2017-05-08 13:53:43 UTC
Indiana Supreme Court denies death penalty statute appeal
The Indiana Supreme Court turned down the request of a Gary man accused of
killing 7 women to look at the constitutionality of the state's death penalty
statute before he goes to trial.
The Post-Tribune (http://trib.in/2oLRQMT ) reported the court denied
46-year-old Darren Deon Vann's request Thursday, following suit with rulings in
previous challenges in other Indiana cases. Vann argued the statute possibly
violates the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual
His defense attorneys argued in their appeal request that the issue should be
addressed before a trial is set because "Vann should not have to wait until the
jury is unable to recommend a penalty before he may challenge a statute that he
believes to be unconstitutional and deprives him of his constitutional rights."
They also argued making a pre-trial decision could save Indiana taxpayers a
great sum of money.
The defense said the decision impacts not only Vann but "every other pending
death penalty case in Indiana."
Between 1977 and Nov. 7, 2016, 97 people have been sentenced to death in
Indiana, and 11 people are currently on the state's death row, according to a
brief by an attorney with The Promise of Justice Initiative. Vann's defense
attorneys called on the New Orleans nonprofit to provide an opinion on the
Any further doubts can be raised in a direct appeal following Vann's trial "so
that this Court can decide it within an actual - and not hypothetical - set of
facts," the court said in its ruling. Vann's appeal request delayed the case
going to trial and any additional requests could delay it for many more months
Vann has a status hearing Friday in Lake County to discuss pending matters in
his case. Aside from hearings and filed documents, a gag order prohibits those
involved in the case from commenting outside of court.
(source: WHIO news)
Trial to begin in death of girl who was padlocked inside box
Members of a Phoenix family awoke nearly 6 years ago a disturbing discovery in
their home: A 10-year-old girl who lived there was found dead inside a
padlocked plastic storage box, a punishment for having stolen a popsicle.
Authorities say 2 adult relatives are responsible for making Ame Deal get into
the box the night before and had fallen sleep without letting her out.
One of Deal's cousins, 28-year-old Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen, goes on
trial Monday on murder and child abuse charges stemming from the child's 2011
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Allen and her husband,
28-year-old John Michael Allen, who is scheduled to be tried on Aug. 7 on child
abuse and murder charges. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The 10-year-old's death was the cruel culmination of a history of abuse that
authorities say a handful of relatives heaped on her.
She was forced to eat dog feces, crush aluminum cans barefoot, consume hot
sauce and get in the storage box on other occasions. Deal also was kicked in
the face, beaten with a wooden paddle and forcibly dunked after being thrown in
a cold swimming pool, investigators said.
Authorities say Deal was treated more harshly than other children at the home,
and her family members characterized her as a liar and thief.
"Several forensic interviews were conducted on relative children,"
investigators wrote in court records. "The common theme is, Ame is bad, Ame
lies, Ame steals, Ame is not allowed to play."
Three other relatives, including an aunt who served as her legal guardian, are
in prison serving sentences for abusing Deal.
Child welfare authorities in Arizona said they didn't receive any reports of
abuse before her death. Police said child welfare reports from Utah, where the
family lived before moving to Phoenix, listed Deal as an abused child.
John Curry, one of Sammantha Allen's attorneys, and lawyer Gary Beren, who
represents John Allen, didn't return calls seeking comment. Prosecutors with
the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to comment.
Investigators say John Allen padlocked the girl in the box as a force of
punishment for the popsicle theft. Adults at the home originally claimed she
hid during a late-night game of hide and seek and wasn't found until 6 or 7
The box was less than 3 feet long, less than a foot wide and a foot deep. Deal
stood about 4 feet tall and weighed nearly 60 pounds.
Deal's mother left the family years earlier after suffering abuse from
relatives and moved to Kansas without taking her daughter with her.
David Deal, who is listed on Deal's birth certificate as her biological father,
is serving a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.
Ame Deal's legal guardian at the time of her death was her aunt, Cynthia
Stoltzmann, who is serving a 24-year prison sentence for a child abuse
conviction. Deal's grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving a 10-year prison
sentence on a child abuse conviction.
Sammantha and John Allen are the only people charged in Deal's death.
(source: Associated Press)
The slow death of capital punishment: Delays, costs and shifting public opinion
riddle the system
The recent spate of Arkansas executions, which included 2 on the same gurney, 3
1/2 hours apart - the 1st time in almost 17 years that any state has executed 2
inmates on the same day - has returned the death penalty to the forefront of
Waves of delays and activists' outcries continue as the use of capital
punishment has sharply declined throughout the country. Polls indicate a
shrinking majority of Americans prefers to preserve the option to extinguish
those found guilty of the vilest crimes in civilized society.
In Nevada, the conundrum of capital punishment is rife with subplots, starting
with last year's expensive refurbishment of a death chamber whose application
is far-fetched, since drugs necessary for lethal injection aren't available.
Death sentences bogged down with decades of dust enrage victims' families, some
of whom would be satisfied with a sentence of life without parole, if, in fact,
that were the state's top punishment.
In the movies, a governor's powers are never more dramatic than when that call
is placed to the prison, a tick or 2 before midnight, the reprieve doled out.
The inmate spared. In Nevada, in reality, what's in the chair today is the
death penalty itself.
Polling the death penalty
According to Pew Research Center (2016) and Gallup (2014) polls:
-- 49% of Americans favor the death penalty for murder convictions
-- 42% oppose the death penalty
-- 9% were unsure
Asked what form of execution they consider most humane, respondents said:
-- Lethal injection: 65%
-- None (volunteered opinion: 10%
-- Firing squad: 9%
-- Hanging: 5%
-- Electric chair: 4%
-- Gas chamber: 4%
-- No opinion: 3%
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is a stalwart supporter of the death penalty,
yet not one execution has been carried out during his watch, 8 years that
expire in January 2019.
The courts have not ordered a single execution to be scheduled. By contrast,
Ohio has 26 on its dockets from 2018 through 2021; at press time, the Buckeye
State had no fewer than a dozen people on its 2017 execution list.
Nevada last executed a prisoner in April 2006. It's a costly system with many
broken parts, which might be eroding the appetite for capital punishment.
Appeals that seem unending effectively keep death row inmates alive for
decades. When 75-year-old Priscilla Ford died from natural causes in 2005,
after 25 years of incarceration for running over dozens of people in Reno, she
hadn't even begun to tap her federal-review options.
Last year, $858,000 of taxpayer funds was spent on refurbishing the death
chamber - to bring it in compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act
standards - at the maximum-security Ely State Prison, which houses the state's
Should a court order an execution, it's debatable that it could even be carried
out because the necessary drugs are not in supply. In 2016, Nevada Department
of Corrections personnel sent 247 requests for proposals to drug companies but
received no responses.
With such a court order, in theory, the Department of Corrections would have
60-90 days to complete its directive. Its director, James Dzurenda, has
reportedly told Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson that the drugs
required for an execution - midazolam and hydromorphone - could be obtained. As
1 option, Dzurenda said he might be able to ask another state for drugs it
wouldn't anticipate using.
In the Legislature, Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and Sen. Tick Segerblom, Las
Vegas-based Democrats, wrote Assembly Bill 237 to abolish the death penalty.
But the bill foundered, and it expired in mid-April.
Perhaps that opposition will resurface, with more strength, in the
gubernatorial election next year. Nationally, execution numbers are on a
dramatic wane. In 2016, 20 prisoners were put to death, the lowest figure in 25
years. So far this year, at press time, states had put to death only 10
Sandoval's successor will undoubtedly influence the future of the issue. One
likely candidate is Steve Sisolak, the Democratic chairman of the Clark County
Commission. At an April 21 function, he expressed staunch opposition to the
death penalty. "More opposed," he said, due to the many ills of the system. (He
did convey deep sympathy to family and friends of victims of heinous crimes.)
That might help or hurt him, or another candidate who espouses a similar view,
depending on the populace tide.
Total court costs in Nevada
-- $1.3 million: Estimated cost of a case in which the death penalty is sought
and an inmate is sentenced to death, but is not executed
-- $1.03 million: Estimated cost of a case in which the death penalty is
sought, an inmate is sentenced to death and an execution is carried out
-- $775,000: Estimated cost of a case in which the death penalty is not
sought, including incarceration
Costs of incarceration
-- The 12 executions carried out cost an estimated $324,000 per inmate.
-- The 16 who died in prison cost an estimated $599,000 per inmate.
-- The estimated cost per inmate for those sentenced to life without parole,
including facility, medical and burial costs, is $598,000
The U.S. Supreme Court restored capital punishment in a landmark ruling in
1976. We're the only Western country that uses the death penalty.
32 states have death penalty statutes. They are denoted in red. New Mexico has
repealed the death penalty, but those already sentenced remain under sentence
There were 2,905 prisoners on death row through 2016 - 2,850 male and 55
female. Of those, 42 % were white, 42 % black, 13 % Latino, 2 % Asian and 1 %
In Nevada, 160 people have been sentenced to death in the past 40 years. Twelve
executions have been carried out, 16 people died from natural causes or
suicide), 82 are currently on death row at Ely State Prison, and 50 cases have
The only woman ever executed in Nevada
Elizabeth Potts was put to death next to her husband, Josiah, on twin gallows
after being convicted of murder and robbery in 1890. Some outlets reported that
she was decapitated at full drop.
The last person to be executed in Nevada A pimp who had been incarcerated for
killing a prostitute, Daryl Mack was convicted of an earlier rape and murder by
DNA; thus, the death sentence. The worst of the worst," Washoe County Chief
Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco called Mack. He was executed in 2006.
The most dangerous prisoner in Nevada Patrick McKenna, 70, is considered the
nation's 3rd-most sinister criminal. In 1979, he murdered a cellmate. He has
attempted many escapes. For court he has been strapped to a wheelchair and
forced to wear blinders, chains around his belly, ankle shackles and mittens so
he can't grasp anything.
Scott Dozier had been incarcerated for almost 10 years when he became fed up
with the system. On Oct. 31, he instructed legal representatives to halt what
seems like an infinite appeals process; he wants to be killed, and by firing
However, unlike Andriza Mircovich, who was able to choose rifles over the noose
in Nevada in 1913, or 15 other states that have alternative execution methods
on their statutes, the Silver State is now limited to lethal injection.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court restored capital punishment in a landmark 1976
ruling, 11 of the 12 inmates executed by Nevada had relinquished appeals
rights. Multiple murderer Richard Moran, in 1996, was the lone person to be
involuntarily executed in that time frame.
In taped telephone conversations that have been made public, Dozier sounds
intelligent, thoughtful and rational. He admits to his mistakes and says living
in solitary confinement the rest of his life is no way to live, so let's get on
It's the same tack used by Jesse Walter Bishop, the last person the state
executed by gas. In 1977, he robbed a teller at El Morocco, shot a pit boss,
and shot and killed a bystander. He was sentenced to death. Bishop chose not to
appeal and forbade his court-appointed lawyers from prolonging the case with
Bishop believed it comical to claim that the death penalty constituted cruel
and unusual punishment when it???s the inmate and his attorneys who trigger
such interminable delays that produce false starts and umpteen execution dates.
It's a prisoner's volition, he said, to die for his crimes.
"They want to force me to appeal, to wait just so the lawyers can play their
games," Bishop said. "I feel that is cruel and unusual punishment. ... I never
asked for the death penalty. They gave it to me. I'm only asking that they
either give it to me or commute it. They got me dead bang on a cold murder beef
I can't beat. I'm not going to turn to God, or to snivelin' or snitchin' or
rattin'. They got their gas chamber ... they should get it over with."
He was strapped to the chair on Oct. 22, 1979.
Brief history of capital punishment
-- Code of Hammurabi: 38 centuries old, the 7 1/2-foot stone stele - which
lists 282 laws and scaled punishments - contains the 1st known reference to the
"eye for an eye" tenet. It was unearthed in Khuzestan, a current province in
Iran, in 1901 and is stored in the Louvre in Paris.
-- Electric Chair: After the chair's debut at Sing Sing in 1891, a New York
Herald headline exclaimed "A proud day for the Empire State!" Thomas Edison
called it "more certain and perhaps a little more civilized than the rope." But
he'd omit, from his biography, his major role in its development, and he spoke
little of it the rest of his life.
-- Gas: Gee Jon became the 1st person executed in such a chamber, by state
decree, at Nevada State Prison in 1924. "100 years from now," the San Jose
Mercury Herald opined, "Nevada will be referred to as a heathen commonwealth
controlled by savages with only the outward symbols of civilization."
-- Guillotine: Nicolas Pelletier first perished by the blade in April 1792.
When Hamida Djandoubi - the last, in September 1977 - pressed his executioner
for a 3rd smoke, Marcel Chevalier said, "Ah mon, we've already lost enough
time." A shocked Victor Hugo saw a blade drop 5 times on a criminal, who
escaped; an assistant finished the job with a butcher's knife.
-- Hanging: Brits brought the noose to the Virginia Colony, where it was 1st
used on convicted thief Daniel Frank in 1629. Australia fervently adopted it.
England's last execution was in 1964, and Australia's in 1967. A U.S. hanging
last occurred in 1996, but it's still an option in New Hampshire and
-- Shooting: According to the book "Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions
and America's Death Penalty," rifles killed 34 U.S. prisoners between 1890 and
2010; the lone flawless method. After Gary Gilmore was shot in January 1977,
his eyes and other vital organs were harvested. It's still an option in
Oklahoma (as is electrocution and gas) and Utah.
The weight on victims' families: An elegy for Nancy Griffith
Almost 38 years after he violated, beat, burned and left 16-year-old Nancy
Griffith to die 20 miles outside of town, the existence of Robert Ybarra Jr. 9
miles north of here continues to haunt this tiny mining town.
It grates on Robin Griffith, who is married to Nancy's brother, Alan. In her
early 60s, she prays to live long enough to see Ybarra die - or be "put down"
like a vicious stray, as one local put it - by lethal injection in Ely State
"Not because I want to watch somebody die but because I knew my sister-in-law
... it would be, for her, an ending," Robin says.
Had Ybarra been given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, it
would be very different, she says, not this never-ending nightmare. But he was
sentenced to die. "If you're going to give the death penalty, give it," Robin
says. "Don't take it away."
She mentions Javier Righetti, who raped, beat and burned 15-year-old Alyssa
Otremba in Las Vegas in 2011. In March, a jury sentenced Righetti to die. At
24, he will be the youngest death row inmate when he's processed into the
system. Robin cringes about the decades of jurisprudent heartbreak that await
Otremba's friends and relatives.
"I feel for those people," she says. "Either do it or get rid of (the death
penalty). They don't understand what the victim's family goes through every
time there's an appeal - every single time."
On Sept. 28, 1979, Nancy and friend Johna Cordova were listening to music,
drinking beer and talking with Ybarra at Courthouse Park.
Both girls knew the 25-year-old itinerant worker, since they had cleaned his
dwelling once or twice. The girls must have known the guy with the mustache and
long dark hair dabbled in an array of drugs and drank too much. They couldn't
have known he had attempted suicide a few weeks earlier, when his wife took
their infant and left him.
From what Robin would later gather, Nancy accidentally knocked over a beer,
angering Ybarra. The outburst frightened Johna, and she made him take her home.
Both girls got in the red pickup truck with the white camper shell. Outside her
house, Johna slid out of the cab. Nancy remained.
Robin knows why she made that fatal decision.
10 pounds at birth, the 10th and final child of Harold and Edna Griffith
carried some extra weight into her teens. Robin always cut Nancy's hair and
would compliment her legs, always reinforcing a positive attitude and outlook.
Nancy envied girlfriends who had boyfriends and yearned for such attention. She
found that - in whatever fraction - in Ybarra.
"She was a young girl who wanted to be loved," Robin says. "That's all she
wanted. Finally, a guy liked her. She fell for it and lost her life because of
Ybarra drove his rig west to the utter desolation of 30 Mile Road, steering
north for 3 miles over the bumpy dirt pathway. They were making out in the back
when Ybarra's mood and actions dramatically turned. Nancy kicked out the rear
window and ran. He caught her, raped her, cracked her skull and kicked in her
teeth. She was on her knees, by a gully, when he poured gasoline over her and
lit a match. He drove away.
She remained alive and alert, enough to identify her attacker to passersby
early that Saturday morning. One noted what looked like a glove in the dirt; it
was the skin of Nancy???s hand, burned off with fingernails intact. She died a
few hours later in a Salt Lake City hospital.
"Utah does have the firing squad. That seems to work; shoot 'im in the heart
and get it over with," Robin says. "I don't love the face of death, but it
would be the ending of Nancy's story."
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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