2017-08-24 13:54:16 UTC
90 years on, legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti executions lingers
90 years ago Wednesday, Italian immigrants and avowed anarchists Nicola Sacco
and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in Boston after one of the most notorious
criminal cases of the 20th century.
Today, their legacy lingers. Far from resolving the case, the deaths of Sacco
and Vanzetti on Aug. 23, 1927, have become a touchstone for generations of
activists, historians, and citizens still debating what lessons can be learned
from their trial.
The pair was executed amid fierce anti-immigrant sentiment. Scholars say it
resonates today as the U.S. ponders immigration and the role and reach of law
50 years after the execution, Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis - a son of Greek
immigrants - proclaimed Aug. 23 as Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested several weeks after a payroll clerk and a
security guard were shot and killed during an armed robbery at the Slater and
Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree in 1920.
The 1921 trial, which came during a time of heightened suspicion of immigration
from Europe and a specific fear of Italian anarchists, drew international
After they were convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair, political
dissidents, unionists, Italian immigrants and other supporters - including poet
Edna St. Vincent Millay - demonstrated across the U.S. and Europe, arguing the
2 were targeted for their political beliefs and immigrant status.
The 2 maintained their innocence throughout the trial and appeals, but were
executed in 1927 at the state prison in Charlestown.
Grappling with history
In the decades since, Massachusetts has struggled to put the case into a larger
context, looking for morals about justice, immigration and prejudice.
In his 1977 proclamation, issued in English and Italian, Dukakis said the trial
"was permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox
A sculpture of Sacco and Vanzetti by Gutzon Borglum, who designed Mount
Rushmore, is housed at the Boston Public Library.
It includes an inscription from a letter written by Vanzetti that reads: "What
I wish more than all in this last hour of agony is that our case and our fate
may be understood in their real being and serve as a tremendous lesson to the
forces of freedom so that our suffering and death will not have been in vain."
The death penalty
Of the many ways to interpret the case, one of the more enduring has been
through Massachusetts' tortured relationship to the death penalty.
Capital punishment was common in the state's earliest days. Mary Dyer was put
to death in Boston in 1660 after she was banned by the Puritan leaders of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony for being a Quaker. A few decades later, 19 people
were hanged and one crushed to death during the 1692 Salem witch trials.
But the Sacco and Vanzetti case turned out to be perhaps the state's most
infamous death penalty case - and a rallying cry for death penalty critics.
Massachusetts hasn't executed anyone since 1947, and the state's highest court
essentially banned capital punishment in 1984.
(source: Associated Press)
For the 1st time in Florida's history, a white man who killed black person to
For the 1st time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man
Thursday for killing a black person - and it plans to do so with the help of a
drug that has never been used before in any U.S. execution.
Barring a stay, Mark Asay, 53, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6
p.m. Asay was convicted by a jury of 2 racially motivated, premeditated murders
in Jacksonville in 1987.
The planned execution - Florida's 1st since the U.S. Supreme Court halted the
practice in the state more than 18 months ago - is expected to be carried out
using etomidate, an anesthetic that has been approved by the Florida Supreme
Court. 2 other drugs also will be used.
Asay, who is white, fatally shot Robert Lee Booker, 34, a black man, after
making multiple racist comments, prosecutors said. Asay's 2nd victim was Robert
McDowell, 26, who was mixed race, white and Hispanic. Prosecutors say Asay had
hired McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, for sex and shot him 6 times after
discovering his gender.
While Asay would be the state's 1st white man to be executed in Florida for
killing a black man, at least 20 black men have been executed for killing white
victims since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to data
from the Death Penalty Information Center. A total of 92 Florida inmates have
been executed in that time period.
Opponents of capital punishment said much more needs to be done to make
Florida's criminal justice system more equitable.
"This does nothing to change the 170-year-long history of Florida not executing
whites for killing blacks," said Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians
for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Etomidate is the 1st of 3 drugs administered in Florida's new execution
cocktail. It is replacing midazolam, which has been harder to acquire after
many drug companies began refusing to provide it for executions. The etomidate
is followed by rocuronium bromide, a paralytic, and finally, potassium acetate,
which stops the heart. It is Florida's 1st time using potassium acetate too,
which was used in a 2015 execution in Oklahoma by mistake, but has not been
used elsewhere, a death penalty expert said.
While the state's high court has approved the use of etomidate, some experts
have criticized the drug as being unproven.
"It's never been used in an execution before," said Jen Moreno, a lethal
injection expert who works as a staff attorney at the University of California,
Berkeley Law School's death penalty clinic. "There are outstanding questions
about whether it's going to do what it needs to do during an execution. The
state hasn't provided any information about why it has selected this drug."
State corrections officials defended the choice, saying it has been reviewed.
The corrections department refused to answer questions from The Associated
Press about how it chose etomidate.
"The Florida Department of Corrections follows the law and carries out the
sentence of the court," Michelle Glady, the Florida Department of Corrections'
spokeswoman, said in a statement. "This is the Department's most solemn duty
and the foremost objective with the lethal injection procedure is a humane and
Doctors hired by Asay's attorneys raised questions about etomidate in court
declarations, saying there are cases where it had caused pain along with
involuntary writhing in patients.
But in its opinion allowing the drug to be used, the state's high court said
earlier this month that 4 expert witnesses demonstrated that Asay "is at small
risk of mild to moderate pain."
Asay would be the 1st Florida inmate executed since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling
found the state's method of sentencing people to death to be unconstitutional.
The court ruled that the old system was illegal because it gave judges, not
juries, the power to decide.
Since then, Florida's Legislature passed a law requiring a unanimous jury for
death penalty recommendations.
In Asay's case, jurors recommended death for both murder counts by 9-3 votes.
Even though the new law requires unanimity, Florida's high court ruled that the
U.S. Supreme Court's ruling did not apply to older cases.
Asay will be the 24th inmate executed since Gov. Rick Scott has taken office,
the most under any governor in Florida history.
Booker's son, Vittorio Robinson, who was 15 when his father was killed, told
the Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville that his father's death
helped him realize that racism was still alive.
"I just couldn't believe it," he said, describing when he learned of his
father's death. "And then it dawned on me, there are actually still people out
there that thought that way."
(source: Associated Press)
Here's Another Example of Why the "Death Penalty System In Florida Is in
Absolute Chaos"----When life or death depends on date.
Mark Asay is scheduled to be executed in Florida on August 24 for the 1987
murders of Robert Booker and Renee Torres (who was originally identified in
court documents as Robert McDowell). It will be the 1st execution carried out
in the Sunshine State since Oscar Bolin was put to death in January 2016, and
the 1st time ever that Florida will execute a white person for the murder of a
But the case is also significant because the US Supreme Court ruled in 2016
that Florida's death sentencing protocol, which did not require unanimous
juries before a judge imposes a sentence, was unconstitutional. Now, dozens of
inmates on Florida's death row are eligible to be re-sentenced - but only if
they were sentenced before 2002, so Asay does not qualify.
"The death penalty system in Florida is in absolute chaos," says Mark Elliott,
the executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an
anti capital-punishment advocacy group. The state leads the country in wrongful
death penalty convictions: Since 1973, 27 people have been freed from death row
after new DNA evidence was discovered, prosecutorial misconduct was found,
eyewitness misidentification had occurred, or other variables freed them. In
2013, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that would hasten executions by
requiring the governor to sign a death warrant 30 days after the clemency
review is completed, and the execution to occur within 180 days. Scott is
currently being sued by Aramis Ayala, a state attorney, after he removed her
from capital murder cases because she refused to seek the death penalty. In his
seven years of office, Gov. Scott has signed 23 death warrants - more than any
Florida governor in the modern era.
In his 7 years of office, Gov. Scott has signed 23 death warrants - more than
any Florida governor in the modern era.
Since March, state law has required a unanimous jury to sentence an inmate to
death, and the policy is retroactive to 2002. That means means dozens of
inmates who have been on death row after 2002 are eligible to have their
sentences reviewed and possibly commuted to life in prison. But some anti-death
penalty advocates consider portions of the new law to be unfair, because it
does not include all prisoners and is therefore not not fully retroactive.
The law came about from a 1998 case. Timothy Hurst gagged and murdered his
co-worker, Cynthia Harrison at a Popeye's in Pensacola, Fla. He was sentenced
to death 2 years later, in 2000, after a jury voted 11 to 1 for execution.
During appeal, he was granted a new sentencing trial because his counsel did
not present evidence of his possible brain damage and borderline intelligence.
At his new sentencing trial in 2012, he presented those factors as mitigating
evidence, but the jury sentenced him to death again, this time 7-5. Hurst
appealed once more, and his case made it to the US Supreme Court in 2015. In
Hurst v. Florida, the court ruled in an 8-1 decision that the state had
violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and forced Florida to change
its sentencing laws.
In March 2016, the Florida legislature permitted the death penalty as long as
10 jurors recommended it. The law was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court
and, in March 2017, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law requiring a unanimous jury for
all capital defendants. The new law was consistent with Ring v. Arizona, the
2002 Supreme Court ruling that first required a jury, and not a judge, to
decide if a defendant is eligible for the death penalty, The Florida Supreme
Court decided that the unanimous jury requirement would be retroactive to the
year of the Supreme Court case.
In December 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, 6-1, that the 2002 line
would stand. In his dissent, the now retired Justice James Perry wrote that
"the line drawn by the majority is arbitrary and cannot withstand scrutiny
under the Eighth Amendment."
There are more than 350 inmates awaiting execution on Florida's death row. Of
them, more than 150 were sentenced to death after 2002, which means their
sentences are eligible to be commuted. Approximately 200 inmates have no chance
of getting their sentences changed, including Mark Asay.
His case is not one that invites sympathy. During a night of drinking and
searching for prostitutes with his brother Robbie and friend "Bubba" McQuinn,
Asay murdered 2 people in Jacksonville. His 1st victim was a black man named
Robert Booker, whom he saw having a conversation with McQuinn. According to
court documents, Asay yelled at Booker and called him racial slurs. McQuinn
tried to intervene but Asay got his gun and shot Booker in the stomach. When
his friend asked him why he shot Booker, according to court documents Asay
replied, "You got to show a nigger who is boss."
Asay and his friends drove away and continued to look for women when they met
Renee Torres, who court documents identified as Robert McDowell, "a black man
dressed as a woman." Asay acted as a lookout while Torres and McQuinn engaged
in a sexual act, court documents say. Asay then returned, dragged Torres from
the car and shot the victim 6 times. When McQuinn asked why he shot Torres,
Asay said that the "the bitch had beat him out of 10 dollars." The trial was
fraught with racial tension, as witnesses testified about Asay's usage of
racial slurs and alleged white supremacist tattoos. In 1988, jurors voted 9 to
3 to put Asay to death.
Asay has tried to halt his execution for several different reasons including
the 2002 cut off date, but he's been repeatedly denied. Last week, the Florida
Supreme Court denied his application for a stay of execution saying that Hurst
cannot be retroactively applied. Justice Barbara Pariente dissented saying
executing Asay despite the 9 to 3 jury vote "violates the foundational
principles of both the Florida and United States Constitutions."
On August 14, just days before Asay's scheduled execution, the Florida Supreme
Court announced that it had erroneously identified Torres as a black man,
decades earlier. According to the Court, the victim was either Latino or white.
In a petition to the state high court, Asay's lawyers say this error should
entitle Asay to relief, writing that "the state's case against Mr. Asay was
premised upon its claim that the 2 homicides at issue were motivated by [his]
alleged racial animus."
For Mark Elliott, Asay's case demonstrates the injustice at the root of the
partial retroactivity. "If a sentencing law is declared unconstitutional," he
says, "it should be unconstitutional for everyone."
(source: Mother Jones)
While Florida Prepares To Execute One Inmate, 150 Others Seek To Overturn Death
While the state of Florida is set to execute the 1st person in more than a year
and a half, 150 other death row inmates await new sentences.
The death penalty was put on hold in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled in the landmark case of Hurst v. Florida that the process applied for
sentencing someone to death was unconstitutional.
While Mark Asay, who is slated for execution Thursday, represents a contingent
of Death Row inmates whose sentences were not ultimately affected by the
litigation that led to the Supreme Court decision, nearly 150 others are
eligible for new sentences. These cases have started to pile up at the circuit
"It's been a roller coaster for us since Hurst [the Supreme Court decision]
came out," said Steven Klinger, assistant state attorney in Broward County who
handles the appellate side of the circuit's death penalty cases.
In the spring of 2016, after the Hurst v. Florida decision, the Florida
Legislature approved new sentencing rules, but the state Supreme Court ruled
them also unconstitutional because they allowed non-unanimous juries to send
someone to death row. Only unanimous juries have that power, ruled the court,
not a simple majority or even 10 of 12 jurors.
The Florida Legislature passed new sentencing rules during its 2017 legislative
session, effectively bringing back the death penalty in the state.
While all this was litigated, Klinger's cases were put on hold.
"The original opinion out of the United States Supreme Court, then the
following opinion that came out of the Florida Supreme Court, changed the way
we've been doing things for 30 or 40 years in the past," Klinger said.
While new capital cases and those in the initial stages of appeals have started
moving again, it will be slow going for those on death row seeking new
sentences. Decades-old cases have to be reassembled, largely by new attorneys
who are unfamiliar with these cases.
"It can be difficult," said Gene Zenobi, regional counsel for the 3rd district,
which includes Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, a state-funded criminal defense
team similar to the Public Defender's Office. "Families, witnesses, experts
[all] have to be found and have to be brought before the court... It takes
Zenobi says it can be a heavy lift even to get the files for the case, which
are in varying conditions.
The State Attorney's Office in Broward County has gotten three cases back so
far and expects more.
"The difference now is we have to pick a jury again and this jury, although
they're only going to be deciding penalty, in most cases they're going to need
to hear the entire trial again so that they're educated on what the case was
before we talk about penalty," said Shari Tate, head of the homicide trial unit
for the Broward State Attorney's Office.
Some of these cases lasted weeks if not months. All that testimony has to be
reproduced in some way for this new jury.
And because of the difficulty in locating witnesses and experts from years ago,
the Broward SAO is going to go through each case to see whether there's the
evidence or witnesses still around to even seek the death penalty.
"We all know any delay, in any case, is always an enemy to the success of
ultimate successful prosecution of that case, any kind of case," said Katherine
Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County.
Her office is expecting 11 cases back, the oldest crime dating to January 1995.
Fernandez Rundle says that for just 1 case there are 24 boxes of material, and
a new lawyer is going to have to learn everything that's in them. Another case
has 90 witnesses who will have to be located and reassembled.
"These lawyers are already overburdened with the existing death penalty cases,"
said Fernandez Rundle, "and now we have all these cases coming back."
She has implored the Legislature to allocate more money to state attorneys'
offices to help pay for this work, which will require retesting old evidence
with new techniques, paying forensic pathologists and other witnesses and
transportation and housing for out-of-town witnesses.
Aside from the resource challenges, she's very concerned about the perception
of justice by the families of victims, which is part of the consideration in
whether her office will pursue the death sentence again in these resentencing
One case she points to, of Ana Maria Angel, involved the 2002 murder of a
teenage girl, who was abducted along with her boyfriend 2 months before her
high school graduation. She was raped, thrown out the back of a van and shot to
death. Her boyfriend was stabbed repeatedly but survived.
One of the individuals charged for that crime, Joel Lebron, is likely to come
back for resentencing.
"I sat with that mother in this room," said Fernandez Rundle. "How do I look at
this mom and tell her 'I know the justice system doesn't feel very judicious'?"
The Hurst decision that prompted all this came down on Jan. 8, 2016. It found
that Florida's system bucked national trends and the law by allowing judges to
make the final decision in handing down a death sentence as opposed to a jury,
unconstitutionally stripping the jury of that responsibility.
The high court left it to the Florida Supreme Court to figure out how that
ruling should be applied to inmates who were sentenced under the old, now
That question of who might get relief under Hurst came in December 2016 in Mark
Asay's case and the companion case of John Mosley. In the case of Asay, the man
scheduled for execution this week, the answer was inmates sentenced before the
summer of 2002 would not be extended relief. In Mosley, the courts decided that
cases finalized after that date would have the chance at a new hearing.
So far, more than 50 cases have officially been granted a new sentencing
hearing - those that came after 2002 and did not have a unanimous jury.
(source: WLRN news)
State negotiating with death row inmate
The state is negotiating with Lesly Jean-Phillipe, who is on death row for the
2009 murder of his wife.
Jean-Phillipe went to his wife Elkie's home on Jacksonville's Southside, posing
as a pizza deliveryman, and stabbed her to death.
He was convicted in 2011 of murder, and a jury voted 12-0 to recommend the
The direct appeal was denied, but defense lawyers filed a motion to throw out
the conviction and sentence, saying Jean-Phillippe got ineffective counsel at
A new defense motion asks for Jean-Philippe to be resentenced to life in
There's a hearing Friday and the order indicates there are ongoing and "active'
negotiations with his lawyers that would result in a life sentence in exchange
for him giving up any future appeals.
Statewide Catholic parishioners calling for end to capital
punishment----Parishioners calling for a stay of execution for Mark Asay
Time is running out for death row inmate Mark Asay. He will be executed
Thursday night at Florida State Prison in Raiford for the 1987 murders of 2
Jacksonville men. As the hours count down, members of the Catholic Church are
not only calling for a stay of execution, they're also speaking out against
A jury found Asay guilty of shooting and killing Robert McDowell and Robert
Unless he gets a stay of execution, Asay will become the 1st person in nearly 2
years to be put to death in Florida. Catholics from all over are hoping that
Members of the Catholic Church from across the state are planning to hold a
prayer service in front of the courthouse for Asay, the two men he killed and
their families. The parishioners said they strongly believe that Asay's death
sentence should be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of
Many of them also feel capital punishment should be a thing of the past.
Kathleen Bagg with the Diocese of St. Augustine says that is a sentiment felt
"The death penalty is not a deterrent -- studies have shown that," Bagg said.
"We feel the death penalty today is more of an act of vengeance on behalf of
Earlier this week, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter
urging Gov. Rick Scott to commute Asay's sentence to life in prison. The letter
points to Scott's pro-life stance on abortion- reading in part:
"We seek a state that is unequivocally and consistently pro-life, protecting
human life in all stages and in all circumstances."
Bagg references the hundreds of death row inmates who've been exonerated
through DNA testing. She believes an eye for an eye shouldn't be the answer.
"I think we need to look at life as being sacred, no matter what the person
does," Bagg said.
Bagg told News4Jax that prayer services will be held around the state,
including in Jacksonville, calling for an end to capital punishment.
"We're not only praying for Mr. Asay, we're praying for the victims of his
crime. We're praying for all those that are involved in the execution process,
and our society," Bagg said.
(source for both: news4jax.com)
Jury learns about convicted murderer's childhood
A new jury, selected Tuesday, is charged with deciding whether Kelvin Coleman
will receive the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole
in the 2013 deaths of 2 people in Ocala. A filthy home full of alcohol, drugs,
violence and abuse, in a bad neighborhood, combined with almost no parental
supervision and potential mental illnesses, are what molded a convicted
double-murderer into what he is today, defense attorneys argued Wednesday
afternoon in the penalty phase trial of Kelvin Lee Coleman.
Assistant Public Defender Morris Carranza called family members and a past
teacher to the stand to describe Coleman's childhood.
Coleman, 41, was convicted in October 2016 of shooting and killing Glendora
Johnson, 54, and Lester Carter, 42, in 2013 at the Vacation Host Inn on South
Pine Avenue in Ocala. His penalty phase trial began with opening statements
Tuesday afternoon. The defense started presenting evidence on Wednesday
Among the statements uttered in court were that Coleman's house was overflowing
with people - 9 or 10 living in a 2-bedroom house - and he lacked parental
"Ain't no supervision unless somebody was cussing you out," said Coleman's
cousin, Jamare Johnson.
"They were mostly cussing each other out, cussing the children out," said
Charlene Richards, Coleman's aunt by marriage. "They wasn't the type of nuclear
family that would sit and teach the children order and stuff."
Coleman's defense attorneys are charged with presenting mitigating
circumstances that jurors will individually weigh when deciding whether he will
receive the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole. In
opening statements, Assistant Public Defender Jessica Roberts said her team
would present 30 separate circumstances. She specifically mentioned fetal
Richards and another aunt of Coleman's testified that his mother, Shirley
Brown, drank heavily while she was pregnant with him.
"Shirley was always drinking alcohol," Coleman's aunt Mary Engleton told the
jury. "She always had something in her hand that she was drinking."
Richards and Engleton also testified that Brown often smoked marijuana while
pregnant with Coleman.
The house itself, not just the environment, Richards testified, was bad.
Richards, who lived with Coleman and his family for about 15 years, said the
house was "tacky" and had no heat or air-conditioning.
"Not shacks, but they weren't fit to be living in," she told the jury.
Rats, roaches and other insects ran amok. Johnson said they would play a game
to see how many rats each person could catch. They would all set a trap, write
their name on it and then turn off the lights.
"The house wasn't fit for him to be in there," Johnson said.
Coleman would often spend time with Johnson and Engleton away from the house.
Engleton told the jury he once asked her if he could move in, but she said it
In a particularly emotional part of the testimonies, Richards described
physical and sexual violence that occurred daily in Coleman's childhood home.
She said he witnessed beatings that sent people to the hospital and sexual
violence, and that when he tried to intervene and stop it he would be beaten.
Richards said there were 3 shootings at the house while she lived there, and 2
times someone was hit. Guns would be brandished constantly when arguments
sprang up, she said.
"Even as young as he was, he was not oblivious to what was going on," Richards
said. "He just wanted things to be better, he wanted to live a better life."
Coleman cried as he heard Richards speak about his past.
All three family members agreed that Coleman's father was a good role model in
his life. He would play with the children and make sure they were comfortable,
they said. But, the father was murdered when Coleman was about 12 years old
and, family members said, the boy wasn't the same any longer.
"Yeah, who wouldn't?" Johnson said when Carranza asked if Coleman changed after
his dad's death.
Engleton said Coleman became angrier after the death.
Richards also described an incident in which Coleman hit his head on the side
of a pool and was taken to a hospital and was unconscious for about 2 days.
Carranza hinted at a mental or developmental issue when he questioned one of
Coleman's former teachers. The man said he taught Coleman when he was 10 or 11.
He said Coleman would always go to the school office in the morning to receive
medicine, but he wasn't sure what kind. One day, when Coleman was not called
down for his medicine, he "went ballistic," the teacher recalled.
When Assistant State Attorney Amy Berdnt cross-examined the teacher, he agreed
Coleman was just hyperactive.
"(He was) never violent in anyway to anybody," the teacher said.
The defense later plans to have expert witnesses testify about Coleman's
Most of the state's cross-examination questions pointed out contradictions in
what witnesses were saying on the stand and what they had previously said in
Berdnt also argued that Coleman had other stable adults in his life than what
the defense was describing.
The state rested its case Wednesday morning after showing jurors pictures from
the autopsies of Glendora Johnson and Carter and describing their injuries.
Coleman is Marion County's 1st defendant to go to trial under Florida's new
death sentence scheme. The jury must unanimously vote to execute him, otherwise
he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
He is 1 of 8 Marion County defendants facing the death penalty.
(source: Ocala Star Banner)
Suspect in child's death wants court to determine if death penalty will factor
Tracy Dickerson, 35, is charged with capital murder and is being held without
bond at the Jefferson County Jail.
A child's accused killer wants a Jefferson County court to determine if the
death penalty will be a factor in an upcoming capital murder trial.
A judge scheduled a motion hearing for September 25th on 2 motions filed by
attorneys for Tracy Dickerson.
The 35-year-old man is in the Jefferson County jail in connection to the death
of his girlfriend's young son.
11-year-old Nassir Battle died in March after being found unresponsive with a
shallow pulse at his home.
Dickerson's first motion will be to find out if prosecutors plan to seek a
death sentence in the capital murder trial.
Judge Teresa Pulliam will also hear Dickerson's request to find out if
Alabama's new Judicial Override bill will be applicable in this trial.
Dickerson's case is currently awaiting review by a Jefferson County Grand Jury.
Missouri death row inmate Marcellus Williams' fate might be decided by rare
The fate of a Missouri inmate - who narrowly avoided execution Tuesday night -
could be decided by an uncommon state panel.
Gov. Eric Greitens plans to convene the rare 5-member board in an executive
order to stay the execution of Marcellus Williams, citing new DNA evidence in
Greitens, a Republican, invoked a little-used Missouri law that allows
governors to convene a review panel to examine all the evidence presented to a
jury as well as new nuggets that might've emerged.
"It's not common," Tricia Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence
Project, a Missouri-based non-profit that pushed for the inquiry, said of
calling such a panel.
Governor stays execution of Missouri inmate after new DNA claims
It's unclear, however, who will be on the committee and when it will report
back to the governor.
Williams, 48, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday night, but Greitens ordered
the stay amid pressure to examine new evidence in the case.
He was sentenced to death in 2001 for the killing of Felicia Gayle, a St. Louis
Post-Dispatch reporter whose home Williams was accused of burglarizing.
A DNA test conducted last December couldn't say with certainty that the knife
used had Williams' prints on it, however. Footprints at the scene didn't match
his either, his legal team argued.
Bushnell said advocates pushed for a board of inquiry because the DNA testing
had already been conducted and it was the only way for the evidence to be
The panel will review the case's original evidence, the DNA test and "any other
relevant evidence not available to the jury," according to the executive order.
From there they'll make a recommendation to Greitens on whether Williams should
be executed or have his sentence commuted.
But that won't happen in the near future. The panel's members still have to be
Once they are, they'll have subpoena power over anyone involved in the case,
and the proceedings will not be public, the executive order states.
A timetable hasn't been set on when the panel must report its findings. Like
any other legal probe, Bushnell said, it can take as long as the board deems
Greitens will make a decision based on the board's findings.
Given the subpoena powers the panel has, she added, the timeframe can also be
"dependent on what it is the board wants to look at."
The board of inquiry has hardly been used in the state since it reintroduced
the death penalty in 1989.
Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, formed 2 such panels in the 1990s.
The 1st one came after he stayed the November 1993 execution of Lloyd Schlup,
an inmate sentenced to death for the 1984 fatally stabbing of a black inmate.
Schlup argued his 1st attorney did a poor job and failed to present evidence
that would've exonerated him, according to a 1993 New York Times report.
In that board, Carnahan appointed 1 member, letting Schlup's team and the
prosecution each appoint 2 members, according to the Midwest Innocence Project.
Greitens is likely to name all 5 board members himself.
Schlup's case made its way to U.S. Supreme Court where his conviction was
overturned in 1995. He pleaded guilty in a retrial to avoid the death penalty.
These recommendations can take years, and in 1 unique case might never have an
Take the death sentence for William Theodore Boliek Jr., who was convicted for
the 1983 shooting death of a Kansas City, Mo., woman.
Carnahan convened a board of inquiry over Boliek's sentence in August 1997 - 2
days before he was slated to be put to death - over claims his lawyers didn't
properly represent him in both the trial and appeal.
The board submitted a confidential recommendation to Carnahan, but he died
during his Senate campaign in October 2000 when his plane crashed.
(source: New York Daily News)
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