Saturday, October 05, 2002

Taking America's death pulse:
Dateline: New Mexico

A new poll of New Mexicans shows support for the death penalty remains strong in a state that last year executed someone for the first time in more than 40 years. A statewide poll commissioned by The New Mexican newspaper of Santa Fe and KOB television of Albuquerque shows 66 percent of voters favor the death penalty. The random sampling of 421 likely voters by telephone Sept. 24-26 has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Twenty-six percent oppose the death penalty and 8 percent are undecided, the poll shows.

"We've found that around the country, support for the death penalty grew after Sept. 11 (2001)," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., which conducted the poll.

An April 1999 poll done by Mason-Dixon for the newspaper and another television station found 65 percent favored the death penalty.

Cathy Ansheles (Ed. Note: who is obviously unable to see that 66 percent is higher than 65 percent), coordinator of The New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, said she believes the trend is swinging against capital punishment.

Support for the death penalty drops when New Mexico voters are given a choice of a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for capital crimes. Under that circumstance, 43 percent of respondents in last week's poll favored repealing the death penalty; 48 percent supported it.

Men, Anglos and Republicans show the largest percentage of support for the death penalty, mirroring the findings of earlier polls.

Seventy-four percent of men favor capital punishment, compared with 58 percent of women; 74 percent of Anglos favor the death penalty, compared with 54 percent of Hispanics; 81 percent of Republicans support it compared with 56 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents.

Last November, New Mexico executed convicted child killer Terry Clark in the first execution in the state since January 1960.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

October 1, 2002

All that caffeine would keep me up.

Last Meal: One pot of coffee.

The skinny: On October 6th, 1990, 10-year Falyssa Van Winkle was abducted from a Beaumont flea market where her mother and step father sold goods. James Rexford Powell was also a flea market vendor. The former Merryville resident had even visited with Falyssa and her step father at their booth the same morning she was killed. Falyssa was last seen going to buy peanuts at the flea market.

Prior court: Although Powell had no previous convictions, he was arrested in 1984 in Beauregard Parish, La., on charges of attempted murder, attempted aggravated rape and aggravated burglary for beating and shooting a woman at her home in Merryville, just east of the Sabine River in Louisiana.

A Louisiana jury acquitted him in that case.

Final statement: Powell, 56, said nothing to the family of Falyssa Van Winkle's family. "I'm ready for the final blessing," was all Powell said. He smiled to friends and family and mouthed, "I love you." They then read the Litany of the Passion. Ed. Note: Click here to see this Litany

Johnny Cash Moment: As Warden Neill Hodges of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit pulled the white sheet over Powell's lifeless body, a long train whistle blew on a nearby track.

Factoid: Powell was the 29th condemned Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the fifth inmate in the past three weeks. At least six more executions are scheduled through the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

October 2, 2002

Mariel, Class of 1980...

Last Meal: Sanchez had a last meal of chicken fried rice, fried fish filets, avocado salad, cheesecake and milk.

The skinny: Sanchez-Velasco was put to death Wednesday for the 1987 rape and murder of 11-year-old Kathy Ecenarro in Hialeah. The convicted killer dropped all appeals and volunteered to be executed. Sanchez, a refugee who came to this country from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. While in prison he was subsequently convicted for his role in two slayings in the Florida State Prison and sentenced to 15 years for each one (sentence suspended as of today).

WELL, WHICH ONE IS IT?...Sanchez once told a judge, "I hate people. I don't like them. I want to kill people. You understand?" But as Sanchez-Velasco lay shackled to the death table at 9:31 a.m., warden Brad Carter asked him if he had any last words. ''I love you, everybody,'' the condemned man called out to more than three dozen people seated on the other side of the witness room windows in the death chamber at Florida State Prison in Starke.

UMMMM, I DON'T THINK SO...The moment Sanchez-Velasco finished speaking, Carter spoke into a beige phone asking Gov. Jeb Bush if there would be a stay of execution. There wasn't.

Factoid: It was the first execution in Florida since Jan. 11, 2001. He was the fifth inmate to volunteer to be executed since 1987, the 52nd to die since the resumption of executions in 1979 and the 247th to be put to death in Florida since 1924. There are 368 inmates on the state's death row.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Dateline: Iran

Iran hangs rapists in public

Large crowds have attended public executions in the Iranian capital Tehran - a rare spectacle under reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Five men, nicknamed the Black Vultures, were hanged from cranes at two sites in the capital, watched by thousands of people.

The five had been convicted of vicious attacks on women across Tehran. The men's crime spree attracted such notoriety that there were no last-minute appeals for clemency or protests by opponents of the death penalty.

At least 139 people were executed in Iran in 2001 - mostly out of public view - according to Amnesty International.

Three of the five - Payam Amini, Amir Karbalai and Majid Qasemi - were hanged in the north-eastern Lavizan district. The other two - Amir Fakhri and Farhad Aqnarian - were executed at a bus station in the west of the city.

Many of the crowd applauded after the execution.

Public hangings are only carried out in Iran if a court decides that the convict's crimes are offensive to public sentiment.


A look at what happens when no one claims your body.

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - A man executed for raping and killing an 11-year-old girl was buried in a 10-minute service in a downpour Friday at a prison cemetery.

Robert Buell, 62, was the first of the five men executed since Ohio resumed using the death penalty in 1999 whose relatives did not claim his body.

His sister, Carole Bye of Cincinnati, attended the service with her son. She said later that the family could not afford a funeral. She believes Buell was innocent.

"He didn't do it. He didn't do it. He didn't do it," Bye said.

A work detail of inmates carried Buell's casket to the grave site, which starts a new row in Boot Hill, the state prisons cemetery operated by Ross Correctional Institution. Buell's headstone had not yet arrived.

Small marble markers on the other 92 graves bear prisoners' names - not inmate numbers - and dates of birth and death.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections said it would spend about $500 on the burial, including a $200 prison-made blue casket and a $50 suit.

Bye said she didn't see her brother for about 10 years after he was convicted of raping and torturing adult women, which he acknowledged to police. She had a hard time forgiving him, but eventually did. She last visited him Sept. 11 on death row at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.

She said she believed Buell's assertions that he didn't harm children.

The prison burial was not upsetting, Bye said.

"It's just his body, not his spirit," she said.

Even though she believed her brother was innocent, Bye said his actions have made her lose some faith in men.

"I'll never get married again and I have no boyfriends."