Monday, January 31, 2005

Michael Ross: Legal Update VI

Well, I never thought there would be a legal update VI, but there is. Michael Ross has now requested a psychiatric exam (or he will later today). His execution is scheduled for 9:00 tonight, but a request for a psychiatric exam should stay that date with death. If so, the state's death warrant will expire at the end of the night. The state will then have to go back to the courts for another warrant.

Serial Killer Seeks Examination Instead of Execution Today

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Michael Ross: Legal Update V

This time, the delay in the execution of Michael Ross is at the request of the attorney Ross hired to fight FOR his execution. The lawyer requested the delay after federal District Judge Robert Chatigny addressed him and threatened to have his license if evidence emerged that Ross is indeed incompetent and counsel fought for his execution despite knowing of such evidence. Ross is now scheduled to die at 9:00 p.m. on Monday.

Lawyer Request Delays Connecticut Execution

Friday, January 28, 2005

Michael Ross: Legal Update IV

The Supreme Court has lifted the 22 hour stay put in place by the Second Circuit. Connecticut will execute Michael Ross at 2:01 am Saturday morning.

Serial killer to die Saturday

Michael Ross: Legal Update III

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has overturned the temporary restraining order issued by District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on Wednesday. However, the Second Circuit stayed its ruling until 12:01 Sunday morning in order to give Dan Ross, Michael's father, time to appeal its decision to the United States Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court rules before 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning then Ross will be executed on schedule. If it does not rule until sometime during the day on Saturday, then the state will not get its execution until after 12:01 Sunday morning. Based on its earlier rulings in this case, it is doubtful that the Supreme Court will reinvoke the restraining order. However, stranger things have happened.

Court Overturns Ross Restraining Order

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Exonerated

Court TV is showing the TV movie version of the off-Broadway play The Exonerated several times this week. I strongly encourage you to tune in. Record it and show it to all of your friends. The play is powerful and I'm sure the TV movie version will be exceptionally well done. The six real-life individuals portrayed in the play are being read on screen by Susan Sarandon, Brian Dennehy, Aidan Quinn, Danny Glover, Delroy Lindo and David Brown Jr. These are amazing actors telling heart wrenching stories. If you care about this movement (or even if you don't and you just want to view amazing true life drama), you cannot miss The Exonerated. These portrayals are real people with real histories and real experience on death row. Their stories are important.

Sarandon is a noted death penalty activist (I imagine she would be alright with that term, but to be honest I'm not sure I've seen her use it). In the article I've linked below, she is quoted as saying: "What an individual will feel or want to do is different from the rules you want your government to apply, and how you treat your prisoners and how you apply your justice is one of the main tenets of society. It's a very mixed message to teach your kids to use words to work things out and then have a government that so blithely and capriciously doles out the death penalty. It's a completely corrupt system." I've never thought to explain myself in this way. People ask me all the time what I would do if one of my beloved were the victim of a horrible murder. It's possibly the hardest question to answer. I am against the application of the death penalty in all cases, but I imagine that if someone I loved dearly were murdered my anger and grief would rock me to the core. Sarandon's statement clarifies what I want my answer to be: what I may feel or want to do is different from the rules I want the government to apply; how we treat our prisoners and how we apply justice is one of the main tenets of our society. Indeed, it speaks to the very value we place on humanity.

TV movie tells stories of death row's exonerated

(As an aside, how amazing does Ms. Sarandon look in those Revlon ads she's been doing? There are so many people UNDER fifty who wish they could look like that. GOOD FOR YOU...and many props to Revlon for recognizing true quality and attraction! You go girl!)

Michael Ross: Legal Update II

In another 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court overturned the stay of execution granted to Michael Ross (well actually to those acting in Ross' interests) by District Court Judge Robert Chatigny earlier this week. There is one more appeal pending before the Second Circuit. Chances are, no matter how the Second Circuit rules on that appeal, the case will again go to the United States Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the State of Connecticut has scheduled Ross' execution for 2:00am Saturday morning. Barring any emergency stays to grant the Court more time for review (unlikely), Connecticut will go through with its first lethal injection and its first execution in over forty years.

Curiously, the USSC vote was 5-4. The Chief Justice has been working from home and has not been hearing oral argument or voting on many of the other non-emergency cases on the Court's 2004-2005 calendar. Yet, he took part in this vote (and has in other death penalty stay cases). As such, there was no possibility of a tie.

Supreme Court lifts stay on Ross execution

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Kenneth Richey

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has granted Kenny Richey a new trial. The Sixth Circuit called Richey's original defense "incompetent" and indicated that his numerous failed appeals were "injustices." Richey was convicted in 1987 for setting a fire that killed a two year old girl. He has been on death row in Ohio ever since.

There is a possibility that Richey is innocent. He will now get a new trial and the prosecution will be held to its burden a second time (this time presumably, Richey will have a sufficient and even zealous defense). If Richey is found not-guilty, it will mean that the State of Ohio has held a foreign national on death row for almost twenty years in connection with a crime for which he could not be proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. The state has 90 days to decide whether to retry Richey. If it chooses not to retry him, it will have to release him.

Richey is a native of Scotland and a British citizen (he holds dual citizenship with the United States). Members of the British Parliament have been up in arms about Richey's death sentence and have pleaded with the governor of Ohio to save Richey's life. Of course, the UK does not have a death penalty. Imagine that...

UK Man Granted New Trial in Ohio Arson Murder (Reuters)

Death Row Briton's Conviction Overturned (The Independent)

As a side note, the differences in the two articles linked above are quite telling.

For more information on media coverage of this case, see the NCADP blog.

Michael Ross: Legal Update

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the decision of the United States District Court to stay the execution of Michael Ross to allow more time to evaluate his competency. The state is now appealing to the United States Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg can lift the stay herself or refer the case to the entire Court for review. Considering who Ginsburg is now and who she was before she joined the Court, all bets are on her referring the case to the full Court. Ross vehemently objects to assertions that he is incompetent and continues to insist that he be executed as soon as possible. Stay tuned!

Appeals court halts Ross execution

Additionally, for those of you interested in receiving up to date information on the Ross case, please check out Kirby's Reports. Kirby's Reports blogs Connecticut legal news and has been tracking the press and case decisions on the Ross execution in detail.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Timothy Don Carr - Georgia

The State of Georgia performed its first execution of the year tonight. Timothy Carr was pronounced dead at 8:37 this evening. Both the United States Supreme Court and the Georgia Supreme Court refused to block his execution, despite strong arguments that Carr committed the murder under the explicitly direction (and some say control) of his girlfriend (who received a life sentence and could receive parole). Carr's other two accomplices were 16 at the time of the crime. One served no prison time and the other served 18 months in a juvenile detention center.

Timothy Carr was 34 at the time of his death. Before entering the death chamber, Carr expressed regret and apologized for his crime.

Tim Carr Executed

Troy Kunkle - Texas

This time, the title is in italics. There was no last minute stay for Troy Kunkle tonight. The State of Texas executed him around 8:00. Kunkle's execution was originally scheduled for 6:00 but was delayed two hours while the United States Supreme Court considered arguments of his counsel in a last minute appeal. Obviously, the Court denied that appeal.

Before his death, Kunkle asked for forgiveness. He stated: "I would like to ask you to forgive me. I made a mistake and I am sorry for what I did. All I can do is ask you to forgive me. I love you and I will see all of you in Heaven. I love you very much. Praise Jesus. I love you."

On the day of his death, Troy Kunkle was 38 years old. He was 18 at the time of the murder for which he was killed. All totaled, Kunkle spent more than half of his life on death row.

Troy Kunkle Executed

Troy Kunkle: Legal Update

The United States Supreme Court is considering tonight whether to block Troy Kunkle's execution. I'll update as I know more. Kunkle was scheduled to be executed at 6:00 pm this evening.

Kunkle Case Before US Supreme Court

George Jones

Miracle of miracles! (does my sarcasm ever get old? Huh, didn't think so...)

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted George Jones a stay. Jones was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, but the Court granted a stay in order to provide time to study Jones' mental capacity and to determine if he is eligible for execution under the United States Supreme Court's decisions involving mental illness and mental retardation.

Timothy Don Carr

The Georgia Parole Board has denied Tim Carr's request for clemency. The Board deliberated for four hours before making its decision. The State is scheduled to execute Carr at 7:05 EST this evening.

Carr's arguments for clemency were legitimate. Four individuals were involved in the crime for while Carr is being executed. Carr is the only one who received the death penalty. Two of the individuals were teenagers at the time of the crime and they received time in a juvenile facility and submission to social services. The fourth individual was Carr's girlfriend, Melissa Burgeson. Burgeson received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. According to Carr's counsel and his family, Carr was really "the puppet" of Burgeson and the murder would not have taken place without her involvement and urging. Burgeson--the adult female--has a possibility of future release. Carr--the adult male--is set to be executed. Both were convicted of the same crimes (murder and theft). What does that say?

Parole board denies stay, appeal for Carr

Monday, January 24, 2005

Michael Ross

And then there were three...only three I mean. A federal judge in Connecticut has stayed the execution of Michael Ross. This leaves "only" three executions this week (Timothy Carr, Troy Kunkle and George Jones).

Ross has volunteered for his execution; he's waived all appeals and asked to be put to death. The federal court, however, wants time to review Ross' mental competency. One expert testified that Ross wants to be executed because he finds life unbearable on death row. For that expert, such a thought pattern demonstrates that Ross is not capable of making rational decisions about his death. If Ross is executed, his will be the first execution in Connecticut in over forty years.

Connecticut execution postponed
OK. I know I'm violating my "no off-topic posts" rule, but I'm so irritated I could just scream. GRRRRRR. The United States Supreme Court ruled 6-2 today that drug sniffing dogs can be used at routine traffic stops without probable cause. %&$#(*

Ok. I'm done now.

Drug sniffing dogs okay at traffic stops

For more on this, see Scott Henson's great post at Grits for Breakfast.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Donald Beardslee - California

This is the first time I've had the state of California in italics in one of my post titles. This is true, of course, because for the first time in three years, California executed one of its over 600 death row inmates. Donald Beardslee was executed by lethal injection at 12:20am PST this morning. He died just nine minutes later.

Beardslee had filed several appeals and moved the governor for clemency. His last two appeals were denied by the United States Supreme Court earlier on January 18th. Governor Schwarzenegger also denied his request for clemency. Like many of those executed by our governments, Beardslee was no choir boy. There is no question that he committed two hideous murders. No one argued that he was innocent...or even "not guilty." However, there were serious legal questions about the application of the death penalty (under the laws of California) to Beardslee. Even if he knew right from wrong (as stated by the governor), doesn't his severe brain damage and the related ability of others to control and manipulate him decrease his culpability at least a small amount? Why was he the only one of the three involved in the murders to be given death? There is also the question of the chemicals used to paralyze. That is an overarching question. The chemicals certainly do paralyze the viewers from having to witness the body's true reaction to euthenization; however, what if they don't paralyze the man being killed? What if he can't move or speak but can feel? How is this different than the difficulties with hanging, the gas chamber, a firing squad or the electric chair?

California executes double murderer

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Ronald Rompilla

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Ronald Rompilla today. The case will define how a state must approach the penalty phase of a trial and what a jury is entitled to know before sentencing a defendant to death. In Rompilla's case, the jury was not informed that, under Pennsylvania law, it could impose a sentence of life without parole. In Pennsylvania, the jury is apparently not entitled to know about the option of life without parole even if it asks. As such, Rompilla's jury could not be clear regarding the chances of Rompilla's release if it refused to impose death. If a jury is not aware of a life without parole option, it may assume that it must give him or her death in order to prevent future harm. In a way, it takes the choice away from the jury because it plays on their fear. This is especially key in Rompilla's case since the prosecution apparently implied that Rompilla would be a danger to society if he were ever released. Though it supposedly never directly stated that Rompilla would be a future danger, it implied it by concentrating on his past criminal history.

High Court Hears Pa. Death Row Appeal

Donald Beardslee: Legal Update

The United States Supreme Court and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have both refused to stay the execution of Donald Beardslee. Barring any last minute reprieve, California will execute Beardslee at one minute after midnight tonight. Beardslee's lawyers have asked the Governor for a 120 day reprieve to allow the federal courts time to review evidence regarding the constitutionality of the chemicals used in lethal injection. This reprieve is doubtful considering the Governor's refusal of clemency earlier today.

If Beardslee is executed, it will be the first execution in California in over three years.

Last reprieve for Beardslee? Clemency and appeals are denied

Monday, January 17, 2005

Donald Beardslee

Here is an interesting LA Times editorial on the death penalty in California. It focuses on Donald Beardslee's upcoming execution and the problems with the application of death in his case, but it also discusses the inherent problems with California's death penalty (and any other state's!). In particular, it addresses the question of unequal application of death. Its the same issue I hound on about once a month: who decides who lives and who dies? What makes one person fit for a death sentence but not another?

At least California takes the appeals process seriously. Of course, in Beardslee's case, it means he's spent over 20 years on death row waiting for his own murder. It also means that the victim's family has dealt with Beardslee and his appeals process for over 20 years. Now, do I want Beardslee to be executed earlier? HECK NO. The system needs to go the course to at least assure some sense of constitutionality. Thing is, after all these years, what purpose does killing him serve? He's 61 years old with some serious brain damage from childhood that likely influenced the progression of his crimes. Does it bring some sort of closure after 20 years? Wouldn't life without possibility of parole have served some closure? At least then he'd be put in a cell for the remainder of his natural life, an anonymous number deep in the fortress of a California prison. He'd have limited appeals and would likely never be heard from again.

California's Death Penalty Lie

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Troy Kunkle Update

Troy Kunkle's execution has been rescheduled for January 25th. Mea culpa on the January 19 date listed below. Apparently, I had old information.

Editorial by Donald Connery

I encourage you all to read this essay. Mr. Connery is writing a book on miscarriages of justice. He has followed case after case of wrongful conviction and has studied the application of the death penalty throughout the United States. A Connecticut resident, he has an interesting perspective on resuming executions in Connecticut. Mr. Connery has been a journalist most of his life, a career he began after serving in the Philippines during World War II.

If you have questions about Connecticut's execution of Michael Ross (or the death penalty in general), please do read this essay.

"We are all, of course, on God's death row, saints and sinners alike. Losing a life is personal, especially if it is our own. Taking a life is personal, especially if we freely choose to do so."

You Me and the Death Penalty

Michael Ross

In reaction to the upcoming execution of Michael Ross, the Roman Catholic bishops in Connecticut are circulating a letter to be read in each of the parishes in their dioceses this weekend. The letter relates the Church's teachings on the death penalty and emphasizes that the Church teaches that Catholics must respect all human life, even that of murderers. The letter is also meant to encourage parishioners to sign an upcoming petition that calls on the state legislature to abolish the death penalty.

The attached article discusses the bishops' letters as well as religious reactions to the death penalty in general. There was one quote that stuck out to me in particular. It came from a Rev. Allie Perry regarding Michael Ross: "'These are horrific crimes. It's human to feel angry and to call for revenge and retaliation,' she said. 'But if retaliation and retribution is the basis of law, then we become that which we abhor.'" (emphasis added). I encourage you to read the article. As always I tried to provide a link to a page that does not require a login.

Catholics will be urged to oppose death penalty for Ross

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Paul Gregory House

If you are interested in the case of Paul House of Tennessee, the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing has an excellent website with information and press about Paul's case. For those of you unfamiliar with his story, Paul House is an inmate in Tennessee who was convicted of raping and killing his neighbor. Paul has denied committing these crimes. Recently, DNA analysis of the semen on the victim's clothes showed that the semen belonged to the victim's husband. Several witnesses have also testified that the victim's husband confessed to the killing. This provides STRONG evidence that Paul House did not commit this crime. I believe Paul will be exonerated and released. For now, his case is on hold. In October, the United States Court of Appeals denied to vacate his sentence (even though 6 of the 15 judges hearing the case wrote that they believe House is innocent). The United States Supreme Court is Paul's next option.

Paul House has spent almost 20 years on Tennessee's death row for a crime it appears he did not commit. He should certainly not be executed for it. Paul is also running out of time. Suffering from a serious case of Multiple Sclerosis, he may not live to see himself taken off of death row. If that happens, an innocent man will have died on death row having spent almost half his life there for a crime for which he was not responsible. That tragedy would almost equal the tragedy of Paul being murdered by his own government for absolutely no reason.

Paul Gregory House: Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing

James Porter - Texas

Texas executed the first man of the year tonight. Shortly after 6:00 CST tonight, James Porter was pronounced dead. Porter had dropped all of his appeals and asked to be executed. It was a state sponsored suicide. A former white supremacist, the 33 year old Porter killed a fellow prisoner who was serving a sentence for molesting a child. At the time, Porter thought of it as a service to society. Recently, however, Porter acknowledged he should not have taken Delgado's life and talked openly about his religious conversion.

Texas Executes Killer for Prison Slaying

Edward Bell

A federal judge in Virginia has granted Virginia death row inmate Edward Bell a stay of execution to allow Bell to proceed with his federal habeas appeals. Bell has exhausted his state appeals and was scheduled to be executed on January 7th.

Bell Granted Stay