Day: March 14, 2014

CONNECTICUT – Killer sought sympathy Death row inmate complained of ‘psychological torture’ – Steven Hayes

March 14, 2014
NEW HAVEN — One of two convicts sentenced to death in a Connecticut home invasion sent suicidal letters before he was found unresponsive in his cell Monday, his attorney said Thursday.Steven Hayes remained in stable condition Thursday at a hospital, a correction department spokesman said. Hayes implied in the letters he would be dead by the time they were received, said his attorney, Tom Ullmann.”I don’t think there’s any question that it was an attempted suicide,” Ullmann said.Asked why Hayes tried to kill himself, Ullmann said, “The conditions of confinement are oppressive.” He accused rogue correctional officers of harassing Hayes, declining to discuss details except to cite the removal of items from Hayes’ cell such as an extra blanket.

Hayes, who has a history of suicide attempts, also sent a suicide note to The Hartford Courant in which he called Northern a “psychological torture chamber,” the newspaper reported.

The Courant, citing a state official familiar with the incident, reported Hayes had saved up prescribed medication, including antidepressants, and took it all at once.

Hayes, 50, is on death row for the 2007 killings of a woman and her two daughters after a night of torment inside their home in Cheshire. Another man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, also was convicted and sentenced to death for the home invasion killings.

A federal judge in November denied Hayes’ lawsuit seeking to change his conditions at Northern Correctional Institution, ruling that he did not provide any evidence that his mental health treatment was inadequate or to back up his request for changes to his diet.

Hayes also said his legal papers were confiscated as a form of harassment or retaliation. The judge said the failure of prison staff to provide a full response to that claim “gives the court pause,” but he said Hayes had not shown irreparable harm.

Hayes more recently filed an emergency motion seeking relief, saying his prison cell was too cold and that he was misdiagnosed by staff who claimed his suicidal tendencies, depression and other issues stemmed from his crime rather than his conditions.

“I would rather die than endure these conditions any longer,” Hayes wrote last month.

Hayes did acknowledge that he should be in prison.

I do not deserve to be psychologically tormented or refused proper treatment,” Hayes wrote. “To date I still suffer from deep emotional periods when I reflect on the pain I caused due to my crime and past actions.”

In court papers, prison staff members deny harassing Hayes or violating his rights. Hayes was subject to discipline after he violated rules by sitting on the floor in protest of a search of his cell and refusing to return his handcuffs upon returning to his cell, officials said.

A Department of Correction spokesman declined to comment.

The attorney general’s office, representing prison staff, said Hayes’ cell is kept at 74 degrees, not 55 degrees as he claimed, and that mental health treatment was available to Hayes but he refused it.

The Courant reported in 2012 that Hayes, who is deathly allergic to oysters, had concocted an elaborate suicide plan while on death row. He had promised to give information about unsolved killings that he lied about committing in exchange for being served oysters, hoping to die from an allergic reaction.

For some on death row, vindication comes too late By OSCAR EASON JR.

March 14, 2014

Immediately following Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of his moratorium on the death penalty, cheers could be heard in certain African-American communities throughout the state and elsewhere.

That should have surprised few, considering the statistics on who is being sentenced to occupy space on death rows these days. Nationally, 470 African Americans have been executed since 1976 compared to 767 whites — although African Americans are only 13 percent of the nation’s population. Sixty-six whites and seven African Americans have been executed in Washington; the African-American population in this state reached 3.9 percent only in recent decades.


Racial discrimination remains a dominant feature of criminal justice in the United States. The process of having biased death sentences handed down in the criminal justice system may not always be the fault of sentencing officials; the outcome involves arresting officers, the compiling and arranging of factual evidence by prosecuting attorneys, and jury selection, all of which are required before a judgment is reached.


People of color continue to be excluded from jury service in our state because of their race, especially in serious criminal trials and death penalty cases. The jury-selection process has been a major concern in Washington’s African-American community for decades owing to how jurors are selected and the fact that race in trials is often a factor — consciously or unconsciously.


Most juries hearing capital cases where African Americans are involved have few or no African Americans. As the case moves along a path toward the judge, there are unlimited opportunities for biases. Mandatory sentencing may also enter into the equation in some states.


Regardless of whether Inslee’s moratorium was a wise political decision, claims that the death penalty is an effective crime deterrent have not been proven. This experiment is flawed, inhuman and costly.


An increasing number of states have already legally ended executions, with others likely to follow this year. Human lives are at stake, and one would think that any process holding such high risks and vulnerabilities would be completely abolished in modern society.


Too many people found guilty of capital crimes and placed on death row in the last decade were later found to have been wrongly convicted. Others have been exonerated posthumously. Some were sentenced to death and had their sentences overturned by acquittal or pardon.


Just this week, Louisiana freed Glenn Ford, a man who had spent nearly 26 years on death row. An all-white jury convicted him for a murder the state now says he did not commit.


One who was not so fortunate was Troy Anthony Davis, an African-American man convicted of and executed for the murder of a police officer Savannah, Ga., though there was ample evidence presented to prove his innocence. The NAACP’s struggle to save him failed. We must work to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated here in Washington. Inslee’s moratorium provides that guarantee.

Oscar Eason Jr. is chairman of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs.

Court to rehear appeal for Ariz. death row inmate – James Erin McKinney

March 14, 2014
PHOENIX (AP) — A federal appeals court is reconsidering an appeal filed on behalf of an Arizona Death Row inmate convicted of two killings during burglaries.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last September upheld a trial judge’s denial of James Erin McKinney’s challenges to his murder convictions and death sentences.

However, the San Francisco-based appellate court now says a larger panel of its judges will consider McKinney’s appeal.

The three-judge panel’s ruling said it didn’t matter much that McKinney was seated so he faced the jury while on trial with a co-defendant before separate juries. And it rejected his other challenges in the appeal.

McKinney was convicted in the 1991 killings of Christene Mertens and Jim McClain during separate burglaries in Maricopa County.