Wednesday, July 20, 2005

For Ex-death-row prisoners, Freedom Can Be Grim Reality

US: Once [labelled by corporate media] as the "Snaggletooth Killer" when he was on Arizona's death row, Ray Krone got an Extreme Makeover after DNA cleared him in a 1991 murder. He has addressed the United Nations, toured Europe to protest the death penalty, mingled with celebrities, and even attracted his own groupies.

Nick Yarris, released from Pennsylvania's death row last year after DNA exonerated him in a 1981 rape and murder in Delaware County, has been on a similar odyssey, speaking at college campuses and telling his story on TV programs and in an award-winning documentary.

Such journeys from prison to prominence are not unlike the experiences of other members of this new and growing population of those who have been exonerated of crimes, especially those released from death row. They are courted here and abroad to speak at anti-death-penalty, social-justice, and academic forums, where audiences are spellbound by their horrifying accounts.

But the exciting travels and high-profile invitations are a distraction from the grim realities of life after prison. Longtime inmates have lost jobs, homes, and, often, their families. They carry the emotional scars of prison and the Kafkaesque trip through the court system as well as the stresses of returning to society. Some revert to past problems such as alcohol and drug abuse.

"Emotionally and psychologically, it's a roller-coaster ride," said James C. McCloskey, who heads Centurion Ministries, a Princeton organization whose efforts have led to the exoneration of 36 people. "It's like they're a Martian coming down to Earth."

Krone said his travels have been an enjoyable distraction. He recalled carrying a banner in a death-penalty protest in Montreal, next to famous activists Bianca Jagger and Catherine Deneuve, and looking back in wonder at the thousands of people behind them. Life outside prison "was a whole new world or other planet," Krone said in an interview at his home in Dover, Pa., south of Harrisburg.

This month, Krone was back in the spotlight - at a community forum on the death penalty in Mount Holly.

His story transfixed the audience of about 30 at Sacred Heart Church, as he explained how DNA tests of blood on the victim's clothing cleared him and implicated a man already convicted of a sex offense.

"This is part of my therapy, I think, being able to speak about it," he told the group.

The use of DNA testing is perhaps the most important advancement in modern criminology: It helps catch the guilty and absolve the innocent. But the increasing number of people who have now been exonerated nationwide for all crimes - estimated to be about 350 since 1989 - raises societal questions of whether and how to compensate inmates who have been cleared, and how to smooth the transition back to society.

About 19 states, including New Jersey, have laws to compensate for the lost years. In Pennsylvania, State Reps. Michael McGeehan and James Roebuck (D., Phila.) have introduced legislation that would compensate those exonerated of crimes who served time in Pennsylvania prisons, and pay for counseling and other services to help ease the readjustment. Former prisoners also would get $50,000 for every year spent on death row.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Tennessee death row inmate's appeal in a case that could provide guidance for when prisoners convicted before DNA testing was available should get a new chance to prove their innocence.

Krone, who returned home to York County after his release, has won a $1.4 million judgment from Maricopa County in Arizona, but he said that most of it went to lawyer fees and other debts from his years of appeals.

Ernest Duff, executive director of the California-based Life After Exoneration Program, started in 2003 to help the growing number of people cleared of crimes, said that the newly exonerated often suffer from depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress.

"It's very, very lonely, very disorienting, and, for many, it's ultimately frustrating to the point that some of them wish they were back inside," Duff said.

Krone, now 48, said he couldn't even sleep on a bed when he first got out because he was accustomed to sleeping on a concrete or metal frame, and he found himself subconsciously avoiding fences because prisoners were barred from walking near fences. Even now, he said, he has a problem believing in people.

"Trust is an issue," he said.

But Krone, a postal worker with no criminal record who stayed in Phoenix when he got out of the Air Force, said he was fortunate because he had the unwavering support of family and friends back home who prayed, wrote and believed in him, and that helped a lot.

For people without that kind of support - especially those who were very young when they went to prison - life can be very difficult. Although many have little trouble attracting sympathetic women, relationships can be difficult to manage on top of the other stresses of readjustment. One man released from Florida's death row after 16 years, for example, was sentenced last year to two years back in prison for assaulting his wife of four months.

Yarris, who grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and spent 22 years on Pennsylvania's death row, said he felt as if he had been stuck in a "time warp" and emerged from prison feeling much like the 20-year-old he was when he entered.

"I paid for every stupid mistake I ever made three times over," Yarris told a class at Princeton University last fall.

Yarris insists that he is not angry, though people who know him say that he is struggling with resentment over the lost time - 8,057 days on death row.

He has a federal lawsuit pending against Delaware County. Last month, he married a woman who had heard him speak last year in England. And they have settled there while Yarris writes a book.

He was featured in a documentary, After Innocence, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year. He declined to comment for this article, saying in an e-mail that he now prefers to "concentrate" on the European news media so as not to take "time away from writing my book." His Web site is

His mother, Jayne Yarris, who lives in Southwest Philadelphia, said her son was a bundle of nerves when he was released. He ate quickly, talked nonstop, and had to reacquaint himself with all sorts of normal lifestyle matters. "It is really a rough, rough time," she said.

She said she worried about his readjustment: "When you're pushed in the door, they control your life. When they throw you out, they don't care."

She said England is a good change. "England knows him as Nick and not as the one who got off death row."

Krone said that "a lot of anger and frustration" comes from being falsely accused. He was convicted, got a new trial, then was convicted again because of testimony that his crooked teeth had left a bite mark on the victim's breast.

Krone said he had always been sensitive about his crooked teeth, so when the Extreme Makeover TV show offered him a new smile and other cosmetic surgery, he accepted the offer. The show is set to be rerun tomorrow.

Krone said that life is good in York County. He helps out friends with odd jobs, and largely earns a living from speaking engagements. He said he believes he has adjusted pretty well. "I think I'm doing OK with my relationship with family and friends," he said.

Mr Krone wants to remain in the limelight for as long as possible to keep the pressure on those who snagged him for a horrific crime that he did not commit.

"I want to keep this going as long as I can until they acknowledge their mistakes," he said.

By Emilie Lounsberry Posted 20 July 05

Lab's Errors Force Review of 150 Virginia DNA Cases

US: WASHINGTON, - A sharply critical independent audit found that Virginia's nationally recognized central crime laboratory had botched DNA tests in a leading capital murder case. The findings prompted Gov. Mark Warner to order a review of the lab's handling of testing in 150 other cases as well.


Denis Burke, the lone Australian political leader who supported the reintroduction of capital punishment in Australia, learned last night that Northern Territory voters are the wiser.

Mr Howard has warned Japan that it faces global condemnation if it kills whales. Mr Howard is often quoted as saying he cannot and he would not interfere in the business and laws of sovereign states. Whaling is a part of the Japanese culture. The death penalty is also a part of many countries culture.

During 2004, at least 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries. At least 7,395 people were sentenced to death in 64 countries. These figures are only reported cases - the true figures were certainly much higher - many countries continue to execute people in secret.

WHY IS THE HOWARD GOVERNMENT PLAYING 'DEATH' WITH AUSTRALIANS: There has been much controversy recently on whether the Australian Federal Police should have tipped-off the Indonesians over the arrest of the Bali Nine. Due to the fact that Indonesia executes convicted drug-traffickers, ACADP believes that any evidence collected by AFP should have been withheld from Indonesian authorities until they have a written guarantee not to pursue the death penalty for the Bali Nine.

Death penalty-free zone in Europe and Central Asia
A coalition of non-governmental organizations is calling for a death penalty-free zone in Europe and Central Asia.

For death row inmates in Indonesia, execution usually comes on a deserted beach or remote jungle at the hands of a paramilitary firing squad. And, it rarely comes fast.

The Australian Coalition Against Death Penalty (ACADP) is (again) calling on U.S. President George W. Bush, to join the civilised world and destroy all chemicals of mass destruction, for the dignity and respect of every human life.

The difference between life and death can rest on the whim of a president or the ability of a lawyer. Whether or not the death penalty can be justified is very much up for grabs.

US: The American media reports that thousands of Iranians cheered, whistled and clapped as a serial killer was publicly executed in Iran last week.

The United States of America has withdrawn from an international agreement that gives detained foreign nationals the right to seek assistance and talk to their consular officers.

Corby lawyer pleads for Australian help
Schapelle Corby, 27, is accused of carrying over four kilograms of marijuana into Bali and could be sentenced to death if she is found guilty.

OHIO: Appeals court tosses death sentence for U.S.-British citizen
In Cincinnati, a federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out the conviction and death sentence of a man with dual U.S.-British citizenship who was convicted of killing a 2-year-old girl by starting a fire in his ex-girlfriend's apartment.

If you haven't heard about it yet, you will. There's a celebration in the air: Kenny is an innocent man living on death row in an Ohio prison and the authorities may finally acknowledge what we've known all along.

To prepare for Connecticut's first state-sanctioned killing in 45 years, the state Department of Corrections has spent more than US$33,000 on such items as training personnel, drugs (poison), intravenous catheters and tubing, portable restrooms, mobile offices, lighting and curtains for the witness observation room.

Child Offenders on Death Row
Recent Australian studies of alcohol and cannabis use show that girls are increasingly inclined to behave boldly. But boys out number the girls, two to one; and three to one in the juvenile justice system, mortality figures, speeding infringements and car crash statistics.

US death row numbers don't change policy?
The number of prisoners on death row in the United States appears to be falling, mostly credited to a single Governor who commuted the sentences of all the death row prisoners in his state.

Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates
US: The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.

How Denying the Vote to Ex-Offenders Undermines Democracy
For starters, hundreds of thousands of people who are still eligible to vote will not do so this year because they will be locked up in local jails, awaiting processing or trials for minor offenses.

DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship
Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.

Our Two Priority Bills sent to White House
US: The 8th National CURE Convention last June lobbied on Capitol Hill the Innocence Protection Act in the Senate and the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 in the House. On Sunday, October 10th, Congress passed both bills and sent them to the President to be signed.

US: A Californian man who beheaded a german shepherd dog he had named after his girlfriend, has been sentenced to 25 years to life under California's three-strikes law.

SAVE THE LIFE OF NGUYEN TUONG VAN:A PLEA TO SINGAPORE PRESIDENT On behalf of the Australian Coalition Against Death Penalty (ACADP) and in the spirit of respect for human life, I make a heartfelt plea for clemency, compassion and mercy, to spare and save the young life of Nguyen Tuong Van, currently under sentence of death at Changi Prison in Singapore. Nguyen Tuong Van, is a 23-year-old Australian man of Vietnamese origin. Nguyen was arrested at Changi Airport in December 2002, whilst in transit from Cambodia to Australia. He was later charged and convicted of drug-trafficking. In March 2004 he was sentenced to death for his crime.

A long-standing convention not to extradite people out of Australia if they face the death penalty has been abandoned.

Kids from 3 to 83 years old beat candy labeled "Justice" out of a big Texas-shaped piqata on Aug. 1 as dozens gathered in the Houston City Hall Park to celebrate the 30th birthday of Nanon Williams, an innocent person on Texas death row.

THE LAND OF BIBLES, GUNS, PATRIOTS AND THE 'WORLD ROLE MODEL' FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The state of Alabama, USA, executed James Barney Hubbard. So what? ... you might say ... America executes prisoners almost every week!

Appealing a Death Sentence Based on Future Danger USA-HOUSTON, June 9 - Texas juries in capital cases must make a prediction. They may impose a death sentence only if they find that the defendant will probably commit more violent acts.

Forensics? In proposing a new death penalty for Massachusetts last month, Governor Mitt Romney offered firm assurance that no innocent people would be executed: Convictions, he said, will be based on science.

Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons.

U.N. Group Seeks End To Executions The United States, Japan, China, India and Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia opposed the resolution. Burkina Faso, Cuba, Guatemala, South Korea and Sri Lanka abstained.

US: Execution Dear Friends, this is so sad especially for our dear friend, San Nguyen. San who lives in Oklahoma worked very hard with the rest of the Vietnamese community to stop Mr. Le's execution. You may remember San from being at CURE's First International Conference in New York City in 2001. San also plans to be at the 8th National Convention this June in Washington. Charlie

Please contact the Governor The Vietnamese-American Community, the ACLU, and many others want the March 30 execution of Huang Thanh Le commuted.

Cherie Blair attacks US over death penalty in Catholic paper Cherie Blair has renewed her attack on America's use of the death penalty. In a book review in the Catholic journal The Tablet, under her maiden name Cherie Booth, she says: "Capital cases are uniquely prone to error and thus call into question whether we can ever be really sure of obtaining the just result.

Death penalty: a lawyer sees the light The observation "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" is illustrated by the two nations' differing reactions to the use of the death penalty as a legitimate punishment for murder.

OHIO: Judges join dissent on execution delay In Columbus, 5 federal appeals court judges say a convicted killer's request to delay his execution was illegally denied because 2 senior judges participated in the vote.

Stephen Romei: Death knell sounds for US capital law GEORGE Ryan gets my vote as Australian of the Year, even though he's the outgoing governor of the US state of Illinois. There's just no one I admire more right now, not even Greg's Kables Community News Newtwork..

Mexico Awaits Hague Ruling on Citizens on U.S. Death Row Sbaldo Torres, a convicted murderer on death row in Oklahoma, should have been dead by now, his appeals exhausted, his time up.

Jury Passes On Business Of Killing US: This drives the death penalty crowd in the legislature nuts. Yet another jury - another 12 men and women, tried and true, who had all attested to their belief in the death penalty - has refused to join in the killing business.

Ultimate Punishment Scott Turow has long juggled two careers‹that of a novelist and that of a lawyer. He wrote much of his first and best known legal thriller, Presumed Innocent, on the commuter train to and from work during the eight years he spent as an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, and he has churned out another blockbuster every third year since joining the firm of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in 1986.

A Question of Innocence Rubin Carter: Day after day, week after week, I would sit in that filthy cell, seething. I was furious at everyone. At the two state witnesses who lied, at the police who put them up to it, at the prosecutor who sanctioned it, at the judge who allowed it, at the jury who accepted it, and at my own lawyer, for not being able to defeat it.

Amnesty steps up campaign to abolish death penalty Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is urging people around the world to pressure countries to abolish the death penalty.

'LAND OF THE FREE' SET TO EXECUTE TWO PRISONERS BY FIRING SQUAD: Wanted: Willing executioners for two convicted murderers. Must be psychologically sound and familiar with .30-calibre rifles. No victims' relatives need apply.

TEXAS EXECUTES 300th PRISONER Keith Clay was executed tonight, becoming the 300th prisoner in Texas to die by lethal injection since the rogue state resumed the death penalty 20 years ago.

AUSTRALIAN COALITION AGAINST DEATH PENALTY " ... Our nation was built on a promise of life and liberty for all citizens. Guided by a deep respect for human dignity, our Founding Fathers worked to secure these rights for future generations, and today we continue to seek to fulfil their promise in our laws and our society.

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Please note the following article shows clearly the hateful, uncaring and anti-human rights attitude as reflected by the Governor of Texas (and most other elected Texas officials).

Bush rules out death sentence review US President George W Bush says has dismissed any chance of a review of America's system of capital punishment.

Amnesty urges Bush to shut death row Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged US President George W. Bush to take a "moral stand" and abolish the death penalty after the Illinois Governor dramatically emptied that state's death row.

USA - A NATION IN TURMOIL: As the year 2002 draws to a close, little if anything, has changed in the United States in regards to state-sanctioned killing. Various campaigns, calls for clemency, petitions, and international condemnation, have failed to humanize U.S. politicians.

Here come de Judge - Time to Leave [266]
There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.