The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 29, 1998 · Page 4
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 4

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 29, 1998
Page 4
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THE PALM BEACH POST SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 1998 4A TV appeals, not guilt, determine convicts' fate, critics say thing like that I've seen was when I worked on the Susan Smith case (who was convicted of killing her two young sons in South Carolina) and support for the Last woman Florida executed The last woman executed in Florida was a slave named Celia who was hanged in Duval County on Sept. 22, 1848, for the stabbing death of her master, Jacob Bryan. Source: Florida Archives, Tallahassee Tucker For the latest coverage, go to Palm Beach Interactive: Church, and more recently the American Bar Association and United Nations, argue women show how inconsistently and therefore unconstitutionally capital punishment is carried out. The biggest shift, however, has been opposition from conservative groups, weakening moral support, said Richard Dei-ter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. "I wouldn't say the Christian groups are opposed, but they've taken back their moral stamp of approval," he said. "Without that, it begins to look like vengeance. And I don't think that will be enough. If it's not a deterrent to crime, it's not cost-effective and if it's not right, then it's not justified." Texas is scheduled to execute another woman, Erica Sheppard, who would become the first black woman executed since 1976, on April 20. In the past week, the number of letters, phone calls and faxes to Gov. Lawton Chiles regarding the executions of Buenoano and the three other killers reached about 600, said his spokesman Ryan Banfill. But that is not unusual in the days before an execution. Banfill did not know how many letters concerned Buenoano, or Gerald Stano and Leo Jones, who were executed March 23 and 24. Daniel Remeta, who received a last-minute stay from a Kansas federal judge this week only to have it overturned by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, is scheduled to die Tuesday. The letters, Banfill said, will probably make no difference in the governor's decision on whether to grant Buenoano a last-minute reprieve. The governor considers this really to be a legal matter decided by the courts and not by the letters. Unless these letters present new and compelling factual evidence that the courts haven't considered, they're basically expressions of opinion and the governor appreciates the deep feelings on both sides of the issue," he said. Buenoano less appealing " Streib and others speculate that Buenoano's case is less appealing to the public because she herself is less appealing. Tucker "was the first execution of a woman in a long time. That passed, plus (Buenoano) is a somewhat less sympathetic case, someone convicted of not just a single murder, but murder over a period of time. And she doesn't have Pat Robertson," Deiter said. Buenoano, 54, was born in Texas and fabricated a collection of personal histories over the years: a PhD in psychology and year's disabled son. After taking out a life insur-' ance policy, Buenoano took-Michael Goodyear, who wore arm and leg braces weighing 15 pounds, fishing. He drowned! when their canoe overturned. , In 1983 she met John Gentry , in a Pensacola bar and started ,, dating him. After convincing-Gentry to take out a half-million-1 dollar insurance policy, she tried ; to blow him up in his car. .-f When police started investi . gating the bombing, they discos ered the trail of deaths. - i Altogether, Buenoano received more than $200,000 in life . insurance. v While she has continued to' fight her sentence, in a 1987 in-1 terview with The Palm Beach Post, ' Buenoano said she preferred ex- ecution to life in prison. 1 Her execution should be no ' different than that of the 41 men , who have preceded her into the ; chair since the state resumed ex- ' ecutions, and no special acconv ' modations will be made because ' of her gender, said Department of; Corrections spokesman Gene -Morris. "I'm not afraid of it. Because '. it's final, it's over," she said. "I ' don't want to be prodded in the : rump for the rest of my life. I lived a better life than that," she said. "If that's my fate, then I'll face it' like a lady should. With dignity." ' BUENOANO From 1A penally debate. Judi Buenoano, condemned to die in 1985 for the poisoning death of her husband in an insurance scam following convictions for drowning her stepson and trying to blow up a boyfriend, will be the first woman executed in the state since slavery. She has not appeared on national television or inspired celebrity attention as did Tucker. Indeed, Buenoano's death is marked more by its inclusion in a record number of executions (four in two weeks) after a yearlong lull, than her status as first woman strapped into the state's 75-year-old electric chair. "It's the same question as why the death of Princess Diana was a worldwide tragedy and the death of Mother Teresa was barely noticed," said Victor Streib, dean and professor of law at Ohio Northern University and a leading expert on women and the death penalty. While it's too early to gauge the fallout from Tucker's case, Streib said, a recent Texas poll showed support for capital punishment dropping from 80 percent to 60 percent. "I've been following this for 20 years and never seen a drop like that," he said. "The only other death penalty was 75 percent. But for Susan Smith it was only 35 percent," he said. "In a way, law and criminology gets lost in who can make the best television appeal." And that, not gender, has been the issue death penalty opponents seized in refueling the death penalty debate. Before Tucker's execution, the only woman put to death since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, saying it must be fairly applied, was Velma Barfield, a North Carolina grandmother who poisoned four people. One in every eight killers is a woman, yet only one in every 70 Death Row inmates is a woman. The numbers become more unbalanced closer to execution: Only two killers executed out of the last 371 have been women. A clear inconsistency? Opponents like Amnesty International and the Catholic heir to a famous tire fortune. In fact, she graduated from a state-run reform school and married her first husband, career Air Force man James Goodyear, at 18 in New Mexico. The couple had two children and moved to Orlando where in 1971 Goodyear died mysteriously of respiratory failure. Buenoano then moved to Pensacola where she met Bobby Joe Morris. The couple moved to Colorado where Morris fell ill, recovered for three weeks in a hospital, came home and died four days later. In 1978, Buenoano moved back to Pensacola where she started caring for James Good- introduces new relaxed fit Softer cotton lining. extra cushioning and flexibility, a rt d a touch more room. They're m a d e of pre-softe n e d s a n d -was h e (J c o 1 1 o n twill for enhanced comfort and the K e d s s t y I e you've s8 '9. 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