2017-03-31 13:36:35 UTC
Former Doctor's Nebraska Death Penalty Hearing Postponed----A death penalty
sentencing hearing has been postponed for a former doctor convicted of killing
4 people connected to an Omaha medical school.
A death penalty sentencing hearing has been postponed for a former doctor
convicted of killing 4 people connected to an Omaha medical school.
A judge Thursday postponed the hearing after appointing the Nebraska Commission
on Public Advocacy to help represent Anthony Garcia. The commission often
represents those convicted in death penalty cases.
The hearing Thursday was to have helped a 3-judge sentencing panel determine
whether mitigating factors - such as childhood abuse or impaired mental
capacity - exist that might spare Garcia the death penalty. A new hearing date
was not immediately set.
In October, Garcia was convicted of killing the 11-year-old son and a
housekeeper of Creighton University faculty member William Hunter in 2008, and
killing pathology doctor Roger Brumback and his wife in 2013.
Prosecutors say Garcia blamed Hunter and Brumback for his 2001 firing from
Creighton's pathology residency program.
(source: Associated Press)
Ironies abound in Nevada Assembly in debate over the death penalty
There are so many ironies, hypocrisies and confusions surrounding the death
penalty, one scarcely knows where to begin.
Start with the fact that we punish people for unlawfully killing another person
by lawfully killing the perpetrator, society's ultimate do-as-I-say-not-as-I
People cite the Bible as justification for capital punishment, with passages
such as Genesis 9:6, "whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be
shed: for in the image of God made he man."
But God himself, after the 1st homicide just a few chapters earlier in Genesis,
didn't kill Cain in punishment for the murder of Abel, but instead banished
Libertarian conservatives who believe government should be small and weak
oppose capital punishment because they think the state should not have the
power to kill anyone. Liberals who believe in the power of government
nonetheless believe that power shouldn't extend to capital punishment, not
least because they think it's implemented unfairly.
All of those things came up in one way or another during a hearing this week on
Assembly Bill 237, which would outlaw capital punishment in Nevada.
"The death penalty is costly, ineffective and intrinsically unfair," said
Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, the bill's sponsor. Co-sponsor
state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, called it a moral issue and a cost
issue, because capital cases are more expensive to prosecute and defend on
But then Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks recounted 2 grisly,
horrific murders in his jurisdiction, innocent victims of unspeakable depravity
leaving grief and horror in their wake.
What punishment but death is appropriate for such evil?
The Assembly Judiciary Committee heard from a mother whose son was murdered,
who asked that the killer not be put to death. "We are called to forgive. We
are called to be different," she said.
But the committee heard from another mother whose son was killed, who did think
death for the perpetrator was a proper fate.
Practical considerations were also raised: Since 1977, 160 people have been
sentenced to death in Nevada. But just 12 people have actually been executed,
and of those, 11 voluntarily gave up their appeals and agreed to be executed.
Not only that, but 88 convictions or sentences were reversed on appeal, and 50
defendants were permanently removed from death row because of those reversals.
On the other hand, prosecutors in Nevada's 2 most populous counties - Clark and
Washoe - say they have filed fewer death penalty notices. Steve Wolfson, Clark
County's district attorney, says he considers capital punishment only in the
murders of children, police officers in the line of duty, killings involving
torture or those with multiple victims.
"Most Nevadans want juries to have the death penalty as an option," Wolfson
And he's right: If the death penalty were on the ballot, it would likely be
affirmed with a comfortable majority.
But perhaps public support - and the revulsion we feel at the depravity of
death-penalty worthy cases - isn't the best argument in favor of the practice.
Perhaps our emotions, our desire for some measure of justice or even revenge
aren't a proper basis on which to decide who lives and who dies.
"Justice is not something we get as the result of the death penalty," said
defense attorney Scott Coffee. And he has a point: No matter what happens after
a murder - no matter a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, or a
death sentence followed by years or even decades of appeals - the wound
inflicted by a murder never really heals, life never really goes on as it did.
For some crimes, no punishment ever fits.
(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death penalty costs spark debate among Nevadans
Nevada lawmakers are debating whether or not to pass a bill that would end the
state's death penalty. Supporters cite a 2014 audit report that says the death
penalty costs about $500,000 more than non-death penalty cases.
(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)
The death penalty is getting more and more expensive. Is it worth it?
Recently, several states, including Nevada, have introduced bills that cite
legal costs as one of the reasons for ending the death penalty.
National trends show the death penalty is being sought and imposed less
frequently. There is also ample evidence that the costs for seeking and
administering the death penalty have increased significantly since the 1980s.
As our recent studies have revealed, this is the case in both Oregon and
Washington. The findings clearly show that the costs for death penalty trials
and appeals for both Oregon and Washington have increased significantly over
Understanding all of the reasons why costs have increased is complicated. But
much of the cost increases can be attributed to changes in public opinion, the
law and in the advancement of scientific evidence and methods, all of which
impact legal practice regarding death penalty cases.
Putting a price on the death penalty
Until recently, attempts to measure the fiscal impact of the death penalty were
The 1st comprehensive attempt to measure the economic impact of capital
sentencing policy was conducted in New York in 1982. However, the bulk of
state-level economic cost studies of the death penalty have taken place over
the last 15 years. Many of these reports were spurred by budget shortfalls in
the wake of the great recession.
Over the course of our research, we have reviewed numerous state-level economic
cost studies representing thousands of death penalty cases nationwide. Although
the findings from these studies varied, they all showed that cases where the
death penalty is sought incur significantly higher costs than similar cases
where the death penalty is not sought.
This is also the case for Oregon and Washington, where the average death
penalty case costs more than the average non-death penalty aggravated murder
case, by US$1,035,000 and $1,193,000, respectively. And both of these figures
include the costs for life without the possibility of parole.
Moreover, the rates for post-conviction reversal in both Oregon and Washington
are extremely high - 79 % and 75 %, respectively. That means that only a
handful of cases ever advance to the point of execution - and that point does
not even currently exist, as both states have moratoriums in place.
The evidence is clear that maintaining the capital punishment pipeline costs
taxpayers more money. Many states, such as Nebraska, Colorado, Pennsylvania,
Washington and Oregon, have highlighted these extreme costs as one of their
reasons to seek an end to the death penalty.
Why is the death penalty more expensive?
Some people may recognize that seeking and imposing the death penalty is more
expensive, but not understand why.
The U.S. Constitution protects basic rights through the criminal justice
process, including equal treatment under the law and freedom from cruel and
unusual punishment. Ever since Furman v. Georgia in 1972, the U.S. Supreme
Court has recognized that additional safeguards are necessary to protect these
rights in death penalty cases.
In holding that the death penalty, as it was applied at the time, violated the
the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Furman Court was confronted with
evidence that these death sentences were imposed in arbitrary, capricious and
discriminatory ways. Justice Stewart captured the sentiment of the Court in his
concurring opinion, observing that "death sentences are cruel and unusual in
the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual."
A few years later in Gregg v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Georgia
death penalty statute that became the model for the rest of the country. In
Gregg, the Court found that the Georgia statute, by narrowing the class of
crimes and criminals for which the death penalty could be sought to the "worst
of the worst," provided a sufficient safeguard against the arbitrariness that
led to the Furman decision.
The Gregg decision introduced a requirement for bifurcated trials, meaning the
guilt and penalty phases are separate. It also required that jurors in capital
cases be given guidance for jury instructions regarding how to approach the
decision of whether or not to recommend a death sentence. Finally, unlike other
criminal cases in which appeals begin in the lower appellate courts, the
statute approved in Gregg provided for an automatic appeal of any case
resulting in a death sentence by the state supreme court. This was in addition
to the regular appeals at the lower courts.
Other standards and guidelines have been adopted by public defense systems, the
American Bar Association, prosecution and courts. For instance, most states
require that 2 qualified defense attorneys are assigned per defendant in
capital cases. Consultation with experts in the collection and presentation of
mitigation evidence and evaluation of defendants by mental health professionals
are generally required as well.
Jury selection is also a much more involved process. Given the length,
complexity and unique juror qualification requirements of death penalty cases,
pools of prospective jurors can reach into the hundreds. Therefore, selection
in capital cases takes much longer to complete than in non-capital cases.
The overall increase in costs for death penalty cases reflects these procedural
requirements. This results in the differences in how death penalty cases
proceed through the investigation, pretrial, trial, sentencing and appeals
phases, each of which is considerable more complex and time consuming than in
Some people may also make the mistake of attributing the high costs solely to
defendants' appeals, and to the defense for pursuing them. It is indeed a fact
that litigating appeals in death penalty cases costs more than in non-capital
cases because they are far more complicated and require more prosecutors,
defense attorneys and judges to be involved.
However, we have discovered that every phase of an average death penalty case -
not just the appeals - takes more people and more effort. In Oregon, for
instance, there are at least two times the number of hearings and court filings
in aggravated murder cases where the death penalty is sought than in similar
cases where a death sentence is not sought. That leads to a lot more time and
Are economic costs the only consideration?
Courts around the country as well as the U.S. Supreme Court have struggled with
the application of the death penalty over the last 40 years. The process of
judicial review has relied heavily on the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual,
culpability and proportionality considerations, which have involved issues such
as cognitive disability, age and race.
Further, there is no credible evidence that supports the death penalty as a
deterrent. There are considerations to be made in regard to the personal needs
of friends and family members of victims as well as their role in the legal
process. There is mounting empirical evidence of disproportionate application
of the penalty based on race, economic inequality and geographic location.
Indeed, the majority of financial costs to taxpayers are geographically limited
to counties. Economic costs are important when thinking beyond the cost and
effort in criminal cases, to how costs factor into prosecutorial
decision-making. If the high cost of the death penalty discourages prosecutors
from seeking the death penalty, then that raises serious equal justice
The brunt of the financial liability in most death penalty cases rests at the
county level. Many district attorneys must also consider the financial hardship
that seeking death might place on their jurisdictions. Some might find it
untenable, partly because of the economic costs.
There have been recent studies, including our own, which show that only a small
number of counties are active in pursuing death sentences. For Oregon and
Washington, these counties have larger populations, larger tax bases and
For example, three recent cases in King County, Washington cost taxpayers over
$15 million. It is very likely that other counties in Washington would not have
the resources to pursue the death penalty if these cases arose in their
Innocence, especially considering the finality of execution, has been a salient
talking point for those against the death penalty. Now, economic costs have
also become a prominent consideration in critical assessments of capital
punishment systems. As we and others have found, seeking the death penalty is
not only a fraught and often futile endeavor, but an expensive one.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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