Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Saturday, December 11, 2010


1 FEBRUARY 2008:
Takashi Mochida, 65 was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: Mochida was initially handed a seven-year prison term in 1989 for burglary and raping a 37-year-old woman in Tokyo. He returned to murder the victim in 1997 after serving his sentence, fatally stabbing her with a kitchen knife several times at a housing complex in Koto Ward.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Mochida to life imprisonment, but the High Court overturned the sentence and condemned him. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling and his sentence was finalized in October 2004.

Keishi Nago, 37, was hanged in Fukuoka.
CASE: Nago was convicted of fatally stabbing his 40-year-old sister-in-law and his 17-year-old niece in August 2002 at their home in Isencho, Kagoshima Prefecture. His 13-year-old nephew sustained severe chest wounds and was hospitalized for 88 days.
The Kagoshima District Court sentenced Nago to death in 2004 and the sentence was finalized when he withdrew his high court appeal that year.

Masahiko Matsubara, 63, was executed in Osaka.
CASE: Matsubara was convicted of breaking into a home in Yamakawacho, Tokushima Prefecture in April 1988 and raping and murdering a 61-year-old housewife and stealing ¥28,000. He was also found guilty of raping and killing a 44-year-old housewife in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, two months later, and stealing ¥99,500. Matsubara had been convicted three times for robbery prior to the killings.The Supreme Court upheld the lower court rulings and finalized Matsubara's death sentence in April 1997. He had sought a retrial, but the request was rejected last October.

10 APRIL 2008:
Kaoru Okashita, 61, was executed in Tokyo.
CASE: He was convicted of killing 2 people nearly 20 years ago including an 82-year-old woman with whom he had a property dispute.

Okashita, who also went by the surname Akinaga, later wrote traditional tanka poetry from death row in which he expressed remorse over his crimes and reflected on life waiting to die.

Keiko Mitsumoto, 62, the head of a tanka club who edited and published Okashita's poetry, said she had just sent him back his latest proof-read verse a few days ago.

"He once told me he hoped to live until next year when our group's tanka anthology is published. But his wish wasn't realised," she told AFP, her voice breaking with emotion.

She said that Okashita each month sent her 10 tanka poems -- an ancient
form of Japanese verse with 31 syllables.

"His poetry was very, very gentle and even offered solace and encouragement to me. I could hardly believe he would commit murder," she said.

"He said he feared the day would suddenly come when the footsteps of a guard would stop in front of his cell to announce his execution," she recalled.

"He seemed prepared for that, though, along with not meeting those close to him for a final farewell."

Masahito Sakamoto, 41, was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: He was convicted of raping and killing a high-school girl.

Katsuyoshi Nakamoto, 64, was hanged in Osaka.
CASE: He was convicted of killing a jeweller and his wife to steal the gems and cash.

Masaharu Nakamura, 61, was hanged in Osaka.
CASE: He was found to have killed two men by drugging their drinks.

17 JUNE 2008:
Tsutomu Miyazaki (宮﨑 勤 Miyazaki Tsutomu, August 21, 1962 – June 17, 2008), also known as The Otaku Murderer, The Little Girl Murderer, and Dracula, was a Japanese serial killer. He was executed by hanging in Tokyo.

CASE: Between 1988 and 1989, Miyazaki mutilated and killed four girls, aged between four and seven, and sexually molested their corpses. He drank the blood of one victim and ate her hands. These crimes — which, prior to Miyazaki's apprehension and trial were named "The Little Girl Murders", and later known as the Tokyo/Saitama Serial Kidnapping Murders of Little Girls (東京・埼玉連続幼女誘拐殺人事件 Tōkyō Saitama renzoku yōjo yūkai satsujin jiken) — shocked Saitama Prefecture, which had few crimes against children.

During the day, Miyazaki was a mild-mannered employee. Outside of work, he randomly selected children to kill. He terrorized the families of his victims, sending them letters recalling in graphic detail what he had done to their children. To the family of victim Erika Nanba, Miyazaki sent a morbid postcard assembled using words cut out of magazines: "Erika. Cold. Cough. Throat. Rest. Death."

He allowed the corpse of his first victim, Mari Konno, to decompose in the hills near his home, then chopped off the hands and feet, which he kept in his closet. They were recovered upon his arrest. He charred her remaining bones in his furnace, ground them into powder, and sent them to her family in a box, along with several of her teeth, photos of her clothes, and a postcard reading: "Mari. Cremated. Bones. Investigate. Prove."

Police found that the families of the victims had something else in common: all were bothered by silent nuisance phone calls. If they didn't pick up the phone, it would sometimes ring for 20 minutes.

Shinji Mutsuda, 37, was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: He had been on death row for the murder and robbery of two people.

Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, was hanged in Osaka.
CASE: He was convicted of killing two people for the insurance money.

11 SEPTEMBER 2008:
Yoshiyuki Mantani, 68, was hanged in Osaka.
CASE: He was convicted of killing one woman, attempting to kill a second woman and robbing and wounding a third woman in Osaka from August 1987 to January 1988. He had been released from prison on April 30, 1987, after serving an earlier sentence for murder and robbery. His death sentence was finalized in December 2001.

Mineteru Yamamoto, 68, was hanged in Osaka.
CASE: He was convicted of murdering and robbing his cousin and the cousin's wife in July 2004 in Kobe because he wanted gambling money. He also conspired with another to commit three thefts in 2003. His sentence was finalized in April 2006.

Isamu Hirano, 61, was executed in Tokyo.
CASE: was convicted of killing and robbing a ranch owner for whom he was working and the owner's wife in Tochigi Prefecture in December 1994. Hirano also torched the owner's house after the murder. His sentence was finalized in October 2006.

28 OCTOBER 2008:
Michitoshi KUMA, 70, was hanged in Fukuoka.
CASE: He was condemned to death in October 2006 by the Supreme Court. He was accused of murdering 2 young girls (both 7 years old) in February 1992. He claimed his innocence throughout the trial butcourts found him guilty based on the result of DNA test conducted by police, while the other result of the test by Teikyo University was negative. Kuma kidnapped two seven-year-old girls on their way to school in southern Japan in February 1992 and strangled them, dumping their bodies in the mountains.

Masahiro TAKASHIO, 55, was hanged in Sendai.
CASE: He was originally sentenced to life imprisonment by Iwaki Branch of Fukushima District Court,

But Sendai High Court overturned the decision and sentenced him to death. He withdrew his appeal to the Supreme Court and the sentence became final.

He is the 1st executed inmate who's original sentence was life imprisonment AND whose sentence was convicted without exhausting his right to appeal after executions were resumed in 1993. He was accused of murdering 83-year-old mother and her 55-year-old daughter and robbery of about 50,000 yen (approx. 500 US dollars). He broke into a house in northern Japan in March 2004 and stabbing a 55-year-old woman and her 83-year-old mother to death before stealing 50,000 yen, or about $500.

28 JANUARY 2009:
Yukinari Kawamura, 44 and 39-year-old Tetsuya Sato were both hanged in Nagoya.
CASE: They were both convicted of killing two women and burning their bodies in steel barrels.

Shoji Nishimoto, 32 was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: He was convicted of killing four people in separate home invasion robberies.

Tadashi Makino, 58, was executed in Fukuoka.
CASE: He was convicted of killing four women in separate home invasion robberies.

28 JULY 2009:
Hiroshi Maeue (前上 博 Maeue Hiroshi, August 8, 1968 - July 28, 2009), aka "Suicide Website Murderer", was a Japanese serial killer, who lured his victims via the internet and killed three people in 2005. Maeue suffered from a paraphilic psychosexual disorder which translated into being unable to achieve sexual release absent of performing an act of strangulation.
CASE: Maeue murdered three people after his release in 2005; he was convicted of killing a 14-year-old boy, a 25-year-old woman, and a 21-year-old man, all of whom were members of an online suicide club. He lured his victims by suggesting they meet and end their lives together by committing suicide via a charcoal burner in a sealed car. After a brief conversation, however, he would strangle them with his bare hands. This brought him sexual pleasure, and he later claimed he developed his desire to kill this way after reading of similar events in a mystery novel as a child. All three of his victims were killed within a span of four months.
Trial and death
In his trial, prosecutors called Maeue a "lust murderer." On March 28, 2007, the Osaka District Court sentenced him to death. Although his defence team launched an appeal, he accepted the judgment of the court and expressed a willingness to pay for his crimes with his life, retracting his protest in July 5, 2007.
On July 28, 2009, Hiroshi Maeue was hanged in Osaka, along with 25-year-old condemned criminal Yukio Yamaji.

Yamaji Yukio (山地 悠紀夫 Yamaji Yukio, August 21, 1983 – July 28, 2009) was a Japanese triple killer. He murdered his own mother in 2000, and then murdered a 27-year-old woman and her 19-year-old sister in 2005.
CASE: Yamaji was born into a poor family and his father died of cirrhosis in January 1995. After he graduated from junior high school, he did not enter high school and began working at the newspaper store. He killed his 50-year-old mother with a metal baseball bat in Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture on July 29, 2000 at the age of 16. He called the police and was arrested on July 31. One of his motives was his mother's silent telephone to the woman who he fell in love with. Another motive was his mother's debt. He was paroled in October 2003 and was released officially in March 2004. However, his work after the release was illegal.
On November 17, 2005, Yamaji raped a 27-year-old woman and her 19-year-old sister and murdered them with a knife, in Naniwa, Osaka. He then set fire to their room and escaped. The two victims had never met Yamaji. He was arrested on December 5, 2005. He said to the Osaka police, "I could not forget the feeling when I killed my mother, and wanted to see human blood."
On December 13, 2006, the Osaka District Court sentenced him to death. His defense made an appeal but he retracted it on May 31, 2007. His execution by hanging took place in Osaka on July 28, 2009.

Chen Detong, 41, was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: He was executed in Tokyo for killing three of his compatriots and injuring three more in Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo, in 1999.

28 JULY 2010:
Kazuo Shinozawa, 59 was hanged in Tokyo.
CASE: He received a death sentence after he was found guilty of setting fire to a jewelry shop in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, in June 2000. Shinzawa was taking part in a robbery which netted ¥140 million ($1.6 million). Six female workers from the jewelry shop died in the fire.

Hidenori Ogata, 33 was executed in Tokyo.
CASE: He was convicted of murder over the deaths of a man and a woman, and was also convicted of attempting to murder two other women in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, in 2003. stabbed a man and woman to death in 2003.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The EU and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

I am strongly against the way the Iranian government abuses human rights in incidents like their mistreatment of women but I have to admit that when they are harsh on crime, they are actually protecting their own people from criminals. They have more guts and courage than the European Union, who protest against capital punishment in the guise that innocent people might get executed but they have a land that is fit for criminals.

I do not know if Sakineh is innocent or guilty of her crime of murder and adultery but we got to bare in mind that each country has its own way of dealing with law and order. The point is not whether she is guilty or innocent, the problem is that the EU wants to make people believe that everyone on death row in the world are innocent when that is absolutely absurd. The European Court of Human Rights favors guilty criminals and wants to show the world how ‘merciful’ they are.

When I saw them having a European Parliament to condemn the stoning of Sakineh, it made me felt so sick. They can put so much effort into condemning what other governments are doing, claiming that they are the real democratic and human rights leaders of the world. I wondered why they did not put a single effort into condemning the crimes of their own criminals and not punishing them severely. To add insult to injury, they did not have a great parliamentary discussion to condemn the murders of innocent good citizens in their own continent and even decriminalize abortion (when it does nothing but kill the innocent).

They used Sakineh as a ‘poster girl’ to proof that execution is barbaric. For those of us who support capital punishment, we can use the heaps of murdered victims and their families as our propaganda that execution is moral and just for those who dare to deliberately take a life. I did not see them condemning the murders of Dutch Film director, Theo Van Gogh, the Soham girls, Sally Anne Bowman and Gary Newlove and many others that will take me a book to write them down.

There is an idiom that says, “Pot calling the kettle black.” The Iranian newspapers insulted Carla Bruni Sarkozy by writing, "Studying Carla Bruni's record clearly shows the reason why this immoral woman is backing an Iranian woman who has been condemned to death for committing adultery and being an accomplice in her husband's murder and, in fact, she herself deserves to die." Although they are too crude in their language, I have to admit that they are indirectly correct. Carla Bruni is an adulteress herself and she wants to show the world what a ‘heroine’ she is for saving an accused adulteress and murderer.

On Tuesday 7 September 2010, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said foreign countries should not make Ashtiani's case a human rights issue. He said if releasing "murderers" is a human rights issue, then those nations that have criticized Iran should release all of their murderers from jail. He said, “Some western countries try to protect those who have committed grave crimes or serious murders to create a political problem and try to discredit our legal system.”

I strongly agree with him because the EU is equivalent to someone who cannot swim and dive into the sea to save another person who is drowning. They cannot even protect their own good citizens from criminals but only have the balls to lecture the Iranian government, when they do not even know whether Sakineh is truly innocent or not. Even if she is innocent of her crime, the EU has more important things like punishing their own criminals rather than interfering with other judicial system. They are wearing a mask to pretend that they care for human life when the only human beings they care for are criminals. The case of Sakineh is only a EU propaganda to protect criminal rights.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gardner's attorney asks high court to throw out death sentence

Craig Watson, cousin of Ronnie Lee Gardner victim Melvyn J. Otterstrom, is photographed outside the courtroom at the Utah Supreme Court in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Watson said of the scheduled execution, "The 18th will be a day of closure." (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)

By Pamela Manson

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 06/03/2010 08:32:52 PM MDT

Craig Watson, cousin of Ronnie Lee Gardner victim Melvyn J. Otterstrom, is photographed outside the courtroom at the Utah Supreme Court in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Watson said of the scheduled execution, "The 18th will be a day of closure." (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)

A lawyer for Ronnie Lee Gardner asked the state's highest court on Thursday to throw out his death sentence and halt his execution.

With just two weeks left before Gardner is slated to die, Andrew Parnes argued to the Utah Supreme Court that his client might have gotten a life sentence if adequate mitigating evidence had been presented to a trial jury years ago.

"Finality [of the case] is not the be-all and end-all," he said. "It's fairness."

Parnes is asking the Supreme Court to either impose a life sentence without parole or order a new sentencing hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker responded that Gardner has no constitutional right to bring that claim at this late date. He also said the claim has no merit, pointing out that Gardner presented evidence of his alleged organic brain damage and dysfunctional childhood as part of an unsuccessful federal appeal.

The justices asked Parnes why he thought presenting that same evidence to a jury would result in a different outcome, given that the federal court had rejected that claim.

"We believe there is a high probability that at least one juror could weigh this evidence differently," Parnes said.

The justices took the arguments under consideration and will announce their decision at a later date.

The effort to spare Gardner's life is based on two arguments, that his trial lawyers were ineffective because they failed to present mitigating evidence that could have led to a life sentence and that executing him after 25 years of litigation amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Gardner, 49, is sentenced to die for killing attorney Michael Burdell during an April 2, 1985, escape attempt from a courthouse in Salt Lake City. After a woman slipped him a gun, Gardner wounded bailiff Nick Kirk and fatally shot Burdell before being captured on the courthouse lawn.

Gardner had been brought to the courthouse that day for a hearing in the 1984 slaying of Melvyn Otterstrom at a Salt Lake City bar. He pleaded guilty in that case and is serving a 5-year-to-life sentence for that murder.

After the hearing, Otterstrom's cousin, Craig Watson, said he wants the execution to go through as scheduled.

"It's about time justice is served," he said.

Third District Judge Robin Reese signed an execution warrant April 23 at the request of the Attorney General's Office, which said Gardner had run out of appeals. Gardner is scheduled to be executed June 18 by firing squad, a method he chose over lethal injection.

The arguments Thursday were an appeal of the signing of the execution warrant. Gardner has a second case before the Supreme Court, which is an appeal of Reese's denial of his request for a new sentencing. That case, which asserts the same arguments on mitigating evidence and cruel and unusual punishment, is being briefed; no hearing has been set.

Gardner and his lawyers will make another last-ditch to save his life at a commutation hearing next week. The condemned man will ask the Board of Pardons and Parole to reduce his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Victims' families call for return of death penalty

Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:00pm GMT

(Reuters) - Some of the families of the five women murdered by Steve Wright in Suffolk called for the return of the death penalty.


Here are some of their quotes, all spoken through a police liaison officer.

The family of Annette Nicholls said: "No punishment this person receives will ever be enough for us.

"Nothing will bring our beautiful loving mother, daughter and sister back home.

"This man has robbed a little boy of a mother who he adored, parents of a loving and much loved daughter and siblings of a loving sister."

"But at least we can rest knowing that this man is no longer on the streets of Ipswich ready to take another girl's life."

The family of Paula Clennell said: "What right did Steve Wright have to take five lives?

"Listening to his lies and excuses has made me feel sick.

"My daughter could still be alive today if she had not been murdered. Who knows, she may have been off the drugs and leading a normal life.

"At least she would've had that choice. Steve Wright took that choice away from her and the other four girls.

"I wish we still had the death penalty as this is what he truly deserves."

Another family said: "We are afraid that while five young lives have been cruelly ended the person responsible will be kept warm, nourished and protected.

"These crimes deserve the ultimate punishment and that can only mean one thing.

"Whereas our daughter and other victims have been given no human rights by this monster his will be guarded by the establishment at great cost to the taxpayers of this country and emotionally to the bereaved families.

"The public must insist this government looks at returning the death penalty ... otherwise many more families will go through the same suffering that we have had to endure."

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Jeremy Lovell)


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Iraq OKs execution of 'Chemical Ali'

Posted 2/29/2008 6:27 PM

By John Affleck, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD — The Saddam Hussein henchman known as "Chemical Ali" for gassing thousands of Kurdish civilians is due to hang within the month, following the endorsement of his death sentence Friday by Iraq's presidential council. But even survivors were notably subdued about the news in a nation weary of violence and suffering.

The agreement among Iraq's three-member presidential council -- President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, along with the Sunni and Shiite vice presidents -- eliminated the last barrier before Ali Hassan al-Majid can be executed.

The presidential council spared the lives of two other Saddam aides, in what was seen as a possible attempt to appease minority Sunnis. The two men -- Hussein Rashid Mohammed, former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie -- are in U.S. custody, as is al-Majid.

The date of the execution will be determined by the Iraqi government.

A cousin of Saddam who once was an army motorcycle messenger, al-Majid rose to become a general and served as defense minister from 1991-95. He was among the most important figures in the former regime's inner circle, and was known as one of the most merciless.

Al-Majid, al-Taie and Mohammed were sentenced to death in June after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in Operation Anfal -- a 1987-88 crackdown on the Kurdish region that killed nearly 200,000 civilians and guerrillas.

Witnesses testified that Iraqi government forces attacked women and children, burned crops, killed livestock and forced civilians into detention camps.

Hundreds of Kurds danced in the streets last June when al-Majid was sentenced to death.

But on Friday in Halabja, a city near the Iranian border that was the scene of a notorious gas attack that killed an estimated 5,000 civilians, news that al-Majid's sentence is to be carried out was greeted with relief but not joy.

"I am glad to see Chemical Ali hanged at last and I am psychologically relieved to see the person who killed thousands of my people being punished at last," said 43-year-old Aras Abdi, who lost 12 relatives in the Halabja attack.

"On the other hand, the execution will not improve our lives. We have been neglected by the Kurdish regional government."

Another Halabja resident, Kamil Mahmoud, said he still has trouble breathing as a result of the attack.

"I was afraid that I would die without seeing Chemical Ali punished for his crimes," said Mahmoud, who lost eight family members to the gas. "But thanks to God, the time has come for Ali to see his shameful end."

Nearly five years after Saddam was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, sectarian and insurgent violence persists.

According to an Associated Press count, at least 729 Iraqis were reported killed through Thursday in February, up from at least 610 Iraqis killed in January. At least 29 U.S. troops were killed in February, down from 40 the month before.

On Friday, gunmen kidnapped Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho as he left Mass, police said. Ninevah provincial police Brig. Gen. Khalid Abdul-Sattar said the attackers also killed three people who were with the prelate.

An aide to Iraq's Chaldean cardinal said he did not know who seized the 65-year-old archbishop in Mosul, a northern city which the U.S. military considers an urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq. Pope Benedict XVI called for Rahho's release, saying the kidnapping was an "abominable" attack.

Al-Majid would be the fifth former regime official hanged for alleged atrocities during Saddam's nearly three-decade rule.

Saddam also had been a defendant in the so-called Anfal trial, but he was hanged Dec. 30, 2006, for ordering the killings of more than 140 Shiites after a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who said he had received word of the decision from the presidential council, said there was a legal basis for executing "Chemical Ali" but not the other two officials.

An appeals court upheld the verdicts against the three men in September. But they were put on hold after Sunni leaders, including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, launched a campaign to spare al-Taie. Officials said al-Hashemi refused to approve the execution of al-Taie and Mohammed because he considered them career soldiers who were following orders.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, had also refused to sign the order against al-Taie, a Sunni who signed the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

Many Sunni Arabs saw al-Taie's sentence as evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials were persecuting their once-dominant minority and as a sign of Shiite influence over the judiciary.

Few had sympathy for al-Majid, however.

"Hassan al-Majid is renowned for his brutality," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd. The case, he said, "shows that justice delayed is better than no justice."


Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Closure at last!

There is a state representative in Missouri by the name of Ken Jones whose wife and other members of surrounding counties Sheriff's departments were murdered. After so many years on death row, the murderer ended appeals and was executed. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Jones if it brought a sense of peace or closure after all those year and he said yes.


Richard Wade Cooey II executed for McCreery, Offredo murders
By Damon Sims
October 14, 2008, 8:17PM

Richard Wade Cooey II died peacefully Tuesday with a lethal combination of drugs administered through two needles inserted gently into veins in each arm.

He was executed by the state of Ohio for the rape and murders -- by bludgeoning and strangulation -- of two college students who were not afforded such comfort in their deaths.

"It's done," said Mary Ann Hackenberg, mother of one of the victims, Dawn McCreery, who said she could sense her daughter's presence in the death chamber.

"I know she was there," she said. "I felt her there."

Cooey was sentenced to death in 1986 for the rape and murder that year of the 20-year-old McCreery and her sorority sister, Wendy Offredo, 21. He was hours away from execution when he won a reprieve in 2003. Tuesday, his appeals ran out when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last-ditch effort.

He remained defiant even in his final statement, uttering an obscenity when Warden Phillip Collins held a microphone above his lips, before a combination of three drugs flowed through the tubes over the course of nearly 10 minutes, ending his life.

"You ... haven't paid any attention to what I've had to say over the past 22½ years, why are you going to pay attention to what I have to say now?" he said, not looking at any of the six witnesses from the McCreery family or his three lawyers and a spiritual adviser, who were witnesses.

At 10:06 a.m., a monitor in the witness viewing room flickered to life, showing Cooey lying on a gurney in a prep room adjacent to the death chamber, his feet crossed. Technicians inserted ports into veins in each arm without difficulty, despite his legal claims that his veins would be too difficult to access partly because of his obesity.

Hackenberg, of Rocky River, one of six witnesses from the McCreery family, said, "They got it," when the needle was inserted.

Cooey shouted for his lawyer, Greg Meyers, twice. Meyers, who was in the witness room along with two other lawyers and Cooey's spiritual adviser, did not move.

At 10:15 a.m., with ports inserted and his arms strapped to boards, Cooey kicked his legs, got off the gurney, and walked to the death chamber, where he climbed onto another gurney. Six guards in white strapped him down with four black straps. Tubing, which extended from the wall in the adjacent room, was connected to the ports.

At 10:19, Cooey made his final statement and drummed his fingers -- pinky to index finger -- on the board supporting his left arm. At 10:21, he exhaled with a faint noise. Warden Phillip Kerns of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shook Cooey's shoulder. He did not respond. By 10:28, he was dead. Sodium pentothal induced deep sleep, pancuronium bromide stopped his breathing, and potassium chloride stopped his heart.

Hackenberg threw back her head and exhaled as a curtain was drawn across the viewing window. She hugged her son, Rob McCreery, and held the hand of her ex-husband, Robert McCreery Sr. A black hearse waited outside the death house to take Cooey's body.

Dana Cole, who identified himself as Cooey's lawyer and friend and to whom Cooey's cremated remains will be given, said Cooey was an immature 19-year-old influenced by drugs and alcohol when he committed his crime.

"What we witness here today was a killing that was planned and funded for more than 22 years," he said. "The man killed was not the same man who committed the crimes."

Rob McCreery said Cooey is exactly the same, proven by his final words.

"Just being spiteful to the very end," said McCreery. "It just shows how much this was warranted and justified."

After the execution, the family talked of their relief that Cooey had finally been brought to justice and the peacefulness of his passing despite his claims that lethal injection was "cruel and unusual."

"The thing that's going to now give us the greatest comfort is knowing that he now has to be accountable to a power greater than himself and now he's got to reckon with that," said Dawn McCreery's cousin, Kathy Miska, one of the execution witnesses.

Hackenberg was at once relieved and still angry.

"It was too easy. It's as much justice as we're going to get, as much closure as we'll get, but it was just too easy," she said.

"He didn't get a free pass," said her husband, John Hackenberg.

Rob McCreery said he had hoped for the execution for so long -- he was 17 when his big sister was killed -- that he's not sure where to turn his attention now.

"But I can tell you it was a nicer day coming out of there than it was going in," he said.

Cooey is the first Ohio inmate to be executed since May 2007, the 27th since 1999.

Cooey was 19 and home on leave from the Army when, in 1986, the Akron native and an accomplice, 17-year-old Clint Dickens, raped and murdered Offredo and McCreery.

Dickens threw a chunk of concrete from an overpass onto Offredo's car, disabling it. They then drove down to the highway and picked up the women, offering to get them help. Instead, they drove them to a secluded field in Norton where they raped them, beat them with a wooden club and strangled them with shoelaces.

Dickens was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes, in which both girls suffered through more than three hours of what Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh called "fear and torture and agony." Because Dickens was still a juvenile when he committed the crime, he wasn't eligible for the death penalty.

The night before his execution, as Cooey sat on his bed or paced and slept for slightly more than an hour, Dawn McCreery's family gathered in her brother Rob's hotel room, sharing stories, watching the Browns' unexpected victory and drinking cold beers. Bevan Walsh joined them.

Rob McCreery opened a gift bag from a former Alpha Delta Pi sorority sister of Dawn and Wendy. It was a shirt with the sorority's Greek lettering, one that Dawn had actually worn. The card said it was for Rob McCreery's 5-year-old daughter.

The morning sky, still dark, was full of stars as a nearly full moon loomed over the hills of Lucasville. At breakfast in the Holiday Inn Express, someone noted that it was a harvest moon.

Perfect for execution day. "You reap what you sow," said Nicole McCreery, Rob's wife.

Elizabeth Daily, Brad's mother included the following statement: "Your honor, on behalf of all of my family, and most important, on behalf of Brad and for Brad, I ask you to carry out their sentencing with the most strict punishment allowed by law and in the most swift and timely manner."
Connecticut serial killer put to death
Ross is first to be executed in New England in 45 years

Friday, May 13, 2005 Posted: 0903 GMT (1703 HKT)

SOMERS, Connecticut (CNN) -- In New England's first execution in 45 years, the state of Connecticut put serial killer Michael Ross to death early Friday.

The 45-year-old Ross was executed for the killings of four eastern Connecticut women in the 1980s.

Ross had rejected all efforts to halt his execution, saying he wanted to die. But his father and court-appointed attorneys tried to stop the state from proceeding, claiming Ross was not competent to drop his appeals.

Christine Whidden, the warden for the Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, said Ross was put to death by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. ET at nearby Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers.

Media witnesses said Ross made no final statement, never opened his eyes and moved very little ahead of the chemicals being administered. As the drugs flowed into his veins, they said, Ross became completely still.

"Michael Ross did not have any final words," said Shelly Sindland, a reporter for WTIC in Hartford who witnessed the execution. "When asked if he wanted any final words, he said, 'No, thank you.' He did gasp for air, shuddered, and after that there was no movement whatsoever."

The execution was the first in New England since 1960, when Connecticut inmate Joseph Taborsky died in the state's electric chair. Four of the other five states in the region -- Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont -- have no death penalty, while New Hampshire's last execution was in 1939.

Ross admitted killing eight women -- six in Connecticut and two in New York -- as part of a crime spree in at least five states.

He was sentenced to death for killing Robin Stavinsky, April Brunais, Wendy Baribeault and Leslie Shelley in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s.

Stavinsky's sister, Debbie Dupris, said the execution did not give her the closure she was expecting to feel, but it did serve a purpose.

"Finally justice has been served," Dupris said, "and I know that our sister, Robin Dawn Stavinsky, is looking down upon us at this moment, and I know that she will rest easier knowing that the person who ended her life no longer has the privilege of having his own."

All of Ross' victims were 14 to 25 years old when he strangled them to death. He admitting raping all but one of them.

Dzong Tu, a Vietnam-born graduate student in economics at Cornell University in New York, is believed to have been Ross' first murder victim. Her death followed a string of rapes on campus in the spring of 1981. Ross also was a student at the university.

"We will always miss my sister," said Lan Tu, Dzong's brother, "and I feel that this was only (a) small measure of justice for the pain that Michael Ross caused our family and the loss, but it is an ending."

Edwin Shelley, whose daughter Leslie Shelley was killed by Ross along with her best friend in 1984, said the convicted killer got what he deserved.

"We have waited 21 years for justice, and I would like to thank the jury in Bridgeport, the jury in New London, and finally the state of Connecticut for finally giving us the justice that our children are due."

Preceding the execution, a string of last-minute appeals failed.

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday denied a pair of appeals by family members to postpone the execution.

Earlier in the day, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also turned down the family's effort to delay the execution, rejecting a motion filed by Ross' sister, Donna Dunham.

Ahead of the scheduled execution, about 400 people carrying anti-death penalty signs quietly marched toward the prison where Ross was to executed.

T.R. Paulding, Ross' private attorney, said Ross repeatedly invoked his right to die and asked that his wishes be respected. If a full round of appeals were allowed, it most likely would prevent his client's execution, he had said.

Ross' relatives argued he was suffering from "death row syndrome," in which a person's mental state is degraded by being on death row for a long period -- causing a person to think it would be better to die.

Slaying victim's family ready for killer's execution
By Michelle Mondo- Express-News
Web Posted: 10/25/2009 12:00 CDT
Reginald Blanton wants to die without an audience.

“I don’t want to put my mama through that,” said the 28-year-old death row inmate, whose execution is scheduled for Tuesday. “I don’t want no one to see that.”

But Blanton, condemned for the robbery and shooting death of an acquaintance, doesn’t have a choice: The family of Carlos Garza plans to watch as Blanton is strapped to a gurney inside Texas’ death chamber and administered a lethal injection.

“I want to watch him breathe his last breath,” Irene Garza said of the man convicted of killing her 22-year-old son, Carlos Garza, whose body was found nine years ago in a pool of blood, two gunshots to his head.

Barring last-minute intervention from Gov. Rick Perry, Blanton will become the third condemned man from Bexar County and the 19th statewide to die this year. His appeals have been denied, and the U.S. Supreme Court this year declined to hear his case.

Still, on Oct. 8 Blanton filed a petition for clemency — the use of executive power to reduce, forgive or delay a sentence. In nearly nine years as Texas governor, Perry has only once delayed an execution and has never spared a life based on a claim of innocence, records show. Under his watch, the state has executed 200 inmates.

Garza’s family waits for closure. Gathered recently at the East Side home of a relative, they recalled Garza’s spirit and how much they have missed him over the years. More relatives want to witness the execution than are allowed, and the family has to whittle the list. So far, those who will be in the chamber include Garza’s mother and three sisters.

“It won’t bring my brother back,” said Sulema Balverde, 34, Garza’s older sister. “But it will bring him justice.”

Irene Garza, 54, said she understands the pain Blanton’s mom must feel.

“It wasn’t her fault her son did what he did,” she said. “She’s going to miss her son the way I miss my son. But we didn’t cause these problems. My son was a good boy.”

Something to steal

A jury of eight women and four men took 12 hours to convict Blanton of the April 2000 slaying and a day and a half to render a death sentence. According to testimony at his trial, Blanton drove to Garza’s West Side apartment, looking for something to steal. Prosecutors said he kicked in the victim’s door and shot Garza twice in the head when he refused to hand over his jewelry.

Within 20 minutes of the killing, prosecutors told the jury, Blanton was videotaped at a local pawnshop hawking two gold necklaces that belonged to Garza. And when he was arrested, Blanton was wearing items — a lion’s head ring and a bracelet — that had belonged to Garza.

His twin brother, Robert Blanton, and Latoya Mayberry, then Robert Blanton’s girlfriend, told police that Reginald Blanton was responsible for the killing, and they described to detectives how he had sold the jewelry — statements that later became a source of disagreement among those who believe that the statements were coerced and that Blanton was wrongly convicted.

During a 45-minute interview nearly two weeks ago in Huntsville, Blanton maintained his innocence. But he said he wasn’t hopeful that his life would be spared.

“I’m not confident in the commutation process,” he said in the interview, during which he was both energetic and soft-spoken, pausing infrequently.

Still, he said, he was “trying to stay spiritually strong.”

During his time on death row, Blanton has proved adept at using the media to try to sway public opinion. On his MySpace and Facebook pages, as well as anti-death penalty Web sites, Blanton portrays himself as a wrongfully convicted human rights activist. He has published letters, documents, photos and “peaceful protest” videos in which he refuses to go back to his cell.

Helping with much of the online work is Blanton’s 47-year-old British fiancee, Sandie Staf, who manages the sites from her home in Somerset, England.

“There’s something (going online) every day, even if it’s just putting out bulletins,” Staf said.

Death row pen pals

An anti-death penalty advocate who has been writing to U.S. death row inmates for seven years, Staf met Blanton through other condemned pen pals. She said a British television show is chronicling her relationship with Blanton.

She helps Blanton’s older brother Andre Bios and his mother in their efforts to save Blanton. This month, Bios organized a protest in front of the Bexar County Courthouse. After the protest, he didn’t return repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Staf said she believes in Reginald Blanton’s innocence, although she said she neither attended his trial nor read the police file or trial transcripts, all of which refute many of Blanton’s statements, including that the statements made by Mayberry and his brother were coerced.

Mayberry could not be located for comment. Robert Blanton is serving two years in jail on a drug charge.

Meanwhile, Garza’s family waits for Tuesday.

A cousin, Anthony Ortiz, 28, often stayed at Garza’s apartment. He still wonders what might have happened had he been there the day Garza was slain. After the shooting, he helped clean up after his cousin’s body was taken from the residence on Skolout Street.

Ortiz can still remember how evidence technicians cut a bloodied piece of carpet. A mirror hanging on a wall was shattered by a bullet, and Ortiz took what was left and hung it on his own wall. Later, he sat by it and cried.

Garza’s son, just 4 at the time of his father’s slaying, has grown into a teenager. Now 14, he struggles to remember the man the rest of his family so easily recalls. He didn’t get to know Garza, but he misses him nonetheless.

“I feel it should happen,” Carlos Daniel Garza said of Tuesday’s execution, nodding his head. “So my dad can finally rest in peace. Finally.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eruptions of joy, anger and anti-US protests

Shias and Kurds greet verdict with celebratory gunfire while the Sunnis talk of seeking revenge for the 'son of Iraq'

Jubilation in Sadr City after the Saddam verdict. Photograph: Karim Kadim/AP

Reaction to the verdict was divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, with many once-dominant Sunni Arabs expressing sympathy for Saddam, who is also Sunni, and long-oppressed Shia and Kurds celebrating.

Shia Arabs

Celebratory gunfire erupted in the Shia city of Dujail moments after the verdict was announced as residents took to the streets in defiance of the curfew, carrying photographs of loved ones they said were lost during the 1982 crackdown.

Abdul Zahara Hatow, 80, who bears the scars of torture from the time he was rounded up by mukhabarat officers, said, "I would like today to raise my shirt and show the whole world what the regime did to me. I feel that this sentence will be like a bandage to my wounds."

Hussein al Haydari, another Dujail resident, said: "We've been waiting for justice since 1982, but today is great day for the people of Dujail."

There were similar demonstrations of support for the verdict in the mostly Shia port city of Basra, and other cities in the south, including Kut, Hilla, Najaf and Amarah. In Basra, Karima Mohamed Ali, 55, said her son, Hayder, was killed by Saddam's security forces during the Shia uprising in 1991. "Nothing can bring him back. Executing Saddam will be some compensation for my son's murder," she said through tears.

In Baghdad's huge impoverished Shia district of Sadr city, tens of thousands took to the streets to celebrate, also in defiance of the total curfew. Sadr issued a call to his followers, who have been accused of orchestrating attacks on Sunnis, to keep the peace and said any violence against Sunnis would be considered treason. "You are called upon now to perform a thanksgiving prayer," said a statement broadcast from local mosques.

Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and head of the ruling Shia alliance, praised the verdict and urged Iraqis to unite: "I hope the verdict will bring closure to this tragic and brutal episode in Iraqi history. We must never forget and we must always be vigilant never to let tyranny rise here in Iraq ever again - but it's time to move on."

Sunni Arabs

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, hundreds of protesters defied the curfew by marching along a main street, clutching palm fronds, waving Iraqi flags and photos of their former leader, chanting: "You are still the son of Iraq, we will avenge you."

A number of masked gunmen fired kalashnikovs from surrounding rooftops. Sheikh Fawas Hamed al Tikriti, one of the city's leading figures, said the verdict was "arbitrary and politicised" and would provoke violence. "It is all in the interests of the US elections, and this will not pass without revenge," he said.

Ali Salem, 35, a government employee who had come to show support from the nearby city of Samarra, said: "The verdict is unfair and illegal under the occupation and it serves the political interests of the governing parties in Iraq." Ali al Harbawi, a lecturer at Tikrit university, said: "I express my anger and total rejection at this unfair verdict. The tribunal is unacceptable and illegal."

Support for Saddam could be found from the deserts of western Iraq, the insurgents' heartland, to the streets of Mansour, a middle class neighbourhood in western Baghdad. Many disaffected Sunnis said they saw the trial as a conspiracy by Iran and the US, aimed not just at Saddam, but all of Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

In Baghdad's al-Qahira neighbourhood, Mohammed Qasir, said: "This verdict is from treacherous people and foreign agents, not a verdict from the real Iraqi people. I tell Saddam Hussein that they will never assassinate the voice of truth. I don't mean to say I love Saddam. I'm just making a comparison between the old regime and the government today."

Leading Sunni political figures were forthright in their condemnation. Salah al-Mutlaq, who heads the second largest Sunni bloc in parliament, part of the government of national unity, said the verdict would spark even greater bloodshed. "This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands," he said.

There were armed clashes between residents and Iraqi security forces in the Baghdad Sunni stronghold of Adhamiya, as well as attacks in the western town of Fallujah.


There was celebratory gunfire in the Kurdish neighbourhoods of the contested city of Kirkuk, but inside the northern Kurdish self-rule region, where heavy mountain rain may have helped to dampen festivities, the reaction was one of quiet satisfaction rather than outright jubilation.

Many Iraqi Kurds said they were waiting for their day in court with the ongoing Anfal trial, in which Saddam and six other former officials are accused of genocide for their part in the murder of more than 50,000 Kurds during the notorious 1988 Anfal operation. Kurds are also hoping to see Saddam face justice for his alleged role in the gassing of Halabja, also in 1988.

In Sulaymaniyah, Nabaz Munzir, 37, who works in a cement factory, said: "It is like a dream came true, it is the best verdict. I say this deep from my heart. This is the best verdict because at least 40 to 42 million Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan are happy about it."

Salar Ahmed Sultan, 31, a documentary film director, said: "Personally, I don't like the death penalty. That's why I want life sentences for Saddam and his aides, not execution."

Kurdish leaders expressed their confidence that the Anfal trial would continue, even if Saddam were to be executed before its conclusion. "Today justice has spoken, and I am happy for the grieving families in Dujail," said Fuad Hussein, a senior aide to the Kurdistan regional president, Massoud Barzani. "But we as Kurds need to see justice. The Anfal has become part of our identity."

He predicted that the execution of Saddam would not deliver an end to violence in Iraq, but it would be "a severe blow to those Ba'athists who cherished hopes of one day returning to power."

Iraqi exiles in London

By yesterday afternoon, a small cross-section of Britain's tens of thousands of Iraqis had gathered in the cafes on London's Edgware Road to sip coffee and debate the verdict. Akhausran Ramadan, 31, an Iraqi Kurd visiting her brother, said she was delighted. "Everyone who died under his dirty hands can lie safe in their grave," she said.

Across the road, in Palms Palace cafe, run by Iraqi Kurds, the mood was more resigned. "I'm not in a mood for a party," said Aziz Majeed, 29, from Irbil. "What difference is his execution going to make to the chaos in Iraq? I hate Saddam, of course I do. But I can't blame him for the current situation - my country has been turned into the most dangerous place on earth. Where is the freedom the Americans promised?"

It was a concern shared by Mazim Younis, who runs the Iraqi League, an anti-war exile group. "The verdict won't halt the destruction - if anything, it will make the situation worse. Iraq used to have one dictator. Now we have 20."

· Additional reporting: Salaam Jihad and Zaineb Naji, Baghdad; Dawood Salman, Anbar province; Jasim al Sabawy, Tikrit and Hawija; Ammar al-Salih, Basra

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Four Sudan Islamists to hang for murder of US diplomat whom judge called a dhimmi

Posted on October 14, 2009 by pnaction
del.icio.us Tags: Four Sudan Islamists to hang for murder of US diplomat whom judge called a dhimmi
A fitting update to this previous Creeping Sharia post on the murder of an American USAID worker and his driver by Muslims.

KHARTOUM — A Sudanese court sentenced four Islamists to death for a second time on Monday for the murder of a US diplomat and his driver in Khartoum last year.

The sentencing came after the mother of John Granville, who worked with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the wife of driver Abdel Rahman Abbas both demanded the men be executed.

Granville and Abbas were returning from a New Year’s celebration in 2008 when the gunmen opened fire on their car, riddling them both with bullets.

“The murder of a person is as illegal from the point of view of shariah (Islamic law) as it is in Sudanese criminal law,” the judge, Said Ahmed al-Badri, said when announcing the sentence.

The court had condemned the men to death in June for the New Year’s Day murders of Granville and Abbas but the sentences were cancelled in August after Abbas’s father forgave the men.

Under Islamic law, the victim’s family has the right to forgive the murderer, ask for compensation or demand execution.

Granville’s mother, Jane Granville, at the time had asked for the men’s execution but her letter was rejected because it was not notarised. A new letter was submitted by her and read out by a court prosecutor on Sunday.

On Monday, Abbas’s wife appeared before the court to demand the death penalty for the four convicts.

One of the defendants, Mohammed Osman Yusef, shouted after sentencing: “You cannot killed a Muslim because he killed a Christian.”

Dressed in a traditional white robe, the bearded Yusef, a former military officer, also accused the United States of killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The four Islamists now sentenced to death, seen outside the Khartoum court in June

The four Islamists now sentenced to death, seen outside the Khartoum court in June

“Islamic law condemns murder, regardless of the nationality or religion (of the victim,” the judge said. Some Muslim scholars say a Muslim can be punished, but not executed, for killing a non-Muslim.

The judge added that according to Islamic law Granville was a “dhimmi” in Sudan, referring to the status of non-Muslims in an Islamic state that affords them protection and a waiver from army service, in return for a tax.

Sudanese law does not recognise non-Muslims in the country as dhimmis.

One of the four condemned men is the son of a leader of pacifist Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna, which is linked to Salafism — a hardline form of Sunni Islam practised mainly in Saudi Arabia — but is not involved in politics.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid had claimed the New Year’s Day murder according to SITE, a US-based organisation which monitors Islamist websites.

It said the murder was in response to attempts to raise the banner of Christianity over Sudan, the largest country in Africa.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officers from the United States had helped to investigate the killings which sent shockwaves through the sizeable Western community in Khartoum, a city usually considered one of the safest in Africa.

via AFP: Four Sudan Islamists to hang for US diplomat murder.

UPI also reports:

They called their victim an “infidel.” Judge Sayed Ahmed Al-Badry quoted Islamic texts denouncing killing both Muslims and non-Muslims as he upheld the death sentence, Voice of America reported.

The allah akhbar shouting defendants also spit in the faces of a Western reporters wife and her friend in an earlier court appearance (link).


Monday, April 12, 2010

Iraq: Mild Reaction To Chemical Ali's Sentence Is Telling

June 27, 2007
By Sumedha Senanayake

Chemical Ali's death sentence did not evoke the same reactions as when Saddam Hussein was sentenced (file photo) (epa)

Chemical Ali's death sentence did not evoke the same reactions as when Saddam Hussein was sentenced (file photo) (epa)
June 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The death sentence handed down by the Iraqi
High Tribunal on June 24 against Ali Hasan al-Majid, also known as
"Chemical Ali" for his use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, for
his role in the Anfal campaign elicited a surprising response among
those who both loathed and applauded him.
In contrast to the near circus-like atmosphere that swept Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish communities after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death, the sentencing of al-Majid, the former secretary-general of the northern bureau of Iraq's Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party and Hussein's cousin, for his role in the 1987-88 campaign against the Kurds was greatly subdued.

This shift in Iraqis' reactions to the sentencing is perhaps a telling indication of where the collective Iraqi psyche is four years after the fall of Baghdad.

Kurds Welcome Verdict, Quietly

Reactions to the death sentence fell along the predictable sectarian and ethnic lines, though it was fairly muted on both sides. In Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, reports indicated that Kurds overwhelmingly welcomed the sentence, although the intensity of their joy paled in comparison to the death sentence Hussein received in the Al-Dujayl trial, when Kurds flooded the streets in jubilation.

Even statements by prominent Kurdish officials regarding the sentences were scarce. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih issued a statement on June 25 hailing the verdicts in the Anfal trial, but also used the occasion to underscore the Kurds' desire for federalism, the Kurdish daily "Aso" reported.

"Chemical Ali and other criminals should become an example for all those thinking of persecuting and threatening our people," Salih said. "The occasion of sentencing the criminals gives us the opportunity to insist on our legitimate struggle for a democratic and federal Iraq that can secure the country's future, so that the dreadful days of Anfal, chemical bombardments, and mass graves will not occur again," he added.

However, there were mixed reactions in the Kurdish town of Halabjah, where 5,000 people were believed to have been gassed in 1988. Those killings were not part of the Anfal trial, but will be the focus of a separate trial to be scheduled at an unspecified date.

Many residents of Halabjah fear that with the conclusion of the Anfal trial, combined with the execution of Hussein and scheduled execution of al-Majid, they may never get to see justice. Muhammad Faraj, the director of the Halabjah Chemical Victims Association, worried that the atrocities committed in Halabjah may never fully be recognized, slate.com reported on June 25. "We see ourselves as martyrs because we see ourselves as already dead," Faraj said. "We are dead because the world does not recognize our suffering."

Sunnis Condemn It, Quietly

On the other hand, Sunnis were even more subdued. There were no reports of the pro-Ba'athist demonstrations or confrontations with security forces that were reported after Hussein's sentencing. In fact, the lack of any visible unease within the Sunni community may be an indication that many believed that the verdict and the sentencing were a forgone conclusion.

Saddam Hussein inspired more passionate reactions (epa file photo)

Saddam Hussein inspired more passionate reactions (epa file photo)
After the fiasco that ensued following Hussein's execution, where an illicit video showed the former Iraqi leader being verbally taunted by several guards, and the "botched" hanging of former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Sunnis may have come to feel resigned to being victims of a vindictive government.

However, Ba'ath Party spokesman Abu Muhammad issued a statement on Al-Jazeera television on June 24 depicting al-Majid and his co-defendants as courageous men who sacrificed much to defend Iraq, but were now being sentenced to death on unjust charges by an illegal court. "This trial is invalid because it has taken place under an unjust occupation of Iraq and the destruction of the state. The great crime is the crime of occupying Iraq," Muhammad said.

The anger expressed by the Ba'ath Party is all the more biting, considering that the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government has yet to make significant moves toward revising the de-Ba'athification law that could allow thousands of ex-Ba'athists to return to their jobs. Many U.S. and Sunni officials believe this would give a boost to national reconciliation by enticing former Ba'athists, who are believed to form the backbone of the nationalist insurgency, to lay down their weapons and enter the political process.

Muted Coverage Reflects The Times

Coverage of the Anfal sentencing was fairly muted in the Iraqi press, particularly when compared with the media frenzy when Hussein was sentenced to death in November 2006. Reports from the courtroom indicated that only a few Iraqi journalists were present when the Anfal sentencing was read, and none from Iraq's Kurdish papers.

While the Kurdish press lauded the death sentence handed down to al-Majid and his two co-defendants, the collective euphoria that was expressed in the Shi'ite and Kurdish communities after Hussein's sentencing in the Al-Dujayl trial was clearly absent.

One reason for this is the absence of Hussein, himself a defendant in the Anfal trial, who was executed in December. Hussein, more than any other single figure, came to symbolize the ruthlessness and repression of the former regime in the eyes of the Kurds and Shi'a. And for them, his absence from the latter stages of the trial and the sentencing perhaps made many in those communities lose interest.

Indeed, the laborious trial, which lasted nearly 10 months, may have taken its toll on the interest within the Kurdish and Shi'ite communities. Following the Al-Dujayl trial that lasted over a year, Iraqis may have become weary of the spectacle of prominent figures of the former regime being on trial.

However, a more cynical reading may be that Iraqis, in general, have other more pressing issues to deal with, namely the daily carnage and chaos that plagues their country. Even Iraqis, who were once persecuted by the former Ba'athist regime, are now perhaps too worn down by the seemingly unending cycle of suicide bombings and sectarian killings to be concerned about obtaining justice for crimes that were committed by the former government.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Relieved Bali bombing victims want chapter closed

* By Michelle Cazzulino
* From: The Daily Telegraph
* October 30, 2008 12:00AM

AUSTRALIAN victims of the Bali bombings yesterday expressed relief that Indonesia was finally preparing to carry out death sentences against the mass murderers.

The three - Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra - will face a firing squad, possibly as soon as Saturday, for their involvement in the 2002 Sari Club terror attacks which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Perth-based football manager Simon Quayle, who lost seven teammates in the blast, said although the executions had been a long time coming, it was important that the sentences were carried out as ordered.

"In regard to the shooting and their deaths, it's fantastic that justice is being served and that's pretty much what I am feeling," he said.

"I think it's a reflection of good police work on the part of the Indonesians and the fact that justice is being carried out."

Although six years had passed since the bombing, the emotional and physical scars remained.

"I don't have any anger or need for revenge but . . . I can imagine that it'll be a really important occasion for parents who've lost their children and people who've lost close relatives, who think about them every day," Mr Quayle said.

"Those people will be very, very happy and celebrating hard.

"I'm more about the signs of justice. If justice would've (meant) a sentence of life imprisonment and it was carried out, I would've been satisfied. But I still think terrorists should get the death penalty."

Tracey Ball, who sustained burns to 30 per cent of her body in the bombings, said she had mixed feelings. "I'm trying not to think about it too much - I'd rather just know that it's finally done," she said.

"I think we've got to send the message somehow that we're not going to put up with terrorism but, at the same time, I'm not going to celebrate someone being put to death because that's not the person I am."

Ms Ball said although she would never fully put the bombings behind her, she would be glad when Indonesia carried out the death sentences.

"I think I'll be just relieved when it's finally done," she said.

"There's no such thing as closure but at the moment (the issue) just keeps coming up. Once it's done, it's done and I'll be just grateful for the fact that it's finally over."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Death penalty would end punishment of victim's family

COMPASS: Other points of view
Published: March 7th, 2009 05:29 PM
Last Modified: March 7th, 2009 05:29 PM
Our sister Jody Stambaugh was an 18-year-old University of Alaska, Fairbanks student when she was raped and murdered in her dorm room during the early evening hours on Dec. 10, 1972. Her roommate was also seriously assaulted and might have been killed had not others heard the assault and come to her aid.
This horrendous crime occurred so many years ago. How could it possibly be relevant in today's discussion on the death penalty?
We should start at the beginning.
Jody, a third generation Alaskan, was raised with her two brothers in Ketchikan and Juneau. Jody was an exceptional person, always calm, always kind, and always considerate of others. After graduation from high school in Juneau she decided to attend the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
A known offender
Allen Walunga spent his early years in a small community in Interior Alaska. At an early age he became a violent sexual predator and sexually assaulted several underage girls. (He later admitted to sexually assaulting several young boys in the community during this same time period).
So, what did the powers to be do? They shipped him off to school at Mount Edgecumbe in Sitka, Alaska.
While attending school at Mount Edgecumbe, he obtained a gas soaked rag and held it to the mouth and nose of an intoxicated female student until she went limp. He thought he had killed her so he ran away. After that incident he moved to Fairbanks and attended high school.

During his time in Fairbanks he was charged with pedophilia and child molestation. He was placed on probation.
He then went to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks where no one inquired as to his background before they placed him in a co-ed dorm. (Juvenile records are confidential even when it involves a violent sexual predator being in contact with an entire campus of potential victims).
The nightmare starts
On Dec. 10, 1972, our lives were changed forever. Jody was murdered, another wonderful young lady was assaulted, and Walunga was taken into custody.
Then the nightmare started.
Walunga was found guilty of murder in the 1st degree and assault with the intent to kill.
Judge Van Hoomissen found that Walunga "was an extremely dangerous offender who presented a clear and present danger of killing another person if ever released from prison".
The probation officer stated in part:
If we had a death penalty in this state, I would recommend whatever that death penalty might be. This is a heinous crime and I agree that the chances for rehabilitation are poor."
Judge Van Hoomissen said, "This is probably the most vicious crime that I have had contact with."
He imposed a life sentence on the murder with a concurrent 15 years on the assault with intent to kill count.
At that time our family felt that justice had been done and Walunga would remain in jail for the remainder of his life. We continued with our lives and through time minimized our grief. Our father had a serious heart attack that I will always partially attribute to the grief and sorrow he lived with after our sister's death.
The first parole request
Then in September of 1987 we were shocked to find out that Walunga was able to ask for a parole hearing.
So here we went again. The entire senseless murderous incident was being rehashed in a hearing. As a family, as individuals, and as victims, we responded to Walunga's request and he was denied.
In 1989 he requested commutation of his sentence and was denied.
In 1991 he tested the waters and applied for a parole hearing.
In 1992 he applied for a parole hearing and was denied.
In 1997 he tested the waters and applied for a parole hearing.
In 1998 he applied for a parole hearing and was denied. The parole board said that the release of the defendant on discretionary parole was wholly out of the question and that the board would never again consider another parole application.
The family and victims breathed another sigh of relief that it was finally over and Walunga would remain in jail.
We thought it was over
Then unknown to any family member or victim, the new parole board in 2005 decided that it would consider discretionary parole applications every 10 years, despite what any prior board had decided and contrary to what Judge Van Hoomissen recommended in his sentencing report.
In 2008 Walunga got a parole hearing. It is interesting to note Walunga was being represented by a high-profile Anchorage attorney. Walunga entered into the record a psychiatric report he had paid for. We were not entitled to see it because we were told that it was a medical record.
In addition, Walunga provided the board and victims with a report that says in part he is sorry for the murder (however, he fails to mention that there was a second victim). He says he has found God. He thinks he will do well on probation unless he is confronted with "his temptation to form adulterous friendships with abnormally large breasted women." He also fails to mention his previous sexual misconduct.
This is not an attempt to bash the probation/parole department at corrections. Through it all, after having to deal with antiquated rules, regulations and statutes they have done a remarkable job in keeping Walunga behind bars where he cannot harm anyone in our communities.
After another emotionally grueling hearing for us, Walunga's request was again denied.
37 years of heartache
If you can, imagine the heartache we have endured over the last 37 years, always fearing that this may be the hearing where he gets his way. During that same time period life continues on. Our father and mother have passed away, and our children have grown but we continue to attend hearings. As we promised our mother, we will continue to attend hearings.
The other victim has raised a family, but continues to attend hearings fearing that Walunga will be released.
Do we think that telling our story will change anyone's mind on the death penalty? Probably not, but we do hope it makes you think.
Do we think my sister would agree with the death penalty? Probably not. She was a better person than a lot of us.
Do we agree with the death penalty? In this case with the above set of facts, you bet we do.
Irl Stambaugh is a retired police officer. Gary Stambaugh is a former sergeant-at-arms for the Alaska State Senate. Both are lifelong Alaskans.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'I'd like to execute the thugs who kicked my husband to death', says the grief-stricken widow of Garry Newlove By LIZ HULL

Garry Newlove with his wife Helen and daughters, from left, Amy, 13, Zoe, 18, and 16-year-old Danielle

12 February 2008

The grief-stricken widow of Garry Newlove last night said the teenagers who killed her husband should be executed and that she would be the one to do it.

Helen, 45, who believes in capital punishment, said she "wouldn't hesitate" if given the chance to deliver a lethal injection or press the button on a electric chair.

She also said she was determined to stop the liberal justice system releasing the trio that kicked her husband to death as they would kill again.

A judge yesterday attacked the culture of under-age drinking, cheap alcohol and aggression as he sentenced three teenage thugs to life imprisonment for killing Mr Newlove, 47, in front of his family.

The father was brutally punched and kicked by Adam Swellings, 19, Stephen Sorton, 17, and Jordan Cunliffe, 16, after they had each drunk up to nine pints of extra-strength beer.

The gang was also high on skunk cannabis when they attacked the father-of-three when he remonstrated with them for vandalising his wife's car

Mrs Newlove has now hit out as she struggles to come to terms with her loss. She said: "They should throw away the key so these animals are locked away for the rest of their lives.

"They handed my family a life sentence the day they attacked Garry.

"And I'm determined they will never be allowed to taste freedom. They forfeited their rights to society when they kicked him to death.

"Make no mistake, if the liberals running our justice system ever let these three out, they will kill again. They are ticking timebombs.

"They beat a dad to death without giving it so much as a second thought and all they can do now is sit back and snigger about it.

"I watched them as they walked into court and I didn't see a flicker of emotion or remorse from them."

She added: "If I could push the button on an electric chair, if I could deliver a lethal injection, I wouldn't hesitate."

Mr Justice Andrew Smith told the trio: "The violence against Garry Newlove did not come out of the blue. For you all, drunken aggression was part of a night's entertainment.

"You were three of a gang who attacked him because he had the courage to remonstrate with you.

"He did nothing to excuse or provoke in any way what you did to him. He was a courageous and devoted family man who paid with his life.

"You felt brave only because your gang outnumbered him many times over and your bravado was fuelled by skunk cannabis and cheap drink.

"Even the youngest of the gang had no difficulty getting hold of cheap alcohol."

At Chester Crown Court, the judge ordered that Swellings serve at least 17 years and Sorton a minimum of 15 years.

Cunliffe will serve at least 12 years before being considered for parole.

As the sentences were delivered, Mr Newlove's widow Helen, 45, broke down and sobbed in the arms of relatives.

She had cradled her husband in her arms after the gang ran off from the family's home in Warrington, Cheshire. He died two days later.

Mr Newlove's horrified daughters Amy, 12, Danielle, 15, and Zoe, 18, had tried to intervene as the yobs knocked him to the ground.

But the thugs just laughed, urging each other on as they repeatedly punched and kicked his head "like a football".

Last night, in an interview with the BBC, Zoe said: "They just acted as a pack - it was horrible.

"I think if some of them hadn't drank as much, they would've stepped back and thought, 'Hang on a minute, what are we doing?'

"But Swellings, he's just evil. I reckon even without a drink, he would've done something stupid like that."

The yob, aged 18 at the time, had been released on bail for an earlier assault just hours before the murder of salesman Mr Newlove last August.

Zoe added: "He shouldn't have been given bail. People like him should never be given bail because they could go out and do exactly what he did to my dad."

The judge also recommended that sickening video clips of violence found on the mobile phones of Swellings and Sorton be viewed by the parole board before they are considered for release.

He paid tribute to Mr Newlove's daughters, telling the gang: "Everyone in court could understand why Garry Newlove was so proud of his family.

"Perhaps that offers some crumb of comfort to Helen Newlove to know that - but that was a family that you destroyed."

In a victim impact statement, Mrs Newlove, a legal secretary, told how she had contemplated suicide and was taking anti-depressants to help her cope.

"It is nearly five months since Garry died," she said.

"Most days, I struggle to get out of bed but I have to because I have to put on a brave face for our daughters.

"My family are constantly worried about me and don't like to leave me alone in case I commit suicide. I have contemplated this but I wouldn't because of the girls.

"Garry was a wonderful and caring husband and a father who doted on his family.

"It is so cruel that he ended up dying for his family because he was trying to protect us.

"Garry was the life and soul of the party and since he's gone, some of our sparkle has gone with him. We loved him so much and will always miss him."

Outside court, Detective Inspector Geoff Elvey, who led the investigation for Cheshire Police, called for a new law to ban under-18s from being in possession of alcohol.

He added that parents needed to take more responsibility for their children's actions.

"We all have a role as parents in the community to engage with our children and educate them about this type of conduct," he said.

The jury had been told that the area around the Newlove home was plagued by gangs of drunken and violent youths in the months before the murder.

Residents had pleaded with police to stop the anti-social behaviour - but little was done. When one neighbour dialled 999, he was told his call was 15th in line to be answered.

By August 10 last year, Mr Newlove - who survived aggressive stomach cancer 13 years earlier - had had enough.

When Amy said she had seen a group of youths kicking her mother's car, he went outside in his bare feet to remonstrate with them.

Swellings, from Crewe and nicknamed Swellhead, had at least 11 previous convictions.

He threw the first punch before Mr Newlove was knocked to the ground and beaten.

Sorton, from Warrington and nicknamed Snowy, had one previous conviction for assault.

He kicked Mr Newlove so fiercely that his training shoe was later found underneath the victim.

Along with Cunliffe, of Warrington, who was then only 15, they were convicted of murder last month at Chester Crown Court.

Two other teenagers were cleared in the five-week trial.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-513652/Id-like-execute-thugs-kicked-husband-death-says-grief-stricken-widow-Garry-Newlove.html#ixzz0iQ9mnqBo

Iraqi Kurds rejoice over execution of Chemical Ali

An AFP file photo of a Kurd showing pictures of his family before and after they were killed in the Halbja massacre.

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 02:54:04 GMT
Iraqi Kurds have expressed joy over the execution of 'Chemical Ali' — a key player in the Baath regime's war machine, which killed thousands of Kurds.

Ali Hassan al-Majid al-Tikritieh, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's first cousin and one of his most trusted men, nicknamed 'Chemical Ali,' was executed in Baghdad on Monday.

The punishment was meted out for Majid's part in the 1988 chemical weapons attack on the northeastern Iraqi village of Halabja, which killed over 5,000 Kurds.

In the attack, government warplanes showering Halabja for five hours with mustard gas and nerve agents in the most deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians in history.

"I have heard the news of the execution [of] the criminals whose hands [are] stained with blood. This is a happy day for the Kurdish people," Reuters quoted Iraqi Kurd Saman Faruq as saying.

Behnam Karim, another local, said, "As a Kurdish citizen I am very happy because of the decision. But I wish the decision can define Halabja's crime as a genocide."

The verdict was issued earlier in the month, prompting jubilation in Halabja, where people were seen cheering and playing music on the streets.

However, the former intelligence chief, who also held the interior and defense ministry portfolios, considered the massacre a feather in his cap.

The ruling for the attack on Halabja was the fourth death sentence Majid received.

In December 2008, he received another death sentence for war crimes committed during the 1991 Shia uprising in southern Iraq, where about 100,000 people were massacred.

Thank God South Dakota!

A move to repeal South Dakota's death penalty was rejected Thursday by state lawmakers after a sharp debate on the religious implications of executions.

The House Health Committee voted 8-5 to kill a bill that would have converted the sentences of all death row inmates to life in prison without parole.

Rep. Gerald Lange, D-Madison, who also has sought to get rid of the death penalty in past years, said executions run counter to the teachings of the Bible.

The Ten Commandments include a ban on killing, and Jesus proclaimed "the law of love instead of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," Lange said.

"Either you believe the Christian message or you don't. The Christian message is clear that thou shalt not kill," Lange said.

Rep. Nick Moser, R-Yankton, said no one should question the faith of those who support the death penalty. He said making a vote on the death penalty a test of religion is a misinterpretation of the Gospels.

South Dakota currently has two people on death row. The state Supreme Court ruled that another condemned man could be resentenced.

Ed and Peggy Schaeffer of Black Hawk, whose 22-year-old son, Donnivan, was killed by one of the death row inmates, urged the committee to keep the death penalty. Killers should not be allowed to live even in prison, where they are a danger to guards and other inmates, they said.

Ed Schaeffer said convicted killers in the past got furloughs to attend funerals or sometimes escaped.

"Life without parole doesn't necessarily mean they're going to end up staying in Sioux Falls in the state penitentiary," he said.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said the death penalty should be retained because it helps protect the public and deters others from committing murders.

Jackley said South Dakota's death penalty law requires a jury to find aggravating factors before sentencing someone to death, and the penalty is used only in rare cases.

"It has not been overly used in South Dakota. I ask you to let us have that tool to protect the public," the attorney general said.

South Dakota has executed 17 killers, beginning with Jack McCall for gunning down Wild Bill Hickok in 1876 in Deadwood, Jackley said. The last execution was in 2007, when 25-year-old Elijah Page gave up his appeals and asked to be executed for the 2000 torture and murder of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish.

Lange said at least 139 death row inmates across the nation have been freed after DNA tests or other evidence proved they were innocent. Appeals in death penalty cases cost the state more than the expense of keeping someone in prison for life, he said.

But Jackley said appeals in death sentence cases are not more expensive than those involving killers who are sentenced to life. The threat of the death penalty also leads some killers to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, he said.

The two on South Dakota's death row are still pursuing appeals nearly two decades after first being convicted.

Donald Moeller was sentenced to death for the 1990 killing and rape of 9-year-old Becky O'Connell.

Charles Russell Rhines was convicted for killing Donnivan Schaeffer during the 1992 burglary of a Rapid City doughnut shop where Schaeffer worked.

A third inmate, Briley Piper, had been sentenced to be executed in the case involving Page, but the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that Piper could be resentenced because he did not understand his right to be sentenced by a jury rather than a judge when he pleaded guilty to killing Poage. A jury will determine whether Piper is sentenced to death or life in prison.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Murder victims' families brace as state revisits death sentences 13 overturned convictions spur hearings in Illinois.

CHICAGO -- When Gov. George Ryan For the former member of the Canadian House of Commons, see George Ryan (Canadian politician).

Surely there would be no question about the fate of her killer, William Peeples, who burst into Dawn Dudovick's Schaumburg apartment in 1988, stabbed her more than 30 times and left her to die.

Peeples not only left a trail of blood between his apartment and hers, but DNA tests confirmed that the blood in Peeples' sink was hers.

But now, Jim Dudovick and the relatives of scores of other murder victims find themselves fighting once again for what they thought they had won long ago: a death sentence for the killers.

"I thought the hell of all this was over and we could heal," Dudovick said. "Now it seems like we're fighting for justice for my daughter all over again."

Beginning Oct. 15, the Prisoner Review Board will hold hearings for at least 140 of the state's 160 death-row inmates, after which Ryan will decide if he wants to commute their sentences to life without parole.

The governor ordered the hearings after a string of challenges to Illinois death sentences.

Since the state resumed capital punishment in 1977, sentences have been overturned for 13 death-row inmates, including some found innocent; 12 inmates were executed during the same period.

While the reversals have cast doubt on the integrity of the state's capital-punishment system, the families of many murder victims say their open-and-shut cases shouldn't be subject to such scrutiny.

"I tell you what this means if this happens," said Jamie Tsambikou, whose family will attend the clemency hearing for Robert Turner who was sentenced to death for the 1985 slaying of her sister, Bridget Drobney. "It means what little justice my sister got will be undone. That will be the legacy of Governor Ryan."

For people like Crystal Fitch, the hearings will be unlike anything they've been through during the years of trials, motions and appeals.

"There's no new evidence, nothing new," Fitch said of the case against Anthony Brown who was convicted of raping and murdering her sister, Felicia Lewis, and killing Lewis' boyfriend, Reginald Wilson, in 1994.

"This is not one of those cases where DNA evidence could exonerate him. DNA tests confirmed he did it. He knows it, we know it," she said.

Prosecutors say that in case after case, the evidence against the death-row inmates is as strong as ever.

"They didn't leave bread crumbs, they left whole loaves of bread," said Cook County State's Attorney's Office spokesman John Gorman .

But with the hearings, family members say they can't take comfort in that evidence, as they did during the trials.

"The horror of this is that everything was done by the book," said Dawn Pueschel, whose brother and sister-in-law were beaten to death in Chicago in 1983. "There were no mistakes, everything pointed to them (two brothers convicted in the slayings) and still this is happening."

Some say the hearings have them thinking the unthinkable: That the killers whose sentences the governor is considering commuting to life without parole could someday walk out of prison.

"If they can drop them from death row, they can drop anything," said Andrea Covert, whose sister, Mimi Covert, 30, was abducted raped and murdered in 1985 by DeWayne Britz. Britz not only confessed, he led police to her body.

"He's only 40 now, that are young," Covert said. "Anything could happen."

The hearings come at the end of an administration that has been battered by the continuing federal investigation of the selling of driver's licenses for bribes, mostly under Ryan's watch when he was secretary of state. While Ryan, who hasn't been charged, gained international attention for his stand on the death penalty, some family members wonder if his efforts have more to do with diverting attention from the scandal.

Ryan's office says the governor is acting out of concern for a badly broken system of capital punishment.

"Nobody can know what they (victims' relatives) go through," Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton said. "What would make those tragedies worse is executing the wrong person, as we almost did 13 times."


Does the death penalty deliver solace? by Barbara A. Melville

When John Muhammed was convicted last November for his part in the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings, a radio news report included the comment, “The families of the people killed by John Muhammed need solace, and his execution will provide that.” But do executions actually provide solace, or justice, or healing?

A small but intense national conference at Skidmore last fall, titled “The Impact of the Death Penalty on Victims’ Families,” sought answers in the diverse collective wisdom of some fifty people who daily wrestle with that question. Springing from the research and personal passions of David Karp and Beau Breslin, Skidmore sociology and government professors, respectively, the conference was co-sponsored by the University at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice and by Justice Solutions, a nonprofit victims’ aid group. It was the first such forum ever to bring academic researchers, legal scholars, and social scientists face to face with more than a dozen relatives of homicide victims, and with victims’ advocates (many of whom are themselves survivors of violent crime.) The group included both proponents and opponents of the death penalty, further ratcheting up the emotional tension.
“Five, ten, even two years ago, a conference like this couldn’t have happened,” marveled Michael Radelet, a Colorado sociology professor. “Researchers would have said, ‘What can I say to families of murder victims?’” Indeed, one researcher murmured, “This feels like holy ground.” And in his opening remarks to the victims present, conference organizer Karp said gently, “We understand that for you, this conference is not academic.”

It certainly wasn’t academic for Clementina Chery, whose exemplary teenage son Louis was killed in gang crossfire. Or Roberta Roper, whose daughter Stephanie was raped and murdered. Or Stanley and Phyllis Rosenbluth, whose concert-pianist son Richard and daughter-in-law Becky were murdered one Thanksgiving. The unnerving, stomach-knotting power of stories like theirs hummed electrically throughout the conference’s public sessions and invitation-only discussions; it was augmented by a student-curated photography exhibition and a moving, much acclaimed production of a play based on victims’ stories gathered by criminal-justice expert Howard Zehr.

The actual “ impact of the death penalty on victims’ families” seemed impossible to pin down. Little research has been done—researchers quake at the thought of taking standardized emotional measurements, pre- and postexecution, from grieving families. Recent statistical studies do indicate that grief due to homicide is worse than the grief of other sudden loss, accompanied as it is by “greater rage, desire for revenge, fear, and horror,” Karp explained. “There is something particularly difficult about knowing that it could have been different, but the murderer chose to pull the trigger,” noted Margaret Vandiver,a Memphis criminology professor. When one academic panelist prefaced his remarks with “I’m sorry for your loss,” a father in the audience spoke up hotly, objecting, “My son was not ‘lost.’ He was taken from me.”

Many conference participants talked about “secondary victimization:” grieving family members, already feeling powerless because they couldn’t save their loved one, are plunged into a byzantine criminal-justice system and made to feel powerless once again. Phyllis Rosenbluth said, “We were suddenly in a world we didn’t know—different language, new people—at a time when we were so out of it that the victims’ advocates had to tell us when to eat and sleep.” Sometimes police blame a victim of domestic homicide because “she didn’t just leave” or assume that a youngster caught in crossfire “must have been in a gang.” In the case of a slain prostitute or other “bad victim,” prosecutors might not even consider the death penalty. And victims’ families who oppose capital punishment—estimated at 10 percent—often face prosecutorial hostility and may feel shut out of the process.

Nor does the nightmare end once the murderer is convicted and sentenced. The emotional trauma may continue shifting over the two days or four weeks or five years after an execution, said Albany-based victims’ advocate Janet Gordon Koupash ’84. “All along the way, there will be anniversaries—of the homicide, the execution, the victim’s birthday—so some days will be worse than others.” Victims’ services consultant Sharon English, whose mother was killed by a man she had visited in prison ministry, used a loud, jarring cowbell to illustrate the repeated shocks dealt by the appeals process. “Someone gets fifteen to life…but then there’s a parole hearing.” Clank! “My mother’s killer has been on death row in Ohio for more than ten years. We keep getting e-mail updates about possible appeals.” Clank! Life goes back to normal for a while, and then—Clank!—another e-mail announces another appeal.

VictimsR negotiate the trial process and support them whether they seek clemency or execution; if it comes to an execution, they may shield them from the attendant media blitz and candlelight protests, said Koupash. “Our whole office is personally against capital punishment,” another advocate said, “but we’ll all jump up and down to celebrate a death sentence if that’s what the victims wanted.”

Reflections : Curators Sarah Luckenbach '04, Matthew Sweet '04, David Karp, and Beau Breslin face themselves in a "Viewing Gallery" that's part of a tang exhibit on the death penalty.

The conference revealed that, for some, demanding capital punishment is a way of insisting that “my victim, my beloved, has value,” while others may demand “the worst penalty possible because they don’t trust the system to deliver justice.” But a number of conferees said they see the death penalty as a way to “end a long and tragic chapter” in their lives or to guarantee that “the killer won’t take another life”—in short, to find “closure.”

A word often hated by victims’ families, it is nevertheless the rationale cited by 60 percent of Americans in a 2002 poll, as California legal scholar Frank Zimring noted. Interestingly, he added, until 1989 newspapers never used “closure” and “death penalty” together. By 2001, they had done so 751 times, reflecting “an official public justification” and “a governmental theory of extraordinary power.”
But it’s only a theory, observed others, who pointed out that 95 percent of intentional killings don’t result ina death sentence. In the 2–3 percent of cases that do, families might wait twenty yearsor more before the convict’s appeals are exhausted. One study found that 67 percentof death sentences are reversed on appeal. “In civics class, justice is described as swift, severe, and certain,” said Dan Levey, president of the 100,000-member Parents of Murdered Children. When his family sought the death penalty for the shooting death of his forty-year-old brother on a basketball court, Levey learned that “in reality, justice is slow, lenient, and uncertain.”

Some have a different definition of justice itself. Bud Welch, whose twenty-three-year-old daughter Julie died in the 1995 Oklahama City bombing, found a measure of peace in commiserating with the bereaved family of executed bomber Timothy McVeigh. He even became an activist against capital punishment. In fact almost all of the victims at the conference were activists—as Tina Chery explained, “using our story, our pain, our anger, and turning it into something positive.” (The foundation she and her husband established in their son’s name has developed a state-approved school “peace curriculum.”)

Some victims are helped by meeting with murderers on death row. What many families really want, said Seattle ethicist Judith Kay, is not punishment so much as truth and, especially, human communication. “They want to know, ‘Why did you kill my son after he gave you the money?’ or ‘What were my daughter’s last words?’ People are suspended in their grief if they get no answers.”

In the last session of the conference, victims and advocates produced dozens of ideas for improving the system—a victims’ resources Web site, a Victims’ Rights Amendment, an assistance hotline, and much more. Some of the academics had a more delayed response—“We’re still stunned and processing,” admitted one researcher—but already a book is in the works, with more than a dozen conference participants lined up to write chapters. And attorney John Howley ’80 (who has enlisted the help of Breslin’s students as researchers for his pro-bono clemency appeals) saw clear progress: “This day and a half in Saratoga has sensitized me more than a decade working in the field. It’s begun to change the way I think about approaches to victims’ families in my cases.” Another legal scholar said, “Wannabe lawyers have to understand as early as the undergraduate level that there are human beings involved in this process, family members on both sides.”

“The problem is the brittleness and tenuousness of the law,” said soft-spoken David Kaczynski, who turned in his mentally ill brother, the notorious Unabomber, to the FBI. “We need to bring humanity into this process,” he urged. “Humanity as part of law is not a majority view,” drily commented Robert Blecker, a New York law professor. “But there is a rising tide that emotion is very much a part of the judicial process, a focusing force that allows appropriate behavior.”
Tapping that emotional “focusing force” at the Skidmore forum heightened the sensitivity of even those who already espoused victims’ stakes in the judicial process. Criminology professor Vandiver confesses, “In class, when I talk about the recently arrested Green River serial killer, I will mention by name this man who killed forty-eight women. But I will feel bad about not being able to name the victims.”

Barbara Melville has covered earlier death-penalty work by Profs. Karp and Breslin.