HISTORY OF THE DEATH PENALTY
In 1972 the US Supreme Court rules in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty as implemented by the State of Georgia where the jury has complete discretion to decide death or life in prison is unconstitutional. The result being that all death penalty statutes in all states were struck down. This removed 629 inmates from death rows throughout the country.
The US Supreme Court rules in 1976 through two cases, Gregg v. George and Jurek v. Texas that a death sentence is not a per se violation of the 8th Amendment.
In 1977 Gary Gilmore becomes the first person executed in the United States in ten years. Gary Gilmore is executed in Utah by a firing squad.
In 1977 the Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that a death sentence for the crime of rape where death does not result is disproportionate and violates the Eighth Amendments prohibition against 'cruel and unusual punishments.'
In 1979 John Spenkelink is the second person executed in twelve years. Florida executes him in the electric chair.
1982 Texas executes Charles Brooks by lethal injection. This is the first execution by lethal injection.
1984 In North Carolina, Velma Barfield becomes the first woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty.
1985 the US Supreme Court rules in Ford v. Wainright that it is unconstitutional to execute the insane.
1987 the Supreme Court rules in Thompson v. Oklahoma that a death sentence may not be imposed on someone for a murder committed when they are 15 years old.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Stanford v. Kentucky that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of 16 year olds who are convicted of murder and are sentenced to death.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Penry v. Lynaugh that executing mentally retarded people does not violate the Eighth Amendment.
1993 Westley Dodd becomes the first person in decades to be executed by hanging. He is hanged by the state of Washington.
1997 Timothy McVeigh becomes the 13th inmate on the federal death row.
1998 Karla Faye Tucker is executed by the state of Texas.
1999 sees the completion of the new lethal injection chamber at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. All of the federal death row prisoners are moved there.
2000 Frank Lee Smith who spent 14 years on death row in Florida and who died there of cancer is posthumously cleared by DNA evidence.
2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan declares a moratorium on implementing the death penalty after a series of events and publicity shows severe problems in the process.
2001 in June of that year Timothy McVeigh becomes the first federal prisoner to be executed since 1963.
2001 Georgia's Supreme Court rules that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. Georgia switches over to lethal injection.
2002 April, Ray Krone is released from Arizona prison after DNA proves his innocence. He had been sentenced to death in 1992
2002 May, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening imposes a moratorium on executions.
June 2002 the US Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia rules that execution of the mentally retarded is cruel and unusual punishment. This reverses the Penry v. Lynaugh decision of 1989
2002 October, serial killer Aileen Wuornos is executed by the state of Florida.
2003, January, Governor George Ryan commutes all 167 condemned men on Illinois death row.
, Kenneth Lee Boyd of North Carolina becomes the 1000th person executed in the United States since the death penalty was determined to be 'constitutional' in 1976.
DEBATE ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY
One of the most powerful arguments against the death penalty is the reality that innocent people will be executed. This is not a mere possibility but a reality. Innocent people have been executed. Others have spent years and years in prison on death row to be later found innocent of the murders they had been convicted and sentenced for. Those who favor the death penalty must also argue why they believe that the execution of innocent people is an acceptable price to be paid in order to continue a barbaric and inhumane practice. Some who argue that the system as it is constructed has enough checks and balances that it is impossible to make a mistake on whether to execute a human being who is innocent need to simply take a look at the evidence which shows otherwise.
The Case of Timothy Evans
Timothy Evans was a mentally retarded man in England
with a wife Beryl Thorley and child with another child on the way. He
walked into the local police station on November 29, 1949 and told the
police that his wife had died and that he had put her body down the
drain. When the police went around to his apartment and did not immediately
find the body they spoke with him again and he had said that his wife
had died when the downstairs neighbor, Mr. John Reginald Christie had
performed a botched abortion on his wife and she had died as a result.
The bodies were not found until December 2, 1949. Mr. Evans was taken
back to the police station where he was interrogated until he either
confessed, signed a confession or the police lied about him doing either.
This is one of the hallmarks of many "investigations" where
the police do not do any investigation and instead concentrate their
efforts on the one suspect they believe to be guilty of the crime. This
single mindedness and lack of attention to facts and evidence that does
not fit into the preconceived ideas of what is already believed has
put many people in prison and jails as well as put them on death row.
The fate of Timothy Evans was sealed. While Mr. Evans continued to blame
Mr. Christie for the deaths, Mr. Christie was seen by the court as a
more sympathetic figure and his testimony was believed. Mr. Timothy
Evans was convicted and then hanged on March 9th, 1950.
In the United States of America
The Case of Randall Dale Adams: This
man was the subject of the documentary The Thin Blue Line.
Prosecutors in Texas had manufactured evidence to convict Mr. Adams
for the murder of a Dallas police officer. They also used perjured testimony
from the man who had actually murdered the police officer-David Harris.
Mr. Adams was convicted based upon this and sent to death row in 1977.
His conviction was affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in
1979 by a vote of 9 to 0. . After all of the publicity and examination
by the media the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously set aside
his conviction in 1989. He had once come within three days of being
executed until the Supreme Court had stayed his execution. His lawyer
Randy Schaffer , who had worked for free on behalf of Mr. Adams, got
a state district judge to rule that Randall Dale Adams deserved a new
trial. The state of Texas declined to retry him.
William Jent and Earnest Lee Miller
In the state of Florida these two were convicted in
seperate trials and sentenced to death in 1979 of the murder and rape
burning of Linda Gale Bradshaw. The federal judge who reviewed the case
stated that state prosecutors had witheld exculpatory evidence and and
acted with a "callous and deliberate disregard of the fundamental
principles of truth and fairness." The federal judge in 1988 ordered
a new trial within 90 days. Instead of a new trial, the state-under
then State Attorney James T. Russell, offered to free these innocent
men in exchange for a plea of guilty to second-degree murder. Those
men took the deal in order to end their ordeal. Investigators, largely
paid by the victims father who had stated that he didn't think Jent
and Miller had murdered his daughter discovered that the victim's boyfriend,
who had moved away after the murder started dating another woman whose
burned body was found in a field. Two of the three supposed witnesses
recanted as well.
James Richardson was originally sentenced to death by the state of Florida in 1968 for poisoning his children. Numerous examples of misconduct by the prosecutor led the Miami State Attorney's office to undertake a complete examination of the facts of the case which concluded that Mr. Richardson was innocent. He had been on death row for 21 years.
Henry Drake was sentenced to death in 1976 by the state of Georgia. Mr. Drake was granted a new trial by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985. At the second trial the jury could not reach agreement. At his third trial he was convicted again but sentenced to life. Six months later he was exonerated by his alleged accomplice and the parole board set him free.
Anthony Silah Brown
Mr. Brown was sentenced to die in 1983 despite a jury recommendation that he be sentenced to life in prison. Brown received a new trial because of trial errors. At the retrial the chief witness against Mr. Brown admitted that his original testimony had been perjured and so Mr. Brown was acquitted.
In 2000, Virginia Governor James Gilmore pardoned Earl Washington after DNA testing found no trace of him at the scene of the murder for which he was convicted. “We came breathtakingly close to executing a man who wasn’t guilty of the crime,” said State Senator Janet Howell.
In 2002, Ray Krone was released from death row by the state of Arizona after DNA tests confirmed his innocence.
Clarence Lee Brandley
In 1990, after nine years on death row and twice coming within days of execution, Clarence Lee Brandley was freed by the state of Texas. Judge Perry Pickett said, “The court unequivocally concludes that the color of Clarence Brandley’s skin was a substantial factor which pervaded all aspects of the state’s capital prosecution of him.”
In 1993, Federico Macias was granted a stay two days before his scheduled execution in Texas. Ultimately, his conviction was overturned. The court found gross ineffectiveness of trial counsel and possible innocence.
From My Blog
Celebrity Multiple Murderer -
I feel a bit conflicted about this particular death sentence and possible upcoming execution in the State of California. I do not believe in the death penalty or in executions for all the usual reasons. It's not moral to kill, it's not moral for the state to kill, it's not fairly or objectively administered, it does not deter and it is costly.
Having said that I look at the circus atmosphere surrounding the upcoming scheduled execution for Stanley 'Tookie' Williams with mixed emotions. While I am against the death penalty I do not have a great deal of sympathy for the usually rightly convicted men and women facing their executions. I won't argue that little Ken or Stan was neglected as a child or was high on drugs or emotionally distraught or make any excuses for someone who murders other people. I look at the case against Tookie here and I see a cold blooded murderer who deserves to be in prison. I think that having murdered four human beings in the course of a robbery excludes you from being nominated for a 'Peace' prize. I think that murdering four people should exclude you from being feted by liberal intellectuals who seem to fall over each other to defend this guy and plea for his life.
As a founding member of the Crips street gang Mr. Williams is directly responsible for a great deal of death and misery in the inner cities and throughout the country. As a multiple murderer he is directly responsible for ending the lives of four human beings. He killed the attendent Albert Lewis Owens in a robbery for $120 at a 7-Eleven on February 28, 1979. He took Mr. Owens to the back of the store and put two shotgun blasts into him. On March 11, 1979 at about 5:30 a.m. Stanley Tookie Williams in the company of another man broke down the door and entered Brookhaven Motel in Los Angeles and shot to death 67 year old Thsai Shai Young, his 63 year old wife Yen-I Yang and their 43 year old daughter Ye Chen Lin. In that murder and robbery they got $50. Victims rights? I'm sorry, you won't hear a thing about that in this next two weeks. You won't hear about the four people he killed and you can bet that his celebrity fans don't even know the names of the victims.
Politically speaking Governor Schwarzenegger's decision will be an interesting one. Based on the circumstances of the crime and the avowed Republican sensibilities he has there is no good reason for him to grant clemency. If he does cave in to the pressure from the left it will be a repudiation of his own values. Any which way he spins it he'll have lost the Republican support in favor of the Democratic support that he won't get no matter what he does. An interesting dilemma
California has had more death row inmates commit suicide (13) than the number executed (10) Statistics for California
A good friend lost
As happens once in a while, a friend from a few years back contacts me to catch up, touch base, say hello. My web site and my listing in the alumni page at the University of Dayton School of Law leave a trail there for anyone who might care to find me and speak with me. Careful planning makes it so, unfortunately and for a number of reasons I don't often try to find old friends and old classmates. A LexisNexis search, a run through Google or a look through the alumni directory would be sufficient for me to find anyone I would desire to find but I don't do it. There is always time. Time sometime later to make that small effort. So as a result I don't look up people. There is always time right? Yah. Well a friend of mine, Marc did take the time to look me up and it was good to hear from him. In our emails back and forth he mentions a fellow classmate, Andy Johnson or as was the running joke for us "Andy's Johnson."
Andy was a tall, gangly fellow with the disposition of a puppy. We'd constantly make our "Andy's Johnson," clever remarks and he'd smile and never took offense and we never meant any. He was a fellow who seemed not to have a hostile bone in his body and it seemed to me that it would never occur to him to say a bad word about anyone. When he would talk it seemed like he was always laughing even when he wasn't. A smile on his face and he'd always be genuinely glad to see you. When he would tell a joke it was like he was a little kid saying something he knew that grownups would disapprove of so his jokes or something funny were told only after he looked around to make sure that someone who might take offense would be out of earshot.
At the end of a long hard week in class he'd come down to
the local watering hole that some of us had taken as our own. BW3's on
Friday after class was where we would grab some hot wings, some happy
hour beer and we'd pull some tables together, enough to accommodate however
many of us would show up. Andy would laugh with us and we'd talk about
what funny things happened in class. Sometimes he'd get a bit excited,
a beer or two down the evening and when he wanted to say something and
his words were tripping around on his tongue his eyes would sparkle and
the smile on his face would broaden as if to acknowledge that he thought
he was being a bit foolish or silly. But we would slap him on his back,
laugh at his jokes and generally do the things that friends would do with
each other as we recognize everyone who would want to be in the conversation
and who would likewise have a patience and joy with us.
There is no question in my mind that life is not fair. Evil people live and prosper, good people who struggle and fight to get ahead in life die in car accidents. Life is short and brutish and it's a sack full of misery, pain, horror and suffering. A person like Andy makes you almost believe that isn't true, his warm smile and good heart carved a bit of hope and kindness into the world and he will be missed.