2017-07-17 12:38:54 UTC
Death penalty is road to hell
As someone who has steadfastly opposed capital punishment for my entire thirty
years of adult life, I was always concerned that one day someone I loved would
be murdered and hence I would find myself in an awkward Catch-22. Since life is
usually as surreal as a Frida Kahlo painting, I suppose it's no surprise that I
would meet William Morva, a future victim of Virginia's death penalty system,
several years before the awful crimes he committed took place.
When I met Morva at a coffee shop in Blacksburg, he seemed like an intelligent,
but disturbed young man. When The Washington Post interviewed me after the
murders Morva committed, I expressed that it was painfully obvious how mentally
ill he was. But, I knew from my years as a reporter that this factor would be
discounted by the jury in Abingdon, especially since 1 of the victims was law
While I am grateful to Dawn Davison and her brave efforts to spare a sick man's
life, I am equally frustrated by Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorneys
Mary Petitt and her predecessor Brad Finch, Governor Terry McAuliffe, whom I
otherwise respect, and yes, those twelve men and women in the jury box as well
as Judge Ray Grubbs. My despondency is further extended to those of you, even
those of you who have been life-long friends, who continue to support this
great moral travesty.
There is no one who feels for the victims of Morva's crime or any homicide
equally or more than I do, but the death penalty is the ultimate road to hell,
and an expensive one at that. If this particular road to hell was once paved
with good intentions that certainly is no longer the case now.
ATTILA (TILLY) GOKBUDAK
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Roanoke Times)
East Alabama murder-for-hire case featured in national TV show
A murder case that haunted the East Alabama community 10 years ago and was
dragged out after 2 trials will once again be revisited in a national murder TV
Lisa Graham, the Russell County woman convicted in the murder-for-hire death of
her daughter in 2007, will be the subject of a national murder TV show.
The case will be featured Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT and again at 9
p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on the show "Snapped" on the Oxygen network.
Graham was found guilty on March 5, 2015, of capital murder in the
murder-for-hire plot that killed her daughter, 21-year-old Stephanie Shae
Graham in July 2007.
Lisa Graham was convicted in 2015 in the murder-for-hire death of her daughter
and was given the death penalty on November 18, 2015.
The jury in her retrial recommended that Graham be sentenced to death, with 10
of the 12 jurors voting for death and the remaining jurors voting for life
without the possibility of parole.
Graham was accused of hiring Kenny Walton to kill her daughter. Walton is
serving a life sentence after he confessed to the murder.
Stephanie Shae Graham was found shot and killed on Bowden Road (Highway 165)
near Cottonton, Alabama. A man driving down a dirt road found her body along
the side of the road.
She had been shot 6 times, her shorts and underwear were down around her
ankles, was raped, run over, and left for dead.
The gunman, Kenny Walton, confessed to shooting Shae Graham with a gun
belonging to and given to him by Lisa Graham.
Graham's 1st trial in September 2012 was declared a mistrial when the judge
There are other twists in turns that have also surfaced in court, like the
motive that suggests Lisa wanted Shae dead because Lisa's husband paid more
attention to Shae than he did to her.
Lisa also claimed the 2 had sexual relations and Shae's drug problem was
costing them too much money.
(source: WTVM news)
Execution policy released
As Ohio plans for the 1st execution in more than 3 years, the Ohio Department
of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) has released their execution policy.
Ohio is planning to execute Ronald Phillips, 43, who was sentenced to death for
the rape and killing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. Phillips is
scheduled to be executed on July 26. It will be the 1st execution since the
state's longest lasting execution of Dennis McQuire, which lasted 26 minutes as
McQuire seized, snorted, gasped and fought for life.
Execution drug, Pentobarbital was banned from use in executions by drug
manufacturers just prior to McGuire's scheduled date with death. Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections policy at the time stated that in
the event that Pentobarbital, 1 of the drugs used in the 3-drug-cocktail, is
not available then midazolam and hydromorphone could be used as a replacement.
The 3-drug cocktail consisted of a short-acting barbiturate to render the
inmate unconscious, followed by a paralytic, and then a chemical to stop the
heart. Midazolam is a benzodiazepine that is used as a sedative. Hydromorphone
is an opioid analgesic pain medication. Basically, the midazolam was used to
sedate McGuire before he was overdosed on the pain medication.
Ohio plans to once again try the 3-drug method. According to Ohio's execution
policy, "the terms 'Execution Drugs' means any of the following three options,
under whatever names those drugs may be available to DRC from a pharmacy,
manufacturer, supplier, wholesaler, distributor, pharmacist, or compounding
pharmacy: 1) Pentobarbital; or 2) Thiopental sodium; or 3) A 3-drug combination
of: a. Midazolam Hydrochloride; and b. One of the following 3 drugs: i.
Vecuronium bromide; or ii. Pancuronium bromide; or iii. Rocuronium bromide; and
c. Potassium Chloride."
The policy further states that the execution drugs used are at the discretion
of the warden.
"It is the policy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC)
to carry out the death penalty in a constitutional manner and as directed by
Ohio Courts of Law. All execution processes shall be performed in a
professional, humane, sensitive, and dignified manner," the policy further
states. "It is the responsibility of the Director to designate a penal
institution where death sentences shall be executed. The Warden of that
facility, or Deputy Warden in the absence of the Warden, is responsible for
carrying out the death sentence on the date established by the Ohio Supreme
Court. The procedures set forth in this policy are to be strictly followed. Any
situation that arises that would make following these policies difficult,
impractical, or impossible shall be immediately reported to the Director or the
Warden. Any variations of a substantial nature must be approved by the Director
as described in this policy."
Phillips has less than 10 days until he is scheduled to die. This is not
Phillips 1st execution date as his counsel argues that the 3-drug method is not
humane. 24 hours prior to the execution, the death row inmate will be moved to
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), location of the state???s death
house. There, Phillips will be monitored by 3 members of the execution team.
During this time, the inmate will be able to meet with visitors including
family and spiritual advisers. Phillips will also be evaluated by medical
professionals in order evaluate his veins and plan for the insertion of the
intravenous lines that will carry the execution drugs throughout his body.
Phillips continues to beg for mercy in hopes that his execution date will again
be delayed as the fight against the selected execution drug method continues.
STOP THE EXECUTION OF MARCELLUS WILLIAMS
Attorney representing Utah death row inmates says he's not being paid
adequately - and he's not the 1st to raise concerns
An appellate attorney for a Utah death row inmate is asking the state's highest
court to follow through on a promise made nearly a decade ago: The justices
said they would reverse death penalty convictions if inmates couldn't get an
The time is now, attorney Samuel Newton wrote in a recent motion in the appeal
for Douglas Anderson Lovell, who in 2015 was sentenced to be executed for
killing 39-year-old Joyce Yost in 1985 to keep her from testifying that he had
previously raped her.
Newton, who is based in Montana, said that defense attorneys are not being
given enough money to support thorough death penalty case reviews - and in the
cases for 2 Utah death row inmates Newton represents, he said he has had
trouble getting paid.
Newton points to a 2008 Utah Supreme Court opinion for death row inmate Michael
Anthony Archuleta in which the high court expressed concern that there was a
diminishing pool of competent attorneys to work on capital cases. The justices
wrote then that if qualified attorneys could not be found, the court might be
forced to overturn death penalties and send the cases back to district court
for imposition of life-without-parole sentences.
"This court should end the punishment [of execution] in this state once and for
all," Newton wrote in his motion on behalf of Lovell.
Newton also laments in the motion a financial cap that Weber County officials
have put on him to represent Lovell at an upcoming evidentiary hearing, where
he is expected to question witnesses over several days about what work Lovell's
trial attorney did on the case - and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints interfered with the trial by limiting what bishops who worked
with Lovell at the prison could say on the stand.
Newton says the hearing will require hundreds of hours of investigation and
preparation, which he estimates will cost more than $37,000. The county,
however, has only authorized $15,000, up to this point. County officials also
have expressed concern that Newton was overbilling, he wrote, and said he spoke
to Lovell too frequently.
County officials indicated in an email to Newton that if his billing practices
don't change, they will have to find someone else for future appeals.
"That's the bind," Newton said in a recent interview. "Do I represent my client
zealously like I'm constitutionally required to do? Or do I tread lightly so I
don't lose my livelihood?"
Lawyers for Weber County wrote in court papers that the county is open to
requests for additional funding in Lovell's case, and said that while Newton
continues to be paid, he is "not entitled to an open checkbook."
But Newton said he has already lost tens of thousands of dollars representing
Lovell, 59, and another death row inmate, 61-year-old Floyd Eugene Maestas, who
was sentenced to be executed for stomping to death 72-year-old Donna Lou Bott
during a burglary at her Salt Lake City in 2004.
The financial burden has caused him stress-related heart problems, Newton said,
to the point where he asked to be removed from the Maestas case - a request
that lawyers with the Utah attorney general's office opposed because it would
cause further delays in the case. A judge has denied Newton's request. State
attorneys, however, have asked that Newton be removed from Lovell's case
because of his health concerns.
The attorney general's office declined to comment for this story.
Newton is not the 1st attorney to raise concerns about payment in Utah death
penalty appeals. A decade ago, as an appeal for death row inmate Ralph Menzies
was underway, no qualified attorneys would take the case for the amount of
money offered. It got to the point where a judge briefly appointed defense
attorney Richard Mauro to represent Menzies, though the lawyer said he took the
In an amicus brief filed by the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in
Menzies' case in 2007, several well-known defense attorneys wrote affidavits
detailing the financial difficulties they encountered by accepting death
penalty appeals. One lawyer wrote that his final hourly wage came to under $17
an hour, though he normally bills at a rate about ten times higher than that.
Another said he made $19 an hour representing a death row inmate in a state
Some attorneys said they paid for expenses out of pocket and were never
reimbursed. And one attorney wrote that he left private practice after
representing a death row inmate because the costs had left his practice "in
Mauro said recently that it is especially difficult for a private practitioner
to take on a weighty death penalty appeal, as opposed to having the support and
resources of a law firm. He said that when he worked in private practice, he
only willingly took on 1 state appeal.
"They were too difficult to do," Mauro told The Tribune. "Too time consuming.
If you are doing the work the way it's supposed to be done - and trying to keep
the lights on and run the copy machine - it's really not a feasible thing to
Back in 2008, when Mauro was appointed to represent Menzies, the state's
Division of Finance capped the pay for attorneys in death-penalty appeals at
$37,000. Now, that cap has been increased to $60,000, and an appellate attorney
also has the option to ask for more funding if a judge determines there is
"sufficient cause." But Newton said he has exceeded that amount already in both
Lovell's and Maestas' appeals.
Robert Dunham, executive director for the national non-profit organization
Death Penalty Information Center, said underfunding for defense in capital
cases happens in every state where the death penalty is used - especially in
places where counties are expected to foot the bill, as in Utah.
When county budgets are tight, Dunham said, officials generally want to spend
money earmarked for public safety on police and fire services, not on defense
lawyers and experts for those accused of capital crimes.
"Underfunding defense lawyers is bad for the criminal justice system," Dunham
said. "Not just because it risks unfair and unconstitutional trials, but
because it costs taxpayers more in the long-run when the cases have to be
There are 9 men on Utah's death row. Maestas was sentenced to be executed in
2008, and Lovell was given the death penalty in 2015 after a retrial. They are
the most recent inmates to receive death sentences.
They are the only 2 death row inmates who have pending appeals solely at the
state level; the remaining 7 have various appeals pending in state and federal
It is not apparent from a review of Utah death penalty cases filed in U.S.
District Court that funding issues are being raised by federal defenders.
The next death penalty trial is scheduled for November, where a jury will
decide whether 36-year-old Steven Crutcher should be executed for killing his
cell mate, 62-year-old Roland Cardona-Gueton, at the Gunnison prison in 2013.
Crutcher pleaded guilty to aggravated murder last May, so the jurors at his
trial will not be asked to determine guilt, only what punishment he should
Legislative fiscal analysts estimated in 2012 that it costs an additional $1.6
million to handle all the appeals and costs of a death sentence over 20 years,
compared to a sentence of life without parole.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers considered studying the costs of
the death penalty more in-depth - but the bill never came up for a final Senate
vote. State lawmakers came close to abolishing capital punishment altogether in
2016, but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline
on the last night of the session.
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
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