Thursday, June 24, 2004

Case of Yosaf Mizrahi

Case of Yosaf Mizrahi
(AKA: Yosef Mizrahi, Joseph Mizrahi)

Brooklyn, NY

Arrested for promoting prostitution — an indication he was involved in the operation of the brothel, and not merely a customer.

NOTE: There are several people named Yosaf Mizrahi 
_______________________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1. Brothel Bust is such a Nice Nabe  (06/24/2005)
_______________________________________________________________________________

Brothel Bust is such a Nice Nabe
By Erika Martinez
New York Post - June 24, 2005

Cops yesterday raided a brothel operating in the heart of a quiet Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Four people were arrested in the early-morning raid at 1811 Avenue J in Midwood.
Three women — Joyce R., 25; Keesha H., 24; and Zina F., 20 — were charged with prostitution.

Yosaf Mizrahi, 40, was busted for promoting prostitution — an indication he was involved in the operation of the brothel, and not merely a customer.

_______________________________________________________________________________

FAIR USE NOTICE

Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

_______________________________________________________________________________

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead

_______________________________________________________________________________


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Case of Ithamar Ben


Case of Ithamar Ben
Karmiel, Israel

Arrested on suspicion of having sexual relations with a minor he met through the Internet. 
_________________________________________________________________________________
  
Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves whether the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

2004
  1. Man held over rape of minor he met online (06/22/2004)


_________________________________________________________________________________

Man held over rape of minor he met online 
By David Ratner
Haaretz -  June 22, 2004 (Tamuz 3, 5764)

A 44-year-old Karmiel resident who works in an educational institution has been arrested on suspicion of having sexual relations with a minor he met through the Internet. He was remanded for four days.

The suspect was caught during a routine check of Internet chat sites by detectives looking for pedophiles. They also got a tip-off about the suspect, who pretended to be younger than his true age.

According to Superintendent Aharon Gal-Or, the 15-year-old girl comes from a "normative" home in the Haifa area. Her parents suspected that she had established an irregular type of contact with someone on the Internet but did not report it to the police. 

The man met the girl several times over half a year, police said, and had sex with her. On one occasion, he came to her home and was chased away by her older sister. He also enlisted the aid of an older woman to calm the girl, via a chat room, about having sex with an older man.Under interrogation, the man admitted to having ties with other minors, and police are investigating whether he took advantage of their dependence on him to have sexual relations. Detectives have seized his computer.

Superintendent Harvey Primat confirmed that four detectives in the police northern division regularly scan the Internet for deviants and youth in distress. Three weeks ago, they discovered a boy who threatened suicide. Within an hour, the police had obtained a court order and rushed to the boy's house, he said.

_________________________________________________________________________________

FAIR USE NOTICE

Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. 
 
We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. 
 
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
_________________________________________________________________________________

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead
 
_________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, June 18, 2004

In all streams, steps are taken to address rabbis' sexual abuse

In all streams, steps are taken to address rabbis' sexual abuse
By Joe Berkofsky
Chicago Jewish News - June 18, 2004
www.chicagojewishnews.com


The Jewish religious streams increasingly are cracking down on rabbinic sexual abuse.

New get-tough policies are emerging in the wake of pledges by the various denominations to respond to cases of sex abuse by rabbis and others in the past decade.

The Orthodox Union, for example, has established a detailed policy for its youth group to deal with harassment of all kinds. According to the policy posted on the Web site of the group, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, the union has appointed ombudsmen to handle such complaints.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the O.U.'s executive vice president, said the position includes two independent professionals trained in harassment issues. Officials will not say how many complaints of abuse they field each year, but, Weinreb said, "The system has been tested and we've found it effective."

Weinreb hopes to get ethics guidelines in place for O.U. member synagogues as well.

Meanwhile, at its recent annual convention, the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest association of Orthodox rabbis in North America, approved new protocols for dealing with rabbinic abuse.

The guidelines include appointing an independent assessor to determine whether complaints are substantive.


Violations include "any form of sexual activity or sexualize contact with any person to whom the rabbi is not married or with any minor; lewd behavior; the exploitation of the rabbinic position for the purpose of gaining sexual gratification or sexual favors," and abusive physical contact or manipulation, the policy states.

Rabbis found guilty of violations could be expelled from the rabbinic association or reprimanded and ordered to undergo counseling. Penalties depend on the severity of the offense, whether it was part of a pattern of behavior or a first offense, and whether other measures are taken to prevent future abuse.

In the Orthodox and Jewish world generally, "there has been a recognition that there needs to be a formal protocol rather than an ad-hoc response to allegations," said Rabbi Basil Herring, the Rabbinical Council of America's executive vice president.

The Conservative movement's congregational arm, the United Synagogue, earlier this year instituted guidelines dealing with sexual harassment in congregations.

The policy bans "leering, catcalls or touching" of a sexual nature, "insulting or obscene comments or gestures," the display of "sexually suggestive pictures" or the telling of sexual jokes or insulting comments.

The movement's Rabbinic Assembly, meanwhile, refers any "serious" complaints of harassment or abuse to an ethics committee, which investigates by interviewing the parties and others involved, said Rabbi Joel Meyers, the Rabbinic Assembly's executive vice president.

Rabbis guilty of harassment or abuse can be expelled from the movement, barred or suspended from the pulpit and ordered to undergo therapy, he said.

More minor ethics infractions, such as breaking rules of confidentiality, might incur a "dressing down" in the form of a reprimand and mandatory apology, he said.

Unlike its Reform counterpart, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly does not yet have a formal ethics code in place, though the ethics panel does follow guidelines that the group's board approved, which will be published online soon, Meyers said.

The Rabbinic Assembly, which typically receives up to three abuse or harassment complaints a year, is in the midst of drafting a policy dealing with rabbinic behavior, but not ethics, Meyers said.

"It seems odd to tell a rabbi something he ought to know-namely, not to harm another person," he said.


The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was among the first, along with the Reform movement, to adapt rabbinic ethics guidelines in 1995.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association President Rabbi Amy Small said the movement has seen "a few cases" of abuse in the past several years, but she said she could not provide exact figures.

The association would not make its policy public, she added, but she said it parallels the Reform and Conservative ethics guidelines.

Any time a charge is leveled against a rabbi, Small said, rabbis in all the movements take note. In part, that's out of compassion, but "on another level, people see it as a statement about the rabbinate" itself, she said.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Case of Arnold Zar-Kessler

Case of Arnold Zar-Kessler
Headmaster - Solomon Schechter Day School, Newton, MA

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination reached a decision June 28, 2004 to dismiss the complaint of sexual harassment against the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and its headmaster, finding that there was a lack of probable cause.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

2004
  1. Day school head accused of sexual harassment; Complaint is filed by teacher with MCAD against headmaster at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston  (06/17/2004)
  2. Furor at day school as teacher is not rehired (06/18/2004)
  3. Head of Jewish school accused of harassment  (06/23/2004)
  4. Day school headmaster cleared of sexual harassment charge MCAD finds lack of probable cause; case closed  (07/16/2004)

2013
  1. 2013 NAJDSC Conference (02/03/2013)
  2. Linkedin: Arnold Zar-Kessler (10/19/2013)


_______________________________________________________________________________

Day school head accused of sexual harassment; Complaint is filed by teacher with MCAD against headmaster at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston
Jewish Advocate (Boston) - June 17, 2004

BOSTON -- A teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston in Newton filed a sexual harassment complaint against the school's headmaster.

The official complaint was filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on Jan. 26, 2004. It stated that teacher Patricia Weiss of Randolph was "discriminated ... on the basis of sex" by headmaster Arnold Zar-Kessler.

The four alleged incidents occurred over a four-year time span. The complaint also said there is a list of "eight other women that have also been (allegedly) subjected to Mr. Zar-Kessler's harassment." According to the complaint, Weiss also included a list of witnesses for each alleged incident.

Weiss, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, continues to teach at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and has done so for 21 years.

An MCAD spokesperson, Elizabeth Forman, stated that the case is still "very active." She said that an investigation was completed May 28, and it will be closed "in the not too distant future." She said that a deposition is being drafted.

Forman said she could not make any additional comment, as it is policy to not discuss active cases.

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston has issued the following statement concerning the allegations of discrimination and harassment:

"The Board of Trustees appointed an independent committee to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations. After extensive interviews, the investigation committee concluded unanimously that the allegations were unsubstantiated. Further, the board affirmed its support for Mr. Zar-Kessler."

The statement continued: "The board takes these allegations very seriously. The safety of our staff and students are the board's utmost concern. The school's board leadership will continue to cooperate fully with the Massachusetts Commission (Against Discrimination) investigation, and it will continue to act with speed and care in bringing this matter to resolution, and in accordance with state law, school policy, and Jewish teachings."

According to the MCAD complaint, Weiss was first allegedly harassed by Zar-Kessler in September 1999 when he was principal of the school. She stated in her complaint that she had complained to then-headmaster Rabbi Dov Bard, who reportedly told Zar-Kessler to "stay away from me," according to her complaint.

In another incident in April 2001, she reported that Zar-Kessler allegedly harassed her again, this time when he was in the position of headmaster of the school. Weiss reported that she spoke with the president of the teachers' organization known as the Alliance. Weiss stated in the complaint that the president of the teacher's organization then reportedly spoke with the school's then-president, Jonathan Chiel. "I believe that Mr. Chiel told Mr. Zar-Kessler to leave me alone once again," she stated in the complaint.

The third incident allegedy occurred in June 2003.

"Again, a member of the Alliance met with Dan Jick from the Personnel Committee to speak generally about Mr. Zar-Kessler's (alleged) continuing inappropriate behavior towards women. I believe that Mr. Zar-Kessler was again told that he needed to act appropriately," the complaint by Weiss reads.

A final, fourth alleged incident took place in November 2003. Weiss said in the complaint that she personally complained to the school's current president, Deborah Cogen Swartz, about the alleged harassment on Monday, Nov. 10. The next day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, Zar-Kessler interrupted a parent-teacher conference to apologize to her, according to the filed complaint.

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Weiss filed an official sexual harassment complaint with the school.

She stated in the MCAD complaint, "It has now been 11 weeks since my sexual harassment complaint. There has been no credible activity undertaken by the Committee that was formed to investigate my complaint aside from my initial interview on Dec. 10, 2003, though school policy dictates that such an investigation will take place 'immediately.'"

When contacted, Zar-Kessler said that he did not want to comment.

The school's president, Deborah Cogen Swartz, also named in the complaint, was not available for comment.

In the MCAD statement, Weiss said that she e-mailed Howard Rodenstein, the chairman of the sexual harassment investigation committee. She stated that she was told that the process would take at least eight to 10 more meetings, with meetings only occurring two to three times per month.

Weiss told The Jewish Advocate that she did not want to make any comment, except to say that she stands by her MCAD statement.

The MCAD process contains six phases. A complainant, or person who feels they have been discriminated against, must first file a complaint. The intake office will then determine whether the alleged incident is under its jurisdiction. If it is, a copy of the official complaint is sent to the "respondent," the person or organization against whom the complaint has been filed.

After an investigation is conducted, a determination is made whether there is "probable cause" or "lack of probable cause." If probable cause is found, the complainant and respondent come together to try to come to a resolution. If no resolution can be reached, the case moves to a public hearing, after which the commissioner will make a decision.
If lack of probable cause is found, the complainant may appeal the ruling and hold an informal hearing to explain the case. The commissioner will then decide to reopen it or sustain the ruling, thus closing the case.

_______________________________________________________________________________


Furor at day school as teacher is not rehired
By Penny Schwartz , Advocate Staff
Jewish Advocate - Vol 195 No. 2529 SIVAN - 5 TAMMUZ 5764 · JUNE 18-24, 2004

(If you have a full text copy of this article, please forward it.)

Complaint is filed by teacher with MCAD against headmaster at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston

BROOKLINE - When the school year ends at the Maimonides School on June 18, the employment of a veteran teacher who is highly regarded by many in the school community will come to an abrupt and unexpected end.

The passionate and public controversy that has engulfed the school in the last few months is rare in this tight-knit community, which prides itself on the principles of derech eretz, a moral code for the respectful treatment of its students and staff.

On April 27, sixth-grade teacher Deborah Onie was informed by the elementary school's principal that after a 21-year career, her annual teaching contract for the next academic school year would not be renewed.

"I love teaching," Onie said in tears, recalling the incident. "I developed the entire curriculum myself; there was nothing (that existed) 21 years ago. I treated each child as a separate individual to help the child be everything he or she can be personally and academically. I stayed over the years because I believed in the values and ethics that the school presents itself as having."

Onie said that Elementary School Principal Rabbi Stuart Klammer handed her a letter - not printed on official stationery - which stated that her teaching contract would not be renewed. "You don't fit in here," Onie alleges she was told by Klammer, whom she said allegedly then added: "I hope you find a place where you do fit in. I'll throw you a party."

Asked to comment about the non-reappointment, Rabbi Klammer provided a statement through his secretary, "All personnel matters are strictly confidential. This is Rabbi Klammer's response on behalf of the school committee." Several days later, after further inquiry to administrators and school officials, the following school committee statement was issued to The Advocate.

"Personnel decisions are typically based on evaluations over multiple years," the statement said, "and feedback is clearly provided to employees. In the case of a negative decision a teacher is free to appeal. In addition, the school committee welcomes constructive input from the parent body and takes their feedback into consideration. In all cases, matters are held in the strictest of confidence and no one outside of the administration, the school committee and the teacher involved is privy to the specifics of that teacher's evaluation."

Peter Finn, Maimonides School's general counsel, stated that "all proper procedures and processes were adhered to."

"We have 54 dedicated faculty members in our elementary school. We are proud of our 67-year tradition of love, respect and honor for all of our faculty, and we share with them the values of caring for the health and well-being of all of our children," said Joshua Wolff, the school's executive director.

ONIE TRACES her employment problems back two years, to the end of the 2001-2002 school year. On June 28, 2002, Onie alleges she received a phone call at home from Nancy Posner, general studies ...

(full text of article not available)

_______________________________________________________________________________

Head of Jewish school accused of harassment
By Sarah Andrews
Needham Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The headmaster of Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton is under state investigation after a female employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against him earlier this year.

Patricia Weiss, who has taught at the school for more than 20 years, registered the complaint in late January against headmaster Arnold Zar-Kessler, claiming he was verbally "hostile" to her on four separate occasions because she is a woman.

The incidents allegedly occurred over the past five years.

Weiss also filed a similar complaint against Zar-Kessler with the school's Board of Trustees earlier, which didn't result in any actions against him. Though the board appointed an independent committee to investigate Weiss' claims, it found "unanimously that the allegations were unsubstantiated," according to a board statement.

The board continues to support Zar-Kessler as headmaster.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination refused to comment on the case because it is still under investigation.

Neither Weiss nor Zar-Kessler commented for this report.

In her complaint, Weiss said that Zar-Kessler allegedly harassed her for the first time in September 1999, claiming that he screamed at her in front of colleagues for not standing in the rain to help kids on the buses during Hurricane Floyd. Weiss says she reported the incident to then-headmaster Rabbi Dov Bard, who allegedly then told Zar-Kessler not to enter Weiss' classroom.

All of the incidents in Weiss' complaints center on Zar-Kessler allegedly using a "hostile manner" with the teacher. Weiss listed several people as witnesses to each incident and also claimed at least one other female teacher attended counseling after an encounter with Zar-Kessler.

But one board member said the school's investigative committee spoke with all of the witnesses Weiss listed and didn't find any evidence to support her claims.

In 2002, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination received 4,150 complaints, 85 percent of which were employment related. The department closed 4,447 cases that year. Of these, only 198, less than 5 percent, were ruled in favor of the aggrieved person. One-fifth of the complaints were filed on the basis of sexual discrimination.

Zar-Kessler became headmaster in 2000, but had worked at Solomon Schechter since 1993 as the Upper School director, according to a press release sent out in 2000. The school provides secular and Judaic education to about 600 students in grades K-8 from all over the Boston area.

Before coming to Solomon Schechter, Zar-Kessler was educational director at Temple Israel in Natick and the science department chairman for the Franklin County Technical School. He lives in Newton with his wife and three daughters.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Day school headmaster cleared of sexual harassment charge MCAD finds lack of probable cause; case closed
Day school headmaster cleared of sexual harassment charge MCAD finds lack of probable cause; case closed
BY Jason Nielsen  - Advocate Staff
Jewish Advocate - 27 TAMMUZ - 4 AV 5764 · JULY 16-22, 2004

BOSTON - The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination reached a decision June 28 to dismiss the complaint of sexual harassment against the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and its headmaster, finding that there was a lack of probable cause.

The case is now closed, reported MCAD spokesperson Elizabeth Forman. She said that the complainant, teacher Patricia Weiss, had 10 days to appeal the ruling. According to Forman, no appeal had been received as of July 13.

When contacted, Weiss offered no comment on her decision not to appeal the case.

The original sexual harassment complaint was filed on Jan. 26, 2004, by Weiss against the school and its headmaster, Arnold Zar-Kessler. The complaint cited four alleged incidents of sexual harassment occurring between 1999 and 2003.

Weiss, a seventh- and eight-grade teacher who had taught at the school for 21 years, read from a prepared statement, "I have been assured of the board's willingness and ability to prevent further incidents. This assurance is the reason I did all of this."

She continues to work at the school in her current capacity.

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston issued the following statement concerning the MCAD findings and dismissal of the complaint against the school and its head:


"We are pleased that MCAD's findings support the conclusion reached by the school board's specially appointed Investigation Committee. We will now...

(full article not available)

_______________________________________________________________________________

North American Jewish Day School Conference
2013 NAJDSC Conference - February 3, 2013



_______________________________________________________________________________

Linkedin: Arnold Zar-Kessler 
October 19, 2013



_______________________________________________________________________________

FAIR USE NOTICE

Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


_______________________________________________________________________________


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In All Streams, Steps Are Taken to Address Rabbis’ Sexual Abuse


In All Streams, Steps Are Taken to Address Rabbis’ Sexual Abuse
JTA - June 16, 2004

The Jewish religious streams increasingly are cracking down on rabbinic sexual abuse. New get-tough policies are emerging in the wake of pledges by the various denominations to respond to cases of sex abuse by rabbis and others in the past decade.

The Orthodox Union, for example, has established a detailed policy for its youth group to deal with harassment of all kinds. According to the policy posted on the Web site of the group, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, the union has appointed ombudsmen to handle such complaints.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the O.U.’s executive vice president, said the position includes two independent professionals trained in harassment issues. Officials will not say how many complaints of abuse they field each year, but, Weinreb said, “The system has been tested and we’ve found it effective.”

Weinreb hopes to get ethics guidelines in place for O.U. member synagogues as well.

Meanwhile, a! t its recent annual convention, the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest association of Orthodox rabbis in North America, approved new protocols for dealing with rabbinic abuse.

The guidelines include appointing an independent assessor to determine whether complaints are substantive.

Violations include “any form of sexual activity or sexualized contact with any person to whom the rabbi is not married or with any minor; lewd behavior; the exploitation of the rabbinic position for the purpose of gaining sexual gratification or sexual favors,” and abusive physical contact or manipulation, the policy states.

Rabbis found guilty of violations could be expelled from the rabbinic association or reprimanded and ordered to undergo counseling. Penalties depend on the severity of the offense, whether it was part of a pattern of behavior or a first offense, and whether other measures are taken to prevent future abuse.

In the Orthodox and Jewish world generally, “there! has been a recognition that there needs to be a formal protocol rathe r than an ad-hoc response to allegations,” said Rabbi Basil Herring, the Rabbinical Council of America’s executive vice president.

The Conservative movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue, earlier this year instituted guidelines dealing with sexual harassment in congregations.

The policy bans “leering, catcalls or touching” of a sexual nature, “insulting or obscene comments or gestures,” the display of “sexually suggestive pictures” or the telling of sexual jokes or insulting comments.

The movement’s Rabbinic Assembly, meanwhile, refers any “serious” complaints of harassment or abuse to an ethics committee, which investigates by interviewing the parties and others involved, said Rabbi Joel Meyers, the Rabbinic Assembly’s executive vice president.

Rabbis guilty of harassment or abuse can be expelled from the movement, barred or suspended from the pulpit and ordered to undergo therapy, he said.

More minor ethics infractions, such as breaking rules ! of confidentiality, might incur a “dressing down” in the form of a reprimand and mandatory apology, he said.

Unlike its Reform counterpart, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly does not yet have a formal ethics code in place, though the ethics panel does follow guidelines that the group’s board approved, which will be published online soon, Meyers said.

The Rabbinic Assembly, which typically receives up to three abuse or harassment complaints a year, is in the midst of drafting a policy dealing with rabbinic behavior, but not ethics, Meyers said.

“It seems odd to tell a rabbi something he ought to know — namely, not to harm another person,” he said.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was among the first, along with the Reform movement, to adapt rabbinic ethics guidelines in 1995.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association President Rabbi Amy Small said the movement has seen “a few cases” of abuse in the past several yea! rs, but she said she could not provide exact figures.

The associati on would not make its policy public, she added, but she said it parallels the Reform and Conservative ethics guidelines.

Any time a charge is leveled against a rabbi, Small said, rabbis in all the movements take note. In part, that’s out of compassion, but “on another level, people see it as a statement about the rabbinate” itself, she said.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Case of Yehezkel Atar

Case of Yehezkel Atar
Tel Aviv, Israel
 
Convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl, sentanced to 10 years in prision. The judges said Atar had severely undermined the girl's chance to lead a normal life. They also noted that his crime against the girl had involved the use of violence. The judges added that the lengthy jail term was called for in light of the girl's physical and emotional pain and suffering. 
__________________________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.
 
Table of Contents: 

2004  
  1. Man sentenced to 10 years for raping girl, 9  (06/10/2004)

__________________________________________________________________________________

Man sentenced to 10 years for raping girl, 9
By Zvi Harel
Haaretz - June 10, 2004

Yehezkel Atar, 50, convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl, was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison by the Tel Aviv District Court. Atar was also ordered to pay the girl NIS 5,000 in compensation for his actions. The sexual assault took place in January last year, when the girl - a friend of the Atar family - slept over at the Atar family home. Explaining their harsh sentence, the judges said Atar had severely undermined the girl's chance to lead a normal life. They also noted that his crime against the girl had involved the use of violence. The judges added that the lengthy jail term was called for in light of the girl's physical and emotional pain and suffering.
__________________________________________________________________________________

FAIR USE NOTICE 
 
Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. 
 
We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. 
 
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
__________________________________________________________________________________

 
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
--Margaret Mead

__________________________________________________________________________________

 
 

Case of Sofia Kochik

Case of Sofia Kochik
Tel Aviv, Israel

Convicted and sentenced to four years in jail for trafficking in women, running a brothel, false imprisonment and solicitation.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:
  1. Woman jailed for 4 years for running brothel  (06/10/2004)


Also see:  
  • Case of Yelena Yermaleiv

_______________________________________________________________________________

Woman jailed for 4 years for running brothel
By Itim
Haaretz - June 10, 2004

The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Sofia Kochik yesterday to four years in jail for trafficking in women, running a brothel, false imprisonment and solicitation. Kochik was also slapped with a two-year suspended sentence. Kochik, who arrived in Israel some 13 years ago and began working as a nurse, told the court she had run into financial difficulties and had decided to change her occupation. Yelena Yermaleiv, who was also convicted of solicitation, running a brothel and false imprisonment, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, to be served as community service, and a one-year suspended sentence. Yermaleiv was not found guilty of trafficking in women.

_______________________________________________________________________________

FAIR USE NOTICE

Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

_______________________________________________________________________________

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."–– Margaret Mead

_______________________________________________________________________________


Sunday, June 06, 2004

Case of Steven Howard Oken

Case of Steven Howard Oken
(AKA: Steve Oken, Steven Oken, Steven H. Oken)

This page is dedicated to the memory of  
Dawn Marie Garvin, Patricia Hirt and Lori Ward
 
White Marsh, MD

Convicted of sexually assaulting and killing three women in 1987. Steven Oken, one of only a few Jewish inmates on any death row in the country.

On the evening of Nov. 1, 1987, Oken raped and shot to death newlywed Dawn Marie Garvin in her apartment in White Marsh, Md. Mrs. Garvin, whose husband was stationed at a Navy base in Virginia, had allowed Oken into her apartment after he asked to use the telephone. Then, on Nov. 16, Oken raped and murdered his own sister-in-law, Patricia Hirt. He then drove to Kittery, Maine, where the following day, he raped and murdered a third woman — a hotel clerk named Lori Ward.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1. Lives In Ruin (04/27/2001)
  2. Judge Agrees To Sign Warrant For Death Penalty: Death Row Inmate Faces Lethal Injection For 1987 Rape, Murder (01/23/2003)
  3. Maryland's Death Penalty Upheld (11/17/2003)
  4. Amnesty International - Library - USA (Maryland) (05/18/2004)
  5. Urge Governor Ehrlich to Grant Clemency to Steven Oken - Amnesty International (05/18/2004)
  6. Md. Rally Opposes Execution (05/27/2004)
  7. Joe Curran and the Death Penalty (06/01/2004)
  8. Oken Seeks Stay Of Death Penalty (06/02/2004)
  9. Maryland judge rejects one of inmate´s case to avoid execution (06/02/2004)
  10. For Rabbi, Stance On Execution Evolves (06/07/2004)
  11. Court agrees to hear request for stay of Oken execution (06/07/2004)
  12. Victim's family awaits killer's execution: After years of delays, lethal injection scheduled next week for Oken (06/08/2004)
  13. Md. puts Oken to death  (06/18/2004)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Lives In RuinBy Alan H. Feiler
Baltimore Jewish Times - April 27, 2001

Steven Oken smiles and rolls his eyes. A few fleeting hours before the start of Passover, he contorts his large, bulky frame like a question mark to enable a correctional officer to unlock the heavy metal handcuffs that bind his wrists behind his back. He seems embarrassed and mildly annoyed with the amount of time required to unshackle him.

Rubbing his elbows and massive forearms, he shakes his head and sits on a concrete stool. "Hey," he says from behind an ultra-thick plate glass window, running his fingers through his close-cropped, prematurely graying hair. "Happy Pesach."

Taken aback, I simply say, "Thanks," and pause for a moment. "You, too." I study his round, smooth, well-shaven face carefully, as I have during all of our meetings over the past four years in visitation rooms like this one at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, also known as Supermax prison in downtown Baltimore. It's a face I've known for nearly a quarter-century, since our days as schoolmates at Randallstown Senior High, Class of '80.

It might sound cliche but even then, something seemed different, perhaps inscrutable, about Oken. Maybe it was that smile, which really could be described as more of a kind of smirk, connoting a wise guy demeanor. Or those intense bluish-gray eyes that suggested a mixture of self-assurance and restlessness. "There was always a bit of an oddness about him," a childhood buddy of Oken's once told me, sounding like virtually anyone who's ever personally known a convicted killer.

Still, everyone — relatives, friends, former classmates, acquaintances — agrees he was basically your average suburban Jewish kid growing up in a tight-knit, hard-working, decent middle-class family that gave him lots of love and attention. Good grades, plenty of A-list friends, Pep Club member, strong athlete, cheerleader girlfriend, well-liked among teachers, attended temple, helped out at his parents' pharmacy.

"Lots of kids have tendencies where they might take the wrong road, but Steve wasn't one of them," Lincoln Bogart, Oken's varsity lacrosse coach at Randallstown, told me back in 1987. "There was nothing abnormal about him. As far as a sex maniac killer, I never saw it. He was a nice guy and got A's in all my classes."

Oh, he got into a little mischief, here and there. Some partying with pals. A few wild weekends. But no on-the-fringe, alienated, disgruntled, prone-to-violent-outbursts loner reminiscent of the Columbine killers or some type of deranged Unabomber figure. Nor was he an impressionable Timothy McVeigh ideologue in search of a cause and possible martyrdom.

Just your average Jewish kid.

But something went wrong. Terribly wrong. And not even Steven Oken himself is sure why.

Jewish kids from Pikesville aren't supposed to sexually abuse, terrorize and murder women.

But this one did — three of them.

Through the battered white speaker box mounted on the faded concrete wall, I barely hear Oken's voice above a din of clanging metal and shouting coming from the other side. We're exchanging grins and pleasantries, but he stops for a moment until the noise subsides. He still looks like the guy you share a beer or off-color joke with, but his face is somehow different this morning. A little older, more somber, maybe paler. He's wearing a green prison-issued jumpsuit, rather than his usual solid-colored shorts and T-shirt.

I immediately remind him that today — unlike our other meetings of schmoozing about old friends, current events, family news, his myriad appeals and frustrations with the prison system — we're finally going to talk, for the first time, about his case and the unspeakable, incomprehensible crimes he committed more than a decade ago. Up to now, it's been friendly, off-the-record chats between a pair of acquaintances who remember each other from their high school and college days. Now, it's a no-holds-barred interview.

He nods quietly, nervously, wringing his hands, knowing he's journeying into an area he hates to visit and rarely does, except within the solitude of his own mind and conscience, or maybe on occasion with legal counsel. It's a place he hates more than the hellhole of a home, also known as cell No. 34, that he landed for himself in the bowels of Supermax.

And he seems to hate it even more than the fate that could await him.

"There are no excuses for what I've done," says Oken, 39. "And I can't begin to imagine the suffering, the cost of what I've done to these people. It's a terrible thing I did."

In a community that prides itself on producing what's considered the best in society, Steven Oken is generally thought of as an aberration, an anomaly. He is a Jew on Death Row, one of eight to 10 in the United States, according to the Aleph Institute, HOPE-HOWSE International and Jewish Prisoner Services International, all organizations that offer assistance to an estimated 4,000 Jewish inmates.

Oken is also one of 13 inmates — and the only Jew — on Maryland's Death Row. More than 13 years following his capture and incarceration — after pleading guilty to committing murder and being sentenced to life without parole in Maine, extradited to Maryland, sentenced to death by lethal injection by a Baltimore County jury in January 1991, and countless appeals on the federal and state levels — Oken remains on Death Row, trying desperately to stay alive.

Living in an 8-by-8-foot cell with only an hour of outside time per day, Oken — known by the state as no. 212-612 — can understand why some people might be perplexed by his resolve to evade execution. But he says his reasons are selfless.

"I want to live for my family," he says. "They're also victims of what I've done. And if I'm executed, they'll be victims again. That's why I'm fighting this fight.

"Also, I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from the past — what I did to get me here. Young people today, a lot of them are on drugs, alcohol abuse. I think a lot of people, myself included, can still contribute to society and talk to young people about the dangers of drug abuse.

"I'm a good example of the worst thing that can happen to somebody when under the influence."

In the aftermath of the defeat of legislation proposing a two-year moratorium on executions in Maryland, Oken bought some extra time — at least several months — to fight his sentence as the Court of Appeals agreed two weeks ago to consider his appeal on constitutional issues. The case probably will not be heard until this fall.

As a result, Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor said last week that she would not seek a death warrant for Oken. Thirteen prominent local and national religious leaders — including Rabbi Mark G. Loeb of Pikesville's Beth El Congregation — have called on Gov. Parris N. Glendening to halt executions for two years.

"All of this has been more difficult for my family than it has been for me," Oken says about the roller coaster ride of legal and political maneuverings involving his case in recent months. "But I have a good feeling for how things will probably go."

Their names were Dawn Marie Garvin, Patricia Antoinette Hirt and Lori Elizabeth Ward.

Over a 15-day period in November 1987, Steven Howard Oken sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered these three young women. He characterizes that time as a turbulent period in his life in which he was grappling with severe drug and alcohol abuse, marital difficulties, financial and business concerns, and a self-described void or depression in his soul that he's never been able to adequately identify or reconcile.

"I can't point to one thing that made this happen. I think I was trying to run from something," Oken says. "I don't know if run is even the right word. I just didn't want to deal with everything."

Oken, who had attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was 25 and co-owned his family's Rexall Pharmacy near Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he worked as a clerk. His wife of a year, Phyllis, was away on business, near Seattle, during that time. The Okens, who did not have children and have since divorced, were planning a vacation in the Virgin Islands the following month.

But at the same time, Oken — who says he first experimented with marijuana while attending Old Court Junior High School — notes that he spent much of the period prior to the murders drinking heavily and taking cocaine, halcyon, Zanax and prescription drugs from his family's pharmacy.

"I was depressed. I don't think I really appreciated what was happening. And instead of dealing with problems that came up, I found a way to escape. Drugs were what I was all about," he says.

Despite his track record, Oken — knowing how incredible this sounds coming from someone on Death Row — doesn't consider himself a violent person.

"I know how I was brought up and the values my parents instilled in me, that taking someone's life is just horrendous," he says. "I've been a quiet, soft-spoken person all my life. Growing up, I didn't get into a lot of fights. I wasn't really confrontational.

"If I was in my right mind, this wouldn't have happened. I don't want that to sound like an excuse. But before this happened, I didn't ever have a desire to physically hurt someone. People tell my parents it was completely out of character, and I agree with that."

According to published reports, Oken's first victim, Garvin, a 20-year-old newlywed, was found Nov. 2 shot in the head and sexually assaulted in her third-floor White Marsh apartment, four blocks from his modest, two-bedroom townhouse on Stillwood Circle. Her husband, who was in the U.S. Navy, had just returned to his base in Norfolk, Va.

Neighbors in Garvin's Lincoln Woods complex reported that an apparently intoxicated man matching Oken's description had been knocking on doors the previous evening, claiming alternately to be a Baltimore County police officer, a physician whose pager went off, a stranded motorist needing assistance and a boyfriend who'd been kicked out of his house.

Hirt's nude body was found on the morning of Nov. 16 in a ditch beside White Marsh Boulevard. She had also been shot in the head, as well as strangled. The previous day, Hirt, 43, a Hamilton resident who was the sister of Oken's wife, had gone over to his house to drop off a camera. After receiving a missing person's report and finding her body, police searched Oken's home and found blood stains, signs of struggle, some of Hirt's clothing and the .25-caliber automatic pistol used to kill Garvin.

After stealing Hirt's 1979 white Ford Mustang, Oken drove to Kittery, Maine, and registered at the Coachman Motor Inn, using his real name and address. Hours later, Ward, a 25-year-old clerk at the motel who lived in Portsmouth, N.H., was found fatally shot in the head, bruised and sexually assaulted in an anteroom behind the front desk. More than $300 was missing from the cash register.

Oken, who knew the area well from vacationing there, subsequently drove 65 miles north to the Freeport Inn in the Maine coastal town of Freeport. The motel's manager, having heard a radio report about Ward's murder and a description of the Mustang, identified the car and called authorities.

After speaking on the phone with negotiators for a few minutes, Oken yelled, "I'm coming out, don't shoot," exited Room 215 unarmed and surrendered peacefully to Maine State Police Nov. 17 after more than 20 officers and tactical units surrounded the motel. Police found an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a .380-caliber automatic pistol, the one used to kill Hirt and Ward, in the blood-stained car.

Discovered in Oken's motel room in Freeport were wads of cash, a blood-stained surgeon's smock, a half-empty bottle of vodka and two pieces of nylon cord. He told police he had "a bad drug problem" and couldn't recall anything about the previous 24 hours.

According to court records, Oken had been seeing a psychiatrist for about six months prior to the murders. Also, on Nov. 9, a week after Garvin's murder, Oken had received probation before judgment and was given one year of supervised probation for a case in which he was arrested Oct. 13 for punching and trying to sexually assault an East Baltimore hotel desk clerk. He was fined and ordered to undergo alcohol and drug treatment.

"Steven Oken thought he was above God, and he destroyed the lives of so many people," says Fred Romano, Dawn Garvin's brother. "People who do what he did can't be helped. He raped my sister in a horrible manner and got a kick out of it, and then he shot her twice in the head and killed her. That's how my father found her.

"I don't care if he's Jewish or Arabic or what. If he goes to God and God forgives him, so be it. But as long as he's dead. Eventually, he's going to pay for what he did. He needs to accept his judgment and die for his crime. He should suffer."

Pausing for a moment to catch his breath, Romano, a former Marine, adds, "Let Steven Oken know I'm not going anywhere until he's dead. I won't rest."

Davida Oken paces around her tastefully decorated living room, talking on a cordless phone. In what's become a daily ritual, she's just accepted a collect call from her son on Death Row and is talking about the chances for a moratorium on executions.

Her tone, while for the most part controlled, occasionally borders on frantic. Mrs. Oken, who has become well-acquainted with state legislators and anti-death penalty groups, is a mother trying desperately to save her son's life.

"Our life is a living hell, as far as constantly worrying about what will happen to him," Mrs. Oken, a soft-spoken woman with short hair and a round face, says in almost a whisper. "It's like a tremendous veil is put over your life. Not a day goes by when you don't think about him and pray he's going to live."

Her husband, David, a silver-haired man with horn-rimmed glasses and an easy smile, takes it a step further. "It's taken a big chunk of our lives and put it down the toilet," he says. "Over the years, it's been a drain."

Both Baltimore natives, the Okens — who asked that the whereabouts of their home not be identified in this article — speak hesitantly to me at first. Since my initial correspondence by mail with Steven in December of 1992, they've been reticent about generating more publicity regarding the case.

But it seems that as Oken's possible execution has drawn closer, they changed their minds, perhaps as a last measure for clemency, a final effort to set the record straight and get their views across.

"The death penalty doesn't solve anything," Mrs. Oken tells me. "It doesn't prevent murders or save money. It's all about retribution. But why must another family suffer? We're victims, too. Why do my children and grandchildren have to suffer murder from the state? Living in the rat hole Steven lives in is punishment enough for any human being."

The Okens proudly point to their other two children, both of whom are younger than Steven and involved in the medical profession, as "proof in the pudding" of their strong parenting skills. And they insist that Steven was always a good kid who never got into any serious trouble or run-ins.

"He had a religious, moral upbringing," Mrs. Oken says, smiling. "He was a wonderful little boy, a happy-go-lucky child, carefree, just perfect, very obedient. He's the sunshine of my life. He was in the Boy Scouts, a Little Leaguer, you know? It was just the luck of the draw. Something went wrong, somewhere."

Mr. Oken, though, tries not to soft-pedal things. "He was always a little more mischievous than most," he says of his son as a youngster. "He always wanted to go a little further than he should. He could push the envelope a little. ... He was more aggressive, more willing ... to walk the thin line between right and wrong, what he should or shouldn't do. He always thought he could do a little more, stay out a little later."

But the Okens say they've still never quite figured out what — besides possibly drugs — really turned their son into a cold-blooded killer. And it's a subject they've never dared broach with Steven himself during their countless visits and talks. In some ways, it seems that it's something they've emotionally compartmentalized, separating Oken and his homicidal spree from the boy they raised and loved, as well as from the young man they've visited in prisons for the past 13 years.

"I've sort of let the 'why' go because ... why isn't important enough for me to hurt. And I don't want to hurt," Mr. Oken says. His wife cuts him off. "There is no 'why,'" she says. "He doesn't know why. He does not know. It's like another person. ... But I think he's a kinder and gentler person today. He's become more serious, more caring. He's matured."

Going down for their weekly visits to Supermax — a parent's nightmare if there ever was one — has become a routine matter, they say, although some things they'll never get used to.

"We haven't touched him in five or six years. [Before,] I could hold his hand, I could kiss him," Mrs. Oken says. "But it just becomes a way of life. You do what you have to do. It's better than the alternative. He makes me feel good. I adore him. At least I know he's living."

Says Mr. Oken, partially to himself: "It's a consequence of his actions. These are the consequences he has to live with. I just wish some people could understand that life in prison, particularly the way he is imprisoned, is a terrible punishment. Life in prison can be as severe as the death penalty."

The Okens, who adopted Steven when he was 2 days old and arranged for his conversion to Judaism shortly afterward, suspect that his insecurities about being adopted may have played a role in his descent into substance abuse, particularly during high school.

"In his teen years, he often said to me, 'You don't know what it's like not to know where you come from,'" recalls Mrs. Oken. "He was trying to research his birth mother, never successful. And it breaks my heart because I wish I could help him. And when his wife began traveling [prior to the murders], I just think he felt like somebody else abandoned him."

At this point in the conversation, Mr. Oken adds, with his voice breaking, "We're not biological. There's a difference here that I can't understand. I guess you have to be the person who's adopted. I'd think about it and say to myself, 'Who cares? I've got two people here who love me.'"

Lost in her thoughts, Mrs. Oken acknowledges that most adopted people are law-abiding citizens. "I just think some people handle it better than others, like other things. If I knew the answer," she says, with her voice trailing off.

Oken himself agrees with his parents that being adopted might've contributed to his penchant for drug experimentation, but he rejects the notion that it might've led to the murders. "Being adopted is hard," he says, "but I don't think it had anything to do with what happened. I think anyone who was adopted has to have that little place in their heart and mind — where did I come from? What's important is I have a family. They've always been there for me. I can't begin to say how much I love them," he says, struggling to keep his composure.

Furthermore, he scoffs at the tendency among some Jews to dismiss his unusual status as a Jewish serial rapist/murderer merely because he wasn't born Jewish. Accept it or not, he says, he is a Jew, regardless of his ethnic or genetic makeup.

"I don't think that makes any difference," Oken says during the only slightly testy moment of our 80-minute interview. "I grew up Jewish and lived in a Jewish house. When I was 8 days old, I had a bris. My Hebrew name is Shimon Hirsch. I'm Jewish, period."

Like many inmates, Oken, who became a bar mitzvah at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, has become progressively more religiously observant since his incarceration. The Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister League has been involved with Oken since his extradition to Maryland in 1990, and the agency's executive director, Louis H. Jacobs, personally meets with him on a monthly basis. In its prison outreach program, the league visits and maintains contact with 177 inmates across Maryland.

"We're not close buddies. I don't think he thinks of me as among his most private confidants," Mr. Jacobs says of Oken. "Our conversations are usually fairly superficial. He's a well-defended guy. He has a cloud hanging over his head, so there's a place that's very sensitive. But I enjoy my time with him, being with him. He's engaging, bright, thoughtful."

Mr. Jacobs finds that most people in the Jewish community are unfamiliar with Oken's case and are "floored" to learn of a local Jew on Death Row. "There's a morbid curiosity," Mr. Jacobs says. "My parents always want to know about it and why the agency reaches out to him, or if it affects my personal feelings about the issue."

Moishe Davids, a league volunteer, also meets with Oken once a month. Since 1997, Mr. Davids, who belongs to the Bais Lubavitch Congregation, has provided religious books, commentaries on weekly Torah portions, holiday packages and spiritual instruction to Oken. During one of their meetings a couple of years ago, Mr. Davids, a retired probation officer, brought a pair of tefillin, or phylacteries.

"I showed him how to put them on," he says. "Of course, at Supermax you can't have physical contact so I showed him through the window, with a telephone propped on my shoulder, and then I gave the tefillin to a guard to give to Steve on the other side. He got the hang of it."

For Mr. Davids, Oken is a soul to reach, a Jewish heart and mind to win over, languishing in one of the most remote and terrifying places imaginable. And he's had some success.

"He's undergone a religious transformation," says Mr. Davids, who lives in Park Heights. "There's definitely been a change in his Jewish outlook and commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people. He now fasts on all of the fast days and observes the major holidays, and he reads articles and books [on Judaism] and asks me to discuss them. He's a smart fellow."

Despite the heinous nature of Oken's crimes, Mr. Davids says he feels no apprehension or moral quandary about visiting with him. Oken, he says, is not a monster or a demon but a lost Jew. And he turns to the Torah and its emphasis on compassion and non-judgmentalism for guidance.

"We're taught that a Jew is a Jew even if he sins. That's the Jewish way," Mr. Davids says. "Mitzvahs are not always easy to do. This is a hard mitzvah. I understand it's difficult for some people to separate sins from the sinner. But I can't ignore him because of the crimes he's convicted of."

Oken, who says he now puts on tefillin just about every day, describes Mr. Davids' visits as nothing short of life-changing. The tone of his voice perks up and his eyes glow when discussing his blossoming interest in Judaism.

"I'd never heard the word HaShem growing up," he says. "We celebrated the High Holidays, Passover and Purim, but I never knew there was a fast day before Purim, or about the Ninth of Av or the Fast of Gedaliah or the 17th of Tammuz.

"I try to do as much as I can," Oken says. "I consider myself now a spiritual person. It calms me and brings peace to me. It makes me feel like there's a purpose."

And becoming a more observant Jew, he says, has helped him deal better with the actions of his past.

"I hurt a lot of people," he says, staring at the floor, "and I pray they forgive me — for themselves, to get some peace. I've done teshuva [repentance]. I've admitted I did it, recognizing this is a horrible act and I'm responsible for it. I have this awful feeling about what I did.

"But it's not just what I did against people," Oken says, barely audibly, "but what I did against God."

A soft evening rain falls on the roof as Davida Oken glances at a table full of framed family photographs, including one of Steven standing on a balcony with the ocean in the background. She thinks it was at Bethany Beach, a few months before the murders. He's grinning, holding a rolled-up newspaper, looking like he doesn't have a worry in the world, wearing a navy blue sweatshirt and jeans.

It's a nice memory, she says, the kind that keeps her going. But other memories make her seethe.

"Almost the first day [after Oken was arrested], I was in Pikesville and someone I've known since high school came up to me and said, 'Didn't you ever teach your son that you don't do things like that?'" she recalls. "What do you say to a stupid, ignorant person like that? For someone to say something that stupid is unbelievable."

The Okens, who are former longtime congregants of Baltimore Hebrew, say that type of disregard for them has been a hallmark of the Jewish community's behavior toward their family since the slayings. In conversation, they can barely contain their bitterness toward the community — individuals and as a whole — for failing to provide virtually any emotional, spiritual or political support to them or their son.

Over the years, they've called and sent scores of letters to rabbis and other Jewish communal leaders, particularly those who've publicly stated their opposition to capital punishment. They say few have responded. Interestingly, the Catholic church, particularly Archbishop William H. Keeler, has been in touch frequently to offer encouragement.

"I thought the Jewish people were a brotherhood. I don't feel that way now," says Ms. Oken. "I needed someone to help us handle this. When you reach out to your leaders and they turn a cold shoulder, you have to wonder what it's all about."

Oken himself is more disappointed in his old friends' unwillingness to visit or keep in touch. "I don't think people want to be bothered. Maybe they can't deal with it," he says. "But I think if the shoe was on the other foot, I would've kept in touch. I feel let down."

As far as the organized community is concerned, "I don't care for myself but for my family. They were members of Baltimore Hebrew for many years," he says. "I don't know if it's politics or what."

Lou Jacobs, of Jewish Big Brother /Big Sister, agrees with the Okens' assessment of the community, even though he acknowledges that Jews are as divided about the death penalty as the rest of America. Last fall, he sent a form letter to more than 40 area rabbis to inform them about Oken's situation, and to suggest using the case as a means of creating dialogue about capital punishment in their congregations.

He was shocked when he received only a few responses, including one from a rabbi who was "indignant" that Mr. Jacobs advocated discussions about the death penalty merely because a Jew was on Death Row.

"Shouldn't the Okens feel they're getting support from somewhere, or do they have to live with this black mark forever? The community institutions and leaders haven't been there for them," Mr. Jacobs says. He attributes it to a tendency among Jews to avoid viewing themselves in an unflattering light.

"We don't think the Jewish community has a substance abuse problem or domestic violence. We think we're immune to those problems, whether because of genes or conditioning," he says. "But a Jew could be executed in Maryland, and one way or another our community will have to make a decision about this."

However, the Oken matter is simply not a Jewish issue and that's why the case has received scant attention from the community, counters Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

"He's an individual who committed atrocious crimes, was found guilty and happens to be Jewish, but it had nothing to do with his ethnic or religious beliefs," says Mr. Abramson, whose agency supported the moratorium bill.

Rabbi Donald R. Berlin is one of the community leaders to whom the Okens wrote a letter requesting assistance. The former spiritual leader of Temple Oheb Shalom, who has publicly criticized the death penalty, admits that he never responded, largely because he wasn't really sure what to do with this matter.

But he says he also felt the Okens were specifically seeking his involvement in the campaign for their son's clemency, something he didn't feel comfortable doing since "the crime was so horrific."

"I understand why they feel abandoned. This must be excruciatingly painful for them. Their child is in trouble," he says. "But they seemed only to want a rabbi who'd intervene for their cause. I had no major reason to get involved. ... The death penalty is wrong. But I wouldn't want to come to his defense. Because he's Jewish?"

When he was contacted by the Okens, Baltimore Hebrew's Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter delegated the matter to an associate rabbi who met with them about a month ago. "I don't have a personal history with them," he says, noting that he sent a "letter of concern" about the case to the governor's office.

But in retrospect, Rabbi Perlmeter says he could've handled the situation better, and that embarrassment played a role. "When I see someone in these circumstances, I feel a sense of shame and sorrow that this has happened to a member of the Jewish community," he says. "If I had to do it again, I think I would've read between the lines and provided comfort for them."

That's exactly what Rabbi Jacob A. Max, of Moses Montefiore-Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation, has tried to do. After being contacted by a mutual friend, Rabbi Max visited recently with the Okens and Steven. He has also written a letter to the governor requesting that Oken be returned to Maine to complete his life sentence.

Rabbi Max says he can understand why many of his colleagues and others in the Jewish community don't want to deal with the Oken case. "Our people used to be convicted for white-collar crimes, not violent crimes. But a Jewish guy on Death Row? It's a new creature of its type. The community doesn't know how to handle it," he says.

But the rabbi feels people must rise above it, especially for a fellow Jew. "He's still a person, created in the image of God until the very end," he says. "The act he did was monstrous, but he's not a monster. He still has a neshamah, a soul."

Unlike most of us, Steven Oken doesn't look at capital punishment from a theoretical point of view. It's something real, vibrant, immediate, an organism that shares his cell with him, along with his sink, toilet, shelves, TV, stacks of books and magazines, and concrete slab with a mattress.

Not surprisingly, Oken, who's become so adept in legal matters since his incarceration that his parents suggest he would've made a superb attorney, is quite eloquent in his opposition to the death penalty. And he's willing to take his case to the Supreme Court if he has to.

"Look at the company this country is in — China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan," he says. "This is a country that executes children and the mentally retarded. And it's not fairly applied. Nobody on Death Row in Maryland is here because they killed a black person, and the vast majority of homicides in this state are black-on-black. It just doesn't address the situation, and it's unfair."

Unfair like the fate of his three victims, their families, and that of his own parents and siblings. Oken says he thinks about his victims every day of his life. It's a pain that's beyond words, he says, knowing how hypocritical and insensitive that might sound. But he appears to really mean it — at least from this side of the window.

"It's something you can never block out of your mind," Oken says. "You wake up every morning and you're here, and you know why you're here — you took lives, the pain you gave their families, all the happiness you took from them."

At this point in the interview, he studies his large folded hands. He pauses and begins to mumble. It's apparent he's no longer talking to me but to a few unseen forces that seem to be crowding the tiny visitation room.

"I just want to be clear that I did this. Not the drugs, it was me. I can't express how sorry I am. There are no words."

Maybe Steven Oken is someone who learned too late during his time on earth about the preciousness of life — that of his own and others. While his victims lost their lives, so did he, to a certain extent. His is now an existence, spent from moment to moment trying to maintain his sanity by reading books and working on appeals. For all intents and purposes, he ceased being alive, stopped being a functioning human being, the moment he lured Dawn Garvin into her apartment that chilly November night and proceeded to torture and kill her.

He knows there are those who would like to do the same to him, who feel that death by lethal injection is simply not good enough. But that, he points out, will still not rectify the actions that forever concluded his life as a member of society, at the age of 25.

And so he presses on, to stay alive, to keep moving. As an armed guard wearing a bulletproof vest arrives to inform us that our time is almost up, Oken and I stare at each other for what seems a long time. Without saying a word, he reminds me that he comes from the same place I do, with the same values and ethics and belief system and culture that permeated the lives and times we once shared. And it makes me shudder when I look at my reflection in the window and beyond, at Oken.

"I was brought up to care about people and respect them," he insists, still sounding like a nice Jewish boy from the old neighborhood. "I just think I'm basically a good person who's done terrible, terrible things."

And when the guard returns and begins to place handcuffs on Oken and usher him away, he waves and again wishes me a happy Passover.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Judge Agrees To Sign Warrant For Death Penalty: Death Row Inmate Faces Lethal Injection For 1987 Rape, MurderAssociated Press and The WBAL-TV (NBC) - January 22, 2003
BALTIMORE -- A judge has agreed to sign the first death warrant after Gov. Bob Ehrlich was sworntook office, effectively lifting the moratorium on the death penalty. The agreement paves the way for the execution of convicted killer Stephen Oken, and the brother of Oken's victim pulled no punches about how he feels.

The pending execution would be the state's first in nearly five years as well as the first capital case to move forward under Ehrlich's administration.

In 1991, Oken, 40, (pictured, left), was sentenced to death for the 1987 sexual assault and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old White Marsh, Md., newlywed. Garvin was raped and killed just four months after her wedding. Oken is scheduled to die by lethal injection the week of March 17, according to his lawyers.

"We knew that there was a substantial possibility that the warrant would be signed as soon as Gov. Ehrlich took office," Oken's attorney Fred W. Bennett said.

Then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening halted executions in May, saying it was necessary to give lawmakers the chance to analyze the results of a two-year University of Maryland study on the use of the state's death penalty.

Garvin's brother, Fred Romano, (pictured, right), told WBAL-TV 11 NEWS he has been waiting for justice for 15 years.

"I want him to die. I want him to die so bad. I wish they'd let me get a hold of him," Romano said.

But Romano said he won't be a witness Oken's execution.

"If he was getting lit up by a firing squad, I'd be there in a heart beat. If he was getting hung, I'd be there in a heart beat. If he was getting electrocuted, I'd be there. I have no desire to see that scumbag fall asleep," he said.

According to the Ehrlich administration, the governor does not plan to extend the state's moratorium on the death penalty which was in effect to allow for the university study.

"Consider the moratorium lifted," said Shareese Deleaver, a spokeswoman for Ehrlich.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor said her office would have asked Judge John G. Turnbull II to sign Oken's death warrant last May. "We've been on hold since the moratorium," she said.

But even with Ehrlich in office, and the warrant promised within the next week, O'Connor said it was not certain that Oken's execution would go forward in seven weeks.

"Anything can happen in these cases," O'Connor said.

Bennett said he will file motions in Baltimore County Circuit Court challenging the state's death statute in an attempt to halt his client's execution. He said at least one of those motions is based on the University of Maryland study, which found "systemic disparities" in the state's use of the death penalty.

And Dr. Terry Fitzgerald, a member of the Physicians For Social Responsibility, is fighting to have all executions in Maryland stopped. He said Romano's desire for retribution may not bring closure.

Is Maryland's death penalty fair?

"As a professional, I see no evidence that revenge is healing. It demeans the dignity of the state by carrying out roles as acts of revenge," Fitzgerald said.

That study, released this month, found that defendants who kill whites are significantly more likely to receive a death sentence than killers of nonwhites. It also found that jurisdiction greatly affects a defendant's chances of ending up on death row.

Of the 12 men awaiting execution in Maryland, nine -- including Oken -- are from Baltimore County. Eight of those nine are black, and all were convicted of killing whites.

Oken is white, as was his victim.
Because of his race, and because his crimes were so brutal -- in addition to the killing of Dawn Marie Garvin, (pictured, left), for which he received the death sentence, Oken was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law and a college student -- Oken has become something of a rallying point for death penalty supporters.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has often referred to Oken when defending the state's death penalty statute.

On Tuesday, moratorium advocates said it was not surprising that O'Connor was pushing Oken's case as the first one likely to reach Ehrlich's desk.

"In many ways, this just shows the politics that drives this issue," said Jane Henderson of the Quixote Center, a faith-based organization that has fought to abolish the death penalty. "His case obscures the issues of systemic bias that we've been trying to focus on."

But O'Connor said her reasoning was simple. Oken is the only Baltimore County death row inmate who has exhausted all of his appeals, she said, and is therefore the only defendant for whom they can reasonably seek a death warrant.

Regardless of what may happen, Romano said he hopes to have the chance to say goodbye to his sister's killer in his own way.

"I want him to look at my face, into my eyes, and when he's in his way to hell, I want him to remember my eyes and that I am the one who sent him there," he said.


––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

PRESS RELEASE
MARYLAND'S DEATH PENALTY UPHELD
Release Date: November 17, 2003

Contact: Sue Blake (916) 446-0345


In a 4 to 3 decision in the case of Oken v. State released today, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state's highest court) upheld the death sentence given to convicted murderer Steven Oken, rejecting his claim that a June 2002 United States Supreme Court decision in Ring v. Arizona voided the state's death penalty law.

The California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case on behalf of the father and brother of the murder victim, Dawn Garvin. "This decision is important not only because it upholds the death sentence for a horrible murderer, but also because it makes it clear that the Supreme Court's decision in Ring only affects at most nine states. Those are the states which allowed the trial judge, rather than the jury, to determine if there were aggravating circumstances related to the murder which made the defendant eligible for the death penalty," said CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger.

In its opinion, the Maryland court states, "Because the Maryland statute already requires that the finding of the existence of an aggravating circumstance must be made by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, the Maryland statute is unaffected by the Ring holding."

The case of Oken v. State involved the 1991 conviction and death sentence given to Steven Oken for the sexual assault and murder of a young navy wife. According to evidence introduced at trial, Oken gained entry into the apartment of Dawn Garvin on the evening of November 1, 1987. The young woman's husband had left earlier that evening to return to his Naval base in Virginia. Once inside, Oken attacked the woman, ripped off her clothes and sexually assaulted her. He then shot her twice in the head and left her to die. Less than two weeks later, Oken sexually assaulted and murdered his sister-in-law in his Maryland home. He then fled to Maine where he murdered a motel clerk on November 16. He was arrested at another motel the next day.

Prior to his trial for Dawn Garvin's murder, Oken was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law. Following his conviction on overwhelming evidence of the sexual assault and murder of Garvin, a Maryland jury sentenced Oken to death. Both his conviction and death sentence were upheld in 1992 by Maryland's highest court. Over the next eleven years, eight state and federal courts reviewed and rejected Oken's claims of trial and sentencing errors.

In the spring of 2002, the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in Ring v. Arizona, which held that a procedure used in death penalty cases by some states was unconstitutional. The procedure allowed the judge in a capital case to determine if a factor related to the murder (such as kidnapping or rape) made the defendant eligible for a death sentence. Maryland, which had always required juries to make this determination, was not affected by the decision.

In spite of this difference in the laws, Oken filed a petition in the Maryland circuit court, claiming that the Ring decision did change Maryland law and that it applied retroactively to his case, requiring that he receive a new sentencing hearing. Specifically, Oken alleged that the decision requires sentencing juries in every state to determine whether the aggravating factors related to a murder outweigh any mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. He also claimed that the Constitution required that this new process apply retroactively to every death sentence. Last February, after the circuit court rejected this claim, the Maryland Court of Appeals stayed Oken's execution to consider it.

CJLF joined the case at the request of Dawn Garvin's father (who discovered her body) and her brother. The Foundation sought to prevent a ruling expanding the meaning of Ring which could be cited by other state courts. In a scholarly amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, the Foundation defined the limited scope of the Ring decision and cited a line of Supreme Court decisions (including several CJLF victories) limiting its expansion or retroactive application. "Had the Maryland court accepted this murderer's version of Ring, it would have sparked new appeals to overturn the sentences of hundreds of the nation's worst murderers," said Scheidegger.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Amnesty International - Library - USA (Maryland)

PUBLIC

AI Index: AMR
51/084/2004
UA 175/04 Death penalty
May 18, 2004

USA (Maryland) Steven Howard Oken (m), white, aged 42

Steven Oken is scheduled to be executed in Maryland in the week beginning 14 June 2004. He was sentenced to death in 1991 for the rape and murder of 20-year-old Dawn Marie Garvin in 1987.

If Steven Oken is executed, he would be the first person to be put to death in Maryland since a moratorium on executions announced by the previous governor, Parris Glendening, on 9 May 2002. He imposed the moratorium pending the outcome of a University of Maryland study that he had commissioned in 2000 to look into the fairness of the state's death penalty, particularly geographic and racial disparities in capital sentencing. Upon taking office in January 2003, Governor Robert Ehrlich lifted the moratorium, stating that he would review every death warrant on a case-by-case basis.

On 7 January 2003, the final report of the study was released. An Empirical Analysis of Maryland's Death Sentencing System With Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction, by Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland, examined all first and second-degree murders committed in Maryland from August 1978 (the time when the new capital punishment law took effect) until September of 1999, approximately 6,000 cases in all. This is the most comprehensive study of the impact of race and geography on the death penalty in Maryland. It concluded that, even when other factors are accounted for, people who kill white victims are "significantly" more likely to face the death penalty than killers of non-whites. It also concluded that prosecutors in different counties "exhibit considerable variation" in their pursuit of the death penalty. In terms of whether a particular "death-eligible" murder will be pursued as a capital crime, therefore, "clearly the jurisdiction where the homicide occurs matters and matters a great deal". Murders in Baltimore County are more likely to be pursued as death penalty cases than other counties. Baltimore County accounts for two of the three people executed in Maryland since 1977 and five out of the eight men currently on death row. Steven Oken was prosecuted in Baltimore County. Dawn Marie Garvin was white.

Maryland's death penalty continues to draw scrutiny and the state has been unable to move forward with legislative remedies addressing the acute concerns raised by the University of Maryland study. In the last three and a half years the number of death row inmates in Maryland has shrunk from 18 to eight without a single execution. The decline is attributable to appellate decisions granting prisoner's new trials, DNA evidence, or new sentencing because of legal flaws in the initial proceedings. During the 2004 legislative session, legislation to establish the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment passed the Maryland Senate (30-16), but ultimately failed in a House Committee.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Every death sentence is an affront to human dignity, every execution a symptom of a culture of violence, rather than a solution to it. Today, 117 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. In contrast, the USA has already executed 24 people this year, bringing to 909 the number of people it has put to death since executions resumed in 1977. Maryland accounts for three of the 909 executions.

There are eight people on death row in Maryland, seven blacks and one white. All were convicted of killing white people. Studies of the US death penalty have consistently shown that race, particularly race of victim, plays a role in who is sentenced to death. In 1994, a US Supreme Court Justice said: "Even under the most sophisticated death penalty statutes, race continues to play a major role in determining who shall live and who shall die." The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions wrote following his visit to the USA in 1997: "Race, ethnic origin and economic status appear to be key determinants in who will, and who will not, receive a sentence of death". In its report on the USA in 2001, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the "disturbing correlation between race, both of the victim and the defendant, and the imposition of the death penalty..." The Committee urged the authorities "to ensure, possibly by imposing a moratorium, that no death penalty is imposed as a result of racial bias on the part of prosecutors, judges, juries and lawyers or as a result of the economically, socially and educationally disadvantaged position of the convicted persons."

Steven Oken was previously the subject of EXTRA 09/03 (AMR 51/017/2003, 10 February 2003).

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 Take Action!
Urge Governor Ehrlich to Grant Clemency to Steven Oken
Amnesty International

USA (Maryland) Steven Howard Oken

Steven Oken (m), white, aged 42, is scheduled to be executed in Maryland in the week beginning 14 June 2004. He was sentenced to death in 1991 for the rape and murder of 20-year-old Dawn Marie Garvin in 1987.

If Steven Oken is executed, he would be the first person to be put to death in Maryland since a moratorium on executions announced by the previous governor, Parris Glendening, on 9 May 2002. He imposed the moratorium pending the outcome of a University of Maryland study that he had commissioned in 2000 to look into the fairness of the state's death penalty, particularly geographic and racial disparities in capital sentencing. Upon taking office in January 2003, Governor Robert Ehrlich lifted the moratorium, stating that he would review every death warrant on a case-by-case basis.

On 7 January 2003, the final report of the study was released. An Empirical Analysis of Maryland's Death Sentencing System With Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction , by Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland, examined all first and second-degree murders committed in Maryland from August 1978 (the time when the new capital punishment law took effect) until September of 1999, approximately 6,000 cases in all. This is the most comprehensive study of the impact of race and geography on the death penalty in Maryland. It concluded that, even when other factors are accounted for, people who kill white victims are "significantly" more likely to face the death penalty than killers of non-whites. It also concluded that prosecutors in different counties "exhibit considerable variation" in their pursuit of the death penalty. In terms of whether a particular "death-eligible" murder will be pursued as a capital crime, therefore, "clearly the jurisdiction where the homicide occurs matters and matters a great deal". Murders in Baltimore County are more likely to be pursued as death penalty cases than other counties. Baltimore County accounts for two of the three people executed in Maryland since 1977 and five out of the eight men currently on death row. Steven Oken was prosecuted in Baltimore County. Dawn Marie Garvin was white.

Maryland's death penalty continues to draw scrutiny and the state has been unable to move forward with legislative remedies addressing the acute concerns raised by the University of Maryland study. In the last three and a half years the number of death row inmates in Maryland has shrunk from 18 to eight without a single execution. The decline is attributable to appellate decisions granting prisoner's new trials, DNA evidence, or new sentencing because of legal flaws in the initial proceedings. During the 2004 legislative session, legislation to establish the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment passed the Maryland Senate (30-16), but ultimately failed in a House Committee.


Background

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. Every death sentence is an affront to human dignity, every execution a symptom of a culture of violence, rather than a solution to it. Today, 117 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. In contrast, the USA has already executed 24 people this year, bringing to 909 the number of people it has put to death since executions resumed in 1977. Maryland accounts for three of the 909 executions.

There are eight people on death row in Maryland, seven blacks and one white. All were convicted of killing white people. Studies of the US death penalty have consistently shown that race, particularly race of victim, plays a role in who is sentenced to death. In 1994, a US Supreme Court Justice said: " Even under the most sophisticated death penalty statutes, race continues to play a major role in determining who shall live and who shall die." The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions wrote following his visit to the USA in 1997: "Race, ethnic origin and economic status appear to be key determinants in who will, and who will not, receive a sentence of death". In its report on the USA in 2001, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the "disturbing correlation between race, both of the victim and the defendant, and the imposition of the death penalty..." The Committee urged the authorities "to ensure, possibly by imposing a moratorium, that no death penalty is imposed as a result of racial bias on the part of prosecutors, judges, juries and lawyers or as a result of the economically, socially and educationally disadvantaged position of the convicted persons."

Further Information

» Amnesty's Work to Abolish the Death Penalty
 
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Md. Rally Opposes Execution
Death Penalty Foes Concede Difficulties in Case

By Susan Levine
Washington Post - Thursday, May 27, 2004; Page B05


With Maryland's first execution since 1998 scheduled in less than three weeks, opponents of capital punishment are mobilizing once again, loudly and passionately decrying how Steven Oken's life seems likely to end.

Outside the medieval-looking edifice of the former Maryland penitentiary, where murderers once were hanged and where the next execution could take place as early as June 14, a parade of protesters demanded yesterday that officials reconsider the punishment -- or ensure that it be carried out in a humane and constitutional way.

Hours later, in a warm church basement in Takoma Park, a town meeting that sometimes bordered on revival rally was even more strident. "When the state of Maryland executes . . . when they kill, they will be doing it in your name," said Diann Rust-Tierney, director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project.

"Do you stand for answering violence with violence?" she asked.

"No," roared the audience.

The voices speaking out yesterday included a lawyer and an emergency room physician. A minister and state delegate. Former Illinois and California death row inmates and the brother-in-law of the last person killed by injection in Maryland. And Oken's mother herself, who quietly and briefly during the afternoon news conference asked what the state had to gain "by killing more people."

But those who lead the fight against capital punishment in Maryland acknowledge that Oken's can be a difficult case with which to push their cause forward.

That's not just because of the brutal crimes he committed, but because Oken can lay claim to few of the issues -- of race, retardation or representation -- that have swayed the courts or public opinion in recent years.

"There's a temptation to approach it as if, because Oken is white, the issues don't apply," said Jane Henderson of the Quixote Center, a Maryland-based social justice organization. "In a time when everyone is talking about the problems of the death penalty, there's a certain calculated way in which people have moved forward with it."

Another obstacle for Oken is the death penalty proponent in the governor's mansion, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. With Oken's appeals all but exhausted in the 13 years since his conviction, he has turned to Ehrlich (R) for clemency.

The governor said yesterday that the case "fits the usual pattern -- many, many years between the crime and the ultimate date of execution."

Ehrlich said he would not wade into the debate over lethal injection. "I am not going to ponder the legality of methods of execution," he said.

At the Baltimore news conference, the medical and legal professionals focused on whether one of the three chemicals used in the procedure would cause Oken great suffering -- particularly if his execution is "botched" similarly to the 1998 lethal injection of Tyrone X. Gilliam, charged attorney Jerome Nickerson.

"It was obvious to everyone in the execution chamber," said Nickerson, who represented Gilliam and witnessed his death. The intravenous line through which a barbiturate flowed to render the inmate unconscious "started dripping" at the start and by the end had pooled on the floor, he said. If Gilliam received too little sedation, then he felt and sensed and saw everything that followed with the final two drugs. "He's going to feel the suffocation. He's going to feel the heart attack," Nickerson said.

The family of Oken's victim in this case has stressed that she experienced far worse. Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old college student and newlywed, was sexually tortured and shot after Oken talked his way into her apartment in late 1987. Within two weeks, Oken killed his sister-in-law and, after fleeing to Maine, a young motel clerk there.

The trio of slayings, and the details that emerged about Garvin's death in particular, explain why his own attorney wrote in a recent motion that Oken was "an individual thoroughly despised by the polity."

That blunt and harsh assessment was alluded to at the Takoma Park gathering.

"The fact that Steven Oken is demonstrably guilty makes it appear that capital punishment has no flaws," said Michael Stark, of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

For this audience, nothing could be more demonstrably wrong.

Staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Joe Curran and the death penalty
Editorial Op-Ed
Washington Post - June 1, 2004

For doctrinaire opponents of capital punishment like Amnesty International and Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, condemned murderer Steven Oken is a public-relations nightmare. They can't play the race card or the poverty card, because Oken is white and his family well-to-do. And there is no question that he committed the crimes for which he is scheduled to be executed the week of June 13: the 1987 rape-murder of newlywed Dawn Marie Garvin. Still, given the fact that this case has been permitted to linger in the courts since Oken's 1991 conviction and death sentence, there is good reason to be suspect that he will not be executed this month.

The facts of Oken's crimes are clear and uncontested: On the evening of Nov. 1, 1987, Oken raped and shot to death newlywed Dawn Marie Garvin in her apartment in White Marsh, Md. Mrs. Garvin, whose husband was stationed at a Navy base in Virginia, had allowed Oken into her apartment after he asked to use the telephone. Then, on Nov. 16, Oken raped and murdered his own sister-in-law, Patricia Hirt. He then drove to Kittery, Maine, where the following day, he raped and murdered a third woman — a hotel clerk named Lori Ward.

In his recent efforts to escape execution, Oken has had plenty of help. In 2001, the Maryland Court of Appeals halted executions for eight months on the novel legal theory that a Supreme Court decision overturning a New Jersey hate-crimes law might somehow apply to the Maryland death-penalty statute. The following year, then-Gov. Parris Glendening imposed a moratorium on executions. Shortly after Gov. Robert Ehrlich ended the moratorium last January, the Court of Appeals postponed Oken's execution again. The announcement came less than two weeks after Mr. Curran stood in front of the State House in Annapolis and denounced the death penalty, saying there is too great a possibility that an innocent person could be executed.

Now, Oken has filed suit challenging Maryland's use of lethal injection. Mr. Curran's office is charged with responsibility for defending the state's position on appeal. But, given Mr. Curran's opposition to capital punishment, his office cannot credibly represent the people in the Oken case. If Oken evades execution this month, Marylanders need to ask themselves: Does the fact that Mr. Curran opposes the death penalty have any relevance to the fact that triple murderer Steven Oken repeatedly emerges as the court victor?

 
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Oken Seeks Stay Of Death Penalty
WBAL Radio and The Associated Press - Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Steven Oken has asked Maryland's highest court to delay his execution so that he will have time to challenge the state's use of lethal injections to carry out death sentences.

A stay of execution request filed with the Court of Appeals Tuesday alleges that "due to the insufficiency of the execution protocols and training of execution team members, the killing of Steven Oken will amount to little more than torture."

Oken is scheduled to die the week of June 14 for the 1991 rape and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old Baltimore County woman. He was also convicted of killing two other women in Maryland and Maine.

Oken's lawyers, Fred W. Bennett and Michael E. Lawlor, filed suit alleging that the state's method of execution, which uses three separate drugs, inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering. State officials say they are satisfied that the use of lethal injections provides a humane and painless method of execution.

When the suit was filed challenging use of lethal injections, it was described as an "abusive delay" by the state attorney general's office. Oken's lawyers responded that he has a right to question the method of execution and "has not manipulated the system."

The court of appeals has already issued a stay of execution for Oken on two occasions.

Oken's lawyers also filed an appeal Wednesday of the decision by a Baltimore judge that his suit challenging the method of execution should be transferred from Baltimore, where it was filed, to Baltimore County, where the crime occurred and where he was convicted.

In addition to that suit, Oken also has a motion outstanding in Baltimore County Circuit Court based on what Bennett said is a disparity between the procedures for lethal injection contained in the law and the way it is administered by the Maryland Division of Correction.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Maryland judge rejects one of inmate´s case to avoid execution
Associated Press - Thursday, June 3, 2004


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Baltimore County judge rejected Wednesday one of Steven Oken´s attempts to avoid execution.

Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II granted the state´s motion for summary judgment in Oken´s lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of lethal injection, the method Maryland uses to carry out the death penalty.

Turnbull also denied Oken´s request for an emergency hearing on a motion based on what Oken´s attorney, Fred Warren Bennett, said is a disparity between the procedures for lethal injection contained in the law and the way it is administered by the state Division of Correction.

Oken is scheduled to die the week of June 14 in Baltimore for raping and murdering Dawn Marie Garvin, 20. She was the first of three women Oken was convicted of killing in Maryland and Maine in 1987.

He also was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law in Maryland and motel clerk Lori Ward in Kittery, Maine. He was taken into custody in Freeport, the day after the Ward murder.

Bennett said he welcomed Turnbull´s decisions because it allows him to focus his energy on Oken´s motion before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

"We couldn´t be happier because we´re in a race against the clock here and the sooner the case gets before the Court of Appeals the better," Bennett said.

Oken filed the request Tuesday, asking the state´s highest court to delay his execution so he would have time to challenge the state´s use of lethal injections to carry out death sentences.

The request alleges that "due to the insufficiency of the execution protocols and training of execution team members, the killing of Steven Oken will amount to little more than torture." Oken´s lawyers allege that the state´s method of execution, which uses three separate drugs, inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering.

State officials say they are satisfied that the use of lethal injections provides a humane and painless method of execution.

When Oken filed the suit challenging use of lethal injections, the state attorney general´s office described it as an "abusive delay." Oken´s lawyers responded that he has a right to question the method of execution and "has not manipulated the system." The Court of Appeals has already issued a stay of execution for Oken on two occasions.

Oken´s lawyers also filed an appeal Wednesday of the decision by a Baltimore judge that his lawsuit challenging the method of execution should be transferred from Baltimore, where it was filed, to Baltimore County, where the crime occurred and where he was convicted.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

For Rabbi, Stance On Execution EvolvesAssociated Press - June 7, 2004


BALTIMORE -- In a recent speech, Rabbi Rex Perlmeter said the death penalty is "killing the soul of this country."

When he finished, he walked over and embraced the parents of Steven Oken - a death-row inmate who could be executed as early as June 14. Perlmeter, who is senior rabbi of the 1,500-family Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, asked Davida Oken her forgiveness for ignoring her pleas to help her son after he was sent to death row.

"It meant a lot to me," she told The Baltimore Sun. "For so many years, I felt very angry and upset that the rabbis wouldn't put out their hands to help."

The parents of Steven Oken, one of only a few Jewish inmates on any death row in the country, say they have long looked for support from a Jewish community divided on capital punishment.

For years, Davida Oken says congregation leaders didn't lend her family emotional support or join the fight to save her son's life.

Oken was put on Maryland's death row in 1991. Davida Oken, a member of the congregation for the previous 27 years, says she asked the synagogue at the time for records on her son, who had his bar mitzvah there, to send to the Aleph Institute, which provides religious material to Jewish prisoners.

She was so upset with the congregation's response, she says she withdrew her family's membership. But when Rex Perlmeter arrived in 1996 as the new senior rabbi, the family tried again, sending the rabbi a note.

Perlmeter, now 45, says he supported use of the death penalty against the most heinous of criminals. And he thought Steven Oken, convicted of sexually assaulting and killing three women in 1987, fell into that category.

"I was very ambivalent," he says now. "I felt sadness for their family, but I also felt that justice was being served."

The Okens' note, he says, marked the beginning of his evolution from favoring capital punishment in some cases to opposing it altogether.

"Over the years, thinking about how I had failed the Okens, sensing their pain, knowing that they could not get the help they asked for from their community, that influenced me," Perlmeter says.

The Reform Jewish Movement, which includes Baltimore Hebrew and 900 other synagogues, has formally opposed the death penalty since 1959. But the Baltimore Jewish Council, a government and community relations agency for the area's synagogues and rabbinical organizations, doesn't oppose capital punishment.

Another rabbi in the Baltimore congregation, Robert Nosanchuk, opposes the death penalty and has been counseling the Oken family for about two years. He points out that the Torah says that when one is guilty of murder, one should be put to death.

That passage, combined with U.S. law's approval of the death penalty and society's embrace of vengeance were at the root of his belief in capital punishment, Perlmeter said.

A year ago, he confronted what he calls the ultimate paradigm for any Jew considering the death penalty: Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of the "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jews. He's the only man to ever face capital punishment in Israel.

"As long as I believed that it was an appropriate punishment for him, how could I feel that it was inappropriate for everyone else?" Perlmeter says. But he came to realize that "his death did not effectively avenge the death of 6 million Jews."

Perlmeter said it wasn't up to him to forgive Oken for his crimes. "That is between Steven, his victims' families, and his God," he said.

About the passage in the Torah that calls for death when one has killed another, Perlmeter said: "God knew we needed the threat of death, but God knows we should have outgrown it by now."

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Court agrees to hear request for stay of Oken executionAssociated Press - Monday, June 7, 2004

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Lawyers for convicted killer Steven Oken will get what could be a last chance to delay his execution at a hearing scheduled Tuesday before the state Court of Appeals.

"It´s judgment day, in effect," Fred Warren Bennett, Oken´s lawyer, said Monday after the court agreed to a hearing on his motions challenging the use of lethal injection as the method of execution.

Unless the appeals court intervenes, Oken is scheduled to die next week for the 1987 rape and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old Baltimore County woman. She was the first of three women Oken was convicted of killing in Maryland and Maine in 1987.

Oken was taken into custody in Freeport, Maine, the day after the murder of Lori Ward, a motel clerk in Kittery. He received a life sentence for that killing.

In his motion filed with the Court of Appeals, Bennett alleges that "due to the insufficiency of the execution protocols and training of execution team members, the killing of Steven Oken will amount to little more than torture."

Oken´s lawyers allege that the state´s method of execution, which uses three separate drugs, inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering.

State officials say they are satisfied that the use of lethal injections provides a humane and painless method of execution. Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said thousands of hours have been devoted to examining the procedure.

The state´s first execution by lethal injection was in 1994.


––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Victim's family awaits killer's execution: After years of delays, lethal injection scheduled next week for Oken
By Julie Bykowicz
Baltimore Sun - June 8, 2004


The Romano family is getting ready.

Betty Romano, mother of Dawn Marie Garvin, has pulled out two of her slain daughter's stuffed animals to bring along if the state carries out the death penalty against the killer. She has affixed handmade signs to the windows of her Buick announcing the scheduled execution.

Garvin's father, Fred J. Romano, and brother, Fred A. Romano, are makng plans to stand outside Maryland's death row, amid death penalty protesters, on execution night.

The Romanos know that Steven Oken - who nearly 17 years ago raped and murdered Garvin and two other women - has a motion before the state's highest court today asking the judges to delay his court-ordered death by lethal injection. And they know that twice before the court has granted similar requests.

But, Betty Romano, 57, said yesterday, "This is the closest we've ever come."

Less than a week before the first day that Oken's death sentence could be carried out, the Romanos hope that they might finally see what they call justice for Garvin.

When a Baltimore County prosecutor called Betty Romano yesterday at her Aberdeen apartment with a daily update, she told him, "If this falls through, I will be a disaster." The signs in her car windows urge people to "join us at the execution for Steven H. Oken. ... Free Admission."

Deputy State's Attorney Stephen Bailey said that for the Romanos the years of delays have been "a hellish emotional roller coaster."

In the early morning hours of Nov. 2, 1987, Fred J. Romano found his only daughter dead in her White Marsh apartment, nude, her face covered by a pillow, in a pool of blood on her bed. She had been raped and sexually assaulted with a condiment bottle before Oken, a man she'd never met, shot her in the head. A stuffed bear - one her mother plans to hold if she witnesses Oken's execution - was tucked under her arm.

Garvin, 20, an accountant and college student, had been married about four months to her high school sweetheart, naval officer Keith Garvin. He had returned to base in Virginia the day she was murdered.

Fred J. Romano, 60, said the memory of that scene and the loss he feels stoke bitterness and hatred. But he said he tries to contain those feelings and approach capital punishment in a matter-of-fact way:

"The death penalty was rendered after a trial, and the state is obligated to carry out that sentence," he said yesterday at his son's townhouse in the Belcamp area of Harford County.

"My dad is much more rational than me," said Fred A. Romano, 34. The younger Romano makes no attempt to couch his feelings about Oken:

"There is one person on this Earth that I could kill in cold blood," he said. "And that person is Steven Oken."

About three years ago, Fred A. Romano said, he came to believe that the voices of family members of murder victims were being drowned out by outspoken death penalty opponents.

He created a Web site, called Maryland Coalition for State Executions, mc4se.org, and began posting information about death penalty cases in Maryland. Last year, his wife, Vicki Romano, developed a national companion, prodeathpenalty.org.

Recently, he added a clock that counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the death warrant for Oken goes into effect.

Garvin's death and the shocking way that she died have taken a heavy toll on the family.

Her parents separated about three years ago, something that Betty Romano attributes, at least in part, to the murder and its aftereffects. She created a support group called Families of Murdered Loved Ones, but she eventually dissolved the group because "every minute of every day, I was reliving the pain."

Fred A. Romano said it pains him to know that his children - two little girls and a teenage stepson - never got to meet "Aunt Dawn."

"Oken cheated them, too," he said.

He contemplated what he would write on the signs he plans to hold outside the prison hospital in Baltimore the night of Oken's execution, if it happens. He thinks they will say, "Judgment Day has come."

Sun staff writer Laurie Willis contributed to this article.
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Md. puts Oken to death
Ending years of appeals, killer dies by lethal injection

By Julie Bykowicz and Alec MacGillis
Baltimore Sun - June 18, 2004

After a furious legal battle that ended only in his final hour, Steven Howard Oken wrote a letter expressing remorse, smiled with a priest and submitted to his death by lethal injection last night for the 1987 rape and murder of a White Marsh newlywed.

Maryland's execution of Oken, a Baltimore County pharmacist's son, at 9:18 p.m., brought chants of "justice has been served" from a crowd of 60 people gathered with relatives of murder victim Dawn Marie Garvin outside the old state penitentiary on East Madison Street in Baltimore.

Garvin's mother, Betty Romano, was among four relatives of the victims who witnessed the execution.

"My family has been put through hell for 17 years," she said. "Steven Oken has been brought to justice. The only problem is that Steven Oken died in peace, and my daughter didn't have the luxury to die in peace like I saw him die tonight."

Oken, 42, sexually assaulted and killed three women - two in Maryland, one in Maine - in as many weeks in the fall of 1987.

His legal team filed appeal after appeal over the years. But last night, witnesses said, he was anything but combative. He chuckled and chatted with a Roman Catholic priest in the death chamber and did not resist when the procedure began.

At 9:11 p.m., two minutes after the curtain snapped back, signaling that Oken had begun receiving the deadly chemicals, his large midsection heaved two or three times, and then he appeared to stop breathing.

Oken's attorney, Fred Warren Bennett said he last saw his client at 7:30 p.m., and at that point, "he pretty much knew ... there was nothing left," the lawyer said, crying as he recalled the conversation. "I told him he wouldn't be alone. We'd all be there with him."

Speaking of Oken, who he said was not only his client but a friend, Bennett said, "He was a good man. He was not a monster. He was sick. He was mentally ill. You should not kill mentally ill people."

On Wednesday, Oken appeared to have won at least another month of life when a federal appeals court upheld a stay to obtain more information about the state's execution procedures. But that stay was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court later that day.

A flurry of additional court appeals by Oken's attorneys came to naught yesterday, with one Supreme Court rejection arriving at 8:32 p.m., less than an hour before his death. By then, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., facing his first clemency appeal from a death row inmate since lifting an unofficial death penalty moratorium when he took office last year, had denied Oken's request.

"After a thorough review of the request for clemency, the facts pertinent to the petition, and the judicial opinions regarding this case, I decline to intervene," Ehrlich said in a statement released by his office at 6 p.m. "My sympathies tonight lie with the families of all those involved in these heinous crimes."

Bennett said Oken wrote a letter before he died, addressed to Ehrlich after the governor had denied him clemency. In the letter, Bennett said, "He talked about how sorry he was. It was sent to show remorse."

Bennett said he will ask Oken's family to make it public today.

Oken's last meal was a chicken patty, with potatoes and gravy, green beans, marble cake, milk and fruit punch. "It was the standard meal that happened to come up in the meal rotation for today," said prison spokesman Mark A. Vernarelli.

Oken's parents said good-bye to their son and went home at 3 p.m., said Rabbi Jacob Max, who counseled the condemned man for about 90 minutes yesterday afternoon.

"He was very much at peace," Max said. When Max left Oken's holding cell at 4:30 p.m., a second rabbi, Moshe Davids, talked with him for another 30 minutes. Both rabbis witnessed Oken die from behind one-way glass.

The man who went into prison as a relatively fit 25-year-old had become a much heavier middle-age man with close-cropped white-ish hair. He wore a gray jumpsuit he was given for the execution in place of his usual orange one.

Oken was convicted in 1991 in the 1987 rape and murder of Garvin, whom he attacked after tricking her into letting him into her White Marsh apartment to use the phone. Two weeks later, he sexually assaulted and killed his wife's older sister, Patricia Antoinette Hirt, in White Marsh, and fled to Maine, where he sexually assaulted and killed a college student and motel clerk, Lori Elizabeth Ward.

Outside the prison, supporters and opponents of the death penalty gathered in separate groups. Shortly before 9 p.m., chanting arose from the group of about 60 supporters, who included victims' relatives: "turn on the juice."

When word spread that Oken was dead, several relatives huddled briefly and said a prayer, and others broke out in cheers.

"The burden has been lifted. Oken's dead," said Fred A. Romano, Garvin's brother. He taunted Bennett through a bullhorn: "How can you sleep? How much money did you make?"

Down the street, many of the 40 death penalty opponents assembled cried when they learned that Oken had been put to death. Those who were carrying lit candles blew them out.

"Tonight the state extinguished a life, but it ignited a flame in each of us. I want you to walk away from this event tonight stronger," said Sedira Banan, 19, of the American University Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The execution - the 84th in Maryland's history, its fourth since resuming executions in 1994 after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 and its first since 1998 - occurred in amid an intensifying statewide debate over capital punishment. Over the past two years, Ehrlich's predecessor, Parris N. Glendening, had imposed a temporary moratorium on the death penalty, state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. called for abolishing it, and a state-commissioned report questioned the fairness of the state's use of the sentence.

Oken's case, which included two previous death warrants that were not acted upon because of appeals, grew closely entwined with the larger debate. His parents became vocal critics of the death penalty, while Garvin's family became outspoken advocates of it.

Death penalty critics noted that Oken's case fit what they said was a disturbing trend in Maryland: like a disproportionate number of death row inmates, Oken was sentenced in Baltimore County, and his victims were white. But advocates of the death penalty noted that, as a middle-class white man, he could hardly be portrayed as a victim of prosecutorial bias.

Steven Oken admitted to his crimes. He sexually assaulted and shot to death three women in November 1987. Then 25 years old and married, Oken gave few hints that he would commit such crimes, his family has said.

In a 2001 article in the Baltimore Jewish Times, Oken talked of his drug and alcohol abuse, personal problems and depression, and said, "I can't point to one thing that made this happen ... I just didn't want to deal with everything."

Adopted at birth by David and Davida Oken, Steven was raised in a Jewish family with a younger brother and sister.

Oken's mother, Davida Oken, said signs of trouble emerged in 1986. She said her son had been abusing alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and prescription medications that he had stolen from his father's pharmacy.

On the night of Nov. 1, 1987, Oken knocked on doors in a White Marsh neighborhood near where he and his wife lived, trying to convince residents to let him inside by posing alternately as a stranded motorist and a doctor.

According to court testimony, he knocked on 20-year-old Dawn Garvin's door. She let Oken inside. Garvin's father, Frederick J. Romano, found his only daughter's body early the next day.

Two weeks later, Oken attacked his wife's older sister, Patricia Hirt, inside his White Marsh townhouse, where the 43-year-old Hirt had come to return a camera.

Two days later, he was arrested in Maine - but not before he sexually assaulted and fatally shot motel clerk Lori Ward.

Suzanne Tsintolas, Ward's older sister and a Rockville lawyer, said a few days ago that the execution would "help to maintain my faith in our judicial system."

"My sister was ripped away from our family, and we can't get her back. But at least this evil person won't be walking among us."

Outside the prison after the execution, the crowd of death penalty advocates lingered to celebrate. As the hearse containing Oken's remains pulled away at 10:25 p.m., the crowd chanted "na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey goodbye."

Taking in the scene, Fred J. Romano, Garvin's father, said "I'm feeling great right now. I feel finally justice has been done. And I just want to say this: I cradled my dead daughter's body in my arms when I found her. I attempted to give her CPR. The way this guy died, he died too easy. He had no right to die in dignity, no right at all."

Sun staff writers Andrew A. Green, Lynn Anderson, and Laurie Willis contributed to this article.
 
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

FAIR USE NOTICE
Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––