death penalty news----FLA., MISS., OKLA., NEB., UTAH, ARIZ., NEV., USA
(too old to reply)
Rick Halperin
2017-12-01 13:59:43 UTC
Dec. 1


Forgiveness vs Justice: Parents of murdered woman seek end to executions----The
parents of a young woman who was killed chose to forgive his killer, and they
want to stop executions in Florida.

Even before the Seminole Heights case, the debate over the death penalty has
been an ongoing one in Florida for quite some time.

The last day of November marks the annual International Day of Cities for Life
protests to put an end the death penalty.

Pushing in that fight for Florida are parents Andy and Kate Grosmaire. Their
daughter, Ann, was shot and killed by her boyfriend Conor McBride after an

It happened March 28, 2010. Ann was 19. She and McBride were dating for 3

Charged with 1st-degree murder, McBride could have received the death penalty,
but Grosmaire's parents plead with the state attorney to lessen his charge.

"Instead of turning to anger and bitterness, we forgave him for that," said mom
Kate. "We worked with the state attorney to send him to prison for life."

Their appeal got him 20 years in prison instead, with 10 years probation.

"We worked through a process called restorative justice," she said. "We were
able to sit down in a room and share with him what our daughter's loss meant to
us and he was able to tell us the details of what happened that night."

By choosing to forgive their daughter's killer, they've joined the national
movement to end the death penalty. The Cities for Life event for the Tampa Bay
Area was held at St. Cecelia Church in Clearwater on Thursday.

While it's a moral issue for some supporters, for others its more about cost
and racial inequality. Research claiming the cost of millions to taxpayers was
provided by the group Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The Grosmaires say the better alternative is life without parole. The death
penalty won't bring their daughter back or give her justice. Turning their pain
into purpose, they hope their story will help others.

"To this day I still miss my daughter," father Andy said." Holidays are
particularly very hard for us because one of our children is always missing at
the table. It's a grieving process.

"It's not that we forget our loved ones but through forgiveness we are no
longer tied to the person who has caused us so much harm."

In June. Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala made headlines for refusing to
seek the death penalty in capital murder cases. In a news conference, she said
the death penalty led to "chaos, uncertainty and turmoil" and "traps many
victims, families in a decades-long cycle of uncertainty."

Gov. Rick Scott ended up reassigning her cases, a move upheld by Florida's
Supreme Court.

(source: WTSP-TV news)


Guilty verdict in 2010 Wilton Manors double murder----Peter Avsenew, 33, faces
the death penalty if convicted of the 2010 murders of Kevin Powell and Stephen
Adams, a Wilton Manors couple who took him in after he posted an ad on

A 33-year-old South Florida man faces a possible death sentence after a jury
found him guilty Thursday murdering Stephen Adams and Kevin Powell, a Wilton
Manors couple who took him in after he posted a suggestive Craigslist ad that
appeared to offer his services as a male escort.

The 12-member jury was ordered by Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes to return
Jan. 10 so prosecutors can provide additional evidence to argue that Peter
Avsenew deserves to be executed for the murders.

Defense lawyers will prepare to argue that Avsenew deserves mercy in the form
of a mandatory life sentence.

The jury took about 14 hours over 3 days to reach its decision, occasionally
sending questions to the judge that seemed to indicate they were considering
whether the murder was premeditated, committed during the course of a robbery,
or unplanned. The distinction would have been crucial - a finding of 2nd-degree
murder, unplanned and not committed in the course of a felony, would have taken
the death penalty off the table.

Prosecutor Shari Tate argued that Avsenew got into a confrontation with the
victims in their Wilton Manors home on Dec. 23, 2010, stayed in the home long
enough to clean up and remove some traces of his presence there, steal their
credit cards, make phone calls and steal their car.

Avsenew also was casual about leaving town - he went shopping for camping
equipment and didn't leave Broward for his mother's home in Polk County until
Christmas Day.

The account stood in contrast to defense lawyer Gabe Ermine's portrayal of
Avsenew as being in a panicked "fight or flight" frame of mind after he
happened to find the murdered bodies of the victims. He said Avsenew was
worried because he had been working for the couple as a male prostitute and
didn't want to get in legal trouble - in late 2010 he was on probation in a
grand theft case from Monroe County.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Avsenew actually worked as a
prostitute for the couple.

Before he was accused of killing Adams and Powell, Avsenew was no stranger to
law enforcement. He had previously been convicted of vehicle theft, robbery,
grand theft and engaging in fraud through bounced checks. He also had pleaded
no contest to marijuana possession, loitering, possession of drug
paraphernalia, criminal mischief and resisting an officer without violence.

His criminal history was a strain on his relationship with his mother, whose
recorded, sworn testimony was played for the jury. She told attorneys that
Avsenew came to visit her on Christmas and immediately drew her suspicion
because although he was driving the victims' Saturn, she knew he was not
licensed to drive. 2 days later, she said, he wanted to ditch the car and
admitted it was stolen, not borrowed.

Avsenew's mother turned him in after she discovered police wanted him for
questioning in connection with the Wilton Manors murders.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)


State Attorney: Man accused in Seminole Heights killings could face death

The man accused in a string of Seminole Heights killings will be held without
bail until at least Tuesday, a judge said Thursday morning.

Howell Emanuel Donaldson III made his 1st court appearance just after 9 a.m. to
face murder charges, the beginning of what likely will be a legal odyssey that
could last between 1 and 3 years.

State Attorney Andrew Warren said the case could end in the death penalty.

The State Attorney's Office still needs to bring formal charges before a grand
jury to indict Donaldson on capital charges. On Dec. 5 at 10 a.m., Judge
Margaret Taylor will determine if Donaldson should continue to be held without
bail in the time leading up to, and during, his trial.

He faces 4 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22;
Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60.

Donaldson was arrested on Tuesday after police responded to the McDonald's
where he works at 2101 E 13th Ave. in Ybor City.

On Thursday morning Donaldson appeared in court wearing a quilted suit,
typically used by the county jail to prevent inmates from harming themselves.
He made no statements to the judge.

The family of Monica Hoffa, the 2nd victim, gathered in the court room to look
on. Hoffa's father, Kenny Hoffa, drove to Tampa from his home in South Carolina
as soon as he got word of the arrest.

"I'm praying for his family," he said after court. "I know they're experiencing
everything we're experiencing. ... Unfortunately, they're going to suffer the
loss of a son, like we lost a daughter. It's a tragedy all the way around."

Warren spoke with reporters following the hearing and said he was committed to
prosecuting Donaldson to the fullest extent of the law - which may mean the
death penalty.

"The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst," Warren said,
"and, generally speaking, serial killing would qualify."

Warren said he would seek the death penalty for Donaldson if his case meets all
legal requirements and is consistent with what the victims' families want.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was unequivocal in his declaration Wednesday that he
thinks Donaldson should be executed if he's found guilty.

(soruce: Tampa Bay Times)


Teen Could Face Death Penalty in Slaying of 6-Year-Old Boy

A Mississippi teen could face the death penalty in the slaying of a 6-year-old
boy who authorities say was inside a car stolen from a supermarket parking lot.

District Attorney Michael Guest says grand jurors returned indictments
Wednesday against Byron McBride and a second teen accused of aiding him. A 3rd
teen faces youth charges that prosecutors want upgraded to adult charges.

Authorities say McBride stole the car in May and fatally shot Kingston Frazier,
who was sleeping inside. They say McBride was dropped off by Dwan Wakefield and
D'Allen Washington, both then 17. McBride was indicted for capital murder and
possessing stolen property. Washington, already facing other adult charges, was
indicted for accessory after the fact to murder, kidnapping and motor vehicle
theft. Wakefield could be upgraded to identical charges.

(source: Associated Press)


Death Penalty Sought For Tulsa Murders

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for a man charged in the
killings of 2 people at a north Tulsa park.

Jacky Mayfield is scheduled to go to trial in January 2019 for the shooting
deaths of Markey Goff and Meshawna Jones, whose bodies were found inside an SUV
parked at Chamberlain Park in June 2016. The Tulsa County District Attorney's
Office filed paperwork Tuesday indicating that prosecutors will seek the death

Mayfield has pleaded not guilty to the 1st-degree murder charges. According to
the Tulsa World , Mayfield's defense attorneys say their client may not be
eligible for the death penalty if convicted because his IQ is too low. A
hearing is set for Dec. 15 for attorneys to discuss the mental deficiency

(source: bartlesvilleradio.com)


Panel to decide if Tecumseh inmate who killed cellmate qualifies for death

Jan. 23-24 has been set for a court proceeding to determine whether an inmate
who killed his cellmate at the Tecumseh State Prison qualifies for the death

Patrick Schroeder, who is already serving life in prison for a 2006 slaying,
pleaded guilty in July to strangling his 22-year-old cellmate with a towel
April 15.

Schroeder, 40, testified in July that the cellmate, Terry Berry, was obnoxious
and too talkative and had pushed him to his "threshold."

Johnson County District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled 2 days, Jan. 23 and 24,
to hear arguments on whether "aggravating circumstances" exist to warrant the
death sentence for Schroeder.

In death penalty cases, aggravating circumstances, such as the heinous nature
of a murder, must be proved and must outweigh so-called mitigating factors,
such as a young age or lack of criminal past, to warrant the death penalty.

Prosecutors have said that Schroeder's previous murder conviction and a
substantial history of serious assaultive or terrorizing criminal activity are
2 aggravating factors they intend to prove.

Defense attorneys for Schroeder will also get to present evidence on mitigating
factors that would make a life sentence more appropriate.

Lancaster County District Judge Robert Otte and Buffalo County District Judge
John Marsh have been appointed to serve on a panel with Johnson to decide
Schroeder's sentence.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Death penalty in Nebraska needs to be put to an end

Nebraska rarely gets to spend time in the national spotlight. That began to
change when "Nebraska Nice" started to truly live up to its tourism brand and
questioned the practice of putting inmates to death.

Nebraska made history when it became the 1st conservative state in nearly 40
years to abolish the death penalty in 2015. Despite Gov. Ricketts' attempt to
veto the bill, bipartisan support allowed the ban to remain.

Conflict within the constituency motivated lawmakers to put the issue on the
2016 ballot for a referendum vote. After a campaign marked by the governor's
support for the penalty and rigorous debate, Nebraskans voted to return the
death penalty, bringing the state to its current predicament.

Now, Nebraska is working to complete its 1st execution in nearly 20 years. It
is high time for Nebraska to abandon the death penalty, once and for all.

The death penalty is economically unfeasible as a means of punishment,
particularly for the state of Nebraska. While many argue they support the death
penalty because they do not want their tax dollars supporting inmates, the
punishment is actually more expensive than life imprisonment. A single
death-penalty case costs $3.07 million. Life in prison costs $2.01 million.

Nebraska is particularly well-aware of this problem considering the monumental
amount of money the state has wasted on lethal injection drugs in its
desperation to resume the practice. In 2015, Nebraska Department of Corrections
spent $54,400 of state funds in an attempt to bring lethal injection drugs back
into the state, only to have the money stolen by the dealer.

Now the state is trying again, and the prisons will not reveal where they are
purchasing the drugs. Nebraska spends $14.6 million a year on the death
penalty. Considering the budget shortfalls the state is facing and potential
tax increases, citizens could suffer as a result. Nebraska needs to consider
whether the death penalty is really worth the cost. The lack of transparency on
where the drugs are coming from shows a blatant disregard for the safety of the
practice or the taxpayers' well-being.

The costs of the death penalty go far beyond state budgets. Perhaps the
greatest is the loss of innocent life. 4 % of prisoners on death row are
wrongfully convicted, meaning hundreds of innocent people have been killed by
the death penalty. Just one innocent death should be reason enough to end the

Aside from the potential innocence of the person on death row, a strong case
can be made that the death penalty is unconstitutional. The death penalty
easily falls under the clause of "cruel and unusual punishment," in which the
Founding Fathers explicitly intended to protect people.

While the punishment has been allowed by the Supreme Court in the past, society
has undergone a shift toward having a gentler nature, making the death penalty
cruel by modern standards. Though it is often argued that morality is found in
the closure given to the victims' families, a closer look shows they do not
even receive this benefit. The death penalty thus contradicts the very values
our nation stands for.

The methods of the death penalty in Nebraska could be particularly inhumane
once it begins again. Finding the proper lethal injection drugs has been
incredibly difficult for Nebraska, so a completely new combination of drugs
will be used, which has never been used before. The thought brings a sense of
deja vu.

In 2014, Arizona attempted to use its own concoction of lethal injection drugs,
which failed to work properly. He was tortured for nearly 2 hours, wheezing
several hundred times, before he finally died. Ricketts is taking a significant
risk in his endeavors to retain the death penalty, which may end in disaster.

There's also the issue of racial discrimination, which is prevalent throughout
the criminal justice system and applies to the death penalty as well. Black
defendants are nearly three times as likely to be put on death row than those
who are white. Furthermore, those whose victims were white are four times as
likely to be put to death than those who murdered African-Americans. This
blatant discrimination is an extension of outdated policies from well before
the civil rights era.

The death penalty is long overdue in meeting its own death. It is time for us
to grow as a society and simply stop engaging in this practice once and for

Madison Morrissette is a junior political science major----The (Univ. Neb.)
Daily Nebraskan)


Abolishing the death penalty is not a 'defense' of society's worst criminals

A Nov. 16 op-ed addressed an October panel discussion centered around the
various issues with the death penalty ("Addressing false assumptions about the
death penalty"). The author claims the panel "defended the indefensible" -
rapists and murderers. The panel's purpose was not to "defend" anybody, but to
address a broken system and discuss better alternatives. What is indefensible
is the perpetuation of a failed policy that doesn't keep the public safer,
risks executing innocent people and costs taxpayers millions of dollars in the

The author claims that the death penalty acts as a deterrent and saves lives -
that more executions means a lower overall murder rate. The problem with that
argument, though, is that it's false on its face. He cites that in 1960 there
were 56 executions and 9,140 murders. 4 years later there were 15 executions
and 9,250 murders. Therefore, because there were 41 fewer executions in 1964
versus 1960, and an increase of 110 murders, the death penalty must be an
effective deterrent. What he fails to factor in is the population increase in
the United States from 1960 to 1964. This means the homicide rate was lower in
the year with fewer executions - 5.1 murders per 100,000 in 1960 and 4.9 in

When comparing death penalty states against non-death penalty states, the lack
of deterrent effect is apparent. In the last decade, death penalty states have
seen an average increase in their homicide rates of 2.25 %, from 5.31 per
100,000 people in 2007 to 5.43 in 2016. Non-death penalty states have actually
seen their homicide rates decrease by 7.9 %, from 5.28 in 2007 to 4.86 in 2016.

Additionally, of the 10 states with the lowest murder rates in 2016, 8 of them
were states with no death penalty. Finally, since the argument is that more
executions means an overall lower murder rate, when you take the top 10 states
with the highest execution numbers since the death penalty was reinstated, they
have an average homicide rate of 5.78 over the last decade, roughly 17 % higher
than the national average of 4.94 during the same time.

Dozens of studies far more exhaustive than an op-ed allows have shown there is
no deterrent benefit to the death penalty. The most comprehensive analysis was
conducted by the renowned National Research Council, which examined over three
decades of studies and concluded there is no deterrent effect by having the
death penalty. The conclusion of these scientists and academics is shared by
experts on the front lines of keeping our communities safe. In 2 separate
national surveys of police chiefs, the death penalty was ranked the least
effective tool to prevent violent crime.

Beyond not being an effective deterrent to crime, the death penalty is flawed
in other profound ways. Since 1976, at least 160 people have been released from
death rows due to evidence of their innocence (an average of one person every 3
months) - some within hours of their scheduled executions. Additionally, the
costs are outrageous. According to Utah's Legislative Fiscal Analysis Office,
the death penalty costs us $1.6 million more than life without parole per
inmate. Unavoidable mandates from the U.S. Supreme Court mean capital cases
take decades from trial to conclusion (which in most cases is a legal reversal
of some sort, not an execution). This lengthy process is also a nightmare for
the victims' families who are promised a punishment and then forced to wait
through year after year, appeal after appeal, while the condemned becomes a

Those of us who spoke on the panel last month did so with a desire to expose
the ugly truth that our death penalty system isn't serving our state. We are
eager to cultivate a robust and honest dialogue about a punishment that has
cost our state millions of dollars, provides false promises to victims, risks
executing innocent people and - as experts continually attest - doesn't make us
any safer.

(source: Op-Ed; Kevin Greene is the state director of Utah Conservatives
Concerned about the Death Penalty----Deseret News)


Cost of court-provided defense continues to increase

The cost of defending a felony criminal case has increased more than $73 per
case since the year before.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the public defender's office handled 1,750 felony
cases and 952 misdemeanor cases. The legal defender's office handled 509 felony
cases and 199 misdemeanor cases, Indigent Defense Services Director Blake
Schritter said.

The indigent defense services contracted out 488 felony cases and 118
misdemeanor cases to private attorneys.

There was a total of 5,793 cases that were taken by defense attorneys including
felonies, misdemeanors, appeals, delinquencies, dependencies, mental health and
probation violations.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the county spent more than $2.73 million on 2,749
felony cases at an average of $993 to defend a felony case. In the 2016-17
fiscal year, the county spent more than $2.38 million on 2,588 felony cases, or
$920 per felony case.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the public defender's office handled 1,556 felony
cases and 897 misdemeanor cases. The legal defender's office handled 585 felony
cases and 208 misdemeanor cases. The indigent defense services contracted out
447 felony cases and 107 misdemeanor cases to attorneys.

The total expenses for contracted legal services in the 2016-17 fiscal year
amounted to more than $1.93 million, which included juvenile dependency, death
penalty appeals, conflict attorney costs, juvenile delinquency and appeals.

Of the $1.938,140, the cost for attorneys in the death penalty cases of Justin
Rector and Darrell Ketchner and death penalty appeals including Brad Nelson and
Frank Anderson cost $548,872.

Mental health costs added $337,825 and court costs, including defense experts
and investigations, amounted to another $440,347, Schritter said.

The indigent defense services division has seen an increase in the costs of
Mohave County's 2 death penalty cases and the "considerable" increase in the
number of juvenile dependency filings in the past few years, Schritter said.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Doctor: Lack Of Drugs Led To New Execution Plan

A scarcity of lethal injection drugs nationwide drove plans to use a
never-before-tried 3-drug combination for Nevada's 1st execution in more than
11 years, the state's former top doctor told The Associated Press.

In his 1st interview since resigning a month ago, Dr. John DiMuro defended the
protocol he developed as Nevada's chief medical officer, saying he initially
wanted to use a heart-stopping medication similar to what other states have

"We couldn't get the drugs. We had to work around being unable to obtain other
drugs," DiMuro said this week. "There's nothing in that protocol that we
developed and that we were going to implement that would be inhumane."

The anesthesiologist created a method using the sedative diazepam, the potent
opioid fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium ahead of the planned
execution of convicted murderer Scott Raymond Dozier, though not specifically
for his case.

None of the drugs has been used for lethal injection in the 31 states with
capital punishment, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information
Center. Many states have struggled for years to find drugs that pass
constitutional hurdles after pharmaceutical companies and distributors banned
their use in executions.

A judge in Las Vegas stopped Dozier's execution pending state Supreme Court
review, citing concerns the paralytic could "mask" muscle movements or prevent
witnesses from seeing indications of pain and suffering.

The inmate has said repeatedly he wants his execution carried out and doesn't
care if he feels pain.

DiMuro said he stands behind the protocol he created, while acknowledging that
the combination is "novel."

He said the drugs are commonly used in hospitals and surgical settings and that
the combination would be recognized by doctors as a modified anesthesia
technique for heart surgery.

A lethal injection expert, Jonathan Groner, a Columbus, Ohio, surgeon, said
combining diazepam and fentanyl could result in complications such as vomiting,
while the paralytic could prevent body movements and disguise any suffering the
inmate might experience.

Jen Moreno, an attorney at the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic, said
Wednesday that Nevada "should not be permitted to push ahead with risky,
dangerous, and potentially unconstitutional procedures just because an
execution is scheduled."

DiMuro, who has returned to private practice, said quitting his state job after
15 months had nothing to do with the development of the lethal injection
protocol or the execution. He said he takes no position on the death penalty.

He talked with AP by conference call Monday from Reno, along with his brother
and attorney, Christopher DiMuro, in New Jersey. John DiMuro referred further
questions about the reason for quitting his state job to another lawyer, who
didn't immediately respond to telephone and email messages.

DiMuro said he worked with Gov. Brian Sandoval, the governor's top aide,
Michael Willden, and Nevada prisons chief James Dzurenda to develop the
execution protocol.

Sandoval's office released a statement Wednesday saying his office was informed
of the process and received several updates from DiMuro and Dzurenda "in
accordance with state law."

"Any implication or statement that the governor developed the protocol is
inaccurate," it said.

The plan calls for the sedative diazepam, commonly known as Valium, to relax
the inmate; followed by the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl, which has been
blamed for overdose deaths nationwide; and finally the paralytic cisatracurium.

DiMuro said the first 2 drugs might be deadly, but the paralytic would ensure
the inmate would stop breathing. The doctor estimated that death could occur 5
to 15 minutes after loss of consciousness.

DiMuro said he might have added a 4th drug such as potassium chloride to stop
the heart, or propofol, the powerful anesthetic blamed for the death of Michael
Jackson, but they are not available for lethal injections.

Nevada obtained the drugs for Dozier's execution in May from its regular
pharmaceutical distributor, Cardinal Health. It is not clear if the company
knew their intended use. The state is refusing pharmaceutical company Pfizer's
demand to return the diazepam and fentanyl it manufactured.

Dozier, 47, was convicted of separate murders in 2002 in Phoenix and Las Vegas.
He would become the 1st person put to death in Nevada since 2006.

DiMuro said he didn't know why state prosecutors didn't bring him to court
after his resignation to rebut testimony from a Harvard University
anesthesiology professor who challenged the 3-drug protocol.

The Nevada attorney general's office declined to comment on the case.

A judge called a hearing 11 days before the scheduled execution to hear from
Dr. David Waisel, an expert witness for federal public defenders, who Dozier
allowed to challenge the untried execution protocol.

Waisel testified that if diazepam and fentanyl weren't properly administered or
didn't reach Dozier before the 3rd drug, he could be left "paralyzed and awake,
which would be a horrifying experience."

Public defender David Anthony argued that Dozier might be left "alive and
suffocating" with ineffective anesthesia and that administrators would be
powerless to stop the process.

DiMuro told AP that would be impossible to assess and there would be no way to
know if movement after the drugs are administered indicates awareness or pain.

But "there is no intent to 'mask' anything," he said.

This story has been clarified to show that the 3-drug protocol was not
developed specifically for convicted murderer Scott Raymond Dozier.

(source: Associated Press)


Federal death row inmate wants to be re-sentenced by a judge who is not drunk

If you thought the drunken debauchery of former U.S. District Judge Walter S.
Smith, Jr. of Waco, Texas was old news, think again. A motion filed this
morning by a federal death-row inmate asks the court to set aside his sentence
on the grounds that the alcoholic judge was too impaired to pass judgment.

In the motion filed by attorneys Robert C. Owen of Northwestern Law School and
Asst. Public Defender John R. Carpenter of Tacoma Washington on behalf of
Brandon Bernard, they cite records from a judicial misconduct complaint that I
filed against Smith in 2014, including the deposition testimony of a former
deputy clerk who says she was sexually assaulted by Smith in the federal
courthouse in 1998 while he was drunk (I have uploaded the motion's evidentiary
exhibits below). Bernard was sentenced to death for his role in the 1999
murders of Todd and Stacie Bagley, a married couple who served as youth
ministers for a church in Iowa.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a pro bono co-counsel for one of
Bernard's co-defendants in the murder cases. Although I normally do not
practice criminal law, and I certainly do not dispute the horror of the Bagley
murders, I happen to think that defendants have a right to be sentenced by a
judge who is not drunk. Is that really such a radical idea?

One witness told me she saw Smith drinking alcohol during a lunch break while
he was presiding over the Branch Davidian trials, which would have been around
the same time that Bernard was sentenced (and around the same time that Smith
grabbed and groped the female clerk in Waco). Smith handed out some notoriously
harsh sentences to the Branch Davidians, and I believe it's fair to ask whether
he was drunk when he sentenced them. Frankly, I hope other defendants start
challenging their sentences, because it may force the rest of the judiciary to
confront its complicity in Smith's misconduct.

Other judges knew about Smith's chicanery, but they did little or nothing to
stop it. Smith's victim testified, for example, that she informed her
supervisors about the sexual assault, and they informed the chief judge of the
Western District of Texas at that time, Harry Hudspeth (who has always reminded
me of Emperor Palpatine).

According to the deposition transcript, Hudspeth dismissively asked the victim
what she wanted him to do about it. Ultimately, he did nothing. (I filed a
misconduct complaint against Hudspeth, and he quietly retired before the Fifth
Circuit Judicial Council released its investigative report). A courthouse
source also told me the former Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit, Edith Jones,
traveled to Waco in 2008 to interview courthouse personnel about Smith's
drunkenness, and she gave him the option of entering rehab or facing suspension
from the bench. After a few weeks in rehab, Smith returned to the bench to
resume his reign of terror.

After the Fifth Circuit confirmed my allegations regarding the 1998 incident,
the appellate judges suspended Smith for 1 year and ordered him to participate
in counseling. I argued the sentence was a slap on the wrist, particularly
since Smith pulled some dirty stunts during the investigation. The Fifth
Circuit did not investigate incidents involving other alleged victims, even
though I gave its investigators the names and telephone numbers of witnesses
and alleged victims.

The Judicial Conference of the United States ruled in my favor and ordered the
Fifth Circuit to investigate the other alleged incidents, but Smith retired
before the investigative report was released. And I doubt that his case was an
outlier. Just remember how hard the Fifth Circuit tried to cover up the
drunkenness and sexual misconduct of former Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston.

Back in Waco, Judge Lee Yeakel must now decide whether Brandon Bernard gets a
new sentence, and frankly I hope he permits discovery into the extent of
Smith's drunkenness and dereliction. It's a relevant question, and it may gave
us some idea of how many other defendants were affected (and perhaps how many
other judges knew about it).

(source: Ty Clevenger; lawflog.com)


Death penalty offers justice and closure

The ongoing debate on the morality of the death penalty has less reason in its
arguments and much more of misguided sentiment.

It's too expensive. What about the cost of a life sentence without parole?

It isn't a deterrent. Statistical studies can't prove or disprove so.

And won't we inevitably execute an innocent person? The emergence of DNA
testing and other new technologies make such tragic mistakes much less of a
possibility. In addition, post-trial safeguards could be put in place to review
a jury's death penalty decision.

Capital punishment doesn't diminish life in the way abortion clearly does. It
recognizes the value of a human life by exacting a penalty that corresponds to
the ultimate injustice of murder. It is not an act of state-sponsored revenge,
but rather offers a modicum of justice and closure to the many victims of this
the most heinous of felonies.

Obviously this ultimate penalty should not be applied recklessly, capriciously
or without regard for mitigating circumstances. Not all killing is murder. But
the barbaric crimes of Adam Lanza and the 2 Cheshire butchers surely would have
qualified them for execution, as would acts terrorism, such as the genocide of
Christians in the Middle East.

Such crimes deserve humanely-administered capital punishment.

Peter Wilson



55 % Favor Death Penalty for Convicted Murderers

55 % of Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers. Gallup
reports that's the lowest level of support since 1972.[1] 41 % of Americans
oppose the death penalty.

Support for capital punishment peaked during the 1990s at 80 %.

Gallup has been asking the same question since 1936 and only once found more
opposition than support. In 1966, 47 % opposed the death penalty and only 42 %
supported it.

Ballotpedia covers state policies and ballot measures related to the death


1. Gallup, "U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest Since 1972," October 26, 2017

(source: newsmax.com)


No solace in executing mentally ill killers

As a family member who has suffered the death of a loved one to homicide, I
support legislation in the Virginia General Assembly that would exclude people
with severe mental illness from the death penalty.

I am the daughter of the late Corporal Eric Sutphin, who was killed by William
Morva during a manhunt in 2006. My dad was and is my hero. He was so
courageous, humble and light-hearted. The community loved him, and I loved
being a police officer's daughter. I have every reason to hate Mr. Morva and
want revenge. Yet, when clemency was denied to Morva and he was executed this
July, I felt great sorrow. It provided no solace for my loss.

Under this proposed legislation, offenders with severe mental illness at the
time of the crime could be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to life in
prison without parole if found guilty - but could not be executed. For this
narrow exemption to apply, defendants must have documented evidence of a mental
illness that is so severe it prevented them from fully understanding reality
and the consequences of their actions - making them undeserving of the ultimate

It is already unconstitutional to execute those with intellectual disability
because of their similar impairments and inabilities to fully understand the
implications of their actions and the complex legal processes they face.
Excluding people with severe mental disorders or disabilities from the death
penalty would simply treat these individuals the same way that we treat people
with intellectual disabilities.

Seeking the death penalty in these cases is inefficient, ineffective and
traumatic for many families. Such capital prosecutions:

-- Distract the public and the judicial system from the more important issues
of what victims' families and their communities need to heal and become safer.
Criminal justice funding for expensive capital murder trials could be better
spent on much-needed and currently underfunded victim support programs that
help victims' families with funeral costs, counseling and other services.

-- Delay justice and the healing process for many family members who lost
loved ones. Capital cases take many years to reach completion, forcing our
families to deal with mandatory court appeals and the legal system much longer
than with a non-capital trial or plea bargain.

-- Cause damage to the families of the offender. Many family members of
defendants with mental illness were unable to access or afford medical care for
their loved one who was suffering from mental illness prior to and when their
crime was committed. There is a lack of preventative community treatment
options for those with severe mental illness and limits on their treatment
while incarcerated.

It would be far better to focus our limited resources on crime victims'
families support and preventive mental health treatment, rather than seeking
death for those with severe mental illness. This proposal would not allow
people who commit capital crimes to go free, but would ensure that the
punishment appropriately matches the offender and would allow families to feel
more confident that justice was served.

(source: Rachel Sutphin is a Senior in the Honors College at Virginia Tech with
a dual major in Religion and Culture and Human Development and a minor in
Judaic Studies----heraldcourier.com)

A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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