Day: April 14, 2012

More Evidence Against the Death Penalty

april 12, 2012 source :

Connecticut is poised to become the 17th state without the death penalty and the fifth in five years to abolish it. Gov. Dannel Malloy is expected to sign the repeal bill approved by the Legislature in recent days.

Connecticut is part of a growing movement against capital punishment, with repeal measures now proposed in California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and Washington. Other states like Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania are reviewing their death penalty laws.

This shift comes at a time when new analyses of capital punishment show gross injustice in its application and enormous costs in continuing to impose it. In Connecticut, a powerful, comprehensive study provided evidence that state death sentences are haphazardly meted out, with virtually no connection to the heinousness of the crime.

In California, two former death penalty proponents — a prosecutor who drafted the 1978 ballot initiative that expanded the state’s death penalty and a leading supporter of the 1978 law — are now championing a new ballot measure to repeal the penalty. They point to a study showing that, since 1978, California has spent roughly $4 billion on the death penalty to carry out 13 executions. “The cost of our system of capital punishment is so enormous that any benefit that could be obtained from it — and I now think there’s very little or zero benefit — is so dollar-wasteful that it serves no effective purpose,” Donald Heller, the drafter of the 1978 measure, said recently.

Decades of research show that racial bias pervades death penalty cases. Minority defendants with white victims are much more likely to be sentenced to death than others;35 percent of those executed nationally since 1976 were black, though blacks currently make up 12.6 percent of the population. The problem of inadequate counsel permeates the system, with many indigent defendants sentenced to death after major blunders by court-assigned lawyers. And a horrific number of innocent people have ended up on death row: 17 convicts with death sentences have been exonerated with DNA evidence since 1993, 123 with other evidence since 1973.

Any careful evaluation leads to what the American Law Institute concluded after a reviewof decades of executions: the system cannot be fixed. It is practically impossible to rid the legal process of biases driven by race, class and politics. The growing number of states reconsidering this barbaric system is a welcome sign. Capital punishment, by overwhelming evidence, should be abolished throughout the United States.

Related News

OHIO – Ex-death row inmate from Scotland admits to threat

april 13, 2012 source :

A Scotsman released from prison four years ago after spending two decades on Ohio’s death row could be sent back to prison after he pleaded guilty Friday to threatening a judge who prosecuted his original case.

Ken Richey pleaded guilty to a felony retaliation charge and now faces up to three years in prison. He’ll be sentenced May 7.

Richey agreed to plead guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping a charge that he violated a protection order when he called the Putnam County courthouse in Ottawa this past New Year’s Eve.

Investigators said Richey was at his home in Tupelo, Miss., when he left the threatening message for county judge Randall Basinger, warning that he was coming to get him.

Richey was on death row for 21 years after being convicted of setting a fire that killed a 2-year-old girl in 1986. He denied any involvement and became well-known in Britain, where there is no death penalty, as he fought for his release. Among his supporters were several members of the British Parliament and Pope John Paul II.

Following years of appeals, a federal court determined his lawyers mishandled the case, and his conviction was overturned. Putnam County prosecutors initially planned to retry him, but Richey was released in 2008 under a deal that required him to plead no contest to attempted involuntary manslaughter. He also was ordered to stay away from the northwest Ohio county and anyone involved in the case, including Basinger.

Richey, though, carried a lifetime of bitterness over his conviction, his friends said.

He returned to Scotland in 2008, and later came back to the U.S. where he was arrested in Minnesota in 2010 and charged with assaulting his 24-year-old son. Prosecutors have said Richey was still wanted on a warrant out of Minnesota.

ARIZONA – Death penalty upheld in Ariz. teen’s killing

april 13, 2012 source :

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man found guilty of fatally bludgeoning his 14-year-old niece whose semi-nude body was found while her mother was in the hospital.

Brad Lee Nelson of Golden Valley had appealed his sentence to the court, arguing that he didn’t have an impartial trial jury, that the killing wasn’t premeditated and that putting him to death would be cruel and unusual punishment.

The 41-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2006 killing of 14-year-old Amber Graff.

Records show that Nelson was watching Graff and her 13-year-old brother Wade at a hotel in Kingman in western Arizona while their mother was in the hospital being treated for Crohn’s disease.

Prosecutors say that Nelson walked from the hotel to a Kmart, bought a rubber mallet, came back and hit Amber in the head with it multiple times as Wade slept.

Prosecutors say that after hitting her with the mallet, Nelson covered up her body and soon after spent the morning with Wade going to a couple of stores and hanging out by the pool. When they returned to the hotel room, Nelson told Amber to wake up and pulled the covers from her.

Her body was blue and naked from the waist down, her forehead was covered in blood, and blood and foam were coming out of her mouth. Semen later found on her groin area matched Nelson, although there was no evidence that Amber was raped.

The rubber mallet was found in a bloody black sock under the bed.

Amber’s stepfather later gave investigators a letter from Nelson to Amber that proclaimed his love for her and promised to never hurt her.

Defense attorneys had argued that Nelson didn’t mean to kill the girl while the prosecution argued that his trip to Kmart to buy the mallet and his efforts to cover up the crime proved it was premeditated murder.

Prosecutors also theorized at trial that Nelson came on to Amber and she denied him, provoking him enough to kill her.

“It was pretty clear it was sexually motivated,” Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith, who prosecuted the case against Nelson, said Thursday. “I don’t see anything accidental about any of it.”

In their ruling Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected multiple arguments from Nelson’s attorney that sought to have his death sentence overturned, including that the jury’s finding that Nelson was eligible for the death penalty because Amber was under the age of 15 is “arbitrary and capricious.”

Under Arizona law, a number of so-called aggravating factors make someone convicted of first-degree murder eligible to be executed, including that the murder victim is under the age of 15. Amber was two months away from turning 15 when she was killed.

Nelson’s attorney, David Goldberg, argued that the state doesn’t have a compelling or rational basis to execute someone who kills a child who is 14 years and 10 months old as opposed to someone who has turned 15.

The court ruled that the Arizona Legislature set the age at 15 after determining that the young are especially vulnerable, should be afforded more protection and that murders of the sort should carry more severe punishments.