Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bring back the death penalty, prisoners plead...

Italy inmates seek death penalty
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Hundreds of prisoners serving life sentences in Italy have called on President Giorgio Napolitano to bring back the death penalty. Their request was published as a letter in the daily newspaper La Republica. Italy has almost 1,300 prisoners serving life terms, of whom 200 have served more than 20 years.

Italy has been at the forefront of the fight against capital punishment and recently lobbied the UN Security Council to table a moratorium on it. But at home some of the country's longest serving prisoners want the death penalty re-introduced.

'Light into shadows'

The letter they sent to President Napolitano came from a convicted mobster, Carmelo Musumeci, a 52-year-old who has been in prison for 17 years. It was co-signed by 310 of his fellow lifers. Musumeci said he was tired of dying a little bit every day. We want to die just once, he said, and "we are asking for our life sentence to be changed to a death sentence".

It was a candid letter written by a man who, from within his cell, has tried hard to change his life. He has passed his high school exams and now has a degree in law. But his sentence, he says, has transformed the light into shadows. He told the president his future was the same as his past, killing the present and removing every hope.

'Need for change'

Italy abolished the death penalty after World War II. Under current laws, prisoners serving life can obtain the right to brief periods of release after 10 years and conditional release after 26 years of good conduct. The Communist Refoundation party's senator, Maria Luisa Boccia, has proposed draft legislation to abolish the life sentence and replace it with a maximum sentence of 30 years. The president has spoken many times about the need to change the sentencing regime. But in his response to the letter, he said it was now for parliament and the government to deal with the prisoners' request.

Original at

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wake and funeral information for Brian...

From Brian's dad:

The Wake will be Friday, June 1 from 6-8 PM at:
Settegast-Kopf Funeral Home
3320 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 526-2411

The Funeral Service will take place on Saturday, June 2 at 2 PM at:
Christ the King Lutheran Church
2353 Rice Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 523-2864x1021

In lieu of flowers you may donate to the Boys & Girls Club in McAllen Texas. Brian loved to spend his summers in McAllen at his Grandparents ("Momo & Papa's") home. Please include Brian's name, your Name, Address, Telephone Number, Signature and Date along with contribution to: Boys & Girls Club of McAllen Capital Campaign P.O. Box 577 McAllen, TX 78505

Thanks to everyone who has expressed there condolences and keep Brian and his family in their prayers. Also, please free to forward this message to anyone else who may want to know.

With love and gratitude,

Fidel & Trudi

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Brian is gone.

I just learned that my high school friend Brian committed suicide while overseas.

Brian and I weren't close in high school, he dated a friend (Adriana) and was friends with friends of mine (Joe, Brian, Ben) but we didn't specifically associate with each other back then. There was one incredibly embarassing incident I'll never forget, though-- I had just started dating a guy from another high school, it was probably my first date with him, and we went to the community college's Pink Floyd laser show. I saw Brian and Adriana coming out of the earlier showing as we were entering, so I began the introductions, and completely forgot my date's name. Of course now I'll never forget it (Kevin Artl, I'm sure you're not reading this, but just in case, you have achieved immortality.) You know, I don't even remember if Brian really remembered that incident.

Keep in mind I went to high school in a Chicago suburb, and imagine my surprise when I ran into him in Austin years later-- I was taking a free swing dance lesson at the Carousel Lounge, I think with Drew Lippolt of all people, and Brian was visiting his dad who lived near Plano, about 3 hours away.

Brian and I sort of stayed in touch on an occasional basis-- he joined me and a gang of friends from law school for some tubing down the Guadalupe River one summer, he was my date at a friend's wedding, and we even dabbled in a romantic relationship at one point after law school. Brian was definitely a "jet setter" in my eyes. He dropped out of Berkeley where he studied computer science to join the team at Yahoo, waaaay long ago before their big success. He cashed out his stock options at a good time, because he bought a Boxster S, tooled around the country for a while, then zoomed off to Ibiza, Spain where he lived like a rock star for months and months. My understanding was he enjoyed some of the finest music and clubbing lifestyle as only a young, affluent, incredibly smart young guy can.

Brian came back to the States one summer, I guess it was summer of 2001 or maybe 2002, and joined me for an incredibly nice trip on the scenic highway in Virginia's Blue Mountains. He drove his Boxster all the way there from Texas to meet me-- he went to my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary party one weekend, then we cruised around in the state and national parks on Skyline Drive for a few days before he headed back south and I went to my cousin Brett's wedding. That's the kind of generous thing Brian would do-- drive thousands of miles, on $800/set tires that only last like 20-30k miles to begin with, in a car that costs about $200 for an oil change and gets horrible gas mileage, to meet a friend who has a week to kill so she can drive his precious baby. That's Brian in a nutshell-- fun-loving, impulsive, generous, kind, extravagant.

He was also witty and dry-- SUCH a dry sense of humor-- and so darn smart. He was quick in every way. Quick speaking, quick to laugh, quick to poke fun, quick to make decisions. Brian never scrimped on compliments and was as quick to point out something lovely as most people are in criticizing.

Brian was a good salsa dancer. He accompanied me to a friend's wedding and took me out salsa dancing afterwards, long before I'd really gotten into salsa the way I have now. And I think the last time I actually saw him, he was just about finished with his degree at Berkeley (yes, he did return to finish it) and was in Austin briefly on his way to somewhere else-- maybe this is a year ago... he came by the salsa club and hung out for a while, danced with me a bit, and then was gone. I remember him smelling very strongly of cigarrette smoke and being surprised because I didn't think he smoked. The last time I heard from him, he was planning a trip to Costa Rica with a friend from school.

Then I think in February, he fell off the face of the earth, not communicating with anyone, friends or family. We (his high school friends and his parents) ran around like nuts for a while, everyone trying to locate him... his website was still active, but was it just automatic bill pay? A family member in law enforcement got his credit card records and learned from them that he was using his credit card in Basel, Switzerland. Phew, he was alive and not at the bottom of the jungle somewhere. At that point I figured Brian was just being an international man of mystery again, so I sent a final email saying he should stop playboying around long enough to send his parents an email or postcard-- I think I may have even called him a jackass, but with a smiley face-- and I assumed that was it.

Now I hear that Brian talked with his dad last week and said he was coming home-- but then last Friday, the State Department called his dad and said Brian committed suicide on Thursday May 24. I got the email over the weekend and I'm trying to get more information for friends. I plan on driving to Houston for the funeral on Saturday.

I can't believe this happened. I had no idea Brian was ever anywhere near suicide. I need more information to even start to process this-- until I get more data, it's just empty words that convey no meaning.

I'll miss him, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Death Penalty Upheld for Child Rape

Death Penalty for Child Rape: copied from the Volokh Conspiracy site,

Yesterday the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for rape of a child under 12. In Coker v. Georgia (1977), the Supreme Court held that the death penalty for rape was unconstitutional. Many commentators had interpreted the reasoning of Coker as precluding the death penalty for anything short of murder and possibly some national security offenses (treason, espionage, and the like). But Coker spoke expressly and repeatedly of rape of an adult, so the question of the death penalty for rape of a child remains open.

Yesterday's decision follows the lead of a 1996 Louisiana Supreme Court case (State v. Wilson), but Wilson decided the question in the context of a pretrial motion, and the U.S. Supreme Court understandably -- given its general preference not to review decisions before a final judgment -- refused to hear the case. The new case, State v. Kennedy, upholds a death sentence, so I suspect the Supreme Court will agree to consider the issue.

The Louisiana opinion is long and detailed, and I can't do it justice with a capsule summary; but here's a particularly interesting passage that tries to apply the U.S. Supreme Court's death penalty methodology that was developed in the recent cases having to do with the death penalty for juveniles and the mentally retarded (one paragraph break added):

Overall, it appears that approximately 30% of capital jurisdictions (15 of 38, including federal) authorize some form of non-homicide capital punishment, a showing strong enough to suggest that there may be no consensus one way or the other on whether death is an appropriate punishment for any crime which does not result in the death of the victim. However, when the direction of change is considered, clearly the direction is towards the imposition of capital punishment for non-homicide crimes. As stated earlier, the number of jurisdictions allowing the death penalty for non-homicide crimes more than doubled between 1993 and 1997.

Most important to our analysis is the fact that four states have enacted laws which capitalize child rape since Wilson, evidencing movement in the direction that this Court thought possible back in 1996 when Wilson was decided. Looked at another way, even after the Supreme Court decided in Coker that the death penalty for rape of an adult woman was unconstitutional, five states nevertheless have capitalized child rape since then, a number which the Supreme Court held in Roper was sufficient to indicate a new consensus regarding society’s standards of decency towards the juvenile death penalty.

In fact, the trend is more compelling than in Roper, given the Roper Court’s reliance on five states abolishing the death penalty for juveniles after Stanford held that the death penalty for juveniles was constitutional. Here, we have five states enacting the death penalty for child rape in spite of Coker, which held that the death penalty for rape of an adult was unconstitutional. Furthermore, it is likely that the ambiguity over whether Coker applies to all rape or just adult rape has left other states unsure of whether the death penalty for child rape is constitutional. These states may just be taking a “wait and see” attitude until the Supreme Court rules on the precise issue. Thus, the fact that only five states capitalize child rape should not pose an obstacle to the Court’s consideration of the issue, given the direction of change, i.e, an increase of five since Coker....

[Moreover,] it can be said for child rapists as a class of offenders that, unlike the young or mentally retarded, they share no common characteristic tending to mitigate the moral culpability of their crimes. Contrary to the mentally retarded and juvenile offenders, execution of child rapists will serve the goals of deterrence and retribution just as well as execution of first-degree murderers would. Our state legislature, and this Court, have determined this category of aggravated rapist to be among those deserving of the death penalty, and, short of a first-degree murderer, we can think of no other non-homicide crime more deserving.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


There's just no time for blogging these days. At work I am swamped between a case set for hearing at the end of June (tons of work right there), another with a big answer due May 29, two other answers due June 20, an execution June 20 (which means other things to work on before then) and all kinds of little things that keep popping up in the middle and distracting me.

At home, Mitch and I are usually exhausted by the time we come home from work, but he's working on getting the yard into shape so we can rent his house; with all my stuff in the house, it's a constant feeling of disarray and disorganization. I need to clean up the closet and bathroom because I'm getting a little out of control with the earrings all over the counter, clothing piled on top of the dresser, random mess under the bathroom cabinet, etc. I'm working until 7 most days and in bed by 9 so it's been hectic.

His parents are coming for a few weeks' visit May 23 so we need to clean up for them. We have plans for the next few weekends with friends and other events, but a friend of Mitch's in Corpus is terminally ill, so Mitch and some other folks are probably going down there sooner rather than later.

It's just been crazy lately.

On the plus side, my friend Ellen's new baby is doing well-- Aviva is her name and she's just precious. Ellen's good too, but I need to start seeing her more often esp. once all the parents go back home. My other friend Erica hits 37 weeks tomorrow and she can't wait to get the baby out. And my "brother's" wife Heather is preggers too-- I think probably about 3-4 months now. Brett's not really my brother but he's as close as you can be without being blood, so I feel impending aunt-hood :)

I have to admit, I am looking forward more and more to getting married next spring and starting to work on a contribution to the next generation that isn't light, air or water pollution. At least not directly :)


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ends of all sorts.

The first and closest-to-home end... last weekend there was a big storm in Bastrop. It tore up some old trees by the roots, I've been told, and badly damaged the 100+ yr old crepe myrtle tree in "my" front yard. Yes, yes, I know it's not MY front yard any more. But, you know what I mean. Very sad! I hope this weekend we'll

Then Monday was the closing on our house, and that went almost as smoothly. A few documents had some names wrong, but it was taken care of quickly by the title company and lender people, so now Mitch and I own a new house! :) That's really more a beginning, but it's also happily the end to stress on that account for a while.

The sellers are leasing it back for a while, so at this point we don't know exactly when we'll move in except that it is likely to be in early July.

Mitch's cousin Steven and his family are moving to Austin from Indianapolis because he got a new job here, so we're touring them around this weekend, checking out neighborhoods and catching a concert at the Backyard on Sunday night.

That's the "end" of my report of ends :)