Fact checking, comments - NH Death Penalty Study Commission

To: The Commission to Study the Death Penalty in New Hampshire and to others

Re: Fact checking, comments - Your Nov 6, 2009 meeting

From: Dudley Sharp

Dear Committee members:

Some corrections and clarifications. I have listed the speaker, the material and the page number from your minutes, below, with my reply.

1) Rep. Shurtleff: p 9 Finally, in 1972 -- excuse me -- the U.S. Supreme Court came down with the Furman v. Georgia ruling stating the death penalty was unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment.

Reply: The death penalty was never declared unconstitutional. The statutes and therefore the enforcement of the death penalty were seen as too arbitrary and, therefore, a violation of the 8th Amendment. As the death penalty is integral within the constitutional, it is unlikely it will ever be declared unconstitutional.  It is an important distinction.

2) Mr. Vogelman: p 19  " . . . the classic example that was all over the press was during President Clinton's first-- during the first primary. There was a man executed in Arkansas who when he was given his last meal when the warden gave him his dessert the evening before he was to be executed, he said no, I'll save this for tomorrow's breakfast. So there was some question. He eventually lost and was executed but there was some question as to whether or not he even understood that this was his last day on earth."

Reply:  According to an Arkansas Dept of Corrections spokesperson, there is no record of this ever occurring. A defense attorney for Rector, the subject inmate/double murderer,  had a story that Rector set his dessert aside, because Rector did know what execution meant.  There's nothing to support the story. Rector had mental problems, which were thoroughly vetted, repeatedly in court. The court found that he knew exactly what execution meant.  Otherwise, he could not have been executed.

3) Mr. Vogelman p 20 The law says that you cannot put on the jury somebody who under no circumstances would vote for death.

Reply: True. It would be unacceptable to seat any potential juror who could not vote for the range of punishments under consideration for any case, be that jay walking or more serious crimes.

4) Mr. Vogelman  p23  The Supreme Court of the United States decided that the gas chamber, for instance, you can't do that.

Reply: There is no SCOTUS ban on the gas chamber.

5) Mr. McLaughlin  p 29: I will tell you, I think the experience of whether you're defending or prosecuting as an attorney is that when you look in the mirror that night you simply hope that you have done your job as best you can because you realize that out there on the one hand you have a person who has just been sentenced to life without parole, and on the other hand you have the other participant who is not there at trial who is the victim who will never be heard in any circumstances for any reason. There is nothing about it that is anything other than sobering.

Reply: I couldn't agree more.