2017-11-22 18:22:18 UTC
Professor explains why Texas executes so many prisoners
If Harris County were its own state, it would have a more active death chamber
than the entire rest of the country - except for the rest of Texas.
Of the 1,465 U.S. executions in the modern death penalty era, 125 have come
from Harris County - roughly 8 %. The next-closest executioner is Dallas
County, with 55 death sentences carried out since the Supreme Court reinstated
the ultimate punishment in 1976.
Houston's reputation as ground zero for the death penalty, it seems, is
well-earned - even though prosecutors here have been less apt to dole out
capital sentences in recent years.
But while the numbers are stark, the reasons behind the Bayou City's apparent
zeal for capital punishment are less apparent. It's not driven by public
support for the practice. It's not driven by an unusually high crime rate or by
especially heinous murders.
So what is it? What sets apart jurisdictions that frequently turn to capital
punishment from those that don't?
That is one of the questions Frank Baumgartner and his co-authors explore in
Deadly Justice, a numbers-heavy study of capital punishment released this
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill political science professor took
some time this week to field questions from the Chronicle about his new book
and its implications in the Houston area.
Houston Chronicle: So, Harris County is known as the capital of capital
punishment - why is that? Are Houstonians just more supportive of it?
Frank Baumgartner: Well, actually I would say 2 things. We got data from a Rice
University Houston-area poll and it turns out the public opinion in Houston is
less supportive for the death penalty than in the rest of Texas. In general
across the country we don't find any correlation between public opinion and
executions, and the reason for that is that if you don't support capital
punishment you're not allowed to sit on a jury.
The key driver in the system is the choices that district attorneys make,
because they start the process and they get to pick and choose whether to seek
death. Looking at all 3,000 counties in the U.S. there are just a few counties
that have executed more than, say, 10 people - there's only 20 counties like
that - and it's really astounding that there'd be so much concentration in a
few jurisdictions. There's really no rhyme or reason to it.
Harris County has far more executions than any other county in the country.
HC: It's not that Houston has more horrific crimes?
FB: No, not at all.
I think it's something about a local culture that develops around the
courthouse. Most counties never go there, but a few counties happen to
scucessfully carry through to the end a death sentence - and then when the next
really bad murder happens the prosecutors say, "Well this is just as bad as
that one where we sought death so we kind of have to do it again this time."
HC: We hear a lot about botched executions - is this happening more than it
used to - and why we aren't seeing these botched executions in Texas? Or is it
just a matter of time?
FB: Lethal injection is a medicalized procedure but in most states no doctors
are allowed to participate so I think it does lend itself to botches in a way
that other methods like firing squad or hangings did not.
But Texas has a lot more practice. So there have been fewer botches in Texas
because I think their teams in the corrections department are relatively in
practice. In carrying out 400 or 500 hundreds executions they've just done it a
These charts show the average wait time before an execution is carried out in
some of the nation's busiest death chambers.
HC: People always seem to express frustration over the length of the delays -
sometimes it's 20 years. Is Texas an outlier in this or is this a pretty normal
FB: The average as of 2015 is about 20 years delay from crime to execution, so
that's pretty shocking. There's three shockers. One is the extreme delay -
that's 20 years in solitary confinement. So it's 20 years of harsh punishment
followed by execution. The other shocker is that we only carry out 13 % of the
death sentences. It's just astounding. And the 3rd shocker is that even when
the governor signs a death warrant it's not usually carried out.
On average, those things are cancelled.
HC: So you've been looking at this for a while - how are the questions and
discussion around the use of the death penalty changing?
FB: I think the biggest change was in the 1990s we started to pay serious
attention to the concept of innocence and whether there might be innocent
people on death row and whether we should celebrate it when we identify them
and they're exonerated or if we should interpret that number as catastrophic.
I think the innocence argument has really shaken people's faith that you can
count on the government to get it right every single time.
HC: One of the topics that comes up a lot now - and has been written about a
lot - is one of your chapter titles: "Is the death penalty dying?" Is it?
FB: I think it's in a stranglehold.
I think the system is so tied up in knots, partly because of the concern of
executing an innocent person. It's really hard to justify or have enthusiasm
about a system so dysfunctional as the current modern death penalty, even if
you're a prosecutor.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Life in prison, not death, for Adam Matos, Pasco jury decides
The 12 men and women on Adam Matos' jury were chosen from a pool of nearly 300
people in part for their responses to a single question: Could you condemn a
stranger to death for a crime?
On Tuesday, the panel said "no" 4 times, recommending that Adam Matos instead
serve life in prison for the brutal 2014 slayings of his ex-girlfriend, her
parents and her new boyfriend.
It was far from a resounding "no." 10 jurors wanted Matos to be executed for
the deaths of ex-girlfriend Megan Brown, her father, Gregory Brown, and her
boyfriend Nick Leonard. And 11 jurors wanted Matos executed for the beating of
Megan Brown's mother, Margaret Brown, who was bludgeoned repeatedly in the head
with a hammer.
But a unanimous vote is required for a death sentence under Florida law.
When the jury left, the rage of the living filled the room.
"In my nightmares, I see him trembling and shaking to find and load his rifles,
his hands shaking so much he's hardly able to get a shell into his gun to
defend his family," said Gregory Brown's younger brother, Richard Brown. "To
this day I can feel the helplessness and shock as the murders were unfolding in
front of them."
He talked about the Brown family: Gregory, with his soft heart. Margaret, who
had worked hard on the farm and was ready to spend time with her grandson. He
wondered if Megan had been holding 4-year-old Tristan, the son she shared with
Matos, when the bullets started flying.
Richard Brown pounded on the lectern as he described the beatings - "He used
hammers to make hamburger out of human faces."
One after another, the family members spoke, telling of gaping holes in hearts.
One spoke of sprinkling Holy Water on the blood pool in the garage.
The guilty verdicts came after three weeks of testimony, nearly 700 pieces of
evidence and Matos' own confessions, including that he had committed the
murders while his autistic son slept in another room.
The jurors took less than 3 hours to convict when the trial concluded Thursday.
The minimum punishment state law allows for such a crime is life in prison
without the possibility of parole.
After calling 13 friends and family members to testify in yesterday's
sentencing hearing, Matos' defense attorney William Pura pointed to Matos,
sitting stoically in an orange and white striped prison uniform, while
addressing the jury 1 last time before deliberations Tuesday morning.
"Ladies and gentlemen, these are the clothes Adam Matos will wear for the rest
of his life," Pura said. "He will be told what to eat and when to eat. He will
be watched when he goes to the restroom or takes a shower. The only time he
won't be watched is when he dies, and its up to you to determine if the moment
of his death will be from a call from a higher being or from a call from our
Pura read passages from William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice describing
those who show mercy as "twice blessed." He reminded them what Jesus Christ
promised in his Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall
receive mercy." He implored them to invoke the spirit of the "holiday season,"
and show mercy to a father whose actions were driven by instinct when faced
with the possibility he could lose his son.
"Has there ever been a stronger bond than that between parent and child?" Pura
asked the jury. "Is there anythign a prent would not do to save a child? Is
there anythign more despairing to a parent than the prospect of losing a child?
Can a parent ever be put in a more dire situation thatn that in which he
believes he could have that child taken away from him?"
(source: Tampa Bay Times)
Man facing death penalty in Cleveland car lot killings drops attempt to
represent himself at trial
The Cleveland man facing the death penalty in an slaying of a couple at their
East Side car lot told a judge Tuesday that he no longer wants to represent
himself at trial.
Joseph McAlpin, who is being jailed on $5 million bond on multiple counts of
aggravated murder, said in court that he had decided not to represent himself
after talking to his court-appointed attorneys, Fernando Mack and Joseph
"I kind of think I'm going to back up off that one," McAlpin told Cuyahoga
County Common Pleas Judge Brian J. Corrigan Tuesday morning.
McAlpin is accused of shooting and killing Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola in
April at the office of Mr. Cars II on East 185th Street. He then stole a bag of
car keys, the business's surveillance equipment and 2 used cars from the lot.
Jerome Diggs Jr. and Andrew Keener, who stand accused of helping McAlpin, were
indicted Monday on aggravated murder charges.
McAlpin made the initial request to represent himself during an October
Corrigan ordered McAlpin to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to ensure that he
was competent enough to represent himself, but McAlpin refused to cooperate
with the order, Corrigan said in court Tuesday.
McAlpin told Corrigan that he made the request out of frustration because,
after spending 5 months in jail, he said he has yet to see much of the evidence
against him, including results from DNA tests that prosecutors say tied him to
"There's a lot of things that I don't understand that I wish to be answered,"
Corrigan ended the hearing after McAlpin dropped his request to represent
McAlpin asked as a sheriff's deputy led him out of the courtroom if a trial
date has been set.
"Not yet, we're too early," the judge replied.
MISSOURI----new execution date
Execution date set for Missouri inmate with rare condition
dThe Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday set a March execution date for Russell
Bucklew, a convicted killer who narrowly escaped execution 3 years ago because
of a rare medical condition that raised the possibility that the lethal drug
could cause him to suffer.
Bucklew, 49, is scheduled to die by injection March 20 for killing a man in
1996 during a violent crime spree.
He was moments away from execution in May 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court
halted it and sent the case back to a lower federal court amid concerns about
Bucklew's medical condition.
Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma, a rare ailment that causes weakened
and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His
attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said Missouri's execution method could cause Bucklew's
death to rise to the level of unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
"We believe that the setting of the date at this time is premature," Pilate
said in a statement.
Loree Anne Paradise, spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley,
said the execution date is "the subject of litigation" and declined comment on
the merits of the case.
The Missouri attorney general's office did not immediately return an email
message seeking comment.
In April 2014, Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed, and he writhed
on the gurney before dying of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the
start of the procedure.
Adding to the uncertainty in Missouri is the secretive process the state uses
to obtain its execution drug. Big drug manufacturers prohibit use of their
drugs in executions, so it is believed that Missouri and other states have
turned to compound pharmacies. Missouri refuses to say how or where it gets the
pentobarbital used in executions.
None of the 20 inmates executed since Missouri switched form a 3-drug protocol
to pentobarbital in 2013 have shown obvious signs of pain or suffering.
Still, death penalty opponents say the secrecy makes it impossible to ensure
the drugs couldn't cause an inmate to endure an agonizing death.
In March 1996, Bucklew was angry at his girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt, for
leaving him and moving in with Michael Sanders of Cape Girardeau. Bucklew
tracked Pruitt down at Sanders' home and killed Sanders in front of Pruitt, her
2 daughters and Sanders' 2 sons. He handcuffed and beat Pruitt, drove her to a
secluded area and raped her.
After a state trooper spotted the car, Bucklew shot at the trooper but missed.
Bucklew later escaped from jail, hid in the home of Pruitt's mother and beat
her with a hammer.
Judge: Court needs more time, evidence in death penalty case
A South Dakota judge says the court needs more time and evidence before
deciding whether convicted prison guard killer Rodney Berget is mentally
disabled, which would bar his execution.
The Argus Leader reports that attorneys made arguments Monday about Berget's
mental capabilities and rights. Judge Doug Hoffman set another hearing for late
Berget and another inmate, Eric Robert, were convicted of killing guard Ronald
Johnson in 2011. Robert was executed in 2012.
The state says that Berget doesn't have an intellectual disability. Berget had
appealed his death penalty verdict but later withdrew it, clearing the way for
Berget's attorney, Eric Schulte, disagreed and told a judge last year that he
wanted to evaluate Berget's mental capacity to determine if he was eligible for
the death penalty.
(source: Associated Press)
Nevada condemned inmate complain of death penalty delay
The Nevada death row inmate whose execution was postponed last week is
complaining to a judge that he's suffering what he calls an open-ended and
State prisons spokeswoman Brooke Keast said Tuesday that Scott Raymond Dozier
was returned to suicide watch on Nov. 14, the day he had been scheduled to die
by lethal injection at Ely State Prison.
Dozier turned 47 on Monday.
He has volunteered to die, and would become the 1st person executed in Nevada
Court documents show that he sent a Nov. 13 letter asking Clark County District
Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti to lift a stay of execution that she issued over
concerns about the 3-drug cocktail that prison officials want to use.
The matter is now destined for review by the Nevada Supreme Court.
(source: Associated Press)
ISIS-loving terrorist Sayfullo Saipov will face death penalty raps in bike path
The man accused of killing 8 people in a Lower Manhattan terrorist attack has
been charged in a 22-count indictment, officials said Tuesday.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, faces 8 counts of murder in aid of racketeering in the
gruesome truck attack along a bike path on Halloween.
He is also charged with 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering,
and 1 count of providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS, as
well as 1 count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
He could face the death penalty for 9 of these counts. Saipov was behind the
wheel of a rental truck when he crossed into Manhattan from New Jersey over the
George Washington Bridge, and then cruised south on the West Side Highway on
Oct. 31, prosecutors said.
When Saipov reached Houston St., he steered the truck onto the bike lane and
pedestrian path of the West Side Highway, court papers said.
He drove several blocks south, hitting "numerous" civilians along the way -
eventually ramming into an occupied school bus near West and Chambers Sts.
Saipov then barreled out of the flatbed and waved a pellet and a paintball gun,
chanting "Allahu Akbar," officials said.
An NYPD officer shot and restrained Saipov shortly thereafter. Cops found 2
cell phones and a stun gun in his truck. One of the phones was filled with
nearly 90 ISIS propaganda videos, the feds have said.
They also found a note near the truck with the phrases "No God but God and
Muhammad is his Prophet" and "Islamic Supplication. It will endure" written in
Arabic, prosecutors said.
Following his arrest, an unrepentant Saipov asked that the ISIS flag be
displayed in his hospital room, according to court documents.
Saipov's lawyer could not immediately be reached. Saipov is due in court on
Nov. 28, officials said.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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