In U.S. executions, decades of delay, last-minute stays called cruel
John Balentine is pictured in this undated booking photo. Set to be executed on August 22, 2012, shortly after 6 p.m. local time, Balentine was transported from his cell in Polunsky, Texas to the execution facility in Huntsville and placed in a small holding cell outside the death chamber.
Credit: Reuters/Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout
By Jim Forsyth READ WHOLE ARTICLE THERE; PLEASE!
SAN ANTONIO | Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:52pm EDT
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Texas convicted murderer John Balentine made the round trip of 100 miles from death row to the execution chamber and back last week, a journey most condemned inmates make one way.
Set to be executed on Wednesday shortly after 6 p.m. local time, Balentine was transported from his cell in Polunsky, Texas to the execution facility in Huntsville and placed in a small holding cell outside the death chamber.
Just after 5 p.m., he was informed that the U.S. Supreme Court had stayed his execution. He smiled but showed no other emotion, said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
In 2011, Balentine was also one hour away from execution when he received a stay. A delay was granted less than 24 hours before Balentine was to die in 2009.
While three stays of execution for one person is unusual, some Americans say the slow grind of legal justice, sometimes followed by appeals that result in last-minute stays of execution, are cruel both to inmates and the families of their crime victims.
“Preparing for death is torture, and I cannot fathom having to go through it three times,” said Randy Steidl, who served 12 years on death row in Illinois before being exonerated of murder and released in 2004. “That’s inhuman, that is truly torture. That is not justice. If we are truly a civilized society as all of America claims to be, we should not do anything like this.”
Efforts to contact Balentine through his lawyer for comment were not successful.
The U.S. Supreme Court suspended the death penalty through a 1972 decision then reinstated it in 1976. Since 1976, the number of executions in the United States has gradually declined to 43 in 2011 from a peak of 98 in 1999 because of concern about the possibility of killing an innocent person and the fairness of the system.
There have been 27 people put to death so far this year which suggests an end-year figure of around 40, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) said.
The increasing scrutiny of each case is resulting in more stays of execution. There have been 37 stays to date this year, which suggests an end-year figure around 55, compared with 41 in all of 2011, the information center said.
Fewer executions and more delays also mean longer periods between sentencing and execution. For those executed in 2010, the latest year available, the average time on death row was 14.8 years, the longest for any year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The average for all cases since reinstatement was 10.9 years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Gary Alvord in Florida, who according to the Florida Department of Corrections has awaited execution since 1974, is believed to be the nation’s longest-serving death row inmate.
“This is a national phenomenon of the use of more caution regarding the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the DPIC, which opposes the death penalty.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has several times in recent years expressed concern about long delays in executions. He dissented from a decision in 2011 to allow the execution of Manuel Valle in Florida after 33 years on death row.
“I have little doubt about the cruelty of so long a period of incarceration under sentence of death,” Breyer wrote.
HARD ON FAMILIES OF VICTIMS
Supporters of the death penalty said the delays and stays of execution are also hard on the families of victims awaiting justice to be done.
Texas inmate Balentine was sentenced to death for the 1998 murders of three teen-agers who shared a home with him. The teens were all shot in the head, at close range, as they slept.
“My heart goes out to family members who, for the third time, have made the trip to Huntsville, only for at the last minute there to be a stay issued,” said Randall Sims, the District Attorney in Amarillo who sent Balentine to Death Row.
Efforts to contact the families of the victims were unsuccessful.
But Mary Jane Peterson of suburban San Antonio, whose son was murdered in 1994, said criminal justice delays take a toll on victim’s families.
“The murderers end up getting more victims from what happens to the families of the victims,” she said. “This affects their health, their emotional status, their ability to work.
The Supreme Court halted the Texas execution last week to give it time to rule on arguments that Balentine had inadequate legal representation at his trial. They could eventually clear the way for a fourth attempt to execute him.
“I am hopeful that justice will finally, at some point, be done in this case,” said prosecutor Sims.
(Additional reporting and writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Liebe Unterstützerinnen und Unterstützer,
(English version in the original-website to read!)
die erneute Verurteilung des iranischen Pastors Youcef Nadarkhani steht bevor
am 8. September 2012 soll es ein erneutes Gerichtsverfahren gegen ihn geben. In
diesem Verfahren könnte die Todesstrafe aufgehoben werden oder aber auch
bestätigt. Somit ist es wichtig den Druck noch einmal zu erhöhen. Die IGFM wird
somit dem Iranischen Botschafter mehrere 10.000 Unterschriften zur sofortigen
und bedingungslosen Freilassung von Nadarkhani übergeben seien Sie dabei!
Wo: Iranische Botschaft, Podbielskiallee 67, 14195 Berlin
Wann: Freitag, den 31. August 2012
Uhrzeit: 10.00 bis 12.00 Uhr
Wetterbedingte Änderungen sind möglich
In der Podbielskiallee, direkt vor der iranischen Botschaft in Berlin, machen am
Freitag, den 31. August 2012, IGFM-Mitglieder und -Unterstützer auf die
andauernden Menschenrechtsverletzungen im Iran, und insbesondere auf die
drohende Hinrichtung des Konvertitenpastors Youcef Nadarkhani, aufmerksam und
zeigen ihre Solidarität mit dem Pastor. Im Rahmen dieser Mahnwache sollen auch
von der IGFM gesammelte Unterschriften für die sofortige und bedingungslose
Freilassung von Pastor Nadarkhani an den iranischen Botschafter übergeben
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani befindet sich seit dem 12. Oktober 2009 im Iran im
Gefängnis. Am 22. September 2010 wurde er wegen "Abfalls vom islamischen
Glauben" und "Verbreitung nichtislamischer Lehre" zum Tode durch den Strang
verurteilt. Das Oberste Gericht bestätigte das Urteil im Juli 2011.
Offensichtlich aufgrund des starken politischen Drucks wurde es bisher noch
nicht vollstreckt. Am 8. September 2012 soll das Verfahren gegen Youcef
Nadarkhani wieder neu eröffnet werden somit muss dringend der internationale
Druck auf die iranischen Behörden erhöht werden. Youcef Nadarkhani muss sofort
und bedingungslos freigelassen werden seine Verurteilung und Inhaftierung
widerspricht allen internationalen Abkommen. Helfen Sie ihm!
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Kommen Sie vorbei, informieren Sie sich, helfen Sie mit - unterschreiben Sie die
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Death penalty on trial: murder on the Mississippi – video
In the first part of a new series examining capital punishment in America, US chief reporter Ed Pilkington and documentary maker Laurence Topham look into the controversial trial of Reggie Clemons, who has been on death row in Missouri for 19 years. He was one of four men convicted of murdering Julie and Robin Kerry, who the prosecution said were pushed from the Chain of Rocks bridge in April 1991…
please, read the whole story there!
Death penalty on trial: murder on the Mississippi – videoIn the first part of a new series examining capital punishment in America, US chief reporter Ed Pilkington and documentary maker Laurence Topham look into the controversial trial of Reggie Clemons, who has been on death row in Missouri for 19 years. He was one of four men convicted of murdering Julie and Robin Kerry, who the prosecution said were pushed from the Chain of Rocks bridge in April 1991
Updated August 22, 2012
The South Dakota September execution of Rodney Berget has been stayed to allow for additional appeals. Berget, already in prison, and fellow inmate Robert Eric pled guilty to murdering South Dakota prison guard Ronald Johnson during an escape attempt which resulted in both receiving the death penalty. Last week the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of both men.
Rodney Berget is scheduled to be executed between August 9 and August 15, 2012, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Berget is convicted of bludgeoning 63-year-old prison guard Ronald Johnson to death with a pipe during an escape attempt on April 12, 2011, with two other inmates.
Rodney’s story is a particularly sad one. The 50-year-old has had more than 9 felony convictions since 1984, and eight escapes throughout his times spent in prison.
Rodney was the sixth child in his family and had little family support. Rodney and his brother Roger, who was older by two years, could often be found together. Rodney’s father was absent from the home most of the time and, when he was around, he was physically abusive. After their parents divorced, the two boys started getting into trouble. It started with skipping school and ended with the death penalty.
The two boys went from skipping school to stealing cars, which eventually landed them both in prison; Rodney was 12, Roger was 14. Rodney’s first escape occurred at a young age too. When he was 15, he walked away from a juvenile detention center.
After high school, the boys went their separate ways; Roger to Oklahoma, while Rodney remained in South Dakota. In 1985, Roger, along with a friend, kidnapped and killed 33-year-old Rick Patterson. In 1987, Roger received the death penalty. He was executed on June 8, 2000.
When Roger received the death penalty, Rodney was 25 years of age and serving time for grand theft and escape. Three months after Roger received his sentence, Rodney joined five other inmates in another escape attempt from South Dakota State Penitentiary. They used lotion to enable them to slip through an air vent and then cut through window bars in an auto body shop at the prison. Berget eluded capture for more than a month. Rodney was still in prison when his brother, Roger, was executed.
Rodney was released in 2002, but freedom was short-lived. On June 2, 2003, Rodney stormed into an apartment shared by his ex-girlfriend and Brian Horstman in Lawrence County, South Dakota. Both received gunshot wounds but survived. Rodney then drove to Meade County and kidnapped and raped a convenience store clerk. Rodney was given two life sentences for his crimes.
While in prison, Rodney met and connected with Eric Robert, a fellow inmate. They shared a common goal of wanting to escape or die trying. They took months to make their plans. On April 12, 2011, it was determined to be the day. There was only one guard in the area, Ronald R.J. Johnson. It was his 63rd birthday and he was not suppose to be working but agreed to come in due to a scheduling change.
Rodney and Eric attacked Ronald, beat him with a pipe, and covered his face with plastic wrap, killing him. Eric then put on his uniform and pushed a box with Rodney in it out through the first gate. Before they could successfully escape through the second gate, they were stopped by another guard.
Rodney pled guilty and received the death penalty for his actions. Judge Brad Zell credited Rodney’s past actions as the reason for his decision to give him the death penalty. The judge heard testimony of his difficult childhood. “Given this history, if given the opportunity, Berget would most likely severely harm or kill other people, thus posing a future dangerousness to other correctional officers or others near him.” While serving his life sentences, Berget has had 24 rule infractions, some of which were major infractions.
The judge went on to say that Berget’s difficult childhood and past is not an excuse for his actions. “There are many people in this society that have had bad things happen to them, but yet have not chosen to live a life of crime or commit acts of violence on others.”