Friday, October 22, 2004

Charles Wesley Roache - North Carolina

The State of North Carolina executed Charles Wesley Roache early this morning. Roache had waived all of his appeals (save for the one mandatory appeal required by law). He stated he have given up his right to appeal his sentence in an attempt to show remorse to the survivors of his victims. Roache had asked his lawyers to do nothing to attempt to save his life, but many death penalty opponents argued the state should not put him to death without an evaluation of his mental competency to waive his appeals. Roache was pronounced dead at 2:18am this morning. He was 30 years old at the time of his death.

North Carolina executes killer of six

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ricky Morrow - Texas

Texas executed its fourth inmate this month tonight, its seventeenth this year.

Earlier this evening, Texas executed Ricky Morrow for the slaying of Mark Frazier in 1982. Morrow claimed the shooting was accidental and that he had not meant to kill Frazier. His attorneys disputed much of the testimony that was used by the jury to convict Morrow of capital murder as opposed to finding him guilty of "only" murder. Three Supreme Court justices favored a delay, but that was not enough for the Court to stay in execution.

Before his death, Morrow addressed his family and thanked his sisters for their support and told them he was headed to a better place. Morrow was pronounced dead at 6:32. He was 53 years old.

Ricky Morrow Executed

Sunday, October 17, 2004


You know, gang, I'm just not sure I can keep up with all of this. I do my searches to see what is new and I'm just overwhelmed by all that is out there. Its so hard to keep up. Part of it is sheer time and energy and part of it is that every article is draining, even the positive ones. I have a very busy couple of weeks coming up at my for-pay job. Then comes the election. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep posting regularly. Maybe I should make a point of posting once a week or something like that. I don't know. There's just too much going on to do that. Truth is, there aren't as many of you reading anymore.

I'm probably just down because of all the deluge of death penalty stuff going on. I'm sure I'll get over it. Sometimes, I still wish I could make this my life's work. You know, move to Texas or Florida or California or Virginia and spend my days running death penalty appeals. Truth is, I'm not sure I can afford that financially or emotionally. I know I would love it though.

I believe in our liberties. They are my biggest fear with this upcoming election. Its more than just capital punishment. Its drug sniffing dogs and injectable health care computer chips and infared cameras. Its wiretaps that were once illegal and now are common place. Its the number of men being held without counsel or trial in the name of "war" and "protection." Its the idea that gay individuals are somehow only half human. Its immigrants crossing raging rivers and the Arizona desert because they desire what the US has to offer but then dying before they ever get here. Its police banging down doors and searching homes in the name of "suspicious behavior" and "emergency." Its police officers following cars with black drivers and shiny wheels because they assume the driver is a criminal. Its black men being killed by police officers because they moved to pull out an ID and white men killing cops because the officers wrongly assumed it was just ID they were reaching for. Its the Federal Sentencing laws treatment of drug crimes as compared to any other crime (including violent ones).

And then, its millions of hungry children. Its homelessness run rampant and the lack of compassion and money to treat the metally ill. Its the idea that somehow you are not as valuable a part of society if you don't put on a suit and work in an office. Its the idea that people of arabic descent are glared at in fear when they travel (or elsewhere). Its the concept that because our "leaders" are Christians, that we must subscribe to their idea of right and wrong. Its the idea that our tax money is better spent on a war to "free" another nation than it is to pay for education, health care and social security here at home. Its those many americans who don't understand why the world hates us...

Of course, for so many voting in this election many of these things are very far away from them. They will never need to worry about having the police break down their door. Their son will never be pulled over simply because he is black (probably because he isn't). They will never lose their health care coverage or their union benefits or their social security. They will never be homeless or mentally ill. They will never have a loved one wrongly convicted of a capital crime (or any crime for that matter).

Ok. I'm done now. I guess I just needed a moment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Roper v. Simmons: Part II

Here is an article with a snippet of what went on during oral argument of Roper v. Simmons today. It appears that the justices and counsel had quite a lively debate. It will be interesting to read the transcript when it is available (usually about 10 days following argument).

Divided court considers teen executions

Roper v. Simmons: Part I

Here is an excellent article on the issues involved in the execution of juveniles case that was heard before the United States Supreme Court today (Roper v. Simmons). I will have much more to say on this issue (when I'm not drowning in my day job) in the next few days. For now, check this one out. I'll try to post an article about the oral arguments later tonight.

Court to weigh death for juvenile murderers
Here is an article in the Christian Science Monitor regarding the execution of juveniles. It covers both sides of the issue, but concentrates on the effect the question has on the families of the victims and the families of the condemned.

Is it wrong to put a juvenile on death row?
A conference of delegates of the California State Bar Association has voted to call for a moratorium on the death penalty in the State of California. If the State considers the Bar Association's resolution, it will be a powerful statement. 625 people await execution in California.

Conference of Delegates Calls for Moratorium On Death Penalty, Probe Into Fairness, Cost

Adremy Dennis - Ohio

This is one of those where I can only shake my head. Adremy Dennis' crime was a brutal one, and he never showed remorse for it (blaming it instead on the victim). It is one of those times where I am reminded of the sheer violence that happens in our society all around us that we never hear about. Dennis was 19 years old and drunk and high when he shot the victim, Kurt Kyle. How is it that he had a sawed off shot gun in the first place?

Nevertheless, I do not think the State of Ohio had a right to take his life. Who are we to decide? Dennis had no right to decide the end of Kyle's life, and the State has no right to decide the end of Dennis's. That is for a higher authority (even if that higher authority is nature itself).

The State of Ohio executed Adremy Dennis at 10:00am this morning. He was pronounced dead at 10:10. At the time of his death, Dennis was 28 years old. He was the youngest man ever to be executed by the State of Ohio.

State executes youngest inmate ever

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Donald Aldrich - Texas

The State of Texas executed Donald Aldrich tonight for his part in the gay bashing death of an east Texas man in 1994. Aldrich maintained throughout his confinement that he was not responsible for Nicholas West's death. He had admitted to playing a part in the events that led to West's murder but denied being involved in the shooting. There were also serious questions about evidence presented at Aldrich's trial that he was a danger to society. The psychologists who gave that testimony had never met or examined Aldrich. In fact, other reports on Aldrich's upcoming execution indicated that throughout his confinement he has shown no signs of violence. The importance of this question comes from the fact that to condemn a person to death in Texas, a jury must find that he or she would continue to be a violent threat if allowed to live.

Aldrich was pronounced dead at 6:18 pm CDT. He was 39 years old. Though West's family and friends did not attend the execution, Aldrich apologized to them and expressed hope of their forgiveness. I pray that God will be with both families tonight and they deal with the deaths of their sons.

Inmate executed today for slaying of gay man

Monday, October 11, 2004

Hold on to your hats; its a busy week! The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Roper v. Simmons on Wednesday (a case addressing the constitutionality of executing those who were juveniles at the time of their crimes). Then on Thursday through Sunday, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) will hold its National Anti-Death Penalty Conference. Sadly, I am not able to attend either event (though I would love to attend both)...darn that day job!
The DNA testing bill that has been sitting before Congress for the last few weeks was finally passed on Saturday. It is now on President Bush's desk for signature. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. This legislation will be vital in increasing the ability of crime labs to process DNA evidence in a timely manner. It will also provide funding for DNA testing as a part of post-conviction relief for those inmates proclaiming their innocence in federal crimes. A related portion of the bill provides incentives for the individual states to adopt similar policies.

DNA Crime Bill Headed to Bush for His Signature

Paul Gregory House

Attached is an column in The Tennessean about the travesty surrounding Paul House. As some of you may know, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard House's habeas appeal en banc and in a sharply divided opinion upheld his conviction. As part of that, six of the judges expressed in a dissent their opinion that House may very well be innocent of the underlying crime. The judges in the majority, however, found that House was properly convicted and should be executed. This is an interesting concept to me: (1) it takes a jury of 12 of an accused peers to agree that beyond a reasonable doubt the accused is guilty; (2) it then takes those same 12 peers to all agree that the accused deserves death for the crime; (3) then, 6 federal appeals judges can express their opinions that a condemned man is innocent and still his case proceeds to execution? Can someone explain this to me? 6 out of 15 judges is 2/5s of the panel. OVER ONE THIRD. Here's hoping the United States Supreme Court accepts review or the governor grants clemency. If not, and he is executed, we will never know if they executed an innocent man (especially considering that the victim's husband has confessed!).

Still on death row though six judges think he is innocent?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Looks like noted abolitionist and best selling author, Scott Turow, spoke at Stanford this week and explained to students the flaws he sees in the death penalty. Turow assisted with review of the Illinois death penalty system. Before that two year review, Turow was a self-proclaimed "death penalty agnostic." After spending two years reviewing the system and seeing all of its flaws, Turow is now an abolitionist. He is quoted as saying “the state will never be able to exact the ultimate punishment for the ultimate evils without also involving the innocent.”

Innocence is one of the biggest concerns about the application of the death penalty in this justice system (or any). Again, I wonder, why is it even worth the risk? How many innocent people have to be exonerated before our states wake up and realize that we have likely killed an innocent man for a crime he did not commit? What kind of closure and justice does that bring?

Turow Critiques Death Penalty

Friday, October 08, 2004

Edward Green III - Texas

Most of you who keep up with issues around death penalty abolition are aware of the problems with the Houston crime lab. Reportedly, a 280 boxes evidence from crime investigations related to 8000 different crimes was recently discovered. All of this evidence was mislabeled and wrongly stored. The evidence dates back over ten years. Obviously, this creates great problems when reviewing the possible innocence (not to mention the constitutional rights) of those convicted of those crimes. Likely most of those convicted were guilty of the crime. However, just the chance that even one was not is a big big deal. The chance that that one is serving on death row or has already been executed is a change you would think that Texas officials would not want to take. Nevertheless...

Edward Green, a Texas death row inmate convicted in Harris county during the period of suspect evidence, was executed in Huntsville on Wednesday evening. State officials were convinced of Green's guilt despite the evidenciary problems existing in Harris County (Green apparently confessed). Green was only 30 years old on the night of his execution and he was 18 years old at the time of the crime. Apparently, members of his family repeatedly told Green's mother that he was in a better place after his death. How's that for a statement: that her son was better off dead than sitting on death row in Texas. As always when someone is executed, my thoughts are with his or her family. My thoughts are also with the families of the victims and with the hope that now perhaps they will find some closure and peace. Closure and peace for the victim's family is about the only "positive" I can see from an execution (if any).

Most of you who read this know that my feelings about the execution of any inmate are strong. The fact that they may be innocent only increases my objection to their execution and makes me more sad and angry. Green likely was guilty, but there just seems something wrong to me about a system that will not pause for a moment to reexamine itself after a clear mistake has been revealed. I know that the community seems to want "swift justice," but what of the Ernest Willis's out there? If justice had been "swift" in his case, there would have been even more serious injustice than there already was. Why is it we do not take the utmost care?

Houston crime lab concerns don't halt execution

Peter Miniel - Texas

Peter Miniel, who had recently admitted he lied when claiming he was innocent of the murder for which he was convicted, was executed by the State of Texas last night. Like Hocker, Miniel had waived his remaining appeals and had asked to be executed. Though his family attended his execution, Miniel did not speak to them. He also did not address the family of his victim. In his statement confessing to the Associated Press this past month, Miniel claimed to have been high and drunk at the time of the murder. It was a senseless crime with no meaning behind it. Overtaken by drugs and alcohol, Miniel took a man's life. Now, the State of Texas has taken his.

Illinois man executed in Texas

David Kevin Hocker - Alabama

The State of Alabama executed Kevin Hocker on September 30th. Hocker had waived all of his appeals and had not sought Federal post-conviction relief. According to reports, Hocker's execution was the first time an inmate has been executed in Alabama without the Alabama Supreme Court reviewing his or her case. Hocker had admitted his guilt and had stated repeatedly that he wanted to die for his crime. There is also some speculation that he committed the murder in the fashion he did in order to be given the death penalty.

Hocker had no Supreme Court review before execution

Sammy Perkins - North Carolina

The United States Supreme Court denied Sammy Perkins' request for a continued stay to challenge the constitutionality of North Carolina's lethal injection process. Perkins was executed late last night after the governor denied his request for clemency.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling clears way for Perkins' execution

Ernest Willis

Here is another great article on Ernest Willis and his experiences on Texas' Death Row. It overwhelms me how long he spent on death row for a crime he did not commit. He as behind a steel door alone for 23 hours a day. That's one hour of sunlight, one hour of human contact, one hour of hour. I spend one hour a day driving back and forth to work...that's nothing!

Ex-death row inmate enjoying new freedoms

Michael Ross

An execution date has been set for Michael Ross in Connecticut after Ross stated he wanted to stop his remaining appeals. Unless he changes his mind, Ross will be executed in January. He would be the first person executed in Connecticut since 1960. The article contains some good quotes from the NCADP through David Elliot. Specifically, David is quoted regarding the apparent opinion on the death penalty in Connecticut. The fact that there has not been an execution there in over 40 years is a sign of the antipathy toward the death penalty. Connecticut is certainly not Texas or Florida when it comes to the death penalty, but that doesn't change the fact that they will execute someone in the next few months.

Death penalty on trial

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Ernest WIllis

All I can say is "Hallelujah!" Ernest Willis was freed from Texas' death row today after serving there for 17 years. The charges against Willis were dropped yesterday. He is a free man. The district attorney has been quoted as saying that he does not even think a crime was committed and that even if there was that Willis wasn't guilty. There is strong evidence the fire involved was accidental.

Willis was freed today with a set of clothing a $100. He held his wife of four years for the first time. Willis says he is a better man for the time he spent on death row. Still, how do you repay a man for 17 years of his life? He left prison with one set of clothing/shoes and $100. $100 will barely buy someone a night in a hotel and a hot meal. I guess don't get me started...I don't have time.

Death-row inmate freed after 17 years

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Many apologies everyone, my day job has been getting in the way of me keeping up on posting. Its been crazy around here lately. Unfortunately, that means I've missed a lot of news (including the upcoming arguments of Roper v. Simmons). I will be updating shortly and hope to get caught up.