Utah

Utah’s death penalty costs $1.6M more per inmate


November 15, 2012 http://www.sltrib.com

Craig Watson said he didn’t know if “closure” was the proper word.

But as he witnessed the 2010 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who killed Watson’s cousin Melvyn J. Otterstrom at a bar in 1984, a feeling of peace came over him: It was, finally, over.

As Utah lawmakers weigh the cost of executing men like Gardner versus keeping them in prison for life, Watson asked them on Wednesday to remember there are some things that no amount of money can touch — a message also shared by Barbara Noriega, whose mother and sister were killed by another man now on Utah’s death row.

“With the death sentence, there are no recurring offenders and we can go on with our lives,” Watson said, his voice breaking at times as he addressed the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, asked for the analysis, the first study to examine what the capital punishment option costs the state and local governments. Handy has not proposed any legislation and said Wednesday he is “under no illusion that people in Utah want to change the present law.” But Handy said the comparative costs of life without parole and the death penalty — which a legislative fiscal analyst pegged “unofficially” at an added $1.6 million per inmate from trial to execution — should be understood.

“Which direction citizens of Utah choose to go remains to be seen,” Handy told the committee.

It is a topic of discussion in other states as well. New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut all did away with the option in recent years. A year ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions and ordered a review of that state’s capital punishment law. On Nov. 6, voters in California, where more than 700 inmates sit on death row, rejected a proposition that would have repealed the state’s death penalty; proponents argued for doing away with the option based on its costs.

Lawmakers may get some insight into Utahns’ views of capital punishment from a survey being conducted by students at Utah Valley University under the direction of Sandy McGunigall-Smith, an associate professor of legal studies. The survey will be sent to 6,000 people randomly selected in Ogden, West Valley City, Kamas, Saratoga Springs, Alpine and Taylorsville.

Thomas Brunker, an assistant Utah attorney general, said the state has two policy interests in supporting capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. Gardner’s case illustrated a “special” interest in assuring a condemned person could not kill again, he said, while the heinous nature of the crimes committed by other Utah death row inmates highlighted society’s “right” to exact retribution.

Ralph Dellapiana, a defense attorney and death penalty project director for Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the cost estimates fall short of capturing the full expense of the dozen or so aggravated murder cases filed each year in which the death penalty is an option. Such cases require thousands of hours of extensive, multi-generational social histories of the offender, for example, costs that would not be incurred if the penalty were replaced with a life without parole alternative. The cost analysis also doesn’t include expenses incurred in cases that are prosecuted as capital offenses but that end up in plea deals or acquittals, as occurred recently with Curtis Allgier, who shot and killed corrections officer Stephen Anderson during a 2007 escape attempt.

Without the death penalty, there would be faster closure for victims’ families, he added.

And for offenders’ families.

Peggy Ostler described the pain and emotional roller coaster her parents have experienced over the more than two decades that their adopted son, Michael Archuleta, has spent on death row. Archuleta tortured, raped and murdered Gordon Ray Church, 28, in 1988. The crime was terrible, she said, and life in prison would be appropriate, but facing their son’s execution would be the “final blow” to her parents, who oppose the death penalty.

Watson agreed the legal process is too lengthy and often painful, an argument for streamlining rather than doing away with the death penalty.

For more than two decades, as they waited for justice to be carried out, Watson said he and other relatives had every “stupid” move Gardner shoved in their faces — among them, feigned illnesses and escape attempts, including one at a courthouse in 1985 where Gardner fatally shotattorney Michael Burdell and wounded bailiff Nick Kirk.

“We got to hear about it, we got to see it, we got to relive it,” said Watson, a 37-year veteran law enforcement officer.

Since Gardner’s execution, Otterstrom’s widow and son have finally been able to move on with their lives, he said.

“In my opinion, there isn’t enough money to make a difference,” Watson said.

Noriega placed framed photos of her mother Kaye Tiede, 51, and grandmother Beth Harmon Tidwell Potts, 72, on the table before her as she addressed lawmakers. Tiede had survived two husbands, both killed in automobile accidents, before marrying Rolf Tiede, Noriega said. The two built a cabin, which they called “Tiede’s Tranquility,” in Oakley as a family get-away and where they planned to spend Christmas in 1990.

Von Lester Taylor and Edward Steven Deli, who had escaped from a halfway house, broke into the cabin on Dec. 22, opened presents and waited for the family to return. Tiede, another daughter and Potts arrived first; the two women were shot and the daughter bound and gagged. Rolf Tiede and another daughter arrived next; he was shot and played dead as the two men set the cabin on fire and took off on snowmobiles with the younger daughters. Despite his injuries, Rolf Tiede managed to get help, and Taylor and Deli were captured.

Deli received a life sentence, while Taylor, identified as the shooter, was sentenced to death.

“There is no doubt that these savages did this to my family,” Noriega said, calling the 22 years of legal wrangling that has followed “shocking, a travesty.”

“It might be a lot of things, but it is not justice,” Noriega said.

The family, once so wary of danger and crime, has had to confront evil and personal responsibility in “ways I never imagined,” she added. “Our family feels the death penalty actually represents a reverence for the sanctity of the lives of the innocent.

 

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Utah could join states allowing prisoners to donate organs


octobre 18,2012 http://www.sltrib.com

A Utah lawmaker wants to make it possible for inmates to do a final good act if they happen to die while serving time.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is again proposing a bill that would allow inmates to voluntarily agree to posthumously donate their organs. In the 2012 session, his bill passed the House but time ran out before it could be considered by the Utah Senate. The criminal justice interim committee approved the inmate medical donation act on Wednesday.

In some respects, it’s a way for someone who is trying to pay their dues to society to get one last shot on their way out,” he said in an interview.

Over the past four years, an average of 15 inmates have died each year while incarcerated, according to the Utah Department of Corrections. The department began including organ-donor consent forms in the paperwork given to inmates during orientation at the end of 2011 after speaking with Eliason about his proposal.

“They liked the idea so much they implemented it anyway even though it did not become law,” Eliason said.

Mike Haddon, Corrections deputy director, told the interim committee that inmates are being given donor forms as they go through medical and dental screenings upon arrival at the prison. He said that in the past, organ donation “was a consideration” for some inmates as they passed away.

But Eliason still wants it enshrined in statute so the policy isn’t subject to the whims of changing administrations. He said he also plans to include jails in this year’s draft legislation.

Laws governing organ donation by either living or deceased prison inmates — a population that numbers about 2 million — vary from state to state. Federal law prohibits compensating donors for organs, and that bars prisoners, like others, from benefiting in any way.

Nationwide, there are 116,000 people on the waiting list for organs; about 80 percent are waiting for a kidney, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing. There have been about 16,586 transplants so far this year, most using organs from deceased donors. In Utah, 705 people are on waiting lists for organs, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

A single healthy donor can provide up to 24 different organs and tissues — from kidneys to skin to corneas — that can help others, Eliason said.

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By doing some research on the states that allow organ donation, I discovered a website called G.A.V.E (prisoner organ donation) from willing Inmates. http://www.gavelife.org/

G.A.V.E. is an organization set up to make a difference in the organ shortage in the U.S. with the help of willing and healthy volunteer prisoners.  Prisoners frequently ask to help through living kidney donations or multiple donations after execution to anyone in need.  However, they are just as frequently denied unnecessarily by prison administration and transplant authorities.

There are typically only between 10,000-15,000 donations given annually which provide organs for a small fraction of the greater than 112,000 Americans on waiting lists.  Yet inmates make up nearly 2,000,000 potential donors.  If just 1% chose to participate and were allowed to do so, this would nearly double the number of current organ donations in the U.S. While this won’t solve the problem, it will have a dramatic impact.

This site explores why donations from willing prisoners are not occurring now and advocates for a change to allow healthy and willing inmates the opportunity to save lives.

If the interested visitor finds the content and ideas of this site intriguing, meritorious, or worthy of debate, G.A.V.E. welcomes your input.  Of course, G.A.V.E. is looking for your support, but the quickest way to kindle a fire is to rub two opposing opinions together.

UTAH – Death row inmate loses appeal on Provo murder conviction – DOUGLAS CARTER


October 9, 2012 http://www.heraldextra.com

SALT LAKE CITY — A convicted killer who stabbed and shot a Provo woman in 1985 moved one step closer to death on Friday after the Utah Supreme Court denied his appeal.

In a 14-page ruling, the supreme court rejected Douglas Carter’s claim that he was ineffectively assisted by his attorneys. Carter was convicted of killing 57-year-old Eva Oleson in 1985.He was sentenced to death, and the court’s ruling means his sentence is affirmed.

According to the ruling, Carter has been appealing his conviction and sentence since the 1980s. Court documents state that in 1989 his conviction was upheld but his sentence was canceled due to an erroneous jury instruction. However, in 1992 Carter was again sentenced to death and in 1995 the supreme court upheld the sentence.

Carter continued his appeals through the 2000s. He made a series of different claims, but citing extensive case law the supreme court ruled that only his assertion of ineffective assistance of counsel could be reviewed. The claim means Carter believes his attorneys failed to adequately perform their duties.

According to the documents, Carter believes his post-conviction attorneys didn’t consult with investigators and experts. He also reportedly believes there is mitigating evidence in the case, but said his attorneys never examined that evidence. In addition, Carter has claimed that police and forensic reports “cast real doubt on his guilt.”

But according to the decision, Carter failed to demonstrate that his attorneys were inadequate. The supreme court further notes that merely claiming ineffective assistance of counsel isn’t enough to win an appeal.

The ruling means Carter will continue toward execution.

Carter appeared recently before a Provo judge in December. At a hearing, Teresa Oleson testified that her mother-in-law, Eva, was midway through knitting a sweater when Carter tied her up and killed her. Teresa said Carter stabbed Eva in the back, among other things. She also pleaded with the court to move forward with the case, saying her family has been unable to experience closure for more than two decades.

Attorneys working on the case did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.