Capital commentary no10 1
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CJ CJ ....::t • ....::t 0 N r:: U November 2 r,. 20 ( I Issue [0 1978, when he was 27, Manuel Valle killed a police officer in Coral Gables, Florida. In September, when he was 61, Mr. Valle was put to death for his crimes. Shortly before his execution, the Supreme Court refused to stay his execution - with one dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the 33 years Mr. Valle spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. "I have little doubt about the cruelty of so long a period of incarceration under sentence of death," Breyer wrote. "The commonly accepted justifications for the death penalty are close to nonexistent in a case such as this one. It is difficult to imagine how an execution following such a long period of incarceration could add significantly to that punishment's deterrent value." His dissent then addressed the variety of reasons for Valle's unusual delay, raising questions about current legal procedures 'and the death penalty. "It might be argued that Valle, not the State, is responsible for the delays. But Valle replies that more than two decades of delay reflect the State's failure to provide the kind of trial and penalty procedures that the law requires .... It might also be argued that it is not so much the State as it is the numerous procedures that the law demands. But this kind of argument does not automatically justify execution in this case. Rather the argument may point to a more basic difficulty, namely the difficulty of reconciling the imposition of the death penalty as is currently administered with pro-cedures necessary to assure that the wrong person is not executed." Justice Breyer's dissent reflects valid concerns that the current procedures required in death penalty cases need reform. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately I 13 prisoners out of 3,173 have been under the sentence of death for more than 29 years. In Oklahoma, there are currently four death row inmates that have been on death row for over 20 years and four others who are not far behind. In 1983, Sammy VanWoundenberg was convicted of participating in the murder of fellow inmate, Mark Allen Berry, while he was serving a life sentence for another murder conviction. His conviction and sentence have repeatedly been affirmed by state, district, and federal courts. His last appeal was denied in 2000. Currently, he has no pending appeals and there is no scheduled execution date. In 1984, Richard Rojem, Jr. was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering seven-year-old Layla Cummings. He was resentenced to death twice. In 2009, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his second death sentence. Continued on next page ......
|Okla State Agency||
District Attorneys Council, Oklahoma
|Okla Agency Code||'220'|
|Title||Capital commentary, 11/21/2011, no.10|
Oklahoma District Attorneys Council.
|Purpose||Lifelong death sentences; Oklahomans & Capital Punishment|
|For all issues click||D1300.6 C244c|
|Digital Format||PDF, Adobe Reader required|
|ODL electronic copy||Deposited by agency in print; scanned by Oklahoma Department of Libraries|
|Rights and Permissions||This Oklahoma state government publication is provided for educational purposes under U.S. copyright law. Other usage requires permission of copyright holders.|