Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Eight Mohave inmates still on death row

Two nearing 20-year mark

Monday, October 22, 2007 9:55 PM PDT
By JIM SECKLER/The Daily News

KINGMAN - The death penalty issue continues to rage in this country, especially with an upcoming election.The United States is the only democratic country in the world that has the death penalty. Most of all executions carried out worldwide take place in only four countries: China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States, according to Amnesty International.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal this week to stay the execution of an Arizona inmate, Joe Clarence Smith, who has been on death row for two murders for 30 years. The appeal claimed that it is cruel and unusual punishment to be on death row for more than 30 years.Two Mohave County inmates have been on death row for almost 20 years.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith, who supports the death penalty, said the death penalty is limited as an efficient deterrent to murder. Some criminals may realize before murdering someone what the ultimate penalty would be but most do not.“The pluses are that it is an eye for an eye,” Smith said. “And you have to consider the surviving victims.”

The downside of the death penalty is the cost of the legal appeal process, including court and attorney time. The appeal process used to take seven to eight years and now can take more than a dozen years, Smith said.

Death row is also an extremely horrific, isolated existence with a 23-hour lockdown in a small cramped cell as compared to being housed with the general population, Smith said.District 2 Sup. Tom Sockwell previously said the death penalty should apply only to pre-mediated murderers, if a kidnapping or rape victim is murdered or if someone betrays their country.

There are 113 inmates currently sitting on Arizona's death row. Of those, two are women, 12 are black, 14 are Latino, four are American Indians and 80 are Caucasian, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Eighty-six men and one woman have been executed in Arizona since 1910. The last, Robert Comer, was executed in May. The method commonly used was lethal injection. The last time lethal gas was used to execute a prisoner was in 1999. The death penalty was not used in Arizona from 1963 to 1992. Eight Mohave County inmates are currently on death row. The last inmate, Charles David Ellison, was sentenced to death in 2004.

Prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty against Ari Benjamin Feinner, 44, of Bullhead City. Feinner faces two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing his wife and her wheelchair-bound mother in April at their Bullhead City home.

Among those on death row:

  1. Danny L. Jones, 43, was sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of a Bullhead City man, his grandmother and his 7-year-old daughter in March 1992.
  2. Frank Anderson, 59, is on death row for the murder of the Golden Valley family in August 1996. Bobby A. Poyson, 31, is also on death row for the murder of the same Golden Valley family.
  3. Ellison, 42, of Lake Havasu City is on death row convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree burglary in the 1999 killings of an elderly Kingman couple.
  4. Daniel Wayne Cook, 46, was sentenced to death in 1988 for beating, torturing and killing two men in Lake Havasu City in July 1987.
  5. Graham Saunders Henry, 61, was also sentenced to death in 1988 for kidnapping and killing an elderly Las Vegas man in the desert about 40 miles north of Kingman in June 1986.
  6. Brothers, Roger W. Murray, 37, and Robert W. Murray, 42, also were sentenced to death for the shotgun slaying of a Grasshopper Junction couple in May 1991.

Others have seen their death sentence overturned, including:

  1. Clarence David Hill, 57, had been on death row until a Mohave County Superior Court judge threw out Hill's conviction in 2005. Hill was convicted in 1989 of first-degree murder in the burning death of his Mohave Valley landlord. Hill pleaded guilty in October 2005 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to time already served in custody. He spent 16 years and almost four months in prison. He died several weeks after his release from prison.
  2. Michael Gene Blakley, 29, of Bullhead City was sentenced to death in 2000 for killing an 18-month-old girl in 1998. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he was later sentenced to life in prison.
  3. James E. DaVolt II, 25, who as a 16-year-old murdered an elderly Lake Havasu City couple in November 1998 and was also sentenced to death. His sentence was also overturned because of his age and he received two life sentences.

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