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News Scan

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CA Debates Prop 34: Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee reports the debate over Proposition 34, which would end the death penalty and resentence death row inmates to life in prison without parole if passed, has increased with the vote approaching. Supporters of Prob 34 argue the death penalty is too expensive. However, opponents to the proposition point out supporters of Prop 34 are responsible for creating the extensive hurdles limiting the carrying out of executions in California. Since 1978, only 13 murderers have been executed. There are currently 729 inmates on death row. The primary reason for this are lawsuits challenging CA's 3-drug protocol. According to Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, adopting the single-drug protocol would fix the state's death penalty system. CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger noted that 13 of the inmates on death row have exhausted all appeals and could be executed immediately. CA voters will consider Prop 34 in November.

CA Death Penalty Defense Lawyers Drive Up Costs: Kevin Fagan of SF Gate reports since Douglas "Chief" Stankewitz was sentenced to death in CA, the first since 1977, 57 other Death Row inmates have died of natural causes before being executed. Stankewitz was convicted of shooting a young black Fresno woman point blank in the head. Proponents for Prop 34 argue re-sentencing Death Row inmates to life in prison without parole would save the state money. Opponents to Prop 34, including Stankewitz, say that the costs accrued by the state's death penalty process can be reduced.  Defense lawyers in capital cases are said to be making "big bucks", driving up costs by filing decades' worth of appeals in each case.

Matching Jurors in Drew Peterson Case: The Associated Press reports the 12 jurors in the case of Drew Peterson have been coordinating their court outfits the past month. The matching attire has included not only color matching, such as all yellow, black, blue or green, but also business suits and sports jerseys. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering his third wife, who was found dead in her bathtub in 2004. Initially, her death was believed to be a suicide, but it was reclassified as a homicide following the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife in 2007, for which he has not been charged. Closing arguments began Tuesday morning.

Mass. Prison System to Provide Inmate Sex-Change: Kari Huus of NBC News reports that U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections Tuesday to provide sex-change surgery for transgender LWOP inmate Michelle Kosilek, born Robert Kosilek.  Kosilek was convicted of murdering his wife in 1990. Kosilek won a initial lawsuit in 2002 which allowed him to undergo hormone treatments and live as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek's gender identity disorder has led to his attempted self castration and two suicide attempts.  Kosilek's lawsuit in 2006 resulted in the judge's ruling that, by failing to provide Kosilek with sex-change surgery, the state prison system had violated his 8th Amendment right to adequate treatment for his serious medical need. The Mass. DOC has not stated whether it would appeal the ruling.

Charles Manson Album Released: Alyssa Newcomb of ABC News reports a vinyl album from convicted mass murderer Charles Manson has sold a couple hundred copies at a Hollywood, CA boutique. The album includes never-before-heard tracks of Manson playing guitar and reciting poetry and spoken word lyrics dating back to the 1980s. It is said to have the sound of raw country or old blues. Manson will not make any profit or receive any royalties from album sales.

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The Attorney General is responsible for delays at this point in the Stankewitz case, as they are appealing the district court's grant of penalty phase relief. The Fresno County Superior Court also bears considerable responsibility for appointing manifestly incompetent counsel, High Goodwin. Goodwin was the subject of a unanimous decision by the Lucas court, finding him incompetent in the Troy Jones case.

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