Five years after the shooting death of Fort Myers police officer Adam Jobbers-Miller—following multiple lawyers, competency hearings and the dismissal of potential jurors—his accused killer Wisner Desmaret is set to start his trial.
On Monday, opening statements start in Desmaret’s trial. In 2018, the Fort Myers Police Department arrested him after it says Desmaret shot Jobbers-Miller in the head.
Shellie Desmaret says her brother is not competent to represent himself in this trial, especially because he could face the death penalty. Desmaret has had multiple deputies accompany him into the courtroom due to his outbursts. Doctors had to rule him competent in order for him to represent himself in this trial.
All last week, during the jury selection process, Desmaret asked the pool of potential jurors bizarre questions about witchcraft and sexual orientation rather than focusing on their thoughts about the death penalty.
Shellie Desmaret says what we saw and heard in the courtroom is what her family sees every day.
“We have, you know, conversations where he may seem OK; the next conversation, like, he’s talking some off-the-chart stuff like he… he’s not here,” Shellie said. “You see it right in front of your eyes. You can see talking to someone that doesn’t comprehend. I don’t feel like he’s able to represent himself.”
“I’m just waiting on to see what the state… what they got going on,” Desmaret said last week.
The judge had to dismiss three jurors for discussing the case.
EPWORTH residents last week expressed mixed views on the death penalty, with some suggesting that it should be upheld, while others felt that it is a colonial law that should be done away with.
Those in favour of retaining the law said the death penalty should be imposed on drug peddlers and murderers.
This came out during a public hearing held at Epworth Community Hall by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry.
The ministry is currently gathering views from the public across the country over whether the death penalty should be abolished or upheld.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution does not impose the death penalty on women and men under the age of 21, as well as men above 69 years of age.
“It is time for the Constitution to be amended as we have witnessed a lot of murder cases. Drug peddlers are forcing young people to abuse drugs and many are perishing. These drug lords must face the death penalty. The issue of corruption is also crippling development of this country and corrupt people must face the noose,” Epworth resident Jeffrey Mafuta said.
Another resident, who only identified herself as Faith, said the courts should also impose death sentences on people who commit infanticide.
Residents opposed to the death penalty said it should be abolished as more killings do not right wrongs, while punishing offenders through death was against Christian beliefs.
Tanaka Mutangandebvu (20), director for Youth Advocacy Champions, said: “This death penalty should be entirely abolished. It was introduced by white settlers who intended to kill our forefathers, Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. It is not right to continue practising what was introduced by our colonisers.”
Most Epworth residents were in support of the fact that death penalty should not apply to people under 18 years of age.
Charles Manhiri, a chief law officer in the Justice ministry, said the country has not had any executions since 2005.
The family of 22-year-old Bhuneswar Sahu who was killed in a clash in Chhattisgarh’s Bemetara district on Saturday demanded that death penalty should be given to those involved in the murder of Sahu. Amid tense situation, heavy police deployment and clamping of section 144 in the Birampur village area of Bemetara, the last rites of Bhuneswar Sahu were performed on Sunday. “I demand that the death penalty be given to those involved in the murder of my son”, Ishwar Sahu, 22-year-old’s father said. He also alleged that the accused are getting support from the government. “They took away my son by dragging, him while the police stood there watching. If the police acted timely, then my son could have been saved”, he said. Meanwhile, Durg MP Vijay Baghel alleged that people belonging to the Muslim community brutally murdered Sahu. “The incident had created a situation of fear in the village. The police were informed about previous incidents that took place in the village. This is pure negligence on the part of the police that a youth was killed in the clash”, Baghel said. MP Baghel demanded that a search operation be conducted in the houses of people from the community.
“If search operations are conducted at their houses then a major haul of weapons will be recovered from them as they are indulged in the scrap business”, alleged Baghel. He further said, “They were hurling stones at the time of the incident. If action is not taken immediately then a massive campaign will be carried out with a participation of around 50,000 people.” Bemetara SP Indira Kalyan Elesela said, “Police have placed elaborate security arrangements to avert any untoward incident. As a preventive measure, deployment will continue for a few more days.” SP further said that the police are keeping a close watch on social media platforms. “We appeal to the people that don’t believe or immediately react on unconfirmed social media posts”, he said. “Police have arrested 11 persons. Further probe in the case is underway”, he added. Tension gripped Chhattisgarh’s Bemetara on Saturday after a child was thrashed by a few people prompting a clash between two groups reportedly belonging from separate faiths, leading to the death of a person and a few others injured. Three police personnel were also injured in the incident, informed the police.
The model can be used in addressing the critical problems and issues that persist today, such as the lack of housing and ethnic inequality.
In 1957, when Hawaii was still a territory, it abolished capital punishment and joined only six states that had done so. Like many social processes and events in the islands, race played a highly significant role in both dispensing and eliminating the death penalty.
Between 1900 and 1944, when the last execution occurred, 42 people were put to death by hanging in Hawaii. All were men and 24 were Filipino.
The others were seven Japanese, six Koreans, three Puerto Ricans, one Native Hawaiian and one white. Filipinos were vastly overrepresented among those executed since they were at most one-sixth of the territory’s population before World War II.
The overrepresentation of Filipinos among those hanged was not necessarily because there were more criminals among them but because they were racially demonized as prone to violence, criminally inclined and emotionally volatile.
This widespread stereotyping of Filipino men made juries quite willing to convict them of first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory death sentence.
In contrast, whites could escape execution by being charged with a lesser crime than first-degree murder, as in the infamous Massie-Kahahawai case of 1931-1932, or even by not being found guilty of any crime.
The only white person who was executed was John O’Connell, a mentally ill Irishman, who in 1906 was convicted of brutally killing a 3-year-old boy from a prominent white family.
In the case of Native Hawaiians, convicted murderers often avoided being hanged because territorial governors commuted their death sentences to life in prison to maintain Native Hawaiian support for white Republican politicians.
This arrangement was part of the political alliance between Native Hawaiians and white Republicans that was established after the first territorial elections in 1900 in which the Home Rule Party led and supported by Native Hawaiians emerged victorious over the Republican Party dominated by whites.
Two young Native Hawaiians who benefited from the alliance with whites were James Majors and John Palakiko. The end of capital punishment in Hawaii is often connected to what became known as the Majors-Palakiko case.
In 1948 the two men were charged with first-degree murder and rape of Therese Wilder, a 68-year-old wealthy widow who lived alone on a two-acre estate in Nuuanu Valley.
While serving 10-year sentences for burglary in Oahu Prison, Majors and Palakiko escaped from a work gang in Chinatown and caught a bus to the end of the line in the valley.
First-Degree Murder Meant The Death Penalty
The following evening, they broke into Wilder’s home to get some food and, after being confronted by her, they beat her and bound and gagged her with a towel. Following his capture the next day, Palakiko admitted his role and said that Majors had raped Wilder.
After her body was found four days later, the city medical examiner pronounced the cause of death as suffocation because of the towel tied around her mouth and nose. He also said he could not find any evidence that she had been sexually assaulted because of the advanced decomposition of her body.
After a six-day trial, Majors and Palakiko were found guilty of first-degree murder and promptly sentenced to be hanged. The primary evidence against them included alleged “confessions” made by them to the police following their arrest.
During a Hawaii Supreme Court hearing of an appeal of their conviction, Palakiko testified that he admitted assaulting Wilder and said Majors had raped her after being beaten by a Honolulu police detective, Vernal Stevens.
Majors testified at the hearing that Stevens had threatened to beat him and that he was not shown copies of the statements he had purportedly made to the police.
As a result of those and other blatant injustices in their convictions, a multiracial coalition emerged to have the death sentences given to Majors and Palakiko commuted to life in prison.
The coalition consisted of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Native Hawaiian homesteaders, Democratic Party leaders and Christian ministers. The racial makeup included whites among the Protestant ministers and Democratic Party officials, such as John Burns and Harriet Bouslog; and Native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Japanese and Portuguese among the ILWU and Democratic Party supporters.
Bouslog started the organized campaign to have petitions and letters requesting the commutation of the death sentences sent to the territory’s Democratic governor, Oren E. Long.
She and her law firm, Bouslog and Symonds, later became pro bono attorneys for the two convicted murderers and filed appeals on their behalf to the Hawaii Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
These appeals were all unsuccessful, but they raised significant issues of racial injustice in the case, which led Republican Gov. Samuel Wilder King (no relation to Therese Wilder) in 1954 to reduce the death sentences of Majors and Palakiko to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Democratic Revolution Of 1954
Five months later in the November elections, Democrats gained control of both houses of the territorial Legislature for the first time in Hawaii history.
They immediately introduced bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would end capital punishment. Democrats were fully aware that the death penalty had been used overwhelmingly against people of color in the territory, their primary supporters.
Representatives of the same multiracial coalition that had earlier advocated commutation of Majors and Palakiko’s death sentences spoke in favor of the bills. However, the final version of the law that was adopted let the jury decide if convicted murderers should be executed or receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Hence in 1957, the Democrats passed another bill that fully abolished the death penalty in Hawaii, which King signed into law.
Since then, multiracial coalitions have been organized by Hawaii’s people to advance their common interests beginning with statehood in 1959.
Coalition Building Can Be The Answer To Many Problems
The Constitutional Convention of 1978, in which the great majority of delegates were nonpoliticians, adopted several amendments to the state constitution for the benefit of Native Hawaiians, which later were approved by Hawaii voters.
These amendments included recognition of olelo Hawaii as an official language of the state besides English, establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and protection of traditional gathering rights on undeveloped private land.
A more recent example of a successful multiracial alliance was the recent protests at Mauna Kea that stalled planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. While the protests were led and organized by Native Hawaiians, representatives of just about every racial and ethnic group in the islands very likely participated in or supported that struggle.
Multiracial coalitions can serve as an effective model of how we can address the critical problems and issues that currently confront us, such as the lack of affordable housing, ethnic inequality, the need for economic diversification, homelessness and Native Hawaiian land rights.
Such coalition building need not be mobilized under the leadership of the local Democratic Party since it is no longer the racially progressive party that it was in the 1950s and 1960s. At present, many Democratic state legislators pursue their own personal and political agendas and objectives, while ignoring those of their party and its members and supporters.
As occurred in the coordinated campaign to have the death sentences given to Majors and Palakiko commuted, multiracial and multisectoral coalitions can be organized among diverse groups and individuals to work together in pursuit of their shared goals and values of racial justice and equality.
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – For the last 26 years, groups that work for alternatives to the death penalty have gathered for a Good Friday vigil on the grounds of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
The vigil offered prayers for both those who are victims and for those who commit the crimes.
Those attending say they keep coming back because they want to see an end to the death penalty in the state.
“I really hope that someday we don’t have to do this or we can do this as a celebration for ending the death penalty,” said Josh Grode Wolters “I, we always have hope for the future, but we know that it takes work and patience and time.”
As part of today’s vigil, a public notary was on hand for people to sign a living will document, saying if they were murdered, they do not want their killer to be given a death sentence.
Taichung prosecutors on Friday requested the death sentence for four suspects who allegedly beat a man to death.
Ko Tsung-heng (柯宗亨) allegedly hired the four men as enforcers for a job scam and fraud ring that he allegedly operated out of a residence in Taichung’s Beitun District (北屯), prosecutors said.
Judicial investigators and police began investigating after a corpse covered in bruises and other injuries was found at a cemetery on Dec. 8 last year. The body was identified as a man surnamed Lin (林).
During a raid, 16 suspected members of the ring were arrested and 15 victims who had been confined were freed.
The ring posted job openings online and offered loans, and then kidnapped the victims and forced them to divulge their bank account details, prosecutors said.
The ring defrauded 79 people of a total of NT$84 million (US$2.76 million), most of which was transferred overseas to be laundered, investigators said.
Prosecutors said Lin refused to cooperate with the scammers and was taken to the Beitun residence, where the four enforcers — Liu Yi-heng (劉益亨), 32, and three men in their 20s surnamed Cheng (鄭), Huang (黃) and Jen (任) — allegedly beat him to death with wooden clubs and metal rods.
All 16 suspects, including Ko, have been charged with fraud, organized crime, money laundering, illegal confinement, assault and other offenses.
“Ko’s criminal ring carried out violence … with extreme cruelty, viciously beating those who refused to cooperate,” the indictment read. “Therefore we are asking the court to impose a heavy punishment for all 16 suspects, and request the death penalty for the four members who inflicted the beating that caused Lin’s death.”
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