Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

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.

To murder victims' families, executing killers is justice

February 5, 2003
FREDERICK ANTHONY Romano remembers the night. More than 15 years later, he remembers it as if it happened within the last week.

It was Sunday night, Nov. 1, 1987. Seventeen-year-old Romano had gone to bed. His mother, Betty Romano, was in the house with him and his father, Frederick Joseph Romano. Soon the father received a call from his son-in-law Keith Garvin, a Navy petty officer who had returned to his base in Oceana, Va. Garvin had called his wife, Dawn Garvin, to let her know he had arrived back safely. But there was no answer.

After two calls to his daughter's house, Frederick J. Romano headed to the newlywed couple's White Marsh apartment. He found his daughter beaten, tortured, mutilated and dead.

Frederick A. Romano remembers his mother's panic-filled voice as she talked to his father, of himself grabbing the phone only to hear his father tell him that his older sister had been hurt.

"But he knew she was dead," Frederick A. Romano said yesterday from his Harford County home. Yes, Frederick A. Romano -- who prefers to be called just "Fred" -- remembers it all. He remembers the man who murdered his sister and two other women -- Patricia Antoinette Hirt and Lori Elizabeth Ward -- and how he has waited for 15 years for one Steven Howard Oken to, in the younger Romano's words, "meet his maker."

"It's caused a lot of emotional problems for me and my mom and dad," Fred said. "They're on so many drugs to keep themselves calm, it's unbelievable."

That is a suffering death penalty opponents can't or won't understand. The pain of homicide victims' relatives never ends. It chips away at their souls and psyches year after depressing year. So what's the appropriate punishment for that?

Death penalty opponents would have us believe that squirreling Oken away in a cell -- where Frederick A. and Frederick J. Romano, Betty Romano and Keith Garvin would be among the taxpayers footing the bill for his housing and meals -- is punishment enough. If the correctional system offered any college courses, the Romanos and Garvin would pay part of the cost if Oken wanted to take them. Dawn Garvin never got to finish her education at Harford Community College.

Capital punishment foes figure that's justice. Here's what death penalty advocates feel is justice.

Execute Oken the week of March 17, as a Baltimore County judge ordered two weeks ago. After Oken is dead, death penalty advocates can then defy death penalty opponents to show us why and in what ways Oken's execution was not justice.

That's what it's about for Fred Romano. He doesn't buy into the closure argument some death penalty advocates make. (It's just as well. Death penalty opponents, ever noble with grief not their own, dismiss the notion of closure, too.)

"It won't bring closure," Fred Romano said. "Dawn will never be back. I'm not looking for closure. That's a bad misconception on the part of some people. I want Oken to die for the murder of Dawn, Patricia Hurt and Lori Ward."

This isn't even about revenge, another rallying cry of the anti-capital punishment crowd, who chide death penalty advocates for seeking vengeance.

"It's justice," Fred Romano said. "It's not revenge."

His wife, Vicki Romano, agreed, then elaborated.

"Revenge would be going out and killing one of [the murderer's] family members," Vicki Romano said. "The death penalty isn't revenge. It's the law."

Fred Romano believes the man who's supposed to uphold that law, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, has inserted himself squarely in the path of Oken's execution. Last week, Curran called for abolishing Maryland's death penalty. His reasons will appear in a separate column Saturday.

Fred Romano called Curran after the announcement, to give the attorney general a piece of his mind. Curran, to his credit, called Fred Romano back and heard him out.

Curran, Fred Romano said, asked him if he had a problem with a sentence of life without parole as opposed to the death penalty. His response was what you might expect from a guy who organized the Maryland Coalition for State Executions more than a year ago, and who's had the group's Web site (www.mc4se.org) up for two months.

"My problem with it is that 10 years from now some other idiot will come along and say life without parole is too harsh," Fred Romano said. "Then they'll pass a bill granting them parole and then we'll have a bunch of murderers walking the streets."

In Maryland's bleeding-heart liberal legislature, that's exactly what would happen.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

What They Say at the End: Capital Victims' Families and the Press

Samuel R. Gross
University of Michigan Law School

Daniel J. Matheson
University of Michigan Law School

Cornell Law Review, Vol. 88, p. 486, 2003

News stories of executions now routinely include reports of statements by members of the victims' families. For this study we examined such reported statements for 138 executions in the United States, from 1999 through 2002. We also looked at a smaller set of reports of statements by family members of the victims after death-row defendants are exonerated and released; we found such reports in 34 of the 85 death-row exonerations from 1988 through mid-2002. Neither set of stories is anything like a representative sample of the reactions of the families of capital murder victims, and their content is distorted by the habits and biases of the media. Nonetheless, they provide an intriguing glimpse into the effects of capital punishment on some of those who are most directly affected by the underlying crimes.

When a capital defendant is put to death, the most common reaction from the victim's family is relief that it happened, at last. Victims' relatives also frequently express satisfaction with the execution, sometimes in the impersonal terms of justice, sometimes as unabashed pleasure in revenge. They often complain about the long and tortuous route from sentence to execution, and many are particularly unhappy about the attention that is repeatedly focused on the defendants rather than the victims; some see the execution as an opportunity to redress that imbalance. Finally, many victims' relatives hope that at the point of death the killer will accept responsibility and apologize for his crimes, and that they will be able to forgive him. This does occasionally happen, but judging from these data it's uncommon; more often the relatives who hope for this conclusion are disappointed and hurt.

In a disturbing number of cases - over 100 since 1973 - American defendants under sentence of death are exonerated and released. Judging from the stories we have found, most relatives of the victims refuse to accept this result and continue to believe that the exonerated defendants are guilty, sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence. The relatives of the victims unambiguously accepted the innocence of the exonerated defendants in only 7 of the 34 capital exonerations in our study. These seven cases fall into two overlapping groups: cases in which the actual killer is identified (5 of 7), and cases in which the local police officers and prosecutors who investigated the crime now say that the defendant is innocent (5 of 7).

US News & World Report - 6/17/97
Many grieving families seek comfort and closure in the execution of the murderer. Do they find it?

By the time Vicki Haack arrived at the "Death Chamber" viewing room last Tuesday, the man who had murdered her sister Lisa was already hooked up to the intravenous tubes. In 1986, Kenneth B. Harris, a crack cocaine addict, had entered her sister's apartment, raped and choked her, and then spent an hour drowning her in her bathtub. Now, he lay strapped to a gurney in a small, powder-blue room in the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, his feet lashed together and his muscular arms extended as if on a crucifix. Haack stood against the viewing window, only 4 feet from Lisa's killer. As she watched Harris, she thought about her sister's death, and about Harris's family, who stood on the other side of a wall that divided the viewing room in half.
Harris showed no fear. He turned his head to the side to smile and nod at his audience. With the warden at his head and the prison chaplain at his feet, Harris apologized to both families for the pain he had caused them. Then he told the warden he was ready to die.
Vicki Haack wept quietly as Harris closed his eyes and expelled his last breath in two loud gasps through trembling lips. She heard Harris's sister scream on the other side of the viewing room. Six minutes later, Harris was pronounced dead.
After the execution, Vicki Haack said that her family had forgiven Harris. "We have no hate or bitterness in our hearts," she said. "But that doesn't mean he does not pay for his crime."

Go on with life.

It was something the murderer himself said, though, that seemed to capture what so many family members hope to get out of an execution. Just before his death, Harris turned to Haack and said simply, "I hope you can go on with your lives and we can put an end to this."

Putting an end to it--that's what so many victims' families seek. Last week, a parade of witnesses at the Timothy McVeigh trial described the explosion's impact on their lives. Off the witness stand, survivors expressed their belief that killing McVeigh would be just, given their loss, and many vented their fury. "The sooner [McVeigh] meets his maker, the sooner justice will be served," said Darlene Welch, whose 4-year-old niece, Ashley, was killed in the blast. "He will get what he deserves in the afterlife, where he will meet Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer," says Ernie Ross, who suffered serious injuries from the blast while working across the street. Another survivor suggested that McVeigh should have one leg amputated and then be suspended over sharpened, growing bamboo shoots that would pierce his body.

Murderers are paying for their crimes with their lives in record numbers this year. Over the course of three nights last week, four men were killed in the Huntsville Death Chamber. Seven more are scheduled to die there later this month, bringing the total number of executions in Texas to 11 this month and 27 this year, shattering the state's annual record of 20 set in 1935. A Huntsville prison official said, "We're finally ahead of the curve. We're executing them faster than they are coming in." Elsewhere, the appeals of many of the nation's 3,000-plus death row prisoners are running out--a situation, experts note, that foreshadows an acceleration of executions.

This would seem to be what Americans want. In poll after poll, more than 70 percent say they support the death penalty, a figure that has remained consistent for at least the past decade. But while the percentages haven't changed much, the nature of the discussion has. Not long ago, it was framed in terms of practicality: Was the death penalty effective in deterring crime? Was permanently incapacitating an offender the best way to protect society? Was capital punishment fairly and evenly administered?

But increasingly, another argument for the death penalty is being voiced, one far more elemental. It centers not on the criminal's debt to "society" but on the right of a victim's loved ones to gain peace of mind through his death. The right, in other words, to a form of therapeutic vengeance. Death-penalty opponents have traditionally viewed this kind of personal retribution as essentially barbaric. The mark of a civilized society is the ability to maintain a system of justice based on laws, not emotions--on theories of jurisprudence, not psychology. But is bringing solace to a victim really an illegitimate justification for the death penalty? And isn't providing solace a powerful form of restitution?

Basic emotion. The impulse for revenge is potent and natural. "When someone is executed who killed a member of your family," says Brooks Douglass, "vengeance is a part of the emotions that everyone feels." In 1979, when Douglass was 16 years old, two drifters entered the Douglass family farmhouse in Okarche, Okla., as Brooks, his parents, and his 12-year-old sister, Leslie, were sitting down to dinner. The two men, Glen Burton Ake and Steven Keith Hatch, hogtied Brooks and his parents in the living room. The family was forced to listen as the men raped Leslie in a bedroom. Then, the men sat down to eat the family's hamburger patties and mushroom gravy. Ake shot all four Douglasses in the back, before leaving with $43 in cash and the wedding rings from Brooks's parents.
Their parents died, but Brooks and Leslie survived to begin 18 years of anguish. Brooks testified seven times in the seven years after the attack, reliving that terrible night each time. Ake was sentenced to life in prison while Hatch got the death penalty.
Last August, Douglass watched Hatch's execution, an experience that evoked powerfully conflicting emotions. As Hatch died, Douglass felt as if he were watching two scenes simultaneously, his parents' deaths and that of their murderer. Before the execution, he agonized over the death penalty; afterward, he felt as if death had come too easily for Hatch.
The grieving process for a murder victim is somewhat like that for anyone else: disbelief, anger, grief, and then, finally for some, acceptance. But survivors of homicide victims rarely move easily through these stages. Murder often taps a well of rage that can drown out all other emotions.
Too easy? Richard Estell from Plano, Texas, and his wife have lived with their anger and sadness since Sept. 5, 1993, when their daughter, Ashley, 7, was abducted from a park playground as they watched their son's soccer game a few yards away. The man convicted of Ashley's rape and murder, a previously convicted sex offender, Michael Blair, delayed his execution this past spring through an appeal. When he is finally put to death, Estell plans to be there. "For me, it is partly closure and partly the focus on personal revenge," he says. "I want to see him gone." Death by lethal injection is too good for Blair, says the heartbroken father. "I can't get it out of my mind what my daughter must have felt," he says. "I'd really like to see him put in with the general prison population [where he would likely be raped himself]. That would be proper punishment."

Prosecutors often stoke a family's rage by telling them that only the death penalty can assuage their sorrow. "When you have lost a child, you go into a state of insanity, and you think whatever they want you to think," says Aba Gayle, 64, of Santa Rosa, Calif., whose 19-year-old daughter was murdered in 1980. "They told me, `We are going to catch this man. We're going to convict him, and when we have an execution, you will be healed.' The DA told me this, and the sheriff's department, also the media. And I believed them." Gayle now regrets that and is fighting to keep her daughter's killer from being executed.

For some survivors, the execution of a killer does quench the rage. Paula Foster's daughter, Jennifer Burns, then 21, was a bookkeeper at an Arlington, Texas, nightclub when David Lee Herman shot her in the back of her head during a robbery attempt in 1989. Foster says Herman's six years on death row kept her full of hate. "When it first happened, I didn't have much anger toward him," she says. "I didn't know him. But I became more angry at him because of all the appeals. He didn't deserve to live during those six years."

But defeating the anger only left Foster alone with her grief. Foster says that during the trials and appeals she felt she was doing something for her daughter. Since the execution, on April 2 in Huntsville, she says, "I keep thinking, `What can I do for Jennifer now?' The execution is another healing step. Maybe I'm finally realizing that Jennifer is really gone."

Grief counselors suspect that some people focus on their hatred of the killer to keep the more painful feelings of sorrow at bay. Since an appeals process can take years, survivors who nurse their rage may go more than a decade without really grieving. For some survivors, the anger is intensified by guilt. A parent fails to protect a child from a pedophile; a wife feels remorse that the last words she exchanged with her husband before his death were spoken in anger.
More often than not, families of murder victims do not experience the relief they expected to feel at the execution, says Lula Redmond, a Florida therapist who works with such families. "Taking a life doesn't fill that void, but it's generally not until after the execution [that the families] realize this. Not too many people will honestly [say] publicly that it didn't do much, though, because they've spent most of their lives trying to get someone to the death chamber."

Linda Kelley, of Houston, watched the murderer of her two children--Mark, 26, and Kara, 20--die in February 1996. "My family and I have been characterized as hatemongers for wanting to watch him," she says. "We are not hatemongers. If we were really bent on revenge, we would have gotten him ourselves at the trial. We are law-abiding citizens." She was the first survivor allowed to witness an execution under a then new Texas law. "When I was standing there watching him," she says in measured tones, "this anger came back in me. All I could think of was that he stood there and looked at my precious children and shot them in the head. I kept thinking, `I hate you for what you did. I hate you for taking the father of my two grandbabies.' "

But Kelley says the execution left her unsatisfied. "You stand there and you watch a man take two gasps and it's over," she says. "I would like to have seen him humiliated a little bit. I think that he should have been brought in and strapped down in front of us. My son dies after being shot in the face and choking on his own blood. We make it too easy [on killers]."

Sandra Miller, 50, spent 16 years nursing her hatred of William Bonin, the "Freeway Killer" who was put to death in California in February 1996. In 1980, Miller's 15-year-old son, Rusty Rugh, a straight-A student, was abducted near their home in Riverside, Calif., as he was about to get on a bus to go to his job after school. Rusty was beaten, raped, and murdered by Bonin. His slim body was dumped by the side of the Ortega Freeway. "The rage is unbelievable," says Miller. "I was 17 when I got pregnant with Rusty. I loved him more than life." Bonin was ultimately convicted of raping, torturing, and murdering 14 boys. On the eve of his execution, Miller wrote him a note: "I think of how I could torture you. You've brought out feelings in me I didn't know a human being could have."

But Bonin's death brought Miller none of the relief she had hoped for. She has spent many of the intervening years in an alcoholic haze, she says. A granddaughter born nine years ago helped patch some of her loss, but like many survivors, she couldn't move on. A measure of peace has come only since she struck up an unlikely friendship with Bonin's biographer, Alexis Skirloff. Bit by bit, Skirloff told Miller about the murderer's own brutal childhood and about what she knew of Rusty's last hours. As a result, Miller has found some compassion for Bonin, become more able to grieve for Rusty, and drawn closer to the rest of her family. "My other two kids lost their brother and then they lost their mother," she says.

The fury often is exacerbated by treatment of the families by the criminal justice system. Sheriff's offices inform them of the death with callous indifference to the shocking nature of the news. Family members regularly travel for hours to attend court only to discover the hearing had been postponed and they weren't notified. Andy Serpico was appalled when, after the 1979 rape and murder of his wife, Bonnie, the judge at assailant James Free's trial forced Serpico and his daughters to sit in the back row of the courtroom, while Free's weeping mother was allowed to sit next to the jury. Even more galling was when the judge forbade Serpico to tell the jury Bonnie had been a mother. "The belief was that it would be prejudicial," he says. "This is why I was very vocal through the whole process of trials and clemency hearings. Everybody would get to meet James Free, get to know James Free. I wanted people to remember that Bonnie Serpico was a real person."

In recent years, a victims-rights movement has tried to address this perceived imbalance. In the last decade, 15 states have followed Texas's lead in allowing victims' families to view executions. Many courts now let victims testify directly to the accused during the trial and to make statements about their pain and suffering during sentencing.

Of course, survivors are not the only ones seeking vengeance. Callers to a New York radio show had suggestions for punishing Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who had drowned her two sons: "Drown her." "Cook her." "She should be fried."

Nor are the survivors the only ones seeking peace of mind. In a way, so is the rest of the country. While death penalty foes are quick to point out that the United States is one of the few Western countries with capital punishment, it is also true that Americans are more likely to experience violent crime than citizens of other countries.

Americans might not feel so vengeful if they trusted the judicial system to protect them from the worst predators. Indeed, support for the death penalty drops from 77 percent to below 50 percent when people are given a choice between the death penalty and life without parole plus restitution for victims' families. Such stiff penalties are now common. But the fear that a criminal will be prematurely released is reinforced every time someone like Charles Manson or Sirhan Sirhan, convicted under earlier laws, gets a hearing for possible parole.

The anxiety about violent crime, however, is out of proportion with reality. Murder victims are about as likely to be killed in cold blood by strangers as they are in the heat of an argument by a close associate. Most children are abducted or abused not by strangers but by relatives.

Unequal justice? Allowing fear to affect decisions about executions can lead to apparent inequities. Roughly 80 percent of those put to death in the past two decades had killed whites, though only about half of murder victims are white. This has led religious groups such as the Mennonite Central Committee to conclude that in the realm of capital punishment, "black lives are worth less than white lives." Others dispute the inequity idea, arguing that the figures don't take into account the seriousness of crimes.

Some theologians, like Greg Koukl of the evangelical study group Stand to Reason, discount this as a reason for abolishing the death penalty. "The answer isn't to get rid of punishment," he says, "but to make justice equal for all." As Koukl and others see it, the death penalty is warranted and religiously permissible according to passages of both the Old and New testaments--particularly the "eye for an eye" teaching espoused in Deuteronomy. The idea of punishment "fitting" the crime is not just about vengeance, they say, but fostering a basic sense of justice.

Others, however, believe the death penalty conflicts with the basic teachings of Jesus. Says Donald Shriver, former president of the Union Theological Seminary, "There is literally nothing I can find in the teachings of Jesus that would justify the death penalty."

Seeking revenge also violates a central tenet of Western law, that criminals should be punished on behalf of society as a whole, not the victim. Not all judicial systems are set up in this manner. In Saudi Arabia, for example, two Britons accused of murdering an Australian last December have been sentenced to death by beheading. Their sentence could have been commuted, however, if the victim's brother had been willing to accept monetary compensation. (He wasn't.) For better or worse, American judges and juries are supposed to mete out punishment whether or not the victim's family condones or condemns it.

In Denver last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch limited testimony of survivors in order to keep the sentencing phase of McVeigh's trial from turning into "some kind of lynching." Said Matsch, "We're not here to seek revenge on Timothy McVeigh." Outside the courtroom, though, residents of Oklahoma City openly discussed how executing McVeigh would make them feel. Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter in the bombing, said, "It would probably give me some satisfaction to know that [McVeigh] could never be able to see anybody that he cares about--because that's what my sentence is. I don't get to see my daughter, so why should he see anyone he cares about?" But she does not support executing him. "If it brought my daughter back, that would be one thing, but it's not going to."

Jannie Coverdale lost her two grandsons, Aaron, 5, and Elijah, 2, in the bombing. She said she opposed the death penalty--until the bombing. She fears McVeigh would attract a following of extremists in jail and end up orchestrating the killing of others, so she wants him executed. But she's trying not to hate him. "Hatred is a sickness," she says, the proof being what it drove McVeigh to do in the first place. "That's why our loved ones died. I won't put myself on Timothy McVeigh's level." She says she hasn't forgiven McVeigh yet, but, for her own sake, she's trying.

Before Oklahoma City, Carolyn Templin was, by her own admission, "very much opposed" to capital punishment. "But losing my son-in-law made it clear how important the death penalty is," she says. Templin's son-in-law, Scott Williams, was killed in the Murrah building blast, three months before his daughter, Kylie, was born. Templin now believes that if one is "found guilty beyond a doubt, the only appropriate way is to execute the person." And swiftly, too: Endless delays in carrying out death sentences, she says, serve only to undermine their deterrent effect. Templin traveled to Washington to lobby for a bill speeding up executions for convicted terrorists on death row. The bill's passage renewed her faith in the very federal government that Timothy McVeigh so hated. McVeigh could have channelled his anger constructively. "Instead, he chose to mass murder 168 families." For that, she says, he deserves to die.

Some family members of victims have a deep need to see the murderers suffer as their loved ones did. "After it was done, we came out, and it was like, `Is that it?' " recalls Danny Roberts. "My brother suffered terribly when he died. I really wanted to see them bring [Patrick Rogers] into the room and strap him down. They should have let us see a little bit of the terror in Rogers's face that my brother must have felt."

Danny's brother, David, a 23-year-old Paris, Texas, police officer, was killed Sept. 21, 1985, when he pulled Rogers, then 21, over to question him about a robbery. Before Roberts opened his police cruiser door, Rogers fired a stolen pistol. Roberts's widow later gave birth to his son. The Roberts family watched as Rogers was executed June 2.

"Do I hate Patrick Rogers?" asks Danny Roberts. "The first few years after my brother died, yeah. But I don't know the man. I just know what he did."

At 16, Brooks Douglass never expected to be a crusader for victims' rights. That changed the day in 1979 when he witnessed the murder of his parents and the rape and attempted murder of his sister, and nearly died himself. Douglass spent the next 17 years following the murderers through trial after trial, hearing after hearing. After his election to the Oklahoma State Senate, he devoted himself to sponsoring and passing victims' rights bills, including the controversial law permitting survivors and victims' families to view executions.

"I was criticized for fostering revenge," Douglass says. "So what? Who are we to question what a person's feelings are when they go view an execution? There is no other party that has more to benefit from seeing the killer executed than a family member." In August 1996, Douglass and his sister watched the execution of one of the men who terrorized their family.

On Dec. 20, 1989, 21-year-old bookkeeper Jennifer Burns was in the upstairs office of an Arlington, Texas, nightclub when David Lee Herman, a former club manager, burst in, pistol in hand. After making Burns, another woman, and the male day manager fill bags with $11,200 in cash, he forced Burns to strip so that he could fondle her. "This is where the fun begins," he said, and he proceeded to shoot all three employees. Workers Sally Fogle and Clay Griffin survived; Burns died in Fogle's arms.

When a jury later sentenced Herman to die, Paula Foster, Burns's mother, dabbed at tears outside the courtroom and said, "God, you don't know how much I wanted that." Although Herman was executed on April 2, Foster is still angry at the judicial system: "It was always the state of Texas versus David Lee Herman. You feel like you're not important. [The prosecutors] have no idea of your need to be involved."

Sandy Miller's rage was not calmed by the trial and execution of William Bonin, who raped and killed her son and at least 13 other boys. Only after lengthy talks with Bonin's biographer, did her fury begin to subside. She came to the realization that serial killers are made, not born. "As a boy, [Bonin] had been raped and put in an orphanage--not that he didn't deserve what he got, but maybe he wouldn't have gotten to the point he did if the system had helped him," she says.
Though not necessarily against the death penalty, she now doubts its value as therapy for survivors or as a deterrent to criminals. "A person who is that sick will keep on no matter what," she says. Such people should be locked up for good, she says, and their victims' families given a chance to confront them directly. Had she been given that opportunity, she says, her healing would have begun years earlier.


Bring back capital punishment to Mexico!

Death penalty debate grows in Mexico
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Mexico City http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7866811.stm at 14:30pm on Wed 4 February 2009

The Green Party is planning on keeping the posters up for months

Billboards can reveal a lot about a country.

They tend to show what advertising executives and politicians think are the desires and fears of the people they target.

The skyline of Mexico City is a case in point.

It is dominated by the usual alluring, aspirational adverts for products like Bacardi rum, cheaply financed cars and lipstick.

But scattered among them are huge black posters calling for the reintroduction of capital punishment.

"Because we care about your life - death penalty for murderers and kidnappers," they demand in bold yellow letters.

The campaign, somewhat incongruously, is paid for by Mexico's Green Party. The organisation's mascot, a large toucan against a green backdrop, appears prominently on each poster.

Blighted by crime

The contrasting messages on the city's billboards highlight one of the idiosyncrasies of this country.

While its GDP puts it among the richest 15 countries in the world, its official kidnapping rate tops that of Iraq.

Moreover, murders linked to organised crime - in particular the drugs trade - are soaring with almost 6,000 people killed last year, double the number for 2007.

Children are being murdered and kidnapped, the current policy is not working Your browser may not support display of this image.

Gloria Lavara
Mexican Green Party

It is against this background that Mexico's tiny Green Party has decided to campaign for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

It has been almost 50 years since anyone was executed in Mexico. A soldier was the last person to face a firing squad in 1961 for insubordination and murder.

In 2005, Congress abolished the death penalty and removed all references to it from the constitution.

Antonio Garcia, a senator campaigning against capital punishment at the time, called it "the most cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, and a violation of the right to life".

'The voice of the people'

However, Gloria Lavara, the Green Party deputy who is coordinating the pro-capital punishment campaign, makes no apology for shifting the main focus of her party from protecting the environment to endorsing a policy which the Green movement worldwide rejects.

"We are expressing the voice of the people," she says. "If people do not respect the lives of others, then they too have lost the right to life."

Mexico City resident

"Children are being murdered and kidnapped, the current policy is not working."

But according to Juan Francisco Torres Landa, a lawyer who represents Mexico United - a non-governmental organisation campaigning against crime - there is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to criminals.

"I believe the Green Party is promoting a media campaign simply to obtain political dividends," he says.

But a random straw poll of people in a Mexico City shopping centre seems to lend some support to Ms Lavara's views.

Everyone I spoke to favoured the reintroduction of the death penalty.

"If people do not respect the lives of others, then they too have lost the right to life," said one middle-aged woman who gave her name only as Elvia.

Another woman said she had her own reasons for strongly believing that kidnappers should be executed.

"I was kidnapped for two hours," she said. "They hit me, and molested me. They even threatened to rape me."

Alejandro Marti, whose son was kidnapped and murdered, on crime in Mexico

Nevertheless, the chances of capital punishment actually being reinstated in Mexico are extremely remote.

President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (Pan) and the leftist PRD both oppose it, as does the Roman Catholic Church.

The PRI, the party which held power in Mexico continuously for more than 70 years until 2000 supports public debate on the issue.

Late last month, Congress voted to consult on the issue.

It promised to host forums, bringing together opinion from all sides of the debate. The outcome will not be legally binding.

The Green Party posters are expected to remain in place for months - a daily reminder of the violence which millions of Mexicans dread, and simply want to end.

Mexico parties vie for toughest on crime ahead vote

* Reuters, Friday July 3 2009

* Hundreds of drug gang murders every month

* Mexico in most violent period for a century

* President Calderon's party set to lose ground in vote

By Michael O'Boyle

MEXICO CITY, July 3 (Reuters) - When the Green Party backs the death penalty, things must be bad.

Mexican political parties are vying to look the toughest on crime ahead of Sunday's congressional elections, but no one is trying harder than the tiny Green Party, which wants to legalize the death penalty for murderers and kidnappers.

Brutal, and often fatal, abductions and hundreds of drug gang murders each month are a major problem for President Felipe Calderon, whose first move on taking power in 2006 was to launch an army assault on drug gangs.

The economic crisis that hit last year has become the top issue, but crime will still loom large in a mid-term election that will determine how much clout Calderon has for the remainder of his term.

Parties are playing to voters fed up with extortion and kidnappings by gangs often led by crooked police.

"Most Mexican states and cities are being held hostage by the fear of organized crime. People are enormously fed up," said Sen. Arturo Escobar, an architect of the Green Party's death penalty bid.

The Greens have strayed in recent years from an environmental platform in favor of political tactics and alliances to boost their size. Escobar said it opted to pursue the death penalty campaign after focus groups showed up to 85 percent of Mexicans were willing to back capital punishment.

Calderon's drug war has plunged Mexico into its most violent period since the revolution of the early 20th century. Escalating turf wars between rival gangs have killed some 12,300 people since the crackdown began.

Despite the bloodshed, Mexicans widely support using the army to confront drug lords who have controlled chunks of the country for decades, operating with relative impunity thanks to corrupt local officials.

Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, is expected to lose ground in Sunday's mid-term elections as the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, picks up votes from people hurt by Mexico's deepest recession since 1995.

Yet the PAN would be losing by a bigger margin if not for a campaign highlighting Calderon's drug war, pollsters say.


The PAN's radio and TV ads have tried to cast the PRI, the party it ousted in 2000 after seven decades in power, as full of corrupt politicians in cahoots with drug lords.

One TV ad flags a string of arrests and drug seizures under Calderon and closes with a jibe aimed at the PRI: "Don't leave Mexico in the hands of crime."

Pollsters say the campaign has been effective.

"In the middle of an economic recession, one would expect to see the ruling party be severely punished, but it isn't," said Roy Campos, head of polling firm Consulta Mitofsky.

The economic downturn, as U.S. demand for Mexican-made trucks and televisions has collapsed, has sent unemployment to its highest level in more than a decade.

The recession risks luring more young men with few job prospects to the lucrative life of drug runners. Historically, unemployed Mexicans have headed to the United States but tighter border security has made that harder.

"There are countless youths who see the only way out in organized crime," said the Green Party's Escobar.

A crusade by sporting goods tycoon Alejandro Marti, whose 14-year-old son was murdered by his kidnappers last year, has helped keep crime in the electoral spotlight.

Marti launched a citizens watchdog group, Mexico SOS, that is trying to get election candidates to sign legal documents promising to fulfill promises made on crime.

"The judicial system in Mexico is totally worn out. We need to renovate it, revive it, make it more transparent and efficient," said Marti. After he paid a big ransom, the discovery of his son's body inside a car trunk set off an outpouring of public rage.

"Previous administrations let the mafia spread everywhere," said university bureaucrat Lorena Lopez, 42. "Everywhere you look it's a slaughterhouse. The people need this to end." (Additional reporting by Miguel Gutierrez; Editing by Alan Elsner and Catherine Bremer)



Mexico to rethink death penalty

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Mexico City

23 January 2009

The Congress in Mexico has agreed to debate the issue of reinstating capital punishment for some crimes.

The move follows a surge in murders and kidnappings in the country, many linked to drug cartels and organised crime.

Mexico abolished capital punishment in 2005, but recent surveys suggest that 70% of Mexicans are in favour of the death penalty.

The campaign to reinstate judicial executions has, unusually, been led by Mexico's Green Party.

Hundreds of posters, carrying the Green Party logo, and demanding capital punishment for murderers and kidnappers have appeared all over Mexico City.

The party says it is simply conveying the voice of the people, but its opponents say it is playing politics.

No date has been set for the forums, which will bring together crime experts, academics and human rights campaigners.

The chances that the Mexican constitution will actually be amended currently appear remote.

The government, church and human rights groups all strongly oppose reinstatement.

Mexico has long been powerful voice in international forums calling for the abolition of capital punishment and has not carried out an execution since 1961.

But millions of Mexicans are appalled by the rising insecurity in this country, and are looking for any means to try to control it.


From the Los Angeles Times


Some in Mexico want the death penalty reinstated

The increase in slayings and kidnappings related to the nation's war on drug traffickers has created a climate of fear. Legal experts see too many obstacles to restoring capital punishment.

By Tracy Wilkinson

December 5, 2008

Reporting from Mexico City — Anger and frustration over rampant killings and kidnappings have ignited an improbable debate here over legalizing the death penalty, a punishment that has been effectively banned in Mexico for nearly half a century.

Lawmakers agreed Thursday to hear arguments next week on a proposal to amend the Mexican Constitution to allow for capital punishment in a narrow number of cases.

The initiative from Humberto Moreira, governor of the northern border state of Coahuila, would allow the death penalty for convicted kidnappers who killed or mutilated their victims. He said as far as the people of his state were concerned, the only issue was how to execute convicts, not whether to do so.

It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that the death penalty could be reinstated because of legal obstacles, experts said. But that is almost beside the point. Moreira has tapped into public panic over soaring crime, a climate of fear that has made law and order the country's No. 1 worry.

Much of the bloodshed is related to Mexico's drug war, as government forces crack down on powerful traffickers and traffickers battle one another over pieces of the lucrative trade.

But violence is spilling into ordinary society. Two recent kidnappings of children of affluent Mexicans -- one turned up dead and the other has not been found -- underlined the public's vulnerability. As much as the crimes themselves, the fact that there are few prosecutions -- impunity and no justice -- riles Mexican society.

"If 98% of criminals escape prosecution for their crimes, it is clear that the population feels wounded and tends to support capital punishment," Gerardo Priego, a legislator from the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, told reporters.

Moreira's initiative received quick support from several state governors from his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

But critics accused Moreira of demagoguery and of taking advantage of the public mood for political gain. Mexico City's Human Rights Commission said a return to state-administered executions would set the country back 200 years.

"Behind this call [for the death penalty] is society's desperation over the climate of insecurity we are living in," said Alberto Herrera, head of the Mexico chapter of Amnesty International. "But the risk is it leads to calls for revenge. Times of desperation are the worst times to go for facile solutions."

Reinstatement of the death penalty is unlikely for legal and political reasons. The last execution in Mexico was in 1961, coincidentally in Coahuila, the state where the current initiative originated. Capital punishment remained on the books, primarily within the military judicial system, but was unused and abolished in 2005.

In 1981, Mexico signed a human rights treaty as part of the Organization of American States that dictated the death penalty, once eliminated, could not be revived.

Furthermore, the PAN, which holds sway in Congress, says it opposes changing the constitution to allow capital punishment.

Recent polls showed support for the death penalty surging to as much as two-thirds of the surveyed population.

Miguel Carbonell, a constitutional law expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said that despite public outcry, the chance of imposing the death penalty, given the international treaties that Mexico signed, was "nil."

"We are all very worried about the security situation and want strong measures," he said. "But the state cannot fall into the same criminal behavior as the criminals."

In separate action Thursday, the lower house of Mexico's Congress approved a package of state security measures aimed at strengthening the government's ability to fight drug traffickers and organized crime. Key among the measures were provisions to prevent the infiltration of police forces by criminals.

Wilkinson is a Times staff writer.



MEXICO CITY -- The street peddler's face darkened when asked how the Mexican government should deal with the rash of kidnappings and drug slayings terrorizing the nation.

"They should catch the perpetrators and kill them," said Luis Bote, 21, as he served steaming tacos from a basket on his bicycle. "Only if the criminals are afraid will these crimes ever stop."

Bote isn't alone. Such calls to reinstate the death penalty are gaining ground in Mexico amid an unprecedented surge in violent crime. Most of the violence is tied to the warring narcotics gangs, who killed a record 5,500 people last year, including a growing number of kidnapping victims.

In December, the governor of northern Coahuila state sponsored a bill in the Mexican Congress that would bring back the death penalty for kidnappers who murder their victims. Legislators are expected to debate the proposal when they resume sessions in February.

"These are people who won't be rehabilitated in jail," said Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira, whose cattle ranching state borders Texas. "Let's get real and let's start executing the kidnappers."

The Green Party, a minority party in Congress, has gone further, advocating capital punishment in all homicide cases. "Because we worry about your life, we're going to end the life of murderers," declare the party's billboards, which are plastered across the capital.

The proposals have sparked outrage from human rights activists, the Roman Catholic Church and some politicians, who denounce them as immoral and illegal. Mexico eradicated the final vestiges of the death penalty in 2005. The last time the punishment was applied here was in 1961.

Since 2000, the Mexican government has successfully defended more than 400 Mexicans on death row in the United States. Mexico is also bound by the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which bars countries who have abolished the death penalty from later reinstating it.

Critics accuse Moreira of exploiting Mexicans' fear of kidnapping to rally votes ahead of the 2009 congressional elections. The governor's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is hoping to rebound as the country's dominant political force nine years after the collapse of the one-party system in 2000.

"It's clearly an electioneering tactic, and this is playing with the feelings of desperation of many Mexicans," said Carlos Navarrete, a senator with the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, which opposes the bill. "There are some topics with which the Congress should not play." The pro-Catholic National Action Party, to which President Felipe Calderon belongs, has also opposed the proposal.

But they may be out of touch with their electorate.

Between 70 and 80 percent of Mexicans favor the death penalty for kidnappers who kill their victims, according to several recent opinion polls. Forty-four percent support executing kidnappers in general, compared with 50 percent who are opposed, according to an August survey by The Associated Press and the pollster Ipsos.

Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, with dozens of U.S. citizens among the victims. Officially, an average of 70 people are abducted each month, although private security firms say the real figure is 10 times higher. The kidnappers demand anywhere from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars in ransom, in what has become an important source of income for the organized crime mafias.

Most Mexicans don't report kidnappings for fear of endangering the victims' lives or for fear that the police may be involved.

Those fears were confirmed in August with the kidnapping murder of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a sporting goods magnate. Marti's driver and body guard were also tortured and killed. Two Mexico City police officers, including the leader of the airport's anti-kidnapping squad, were later implicated in the murder and another 14 officers were placed under investigation.

Days later, one of the country's most prominent sports promoters, Nelson Vargas, revealed that his 17-year-old daughter, Silvia, had been kidnapped 11 months before and was still missing.

"No one is immune to this anymore," said Roderic Ai Camp, a Mexico expert at Claremont McKenna College in California." It has really brought home on a personal level that there's corruption and crime, and in extreme cases, violence that's touching everyone."

Still, opponents of reinstating the death penalty argue that the chances of executing the wrong person -- particularly in such a notoriously flawed justice system as Mexico's -- are unacceptably high. They also argue that the government should not greet violence with more violence.

"No one has the right to take someone's life," said Elisabeth Gonzalez, a copy shop worker in the capital. "That's not the way to fight crime. Supposedly that's what the laws are for."

Read more from GlobalPost.com.


Kidnappers Inject Acid Into Boy's Heart

Corruption Allows Vicious Gangs To Target Working Class And Wealthy Mexicans Alike

MEXICO CITY, Nov. 4, 2008

(AP) Kidnappers grabbed a 5-year-old boy from a gritty Mexico City street market, then killed him by injecting acid into his heart - a new low even for Mexico's brutal kidnapping gangs.

The boy, Javier Morena, was the oldest son of a poor family that sold fruit at a market in the tough neighborhood of Iztapalapa, proof that the plague of kidnappings for ransom afflicts the working class as well as the wealthy.

Javier disappeared while playing at the market on Sunday, Oct. 26, Mexico City authorities said on Monday. The boy's family spent days looking for him, finally persuading a local television station to post his picture on the news three days later.

A taxi driver recognized the boy, and went to the market to find the family. He told them that he had given the boy and a teenager a ride from the market to nearby Mexico state, and the teenager had told him the boy was crying because his younger brother had been stolen.

The driver dropped the two off a block from the police station, and the teen told him they were meeting the boy's mother there.

The family showed the driver a picture of their son. Also in the picture was a 17-year-old family friend, who the driver recognized as the alleged kidnapper.

The police raided the 17-year-old's home, and he and his family and two others confessed to having killed the boy before they could ask for a $23,000 ransom, Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Mancera said in a statement.

Mancera said the assailants injected the boy with acid and buried him on a hill outside the capital.

Five suspected kidnappers, including the 17-year-old, are under arrest. It was unclear if the group had carried out other kidnappings.

Javier was buried early Monday. Hours later, sitting in her home of cinderblock and corrugated tin, the boy's mother, Laura Vega, said she has no idea why the kidnappers targeted her family. But she said she felt they should face the death penalty, long banned in Mexico, and that they should "suffer the way my son suffered."

"He didn't have to die like that, far from his parents," she said, her eyes red and swollen from crying. "If he had to go to God, it shouldn't have been like that."

The child's death recalled the recent kidnapping and slaying of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a sporting goods magnate whose death prompted a national outcry against crime.

Young Marti's decomposing body was found in the trunk of a car even though his family reportedly paid a ransom. Prosecutors said a federal lawman was part of the gang that kidnapped Marti.

Outrage over that case prompted more than 100,000 people to march through Mexico City in August to demand an end to endemic police corruption and rising crime.

On Monday, dozens of people left messages on Reforma's Web site expressing outrage at the 5-year-old's death. Some called for Mexico to reinstate capital punishment.

"Keeping them alive only guarantees a hidden danger for the rest of society," wrote a man who identified himself as Eric Aguilar of Mexico City.

Mexico has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates, according to the anti-violence group IKV Pax Christi. Kidnappings are up 9 percent this year and average 65 per month nationwide, according to the federal Attorney General's Office, which blames a growing web of drug cartels, current and former police officers and informants who point out potentially lucrative victims.

Most kidnappings go unreported for fear of police involvement. The nonprofit Citizens' Institute for Crime Studies estimates the real kidnapping rate to be more than 500 per month.

Bring back capital punishment to UK!

Death penalty: Your verdict


Published: 25 Feb 2008

ALMOST 100,000 Sun readers unite today to call for the return of the death penalty.

Monster Mark Dixie, Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright and the teenage killers of hero dad Garry Newlove have sickened the nation in recent weeks as details emerged of their vile crimes.

All received jail sentences. But as the clamour grew for the return of capital punishment, The Sun on Saturday dared to ask the burning question: “Do we really want it back?”

And a staggering 99 per cent of the 95,000 readers who responded to our You The Jury poll said the Government SHOULD reintroduce it.

Their mood was summed up by dad-of-four Brian Steede, who said in Brighton, Sussex: “Why should taxpayers pay for the likes of Wright and Dixie to live in prison?

“They took away their victims’ human rights and gave up theirs when they committed their hideous crimes. Bring back hanging, I say.”

Our readers’ views were backed by many of the families whose lives have been cruelly torn apart by killers now serving time behind bars.

And they were supported by senior political figures including Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and some religious leaders.

But others – including Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah died at the hands of paedophile Roy Whiting – remain firmly AGAINST the return of capital punishment, permanently abolished in Britain for murder in 1969.

Garry Newlove, 47, was beaten to death by thugs he confronted outside his Warrington house last year.

Swaggering killers Adam Swellings, 19, Stephen Sorton, 17, and Jordan Cunliffe, 16, showed no remorse when sentenced at Chester Crown Court. Swellings will serve a minimum 17 years, Sorton at least 15 and Cunliffe at least 12.

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Yes ... says Helen Newlove

But widow Helen Newlove, 45, called for the ultimate punishment.

She said: “For many, the death penalty is murder by another name – a chilling relic from an uncivilised past.

“Yes, the thought of bringing it back may be unpalatable. But the horrifying events of the past week have strengthened my conviction that the hangman is the answer.

“It’s not about revenge. It’s about a just society imposing a fitting punishment for those who have committed a uniquely horrifying crime.”

Yes ... says Richard Taylor

Helen’s opinion was mirrored by Richard Taylor, dad of ten-year-old schoolboy Damilola – stabbed to death by Danny and Ricky Preddie in Peckham, South London, in 2000.

The lawless savages, then 18 and 19, were convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and jailed for eight years.

But ex-civil servant Richard, 59, said: “Is it right that the killers of our beautiful son will be released next year after only serving three years in prison? Of course it isn’t.

“The death penalty has to be brought back because it is the only deterrent available. It won’t bring my son back, but how many would commit these awful murders if they knew the gallows or a lethal injection was waiting? Few, I suspect.”

Chef Dixie, 37, received a life term last Friday for stabbing to death 18-year-old Sally Anne Bowman – and having sex with her corpse.

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Yes ... says LInda Bowman

Her mum Linda Bowman, 45, said: “Men like Dixie are like a dog.

“Once they draw blood they should be put down. I wish this was America and we had the lethal injection.”

Strangler Wright, 49, killed five women working as hookers in Ipswich.

Kerry Nicol, 38, whose 19-year-old daughter Tania was his first victim, said of his life sentence: “In no way has justice been done. These crimes deserve the ultimate punishment. The public must insist this Government look at returning the death penalty for cases such as this.”

Isabella Clennell, the mother of Wright’s last victim Paula, 24, said: “I wish we still had the death penalty. This is what he truly deserves.”

Even Wright’s only son said his father should be put to death.

Builder Mike Wright was stunned to learn of his dad’s crimes. He told The Sun: “My father took those girls’ lives. They should take his as well.”

Mike, 27 – abandoned at just two years old by his evil dad in Milford Haven, West Wales – added: “They don’t have hanging now, but if they did he should hang. What gives him the right to take a person’s life?

“I’d like to think he’s not guilty – but if he is he should get everything that’s coming to him.

“As it is I am glad that he has been put away for ever.”

The mother of little James Bulger, killed by ten-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in 1993, also backed the return of the rope.

Denise Fergus, 38, claimed the rash of recent cases prove the point.

She said: “Beasts like them don’t deserve to breathe the same air as decent people – they should hang.

“The law must be brought up to date to take account of DNA tests. In cases with no scientific doubt, there’s no chance of hanging a wrong man.” The mum of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett said all serial killers should receive the death penalty.

Heartbroken Winnie Johnson, 74, lost her 12-year-old in 1964 when evil Ian Brady and Myra Hindley lured him to his death on Saddleworth Moor, Greater Manchester.

Winnie said: “Monsters like Brady and now this sick Steve Wright creature do not deserve life, or our pity.

“We should stop thinking about what’s best for people who murder our women and children. They’ll never change however long they are caged.”

The sister of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain, ALSO said the death penalty should return.

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Muriel Jakubait, 86, said killers like Wright and Dixie should be “strung up and killed” rather than spend an easy life in prison. She said: “It would set an example. Serial killers don’t deserve to live.”

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said he stood by his views that Britain should bring back the death penalty for serial killers.

He faced a storm of controversy in 2003 for suggesting its return.

But he said: “I would bring back capital punishment for serial murderers. This is not a crime of passion – it’s premeditated and cold-blooded.”

Former Home Office Minister Anne Widdecombe also wants a return.

She said: “I believe it acts as a deterrent. It should be available in cases of premeditated murder.”

No ... says Sara Payne

Yet Sara Payne, mum of murdered schoolgirl Sarah, nine, is against the death penalty despite her ordeal. Sara said: “I don’t think anyone should be able to take another’s life.

It’s one of our core values as human beings living in a civilised country that you do not kill.

“A lot of people think it should be introduced for child killers. But I favour locking them up for ever and ensuring they have a horrible time.”

But tens of thousands of Sun readers flooded our offices with calls and emails demanding the reintroduction of capital punishment.

Janice Longman, 35, from Hartlepool, said: “The young these days are not scared of prison. They know they will have access to computers, PlayStations, gyms and whatever.

“If the death penalty was introduced maybe they’d think twice about kicking people to death.”

Ian Dennis said in an email: “I agree to bringing back the death sentence as there is too much killing on our streets these days. An eye for an eye. This country is too soft.”

But not all were in agreement. One female reader said: “No. Plain and simple. We cannot have a law that says man cannot murder but, if you do and get caught, we as a government can then kill you.

“That makes you no better than the people who go out and murder.”

The mother of all crusades


Published: 20 Mar 2008

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THE Sun's courageous Mothers in Arms yesterday took their crusade to mend Broken Britain right to the top.

Helen Newlove, Linda Bowman and Kerry Nicol spelled out their ten-point manifesto to Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Tory leader David Cameron.

And afterwards they declared: "We won't stop campaigning. This is just the start."

The Sun brought the grieving mums together after they lost loved ones to killers.

Helen's husband Garry, 47, was punched and kicked to death in front of their three daughters when he confronted a gang of yobs outside the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, last August.

Linda's daughter Sally Anne, 18, was raped and murdered in Croydon, South London, by Mark Dixie - last month jailed for a minimum of 34 years. Kerry's heroin-addict daughter Tania, 19, was Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright's first victim.

In an extraordinary cross-party display of support, Mr Straw and Mr Cameron cleared their diaries to meet them.

The mothers demanded the return of the death penalty, a compulsory DNA database, zero tolerance for minor crimes, the repeal of the Human Rights Act, more bobbies on the beat, parents made more responsible for their kids, victims' rights to be put ahead of offenders', juvenile criminals to be named and shamed, the scrapping of plans to turn off street lights to save energy and a crackdown on binge drinking.

Linda, 45, and Kerry, 38, met Mr Straw at his Ministry in Westminster.

Kerry asked if the Human Rights Act made the return of capital punishment impossible.

She told Mr Straw: "Ninety-nine per cent of Sun readers want it back. You have to listen to the people and what they want."

He said MPs had already voted four times against the death penalty.

On drugs, he pledged "stronger enforcement and better education" with a clampdown on dealers.

And he added: "We want parents to take responsibility. When I have constituents trying to make excuses for their kids I give them a lot of verbal stick."

He vowed to raise with police the expansion of the DNA database, saying: "I don't understand people who are not happy to give DNA samples."

Afterwards Kerry said: "He listened to everything we said. There doesn't seem much hope for bringing the death penalty back but you can never say never.

"I do not like the thought of Steve Wright just sitting in jail watching TV. I want him dead.

"We need to make politicians realise we need to be heard. We won't stop campaigning. This is just the start."

Linda said: "If I can just change one thing for Sally Anne I would feel that I had achieved something." She went on: "Our main concerns were the death penalty and the DNA database.

"We want people to know you can just go into any police station and volunteer your DNA if you would like to support this campaign."

Mr Straw said the mothers were "very courageous and tough". He added: "They quite properly gave me a tough time." David Cameron was moved to tears during his THREE-HOUR meeting with Helen, 45, at Conservative headquarters in London.

He told her: "The politicians need to listen."

Helen said afterwards: "I wasted no time in bringing up the tough issues that I feel are at the heart of Britain's demise.

"We talked about parenting, education and the need for tougher deterrents that fit the crime.

"We also covered a range of ideas - like ordering parents to carry out community service alongside their kids if they've not brought them up properly."

She added: "When I recalled the night that Garry was murdered, David became very emotional. And when I described the devastating impact Gary's death has had on my daughters, he had tears in his eyes.

"I told David he was no different to my Garry, just a loving dad who wanted the best for their kids.


"He vowed to do all he could to help - so hopefully, this will be just the start."

Mr Cameron said: "It was incredibly brave of Helen to talk about it, to make sure people understand what she and other people like her have been through.

"There's a lot of things we agree about - like what's going wrong with families and schools and how we need to do more to strengthen our society. There needs to be discipline and boundaries and they don't exist in too many places.

"There are certain things about the criminal justice system that need to change. Prison should be a place of work and we should make sure we punish people properly."