National Desk Woman Faces Death Sentence In State Without That Penalty By The New York Times
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - If federal prosecutors have their
way, Kristen Gilbert will be put to death in the murders of four men and the attempted murder of three others although the
crimes she is accused of were committed in one of 12 states that do not have capital punishment.
deaths occurred at a Veterans Affairs hospital, which is under concurrent state and federal jurisdiction.
Ms. Gilbert denies the charges and has been fighting Attorney General Janet Reno's authorization last spring to make
hers a capital case.
In a motion filed Jan. 20, Ms. Gilbert's lawyers, David Hoose and Harry Miles,
argued that trying to impose the death penalty here "is a direct insult to citizenry" of a state that has "time and again
rejected the reinstitution of capital punishment."
Prosecutors declined to comment on the motion
other than to say that they would file a written response by the Feb. 15 deadline.
But David Bruck,
a lawyer with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Council, said, "The continual federalization of criminal law is a retrograde
development. It is politically driven and is leading to a huge expansion of federal crimes that were perfectly well handled
by the states."
Ms. Gilbert, 32, the divorced mother of two boys, is charged with killing patients
while she was a nurse in an acute care unit of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northampton, Mass.
notice of intention to seek the death penalty submitted by the United States attorney Donald Stern in November 1998 stated
that 37 men died during Ms. Gilbert's shifts between January 1995 and February 1996.
She is accused
of injecting her victims with epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenaline that can cause a healthy heart to go into cardiac
Mr. Stern said through a spokesman that he could not comment on the deliberations leading
to the pursuit of the death penalty in the case.
Mr. Hoose, a member of the defense team, said the
local district attorney was well equipped to prosecute his client and he has accused the federal Justice Department of using
racial considerations in choosing Ms. Gilbert for capital prosecution. Three quarters of those selected for federal death
penalty prosecution in the early 1990's were members of minority groups, he said, and Ms. Gilbert, who is white, helps "make
the numbers look better."
Mr. Stern, in a letter to The Boston Globe last spring, stated that the
suggestion that race played a role in his deliberations was "offensive, unwarranted, and untrue."
Gilbert is being held in the Hampden County jail outside of Springfield, where her trial is expected to begin in September.