Day: June 24, 2012

ARKANSAS – Arkansas high court blocks use of death penalty


June 22, 2012 Source : http://articles.chicagotribune.com

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled unconstitutional the law allowing the state to carry out the death penalty, siding with 10 Death Row inmates who argued that only the legislature, and not the prison system, can decide the method of execution.

The ruling effectively barred the state from carrying out the death penalty. Arkansas has 40 men on Death Row but the state has not executed anyone since November 28, 2005, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Death Row inmate Jack Harold Jones against Ray Hobbs, the director of the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Jones, who was later joined in the suit by nine other inmates, argued that a 2009 law giving the department and its director authority to choose the drugs administered in executing inmates by lethal injection violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

The court decided on a 5 to 2 vote that the legislature had improperly given the prison system “unfettered” discretion over execution procedures.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said through his spokeswoman that he will consider what steps to take next.

“The death penalty is still the law in Arkansas, but the Department of Correction now has no legal way to carry out an execution until a new statute is established,” spokeswoman Stacey Hall said in an email response.

“He will review what the options are, talk to the Attorney General, key legislative leaders, and will study the way other states have handled these rulings,” Hall said. “He hopes to have a proposed remedy in the next few months.”

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, also a Democrat, said he respected the court’s decision and would consult with various parties to decide how to move forward.

In 2009, the legislature gave the director of the prison system the choice of one or more drugs to carry out death sentences. The law stated that if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, electrocution would be used.

But as a result of the state Supreme Court ruling, the legislature will need to draft and pass a new death penalty statute. It is unclear whether the law will now revert to a 1983 statute that was enacted when the state opted to use lethal injection, though that law also was challenged.

In a dissent to Friday’s majority ruling, two justices said the prison system had to follow constitutional restrictions against cruel and unusual punishment in administering the death penalty. Other states give their prison systems leeway, the dissenting justices said.

METHOD AT ISSUE

Thirty-three U.S. states have the death penalty. Disputes over the method of execution has become a hurdle to carrying out death sentences in some states, notably California and Maryland, said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.

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OHIO – JOHN ELEY – EXECUTION JULY 26, 2012 COMMUTED


UPDATE :

July 11, 2012

On July 10, Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured) granted clemency to death row inmate John Eley, who was scheduled to be executed on July 26.  Eley’s sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. The governor said he based his decision on evidence that Eley acted under the direction of another person, and that his mental capacity was limited, saying, “Without those factors it is doubtful that Eley would have committed this crime.” The prosecutor in the case and one of the judges who sentenced Eley to death called for mercy. The Ohio Parole Board voted 5-3 against recommending clemency.  Those who voted for clemency said that Eley’s crime was not one of the “worst of the worst,” and that similar crimes rarely receive death sentences. This is the third death-row clemency granted by Gov. Kasich, including two issued in 2

The Ohio Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

During the early afternoon of August 26, 1986, Eley was visiting Melvin Green at the home of Green’s girlfriend in Youngstown. Accordingto Eley, he and Green were just sitting around when Green suggested that they go down to the “Arab store.” Eley and Green left the house and proceeded down a path through the woods leading to the Sinjil Market.
Along the way, Green showed Eley a “Black Snub nose gun,” and told Eley he “was going to take the Arab off.” Since the proprietor of the store, Ihsan Aydah, knew Green’s face, Eley agreed to go in alone and rob the store while Green waited outside.
Eley entered the store and told Aydah to put his hands up and to turn and face the wall. Green had told Eley that Aydah had a gun under the store counter, so when Aydah lowered his hands and went under the counter, Eley fired a shot. Eley claimed that he aimed at Aydah’s shoulder. However, the shot hit Aydah on the right side of his head, approximately four inches above the earlobe. Aydah died the next day of shock and hemorrhage due to a gunshot wound to the head.Just before Eley fired the gun, Green entered the store. After the shot, Green ran behind the counter and got into the cash register. He took Aydah’s wallet while Aydah lay wounded on the floor. As the two left the store, Green gave Eley a brown paper bag with the money and wallet. According to Eley, they went up the street, “got to the path and run up the woods.”. . .

Several days after the murder, Eley was arrested by Youngstown police at the residence of his cousin’s girlfriend, Carlotta Skinner. After his arrest, Eley told police that he and Green had split the money taken in the robbery, which was around $700. However, Eley later gave the money back to Green “because he said it was all on him and he had to get out.”
. . .
[After being arrested, i]n his voluntary statement Eley admitted that he and Green had robbed the Sinjil Market, and that he shot Aydah. [The arresting officer] testified that Eley did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the interview and was “very calm” and “passive.” The grand jury indicted Eley on one count of aggravated murder
with a specification that the murder was committed during, or immediately after, the commission of an aggravated robbery
According to an affidavit of trial counsel, before trial Eley refused to accept various plea offers that were conditioned on Eley’s testimony against Green, including an offer of a voluntary manslaughter charge with a six-year sentence. that Eley was the principal offender. This count also carried a firearm specification. In addition, Eley was indicted on one count of aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01[A][1] and [2]) and one count of conspiracy (R.C.2923.01[A]). Each count carried a firearm specification.
In May 1987, Eley waived his right to a jury trial and opted for a trial before a three-judge panel. Eley pled not guilty to the charges against him, there by withdrawing a prior plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. . . .
Trial was held before a three-judge panel on May 11–12, 1987, but the defense chose not to present any evidence. The panel found Eleyguilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, the felony-murder capital specification, and two of the three firearm specifications, but no guilty of conspiracy. During the mitigation hearing, several family members testified
on Eley’s behalf. Eley’s mother, Cecilia Joseph, divorced Eley’s father when Eley was seven or eight years old, and stated that Eley had “not much” of a relationship with his father. Joseph testified that on Christmas night 1964, her second husband had been drinking and began choking her and her daughter. At that time, Eley stabbed the second husband with a knife in order to stop him. Joseph testified that Eley dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, but later entered the Job Corps and learned to be a welder. Eley sent money home to his mother during this time, and gave her money to help her finish paying for nursing school. Joseph stated that while Eley has had problems with drugs and alcohol, he is a better person when he is not under the influence. She characterized Eley as “church oriented,” and believed he had been “born again.”
Eley’s sister, Susan Laury, testified that Eley had helped the family financially while he was in the Job Corps, and that Eley is normally a “quiet, sweet, gentle person that wouldn’t hurt anybody.”Dr. Douglas Darnall, a clinical psychologist, found Eley to be of borderline intelligence, and ranked him in the twelfth percentile on theWechsler Adult Intelligence Test. According to Darnall, Eley has a history of chronic alcohol and polysubstance abuse, but exhibited “no evidence of psychosis or major defective disorder.” In addition, Darnall testified that Eley understands the difference between right and wrong. Darnall found Eley to be remorseful, but Eley never mentioned that he felt remorse for the victim. However, two police officers who witnessed Eley’s confession testified that Eley was remorseful before he made that statement. Eley made a short unsworn statement at the mitigation phase that consisted of several biblical quotations from the Book of Romans.

After deliberation, the panel unanimously found that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt, and sentenced Eley to death. Upon appeal, the courtof appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence of death.

TEXAS – Yokamon Hearn – EXECUTION JULY 18, 2012 – URGENT ACTION FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL


Picture of Offender

Name
TDCJ Number
Date of Birth
Hearn, Yokamon L. 999292 11/06/78
Date Received
Age (when Received)
Education Level
12/31/98 20 10 years
Date of Offense
Age (at the Offense)
County
03/26/98 19 Dallas

FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

URGENT ACTION
TEXAS SET TO KILL ANOTHER YOUNG OFFENDER

pdf file 
Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to be executed in Texas on the evening of 18 July for a murder committed in 1998, when he was 19 years old. His lawyers maintain that he has a mental disability that would render his execution unconstitutional.
Yokamon Laneal Hearn was sentenced to death for the murder of 23-year-old stockbroker Joseph Franklin (Frank) Meziere, committed in Dallas in March 1998. Frank Meziere was shot in the head 10 times after being abducted by four youths who wanted to steal his car. All four were charged with capital murder. According to the prosecution, Yokamon Hearn had fired six of the 10 shots while another of the suspects, Delvin Diles, had fired four. After the Hearn trial, the prosecution offered Delvin Diles a plea deal under which he would waive trial by jury and avoid the possibility of the death penalty. Delvin Diles, aged 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999. The other two co-defendants, aged 19 and 20 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In addition to Yokamon Hearn’s youth at the time of the crime – he was 19 years old – there is evidence that he has a
developmental mental disability. His lawyers assert that this impairment amounts to “mental retardation” and that his
execution would therefore be unconstitutional under the June 2002 US Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia which prohibited the execution of offenders with such a disability. Yokamon Hearn’s “Atkins claim”, however, has run into the problem that he has achieved IQ scores higher than what is normally considered to be an indicator of “mental retardation”. His lawyers have obtained expert opinion that, despite his IQ scores, his disability nonetheless amounts to retardation and that he should still qualify for Atkins relief. The courts have disagreed.
In sworn statements given in 2006, Yokoman Hearn’s three co-defendants described him as a teenager in 1998 who was a follower not a leader. Their statements and other evidence of his conduct during and after the murder are
supportive of claims that his actions were those of an immature and impaired individual rather than the result of a planning and calculating intellect. Delvin Diles recalled that it had been his idea, not Hearn’s, to kill Frank Meziere. The other two recalled that before they went to commit robbery there had been no plan to kill anyone.
Since resuming executions in 1982, Texas has killed at least 70 people in its execution chamber who were aged 17, 18 or 19 at the time of the crimes in question. More than half of these teenagers were African American, of whom 70 per cent were convicted of crimes involving white victims. Yokamon Hearn is one of at least 40 prisoners now on death row in Texas for crimes committed when they were 18 or 19. More than half of them, like Yokamon Hearn, are black. Frank Meziere was white.


Please write immediately, in English or your own language, citing Yokamon Hearn’s Inmate No. #999292:
Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the murder of Frank Meziere or to downplay the suffering caused;
 Noting evidence of Yokamon Hearn’s mental disability and that he was only 19 at the time of the crime;
 Opposing the execution of Yokamon Hearn and calling for his death sentence to be commuted.


PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 JULY 2012 TO:
Clemency Section, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd. Austin, TX 78757-6814, USA
Fax: 011 512 467 0945
Email: bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us
Salutation: Dear Board members
Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor,
PO Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA
Fax: 011 512 463 1849
Salutation: Dear Governor

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Yokamon Hearn was about 20 minutes from execution on 4 March 2004 when he was granted a stay by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to give the courts more time to consider his “Atkins claim”. In the Atkins ruling, the US Supreme Court had not defined mental retardation, although it pointed to definitions used by professional bodies. Under such definitions, mental retardation is a disability, manifested before the age of 18, characterized by significantly sub-average intellectual functioning (generally indicated by an IQ of less than 70) accompanied by limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas such as communication, self-care, work, and functioning in the community. The Court left it to the states as to how to comply with the ruling. Today, a decade after the Atkins ruling, the Texas legislature has still not enacted a law to comply with it. In the absence of such legislation, in 2004 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) issued temporary guidelines. Success on Yokamon Hearn’s Atkins claim became less likely in 2006 when his IQ was assessed as high as 93.
However, his lawyers obtained expert opinion concluding that he had structural brain dysfunction, possibly as a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome caused by his teenage mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy with him, and that his impairment still amounts to mental retardation. In 2008, a US District Court concluded that Yokamon Hearn had made a prima facie showing of mental retardation. This federal judge eventually sent the case back to the Texas courts where in 2010 the TCCA ruled against Yokamon Hearn, while noting that the Texas legislature had, eight years on, failed to enact legislation to enforce the Atkins ruling. The TCCA said that, “without significantly greater assistance from the legislature” it would adhere to its 2004 guidelines, including the “about 70” language in relation to IQ, which it took to represent a “rough ceiling, above which a finding of mental retardation in the capital context is precluded”. The Fifth Circuit ruled against Hearn in January 2012, noting that the US Supreme Court had explicitly left it up to states as to how to comply with the Atkins ruling, and that “it would be wholly inappropriate for this court, by judicial fiat, to tell the States how to conduct an inquiry into a defendant’s mental retardation”.
In its 2005 ruling prohibiting the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the crime (Roper v. Simmons) the US Supreme Court recognized the immaturity, impulsiveness, poor judgment and underdeveloped sense of responsibility associated with youth, as well as the susceptibility of young people to “outside pressures, including peer pressure.” The Court also acknowledged that “the qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18.” Indeed, scientific research shows that brain development continues into a person’s 20s. In 1993, in the case of a Texas death row prisoner who was 19 at the time of the crime, the Supreme Court had emphasised that: “youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person
may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. A lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense
of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults… These qualities often result in impetuous and illconsidered actions and decisions.”
Before the Atkins ruling in 2002, Texas accounted for more executions of people with “mental retardation” than any other state in the USA. Before the Roper ruling in 2005, Texas accounted for more executions of people under 18 at the time of the crime than any other state. Texas accounts for some 37 per cent of the national judicial death toll, which currently stands at 1,296 since 1976 when the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume under revised state laws. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to become
the 483rd person to be put to death in Texas since it resumed executions in 1982. There have been 19 executions in the USA so far in 2012, five of them in Texas.
For further information on Yokamon Hearn’s case, see ‘USA: Senseless killing after senseless killing: Texas inmate
with mental disability claim facing execution for murder committed as teenager’, June 2012,
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/042/2012/en
Name: Yokamon Laneal Hearn (m)
Issues: Death penalty, Legal concern
UA: 166/12
Issue Date: 7 June 2012
Country: USA