Saturday, January 25, 2003

January 22, 2003

Robert Lookingbill, not Michael Lookinland.....

Last Meal: Fried chicken, French fries, iced tea, apple pie, jalapenos, garlic bread, and vanilla ice cream

The skinny: Lookingbill was executed for beating his grandmother to death for drug money. He beat Adeline and Lorenz Dannenberg so severely with a heavy metal bar that the two died from their injuries. The bar, which was 54 inches long and two inches across, has been described as weighing "in excess of 20 pounds." Lookingbill later described himself as being "coked up."

Evidence: The case against Lookingbill developed quickly. The metal bar, with blood stains and hair strands which matched the Dannenbergs, was found in a nearby family shed. Police also quickly seized Lookingbill's pants, jacket and boots, which were splattered in blood. When the contents of his jeans pockets were inventoried, police found a total of $568 -- an amount Dannenberg's daughter later testified was about the amount of her parent's social security checks, which they had received a few days before.

Priors: Lookingbill had previously served less than one year of a seven-year sentence for aggravated assault.

Final words and such: "When it comes, you can't run from it and I'm not going to run," "I would like to thank all my loved ones that are standing over there for all the kindness and support you have shown me over the years," he said, referring to his wife, Brenda, and friends. "Be strong. Do not hate, but learn from this experience. It has been a blessing to know all of you. Don't forget me."

Factoids: The 75-year-old Mr. Dannenberg, who would survive for more than one year before dying from his injuries. Mrs. Dannenberg died 10 days later.

Lookingbill, 37, was the third convicted killer put to death this year in Texas.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


Maryland's Death Penalty Could Resume Soon

....On the second-floor hospital unit of the Maryland penitentiary in Baltimore, members of the execution team are going through drills -- complete with artificial arms and feet -- to anticipate the problems that could arise when the state puts people to death.

The drills were stopped last year after then-Gov. Parris Glendening stayed one execution and declared a moratorium on capital punishment.

Glendening, a Democrat, said he worried in part that different prosecution practices meant the death penalty was a "lottery of jurisdiction" based on where murders were committed, not a defensible end to the most heinous crimes.

But with the election and inauguration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the moratorium is essentially over. Ehrlich pledged during his campaign to lift it and has hinted of no change of mind during his first days in office.

All the system needs to restart is a prosecutor's decision to proceed and a judge's signature on a warrant. Both could come any day, presaging the first execution since 1998.

The 12 men on death row spend their days waiting and wondering. A few have come within weeks, even days of dying in the past and could quickly do so again. It's possible there could be multiple executions this year for the first time since 1959.

Relatively speaking, Maryland isn't a killing state. It has executed 83 men in the past eight decades. Virginia executed the same number in a quarter of that time.

"The people of Maryland haven't really had to think much about capital punishment in the real sense in a long time," said lawyer H. Mark Stichel, who represents the sole Prince George's County murderer in the group. "We've only had three executions in the modern era, and one of those was a volunteer."


Their life was spared, but now they have community showers!!!

From WaPo, (a couple of questions first)....


Off Ill. Death Row, To a Rougher Place
Inmates' Isolation Also Meant Safety

Shortly after outgoing Gov. George Ryan's dramatic announcement Saturday that he would spare the lives of 167 inmates on Illinois's death row, Andre Jones, a convicted double-murderer who has faced a death sentence since 1980, telephoned his friend Jack Nordgaard, a retired Lutheran pastor who has been visiting condemned prisoners in the state for 20 years. Jones, 46, a short, slightly built man whose hair has begun to gray, was frightened.

"He said he doesn't know if he can do the rest of his life off of death row in a maximum-security institution," Nordgaard said. "It's just because you're always watching your back."

The convicted murderers whose sentences were commuted last weekend are no longer facing death, but for many of them, day-to-day life will be much rougher, and possibly more violent, according to people familiar with conditions in the state's prisons.

On death row they have been confined behind bars 23 hours a day, deprived of work and educational programs and shackled hand and foot when ushered to meet visitors.

But they also have their own cells, meals delivered by guards, and reasonably good access to art supplies, reading material and telephones. Many are ministered to regularly by an array of churches, religious groups and organizations opposed to the death penalty. And virtually all enjoy the comfort of knowing that prison enemies cannot easily knife, beat, rape or intimidate them. Much of that will now be lost as they face life terms without parole in overcrowded, hellishly hot prisons.

...He acknowledged that for many of the inmates, transferring off death row may be an ordeal. "Look at it from an inmate's perspective," he said. "The best thing that can happen for an inmate is not to have a cellmate . . . all of a sudden having one after 10 or 15 years may be a big change."

In recent days, Fairchild said, prison authorities have doubled the number of psychiatrists and psychologists on duty in death row; they are on the alert for mood swings and to prevent suicides.

...."Many of these people have become extremely contemplative -- you're facing the hangman's noose and you're sitting there all day," said Aviva Futorian who has made frequent visits to condemned prisons as an activist with the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty. "A lot of them have found they have a mind, have learned to read and write . . . They become more mental where they used to be, many of them, totally physical. Now they're going back to this physical world and that's causing a lot of anxiety. It's going to be dangerous for a lot them."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company


The NYTimes (reg. req.) looks at the Democratic Presidential candidates views on the ultimate sanction....


Absolutely, Positively for Capital Punishment

No one was surprised when prosecutors and families of crime victims denounced Gov. George Ryan of Illinois for commuting the death sentences of 167 prisoners last weekend. But some of the loudest voices condemning the Republican's decision came from a less-expected quarter: Democratic politicians, including several candidates running for the party's presidential nomination.

Rod R. Blagojevich, the Democrat who succeeded Mr. Ryan as governor on Monday, said the clemency was "terrible" and a "gross injustice." Gov. Gray Davis of California made it clear he would never consider a similar action. And Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who entered the presidential race last week, issued a bitter denunciation.

"Governor Ryan's action was shockingly wrong," Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on Friday. "It did terrible damage to the credibility of our system of justice, and particularly for the victims. It was obviously not a case-by-case review, and that's what our system is all about."

Four of the seven Democrats who have already joined the presidential race or are likely to do so have longstanding views supporting the death penalty and have not changed their positions because of the circumstances in Illinois. Along with Mr. Lieberman, the group includes Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Of the seven, only the Rev. Al Sharpton opposes the death penalty, as he has done for years. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts supports it in the case of convicted terrorists, and Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, supports it for murderers of children or police officers.

In the view of these advocates, many Democrats fear being painted as soft on crime in a way that crippled Michael S. Dukakis in 1988. The Republican Party has long favored execution and can point to national opinion polls showing three-quarters of Americans supporting capital punishment.

"We understand that a lot of Democrats are fearful of being `Dukakised' on this issue," said Dianna Wentz, executive director of the Moratorium Campaign, a group founded in Louisiana by Sister Helen Prejean to support the kinds of moratoriums on execution that now exist in Illinois and Maryland. "In this country, it's still politically dangerous to say you're opposed to the death penalty. But our point is that it's not political suicide to come out in favor of a moratorium."