death penalty news----TEXAS, ALA., IND., ARK., MO., WYO., CALIF., USA
(too old to reply)
Rick Halperin
2017-10-20 13:31:33 UTC
Oct. 20


Last pretrial hearing Thursday in Telford death penalty case

Outstanding motions and other issues were discussed at a hearing Thursday in
the case of a Texas prison inmate accused of capital murder in the July 15,
2015, beating death of a Barry Telford Unit correctional officer.

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, could receive a death sentence or life without the
possibility of parole if convicted of killing 47-year-old Timothy Davison
during a walk from a prison dayroom to his cell in segregation. Opening
arguments are scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 23, at the Bowie County
courthouse in New Boston.

At a hearing Thursday, Tracy's defense team, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and
Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, said they still want the case moved out of Bowie
County. Cobb said he is filing a supplemental change of venue motion and
Harrelson said the defense wants its objections to 2 seated jurors put on the

Lockhart said that the average age of the 7 men and 5 women chosen as jurors is
48. 2 women will serve as alternates.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp asked that the defense provide her
with information concerning the science and any testing their experts intend to
rely on during the trial. Crisp said she believes those experts are expected to
take the stand during the punishment phase of trial if Tracy is found guilty.
Crisp said she would like to review brain scans and other reports before the
witnesses are called so that if a hearing to determine whether they are
admissible can be held before the jury is in the courthouse.

According to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice report, Tracy was able to
slip his left hand free while cuffed and attack Davison, knocking him down.
Tracy allegedly grabbed Davison's metal tray slot bar, a tool used to open the
slots in cell doors, and beat him to death.

The Bowie County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for
Tracy, who has a long history of violence in prison since he was assessed a
life term by a jury in Rockwall County for burglary and assault in 1998. Since
then Tracy has been a constant disciplinary problem, has repeatedly tried to
escape, and has been sentenced to additional 10-year and 45-year terms for
assaults on correctional officers.

Assistant District Attorneys Kelley Crisp and Lauren Richards are prosecuting
the case.

(source: txktoday.com)


Texas high court rejects death penalty appeal in 1992 quadruple drug-related

The state's highest criminal court this week split over whether a ballistics
expert's testimony was material to a 1992 Harris County death penalty verdict.

In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied
47-year-old Arthur Brown a new trial or new sentencing phase because a Houston
police analyst overstated the proof that 2 guns connected to Brown were
involved in the shooting of 6 people during a drug deal 25 years ago.

The high court, with a single judge dissenting, said the analyst's possibly
inaccurate testimony was not material to the jury's decision.

Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala authored the dissent, writing that she agreed with
former Harris County District Judge Mark Kent Ellis who ruled that the firearms
evidence introduced at Brown's trial was false or misleading.

"I agree with the (trial) court's determination that this evidence was not only
false or misleading but also material," she said. Alcala wrote that she would
support a new trial, a new punishment phase or even a new hearing to further
flesh out the issue.

The 1993 death penalty verdict came back to Harris County last year because of
a recent law allowing inmates to take advantage of scientific breakthroughs
that were not available during their original trials.

During a hearing in front of Ellis last year, attorneys for Brown argued that 2
guns that had been linked to him were not used to kill 4 people and injure 2
others during a large-scale cocaine deal.

Brown was convicted of running drugs from Houston to Alabama with 2 other men.
The trio apparently decided to cut out the middlemen and went into a southwest
Houston cocaine deal with the intent to kill.

Court records show that Brown with Marion Dudley and Tony Dunson arranged to
buy 3 kilograms of cocaine from Rachel Tovar and her estranged husband, Jose

When the 3 went to Tovar's home in the 4600 block of Brownstone for the deal,
they tied up the couple and 4 other people - friends and neighbors who were in
the house coincidentally. All 6 were shot in the head. 4 people were killed:
Tovar's husband; 19-year-old Jessica Quinones, who was 7 months pregnant;
Audrey Brown, 21; and 17-year-old Frank Farias. Rachel Tovar survived along
with family friend Nicholas Cortez.

Cortez said Dudley shot him and Jose Tovar with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun,
according to court records. He was sentenced to death and has been executed.
Dunson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Brown used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot Farias, Quinones
and Audrey Brown, who was no relation to Arthur Brown.

Prosecutors relied heavily on testimony from Brown's sister who said he
admitted to her that he killed 6 people. She later said that testimony was
coerced after hours of being interrogated.

Brown's latest appeal centers on whether bullets at the scene actually match
guns recovered during investigations of Alabama drug dealers known to associate
with Brown.

The majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the HPD ballistics
expert believed his analysis, which was verified by another expert, that the
bullets matched the guns. And, the court said, even if he was wrong, there was
enough other evidence to convict Brown and sentence him to death.

Alcala argued that the testimony was inaccurate and bolstered weak and
questionable evidence. If jurors had known that the ballistics results that
painted Brown as the shooter were questionable, she said, it may have affected
the guilty verdict or the death sentence.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Ala. executes cop-killer Torrey Twane McNabb, who raises middle fingers as he

Alabama officials on Thursday evening used lethal injection to execute inmate
Torrey Twane McNabb, who had been convicted of killing a Montgomery police
officer in 1997.

He was pronounced dead at 9:38 p.m. Thursday.

McNabb, 40, used his last statement to tell his mother and sister that he was
unafraid and he cursed at the state, saying "I hate you ... I hate you."

As the procedure began, he raised his middle fingers before becoming still.

The execution was carried out shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the
state could move forward, dismissing his lawyer's claims that the state's
lethal injection procedure is cruel and unusual punishment.

McNabb's attorneys filed appeals in the case throughout Thursday to halt the
execution that was set for 6 p.m. Central at the Holman Correctional Facility
in Atmore. The last stay was lifted between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and by 9:35
p.m. the execution had been carried out.

Details were not immediately available as media witnesses, including an AL.com
reporter, had yet to return from the prison to the nearby media center.

McNabb was convicted in the death of Montgomery police Officer Anderson Gordon.
Prosecutors say McNabb was fleeing a bail bondsman when he walked up and shot
Gordon 5 times while the officer was sitting in his parked patrol car.

McNabb and several other inmates have challenged the state's use of midazolam
at the start of lethal injections, arguing that it violates Eighth Amendment
protections against cruel and unusual punishment because the sedative would not
reliably render them unconscious before other drugs stopped their lungs and

A lawyer for McNabb has argued that it would be wrong to carry out the
execution while proceedings continue in McNabb's lawsuit.

The attorney general's office asked the justices to let the execution proceed.
The state has argued they have allowed multiple executions to proceed using the
sedative midazolam and that McNabb presents "nothing new" to justify halting
the execution.

"Alabama has already carried out 4 executions using this protocol. Three of
those executed inmates were co-plaintiffs in this case," the attorney general's
office wrote in a court filing.

(source: Associated Press)


Torrey McNabb's final words for Alabama before execution: 'I hate
you'----Alabama uses midazolam in its 3-drug execution procedure. The drug has
been present in botched executions and drawn controversy.

The state of Alabama on Thursday executed Torrey McNabb for the 1997 murder of
Montgomery Police Cpl. Anderson Gordon III.

It was the 5th execution Alabama has conducted since January 2016, and took
place almost exactly 20 years after McNabb shot and killed Gordon.

McNabb expressed defiance shortly before the execution began at 8:56 p.m.
Thursday night, speaking to family members through a glass window.

"Mom, sis, look at my eyes," he said. "I've got no tears in my eyes. I'm
unafraid . . . to the state of Alabama, I hate you m-----f-----s. I hate you."

McNabb, strapped to a gurney, raised both middle fingers toward witnesses
galleries as the execution began. He appeared to be breathing for the first 20
minutes of the execution and moved slightly.

At 9:17 p.m., McNabb raised his right arm and rolled his head in a grimace
before falling back on the gurney. Witnesses in the room -- including McNabb's
2 sisters and 2 attorneys -- expressed concerns he was not unconscious.

He was pronounced dead at 9:38 p.m. after an execution that lasted
approximately 35 minutes. Speaking Thursday evening, Alabama Department of
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said they followed proper procedures.

"I'm confident he was more than unconscious at that point," he said.
"Involuntary movement is not uncommon. That's how I would characterize it."

Staff conducted 2 consciousness tests on McNabb during the execution, 1 more
than is common. A correctional officer in the room calls out the condemned
inmate's name, opens one of his eyes and pinches his arm. Dunn did not say if
there were any changes to the administration of drugs, but said the 2
consciousness checks were meant to "err on the side of caution."

McNabb refused his breakfast Wednesday and did not ask for a final meal. The
inmate also asked that the prison chaplain not enter the death chamber with
him; a chaplain was present but did not pray with McNabb. Alabama Department of
Corrections spokesman Bob Horton said McNabb did not want "anything of a
religious nature performed before or during his execution."

Gordon's family thanked the attorney general's office; the Montgomery Police
Department; former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks; current
Montgomery District Attorney Daryl Bailey, and Sarah Green of Victim's

"Over 20 years ago, we lost a companion, a father, a brother, and a friend who
only wanted to make a difference in his community," the family said in a
statement. "'Brother,' as he was affectionately called, worked to make a
difference in his community until his life was taken on September 24, 1997."

McNabb, then 20, was fleeing a bail bondsman when he got into the accident on
Sept. 24, 1997. When Gordon pulled up to respond, McNabb approached his patrol
car and fired at least 4 times at Gordon. The police officer, the father of a
toddler, was pronounced dead at the scene.

McNabb later took off and fired at officers in pursuit before being wounded and
captured. Brooks, who prosecuted McNabb, on Friday called it "a senseless,
needless crime."

"In a sense, (Gordon) was an innocent bystander," she said. "It was so

At his trial in January 1999, McNabb said he ingested a large amount of cocaine
that day and "panicked" when he saw Gordon come up. He apologized to Gordon's
family from the witness stand and said "I know I have caused them a lot of

"I absolutely believe he was remorseful," said Rhonda Brownstein, legal
director of the Southern Poverty Law Center who was part of McNabb's legal team
in 1999.

McNabb was convicted after a 5-day trial. State appellate courts have upheld
the conviction. In his most recent round of appeals, McNabb's attorneys argued
that his death sentence should be set aside because it conflicted with a 2016
U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Florida law that required the
judge and not the jury to determine aggravating factors that could lead to a
sentence of death.

Alabama's appellate courts, however, have upheld death sentences imposed prior
to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, saying Alabama's law differed from the
Florida statute. Montgomery County Circuit Judge J.R. Gaines dismissed McNabb's
challenge earlier this month.

The case got caught up in a legal fight over Alabama's method of lethal
injection. Officials first inject an inmate with midazolam, a sedative designed
to render a person unconscious. After a consciousness check, the inmate is
injected with rocuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles, and potassium
chloride, which stops the heart.

Alabama has used the protocol in 4 executions conducted in the last 22 months.
3 took place without visible incident. But Ronald Bert Smith, executed in
December, gasped and coughed for 13 of the 34 minutes of his execution. Critics
say midazolam cannot maintain unconsciousness in the face of a stressful event,
such as one's execution.

Watkins initially dismissed the lawsuit last November. The 11th Circuit ordered
new hearings in the case last month, and Watkins cited that pending case in
staying McNabb's execution on Monday. The 11th Circuit upheld the stay, but was
reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote
McNabb had not shown a likelihood to succeed on the merits.

The Gordon family statement said that while "the wounds of having a family
member murdered can never be healed," they were "strong, and will continue to
be resilient."

"Though this has been a difficult day for the Gordon family, we would also like
to pray for the family of Torrey McNabb," the statement said.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)


Meyer testifies on proposed state senate death penalty bill

Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer called proposed Indiana Senate Bill 155, "a
solution in search of a problem" at an Oct. 11 Legislative Study Committee.

Authored by Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis for the state's 2017 legislative
session, the bill aimed to take away the death penalty for those suffering from
a serious mental illness (see info box). After much discussion, it was decided
the bill needed further review and was sent to a study committee.

"I think through the course of the study committee, I'm hopeful, the
prosecuting attorney council and others were persuasive in saying that mental
illness is at the forefront of these cases and is adequately being dealt with
now," said Meyer, who represented the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney's Council.
"There's no reason to go tinkering around with our death penalty statute."

Meyer said the bill's definition of serious mental illness caused uneasiness
among Indiana prosecutors, and became the deciding factor of IPAC's
involvement. The concern came from what Meyer called a "broad" definition of
serious mental illness.

"At IPAC, we support having the death penalty as the ultimate punishment in the
state for the worst of the worst crimes," Meyer said. "The net is so large it
will scoop up so many people and will effectively put the death penalty off the
table. People that suffer from depression would not be eligible to be put to
death. If it's as broad as that, it effectively eliminates the death penalty."

According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, 20 people have been executed in Indiana
since 1977, with the last, Matthew Wrinkles, coming in 2009 by lethal
injection. The Indiana Department of Correction website said between 1897 and
2009, a total of 94 people have been executed in the state for capital
offenses. All of those executed were men.

As of May 2017, 12 men and 1 woman sit on Indiana's death row, though no
executions have been scheduled.

A 2007 United States Supreme Court ruling stated death row inmates may not be
executed if they are found to be mentally ill and can't perceive the
significance of being executed and what that signifies.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association,
the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and the American Bar Association
have endorsed resolutions calling for an exemption of the severely mentally
ill, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Association have endorsed resolutions calling for an exemption of the severely
mentally ill.

1 of the 12 men sitting on Indiana's death row is Michael Overstreet. Meyer
used that case as an example to the committee. In 2014, an Indiana judge found
Overstreet to fit the criteria of the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, and while
Overstreet will remain on death row, he will not be executed.

"(Overstreet) was convicted and sentenced to death years ago and didn't suffer
the debilitating mental illness from having him be sentenced to death back at
the time he committed the crime," Meyer said. "But while incarcerated and in
prison for having committed the crime, he developed a mental illness."

Meyer said he continued to argue that a defendant's possible mental illness
status is at the forefront of litigation in death penalty cases, before, during
and after trial.

"It is heavily litigated, one of most litigated, parts of the case leading up
to the actual trial itself," Meyer said. "We ask 'Is this person mentally sound
to allow the government to put them to death if convicted and sentenced to
death?' There are lots of measures to go through pre-trial and post-trial."

In Boone County, Meyer recently filed to seek the death penalty against alleged
murderer Zachariah Wright. Wright is scheduled for a jury trail in March 2018.

In 2009, Indiana considered similar legislation (Indiana SB 22, regular
session) under almost an identical "severe mental illness" definition.

Senate Bill 155

Serious Mental Illness Definition

Except as provided in subsection 'B', "serious mental illness" means 1 or more
of the following disorders as classified in the American Psychiatric
Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as amended
and supplemented:

(1) Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.

(2) Bipolar disorder.

(3) Major depressive disorder.

(4) Delusional disorder.

(5) Post-traumatic stress disorder.

(6) Traumatic brain injury.

(source: timessentinel.com)


Leckie murder case moved to Taney County venue

The murder trial of 39-year-old Rebecca Ruud will be held in Taney County after
Circuit Circuit Judge David Evans granted a defense motion Thursday requesting
a change of venue in the highly publicized case.

Ruud, of Ozark County, Mo., stands accused with killing her 16-year-old
daughter Savannah Leckie and burning the girl's remains. Ruud's husband, Robert
Peat Jr., 31, also stands accused of Leckie's murder.

The case began when Ruud called the Ozark County Sheriff's Department July 20
to report Savannah missing. On Aug. 4, investigators armed with a search
warrant found what were later determined to be Savannah's burned remains in a
brush pile on Ruud's 81-acre farm.

Both Ruud and Peat faces charges of 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder, abuse
or neglect of a child, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a
corpse in connection with Savannah's death and the burning of her remains.

During Thursday's hearing, Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant
told Judge Evans the state had yet to make a decision whether it would seek the
death penalty for Ruud.

Ruud's attorney Kate Welborn also filed a motion seeking bond for Ruud, who has
been held in the Ozark County jail since Aug. 21 when she was arrested as she
attempted to board a Greyhound bus out of Springfield bound for Kansas City.

In the motion, Welborn noted Ruud bought her 81-acre farm in 2008 and plans to
remain a resident of Ozark County. Ruud would agree to remain in Ozark County
until her trial concluded, according to the motion.

Further, Welborn told the court Ruud would not resume her career as a long-haul
trucker unless granted permission by the court. Also, Ruud would agree to
wearing a GPS device to track her movements and report to probation officials,
if she were allowed to remain free on bond, her attorney wrote.

Judge Evans told the attorneys a decision regarding bond would be taken up
during a later hearing when a new judge is assigned the case upon its official
transfer to Taney County. The judge told Ruud a bond hearing date would be set
within a few days.

For now, Ruud will remain housed in the Ozark County jail. Garrabrant asked
that pretrial issues be heard in Ozark County, noting that he is the sole
prosecutor and that it would put undue hardship on him to travel to Taney
County for such hearings.

Ruud's attorney did not object to the request and Evans noted the agreement on
the issue for the future judge to consider.

The attorneys did not agree on where Ruud should be housed while she remains in
jail. Garrabrant told the judge Ruud's trial would be costly for the small
county and requiring the county to pay for Ruud to be housed elsewhere would
further add to the financial burden placed on the county.

Welborn argued she has other clients housed in the Taney County jail and were
Ruud to be housed there, it would be convenient for the defense. Judge Evans
told the attorneys that issue could be taken up with the judge to be assigned
to Ruud's case.

In the meantime, where Ruud is housed will be up to Ozark County Sheriff Darrin
Reed, Evans ruled.

Ruud's husband and codefendant Peat is scheduled to appear next on Nov. 8 in
Ozark County Circuit Court for a trial setting hearing, according to electronic
court records.

(source: The Baxter Bulletin)


Serrano defense calls for state to pay for travel, research in Mexico

Defense attorneys want Montgomery County to pay for someone to research their
client's life in Mexico.

Attorneys for Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, a Mexican national accused of killing
Randy Nordman near New Florence last year, filed the motion in St. Louis City
circuit court on Wednesday. The motion asks the court to require Montgomery
County to foot the bill of at least $59,000 on a mitigation specialist to
travel to Mexico and research Serrano's upbringing there ahead of his trial.

Serrano, an undocumented immigrant, faces the death penalty for allegedly
shooting Nordman at Nordman's home on March 8, 2016. Law enforcement say that
Serrano was on the run from a quadruple killing in Kansas City, Kansas earlier
that week. Serrano faces a lengthy trial scheduled in October 2018 to take
place in St. Louis.

A mitigation specialists research the background of a person facing the death
penalty for juries to consider. The American Bar Association tasks these
investigators to interview people "in a culturally competent manner" to help
defense attorneys.

The motion claims the Missouri State Public Defender's office rejected their
request to pay for a mitigation investigator. That amount of money would hurt
the office's ability to help other clients, the motion said. The team requires
a specialist fluent in Spanish and knowledgeable of Mexican culture. The only
person outside the office that was willing to give a quote so far is Kristina
Bishop, the motion said, and would cost $59,000 for travel and work.

Serrano needs the work done to ensure a fair trial, the attorneys wrote.
Records sought include family medical histories and the environment in which
Serrano was raised. From his birth to 17, the motion said, Serrano spent time
in places like Juarez, Chihuahua, Durango and Zacatecas.

"Without access to evidence regarding Pablo's mental health, medical, and
social histories available only in Mexico, as well as character evidence
available only through his family and friends who only speak Spanish, the jury
will be deprived of mitigating evidence that is constitutionally required to
consider," the motion said.

Death penalty cases in Missouri are typically split into two parts. The "guilt
phase" requires a jury to decide whether or not a person committed the crime at
hand. If convicted, a separate jury serves for the "penalty phase." Prosecutors
must prove 1 of several "aggravating factors" in the crime that are laid out in
state law before a jury can decide if death is the appropriate punishment. The
defense is allowed to bring up character evidence during this phase, such as
trauma the person experienced in the past or mental health issues.

(source: ABC News)


State Still Weighing Death Penalty in Cheyenne Boy's Death

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg says the state "will
probably take all the way up to the end of the month" to decide whether to seek
the death penalty against John Barrett.

The 24-year-old is accused of sexually abusing and killing his girlfriend's
2-year-old son in May. He pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder
in commission of a felony, 1st-degree sexual abuse of a minor, child abuse and
aggravated child abuse last week.

Barrett's attorney, Diane Lozano, has repeatedly asked the court to dismiss
Count II - which alleges Barrett did, in the perpetration of sexual abuse, kill
the child - arguing there's no evidence that sexual abuse caused the boy's

"Having more than 1 murder charge, particularly when you're talking about
felony murder, is not unusual," said Sandburg. "In fact, and I'd have to
double-check this, but there's been several cases that we cited in our brief to
that effect, where a defendant was charged with multiple different versions of
homicide and was convicted on multiple different versions of homicide."

"It all merges in terms of sentencing," Sandburg added. "You can't get multiple
sentences for it, but you can theoretically be convicted of multiple different
theories on how that occurred."

Sandburg says the decision to charge Barrett with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder
wasn't made so the state could reach a plea deal in the case, but rather to
make sure "certain information" gets presented at trial.

"Really it's more of a different type of a strategy in terms of the way you
approach the case," said Sandburg. "It may be because you want to make sure one
of them sticks or it may be because you have multiple theories and the facts
aren't 100 % round peg into round hole sort of situations."

(source: KGAN news)


Horrific Details Emerge At Trial Of 8-Year-Old's Death

Heart-breaking testimony was given in a downtown courtroom Wednesday by the
older brother who says he witnessed the killing of his younger sibling.

Gabriel Fernandez's 16-year-old brother recounted a harrowing tale of abuse
from his mother and her boyfriend who are on trial, suspected of killing the
Palmdale boy.

The older brother who was identified in court only as Ezequiel C., told jurors
that he recalled his little brother being hit by his mother, Pearl Sinthia
Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, and frequently being kept in a
"box" in the couple's bedroom. He added that his sibling was forced to eat cat
litter and cat feces and was repeatedly beaten in the months leading up to his
death in May 2013 in Palmdale.

"I noticed 2 beds in your room, but Gabriel still stayed in that box most of
the time?" Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami asked the teenager in
reference to photos showing the bedroom the brothers shared. "Yes," he

His testimony came on the third day of trial for Aguirre, a 37-year-old former
security guard who is charged with murder in Gabriel's May 22, 2013, fatal
beating, and also faces a special circumstance allegation of murder involving
the infliction of torture.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and Fernandez, 34,
who will be tried separately.

(source: CBS News)


Book on the Death Penalty Takes Grand Prize at Hamilton Book Awards

Prior to clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Jordan
Steiker had not given the dealth penalty much thought. After working for the
only justice who had actually represented defendants, it became the focus of
his career and a lifelong collaboration with his sister Carol, who clerked for
Marshall 2 years earlier. Together they have made the death penalty their
vocation, as reflected in "Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital
Punishment" (Harvard University Press), Grand Prize winner of the 2017
University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Award.

"Each year, scholars from across the university produce an amazing array of
books that demonstrate the quality and productivity of our faculty,
researchers, artists and scholars," said Dan Jaffe, vice president for research
at The University of Texas at Austin. "The Hamilton book awards recognize a
select group for the very best output in a given year. I congratulate both our
outstanding awardees and all the impressive authors who submitted their work
for consideration in this year's competition."

The $10,000 Hamilton Award is the highest honor for literary achievement given
by the university to UT Austin authors. The awards are named for Robert W.
Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair-Emeritus in Law, who served
as chairman of the board of the University Co-op from 1989 to 2001.

Jordan Steiker is the Judge Robert M. Parker Chair in Law and director of the
Capital Punishment Center at the UT School of Law. He has taught constitutional
law, criminal law and death penalty law at UT Austin since 1990. His work
focuses on the administration of capital punishment in the United States, and
he has written extensively on constitutional law, federal habeas corpus and the
death penalty. Professor Steiker has testified before state legislative
committees addressing death penalty issues in Texas. He co-authored the report
(with Carol Steiker) that led the American Law Institute to withdraw the death
penalty provision from the Model Penal Code. Steiker has also litigated
extensively on behalf of indigent death-sentenced inmates in state and federal
court, including in the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: utexas.edu)


Faith-based government could have unintended consequences

When I hear contributors to this page advocating that our lawmakers turn to the
Christian Bible as their guide for creating laws I get chills.

I immediately think of Sharia law which is at the core of the Muslim faith, in
which fortunately most Muslim countries only loosely base their laws. ISIS is
the exception which advocates strict adherence to the laws, many of which are
absurd and demand horrific punishments for breaking.

This same mentally is proposed by some evangelical and other Christians who
want to make the punishments described in their Bible legal. Their Bible
prescribes the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, cursing a parent,
disobeying a parent, and cursing God. And these are just a few of the
transgressions demanding the ultimate penalty.

I bet many of those advocating returning to biblical law will argue that such
extreme measures are not what they're talking about. If not, then what do they
mean? Are they going to pick and choose which biblical laws to respect and
which to disregard?

Those who look to any religion-based value system want easy resolutions to
complex problems.

I'm glad we have a secular government which tries to make laws based in reason,
though I admit many do come from Christian beliefs. I'm not saying those are
all bad, but that many are archaic and are better left in the past.

John Greenlee, Sandy Lake

(source: Letter to the Editor, Sharon Herald)

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