The following were taken from Death Penalty News & Updates (Dr. Rick Halperin's site -- see link bottom right)
State experiences vary with use of death penalty
First among states for executions is Texas, which has put to death 481 prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Oklahoma ranks 3rd with 98 executions, including 2 in 2011. Earlier this year, the state of Oklahoma executed Gary Roland Welch at the state penitentiary in McAlester for the 1994 slaying of Robert Dean Hardcastle in Miami, Okla.
Oklahoma’s attorney general’s office also is appealing a stay of execution issued for an inmate who was scheduled to die last week.
Garry Allen was set to die Thursday, but on Wednesday afternoon, federal Judge David Russell issued the stay, ruling that Allen’s claims that he is insane and ineligible for the death penalty should be reviewed.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office immediately filed its notice of appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In the appeal, the state argues that courts have found Allen sane and that he’s capable of understanding his execution is for the 1986 murder of Gail Titsworth.
Allen has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and his attorneys argue his mental state deteriorated on death row.
Missouri has 47 people on death row and ranks fifth in the number of executions since 1976, with 68.
The most recent prisoner to be put to death in Missouri was Martin Link, who was executed on Feb. 9, 2011, for the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Elissa Self-Braun, of St. Louis.
Chris Collings, of Wheaton, is the most recent Missourian sentenced to death row. On March 23, jurors agreed on capital punishment for his kidnapping, raping and slaying of 9-year-old Rowan Ford.
Others from Southwest Missouri on death row are Cecil Clayton, sentenced in December 1997 by a Jasper County jury for the 1996 1st-degree murder of Barry County Deputy Christopher Castetter, and Mark Christeson, sentenced in September 1999 by a Vernon County jury for 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 1998 deaths of Susan Brouk and her 2 children.
Kansas now has 9 people on death row, including Gary Kleypas, who was sentenced to death for the killing of Carrie Williams in 1996 in Pittsburg.
The death penalty was 1st abolished in Kansas in 1907 by Gov. Edward Hoch. In 1935, the death penalty was reinstated, but no executions took place until 1944. The state had the death penalty statute in effect until a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck it down.
After the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the constitutionality of it, numerous attempts were made to reinstate the death penalty. Gov. John Carlin vetoed reinstatement legislation in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985.
The current death penalty statute was enacted in 1994 when Gov. Joan Finney allowed it to become law without her signature. In 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional, but it was reinstated after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Kansas death penalty was constitutional.
In 2010, the Kansas Senate was one vote short of voting to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole for the crime of aggravated murder.
(source: The Joplin Globe)
Connecticut (Also see post below on the New York Times Editorial)
Fight against death penalty gains momentum in states--Connecticut will be the 5th in 5 years to do away with it. The high cost to taxpayers is increasingly a factor.
The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut's decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the 5th state in 5 years to so do.
"For this to be happening in succession, and coupled with the decline in death penalty convictions, it creates a momentum that other states will at least consider to be a part of," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the independent Death Penalty Information Center.
Connecticut legislators voted to abolish the death penalty Wednesday, and Democratic Gov.Dannel P. Malloyhas said he will sign the bill. Connecticut will be the 17th state to do away with capital punishment and the 7th state to stop the death penalty since it was reinstated as constitutional by theU.S. Supreme Courtin 1976. The District of Columbia abolished it in 1981.
Opponents of capital punishment still cite moral and religious arguments — and last week's vote in Connecticut was preceded by more than 9 hours of gut-wrenching debate. But another force behind the recent trend is cost.
"Right now, budgets are still unbalanced in many states and programs are being cut in many areas," Dieter said. "Schools, libraries and police forces … their budgets are all being cut. Lawmakers are thinking of getting rid of things they might not believe in that are expensive."
California spends an additional $184 million per year total on its more than 700 death row prisoners than if they had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, according to a comprehensive 2011 study by Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
An Urban Institute study in 2008 found that a single death sentence in Maryland costs almost $2 million more per case than a comparable non-death-penalty case.
"It's not just the cost in a vacuum," said Shari Silberstein, executive director of Equal Justice USA, a national grass-roots organization that opposes the death penalty. "It's not to say that if it was a good economic time, we'd be supporting it. But people are weighing the cost … and realizing that the death penalty is a very ineffective way to keep the public safe, especially for the money."
Supporters of capital punishment say it should remain an option for those convicted of heinous crimes and that the expense problem could be resolved through reform.
"Nobody favors the status quo. The question is, should you give up on justice because you don't have the backbone to pass the reforms that are needed?" asked Kent Scheidegger, legal director for Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which works to ensure what it calls "swift and certain punishment" to those convicted of crimes.
"That's not the way a democracy is supposed to work. What they should be doing is fixing the process," Scheidegger said. "My expectation is that repeal efforts will end [with Connecticut] and reform efforts will work in other states."
But other states are already reconsidering the death penalty.
In California, an initiative on November's ballot will allow voters to decide whether to repeal capital punishment.
Oregon issued a moratorium on executions in 2011 and is conducting a study of alternatives to the death penalty. Pennsylvania also started a study of how the death penalty has been applied there.
Bills proposing the end of capital punishment are pending in Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire and Washington.
Fear of executing innocent people has also driven the trend.
Illinois repealed the death penalty in March 2011 after a 10-year moratorium that was imposed after courts threw out the death sentences of 13 men. By the time the repeal was signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, 20 people had been exonerated.
The exonerations highlighted a number of problems with the judicial system, including wrongful convictions based on false confessions and erroneous eyewitness testimony, the Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions reported.
Opponents of the death penalty also argue that the process drags out grief for the victims' families.
"The families don't want to hear about the case over and over again," said Sarah Craft, a spokeswoman for Equal Justice USA. "Life without parole starts immediately."
Some survivors of murder victims have been part of the recent debate over capital punishment. Victoria Coward of Connecticut was one of them. Her 18-year-old son, Tyler, was shot and killed in New Haven in 2007.
"When you lose somebody to homicide, you know what it's like to lose somebody in one of the most hurtful ways possible," Coward said.
Prosecutors told her it would be too difficult to go through a trial and have to see photos of her son's body riddled with bullets, and suggested offering the killer a plea deal, which he took in 2010.
Coward lobbied lawmakers to end the death penalty and watched as state senators voted on the issue. Her son's killer, Jose Fuentes Phillich, was 25 when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She seems at peace with the decision.
"The death penalty doesn't help at all," she said. "If you have the nerve to kill somebody, you should be able to sit there every day and think about what you did."