Discussion:
death penalty news----IND., KY., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-06-21 14:08:20 UTC
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Raw Message
June 21



INDIANA:

'Is it justice or is it vengeance?' Indiana can't execute offenders right now.
Does it need to?


The state of Indiana hasn't executed an offender on death row in more than 7
years. Between a court injunction and declining public support for capital
punishment, it may never conduct an execution again.

Matthew Eric Wrinkles was the last man to be executed in the death chamber at
the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Wrinkles was put on trial in 1995 for the murders of his estranged wife Debra
Jean Wrinkles, and her brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Natalie Fulkerson.

Angry over their crumbling marriage and his inability to see his children - and
displaying "erratic behavior" that saw him committed to a psychiatric facility
for 3 days beforehand - Wrinkles dressed in camouflage and face paint on the
night of July 21, 1994, and drove to his brother-in-law's home, in Evansville,
Indiana, where his wife was staying.

Wrinkles cut the telephone wires and kicked in the back door. By the time he
left, his wife and in-laws were dead - each shot multiple times.

He was convicted on June 14, 1995, and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That sentence was carried out Dec. 12, 2009, at 12:39 a.m.

(source: WRTV news)






KENTUCKY:

Judge Denies Motion To Exclude Death Penalty


A judge has denied the motion to exclude the death penalty as a sentencing
option for a man accused of killing a teen.

According to the Herald Leader, Terry Farrell was back in court on Monday.

He is accused of killing 18-year-old Jamaal Gossett in November of 2015.

The paper reports a judge denied attempt to exclude the death penalty as a
sentencing option before his August 7 trial.

Farrell is charged with robbery and murder.

(source: lex18.com)






CALIFORNIA:

Man charged in fatal shooting at Lake Elsinore Circle K is eligible for death
penalty


Charges filed against the suspect in last week's fatal shooting of a Circle K
cashier in Lake Elsinore make him eligible for a death penalty prosecution, but
the Riverside County district attorney is still weighing whether to seek that
punishment.

James Curtis Coon, 26, of Lake Elsinore, was charged Friday with murder,
attempted murder armed robbery and burglary, court records show. He remained
incarcerated Tuesday with no option to post bail, and has not yet entered a
plea, jail and court records show.

His arraignment was postponed to June 28 at the request of the Public
Defender's Office. Court records show a mental evaluation has been ordered.

Coon is accused of killing 47-year-old Eric Whitcomb the morning of June 14.
The victim of the attempted murder was another Circle K employee who was not
injured, according to a sheriff's spokesman, who declined to provide other
details about what happened to that person.

The special circumstances attached to the murder charge - acting in the
commission of a burglary and a robbery and using a firearm in the commission of
a felony - could warrant the death penalty if Coon is found guilty, said
District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall.

Hall said District Attorney Mike Hestrin has not yet decided whether to pursue
that option.

About 5:20 a.m. June 14, Whitcomb was shot multiple times at the Lakeshore
Drive convenience store where he'd worked for the past 12 years, in what Circle
K corporate officials called "a senseless act of violence."

Court documents provided some details that sheriff's officials would not,
including that the shooting happened during a robbery and that there was a 2nd
victim.

Hours after the shooting, Coon was arrested at his home on Driftwood Lane about
a mile from the convenience store.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

*****************

Divided California Supreme Court upholds death sentence


In an unusual outcome, the California Supreme Court split Monday over whether
to uphold the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a jewelry store
owner during a 1996 robbery in Fresno.

The court generally reaches unanimous decisions in death penalty cases.

With Associate Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Goodwin Liu dissenting,
the court ruled that defendant Vaene Sivongxxay chose not to have a jury decide
his case at the outset of his trial and had no right to be advised specifically
that a judge would also decide the allegation that he committed murder during
the course of a robbery.

That allegation made Sivongxxay eligible for the death penalty.

The trial court did not ask Sivongxxay separately whether he waived his right
to a jury trial on the robbery and murder allegation. But the 5 justices in the
majority said the error did not taint the trial since there was no evidence
Sivongxxay would have chosen to have a jury decide the allegation.

The ruling upheld Sivongxxay's death sentence.

Kirk Jenkins, an appellate lawyer who studies the California Supreme Court,
said it reached unanimous decisions on death penalty cases more than 75 % of
the time in 2015 and an even higher percentage last year.

Still, Jenkins said there was evidence that the court was scrutinizing death
penalty cases more closely in the past few years.

Cuellar and Liu said the trial court failed to explain to Sivongxxay that he
was entitled to have a jury decide the allegation that he committed murder in
the course of a robbery.

Cuellar and Liu also said the trial court failed to ask Sivongxxay separately
whether he waived his right to a jury trial on the allegation.

Liu said the majority opinion "undermines an important safeguard of
California's death penalty scheme."

Cuellar and Liu are relative newcomers to the court. Gov. Jerry Brown nominated
Liu to the court in 2011. Cuellar joined in 2015.

(source: Associated Press)






USA:

Previous Evidence Questioned in ND Death Penalty Appeal Hearing----Alfonso
Rodriquez has been on death row for 11 years

A federal inmate from Crookston convicted of killing UND student Dru Sjodin is
appealing his death sentence.

2 forensic experts took the stand in the start of what could be Rodriguez's
last appeal.

It's been more than 12 years since 64-year-old Alfonso Rodriguez was federally
indicted for the kidnapping, murder and rape of Dru Sjodin.

After the body of Sjodin was found, this became North Daktoa's 1st death
penalty case.

But years after his death sentence in 2006, attorneys for Rodriguez said a
previous medical examiner could have been wrong.

In previous court cases, Dr. Michael McGee told attorneys they found male DNA
on Sjodin's body and clothes.

This ultimately led to a rape conviction.

Prosecutors said rape evidence largely influenced the jury in the death
sentence trial.

Forensic scientist Alan Keel took the stand.

He said the positive male DNA tests when the body was first found is
presumptive evidence, meaning it was not confirmed.

Later tests did not confirm if male DNA was on the body.

It was only found on Rodriguez's jeans.

Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, the Chief Medical Examiner of Maine, told attorneys he did
a new autopsy on the body and firmly believes she was killed with a rope around
her neck.

He said marks which appeared to be knife wounds could have come from animals
while the body was decomposing in the elements.

Rodriguez has been on death row for 11 years.

Of the 76 federal inmates on death row, only 3 were executed since the death
sentence was reinstated in 1988.

The appeals trial could last up to 7 days.

Rodriguez waived his right to appear in court.

(source: KVRR news)

*********************

No Matter How You Try to Do It, The Death Penalty is Garbage


Back when I was a teenager, I used to write essays about why I hated Newt
Gingrich and why I hated the death penalty. Now it's 20 years later and I'm
still writing essays about why I hate Newt Gingrich and why I hate the death
penalty. "Time is a flat circle," as Rust Cohle said.

Earlier this year, the state of Arkansas executed 4 men in 8 days, because the
state's supply of lethal injection drugs was about to expire. Arkansas had
originally scheduled 8 executions in 11 days, but this legal bloodbath was
limited somewhat by the courts, which halted four of the executions on appeal.

Despite the recent publicity for Arkansas' bloodlust, the imposition of the
death penalty in America as a whole seems to be entering a possibly permanent
decline. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of
executions in America has been decreasing year after year, with only 20
executions in 2016 - the lowest number since 1991. According to Gallup polls,
61% of Americans support the death penalty, but that number is also at a
40-year low, and among younger Americans age 18-29, only 51% support the death
penalty. Although 31 states and the federal government still have the death
penalty, most states do not use it, or use it sparingly - most executions are
carried out by just a few states, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and
Florida. Shortages of lethal injection drugs have made it increasingly
difficult for states to carry out executions; drug companies (often based in
Europe or other countries that do not have the death penalty) do not want their
drugs to be used to end human lives. The Supreme Court has shown a growing
impatience with the death penalty, having already limited its use for juvenile
offenders and for crimes other than murder. It's not too far-fetched to imagine
that the Supreme Court could abolish the death penalty within our lifetimes;
the death penalty may soon become a relic of history - a regional curiosity
founded in Southern-style racist religiosity and "eye-for-an-eye" Old Testament
vengeance.

Good. I'm glad that the death penalty is in decline. Because there is no "good
way" to do the death penalty. No matter how you try to define it, the death
penalty is garbage.

Here's why:

Innocent People Get Executed

America's criminal justice system has lots and lots of problems, and the death
penalty is the most vivid example of what happens when we allow an imperfect
system to make life-and-death decisions. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center, "since 1973, more than 155 people have been released from
death row with evidence of their innocence." And during 2000-2011, there were
an average of 5 people exonerated from death row per year. This is a sign that
innocent people truly do get convicted and sentenced to die. There's no "safe"
or "accurate" or "fair" way to kill people without making horrible irrevocable
mistakes.

Cameron Todd Willingham was a man who was executed by the state of Texas in
2004 for murdering his 3 daughters by committing arson to the family home.
Willingham always claimed that he was innocent, and went to his death saying
that he had been persecuted for a crime that he did not commit. In the years
since Willingham was killed by Texas, evidence has emerged that suggests that
he did not commit arson, that the fire could have been accidental, that the
fire investigators presented by the state during Willingham's trial got the
story wrong.

Forensic science is an ever-evolving field. Sometimes the "can't miss" evidence
that prosecutors and investigators bring to trial turns out to be based on
flawed science; for example, the FBI announced in 2015 that, for 2 decades
prior to the year 2000, its forensic experts had given flawed testimony in more
than 200 trials where they claimed that "forensic hair analysis" of human hairs
found at crime scenes indicated the guilt of defendants, even though we now
know that the analysis was based on bogus science. These trials included 32
death penalty trials where defendants were sentenced to death; 14 of those
people have been executed or died in prison. Even well intentioned
investigations can lead to fatal errors.

The death penalty is also rife with prosecutor misconduct and miscarriages of
justice. Ledell Lee was 1 of the inmates executed by Arkansas in April: his
defense team at trial had never hired any experts to test him for intellectual
disabilities, and no appeals court ever objected to the fact that one of Lee's
prosecutors was having an affair with the trial judge. No forensic evidence
from the crime scene matched Lee, and he asked for DNA testing for decades but
Arkansas never allowed it (DNA testing costs a lot of money). Ledell Lee went
to his death still proclaiming his innocence; the same thing could have
happened to Damien Echols (one of the famous West Memphis 3 who were released
from prison after being wrongly convicted as teenagers of murdering three boys)
but he was able to get DNA testing and further judicial review of his case.

Even when death penalty defendants aren't getting railroaded by bad evidence,
crooked judges, or unscrupulous prosecutors, they're getting sentenced to death
because of their own incompetent lawyers. Most people on death row are poor.
Poor people in America tend to not get very good legal representation,
especially in America's most bloodthirsty death penalty jurisdictions. If you
can't afford your own lawyer and you are accused of capital murder, most
American death penalty states are going to assign your case to the most
hapless, low-paid, overworked, desperately alcoholic defense lawyers available.
There are countless stories from death row of incompetent defense lawyers
falling asleep during their client's trial, showing up to court drunk, failing
to call any witnesses, failing to present "mitigation" evidence to make the
jury want to show mercy, and otherwise botching their jobs. A disturbingly high
percentage of death row inmates were represented at trial or on appeal by
attorneys who were later disbarred or disciplined for failing to uphold the
standards of the legal profession.

America's criminal justice system is supposed to be an adversarial process
where criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and where
every defendant has a lawyer who is there to zealously advocate for their
client's life and legal rights and force the state to prove its case beyond a
reasonable doubt. Adequate legal representation against the power of the
government is supposed to be 1 of the fundamental rights that we all have as
Americans. But especially in death penalty hellholes like Texas and Oklahoma
and Arkansas, it doesn't happen. The rich get good lawyers and the poor get
lethal injections.

The Death Penalty is Racist

The death penalty cannot be separated from America's legacy of racism. It's the
new form of lynching. Instead of being practiced by angry mobs, it's carried
out by judges and juries and given a sheen of respectability. Black people are
more likely to be executed than white people, and the states that are most
enthusiastic about the death penalty also tend to have the worst histories of
racist violence against black people. Yes, white people get executed too, but
in general, the death penalty disproportionately values white life. In a
country that has barely begun to face up to its historical legacy of mass
murder and racist violence against black people, the death penalty is an
indulgence that we cannot afford.

It's hilarious to me that so many Christians are in favor of the death penalty
- because their entire religion is based on a wrongful execution. If you love
Jesus, you should hate the death penalty. If you love the teachings of a man
who hung out with beggars and prostitutes and outcasts, who was condemned to
die in bloody agony on a cross of shame next to a couple of common thieves, who
said to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" to those who harm you
and practice radical forgiveness and mercy, then you should be protesting
outside of America's prisons every single day. Christians who support the death
penalty are clueless moral hypocrites of the highest order. I'm not a
Christian- I never want to set foot in a church again - but I feel like I'm
still a better Christian than Christians who support the death penalty. Sure,
the Old Testament says "eye for an eye." Big deal. The Old Testament also says
we're not supposed to eat pork and shellfish and wear multiple types of fabric
or whatever. Most of you Christians can't even read Ancient Hebrew, so don't
act like you're experts in the Jewish scriptures. I can't believe I have to sit
here and try to educate Christians about the basic fundamental tenets of their
own faith. Christ!

The Death Penalty Degrades the State

The death penalty diminishes us all. I'm opposed to the death penalty for all
criminals, even the worst of the worst, even the most obviously guilty, even
the most despised and devilish people on Earth. Why? Because if killing is
wrong, then it's wrong for the state to kill in our names. Period. The way to
show people that killing is wrong is to make killing so rare, so forbidden,
such an anathema, that people shudder to contemplate it. And I'm not saying
this because I love criminals and because I'm a bleeding heart liberal;
murderers are awful. They deserve to suffer forever. But we don't have to kill
them: there are ways to immobilize and incapacitate even the worst killers with
solitary confinement to make sure that they never harm anyone again. Have you
ever read about the long-term effects of solitary confinement? It's awful -
it's a profound sort of living hell. Instead of giving the worst murderers a
glorious public death, let's put them in a cell the size of a parking space and
let them rot, alone and forgotten, forever.

Even if the death penalty wasn't racist and unjust and otherwise incompetently
administered, even if the death penalty could somehow be limited to only the
worst offenders who were unquestionably 100% guilty, and could be carried out
in a humane, painless, instantaneous-death sort of way, I would still oppose
the death penalty. Because I don't want anyone to be ever be killed anywhere.
The older I get, I'm becoming more of a radical pacifist: no human being
deserves to be killed. I want humanity to strive toward a world where the death
penalty doesn't exist, where war doesn't exist, where killing for political
purposes (whether that's terrorism or Republicans running for re-election by
bragging about how "tough on crime" they are) doesn???t happen.

Human beings are flawed, fallen creatures. But our great advantage as a species
is that we keep trying to fix our flaws and improve our societies and get
better over time. People used to carry out executions in public, with
horrifyingly gruesome methods like burning at the stake, drawing and
quartering, and crucifixion. Compared to that blood-soaked history, 20
executions per year, carried out in sanitized conditions behind prison walls,
represents massive progress. Executions are becoming more rare and less
popular, and I believe that within my lifetime the death penalty in America
will be abolished, by court ruling if not by popular vote. In the long run, I'm
an optimist; I don't believe that the world is going to hell. If you look at
the long arc of human history, there is such a thing as an evolving standard of
decency. Despite the latest headlines about terrorism and war in Syria and the
many damnable atrocities that are still too common in too many places, in many
important ways, the world is becoming less violent, less divided, more
peaceful, more humane, and more merciful. If we can change the way our society
treats our most despised and broken people, that will be a sign of greater hope
for us all.

(source: Ben Gran, pastemagazine.com)

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