Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mike Huckabee on the Death Penalty

Mike Huckabee supports the death penalty. In his book, From Hope to Higher Ground, he described the death penalty as "a tough issue." He wrote that he believes "some crimes deserve it, but that does not mean I like it."
He also described carrying out the death penalty as the worst part of his job as governor of Arkansas.

In a December 2005 interview on PBS that he said that he has had to "carry out the death penalty more than any governor in the history of my state" and that "it is not something I'm proud of."

John McCain on the Death Penalty

John McCain supports the death penalty for federal crimes.
As senator from Arizona, he voted to prohibit the use of racial statistics in death penalty appeals and ban the death penalty for minors.
He also supported legislation to allow the death penalty for acts of terrorism and has said he would consider further expansion of capital punishment laws for other crimes.

Hillary Clinton on the Death Penalty

Hillary Clinton has been a longtime advocate of the death penalty. Clinton cosponsored the Innocence Protection Act of 2003 which became law in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act.
The bill provides funding for post-conviction DNA testing and establishes a DNA testing process for individuals sentenced to the death penalty under federal law.
As first lady, she lobbied for President Clinton's crime bill, which expanded the list of crimes subject to the federal death penalty.

Barack Obama on the Death Penalty

Barack Obama wrote in his recent memoir that he thinks the death penalty "does little to deter crime.
" But he supports capital punishment in cases "so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."


More Barack Obama on the Death Penalty on Youtube

Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Excerpt Journey Toward Justice Author Dennis Fritz One Day Before Freedom

One day before freedom:
I got back up in my bunk and pondered the many questions that plagued my mind. When I awoke to the jangle of keys in the door, I realized that I must have dozed off for a while. The guard said that there were some people there to see me. I followed him to the visiting room.
As I turned to enter, I saw a beautiful young woman standing in front of me. In a split second, I realized that this radiant woman with the beautiful smile was Elizabeth. My blessed mother was standing by her side. An uncontrollable feeling welled up in my chest and I began to cry. In that very same visiting room years earlier I had last seen Elizabeth as a young girl.

Now she was grown up. She looked so much like her mother. We stood for a moment, uncertain about what to do as we stared at each other, our faces quivering with emotion. Then we lunged into each other’s arms, embracing each other with every ounce of emotion that had been locked away inside us for the past twelve years.

With our hearts, minds, and bodies united, we embraced for what seemed like a lifetime—the lifetime that we had been cheated out of.
“Daddy, you are going home tomorrow,” Elizabeth said, her voice trembling. I could feel her hot tears falling on my neck and shoulders. “I’ve missed you and love you so much, Dad.”

Page 447

Excerpt from "Journey Toward Justice" by Dennis Fritz Copyright © 2006 by Seven Locks Press.
Excerpted by permission of Seven Locks Press All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
On Amazon - Journey Toward Justice Author Dennis Fritz On Amazon Here

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ellen Reasonover Received A Life Sentence For Stopping For Change at Gas Station

On her way to do laundry in 1983, Ellen Reasonover stopped at a gas station to get change. Although she saw three men at the Dellwood, Missouri, station, nobody answered her repeated knocks at the window.
Reasonover later learned the station attendant had been murdered during a robbery. She told police what she had seen, but despite corroboration by an eyewitness, police focused on Reasonover.

Their investigation was based on testimony from two jailhouse informants who were promised leniency in their own cases for testifying against her.
State prosecutors also hid evidence of Reasonover’s innocence from her defense counsel.
Reasonover was convicted of a crime she did not commit and served 16 years of a life sentence before the state’s misconduct was proven and a federal judge ordered her release.

She might still be incarcerated if not for the efforts of the Centurion Ministries Innocence Project in New Jersey.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide

Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number — nearly 500,000 — mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons.

Out of 2 million prisoners, 500,000 are mentally ill. The mental illnesses are clinical and include manic depression (bipolar disorder) and schizophrenia. Prisons are not equipped to treat individuals who have been diagnosed.

Ron Williamson was bipolar,
Ron Williamson was the subject of John Grisham's book, The Innocent Man. He wasn’t given his meds and would appear in court incoherent. Chances are that he couldn’t offer much help to his legally blind attorney.

A friend of mine sent me this Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide , prepared by Kristin Houlé to me to share with my readers. It is worth sharing and reading. Let me know what you think. Here is the introduction;

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide
Page 1
Introduction - In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ford v. Wainwright that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment.

The Ford decision left the determination of competency for execution up to each state, however, and it has not prevented the execution of scores of offenders with severe and persistent mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Here in Texas, the state legislature did not even establish a statute governing the process to determine competency to be executed until 1999, and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which considers cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has never found a death row inmate incompetent for execution.

While state and federal courts have wrangled with issues of competency and sanity, more than 20 individuals with documented histories of paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,and other persistent and severe mental illnesses have been executed by the State of Texas.

Countless others continue to languish on death row, waiting to be found “competent to be executed.”
During this same time period, state funding for mental health care has declined substantially across the board, and persons suffering from severe mental disorders increasingly have been placed in jails or prisons rather than treatment facilities.
Many of those sentenced to death and executed in Texas had sought treatment before the commission of their crimes, but were denied long-term care.

In the last five years, the abolition movement has succeeded in outlawing the death penalty for juvenile offenders and persons with mental retardation – offenders who are considered less morally culpable or who have diminished capacity to appreciate the consequences of their actions or to participate fully in their own defense.
The movement now is addressing the fact that it is profoundly inconsistent for those with mental retardation and juveniles to be ineligible for the death penalty while offenders with severe and persistent mental illnesses are held to a higher standard of culpability.

A national effort on this issue has been grounded in a recommendation crafted by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Task Force on Mental Disability and the Death Penalty (consisting of legal and mental health experts), which calls for a prohibition on the death penalty for persons with mental disabilities or disorders. It sets forth standards for determining competency under which offenders whose severe mental illness impairs their capacity to participate in their own defense, exercise rational judgment, or understand the nature and purpose of their punishment no longer are subject to the death penalty.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have endorsed this recommendation, and the ABA House of Delegates passed it unanimously in 2006.
It now is up to individual states to ensure that the ABA recommendation becomes reality.
This effort will require close collaboration with mental health advocates and, most importantly, public education.
Texas is leading the way in this arena, as it currently is the only state in the nation with a specific campaign related to mental illness and the death penalty as well as dedicated staff to support it.

The materials in this organizing packet have been developed to help you educate yourself and the public at large about mental illness and how it intersects with the death penalty/criminal justice systems in Texas.

Use these resources to help reduce some of the stigmas Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide associated with mental illness in this country, to launch a broader dialogue about the death penalty in Texas, and to take action in your community.

In this Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Resource Guide, you will find the following materials:
• Talking Points on Mental Illness and the Death Penalty
• Key Terms and Legal Statutes Related to Mental Illness
• Ideas for Action
• Discussion Guide for “Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti”
• Available Speakers on Mental Illness and the Death Penalty
• Executions of Offenders with Severe Mental Illness in Texas (a compilation of allknown cases)
• Resources on Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

In the pockets of the folder, you will find these resources:
• Mental Illness and the Death Penalty in Texas: Know the Facts
• In-Depth Case Studies on James Colburn, Monty Delk, Scott Panetti, KelseyPatterson, and Larry Robison
• “Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti” DVD
• Mental Illness and the Death Penalty Postcards (20 to get you started; you can request more!)
• American Bar Association Recommendation on the Death Penalty and Persons with Mental Disabilities

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Death Penalty Shocking Cost Study January 2008

Cost Study in Illinois Released
Dated 2/2/2008 - A cost study was recently done in Illinois. It was compiled by Elliot Slosar who is a co-founder of the Abolition in Illinois Movement. The study reveals the shocking amount of funds that go into Illinois' death penalty system. I have attached the Executive Summary to this post...
Executive Summary

Since the inception of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund in 2000, the State of Illinois has disbursed $148,344,735. The 2008 budget for the Capital Litigation Trust Fund is $15,732,553 -- $6,691,200 of which is earmarked for capital cases in Cook County alone.

With an allocation of $65,249,900 since the inception of the trust fund, Cook County has sent six men to death row. The County has actually spent $32,677,089.34, which is an average cost of $5,446,181 per death sentence obtained. Cook County has already spent $1,719,823.19 trying capital cases in 2008.

The 49 counties (excluding Cook) that have used the Capital Litigation Trust Fund have so far spent $20,076,940.63. 13 counties (excluding Cook) in Illinois have accounted for over 73% of this expenditure. Greater Illinois has sentenced seven people to death row with this money, which is an average cost of $2,868,134 per death sentence obtained

The costs of the initial trial defense for those on death row varied from $10,627.50 (Laurence Lovejoy) to $2,041,895.65 (Cecil Sutherland).

Last May, Juan Luna was convicted in a Cook County courtroom of killing seven people. His appointed Counsel spent $941,331.60 in preparation for his trial defense.

Since the inception of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, the common misconception has been that an overwhelming amount of monies that the fund disbursed went directly towards counties in Illinois in order to prosecute and defend capital cases. Yet, that distribution accounts for only 60% of the actual money allocated from the trust fund. In only eight years, in addition to the State’s Attorneys, Public Defenders, and appointed Counsel, another $56,321,894.37 was used to administer capital punishment in the State of Illinois.

One private attorney, John Paul Carroll, attracted by the Capital Litigation Trust Fund to come to Illinois from Connecticut, billed for $870,998.49, in a retrial. His private investigator, Michael Fleming, also tapped the trust fund for $515,998.49. The defendant, Cecil Sutherland, still ended up on death row.

In 2003, the State’s Attorney of DeWitt County charged Amanda Hamm and Maurice Lagrone with murdering her three children. Prosecutors changed their minds three different times about trying Hamm and Lagrone in a capital case. After spending $2,230,246.65, Hamm was not convicted of murder and Lagrone was found ineligible for the death penalty.

The allocation of $148,344,735, in just eight years, has landed just 13 individuals on death row. That is a cost of $11,411,133.46 per death sentence obtained. Even more alarming, this does not include the majority of appeals costs, incarceration, or any portion of execution expenses in Illinois. You can find the entire report at this website link...