2017-05-14 12:56:28 UTC
Justice delayed is justice denied. Again.
The perpetrator of biggest mass murder in Polk County's history will get
another chance to sidestep the death penalty, thanks to a Florida Supreme Court
ruling from last week.
Nelson Serrano, now 78, was convicted of shooting 4 people to death at a Bartow
manufacturing plant in 1997. The victims included 3 of his former business
associates and the wife of 1 of the men - a state prosecutor - who happened
upon the crime as it was occurring.
The state Supreme Court, which had denied earlier attempts to reverse Serrano's
sentence, ruled 4-3 last week to overturn Serrano's sentence and ordered a new
trial limited to determining his sentence, not his guilt or innocence. That
resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court's determination last year that the death
penalty cases require unanimous sentencing verdicts issued by a jury, and not a
We won't know for a few months whether Serrano will again be sentenced to die
for the slayings, but the case will help signal as to whether the death penalty
will continue to be a viable punishment in Florida.
It appears death row defendants are taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme
Court's decision. Serrano's was 1 of at least 11 cases the state Supreme Court
has considered in the past 2 months relative to the new guidelines. It's
estimated that as many as 200 inmates - or about 1/2 the population of death
row - could seek relief.
We have discussed this issue previously in this space, and while we doubt
anything will alter the course of this issue, in the wake of the Serrano ruling
last week, we wonder again why the U.S. Supreme Court decided to create this
As we have noted, the court's logic, which ultimately has meshed 2 issues by
requiring juries to determine death sentences and mandating unanimous verdicts
for the ultimate punishment, is baffling. For one thing, the jury-vote mandate
undercuts federalism by forcing the same standard on all states for what is
primarily a state responsibility. And in every other criminal case, a judge
hands down the sentence for the convicted defendant. It's unclear why
1st-degree murder cases should be different.
Yes, we understand the past issues with the death penalty. We, as a society,
have seen far too many innocent people released from death row. For example, on
Thursday, the same day that Serrano got a new penalty trial, the Florida
Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction and death sentence of Ralph
Daniel Wright Jr. because the evidence against him was largely circumstantial.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Wright became the 159th
person on death row somewhere in America who has been exonerated over the past
And the recent, and grisly, attempt by Arkansas to execute 8 inmates in less
than 2 weeks certainly did not improve the public perception of capital
(source: Editorial: The Ledger)
Death penalty sought for man charged in killing, abduction
Prosecutors in Ohio will seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally
shooting the mother of his 10-month-old son and abducting her stepmother and
the little boy.
Police last month arrested 27-year-old James Ramey, of Toledo, after finding
him in northern Indiana, near Rochester. The child and stepmother weren't hurt.
Prosecutors in Ohio's Fulton County said Wednesday they will seek a death
sentence after Ramey was indicted on 22 counts, including aggravated murder.
Authorities say he broke into the family's house in Delta, about 30 miles (48
kilometers) west of Toledo on March 14 and shot 23-year-old Amanda Magas in the
chest. She later died at a hospital.
Anti-death penalty activist says she wrestled with issue and 'God won'
Marietta Jaeger-Lane has faced the death penalty issue head-on.
In 1973, when her 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped during a family camping
trip in Montana and murdered by her captor, the mother of 5 said she would have
killed the person who did it with her "bare hands."
"But my Catholic faith calls me to something different," she said, explaining
how she came to a change her opinion on the death penalty, which she likened to
a "wrestling match where God won."
Jaeger-Lane, speaking to reporters in a May 11 press call officially launching
the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty, said most people have "a
gut level response to acts of extreme violence, but when they are educated on
the reality of the death penalty, they begin to rethink their position."
She told reporters that her daughter's kidnapper called her a year to the day
of the kidnapping and was arrested soon after, but she asked the prosecutor for
the alternative sentence of mandatory life without parole. Only when the
kidnapper was offered that, she said, was he willing to confess to the murders
of 3 children, including her daughter Susie, and a 19-year-old.
For decades, Jaeger-Lane, who forgave her daughter's killer, has spoken out
against the death penalty, urging people to see that capital punishment does
not bring the closure or healing that victims' families are seeking. She said
it also denies the criminals the chance for the "mercy of God working in their
She said she signed the anti-death penalty pledge, sponsored by Catholic
Mobilizing Network, because she believes "the Catholic community can be the one
to end the death penalty."
She also is convinced there is more Catholics can do, stressing that she would
like to hear priests speak out against the death penalty as they do against
abortion as a pro-life issue. She also pointed out that many parishes have
prison ministries - noting that she is part of a ministry that visits a prison
every week - but she thinks there needs to be more of an outreach of support
for victims' families.
They need to be listened to in their desire for revenge, she said.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops'
Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, who also took part in the
press call, similarly urged the church to take up the "ministry of
accompaniment" to support victims' families.
The bishop, who signed the pledge May 9, stressed that its key components call
people to be educated on the death penalty, advocate against it and pray for it
He said Catholic bishops have spoken out for decades against the death penalty,
stressing that the "human dignity in every human being must be respected."
The idea for the pledge campaign began in January, said Catholic Mobilizing
Network executive director Karen Clifton. She said Arkansas' bid to execute 8
death-row prisoners in a 10-day span in April - 4 were ultimately put to death
- "exacerbated the situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are
executing and the reasons why the system is so broken."
The pledge campaign is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the U.S.
bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign. It can be signed here:
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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