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February 27, 2014

Victims' families laments Gov's execution moratorium in Washington

As reported in this local article, headlined "Families urge Inslee to reconsider death penalty moratorium," not everyone is content with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's decision earlier this month to impose a moratorium on executions while he is governor (basics here):

Families of murder victims are urging Governor Inslee to reconsider his moratorium on the death penalty. They traveled to Olympia Wednesday to ask why the governor never consulted with them before making his decision.   State lawmakers are considering a bill to make sure the families' voices are heard. 

"I am here Governor Inslee and I've got to say I'm very surprised that you're not here looking at all these victims," said Sherry Shaver, whose daughter Talisha was killed by Dewayne Woods in 1996. "We're here to speak about this. Where are you Gov. Inslee?"  Woods was sentenced to death. But that sentence is on hold with the governor's stunning statement that he would not sign a death warrant as long as he's in office. 

"I never talked to the governor about this," said Jessie Ripley. Her mother Jane Hungerford-Trapp was killed in Tacoma by Cecil Davis. "The governor needs to look at each and every situation as if it was his family. As if he was a victim himself."...  

[A] bill (SB 6566) by State Sen. Steve O'Ban ... would enforce the idea that families of the victims need to be heard before any decision is made on whether to go ahead with an execution.  He said, "There can be no justice if the voices of the victims are not heard."

Lewis County prosecutor Jonathan Meyers said," (Inslee) disrespected the victims. They deserve closure. They deserve their voice to be heard and the decision he leveled silenced all of them." 

The bill got its first public hearing Wednesday.  Even if it were to pass, the sponsor admits it wouldn't negate the governor's decision.  However, it would be a mandate for future governor's to listen to families first and then make a decision.

Related prior post:

February 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

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"The governor needs to look at each and every situation as if it was his family. As if he was a victim himself."

Does this work in each case? Does it also apply when dealing with those charged with crimes, caught within punitive policies of various types and so forth? Does he have to look at each person as if they were a member of his family?

Also, some victims oppose the death penalty. A local case involving the murder of an elderly man in my area included a wrinkle where one brother wanted the guy executed, the other did not. Finally, if "looking at the victims" is the test, see a footnote in Stevens concurrence in Baze v. Rees that notes that the death penalty in various ways is problematic to victims. Or, perhaps, the victim advocates who opposed the death penalty in Kennedy v. Louisiana.

In his statement, the governor noted:

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee said during a news conference Tuesday morning. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

The victims' families is part of the state and he is standing in for their interests under the rules of the state too. If victims of rape, e.g., want rapists to be castrated, it doesn't make it right. Since victims split over the death penalty, the same holds here -- some apparently are wrong. The governor was elected to use his judgment, taking all things into consideration. I take that he did so.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 27, 2014 11:17:33 AM

| “Jane Hungerford-Trapp was killed in Tacoma by Cecil Davis” |
“A former death row inmate has been convicted of beating and strangling a woman 10 years ago.”

Joe:
Cecil Davis also murdered Yoshiko Couch. --www.dnalabsinternational.com/email_newsletter/vol_31_nov_06/vol31_ref11.html

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 27, 2014 12:10:20 PM

Another “innocent” one, Peter? Not enough DNA for you?
Here’s the facts on #2 of your 19 “innocent” gits:
in Virginia:
Joseph O'Dell

| Virginia inmate executed despite international campaign |
July 23, 1997
RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- Despite an international campaign to save his life that included appeals from Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, Joseph O'Dell was executed by lethal injection in Virginia Wednesday night for a 1985 rape and murder.

-+- “At trial, prosecutors showed that the wounds on Schartner's head matched the shape of a pellet gun owned by O'Dell.
Tire tracks from the crime scene matched his car, and the semen matched O'Dell's blood and enzyme types. Hairs found in his car matched those of the victim.”

“O'Dell's lawyers also had an affidavit claiming that another inmate executed in 1993, David Mark Pruett, had confessed to the crime.”

-+- “Arguing before the Supreme Court Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Richard Cullen said Pruett could not have committed the crime, because his
blood type did not match the blood type of the perpetrator, as determined by tests on the semen.” -- www.cnn.com/US/9707/23/o.dell/

Need more? // The New York Times //
July 24, 1997

In an argument to the Supreme Court today, Mr. O'Dell's lawyers asked that the execution be barred because of Mr. O'Dell's claim that another man, David Mark Pruett,
had killed Mrs. Schartner.

The Virginia Attorney General, Richard Cullen, responded that Mr. Pruett could not have committed the crime because his blood type was AB, while semen taken
from the victim contained type A blood.

Mr. O'Dell has type A blood, Mr. Cullen said, adding, ''Thus O'Dell's longstanding claim that Pruett was the real killer is simply biologically impossible.''

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 27, 2014 12:14:06 PM

Peter:
What did liberals on the Supreme Court write about the “innocent” O’Dell?

521 US 151 [June 19, 1997]
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
JOSEPH ROGER O'DELL, III, PETITIONER
v.
J. D. NETHERLAND, WARDEN, et al.

Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join, dissenting.

Although petitioner's guilt has been established, it is undisputed that the conduct of the sentencing hearing that led to the imposition of his death penalty violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. His eligibility for a death sentence depended on the prosecutor's ability to convince the jury that there was a "probability that he would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuous threat to society." App. 69.
...
Thus, this case is not about whether O'Dell was given a fair sentencing hearing; instead, the question presented is whether, despite the admittedly unfair hearing, he should be
put to death because his trial was conducted before Simmons was decided. ...

......... {Majority:} .........
Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court....

[Helen Schartner’s] lifeless body was discovered the next day, in a muddy field across a highway from the lounge. Schartner's head had been laid open by several blows
with the barrel of a handgun, and she had been strangled with such violence that bones in her neck were broken and finger imprints were left on her skin.

An abundance of physical evidence linked petitioner to the crime scene and crime … Evidence was presented that, prior to Schartner's murder, petitioner had been convicted
of a host of other offenses, including the kidnaping and assault of another woman while he was on parole, and the murder of a fellow inmate during an earlier prison stint.

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 27, 2014 12:17:12 PM

Adamakis --

That last post was dynamite.

As I have noted, abolitionists have a long history of using one of the standard tools of criminal defense -- lying.

They lied about Roger Keith Coleman, they lied about Troy Davis, and, as you comprehensively demonstrate, they continue to lie about Joseph O'Dell.

Where I come from, if you have a compelling case, you don't need to lie.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 27, 2014 12:38:49 PM

If your case is so strong, you also wouldn't (while talking about something else than the actual specific matter at hand), you wouldn't stereotype all "abolitionists" as if they have some official group statement here, any more than the other side has some single official group statement so the statements of some should be applied to all.

As I said in the thread where this matter actually was at issue, there have been long articles and even books on this something providing in depth analysis about numerous cases. What this selective quotation effort is supposed to tell me is unclear.

And, as I said last time, the numbers of those found innocent or freed because of lack of necessary evidence would be much higher if some had their druthers and various procedural rulings went the other way or the democratically in place juries etc. gave more people the death penalty, including in a more expansive category of cases.

A compelling case doesn't rest on talking past me and focusing on alleged "lying" including when "lying" translates as "I disagree with the open to debate opinions on evidence including by those who are not 'abolitionists' but do agree with the death penalty in various cases." This includes, e.g., some who were troubled by Troy Davis.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 27, 2014 2:32:41 PM

Adamakis - Joseph O'Dell
"On February 6, 1985, Joseph Roger O'Dell was arrested for the murder, rape, and sodomy of Helen Schartner; he was convicted of these crimes a year-and-a-half later based largely on blood evidence and the word of a jailhouse "snitch." For much of the decade that followed, O'Dell's unsuccessful appeals went to the Virginia Supreme Court, Federal District Court, and the Supreme Court, where Justice Harry Blackmun found "serious questions as to whether O'Dell committed the crime" and warned of "the gross injustice that would result if an innocent man were sentenced to death."

Originally at trial, O'Dell represented himself; afterward, he continued to make his case, sending letters on stationery headed with an address of "P.O. Box 500-Death Row." In one letter, O'Dell petitioned the Circuit Court for release of the evidence in his case for DNA testing. In June, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal. That same month, the Virginia Circuit Court rejected a petition filed on O'Dell's behalf to release the evidence for testing. His innocence still questioned, and his case being closely followed by anti-death penalty groups in Virginia and around the nation, O'Dell was executed in July of 1997.

Following his death, efforts to conduct further tests on the evidence in O'Dell's case continued unabated. Late in 1997, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, petitioned the Circuit Court of Virginia Beach to release evidence for testing, but the Court denied the request and suggested that the evidence be disposed of as required by law.

In a 1999 law review article (PDF file) on the case, Lori Urs, an anti-death penalty advocate who married O'Dell just prior to his execution in order to gain access to the evidence in the case, argued strongly against previous court opinions in the case which, she felt, relied on mistaken early reports of a blood "match" in the case and did not take seriously enough the import of the subsequent DNA testing.

None of these appeals mattered. In March of 2000, the last of the DNA evidence in the O'Dell case being stored in the circuit court of Virginia Beach was burned without any further testing." Link from my name.

Also:
"O’Dell was arrested on a tip from a woman with whom he was living and his conviction rested primarily on the blood on his clothes, which matched the victim’s blood type. At the time, O’Dell was on parole for a Florida kidnapping and robbery in which the victim had alleged that he tried to rape her. In 1990, rudimentary DNA testing established that the blood on O’Dell’s clothes was not the victim’s. Later, after DNA testing became more sophisticated, O’Dell sought testing of the bodily fluids recovered from the victim. The testing had the potential of excluding O’Dell as the rapist, but O’Dell’s request was denied even though, unless it proved exculpatory, it would not have delayed the execution and would have cost the state nothing. After the execution, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond sought to have the evidence tested. The state objected, asserting that if the results indicated O’Dell had not raped the woman, “it would be shouted from the rooftops that the Commonwealth of Virginia executed an innocent man.” The request was denied, and the evidence was destroyed."
The fact is that the law was cynically used to prevent what is today recognised as an essential ingredient in defining guilt, where dna evidence is available. That the authorities were more interested in executing a man than in taking that opportunity to prove their theory, is not the pursuit of justice but the pursuit of rough justice, which is too often wrong. The law actually requires evidence of guilt for the crime charged, not others.

Posted by: peter | Feb 27, 2014 3:19:38 PM

Joe --

"If your case is so strong, you also wouldn't (while talking about something else than the actual specific matter at hand), you wouldn't stereotype all "abolitionists" as if they have some official group statement here, any more than the other side has some single official group statement so the statements of some should be applied to all."

There is a difference between stereotyping and simply defining. Abolitionists are defined as people who would abolish the death penalty. You are among them. It's not that hard, Joe.

"And, as I said last time, the numbers of those found innocent or freed because of lack of necessary evidence would be much higher if some had their druthers and various procedural rulings went the other way..."

For sure. And if I were seven feet tall, athletic and forty years younger, I would play in the NBA.

"A compelling case doesn't rest on talking past me and focusing on alleged "lying" including when "lying" translates as "I disagree with the open to debate opinions on evidence including by those who are not 'abolitionists' but do agree with the death penalty in various cases." This includes, e.g., some who were troubled by Troy Davis."

Saying that some were "troubled" by Troy Davis is exactly the same as the old abolitionist canard that "questions have been raised about the execution of Mr. X."

Yup. Questions have been raised about alien abductions, too, and whether George Bush planned 9-11.

There is no reason for a sane person to take an interest in whether someone is "troubled" or "raises questions." There is a reality, it is knowable, our capital case litigation for discovering it is the most demanding and time-consuming in the world, and the fact that a bunch of pro-criminal hotheads who have prejudged the issue from the getgo then write a wildly selective and biased account of the case years after the fact is simply inconsequential.

Nor is it just a matter of "opinion." Roger Keith Coleman bludgeoned his sister-in-law to death, and years of lying about it by abolitionists neither changes this fact nor renders it merely a solipsistic "opinion."

And while we're at it, solipsism is very much a sometime thing with abolitionists. They're never really sure that they guy the judicial system convicted did it, but they are VERY SURE INDEED that, ten or fifteen years later, their student "investigators" found the REAL KILLER, as they loudly and indignantly insist.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 27, 2014 4:33:35 PM

"Saying that some were "troubled" by Troy Davis is exactly the same as the old abolitionist canard that 'questions have been raised about the execution of Mr. X.'"

Nailed it.

What's amazing about the Troy Davis case is how well it hung together after all the scrutiny.

As for Joe's posts--which can be boiled down to: 1. Some victims' families don't like the death penalty; 2. Inslee gets paid to make this decision and 3. some people are troubled by some capital cases.

The bottom line, Joe, is that this 'rat governor (like other 'rats before him) decided to elevate the interests of murderers over murder victims' families. It is one thing to be opposed to capital punishment--quite another to see a family wait over a decade for justice and then yank the rug out from under them. Joe, of course, elides over this.

I shouldn't be surprised. Joe loves to engage in rhetorical nonsense that gives the appearance of a defense, but in actuality, it's thin gruel. When it comes to actually tangling on the merits of an argument, Joe, like so many others in here, turns tail and runs.

Joe will point a finger at Judge Bye and say, well, some federal judge has a problem with this (note the naked appeal to authority), but when called upon to defend that learned judge, Joe is silent.

Not surprising.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 27, 2014 9:58:09 PM

I see today that the Innocence project has uncovered more hidden evidence in the case of the guy who was executed in Texas (Willingham?) the prosecution withheld evidence of a plea bargain with a key witness--

Posted by: onlooker | Feb 28, 2014 12:43:02 PM

Folloiwng up on onlooker's comment above, On Feb. 27, 2014 an article appeared in some newspaper to the effect that in the Scott Willingham case, the Innocence Project (Barry Scheck) had uncovered that the prosecution withheld critical evidence of pleas agreement with an important witness. the state prosecutors had denied this repeatedly. Here's the excert: "What has changed is that investigators for the Innocence Project have discovered a curt handwritten note in Mr. Webb’s file in the district attorney’s office in Corsicana. The current district attorney, R. Lowell Thompson, made the files available to the Innocence Project lawyers, and in late November one of the lawyers, Bryce Benjet, received a box of photocopies. As he worked through the stack of papers, he saw a note scrawled on the inside of the district attorney’s file folder stating that Mr. Webb’s charges were to be listed as robbery in the second degree, not the heavier first-degree robbery charge he had originally been convicted on, “based on coop in Willingham.”

So looks like Michael Morton all over again; except this time the criminal actions of the prosecution lead to willingham's execution.

Hey, Bill Otis, what do you say?

Posted by: observer | Feb 28, 2014 12:53:56 PM

observer --

I'll just bet you're "following up on onlooker's comment above." That's because you asked me the identical question when you were posting under your other alias, "onlooker."

I already answered it on that earlier thread, and will not repeat my answer here. Go look it up. And this sleazy and juvenile stunt of posting, not merely under an alias, BUT UNDER MORE THAN ONE ALIAS -- and then referring to the other alias as if it were actually a different person -- is not something I'm going to indulge.

Why a serious person would engage in this kind of deceptive, fifth grade hide-and-seek is just beyond me.

I will no longer answer you (or anyone I think is you) until you give up that stunt and state your real name and specific work background (if you ever worked).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 28, 2014 3:21:49 PM

The 2 Governors of Washington and Colorado did exactly what anti-DP attorneys do. Procrastinate and delay. They waited until the inmate exhausted his appeal to the respective US Court of Appeals and certiorari was denied by SCOTUS. Then announce a moratorium.

Jonathan Gentry was "ripe" for an execution date in Washington and Nathan Dunlap was due in Colorado.

Of course, only the voters and Legislatures in those states can do anything about it if they wish.

Posted by: DaveP | Feb 28, 2014 4:42:38 PM

It is funny how none of the twerpy libs in here ever ever try to deal with the argument about yanking the rug out from under victims' families. Never.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 28, 2014 7:52:25 PM

Peter, you may have not meant to list this git as “innocent”,
since I have found no published challenge to his guiltworthiness, only complaints regarding procedure.

Howbeit, perhaps
Peter & Joe, you will find a one-sided anti-DP format more enlightening.
in Virginia:
Coleman Gray

Supporters of “innocence” who make no claim of innocence
“In August 1994 a US District Court judge ruled that the sentencing phase of Gray’s trial was flawed … Amnesty International opposes the
death penalty in all cases …- expressing concern at reports that the prosecutor at Gray's sentencing hearing presented information
to the jury linking Gray to other murders for which he was never charged, and that this information may have influenced the jury's
decision to impose a sentence of death;”

“The recent execution of Coleman Wayne Gray in Virginia is another example of improper state tactics used to tip the balance toward
a death sentence
. At the time of Gray's sentencing hearing, the state circumvented the rules of disclosure .”
“Mr. Gray's lawyer, Donald R. Lee, contended that Mr. Tucker's testimony was an ''ambush'' that persuaded the jury to give Mr. Gray a
death sentence. A Federal judge set aside the sentence, but it was reinstated on appeal.”
--- --- --- --- --- ---
Is it not dishonest to present these procedural gripes as arguments that an “innocent” man was executed?
 -- http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/523
 -- www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/005/1997/en/74e9e3cd-eab8-11dd-9f63-e5716d3a1485/amr510051997en.html
 -- http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/28/us/killer-of-store-manager-is-executed-in-virginia.html

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 1, 2014 1:04:55 PM

Adamakis - Coleman Gray

Shortly before Coleman Gray's execution in Virginia on February 26, 1997, several witnesses admitted falsely testifying that Gray told them he killed store manager Richard McClelland.

McClelland was forced off the road shortly after he left work one night in May 1985. He was taken back to the store where his two abductors robbed his business, then driven to a community college and shot six times in the head.

Some of the witnesses who said they lied about hearing Gray admit to killing McClelland also said in the affidavits that they lied about hearing Gray claim he committed two unrelated murders.

No one has ever been charged in the unrelated slayings, those of a Chesapeake woman and her daughter in 1984. But prosecutors compared evidence from those killings to McClelland's murder in seeking the death penalty during Gray's sentencing.

One of the trial witnesses against Gray was his codefendant, Melvin Tucker, who avoided the death penalty by testifying that it was Gray who shot McClelland. Tucker got a life sentence.

A judge threw out Gray's death sentence in an earlier appeal, but the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals, well known for being substantially to the right of the US Supreme Court, reinstated it. The appeals court again upheld a death sentence after the US Supreme Court ordered a review of Gray's case.Gray's attorney said that "this case has raised very serious concerns among federal judges about the fairness of Coleman Gray's trial. The new evidence demonstrates that this case is shot through with perjured testimony and that Coleman Gray's conviction and sentence are completely unreliable."

The basis of, and the basis of confidence in, the Law, is that a trial (and subsequent appeals) will establish the truth based on honest testimony of witnesses and of officials (supported by reliable evidence), and that the legal procedures employed to test this truth and honesty are conducted fairly in order that the accused, if innocent, may successfully prove his/her innocence. Any actions or inactions of the prosecution, defense, or courts that impede this aim, either deliberately or through neglect, are in violation of the aims of the Law and the basis of its support, and should be seen as a violation of the terms and spirit of the Constitution. Since the jury, in the case of Coleman, and in others, did not have access to the truth, the findings of the court in both conviction and sentence, should be nul and void and the accused considered innocent until proven guilty. If the prosecution is confident other evidence alone, or new evidence, would confirm the original view of the court, then a retrial should occur. Since this did not happen, and commonly does not happen, the death penalty process is unreliable and unfit for purpose. It is enough that guilt was not proven for innocence to be assumed. That is the instruction to a jury.

Posted by: peter | Mar 1, 2014 3:49:36 PM

peter --

Which do you think is more reliable: testimony at a public trial subject to oath and cross examination; or post-trial statements years later obtained by interested parties in a private setting, and solicited by offering undisclosed inducements to the former witnesses?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 1, 2014 11:40:46 PM

Bill ...
from article in The Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 2012:
headline: What causes wrongful convictions? Lies, mistaken eyewitnesses top the list.

"False accusations, official misconduct, and mistaken eyewitness identity are the primary reasons behind hundreds of wrongful convictions nationwide over the past 23 years, legal researchers conclude in a new report. The report, released Sunday, is part of a database compiled by the University of Michigan and Northwestern University law schools that for the first time tries to pinpoint the problem of flawed judicial outcomes in state and federal courts. Researchers identified 873 wrongful convictions between January 1989 and March 2012; 46 percent of the cases examined were homicides, 35 percent were sexual assaults, and the remainder were other crimes. Half involved African-Americans, 38 percent whites, and 11 percent Latinos. The report concluded that perjury or false accusations were responsible for just over half of the failures, followed by mistaken eyewitness identification, official misconduct, false or misleading evidence, or false confession."

Justice Thurgood Marshall apparently liked to say: ‘If you execute an innocent person, what are you going to say? Oops?’ Is that your response .... 'Oops'?

Posted by: peter | Mar 2, 2014 4:25:00 AM

peter --

Since you didn't answer, I'll ask again:

Which do you think is more reliable: testimony at a public trial subject to oath and cross examination; or post-trial statements years later obtained by interested parties in a private setting, and solicited by offering undisclosed inducements to the former witnesses?

I hope you'll answer this time.

Instead of answering, you stay on offense by asking:

"Justice Thurgood Marshall apparently liked to say: ‘If you execute an innocent person, what are you going to say? Oops?’ Is that your response .... 'Oops'?"

I'll be happy to answer, and not with a slogan.

In capital cases, we have two primary goals: Accuracy, and saving the greatest number of innocent lives.

The adjudication of capital cases in the USA is the most accurate, painstaking, and time-consuming in the world. All the default positions are against the DP. It is for that reason that no neutral source has concluded that we have executed a single innocent person for at least fifty years. (P.S. A neutral source is not an academic, media-type or defense website on a crusade, using its own criteria and starting with a bias and a pre-determined conclusion).

But let's suppose one or more factually innocent people had been executed in the modern era. That would be horrible, but it would not conclusively answer the question about which system saves the most innocent life.

We already know the answer to that. You can read for yourself, every month or two, about how some remorseless killer, already serving a life sentence, just did it again -- to a cellmate, a guard, an infirmary worker, or some smaller inmate who refused sexual favors. Had the killer been given the death sentence that legally could have been imposed, and then promptly executed, his latest victim would still be with us.

A scenario like this has happened dozens if not hundreds of times.

No system is or ever will be error-free. Won't happen. We can only choose which system will err less and is more likely to prevent killing innocent people.

And that is the system that allows juries, when unanimously persuaded BRD, to impose the DP.

But if you don't like that answer, let me ask you this: What do you say to the victim of the remorseless murderer we failed to execute and who then, predictably in keeping with his malevolent view of his fellow creatures, did it again? Oooops?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 2, 2014 6:44:10 PM

Bill - "No system is or ever will be error-free. Won't happen. We can only choose which system will err less and is more likely to prevent killing innocent people."

That is obviously as close as you personally will ever get to admitting the likelihood that innocent persons have been executed, without actually admitting a specific case. That answers my question .... your answer to those cases is Oops.

You speak of victims, understandably in two classes, those killed (a) and victims families (b). There two others, innocent persons executed by the state (c) and their families (d). Hard as it to comfort victims families, there is no distinction between classes (b) and (d). In neither case is Oops or even Oooops a satisfactory response. Their grief is the same, and deserves more respect than is given by pundits and apologists for the death penalty such as yourself. The death penalty process amplifies and prolongs their grief to a level many would say amounts to cruel and unusual punishment to assuage your angst and your dogma. I refer you to a recent (2013) press release of MVFR:

Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) calls for a moratorium on executions in Ohio.

Our hearts go out to the family of Joy Stewart, who was senselessly murdered in 1989. This family waited 24 years for the system to complete its broken process. Our hearts also go out to the family members of Dennis McGuire and others who witnessed his horrific and senseless death yesterday. Yesterday’s execution of Mr. McGuire prolonged and complicated the pain for many innocent people who have already been through the excessively long and painful process of a capital murder trial and appeals – a long and painful process that would have been avoided and resolved long ago had Mr. McGuire’s sentence been life without parole.

Too much time, talent and treasure is diverted to a process that delays justice and complicates the healing process for families and communities impacted by violence – and is only relevant for a fraction of the families harmed by murder. Meanwhile, thousands of murder victim family members in Ohio and across the country go without their most pressing and basic needs even being considered. We would do better to direct more resources to help law enforcement solve unsolved murders and bring more offenders to justice. We better serve victims’ families by making counseling more accessible, providing advocates who work for victims to keep them informed about investigations and judicial proceedings, and expanding financial compensation to help them with pressing needs like burial costs and work-time lost due to the murder.

There should be no more executions in Ohio unless death penalty proponents can demonstrate that it is the best way to make us safe and is the best way to address the needs of the thousands of murder victim family members across the state.

MVFR is an organization whose members include the families of murder victims who oppose the death penalty as well as the families of people who have been executed. We are a national organization with members across the country including in the state of Ohio. Our members have all experienced the trauma of having a loved one killed and believe strongly that executions are not the answer. Executions only add to the pain and violence in senselessly painful and violent situations while distracting attention and diverting resources from better answers.

Posted by: peter | Mar 3, 2014 3:31:05 AM

peter --

I asked you two questions and you refuse to answer either, preferring, without a moment's hesitation, to continue with your (literally) pre-fab talking points.

I'll repeat the two questions you refuse to answer, to let the board decide for itself why you won't:

1. Which do you think is more reliable: testimony at a public trial subject to oath and cross examination; or post-trial statements years later obtained by interested parties in a private setting, and solicited by offering undisclosed inducements to the former witnesses?

2. What do you say to the victim of the remorseless murderer we failed to execute and who then, predictably in keeping with his malevolent view of his fellow creatures, does it again? Oooops?

I will also ask any fair-minded person on the board to think about why it is that I'm willing to answer your questions, but you refuse to answer mine.

In the meantime, I'll tell you a story you're sure to enjoy. It is taken verbatim from the court's opinion:

In July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis "Buddy" Musso, the victim in this case, first met either the appellant or her son, James "J.D." O'Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey. Musso, though mentally retarded, lived independently, held a job at a local grocery store, and handled his own financial affairs. In June of 1998, Musso left New Jersey to live with the appellant in Jacinto City, Texas. Shortly after Musso moved in with the appellant, Al Becker, Musso's Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Musso. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with the appellant, but the appellant eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Musso. Concerned about Musso's welfare, Becker sought assistance from various Texas state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Musso's situation.

In July of 1998, the appellant unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Musso's representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Musso, the appellant was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Musso's "wife to be." After Musso's death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Musso's name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Musso's death from violent crime. They also discovered a document entitled Musso's "Last Will and Testament," which purported to leave Musso's entire estate to the appellant while "no one else [was] to get a cent."

In the days leading up to his death, Musso suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of the appellant and her five co-defendants. The appellant would take Musso to the apartment of co-defendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice's son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope's fiancé), where Musso was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours. Whenever Musso attempted to get off the mat, O'Malley would beat or kick him. O'Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Musso, and O'Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. The appellant beat Musso with a baseball bat on the buttocks, back, and groin area, and both she and Hope struck him with a belt and buckle. After hearing that Musso had been "misbehaving" while she was away from the apartment, the appellant, who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Musso while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground. At one point, Musso requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted, recognized the extent of Musso's injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O'Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and Pine-Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body. Apparently, his killers were giving Musso this kind of "bath" when he died.

On the morning of August 28, 1999, Musso's body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Musso's clothes lacked any blood stains, and his only shoe was on the wrong foot, investigators believed that his body had been dressed after he died. The medical examiner reported an extraordinary number of injuries to Musso's body and was unable to count the "hundreds" of bruises that covered Musso from head to toe. The palms of Musso's hands and the soles of his feet were bruised, while his back and buttocks showed numerous lash marks indicative of his having been whipped. Musso's severely blackened eyes resulted from a "hinge fracture" to his skull, which probably was caused by a blow to the back of the head. He had sustained broken bones in his nose, ribs, and throat. Marks on his back appeared to be cigarette burns, but may have been caused by a hot poker, and the medical examiner noted areas of skin abrasion possibly attributable to contact with a cleaning solution or scrub brush. The cause of death was believed to have been a skull fracture from an unknown object, which left a large, X-shaped laceration in Musso's scalp. ###

This is reality, peter. You condone it as society's fault. I don't. I'm happy to let any normal person decide for himself which of us is the fan of barbarism.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 3, 2014 2:23:56 PM

peter --

One more thing after you stop cackling over Buddy Musso's fate at the hands of your always-innocent heroes (and heroines):

Last week, your ally claudio said that America is "the lone common law jurisdiction with the death penalty." That is a flat-out lie.

You take yourself to be an intellectually honest spokesman for abolition. Honesty compels repudiating lies uttered in the name of your cause.

Will you now, in addition to answering the questions you whistle past, correct this abolitionist falsehood?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 3, 2014 5:52:55 PM

Bill -
I have answered your question:
"Which do you think is more reliable: testimony at a public trial subject to oath and cross examination; or post-trial statements years later obtained by interested parties in a private setting, and solicited by offering undisclosed inducements to the former witnesses?"
by clearly demonstrating that it offers a false choice. Neither circumstances are acceptable. The fact is (and I gave you a report demonstrating the prevalence) that perjury (and other deliberate actions which have the same effect) IS commonly committed in trials under the conditions you describe. Whether it can be measured as to 10% false testimony to 90% true, or 3% to 97%, is immaterial, the result is the same. We should not be in the business of having to apologize, or saying Oooops, in those cases of innocence, however many or few. It is hard enough to know that there are probably thousands of innocent men and women locked up, their lives in ruins, because these instances of perjury etc have not been identified or acted upon. It is unnecessary, and morally repugnant, to sit on our hands and accept that some may be executed. It is all too easy for you to pull out of the hat a particularly repugnant killing and tell me that this is so evil that no other punishment can be justified. The fact is that every case of murder is repugnant to us all, and the loss and grief felt by victims families equal. I could just as easy pull out of the hat a case of murder which has none of those grizzly details yet the death penalty has been applied. For example, a teenager participates in robbery. He carries a gun. During the course of proceedings a bystander decides to tackle the teenager, and in the struggle for control of the gun it goes off, killing the bystander. It is clear that there was no premeditation. The bystander was not shot as he approached the teenager, but in the ensuing struggle by an accidental or involuntary shot from the weapon. He is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Is this case in the same league as the one you describe? Is it any different from those many others where the death penalty would not have been applied? Will his execution have any deterrent effect on other young men who may be tempted to engage in robbery, 15 years after his crime? I think not. Our energies and resources should be focused on reducing crime, on identifying and apprehending criminals, and on providing the support so desperately needed by the victims. The death penalty is a distraction that has no merits and which actively adds to the misery of all families associated with it.
as for question no.2 - "What do you say to the victim of the remorseless murderer we failed to execute and who then, predictably in keeping with his malevolent view of his fellow creatures, does it again? Oooops?"
Acts of murder will never be totally eliminated from society, even from a totally devout religious one. However, as has been proven around America and around the world, such cases can become more rare, and their instances better managed in everyones interests, including those families affected. It is not a case of saying Oooops, but of learning from mistakes, and demonstrating our determination to reduce risk to others with improvements to management of perpetrators, education, housing, opportunity, and social wellbeing, which together make a difference to levels of crime. Oooops is never sufficient, in any circumstances, but we should not risk the sacrifice of one innocent victim for the sake of another. Again, the death penalty is not fit for purpose.

Posted by: peter | Mar 4, 2014 6:50:03 AM

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