News and Updates

Mental retardation evidence may not save Arlington teenager's killer from death chamber

The Dallas Morning News
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bruce Carneil Webster helped kidnap, rape, torture and bury alive Arlington teen Lisa Rene.

A judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees that new evidence, including psychological examinations, appears to show that Webster is mentally retarded.

But although the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty for the mentally retarded eight years ago, 5th Circuit Judge Jacques Wiener Jr. and his two colleagues agree that they can't stop Webster's execution. The panel says he exhausted his appeals to the point that it can't consider new evidence unless it is likely to prove he was innocent.

State court upholds death penalty in 1980 LAX Secret Service killing

Credit: The Associated Press
Andre Alexander during his October 1992 arraignment on murder charges in the Julie Cross killing at LAX. His appeal of his death penalty sentence in the case has been denied by the California State Supreme Court.
By: Denise Nix Staff Writer
Friday, July 16, 2010

The state's highest court has upheld the death penalty for a man who gunned down a Secret Service agent near Los Angeles International Airport in 1980.

In a 124-page opinion issued Thursday, a unanimous California Supreme Court rejected all of Andre Stephen Alexander's arguments that the sentence and convictions were unjust.

Alexander was 43 years old when he was sentenced on April 23, 1996, for the murder of Julie Cross.

Cross, 26, was gunned down on June 4, 1980, after she and a partner, who were sitting in an unmarked car in civilian clothes, were supporting a search warrant operation in Westchester.

Quinn favors death penalty moratorium; Brady would lift it

Poll shows that few strongly support IL death penalty

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gov. Pat Quinn would maintain Illinois’ 10-year moratorium on the death penalty while his Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady, would lift it, the two candidates’ campaigns said this week.

Their comments come at the same time as the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty released the results of a poll it commissioned showing that a majority of Illinois registered voters prefer some penalty other than death for the crime of murder.

The poll also found that fewer than 40 percent of registered voters even know Illinois has a death penalty.

Lynne Stewart re-sentenced to 10 years in prison

NY lawyer gets 10-year term in terrorism case

Associated Press
Thursday, July 15, 2010

A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers.

Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006. She said she has been diminished since her November imprisonment.

An appeals court had ordered a new sentencing, saying the judge needed to consider whether she committed perjury. Koeltl says she did and he says she lacked remorse after her first sentencing. Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 15 years.

Good news! Death sentence commuted in Gaile Owens case

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen today commuted the death sentence of Gaile Owens who had been scheduled for execution on September 28. She was sentenced to death for soliciting the murder of her husband, but her case garnered widespread publicity because of severe abuse she had endured at his hands.

Governor Bredesen cited similar cases as his reason for granting clemency, stating:
As heinous as the crime was, the record of how Tennessee has dealt with similar cases over the last century makes it clear that her death would have been a terrible miscarriage of justice.

Gov. Bredesen Commutes Bartlett Woman's Death Penalty Sentence

Gaile Kirksey Owens
By: Allison Sossaman
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BARTLETT - A Bartlett woman scheduled for execution in September could now be out of prison in a couple years. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has commuted Gaile Owens' death sentence to life in prison. She was convicted in 1986 for hiring someone to kill her husband.

Owens would have been the first woman Tennessee put to death in nearly 200 years. Now she's eligible parole in less than two years.

“This is a complex and emotional case," said Gov. Bredesen.

Even after 25 years, the case of Gaile Owens still stuns people in Bartlett. Neighbor Charlie Horton was there.

“Unnerving really to find somebody that's been about beat to death and walk into the middle of it,” Horton told Eyewitness News in December.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

**Please post widely to all local and national list serves**


NEW VOICES: Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Would Have Granted Troy Davis a Hearing

Death Penalty Information Center
Friday, July 9, 2010

Judge Norman Fletcher served on the Georgia Supreme Court and was in the majority that upheld Troy Davis's original conviction and death sentence on direct appeal.  However, Judge Fletcher has noted he was not on the court after many of the witnesses from Davis's trial recanted their testimony, and he probably would have voted in favor of a new evidentiary hearing for Davis if he was on the court today.  Judge Fletcher recently wrote about the wisdom of retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens regarding his decision in the Troy Davis case to grant such a hearing: "[His] leadership in this case was a triumph of the common-sense notion that innocence matters; it matters more than procedural technicalities.

The Pulse: City Reviewing Policy of Paying Burge Bills

New York Times
Friday, July 9, 2010

The City of Chicago is reviewing whether it is required to continue paying for the civil defense of Jon Burge, the former Chicago police commander, after his recent federal conviction for lying about the torture of suspects in police custody.

The city has paid $10.1 million in outside counsel fees for Mr. Burge’s legal defense in civil cases. Mr. Burge’s accusers and their advocates are questioning why the city is continuing to pick up the costly tab for his defense after he was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice on June 28. Mr. Burge, 62, has been a defendant in 17 civil rights lawsuits filed in federal court.

“I don’t think Burge should get anything from the municipality, period,” said Alderman Ed Smith (28th) on Thursday.

Execution Alert! Please help save Damien Echols

By: DeathPenalty Focus
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hello friends,

Please excuse cross posting for this urgent request.

Damien Echols could be executed for a crime he did not commit unless you ACT NOW:

In 1993, 18-year-old Damien Echols had dyed black hair, wore heavy metal t-shirts, and read Stephen King. When a terrible crime happened in the small town where he lived, he immediately became a suspect, simply because he was "different." He's been on death row ever since.