2017-04-11 14:24:52 UTC
You don't have to be a bleeding heart to oppose the death penalty
What should happen now to the convicted murderer Paul David Storey? Nothing.
"Nothing" would mean leaving Storey to live out the rest of his days at his
current address in prison.
Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution,
which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated --
indirectly, at least -- by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want
their son's killer put to death.
As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or
their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them.
That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.
But there was wisdom in considering the statements made by Glenn and Judith
Cherry of Fort Worth. Their adult son, Jonas, was killed during a 2006 holdup
at the Tarrant County business he managed.
Storey and an accomplice eventually confessed to the murder. The accomplice
accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison. Story went to trial
and was sentenced to death.
"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to
suffer through losing a child and family member," said the statement the couple
recently forwarded to state criminal justice authorities.
The appellate court wants the trial court to determine whether jurors in
Storey's 2008 trial, and subsequent appeals lawyers assigned to his case, were
aware of the Cherrys' opposition to Storey's execution.
Appeals lawyers for Storey claim Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that it
"went without saying" that the victim's family considered a death sentence
The case is further complicated by a juror, who now says he would not have
sided with his fellow jury members in voting for death in the case had he known
These are all challenging issues, complicated by emotion as much as by legal
procedure and the passage of time.
But the very central role that emotion plays in every death penalty case makes
a dispassionate argument against executing capital offenders.
I have no love for Paul David Storey, no sentimental indulgence for his
grandiose jailhouse dreams of becoming a poet or novelist, no sympathetic ear
for besotted activists who try to recast stone cold killers as tragic victims
of a cruel system.
Justice, by definition, needs to be guided by fact and by law, not by emotion.
But when we move into the painfully conflicted territory of capital punishment,
emotion is all we have -- on all sides.
And as fervently as death penalty supporters deride its opponents as "bleeding
hearts," they're operating on an emotional basis themselves. It's
understandable that many of us might want to assess the most severe punishment
imaginable on those who commit the most heinous and unforgivable crimes.
But from a pure policy standpoint, the death penalty is expensive --
unavoidably so, given the constitutional guarantees to which inmates are
entitled. It's also irreversible, unevenly assessed, and arbitrarily applied.
Admitting as much does not make us suckers and rubes. It highlights the
practical reality that society is as just as well protected by sentencing our
worst criminals to life without the possibility of parole as it is by killing
Should appeals lawyers be successful on Storey's behalf, he could be entitled
to a new trial on punishment only. His guilt would remain unchanged.
Prosecutors might conceivably save everyone a great deal of time, expense, and
painful emotion by choosing not to retry this, and leave Storey where he is,
where he belongs, where the grief this case has already caused can be
contained: Permanent incarceration.
The death penalty still enjoys considerable public popularity, which I
understand. Nothing will cure a bleeding heart like sitting through a few
murder trials -- the cruelty inflicted and the grief victims endure can harden
even the most sympathetic onlookers.
But capital punishment is too fraught with problems, too controversial, and in
the end, too impractical to continue in widespread use. It is already dying a
slow death of its own, as statistics chronicle its steady decline.
You don't have to love Paul Storey, or think he has been somehow misunderstood,
or view him as a victim, to see permanent incarceration as the best way for the
state to handle him.
You just have to be pragmatic.
(source: Commentary; Jacquielynn Floyd, Dallas Morning News)
Fort Worth Man on death row Loses Federal Appeal
A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a Fort Worth man on Texas
death row for a 2010 convenience store holdup that left 2 men dead.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused arguments from
41-year-old Kwame Rockwell that he had poor legal help at his Tarrant County
trial when his lawyers decided to not present evidence he may be schizophrenic
and that he used steroids. He also argued his mental illness should disqualify
him from the death penalty and that Texas law barred juries from considering
Jurors condemned him for the fatal shooting of 22-year-old store clerk Daniel
Rojas. Evidence also showed a bread deliveryman was killed during the robbery
in southeast Fort Worth.
Rockwell does not yet have an execution date.
(source: Associated Press)
Death penalty push misguided
As the sister of a murdered brother, I am outraged that Delaware legislators
are trying to bring back Delaware's death penalty with House Bill 125. It is
offensive when death penalty supporters claim that the value of the lives of
victims like my brother and Correctional Officer Sgt. Floyd is less if the
killer isn't executed.
My brother's life has value beyond measure even though the death penalty was
dropped and the man who murdered him was given life without parole. Sgt.
Floyd's life, too, has immense value, regardless of the fate of those who took
It was a relief that my family and I no longer had to have the killer and the
gruesome details of the murder paraded before us repeatedly in the media and
for years of appeals. Life without parole gave us the legal finality we needed
to grieve privately and begin to heal. Being able to disengage from the
psychological grip of the killer was a necessary part of our healing.
Even for murder victims' families who support the death penalty, promising them
healing from an execution that likely will never come is cruel and only
inflicts more pain.
(source: Letter to the News Editor, The News Journal)
Exonerated man files federal wrongful conviction lawsuit
A man who was released from prison in August 2016 after spending nearly 3
decades behind bars in a 1988 murder in Wilmington has filed a federal wrongful
conviction lawsuit against the officers who investigated the case and the City
Johnny Small was just 15 years old when he was charged with 1st-degree murder
in the July 13, 1988, killing of Pamela Dreher, 32. Dreher was found shot in
the head inside her Wilmington fish store with $175 missing from the cash
register. Small was arrested more than 3 months later after a teenage
acquaintance said she saw him in the area of the murder.
Following a week-long hearing in August initiated by his childhood friend,
David Bollinger, recanting his trial testimony, a judge found it "more than
abundantly clear" Small did not receive a fair trial. 3 weeks after the
hearing, District Attorney Ben David dismissed the charges against Small.
Bollinger said he was coerced into creating a fabricated confession that
implicated Small in the killing.
"The defendants threatened that they would charge Bollinger with murder and
make sure he got the death penalty unless he implicated Plaintiff in the
crime," the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, states.
In addition to being deemed credible by the court, Bollinger's recantation
passed a polygraph test given by a former FBI agent, according to the lawsuit.
The court also found the testimony from the girl who claimed to see Small near
the murder was not credible, testimony from other teen witnesses was heavily
influenced by police, the defense was not provided with evidence favorable to
Small, and the state's argument that Small had access to a gun was false.
The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, who took up Small's case after
being approached by Bollinger in 2012, located a previously undisclosed note in
the Wilmington Police Department's file that proved Small did not have access
to a gun, according to the lawsuit.
"[The note] eviscerated any suggestion that the murder weapon the Defendants
alleged Plaintiff used could have been the murder weapon. The NCCAI also
located a host of additional undisclosed evidence in the WPD's homicide file,
documents that never before been turned over to the prosecution or defense,"
the lawsuit states.
While in prison, Small lost his mother and his grandmothers.
"Growing up in prison, Plaintiff was deprived of the opportunity to finish
school; get a job; have a family and experience fatherhood. In short, he was
denied the ability to live life as an autonomous human being," the lawsuit
The suit says Small was physically assaulted in prison, and also suffered
medical illnesses and injuries that were not properly treated.
"The decades that Plaintiff spent wrongfully incarcerated were spent inside a
10 x 10 cell, entirely at the mercy of others. He witnessed unspeakable horrors
during his incarceration: locked up with the most vicious of prisoners,
Plaintiff saw inmates being beaten and stabbed to death, raped, and assaulted
on a regular basis," the lawsuit states.
The suit requests a trial by jury, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages,
costs and attorneys' fees.
In December, Small requested then-Governor Pat McCrory pardon him, which would
make him eligible for state compensation for his wrongful imprisonment and
allow him to apply to the court to expunge his record. An inquiry to Governor
Roy Cooper's office was not immediately returned.
(source: WECT news)
Dylann Roof given 9 life sentences on state murder charges; victims's families
spared 2nd death penalty trial
Judge J.C. Nicholson gave Dylann Roof 9 life sentences without parole in a
state hearing Monday for the June 2015 attack at Emanuel AME Church. Roof
pleaded guilty to state murder charges, sparing the victims's families a 2nd
death penalty trial.
Monday's hearing likely brings an end the local courtroom saga in his
prosecution since he gunned down 9 black church worshipers at the church's
weekly Bible study, which he planned for months and foreshadowed in an online
white supremacist manifesto.
The hearing at the Charleston County Judicial Center in downtown Charleston was
one of the last times victims and their family members had a chance to directly
address Roof. It was also the 1st time the public heard from one of Roof's
His grandfather, Joe Roof, spoke to the court after a string of the victims'
loved ones. He said he was deeply sorry for his grandson's crimes.
"I never thought it could happen, anything like this," he said. "I will go to
my grave not understanding what happened."
Family members who spoke during the hearing repeated earlier messages of
forgiveness. Nadine Collier, the daughter of victim Ethel Lance, reminded Roof
that she stood up 2 years ago at his bond hearing and forgave him.
"And I still do today," she said.
Melvin Graham, Cynthia Hurd's brother, said his family hopes forgiveness will
be the prevailing message after the lengthy prosecution of Roof.
"We are glad that this saga is over," he said. "I am hoping and praying that
this feeling of love and forgiveness will continue in this city and this
Roof pleaded to 9 counts of murder, 3 of attempted murder and a firearms
violation in exchange for life in prison.
Roof already was convicted and sentenced in January to death on federal hate
crimes and religious rights violations. The federal government recently took
over custody of Roof, allowing it to make arrangements for his execution.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Monday's outcome "is the surest way to see that
Dylann Roof is executed."
At some point after Monday's court proceeding, Roof likely will be transferred
to a federal prison. Death row inmates are housed at a Terre Haute, Ind.,
Defense attorneys, led by 9th Circuit Public Defender Ashley Pennington in
state court, offered during early hearings to have Roof plead guilty in
exchange for a life sentence. Those offers were rejected in federal court and
in the state case until late last month, when Wilson announced that a plea
would offer the best "insurance policy" in case Roof's death sentence somehow
is threatened on appeal.
Several of the victims' family members and the survivors praised the decision
that would prevent another grueling trial.
Roof wrote about his white supremacist beliefs online and in paper in the weeks
leading to the June 17, 2015, attack at the Calhoun Street church.
On the night of the killings, he sat for nearly an hour during a Bible study, a
.45-caliber Glock tucked in a fanny pack along with 88 rounds of ammunition.
He eventually pulled out the pistol and opened fire, shooting each of the slain
victims several times. 3 people, including a young girl, escaped without
Roof was captured the next day in North Carolina and returned to Charleston to
face the charges.
(source: The Post and Courier)
Lack of lethal injection drugs among prosecutor's reasons for skipping 2nd Roof
South Carolina's inability to carry out death penalty was one of the reasons
the Charleston-area solicitor chose not to continue with a second death penalty
trial against Dylann Roof, she said Monday.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson repeatedly had said she would seek the
death penalty against Roof even though the federal government was seeking to do
the same. But she said on Monday there were several reasons why she hashed out
a plea agreement with Roof instead of proceeding with a state trial.
"Our mission, and over the past few weeks since the federal government obtained
the federal conviction, was to see what we could do to ensure the surest path
to Dylann Roof's execution," Wilson said. "With us securing a life sentence
just in case - in the very, very unlikely event that something were to happen
to the federal conviction - we have our conviction in place."
On Monday, Roof pleaded guilty to 9 counts of murder and 3 counts of attempted
murder in state court for the slayings of 9 African-American parishioners at
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston the night of June 17, 2015. As part of
the plea agreement, Roof was sentence to 9 sentences of life in prison.
But Roof was sentenced to death by a federal judge in January, after a jury
found him guilty on 33 counts, 9 of them involving hate crimes. Wilson said she
- and at times her staff - attended that trial. She said it was one of the most
"gut-wrenching" experiences she has had in her life.
Putting the survivors and the families of those killed in the shooting through
a 2nd death penalty trial "was not the smartest, wisest or most compassionate
thing to do," when a federal judge had already imposed a death sentenced on
Roof, a Columbia-area white supremacist.
Wilson also said she believed the federal government is now "more committed" to
the death penalty than in the past, and that she expects it will be
But she added that South Carolina also doesn't have the drugs to carry out the
South Carolina's last supply of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013. The
state has been unable to obtain alternative drugs, because pharmaceutical
companies that previously compounded the drugs have been pressured into ending
"It may be that in the future that we are able to secure the drug that is used
for executions, but it's not our present," Wilson said.
"If South Carolina and the state courts were the only option for pursuing the
death penalty, I would have pursued it," she said. "But because we have a death
sentence in place now, I do not believe it's necessary."
PPP poll finds Orange, Osceola counties prefer life punishment to death
A new poll by Public Policy Polling finds that a strong majority of voters in
State Attorney Aramis Ayala's Orange and Osceola counties prefer some form of
life-in-prison sentence for first-degree murderers rather than the death
The poll, commissioned by the Center for Capital Representation at the Florida
International University College of Law, finds results that support Ayala and
her controversial position to not pursue death penalties in Florida's 9th
Judicial Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola.
PPP did not specifically ask voters in the 9th JC whether they would or could
support the death penalty. Rather it asked whether they prefer that punishment
or some form of life imprisonment for people convicted of 1st degree murder.
33 % of those surveyed said they preferred a sentence of life in prison without
possibility of parole, with the convict also required to provide some form of
restitution to the victim???s family. Another 17 % said they preferred a
straight life in prison without possibility of parole, and another 12 % said
they preferred life in prison with a chance of parole after at least 40 years.
That meant 62 % overall preferred some form of life in prison.
Just 31 % said they preferred a death penalty for 1st-degree murderers.
Broken down by party preference, a huge majority of Democrats, 76 %, and a
plurality of Republicans, 49 %, said they preferred 1 of the life sentences
over the death penalty.
"These results clearly show that Orange and Osceola voters strongly prefer life
sentences over the death penalty," Kenneth B. Nunn, a professor of law at
University of Florida's Levin College of Law., stated in a news release issued
PPP. "State Attorney Aramis Ayala's position on the death penalty is very much
in line with the position of her constituents."
Stephen K. Harper, director of the FIU Center for Capital Representation, said
the Orange and Osceola poll results are consistent with what he has seen in
"We run a death penalty project in the law school. One of the things we try to
find out is, OK, where is the Florida public on this issue?" Harper said.
"Obviously there is a lot of emotion on both sides."
The PPP survey was conducted April 5-7 of 567 registered voters in Orange and
In another question, 52 % said they thought state attorneys should consider
factor such as impact on victims' families, cost and public safety when
deciding whether to pursue the death penalty, and 36 % did not.
Bills propose eliminating death penalty in Louisiana
2 bills pre-filed in the state Legislature propose eliminating the death
penalty in Louisiana.
SB142 by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and HB101 by Reps. Terry Landry,
D-New Iberia, and Steven Pylant, R-Winnsboro, would institute a sentence of
life in prison without the possibility of probation, parole or suspension of
sentence for convictions of capital crimes, including 1st-degree murder,
1st-degree rape of a child under the age of 13 and treason.
If passed, the legislation would apply only to crimes committed after Aug. 1
according to the pre-filed bill.
The bills will be considered during the 2017 regular legislative session, which
begins Monday. (source: myarklamiss.com)
Gov. John Bel Edwards 'interested' in debate on abolishing death penalty in
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he's interested in hearing the debate about
abolishing the death penalty in Louisiana, but won???t commit one way or the
other on the issue.
"I acknowledge that it costs a lot in terms of the criminal justice system to
have the death penalty," Edwards said during interview Monday with The
Advocate's editorial board. "But I am not endorsing moving away from the death
penalty in Louisiana."
Neither would Edwards commit to vetoing legislation if 1 of the 2 bills being
considered by the Louisiana Legislature in the session that began Monday passes
both chambers and makes it to his desk.
"I understand the indigent defenders (the lawyers who represent, at taxpayers'
expense, most criminal defendants accused of capital crimes) could take $10
million right away and put it towards other types of cases that make up the
overwhelming majority of their caseload," Edwards said. "I am sort of
interested to see how the conversation goes and who really plays a part in
6 states have abolished the death penalty since the recession began in 2007,
largely for financial reasons, and others are looking at it now.
3 former law enforcement officials filed 2 bills in the House and the Senate
that would make Louisiana the 1st state in the South to abolish capital
Democratic state Rep. Terry Landry, of New Iberia and a former superintendent
of the Louisiana State Police, and Republican Rep. Steve Pylant, of Winnsboro
and a former sheriff, sponsored House Bill 101. Republican state Sen. Dan
Claitor, of Baton Rouge and a former prosecutor, filed Senate Bill 142, which
has nearly identical wording.
The measures would eliminate death as a possible sentence for defendants
convicted of heinous crimes committed after Aug. 1. Those convicted would
instead be sentenced to life in prison.
The sponsors say that beyond the moral and ethical grounds that are the usual
arguments for such proposals, capital punishment is an expensive affectation
because nobody has been executed in Louisiana - with the exception of a single
volunteer - in 15 years.
The bills would not invalidate the sentences of the 73 men and one woman
already on death row. But the state's rejection of capital punishment could
influence appeals of those sentences.
Additionally, the state doesn't have the chemicals necessary to lethally inject
any of the 74 condemned prisoners in the state penitentiary at Angola. And the
manufacturers of those pharmaceuticals, which cause cardiac arrest, refuse the
sell the chemicals for executions. Louisiana would need to change its law to
use some other method to put people to death.
The state's district attorneys voted unanimously last week to oppose the
legislation. The state's sheriffs have issued no position but are meeting in
Baton Rouge Tuesday to discuss these bills as well as a package of measures
that would revamp the way criminal justice is administered in a state that
incarcerates more of its citizens, per capita, than China and Russia.
Claitor chairs Senate Judiciary Committee, which is slated to consider SB42.
Rep. Sherman Mack, the Albany Republican who chairs the House Committee on the
Administration of Criminal Justice, opposes the legislation but said he would
give HB101 a hearing.
(source: The Advocate)
Ohio's troubled death penalty
The state of Ohio remains committed to the use of capital punishment in a
"lawful and humane manner." That was the word from the Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction last week following a 2-1 ruling by the federal
appeals court in Cincinnati. It is a pledge that has become increasingly
difficult to fulfill.
The court majority upheld a preliminary injunction issued in January by a
district court. Thus, state plans to resume executions using a 3-drug protocol
for the lethal injection, unveiled last fall, have been halted for now. The
scheduled execution of Ronald Phillips, set for next month, will be pushed
back, along with others.
According to the protocol, the three drugs work in sequence, sedating,
paralyzing and then stopping the heart. One problem, as identified by the
courts, involves the sedative, midazolam. It isn't strong enough, the state,
thus, falling short of its legal obligation to bring death "quickly and
Without sufficient sedation, the second drug (pancuronium bromide) risks
inflicting suffocation and the third (potassium chloride) an intense burning
sensation, both, as the appeals court reminded, "excruciatingly painful."
Thus, the majority agreed with the lower court: There is a "substantial risk of
Recall the last time Ohio conducted an execution, more than three years ago,
Dennis McGuire, sedated with midazolam yet gasping, his chest heaving, death
coming in 25 minutes, or not quickly. Executions in other states have been more
Arizona and Florida have stopped using the sedative.
The appeals court reinforced, too, that in 2009, the state made "false
representations." Officials explained in court then that the state would not
return to using pancuronium bromide or potassium chloride. Yet here they are, 8
years later, going against their sworn testimony.
Ohio and other states find themselves scrambling to craft a new lethal
injection because pharmaceutical makers have barred use of previously effective
drugs. Actually, this pursuit, and the accompanying lawsuits, capture just how
complicated and troubled the death penalty has become.
Consider that state lawmakers erected a shield of secrecy, denying the public
access to information about the conduct of the death penalty. A task force put
together by the Ohio Supreme Court has recommended dozens of improvements, many
of which still await action at the Statehouse.
The cost of capital punishment has become more evident for counties facing
financial strains. Jurors appear increasingly satisfied with applying the
severe alternative of life without parole.
At what point does Ohio recognize that the burdens of the death penalty outpace
whatever value it may have? The ruling of the federal appeals court should move
that realization closer, a "lawful and humane" brand of capital punishment hard
(source: Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board)
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