Saturday, April 27, 2002


Two years after Illinois Gov. George Ryan halted executions, saying he couldn't trust the state's criminal justice system, a panel he named to examine the process is ready to recommend changes aimed at keeping innocent people off death row.

Abolishing capital punishment isn't among the proposals.

Ryan imposed the moratorium on capital punishment in January 2000 after several cases in which men were freed from death row because new evidence exonerated them or there were flaws in the way they were convicted. Since the 1977 reinstatement of the death penalty in Illinois, 13 men have been freed while 12 have been executed.
Ryan's panel might get a cooler reception in the Illinois General Assembly than it would elsewhere in the nation. Ryan is a lame-duck governor weakened by a four-year federal corruption probe that brought indictments earlier this month against his campaign committee and two former top aides. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but decided not to seek a second term.

Illinois became the first state in the nation to stop executing its prisoners, prompting other states to review their procedures. Nationwide, about 3,700 people await death for crimes committed in the 38 states that allow the death penalty. There have been 769 people put to death in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

There were 66 executions in the United States last year compared to 2,468 in China and 139 in Iran.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Dateline: Vietnam

Vietnam considering reduction in death penalties and alternative to firing squads

HANOI, Vietnam - Communist Vietnam is considering a reduction in the number of crimes punishable by death and is seeking an alternative to the firing squad for executions, state-controlled media said Saturday.

"The world trend is to gradually reduce death penalties. We are considering a step-by-step reduction in the number of crimes punishable by death, except for treason," the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted Truong Vinh Trong, head of the Communist Party's Internal Political Commission, as saying.

Trong said the Communist authorities should also find a "more scientific way" of carrying out executions than the firing squad.

"Our executions are by firing squad, which is appalling and is no longer suitable. We can use several other ways of carrying out executions such as lethal injections and electrocution," he was quoted as saying.

In 1997, Vietnam reduced the number of offenses punishable by death from 44 to 29.

Crimes punishable by death include murder, drug trafficking, child rape and treason.

More than 100 people are killed by firing squads each year. Over the past five years, 310 people were sentenced to death on drug trafficking charges alone.

Long NYTimes article on the Club Happiness murders, as well as the state of dining in New Yawk. reg. required.


...The case has also drawn widespread attention because it is a fresh challenge to the death penalty at a time when attitudes about the issue have been shifting nationally. There have been new death row exonerations, and some polls show a softening of support for executions, although two-thirds of Americans still say they support the death penalty.

During arguments to spare him from the death penalty after his conviction in 1998, the lawyers for Mr. Harris, now 44, worked to humanize him, contending that his crime was the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, caused in part by the riot. They listed a catalog of misfortunes suffered by Mr. Harris, including what they said was childhood abuse by his alcoholic mother that sometimes involved beatings with an extension cord.

No one has been executed in New York State since 1963. Since the penalty was re-enacted in 1995, five other men have been sent to New York's death row at the state prison in Dannemora, near the Canadian border.

Alton Coleman

One Bad Man Straps on The Feed Bag!

The Skinny...Mr. Coleman, 46, of Waukegan, Ill., was sentenced to death for the 1984 beating death of Marlene Walters, 44, of Norwood. Coleman, who along with girlfriend, Debra Denise Brown, cut a murderous swath during the summer of 1984 murdering four adults and four children during a six-week reign of brutality that wove through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.

That rampage took him to Lexington in mid-July where Mrs. Walters' auto was found abandoned in a cornfield near Lexington July 15, two days after her murder. On July 17, Oline Carmicalof Williamsburg was kidnapped in Lexington and left in the trunk of his car, which was found in Dayton, Ohio.

Coleman, who was black, largely preyed on other African Americans, with Mrs. Walters his only white murder victim. Coleman also was convicted of the rape and strangulation murder of Tonnie Storey, 15, of Mohawk, during his stay in the Cincinnati area.

The Last Meal...Mr. Coleman requested a final dinner of filet mignon, sauteed mushrooms, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream, biscuits with brown gravy, broccoli with cheese, french fries, cherry coke, a green lettuce salad with French dressing, collard greens, onion rings, fried chicken breast and corn bread.

In lieu of filet mignon Mr. Coleman was served a New York strip steak. All the food came from the prison kitchen, except the ice cream. Mr. Coleman ordered the largest final dinner of any condemned inmate to date.

A+B=CPrison officials said Mr. Coleman had a fitful night before the execution. "I don't know if it was from indigestion or nervousness," said Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Last Words: "The Lord is my shepherd," which he repeated over and over again.

FACTOIDS...Two sisters and a brother, who were supposed to attend final visits with the 46-year-old Illinois native, did not show. It was believed that his family had "transportation problems."

Never too late: He was baptized three days ago. He is a follower of Dallas-based televangelist T.D. Jakes.

In a holding cell 13 steps from the death chamber, Coleman spent his last hours scribbling notes to family and friends, meeting with his spiritual advisers and watching videotapes recorded by an evangelical Christian minister.

Coleman is the only man in U.S. history sentenced to death in three states.

Coleman was Ohio's fourth execution - after a 36- year hiatus in capital punishment - since 1999.

Coleman died from a $43 dose of generic chemicals.

The Excuse/s:...Coleman and his lawyers unsuccessfully pleaded for mercy from the courts and Gov. Bob Taft, contending his violence was the outgrowth of growing up in a brothel where he was abused and brain damage he suffered in the womb from his prostitute mother's alcohol and drug abuse.

Partner in Crime: Ms. Brown was sentenced to death for the Storey murder, but her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in early 1991 by outgoing Gov. Richard Celeste. She remains imprisoned at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

William Burns

The Skinny...On March 28, 1981, William Kendrick Burns, his brother Victor, and Danny Ray Harris were accused by Texarkana authorities of murdering high school senior Johnny Lynn Hamlett as he worked the late shift in an East Texas creosote plant. Hamlett, 18, was found dead in the plant's boiler room with 14 gunshot wounds to his neck, chest and head. A total of $110 was stolen from Hamlett.

Bowie County authorities soon became suspicious of Burns after receiving a tip that he was involved in the crime. Burns eventually led police to a coffee can lying along a deserted county road. Inside the can was a drivers license, social security card and school identification card belonging to Hamlett. Also found inside the can was a highway patrol citation issued to Burns.

Last words..."I just want to tell my Mom that I am sorry that I caused her so much pain and my family and stuff," William Kendrick Burns said. "I love them and I hurt for the fact that they are going to be hurting. I really hate that and that I am hoping they are going to be OK."

Misc...After being convicted of the crime later that year and sentenced to death, Burns spent the next 21 years avoiding execution through his attorney's skillful maneuvering of the justice system.

OH, NO...At noon Thursday, Burns left his Polunsky Unit death row cell and was transported to the Huntsville "Walls" Unit. He was then placed in a holding cell, steps away from the death chamber.

A short time later, after refusing a last meal, the condemned man was led to the stainless steel gurney and strapped down.

AND ONE MORE THIiiinnngg...After making what was thought to be his final statement, Burns requested one last chance to speak. As he began, however, the lethal drugs took hold and he fell silent.

FACTOIDS....Burns became the eighth offender from the Texas prison system to be executed this year and the second of four offenders scheduled this month.



Lawyers for Alton Coleman, a convicted killer scheduled to be executed tomorrow, sought to stop a plan to allow his victim's family to watch his death via a closed-circuit transmission, saying it would turn his death into a "spectator sport." The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is to rule on the matter today. Mr. Coleman, 46, was convicted in the 1984 death of Marlene Walters, 44.


Ohio governor rejects clemency for only inmate to face death penalty in U.S. three states
Wed Apr 24, 3:28 PM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gov. Bob Taft denied clemency Wednesday to convicted killer Alton Coleman, the only inmate in the United States under death sentences in three states.

Coleman, 46, is scheduled to be executed Friday.


Those genius at The Smoking Gun have the criminial complaint filed in LA. As noted, Mr. Blake won't be last mealing, but a must-read nonetheless.

Blake Won't Face Death Penalty


No meal for Baretta

The Associated Press
Thursday, April 25, 2002; 5:09 PM

LOS ANGELES –– Prosecutors won't seek the death penalty against actor Robert Blake if he is convicted of murdering his wife, the district attorney's office said Thursday.

Prosecutors will instead seek a sentence of life in prison without parole, the office said.


Man Found Guilty of Killing 7 Co-Workers NYTimes (free reg. required)


CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 24 (AP) — A man who shot to death seven co-workers at a software company was convicted of murder today after failing to convince a jury that he was so delusional he thought he was killing Hitler and his henchmen to prevent the Holocaust.

The defendant, Michael McDermott, 43, stood impassively as he heard the verdict in a courtroom full of relatives of the victims. The convictions on seven counts of first-degree murder mean Mr. McDermott will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Massachusetts does not have a death penalty.

Prosecutors said Mr. McDermott went on his rampage because he was angry about the company's plan to comply with an order by the Internal Revenue Service to withhold a large part of his salary to pay back taxes.

Prosecutors also cited steps they said Mr. McDermott had taken to plan the killings, including test-firing his shotgun two days earlier and taking the guns to work on Christmas, the day before the killings, when no one was in the office.

Dateline: Nigeria


Death Penalty Sought in Nigeria
Thu Apr 25,11:16 AM ET

MADA, Nigeria (AP) - Muslim prosecutors sought the death penalty for two men accused of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime for which an Islamic court judge gave the accused men three days to reconvert.

Lawali Yakubu and Ali Jafaru, villagers in their 30s, were accused in the Islamic, or Shariah, court in the northern town of Mada of recently abandoning the Islamic faith and joining the Great Commission Movement, an international Evangelical church with a strong following in Nigeria.

Auwal Jabaka, the court judge, said Wednesday that although the Muslim holy book, or Quran, calls for the execution of Muslims who accept another religion, it was unclear whether the state's two-year-old Shariah penal code also permitted such a punishment.

Jabaka adjourned the court for three days to allow the accused to "change their minds" and convert back to Islam.

"If the law empowers me to (execute the two for converting from Islam to Christianity), I will have no hesitation in doing that," the judge said.

In the past two years, thousands of Muslims and Christians have been killed in periodic bursts of inter-religious bloodletting.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Jose Santellan Sr.

The skinny or "A + B =s, of course, C: After suffering years of torture at the hands of his parents, a Wise County man decided to exact his own punishment on a loved one by killing his girlfriend, an act that cost him his life Wednesday inside the Huntsville "Walls" death chamber.

The excuse/s:Minutes after Jose Santellan Sr. was declared dead by lethal injection for the Aug. 22, 1993 shooting death of nurse assistant Yolanda Garza in a Fredericksburg hospital parking lot, one of his lawyers spoke out about her client.

"I feel that the system has let Mr. Santellan down," said Marcy Hogan Greer, an Austin-based attorney who, since 1998, has represented Santellan. "When juries are deprived of compelling evidence that Mr. Santellan suffered organic brain damage and years of child abuse, they have no opportunity to show mercy.

The Crime: According to evidence presented by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Santellan, 40, was charged with capital murder for intentionally shooting Garza, 31, to death in the course of an aborted kidnapping attempt.

After emerging from the shadows of a nearby hospital trash bin, Santellan attempted first to speak to his former girlfriend. When his attempts at conversation failed, Santellan pulled out a .25-caliber pistol and shot her four times.

After shooting Garza, Santellan proceeded to load her body and backpack into his car. Fleeing the scene, he drove to the Hill Country Motel in Camp Wood and rented a room.

The killer's "bizarre treatment" of Garza then took another turn. After cleaning the body and pouring perfume over it to conceal the growing stench, he repeatedly engaged in sexual intercourse with the corpse. Afterward, he dressed it in his underwear.

Santellan later admitted that his sexual acts were motivated by a desire to "show how much I really loved her."

Shortly after midnight on Aug. 24, police officers arrived at the motel room and found Santellan alone with the body. Upon his arrest, he readily confessed to the crime.

Last Words: "First of all, I would like to apologize to the Guajardo family even though they are not present," Santellan said as he spoke into a microphone that dangled above his chin. "I loved Yolanda a lot. I hope and pray they can forgive me for all the pain."

The Menu: 12 pieces of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, 2 rolls with butter, 2 Pepsi, 1 pint of strawberry ice cream, and 1 pint of vanilla ice cream


Alabama Poised to Change Death Penalty Method
Tue Apr 23, 5:25 PM ET

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Reuters) - Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman plans to sign a bill changing the state's primary method of execution to lethal injection, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The move would leave Nebraska as the only state still relying on the electric chair.

The Alabama legislature passed a bill last week that calls for lethal injection to be used in all executions after July 1, unless a condemned inmate specifically requests to die in the chair.

Siegelman, a Democrat who supports the death penalty, favored the switch to lethal injection, partly out of concerns that U.S. courts could eventually rule that the use of the electric chair was unconstitutional.

In October, 2001, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair inflicted needless physical pain on inmates and ordered Georgia authorities to switch to lethal injection for future executions.

Georgia has executed six inmates since adopting lethal injection. Alabama's next execution is scheduled for May 10, when Lynda Lyon Block is due to die in the electric chair for the 1993 murder of a police officer. Block would be the first woman executed in Alabama since 1957.

Monday, April 22, 2002


Supreme Court Looks at Death Penalty
Mon Apr 22, 5:08 PM ET
By ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court waded deeper into the death penalty debate Monday with a case that could overturn 800 death sentences nationally and another case seeking extra appeals for the condemned.

Death sentences in nine states could be affected by the court's ruling in the case of Timothy Stuart Ring, convicted of killing of an armored car driver during a robbery eight years ago.

The court is expected to decide by summer whether a defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial means that only a jury can make the crucial determinations that result in a death sentence. Currently, although juries are responsible for deciding guilt or innocence, judges decide the sentence in Arizona and eight other states.

Ring's is the fourth death penalty case the court has reviewed in the current term. None of the cases attacks the essential constitutionality of capital punishment, which is imposed in 38 states.

The Arizona Supreme Court rejected Ring's constitutional challenge last year. The state has 128 people on death row.

Idaho and Montana have systems like Arizona's, where a single judge decides the sentence. Idaho has 21 people on death row, and Montana has six.

In four states, juries recommend life or death. A judge makes the final call in those states: Florida, with 386 people on death row; Alabama with 188; Indiana with 39 and Delaware with 19.

In Colorado, with six people on death row, and Nebraska, with seven, a panel of judges makes the sentencing decision.

Nationwide, there are about 3,700 people on death row.

We Will Be Keeping Our Eye on This Sparrow

Cops Search Blake House
Mon Apr 22, 7:06 PM ET
In the span of 24 hours, Robert Blake has gone from the comfy confines of a gated community known as Hidden Hills to a segregated cell at Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.

Fingered by police in the slaying of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, the Emmy-winning actor has been arrested, booked on suspicion of murder and will spend the weekend behind bars. On Monday, prosecutors will formally charge Blake in court with a murder count that police say could bring the death penalty.