SHOULD THE DEATH PENALTY BE ABOLISHED?
by Dee Finney
"Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime
feel as indignant as those who are."
-- King Solomon
6-12-00 - DREAM -
6-13-00 - I didn't have a clue as to what this was about, so I watched for a coincidence that might tie into the subject. The first clue was a news article on television about a man in Houston, Texas who is scheduled to die in prison in 10 days.
There is a huge political controversy over the death penalty because so many people who have already been convicted of horrendous crimes may not actually be guilty of the crime to begin with.
Others who are on death row awaiting their turn to die for horrendous crimes may be there because of poor witness testimony, poor defense, lying prosecution and various other reasons. Others may be there because they were mentally incapable of making proper decisions in their lives and should be in mental hospitals, not awaiting death.
The fair thing to do is to present the cases as they stand, as it is not for me to decide what is right or wrong. None of this diminishes the pain of the victims families either. It is one thing to desire an 'eye for an eye' as the Bible states for fair punishment, but if the person is not mentally capable of deciding what he or she is doing, or isn't even guilty of the crime, then the blood is on 'our' collective hands.
Is it better that Biblical justice is served in one fair case when hundreds of innocent men or mentally incapable men are put to death at the same time?
This is for YOU to decide!!!
12-15-04 - VISION - I had a vision of Scott Peterson laying face down on top of Laci Peterson, who was laying face up under him with her eyes open. A voice over said, "And Scott Peterson will be reborn when he is 87 years old.
See" SCOTT PETERSON DEATH PENALTY
11-1-06 - http://www.savekevincooper.org/ SAVE KEVIN COOPER ORG
Supreme Court sides
with inmates on two death penalty issues
Rulings involve last-ditch appeals over injections, and DNA testing of old evidence
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court sided with death row inmates Monday, allowing last-minute challenges to lethal injection and new hearings for convicts who show that DNA testing of old evidence indicates they might be innocent.
The two cases have been closely watched as a barometer of where the high court is moving on death penalty issues with two new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
In the lethal-injection case from Florida, the justices unanimously ruled that last-ditch constitutional appeals can be used to challenge as unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment" the execution method used by most states and the federal government.
In the DNA case, the justices ruled 5-3 that Tennessee inmate Paul Gregory House has presented enough evidence "pointing to a different suspect" to warrant a new trial.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's most influential swing voter since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, wrote the opinions in both cases.
In the DNA case, he was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens. Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying that the evidence essentially had been considered by the jury and that the high court should defer to a lower court's ruling.
Alito did not participate because the case was argued before he joined the court.
Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the rulings show increasing discomfort in the court with the death penalty and the "growing national concern about executing innocent people by mistake."
The high court in 2002 used another case to ban such executions but left it up to individual states to determine what constitutes mental retardation.
In October, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new punishment hearing for Penry, saying improper instructions prevented a jury from weighing all of Penry's retardation claims. Texas has repeatedly sought the death penalty against Penry and is expected to do so again in what would be his fourth sentencing trial.
Kennedy acknowledged that the ruling in the lethal injection case is likely to spawn more last-minute appeals as inmates increasingly argue that the three-drug cocktail used in the executions causes an unnecessarily painful death.
But Kennedy said executions should not be delayed needlessly, and he emphasized that the mere act of filing an appeal does not mean the inmates are automatically entitled to a stay of their executions.
Kennedy said that House, the Tennessee inmate, had raised three pieces of mitigating evidence: DNA testing on 20-year-old murder-scene evidence showed that semen on the victim belonged to the victim's husband, not House. Drops of the victim's blood on House's jeans could have been the result of the spilling of a blood sample during the victim's autopsy. "This is the rare case where — had the jury heard all the conflicting testimony — it is more likely than not" that they would have had doubts about House's guilt, Kennedy wrote.
David Dow, a death penalty expert at the University of Houston Law Center, said neither of the cases would have a significant impact in Texas.
The lethal injection decision was expected, Dow said, because the court decided in 2004 that an Alabama inmate could file a last-minute claim that his execution by injection would be unconstitutionally cruel because he had damaged veins.
Unlike in Florida, Dow said, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles Texas death penalty appeals, already allowed such last-minute appeals.
12-12-05 - SAMUEL "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS
12, 2005 | A group of community activists at Leimart Park pray in
support of Tookie Williams.
(Photo: Carlos Chavez / LAT)
12, 2005 | Anti-death penalty protesters, from left, Jake Matheny,
Nicole Salois and Nelson Ackerman, wait in front of San Quentin's gates
for word on Tookie's fate.
(Photo: Mark Boster / LAT)
Schwarzenegger Rejects Williams's Bid for Clemency
By Henry Weinstein and Michael Muskal
The Los Angeles Times
Monday 12 December 2005
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today rejected clemency for Stanley Tookie Williams, convicted murderer and one of the founders of the Crips.
The decision was announced moments after a federal appeals court in San Francisco turned down Williams's request for a stay of execution. Williams is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
"Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception," Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement.
"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency. The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Today's double blow seems to ensure that Williams will be executed as scheduled. Williams supporters will seek to the US Supreme Court intervene, but the governor was considered Williams' best possibility
The state Supreme Court rejected a last-minute plea Sunday night, and today, a three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the stay at 11:30 a.m.
It is possible that a larger panel of judges from the circuit could consider the case if a judge on the court asks for what is known as "en banc" review. If a majority of the circuit's 25 active judges votes for a rehearing, a panel of 11 judge will then consider the case.
The governor's rejection of clemency was personally and politically difficult for Schwarzenegger, who has denied two pleas for clemency in other cases.
The last Californian to be given mercy was a mentally ill killer, spared in 1967 by Ronald Reagan.
The governor, whose career has been based on his popularity, was soundly rebuffed by voters in the recent special election. Recently, the governor named a Democratic Party activist, Susan Kennedy, as his new chief of staff sparking outrage from his Republican and conservative supporters.
Schwarzenegger met with Williams' lawyers last week to hear arguments for and against clemency. Williams, 51, sent a personal letter to the governor, seeking clemency.
The campaign to save Williams has been the fiercest of any recent effort to halt an execution. Hollywood luminaries including Jaime Foxx and influential groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People campaigned on behalf of Williams.
In 1981, Williams was convicted of four murders during two robberies.
Albert Owens was killed during a robbery of a 7-Eleven store on Feb. 27, 1979, and motel owners Yen-I Yang and Thsai-Shaic Yang and their daughter, Yee Chen Lin, were killed at the Brookhaven Motel on South Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles 12 days later.
Williams has maintained that he is innocent. His plea for clemency was based on his transformation while in prison for almost a quarter-century. He and his supporters argue that he has changed his life since his gang days, writing children's books and warning youths about the perils of the gangster life.
Law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, strongly opposed clemency, calling Williams a coldblooded killer who has "left his mark forever on our society by co-founding one of the most vicious, brutal gangs in existence, the Crips."
On Oct. 11, the US Supreme Court ruled against Williams' last appeal.
On Sunday night, the California Supreme Court voted 6-0 to deny Williams a stay of execution. His lawyer Verna Wefald then filed a 150-page habeas corpus petition and request for a stay with the 9th Circuit.
The federal petition raised a host of issues, including the assertion that Williams is "actually innocent" of the four 1979 murders for which he has been on death row at San Quentin for 24 years.
Under federal law, courts are required to dismiss what are known as "successor" habeas corpus petitions dismissed unless the defendant can demonstrate:
The 9th Circuit panel ruled today that Williams did not assert a "new rule of constitutional law."
The court also said that to the extent that Williams' claims are not subject to mandatory dismissal because they were previously presented, he "has not made a prima facie showing that his claims, whether viewed individually or in the aggregate, could meet the statutory requirements of both due diligence and clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence."
Consequently, the judges denied his request to have the petition considered in full and denied the stay of execution.
The order was issued in the names of Judges Proctor Hug, T.G. Nelson and Ronald Gould, the same panel that in 2002 rejected Williams's request to have his conviction and death sentence overturned. That panel, in a rare move, suggested that Williams might be a worthy candidate for clemency because of his anti-gang activities while on death row.
At the Gates of San Quentin
By Norman Solomon
Tuesday 13 December 2005
No buzzards were gliding overhead, but several helicopters circled, under black sky tinged blue. On the shore of a stunning bay at a placid moment, the state prepared to kill.
Outside the gates of San Quentin, people gathered to protest the impending execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. Hundreds became thousands as the midnight hour approached. Rage and calming prayers were in the air.
The operative God of the night was a governor. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption," Arnold Schwarzenegger had declared. Hours later, a new killing would be sanitized by law and euphemism. (Before dawn, a newscast on NPR's "Morning Edition" would air the voice of a media witness who had observed the execution by lethal injection. Within seconds, his on-air report twice referred to the killing of Williams as a "medical procedure.")
But at the prison gates, there were signs.
"The weak can never forgive."
"No Death in My Name"
"Executions teach vengeance and violence."
But for the warfare state - with the era of big government a thing of the past except for police, prisons and the Pentagon - vengeance and violence are rudiments of policy, taught most profoundly of all by the daily object lessons of acceptance, passivity and budget.
The execution was scheduled for 12:01 a.m.
Twenty-five minutes before then, people outside the gates began to sing "We Shall Overcome."
"We shall live in peace ..."
Overhead, the helicopters kept circling, high-tech buzzards.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," said one sign.
Elsewhere in the crowd, another asked: "Are we blind yet?"
At seven minutes to midnight, it occurred to me how much the ritual countdown to execution resembles the Doomsday Clock invented by atomic scientists several decades ago to estimate the world's proximity to nuclear annihilation.
From the stage, speakers praised Williams' renunciation of violence, his advocacy for nonviolence.
At two minutes before midnight, a TV news correspondent stood on the roof of a white van, readying a report for the top of the hour. At midnight the standup report began. It ended at 12:02 a.m.
A speaker called for a national moratorium on the death penalty in the United States.
"No to Death Machine Careerism," a sign said.
"As you do unto the least of these, you do unto me," another sign said.
Full silence took hold at 12:24 a.m.
Then, an old song again. "... We shall ... overcome ... some ... day."
An announcement came at 12:38 a.m.; Stanley Tookie Williams was dead.
The country was no safer. Just more violent.
The sanctity of life was not upheld, just violated.
"It's over," said a speaker. "But it's not over."
From San Quentin to Iraq, death is a goal of policy. In the name of murder victims, the state murders. In the name of the fallen, more kill and fall.
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 13 – Stanley Tookie Wiliams, a condemned gangster whose execution drew more national and international attention than any here in decades, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 12:35 this morning at San Quentin State Prison.
Mr. Williams, 51, a co-founder and leader of the Crips gang of Los Angeles who was convicted of the brutal murders of four people in 1979 amid an avalanche of gang violence there, had become, to his supporters, an icon of jailhouse redemption and a powerful critic from his cell on death row and through his writings of the perils and misguided allure of the gang life on the nation’s urban streets.
Outside the gates of San Quentin, an estimated 1,000 people held a largely peaceful vigil, reading aloud from Mr. Williams’s books, with some, shortly after midnight Monday, shouting, “Long live Tookie Williams!” At 12:38 a.m., three minutes after Mr. Williams was pronounced dead -- after a process that took 36 minutes and 15 seconds from the time Mr. Williams was brought into the chamber -- the crowd sang “We Shall Overcome.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday rejected arguments that Mr. Williams was either innocent of capital murder or deserving of mercy because of his claims of redemption, and denied a clemency petition to commute his sentence to life in prison. Late Monday, Mr. Schwarzenegger also turned down a request from the defense for a stay of execution based on a last-minute claim of innocence citing new accounts from witnesses.
And at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, the governor rejected a second request for a 60-day reprieve, a legal appeal that prison officials said slightly delayed the start of the execution, originally scheduled for 12:01.
Among the 39 witnesses -- including journalists, victims’ relatives, Mr. Williams’s lawyers and supporters and prison officials -- several of the journalists who said they had witnessed other executions described the lethal injection procedure as unusually long, as a nurse struggled to insert a needle in Mr. Williams’s muscular left arm for about 12 minutes. Mr. Williams, who was strapped to what looked like a tilted-back dental chair inside the sea-foam green death chamber, appeared frustrated, witnesses, including the prison warden, said.
Several times he lifted his head from the gurney to look up at his supporters, some of who were blowing kisses and mouthing “I love you,” the witnesses said.
The prison warden, Steve Ornoski, said the execution was not unusually drawn out, although he did say he noticed that Mr. Williams, who appeared to be trying to help his executioners during the process, seemed exasperated. “It depends on the person’s veins and whether they are readily accessible,” Mr. Ornoski said. “And also it's a high pressure assignment for someone that's in front of so many people."
Mr. Williams, who was among 651 death row inmates at San Quentin, today became the 12th man executed in the state since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978. While witnesses are expected to be silent during an execution, when Mr. Williams was pronounced dead, three of the five witnesses he asked to watch him die shouted, “The state of California just killed an innocent man!”
Lora Owens, the stepmother of Albert Owens, a 26-year-old clerk at a Los Angeles 7-11 whom Mr. Williams was convicted of killing at point blank range with a sawed off shotgun, was stoic as she watched the execution, witnesses said. But after the outburst from Mr. Williams’s supporters, Ms. Owens, who said earlier that the execution would finally bring justice to her stepson, broke down in tears, the witnesses said.
Besides the governor’s refusal to spare his life, Mr. Williams had suffered two other setbacks Monday, as first a federal appeals court and then the Supreme Court ruled against granting a stay of execution.
In his decision denying clemency, issued less than 12 hours before Mr. Williams was scheduled to die, Mr. Schwarzenegger wrote that the case had been appealed to various courts since Mr. Williams was condemned in 1981, each one upholding his conviction.
The governor described the four murders in chilling detail, cited a long list of the evidence against Mr. Williams, and said the proof of his guilt was "strong and compelling."
"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings," Mr. Schwarzenegger wrote, "there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who joined several hundred protestors at San Quentin and visited Mr. Williams twice Monday, said he had been the first person to tell Mr. Williams about the governor's decision, which most people had agreed was to be the final word on his fate, despite the last minute legal appeals.
"I told him the clemency had been rejected," Mr. Jackson said in a telephone interview as he was leaving the prison late Monday evening. "He kind of grimaced and then he smiled and said, 'We will not give up hope.' "
The clemency request was based on what lawyers for Mr. Williams said was evidence of his dramatic turnaround in prison, where Mr. Williams became a vocal critic of gang violence, speaking out through children's books, lectures and memoirs. One memoir was the basis for a 2004 television film, "Redemption," staring Jamie Foxx, one of the many celebrities, including rap star Snoop Dogg, and activists who rushed to join the effort to save Mr. Williams's life in recent weeks.
"Our petition for clemency was based on Stanley Williams's personal redemption, his good works and positive impact that those works have had on thousands and thousands of kids across this country and on Williams's ability to continue to do those good works going forward," Jonathan Harris, one of his lawyers, said at a news conference in Sacramento on Monday.
"I have spent many an hour with Stanley Williams," Mr. Harris said, "and I refuse to accept that Stanley Williams's redemption is not genuine." He said the defense team had failed to persuade the governor to meet with Mr. Williams.
In his decision, the governor cited a planned escape by Mr. Williams while he was awaiting trial that involved his "blowing up a jail transportation bus and killing the deputies guarding the bus" as an example of behavior that is "consistent with guilt, not innocence." He also said there was no evidence that Mr. Williams's speaking out against gang violence had any effect on "the continued pervasiveness of gang violence" in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., joined Mr. Harris at the news conference and said the governor's decision to allow the execution to go forward was politically motivated. It comes at a time when he is under fire from his own party for appointing a Democrat as his new chief of staff and after the defeat of four ballot measures he supported during a special election in November.
But the governor’s office declined to elaborate on his decision to deny clemency.
Polls show that a majority of Californians supports the death penalty.
As Mr. Williams's supporters rallied around the state Monday and Tuesday, with no reports of violence, as some had feared, from police, others said he deserved to be executed.
Before leaving for San Quentin to witness the execution, Ms. Owens told CNN: "I'm just glad that we're almost to the end of this. I'm glad that finally Albert is going to have the justice he deserves."
In South Los Angeles, where the Crips have been blamed for hundreds of killings, several residents said they believed that if Mr. Williams was guilty, he should be put to death. "If he'd have killed your daughter, you'd want him dead," said Lee Johnson, 89, a retired construction worker. "He killed somebody. You got to pay for what you do."
At San Quentin at 6 p.m. Monday, officials moved Mr. Williams into what is known as the "death watch cell," a 6-by-8-foot enclosure with a toilet and a sink about 15 feet from the execution chamber. They said he was searched, given a change of clothes – blue denim jeans and a blue T-shirt -- and a stack of 50 to 75 letters from friends, school children and others.
Over the next few hours, he watched some television in a guarded adjacent cell but spent most of the time on the telephone with lawyers and supporters, discussing their failed last-ditch efforts to have the governor intervene, the officials said.
Mr. Williams decided in the final hours to allow five personal witnesses to his death, the number to which he was entitled, including Barbara Becnel, his longtime friend and advocate, who will take possession of his body but who did not yet release details of funeral arrangements.
Mr. Jackson said he had tried to persuade Mr. Williams to have witnesses there, saying to him, “You need to leave with a look in the face of the people who love you and not a look in the face of the executioners. You need to have witnesses. When it’s over, your friends can tell your story.”
Mr. Williams did not request a last meal, although he ate oatmeal earlier in the day Monday and drank water and milk throughout the day and evening, prison officials said. In an interview with the New York Times at the prison on Nov. 29, Mr. Williams said of the traditional last rite, "I'd be out of my mind to accept a meal from a place that wants to destroy me.”
Mr. Williams’s supporters and lawyers who had seen him in recent days said he was at peace with his imminent death. But, in the Times interview he said: "To threaten me with death does not accomplish the means of the criminal justice system or satiate those who think my death or my demise will be a closure for them. Their loved ones will not rise up from the grave and love them. I wish they could. I sympathize or empathize with everyone who has lost a loved one. But I didn't do it. My death would not mollify them." Of the execution, he said: "I'll go through it with dignity, with integrity, with love and bliss in my heart. I smile at everything, and I'm quite sure I'll smile then, too."
"It was an unfortunate tragedy that could have been avoided if George had only been given a chance to show our papers." (Lynda Lions)
"At trial, Sibley and Block, who has said she prefers the name Lynda Lyon, said they fired at [Officer] Motley and his patrol car in self-defense after the officer touched his holster.
"But witnesses said Sibley fired shots 1st and Block joined in the shootout after the officer was wounded."
Alabama executes first woman in 45 years [CNN.com]
Friday, May 10, 2002
A political extremist convicted of murdering a policeman in 1993 was put to death in the electric chair Friday, becoming the first woman executed in Alabama in 45 years.
Lynda Lyon Block declined to pursue final appeals late Thursday, claiming the courts were corrupt and lacked jurisdiction in her case. She was put to death shortly after midnight.
Block, 54, may be the last person forced to die in the state's electric chair. Under a law that takes effect this summer, condemned inmates in Alabama will be executed by injection unless they choose the electric chair.
Block and her common-law husband, George Sibley, were sentenced to death for killing Opelika police officer Roger Motley Jr. in a burst of gunfire in a shopping center parking lot. The couple said Motley was reaching for his gun when they shot him.
Block and Sibley, who decried government controls over individuals and renounced their U.S. citizenship, were on the run at the time to avoid being sentenced in the stabbing of Block's former husband in Orlando, Florida.
"The Bible says when murder happens and a person has no sorrow, they are to be immediately executed," said Anne Motley, the victim's mother.
Alabama's electric chair, built in 1927, has been used for 176 executions since it replaced hanging as the state's primary mode of execution. Block was the fourth woman put to death in Alabama by electrocution and the
first since 1957, when Rhonda Bell Martin was executed for poisoning her husband with arsenic.
[Historical Background Perspective From:]
[Everything from here down is from the web pages, authored as indicated.]
Driving without a license
We have all thought, somewhere along the line, what we would do if confronted by certain situations. These "fantasies" are something that every patriot must think about. What would happen if that "fantasy" were to come
true? How would you react? What had you anticipated? Would you realize that you had less time than you thought to come to terms with the situation, and to REACT? As you read this story, please try to place yourself in a similar situation, one that might be predicated on your lifestyle and habits. What would you do?
Transcribed conversation of October 25, 1993:
It must have come as a shock to everyone who knows us, George Sibley and Lynda Lyon, to hear or read that we had gunned down a police officer, in cold blood. Some may have wondered if we possibly could have done such a thing. Others would say that we would never have done such a thing without cause. Some have already turned their backs on us.
When George and I, along with my son, packed the car and left Florida it was for one purpose, to leave the dangerous and stressful situation where arrest hung over our heads, and to give some friends some time to prepare the paperwork we needed to file a stop action on the judges order. These friends had volunteered to do this, and even passed a hat for us for the filing fees. We had expected the paperwork to be filed in three days. It wasn't! The arrest warrant was issued and we knew it was a matter of days, even hours. Still trusting that the paperwork would be prepared and ready, as promised, we intended to be gone no longer than a week. No papers were filed, or even prepared. We realized, with heavy hearts, that our friend's inaction had just made us fugitives. Still George and I hoped we could still file the paperwork ourselves, somehow. Unfortunately, we had never planned for this contingency. We trusted to much on the word of those who had, so casually , volunteered their help.
For a month we stayed with some out of state friends, or in cheap motels, while, desperately trying to find a way to resolve this mess. We had no choice now but to find a new place to live, with new names. Out of state,
the only people we feared were the bounty hunters. And we knew how ruthless they could be.
We were in Opelika, Alabama and spent a few days there. It's a rather impoverished town with little opportunity. We decided to try the Mobile area. The morning we decided to leave Opelika, I stopped in front of Wal-Mart to make an important call to Orlando. George had parked the car about four spaces down so I couldn't see the car from where I was standing. George and my son stayed in the car.
George's own words:
After a few minutes I noticed a police car driving around in the parking lot. After going down a few rows of cars the car stopped at the far side of the drive in back of our car. The policeman got out of his car and walked toward ours. He said, "Please step out of the car." Which I was already doing. He then asked me for a driver's license. I explained I had none as I had no contracts with the state. He then told me to put my hands on the car, and I hesitated, as I wished to explain further. He then asked if I had any ID, and I replied, "Yes, Sir, I do." He then told me to step away from the car, and I hesitated again, wishing to explain and get papers from the car.He asked, "Do you have a problem with that?" To which I replied, "Yes!" And, didn't get a chance to explain why as the policeman reached for his gun. I did not know what was on his mind, and was not thinking, at that point, about his being police, or not, just he is reaching for his gun. I, instinctively, reached for mine and that made the situation irreversible.
The policeman, to my surprise, turned to his right nearly one hundred degrees and began running towards his car, hand on his gun. He could have turned and fired at any moment, and should have. I knew that once he reached cover behind his car he would certainly fire at me, so I fired then. Once he reached the car, and as I approached, he fired at me, hitting me in the left arm. I returned fire, and ducked. Lynda came to the scene at that time,
having seen him fire at me, and fired three or four shots. I was on the officers side of the car at that time, with an empty gun. The policeman had gotten back in the car and driven away, using the radio.
Lynda's own words:
I was standing at the phone, I heard the shots and people running in panic. I turned and saw what was happening, dropped the phone and cried, "Oh. God, No! No!" I ran up behind the police car, drew my own gun and fired three or four shots at the officer. He turned to me in surprise and then got in his car and drove away.
Although George and I tried to get out of the area quickly, we were not familiar with the roads and ran into a roadblock. After a four hour standoff with police, deputies, highway patrol and SWAT teams we finally decide to surrender. [Will cover the standoff later]
No, we are not cold blooded killers. It was an unfortunate tragedy that could have been avoided if George had only been given a chance to show our papers. As hopeless as it appears, It is not as bad as it seems. Our
attorneys have told us we have a good chance for acquittal. George and I intend to see this through with dignity and perseverance. Please pray for us.
George Sibley and Lynda Lyon are currently in the county jail, Lee County, Alabama.
From: Gary Hunt at the Outpost of Freedom on the Golden Hill Paugeesukq
Reservation Date: October 21, 1993
Today I received a phone call. It was collect, but, as soon as I heard the operator, I knew that it was a call that I have been waiting for. I had been trying to get word in to the Lee County Jail so as to find out what had
occurred just a few weeks ago. After all of this time, the prayers and thinking, worrying about them, I had finally heard from Lynda Lyon.
Regarding this story, it had been pieced together from sources that have all been through the filter known as law enforcement (not to be confused with peace officers) and has been filtered about as much as the information that
flowed across media airwaves, out of Waco, Texas, during March and April of this year.
The report you are about to read is not inconsistent with what had previously been presented, but you will find that certain aspects now have details which would indicate a different scenario than before. There was no
"domestic" call, nor was there justification to claim that any lawful call had been put out. George had been sitting in his car with their son. Lynda was making a phone call. The officer approached George, who was not driving,
traveling, or anything but sitting in a car which had plates that said, "UCC 1-207". The officer refused to listen to George explain that he was under no contract, as a free Citizen of Florida, to have to produce a license in
Alabama. The officer refused to even look at the paperwork that George had, explaining that there was no lawful requirement to produce a license for traveling on the roadways. The officer then informed George, without benefit of George submitting the evidence, that he was under arrest. George was being denied his freedom by the actions of an officer that was not even assigned to traffic (a supply officer) but felt qualified to deny a free man
his freedom without investigating the matter. George got out of the car, and then balked. The officer reached for his gun but George was a bit quicker. George and Lynda were defending their rights, as guaranteed by the
Constitution, and did not allow the officer to deny them their freedom.
Charlie Reese wrote an editorial a few months ago. In that piece he pointed out that we are becoming a nation where more and more crimes are committed by government under the guise of preventing crime on us (look at the
statistics and see if it is working). He stated that police crime in this country is at an all time high. This is the criteria that is existent whenever people begin to loose their freedoms. As he said, "Government crime is becoming more prevalent."
What George and Lynda did is not much different than what David Koresh and the Branch Davidians did eight months ago. David's actions were in defense of every door in America that can be broken down ANY TIME! George and Lynda's actions were to deny "law enforcement" from stealing your rights to travel freely in this country.
I don't want to say, "let this be a lesson", to "law enforcement". However, I do want to say that there are many in this country who have studied our history and know what was intended. They have begun to stand up for those
rights in Idaho, Texas and now in Alabama. Perhaps there is hope that we can regain the liberties and freedoms that are our birthright.
ALABAMA----female gets execution date
Supreme Court sets April 19 execution date for Florida woman
The Alabama Supreme Court set an April 19 execution date Wednesday for a Florida woman convicted in the 1993 shooting death of an Opelika police officer.
Barring a stay, Lynda Lyon Block would be the 1st woman executed in Alabama since 1957. A zealot against all manner of government intrusion, she has refused the help of lawyers, contending the judicial system is fraudulent
and corrupt. State prosecutors said Wednesday she has no active appeal.
Block, 54, and her common-law husband, George Sibley Jr., were convicted in the October 1993 shooting death of officer Roger Lamar Motley while they were on the run from a criminal case in Florida.
Motley was slain as he approached the couple's car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. A passerby heard Block's 9-year-old son call for help and asked the officer to see if everything was OK.
Sibley also received a death sentence and remains on death row. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld Block's death sentence in 1999 and Sibley's in 2000.
At trial, Sibley and Block, who has said she prefers the name Lynda Lyon, said they fired at Motley and his patrol car in self-defense after the officer touched his holster.
But witnesses said Sibley fired shots 1st and Block joined in the shootout after the officer was wounded.
Both were sentenced to die in part because forensics experts couldn't decide who fired the fatal shots.
At the time, the couple was fleeing from Orlando, Fla., to avoid being sentenced on assault convictions in the stabbing of Block's 79-year-old former husband. They contend they were innocent of assault and had become
victims in the case themselves.
The couple, whose supporters have posted an Internet site that details their claims of injustice by a twisted judicial system, have refused to pursue the death sentence appeals they are entitled to under state law. The courts had to appoint attorneys to represent them at trial, but they balked at getting help from defense attorneys for the appeals.
Assistant Attorney General Beth Hughes has said Sibley and Block refused to "recognize the jurisdiction of the Alabama courts."
Block's court-appointed defense attorney, W. David Nichols of Birmingham, said in 1999 that she contends Alabama never became a state again after the Civil War and its courts hold no jurisdiction.
The couple met at a Libertarian Party meeting in 1991 and became active in its politics. They took the position that individuals should be free from government intrusions, eventually getting rid of their driver's licenses,
car registrations and birth certificates.
The last woman to come close to execution in the state was Judith Ann Neelley, who avoided the electric chair when former Gov. Fob James set aside her death sentence in 1999.
Block is the 2nd person scheduled for execution in Alabama during April. Gary Leon Brown, 44, of Birmingham has an execution date of April 5. Brown was convicted of capital murder for the stabbing death of a Jefferson County man in 1987.
Bills to make lethal injection a form of execution in Alabama are pending in the legislature, but neither would apply to the executions scheduled in April. The legislation, if passed and signed, would not take affect until
June at the earliest.
Monday June 12, 2000
Texas Gov. Bush Urged to Stay Execution
By Jeff Franks
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A group whose work in finding flawed convictions contributed to a death penalty moratorium in Illinois urged Texas Gov. George W. Bush (news - web sites) on Monday to grant a reprieve to a man scheduled for execution in 10 days.
The Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University said Texas, which leads the nation in capital punishment, may kill an innocent man if Republican presidential hopeful Bush allows the June 22 execution of Gary Graham.
In a news conference, center legal director Lawrence Marshall said Graham, convicted in the 1981 robbery and shooting death of a man outside a Houston supermarket, was facing execution on ``the weakest evidence I've seen in 30 years.''
``Of the 684 men and women who have been executed in this country (since 1976) I am aware of none who was executed in the face of such overwhelming doubt of guilt,'' Marshall said.
In January, Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican and capital punishment supporter, suspended executions in his state because of evidence that 13 men on death row had been wrongly convicted. In nine of those cases, the information was unearthed by students and professors at Northwestern.
Graham, now 38, was sentenced to die largely on the testimony of a single witness who picked him out of a police lineup.
Six other witnesses who have cast doubt on Graham's guilt either were not called to testify in his trial or have come forward since, Marshall said.
Graham has maintained his innocence in the crime, but pleaded guilty to 10 other aggravated robberies committed around the same time and is serving 20 years in prison.
Graham, whose case has attracted the support of celebrities such as actor Danny Glover, was granted a stay in 1993 by then Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat.
Bush spokesman Mike Jones said on Monday the governor would wait for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation on a clemency request from Graham before deciding what to do.
Bush, a death penalty supporter who became governor in January 1995, recommended his first stay of execution for a death row inmate two weeks ago in a case where the inmate said DNA tests could clear him in the rape and murder of his stepdaughter.
Texas, with 218 executions since a national death penalty ban was lifted in 1976, leads the nation in capital punishment. Under Bush, 131 people have been put to death by lethal injection, including 19 this year.
Three more Texas inmates are set to die this week.
Monday June 12, 2000
Texas Executes Man Who Killed Two
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - A man who murdered his mother-in-law and her mother in 1991 was put to death by lethal injection on Monday in a Texas prison.
Thomas Mason, 48, was the 20th convicted killer executed this year in Texas and the first of three men set to die this week in the nation's most active death-penalty state.
Mason was sentenced to death for shooting Marsha Brock, 55, and Sybil Dennis, 80, in Dennis' Whitehouse, Texas home on Oct. 2, 1991.
He apparently was angry with them because they were the mother and grandmother, respectively, of his estranged wife, police said.
In a final statement as he lay strapped to a gurney in the Texas death chamber, Mason said he had not had a fair trial.
``(They) did everything but make sure I got a fair trial to prove I was innocent,'' Mason said.
Before lapsing into unconsciousness, Mason complained that the injection of lethal chemicals had a ``bad taste to it.''
Mason was the 219th person executed in Texas since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a national death penalty ban.
He was the 132nd person put to death since Texas Governor and presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush (news - web sites) took office in January 1995.
Condemned killer John Burks was set to die on Wednesday in Texas for a 1989 robbery and murder, followed on Thursday by Paul Nuncio, who raped and killed a woman in 1993.
6-12-00 -HUNTSVILLE, Texas (CNN) -- Thomas Mason was put to death by lethal injection Monday night in Texas -- even as questions are raised about death penalty cases in the state, and a physicians group seeks a national moratorium on executions.
Mason, 48, received a lethal injection for the killings 81/2 years ago of his estranged wife's mother and grandmother.
A report released Monday found that two-thirds of death penalty cases that were appealed from 1973 through 1995 were successful, an indication that the nation's capital punishment system is "collapsing under the weight of its own mistakes."
A study of appeals during those years showed that most cases "are so seriously flawed that they have to be done over again," said Columbia University law professor James Liebman, the lead author.
Study: Death penalty appeals often succeed
The report examined 4,578 death penalty cases in which at least one round of appeals was completed. Of those cases, a state or federal court threw out the conviction or death sentence in 68 percent of the cases.
"It's not one case, it's thousands of cases. It's not one state, it's almost all of the states," Liebman said in an interview. "You're creating a very high risk that some errors are going to get through the process."
The Columbia study said only 5 percent of the 5,760 death sentences imposed from 1973 through 1995 were carried out.
It said the main reasons why death penalty convictions are thrown out appear to be incompetent defense lawyers and misconduct by prosecutors.
The findings come at a time of increased debate over capital punishment.
Earlier this year, Republican Governor George Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in his state after 13 death row inmates were exonerated. Texas Gov. George W. Bush recently approved his first 30-day reprieve in a death penalty case -- to allow time for DNA testing -- after permitting 131 executions.
Texas, which executed 104 people during the study period, showed 52 percent of its death penalty cases reversed on appeal. Florida, which executed 36 people, had a 73 percent reversal rate.
On the other hand, Virginia, which executed 29 people, had a reversal rate of only 18 percent. The study suggested that may be partly due to Virginia's strict limits on appeals in death penalty cases and the overall low reversal rate in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from that state.
Two more Texas inmates set to die this week
Mason is the 20th to be executed this year. Two other Texas inmates are set to die this week.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- the state's last resort for death row inmates -- has appointed attorneys with previous disciplinary records or little experience in handling capital cases and has affirmed an overwhelming majority of the death penalty cases that come before it, including ones with obvious flaws, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
The report is the second of a two-part series by the newspaper looking at how the death penalty has been administered since Bush took office in 1995.
The Tribune reported Sunday that dozens of inmates have been executed in Texas although their defenses were marred by unreliable evidence, disbarred or suspended defense attorneys and questionable psychiatric testimony.
Bush reacted Sunday by saying Texas has "adequately answered innocence or guilt" in its death penalty cases.
AMA may vote on execution ban
On the same day of Mason's execution in Texas, an American Medical Association conference in Chicago is being asked to consider recommending a national moratorium on the death penalty.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians argues all executions should be stopped until questions about the death penalty system -- including the availability of DNA evidence -- are resolved.
"The possibility exists that in several states innocent individuals may be executed because medical technology will not be made available in time to prevent their death," says an AAPHP resolution.
The proposal, being presented Monday to the policy-making arm of the AMA, the nation's largest doctors group, could be voted on by AMA delegates later in the week during their annual meeting.
If you're looking for resources supporting the pro-death penalty position and the right to personal protection (the correct sides on these issues), check out:
Monday June 12 , 2000
Bush Defends Death Sentencing
By Carter M. Yang
George W. Bush is trying to present himself as “compassionate conservative” in his run for the White House. But critics prefer to paint the Texas governor as chief executioner, presiding over a reckless and overzealous system that executes more people than in any other state.
The presumptive Republican nominee vehemently defends the way his state metes out the death penalty, insisting that his critics have an anti-capital punishment agenda.
“I know there’s some in the country that don’t care for the death penalty,” he told reporters near the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine on Sunday. “But I believe … we’ve adequately answered innocence or guilt [in every case].”
“They’ve had full access to the courts and they’ve had full access to have a fair trial,” Bush said of the 131 convicted criminals executed in Texas since he took office in 1995.
But a recent investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that 43 of those inmates were represented by defense attorneys who have been publicly sanctioned for misconduct. Forty others, the Tribune reported, had lawyers who presented no evidence or only one witness during the critical sentencing phase of their trials. And dozens of others reportedly were convicted with the help of unreliable physical evidence or the testimony of non-credible witnesses.
Bush’s aides insist that the media is whipping up a baseless frenzy over the issue and maintain that the death penalty will not be a decisive issue in the campaign.
Vice President Al Gore, Bush’s Democratic opponent, is not likely to make hay out of the issue, as he too supports capital punishment. And 64 percent of the public, according to an ABCNEWS.com poll taken earlier this year, feel the same way.
But, as one Bush campaign official conceded, voters might view Bush’s handling of life and death decisions as governor as a sign of how he would manage weighty decisions in the Oval Office. If his approach to society’s severest punishment were seen as careless or cavalier, it would be a political liability, particularly as the GOP candidate strives to appeal to traditionally Democratic constituencies such as women voters, who are evenly split on the question of capital punishment.
Death Penalty Under Scrutiny
The questions raised about executions in Texas come at a time when the death penalty is coming under increasing scrutiny nationwide. A new report released by the Columbia Law School today found that two-thirds of the capital sentences handed down between 1973 and 1995 were thrown out after judicial review due to “prejudicial errors,” such as incompetence of defense counsel or misconduct by police or prosecutors.
“The problem is this system is better at making mistakes than catching them,” says James S. Liebman, lead author of the report. “With this many mistakes, it’s almost inevitable that some of those mistakes won’t get caught and innocent people will be executed.”
Earlier this year, the Republican governor of Illinois, George Ryan, imposed a moratorium on all executions in the state, amid reports of egregious incompetence by public defenders and the widespread use of unreliable evidence.
On Tuesday, the Senate will hold public hearings on DNA testing for death row inmates. Concerns have been raised that the new technology is not being adequately employed in cases where new testing might help to disprove guilt.
With three more Texas inmates set to die this week, the Bush campaign is bracing for even more media attention on death row executions in Texas.
For his part, the governor continues to maintain not only that his state has never put an innocent man or woman to death under his leadership, but also that in “every case,” the person executed received adequate legal representation. This blanket defense of the system, campaign sources say, just increases the resolve of reporters to scrutinize the Texas capital punishment system.
The press “[seems] to have taken it on as a challenge,” remarked one Bush aide bitterly. Another aide acknowledged privately that the governor had no choice but to issue the blanket denial.
“What [else] is he supposed to say?” the aide asked. Were Bush to question the fairness of the system, it would “raise a dark cloud over every decision he has already made.”
June 9, 2000
Amnesty Condemns Florida Killer's Execution
MIAMI (Reuters) - The execution of a Florida killer who complained he was ``butchered'' by his executioners is compelling evidence that the United States should abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International USA said.
Bennie Demps, 49, was put to death on Wednesday at Florida State Prison near Starke for the fatal stabbing of a fellow prisoner. In a deathbed diatribe he blasted prison officials for their handling of his execution by lethal injection.
Florida's administration of capital punishment has come under heavy fire in the past and has been the subject of numerous court challenges. The state switched to lethal injection after several bloody or fiery executions in the state's electric chair.
Demps was the third Florida inmate to die by lethal injection since it was instituted this year.
``This case indicates ... that lethal injection is no less a human rights violation than electrocution,'' AIUSA executive director William Schulz said in a statement issued late Thursday. ``All execution methods are gruesome and can go awry.''
Florida prison officials have defended the execution, which was delayed for more than half an hour while medical personnel searched for a suitable vein to administer the lethal drugs.
``They butchered me back there. I was in a lot of pain,'' Demps told witnesses in the prison death chamber before executioners released the deadly dose.
His attorney, George Schaefer, said in a letter to local prosecutors that Demps complained the executioners had cut him in the groin and leg in their search for a vein.
Demps, who was serving a life sentence for a 1971 double shooting murder when he was sentenced to die in 1978 for the murder of Alfred Sturgis, was not pronounced dead until 6:53 p.m. EDT. The execution had been scheduled for 6 p.m.
Amnesty International USA called for an independent investigation of the execution, including an autopsy. Demps, a Muslim, had requested that no autopsy be performed because of his religion and the local state attorney's office said it did not plan an investigation.
State officials said on Thursday the execution was carried out according to protocol and said they did not plan a review.
Florida was roundly criticized for the bloody execution of Allen Lee Davis in July 1999. Witnesses heard muffled screams from the death chamber and blood flowed from the inmate's nose as a lethal jolt of electricity was applied.
In March 1997 flames shot from the head of inmate Pedro Medina, the second time an electrocution produced fire in the electric chair known as ``Old Sparky.''
The Medina execution prompted a year-long halt to executions while courts reviewed whether using the electric chair violated the U.S. constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Although the courts ultimately upheld electrocution, Florida in January made lethal injection its primary method of execution with electrocution an option at the inmate's request.
Amnesty International said 108 nations have abolished the death penalty ``in law or practice.''
``At a time when the United States is scrutinizing the administration of the death penalty, an incident like this highlights Amnesty International's belief that the death penalty is the ultimate human rights violation,'' AIUSA southern region director Ajamu Baraka said.
Tuesday June 20 8:08 PM ET
Three Jurors Who Convicted Graham Urge New Trial
By Jeff Franks
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Three jurors who voted to convict Gary Graham of murder and give him the death penalty are now trying to help him get a new trial just two days before he is set to be executed, a lawyer for Graham said on Tuesday.
The jurors said in signed affidavits they would have voted differently had they heard all available evidence in the 1981 trial, attorney Jack Zimmerman said.
The affidavits were sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles as Graham supporters tried to save him from the executioner. The case has attracted the support of anti-capital punishment groups and a host of Hollywood celebrities.
Graham, now 38, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas, for shooting Bobby Lambert to death while robbing him outside a Houston supermarket in 1981.
Graham was convicted largely on the testimony of a single witness who picked him out of a police lineup. Other witnesses who cast doubt on his guilt were not asked to testify, Zimmerman told Reuters.
The three jurors based their change of opinion on statements from two witnesses who said Graham did not match the description of the man they saw and on evidence that the lone witness to point the finger at Graham was shown a flawed lineup, Zimmerman said.
``You got two guys who say was a shorter guy. Ain't no way in the world I would have done that (found him guilty knowing that),'' one of the jurors, Bobby Pryor, told the Houston Chronicle.
Zimmerman said the jurors' affidavits could convince the Texas parole board to recommend that Texas Gov. George W. Bush (news - web sites) grant a reprieve or conditional pardon to allow time for a new trial.
``The first thing they would ask (about the new evidence) is what difference would it have made. Well, here's a quarter of the jury saying they would have voted differently. That's pretty significant,'' Zimmerman said.
The 18-member parole board, appointed by Bush, who is also the Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee, will vote privately on the clemency petition on Thursday. The board has recommended to commute a death sentence only once since Bush took office in 1995.
During that time, 134 people have been put to death in Texas, which leads the nation in executions.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson visited Graham on Tuesday at death row in Livingston, Texas, 70 miles (112 km) north of Houston. He said Graham had asked him to witness the execution and had also invited Bush, who Jackson urged to grant Graham a reprieve.
``If you (Bush) feel he must die, be a witness and see for yourself and feel good about the decision you made because it is your decision,'' Jackson said in a news conference.
Jackson said Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites), the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee, should speak out for Graham. Gore thus far has said only that he favors capital punishment.
``While Mr. Bush must act, Mr. Gore must not be silent,'' Jackson said.
Thursday June 22 , 2000
Barring Reprieve, Texas Inmate Graham Set to Die
By Jeff Franks
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - Death row inmate Gary Graham, convicted largely on the testimony of one eyewitness and whose case has sharpened a growing national debate on the death penalty, was set to die on Thursday night barring last-minute intervention by Texas officials.
Heavy security was in place outside the state prison where Graham, 38, was to receive a lethal injection shortly after 6 p.m. local time for a 1981 murder he said he did not commit.
Prison officials said they were expecting a potentially dangerous mix of demonstrators in Huntsville, including Ku Klux Klansmen who favor the execution and a gun-toting Black Panther group that protested Graham's death sentence last week outside the Texas Republican state convention in Houston.
One of Graham's last hopes to escape the executioner lay with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which was to decide by midday Thursday whether to recommend a reprieve that Texas Gov. George W. Bush (news - web sites) could accept or reject.
Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, said he cannot grant a reprieve on his own because Graham received a 1993 stay from then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards and Texas law allows only one unilateral gubernatorial intervention in capital cases.
If the 18-member board, which is appointed by Bush and makes its decisions in private, turns down Graham's clemency request, his attorneys have said they will seek an 11th-hour stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. The country's highest court rejected a similar motion from Graham last month.
Graham supporters, including civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Amnesty International representative Bianca Jagger, are pressing for a new trial in the case.
They say Graham, convicted of shooting Bobby Lambert to death during a nighttime holdup outside a Houston supermarket, had incompetent legal counsel and that new witnesses could exonerate him. They question whether the lone witness to identify him, Bernadine Skillern, got a good look at the shooter.
Skillern, who said she has been harassed over the years by Graham supporters, insisted last week in a press conference that she was not mistaken.
While Graham said he did not kill Lambert, he pleaded guilty to 10 aggravated assaults that same week in which two victims were shot and another raped. He is nearing the end of a 20-year sentence for those crimes.
The case has become a major campaign issue for Bush, who has been dogged by demonstrators in recent days, including twice this week when shouting protesters disrupted fund-raising events in California.
On Wednesday, he told reporters he was studying the case closely and would ``follow the laws of the land.''
``If it costs me politically, it costs me politically,'' said Bush who, like a large majority of Americans, supports capital punishment. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 66 percent of people in the United States approve of capital punishment even though most believe that innocent people have been put to death.
Texas leads the nation in executions, with 221 people put to death since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982 following the lifting of a national death penalty ban by the U.S. Supreme Court. Of those, 134 have taken place under Bush.
Texas' liberal use of the death penalty has come under increasing scrutiny since Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican who supports capital punishment, imposed a moratorium on executions in January because of evidence that 13 men on his state's death row had been wrongly convicted. A recent study showed that 70 percent of death penalty cases in the United States were legally flawed.
But Bush repeated on Wednesday his refusal to consider a moratorium in Texas.
``As far as I'm concerned there has not been one innocent person executed (in Texas) since I've been governor,'' he said. ''I believe the system is fair and just.''
Graham has been tried only once, but his case has been reviewed by more than 20 courts and 33 different judges, said Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.
Jackson, who met with Graham on Tuesday at death row in Livingston, Texas, said he would witness the execution and urged Bush to join him.
``Come witness your prey. Have the courage to pull the switch,'' he said.
Texas, Jackson said, had become ``a full-blown killing machine.''
Thursday June 22, 2000
Death Row Inmate Fights With Guards
By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Hours before his scheduled execution, Gary Graham refused meals and fought with guards as they moved him to the prison where he was to be put to death Thursday night, authorities said.
The fate of Graham, his court appeals exhausted, rested Thursday with the 18-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could recommend that Gov. George W. Bush issue a 120-day reprieve, a commutation or a pardon.
His scheduled execution had drawn exceptional scrutiny, largely because of Bush's presidential bid, the national re-examination of capital punishment, and questions about the strength of the case against Graham.
Graham was moved Wednesday evening from death row, at a prison about 45 miles to the east, to the prison in downtown Huntsville where executions are carried out.
Graham, 36, had promised to ``fight like hell'' on the trip to the death chamber.
``As we went to cuff him at the wrist and put shackles to his ankles and waist, he resisted,'' Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said. Several officers had to hold him down to apply the restraints.
Once at Huntsville, ``he slept through the night, he refused supper, refused breakfast but took some coffee today,'' prison spokesman Glen Castlebury said Thursday.
There's no question Graham was a street punk responsible for a crime spree 19 years ago. But he insists his weeklong rampage of robbery, rape and theft did not include the fatal shooting of an Arizona man outside a Houston supermarket.
The governor appoints the parole board, but is barred by law from halting the execution without a majority vote from the panel. The governor does have the power to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve in death penalty cases, but Graham already received one in 1993 from Bush's predecessor, Democrat Ann Richards.
``I'll treat this case no differently than any other case that has come across my desk,'' Bush told the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Houston late Wednesday. ``I'll ask two questions: Innocence or guilt, and whether this person has had full access to the courts of law.''
Texas has executed 22 inmates this year and 134 during Bush's 51/2 years in office. The state has put more people to death in the last two decades than any other state.
Two years ago, Bush told the parole board to review the case of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas because of questions about the slaying for which Lucas was about to die. Lucas' death sentence eventually was commuted to life. And earlier this month, Bush authorized a reprieve for inmate Ricky McGinn pending DNA tests.
He has sent no similar messages about Graham's case.
The debate over Graham's case comes amid growing questions about the death penalty. Illinois Gov. George Ryan has placed a moratorium on state executions, and Bush and Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) have been forced to deal with the issue as they campaign for president.
Graham's case has prompted the loudest protests since convicted pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker was executed in 1998, the first woman put to death in Texas since the Civil War era. Death penalty opponents have adopted Graham's claims of innocence and his contention that he was convicted unfairly, primarily because of testimony from a single eyewitness.
``The Gary Graham case is significant because if he is executed ... he will be the case that will be the most frail, the weakest evidence to justify any execution in the past 27 years,'' said Lawrence Marshall, legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.
Opponents also used the case to focus on capital punishment in Texas and their opposition to Bush, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
``I'm going to uphold the laws of the land,'' Bush said. ``If it costs me politically, it costs me politically.''
Attorney General John Cornyn noted that both state and federal courts have reviewed Graham's case.
``Gary Graham has had at least 20 appeals and his claims have been heard and rejected by at least 33 different judges,'' Cornyn said.
Graham was 17 when Bobby Lambert, 53, was slain on May 13, 1981.
Graham pleaded guilty to 10 aggravated robberies during the crime spree, but argued that the eyewitness at his trial was mistaken when she identified him as the gunman who struggled with Lambert before shooting him.
The witness, Bernadine Skillern, has been pressured over the years by Graham backers but has never wavered. In an interview Thursday on NBC's ``Today'' show, she insisted that she was correct in identifying Graham.
``There was never a doubt in my mind,'' Skillern said. ``Mr. Lambert was killed by Mr. Graham in the parking lot that night. ... There is not one scintilla of doubt in my mind.''
Graham also argued that his lawyer at trial, Ron Mock, was ineffective, but courts have rejected that claim. As for witnesses he wants heard, they initially told police they couldn't identify the killer, and prosecutors said they were not actual eyewitnesses.
Among other things, Mock - who has repeatedly been reprimanded or put on probation or suspension by the bar - rested his case during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial without calling any witnesses. But that strategy is not unheard of, and appeals courts have held that it is not necessarily grounds for a new trial.
Mock has said Graham gave him no names of alibi witnesses before the trial. The lawyer said Graham told him only that he had spent the evening with a girlfriend whose name, description and address he could not remember.
On the Net:
Death penalty links: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
Supreme Court, Texas Board Won't Halt Execution
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
.c The Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (June 22, 2000) - The U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas parole board refused to block the execution Thursday evening of Gary Graham in the most contentious death penalty case to confront Gov. George W. Bush since he announced his run for the White House.
Graham's lawyers filed last-minute appeals with the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but both turned him down. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny his appeal.
Both courts had previously rejected Graham's arguments that he was convicted on shaky evidence from a single eyewitness and that his trial lawyer did a poor job.
There was no immediate comment from Bush after the court rulings.
Graham, 36, was convicted of killing a man in a holdup outside a Houston supermarket one night in 1981. He pleaded guilty to 10 robberies around the same time but said he was innocent of the murder.
''Because of human error and human frailty, we are about to put to death a man who is innocent,'' said Richard Burr, one of Graham's attorneys.
The Bush-appointed parole board, which has spared a prisoner only once during the Republican's tenure, could have granted a 120-day reprieve, a commutation to a lesser sentence, or a conditional pardon.
''I can say, unequivocally, that the board's decision not to recommend clemency was reached after a complete and unbiased review of the petition and evidence submitted,'' board chairman Gerald Garrett said, hours before the execution was to take place.
Immediately after the vote was announced, protesters outside the prison in Huntsville began chanting: ''Murderers, murderers.'' A woman who claimed to be Graham's daughter sobbed in the arms of a friend.
Hundreds of officers outnumbered protesters - most of them supporters of Graham - who gathered in stifling heat and humidity near the brick prison where 221 executions have been carried out since capital punishment resumed in Texas in 1982. The total is by far the highest in the nation.
Graham had vowed to ''fight like hell'' on the trip to the death chamber.
In the hours leading up to the execution, he refused meals but met for about an hour with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whom he designated his spiritual adviser, his stepmother and Bianca Jagger of Amnesty International. Jackson said he and Graham talked and prayed.
''He was amazingly upbeat,'' Jackson said. ''There were no tears shed. He had a sense of inner peace. He feels he was being used as a kind of change agent to expose the system. With every passing hour ... there is mass education around the world about what is happening in Texas.''
Graham resisted when he was moved late Wednesday from death row to the death house in downtown Huntsville. Several officers had to hold Graham down to apply the restraints, said Larry Fitzgerald, Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.
Bush had no authority to halt the execution without a majority vote from the 18-member parole board. The governor does have the power to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve in death penalty cases, but Graham had already received one in 1993 from Bush's predecessor.
Bush had said he would treat the case no differently than any other he has considered. During the governor's 5 1/2 years in office, 132 men and two women were executed before Graham.
Two years ago, Bush told the parole board to review the case of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas because of questions about Lucas's conviction. His death sentence eventually was commuted to life. This month, Bush granted a condemned man a 30-day reprieve so that he could pursue DNA tests. The governor sent no similar messages about Graham's case.
The debate over Graham's case came amid growing questions about the death penalty. Illinois Gov. George Ryan has placed a moratorium on executions, and Bush and Vice President Al Gore have been forced to address the issue as they campaign for president.
Graham's case brought the loudest protests since pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker was executed in 1998, the first woman put to death in Texas since the Civil War era.
Six people were arrested outside the prison Thursday for breaking through police lines; other activists burned American flags. Another 150 people protested outside the governor's mansion in Austin.
No physical evidence tied Graham to the killing of 53-year-old Bobby Lambert, and ballistics tests showed that the gun he had when he was arrested was not the murder weapon. But the witness who identified him, Bernadine Skillern, has never wavered.
Skillern, who was waiting in her car outside the supermarket while her daughter ran inside, saw the holdup from about 30 feet away. She identified Graham as the shooter and said the lighting in the parking lot was adequate.
Graham has argued also that his lawyer during the trial, Ron Mock, should have introduced other witnesses who would say he was not the killer. But those witnesses initially told police they couldn't identify the killer, and prosecutors said they were not actual eyewitnesses.
First black woman executed in U.S. since 1954
Allen was executed for killing a childhood friend and later her lesbian lover
January 12, 2001
McALESTER, Oklahoma (AP) -- Victims' family members said the execution of convicted killer Wanda Jean Allen brought them closure as they decried protesters who fought the nation's first execution of a black woman since 1954.
Allen, 41, raised her head and smiled, and a tear appeared in the corner of her eye before she received a lethal dose of drugs Thursday night at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. "Father forgive them," she said, echoing Christ's words as he was crucified. "They know not what they do."
She was condemned for killing her lesbian lover, Gloria Leathers, whom she met in prison. She served two years for fatally shooting childhood friend Dedra Pettus in 1981.
"We're the victims, not Wanda Jean," said Leathers' daughter, LaToya Leathers. "We are the victims and justice has been served."
In the days before her death, Allen served as the rallying point for death penalty foes, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was arrested along with two dozen other demonstrators Wednesday.
Gov. Frank Keating refused Allen's late request for a 30-day stay, and last-minute rejections by appeals courts cleared the way for the death sentence.
"This is not easy because I'm dealing with a fellow human being," said Keating, an ardent death penalty supporter. "This is not easy because I'm dealing with a fellow Oklahoman."
Outside the prison gates, death penalty supporters and opponents gathered in clusters, talking in low voices and shivering in the cold.
Ann Scott, whose daughter Elaine Marie Scott was killed in 1991, said she resented Jackson coming to Oklahoma to try to stop the execution.
Jackson is arrested Wednesday while protesting Allen's execution
"I highly resent his being here and teaching Oklahomans civil disobedience," she said. "I think the system works."
Ajamu Baraka, acting director of Amnesty International USA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Oklahoma had no business executing Allen.
"Any state that exercises this ultimate punishment against a person who is mentally impaired is acting not only immorally, but also irrationally and illegally," Baraka said.
Before Thursday, 44 women had been executed in the United States since 1900. The last execution of a black woman came in 1954, when Ohio electrocuted Betty Jean Butler.
The most recent woman to die was Christina Marie Riggs, 28, executed in Arkansas last May for smothering her two young children.
Keating considered giving Allen a stay based on the narrow issue of whether the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had enough information regarding her education.
Allen's attorneys have pointed to her score, a 69, on an IQ test she took in the 1970s, arguing she is in the range of mental retardation.
Prosecutors said Allen testified during the penalty phase of her trial that she had graduated from high school and received a medical assistant certificate from a college.
But they said Allen dropped out of high school at 16 and never finished course work in the medical assistant program.
The execution was the second of eight planned in Oklahoma over the next four weeks.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Oklahoma set to start record execution month
January 9, 2001
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (Reuters) -- An Oklahoma man convicted of raping and beating to death an 84-year-old woman was due to be executed later Tuesday, the first of a state record of seven executions scheduled in one month.
Eddie Leroy Trice, 48, was set to die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. EST in the Oklahoma death chamber in McAlester for the 1987 murder of Ernestine Jones during a $500 robbery.
The state's busy execution schedule this month has drawn fire from death penalty opponents, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who staged a series of protests and rallies calling for a state moratorium on capital punishment like one adopted by Illinois in 2000.
"In light of the U.S. Justice Department's findings released this past September, detailing disturbing racial and geographic disparities in the application of the federal death penalty, I urge you, as governor of Oklahoma, to examine these same questions as they apply to your state," Jackson wrote in a letter to Gov. Frank Keating.
Keating has repeatedly dismissed calls for a moratorium and told the Tulsa World newspaper this week that capital punishment "is a statement of moral outrage and justice sought and received."
Protesters have focused in particular on the case of Wanda Jean Allen, scheduled for execution Thursday as the first black woman put to death in the United States since 1954.
Her defenders say Allen, convicted of shooting her lover to death in 1988, should be spared because she is borderline retarded.
If all seven scheduled executions are carried out, Oklahoma will have executed the most inmates in one month in its history, surpassing its previous record of four in May 1933.
State officials have said the sudden cluster of executions was a coincidence caused by a backlog of death penalty cases stretching back into the 1980s that have finished the appeals process.
Neighboring Texas holds the U.S. record for most executions in a month at eight in both May and June of 1997. Oklahoma put 11 people to death in 2000, ranking only behind Texas, which set a U.S. record of 40 executions in a year.
Trice was convicted of raping and beating Ernestine Jones and beating her retarded son in a drug-induced rage while robbing her home in 1987. Jones later died of her injuries. Police said the take on the robbery was $500.
Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Trice requested a last meal of fried chicken, potatoes with onions, sweet potato pie, hot rolls and a soft drink.
Copyright 2001 Reuters. All rights reserved.
v. Lynaugh (1989) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Was Penry's sentence
cruel and unusual punishment?
Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Would the execution of a 15 year old violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishments"?
Booth v. Maryland (1987) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Does the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects a defendant from cruel and unusual punishment, prohibit a jury from considering a victim impact statement during the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial?
McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) [Discrimination: Race; Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Did the statistical study prove that McCleskey's sentence violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?
Lockett v. Ohio (1978) [Due Process; Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Did the Ohio law violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by limiting the consideration of mitigating factors?
Coker v. Georgia (1977) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Was the imposition of the death penalty for the crime of rape a form of cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment?
Gregg v. Georgia (1976) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Is the imposition of the death sentence prohibited under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as "cruel and unusual" punishment?
Louisiana v. Resweber (1947) [Due Process; Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Does the second attempted execution deny Francis due process of law because of double jeopardy guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and because of cruel and unusual punishment of the Eighth Amendment?
v. Kentucky (1989) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Does the imposition
of the death sentence on convicted capital offenders below the age of 18
years old, violate the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual
Roberts v. Louisiana (1976) [Due Process; Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Does Louisiana's death-penalty sentencing scheme violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments' safeguards against arbitrary and capricious death penalty impositions?
Proffitt v. Florida (1976) [Due Process; Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Is the death penalty a "cruel and unusual" punishment? Is Florida's capital-sentencing procedure unconstitutional?
Woodson v. North Carolina (1976) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Did the mandatory death penalty law violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?
Jurek v. Texas (1976) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Is the death penalty a "cruel and unusual" punishment? Is Texas' capital-sentencing procedure unconstitutional?
Furman v. Georgia (1972) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Does the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?
Robinson v. California (1962) [Rights of the Accused: Punishment] Was the California law an infliction of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment?
To comment on this blog post directly at www.capoliticalnews.com
One of the most difficult issues is that of the death penalty. As a pro-lifer, I believe all life has value. From the time of conception to the time of natural death. And, there is the problem. Can someone do something so grievous that they should forfeit their lives? Even then, can they be rehabilitated to such as extent that they should be allowed to live, though incarcerated?
I remember an ultra liberal talk show host in LA saying that Sirhan Sirhan deserved the death penalty. Yet, he opposed the death penalty for others. Is the life of Robert Kennedy so valuable that his murderer deserves the death penalty, but the mother of three small children does not? Would anyone stop the murder of Hitler? Or of Manson?
Why should we save him? because he has written children's books and told other prisoners that it is wrong it kill. Even President Bush sent him a commendation for his "charitable" activities. For more about his case, you can go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/10/25/BAGO9FDDFE1.DTL
Back to the death penalty. Should those that took a life be allowed to live? In all societies there has been a death penalty--stoning, hangings, the stake. In our society we have years and years of appeals and opportunities to say that your Uncle looked at you funny, causing you to go crazy for a moment and kill someone--thirty years later. On a recent episode of "Boston Legal" a murderess asks the judge if she could get the Robert Blake jury. Who can ever forget the OJ trial, not in our lifetime. Yet, Scott Peterson has another 20 years before he will face the executioner, and still he wants the insurance money.erial killers. Why not save the babies and kill the killers? Lots of questions, but what is the right answer.
For me, I believe killers relinquish their right to life. It is not just a guarantee of no more killing, it is straight forward punishment. It is not about rehabilitation, it is about paying with your life for taking the life of another. It is a statement that life is valuable, and if you take it, you must give it back--with your own. While there are variations of murder--voluntary, involuntary, manslaughter, etc, First Degree, premeditated murder is a crime that should be punishable by death.What do you think? This is FRANK DISCUSSION NOT LECTURE FOR CONSERVATIVES. Post your views on the death penalty directly on the blog. Let the media, elected officials and opinion makers hear your voice.
The Pro Death Penalty
Murder Victims Memorial Site
Justice for Officer Faulkner
Justice For All
Death Penalty News and Updates
Lamp of Hope
Abolition of the Death Penalty
|-||Death Sentence Not Always Fatal - CBS News (Jun 12, 2000)|
|-||Death-penalty trials rife with errors, study finds - Dallas Morning News (Jun 12, 2000)|
|-||Study: Most Death Cases Have Significant Flaws - Chicago Tribune (Jun 12, 2000)|
|-||Prisoners pay with lives for legal errors - Sydney Morning Herald (Jun 12, 2000)|
|-||Incompetent defense, prosecutor misconduct mar process, study says - Detroit Free Press (Jun 12, 2000)|
|-||Dubya & The Death Penalty - CBS News (Jun 12, 2000)|
|Related Web Sites|
|-||Supreme Court Cases on Rights of the Accused - abstracts, written opinions, and RealAudio of the original oral arguments for cases on the death penalty and other criminal punishment issues. From the Oyez Project of Northwestern University.|
|-||Amnesty USA: Death Penalty in the USA - archive of reports on the topic.|
|-||Decisions, Decisions: Death Penalty - teaching material for grades 5-10 that includes video of 4 "advisors" espousing 4 different points of view on the issue. Students print out advisor memos and vote in an online web poll.|
|-||John Stuart Mill: Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment - " I defend this penalty, when confined to atrocious cases, on the very ground on which it is commonly attacked--on that of humanity to the criminal; as beyond comparison the least cruel mode in which it is possible adequately to deter from the crime."|
|-||Pro Death Penalty Pages|
|-||SpeakOut.com: Death Penalty - includes issue briefs, timeline, and petitions.|
|-||The Justice Project - includes full text of the study A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995.|
|-||Death Row Roll Call - monthly list of U.S. death row inmates scheduled for execution; from The Nation.|
|-||Rights of the Victim - from the Executive Office of the Governor, Florida.|
|-||Death of Innocents - article on death row inmates who were later exonerated. Part of the Hartford Advocate's series on the failure of the criminal justice system.|
|-||Clark County Prosecuting Attorney: The Death Penalty - offers statistics and information on the death penalty in Indiana and factual and legal summaries of cases since 1977.|
|-||Death Penalty Update - capsule profile of captital punishment as exercised in the U.S. and around the world.|
|-||Capital Defender's Toolbox - death penalty legal news and tools for those defending the condemned and accused.|
Death Penalty Links
Capital Punishment - an essay on capital punishment, giving two arguments, one based on justice and one based on love. Both lead to opposition.
Capital Punishment: The Ultimate Injustice - collection of links to anti-death penalty resources.
Coloradans Against The Death Penalty (CADP) - nonprofit organization working to abolish the death penalty in Colorado.
Death Penalty Information - from the American Society of Criminology.
Death Penalty Institute of Oklahoma - serves the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.
Death Penalty Perspective, The - a view on capital punishment and the ramifications from a victim's point of view. Includes testimonials, witness accounts, and related links.
Death Penalty USA Pages - includes news, statistics, links, and listings of death row inmates by state, sex, and age.
Fight the Death Penalty in USA - articles and discussions.
Friends For Life - working for the abolition of capital punishment. Individual cases, appeals for help, death penalty information.
Journey of Hope in Virginia '96 - September 21 to October 6. Two weeks of education for alternatives to the death penalty.
Massachusetts Death Penalty E-mail Network (MADPEN) - connects organizations and individuals working to keep the death penalty out of Massachusetts.
Moratorium 2000 - not-for-profit, nonpolitical organization dedicated to obtaining a moratorium on the death penalty internationally.
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty - non-profit organization decicated to the complete abolition of the death penalty both in the United States and abroad.
Netmonkey's Death Penalty Page - article giving statistics, charts, and numerous reasons as to why killing is wrong.
New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Moratorium - dedicated to winning public and political support for an immediate suspension of all executions in New Jersey for a minimum of two years.
New Mexcio Coaliton to Repeal the Death Penalty - with legislative, educational, faith, and media committees.
New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty - statewide coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the abolition of capital punishment.
Ohioans To Stop Executions - founded in 1987 to end the use of capital punishment in the state through education and activism.
Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty - consists of organizations, individuals, human rights groups, churches and other faith-based organizations.
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty - committed to the education and mobilization of people of all faiths in North Carolina for the abolition of the death penalty.
Stop the Death Penalty - online petition against the death penalty in the United States.