Sunday, 1 April 2007

Pennsylvania has fourth-highest number on death row

Pennsylvania has fourth-highest number on death row

By John Hilton,

April 1, 2007

Pennsylvania now has 221 death-row inmates — four of them women. Only California, Florida and Texas have more people on death row.

In order to receive the death penalty, a person convicted of first-degree murder must have at least one of 10 aggravating circumstances defined by law that outweigh the eight mitigating factors.

Three examples of aggravating circumstances include commission another felony, creating “grave risk of death to other people,” and/or drug manufacturing, distribution or delivery.

Example of mitigating factors include: no significant criminal history; under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance; and lack of capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law.

Four death row inmates are there for crimes committed in Cumberland County. They include: * Seifullah Abdul-Salaam, 36, of Harrisburg, shot and killed New Cumberland police officer Willis Cole during a robbery at a coin shop in August 1994. * Quadruple-murderer Mark Spotz, 36, killed four people between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, 1995.

The Clearfield County man began his rampage by killing his brother, Dustin Spotz, 25, before fleeing across the state. Along the way, Spotz killed June Ohlinger, 52, on Feb. 1, Peggy Gunnet, 41, on Feb. 2, and Betty Amstutz, 70, on Feb. 3.

The last murder took place in North Middleton Township. Spotz was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in his brother’s death and received the death penalty for each of the other murders. *

Antyane Robinson, 37, of Fort Washington, Md., was convicted of attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend and killing a man in her apartment in June 1996. Robinson killed Rashawn O. Bass, 22, of Harrisburg and wounded Tara Hodge, then 25, of Carlisle, during a confrontation in the apartment on West Louther Street. * In 2001, William Howard Housman, 31, and Beth Ann Markman, 41, were convicted of first degree murder in the October 2000 death of 18-year-old Leslie Rae White.

The West Pennsboro Township couple stole White’s Jeep Cherokee and dumped her body in a junk car on an abandoned farm in southern Virginia.

Markman’s death sentence was overturned last month by the state Supreme Court, who agreed with Markman’s claim that the Cumberland County trial court should not have allowed the jury to hear an edited audiotape of a confession by the boyfriend, William Housman, 31, implicating her. Housman did not testify during the trial, denying Markman the opportunity to confront him in court, her attorney argued.

Prosecutors expect to retry her in the coming months.

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