----- Original Message -----
From: Ole Grouch
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 8:17 PM
Subject: DISC: C.J.Hyde.
I feel that I must respond to C.B. Hyde with several of his major assertions.
1) Overall, there are states with the death penalty that have the lowest murder rates, and states without the death penalty
that do so also-- North Dakota, for example, Other factors beside the death penalty enter into the equation, but the net
result is that the death penalty is not a deterrent, and it is simplistic to base a conclusion on one factor alone, loke
mopre right handed people commit murders than left handed people.
2) The overall murder rate has gone down in the past few years, with or without the death penalty, so other factors are
involved. Add to that the fact that juries are reluctant to vote for death, so I question whether the majority of people
are in favor of the death penalty. It is one thing to say so on a philosophical level, and to actually vote for it as part of a
3) The accused does not have the table tilted in his favor; indeed he is often poorly represented by an overworked
underpaid public defender, denied access to an investigator or an expert witness, not given the discovery demanded by
law, and tried by a jury where those against the death penalty, or even those who question it are denied seating -- in
violation of Witherspoon v Illinois.
4) Eyewitness testimony can be fraught with error, especially cross-racial. Physical evidence ("Forensics") can be
simply wrong, sloppily or deliberately performed or not done at all, as in one case where a state lab tested for an
element of gunshot residue that it knew or should have known was not present. Judges are more inclined to admit
evidence for the prosecution that for the defense
5) Appellate courts seem to be made up of former prosecutors, sometimes ignorant of the sophisticated scientific
testimony they hear, and there are literally hundreds of procedural bars to prevent a legitimate appeal, such as
Alabama's Rule 32 of appellate procedure, which is a catch-22 that virtually eliminates a successful appeal.
6) Because of these problems and others, no trial is completely "fair" and an innocent person can be sentenced to death,
and indeed there are those where claims have been made that an innocent man has in fact been executed.
7) Mr. Hyde asks the question: How about a man under life sentence already kills in prison? This person can be
sentenced to life again, under strict isolation (solitary confinement) and deprived contact with the outside world-- no
mail, no radio, no TV, no contact with any other human being. That would be a worse punishment than death, and the
reason that so many condemned prisoners choose to be executed rather than remain in prison for the rest of their life.
8) To me the fear of executing an innocent person is too great as the system stands now, and as former Governor Hugh
Carey of New York once stated,"If the legislature can somehow right in a provision for resurrection of those executed
by mistake, I would support the death penalty."
Let vengeance be God's, not the work of man.
G M Larkin
FIAT JUDICIA RUAT COELUM!
----- Original Message -----
From: Ole Grouch
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 7:15 AM
Subject: Re: NEWS:---Who said that the law was "fair"?.
Mr. Mears misses the point; the law was never designed to be fair; criminal procedure does everything possible to
prevent reversal by appeal, and encourages the death penalty in murder. A jury is selected that believes in the death
penalty, and those folks are prone to convict (Strauder v West Virginia).
The state is not going to spend thousands to get a life sentence when it can demand death, and still uses one form or
another of prosecutorial misconduct, as we have seen in many cases in North Carolina and elsewhere. Every murder is
heinous and atrocious, is the "crime of the century".
The defendant is tried under a cloak of guilt, all the grisly details put in newspaper articles and TV shows. The
defendant is often shown in a jump suit and chains on TV and that image remains. The cops proudly show him or her
off saying "We got the guy". Sometimes they lose pertinent evidence, or withhold same from the prosecutor. Discovery
is a farce in most states with the prosecutor 'losing" pertinent evidence that would tend to exculp the defendant.
Fair trial? That is a rarity, and the Goons want to make it still unfair. We should stop the inefficient charade better
than dreaming that our Criminal Justice System is "fair". It is unfair with a thin veneer of fairness: "We gave the killer a
fair trial and then hanged him!"
G M Larkin
Bearing witness to the end----Feelings forged in a grieving father's effort to forgive one killer fuel a friendship with
20 years ago, Tom Fewel's 8-year-old daughter was abducted on the way to her Chapel Hill school. A professor found
her hanged from a tree at a nearby biological reserve.
Ten years later, still struggling with his loss, Fewel of Chapel Hill began corresponding with Steven Van McHone,
imprisoned on North Carolina's death row for killing his mother and stepfather. Fewel says McHone helped him move
closer to forgiving his daughter's killer, and so he worked to try to save McHone's life.
Despite pleas by Fewel and others, Gov. Mike Easley refused last week to commute McHone's sentence to life in
prison without parole. Several relatives said they lived in fear of McHone even with him behind bars and wanted his
sentence carried out.
At 2 a.m. Friday, McHone, 35, was executed. At McHone's request, Fewel witnessed his death by lethal injection.
Now, Fewel is mourning a killer who helped him better understand forgiveness.
"I know something about grief," Fewel, 59, said Friday afternoon. "I know I will deal with this better as time goes on.
But right now, I'm just very sad."
The death of Jean Kar-Har Fewel on a January day in 1985 shocked Chapel Hill. Parents who had normally let their
sons and daughters walk alone to school started going with them. Jean, an orphan from Hong Kong, had lived with
Fewel and his wife, Joy Wood, for about a year, and the couple was in the process of adopting her. Her death left them
Fewel and his wife oppose the death penalty and had asked the jury to spare the life of George Richard Fisher for the
attempted rape, kidnapping and murder of their daughter. Fisher, 56, is serving a life sentence.
"Even though Joy and I did not want Jean's killer to receive the death penalty, that doesn't mean I had forgiven him,"
Fewel said in an interview early last week.
In 1995, Fewel's need to forgive Jean's killer led him to reach out to another one.
He had heard a fellow member of Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill discuss her experience
visiting and writing to a death row inmate. After the talk, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty had letters from
inmates seeking pen pals.
Fewel and McHone were unlikely pen pals, let alone friends.
McHone had been sentenced to death for the 1990 shooting of his mother, Mildred Adams, and stepfather, Wesley
Adams Sr., in Surry County.
Fewel was seeking insight into two issues: his inability to forgive Fisher, which he felt was separating him from God,
and a sense of powerlessness to stop the death penalty.
Fewel remembers that McHone's letter was well-written; his penmanship good. And so Fewel began to write to
McHone. Within a few months, Fewel was visiting McHone. They would talk about the murders, the grief, forgiveness.
They also talked about art, books and Carolina basketball.
"He is a very personable guy," Fewel said Friday afternoon. He then paused, catching himself. "I'm still talking about
him in the present tense."
Art of making friends
In the course of their friendship, McHone gave Fewel three pieces of his artwork, a watercolor and 2 drawings. Fewel
featured the art in a brochure that he handed out about McHone's clemency petition. The pieces are framed and
displayed in Fewel's Chapel Hill home.
"I wanted people to see that and know something else about him," Fewel said.
Fewel also wants people to know that McHone's defense lawyer, who did little investigation before trial, was later
disbarred for wrongdoing in an unrelated case. The prosecutor, who withheld from the defense attorneys witness
statements and a 911 tape, later resigned to avoid unrelated criminal charges, Fewel said. Fewel said McHone was too
drunk to form the intent to kill that is a requirement for a 1st-degree murder conviction.
Prosecutors say McHone received a fair trial. He confessed to the killings, threatened to kill other relatives and was
sober enough to find weapons, reload them and hit his targets.
Fewel said he saw McHone's remorse deepen and his acceptance of responsibility grow over the years. When they
started meeting, Fewel said McHone would say, "When my crime was committed."
That eventually changed to, "When I killed my parents."
Watching that progression helped Fewel better understand forgiveness, which for him means to release his anger and
hate over his daughter's murder.
In a letter Oct. 27 to Easley, Fewel wrote, "Through our conversations, I've learned lessons about grief and guilt that I
can apply to how I deal with Jean's murder. I have come to believe that forgiveness may be as simple, and as difficult,
as praying that the peace of God will be with her murderer."
Fewel is now able to pray that Fisher finds God's peace. He is not done with struggling to forgive Fisher.
"I'm still not sure I'm through with that issue in my life," Fewel said. "But I've come a long way, and Steve has helped
(source: News & Observer)
Dad killed Mom, but they can't picture him gone
Sarah holds the bag close so the memories won't fall out.
It's a plain black tote bag but on the outside are clear plastic sleeves. Room for 5 photos.
The top row has one of Sarah's husband, and one of them dancing at their wedding, and an ultrasound of the baby she's
due to deliver in April.
The bottom left has a photo of Sarah with her siblings -- John, Janet and Rose.
The last photo shows their parents. Teresa and Elias Syriani. A smiling young couple.
That picture was taken a long time ago.
In 1990, Elias killed Teresa. He blocked her car in the street near her Charlotte home and he stabbed her 28 times with
In 1991, he was sentenced to death. On Friday, he is due to be executed.
For years the children hated him. They burned with fury when people said his name.
But now they are trying to save their father's life. And they know people are wondering why.
Why have they traveled the state, pleading for support, weeping in front of strangers?
Why did they shake off their nerves and go on "Good Morning America" and "Larry King Live"?
Why are they begging Gov. Mike Easley to spare the man who killed their mother?
Why are they doing this to themselves?
They don't have the words.
But they do have pictures.
Memories in soft focus
"I can see these things in my head, so vividly," Sarah says, and the other kids nod, they can see them, too.They remember
this: Elias Syriani worked at a machine shop. He would come home with steel shavings in his hair. He would sit in his
chair and corral the kids in his arms and they would pick the shavings out.
They remember this: Some nights he would give the kids tweezers and they would pluck the hair from his ears. He
would squeal, acting like they were hurting him, and the kids would lose their breath laughing.
Janet remembers her dad coming to school to have lunch with her. John remembers staying up all night with his dad so
they could put together Janet's pink bike.
This was the life they had. Their father was a part of it.
On Wednesday, when they visited him at Central Prison, he reminded them of the time they took a vacation to Myrtle
Rose had a dog named Cookie and she wouldn't leave without it. But when they got there they couldn't find a hotel that
took pets. They went to a campground but the dog started barking and other campers complained. So their dad took the
dog to the beach at 4 in the morning so everybody else could sleep.
"I had forgotten how much I loved that dog," Rose says. "That was my childhood. That was a piece of me."
They have even more stories about their mom. How she used to wait with Rose every day at the school bus stop. How
she chased down Janet's bus one morning because Janet forgot the potato chips with her lunch.
These days, sometimes Sarah has a dream. All 4 kids are at home, sitting at the kitchen table. Their dad is sitting with
Their mom is in the kitchen making dinner.
"We're looking around the table at each other," Sarah says. "She's not supposed to be here. She's dead. But we don't say
anything. Because we don't want her to go away."
These pictures belong in the album, too. Nobody wants them there but they are glued to the pages.
Elias Syriani beat his wife. Police were called to the house 10 times in two years. Teresa told neighbors that Elias hit
her with a table leg. Once he went after her with a baseball bat.
She got a restraining order and he was forced to leave their southwest Charlotte home. She filed for divorce.
On a summer night in 1990 she drove home from her job at a convenience-store deli. John was with her. He was 10.
A block from home, Elias blocked her car with his van. He took the screwdriver in his hand and reached in through her
The car shook.
John tried to push his father away. Then he ran home and told Rose to call the police.
Witnesses said Elias attacked Teresa, went back to his van, then started walking back toward the car. He left only when
he saw a neighbor heading toward him.
Teresa died after 26 days in a coma.
By then the kids were living with their aunts. And Sarah was cutting her father's face out of the family photos.
Raising and lifting each other
Look at this picture, just a few days ago, the kids in their Raleigh hotel room -- joking, finishing one another's stories,
arguing about who's the best Ping-Pong player. Their aunts raised them, but just as much, they raised one another. Janet
remembers winning a school award in eighth grade and needing to bring a parent for dinner with the principal. She went
to her oldest sister and said: Rose, you've got to be my mama tonight.
Janet's 23 now and studies accounting. John's 25 and sells Hondas at a car dealership outside Chicago. Sarah's 27 and
lives with her husband near San Francisco. Rose, who's 29, just got a job doing consumer research in the same part of
the country; she's moving in with Sarah until she finds a place of her own.
They try to explain how they came to forgive their father for what happened 15 years ago. They say it's a miracle. They
say it's their mother watching over them, telling them it's OK.
Every so often they just shrug. They don't have the words.
It happened so fast last summer. The 4 of them decided to visit their father together. Sarah was about to get married and
wanted to see if she could cleanse her heart. Rose wanted to show her father how far she had made it without him.
They had read a report prepared for his court appeals. It told them things they had never known. It told how Elias had
grown up poor near Jerusalem, how his father had been sent to prison and exiled to Jordan, how the family was torn up
with anger and guilt.
They felt sorry for him. They did not yet forgive.
But they got to the prison and he smiled at them behind the glass and their hate fell away.
"I don't quite know how to say this," Rose says. "None of this justifies what he did. There is
no way to justify it.
"But now we're able to pick up these wonderful pieces of our lives, these things we had put away. It's not our fault any
of this happened. We just have to find out a way to live.
"Our mom and dad did love each other. And the love they had together -- "
Sarah breaks in: " -- created us."
"Yes. Created us."
A talk with the governor
There's no chance that Elias Syriani will be freed. His best hope is life without parole. Clemency from the governor is
his main chance at escaping execution. North Carolina has no clemency board; Gov. Easley makes the decision on his
The hearing was Thursday at the Capitol. Normally, Easley focuses on the legal arguments in the case. So the Syriani
kids weren't scheduled to talk with him; instead they had a meeting with his chief legal counsel, Reuben Young.
The kids showed up early, just in case.
The hearings are closed to the public. Mecklenburg County and state prosecutors spoke to Easley first. (They wouldn't
comment on what they said in the hearing.)
Henderson Hill, Elias Syriani's lawyer, went next. He said he made the case he has made through years of appeals: that
the jury didn't get to hear about the hard life Syriani had growing up, or about possible evidence of mental illness.
As Easley listened to the legal arguments in his office, the kids spoke to Young in a room on the other side of the
hallway. They finished. They waited. Then they were asked to come across the hall.
The governor showed them pictures of his children.
Rose and Sarah did most of the talking. They told the governor that they lost the most when their mother died. But now
they have their father back, and they have the most to lose again.
Easley usually waits until the final hours to decide on clemency. Since he took office, he has stopped executions twice.
Twenty-one times he has let them proceed.
Later Thursday, about 12 hours after he spoke to the kids, Easley denied clemency in the case of Steven Van McHone.
McHone died by lethal injection Friday morning.
There is a videotape of John and Janet's christening. The images on the screen are the only moving pictures the family
The kids tried to watch 10 years ago but they couldn't take it. Then the tape went into evidence at their father's trial.
Finally, 2 weeks ago, they watched.
The tape shows a party that the Syrianis had in their yard. Dozens of people came. Elias - who sang on the radio back in
Jordan -- is singing in Arabic: This life that I'm living is a beautiful life.
Teresa comes up and wraps her arms around him, runs her fingers through his hair, wipes the sweat from his face.
All around them, children dance.
For years the Syriani children cut their father out. Now, at the end, he is back in the picture.
They don't know if you can understand. Sometimes they don't understand.
But this is what they have. Memories, an old blurry tape, some photos on the side of a bag.
You take the snapshots, and you arrange them a certain way.
And out of that you try to make a life.
(source: Charlotte Observer)
A matter of life and death----Holdouts frustrate other jurors
10 hands rose for the death sentence. 2 did not.
The jurors stared at one another in stunned silence.
The discussion turned to trying to change the minds of the 2 "no" votes.
But after a short debate, no one in the jury room would budge. They argued for less than an hour, just a fraction of the
time it took them to methodically decide the day before that Wesley Harris was guilty of a brutal double murder.
The jurors were even more stunned when they realized that Georgia law dictated that their split decision guaranteed a
life sentence without the possibility of parole for Harris.
They had no doubt that Harris killed Whitney Land and her 2-year-old daughter, Jordan. The victims were abducted,
shot, and placed in obscene angles in the trunk of a car that was then set afire. Just one look at the crime scene photos,
the soot on the skin, the five bullet holes, brought tears to the eyes of some jurors. The horrible pictures of the lifeless
bodies of the 22-year-old woman and her baby daughter pushed most of the jury to vote for a death sentence.
Days after the Tuesday verdict, some of the jurors said they were still angry about the outcome and were still wrestling
with unanswered questions:
If Wesley Harris, a baby killer, did not deserve the death penalty, who does? Why couldn't they get a death sentence in
That Gwinnett jury is not alone in asking questions about the death penalty. District attorneys across the nation are
finding themselves in the same quandary as it is becoming harder and harder to get convicted killers sentenced to death.
According to local statistics and the national Death Penalty Information Center, based in Washington, there has been a
steady decline in death sentences in Georgia and around the country. In 2003, according to the center, Georgia
sentenced only 1 person to lethal injection. Nationally, 144 people were sentenced to death in 2003.
That number has dropped consistently since 1998, when 300 people were sentenced to death across America.
Mike Mears, director of the Atlanta-based Multi-County Public Defender Office, credits highly publicized cases of
innocent people languishing for years on death row before being released for making people more skeptical of the
justice system. He said 121 people have been released from death row in the last three decades after being proven
innocent, many because of DNA testing.
"There are too many mistakes being made," he said. "We've had over 100 exonerations."
But those facts are no consolation to many of the jurors in the Harris case who feel that the sentence was wrong.
"From the moment I saw the pictures of that baby, there was no saving him," said juror Denise Schnieders, a grade
school teacher. "I knew what had to happen to a monster who would do that. I have two little girls.
"We're angry that the system didn't work and frustrated that we didn't see the outcome we thought we should have
seen," she said.
"Justice wasn't done."
The case against Harris seemed like a slam-dunk guilty verdict and a can't-miss death penalty to some.
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter, a veteran who has overseen close to 20 death- penalty cases, said the Harris
case was the strongest case for the death penalty he had ever tried.
Harris, a 27-year-old Jonesboro fast-food worker, carjacked his victims from a Clayton County park on Nov. 8, 1999.
He drove them to Gwinnett County and shot them at point-blank range.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors showed jurors a videotape in which Harris admitted burning Whitney Land's
car. Prosecutors also presented cellphone records that showed Harris used Land's phone to call a friend after she was
That friend testified that he helped Harris burn the car and helped him ditch the murder weapon. The jury also was
shown an autopsy that said Harris placed his pistol right against the face of the child, shooting her execution-style as
she sat in her car seat.
The jury found Harris guilty on all counts after 10 hours of deliberations. But jurors said they could have made a
decision on guilt in 10 minutes.
"I could've did it in 5 minutes," said Michelle Bailey of Sugar Hill. "It was obvious he was guilty, but we took 2 days
to go over the evidence just to make sure."
But the vote for punishment came after only an hour of deliberation and it was much more controversial. Most of the
jurors interviewed for this article said they were surprised that there was not a unanimous vote for death. The 2 jurors
who didn't vote for death declined to be interviewed.
The group in the jury room had become a close-knit bunch over the 13 days of trial and most now still consider the
holdouts friends. Jurors said they tried in many ways to convince the two jurors to change their minds, but there was no
"It wasn't persuasion with a baseball bat," said John Coch-ran, jury foreman. "It was persuasion with a chopstick."
Jurors asked the holdouts how they would feel if their family member were the victim of the crime. Michael W. Trippe
said he reminded the holdouts of the crime scene photos, especially the one that showed the child's wounds.
But the 2 jurors would not change their minds.
The other jurors said they do not really know why the two holdouts did not vote for death, that they gave no reason
other than they just couldn't do it.
Some said they believe it may have been religious convictions.
One juror suggested race influenced the decision of the holdouts, but other jurors disagreed. The jury did split along
racial lines: 10 white jurors voted for death and a black juror and an Asian juror voted against it.
But in the end, jurors said, they may never know why they deadlocked. And that fact adds to their frustration.
"I really feel like our verdict was stolen from us," said Bailey, a 30-year-old bartender. "We feel robbed by 2 people for
reasons that were not really voiced."
Porter, the district attorney, said he was very disappointed by the decision. But he conceded it is very difficult to get a
death penalty sentence. In his 25-year career as DA, Porter said he has gotten death sentences in 5 of the 10
death-penalty cases he has taken to juries.
This experience has pushed some of the jurors to ask for a change in Georgia law so that criminals can be sentenced to
death by a supermajority of the 12-person jury.
"I could easily become an advocate for changing the law from unanimous to majority," Trippe said. "I wouldn't know
how to spearhead something like that, but I would certainly be willing to support that."
Mears said what the frustrated jurors don't understand is that the system did work. The law requires a unanimous
verdict for the finding of guilt. It should require no less to put someone to death, he said.
To Mears, the Wesley Harris case is an argument for doing away with the death penalty.
"The death penalty should not be used at all because it is not being proportionately handed out for similar crimes," said
Mears, who defends indigent death-penalty clients around the state. "You have people on death row who panic during a
7-11 robbery and shoot a clerk and they get the death penalty, and then Wesley Harris gets life without parole. That's
While Porter has voiced some strong public opinions about the jury's decision, he also said the Harris verdict was not
an indictment of Georgia's legal system.
"When you remove yourself from the emotion of this case it just shows that the death penalty is hard to get," Porter
said. "And that is how it should be. The death penalty is the ultimate punishment and it should be hard to get."
(source : Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
U.S. Department of Justice: Number of Death Row Inmates Declined for Fourth Year During 2004
There were 3,315 state and federal death row inmates on December 31, 2004, -- 63 fewer than on the same date in
2003, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The 2004 decline represents the
4th year in which the number of prisoners under death sentences decreased -- 3,601 were on death row at the end of
2000; 3,577 at the end of 2001; 3,562 in 2002 and 3,378 at the end of 2003.
During 2004, 125 inmates entered prison with death sentences, which was the lowest number since 44 were admitted
in 1973. This was the 2nd year in which death row admissions dropped - 169 were admitted in 2002 and 152 in 2003.
Among the 38 states with capital punishment laws as of December 2004, California held the most death row inmates
(637), followed by Texas (446), Florida (364) and Pennsylvania (222). The federal Bureau of Prisons held 33 inmates.
12 states and the District of Columbia do not authorize capital punishment.
During 2004, 12 states executed 59 prisoners, six fewer than in 2003. The inmates executed had been under a death
sentence for an average of 11 years, which was one month longer than the period for inmates executed in 2003. The
new BJS report also noted that:
All 59 persons executed during 2004 were men. 39 were white (3 of whom were Hispanic), 19 were black and 1 was
Asian. 58 were given lethal injection and 1 was electrocuted.
During 2004, Texas executed 23 inmates; Ohio 7; Oklahoma 6; Virginia 5; North and South Carolina 4 each; Alabama,
Florida, Georgia and Nevada 2 each and Arkansas and Maryland 1 each.
Of those awaiting execution on December 31, 2004, 56 % were white, 42 % black, and 2 % of other races.
The 367 Hispanic inmates under sentence of death were 13 % of all prisoners for whom the ethnicity was known.
52 women were under a death sentence at the end of 2004, 5 more than the year before.
Preliminary data for 2005 show that 13 states executed 49 inmates from January 1 through November 9; all were given
lethal injections. Texas executed 17, followed by Indiana and Missouri with 5, and Alabama and Oklahoma with 4
From January 1, 1977, through December 31, 2004, 32 states and the federal government executed 944 prisoners.
Of the 7,187 people under sentence of death between 1977 and 2004, 13 % had been executed, 4 % died by causes
other than execution, 37 % were removed from death row for various reasons and 46 percent were still on death row as
of last December 31.
At the end of 2004, 14 states had laws that specified a minimum age of less than 18 years old for which a death
sentence could be imposed. 6 states had no minimum age. Among inmates with death sentences for whom their arrest
age data was available, 63 were 17 years old or younger when they were arrested for their capital offense.
Four states revised statutory provisions relating to the death penalty during 2004. One state revised its statute to
exclude mentally retarded persons from capital sentencing. 1 states enacted laws increasing the age of eligibility for a
death sentence to 18 years at the time the murder was committed. One state repealed the use of the firing squad for all
persons sentenced to death on or after May 3, 2004.
The report, "Capital Punishment, 2004" (NCJ-211349), was written by BJS statisticians Thomas P. Bonczar and Tracy
L. Snell. Following publication this document can be accessed at:
For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics statistical reports programs, please visit the BJS
website at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs.
OJP provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and
assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two
offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the
Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates
the Weed and Seed program and OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be
found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.
(source: US Newswire)
Patriot Act stealth----The anti-terrorism statute may be used as a vehicle to rewrite death penalty laws
Much of the criticism of the USA Patriot Act has focused on the threat to basic liberties. That threat is still there, and it
should be taken seriously by the congressional conference committee that will soon decide whether to renew the act in
its present form, or strengthen or revise it. But the House has now added another reason to oppose a blanket renewal of
this legislation: It would vastly expand the way the federal death penalty is applied in all capital cases.
Under the proposed House language, a unanimous jury verdict would no longer be required to impose capital
punishment. Instead, a new jury could be impaneled by the prosecutor. That would end the current practice of requiring
a life sentence whenever a jury is deadlocked on a death sentence. Yet another change would allow a court to order a
trial with fewer than 12 jurors, even if the defense objected.
The proposed changes also would allow a capital verdict in terrorism cases even if there was no evidence that the
defendant intended to kill anyone. As the group Human Rights Watch points out, a person could "be sentenced to death
for providing financial support to an organization whose members caused the death of another, even if this individual
did not know or in any way intend that the members engage in acts of violence."
Incredibly, these provisions were approved by the House in a floor vote last summer, but are only now gaining wide
attention as the conference committee begins its debate on extending the Patriot Act. The vote was overwhelming,
according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
That will leave it up to the Senate to act responsibly, as it did last year when it excised similar provisions that had been
included in a House intelligence reform bill. Then as now the sponsor was Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, who believes in
the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.
The Patriot Act was passed in the days following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and reflected the high anxiety of
that moment. But in the years since, it has become clear that some of the act's provisions, such as enhanced government
powers of surveillance, were an overreaction. It's bad enough that these provisions may be extended by the conference
committee. But imagine if the Patriot Act were to become a Trojan horse for sweeping changes in the way the death
penalty is applied. That's chilling.
(source: Opinion, Albany Times Union)
The Death Penalty Is a Deterrent
In her Nov. 5 letter, Anne V. Hamilton said, "States that execute the most suffer the highest numbers of murders." Per
capita, that is not true.
According to the Web site of the Death Penalty Information Center, which Ms. Hamilton cited, Texas, which has
executed 353 criminals since 1976 (more than any other state), had a murder rate in 2004 of 6.1 per 100,000.
Michigan, which has had no death penalty since 1847, had 6.4 per 100,000.
Locally, Virginia, 2nd to Texas in executions with 94 since 1976, had a murder rate of 5.2 per 100,000; Maryland,
with only 4 executions in that time, had a rate of 9.4. The District, which has had no death penalty since 1972, had a
rate of 35.8.
Certainly, many factors affect crime rates, including quality of education, economic opportunities and law enforcement
diligence. But to argue that the death penalty is not generally a deterrent ignores one of the strongest of all human
self-preservation. As Ms. Hamilton says, the death penalty won't deter every suicidal terrorist. But most would-be
murderers do not want to die.
JOSEPH L. WHITNEY----Catlett, Va.
(source: Letter to the Editor, Washington Post)
Waiting for judgment: How a death penalty case is determined
Over the past few weeks, prosecutors in Northampton County have taken preliminary steps to seek the death penalty
against 2 teenagers and may seek it again this month for a 20-year-old man.
Those decisions came at the end of a long and complicated process during which Northampton County District
Attorney John Morganelli considered a series of "aggravating factors" laid out under state law.
On Nov. 3, Morganelli informed 19-year-old Omar Chaparro that he might seek the death penalty against him in the
murder of 50-year-old Bethlehem grocer Concepcion Martinez. The next day Morganelli said he would likely seek the
death penalty against Chaparro's alleged accomplice, Matthew G. Jenkins, 20, of East Allen Township.
Law enforcement officials say Chaparro and Jenkins entered Martinez's store in the 600 block of Broadway in August
with the intention of stealing money and cigarettes. Instead of going ahead with the robbery, Jenkins panicked and shot
Martinez when he charged at him, according to police.
Killing a person while committing another felony is one in that list of 18 aggravating factors prosecutors have to
choose from when seeking the death penalty.
In the case of 18-year-old Michael Staton, Morganelli's office also reserved the right to seek the death penalty because
Staton allegedly opened fire on a crowded porch. That action would put the crime under number seven of aggravating
factors for a defendant who "knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the
Ultimately, Staton's shots struck and killed 17-year-old Roy Jenkins as he stood on a porch in the 1000 block of
Northampton Street in July, police said.
Still, Morganelli said when he considers whether to seek the death penalty, ruling on cases similar to the one involving
Staton are among the toughest to call.
"Trying to prove that someone is in harm's way that's not an easy one," Morganelli said.
Another aggravating factor that Morganelli said he struggles with, is seeking the death penalty when a murder can be
linked to a crime involving drugs.
In 2 other pending cases Morganelli has also left open the death penalty option.
Kathy MacClellan, a 70-year-old Moore Township woman charged with killing her 84-year-old neighbor Marguerite
Eyer with a hammer. In that case the prolonged nature of the attack on Feb. 7 would be classified as torture, an
aggravating circumstance as is MacClellan's alleged robbery of the victim.
Morganelli also filed notice earlier this year of aggravating circumstances surrounding a potential death penalty
prosecution of Bethlehem resident Sonnie Thomas. Thomas is alleged to have killed Carlos Garcia with a samurai
sword during the course of a robbery on Jan 21. Thomas also allegedly set the body on fire.
Of course, just because a defendant gets a notice that prosecutors will seek the death penalty doesn't always mean they
will. In many cases the prosecutors may be using a death penalty threat to leverage a guilty plea with jail time from a
"In our history, our office doesn't always seek the death penalty," Morganelli said. "We feel that it is a favorable
condition if they plead guilty and get life with no possibility of parole."
But even those deals can backfire. Earlier this month, convicted murderer Russell Buskirk, 55, won the right to ask the
state Supreme Court whether he is entitled to have a death penalty hearing, claiming he was unaware of the burden of
proof on the state before the death penalty phase of his trial began.
Buskirk was found guilty in November 2001 of fatally shooting his friend Anthony Danubio during a drug deal and
robbery in June 2000.
"It was a very difficult case," Morganelli said of the Buskirk trial. "It wasn't the strongest death penalty case."
Instead of asking for death, the state withdrew its request for the death penalty and Buskirk in return forfeited all his
rights to appeal. But Buskirk later claimed he misunderstood the process and appealed in county court. When that was
rejected, Buskirk appealed to Superior Court, which agreed that Buskirk was entitled to a death penalty hearing.
New Jersey law also codifies the circumstances under which a murder is committed that qualify the defendant for the
death penalty. In a separate trial phase after a conviction or guilty plea, a New Jersey jury or judge has 12 aggravating
circumstances to ponder that qualify a defendant for execution.
Warren County prosecutors have had far fewer potential death penalty cases over the years than their Northampton
In their most recent opportunity to seek the death penalty, authorities in Warren County decided against it.
Alonzo Brown, 49, of Easton, allegedly shot two people Aug. 6, 2004, outside the Clarion Hotel and Conference
Center on Route 22 in Pohatcong Township. His former lover, Carmen L. Santiago Gonzalez, 36, of Allentown, died
but her companion that night, Theodore P. Harris, 45, of Glassboro, survived after being shot three times.
County Prosecutor Thomas S. Ferguson said several factors come into play when his office looks at whether to seek
the death penalty. A committee of assistant prosecutors is formed, and that committee then examines case law and
existing statutes before making a decision.
"It's a legal analysis," Ferguson said. "Some might rise to the level (of the death penalty) and some don't."
While there are several death row inmates in the Garden State, there hasn't been an execution in decades. Ferguson said
there is a debate among county prosecutors about whether it's even worth seeking the death penalty if defendants are
just going to languish on death row while exhausting their appeals.
"I think in New Jersey it's fair to say there's a debate amongst prosecutors whether it's a waste of time," he said. "I'm not
saying it is a waste of time, I'm just saying there is a debate."
He declined to say whether he thought the seldom-used death penalty process was a fair one.
"The system is the system and the results are the results," he said. "I'm not going to take a political position on it. It is
what it is."
Morganelli said he is supportive of the process in Pennsylvania, which was upheld as recently as 1990 when it was
challenged and later affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I think the Pennsylvania statute is a very good statute," he said.
(source: The Express-Times)
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