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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Florida executes John Richard Marek

STARKE -- John Richard Marek was executed Wednesday for murdering a 45-year-old mother of two whose raped, tortured and strangled body was dumped in Dania Beach after her car broke down on Florida's Turnpike 26 years ago.

Marek, 47, died at 6:33 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection at the Florida State Prison.

He was condemned for the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Adela Marie Simmons, whose nude body was found the day after she climbed into a pickup truck to get help after a friend's car broke down on the turnpike in Palm Beach County in 1983.

Marek made a last statement before he died, but it was inaudible to members of the news media and witnesses, who included Simmons' son-in-law.

Marek's appeals were turned down by the U.S. and Florida supreme courts on Wednesday. He had claimed that the other man in the truck, Raymond Wigley, killed Simmons.

Martin McClain, Marek's attorney, tracked down inmates who said Wigley told them he was the killer. Wigley, who had received a life sentence, was murdered in prison in 2000.

Simmons and her friend Jean Trach were returning to Miami from a vacation in Clearwater on June 16, 1983, when Trach's car began stalling. As the Barry University co-workers neared Jupiter on the turnpike, the car wouldn't restart.

Marek and Wigley stopped their pickup truck and offered to take one of them to the next toll booth to call for help. Simmons volunteered over Trach's warnings.

A police officer stopped Marek and Wigley about 3:30 a.m. as they walked away from a Dania Beach lifeguard stand. They got into a pickup truck -- later determined to be stolen -- and drove away.

Simmons' body was found inside the lifeguard tower about 7 a.m.

That evening, Wigley was arrested in Daytona Beacha driving the truck. Inside was a gold watch, a gold pendant and gold earring belonging to Simmons, and a gun. Marek was arrested in Daytona Shores.

Marek testified that after they picked up Simmons, he fell asleep. When he awoke, he said the woman was not in the truck. He testified Wigley told him he had dropped her off at a gas station. He said he again fell asleep and that when he woke, he was on the beach.

Fingerprints found at the lifeguard station matched both Wigley and Marek, but only Marek's prints were found inside the observation deck, where the body was found.

Wigley testified that the victim was forced to perform oral sex and was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

Marek had a three-hour visit Wednesday from his girlfriend, Marion Dollinger from Eppelheim, Germany, said Gretl Plessinger, a Department of Correction spokeswoman. She said he was calm and quiet in the hours before his death.

Marek met with an Episcopalian minister in the afternoon. He ordered a last meal of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with mayonnaise and wheat bread, onion rings, french fries, blueberries and strawberries and whipped cream, and a Dr Pepper.

About 20 death penalty opponents gathered in a field outside the prison to protest the execution.

``People think that because we protest the death penalty we're in favor of what people did,'' said Martha Lushman, 47, of Palm Bay. ``No, we don't agree with what they did. They did wrong. But we don't believe -- I don't believe -- it's our decision to terminate their life.''

Marek's was the 68th Florida execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979, the 24th by injection and the second this year.

``It's a question of justice. The death penalty doesn't serve any use in our modern society. It should be abolished, at least in favor of life [in prison] without parole,'' said Joseph Koechler, 66, from Ormond Beach.

Source: The Miami Herald, August 20, 2009

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