Day: May 25, 2012

LOUISIANA- Cost of Louisiana’s death penalty

May 24, 2012 Source :


There are currently 88 inmates on Louisiana’s death row, including two women. All were convicted in a court of law and are going through the appeals process before their time is up.

In the last 10 years, three people have been executed by lethal injection in Louisiana – a far cry from the 1980s when 18 inmates in the state were electrocuted for crimes committed. Louisiana is among 33 states where the death penalty is legal, but as the price goes up all have seen dramatic declines in capital cases.

“Many years ago the death penalty was used a whole lot more than it is now,” said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier.

The last capital murder case to be tried in Calcasieu Parish was Jason Reeves in November 2004 under then District Attorney Rick Bryant. A jury sentenced Reeves to death for the murder of 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen. Reeves has been serving his time on death row at Angola ever since.

“Taxpayers are paying a tremendous amount of money for death penalty cases,” said DeRosier.

According to DeRosier when compared to other cases the cost for the death penalty is often triple. For example the recent Davis/Saltzman case cost taxpayers an estimated $77,000 to try in court. DeRosier said a death penalty case will easily come in at $250,000 or more.

The case of Lee Roy Williams, the man convicted of the Labor Day quadruple murders, was being considered to be tried as a death penalty case.

Though Williams originally denied his involvement in the four murders the evidence was mounting. He eventually confessed to investigators and accepted a plea deal. 8 1/2 weeks after the murders Williams was indicted, entered a guilty plea and sentenced all in the same day.

“When Williams was confronted with the physical evidence and confronted with the possible alternative of the death penalty he opted for four life imprisonment sentences consecutive to each other,” said DeRosier.

Aside from the cost it’s an uphill battle for prosecutors. Not only do they have to convince a 12 person jury the defendant is guilty of first degree murder, but those same 12 jurors must all agree on the death sentence.

“It’s not easy to sit on a death penalty jury. When choosing a jury we have to be sure we choose a jury that can do the job under the law,” said DeRosier.

Even though they are found guilty and sentenced to death the process and dollars are really only starting to add up.

“The appellate process starts at that point and that appellate process will go through the entire state system and if resulted in death penalty verdict it will also go through the federal system. It will take a lot of years and a lot of money,” said DeRosier.

According to the Louisiana Department of Corrections it costs a little more than $60 a day to house and feed a prisoner at Angola. With the appeals process taking at least a decade if not longer – you can see the money being spent at the expense of taxpayers.

Though the costs are high DeRosier said, “It’s a factor we consider. It’s not necessarily the main factor we consider because we represent the community and we represent victims and that’s our first consideration.”

DNA has also been a game changer. Since 1989 seven men have left Louisiana’s death row free men after being exonerated by DNA and other evidence.

Meanwhile without getting into all the details there are some pretty interesting death penalty cases in Louisiana.

Click here to view list of men on Louisiana’s death row.

Click here to view list of women on Louisiana’s death row.

ALABAMA- Court rejects appeal of death row inmate in killing of Alabama preacher

May 24. 2012 Source :

USCALOOSA, Ala. — A federal court has rejected the appeal of an Alabama death row inmate convicted of killing a Fayette County minister.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down arguments by Christopher Lee Price. The Tuscaloosa News reports ( ) that Price argued that his attorney was ineffective and the prosecutor made prejudicial statements during the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial in 1993.

The 49-year-old Price from Winfield was convicted of the stabbing death of Bill Lynn, who was pastor of the Natural Springs Church of Christ.

He was killed with a sword and knife during a robbery at his home in the Bazemore community on Dec. 22, 1991. Lynn’s wife, Bessie Lynn, was injured when she went to help her husband.

TEXAS- Most Texas Voters Still in Favor of the Death Penalty

May 25, 2012 Source :

The study, a joint project by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, found that while 73 percent of voting residents fully or somewhat support the death penalty, only 21 percent of voting residents are somewhat or strongly opposed to it. In terms of how fair they find capital punishment, 51 percent said that they believe it is fairly applied, 28 percent said it was unfair, while 21 percent could not give an opinion.

“They’re pretty strong proponents of the death penalty,” said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. “But you’ve got a lot of other people who are pretty hard on crime but aren’t sure the death penalty works.”

“We have had dramatic support for the death penalty for a long time. And given an alternative, there’s not a wholesale rush for the exits,” added co-director Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin.

In general, Texas remains one of the most pro-death penalty states in the country. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 482 people have been executed in the state and dozens more remain on death row. Thirty-two other states still also carry out capital punishment, although in March Connecticut officially became the fifth U.S. state in the past five years to abolish the death penalty.

The results come only weeks after an in-depth investigation led by a Columbia School of Law professor found that 27-year-old Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 for a murderer he did not commit. He was mistaken for the real criminal who resembled him and shared the same first name.

“Unfortunately, the flaws in the system that wrongfully convicted and executed DeLuna – faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation and prosecutorial misconduct – continue to send innocent men to their death today,” a statement accompanying the report by professor James Liebman and five of his students observed.

The UT/TT poll questioned 800 Texas voters and was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points.

Besides the death penalty questions, pollsters also asked voters to state their opinion on various other subjects, ranging from abortion to the economy and state of the country. Respondents identified themselves as 33 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrats, and 28 percent Independent.


KENTUCKY- Death row inmate wins hearing on mental status – Gregory Wilson

May 25, Source :


Twenty-five years after the victim was raped and murdered, the Kentucky Supreme Court ordered a judge Thursday to hold a hearing on whether Gregory Wilson, who was convicted of the crimes, should be exempt from the death penalty because he is mentally retarded.

The court ruled 5-2 that a Kenton Circuit Court judge improperly rejected Wilson’s claim without a hearing.

The Supreme Court also ordered the judge, Gregory Bartlett, to rule on whether Wilson is entitled to DNA testing of semen found in the automobile of the victim, Deborah Pooley.

In a heated dissent, Justices Bill Cunningham and Wil Schroder, who sits in Covington, argued that the case has gone on long enough and that Wilson should have raised the issues long ago.

“Don’t forget after all these years that an innocent person named Deborah Pooley was ruthlessly murdered and her killer is still in the courts of this state,” Cunningham wrote.

Wilson was convicted in the 1987 murder, kidnapping, rape and robbery of Pooley. His conviction came after a raucous trial in which he represented himself at times while at other times was represented by two lawyers who volunteered to try the case for $2,500, after the trial judge begged for somebody to handle it.

One of the lawyers had never tried a felony case while the other listed a local pub as his office and was described later by his co-counsel as a “burned-out alcoholic.”

Wilson was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 16, 2010, but the execution was halted by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, who cited questions about Wilson’s mental status and new state regulations for carrying out executions.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Minton said that Wilson, who moved for a new trial in 2010, presented enough evidence that he was mentally retarded to justify a hearing.

Kentucky law bars the execution of an offender considered “seriously mentally retarded,” which is defined as having an IQ of 70 or below combined with “substantial deficits in adaptive behavior” exhibited as a child.

Wilson submitted school records showing that, at 14, he had an IQ of 62 and was “easily influenced by delinquent peers.”

But the same evaluation said he was only “mildly retarded” and that his adjustment to school “should be no problem.”

Cunningham also noted in the dissent that Wilson was able to write pleadings in his own case that were “articulate, organized and possessed of writing skills and vocabulary that many college students do not possess.”

The court rejected part of Wilson’s appeal, saying he wasn’t entitled to a jury determination of whether he is mentally retarded, and it also reiterated a previous holding that there is no constitutional right to DNA testing.

Wilson’s current lawyer, chief Jefferson County public defender Dan Goyette, said he was reviewing the opinion and did not have an immediate reaction.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, noted that Wilson, as Cunningham’s dissent points out, was found competent to stand trial and his lawyers have failed to produce that report. “We are hopeful that the upcoming hearing in Kenton Circuit Court will result in an order from the court to obtain the competency report,” she said.

Pooley was abducted and forced into her car at knife point, then taken to a secluded location on Covington’s floodwall, where her hands were tied and she was raped in the back seat.

Wilson’s girlfriend, Brenda Humphrey, who also was convicted of murder, testified that Wilson strangled Pooley, despite her pleas for her life, and that they later dumped her body in a remote thicket before using her stolen credit cards on a shopping spree.

The trial captured state and later national attention when no lawyers would defend Wilson because of the minimal fee that was provided in capital cases. Chief Circuit Judge Raymond Lape Jr. posted a plea on his courthouse door saying he was “desperate” for somebody to come forward.

One of the lawyers who finally volunteered, William Hagedorn of Newport, a semi-retired lawyer, volunteered to serve as lead counsel for free, though he had no office, no staff, no copy machine and no lawbooks.

It also turned out that on each day of the trial bailiffs took Humphrey to have sex with one of Lape’s colleagues on the bench. That judge and Hagedorn are now deceased.