FRANCES NEWTON: 1965-2005
in Peace at last.

Into Paradise May the Angels Lead You.......









By Gloria Rubac
Houston


There are times when I am truly angered, embarrassed, sickened and left feeling numb by the actions of my country. The execution of Frances Newton brings all of these and many more emotions that stun me to the very core of my being.
Published Sep 15, 2005 1:47 AM
Sept. 14-The State of Texas has carried out the horrific execution of Frances Newton, totally ignoring the national and international campaign to save her life. Responsibility for this modern-day lynching also rests with the Supreme Court, which turned down her appeal for a new trial.



Frances Newton
Sept. 13—A state founded on land stolen from the people of Mexico, and one that condoned the enslavement of African people, is hours from committing another racist crime: the legal lynching of Frances Newton.

Despite having an infamously incompetent attorney appointed to “defend” her, and despite having the discredited Houston Police Crime Lab analyze the evidence in the case, and despite an admission on camera by Harris County Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson that another gun had been found at the crime scene—something denied by the DA and the cops for 18 years—Frances Elaine Newton may become the first Black woman legally executed in Texas since an enslaved African woman named Lucy was hung in Galveston in 1853.

Ever since Newton found her husband and two children murdered in their home on April 7, 1987, she has ada mantly proclaimed her innocence.

Newton’s attorney was Ron Mock, who became notorious for not putting up any defense at all. When Mock was Shaka Sankofa’s attorney, he actually slept during part of the trial, making it easier for the state to execute this young African American on June 22, 2000.

Today, U.S. Congressperson Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas) held a media conference here asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stop Newton’s execution.

Even the Austin American Statesman, the daily paper in the Texas capital, today editorialized, “We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Race, ethnicity, income and geography are all factors in the imposition of death sentences. As long as Texas has a death penalty, capital defendants should have access to competent legal counsel. Newton didn’t get that. For that reason, she should be spared.”

In the week leading up to Newton’s scheduled execution, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark joined Michael Greco, president of the American Bar Associ ation; entertainer and activist Dick Gregory; and Amnesty International in asking that Newton be given a stay and a review of new evidence.

On Sept. 12, the Committee to Free Frances Newton joined with anti-war activists outside the Houston Astro dome to participate in the National Day of Outrage about the Katrina tragedy.

Hundreds of people from New Orleans passed by. Many stopped to read fliers and some joined in the protest.

Two young people who had lost everything in the hurricane, Thea Elder and Nicholas Miller, leaf leted and spoke on the microphone for three hours.

The Committee to Free Frances Newton, along with the National Black United Front, Houston Chap ter; the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense; the Uni versity of Houston NAACP; KPFT-Pacifica Radio in Houston; and many other organizations and individuals have worked around the clock for months to stop this execution.

Many new activists have been drawn into supporting Newton.

In the final hours, there are plans for civil disobedience at the governor’s office in Austin and a protest in Huntsville outside of the death house. There will be protests in every major Texas city if the execution is carried out.

How Do You Sleep at Night?

Frances Newton and the Prospects for a New Abolitionism
By JUSTIN E.H. SMITH

As I write this, Frances Newton is waiting to be executed in a prison south of Huntsville, Texas, having seen her most recent request for clemency denied by the Supreme Court. If the sentence is carried out, she will be the third woman executed in the state since the Civil War, and the first black woman. By the time anyone has a chance to read this, any call I might make for letters to the relevant power-holders may very well be too late. If she is still alive, by all means, write to them. Overload their inboxes. Call them potential murderers. But if she is dead, perhaps her death might serve as an occasion for those of us who find the death penalty abhorrent and disgraceful to take stock of how miserably we are losing this battle, and to contemplate the efficacy of our strategy.

As the New York Times reports, the bodies of Newton's husband and children were discovered on April 7, 1987. Her husband had been shot in the head, the two children in the chest, all with a .25-caliber pistol. The police believe they have conclusive evidence that the murder weapon can be traced back to Newton. On top of this, there is plenty of damning circumstantial evidence. Three weeks before the slayings, Newton took out $50,000 life insurance policies on herself, her husband and her daughter. As the Times reports, she named herself as beneficiary and said she signed her husband's name to prevent him from discovering she had set aside money to pay for the premiums.

So much for the details. What is Newton's position? "I know I did not murder my kids and my family," she told The Associated Press in a death row interview. "It's frustrating ... nobody's had to answer for that." Is she telling the truth? I have no idea. What is certain, though, is that any further discussion of the veracity of her claim to innocence will be of no use to her after her death.

Nature has seen to it that no legal case shall be held open indefinitely. Many a Nazi has managed to die of old age before justice caught up with him. John Demjanjuk was too old and feeble to really be susceptible to any effective punishment when it was discovered he had lied on his citizenship application about his stint as a camp guard. Short of the limits imposed by cruel time, the punisher of all, it seems reasonable that justice should proceed as does science: every verdict shall be subject to revision on the basis of disconfirming evidence. Capital punishment is not only morally objectionable, but, in a justice system that pretends to link punishment to proof of guilt, is epistemologically sketchy as well.

Exactly a month ago, the only woman ever to be executed in Georgia was granted an official pardon, sixty years after her death. One would think that this could have served as a lesson to the executioners down the road in Huntsville. There is something about post-mortem pardons that is very nearly as shameful as the punishment the pardonners acknowledge to have been wrongly meted out, at least for those of us who believe that the only real goods are those that come to one between the horizons of birth and death. And such belated reckoning can't but raise the question: if the state can wrongly kill someone, and then get away with a meek 'sorry', why can't the murderer do so as well?

But what if she is guilty? Many on death row of course are. We abolitionists, however, must never lose sight of the abhorrence of the death penalty as such, not of a death penalty that occasionally misfires and wrongfully executes the innocent, as may or may not be the case of Frances Newton. For the problem is not just that the system, when it executes innocents, tends to cull these innocents from a certain social class, but also that in the application of the penalty to true killers, those from this same class are given priority treatment.

Abolitionism is in a delicate spot, since pragmatically it seems best to work on a case-by-case basis, and the most promising cases are the ones where guilt is in question. And all the better if the death row inmate is mentally handicapped. Let us proceed pragmatically, but never lose sight of our principled opposition to execution tout court. Let us also not neglect the cases of confessed murderers. For here, too, the state is moving outside of its domain of competence in deciding when and how, and at whose hands, the murderer will die. The state uses tax revenue to pay the salaries of people who are charged with the task of soberly and methodically strapping down human beings, physically in the prime of life, injecting poison into them, and depriving them of this life. This is wrong in a way that is fundamentally different from the wrongness of the murders that precipitate executions. It is a moral stain on all of us.

As an addendum to this article, I note that, as far as Frances Newton is concerned, it is indeed too little too late. She was executed last night. I would love to hear from anyone in Texas who can honestly say they feel any better, or will sleep any easier, now that this woman has been discarded.

Justin Smith is a professor of philosophy and writer living in Montreal. He can be reached at: justismi@alcor.concordia.ca

The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege

By Robert Jensen
Sep 14, 2005, 20:55

Editor's Note: This essay is excerpted from The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, forthcoming from City Lights, September 2005.

The United States is a white country. By that I don't just mean that the majority of its citizens are white, though they are (for now but not forever). What makes the United States white is not the fact that most Americans are white but the assumption -- especially by people with power -- that American equals white. Those people don't say it outright. It comes out in subtle ways. Or, sometimes, in ways not so subtle.

Here's an example: I'm in line at a store, unavoidably eavesdropping on two white men in front of me, as one tells the other about a construction job he was on. He says: "There was this guy and three Mexicans standing next to the truck." From other things he said, it was clear that "this guy" was Anglo, white, American. It also was clear from the conversation that this man had not spoken to the "three Mexicans" and had no way of knowing whether they were Mexicans or U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage.

It didn't matter. The "guy" was the default setting for American: Anglo, white. The "three Mexicans" were not Anglo, not white, and therefore not American. It wasn't "four guys standing by a truck." It was "a guy and three Mexicans." The race and/or ethnicity of the four men were irrelevant to the story he was telling. But the storyteller had to mark it. It was important that "the guy" not be confused with "the three Mexicans."

Here's another example, from the Rose Garden. At a 2004 news conference outside the White House, President George W. Bush explained that he believed democracy would come to Iraq over time:


"There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."

It appears the president intended the phrase "people whose skin color may not be the same as ours" to mean people who are not from the United States. That skin color he refers to that is "ours," he makes it clear, is white. Those people not from the United States are "a different color than white." So, white is the skin color of the United States. That means those whose skin is not white but are citizens of the United States are ...? What are they? Are they members in good standing in the nation, even if "their skin color may not be the same as ours"?

This is not simply making fun of a president who sometimes mangles the English language. This time he didn't misspeak, and there's nothing funny about it. He did seem to get confused when he moved from talking about skin color to religion (does he think there are no white Muslims?), but it seems clear that he intended to say that brown people -- Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, people from the Middle East, whatever the category in his mind -- can govern themselves, even though they don't look like us. And "us" is clearly white. In making this magnanimous proclamation of faith in the capacities of people in other parts of the world, in proclaiming his belief in their ability to govern themselves, he made one thing clear: The United States is white. Or, more specifically, being a real "American" is being white. So, what do we do with citizens of the United States who aren't white?

That's the question for which this country has never quite found an answer: What do white "Americans" do with those who share the country but aren't white? What do we do with peoples we once tried to exterminate? People we once enslaved? People we imported for labor and used like animals to build railroads? People we still systematically exploit as low-wage labor? All those people -- indigenous, African, Asian, Latino -- can obtain the legal rights of citizenship. That's a significant political achievement in some respects, and that popular movements that forced the powerful to give people those rights give us the most inspiring stories in U.S. history.

The degree to which many white people in one generation dramatically shifted their worldview to see people they once considered to be subhuman as political equals is not trivial, no matter how deep the problems of white supremacy we still live with.In many comparable societies, problems of racism are as ugly, if not uglier, than in the United States. If you doubt that, ask a Turk what it is like to live in Germany, an Algerian what it's like to live in France, a black person what it's like to live in Japan. We can acknowledge the gains made in the United States -- always understanding those gains came because non-white people, with some white allies, forced society to change -- while still acknowledging the severity of the problem that remains.

But it doesn't answer the question: What do white "Americans" do with those who share the country but aren't white?

We can pretend that we have reached "the end of racism" and continue to ignore the question. But that's just plain stupid. We can acknowledge that racism still exists and celebrate diversity, but avoid the political, economic, and social consequences of white supremacy. But, frankly, that's just as stupid. The fact is that most of the white population of the United States has never really known what to do with those who aren't white. Let me suggest a different approach.

Let's go back to the question that W.E.B. Du Bois said he knew was on the minds of white people. In the opening of his 1903 classic, The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois wrote that the real question whites wanted to ask him, but were afraid to, was: "How does it feel to be a problem?" Du Bois was identifying a burden that blacks carried -- being seen by the dominant society not as people but as a problem people, as a people who posed a problem for the rest of society. Du Bois was right to identify "the color line" as the problem of the 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, it is time for whites to self-consciously reverse the direction of that question at heart of color. It's time for white people to fully acknowledge that in the racial arena, we are the problem. We have to ask ourselves: How does it feel to be the problem?

The simple answer: Not very good.

That is the new White People's Burden, to understand that we are the problem, come to terms with what that really means, and act based on that understanding. Our burden is to do something that doesn't seem to come natural to people in positions of unearned power and privilege: Look in the mirror honestly and concede that we live in an unjust society and have no right to some of what we have. We should not affirm ourselves. We should negate our whiteness. Strip ourselves of the illusion that we are special because we are white. Steel ourselves so that we can walk in the world fully conscious and try to see what is usually invisible to us white people. We should learn to ask ourselves, "How does it feel to be the problem?"

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

http://www.alternet.org/story/24745/

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION HEARINGS - DP/INNOCENCE DISCUSSION - TRANSCRIPT

Thanks to Scott Taylor for sending this:

Here's an excerpt from this morning's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Exchange is between Roberts and Sen. Leahy...

LEAHY: And usually, far more than the Congress or anybody else, it's been the media that's exposed when this has been overdone, when mistakes or violations are done. And I would hope that you would be committed to protecting just as much as possible access, rather than the other way around. Let me go to an issue we discussed yesterday -- or others did--the issue of capital punishment.

We've held in this committee a number of hearings that show some real flaws in the administration of capital punishment: you know, sleeping lawyers, drunk lawyers, lawyers who didn't bother even to investigate or didn't have the funds to do it.

More than 100 death- row inmates have been exonerated; some, though, who have spent years on death row under the most horrible conditions for a crime they never committed.

I think Senator Durbin mentioned a situation out in Illinois where a Republican governor had to, and did -- courageously I felt -- extend clemency to a whole lot of people who had been on death row.

Some say -- and I think you have even said this -- when they're exonerated, it shows the system works.

Well, let me tell you about the system in that case. One of the people is Anthony Porter: spent 16 years on death row. He was within two days of being executed.

The system didn't work on behalf of the government doing. A bunch of kids from Northwestern University, who had taken as an elective course a course on journalism, and the teacher said, Why don't you look into a couple of these? and these kids went out and did it.

The kids dug up the information that was there available to the police, available to the prosecutor, available to the defense. Nobody dug up.


They found it, and within two days of his execution, the state's attorney dropped the case. They got somebody else to confess.

You said two years ago -- and I remember being at that hearing -- you said that, on the startling number of innocent men sentenced to death who are later exonerated, you responded somehow showed the system worked in exonerating them.

I worry about that statement, I really do.

It bothered me. You know, I voted for you for the circuit court, and there was a split vote in our party. But that one really bothered me, that statement. I found it almost mechanical, and I'll tell you why.

When we have people say innocent people who have been freed after years on death row shows the system was working, it doesn't. I think Sandra Day O'Connor said two years ago, If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed. If that's the case, the system is not working.

In Herrera, we've discussed that. The court grappled with it and didn't ultimately decide: Does the Constitution permit the execution of a person who is innocent?

And as principal deputy solicitor general, you co-authored the amicus brief for the U.S. in the Herrera case. You say the claim of actual innocence does not state a ground for federal habeas.

Actually, you said, quote, Does the Constitution require the prisoner have the right to seek judicial review of a claim of newly discovered evidence instead of being required to seek relief in the clemency process?

In our view, the Constitution does not guarantee the prisoner such a right.

So let me ask you this, without going to the facts of Herrera: Is it your current personal view the death row inmate who can prove his innocence has no constitutional right to do so before a court before he's executed?

ROBERTS: Well, Senator, this is the basis of the disagreement in Herrera.
Herrera is not a case about actual innocence. It's a question of whether you are entitled to bring a new claim.

LEAHY: Well, listen to my question. To the death row inmate who can prove he is innocent, do they have no constitutional right to do so in a court of law before they are executed?

ROBERTS: Well, prove his innocence, the issue arises before you get to the question of proof. And the question is: Do you allow someone who has raised several claims over the years to suddenly say at the last minute that somebody who just died was the person who committed the murder?

And does that mean you start the trial all over again simply on the basis of that last-minute claim or do you require more of a showing at that stage? That's what Herrera was about.

Now I don't think, of course, that anybody who is innocent should suffer as a result of a false conviction. If they have been falsely convicted and they are innocent, they shouldn't be in prison, let alone executed. But the issue...

LEAHY: Does the Constitution permit the execution of an innocent person?

ROBERTS: I would think not. But the question is never: Do you allow the execution of an innocent person? The question is: Do you allow particular claimants to raise different claims, fourth or fifth or sixth time to say at the last minute that somebody who just died was actually the person who committed the murder and let's have a new trial?
Or do you take into account the proceedings that have already gone on?

LEAHY: I'm looking for broad principles here. You said -- let me read it again -- does the Constitution require that a prisoner have the right to seek judicial review of a claim of newly discovered evidence instead of being required to seek relief in the clemency process?

In our view, the Constitution does not guarantee the prisoner such a right.

Is that your view today?

ROBERTS: Well, that's what the court held in Herrera?

LEAHY: I know. Is that your view today?

ROBERTS: Well, I'm not in the position to comment on the correctness or incorrectness of particular court decisions. That's the court's precedent in Herrera. It agreed with the administration position, which was not that innocent people should be subject to imprisonment or execution.

LEAHY: That's a position you took. The Supreme Court's going to revisit this issue in House v. Bell. Because you stated a position on that, does that require you to recuse yourself in the House v. Bell?

ROBERTS: No, because the position was stated in a brief filed on behalf of the administration. And we've talked yesterday about the established principle that lawyers do not subscribe as a personal matter to the views they present on behalf of clients.

LEAHY: Well, in this case, the client's the United States. I mean, you're stating the position, sort of the -- what do they call it? The 10th justice?

ROBERTS: Well, I was the deputy solicitor general on the brief. I didn't argue the case. The solicitor general was the counsel of record in the case. But the position presented in the brief as an advocate is not necessarily the position of every lawyer on the brief.

LEAHY: I think you were more than just a lawyer on the brief. You were one of the most sought after jobs, picked because of your position. I was very impressed when I talked with you about your use of Latin, for example, and French.

And I'm always impressed with somebody with that facility. There is a Latin phrase. And this is not a (inaudible). I'll translate it: (SPEAKING IN LATIN). He who acts through another acts for himself. And that's not the case in Herrera?

ROBERTS: He who acts for another acts for himself? Well, it's the client acting through the lawyer and it's the client who is acting for themselves...

LEAHY: You are the client in this case when you are -- the solicitor general is the client, in effect.

ROBERTS: No, Senator, I disagree with that. The solicitor general represents the interest of the United States and those positions represent that client's position. And in the Herrera case, again, it was the solicitor general who was responsible for the position that was advanced.

I'm not suggesting in any way that I disagree with it or agree with it.

I'm just saying that it is a basic principle in our system that lawyers represent clients and you do not ascribe the position of the client to the lawyer.

It's a position that goes back to John Adams and the Revolution.

LEAHY: Let me ask you this, then. Let me ask you something that couldn't be
ascribed to a justice of the Supreme Court. It's something that both the chairman and I have talked a lot about.

And that goes into some of the mechanics. And if you will let me take a moment, you understand these but, for the audience, the so- called rule of four: It takes only four justices to grant cert, but it takes five to grant a stay of execution.

Usually the courtesy is that, if you get four, a fifth one will sign on. That has not always been followed of late. Of course, we are dealing with the life or death issue. Senator Specter called it bizarre and unacceptable and sent in legislation to change it.

How do you feel if you were chief, if you had four other justices now voting for a stay of execution? Do you feel, as chief, you should do the courtesy of the rule of five and kick in the fifth one?

ROBERTS: It's an issue that I'm familiar with. I do know it arose. And I thought the common practice -- the current practice -- was that, if there are four votes to grant cert, that the court would grant the stay even though that does require the fifth vote, so that you don't have a situation..

LEAHY: It usually occurred -- yes, but that's because one more says, OK we've got four. We will put somebody else's name on here.

ROBERTS: Right.

LEAHY: But that hasn't been followed all the time recently. It usually was. And that's why both Senator Specter and I have raised concern.

Do you feel the earlier practice of once you have four...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: I think that practice makes a lot of sense. I don't want to commit to pursue a particular practice in an area that I'll obviously have to look at in the future. But it obviously makes great sense that, if you have four to grant and that's the rule, that you will consider an issue if there are four to grant; you don't want to moot the case by not staying the sentence.

LEAHY: Right. And I appreciate that, because I know we find a lot of cases where they are perfectly willing to grant cert on monetary damages, but here it's kind of get it right. It doesn't make much difference with an appeal after the execution. You wrote a memo regarding -- in fact, in '83, to the White House lawyer -- you wrote a memo regarding proposals by then Chief Justice Warren Burger to reduce the Supreme Court's case load.

In that memo you volunteered the following: If the justices truly think they're overlooked, the cure lies close at hand. For example, giving coherence to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence by adopting the good faith standard and advocating the role of fourth or fifth guesser in death-penalty cases would eliminate about a half dozen argued cases from the court's docket each term.

Are you saying that judges are just too busy to pay attention to death cases?

ROBERTS: No, Senator.

LEAHY: What are you saying. How do you feel today? That was '83. How do you feel now, 22 years later?

ROBERTS: Well, in '83, of course, they were hearing about 150 case as year. They hear about half that now. Again, I don't want to prejudge questions or even be presumptuous to look down the road, but it seems to me that there's the capability there to hear more cases today, not fewer.

And I'm sure there are reasons for the reduction in the case load that I'm not familiar with that I might become more familiar with, but they handled twice as many cases 20 years ago than they do today, and I think the capability to address more issues is there in the court.

LEAHY: My time is up, but I think you'll find both the chairman and ranking
member of this committee believe they could handle more.

Thank you, Judge.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Senator.

SPECTER: Thank you, Senator Leahy.

The Bible and the Death Penalty: An Interview with Dale S. Recinella


Dale S. Recinella left his law firm to become a lay Catholic chaplain to condemned prisoners in the Bible Belt. When he realized good Christians were supporting the death penalty because they thought it was in the Bible, he began to research the issue. The results were surprising.

By William Bole

For Dale S. Recinella, death row is a family affair. Since walking away from a high-powered law firm in the late 1990s, the former attorney has been going cell to cell as a volunteer, lay Catholic chaplain to condemned prisoners in Florida. His wife, Susan, a clinical psychologist, ministers to families of prisoners awaiting execution, while their five children have corresponded with those inmates and visited others. The Recinellas also serve as a "Christian mentoring family" to a convicted killer in jail for life. They comfort the families of murder victims as well.

Living deep in the Bible Belt, near Florida's border with Georgia, Recinella decided to undertake what he describes as a journey of research into the supposed biblical underpinnings of capital punishment. The result is his book, The Biblical Truth About America's Death Penalty (Northeastern University Press, 2004). He spoke with me about his journeys into the death chambers, and why neither the Bible nor the Church offers moral support for the death penalty as carried out in the United States.

WILLIAM BOLE: Did you always have strong feelings against the death penalty?

DALE S. RECINELLA: No. In fact, if you had come to me in 1985 when I was a partner in a major law firm, I would have told you that I support the death penalty. And the depth of my analysis was, "It says 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' in the Bible." I really didn't think much about it.

Since 1976, 87 percent of executions in the United States have taken place in the Bible Belt.

I was strongly pro-life. I'd been actively involved in working against abortion since I was a college student but had never considered the death penalty a life issue. The teaching of the Church and my personal involvement in prison ministry, which started in 1990 [and extended nearly full-time to death row in 1998], gradually caused me to question my position. And I came to accept the Church's leading that this is a life issue. So long as we can protect innocent life in society without executing people, we need to do everything we can to offer them a humane incarceration and the chance to repent and come back to God.

In a column for Florida Catholic, you told of a death-penalty opponent who accused you of being part of the "machinery of death," because you work inside death row and have witnessed executions. How do you plead? Is that something you wrestle with?

What happens is that if a [condemned] man has asked me to be his spiritual adviser, I meet with him regularly during the weeks leading up to his execution, and then serve as his witness for his execution. Most of the other witnesses are state witnesses and lawyers. His family is not allowed to be there. And my wife stays with his family, after they have to leave the prison grounds six hours before the execution. The question I've had to wrestle with is: Do I somehow support the execution by my presence there? And sometimes activists have challenged me on this.

I came to peace with it after prayer, spiritual counseling, and Scripture study, after looking at our Blessed Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and others who loved him and were present at his Crucifixion. I asked myself, "By being there, were they supporting what was being done?" And the answer of course is absolutely not. They were there for him.

People hadn’t heard of any reason why they shouldn’t support the death penalty.
They were there so that when he looked down from the cross, he saw his mother and some people who loved and cared for him. That is exactly the reason why I'm at the execution. I'm there so that when the man on the gurney looks through the glass, there's at least one face that is there for him, not in support of the crime, but in support of the fact that he is a child a God, and that he is loved and that his humanness remains. And that is how I came to peace with my involvement in the process.

Otherwise, is it safe to say that where you live is not exactly a bastion of Catholic anti-death-penalty activism?

We live in a small town [Macclenny, Florida] of 3900 people, very good people, salt of the earth people, almost all Christian. But our neighbors had never met a Catholic before. And when we moved here, our two youngest children were still living at home, and their friends in school had never met a Catholic before. So the one thing we had to say to ourselves right away is that we really need to behave ourselves, because however we act, this is the way people will think Catholics act. But the other thing we found out is that the people here had not heard of any reason why they should not support the death penalty. Most of the evangelical and Pentecostal denominations support the death penalty and do so with short quotes from Scripture.

As I became more involved in trying to understand support for the death penalty in America, I found out that since 1976, 87 percent of executions in the United States have taken place in the Bible Belt. The backbone of support is a religious support by good people who believe that in order to be good Christians, they have to support the death penalty because it's in the Bible. This prompted me to start a whole journey of religious research into the actual death penalty under the Bible, back when it was the law of the land, in the Torah, in the Old Testament, and to construct a comparison between what's in the Bible and what we're actually doing.

Neither the Bible nor the Church offers moral support for the death penalty.
For example, in Exodus (23:7), there's a command: Thou shalt not execute the innocent. This is already stated in some other places, but right there, very specifically, it's clear: absolute certainty—not beyond a reasonable doubt, not clear and overwhelming evidence—absolute certainty was the minimum threshold requirement for the biblical death penalty.

In America, if one talks about requiring absolute certainty as a condition to the death penalty, the response is, "We couldn't possibly afford that. It would be too expensive to have absolute certainty." But if we can't afford absolute certainty, then we certainly can't afford the death penalty if we're people of biblical faith.

That's part of your pitch to Bible Belt Protestants. What do you say to Catholics?

Well, thankfully with the leadership of the Pope and our bishops, it's much easier to explain to Catholics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear that while continuing to uphold the right to resort to the death penalty by governments, it's not appropriate for governments to resort to that right, unless there's absolutely no other means available to protect innocent life in society. And in modern First World societies like our own, modern prison systems make it absolutely clear that we can keep people from killing again without having to execute them.

Still, many say they don't shed a tear when murderers are executed, because they're guilty as hell. What do you say?

I say, ‘Come with me’ and distribute communion… the people you're going to meet are overwhelmingly human.

I say, "Come with me."

File an application to come with me and distribute communion. Not because the people you're going to meet are mostly innocent, but because the people you're going to meet are overwhelmingly human. And what happens when we strip away the monstrosity image and start dealing with people with names and faces is that we realize these are human beings, that these are people just like ourselves who have made mistakes, perhaps much worse mistakes, and that there is a humanness to them that needs to be respected.

I would say come with me and meet the people you think may be suitable for execution, not because the crimes weren't horrible, but because by standing there and praying with somebody, you enter into their humanity. You see that they too are children of God, and God is working in their lives. I think it changes the way we look at people who fill these cells.

LAST REQUEST - OHIO DR PRISONER HOPES TO SEE DYING FATHER

LAST REQUEST - OHIO DR PRISONER HOPES TO SEE DYING FATHER

Jason Robb is on Ohio's death row, but housed in the Supermax prison at Youngstown instead of with most of the OH DR population at Mansfield.

If you have read Staughton Lynn's book about the Lucasville uprising, you will know about this case, and you will know that Jason Robb is quite likely innocent of the murder for which he is awaiting execution. But that it irrelevant to the matter at hand:

Jason's dad is dying of kidney failure, with a life expectancy of about a month.
Jason's parents live in California, and they do not have much money. Jason's supporters are looking for a donation of funds or frequent flyer miles with which to bring both of Jason's parents from California to Ohio for a last visit. Hospitality upon their arrival in Ohio has already been arranged - all we need to do is get them to Ohio.
And quickly.

If you can help, please CALL ME at 800-973-6548 or e-mail

Thanks.

--abe
Abraham J. Bonowitz
Director, CUADP


YES FRIENDS!
There is an Alternative to the Death Penalty

Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
(CUADP) works to end the death penalty in the United
States through aggressive campaigns of public education
and the promotion of tactical grassroots activism.

Visit or call 800-973-6548
PMB 335, 2603 NW 13th St (AKA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy)
Gainesville, FL 32609


In memory of Frances Newton

From CEDP National Office:

In memory of Frances Newton, we should remember the last words spoken by Shaka Sankofa who, like Frances, was executed by the state of Texas despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence.

“This is nothing more than pure and simple murder. This is what is happening tonight in America. Nothing more than state sanctioned murders, state sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight. This is what is happening my brothers. Nothing less. They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people will never do. We must remember brothers, this is what we're faced with. You must take this endeavor forward. You must stay strong. You must continue to hold your heads up, and to be there. And I love you, too, my brother. All of you who are standing with me in solidarity. We will prevail. We will keep marching. Keep marching Black people, Black power. Keep marching Black people, Black power. Keep marching Black people. Keep marching Black people. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight.”

Newton executed for 1987 slayings
Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE — Frances Newton was executed today for the fatal shootings of her husband and two children 18 years ago, becoming the third woman, and first black woman, to be put to death in the state since executions resumed in 1982.

Strapped to the death chamber gurney and with her parents among the people watching, she declined to make a final statement, quietly saying "no" and shaking her head when the warden asked if she would like to speak.

Newton briefly turned her head to make eye contact with her family as the drugs began flowing. She appeared to attempt to mouth something to her relatives, but the drugs took affect. She coughed once and gasped as her eyes closed and her mouth remained slightly open. Eight minutes later at 6:17 p.m. CDT, she was pronounced dead.

One of her sisters stood flat against a wall at the rear of the death house, her arms raised against the wall and her head buried in her arms, refusing to watch. Her parents held hands and her mother brushed away a tear before they walked to the back of the chamber to console their other daughter.

About three dozen demonstrators chanted outside but the crowd paled in comparison to the group of hundreds that assembled in 1998 to protest the execution of Karla Faye Tucker, who was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.

Girl: Feud led to Deltona killings

A teen friend of Troy Victorino's suggests a man who wasn't at the house the night of the slayings enraged the suspect.
Kristen Reed Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted September 14, 2005

The woman investigators have said was the main focus of the attackers in the Deltona massacre might not have been the primary target.

It might have been her boyfriend and another man -- a friend who wasn't at the Telford Lane home the night six people and a dog were beaten to death with aluminum baseball bats but, according to a witness, may have inadvertently set off the chain of events that led to one of the worst mass killings in Central Florida.

In a newly released interview with investigators, a then-16-year-old girl who called herself a close friend of accused ringleader Troy Victorino described a feud between Victorino and a man named Abigael Vazquez that escalated in the week before the Aug. 6, 2004, slayings.

She accused Vazquez, 19, of persuading victim Francisco "Flaco" Ayo Roman to take the video-game systems and clothing Victorino, 28, had left behind in the home where he was squatting, according to the investigative reports. She said as a result, Victorino became enraged at Vazquez and Roman.

"He was so mad," the girl said of Victorino. She said he told her, "They took everything. I have nothing. They left me with empty suitcases and my court papers."

Neither the girl nor her parents could be reached for comment by the Orlando Sentinel.

Her account echoes the statement of another witness who was recruited for the attack but backed out. Brandon Graham, who said he initially agreed to help Victorino carry out the killings because he was afraid for his own life, told investigators that the week before the killings Victorino shot at a carload of people, including Vazquez and Roman. Victorino told Graham that the people in the car had robbed him, a report shows.

Investigators have said that Victorino was so angry about the missing items he recruited three friends to beat the six people staying at the Telford Lane home and that 22-year-old Erin Belanger, Roman's girlfriend, was the main target. Her body was the most badly beaten.

The items -- two Xbox video-game systems, a Game Cube, clothing and personal documents -- were left in Belanger's grandmother's house, where Victorino and others had been staying. When Belanger discovered the squatters, she called deputies, who said she could keep or throw out what was left behind.

"I told her to do whatever she wanted with it," Erin's father, Bill Belanger, said. He said his daughter and some friends went to the house to get rid of some of the stuff. Erin Belanger never told him the names of who went. "She shouldn't be murdered because of it."

The 16-year-old girl told investigators she and Victorino spotted people, including Vazquez, wearing Victorino's clothes.

She also said that Victorino had decided to handle the issue legally. "What I understood was that Troy called the police on them twice and the police didn't do anything," the girl said.

Volusia County sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said they have no record of the incident being reported.

"I've got to believe if it was reported to us we would have tried to take the appropriate action and at least document the incident," he said. Davidson said deputies did document stolen lawn equipment Victorino reported July 3, 2004.

And other investigative records indicate Victorino had plans to retaliate against the people he thought were responsible for taking his belongings.

Victorino and 19-year-olds Jerone Hunter, Michael Salas and Robert Anthony Cannon are charged with 14 felonies and face the death penalty if convicted in the attack.

The girl's statement included other details that family members of the victims cast doubt on. She said Victorino had an amicable conversation with Belanger about getting his things back and the two went to her grandmother's house the Sunday before she was killed but discovered the items were gone.

Bill Belanger said his daughter did tell Victorino he could get his stuff back, but she was too afraid of him to ever go to the house with him.

Vazquez's mother said Tuesday that she had never heard of the accusation against her son before.

"This is not true," Madeline Rivera said. "I don't know why she's saying bad things about Abigael."

Vazquez told investigators the day his friends' bodies were discovered that he and Victorino had a conflict. "I know that he wanted me," he said. "Troy thinks me and Flaco and Erin went into the house and stole all his clothes and stuff."

Vazquez also said Victorino's friends had been threatening his life, according to his statement. Weeks before the killings, Vazquez and his family also filed a complaint accusing Victorino of beating him up.

Vazquez has since been convicted of felony aggravated battery for hitting a friend over the head with a brick. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Kristen Reed can be reached at kreed@orlandosentinel.com or 386-851-7924.

Death penalty an option

BERNALILLO - Zacharia Craig offered no reaction to a judge's refusal to remove the death penalty from consideration if a jury finds him guilty of killing a State Police officer four years ago.

That flat effect is a symptom of the mental illness a psychologist says Craig, 23, is afflicted with and likely suffered to an even greater degree Aug. 1, 2001, when authorities say he mowed down State Police Officer Lloyd Aragon.

Craig's attorney, Jeff Buckels, had argued that his client's illness should preclude him from facing the death penalty, because it should be treated no differently than mental retardation.

State District Judge Louis P. McDonald denied the motion.

Federal and state constitutional amendments prohibit the execution of the mentally retarded, but the rules do not apply to the mentally ill.

After the judge's ruling, Buckels told the court he planned to file a motion asking the courts to find that Craig is mentally retarded as legally defined.

That appears to be in opposition to Buckels' own expert witness, Dr. Eric Westfried, who Monday testified that while Craig might be in no better shape than a mildly mentally retarded person, he was not mentally retarded in the classical sense, because he scored well in other cognitive areas.

Craig is expected to be tried Jan. 23 on a first-degree murder charge at the Sandoval County Judicial Complex in Bernalillo.

His case has languished for four years because three times a judge has ruled that he is incompetent to stand trial.

In June 2004, McDonald ruled Craig had been treated to competency, and District Attorney Lemuel Martinez renewed his vow to seek the death penalty in the case.

Craig has remained hospitalized at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, the state psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, N.M., since he was first ruled incompetent in May 2002.

Psychologists have testified that Craig suffered from severe Grave's disease, a thyroid condition with symptoms that include psychosis, poor judgment, agitation and distractibility. The disease has since been treated with medication.

On Monday, Westfried, a psychologist, told the court that Craig also has a moderate to severe disorder of the brain's right hemisphere. Symptoms include a problem with visual and spacing functions, an almost autistic inability to recognize negative emotions in others or appreciate consequences, poor social skills and inability to form intimate relations.

Craig, he said, also has an IQ of 72, considered borderline to mild mental retardation.

Craig was 19 when authorities say he shoplifted cold medication from a Grants Wal-Mart and led officers on a wild, 45-mile chase east on I-40 in a stolen pickup.

Officers at the scene have testified that Craig aimed the truck straight for Aragon, 37, who was standing in the median after placing stop sticks across the road.

Aragon, of Grants, died instantly.

Mental illness vs. mental retardation is an especially timely issue in light of last month's shooting deaths of five people, including two Albuquerque police officers, all on Aug. 18. Attorneys for the accused, John Hyde, say he has a long history of schizophrenia and is not competent to stand trial.

Hyde, 48, is undergoing a 90-day competency evaluation at the Las Vegas psychiatric facility.

Nevada high court urged to overturn death sentence

By BRENDAN RILEY
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The state Supreme Court was urged Tuesday to overturn the death sentence ordered for Alfonso "Slinky" Blake, an aspiring R&B artist convicted of killing two women and shooting a third in the southern Nevada desert.

Robert Miller, deputy Clark County public defender, told the high court that the trial judge in Blake's case erred in letting jurors hear remarks about prior bad acts that hurt his temporary insanity defense.

An expert witness for the defense testified that Blake suffered a brief psychotic disorder and then the prosecutor sought to undermine the testimony by bringing up several previous violent incidents in which Blake had been involved years earlier, Miller said.

Chief Justice Nancy Becker questioned whether it would be wrong to allow references to such incidents as long as there was a "reasonable basis" to mention them.

Miller said there's a requirement for what's known as a "Petrocelli hearing" outside the presence of jurors, in which prosecutors must get a go-ahead from a judge to present details about a defendant that they want the jury to know about.

Deputy Clark County District Attorney Robert Daskas, the trial prosecutor, countered that there was no need for such a hearing in Blake's case. He added evidence of Blake's guilt was overwhelming.

Daskas said Blake wanted the three women to work as topless dancers and give him part of their earnings, and when they refused he deliberately marched them into the desert and shot each of them twice. Nothing in the execution-style shootings suggested he was temporarily insane, the prosecutor added.

Blake was sentenced to die after being convicted of two counts of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon and one count of attempted murder for the March 5, 2003, shootings. The murder victims were Sophear Choy, 19, and Priscilla Van Dine, 23. Choy's older sister, Kim, also was shot but survived.

The high court will issue a ruling on Blake's appeal at a later date.

March honors executed woman

September 13, 2005

Randolph County- As their feet hit the pavement, members and supporters of the Prison and Jail Project are focused on fighting injustice. It's a road they say is long and hard, but can be victorious.

"This year we're lifting up the Lena Baker tragedy, as we come into Cuthbert over the next few days we'll be talking about her life, tragic execution death, and it's just coincidental that she received this posthumous pardon in advance of the Freedomwalk," says director John Cole Vodicka.

So participants say this year's walk is more of a celebration for Baker, a woman they say was wrongfully convicted and executed for murder.

"For us it was about a seven year effort to kind of lift her story up and out of the grave literally, and to let folks know that this woman was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die, and executed wrongfully," says Vodicka.

Walk organizers say Lena Baker's pardon represents a shift in the legal system and they hope her case will bring new life to others like it.

"Our work is ongoing. If we had to measure our work by the victories, or the number of people we're able to get out of jail, or into a alternative setting, we'd be miserably failing in many people's eyes. But you have to be patient. You have to persevere."

They must persevere because even the demonstrators admit the journey for justice is a long one.

A one-women play entitled "Who Will Sing for Lena?" will be performed Tuesday night at 7:30 at Randolph-Clay High School. It's based on the life, trial, and execution of Lena Baker.

You can also see the play Wednesday night at 7:30 at the Civil Rights Movement Museum in Albany.

Feedback: news@walb.com

Court to hear pivotal death penalty appeal

States' rights, power of president, world law at issue in Mexican's case
8:46 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 13, 2005
By ALLEN PUSEY / The Dallas Morning News


WASHINGTON – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is expected to hear arguments Wednesday that will place the court between the rock of a controversial death penalty case and the hard place of international law.

And to increase the stakes, the space in between involves presidential power.

The case involves the 1994 conviction in Houston of Jose Ernesto Medellin for his part in the rape and murder of two teen girls.

Although he has lived in the U.S. since he was a small child, Mr. Medellin was born in Mexico. He is arguing that his conviction is tainted by the state's failure to inform the Mexican consul of the charges against him, as required by international treaty.

The state argues that Mr. Medellin never asserted the treaty obligation until a jury had placed him on Texas' death row. It argues that Mr. Medellin is asserting a constitutional right that is unavailable to U.S. citizens.

The case, which has been rejected once by the Texas court, has profound importance in Mexico, where there is no civilian death penalty. Mexico has long complained that its citizens should not be subjected to the death penalty in the U.S.

But the case is also being followed closely by those in the U.S. concerned by an unusual assertion of presidential power and by those who decry the growing influence of international law on U.S. cases.

The Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, approved by the U.S. in 1969, requires that governments inform the appropriate embassy when they have arrested foreigners for serious crimes if the suspects request that they do so. But many suspects are not told that they can ask for such a step.

Last year, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the U.S. was obligated to review all 51 complaints by Mexican citizens facing execution in Texas and several other states that the Mexican government had not been informed of their arrest.

Armed with that ruling, Mr. Medellin appealed his death sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in February, shortly before the case was to be heard, the Bush administration ordered the states to conduct the case-by-case review requested by the International Court.

In June, the high court returned Mr. Medellin's case to the lower courts. Now back before the state's highest criminal court, the issues in the Medellin case have become more complicated.

In a "friend of the court" brief, the Bush administration asked the court to consider the president's order as binding, reflecting his power to administer the nation's treaty obligations.

But Alabama, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico – all of whom have Mexican citizens facing execution – asked the Texas court to, in effect, reject the presidential order without ignoring it. Viewing it as an affront to the state court systems, they have asked the Texas judges to consider the White House action only a "request."

The states said the White House document, referred to as a presidential memorandum, is "clearly a request to the state courts rather than an order of any kind."

"It is unlikely, to put it mildly, that President Bush intended his two-sentence memorandum to invite a judicial inquiry into such basic questions of constitutional structure," they wrote to the court.

Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who practices frequently before the U.S. Supreme Court, said that with so many interests at stake, the justices will follow the case closely.

"The Supreme Court is very focused on it. The world is focused on it," he said. "It's a major case that will determine whether the U.S. is going to bend a little to world opinion or chart its own course."

E-mail apusey@dallasnews.com

Newton executed for 1987 slayings

Frances Newton has been on death row since she was convicted of killing her husband and two children in 1987.

Associated Press file
Frances Newton has been on death row since she was convicted of killing her husband and two children in 1987.

HUNTSVILLE — Frances Newton was executed today for the fatal shootings of her husband and two children 18 years ago, becoming the third woman, and first black woman, to be put to death in the state since executions resumed in 1982.


Strapped to the death chamber gurney and with her parents among the people watching, she declined to make a final statement, quietly saying "no" and shaking her head when the warden asked if she would like to speak.

Newton briefly turned her head to make eye contact with her family as the drugs began flowing. She appeared to attempt to mouth something to her relatives, but the drugs took affect. She coughed once and gasped as her eyes closed and her mouth remained slightly open. Eight minutes later at 6:17 p.m. CDT, she was pronounced dead.

One of her sisters stood flat against a wall at the rear of the death house, her arms raised against the wall and her head buried in her arms, refusing to watch. Her parents held hands and her mother brushed away a tear before they walked to the back of the chamber to console their other daughter.

About three dozen demonstrators chanted outside but the crowd paled in comparison to the group of hundreds that assembled in 1998 to protest the execution of Karla Faye Tucker, who was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.

Ferger trial graphic, says state attorney

After years of delays, jury selection started Monday. Citing pretrial publicity, the defense asks the judge to move the trial to Pinellas County.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published September 13, 2005


DADE CITY - Potential jurors in the trial of Gary Steven Cannon were warned right away Monday about what they will face if chosen to decide his guilt or innocence.

"This is a charge of first-degree murder," prosecutor Bruce Bartlett said. "It involves the death of a 9-year-old girl. The evidence will be graphic.

"It will not be a nice thing."

Sharra Ferger was found half-naked, stabbed dozens of times, sexually assaulted, with a brutal bite mark on her left shoulder.

Her body was discovered Oct. 3, 1997, face down in a field near her Blanton home, authorities say, hours after she was lured out into the dark by someone familiar to her.

Four years later, two were indicted in connection with the killing: Cannon, 25, a family acquaintance, and Gary Elishi Cochran, Sharra's 39-year-old uncle. Eight years later, after countless legal delays, Cannon is the first to be tried in her slaying.

Lawyers for Cannon, facing a life sentence if convicted, would not say whether they planned to put their client on the witness stand.

"That remains to be seen," attorney Bjorn Brunvand said after court Monday. "I can't tell you one way or the other at this stage.

During the trial's first phase, jury selection, Cannon's lawyers stressed their client's constitutional protection from self-incrimination to prospective jurors.

"The defense does not have to present any witnesses," attorney Danny Hernandez told them, "and the defendant doesn't have to testify."

Jurors are barred from knowledge of Cannon's adult and juvenile crimes - unless he testifies. Then the state is free to bring up his felony convictions - but not the charges, or details of the crimes.

Which is why his defense team was especially concerned about pretrial publicity surrounding one of Pasco's most high-profile murder cases. Stories in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune printed Sunday and Monday discussed the allegations and evidence against Cannon, his substance abuse problem and criminal record.

That led to a defense motion to move the trial to Pinellas County. "My concern is that it would be very difficult to find a fair and impartial jury in Pasco County," Brunvand said.

A handful of potential jurors had read articles and seen televised news reports about the case. A few more remembered when Sharra's body was found in 1997. But Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper said it was too early to move the trial: "You do realize I can't consider that request until we can't pick a jury."

A jury wasn't picked Monday. Selection will continue today.

Cannon sat silently throughout the proceedings, his hair closely cropped, dressed in a tan dress shirt, slacks and sweater. To stay warm in the frigid courtroom he pulled the sweater sleeves over his hands. He spent most of the day making eye contact with his mother, Edna Jenkins.

Jury selection provided a few light moments. Even Cannon chuckled from time to time. Like when one woman said she'd already tried one case, and hoped to avoid more jury duty.

"I thought I could sneak away with it when I turned 70," she said. "But you caught up with me."

Mostly, though, it was a somber affair as some grappled with the nature of the allegations.

One juror said five of her relatives had been sexually abused.

"So being fair and impartial would be an issue for you?" the judge asked.

"It is an issue," the juror said.

Another juror said her daughter had been raped and the attacker convicted. Still another juror said the March kidnapping and killing of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Citrus County gave her a "flashback" to the Ferger case.

The judge prodded her to reveal more. The juror said a childhood friend had been raped and killed.

"It was years ago," the juror said. "I try to bury it."

One juror was so emotional she couldn't tell her story in public. In a private bench conference, the judge gave her a tissue, then excused her from the courtroom.

At day's end, the judge did grant one defense request: to get Cannon out of the county jail's psychiatric ward where he was being kept away from other inmates during trial. His lawyers said it was too noisy for him to sleep.

Instead, he'll switch places with another inmate: Cochran, his alleged accomplice.

"Mr. Cochran won't be getting a good night's sleep," the judge said. "Mr. Cannon will."

Gov. Bush sparks review of Cohen case

Steve Esdale is determined to prove that his father, Murray Cohen, was killed by his wife, Maria Cohen.

FDLE will take another look at Sarasota man's death
By MATTHEW DOIG
matthew.doig@heraldtribune.com

SARASOTA COUNTY -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement plans to renew its inquiry into whether a Sarasota man who appeared to die of heart failure in 2003 actually was murdered.

Gov. Jeb Bush personally sparked the review by asking a staff attorney to "re-inquire into the circumstances surrounding" Murray Cohen's death, according to an Aug. 30 letter from Bush's office to Cohen's son, Steve Esdale.

The governor's request followed an Aug. 24 Herald-Tribune story that raised new questions about whether Cohen was already dead when his wife called 911.

The story cited a forensic audio expert who said he can hear a man ask for an ambulance in the background of the taped call between Maria Cohen and the 911 operator.

Murray Cohen was supposed to be the only man in the room at the time of the 911 call, and Maria Cohen told the 911 operator that her husband was "totally gone" before the male voice is heard on the tape.

While state officials confirmed Monday that they will review the case, they downplayed the significance of the governor's request.

A governor's spokesman called Bush's request routine, and an FDLE official stopped short of calling the new inquiry an investigation.

"The use of the term 'review' is better," FDLE spokesman Larry Long said.

Even so, the request for a review is a stronger response than Esdale got from Bush a year ago.

In July 2004, Bush's deputy general counsel told Esdale that a separate FDLE investigation into his father's death "is not warranted at this time."

For nearly three years, Esdale has sought to prove that Maria Cohen murdered his father for his million-dollar estate. His relentless efforts have forced local, state and federal investigators to examine his father's death repeatedly.

Each investigation found no evidence that Cohen died of anything other than natural causes.

But a Herald-Tribune investigation found a number of inconsistencies that lent credence to some of Esdale's claims -- including that his father's voice could be heard asking for help on the 911 tape.

Esdale said he would withhold judgment until after he sees the results of the review.

"If this is a legitimate investigation, then it's good news," Esdale said. "I'm not looking to bash anybody, I just want justice and closure."

Lt. Chuck Lesaltato, a spokesman for the Sarasota Sheriff's Office, said Sheriff Bill Balkwill also called FDLE after the r the Herald-Tribune story was published and asked them to look at the case again with his office.

"We'll be working with FDLE, and also our guys will be looking at it too," Lesaltato said.

Maria Cohen could not be reached for comment.

Paul Ginsberg, the forensic audio expert hired by the Herald-Tribune to analyze the 911 call, said Monday he had not been contacted by investigators about his analysis.

Long said one of the agency's "seasoned homicide investigators" had been assigned to review any new information regarding Cohen's death. But the agent had just returned from helping with hurricane relief in Mississippi and had yet to begin working on the Cohen 911 call, Long said.

Russell Schweiss, a spokesman for Bush, said it's not unusual for Bush to ask FDLE to reexamine a closed case.

Schweiss pointed to the case of Johnnie Mae Chappell, a black woman who was murdered in Jacksonville in 1964. In April, Bush asked FDLE to see "whether enough evidence exists today to support the filing of criminal charges" against three men who were indicted but not charged in Chappell's death.

Gun at center of death row appeal

Woman's execution scheduled for Wednesday in slaying of family
08:31 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Associated Press


HUNTSVILLE, Texas – The gun inside 7-year-old Alton Newton's blue knapsack was the focus of the last-ditch legal battle lawyers were fighting in hopes of keeping the slain boy's mother out of the Texas death chamber Wednesday.

Frances Newton Frances Newton, 40, faced lethal injection for the fatal shooting 18 years ago of her son, her 21-month-old daughter, Farrah, and her husband, Adrian, 23, at their Houston apartment.

She would be the 13th prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active capital punishment state but only the third woman in Texas – and the first black woman – since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. Nationally, she'd be the 11th woman executed since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume after a decade-long hiatus.

Ms. Newton, who denies involvement in the killings, spent Tuesday visiting with relatives at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Mountain View Unit outside Gatesville in Central Texas, where the state's 11 condemned women are held. It's about 140 miles northwest of Huntsville, where she would be taken for the lethal injection scheduled for after 6 p.m. today.

Her attorneys waited for word from the U.S. Supreme Court, where they filed an appeal Monday after Texas courts, lower federal courts and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected their arguments that she was innocent.

Claims her attorneys have made are that evidence used at her trial was improperly destroyed, that the gun linked to the slayings was not the only weapon recovered by police and that she has not been a problem inmate.

Ms. Newton, accompanied by a cousin, found the bodies the evening of April 7, 1987. Her husband had been shot in the head, the two children in the chest.

Ms. Newton acknowledges hiding a .25-caliber handgun in the bag at an abandoned house where it was recovered by police. Ballistics tests showed it was the gun used in the slayings, but her attorneys argued it wasn't the weapon Ms. Newton left there, that police recovered a second weapon and the guns were switched.

Myths about the death penalty.....From a Newspaper in India


Kimmo Suominen finds that abolition is the only standard by which capital punishment can be judged to be fair.

Combat Law, Volume 2, Issue 2 -

Myth No. 1: Death Penalty results in reduced rates of homicides, murders and serious crimes in a society.

This is the most common myth which works in favour of imposition of death penalty. Typically, people believe that if there were possibility to be sentenced to death, the prospective offenders would think twice before committing a crime and could even totally give up their criminal intentions. This is what is believed to be the "deterrent effect" of the death penalty and many people believe that deterrent effect of death penalty is a very effective way to prevent murders and similar criminal behavior.

However, in reality, innumerable studies from all over the world have revealed totally different results. In fact, many studies even show the opposite effect, that existence of the death penalty as a punishment is brutalizing society and making it more violent. It is of course impossible to prove with absolute certainty for example how many murders have been prevented or how many people more have been killed because of the death penalty, and further, there are several factors according to criminologist researches, which can affect to criminal activity and criminal behavior and deterrent effect of punishment is only one of these factors. There are, however, several studies showing that there hasn't been any remarkable change, for example, in murder rates, after abolishing death penalty and also several studies go on to prove that threat of death penalty does not have preventive affect for people committing serious offences. What is remarkable is that some studies have even shown results that effect of the death penalty is just the opposite: existence of the death penalty is correlated with increased homicides!

After looking at the available statistics and selecting some very similar countries where factors relevant to causing or preventing criminality are quite similar, and then selecting from amongst those the countries with and without the death penalty, it is possible to make some careful conclusion as to how effective death penalty is in preventing serious offences. For example the western (post) industrial countries (USA, EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Monaco and Liechtenstein) have all abolished the death penalty, except USA, and still, for example, murder rates are much higher in USA than in any of these other, similar, countries.

Of course it is possible to make statements that if the death penalty would not exist even more murders would happen in USA, but it is difficult to find support for this statement from the studies. There has been no remarkable increase in murder rates in those US states which have abolished death penalty. In fact, the survey released in September 2000 by New York Times found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with death penalty has been 48 percent to 101 percent higher than in states without death penalty. Also, the FBI data show that 10 of the 12 states without capital punishment have homicide rates below the national average (source: Amnesty USA).

Also, for example, in Canada, after the abolition of the death penalty in 1976, Canada's homicide rate has declined. In 2000, there were 542 homicides in Canada - 16 fewer than in 1998, and 159 fewer than in 1975 (one year prior to the abolition of capital punishment). ( Source: Correctional Service Canada. derived from Logan R. Crime Statistics in Canada, 2000, Juristat, Vol. 21 No. 8, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001, p. 6; and Tremblay, S. Crime Statistics in Canada, 1998, Juristat, Vol. 19 No. 9, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1999, p. 6.)

Some people also believe that the reason USA has such high crime rates is because of the reason that it is easier to get guns or firearms in the USA than in other western countries. That may, of course, be part of the reason, but it still doesn't explain everything: First of all, it is not a big problem to get a gun in Europe either, and secondly guns do not shoot the people themselves: you need a person to get a gun and to fire it.. Then, one may ask, what are the reasons that the deterrent effect is not working? This is mostly because people are not thinking about the consequences and punishment when they are committing serious crimes. Most of the homicides are committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in a state of mind, which lowers person's discretion and capability to think clearly, like rage, anger, fear or panic.

Some of the homicides are also committed by children or mentally ill persons who do not understand perfectly what they are doing. There are other types of serious offences, for example murder or homicide, which are done deliberately after carefully planning by clear thinking offender. However, even in these cases the deterrent effect does not work very effectively as either these offenders do not believe that they could get caught or they don't care about the sentence they will get if they get caught. Infact, sometimes if a person knows that the death penalty is waiting for him, nothing will hold him anymore and he could go on to commit more homicides!

Myth No. 2: Innocent people are not convicted in death penalty trials.

It is also often believed that proceedings in the death penalty trials are so meticulously carried out that there is not an iota of scope for error and in practice it is impossible to send an innocent man to death. However, there is no such a thing as 'foolproof' trial as long as human beings are working in the courtrooms, investigating the questions of guilty, testifying, calculating the evidences, or even passing judgments! There is always a possibility of making mistakes and those mistakes have happened several times even during the last few years! Convictions of the people because of wrong or faulty grounds are not fiction. For example, according to some studies, only in the USA, around 100 people been released from a death row because they have afterwards found innocent. It is also common that after getting more proofs, accused are found to be not guilty for the same crime for which they were convicted and it is possible that murder changes to manslaughter, and that one could invite death penalty while other does not. If an innocent person has been sentenced to prison, it is, at least in theory, possible to compensate the wrong judgment passed on that person by releasing him and compensating his lost with money. However, once a person is sentenced to death, then it is final, there is no chance to compensate him even theoretically!

Myth No. 3: It is cheaper to sentence a person to death than keep him a lifetime in prison.

First of all, it is impossible to fix any price on a human life. This by itself is sufficient to explode the third myth! But, even at the other, practical level, it is established that the actual cost of one death penalty case is usually much higher than the cost incurred on an individual serving life imprisonment. This is because of higher pre-trial costs and costs incurred during the court process. In the death penalty cases, states need to guarantee all the possible requirements of the fair trial, much more investigation, much more time, more defence lawyers to protect accused, more prosecutor and more bureaucracy. This means, both, higher investigative costs and higher extra costs during the trial. Also, many times death penalty is ultimately changed to life imprisonment and this means also extra costs after the more costly trial.

Of course, all this depends on the death penalty system of the country. If, in a country it is possible to award death penalty after "normal" trial, i.e., without extra investigations or other extra protections for the accused, the costs of investigations and trial go down, but a system which does not take care of the necessary requirements for the fair trial and procedural fairness especially in death penalty cases, is a system that has failed badly. Also, in any case, in such circumstances, the possibility of faulty sentences is bound to rise, which goes against the myth no. 2.

Myth No. 4: In death penalty cases, the probability of being sentenced to die is the same for everyone.

In theory, equality before the law is guaranteed in constitutions and in international conventions all over the world, which is great if it would work well. However, several studies have found that in death penalty cases, the likelihood to be convicted is much higher for the poor, less educated, ethnic minorities and religious minorities, as compared to the privileged individuals who have been accused of similar offences. Some studies have found that from 80 to 90 percent of the death row inmates are from minority groups and as many as 95 percent are classified as poor. Also, death penalty may be used for political reasons as well. Infact, there are so many possibilities of this kind that only when it is abolished from the law can a person be sure that the death penalty will not be used against him for the wrong reasons!

States' rights, power of president, world law at issue in Mexican's case

Court to hear pivotal death penalty appeal

08:46 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 13, 2005
By ALLEN PUSEY / The Dallas Morning News


WASHINGTON – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is expected to hear arguments Wednesday that will place the court between the rock of a controversial death penalty case and the hard place of international law.

And to increase the stakes, the space in between involves presidential power.

The case involves the 1994 conviction in Houston of Jose Ernesto Medellin for his part in the rape and murder of two teen girls.

Although he has lived in the U.S. since he was a small child, Mr. Medellin was born in Mexico. He is arguing that his conviction is tainted by the state's failure to inform the Mexican consul of the charges against him, as required by international treaty.

The state argues that Mr. Medellin never asserted the treaty obligation until a jury had placed him on Texas' death row. It argues that Mr. Medellin is asserting a constitutional right that is unavailable to U.S. citizens.

The case, which has been rejected once by the Texas court, has profound importance in Mexico, where there is no civilian death penalty. Mexico has long complained that its citizens should not be subjected to the death penalty in the U.S.

But the case is also being followed closely by those in the U.S. concerned by an unusual assertion of presidential power and by those who decry the growing influence of international law on U.S. cases.

The Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, approved by the U.S. in 1969, requires that governments inform the appropriate embassy when they have arrested foreigners for serious crimes if the suspects request that they do so. But many suspects are not told that they can ask for such a step.

Last year, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the U.S. was obligated to review all 51 complaints by Mexican citizens facing execution in Texas and several other states that the Mexican government had not been informed of their arrest.

Armed with that ruling, Mr. Medellin appealed his death sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in February, shortly before the case was to be heard, the Bush administration ordered the states to conduct the case-by-case review requested by the International Court.

In June, the high court returned Mr. Medellin's case to the lower courts. Now back before the state's highest criminal court, the issues in the Medellin case have become more complicated.

In a "friend of the court" brief, the Bush administration asked the court to consider the president's order as binding, reflecting his power to administer the nation's treaty obligations.

But Alabama, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico – all of whom have Mexican citizens facing execution – asked the Texas court to, in effect, reject the presidential order without ignoring it. Viewing it as an affront to the state court systems, they have asked the Texas judges to consider the White House action only a "request."

The states said the White House document, referred to as a presidential memorandum, is "clearly a request to the state courts rather than an order of any kind."

"It is unlikely, to put it mildly, that President Bush intended his two-sentence memorandum to invite a judicial inquiry into such basic questions of constitutional structure," they wrote to the court.

Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who practices frequently before the U.S. Supreme Court, said that with so many interests at stake, the justices will follow the case closely.

"The Supreme Court is very focused on it. The world is focused on it," he said. "It's a major case that will determine whether the U.S. is going to bend a little to world opinion or chart its own course."

E-mail apusey@dallasnews.com

Killer of 3 in 1998 Thanksgiving robbery gets life in prison

In West Palm Beach, a man whose death sentence was vacated by the state Supreme Court has been sentenced to life in prison, 5 years after he pleaded guilty to the slayings of three people during a Thanksgiving Day robbery.

Thomas Thibault was sentenced Monday after prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty again.

"He told the truth from the beginning and gave these families some sense of truth about what took place with their children and loved ones," Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles said.

Defense attorney James Eisenberg said, "This was justice, true justice." Thibault, 30, was condemned in September 2001 for the murders of Bryan Harrison, 21, Charlotte Kenyon, 26, and Daniel Ketchum, 27.

Thibault, then a house painter, executed the 3 victims after holding them hostage during a 1998 robbery.

Thibault declined a plea offer to get a life sentence in return for his testimony against another man charged in the crime, but later pleaded guilty without a guaranteed sentence.

The Florida Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 2003, citing a 1974 ruling that a convicted killer who faces the death sentence can waive the right to a jury sentencing but the record of the case must show that the defendant opted to be sentenced by the judge alone. If the record is silent, the death sentence will not be upheld on appeal.

(source: Associated Press)

Revisiting the Spirko case

Death row inmate John Spirko will not face his scheduled execution later this month. His time on death row has been extended by at least 56 days.

Last week, Gov. Bob Taft ordered a new clemency hearing for Spirko after the Ohio Parole Board took the unprecedented step of asking for a chance to reconsider his case.

Given the significant doubts surrounding Spirko's capital conviction, one can only wonder why Taft didn't simply commute the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. At least one outside legal expert calls the Spirko case the "weakest" death penalty conviction he's ever seen.

As this page has said before, Spirko is not a sympathetic character. His long
criminal record - which includes murder - has caused him to spend virtually his entire adult life in prison. But he may well have not committed the murder for which he received the death penalty. The evidence against him is flimsy.

That is why the parole board's decision to reconsider the case is both moral and just. Killing criminals is not a solution to America's crime problem. And the willful killing of criminals whose convictions are overshadowed by reasonable doubts is simply immoral.

If the state built its case against Spirko on lies, as some evidence suggests, the parole authority must carefully search for the truth. In the meantime, if Taft harbors doubts about this case, he should be prepared to use his power to grant clemency and reduce Spirko's sentence.

(source: Editorial, Plain Dealer)

Appeal lost, Spirko attempts again to beat execution order

John Spirko, facing execution on Nov. 15 for kidnapping and murdering a Van Wert County postmaster, turned again to a Cincinnati-based appeals court for help yesterday.

Spirko, 59, filed an appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to overturn last week's decision refusing to open a new round of appeals by U.S. District Court Judge James Carr in Toledo. Spirko's lawyers argued that prosecutors had perpetrated a fraud on the court by withholding information when the court originally upheld his conviction and death sentence in 2000.

Gov. Bob Taft delayed Spirko's execution last week at the request of the Ohio Parole Board to give it time to hold another clemency hearing after the board learned the attorney general's office had apparently misstated facts of the case during the 1st hearing on Aug. 23.

The board voted 6-3 to recommend that Mr. Taft not grant Spirko either a full pardon or a delay of execution for the 1982 stabbing of Betty Jane "Janie" Mottinger following a robbery of the post office in the tiny village of Elgin. The new clemency hearing will be held Oct. 12.

The 6th Circuit has previously upheld Spirko's conviction. In his latest appeal before Judge Carr, Spirko's attorneys argued that the state failed to inform the court in 2000 that it had presented a theory of the crime to the jury at Spirko's 1984 trial that it had reason to believe was wrong.

The jury convicted Spirko of acting with former cellmate Delaney Gibson to kill Mrs. Mottinger, but Gibson was never tried, and the county prosecutor quietly dropped the indictment late last year even though Gibson was paroled from a Kentucky prison on an unrelated murder conviction.

(source: Toledo Blade)

China exports skin from death row?

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND UNBELIEVABLY DISTURBING


RASHMI ROSHAN LALL

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2005 11:30:58 PM ]

LONDON: Exactly one week after Europe's political and corporate heavyweights schmoozed with 'the inscrutable Chinaman', as part of the EU-China summit, Western capitals and human rights campaigners have recoiled with horror at news reports alleging a Chinese cosmetics company is harvesting skin from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in the UK and Europe.

Agents for the Chinese company, reportedly based in northern China, have been boasting to an undercover British journalist that skin taken from hundreds of executed Chinese prisoners was used to develop collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments.

The ghoulish revelation, quickly dubbed "cannibal cosmecuticles" by appalled human rights activists has stunned Western medics.

The anti-ageing treatments, which allegedly cannibalise the skin of thousands of benighted Chinese, feed a multi-million-pound British and European obsession to be magically unlined and unchanged by the passage of time.

American consumers have also received Chinese collagen beauty products.

Injections of collagen, a major structural protein found in skin, bone and tendons, are used in cosmetic surgery to plump up lips to highlight pouting beauty and to iron out wrinkles.

Collagen injections are the UK's second-most popular cosmetic operation with nearly 150,000 being administered each year.

Human rights campaigners told TOI on Tuesday the newest revelation merely recalled an earlier abomination, when Amnesty International told a US Senate hearing in May 1995 that nearly 90 per cent of transplanted kidneys in China come from executed prisoners.

The skin harvests appear to be part and parcel of received practice in China, they said.

A leading European anti-death penalty campaigning group added that at least 5,000 of the roughly 5,500 known executions worldwide in 2004 took place in China.

Campaigners said "the ghoulish, cringe-making practice of harvesting the skin of death-row victims appears to be of a piece with China's disregard for human rights – and the West's determination to disregard it" just because it Beijing was good for business.

British and American plastic surgeons said on Tuesday that skin harvested from Chinese convicts could have a profound "infective risk".

The undercover investigation, claimed as a news triumph by a newly-relaunched The Guardian newspaper, has sparked revulsion across Britain and Europe.

The claims that the Chinese see the practice as "traditional" and that they believe there to be nothing unethical about harvesting the skin of condemned convicts has caused further revulsion.

Doctors said that if true, the Chinese collagen industry appeared to be making hay while the sun shines, namely the ongoing regulation-free period when the European Union is still formulating the rules to control and govern cosmetic treatments such as collagen injections and implants.

European regulations are not expected for several years.

According to most-recent statistics, gathered just over a decade ago, 77 per cent of all executions that took place in the world occurred in China.

The country routinely executes some 62 people a day.

The Chinese company is believed to be selling Western countries the age-defying beauty products at five per cent less than available anywhere in Britain, Europe or America.

The products, which are marketed and exported to the West from Hong Kong, are produced by the company after the basic material – skin and other tissues – are received from disparate, so-called bio-tech companies based in Heilongjiang in northern China.

The unnamed agent added, in a nod to earlier, gruesome reports of a brisk Chinese trade in executed prisoners' organs, that "The government (in Beijing) has put pressure on all the medical facilities to keep this type of work in low profile".

The revelation comes seven years after Chinese political dissident, Harry Wu, told the world from his American refuge that a massive, unethical and hugely lucrative worldwide trade in human body parts was run from China with the knowledge of the government.

Mr Wu's allegation came after two Chinese men were arrested in New York for allegedly trying to sell human kidneys, corneas and lungs that had been taken from executed Chinese prisoners.

State seeks death penalty for Chapman

By Joan D. LaGuardia
jlaguardia@news-press.com
Published by news-press.com on September 12, 2005

State Attorney Steve Russell will seek the death penalty against Jeremy Chapman, who is accused of killing Annamarie Cruz Randazzo, 17, and John Hardin, 66, both of Cape Coral.

Russell filed notices to seek the death penalty in both pending first degree murder cases.

Chapman, 23, was indicted by the Lee County Grand Jury Aug. 23 and is charged with first -degree murder in both cases.

Chapman is also charged with kidnapping, sexual battery and arson in connection with the murder of Randazzo.

The Cape Coral teenager was reported missing by her family on July 22. Her charred body was found two weeks later in Lehigh Acres.

Joshua Henninger, 17, of Cape Coral, is also charged in the Randazzo case. He is not eligible for the death penalty because of a United States Supreme Court ruling that prevents a state from sentencing a person under 18 to death. If convicted, Henninger faces life in prison.

Hardin’s body was found in his Cape Coral home on Aug. 6 .

Trial dates in both cases against Chapman have been tentatively set for Dec. 5, 2005.

'Genocide' priest faces death penalty

AP
September 13, 2005

KIGALI, Rwanda: A Belgian missionary has been charged with inciting and helping plan the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than half a million people were killed.

A Rwandan gacaca, or community court, initially heard the charges but referred the case of Guy Theunis, 60, to a conventional court after classifying him as a category-one genocide suspect - reserved for alleged leaders of the 100-day slaughter.

Father Theunis now faces a possible death penalty.

The Missionaries of Africa priest insisted that information supplied to back the charges was false.

Father Theunis, who worked as the editor of Rwandan magazine Le Dialogue, denied allegations that he incited the genocide by reproducing articles from the Kangura, a newspaper that promoted the killing of members of the Tutsi ethnic minority.









A UN tribunal has convicted the editor of that newspaper, Hassan Ngeze, and sentenced him to life in prison.

"I am astonished to hear all these allegations levelled against me. I sometimes wrote articles to press for human rights. I never republished articles from Kangura, but just translated as part of a press review," Father Theunis told the court in Rwanda's national language, Kinyarwanda.

Father Theunis worked in Rwanda from 1970 to 1994, when Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority were slaughtered in a 100-day genocide orchestrated by the extremist Hutu government of the day.

The missionary, who has been living in South Africa since 1994, was arrested on September 6 while travelling through Rwanda's capital, Kigali, from neighbouring Congo.

Some genocide survivors were harsh in their accusations against Father Theunis, who was clad in the pink shirt and shorts worn by prisoners in Rwanda.

"Instead of preaching the gospel, the missionary was preaching divisions" between Tutsis and Hutus, witness Jean Damascene Bizimana told the court.

"I personally met with the missionary and he told me that if the Tutsis don't stop the war (that raged before the genocide was unleashed), many more of them are likely to die."

Father Theunis was the first foreigner to appear before the community courts, which were set up to investigate and try more than 760,000 people suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide. People accused of leading the genocide are tried in the conventional justice system, where they face stiffer penalties. Lesser charges would call for a trial at a gacaca court.