Monday, July 31, 2006

Execution Update

Again, I've been negligent about my obituary updates (or just updates in general). Tonight I went to update with some general news about death penalty cases and I thought perhaps I should at least give note to those many executions since the last time I updated. Here they are.

Stanley Williams - California - December 13, 2006 - 51 years old
John Nixon - Mississippi - December 14, 2006 - 77 years old
Clarence Ray Allen - California - January 17, 2006 - 76 years old
Perrie Simpson - North Carolina - January 20, 2006 - 43 years old
Marion Dudley - Texas - January 25, 2006 - 33 years old
Marvin Bieghler - Indiana - January 27, 2006 - 58 years old
Jaime Elizalde - Texas - January 31, 2006 - 34 years old
Glenn Benner - Ohio - February 7, 2006 - 43 years old
Robert Neville, Jr. - Texas - February 8, 2006 - 31 years old
Clyde Smith, Jr. - Texas - February 15, 2006 - 32 years old
Tommie Hughes - Texas - March 15, 2006 - 31 years old
Patrick Moody - North Carolina - March 17, 2006 - 39 years old
Robert Salazar, Jr. - Texas - March 22, 2006 - 27 years old
Kevin Kincy - Texas - March 29, 2006 - 38 years old
Richard Thornburg - Oklahoma - April 18, 2006 - 40 years old
Willie Brown, Jr. - North Carolina - April 21, 2006 - 61 years old
Daryl Mack - Nevada - April 26, 2006 - 47 years old
Dexter Vinson - Virginia - April 27, 2006 - 43 years old
Joseph Clark - Ohio - May 2, 2006 - 57 years old
Jackie Wilson - Texas - May 4, 2006 - 40 years old
Jermaine Herron - Texas - May 17, 2006 - 27 years old
Jesus Aguilar - Texas - May 24, 2006 - 42 years old
John Boltz - Oklahoma - June 1, 2006 - 74 years old
Timothy Titsworth - Texas - June 6, 2006 - 34 years old
Lamont Reese - Texas - June 20, 2006 - 28 years old
Angel Maturino Resendiz - Texas - June 27, 2006 - 46 years old
Sedley Alley - Tennessee - June 28, 2006 - 51 years old
Derrick O'Brien - Texas - July 11, 2006 - 31 years old
Rocky Barton - Ohio - July 12, 2006 - 49 years old
William Downs - South Carolina - July 14, 2006 - 39 years old
Mauriceo Brown - Texas - July 19, 2006 - 31 years old
Robert Anderson - Texas - July 20, 2006 - 40 years old
Brandon Hedrick - Virginia - July 20, 2006 - 27 years old
Michael Lenz - Virigina - July 27, 2006 - 42 years old

There are 34 executions listed above, including 4 men under the age of 30. Of the 34 executions, 15 were in Texas.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Nebraska and the Electric Chair - Carey Dean Moore

Nebraska is the only remaining state in the United States that offers the electric chair as its only form of execution. Recently, Carey Dean Moore, a Nebraska death row inmate challenged the use of the electric chair as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court found that use of the electric chair in executions is NOT cruel and unusual punishment.

It flabbergasts me that anyone could find that electrocution is not cruel and unusual punishment. The risks involved in electrocution are tremendous. There are reports of inmates burning alive from the electrocution due to misapplication and of executions requiring higher and higher blasts of electricity to finally kill the execute (which of course means the inmate was alive throughout earlier attempts to kill him or her with high voltage electricity). This risks are enormous.

I lived in Nebraska for three years and was keenly aware that Nebraska was one of the few states (and then the only state) still using the electric chair as its exclusive option for execution. Today's ruling makes me tremendously sad.

That said, the United States Supreme Court's ruling in June that inmates can protest the combination of chemicals used in lethal injection as cruel and unusual also paves the way for a possible acceptance of certiorari for Carey Dean Moore. So, perhaps there is some hope for change.

For more information, I attach links to an AP article posted on today regarding the Nebraska ruling and a June 18, 2006 opinion piece from the San Francisco Chronicle following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection (written by Tom McNichol).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Paul Gregory House

I have so much to say about this decision, and I haven't had time to write about it. I still don't, but I just wanted to express how completely happy I am that the Supreme Court not only ruled that Paul can appeal his innocence, but the Court pretty much wrote that he should not have been convicted in the first place. Hopefully, this means a habeas proceeding will get him a new trial, and then hopefully the prosecutor will find that there is no reason to re-try Paul. He's served twenty years for a crime he may not have committed (one I believe he did not). At the very least, the prosecution could not have met its burden if the DNA evidence had been available then. Why re-try now?

Paul suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. From earlier reports, his MS is very serious. I highly doubt that someone with advanced MS is going to be any threat to anyone (except perhaps himself). I hope that Paul will be given the chance to see the outside world before he dies. I have no idea how advanced his MS is, but MS can be terminal and I think it would be tragic if Paul is indeed innocent and he spent the last 20 years of his life in prison suffering from MS. Its almost as horrid as it would be were he executed by the State. Execution is only more horrid because a person has to take an action to cause the death.

I corresponded with Paul's sister-in-law at one point (or was it sister? I cannot recall). In a way, that made his case more real to me and I've followed it since then. Hopefully, other promising decisions will follow this one.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What I Believe and Some of Why...

I haven't posted for awhile, but I thought that some of the readers out there might find worth reading a letter I wrote in response to a well thought out, heart-wrenching email I received about why an execution is important and necessary for those affected by a particular man's horrific crimes. Its posted below. I know I keep promising to post my usual stuff more regularly. I won't promise again, but I'll at least say, "I'll try."


Dear [John],

I appreciate you writing to me. Please know that I read each of your words and I do understand where you are coming from. I myself have been a victim of violent crime, and I was a college friend of a woman killed in a hate crime off the Appalachian trail in 1996. I know what murder and violence does to families and to individuals and I can feel the emotion in your heart-felt and very real words. Please know how much respect and compassion I have for that. I am very aware of how real the victims and families in these situations are.

Please know this, I oppose the death penalty for anyone, no matter how horrid the crime or how obvious the person's guilt is. I've had sisters of murder victims write to me and tell me of the horror of living without their brother or sister. I know there are real people involved and I feel it every time I read of a victim's pain. The thing about it is, I do not believe that we as human beings have the right to take another matter what. I find it despicable that a state takes the life of another human being in the name of justice. Even if it is not about revenge or vengence, it is not our place in the social order to decide who lives or dies. With or without a god or a moral code, society is better than that and human beings are more than that. There is a reason that doctors do not administer lethal injections; they vowed to protect human life not to take it. We should all feel that way, no matter how we feel about the life being taken.

Further, there are most certainly innocent men (and women no doubt) on death row. Some may have even been executed. Right now, even if I did not believe that, as a social/moral construct and public policy, the death penalty is abhorrent and anti-human, I would oppose the execution of anyone. We do not have a way in our justice system to assure that all individuals are treated fairly, have just trials, and are definitively guilty. Even if a man like [Jesse James] is guilty beyond any sense of doubt whatsoever, simply from the standpoint of justice, I do not think he should be executed. We cannot pick and choose which of our death row inmates should die and which should live while we figure out our justice system and assure that no mistakes are made. No matter what our moral code is, that slope is too slippery and too subjective and if we slip down it, we will never fix the system.

The death penalty is not a deterrent, that has been statistically proven (compare the "capital crime" rates of states like Texas and those without the death penalty for examples). And to shorten the process would remove one of the keys of this justice system...the assurance of checks and balances. If we shorten that process and take away the right to appeals and the right to those checks, how long will it be before a corrupt prosecutor fudges a trial and puts an innocent person on death row only to be killed a year later without a chance to prove his story? How long before someone we know and love is wrongly convicted? I suppose you think that's a far off chance and something for a made for TV movie, but I certainly don't want that risk around, no matter how small. From a sheer justice perspective, I think it better to let 100 or 1000 guilty men live than kill 1 innocent one. Those checks are there for a reason.

I am a gay woman. I have watched the news unfold over the last several years as individuals in my community, people who were essentially no different than me, were killed for the simple reason that they were gay; and I have cried in sheer horror, disgust and fear. This was the case with my friend, Julie. Julie and her partner had their throats slit execution style while they were camping on the Appalachian trail. Their murderer slit their throats simply because they were lesbians. Julie's mother, father and siblings will never hold her again, they will never get to see their 24 year old loved one live her adult life. I will never again speak with my friend and hear the excitement in her voice as she tells me about a new friend or a discovery in her research. It still breaks my heart to this day and it rips me apart inside, but I have never once thought that the man who killed them should die. In fact, I would SO MUCH rather see the bastard rot in a maximum security prison for the rest of his days. I would rather that he have to sit there and remember why he's there and to know every single day what was taken from him because of what he took from others. He can then choose to better himself or rot in his own stench and misery. Either way the world is better off. The truth is, once he's dead, he doesn't know he's dead, he's just dead and everything he ever did is left behind him. The ones who suffer after his death are his friends and loved ones...and why should they suffer for something they did not do?

I feel the same way about the men who pistol whipped Matt Shepard and left him tied to a fence to bleed to death in the cold Wyoming air. Matt's father said something simmilar at McKinney's sentencing. He read to Mr. McKinney that he hopes Mr. McKinney lives a long long life sitting in his cell separated from the world with nothing but time left to his life. You see, THAT is punishment. There's no more room for appeal; Mr. McKinney is there for the rest of his days. THAT gave the Shepard family closure. They do not have to worry about McKinney or Henderson or see them in court or watch them wage appeal after appeal after appeal until finally one day they get some sense of closure and finality. Instead, they throw those rat-assed vile little men into prison cells and let them rot there remembering why they are there and exactly what they stole.

Indeed, I feel the same about the man who killed Brandon Teena in Nebraska. John Lotter sits on death row in Nebraska as we speak, awaiting his own execution. I say, put him away and let him never be heard from again. Stop the Google searching for him [I get hits on TLA for that almost every day], stop the fascination with his appeals and the status of his execution. I have been to the town where Brandon was killed. The brutality of that crime is beyond comprehension. Yet, I do not believe John Lotter should be executed (and his guilt is almost certain).

I feel the same way about Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, the Hillside Strangler, the Son of Sam (who has reportedly changed his life) and every capital murderer in between. So yes, despite the unspeakable nature of his crimes, I feel the same about [Jesse James].

Every time I post about an execution I read story after story after story about the horridness and the despicable nature of these men and women's crimes. It does not change me. Yet, each time I feel sick to my stomach imaging the fear and pain of the victims and the sheer heart wrenching agony of the victim's families.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me, [John]. I did not, yet, know of the details of [James's] crimes. They are heart wrenching indeed and I can only imagine how they changed you at such a young age. I can't even fathom the pain of [the victim's] sister. Nevertheless, I fail to see how [James's] death will change any of that pain or sorrow. In fact, if [James] were not on death row and were instead rotting away somewhere, I wonder if you would have even thought of him. You might have thought of your friend and of your own emotional confusion and pain, but would you have thought of [James]? Would you have given your friend's murderer another thought if he were not sitting on death row? If you had not wondered if he'd been executed yet would you have looked him up? I can see from your email that your desire for [James's] execution is not out of vengence and I do indeed respect where you are coming from. I wrote what I did because I wanted you to know where I am coming from. I want you to know that I have not forgotten the victims. My life is not one sided. Yet, I am a fighter and I believe in my cause and I am pained whenever a life is matter who's it is.

I wish you the best, [John].

Warm regards,


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From a comment...

I left this in a comment to a post I posted well over a year ago. I was responding to someone who indicated that "Todd" (it could be anyone) deserved to be punished for what he did and that death was appropriate. The writer stated that no one should believe that they are above the laws of the nation. My response is below:

Todd should absolutely be punished if he is guilty. It sounds like he is, but he's been awarded a new trial, so we have to see what happens there. However, even if he is guilty, he should not be put to death. The death penalty in North Caolina may be the law in North Carolina but that does not mean it is a good law. Those guilty of certain murders should spend the rest of their days in prison, working hard, and remebering why they were put there. However, the United States and the State of North Carolina should really be more dignified than a capital murderer. We are an upstanding society, but yet we murder our own citizens and call it "justice." Who does death really punish anyway? Once the individual is dead, presumably he or she doesn't realize it. Its his or her family that must deal with the death itself. The true torture of the death penalty is the day-to-day rotting in a 9 ft cell for 23 hours a day wondering what day will be your day to die and the certainly excruciating few hours before they hook you up, put you on display, and inject absolute poison into you.

What is the theory of the US Justice System...punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence? Some say it is a bit of all three. Well, the thing about the death penalty is that its been shown to NOT be a deterrent to murder. Furthermore, if someone knows they are going to die any day, what incentive do they have to become better people? So, for the most part, the death penalty does not encourage rehabilitation. I guess that means that in death penalty states, its all about punishment. In other words, its all about vengence. See, I think human beings are worth more than that, no matter what they've done. I think human beings should be given the chance to change. Many many of them will not, but some will. Its those "some" that deserve the chance. The others can just sit in their cells and stew in their own misery for 50 years or so. Those that rehabilitate will still remain in prison for the punishment and deterrence parts of their imprisonment, but their view will be a bit different because they've changed at least a part of it. Hopefully, those people will then make a difference in the life of someone else.