected on the crime at the sentencing hearing.
"The evidence is compelling that the defendant, for selfish reasons, murdered
her own 2 children," Martinez said.
Her motivation, Martinez said, was a "narcissistic, selfish and adolescent,"
desire to start a new life with another man, free from the hindrances of family
In the months before the murders, Manling Williams had reconnected through the
internet with an old friend and begun a relationship with him.
The judge pointed out that Manling Williams had numerous family members who
would have taken in the children, should she have decided to abandon them.
After smothering Devon and Ian in their bunk bed, "The defendant savagely,
brutally and viciously attacked her husband with a katana sword," Martinez
Neal Williams was stabbed and slashed more than a 97 times in the attack,
"In the final moments of life, Neal begged the defendant for help," the judge
The case was prosecuted by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys Stacy
Okun-Wiese and Pak Kouch.
Defense attorneys Tom Althaus and Haydeh Takasugi argued for their clients life
to be spared.
Althaus told the court that the killings were not a calculated executions, but
a "sudden mistake."
"There's no basis for the prosecution's contention that these murders were
planned," Althaus said, adding that Manling Williams was in a state of "extreme
mental and emotional disturbance" when she killed her husband and sons.
Mitigating factors also included a difficult upbringing and no previous history
of violence, he said.
Althaus acknowledged that his client had had an extra-marital affair, but
disputed the prosecution's assertion that the affair formed a motive for the
"There's no good explanation why it happened," Althaus said.
Prior to the killings, Manling Williams was "a kind, generous, troubled woman
who loved her husband and children," he said.
Manling Williams sister, Shun Ling Tsang, also urged the judge to spare her
sister's life and sentence her instead to life in prison without the
possibility of parole.
"Both families involved in this case have asked the prosecution not to pursue a
2nd penalty phase," Tsang said.
Following the announcement that the 1st jury had hung in the penalty phase of
the trial, both Williams and Tsang family members said they would rather see
the prosecution accept a defense plea deal for a life sentence without the
possibility of parole that included waiving rights to future appeals.
The prosecution elected to re-try the penalty phase, resulting in a jury
recommendation of the death penalty in August of last year.
The ongoing court proceedings entailed in a death penalty case are only serving
to cause more pain for family members already devastated by tragedy, Tsang
said, adding that she believed the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty
was "ego-driven" and "politically motivated."
"Today will not bring about closure or healing," Tsang said.
Jan Williams said she had mixed feelings about the sentence.
"I have some reservations, because it can be hard on the families. It can take
decades to resolve," she said.
She said she hoped the appeals process, which begins automatically when a
convict is sentenced to death in California, will not require her to continue
attending court hearings regularly.
The judge said he himself had concerns over the way the death penalty is
administered in California.
"This penalty is precariously close to becoming a hypothetical," Martinez said.
The judge expressed sympathy to both the Williams and Tsang families and spoke
of his own concerns of the inefficient way in which the death penalty is
currently carried out in California, but ruled that that the death penalty was
appropriate, considering the law and the facts of the case.
Out of more than 700 California death row inmates, less than 2 dozen of them
are women, and none them have been among the 13 prisoners executed since the
death penalty was restored in 1976.
"Ms. Williams, I will probably never see you again," the judge added. "I will
be long gone when this case and judgement is finalized."
Each of the three killings, Martinez said, were "deliberate, premeditated and
committed by lying in wait."
Martinez said that the evidence showed that Manling Williams had planned the
killings two months in advance, and immediately began trying to conceal her
She wore latex gloves as she attacked her husband, he said.
Testimony indicated it takes 5 to 10 minutes for a person to die by
suffocation, meaning that Manling Williams had at least 5 minutes to
contemplate her actions while killing one of her children before killing her
other son in the same manner, Martinez said.
"She clearly had time to reflect on what she was doing," he said.
Following the killing, the judge said, Manling Williams typed up a note
indicating that Neal Williams had killed the children and himself, disposed of
bloody clothing and returned home before screaming to neighbors that someone
had killed her family.
While being interviewed by detectives after the discovery of the bodies, "For
hours, she feigned grief, sadness and bewilderment," Martinez said.
It was only after being confronted by investigators with a bloody cigarette box
that was found in her car that Manling Williams broke down and admitted the
murders, Martinez said.
"It is not for me to forgive, because the ones in the position to forgive are
not with us," Martinez told Manling Williams. "I hope your families find
After years of hearings in which the judge remained intentionally stoic, "It
was rather chilling to have the judge pronounce his opinion so frankly," Jan
(source: Pasadena Star-News)
Death penalty sought against former Poway business owner
A former Poway business owner accused of killing his girlfriend in 1992 and
more recently his wife and mother-in-law in a staged car wreck will face the
death penalty if convicted, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Michael Eugene Richardson, 58, of Chula Vista was charged in 2010 with 2 counts
of murder in the deaths of his 39-year-old wife, Thao, and 72-year-old
mother-in-law, Phan Lai. Their bodies were discovered on June 29, 2010 near an
overturned car off state Route 67 north of Lakeside.
The defendant – who owned a mechanic shop in Poway – was charged a year ago in
the death of 38-year-old Jovita Collazo of National City, whose body has not
Richardson also is charged with carrying on a sexual relationship with his
17-year-old niece in 2010.
Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals told Judge Joan Weber Thursday that his
office will seek the death penalty should Richardson be convicted. Weber, who
will preside over the case at the downtown courthouse, set trial for February
At Richardson’s initial arraignment in July 2010, prosecutor Chantal de
Mauregne told a judge that the defendant escaped from a North Carolina prison
in 1982 -where he served time for robbery – and remained on the lam for 18
He initially was charged only with molesting his niece. He was subsequently
charged with the murders of his wife and mother-in-law and months later with
the 1992 killing when evidence mounted pointing to Richardson, authorities
(source: Catholic News Service)
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