Day: October 14, 2012

CALIFORNIA -Loretta Carrico Russell: Two sisters murdered, but I’m against death penalty

October 14, 2012

Californians will decide this November whether or not the death penalty dies by a vote of the people. Supporters of Savings Accountability Full Enforcement California Act or S.A.F.E. California, an anti-death penalty group, successfully gathered more than a half-million signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Being an opponent of the death penalty did not come easily to me. My conviction is motivated by 40 years of dealing with this emotional issue on a deeply personal level. Initially, I was in favor of the death penalty. I wanted revenge for my sisters. Karen was 21 when she was murdered by her husband. Her death was deemed an accidental beating.

Twenty years later, my sister Irene was murdered by her husband for leaving him.

Irene’s murder would have been a capital offense, according to the judge, had the accused not turned over state’s evidence. How could a small piece of rope used in the hog-tying strangulation of my sister mitigate the horrific torture that led to her death?

The killer told police where he hid the rope and for that he now lives in Solano prison.  He was given a life sentence. At the time, I wanted both killers to suffer the same fate my sisters had, and to endure the physical and psychological terror that comes from knowing someone is ending your life.

Despite its liberal reputation, California has the unfortunate distinction of having the nation’s largest death row, housing 20 percent of all such inmates in the U.S. Los Angeles County alone has the most death row convicts, more than the entire state of Texas.

However, the reality of the death penalty in California is different from the hype. In the 33 years since its reinstatement, the state has executed 13 people or 1 percent of its death row population.

Some begrudge the price of providing inmates with “three hots and a cot.” But the cost of incarceration is relatively cheap compared with the alternative of having criminals on the streets or the cost of a lengthy appeals process.

We can’t have it both ways: lock them up and then complain about the cost of incarceration. Since the state re-established the death penalty in 1978, it has spent $4 billion on death penalty cases.

This money could be better spent on law enforcement and in preventive measures, such as an improved domestic violence detection and treatment. And the cost does not factor in the lives of those executed and later found to be innocent.

Unlike most people, for me the death penalty doesn’t come from a particular political bent, but a selfish one. The death penalty is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue, but a family one. It’s the victim’s family who are forced to relive the loss of their loved one each time the case is revisited in court.

A life sentence and the death penalty aren’t much different for the victim’s family. In both cases, the family has to relive the nightmare each time the killer gets another day in court, whether on appeal or a bid for parole.

The toll this process takes on a family member’s physical and mental health is incalculable. For years I lived with the corrosive anger of wanting revenge, before realizing I was allowing myself to continue to be victimized.

Knowing the killer is off the streets and not able to harm another was enough for me to put the trauma and pain of losing a sister into its proper perspective and move forward in life.

Not all murders are created equal, but those convicted of murder as heinous as Irene’s, the murders that would otherwise merit the death penalty, should be sentenced to prison with absolutely no possibility of parole, unless irrefutable evidence surfaces warranting a new trial.

Initially given 25 years to life, Irene’s killer is coming up for parole for the second time this December. He declined his first parole hearing, thinking he had a better chance at his second one.

He spent the last three years performing the tasks he was supposed to do all along to show the parole board that he has changed. One task was to write a letter of apology to the victim’s family.

It took him a staggering 24 years to send a letter, and it was full of excuses rather than remorse for what he’d done. I will be there at his parole hearing to remind him and the board of what he did to my sister, and the grave danger he poses to other, unsuspecting women.

In November, my vote will be to have California join the other 17 states that have already banned the death penalty. Firm and fair incarceration for those convicted is what I seek.

I want the resources now spent on the lengthy death penalty appeals process used to reduce the chances that other Californians will suffer as Irene did, and, ultimately, as my family did.

I speak only for myself, but my hope is that when you’re voting on this measure you will consider the families who have had to repeatedly relive the agony of losing their loved one and vote to end the California death penalty.


Loretta Carrico Russell lives in Round Montain

SOUTH DAKOTA – Execution – ERIC ROBERT- Monday 10/15/2012 10 P.M EXECUTED 10.24 p.m

Eric Robert, 50, received lethal injection and was pronounced dead at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls at 10:24 p.m. He is the first South Dakota inmate to die under the state’s new single-drug lethal injection method, and only the 17th person to be executed in the state or Dakota Territory since 1877.

Robert had no expression on his face. Asked if he had a last statement, Robert said: “In the name of justice and liberty and mercy, I authorize and forgive Warden Douglas Weber to execute me for the crimes. It is done.”


October 14, 2012


CONTACT: Michael Winder, Communications & Information Manager
Execution date, time set for Inmate Eric Robert
(Pierre, S.D.)- In accordance with South Dakota Codified Law 23A-27A-17, Doug Weber, Director of Prison Operations and Warden of the South Dakota State  Penitentiary, has set the date and time for the execution of Inmate Eric Robert as Monday, October 15, 2012 at approximately 10:00 p.m. CDT.
State law allows for the judge in a capital punishment case to appoint a week for the execution to occur. The exact date and time of the execution is left to the warden’s discretion. The warden is required by state law to publicly announce the scheduled day and hour of the execution not less than forty-eight hours prior to the execution.

perp walk

Eric Robert’s life bears little resemblance to that of his peers on death row.

Most condemned killers have troubling personal stories and long criminal histories.

Donald Moeller was beaten, demeaned and made to watch his biological mother’s drug use and sexual behavior. Elijah Page, executed in 2007, moved from house to house with substance-abusing parents then bounced from foster home to foster home in several states.

Rodney Berget suffered with an alcoholic father and abuse, and was first sent to the adult prison system at age 15. His brother, Roger, was executed in 2003 in Oklahoma, eight years before Rodney Berget and Robert would commit a capital crime in the murder of Corrections Officer Ron Johnson.

Robert’s life looked nothing like Berget’s. He will be put to death at 10 p.m. Monday.

Robert was the child of a single mother who helped raise his younger sister in his home state of Wisconsin. He had a stellar academic record, put himself through college and had a successful career in wastewater treatment. He was an emergency medical technician and frequent community volunteer who once helped erect a monument to a murdered sheriff.

He grew close to his longest-term love interest through her son, whom Robert coached on a Little League team.

In 2005, before he was sentenced to 80 years in prison for a Meade County kidnapping, his sister told the judge that her brother “has done more good in his life than many people in this world.”

This week, the state of South Dakota intends to put Robert to death by lethal injection for the brutal, premeditated killing of Johnson on April 12, 2011.

The rage that fueled the killing was a measure of how far he’d fallen from the life he once had. Robert said so himself in court one year ago. He’d refused to let his lawyer mention his good deeds.

“To be honest with you, the good acts that I’ve done in my life were not mentioned here, because they are irrelevant to these proceedings,” Robert said. “That person who did good things no longer exists.” 

Last week, through his lawyer Mark Kadi, Robert reiterated his reasoning for staying quiet about his prior kind acts during sentencing for the Johnson murder “My client feels that none of the good things he’s done justify the killing of Ron Johnson,” Kadi said.

Eric Robert was born May 31, 1962, in Massachusetts. His father was gone by the time he was 6 months old. Robert, his mother and younger sister moved to Hayward, Wis., when he still was young.

His sister, Jill Stalter, declined to comment for this story but testified on her brother’s behalf in 2005.

She said then that Robert was the father figure in their house as their mother worked three jobs and studied to earn a college degree.

“My brother took care of everything. He took out the trash, he made sure dinner was on the table, he even did grocery shopping. He got me my first dog. He did everything. He even shoveled snow, and in Hayward, it’s a lot of snow,” Stalter said. “He put himself through college by working weekends and during summer breaks. He didn’t take a penny from my mother because she was putting herself through college.”

He was a good student, as well, graduating 18th in his class at Hayward High School in 1980. He returned to Hayward after earning a biology degree with a chemistry minor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

In 2000, he applied for a job as the wastewater treatment supervisor for the city of Superior. On his job application, released as part of a records request by the Argus Leader, Robert wrote that he hadn’t missed a day of work in 10 years.

He got along well with co-workers. Frog Prell, the city attorney, started work for the city in 2000, just a few months after Robert, whom family and friends knew as “Ranger.”

Robert used to drop by the office to joke around, quiz Prell about small towns in Wyoming, which is Prell’s home state. The short interactions left an impression on Prell, who didn’t know Robert was on death row until the records request came across desk this month.

“If you’d have asked me what I thought about Eric Robert before this, I’d have said he seemed like a pretty cool guy,” Prell said.

Dan Romans, the wastewater administrator for Superior, called Robert a “natural-born leader” who accomplished more in 18 months on the job than others had for decades.

Robert eventually lost his job in Superior, though, because he failed to comply with a city residence requirement, but he continued to consult with the city afterward.

He was living in a home in the rural community of Drummond, more than an hour southeast of Superior.

Violent toward women

It was in Hayward, almost a decade before, where he met the woman with whom he’d later build the house in Drummond.

That woman, who testified at Robert’s presentence hearing last year in Sioux Falls but declined to comment for this story, said there was an undercurrent of anger in him even then — one most people didn’t see.

“He was an aggressive, mean person who didn’t like other people and had to be in control,” she said the woman, whom the Argus Leader is not identifying because she is a victim.

She’d gone to high school with Robert but didn’t know him well at the time. They got reacquainted in 1992, when he was coaching her son’s baseball team. Robert soon was living with the woman and her two children.

“We got along fine at first,” she said, but then “he showed me his true colors.”

She recounted three specific incidents in court from their decade-long romance.

They rented an apartment in Cable, Wis., as they built their house, she said. One day, as they sat on the couch together, Robert backhanded her over an offhand remark.

She hit him back, she said, then recoiled when she realized that he was sure to retaliate.

“He punched me in the mouth so hard it pushed my bottom teeth through my lip,” she said.

Robert, who knew most of the employees in the local ER through his work as an EMT, told the doctors and nurses she’d slipped on icy steps while carrying in groceries.

He had similar explanation for her appearance at the ER with a broken foot years later. She called police on him after a separation, when he showed up at her house drunk and started a fight that ended with him pulling her around the yard by her hair.

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Inmate who threatened Texas senator using smuggled phone renews death wish in letter to AP – RICHARD TABLER

October 13, 2012

HOUSTON — Four years after his threatening calls from a smuggled cell phone prompted an unprecedented lockdown of the entire Texas prison system, death row inmate Richard Tabler is chafing at 24-hour video surveillance in his cell, a ban on nearly all visitors and his unsuccessful efforts to waive his appeals and expedite his execution.

The convicted killer recently sent a handwritten letter to The Associated Press blaming his “idiotic” cell phone use for his isolation and the court’s refusal to comply with his request for a speedy execution.

“It’s no longer about justice,” Tabler wrote in the four-page letter received this month by the AP.

“The only reason I’m still here … is because of the political bull crap surrounding the cell phone situation.”

Tabler, 33, who has been on death row for five years, gained notoriety in October 2008 when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice disclosed he had used a cell phone smuggled into his prison to repeatedly call, among others, a Texas lawmaker.

He has asked the court on multiple occasions to waive his appeal and schedule an execution for killing two people in 2004, but a judge last year denied the request. His lawyers are also opposed Tabler’s efforts and have raised questions over whether he is competent to make such a decision.

“He and I reached an understanding a long time ago that I wasn’t going to help him to die but I wouldn’t stand in his way, so to speak,” said lawyer David Schulman, who’s long been involved in Tabler’s case and visits the inmate. “All we’ve done is challenge his competency and go through the writ process. … It’s not a pleasant situation for anybody involved. Certainly none of his lawyers are having a good time.”

While illegal cell phones have plagued prisons nationwide, it was Tabler’s brazen, threatening calls to state Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate panel that oversees the prison agency, that gave the inmate instant notoriety. Those calls were among more than 2,800 traced to Tabler’s phone, which apparently got passed around to other inmates on his death row wing at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston in East Texas.

Texas prison officials locked down more than 150,000 inmates statewide — some of them confined to their cells for weeks — while officers swept the state’s more than 100 prisons to seize hundreds of items of contraband, including cell phones and items related to them.

Since then Tabler has received round-the-clock monitoring on a prison wing normally reserved for inmates with execution dates, while his visitors are restricted to his spiritual adviser and lawyers.

Prison officials defend their treatment of Tabler, noting his troubled history behind bars.

“This offender presents a security risk because of his numerous disciplinary infractions, including obtaining contraband,” prison agency spokesman Jason Clark said. “The housing area is not exclusively for offenders on death watch and can be utilized by the agency to monitor those who attempt to break the rules or harm themselves.”

Tabler’s prison record includes at least two instances where he’s tried kill himself.

His restrictions also prohibit him from visits with reporters.

“That makes you wonder what they don’t want me telling the media,” Tabler wrote.

Tabler repeatedly has asked his appeals be dropped and he be put to death for gunning down Mohammed-Amine Rahmouni, 28, and Haitham Zayed, 25, in 2004 in a remote area of Killeen in Central Texas. Evidence showed Rahmouni was manager of a strip club who banned Tabler from his place. Zayed was a friend of Rahmouni. Tabler also has acknowledged killing two dancers from the club, was charged with their slayings but hasn’t been tried.

“Please understand that I’ve never questioned my death sentence, as I’ve admitted/confessed to my crime,” Tabler wrote. “I’m guilty, no question about it.

“I’m no saint … but at least I’m man enough to take responsibility and not lie about it.”

Last year, a federal judge conducted a hearing on Tabler’s motion seeking execution, ultimately ruling Tabler’s belief his family was in danger if he didn’t go through with the punishment made the request involuntary. Earlier this year, Tabler wrote the judge again seeking execution, but his lawyer and state attorneys opposed the request and the judge agreed with them and denied Tabler. The nature of the family threats is unclear.

Tabler’s case is on appeal at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with a newly assigned lawyer who’s obtained a time extension to mid-December to get familiar with the case. The appeal rejected by a federal judge in Waco raised questions over whether Tabler is mentally ill and incompetent to decide whether to volunteer for execution and challenged issues from his 2007 trial.

“He lives under pretty harsh conditions at the prison … and his conditions are more onerous than other people,” said Marcy Widder, his court-appointed attorney. “It has some connection to the cell phone mess.”

Schulman said he believes the courts are being careful with Tabler’s requests to die.

“Think of the situation,” Schulman said. “In one hand he’s telling them I want to die. On the other hand, he’s telling them they’re making my life miserable.”