June 16, 1986 |
By inmates, it is considered both cruel and unusual - a dim, grim place where you spend 22 or 23 hours a day alone in an isolated cell, waiting to lose your life or, some of them say, your mind, whichever comes first. To state prison officials, it is a humane and sound arrangement - a security measure made necessary by the growing number of inmates facing death in an electric chair whose return to use is looming ever closer. It is Death Row, Pa., population 65 and growing, and it is the subject of a civil trial that will begin today in a wood-paneled federal courtroom in Philadelphia and will also be heard in a concrete classroom at the state prison in Graterford, Montgomery County.
July 1, 2007 |
Harrison "Marty" Graham was sent to death row in 1988 for strangling seven women, whose corpses he kept beneath piles of trash in his North Philadelphia apartment. In 2003, a state trial-court judge threw out the sentence, and Graham now is serving life. Kenneth Ford was condemned to die after a jury found him guilty in 1991 of killing two women with a 10-inch Bowie knife in a West Philadelphia candy store. In 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the sentence, and Ford now is serving life.
September 23, 1987 |
I once had an affinity for criminals. I found their lifestyles utterly fascinating. They were those cool guys that drove big pretty cars, wore slick, bedazzling threads and were always accompanied by gorgeous, bejeweled dolls. Yeah, they had everything. But after being on death row as long as I have, I am fully convinced that the life of a criminal is not so fascinating. The glamor and excitement have fizzled. I now have an aversion for criminals. On Huntingdon's death row I call them this - loony birds - because they're really a sick brood of convicts as evidenced by some of their sick crimes.
March 17, 1989 |
For the first time since the death penalty was reinstated in Pennsylvania in 1978, a woman has been put on death row. Delores Rivers, a 34-year-old home health-care worker, wept yesterday as Common Pleas Judge John J. Poserina Jr. formally sentenced her to death for the murder of an East Frankford woman. Poserina rejected a plea for leniency. A jury Wednesday convicted Rivers, of Margaret Street near Mulberry, of beating and stabbing to death Viola Burt, 74, on Jan. 30, 1988, in Burt's home on Fillmore Street near Mulberry.
February 23, 2000 |
In Errol Morris' new documentary, Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr., the graphic descriptions of what happens when an electrocution is botched would turn Hannibal Lecter's stomach. Leuchter is an engineer who designs and maintains execution equipment, and if you care to see his words turned into chilling death-chamber images, The Green Mile obliges. Several electrocutions are re-created in minute detail that dwells on dripping sponges and balky current. In one grisly episode, a sadistic prison guard rigs the chair so that the condemned is fried rather than electrocuted.
July 25, 2000 |
Alessandra was working in her family's shop in Italy when she first wrote to Danny. Three years later, she came to America to meet him. After spending less than two hours with her, he proposed: "When I saw the sparkles in her eyes, I knew at that moment I had to spend the rest of my life with this woman. " Last August, they got married. But this is a love story with a twist. For if the State of Texas has its way, death will them part - and it will be by lethal injection. Alessandra Cardarello, now 31, knew Danny Dean Thomas was on death row. But like dozens of other women who have met, courted and married inmates awaiting execution, that didn't stop her. She crossed an ocean, left a worried family and her nursing studies behind, learned a new language and came to Texas, where she took a job waitressing and moved into a secondhand mobile home.
March 26, 2001 |
A legal technicality has helped convicted killer William Gribble get off death row. Last week, Gribble's death sentence was overturned by Common Pleas Judge James A. Lineberger after defense lawyer Ramy I. Djerassi pointed out that Gribble had not been told on the record that he had a right to have a jury decide his fate after he was convicted in 1993 of first-degree murder by Judge Paul Ribner. Ribner had imposed the death sentence after holding a penalty hearing. Gribble was found guilty of the gruesome Nov. 11, 1992, slaying of pizza shop owner Eleftherios Eleftheriou, 50. Djerassi, appointed to handle the latest of Gribble's appeals, argued that the law requires the court record to reflect that the legal rights of an accused are given before a serious trial tactic decision is made.
March 1, 2004 |
CELEBRITY hairdos and hemlines may change, but there's one fashion accessory that never goes out of style at the Oscars: Death row inmates. From "Dead Man Walking" to "The Green Mile" to this year's Academy Award-nominated movie "Monster," Hollywood always makes room on the red carpet for anti-death penalty chic. The film industry's current criminal du jour is Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer who was executed after admitting she murdered seven men in Florida. Model-turned-actress Charlize Theron depicts Wuornos sympathetically in "Monster" as a poor, overweight, abused prostitute with low self-esteem - the apparent cause of every evil deed in America these days.
June 4, 1990 |
Criminal defendants in the South often wind up on death row after being represented by inexperienced, unskilled or unprepared court-appointed lawyers, according to a report published today in the National Law Journal. Based on trial transcripts in six states, the weekly newspaper for lawyers found that many poor defendants sentenced to death had lawyers who had never handled a capital trial before, lacked training in life-or-death cases, made little effort to present evidence in support of a life sentence or had been reprimanded, disciplined or subsequently disbarred.
May 4, 1991
Officials at Huntingdon State Prison should have more important things to worry about than the length of Mumia Abu-Jamal's hair. The convicted Philadelphia cop-killer is rotting away on Huntingdon's death row, and his hair's apparently a mess. It hasn't been cut since June 1983, so you can just imagine. Ordered to submit to the barber's shears, he made a federal case out of it, contending in the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that forcing him to cut his hair would be a violation of his religious freedom.