2017-06-06 11:53:51 UTC
Rowe worried about losing judges with new act passed by legislature
Walker County's legislative delegation voted against a new act that one House
member fears could lead to the county losing some of its judges in a
The act was passed by the Legislature in the 2017 Regular Session that ended
last month, which also dealt with a couple of other court-related bills
involving the appeals process in death penalty cases and whether judges can
override a jury's decision in a capital murder case.
State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, a former Jasper police chief, was concerned
about a new act, voted against by the entire county delegation, which could
change the allocation of district and circuit judges.
According to a summary sheet from the Senate Majority Leader's Office, "The
Judicial Resources Allocation Commission will review the need for judgeships in
each district, using population size and caseload. As vacancies occur, the
commission will match the judgeship with the county that has the most urgent
"I'm against it, because I don't want to lose a judge's seat,"?Rowe said. "We
may very well."
Rowe said different counties may look at the issue differently. She said Blount
County, in her district, has only 1 circuit judge, Steven King, who is
extremely overworked and needs more help. "I?don't know how he does it, and I
don't know how that circuit clerk's office does it up there."
At the same time, Walker County residents would not want to lose a judge, she
"I?have talked to our local judges, who have told me that we would really run a
risk of losing 1 of our seats here. I think our courts are busy here in Walker
County. I was there for 22 years in that courthouse, and I didn't see a lot of
twiddling thumbs in those courtrooms. They were busy."
The Legislature's website showed Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper,
and state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, also voted against the bill.
On a related topic, Wadsworth approved the passage of a bill that shortens the
state court appeals process in death penalty cases from the current 15 to 18
years down to a period of nine to 12 years.
"You have got people who have been waiting for 30 years for the person who
killed their family member to be executed, and this speeds up that process," he
Rowe agreed with the bill, saying she wanted a much shorter time for appeals.
In another court-related legislative issue, Rowe voted against the judicial
override bill, which passed in the Legislature, including a 78-19 vote in the
House. The new act ends the practice of judges reversing decisions by juries in
capital murder cases.
"I voted against that bill,"?she said. "I?was not for getting rid of judicial
override. I think a judge should be able to override the jury."
She went on to question if judges were useless if sentencing guidelines dictate
what sentences are handed out and the judges can't override juries. Rowe said a
judge may want to override juries who may "overzealously pursue a death penalty
because of some circumstance or under-sentence someone because of a non-related
"I think there is a purpose for why we have judges and we continue to strip
them of their authority,"?she said.
(source: Daily Mountain Eagle)
Jury sentences Auburn man to life in prison for murder of 5-year-old
An Auburn man was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on Monday after
being convicted of capital murder in the 2015 death of his 5-year-old
stepdaughter on Friday.
George William Barton was convicted Friday of killing his stepdaughter, Caley
Presley, on June 7, 2015 in their Rosie Street home in Auburn after a 2-week
The jury returned on Monday for the sentencing portion of the trial where the
state and defense issued statements and called witnesses. The jury had 2
options of sentencing for Barton: the death penalty and life without parole.
Ohio could have path to obtaining long-sought execution drug
Ohio may have a path to obtaining a long-sought lethal injection drug if the
state can locate the proper ingredients, the prison system's top lawyer said
during a deposition in a legal challenge to Ohio's proposed execution drugs.
The state has been unable to carry out executions on more than 2 dozen
condemned killers because of court challenges to its proposed 3-drug method,
which includes midazolam, a sedative used in problematic executions in other
Gov. John Kasich delayed executions once again in May, including that of Ronald
Phillips, now scheduled to die in July for raping and killing his girlfriend's
3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.
Stephen Gray's deposition, taken last year and unsealed May 24, suggests Ohio
may have a possible source of a barbiturate called pentobarbital through a
compounding pharmacist. Gray said in the deposition that the pharmacist might
be able to supply pentobarbital to the state.
Pentobarbital was Ohio's preferred lethal drug until U.S. supplies dried up,
and obtaining supplies of pentobarbital could go a long way to breaking the
legal deadlock over state executions. A single, lethal dose of pentobarbital
was without problems in 10 Ohio executions from 2011 to 2013.
Compounding pharmacists typically mix small, specialty batches of drugs that
aren't subject to the same type of federal regulations as pharmaceuticals
mass-produced by drug makers.
If Ohio could legally import overseas ingredients for pentobarbital, "then
maybe there may be a relationship with that compounding pharmacist to supply
that to my Department," Gray said in the Dec. 16 deposition.
In the same deposition, Gray confirmed that a compounding pharmacist on a
prison system list wouldn't be able to mix pentobarbital without being supplied
the active ingredients. The list Gray refers to, "Exhibit 22," is sealed.
The prison system declined comment. Timothy Sweeney, the attorney who
questioned Gray in the deposition, also declined comment.
In a May 25 filing with a federal appeals court in Cincinnati, Sweeney and
other attorneys argue that, based on the evidence, death row inmates "are
likely to succeed in showing that pentobarbital is available to Ohio."
The appeals court on June 14 will hear death row inmates' challenge of the
state's proposed 3-drug method that includes midazolam, which was used in
problematic executions in recent years in Arizona, Arkansas and Ohio. Opponents
say midazolam creates a substantial risk of harm by not rendering inmates
A 3-judge panel previously declared the method unconstitutional, but in a rare
move, the full court agreed to re-hear the case at the state's request.
(source: The Republic)
State is in a death penalty corner
Indiana officials probably don't want to have a big debate about the death
penalty, but they more or less have to. The issue has been hijacked by capital
punishment opponents, who have pushed the state into a corner by challenging
the lethal cocktail used to carry out state-sanctioned executions. If the state
can't talk its way out of the corner, it might have to go back to "less humane"
methods of execution.
Most death penalty states have a similar dilemma. Influenced by anti-capital
punishment activists, major drug companies have stopped making their lethal
products available to states using them for capital punishment, so states have
been scrambling to find alternatives.
In 2014, the Indiana Department of Corrections came up with a 3-drug cocktail
of methohexital, potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide, which no state or
federal prisoner in the country has been executed by. Other states coming up
with their own concoctions have had horrible instances of prisoners dying
gruesome, drawn-out deaths, which has put the "cruel and unusual punishment"
argument back on the table.
Roy Lee Ward, one of Indiana's 11 prisoners on death row, sued the state in
2015, arguing that the DOC skirted procedures when it chose the new drugs. A
LaPorte Circuit judge dismissed the claim. But now a 3-judge Indiana Court of
Appeals panel has reversed the lower court. The judges found that when the DOC
chose the new drugs, it violated Ward's rights under the state and federal
constitutions. The DOC did not follow guidelines set by the General Assembly
that regulate how state agencies change its rules, including holding a public
hearing, the court said.
The state's options are limited. Even if it backs up and follows all the
procedures the court says are necessary, it may be a moot point. Indiana's
stock of lethal injection drugs is expired - and, given the attitude of the
drug companies, the state is not likely to replenish them any time soon.
So what is the state to do? Put executions on hold indefinitely, which would
have the effect of eliminating capital punishment? Bring back the gas chamber,
hanging, the firing squad, the electric chair?
It is more than a little ironic that lethal injections were settled on as a
more humane way of dispatching capital offenders. In trying to deal with claims
of its cruelty, the state might have to revert to killing in ways considered
even more barbaric.
Maybe it's time for one of those public hearings.
(source: Editorial, News-Sentinel)
Why does North Dakota not have the death penalty?
Regarding Ashley Hunter ... will someone please explain to me why this
miscreant isn't facing the death penalty? Why does North Dakota not have the
death penalty? Just what kind of 'Red State' are we, anyway?
Life without parole costs the taxpayer a fortune, and for what? So the
snowflakes can feel good about their misplaced compassion? Maliciously taking
another life makes your own forfeit, and it is the law's duty to take it from
you. That Ashley Hunter will continue to breathe the air is an insult to his
Furthermore, why did it take 2 years to bring this guy to trial? I understand
attorneys require time to blow smoke at each other...but two years? Justice
delayed is justice denied!
It is an insult to decent people that this animal is being warehoused instead
of executed. North Dakota needs the death penalty now, and it needs to be
applied in all cases of premeditated murder.
Virginia and Texas have the right idea: try 'em, fry 'em, and forget 'em.
Anything less is an injustice to the families of murder victims, and civilized
society as a whole.
Shaun Moser, Fargo
(source: Letter to the Editor, inforum.com)
Court to hear challenge to speed up California executions
The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a ballot
initiative designed to speed up executions that could fundamentally change the
way the court handles death penalty appeals.
Death penalty opponents are challenging a ballot measure passed by a slim
majority of voters in November that aimed to reform a dysfunctional system that
hasn???t executed a condemned killer in more than a decade.
Foes of capital punishment argue that Proposition 66 was unconstitutional
because it would take power away from the state's high court to decide how it
handles cases and it would disrupt the court system, cost the state more money
and undermine the appeals process.
If allowed to take effect, the measure would require more lawyers to take death
penalty appellate cases, some trial court judges would be assigned appeals and
all state appeals would have to be completed in 5 years, which is about 1/3 of
the time it typically takes.
With a backlog of 380 death penalty appeals, there's concern judges would be
overwhelmed trying to speed through appeals, said Elisabeth Semel, a law
professor at University of California, Berkeley, who consulted for death
penalty opponents on the case.
"There's an enormous ripple effect to that," said Semel, who directs the
school's death penalty clinic. "The attention the justices can pay to each
individual case is significantly diminished. When you're talking about life and
death, that's important."
The ballot initiative supported by 51 % of voters was designed to "mend not
end" capital punishment in California, where nearly 750 inmates are on death
row and only 13 have been executed since 1978.
A competing measure to repeal capital punishment lost by a slightly wider
margin. Both sides acknowledged the current system is broken.
"The 1 thing everybody agreed on was that the status quo was unsatisfactory,"
said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,
which advocated for Proposition 66. "What they're asking to do is override the
voters and keep the status quo."
Scheidegger thinks law and history is on his side. He noted the state Supreme
Court has said it ???jealously guards??? the right to the ballot initiative and
most attacks have failed.
He also disputed that the intended reforms will cause the chaos suggested by
The legal challenge was brought by Ron Briggs, a former El Dorado county
supervisor whose father wrote the ballot measure that expanded California's
death penalty in 1978, along with former state Attorney General John Van de
Kamp, a longtime death penalty opponent, who died in March.
Challengers also said the proposition violated a requirement that a ballot
measure only cover a single subject.
They said it incorporated unrelated elements such as provisions that would
allow condemned inmates to be housed at prisons other than San Quentin and
would require inmate pay go toward victim restitution.
The court will have 3 months to rule on the case.
If the court tosses out the petition, about 20 inmates have exhausted all
appeals and can be executed, Scheidegger said.
Death penalty is upheld for Orange County killer:
The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death penalty for Gerald
Parker, known as the "Bedroom Basher" for terrorizing Orange County in the late
1970s in a string of home-invasion rapes and murders.
Parker was a staff sergeant based in Orange County for the U.S. Marine Corps in
1978 and 1979. During that time, 5 women in Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Tustin were
raped and beaten to death in their apartments.
A 6th victim, D. Green, survived with brain damage, but her 9-month-old fetus,
identified by the court as Chantal Green, was delivered stillborn.
Green's husband, Kevin Lee Green, was wrongly convicted of the attack. He was
imprisoned from 1980 to 1996, when DNA tests linked the victims to one another
and to Parker.
Parker admitted during a police interrogation to burglarizing all 6 homes, but
claimed he was intoxicated at the time and did not intend to kill the victims,
identified by the court as: Sandra Fry, Kimberly Rawlins, Marolyn Carleton,
Chantal Green, Debora Kennedy and Debra Senior.
An Orange County judge sentenced Parker to death in 1999.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
No death penalty for Sierra LaMar's killer
A convicted Morgan Hill killer was sentenced Monday to serve life in prison
without possibility of parole. The jury unanimously decided against sentencing
Antolin Garcia-Torres to death.
The same jury found Garcia-Torres guilty last month of kidnapping and murdering
a 15-year-old girl, Sierra LaMar, while she was on her way to school.
A Santa Clara Hall of Justice courtroom was completely silent just before the
jury's sentencing decision was read. Sierra's father looked disappointed,
holding his head in his hands.
During the trial's penalty phase, Garcia-Torres' defense team sought sympathy
from the jury by illustrating what life was like for Garcia-Torres as he was
growing up in Morgan Hill. According to testimony, his alcoholic father beat
his mother and sexually molested a young female family member.
Prosecutors said Garcia-Torres deserved the death penalty because he did not
show mercy toward Sierra when he decided to kidnap her. Since then, he
exhibited no remorse, and has not revealed where Sierra's body is, prosecutors
(source: KSBW news)
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