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Judicial killing: American-style


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Author Topic: Judicial killing: American-style  (Read 259 times)
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« on: April 12, 2016, 04:07:18 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Arizona execution lasts nearly two hours

Witness says Joseph Wood was ‘gasping and struggling to breathe’

By MARK BERMAN | 10:01PM EDT - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An undated file photograph of Joseph Wood. — Picture: Arizona Department of Corrections.
An undated file photograph of Joseph Wood. — Picture: Arizona Department of Corrections.

THE EXECUTION of a convicted murderer in Arizona lasted for nearly two hours on Wednesday, as witnesses said he gasped and snorted for much of that time before eventually dying.

This drawn-out death of Joseph R. Wood III in Arizona prompted the governor to order a review and drew renewed criticism of lethal injection, the main method of execution in the United States, just months after a high-profile botched execution in Oklahoma.

“I’ve witnessed a number of executions before and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Dale Baich, one of Wood’s attorneys, told The Washington Post in a phone call. “Nor has an execution that I observed taken this long.”

Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. In 1989, Wood went to a body shop where Debra and her father worked and shot Eugene Dietz in the chest; he then shot Debra twice, killing her.

He was killed at the Arizona State Prison Complex in an unusually prolonged process that immediately brought to mind lethal injections that have gone awry in recent months.

“I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all,” Wood said as part of his final words, according to the Associated Press.

Wood was declared fully sedated at 1:57 p.m. and pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., nearly two full hours after the medical team was first directed to administer the drugs.

During the execution, Wood’s attorneys filed a request to halt the lethal injection because he was still awake more than an hour after the process began. Baich, speaking via telephone from the parking lot of the state prison in Florence, Arizona, said Wood’s lips started to move and he was “struggling to breathe” shortly after he was deemed sedated.

He said he watched Wood “gasp and breathe heavily” for more than an hour and 40 minutes. Baich said that he could not tell from his vantage point if Wood was in pain. During the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma earlier this year, witnesses reported seeing Lockett grimace, try to lift his head up and clench his jaw.

Reporters for the Associated Press and the Arizona Republic also reported seeing Wood gasp more than 600 times before dying. Michael Kiefer, a reporter for the Arizona Republic who witnessed the execution, told the Republic he counted 660 gasps.

“I just know it was not efficient,” Kiefer said. “It took a long time.”

State officials disputed these accounts, contending that Wood was never in pain and that he was only snoring.

“I’m telling you he was snoring,” Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general’s office, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “There was no gasping or snorting. Nothing. He looked like he was asleep. This was my first execution and I have no reason to minimize this.”

Charles Ryan, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said in a statement Wednesday night that Wood did not suffer during the execution.

“Throughout this execution, I conferred and collabroated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress,” Ryan said.

He said that the medical team confirmed that Wood was sedated, checking eight different times in all. Ryan also said in his statement that Wood did not grimace or make any movements other than snoring.

“Physiologically, the time to complete an execution varies for each individual,” Ryan said.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (Republican) ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to conduct a review of the execution, saying in a statement that she was “concerned by the length of time” it took.

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” she said. “This is in stark contrast to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

Ryan has said his department will conduct a full review and await the results of a toxicology study and an autopsy.

Family members of Wood’s victims, who were angered that he looked at them and smiled while delivering his final words, told reporters that they did not object to the way the execution occurred.

“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs,” Richard Brown told the Associated Press. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?”

Wood was the third inmate executed in Arizona since last October and the first put to death using a combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.

Attorneys for Wood had argued that more information was needed regarding the drugs that would be used in the execution. Arizona planned to use a two-drug combination — midazolam and hydromorphone — that had only been used once before in an execution. (That episode, a lethal injection in Ohio, lasted for nearly 25 minutes. Witnesses said the inmate was snorting and gasping during the process.)

A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had agreed with Wood over the weekend, staying the execution, and the full court upheld the decision on Monday. But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the stay and denied a stay request on Tuesday evening. The Supreme Court also denied a stay of execution on Wednesday. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy referring the stay request to the entire court and it was denied without explanation.

Shortly before the scheduled execution, the state Supreme Court said it had stayed the execution so it could consider his petition. A short time later, the court announced that it had dissolved the earlier stay and was denying any motions asking for the execution to be stayed.

Death penalty opponents criticized the length of Wood’s execution, saying that Arizona should have learned from the previous episodes in Oklahoma and Ohio.

“It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure,” Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, said in a statement. “Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from. Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions.”

Wood was the first person executed this year in the state. Arizona last carried out an execution in October 2013, putting two inmates to death using two two different types of lethal injections: Edward Schad was put to death with an injection of one drug (pentobarbital) on October 9th, while Robert Jones was put to death with a three-drug mix (including midazolam hydrochloride) two weeks later.

The state changed its lethal injection protocols earlier this year. Horne’s office announced that it would allow the use of midazolam and hydromorphone to carry out the executions, a change that occurred because the state is one of many scrambling to find the drugs needed for lethal injections. This shortage has caused states to effectively experiment with different combinations and drug protocols while also discussing turning to methods of execution like the electric chair or firing squad.

When the appeals court upheld the stay of Wood’s execution, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote a stinging dissent arguing that attacks on lethal injection stemmed from fundamental problems with the concept:

Whatever happens to Wood, the attacks will not stop and for a simple reason: The enterprise is flawed. Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments…. But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.

Kozinski went on to argue that a return to the firing squad made the most sense, rather than continuing to rely on drugs.

“Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions,w e should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding blood,” he wrote.


• Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

Related news story:

Everything you need to know about executions in the United States

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/07/23/arizona-supreme-court-stays-planned-execution



from The Washington Post....

Guillotine, firing squads better than lethal injection, says prominent federal judge

By FRED BARBASH | Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A guillotine is seen at a prison in France in 1981. — Picture: Michel Clement/AFP/Getty Images.
A guillotine is seen at a prison in France in 1981. — Picture: Michel Clement/AFP/Getty Images.

EXECUTIONS are “brutal, savage events” — and if society wants to carry them out, it ought to stop pretending otherwise, forget about lethal injections and return to “more primitive — and foolproof — methods.”

Like the guillotine — or on second thought, the firing squad.

That’s the view of Alex Kozinski, one of the nation’s most prominent appeals court judges, a Ronald Reagan appointee generally regarded as a libertarian conservative and, by standards of the judiciary, a bit of a “troublemaker,” who likes to stir the pot.

Kozinski dissented Monday from a decision of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to stay the execution of Joseph R. Wood until Arizona told Wood more about the drugs that would be used in the execution and the personnel who would carry it out.


Judge Alex Kozinski, left, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2003. — Picture: Paul Sakuma/Associated Press.
Judge Alex Kozinski, left, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2003. — Picture: Paul Sakuma/Associated Press.

Kozinski let loose on the whole attempt, as he put it, to “mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments.”

Executions “are, in fact, nothing like that … and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality,” he wrote. If the state’s going to kill, it should at least do it effectively, he said.

“The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range,” he wrote in his dissent, “can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true.”

Unlike drugs used for lethal injections, he said, guns and ammunition are bought by the state “in massive quantities for law enforcement purposes, so it would be impossible to interdict the supply. And nobody can argue that the weapons are put to a purpose for which they were not intended,” as unlike medications, “firearms have no purpose other than destroying their targets.”

In case you’re wondering, Kozinski is not anti-capital punishment. But he’s always had problems with the way the death penalty is handled in the courts.

Legal journalist Emily Bazelon described his views in a 2004 Legal Affairs article. Subhed: “If the Ninth Circuit were a circus — and some say it is — Alex Kozinski would be its ringmaster. Presenting the most controversial judge on our most controversial court.” She wrote:

He proclaims that “vicious killers deserve to be executed,” yet he has voted to stay execution in almost half of the published decisions about death row cases in which he has participated. He has also called for the death penalty to be reserved for the most heinous criminals — “mass murderers, hired killers, airplane bombers.” Kozinski’s argument for scaling back capital punishment is pragmatic rather than moral: Despite support for the death penalty in the political arena, he argues, we’re stuck with a cumbersome appeals process created by the courts, which means that the death penalty in its current form wastes resources and robs victims’ families of closure.


• Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for The Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/22/guillotine-firing-squads-better-than-lethal-injection-says-prominent-federal-judge
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2016, 04:07:57 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

Botched executions are bad; killing wrongly convicted is far worse

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Thursday, January 15, 2015



STEPPING aside from the perennial debate about whether the state should ever have the power to take the life of a citizen convicted of a heinous crime, there are two legal issues that are making implementation of the death penalty more morally worrisome than ever.

First, can executions be done humanely? Court rulings over the decades have narrowed the means by which the justice system is allowed to administer the ultimate punishment, and the method most states have settled on — lethal injection — is turning out not to be especially dependable nor humane.

Second, is the government killing innocent people? The advent of DNA testing has made it possible to more accurately identify guilty parties and, more crucially, reveal miscarriages of justice through which the legal system has sent innocent men to death row.

In 2014, there were three especially disturbing examples of executions gone wrong. In January, a condemned man took 26 minutes to die when Ohio prison authorities tried a new combination of drugs to kill him. In April, an inmate in Oklahoma struggled for 43 minutes after being given a lethal cocktail and finally died of a heart attack, leading Oklahoma’s governor to put all executions on hold. Then, in July, it took Joseph Rudolph Wood nearly two hours to die in an Arizona prison death room after being given a lethal injection. It took so long, in fact, that Wood’s attorneys had time to file appeals to federal and state courts in an attempt to stop the execution.

Relatives of Wood’s victims had little sympathy for the murderer, tearfully telling TV reporters that he did not suffer nearly as much as their loved ones whom he had gunned down. Nevertheless, that understandable sentiment has little to do with the law. The 8th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and these botched executions are certainly unusual, if not weirdly cruel. A big part of the problem is that pharmaceutical providers in Europe and the U.S. are shying away from providing states with the deadly drugs they need. The substitute formulas prison authorities have been concocting using drugs they have at hand do not seem to be dispatching the condemned in a neatly clinical way.

Far worse than killers being made uncomfortable in their final minutes of life, though, is the reality that many innocent people have been executed through decades of American history and very likely continue to be. Our cops and courts are not perfect. Lost evidence, lazy police work, racial bias, bad judges, imperfect juries, poor representation of defendants, false confessions — all these factors combine to deliver wrongful convictions in jurisdictions across the country.

The Innocence Project, which works to uncover miscarriages of justice, reports that DNA testing has exonerated 325 people since 1989. Of those, 20 were on death row. That’s 20 individuals who would have been killed by state authorities if no one had dug up the truth. One has to assume that even now, with greater awareness of the flaws in the system, there are innocent people whose lives may be taken because someone in an official capacity failed to do their job right.

It seems unlikely the United States will join the rest of the civilized world and eliminate capital punishment any time soon. Nevertheless, even if the executioners of America figure out more reliable ways to kill, executions should be put on hold until there is some way to achieve certainty about the guilt of every person on death row. To paraphrase English jurist William Blackstone, it is better for 10 killers to go free than for one innocent man to be wrongfully put to death.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-botched-executions-20150115-story.html
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2016, 04:08:29 pm »


from The Huffington Post....

Oklahoma Wants To Reinstate The Gas Chamber,
And Experts Say It's A Bad Idea


By KIM BELLWARE | 3:43PM EST - Thursday, February 12, 2015



FACING dwindling supplies of lethal injection chemicals and increased legal scrutiny of the practice, some states are considering a return to antiquated execution methods like firing squads and gas chambers — and Oklahoma is considering using a new type of gas. But experts warn the problem with both new and old methods is the same: They may violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"States have painted themselves into a corner with lethal injection and are trying to bring back these old methods,” Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that distributes information about capital punishment, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “There is no painless method.”

Allegations of torture and cruel and unusual punishment surfaced in the wake of botched lethal injections last year, like those of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett and Arizona inmate Joseph Wood. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed execution for three Oklahoma prisoners while it reviews the state’s protocol.

In response, Oklahoma legislators recently advanced bills that would authorize “nitrogen hypoxia” — which causes death by depleting the oxygen supply in the blood — as a gas chamber alternative to poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas.

Representative Mike Christian (Republican-Oklahoma City), who sponsored the House bill on nitrogen hypoxia, told The Huffington Post via email that “nitrogen hypoxia is a painless form of capital punishment that is simple to administer, doesn’t depend upon the aid of the medical community, and is not subject to the supply constraints we are faced with when using the current three drug cocktail protocol.” (Supply for the three-drug lethal injection cocktail was disrupted after its European manufacturer refused to further supply the drug to the U.S. for executions.)

Christian noted the idea for nitrogen hypoxia came from a 2014 Slate article on the subject. No countries in the world use nitrogen gas as a state-sanctioned execution method, according to the article.

Oklahoma state Senator Anthony Sykes (Republican-Moore), who sponsored the state Senate version of the nitrogen hypoxia bill, told The Associated Press the method is “recognized as the most humane by those who oppose the death penalty,” adding that “it causes a very quick and sudden loss of consciousness and of life almost simultaneously.” Sykes did not cite a specific expert or entity in his claim and did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment.

But Fordham Law Professor Deborah Denno, one of the nation's foremost death penalty experts, said such claims are similar to ones death penalty supporters made about lethal injection in the 1970s.

“If you look at all the statements and newspaper clippings made in 1977 when lethal injection was introduced [in Oklahoma], they sound very similar,” Denno told The Huffington Post. “You would read comments about how this would be painless and immediate.”

Dr. Joel Zivot, assistant professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University School of Medicine, told HuffPost it's ethically impossible for a doctor to conduct tests — and therefore reach conclusions — on execution procedures.

“No physician is an expert in killing, and medicine doesn’t position itself intentionally in taking a life,” Zivot said. He added, “There’s no therapeutic use of nitrogen gas, and there’s no way to ethically or practically test if nitrogen gas is a humane alternative.”

Meanwhile, Utah is considering a measure to bring back firing squads if it’s unable to maintain its supply of lethal injection drugs. In May 2014, Tennessee lawmakers authorized a re-use of the electric chair as a back-up to lethal injection. Months later, Tennessee inmates sued the state and called the chair an unconstitutional “torture device”.

Lethal injection rose to prominence in the early 1990s and is the primary method of execution in the 32 states that still allow the death penalty. Other methods may still be used, typically at the inmates’ discretion. Eight states still have the electric chair, four have the gas chamber, three still permit hanging and two allow firing squads on certain technicalities. The last use of the gas chamber was in Arizona in 1999.

Both experts and capital punishment abolitionists have criticized the secretive nature of many state executions. States are less than forthcoming about many details of the procedure, including protocols; the identity of drug manufacturers; the identity of prison personnel involved in executions; and what personnel training for executions entails. (Medical professionals are ethically barred from participating in executions and are only present to declare time of death.) In 2014, The Guardian, The Associated Press and three Missouri newspapers sued Missouri for withholding such information. Similar lawsuits were filed by Ohio death row inmates last year.

Denno said since execution methods don't have trial runs, any new or adjusted protocol is effectively an experiment on the inmate.

“You can’t ask a person who was executed if their death was cruel,” Zivot said.

Denno added that what little research is available has suggested that the gas chamber is the most painful form of punishment. “There’s been a bit of a consensus that lethal [cyanide] gas has been the most egregious [method],” she said. “There’s no question that people are dying a slow death in a very painful way.”

While gas chamber victims slowly suffocate, Denno said, electrocution imparts an extra indignity by leaving its victims “mutilated”.

“Some people scream out when the electricity is first being applied, but you're essentially burning to death,” Denno explained. “Your body fluids are boiling. One’s eyeballs can pop out — that’s why they put a cap over people’s head.”

In other instances, like that of the 1997 Florida execution of Pedro Medina, the head, skin or hair can catch on fire mid-execution.

Ironically, Denno said, firing squads are perhaps the most effective execution method. “We’ve had three firing squad executions in the modern area — since the '70s — that have gone off without a hitch,” she said.

Zivot criticized Oklahoma as having shown “a lack of seriousness” about determining whether its methods meet both ethical and constitutional requirements.

“You’re left with the state declaring this to be safe and a form of execution that’s not needlessly cruel,” Zivot said. “I would ask the state, ‘Prove that’.”


Story last updated at 10:59PM EST - Friday, February 13, 2015.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/12/oklahoma-gas-chamber_n_6657120.html
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2016, 04:10:07 pm »






The last judicial killing by electrocution in 2007 in Tennessee....


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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2016, 04:11:04 pm »



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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2016, 04:11:48 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Missouri, Texas plan first executions since
Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection


By MARK BERMAN | 5:34PM EDT - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

MISSOURI and TEXAS, which have combined to carry out nearly all of the executions in the United States  this year, are set to execute two inmates by lethal injection this week.

Authorities in Missouri are scheduled to execute David Zink on Tuesday evening. Zink, who was convicted of murdering a woman named Amanda Norton, has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that there were issues with the lawyers he was assigned before representing himself.

According to an outline of the case from the Missouri Supreme Court, which declined to get involved, Zink told investigators he killed Norton, saying he rear-ended Norton’s car, strangled her and stabbed her neck. The court also said Norton had “between 50 and 100 blunt force injuries” and described evidence that she was sexually assaulted.

In his filings to the Supreme Court, Zink’s attorneys also point to a recent dissent from two justices who questioned whether the death penalty was constitutional, going on to argue that capital punishment “has become a source of error and bias.” The office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster dismissed this argument in a Supreme Court filing.

On Thursday, meanwhile, Texas plans to execute Clifton Williams, who was convicted of stabbing, beating and strangling a 93-year-old woman, according to state officials.

These executions would be the first since the Supreme Court said last month that a drug used in troublesome lethal injections could be used going forward. However, this is a very different situation than we saw the last time the Supreme Court upheld a lethal injection policy, which took place nearly a decade ago amid a very different landscape for capital punishment in this country.

When the justices upheld a three-drug combination as constitutional in 2008, they also ended a de facto moratorium and allowed executions to resume (which they quickly did, as six states carried out executions in the weeks following that ruling). But there has been no such nationwide moratorium this time around, because so much changed between the 2008 decision on lethal injection and ruling to follow in 2015.

In 2008, the justices were discussing a three-drug method used commonly across the country. There was more (relative) uniformity to the way executions were carried out. Lethal injection was the primary method of execution, and lethal injections usually involved three drugs: an anesthetic, a paralytic and a drug to stop the heart.

However, the years that followed saw chaos slowly and then abruptly break out in this system. An ongoing shortage of the key lethal injection drugs prompted states to turn to different combinations and other methods, which eventually caused some to try new and untested combinations.

In three states — Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona — executions involving the sedative midazolam appeared to go awry last year, with inmates gasping, choking and remaining conscious for longer than intended. The most high-profile of these involved the Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, who kicked, bucked his body and grimaced during his execution in April 2014.

Widespread criticism followed, as did a state investigation that placed the blame on members of the execution team failing to properly place an intravenous needle that would deliver the drugs. More than eight months later, Oklahoma resumed executions, putting Charles Warner — a man convicted of raping and murdering an infant — to death using a larger doze of midazolam.

However, four Supreme Court justices said they would have stopped that execution, questioning whether midazolam could be used to properly sedate inmates during executions. The following week, the court decided to hear a challenge to Oklahoma’s policy.

But while executions in Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama were stayed — because the states all use or, in Alabama’s case, intended to use midazolam — other states said they did not intend to delay their executions. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice noted that the state used a single dose of pentobarbital for executions, noting at the time that it had used the protocol dozens of times since 2012 “without complication”.

So in the months since the Supreme Court said it would hear the lethal injection challenge, heard that challenge and issued a ruling on said challenge, Texas has executed eight inmates and Missouri has executed four.

In Georgia, authorities planned to execute an inmate during this window, but they have indefinitely delayed it. This execution was postponed once due to a winter storm, then called off a second time days later due to issues with the lethal injection drugs. (Georgia later said the problem was that the drugs were being kept too cold.)

Meanwhile, officials in Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma have all called for their states to resume executions now that the Supreme Court has ruled. Unlike Texas and Missouri, these pushes were a direct response to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 that the use of midazolam was constitutional.

There have been 17 executions so far this year.


Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • What the Supreme Court’s decision means for executions in the U.S.

 • How states are responding to the Supreme Court’s lethal injection decision

 • Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty this year


http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/07/14/missouri-texas-plan-first-executions-since-supreme-court-ruling-on-lethal-injection
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2016, 04:12:38 pm »


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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2016, 04:13:04 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Aurora movie theater gunman sentenced to life in prison
without parole for killing 12 people during shooting spree


By MARK BERMAN | 7:52PM EDT - Friday, August 07, 2015

In this image taken from video, defense attorney Tamara Brady, right, gestures during closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the James Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colorado, on Thursday, August 6th, 2015. Holmes sits second from left in a light shirt. — Picture: Colorado Judicial Department/Associated Press.
In this image taken from video, defense attorney Tamara Brady, right, gestures during closing arguments in the sentencing phase
of the James Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colorado, on Thursday, August 6th, 2015. Holmes sits second from left in a light shirt.
 — Picture: Colorado Judicial Department/Associated Press.


MORE THAN three years after a gunman walked through a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, firing round after round into a packed crowd, a jury said Friday he should be spared a death sentence and instead spend the rest of his life in prison.

The same jurors who last month found James Holmes guilty on each of the 165 counts he faced for carrying out one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history wound up spending little time deliberating on his penalty.

A death sentence could only be issued if every juror agreed, and all it takes is one vote for life in prison for that to become the sentence. After a lengthy, emotional trial, the jury said they could not reach a unanimous sentence on the counts facing Holmes, and as a result Holmes will be sent to prison without possibility of parole.

The jurors had previously turned down opportunities to sentence Holmes to life in prison, indicating twice during the final weeks of the trial that they thought a death sentence should remain on the table.

One by one, District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. read off the murder charges facing Holmes, who stood a few feet away with his hands in his pockets as the verdict was read. And one by one, he read from the verdict forms saying that since jurors had not all agreed on a sentence, they knew Holmes would be imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Attorneys for Holmes had not denied that he was the man who killed 12 people and wounded another 70 during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” three years ago. Instead, they argued for a life sentence because they said he had suffered a psychotic break.

“James Holmes committed this crime because he was psychotic and delusional,” Tamara Brady, one of Holmes's attorneys, said during the penalty phase's closing arguments. She added: “The deaths of all of those people cannot be answered by another death. Please, no more death.”

George Brauchler, district attorney for Arapahoe County, called death “the only appropriate sentence in this case” during the final phase of the trial.

“You can bring justice to this act and to him,” Brauchler said during his final arguments in the case, pointing at Holmes. “And for James Egan Holmes, justice is death.”

After announcing that Holmes would not be sentenced to death, Samour thanked the jurors for their service and sacrifice during the trial.

Holmes had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, an argument the jurors rejected. His attorneys had said in a court filing two years ago that he was the gunman, writing that Holmes “was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers on July 20th, 2012.”

Moviegoers had packed into a theater in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, for a midnight screening of a new Batman movie when a lone gunman caused the bloody carnage. Witnesses said Holmes calmly and silently strode through the theater, firing at adults and children alike.


James Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 more in a shooting spree in a crowded theatre in 2012, sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado on July 23rd, 2012. Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting case reached a decision Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, on whether Holmes should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. The same jurors rejected Holmes’ insanity defense and convicted him of murder. — Photograph: R.J. Sangosti/The Denver Post.
James Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 more in a shooting spree in a crowded theatre in 2012,
sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado on July 23rd, 2015. Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting case
reached a decision Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, on whether Holmes should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. The
same jurors rejected Holmes’ insanity defense and convicted him of murder. — Photograph: R.J. Sangosti/The Denver Post.


His trial was pushed back multiple times by delays, including arguments over evaluations of Holmes's sanity. Jury selection finally began in January, with opening statements following in April, allowing the trial to stretch over much of the year.

Relatives of those injured and slain marked the third anniversary of the shooting during the final weeks of the trial. Three days later, a gunman in Lafayette, Louisiana, opened fire inside a theater there, killing two other people and injuring nine others.

During the penalty phase, jurors weighing Holmes's fate heard emotional testimonies from people who were injured or lost loved ones in the shooting. Ashley Moser, whose 6-year-old daughter, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was killed in the attack, spoke on Wednesday about her life since that night.

“I don't know who I am anymore, because I was a mom when I was 18 and that's all I knew how to be,” said Moser, who was paralyzed from the waist down during the shooting and suffered a miscarriage. Her voice breaking, she continued, “And now I'm not a mom.”

Relatives of Holmes who had pleaded for a life sentence also spoke during the trial about what he was like in the years before the shooting. Holmes's father, Robert, said he still loved him because because “he's my son.” The older Holmes added: “He was always a really excellent kid.”

Holmes had faced 165 total charges in this case, nearly all of them for murder or attempted murder. He was also charged with one count of possessing an explosive device. Holmes was found guilty on every single charge.

Jurors had debated whether to make Holmes the fourth person on Colorado's death row. Death row inmates spent 23 hours a day alone in solitary cells at the state's Sterling Correctional Facility, about 125 miles northeast of Denver; when their execution date nears, inmates are moved to a different penitentiary before the lethal injection.

But death sentences are rare in Colorado. Between 1973 and 2013, the state sentenced 22 people to death, according to the Justice Department. More people were sentenced to death in 30 other states and by the federal government over the same period.

Colorado is also among the least active death-penalty states in the country. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, only one inmate has been executed there.

A life sentence averts a lengthy process of appeals and a long delay before a possible execution. Death row inmates nationwide have spent an average of 14 years under their sentences, and the Colorado Department of Corrections notes that due to appeals, inmates will spend at least a decade on death row.

People in Colorado had said by a nearly two-to-one margin that they wanted Holmes to receive a death penalty rather than life in prison, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released last month. While 63 percent of voters supported a death sentence, 32 percent favored imprisonment.

Holmes's parents had pleaded for their son's life before the trial began, writing that they know people view their son as a monster.

“We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed,” Robert and Arlene Holmes wrote in a letter published by the Denver Post. They also wrote: “He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.”

They had asked for their son to spend the rest of his life imprisoned rather than be sentenced to die.

Holmes still has to be formally sentenced, which Samour scheduled to occur later this month.


• Mark Berman is a reporter on The Washington Post's National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • After emotional trial, jury convicts James Holmes of murder for Aurora movie theater shooting]

 • The Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death, but the government can’t execute anyone right now


http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/08/07/jury-reaches-decision-on-sentence-in-aurora-movie-theater-shooting-trial
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2016, 04:14:02 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Connecticut Supreme Court says the death
penalty is unconstitutional and bans
executions for inmates on death row


By MARK BERMAN | 9:16PM EDT - Thursday, August 13, 2015

An undated photo of Eduardo Santiago, the death-row inmate in the case where the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a ruling. — Photograph: Connecticut Department of Correction/Associated Press.
An undated photo of Eduardo Santiago, the death-row inmate in the case where the Connecticut Supreme
Court issued a ruling. — Photograph: Connecticut Department of Correction/Associated Press.


THE Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that it would be unconstitutional to execute the remaining inmates on the state's death row, effectively outlawing the death penalty in that state.

This decision comes three years after Connecticut abolished capital punishment while leaving death sentences intact for inmates already on death row. Lawmakers also kept the death penalty as an option for crimes committed before that 2012 bill was signed into law.

In the case before the state's highest court, an inmate sentenced to death a decade ago argued that he should not be executed because his crime was committed before Connecticut prohibited future death sentences.

The justices agreed with that basic principle, saying the state could not execute someone who committed a crime before that same crime would no longer warrant a death sentence. But they also offered a larger indictment of capital punishment, describing it as a relic riddled with delays and bereft of purpose.

The death penalty in Connecticut “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose,” Associate Justice Richard Palmer, joined by three other justices, wrote for the court.

Palmer listed a series of issues with the death penalty, including racial and other biases “that likely are inherent” in how death sentences are handed down and the unlikelihood that Connecticut's death row inmates would ever be executed.

As a result, he ultimately wrote that any execution “would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

In one of three dissenting opinions, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers called the majority opinion's analysis “fundamentally flawed” and “based on a house of cards, falling under the slightest breath of scrutiny.”

“I can only conclude that the majority has improperly decided that the death penalty must be struck down because it offends the majority's subjective sense of morality,” she wrote.

This ruling would seem to answer a lingering question since Connecticut became the third state in recent years to drop the death penalty but exempt people on death row from that change.

Since 2007, seven states have abandoned the death penalty, something done most recently by Nebraska earlier this year (where opponents are fighting to undo the change). But the question of what to do with the people on death row has been handled differently by different states.

In some states that abolished the death penalty recently, the governors or legislatures simultaneously commuted the sentences of inmates on death row, replacing death sentences with sentences of life in prison without parole. This happened in New Jersey in 2007, Illinois in 2011 and ]earlier this year in Nebraska (though that isn't fully settled yet, because Doug Peterson, the state's attorney general and a critic of the death-penalty ban, has said he will challenge the idea of changing death sentences to life sentences).

But in other states, lawmakers left a certain kind of limbo in place. Like Connecticut, both Maryland and New Mexico banned the death penalty going forward but exempted inmates who had been sentenced. Earlier this year, though, Maryland emptied its death row, as outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley (Democrat) followed through on announced plans to commute the sentences of the remaining inmates.

New Hampshire remains the only state in New England with capital punishment still fully on the books, after legislators came within one vote of abolishing it last year.

On Thursday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy (Democrat), who opposes the death penalty and signed the law outlawing it in 2012, said the state would continue looking to the courts for guidance on its death penalty ban.

“But it's clear that those currently serving on death row will serve the rest of their life in a Department of Corrections facility with no possibility of ever obtaining freedom,” he said in a statement.

Malloy added: “Today is a somber day where our focus should not be on the 11 men sitting on death row, but with their victims and those surviving families members. My thoughts and prayers are with them during what must be a difficult day.”

State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (Republican) was critical of the justices, who he said in a statement “stepped way out of line and wrongfully took on the role of policymakers.”

The remaining inmates on Connecticut's death row are held at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, not far from the border with Massachusetts. Executions, if they ever took place, were to be carried out by lethal injection, according to a Department of Corrections policy issued last year.

“This decision reflects an evolving norm against the death penalty,” David McGuire, legislative and policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said in a statement. “There are better ways to punish.”

Connecticut has executed only one inmate since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state put serial killer Michael Ross to death in 2005 after he dropped his appeals.

The state came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2009, but Malloy's predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, vetoed a bill that year that would have eliminated the practice.

Her decision came as the state was still grappling with a horrifying home invasion in the state two years earlier. In a savage crime that drew widespread attention, two men broke into a family's home before sexually assaulting a woman, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. The two men also beat the girl's father, William, before killing Jennifer, Michaela and the couple's 17-year-old daughter, Hayley.

Both men accused in the case — Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes — were convicted, found guilty and sentenced to death, a penalty that now appears to have been vacated.

Rell referenced that attack in her 2009 letter announcing the veto, and the crime was cited as the reason lawmakers compromised in 2012, abolishing the death penalty while keeping it in place for crimes already committed.

“I never thought it would happen, that we would see them die, but I always thought that there should be a punishment that fits the crime,” Cindy Renn, Jennifer's sister, told the Hartford Courant of the two men. “I don't think that will ever happen now in this case.”

In a statement, William Petit said the justices “disregarded keystones of our governmental structure such as the separation of powers and the role of the judicial precedent” in the decision.

The two men convicted of the attacks in the Petit home were cited in the Connecticut Supreme Court's majority opinion as well as the chief justice's dissent. Rogers wrote in her dissent that it was fair to assume that home invasion, a recent and prominent horror, could have helped lawmakers believe that there are crimes worthy of a death sentence.

But Palmer, in his opinion, states that “it would not be constitutionally permissible to execute [inmates]… merely to achieve the politically popular end of killing two especially notorious inmates.”

When the state did abandon the death penalty in 2012, public opinion was solidly in favor of keeping the practice for anyone convicted of murder but evenly divided on how to actually punish such people.

That year, a Quinnipac University poll found that 62 percent of people said they supported the death penalty for convicted murderers, compared to 30 percent who opposed it. However, when asked to choose between a death sentence or life in prison without parole for convicted murders, 46 percent of people favored each choice.

In the ruling this week, Palmer highlighted larger questions about the death penalty that were recently raised by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a dissent questioning whether capital punishment itself violated the Eight Amendment.

That dissent was cited in the new Connecticut Supreme Court ruling, which pointed to, among other things, Breyer's point about how likely it is the current system means someone innocent can be executed. (Most Americans, regardless of whether they support or oppose the death penalty, are in agreement that an innocent person can be put to death.)

Death penalty observers said that Breyer's dissent, delivered during a case upholding Oklahoma's lethal-injection protocol earlier this year, was likely to reverberate through other cases considering the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Breyer had also asked whether a delay-ridden death penalty system (death row inmates nationwide have spent an average of 14 years under their sentences) was still serving a legitimate penological purpose before going on to question the idea that capital punishment can deter future crime.

Palmer was roundly dismissive of the idea of capital punishment as a deterrent, particularly if future criminal acts cannot be punished with an execution. He noted that despite thousands of murders have been carried out in the state over four decades, only one person has been put to death, and goes on to say that he doesn't think eliminating the death penalty would lead to sudden lawlessness.

“We very much doubt that the citizens of Connecticut, learning that the death penalty has been abolished, will somehow infer that they can now rape, pillage, and exceed the speed limits with impunity,” Palmer noted.

The inmate in this case, Eduardo Santiago, was convicted of murdering someone in 2000. The case is State of Connecticut vs Eduardo Santiago.


• Mark Berman is a reporter on The Washington Post's National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • How the death penalty continued its slow, steady decline in 2014

 • The Washington state Supreme Court justice who stepped down to protest the death penalty

 • Federal judge says California’s death penalty system is unconstitutional

 • Innocent man who spent 30 years on death row died hours before U.S. Supreme Court justices cited him

 • ‘It was fundamentally unfair’. A prosecutor apologizes for his role in putting an innocent man on death row.

 • Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty earlier this year

 • Justices Breyer and Ginsburg: ‘It is highly likely’ the death penalty is unconstitutional

 • Can the death penalty be abolished?

 • Federal judge says California’s death penalty system is ‘unconstitutional’

 • A look at three executions that went awry last year


http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/08/13/connecticut-supreme-court-says-the-death-penalty-is-unconstitutional-banning-it-for-remaining-inmates-on-death-row
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2016, 04:14:28 pm »


from THE DURANGO HERALD (Colorado)....

As killers get life, death penalty debated
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2016, 04:15:00 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Florida inmate asks to be executed by electric chair
rather than lethal injection


By MARK BERMAN | 6:39PM - Friday, October 23, 2015

The Florida State Prison where death row inmates are executed. — Photograph: Matt McClain/The Washington Post.
The Florida State Prison where death row inmates are executed. — Photograph: Matt McClain/The Washington Post.

A DEATH-ROW INMATE in Florida has asked the state to execute him by electrocution rather than lethal injection, the state's default way to carry out executions, in what is believed to be the first such request under a state law allowing inmates to pick the electric chair over a fatal dose of drugs.

If his request is granted and his execution carried out, Wayne Doty, who was sentenced to death for killing another inmate, would become the first Florida inmate executed by electrocution since the 2000 law letting inmates to choose between two methods was signed by former governor Jeb Bush.

Doty said in a handwritten affidavit that his decision was motivated in part by a desire to speed up the process and bring peace to himself and the family of his victim.

He also pointed to what he called issues “surrounding executions through lethal injection”. In recent years, a shortage of lethal injection drugs has prompted harried scrambles in states trying to carry out executions and repeated legal challenges from death-row inmates.

Florida, one of the country's most active death-penalty states, has not been immune to the situation. Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court halted executions in the state while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a challenge to Oklahoma's lethal-injection protocol (which is essentially identical to Florida's drug combination).

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld Oklahoma's protocol in a case that centered on the drug midazolam, a sedative used in three bungled executions last year. The first execution in Florida since January is scheduled to take place next week.

Doty was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for shooting his former employer in the face during a robbery. While he was serving this sentence, Doty strangled and stabbed an inmate named Xavier Rodriguez, according to a Florida Supreme Court summary of the case.

In May 2011, Doty, along with William Wells, another inmate, tied up Rodriguez's hands before Doty choked and stabbed Rodriguez, court records said. After taking a shower, smoking a cigarette and making sure Rodriguez was dead, Doty and Wells alerted prison officials about what had happened.

Doty pleaded guilty to murder and represented himself during the trial's penalty phase, the period when jurors decide how to sentence someone who has been convicted of a crime. He called up family members to testify about the emotional abuse he faced as a child and prison officials to testify about his time behind bars.

Ultimately, Doty said during his testimony that he had planned to kill Rodriguez for some time.

“I don't want to be put in a position where somebody might not make it home to their family… I'm not gonna stop. I'll do it again if I've got to,” Doty testified during his trial, according to the Florida Supreme Court summary. The jurors sentenced him to death.

Florida is one of eight states that still have the electric chair on the books and one of a handful of states that allow inmates to select how they will be executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Some states have other methods available in case lethal injection is unavailable or deemed unconstitutional. A handful of states have contemplated adopting other methods due to the drug shortage, and three states have actually made such changes since last year: Tennessee (electric chair), Utah (firing squad) and Oklahoma (nitrogen gas) all formally adopted new backup methods amid the ongoing issues with lethal injection.

Florida began allowing inmates to select how they will be executed in 2000 following growing controversy over the electric chair. The last inmate Florida executed by electrocution was Allen Davis, who was put to death in July 1999. Witnesses described blood streaming from Davis's nose and onto his shirt, which drew widespread attention two years after an inmate's mask burst into flames during a different electrocution in Florida.

The Florida Supreme Court later said that Davis “did not suffer any conscious pain” and said it determined that the state's electric chair did not create cruel or unusual punishment.

In January 2000, Jeb Bush, the state's Republican governor, signed a law allowing inmates to choose between electrocution or lethal injection.

“This would be the first use of the electric chair after lethal injection was implemented in Florida,” McKinley Lewis, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said on Friday. He said he was not aware of any other requests for the electric chair.

Lewis said the request is being reviewed by the corrections department.


Florida's electric chair. — Photograph: Florida Department of Corrections.
Florida's electric chair. — Photograph: Florida Department of Corrections.

The three-legged oak electric chair at the Florida State Prison, dormant since the turn of the century, remains available for executions.

“All of the components that go along with electrocutions are still in place,” Lewis said.

Under Florida law, inmates have 30 days after the state Supreme Court affirms their death sentence to request electrocution, otherwise the state defaults to lethal injection.

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Doty's death sentence on July 9th in an opinion that noted his “stated desire to be executed”. Doty's affidavit requesting death by electrocution was signed on August 12th and filed in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which covers six counties in the northern part of the state.

“My decision on method of execution is a self driven motive allowing the state of Florida to exercise their duly sworn duties to deliver my sentence of death in an expeditious manner not forestalling justice from being prosecuted… bringing peace to the victims' family, as well as my spiritual freedom,” Doty, 42, wrote in the affidavit formally requesting electrocution.

The last time an inmate picked a method of execution other than lethal injection was when Robert Gleason Jr., a convicted murderer, was executed by Virginia in 2013. He selected the electric chair.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Florida has executed 90 inmates, trailing only Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia during that time. Since 2011, when Governor Rick Scott (Republican) took office, only Texas has executed more inmates than Florida.


• Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff at The Washington Post. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • Oklahoma may have used the wrong drug to execute an inmate this year

 • The death penalty continued its slow, steady decline last year

 • Justices Breyer and Ginsburg: ‘It is highly likely’ the death penalty is unconstitutional

 • Obama calls death penalty ‘deeply troubling,’ but his position hasn't budged

 • Most Americans support the death penalty. They also agree that an innocent person might get put to death.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/10/23/florida-inmate-asks-to-be-executed-by-electric-chair-rather-than-lethal-injection
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2016, 04:15:43 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

Death penalty inherently lets government kill innocent Americans

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Thursday, November 05, 2015



IN my experience, drinking with a nun is not an ordinary occurrence, but, two weeks ago, I had the honor of sharing a bit of whiskey on the rocks with an extraordinary woman of fatih, Sister Helen Prejean, as she wound down from another evening of agitating against the death penalty.

Sister Helen is widely known for her book Dead Man Walking, an autobiographical account of her emotionally wrenching work as a spiritual advisor to death row inmates — a story that was made into a movie of the same name starring Susan Sarandon as the justice-seeking nun. As a leading advocate for the abolition of capital punishment in the United States, Prejean was in Los Angeles for the opening of Windows on Death Row: Art from Inside and Outside the Prison Walls at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The works on display include paintings and drawings by death row inmates, as well as cartoons from top editorial cartoonists (including one I drew for the Los Angeles Times).

In her remarks at the opening of the exhibit on October 22nd, she gave a boost to a measure that is likely to be on the ballot next year that would ban the death penalty in California. If Californians choose to do away with executions, she said, it will be a big step toward elimination of capital punishment throughout the country, given that the 746 death row inmates held in California prisons comprise a quarter of all the people sentenced to death in the United States.

A key part of Prejean's message is that, contrary to popular belief, the death penalty in America is not reserved only for “the worst of the worst”. There is a wide disparity in how the ultimate punishment is applied. Rich murderers who can afford good lawyers rarely, if ever, end up on death row. In some jurisdictions, cops who do shoddy investigations, prosecutors interested only in notching up another victory, callous judges and inferior juries play a decisive role in who gets a death sentence. Those who do are generally poor, undereducated and disproportionately non-white. Most disturbing of all, a shocking number of them are wrongly accused, wrongly convicted and, sometimes, wrongly executed by the state.

Joining Prejean onstage was Ndume Olatushani, a soft-spoken, middle-aged man whose lovely painting of African faces is the highlight of the exhibit. Olatushani did not start out as an artist, but he had 28 years to hone his skills with paint and brush — the 28 years he spent on Tennessee’s death row waiting to be killed for a murder he did not commit. Prejean calls herself “the storyteller”, but Olatushani, she said, is the real “witness” to the recklessness of a justice system that claims the right to say who should live and who should die.

Thanks to the advent of DNA testing, the number of exonerations for the wrongly convicted for a variety of crimes, including murder, has skyrocketed. The Innocence Project has freed 325 people who ended up in prison because of eyewitness misidentification, poor forensics, false confessions or false testimony.

That is just the tip of a very big and very cold iceberg, though. Informed estimates indicate many more thousands of innocent men and women languish in prison cells because DNA tests are not applicable in every case or because they lack a champion who will battle for them against indifferent government officials.

Since 1973, 156 Americans who were condemned to die have been exonerated and freed. Since 1976, 1,419 have been executed. There is no reason to think that there were not at least a few, and more likely many, innocent people among those 1,419.

As a Roman Catholic nun, Prejean’s activism is fully in line with the church teaching that all lives are sacred and redeemable and that, therefore, no government has the right to put any person to death, regardless of their crime. Though I did not tell Sister Helen, I must confess I have had a hard time reaching that same belief in unlimited mercy. Some murderers are so monstrous that it is hard to feel their obliteration is not justified. If there truly were a guarantee that only the very worst of the worst would end up on death row, I might not object.

But our justice system is not built that way. It is deeply, humanly flawed and there is no way to make it perfect. As conservative opponents of the death penalty like to say, why would anyone who thinks government screws up most things think it can get capital punishment right?

There are many strong arguments, both liberal and conservative, against executions. The tipping point for me is the fact that innocent people do end up on death row and do end up dead at the hands of the state. Of all the evils in the world, that is among the worst. It should not ever happen in a nation that claims to be the champion of life and liberty.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-death-penalty-kill-innocent-20151104-story.html
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2016, 04:18:49 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Lacking lethal injection drugs, Virginia might turn to the electric chair

Saturday, February 13, 2016
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2016, 04:19:12 pm »


from The Washington Post....

In a move that could jeopardize executions, McAuliffe wants
to shield the identity of makers of lethal-injection drugs


By LAURA VOZZELLA and MARK BERMAN | 9:30PM EDT - Monday, April 11, 2016

The electric chair at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. With a shortage of a drug needed for a lethal-injection execution, the state might turn to electrocution. — Photograph: Associated Press.
The electric chair at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. With a shortage of a drug needed
for a lethal-injection execution, the state might turn to electrocution. — Photograph: Associated Press.


RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Several Virginia Republican leaders said on Monday they would join Governor Terry McAuliffe in his effort to use secret pharmacies to supply the drugs the state needs to carry out death sentences.

McAuliffe (Democrat) on Sunday gutted a bill passed by the legislature that would have required the use of the electric chair if the state couldn't obtain the drugs, which have become scarce around the nation.

Although lethal injection remains the primary method of execution in this country, a European ban has stopped pharmaceutical firms from exporting the drugs to the United States and pharmacies here face political pressure from opponents of capital punishment.

McAuliffe wants Virginia to be able to special-order the drugs from compounding pharmacies whose identities would be hidden to protect them from backlash. “These manufacturers will not do business in Virginia if their identities are to be revealed,” he said.

But McAuliffe's plan could throw into question the future of executions in Virginia. Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio are among the states that have placed similar shields over the pharmacies that produce lethal drugs and have faced lengthy legal challenges in state and federal courts. In Arkansas, which hoped to resume executions after a decade-long break, the legal challenge has delayed several lethal injections scheduled to take place last fall and winter.

Meanwhile, the inability to obtain the drugs has slowed the pace of executions across the country and in Virginia, which has executed 111 inmates since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 — ranking it third behind Texas and Oklahoma for the state with the most executions.

McAuliffe, a Catholic who is personally opposed to capital punishment, said he was trying to find a way to avoid the use of the electric chair, which he called a “reprehensible” method of execution.

“We take human beings, we strap them into a chair, and then we flood their bodies with 1,800 volts of electricity, subjecting them to unspeakable pain until they die,” McAuliffe told reporters. “Virginia citizens do not want their commonwealth to revert back to a past when excessively inhumane punishments were committed in their name.”

The governor's approach further scrambled alliances in the complicated debate over capital punishment, putting McAuliffe at odds with liberal Democrats who want to end executions and forcing conservative Republicans to choose between an enforceable death penalty and government transparency.

McAuliffe said that if lawmakers did not accept his amendment to allow compounding pharmacies to manufacture the lethal drugs in secret, he would veto their electric chair bill, essentially placing executions in limbo.

“All I'm doing today is providing a humane way to carry out capital punishment here in Virginia so we have options,” he said. “If they do not take it up, I want to be clear, they will be ending capital punishment here in Virginia.”

That threat seemed to have the desired effect on some, including the sponsor of the electric-chair bill, Delegate Jackson H. Miller (Manassas).

“While this amendment is not ideal, it will ensure that Virginia continues to carry out the death penalty,” Miller said in a written statement. “I will review the recommendation, but at this time, I intend to encourage the House to accept the amendments.”

Two of the Senate's most prominent conservatives, Senators Mark Obenshain (Republican-Rockingham) and Richard Black (Republican-Loudoun), signaled their support.

“If it means the governor would kill the death penalty completely, then I would vote for the compounding pharmacy,” Black said.

But Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (Republican-Buckingham), a former prosecutor and death penalty supporter, said the governor “thumbs his nose at transparency” with the amendment.

“I'd have favored an amendment that reinstated the firing squad over this ridiculous effort to have it both ways,” he said.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said an increasing number of states have been moving to shield lethal-injection drug suppliers from public scrutiny.

Although some lower courts have rejected the secrecy arguments, appellate courts have reversed the rulings and not forced states to identify suppliers, he said.

Dunham said Virginia's law could potentially be challenged by media organizations arguing that it violates the First Amendment, something that has happened in other states, or by inmates arguing that their constitutional rights would be violated if they were unable to find out the name and safety record of a manufacturer.

“Everything gets challenged,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “As soon as an execution date is scheduled, challenges will follow as does the day the night.”

Condemned inmates in Virginia are allowed to choose between the electric chair and lethal injection. Republican lawmakers wanted to eliminate the choice.

McAuliffe said he wasn't trying to halt executions. “When I ran for governor, I said I would uphold the law,” he said.

McAuliffe's proposal sparked blowback from some Democrats.

“Virginia gives more transparency to the purchase of furniture than it does to extinguishing human life,” Senator Scott Surovell (Democrat-Fairfax) said.

And it also drew swift criticism from Virginia’s two Catholic bishops, Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond and Paul S. Loverde of Arlington.

“We are dismayed and deeply disappointed that … instead of vetoing expanded use of the electric chair, [the governor] inserted language that would shroud in secrecy the execution process,” the bishops said in a statement.

McAuliffe's amendment could keep the names of pharmacies private even in the case of lawsuits that could arise from a botched execution.

The legislature will have the opportunity to accept or reject McAuliffe's amendment when it returns for its veto session on April 20th. Through a spokesman, House Speaker William J. Howell (Republican-Stafford) declined to comment on McAuliffe's amendment.

If Virginia did make the electric chair its default method of execution, the state would become the fourth since 2014 to formally put alternatives in place in case lethal injection is unavailable. The others are Tennessee (electric chair), Utah (firing squad) and Oklahoma (nitrogen gas).

Executions and death sentences have both become more rare across the country, dropping last year to the lowest numbers seen in decades.

Virginia has seven men on death row. Execution dates had been scheduled for two: Ivan Teleguz's was scheduled for Wednesday and Ricky Gray's was set for March. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit temporarily stayed both.

Virginia last put an inmate to death in October. It executed Alfredo Rolando Prieto — convicted of three murders and linked to six more — by lethal injection, after a late appeal from his attorneys challenging a drug the state had received from Texas.

Texas officials said they provided Virginia last year with pentobarbital legally purchased from a pharmacy but said that state law prevented them from identifying the supplier of the drugs.


• Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

• Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • Lacking lethal injection drugs, Virginia might turn to the electric chair

 • Virginia electric-chair bill dies in the Senate

 • After some concern, Texas finds more lethal injection drugs


https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/mcauliffe-guts-virginias-electric-chair-bill/2016/04/11/3c0d4a74-ff2f-11e5-9203-7b8670959b88_story.html
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2016, 06:30:32 pm »

Who cares how they die, so long as they get executed?
If they cant get drugs, the use of Old Sparky sounds just fine to me!
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« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2016, 04:20:20 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Supreme Court Justice Breyer: California embodies
the death penalty's ‘fundamental defects’


By MARK BERMAN | 10:43AM EDT - Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The lethal injection facility at California's San Quentin State Prison. — Photograph: Eric Risberg/Associated Press.
The lethal injection facility at California's San Quentin State Prison. — Photograph: Eric Risberg/Associated Press.

CALIFORNIA is not the first state that springs to mind when considering the country's death penalty, perhaps owing to how infrequently inmates there are executed. The last execution in California took place in 2006, when the state executed 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen for three counts of first-degree murder. Even before the current decade-long hiatus — prompted by concerns over lethal injection protocols — it was still rare for the state to put someone to death. Since 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, California has executed 13 of its death row inmates; Texas, far and away the country’s most active death-penalty state, executed 13 inmates last year alone.

But it is California, not Texas or any of the dwindling number of other states that still carry out executions, that is home to an outsize proportion of the country's death row inmates. The Golden State has 1 in 4 death-row inmates in the United States, making it home to more prisoners with death sentences than the next two states (Florida and Texas) combined. Lacking the ability to actually execute inmates has not stopped new death sentences from being sought and handed down, either. The state has had 167 inmates sentenced to death since the beginning of 2007, according to corrections officials, which means that even since executions stopped, more people have been sentenced to death in California than sit on the death rows in all but four other states.

Many of California's row inmates have been there for decades. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by one of these inmates arguing that it was unconstitutional to keep people on death row, under the threat of a possible execution, for such long periods of time. Richard Delmer Boyer was convicted of murdering an elderly couple and first sentenced to death in 1984. The couple, William and Aileen Harbitz, were found dead inside their Fullerton, California, home, with a combined 43 stab wounds between them, according to court records. Boyer had appealed to the court and asked whether his spending 32 years and counting under a death sentence creates “psychologically inhumane stress” and violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The justices denied Boyer's petition, but Justice Stephen G. Breyer dissented, saying that California's death penalty system appears to personify issues he has raised with capital punishment in the United States. In his brief dissent this week, Breyer, who was not joined by any other justice, cited a dissent that he wrote last year, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, questioning whether the death penalty is constitutional:

“Put simply, California's costly ‘administration of the death penalty’ likely embodies ‘three fundamental defects’ about which I have previously written: ‘(1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty's penological purpose’.”

Breyer had previously questioned whether it was unconstitutional to execute an inmate who was on death row for decades, saying in 2007 that such delays bring up “a serious constitutional question.” (Last year, the justices did not hear an appeal from a Texas inmate who had been on death row for 30 years and brought up the issue; Breyer dissented there and said the justices should hear the case, but because of an issue with the man's sentencing, rather than the length of time.)


Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. — Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. — Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

In his two-page dissent released on Monday, Breyer pointed not only to the long periods of time inmates can spend on death row, but also to factors raised in a 2008 report released by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a group established by state lawmakers to examine their criminal justice system. Breyer highlighted the report's finding that more than 10 percent of death sentences in California were reversed, and its note that inmates sentenced to death in California were more likely to commit suicide or die from natural causes than be executed.

“Indeed, only a small, apparently random set of death row inmates had been executed,” Breyer wrote. “A vast and growing majority remained incarcerated, like Boyer, on death row under a threat of execution for ever longer periods of time.”

About a quarter of the more than 700 inmates on California’s death row have been there for more than 25 years, according to Justice Department statistics. At the end of 2013, the last year for which data was available, the average death-row inmate there had spent a little more than 16 years with a death sentence, higher than the national average. In general, though, the amount of time death-row inmates nationwide will spend there is only likely to increase, as the country executes fewer inmates each year while holding nearly 3,000 people on death row.

Proponents of capital punishment argue that death-row inmates who remain for lengthy periods of time are there primarily because of persistent legal challenges. In an opinion last year responding to Breyer's dissent questioning the death penalty, the late Justice Antonin Scalia said the increasing delays between death sentences and executions were due to “nothing other than the proliferation of labyrinthine restrictions on capital punishment, promulgated by this court.”

The system in California has faced legal questions about both the delays and the nature of how it would conduct executions. At least 16 of California's death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and could be put to death if executions resume, according to the Los Angeles Times. A federal judge said in 2014 that California's death-penalty system was unconstitutional because of what he called “inordinate and unpredictable delay”, but an appeals court overturned that last November.

Days earlier, California had proposed a new lethal injection protocol after its earlier methods were struck down by a court. These new methods were an attempt to “develop a humane and dignified execution,” and state corrections officials said they decided to inject a single chemical “because it reduces the risk of pain and possible complications, and addresses constitutional concerns.” It remains to be seen whether these will be adopted.

In the meantime, more than a decade after California executed Clarence Ray Allen, hundreds of death-row inmates remain in San Quentin State Prison and Central California Women's Facility. When Allen was put to death in the early minutes of January 17th, 2006, more than 33 years after he was sentenced to death, he used his last statement to praise his last meal (which included buffalo steak, Kentucky Fried Chicken and sugar-free pecan pie). He also said he wanted to thank “all of the inmates on death row that I'm leaving behind” and said “they will be joining me one day.”


• Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • The U.S. is executing fewer inmates and sentencing fewer people to death

 • Justices Breyer and Ginsburg: ‘It is highly likely’ the death penalty is unconstitutional

 • Virginia wants to hide the names of lethal injection drug suppliers. Here's how that is going in other states.

 • Florida revamped its death penalty after the Supreme Court struck it down

 • Executions in the U.S. were down last year. But the country still put more inmates to death than most other nations.

 • Americans agree that innocent people can be put to death under the current system

 • ‘It was fundamentally unfair.’ A prosecutor apologizes for his role in putting an innocent man on death row


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/03/supreme-court-justice-breyer-california-embodies-the-death-penaltys-fundamental-defects
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« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2016, 05:40:16 pm »

Quote
“Put simply, California's costly ‘administration of the death penalty’ likely embodies ‘three fundamental defects’ about which I have previously written: ‘(1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty's penological purpose’.”

1.  Not the problem of the state that they have to compromise due to refusal of manufacturers to supply effective drugs

2.  Unsure what he's getting at here...

3.  The long delays are caused by his courts accepting and extending spurious appeal after appeal.  Apparently the appeal process averages 18 years before these killers meet justice finally.

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« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2016, 10:56:13 pm »

I agree. All forms of death for those on death row are far too good. Cheapest way that should be just fine i.e. a rope.
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« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2016, 12:02:26 pm »

maybe they should be killed in exactly the same way as the killing they did then it would be justice
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« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2016, 05:29:18 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Florida weighs whether to overturn death
sentences for nearly 400 inmates


By MARK BERMAN | 8:13PM EDT - Thursday, May 05, 2016

People opposed to the death penalty and reporters gathered near the Florida State Prison in 2014. — Photograph: Matt McClain/The Washington Post.
People opposed to the death penalty and reporters gathered near the Florida State Prison in 2014.
 — Photograph: Matt McClain/The Washington Post.


FLORIDA has more death row inmates than nearly any other state in the country, and it remains a bastion of capital punishment as fewer executions are carried out nationwide. But after a frantic few months that saw Florida's system of imposing death sentences struck down and rewritten, it remains an open question what will happen to the hundreds who remain on the state’s death row — and how much longer any of them will stay there.

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could lead to nearly 400 death-row prisoners receiving life sentences, a move experts say could be the country's single biggest jettisoning of death sentences in decades.

“We're looking at potentially the largest number of death sentences being vacated at a single time since the early 1970s,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The uncertain situation dates back to January, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's unique system of imposing death sentences as unconstitutional because it let judges, rather than juries, make the final call. Florida promptly revamped its death penalty, which Governor Rick Scott (Republican) said at the time would let “allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”

Left unanswered, though, was whether this Supreme Court ruling was retroactive and if it could ultimately empty Florida’s death row, the second-biggest in the country after California's.

The case in question on Thursday involves Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of murdering his co-worker in 1998. According to court records, Cynthia Harrison's body was discovered bound, gagged and stabbed more than 60 times at a Popeyes restaurant in Pensacola, Florida, where she worked with Hurst.

State authorities argue that Hurst should not receive a life sentence, while Hurst's attorneys say that under state law, he must be sentenced to life in prison.

“This court really has, I hate to say it's an easy job, but it's a fairly straightforward one,” David A. Davis, an assistant public defender, told the justices.


Timothy Lee Hurst in an undated picture from the Florida Department of Corrections. — Photograph: Reuters.
Timothy Lee Hurst in an undated picture from the Florida
Department of Corrections. — Photograph: Reuters.


Davis's perspective was backed up earlier this week in an amicus brief filed by high-profile legal figures and groups in Florida, who argued that Hurst and anyone else previously sentenced to death for capital felonies in the state should be sentenced to life.

The group that filed this brief, which included three former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, pointed to a state statute requiring that death sentences be replaced by life sentences if “the death penalty in a capital felony is held to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.”

Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general, has disagreed with this, arguing in court filings that the Supreme Court “struck a portion of the [sentencing] statute as a means of imposing a constitutional sentence” rather than the actual death penalty.

The state's statute did not intend to reduce all death sentences to life sentences “any time any aspect of the statute is held to be unconstitutional,” Bondi, a Republican, wrote in the filing. Bondi declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this story. Some of the state's prisoners have been on death row for decades.

On Thursday, Carine L. Mitz, an assistant Florida attorney general, said she did not think Hurst, or anyone in his shoes, should be given a life sentence. “I still don't think we have a problem,” she told the justices.

The justices also expressed concerns that the new sentencing measure may still not be enough to provide constitutional protections to defendants.

“If we want a death penalty in Florida, we need it to be constitutional,” Justice Barbara J. Pariente said.

The justices also heard arguments in February about the question of whether or not the Supreme Court's ruling was retroactive. Depending on how the seven-member court rules, the decision could wind up altering the sentences for all 389 of the state's death-row inmates or just those who are at a certain point in their appeals process.

“There's going to be an effect to the Hurst decision,” said O.H. Eaton Jr., a death penalty expert and retired Florida judge who heard more than 20 capital cases while on the bench. “What is it going to be? It could be anything from a minor effect all the way to clearing out death row.”

It was not immediately clear when the justices would rule, but Eaton, speaking via telephone from his home outside Orlando, said it could be expected within two to three months.

Eaton said he assumed the decision would “take care of the vast majority of the cases,” but he added: “And I never predict what lawyers are going to do, lawyers and juries and judges.”

Dunham said that even if the justices only eliminate death sentences for the dozens of people believed to have cases on direct appeal, it would still be among the biggest single instances of death sentences being scuttled.

If all of Florida’s death sentences are overturned, Dunham said it would be the biggest such reversal since 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court essentially struck down the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia. After that ruling, more than 600 death-row sentences were spared, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

“It shouldn't make any difference if it's 15 people or 400 people based on the law,” said Sonya Rudenstine, an attorney in Gainesville, Florida, who works on post-conviction issues in capital cases and criminal appeals. “People may have a very different response emotionally, but the court's response is to put emotion aside.”

A move to empty Florida's death row would reverberate beyond that state, because it is home to a sizable proportion of the nearly 3,000 people on death row nationwide.

“It's significant, because what you're looking at is more than 10 percent of the people still on death row unconstitutionally sentenced to death,” Dunham said. “When one talks about the arbitrariness of the death penalty, the recognition that 10 percent of everybody who is there should not be there under the law, that recognition is a pretty strong statement that the death penalty is arbitrarily applied.”

In court on Thursday, Hurst's attorney sought to keep the focus on his client rather than the larger implications of their ruling.

“I don't want to presume to speak for all of the… people on death row,” Davis said. “I'm representing Timothy Hurst, and I just want to limit this to Timothy Hurst.”

Hurst also brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court that ended with the justices striking down Florida's death-sentencing system in January. Florida's death penalty effectively ground to a halt after the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hurst v. Florida case, which prompted lawmakers to rework the sentencing statutes.

The new law says that at least 10 jurors have to recommend a death sentence, and it scraps the old language saying that a judge could determine the sentence “notwithstanding the recommendation of a majority of the jury.”

While death sentences and executions are increasingly rare across the country, Florida is an outlier. The state is one of only three that have carried out an execution in each of the past five years, along with Texas — which, like Florida, has also carried out an execution this year — and Oklahoma, where executions have been on hold since authorities obtained the wrong drug for a lethal injection there last fall.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said that it will “follow the order of the court,” whatever the justices decide. If executions do resume in Florida, corrections officials say they do have lethal injection drugs in its possession, but they said they would not release how much the department has or when they expire.


• Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • Will Florida overturn nearly 400 death sentences?

 • Florida carried out the country's first execution this year

 • Florida inmate asks for the electric chair, rather than lethal injection

 • ‘It was fundamentally unfair’. A prosecutor apologizes for his role in putting an innocent man on death row.

 • Supreme Court Justice Breyer: California embodies the death penalty's ‘fundamental defects’

 • Death sentences and executions are increasingly rare in the U.S.

 • Most Americans support the death penalty. They also agree innocent people can be executed.

 • Virginia wants to hide the names of lethal injection drug suppliers. Here's how that is going in other states.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/05/florida-weighs-whether-to-overturn-death-sentences-for-nearly-400-inmates
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« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2016, 08:14:10 pm »

Quote
spokesman for the Department of Corrections said that it will “follow the order of the court,” whatever the justices decide. If executions do resume in Florida, corrections officials say they do have lethal injection drugs in its possession, but they said they would not release how much the department has or when they expire.
Crikey.  Wouldn't want to be using these drugs outside their use-by date - they could kill someone!
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« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2016, 07:56:22 pm »

Crikey.  Wouldn't want to be using these drugs outside their use-by date - they could kill someone!

       
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« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2016, 05:59:25 pm »


from The Washington Post....

After federal appeals court stays Alabama inmate's lethal injection,
evenly split Supreme Court rejects request to step in


By MARK BERMAN | 9:58PM EDT - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Vernon Madison. — Photograph: Alabama Department of Corrections/Associated Press.
Vernon Madison. — Photograph: Alabama Department of Corrections/Associated Press.

HOURS before an Alabama inmate was set to die by lethal injection, a federal appeals court on Thursday agreed to stay the execution to let authorities consider arguments about his competency. And later on Thursday, an evenly divided Supreme Court left the stay in place.

Vernon Madison was found guilty and sentenced to death for killing Julius Schulte, a police officer in Mobile, Alabama, in 1985. According to police, Schulte — a 22-year veteran of the department — was responding to a domestic complaint involving a missing child when he was shot.

Madison's case has stretched on for decades, through multiple convictions and reversals. Alabama officials had planned to execute him by lethal injection at 6 p.m. on Thursday, but a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said in an order on Thursday morning that it would allow him to press his case in court.

Alabama's attorney general filed a motion Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to vacate this stay, arguing that the appeals court had committed “an affront to Alabama's judicial branch” and that it would “add insult to that injury by granting a stay of execution”.

In an order shortly after 9:20 p.m., the Supreme Court said it was denying the motion to vacate the stay in an unusual manner. The justices were evenly split, with four members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — all saying they would have granted the application to vacate the stay. (Five justices would have been needed to vacate the stay.)

The court is down to eight justices since the death of Antonin Scalia in February; it seems likely that Scalia would have voted to lift the stay.

Attorneys for Madison had argued in court filings that he is not competent enough to be executed. They say that because of “a series of strokes and other serious medical conditions,” Madison suffers from dementia and has “an inability to rationally understand why the state of Alabama is seeking to execute him.”

Alabama authorities had pushed against a stay and insisted that a state trial court had determined that Madison had a rational understanding that he was facing execution. An earlier filing from the office of Luther Strange, Alabama’s attorney general, said Madison was “seeking to impose a skewed interpretation of the state court order to create an issue for appeal.”

On Thursday afternoon, Strange’s office contended that granting the stay of execution “is an absolute abuse of discretion” and urged the Supreme Court to vacate the stay.

The appeals court said that the filing it considered was the first chance a state or federal court had to consider whether Madison was fit to be executed under the Eighth Amendment. Oral arguments were set for June 23rd in Atlanta.

Madison's attorneys had sought another avenue to avoid the execution, arguing in a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday morning that his death sentence may be unconstitutional.

This case has been winding through the court system for three decades. Madison's first conviction was reversed after it was determined that black people were illegally kept off the jury, and his second conviction was reversed after an appeals court determined that prosecutors got expert testimony “based partly on facts not in evidence”. After a third trial in 1994, the jury sentenced him to life without parole, but the judge ultimately imposed a death sentence.

It is this last sentencing that his attorneys focused on for their filing Thursday to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that recent action by the justices suggests that his death sentence was unconstitutional.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hurst vs. Florida that Florida's unique system of imposing death sentences — allowing judges, rather than juries, to make the decision — was unconstitutional, prompting that state to revamp its death penalty.

The Hurst case continues to reverberate in Florida, which has not carried out an execution since the justices ruled and where the state's highest court is weighing action that could overturn death sentences for nearly 400 inmates.

An inmate in Alabama named Christopher E. Brooks argued that Alabama's death-sentencing system is “virtually identical” to the nullified Florida system, but the justices rejected his appeal and he was executed by lethal injection in January. Strange, Alabama's attorney general, said his state's “capital sentencing scheme is wholly different from Florida's” when it came to who could find the aggravating circumstances that warrant a death sentence.

Last week, the Supreme Court said it was reversing its decision from earlier in the year to reject a different Alabama inmate's request to review a lower court's ruling in his case. The justices said they were remanding the case to a criminal appeals court in Alabama “for further consideration in light of Hurst vs. Florida”. The appeals court stayed Madison's execution before the Supreme Court had responded to the filings that mentioned this on Thursday.


• Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/12/federal-appeals-court-delays-alabama-inmates-lethal-injection-hours-before-scheduled-execution
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« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2016, 04:04:34 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Pfizer tightens restrictions to keep drugs from being used in executions

By MARK BERMAN | 6:54PM EDT - Friday, May 13, 2016

The Texas execution chamber in Huntsville. — Photograph: Pat Sullivan/Associated Press.
The Texas execution chamber in Huntsville. — Photograph: Pat Sullivan/Associated Press.

PFIZER, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, said on Friday that it was tightening restrictions on its drugs to ensure that they are not used in lethal injections, a move that further clamps down on the chemicals states can obtain for executions.

While Pfizer had previously said that it had restrictions in place to keep its drugs from being used in lethal injections, the company had acknowledged that it could not guarantee that no prison would obtain lethal injection drugs. This new policy adds in a system of monitoring to ensure that its drugs do not wind up sold to prisons for lethal injections.

This announcement comes as the dwindling number of states that still carry out lethal injections have scrambled to obtain drugs amid an ongoing shortage, which has forced some to adopt a series of new lethal injection protocols aimed at letting them carry out executions.

“These changes are significant,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “What Pfizer has done today is make clear that along with the rest of the pharmaceutical community, it's committed to ensuring that its medicines are not misused.”

In recent years, companies have spoken out about the use of their drugs in lethal injections, prompting a flurry of activity in states that previously relied upon a three-drug formula. These shortages and court challenges have caused states to halt executions for months and, in Ohio's case, years at a time.

Pfizer's new policy, which was outlined on Friday, added new restrictions that a company spokeswoman said “enhances” the previous system. The pharmaceutical giant also said it is setting up a system to monitor the drugs once they are sold to make sure purchasers continue to comply with Pfizer's restrictions.

“Pfizer makes its products solely to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” Rachel Hooper, the spokswsoman, said in a statement. “We strongly object to the use of any of our products in the lethal injection process for capital punishment.”

The news about Pfizer's decision was first reported on Friday by The New York Times.

The company's policy lists seven drugs that the company says are intended “to treat illness or save the lives of patients” but had also been included in lethal injection protocols adopted or proposed around the country. Pfizer says it will only sell these specific drugs to groups that will not resell them to prisons intending to use them in lethal injections, and the company asks government groups to certify that they are only getting the drugs for medical purposes.

Pfizer's previous policy, dated last fall, said that it was seeking to restrict “unintended uses” of its drugs, but acknowledged that it was possible that due to the complexity of the supply chain, it could not guarantee that prisons could not obtain the drugs.

Under the new policy, dated this spring and revealed on Friday, the company added a formal statement of objection to its drugs being used in lethal injections and says that in addition to monitoring the distribution of these seven drugs, the company would “act upon findings that reveal noncompliance”.

Observers of capital punishment said the move appeared to be sizable, though they said that due to the secrecy that governs how states obtain lethal injection drugs, it was hard to know how much of an impact this change would have on states seeking to carry out executions in the near future.

“It is something we used to be able to know, but now it is increasingly different,”  said Megan McCracken, a lawyer with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley's law school. “So much secrecy surrounds how states get their drugs, how many hands it passes through. So many states have laws in place now that prevent or prohibit the disclosure of information about the source of the drugs, how they're obtained, who made them.”

In Texas, which has carried out six of the 14 executions in the United States this year, the state uses one drug — pentobarbital — that is not manufactured by Pfizer. While Texas officials say it cannot identify the supplier due to state law, a corrections spokesman said last year that officials bought pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy.

Dunham said that while it is not clear if Pfizer's drugs may have been used in lethal injections despite its objections, the company's actions suggest they believe this has occurred and that's why it “is taking steps to minimize the future risk”.

“Litigation over lethal injection secrecy has disclosed that some states appear to … [have] actually been able to obtain medicines produced by pharmaceutical companies despite their restrictions on distribution,” Dunham said. “And that has raised the question about whether the secrecy provisions are intended to protect the identity of the manufacturer or to conceal the identity of the supplier from the manufacturer.”

Corrections officials in some of the handful of states that still routinely carry out executions did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections said the department did not disclose the identities of its drug suppliers for lethal injections, while a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to comment.

Court records and departments of correction have acknowledged trading drugs, while others have turned to compounding pharmacies to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

“It's very significant that the pharmaceutical industry is speaking with a unified, singular voice,” McCracken said. “Saying we don't want our products used this way and actually taking steps to ensure that they aren't.”

Maya Foa, director of the death-penalty team for Reprieve, a human-rights group, also said Pfizer's move was important.

“What they've done is really tighten up the controls,” Foa said in an interview. “They've worked very hard to make sure these are very strong controls, and Pfizer … they have the capacity to keep very, very tight controls on this.”

The number of executions has declined nationwide as states like Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio, routinely among the most active when it comes to capital punishment, have gone months at a time without an execution amid legal challenges and investigations.

Oklahoma's executions are on hold after state officials learned they used the wrong drug in an execution last year, while executions in Florida have still not resumed after the state's death penalty law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and rewritten. The Florida Supreme Court is weighing whether to take action that could overturn nearly 400 death sentences in the state due to the high court's ruling.


• Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related story:

 • How we got to this point in the country’s capital punishment system


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/13/pfizer-says-it-is-tightening-restrictions-on-its-drugs-to-keep-them-from-being-used-in-lethal-injections
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Yak
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« Reply #24 on: May 15, 2016, 12:39:50 pm »

No worries. 
Liven up Old Sparky once more!
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