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News Scan

Death Penalty Upheld for Convicted Murderer on Third Try:  Lawrence Buser of The Commercial Appeal (TN) reports the Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence of Richard Odom, who was convicted of the 1991 rape and stabbing murder of 77-year-old Mina Ethyl Johnson.  Odom has been sentenced to death by three different juries, but the case has always been overturned on appeal.  In 1992, the state's high court overturned his death sentence after finding the murder did not meet the legal definition of heinous, atrocious and cruel.  In 2004, after another jury verdict, the same court overturned his second death sentence after finding that prosecutors should not have been allowed to give the jury graphic and violent details of a prior murder by Odom.  In 2007, Odom was sentenced to death for the third time, a sentence that was upheld yesterday.

Nevada Supreme Court Rejects Pleas from Two Murderers:  Cy Ryan of the Las Vegas Sun reports the Nevada Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of Robert Lamb, sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole for shooting to death his younger sister in 2004.  Prosecutors alleged Lamb shot Susan Bivans eight times in a school parking lot, angry because he had been left out of his father's will.  The Nevada Supreme Court yesterday also denied the petition of death row inmate Robert Ybarra Jr., who claimed he was mentally ill and could not be executed.  Ybarra was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Griffin, 16, whom he raped and set on fire in the Nevada desert.  Griffin was discovered wandering naked in the desert and was able to identify Ybarra as the perpetrator before she died a day later.

Bill Introduced to Abolish Death Penalty in Florida:  Jennifer Hancock of the Examiner reports Florida House Representative Michelle Rehwinkel introduced a bill yesterday to eliminate the death penalty in Florida, claiming it will save the state $50 million per year in taxpayers' money.  The bill is not expected to pass.  Harping on the alleged annual savings, Hancock writes the people of Florida "should be actively considering whether they would rather kill people or have teachers." 

Governor Quinn Still Deciding on Bill to Abolish Death Penalty:  Deanna Bellandi of the Associated Press reports on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's upcoming decision to abolish the death penalty in the state.  A moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois has been in effect for 11 years, though the state currently has 15 inmates on its death row.   Governor Quinn claims his decision will rest on his conscience, but the article notes various other factors that may weigh on his decision, including alienation of the African American community or the support of those legislators who voted for the abolition bill.  Steve Huntley has this column in the Chicago Sun-Times, opining that any alleged flaws with the capital punishment system do not warrant protecting those convicted of brutal murders to receive the "fate [they] earned." 

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