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

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: Gov. Rick Scott Signs 20th Death Warrant

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed the death warrant for Chadwick Banks, who murdered his wife, Cassandra Banks, then raped and murdered his 10-year-old stepdaughter, Melody Cooper, on Sept. 24, 1992 in Gadsden County. Banks shot both victims in the head. He is to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Florida State Prison in Starke.

It is Scott's 20th death warrant, well ahead of any other governor's 1-term record of executions since the death penalty was re-instituted in Florida in 1976. Jeb Bush ordered the execution of 21 people during his tenure, but he did so over 8 years. The Banks execution will be the 8th this year in Florida, which accounts for more than a quarter of the 30 executions in the nation so far in 2014.

Scott signed law, called the Timely Justice Act, to fast-track executions last year. At the time, 132 inmates were certified at least partially death-warrant ready. Banks's name was added to the list, along with that of five other inmates, in January.

According to his file at the Commission on Capital Cases, the state agency that compiled data on death penalty cases - in 2011, Scott and the Legislature cut off its funding and repealed the law that had created it - Banks was arrested on Sept. 28, 1992, and charged with the double murders and child rape. He pleaded no contest on all counts. The next day, March 4, 1994, a jury found him guilty on all counts and voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty for Melody's murder. Florida is the only state other than Alabama where a unanimous jury recommendation is not required for the death penalty - and where a simple majority carries the same weight as a unanimous vote. Alabama is the only other exception, but at least 10 of the 12 votes are required for a death recommendation.

Banks, now 43, filed a series of appeals in state and federal courts between May 1994 and July 2005. He argued, as many defendants on death row do, that he'd received ineffective representation.

"Specifically," the Florida Supreme Court reported, "Banks argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to seek the assistance of a mental health expert in order to explain the potential mitigating evidence concerning beatings Banks received from his father from the age of 3 to the age of around 11 or 12 and Banks' abuse of alcohol. Banks contends that counsel's decision not to present this type of evidence was not a strategic decision because counsel did not seek the assistance of a mental health expert before making the decision. At the evidentiary hearing in the trial court, Banks presented the testimony of Dr. Larson who, in essence, opined that Banks' abuse of alcohol was his method of dealing with the physical abuse he suffered as a child. Dr. Larson indicated that this type of testimony could have been presented as mitigating evidence."

Banks lost all appeals.

Source: flaglerlive.com, Sept. 25, 2014

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