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November 19, 2012

"Cal prosecutors seek to jump start death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this AP article. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)   Here is how it starts:
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Robert Fairbank's appeal of his death sentence for the 1985 rape and murder of college student Wendy Cheek.   With that rejection, Fairbank joined at least 13 other death row inmates who have completed the decades-long capital punishment appeals process and are eligible for execution.
Nonetheless, none of the 14 death row inmates who have "exhausted" their appeals will receive a lethal injection any time soon — even though 53 percent of the California electorate reinforced its support of the death penalty with the rejection of Proposition 34 on Nov. 6. 
Lawsuits in federal and state courts have halted executions since January 2006 and it will take months, maybe years, to resolve the litigation.  Judges have ordered a halt to executions and lawyers with the state's attorney general's office have promised not to pursue any executions until the cases are resolved.
Still, a growing number of prosecutors, law enforcement officials and capital punishment proponents are pushing for the quick resumption of execution, citing the defeat of Proposition 34 as a mandate from the voters.  They're calling for an end-run around the legal hang ups, calling for the scrapping of the three-drug lethal injection at the center of the litigation and replacing it with a single-drug execution.  Six other states have already abandoned the three-drug process and adopted the single-drug execution.

In recent months, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe have formally asked local judges for death warrants for three death row inmates and an order to execute them with a single, lethal dose of pentobarbital, a drug previously used to euthanize animals.

But a Los Angeles judge rejected Cooley's motion and Wagstaffe is expecting the same treatment in San Mateo Superior Court, conceding his legal maneuver to have Fairbank's executed soon is more symbolic than realistic. "I am simply trying to get the system moving," Wagstaffe said. "I'm trying to shake the tree a little bit to get people to pay attention."

November 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM | Permalink


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// "Still, a growing number of prosecutors, law enforcement officials and capital punishment proponents are pushing for the quick resumption of execution…They're calling for an end-run around the legal hang ups" //

I do know that pro-death penalty advocates in CA such as CJFL are not "calling for an end-run"
in the sense of anything deceptive or unjust. * Except for such as held candles at the execution of Ted Bundy,
do not most Americans detest the non-probative delays and tricks which keep murderers from execution? *

Those at CJFL who fight the obfuscations of the abolitionists, have only called for
--reasonable expedience--and the--elimination of irrelevant appeals;
constitutional, fair, generous to due process, and much more modest than such as I would fancy.

{ http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/ }

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 19, 2012 1:09:20 PM

"held candles at the execution of Ted Bundy"

sneer sneer.

"Most American" don't know or much consider the "probative" nature of delays and some around here don't think "probative" even means "what a majority of the USSC decided." Anyway, the choir appreciates the talking to.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 19, 2012 2:30:23 PM

Joe --

Do you think the world is better or worse now that Mr. Bundy has been removed from it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 20, 2012 2:45:18 PM



Nearly half of California voters, cast their votes under the misperception that death sentences are less expensive to carry out than LWOP sentences. The opponents of Prop. 34 capitalized on that ignorance.

The opponents of Prop. 34 have a mandate to get lost.

Posted by: Delbert French | Nov 20, 2012 4:52:59 PM

Delbert French --

"The opponents of Prop. 34 have a mandate to get lost."

The losers don't get to say what the mandate is. But if you want us to get lost, fine, you're welcome to enforce that. Gonna?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 20, 2012 5:17:27 PM

@Delbert French

"The opponents of Prop. 34 capitalized on that ignorance."
Much like the proponents of Prop 34 capitalized on the belief that imprisoning killers was just as effective a way to keep them from killing again as putting them to death.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 20, 2012 6:53:59 PM

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Alabama - A convicted killer who narrowly escaped a death sentence more than a decade ago wasn't so fortunate today.

A St. Clair County judge sentenced 35-year-old Taurus Jermaine Carroll, of Birmingham, to death in the 2009 slaying of a fellow inmate in a dispute over prison contraband. Authorities say Carroll fatally stabbed Michael Turner in the back with a prison-made knife. The attack happened because Carroll erroneously suspected that Turner stole his cell phone, according to a press release issued by St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor. Cell phones are prohibited in prison.

The assault happened in September of 2009. Authorities said Turner ran from Carroll, but Carroll chased him into an individual cell where he repeatedly stabbed Turner in the head and body. Turner later died in a prison infirmary.

Turner was unarmed, Minor said, and investigators learned another inmate had stolen the cell phone. Turner was serving a sentence for robbery out of Montgomery County, and was due to be released in less than a year from the time he was killed.

Carroll was already serving life without parole for the 1995 robbery and slaying of a Birmingham Laundromat owner. Betty Long was shot in the abdomen in front of her daughter at their Kingston Laundromat. Ninety dollars was taken in the holdup, along with the daughter's necklace.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Alfred Bahakel sentenced Carroll to death in 1997, but the Alabama Supreme Court later overruled Bahakel's sentence. The appeals court said Bahakel didn't give adequate weight to mitigating circumstances in the case. Carroll was 17 when he killed Long.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Phil Seay's sentencing followed a unanimous recommendation by a jury handed down in September. Carroll, currently in prison at the St. Clair County Correctional Facility, will be transferred to one of the two state prisons that house Death Row inmates.

"This sentence should serve as a reminder to those in our state prisons who choose to use violence that you will pay a heavy price, and possibly the ultimate price, for your actions,'' Minor said in a prepared statement.

Assistant District Attorney John DeMarco who also prosecuted the case against Carroll had this to say: "Carroll is a convicted murderer who has killed again. He has demonstrated that he is not safe to others even when locked behind bars for life. This is the type of individual for whom the death penalty exists in our criminal justice system."


So, what do you abolitionists think Mr. Carroll's sentence should be?

Posted by: alpino | Nov 21, 2012 4:12:35 AM

alpino --

Good luck on getting an answer. When the abolitionist hogwash about how "we're just as safe using LWOP" is exposed, as you have done, the main response is just to shout NAZI!!! (see any post by claudio) or, even more frequently, to go silent.

This is one reason no abolitionist on this board has ever accepted my invitation to a live debate. In that setting, you can't just go silent. With their main tool for evasion gone, they hunker down from the getgo.

Quite a bunch.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 21, 2012 9:38:17 AM

Well if i'd been the daughter of the first murder victim. He'd never have made it out of the courtroom after the first conviction and if i'd had to go through a few of the appeals court judges....GREAT!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 21, 2012 11:28:56 AM

I agree, Bill. How to sentence the LWOP inmate who murders again is an unanswerable question for abolitionists. I teach in Italy and the death penalty is brought up in class every now and then by my students, who are nearly all opposed to it. When I posit the scenario to them of the LWOP inmate who kills again, they really don't know what to say. Plus, the fact is that the above scenario is not some way-out what-if that never ever happens. It's occurred time and time again. Moreover, you could throw in the death-row inmates spared by Furman who were subsequently paroled and committed murder again.

The only plausible answer by an abolitionist would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment: maiming of the inmate. However, this still doesn't deal with the rich kingpin who can bribe guards and pay for murders on the outside (or the inside for that matter).

Posted by: alpino | Nov 21, 2012 11:38:38 AM

'When I posit the scenario to them of the LWOP inmate who kills again, they really don't know what to say.'

horse crap....that's why we have 'super max's'

Posted by: vern | Nov 21, 2012 1:01:21 PM

The United States is full of assholes.

Posted by: anon | Nov 21, 2012 1:18:20 PM

Supermax prisons? You mean like USP Florence, USP Marion or USP Lewisburg? There have been murders at all of them. Aryan Brother leaders serving life in the Supermax in Florence have managed to order murders from their cells.

In fact, Connecticut prosecutors are moving ahead with a death penalty trial against an inmate serving life for murder who murdered another inmate in my states highest security prison.


Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 21, 2012 1:30:35 PM

'...my states highest security prison.'

horse crap, still not a supermax facility, just another weak justification to maintain an expensive and increasingly unworkable death penalty policy.

Posted by: vern | Nov 21, 2012 4:57:05 PM

It is designated a Supermax prison and houses death row inmates.

And even if it weren't, what about the murders at Marion, Florence and Lewisburg?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 21, 2012 5:29:50 PM

'...what about the murders at Marion, Florence and Lewisburg?'

reasons for those murders are from not following proper facility procedures and poor oversight and training by staff.

'Relatively lax security procedures allowed a prisoner, while walking down a hall, to turn to the side and approach a particular cell. The prisoner in that cell subsequently unlocked his handcuffs with a stolen key and provided him with a knife.'

'...staff ignores or chooses not to act when inmates complain about a potential cellmate posing a safety risk, and that the facility has a policy that staff won’t enter a cell or recreation cage to intervene when violence occurs.'

Posted by: vern | Nov 21, 2012 7:58:10 PM

A pretext is a false use of the law. It is a type of money making fraud for the fee pumping lawyers. I include all lawyers in the case, including prosecutor, judges, and defense lawyers. Because of the bad faith, the rent seeking, and the outright abuse of the taxpayer, legal pretexts should be criminalized. For example, the proposal of a legal argument, and its acceptance by a judge constitute a conspiracy, criminal RICO should apply to these colluders. The Patriot Act added terrorist activity to the list of predicate acts. Because the murderer is terrifying, the colluders are furthering terror by blocking his execution.

Nice review of RICO here, from the prosecution perspective:


In addition to the terror of saving a murderer, $billions in tax funds are taken in appellate advocacy costs. This is a racket of the highest order, and dwarfs most criminal enterprises. This take makes the gross revenue of Mexican Drug Cartel look like lemonade stand money.

If federal prosecutors refuse to investigate and charge this racket, the families of the murder victims have good justification to beat the asses of the judges, the defense lawyers, in formal logic, utility, and policy. Not only a justification, almost a duty to the community, to deter the racketeers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 21, 2012 8:40:47 PM

Good luck finding a prison where guards can keep 100% control of inmates 100% of the time. Especially when the inmates are members of the Aryan Brotherhood and coordinate the attack.

One of the inmates in the attack you cite, Thomas Silverstein, had killed in prison three times before. One of his accomplices from a previous killing attacked guards on the same day as the final murder, killing one and wounding two.

The second source you cite is a dubious claim by a habitual felon.

Ultimately, 100% security is not really possible when dealing with violent inmates who are not afraid of the consequences as the case of Robert Gleason demonstrates.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 21, 2012 10:56:11 PM

vern --

Please post your plan for making prison security infallible. Thanks.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 22, 2012 10:17:45 PM

'Please post your plan for making prison security infallible. Thanks.'

we're still talking about a so called federal 'super max' facility here aren't we and not your normal state lockup besides weren't you a player in the system at one time...you made the big bucks where's those critical thinking skills you were paid to use all those years...oh forgot you did the time and probably delegated the needed original thought producing tasks to the subordinates, sounds like it worked out well, hope your enjoying the fruits of their labors

Posted by: vern | Nov 25, 2012 10:51:21 PM

vern --

Since you didn't answer, I'll ask again. Please post your plan for making prison security infallible.

This you are not about to do, there being no such plan, as you full well know. Isn't it just amazing how those jumping out of their skin insisting that the judicial system is inherently fallible because it's run by human beings have suddenly discovered that the prison system can be made INfallible. How does that happen? Is it run by gods? Do tell.

Of course the whole thing is a dodge on your part, trying (absurdly) to place the blame for in-prison murder on someone other than the person who commits it. Since any normal person would regard that as a, ummmm, stretch, you are compelled to embrace the further absurdity that prison security can be made infallible.

My, my. The lengths the pro-murder faction will go to!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 27, 2012 12:14:59 AM

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