death penalty news----FLA., OHIO, ARK., MO.
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Rick Halperin
2017-08-30 13:26:07 UTC
Raw Message
August 30


Judge denies motion to take death penalty off table for man accused of killing
16-year-old with car

Attorneys representing Sanel Saint Simon went before a judge Monday seeking to
have the death penalty taken off the table in his case due to the ongoing fight
between Gov. Rick Scott and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Saint Simon is accused of using a car in the killing of his girlfriend's
16-year-old daughter in July 2014.

His attorneys argued Monday that Scott's appointment of State Attorney Brad
King in their client's case amounts to an automatic pursuit of the death
penalty by the state.

Since Ayala announced her office would not seek the death penalty in any case,
Scott has removed her from any pending cases in which the death penalty could
be sought.

Scott appointed King to prosecute the cases.

In every case in which Ayala has been replaced by King, the state has pursued
the death penalty, Saint Simon's attorneys argued Monday.

"Essentially, what the governor has done is stepped in and stripped away all
prosecutorial discretion from Ms. Ayala," 1 attorney said.

The judge sided with prosecutors and denied motions to take the death penalty
off the table in the case.

(source: WFTV news)


Rodney Clark guilty of 1987 Lake Worth rape, murder

It took 4 hours of deliberation Tuesday for a jury to find 51-year-old Rodney
Clark guilty of 1st-degree murder in the 1987 rape and strangling of
27-year-old Dana Fader.

The verdict means Clark, of Jackson, Miss., could become the 1st local man to
be sentenced to death since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's old
death penalty system in early 2016.

Jurors had asked Circuit Judge Charles Burton to listen to hours of testimony
from DNA experts who linked Clark's DNA to Fader's dress and a pillowcase found
in the backseat of her car.

But the panel came back with a decision before listening to that testimony.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton set the penalty phase of the trial to begin Sept.
6. Attorneys on both sides of the case will return to court Tuesday to argue
preliminary matters in the case.

Under the new death penalty laws in Florida, all 12 jurors will have to vote
unanimously for a death sentence for Clark to receive the death penalty.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

OHIO----impending execution

Judge to hear Ohio killer's request to delay execution

A judge plans to hear arguments from lawyers trying to delay the September
execution of a condemned Ohio killer.

Attorneys for death row inmate Gary Otte argue the state hasn't shown it can
ensure inmates are rendered deeply unconscious during lethal injection.

The attorneys say that puts the 45-year-old Otte at risk of suffering serious
pain from 2 of the 3 drugs that Ohio uses.

Magistrate Judge Michael Merz has scheduled a Sept. 6 hearing in federal court
in Dayton for arguments by Otte's lawyers for delaying his Sept. 13 execution.

The state is expected to oppose any delay.

Otte was sentenced to die for the Feb. 12, 1992, killing of Robert Wasikowski
and the Feb. 13, 1992, killing of Sharon Kostura.

()source: The Associated Press)


Most Ohio death row inmates mentally disabled, report says

Most of the 26 men scheduled for execution in Ohio over 3 years have
intellectual impairments, mental illness and childhood abuse and should not be
put to death, a study by Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project

A report released Wednesday looked at all 26 cases of convicted killers set to
be executed in Ohio through 2020, beginning with Gary Otte on Sept. 13. It said
Ohio is "poised to violate constitutional limits" by executing impaired

"Our research on individuals facing execution in Ohio turned up some absolutely
horrifying stories of abuse, mental illness and disability," said Jessica
Brand, legal director for the Fair Punishment Project. "In fact, in 88 percent
of the cases we looked at, we found significant impairments, many of which were
never considered by a judge or jury. This indicates something has clearly gone
awry in the state's implementation of the death penalty."

Relying on legal pleadings, court opinions and trial testimony, the Fair
Punishment Project found 17 of 26 men had serious childhood trauma, including
extensive physical and sexual abuse; 6 have mental illness; 11 show
"intellectual or cognitive impairment, including brain injury," and 3 were
younger than 21 at the time of the crime, an age where the brain is

"Unless the governor or a court intervenes, over the course of the next two
years, Ohio appears poised to violate that constitutional limitation by
scheduling the executions of nearly a dozen individuals who have debilitating
impairments, including mental illness, childhood abuse, and intellectual
disability," the report concluded.

Ohio resumed executions July 26 after a 3-year delay when Ronald Phillips was
put to death at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

The issue of who is fit and unfit for execution has been the subject of legal
debate for decades. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against executing people with
severe mental disabilities, but there is no comparable bright-line standard on
executing the mentally ill and trauma victims.

Legislation pending in the General Assembly, House Bill 81, would prevent
executing people who can prove they had a serious mental illness when they
committed aggravated murder. It would also allow current death row inmates to
seek re-sentencing.

John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association,
said recently that a law barring execution of the mentally ill "would in effect
repeal the death penalty. ... I think every single one of the persons on death
row will file for this."

An Ohio Supreme Court joint task force recommended the ban on executing the
mentally ill, but it has yet to be enacted.

Ohio Public Defender Tim Young said people with mental impairments and mental
illness "are not the worst of the worst. They're the weakest of the weakest."

"There is nothing about Ohio that is different from the other execution
states," Young said. "They're all pushing the absolute boundaries of the
constitution and sometimes crossing those boundaries."

Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, said the report
highlights a "fundamental morality problem when Ohio reserves execution for
those with the lowest intellectual functioning, with the most troubling
histories of childhood abuse, and for individuals with mental illnesses."

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


A life spared----Thank you, Governor

Last Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that he intends to commute the death
sentence Jason McGehee received for his role in the death of my beloved brother
John Melbourne Jr.

I want to thank Governor Hutchinson for choosing to spare Jason's life. I have
met personally with the governor to express why I have forgiven Jason and why I
believe he should not be executed. I speak for many of my family members as
well who want to see Jason live. I am now ready to share our reasons publicly.

When my brother was killed, 3 boys took part in his death; Jason was not the
one who actually took John's life. I don't believe his punishment is fair. I
feel as though he was singled out from the rest of the participants. The other
2 boys don't face death, and the one who took John's life will be eligible for

That's part of why the Arkansas Parole Board made a very rare recommendation
that Jason's life be spared, by a 6-1 vote.

The parole board was moved by the judge from Jason's trial, who wrote the board
a letter asking for clemency, something he had never done in any other case.
The judge heard all the evidence in each boy's case and does not believe that
Jason deserves a greater penalty than the others.

The parole board also heard from Ray Hobbs, the former head of the Department
of Correction, and a prison chaplain. Mr. Hobbs called Jason's rehabilitation
"remarkable" and discussed how clemency could give hope to other men on death
row. The chaplain described how Jason has helped other inmates. Both feel Jason
should live.

I am glad that the governor listened to these voices and also considered the
opinions and feelings of myself and my family. I do not want Jason to die for
what he did and I know deep in my heart that my brother John would have felt
the same.

Though Jason took part in an obviously heinous crime, my family members and I
don't need to see him die for it. That isn't closure. One life doesn't replace
another. Executing Jason would just have increased someone else's pain--the
pain felt by Jason's family.

My brother's life was horrid. John was abused mentally and physically every day
by our abusive father. He was kicked out repeatedly. Had John felt he had a
safe haven, I'm sure he'd have been home instead of on the streets.

Though our father didn't show him much kindness, my brother John was a very
forgiving soul, always sticking up for people, even those who made bad
mistakes. He always saw the good beyond the bad in oneself. John was well
beyond his years for being only 15 years old. He is missed every day.

In our hearts, my family members and I know that John would not have wanted
Jason to be executed.

I am not mad at Jason, nor do I hate him. I've forgiven him. Jason addressed
the parole board at his clemency hearing and expressed his remorse: "None of us
can take the pain away from John's family. I wish I could make my involvement
up to them, but that's not possible. I'm sorry for my involvement. I know that
they can't, but I wish they could accept my apology."

I do accept Jason's apology, and I believe he is truly remorseful.

I believe Jason has a purpose on this earth. He will be such a positive
influence on other inmates. Not to mention the positive things he can do, even
if it is from a prison cell.

I thank the governor for listening to the chorus of voices, including mine,
recommending mercy for Jason McGehee.

(source: Opinion; Carissa Renee Melbourne is a business owner and mother of 4.
She lives in Northwest Arkansas----arkansasonline.com)


Death penalty: The case for extinction

The case of Ernest Lee Johnson is as good a vehicle for discussion of the death
penalty as any.

Many of us remember the horrible murder of three convenience store employees in
1994. Johnson was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, but since has
been engaged in lengthy courtroom debates over the propriety of the penalty.
Since his incarceration he has developed a slow-growing brain tumor. He argues
his condition might cause cruel and unusual pain during a lethal injection

Many will argue without the arduous legal process Johnson would have long since
been dispatched and justice would have been done. Others say Johnson merely is
enjoying due process of law as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Still others, including myself, allege it's time, past time, to abolish the
death penalty altogether.

Not that Johnson and his likes deserve a pass. But with all its obvious
shortcomings, is the death penalty worth it? Or to put the question in a less
practical light, is it a policy a civilized nation should harbor?

Generations of criminal justice analysts have decided the death penalty does
not deter crime, nor is it an efficient way to administer punishment. With all
the due process tests that must and should be met, the cost of lifetime
incarceration is on average less than capital punishment.

In my mind the most thoughtful observers make the case for the death penalty as
a way of achieving societal revenge. This is a valid presumption, but think of
its problems.

If we are to exact revenge, why do we impose so many niceties? Instead of doing
the deed in private with only a few observers, why not at high noon at Ninth
and Broadway with howling mobs of citizens on hand to cheer on the

Any why do we worry so much about the comfort of the accused? Rather than
endless debates about the cruelty of a lethal drug mix, why not use a public
firing squad with riflemen instructed not to kill outright? To exact our
desired revenge, a slow death in public would be much better.

In order to get revenge we would decide a few errors along the way are worth
it. We would risk false convictions and sentencing to achieve efficiency and
fast revenge while public rancor runs high. The quicker, the better.

Of course, I make these imaginary points facetiously to show the paucity of
arguments for the death penalty. Using only the practical issues raised by the
Johnson case and all others involving the death penalty, think how much better
off we would be without it.

We would be done once and for all with questions about erroneous state murder
of an innocent person. We know advanced scientific forensic techniques reveal
false convictions much more often than in the past. We don't want to impose the
death penalty wrongly so we go through interminable steps to avoid an awful
official misdeed.

We have an innate moral objection to conscientiously imposed death, whether by
a criminal or by the state. Our desire for the abovementioned revenge remains
paramount in many jurisdictions but is losing ground to a more humane,
efficient idea: Let us simply abolish the death penalty and be done with the
mental and emotional turmoil.

Sadly, the State of Missouri remains a holdout jurisdiction. It is encouraging
that Gov. Eric Greitens shows signs of skepticism but a much more fundamental
discussion must be had in the General Assembly questioning the validity of the
state law itself.

Meanwhile, Ernest Lee Johnson and the State of Missouri are engaged in a
ridiculous, lamentable dance to prove a question that never should be at issue.
The accused must prove his medical condition is "sure or very likely" to cause
cruel and unusual pain during a lethal injection procedure. Doctors say
Johnson's condition poses such a risk. Courts so far say this opinion fails to
meet their criteria. Johnson's attorneys say it's impossible to prove the
potential side effects of their client's condition.

Without determinative research in hand, I'm willing to bet the Johnson case
already has cost more money than simple lifetime incarceration. Certainly it
has cost more in moral wear and tear.

Let's get rid of the death penalty.

(source: HJW III; Letter to the Editor, Columbia Daily Tribune)

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