Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Too funny. Apparently, there is a blogspot cyber-infringer out there at blogspot.org who runs directory websites through different blogspot domain names. So...if you want links to casino gaming, you can now turn to lonelyabolitionist on the blogspot.org server for several well populated searches (can you see my eyes rolling from there?).

Of course, I have no rights to the domain name lonelyabolitionist.blogspot.com or to the trademark "Lonely Abolitionist," but I still think its humorous...considering what I do for a living...

Thursday, August 26, 2004

James Vernon Allridge III - Texas

Well, they killed him. The State of Texas proved it has no mercy where it comes to convicted killers. I had come to a sort of peace with James' pending death sometime yesterday. It was around then that I knew he would not be getting another stay. Still, I cried tonight when I read of his death. I had never met James, nor had I even spoken to him, but he represented something to me about the human condition. James represented the meaning of a second chance. James received a lot of attention due to his art and the friendship he had developed with Susan Sarandon. However, its not his art that made him rehabilitated. Its not his friendship with Sarandon. Rehabilitation is about attitude and day-to-day actions. From everything I have read, that kind of rehabilitation was evident in James on the day he died and for many years before that. This man had changed.

James Allridge was pronounced dead this evening shortly after 6:00pm. His final statement was calm and specific. Allridge spoke to his family and then to his victim's family, stating, "I am sorry. I really am. You, Brian's sister, thanks for your love. It meant a lot. Shane, I hope he finds peace. I am sorry I destroyed you all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back. I love you all."

God bless you James. I trust you have peace. I pray that the Brian Clendennen's family has also found some sense of peace.

Remorseful store clerk killer executed in Huntsville

Windel Ray Workman - Oklahoma

Windel Ray Workman was put to death by the State of Oklahoma at 6:00 pm this evening. Workman maintained his innocence throughout his confinement. He was the sixth person executed in Oklahoma this year.

Death row inmates in Texas, Oklahoma executed
There's a new blog in town. The below link is to the blog of Stand Down Texas, an organization calling for a moratorium on executions in Texas and around the country. Its run by an old friend of David Elliot's by the name of Steve Hall.

Apparently, word around town is that if this blogging trend continues, I might have to change my moniker. Dare you!

Check it out!

StandDown Texas

Michael Lee Fullwood

The death sentence of Michael Lee Fullwood was overturned today for the second time. Fullwood was sentenced to death in 1985 for the stabbing murder of Deidre Waters. That sentence was overturned by the United States Supreme Court along with others based on constitutional problems with the North Carolina death penalty system. Fullwood was again sentenced to death in 1994 for Waters' murder. This week, a Federal Judge overturned this death sentence because there was evidence that one of the jurors on the 1994 jury knew of Fullwood's previous death sentence. It is not clear from the article if Fullwood will be given another sentencing trial or if a judge will decide between life sentences. Either way, for now, Fullwood is off of death row.

Please keep Deidre Waters family in your thoughts as this turn of events has doubtless stirred up all of the feelings related to Deidre's murder all over again.

Death sentence overturned

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Jasen Shane Busby - Texas

Jasen Shane Busby was put to death tonight in Huntsville, Texas. He was 28 years old. In his final statements, Busby acknowledged his role in the murders and apologized for the agony he had caused. Busby was only 19 at the time of the killings. He served almost one third of his life on death row. There is now a third victim to those killings. This one is a different kind of tragic, but doubtless no less painful for Busby's family. I hope and pray that his victims' families can now find some sort of peace--if this is what they needed to get there.

Inmate executed for double slaying of girls

Jasen Busby & James Allridge

Appeals have been filed on behalf of both James Allridge and Jasen Busby. With so much of the focus on James Allridge this week, Jasen Busby has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. Jasen's execution is scheduled for tonight. Though he has not been reported as rehabilitated, his execution is still a tragedy. Please keep Jasen, his family/friends and the families of the victims (including Christopher Kelly who survived the shootings) in your minds today and tonight. Incidentally, in one article I read regarding the Busby case, the sister/cousin of the victims recognized how Busby's pending death must be causing his family to feel. However, her first quote was that he must pay for what he did. She will not be attending the execution.

Appeals filed to halt executions today, Thursday

James Allridge: Update

I received an email from David Elliot of NCADP yesterday alerting me that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-0 to deny James clemency. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also rejected the bid for clemency.

In looking into this after getting David's email I found some articles on James and his quest for life. According to these articles, his attorneys are filing an emergency request for stay with the United States Supreme Court based on legal arguments of cruel and unusual punishment. The arguments contend that it would be cruel and unusual punishment to kill James after he has waited 17 years on death row and, in the meantime, has completely rehabilitated. Their arguments make the (VERY valid) point that in Texas the SOLE basis for a death sentence is future danger to society. Since James poses no such future danger, it would be cruel and unusual to kill him.

For more information, check out this link to an article republished from the Chicago Tribune. It is one of the few that I found that does not require registration on the website to read it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I have added a link on my side panel to "Capital Defense Weekly." Anyone who cares about what is going on in capital defense work should check it out. From what I can tell, the site is specifically designed as a legal resource for those who work defending death cases, but it is updated frequently and has a lot of great information for anyone interested in this issue.

Monday, August 23, 2004

One Horrible Week

Four men are scheduled to be killed this week. Among them is James Allridge who I've written a great deal about. Many sources have written about James because his is a truly amazing story. However, there are three other men scheduled for execution this week. Each of them is also valuable.

Wednesday, the State of Texas is expected to kill Jasen Busby. I've been unable to find any news articles on Jasen that consist of anything other than a description of the crimes for which he was convicted. Nevertheless, Jasen is a human being who will die at the hands of the government at around 6:00 pm tomorrow night. If anyone finds an objective news article on Jasen please let me know. Then, on Thursday, the State of Texas is expected to execute James Allridge. Allridge is guilty of capital murder, he has admitted that. However, ALL available evidence shows that Allridge has changed. If anyone is deserving of mercy and clemency it is James. (Of course, I don't think anyone should be killed, but I certainly cannot see how killing James serves society in any fashion. To me, there is not even a credible argument.) Around the same time that night (6:00CDT), the State of Oklahoma is scheduled to kill Windel Workman. NCADP has a write up on Windel you can link to here. I was not able to find any other news writings on Windel. The last scheduled execution of the week is the Nevada execution of Robert Ybarra, Jr. on Friday. While we do expect a stay for Ybarra, it is always possible that this stay will not come. If it does not, Ybarra will be executed on Friday night around 9:00PDT.

Please keep all of these men, their families, and the families of the victims of these crimes in your thoughts this week. I will post more information as I get it.
The attached link is to a very interesting column by a teenage intern at the Detroit Free Press. The column discusses the double standard our country presents when it holds teenagers accountable for things in the same manner as adults (among other things, capital punishment and paying taxes) but does not allow them to vote.

Teenagers have adult reasons to vote

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Here's another article on how June's ruling by the New York Court of Appeals has (apparently) confused the heck out of the criminal justice system in New York. I didn't think it was that hard. The Court said the law as it was was unconstitutional....so...there is no death penalty in New York until if and when (please God no) the state legislature brings it back with a "solution" to the problem. Those who are indicted for a crime committed during this time cannot be held liable with their lives. That would be an ex post facto application of a law and would violate the United States Constitution.

Across New York a Death Penalty Stuck in Limbo

Friday, August 20, 2004

My friend David Elliot, press god of the NCADP, has been updating his blog. If you haven't checked out the NCADP blog or the NCADP website, you should. NCADP is an outstanding organization that is working hard to get the word out on the travesty of the death penalty in the US and around the world. If this is an issue you care about, you should care about the NCADP.

David's blog (well, its really NCADP's blog but I still think of it as his) has a very good discussion of the new book out on the DNA exoneration: Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA. Go check NCADP out, both the blog and the website have excellent information and are updated regularly.
I apologize folks. Some of my links have not been working. I've gone in and cleaned them up. Hopefully, they will now work. Thanks for reading!

James Allridge

The attached link is to an outstanding article on James Allridge, a death row inmate in Texas who has rehabilitated and is seeking clemency.

Allridge also has a website. His website can be found here. There is also a site with a petition to keep Allridge alive.

No Mercy

David Dawson

How's this for irony? David Dawson of Montana's death row has informed the Montana Supreme Court that he does not want anymore actions taken on his behalf because he wants to die. According to Dawson's attorney (who has continued to file papers for Dawson despite his refusing her assistance), Dawson's life at the state prison, combined with the suicides of two of his fellow inmates this past year, have taken a toll on him and he no longer has the will to live. She believes Dawson shouldn't be considered to be acting knowingly and voluntarily.

Essentially, she's right. Dawson is choosing death over life. There's where we find the irony: Dawson is choosing a suicide path, but because he does not have the courage to kill himself (or the capability because of suicide watch), he is asking the state to kill him instead. What does that say about the conditions of death row in Montana? What does it say that two of the then six inmates on Montana's death row have already committed suicide because of the state of things?

Killer quits court fight-Lawyer says death row has taken its toll

Thursday, August 19, 2004

OK, I know people who are interested in this issue visit the blog. Doesn't anyone have any comments? Perhaps I should disable the comment feature eh? :-)

One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage dialogue, so feel free to comment. (within reason of course, I do reserve the right to delete comments that are inappropriate, offensive or rude).

James Bryant Hudson - Virginia

James Bryant Hudson was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia on Wednesday night. Hudson had waived all appeals and had requested an execution date. He plead guilty to the murders he was charged with and never challeneged his death sentence.

I'm never sure what to say when an individual asks to be executed. To me, it is essentially state assisted suicide. In terms of punishment, how can death be the ultimate punishment for someone if it is what they ask for? I mean, if one's argument for the death penalty is that certain murders deserve the most ultimate in punishment, how can you then justify an execution when the person being killed is choosing death over having to serve out his life in a prison cell? Logically, isn't the inmate essentially saying that he would rather die than spend his life in prison. This was certainly true of Terry Dennis who was killed last week in Nevada. It appears to also be true of Hudson. How is giving them what they want punishment? It ultimately only serves to punish the inmate's family. That, and it continues to push our society downward...

Hudson executed for three murders

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Angel Luis Mateo

The article linked below discusses the huge cost the State of New York spent to prosecute the death sentence of Angel Luis Mateo. Mateo was sentenced to death in 1998 for the 1995 murder of a Rochester man. His death sentence was vacated by the New York Court of Appeals in its landmark decision earlier this summer. Mateo will be resentenced next week and the most stringent sentence he can be given is life in prison without possibility of parole. This is the same sentence the jury who gave him death could have given him instead of death. The State has spent approximately $1.5 million on Mateo's death sentence. That cost includes prosecuting the punishment phase and assisting in his defense through the appeals.

Mateo case cost $1.5 million

Monday, August 16, 2004

Looks like its possible the State of Texas may be getting its head screwed on a little tighter. This fall, the legislature will consider altering the criminal justice system in Texas to give juries the option of life without possibility of parole along with the option of death in capital cases. Right now, juries can choose death or life with possibility of parole in 40 years. I guarantee that a change in this approach to life without possibility of parole will decrease the number of death sentences. Stories of juries surveyed that I've seen in the past indicate that a lot of the incentive at a death sentence is fear that a convicted murderer might some day be released if he or she is not executed. With an option of life without possibility of parole, a juror who might be inclined to think a defendant does not deserve death will not be as afraid to vote for a life sentence.

There is one quote in this article that is particularly disturbing. A resident of Huntsville (were the Texas death chamber is) was quoted as saying: "For every guy that didn't do it, there are 1,000 who did," he said. "Most of them are just animals. Anybody that doesn't like the death penalty, tell them to walk through death row and open all the doors and let them all out. I think they'd change their mind." The quote was made in response to an inquiry about what effect the fact that there may be innocent people on death row would have on his opinion of capital punishment. Of course, most of us abolitionists do not advocate letting capital murderers out on the streets. We abhor violence and believe those who participate in it should be punished. We abhor violence of any type, however, and are still able to recognize the intrinsic value of a human life. Its not all about the unequal application of the death penalty, the possibility of rehabilitation, or the possibility of innocence. Those are strong factors for me. Ultimately though, its about life and the government sanctioned murder of a human being in the name of justice.

Texas Weighs Its Life or Death Decisions
Here is an excellent article on former Illinois Governor George Ryan and his quest to end the death penalty. There are some good quotes from the former governor. I like this one on lethal injection in particular:

"Think of the evolution of the death penalty. No hanging. No shooting. No electrocution. That makes it more culturally acceptable? A prisoner injected with a drug before a theater of witnesses ... So there is no blood, no catching on fire, no feet dangling and twitching. Then society thinks it's not too bad?"

Life's quest-Former Gov. George Ryan continues to push for end of death penalty

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Todd Charles Boggess

North Carolina death row inmate Todd Charles Boggess was awarded a new trial by the North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday. According to the Supreme Court, there were problems with Boggess's jury from day one when the lower court allowed a juror on the panel who knew the victim's mother to remain. In addition, the Supreme Court found error with a jury instruction which implied to the jury that if they chose life in prison, Boggess might be paroled at some point. In North Carolina, a life prison term for a convicted first degree murder is automatically life without possibility of parole. This jury instruction issue is VERY similar to the issue which the New York Court of Appeals found improper. The instruction was different, but essentially, the effect was the same: the jury may be choosing death because they fear if they don't the defendant will someday be released on parole.

Man on death row gets new trial

Friday, August 13, 2004

Terry Jess Dennis - Nevada

Terry Jess Dennis was executed by the State of Nevada last night. Dennis had volunteered for execution and had vehemently waived all of his appeals. However, there are serious questions about Dennis' competence to choose execution. He had attempted suicide several times over the course of his incarceration and readily admitted he did not want to live.

Nevada death row inmate executed for 1999 Reno strangling
The New York State Senate voted on Wednesday to adopt the bill proposed by Governor Pataki to "fix" the New York death penalty.

Senate passes Pataki Bill

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

James Vernon Allridge III

Supporters of Texas death row inmate James Vernon Allridge III including his attorneys and family are asking the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend life in prison. As of today, Allridge is scheduled to be executed on August 26th.

Allridge is, by all accounts, rehabilitated. He is not asking for absolution or for release but rather to be allowed to live his life out behind bars. I have more information on Allridge below in a previous post and I'm sure will be posting more about him as the next couple of weeks play out.

Supporters seek life for Death Row artist

Larry Eugene Hall

The South Carolina Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of Larry Eugene Hall. Hall has served 12 years on death row for the murders of two teenage girls in the early 1990s. The Supreme Court found comments made by the solicitor during closing arguments to be improper because he asked the jury to weigh the life of Hall against the lives of the two victims.

Convicted Killer's Death Sentence Tossed

James Reid

The United States Supreme Court has overturned the stay of execution the United States Court of Appeals had granted James Reid this past December. Four of the Justices dissented.

Supreme Court vacates stay of execution

Nicholas Yarris

Nicholas Yarris was released from Pennsylvania's death row in January of this year when DNA evidence cleared him (DNA under the victim's fingernails, on her undergarmets, and in the killer's gloves belongs to a different man). Yarris announced today that he will sue Delaware County for damages for the 20 years he spent behind bars contemplating his own death.

Cleared by DNA, death row con will sue Delco
New York's governor, George Pataki, has introduced a bill in the New York legislature to "fix the flaw" in the New York death penalty. Pataki's proposed measures would give juries more options and would require a sentence of life without parole in cases where juries deadlocked. While this provision will give juries another option (instead of forcing them to choose death because they know if they remain deadlocked a judge will give out only a 25 year sentence), it will also negate the New York Court of Appeals ruling in June which essentially ended the death penalty in the State of New York. New Yorkers, now is the time to call your local legislators!

Pataki Introduces Bill to Restore Death Penalty

Monday, August 09, 2004

Ryan Matthews

After more than seven years on Louisiana's death row, Ryan Matthews has been exonerated. Today, a hearing was held that officially dropped the charges against Matthews. Matthews was on death row for the 1997 robbery and murder of Tommy Vanhoose. Matthews has always maintained his innocence and says he never gave up hope. DNA evidence ultimately vindicated Matthews when hair from a ski mask thrown from the getaway car was matched to that of another Louisiana inmate, Rondell Love. There have also been reports that Love has bragged about killing Vanhoose.

DNA evidence frees La. death row inmate

James Adams

This article from Sunday's Miami Herald is a moving account of the story of James Adams who was electrocuted by the State of Florida in 1984 for the murder of Edgar Brown. Twenty years after Adams' execution there remain serious doubts about his guilt. The entire case was built on circumstantial evidence. Furthermore, according to the article, for every piece of circumstantial evidence pointing at Adams' guilt there was a piece of countering circumstantial evidence that argued for his innocence.

Read the account, I'm sure you'll find the handling of the evidence and the prosecution of the case disturbing. Of course I feel that Adams should not have been executed even if he was guilty. However, the very idea that he might have been innocent makes me extremely angry and fills my heart with true sorrow and regret. Not only might an innocent man have lost his life, somewhere out there is a murderer who watched another man die on his behalf. He's responsible for two murders as far as I'm concerned: Edgar Brown and James Adams.

20 years after a man's execution, doubts over his guilt haunt case

Terry Dennis

The Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty is holding a candlelight vigil before the execution of Terry Dennis on Thursday. Dennis has waived his appeals and asked to be executed. The candlelight vigil will take place outside the Nevada State Prison in Carson City from 7:30 to 9:00 on Thursday evening. Dennis is scheduled to be executed at 9:00.

Las Vegas SUN: News briefs for August 9, 2004
This link is to a very interesting column in the Houston Chronicle about the standard applied when attempting to prove a wrongful conviction. The article is particularly focused on Texas, but it also addresses how federal courts deal with the same question. I guess I was never aware of what a wrongfully convicted prisoner faces in getting himself or herself released. The column discusses one case in particular where it appears the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals left a man to his prison sentence even though the DNA on the rape victim was not his. The Court apparently did not even order a new trial. To convict someone, a prosecutor must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. According to this column, once that guilt beyond reasonable doubt has attached, it nearly impossible to overcome. In the State of Texas, you must prove actual innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. This, in a jurisdiction that has killed three times as many inmates as the state with the next highest execution total.

Law tough on wrongly convicted
Here is another article on the upcoming ABC News series "In the Jury Room" wherein ABC will broadcast edited footage of the jury deliberations in the death penalty case of Mark Ducic.

In the Jury Room

Thursday, August 05, 2004

James Barney Hubbard - Alabama

Well, they killed him. The State of Alabama executed 74 year old James Hubbard tonight. After 25 years on death row, Hubbard was pronounced dead at 6:36 pm tonight. Hubbard reportedly had colon cancer, prostate cancer and dementia. According to his lawyers, he was hardly able to stand. Still, the State insisted on killing him before his body laid down and died on its own. What purpose does that serve I wonder? From what I understand, there was likely no question Hubbard was guilty, but this one isn't about whether the Justice system got it right. This one is about human dignity. The purpose certainly isn't deterrence. I highly doubt any potential murderers out there are going to shudder in their shoes when thinking about Hubbard's execution. He spent 25 years on death row. That's over one third of his life. Is it retribution? The man was dying anyway. He had spent most of his life in a prison. How does this pay back society? Perhaps it is meant to be punishment, but frankly I think the real person punished was Hubbard's daughter.

I wish the Supreme Court dissenters had drafted an opinion. I would have liked to read what they had to say. I think its unfortunate that the majority doesn't have to issue an opinion on the question presented. I suppose though that by denying a stay, the Court is really saying that 74 is not too old. Here's hoping that this decision is not a sign of what may come with Roper and the execution of juveniles.

Alabama Executes 74-Year-Old James Hubbard

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

James Hubbard take II

Here's another article on the Hubbard execution scheduled for today. This one is more detailed. Once again, it includes some good quotes from our friend David Elliot of NCADP.

Execution Plan Draws Pleas for Killer, Ailing and 74

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This article seems a bit biased, but I wanted to post it anyway. The article briefly discusses a greeting card business that Texas death row inmate, James Vernon Allridge III has started. The focus of the article is on a lawsuit being filed by the Victims Rights Office of the city of Houston. Apparently, there is a law in Texas known as the "murderabilia" law which arguably allows the State of Texas to confiscate any profits made by an inmate from their "ill gotten notoriety." In the article, Director of the Victims' Rights Office, Andy Kahan, expresses bafflement at the fact that actress Susan Sarandon visited Mr. Allridge and purchased some of his greeting cards. Mr. Kahan finds it difficult to understand why Ms. Sarandon would participate in supporting Mr. Allridge instead of making the same efforts to support the victims' families. What Mr. Kahan may fail to understand is that abolitionists like Ms. Sarandon and myself (I certainly am not trying to speak for Ms. Sarandon, but rather am hypothesizing her opinions) see the men and women on death row as additional victims. What makes it even more difficult to swallow is that the murder of those men and women is planned and executed (for lack of a better term) by our government...by our GOVERNMENT. Yes, most of those awaiting their deaths in our nation's death houses committed horrific crimes. Their victims certainly deserve nurturing and support. However, for those of us who believe that the death penalty is a moral outrage, those inmates who await their deaths need nurturing as well. They have become additional victims. Moreover, their families have become victims who now must deal with the murder of child, sibling or parent. Why do we need to create MORE heartache in the name of retribution, deterrence and finality? It certainly does not achieve justice. Why does the almighty state think that killing another human being creates closure? Does a victim's pain and anguish go away after he watches his loved one's killer filled with poison? Something tells me its not that easily relieved.

Texas Death Row Inmate's Greeting Cards Stir Controversy

Monday, August 02, 2004

James Hubbard

James Hubbard is scheduled to be executed by the State of Alabama on Thursday, August 5th. Hubbard is 74 years old and has been on death row for 25 years. He is one of the oldest awaiting execution in the nation. Hubbard's lawyers have asked an appeals court to block Hubbard's execution and have asked the Governor of Alabama to have mercy on their client. Hubbard suffers from several medical conditions including dementia. His lawyers contend that, in addition to his age and the length of time he's been awaiting execution, these conditions make him incompetent to be executed.

My problem with Hubbard's execution is less his age and more the time he has awaited execution. Now, granted, I am grateful that he's been allowed to live for 25 years. However, I think it is cruel and unusual punishment to force someone to sit on death row for a third of their lifespan only to then finally kill them when they are in their 70s. I have to admit, it appears as though perhaps Hubbard just finally became too much to care for. Is that skeptical of me? Perhaps. Why now, though? What has sparked the need to kill Hubbard now? What purpose does it serve? Isn't it punishment enough that he's sat in a prison cell alone for 25 years contemplating his own murder? Isn't it enough that he has had to sit and remember why he's there? That kind of mental anguish is cruel and unusual. What a catch 22. You can stay alive, but you have to be tortured mentally until you are in your 70s. Then, we'll decide we're ready to put you out of your misery.

Incidentally, there is a great quote from David Elliott in this article. David is the spokesperson for the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He is also a reader of this Blog. If you get a moment, take a look at David's abolition Blog. You'll find it in my list of links to the right.

Pending Execution of 74 year old James Hubbard

Roper v. Simmons

For those of you interested in the upcoming United States Supreme Court case Roper v. Simmons, which will address the Constitutionality of the execution of juvenile offenders, the American Bar Association is hosting a website with links to many of the briefs and amicus briefs filed before the Court.

Amicus Briefs - Juvenile Death Penalty
Does this disturb anyone else? Apparently, ABC will air a documentary on August 10th and 11th which documents the jury deliberation process in a death case. The film makers gained permission of all parties involved including the defendant and the Ohio Supreme Court. Still, I wonder how those cameras might have changed the jurors attitudes and altered the process. This is a man's life we're talking about. I'm all for showing the public what happens when people have someone's life in their hands, but I am also concerned that our quest to show this process could alter someone's destiny.

Cameras Report, the Jury Decides