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USA | Parkland Case Challenges Us All to Figure Out What a Mass Murderer Deserves

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The ongoing sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz, the 23-year-old Florida man who in 2018 murdered fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, will test whether the seven men and five women on the jury hearing his case can hate the sin but muster the courage to spare the life of the sinner. That is exactly what his defense team is asking them to do as they sit in judgment of the person who perpetrated one of this country’s most brutal mass murders. Like many death penalty defense lawyers before them, Cruz’s lawyers, to their credit, have not downplayed the gravity of the horrors their client inflicted in Parkland, Florida. Instead, during the sentencing trial, or what the journalist Dahlia Lithwick once called a “trial of the heart,” they have focused their attention on who Cruz is and the factors that shaped his life. As the Supreme Court said more than fifty years ago, in capital cases those who impose the sentence must consider “

Alabama: James Callahan executed

James Harvey Callahan was executed at 6:24 p.m. today [Jan. 15, 2009] at Holman Correctional Facility for the 1982 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Jacksonville woman. He had been on Alabama's death row almost 26 years.

Callahan's attorneys had sought a stay today from the U.S. Supreme Court. It was rejected. Almost a year ago, the high court granted a reprieve only an hour before his scheduled execution. State prosecutors had said Callahan's appeals were exhausted. Gov. Bob Riley's office agreed, saying the governor had no plans to intervene. "Tonight, justice will finally be served," his statement said.

Callahan was twice convicted for the Feb. 3, 1982, slaying of Rebecca Suzanne Howell, a 26-year-old Jacksonville State University student abducted from a coin-operated laundry.

The victim's sister, Donna Wood released a statement that said, "This ordeal has never been anything but sad and difficult for everyone involved. She said it was unfortunate that her father, who died 3 years ago, did not live long enough to see the execution, "but we know that he is here with us in spirit." She said her slain sister was "truly a kind and loving person, one that we all still miss each and every day."

In his last moments, Callahan stared at his son, Kevin, told him that he loved him and asked Kevin to take care of his children and grandchildren. "I have a lot of remorse that I can't be here for you," he said.

Then Chaplain Chris Summers knelt beside him and prayed as Callahan closed his eyes, thrust several times against the staps, yawned, coughed twice and grew still.

Callahan never acknowledged any guilt and spoke only to his son, not to Rebecca Suzanne Howell's mother and sister.

Callahan had spent the day visiting with family and spiritual supporters. Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Callahan prayed earlier with adviser Donald Barker, as well as with family members, and was to receive communion at 4:30 p.m.

Callahan's will bequeaths to his son $36.42 from his prison account, a black and white Radio Shack TV, 2 watches, a Walkman, some headphones, a leather belt, 2 pairs of boots, 1 pair of Nike tennis shoes, food items and legal papers.

Callahan becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama and the 39th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1883. The state has 4 more scheduled executions in the next 4 months.

Callahan becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1138th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

The execution marks the second execution of 2009 & the last execution in the States during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Sources: Birmingham News, Rick Halperin, Capital Defense Weekly, January 16, 2009

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