Thursday, January 9, 2003
Pearl sailor faces execution
The Navy petty officer is accused of killing his Singapore-born wife and mother-in-law
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Navy prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Pearl Harbor sailor who they say killed his Singapore-born wife and her mother.
Rear Adm. Robert Conway, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, decided yesterday that Navy Petty Officer David DeArmond will be court-martialed for allegedly killing his second wife, Zaleha DeArmond, 31, and her mother, Saniah Binte Abdul Ghani, 66, on June 10.
DeArmond, 31, is accused of killing his wife by hitting her on the head with a skillet during an argument in the couple’s two-story home while their three children slept a few feet away. In the second premeditated-murder charge, DeArmond is accused of repeatedly stabbing his mother-in-law with a knife.
DeArmond also is charged with attempting to rape his wife, abusing her body and destroying, tampering and moving evidence from the couple’s townhouse on Leal Place outside Pearl Harbor’s Nimitz Gate.
If prosecutors are successful in seeking the death penalty, DeArmond would be the first Hawaii service member to be executed since statehood.
The Navy said a service member convicted of a capital crime would be executed with a lethal injection administered at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Dwight Sullivan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland who specializes in military capital crime cases, said that since 1950 “there have been no executions from court martials held in Hawaii.”
Sullivan said military capital crime cases have been “very rare” since 1997, when the option of life without parole became a possibility.
“Capital crime cases are very expensive,” Sullivan said, “and very difficult to try.”
DeArmond’s court-martial could come within 90 days. Under military regulations, the case must be tried before a panel of at least five military members.
Earle Partington, a local lawyer who specializes in military cases, said the military generally evokes the death penalty in “very heinous cases.
“The classic cases generally involve multiple homicides,” Partington said, “with a rape involved in the crime.”
Partington said he cannot recall any military member being charged with a capital crime since he moved here in 1975.
There are now six men — three Marines and three soldiers — awaiting execution at Leavenworth’s U.S. Disciplinary Barracks. All six on the military’s death row were convicted of premeditated murder or felony murder.
The National Law Journal reports that 35 people have been executed by the Army since 1916. The last military execution was held April 13, 1961, when Army Private John Bennett was hanged after being convicted of rape and attempted murder.
In 1983, the Armed Forces Court of Appeals held in U.S. v. Matthews that military capital sentencing procedures were unconstitutional for failing to require a finding of individualized aggravating circumstances.
In 1984, the death penalty was reinstated when President Ronald Reagan signed an executive order adopting detailed rules for capital courts-martial. Among the rules was a list of 11 aggravating factors that qualify defendants for death sentences.
Only the president has the power to commute a death sentence, and no service member can be executed unless the president personally confirms the death penalty.
Capital punishment was abolished in Hawaii in 1957. However, debate over the issue was renewed recently when a state senator said he would propose that the death penalty be reinstated when a child is murdered.
During a pretrial hearing held in November, witnesses testified that DeArmond believed that his Singapore-born wife was seeing sailors whom she met at a Pearl Harbor “single sailors’ bar,” where she worked as a waitress.
Jeanette William-Wallace, DeArmond’s first wife, testified that DeArmond was afraid to divorce his second wife because he was fearful that she would leave him and flee to Singapore, taking with her the couple’s children, Danny, 5, Courtney, 3, and Brandon, 2. The children are now living with foster parents.
DeArmond, 33, is a hull technician assigned to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
His wife’s family members in Singapore have said they thought that she wanted to leave her husband because he was abusive.
She met DeArmond in San Diego while on a trip, and the two were married in 1996. Saniah was killed a day before she was supposed to return to Singapore.
Zaleha DeArmond’s 90-year-old father also had been living with the couple until he returned to Singapore in January.
Zaleha DeArmond had sought a restraining order May 3, saying her husband trashed the dining table until it broke, threw away the Quran, tossed their wedding photo in the toilet and threatened her.
DeArmond’s current enlistment was supposed to expire on Dec. 7 but has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the double homicide charges. He has been in the Navy for 13 years.
Schofield held execution in 1947
One of the last reported military executions here occurred in 1947 at Schofield Barracks.
On April 22, 1947, Army Pvt. Garlon Mickles, 19, was hanged for beating and raping a female War Department employee on Guam a year earlier. “Death came 20 minutes after the trap door was sprung,” the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported, noting the soldier mounted the Schofield Barracks gallows at 6:45 a.m. at a place called execution gulch.
The newspaper reported the Missouri man seemed to have accepted his fate: His final hours were spent in “gay spirits,” the provost marshal said. At 5:30 a.m., Mickles sat in the Schofield Barracks stockade eating sweet rolls and drinking coffee.
On the gallows, when he thought the noose was properly placed around his neck, Mickles made a last request to the guards: that his mother be informed he “died like a man.”