and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

JULY 29, 2014:

FLORIDA:

Former attorney of convicted killer takes stand in sentencing hearing ---- Randy Tundidor Sr. to learn Tuesday whether he will get life in prison, death penalty

A convicted killer is expected to learn Tuesday whether he'll spend the rest of his life in jail or get the death penalty.

A jury recommended that Randy Tundidor Sr. be put to death for the murder of Nova Southeastern professor Dr. Joseph Morrissey.

On Tuesday morning, an attorney, who at one point represented both Tundidor Sr. and Randy Tundidor Jr., testified that another attorney, Jim Lewis, instructed his clients to destroy crucial evidence.

According to criminal defense attorney Joe Pappacoda, Lewis told him that he had instructed the father and son to dump the gun used to rob and intimidate Morrissey, his wife and 5-year old son in April 2010. Police said the gun jammed up and misfired several times during the robbery. The gun was later reported stolen, though that now seems to have been a move to scam the insurance company and cover up the crime.

"Jim Lewis told Randy, 'You can't have that gun in your house. You have to get rid of the gun,'" said Pappacoda on the stand.

During cross examination, prosecutor Tom Coleman put Pappacoda on the spot, questioning his motives and his involvement.

"If the state gets evidence and knowledge that it is chopped up and mangled and strewn around the house, and in the rafters and in the ceiling - that's evidence of guilt, because there wasn't a whole lot of evidence other than testimony against Randy Tundidor Sr.," said Pappacoda. "There were no forensics, no fingerprints, no DNA, no eyewitnesses. Nothing."

On Monday Anthony Ferrari, who is convicted in the murder of Miami Subs founder, Gus Boulis, took the stand.

Tuesday afternoon, another former cellmate of Tundidor's, Seth Penalver, will testify on Tundidor's behalf. Penalver was convicted and then re-tried in the infamous Nickelodeon murders. He is now a free man.

(source: local10.com)

USA:

Death Penalty Fast Facts

Here's a look at what you need to know about the death penalty in the United States.

Facts: Capital punishment is legal in 32 U.S. states.

Approximately 3,050 inmates in 35 states are awaiting execution. (January 2014)

Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico have abolished the death penalty, but it is not retroactive. Prisoners on death row in those states will still be executed.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, 1,382 people have been executed. (as of June 2014)

Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty.

Federal Government: (source: Death Penalty Information Center) The U.S. government and U.S. military have 61 people awaiting execution. (as of July 2014)

The U.S. government has executed three people since 1976. (as of June 2014)

Females: There are approximately 61 women on death row in the United States. (as of June 2014)

14 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. (as of June 2014)

Juveniles: 22 individuals were executed between 1985 and 2003 for crimes committed as juveniles aged 16 and 17.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juveniles is unconstitutional. This means that 16 and 17-year-olds are ineligible for execution. And reverses 2 1989 cases in Kentucky and Missouri.

Clemency: Clemency Processes around the Country

275 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a pardon.

Timeline: 1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the 1st state to move executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 - Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890 - William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 - 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 per year.

June 29, 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 - A 10-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

(source: CNN)

TEXAS:

Man arrested on suspicion of capital murder in fetus death----Police say assault led to death of fetus

An 18-year-old man remained jailed Monday on suspicion of capital murder in the death of a fetus.

Matthew Lara was arrested about 9 p.m. Friday night on suspicion of capital murder of a child under 10 and assault/family violence in the 1900 block of Rodd Field Road.

A 21-year-old woman told police she was assaulted and choked by Lara, her boyfriend, Senior Officer Javier Cantu said, citing a police report. She was taken to Corpus Christi Medical Center Bay Area, Cantu said.

Police responded to a disturbance call at the woman's apartment that night and arrested Lara, Cantu said Monday.

Lara on Monday remained in Nueces County Jail on $1.1 million bail. He is set to appear at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in 214th District Judge Jose Longoria's court for bail conditions.

Online court records show Lara had run-ins with the law last year.

Last June he was sentenced to 45 days in jail on misdemeanor charges of theft of property and resisting arrest. 2 months later he was sentenced to 50 days in jail on another misdemeanor charge of theft of property, according to court records. Capital murder carries 2 punishment options - life in prison or the death penalty.

Legislation enacted in 2003 allows a person to be arrested on suspicion of capital murder when his or her actions result in the death of an unborn child.

The 1st time the statute was used by the Nueces County District Attorney's office was in 2005 in the case of a man accused of stabbing his girlfriend, who was pregnant. She survived. The fetus died several days later.

That law does not apply to conduct committed by the mother of an unborn child or to a lawful medical procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider with the requisite consent.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller Times)

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Top prosecutor, assistant leave DA's office

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna's 1st assistant prosecutor and office administrator have notified Reyna that they are leaving their positions early next month.

Greg Davis, a veteran prosecutor who has handled most of the office's death penalty cases, and Julissa Contreras, who has worked for Reyna since before he became district attorney in 2011, confirmed Monday that they have resigned from their jobs.

"It is a decision I have been thinking about for some time," said Davis, 62, who started work as an assistant district attorney for former Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade in 1977.

Contreras worked with Reyna and his father, Felipe Reyna, when the two shared a law office about 15 years ago.

Like Davis, Contreras confirmed her resignation but declined additional comment.

Contreras left work Friday and Davis cleaned out his office during the weekend, courthouse sources said Monday.

Reyna confirmed that both were leaving effective Aug. 8, but said he would not discuss office personnel matters.

"As with any personnel change, we will maintain our focus on fighting crime in McLennan County," Reyna said.

Davis, who has tried 3 capital murder cases that ended with death penalty verdicts in the 3 years he has been in McLennan County, declined to say if he has another job lined up.

Before he came to Waco, Davis worked as a prosecutor in Collin County. He has put 20 killers from Dallas, Collin and McLennan counties on death row and is considered the state leader in death penalty verdicts among current Texas prosecutors.

Davis, a Garland native, has prosecuted 22 death penalty trials, including 1 woman he tried twice. He has only failed once to obtain a death sentence from a jury.

In a story earlier this year about Davis' trial record, Reyna called him an "incredible asset" to his office.

Contreras and Davis are the 6th and 7th employees to resign from the DA's office this year, including both prosecutors and staff.

(source: Waco Tribune)

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Jury deliberations between death, life imprisonment continue in policeman's killing

Jurors deliberate for a 2nd day between death by lethal injection and life imprisonment without parole in the slaying of a Houston-area police officer and an auto body shop owner.

Deliberations resume Tuesday after jurors deliberated about 6 hours Monday on the sentence for 23-year-old Harlem Lewis III. Then, the Harris County jury was sequestered.

The jury found Lewis guilty last week of capital murder in the Christmas Eve killings 2 years ago of Bellaire police Officer Jimmie Norman and auto body shop owner Terry Taylor.

Prosecutors appealed Monday for the death penalty, but defense attorneys warned jurors that, as attorney Tyronne Moncriffe said, "killing puts a stain on you." He told jurors, "You don't have to put that stain on yourself."

(source: Associated Press)

NEW JERSEY:

Sweeney on death penalty: 'leave it where we left it'

2 weeks after a Jersey City police officer was slain in cold-blood outside a Walgreens - resurrecting a decades old debate on whether New Jersey should reinstate the death penalty - Senate President Steve Sweeney today took a definite stance on the issue of capital punishment in the Garden State.

Leave it where it lies, he said.

"When a tragedy happens, like what happens with this poor officer being assassinated, everybody goes, 'well let's reinstate the death penalty.' But what about when a child is murdered, or a brother or sister or parent?" Sweeney asked. "Because every time a tragedy happens, how many people sat on death row that were never executed? For me, the reason why I signed on, was because of the the advocates, the families of the people who died in very violent ways that asked us to end the death penalty."

The Democrat may not be opposed to capital punishment on moral principle, but he told PolitickerNJ following a visit to the offices of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey in North Brunswick this afternoon that he disagrees with recent efforts by legislators, most notably Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12), to reintroduce legislation to bring back the death penalty for cop killers and others. He cited expediency problems with the legal process, which forced inmates to sit on death row for years without ever seeing an execution, thereby prolonging the grief of vicitms' families.

Sweeney was among a group of legislators who voted to abolish New Jersey's death penalty back in 2007. His comments today clarify a position he began to expound last week during an interview with 101.5, where Sweeney said that "reinstating or dealing with the death penalty, honestly, is more than just a quick conversation over a horrible tragedy."

"You know, we eliminated the death penalty because we thought it was the right thing to do, and I'll tell you why," Sweeney said. "It was the advocates, the family members of people who were murdered, came to us .. and asked us to eliminate the death penalty, because the process, with the hearings of the death penalty - you're entitled to so many hearings. Everytime it comes up, it's a public reminder of the pain that you've gone through and finding closure.

"So we dealt with the death penalty, and I honestly feel that we should leave it where we left it," he added.

(source: politickernj.com)

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Does the death penalty go far enough?

For years New Jersey legislators argued about the death penalty, but surely no statement was more memorable than that of Walter Sheil, who represented District 31 (Bayonne, Jersey City) in the 1970s when he passionately proclaimed to the Senate, "The death penalty doesn't go far enough."

His over-the-top rhetoric differed dramatically from the attitude of his Assembly running mate, Bill Perkins, who had refused for years to let the Law & Public Safety Committee he chaired consider a bill reestablishing the death penalty.

He said, "I have better things to do than sentence people to die." Perkins also wondered aloud if then-Sen. (later governor) Richard Codey was urgently pressing for a death penalty because his family was in the funeral business.

The 1st recorded execution in New Jersey was in 1690, when a slave named Tom was convicted of rape, and the last was Ralph Hudson in 1963, convicted of murder. Records show at least 361 people were legally killed in our state by burning, hanging or the electric chair.

In 1972 a U.S. Supreme Court ruling had led to a de facto ban on executions nationwide until state laws could meet revised standards. That's when Codey introduced legislation revising the penal code to allow the death penalty, but it was not enacted for another ten years.

Under the new code, 228 persons were tried on capital charges, and juries sentenced 60 of them to death. Legal appeals dragged on for the next 10 years and eventually 57 of those cases were overturned.

By then several state legislators had sponsored bills making it harder for courts to overturn death penalty convictions. However, the tide of public opinion was turning. Many voters simply believed legal killing was wrong, while others believed a life sentence without possibility of parole would be an even greater deterrent to homicide.

The anti-death penalty group prevailed, and in 2005 the Legislature enacted a moratorium on executions. 9 convicts were on death row but since no one had been executed in several decades, the vote was largely symbolic. Ironically, it was Codey, then in his role of governor, who signed the legislation to create the Death Penalty Study Commission, which ultimately recommended its total abolishment.

The Legislature agreed and sent a bill to then-Gov. Jon Corzine in 2007. When he signed it, the men still on death row were sentenced to life without parole.

32 states have the death penalty today while 15 abolished it sometime in the 20th or 21st century. Maine, Wisconsin and Michigan have not permitted executions since the mid 1800s. Several states with death penalty laws still on the books recently suspended executions because of challenges to their methods of execution.

Statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center show the national murder rate in the United States decreased by more than 30 % in the past 50 years, with most of the decrease occurring in the past 10.

The Bureau also reports the average murder rate in states with the death penalty was 4.7 per 100,000 people, while in states without the death penalty, the rate was 3.7. In 2012 New Jersey's reported murder rate was 4.4, much lower than Louisiana's 10.8, but not nearly as good as New Hampshire with only 1.1.

Recently Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Jackson, suggested legislation reinstating the death penalty under certain circumstances, such as the killing of a cop. He cited the murder of Jersey City Detective Melvin Santiago. Since Santiago's murderer was killed by police at the scene, no death penalty law would have applied. Too bad we don't know what Sheil had in mind.

(source: A former state assemblywoman from Jersey City, Joan Quigley is the president and CEO of the North Hudson Community Action Corp. in Union City----nj.com)

FLORIDA:

Convicted killer of NSU professor maintains innocence at death penalty hearing ---- Randy Tundidor's jail mates called to testify, but some refused to speak

In a final bid to avoid the death penalty for the 2010 murder of Nova Southeastern University professor Joseph Morrissey, Randy W. Tundidor wanted to call a parade of suspected and convicted killers to the stand Monday.

By the time the day's proceedings were done, only 2 made it to the Broward courtroom where Tundidor, 47, is pleading for his life - and only 1 provided useful testimony.

Tundidor's lawyer had announced plans to call Robert Oulton, Robert Mackey, Anthony Ferrari, Seth Penalver and others who have been tried or are awaiting trial on murder charges. The men were all expected to testify that they heard Tundidor's son, Randy H. Tundidor, deny his father played any role in Morrissey's murder.

Oulton, 67, was arrested on April 10, 2010, and is charged with murdering his wife, Yvonne. Tundidor and his son were first jailed that same week, following Morrisey's murder on April 6, 2010.

"Randy [the younger] said 'Dad didn't do it and I've got to get my dad a break,'" Oulton told Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato on Monday.

2 years after the murder, the younger Tundidor told a different story to a Broward jury. He said he went with his father to the Morrissey home in Plantation late on April 5, 2010, broke into their house, kidnapped the couple and forced them to drive to a nearby bank to withdraw cash. His father, he said, stayed at the house as a threat to the Morrisseys' 5-year-old son, who was asleep at the time.

After the younger Tundidor returned to the house with the Morrisseys, he said, his father stabbed Joseph Morrissey to death.

Morrissey was the elder Tundidor's landlord and had begun the legal process of evicting the family from a Plantation townhouse.

The younger Tundidor, now 25, pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder, kidnapping, arson and other charges, and agreed to testify against his father. He was later sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The elder Tundidor was tried in April 2012 and convicted of 1st degree murder, kidnapping, arson and other charges. 6 months later, the same jury unanimously recommended he be put to death for the crime. The recommendation is not binding, but it is rare for a judge to rule against it, especially when the vote is unanimous.

Since then, the case has seen numerous delays, but Monday's "Spencer hearing," which is scheduled to continue Tuesday, marks the last scheduled proceeding before the judge imposes her sentence.

A Spencer hearing typically gives the defendant one last chance to plead for mercy when facing the death penalty, but defense lawyer Richard Rosenbaum said begging for mercy is not on his client's agenda. Tundidor wants the judge to waive the death penalty because the jury got it wrong - he is actually innocent, Rosenbaum said.

Referring to his strategy as "residual reasonable doubt," Rosenbaum said he is asking the judge to take his profession of innocence into consideration.

The other witnesses on Rosenbaum's list have not been as cooperative as Oulton - at least not yet. Ferrari, who was convicted last year in the murder of Miami Subs founder Gus Boulis, refused to testify without a lawyer. He took the stand Monday, then told the judge he was concerned that he did not want to misspeak and have his testimony used against him should he be granted a new trial.

Mackey, who is serving a 30-year sentence for accessory to murder in the 2007 death of Lorraine Hatzakorzian, refused to cooperate with the elder Tundidor's defense.

Penalver, who served 18 years for the 1994 Casey's Nickelodeon murders before being found not guilty in a third trial in late 2012, still may take the stand for the elder Tundidor, Rosenbaum said. Penalver, a former death row inmate, has become an advocate against the death penalty since his release.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)

LOUISIANA:

Bossier DA will seek death penalty in Mother's Day double murder

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Brandan Butler, the man accused in the Mother's Day double murder of 2 Bossier City women.

Butler was indicted by a Bossier Parish grand jury on July 7 on 2 counts of 1st degree murder in the deaths of Karyl Cox, 26, and Jacqueline Beadle, 24. The women were found shot to death inside their Bragg St. home on May 11. Butler reportedly went to their memorial service before skipping town. He was later captured in Bogalusa, La.

In a statement released Monday afternoon by Bossier Parish District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said he has decided to seek the death penalty, "Because Mr. Butler viciously took the lives of Karyl Cox, 26, and Jacqueline Beadle, 24, without any regard led me to this decision. Both of these young women leave behind small children who will never get to know their mothers. The death penalty is an available option under Louisiana law and we intend to present our case and evidence to a trial jury."

Marvin said he has notified Butler's attorney of the decision to pursue the death penalty in this case.

(source: KSLA news)

********************

Death penalty sought in Mother's Day homicides

The man accused in the Mother's Day slaying of 2 Bossier City women will face the death penalty if convicted.

Bossier District Attorney Schuyler Marvin today filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Brandon Butler, who is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Karyl Cox, 26, and Jacqueline Beadle, 24.

Because Butler "viciously took" the lives of Cox and Beadle "without any regard, led me to this decision. Both of these young women leave behind small children who will never get to know their mothers. The death penalty is an available option under Louisiana law and we intend to present our case and evidence to a trial jury," Marvin wrote in a news release.

The court filing lists as an aggravating circumstance, which is a necessary component to prove first-degree murder, that Butler "knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than 1 person."

Butler, 26, was questioned after Cox's and Beadle's bodies were discovered in a home they shared on Bragg Street. He was arrested on drug charges but released. A week later, Bossier City police announced their search for him after naming him as the primary suspect. He was located in Bogalusa and transported to Bossier Maximum Security Facility.

A Bossier Parish grand jury indicted Butler. He is held without bond.

(source: Shreveport Times)

OHIO:

Flawed Arizona execution must force another look at Ohio's death cocktail

Another execution. Another debacle. Another debate.

This time the backdrop was a death chamber in Arizona. Condemned killer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took an hour and 40 minutes to die from lethal injection. For most of that time, he "gasped and struggled for breath," according to an account from Reuters.

1 witness said Wood looked like "a fish on shore gulping for air."

Wood was put to death with a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller, the same drugs Ohio used when it executed Dennis McGuire in January. McGuire gasped and gulped in similar fashion while taking 26 minutes to die.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction stated after a review of McGuire's execution that he did not suffer "any pain and distress," but that the state would up the lethal dosage.

Well, the same dosage now contemplated by Ohio is what Arizona administered to Wood, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter Jeremy Pelzer.

Gov. John Kasich should step in to insist on a more comprehensive investigation in Ohio.

This editorial board has long opposed the death penalty, but if Ohio is going to continue to execute prisoners, it must at a minimum certify that it can do so constitutionally, which means without cruel, painful, drawn-out deaths.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has called for an independent review of Wood's execution, just as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin did after condemned killer Clayton Lockett died of a massive heart attack in April when a different combination of drugs could not be properly administered.

Kasich, to his credit, has provided clemency to 5 death-row inmates since taking office in 2011, citing various reasons unrelated to the method of execution. After McGuire's controversial death, he postponed the next scheduled execution to allow for an internal review.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost in Columbus has issued a moratorium on executions in Ohio until Aug. 15 to allow for further debate over the state's lethal-injection process.

Kasich should now set an indefinite moratorium of his own and insist on a more complete probe of the state of the state's death drugs.

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Judge sends jury home in capital murder case while Supreme Court decides on alleged death-penalty bias

A judge whose actions in a capital murder case are under review by the Ohio Supreme Court sent the jury in that case home at a brief hearing Monday morning.

Summit County Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands dismissed the 9 women and 5 men chosen to serve on the jury or as alternate jurors in the case of Deshanon Haywood, 23. Haywood is charged with killing 4 people and faces the death penalty if convicted.

The case will remain on hold until the Supreme Court decides if Rowlands will continue as judge in the case.

Summit County prosecutors accused Rowlands of being biased against the death penalty after she placed a pretrial phone call to a prosecutor supervisor and asked if the office considered taking the death penalty off the table.

The prosecutor's office also accused Rowlands of allowing a man to remain on the jury despite a challenge from prosecutors raised because the man wrote in a jury questionnaire that he opposed the death penalty.

Rowlands argued in her response that the phone to prosecutors calls were an attempt to manage the case and courtroom because a death-penalty trial can take about 8 weeks.

She also argued that she correctly allowed a juror to remain impaneled and that her ruling had nothing to do with a death-penalty bias.

Rowlands accused prosecutors of filing for her removal from the case in retaliation for her ruling related to that juror.

There is no set timetable for the Supreme Court's decision. If the court removes Rowlands from the case, a new judge will preside over the proceedings. The trial would start from scratch. If the Supreme Court rules in Rowlands' favor, the trial will start as soon as the judge sets a date.

Haywood is 1 of 2 people accused of killing 4 others in a heroin-theft related case.

Haywood and Derek Brantley were charged with April 18, 2013 shooting deaths of drug dealer Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19 and Kiana Welch, 19, at a townhouse on Kimlyn Circle.

Brantley, 22, of Akron, was sentenced to 4 consecutive life sentences by Rowlands after his June conviction on aggravated murder and other charges. The jury in the case decided against recommending the death penalty.

(source for both: Cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Prosecutor to weigh death penalty in cop shooting

The Lake County prosecutor's office will spend the coming weeks determining whether a Gary man should face the death penalty over allegations he ambushed Gary patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield earlier this month.

Authorities allege Carl L. Blount, 26, who lists addresses in Gary and Portage, fatally shot Westerfield during the early morning hours of July 6 in Gary's Midtown section as Westerfield was looking for Blount for threatening a girlfriend.

The process will be shrouded in official secrecy. Magistrate Kathleen Sullivan granted a request Friday by Public Defender Robert Varga to impose what is commonly known as a gag order.

The order, formally known as a protective order, forbids the prosecutor, police, coroner and other law enforcement officials in the case as well as the public defender's office from publicly discussing the case's evidence and thereby avoid pretrial publicity that could prejudice a future jury.

Sheriff John Buncich announced Thursday, before the order's imposition, Prosecutor Bernard Carter will review the case to determine if it qualifies for a capital murder charge. Murdering an on-duty law enforcement officer is one of more than 20 aggravating factors in the capital murder law.

Carter has said in the past he routinely submits all potential death penalty cases to a group of his veteran deputies and then to the eight-member Capital Litigation Committee of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney's Council. While the final decision rests with Carter, he said he needs the others' help to balance the interests of justice and cost to taxpayers.

Court documents indicate the strength of the state's case against Blount rests on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of the defendant's half brother, Dontae Blount, and other witnesses who spoke with the defendant before and after the crime.

Dontae Blount told police he heard a gunshot, saw the defendant running away from the crime scene with the suspected murder weapon and heard the defendant admit shooting the officer.

However, the sheriff said Thursday Blount hasn't confessed, and police still haven't found the .40-caliber Walther handgun.

The Indiana Department of Correction said there are currently 13 men and one woman under Indiana death sentences.

Lake County's last death penalty murder case resulted in Kevin Isom, 48, receiving three death sentences in March 2013 for killing his wife and 2 stepchildren in their home in Gary's Miller area 6 years earlier.

That case was marked by years of delays, took months to assemble a jury and 5 weeks for lawyers to present evidence and arguments. It cost 3/4 of a million dollars, according to county officials.

(source: NW Indiana Times)

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In Lake Co., seeking death penalty a team decision

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter must decide whether to seek the death penalty against a Gary man accused of the July 6 slaying of Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield - a decision he makes with top aides in his office.

In the wake of a gag order issued after Carl Le'Ellis Blount, 25, was charged last week with killing Westerfield, Carter and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara McConnell spoke only in generalities on Monday about the process to determine if the death penalty will be pursued.

The aggravating circumstance that a prosecutor must establish in a death penalty case can range from an intentional killing while committing another murder or a crime such as arson, child molesting, rape, kidnapping or criminal gang activity to whether the victim was dismembered, tortured or is younger than 12.

Aggravating circumstances also include two factors that could apply in the Westerfield homicide - the victim is a law enforcement officer acting in the course of duty and the defendant was on probation at the time for another offense.

Carter, a member of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association's death penalty review board, said every county in Indiana has its own process in deciding whether to seek the death penalty in a case. Carter said he meets with McConnell, first assistant Peter Villarreal, trial supervisors and senior prosecutors as well as lead investigators to review the strengths and weaknesses of the case.

If a case qualified under those factors, Carter said he presents it to the death penalty review board in Indianapolis.

"We are there to assist prosecutors throughout the state on their cases, answer questions and to be consistent statewide," Carter said of the board's function.

Carter said it's also important to talk with the victim's family.

"They have to be on board (with seeking capital punishment). We have to know if they can wait 20 years for it to end," he said, referring to the lengthy appeals process in a capital case.

Lake County's most recent death penalty case took 5 years to resolve and resulted in the 2013 conviction of Kevin C. Isom, 48, who murdered his wife and 2 stepchildren.

McConnell said those involved in the review like to know as much as they can about the defendant's background, including his IQ or factors the defense can use in mitigation against a death sentence or life without parole.

Westerfield, a 19-year police veteran was killed on his 47th birthday in his police car at 26th Avenue and Van Buren Place in Gary as he was looking for a person who had been involved in an earlier domestic dispute. Westerfield was shot at close range with a .40-caliber handgun that was stolen about 10 months ago from a truck in Indianapolis, court records state.

They indicate that the night before Westerfield was killed, Blount and his girlfriend, Jennifer Guzman, had been at the Voodoo Club in Gary, and on the way home, a friend of Guzman's accused Blount of having an affair with another woman. After they got out of the car, the couple began arguing, and a struggle ensued over a gun that Blount carried, according to court records.

Guzman told police she got control of the gun, which "went off," and Blount picked up the gun and ran, police reported. They said Westerfield's last radio communication was at 4:26 a.m. when he asked for a description of Blount. He was found dead by a passerby at 5:50 a.m.

Lake Superior Court Judge Samuel Cappas, who will preside over the Blount case, issued a gag order that prevents those involved in the case from speaking publicly about it except in court.

(source: Post-Tribune)

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Prosecutors: Gibson broke dead woman's back

William Clyde Gibson III strangled Stephanie Kirk before performing sexually deviant acts on her body ó and at some point broke her spine ó in his New Albany home, prosecution witnesses testified Monday.

The disturbing details of the March 25, 2012, slaying were recounted by witnesses called to support the prosecution's request that Floyd Superior Judge Susan Orth sentence Gibson to die for killing Kirk, 35, of Charlestown.

Steve Owen, Floyd's chief deputy prosecutor, said after Gibson told police how he'd abused the dead woman's body, he admitted that "I guess I'm really evil."

Kirk's body, clad only in a torn Victoria's Secret bra and a black vest, was found in a hole Gibson had dug near a porch in his backyard.

Kirk's father, Tony Kirk, attended the proceeding with 2 other relatives, sitting in the courtroom's front row near another victim's kin, Mike Whitis. The group showed little emotion as 2 former police detectives and a pathologist with the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office in Louisville testified in graphic detail about what police discovered.

Gibson, 58, has already been sentenced to die for murdering Christine Whitis, 75, of Clarksville, whose mutilated body was found in his garage in April 2012 - after Kirk had gone missing. Gibson also pleaded guilty in March to murdering Florida hair stylist Karen Hodella in 2002.

Prosecutors must prove that Kirk's murder involved at least one of 16 aggravating circumstances listed under the Indiana statute for him to be sentenced to die.

Prosecutors said that they will show Gibson intentionally killed Kirk while committing another criminally deviant act, specifically that he performed oral sex on Kirk and digitally penetrated her by force or under threat of force.

2 other aggravators, Owen said, will focus on the fact that Gibson murdered the two other women and was on probation at the time of the Kirk murder.

Public defenders for Gibson, Patrick Biggs and Andrew Adams are expected to call witnesses starting Tuesday morning.

Gibson caused a stir earlier this year after he appeared in court with a new tattooed inscription on the back of his head referring to the murders: "death row x 3." Because the markings were deemed prejudicial, Orth had ordered Gibson receive no haircuts so that they were covered.

Now that there's no jury trial needed, Gibson's head was again shaved and the tattoo was clearly visible as corrections officers escorted him through the courtroom.

Sgt. Steve Bush, a New Albany patrolman and former detective, testified that Gibson told of spending an evening with Kirk where the 2 drank in bars, took pills and had consensual sex at his home before heading back out to spend time at area taverns.

Amy Burrows-Beckham, an assistant medical examiner, said autopsy tests showed Kirk had consumed alcohol, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and cocaine before she died.

Bush said that Gibson told police that when they returned to his house, they began arguing over some pills and he choked her with his hands. Bush added that "he said it was pretty quick."

Bush said he also told of sexually assaulting the body and breaking a vertebrae in Kirk's lower back. Gibson dragged the body into his garage, where it sat for 2 days before he dug a hole near his back porch - 3 feet, 3 inches deep, Bush said.

New Albany Assistant Police Chief Ken Fudge testified later that Kirk's body was stuffed head first into the hole and twisted to fit.

A crime-scene photo showed Kirk's arm and torso visible after police found the body.

Public defender Patrick Biggs' questions of Burrows-Beckham, Bush and Fudge focused on whether police had evidence of a sexual assault.

Fudge acknowledged under Biggs' cross-examination that investigators had no way of knowing if the front of Kirk's bra was ripped while Kirk was dead or alive.

Burrows-Beckham testified that she had told Biggs during deposition 2 weeks ago that the cause of death might have been undetermined if Gibson hadn't confessed to the crime. The pathologist also stated that she didn't report in the autopsy that Kirk had been sexually assaulted.

A final prosecution witness, Floyd Probation Officer Clare Banet, testified she'd seen Gibson monthly after she was assigned to supervise him after his release on felony theft charges in September 2009 and was surprised when he was re-arrested for murder. "I never noticed any violent tendencies from him," Banet said.

(source: Courier-Journal)

KENTUCKY----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty in 1983 rape-murder

A Jefferson County jury has recommended the death penalty for a Louisville man convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1983.

The Courier-Journal reports (http://cjky.it/1tTWzJ0) it is the 1st time in nearly a decade that a Jefferson County jury has recommended sending a defendant to death row.

Jurors on Friday found Larry Lamont White guilty of murder in the death of Pamela Armstrong, a 22-year-old mother of 5 who was raped and shot twice in the head on June 4, 1983. The panel returned on Monday to determine a sentence.

During the hearing, prosecutors presented evidence of other crimes White committed, including 2 other slayings.

Defense attorneys said the inclusion of the previous convictions "created an unfair playing field" and said they would appeal.

Final sentencing was set for September.

(source: Associated Press)

ILLINOIS:

A pardon for actual innocence Gov. Quinn should grant

Gov. Pat Quinn is the 1st Illinois governor in almost 4 decades to have given no pardons based on actual innocence.

Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Jim Edgar and James R. Thompson all got out their pardon pens for innocent people. But Quinn, in his 5th year as governor, has not.

The case of Gordon "Randy" Steidl would be a good place for him to start. Steidl spent 12 years on death row and 5 more in prison for a 1986 double murder he didn't commit. Since then, he has been a leader nationally in helping state legislatures understand the perils of the death penalty. But Quinn is the 3rd governor from whom Steidl has a requested a pardon without hearing anything back but silence.

A Quinn spokesman said the governor has acted on 2,923 requests for clemency while working through a backlog of 2,500 requests left by Blagojevich. But Steidl's name was not among them. Steidl also had the option of seeking expungement through the courts, but that would have meant going back to the same Edgar County Circuit Court that convicted him, and anyway, the 2-year deadline for filing expired 4 years ago. Moreover, he wants a pardon from "the highest office in Illinois."

Today, Steidl is chairman of a group called Witness to Innocence, which seeks to discourage the death penalty in the United States by giving a voice to exonerated death row survivors. As various states have considered abolishing the death penalty, Steidl has helped present the human side of the devastation wrought by wrongful convictions.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says Witness to Innocence has made a significant impact in state after state, as people once facing execution help lawmakers understand the horror of flaws in a legal system that can lead to the innocent being put to death. In fact, the work of Steidl and his group is a big part of the change from the 1990s, when popular support for the death penalty was ascending, to today's climate, in which executions are down and many states are turning to alternatives.

Yet, in Steidl's home state, his request for a pardon and a clean record goes nowhere.

That's unfortunate, given the important role Steidl played in helping Illinois make its own decision to abolish the death penalty in 2011. Before that, courts in Illinois came shockingly close to executing innocent men in many cases. Steidl helped our state close that extremely disturbing chapter.

Recent botched executions in Arizona and Ohio have rekindled debate over the death penalty. In Arizona, an inmate injected with lethal drugs recently gasped for more than 90 minutes before dying. In Ohio, an inmate took 30 minutes to die. States that still perform lethal injections are scrambling to find new combinations of drugs.

Illinois has been spared such trauma in part because of the work of Randy Steidl. All he's asking in return is a pardon that clears the Steidl name, something he wants both for himself and his family, including his grandchildren.

(source: Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times)

ARKANSAS:

Man Charged With Capital Murder In Slaying Of Pregnant Woman

A man who told police he fought with his pregnant girlfriend and then found her dead faces 2 counts of capital murder in Sebastian County Circuit Court.Douglas True, 21, is charged in connection with the July 20 death of Briana Butler, 22, and her fetus. The charges were filed Monday.

Capital murder is punishable by life in prison or death.

Prosecuting attorney Dan Shue said he will undertake a review to determine if he'll seek the death penalty for True, which includes evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, the seriousness of the offense, True's culpability, aggravating and mitigating factors and potential victim impact evidence, according to a news release.

True called Fort Smith police just before noon July 20 and told them he needed to turn himself in because he'd done something bad that he didn't remember.

Officers arrived and made contact with True outside a residence in the 2900 block of South 66th Street, and he gave police consent to search the home, where they found the body of Butler in the bathroom with "bruising on her arms and face and lacerations on her throat and torso consistent with knife wounds," according to the affidavit.

Butler was 5 or 6 months pregnant and her unborn child also was deceased.A 2-year-old female toddler with apparent minor facial injuries also was found at the residence. The toddler was transported to a local hospital and is expected to recover, said Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, Fort Smith police.

"True was advised of his rights and gave a statement admitting that he and Butler got into an argument that escalated to a physical altercation. True stated that he was intoxicated and did not remember what happened after that," according to the affidavit. "True said that he got up in the middle of the night and found Butler's body in the bathroom and went back to the couch and passed out."

When he got up the next morning, True went to Lowe's to buy a tool to cut a cast off his arm, before calling his mother to tell her he'd done something bad and would never be getting out of prison, according to the affidavit.

True is being held without bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. before Circuit Court Judge James Cox.

(source: SW Times Record)

KANSAS:

Carr Brothers' Death Penalty Revocations Bring Questions About Supreme Court Appointments

The selection process of Kansas Supreme Court justices is likely to come under scrutiny after last week's decision. The court overturned death sentences in the Wichita Carr Brothers case.

Last Friday the Kansas Supreme Court overturned three of the four capital sentences each for Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers were convicted in 2002 of 4 gruesome murders committed in Wichita December of 2000. The death sentences were sought for reasons which include the facts that the murders were multiple and that the killings involved sex crimes.

"I think that the court said that it really doesn't matter because capital murder says you have to kill more than 1 person. And more than 1 person was killed, therefore we're only going to give you 1 capital murder," says Nola Foulston, District Attorney at the time of the Carr Brothers' trial.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says that the GOP-dominated legislature thinks that the court is on an "activist" streak and wants the governor and the legislators to have more say in the selection of new justices.

The court has not upheld any death penalty sentence under the state's current law and no one has been executed in Kansas since 1965.

Justice Moritz, the only 1 of the 7 justices who argued for the Carrs' sentences to be upheld, is leaving for a federal appointment. 14 judges and attorneys have applied for the vacancy.

As it stands now, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission will submit three finalists' names to governor Brownback and he'll pick one of the candidates.

(source: KMUW news)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Another Execution Coming Up in Bonne Terre

Michael Shane Worthington is scheduled to be executed next week at the prison in Bonne Terre for the 1995 murder of his neighbor Melinda Griffin.

Worthington claims drugs and alcohol robbed him of his memories of that night but also claims drugs and alcohol make it unlikely he committed the crime.

He, like other convicted men, their attorneys, and death penalty critics, say Missouri's execution protocol is wrong for keeping secret details about procedures and drugs used and for using compounding pharmacies that they claim could produce faulty drugs.

Worthington has strong words for Governor Nixon and the State.

Melinda Griffin's mother, Carol Angelbeck, says she's heard before, Worthington's claims that 2 other men killed her daughter and had been planning to steal things from her apartment, and she doesn't believe it.

Worthington has a clemency hearing Thursday.

Governor Nixon will decide whether to grant him clemency.

(source: mymoinfo.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Does it matter how a condemned man dies?

Closure. For 2 1/2 hours, as I drive from McAlester, Oklahoma, to my sister-in-law's house in Dallas, Texas, I wonder about this concept. Will Lisa Stanley's family really feel at peace now her killer is dead? I see Hogan's face in my mind, turning from pink to ash, a life snuffed out before my eyes.

Oddly enough I feel a certain amount of guilt. I feel, like everyone there, that I have been complicit in this macabre drama. Media witnesses are part of the process - or as Massie had put, the eyes and ears of the public - while the state carries out its role.

A few days earlier I'd read a story by Kelly Kurt, a writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, reflecting on her experiences as a former Associated Press reporter. Kurt witnessed 16 executions up at Big Mac, but not once, she wrote, had she heard a condemned man cry. I don't know what difference it makes, if any, but Kenneth Hogan had cried: before he'd apologised to his victim's family, he'd wept on the gurney.

Kelly Kurt witnessed 16 executions up at Big Mac, but not once, she wrote, had she heard a condemned man cry.

Towards the end of April, two men were scheduled to die on the same evening on the same gurney where I'd watched Hogan succumb to a lethal cocktail of drugs. It was to be the 1st double execution in Oklahoma since 1937, but convicted killers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were to be put to death using a drug protocol that was new to the state: the sedative midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Florida had used the 3 in succession before, but with a much larger dose of midazolam. The drug had also been used in the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio - in which his stomach heaved and he'd struggled for breath for 26 minutes before expiring.

Warner and Lockett's attorneys challenged the secrecy of this new source of lethal injection drugs. They won at the district court, but an intervention by the state's governor Mary Fallin caused it to reverse its decision.

At 6.23pm on Tuesday 29 April, media witnesses watched as Lockett was injected with the first drug - 50mg of midazolam in each arm. 8 minutes later, after a doctor checked his pupils, the prison's warden, Anita Trammell, declared, "Mr Lockett is not unconscious."

According to Ziva Branstetter, a journalist witnessing the execution for the Tulsa World newspaper, 13 minutes later Lockett kicked his leg and rolled his head to the side before mumbling something unintelligible. His body began "writhing and bucking", Branstetter wrote.

2 minutes later he began "grimacing, grunting and lifting his head and shoulders entirely up from the gurney... rolling his head from side to side." After that, the curtains separating the gallery from the chamber were drawn and the men and women who had watched the horrifying, failed execution were escorted from the room. Later, they were told that 43 minutes after the first drugs were administered, Lockett died of a cardiac arrest. Unsurprisingly, Charles Warner's execution was stayed. But what media outlets were calling Oklahoma's "botched execution" had become international news. Even the White House said it "fell short of humane standards".

For her part, Oklahoma's Governor Fallin announced an inquiry. Still, she was a staunch defender of the law. "[Lockett] had his day in court," she explained. "I believe the legal process worked. I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment."

(source: Alex Hannaford, GQ Magazine, UK)

ARIZONA:

McCain backs off assertion that execution was torture

Sen. John McCain is backing off his widely publicized assertion last week that the extended lethal-injection execution of Arizona double-murderer Joseph Wood was "torture."

"I don't know if it's exactly 'torture,'" McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday in an interview with The Arizona Republic. "But let me put it this way: I don't believe it's humane. Rather than use 'torture,' I think I'd rather use the wording that it's not humane. And I think that most people would agree with that.

"It shouldn't take 2 hours to die."

The death penalty took nearly 2 hours to carry out, prompting some observers to declare Wood's execution botched. One witness described Wood as "like a fish on shore gulping for air." But Charles Ryan, Arizona Department of Corrections director, pushed back against the public criticism.

McCain declared it torture in a Thursday comment to Politico. His opinion was reported nationally and internationally.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, noted that his remark about the Wood execution "got a lot of publicity."

"It's just not humane that when someone's sentenced to death, that it couldn't be quick," McCain told The Republic. "They're trying to say that he didn't suffer. I don't know if he suffered or not, but it's not humane."

McCain said he does support capital punishment under certain circumstances.

(source: Arizona Republic)

*****************

Arizona man convicted in officer's shooting death

A jury on Monday convicted a man of murder in the 2007 shooting of a Glendale police officer during a routine traffic stop.

Bryan Wayne Hulsey, 40, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Officer Anthony Holly, 24. Hulsey also was found guilty of attempted 1st-degree murder of another officer.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday so the jury can determine whether there were "aggravating factors" in the case that make Hulsey eligible for a death sentence.

Hulsey was a passenger in the vehicle that had been pulled over for speeding and not having a license plate. Holly was there to serve as backup to another officer who made the traffic stop.

Hulsey exited the vehicle, said, "I've got something for you," and fired 2 shots, 1 of which hit Holly, prosecutors said.

Hulsey's lawyers have denied he killed Holly and instead alleged that another officer who had pulled over the vehicle had panicked and unintentionally shot him.

Prosecutors say Hulsey was upset during the stop and complained that they were being pulled over for having a cracked windshield.

Authorities say Hulsey got out of the vehicle and started firing, prompting the officer who made the stop to fire back and strike Hulsey in 1 of his legs.

Defense attorneys said Holly was unintentionally shot by the other officer based on the fact that the bullet that killed Holly wasn't recovered during the autopsy, though tiny metal fragments remained in his body.

(source: Associated Press)

***********************

Why Wood's execution should trouble death penalty fans

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that it took the murderer Joseph Wood almost 2 hours to die, gasping for air during his execution.

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that Gov. Jan Brewer immediately promised a review of the procedure and simultaneously appeared to clear the Department of Corrections of any wrongdoing.

Shortly after Wood was declared dead Brewer's office sent out statement that read in part, "While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process. One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."

Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you that the governor directed the DOC to do an investigation of ... the DOC.

Whether you agree or not with the governor's conclusion that Wood "did not suffer," it should bother you that she said as much before any investigation was conducted, something noted by Federal Judge Neil Wake when he was asked to stop the execution while it was ongoing.

Wood died while the emergency hearing was in progress, but Judge Wake said afterward, "I did not want you to misunderstand me as suggesting that there had been a lack of pain (for Wood) before. That is a matter that may come before the Court in plenary matter soon."

Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you that the state's lawyer argued that Wood was "effectively brain dead" while he was gasping for air, although this was based purely on observations, not on any electronic monitors attached to Wood.

Judge Wake said, "If there are not monitors connected with him, if it's just a visual observation, this is very concerning as not being adequate."

Whether or not you believe a cold-blooded killer like Wood should suffer it should bother you that some people seem willing to toss out the U.S. Constitution's protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Because that applies to everyone who comes in contact with the justice system.

Whether or not you support the death penalty it should bother you that the execution procedure was hush hush.

As Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said afterward, "State officials cloaked the plans for Mr. Wood's death in secrecy. Arizonans should not accept our state's willingness to abandon one of our most fundamental constitutional obligations."

Whether you support the death penalty or not you should agree with Wood's attorney Dale Baich, who said after the execution, "There is far too much that we don't know at this point, including information about the drugs, why Arizona selected these drugs and amounts, the qualifications of the execution team, and more. It is important for the people of Arizona to get answers, and only an independent investigation can provide the transparency needed following an execution cloaked in secrecy that went wrong."

Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you, really bother you, that Baich asked these same question before Wood was put to death.

(source: Column, EJ Montini; Arizona Republic)

**************************

The Emergency Hearing During the Execution

The transcript of the Wood v. Ryan telephone hearing for a Motion for Emergency Stay of Execution is available in Adobe .pdf format.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, "Killer was given 2 doses of lethal injection drugs in 'botched' execution," by Gary Grado.

U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake was pulled away from a memorial for a recently deceased colleague and the phones to Gov. Jan Brewer and Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan were ringing furiously.

Meanwhile, Joseph Wood III, condemned for a 1989 double murder, lay unconscious, making sounds like snoring and seemingly gasping for air as his attorney and an assistant attorney general were on the phone with Wake so he could decide whether to stop the execution, according to a transcript of the 30-minute emergency hearing.

The hearing was called because Wood's attorneys filed a motion to stop the execution and have life-saving measures performed on him after he was still alive and making noises and involuntary movements an hour into the procedure.

As the hearing was taking place, Wood finally died, rendering the motion to halt the execution moot.

"Executed Killer Joseph Wood Died In Middle of Emergency Hearing," is by Tracy Connor for NBC News.

An Arizona judge was in the middle of an emergency telephone hearing on the execution of Joseph Wood when word came that the inmate had finally died after more than an hour of what witnesses have described as gasping.

A transcript of the hearing shows that 45 minutes after defense lawyers filed a motion asking that Wood's execution be stopped because he was still alive, no decision had been made.

Today's Arizona Republic reports, "Arizona officials deny execution was botched." It's by Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution.

The director of the Arizona Department of Corrections said Thursday that the 2-hour-long execution of death- row prisoner Joseph Rudolph Wood on Wednesday was not "botched" and called media reports to that effect "premature and erroneous."

But while Wood was gulping and snorting and dying on the execution gurney, Corrections Director Charles Ryan was on the phone with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, and he already had consulted with the general counsel of the Department of Corrections.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Zick was talking to Ryan when he was interrupted by a call from the U.S. District Court after Wood's attorney, Robin Konrad, pleaded with a federal judge to stop the execution, according to a transcript of the telephone hearing.

"2-hour execution rekindles US death penalty debate; lawyer assured judge that man felt no pain," is the Associated Press coverage, via Medicine Hat News.

A transcript of an emergency court hearing reveals that Arizona officials assured a judge during the nearly 2-hour execution of a U.S. inmate that he was comatose and not feeling pain at any point.

Joseph Rudolph Wood gasped for about 90 minutes during his execution on Wednesday. The process took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it continued.

The Guardian posts, "'Judge, I just learned that the IV team leader has confirmed Mr Wood's death'," by Tom Dart.

The telephone call gives an insight into the sense of urgency, uncertainty and confusion surrounding Wood's physical state and the appropriate official response as the execution dragged on. Robin Konrad, one of Wood's legal team, attempted to convince Neil Wake, an Arizona district judge, to halt the execution and order prison officials to start lifesaving techniques.

And:

Arizona's execution protocol calls for trained medical personnel - who are not involved with the execution process - to be available nearby to respond to any medical emergency before the start of the execution, while any decision about whether to continue with the process if it is going awry is up to the director of the state department of corrections.

The National Journal posts, "Read the Lengthy Debate Over Whether to End Arizona's Botched Execution," by Dustin Volz.

"We have to deal with degrees of uncertainty, but it does not appear that with lack of physical reaction there is pain," Judge Neil Wake explained. "I am also concerned that if it were possible to suspend this in a better circumstance, I would be disposed to do that if it did not create even more risk of pain. It is not appearing to me that that is a realistic possibility at this time."

Near the transcript's conclusion, Jeffrey Zick, representing the Arizona attorney general's office, stops in mid-thought to announced that Wood has died.

(source: The StandDown Texas Project)

*********************

The Continuing Problems with Lethal Injection

Arizona's recent botched execution of Joseph Wood is the latest in a series of horrific events demonstrating that lethal injection is a profoundly flawed method for carrying out capital punishment. Similar to Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Wood endured excruciating suffering during the hour and 52 minutes it took for the drugs administered by the state's executioners to end his life.

Wood almost avoided this deeply inhumane death. In the days preceding his execution, his attorneys mounted an impressive campaign to overturn a lower court order denying him access to basic information about the qualifications of the executioners and the source of the drugs to be used. Wood argued that he had a First Amendment right of access to such information.

On Monday, July 21, a panel of the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court concluded that Arizona must either turn over the information Wood sought, or else delay the execution. The Ninth Circuit panel voted 2-1 (with a dissent from Judge Jay Bybee, who is no stranger to government-sponsored cruelty) that Wood had raised a legitimate First Amendment claim and would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction against his execution were not granted. But rather than either providing Wood with the information or delaying the execution, Arizona instead petitioned the Supreme Court, which overruled the Ninth Circuit and held that the execution could proceed.

Death penalty lawyers are often accused of engaging in frivolous delaying tactics. We hear about delays in executions. We witness California's death penalty held unconstitutional, in part, because of delay. But in Wood's case, these claims of delay distract from the real issue. Faced with shortages of the components of the previous 3-drug execution cocktail of choice, states have begun to experiment with different doses and types of drugs, and the qualifications of executioners are not getting any better. In the rush to continue with executions, Arizona and other states are using their execution chambers as laboratories for human experimentation. Departments of Correction are trying to figure out what combination will create the most aesthetically pleasing execution for public consumption, while obscuring from public scrutiny what drugs they are using and what training they provide their executioners.

In the meantime, lawyers and their clients are rightly concerned about the unnecessary suffering that flows from these experiments. The execution team is not exactly comprised of faculty from Harvard Medical School. Quite the contrary: executioners may have well less than a week of medical training under their belt when they set out to experiment with new cocktails for killing. Not surprisingly, sometimes problems result from the hodgepodge of drugs a state can obtain and coupled with the low level of training for executioners. In April, Oklahoma badly botched the execution of Clayton Lockett and independent autopsies show that the persons conducting the execution had "no clue what they were doing."

So in the shadow of several recently bungled executions, it was far from frivolous for the next person in line for execution by lethal injection in a state with non-public execution procedures to inquire about the drugs and training of the persons to be used for the execution.

But attorneys representing death row inmates face an impossible dilemma. Because states routinely modify and amend their execution protocols up to the last minute, lawyers cannot challenge a state's lethal injection procedures earlier in the process because federal courts will invariably dismiss the claims as having been brought prematurely. On the other hand, if lawyers wait for the state to issue the warrant for execution, critics accuse them of gaming the system by waiting until the last minute. Lawyers' only realistic option is to file close to the time of execution and hope for the best. Yet this whole problem could be avoided if states would make their execution processes transparent.

Arizona's lack of transparency led to Wood's legal challenge, and, ultimately, the Ninth Circuit opinion enjoining his execution. The court's decision immediately attracted criticism from legal commentators such as Orin Kerr, who contended that the Ninth Circuit lacked the authority to enjoin the execution because the "plaintiff is not trying to enjoin the allegedly unlawful act"--in other words, Wood is not really trying to prevent the state from suppressing information relating to his execution. Instead, Kerr argued, "the plaintiff is trying to enjoin his execution -- something that is not being challenged here as unlawful." In other words, Kerr objected to the injunction because Wood's lawsuit was based on a potential First Amendment violation, when (in his view) a criminal or habeas corpus proceeding asserting an Eighth Amendment violation was the appropriate way to seek a stay of the execution.

But as even Kerr conceded, there was a "practical connection" between the injunction against the execution and the opportunity for Wood to pursue the First Amendment claim that would provide him with information about the procedures to be used in his execution. Without such information, it would be impossible for Wood's lawyers to assess whether the execution might violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But that information would do him no good after his death. Once the Ninth Circuit determined that Wood asserted a legitimate First Amendment claim, the injunction was necessary to allow him to pursue the claim. To be sure, stays of execution are equitable remedies, which courts provide at their discretion, rather than remedies available as a matter of right. But surely a federal court considering whether to award such a remedy has wide latitude to prevent an irreversible harm no matter how the remedy is technically categorized.

Wood's request for relief was framed as an injunction against the execution based on his First Amendment claim, and this may seem incongruous to Kerr and others. But these commentators are simply wrong to conclude that the Ninth Circuit could not accomplish in one step something that would be clearly permissible if spread out over 2 judicial procedures - a First Amendment "injunction" in 1 case, and a "stay" of execution in a separate proceeding. Such reasoning privileges finicky academic commentary at the expense of practical justice.

One might debate the merits of First Amendment right of access claims such as the one Wood brought. We think they are colorable. But to argue against granting a stay is misguided. Such arguments effectively consigned Wood to suffer an agonizing two-hour execution because of the formalistic distinction between an injunction on his First Amendment claim and the corresponding stay of execution necessary to permit that injunction to be carried out. Whether or not one believes in capital punishment, Wood did not deserve a painful, two-hour execution in service of abstract and contestable legal principles.

(source: Justin Marceau and Alan K. Chen. Marceau is an associate professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a former public defender in Arizona. Chen is the William M. Beaney Memorial Research Chair and Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a former staff attorney at the ACLU's Chicago office---Huffington Post)

CALIFORNIA:

USC grad student could face death penalty

A group of teenagers who were arrested in a deadly attack on a USC graduate student as he walked home from a study group could be charged with murder and special circumstances, a crime that could potentially bring the death penalty, police said Monday.

Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old graduate student from China, was allegedly hit on the head Thursday night with a baseball bat by at least 1 of the suspects, according to 2 law enforcement sources. Police said the incident was 1 of at least 2 robberies the group attempted that day.

LAPD detectives do a follow-up investigation in front of the apartment building where University of Southern California engineering graduate student Xinran Ji was found dead.

LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman says the fatal attack on a USC graduate student may have been a crime of opportunity, but it's unclear whether the victim was robbed.

Detectives are probing whether other weapons were also used in the attack on Ji, the sources said. The suspects range in age from 16 to 19.

"He was literally beaten to death," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "I don't know why a group of young people would go on a crime spree as terrible as this."

The 2 adult suspects were identified by police as Jonathan DelCarmen, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 18. Both were arrested on suspicion of homicide, but Garcia faces additional allegations of assault with a deadly weapon and robbery.

Police said there were no indications the suspects were gang members or that the attack was racially motivated.

2 of the juveniles, a 17-year-old male and 16-year-old female, were also arrested on suspicion of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. Their names were not released by police.

Prosecutors were expected to file charges Tuesday, LAPD officials said. Smith said the murder charges would carry special circumstance allegations that would make the suspects eligible for the death penalty.

A 5th suspect, a 14-year-old girl, was also in custody regarding a 2nd incident, which police described as a robbery that took place at Dockweiler Beach "a few hours" after Ji was beaten near the South L.A. campus about 12:45 a.m.

2 victims in the Dockweiler incident flagged down police, who detained two of the suspects at about 3 a.m., Smith said. Detectives then linked them to the earlier attack at USC.

Investigators are also trying to determine whether the suspects committed more crimes during Thursday night or early Friday morning, Smith said. Anyone with information about possible incidents were asked to contact police.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

OREGON:

Murder defendant A.J. Scott Nelson gets new lawyers----The suspect in Celestino Gutierrez Jr.'s killing tells a judge he didn't trust his attorneys

A suspect in a horrific Eugene murder is working with a new team of court-appointed lawyers after telling 2 judges in writing that he didn't trust the original set of attorneys selected to represent him in the potential death penalty case.

A.J. Scott Nelson claims in recent letters to the judges that he's not guilty of murdering Eugene resident Celestino Gutierrez Jr. and that he suspected that a defense team led by Portland attorneys Lynne Morgan and Robert Axford had worked against him while preparing for his coming trial.

"This team will get me killed," Nelson wrote in June to Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen, who had been handling the case until it was reassigned to Judge Debra Vogt on July 3.

After Morgan confirmed that Nelson had lost confidence in her and Axford, Vogt in recent days appointed Portland attorneys Laurie Bender and Christopher Clayhold to represent Nelson. His trial had been scheduled to begin in September, but now undoubtedly will be reset for sometime next year at the earliest.

"We really don't know at this point how long we'll need to prepare his case," Clayhold said Monday. "We're still getting situated. I imagine a timeline for the case will be established soon, possibly at the next status conference with the court."

Nelson's original attorneys did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on Monday.

Morgan told Vogt in a July 7 court filing that she and Axford agreed that the attorney-client relationship with Nelson had "irrevocably broken down" and that a new set of public defenders should be appointed to represent the 24-year-old suspect.

"As we became aware of Mr. Nelson's displeasure and growing mistrust, the entire defense team worked hard to alleviate those concerns," Morgan wrote in a declaration in support of her motion to withdraw from the case.

"Those efforts have not been successful, however, and our relationship with Mr. Nelson has devolved to the point where it is no longer possible to provide him with the effective assistance of counsel," Morgan wrote.

Lane County prosecutors argued that Nelson failed to raise legitimate complaints against his attorneys, but Vogt ruled that the Portland resident is entitled to new lawyers.

Nelson and 2 other people - David Ray Taylor and Mercedes Leeann Crabtree - were arrested in August 2012 and charged with murdering Gutierrez, who was 22 when he was killed.

Crabtree pleaded guilty last year to aggravated murder and other charges, and is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Her plea deal - which she took in order to avoid facing a possible death penalty - required her to testify against Nelson and Taylor.

Crabtree, 20, provided key testimony in Taylor's trial earlier this year. A jury in May condemned Taylor, 58, to Oregon's death row for masterminding a plan to kidnap and kill a stranger in order to rob the victim of a vehicle that could be used in a bank robbery. That victim turned out to be Gutierrez.

Crabtree testified that Nelson, at Taylor's direction, bound Gutierrez with electrical wire and a belt, pushed a crossbow bolt through one of the victim's ears and choked him. After mocking Nelson for failing to swiftly kill Gutierrez, Taylor wrapped a metal chain around Gutierrez's neck and pulled on it until the victim stopped breathing, Crabtree told the jury.

Crabtree said Nelson and Taylor then dismembered Gutierrez's body in a bathtub inside Taylor's home off Highway 99 in Eugene. Nelson went into a brief seizure during the gruesome process and came out of it confused about what he saw in the bathroom, Crabtree testified.

"(Nelson) said, 'Did I do that?'" Crabtree recalled while on the witness stand.

Nelson, who is being held in the Lane County Jail, said in his handwritten letter to Rasmussen that he is "innocent of murder and can prove such a bold claim."

But he also seemed to acknowledge some responsibility for his actions.

"I'll never find the words to apologize for choosing to come to Eugene and even more for the decision I made while here," he wrote.

In a separate letter to Vogt, filed in court last Wednesday, Nelson accused his original attorneys of ignoring him, of lying to him about the reason for a rescheduled court date and of being "in league with" prosecutors handling his case.

"While everyone - including my family - has told me to give up, I will not allow my opposition to win without a fight," Nelson said in his letter to Vogt. "I will fight the suppositions being held against me."

He ended the letter by writing that he is "sorry there's a reason for anyone to know who I am. Please enjoy your sanity (un)til I'm permitted to tell the event in its entirety."

In an affidavit filed June 6, Axford, one of Nelson's original attorneys, asked that the original trial date of Sept. 9 be delayed to allow defense attorneys and investigators more time to delve into Nelson's background and prepare a "mitigation story" to share with jurors who would decide Nelson's sentence if they found him guilty of aggravated murder charges.

Axford said in the court document that Nelson was awarded a Purple Heart medal for military merit after serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Nelson was seriously injured while traveling in an armored vehicle that was exploded by an improvised explosive device, and he may have suffered a "traumatic brain injury" in the incident, Axford wrote.

Nelson's original defense team was still working last month to contact a number of soldiers who had served with him in the military, and also had been unable to find his biological father as part of a family background investigation, Axford wrote in the affidavit.

(source: The Register Guard)

USA:

Why the death penalty is not conservative

Republicans and the death penalty are like sharks and the parasite-eating remora fish: one needs the other to survive.

Anyone on the Republican ticket who isn't fervently in favor of capital punishment is taking a serious chance with his constituency. And lately, extenuating circumstances have made defending the death penalty a little more difficult.

With drugs companies refusing to sell their products to provide lethal injections and states scrambling to find new ways to conduct that particular method, the death penalty is facing a new kind of scrutiny. The only thing surprising in all of this is that conservatives are still putting their weight behind an aspect of our society that isn't really conservative at all.

Think about what conservatives want in government: minimum costs and restricted oversight. The 2nd one is easy to tackle.

If you look at the various Republican arguments over the past year, it can all boil down to one simple thought.

"I don't trust the government to administer my healthcare, but I do trust them to administer death to a deserving individual."

As contradictory of an ideal as that is, the fact remains that capital punishment is a huge reach by government into life. If someone is sentenced to death, they get to choose how that person dies and carry it out. True, it takes not just a criminal conviction, but one that involves a crime so heinous and inhumane that it stands alone, to get to this point.

But there is always a chance, no matter how slight, that the courts got it wrong. There are many things people say the court gets wrong, so how are they completely immune from criminal cases?

On the surface, the death penalty seems sound in a fiscal sense. By putting a hardened criminal to death, you avoid using tax dollars to pay for his lifetime incarceration. The numbers, however, don't add up.

Numerous studies show prosecuting a death penalty case from conviction until the time of death is more expensive than those ending with a life sentence. Legal and administrative costs run into the millions of dollars for each case. The lethal injection itself costs less than $100.

So basically when a lawmaker supports the death penalty, they are saying they're OK with government stepping in to end a life and can spend millions of dollars doing it. Then, there's the matter of it all being in the name of justice.

Once that's thrown in, it all seems worth it. That is, of course, if you believe killing to avenge killing is justice. Studies show most Americans - 60 % - do believe that.

My only remaining question to this is if we are so in favor of the death penalty, why do we try to hide behind the guise of lethal injection? It's like we're saying "Well yeah, but we're not THAT terrible." If the death penalty is justice, then let's do it right and stand by it.

But if there is any doubt, maybe we need to really ask ourselves if it's all worth it.

(source: Opinion, Adam Troxtell, The Express-Star)

****************

Should vicious killers suffer?----For some families of victims, 'cruel and unusual punishment' is just

Randy Browning watched from behind the glass as Kimberly McCarthy slipped quietly into unconsciousness, snored briefly, then finally stopped breathing. It didn't matter to him that this woman - who'd brutally stabbed and mutilated his beloved godmother and mentor - was allowed a peaceful, painless death.

For Browning, it was enough to know that Dorothy Booth's murderer was no more.

"I'm happy not to share the planet with Kimberly McCarthy," he said from his home in Austin, Texas. "But would I want her to be strung up and tortured? No."

The prolonged - some say "botched" - execution of double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood last week in Arizona fanned the flames of the unending debate over whether vicious killers should suffer as they die for their crimes. The controversy follows 2 other recent executions that went awry: In January, an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped for nearly a half hour before dying; in Oklahoma, a man died of a heart attack minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Talk with loved ones of their victims, and you'll find some on all sides of the issue.

In Wood's case, Richard Brown questions whether he suffered enough.

"This man conducted a horrifying murder, and you guys are going, 'Let's worry about the drugs,'" said Brown, brother- and son-in-law of Woods' victims, Debra and Eugene Dietz. "Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

Wood died by lethal injection Wednesday for the August 1989 slayings of his estranged girlfriend and her father. But he did not go quietly. About 10 minutes after the drugs began flowing, Wood started gasping. When it had continued for more than an hour, the condemned man's lawyers made a desperate appeal to state and federal courts to halt the execution.

After nearly 2 hours and what witnesses say were hundreds of gasps, Wood was pronounced dead.

As the accounts played on television, cries of "cruel and unusual punishment" resounded, and calls came down for a nationwide stop to the death penalty. The Dietzes' family lashed out.

"You don't know what excruciating is," said Brown's wife, Jeanne. "What's excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood."

----

Randy Browning was not seeking retribution as he sat in the viewing room on June 26, 2013. He was looking for closure.

McCarthy was convicted of killing her 71-year-old neighbor in 1997 during a robbery of the retired psychology professor's home in Lancaster, Texas. Police say the former nursing home therapist beat Booth with a candelabra, stabbed her with a butcher knife, then cut off the elderly woman's finger to steal her wedding ring.

McCarthy, who was linked to 2 other slayings, became Texas' 500th execution since capital punishment resumed there in 1982.

"She was a vicious, psychopathic serial murderer," says Browning, who credits Booth with setting him on the path to becoming a psychologist.

But as he sat watching her die, he could not help thinking of her own family, viewing the execution from another room.

"I did have feelings of compassion," he said. "Not to the point where I wanted them to stop doing what they were doing. But, I mean, it's just so much suffering."

----

To Randy Ertman, suffering is beside the point. In June 1993, his 14-year-old daughter Jennifer and Elizabeth Pena, 16, were rushing to make curfew on their way home from a party when they took a shortcut through a Houston neighborhood and stumbled into a gang initiation. What followed was what one prosecutor called a "feeding frenzy" of rape, torture and murder.

6 men were convicted in the killings. Three avoided the death chamber because of their ages at the time of the crimes, but the others were sentenced to die.

Randy Ertman attended all 3 executions. When told of Woods' slow death in Arizona, Ertman let out a wheezing chuckle.

"Good for him," said the grieving father. "It didn't take him long enough."

----

Brad Bowser understands Ertman's rage. Glenn L. Benner II was convicted of the 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of Bowser's 21-year-old sister, Trina, a childhood neighbor in an Akron, Ohio, suburb. Benner left her body in the trunk of her car along a highway. A year earlier, he had strangled Cynthia Sedgwick, 26, in Cuyahoga Falls after a concert.

When Benner died by lethal injection in February 2006, Brad Bowser was there.

"I thought he got off easy," Bowser said. "The way that he killed my sister, and I think for someone just to get a needle put in their arm and be able to go to sleep and go to the next world, or whatever, is about as easy as it gets, you know? I mean, I'm dying of cancer right now, and it's going to be a lot slower, rougher death than what he had."

Still, Bowser was sorry to hear how long it took Wood to die and wonders why the government can't execute people "more efficiently." But he's also angry that it took 20 years for Benner - and even longer for Wood - to be put down.

"The way they're doing it is about as humane as you can get right now," he said.

----

Clara Byrd Taylor has read her Old Testament and its many references to the ultimate penalty. But her support for capital punishment has always been tempered by doubt.

"Government today being so imperfect, man being so imperfect, there are so many injustices," she said, "it's hard for me to say that in every case I think the death penalty should be carried out."

For the murderers of her brother, she has no such qualms. The evidence was overwhelming.

On June 7, 1998, white supremacists chained James Byrd Jr. by his ankles to the bumper of a pickup truck and dragged him 3 miles down a rough asphalt road in Jasper, Texas. Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King dumped what was left of Byrd's mangled body outside a black church and cemetery.

Brewer and King were convicted of capital murder. A 3rd man received a life sentence.

Before she died in 2010, Taylor's mother made her promise to see Byrd's killers punished. So when an unrepentant Brewer was executed in September 2011, Taylor stood witness.

"It didn't bring me any sense of peace or relief," she said. "It's just a matter of saying that this one chapter in the book was now closed, and we can move on to the next part of it."

A date has not yet been set for King's execution. When it is, Taylor plans to be there.

"And I hope it goes as peacefully as Brewer's," she said.

(source: The Sumter Item)

INDIA:

To Escape Poverty, Hundreds Vie To Become Executioners In India

With no one willing to kill its 16 death row inmates, the southern Indian state of Kerala has decided to offer 400 times more money to whoever wants to become the state's newest executioner.

With executions a rarity in India, the low salary and dismal job description kept many from taking up the profession resulting in a nationwide shortage of hangmen. The government in Kerala, currently lacking anyone to fill the position, increased its pay for executioners dramatically hoping to find a sure fix to this problem. Over the weekend, the daily newspaper Mathrubhumi released a report detailing Kerala's need for an executioner, and the lump sum it now plans on paying its hangman - 200,000 rupees per execution, the equivalent of $3,330, an increase from 500 rupees, or just $8.33.

The response to the announcement was immediate; hundreds flooded the state's central jails, associated departments and even the daily newspaper who first reported the news inquiring about the open position. According to the Hindustan Times, Kerala's Central jail, which has the most death-row inmates in the state, received over 70 applicants, some showing up in person to deliver their applications. One man, desperate to escape crushing debt, pleaded with Mathrubhumi News to be given the job saying he would be willing to hang all 16 inmates at once, a stark indication that, for some, the new economic incentive far outweighs the job's morbidity.

According to the most recent statistics, 363 million people, or almost 30 % of Indian's population, currently live below the poverty line. With the nation's 'poor' being defined as rural families of 5 spending less than 4,860 rupees ($80) per month and urban families of the same size spending less than 7,035 rupees, many in the country feel those numbers are not an accurate reflection. Though Kerala is one of India's less-effected regions, with a poverty rate of just 11.3 %, the mass turnout to become the state's next executioner indicates that those numbers would be significantly higher in other parts of the country if every state offered the same incentive.

With the death penalty carried out in only the "rarest of rare" cases in India, the position would not offer immediate remuneration for any of its applicants. Between 1995 and 2011, the country executed only 2 of its inmates, despite thousands receiving the death penalty. Following the highly publicized gang-rape and murder of a New Delhi woman on a bus in 2012, the country has regulated stricter anti-rape laws which now include the death penalty for repeated offenders and fatal sexual assaults, but no executions have been carried out yet under that statute. Since 2012, there have been 2 executions in India, both were of convicted terrorists.

The 16 death row inmates in Kerala will still able to commute their sentences, a process that includes appealing to the High Court, the Supreme Court, and petitioning President Pranab Mukherjee for clemency.

(source: Shannon Greenwood is an intern at ThinkProgress)

SINGAPORE:

Hanging moratorium broken, a new hard-line stance on drugs?

The lives of 2 men were cut short as their necks snapped in the early hours of July 18 in the hope that more lives can be saved from drug addiction. This has sparked another round of debate on whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent in preventing drug trafficking and related crimes.

Anti-death penalty activists think that it does not and there is a deafening silence from those who support the death penalty.

2 Singaporeans, Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, had their death sentences carried out at Changi Prison Complex for drug related offences. They did not appeal for clemency.

This comes after a moratorium was put in place since July 2011, when the government commenced an internal review of the mandatory death penalty laws. A review took place without any public consultation nor was it made available for public scrutiny and the changes were passed by Parliament in the exact form proposed by the government in July 2012.

Civil society members warned about the potential problems associated with the lack of transparency in this process.

There is also an ongoing application filed by another drug offender before the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act as it violates Article 12 of our Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on Aug 18.

In a joint statement, anti-death penalty activists said that "the constitutional challenge to the amendments could have a potential bearing on the lawfulness of Foong and Tang's executions; it was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided."

"The executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore," say the activists. "The death penalty has not been proven to be a more useful deterrent against crime than alternative forms of punishment. Moreover, once carried out, miscarriages of justice cannot be remedied."

However, it seems the government is not going to let up. In fact, it seems to be taking a harder stand on drug related offences and will lead a new anti-drug conference for Asian cities in August next year. Our government is promoting a zero tolerance stance towards drugs.

Victor Lye, chairman of the National Council Against Drug Abuse, was quoted as saying that they hope to gather like-minded governments to target "sophisticated and well organized commercial interests."

Law Minister K Shanmugam has always argued that the death penalty is an effective deterrent and that we need punitive laws to keep our country and streets safe. But he has not spoken on this initiative yet.

It is clear that the hardliners have won this round and one thing for sure; the work has been cut out for our anti-death penalty activists.

(source: The Independent)

*************

The death penalty is never humane, even when carried out swiftly

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits punishments deemed to be cruel and unusual, a standard to which capital punishment does not rise, at least according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But with yet another botched execution, the 3rd over the past 6 months, the cruelty is becoming pretty usual.

It was disturbing enough that the state of Arizona last week took nearly 2 hours to execute convicted double-murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood, during most of which time he appeared to witnesses to be gasping for breath and grunting in pain. To me, however, equally disturbing is how many people rejoiced over the poor excuse for justice.

One online commenter remarked that "The more pain the criminal feels the better." Another was anything but concerned about the mishap: "I really don't care if he suffered. I hope it hurt like hell. I hope his last moments were full of pain and terror."

A simple post by a 3rd online contributor reflected total satisfaction with the prolonged ritual, "Sounds like success to me!" Similar unsympathetic comments were posted on other news websites.

The struggle to identify the right mixture of drugs to perform lethal injections stems directly from the oppositional consensus concerning the American way of punishing murderers.

Certain nations prohibit execution drugs to be exported to the U.S. Drug manufacturers, whose core mission is to promote health and healing. Further complicating matters, medical professionals keep as much distance as possible from the procedure out of their ethical commitment to doing no harm. As a result, correctional officials are fumbling and bumbling to find the right solution.

Notwithstanding the disgraceful outpouring of joy over Wood's ordeal, in one respect I, too, was encouraged by the botched execution. As a longtime opponent of capital punishment, my sense of encouragement is radically different from the vengeance-minded folks who espoused their venomous views publicly.

Having witnessed a speedy and smoothly orchestrated execution by lethal injection, I am distressed when the death penalty is successfully carried out in a so-called "humane" fashion.

I am concerned about relentless efforts to make the administration of capital punishment streamlined, straightforward, and simple. It should never be easy to kill a person, even one convicted of a heinous crime. To the contrary, the execution ritual should be excruciating for everyone involved. Each time we take a life in the name of justice, the controversy over capital punishment should be at the forefront.

The focus of the debate should not, however, be about the most efficient means of putting a condemned murderer to death, but about whether we should be retaining the barbaric and archaic practice in the first place.

By allowing executions to continue, even now when murder rates are low, the U.S. joins China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan on the Top 5 List for executions, and earns distain from our peer nations throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Over the past decade, the arguments for capital punishment have shifted. Research has largely disputed the claim of deterrence, and various accounting analyses have demonstrated the high cost of the death penalty. As a consequence, death penalty advocacy has become less an issue of public safety and protecting society from dangerous criminals, and more about symbolism.

Not only are many Americans tolerant of death chamber mishaps, but some accept an occasional miscarriage of justice. As many as a third of those polled by Gallup favor capital punishment even while believing that an innocent person has been executed.

For them, a show of force against the criminal element is most important. For them, apparently, it doesn't completely matter which criminals we kill (even an occasional innocent is acceptable) or how we kill them (a measure of suffering is OK, too). They just have a visceral need for executing criminals to feel that good wins over evil.

(source: Commentary; James Alan Fox is the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University----Religion News)

JULY 28, 2014:

TEXAS:

Minister on death row surprised by only 1 thing: fellow Baptists' support for capital punishment----Raised in Mexico by Southern Baptist missionaries who shared the gospel in prisons, Dorothy Ruelas said she was shocked to learn most Baptists in America support the death penalty.

In the 6 years Dorothy Ruelas has visited death-row inmates at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in West Livingston, Texas, only 1 thing shocked her.

"I was surprised and shocked to find out most Baptists support the death penalty," said Ruelas, a member of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.

That's contrary to the example her parents set. Wyatt and Beth Lee served 36 years as Southern Baptist missionaries in Mexico, where she was born and spent most of her life. As a teenager, she frequently accompanied her mother to a prison in Guadalajara where they visited inmates and led a Bible study.

"It kind of got in my blood," Ruelas said.

She recalled how her parents opened their home to ex-offenders in the days immediately after their release, until the men could travel from Guadalajara to wherever their families lived.

So, after she heard the Christian testimony of a father whose son was on death row at the Polunsky Unit, it seemed natural for her to start writing the young prisoner.

A surprising discovery

The inmate expressed appreciation in a letter to her, and he registered his surprise, since he understood most Baptists support capital punishment. At first, she didn't believe it.

"We live under grace, not Old Testament law. Only God has the right to take a life," she said. "Besides, if you kill a prisoner, how will he ever have the opportunity to get to know Christ? How will he have the chance to show people how God can change a life?"

Her ongoing correspondence with one Anglo inmate led to contact with eight other death-row inmates, all Spanish-speaking. After about a year of letter-writing, she began personally visiting the inmates on a regular basis, often accompanied by her husband, Juan Jose Ruelas.

"The men really enjoy when my husband goes with me, because he is a big jokester and makes them laugh a lot," she said.

Professions of faith

2 of the 9 inmates she befriended were Christians before she initiated contact with them. Several had some religious background or were in the process of moving toward faith in Christ. A couple professed faith in Christ directly as a result of her ministry.

"Seeing the spiritual growth, the changes, peace and joy in these men is the greatest joy in my life," she said.

"I never in my life thought I would live in the United States, but I believe God brought me up here because of this. It's not something I chose to do. God put it on my heart."

2 of her 9 death-row friends have been executed. In both instances, she traveled to Huntsville to be with their families at the Hospitality House - a ministry launched by Texas Baptists - before and after the execution.

Impending execution

1 other inmate, Miguel Angel Paredes, is scheduled for execution Oct. 28, and she plans to be present as a witness.

"Until about 2 years ago, when he began growing spiritually in gigantic steps ... he had a lot of hatred and anger in him," Ruelas said.

Since he committed his life to Christ, Paredes has been transformed.

"His testimony has given him open doors to be able to reach inmates who were unreachable by chaplains and other Christians in the free world, because they knew how he was years back and can visibly see the changes in him now," she said. "He knows how to talk to them and how to get to their hearts - he has impacted the life of many on death row."

Even the man's family has begun to visit him again.

Ministry to inmates on death row has grown to become a consuming passion for Ruelas.

"The men on death row are still human beings, created by God, and God also wants us to reach out to them with his love," she said.

(source: APBNews)

USA:

Victims, Their Families, and the Death Penalty

At 1.52pm on the 23rd July 2014, Joseph Wood was injected with lethal drugs on the order of the State of Arizona. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, and her father, Gene Dietz in 1989. Lethal injection is currently the U.S.A.'s method of choice for administering the death penalty which is supposed to be quick and relatively painless. The argument is that lethal injection is more humane than most other methods.

However, Joseph Wood's execution, which should have lasted no longer than 20 minutes, saw Mr. Wood desperately gasping for air for 1 hour and 57 minutes before he finally passed away. His death was so slow that after an hour, his lawyers began a request to the Supreme Court to have the procedure stopped on the grounds that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Before a decision could be made, Mr. Wood breathed his last breath.

It is hard to comprehend how, not only allowing, but causing a human being to go through such a horrific ordeal can constitute justice. It may be many other things: pay back, punishment, pain relief, but it is not justice. When asked about his feelings towards the botched death of Mr. Wood, Debbie Dietz's Brother-In-Law responded: "This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going 'let's worry about the drugs.' Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him, Drano, a corrosive drain cleaner?"

My heart breaks when I read quotes like this. Not only am I sorry for the initial ordeal the family had to experience, but it also pains me to know that they live that ordeal over and over again, every moment of their lives. The Dietz family have had to carry 25 years of anger, hurt and hatred. They deserve peace.

There is a Buddha quote which says: 'Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.' The death penalty ultimately does not solve anything. Whilst it may even the scorecard, it does not clear it. We need a justice system which enables the families of victims to recover and which removes the burden of anger and hatred.

Eradicating the death penalty will take a lot of work from a lot of people. It requires reforming our schools, our communities, our housing and our prison system, so that victims can have faith in the fact that rehabilitation of offenders can and will work. We need to create a victim support service which successfully helps families recover from trauma so that they no longer feel the need to see another human being die in order to feel better. None of these are easy feats.

The death penalty is the easy and lazy option, and It does not stop people from murdering others. It is a quick way of appeasing people's pain with no regard for the long-term impact. Families who have lost loved ones in the most horrific of circumstances deserve better than a quick-fix. They deserve an outcome which means no one else will ever have to suffer what they suffered. The death penalty cannot provide that outcome.

The death penalty is an affront to love, truth and justice, which are the three ideals that most victims' families are in desperate search of. Our justice system cannot be ruled by vengeance. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." The ideals of love, truth and justice need to underpin every part of society, not just our justice system, because then, and only then, will we have any hope of eradicating the heinous crimes which cause so much grief.

(source: Rebecca Novell, socialworkhelper.com)

TEXAS:

Still seeking justice for Rodney Reed----Cindy Beringer reports from Bastrop, Texas, as family and supporters of Rodney Reed carry on the struggle to save an innocent man from the execution machine.

The family and supporters of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed left a July 24 rally at the Bastrop County Courthouse with buoyed hopes and renewed optimism that justice is possible for this innocent man.

The rally was called to protest a cruel court hearing held the previous week, where senior judge Doug Shaver didn't even pause after the prosecutor finished speaking before setting an execution date for Reed - even though the state has agree to some, though not all, of the defense's request for additional DNA testing. Shaver said there would be ample time to evaluate the evidence - and then not only set a January 14, 2015, execution date, but explained to Reed in painful detail the step-by-step process by which his death by lethal injection would occur.

At the rally the next week, Reed's supporters learned that 8 retired federal and state judges - representing 6 states around the U.S., including Texas, and both the Republicans and Democrats - took the unusual step of filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that Reed's appeal be heard.

According to the brief, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied an appeal by Reed in January, should have ordered a district judge to review Reed's claims - hearing live witnesses who were cross-examined by lawyers - but instead engaged in improper fact-finding based on a "cold record" of briefs and affidavits. "That is not how our system of justice is designed to operate," the judges argued. "When courts have only affidavits without witness testimony, they lack the means of testing the accuracy, reliability, competence, scientific acumen, proper training and judgment of the [person testifying]."

The brief filed by the 8 retired judges was a clear slap in the face to the ancient "good ol' boy" system that has operated at its worst in this case, including the execution date set for an innocent. As the Campaign to End the Death Penalty said in a statement after the July 14 hearing:

While important evidence is being tested and interpreted, and while other testing is being considered, it is both irresponsible and cruel for the state to seek an execution date and for the warrant to be issued by any judge. This amounts to torture for both Rodney and his family, who now have to live under the threat of an specific execution date, even as Rodney's defense team and supporters fight to prove his innocence.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For 17 years, Reed's family and supporters have fought Jim Crow justice and the results of one of the most botched and distorted trial and appeals process in the history of Texas - a state where there are many contenders for that dishonor.

Reed, who is Black, was convicted for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, with whom he had had a consensual relationship, as many people in Bastrop knew.

There is strong evidence that Stites, who is white, was murdered by her fiance, a Bastrop police officer, who is currently serving time for raping a woman while on duty. But the police never investigated the officer, Jimmy Fennell, who once told a fellow police trainee that he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if he caught her cheating - which is how Stites died. At his trial, Reed faced an all-white jury, which voted to convict him.

After hearing from several speakers at the courthouse gazebo, the 40 or so demonstrators, hailing from Austin, Bastrop, Houston and even France, marched around the large courthouse grounds, chanting. The protesters then took the unprecedented step of marching through the streets of downtown Bastrop, not sure what to expect and hoping for the best.

Historic downtown Bastrop is about two blocks wide and four blocks long, mostly quaint stores and restaurants. It felt like an incongruous march through a John Wayne western movie, but as Rodney Reed's brother Roderick observed, we were the ones making history as our racially diverse parade shouted, "Death row, hell no!"

Our reception was heartwarming. People came out of stores and restaurants to show support and take pictures. One woman did a little dance on the street and raised her fist in support.

Throughout the years, more and more residents of Bastrop have joined our quest for justice for Rodney Reed. Among them are a cousin of the victim, Stacy Stites; a woman who saw the "Free Rodney Reed" sign in front of the Reed home, introduced herself to learn more and became a staunch supporter; and a material witness from Reed's trial who concluded that the prosecutor hadn't told her the truth.

It appears that in Bastrop, only the police and courts are holding firm to Jim Crow injustice - in the interests of protecting their own. With the help of eight retired judges and the growing list of Reed supporters, from Bastrop and beyond, who continue to fight for his freedom, we believe that justice will prevail' - and the judges and prosecutors and police will be exposed for the professional liars and racists that they are.

(source: Socialistworker.org)

FLORIDA:

Ministry to Those Soon To Be Killed

"Really? Should our standard of moral action be that we're not as bad as the criminals in our midst?" asks Dale S. Recinella, the Florida bishops' chaplain to prisoners on death row and in solitary confinement, interviewed in America. The chaplain's major concern, he had explained, is the horrible conditions in the prison - they don't, for example, have air conditioning, in Florida - while some people defend the conditions by saying "Its not as bad as what the criminals did."

He describes his opposition to the death penalty (and the ineptness of the biblical arguments for it), ministry to those in solitary confinement, and the problems of the mentally ill, among other subjects. Among them are his and his wife's care for the families of those being executed, "these families that nobody cares about":

Here in Florida, the family of the condemned are not allowed to be present when the execution takes place, even though the chaplains are allowed to be there. We found out that the family usually goes back to a motel and watches on TV to see if the execution takes place. Only the condemned man's lawyer and spiritual advisor are present for him. My wife Susan said "this is horrible" and started making herself available to be with the families. She found that even those families who weren't Catholic usually wanted to be in a quiet and sacred place when the execution happened.

So then St. Mary Mother of Mercy parish - the only Catholic parish between Jacksonville and Lake City, located just 15 miles from the death house - started providing a place for Susan, the parish priest and the family to pray. . . . Sometimes I come straight from the death house to join them at the parish.

They also minister to the victim's families, who may families people care about but not families people know how to help:

One of the things my wife Susan and I always mention is that every occupied death row cell, whether the man inside is guilty or not, represents a horrible crime where someone's loved one has died. Susan and I also minister to families of murder victims and we've been shocked to realize how isolated many of them are. People don't know how to touch that pain and so they stay away.

So we always end our presentations with a plea that Catholics in parishes find ways to minister to the victims of these horrible crimes and to their families. Find ways to offer the true healing of community, love, compassion and walk with these people through a horror that hit them like a lightning bolt out of the blue. These people are in every parish and every community. We need to be creative about bringing real healing to these suffering people in our midst.

(source: David Mills, patheos.com)

INDIANA:

Sentencing phase begins for convicted serial killer's final case

Sentencing is underway in convicted serial killer William Clyde Gibson's 3rd and final murder case.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the murder of Charlestown mother, Stephanie Kirk, whose body was found buried in Gibsons's backyard.

Gibson pleaded guilty last month to Kirk's murder, so it will be up to Judge Susan Orth, not a jury, to decide his sentence.

Because it is a death penalty case, the sentencing phase is more like a trial and is expected to last multiple days with both sides calling witnesses and presenting evidence.

With the 1st witness more about happened to Kirk was revealed.

She disappeared in March 2012, but it was a month later that police discovered her body in Gibson's New Albany yard.

That discovery was made only after he confessed to her murder following his arrest for killing another woman, 75-year-old Christine Whitis.

In court Monday, New Albany police Sgt. Steve Bush testified about that confession.

He said Gibson met Kirk at a bar, then brought her home where the 2 had sex.

Bush said the 2 later argued about pills, so Gibson strangled Kirk, then sexually assaulted her, and broke her back.

Gibson told police he left Kirk's naked dead body in his garage for a couple days, then dug a 4-foot deep hole in his backyard, where he buried her.

This hearing is expected to go through Thursday.

After that, both sides will have 7-10 days to file sentencing briefs.

Orth will then hand down a sentence another 7-10 days after that.

She can sentence Gibson to death, life without parole or a number of years in prison.

A jury already convicted Gibson of killing Whitis and sentenced him to death.

He also pleaded guilty to killing Karen Hodella and received 65 years in prison.

(source: WLKY News)

KANSAS:

Prosecutor: Judicial recusals from cases don't happen often----Move can pose challenges for state, defense

While the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration doesn't keep statistics on how often judges recuse themselves from cases, Shawnee County chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling said it doesn't happen often.

Shawnee County District Judge Mark Braun recused himself Friday from the capital murder trial of Phillip D. Cheatham Jr., who was originally sentenced to death for the 2003 shooting deaths of 2 Topeka women. Police say the shootings were drug-related.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the sentence in 2013, citing ineffective assistance of counsel. Cheatham is to have a new trial on the charges.

There have been 82 motions filed in the case - Spradling had 6 3-ring binders filled with them and responses in court with her Friday. All motions, including 37 of which have already been argued, will have to be argued again in front of a new judge.

"Both parties want the same thing - to make sure the defendant gets a fair trial," Spradling said.

While the state and the defense want the defendant to get a fair trial, Spradling said a recusal does pose problems, such as a waiting for a new judge to be appointed, motions having to be argued again and court dates having to be rescheduled.

In February 2009, then-Shawnee County District Judge Charles Andrews Jr. recused himself from hearing the county's lawsuit against former District Attorney Robert Hecht. In that case, Andrews told attorneys for both sides he had information that posed a conflict of interest and created a basis for him to recuse himself.

Andrews, who died in 2012, also recused himself in March 2010 from hearing a lawsuit filed against the city of Topeka by Jim and Sharon Suwalski. The Suwalskis were asking a judge to overturn a ruling made earlier that found Jim Suwalski violated the city's clean air ordinance. In a March 2010 article about Andrews recusing himself, Andrews, who became a district judge in 1990, said he had "probably recused himself from 10 or 15 cases in which he was close enough to someone involved that he didn't think it would be fair for him to hear the case."

In June 2013, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi denied a motion to recuse herself from the trial of William Marotta, a Topeka man who answered a Craigslist ad in which 2 Topeka women were seeking a sperm donor.

In Cheatham's case, he filed a judicial complaint against Braun. Cheatham's complaint stems from the judge in May promising a fair trial before he had ruled on motions. Cheatham contends defense motions, which include a challenge to the state's death penalty, require the trial to be dismissed.

Braun in court said he hadn't received official word of the complaint. However, he went ahead and recused himself so there would be no question later.

Braun said because it is a death penalty case, he wants there to be an "orderly and fair resolution."

Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson will have to appoint a new judge to the case.

Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for the Kansas judiciary, said the state doesn't track recusals. She also noted there wasn't a public file available on Cheatham's complaint against Braun. Complaints don't become public until after a particular point in the process, she said.

There were a total of 183 complaints filed last year, according to the 2013 Commission of Judicial Qualifications' annual report. The complaints become undocketed or docketed. Undocketed complaints are dismissed with a letter to the complainant and to the judge. Of the 183 complaints filed last year, 30 were officially docketed, which means a panel thought further investigation was warranted.

The most common complaint filed in 2013 was the defendant was denied a fair hearing.

Between 2009 and 2013, the highest number of complaints received was 217 in 2011, the report stated. 22 were docketed. The highest number of docketed complaints occurred in 2012, when there were 44 docketed.

(source: Capital Journal Online)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Convicted killer compares Gov. Nixon, Missouri to Hitler, Mengele, Auschwitz

43-year-old Michael Shane Worthington is scheduled to be executed early the morning of August 6 for the 1995 murder of his neighbor, Melinda Griffin. Griffin was found raped and strangled in her Lake St. Louis condo.

Worthington, like other convicted men, their attorneys, and death penalty critics, say Missouri's execution protocol is wrong for keeping secret details about procedures and drugs used, and for using compounding pharmacies that they claim could produce faulty drugs.

Such critics say compounding pharmacies have a history of producing drugs that are too potent or too weak, and could cause an inmate to suffer, which would violate the Constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Worthington has strong words for Governor Jay Nixon (D) and the state.

"Basically he's no different than a Joseph Mengele and Adolph Hitler, you know what I mean? This place is a baby Auschwitz," Worthington tells Missourinet. "They're just marching us through there and experimenting on us like Joseph Mengele did. That's why they called him the angel of death. Nixon and his people are no different."

Worthington says compounding pharmacies are, "basically a meth lab. It's really no different. These people might be educated, but they're making drugs to kill us and then they want to hide behind the secrecy clause."

"We're told it's pentobarbital but we don't really know it is," says Worthington of the execution drug. "We're just told it us. We're not allowed to know where it comes from so we can't investigate to make sure that the company ... what complaints have been against them."

Ready to be executed

Worthington says he is prepared to die. He just believes the way the state carries out executions is wrong.

"I know where I'm going. I know I'm saved. I know I'll be okay. I know I'm forgiven. I know I messed up in life," says Worthington. "My life's been hell and horrible. I don't want to die [in prison] an old man, so getting it over with now is perfectly fine with me. They're doing me a favor. I don't like the way they go about doing the things they do, but I'm perfectly willing to go. I've had no fear of death."

Worthington claims drugs and alcohol robbed him of his memories of the night of the murder, and says those drugs and alcohol also likely rendered him "impotent," and unable to have attacked Griffin. He claims 2 other men were likely responsible; men with whom he had an association and whom he believed went into Griffin's apartment to commit a burglary.

Griffin's mother, Carol Angelbeck, says she's heard that claim before, and says it was proven to be false.

"He says that [those 2 men] had unplugged all of Mindy's ... her television and everything and when my husband went in when they gave us the condo back ... nothing was touched, so that was a lie," says Angelbeck.

Worthington tells Missourinet that his attorneys urged him to confess and coached him on what to say, and says parts of his confession didn't match the case.

Angelbeck doesn't believe that, either.

"He pled guilty in open court, under oath, and he gave a blow-by-blow description of what he did to Mindy," says Angelbeck, who says he described the crime matter-of-factly to the court. "He strangled her twice," she says.

Most upsetting to Angelbeck was that Worthington also tells Missourinet that he had a friendly relationship with Griffin, but Angelbeck says she's actually relieved to know what he's saying about the crime today.

"As a decent human being and as a Christian I really was feeling a little bit sorry for him maybe," says Angelbeck, "and this proved to me that he is never sorry, he still won't take responsibility, so his sentence is right and it should stand."

Asked what he would say to Angelbeck, Worthington says it hurts to know that he was the cause of Griffin's death, saying that the 2 men he believes were responsible knew of Griffin through him.

"I could have possibly been there that night. I don't know," says Worthington. "I don't know what it was, but yes I'm guilty in part ... whether I was the actual killer or whether I was the actual one that raped her, it doesn't matter to me. I still feel guilty in my heart."

Worthington is set to have a clemency hearing Thursday. Governor Nixon will decide whether to grant him clemency.

Angelbeck tells Missourinet she still plans to witness Worthington's execution.

(source: missourinet.com)

ARIZONA:

Justice stumbled but succeeded

Arizona continues to be condemned over the so-called botched execution by lethal injection of convicted double-murderer Joseph R. Wood III.

Last Wednesday, Wood was administered a drug cocktail. This manner of putting criminals to death usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. But something went awry, and the killer took nearly 2 hours to die; 1 hour, 52 minutes, to be exact. Some witnesses say he gasped, snorted and convulsed throughout, struggling to breathe; others, mostly corrections department and state officials, say he was snoring. Wood's family members, attorney and some journalists were horrified at how he appeared to be treated inhumanely. A review of Arizona's execution process has been ordered by the governor.

"I just know it was not efficient," said Michael Kiefer, a reporter for the Arizona Republic who witnessed the execution. "It took a long time."

Do you know who would've done a faster, more efficient job of killing Wood than the state of Arizona?

Joseph R. Wood III himself, and he has the track record to prove it.

On Aug. 7, 1989, Wood walked into the auto body shop near Tucson owned by the family of his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and shot her father, Gene, in the chest, killing him instantly and leaving him in a pool of blood. Wood then walked to another section of the shop, restrained Debbie and said, "I told you I was going to do this. I love you. I have to kill you, bitch." He then shot her once in the abdomen and once in the chest, killing her instantly.

No gasping. No snorting. No convulsing. No struggling to breathe. 3 shots, 2 dead instantly. Lethal. Efficient. Humane?

Kiefer counted Wood gasping 660 times. I wonder how many times members of the Dietz family have gasped reliving the horror of Wood's madness? 600? 6,000? Incalculable? How many sleepless nights has Gene Dietz's brother, who was unable to stop Wood in the body shop that day, spent reliving the murders and wondering if there was anything more he could have done to prevent them?

I wonder how long Dietz family members will suffer recalling Wood's final words and smug look as he addressed them before the needle of justice was stuck in his arm?

"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 all of you," Wood said, in part, while smiling at the victims' family.

Their pain will last significantly longer than 1 hour, 52 minutes.

The Wood execution has fanned to flame the embers of whether capital punishment is inhumane and should be outlawed. It's not a deterrent to crime, they cry, so why have it? For many, it's not about whether or not it's a deterrent. Rather, it's about justice for the family and friends of the victims, knowing the murderer of their loved one serving a life sentence is gone.

In his book "The Death of Punishment," New York Law School professor and death penalty advocate Robert Blecker wrote, "1 month after being sentenced to life without parole ... that person will be outside his cell, free to shower, talk on the phone, play with others, rec indoors and out, 10 to 12 hours a day, every day for the rest of his life. ... From the 1st day on death row, if you have the money in your commissary, you can get a color TV. ... You tell me this is justice?"

Justice was carried out in Arizona. While it may have stumbled, it succeeded.

(source: Column, Phil Gianficaro----Burlington County Times)

USA:

Death penalty exists for reason

To the editor:

I have been reading how new drugs supplied by secret drug companies have been somewhat ineffective in producing death in a timely manner to convicted killers. How sad for the killer!

I feel that once a person commits murder, he or she should no longer be protected by our constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. They should receive the same punishment they inflicted on their victim - preferably, with the same weapon. After all, it caused death, didn't it?

Also, appeals are very expensive and serve no purpose except to prolong the life of the individual on death row. This causes undue grief and anxiety for the victim's family. No killer should live on our planet for too long - maybe a year at the most.

Ed Blizard----Jacksonville

(source: Letter to the Editor, Jacksonville (N.C.) Daily News)

IRAN:

Political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi demands UN to investigate his death sentence

Mr. Arzhang Davoodi, a political prisoner sentenced to death by the Iranian regime judiciary on a new charge of "enmity against God" has written a letter to the United Nations Secretary General demanding the UN to investigate his death sentence.

Mr. Davoodi, 61, from the city of Abadan and an engineer from University of Texas, was arrested in November 2003.

The judiciary of the mullahs condemned him to 11 years in prison, 74 lashes, and 5 years deprivation of social rights for founding the "Movement for Freedom of Iranians" and "Confederation of Iranian Students", writing a "manifest against the Islamic Republic system", and for insulting the clerical regime's leaders.

The henchmen of the clerical regime who are infuriated about the firm stances of this political prisoner against the mullahs' regime, tried him for a 3rd time in absentia in a Revolutionary Court in city of Karaj and sentenced him to death.

Mr. Davoodi wrote: "The sentence in all these court cases that have been lead to this unjust sentence are in contradiction to the United Nations Charter and also the regime's constitution. Therefore I would like the impartial international jurists review them as an example so that once again be clearly proven that to what extent the words and actions of the ruler's in Tehran contradict each other.

(source: NCR-Iran)

TEXAS:

Jury to weigh cop killer's fate in death penalty trial

Lawyers for Harlem Lewis III asked jurors Monday to spare the life of a 23-year-old who killed a Bellaire police officer and a good samaritan in 2012.

"He wasn't laying in wait to prey on someone," defense attorney Amy Martin told jurors. "The death penalty is for the worst of the worst. He is not the worst of the worst."

Prosecutors said Lewis belongs on death row because his crime was so horrendous.

"When a person executes a police officer, that person has stepped over the line that separates our society from anarchy," said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Craig Goodhart. "He has forfeited the right to live."

Lewis was convicted of killing Bellaire Corporal Jimmie Norman and businessman Terry Taylor after fleeing from a routine traffic stop about 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, 2012. After a high speed chase through residential areas of Bellaire in a black Honda Civic, Lewis stopped in the parking lot of Taylor's body shop. As Norman struggled to get Lewis out of his car, Taylor came out and tried to help.

During the 2-week trial, jurors saw dash cam video from Norman's patrol car that showed Lewis fighting with the officer, then shooting him once in the head and a split second later, shooting Taylor in the neck.

Jurors in state District Judge Mark Kent Ellis's court will have to decide between life in prison without parole or death.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

INDIANA:

Death penalty again weighed for William Gibson

New Albany's William Clyde Gibson pleaded guilty in the 2012 murder of Stephanie Kirk, but a judge now must decide if he should be sentenced to death or prison for the brutal slaying.

Starting Monday morning, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson and public defenders for Gibson will introduce evidence in the penalty phase of the case.

Gibson, 58, was convicted last October and sentenced to death for the murder of Christine Whitis, a 75-year-old Clarksville resident who was a close friend of Gibson's mother. He also pleaded guilty in March to murdering Florida hair stylist Karen Hodella in 2002.

Gibson took the unusual step of halting jury selection in the Kirk case in June, notifying his lawyers that he intended to plead guilty.

That's paved the way for what's expected to be 3 to 4 days of proceedings where the parties will call witnesses and introduce other evidence to allow Floyd Superior Judge Susan Orth to decide Gibson's penalty.

(source: Courier-Journal)

KENTUCKY:

Merits of Death Penalty Could Be Debated By 2015 Kentucky General Assembly

State Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville, plans to introduce a bill in January to abolish the death penalty.

It's legislation Neal has brought to Frankfort before. He tells the Messenger-Inquirer objections to the death penalty come from many different angles - including religious and constitutional concerns. But he approaches it on a cost basis, arguing life in prison costs Kentucky less money and achieves the same objective of removing the offender from society.

A legislative committee on judicial issues is set to meet Friday in Paducah, and is expected to discuss the death penalty.

(source: WKY Public Radio)

OKLAHOMA:

Murder trial postponed until January

The impending trial of Miles Bench, who faces a possible death penalty in the slaying of a Velma teen-ager, has been postponed until January.

District Judge Joe Enos granted the continuance at the request of Bench's attorneys, District Attorney Jason Hicks said Saturday.

Bench, 23, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of Braylee Rae Henry, a 16-year-old student at Velma High School, whose body was discovered near the rural home of the suspect's grandparents.

Bench, a David resident who been in jail more than two years now, was covered in blood when he was arrested about 130 miles away while driving the slain teenager's car, police said.

On the night she was killed in June 2012, Henry drove to buy gas at the Velma convenience store that employed Bench, investigators believe.

Attorneys for Bench have contended the suspect is mentally incompetent to stand trial but a jury ruled that he is competent.

Defense attorneys have filed a motion notifying the court they plan to raise an insanity defense in the case.

(source: The Duncan Banner)

ARIZONA:

Doctor: Injection lines placed correctly in inmate

Intravenous lines were placed correctly during the execution of an Arizona inmate whose death with lethal drugs took more than 90 minutes, a medical examiner said Monday.

Incorrect placement of lines can inject drugs into soft tissue instead of the blood stream, but the drugs used to kill Joseph Woods went into the veins of his arms, said Gregory Hess of the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hess also told The Associated Press that he found no unexplained injuries or anything else out of the ordinary when he examined the body of Woods, who gasped and snorted Wednesday more than 600 times before he was pronounced dead.

An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Hess said he will certify the outcome of Woods' execution as death by intoxication from the 2 execution drugs - the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone - if there is nothing unusual about whatever drugs are detected in Wood's system.

Hess' preliminary findings were reported previously by the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/1thLaFe ). Toxicology results are expected in 4 to 6 weeks from an outside lab.

Hess is chief deputy medical examiner for Pima County, which conducts autopsies for Pinal County, where the prison is located.

Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 killings of his estranged girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, and her father, Gene Dietz.

Wood was the 1st Arizona prisoner to be killed with the drug combination. Anesthesiology experts have said they weren't surprised the drugs took so long to kill him.

Arizona and other death-penalty states have scrambled in recent years to find alternatives to drugs used previously for executions but are now in short supply due to opposition to capital punishment.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered the Corrections Department to conduct a review of the execution of Wood.

(source: The Associated Press)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Smerconish's Death Penalty Lament----He suggests that death delayed is justice denied. He's wrong.

Poor Michael Smerconish. Pennsylvania still isn't killing people as fast as he'd like.

So the radio host/CNN talking head took to the most prominent op-ed space in Philly - the Sunday paper, right next to the editorials - and sounded off on an old hobby horse: Pennsylvania justice isn't working correctly because the state too rarely carries out an execution.

"Today, no matter how heinous the murder, no killer could have a well-founded fear of actually being executed in Pennsylvania," he lamented. And he's right. Pennsylvania hasnít carried out an execution that was opposed by the defendant since 1962.

One thing that Smerconish fails to properly consider, though, is how that empty death chamber might actually be serving the interests of justice.

Yes, Smerconish acknowledged that roughly 1/3 of death sentences since the 1970s had been reversed or remanded by judges because of trial errors by the lawyers. That's a huge percentage. He ascribes this to the state's federal judges and their "unwillingness" to allow the death penalty to be carried out, rather than those lawyers.

Consider this, however: Until 2 years ago, court-appointed lawyers in death penalty cases - the counsel in the vast majority of death cases coming through the system - were paid on average less than $2 an hour to defend accused murderers: You could get paid better to sweep the supply room at McDonald's. But would you want the McDonald's janitor defending your life before a judge and jury?

Since then, the base fee paid to capital-case lawyers in Pennsylvania has quintupled. But that still leaves dozens of cases before then in which defendants faced the system at bargain basement costs. It'll be years before we can tell if the new, higher fees result in better representation for death penalty suspects. In the meantime, though, it's no wonder 1/3 of cases get sent back to trial court.

Like I say, this topic is an old one for Smerconish. He's written about it several times before. This time, though, he tries a different approach - that of taking his ball and going home. If we can't administer the death penalty efficiently, he says, it's time to repeal the punishment once and for all.

Which means Smerconish is right about something, though probably accidentally.

Ending the death penalty would save the state millions, both in housing convicts in high-security facilities and in handling their appeals.

Plus, as he says, eliminating the penalty would also reduce years and decades of uncertainty for family members, friends, and others.

But given Smerconish's past as a high-profile advocate for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, it's unlikely he's joining the peace-and-flowers brigade. No, he's challenging Pennsylvania to do away with the obstacles and start up the executions.

The obstacles serve a purpose. Taking the life of a citizen - even a murderer - is the state using its most extreme power. We should be cautious about unleashing it. If the choice is between watching the state use the power badly or not at all, I vote not at all. Pennsylvania is already too bloody.

(source: Joel Mathis, phillymag.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

3 death row inmates granted reprieves in Dorchester County

In the past year, 3 murderers sentenced by Dorchester County juries to die by lethal injection or electrocution have been granted reprieves - 1 commuted to life in prison and 2 others granted new sentencing hearings.

"There is an expression that 'death is different,' meaning death penalty cases get more appellate scrutiny than other cases," said 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, who prosecutes cases in Dorchester, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. "This is very understandable given the circumstances of the consequences, but it doesn't make it better for the families of victims who get no justice or closure."

While it's not unusual for capital punishment cases to be sent back for new sentencing hearings or even overturned, Pascoe said, it's often difficult to track down witnesses to crimes committed many years ago. And that's assuming the survivors are willing to relive the crimes by testifying or sitting through another trial or hearing.

None of the three Dorchester County death row cases involved errors by the trial judge or misdeeds by the prosecutor. Instead, two successfully argued their defense attorneys had not represented them adequately at trial or in the sentencing phase and the third was resentenced to life without parole because of his mental condition.

None of the higher court rulings frees any of the 3 inmates, although 1 facing resentencing, Timothy Rogers, could eventually be eligible for parole if he gets life instead of the death penalty.

Abusive childhood defense

John Edward Weik hovered over the mother of his child as he wielded a shotgun. He fired the gun 4 times at 27-year-old Susan Hutto Krasae. The 1st shot nearly severed her arm. A shotgun pellet fractured her right jawbone. The shots to her chest killed her.

On May 27, 1999, a jury found him guilty of murder. The next day they sentenced him to death.

After exhausting his appeals, Weik filed for post-conviction relief, claiming his attorneys did not present enough evidence during sentencing to properly portray his troubled upbringing.

Attorney Michael O'Connell, who worked on Weik's post-conviction relief case, argued that testimony and evidence that had not been presented at his death penalty hearing would have shown how "chaotic" and dysfunctional his childhood had been.

A judge denied the post-conviction relief request for a new sentencing hearing, but it was granted on appeal by the S.C. Supreme Court earlier this week.

The Supreme Court ruled that Weik's abusive childhood, "saturated with violence," was not presented properly during his original sentencing hearing.

"I'm not minimizing the pain the victim's family went through," O'Connell said. "I understand it's there. I'm a human being besides being a lawyer.

"But not everyone who commits murder should be sentenced to death."

Pascoe said he will consult with Krasae's family to determine whether they'll go after the death penalty again. Otherwise, Weik will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

"You really get no closure in some of these cases," Pascoe said.

The case will be costly and time consuming - a jury will have to be convened, so witnesses have to be tracked down and evidence needs to be dusted off.

"Anytime cases like this one come back it is a financial burden on the office but it pales in comparison to what the family of the victims go through," Pascoe said.

Re-sentencing hearings

Weik's case is 1 of at least 2 death penalty cases Pascoe will have to handle.

In September, the South Carolina Supreme Court refused to hear Timothy Rogers' request for post-conviction relief, but sent it back to Dorchester County for a resentencing hearing.

In 1994 Rogers, now 46, was sentenced to death for the Nov. 25, 1992, murder of 9-year-old Stephanie Burditt, who he shot in the head outside a Summerville grocery store.

Burditt was in her father's truck, which was parked in front of a grocery store, Her father, Michael Burditt, and Rogers, who had walked up to the store, began arguing, possibly about the use of a pay phone. The argument continued as Burditt got into his truck, and Rogers, then 24, pointed a gun at Burditt's head and threatened to kill him.

As Burditt drove off, Rogers fired at the truck. The shot pierced the back window and struck Stephanie Burditt in the head. She was taken to a hospital but died the next day.

Rogers was granted a new sentencing hearing in 1996 and a jury, once again, sentenced him to death.

However, after claiming ineffective counsel, he was granted a 3rd sentencing hearing. No hearing date has been set.

A 3rd death row inmate also could end up getting a new hearing. Kenneth Simmons, 53, who had been sentenced to death in Dorchester County in 1999, was resentenced to life without parole after a higher court ruled he should not be executed because he is mentally challenged.

The state is appealing the court's decision. Depending on the outcome in the appeal, Simmons could wind up before a Dorchester County jury for resentencing.

Simmons was convicted of murder in the Sept. 1, 1996, robbery, rape, torture and killing of 87-year-old Lily Bell Boyd in her Summerville home.

In a taped confession, Simmons told police that he had been smoking crack cocaine and drinking beer for hours before he rode a bicycle to Boyd's West Luke Street home and robbed her to buy more crack.

After Boyd gave him cash, Simmons beat her with a stick he found on her porch, then raped and strangled her.

Her body was found in the kitchen later that Sunday. Boyd had been gagged and beaten bloody, her wrists and feet bound and her ribs fractured in 14 places.

(source: The Post and Courier)

ALABAMA:

With Judges Overriding Death Penalty Cases, Alabama Is An Outlier

When Courtney Lockhart was tried for murder in Alabama, the jury unanimously recommended a life sentence, but the judge overrode that recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to death instead. Now the convicted murderer is asking the state Supreme Court to examine Alabama's unique process of judicial override.

Alabama is an outlier. It's the only state in which judges routinely override jury decisions not to impose the death penalty.

Lockhart's journey through the Alabama judicial system began in 2008, after he carjacked and murdered Auburn University freshman Lauren Burk. He confessed three days later, and was convicted of capital murder at trial in 2010.

That jury unanimously recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole after considering the circumstances surrounding Lockhart's violent actions.

An Army veteran, Lockhart spent 16 months in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004, a region then known as "the deadliest part of Iraq." There he witnessed the deaths of friends and comrades, survived firefights and a direct mortar strikes. In total, 64 members of his brigade died in-theater. The consequences for many of those who survived were profound and violent. Many, like Lockhart, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and by 2010 at least 12 soldiers from the brigade had been arrested for murder or attempted murder.

The jury unanimously concluded that these facts mitigated Lockhart's culpability, voting to send him to prison for the rest of his life. But the elected judge presiding over the trial decided that Lockhart should receive the death penalty instead. Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III overrode the jury's recommended sentence in March 2011, citing Lockhart's alleged actions in a series of robberies committed after the shooting. The judge asserted that the jury would have been more likely to recommend the death penalty had it been able to consider the robberies.

Lockhart appealed his sentence to the state's Court of Criminal Appeals and lost. This May, Lockhart's lawyers appealed to the state Supreme Court in hopes that it would "reevaluate the propriety of judicial override," according to Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the anti-death penalty group Equal Justice Initiative. The court could take up the case any time in the next several months.

The U.S. Supreme Court, beginning in 2000, has said that juries must decide all key questions affecting a defendant's sentence. And the court has specifically applied that concept to death cases.

The result is that in practice, judicial overrides have all but faded away. Today only Alabama judges still override jury recommendations of life in prison and sentence defendants to death instead. In 2 other states - Florida and Delaware - laws on the books technically still permit judges to adjust jury-recommended sentences. But both states have enacted restrictions that amount to abolishing judicial overrides in practice. None of Delaware's death row inmates was sentenced by an override, and there have been no such judicial overrides in Florida in the last 15 years.

In contrast, the practice of judicial override in Alabama is so widespread that it accounts for 1/5 of death row prisoners. 30 such overrides took place in Alabama in the 1980s; there were 44 in the 1990s, and there have been 27 since 2000. The most recent statistics show more than 40 current death row inmates were sentenced by judicial override, contrary to the judgment of the jury.

Part of what is at work in Alabama is political. The Equal Justice Initiative asserts that "the proportion of death sentences imposed by override often is elevated in election years." For instance, while judicial overrides accounted for 7 % of death sentences in the nonelection year of 1997, in the election year of 2008, they accounted for 30 %. And a number of elected judges have featured their death penalty records in campaign commercials.

Alabama has the highest per capita death penalty rate in the country. In some years, it imposes more death sentences than Texas, a state with a population 5 times as large. But if it were not for the practice of judicial override, says Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, Alabama's death penalty rate would resemble the rate of the other 31 states that have capital punishment.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has refuse to review Alabama's death penalty judicial overrides, meaning that for now at least, the issue is in the hands of the state Supreme Court.

(source: NPR)

MISSISSIPPI:

Lawyers talk about whether bond possible for woman facing 2nd trial in husband's death

Former death row inmate Michelle Byrom's attorney says a judge could consider whether to release her on bond while she awaits her 2nd trial in her husband's death in 1999.

But David Calder of Oxford tells The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/1k2kYLQ) that Byrom could not post even a $10,000 bond.

Byrom was sent to the Tishomingo County jail after the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned her capital murder conviction on March 31, ordering a new trial.

Calder says her health problems include lupus, arthritis and hip troubles, and she uses a wheelchair.

Longtime defense lawyer John White of Iuka says that counties historically have not wanted to pay medical expenses for seriously ill people who don't pose a threat to society. He says keeping Byrom in jail would be expensive.

(source: Associated Press)

KENTUCKY:

Louisville man could face death penalty in cold case conviction

A Louisville man convicted of murder and rape could face the death penalty.

A jury is expected to return to the courtroom Monday to decide Larry White's fate. The case against White dates back more than 30 years.

White was charged in 2007, after police secured DNA evidence linking him to the death of 22-year-old Pamela Armstrong. Her body was found in an alley near Beech Street in June 1983.

White was previously convicted of the murders of 2 other women in Louisville that summer. He served a 28 year sentence for the 1st 2 murders, which he has completed.

(source: WDRB news)

********************

Death penalty abolition bill filed

Although the next state legislative session doesn't begin until January, a number of bills relating to crime and the judicial system have already been filed in Frankfort for consideration.

In particular, the bills include one that calls for a public vote on a constitutional amendment to ban the death penalty, while another bill would create a legislative task force that would study issues related to the death penalty and make recommendations to legislators. Another bill also calls for a state constitutional amendment to restore the right to vote to certain classifications of convicted felons.

(source: Messenger-Inquirer)

KANSAS:

Lawmaker sees need for Kansas death penalty fixes

The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman says he'll push again next year for changes aimed at expediting appeals in capital punishment cases.

Independence Republican Jeff King says the cases of capital murder defendants Jonathan and Reginald Carr show that the state's system for handling death penalty cases is broken.

The senator pushed unsuccessfully earlier this year for legislation to shorten the appeals process.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday overturned the Carrs' death sentences for a crime spree that ended with the shooting of 4 people in December 2000 in a Wichita field.

King noted that the Carrs were convicted and sentenced to die in 2002 and said it shouldn't have taken so long for the high court to rule. He also disagreed with Friday's ruling.

(source: Associated Press)

NEVADA:

Slow executions could affect Nevada cases

Messy executions in Arizona and Ohio that made national headlines could buoy efforts by death penalty opponents to stave off capital punishment for some 80 Nevada inmates awaiting execution.

The cases could be used to pile on to the ever-growing number of legal challenges to capital punishment in the Silver State, adding the argument that the use of lethal injection should be considered a cruel and unusual form of punishment, said Clark County Deputy Public Defender Scott Coffee.

"If anything, we are going back to the Dark Ages," Coffee said. "The guillotine is less cruel and unusual than what they have done in Arizona and Ohio as of late."

With Nevada already facing a plethora of legal challenges, it remains unclear whether the state has the ability to put someone to death if a warrant for execution is issued.

Nevada's execution chamber is at Nevada State Prison in Carson City, which was decommissioned in 2012. And it is unknown whether the state has up-to-date pharmaceuticals to perform a lethal injection execution.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta said he's not sure how the state could conduct an execution if a warrant was issued. "Because Nevada has not had an execution since 2006, as far as we know, they don't have any available drugs," he said.

Pescetta has sought that information through a public records act request but has received no response from the state. He said the public records request was filed some time ago, and his office plans to file another one within the next month.

"If an execution warrant was issued now, I really have no idea what they would do," he said.

During the 2013 legislative session, Nevada Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox told the Legislature that the execution chamber at Nevada State Prison does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the agency would likely face a legal challenge if an attempt to use it was made.

However, the agency recently told the Review-Journal that the execution chamber is being maintained in the event that a warrant for execution is issued.

In the controversial Arizona execution on Wednesday and Ohio execution in January, both men took an unusually long time to die, gasping for air after they were injected with the drugs. Arizona and Ohio used the same drugs to carry out the executions, a combination of a sedative and a painkiller.

"What has happened in Arizona and in Ohio, if it showed us anything, it's the need for transparency in the meds we are using to kill people," said Coffee, who represents defendants in capital murder cases. "What has happened is that people are so zealous to get the death penalty imposed that they have decided to cut off transparency."

He added that the pharmaceuticals that Nevada has on hand to perform an execution are likely outdated and "we would have to go to the same sorts of sources that Arizona went to."

Meanwhile, there are no executions of death row inmates on the horizon in Nevada.

The state has executed 12 inmates since the death penalty was reauthorized in 1977. 11 of those executed had voluntarily given up their right to an appeal.

Death penalty proponents have complained that the lengthy appeals process involving state and federal courts have slowed Nevada's ability to execute an inmate. The appeal process, in some cases, has carried on for decades. One example is Pat Mckenna, who was originally sentenced to death in 1980 but remains on death row at the Ely State Prison in eastern Nevada more than 30 years later.

And now that lengthy appeal process, pushed by death row inmates and their lawyers, might also be used to halt executions.

A recent decision by a federal judge found that California's death penalty is unconstitutional because of lengthy and unpredictable delays in the state's court system. The decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney noted the delays resulted in an arbitrary and unfair capital punishment system. The ruling is likely to be appealed.

Death penalty opponents such as Coffee and Pescetta also point to the heavy financial cost as a reason to ban the practice.

A 2012 study by Terance Miethe with UNLV's criminal justice department found that defending the average capital murder case in Clark County cost $229,800 for a public defender and $287,250 for an appointed private counsel.

Noncapital murder cases cost $60,100 for a public defender and $75,125 for an appointed private lawyer, the study found.

And the county could save more than $15 million if the death penalty was removed as a possible punishment in murder cases, according to the study.

The study also concluded that death sentences are infrequently imposed in Clark County capital cases. In nearly half of the cases in which prosecutors sought the death penalty, the defendants were sentenced to life without parole. Capital punishment was ordered in 14 % of the cases reviewed by Miethe.

But capital punishment remains the law in Nevada and should be sought in "the worst of the worst cases," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Wolfson said he is required to follow the law and to seek the death penalty when it is appropriate.

He noted that his office seeks the death penalty in fewer cases than his predecessor, David Roger, who averaged filing a death penalty notice about 20 times annually in the 5 years prior to Wolfson taking office.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Attorney helps sound the death knell for capital punishment

Michael Laurence isn't interested in taking credit for the demise of the death penalty in California.

Plenty of other attorneys are helping to bring this state's version of capital punishment to its knees. But when, not if, the death penalty is fully put out of its misery, Laurence will be among its chief executioners.

During the past 25 years, Laurence has litigated the constitutionality of lethal injection and of the gas chamber, and the state's failure to appoint competent lawyers for death row inmates.

He is the lead defense lawyer in the latest case to upend capital punishment. A federal judge concluded earlier this month that California's version of the death penalty is cruel and usual punishment because no one is being put to death.

"To have a judge say the death penalty is unconstitutional, it is kind of stunning," Laurence said by phone the other day.

Laurence keeps a memento of his worst defeat framed on his office wall, as if he needs a reminder of a case he can never forget.

His client, Robert Alton Harris, had murdered 2 teenage boys in San Diego County in 1978 and, in a detail mentioned in nearly all subsequent reports of the crime, mine included, finished their Jack-in-the-Box lunches.

Harris was about to become the 1st person executed in California in 25 years, when, shortly after midnight on April 21, 1992, a telephone rang twice.

Judge Harry Pregerson had called San Quentin Warden Daniel Vasquez and ordered him to halt Harris' execution. Vasquez had been seconds away from dropping the cyanide pellets into acid-filled vats beneath Harris' chair.

I was among the witnesses who watched the macabre scene. Harris, strapped and hardly able to move, seemed to urge Vaquez to get on with the task for which we had gathered. Attorney General Dan Lungren stormed out of the witness area to personally oversee the appeal.

Hours later, as the dawn broke, the U.S Supreme Court issued the order that hangs on Laurence's wall: "No further stays of Robert Alton Harris' execution shall be entered by the federal courts except upon order of this court."

"It was a defining moment to lose a case that results in an execution," Laurence said.

Laurence was 32 and a few years out of UC Davis law school when Harris was executed; he's 54 now. A few days after the execution, he went to a memorial for Harris in San Francisco, and I stopped him to ask a few questions. He planned no time off.

"I want to make sure no one else has to die by lethal gas," he told me then.

California switched to death by lethal injection as a result of a bill that year by Assemblyman Tom McClintock, now a congressman from Elk Grove. McClintock said lethal injection would be "the only form of execution which from our own life's experience, we can conclude is entirely devoid of discomfort."

Hardly. In 2006, a federal judge halted the execution of a Stockton man who murdered a 17-year-old girl, citing doubts about the execution team's competence to administer lethal drugs. 8 years later, California authorities have failed to produce a protocol that might meet the courts' standards.

Laurence knows better than most the horrible acts that condemned inmates commit. He also sees sides of them that few others do, after they're off drugs and less psychotic than they were on the streets.

He has become expert in how brains function or don't, about schizophrenia, and the impact of fetal alcohol syndrome, which he believes led to Harris' inability to control his actions. And he is an absolutist.

"People don't trust the governor to figure out their taxes, and yet they trust government to decide who lives and dies," Laurence said.

Laurence's clients include Earnest Dewayne Jones, who is on death row for raping and murdering the mother of his girlfriend in Los Angeles in 1992, after having served time for raping the mother of an earlier girlfriend.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, presiding over Jones case, is no liberal. He has ruled against 2 other death row inmates. President George W. Bush appointed him to the federal bench.

In April, Carney issued an order that opened by saying: "This court is extremely troubled by the long delays in execution of sentence in this and other California death penalty cases." He told the lawyers to submit briefs on the issue.

Laurence answered: Jones was 28 in 1992 when he was charged with capital murder. He turned 50 one month ago today. Jones has spent 19 years on death row so far, and will wait more years for resolution.

"At the end of this lengthy process, this court likely will grant Mr. Jones a new trial, as the federal courts have done in the majority of California capital habeas corpus proceedings," Laurence said.

On July 16, Carney sided with Laurence, pointing out that more than 900 killers have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, and only 13 have been executed.

"As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary," Carney wrote.

Attorney General Kamala Harris has not decided whether to appeal, as if it would make any difference.

The California Supreme Court has been affirming death sentences routinely since voters ousted Gov. Jerry Brown's 1st chief justice, Rose Elizabeth Bird, and 2 other Brown appointees in 1986.

But that's only on direct appeals. Then there are the habeas corpus proceedings, which is where Laurence, the head of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, comes in.

He and his team of 30-plus lawyers, operating on a state budget of $12.9 million, are responsible for re-investigating the cases of death row inmates and litigating their collateral appeals.

The Legislature created the office in 1997, as a result of a suit he brought to force the state to appoint habeas attorneys. His shop can do only so much. At last count, 352 death row inmates were without habeas lawyers.

In 2008, something called the Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated California would need to spend an additional $232.7 million annually to fund the death penalty system.

6 years later, the report sits in the ether, waiting for a legislator to download, read it, and act. No one will. No matter their view, they know the death penalty cannot be fixed, nor should it be. There always will be another appeal.

(source: Dan Morain, Sacramento Bee)

USA:

Constituting Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The eighth amendment to the Constitution of the United States plainly makes clear that, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

And, yet, we're hearing stories of a convicted criminal enduring for nearly 2 hours before finally dying. In this case, our attention turns to Joseph Wood, as he struggled to breath after being injected twice with an experimental cocktail containing 2 different drugs.

In January, an inmate in Ohio was the victim of a drawn out 30 minute death, during which he gasped for breath and convulsed. In Oklahoma, a needle was dislodged and the the inmate ultimately died of a heart attack.

Although a majority of the public still supports the death penalty, we're seeing that less Americans, over the course of 20 years, are supporting it. Since the mid-1990s, we've seen a steady increase in opposition.

If we are to have any death penalty in this nation, then we must first find a way to humanely carry it out. People should not be strapped down, suffering, before their death. However, is there a way to do this?

Sodium thiopental has been a go-to component in lethal injections. In recent years, companies have stopped selling it and others have stopped producing it. These decisions have had a widespread impact on the nature of executions and are responsible for drug shortages states are experiencing. Additionally, due to a European Union ban, manufacturers abroad are prevented from exporting this to the United States. As it stands, Belarus is currently the only United Nations member state in Europe which carries out a death penalty.

A large part of the problem is that, in some states, the ingredients of their experimental injections are kept a secret from the public and this secrecy is reinforced by state law. In many cases, we just don't know what is being used. And, even when we know what has been used in the prisoner's death, the company selling the drug for this use is often protected and kept private. This makes it difficult to hold anybody accountable and, unlike Europe, creates a new obstacle in pressuring companies to halt the manufacture or sale of these drugs for the state's use.

Americans deserve to live in safety, free from crime and those who commit it. However, what is the death penalty achieving? If we cannot adequately carry it out, is it even worth the effort? If the public slowly continues to oppose capital punishment, we could very well see a majority being against it within the next 10 to 20 years. Much like in 1972, if states fail to secure a safe way to execute its prisoners, we may be facing another suspension of the death penalty based on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Patrick Holman, The Moderate Voice)

****************

The myth of botched executions

On Wednesday, the State of Arizona executed Joseph Wood.

The left wing media immediately jumped on the case, calling it a "botched execution."

To begin with, the execution wasn't botched. He's dead, isn't he?

Wood was convicted of 2 counts of 1st degree ,urder. The murders occurred in 1989. Wood was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991. He spent 23 years on death row while tax payer funded lawyers cranked out every strategy possible to stop or delay his execution.

The botching was not the execution. The botching was that it took 23 years.

There was never any doubt about Wood's guilt. He killed the father of his ex-girlfriend and then killed his ex-girlfriend. The killed was witnessed by employees of the auto shop where the father worked.

The problem with the death penalty in America is that liberals have taken a system that worked, broke it and then claimed the system is so broken it must be abolished. This is sort of like Barack Obama's approach to immigration.

In the '80s and '90s, the left made 2 major pushes against the death penalty. The 1st was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which Bill Clinton signed in 1996. The left claimed there were massive numbers of death penalty cases being set aside for "ineffective assistance of counsel." There weren't that many, but that did not stop the left. What the Effective Death Penalty Act did was create a gravy train for anti-death penalty lawyers. Judges were trained to never turn down a request by court appointed lawyers for funds in death penalty cases. Lawyers were taught out to get everything they wanted, driving the costs of these cases up.

But the left also pushed for the abolition of other forms of execution in favor of lethal injection. They argued lethal injection was more "humane" than the other forms of execution that were being used at the time, such as the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging or the firing squad.

By the early 2000s, most states had gone to lethal injection. Then the left made a coordinated attack on lethal injection. Anti-death penalty lawyers have gone after the sources of the drugs that are used, often forcing states to use alternative drugs or compounding pharmacies. These same lawyers demanded the identity of these pharmacies be revealed so presumably the pharmacy could then be harassed.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, suggested that the states should go back to firing squads for execution.

The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. At the time the time the Constitution was written, being drawn and quartered or boiled in oil were punishments our founding fathers wanted to prohibit. For decades after the Constitution was ratified, flogging was still a legal punishment aboard Navy Ships.

Judge Kozinski is right.

If the left wants to make war on lethal injection, let's go back to the old fashioned killing of condemned prisoners. 10 to 20 shooters with high powered rifles at short range firing several shots each rapidly is going to quickly kill someone.

The real outrage with executions is not that a convicted murderer like Joseph Wood may have suffered some discomfort. According to the State of Arizona he was sedated the whole time so he would not have felt anything.

The real outrage is that it takes 23 years for a sentence to be executed.

That is the outrage.

(source: Judson Phillips, Washington Times)

JULY 27, 2014:

TEXAS:

When the Wrong Man Dies----DeLuna book reminds us of death penalty's danger

While the national debate over the death penalty has been rekindled by Wednesday's botched execution of a murderer in Arizona, the execution of Carlos DeLuna should matter much more. It happend almost 25 years ago. It should haunt us still today.

DeLuna's death at the hands of the state of Texas was almost certainly a crime in itself. The evience is compelling that he was an innocent man and that it was another Carlos - Carlos Hernandez - who in February 1983 brutally murdered a single mother named Wanda Lopez as she worked in a Corpus Christi convenience store.

A newly published book by Columbia Law School professor James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project lays out the story not only of Lopez's sadistic murder but of the injustice that probably led the state to strap an innocent man to a gurney and poison him to death.

The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, shows how law enforcement officers botched the investigation of Lopez's death from the first moments they walked into the crime scene.

Evidence that included shoe prints, a cigarette butt, a wad of chewing gum and clumps of hair were ingnored or overlooked. Detectives trampled on the blood-covered crime scene before it was washed down and erased by 6 a.m. the morning after the murder. The primary detective on the case spent less than 2 hours at the scene and never saw it in the light of day, the book states.

DeLuna was no saint. The 8th-grade dropout was a repeat felon. But when police found him hiding under a truck as they scoured a neighborhood for a suspect - not a drop of blood on him - it was the fatal beginning of wrong assumptions and bad law enforcement.

The key evidence against DeLuna was an eyewitness who identified hm as theman he saw struggling with Lopez behind the counter of the convenience store window. That witness, Kevin Baker, was pumping gas when he saw the fight. He walked to the convenience store door as the killer walked out. They stood 3 feet apart. "Don't mess with me, I got a gun" the murderer said.

A former Navy medic, Baker ran into the store and aided Lopez as she begged him for help before dying.

Baker's testimony that it was DeLuna he saw that night was crucial in the conviction. And yet, considering all of the evidence now, it appears certain Baker was wrong. It was Hernandez, a known gang leader with a penchant for knives and a sadistic bent, who killed Lopez, the book concludes. Hernandez repeatedly boasted that he had killed Lopez and let his "stupida tocayo," or namesake, take the fall.

That's what make this book so disturbing. A man's life turned on a single piece of evidence. Police and prosecutors, meanwhile, actively ignored evidence to the contrary. DeLuna was even accused of fabricating the existence of Hernandez, someone who was well-known to authorities.

The punishment of death is irreversible. It is the most dire sentence a state can mete out. Carlos DeLuna was executed 25 years ago. The Wrong Carlos reminds us that his death must still have meaning, especially in his home state.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News, July 25)

*******************

Lawyers file complaint against prosecutor in Corsicana arson-murder case

Houston lawyers Friday filed a complaint against a former North Texas prosecutor, claiming he lied about cutting a deal with a witness that helped send a possibly innocent Corsicana auto mechanic to his execution.

The complaint against John Jackson was lodged with the State Bar of Texas to spotlight the former prosecutor's alleged perjury during a 2010 court of inquiry called to review the murder case. Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, was executed in 2004 for the December 1991 murder of his 3 young children in an arson fire at his Corsicana home.

Neal Mann, a lawyer with Susman Godfrey LLP, said Jackson cut a deal with a jailhouse informer whose testimony was key to Willingham's conviction, then hid it from the court.

Jackson has denied that he offered special consideration to the informer in return for testimony, but Willingham supporters said they have documentation that Jackson intervened for the man when he later was incarcerated in state prison.

Willingham's conviction and execution gained international notoriety when 3 expert reviews questioned the accuracy of state and local arson investigations in the case. Friday's action marked Willingham supporters' most recent attempt - over a period of 6 years - to establish that irregularities occurred in the investigation and prosecution.

Jackson, who later became a state district judge and now is in private law practice, could not be reached for comment Friday.

In 2008, a complaint filed by the New York-based Innocence Project launched a 3-year review of the case by the Texas Forensic Science Commission. That body ordered revision of arson-investigation standards in 2011, but stopped short of ruling that arson investigators in the Willingham case had been negligent. The Texas Attorney General's office stopped further deliberations by ruling the commission had no jurisdiction to take up the case.

An attempt to have Willingham declared innocent by a court of inquiry - the court at which Jackson testified - ended when a higher court ruled the hearing improper. Earlier this year, the Innocence Project asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a posthumous pardon for Willingham. The board rejected the request in April.

In the Jackson case, the State Bar of Texas will determine if "just cause" exists to pursue further action. If just cause is found, a state district judge or a legal association administrative judge will hear the case. If the complaint is upheld, Jackson could face sanctions up to losing his license to practice law.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

The troubled journey to death row

New Hampshire's law sanctioning capital punishment got a stay of execution in April when the state Senate split 12-12 on a repeal bill Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would sign. New Hampshire is the only New England state to impose the death penalty. The campaign to abolish it will continue, and the outcome could depend on the results of the November election. Every candidate should be expected to make his or her position on capital punishment clear.

Some people oppose the death penalty for moral or religious reasons, others because, despite attempts to impose the ultimate penalty equitably and impartially, humans are fallible. Life and death mistakes are made. The system isn't fair and thus, in our view, is not constitutional.

Once a month, on average, an inmate on death row is exonerated, typically by DNA evidence or a reconsideration of a case that was less than expertly handled. That has been going on for nearly 15 years. Since 2000, 317 people sentenced to death have be exonerated; 2/3 of them have been African Americans. Meanwhile, many people who were killed in society's name, even under existing laws, should not have been.

Researchers, 2 of whom were law professors, took a hard look at the backgrounds of 100 people executed in 2012 and 2013. Their results were published recently in the Hastings Law Journal. For the most part, those put to death were not the nation's most heinous criminals. It's questionable whether some of them, given recent Supreme Court rulings, could truly be considered responsible for their actions to an extent that justified executing them for their crime.

The study found that 54 of the 100 executed offenders had been diagnosed with or displayed symptoms of a severe mental illness, including severe drug addiction that began as early as age 8. 6 of the executed had schizophrenia; 9 suffered post-traumatic stress; and three had bipolar disorder. Shockingly, nearly 90 % of those executed showed some degree of intellectual impairment, had not turned 21 before their crime was committed or suffered severe childhood trauma.

New Hampshire, which hasn't executed anyone since 1939, has 1 inmate on death row: Michael Addison, a black man who in 2006, at age 28, killed Michael Briggs, a young, white Manchester police officer with a wife and 2 young children.

Addison's traumatic childhood came up during his 2008 trial. His mother, who was 15 when he was born, drank while pregnant with him and was a violent alcoholic who physically abused Addison. His father was a largely absent drug addict. As a boy, Addison was disruptive in school and placed in special education classes.

Expert witnesses at his trial disagreed about the extent of Addison's childhood trauma, his intellectual capacity and whether he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. Prosecutors argued that Addison did not suffer from the syndrome and was of average intelligence, but agreed that he did exhibit the symptoms of someone with an antisocial personality.

Jurors weren't convinced that Addison's troubled childhood offered them reason enough to sentence him to life without parole rather than death. We don't know whether they were right or wrong about that, but we do believe that like the majority of those put to death in 2012 or 2013, he has factors in his background and makeup that call into question whether he has a normal person's ability to exercise sound judgment and control his impulses.

If the majority of people executed by the judicial system have what court's call diminished culpability because they suffer an intellectual disability, the system is unjust. The study published in the Hastings Law Journal is yet more proof that capital punishment can't be administered fairly and thus shouldnt be employed at all.

(source: Editorial, The Concord Monitor)

NEW JERSEY:

Push for revival of N.J. death penalty unlikely to gain traction

A push to revive the death penalty in New Jersey is not likely to advance any time soon.

The fatal shooting earlier this month of Jersey City Officer Melvin Santiago prompted Republican lawmakers to renew their call for capital punishment in the case of a police slaying.

But Senate President Steve Sweeney said any legislative action on restoring the death penalty should not be a quick response to a specific killing.

"The death penalty is honestly something that is honestly much bigger than just focusing on this tragedy," he said. "I mean this tragedy highlights why people feel the death penalty is important, but it's not going to be a response to this tragedy."

New Jersey eliminated the death penalty in 2007 because it hadn't been used for decades, Sweeney said. Convicted killers stayed on death row indefinitely.

He says lawmakers must deliberate much more about whether to bring it back.

A lot of considerations will have to figure in those discussion, said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

"There's a lot of people that get killed in this state that shouldn't get killed. There's children that get murdered every single day. So we really need to talk. Someone said is it just of police? What about for children?" he said. "That's a discussion that really needs much more deliberation."

(source: Newsworks.org)

FLORIDA:

McTear's own words used against him in death penalty case

The murder trial of the Tampa man accused of throwing a baby out of car on Interstate 275 continued Friday.

Richard McTear Jr., 26, is charged with 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and other offenses in the death of 4-month-old Emanuel Murray.

Prosecutors showed jurors a key piece of evidence on Friday: a video of McTear shortly after his arrest.

In the video, reporters surrounded McTear with questions.

When asked "how can you throw a baby out the window?," by one reporter, McTear replied "It's a dirty game, 15 for life."

The officer who escorted McTear in the video told jurors that he believed McTear was referring to a local gang.

There was disturbing testimony earlier in the week in the McTear trial - much of it Thursday from those who saw the baby's lifeless body along the interstate in May 2009.

Officers arrived to see the baby in a onesie outfit and a diaper, lifeless on the concrete. Hillsborough County Deputy Kevin Dennie testified about the child's injuries.

"I did observe road rash or abrasions on his forehead, legs, elbow, forearm elbow area," Dennie said.

From there, officers tried vigorously for 45 minutes to bring Emmanuel back to life. But he was already gone.

Prosecutors say McTear threw the baby out the window on the interstate after a fight with the baby's mother. Jasmine Bedwell took the stand on Wednesday.

Also on Thursday, a crime scene detective testified there was blood in the car that McTear drove the night the baby died.

The analyzed blood contained Murray's DNA.

McTear's defense attorneys, however, have said that McTear wasn't the one responsible for the baby's death.

This is Richard McTear's 2nd trial in this case. The 1st one was ended in a mistrial. He faces the death penalty if he's convicted.

(source: BayNews9.com)

ALABAMA:

Death row inmate in Mobile for court hearing

A Mobile man on death row for murdering his ex-girlfriend is back in Mobile Metro Jail.

Garrett Dotch was booked into the jail Friday night, July 25. He's expected to have a court hearing Monday, July 28.

He was sentenced to death in July 2008.

Dotch was convicted of capital murder in 2008 of killing 24-year-old Timarla Taldon. Prosecutors said Dotch shot Taldon 4 times outside the Subway restaurant on Old Shell Road.

Testimony during the trial showed Dotch became abusive after they broke up. he had been convicted in 2004 of burglarizing her home and assaulting her, and had been ordered to stay away from her.

Family members told FOX10 in 2006 Taldon has bought a gun just before she died, because she was afraid of Dotch.

The day Taldon was killed, cell phone records show Dotch called her 51 times.

10 or more of the 12 jurors must vote for the death penalty in order to recommend a death sentence.

The Alabama Appeals Court upheld the death sentence in 2010.

(source: Fox News)

INDIANA:

Judge issues gag order in Gary police killing case----NW Indiana judge issues gag order in case of Gary man charged with killing police officer

A northwest Indiana judge has issued a gag order in the case against a man suspected of fatally shooting a Gary police officer.

The order imposed Friday by Lake Superior Court Judge Samuel Cappas prohibits lawyers and other officials involved from discussing outside of court the case against 24-year-old Carl Le'Ellis Blount Jr. of Gary.

Blount is charged with murder in the July 6 shooting death of Officer Jeffrey Westerfield.

The Post-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1t9O9zD ) that Blount's public defender requested the gag order.

A magistrate entered a not guilty plea for Blount on Friday and warned him that he could face a death sentence if additional charges are filed against him.

Westerfield's fiancee says she believes the death penalty should be sought.

Blount's next court hearing is July 30.

(source: Associated Press)

KENTUCKY:

Man convicted in rape-murder in Louisville

A Louisville man could receive the death penalty after he was convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1983.

The Courier-Journal reports that a jury on Friday found Larry Lamont White guilty of murder in the death of Pamela Armstrong, a 22-year-old mother of 5 who was raped and shot twice in the head on June 4, 1983.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

Kansas Supreme Court Drops Death Penalty Sentence Against Brothers Who Went On Massacre

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned death sentences for 2 brothers who went on a crime spree in nearly 14 years ago.

In 2000, Jonathan and Reginald Carr were arrested for a crime spree in Wichita that included rape, robbery, forced sex, and 4 gruesome murders. Reports say that the Carr brothers broke into a Wichita home in December of that year and forced 5 friends who were at the home to perform sex acts on each other at gunpoint. 2 women in the group were raped, and the brothers drove the friends to an ATM to withdraw cash.

Jonathan and Reginald Carr eventually took all 5 people to a snowy soccer field and fatally shot 4 of them while they were kneeling, including 29-year-old Aaron Sander, 27-year-old Brad Heyka, 26-year-old Jason Befort, and 25-year-old Heather Muller. The 5th person, a female friend, was shot in the head but wound up being able to escape and run naked through the snow for help. Miraculously, she survived and wound up testifying against the brothers.

Jonathan and Reginald were ultimately convicted of a collective 93 crimes and were sentenced to death. Now, over a decade later, the death penalty was dropped, and some of the charges against the two were dropped. Still, the Supreme Court upheld 57 convictions against them.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says his office will seek the death penalty a 2nd time.

"The results of the decision by the Supreme Court creates one certainty: Jonathan and Reginald Carr will not be released from prison," Sedgwick reassured. "The conviction for capital murder for each defendant carries with it a life sentence."

"All options will be considered," said Bennett and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt in a joint statement. "We are committed to seeking justice in this case for the victims, their families and the community."

The last execution to take place in Kansas was reportedly a hanging back in 1965.

(source: opposingviews.com)

*******************

Judge steps down in midst of capital murder case

A Kansas judge presiding over a capital murder trial has recused himself from the case, forcing a new trial date and the rehearing of motions on which he already had ruled.

Shawnee County District Judge Mark Braun stepped down on Friday in response to a complaint filed by Phillip Cheatham, who was convicted of capital murder in 2005 and sentenced to death.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Cheatham's capital murder conviction and death sentence last year because of ineffective counsel. His new trial was scheduled to start Jan. 5, but Braun's decision will push those proceedings back, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/UstAiM ) reported.

Any of the 82 motions filed in the case that already have been ruled upon will have to be argued again. The defense and prosecution were waiting on rulings for 37 motions that already have been argued.

Cheatham's complaint with Braun stems from the judge promising a fair trial in May before he had ruled on motions. Cheatham contends defense motions, which include a challenge to the state's death penalty, require the trial to be dismissed.

"That, to me, shows an utter disregard for his oath, for the constitution, for my rights and for his duty," Cheatham said in a June interview with The Capital-Journal at Shawnee County Jail.

The Kansas Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Cheatham in 2013 when it overturned his capital murder conviction and death sentence for the Dec. 13, 2003, slayings of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones. He also is charged with the attempted first-degree murder of Annetta Thomas.

Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson will have to appoint a new judge to the case.

"We stand ready to try this case in front of which ever judge it is assigned to," chief Shawnee County District Attorney Jacqie Spradling said.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Wood suffered 2 hours, should have been 3

Joseph Wood, who was executed Wednesday in Florence, took 2 lives. He took everything these 2 victims were and everything they would be.

Upon his execution, he suffered for 2 hours. I wish he would have suffered for 3.

Where are the protesters, the news media, The Arizona Republic in support of the victims? You have columnists like EJ Montini crying about the "savage event."

Joseph Wood made the decision to murder, he was convicted, he paid the price for that decision.

Ernie Engle, Gilbert

(source: Letter to the Editor, Arizona Republic----The writer is president of Death Penalty Alternatives)

*************

Death penalty----Arizona execution took 2 hours too long for critics, 25 years too long for victims

Joseph Wood, an alcoholic and drug abuser, had a troubled relationship with his 29-year-old girlfriend, Debbie Dietz.

For 5 years Dietz had endured domestic violence at Wood's hands. Finally, she broke up with him and obtained a protection order from a judge. Wood ignored it, walking into Dietz and Sons Auto Paint and Body Shop in Tuscon, Arizona, where she worked with her father. Armed with a .38-caliber revolver, he killed Debbie's father, Gene Dietz, with 2 shots to the chest.

He then went to another section of the shop where Debbie was desperately attempting to call for help. Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her once in the stomach and once in the chest. Before the 2nd shot, witnesses heard him tell her "I told you I was going to do it. I love you. I have to kill you," and using a vulgar epithet to describe her.

After murdering his 2 victims, he then fled the building. When police arrived, Wood started shooting at them and was hit 9 times by return fire. He survived; Debbie didn't.

All that happened in 1989. Wood was convicted Feb. 25, 1991, and sentenced to death July 2, 1991.

If you've heard of him at all, it's because he was just put to death in Arizona. His demise made headlines because it took nearly 2 hours for the drugs used in the execution to kill him. The national media has had a lot to say about that. To find out about how Gene and Debbie Dietz died, you have to do some digging. No report notes how long it took Gene or Debbie Dietz to expire.

During his decades in jail, Wood filed a series of appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Once an abuser of street drugs, Wood argued that he and the public have a right to know details about the state's method of lethal injection, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands have become a delaying tactic in death penalty cases.

Wood's defense lawyer, Dale Baich, called Wood's death a "horrifically botched execution" that should have taken 10 minutes. During the time it took Wood to die, a series of calls took place involving the governor's office, prison director, lawyers and judges. 1 judge was concerned that monitoring equipment couldn't reveal whether the inmate had brain function, and they talked about whether to try to save his life. Judges were notified of his death while they were still considering whether to stop it.

Although Wood was described as gasping for air, some witnesses said he appeared to be snoring. Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan dismissed the notion the execution was botched, calling it an "erroneous conclusion" and "pure conjecture." He said IV lines in the inmate's arms were "perfectly placed" and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

Anesthesiology experts say they're not surprised that the combination of drugs took so long to kill Wood.

"This doesn't actually sound like a botched execution. This actually sounds like a typical scenario if you used that drug combination," said Karen Sibert, an anesthesiologist and associate professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

But Wood's was the 3rd execution in recent months to rekindle the national debate over the death penalty. The apparent struggles of condemned murderers suggest to some that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. They would like to see it join hanging, poison gas, electrocution and other methods of carrying out capital punishment that have been eventually abandoned in favor of other methods that seemed to be more humane - including lethal injection.

A member of Debbie Dietz' family offered a few other alternatives.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, 'let's worry about the drugs,'" said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz. "Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

The appropriate elapsed time for an execution is something for experts to debate. While some critics say 2 hours is an excessively long time, none of them seemed fazed by the fact that in the broader sense it took 25 years. If Americans are going to debate how long it takes for an execution to end, let's also start talking about how shamefully long it takes for one to begin.

(source: Opinion, Star Herald)

************

FAQ: Why Arizona executions face scrutiny

Even before convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood was strapped to a gurney and the state of Arizona's executioner ran intravenous lines into his arms, the drug used to kill him in an unusually drawn-out execution, midazolam, had proven controversial.

A federal judge had termed earlier executions in which it was used as "flawed."

From the time the drugs started flowing, it took Wood almost two hours to die. Witnesses watched as he gasped and snored for much of that time.

Execution by other lethal-injection drugs usually takes about 10 minutes.

But those drugs are no longer available.

State officials, from Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan to Gov. Jan Brewer, insist that the execution was not botched.

But what happened and why are still under review by Corrections and, separately, by a federal court.

Wood's long, slow death drew international attention and condemnation.

And it raised anew questions about the viability of lethal injections, about how executions are carried out, and why the state keeps having to change the combination of drugs it uses.

Here are answers to some of the common questions that have been asked since Wednesday's execution:

Why shouldn't killers suffer the same way their victims did?

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

How are executions usually carried out?

In 1992, Arizonans voted to replace the gas chamber with lethal injection as the preferred method of execution. Killers who committed their crimes before 1992 still have the option of being executed in the gas chamber, but only 1 has chosen that alternative in 22 years.

Historically, the condemned person was injected with a short-acting anesthetic or barbiturate, followed by a drug that causes paralysis, and a drug that stops the heart. In recent years, most state departments of corrections in death-penalty states have moved to 1-drug protocols, causing death by an overdose of the 1st drug. Usually the process takes about 10 minutes, though some executions can last 20 or 30 minutes. Wood was the 1st Arizona inmate put to death using the combination of midazolam, a Valium-like sedative, and hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller.

Who is the executioner and how much is he paid?

The identities of executioners are shielded under state law, but the task requires medical training. The Corrections Department's execution protocol calls for at least 2 people on the IV team; they are chosen by Director Ryan and they must be physicians, nurses, physician's assistants, emergency medical technicians or corpsmen.

The protocol does not specify how much they are paid, but depositions during litigation in 2011 revealed that the head of the team was paid $18,000 in cash - $6,000 for the executions and $6,000 for each of 2 days of training.

Why is so much about the execution secret?

Under state law, identities are concealed so that the medical personnel will not be harassed or threatened by anti-death-penalty lobbies or punished by their professional organizations; executing people goes against the ethical codes of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

In recent years, Arizona and other states have extended the secrecy to include the people and companies who procure or produce the drugs used in executions. The state and its attorneys argue that anti-death-penalty activists will pressure pharmaceutical firms and compounding pharmacies not to supply drugs to departments of corrections for executions.

This has been an ongoing legal battle and was the reason the Wood execution was stayed twice before he was finally put to death.

Defense attorneys for years have argued that they need to know the backgrounds of the people carrying out the executions and where the drugs are coming from.

Why is there a scarcity of drugs for lethal injection?

When lethal injection was introduced in 1977, it depended on a fast-acting anesthetic called thiopental, more commonly used, among other things, to sedate patients to put tubes down their throats or to deliver babies by Caesarean section. But it was an old drug that even predates the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, and it has largely been replaced by newer anesthetics like propofol. The supplies started to run out in 2010; it was no longer being manufactured in the United States.

When propofol was taken off the market temporarily after Michael Jackson died from misusing it, doctors turned again to thiopental, and stores were depleted to the point where the Ohio Department of Corrections had trouble finding enough for an execution.

Later that year, Arizona obtained thiopental for an October 2010 execution and claimed that the same law that protected executioners' identities protected suppliers when defense attorneys asked where it came from.

The Arizona Republic reported that the drug had been obtained in England, and that Arizona's Department of Corrections had bypassed federal drug regulations to bring it into the country. It is illegal in the European Union to assist in executions in any country, so England and Italy shut down exports of thiopental for use in executions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration later confiscated, in several states, thiopental supplies imported from Europe.

Arizona and other states were forced to switch to the barbiturate pentobarbital, but its manufacturersin Europe and the U.S. also cut off access for executions. Several states, including Arizona, switched to the Valium relative, midazolam.

Why don't pharmaceutical companies want to provide drugs for executions?

The pharmaceutical companies are very close-lipped about their policies, generally referring reporters to official statements on their websites. In litigation, the Arizona Attorney General's Office claimed that publicity and anti-death-penalty activists influence the companies, which may be partly true.

But there are other factors. The drugs used in executions by lethal injection all have valid clinical uses. They were invented to save lives and improve health, and the companies object to their use to kill people. Nor is it good marketing to be the company that makes death drugs.

The European manufacturers of thiopental and pentobarbital are subject to European Union laws forbidding participation in executions.

Why don't they use the same drugs that veterinarians use to euthanize animals?

Veterinarians use pentobarbital, and the manufacturers of that drug refuse to sell it for executions. It was last used in Arizona in October 2013, and if there was any left over after 2 executions that month, it has since passed its expiration date.

Why is midazolam controversial?

Midazolam is not an anesthetic or a painkiller. It is a sedative and an amnesiac, used as a 1st drug in many minor medical procedures; you don't remember the unpleasantness of the procedure. Florida and Oklahoma incorporated it into a 3-drug protocol. Ohio and Arizona used it in conjunction with the narcotic hydromorphone.

But witnesses to an execution in Florida last October noted that it took longer to do its job. The Associated Press reported that the prisoner "remained conscious longer, and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula."

An execution in Ohio in January raised eyebrows because the condemned man fought for breath and took more than 20 minutes to die.

And in April, an Oklahoma killer appeared to be sedated and then started writhing in agony and died of an apparent heart attack after more than 40 minutes. An autopsy showed that the executioner had passed the catheter needle all the way through a vein in the man's groin, meaning the drugs were delivered into soft tissue instead of into the bloodstream.

What happened in Wednesday's execution?

Joseph Wood was very quickly sedated by the injection of midazolam and hydromorphone, but about 5 minutes into the procedure, he began gasping and snoring, and continued to struggle for breath for an hour and a half. It took nearly 2 hours for him to die.

Corrections Director Ryan said that Wood was brain-dead, but continued to breathe. Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jeffrey Zick told a federal judge that it was an involuntary reaction, like that of a person in a coma taken off life support. He said that the medical team visually determined that Wood was brain-dead; Wood was not attached to an electroencephalogram, which measures brain activity and is commonly used to confirm brain death.

What will happen next?

Brewer ordered a review of the execution to determine what went wrong and what should happen next. Ryan said that he was already undertaking such a review without being told to do so.

A federal judge and the Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that medical samples be taken and preserved, along with other evidence.

There will be no executions until the review is completed, the Attorney General's Office said.

How Arizona proceeds with executions in the future remains to be seen, though an assistant Arizona attorney general hinted that one option would be to continue to use midazolam as part of a three-drug protocol as in Florida.

Why don't they go back to other methods of execution?

Pundits and politicians have said that we should return to older methods of execution, like firing squad, hanging or the electric chair.

Even the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in his dissent to the court's refusal to lift a stay of execution, said that execution by lethal injection gives the impression that it is more humane than other forms of killing.

"If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution," wrote Judge Alex Kozinski.

He mused over the guillotine, the electric chair, hanging, the gas chamber and decided that firing squads made the most sense.

"Firearms have no purpose other than destroying their targets," he wrote. "... If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by a firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."

(source: Arizona Republic)

CALIFORNIA:

Waiting out the death penalty

In 1981, Royal Kenneth Hayes lured a San Francisco couple to the University of California, Santa Cruz, for what was supposed to be a $250,000 cocaine deal.

5 years later, a jury in Santa Cruz County convicted him of 2 counts of murder. Hayes severed his victims' heads and hands and, with the help of 2 female accomplices, buried their remaining remains. Really gruesome stuff.

But the same panel couldn't agree whether he, too, deserved to die. So a change of venue sent the 2nd go-round of the penalty phase to Stanislaus County, where jurors determined Hayes should, indeed, be executed in San Quentin State Prison's gas chamber.

Hayes was 48 when he arrived on the notorious prison's death row. He's still there at 77, joined by at least 10 others who either were convicted in or committed their crimes in Stanislaus County. The list includes Scott Peterson, Michael Bell and 3 from the Salida massacres of 1990. Others from the region on death row include Cary Stayner, convicted of murdering 3 Yosemite tourists in 1999; Cuitlatuac Rivera, who killed Merced police officer Stephan Gray in 2004; Hubert Mendoza, sentenced in 2006 for killing 3 people in a south Modesto shooting rampage; and Keith Edward Adcox of Tuolumne County, sentenced in 1983 for killing a fisherman on the banks of the Tuolumne River.

Another, Dennis Lawley, died of natural causes in 2012 after being sent to death row for the murder of a man in Modesto in 1989.

Adcox was 21 at the time of sentencing. He is 53 now, having spent 32 years awaiting execution even though the state Supreme Court upheld his death penalty conviction in 1988. In fact, 8 of the area's condemned have been on death row 20 years or longer.

Execution by the state of California has been dormant since a judge stopped them in 2006, citing flaws in the way inmates are put to death. And last week, federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled California's death penalty unconstitutional due to lack of use.

Birgit Fladager, Stanislaus County's district attorney, prosecuted 2 still on death row: Bell and Peterson. She said that while Carney's ruling applied to a specific case, it lays out a blueprint for appeals by others in the future.

In essence, the slowness of the system - the lengthy appeals process, along with lawsuits and delays fostered by death penalty opponents - has created a "use it or lose it" scenario blended with a Catch-22 caveat: The state can't use it and therefore is losing it.

The process is slow by design, in theory to ensure a condemned man due process before being put to death. Peterson was convicted 9 years ago of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. His private (not appointed) attorneys appealed the 2005 conviction. The state's appellate attorney is likely to respond this winter, Fladager said.

Bell, meanwhile, killed Turlock convenience store clerk Semon Francis in 1997. His 1999 death sentence still hasn't gone to the state Supreme Court for affirmation. But even if the court were to uphold the death sentence tomorrow, it wouldn't matter. Neither Bell nor anyone else on death row is going to die anytime soon from anything other than old age or other natural causes, and continue to cost the taxpayers roughly $90,000 per year per death row inmate just in upkeep.

In 1994, then-Modesto Bee reporter Tim Moran and I teamed to work on a story about the projected cost of executing 3 men convicted in the 1990 slayings of 4 people in Salida. We looked at the costs involving keeping them on San Quentin's death row for decades, the cost of appellate attorneys usually borne by the taxpayers, maintaining and expanding the prison system itself, and costs incurred in moving the trials elsewhere due to changes in venue.

The estimate was eye-opening: $3.5 million to $4.5 million, and that was 20 years ago, when unleaded regular gasoline cost about $1.30 per gallon, and milk $2.88.

A decade later, taxpayers spent $4.13 million on the Peterson case, which was moved from Stanislaus County to Redwood City in San Mateo County. And that doesn't take into consideration the ongoing taxpayer-borne cost of keeping him alive long enough to someday execute him ... OK, maybe ... OK, probably not, following last week's decision, which is sure to spawn similar arguments in future appeals.

A 2011 study by a judge and college professor, updated in 2012, claims the state could save $170 million a year and $5 billion over the next 20 by scuttling death row and commuting those inmates' sentences to life without parole.

That also would mean 748 of the most heinous killers the state has ever known might lose their private cells, separate yard time and have to mingle with the lower-echelon crooks and riffraff in the general population. They might clamor for the end of the death penalty, but you don't hear many protesting their housing arrangements.

Convicted murderers like Peterson, Bell, Rivera, Stayner and their ilk are there to await execution. If that isn't going to happen, it makes death row little more than the high-rent district of California's most notorious gated community.

So why wait? Condemn it.

(source: Column, Jeff Jardine; Modesto Bee)

US MILITARY:

1 of 5 9/11 accused to be tried separately: judge

A US military judge at Guantanamo Bay has ruled that 1 of the 5 alleged September 11 plotters, Yemeni Ramzi Binalshibh, should be tried separately.

Col. James Pohl said it was first necessary to establish whether Binalshibh - alleged to have served as a liaison between the hijackers and Al-Qaeda leaders - had the mental capacity to take part in the trial given a 2008 diagnosis by military doctors that he had a "serious mental disease," according to Pohl's order published by the Washington Post.

Pohl separated Binalshibh's case from the others to avoid further delaying a trial that, 13 years after the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks, still hasn't started.

Military prosecutor Mark Martins has expressed hope that jury selection could start in January 2015.

But according to lawyers involved in the matter, that is unlikely to happen before autumn of next year.

In light of Pohl's ruling, only 4 of the accused - including self-proclaimed Pakistani mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - will likely be present at the next preliminary hearings scheduled to take place at Guantanamo between August 11 to 15. All could face the death penalty if convicted.

"The government is analyzing the Military Commission severance order and remains on-track for previously scheduled hearings in August," Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, told AFP.

Late last year, Binalshibh was removed several times from a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo after a series of outbursts and his lawyers have on several occasions denounced his alleged mistreatment while in detention at the US naval base in Cuba.

"Since November 2013, the Commission has suffered a series of delays in United States v. Ramzi bin al Shibh that have had a serious impact on the proceedings in the other 4 cases and calling to mind the concerns of the Commission 2 years ago," Pohl wrote.

Binalshibh's alleged crimes include helping the hijackers find flight schools in the United States and of financing the airliner plot that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Meanwhile, a review board ruled Friday that a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo could be freed while another should remain behind bars.

Fawzi Al-Odah appeared at a hearing on July 14 and, by consensus, the Periodic Review Board "determined that continued law of war detention of the detainee does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."

However, in the case of fellow Kuwaiti inmate Fayez Al Kandari, the board "considered that the detainee almost certainly retains an extremist mindset and had close ties with high-level Al-Qaeda leaders in the past."

His continued detention therefore "remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."

Created by President Barack Obama in 2011 as part of his efforts to close Guantanamo, the Periodic Review Board consists of 6 experts from the Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State Departments, as well as the Joint Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

149 detainees remain at Guantanamo since the controversial swap of 5 Taliban operatives for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in May. 6 are expected to be transferred to Uruguay early next month.

(source: The Nation)

USA:

Death penalty becomes cruel and usual: Column----Arizona's 2-hour execution the latest example. And sympathy seems in short supply.

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits punishments deemed to be cruel and unusual, a standard to which capital punishment does not rise, at least according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But with yet another botched execution, the third over the past six months, the cruelty is becoming pretty usual.

It was disturbing enough that the state of Arizona last week took nearly two hours to execute convicted double-murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood, during most of which time he appeared to witnesses to be gasping for breath and grunting in pain. To me, however, equally disturbing is how many people rejoiced over the poor excuse for justice.

One after another, USA TODAY readers celebrated the fact that Wood's death was anything but swift and painless.

One so-designated "Top Commenter" remarked that "The more pain the criminal feels the better." Another was anything but concerned about the mishap: "I really don't care if he suffered. I hope it hurt like hell. I hope his last moments were full of pain and terror." A simple post by a 3rd online contributor reflected total satisfaction with the prolonged ritual, "Sounds like success to me!" Similar unsympathetic comments were posted on other news websites.

The struggle for Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, and other death penalty states in trying to identify the right mixture of drugs to perform lethal injections stems directly from the oppositional consensus concerning the American way of punishing murderers. Certain nations prohibit execution drugs to be exported to the U.S. Drug manufacturers, whose core mission is to promote health and healing, refuse to allow their products to be used for such nefarious purposes. Further complicating matters, medical professionals keep as much distance as possible from the procedure out of their ethical commitment to doing no harm. As a result, correctional officials are fumbling and bumbling to find the right solution.

Notwithstanding the disgraceful outpouring of joy over Wood's ordeal, in one respect I, too, was encouraged by the botched execution. As a longtime opponent of capital punishment, my sense of encouragement is radically different from the vengeance-minded folks who espoused their venomous views publicly.

Having witnessed a speedy and smoothly orchestrated execution by lethal injection, I am distressed when the death penalty is successfully carried out in a so-called "humane" fashion. I am concerned about relentless efforts to make the administration of capital punishment streamlined, straightforward, and simple. Although I do not wish pain and suffering upon anyone, it should never be easy to kill a person, even one convicted of a heinous crime. To the contrary, the execution ritual should be excruciating for everyone involved. Each time we take a life in the name of justice, the controversy over capital punishment should be at the forefront.

The focus of the debate should not, however, be about the most efficient means of putting a condemned murderer to death, but about whether we should be retaining the barbaric and archaic practice in the first place. By allowing executions to continue, even now when murder rates are low, the U.S. joins China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan on the Top 5 List for executions, and earns distain from our peer nations throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Over the past decade, the arguments for capital punishment have shifted. Research has largely disputed the claim of deterrence, and various accounting analyses have demonstrated the high cost of the death penalty. As a consequence, death penalty advocacy has become less an issue of public safety and protecting society from dangerous criminals, and more about symbolism.

Not only are many Americans tolerant of death chamber mishaps, but some accept an occasional miscarriage of justice. As many as a third of those polled by Gallup favor capital punishment even while believing that an innocent person has been executed.

For them, a show of force against the criminal element is most important. For them, apparently, it doesn't completely matter which criminals we kill (even an occasional innocent is acceptable) or how we kill them (a measure of suffering is OK, too). They just have a visceral need for executing criminals to feel that good wins over evil.

(source: James Alan Fox is the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors)

***********************

Why the U.S. should end the death penalty

The state of Arizona executed Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday. For those Americans who, as we do, consider the death penalty to be a dehumanizing punishment unworthy of our advanced society, that sentence should be enough to elicit profound moral discomfort. Then there was the way it happened: Executioners pumped Mr. Wood with a 2-drug regimen meant to lull him toward death peacefully and quickly. Instead, he remained alive for nearly 2 hours, gasping and snorting, as his lawyer frantically appealed to a judge to call off the botched execution.

Mr. Wood's was the 3rd execution this year that did not go as planned. And it is not the most egregious example. That would be the April execution of Clayton Lockett by the state of Oklahoma in which prison officials improperly inserted an IV into the inmate's arm. After the drugs failed and Mr. Lockett convulsed, clenched his teeth, attempted to speak and struggled with the gurney to which he was strapped, supervisors tried to call off the execution. Too late: Mr. Lockett finally perished after suffering a heart attack. Arizona's 2-drug procedure is different from Oklahoma's 3-drug regimen but similar to the drug combination Ohio used this year in another lengthy execution.

The death penalty in the United States is in crisis for many reasons. Most states now use injected drugs to kill death-row inmates, and those drugs are in short supply as European manufacturers attempt to distance themselves from U.S. executions. States have been left to concoct novel combinations of sedatives, anti-convulsants and anesthetics and administer them without the help of professionals, who object to state-sponsored life-taking.

Meanwhile, a major reason the country has moved away from antique-seeming execution methods - firing squads, hanging, the gas chamber and the electric chair - toward lethal injection is that intravenous poisoning is less unpleasant for the public. The nation has moved from treating executions like attractive public spectacles to being disgusted by the act of purposely ending a human life.

We argue that the public's increasing aversion should be based on concerns about issues deeper than just the method of killing inmates. There are a variety of practical objections: The death penalty is extremely expensive to administer; it is often applied to men with diminished mental capacity or other mental disorders. Racial disparities in death penalty sentencing and too-frequent death-row exonerations demonstrate that the criminal justice system has not applied the ultimate punishment fairly. Then there is the simple fact that this complex, costly and unattractive system is wholly unnecessary to punish even depraved criminals. Any combination of these factors points to the truth that the death penalty in the United States is deeply unwise. It is, as practiced, cruel and unusual.

Since the late 1990s, the number of executions in the United States has dropped significantly, as has the proportion of Americans who approve of the punishment. We hope these are signs of the nation's moral maturation. As abhorrent as spectacles like the execution of Mr. Wood are, they could at least serve the purpose of accelerating that process.

(source: Editorial, Washington Post)

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Bring back the guillotine or firing squad?

The prolonged execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona last week has again brought the death penalty under scrutiny. Wood's death was a 2-hour drawn-out affair, which prompted Arizona's governor to order a review of her state's lethal injection process, the main method of execution in the United States.

Wood's death - and that of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma - has sparked a national debate not just about the death penalty itself, but how executions are, well, executed. Some people, including federal appellate court Judge Alex Kozinski, think firing squads and guillotines would work better.

Kozinski says that the American justice system tries to "mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful." "Executions," he says, "are, in fact, nothing like that, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. If the state's going to kill, it should at least do it effectively."

All of this reminded me of Albert Camus, the French Nobel laureate, who wrote a powerful essay in 1957, "Reflections on the Guillotine."

Although the public execution of criminals by decapitation had ended in 1939, the French continued to use the guillotine behind prison walls (and did through 1977). The issue was hotly debated and it was in this context that Camus brought his persuasive powers to bear.

Camus, like Kozinski, thought the death penalty was a brutal, gory thing, the horrors of which should not be disguised; but unlike Kozinski, he abhorred capital punishment. Camus wrote of his father who had personally witnessed France's last public guillotining and told of its terrible effect on him. Camus believed that the French - if they wished to maintain the death penalty - should make the act as transparent as possible. He reasoned that if a man was sentenced to death under the authority of the French people, then the people should be required to see - literally see - the sentence carried out. As he wrote, "Today there is no spectacle at all, only a penalty known to everyone by hearsay and, at long intervals, the announcement of an execution couched in soothing formula." If society truly believed its own rhetoric about the justice of a death sentence, "we would be shown the heads."

Readers can judge Camus' views for themselves. His essay is readily found online. There is, however, another important point to address.

Although Camus opposed the death penalty, he did accept that it once had legitimacy in ancient civilizations, cultures in which religious piety formed the basis of their legal and moral codes.

As he wrote, "Capital punishment has always been a religious punishment. [A condemned man] is certainly deprived of his earthly life, yet his opportunity for reparation is preserved. The real judgment is not pronounced in this world, but in the next. Religious values, especially the belief in an eternal life, are thus the only ones on which the death penalty can be based, since according to their own logic they prevent that penalty from being final and irreparable."

However, Camus argued, France was a modern secular nation. It could not impose capital punishment because a modern secular nation cannot officially recognize any religious authority; therefore, the state could not lawfully deliver such a final, irreversible judgment as death.

It's no coincidence that the most robust use and support of capital punishment comes from Bible-belt states like Texas and Virginia. A deeper, more complex matter to sort through therefore is not whether the it acts as a crime deterrent (it doesn't) or whether it is an act of revenge (it is). It's the continued secular authority and character of the American justice system, and thatís a matter that will not be easily resolved in today's political climate.

(source: Commentary, R. Matthew Poteat; News leader)

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Maybe stoning will work better

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Another botched execution using chemical protocols calls for revisiting the way we execute those condemned to death in states that still practice the death penalty. The so called "chemical executions" have failed pretty miserably and dramatically. One wonders why the protocols devised by Dr. Kevorkian, (Dr. Death), are not being considered.

From all reports, at the time he was practicing his methodology, death came, to those terminal patients who sought him out, quite painlessly and without the botched results we have seen in, at least, the last 3 experiments with chemical protocols. Perhaps it is time to read the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. After all, there are many calls, particularly from those on the extreme right of our politics, who are beside themselves at the lack of reliance on the wisdom in the Old and New Testaments: see, for example, Numbers 15:32-36.

Why not use stoning to death as a substitute for these fancy chemical protocols? It will probably be quite easy and inexpensive to import "execution stones" from the Middle East, all that is required is a solid, well-shaped stone and a strong arm; advanced degrees in pharmacology are not needed. A stoning execution will no doubt not take 2-plus hours of writhing and suffering - one good hurled stone might do the job quite well in a matter of seconds.

We can even dignify the process by having the "stoner(s)" dress in white medical jackets or if you prefer, black coats and hoods. In this current climate of fiscal responsibility, we can eliminate the need for "death cocktails" and the associated costs of finding the appropriate combination and synthesis of potent chemicals that are unregulated in our country. Stones are readily available; if you donít want to import them just pick them up, for example, from our deteriorating infrastructure: potholes and bridge foundations.

I must say that importing execution stones casts an aura of dignity to the process. Of course, the obvious alternative is to stop all executions and do away with the death penalty altogether. We are surely better than this.

Harvey Kaminoff ---- Great Barrington

(source: Letter to the Editor, Berkshire Eagle)

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Why do many Christians back death penalty?

A federal judge recently ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional in California. The judge believes that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a prisoner to wait too long to be executed. I believe that the death penalty itself is cruel and unusual.

It bothers me that many Christians believe that the government should have the right to strap someone down and kill them. Jesus didn't support crucifixions, stonings, or other forms of the death penalty. He believed in the Golden Rule, and thought that we should love our neighbors and enemies.

Jesus also said,"Whatever you do to the least among men, you also do to me." Prisoners who are awaiting execution can certainly be considered the least among men.

The best way to prevent the execution of an innocent person is to abolish the death penalty. If you disagree with me, then you should ask yourself, "Who would Jesus execute"?

Chuck Mann----Greensboro (source: Letter to the Editor, High Point Enterprise)

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Finding God on Death Row: 10 Questions for Chaplain Dale Recinella

Dale S. Recinella is a lawyer and lay minister who serves on behalf of the Catholic bishops of Florida as Catholic Correctional Chaplain to Florida's death row and Solitary Confinement population. Together with his wife, Dr. Susan Recinella, who is a psychologist specializing in mental illness, he is a lay minister to the families of executed prisoners and of murder victims. He holds a J.D. from Notre Dame University Law School and an M.T.S. degree in theology from Ave Maria University's Institute for Pastoral Theology.

Mr. Recinella is also an author and a columnist for the Florida Catholic newspaper, winning a 2000 Press Award from the Catholic Press Association for his coverage of the death penalty. In 1997 he was named a University of Notre Dame Exemplar for modeling faith and citizenship in action, and in 2000 he received a Humanitarian Award from the Franciscan Alumni Association. On July 24, I interviewed Mr. Recinella by telephone about his work and current issues facing death row pastoral ministry. The following transcript has been edited for content and length.

What are the biggest concerns of death row chaplains right now?

As someone serving as Catholic correctional chaplain on Florida's death row, with the 2nd-largest death row population in the country, I know that our biggest concerns as ministers are the conditions of confinement. They're extremely primitive. We have 412 men being held in 6 foot by 10 foot cells with a toilet, a stainless steel shelf that serves as a bunk, and a small property locker for their legal materials and religious books. And that's it. There's no air conditioning in the summer when the heat indexes here are astronomical. So the 1st concern of someone ministering in these conditions is the plight of people in the cells, which is extremely difficult emotionally, physically and mentally. We've all heard of inmates who say "just give up my appeals and kill me," and those are folks who don't have the strength to endure these conditions. 85 % of the executions in the past 37 years have been in the southern states, the former Confederacy and slave-holding border states, since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the restarting of the death penalty. So we have a lot people here and heat is our 1st concern.

Our 2nd concern is the fact that these are human beings being held in cages until we kill them. The reality of this process is that we have people, some younger than my kids and some my dad's age, who are under the control of the state and cannot commit another crime. And yet we're going to kill them. That reality hangs over every cell visit and is extremely debilitating for the prisoners, the ministers and the people working there. God didn't make us to feel good about being part of the machinery of death. Especially with all of the botched executions recently, we've heard a lot of people defend it by saying "it's not as bad as what the criminals did." Really? Should our standard of moral action be that we're not as bad as the criminals in our midst? The environment and the reality of this process is, for me and for the men who are there with me in Catholic prison ministry, the greatest weight on our minds and spirits.

How can American Catholics approach the reality of the death penalty in light of current church teaching?

I think we approach it from a faith standpoint. The secular culture could be crying for vengeance, but faithful Catholics don't start with the noise in the street. What the church is teaching us through the catechism, through Evangelium Vitae and through the teachings of our bishops is that we can't morally take the lives of offenders if non-lethal means are available to protect society. And non-lethal means of punishment are available in every state where the death penalty is legal, including Texas which was the last state to come on board. There are fewer new death penalty sentences in Texas because of that.

I wrote an article for America Magazine years ago, explaining why American Catholics must oppose the death penalty, in which I discussed the doctrine of procedural bar in death penalty law. Hardly anyone knows about it. The catechism presumes we need to make sure we have the right person who is fully guilty and mentally competent before we even discuss whether non-lethal means or a death sentence is appropriate for individual cases. But because of procedural bar there's no constitutional right not to be executed just because you're factually innocent. Nobody knows it. So as I see it, no American Catholic can support the death penalty under current law.

What perspective does the Bible give us on the death penalty?

Well, it's interesting that when I used to support the death penalty, I would quote offhand things like "an eye for an eye" from the Bible. Now, as my wife and I go around to churches, most Protestants and even Catholics who support it are also quoting short verses from scripture. That bothered me. So I spent 5 years at the Judaica collection at the University of Florida, researching the Biblical death penalty as it operated when it was the law of the early Hebrews before the time of Christ. What was the death penalty as governed by Jewish law in scripture? I was shocked to find out there were 44 mandatory requirements of substantive law and of procedural law to determine how and when someone should be executed. The American death penalty doesn't satisfy a single one of those requirements. In my research, I compared the American death penalty to the Biblical death penalty, and I found that we Americans don't match up with a single requirement from the Bible. How can anyone then support our American death penalty using scripture? That's why I wrote the book, The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty, so that people could see the analysis for themselves.

You and your wife have spent many "execution weeks" with the condemned and their families. What's that like?

When a man's death warrant is signed, he's moved from regular death row to the actual death house about 5 or 6 weeks before the scheduled execution. That's when his family starts coming in to say goodbye before he's killed. Now each man has the right to select a spiritual advisor who will be with him during those 5 or 6 weeks and be present for him on the other side of the execution window when he dies. And men on death row started asking me to be with them. It's a process of helping someone prepare to be killed and I've found that it's very different from helping the terminally ill at death. At least terminal illness is a natural death. This is getting a healthy person ready to be killed by other human beings and it's very dark.

Here in Florida, the family of the condemned are not allowed to be present when the execution takes place, even though the chaplains are allowed to be there. We found out that the family usually goes back to a motel and watches on TV to see if the execution takes place. Only the condemned man's lawyer and spiritual advisor are present for him. My wife Susan said "this is horrible" and started making herself available to be with the families. She found that even those families who weren't Catholic usually wanted to be in a quiet and sacred place when the execution happened. So then St. Mary Mother of Mercy parish - the only Catholic parish between Jacksonville and Lake City, located just 15 miles from the death house - started providing a place for Susan, the parish priest and the family to pray. There are only 125 people in this parish, but it was one of the 1st 2 parishes in the country to formally ask for a moratorium on the death penalty. Sometimes I come straight from the death house to join them at the parish. We try to take care of these families that nobody cares about.

You've also ministered to prisoners in solitary confinement. How do you approach them?

In solitary confinement as opposed to death row, the doors are solid steel instead of being barred with mesh, and the prisoners are not being held there to be killed. A chaplain spends a great deal of time in solitary confinement kneeling on concrete because of the need to minister through the food flap, which is just a hole in the wall that the guards unlock. Catholics have a constitutional right to receive sacraments from a Catholic minister. So the guards have to unlock the hole for priests to hear confessions, and for chaplains to give communion and pray with prisoners. We have 2,100 men in long-term solitary confinement in Florida.

As with death row, in solitary confinement, we are a ministry of presence to all the men in those cells, even if they aren't Catholic or religious. In the old days, when it was just me and the priest, it took us a long time to get through all of those cells. In recent years we've been joined by an army of 15 volunteers from the Knights of Malta, Legatus and Tallahassee Christ Renews His Parish. They've really helped our ability to be with the men in those cells and with the prison staff as well. There's a tremendous burden on the staff in these places, where the officers and other employees talk like they are in prison as well. Many of these employees from rural areas never met a Catholic before we started coming to death row. We show them that our church cares about humanity and about human beings, whether they're wearing orange or brown, and that we're able to build bridges of connectedness through our faith. Many staff members who initially were skeptical about Catholics coming into their prison have started feeling a lot of solidarity and support for us.

Together with your wife, who is a psychologist, you've tried to raise awareness about criminalization of the mentally ill. What's going on with that issue?

In solitary confinement prisons, there's a high prevalence of severe mental illness. Over the past 30 or 40 years there's been a well-intentioned approach to get the mentally ill out of public institutions and put those funds into community mental health centers, to put the funding into wonder drugs for chemical and brain imbalances. The hospitals have mostly been closed down now. There are only 2 state mental hospitals in Florida and they only have a fraction of the beds they once had, from over 30,000 in their heyday to 1,500-2,000 beds in the whole state today. Where did those people go? The community mental health centers never got funded and those people went to the streets where they get in trouble, and end up in jail and in prison.

In every state now, a huge portion of the inmate population is diagnosed as severely mentally ill. Florida reports that 1 out of every 9 adult inmates is severely - not moderately - mentally ill. As these people get in trouble in prison, they get moved to long-term solitary confinement, and that's where we meet them through the hole in the door. It's almost medieval. But it's driven by our society's refusal to spend money to care for the mentally ill, not by the Department of Corrections. This criminalization of the mentally ill is a crisis. Add to that the death penalty. In the southern states which use capital punishment the most, many people still think mental illness is a result of moral failure, a manifestation of the devil. The result is that mental illness is a subtext to the American death penalty. During one stretch of executions in my tenure as a chaplain, 7 out of the 12 people executed were mentally ill. It's the perfect storm. In order to be declared mentally competent to be executed, our primitive legal standard is that you need to know what it means to be killed and know that you're going to be killed because you did something bad. That means someone who has been psychotic since his teenage years, and who believes he is Jesus Christ, could be executed even if he doesn't know who he is. It's so primitive that it's hard to find words to describe it intelligently.

How do you pray with inmates on death row and in solitary confinement?

It's the same way you would pray with people standing next to you in church. Everybody has a circle of connectedness of some kind: Their family, their mom and their friends who are all going through illnesses and other things. When you ask them what to pray for, they say the same things that people in church say, while also asking prayers for their own situation and legal cases. But the overwhelming majority of prayers are for people in their lives. Some of them ask for communion and confession at their cell, but whether they're Catholic or not, we always ask if they want to pray for something that day. And we pray for whatever need is in their hearts.

How are the death penalty and abortion linked for Catholics?

One of the teaching tools I use is the U.S.C.C.B. video "The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death." One bishop admits in that DVD that the death penalty may not have the same moral gravity as intrinsic evils like euthanasia and abortion, which are not evaluated on the circumstances like the death penalty. But he says we still need to say no to the death penalty because we don't need it to protect society anymore. I started out as an anti-abortion activist in college, but then I gradually heard what my church was teaching about the death penalty as well. My faith and reason came together. We need to have a consistent ethic of life. These 2 things may not be of the same moral gravity, but they are both wrong.

What can people, Christian or otherwise, do to get more involved in your line of work?

I think people need to pray and ask themselves how God is calling them to get involved. Some people feel called to get involved as pen pals, not for romance, but as healthy spiritual correspondents for people on death row, who are starving for that sort of friendship. We can also raise awareness on the parish level that the death penalty is a life issue. We can make all these wonderful Catholic people aware of that on the parish level. We can become involved politically. Here in Florida, we have Catholic Days at the Capitol, and busloads of Catholics show up to tell their legislators that the culture of life and other social issues are important. In some cases, people even feel called to start visiting someone on death row. That's a tremendous commitment that needs to be carefully discerned with a spiritual advisor and pastor. It's a journey to the cross. But the bishops ask us to educate ourselves, educate others and be a voice for change. One of my dear friends, Jim Wallis at Sojourners in Washington, told me something I'll never forget: "Politicians are always going to hold up their finger and check the direction of the wind before they vote. What we have to do is change the direction of the wind." That's what we need to do.

Do you have any final thoughts?

One of the things my wife Susan and I always mention is that every occupied death row cell, whether the man inside is guilty or not, represents a horrible crime where someone's loved one has died. Susan and I also minister to families of murder victims and we've been shocked to realize how isolated many of them are. People don't know how to touch that pain and so they stay away. So we always end our presentations with a plea that Catholics in parishes find ways to minister to the victims of these horrible crimes and to their families. Find ways to offer the true healing of community, love, compassion and walk with these people through a horror that hit them like a lightning bolt out of the blue. These people are in every parish and every community. We need to be creative about bringing real healing to these suffering people in our midst.

(source: Sean Salai, S.J., is a summer editorial intern at America; American Magazine)

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Does it matter how a condemned man dies----The drug used to kill inmates on death row - sodium thiopental - has run out. The story of what replaced it is as alarming as it is horrific. GQ goes to Texas and Oklahoma in search of some answers, a trail that leads all the way to the gurney... The small room is silent and the desk fan that whirs by the door fails to cut through the muggy warmth. There are 24 black metal chairs, in two rows of 12, and two boxes of tissues, one placed somewhere near the middle of each row. I'm told to sit at the back, at the far end, and the female corrections officer standing a few feet away doesn't acknowledge me as I take my seat; instead she stands there, silently staring at her fingernails. There's another guard at the other end of the room - by the yellow door I just came through - and two men in suits, each of whom has a black phone pressed to his ear.

7 people - 6 men and 1 woman - are then escorted through that yellow door and take their seats in front of me. One of them, an older man in his 70s, removes a large cowboy hat then says something quietly to the guard. She smiles but doesn't reply. Nobody else says a word; etiquette perhaps dictates that you don't speak once inside this room.

A few seconds later the curtain we are facing opens. Behind the glass a woman wearing a smart jacket and skirt faces us from where she stands, behind a hospital gurney in the centre of the room.

Lying on the gurney is a man in his fifties with grey hair and glasses. His head rests on a pillow and his large body is covered by a crisp white sheet. He has 2 IV needles taped to his arms and I notice a little dried blood above the plasters. He tilts his head slightly to -acknowledge the people sitting in front of me. He begins to cry.

2 weeks earlier, on 9 January, another man was lying on this same gurney, covered in a crisp white sheet. Michael Lee Wilson was 38 and had been on death row for his part in the killing of a colleague who worked in an Oklahoma convenience store. As the drugs took hold Wilson said into the microphone above him, "I feel my whole body burning."

Perhaps Wilson knew, or perhaps he didn't, that those words would outlive him; that they'd form part of a litany of horrifying testimony that would put the lethal-injection process in the United States on trial.

Until the 80s, when a syringe was routinely used to pump death-row inmates full of lethal drugs, the electric chair was the de facto method of killing criminals in the US. The chair is still retained in 8 states in the event that an inmate chooses it over lethal injection (which one did as recently as last year), the lethal injection drug supply dries up, or the method is ruled unconstitutional. With the electric chair, electrodes are fastened to the condemned prisoner's head and legs and around 2,000 volts are sent through their body.

There have been problems with the chair ever since it was first employed in 1890 in New York. Then, a vegetable seller called William Kemmler, who had killed his girlfriend with a hatchet, was strapped in, and after convulsing as the electrical current surged through his body a doctor pronounced him dead.

His diagnosis, however, was premature. "Great God," cried one witness, "he's alive." "Turn on the current," shouted another. Unconscious but still breathing, Kemmler was then subjected to another bolt of electricity. According to a New York Times report at the time, "blood began to appear on the face of the wretch in the chair", and afterwards the deputy coroner told the correspondent, "I would rather see ten hangings than one such execution as this."

In 1999, photographs of the botched electrocution of Allen Lee Davis on Florida's death row were published by a judge on the state's supreme court. In the pictures, Davis can be seen purple-faced, eyes scrunched shut, blood pouring from his nose and dripping onto his prison whites. The sickening spectacle drew nationwide media attention and an end to Florida's use of the electric chair.

But electrocution was used in another state as recently as January 2013, when Robert Gleason Jr, 42, who strangled his cell mate in prison, was executed by the state of Virginia. In fact, in the past decade, seven inmates - all men - have been executed this way, in South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.

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The gas chamber was introduced in 1924 in an effort to improve on electrocution but that hasn't fared much better. In 1983, murderer Jimmy Lee Gray was executed by the state of Mississippi and a report described how, as Gray began inhaling the toxic fumes, he thrashed his head around, repeatedly banging it into an iron bar behind his chair until he lost consciousness. In 1996, a panel of judges in California (where the gas chamber had been used since 1933) ruled that it constituted a "cruel and unusual punishment". But each state makes its own laws, and the gas chamber is still authorised in 3 states - Arizona, Missouri and Wyoming.

Hanging is still available in Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington state, and firing squad in Oklahoma (if lethal injection or electrocution are ever found unconstitutional). Utah abolished the firing squad in 2004 for any new death-row inmates, but that's how 4 men currently on death row there will be executed because they were "grandfathered in" when they elected it.

According to a local report, when the injection began Brooks closed his eyes, after which he started gasping and wheezing.

In 1977, Jay Chapman, then the Oklahoma state medical examiner, designed a 3-drug cocktail that could be used to execute offenders. It consisted of sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic which would put the inmate to sleep; pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. They were to be administered in sequence. Eventually all states that carried out executions (currently 35) would employ lethal injection as their primary method of killing prisoners.

Not surprisingly, considering its less-than-salubrious distinction of being the state that carries out the most executions, Texas was the 1st to use the 3-drug procedure, in 1982, when it put to death 40-year-old Charles Brooks Jr for murdering a car mechanic.

According to a local report, when the injection began Brooks closed his eyes, after which he started gasping and wheezing. He was pronounced dead 7 minutes later.

Anaesthetists noted that the 2nd drug, pancuronium bromide, seemed to serve no purpose other than to stop the inmate's body from moving, making watching him die more palatable to witnesses. As one anaesthetist told me, "It was included to make it prettier."

In 2003, I researched this very same issue after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Texas death row inmates pointing out that the use of pancuronium bromide was forbidden in Texas - and at least 18 other states - for use by vets in putting animals to sleep. Back then, Jim Marcus, executive director of the Texas Defender Service which filed the suit, told me there was evidence the drug "renders a person paralysed but they're completely sentient and dying a slow death of asphyxiation".

Around the same time, a judge in Tennessee wrote that its use "taps into every citizen's fear that the government manipulates the setting and gilds the lily."

The use of the 3-drug cocktail, though, would continue. Megan McCracken, an attorney at the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law, told me that if the 1st drug isn't administered properly there's a risk of the inmate being awake and aware but paralysed. If that's the case, she said, the 3rd drug, potassium chloride, would cause "extraordinary pain as it travels through the circulatory system".

Execution by lethal injection has been far from devoid of problems. In 1992 in Oklahoma's death chamber, Robyn Parks had a violent reaction to the drugs when the muscles in his jaw, neck and abdomen went into a spasm and he gasped and gagged until he died.

In 2005, in Delaware, the main IV line became blocked during the execution of Brian Steckel. The sedative drug wasn't administered properly, and Steckel stayed conscious as the pancuronium bromide trickled into his vein. According to Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, Steckel then started to convulse.

In 2007, due to his weight, it took around an hour and a half to find a vein in Christopher Newton's arms as he lay on the gurney in Ohio waiting to die - so long, in fact, that Newton was granted a toilet break. When he was finally injected with the lethal drugs, his stomach heaved, his mouth twitched and he suffered convulsions. It took 16 minutes to kill him.

Until 2009, the drugs used in the lethal injection process were all available on the US market from wholesalers, but that year Hospira, the sole producer of sodium thiopental, had a manufacturing problem at its plant in North Carolina. Suddenly, according to McCracken, the stocks of sodium thiopental became scarce. "And slowly, you saw departments of corrections running out and unable to get more."

Sodium thiopental had been used less and less in conventional medicine, replaced largely by propofol, a more effective anaesthetic because patient recovery is quicker. McCracken says departments of corrections then began trading with each other and looking to import sodium thiopental from overseas.

Following an investigation by British-based human rights charity Reprieve, it transpired that one of these overseas suppliers was a UK company called Dream Pharma Ltd, run by a man called Mehdi Alavi who rented a desk in a driving school in Acton, London. What's more, he was supplying drugs to the Arizona Department of Corrections that had already been used in at least 1 execution.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's ballsy director and an attorney who had spent years working capital murder cases in Louisiana, didn't mince words in a letter to Alavi. "You have played a significant role and hold responsibility for the potential deaths of many people in the United States," he wrote. "I need hardly point out that your advertising slogan - 'Dream Pharma Ltd, Dedicated to the Healthcare of the Public' - is hardly appropriate, unless your dreams refer to Hamlet: 'To sleep, perchance to dream... for in that sleep of death who knows what dreams may come.'"

According to Maya Foa, strategic director of Reprieve's death-penalty team, death-penalty drugs were now being obtained through a complex supply chain and network of global distribution.

This marked the start of a deliberate and very effective campaign on the part of human-rights groups and defence attorneys to thwart the supply of those overseas drugs, through both media campaigns and lawsuits.

Kayem Pharmaceutical Private Limited based in Mumbai, India, supplied sodium thiopental to South Dakota and Nebraska. When it became public knowledge in the spring of 2011, the company's managing director, Naveen Verma, claimed he had no idea what the drugs were being used for, adding that a broker negotiated the contract and had since been sacked.

Somewhat ironically, India retains capital punishment for certain serious offences, though it has only been carried out four times in the past 20 years.

McCracken says this was when some US states began changing the drug protocol they used to carry out lethal injections. When stocks of sodium thiopental dried up, Ohio, for example, changed to a single dose of pentobarbital.

Pentobarbital works much like sodium -thiopental. In our brain we have what are called GABA receptors - chemical messengers that scientists believe control our fear or anxiety when our neurons are overexcited. Pentobarbital and sodium thiopental stimulate those receptors and a certain amount can put you to sleep.

According to one anaesthetist who has researched the lethal injection process, pentobarbital kills people in two different ways: an older, sicker person's veins will dilate and their heart will beat faster, which can cause a heart attack. Younger people whose heart can tolerate the drug stop breathing. And if you stop breathing for 5 minutes you get brain damage and then hypoxemia - a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, which will ultimately kill you.

Lundbeck, a Danish pharmaceutical company, held the only licence to manufacture pentobarbital, known by its trade name Nembutal in the United States, and by July 2011, caving to pressure from human-rights groups, it agreed to halt distribution of the product to prisons in any state that carried out the lethal injection.

"It appeared to work well," says McCracken. Departments of corrections were unable to get their hands on sedatives used in the lethal injection process and the stocks that some of them did have expired in November of the same year.

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To illustrate just how shady the entire thing had become, one death-penalty attorney shared a redacted email chain with me which showed a foreign supplier of pentobarbital willing to ship to the US using "diplomatic seals", which it said "will enable the parcel to pass free from all customs control and police intervention". The same email claimed it wrapped merchandise in carbon photo paper so that x-ray machines would not penetrate it.

In the spring of 2012, a federal judge in Washington, DC ruled that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had broken the law in allowing certain states to bypass regulations and import unapproved drugs to be used in -executions. In his ruling, Judge Richard Leon wrote that the FDA had "acted in a manner contrary to the public health... [and] appears to be simply wrapping itself in the flag of law-enforcement discretion to justify its authority and masquerade an otherwise seemingly callous indifference to the health consequences of those immediately facing the executioner's needle. How utterly disappointing."

It was like a tactical game, with events seeming to favour the abolitionist movement. It was the execution states' move. This is where the story takes a more -sinister turn; where it's no longer a game of cat and mouse with suppliers and their adversaries. This is the moment the war over death-penalty drugs reaches the executioner's table.

The source of drugs became shrouded in secrecy. In September 2013, it looked like death-row prisoner Arturo Diaz would become the 1st person to be put to death using pentobarbital obtained from a vendor that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused to identify. Then, a week before the execution it revealed it had obtained the drug from the Virginia Department of Corrections - at no cost.

In October 2013, stymied by human rights groups and defence lawyers working for the condemned, Florida decided to try something new - a never-before-tried drug in executions called midazolam, which is used by doctors to treat seizures and insomnia, and for sedating patients before medical procedures. Florida planned to use it 1st in its 3-drug cocktail, followed by pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. When it put convicted rapist and murderer William Happ to death in October last year, witnesses described how Happ shook his head back and forth while the drugs flooded his system. 2 minutes later he opened his eyes, then yawned before his jaw dropped open. Lawyers for seven Florida death row inmates subsequently challenged the constitutionality of the drug.

Some states also turned to what are known as "compounding pharmacies" to obtain supplies. Unregulated by the FDA, compounding pharmacies primarily mix drugs for individual patients' needs - removing an ingredient that causes an allergic reaction, perhaps, or changing the form of the medicine from a pill to a liquid.

In October 2012, South Dakota executed Eric Robert - convicted of killing a prison guard - using pentobarbital it obtained from a compounding pharmacy. Following that, Georgia, Texas, Ohio and Missouri each announced they would secure pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies.

But critics said compounded pentobarbital wasn't regulated by the FDA, had much shorter expiration dates and if its potency was questionable it wouldn't sedate the inmate properly. "Mis-compounded pentobarbital poses a grave risk of suffering and pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment, as well as federal and state law," one attorney wrote in a lawsuit against an Oklahoma pharmacy.

Herbert Smulls, an inmate on Missouri's death row, was scheduled to die on 29 January 2014 using compounded pentobarbital. In a letter sent a week before to the FDA, Smulls' attorney, Cheryl Pilate, described information she had received that she said proved a compounding pharmacy sent the prison syringes filled with pentobarbital and had directed the Missouri Department of Corrections to store it at room temperature. An affidavit from a pharmacologist said improper storage of the pentobarbital at room temperature created a risk that Smulls could be "injected with a degraded, contaminated drug, thus causing excruciating pain".

If you're given a large enough dose of pentobarbital prepared under FDA supervision, most anaesthetists agree that you'll fall asleep and won't wake up, and although nobody knows exactly how it feels to be killed with pentobarbital, most agree it's probably painless. But compounded drugs might not be sterile. And because of the Hippocratic oath, medical doctors don't administer it to death-row inmates; it's injected by people who work in the prison. As one anaesthetist I spoke to told me, "They don't know what they're doing. And so the pentobarbital can burn or cause pain on injection. And sometimes [inmates] are not given enough."

According to Mike Brickner, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Ohio, compounding pharmacies have sold expired drugs or drugs that have not been stored properly. In 2012 a batch of contaminated steroids from a compounding pharmacy caused 750 people to fall sick with fungal meningitis. Sixty-four people died in that outbreak.

Late on 28 January, the supreme court granted Smulls a stay of execution, but it was lifted the next day and Smulls was put to death using the compounded drug.

By now, some states had begun talking about bringing back earlier methods of execution: Chris Koster, Missouri's attorney general, suggested it might revert to the gas chamber; Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general of Arkansas, hinted at a return to the electric chair. And in Wyoming, Republican state senator Bruce Burns even suggested firing squad as an alternative. "I consider frankly the gas chamber to be cruel and unusual," Burns told the Associated Press, "so I went with firing squad because they also have it in Utah."

The horror of what happened in Ohio on 16 January 2014 was palpable. Nobody could sugar-coat what they had seen: not the witnesses sitting in front of the glass screen; not the corrections officers standing guard; nor the prison warden whose job it was to stand next to the condemned man, Dennis McGuire.

Rather than source compounded pentobarbital from a US pharmacy, Ohio tried a new drug protocol on McGuire, convicted of the rape and murder of a pregnant woman in 1989. The cocktail would consist of the sedative midazolam and hydromorphone. But the combination was untested. Before the execution, David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School who served as an expert witness for McGuire in his appeal, warned it could cause the condemned man "agony and horror", but Ohio went ahead regardless.

Witnesses said it took McGuire 26 minutes to die - the longest by lethal injection in the state's history. "My dad began gasping and struggling to breathe," said McGuire's son, in a press conference afterwards. "I watched his stomach heave, I watched him try to sit up against the straps on the gurney. I watched him repeatedly clench his fists. It appeared to me he was -fighting for his life but suffocating. The agony and terror... lasted more than 19 minutes."

David Waisel told me that McGuire was never sufficiently anaesthetised. "He was sitting there fighting to breathe for a long time, so the drugs did not work as the state proposed they would."

In more than a decade covering the death penalty in Texas, I'd interviewed scores of inmates at the Polunsky Unit, the concrete fortress in the east Texas town of Livingston that houses the state's death row wing. But I'd never witnessed an execution. Several years ago, the criminal justice department's then-public information officer asked if I'd like to, but I didn't feel it would add anything to the stories I was writing.

With new drugs being tried, others obtained from questionable sources, and horrific stories of suffering on the gurney, I felt I needed to see what 35 states were doing in the name of the American people. The next person scheduled for execution in the US was Kenneth Hogan who was set to die by a cocktail of pentobarbital, the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride on 23 January. Two weeks earlier, pentobarbital from the same batch, sourced from a compounding pharmacy, had been used to kill Michael Lee Wilson, who said he felt his entire body burning.

Hogan had been convicted of stabbing his friend to death in 1988. One morning that January he told his wife he was going to work, but instead went to see 21-year-old Lisa Stanley while her husband was out. The pair smoked marijuana and Hogan claimed Stanley tried to persuade him to steal a stereo system for her. When he refused, they began to argue. According to court documents from Hogan's clemency appeal, she threatened to call his wife and tell her the couple were having an affair.

The row escalated. Hogan is quoted as saying "she went into the kitchen and she come [sic] back out... I was putting my coat on and she just pushed it [a knife] right at me. I didn't know what to say, do or think, I just grabbed the knife and it hurt, it hurt..."

He then describes killing Stanley with the same knife. "It was like I wasn't even there," he said. "Just somebody else... it wasn't even me. It was stabbing her and I couldn't stop him."

Prosecutors said Hogan stabbed Stanley more than 25 times in her back, neck and chest, after which he knocked over objects in her apartment to make it appear like she had been robbed.

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It's -4C outside on the day I arrive in McAlester, a city of 18,000 people in southwest Oklahoma. The town gets its name from JJ McAlester, the state's 1-time lieutenant governor who was immortalised in the novel True Grit. Its biggest employer is the army's ammunition plant, which has the distinction of making all the bombs used by the US military.

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary is known locally as McAlester or Big Mac. An imposing white building with peeled paintwork, it became operational in 1908 and is mentioned in the opening scenes of John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes Of Wrath; his central protagonist Tom Joad is paroled from McAlester before setting out for California to escape the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.

Big Mac is also famous for a prison riot in 1973, regarded as the worst in US history. It's also home to the state's death row, and that's where I go at 4pm on 23 January, to watch Kenneth Hogan die.

Jerry Massie looks like he could have been a film star. He wears a grey suit, shiny black shoes and his grey hair is neatly parted and glistens under the strip light. He has piercing blue eyes and a suntan. Massie is not a movie star. He used to be a probation officer in Oklahoma, but for years now he's been the head of public information for the state's department of corrections. If you're a journalist and you need to witness an execution, Massie's your man.

It's now about -6C and the sun is sinking low in the sky. An icy wind whips around the trees outside and a train whistles in the distance as it passes through. The media waiting room is a small tan building about 100ft or so away from the perimeter wall of the prison. Next to it is a patch of browning grass with a children's swing and some picnic benches - apparently for low-risk inmates from the minimum security unit down the road to meet their families.

Inside, the chairs, each with red plastic seats, face towards the front of the room where there's a desk, behind which sit 2 other prison staff. There's coffee and cookies provided for media witnesses, although today there will be only 2 members of the press here.

Massie hands me a sheet of paper. It says Hogan's last meal was given to him between 12.30pm and 1pm. He ate a cheeseburger from Braum's, a fast-food chain; a 10oz block of sharp cheddar cheese; large French fries (cooked crispy); a 500ml bottle of Pepsi; 15 packets of ketchup; and a bag of BBQ corn nuts.

Massie tells me he thinks the last meal forms part of the ritual inmates go through. "That's why you never get them causing trouble on execution day," he says. "They don't struggle on the gurney. They want to go out like a man." Massie says he thinks they're resigned to the fact they're going to die on a certain day at a certain time and that they've made their peace.

Shortly after 4pm, Justin Juozapavicius, a reporter for the Associated Press, enters the media room. A jovial man in his thirties, Juozapavicius is about to cover his 10th execution. Massie has "facilitated" media witnesses for about 190 executions in Oklahoma but he's never seen one himself.

At about 5.50pm, the phone will ring. On the other end of the line will be a prison staff member telling Massie the execution is about to begin and that we're to be taken to death row. While we're waiting, Massie tells me the story of one inmate, Robert Brecheen, who in 1995 overdosed on sedatives a few hours before his execution. He had to be rushed to hospital to have his stomach pumped before he was driven back to the prison only to be executed in the morning. "It was the same doctor who pumped his stomach that later pronounced him dead in the execution chamber," Massie says.

Even though I'm anticipating it, when the phone eventually rings it startles me. Massie's colleague picks up her keys from the desk and leads me and Juozapavicius to a waiting car. She drives us round the back of Big Mac, past the huge entrance to the old prison rodeo where inmates used to ride bulls and horses to crowds of paying spectators but which doesn't take place any more due to cutbacks. Next to that is what looks like a grey concrete bunker.

We're rushed inside. "No pat-downs today," says the large guard at the entrance. "Do you have cell phones on you?" We both say no and he hands Juozapavicius and me a notepad and pencil each before an officer escorts us inside the warm fortress, down a long hallway, and past a row of small barred windows.

The corridor narrows and we're told to go inside a small room with a yellow door. Twenty-four hours ago, Hogan was moved to a special holding cell, just feet from the entrance to the death chamber. He was allowed to shower and given a new set of clothes. That's where he ate his last meal, made his final phone calls and met with a priest. By the time Juozapavicius and I take our seats, Hogan is already strapped to the gurney on the other side of the curtain and has IVs in his arms.

2 speakers attached to the wall above the window will broadcast his final statement. Behind me is another pane of one-way glass. Behind it sit 8 relatives of Hogan's victim.

The 2 men who have been standing near the door with separate telephones pressed to their ears - 1 to the governor's office, the other to the warden in the execution chamber - replace the handsets. There has been no last-minute stay.

Once the curtain rolls back, the condemned man mumbles something and the warden tells him to take a deep breath in order to get his words out. Hogan acknowledges his family and friends, including the man in the cowboy hat, who sits in front of me. "I'm guilty of what I'm here for," he says, "and I take full responsibility for my actions. And to Lisa's family I say I'm sorry that I can't undo it. I'm sorry to my family for all the pain and shame I've caused them. Minister you've helped me to be a better believer and I thank you for that."

He tells everyone he loves them and when he finishes, the warden says, "Let the execution begin," and Hogan begins whispering what sounds like a prayer. He tilts his head up, looks at his family one final time, then lays back down, staring at the ceiling before closing his eyes.

"There's a chemical taste in my mouth," he says. Then, "I'm going. I'm going. I'm going." Hogan takes his final breaths and I can just see the white sheet covering him blowing in the breeze of a small fan on the floor at the foot of the gurney. In seconds, Hogan's face turns from pink to grey.

6 minutes from when the execution began, the warden asks the doctor to check Hogan's vital signs. The doctor emerges from near the foot of the bed where he's been crouching, places a stethoscope on Hogan's heart and listens. He removes it, lets it dangle from his neck, then looks at the clock. "Time of death: 6.13pm," he says.

The warden, hands clasped behind her back, looks at Hogan's face. It's the last thing I see before the curtain closes. Hogan's family and friends wipe away tears. When we file out of the witness room, the 2 boxes of tissues remain untouched.

Back in the media room, Massie hands me two handwritten notes from the mother and father of the victim, Lisa Stanley. "In the 26 years since my daughter's death, Kenneth has not made any attempt to contact me nor any member of my family. He has shown absolutely no remorse for his actions," Norma, her mother, had written. "My daughter was a beautiful young woman with a heart of gold."

Her father, George, wrote that Hogan's execution would "not bring her back nor will it change the harm brought to our family. But for 26 years, it has kept the horror of her death fresh in our memories. At last this will end the process."

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Closure. For 2 1/2 hours, as I drive from McAlester, Oklahoma, to my sister-in-law's house in Dallas, Texas, I wonder about this concept. Will Lisa Stanley's family really feel at peace now her killer is dead? I see Hogan's face in my mind, turning from pink to ash, a life snuffed out before my eyes.

Oddly enough I feel a certain amount of guilt. I feel, like everyone there, that I have been complicit in this macabre drama. Media witnesses are part of the process - or as Massie had put, the eyes and ears of the public - while the state carries out its role.

A few days earlier I'd read a story by Kelly Kurt, a writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, reflecting on her experiences as a former Associated Press reporter. Kurt witnessed 16 executions up at Big Mac, but not once, she wrote, had she heard a condemned man cry. I don't know what difference it makes, if any, but Kenneth Hogan had cried: before he'd apologised to his victim's family, he'd wept on the gurney.

Kelly Kurt witnessed 16 executions up at Big Mac, but not once, she wrote, had she heard a condemned man cry.

Towards the end of April, 2 men were scheduled to die on the same evening on the same gurney where I'd watched Hogan succumb to a lethal cocktail of drugs. It was to be the 1st double execution in Oklahoma since 1937, but convicted killers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were to be put to death using a drug protocol that was new to the state: the sedative midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Florida had used the 3 in succession before, but with a much larger dose of midazolam. The drug had also been used in the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio - in which his stomach heaved and he'd struggled for breath for 26 minutes before expiring.

Warner and Lockett's attorneys challenged the secrecy of this new source of lethal injection drugs. They won at the district court, but an intervention by the state's governor Mary Fallin caused it to reverse its decision.

At 6.23pm on Tuesday 29 April, media witnesses watched as Lockett was injected with the 1st drug - 50mg of midazolam in each arm. 8 minutes later, after a doctor checked his pupils, the prison's warden, Anita Trammell, declared, "Mr Lockett is not unconscious."

According to Ziva Branstetter, a journalist witnessing the execution for the Tulsa World newspaper, 13 minutes later Lockett kicked his leg and rolled his head to the side before mumbling something unintelligible. His body began "writhing and bucking", Branstetter wrote.

2 minutes later he began "grimacing, grunting and lifting his head and shoulders entirely up from the gurney... rolling his head from side to side." After that, the curtains separating the gallery from the chamber were drawn and the men and women who had watched the horrifying, failed execution were escorted from the room. Later, they were told that 43 minutes after the first drugs were administered, Lockett died of a cardiac arrest. Unsurprisingly, Charles Warner's execution was stayed. But what media outlets were calling Oklahoma's "botched execution" had become international news. Even the White House said it "fell short of humane standards".

For her part, Oklahoma's Governor Fallin announced an inquiry. Still, she was a staunch defender of the law. "[Lockett] had his day in court," she explained. "I believe the legal process worked. I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment."

(source: Alex Hannaford, British GQ Magazine)

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Lethal injections in America: 6 things to know----Most common form of capital punishment under pressure; Manufacturers are cutting off supplies of lethal injection drugs because of opposition to the death penalty, forcing prison officials to buy them from under-regulated pharmacies or use drug combinations never employed before in putting someone to death.

It took more than 90 minutes for Arizona death row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood to die this week from a lethal injection, a procedure designed to be quick and pain-free.

USA TODAY Network answers your questions about the most common form of capital punishment.

1. How many executions have been administered this year?

There have been 26 executions by lethal injection in seven states in 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This year, three, including Wood, have gained national attention for the length of time it's taken for the inmate to die.

Since the 1st lethal injection execution in 1982, there have been more than 1,200 executions by this method in the USA, according to the center.

2. How many states allow the death penalty?

The death penalty is legal in 32 states and by the federal government. In all, lethal injection is the primary method.

If lethal injection is not available, the electric chair is an option in 8 states, the gas chamber in 3 states and by hanging in 3 states. In Oklahoma, death by firing squad is an option if lethal injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional, according to Death Penalty Information Center.

3. How does lethal injection work?

Typically, the inmate is strapped to a gurney and the executioner inserts 2 needles into a vein (1 needle for back-up) attached to an intravenous drip. The multiple-drug cocktails are administered 1 at a time. In the past, the typical 3-drug cocktail was 1st a sedative, then a muscle relaxant that would stop breathing and finally a drug that would stop the heart. Now, drug combinations vary state-by-state.

4. How long are executions supposed to last?

It should take about 10 minutes for the inmate to die, reports The Associated Press.

5. Is there a standard drug combination nationwide?

There is no national standard. Currently, states differ in the drugs they use and the dosage. They can use 1, 2 or 3 drugs. There can even be differences from execution to execution in the same state.

In the past, states administered the same 3-drug combination. But in 2011, the U.S. maker of one of the drugs stopped manufacturing its product in objection to its use for capital punishment. Since then, states have been forced to find new drug combinations.

6. Who administers the drugs?

States do not reveal the identity of the executioner. It could be a physician, nurse, EMT or someone else with training.

However, doctors are bound by medical ethics from participating in an execution. The American Medical Association discourages physicians from getting involved and the American Board of Anesthesiology disbars any anesthesiologist who participates in an execution.

(source: USA Today)

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Botched executions renew debate over death penalty, means of execution

A 3rd execution by lethal injection has gone awry in 6 months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to humanely kill condemned criminals, and whether it's even worth looking for one.

Death penalty opponents say any killing is an unnecessarily cruel punishment. Proponents may favor the most humane execution method possible, but many reject the idea that a few minutes or hours of suffering by a criminal who caused great suffering to others should send government back to the drawing board.

30 years ago, states and the federal government gave little thought to the condemned inmates comfort. Most executioners used electric chairs, but death row inmates were also hanged, put to death in the gas chamber or faced a firing squad.

Mistakes occurred. Inmates appeared to suffer in the gas chamber. Electric chairs caught fire or malfunctioned and didn't kill. So a growing number of law enforcement officials, legislators and advocates began searching for a foolproof, constitutional method for executions.

In 1977, an Oklahoma medical director appeared to have found a solution. Dr. Jay Chapman came up with a 3-drug combination that promised to put the inmate to sleep before painlessly and quickly drifting off to death. Chapman's formula replaced the state's use of the electric chair.

Now, calls are mounting to scrap lethal injection, even by those who support capital punishment like Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He believes a completely humane method of execution isn't possible and favors firing squads.

"If we as a society cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by a firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all," Kozinski wrote Monday in support of carrying out Wood's execution.

Chapman's 3-drug combination became the default execution method for the federal government and in every state - some 3 dozen - that has capital punishment. Lethal injection was embraced as the best possible way to execute and the apparent painless and swift death it caused were seen as attributes to counter lawsuits and protests that claimed capital punishment was cruel and unusual.

Since then, more than 1,200 inmates have been executed by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 ruled the method constitutional.

"Execution by lethal injection should be a humane way to die," said Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "But it isn't."

Caplan said that there hasn't been any reported trouble with physicians who in some states can legally help people commit suicide. "So we know it can be done painlessly," he said.

But medical ethicists and professional licensing boards for doctors and nurses forbid their participation in executions, which are carried out by lay workers who sometimes struggle with administering a lethal injection.

Further, pharmaceutical companies are refusing to ship prisons the 3 drugs necessary to mimic Chapman's mixture. That has caused prison officials to scramble to find alternative drugs that may not kill as quickly. Anesthesiology experts say they're not surprised that the 2 drugs Arizona used Wednesday took so long to kill Joseph Rudolph Wood.

So the lawsuits and protests persist. So do the problems.

On Wednesday, Wood gasped for air for 90 minutes and took about 2 hours to die after receiving an injection. An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Previously, non-medical personnel had trouble delivering the lethal injection or had trouble finding veins on longtime drug abusers. When doctors were called in to assist, the American Medical Association objected that it was unethical for physicians to be directly involved in executions.

After questions over the amount of time it took for Wood to die, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state's execution protocol. Governors in Ohio and Oklahoma have ordered similar reviews.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine law school and death penalty opponent, said he believes lethal injection is here to stay because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it constitutional in 2008 - and because the public would never stand for firing squads.

"It is far too gruesome," Chemerinsky said.

However, a Utah lawmaker says he will introduce legislation next year to restart firing squads in that state. Utah eliminated firing squads in 2004, citing the excessive media attention it gave inmates. But those sentenced to death before 2004 can choose it, which is what condemned inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner did in 2010. 5 police officers using .30-caliber Winchester rifles executed Gardner, the 3rd inmate to die that way since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The idea of using firing squads has come up in Wyoming, where an interim legislative committee has been looking at the issue this summer. A proposed bill to allow firing squads failed an introductory vote last winter in the state Legislature.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, said that the lethal injection process can be fixed and he wants government to looking for an answer.

Regardless, he said it's unclear whether Wood - and others who endured prolonged lethal injections - suffered any pain, which is more than his 2 victims could say.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a death penalty opponent who must decide whether to appeal a federal judge's recent decision striking down California's death penalty, was asked this week if a humane execution method is even possible.

"I honestly don't know," she said.

(source: Associated Press)

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Death Penalty: Stop state-sanctioned murder

What kind of a country have we become?

With the blessing of the Supreme Court of the United States, the state of Arizona carried out an execution last Wednesday in which the prisoner took 2 hours to horribly die, gasping and choking throughout the entire time.

This was not a surprise. His lawyers had asked that the drugs utilized be identified since there was a serious risk that the prisoner would suffer cruel and unusual punishment in the executions since the drugs were untested. (Drugs previously used in executions are no longer available.) The 9th Circuit court agreed with the lawyers in light of the history of 4 previous botched executions using untested drugs, and ordered disclosure of the drugs and stay of execution until this had happened. This decision was overturned by our esteemed Supreme Court, which ordered the execution to go forward. It did so, with the results as described above.

4 previous executions have had similar results, though none as sustained as this one.

Can we as a country finally stop state-sanctioned murder, and join the rest of the civilized world? It is long past time.

Cheryl McMillan, Missoula

(source: Letter to the Editor, Ravalli Republic)

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How I Became Interested In The Death Penalty And Why I'm Against It

Since I wrote my last piece on the death penalty, "Hey, Arizona, Next Time Try Scaphism," I've been asked why I care so much about it and why it angers me so much. I am angry because I have lived in a country that abolished it without descending into anarchy, and met Americans who transcended the violence of it even though they were the relatives of murder victims.

I first got involved while writing a script for Warner Brothers. It had been inspired by, and was intended for, Al Pacino, who wanted to do a modern version of Othello. I suggested making the antagonists lawyers on opposite sides of a death penalty trial. Jealousy would so undermine one that he'd be incapable of saving his client. I suppose the very fact that this was the story I wanted to tell (and did tell, though the film never got made) suggests I was already opposed to execution. How can flawed human beings take on the work of "God"? But despite this seeming bias, I went into the research with only a mild bias. It was not something I'd thought a lot about.

I met many people on all sides of the issue, judges, lawyers, killers, families of killers, and the families of the killed. I came out the other side 100% convinced the death penalty was not just barbaric but absolutely pointless.

Ironically, the first thing that became clear to me was that the people who suffered most as a result of it were the friends and families of murder victims.

When the State goes for life or life without parole, the case is quickly disposed of, the killer goes to prison, and the families begin trying to come to terms with the loss, the sorrow. If the State goes for the death penalty, however, its irreversibility dictates numerous appeals. (Anyone who doubts this should be so, might want to visit the Innocence Project website and check out some of the "killers" exonerated by them.)

Because of this, more time passes for the families before the legal aspects can be put behind them. Instead of grieving, they become invested in "winning", in getting the execution carried out. Consciously or not, they start thinking this will bring relief. But when the execution happens, another life ends, but nothing is won, nothing changes. The victim is brought back to life only in the sense that memories of the worst part of his or her life - the horror of its end - are dredged up again.

Years have gone by, but only now - with this nasty resolution behind them - does the grieving process finally begin.

The death penalty keeps rage alive at the expense of acceptance, peace.

Weirdly illustrative of this was a woman I met whose teenage daughter was murdered. The killer, a miserable drifter and junky, snuffed the girl out while high. He received the death penalty and the appeals process began. Some years went by and the woman was propelled onward through her life by her hatred and longing for revenge. But one day she could take it no more. She was driving and suddenly it hit her: I cannot live like this.

When she got home she wrote a short note to the killer saying, "You took away everything I loved, you ruined me, but I want you to know that I forgive you." Having sent the letter, she felt an immense relief. She had escaped a kind of domination. She began to remember her child's life as a whole, defined not just by one ghastly encounter, one horrific moment, but also by years of joy and struggle and all the other elements that add up to a whole person, an existence however abbreviated.

But it did not end here. The killer wrote back. He explained who he was and how circumstances had kicked and shoved him to the moment where he killed her child. The letter was long and lucid and, just as she had with her child, she saw she could not confine his existence, his humanity, to a single moment. There was more to him. He could not remember killing her daughter, he was too high, but he didn't doubt that he had done it and expressed deep remorse.

They continued to write to each other, and though the death of her daughter became no less sad, though she missed her no less, her death ceased to seem so existentially unjust and mysterious. It was no longer the consequence of inexplicable evil, it was part of thousands of impulses and failures that by chance had reached lethality when they arrived at her child.

The more she learned about the killer, the more she began to see him as a victim too. When she remembered her daughter, it was not just as the young woman who was killed, but also as the baby she gave birth to, the child she raised. So too with the killer. Unsurprisingly, his childhood had been horrific. If he ever stood a chance, it was a slim one. His life began in horror and now it would end in horror. She decided to try and get him off death row. When I met her she'd been trying for several years.

I know that a lot of people will ridicule her for having "fallen" for a killer's self-serving story; but no child's 1st ambition is to end up on death row having killed an innocent person. Clearly something went wrong between the baby's 1st breath and his last vicious act.

During my research, I met another woman I admired, a lawyer whose only job was to represent her state's death row inmates in their final appeals. To do this, she had to extract their life stories from them and then check the details against known facts before bringing them to the court and begging for mercy. She had done this for many men. I asked her if she'd ever met one who seemed so evil she didn't think he deserved mercy.

"No," she replied immediately, "I can't imagine if I'd had any one of their lives that I could possibly have done any better. In fact, I probably would have done a lot worse."

It is easier to dismiss someone as being "evil" than to face the tangle of social failures that we're all complicit in. It's easier to hate the adult than to ask what made a child grow up wanting oblivion and finding fulfillment in a killing. It's easier to mock and jeer and to kill than to try and understand, but it is cowardly and weak and will change nothing.

(source: Matthew Chapman; Writer/director, 'The Ledge'; Author, Trials of the Monkey'; President, ScienceDebate.org----Huffington Post)

****************

America must face up to the fact that the death penalty is not a policy of justice but an act of vengeance

After the botched execution of double murderer Joseph Wood in Arizona, John says the US needs to rethink its laws on capital punishment.

The execution of double murderer Joseph Wood in Arizona did not go well.

Instead of the scheduled 10 minutes it should have taken the lethal injection to kill Wood - who was, I repeat, a double murderer - in reality, it was nearly 2 hours before he died. Eyewitness said he gasped 600 times.

Given that Wood stabbed his ex-girlfriend and her father to death, there will be those of you out there reading about this agonising execution and thinking something like: And. So. What?

I feel sorry for those of you who think that way but we'll come back to that.

Woods is not a one-off case. Executions are increasingly being botched because it is becoming difficult for the USA to source the drugs it needs for the state to kill people.

Traditionally, lethal injection has been carried out with a cocktail of 3 drugs - sodium thiopental which knocks the victim unconscious, pancuronium bromide which causes paralysis and stops breathing, and, finally, potassium chloride to stop the heart.

But pharmaceutical companies, especially European ones, are becoming increasingly reluctant to sell America these tools. A German supplier recently asked for their drugs back.

The solution? US states have been sourcing execution drugs from something called "pharmaceutical compounders". These are small pharmacies that make drugs on demand for people. They are not subject to the usual rules and regulations and FAA testing of big suppliers.

It was this kind of almost back street supplying that was blamed for an outbreak of meningitis that killed 60 people in Massachusetts last year. Right there you have the horrible, dreadful irony of America's continued support of the death penalty being partly to blame for the death of many innocent citizens.

In the recent furore surrounding all of this, I suddenly found myself in the strange position of agreeing with the conservative, Ronald Reagan-appointed appeals court judge Alex Kozinski, who says procedures like lethal injection "mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful - like something any one of us might experience in our final moments".

However, as we all know, executions are nothing like that. "If the state is going to kill," Kozinski said, "it should at least do it effectively." Kozinski then went on to sing the praises of the firing squad before finally landing on what he saw as being the best method of execution, The Guillotine.

That's right - a judge in America in 2014 advocating the use of something that even in 18th century revolutionary France, most people were beginning to find too much.

Then part of you thinks - why not? If America is going to continue with the barbaric policy of capital punishment, why not make it as horrific as possible?

Because then we might begin to see it for what it was - not a policy of justice but the wholesale enactment of that most primitive emotion: vengeance. Because then the whole world might sit up and say - "This cannot continue."

Gandhi famously said: "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

Less quotable, but more prescient, was George Orwell, who wrote: "Properly speaking there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless. As soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also."

Orwell wrote this in 1945, when he was in Allied Occupied Europe, witnessing the atrocities being perpetrated on captured Nazis. I think most sane, civilised people agree with Orwell. Once you are in the position of power to execute your revenge, it ceases to be "justice". It becomes sadism.

But given its continuing support across the Atlantic (where just over 60 % of Americans still support the death penalty, a significant decline from 80 % support in 1994), it seems many people are less inclined to quote George Orwell or Gandhi on the subject of execution and more inclined to quote someone like Britney Spears, that towering mind who (allegedly) said: "I am for the death penalty.

"Who commits terrible acts must get a fitting punishment. That way, he learns the lesson for the next time."

I know who I'm inclined to listen to on the subject.

(source: John Niven----Scottish Daily Record)

*******************

Botched executions can't be new norm

On Wednesday, July 23, the State of Arizona executed Joseph Rudolph Wood in the 4th visibly bungled execution this year. The execution began at 1:52 p.m. According to eyewitness Michael Kiefer, "Wood was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping." He continued to gasp for over 90 minutes.

Afterward, eyewitness Troy Hayden reported, "Joe Wood is dead, but it took him two hours to die. To watch a man lay there for an hour and 40 minutes gulping air, I can liken it to, if you catch a fish and throw it on the shore, the way the fish opens and closes its mouth."

Kiefer counted more than 640 gasps.

Arizona engaged in a failed experiment. Its new execution protocol called for administration of 2 drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone. The only other time this drug combination had been used was the prolonged and similarly disturbing Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire, who took 24 minutes to die and struggled for air for 10 to 13 minutes.

Eyewitness Alan Johnson reported that McGuire "gasped deeply. It was kind of a rattling, guttural sound. There was kind of a snorting through his nose. A couple of times, he definitely appeared to be choking."

Cruel and unusual execution? Faced with these well-documented problems, Arizona adopted Ohio's procedure but increased the amount of each drug (from 10 milligrams to 50 milligrams for midazolam and from 40mg to 50mg for hydromorphone). The state refused to reveal, however, its process for selecting the new doses or whether it conducted due diligence to determine that its protocol would be more effective. Notwithstanding the changes Arizona made to the drug formula, Wood's execution went even worse than McGuire's.

Despite requests from Wood's lawyers, Arizona also refused to reveal the source of its drugs - including the manufacturer, lot number and expiration date - and the qualifications of its execution team members.

Nothing about this information would compromise the identity of those participating in executions, but it would allow the courts and the public to analyze whether the execution procedures will work as intended and bring about death in a way that meets the requirements of the Eighth Amendment.

4 men - Michael Wilson, McGuire, Clayton Lockett and Wood - have been subjected to bungled executions this year. Although the drugs, doses and other details of the procedures differed in each execution, the commonality between them is that the departments of corrections used experimental drug combinations and shielded crucial aspects of their practices in secrecy.

Even in the aftermath of the executions, the lack of transparency continues. While governors in both Oklahoma and Arizona have called for reviews of the problematic executions, no outside authorities have been brought in to conduct the investigations.

Internal investigations are insufficient to the task. Departments of corrections cannot be allowed to provide pat explanations that leave central questions unanswered, minimize errors and hide relevant information about what went wrong.

Instead, there must be independent investigations of each execution that goes awry and thorough, public reporting of the results. Without truly independent investigations, it will be impossible to make meaningful conclusions about what went wrong or to determine if changes can be made to ensure that the same errors do not happen again.

Chemical mix and human error lead to controversial executions

The botched executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma show us that when states are allowed to devise novel, untested execution protocols without judicial scrutiny or public oversight, the resulting procedures are unreliable. And when the unreliable procedures are implemented, the consequences are gruesome and horrific.

States cannot be allowed to continue carrying out death sentences without judicial review of their execution procedures. The courts must require departments of corrections to disclose key aspects of these procedures, particularly with respect to the provenance of the drugs used and the qualifications of the execution personnel.

Without this oversight, botched executions will become the new norm. No additional executions should proceed until the states act with transparency, and the courts scrutinize execution procedures to ensure that they comport with the U.S. Constitution.

(source: Opinion; Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno are attorneys with the Death Penalty Clinic, Lethal Injection Project, at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors----CNN)

MALAYSIA:

Anti-drug officers seize 3kg heroin in raid

Anti-drug officers seized 3kg of heroin and 215g of Ice with a total street value of more than S$353,000 (RM902,500) in a sting operation.

6 suspects were also arrested during the operation.

They included a 41-year-old Singaporean man who is purportedly the chief of a drug syndicate "actively" distributing heroin obtained from a neighbouring country, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said in a statement on Friday.

On Thursday afternoon, CNB officers nabbed 2 Malaysian men aged 21 and 33 in a taxi in Woodlands, recovering 2,330g of heroin from under the front passenger seat.

Some S$15,000 (RM38,000) in cash was also seized from one of the men.

In a concurrent raid, CNB officers Ė working in tandem with the police - nabbed a 34-year-old Singaporean man suspected of drug trafficking.

He was caught while driving along the Ayer Rajah Expressway.

The purported chief of the syndicate was arrested later at a Housing Board flat in Admiralty. 2 other Singaporeans - a 21-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman - were arrested there and are being investigated for drug consumption.

The officers were later taken to the syndicates hideout in Geylang, where another 710g of heroin and 215g of Ice were seized.

The other 4 men are being investigated for drug trafficking and face the death penalty if convicted.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, offenders found to have trafficked more than 15g of pure heroin will face the gallows.

This amount is equivalent to 1,250 straws - sufficient to feed the habits of about 180 addicts for a week.

CNB director Ng Ser Song said the anti-drug bureau will not let up on its enforcement efforts to clamp down on drugs.

He said: "The operation is a testament of the Home Team's close cooperation and our commitment to keep the streets of Singapore safe from drugs ... CNB will continue to intensify our enforcement efforts and we will not hesitate to take firm action against drug offenders."

(source: The Star)

JULY 26, 2014:

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas AG's office argues death penalty

An assistant Arkansas attorney general has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt said in a brief filed Friday that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen was incorrect in his February ruling that the law violates the separation of powers. Griffen ruled that the Legislature gave too much authority to the Correction Department when it designated the agency director as the person who picks the drug for lethal injections.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig - who represented the death row inmates who challenged the law - told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1AjNGwB ) that he had not read the brief but said "an appropriate response will be filed."

No one has been executed in Arkansas since 2005.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

Kansas judge steps down in midst of capital murder case after defendant files complaint

A Kansas judge presiding over a capital murder trial has recused himself from the case, forcing a new trial date and the rehearing of motions on which he already had ruled.

Shawnee County District Judge Mark Braun stepped down on Friday in response to a complaint filed by Phillip Cheatham, who was convicted of capital murder in 2005 and sentenced to death.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Cheatham's capital murder conviction and death sentence last year because of ineffective counsel. His new trial was scheduled to start Jan. 5, but Braun's decision will push those proceedings back, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/UstAiM ) reported.

Any of the 82 motions filed in the case that already have been ruled upon will have to be argued again. The defense and prosecution were waiting on rulings for 37 motions that already have been argued.

Cheatham's complaint with Braun stems from the judge promising a fair trial in May before he had ruled on motions. Cheatham contends defense motions, which include a challenge to the state's death penalty, require the trial to be dismissed.

"That, to me, shows an utter disregard for his oath, for the constitution, for my rights and for his duty," Cheatham said in a June interview with The Capital-Journal at Shawnee County Jail.

The Kansas Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Cheatham in 2013 when it overturned his capital murder conviction and death sentence for the Dec. 13, 2003, slayings of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones. He also is charged with the attempted 1st-degree murder of Annetta Thomas.

Chief Judge Evelyn Wilson will have to appoint a new judge to the case.

"We stand ready to try this case in front of which ever judge it is assigned to," chief Shawnee County District Attorney Jacqie Spradling said.

(source: Associated Press)

OREGON:

Death row has become little more than permanent housing

In a state where it's tough to find long-term housing, one great exception has been Oregon's death row. Since criminals continue to be sentenced to capital punishment in Oregon, but the state has executed just 2 people in 50 years - and those by the convicts' request - anyone sent to death row is pretty clearly moving in until a hand higher than the state ends his residence.

In the words of federal judge Cormac J. Carney of Orange County, Calif., such a situation makes execution "so unlikely that the death penalty carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

Carney's phrase came from a decision earlier this month that set the California capital punishment system against the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." Carney, a George W. Bush appointee, concluded that whether or not capital punishment was considered cruel, it was hard to deny that in California, it had become pretty clearly unusual. On that basis, Carney declared it unconstitutional.

The ruling by district judge Carney will go through federal appeals court and possibly the Supreme Court, and the full legal process could take a while - although not nearly as long as a capital punishment sentence. But if there is support for Carney's argument - that a vast gap between the number of criminals sentenced to die and the few who actually executed invalidates the system - then his reasoning clearly extends to the long-term housing project that is Oregon's death row.

The Golden State's capital punishment system, outlined by Carney in his decision, is a different branch of the Hotel California: Convicts can't leave, but it's highly unlikely they will ever draw a final check-out from the state.

Since 1978, he notes, California has sentenced more than 900 people to death, but has conducted only 13 executions. Of the rest, 94 have died of other causes and 39 have had their death sentences set aside by federal judges, leaving 748 in extended residence. The mandated appeals process, through state and federal courts, goes on for Dickensian decades.

By the time the sentence has proceeded through the state courts, the process will likely have lasted 17 years. The convict who was the subject of the case before Carney was sentenced to death in 1995.

To Carney, the death sentence under these conditions is not only random and arbitrary - not to mention "unusual" - but unlikely to be much of a deterrent. "The realistic expectation of an individual contemplating a capital crime in California is that if he is caught, it does not matter whether he is sentenced to death - he realistically faces only life imprisonment," noted Carney. "Under such a system, the death penalty is about as effective a deterrent to capital crime as the possibility of a lightning strike is to going out in the rain."

Oregon, being a legal footnote to California in these matters, has 36 people on its death row, not 750. But its frequency of actual execution is comparable, with 2 executions since the death penalty was restored by voters in 1984. 4 of the convicts on Oregon's death row have been there since 1988, and 4 more since 1989.

There could, of course, have been 1 more execution this year, when Gary Haugen asked to be executed, apparently the only way capital punishment can happen in Oregon. But Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was also governor for the other 2 executions, refused to sign off on another. If Kitzhaber is re-elected, that means no executions until at least 2019.

GOP candidate Dennis Richardson took a poke at Kitzhaber on the issue during their first debate. But while Richardson's election might open a pathway to eternity for Haugen, it would be unlikely to move Oregon to a Texas-style execution pace.

Oregon has rested in a very Oregon-style compromise on capital punishment, having a death penalty and death sentences but not executing anybody. It seems it's an arrangement Oregonians can live with - except, apparently, Haugen - but it does involve a certain philosophical contradiction, and an expenditure of state time and money.

"In California, the execution of a death penalty is so infrequent, and the delays preceding it so extraordinary," ruled Carney, "that the death penalty is deprived of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had."

Carney is just 1 judge, and in this and every other way, California is different from Oregon.

But the math looks familiar.

(source: Column, David Sarasohn, The Oregonian)

USA:

A 3-page spread appeared in the French newspaper Liberation on July 25, 2014. Here is a translation of the 5 articles that appeared.

P. 6. "Death Penalty; The United States Shot in the Heart: The Chemical Cocktails Used for Executions, at the Origin of 3 Cruel Death Agonies in 6 Months, Are Being Questioned", by Martin Even.

It took 2 hours to execute a man sentenced to death in Arizona, where the shortage of lethal products coming from Europe is relaunching the question of capital punishment. Joseph R. Wood III was executed Wednesday at 3:49 PM at the penitentiary at Florence, Arizona. He had been sentencedto death for the double murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, whom he had shot in 1989. For the lethal injection, the executioner used a new mixture based on midazolamand hydromorphone.

"Arizona seems to have joined several other irresponsible states in a horror that was predictable," said Wood's lawyer, Dale Baich who, right up to the last moment, tried to get a stay from the Arizona Supreme Court, based on the United States Constitution which stipulates that no one must receive "inhumane treatment". A journalist from the Arizona Republic, present at the execution, claimed that the condemned man gasped 660 times "like a fish out of water" before dying - without being able to certify that he was "suffering" - which the spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections contradicted, saying that Wood was "snoring".

"The Americans are sick of this barbarity," thundered Diann Rust-Tierney, of the National Coalition fo Abolish the Death Penalty, claiming, "We are incapable of carrying out the death penalty humanely." This tragic "botched" execution does not, however, relau,ch the basic debate on the death penalty, which remains in force in 32 of the 50 American states.

Wood's lawyers had asked for a stay of execution on the grounds of the emotion caused by 2 recent laborious executions. In January, in Ohio, a condemned man had taken 25 minutes to die after his injection: in Oklahoma in April, it took 43 minutes for the products injected to take effect. Wood had appealed, asking for "transparency" concerning the treatment reserved for him during his execution. The appeal was denied. The American states that apply the death penalty are wondering about how to get around the shortage of barbiturate products coming from the European Union. Tennessee, which previously gave the prisoners a choice, is going to return to the electric chair in case of a shortage of barbiturates. Judged inhumane after long and painful executions, this method had however been abandoned by the large majority of prison authorities. Wyoming, for example, is wondering about an eventual return to the firing squad. A decision which would be an exceptional step backward.

*****

P. 7. "Barbarity", by Francois Sergent

"Capital execution is not just death", explained Albert Camus. It is also a source of terrible physical suffering, as the end of Joseph Wood, who agonized for almost 2 hours on Wednesday in Arizona shows. The case of Wood, a double murderer, is not an isolated one, and the United States is beginning to doubt. The agony of these men is only the symbol of this barbarity still practiced by virtuous America, China or Iran. As Maya Foa (see the next article) says: how can the United States condamn stoning in Tehran and so cruelly kill in Ohio or Arizona?†In fact, more and more American states are giving up the death penalty. The difficulty of finding reliable lethal products is only one of the causes of this new reticence. The numerous judicial errors and the cost of the procedure also explain this evolution. Other states, like Texas, long record holder for executions prefer life without parole. Even in the United States, the death penalty is dying.

P. 8-9. "Maya Foa, the Vital Injection: From London, This Abolitionist Has for 4 Years Been Tracking the Laboratories, Notably European, Which Supply the Lethal Drugs Used in American Prisons" by Sonia Delesalle-Stolper

She is a grain of sand in a death machine at work thousands of kilometers from her anonymous office in the east of London. Bent over a sheet of white paper, she draws again and again simplistic diagrams, so as to better describe what she is explaining. Maya Foa is just 30 years old and, this is not a cliche, her life was changed by a telephone call in 2010.

At the time, she had just completed her studies in French literature at Oxford University - "I worked a lot on the writings of Nathalie Sarraute and the New Novel". She was then an intern at Reprieve, a charity organization which among other things is fighting for the abolition of capital punishment. Daughter of an Italian Jewish father and an Indian Muslim mother, "both non-practicing but true humanists", she was attracted by the "battle of those who have no power".

The telephone call came from Clyde Stafford Smith, fournder of Reprieve and well-known jurist. He asked her to do some research on the source of products used for executions in the United States.

"After a half hour's search on Internet, I had located Dream Pharma," she remembers. This drug company hid its offices behind a shabby driving school in west London. And sold to the United States, notably to prisons that carried out the death penalty, sodium thiopental, a powerful anesthetic used in the cocktail injected into the prisoners.

Maya Foa discovered thus that the United States, which is having difficulty finding some of these drugs on their local market, is importing them from Europe, even India. So, rather than struggle on the moral level, the young woman chose a pragmatic approach, attacking the problem "through the back door". Her goal: to provoke a shortage of products used for applying the death penalty. An aim she has been obstinately pursuing. Becoming Reprieve's head of the abolitionist battle, she at the same time studied law and pharmacology, to understand the American death protocols and to know the medicines used for lethal purposes.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the application of the death penalty in the United States seemed like a well-oiled machine. A prisoner waited for years on death row, then, when the day came, his execution took place, generally using a cocktail of 3 carefully administered drugs.

First the prisoner was injected with sodium thiopental to put him to sleep. Then pancurium bromide caused paralysis. Finally, an injection of potassium chloride stopped the prisoner's heart. Death was declared rather rapidly, after 6 minutes on the average. But that was before 2010 and Maya Foa's grain of sand tossed into the machine. Since, several executions have gone bad and have struck a real blow at the idea, held by partisans of capital punishment, that execution by injection is "humane". Before the execution of Joseph Wood Wednesday, another failure on April 29th, in Oklahoma, had already aroused emotion, even in the White House.

That day, Clayton Lockett, 38, was to be executed. He had been sentenced for having killed a 19-year-old woman in 1999. At 6:23 PM, the execution ritual began. At 6:33 PM, Lockett was declared unconscious. Except that 3 minutes later, he began to moan, had violent convulsions and writhed on the table. At 6:39 PM he said, "Man!"

20 minutes after the beginning of the execution, the curtain separating the spectators from the execution chamber was closed. Clayton Lockett still had not been declared dead. 3 products had been injected, but a vein had "exploded". The execution was suspended. But, 43 minutes after the 1st injection, Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack.

The state of Oklahoma ordered a 6-month moratorium on all planned executions, time enough for an investigation into this failure. A reprieve for Charles Warner, 46, sentenced for the rape and murder of an 11-month-old little girl in 1997, who was to be executed just after Lockett, at 8 PM. 2 days later President Barack Obama said he was "extremely troubled" and asked Prosecutor General Eric Holder to analyze the recent problems with the carrying out of death sentences. "All that, I think, raises important questions about the way in which the death penalty is carried out," he said.

Maya Foa shakes her curly head and smiles. "It's a step forward."

It is also the latest step to date in the battle she has been waging since 2010. After having discovered Dream Pharma, Maya Foa immediately alerted the public powers in her country. And, in November of that year, Vince Cable, British Minister of Commerce, forbade British exports of drugs which could be used for executions. A little earlier, Hasnora, an American pharmaceutical company which supplied products to penitentiaries, had tried to establish one of its factories in Italy, but had to give up facing local opposition.

The United States then turned to another product, sodium pentobarbital. Sold under the name Nembutal, this medicine is used to prevent epileptic seizures. Maya Foa assiduously pursued her undermining work. She contacted Lundberg, a Danish pharmaceutical group which manufactures Nembutal and exports it to the United States. She asked them if they knew their product was being used there for capital executions. The laboratory was stunned, the media were alerted, it was an immense scandal in Denmark. Unipension, a Danish pension fund which had invested in Lundberg immediately sold off its 300,000 shares. After 6 months of relentless discussions, Maya Foa convinced Lundberg to totally modify the exportation process for its products. Since July 2011, the Danish manufacturer has only 1 accredited distributor in the United States, with orders to refuse to sell Nembutal to prisons located in any of the 32 American states which still practice the death penalty.

"If you are a pharmaceutical laboratory, you want to be perceived as saving lives. That your medicines are being used to kill is very bad publicity. For a marginal financial gain," smiles Maya Foa. "Finally, it is easier to win by putting pressure on a pharmaceutical company than by trying to change public opinion and the laws." In December 2011, the European Union, alerted, reacted and presented a united front. The theme is sensitive, the death penalty is outlawed throughout the European Union countries. Brussels has decided upon drastic restrictions on exports of anesthetics to the United States.

8 products are on the list, for the explicit reason that they could be used "within the framework of capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments." Including pentobarbital, sodium thiopental and propofol (90% of the stocks of this latter are manufactured in Europe).

The shortage of products which can be used in a lethal cocktail has had several effects. The 1st is that certain penitentiaries are now turning to unauthorized suppliers, who manufacture themselves combinations of products whose effects are not necessarily properly tested. This substitution explains the recent botched executions which have provoked scandals and moratoriums: Clayton Lockett, in Oklahoma, thus received an injection of Midazolam. Manufactured in the United States, this medicine, belonging to the benzodiazepine family, is a sedative, not an anesthetic.

Another effect of these shortages: some states are turning to methods believed abandoned, like the electric chair in the case of Tennessee, which has just voted a law in this regard. Others are thinking of bringing back the firing squad, even hanging. But then, how to justify a return to methods abandoned by most American states on the grounds that they are less "humane" than lethal injection?

"Our strategy is to arouse an 'execution fatigue', by making it look too expensive, too complicated, too risky. To create the conditions for death penalty abolition by waging a war of attrition," explains Maya Foa. "If the United States condemns stonings in Iran, how to justify the injection of products which produce a long agony?" The gamble of Maya Foa and her colleagues from Reprieve seems little by little to be paying off, especially because it is feeding a rising abolitionist tendency.

"The death penalty is a global problem," reminds Maya Foa, who does not limit her battle to America ."How do France and the United Kingdom justify their aid given to Iran or Pakistan, knowing that in those countries, a drug trafficker, even a small-time dealer, risks the death penalty?" There is no doubt, the militant is preparing once again to attack the problem "through the back door".

P. 8. "The Abolitionists Have Stopped Moralizing." Interview by Filippo Ortona with Simon Grivet, historian of the United States.

Simon Grivet, historian of the United States associated with the Center for North American Studies at EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences), did his thesis on the death penalty on the other side of the Atlantic. According to him, "the scandals caused by judicial errors" have caused support for the death penalty to decline.

F.O.: Is the particularly sordid execution of Joseph R. Wood going to change anything?

S.G.: Something is going to change in its application, but I would be much more prudent about the abolition of the death penalty itself. Certainly, support for capital punishment is at a historically low level: barely 1/2 of the 300 million Americans favor it. That is explained by the scandals caused by the numerous judicial errors noted after a certain number of executions. A 2nd reason is that the appeals go on for a very long time; in this latest case, Joseph R. Wood was executed 25 years after having committed his crime. A 3rd reason is the success of the solution of life without parole, both more logical and crueller.

F.O.: Have the abolitionists changed strategy?

S.G.: The 2012 referendum on abolition of the death penalty in California ended in a narrow defeat for the abolitionists. They campaigned on the irrationality and expense of this system, on the fact that it doesn't work, on its uselessness. The abolitionists have stopped moralizing. But poles of resistance remain. There are the prosecutors, who, in the United States, are elected by the people and are therefore politicians. There is the desire for revenge of the victims' families, which many people understand. In addition, for 20 or 30 years, arguments have appeared about the pain of the victims. In the United States, unlike in France, there are no "civil parties". So, do honor to the victims, act in such a way that their suffering is somehow washed away by the death penalty has become the real, the only strong argument for the death penalty partisans.

F.O.: Why do a majority of Americans continue to support the death penalty?

S.G.: We often forget the level of violence of American society, where the crime rate is much higher than in Europe. I think that many people believe that the death penalty is effective. But especially, I believe that for them, it represents the only imaginable punishment, even if support for all that is today at a historic low. For abolition it will be a long march, state by state.

F.O.: What are the reasons for the variations of public opinion with regard to the death penalty?

S.G.: In the 1970s, there was an abolitionist push, then a big return of the death penalty beginning in the 1980s against a background of tougher penal policies and sentences. In those years, state by state, draconian laws were voted. Thus the 3 strikes law, under which a 3rd felony of whatever kind would be punished by imprisonment, with the defendent even risking life imprisonment in some states. That is what created that enormous American prison archipelago. In the last 10 years or so, the tendency has reversed. That can be explained by the numerous errors of the judicial system, which have aroused indignation, but especially by the fact that the whole thing - and first of all the prison system - is too expensive. It is immense, more and more unmanageable, and especially, it doesn't work. The judicial institutions know very well that when someone gets 10 years for a common crime, he comes out worse than he went in. There is certainly an indirect tie between the systemic crisis of the prison archipelago and the drop in support for the death penalty.

(source: Liberation)

TEXAS:

MK from Mexico ministers to death-row inmates

In the 6 years Dorothy Ruelas has visited death-row inmates at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in West Livingston, only 1 thing shocked her.

"I was surprised and shocked to find out most Baptists support the death penalty," said Ruelas, a member of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land.

That's contrary to the example her parents set. Wyatt and Beth Lee served 36 years as Southern Baptist missionaries in Mexico, where she was born and spent most of her life. As a teenager, she frequently accompanied her mother to a prison in Guadalajara where they visited inmates and led a Bible study.

"It kind of got it my blood," Ruelas said.

She recalled how her parents opened their home to ex-offenders in the days immediately after their release, until the men could travel from Guadalajara to wherever their families lived.

Even after her parents retired and moved to Woodville, they continued ministry to prisoners at a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility near their home.

So, after she heard the Christian testimony of a father whose son was on death row at the Polunsky Unit, it seemed natural for her to start writing the young prisoner.

A surprising discovery

The inmate expressed appreciation in a letter to her, and he registered his surprise, since he understood most Baptists support capital punishment. At first, she didn't believe it.

"We live under grace, not Old Testament law. Only God has the right to take a life," she said. "Besides, if you kill a prisoner, how will he ever have the opportunity to get to know Christ? How will he have the chance to show people how God can change a life?"

Her ongoing correspondence with one Anglo inmate led to contact with eight other death-row inmates, all Spanish-speaking. After about a year of letter-writing, she began personally visiting the inmates on a regular basis, often accompanied by her husband, Juan Jose Ruelas.

"The men really enjoy when my husband goes with me, because he is a big jokester and makes them laugh a lot," she said.

Profesions of faith

2 of the 9 inmates she befriended were Christians before she initiated contact with them. Several had some religious background or were in the process of moving toward faith in Christ. A couple professed faith in Christ directly as a result of her ministry.

"Seeing the spiritual growth, the changes, peace and joy in these men is the greatest joy in my life," she said.

"I never in my life thought I would live in the United States, but I believe God brought me up here because of this. It's not something I chose to do. God put it on my heart." 2 of her 9 death-row friends have been executed. In both instances, she traveled to Huntsville to be with their families at the Hospitality House - a ministry launched by Texas Baptists - before and after the execution.

Execution scheduled in October

One other inmate, Miguel Angel Paredes, is scheduled for execution Oct. 28, and she plans to be present as a witness.

"Until about 2 years ago, when he began growing spiritually in gigantic steps, ...he had a lot of hatred and anger in him," Ruelas said.

Since he committed his life to Christ, Paredes has been transformed.

"His testimony has given him open doors to been able to reach inmates who were unreachable by chaplains and other Christians in the free world, because they knew how he was years back and can visibly see the changes in him now," she said. "He knows how to talk to them and how to get to their hearts. He has impacted the life of many on death row - and even his own family, who have begun visiting him again."

Ministry to inmates on death row has grown to become a consuming passion for Ruelas.

"The men on death row are still human beings, created by God. And God also wants us to reach out to them with his love," she said.

(source: The Baptist Standard)

VIRGINIA:

Virginia keeping drug used in botched executions

1 of the drugs used in 3 recent botched executions across the country will remain part of Virginia's lethal injection protocol, a spokesman for the prison system said Friday.

Larry Traylor said the Department of Corrections is not considering eliminating midazolam as 1 of the 3 drugs that can be used as the 1st dose in Virginia's 3-drug cocktail. Midazolam was 1 of the drugs used in Wednesday's execution in Arizona, where an inmate snorted and gasped for breath for more than 90 minutes before dying.

"The Virginia 3-drug protocol is not comparable to the Arizona 1-drug protocol," Traylor said in an email.

The sedative midazolam also was 1 of the drugs used in previous bungled executions in Ohio and Oklahoma. Traylor said Virginia's protocol most resembles the one Florida has used in 7 executions this year. Both states use a 500-milligram dosage of midazolam - substantially more than the amount used in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Virginia added midazolam to its protocol in February but has yet to use it in an execution. The state's last lethal injection execution was in August 2011, and execution dates have not been set for any of the 8 inmates remaining on Virginia's death row.

Jonathan Sheldon, who represents 3 of those death row inmates, said the most recent botched execution bolsters claims he has raised on appeals that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. He hopes to be able to renew that argument.

"It's a really slim opportunity because courts have already denied the claim - but they did it on incomplete information, the protocol has changed and other states are having these problems," Sheldon said in a telephone interview.

He said attorneys also have pressed prison officials for changes.

"We've told them they should stop doing these protocols everyone is messing up," Sheldon said.

Stephen Northup, an attorney and executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said he would expect any defense lawyer in a death penalty case to raise the issue of the recent problems.

"Certainly if I had a client on Virginia death row at risk of execution, I'd be going after this full bore," he said.

Arizona and Ohio used a 2-drug protocol of midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Virginia administers the muscle relaxer pancuronium bromide or rocuronium bromide as the 2nd step, followed by potassium chloride, which stops the heart - drugs akin to those used by Oklahoma as well as Florida.

(source: Daily Progress)

ALABAMA:

Prosecutors intend to seek death penalty for Alexius Foster

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty for a Tuscaloosa man accused of capital murder in the 2013 deaths of his uncle and friend.

Alexius Foster, 36, is accused of capital murder in the stabbing death of his uncle George Foster and his friend Antonio Williams, who police say may have witnessed the stabbing.

George Foster, 67, was stabbed more than 60 times at his home on 20th Street on June 13, 2013. Police suspected his nephew but didn't have evidence to charge him immediately.

Alexius Foster wrongly believed that Antonio Williams, 30, told investigators where to find him for questioning in his uncle's death, authorities said at the time. Witnesses told officers that they saw Alexius Foster shoot Williams at a home in Holt on July 17. Hunters found his remains in a field off Joe Mallisham Parkway in September.

Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge John England told attorneys that the trial will take place in 2015, according to an order the judge filed after a status conference held Thursday.

(source: Tuscaloosa News)

INDIANA:

Accused Gary cop killer could face death penalty

The man charged with murdering an on-duty Gary police officer appears to be concerned about possibly facing the death penalty.

25 year-old Carl Blount, of Gary, is accused of shooting 47 year-old officer Jeffrey Westerfield.

Police say Blount opened-fire on Westerfield after the officer responded to a domestic dispute that involved Blount and his girlfriend on July 6th. Police say Blount made incriminating statements to a witness, and asked for help to hide from police. Court documents say witnesses and surveillance video also places Blount at the crime scene.

Blount did not enter a plea at his preliminary hearing Friday morning, which took place inside a jail for security reasons. A formal hearing is set for next Wednesday.

He asked the judge if the counts against him can become more serious, and the judge replied 'yes.'

Westerfield served on the force for 19 years.

(source: ChicagoLand tv news)

KENTUCKY:

Man could receive death penalty after conviction in 1983 rape-murder of Louisville woman

A Louisville man could receive the death penalty after he was convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1983.

The Courier-Journal reports (http://cjky.it/WUDR9h ) that a jury on Friday found Larry Lamont White guilty of murder in the death of Pamela Armstrong, a 22-year-old mother of 5 who was raped and shot twice in the head on June 4, 1983.

The jury will return to court Monday to decide whether White should receive the death penalty.

White was convicted in 1985 of killing 22-year-old Deborah Miles and 21-year-old Yolanda Sweeney, who died just blocks from the alley where Armstrong's body was discovered. White was sentenced to death, but the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

White later pleaded guilty to the murders and accepted a sentence of 28 years in prison, which he has finished serving. He remains incarcerated at a medium-security facility on a 2006 conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Armstrong's family packed the courtroom and listened as detectives and analysts who investigated the case over the last 31 years detailed the crime scene, the bullets that killed her and the DNA left behind that connected White to the killing.

White's attorneys, Mark Hall and Darren Wolff, asked the jury to consider the possibility that Armstrong had consensual sex with White, and another person murdered her later.

The jury deliberated about 2 hours before finding White guilty.

Kentucky law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty if a number of aggravators are present, including if the murder was committed during another violent act or if the defendant was previously convicted of another murder.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

Jonathan and Reginald Carr death sentences overturned

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday overturned death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr, brothers convicted of murdering 5 people in one of Wichita's most notorious crime sprees.

The state's high court in separate rulings issued Friday unanimously struck down 3 of each man's 4 capital murder convictions in the Dec. 15, 2000, execution-style killings of 4 people in a snow-covered soccer field. A remaining capital murder conviction for each man was upheld by the court, but the death sentence connected to it was vacated after a 6-1 majority said the district court judge who presided over the brothers' trial - the late Paul W. Clark - was in error when he refused to hold separate sentencing proceedings for the men.

Justice Nancy Mortiz disagreed with the decision, saying that separate hearings would not have influenced the outcome because witness testimony, the "unusually egregious facts" of the case and evidence against the Carr brothers was so strong.

In overturning the capital murder convictions, the majority said the instructions to jurors had been flawed because the judge tied those capital murder charges to the rape of the surviving victim rather than the deceased ones. The majority also said 3 of the capital murder charges were duplicates of the 1st.

The court on Friday also narrowly rejected the brothers' contention, on a 4-3 vote, that all their convictions should be overturned because they were not given separate trials.

Justices affirmed 25 of Jonathan Carr's 43 convictions; 32 of Reginald Carr's 50 convictions were upheld.

The case has been remanded to Sedgwick County District Court for further hearings.

During a news conference held Friday in response to the rulings, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said his office is "committed to upholding the law and ensuring the safety" of Sedgwick County citizens. In response to a question, he told reporters he would seek the death penalty against the brothers a 2nd time.

"The results of the decision by the Supreme Court creates one certainty: Jonathan and Reginald Carr will not be released from prison. The conviction for capital murder for each defendant carries with it a life sentence."

Under Kansas law, capital murder can be charged under several circumstances, including where a killing is intentional and premeditated and occurs during or after some sex crimes.

Today prosecutors can ask for the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison without parole eligibility. But the no-parole option was not on the books at the time of the Carr brothersí crimes, Bennett said Friday.

Earlier in the day, Bennett and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a joint statement saying that they are "carefully reviewing" the opinions and will "work closely together in the coming days and weeks to determine the next steps that must be taken in these cases."

"All options will be considered," Bennett and Schmidt said in the statement. "We are committed to seeking justice in this case for the victims, their families and the community."

The rulings sparked outrage across Kansas after they were handed down around 9:30 a.m. Friday. Gov. Sam Brownback called the brothers' crimes "brutal and heinous" in a news release and said that the high court's decisions "unnecessarily reopen the wounds from ... a tragic moment in Wichita history."

Brutal crime spree

The brothers were convicted in 2002 of terrorizing, robbing, sexually assaulting, kidnapping and murdering a group of young people on Dec. 15, 2000, as part of a 7-day crime spree across Wichita.

Jason Befort, 26, Brad Heyka, 27, Aaron Sander, 29, and Heather Muller, 25, were killed in an execution-style shooting after being forced to kneel in a frozen soccer field at 29th Street North and Greenwich.

A 5th victim, a 25-year-old woman who was shot in the back of the head and left for dead, survived and ran naked through the snow to a nearby house for help. Her escape tipped off a manhunt for the killers, who were arrested later that day. She later became a key witness at the brothers' trial.

Jonathan Carr, now 34, and Reginald Carr, 36, were in their 20s when the crimes occurred.

Bennett said in his news conference Friday that both sides can seek appeals to the court's rulings. He said it was too early to say whether decisions in the cases would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"For anyone who has a sentence vacated ... you have to have a re-sentencing hearing," Bennett said. "You just can't do it with a document. There has to be another hearing where a judge imposes the other sentence."

It was unclear immediately after the rulings when those hearings would take place. Bennett said the next step for his office would be to read through and study the separate opinions issued in the case. Combined, the documents are nearly 500 pages.

Larry Heyka, the father of murder victim Brad Heyka, expressed disappointment and said he was struggling to make sense of the courtís rulings.

"It seems like it takes a lot of time to get through these things, but we will do whatever it takes," said Heyka, who is from Council Grove. "Hopefully going forward, we will all understand what these rulings really mean."

In addition to the capital murder counts, the high court on Friday reversed several rape and attempted rape convictions that the Carrs received for forcing their victims to engage in sex acts with one another before the slayings.

Among other convictions affirmed by the high court Friday for each brother were 1st-degree felony murder in the Dec. 11, 2000, fatal shooting of 55-year-old Linda "Ann" Walenta during an apparent robbery and carjacking; and attempted 1st-degree murder, aggravated kidnappings, aggravated robberies and sex crimes tied to the quadruple homicide on Dec. 15.

Trial errors

Jonathan and Reginald Carr were tried and convicted in a joint trial in Sedgwick County District Court in 2002, despite requests to separate their trials. Jurors found Reginald Carr guilty on 50 counts; his brother was convicted of 43.

Both men were given the death penalty on each of the four counts of capital murder. Reginald Carr also was sentenced to 1 hard-20 life sentence, plus another 47 1/2 years in prison, according to a news release from the Kansas Judicial Center. Jonathan Carr received one hard-20 life sentence, plus an additional 41 years.

In their appeals to the Kansas Supreme Court, lawyers for the brothers argued that the Carrs should get new, separate trials because they damaged each other's defenses when they were tried jointly by Judge Clark, who died in 2011. Jonathan Carr's appellate attorney, Sara Ellen Johnson, said during oral arguments held before the high court on Dec. 17 that Reginald Carr engaged in courtroom "antics" that turned jurors against both brothers during their jury trial.

Lawyers also challenged the constitutionality of the Kansas death penalty law and argued that the district court judge's decision to seat a pro-death-penalty juror who eventually became foreman tainted the trial. The attorneys also said that the trial should have been moved out of Wichita because of media coverage of the crimes.

In its ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court identified 11 errors made during the sentencing phase of the Carr brothers' trial, but a majority said that the mistakes combined "pales in comparison to the strength of evidence against the defendants."

(source: The Wichita Eagle)

MISSOURI:

Problems in other states won't stop Missouri from its executions

An execution gone awry in Arizona on Wednesday - the 1st in the United States since a botched execution in Oklahoma in April - has rekindled debate nationwide about whether lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

But the ordeal did not move officials in Missouri to back down from any plans to carry out executions. On the contrary, the state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered what would be the 8th execution of the year.

Death by injection usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, but witnesses in Arizona said murderer Joseph R. Wood III gasped for one hour and 40 minutes on Wednesday before he died. Wood's lawyers said it was evidence of agony; state officials and the victims' families insisted Wood was unconscious after the first few minutes and that the noises were merely snoring.

Experts said the execution would certainly have at least a subtle effect of chipping away at the nation's already shrinking support for capital punishment.

When states kill people with injections, "we think there is a real risk that torture will happen, and now it has repeatedly happened," said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which opposes the death penalty.

But whether the incident would actually factor into Missouri capital cases was not yet clear. The next execution in the U.S. is scheduled to be in Missouri on Aug. 6 at 12:01 a.m. The defendant is Michael Shane Worthington - convicted of murder, rape and 1st-degree burglary in the 1995 slaying of 24-year-old Melinda "Mindy" Griffin in Lake Saint Louis.

And on Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court set a Sept. 10 execution date for Leon Taylor, who murdered a service station attendant in Independence, Mo., in 1994. Taylor, 56, killed Robert Newton during a robbery that was witnessed by Newton's 8-year-old stepdaughter. According to trial testimony, Taylor also pointed the gun at the girl's head and pulled the trigger, but the weapon jammed.

There are parallels between Arizona and Missouri. Each has struggled to secure execution drugs because pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and Europe blocked sales of the drugs for use in executions. Each state switched protocols several times within the past year to be able to proceed with executions.

But both states have turned to secrecy to keep the public from learning about how and where their execution drugs are manufactured. Death penalty opponents argue the states could be hiding substandard methods that put the condemned inmate at risk of an excruciating execution.

The similarities end there. For Wood's execution, Arizona used a 2-drug cocktail including a Valium-like drug, midazolam, that is often given to patients before surgery, and an opioid, hydromorphone, which in high doses stops respiration. The same combination of drugs was used in January in Ohio's execution of Dennis McGuire, who snorted and made gasplike sounds during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

Midazolam was also a component of Oklahoma's 3-drug injection. In April, inmate Clayton Lockett died 43 minutes after his execution began of an apparent heart attack after he writhed on the gurney and the state's prison's chief directed the executioner to stop the injection. But it was believed that an improper placement of the needle - not the drugs - may have been responsible for the problems.

Missouri, meanwhile, uses a single heavy dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

Asked whether the state was evaluating the death penalty, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster responded in an email: "More than 170 statements from eyewitnesses to Missouri's previous executions support the position that Missouri's execution procedure complies with the 8th Amendment."

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, also defended the process that the state has used to execute eight prisoners since November: "The governor continues to support the ultimate punishment imposed by juries and courts for the most merciless and violent crimes."

Kent Gipson, a Kansas City-based lawyer for Worthington, said the publicity from the Arizona execution "can't hurt our cases. But ... if they were using the exact same drugs I'd be a lot more confident."

Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who studies the death penalty, said she didn't think Wednesday's execution in Arizona would be the final straw for the death penalty - "just one of a lot of straws." But she said midazolam - the common thread in executions gone wrong - would most likely not be used again.

"I think it's hard for the public to ignore continued botched executions," she said. She scoffed at the insistence by Arizona officials that nothing went wrong. "If you're defining a successful execution to mean the inmate did die, then, yes, it was successful."

(source: Lake Expo)

NEBRASKA:

Supreme Court upholds death penalty sentence for man who killed Gering newspaper carrier

The Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld the denial of a death row inmate's efforts to have his conviction overturned.

Jeffrey Hessler was convicted in 2004 of kidnapping, raping and killing 15-year-old newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero the year before. His conviction and death sentence were upheld on direct appeal in 2007.

Friday's ruling is the second time Hessler has had a motion for post-conviction relief denied. Inmates typically file post-conviction relief motions after they have exhausted all other appeals.

This time, Hessler issued a myriad of claims, including that he was too mentally ill at the time of the crime to know right from wrong.

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with a lower court judge's ruling that Hessler's claims had already been addressed or should have been appealed earlier.

(source: KOTA news)

ARIZONA:

Sen. John McCain Calls Lengthy Execution In Arizona 'Torture'

Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, says the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, which took nearly 2 hours, amounted to torture.

Politico reports:

"The longtime Republican lawmaker, who experienced years of torture while being held in captivity by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, called the drawn-out lethal injection execution of Joseph Wood on Wednesday 'terrible.'

"'I believe in the death penalty for certain crimes. But that is not an acceptable way of carrying it out. And people who were responsible should be held responsible,' he said in an interview. 'The lethal injection needs to be an indeed lethal injection and not the bollocks-upped situation that just prevailed. That's torture.'"

As Bill reported, there are different interpretations of what happened on Wednesday. Wood's lawyer said that he watched his client gasp and snort for more than an hour after a lethal mix of drugs was injected into his body.

Family members of Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene Dietz, who Wood shot to death, said his execution was "nothing."

Arizona's Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Zick told a judge that Wood's reported gasping was an involuntary reaction, and that Wood was "effectively brain-dead" when that happened.

Gov. Jan Brewer did not cast judgment on the process, but she ordered a full review of it, and any further executions in the state have been halted pending the result of that review.

(source: NPR)

CALIFORNIA:

The death penalty in California----Cruel and unusual; A judge strikes a blow against capital punishment

There are 2 reasons for arguing that the death penalty is a "cruel and unusual punishment", and thus unconstitutional. One was on grim display in Arizona on July 23rd, when Joseph Wood, a double-murderer, took nearly 2 gasping, choking hours to die by lethal injection. The other came under legal attack on July 16th, when a federal judge, Cormac Carney, struck down capital punishment in California for being too slow and capricious.

In Jones v Chappell Judge Carney struck down the 1995 death sentence of Ernest Jones, who raped and murdered his girlfriend's mother. Mr Carney also overturned 747 other capital sentences. Awaiting execution for decades "with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come," Mr Carney wrote, is a punishment "no rational jury or legislature could ever impose."

Of the more than 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 have been executed. The last one died in 2006. The same year, a federal court ruled that California's mode of lethal injection carried a risk that "an inmate will suffer pain so extreme" that it should be considered cruel and unusual.

With Mr Carney's ruling, the state's system of capital punishment has been judged doubly unfit. The average prisoner who is executed in California has spent 25 years on death row - much longer than the national average of nearly 16 years. Such long delays make it unlikely that capital punishment deters other potential murderers, ruled Mr Carney.

Legal observers are surprised by the broad sweep of the ruling but divided about its potential impact. For James Ching, a former deputy attorney-general in California, Mr Carney's opinion is "quixotic" and errs by attributing all the tarrying to California state courts when federal courts are responsible for "46.2% of the total delay and dysfunction". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr Ching suggested, will likely regard Mr Carney's decision sceptically when the state appeals.

But Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney, has said the Jones ruling is "historic" and shows that "the death penalty is broken beyond repair." California may have the largest and slowest-moving death row in the country, but it is not the only state where condemned prisoners are more likely to die of old age than the needle. The central point in Mr Carney's opinion, says Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is "not simply the length of time" between conviction and execution. "It is the unpredictability."

Stephen Bright of the Southern Centre for Human Rights says that California's death penalty is "uniquely dysfunctional". If and when the case reaches the Supreme Court, it is unclear how it will fare, but Justice Stephen Breyer has been receptive to the delay argument and Justice Anthony Kennedy recently hinted that he doubted that waiting 35 years to die was "consistent with the purposes that the death penalty is designed to serve". Mr Carney's decision, says Mr Bright, "has added to the conversation in a way that will lead to the inevitable end of the death penalty in California and the United States."

(source: The Economist)

*********************

Salon Meritage killing: Judge rejects motion to drop death penalty against Scott Dekraai

A judge Friday rejected a defense motion to drop the death penalty in a case against the worst mass killer in Orange County history, even after a federal judge this month found the death penalty is unconstitutional in California.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, however, praised the higher court judge's opinion and said he mostly agreed with it, though he found it only applied to one inmate's challenge and not to the case against Scott Dekraai, who gunned down 8 people in a Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked.

But Goethals agreed with Dekraai's attorney, Scott Sanders, that more testimony should be presented in the defense case after a private investigator contacted Sanders on July 16, saying he received notes a jailhouse informant took while in custody that have so far not been turned over to Dekraai's defense team. That was an apparent violation of an order from Goethals to turn over all of the informant's documents taken as a government agent.

Goethals agreed to allow Sanders to call 2 prosecutors and a sheriff's deputy as witnesses in a hearing that started in March over the prosecution's use of informants to gather evidence against Dekraai.

The informant in question, Fernando Perez, apparently overheard Dekraai bragging about opening fire at Salon Meritage on Pacific Coast Highway. Sanders alleges that Perez was purposely placed in a neighboring cell to Dekraai, which violated his client's constitutional rights since he already was represented by an attorney.

Prosecutors wanted to play a tape of the conversation between Dekraai and Perez for jurors who would consider whether to recommend the death penalty for Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to the murders in May.

Sanders wants Goethals to remove the Orange County District Attorney's Office from the Dekraai case in favor of the Attorney General's Office and to have the death penalty removed as a sentencing option.

Prosecutors have capitulated on their efforts to use the jailhouse snitch's recording in the penalty phase of Dekraai's trial.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy argued that state prosecutors are "walled off" from federal prosecutors, particularly in a joint investigation in which Perez played a role called Operation Black Flag, and that the evidence in this case belonged to federal prosecutors.

Part of the problem is sheriff's Deputy Seth Tunstall was working on a task force that helped state and federal prosecutors.

"Where we are with these investigations is a split personality," Gundy said of the divided loyalties and directions from separate bosses.

Goethals indicated little sympathy as he acknowledged the "complexities" of the relationships, but he said state prosecutors are obligated by law to know what their investigators know and to turn over all evidence to defense attorneys to review.

"It is not our (evidence)," Gundy complained. "We have been walled off, which is why we have not gotten a lot of this discovery. It's the federal government that controls this."

Sanders said he doesn't buy the government's explanation.

"I think they can get the material they want," he said.

Sanders added that state prosecutors cannot be trusted to turn over all the information on Perez.

"I don't know how much more discovery is still out there," he told the judge. "And what they're essentially saying today is you'll never know, and, 'Sorry, the feds have it; go get it.'"

Gundy replied, "We did not hide anything. This is not state discovery. This might as well be from Arkansas."

Goethals will allow more testimony Tuesday from Tunstall, who earlier contradicted testimony from former federal prosecutor and now Orange County Superior Court Judge Terri Flynn-Peister, who said she did not interfere with turning over evidence to prosecutors or defense attorneys handling state cases.

Goethals will also allow Sanders to further question Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner and Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen, who Goethals tossed from a gang case in March for not turning over potentially exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys.

Sanders, in a 505-page motion filed earlier this year, alleged the basis for the evidentiary hearing is that prosecutors have been burying exculpatory evidence and sheriff's officials were having jailhouse informants illegally question other inmates.

(source: Press-Telegram)

USA:

Family outraged by overturned death penalty conviction

People who knew and loved Terry King of North Clarendon are stunned Friday after a federal judge threw out the conviction of Donald Fell, the man police say killed her in a drug-fueled spree. The ruling yesterday ordered a new trial, but that could mean the family is facing another lengthy legal process years after they thought they were close to getting justice.

"It's like a nightmare that never goes away, you just get to thinking things might be normal and pow, up it comes again," said Bob Maxham, King's brother-in-law.

Bob Maxham says he's been quiet during the 14 years since his sister-in-law, Terry King, was murdered. But for his wife, Barbara Tuttle, and the rest of King's loved ones he says he cannot be quiet anymore.

"It just boggled my mind, I couldn't believe they were going to put this put these people through this again," said Maxham.

The ruling Thursday throws out the 2005 conviction of Donald Fell, who was on death row for kidnapping King outside the Rutland Price chopper in 2000, then killing her as she begged for her life.

Judge William Sessions finding that revelations after the trial that a juror went to the crime scene and told jurors information not presented at trial undermined the verdict writing:

"Juror 143 violated the fundamental integrity of Fell's trial by deliberately undertaking an independent investigation," said Sessions.

Fell's legal team, which worked to uncover the juror misconduct, told WCAX in a statement, "we are extremely gratified by the Court's decision to grant Mr. Fell a new trial."

When the jury came back with the death penalty verdict in 2005, King's family thought the 5 years of legal wrangling then had been long.

"I thought of my sister, at that moment and i just became overcome with emotion, because I said this is for you Terry," said Tuttle in a previous interview with WCAX.

Tuttle is recovering from surgery and declined to talk about the new ruling on camera, but her husband spoke for her blaming the judge.

"If it was his wife that was kidnapped and butchered, you can bet he'd feel different about it," said Maxham.

While Sessions presided over Fell's trial that ended with a death sentence, he had earlier ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. King's sisters were outspoken proponents of the death penalty for Fell. And Maxham says it is not likely they would agree if prosecutors try to avoid another trial by making a plea deal that does not include death.

"The family, of course they want to see him put to death. I guess its how strong are they? How much more of this can they take? But they really have to take it, what are they going to do," said Maxham.

The ruling raises questions about what happens now for King's family and for Fell. It shines a light on the problem of juror misconduct. Reporter Kristen Kelly spoke with former federal prosecutor Jerry O'Neill Friday.

O'Neill: "When you read the case there is no doubt that Judge Sessions made the right decision. There is a piece in his opinion where he references an supreme court opinion, which says death is different in the federal system and the thoughtful states like New York. If you're going to put someone to death, you have a lot of procedural protections. Once someone's dead, you can't set aside the conviction and when you read through the opinion and you see what this particular juror did, the underlying conduct and how he lied to the court about it, it's difficult not to reach the conclusion," said O'Neill.

Kelly: And explain what is so egregious about what the juror did?

O'Neill: Well the juror did as reported in the opinion several things, the principal one of which is contrary to specific instruction from court. He went down and did his own investigation, he went down to the scene looked at it, came back and told other jurors about it, provided an affidavit after trial then lied about it in court.

The reason why it's so bad is we want jurors to decide the case based upon info they received in the courtroom, we don't want them doing their own investigation.

Kelly: So how is this allowed to happen? You've tried a whole bunch of cases, have you ever seen this happen before, a juror doing their own investigation?

O'Neill: I have not, not that I'm aware of had an instance with a juror doing his own investigation, but I stress that I'm aware of, you never know what jurors are going to be doing and Judge Sessions gave them clear instructions with respect to this. Crystal clear instruction about it. There's nothing that anybody on the defense team, the U.S, attorney's office or the judicial system did wrong. It's one juror.

O'Neill says sequestering juries is one way to try to stop juror misconduct, but it is expensive. Defense attorneys also do not like sequestered juries because they are more likely to convict.

Kelly: One thing that one member of the family said to us was that because of Judge Sessions' views on the death penalty, he should not have been handling this case in the 1st place.

O'Neill: Judges are supposed to make their decisions based on the facts and the law. He made a decision finding the statute was unconstitutional, the second circuit reversed, and i don't think anybody could say he has handled this anything other than absolutely straightforwardly, whatever his personal views have been since then.

Kelly: Talk about the difficulty now, I mean prosecutors, what do they do to retry the case? Offer a plea deal? The family has been through a lot.

O'Neill: I think Judge Sessions realizes this and how difficult this is going to be for the family. He really regrets it himself. He didn't have a choice. The government can do one of three things. It can appeal his decision, I don't think they would be successful in getting it overturned, but I could be wrong. They can work out some kind of plea agreement in connection with it, or they can retry the case. Those are the three options.

Kelly: And if you try to retry a case what, 14 years after the crime, what are the difficulties of that?

O'Neil: Well, you certainly have potential difficulties with witnesses having died, you have potential difficulties with witnesses having failed in their memories, but you have a transcript from the earlier trial. If someone has died you can use the transcript of that. If someone has failing memory you can use that transcript to refresh that recollection, and let's be realistic, in this instance, the facts aren't much in dispute, the question is what the disposition should be.

(source: WCAX news)

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Most US people executed not evil: Study

A new study shows that prisoners put to death in the US are hardly ever the worst of the worst criminals.

The study, published in Hastings Law Journal, examined 100 executions carried out between 2012 and 2013, many of these people are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers.

"A lot of folks even familiar with criminal justice and the death penalty system thought that, by the time you executed somebody, you're really gonna get these people that the court describes as the worst of the worst," Robert Smith, the study's lead researcher and an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina, told The Huffington Post.

"It was surprising to us just how many of the people that we found had evidence in their record suggesting that there are real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed," Smith added.

One of the people studied as part of the research is Daniel Cook whose mom used alcoholic drinks as well as drugs while she was pregnant with him. Cook's mother and grandparents molested him and his dad abused him by burning his genitals with a cigarette.

Even later when he was placed in foster care, a "foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a 1-way mirror," said Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

The prosecutor who presented the death penalty case against Cook said he would never have done had he known about his brutal past. Nevertheless, he was put to death on August 8, 2012.

The US Supreme Court has found that executing inmates with an intellectual disability or severe mental illness can violate the Eighth Amendment, according to which cruel and unusual punishment are barred.

In addition, the court has found that severe childhood trauma can be a mitigating factor in a defendant's case, showed a press release accompanying the report.

Smith also noted that the courts had found, regardless of the heinousness of the crime, the prosecution must also prove the defendant is "morally culpable."

He further argued people ended up executed did not have a chance to receive adequate representation at the trial level. In other words, juries were often unaware of defendants' intellectual or mental health problems or their family history of extreme abuse.

He concluded that the reason why traumatic childhoods are raised is not necessarily aimed at making juries feel bad for the person on trial, but because of "decades of research" which shows these types of trauma can provoke the kinds of "functional deficits" that were visible in most of the cases studied in the report.

(source: Press TV)

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Are US Executions Really Humane?----As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

There were only 3 people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears 3 hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of 10 lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of 4 men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history - 234. The numbers continues to grow.

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the 1st execution was bungled.

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

(source: Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Epoch Times----The Epoch Times)

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US Right Activists Seek Ban On Execution by Lethal Injection

Death sentences in some US states by lethal injection has come under heavy criticism as a barbaric act and the clamour is up for its legal review by the apex court, reports Global Post. The latest trigger is the protests that followed after a convict struggled in agony for almost 2 hours to breathe his last after the botched execution.

Convicted killer Joseph Wood gasped and snorted as he lay on a gurney for 2 hours after officials from the US state of Arizona injected him with an untested lethal drug cocktail.

News of the botched deaths also tarnished the international reputation of United States. According to Richard Dieter, who heads the Death Penalty Information Center lethal injection is unacceptable and is a torture on a gurney where the person struggles for hours to die. Opponents of capital punishment also endorse the view that lengthy executions are torture and forbidden by the US Constitution.

Steven Hall, head of a legal rights pressure group opposing capital punishment wanted the Supreme Court to get involved in examining the issue. In the US Capital punishment is practised by the federal government and some states. But 18 states have banished death penalty.

Shortage of Execution Drug

The main reason for the botched executions that add agony to convicts is the acute shortage of the lethal drug cocktail. The cocktail is a mixture of sedative mid-azolam and hydromorphone. But European manufacturers have halted the exports of such tried and tested drugs.

The US firms lack patents to produce lethal drugs and do not want their brands to court controversies. This leaves the states to rely on compounding pharmacies lacking federal approval to compose the drug mixtures for injection.

Obama Review

According to WSJ blogger Ashby Jones this is not the 1st time that a botched execution is stirring the power elite of USA following of a botched medical execution. The autopsy of convict Clayton Lockett executed in April showed that there was difficulty in placing the intravenous line into his body. The report of agony prompted President Obama to order a review of the process of death penalty in the U.S.

With the latest Joseph Wood episode more eminent people including federal judges have come forward with pointed criticisms about the way death penalty is administered and the need for a relook.

(source: IBTimes)

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Death penalty debate: Is it possible to kill people in a way that society can stomach?----It's no longer just about morality and deterrence

We can send a man to the moon but we can't complete an execution in less than 2 hours?

I'm sorry if that sounds heartless. But what can one say after the botched execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Arizona on Wednesday?

Reporter Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic was a witness to the execution. He reported that the lethal injection began at 1:54 p.m.

"Then at 2:05, Wood's mouth opened. 3 minutes later it opened again, and his chest moved as if he had burped. Then 2 minutes again, and again, the mouth open wider and wider. Then it didn't stop.

"He gulped like a fish on land. The movement was like a piston: The mouth opened, the chest rose, the stomach convulsed. And when the doctor came in to check on his consciousness and turned on the microphone to announce that Wood was still sedated, we could hear the sound he was making: a snoring, sucking, similar to when a swimming-pool filter starts taking in air, a louder noise than I can imitate, though I have tried.

"It was death by apnea. And it went on for an hour and a half. I made a pencil stroke on a pad of paper, each time his mouth opened, and ticked off more than 640, which was not all of them, because the doctor came in at least 4 times and blocked my view."

Wood was declared dead 2 hours after the execution began.

The concept of a humane execution may be a moral contradiction. But no matter what one's views are on the death penalty, the execution of Joe Wood was inhumane.

Actually, that isn't true. Wood was executed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989. A relative, Richard Brown, was there as a witness to Wood's execution. After it, he said to reporters, "This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, 'let's worry about the drugs.' Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

Society seems unable to ignore or turn aside that gut-level need for the ultimate retribution. Presumably that is part of why the death penalty is still used.

But it is possible that the death penalty debate might heat up. The arguments are entirely not the traditional ones: Is the death penalty a cruel and unusual punishment? Is it moral? Is it a deterrent to crime?

The debate now is more about whether the death penalty can be administered in a way society can stomach. It isn't just about botched executions like Wood's, of which there have been several. It is also about the length of process, which is costly and cruel.

A few days before Wood's execution, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a stay in the execution. The court's chief judge, Alex Kozinski, one of the most famous and outspoken conservative judges in the country, dissented. What he wrote is deeply ironic, almost prophetic, given what ultimately happened to Wood:

"Whatever happens to Wood, the attacks [on the process of lethal injections] 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."

These are powerful words, especially coming from a federal judge. What Kozinski wrote next has been widely mocked:

"If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution. 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. 8 or 10 large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time."

Kozinski is mischievous. But he is right that the attempt to sanitize executions has made them less efficient and swift.

But a far more serious court ruling came out of a federal court in California last week. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that California's use of the death penalty is an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment because of its long delays and uncertainty.

This argument has been made before, but never accepted by a federal judge in such sweeping form.

Carney's opinion noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed. The review and appeals process takes an average of 25 years.

No one has been executed in California since 2006 when courts ruled its administration of the lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated the 8th Amendment.

There are 748 inmates on death row in California now. Only 17 of them have completed the automatic post-conviction review process and are waiting for execution. The delays are almost entirely the fault of the state and not the appeals of prisoners as many assume.

"For all practical purposes then, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death - a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose," Judge Carney wrote. This "dysfunctional" system has no deterrent effect, he wrote. Nor does it convey retribution in any coherent way, what the Supreme Court called "an expression of society's outrage at some particularly offensive conduct."

The decision will of course be appealed and has a good chance of going to the Supreme Court.

California may be an extreme case, but not that extreme. The average time between sentencing and execution is 16 years on average across the country.

Society wants to sanitize executions and make them humane - something Judge Kozinski says is impossible and absurd.

Society also wants a fair judicial process, but is unwilling to finance and administer it.

That is immoral, no matter where you stand on the larger question of the death penalty.

(source: WPTV news)

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Hanging Delayed is Hanging Denied: Abolish the Dysfunctional Death Penalty----Long delays and legal maladministration are further reason to dump capital punishment.

The July 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney declaring California's death penalty unconstitutional offered a stark assessment of the Golden State's dysfunctional capital punishment system. Judge Carney noted only 13 of the more than 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have actually been executed - primarily because the average appeals process in a capital case takes "25 years or more" to complete. For example, Ernest Jones, the death row inmate whose lawsuit prompted Judge Carney's decision, waited nearly 8 years for the California Supreme Court to hear his initial appeal. It took 4 years just for the state to provide him with an attorney to handle the appeal.

Judge Carney acknowledged "courts had thus far generally not accepted the theory that extraordinary delay between sentencing and execution violates the Eighth Amendment," which prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. But in accepting that theory now, Judge Carney joined a substantial body of death penalty jurisprudence from the British Commonwealth. While the United Kingdom, like all European Union members, forbids the death penalty within its borders, a group of British judges continue to oversee death penalty cases from the English-speaking Caribbean, where execution by hanging remains the statutory penalty for murder.

The 5-Year Rule

In 2008, a jury in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago convicted Julia Ramdeen of the 2003 murder of Carlos Phillip. Phillip hired Ramdeen, a call girl, to organize a threesome with another woman. According to Ramdeen, Phillip arrived at her apartment for their rendezvous in a drunken and aggressive state. He grabbed her by the throat. She responded by hitting him in the head with a brick. A fight ensued. Ramdeen admitted to police she then repeatedly stabbed Phillip until he was dead.

Prosecutors presented an alternate theory, relying on a witness testifying under immunity. This witness claimed he, Ramdeen and another man lured Phillip to the apartment in order to rob him. The three ended up killing Phillip together and disposing of his body. The jury believed the witness, and Ramdeen and the other alleged conspirator received death sentences.

Ramdeen's appeal focused on whether the trial judge properly instructed the jury as to the law. In 2010, the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago dismissed the appeal and said Ramdeen's execution could proceed. Ramdeen made her final appeal in 2012 to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), the London-based court which retains jurisdiction over criminal appeals from Trinidad and Tobago and 8 other former British colonies in the Caribbean.

On March 27 of this year, a 5-judge Board of the JCPC unanimously rejected Ramdeen's appeal of her conviction. Like the Court of Appeal, the Board found no legal error in the trial judge's jury instructions, concluding they "were clear, fair and appropriate." Nevertheless, the Board, by a vote of 3-2, commuted Ramdeen's death sentence to life imprisonment. Why? Because in the course of litigating the JCPC appeal, more than 5 years elapsed since the trial court imposed its death sentence. And under a 1993 JCPC decision, executing a person after that long a delay amounts to "inhuman" punishment, which is barred under Eighth Amendment-like provisions of the constitutions of Trinidad and Tobago and the other Caribbean nations where the Privy Council retains jurisdiction.

This 5-year rule comes from a Jamaican case. Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan were sentenced to death in 1979 for a murder committed 2 years earlier. After a number of delays - and 3 stays of execution - the JCPC heard Pratt and Morgan's appeal in 1993. By that point, the men had been in prison for 16 years.

A 7-judge Board of the JCPC commuted the death sentences. Lord Hugh Griffiths, writing for the Board, said any execution carried out more than 5 years after sentence was presumably "inhuman or degrading," and therefore unconstitutional:

There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years. What gives rise to this instinctive revulsion? The answer can only be our humanity; we regard it as an inhuman act to keep a man facing the agony of execution over a long extended period of time.

The Pratt and Morgan decision immediately commuted more than 200 death sentences imposed by courts in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. (Pratt was actually released from prison in 2007, after serving more than 30 years.) In the 2 decades since then, the Privy Council's 5-year rule has effectively ground the death penalty to a halt in the English-speaking Caribbean. For instance, Trinidad and Tobago held its last execution in 1999, despite currently having approximately 3 dozen death row inmates. According to a 2012 Amnesty International report, only the Bahamas and St. Kitts and Nevis have managed to carry out any death sentences since 2000.

Is Abolition Preferable?

Ultimately, the death penalty has no place in a modern judicial system. Executions were meant to exact swift, brutal punishment against heinous criminals. But while hanging may continue to enjoy support among Caribbean governments, the American public has clearly lost its appetite for such brutality. Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently observed California's use of lethal injection "is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful." He said if states insisted on continuing capital punishment, they should stop sugarcoating it and employ "more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution." He suggested, one hopes facetiously, a return to the firing squad.

As for swiftness, there was a time when a delay of a year or 2 would have been considered egregious in a death penalty case. Lord Griffiths noted in the Pratt and Morgan decision English law once required execution the day after conviction. Even as late as 1950, British executions took place within 3 to 6 weeks of sentence. That is no longer practical for any court system, much less one as backlogged as California's. While some reactionaries may continue to argue this is the fault of defendants and their lawyers seeking to delay justice, the truth, as both Judge Carney and the Privy Council know, is the courts are too overwhelmed to deal with death penalty appeals in an expeditious manner.

The Privy Council, in what might charitably be deemed an act of judicial desperation, simply made up the 5-year rule out of thin air. The Pratt and Morgan decision offered no explanation for stopping the clock at 5 years rather than 4, 6, 10 or any other number. Furthermore, the Pratt and Morgan Board severely criticized Jamaica's court system for exhibiting a level of dysfunction that mirrors California's today.

By contrast, the Ramdeen case involved no unusual delay or judicial maladministration. The 5-year deadline only expired because the Privy Council chose to grant a discretionary appeal, which it then turned around and dismissed as baseless. The fact 2 judges dissented from the commutation of Ramdeen's death sentence - and dissents of any sort are unusual in Privy Council cases - suggests the majority may have engaged in anti-death penalty activism for its own sake.

Judge Carney's approach is much cleaner. He simply declared the death penalty unconstitutional without attempting to fashion an arbitrary time frame for completing the appeals process. His arguments may not survive appeal to the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court, but his detailed condemnation of California's death row dysfunction should not be ignored. Judicial abolition is the only practical solution to the interminable death row appeals process. Merely putting a clock on the death penalty, as the Privy Council has done, is not a satisfactory alternative. Adopting such an approach in the U.S. would only encourage prosecutors (and pro-death penalty judges) to take shortcuts with a defendant's constitutional rights to ensure any deadline is met.

(source: S.M. Oliva is a writer and paralegal living in Charlottesville, Virginia----reason.com)

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Death penalty slowly losing public support----Gallup shows peak came in the 1990s

The perpetual debate over the death penalty is bound to be reheated after the mangled, 2-hour long execution in Arizona and the federal court ruling that declared Californiaís death penalty unconstitutional.

It will come as public opinion about the death penalty is slowly evolving.

Gallup has been polling about the death penalty since the 1930s. Support for it has been steadily waning since it peaked in the 1990s.

The reasons why some people oppose the death penalty seem to be changing. The Pew Research Center found purely moral reasons have become less important than objections to how the death penalty is administered:

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that Americans increasingly prefer life imprisonment to the death penalty. "Given a choice between the 2 options, 52 % pick life in prison as the preferred punishment, while 42 % favor the death penalty - the fewest in polls dating back 15 years," the June 5, 2014, poll report said. "Without an alternative offered, 61 % continue to support the death penalty, matching 2007 as the fewest in polls back to the early 1980s. That's down sharply from 80 % in 1994."

This might imply that the polling is missing something. Support for the death penalty declines when you give an alternative response, in this case life imprisonment. Similarly, you would expect support to go down if the questions were paired with other information about the death penalty such as the average time between sentencing and execution (16 years) or the number of people on death row cleared by new DNA evidence.

This is the idea behind an experimental approach to public opinion research called deliberative polling. The idea is that you ask a question, then present factual information, and then ask the original question again.

It would be interesting to see what this shows with the death penalty. While 60 % support seems strong, it may be not be a solid as it first appears.

(source: WPTV news)

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Death Penalty No Easy Argument

I will readily admit that I have been all over the map when it comes to the death penalty.

As a young lawyer and law professor, I was opposed to it. Actually, it was easy to be against it. The evidence that it was being administered arbitrarily and unfairly was so overwhelming that the Supreme Court had effectively placed a moratorium on it.

When it came back, in the late '70s, I was there, literally.

The 1st man to be executed after the moratorium was Gary Gilmore, who wanted to die.

The 2nd was a murderer named John Spenkelink, who didn't. His last appeal, the night before his death, was to the United States Supreme Court. He needed one justice to sign a stay before midnight to keep him alive. He needed 4 justices the next morning to agree that the case was worthy of the court's review and to keep the stay in force.

All the clerks were warned.

It automatically went to the circuit justice, who was expected to deny it. Then they could go to 1 of the 2 justices, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, who were absolute opponents, but whose votes wouldn't get him past morning.

Or, they could go to one of the votes he would need in the morning, probably Potter Stewart. We all figured he'd go to Brennan or Marshall, and we could go home. He came to us - us being the court's junior member.

I drove an old yellow Maverick, and the overhead light was broken, so my co-clerk, who went on to become a leading death penalty defense lawyer and scholar, read out loud with the flashlight as we drove over to the justice's apartment.

When we got there, we read it again with him, issue by issue: Was there any basis for concluding that a mistake was made?

We didn't come up with much, and then he called the other justice in the middle and went over it with him, and then we drove back with the unsigned papers and the windows down in case we threw up.

What if we had missed something?

What if his lawyers had? We hadn't read a transcript; we just read the papers. Was he the white guy picked to go first and head off a parade of minorities?

Why him?

We got back to the court at 11:45 p.m. and found Marshall, then in his later years, waiting with his pen out.

The execution took place the next day.

By the time he retired, Justice John Paul Stevens was among the most outspoken critics of the way the death penalty is administered. We reminisced, decades later, about the care we had taken to review that application. It doesn't work that way anymore.

Even so, I came to view that, as a matter of principle, a society has every right to punish the worst of the worst. It was the murder of a pregnant woman at an ATM that did it for me - stabbed her in the stomach for some cash. It was a month after my son was born.

Get the right guy, and you won't find me fighting to save him, I heard myself say.

And it was true.

The "get the right guy" problem is not insignificant. Most of those on death row are brutal murderers. But no system is perfect, and ours doesn't aspire to be.

So what percentage of error is tolerable when death is the penalty?

And just how much are we willing to pay to achieve a tolerable error rate?

The work of The Innocence Project, and other organizations, seems to show pretty clearly that it isn't enough.

Now there is the newest problem. Killing people isn't so easy. Or rather, as anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer could probably tell you, dying can be very hard. The drug companies don't want to be a part of the debate by way of making these drugs, states are afraid to disclose what they use, and the last execution took so long that the lawyers filed for a stay.

Did the dying man suffer?

They're not sure.

It's a public embarrassment, or so death penalty opponents are treating it. Is that an argument that we shouldn't be in the business of killing people? Maybe. I just can't help but think about how most people suffer in death, and none more than those who are viciously murdered.

(source: Susan Estrich is a best-selling author whose writings have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post----newsmax.com)

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Botching the death penalty

Another state, another botched execution carried out with secret new drugs. This time: Arizona, where convicted murderer Joseph Randolph Wood gasped and snorted for more than 90 minutes after his execution began. What should have been a 10- to 15- minute ordeal took 117 minutes for Wood.

According to witnesses, Wood "gulped like a fish on land" and made movements "like a piston: the mouth opened, the chest rose, the stomach convulsed." He gasped for air roughly 660 times over the course of the 117-minute execution - which had been carried out using a controversial 2-drug cocktail the state had never used before.

One of the drugs, midazolam, has been used in flawed executions carried out in other states this year, including the horrific botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, who died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the procedure started. It was also used in Ohio on Dennis McGuire, who gasped and snorted on the gurney before being pronounced dead 25 minutes after the execution began.

Yes, it's true that Wood's victims suffered. And yes, the families of the victims have suffered as well, probably much more than Wood did last night. But there are limits to the type of punishment the state can impose on prisoners in America - the punishment they receive for their crimes isn't supposed to match the level of pain and suffering they impose on their victims or victims' families. Vengeance isn't the job of the state.

Wood certainly won't be the last inmate to have his execution botched. As long as states continue to experiment on inmates with secret lethal injection drugs from presumably dubious sources without providing an ounce of transparency into the process, these grisly results are going to continue to repeat themselves again and again.

(source: Laurne Galik, Reason)

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The Beginning of the End of America's Death-Penalty Experiment

Beginnings and endings are not always apparent when they occur. The modern death-penalty era began on July 2, 1976, when the Supreme Court decided the case of Gregg v. Georgia. But we did not actually know it had begun until Jan. 17, 1977, which was the date the State of Utah executed Gary Gilmore by firing squad.

The thing about the firing squad, though, and most all other methods of execution the states adopted - including hanging, the electric chair and the gas chamber - is that they are not the least bit subtle. When you shoot somebody, or hang him, you know you are killing him. The death penalty, however, is the sausage factory of America's legal system: Nobody wants to know what is actually going on.

So the states eventually embraced lethal injection as the preferred method of killing condemned murderers. Now, we could all pretend that the process was nothing more than a sterile implementation of proportional punishment. Sure, we were still killing somebody, but the actual act of killing the condemned looked like something you might see on the medical channel. People sometimes ask me what it is like to witness an execution, and I tell them the most powerful thing about it is walking outside the prison after it is over, into the bright light of day, and seeing that the state has just killed someone, and the citizens don't have a clue.

We do know, however, when the end of the modern death-penalty era began: April 29, 2014. That was the day we could no longer remain willfully naive. It was the date Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett.

Lockett had murdered a young woman named Stephanie Neiman. He shot her and buried her alive, an unusually grisly crime. He was not exactly the sort of murderer abolitionists would choose as a poster boy. But he became one anyway. As the execution was proceeding, he woke up and began straining against the leather straps that held him to the gurney. So gruesome was the scene that prison officials pulled the curtain, preventing the witnesses from seeing him writhe and gasp for air any further. 43 minutes later, he died.

43 minutes. Nearly 3/4 of an hour. Compared with the 10 or 12 minutes it had typically taken to execute an inmate with drugs, it seemed like an eternity. And to Clayton Lockett, it probably was. But after a day or 2 in the news, Lockett was forgotten, America having once again convinced itself that executions are ordinarily routine, that what happened to this man, this murderer, was aberrational, that it certainly could not happen again.

Until it did, in spades. The 43 minutes Lockett struggled against death were nothing compared to the nearly 2 hours - 117 minutes, to be precise - that it took the state of Arizona to kill Joseph Wood on Wednesday. Wood's execution went on for so long that his lawyers actually had enough time to file 3 appeals - each to the federal district court, the Arizona Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court - while Wood either snored or gasped for air (the appropriate verb depending on whether one believes the journalists who witnessed the event or a prison spokesman who did not).

Let's pause for a moment to consider the mid-execution appeals. Several days before the fiasco unfolded, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Arizona could not proceed with the execution without providing information to Wood's lawyers concerning the source and identity of the drugs the state intended to use. The Supreme Court, however, with no recorded dissenting opinions, reversed that stay. Then, after the execution had already lasted for an hour as Wood struggled to breathe, Wood's lawyers contacted Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and again requested he intervene and halt the procedure.

(source: David Dow, who represents death-row inmates, is the Cullen professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the Rorschach visiting professor of history at Rice University----politico.com)

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Readers React----How 'humane' can the death penalty be?

To the editor: Philosophers and medical professionals can debate whether it is more humane for the state to kill the condemned via firing squad, as U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski suggested, rather than by using lethal injection. ("Federal appeals court refuses rehearing on Arizona execution case," July 21).

Either way, as long as killing murderers remains public policy, the state should not attempt to conceal the brutality of an execution from the public. Killing behind a curtain only serves to stoke ambiguity, such as in the recently botched Arizona execution in which 2 observers saw the same thing differently.

To ensure that the public is fully informed of how capital punishment is meted out, executions should be recorded and made available for public viewing. Whether or not we like what we see, at least we will know.

Mark Shoup, Apple Valley

..

Federal appeals court refuses rehearing on Arizona execution case

To the editor: Just who are those complaining about murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III's nearly two-hour execution representing? That criminal was, according to some witnesses, feeling no pain, even though he was snoring loudly. My late husband used to snore.

Why should we worry about a criminal whose execution takes longer than expected? There was apparently no suffering, and he was sedated while waiting. To him, it was a restful sleep.

I can't believe some people are getting all worked up about the length of time a murderer rests, snoring, before he finally goes permanently to sleep. Instead, let's use our energies for something that really helps us.

Catherine Titus, Glendale

..

To the editor: Execution by beheading: uncivilized. Execution by stoning: barbaric.

Execution by lethal injection....?

Marshall Barth, Encino

(source: Letters to the Editor, Los Angeles Times)

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Chemical mix and human error lead to controversial executions

Arizona spent 2 hours killing death row inmate Joseph Wood this week, an unusually long time for an execution. Wood's death has reopened the debate about capital punishment and lethal injection. Lethal injection is used in all 32 states that have the death penalty.

Some witnesses said Wood was gasping for breath and seemed to be in pain. Others said he was simply snoring. The state of Arizona said Wood didn't suffer. Either way, there are renewed concerns that executions, which are supposed to be quick and painless, are neither.

Typically executions are performed using 3 drugs in stages. The 1st drug is an anesthetic. The 2nd drug is called a paralytic and the 3rd drug is supposed to stop the heart.

For years, executioners used a drug called sodium thiopental as the 1st drug, the anesthetic, until the only U.S. producer of the drug stopped making it. Then the United States turned to European manufacturers, but they refused to sell the drug for use in executions.

Since sodium thiopental was taken off the market for executions, states have turned to a drug called midazolam for the anesthetic. But experts believe there have been problems with the drug in at least three executions. The problems described by witnesses included gasping, snorting or choking sounds and, in one execution, the inmate was described as speaking.

Wood was injected with midazolam on Wednesday, as well as hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller that, with an overdose, halts breathing and stops the heart from beating. It is one of the new combinations that states have tried, with some controversial results.

What would qualify as a botched execution? Michael Radelet, a professor of sociology and law, said an execution is botched when it looks like the inmate endured "prolonged suffering" for 20 minutes or more.

Whether they're "botched" or not, plenty of executions don't go by the book. Most of the executions listed here were compiled by Human Rights Watch.

Dennis McGuire, executed January 16, 2014, in Ohio. Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson said the execution process took 24 minutes, and that McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes. He had been injected with midazolam and hydromorphone, a 2-drug combination that hadn't been used before in the United States. McGuire, 53, was convicted in 1994 in the rape and murder of a 22-year-old pregnant woman.

Clayton Lockett, executed April 29, 2014, in Oklahoma. Lockett was injected with midazolam, but instead of becoming unconscious, he twitched, convulsed and spoke. The execution was halted, but Lockett died after 43 minutes. A team that prepared Lockett for execution failed to set a properly functioning IV in his leg, according to preliminary findings of an independent autopsy. Lockett was convicted in the 1999 death of an Oklahoma woman who was buried alive after she was raped and shot.

Jose High, executed November 7, 2001, in Georgia. This execution illustrates a common problem. The execution team had trouble finding a usable vein and spent 39 minutes looking before finally sticking a needle into High's hand. A 2nd needle was inserted between his neck and shoulder by a physician. 69 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead. High was convicted in a 1976 store robbery and the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old boy.

Claude Jones, executed December 7, 2000, in Texas. The execution team spent 30 minutes looking for a suitable vein, a difficult task because of Jones' history of drug abuse. He was convicted in the 1990 murder of a liquor store owner.

Joseph Cannon, executed April 23, 1998, in Texas. The needle popped out and Cannon said to witnesses, "It's come undone." The needle was reinserted and 15 minutes later a weeping Cannon made his second final statement. He was convicted of murder.

John Wayne Gacy, executed May 10, 1994, in Illinois. Lethal chemicals solidified and clogged in the IV tube leading to Gacy's arm. A new tube was installed and the execution proceeded. Gacy, one of America's most notorious killers, was convicted in 1980 of raping and killing 33 boys and young men he lured into his home.

Charles Walker, executed September 12, 1990, in Illinois. The execution was prolonged because a kink in the plastic tubing stopped the flow of chemicals into Walker's body and an intravenous needle pointed at Walker's fingers, instead of his heart, said a Missouri State Prison engineer hired to assist in the execution. Walker was convicted of 2 counts of murder.

Raymond Landry, executed December 13, 1988, in Texas. The catheter dislodged and flew through the air 1 minutes after injection of drugs into Landry's body. The execution team spent 14 minutes inserting it again and Landry was pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the gurney. He had been convicted of murder.

(source: CNN)

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Execution nothing to lose sleep over

So bleeding heart liberals are in a tizzy over the fact that it took almost two hours for Joseph Rudolph Wood to die after his lethal injection in Arizona on Wednesday. His attorneys claim their client was "gasping and snorting" for an hour, and death penalty opponents will certainly use this incident to complain of cruel and unusual punishment.

You know what I think is cruel and unusual? What Wood did to land on death row in the first place, that's what.

According to the Arizona Department of Corrections website, Wood "had been involved in a turbulent relationship for 5 years," including "numerous breakups and several domestic violence incidents" with his ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Debbie Dietz.

29 years old. Her whole life still ahead of her. Now here's the rest of the story...

"Debbie was working at a local body shop owned by her family. On August 7, 1989, Wood walked into the shop and shot Gene Dietz, age 55, in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver, killing him.

"Gene Dietz's 70-year-old brother was present and tried to stop Wood, but Wood pushed him away and proceeded into another section of the body shop.

"Wood went up to Debbie, placed her in some type of hold, and shot her once in the abdomen and once in the chest, killing her. Wood then fled the building.

"2 police officers approached Wood and ordered him to drop his weapon. After Wood placed the weapon on the ground, he reached down and picked it up, and pointed it at the officers. The officers fired, striking Wood several times. Wood was transported to a local hospital where he underwent extensive surgery."

So this guy beats up his girlfriend multiple times. She breaks up with him. He shows up at her place of business without warning. Kills her father for no reason. Kills his ex for breaking up with him. Then tries to kill 2 police officers.

And I'm supposed to feel bad this murderous piece of human garbage didn't die a quick and totally painless death? Wood got to live almost 25 years longer than the 2 people whose lives he snuffed out. How are their murders not cruel and unusual punishment for both the victims and their families?

As for death penalty opponents who claim the death penalty is not a deterrent, let me assure you thanks to the death penalty Joseph Rudolph Wood absolutely, positively, without a doubt, will never, ever murder an innocent person again. He has been permanently deterred.

As for the afterlife, I can only hope when Wood reaches the Gates of Hades, Saddam Hussein is the greeter, takes a fancy to him, and makes him his boy-toy for eternity. Rest in pain, Mr. Wood. Rest in pain.

(source: Chuk Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.MuthsTruths.com----Nevada Appeal)

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Troubled U.S. executions raise questions about doctors in death chamber

Troubled lethal injections in Oklahoma and Arizona have raised questions whether medical personnel are skilled enough to humanely put an inmate to death, and if things go wrong, expert enough to revive one if an order is given.

Almost all of the 32 states that use the death penalty either require or permit a physician to attend executions, which often are carried out by lesser-trained medical personnel, but doctors who participate risk losing their license to practice medicine if they are discovered to have helped.

Among the reasons for the recent problems include that medical personnel in the death chamber may not be familiar with mixing or administering new lethal cocktails being used after traditional supplies of execution drugs dried up, nor treating any side effects.

"If the only thing you know how to do is insert into a vein, then what happens if that person stays conscious? You are not the expert who is needed at that time," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Corrections officials say their protocols are designed to conduct executions as humanely as possible with personnel being thoroughly trained for the roles they perform.

The U.S. lethal injection process underwent a fundamental change in 2011, when drug company Hospira stopped making short-acting barbiturate and general anesthetic sodium thiopental, due to concerns about its widespread use in executions. It was the lone U.S. manufacturer of the drug.

Since then, states have developed new drug combinations and turned to new suppliers, usually in secret. A number of death row inmates have sued, arguing that untested drugs of questionable quality could cause undo harm and suffering in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

There was a doctor present at the execution in Oklahoma in April, where an IV popped out when rapist and murderer Clayton Lockett was being executed. Prison officials halted the execution, but Lockett died of a heart attack about 40 minutes after the procedure started.

Similarly in Arizona, a doctor was present on Wednesday when it took at least 2 doses of a lethal drug cocktail to execute double murderer Joseph Wood. The Arizona Department of Corrections said the IVs were properly placed, and that Wood was fully sedated throughout the procedure.

PROLONGED DEATH

Arizona has promised an internal review but disputes that the execution was botched even as lawyers for the inmate said he gasped and struggled for breath for more than 90 minutes before dying.

The 2 hours it took between when the injection started and when the inmate was declared dead was far longer than the three to 15 minutes it has typically taken inmates to die in other executions in recent years.

The typical protocol for states requires that a medically trained person - such as a paramedic, military corpsman or certified medical assistant - administer the IV. Names are kept secret, including of any doctor who may assist.

Under guidelines set by the American Medical Association, a physician can confirm the death of an executed inmate. But a physician cannot declare death, administer drugs, monitor vital signs, select injection sites, start an IV, supervise drug injections or consult with a person carrying out the injection.

"A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution," the AMA said.

A separate paper from its journal said those who violate the code of ethics on executions risk having their licenses revoked by state medical boards.

The few physicians who take the risk usually do it out of circumstance and not necessarily because they have expertise in the drug protocol, according to a 2006 paper from the New England Journal of Medicine.

It said one doctor, board certified in internal medicine and critical care, told the Journal he was asked to help by a local warden and did so because the sentence was society's order and because the punishment did not seem wrong.

Another doctor, a prison physician, said he participated to make sure the execution was done correctly.

"I think that if I had to face someone I loved being put to death, I would want that done by lethal injection, and I would want to know that it is done competently," the doctor said.

(source: Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech----Reuters)

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Experts decry 'failed experiment' with new death penalty drug combinations

Leading experts on the use of medical drugs in capital punishment have accused death penalty states of conducting a "failed experiment" with new drug combinations following a recent run of drawn-out executions in which prisoners have shown signs of distress on the gurney.

Some of the country's most prominent authorities on the science of lethal injections have begun publicly to question the use of the sedative midazolam. In particular, doubts are growing about its use in combination with the painkiller hydromorphone.

A concoction of the two drugs was used in this week's execution in Arizona of a convicted double-murderer, Joseph Wood, which took nearly 2 hours to complete. It was also used in the earlier judicial killing in Ohio of Dennis McGuire, convicted of rape and murder, who gasped for air over the course of 26 minutes.

"There have been two executions using midazolam and hydromorphone, and both have led to problems. That indicates that it's possible that the combination doesn't work. These are failed experiments with this drug combination," said David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school who has acted as an expert defence witness in many capital cases. "Given the 2 recent events it seems irresponsible to continue trying this combination."

Mark Heath, a Columbia University anaesthesiologist in New York, and also a lethal injection expert, pointed out that of the 12 executions in which midazolam has been deployed, "4 did not really go as you'd expect or want". He said: "The common theme is that in all of them the prisoner seems to go to sleep but keeps moving or breathing for long after you'd expect that to happen." He added that the use of midazolam was "at this point clearly a failed experiment".

The experts' warnings add to pressure on the death penalty states that are wrestling with the fallout of recent botched or prolonged executions, most recently that of Wood on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses reported that the prisoner gasped for more than an hour, like "a fish on shore gulping for air". John McCain, the Arizona senator, said the procedure had been "bollocks-upped" and said it was tantamount to torture - a charge all the more potent because McCain was a victim of torture in Vietnam.

The department of justice is investigating the way executions are carried out. President Obama ordered the review in the wake of the lethal injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April, which also involved midazolam, in which he writhed and groaned on the gurney for 43 minutes.

It took so long for Wood to die on Wednesday that his lawyers even tried, 1 hour into the procedure, to persuade a judge to order it be stopped and Wood resuscitated. The transcript of the phone conversation between Wood's lawyer, a federal judge and Arizona state officials revealed both the primitive medical set-up inside the death chamber and the ignorance of officials about basic medical matters.

Jeffrey Zick, a lawyer with the Arizona attorney general's office, told Judge Neil Wake that "Mr Wood is effectively brain dead." Asked by the judge whether the prisoner had probes attached to his head to prove that he was brain dead, Zick said no, but insisted that a medically trained individual had observed Wood to be in that condition.

But Waisel, the Harvard professor, told the Guardian that someone who is brain dead will stop breathing unless kept alive on a ventilator. "There is no way anyone could ever look at someone and make that kind of diagnosis. He was still breathing, so he was not brain dead. This is an example where they threw out a term that has a precise medical definition, but they didn't know what it means."

Other independent experts agreed. "If you are taking breaths, you are not brain dead. Period," said Dr Chitra Venkat, clinical associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. "That is not compatible with brain death, at all. In fact, it is not compatible with any form of death."

Vikrat said that lethal injection is not compatible with declaring someone brain dead because the drug cocktail used in the process is not meant to cause brain death. The drugs used in Arizona are intended to stop someone from breathing, while drugs used in other states are directed at ending cardiac functions.

"To declare somebody brain dead really, you have to go through all these steps and all these checklists to say: 'yes this person has some irreversible, catastrophic structural damage to the brain,' which this person didn't have," she said. "So you have to have that. You should not be under any influence of heavy sedative drugs, as this person was."

Brain stem activity and brain death are mutually exclusive, said Dr Robert D Stevens, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Gasping is really just a variance of breathing, and breathing is mediated specifically via the brain stem," Stevens said. "Any type of breathing, gasping, whatever it is, immediately indicates that the patient is not brain dead."

Underlining much of the controversy that has engulfed the death penalty in recent months is the shroud of secrecy that many states have thrown around the drugs they use in lethal injections. States, including Arizona, are refusing to divulge who manufactured the drugs in the hope of keeping supply lines open amid a worldwide blockade of the chemicals being sold to corrections departments.

In the case of Arizona, it indicated that its supplies of midazolam and hydromorphone were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it produced no evidence to that effect. The state also refused to disclose the medical or other qualifications of its execution team.

Lawyers acting on behalf of condemned prisoners have protested that the secrecy exposes the men to potential cruel and unusual punishment - a violation of the eighth amendment of the US constitution. The courts, including the US supreme court, have dismissed the argument so far, but now medical experts are also warning about potentially dire consequences.

"We don't know where the drugs came from, their quality, or whether they were produced in an FDA-approved manufacturing site. That means we don't know the quality or concentration of the drugs, and that could cause the problems we saw in Arizona," Waisel said.

Waisel expresses no view on whether or not America should practise the death penalty. But he told the Guardian: "If we are going to have the death penalty - one of the most solemn things the state can do - then it has to be done perfectly. If states cannot do it perfectly, then they should not do it."

(source: The Guardian)

PAKISTAN:

Justice served: Acid attacker awarded death penalty----The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar.

Anti Terrorism Court (ACT) Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad awarded death penalty on Friday to man convicted of attacking a woman with acid and killing her near Mansoorabad police station.

Prosecution said 30-year-old woman Ayesha Zafar, a divorcee, was going on a motorbike with her nephew Zunair Sajid, 14, on June 10 when Waqas Zulfiqar, a property dealer, threw acid on her.

The woman and her nephew were injured and taken to a hospital. Later, they were referred to Allied Hospital where the woman succumbed died.

The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar. The convict was also directed to pay Rs400,000 compensation or undergo imprisonment of 1.5 years. He was also fined Rs1 million.

(source: The Express Tribune)

INDIA:

Would-be Executioners Line Up to Make a Killing as Wages Hiked

Hundreds of death row inmates are waiting for the hangman in prisons throughout India, but the country's judicial system is facing a shortage of executioners.

The hangmen's tribe have dwindled in recent years with executions becoming a rarity, while negligible remuneration and the ominous nature of the job have prevented newcomers to the profession.

However, all that is set to change at least in the southern state of Kerala, which has found a straightforward way to attract interest - raise the remuneration steeply.

According to report in a regional language daily, the wages for hangmen have gone up from a mere Rupees 500 (4.90, $8.33 pounds) to Rupees 200,000 (1,958, $3,330 pounds) per execution.

The sharp wage hike prompted hordes of aspirants to queue up for the job - in the hope of making a killing.

Apart from the office of the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi which published the report, the state's central jails and associated departments also received a flurry of enquiries from would-be hangmen. Some called, others wrote and some others came in person, hoping to land the lucrative position, the daily said in a subsequent report.

In all, there are 16 convicts on death row pending appeal and the state has to keep a hangman ready, reports the Hindustan Times.

Kerala's Kannur Central jail, which houses the largest number of convicts sentenced to death in the state, received at least 50 applications after the news broke, according to the Mathrubhumi.

Some of the applicants spoke boastfully about taking on the difficult task, while some others saw it as a great opportunity to become debt free.

One man even picked the prisoner he wanted to hang - a convict sentenced to death in a sensational rape and murder case that rocked the state a few years ago. Another called up the Mathrubhumi's office to plead that he be allowed to hang all 16 convicts at one go as it would help him escape the burden of debts he had incurred.

Jail officials had a tough time convincing them that there was no permanent positions open for the executioner's job and therefore they could not entertain requests for the same, the Malayalam daily reported.

The dearth of people to take up the grim job has been fodder for popular films in Kerala's thriving film industry. The convention has been to look for paid volunteers whenever an execution is confirmed by the country's highest court.

In India, death penalty is by hanging and awarded only in the 'rarest of rare cases' with the last reported high-profile hanging being that of Afzal Guru in February 2013 for his role in the 2001 attack on the country's parliament.

Unfortunately for the applicants, the 16 convicts sentenced to the gallows in Kerala could appeal to commute their death sentences. Only when their appeal is overturned by the higher courts including the Supreme Court, and their final petition of mercy rejected by the president of the country, will they actually be executed.

In short, for all those aspiring executioners in Kerala who dreams of a windfall, hope is hanging by a thread.

(source: Yahoo News)

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Rajiv's killers: NDA move may bring sanity to the death penalty debate

If the execution or commutation of a death sentence is not to remain a political football, it is clear that the current process is simply untenable.

The NDA government has raised an important question on the issue: can the release of a convict be something that is only between him and the government? If this idea is taken to its logical conclusion, it will balance and bring sanity to the death penalty debate.

According to this Times of India report, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar this week asked the 5-judge Supreme Court bench which is hearing the case for freeing the killers of Rajiv Gandhi a pointed question: "Should the relatives of those killed in the blast (that killed Rajiv and 17 others) be not permitted to challenge the Supreme Court's decision to commute the death sentences of the condemned prisoners? Would it be correct to decide the issues relating to (the) remission granted to prisoners, whose death penalty had been commuted to life imprisonment, be decided merely on an application made by the convict to the government?"

This is a great question, and, in fact, is the missing link in questions about the death penalty. It is also vital to reducing the element of political arbitrariness in the execution of death penalties.

In 2012 and 2013, Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who was part of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, and Afzal Guru, who was convicted for the December 2011 attack on parliament, were hanged after long delays. The Congress-led UPA, which had been dithering all along, confirmed the executions - one suspects - largely to show it can be tougher than Narendra Modi, then emerging as the real challenger to the UPA. Kasab was executed just ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections, and Afzal Guru a few months after that - just as the BJP was seeking to make Modi the prime ministerial candidate.

But then a strange thing happened. Several other convicted assassins - Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, all convicted for the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, and Balwant Singh Rajaona, convicted for the assassination of former Punjab CM Beant Singh - were spared the noose. And last year, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence on Rajiv's killers on the plea that by delaying their executions so much, an injustice was done to them and their families.

It is clear why Kasab and Guru went to the gallows and why Rajaona and the Rajiv's killers did not - the former did not have strong political backing, while the latter 2 had political godfathers in the Punjab and Tamil Nadu governments which moved to save them from the gallows (allegedly in deference to public sentiment). And after the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa hastily announced a decision to let them go free.

This blatantly political act forced the Supreme Court to stay their release last April, and in the process new ideas are coming to the fore - as evidenced by the Solicitor-General's posers to the Supreme Court bench, which is headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha.

Thus far, those who want to abolish the death penalty have been focusing too much attention on the convicts and their families, thinking little about the families of the victims.

But if death sentences and their commutation, and even the release of convicts, can be decided without any reference to the real victims - the families of those affected by the acts of killers - how can justice be said to be done?

Revenge and the need for punishment of criminals is not just about the state doing its bit. It is also about bringing closure to the families of the victims as well.

In the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, it was not only Rajiv who got killed in the blast set off by LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu. Seventeen others, including policemen, were killed and scores injured. Their families have suffered. How can the law presume that the agony of a killer's relatives is greater than that of the families of the people they killed, maimed or injured? If delay in carrying out a death sentence is agony for the former, it is doubly so for the victims. A killer freed may make his family celebrate, but can the families of the victims feel happy about this?

The Solicitor-General has done well to bring parity to the process of accepting or rejecting mercy pleas. A formal structure to obtain the inputs of the families of the victims is vital to the process of justice.

There are several good and practical reasons why victims' kin must be brought into the picture.

One, it makes for a better form of closure. If the families of the victim are willing to forgive and forget, any commutation will carry more moral weight. If not, they are merely abiding by the court's final decision.

Two, by giving the families a say, many such decisions can be taken out of the ambit of politics. In the Rajiv killers case, while politicians are seeking brownie points by pretending to feel for the convicts and their cause of Tamil Eelam, the real victims - the families of the 17 others killed - were simply left out of this empathy process. Now, if they agreed to the commutation and release, it would be a case of truly forgiving and forgetting. If they don't agree, it frees the state government from having to prove to the electorate it had sympathy for the killers' families.

Three, in the Afzal Guru case, where the Kashmir sentiment was ignored because it was unimportant in the larger context of Indian politics, the government ended up shamefully hanging him and not even intimating his family in time. Now, Guru has been elevated to a big hero in the Valley. But if the victims of the Parliament attack had formally been brought into the picture, he would have been less of a hero. Guru would, in this case, not just be the victim of arbitrary justice, but paying for his sins.

There is a strong case for giving due weightage to the feelings of the families of victims when it comes to taking decisions about the death penalty.

(source: firstpost.com)

JULY 25, 2014:

TEXAS:

Death Penalty Sought for Tim's Market Killing

The 3 suspects charged with the murder of a local convenience store owner are now facing death themselves.

27-year-old Del Victoria Cavazos, 26-year-old Arturo Navarro and 26-year-old Daniel Garcia learned during a hearing this morning in Judge Jose Longoria's court, that prosecutors will seek the death penalty against them. They are all charged with capital murder for their roles in the April 14th attempted robbery and shooting-death of 59-year-old Ben Mustafa, the popular owner of the Tim's Market on Ayers at Brownlee.

Daniel Garcia initially admitted to killing Mustafa with an assault rifle. Now, his attorney has asked that he be given a mental health evaluation.

An August 18th trial date has been set. The 3 remain in the Nueces County jail.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

ARIZONA:

Arizona lawyers appeal for emergency stay during 2-hour execution - read the court transcript

Transcript of the frantic telephone court session that took place during the execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on Wednesday. Wood's execution lasted for so long that lawyers filed a motion for an emergency stay some 90 minutes into the botched procedure. Wood died while the court hearing was still ongoing.

(see: http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2014/jul/24/arizona-joseph-wood-exeuction-court-hearing-transcript)

(source: The Guardian)

USA:

Are Opponents Of The Death Penalty Contributing To Its Problems?

Kevin Cooper was convicted of murdering a married couple and 2 children, and was sentenced to die.

That was back in 1985. Cooper is still awaiting execution on California's death row.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who is handling the case, blames the long delay on Cooper's multiple appeals in state and federal courts.

"This is all a big strategic plan to really manipulate the system to attack capital punishment, not just in California, but in the United States," Ramos says.

The death penalty is under considerable pressure, both from court decisions and a series of problematic executions, including one this week in Arizona. 6 states have abolished the death penalty over the past 7 years.

Death penalty supporters such as Ramos say this is no accident. They believe opponents intentionally toss sand in the gears of the execution process, and then complain that the system doesn't work.

"It's a delaying tactic that then allows them to scream it's unconstitutional because it's been delayed too long," Ramos says.

Defense attorneys dismiss this as nonsense. The problems with the death penalty, they say, were not created by its opponents.

"It's not the defense attorneys who are holding executions up," says Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University. "Not by a long shot."

Blame For Delays

Last week, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney found California's system of capital punishment unconstitutional because executions are delayed for too long and are "arbitrary" in terms of which condemned prisoners are ever actually executed.

Death penalty supporters argue that it's the killers - and their attorneys - causing most of the delays.

"Having done everything they can to cause the problem, they decry the problem," says Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which defends victims' rights.

But many of the delays aren't caused by defense attorneys, rather the very lack of them, Denno says. In California, it can take years for a condemned prisoner even to be appointed counsel, and years more to wait for what is known as a post-conviction hearing.

"Even before a case gets to federal court, there's often more than 10 years of delays built into the system that don't have anything to do with what's brought from the defense," says Joseph Luby, an attorney with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City, Mo., which defends the condemned.

In the California case, Carney specifically looked at delays that were the fault of the state, not of the prisoner.

"What the judge expressly said, and what the defendant assumed as his burden of proof, was that the specific delays weren't this defendant's fault," says Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "That was something the condemned man had to prove before he could get a remedy based on the delays."

Problems With Lethal Injection

In addition to traditional questions regarding innocence and adequacy of counsel, defense attorneys now will typically challenge a state's method of execution. Lethal injections, which for years had a more anodyne reputation than gas chambers or the electric chair, have become problematic in and of themselves.

"Botched lethal injection executions have offered the same kind of negative publicity as other methods," Zimring says.

Scheidegger, the foundation attorney, says death penalty opponents, having successfully promoted lethal injections at the expense of older methods by portraying it as more humane, are now undermining states' use of drugs through their legal challenges.

Drugmakers in European countries that have abolished the death penalty are also blocking U.S. states from using their products in executions.

"There is an inherent tension here," NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg said on All Things Considered. "The more pressure there is to do this the right way from anti-death penalty lawyers, the more secretive states get because they can't actually carry out their mandate in the most humane way anymore."

But Denno, the Fordham professor, says there were problems with lethal injections long before states ran out of their preferred barbiturates.

"Botched executions have existed from the very beginning [of the use of lethal injection], since 1982," she says.

Scrambling For A Solution

Denno notes that the dosage of the sedative midazolam, which many states are now using for executions, has ranged from 10 milligrams to 500 milligrams.

"One state has a botched execution, so they use more or less of the drug because they don't know what's causing the problems," she says. "Every time there's a problem, states have a little bit more of a challenge saying why they would ever use midazolam again, when it has such a bad record."

But if states seem to be improvising in terms of method - and doing their best to keep the sources of their drugs secret - that's at least in part because they know they're almost certain to face a legal challenge, suggests Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School.

"I've been at national and international conferences, as the lone death penalty supporter, where devout abolitionists openly exhort each other to gum up the works and delay," he says.

Luby says defense appeals aren't frivolous but rather serious attempts at making sure the irrevocable death penalty is carried out justly and properly. He notes that many sentences are vacated on appeal and contends that challenges against lethal injection have been vindicated by the many problems seen just this year.

In the Arizona case, the Supreme Court had lifted the stay of execution granted by an appellate court based on death row inmate Joseph Wood's right to know more the state's drug sources and methodology.

"One can only hope that the courts, including the Supreme Court, will have a bit of buyer's remorse about having accepted the state's argument, based on what we've seen," Luby says.

(source: NPR)

CHINA----execution

Japanese man executed in China over stimulant drug smuggling

Chinese authorities executed Friday a Japanese man in his 50s who had been sentenced to death in connection with stimulant drug smuggling.

Commenting on the execution, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Kyodo News that China prudently applies the death penalty, and renders judgment based on strict legal procedures and reviews them. "The judicial branch also administers capital punishment based on normal procedures," Hong said.

Yang Yu, counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, voiced agreement with the execution, saying at a press conference Friday that drug-related offenses are considered serious crimes anywhere in the world.

"In China, the judicial branch independently hands down decisions based on the law, and all people whatever their nationality are treated equally and punished severely," he emphasized.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said China had notified Japan that the execution took place in the morning.

The man was sentenced to death in December 2012 and the ruling became final in August 2013, Japanese officials said, adding that he met his family on Thursday.

Since Tokyo and Beijing normalized diplomatic relations in 1972, the man, whose identity was not released, is the 5th Japanese to have been executed in China, according to the officials.

Kishida told a news conference in Tokyo that while it is up to China to decide what kind of penalty should be imposed on criminals, "We have conveyed to the Chinese side that we have taken a heightened interest in the death penalty handed down to Japanese nationals." In China, the smuggling of 50 grams or more of narcotics is an offense punishable by death. In 2010, four Japanese were executed in China for stimulant drug smuggling.

Amnesty International estimates that China executed thousands of people in 2013 under the death penalty, more than any other country in the world. China does not disclose how many executions it carries out each year.

A court in Dalian in northeastern China conveyed the information on the latest execution to the Japanese consular office in the city, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

(source: Kyodo News International)

KANSAS:

High court overturns death penalty sentences for Carr brothers, upholds conviction----Brothers should have been allowed separate penalty trials, court rules

The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned death penalty sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr in the gruesome killings of 4 people in December 2000 in Wichita.

In rulings issued Friday, justices upheld one count of capital murder and overturned the other 4 "because of charging and multiplicity errors." New sentencing trials were ordered because the district court judge refused to allow separate penalty phase trials for the brothers.

Overall, the court upheld 32 of Reginald Carr's 50 convictions and 25 of Jonathan Carr's 43 convictions.

At their 2002 trial, the brothers were convicted in the kidnapping, robbery and sexual assault of 5 victims. The victims were taken to a frozen field, shot and run over by a vehicle.

In Friday's rulings, justices noted multiple errors by the district court judge, including the refusal to hold separate trials for the brothers and the exclusion of defense evidence. However, the judge's failures amounted to "harmless error" because prosecution evidence was so strong.

"Cumulative error can require reversal of all of a criminal defendant's convictions," the court wrote, "even when one error standing alone does not. Cumulative error does not require reversal of all of the defendant's convictions in this case."

(source: Capital-Journal)

***************************

NEWS RELEASE: July 25, 2014

Supreme Court issues opinions in Carr cases

Appeal No. 90,044: State of Kansas v. Reginald Dexter Carr Jr.

Appeal No. 90,198: State of Kansas v. Jonathan D. Carr

The Kansas Supreme Court issued 2 opinions today in the capital appeals of codefendant brothers Reginald Dexter Carr Jr. and Jonathan D. Carr - affirming 32 of Reginald Carr's convictions and 25 of Jonathan Carr's convictions, including 1 capital conviction for each.

A 6-justice majority also vacated each defendant's remaining death sentence because the trial judge failed to separate the penalty proceedings against them.

The 421-page Reginald Carr opinion discusses issues affecting both brothers' appeals, while the 57-page Jonathan Carr opinion refers to the Reginald Carr opinion for resolution of issues the 2 cases have in common.

Reginald and Jonathan Carr were tried jointly in Sedgwick County for a series of crimes committed in December 2000 in Wichita. The charges against them included 4 capital murders, 1 felony murder, 1 attempted 1st-degree murder, and aggravated kidnappings, aggravated robberies, and sex crimes. At the conclusion of the guilt phase of trial, the jury found Reginald Carr guilty on 50 counts and Jonathan Carr guilty on 43 counts. At the conclusion of the penalty phase of trial, Reginald Carr was given 4 death sentences, 1 hard 20 life sentence, and a consecutive total of 570 months' imprisonment. Jonathan Carr was given 4 death sentences, 1 hard 20 life sentence, and a consecutive total of 492 months' imprisonment.

The court unanimously reversed 3 of each defendant's 4 capital convictions because jury instructions on sex-crime-based capital murder were fatally erroneous and 3 of the multiple-homicide capital murder charges duplicated the 1st. The court also unanimously declared certain of the defendants' sex crime convictions void for lack of district court jurisdiction and reversed a particular rape conviction of each defendant because of multiplicity with another, affirmed conviction.

Although the court identified a total of 11 errors in the guilt phase of trial, a majority of 4 justices ruled that the accumulated errors did not require further reversals of the defendants' convictions: "The combined weight of these individually harmless errors pales in comparison to the strength of the evidence against the defendants."

Individual justices and 2 combinations of justices filed a total of 4 separate opinions in each case.

Justice Carol A. Beier, joined by Justices Marla J. Luckert and Justice Lee A. Johnson, disagreed with, among other things, the majority's decision on whether the 11 guilt phase errors, considered collectively, required reversal of the defendants' remaining convictions. Among the guilt phase errors the 3 justices emphasized were the trial judge's refusal to sever and the judge's mishandling of the defense's peremptory strike of the eventual presiding juror. The justices said that it was, "hard to imagine, for instance, a single error with more pervasive likely impact on the direction and content of the evidence before the jury than [the judge's] refusal to sever the defendants' prosecutions."

Justice Johnson also dissented on the basis of the trial judge's repeated refusal to change venue from Sedgwick County. He wrote that historical Kansas decisions and the majority's opinion, "set the bar so high [for change of venue] that nothing will suffice short of an actual mob storming the courthouse, carrying burning torches and a rope tied with a hangman's noose."

Justice Dan Biles, joined by Justice Nancy Moritz, noted his dissent from the majority's discussion of the standard of proof governing evidence of mitigating circumstances in the penalty phase of capital trials. His opinion asserted that United States Supreme Court precedent interpreting the Eighth Amendment did not compel the mitigating circumstances instruction the majority would demand.

Justice Nancy Moritz dissented from the majority's decision to vacate the remaining capital sentence for each defendant. She said the evidence against Reginald and Jonathan Carr was so strong that the failure to sever the penalty portion of the trial could not have affected the ultimate outcome: "[G]iven the unusually egregious facts of this case, [a surviving victim's] powerful testimony, the overwhelming evidence of aggravating circumstances found by the jury, and the lack of persuasive mitigating evidence, I would hold beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury's decision to impose the death penalty was not attributable to any joinder error below."

The 2 Carr cases will now return to district court for further action.

(source: kscourts.org)

USA:

States Must Act on Execution Procedures

Wednesday, a death-row inmate named Joseph Wood was executed in Arizona.

The only problem is that, like Clayton Lockett's execution in April, Wednesday's procedure went horribly awry.

Witnesses report that Wood snorted and choked for nearly 2 hours after receiving his lethal injection, a procedure that usually takes no more than 10 minutes.

Wood's death marks the 4th "botched" execution so far in 2014, a disturbing trend for even the staunchest of death penalty advocates. In fact, according to New Republic, that makes 2014 the most problematic year since lethal injection was first used in 1977.

Botched executions are on the rise for one simple reason: There's a shortage of execution drugs. Since the DEA seized supplies of sodium thiopental - the painkiller once ubiquitously used in executions - states have been forced to use untested drug combinations.

On top of that, state laws and the general secrecy surrounding how new drugs have been obtained (as well as what specific combinations were used) have made it impossible to establish a standard procedure.

Frankly, this is an enormous step backwards for society, and it's time for the states to fix this despicable issue. Science and medicine have both taken cosmic leaps forward since 1977, making it inexcusable that the relative civility of the death penalty is moving in the opposite direction.

Now is the Time to Act

After April's infamously botched Oklahoma execution, many called for a review of the death penalty procedures being used across America.

President Obama described the mishandled execution as "deeply troubling," and he went on to request a review of all of the nation's death penalty cases.

As Floyd rightly pointed out in June, though, the death penalty is an issue reserved for state-level governments. Thus, pro-capital punishment states should appease Obama's request and review their death penalty procedures.

"Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from," said Cassandra Stubbs, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project.

She said that states must "give assurances" that the drugs they intend to use will definitively work.

They could begin by consulting anesthesiologists or pharmacologists - a step that was amazingly not taken in Oklahoma prior to Lockett's botched execution.

Thankfully, in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has ordered the state's Department of Corrections to conduct a "full review" of Wood's execution, which will hopefully evolve into a state-wide review of death penalty procedures... Because it's clear that something must be done going forward.

The bottom line is that there simply must be better ways of executing criminals. Capital punishment is a hotly contested issue, but for now, it's here to stay in 32 states across America... and that means it's up to those states to heed the Eighth Amendment and prevent cruel and unusual punishment from being inflicted.

As a civil society, we can surely do better than this.

In Pursuit of the Truth,

Christopher Eutaw

(source: Wall Street Journal)

TEXAS:

Texas planning no changes in death penalty procedures despite Arizona problem

Texas prison officials say they plan no changes in lethal injection procedures in the wake of problems with an execution in Arizona.

Unlike Arizona, which used a 2-drug protocol of midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone for an execution Wednesday that took 2 hours, Texas uses a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says the agency has used the single drug since 2012 for 33 executions without complication.

At least 10 Texas inmates have execution dates scheduled in the coming months.

(source: Associated Press)

*********************

Death Penalty Opponents Rally Following "Botched" AZ Execution

Efforts to save a Bastrop man from execution are taking on new urgency after what's being described as a "botched" execution in Arizona. Rodney Reed is sentenced to die January 14, 2015 for the 1996 murder of a 19-year-old Bastrop woman. But Reed's family and friends took to the streets today continuing to proclaim his innocence.

It's not unusual to see Reed's supporters protesting at the Bastrop County Courthouse, especially now that his date with death is set. Reed's brother Roderick says, "It's been like a nightmare for the last 18 years that you can't wake up from. And this makes you realize we gotta do everything within our means to bring him home."

Today, Reed's supporters marched around the Bastrop County Courthouse and then onto Main Street backed up by death penalty opponents. After hearing about an execution gone wrong last night in Arizona, they're redoubling their efforts to save reed from the same fate. Pat Hartwell with Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement says she's concerned about the drugs states are using to execute inmates. She adds, "They can do what they want to and it's obvious from Oklahoma and now this botched case that they're not doing it correctly." The death penalty opponents here worry that experimenting on inmates amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

We reached out to Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz to get his side. He chose not to comment on the case, instead telling us he respects the reed family's rights to express their opinion publicly.

(source: KEYE tv news)

DELAWARE:

Del. Supreme Court upholds Cooke's death sentence

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence for James E. Cooke Jr. in the May 2005 rape and murder of University of Delaware sophomore Lindsey Bonistall.

"We are relieved by the decision of the Delaware Supreme Court and we are grateful that once again justice has been served," said Kathleen Bonistall, Lindsey's mother.

She added that she is "tentatively" optimistic that this ruling will mean that her family's days of sitting in a courtroom are over. "We are hoping," she said.

The Bonistall family, of White Plains, N.Y., has had to sit through, and testify at, two different trials. Cooke's 1st conviction and death sentence in 2007 was tossed out by a divided Delaware Supreme Court in 2009, leading to a 2012 retrial.

"There is absolutely no doubt that Cooke is dangerous, depraved and remorseless," said Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood, who prosecuted Cooke at both trials. "The evidence against him is overwhelming. We are gratified that the Supreme Court has affirmed his conviction and death sentence."

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden added, in a statement, that the ruling was a victory for justice and public safety. "I hope that it also provides some measure of comfort and closure to Lindsey's family who have persevered through unspeakable pain for the 9 years since her senseless death."

Defense attorney Anthony A. Figliola Jr. said the result "was not a total surprise."

Figliola said on Thursday he had not yet fully read the 71-page opinion, but would be reviewing it carefully to see if there was any basis for re-argument. Failing that, Figliola said, the likely next step would be to appeal the case to federal court.

Writing for the full court, Delaware Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. said none of the 10 claims raised by Cooke's attorneys to overturn the 2012 conviction on 1st-degree murder charges provided a basis for reversing the decision of the jury, and the subsequent imposition of the death penalty by Superior Court Judge Charles H. Toliver IV.

"What is also common to many of Cooke's arguments is that they are grounded in the contention that he should be relieved of punishment because of his own inexcusable and incorrigible conduct," wrote Strine.

Cooke fired a string of publicly funded attorneys, including the legal team that won a reversal of his 2007 conviction and death sentence. After demanding his third legal team be fired, a judge told Cooke that he would have to represent himself if they were dismissed, and Cooke said he wanted to act as his own attorney.

Strine noted that Cooke appeared to be playing a "cat and mouse" game with the court, intentionally trying to disrupt his case and thereby delay the trial, and he said that continues in Cooke's appeals.

In particular, Strine wrote that Cooke's attorneys have argued that Toliver erred both in taking away Cooke's right to represent himself when Cooke became disruptive and disrespectful, and that Toliver also erred by failing to take that right away earlier due to Cooke's egregious conduct.

"This approach is Kafkaesque - but with the twist that it is the citizen who is seeking to ensnare the government in a capricious web of unfair illogic," Strine wrote.

Cooke's attorneys also argued that the imposition of the death penalty in this case was improper, but Strine wrote that it was consistent and proportional to other death penalty cases, and it was "not a close case."

"Burglarizing an occupied home in the early morning hours is more than sufficiently terrorizing to the victim," wrote Strine, who before taking office said he was personally opposed to the death penalty but would follow the law when required. "Binding, brutally beating, raping and strangling the innocent and defenseless victim, and then dousing her dead body in bleach and burning it in an attempt to destroy evidence of the crime is - by any minimal standard of human decency - horrific and depraved conduct, which renders the perpetrator eligible for a sentence of death," he wrote.

Cooke also alleged other mistakes by the judge and that there were issues with the jury. The justices dismissed those claims as well.

According to prosecutors, police and trial testimony, Cooke broke into Bonistall's off-campus apartment sometime after 1 a.m. on May 1, 2005. He then bound, beat and raped her before strangling her with a T-shirt. He then set fire to Bonistall's apartment in an apparent attempt to cover his tracks and mislead investigators.

Police later tied Cooke to the crime using DNA recovered from Bonistall's body, Bonistall's hair on a hoodie belonging to Cooke, and by witnesses who saw Cooke near the scene.

At his 2012 trial, Cooke claimed he was innocent and had consensual sex with Bonistall before her death, though he had claimed at his 1st police interrogation that he didn't know Bonistall.

Both of Cooke's trials were notable for disruptive outbursts by Cooke. In 2012, Cooke frequently feuded with Toliver and, in his opening statement, took a confrontational tone with the jury.

Cooke began with "Good afternoon," he then paused, scowled and said, "I see, I got no response, so I guess everyone has their opinion all made up."

All 12 jurors then responded, "Good afternoon."

On the 2nd day of trial, after the judge again warned Cooke about following proper procedures and courtroom decorum, Cooke called Toliver "evil" and told the judge he was going to go to hell.

On the 3rd day, following yet another confrontation, the judge ruled that Cooke had forfeited his right to represent himself and ordered Cooke's standby attorneys, Figliola and Peter Veith, to take over.

At the conclusion of the case, following a penalty hearing, the jury recommended, 11-1, that the death penalty be imposed.

Cooke's 2007 conviction and death sentence was tossed out by a divided Delaware Supreme Court because a majority of the court ruled that Cooke's public defenders had improperly entered a plea of guilty-but-mentally ill over Cooke's objections.

Cooke claimed he was neither guilty nor mentally ill.

Cooke now has 2 appellate options left. The 1st is an appeal to the federal court system to raise constitutional claims related to his conviction and sentence.

The 2nd is a state claim that his attorneys provided inadequate representation. That claim will be difficult for Cooke in that he acted as his own attorney during key parts of the case, and because he turned down a plea offer before trial that would have spared his life.

(source: The News Journal)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty Plan B needed

"I wondered if there were a Plan B, some other dose of drugs, something to speed up the death. Or someone to stop it" -- Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed yesterday's 2-hour execution.

You wonder what else can go wrong. What other ways will states find to make a mess of killing someone? When will North Carolina get back in the game and take its own shot at execution notoriety with Ohio, Oklahoma and now Arizona?

I know that some people will say these killers get what they deserve. Save your sympathy for their victims.

OK, but what about the people who have to sit there and watch this debacle of death? The official witnesses, reporters, the priest, the prison workers ... Watching a man die for 2 hours.

You could see a movie in that time, or a soccer game. A Kenyan could nearly run a 26-mile marathon.

If I were watching it, you bet I would wonder about a Plan B.

And about a Plan B for the death penalty in general? I sure wouldn't want to see something like that again.

(source: Doug Clark, News & Record)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana would administer death penalty drugs used in lengthy Arizona execution

Louisiana's death penalty protocol calls for the use of the same 2 drugs as those administered during a botched execution in Arizona Wednesday.

This is the 3rd case in 6 months where one of the particular death penalty drugs Louisiana is scheduled to use - midazolam - has resulted in a bungled execution in another state. The Arizona inmate gasped for more than 90 minutes before dying. Similar problems arose with executions in Ohio and Oklahoma earlier this year.

Louisiana's death penalty protocol calls for a combination of 2 drugs - midaozolam and hydromorphone - to be injected. The same 2 drugs were administered in the mishandled executions in Ohio and Arizona, though in different dosages than Louisiana intends to apply. The problematic Oklahoma execution involved midazolam and two other drugs not used by Louisiana.

Given the recent complications, the Louisiana Legislature has asked the state to examine other ways to administer the death penalty. State Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, pushed a measure during the spring lawmaking session that asked Louisiana's Department of Corrections to study other forms of execution.

"We are considering alternative methods of execution, including the most effective drugs and dosage levels for the lethal injection drug protocol," said Pam Laborde, communications director of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, lethal injection has been used to execute around 1,200 people in the United States since 1976. Electrocution is the next most popular method, with around 160 deaths in the same time period.

Louisiana would prefer to use just 1 drug, pentobarbital, in its executions. But the substance has become hard to find. Louisiana and several other states have been forced to turn to riskier drug combinations because they can't secure a pentobarbital supplier.

Many companies are not interested in becoming infamous for providing execution drugs and have cut off access to their products. Pharmacies also don't want to have to deal with the hassle of protestors if they are publicly known to supply the lethal injection medication to the state.

This spring, the state legislature considered a bill to try and address the death penalty drug shortage. It would have allowed Louisiana to purchase the death penalty drugs from out-of-state pharmacies and to keep the origin of such drugs secret. The hope was that more suppliers might be willing to provide the pentobarbital.

But Lopinto, who sponsored the legislation, pulled his bill promoting drug secrecy at the last moment, saying there was too much uncertainty around the issue of lethal injection. "We've had 2 botched executions [in other states] since [the legislation was introduced]," he said at the end of the session.

Louisiana's death penalty protocol was amended in late January days before convicted killer Christopher Sepulvado was supposed to be executed. The corrections department had to change its regulations to allow the midaozolam and hydromorphone cocktail to be used because pentobarbital could not be found at the time.

Sepuvaldo's execution was eventually delayed and has not been rescheduled yet. The legal team representing the man, who was convicted for killing a child, is likely to use the country's three mishandled executions elsewhere to advocate for more death penalty transparency in Louisiana.

"These recent botched executions - 2 of which involved the same untested drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone as that proposed by the Louisiana Department of Corrections - illuminate the necessity of subjecting lethal injection procedures to public scrutiny and ensuring execution teams are properly trained to carry them out," said Mercedes Montagnes, who represents Sepuvaldo, in a statement.

(source: Times-Picayune)

OHIO:

Judge's removal sought in Ohio death penalty case

Prosecutors in Akron say a county judge presiding over an aggravated murder trial is biased, and they asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday to remove her from the case.

Summit County prosecutors want the court to disqualify Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands because they say she asked them to drop their plans to seek the death penalty in the case against Deshanon Haywood. The request came the same say opening statements were to begin in Haywood's trial.

The judge declined to comment on the request. Her office issued a statement saying she would file a response with the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday.

Haywood is charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the drug-related slayings of 4 people in March 2013. He has pleaded not guilty.

A jury found Haywood's co-defendant, Derrick Brantley, guilty of those same charges in June, but voted not to allow the judge to sentence him to death. Rowlands instead sentenced him to 4 consecutive life terms.

Brad Gessner, chief counsel for the county prosecutor's office, wrote in an affidavit that he received a call from the judge after Brantley's sentencing. Gessner wrote that Rowlands said she did not think the victims' families would object if prosecutors dropped plans to seek the death penalty against Haywood.

Gessner also wrote that Rowlands said a trial without death penalty specifications would take 2 weeks compared to 8 weeks for a trial that included the possibility of capital punishment.

Brian LoPrinzi, lead prosecutor in the Haywood case, wrote in his affidavit that the judge had called him and Haywood's attorneys into her chambers after a hearing and asked him to drop the death penalty. LoPrinzi wrote that Rowlands said such a sentence would be thrown out on appeal.

Gessner and LoPrinzi wrote in their motion to disqualify Rowlands that the judge had shown bias toward the state in breach of judicial canons. The prosecutors said Rowlands also showed her bias when she did not allow LoPrinzi to remove a potential juror who had said in a questionnaire that he opposed the death penalty. They wrote that Rowlands said she would not allow LoPrinzi's "peremptory challenge" because the juror was black and so is Haywood.

3 of the 12 jurors are black, including the one LoPrinzi tried to challenge, as are 2 of the 4 alternate jurors, LoPrinzi said.

(source: Associated Press)

**********************

Ohio Democrats renew call for death-penalty freeze after controversial Arizona execution

Democratic state lawmakers from Northeast Ohio have renewed their call for a statewide death penalty moratorium following Wednesday's controversial execution in Arizona.

Reps. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood and Dan Ramos of Lorain said in a release that the "botched" execution of double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood, using the same lethal-injection drugs as Ohio, shows that Gov. John Kasich needs to halt executions in the Buckeye State.

"What is clear is that this method of lethal injection has proven ineffective in Ohio and in executions across the country," Ramos said in a statement. "We need this moratorium in order to pause and explore how these criminals can best be brought to justice and held accountable for their heinous crimes."

Asked for comment, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in an email that the governor supports the death penalty.

Nichols also noted that a federal judge has already placed a moratorium on Ohio executions until next month to allow time for legal arguments over the state's lethal-injection cocktail: a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller.

The next scheduled execution in Ohio is set for Sept. 18, when Summit County killer Ronald Phillips will be put to death.

Wood took an hour and 40 minutes to die, snorting and gasping hundreds of times during the procedure, according to witnesses.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered a review of the execution, though state prison officials said that Wood suffered no pain during the procedure.

Antonio and Ramos have sponsored legislation to outright ban capital punishment in Ohio, though the proposal has gone nowhere in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Legislative supporters of the death penalty say it's a just punishment, acts as a deterrent and provides closure to victims' loved ones.

The 2 Democratic lawmakers also previously called for a death-penalty moratorium in January, following the execution of Preble County murderer Dennis McGuire.

McGuire was seen gasping, choking and clenching his fists while taking an unexpectedly long 25 minutes to die. A state review concluded that McGuire suffered no pain during his execution, but officials said they'll increase the dosage of the drugs for future executions.

McGuire's family members sued to prevent future executions using the drugs, leading U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost to temporarily halt all executions in Ohio until Aug. 15.

(source: cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Slain officer's fiancee wants death penalty sought

The fiancee of a slain Gary police officer says she believes the death penalty should be sought against the man charged in the shooting.

Lake County authorities announced Thursday that a murder charge had been filed 24-year-old Carl Le'Ellis Blount Jr. of Gary for the July 6 shooting death of Officer Jeffrey Westerfield.

Denise Sheaks-Cather tells the Post-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1mMAVAt ) that Westerfield's family can no longer see or talk with him and that Blount should be treated the same. Sheaks-Cather says she'll attend every court hearing and doesn't want to see any other families go through same tragedy.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich says the prosecutor's office will review the case before deciding whether to seek the death penalty.

A telephone message seeking comment was left for Blount's public defender.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Voices from the Tennessee death penalty debate

The practice of execution in the US is growing increasingly complicated, as are the attitudes Americans have about the death penalty. 5 people engaged in the death penalty debate in Tennessee, which recently voted to use the electric chair in executions should lethal injection drugs become unavailable, offer their thoughts.

Arizona inmate Joseph Wood died this week by lethal injection, in a process that took almost two hours. His death came after he and his legal team tried to stop the execution because they didn't know the provenance of the drugs to be used to kill him.

A shortage of the drugs used for lethal injections and the uncertainty about the efficacy of the drugs that are available have forced many states across the US to consider alternative means of execution. Earlier this month, Tennessee passed a law that said inmates would be put to death in the electric chair should drugs not be readily available.

The BBC travelled to Tennessee and found different perspectives on the death penalty and the possible return of the electric chair.

The grieving father

Christopher Newsom was travelling with his girlfriend when the couple were kidnapped and murdered. His father Hugh Newsom supports the death penalty.

"There are a lot of people that are parading across the United States and the world against the death penalty. This is the 1st time that anyone has asked the Newsom family what they think.

"We lost a very great kid by murder. His girlfriend was murdered. There are a lot of people that throw us their opinion and they've never been affected by crimes like this.

"We're not animals, we're humans and we all have feelings. If the choice was there, I would want a person put to death with the least suffering, but if that's unavailable then, whatever means the state has at their disposable is acceptable."

The witness to an electrocution

Lawyer David Raybin drafted Tennessee's death penalty legislation four decades ago. He also witnessed the execution of convicted child killer Darryl Holton, the last man to be electrocuted in Tennessee, on 12 September 2007.

"He sat in the chair with his water dripping down his face. I had this vision of the electric chair crying for its victim; it was just so bizarre.

"Then he started to hyperventilate and then they put this mask over him - it was like a welder's mask, so you could barely see any of his face now and hardly any skin - and they had a shroud over his head. And then this fan came on and it was really loud. It couldn't have been more than 5 seconds later and you heard this tremendous bang and that was the electrocution. The lights didn't dim or anything. It was just a tremendous bang.

"I'm not adverse to the death penalty per se. I think in extreme situations perhaps it's appropriate, but I think if you're going to have a death penalty, the means of execution are just as important as the decision to have a death penalty.

"There has to be different alternatives to the lethal injections that can be found to accomplish this. I've seen this electrocution. It's horrible."

The man who walked free

Ndume Olatushani was released from prison in 2012 after serving 19 years on death row. He now campaigns against the death penalty.

"The first 10 years when I was in prison I chose not to have a TV in my cell because I didn't want to get lost in this little small space. Over the period of time that I was in prison, I read thousands of books and I just tried to spend my time trying to figure out how to get up each day and put my best foot forward.

"The hardest moments on death row are the hours before an execution, when you know a fellow inmate won't be returning.

"It's sombre. You don't want to see someone who is full of life that you know in a matter of hours will be no longer existing. I think everybody is just kind of sad and kind of in this moment of realising that if you sit there long enough, eventually you will be that person that you see put to death."

The politician who voted to bring back the electric chair

Republican State Representative Ryan Haynes supported the bill to bring back electrocution in Tennessee.

"Families and victims of crime deserve to have justice. People who are convicted of heinous and disgusting crimes that are so unspeakable, deserve the death penalty.

"Still, the odds of Tennessee bringing back the electric chair are truly slim to none. I do think that bill was probably more political [than practical]."

The conservative campaigning against the death penalty----Marc Hyden runs Concerned Conservatives Against the Death Penalty

"In the '80s and '90s and coming from a conservative Christian family, it seem liked a foregone conclusion that we support the death penalty, but that mindset is changing. We are sceptical of government power. Many conservatives don't trust the government to deliver a piece of mail or to run healthcare, so why on Earth would you trust them to administer a programme that kills you as citizens?

"I think you have to give any policy what I call the conservative litmus test: you have to ask whether it is constitutional, pro-life, whether it is fiscally responsible and whether it is limited government. And the death penalty is inconsistent with at least 3 of those."

Listen to Rajini Vaidyanathan's BBC Radio 4 documentary, At the End of Death Row.

(source: BBC news)

MISSOURI----new execution date

September execution date set for Kansas City-area killer Leon Taylor

The Missouri Supreme Court today set a Sept. 10 execution date for Leon Taylor, who murdered a service station attendant in Independence, Mo., in 1994.

Leon Taylor, 56, killed Robert Newton during a robbery that was witnessed by Newton's 8-year-old stepdaughter. According to trial testimony, Taylor also pointed the gun at the girl's head and pulled the trigger, but the weapon jammed.

The order for the execution of Taylor came a day after a botched execution in Arizona rekindled debate over the death penalty.

Joseph Rudolph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die and gasped for about 90 minutes during his execution in Arizona on Wednesday. The execution took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing. The Arizona Supreme Court also called an impromptu hearing on the matter and learned of his death during the discussions.

It was the 3rd execution in 6 months to go awry, handing potentially new evidence to those building a case against lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.

It was not yet clear whether the problems in Arizona would have consequences for Missouri. Arizona uses a 2 drug cocktail including a Valium-like drug, midazolam, with an opioid, hydromorphone.

Missouri, meanwhile, uses a single heavy dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

"The State of Missouri has its own execution protocol," Scott Holste, the press secretary for Gov. Jay Nixon, wrote in an email. "This protocol has been upheld by the courts, and used by the Department of Corrections to fulfill its obligation under the law and carry out these sentences for the most heinous of crimes in an efficient, effective and humane manner. The Governor continues to support the ultimate punishment imposed by juries and courts for the most merciless and violent crimes."

The next execution in the United States is scheduled to be in Missouri on Aug. 6. Michael Shane Worthington, convicted of murder, rape and 1st-degree burglary in the slaying of Melinda "Mindy" Griffin, 24, at her condominium in Lake Saint Louis on Sept. 30, 1995.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ARIZONA:

Arizona prolonged execution rekindles death penalty debate

The nation's 3rd execution in 6 months to go awry rekindled the debate over the death penalty and handed potentially new evidence to those building a case against lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.

Joseph Rudolph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die and gasped for about 90 minutes during his execution in Arizona on Wednesday. The execution took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing. The Arizona Supreme Court also called an impromptu hearing on the matter and learned of his death during the discussions.

"He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," Wood's lawyers wrote in a legal filing demanding that the courts stop it. "He is still alive."

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Wood, 55, was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., 1 hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

It is the 3rd prolonged execution this year in the U.S., including one in Ohio in which an inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly a half-hour. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Gov. Jan Brewer said later that she was ordering a full review of the state's execution process, saying she's concerned by how long it took for the administered drug protocol to kill Wood.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and a half. During the gasps, his jaw dropped and his chest expanded and contracted.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. Wood finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

"Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress," said state Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

"Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror - a bungled execution," Baich said. "The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent."

Family members of Wood's victims in a double 1989 murder said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, letís worry about the drugs," said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz. "Why didnít they give him a bullet, why didnít we give him Drano?"

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

Arizona uses the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - that were used in the Ohio execution earlier this year. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

"These procedures are unreliable and the consequences are horrific," said Megan McCracken, of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law's Death Penalty Clinic.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them out of concerns that the drugmakers could be harassed.

Wood filed several appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Wood argued he and the public have a right to know details about the state's method for lethal injections, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a new legal tactic in death penalty cases.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the execution on hold, saying the state must reveal the information. But the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the tactic, ruling against death penalty lawyers on the argument each time it has been before justices.

Deborah Denno, professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at Fordham Law School, said it may be up to Legislatures or the public to bring any change.

"I think every time one of these botches happens, it leads to questioning the death penalty even more," she said.

*******************

As inmate died, lawyers debated if he was in pain

The nearly 2-hour execution of a convicted murderer prompted a series of phone calls involving the governor's office, the prison director, lawyers and judges as the inmate gasped for more than 90 minutes.

They discussed the brain activity and heart rate of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was gasping over and over as witnesses looked on. The judge was concerned that no monitoring equipment showed whether the inmate had brain function, and they talked about whether to stop the execution while it was so far along.

But the defense lawyers' pleading on the grounds that Wood could be suffering while strapped to a gurney, breathing in and out and snoring, did no good.

Nearly 2 hours after he'd been sedated Wednesday, Wood finally died.

A transcript of an emergency court hearing released Thursday amid debate over whether the execution was botched reveals the behind-the-scenes drama and early questions about whether something was going wrong.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan read a statement Thursday outside his office dismissing the notion the execution was botched, calling it an "erroneous conclusion" and "pure conjecture." He said IV lines in the inmate's arms were "perfectly placed" and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

But he also said the Arizona attorney general's office will not seek any new death warrants while his office completes a review of execution practices. He didn't take questions from reporters.

Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a "horrifically botched execution" that should have taken 10 minutes.

U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake convened the urgent hearing at the request of one of Wood's attorneys, notified by her colleagues at the execution that things were problematic.

A lawyer for the state, Jeffrey A. Zick, assured Wake that Wood was comatose and not feeling pain.

He spoke to the Arizona Department of Corrections director on the phone and was given assurances from medical staff at the prison that Wood was not in any pain. Zick also said the governor's office was notified of the situation.

Zick said that at one point, a 2nd dose of drugs was given, but he did not provide specifics. The participants discussed Wood's brain activity and heart rate.

"I am told that Mr. Wood is effectively brain dead and that this is the type of reaction that one gets if they were taken off of life support. The brain stem is working but there's no brain activity," he said, according to the transcript.

The judge then asked, "Do you have the leads connected to determine his brain state?"

The lawyer said he didn't think so.

"Well if there are not monitors connected with him, if it's just a visual observation, that is very concerning as not being adequate," the judge said.

Wood died at 3:49 p.m., and judges were notified of his death while they were still considering whether to stop it.

Zick later informed the judge that Wood had died.

Anesthesiology experts say they're not surprised that the combination of drugs took so long to kill Wood.

"This doesn't actually sound like a botched execution. This actually sounds like a typical scenario if you used that drug combination," said Karen Sibert, an anesthesiologist and associate professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Sibert was speaking on behalf of the California Society of Anesthesiologists.

Sibert said the sedative midazolam would not completely render Wood incapacitated. If he'd felt pain or been conscious, he would have been able to open his eyes and move, she said. The other drug was the painkiller hydromorphone.

"It's fair to say that those are drugs that would not expeditiously achieve (death)," said Daniel Nyhan, a professor and interim director at the anesthesiology department at Johns Hopkins medical school.

But the 3rd execution in 6 months to appear to go awry rekindled the debate over the death penalty and handed potentially new evidence to those building a case against lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment.

An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said later that she was ordering a review of the state's execution process, saying she's concerned by how long it took for the drug protocol to kill Wood.

Family members of Wood's victims in a 1989 double murder said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, 'let's worry about the drugs,'" said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz. "Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

Arizona uses the same drugs that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them out of concerns that the drugmakers could be harassed.

Wood filed several appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Wood argued he and the public have a right to know details about the state's method for lethal injections, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a legal tactic in death penalty cases.

Wood was convicted of fatally shooting Dietz, 29, and her father, Gene Dietz, 55, at their auto repair shop in Tucson.

(source for both: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Lawyers Cite Recent Death Penalty Ruling in Dekraai Defense

In the final chapter of an unprecedented hearing in Orange County Superior Court, public defenders are seeking to use a recent federal court decision prohibiting the death penalty in California to win a life sentence without parole for convicted mass-murder Scott Evans Dekraai.

On Friday in Santa Ana before Judge Thomas M. Goethals, defense attorneys will argue only life sentences should be given to Dekraai - who pleaded guilty in May to the largest mass killing in Orange County history.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for Dekraai, who acknowledged killing his ex-wife and 7 others in 2011 shooting spree at a Seal Beach beauty salon.

During 6 months of an evidentiary hearing that is having far-reaching implications, public defenders have argued that the death penalty should be blocked because the Orange County District Attorney's Office and law enforcement officers allegedly violated Dekraai's constitutional rights by illegal use of jailhouse informants.

And now, with the hearing coming to a close, Dekraai's lawyers might be the first in the state to cite a momentous decision on July 16 by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney that the system for imposing the death penalty in California is so dysfunctional that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

In that case, a Los Angeles man case was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother in 1992.

Carney's ruling, issued in federal court in Santa Ana, is not precedential in California yet because it has not been affirmed on appeal. But in rare instances, like Dekraai's, such decisions are cited.

In documents filed Wednesday, Dekraai's attorneys asked Goethals "to find that the imposition of the death penalty in this case would be unconstitutional and to immediately sentence him to 8 consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole."

Carney, a former Orange County Superior Court judge, based his decision on the fact there are 900 people on California's death row, but only 13 have been executed - in an arbitrary and capricious way - since 1978. His decision is under review by the state Attorney General's Office and legal authorities say it likely could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regardless, the request is the latest dramatic maneuver by Dekraai's lead Public Defender Scott Sanders, who has captivated the Southern California legal community with his arguments.

In 600 pages of motions filed in February, the defense argued that prosecutors used a secret network of informants to illegally secure information in violation of Dekraai's right to a fair trial, due process and legal counsel.

In addition to blocking the death penalty, Sanders seeks to have Orange County prosecutors recused from Dekraai's case.

For months, Sanders and his colleagues have intermittently called to the stand top prosecutors, Orange County Sheriff's deputies, Santa Ana police and others to show what they contend is a pattern of prosecutorial rights abuses in the case of Dekraai and many others.

In this week's motions, Sanders cited instances from the hearings where, he claims, false statements were made by authorities, perjury committed, a Superior Court judge falsely impugned as a liar, and inflammatory media statements made in April by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas that violated attorney professional conduct codes.

"The prosecution's unwillingness to treat the defendant fairly has been demonstrated by efforts to illegally, unethically and deceptively" violate the defendant's right, wrote Sanders.

Sanders also noted the Dekraai hearing revealed that 14 other defendants charged with serious crimes - including special circumstances murder - didnít receive evidence to which they were entitled in their cases.

And 2 defendants facing death sentences also didn't have evidence discovered to them as required.

The conviction and life sentence of one defendant already was vacated because of discovery failures.

Despite prosecutors conceding evidence discovery failures in several cases and dropping evidence obtained improperly from Dekraai, they argue there were no rights violations.

"There has been no misconduct in the investigation or preparation of the Dekraai case," wrote senior deputy district attorney Howard Gundy. "In additional, the defendant has failed to demonstrate his ability to receive a fair penalty phase trial has been jeopardized as a result of government misconduct."

In allegations first unveiled Wednesday, Sanders argued that newly uncovered evidence regarding a key informant against Dekraai further shows the need to recuse the entire District Attorney's office.

The motion describes how just 10 days ago he learned of another case in which the informant, Fernando Perez, was caught allegedly trying to use heroin in a county jail in 2009.

After reviewing files in this new case involving 11 defendants, Sanders wrote that records on Perez clearly should have been discovered to Dekraai when the court ordered disclosure of all such cases. A number of defendants in other cases also did not get this particular discovery, Sanders added.

The records include 2 police reports on the allegations regarding heroin abuse by Perez, who wasn't prosecuted for the drug offense, and a cellmate.

A deputy district attorney, Erik S. Petersen, who has drawn fire for failing to discover informant evidence in a number of cases, is the prosecutor in the newly identified case, wrote Sanders. And a sheriff's deputy, Sgt. Seth Tunstall, who has been accused of aiding the withholding of informant discovery, authored one of the police reports in the new case, Sanders added.

Perez - a former leader in the Mexican Mafia from Santa Ana - has served as an informant for years after his conviction, as his potentially long sentence was deferred by prosecutors to whom he provided jailhouse information.

The police reports and two associated letters "should have been discovered 18 months ago" to Dekraai's defense team, Sanders wrote, so the information could be used during the testimony of Perez and law enforcement officers during the recusal hearing.

"The contents of the undiscovered reports and material, Tunstall and Petersen's role in suppressing them, and the Dekraai prosecution team's knowledge of the reports...are all relevant to the motion to dismiss the death penalty based upon outrageous government conduct and violation of due process," Sanders wrote.

Sanders also is asking Goethals for a delay in the ongoing proceedings to further investigate these new documents.

"The fact there is still outstanding discovery is perhaps the most powerful evidence of why the District Attorney's Office is unable to give Dekraai a fair trial and thus must be recused," wrote Sanders.

"For the District Attorney's Office, the fundamental issue that cuts to the core of both motions is the [office's] willingness to engaged in concealment and deception -- whether to obtain records or make it more difficult for the defense to get informant discovery, or to receive any advantage."

After arguments Friday, Goethals may make some decisions from the bench, but he previously has said he will file a written opinion on the defense's main motions in the coming week or so.

(source: Voice of Orange County)

**************

California's death penalty is cruel, unusual and 'arbitrary'

A federal judge issued a stunning decision last week, holding that the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

As Judge Cormac Carney, a Bush appointee, found, systemic delays result in execution of only a "random few (who) will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary." Of the more than 900 people who have been sentenced to death since the penalty was reinstated in 1978, only 13 have been executed. There are currently 748 death row inmates. The process for reviewing each of their sentences takes an average of 25 years and is getting longer - delays, as the court found, that are inherent in the system and not the fault of the inmates themselves. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has not announced any decision on whether her office will appeal this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. It is hoped that Harris will accept this well-reasoned, well-documented decision - that she will not seek to have it overturned nor object to its application in all other capital cases.

When Harris was the San Francisco district attorney, she courageously decided against authorizing death-penalty prosecutions in controversial cases.

When she campaigned for the job of attorney general, she acknowledged that California's death penalty system was flawed, arguing that it had not made us safer and that the money spent could be used far more productively to stop recidivism. As she put it, "not housing octogenarians on death row could put 1,000 more cops on the street."

She was right. A bipartisan commission found that California's death penalty is "plagued with excessive delay in the appointment of counsel" and "a severe backlog in the review" of cases before the California Supreme Court. Another extensive study determined that it has cost taxpayers roughly $4 billion "to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions." Despite these vast expenditures, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye acknowledged, the death penalty is not effective, and fixing its problems would require "structural changes" that California cannot afford.

The infrequency of executions and the randomness with regard to which condemned inmates actually will be executed have made a mockery of the supposedly rational justifications for the death penalty. A federal judge has now agreed: "or all practical purposes ... a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death - a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose."

The attorney general, who represents the people of California, has the duty to enforce and apply the law. But where a court has found that law to be unconstitutional, she would be well within her discretion to abide by the court's decision. By accepting a ruling that confirms what she has long stated - that California's death penalty is broken - Kamala Harris would be taking the kind of principled position for which she is so admired. Please join me in urging her to do so.

(source: Andrew Love is a Bay Area lawyer who has represented death row inmates for 25 years; SFGate.com)

************************

No decision on California death penalty appeal----Federal judge ruled state's death penalty process unconstitutional

California's attorney general said it's too soon to say if the state will appeal a federal judge's ruling that the state's death penalty process is unconstitutional.

Kamala Harris said Thursday a decision will be made by year's end on last week's ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

"I have many clients in that matter, so I cannot talk with you about what we're doing in terms of the case," Harris said. "But my personal opinion on the death penalty has not changed. I'm personally not in favor of the death penalty, but I will follow the law as we've been doing."

She said she personally opposes capital punishment, but will follow the law.

Could Arizona's flawed execution affect the Golden State's potential appeal?

"You know, I think that the information and facts about what happened there are still rolling out," Harris said. "Obviously, the decision that will be made in California will be based on the facts that are presented in court."

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones said he'd like to see the law appealed.

"Any time a judge decides to use judicial activism to try and change the law, I think it needs to be challenged - and this case certainly is no exception," Jones said Thursday.

Harris made her comments after presenting valor awards to law enforcement officers at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento.

The president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said Wednesday's Arizona execution "worked fine."

"Who cares? He died much better than the victims," Mike Rushford said. "The guy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death and he is currently dead."

A recent poll conducted by the foundation showed 69 % of Californians wanted to see the death penalty reformed and sped up, Rushford said.

His group is seeking a 2016 ballot measure that would speed up executions by expanding the appeals process to more judges.

"Somebody kills somebody today, in 10 years he will get his lethal injection or whatever method we choose to use," Rushford said.

(source: KCRA news)

USA:

The Guardian view on America's botched executions----The 2-hour killing of a convicted murderer should force America to rethink the practice and the principle of capital punishment

On Wednesday, Arizona took an hour and 58 minutes to execute Joseph Wood, a convicted murderer. Injected with a lethal mix of sedatives and painkillers, Wood was seen to be ďgasping and snorting" for more than an hour and was confirmed to be still alive after 70 minutes. One eyewitness counted 660 gasps. Another said Wood was "like a fish on shore gulping for air". Wood's death took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while the procedure was taking place.

The 8th amendment to the US constitution outlaws the use of cruel and unusual punishment, but the US supreme court has ruled that the death penalty does not violate that ban. Many would disagree. Penal Reform International classes the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and more than 2/3 of the world's nations have now abolished it either in law or in practice, as have 18 US states. Whatever one's opinion in principle about capital punishment, it is hard not to see Wood's killing as anything other than needlessly cruel and unusual punishment. It was a shameful act for a civilised country.

Yet it was not exceptional. The Wood execution has many echoes of the botched execution by injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April. Similar distress marked the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January. There have been several other cases - including of botched electrocutions and asphyxiations - since the US restarted executions in 1977.

Amnesty International classes the United States as one of the world's 9 "persistent executioner" states - those which have executed criminals in each of the past 5 years. The others are Bangladesh, China (which is estimated to execute more prisoners than the whole of the rest of the world put together - all in secret, unlike those in the US), Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Executions in the US have fallen by 1/2 in the past 15 years and the US kills far fewer prisoners than China, Iran and Iraq in particular. But this is not a club to which America should be comfortable belonging. It does massive international damage to the US's reputation.

Capital punishment remains destructively entangled in America's culture wars. If it is to continue, the US will have to devise a swifter form of licensed execution. The current shambles, much of it the result of desperation in the face of welcome global campaigns against the suppliers of lethal drugs, has created an intolerable situation for prisoners and the nation alike. Until it is fixed, US states should suspend the death penalty. What the US really needs, though, is to find dignified ways to face up to, as a nation, the failure and damage that are associated with a punishment that is now so clearly, in and of itself, both cruel and unusual.

(source: Editorial, The Guardian)

******************

Is The Death Penalty Worth It?

Convicted murderer Joseph Wood's execution began at 1:52 p.m. yesterday. He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., according to a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Some witnesses insist that Wood continued to gasp for air at least 600 times after he was supposedly fully sedated. Others argue that he was merely snoring. Everyone agrees that the lethal injection process took a lot longer than the expected. Death by lethal injection typically occurs within ten minutes or so.

America has grown accustomed to long delays in carrying out the death penalty. Inmates sit on death row for years, even decades. As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, "Old age, not execution, is the most serious risk factor for inmates at the San Quentin death row." We may be used to delays before denizens of death row get to the death chamber, but we have only recently started to see delays once an execution has actually begun....

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the Central District of California issued an order vacating the death sentence of Ernest Jones and declaring California's system of capital punishment unconstitutional. Judge Carney wrote:

Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. [ . . . ] As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.

Sometimes, in the swirl of controversy, people gloss over the fact that whether to include death as possible criminal sentence is never more than an option citizens through the democratic process can exercise or decline to exercise. Just because we can execute does not mean we must execute. So, for the moment, set aside the question of whether capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment. Set aside whether it is morally permissible when administered properly. Even if the death penalty is a morally permissible option, and even if it is a constitutionally permissible option, is the death penalty an option worth exercising?

Here are 3 reasons why capital punishment is not worth fighting for.

First, capital punishment is expensive. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the difference between a capital murder trial and a non-capital one often exceeds $1 million. Jury selection for capital cases takes longer. Additional defense counsel must be appointed. Expert testimony presented as mitigating evidence is pricey. Even as long ago as 1992, the Dallas Morning News reported that the average cost of a Texas death penalty case was $2.3 million, whereas the average cost of a case involving a life sentence was $750,000. In Texas, individual counties bear the cost of capital trials and the automatic state appeals that follow. Despite these costs, only one in ten death sentences nationwide results in an actual execution.

From the defense side, handling capital cases requires expertise most lawyers lack. Yet because of the high number of indigent defendants in capital cases, many defendants rely on over-worked public defenders or poorly qualified court appointed counsel. (Most pro bono representation in capital cases occurs during post-conviction habeas proceedings.) Resources are scarce. Rather than being an effective cost-saving measure for the public, however, tight budgets may produce more error for the appeals process to sift through. Whatever costs we save by limiting public funding for capital defenses at trial, we may often lose by paying for the administration of state appeals and the habeas process under AEDPA. (I've complained about AEDPA before.)

Second, capital punishment is politically divisive when the body politic has better things to argue about. Cases like Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit's current conundrum about Obamacare, draw sharp divisions among members of the American public, but their impact touches the lives of millions of people. Fighting over such issues is worth the effort for both sides, and worth the cost the public pays in unity. On the other hand, relatively few people are directly affected by capital punishment. I don't mean to dismiss the interests of capital defendants, victims, and the families of both, nor do I suggest that the general public has no stake in the administration of justice. But there's no shortage of hot-button fundamental disagreements demanding a finite amount of public attention, many of them necessarily placing liberal and conservative values at odds. Why devote so much to an issue that affects so few? More importantly, why divide over an issue on which both conservatives and liberals can agree?

Third, capital punishment has a high potential for error. The specter of executing an actually innocent defendant haunts every death sentence. That's old news, of course. (Pretty important news, granted. But old.) Recently, the potential for error involves the execution of executions.

In January 2014, Ohio's execution of Dennis McGuire took 25 minutes, with witnesses reporting that McGuire struggled considerably more than expected. McGuire's family filed suit after the execution, claiming that he continued "repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling, and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain." Then, in April, Oklahoma injected Clayton Lockett with an experimental drug protocol. Lockett's execution drew public attention because, not only did he take longer than expected to die, but he appeared to revive after he was supposed to be sedated. After officials had declared him sedated, Lockett apparently started twitching, struggling against his restraints, gritting his teeth, and supposedly even uttering the understatement, "Oh, man."

In recent years, states moved away from electrocution and gas chambers as execution methods, largely because of a series of gruesome mishaps. For example, John Evans and Frank Coppola both caught fire while in the electric chair, and Jimmy Lee Gray died while banging his head against a steel pole in a gas chamber execution improperly administered by a drunk prison official. Lethal injection seemed a more humane - or at least more aesthetically acceptable - means of carrying out death sentences. However, with the recent shortage of drugs traditionally used for lethal injection, states have been experimenting with new cocktails, with some mixed results.

As Chief Judge Kozinski reasoned in his dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc in Joseph Wood's case, "If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution." Kozinski comments on a catalog of options, suggesting that "the guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos," but "the firing squad strikes me as the most promising." He goes on to write, "Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."

So, can we stomach the splatter? Can we tolerate experimentation with lethal drug cocktails? Do we want to allocate tax dollars to defending the right to do so? Is a rarely used, too frequently flawed punishment option worth the expense, the political division, and the perpetual potential for horrendous error? Voters, conservative and liberal, in the 32 states that currently allow capital punishment ought to conclude that death sentences are simply not worth the trouble.

(source: Tamara Tabo is a summa cum laude graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the school's law review. After graduation, she clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit----abovethelaw.com)

********************

Untried death cocktails causing botched executions

After Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood took almost 2 hours to die, New Scientist looks at why a drug combination is being experimented with in the death chamber

What exactly happened here?

On Wednesday afternoon in Arizona state prison, death row prisoner Joseph Wood was administered a lethal injection. He survived for 1 hour and 58 minutes before dying. Onlookers described Wood as struggling for air for an hour, and 1 journalist on the scene reported him as gasping 640 times before finally collapsing.

What were the drugs used?

Wood's injection consisted of a 2-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative and anaesthetic, and hydromorphone, a painkiller.

There have been several cases in the last year using midazolam, a non-standard lethal injection drug, and all have been botched. It is approved for use in Ohio, Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona, but, says anaesthesiologist David Waisel of Harvard University, "They're working with doses that are clinically absurd Ė we have no idea what they do."

Has midazolam caused problems before?

On the 4 occasions on which it has been used, midazolam has consistently been linked to drawn-out deaths characterised by suffocation. According to Waisel, these reactions are to be expected from the particular drug combination used.

Midazolam was first used as a death penalty drug in the 2013 execution of Florida prisoner William Happ, in a 3-drug cocktail. While the Florida state department reported the execution as proceeding without problems, the Associated Press reported that he "remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula".

The 2-drug cocktail saw its 1st use in the case of Dennis McGuire, executed in Ohio in January. The injection caused McGuire to lurch, gasp, snort and choke until he finally died 25 minutes later.

Arizona decided to go ahead with Wood's execution using the same cocktail. The state refused to reveal the source of the drugs to Wood's lawyers and the public.

Why are ineffective drugs being used?

States with the death penalty are running out of options. Over the past few years, international drug manufacturers in the European Union and elsewhere have clamped down on selling drugs to the US for use in executions. The 3-drug cocktail typically used for lethal injection in the US - composed of a sedative, a paralytic agent and a 3rd drug to stop the heart - are no longer easy to get hold of. So some states have been turning to so-called compounding pharmacies, which make non-FDA regulated custom medications for patients with allergic reactions, or novel drug cocktails such as the midazolam-hydromorphone mix.

With combinations that are being tested for the 1st time in the execution chamber, it's unclear what will work. "I do not know why they chose midazolam," says Waisel.

According to Deborah Denno, law professor at Fordham University, New York, what is clear is that states should stop choosing it. "The worst thing about the execution last night was that it was such a part of a bigger pattern," she says. "It's been known, people have been so warned, and we have this track record now. There's such a track record you wonder why they're continuing to take place."

(source: New Scientist)

*********************

Death by firing squad? How America executes inmates on death row

Death row convicts in the United States have gasped for air, have been strangled accidentally and have even been decapitated when executions go awry. Recent problems with lethal injection, the nation's most popular method of execution, have raised questions about how states execute condemned prisoners, which now number more than 3,000.

A federal judge called for the use of firing squads this week, saying U.S. citizens need to confront the "savage" reality of capital punishment. His comments were made in connection with an appeal by Joseph Rudolph Wood III for a stay in his execution by lethal injection. Wood was executed Wednesday in Arizona, dying after he gasped and snorted for nearly two hours. His was the fourth lethal injection this year that had problems.

But what are the alternatives? In the United States, 5 methods are in use - firing squad, hanging, gas chamber, electrocution and lethal injection. Here's a look at the executions carried out since 1976, where the specific methods are legal and some of the things that could go wrong.

Firing squad: 3 executions

The prisoner is strapped into a chair and hooded with a target pinned to the chest. 5 marksmen, 1 with blanks, take aim and fire.

Utah: Offenders condemned before May 3, 2004, can select the method of execution. A firing squad would be used if lethal injection is ever declared unconstitutional.

Oklahoma: A firing squad would be used if other methods are ever deemed unconstitutional.

Hanging by the neck: 3 executions

Death on the gallows requires a precise drop distance. If the drop is too short, the prisoner will die by strangulation. If the drop is too long, the head may be torn off.

Delaware: Offenders condemned before June 13, 1986, can select the method of execution.

Gas chamber: 11 executions

The introduction of the gas chamber was an attempt to improve on electrocution but has been criticized in some courts as "cruel and unusual punishment."

Arizona: Offenders condemned before November 1992 can select the method of execution.

Maryland: Offenders condemned before March 25, 1994, can select the method of execution.

Electric chair: 158 executions

Electrocution was the most widely used form of execution in the 20th century. The condemned prisoner is strapped into a chair and electrodes are fastened to the head and legs. A switch is thrown and sends as much as 2,000 volts through the body.

Arkansas: Offenders condemned before July 4, 1983, can select the method of execution.

Kentucky: Offenders condemned before March 31,1998, can select the method of execution.

Tennessee: Offenders condemned before Jan. 1, 1999, can select the method of execution.

Lethal injection: 1,210 executions

The prisoner is injected with a fatal dose of drugs, typically a barbiturate, a paralytic and a potassium solution. The drugs put the prisoner to sleep, stop his breathing and finally, his heart. 2 IVs are inserted, 1 in each arm. The primary IV carries out the execution and the other is a backup.

Connecticut: The state abolished the death penalty in 2011 but the ban was not retroactive, leaving 11 prisoners on death row.

New Mexico: The state abolished the death penalty in 2009 but the ban was not retroactive, leaving 2 prisoners on death row.

[sources: ACLU, Death Penalty Information CenterCopyright 2014, Los Angeles Times]

(source: Los Angeles Times)

********************

It's Time for a Nationwide Moratorium on the Death Penalty

We still don't know where the drugs came from.

We know they used midazolam and hydromorphone. We know the combination was experimental. And now we know that instead of working, the drugs took nearly 2 hours to kill Joseph Wood, as he snorted and gasped for air 660 times.

Within a couple hours of Mr. Wood's death, the state of Arizona started damage control. Last night, Governor Jan Brewer called for an investigation into why the execution had taken so long, but she also released a statement saying: "by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."

That's not what the reporters who were in the room have written. "It was very disturbing to watch... liked a fish on shore gulping for air," Troy Haydentold The Arizona Republic.

1 hour and 57 minutes is horrifically long, even when compared to the recent botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed in pain for 45 minutes while the state of Oklahoma struggled to kill him in May.

It's time to ask the question: How is it possible that, in 2014, state after state is utterly failing at lethal injection? How can it be, given modern medicine, that it could take hours instead of minutes for states to kill someone?

The answer is that the death penalty simply has no place in this country. As method after method of state-sponsored killing has been deemed barbaric and archaic, states are left scrambling to invent new ways to execute.

Lethal injection started as a seemingly more humane alternative to the gas chamber, the electric chair, and firing squads. But as companies both in the U.S. and in Europe have refused to let the drugs they produce be used in executions, lethal injection has become what is essentially medical experimentation, with novel drugs and doses leading to botched execution after botched execution.

Lethal injection is not modern medicine. Executioners do not have proper training, leading to some prisoners being conscious but paralyzed as they slowly asphyxiate. States are fumbling to find drugs, concocting different combinations every time. In the case of Mr. Wood's execution, the state used a 2-drug combination that had been used only once before, when the state of Ohio took 25 minutes to kill Dennis McGuire.

And these killing experiments are being carried out in secrecy. The hours before Mr. Woods was strapped to the gurney were a frenzied attempt to figure out where the drugs came from before they could be shot into his vein. We still don't know.

The greater problem underlying the horrific executions we have recently seen is not lethal injection or a matter of simply getting the drugs right. The execution of the innocent, the shameful role of race, mentally ill defendants, poor defense lawyering, and prosecutors who hide the truth - these are the problems that make the death penalty completely inappropriate in the modern world. Yet we continue to slowly pick off killing methods that are simply too barbaric to condone, but the truth is that there is no way for states - for our government - to kill someone that is in line with the type of country we want to be.

Today, my heart is with Jeanne Brown and all of those who loved Debra Dietz. My thoughts are with the executioners who will have to live with the horrific botch they carried out yesterday. This entire story is a tragic one, and it should push us to admit that the path to justice simply cannot include more gruesome violence.

It's time for a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: Brian Stull is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. He also writes on Medium, where this post first appeared----Huffington Post)

MALAYSIA:

Man faces death penalty for having ganja

A man is facing the death penalty after he was found with a kilogramme of cannabis in a raid in Papar on Monday.

The 38-year-old was seen carrying a parcel when apprehended by a team from the Sabah Customs Department's Narcotic Unit within his apartment compound at about 2.45pm.

"After checking, we found the parcel contained dried leaves, believed to be ganja (cannabis)," said the department director, Datuk Dr Janathan Kandok, adding that the arrest was made following tip off from public.

The suspect later led them to his apartment and handed over another two packets of cannabis kept hidden in his room.

Janathan added that the market value for the 1kg cannabis was about RM3,000.

"We also arrested a 30-year-old Filipina to facilitate into our investigation," he told reporters during a press conference at Wisma Kastam, today.

Janathan said they are investigating the case further, including whether the suspect is involved with any syndicate, including their modus operandi.

The case will be investigated under Section 39B (Act 234) and Section 15 (1) of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952, which carries death penalty by hanging, if found guilty.

(source: The Rakyat Post)

JULY 24, 2014:

USA (VERMONT):

Judge orders new trial in Fell case

Citing egregious juror misconduct, a federal judge Thursday ordered a new trial in the case of Donald Fell, the man sentenced to death in 2005 for kidnapping and killing a North Clarendon grandmother.

"The court finds that Fell has shown juror misconduct and that this misconduct violated his constitutional right to an impartial jury," U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions wrote in a 93-page decision released Thursday afternoon. "Fell is therefore entitled to a new trial."

Fell has been on death row at a federal penitentiary in Indiana since shortly after a jury found him guilty of kidnapping Terri King as she was arriving for work at a Rutland supermarket on Nov. 27, 2000 and then beating her to death in New York as she prayed for her life.

Fell sidekick Robert Lee was also charged in the case, but committed suicide in jail before his case was tried.

Sessions based the decision to order a new trial on evidence unearthed by Fell's lawyers regarding the behavior of a single juror, identified as Juror 143 in court papers, during the trial and later, when questioned about his conduct.

Sessions wrote that the actions of 2 other jurors targeted by Fell's lawyers did not taint their role in the case.

According to court documents filed by Fell's lawyers over the last two years, Juror 143 secretly traveled to Rutland during the trial to look at the crime scenes, told a 3rd party about what he saw and shared his observations with the jury panel. He also failed to tell the court about what he had done.

"Juror 143's brazen disobedience, dishonesty, and unwillingness to decide the case based upon the evidence presented at trial demonstrate a partiality that would have resulted in his eviction from the panel during trial, and now invalidates Fell's conviction," Sessions wrote.

The decision caught both prosecutors and Fell's defense team by surprise.

Lewis Liman, the lawyer who masterminded the effort to win a new trial for Fell by raising jury misconduct claims, said late Thursday afternoon he was pleased with the ruling but had not yet studied it in full.

"We are extremely gratified by the Court's decision to grant Mr. Fell a new trial," Liman said in a statement provided the Burlington Free Press. He declined further comment.

Vermont U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin also was clipped in his comments.

"We are studying the ruling by Judge Sessions and are assessing our options at this time," Coffin said.

(source: Burlington Free Press)

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Let's debate the death penalty, not the drugs

The execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood has once again ignited the debate over lethal injection.

Wood was administered the cocktail of lethal of drugs Wednesday just before 2 p.m., but wasn't pronounced dead until nearly 4 p.m. The whole thing lasted nearly two hours, and the manner in which Wood died was denounced by many in the media who were watching as cruel and inhumane. Many said that Wood seemed to gasp for air hundreds of times and thus deduced that he was suffering.

These reporters are not doctors, nor do they have any formal training in the ways that humans experience death. Ever seen someone die of natural causes? What did that look like?

Wood's attorneys had argued in the weeks leading up to the execution that because Arizona doesn't officially say what drugs it uses to kill the condemned, nor admit to the source or manufacturer of them, that they shouldn't be used. Keep in mind, they didn't push for a more humane method that SHOULD be used, so their real endgame was simply staying the execution for THEIR client.

The victim's family, not surprisingly, said they didn't think Wood suffered. Jeannie Brown, daughter of one of Wood's murder victims, said he appeared to be snoring and that he deserved what he had coming. I'll leave it to you to decide if she really means she thinks it was painless, or she hopes it was painful because Wood shot her father and sister as they pled for their lives in 1989 in Tucson.

Now the state will have to investigate the medical nature of Wood's death and issue a report about whether or not he suffered.

Most death penalty supporters likely don't care if the condemned suffers a bit, considering his crime. Most opponents don't think the death penalty should be used under ANY circumstances, so the supposed debate about the "cruelty" of various methods is just a ruse.

Bottom line, you either think the state should be in the business of executing people or you don't. Let's debate that, instead of the drugs the state uses to do it.

(source: Karie Dozier, KTAR news)

PENNSYLVANIA-----new (and serious) execution date

Hubert Michael has been given an execution date of Sept. 22.

(source: MC/RH)

DELAWARE:

Supreme Court upholds Cooke's death sentence

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence against James E. Cooke for the May 2005 rape and murder of University of Delaware sophomore Lindsey Bonistall.

"We are relieved by the decision of the Delaware Supreme Court and we are grateful that once again justice has been served," said Kathleen Bonistall, Lindsey's mother.

She added that she is "tentatively" optimistic that this ruling will mean that her family's days of sitting in a courtroom are over. "We are hoping," she said.

The Bonistall family, of White Plains, NY, has had to sit through, and testify at, 2 different trials. Cooke's 1st conviction and death sentence in 2007 was tossed out by a divided Delaware Supreme Court in 2009, leading to a 2012 re-trial.

"There is absolutely no doubt that Cooke is dangerous, depraved and remorseless," said Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood, who prosecuted Cooke at both trials. "The evidence against him is overwhelming. We are gratified that the Supreme Court has affirmed his conviction and death sentence."

Defense attorney Anthony Figliola said the result "was not a total surprise."

Figliola said on Thursday he had not yet fully read the 71-page opinion, but would be reviewing it carefully to see if there was any basis for re-argument. Failing that, Figliola said the likely next step would be to appeal the case to federal court.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice Leo Strine said none of the 10 claims raised by Cooke's attorneys to overturn the 2012 conviction on first-degree murder charges provided a basis for reversing the decision of the jury and the subsequent imposition of the death penalty by Superior Court Judge Charles H. Toliver IV.

"What is also common to many of Cooke's arguments is that they are grounded in the contention that he should be relieved of punishment because of his own inexcusable and incorrigible conduct," wrote Strine in the 71-page opinion.

Cooke fired a string of publicly funded attorneys, including the legal team that won a reversal of his conviction and death sentence. After demanding to fire his 3rd legal team, a judge told Cooke that he would have to represent himself if he did, and Cooke said he wanted to.

Strine noted that Cooke appeared to be playing a "cat and mouse" game with the court, intentionally trying to disrupt his case and thereby delay the trial and he said that continues in Cooke's appeals.

In particular, Strine wrote that Cooke's attorneys have argued that Toliver erred both in taking away Cooke's right to represent himself when Cooke became disruptive and disrespectful and that Toliver also erred by failing to take that right away earlier due to Cooke's egregious conduct. "This approach is Kafkaesque - but with the twist that it is the citizen who is seeking to ensnare the government in a capricious web of unfair illogic," Strine wrote.

Cooke's attorneys also argued that the imposition of the death penalty in this case was improper, but Strine wrote that it was consistent and proportional to other death penalty cases, and it was "not a close case."

"Burglarizing an occupied home in the early morning hours is more than sufficiently terrorizing to the victim," wrote Strine, who before taking office said he was personally opposed to the death penalty but would follow the law when required. "Binding, brutally beating, raping and strangling the innocent and defenseless victim, and then dousing her dead body in bleach and burning it in an attempt to destroy evidence of the crime is - by any minimal standard of human decency - horrific and depraved conduct, which renders the perpetrator eligible for a sentence of death under clear precedent interpreting the Constitutions of our state and nation."

Cooke also alleged other mistakes by the judge and that there were issues with the jury but the justices dismissed those claims as well.

According to prosecutors, police and trial testimony, Cooke broke into Bonistall's off-campus apartment sometime after 1 a.m. on May 1, 2005. He then bound, beat and raped Bonistall before strangling her with a T-shirt. He then wrote racist messages on the wall and set fire to Bonistall's apartment in an apparent attempt to cover his tracks and mislead investigators.

Police later tied Cooke to the crime by DNA recovered from Bonistall's body, Bonistall's hair on a hoodie belonging to Cooke and by witnesses who saw Cooke near the scene.

At his 2012 trial, Cooke claimed he was innocent and had consensual sex with Bonistall before her death, though he had claimed at his first police interrogation that he didn't know Bonistall.

Both of Cooke's trials were notable for disruptive outbursts by Cooke. In 2012, Cooke frequently feuded with Toliver and in his opening statement, took a confrontational tone with the jury.

Cooke began with "Good afternoon," he then paused, scowled and said, "I see, I got no response, so I guess everyone has their opinion all made up."

All 12 jurors then responded, "Good afternoon."

Cooke then went on to charge that he was the victim of a racist conspiracy and almost immediately charged that he was not getting a fair trial when Toliver told him to move on and focus on the facts of the case.

On the 2nd day of trial, following several other shouting matches with the judge, after the judge warned Cooke about following proper procedures and courtroom decorum, Cooke called Toliver "evil" and told the judge he was going to go to hell.

On the 3rd day, following yet another confrontation between Cooke and Toliver, the judge ruled that Cooke had forfeited his right to represent himself and ordered Cooke's standby attorneys, Figliola and Peter Veith, to take over.

Cooke, however, remained disruptive and at one point threatened to harm Toliver and his family, resulting in Cooke being barred from the courtroom.

Cooke's 2007 conviction and death sentence was tossed out by a divided Delaware Supreme Court because a majority of the court ruled that Cooke's public defenders had improperly entered a plea of guilty-but-mentally ill over Cooke's objections at that proceeding.

Cooke claimed he was neither guilty nor mentally ill.

Cooke now has 2 appellate options left, the 1st is an appeal to the federal court system to raise constitutional claims related to his conviction and sentence. The 2nd is a state claim that his attorneys provided inadequate representation, but that claim will be difficult for Cooke in that he acted as his own attorney during key parts of the case and because he turned down a plea offer before trial that would have spared his life.

(source: The Daily Voice)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi's Death Row: The Michelle Byrom Story

There are many stories on Mississippi's death row. Stories with different crimes, different faces and different lessons to be learned. However, they are stories with the same ending. One such story belongs to Michelle Byrom.

A woman initially sentenced to death on a capital murder charge, but in a rare decision..just this past spring..the state supreme court overturned that conviction ordering a new trial with a different judge.

Former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz is very familiar with Byrom's story. It's a story, so far without an ending.

"I have no doubt, based on my long experience with the death penalty in Mississippi that innocent people are indeed on death row in Mississippi."

He said he has long believed that Michelle Byrom is one of them.

"When the case came to us, right away I recognized all the problems with this case," he said. "I had written a dissent in 2003 and pointed out all the errors that were pointed out recently in this case by the Mississippi Supreme Court. Had the Court listened to my dissent in 2003, she would have avoided over 10 years on death row."

Byrom was convicted in 2000 for the murder of her husband, Edward. At the time he was killed Byrom was in the hospital after eating rat poison. Diaz says she was trying to escape a terrible and abusive relationship she had with Edward. Her son Edward Jr. testified that his mother hired a hit man to kill his father. However, Edward Jr. later confessed several times to killing his father, who had, allegedly, severely abused him for years, but none of this was presented in court.

Michelle Byrom had court appointed attorneys. A group of attorneys that Diaz claims put her a disadvantage from the beginning.

"They were young, this was their first capital case, they had never tried a death penalty case," he said. "They made multiple errors and the result was a woman ending up on death row, when she should not have been there."

Diaz says the problem is that Mississippi has never fully funded a system of criminal defense attorneys.

"We fully fund the prosecutors, they have all the resources available to them and that's fine, that's the way it should be, but if you are going to do that, we should also fund criminal defense attorneys, and we don't do that in Mississippi."

Diaz argues this flaw, a flaw he is drawing attention to may have sent innocent people to death row unnecessarily. Byrom has been in prison for 14 years.

"From the inexperienced attorneys she had representing her at the beginning," Diaz said. "They waived a jury looking at her, looking at her case, let the judge impose the death penalty by himself. All you had to have was substantial doubt of one juror and it would have stopped the death penalty. That's just things that no seasoned attorney would have ever consented to."

As for the fate of Byrom, Diaz says the fairy tale ending would be that prosecutors dismiss the charges for lack of evidence, the Hollywood ending would be a new trial where she is found not guilty.

"Probably, if I could guess at this point what will happen is that a deal will be worked out, that she will plead guilty and agree to have time served and be released at this point," he said. "So there are many things that could happen and only time will tell what course will be taken in this case."

This past weekend the Mississippi Department of Corrections transferred Byrom from the Rankin County Correctional Facility to the Tisomingo County Jail.

(source: WJTV news)

MISSOURI----new execution date

Leon Taylor has been given an execution date for Sept. 10; it should be considered serious.

(source: MC/RH)

USA:

Rand Paul says death penalty is a state issue

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said the racial imbalance of the nation's prisons that convinced him to support sentencing reform has not prompted him to scrutinize the death penalty in advance of a possible 2016 run for president.

The Kentucky Republican said he has not had a lot of feedback from minorities about the death penalty. He said the death penalty is a state issue.

White people have accounted for more than 1/2 of all executions in the United States since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. But more than 1/2 of the country's current death row inmates are either black or Latino.

Paul is scheduled to speak to the National Urban League's annual convention on Friday to tout his proposals to restore voting rights to some convicted felons.

(source: Associated Press)

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Why the Death Penalty Is Doomed

Alex Kozinski, a federal judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has gone on the record saying he is "generally not opposed to the death penalty." But his opinion in a recent case may nevertheless find itself in the history books one day - in the section explaining why the death penalty in America finally ended.

Joseph R. Wood III was sentenced to death in Arizona for the 1989 murders of his ex-girlfriend and her father. He challenged his execution under the claim that Arizona's secrecy surrounding its lethal-injection protocol violated his First Amendment right to access to information. On July 19, a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed, and 2 days later, the full court declined to rehear the case.

Judge Kozinski joined ten of his colleagues in the minority who would have reheard it and, presumably, allowed the execution to proceed as planned. (It did proceed last night, though not as planned, after the Supreme Court reversed the stay.) But rather than engaging the merits of the First Amendment claim as other dissenters did, Judge Kozinski launched into a meditation on why we kill people the way we do.

The late 1970s shift to lethal injection was undertaken, as the judge suggested, in the belief that it was a "more humane" and "less brutal" method of execution than earlier ones - the firing squad, the electric chair, the gas chamber. But that belief was mistaken, he said. "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."

The judge then shifted into a register generally associated with those firmly planted in the abolitionist camp.

"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."

So how should we do it? Judge Kozinski made the point that the guillotine is the most foolproof method of ending a life, although he rejected it because it "seems inconsistent with our national ethos." (Which ethos is that? The one against state-sponsored decapitation? Or against relying on the French in matters of punishment?)

Clearly, the 2-hour ordeal that occurred in Arizona last night is more evidence that lethal injection is far from humane. Instead, as Judge Kozinski said, the firing squad is the most quick and reliable of the existing methods. And then he added this coup de grace:

"Sure, firing squads can be messy," the judge wrote, "but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."

(source: New York Times)

TEXAS:

Gunman's grandmother testifies in death penalty trial

The grandmother of a 23-year-old man who faces the death penalty for killing two people, including a Bellaire policeman, testified Wednesday that he was developmentally challenged as a boy and, she believes, it carried through to his adult life.

Prosecutors were quick to point out that Harlem Lewis III graduated from high school with "almost straight A's" and was accepted at University of Houston Downtown.

"He was the caregiver, the caretaker," Lewis's grandmother, Willie Henderson, said on the witness stand. "But he had problems socializing, verbalizing."

Lewis was convicted last week of capital murder. Jurors are now determining his punishment.

Henderson was the 1st witness called by Lewis's defense team after prosecutors rested early Wednesday.

Prosecutors' last witness was Daniel Norman, son of slain Bellaire Corporal Jimmie Norman. The son testified that his father loved his job, sports and family gatherings.

Prosecutors spent more than two days working to convince jurors that Lewis will be a future danger to society, even the "society" of prison, a requirement for the jury to send him to death row.

Former friends testified Lewis participated with them in four armed robberies over two days and helped burglarize cars and homes. No one was injured or convicted in the crimes.

Lewis's defense team is trying to persuade the jury to send Lewis to prison for life without parole, the only other option. They have to convince jurors that there is enough mitigating evidence, which can be anything, to spare Lewis's life.

In court, attorney Tyronne Moncriffe showed several pictures of Harlem Lewis as toothy young man posing with family as he grew up surrounded by family.

His defense team also called forensic psychologist Dr. Matthew Mendel who testified that Lewis's IQ was tested twice, with the results being 71 and 76.

"He is pretty severely intellectually limited," Mendel said. He said 95 percent of people in any given room with Lewis are smarter than him.

The psychologist said he believes Lewis did so well in school because his father was so strict, forcing him to either work in the family's auto shop or study, never socializing with friends.

After he graduated high school and moved out, Lewis smoked a lot of marijuana and started stealing with his friends, his lawyers said. He also failed out of college while taking remedial courses.

Defense attorney Pat McCann characterized Lewis as a frightened kid, "spitting distance from retarded" who made a horrific mistake on Christmas Eve 2012 when he was scared.

Last week, jurors saw video of Lewis fleeing the police, then struggling with Norman before shooting him once in the head. Less than a second later, Lewis can be seen fatally shooting Terry Taylor, a good Samaritan trying to help Norman. The police chase ended in the parking lot of Taylor's Maaco body repair shop on Bellaire Boulevard.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

******************

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

277------------Sept. 10-----------------Willie Trottie--------516

278------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------517

279------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------518

280------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Convicted killer to receive new sentencing hearing

A convicted killer will get a 2nd chance to escape death row, after the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday he should get a new sentencing hearing.

John Edward Weik, 47, of Moncks Corner, was given a death sentence for murder and a life sentence for burglary after killing his ex-girlfriend in Knightsville in 1998.

But Wednesday's ruling indicates Weik's attorneys didnít do enough to present jurors with mitigating circumstances that could have convinced them to forego the death penalty.

One of his attorneys, in fact, is now suspended from practicing law.

"We cannot conclude that counsel made any reasoned, strategic choices regarding which witnesses would testify - there simply was no mitigation strategy," the court said.

Weik shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Susan Krasae at her home after an argument.

It was reported then that Krasae told Weik he wasn't to see their son again. Weik retreated to his truck, then grabbed a shotgun, still loaded from hunting, and returned to shoot her 4 times.

"I popped another shell into her. It felt good. Popped another shell into her. It felt better; popped another shell into her. It felt even better," the Summerville Journal Scene reported he told police.

Weik also said he was ready for the death penalty. He surrended without a fight not far from the crime scene.

It took a jury only 15 minutes to convict him, and not quite an hour to give him the death sentence.

Yet the Supreme Court's ruling says Weik's attorneys failed him by overlooking evidence their own investigators had turned up of Weik's horrific childhood and the mental illness prevalent within his family - evidence that could have changed the outcome of his sentencing.

The Supreme Court ruling details testimony from Weik's siblings that alleged their father, Russell Weik, beat them, would lock them in the non-air-conditioned attic for hours, would make the boys stand in the yard at attention for hours through the night, and that he was a compulsive hoarder who claimed to be an undercover operative for the CIA.

One sibling said Russell Weik was particularly hard on John Weik because he was "slow."

"To be sure, Russell is a psychotic, very disturbed individual," the court said.

As the jury considered Weik's sentence, it never heard of the "severe abuse" he endured because his attorneys didn't bother to read their investigators' reports and thus were unaware of the "wealth of information that had been uncovered," the court said.

Summerville Town Councilman Walter Bailey was the First Circuit Solicitor at the time.

After reading the court's opinion Wednesday, he said his 1st thought is of the family that must re-live the murder and trial nearly a generation later.

Yes, he said, there were probably things the defense team could have done better, but "if they had done those things I don't believe the result would have been different."

Testimony about a brutal childhood is a double-edged sword, Bailey said.

Had any of Weik's siblings taken the stand to testify about their abusive father, Bailey would have simply asked why the sibling hadn't murdered anyone, having grown up in the same environment, he said.

(source: Berkeley Independent)

GEORGIA:

Trial motions heard for pending death penalty case

Motions were heard in Jones County Superior Court for an upcoming death penalty case in preparation for the trial, which is scheduled for January.

Superior Court Judge James Cline presided over the July 15 proceeding, which consisted of several motions by the defense team for Terrence Sanchez Burney.

Burney was arrested Oct. 17, 2008, for the murder of 76-year-old Joseph Kitchens with co-defendant Tyrone Terrell Richardson. The pair was indicted for the murder Feb. 10, 2011, as well as for the murder of Thomas Griffis.

Griffis was killed in his Gray barbershop July 25, 2008, and Kitchens was found dead in his Bradley home three months later, Oct. 17. No arrests were made in the Griffis murder, but Burney and Richardson were arrested hours after Kitchens' body was found by Jones County deputies.

District Attorney Fred Bright filed notice in August of 2011 that the state would be seeking the death penalty for both defendants, and Richardson was the 1st up for trial.

(source: : The Jones County News)

OHIO:

Prosecutors accuse judge of death-penalty bias in Akron capital murder case

Summit County prosecutors accused a judge of being biased against the death penalty in a quadruple homicide and asked the Ohio Supreme Court to remove her from the case.

Prosecutors asked in a written motion to the Ohio Supreme Court that Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands be removed from presiding over the case after she called a supervisor in the prosecutors office and asked him to take the death penalty off the table.

Rowlands has 15 days to respond to the complaint and Supreme Court justices have no set timetable to rule on the matter. The trial, which was set for opening statements on Thursday, is now postponed until Monday.

"The judge is not permitted to comment on any matter currently pending before the Court," said a prepared statement released by Rowlands' staff on Thursday. "The judge will be filing her response by the end of business tomorrow, in accordance with the procedure outlined by the Ohio Supreme Court. It is the judge's understanding that her written response will be available to the public."

Deshanon Haywood, 23, of Akron, was scheduled to begin trial on Thursday on aggravated murder charges in the heroin-related quadruple murder of 4 people, including a suspected heroin dealer.

Brad Gessner, the Chief Counsel for the Summit County Prosecutors office, said in an affidavit filed with the Ohio Supreme Court that Rowlands called his office on July 3 and asked that he remove death penalty specifications from the case.

Gessner's affidavit says that Rowlands told Gessner she talked with the victims' families and believed they would be unopposed to dropping the death penalty from the case. She also told Gessner that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals would never let the death penalty stand against Haywood because his co-defendant in the case - Derrick Brantley - was already convicted and sentenced to life in prison, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says Rowlands also said removing the death penalty from the case would save money, that that it would reduce the trial length from about 8 weeks to about 2 weeks and would also allow Brian LoPrinzi, the trial prosecutor, to get a break.

LoPrinzi, in an affidavit, wrote that Rowlands asked him to drop the death penalty during an "off-the-record" conversation in her chambers on June 27.

The call lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, Gessner's affidavit says. Gessner asked for Rowland's disqualification in a 54-page filing that alleges Rowland's is biased against the death penalty in the case.

Rowlands "does not have an open mind regarding the death penalty in this case," the filing says.

Haywood's defense attorneys - Brian M. Pierce and Joe Gorman - called the filing a "stall tactic" and argued that prosecutors are dissatisfied with the jury selected to hear the case.

They also asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case because they argue Ohio law stipulates that judicial disqualifications have to be filed at least 7 days before the trial.

"This is a clear attempt to prevent the commencement of the trial not based on bias or prejudice but the state's disapproval with the present composition of the jury," the attorneys' filing says.

The quadruple homicide on April 18, 2013 was heroin-related, and one of the men killed, Ronald Roberts, 24, was a heroin dealer, prosecutors say. Prosecutors believe Haywood and Brantley were trying to steal Roberts' heroin at the time.

Brantley and Haywood then fatally shot Roberts and the other 3 - Kem Delaney, 23, Maria Nash, 19, and Kiana Welch, 19 - at least once in the back of the head on April 18, 2013 at a townhouse on Kimlyn Circle.

All suffered multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said.

Brantley, 22, of Akron, was sentenced to 4 consecutive life sentences after being convicted of aggravated murder and other charges at his trial in June. The jury in the case decided against recommending the death penalty.

(source: cleveland.com)

KENTUCKY:

Condemned Kentucky inmate seeks new trial in woman's 1989 death

A death row inmate from Eastern Kentucky has asked a federal judge to throw out is conviction and sentence, saying a judge erred in accepting his guilty plea.

In a petition filed in federal court in Lexington, 47-year-old Donald Herb Johnson says a judge in Floyd County didn't recount all the rights he'd be giving up by admitting to stabbing Helen Madden to death on Oct. 30, 1989. Johnson also claims he may not have been competent at the time to enter the plea.

Madden was attacked at the Bright and Clean Laundry in Hazard where she worked. Johnson entered the guilty plea on Oct. 1, 1997.

Johnson's attorneys claim their client wasn't properly medicated as recommended by a psychologist in 1994. The attorneys said Johnson abruptly ended interviews with the doctor several times. After being medicated, Johnson later said he stopped talking about Madden's death because "he had been told not to by 'the voices'."

"I would never have pled guilty if I had known I could defend against this case based on sanity. If I had known there was a psychologist willing to say I was insane, I would have insisted on going to trial," Johnson said in an affidavit.

Kentucky is currently under a court order suspending all executions in the state. A judge in Frankfort is planning to hold a trial about how the state evaluates the mental capacity of condemned inmates in the days leading up to an execution.

Kentucky has executed 3 people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

Colorado theater gunman's lawyers challenge firearms analysis

Lawyers defending accused theater gunman James Holmes challenged the reliability of firearms analysis on Wednesday, despite conceding that their client was solely responsible for the 2012 massacre that killed 12 moviegoers.

In a hearing before Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour, public defenders sought to have expert ballistics testimony precluded from the onetime neuroscience graduate student's murder trial.

Dale Higashi, an agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said all the bullet fragments and shell casings that he analyzed from the crime scene could be traced to three of the weapons belonging to Holmes.

Defense lawyers argued that firearms analysis is subjective, and not based on quantifiable scientific fact.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012 during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

The rampage killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 others.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

After invoking the insanity defense, Holmes underwent a court-ordered sanity examination last year, but the conclusions have not been made public.

His lawyers have said that Holmes was experiencing a psychotic episode when he went on the shooting spree.

In February, Samour ordered a 2nd sanity evaluation after siding with prosecutors who argued that the initial examination was deficient.

Shackled and clad in red prison garb, Holmes sat impassively throughout the hearing, and did not appear to acknowledge his parents who were in the courtroom.

Former Denver prosecutor and legal analyst Craig Silverman said Holmes' lawyers are contesting all the evidence amassed against their client in a bid to spare him from execution.

"This is another sideshow designed to create an appellate issue," Silverman said.

Samour gave no indication on Wednesday on when he will rule on the defense motions.

Jury selection is set to begin on begin on Dec. 8.

(source: Reuters)

ARIZONA:

Stop the death penalty - now----Our View: If we want to continue executions, let's at least drop this delusion that we can put murderous men to sleep.

The increasingly irrational argument for attempting to humanely put a convict to death has run out the string in Arizona.

It is not humane to leave a human being, however deserving of death, to gasp for air for two hours before dying, as double-murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood did on Wednesday.

A firing squad armed with high-velocity rifles loaded with hollow-point ammunition would be more humane.

That is precisely what U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski argued in his dissent of an order to stay Wood's execution. The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the ruling.

Wrote Kozinski: "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."

A sharp guillotine would be more humane.

But as a society we have the stomach for neither. Instead, we turn to a cocktail of chemicals of unknown origin in the name of humanity - a cocktail that performs its deadly task as cruelly as any method previously devised. In the name of humanity.

Arizona must place a moratorium on any further use of the mysterious chemicals used for executions. Gov. Jan Brewer cannot permit another execution to go forward without solid assurance the death sentence will be carried out within the constraints of the Eighth Amendment - an assurance that Wood's botched execution rationally tells us is a fool's errand.

By trying to pretend we are putting these convicts quietly to "sleep," we have instead fallen into a protocol that assures a lingering horror. If that is not the definition phrase "cruel and unusual punishment," the words have lost all meaning.

Wood's botched execution is far from the first demonstration of the futility of this inhumane method of killing.

In April, Clayton Lockett writhed for 43 minutes before dying from a heart attack in Oklahoma. Before him, Ohio murderer Dennis McGuire gasped for air for 25 minutes before the drugs injected in him finally took effect.

None of these heinous killers deserves sympathy. Wood in 1989 hunted down former girlfriend Debra Dietz and shot her twice after having coldly murdered her father, Eugene Dietz.

Following Wood's execution, an anguished Dietz family member said, "this was nothing" compared to what his victims endured. We do not doubt that for a moment.

But an execution is not just about the convict and the victim. It also is about us as a society, and the ideals and morality to which we aspire.

We wish executions to be humane, yet they clearly are not. We wish to evade the brutality of the act, yet the chosen method makes death more brutal, not less. As much as these killers deserve punishment, we who abide by the law cannot become cold-blooded, brutal killers ourselves.

None of this even addresses the bizarrely veiled means by which the state acquires its cocktail of execution drugs. For all we know, the state breaks the law in order to obtain them from foreign sources.

The 2-hour, gasping death of murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood is a tipping point.

If we wish to continue executions, let us get serious and chamber a round. Otherwise, be done with this delusional fantasy of putting murderous men to sleep.

(source: Editorial, Arizona Republic)

*************

2-hour Arizona execution sparks calls for rethink on death penalty

Lawyers for a double-murderer whose lethal injection in Arizona dragged on for 2 hours called for an outside review of the "horrifically botched execution" and prompted new calls on Thursday for the United States to abandon the death penalty.

The ordeal in putting Joseph Wood to death on Wednesday at a prison facility southeast of Phoenix followed lethal injections that went awry this year in Ohio and Oklahoma, renewing the U.S. debate over capital punishment.

Corrections officials said Wood was never in pain but Rob Freer, a U.S. researcher with human-rights group Amnesty International, asked, "How many more times do officials need to be reminded of the myth of the 'humane execution' before they give up on their experiment with judicial killing?"

States that impose the death penalty have been scrambling to find new suppliers of chemical combinations to use in lethal injections after their former suppliers, primarily European drug makers, objected to having their products used to put people to death.

Witnesses described Wood, 55, has having struggled for breath during his execution, while state officials said he had simply been snoring.

"He gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes," said Dale Baich, one of Wood's lawyers, who watched the execution and tried to stop it. He called for an independent inquiry.

An Arizona Republic journalist who witnessed the execution said he counted Wood gasping for air about 660 times before falling silent.

As authorities struggled to put Wood to death, his attorneys took the extraordinary step of filing emergency court petitions seeking to cut short the procedure, arguing Wood was being subjected to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the appeal and Wood was pronounced dead one hour and 57 minutes after the execution had officially begun.

State Corrections Director Charles Ryan disputed suggestions that Wood had suffered, saying that once sedated - five minutes into the procedure - the inmate "did not grimace or make any further movement."

Ryan characterized Wood's breathing as "sonorous respiration, or snoring," and said execution team members with whom he conferred during the process assured him "unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress."

He added that the time it takes to complete an execution varies for each individual.

'DIED IN A LAWFUL MANNER'

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer expressed concern over how long the procedure lasted and ordered a review by prison officials.

But Baich insisted the inquiry should be independent, saying that in opposing his client's earlier appeals, the state had "fought tooth and nail to protect the extreme secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drugs and execution personnel."

"An independent investigation, led by someone outside of the Department of Corrections and outside of the executive branch of state government, must fully explore the practices which led to tonight's horrifically botched execution," he said.

Brewer said in a statement that justice was done and that Wood had "died in a lawful manner ... in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his 2 victims."

Wood was found guilty in 1991 of fatally shooting his former girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, 29, and her father, Gene Dietz, 55, two years earlier at a family automobile body shop in Tucson.

Arizona's Supreme Court cleared the way for Wood to be executed on Wednesday, lifting an 11th-hour stay of execution that had briefly been granted on the basis of questions he raised about the mix of drugs to be administered to him.

In January, Dennis McGuire was put to death in Ohio using a sedative-painkiller mix of midazolam and hydromorphone, the 1st such combination used for a U.S. lethal injection. The execution took about 25 minutes, with McGuire reportedly convulsing and gasping for breath.

Arizona had said it would use the same combination of drugs on Wood but at higher doses.

A different sort of mishap occurred in April in Oklahoma, where killer Clayton Lockett writhed in pain as a needle became dislodged during his lethal injection. The process was halted in that case, but Lockett died shortly after of a heart attack.

(source: Retuers)

IDAHO:

Idaho's death penalty is so unusual it's cruel

For every death row inmate Idaho executes, it has freed another on new evidence while an equal number died of illness - to say nothing of all the condemned people serving out life sentences thanks to successful appeals.

What would you call that?

Dysfunctional?

Random?

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the late 1970s, Idaho has condemned 41 people, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 3 have been executed: Keith Eugene Welles in 1994, Paul Ezra Rhoades in 2011 and Richard Leavitt the following year.

New evidence exonerated Donald Paradis, who emerged from prison 21 years after he was sentenced to death.

Thomas Henry Gibson, Paradis' co-defendant, was released and paroled after an appeals court overturned his conviction.

Charles Irwin Fain spent 18 years on death row before DNA evidence exonerated him.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Michael Allen Jauhola became the 3rd death row inmate to die in custody after an extended illness. He got the death penalty for the 1998 murder of a fellow prison inmate.

Earlier cases include Mark Emilio Aragon, who died of illness after he was convicted of killing his Ketchum girlfriend's baby in 1982, and James Edward Wood, who spent a decade under sentence of death for molesting, murdering and dismembering an 11-year-old Pocatello girl before he died in 2004.

And Gerald Pizzuto Jr. seems on the brink of becoming the latest of more than 20 condemned prisoners to have his sentence reversed. He has been sitting on death row for almost 28 years for the murders of Berta Herndon and her nephew Del Dean Herndon near McCall.

At the time, Pizzuto tested marginal for mental acuity - an IQ of 72 - two points above the threshold that would render him too disabled for the state to execute him.

Pizzuto's attorneys want the federal courts to block the execution on the grounds that a five-point margin of error - recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court - means Pizzuto's IQ could be as low as 67.

Nothing's for sure, but at minimum the issue buys Pizzuto more time in the appellate courts.

Consider the context: Idaho's system is slowing to a crawl. The state has imposed the death sentence only three times in 10 years and no defendant has been ordered executed since 2010.

Nothing about capital punishment - in Idaho or the United States - is predictable except its sheer randomness.

Think of it as a huge funnel.

At the top are the 14,000 people who commit murder each year.

About 2,500 of them are eligible for the death penalty.

Last year, juries imposed the death sentence 79 times.

39 executions were carried out.

What explains it?

Certainly not logic. Many of the worst of the worst are serving life. Among them are Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River killer; Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber; and Jared Lee Loughner, who killed 6 people including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl at a Tucson, Ariz., shopping mall and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

It boils down to geography, timing and circumstances.

In other words - luck.

18 states have abolished capital punishment. 6 of them have made that choice in the last 6 years. Governors in another 3 - including Washington's Jay Inslee - have declared a moratorium for the duration of their tenure in office.

Only 6 states have carried out executions this year - Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court required juries rather than judges to decide who dies in the execution chamber, more prosecutors have been reluctant to risk the money and time required to seek the death penalty.

Because of problems with chemicals used in lethal injections, Ohio and Oklahoma are taking a timeout.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Idaho's death penalty has become a punishment most unusual. Doesn't that make it cruel as well?

(source: Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune)

USA:

Study: Cognitive impairment, other mitigating factors present in cases of most executed inmates

A study of 100 inmates executed in 2012 and 2013 has found that the "overwhelming majority" had mitigating factors in their backgrounds such as cognitive impairment and childhood trauma.

The study in the Hastings Law Journal found that nearly nine out of 10 of the executed offenders fell into one or more of these categories: They had an intellectual impairment, had not reached the age of 21 at the time of the crime, suffered from a severe mental illness, or endured childhood trauma. More than half fell into multiple categories.

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of the intellectually disabled and juveniles. Yet those with similar deficits are regularly executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Centerís summary of the findings. The center and a Washington Post op-ed list other study findings:

-- 1/3 of the executed inmates had intellectual disabilities, borderline intellectual function or traumatic brain injuries.

-- 54 % had a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder.

-- 1/2 had severe childhood trauma such as physical abuse, sexual molestation, domestic violence, chronic poverty and homelessness.

-- 20% were under age 21 at the time of the offense.

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree noted the study in the Washington Post op-ed. "Severe functional deficits are the rule, not the exception, among the individuals who populate the nation's death rows," Ogletree wrote.

Ogletree referred to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority decision this May in Hall v. Florida, which struck down Florida's bright-line standard for determining which inmates have an intellectual disability that exempts them from the death penalty.

What was important about the decision, Ogletree says, was Kennedy's statement that imposing the death penalty on an intellectually disabled person "violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being" because the "diminished capacity of the intellectually disabled lessens moral culpability and hence the retributive value of the punishment." It was the 1st time, Ogletree says, that the court said there is "no legitimate penological purpose" in executing an offender with a functional impairment.

"This is why I see an end coming to the death penalty in this country," Ogletree wrote. "The overwhelming majority of those facing execution today have what the court termed in Hall to be diminished culpability."

(source: ABA Journal)

****************

Another 'botched' execution, abolition the only solution

The prolonged execution of a prisoner in Arizona yesterday represents another wake-up call for authorities in the USA to abolish the death penalty, said Amnesty International.

"How many more times do officials need to be reminded of the myth of the 'humane execution' before they give up on their experiment with judicial killing?" asked Rob Freer, Amnesty International Researcher on the USA.

At least 3 executions have not gone according to plan in the USA this year alone.

Amnesty International does not believe that there is any such thing as a humane execution, or that the cruelty of the death penalty is confined to what goes on in the death chamber.

Holding someone under a threat of death - for years or even decades - can hardly be described as the conduct of a state adopting a progressive approach to criminal justice or human rights.

"However the state chooses to kill the prisoner - and whether the execution goes according to plan or not - does not change the fact that this is a punishment incompatible with fundamental human rights principles," said Rob Freer.

The death penalty in the USA is riddled with arbitrariness, discrimination and error. In recent years, death penalty states in the USA have faced problems obtaining drugs for lethal injection and have resorted to questionable sources and secrecy in seeking to continue judicial killing by this method.

The execution of Joseph Wood, who was convicted of the 1989 murder of his former girlfriend and her father, began at 1.52pm on 23 July.

The process took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency motion in federal court in an attempt to have it stopped while the prisoner was still alive. The judge had not responded by the time Wood was pronounced dead around 3.49pm. The judge has since ordered the state to preserve all physical evidence relate to Woodís body.

Arizona's Governor, Janice Brewer, issued a statement emphasising that the execution was "lawful" and suggesting that Wood "did not suffer", but ordered a review of why the execution took so long.

To date, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The USA is approaching its 1400th execution since resuming judicial killing under revised capital statutes in 1977. 5 US states have legislated to abolish the death penalty since 2007.

(source: Amnesty Internation)

*******************

A look at death penalty sentences and executions, by state

The drawn-out execution of Joseph Wood on Wednesday in Arizona, renewed scrutiny of the use of the death penalty in the United States.Using data from the Death Penalty Information Center, we looked at how the death penalty has been both sentenced and applied since the Supreme Court reintroduced it in the 1970s. And, in short, both sentences and actual executions have declined along with the crime rate.

Note the trend: Crime peaked in the early 1990s; death sentences, a few years later. Executions peaked in 1999.

But the other lesson from Arizona and and the high-profile botched execution in Oklahoma earlier this year is that the death penalty sentencing and the actual carrying out of that sentence varies widely on a state-by-state basis. We took state data on sentencing and executions over time and animated them, providing a look at how each state has dealt with the punishment since it became legal. Texas is something of an aberration.

But as the Death Penalty Information Center notes, Texas hasn't been the most thorough about carrying out its executions. No state has a higher ratio of death sentences-to-executions than Virginia, which has put to death about 7 of every 10 people it has sentenced to die. Arizona is in the middle of the pack.

(see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/07/24/a-look-at-death-penalty-sentences-and-executions-by-state/

(source: Philip Bump, Washington Post)

**********

Yes, it's time to abolish the death penalty

Several years ago, I was somehow included in the final jury pool for a high-profile murder case in Fulton County. If the jury finds the defendant guilty of murder, prosecutors asked me, would I be willing to impose the death penalty?

I was as honest as I could be in my answer: Theoretically, I could imagine a case so heinous and brutal that my thirst for retribution might outweigh my deep misgivings about the death penalty. If it involved multiple murders, sadistic cruelty, children - yes, I could imagine a case in which my anger and outrage overwhelmed judgment and I would vote in favor of imposing death. But in most cases, no.

I did not get seated on the jury.

In Arizona last night, state officials strapped Joseph Wood, a double murderer, to a hospital gurney and imposed the death penalty. The sentence was carried out through lethal injection, and was botched so badly that it took Wood almost 2 hours to die. In much of the time, witnesses say, he was gasping and fighting for breath.

For all but the most blood-thirsty, I think, that would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Yes, Wood had brought it on himself when he walked into an Arizona body shop and killed his ex-girlfriend and her father. But we are supposed to better than he was. That's kind of the whole point of sitting in judgment and imposing punishment.

The Wood case is just another example of why the problems inherent in the death penalty far outweigh its supposed benefits. There is no evidence, for example, that it serves as any sort of deterrence. Most people who commit murder either don't intend to get caught or they don't care if they're caught. Many are not bright enough or undamaged enough to think through consequences. Their future horizon is measured in minutes, not days or months or years.

The Wood case is a good example. After shooting his ex-girlfriend and her father, he fled the body shop and was confronted by police. They ordered him to put his .38 pistol on the ground, and he did so. However, he then picked the weapon up and pointed it at the cops, giving them no choice but to fire at him, wounding him several times. He did not fear death; he sought it.

Then there's the fact that when you impose the death penalty, you have to get every one right, and we do not. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 140 people, including 5 in Georgia, have been convicted of murder and sentenced to die since 1973, only to be exonerated of the crime later. Those are the ones we know about. It is a mathematical certainty that innocent people have been executed, and if the state is killing innocent people, it - and we - become no better than those we seek to punish. (Ironically, confidence that government always gets it right on the death penalty tends to be highest among those who believe that in every other context, government always gets it wrong.)

I have no problem whatsoever with a sentence of life with no possibility of parole or release as an alternative to the death penalty. Clearly, there are people among us so evil and damaged that they cannot be allowed freedom. Being sentenced to prison for the rest of your mortal life strikes me as sufficient punishment, and as sufficient protection for decent society.

In fact, the prospect of waking up every morning, morning after morning, for thousands of mornings without end, knowing that you will never have a day that does not begin and end in that very prison cell, seems more horrible to me than death itself.

(source: Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Masking death penalty's violence increases suffering, Arizona execution shows

Toronto native John Radclive had been Canada's public executioner for years. Despite his habit of consuming quantities of alcohol that startled his hard-drinking contemporaries, starting a riot in Hull when he announced to a packed tavern that he had "come to hang a Frenchman, and hoped it would not be the last," and "altogether expressed himself in ways that show him to be a person of coarse temperament," he had reliably showed up at jails across Canada, built gallows where none existed and sent one convict after another into eternity, year after year.

The debate around picking Radclive's successor underscored one part of the public attitude to the death penalty: While people, on the whole, supported the idea that murderers should be hanged, they treated the hangman himself as an object of horror and contempt.

"He is a necessity in our system, but he should be treated as if he is the hole in the floor of the gallows," a Star editorial said of Radclive in 1900.

"Among all, the hangman is selected for opprobrium, especially by those who favour and support his function in society," the Globe wrote ten years later.*

Starting in 1963, the death penalty fell into disuse in Canada - formal abolition followed in the 1970s.

Starting at the end of the 19th century, American legislators started to favour "scientific" methods of execution. States introduced the electric chair, then gas executions after the First World War, then, starting in the 1980s, lethal injection. All could be botched in their own new and horrible ways, and continue to be.

"Scientific" turned out to be veiled language meaning something else: wanting to kill someone in what appears as little like a violent death as possible. Much as Canadians distanced themselves from a punishment of violent death by scapegoating the executioner, Americans did it by trying to minimize the overt violence involved in the act itself.

Witnesses to lethal injections, when they go smoothly, often say that there was very little to see, which I guess is the goal.

When things don't go smoothly, a paradox emerges: The effort to avoid overt violence increases the condemned's suffering.

The modern United States, where reporters have free access to executions but executionerís identity is shrouded, has different inhibitions from the Canada of two or three generations ago, where the hangman was a recognizable public figure but executions themselves were closed and secretive. (Reporters were excluded from Ontario hangings starting in the 1930s, since they would report on a botched execution.)

But as pharmaceutical companies refuse to supply drugs for executions and medical organizations refuse to let doctors participate in them, America's lethal-injection executions have become almost impossibly complicated.

On Wednesday, Arizona executioners took nearly 2 hours to put Joseph Wood to death. The Associated Press reported:

Lawyers for 55-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was "gasping and snorting for more than an hour." (emphasis added)

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay to condemned Missouri inmate Russell Bucklew, ruling that "Mr Bucklew presented strong medical evidence - that the Missouri Department of Corrections failed to contest - showing the likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond what is constitutionally permissible."

Mother Jones explains:

Bucklew ... has a serious health condition, with a lethal drug whose source is being kept secret from the public. On Friday, Bucklew's attorneys filed a motion requesting that a videographer be allowed to tape the execution in order to preserve evidence. Bucklew has tumors partially blocking his airway, and attorneys allege that there is "a very significant risk" that he will die "a torturous death" in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

All that Missouri really needs to execute Russell Bucklew is a wall of sandbags and a handgun.

In April, Oklahoma used an untested, secret drug cocktail to execute Clayton Lockett, with horrific results. Mother Jones again:

Once the procedure got under way, it took prison staff almost an hour to find a suitable vein to insert the needle. That process was unsuccessful, so a catheter was placed in Lockett's groin, in the femoral artery, a complex procedure that requires well-trained medical personnel who clearly weren't working for the Oklahoma corrections department. The official timeline indicates that whoever placed the IV line probably missed the artery or punctured it, so the drugs that were supposed to bring quick death instead leaked into the soft tissue and left Lockett writhing in pain. The execution was eventually halted ... Not long afterwards, Lockett died of a heart attack anyway.

(Dr. Jay Chapman, the Oklahoma medical examiner who designed the lethal injection execution in the 1970s, now favours a guillotine, calling it 'the simplest thing I know of.')

That method may be much more overtly violent than lethal injection. There might be a mess. But would also, arguably, be a minimum of suffering.

If you favour the death penalty, but see shooting or decapitation as so barbaric as to be beyond discussion, you are long overdue to rethink your position.

Perhaps in seeking a solution, the U.S. public will discover the need for changes in this last resort of criminal law.

(source: Patrick Cain, Global News)

ZAMBIA:

Khaya Dlanga: Death isn't the answer to monstrous crimes

What do we have to do to prevent violent crimes from happening in our society in which our children are no longer safe, asks Khaya Dlanga.

There has been real and legitimate anger in the past few days over headlines about the kind of violence that illustrates our loss of innocence.

Evil often befalls the undeserving. No one deserves evil, but it is much more difficult to accept when children become victims of crime and violence.

It seems that the world keeps losing its innocence. Just when we think nothing worse can shock us, something else happens.

Children suffer, and those who make them suffer often get away with it. This week, a child died, dragged by a hijacked vehicle. He will never grow up to become a man because cowards killed him. There will be no stories about him as a teenager or a varsity student who makes mistakes, falls in with the wrong crowd and falls in love. His life has ended.

All of society should be protected from violence, but children especially. They are defenceless and far too often they are the victims of unnecessary acts of brutality.

Another child was kidnapped during another hijacking. We held our breaths, fearing the worst until he was found. The men who took him in such a cowardly fashion had guns to protect themselves. They were brave behind their guns. They should be ashamed.

We must not applaud or thank them for the safe return of the child because they should not have taken him in the first place. We are relieved, but not grateful - and certainly not to cowards. A crime is still a crime.

I noted the reactions of people when the story about the young boy who was dragged to his death surfaced. People naturally are indignant when they read something like this, but there were demands for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

But, even under these circumstances, it should not be our kneejerk response to these horrors.

If I had a child and he or she had to go through that, would I not want the death penalty reinstated? No. A case in point: My father was murdered - stabbed to death - but I am still opposed to the death penalty because it does not prevent crime.

In some cases in the United States, it has been found that states with death penalties have seen more heinous crimes than others because criminals don't want to leave any evidence behind.

We have also seen in the US how some innocent people spend years on death row, only for the authorities to find that the wrong person was found guilty. Or worse, some innocent people have been executed. Even one erroneous execution in a thousand is one too many.

Healing the throbbing wound

The reactions of some people have been even more extreme, calling for vigilante justice. Vigilantism is the law of the mob, therefore there is no justice. The mob is about vengeance, not justice. The mob shoots first and asks questions later. It is irrational.

So what do we have to do to prevent these violent crimes from happening in our society, in which our children are no longer safe? What do we have to do in a society where it is no longer possible for a village to raise a child?

People often argue that the reason for our violent crimes is because people don't have jobs. But there are many societies in the world where people are even poorer than ours yet do not experience the same level of violent crime. Poverty is not an excuse.

We have to examine ourselves collectively as a nation and then heal the throbbing wound that insists on hurting anyone in its path, particularly if it's a child.

(source: Column, Khaya Dlanga----Mail & Guardian)

JAPAN:

Father of murdered schoolgirl demands death penalty for defendant

The father of a high school student who was murdered in the western Tokyo city of Mitaka in October 2013 has demanded the death penalty for the man accused of stalking and killing her.

Charles Thomas Ikenaga, 22, is on trial facing charges of murdering the 18-year-old 3rd-year high school student in October 2013.

During the examination of witnesses in a hearing at the Tachikawa Branch of the Tokyo District Court, the victim's father stated, "I have not received an apology from Ikenaga. I desire the death penalty."

The victim's father said he had seen an article on Ikenaga, who responded to coverage by a news organization after the killing, and criticized his stance.

"He was very exhibitionistic and I even felt he had a sense of achievement. I can sense no feelings of remorse from him. My hope has disappeared (as a result of my daughter's death) and the future for my wife and I has been blown apart," he said.

When the victim's father spoke in court, he was separated from the defendant and people in the public gallery by screening.

Ikenaga's mother also testified during the hearing, saying that her son had been violently treated by her partner as a child.

"My son has committed a serious crime, but I want the punishment to be made as lenient as possible, not the death penalty," she said.

(source: Mainichi)

AFGHANISTAN:

Death sentence for Afghan reporter murderer

A former Afghan police commander has been sentenced to death in Kabul for the killing of German war reporter and photographer Anja Niedringhaus in April this year.

The Afghan court found the man guilty of both murder and abuse of office and sentenced him to the death penalty, according to a court statement released on Wednesday.

The uniformed commander shot the 48-year-old prizewinning photographer in Afghanistan's unstable south-western province of Khost on April 4th while she was sitting in a car.

His motive is still unclear, although investigators believe the attack was planned in advance as he shouted "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire.

Niedringhaus, whose colleague the Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon was also badly injured in the attack on their vehicle, had been covering Afghan Presidential elections for the Associated Press news agency.

They were, the AP said, both sat in a car as part of a convoy delivering election ballots to Khost city.

The unit commander came over when the vehicle was stationary and opened fire through a car window with his AK-47.

Gannon was taken to hospital but Niedringhaus died instantly.

The convicted man has 15 days to appeal the death sentence, said the vice governor of Khost province. Judicial executions must be approved in writing by the Afghan president, he added.

(source: The Local)

INDIA:

Before remission of death penalty, victims need to be heard: Govt to SC

The NDA government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that crime victims should be heard before states grant remission to life imprisonment convicts involved in heinous offences such as murder and terrorist activities.

Appearing before a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, solicitor general (SG) Ranjit Kumar assailed Tamil Nadu government's decision to remit the remaining jail terms of Rajiv Gandhi killers and release them.

The Centre has challenged the state's order on the ground that no remission could be given without its consent as a central agency, CBI, prosecuted the assassins.

Expanding the scope of the reference before the bench the SG said just as the convicts seek a right of remission, the victims should also enjoy the right to be heard by the government before releasing such prisoners. Section 432 of the CrPC empowers states/ union territories to release all class of prisoners on remission.

Kumar asked if victims have a right at any stage to be heard while death penalty is taken up for commuting into life imprisonment. He also asked whether the state can, without referring to the victims or their families decide on remission, raising a pertinent question on the right of victims under the criminal justice system.

On July 8, the bench had restrained all states/UTs from granting remissions to life convicts until it decides the controversy relating to remission granted by Tamil Nadu to Rajiv Gandhi killers.

(source: Hindustan Times)

NEW JERSEY:

Why Doesn't New Jersey Have Death Penalty?

New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007, becoming the 1st state to abolish executions since Iowa and West Virginia did so in 1965.

But a New Jersey assemblyman believes the state should consider reinstating it. Is he right?

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer took another look at the situation after the recent murder of Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago. Dancer said, according to MY9 New Jersey, "Officer Santiago was targeted for murder and I see right now that the public is going to once again want to support the reinstatement of the death penalty as the full weight to justice, not vengeance, in crimes such as this."

Former Governor Jon Corzine repealed capital punishment in New Jersey in 2007. "I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life," Corzine said at the time, according to the New York Times. "To these questions, I answer yes."

Corzine also commuted the sentences of 8 men on death row to life in prison without parole.

NJ1015.com reports that legislation Dancer has sponsored since 2011 would bring back the death penalty if the victim was a law enforcement or corrections officer and was murdered while performing official duties, or because the person was an officer; the victim under 18 years of age; or the murder was an act of terrorism.

The state legislature approved capital punishment for terrorists after the World Trade Center bombings, but that ended with the repeal of the death penalty in 2007.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no one was executed in New Jersey while the death penalty was active between 1982 and 2007. Harold Brown and Arthur Kennelly invented the electric chair in 1888 at Thomas Edison's laboratory in New Jersey.

(source: newjerseynewsroom.com)

FLORIDA:

Long Delays Weaken Death Penalty as a Crime Deterrent

Some stories never leave your mind and one of those is the horrific murder of 11-year-old Kimberly Waters in 1994. I had forgotten some of the details about the case until I read the recent articles in The Ledger.

I cried as I read about how this young girl so passionately fought for her life while she was repeatedly being assaulted by her mother's former boyfriend, who eventually killed her and dumped her body in a Dumpster like a bag of garbage.

In 1995, the jury took only 32 minutes to convict her murderer, Eddie Wayne Davis, of this savage crime against this innocent child because of the overwhelming evidence against him and his three confessions.

But, it took the state of Florida 19 years to execute him. In fact, the coward never showed any remorse for the murder during his entire stint on death row, and his attorneys continued to file appeals up to the last minute on the day of his execution July 10.

So many people say the death penalty isn't a deterrent against crime. Well, they're right. How can the threat of the death penalty be a deterrent to anyone when it takes an average of 14 years to execute a death row inmate in the United States?

Florida currently has 410 death-row inmates. The longest-serving inmate passed away recently after being on death row for 40 years.

Of course, every murderer should not be sent to death row. It should only be reserved for those who've committed the most heinous of crimes, such as the murder of Kimberly Waters.

As long as our country continues to allow murderers to be able to drag out their cases by continually filing one appeal after another, the death penalty will never be the deterrent it should be.

It's very sad that convicted killers have more rights than their innocent victims in this country.

JENNIFER RADER----Lakeland

(source: Letter to the Editor, Lakeland Ledger)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana and New Orleans: leaders in death penalty, prosecutor misconduct

There is a reason the death penalty is rarely enforced anymore, particularly in the federal judicial system. Too many innocent victims are being convicted, based on cover-ups and the withholding of exculpatory evidence by some federal and state prosecutors. A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences concludes that some 4.1 % of inmates on death row are innocent. More than 4 %. If that were the rate of airplanes crashing, would you fly?

Legal scholar John Whitehead, who writes about the pursuit of justice for The Rutherford Institute, and who has appeared on my nationally syndicated radio program, says the criminal justice system in the U.S. is consistently error-bound and flawed.

He writes of a recent Columbia University study on 5,760 capital cases where ďthe report found an overall error rate of 68%. In other words, courts found serious reversible errors in nearly 7 out of 10 capitol cases....with the most common errors involved prosecutorial suppression of evidence and other misconduct."

Receiving the death penalty is a regular occurrence in my home state of Louisiana. What also is becoming the norm is the fact that a number of those convicted, and on their way to the gas chamber, are eventually found to be innocent. For years, the Bayou State has held the title of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. It now has taken on the dubious title of having case after case of death row inmates being convicted based on the withholding of evidence that would prove their innocence.

New Orleans has become the cesspool for the innocent being convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death. One of the most egregious is the case of New Orleanian John Thompson, who was convicted back in 1982 of 1st-degree murder and given the death sentence. He came within days of being executed after spending 14 years on death row and 18 year's total in prison. 5 different prosecutors were involved in the case and all knew that a blood test and other key evidence had been hidden that showed Thompson was innocent.

On his deathbed and dying of cancer, one of the prosecutors confessed to a colleague that he had hidden the exculpatory blood sample. The colleague waited 5 more years before admitting that he too knew of the hidden evidence. Thompson, after 18 years, received a new trial, and his lawyers were finally able to produce ten difference pieces of evidence that had been kept from Thompson, that overwhelming showed he was innocent. The new jury took less than 35 minutes to find him not guilty.

Hiding evidence that can find the accused innocent is nothing new for prosecutors in New Orleans, both in state and federal court as well as with the FBI. The Innocence Project of New Orleans reviewed a number of convictions over the past 25 years in the city and concluded that prosecutors have a "legacy" of suppressing evidence. The Project said 36 men convicted in Orleans Parish alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Nineteen have since had their sentences overturned or reduced as a result. In 19 of 25 capital cases, the prosecutors withheld favorable evidence.

Then there is the chilling case of Dan Bright, convicted and put on death row for a murder he did not commit. Evidence came out years after his conviction that the FBI, thanks to a credible informant, had been in possession of the name of the actual killer all along. Luckily for Bright, because of the unconstitutional withholding of key evidence by the prosecution and the FBI, his conviction was thrown out, and he now is a free man.

The foreman of White's jury, who recommended that he be put to death, was Kathleen Norman, who was a guest on my radio show on several occasions before her untimely death several years ago. She was so incensed over White's wrongful conviction and the hiding of evidence that would have cleared him by the FBI, that she became head of the Louisiana Innocence project, helping others like White mount a credible defense.

Questionable conduct by rogue prosecutors who withhold information that could prove the innocence of an accused is far too prevalent. Whether one is for or against the death penalty, there is ample evidence that convictions of a capital crime can be a crapshoot based on the whims of some prosecutors who too often withhold exculpatory evidence. Tough luck if you are innocent. Too often, justice is being compromised. And that's just not right!

"This is the world we live in, and justice is not always fulfilled!"----Bobby Lee Swagger-movie Shooter.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

(source: Jim Brown's syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim's nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com----Bayou Buzz)

MISSOURI:

Eastern Missouri man could face death penalty in triple Warren County slayings

An eastern Missouri man accused of killing 2 women and a boy in Warren County earlier this year could get the death penalty if convicted.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1kaUb04 ) reports that Warren County prosecutor Jennifer Bartlett announced on Tuesday that she will seek the death penalty against 23-year-old Shawn M. Kavanagh of the Montgomery County town of Bellflower.

Kavanagh faces 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and several other felonies in the late February stabbing deaths of 29-year-old Lexy Vandiver, her 7-year-old son Mason and 22-year-old Tara Lynn Fifer, who was visiting the Vandiver family when she was killed.

Police say Kavanagh was looking for his wife, with whom he was separated. Jessica Kavanagh was seriously injured in the attack.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Inmate's execution takes nearly 2 hours

The Wednesday afternoon execution of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took nearly 2 hours, confirming concerns that had been raised by his attorneys about a controversial drug used by the state of Arizona.

Wood remained alive at Arizona's state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. MST. The motion noted that Wood "has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour" after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood's arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.

"I counted about 660 times he gasped," Kiefer said. "That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49."

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

Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden, said it was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air."

Typically, executions by lethal injection take about 10 minutes. Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix said "the experiment failed."

The Arizona Supreme Court had lifted a temporary stay of double-murderer Wood's execution shortly before noon Wednesday, clearing the way for his execution later in the day. Wood had been scheduled to die at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but the court halted the process for long enough to consider a last-minute petition for post-conviction relief. Witnesses were told when the stay was issued to return by 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Wood, 55, killed 2 people in 1989.

The latest petition initially was filed in Pima County Superior Court after a federal appellate court's stay was lifted Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court. It argued that Wood had ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial, and also challenged Arizona's lethal-injection protocol and the drug cocktail used in executions.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lee dismissed Wood's 1st argument, but sent the question of Arizona's lethal-injection protocol to the state high court.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Arizona's veil of secrecy around its lethal-injection drugs, permitting plans for the execution to proceed.

The high-court ruling knocked down a federal appeals court decision that the execution could not move forward unless the state turned over information about how the execution would be carried out.

Executions are public events. But in recent years, many states that still have capital punishment, including Arizona, have passed or expanded laws that shroud the procedures in secrecy.

The Arizona Department of Corrections plannd to use a controversial drug, and it favors a controversial method of administering it, so Wood's attorneys demanded to know the qualifications of the executioners and the origin of the drugs to be used in the execution, claiming that Wood had a First Amendment right to the information.

On Saturday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted the stay without addressing the First Amendment issue.

State officials said in court filings that they need to maintain secrecy because publicity has made it more difficult to obtain the drugs needed to carry out executions.

Drug manufacturers have begun refusing to sell to departments of corrections, forcing the departments to experiment with new and less reliable drugs or to specially order them from compounding pharmacies, which in turn are harassed by anti-death-penalty activists.

In January, an Ohio prisoner who received a cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone gasped for air and took more than 20 minutes to die, compared with the usual 10 minutes or so when prisoners are executed with thiopental or pentobarbital.

And during an April execution in Oklahoma, the condemned man at first appeared to be unconscious, but then began "writhing and bucking," 1 eyewitness wrote.

He kicked his legs and tried to sit up while muttering words the witnesses couldn't understand.

The execution was stopped, but the man subsequently died of an apparent heart attack.

Human error, not midazolam was blamed - the doctor who inserted the catheter into the prisoner's groin area went completely through the femoral artery into the surrounding tissues.

(source: Arizona Republic)

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Arizona Takes Nearly 2 Hours to Execute Inmate

In another unexpectedly prolonged execution using disputed lethal injection drugs, a condemned Arizona prisoner on Wednesday repeatedly gasped for 1 hour and 40 minutes, according to witnesses, before dying at an Arizona state prison.

At 1:52 p.m. Wednesday, 1 day after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution granted by a federal appeals court last Saturday, the execution of Joseph R. Wood III commenced.

But what would normally be a 10- to 15-minute procedure dragged on for nearly 2 hours, as Mr. Wood appeared repeatedly to gasp, according to witnesses including reporters and one of his federal defenders, Dale Baich.

State officials insisted that Mr. Wood had been comatose throughout the procedure and did not suffer.

In a bizarre twist, Mr. Wood's lawyers filed an emergency appeal to a Federal District Court to halt the procedure as Mr. Wood lay on the gurney, and they even called Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court.

"He is still alive," the lawyers said in the district court appeal, filed just after 3 p.m. "This execution has violated Mr. Wood's Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully request that this court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol."

Mr. Wood died before the district court responded, while Justice Kennedy turned down the request to halt the procedure by telephone while Mr. Wood was still alive, said Robin Konrad, a lawyer for Mr. Wood.

At 3:39 p.m., 1 of the defense lawyers placed an emergency call to 3 justices from the Arizona Supreme Court, which had authorized the execution at the last minute. But 10 minutes later, Mr. Wood lay dead.

"I can tell you, he was snoring," said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general who was a witness. "There was zero gasping or snorting, and that's just the truth. He was asleep."

Mr. Wood was executed for the 1989 murders of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz.

Some family members of the victims said they were not concerned about the execution method, The Associated Press said.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, 'Let's worry about the drugs,'" Richard Brown, brother-in-law of Debra Dietz, told The A.P. "Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?"

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona said that she was concerned about the length of time the execution took.

"While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process," she said. "One thing is certain, however: Inmate Wood died in a lawful manner, and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his 2 victims - and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family."

The events in Florence, Ariz., on Wednesday bore eerie parallels to a botched execution in Oklahoma in April, which also followed unsuccessful appeals to force the state to reveal more details about lethal drugs. In Oklahoma, Clayton D. Lockett visibly gasped and writhed on a gurney for several minutes, then later died of what state officials said was heart failure.

In that case, preliminary indications are that the catheter was improperly placed, spilling the execution drugs into Mr. Lockett's tissue rather than into his veins so that he was only partly sedated before receiving a partial dose of a painful heart-stopping drug.

Arizona officials said they were using the same sedative that was used in Oklahoma, midazolam, together with a different 2nd drug, hydromorphone, a combination that has been used previously in Ohio. Similar problems were reported in the execution in Ohio in January of Dennis McGuire, using the same 2 drugs. He reportedly gasped as the procedure took longer than expected.

Capital punishment by lethal injection has been thrown into turmoil as the supplies of traditionally used barbiturates have dried up, in part because companies are unwilling to manufacture and sell them for this purpose.

Arizona officials, like those in Oklahoma and several other states, have turned to new drug combinations and refused to reveal the manufacturers, saying this would lead them to stop providing the drugs.

Mr. Wood's lawyers won a short-lived victory on Saturday, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said his execution must be delayed until the state revealed the source of the drugs and specific details about the training of those carrying out the execution.

But on Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court overturned the stay.

(source: New York Times)

********************************

Witness to a 2-hour Arizona execution: Joseph Wood's final 117 minutes----Inside the chamber, I counted 660 gulps. The priest's watch counted 117 minutes. The death penalty was not supposed to go like this

You want to be prepared to watch a man who has been prepared to die. Wednesday afternoon was scheduled to be the state of Arizona's 1st time using this particular combination of lethal-injection drugs. But this was also my 1st time witnessing a state execution, so I made sure the state prison staff here had a notepad ready, and I asked my colleagues what it was supposed to be like.

It's all very clinical, I was told. The end of death row usually lasts about 10 minutes.

This was not what I saw inside the execution chamber when Joseph Wood died. That took 117 minutes, and it was clear that nothing was as it was supposed to be.

After going through prison security, and waiting for hours because of a last-minute appeal to the Arizona supreme court, prison staff escorted us - just a handful of witnesses - across the vast yard and into the small place where a killer was about to be killed. The family of Debra and Eugene Dietz, whom Wood brutally shot and killed at a Tucson autobody shop in 1989, followed. We were all seated under televisions, with images of Wood strapped to the gurney above.

The curtains opened. The medical staff checked the man's veins. He said his last words - "God forgive you all" - and the lethal drugs began to flow, at 1.52pm. James Wood appeared to fall asleep, albeit strapped down to a table, and he looked straight ahead at the wall. The first 10 minutes went according to plan.

Then, a hard gulp. I looked over to my left: the priest praying the rosary. To my right: the family watching on. Then dead ahead: the side of Wood's stomach appeared to move, even after the Arizona state prison's medical staff had announced he was sedated.

I saw a man who was supposed to be dead, coughing - or choking, possibly even gasping for air. I knew this because Wood's stomach moved at the same time, just like it would if you were lying down and trying to breathe. Then another of those gulps - those gasps for air, movements just from the throat area and sometimes from the stomach, too.

I started looking at the priest's watch to keep track of time. 5, 10, 20 minutes ... an hour had passed. I started to wonder: Will this get called off? Will this ever stop?

I continued to scribble on my state-issued notepad, counting the gulps and gasps of the man on the gurney. I counted 660. This went on for over an hour and a half.

During that time, medical staff checked Wood 6 times in total, looking at his eyes, feeling for a pulse on his neck, informing us over the loud speaker that he was still sedated. His eyes were still closed.

My eyes turned to Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, as he handed a lady a note and she left the witness chamber. I wondered what the lawyer had written, and as the door opened, it let in a bright light, for just a quick moment.

What seemed like an eternity passed - 20, 30, 45 minutes more, looking straight ahead - and finally the gulps and gasps started to slow, from about every 5 seconds or so, to about 1 per minute. Finally, the gulps and gasps stopped. A few minutes more went by. At last, the killing had stopped, too. A medical staff member checked Wood again one last time. Another few minutes still, and the warden pronounced the killer dead, at 3.49pm, 1 hour and 57 minutes after the execution had began.

The family left, and the staff escorted the rest of us after them. At a small press conference outside, Debbie Dietz's brother-in-law said Wood's 2 hours were "nothing compared to what happened on August 7, 1989." The state corrections department said Wood did not suffer. The attorney general's office said "he DID NOT gasp for air."

I looked at my notepad once more: 660 gasps and gulps. By the priest's watch, it was almost 5pm. I thought: Is this how long it's supposed to take a man to die?

(source: Mauricio Marin, The Guardian)

************************

Arizona Botches Execution, Imposes Cruel and Unusual Punishment on Joseph Wood

At 3:49 PM MST, the state of Arizona executed Joseph Wood by lethal injection. This was the 5th execution in the United States since Clayton Lockett's horrific death in Oklahoma in April. Says Cassandra Stubbs, Director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project:

Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency. Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered. According to his emergency papers filed by his attorneys, he was choking and snorting over an hour into the process. In its rush to put Mr. Wood to death in secret, Arizona ignored the dire and clear warnings from the botched executions of 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. 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.

(source: ACLU, July 23)

*****************************

Death penalty opponents call two-hour execution 'appalling'

Wednesday's troubled execution of convicted killer Joseph Wood ignited a firestorm of debate across Arizona and beyond.

Others say it "broke the bounds of basic decency", adding the protocol should be banned.

Heads of the group 'Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona' say they are disturbed the execution went forward at all.

They argue the death penalty is inhumane and expensive, on average costing $1 million more than life in prison.

They add it's simply unnecessary, and they made those points just minutes after they addressed statements made by the victim's family.

"They feel that that was minimal compared to the death and suffering that they had, and I really feel empathy and sympathy for them," said Punch Woods. "But we don't need to kill people to say we shouldn't be killing people. You know, we don't rob people who have been robbed. We don't rape rapists. So why should we kill killers?"

The ACLU also spoke out Wednesday, saying in part, "It's time for Arizona and the other states... to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure... Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions."

(source: KGUN)

CALIFORNIA:

After federal ruling, Dekraai defense seeks to bar death penalty

A week after a federal judge ruled California's death penalty system unconstitutional, lawyers for Orange County's worst-ever mass killer are trying to put that ruling to the test.

Attorneys for Scott Dekraai, who admitted killing 8 people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011, filed a motion Wednesday asking an Orange County Superior Court judge to bar the death penalty and immediately sentence Dekraai to life without possibility of parole.

The brief motion cites the July 16 order by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, who overturned a death sentence for Ernest Dewayne Jones, a man convicted in a 1995 Los Angeles murder.

Carney wrote that the decades of delays and tiny number of executions make the state's current system "dysfunctional" and arbitrary, meaning a death sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

One of Dekraai's lawyers, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, echoed Carney in arguing the chance of someone being executed is so small the death penalty serves no legitimate purpose either as retribution or as deterrent.

"Killing people at random for no penological reason, as California demonstrably does, is unquestionably cruel and unusual punishment," Sanders wrote.

He will seek to argue the motion in court Friday, when lawyers are already scheduled to spend several hours making final arguments on Sanders' separate allegations of widespread prosecutorial misconduct.

Dekraai pleaded guilty to the murders in May, so the only issue remaining is his punishment.

Since January, Sanders and colleague Lisa Kopelman have been seeking to bar the death penalty on different grounds, arguing that Dekraai can't receive a fair penalty hearing before a jury because the District Attorney's Office has repeatedly withheld evidence that would help defendants' cases.

In a court filing Wednesday, prosecutors admitted "some errors," including failing to turn over evidence in other cases, but denied any misconduct and said Dekraai's rights haven't been harmed. Dekraai's defense is also asking a judge to kick the D.A.'s Office off his case and have the state attorney general prosecute.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals could decline to let Sanders argue his new death penalty motion this week. It was filed late Wednesday, and prosecutors have little time to respond before Friday morning's hearing.

The federal ruling is not binding on Goethals, a state judge, but Dekraai's lawyers urged him to adopt the same logic. Meanwhile, Carney's order will face review by a federal appeals court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. Only if it's upheld on appeal will it apply to any case beyond Jones'.

And Carney's ruling has little immediate consequence: California hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

(source: Orange County Register)

*********************

Death Penalty Terminated----Santa Barbara Has 9 Men on Death Row

When federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled last week that California's death penalty was unconstitutional because it was "so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay," he would have found little in Santa Barbara's death row population to contradict his finding. Currently, Santa Barbara has 9 males on death row. Malcolm Robbins, convicted in 1983 of kidnapping, raping, and murdering a young Goleta boy on Father's Day and then setting his body on fire, has the longest tenure. Joshua Miracle, who killed an associate by stabbing him 50 times after a 3-day meth bender, is the most recent, having been sentenced in 2006. In between, 4 others were convicted in the 1980s, 1 in the '90s, and 1 in 2001.

Since assuming office, District Attorney Joyce Dudley - now entering her 2nd term - has not sought the death penalty. In 1 case, her office withdrew a death penalty filing and replaced it with life without possibility of parole. In response to the federal ruling, Dudley agreed the state's system is indeed dysfunctional and said the death penalty as practiced offers the victims only the illusion of closure. Although California has 900 inmates on death row, only 13 have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. Judge Carney found the length of time required to execute the condemned "antithetical to any civilized notion of just punishment" and deprived the death penalty of any deterrent impact, let alone much retributive value. He found that the delays could not be blamed solely on inmates dragging out the process but on a wide array of systematic flaws.

Santa Barbara's top prosecutor said she couldn't remember the last person from Santa Barbara executed on death row. In 1958, Elizabeth Duncan, a Santa Barbara resident, was sentenced to death for conspiring with 2 men - Augustine Baldonado and Luis Moya - to kill her pregnant daughter-in-law, of whom she was insanely jealous. But because the murder took place in Ventura County, Duncan - who was executed in August 1962 with her 2 accomplices - is listed as a Ventura case. She remains the last woman to be executed in California.

(source: Santa Barbara Independent)

********************

Support for death penalty waning in California

Hundreds of California inmates who are on death row are more likely to die of old age than be executed as capital punishment cases get over-delayed in the state, particularly after federal Judge Cormac J. Carney's ruling that death penalty system is 'unconstitutional'.

In his controversial ruling, Carney said the sense of uncertainty and long delay in executing an inmate violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and atypical punishment. But, he was not the 1st person in the state to rule against death penalty.

Even Governor Jerry Brown has openly supported the abolishment of capital punishment. Though a 2012 ballot measure designed to abolish capital punishment failed, yet Gov. Brown openly said that he had voted for it.

Chief Justice Rose Bird and other liberal justices in the state blocked all of the 64 death penalties that were put before them for a review as part of automatic appeal process. Justice Bird paid the price in 1986, when voters declined to approve a new term for her and ousted two of her liberal colleagues.

In 1994, a federal court declared that the system of using gas chamber to execute a prisoner was unconstitutionally cruel. In 2006, lethal injection was also declared as 'unconstitutional'.

The 2012 ballot measure to abolish death penalty failed, but with a narrowed difference, indicating that support for the death penalty is waning in the state.

California's judicial system has placed several hundred people on death row over the past decade, but not a single prisoner has been executed since 2006. Around 40 % of current 748 death row prisoners have been awaiting their fate for nearly 2 decades.

(source: uncovercalifornia.com)

*************

California must keep death penalty for cop killers: Letters

Keep death penalty for those who kill police

Re "Death penalty dealt a blow" (July 17):

The recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney speaks to the reform needed in California's handling of death penalty verdicts. The lengthy appeals process is a burden on the families of the victims seeking closure for heinous crimes committed against a loved one.

The death penalty controversy is sure to continue. However, for certain capital crimes the sentence of death versus life imprisonment seems appropriate. Capital crimes against law enforcement officers should carry a mandatory death sentence. Law enforcement officers are tasked with protecting the public and are obligated to confront armed criminals in deadly situations. There should be little doubt in a criminal's mind that if he surrenders, he will be spared, but if he uses deadly force against a cop, he will face the death penalty.

The judicial system can go a long way in ensuring those who protect us can go home to their families at the end of the day.

Michael Rubino, San Pedro

(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Breeze)

USA:

How Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, executions went awry

Since the start of the year, executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona have gone awry, with inmates gasping for breath as lethal drugs coursed through their bodies. The Associated Press had witnesses at the executions of the 3 inmates. A look at how each unfolded:

THE BACKSTORY:

ARIZONA: Joseph Rudolph Wood was convicted of fatally shooting Debbie Dietz, 29, and her father, Gene Dietz, 55, at their auto repair shop in Tucson in 1989. He was executed on Wednesday.

OKLAHOMA: Clayton Lockett was convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as 2 accomplices buried her alive in 1999. He was executed on April 29.

OHIO: Dennis McGuire was sentenced to die for raping and stabbing to death Joy Stewart, a pregnant newlywed, in 1989. He was executed on Jan. 16.

BENIGN BEGINNINGS

ARIZONA: Wood looked around the death chamber and glanced at the doctors as they made preparations for his execution Wednesday in Florence, Arizona. They located veins and inserted 2 lines into his arms.

OKLAHOMA: Lockett's execution was slightly delayed. Also, while the procedure typically calls for one IV to be inserted into each arm, the medical team had difficulty finding a suitable vein and instead opted for a single IV into Lockett's groin that was covered with a sheet.

OHIO: McGuire, strapped to the gurney as members of the execution medical team inserted intravenous needles into his arms, spoke several times. The prisons spokeswoman said he repeatedly thanked the leader of the execution team.

LAST WORDS

ARIZONA: Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family. "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.

OKLAHOMA: When asked if he had any final words, Lockett simply responded: "No."

OHIO: McGuire then thanked Stewart's family members, who witnessed the execution, for their "kind words" in a letter he apparently received from them. "I'm going to heaven. I'll see you there when you come," he said.

FIRST TROUBLE:

ARIZONA: About 10 minutes after the drugs were injected, the gasping began. Wood's jaw dropped, his chest expanded, and he let out a gasp. The gasps repeated every 5 to 12 seconds. They went on and on, hundreds of times. An administrator checked on him a half-dozen times. He could be heard snoring loudly when an administrator turned on a microphone to inform the gallery that Wood was still sedated, despite the audible sounds.

OKLAHOMA: After Lockett received the 1st drug, midazolam, and was determined to be unconscious, the second and third drugs were administered. A few minutes later, Lockett began writhing on the gurney, mumbling, breathing heavily and straining to lift his head from a pillow.

OHIO: McGuire appeared unconscious but gasped repeatedly as he lay on a gurney, his stomach rising and falling and his mouth opening and shutting. McGuire's execution lasted 26 minutes, the longest of any in Ohio to date. What was particularly unusual was the 5 minutes or so that McGuire lay motionless on the gurney after the drugs began flowing, followed by a sudden snort and then more than 10 minutes of irregular breathing and gasping. Normally, movement comes at the beginning and is followed by inactivity. It remains unclear what McGuire experienced, although it was clearly much different than any other execution where the needles were inserted properly.

REACTION:

ARIZONA: As the episode dragged on, Wood's lawyers frantically drew up an emergency legal appeal, asking federal and state courts to step in and stop the execution.

OKLAHOMA: As Lockett continued to struggle on the gurney, the prison warden ordered the blinds lowered that allowed witnesses to see inside the death chamber. After learning there was a problem with the IV and that some of the drugs had leaked into Lockett's tissue or out of his body, the state's prison director called a stop to the execution.

OHIO: McGuire's daughter, Amber McGuire, watched his final moments. "Oh, my God," she said as he gasped and breathed irregularly.

RESOLUTION:

ARIZONA: Wood's gasps lasted about an hour and a half. His breathing slowed and he took his final breath. Soon after, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan declared Wood dead.

OKLAHOMA: Lockett was pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began. The results of a state autopsy are pending, and an official cause of death has not been released. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered an independent investigation into Lockett's execution, and the results of that probe have not been released.

OHIO: McGuire was pronounced dead 26 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing.

(source: Associated Press)

***********************

US executions: What you need to know about the death penalty

Since Texas became the 1st state to implement the death penalty using lethal injection on 7 December, 1982, it has become the preferred method of execution in the United States - but the process has met problems across the country.

These include delays in finding suitable veins, needles becoming clogged or disengaged, and reactions from inmates who appeared to be under stress.

What's happened recently?

A "bungled" execution in Arizona on Wednesday left double murderer Joseph Wood, 55, gasping for air after the combination sedative and pain-killer was administered; he survived for nearly 2 hours.

And in April, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who was condemned to death for the brutal murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman in 1999, died of an apparent heart attack after authorities halted a lethal injection that caused him to convulse and a vein to burst.

There have always been horrific stories about executions gone wrong. Inmates killed by the electric chair have been reported to suffer excruciating pain and "burning flesh", while use of the gas chamber has resulted in drawn-out deaths.

But, according to Judge Alex Kozinski, Chief Justice of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, the drugs cocktail used in lethal injections is no better.

He said: "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.

"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."

Is there something wrong with the drugs cocktail being used?

The drugs used in executions have become increasingly scarce since the EU issued a sweeping ban on their export to US death penalty states, many of which have resorted to using untested combinations of drugs obtained from barely regulated "compounding pharmacies".

States including Georgia, Missouri and Florida have since refused to reveal the identities of their lethal injection drug suppliers.

Where does the law stand on the issue?

Wood's lawyers filed several appeals to have greater transparency over the supply of the drugs, including which pharmacies they come from, but these were denied by the US Supreme Court.

They argued that the public have a right to know details including who makes the drugs and the qualifications of whoever carries out the execution itself.

How do human rights campaigners feel about it?

Amnesty International says: "Lethal injection can cause excruciating pain.

"It increases the risk that medical personnel will be involved in killing for the state, in breach of long-standing principles of medical ethics."

What about other execution methods?

Lethal injection has long been considered the most humane method of carrying out the death penalty.

However, following the nationwide shortage of drugs and resulting botches, Tennessee has signed a bill to bring back the electric chair, while Wyoming is considering allowing death row inmates to be executed by firing squad.

(source: The Independent)

IRAN----executions

10 prisoner including 4 women hanged in eastern Iran

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 10 prisoners including 4 women last Sunday and Monday.

The reports from Iran says on Sunday a group of 4 men and 4 women were hanged in the main prison in the city of Birjand (eastern Iran).

Another 2 prisoners were hanged on Monday in the same prison. All prisoners had been arrested on drug related charges.

During the last 12 month of Hassan Rouhani's 'moderate' presidency, an estimated 800 prisoners have been executed, many hanged in public.

***************************

MEPs condemn death sentence on Iranian political prisoner Davoodi

European lawmakers have strongly condemned a death sentence passed against Iranian political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi and called on the Iranian regime to spare his life.

Mr Davoodi, 61, was jailed 11 years ago for founding anti-government groups and insulting the clerical regime's leaders.

He was also sentenced to 74 lashes and 5 years deprivation of social rights, and more than a decade of torture, repeated hunger strikes and lack of medical care means he has lost much of his vision and hearing.

His lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah was also arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 9 years in prison after turning up in a court in Tehran to defend Mr Davoodi, an engineer who graduated from University of Texas, and now being held in a prison in the city of Bandar-Abbas.

A statement by the European Parliament inter-parliamentary group Friends of a Free Iran said: "During the last 12 month of Hassan Rouhani's 'moderate' presidency, an estimated 800 prisoners have been executed, many hanged in public.

"We call on Baroness Ashton, European governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to strongly condemn the death sentence of Mr. Arzhang Davoodi and to have this sentence revoked."

(source for both: NCR-Iran)

BANGLADESH:

HC upholds death penalty of 2 in Lalbagh 7-murder case

The High Court today upheld a lower court verdict that had sentenced 2 people to death and 10 others to different terms of imprisonment for killing 7 people in Lalbagh of the capital 20 years back.

According to the case statement, some criminals allegedly led by a former Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) ward commissioner Abdul Aziz opened fire on the victory procession of his rival Humayun Kabir at Lalbagh in Old Dhaka at about 10:30am on January 31, 1994. Humayun won the DCC election as the commissioner of ward no 59.

Delwar, Gazi, Nazrul, Anwar, Hafiz, Aziz and Shah Alam were killed and several others injured in the gun attack.

The HC bench of Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqui and Justice AKM Zahirul Haque pronounced the judgement today following appeals filed by the convicts challenging the lower court verdict.

On May 7 in 2008, a Dhaka court sentenced 2 persons to death, 9 others to 43 years' rigorous imprisonment each and a former DCC ward commissioner to 13 years in jail for the murders.

The 2 condemned convicts are Abdus Salam alias Moti and Zahid Hossain alias Natka Babu. Abdul Alim alias Shaheen, Monir Patwary, Munna, Kalu alias Kailla, Delwar Hossain alias Aunda, Deel Mohammad alias Moti, Mahatab Hossain, Mozammel Hossain and Amir Hossain were given 43 years' in jail each.

Former DCC ward commissioner Abdul Aziz were jailed for 13 years' imprisonment.

The HC also ordered Monir, Mahtab and Abdul Aziz, now on bail, to surrender before a trial court in 30 days after getting the copy of the judgement.

All the convicts other than Deel and Mozammel, who are on the run, filed appeals with the HC in 2008 and 2009 seeking acquittal from the charges.

(source: The Daily Star)

JULY 23, 2014:

ALABAMA:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty for double-murder suspect

A double-murder suspect in the Shoals spent Wednesday afternoon in court.

Mark Montgomery is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of Clo Stoner and Joanna Butler. It happened earlier this year at a home in Lauderdale County.

The judge bound the case over to a grand jury. Though he was advised not to speak, Montgomery had a few words for our cameras as he was escorted back to jail.

When asked how it was in the courtroom with the victims' families sitting behind him, Montgomery replies, "I didn't notice them. My lawyer also told me not to speak to ya'll."

Family and friends of the victims did appear inside the courtroom, as an investigator discussed what happened the night the two women were murdered. Authorities revealed preliminary autopsy reports showed both women suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head. There was also testimony that put Montgomery's sister inside the home when the women were killed.

Assistant District Attorney Will Powell said they plan to seek the death penalty in this case.

"This is a horrible situation of domestic violence where 2 women got killed," Powell said. "We intend to follow the facts and evidence where they lead, and prosecute to the fullest with the support and cooperation of the families of both victims."

The judge granted an order to allow Montgomery to return to the crime scene with his attorneys to review the case. When that will happen has not been scheduled.

(source: WAFF news)

ARIZONA----botched execution

Arizona Execution: Joseph Wood 'Gasping And Snorting For More Than An Hour,' Lawyers Say

An Arizona inmate gasped and snorted in an execution that lasted nearly 2 hours on Tuesday.

Lawyers for Joseph Wood had filed an emergency motion to abort the execution because their client was still alive more than an hour after receiving a lethal injection that was intended to kill him quickly and peacefully.

Their motion, filed in federal district court, failed to save Wood. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced that the 55-year-old convicted killer was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m.

Court papers said the execution started 117 minutes earlier.

"He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," Wood's lawyers wrote in their hurried attempt to call off the execution and force Arizona to provide Wood with life-saving care. "He is still alive."

A journalist from the Arizona Republic who witnessed the execution said Wood gasped for air 660 times after the drugs were introduced through intravenous tubes.

Wood was convicted of killing his girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father in 1989.

Dietz's sister dismissed concerns about how Wood died. "I don't believe he was suffering," Dietz's sister, Jeannie Brown told NBC News. "Who really suffered was my dad and my sister when they were killed."

Defense lawyers and prosecutors had battled in court in the run-up to Wood's execution. His attorneys sought to postpone his execution unless Arizona disclosed information about the untested cocktail of deadly drugs they planned to administer to him, the Arizona Republic reported.

They also argued that Wood's original defense was inadequate. The Arizona Supreme Court, however, rejected both arguments earlier today and allowed the execution to go forward.

After Wood's death was announced, 1 of his lawyers in a statement given to HuffPost criticized the secrecy Arizona officials maintained around the experimental use of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone.

"We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror - a bungled execution," Dale Baich said. "The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent."

In April, Oklahoma halted the execution of inmate Clayton Lockett who writhed in the death chamber during an execution prolonged by poorly administered drugs.

Wood becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arizona and the 37th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992.

Wood becomes the 26th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1385th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Huffington Post & Rick Halperin)

**************

Attorneys: Inmate gasped, snorted during 2-hour execution

Arizona inmate Joseph Wood died some 2 hours after the start of his execution Wednesday, his attorney said, describing what happened as "bungled."

"It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and 40 minutes. We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today.

"Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror -- a bungled execution," attorney Dale Baich said in a statement.

Troy Hayden, a media witness from KSAZ, told reporters the execution was difficult to watch. He likened Wood's breathing to a "fish gulping for air."

"It was tough for everybody in that room," he said.

Wood's attorneys had filed an emergency motion for a stay after his execution began, saying then that Wood had been "gasping and snorting for more than an hour."

"The Arizona Department of Corrections began the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III at 1:52 p.m. (4:52 p.m. ET). At 1:57 p.m ADC reported that Mr. Wood was sedated, but at 2:02 he began to breathe. At 2:03 his mouth moved. Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," the motion read.

It continued: "He is still alive. This execution has violated Mr. Wood's Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully request that this Court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol."

Inmate objected to drugs

Earlier, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted its brief stay of the murderer's execution.

Wood was first set to be executed at 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), though it was temporarily halted when the court said it would consider his request for the justices to review his claims.

The court lifted the stay shortly after that, saying without explanation that it considered the request but decided not to review Wood's case.

Wood was the latest American death row inmate to argue that an anesthetic recently introduced in some states' execution protocols could fail to sufficiently knock out the inmate ahead of the lethal drugs, subjecting the person to an agonizing death.

Wood, convicted of murder and assault in the 1989 deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father, argued among other things that the state was going to use an "experimental" drug protocol of midazolam and hydromorphone.

In documents filed with the state Supreme Court, he contended the use of the anesthetic midazolam was problematic in recent U.S. executions and that it would violate the Constitution's guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

Drugs weren't Wood's only contention. He also argued the execution should be stopped because his trial attorney was ineffective and that new evaluations from psychologists show he has cognitive impairments that would make him innocent of premeditated murder.

Some states turned to midazolam this decade after they could no longer get sodium thiopental, a drug that was regularly used for executions. A U.S. manufacturer stopped producing sodium thiopental in 2009, and countries that still produce it won't allow its export to the United States for use in lethal injections.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma put executions on hold after the controversial execution of Clayton Lockett. Midazolam was part of the injection combination, and it took 43 minutes for him to die, Oklahoma officials said.

While state officials said Lockett was unconscious the entire time, a media witness for CNN affiliate KFOR said he uttered the words, "Man," "I'm not," and "something's wrong," before blinds to the execution chamber were closed. His lawyer, Dean Sanderford, said the inmate's body twitched and convulsed before he died.

Oklahoma's Department of Public Safety, acting on orders from Gov. Mary Fallin to get to the bottom of what happened, is investigating whether prison officials followed protocols. The review is also supposed to include recommendations about how to prevent something similar from happening again.

(source: CNN)

********************

GOP Riggs' cheap shot at Christine Jones on death penalty

Tough GOP lady candidate Christine Jones broke down when asked about a botched Arizona execution in which it took convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III nearly 2 hours to die.

She said it was personal.

She cited her experience as a prosecutor, relating the story of a California case in which the defendant greeted her by name at the start of each day in court. He's on death row now, she says, and he deserves to die for his crime. But the pain this causes her was obvious as she told the story.

"These are human beings," she said, in response to the news about Wood's botched execution.

Fellow candidate Frank Riggs launched into a discussion challenging her credentials as a prosecutor.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett told him repeatedly: "This is not the time."

Former Mesa Mayor also spoke up for Ms. Jones, telling Riggs his comments were "tacky."

Riggs didn't stop, but good on Bennett and Smith for their show of class. Gentlemen, take a bow.

And good on Jones for understanding the gravity of executions.

(source: azcentral.com)

CALIFORNIA:

The coming demise of the death penalty

Regarding Charles J. Ogletree Jr.'s July 19 op-ed, "A punishment that offends human dignity":

I share Mr. Ogletree's view that the death penalty will end soon. Public support for capital punishment has dropped sharply in the last several years, while opposition to the death penalty has increased. The Pew Research Center found that a little more than 1/2 the public (55 %) still favors capital punishment, while opposition has increased to more than 1/3 (37 %).

The tide is turning. More evidence is the ruling last week by a federal district court judge that California's death penalty system is so "dysfunctional" that it amounts to a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. I find these developments encouraging.

Diann Rust-Tierney, Washington

The writer is executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Washington Post)

INDIA:

'Consider opinion of victims in commuting death penalty'

The Centre on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to consider if the victims also have a right to be heard when plea for remission or commutation of death penalty was being decided.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, submitted before a 5-judge Constitution bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha that the question on the rights of the victims also needed to be determined.

"Whether there is a right of victims at any stage while death penalty is taken into consideration for hearing of commuting into life imprisonment or whether the state can, without referring to the victims, decide on remission," Kumar said.

The Constitution bench was hearing the reference made by another bench on April 25 following the Centre's challenge to the Tamil Nadu government's decision to remit the sentences of all 7 convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

The apex court, on February 20, stayed the state government's decision to release 3 convicts - Murugan, Santhan and Arivu - whose death sentence was commuted to life term by it on February 18 in the case.

It later also stayed release of 4 other convicts - Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran - in the case, saying there were procedural lapses on the part of the state government.

As the hearing resumed, the SG pointed out that there were 7 questions referred to the Constitution bench, which would take a long time for hearing. The bench, also comprising justices J S Khehar, J Chelameswar, A K Sikri and Rohinton Nariman, wanted to fix 2 weeks' time frame for deciding the issue.

On July 9, the court had restrained all states from exercising power of remission for releasing convicts from jail who are serving life sentence and sought their response whether the Centre's nod was needed for the purpose in cases prosecuted by central agencies like CBI.

(source: Deccan Herald)

NEW JERSEY:

Sweeney sounds off on reinstating death penalty

The recent murder of a Jersey City police officer has spurred Assemblyman Ron Dancer (D-Jackson) to renew the call for action on his bill to bring back the death penalty for cop killers and others. Sweeney did not completely dismiss the idea of talking about capital punishment, but he also said lawmakers should not have a knee-jerk reaction to an awful event.

"This tragedy highlights why people feel the death penalty is important, but it's not going to be a response to this tragedy," Sweeney said. "Reinstating or dealing with the death penalty, honestly, is more than just a quick conversation over a horrible tragedy."

New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007. Under the bill sponsored by Dancer since 2011, it would be reinstated if the victim was a law enforcement officer murdered while performing official duties, or was murdered because of his or her status as a law enforcement officer. It would also be reinstated for murders involving victims under age 18 or if the murder occurred during a terrorist attack.

"The death penalty - we banned it a few years ago, to be perfectly honest with you, because we didn't put anybody to death," Sweeney said. "People stayed on death row indefinitely."

Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the full New Jersey legislature unanimously approved the death penalty for terrorists, Dancer said, but that was done away with when capital punishment was repealed in the Garden State 7 years ago.

"It is time for this legislature to protect our law enforcement community," Dancer said. "When it comes to somebody who would murder a police officer, I just think there needs to be a deterrent and that deterrent is the death penalty. Reinstate it."

Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago was ambushed and shot to death by Lawrence Campbell, who was then killed by police. As horrific as the murder was, Sweeney said lawmakers cannot be reactionary.

"The death penalty is something that is honestly much bigger than just focusing on this tragedy," Sweeney said.

(source: nj1015.com)

ARIZONA----imminent execution

Arizona Supreme Court denies stay of execution for Joseph Wood

The Arizona Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it had stayed the execution of Joseph Wood shortly before he was set to die by lethal injection, but it dissolved the stay a short time later.

Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. His execution was set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. (local time) at the state prison in Florence, Ariz.

Attorneys for Wood had argued that he needed more information about his looming execution, including details about the drugs that would be used as well as the execution team. A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had agreed over the weekend 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 referred 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.

An attorney for Wood had said that he hoped the stay would give the court time to consider the issues Wood had raised, particularly the combination of drugs that will be utilized in the execution.

Issues involving the drugs that will be used and the medical personnel who will carry out the execution have come into play already in 2 different executions this year.

The 2-drug combination that Arizona said it will now use for executions - utilizing medazolam and hydromorphone - was 1st used in a January execution in Ohio that saw an inmate to choke, gasp and take nearly 25 minutes to die. Meanwhile, after an inmate grimaced and writhed during a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, an independent autopsy found that the execution team failed to place the IV properly.

Arizona has argued that it has provided all of the necessary information regarding its execution protocols.

The execution warrant for Wood is good for 24 hours. If Wood is executed, he would be the 1st person put to death by the state since October 2013.

(source: Washington Post)

******************

Opponents of death penalty pray for crime victims, convicted

Dan Peitzmeyer, of the president of Arizona Death Penalty Alternatives, addresses a group gathered at the state capitol to protest the execution of convicted double murderer Joseph Wood.

Will they or won't they?

That was the question of the day as opponents of the death penalty stood in a sweltering sun in Florence outside the state penitentiary awaiting news about the execution of Joseph Wood.

Wood, convicted of the 1989 double murder of Debra and Eugene Dietz in Tucson, was scheduled to die July 23. The United States Supreme Court on July 21 vacated an order by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, clearing the way for the execution. Then, just before it was to take place, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a temporary stay. Later in the day, that same court lifted the stay and gave the go ahead for the execution.

A small but vocal group gathered on the grounds of the state capitol July 22 to voice their condemnation of the death penalty and to pray for crime victims and those whom the state plans to execute.

Kevin Heade, an attorney with the Central Arizona Lawyers Guild, called the death penalty a "moral outrage." The manner in which the state planned to kill Wood was shrouded in secrecy, Heade said, and citizens have the right to know where the drugs used in executions come from.

The state of Arizona maintains that it cannot reveal the identity of the suppliers of the drug used in executions because death penalty opponents then pressure suppliers not to provide the drug.

"We are here to speak our unwavering opposition to state sponsored violence," Heade said. And while he acknowledged the loss of life Wood caused, execution "doesn't mean that we are going to achieve any kind of justice," Heade said.

Mike Phelan, director of the office of marriage and respect life issues for the Diocese of Phoenix, addressed those gathered at the prayer vigil.

Quoting from both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul's Ecclesia in America, Phelan pointed out the Church's teaching on capital punishment.

"Today...the cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with an offender are now very rare, even non-existent practically...This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message," Phelan quoted.

While not equating the death penalty with crimes against innocent life, execution is a contribution to the culture of death, Phelan said. According to St. John Paul, "killing the guilty who are incarcerated and incapable of doing further harm is a contribution to, not a prevention of, a culture of death," Phelan said. "Abolishing the death penalty in our country brings a culture of life closer, where [we refuse] to have killing on the table to solve our problems."

Jean Ajamie, active at the Franciscan Renewal Center, was at the prayer vigil June 22 and explained her opposition to the death penalty.

"I feel tremendous sadness that our state does this and that I'm complicit in it because my tax dollars are used for it," Ajamie said. "I think it's wrong on all levels...I'm ashamed of the lessons it gives our children."

She's been present at many of the vigils held on the eve of executions over the years and believes strongly that the death penalty should be abolished.

"If we're not going to do it for ourselves and our own morality, then we should at least be thinking about the lesson that it gives to our kids, because violence begets violence," Ajamie said.

Bob Hungerford, a former Arizona state legislator, spoke to the participants in the vigil, referring to himself as the "token conservative" at the event who was once a Republican but is now a registered Independent. Conservatives, Hungerford said, wrongly think of the death penalty as a liberal issue. It's not, he said, because state-sponsored executions violate the constitution and are not fiscally responsible. The death penalty, he said, "flies in the face of our God-given right to life.

The Founding Fathers, according to Hungerford, used the term "unalienable" right to life for a reason.

"They had a message in it for us," Hungerford said. "The right to life cannot be revoked, taken away, surrendered or forfeited, no matter how heinous the act is. We corrupt ourselves by killing. We should not accept it from each other except in justified self defense and we should not accept it from our government," Hungerford said.

(source: The Catholic Sun)

BANGLADESH:

SC adjourns Kamaruzzaman's death penalty appeal hearing till Sep 2

The Supreme Court yesterday adjourned the hearing till September 2 on the appeal filed by Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman challenging the death penalty given to him for committing war crimes.

The adjournment order came after Kamaruzzaman's counsel Nazrul Islam prayed for it as the court will go for a 37-day annual vacation from tomorrow.

The court has so far heard the appeal for 11 days since June 5. On May 9, International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Kamaruzzaman, one of the key organisers of the infamous Al Badr force, to death. He filed the appeal with the SC on June 6.

(source: The Daily Star)

TEXAS:

Texas man gets life sentence for fatal shootings

A West Texas man has avoided a possible death sentence after accepting a plea deal in the fatal shooting of his estranged wife and her brother.

41-year-old Brian Berry was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday after pleading guilty to capital murder in the deaths of Keri Berry and Brandon Block in July 2013 at Keri Berry's home in Wall.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1z2fR1w ) Berry also received a 20-year prison sentence for shooting Block's wife, who survived. He was ordered to pay more than $18,000 in restitution.

Capital murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Prosecutors said last year they would have sought the death penalty against Berry if the case went before a jury.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----imminent execution

Arizona High Court Delays Planned Execution

Arizona's highest court on Wednesday temporarily halted the execution of a condemned inmate so it could consider a last-minute appeal.

Joseph Rudolph Wood, 55, was scheduled to be put to death Wednesday morning at the state prison in Florence, but that was delayed when the Arizona Supreme Court said it would consider whether he received inadequate legal representation at his sentencing.

The appeal also challenges the secrecy of the lethal injection process and the drugs that are used.

The state Supreme Court could still allow the execution to move forward later Wednesday once it considers the arguments.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Arizona to carry out its 3rd execution in the last year following a closely watched First Amendment fight over the secrecy issue.

Wood's lawyers used a new legal tactic in which defense attorneys claim their clients' First Amendment rights are being violated by the government's refusal to reveal details about lethal injection drugs. Wood's lawyers were seeking information about the 2-drug combination that will be used to kill him, including the makers of the drugs.

A federal appeals court ruled in Wood's favor before the U.S. Supreme Court put the execution back on track. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision marked the first time an appeals court has acted to delay an execution based on the issue of drug secrecy, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

The 9th Circuit gave new hope to death penalty opponents. While many death row inmates have made the same First Amendment argument as Wood, the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the tactic. The court has ruled against them each time the transparency issue has come before the justices.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them because of concerns over harassment.

Wood also lost a different, last-ditch appeal in the Supreme Court early Wednesday.

Wood was sentenced to death for killing Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene Dietz, in 1989 at the family's automotive shop in Tucson.

Wood and Dietz had a tumultuous relationship in which he periodically assaulted her. Dietz tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

On the day of the shooting, Wood went to the auto shop and waited for Dietz's father, who disapproved of his daughter's relationship with Wood, to get off the phone. Once the father hung up, Wood pulled out a revolver, shot him in the chest and then smiled.

Wood then turned his attention toward Debra Dietz, who was trying to telephone for help. Wood grabbed her by the neck and put his gun to her chest. She pleaded with him to spare her life. An employee heard Wood say, "I told you I was going to do it, I have to kill you." He then called her an expletive and fired 2 shots in her chest.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general's office, said the agency had no comment on the Supreme Court ruling but would issue a statement after Wood's execution.

Wood's attorney Dale Baich said, "The secrecy which Arizona fought tooth and nail to protect is harmful to our democracy because it prevents the public, the courts and the condemned from knowing if executions are carried out in compliance with all state and federal laws."

Arizona has executed 36 inmates since 1992. The 2 most recent executions occurred in October.

2 recent executions in other parts of the country have helped revive the death penalty debate in the U.S.

An Ohio inmate in January snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack minutes after prison officials halted the process of his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

The fight over the Arizona execution has also attracted attention because of a dissenting judge's comments that made a case for a firing squad as a more humane method of execution.

"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," wrote Alex Kozinski, the 9th Circuit's chief judge. "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 moment."

(source: Associated Press)

GERMANY:

Germans withholding evidence in AFN murder case pending death penalty decision

German authorities will withhold key evidence in the strangulation death of an AFN broadcaster - including the victim's throat, unless the U.S. military gives assurances it will not seek the death penalty for the airman accused of the murder.

The U.S. military charged Staff Sgt. Sean Oliver in March with murder for allegedly strangling Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov. German police stopped Oliver on Dec. 14 in Kaiserslautern for driving erratically and found Chepusov's lifeless body in the passenger seat of Oliver's car.

After conducting an autopsy, German authorities concluded that Chepusov, a 31-year-old sailor assigned to the American Forces Network at Ramstein Air Base, died of "force to the neck."

Although German authorities initially cooperated with U.S. military investigators, they withheld the throat and other evidence when they turned Chepusov's body over to U.S. authorities.

At issue is the death penalty, which Germany abolished in 1949. Like other countries that have outlawed capital punishment, Germany will not cooperate with any other state in the prosecution of a capital case.

The NATO Status of Forces Agreement gives the U.S. military primary jurisdiction over Oliver since the alleged crime was against another military member, said Juan Melendez, a spokesman for the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein.

Before handing over all of the evidence to U.S. investigators, the Germans sought - and initially received - assurances from the Americans that the death penalty was not on the table, according to Achim Nunenmann, senior prosecutor for the city of Kaiserslautern.

Before the handover, however, the Americans told Kaiserslautern prosecutors that Oliver could face execution after all.

That prompted the Germans to hold back some of the physical evidence, Nunenmann said.

Under the law, the Germans must do all they can to refrain from cooperating with the guest military, in this case, the U.S., on anything that would lead to a death sentence, said Dieter Deiseroth, a legal expert on the SOFA and a judge at Germany's federal administrative court.

Based on the constitution and corresponding case law, German authorities can only cooperate "when we know that it will not come to a death penalty," said Udo Gehring, lead prosecutor in Kaiserslautern. "This is not a matter of interpretation ... it is a clear point of law."

Air Force prosecutors would not speculate on how missing evidence might affect the strength of their case against Oliver.

Army Maj. Dori Mitchell Franco, the armed forces regional medical examiner who conducted a 2nd autopsy 6 days after Chepusov's death, told an Article 32 hearing Friday that without being able to examine the missing tissue, she could not definitively determine the cause of death, although injuries appeared to be "consistent" with strangulation. The missing portion included the hyoid bone, a small U-shaped bone in the neck that can be fractured during strangulation.

The U.S. military has yet to decide whether to seek a death sentence for Oliver, who is alleged to have murdered Chepusov "with premeditation" by strangling him with his hands, according to Oliver's charge sheet. The Uniform Code of Military Justice says the death penalty can be applied if the murder was premeditated.

Nunenmann, the Kaiserslautern senior prosecutor, said his office is willing to cooperate - if the U.S. military takes the death penalty off the table.

"If they want the exhibit (physical evidence), they need to do something," he said.

Investigating officer Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Leavey, who presided over Oliver's Article 32, a pretrial hearing, is expected to recommend specific charges against Oliver and whether the death penalty should be sought. The final decision is up to the convening authority, 3rd Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Darryl L. Roberson.

The death penalty is a rare outcome in military trials, especially in the Air Force. No military member has been executed since 1961, when Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged for raping an 11-year-old Austrian girl 7 years earlier and attempting to drown her. Andrew Witt, convicted of killing a fellow airman and his wife at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia in 2004, is the only airman on death row at Fort Leavenworth's prison.

There are 5 other servicemembers on death row, all soldiers, all enlisted - except for former Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was sentenced to death for a 2009 rampage that killed 13 people and wounded 30 at Fort Hood, Texas.

Chepusov's brother, Dennis Bushmitch, 43, said his family opposes the death penalty for Oliver and is asking the German authorities to provide full cooperation.

"We are urging the Americans not to pursue the death penalty," Bushmitch said.

He and younger brother Andrey Chepusov attended Oliver's Article 32 hearing at Ramstein Air Base. "We ask the German government to fully cooperate ... and release any evidence that they're still holding back, which is important to the case, because justice needs to be served."

During the Article 32, Air Force Maj. Shane McCammon, defense counsel for Oliver, noted that Franco, the Army medical examiner, first reported Chepusov's cause of death as undetermined, only later revising her findings after consulting with fellow medical examiners at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

"This is an unusual situation, to not have any of that tissue in this area," Franco said.

McCammon asked whether Franco was able to collect any DNA evidence, either from under the victim's fingernails or from his neck area. Franco said she was not because the body had been washed before she received it, a week after his death. The victim's hands were blackened with fingerprint ink.

She said she didn't know whether the Germans had collected any DNA evidence during their autopsy.

In addition to the victim's throat, Franco said, the Germans also kept Chepusov's tongue.

"I've been told there were political motivations for retaining" the evidence, Franco testified.

Germany has long been one of the most outspoken critics of the death penalty in Europe, opposing it on ethical, moral and legal grounds.

It outlawed the death penalty after the Nuremberg trials, where the widespread use of the death penalty by Nazi courts within Germany and in occupied territories came to light. Article 102 of Germany's constitution says simply: "The death penalty is abolished."

Most European countries have a commitment not to assist human rights violations, including executions, said James Connell III, an attorney at the Pentagon's Office of the Chief Defense Counsel.

Connell cited the case involving Jens Soering, a German citizen accused of killing 2 people in Virginia in 1985. Germany fought Soering's extradition to the United States on the basis that the defendant might be executed if convicted, Connell said. The government of Britain, where Soering had been arrested on check fraud charges, extradited him only after obtaining assurances from Virginia that it would not, in fact, charge him with capital murder.

(source: Stars and Stripes)

INDIA:

Family of deceased security personnel demands death penalty for Sabyasachi Panda

The family of deceased security personnel, Pramod Kumar Satapathy, demanded capital punishment for the top Maoist leader, Sabyasachi Panda, who was arrested and sent to 10 days of police custody. Special Operation Group commando, Satapathy, was one of the 17 officers who laid down their lives in the process of fighting armed Maoists on February 15, 2008 in Nayagarh district of Odisha. On July 18, Panda was produced in front of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) of Berhampur amid tight security where he was ordered to be sent on 10-day police custody.

(source: ANI News)

AFGHANISTAN:

Afghani police officer gets death penalty for shooting, killing AP photographer

A Kabul court announced Wednesday that the Afghan police officer charged with killing Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran AP correspondent Kathy Gannon has been convicted and sentenced to death.

It was the 1st court hearing in the case and, under Afghan law, the verdict and sentence are subject to several stages of review.

6 judges at the Kabul District Court found former Afghan police unit commander Naqibullah guilty of murder and treason over the attack in the southeastern city of Khost that targeted the international journalists as they prepared to cover the 1st round of the country's presidential election. The judges also sentenced Naqibullah, who goes by one name like many other Afghans, to 4 years in prison for shooting and wounding Gannon in the attack.

The judges ruled Tuesday during a 2-hour hearing that followed a 3-month police investigation.

Naqibullah, represented by a defence lawyer provided to him by a legal association, argued with the judges before his sentencing, saying at one point that he was "not a normal person." However, judges dismissed his claim after he provided his name, age and the correct date. Naqibullah also denied judges' claims that he once travelled to Pakistan to be trained by extremists, saying he only received medical care while there.

Afghanistan's president must sign off on any execution order. Naqibullah also may appeal within 15 days to a 2nd court and then ultimately to the country's Supreme Court.

Gannon and Niedringhaus travelled to Khost under the protection of Afghan forces and were at a district police headquarters in a village outside the city on April 4 when witnesses say Naqibullah walked up to their hired car, yelled "Allahu Akbar" - God is Great - and fired on them in the back seat with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. He surrendered immediately after the attack.

Witness and official accounts have suggested the shooting was not planned. While in court Tuesday, Naqibullah did not offer a reason why he opened fire.

Niedringhaus, a 48-year-old award-winning photographer who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, died instantly of her wounds. Gannon, a 60-year-old senior correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan, suffered 3 gunshot wounds in the attack. She is still recovering from her injuries.

The 2 had worked together repeatedly in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, covering the conflict from some of the most dangerous hotspots of the Taliban insurgency while focusing on the effect war had on civilians.

(source: vancouverdesi.com)

TEXAS:

Best friend testifies against convicted cop killer

Jurors weighing the death penalty in the trial of Harlem Lewis heard witness describe Lewis' crimes inside and outside of the Harris County Jail.

Lewis was convicted of capital murder for killing Bellaire Police Corporal Jimmie Norman and Terry Taylor last Christmas eve.

On day 2 of Lewis' sentencing trial, prosecutors showed jurors photos of the jail's maximum security pod. Lewis is being held there. Detention officers testified that they previously caught Lewis hoarding and hiding pills. They said he also damaged part of his cell door.

One deputy, a member the Harris County Financial Crimes unit, testified that Lewis was part of a fraud scheme while in jail. A woman using stolen credit card numbers fed thousands into jail commissary accounts for 5 inmates, including Lewis. He got $400. However, Lewis' lawyers said he did nothing wrong.

"I suppose in the sense that Harlem knew (the people involved) you could blame him, but there's no provision or proof that he was involved in that," said Patrick McCann, Lewis' lawyer.

To prove Lewis was involved in violent crime, prosecutors called in victim after victim. They also called on Harlem Lewis' best friend. James Branch broke down in tears when asked why he won't write or send his former roommate money. Branch told jurors he and Lewis had roles in 3 armed robberies. Though, defense attorney's attacked Branch's motivation.

"The folks who are testifying about priors show that they are essentially hopefully auditioning for good treatment from the state," McCann said. "So, I don't think they're terribly credible."

In the end, it's up to jurors to decide if Lewis is a threat to other inmates and if he should get the death penalty.

(source: KHOU news)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Death row inmate in Dorchester County murder to get new sentencing hearing

A death row inmate who was convicted of murder for killing his girlfriend in the 1990s in Dorchester County will get a new sentencing hearing, according to a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling released Wednesday.

John Edward Weik, 47, of Moncks Corner was given the death penalty after has murder conviction in the 1998 shooting of Susan Hutto Krasae at her Knightsville home.

During the sentencing hearing, Weik's defense attorneys presented 3 mental health experts who testified Weik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, including hallucinations, paranoid delusions and suicidal thoughts.

The defense, however, didn't present evidence concerning Weik's "chaotic upbringing and dysfunctional family," according to the Supreme Court ruling.

Krasae was the mother of Weik's son, Daniel, who was 10 years old at the time. She also had a daughter, Amber, 8 years old at the time, by her ex-husband. Amber testified during the trial that she saw Weik shoot her mother.

The burglary charge was 1 of 2 aggravating factors the state used to seek the death penalty. The other was physical torture, which the 1st Circuit solicitor at the time, Walter Bailey, defined as "prolonging the suffering of a murder victim."

In his confession, Weik said he fired at least four shotgun blasts into Krasae.

(source: The Post and Courier)

MISSOURI:

Death penalty sought in Warren County killings

An eastern Missouri man accused of killing 2 women and a boy in Warren County earlier this year could get the death penalty if convicted.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1kaUb04 ) reports that Warren County prosecutor Jennifer Bartlett announced on Tuesday that she will seek the death penalty against 23-year-old Shawn M. Kavanagh of the Montgomery County town of Bellflower.

Kavanagh faces 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and several other felonies in the late February stabbing deaths of 29-year-old Lexy Vandiver, her 7-year-old son Mason and 22-year-old Tara Lynn Fifer, who was visiting the Vandiver family when she was killed.

Police say Kavanagh was looking for his wife, with whom he was separated. Jessica Kavanagh was seriously injured in the attack.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

Colorado judge sets new December 8 trial date in theater massacre case

Jury selection in the much-delayed trial of accused movie theater gunman James Holmes will begin on Dec. 8, a Colorado judge said on Tuesday, dismissing objections by the defense who said they needed more time.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour made the ruling at a pre-trial hearing in Centennial, a suburb of Denver.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder for the July 2012 rampage at a cinema in nearby Aurora during a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the former neuroscience doctoral candidate, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.

His lawyers acknowledge Holmes was the lone shooter, but say he was in "the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time.

At Tuesday's hearing, Samour heard arguments over whether a 2nd court-ordered sanity exam for Holmes can be videotaped, and defense challenges to the reliability and admissibility of testimony on gunshot residue and metallurgy by experts.

The judge said he would rule on the issue of videotaping within a couple of days.

Holmes underwent an initial court-ordered psychiatric evaluation last year, but the findings from that have not been made public. In February, prosecutors won a court order from Samour calling for a rare second evaluation.

Defense lawyers said any litigation resulting from the second sanity exam could make the proposed Dec. 8 start date for the trial unrealistic. But Samour dismissed the concerns.

"It's difficult to predict how things will unfold," he said in court. "I prefer to give a trial date and I expect both sides to be ready to go."

(source: Reuters)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Arizona execution to proceed after lethal-injection challenge failed

A convicted double-murderer was due to be executed by lethal injection in Arizona on Wednesday after his defense team failed in its legal bid to force the state to disclose greater details about how he will be put to death.

Joseph Wood, 55, is 1 of 6 death row inmates who sued Arizona last month arguing that secrecy surrounding the drugs used in botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma violated their constitutional rights.

On Saturday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put his execution on hold, saying Wood could suffer "irreparable harm" unless the state divulged information about the drugs and the qualifications of the medical staff conducting the execution.

But on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Arizona attorney general and lifted the stay of execution.

Wood's execution was set for 10 a.m. (1 p.m. EDT) in the state prison in Florence, about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Phoenix. The others who brought the legal suit remain on death row.

2 problematic executions this year renewed controversy over capital punishment and the way it is carried out.

In January, convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire, 53, was put to death in Ohio, using a sedative-painkiller mix of midazolam and hydromorphone, the 1st such combination administered for a lethal injection in the United States. The execution took about 25 minutes to complete, with McGuire reportedly convulsing and gasping for breath.

In Oklahoma in April, convicted killer Clayton Lockett writhed in pain and a needle became dislodged during his lethal injection at a state prison. The execution was halted, but Lockett died about 30 minutes later of a heart attack.

Arizona, which has executed 36 people since reinstating the death penalty in 1992, says it will also use midazolam and hydromorphone, but in higher doses than in Ohio.

Arizona's last execution took place in October 2013 when Robert Glen Jones Jr., 43, was put to death for murdering 6 people during 2 robberies in Tucson in 1996.

25 people have been put to death nationwide this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Reuters)

CALIFORNIA:

California's death penalty dying of old age

During the last four decades, no California political issue has burned more intensely than capital punishment, but it may have ended with a whimper, rather than with a bang, last week.

Federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it's rarely used - thanks largely to ceaseless legal challenges from its opponents, one should note.

Another irony is that Jerry Brown - a lifelong foe of capital punishment - was governor when it dominated the Capitol in the 1970s, and he's governor again as Carney's ruling more than likely ends it.

The death penalty had overwhelming public support in the 1970s as the state Supreme Court blocked it twice and the Legislature re-enacted it twice, once over Brown's veto.

A 1978 ballot measure seemingly was the last word. But Chief Justice Rose Bird, who had been appointed by Brown, and other liberal justices blocked all 64 death penalty cases that reached them on automatic appeal.

Bird paid the price for her stubborn opposition in 1986, when voters, by a 2-1 rate, denied her confirmation to a new term and ousted 2 liberal colleagues.

It took 6 more years for the state's 1st gas chamber execution in more than 25 years, however. And the execution of Robert Alton Harris, the killer of 2 16-year-old boys, merely fueled new legal battles, with a shift of focus from the penalty itself to the execution method.

A federal court in 1994 declared the gas chamber to be unconstitutionally cruel.

State officials changed to lethal injection, which was used 11 times under 3 governors before a federal court ruled in 2006 that it, too, was unconstitutional.

Authorities rewrote execution protocols, but the legal sparring continued, culminating in Carney's declaration that the "dysfunctional administration" of capital punishment has "quietly transformed" it into "one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death."

The 748 men and women now on death row are much more likely to die of old age than be executed, but should any be put to death, he said, "they will have languished for so long ... that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

It's difficult to argue with that logic. But what might be done to respond to the decision, assuming it's appealed - not at all certain given Brown's bent - and upheld?

Clearly, polls show, support for capital punishment has waned. A 2012 ballot measure to abolish it failed, but very narrowly, and afterward, Brown said he had voted for it.

Brown and a liberal Legislature would not counter Carney's ruling by speeding up executions, and a ballot measure to do it probably would fail.

More than likely, therefore, capital punishment is dead in California, more or less due to old age.

(source: Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee)

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Alternatives in capital punishment

In response to, "Death penalty censured" (News, July 17), death row is full of murderers, one who has been there since 1979 and another since 1982. They have exhausted all their appeals only after 35 years. It's no wonder they die from natural causes, but at the taxpayer's expense for housing them for those 35 years.

Now the death penalty is being called, "cruel and unusual punishment." What about the victims and their families? Did they not suffer the cruelest punishment of all?

The death penalty is a joke. 900 sentenced to death and only 13 actually executed. Again, this shows that the criminal gets all the rights - the families of the victims get nothing! As the article pointed out, they have been there so long that their execution will serve no deterrent purpose.

In lieu of the death penalty, these felons should be doing hard manual labor on a daily basis to pay for their keep. Forget all the appeals. With the money saved, a portion could go to the victim's families. Then, at least, they might get some sense of closure. It also might be more of a deterrent to other would-be felons; if they are imprisoned, they will spend the rest of their lives working for the public.

Barbara Cady----Corona

(source: Letter to the Editor, Press-Enterprise)

USA:

U.S. reviewing 27 death penalty convictions for FBI forensic testimony errors

An unprecedented federal review of old criminal cases has uncovered as many as 27 death penalty convictions in which FBI forensic experts may have mistakenly linked defendants to crimes with exaggerated scientific testimony, U.S. officials said.

The review led to an 11th-hour stay of execution in Mississippi in May.

It is not known how many of the cases involve errors, how many led to wrongful convictions or how many mistakes may now jeopardize valid convictions. Those questions will be explored as the review continues.

The discovery of the more than 2 dozen capital cases promises that the examination could become a factor in the debate over the death penalty. Some opponents have long held that the execution of a person confirmed to be innocent would crystallize doubts about capital punishment. But if DNA or other testing confirms all convictions, it would strengthen proponents' arguments that the system works.

FBI officials discussed the review's scope as they prepare to disclose its first results later this summer. The death row cases are among the first 120 convictions identified as potentially problematic among more than 21,700 FBI Laboratory files being examined. The review was announced last July by the FBI and the Justice Department, in consultation with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

The unusual collaboration came after The Washington Post reported last year that authorities had known for years that flawed forensic work by FBI hair examiners may have led to convictions of potentially innocent people, but officials had not aggressively investigated problems or notified defendants.

At issue is a once-widespread practice by which some FBI experts exaggerated the significance of "matches" drawn from microscopic analysis of hair found at crime scenes.

Since at least the 1970s, written FBI Laboratory reports typically stated that a hair association could not be used as positive identification. However, on the witness stand, several agents for years went beyond the science and testified that their hair analysis was a near-certain match.

The new review listed examples of scientifically invalid testimony, including claiming to associate a hair with a single person "to the exclusion of all others," or to state or suggest a probability for such a match from past casework.

Whatever the findings of the review, the initiative is pushing state and local labs to take similar measures.

For instance, the Texas Forensic Science Commission on Friday directed all labs under its jurisdiction to take the first step to scrutinize hair cases, in a state that has executed more defendants than any other since 1982.

Separately, FBI officials said their intention is to review and disclose problems in capital cases even after a defendant has been executed.

"We didn't do this to be a model for anyone - other than when there's a problem, you have to face it, and you have to figure how to fix it, move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again," FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann said. "That tone and approach is set from the very top of this building," he said, referring to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

David Christian "Chris" Hassell, director of the FBI Laboratory, said the review will be used to improve lab training, testimony, audit systems and research, as it has done when previous breakdowns were uncovered. The lab overhauled scientific practices when whistleblowers revealed problems in 1996 and again after an FBI fingerprint misidentification in a high-profile 2003 terrorism case, he said.

"One of the things good scientists do is question their assumptions. No matter what the field, what the discipline, those questions should be up for debate," Hassell said. "That's as true in forensics as anything else."

Advocates for defendants and the wrongly convicted called the undertaking a watershed moment in police and prosecutorial agencies' willingness to re-open old cases because of scientific errors uncovered by DNA testing.

Peter J. Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which supports inmates who seek exoneration through DNA testing, applauded the FBI, calling the review historic and a "major step forward to improve the criminal justice system and the rigor of forensic science in the United States."

Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the NACDL, also praised the effort, predicting that it would have "an enormous impact on the states" and calling on the defense bar to represent indigent convicts.

"That's going to be a very big job as this unfolds," said Reimer, whose group has spent 1,500 hours identifying cases for the 2nd round of review.

Under terms finalized with the groups last month, the Justice Department will notify prosecutors and convicted defendants or defense attorneys if an internal review panel or the 2 external groups find that FBI examiners "exceeded the limits of science" when they claimed to link crime scene hair to defendants in reports or testimony.

If so, the department will assist the class of prisoners in unprecedented ways, including waiving statutes of limitations and other federal rules that since 1996 have restricted post-conviction appeals. The FBI also will test DNA evidence if sought by a judge or prosecutor.

The review will prioritize capital cases, then cases in which defendants are imprisoned.

Unlike DNA analysis, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same.

The federal inquiry came after the Public Defender Service helped exonerate three D.C. men through DNA testing that showed that three FBI hair examiners contributed to their wrongful convictions for rape or murder in the early 1980s.

The response has been notable for the department and the FBI, which in the past has been accused of overprotecting its agents. Twice since 1996, authorities conducted case reviews largely in secret after the scientific integrity of the FBI Lab was faulted.

Weissmann said that although earlier reviews lawfully gave prosecutors discretion to decide when to turn over potentially exculpatory material to the defense, greater transparency will "lessen skepticism" about the government's motives. It also will be cheaper, faster and more effective because private parties can help track down decades-old cases.

Scientific errors "are not owned by one side," he said. "This gives the same information to both sides, and they can litigate it."

The review terms could have wide repercussions. The FBI is examining more than 21,000 federal and state cases referred to the FBI Lab's hair unit from 1982 through 1999 - by which time DNA testing of hair was routine - and the bureau has asked for help in finding cases before lab files were computerized in 1985.

Of 15,000 files reviewed to date, the FBI said a hair association was declared in about 2,100 cases. Investigators have contacted police and prosecutors in more than 1,200 of those cases to find out whether hair evidence was used in a conviction, in which case trial transcripts will be sought. However, 400 of those cases have been closed because prosecutors did not respond.

On May 7, Mississippi's Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Jerome Manning for a 1992 double homicide hours before he was set to die by lethal injection.

FBI cases may represent only the tip of the problem.

While the FBI employed 27 hair examiners during the period under review, FBI officials confirmed for the 1st time this week that records indicate that about 500 people attended 1-week hair comparison classes given by FBI examiners between 1979 and 2009. Nearly all of them came from state and local labs.

State and local prosecutors handle more than 95 % of violent crimes.

In April, the accreditation arm of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors declined to order state and local labs to conduct reviews, but issued a public notice recommending that each laboratory evaluate the impact of improper statements on past convictions, reminding them of their ethical obligation to act in case of a potential miscarriage of justice.

FBI Lab officials say they have not been contacted by other labs about their review or who completed the FBI classes.

(source: Washington Post)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Bring the death penalty back as matter of urgency.

When our just, fair, liberal democracy replaced the hated, unjust apartheid regime in 1994 capital punishment was also abolished.

Maybe the ANC, who were strong on human rights at the time wanted to show the world that they were a humane civilised movement with high moral and ethical values .

Those who awaited execution were of course very happy with the decision and for those with murderous intentions and inclinations the future looked distinctly rosy.

Today we have the highest murder, rape and assault rate in the world and it is costing the country billions in investigations, court cases and the upkeep of prisoners. Murder suspects can also count on expensive lawyers to defend them in court. Add to that the suffering of the victims, emotional pain of relatives and loved ones and also families that are left without breadwinners.

In the case of farm murders where victims are often tortured, loss of jobs and food production affect the economy and food security.

To criminals in other African states where the jails are hell holes and the death penalty is still applied South Africa is a very attractive destination knowing that if they get caught they can expect humane treatment.

The argument that the death penalty is no deterrent for would be murderers is nonsense. Maybe it is true of civilized developed countries where there is only an occasional murder, but not in South Africa where the murder rate is 50 plus a day.

The fact that so many children and helpless elderly people are cruelly murdered is proof that we have a large number of evil, heartless monsters in our mids.

Why should they have a right to life when they have no respect for somebody else's rights ?

They deserve to die. Not by hanging but by means of a lethal injection as prove that we are civilized.

Relatives of the murdered will also be more at peace when retribution has taken place.

(source: Editorial, News24.com)

SINGAPORE:

Singapore athletes arrive for Glasgow 2014 as double execution scheduled

Glasgow welcomed team Singapore to the Commonwealth Games on Sunday as news of a reprehensible u-turn on the death penalty by the island nation reached Amnesty.

Singapore carried out a double execution on Friday (18 July), the 1st 2 prisoners to be put to death since 2011, according to Amnesty International researchers and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN).

Tang Hai Liang, 36, and Foong Chee Peng, 48, were executed at Singapore's Changi Prison Complex. They had been convicted and mandatorily sentenced to death for drug-related offences in January and April 2011 respectively under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Siobhan Reardon, Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director, said:

"Singapore's human rights record has taken a massive leap backwards. By executing Tang Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng, the authorities have disregarded the moratorium on the death penalty after a clean record of no executions for the last 2 years.

"These hangings took place despite an appeal to challenge the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which could have ultimately spared the lives of prisoners on death row who have been mandatorily sentenced under this law.

"It is extremely disappointing that, as we welcome Team Singapore to Glasgow 2014, one of the positive human rights stories we have shared is now no longer true."

Background

Non-lethal crimes such as drugs offences do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" for which the death penalty may be imposed under international law.

On 14 November 2012, Singapore's Parliament adopted amendments to abolish the mandatory imposition of the death penalty under certain circumstances in murder and drug trafficking cases. At least 9 people had their death sentences reviewed and eventually commuted to life imprisonment and caning since the laws were amended.

The Singapore government said that the 2 men executed waived their right to a review of their mandatory death sentence, which they were entitled to after legislation was amended.

At least 26 people remained on death row in Singapore at the end of 2013.

With Friday's resumption of executions, Singapore is setting itself against the global trend ending the use of the capital punishment, more than 2/3 of all countries having abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

In the Asia-Pacific region, 17 out of 41 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and 1 - Fiji - uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

(source: Amnesty International UK)

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UN Human Rights Office very concerned over resumption of executions in Singapore

The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) today expressed deep concerns over the resumption of executions in Singapore after 3 years of suspension, despite the overwhelming global trend towards abolishing the death penalty. Last Friday, the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore announced the execution of 2 individuals convicted for drug offences. Reportedly, 23 detainees remain on death row in Singapore, many of them being convicted for drug-related offences.

The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law. In accordance with international human rights jurisprudence, drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" for which the death penalty may be applied. In March 2014, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board urged States that still impose the death penalty for drug-related offences to abolish that punishment.

While OHCHR acknowledges efforts by the Government to review cases of individuals awaiting capital punishment since the new statutory provisions - that removed the mandatory death penalty for certain crimes - came into force in 2013, the UN Human Rights Office appeals to Singapore to take necessary measures to review and abolish the death penalty for drug offences. OHCHR also encourage the Government to establish an official moratorium on all executions in accordance with General Assembly resolutions (Resolution 67/176 in 2012, 65/206 in 2010, 63/138 in 2008, and 62/149 in 2007); and commute all death sentences.

(source: The Online Citizen)

INDIA:

Triple Murder Case: HC Commutes Death Penalty of 3 to Life

The Delhi High Court today commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to 3 men for brutally murdering 3 members of a family, including a child, with a motive to rob their house, saying there was no material to show that they cannot be reformed.

A division bench of justices Mukta Gupta and Pradeep Nandrajog commuted the death penalty awarded to Uttar Pradesh residents, Surender, 32, Vijay Pal, 27, and Virender, 33, and said the state has been unsuccessful in proving that they are a "menace to the society."

The court, however, made it clear that the trio would not be entitled to any remission prior to 25 years of custody.

"In view of the legal position and the fact that there is no material before this court to come to the conclusion that the reformation of the appellants is impossible and that the option of life sentence is not unquestionably foreclosed, we are not inclined to confirm the death sentence awarded to the appellants.

"However, in view of the aggravating circumstances and the nature and manner of offence committed, we are of the considered view that the sentence of imprisonment for life wherein they would spend at least 25 years actual in custody would serve the ends of justice," the bench said.

Awarding death sentence, the trial court had last year said it was a "rarest of rare" case as the 3 murders were committed in "extremely brutal, diabolical, revolting and dastardly" manner and they have shocked the collective conscience of the society.

It had also imposed a fine of Rs 1.1 lakh on each of them and said that out of the fine amount, Rs 3 lakh would be given to family of the victims.

According to police, the brutal killings took place in a house in Rohini when the three accused murdered 54-year-old Mridula Kishore, her 28-year-old son Rajesh Kishore and her 9-year-old grandson Ankit.

The accused were known to the family as Surender belonged to Mridula's village and the other two men were his relatives. On the afternoon of February 5, 2004, the 3 accused went to the victims' house and had lunch there. Thereafter, they killed the victims by slashing their necks and strangulating them, police had said.

At the time of the incident, Rajesh was sleeping in his room and the minor had just come back from school. After murdering them, the accused took away jewellery and Rs one lakh cash from the house.

When the other family members came home in the evening, they found Mridula lying in a pool of blood in her room, while Rajesh and the child were lying in 2 different rooms with injury marks on their necks. The victims were rushed to the hospital where they were declared dead by the doctors.

During investigation, Mridula's husband suspected Surender as on the day of incident the accused had come to their house. The trio were later arrested.

(source: Outlook India)

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HC will hear plea to confirm death for 'butcher' who killed wife, child

The Bombay high court will hear a plea to confirm the death sentence given to a Nalasopara resident who was called "butcher" by the trial court for decapitating his wife and young child in 2011.

A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode has scheduled the case for hearing on August 5. The state, represented by additional public prosecutor F R Shaikh, has urged the court to confirm the death sentence.

On July 28, 2011, Chandrakant Ayare (35) bludgeoned his wife Sanchita and minor daughter and then beheaded them with a knife at their Nalasopara residence. Ayare then tried to commit suicide but was not successful. Ayare, according to the police, would often fight with his wife and suspect her of having an extra-marital affair.

In February 2014, a trial court held Ayare guilty of the 2 murders and sentenced him to death. "As a butcher, he completed the act," the trial court had observed. It had also cited the trend in the society to kill the girl child and commit atrocities on women for various reasons - "for marrying someone from another community to suspecting her character".

The trial court had held that Ayare was guilty of the murders and deserved death penalty.

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HC commutes serial rapist-killer's death sentence

While commuting death penalty of a serial rapist and killer into life sentence, Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court observed that the courts must be cautious while awarding death sentences in cases where conviction is based on circumstantial evidence.

"Even though we reached the conclusion after re-appreciating the entire evidence that the entire chain of circumstances has been proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and it leads to the only hypothesis of guilt of the accused and none else, the fact remains that those are based on circumstantial evidence. In such cases, the court must be cautious in awarding capital punishment," a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and PR Bora observed while referring to various apex court verdicts.

Ahmednagar resident Anil Pawar had challenged death sentence awarded to him by the Shrirampur sessions court for raping and killing a 19-year-old girl on September 1, 2006. As many as 23 injuries were found on her body, including private parts, while head was damaged by a spade.

Earlier, while working as watchman at a college, he was convicted for a similar crime involving a woman who used to supply tiffin on October 22, 1995. He was awarded life sentence and sent to Yerawada Jail in Pune. On September 22, 2003, he was granted parole but he jumped it and remained absconding until September 1, 2006, he committed the 2nd offence. The hapless victim had gone to answer nature's call in a sugarcane farm. The accused who was fugitive for 2,899 days and had even got married in this period, attacked her in the farm. He was nabbed on September 14, 2012.

Before awarding him capital punishment, the sessions court noted eight aggravating circumstances while reaching the conclusion that the case fell in "rarest of rare" category. It was also brought to the notice that Pawar had committed similar offences of rape and murder at Shrirampur and Shirdi, where the cases were pending.

However, Justices Shinde and Bora observed mere pendency of a few criminal cases was not an aggravating circumstance while awarding death sentence unless the accused had been found guilty and convicted. "Considering the fact that the accused was tried for rape and murder and the manner in which he repeated the offence, reformation or rehabilitation is practically ruled out. Each circumstance in the chain has been firmly established by the prosecution to complete it. The evidence brought on record and circumstances established, lead to only one conclusion that the accused committed the offences," the judges observed.

The court made it clear the serial offender would remain in jail till end of his life. "However, if he is to be released earlier by the competent authority for any reason, the life term awarded in the present case will commence only after completion his earlier similar term (for rape and murder of woman carrying tiffins). In the peculiar facts and circumstances, we are constrained to observe that the appropriate government may not consider the case of the accused for remission," the judges observed while rejecting Pawar's criminal appeal.

(source for both: The Times of India)

VIETNAM----execution

Vietnam executes high-profile murderer

The Hai Phong man who outraged the nation by killing and dismembering an ex-girlfriend was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday night, despite his pleas for mercy.

Nguyen Duc Nghia received the shot from the execution council of the Supreme People's Court.

In July 2010, a Hanoi court sentenced him to death for the murder and robbery of his ex-girlfriend, Nguyen Phuong Linh.

The court found the 30-year-old guilty of killing Linh on May 4, 2010 in Hanoi, then cutting off her head and fingers and dumping them in a river around 90 kilometers away in Quang Ninh Province.

Nghia was watching his new girlfriend's apartment while she was out of town when he called Linh, his 1-year college lover, to come over.

After they made love, he stabbed Linh to death, wrapped her torso in a blanket and stashed it on the building's rooftop.

He pawned her motorbike, laptop and mobile phone for VND5 million (US$240).

He was arrested on May 22, 2010 while hiding out in Thai Nguyen Province, one day after police discovered Linh's naked, rotting body.

Nghia filed an appeal in November 2010 arguing that he did not kill Linh to rob her, but the supreme court upheld his capital sentence.

He sent a letter to President Truong Tan Sang 4 days later asking for a pardon but his request was rejected.

Hanoi Moi newspaper said 2 other convicts were also executed on the same day. The executions took place between 5-7:30pm.

Starting in late 2011, Vietnam officially switched from dispatching convicts with firing squads to lethal injections. An EU ban on exports of the lethal cocktail to Vietnam caused a lengthy backlog and drove many convicts to insanity and suicide - until Vietnam began manufacturing its own lethal serum.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

JULY 22, 1014:

TEXAS----new execution date

Donald Newbury has been given an execution date for February 4, 2014; it should be considered serious.

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

277------------Aug. 6--------------------Manuel Vasquez-------516

278------------Sept. 10-----------------Willie Trottie--------517

279------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------518

280------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------519

281------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------520

282------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------521

283------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------522

284------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------523

285------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------524

286------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NEW JERSEY:

Newark Mayor Baraka: in aftermath of Jersey City cop killing, death penalty not a deterrent

Although 1 state legislator has called for New Jersey to reinstate the death penalty following the shooting death of a Jersey City police officer, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka voiced another opinion on what some advocate as the ultimate way to fight crime.

"My personal opinion is that I don't believe the death penalty is a deterrent to crime here in the city of Newark," said Baraka at a Tuesday news conference at the downtown office of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman which announced the results of a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department. "What happened in Jersey City was horrible, completely senseless and the actors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Ultimately, what we're talking about here in Newark is revitalizing the system that has obviously been broken for some time."

Baraka's comments followed recent remarks by state Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12) after Jersey City Detective Melvin Santiago was shot and killed on July 13 in what police have called an ambush at a Jersey City drug store.

Dancer believes that New Jersey's death penalty statute, which was repealed in 2007 under the administration of former Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, should be reinstated for those who murder law enforcement officers or children, or who are engaged in terrorism.

But Baraka believes the road to what he called "effective and constitutional" law enforcement in New Jersey's largest city can only come through community involvement.

"Our effort to fix [the problems of Newark Police Department] helps us to reduce the kind of negative interactions that police have with our residents," Baraka said. "[It also helps us] increase the more positive interactions that help them get the kind of information and have the kind of relationships that they need with the good folks to be able to identify those that are not so good and be able to prosecute them."

(source: Politicker NJ)

MISSOURI:

Warren County prosecutor seeks death penalty in triple fatal stabbing----Warrenton man who snatched purse on Kroger lot gets 37 years in prison

Warren County Prosecutor Jennifer Bartlett announced today that she will seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing 2 women and a boy in a February attack.

Bartlett said after an extensive review of the murders, she found 6 statutory aggravating circumstances - including that multiple people were killed - surrounding the murders.

"I felt I could prove those beyond a reasonable doubt," she said.

Shawn M. Kavanagh, 23, of Bellflower, Mo., is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of 1st-degree domestic assault, 4 counts of armed criminal action and 1 count of 1st-degree burglary. He is scheduled to be arraigned on those charges on Aug. 5.

Kavanagh and his wife, Jessica Kavanagh, were separated, and he had gone to the home of Lexy Vandiver looking for his wife, police say. He was told to leave, then went to his vehicle and returned to kill them, authorities say.

Fatally stabbed in the attack were Vandiver, 29, and her son, Mason Vandiver, 7. A co-worker who was visiting, Tara Lynn Fifer, 22, of Montgomery City, Mo., suffered fatal wounds as well.

Jessica Kavanagh, 27, was seriously injured in the attack.

Bartlett said she successfully tried another another death penalty case while working as a prosecutor in Franklin County.

A jury found Vernell Loggins Jr. guilty of murder in 1st-degree in the 2009 fatal stabbing and dismemberment of his girlfriend. The jury recommended the death penalty, but the judge gave him life without parole.

She said she intends to handle Kavanagh's case personally.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ARIZONA:

Arizona asks US Supreme Court to reverse lower ruling, allow execution despite drug secrecy

Attorneys for the state of Arizona have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow an execution planned for Wednesday to proceed, saying Joseph Rudolph Wood can't establish he has a First Amendment right to the details he is seeking about his pending death.

The 23-page request for the nation's top court to reverse an appeals court ruling also claims that Wood, who was convicted in the 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father, cannot show his case has a "likelihood of success."

State Attorney General Tom Horne's office filed the request Monday afternoon after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn an earlier ruling that put the execution on hold. Wood had been scheduled to be put to death this Wednesday, but the appeals court said the state must reveal information such as how the state developed its method for legal injections, and who makes the drugs that are used.

Wood argues he has a First Amendment right to the details and that the information is beneficial to the public. But the state's attorneys wrote, "(The) Ninth Circuit has enjoined a state from carrying out a lawful execution so that the inmate can pursue litigation unrelated to the lawfulness of the execution."

A 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit put the execution on hold Saturday after finding Wood "raised serious questions" about whether he should have access to lethal injection drug information and executioner qualifications. Arizona appealed to the full 11-member court but was denied a rehearing.

The ruling marked the first time an appeals court has delayed an execution based on the issue of drug secrecy, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

It is now up to the nine Supreme Court justices to decide whether Wood can be put to death as scheduled. Wood has also filed separate requests for a stay of execution on different merits.

In a rebuttal to Arizona's request to the Supreme Court, Wood's attorneys said the state's arguments were "unavailing" and misinterpreted the 9th Circuit ruling.

"Although petitioners ask this court to believe that the Court of Appeals took a drastic measure that was inconsistent with this court's precedent and created a new right of access, it did not," Wood's attorneys wrote.

One of Wood's lawyers, Dale Baich, said Monday he is "looking forward to Arizona turning over the information that we requested."

"The 9th Circuit has correctly recognized the importance of the information that Joe Wood sought," Baich said.

The case highlights scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after several controversial executions, including that of an Ohio inmate in January who snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack minutes after prison officials halted the process of his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them, because of concerns over harassment.

(source: Associated Press)

TEXAS:

Jurors hear background of police officer's killer

Harlem Lewis III robbed people at gunpoint, sold marijuana and, a friend said on the witness stand, broke into cars and homes to steal things to sell.

That's what the now 23-year-old was doing in the months before he gunned down a Bellaire police officer and a business owner in late 2012, the friend testified Monday.

He also spent 6 days in the Harris County Jail after pleading guilty to theft, which prosecutors pointed to as motivation for the shootings.

"He had a taste of jail and he wasn't going back," District Attorney Devon Anderson told jurors Monday in the punishment phase of Lewis' capital murder trial. "This is not the first time he's been in trouble with the law. This is not the first time he's handled a weapon."

Jurors will decide between sending Lewis to death row or to prison for life without parole. To condemn Lewis, prosecutors have to convince jurors he will be a future danger to society, even in prison.

Lewis, in a white shirt and red tie, put his face in his hands and appeared to sob as he listened to 21-year-old Bernard Lewis detail 4 muggings over 2 days in 2012. The 2 men are not related.

Bernard Lewis said the 2 and other friends took turns either holding up people at gunpoint, acting as a lookout or driving the getaway car.

They also broke into cars and apartments during the day, because that is when most people are at work, Bernard Lewis testified.

He also said he was with Harlem Lewis in December 2012 when they bought 2 pistols. One was a .25 caliber and the other was a .380 caliber semiautomatic, which was used to kill Bellaire police corporal Jimmie Norman and businessman Terry Taylor.

Lewis was convicted of capital murder Friday for fatally shooting the men after fleeing from police the morning of Dec. 24, 2012.

Norman was shot once in the forehead after wrestling with Lewis to get him out of the black Honda Civic he was driving when he fled a traffic stop.

Lewis' defense team said he fell in with a bad crowd and was not smart enough to stay out of trouble.

"You're going to hear that Mr. Lewis' IQ is in the 70s, just spitting distance from retarded," his lawyer, Pat McCann, told jurors. "He was not a saint. He smoked marijuana and hung out with some bad people."

The trial, which began a week ago in state District Judge Mark Kent Ellis' court, is expected to last 2 more weeks.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

NEW JERSEY:

Poll: Should New Jersey reinstate the death penalty?

[see: http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2014/07/poll_should_new_jersey_reinstate_the_death_penalty.html]

The death penalty in New Jersey was formally abolished in 2007 by then governor Jon Corzine.

The law had been on the books since 1982.

However, no one was executed in the state during the entire time the law had been in effect. The last person in New Jersey to be executed for murder was Ralph Hudson in January 1963.

However, with last week's murder of Jersey City Police Det. Melvin Santiago, there has been a renewed call for capital punishment in the state.

Under the proposal, terrorists and killers of law enforcement officers and children would face a possible death sentence.

Santiago was ambushed by a man who beat a security guard in a Jersey City Walgreens, stole his gun and then waited for police to respond. He then shot Santiago in the head at close range as soon as he got out of his police car.

(source: nj.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Prosecutors seeking death penalty in case of fatal shooting during Craigslist car deal

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a Reading man accused of fatally shooting an Allentown businessman during a Craigslist car deal.

Tyrell Young is scheduled to be in Lehigh County Court tomorrow for his formal arraignment on homicide and related charges.

Police said Young shot Eric Ervin from behind the night of April 8 during a deal to purchase Ervin's BMW. Ervin's body was found early the next morning at Aces High Auto Detailing, his business in the 600 block of Nelson Street.

Prosecutors previously said it was likely they would seek the death penalty in the case if Young is convicted of 1st-degree murder. A notice of aggravating factors in seeking the death penalty in the case was filed by prosecutors June 30.

In the court paperwork, District Attorney Jim Martin states he's seeking the death penalty because the killing was done in the commission of another felony, robbery related to the theft of the car, and because Young has a history of felony convictions.

Yong was previously sentenced to state prison for felony robbery related to a carjacking in Northampton County.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Joseph Stauffer, who is prosecuting the case, could not be reached for comment.

Ervin's girlfriend reported him missing at 1 a.m. April 9; his body was found in a trailer at his business and a shell casing was recovered at the scene.

After Ervin's body was discovered, police put out an alert for a silver BMW. The car was stopped in Reading and Young was driving, police said. Young was initially arrested for driving the stolen car.

Police found a handgun on the driver's side floor of the car and a casing discovered next to Ervin's body matched the gun, Tallarico testified.

While Young initially denied killing Ervin, police previously testified that during an interview Young eventually told police "I shot him."

Young told police he took the car and planned to sell it for parts.

(source: Lehigh Valley Live)

*********************

Alleged Upper Merion baby killer asks for court appointed forensic pathologist, DNA tests

Representing himself for the 1st time in Montgomery County court Monday, Raghunandan Yandamuri asked the court to appoint a forensic pathologist and a computer animation specialist to reconstruct the crime scene to call to the stand as witnesses for the defense at a pre-trial hearing.

Yandamuri, 28, explained in court that he wanted an outside pair of eyes to look at the evidence and try to align the evidence with his version of events.

Judge O'Neill was concerned that granting the motion would delay the trial which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 9 of this year. The trial has already been delayed several times. Yandamuri said that once a forensic pathologist and an expert to reconstruct the crime scene are appointed, the work should only take about 20 days. O'Neill ultimately took the motion under advisement and did not issue a ruling on Monday.

Yandamuri also asked to have 3 beer bottles found at the scene of the murder tested against his DNA. Yandamuri had previously claimed that 2 men he named as Matt and Josh were responsible for the killings, and forced him to steal jewelry from Satyavathi Venna's body. He has never given last names for the 2 men he claims are responsible for the killing.

He did not comment to reporters as he was being led out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies on Monday.

Yandamuri is accused of the Oct. 22, 2012 killing of 61 year-old Satyavathi Venna and her 10 month-old granddaughter, Saanvi in an alleged botched kidnapping. Prosecutors allege Yandamuri attempted to kidnap Saanvi and in the process, killed her grandmother in a struggle. The district attorney's office contends he intended to hold the child for ransom to pay back gambling debts.

A ransom note was left at the scene of the murder, addressing the parents of Saanvi Venna by nicknames only used by a small group of people. Investigators went through the list and found Yandamuri's name on it. Investigators found Yandamuri at the Valley Forge Casino on Oct. 25. He went with investigators voluntarily. Yandamuri allegedly later confessed to the killings on tape in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2012. In April Judge O'Neill ruled the commonwealth would be allowed to present the alleged confession as evidence to jurors during the trial.

Yandamuri will be representing himself at trial; however, his former attorney Stephen Heckman is staying on the trial as Yandamuri's court appointed stand-by counsel. Heckman is allowed to advise him and answer questions but will not be participating in the trial by means of jury selection, presenting arguments and evidence and questioning witnesses. If Yandamuri is convicted - for which he would face the death penalty - he will be represented by Henry Hilles during the penalty phase. First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele and Deputy District Attorney Samantha Cauffman are prosecuting the case.

(source: Times Herald)

DELAWARE:

Death penalty rule fit for teenagers

Whenever a government sanctions a teenager to the death penalty, in addition to guilt, its primary concerns are the moral, intellectual and emotional fitness. All 3 factor into the reliable evidence of a young person's maturity and ability to judge right from wrong when necessary, and resist the urge and influences that will lead him to continue to be a deadly threat.

This is why 2 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court established valid reasons for exempting certain teenagers - those younger than 18 - from the penalty. It was a ruling steeped in reason, compassion and a rational basis in justice. It was precedent-setting.

But was it fit for the case of Michael Jones, who close to the eve of his 18th birthday, executed Cedric Reinford with 2 shots to the back of the head, before shooting his fiancee Maneeka Plant in the head as she was trying to protect her infant?

The year was 1999, and Jones was also a suspect in a murder in Connecticut and was considered a known drug dealer. The heinous natures of his crimes demonstrated he earned his current spot among the Department of Corrections populations of lifers, despite his recent complaints about his uncomfortable living circumstances.

Reinford ended up as a pile of smoldering ashes after his body was set aflame in his car by Jones, according to court records.

However, at 17, the same age that Mr. Jones committed those double murders, young people in this country can enter military service, with the signature of a guardian adult, after passing the intellectual, moral and psychological muster.

This is why the Supreme Court ruling was monumental. It acknowledges reality.

Some young people grow up later than others, and are thus prone to poor decision-making. They act criminally because they are threatened or enthralled by local criminals. And those from high-crime communities might be reacting to the stress that can cause development delays that wreak their ability to reason and make better decisions when under pressure.

There needs to be a window of opportunity for those who demonstrate they are capable of changing and one day becoming an asset to this nation's future. This is important because a jury recommended capital punishment for Jones, just as the high court decided it was cruel and unusual punishment for teenagers. Technically, Jones was 4 months shy of adulthood.

Today he is sitting behind bars; his sentencing is a suitable penalty for his crime. Judging from his recent complaints of his incarceration during his most recent hearing, this might be the most equitable solution.

Long periods of enforced solitary confinement, a lack of the social niceties that reward a law-abiding life and hours upon hours of self reflections is Mr. Jones's deserved fate, and to the public's relief.

(source: Opinion; News Journal)

VIRGINIA:

Judge Denies Morva's Request to Manage His Own Federal Death-Penalty Appeal

A judge has denied William Morva's request to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.

He was convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in Montgomery County back in 2006.

Morva exhausted his state appeals last year.

In the federal appeal case, Morva wanted to dismiss his court appointed attorneys.

US District Judge Michael Urbanski rejected Morva's request for new attorneys and ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation.

He said he would rule on Morva's competence later.

(source: WSET news)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi high court hears appeal in '96 slayings

Prosecutorial errors resulted in a Montgomery County jury convicting Curtis Giovanni Flowers a fourth time in the deaths of four workers at a Winona furniture store 18 years ago, defense attorneys argued Monday to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

In 6 trials, Flowers has been convicted 4 times for the 1996 slayings of 4 workers at a Winona furniture store.

2 trials in Montgomery County ended with hung juries. 3 trials ended in convictions, but the high court reversed them. The 4th conviction came in 2010. Flowers was sentenced to death.

Flowers, now 44, was convicted of capital murder for the July 16, 1996, fatal shootings of Tardy Furniture store owner Bertha Tardy, 59; employees Carmen Rigby, 45; Robert Golden, 42; and Derrick "BoBo" Stewart, 16. All had been shot in the head.

Sheri Lynn Johnson, a Cornell University law professor and assistant director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, told the court there were holes in the prosecutors' case against Flowers and they chose to plug those holes with misstatements to the jury about witness identification, Flowers' actions on the day of the slayings and misrepresentations about other evidence.

Special Asst. Atty. Gen. Melanie Thomas said there is testimony from witnesses who put Flowers near the murder weapon, near the crime scene, with the missing money, with gunpowder on his hand, and with a reason to kill the employees of Tardy Furniture.

And "factually we can say he had a beef with the store, he had problems with the store," Thomas said.

Thomas said court records and testimony show Flowers was a disgruntled employee who'd been fired from his job at the store. She said Flowers didn't receive his last paycheck because the owner kept it as payment for golf cart batteries she believed he had damaged.

Johnson said there was no evidence to support allegations that Flowers was angry with Bertha Tardy.

"No one ever said he was mad," Johnson said.

Thomas said other family members told prosecutors that Bertha Tardy said she feared Flowers.

(source: Commercial Appeal)

*********************

Woman On Death Row For Murder Of Her Husband Gets Reprieve With New Trial

Michelle Byrom who was sentenced to death by a jury of her peers in Mississippi, is now awaiting a new trial in county jail. Her conviction was overturned on March 31st, due to over crowding she had to wait for a cell at Tishomingo County Jail. She was just transferred from death row, to the county jail over the weekend. CNN is reporting on the transfer of Michelle Byrom, 57. The Mississippi woman was convicted for soliciting the murder of her husband, Edward Byrom Sr., 56, in 1999. A jury convicted her and she was sentenced to death on November 18th 2000.

Byrom solicited her son, Edward Byrom Jr, to kill his father, because she claimed that her husband of 20 years had been severally abusing her, physically and mentally. Her son cooperated with the district attorney's office and testified against his mother. He admitted under oath that he killed his father a World War II hero with his own gun. He was spared the death penalty for his sentence, and received a 50 year sentence. The murder occurred on June 4th, 1999 in the Byrom family home.

Prosecutors said Mrs. Byrom had her husband killed to collect on a $350,000 life insurance policy, and other money from the estate. Edward Byrom, Sr. was a self employed electrician and was murdered with his own World War I weapon that belonged to his father.

Since his mother's conviction, Edward Byrom, Jr. wrote several letters to prison officials and psychologists. In the letters he claims that he alone was responsible for his father's death, he did it he says, to stop the abuse his mother was suffering.

The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Byrom's conviction and ordered a new trial. Jail officials are saying that she will await further action from the court at the county jail under the original indictment. She had been on Mississippi's death row for 14 years, for most of that time the only woman. Now that she has been taken off of death row, the only woman now on death row in Mississippi is Lisa Jo Chamberlain.

(source: Stix.in)

**************

Mississippi mom swaps death row for jail cell to await trial

A Mississippi woman whose death sentence was overturned has been moved from state prison to county jail, where she will await a new trial, authorities say.

Michelle Byrom was moved to Tishomingo County Jail on Saturday. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed her capital murder conviction on March 31 and ordered a new trial.

Byrom was sentenced to death in 2000 after a jury determined she was the mastermind of a murder-for-hire plot to kill her allegedly abusive husband. Her son wrote in jailhouse letters that he committed the crime, and according to court documents, told a court-appointed psychologist that he was culprit.

According to Tishomingo County Sheriff Glenn Whitlock, Byrom was picked up by sheriff officials Saturday morning and is being held under the original capital murder indictment until the county district attorney or court system takes the next steps.

Whitlock told CNN that Byrom isn't receiving any special treatment, and she is currently alone in her cell, but could have cellmates at any time.

Byrom's new trial date has not been set yet, according to the Tishomingo County Circuit clerk.

The attorney who represented Byrom during the effort to have her conviction reversed no longer represents the 57-year-old. Efforts to reach her new counsel were not immediately successful.

(source: CNN)

ARKANSAS:

2 men charged in western Arkansas shooting death

2 men face capital murder charges in the shooting death of a 19-year-old in western Arkansas.

Jonathan Bridgewater, 27, and Nicholas Barrows, 19, half-brothers from Rudy, are accused of fatally shooting Jamison Lee Plum, 19, the Southwest Times Record reported (http://bit.ly/1kOZbCh ). Barrows also faces a charge of criminal use of a prohibited weapon, after police said they found pipe bombs during a search of his home.

Plum's body was discovered last month with multiple gunshot wounds in a shallow grave on property owned by the suspects' grandmother. Both men lived on the property in separate homes.

Online court records do not show an attorney for the men, who are being held on no bond at the Crawford County jail. They were charged with capital murder Monday.

Police found the victim's body after Bridgewater's then-girlfriend reported he had shown her Plum's corpse underneath a tarp in the woods.

Capital murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. The prohibited weapon charge is punishable by five to 20 years in prison.

"A decision on the death penalty will be decided later on, after a complete and thorough investigation by the sheriff's office," Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said.

Investigators have interviewed several people about the case but a clear motive has not yet emerged.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Death-penalty opponents short on alternatives

Regarding the Tennessee Voices, "Likelihood of innocence too great to allow executions": Being against the death penalty is easy, as there are enough horror stories of its misapplication. But I'm really impatient with the lack of alternate solution proposals from the opponents.

Simply "Life without parole" or "rehabilitation" is thrown around glibly without thoughtful reflection of the long-term ramifications of these solutions. When a comprehensive practical sentencing formula is laid out taking into account victims, criminals and the caretakers, I can become a supporter, but until then, capital punishment is still on my table.

There is no good reason why it's always so expensive, but that's a whole other issue. You wrote a very good one-sided argument, and that's OK. I just don't agree with the position.

Bob Strobel----Hendersonville 37075

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Tennessean)

COLORADO:

Mass Murder Defense Attorneys Try to Exclude Ballistics Testimony

Attorneys for accused mass murderer James Holmes will argue in court that experts who published reports on ballistics and chemical evidence from the Aurora movie theater massacre should not be allowed to testify in two hearings this week.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more at a midnight premiere of a "Batman" movie on July 20, 2012. He is charged with 166 felony counts, including murder.

Prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty.

Holmes and his attorneys will be back in court Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss several motions, including their objection to allowing prosecutors to use chemical experts from the F.B.I. and ballistics and firearms experts from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as trial witnesses.

The motions to preclude chemical experts and ballistics experts are in separate, but virtually identical motions.

All citations in this article are from the ballistics motion.

The defense claims in the motion that the court needs to make sure the ballistics evidence from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is reliable.

"Mr. Holmes asserts that such scientific, technical and specialized techniques and any opinions derived therefrom, must be determined to be reliable and admissible pursuant to Shreck and CRE 702 and 403 prior to any testimony related to such techniques and resulting opinions being presented to the jury," the motion states. "Admission of unreliable evidence and opinion testimony would not only violate the rules of evidence but also Mr. Holmes' constitutional right to due process of law under the state and federal constitutions. Further, this Court must determine whether any opinions derived from such techniques - if those techniques are determined to be reliable - are actually helpful to the jury under CRE 702 and admissible pursuant to CRE 403. Without such determination, this Court should enter an order precluding the admission of any such expert testimony at trial."

The defense adds that the court should be especially careful because this is a death penalty case.

Judge Carlos Samour also will hear arguments on whether Holmes' new psychiatric evaluator will be allowed to videotape sessions with Holmes before turning in a psychiatric report, and the judge will set a new date for the pretrial readiness hearing.

Last week, Samour set the new trial date for December to give the new psychiatric evaluator time to finish his report.

In compliance with a pretrial publicity order, neither side is available to comment on the case.

(source: Courthouse News)

ARIZONA:

Arizona: Execution Case to Be Appealed to Justices

A federal appeals court on Monday denied Arizona's request for a new hearing, by a larger panel, to reconsider the court's stay of the execution of Joseph Wood, and the state said it would appeal immediately to the Supreme Court to permit the execution to proceed. On Saturday, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit delayed Mr. Wood's execution, scheduled for Wednesday, until Arizona provides information about the sources of lethal drugs and the training of the administering staff. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has declined to stop executions over similar concerns about drug secrecy.

(source: New York Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Lone Survivor Of Stockton Bank Robbery Shootout Could Face Death Penalty

The only bank robbery suspect who survived a shootout with police on Wednesday faced a judge for the 1st time on Monday.

Jamie Ramos is facing 35 charges for his alleged role in the robbery, chase and shootout that left the Stockton mother he allegedly used as a human shield dead.

Ramos walked into the Stockton courtroom with his arms shackled to his sides, following directions of deputies with nods of his head. The bruises on his right cheek were nearly gone, and the expression on his face seemingly timid.

His overwhelmed courtroom demeanor stands in stark contrast to his violent actions on Wednesday - murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and using a mother and wife he allegedly took hostage from the bank as a human shield.

Police say unlike the other 2 suspects, he survived a barrage of officer bullets because he forced Misty Holt-Singh in front of him inside a getaway car.

"They would like to see their pain go away," said family spokesman Michael Platt. "They have thought of nothing more than trying to decide how they are going to live without a wife and without a mother."

Charges against Ramos could lead to the death penalty.

(source: CBS news)

****************

Judge chastises California perpetuating dysfunctional death penalty system

Death penalty opponents might be heartened by a federal judge's decision declaring California's capital punishment unconstitutional.

But the decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney last week is less a victory for abolitionists than it is a condemnation of California officials' mishandling of capital punishment.

Carney ruled that California is violating the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, emphasis on the unusual.

In the 29-page ruling, Carney pointed out no fewer than 6 times that more than 900 killers have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, and only 13 have been executed. More than 900 death sentences, and 13 executions, he repeated.

"California's death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death," Carney wrote.

And he wrote: "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

The ruling involved the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was convicted in 1995 in Los Angeles for the 1992 rape and stabbing death of Julia Miller, the mother of his live-in girlfriend. He had been out of prison for 10 months, having served a prison term for raping the mother of an earlier girlfriend in 1985.

The California Supreme Court affirmed his death sentence in 2003. 11 years later, lawyers for Jones and the state are arguing his habeas corpus appeal in the federal courts.

Carney didn't bother to recite the horrible facts of Jones' crime. Rather, he dwelled on the delays for Jones and the other 740-plus condemned inmates in California, and invited the state to appeal. California Attorney General Kamala Harris likely will appeal the matter to the U.S 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a process that, no doubt, will take years.

Carney, appointed to the federal bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush, is expressing what any clear-eyed observer sees, that California's death penalty is dysfunctional.

He suggests that if California policymakers wanted to speed executions, they could, for example, by spending more to hire more lawyers for death row inmates. They don't.

In 2006, a federal judge in San Jose declared that California's method of execution - using untrained technicians to carry out lethal injection - could inflict undue pain and was, therefore, cruel.

8 years later, California correctional authorities have not come up with an acceptable way of putting an inmate to death, essentially slow-walking the process for expediting the long walk.

It's not surprising. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports to Gov. Jerry Brown, a moral opponent of the death penalty.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, a capital punishment proponent, said Carney's ruling, while not good for his side, "brings the issue to light."

"We have to fix the system," Ramos said Monday, pledging to raise money to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot that would implement steps cited by Carney that speed the death penalty.

At this point, however, California could not empty death row unless it carried out an execution a week for 14 years. No political leader would want that as a legacy.

There always will be terrible crimes. But for an array of reasons, not the least of which is public ambivalence, California has failed to carry out death sentences. Policymakers and the citizenry ought to acknowledge that the death penalty is broken beyond repair.

(source: Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee)

**************

States' own foot-dragging responsible for long delays in death sentence executions

A Florida justice in March expressed his anguish to know that an inmate Hall had been on the state's death row for more than three decades. He asked if such a long delay in execution of a condemned inmate was consistent with the purpose of the death penalty. Last weak, a federal judge in California answered that question with an echoing no.

Last Wednesday, U. S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled in a separate case that California's death-penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that is unconstitutional.

Overturning the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was awarded death sentenced in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend's mother, Judge Carney ruled that that state's death-penalty system violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel & unusual punishment.

The judge found that the delays are mainly because of California's own foot-dragging and underfunding of its impoverished defense system, and not because of inmates' recurring appeals, as many believe.

The Golden State's law provides for an automatic appeal of all death sentences, but it takes 3-5 years before an inmate on death-row is provided with a lawyer. It takes another 4 years for the lawyer to read and understand the voluminous trial record and file an appeal.

Then, the State Supreme Court consumes 2-3 more years to schedule oral arguments. Add another 3-5 years for state habeas corpus petitions, and around 10 years for federal habeas corpus claims. All those long delays prompted Judge Carney to call the arrangement a "completely dysfunctional" system.

California courts have sentenced more than 900 people to death since 1978, but merely 13 of them have so far been executed. The remaining inmates have been on death row for at more than 19 years, and the backlog is still growing.

(source: Uncover California)

*****************

Death penalty at stake in double-murder

A 4th defendant accused in the murder of a Marine Corps sergeant and his wife has gone on trial.

Kesaun Sykes, himself a former Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, has denied involvement in the slayings. Killed at their French Valley home in 2008 were Jan and Quiana Pietrzak.

Sykes' 3 co-defendants were earlier found guilty. 2 were given death sentences and the 3rd a no-parole prison term.

Prosecutors allege the four had gone to the victim's home to rob them. Both were bound and shot in the head.

Skyes' trial in Riverside Superior Court is expected to last into mid-August.

(source: Inland News Today)

******************

Suspect faces 35 felony charges, possible death penalty

A 19-year-old California man was charged Monday with 3 counts of murder in the deaths of a hostage and 2 accomplices, and 22 counts of attempted murder of police officers in a bank robbery and running gun battle.

A judge read a total of 35 felony counts to defendant Jaime Ramos stemming from the robbery on Wednesday at a Bank of the West in Stockton.

The charges, including kidnapping, robbery and being a gang member, could make Ramos eligible for the death sentence if convicted.

Ramos sat quietly in court holding a copy of the criminal complaint and nodded his head when San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson asked if Ramos understood his rights.

Ramos did not enter a plea and the judge ordered him back to court on Aug. 18. Ramos remains in jail with no bail set.

Deputy Public Defender Jonathan Fattarsi, who represents Ramos, said after the hearing that he had only spoken briefly with his client and did not elaborate.

After the brief hearing, Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said more charges might be filed.

"The investigation continues," Himelblau said. "There might be a 4th person we're interested in. 4 people could turn into 5.Ē

Police say 3 armed men entered a Bank of the West and took 3 women, 2 bank employees and a customer hostage. The pursuit and shootout followed when the robbers fled with the hostages in an SUV owned by 1 of the employees.

Police say Ramos used 41-year-old Misty Holt-Singh as a human shield. She died in the incident.

2 other women were injured but survived after being thrown from the moving vehicle or jumping out.

The 2 slain bank robbers have been identified as 27-year-old Alex Gregory Martinez and 30-year-old Gilbert Renteria Jr.

Investigators have linked Martinez to a Jan. 31 robbery at the same bank branch through surveillance video, witness statements and comparable circumstances.

Police have recovered a dark-colored Buick sedan seen on video dropping off the suspects in last week's robbery. The car had no license plates and was found abandoned in a neighborhood about a 10-minute drive from the bank. The driver is the subject of an active search, police said.

Relatives have said they believe police acted appropriately by engaging the men in a gunbattle, but they struggle to understand what the men were thinking.

Holt-Singh left behind a husband and 2 children, 12 and 19.

(source: Associated Press)

*****************

Justice delayed

"A man is undone by waiting for capital punishment," Albert Camus wrote, "well before he dies." On July 16th a federal judge in California, Cormac Carney, ruled in Jones v Chappell that the machinery of death in the Golden State is so plagued by delays and arbitrariness that it amounts to a "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the federal constitution. Judge Carney struck down Ernest Jones's 1995 death sentence for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother, along with the capital sentences of 747 other convicts. Awaiting execution for decades "with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come," Judge Carney wrote, is a punishment "no rational jury or legislature could ever impose."

Of the 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 have been executed. The last person to be put to death was in 2006. The same year, a federal court ruled that California's mode of lethal injection carried a risk that "an inmate will suffer pain so extreme" that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. With Judge Carney's ruling, the state's system of capital punishment has been judged doubly infirm. The average prisoner who is executed in California has spent 25 years on death row - much longer than the national average of 15.8 years. Such long delays make it unlikely that capital punishment deters other potential murderers, ruled Judge Carney, or delivers effective retribution.

Legal observers are surprised by the broad sweep of the ruling but divided about its potential impact. For James Ching, a former deputy attorney general in California, Judge Carney's opinion is "quixotic" and errs by attributing all the tarrying to California state courts when federal courts are responsible for "46.2% of the total delay and dysfunction". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr Ching suggested, will likely regard Judge Carney's decision sceptically when the state appeals.

But Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney, has said the Jones ruling is "truly historic" and demonstrates that "the death penalty is broken beyond repair." California may have the largest and slowest-moving death row in the country, but it is not the only state where condemned prisoners are more likely to die of old age than be executed. The central point in Judge Carney's opinion, says Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is "not simply the length of time" between conviction and execution. "It is the unpredictability."

Stephen Bright of the Southern Centre for Human Rights says that the California death penalty is "uniquely dysfunctional" (a term Judge Carney used 8 times) and "will collapse of its own weight eventually." If and when the challenge reaches the Supreme Court, it is unclear how it will fare. Justice Stephen Breyer has been receptive to the delay argument in the past and this March Justice Anthony Kennedy asked the Florida solicitor general whether he thought waiting 35 years to die was "consistent with the purposes that the death penalty is designed to serve." Mr Bright has few doubts which way the wind is blowing. Judge Carney's decision, he says, "has added to the conversation in a way that will lead to the inevitable end of the death penalty in California and the United States."

(source: The Economist)

**************

Readers React----Death Penalty: What about the condemned's family?

However, one group is missing from her list: the families of the condemned.

We have heard many times about the families of victims who, in fact, have an honored place in our judicial system that allows them to testify at sentencing hearings about their loved ones. But what about those other families? They are equally innocent, never having asked for their roles in the story.

As horrible as the inmate appears to society, he or she still is tied to a group of people who could well love that person greatly and who did nothing to deserve their experience.

Joan Walston, Santa Monica

..

To the editor: The death penalty is too serious a subject to be treated so superficially by Banks.

She gives some recognition to the reality that "criminal depravity" can be present in certain individuals. She adds that she has "met families whose lives were ruined by patently evil deeds."

However, she attributes society's death penalty sanction to "the instinct for vengeance that pain and horror breed." In other words, it's a mindless desire to get even. It is bred by feelings. It is not a thoughtful response.

However, could it be that society - in balancing justice's scales - finds that the taken or ruined lives can weigh as much as the life of any demonstrably depraved and evil predator, and that this must be so awfully recognized by the death penalty? Or is it that the life of the human predator is more precious?

Jeremiah Flanigan, Long Beach

..

To the editor: I agree with Banks' argument against the death penalty. I would go a step further and call it legalized murder.

Evidence shows that the threat of execution hasn't deterred heinous crimes. Those crimes are committed by irrational, deeply disturbed people. What prompts them is hard to determine.

In many cases, the injustice and inequality meted out to those living below a level of decency can be pointed to as a cause. But often such crimes are committed out of an unbalanced emotional state.

I'm not suggesting forgiveness. Incarceration and treatment might rehabilitate some, and those it doesn't should be held in jail.

But to take another's life based on a jury's verdict speaks of inhumanity and a system of revenge.

Peggy Aylsworth Levine, Santa Monica

(source: Letters to the Editor, Los Angeles Times)

USA (WEST VIRGINIA):

High-Profile Murder Case May Have Federal Implications

Another high-profile local murder case may have federal implications.

Marlon "Ice" Dixon is charged with 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of Branda Basham, 22.

Witnesses told police that Dixon killed Basham because she was a confidential informant working with the drug task force.

Federal prosecutors have taken an interest in this matter. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office could charge Dixon with federal crimes that upon conviction carry punishments up to the death penalty.

Goodwin said his office takes the safety and well-being of confidential informants very seriously.

"We approach those cases with a heightened level of energy. And when we get the conviction we seek the ultimate punishment that we can get. In the federal system, the death penalty is available in those sorts of matters," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said no decisions have been made regarding the Dixon murder charge. He said his office will closely review the evidence to see if the federal government's participation is appropriate.

(source: WCHS news)

***************************

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

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 2nd 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.

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. 8 or 10 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.

(source: Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post)

***************************

Judge's modest proposal: Bring back the firing squad

With execution methods coming under intense scrutiny in recent months, Federal Judge Alex Kozinski has a modest proposal: Bring back the guillotine. Or maybe the firing squad. "If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution," Kozinski, a federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote in a dissent released Monday.

Kozinski was dissenting from a decision made by the Ninth Circuit against reevaluating a reversal of a lower court ruling. The court had dismissed Arizona death row inmate Joseph Wood's lawsuit seeking information about the drug cocktail to be used in his execution. Rather than simply dissenting from the majority decision, Kozinski's dissent considered alternative death penalty methods and criticized the use of lethal drugs as a misguided attempt to make executions seem humane.

"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," he wrote, adding that "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. Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all," he wrote.

Arizona was set to execute Wood, who was convicted for killing his girlfriend and her father in 1989, on Wednesday. In June, after the state withheld information about the manufacturers of the lethal drugs to be used in Wood's execution, and the qualifications of the individuals assigned to administer them, Wood and 5 other prisoners filed suit alleging that the state had violated their First Amendment rights. Wood is also arguing in a separate proceeding that the attorney who represented him during sentencing failed to present evidence of mental illness, including brain damage. The ruling prevents the state from carrying out the execution.

"One of the things we looked at was the transparency of the execution process. We requested information about the manufacturers of the drugs as well as the qualifications of the people who were going to be carrying out the execution," said Dale Baich, the attorney who began representing Wood 8 weeks ago. "The state did not provide the information to us, and we believe Mr. Wood has a First Amendment right to this information." Arizona could ask the Supreme Court to intervene, or it could try to prevail against Wood on the merits.

Activists opposed to the death penalty have had success in targeting the manufacturers of drugs used in executions, which is one reason why states want to keep them secret. Lethal injections have come under increased scrutiny and criticism since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April.

A lower court judge dismissed Wood's claim, but he appealed to the Ninth Circuit. A 3 judge panel reversed that ruling and said Wood's claim could proceed without ruling on the merits. Judge Jay Bybee, known for his authorship of Bush-era memos justifying the use of torture against suspected terrorists, dissented, writing that "the First Amendment has been co-opted as the latest tool in this court's ongoing effort to bar the State from lawfully imposing the death penalty."

Arizona sought to have the Ninth Circuit rehear the case and possibly overrule the three judge panel, but on Monday that request was denied. That's when Kozinski, dissenting from the decision not to rehear the case, issued his dissent discussing alternatives to lethal injection.

"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," Kozinski wrote. "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."

Kozinski is known as an eccentric judge. In 2008, Los Angeles Times reporters found him posting sexually explicit material on his website while presiding over an obscenity case. The material included "a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal."

"Kozinski has always been a judge willing to push the boundaries. He'll say things others are thinking but are afraid to admit," said Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA. "Whether 1 agrees with his endorsement of firing lines, he's making an important point. We keep the death penalty, but try to mask it's brutality."

When it comes to the death penalty, there's no reason to believe the almost Jonathan Swift-like tone of his dissent is meant in jest. As Emily Bazelon noted in a lengthy profile, Kozinski is a supporter of the death penalty, writing in 1997 that "Whatever qualms I had about the efficacy or the morality of the death penalty were drowned out by the pitiful cries of the victims screaming from between the lines of the dry legal prose."

Asked what he thought of Kozinski's dissent, Baich said, "I'm not going to comment on that."

(source: MSNBC news)

*************

Judge Kozinski: Bring Back the Firing Squad

One of the nation's most prominent judges is urging states that have the death penalty to abandon lethal injection and switch to the "more primitive" but "foolproof" firing squad as their primary method of executing death-row inmates.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a blistering critique of lethal injection in a dissenting opinion in the death-penalty case of Joseph Wood, an Arizona convicted murderer whose July 23 execution was delayed by a Ninth Circuit panel on Saturday.

The court on Monday refused to rehear the case before the entire bench, letting stand a panel's decision to hold up Mr. Wood's execution until more was disclosed about the drugs and the executioners to be used in his lethal injection. Mr. Wood, 51, was set to die July 23 for the 1989 murders of his estranged girlfriend and her father.

Here's Judge Kozinski:

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 some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive - and foolproof - methods of execution. 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. 8 or 10 large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range 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 . . .

Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood.

Judge Kozinski's opinion is certain to fuel more debate over the future of lethal injection in the U.S. Law Blog reported earlier this year about attempts by lawmakers in at least 2 states to authorize the use of firing squads for capital punishment.

No state employs firing squads as a primary execution method, but Utah and Oklahoma permit death-row inmates to be shot under certain, narrow circumstances, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Arizona case comes in the wake of recent highly publicized flawed executions around the country, including a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma in April. The episodes have raised questions about the capacity of states to properly administer lethal injections as they struggle to obtain the drugs to carry them out.

Judge Kozinski is also the latest judge to attack dysfunction in the broader death-penalty system. A federal judge in California last week struck down the state's death penalty, saying the system there is "plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay."

The case of Mr. Wood was the latest court clash over lethal injection secrecy.

Arizona has disclosed the type of drugs it intends to use - a combination of Midazolam and Hydromorphone - and the planned dosages. It also said the drugs are domestically obtained, Food and Drug Administration-approved, and more than a year away from expiring.

But the state has declined to reveal information about the manufacturers and suppliers of the drugs, as well as details about the qualifications of the state prison employees assigned to put Mr. Wood to death.

The state argued that releasing such information would deter manufacturers from providing the drugs and expose the identities of the executioners, whose qualifications were reviewed by a state inspector general.

In a departure from other courts confronting similar confidentiality questions, the Ninth Circuit panel ruled that Mr. Wood's First Amendment claim to that information "raised serious questions" that warranted more review.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

********************

Study: More Than 1/2 Of The People Executed In The United States Have A Severe Mental Illness

A majority of the 100 executed inmates examined in a new study by 3 legal researchers had "a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis." Yet, because of an oddity in the Supreme Court's death penalty cases, it is typically constitutional under existing precedents to execute people with these illnesses.

In a pair of cases decided in 2002 and 2005, the Court held that it is unconstitutional to execute intellectually disabled inmates and individuals who committed a capital offense when they were under the age of 18. As the Court explained in the 1st of these 2 cases, these cases are rooted in the fact that certain offenders "have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others" - and thus it would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject them to the most permanent of punishments.

This rationale - that people with diminished mental capacity cannot be executed - applies with equal force to people with severe mental disorders. Indeed, the study by researchers Robert J. Smith, Sophie Cull and Zoe Robinson finds that "the overwhelming majority of executed offenders had intellectual and psychological deficits that rivaled - and sometimes outpaced - those associated with intellectual disability and juvenile status." And yet the Court has not yet extended the same protections to people with severe mental illnesses that it has to juvenile offenders and people with intellectual disabilities.

In a grim reminder that the fact that a practice is unconstitutional does not mean it will cease, the same study also found that "1/3 of the last 100 executed offenders were burdened by intellectual disability, borderline intellectual functioning, or traumatic brain injury - a similarly debilitating intellectual impairment." Yet there is reason for death row inmates and their lawyers to hope that this number may change in the future. A loophole in the Court's decision prohibiting executions of the intellectually disabled has allowed many states to evade this decision in the past, but the Court began to close this loophole earlier this year.

(source: ThinkProgress.org)

******************

The last 100 executions

A study on the last 100 executions in the U.S. shows that 9 of 10 killers had "deficits" that made them similiar to other offenders who were spared from death by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The study published in Hastings Law Journal. cited 8 of 9 Ohio executions that took place from 2011-2013.

More than 1/2 of the 100 had symptoms of mental illness. Others were low functioning, suffered severe childhood physical or sexual abuse, or were age 21 and under at the time of the crime.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made numerous decisions excluding individuals with deficits from execution, including Atkins v. Virginia (2002, intellectual disability); Ford v. Wainwright (1986, mental illness), and Roper v. Simmons (2005, offenders under 18).

The study by 3 law professors concluded that "the overwhelming majority of executed offenders suffered from intellectual impairments, were barely into adulthood, wrestled with severe mental illness, or endured profound childhood trauma...(O)ur project suggests the need for other scholars to conduct more comprehensive examinations of both the failings of the Court's mitigation-facilitating doctrines as well as the implication for these deficits on the continued constitutionality of the death penalty."

Prosecutors counter that in all cases that result in an execution there are multiple opportunities at all levels of legal appeals in several courts for defense attorneys to make the case why their client should not be executed by producing mitigating evidence about their childhood, upbringing, and mental conditions.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

IRAN----executions

50 prisoners have been hanged in Kerman during last 6 months

The judicial system has executed 50 people in Kerman from December last year till now.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), since the new government came to power in Iran the judicial system of the country has increased the secret executions in prisons and refuses Public announcement of the execution in the state run media.

Human Rights Activists in Iran has collected the names of those had been executed in the central prison of Kerman, since the beginning of this year and based on that date, 50 people were executed on charges of drugs transport and storage.

However, in that period of time government agencies published execution of just 4 people without giving their name but they did not release any details of other 46 people executions.

All the verdicts of the Revolutionary Court have been issued by judge Ahmad Ghorbani and persecutor, Farajollah Kargar.

According to the Annual Report on Human Rights Activists in Iran, half of all executions in Iran are running secretly and comparing to last year it has been doubled.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

************************

Call on international community to work to revoke the death sentence of political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi

In a sham trial, the anti-human clerical regime has condemned to death political prisoner Mr. Arzhang Davoodi who has been in prison for past 11 years.

Mr. Davoodi, 61, from the city of Abadan and an engineer from University of Texas, was arrested in November 2003.

The judiciary of the mullahs condemned him to 11 years in prison, 74 lashes, and 5 years deprivation of social rights for founding the "Movement for Freedom of Iranians" and "Confederation of Iranian Students", writing a "manifest against the Islamic Republic system", and for insulting the clerical regime's leaders.

The henchmen of the clerical regime who are infuriated about the firm stances of this political prisoner against the mullahs' regime, tried him for a 3rd time in absentia in the Revolutionary Court of city of Karaj presided over by henchman Asef Hosseini and this time condemned him to death for "membership, support and effective activity in advancing the goals of People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran *PMOI/MEK) in prison". This sentence was also conveyed to his lawyer yesterday, July 20.

In the past 11 years, Mr. Arzhang Davoodi has been transferred from one prison to the next and exposed to all kinds of tortures and harassments.

He has numerously gone on hunger strike and has been held incommunicado for a long time. He is currently in a prison in city of Bandar-Abbas.

Condemning a political prisoner for political activities inside the prison is a new level of oppression and tyranny that only the fascists ruling Iran are capable of.

The Iranian Resistance calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, relevant international bodies, and organizations defending human rights throughout the world to condemn the criminal execution sentence of Mr. Arzhang Davoodi and to work to have this sentence revoked.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

NORTH KOREA:

North Korea executed at least 17 people last year

North Korea carried out at least 17 executions last year and several others in the 1st half of 2014, a global human rights group against death penalty said.

In its latest report, Hands Off Cain, headquartered in Italy, said all the known executions in North Korea in 2013 were conducted by firing squad. In the first 6 months of this year, at least 6 people were executed by firing squad, it added.

The group pointed out the reclusive communist nation, like a number of other countries, do not issue official statistics on the practice of the death penalty.

"Therefore the number of executions may, in fact, be much higher," it said.

Hands Off Cain added its data on North Korea were compiled based on media reports. Last December, North Korea's state media said Jang Song-thaek, once a powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, was executed on charges of anti-state activities.

North Korea reduced the number of executions in the 2000s apparently due to international pressure, but the figure has been rising again in recent years, Elisabetta Zamparutti, an official at Hands Off Cain, was quoted as saying by the Voice of America.

The North's young leader Kim Jong-un, who took over power in 2011, appears to be using death penalty as a tool to solidify his power base, added Zamparutti.

(source: Korea Times)

TAIWAN:

Death penalty sought for Taipei Metro 'mass murder' suspect

New Taipei prosecutors on Monday indicted a man accused of killing 4 passengers on the Taipei Metro system in May and recommended that he be given the death penalty because of the brutality of the crime and the suspect's lack of remorse.

The suspect, 21-year-old university student Cheng Chieh, was charged with 4 counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder for his actions on a moving subway just before evening rush hour on May 21.

The indictment was handed down as Cheng's 2-month detainment period expired Monday.

In defending their request for the death penalty, prosecutors described Cheng's behavior in the indictment as "mass murder," and said the incident caused collective panic across society and made people feel the need to be on guard when taking public transportation.

They also said his action had spawned several potential copycats threatening to kill people on public buses or the subway system.

A thorough assessment of Cheng conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital concluded that Cheng had no mental disorders or deficiencies, meaning he is not eligible under Article 19 of Taiwan's Criminal Code to avoid punishment for the offense or have the sentence reduced because of mental incompetency, prosecutors said.

In their 8,000-word indictment, prosecutors also focused on the brutality and cruelty of the stabbings, saying that the surveillance footage showed a "scene from hell."

Cheng was seen repeatedly stabbing his victims and even toying with them without showing the slightest sliver of humanity, and he even admitted during his mental evaluation that he felt pleased to have the fate of the passengers in his hands, prosecutors said.

Even if he felt tired in the station, he had hoped to find a place to rest before killing again, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, the attacks were premeditated rather than done on a whim and Cheng deliberately chose the subway line on which the attacks occurred to bring about the most casualties possible.

He was determined to carry out his vow to kill people because failure to do so would have negated his being, prosecutors said, and the brutality of the attacks showed the suspect's dangerous nature.

Also, Cheng has shown no remorse since being detained and has not apologized to the victims or the families of his victims, leaving prosecutors no alternative but to ask for the death penalty for his heinous acts, prosecutors argued in the indictment.

The prosecutors also explained in detail the suspect's motives, saying his problems may have started in elementary school when he had disputes with female classmates that hurt him and led him to vow to kill for revenge.

They described Cheng as being "indifferent to social conventions, self-centered, antisocial and narcissistic," epitomized by his lack of empathy for others.

Facing strict discipline in junior high school, he had a clash with his teacher, and pocketed a knife for a month looking for an opportunity to stab him.

Because of his inability to gain acceptance among mainstream groups at school, he gradually developed a sense of nihilism, feeling it difficult to deal with life, prosecutors said.

Despite his problems, Cheng lived up to the academic expectations of his family and teachers and made it into a senior high school in New Taipei.

Starting in his 1st year, he penned essays on his blog explaining why he formed the pledge to kill and posted articles with killing as the main theme.

To fulfill his commitment to kill, which had grown stronger, Cheng enrolled in the Chung Cheng Institute of Technology in 2011 because he wanted to receive military training there.

But the school kicked him out in 2013 because he failed academically and physically, dealing him a severe blow that deepened his pain, made him more inclined to think life was meaningless, and spurred him to act earlier rather than later on his killing pledge.

Complying with his parents' wish, he transferred to Tunghai University the same year, but he continued to flounder academically.

Compounding the problem was that one of Cheng's senior high classmates brought Cheng's articles to the attention of a school counselor, who forwarded them to the university.

The university put him under investigation and was on the verge of expelling him.

The pressure of the investigation, his poor academic performance, his imminent dismissal and his long-term suicidal and nihilistic ideas prompted him to move up his killing plan to the eve of his expulsion, prosecutors said.

(source: Focus Taiwan News Channel)

***************

Prosecutors close probe into TRTC in MRT stabbing case

The New Taipei District Prosecutor's Office (NTDPO) yesterday closed their ongoing investigation into the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC), finding no incriminating evidence on the corporation in the Taipei Metro stabbing case.

The NTDPO is in charge of prosecuting the MRT stabbing case and indicted Cheng Chieh yesterday on charges of murder and attempted murder, asking the court to impose the death penalty if Cheng is found guilty.

After families of the stabbing victims filed claims against the TRTC and the Rapid Transit Division of the Taipei City Police Department, as well as the TRTC's Industrial Safety Division section manager Lin Hsien-liang, Train Operations Division Control Center chief operator Yang Tsung-che, MRT Jiangzicui Station station master Feng Yi-chang and metro train operator Lin Ming-hsien, the NTDPO also conducted investigations centering on the to be sued parties as part of the stabbing incident probe.

Following investigations, the NTDPO found no incriminating evidence that would hold the TRTC and the Rapid Transit Police accountable, which prompted the NTDPO to close the cases on the company and the police division.

The NTDPO also ruled not to prosecute the four individuals, freeing them of the charges of negligent homicide, negligence resulting in bodily harm and disaster as a result of occupational negligence from civil servants.

The TRTC released a statement saying that it respects the investigation results of the NTDPO, and made no further comments on the matter.

Victims' Families Unsatisfied with Assailant's Family, TRTC

Following the NTDPO's official indictment and death penalty request, the majority of the families of Cheng's victims stated that they are unsatisfied with the assailant's family and the TRTC.

The families stated that Cheng's family has yet to apologize to the families of the victims, and hasn't so much as made one phone call. The husband of victim Pan Pi-chu said that even if Cheng was to receive ten thousand death sentences, it still wouldn't suffice.

The mother of victim Chang Cheng-han told local press that death penalties will not bring back her son, and that the family is not happy with the lack of responsibility from the TRTC.

Chang's mother said that her husband had been suppressing his emotions to the point where he had to undergo gallstone removal surgery following her son's funeral, which was the last time she saw or heard from the TRTC.

***************

Cheng indicted for Taipei Metro stabbings

MRT stabbing suspect Cheng Chieh yesterday was indicted by the New Taipei District Prosecutors Office (NTDPO) on 4 counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder, with prosecutors also asking the court to levy the death penalty on Cheng for the crime.

On the afternoon of May 21 the 21-year-old suspect boarded a Taipei MRT train at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station heading in the direction of Yongning Station. At 4:24 p.m., while the train was driving from Longshan Temple Station to the Jiangzicui Station - the longest ride on the entire Taipei metro system - Cheng allegedly took out a 30-centimeter-long knife and started to randomly stab victims, the NTDPO said.

This stabbing spree was the 1st of its kind on Taipei's MRT system since it began operating in 1996. During the 4-minute ride, Cheng allegedly attacked and stabbed victims in the 4th, 5th and 6th compartments of the train, leading to 4 deaths and 22 injuries, prosecutors said. The suspect has been detained since the incident took place.

Psychiatric Tests

During a press conference yesterday morning, the NTDPO said in order to further interpret Cheng's motives, the prosecutors sent Cheng to National Taiwan University Hospital to undergo a series of psychiatric evaluations.

New Taipei prosecutors said that based on Cheng's psychiatric evaluation, he is not insane or feeble-minded, however, the evaluation described Cheng an "anti-social, narcissist, apathetic and suicidal" person. The psychiatric evaluation indicates that Cheng is fit to stand trial, the prosecutors added.

According to the investigation, the prosecutors discovered that Cheng allegedly made a vow to murder people when he was in elementary school and had a dispute with 2 female classmates.

Prosecutors further said that as Cheng deemed it would be hard to kill the two classmates, he allegedly decided to randomly attack people on an MRT train to fulfill his childhood vow.

New Taipei prosecutors said they also discovered that Cheng had written over 10 short stories about murders on his laptop, noting that one of the stories included a scenario whereby the killings took place on an MRT train. Prosecutors said, however, that the plot of the short story does not have a direct relation to the MRT stabbing incident.

In the indictment, the prosecutors characterized the incident as a "mass killing" that was "heinous and appalling." Prosecutors said that Cheng caused permanent trauma to the victims and their families and showed no remorse for what he had done, noting that, because of this, the prosecutors asked the district court to give Cheng the death penalty if found guilty.

Families' Responses

New Taipei City Councilor Lin Kuo-chun, who had released a press statement on behalf of Cheng's parents in May, yesterday quoted Cheng's father as saying that his parents have already expected that their son would face the death penalty for the incident.

Chang Su-mi, mother of one of the deceased victims, yesterday responded to the NTDPO's indictment, saying that even if the prosecutors had asked to issue 100 death penalties to Cheng, it would not bring her son back to her.

Chang said her heart aches whenever people mention the MRT stabbing incident, noting that outsiders can never really understand the pain and suffering of the families of the victims.

(source for both: China Post)

CHINA----execution

Ex-Chinese policeman executed for shooting pregnant woman

A former policeman was executed Tuesday for shooting a pregnant woman in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Xinhua reported.

Hu Ping, formerly of the public security bureau of Pingnan County, was drunk when he shot the woman and her husband, who ran a rice noodle restaurant, Oct 28, 2013.

The husband, Cai Shiyong, sustained minor injuries in his right shoulder. His wife, Wu Ying, and their unborn child died after being shot twice.

Hu was sentenced to death for intentional homicide in February by Guigang Intermediate People's Court.

He appealed, but the Higher People's Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region upheld the verdict in April and the death penalty was approved by the Supreme People's Court.

Hu's crime caused an "abominable influence on society", said the court.

The rulings in the 1st and 2nd trials were based on "clear facts" and "valid and adequate evidence" and "the conviction was accurate and then penalty proper", it said.

(source: Zee News)

BURMA:

Man sentenced to death for near beheading case

A man who murdered another man by nearly beheading him for bumping his shoulder has been sentenced to death by East District Court. East District Court's deputy judge (4) made the ruling at 1 pm on July 22 after both sides submitted their closing arguments.

Although the defendant Chit Po (age 22) testified that he did not kill the man with intention, the testimonies given by plaintiff's witnesses, the dead man's injuries, and the knife confiscated for evidence clearly show that the crime has been committed. Besides, Chit Po had enough time to think whether or not he should kill the man, but he went back home after the man fell down and came back half an hour later to hack him continuously. According to Section 302 (1) (b) of the Penal Code, it is clear that he committed the crime so he has been given a death sentence. Currently, the country is moving towards a democracy path so rule of law is important. As the local residents felt distressed over this incident, this ruling has been made, the judge said during the ruling.

However, the death penalty needs to be confirmed by the Supreme Court and the defendant can file for appeal to the Supreme Court within 7 days, according to the judge.

After the ruling, Chit Po asked for permission to a 30-minute meeting with his family and his family members said they will file for appeal on his behalf.

On March 15, Chit Po, who resided in 12th Ward in Yankin Township, bumped his shoulder with Myo Min Oo on Myittar Yeikthar Road and got into a fight with him. He hit Myo Min Oo with an alcohol glass bottle and stabbed him in the chest with the broken glass. Then, he hacked the man's head several times until he was nearly beheaded, according to testimonies given at the trial.

Nearly 5,000 residents of Yankin Township staged a protest two weeks later to condemn the murder and called for the authorities to give the severest penalty to the alleged killer.

When he was 16, Chit Po was sentenced to prison for stabbing a 9th Standard student to death on Moe Kaung Road in Yankin Township, according to police records.

(source: elevenmyanmar.com)

BRUNEI/UNITED KINGDOM:

School chief defends Brunei's death penalty for gays and says they should face UK exile

A former chairman of governors at a school in Birmingham has defended the Sultan of Brunei's death penalty for gay citizens.

Shahid Akmal, who was the chairman of governors at Nansen Primary School until last week, told an undercover Mirror reporter: "It's his right and it's his country, so why shouldn't he?"

The Mirror reports Mr Akmal defended jailing or exiling gay people and adulterers under Sharia law as a "moral position to hold".

He said that gay people, adulterers and "fornicators" who have sex outside marriage should face exile.

"The Koranic concept is that anyone who causes disruption in the community, even if you put them in prison, from prison they can continue to cause disruption as well," he said.

"So the best thing to do is to actually exile them so that the community can remain solid and united. It's a moral position to hold."

Mr Akmal also expressed racist and sexist views.

He claimed that "white women have the least amount of morals" and that women are "emotionally weaker" than men.

Mr Akmal appeared to defend British nationals fighting in Syria and Iraq as "freedom fighters".

His school, Nansen primary, is among several in Birmingham to have been criticised in a report by former counter-terrorism police officer Peter Clarke, over fears about Islamic radicalism.

Last week, a scathing assessment by education watchdog Ofsted found that Nansen primary's board of governors were "overly controlling".

Music had been removed from the timetable and children were "not prepared for life in modern Britain".

Mr Akmal and Nansen primary has denied any wrongdoing.

In April, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave approval to a new penal code in Brunei that calls for death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.

A boycott campaign of the Sultan's international hotel chain, backed by several celebrities, was launched in response.

(source: Pink News)

SINGAPORE:

Death Penalty - Resumes Executions

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty Statement on executions carried out on the 18th of July 2014.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty deeply regrets, and is gravely disappointed at the executions of 2 individuals that took place today, 18th of July 2014. Inmates Foong Chee Peng, 48, and Tang Hai Liang, 36, were hanged at dawn this morning. Both men were convicted of drug trafficking.

These 2 executions brings to an end the moratorium that has been in place since July 2011, when the government commenced an internal review of the mandatory death penalty laws. This review took place without any public consultation nor has it been made available for public scrutiny. Subsequently, the changes were passed by Parliament in the exact form proposed by the government in July 2012, despite various warnings about their potential problems.

We also wish to highlight that there is an ongoing application filed by another drug offender before the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act because it violates Article 12 of our Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on the 18th of August later this year.

Given the fact that the constitutional challenge to the amendments could have a potential bearing on the lawfulness of Foong and Tang's executions, it was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided.

The injustice is compounded by the fact that we had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday to highlight this situation and urged for an urgent stay of execution until our courts have decided on this constitutional challenge at the very least.

Finally, the executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore. The death penalty has not been proven to be a more useful deterrent against crime than alternative forms of punishment. Moreover, once carried out, miscarriages of justice cannot be remedied.

We therefore reiterate our calls for the government to impose a moratorium on all executions and move towards the abolition of capital punishment in Singapore.

(source: Scoop News)

MALAYSIA:

Suhakam hopeful mandatory death penalty will be abolished

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is in favour of Malaysia joining a list of countries which have outlawed the mandatory death penalty, especially on drug traffickers.

Its vice-chairman, Dr Khaw Lake Tee is optimistic that officers of the Attorney-General's Chambers who are currently undertaking a comprehensive study on the matter, will come up with positive recommendation by year-end.

"Let's hope something positive will come out of this, since not all those prosecuted in courts are members of drug syndicates or cartels," he noted.

During a media briefing on Malaysia's Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the Suhakam headquarters here, he said the government had partially agreed on outlawing the mandatory death sentence which was one of the recommendations proposed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

She said Suhakam had been working with the Malaysian Bar Council, members of parliament, foreign ministry and other stakeholders on the need for courts (judges) to be given discretionary powers in imposing much more appropriate sentences, including life sentences.

UPR is a mechanism established by the UNHRC to improve human rights situation in each of the 193 UN member states by reviewing their human rights records every 4 1/2 years.

Although she agreed that Malaysia was one of the major drug transit points where authorities needed to come hard on drug traffickers, she noted that it should also be taken into consideration that a number of cases of innocent people, including women, were lured as drug mules.

Under Malaysian law, offences related to drugs, murder and waging war against the ruler or Yang-Di-pertuan Agong carried mandatory death sentences.

On the possibility of Malaysia voluntarily imposing a moratorium on the death penalty, Khaw said the government did not support the idea since some countries which previously carried out such a move had recently reintroduced its application.

The Suhakam vice-chairman said Malaysia had accepted 150 out of 232 recommendations received from member states.

Perusing on some of the recommendations, Khaw said the Government accepted in allocating more funds for the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly in the areas of employment, education and housing.

(source: Bernama)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

UAE steps up fight against terror with tough law

A new draft law to combat terrorism is one step closer to reality after it was approved by members of the Federal National Council on Monday.

The law will usher in new security measures to counter a sweeping range of crimes deemed as acts of terror.The government fast-tracked the draft law which establishes "terrorist" capital offences which result in the death of a victim including attacks on a head of state or his family or a representative or officer of a state; coerced recruitment of individuals into a "terrorist" organisation; hijacking; hostage-taking; infringement of diplomatic or consular premises in committing a "terrorist" act; use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and assaulting security forces.

Convicted terrorists will face capital punishment, life imprisonment and fines of up to Dh100 million, according to a new legislation.

The draft law defines a terrorist offence as "any action or inaction made crime by this law and every action or inaction made crime by any other law if they are carried out for a terrorist cause".

A terrorist intent is established by a direct or indirect terrorist result or when an offender knows that the action or inaction leads, in its nature or context, to terrorist results. Terrorist results include inciting fear among a group of people, killing them, or causing them serious physical injury, or inflicting substantial damage to property or the environment, or disrupting security of the international community, or opposing the country, or influencing the public authorities of the country or another country or international organisation while discharging its duties, or receiving a privilege from the country or another country or an international organisation, according to the draft law.

The UAE is a signatory to 13 international treaties on terrorism.

Ali Jasem, a veteran member of the House from Umm Al Quwain, said that a terrorism-related case shall neither expire nor the sentence imposed be dropped by prescription.

The draft law would also authorise the Cabinet to set up lists of designated terrorist organisations and persons.

The Cabinet would also establish counselling centres where convicted terrorists will receive intensive religious and welfare counselling in jails in a programme targeted against future threats posed by those holding extremist views, according to the draft law, a copy of which was obtained by Gulf News.

Every legal person whose representatives, managers or agents commit or contribute to the commission of any of the terrorist offences provided in the draft law, would receive a fine ranging between Dh1 million and Dh100 million.

A committee to be named The National Committee for Combating Terrorism is suggested to be established, and a decision towards its establishment would be made by the Cabinet.

The draft law states that an attempt on the life of the president of the state, the vice-president, members of the Supreme Council, crown princes, deputy rulers or members of their families will be punishable with the death sentence.

Life or provisional imprisonment will be imposed on those convicted of committing an attempt on the life of persons covered by international protection.

The penalty for compelling the president of the State, the vice-president, the prime minister, a minister, speaker and members of the FNC to take or refrain from an action will be life imprisonment.

Taking or refraining from carrying out an action that threatens the security of the country, its integrity or sovereignty will be a crime punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. The same penalty will be imposed on those convicted of committing or refraining from taking any such action with the intent to overthrow the government, suspend any article of the constitution, stop any public institution from discharging its responsibilities or harm national unity or social peace.

For equal criminal acts, offenders with terrorist intent will receive a much greater penalty than those without.

A person need only threaten, incite or plan any terrorist act to be prosecuted as a terrorist and punished with the same penalty for perpetrators of these acts, states the bill, fast-tracked by the government.

Signing up to a terrorist organisation will be punished with the death penalty, while an attempt to join any such organisation will cost the offender a life imprisonment, states the draft law.

Capital punishment or life imprisonment is the penalty for a person who commissions or runs a training centre for terrorist operations.

"Whoever seeks or communicates with a foreign state, terrorist organisation or with anyone who works for their interests, to commit any terrorist act, shall be punished with imprisonment for life while the death penalty will be imposed if the terrorist act has been carried out," the bill suggests.

The bill makes it a crime punishable with up to 10 years' jail for any person who does not provide authorities with information relating to any terrorist activity.

(source: Gulf News)

*****************

Man given death penalty by Dubai court for killing his employer----Pakistani clerk was given death penalty in absentia for murdering and robbing his employer

MR, a 31-year-old Pakistani clerk who killed his employer and robbed him before fleeing the country, was awarded death penalty in absentia by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance.

The court however acquitted the convict's compatriot MA, 36, technician, due to lack of evidence.

The Dubai Prosecution had accused the 2 men of killing their employer and stealing Dh80,000 through forged cheques in addition to Dh92,000 that they withdrew by using his ATM card.

The prosecution charged that the 2 had planned to kill IR and prepared a knife and plastic bags prior to committing the crime in May 2009.

The court records show that the victim died after MR stabbed him on different parts of his body.

Then the 2 accused put the victim's body in a plastic bag and left it in a store after stealing his wallet and 2 cheques.

MR forged the victim's signature on 2 cheques and withdrew Dh80,000. He also used the victim's ATM card and withdrew Dh92,499.

The company's 24-year-old Pakistani transport supervisor told investigators that he saw his employer last time at 8.30pm on May 28, 2009 when he left the office.

"On Saturday May 30, 2009, I received a call from the clerk, MR, who told me that he is in the office and nobody had come to office yet. After about an hour and a half, I went to the office and as the company's owner was not there. I asked the clerk about our employer. He told me that our employer is sick and will not come to the office. We worked normally on that day till 8pm we all left the office.

"Next day, I was shocked to see the clerk, MR, holding company's keys and the employer's mobile phone. He told me that our employer had left for Pakistan to finish some urgent matters.

"After this short talk, the clerk left the office and didn't come in the afternoon. We suspected him because he did not answer our phone calls," the transport supervisor told investigators.

On the following day, when the clerk did not come to office, the company's staff became suspicious and informed the police.

"We learnt from police that the clerk, MR, is outside the country but our employer had not left the country at all. This information refuted what the clerk had told us about the employer travelling abroad for an urgent matter. The employer was absent for the past 3 days," said the supervisor.

Police immediately launched the investigation.

A week later, police found the body of the employer and discovered that the 2 cheques of Dh80,000 value were collected. In addition to that money was withdrawn from the employer's account.

Other workers made corroborative testimonies that the clerk was seen running the company and possessing the keys and the employer's mobile phone.

A worker told investigator that he saw the clerk having the keys of the office and the mobile phone of the employer.

"I asked the clerk if he had taken over the company and he answered me affirmatively. He also paid the salaries to the staff. On top of that he asked me to hand over the passport to the technician, MA, who was also paid Dh1,000 on top of his salary as he had to travel to Pakistan."

Other workers repeated similar testimonies saying that both the clerk and the technician did not accompany them for the Friday prayer on that day their employer went missing.

Police identified body of the victim from his fingerprints and identified the clerk MR as prime suspect. Camera footage showed MR along with another person withdrawing money from the victim's account.

In 2013, police extradited the technician, MA, from Pakistan. He denied killing their employer or helping MR to commit the murder.

"While I was going to perform Friday prayer, MR and the victim asked me to accompany them. So I went with them to a large store where the victim started taking measurements. I was shocked when MR pulled a knife he was hiding under his dress and stabbed our employer with while the latter was taking measurements.

"MR then threatened to kill me if I do not help him to put the body in a big sack that he had brought with him. He took our employer's mobile and keys before putting the body in the sack and left it in the store.

"Next day I told MR that I want to leave the country so he paid me Dh10,000, and gave me an air-ticket and my passport," MA told the police.

Forensic reported that the wounds on the victim's face happened after his death which made it difficult to identify him.

It also reported that the victim sustained fatal stabs in his body and neck had also been slit.

(source: emirates247)

JULY 21, 2014:

NEW JERSEY:

NJ lawmaker wants return of death penalty, cites fatal shooting of Jersey City cop

A New Jersey lawmaker is arguing that the fatal shooting of Jersey City Police Det. Melvin Santiago should lead to the state reinstating the death penalty.

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Jackson, said Santiago was "targeted for murder," and that the public supports a return of the death penalty to bring "the full weight of justice in crimes such as this," according to Chasing New Jersey.

"I believe that the time is now to reinstate the death penalty for these heinous, violent crimes when it comes to murdering law enforcement officers, when it comes to murdering a child or a terrorist," he told the news show.

Santiago, 23, was killed last Sunday in what police have called an ambush at the Walgreens at Kennedy Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue. Officers on the scene returned fire, killing the assailant.

New Jersey repealed its death penalty in 2007 under former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.

(source: The Jersey Journal)

GEORGIA:

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty For Wadley Man Accused Of Leaving Woman's Body Near Dumpsters

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for a man charged with raping and killing a woman whose body was found near trash dumpsters in Jefferson County.

The Augusta Chronicle reports Middle Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman announced his intention Friday to pursue a death sentence for 37-year-old Anthony Mereal Lemon, of Wadley.

Lemon was charged last month with murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape and sodomy in the slaying of 29-year-old Jamillah Mia Holmes of Sandersville. A county worker found her body May 12th at a garbage collection site near Wadley.

The decision to seek death of Lemon was announced during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Lemon has been jailed without bond.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS:

Brothers Charged With Capital Murder In Crawford County Slaying

2 half brothers were charged Monday with capital murder in the June death of a 19-year-old Alma man.

Jonathan Bridgewater, 27, and Nicholas Barrows, 19, both of Rudy, are accused of shooting Jamison Lee Plum, whose body was found June 30 in a shallow grave. According to the Medical Examiner's Office of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Plum died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Bridgewater and Barrows face charges of capital murder and felony with a firearm enhancement. Capital murder is a Class Y felony which carries the possible punishment of life without the possibility of parole or the death sentence. Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said his office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

"A decision on the death penalty will be decided later on, after a complete and thorough investigation by the sheriff's office," states a news release from McCune.

Barrows also was charged with possession of prohibited weapons, a Class B felony that has a sentence range of 5 to 20 years, after the Crawford County Sheriff's Office allegedly discovered pipe bombs while executing a search warrant at Barrows' Rudy residence.

Barrows and Bridgewater were arrested June 30. They are scheduled for arraignment Wednesday.

Barrows is the son of Jeff Barrows, a former Fort Smith police officer who served as interim police chief until current Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey was hired in 2007.

(source: SW Times)

MALAYSIA:

Man In Malaysia Sentenced To Death For Selling Marijuana

In one of the most disgusting stories I've ever read, it appears that a 37 year old Nigerian man has been sentenced to death for selling marijuana in Malaysia. Not a fine. Not jail. Death. This man will face the death penalty for selling a substance that has never killed anyone in the history of mankind. Per New Straits Times:

A Nigerian college student gets death for trafficking 26.5kg of cannabis 4 years ago. High Court judge Datin Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah today sentenced Uchechukwu Nelson Ohaechesi, 37, to be hanged for trafficking the drugs at the side of an overhead bridge stairwell at the Kajang-bound Taman Connought highway, Cheras here, around 7.45pm on Oct 17, 2010. Amelia ruled that Uchechukwu failed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case and that his defense amounted to "an afterthought, pure fabrication and untrue".

People are legally selling marijuana right now in Washington State and Colorado, and it has led to virtually no issues. Yet, in Malaysia, the court determined that selling marijuana was such a heinous act that it warrants the death penalty. This makes my heart heavy in a way that I don't think I can ever accurately capture in words. No one should be penalized for marijuana, let alone lose their life by being hung from a noose.

Some people might brush this off and think of it as an example of a country with ultra harsh laws, and that it's far removed from what is going on in the United States. To these people I would offer up this fact - a man is serving a life sentence in Missouri right now for marijuana-only offenses. Jeff Mizanskey hasn't received the death penalty in Missouri, but he will never be let out of jail according to his sentence. His life has been taken from him, and his friends and family will never get to spend quality time with him, solely because he was arrested for marijuana.

(source: Johnny Green, The Weed Blog)

TEXAS:

Penalty trial opens for police officer's killer

Testimony resumes in Houston as prosecutors seek the death penalty for a 23-year-old man convicted of capital murder in the Christmas Eve killings 2 years ago of a Houston-area police officer and an auto body shop owner.

The punishment phase begins Monday in a state district court in the trial of Harlem Lewis III. The Harris County jury found Lewis guilty of capital murder Friday in the deaths of Bellaire officer Jimmie Norman and auto body shop owner Terry Taylor.

Prosecutors say Norman had stopped Lewis for a traffic violation, got into a struggle with him and was shot. Authorities say Taylor was shot when he tried to help Norman.

Jurors can now sentence Lewis to life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSISSIPPI:

Death row inmate Michelle Byrom moved to Tishomingo jail to await new trial

Death row inmate Michelle Byrom has been moved to the Tishomingo County jail where she will await a new trial.

No trial date has been announced.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections says Byrom was moved Saturday to the jail in Iuka.

The state Supreme Court in March threw out Byrom's capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial. The court did not elaborate on its decision.

Byrom, now 57, was sentenced to death in 2000 for the killing of her husband, Edward "Eddie" Byrom Sr., and for recruiting her son in the plot. Eddie Byrom Sr. was fatally shot on June 4, 1999, at the couple's home in Iuka.

Byrom's attorneys say they have new evidence in the case and that Byrom now argues that her son committed the slaying.

(source: Associated Press)

LOUISIANA:

Trial looms for mentally ill man suspected in 2 slayings -- Road to trial long for Charenton man accused of 2 fatal '13 shootings

The Charenton man suspected in the fatal shootings of a Chitimacha tribe police officer and another man in January 2013 was evaluated last week by state psychiatrists, who will weigh in on whether Wilbert Thibodeaux is mentally fit to stand trial.

Thibodeaux, 49, was evaluated at Louisiana's mental hospital in Jackson on July 14. The results of the all-day sanity test could open up a path for Thibodeaux to one day stand trial in St. Mary Parish on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder.

Or he may never stand trial.

"It wouldn't be extremely unusual to never get him to trial," said Paul Marx, who heads the Public Defender's Office for the 15th Judicial District. Marx's office represents low-income defendants in Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes. Marx has no connection to the Thibodeaux case but has defended many like him.

"I've had some who have never been able to go to trial," he said.

Thibodeaux has been an inmate in the mental ward at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel since he was arrested Jan. 26, 2013. St. Mary Parish detectives believe Thibodeaux shot to death 78-year-old Eddie Lyons and Chitimacha tribal police Officer Rick Riggenbach, who was 52 and a veteran cop who had responded to a report of Thibodeaux walking down a Charenton street armed with a gun.

Thibodeaux also is accused of burning down Lyons' mobile home and trying to kill 2 sheriff's deputies who responded to the shootings.

Prosecutors in August 2013 told state district Judge Keith Comeaux they will seek the death penalty.

Craig Colwart, Thibodeaux's lead public defender, said psychiatrists who evaluated Thibodeaux last Monday will write a report for Judge Comeaux to use in determining whether Thibodeaux, on medication, is mentally competent to stand trial.

The report should be completed in two to three months, Colwart said, but he couldn't say when Comeaux would rule.

Colwart said the mental competency issue is but one part of the long drama.

"If they come back and say he's competent, then we have to go through whether he was insane at the time of the offense," Colwart said. "Could he tell right from wrong at the time?"

If Thibodeaux is ruled incompetent to stand trial, the road to a trial is blocked until the day he is deemed mentally stable and cognizant enough to face his accusers in court.

In the 18 months since Riggenbach and Lyons were killed, Colwart and other public defenders have tried to collect records documenting the mental health problems that have plagued Thibodeaux since he was young.

Neighbors in Charenton said that although Thibodeaux had mental issues all his life, he had never been violent until January 2013.

Colwart said the records unearthed - such as those documenting an extended stay at a Texas mental facility one month before the shootings - were given to the psychiatrists at the mental hospital in Jackson last Monday.

"Because this is a 1st-degree murder case, with all the complications ... we wanted to get as much information about his situation to the doctors," Colwart said.

Thibodeaux also has been uncooperative, refusing at times to meet with attorneys who traveled from St. Mary Parish to the Elayn Hunt prison in Iberville Parish to discuss his case. And he has refused to sign legal documents needed to help his defense, Colwart said.

(source: The Advocate)

ARIZONA:

Appeals court postpones Arizona man's execution

A federal appeals court on Saturday granted an Arizona death row inmate's request to postpone his pending execution, putting it on hold until prison officials reveal details on the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The preliminary injunction granted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversing a lower federal court comes four days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

Without weighing in on the "ultimate merits" of Wood's case, the court wrote: "Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim, and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor."

Wood's lawyers argued prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

"Today the Court has made a well-reasoned ruling affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public's right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government," Wood's lawyer Dale Baich said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.

Representatives from the attorney general's office said they had not yet seen the decision, but based on the severity of Wood's crime they intended to appeal. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the state would decide Monday how to proceed.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

"There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country," Baich said in a statement, "and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

Arizona prison officials intend to use the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

A Lifetime on California's Death Row

"How has it gone on this long?" Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the State of Florida during oral arguments in March on a condemned inmate's appeal. The legal issue in that case had to do with how states define intellectual disability, but Justice Scalia was troubled that Freddie Lee Hall had been on Florida's death row for more than 3 decades.

In that same session, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the last 10 people executed by the state had spent an average of 24.9 years on death row.

"Do you think that that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty," Justice Kennedy asked the state's lawyer, "and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?"

Last Wednesday, in an unrelated case, a federal judge in California answered that question with a resounding no. The state's death-penalty system is "so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay," wrote United States District Judge Cormac Carney, that it violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In a remarkable ruling overturning the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend's mother, Judge Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, pointed out that of the more than 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, 13 have been executed. More than 40 % of the rest have been on death row for at least 19 years, and the backlog is growing.

The judge found that the delays are primarily due not to inmates' repeated appeals, as is often assumed, but to the state's own foot-dragging and underfunding of its indigent defense system.

California law provides for an automatic appeal of all death sentences, but it takes 3 to 5 years before death-row inmates - all of whom are indigent - are even assigned a lawyer. It takes 4 more years for the lawyer to go through the voluminous trial record and file an appeal, and 2 to 3 years for the State Supreme Court, which hears only 20 to 25 death-penalty appeals per year, to schedule oral arguments.

Tack on another 3 to 5 years for state habeas corpus petitions, which bring claims that often don't arise in the 1st appeal, such as ineffective assistance of counsel. Add 10 for federal habeas corpus claims, and the result is what Judge Carney charitably called a "completely dysfunctional" system.

Executions that are so long delayed and so rarely carried out, the judge wrote, are "antithetical to any civilized notion of just punishment." They neither deter future crimes nor serve society's interest in retribution for past ones - 2 common rationales given by supporters of capital punishment. Whether an inmate is executed depends not on the nature of the crime or even the date of his sentence, the judge said, but on "arbitrary factors" like the length of his various appeals.

California is, of course, far from alone on the issue. Nationwide, the average time from sentencing to execution is almost 16 years, and executions have hit all-time lows as states fight litigation on multiple fronts. (Because of continuing litigation over the state's lethal-injection protocol, California has not executed anyone since 2006.)

States including Florida, Alabama and North Carolina have responded to similar delays by moving to streamline death-row appeals. But speed is not the point if it comes at the expense of accuracy. As Judge Carney said, "death is a punishment different in kind from any other," and so requires more careful scrutiny than any other.

That extra scrutiny is "vitally important," the judge pointed out: Half of Californiaís death sentences that were reviewed by a federal court were eventually vacated.

(source: Editorial, New York Times)

***************

Cruel and Unusual

Anxiety shook me when my 5th-grade teacher assigned us a paragraph on what we thought about Stanley "Tookie" William's death sentence. Williams, a former leader of the Crips charged with several accounts of 1st-degree murder, was put on death row in California. In prison, he began writing anti-gang and anti-violence books for children, some of which we had read in class.

Williams became an icon for many activists and leaders, with more than 2,000 attending his funeral. Before his execution, he left behind a recorded message for his mourners. "The war within me is over. I battled my demons and was triumphant," Williams said in his recording. "Teach them how to avoid our destructive footsteps. Teach them to strive for higher education. Teach them to promote peace and teach them to focus on rebuilding the neighborhoods that you, others and I helped destroy."

As a fledgling 10-year-old citizen, I had vague intuitions about the dilemma of justice presented before me. Part of me questioned whether it was morally just to penalize murder by executing murder under the thin veil of a bureaucratic procedure. As a young adult, I am more cognizant of the rhetorical moves supporters and opposers of this legal process use, which I explore here.

To begin with, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in California, citing that it violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Carney also contended that the system also leaves inmates with undecided fates for decades. In the past 7 years, 6 states have abolished the death penalty, but in 2012, California voters rejected such a ban.

One argument weighing in favor of the death penalty is grounded in utility - how useful or beneficial to the majority something is. For example, murder is reasonably considered a crime against society, and it would seem to benefit society as a whole to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to the so-called greater good. But a stronger utilitarian argument exists for abolishing the death penalty. Fiscally speaking, putting a prisoner on death row is expensive and wastes taxpayer money that could go to other social service programs. California has spent $4 billion on death row inmates since 1978, which boils down to roughly $177 million per inmate a year. The money accrues from factors such as costlier lawyers, as well as incarceration expenses such as individual cells and multiple guards present for visitors. The death row population in California is currently at 748 inmates, but only 13 inmates have been executed since 1978.

In the same vein of utility, proponents also suggest the death penalty also deters murder. But other factors, such as demography, policing, culture and the job market, could also affect the murder rate. In fact, an epistemological study conducted by America's National Research Council found in 2012 that research to date is not informative about whether or not the death penalty bears any weight on fluctuating homicide rates. Life imprisonment without parole, however, is a considerable alternative to the death penalty that can substantially yield social utility (not to say, though, that life imprisonment isn't severe). Craig Datesman, for example, an inmate at Gratersford Prison in Pennsylvania, has coordinated a program called Lifers to help younger people who have trouble with the law go "straight." Life imprisonment may also offer grieving families of victims financial and emotional restitution. One concept involves having lifers work in prisons for better wages in order to offer the victim's family financial restitution, one figure set at $150,000. Additionally,Murder Victim Families For Reconciliation, for example, opposes the death penalty and emphasizes justice as a transformation from violence to healing.

In contrast, those who advocate the death penalty also appeal to the more individualistic argument of human dignity. They lever the "life for a life" argument, suggesting that the death penalty approaches the defendant with human dignity, treating him or her as a free moral agent. Institutionalizing a correction legal process like the death penalty enables the government to protect the "negative rights" (freedom from interference) of citizens, like the right not to be killed.

But what about mistakes? Legally, the death penalty may not be so clean or clear-cut after all, extinguishing the rights of those who are innocent. A study conducted by statisticians and legal experts reveal that almost 4 percent of U.S. capital punishment sentences are wrongfully convicted and that about 120 of 3,000 inmates are not guilty. Medically speaking, botched lethal injections can be easily interpreted as experimental and cruel. Clayton Lockett, for example, was given a new 3-drug method that left him in pain for several minutes, dying 43 minutes after his injection. One alternative to the lethal injection death is a firing squad death, which is only legal in Utah. It can bring about heart death in about 1 minute. But the mental image of a firing squad is gruesome, uncovering an uncomfortable moral question about state-sanctioned death.

To this day, I don't recall what I wrote for my assignment. But the fear and shock remain. As a child yet to be corrupted by cynicism, I wondered what redemption meant and if the most extreme measures of institutionalized retributive measures could ever make up for the loss in human life, which may or may not have been carried out heinously. I was aghast by how the line between life and death depended so much upon social mores. But I was also aghast by how it depended so much on the whims of 1 authoritative individual - in this case, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who denied Williams clemency. The only difference is that now, as a young adult, I bluntly oppose the death penalty as a means of administering justice.

(soruce: Stacey Nguyen, The Daily Californian)

WASHINGTON:

New Jersey Police Arrest Man Suspected Of Killing 2 Gay Men In Seattle----If convicted, he could face the death penalty

New Jersey authorities have arrested a fugitive suspected of killing 2 men in Seattle last month. Police apprehended Ali Muhammad Brown, 30, in West Orange, N.J., July 18 - weeks after he was identified as a suspect in the double homicide case.

Brown, who is held at a correctional facility, was charged with 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted, KIRO 7 reports. He was also wanted for a robbery and attempted carjacking in New Jersey.

Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, were found shot to death June 1 in Seattleís Leschi neighborhood. Prosecutors accuse Brown of targeting the men on mobile dating apps for gay men before meeting them outside R Place, a gay club, that night.

In court documents released July 2, prosecutors say Brown allegedly planned the attack and that Seattle police were investigating the case as a possible anti-gay hate crime, reports KIRO 7.

According to the documents, Said communicated with Brown on a gay dating app "like Grindr or Jack'd" while at the nightclub and told friends there he was meeting someone that night. Shortly after the bar closed, the victims met Brown and then drove to Anderson-Young's house in Leschi, at which point police say Brown shot them multiple times and stole Said's car. Evidence collected by homicide investigators suggests the victims were "essentially executed," according to the report.

Additionally, prosecutors said that homicide investigators linked Brown to the murders after finding fingerprints and 9mm casings in Said's car, which was found abandoned in South Seattle.

Authorities say they will continue to investigate. In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said, "All of our communities are safer today as a result. I hope his arrest brings some initial measure of closure to the families of Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said."

(source: buzzfeed.com)

IRAN:

Political prisoners Arzhang Davoodi sentenced to death

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced political Prisoner Arzhang Davoodi to death for his opposition to the clerical regime, according to reports received from Iran. Mr. Davoodi has already served 10 years in prison

Davoodi, 62, a teacher, was arrested in October 2003 and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment which was later increased to 20 years.

For the past 10 years he has been subjected to torture and abuses, He has been held in solitary confinements and denied medical care.

He has been told by Bandar Abbas prison authorities that he would soon be transferred to Tehran.

**************************

Iranian regime sentences a prisoner to stoning to death and hanging

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced a prisoner to death by stoning, hanging and 15 years imprisonment, state-run Mehr News Agency reported.

The regime's judiciary chief in northern city of Ghaemshahr who did not identify the prisoner said the review of the case of this 32-year-old prisoner has been one the most important tasks of his office.

He said the prisoners has been sentenced to 2 times execution which includes hanging and stoning to death for alleged crimes that included adultery and possessing satellite receivers among others.

(source for both: NCR-Iran)

*************************

Wave Of Forgiveness Washes Over Iran

April 16 was supposed to be the last day of Balal's life. Seven years after stabbing another teen dead in a street fight, Balal was to be publicly executed in front of his victim's family, in a small town in Iran's northern province of Mazandaran.

Instead, Balal was given a new lease on life when, in the very last minute, he was spared by his victim's mother. The dramatic scenes of Balal, his neck in a noose, being pardoned have received extensive coverage in the media and on social-networking sites.

Since then the scene has been reenacted dozens of times in a wave of forgiveness that belies the authorities' efforts to push the death penalty.

Last week alone, according to the reformist "Shargh" daily, nine individuals sentenced to death were pardoned by victims' families.

Observers say a concerted publicity campaign is at play, but money is also a factor.

Artists, television celebrities, and rights activists have been publicly calling on citizens to spare the lives of those sentenced to death and the media have been sympathetic in their coverage.

In Balal's case, for example, popular TV presenter Adel Ferdowsipour spoke to an audience of millions in favor of him being pardoned.

But Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, a well-known Iranian lawyer who has represented several convicted killers, says that what media call a wave of mercy is in fact a "business."

Under Islamic laws applied in Iran, the families of convicted murderers are able to buy their kin's freedom from victims' families. The official rate for blood money is 150 million toumans -- or about $50,000 -- but often the sum requested is higher.

In Balal's case, his victim's family reportedly received blood money of about 300 million toumans.

"Based on the information I have about some of the cases, I have to say that a large part of the reconciliations in Qisas" - a reference to the Islamic law of retribution - "cases are happening in exchange of enormous sums of money from the families of those convicted," Khoramshahi said earlier this month in an interview with fararu.com.

The Tehran-based lawyer added that media should encourage people not to request huge sums of money for showing mercy.

Iranian Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in April that during the past Iranian year - from March 2013 to March 2014 - the lives of 358 condemned Iranians were spared under the Islamic law of retribution.

Mahmood Amiry Moghadam, spokesman of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization, says it is not clear how many pardons were prompted by the lure of financial compensation.

But Moghadam thinks that some Iranians are finding "value" in showing mercy.

"I think as much as the establishment is trying to promote executions," he says, "a culture that goes against it - a culture of mercy - is being promoted."

Moghadam says Iran's civil society and anti-death-penalty groups should be given credit for the trend.

One of the groups active against executions is the "Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty In Iran" campaign, founded by a number of prominent intellectuals and rights activists including former Tehran University chancellor Mohammad Maleki.

Maleki tells RFE/RL there's a growing distaste for the death penalty in Iran and a tendency toward mercy.

He agrees that many families spare the lives of their relatives' killers for money. At the same time, he says he's come across a number of cases where the families pardoned convicted killers out of compassion.

"It will take time before it becomes ingrained in the society," he says in a telephone interview from Tehran. "People have to realize slowly that money cannot replace forgiveness and sacrifice."

Maleki notes that the trend comes as the Iranian establishment continues to hold public hangings.

"The establishment only knows violence and blood," he says.

One journalist in the Iranian capital says the establishment is already benefiting from the wave of forgiveness because "it shows a more human face of Iran."

But others fear that violence is so deeply rooted in Iranian society that it will take a long time before things change.

The country carried out 665 executions in 2013, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

And with Iranians under tremendous pressures that discourage communication and dialogue, the wave of mercy is not likely to last, according to prominent university professor and sociologist Mostafa Eghlima.

"It's not easy [for people] to forgive someone who has killed their children," he concludes.

(source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)

PAKISTAN:

Implementation of death penalty may be resumed soon ---- GHQ attacker, TTP terrorists can be sent to gallows

Under mounting pressure from the security agencies to lift the moratorium on death penalty in the cases of dreaded terrorists and hardened criminals, the federal government may allow carrying out the death sentences.

Likely to be hanged 1st are Aqeel alias Dr Usman, a soldier-turned-jehadi and the ring leader of the 2009 fidayeen attack on the GHQ building, and several other TTP terrorists, already handed down death sentences.

According to well-informed government sources in Islamabad, since the launching of the operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, the security establishment had been pressing the federal government hard not only to legislate new laws to tighten the prosecution of dreaded terrorists but also to lift the moratorium on death penalty which is in force since 2008.

Because of the moratorium, over 8,000 criminals, including terrorists, target killers, murderers and those involved in other heinous crimes, have not been executed for the last 6 years. The federal government had subsequently passed the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) 2014 immediately after the launch of the operation Zarb-e-Azb in on the recommendation of the khaki top brass.

The government sources said that in their July 17 meeting at the GHQ, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had discussed in detail the issue of effectively prosecuting terrorists in the courts as well as dealing with those terrorists who had been handed down sentences but are not getting convictions, thus leaving a negative impact on efforts of the armed forces in the war against terror.

Both the PM and the COAS were unanimous that the terrorists should be given a tough message that they will not be spared for their misdeeds come what may once they are arrested. Thus, the government circles say, there is a strong possibility of the prime minister revoking moratorium on death penalty as far as the cases of dreaded terrorists and hardened criminals are concerned.

The moratorium on death sentence was invoked by the Zardari-led PPP government on the pressure of international community.Subsequently, some 8,000 convicted prisoners continue to defy death despite the fact that they have already exhausted their judicial appeals and their convictions have been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

When the Sharif government came into power, it had announced to resume the death penalty but soon got it reversed. However, repeated warnings by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that the executions of jailed militants including Aqeel alias Dr Usman would compel the TTP to wage a war against the PML-N leadership finally forced the government to take a U-turn on its previous declaration.

It was in August 2013 that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered to halt carrying out of the death sentences in the country till further orders. The decision came hardly a few days after the ameer of the Punjabi Taliban, Asmatullh Muavia, warned that the executions of the TTP men would compel the Taliban to wage a war against the PML-N.

His warning was followed by yet another threatening statement released by the TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, saying that a highly-trained squad of suicide bombers has been formed to target two key figures of the PML-N (most likely Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif) if Aqeel alias Dr Usman was hanged in Faisalabad jail as per schedule on August 23 [2013].

"The residences of prominent PML-N leadership will be attacked immediately if Aqeel is sent to the gallows as per schedule. The leadership of the PML-N will be our target, just like we had targeted the ANP leadership," the TTP spokesman had warned.

Interestingly, however, before taking the U-turn on death sentences, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had stated on August 14 in Islamabad that the new government was determined to establish the writ of law. "There is a huge backlog of 450 cases of death sentences and we are processing them as fast as we can to implement the execution orders of the hardened terrorists so that the law may take its due course," he had said. On his part, Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed was quoted by the national press as saying on August 15 that the death sentences had been awarded by courts and not the PML-N. He said that the courts were rightly displeased with dragging feet on hanging the criminals, who have been sentenced and who have exhausted the right of appeal long time ago.

Against the backdrop of the reports about their imminent executions, the Taliban had warned through a pamphlet distributed in South and North Waziristan on August 14: "If the jailed prisoners are executed, it would amount to a declaration of war on the part of the government".

Aqeel was set to be executed in Faisalabad on August 23, 2013 but he was lucky to have survived in the wake of Sharif government's decision to impose moratorium on death penalty.

A deserter from the Medical Corps of the Pakistan Army who later joined the Taliban ranks, Aqeel was sentenced to death in August 2011 by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Rawalpindi for his role in the GHQ attack. 3 civilians - Khaliqur Rehman, Mohammad Usman and Wajid Mehmood - were awarded life sentences while 2 others, Mohammad Adnan and Tahir Shafiq, handed down 8 and 7 years jail sentences respectively.

While Aqeel was caught alive following the assault, another ex-soldier and 5 civilians were arrested later and were found guilty of abetment in the brazen attack. The court martial proceedings against the accused were headed by a serving brigadier and the trial lasted over 5 months at an undisclosed location near the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

But Aqeel's fate was effectively sealed on December 7, 2012 when an Army Appellate Court headed by a major general had rejected his appeal against the death sentence. As Aqeel attempted to challenge his sentence in the superior courts, he was told that the verdicts handed down by the military courts cannot be challenged in a high court. As per the confessional statement of Aqeel, he had deserted the Army's Medical Corps in 2006 to join the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). He later joined hands with Commander Ilyas Kashmiri's Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HuJI), finally becoming a significant leader of the Waziristan-based Punjabi Taliban. In the aftermath of 2007 Lal Masjid operation, Aqeel and some other hardcore jehadi elements floated a new group - Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab - which had carried out the GHQ attack.

As such, the GHQ assault was one of the first major terrorist attacks attributed to the Punjabi Taliban. Aqeel had disclosed during interrogations that the GHQ attack was conceived in the Miramshah headquarter of North Waziristan by the same militants who had attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team's bus in Lahore in March 2009.

Shortly after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, Aqeel fled to Waziristan where he had met al-Qaeda-linked Ilyas Kashmiri. It was at this meeting that the idea of the attack on the General Headquarters was finalised by Ilyas Kashmiri, who himself had deserted the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Army to become a key al-Qaeda leader, before being killed in a US drone attack in June 2011.

(source: The News)

TAIWAN:

Taiwan prosecutors seek death penalty on subway killer

Taiwanese prosecutors on Monday said they were seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing 4 people and wounding nearly 2 dozen others in a stabbing spree on the Taipei subway that shocked the island.

Cheng Chieh, a 21-year-old college student, was charged with 4 accounts of murder and 22 accounts of attempted murder for the fatal attack on May 21, the 1st of its kind on the city's subway system since it began operating in 1996, AFP reports.

"The accused's actions fit the definition of mass murders, his means were ruthless and inhuman, and caused irreparable harm to the victims and their families. We demand the court sentence him to death,'' prosecutors said in a statement.

The incident shocked Taiwan, otherwise proud of its low levels of violent crime, and resulted in several minor injuries as edgy commuters fled trains over false alarms in the following week.

Cheng's parents had asked for him to be sentenced to death to help ease the pain inflicted on the victims and their families, calling their son's actions ''unforgivable''.

Executions are carried out in Taiwan by a single shot to the heart from the back -- or, if the prisoner agrees to donate his organs, a bullet to the back of the head.

Prosecutors said psychological evaluations have shown that Cheng was not in a state of mental disorder when he committed the crime, and that he is fit to stand trial.

They described him as "anti-society, narcissistic, immature and pessimistic".

In elementary school, he vowed to "kill people in revenge" after having trouble with classmates, they said.

Local media said he had been obsessed with online killing games and had written horror stories since high school.

Cheng's parents spoke to reporters on May 27 at the subway station outside Taipei where the killings took place.

"Although he is our child, the crime he committed is unforgivable," Cheng's sobbing father said.

"I think he should be sentenced to death... he should face it himself. Only by so doing may the pains inflicted on the victims and the wounded and their families be slightly eased.''

He urged judges to pass sentence on his son as soon as possible. "We hope Cheng Chieh can act in a correct manner during his next life," he added.

Security has been strengthened on the metro, which transports around 1.85 million people a day.

The Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation is seeking a compensation of TW$20.61 million from Cheng for operational losses after it lost around 945,000 passengers in the 10 days following the attack.

(source: The Standard)

SINGAPORE:

Singapore's under fire for execution restart

The hanging of 2 convicted drug smugglers in Singapore has been described as a step backwards by rights advocates. On Friday, Singapore carried out its 1st executions in more than 3 years, after 2 men were hung for drug-related offences.

In late 2012, Singapore's Parliament adopted amendments to abolish the death penalty under certain circumstances and a number of people have had their death sentences reviewed since.

(source: Radio Australia)

*********************

It's time for Singapore to relook its war on drugs

48-year-old Foong Chee Peng and 36-year-old Tang Hai Liang were both hanged at dawn on Friday morning. They are the first 2 to have been executed in Changi Prison since an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty began in July 2011.

Both men were Singaporeans, convicted on drug trafficking offences. As far as we know, most of the inmates sitting on death row are there because of Singapore's never-ending war on drugs.

The resumption of executions sends a chilling message to the inmates as well as to anti-death penalty campaigners. With 2 already hanged and cremated, will there be more executions next Friday, and all the Fridays to come? Is the 3-year reprieve now over?

There are many problems with the death penalty and its application. In Singapore, we have highlighted issues with the mandatory nature of the death penalty, and how it continues to restrict the discretion of the judges even after the amendments have been made. We have pointed out that the current system greatly disadvantages drug mules, while kingpins avoid the noose. We have expressed our concern with the process of issuing Certificates of Cooperation, an opaque and confusing system that appears to grant a huge amount of power to the prosecution.

Beyond that, there is an even wider concern that our current war on drugs is failing. Even with our best efforts, the drug trade in Southeast Asia has not decreased, but has instead increased. Continual arrests, death sentences and even extrajudicial killings over the years - carried out not just by Singapore by other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand - have done little to alter this fact.

It is understandable that we would want to live in a safe society where drug crime is low. But it doesn't make sense for us to cling on to old methods that appear to have a limited impact on the regional drug trade, in the hopes that it will suddenly work much better and keep drugs off the streets.

We will need new solutions and new innovations to deal with this problem, and we won't be the 1st. Other countries and states have already started looking at alternatives to what has been an expensive and bloody war on drugs throughout the world, reforming their drug laws and shifting mindsets to allow for more rehabilitative and restorative methods of dealing with drug crime and drug addicts.

Portugal was 1 of the first to decriminalise drugs and treat drug users as patients rather than criminals. Some analysts say that decriminalisation has actually not led to an increase in drug consumption, while other reports actually suggest that drug crime has actually gone down.

Singapore might be small and worried about our vulnerability, but we cannot keep our heads stuck in the sand. We cannot keep sacrificing lives in the hope that it will one day pay off. It is high time we gather up the courage to explore new ideas and new solutions.

(source: Commentary; Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. The views expressed are her own. Singapore Scene)

SRI LANKA:

Ukrainian couple get Lanka death sentence for double murder----Found guilty of murdering 6-year-old and a woman

A Ukrainian couple have been sentenced to death in Sri Lanka, for a double murder committed in 2010. The Colombo High Court sentenced the Ukranian nationals, the 'Colombo Gazette' reported.

They had been found guilty of murdering a 6-year-old along with a woman, who worked as a maid. The child's mother was also been injured in the attack in 2010 and following the murder the Ukrainians had been arrested.

The Ukranian woman has appealed to court to carry out her sentence immediately instead of sending her to prison.

(source: emirates247.com)

JULY 20, 2014:

TEXAS:

Jury: Man guilty of capital murder in death of Bellaire police officer

After a one-week trial, it took a Harris County jury just 2 hours to find a 23-year-old man guilty of capital murder for the death of a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander - murders recorded on the officer's own police dash camera.

Closing statements ended Friday around 1:30 p.m.

Defense attorneys asked the jury to opt for a lesser charge of murder that would essentially spare Harold Lewis III the death penalty. Lewis' attorneys contend, that despite the fact that the shootings of both Bellaire Police Cpl. Jimmie Norman and innocent bystander Terry Taylor were captured on the officer's dash cam, that no one can be completely sure what happened during the 1-minute struggle between the officer and the suspect inside Lewis' car.

Lewis was indicted for capital murder based on the allegation that he intentionally killed more than 1 person. Defense attorney Patrick McCann asked the jury to consider that the gun might have gone off accidentally during the struggle inside the car.

In her closing statement Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson scoffed at the theory and said that Lewis' entire actions that day must be taken into account.

"He decided he was going to kill this officer because he was not going to jail," Anderson said referring to Lewis leading police on a high speed chase Christmas Eve 2012, hitting 2 other vehicles, then refusing the officers commands and repeatedly telling the officer he was trying to find his cell phone.

Lewis had an outstanding warrant for marijuana possession and his .380 caliber handgun was stolen. Evidence showed his cell phone was right next to him the entire time in the car. Anderson told the jury the 1-minute struggle showed Lewis' continued attempt to escape and that the shot that hit the officer point-blank in the head - and the shot 2 seconds later that killed Taylor - were both intentional.

When the sentencing phase begins on Monday prosecutors will ask the jury for the death penalty.

"The jury's held Mr. Lewis accountable at this point. He is going to spend the rest of his life, he is a very young man, in prison, this doesn't need to be another death in this tragedy, that's all we have to say,Ē said defense attorney Patrick McCann.

(source: KHOU news)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Mass murderer who butchered four in Northampton: 'I'm not afraid to die' ---- Michael Ballard says death penalty 'makes the most sense.'

Mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard casts his decision to abandon his appeals and seek his own execution as a simple one.

It's not meant as a public expression of remorse for having "butchered" - his own chilling word - 4 people.

It's not meant as atonement, to even the scales of justice just a little for the lives he took in 2010 in that Northampton home.

It's not a political protest against the death penalty. It is also not, he said, an act of despair by a suicidal man.

Rather, Ballard told The Morning Call in a 2-hour interview on death row, it is the cold and reasoned choice he has made after coming face to face with just 2 stark options: to accept his own death; or appeal his sentence for years, if not decades, from the cramped and "dehumanizing" walls of solitary confinement.

"The jury made their decision, and I'm not about to spend the next 20 years begging the state of Pennsylvania for a mercy they're not going to give," Ballard said.

"There's no emotionality. There's no apprehension," he insisted. "I'm not afraid to die."

Ballard was interviewed 1-on-1 July 10 at the State Correctional Institution-Greene, where the state's largest death row is housed. Sitting in a small booth feet from a reporter, a plate of security glass between them, Ballard called his resolution a straightforward one, though he acknowledged that he struggles to picture the end he has chosen for himself - strapped to a gurney and lethally injected with a cocktail of drugs.

But he said he is a man who keeps his word.

"This is the decision I have made," Ballard said.

Death, "to me, it makes the most sense."

The clock is ticking.

The day after Ballard spoke to the newspaper, Gov. Tom Corbett received the certified record of his case, bringing into motion a state law that requires Corbett to schedule Ballard's execution, according to Joshua Maus, a spokesman for the Office of General Counsel.

Under the rules, an execution date will be set for no later than early December, though Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said legal wrangling will all but guarantee the day comes and goes without Ballard's being put to death, even if he sticks to his course.

When Ballard was sent to death row in 2011, it was Northampton County's 1st capital verdict in nearly 25 years. Morganelli calls him the "poster boy" for the death penalty. The state Supreme Court upheld his sentence in November, citing overwhelming evidence in support of it.

By his own admission, Ballard savagely knifed to death his former girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who heard screams at their Northampton home and tried to help.

"We want it done. We want it over with," Zernhelt's older sister, Maryann Trimmer Banko of Whitehall Township said last week, speaking for her family.

"We do not want to hear his name again or see his face again," she said of Ballard. "We want to move on."

Alvin Marsh, a World War II veteran who was deaf and blind, was slain in his wheelchair. Zernhelt's split-second valor left a widow and 3 children. Merhi had 2 children of her own. Her father was the 1st killed; afterward Ballard wrote in blood on a wall next to him that Merhi was a "whore."

Ballard said he "constantly" thinks about the killings. He'll never offer a public explanation for them, he said.

"An explanation does nothing to change the fact that I butchered everyone in that house," Ballard said. "It doesn't bring anyone back, and it's just a vain attempt to salvage how I look to other people.

"I've already told you, I don't give a [expletive]," Ballard said.

At the time of the June, 26, 2010 massacre, Ballard had recently been paroled from prison, where he served 17 years for murdering an Allentown man nearly 2 decades before. Donald Richard, 56, was knifed to death in 1991 after apparently making a pass at Ballard while showing him an apartment for rent.

Ballard waved away questions of whether his execution could be a bid for redemption.

"I can't sit here and tell you that there isn't a part of me that feels that guilt, but I'm not making this some sort of altruistic endeavor," Ballard said.

The interview came as Ballard has publicly sparred with the self-appointed defense lawyers who might otherwise save his life. He charges they have acted against his interests and without his authorization.

In March, an appeal on Ballard's behalf was made to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a Philadelphia nonprofit active in the anti-capital punishment movement. When Ballard learned of the petition through a Morning Call article, he wrote the justices directly, saying it was done behind his back and should be thrown out.

Ballard said he also has barred the highly successful Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia from even visiting him on death row, though one of its attorneys, Billy Nolas, told Morganelli in June that he plans to represent Ballard in further legal challenges.

If Nolas or any other federal defender tries to do so, Ballard said, he will fight them.

"They have no business on my case whatsoever," Ballard said of the lawyers who have managed to reverse scores of death sentences in Pennsylvania.

One of Ballard's defense attorneys at trial, James Connell, said he believes Ballard is sincere about abandoning his appeals. Connell said a "very upset" Ballard phoned him after learning of the Supreme Court petition, and they spoke at length about his desire to "let the legal system take its course."

"He didn't tell me he wanted to die," Connell said. "He told me he wanted the legal system to take its course."

But Connell said he has no doubt Ballard understands what that means and is mentally competent to make that decision.

"I think he knows exactly what he's doing," Connell said.

Personally, Connell said, he disagrees with Ballard's plans.

"If he asked my opinion, I'd certainly talk to him and tell him every life is worth living, despite what the circumstances might be," Connell said.

Like Connell, Morganelli said he concludes that Ballard is sincere. But as the reality of his execution nears, Ballard could still reverse himself, as happened in another case Morganelli handled: that of Martin Appel, who murdered 3 people during a 1986 bank robbery in East Allen Township and is now serving life in prison after successfully appealing his death sentence.

"This is up to Mr. Ballard. This is his decision," Morganelli said. "At this moment, I believe this is what he wants. Will he change his mind when things get closer? Perhaps."

On Monday, Morganelli filed court paperwork seeking to have the federal defenders barred from the case unless Ballard expressly authorizes them to appear on his behalf. The filing, described by Morganelli as a "preemptive strike," also asks that Ballard be brought to Easton from death row for a hearing to confirm that he is competent, as was determined before his trial.

Nolas has not responded to repeated requests for comment, including a phone call and email last week.

'Torture for me'

For inmates who fight their sentences, Pennsylvania has a de facto legal moratorium on executions, having not put a killer to death against his will since 1962, when John F. Kennedy was president. But 3 prisoners were executed in the 1990s after they volunteered for it by abandoning their appeals.

Though that is the path Ballard said he wishes to take, he maintained he is not eager to die, and said he is not "hanging by a bedsheet" - a reference to suicide. He also objected to a reporter's characterization that he has decided to "embrace" his death.

Nonetheless, Ballard's position represents a sea change from two previous interviews with The Morning Call - conducted just before and just after his May 2011 trial - in which he insisted he was not going to be a volunteer.

"I don't have a death wish. That still stands," Ballard said in June 2011. "I don't view myself as so worthless that I need to check out."

Ballard, 40, has now been at the prison in Greene County for 3 years. His optimism is gone, he said, and the reality of remaining on death row is "torture for me."

And the hope of winning at appeal on a "technicality" isn't enough, he said, considering that even after years of legal fights, his "prize" would be to one day die in prison as a lifer.

"This isn't a suicide mission. I'm not committing suicide," Ballard said. "I was sentenced to this. If I had an option, this is the last [expletive] one I'd be picking."

Throughout the interview, Ballard, who was not handcuffed, used his hands to help make his points, slapping the walls as he talked of the restricted life of solitary confinement - 22 hours a day alone in a 7-by-12-foot cell, cages awaiting every time he is let out to exercise.

Occasionally, he popped into his mouth small fruit candies that he had smuggled out of his cell in his sock. Often his sentences were punctuated with profanity, and he at one point put up both his middle fingers to underscore his explanation of why he won't try to stop the state from fulfilling its intention.

"It's their sentence. If they don't want to carry it out on me or anybody else, then get it off the books," Ballard said.

If history is any guide, Ballard's decision will provoke a flurry of legal filings on his behalf that question whether he is mentally fit to make it.

Ballard said he is expecting that Nolas or another anti-death-penalty lawyer is "going to do his damnedest to say that I'm completely bat [expletive] crazy and I don't know what I'm doing."

Ballard said his competency shouldn't be in question, and "no lay person is going to argue against that."

According to Ballard, the federal defenders have already made efforts to get him to change his mind. They visited his father in his native Arkansas to see if he could persuade Ballard to accept their representation. They also tracked down a daughter that Ballard said he had as a teenager - a child who was never mentioned in testimony or court paperwork in his case.

"I was not in her life. I wasn't there as a father to begin with," Ballard said. "It's very unfortunate for her to be brought into this."

A long-lost daughter also made an appearance for the last person to be executed in Pennsylvania, "house of horrors" murderer Gary Heidnik of Philadelphia, who was put to death in 1999. Heidnik's case demonstrates just how long Ballard's fate could be delayed, even with his decision not to contest it.

Though Heidnik wanted his end to come, lawyers from the federal defender office unsuccessfully tried to appeal on behalf of his daughter, who had been raised in foster care. Though he never sought to challenge his 1988 sentence, it still took 11 years for Heidnik to be executed, said A. Charles Peruto Jr., a Philadelphia lawyer who represented him at trial and supported him in his decision to volunteer.

Peruto predicted Ballard "is going to have a long, long wait" of at least 5 years before he is executed.

Ballard said he has no idea when he could be put to death.

"My best guess? Middle of next year," he said, throwing up his arms.

Though seemingly an aberrant decision, a surprisingly high number of death-row inmates ask to be executed, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Nationwide since 1976, one in 10 prisoners put to death was a volunteer, 141 out of 1,383 executions, according to the Washington nonprofit.

The reasons are varied, Dieter said. Some inmates suffer from mental illness that may affect their decisions. Some do so out of guilt for their crimes. Others feel that life on death row is pointless. For still others, it is a chance to wrestle their fates back from the justice system, he said.

"Even if it is a negative sort of control, you get to call the shots, so to speak," Dieter said. "It draws attention. You are the commander."

In describing his decision, Ballard bristled over the "warehousing" he said is the reality of death row. He said he is not a "house pet" who can accept 4 walls and his every move being dictated by guards.

Ballard also said he "absolutely" believes that he had a fair trial, and that his public defenders - Connell and Michael Corriere - served him well during it.

Ballard doesn't even blame the jurors for reaching the verdict they did.

"Based on the letter of the law, they came back with the right sentence," Ballard said, before shrugging his shoulders.

He spoke the words after being asked if the jury got it right, a question he answered only after a long pause and a chuckle, saying it was a difficult one for him.

"They made their own decision," Ballard said. "It's not unlike the decision I made the year before."

Since that mass killing, Ballard believes he deserves credit for the road he has taken.

"I've pleaded guilty. I'm not trying to fight and claw and scratch on some asinine technicality, so it's going to be carried out," Ballard said. "What more could the family - those families - expect. What more could the community expect?"

If the public is seeking an expression of remorse from him, Ballard said, it is not going to get it.

"You can vilify me in whatever manner you so choose. What's done is done," Ballard said. "If I don't seem remorseful to somebody, they can interpret my demeanor or my lack of emotion as they see fit."

"People," Ballard said, "fill in their own blanks."

(source: Morning Call)

VIRGINIA:

Questions surround future executions in Virginia

Virginia has 8 inmates currently on death row and one of the main questions is how they will be executed.

Virginia's lethal injection protocol consists of 3 drugs: a sedative, paralytic and a heart stopping drug.

The sedative used is now nearly impossible to find, forcing the Commonwealth to turn to a less tested drug called Midazolam. The Virginia Department of Corrections says the new drug cocktail went through an extensive, multi-step process before being selected.

However, those tests have not been released publicly.

"The Constitution exists to protect all of us and prevent the government from torturing any one of us," said Matthew Engle, the interim head of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, a resource for defense attorneys run through Washington and Lee Law School. "We can't effectively check the government if they're allowed to develop this entire protocol behind closed doors and not answer any questions."

2 years ago Rex Taylor struck up a friendship with one of the most infamous names in the New River Valley, William Morva.

Morva is on death row after being convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy in August 2006.

Taylor and Morva have sent each other dozens of letters over the last 2 years and have repeatedly spoken over the phone.

But 1 letter sent recently stuck with Taylor.

It was to the point, including the words "I don't want to die here."

"I knew when we first started talking that he was going to be put to death eventually," Taylor said. "But after getting to know him and becoming friends with him, when I read something like that it really does get to me. It bothers me."

Now the question for Morva and the seven other death row inmates in Virginia is how they will be executed. It's usually done through lethal injection, but getting the drugs needed is becoming a big problem.

We requested the lethal injection protocol from the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC).

A 3 drug cocktail is used consisting of a sedative, paralytic and a heart stopping drug.

The 2 sedative drugs traditionally used, Pentobarbital and Thiopental Sodium, are now nearly impossible to come by as manufacturers worldwide have refused to sell drugs used for capital punishment.

The Commonwealth's solution is to use Midazolam as its sedative.

It's the same drug used during a January execution in Ohio where it took the inmate 24 minutes to die, raising concerns of cruel and unusual punishment.

The VADOC said its protocol is not comparable to Ohio's, since the midwestern state uses a 2 drug cocktail.

"We've seen states sort of on the fly swap drugs out, substitute drugs, change their protocols, and in Virginia that's been going on as well," said Matthew Engle, the interim director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse run through Washington and Lee Law School. "What is most troubling about it is that it's been going on behind closed doors."

Engle is concerned the Commonwealth is turning to a new drug without releasing any of its studies or research.

"What will happen is what's happening in Ohio and what's happening in Oklahoma which is that we will have problems with executions and there will be lawsuits afterwards," he said. "That's when we'll find out what's actually going on, but that's not what it should take."

However, another option being explored by the General Assembly is changing how death row inmates are executed.

"We have the death penalty on the books, we're supposed to enforce the law yet we don't have a mechanism to actually do so," said Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-Salem).

Habeeb is one of more than 60 delegates that voted this year to make the electric chair the primary form of execution, an option now used only if requested by the inmate.

That bill passed the House of Delegates but stalled in the Senate.

"I'm one of those people that isn't aggressively seeking to expand the death penalty," Habeeb said. "But Virginia has a public policy and what's happening is Virginia is unable to enforce (it) because of policy decisions made in Europe. That's frankly sort of a backwards way for us to be setting our policy."

It's a policy that is at the mercy of the companies manufacturing the drugs.

For now, it's unclear how William Morva and the lives of the other death row inmates will end.

No executions are on the schedule, so Engle and Habeeb agree there's still time to get it right.

"We should be looking at this process ahead of time, we should be preventing these problems from happening," Engle said. "The only way to do that is through an open process."

Governor Terry McAuliffe did not respond to our request for an interview and Attorney General Mark Herring declined to comment.

However, while in the Senate Herring voted to expand the death penalty 5 times.

(source: WWBT news)

******************

Va. inmate can't manage own death-penalty appeal

A judge has denied a Virginia inmate's request to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.

William Morva was convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in 2006 during an escape. He exhausted his state appeals in April 2013.

In the federal appeal case, Morva had sought a dismissal of his court-appointed attorneys.

The Roanoke Times (http://bit.ly/1oYtYxJ ) reports that U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski ruled Friday that a federal appeal's technicalities are too complex for a lay person to manage. Urbanski also rejected Morva's request for new attorneys.

Urbanksi also ordered Morva to undergo a mental evaluation. He said he would rule on Morva's competence later.

Morva's lead attorney, Jonathan Sheldon, had asked Urbanksi to declare Morva incompetent and have him evaluated and treated.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty in Jefferson County slaying

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for an east Georgia man charged with raping and killing a woman whose body was found near trash dumpsters in Jefferson County.

The Augusta Chronicle reports Middle Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman announced his intention Friday to pursue a death sentence for 37-year-old Anthony Mereal Lemon of Wadley.

Lemon was charged last month with murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape and sodomy in the slaying of 29-year-old Jamillah Mia Holmes of Sandersville. A county worker found her body May 12 at a garbage collection site near Wadley.

The decision to seek death of Lemon was announced during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Lemon has been jailed without bond.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

COLORADO:

Both sides vie for victims' support in theater shooting case

The letter arrived in the mailbox of an Aurora movie theater shooting survivor half a year after the attack.

In its 6 paragraphs of carefully, sympathetically written prose, a woman offered to help the survivor communicate with defense attorneys representing the gunman: questions, concerns, disappointments.

"I would like to learn from your experiences of this case," the woman, Tammy Krause, wrote in the letter, "and share how I might best be able to assist you."

After meeting with Krause and anti-death penalty advocates, the survivor had a different impression.

"I really felt like the ... defense team was trying to use me to orchestrate a dialogue with the victims and survivors in this case to sway them towards changing their minds on the death penalty," he wrote in an affidavit filed in court last month.

In modern high-profile criminal cases, few resources are more coveted by attorneys on either side than the victims of the crime and their loved ones.

Defense attorneys - especially in death-penalty cases - are increasingly seeking victims' input and backing through special "defense-initiated victim outreach" efforts, such as the letters sent to theater shooting survivors and victims' loved ones.

"When you have a leave-no-stone-unturned kind of defense approach, one thing is to say, 'Let's see if we can reach out to the victims and see if we can get something helpful for our case,'" said Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor who studies victims' rights issues.

Prosecutors, who often have legal obligations to keep victims informed about cases, have also increased outreach efforts, adding victims advocates to their staff. In the Aurora theater shooting case, one prosecuting attorney is assigned full time to communicate with the victims.

The result, though, is that crime victims in high-profile cases are confronted with an array of people who offer their help but who also have underlying interests. It has left some victims feeling more alone.

"We are re-victimized by the same system that should be protecting us," said a relative of one of the slain theater shooting victims, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to attract more attention.

Because so few mass shootings result in court trials, the case against James Holmes - for whom prosecutors are seeking the death penalty - is among the most high-profile in the country. 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded in the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater 2 years ago Sunday.

The controversy over victim outreach spilled into the open in the theater shooting case last month. Defense attorneys accused the prosecution of interfering with their investigation by sending victims an e-mail suggesting the defense's efforts were dishonest. Counting letters from Krause and the attorneys themselves, some victims in the case have received 4 or more messages from the defense.

The judge in the case ultimately ruled the prosecution should send a clarifying e-mail to victims and acknowledged that the battle for victims' loyalty has become common, if sometimes overly combative, practice.

"The parties are not competing businesses attempting to sway consumers to choose a product or service," Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour wrote.

Advocates for defense outreach efforts say such efforts are important because prosecutors - while fighting against those accused of committing crimes - don't always represent victims' wishes.

"Defense lawyers are trying to find a way to let victims' voices be heard," said Denver attorney Iris Eytan, who represented the parents of slain corrections officer Eric Autobee when they disagreed with the way prosecutors were handling the case against their son's killer.

In Autobee's case, Eytan said prosecutors did not share developments in the case with the family after they asked District Attorney George Brauchler - who is also prosecuting the theater shooting case - not to seek the death penalty. During a pretrial hearing, prosecutors argued that the Autobees ended communications with the district attorney's office.

"We're the people most affected, yet we're tossed aside like a piece of trash and our rights don't mean anything," said Bob Autobee, Eric's father.

Brauchler ultimately offered a plea deal in the case that sentenced Eric Autobee's killer to life in prison.

Bob Autobee, who has since been honored by anti-death penalty groups, wrote a letter that a private attorney asked at least one theater shooting survivor to pass along to other survivors and victims' families. Autobee called his letter an invitation to meet and discuss his experiences, recovery and forgiveness for his son's killer.

"I'm not trying to make up other peoples' minds," Autobee said. "But they all need to know both sides of this."

The theater shooting survivor, whose name was redacted in court papers, said he was approached by anti-death penalty advocates after a speaking engagement and invited to a dinner. The survivor wrote in his affidavit that Krause, the defense's outreach specialist, was also at the dinner and asked him for help in talking with other survivors and victims' relatives.

Prosecutors in the case say Krause's outreach has created confusion among victims and that prosecutors listen sincerely to victims' voices.

"She works for the Defendant," prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire wrote of Krause in the contested e-mail sent to victims, "and her goal is to try to find Victims who will help the Defendant."

In an affidavit filed in the theater shooting case, Krause said having communication with defense attorneys can improve victims' experiences with the criminal justice system. Krause has also conducted outreach for defense teams in the cases against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, terrorism conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph.

"Such interactions cannot be done with an ulterior motive," she wrote.

But at least some of those contacted by Krause in the theater shooting case have not felt that way. After having 2 conversations with Krause, another theater shooting survivor cut off contact. That survivor, whose name was also redacted in court documents, wrote in an affidavit: "I felt like they were trying to manipulate me."

(source: Denver Post)

********************

Will justice prevail?

By now you've probably been reminded countless times that two years ago today James Holmes massacred 12 innocent Aurora theater-goes and injured 70 others. His was an act of pure evil. Some victims continue suffering from the mass murderer's mayhem long after their physical injuries have healed while Holmes sits in prison awaiting yet another examiners interpretation of his horrendous acts being entirely related to his sanity.

Is this long-delayed attempt at justice really about Holmes' insanity or is it actually a proxy fight about Colorado's death penalty? 18 "progressive" states have already banned it and many want it banned here. So far nearly every legal device in the defense attorney's bag of tricks has been playing out before Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour's court where the trial will be heard.

The trial was to have begun last February although Judge Samour postponed it after the defense attorney's pled Holmes was not guilty of the massacre by "reason of insanity." Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is a strong and avowed supporter for proscribing the death penalty in cases where the outrageously evil acts such as those Holmes committed are so obvious. He once declared: "If you don't seek capital punishment (in this case) then you may as well not have capital punishment in Colorado." A 1st round of professional mental health evaluations might have been favorable to the defense and were presented to the court which will now allow yet another round of evaluations to occur. A new trial date was set to begin this October although last week the judge postponed the trial date yet again.

Both prosecution and defense attorneys speculate that if and when a trial date is set it will take at least 8 months to complete. Jury selection alone could take from 2 to 3 months and around 6,000 potential jurors may be required in the final jury selection process. In May KCNC-TV initiated an open records request seeking how much the Arapahoe County DA's office has already spent on the Holmes trial. The figure was $685,461 and continues to mount each month. David Beller, a Denver criminal defense attorney, not involved in the case, speculated taxpayers should prepare themselves to spend up to $5 million more before it's over. Even if a death penalty results the average life of a Colorado death penalty case takes an average of 20 years or more to play out.

In 1993, former Chuck E. Cheese restaurant employee Nathan Dunlap hid in the restaurant's bathroom until closing and then proceeded to shoot all five employees killing 4 and seriously wounding another. It was the largest mass murder in Colorado before both the Columbine and Aurora theater massacres. 2 years later Dunlap was found guilty and sentenced to death. With many appeals, including claims that Dunlap's defense attorney's failed to adequately represent him, costs for seeking justice in this case has cost taxpayers over $18 million. Dunlap's execution was set for August last year but resulted in Governor Hickenlooper issuing a controversial "temporary reprieve" to Dunlap's execution. The final outcome for Dunlap is still in doubt and may depend on the outcome of this November's governor's election.

Right after the death penalty in Holmes' trial became an issue the Denver Post editorialized that DA Brauchler's insistence on asking for it was a mistake. They advocated for a plea deal and a life sentence without parole and suggest the matter will otherwise not be resolved for decades. The Aurora Sentinel agreed in their own editorial declaring: "...this much money and energy should be spent on preventing the next massacre rather than seeking unattainable revenge for this one".

Is Colorado's death penalty simply an attempt to seek revenge or is it an entirely appropriate sentence for committing an act of mass murder by someone who knowingly manifests pure evil?

(source: Commentary, Bob Greenlee, Daily Camera)

ARIZONA----stay of impending execution

Appeals Court Postpones Arizona Man's Execution

A federal appeals court on Saturday granted an Arizona death row inmate's request to postpone his pending execution, putting it on hold until prison officials reveal details on the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The preliminary injunction granted by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversing a lower federal court comes 4 days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

Without weighing in on the "ultimate merits" of Wood's case, the court wrote: "Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim, and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor."

Wood's lawyers argued prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

"Today the Court has made a well-reasoned ruling affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public's right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government," Wood's lawyer Dale Baich said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.

Representatives from the attorney general's office said they had not yet seen the decision, but based on the severity of Wood's crime they intended to appeal. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the state would decide Monday how to proceed.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs, until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. Then, states started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

The legal dispute in Arizona is emerging as concerns over the death penalty mount after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

"There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country," Baich said in a statement, "and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

Arizona prison officials intend to use the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday in the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)

***********************

Yumans on death row

-- More Information --

Former inmates on death row sentenced out of Yuma who have died since 2000 include Vincent Lee Accardo, Richard Bible, Gregory Scott Dickens and Bernard Smith.

-- Accardo, 62, died of natural causes on March 9, 2011, while awaiting execution for the murder of Bard farmer Kenneth Cloud, who was shot to death on Dec. 9, 1997, in the parking lot of a popular hamburger cafe in Yuma.

-- Bible, 49, was executed by lethal injection on June 30, 2011, for kidnapping, molesting and fatally bludgeoning 9-year-old Yuma resident Jennifer Wilson to death on June 6, 1988, while she was on vacation with her family in Flagstaff.

-- Dickens, 48, is believed to have committed suicide in his cell on Jan. 27 while awaiting execution for the murder of Bryan and Laura Bernstein on Sept. 10, 1991, at a rest stop on Interstate 8 east of Yuma.

-- Smith, 49, died of natural causes on Dec. 11, 2002, while awaiting execution for the Aug. 22, 1983, murder of 57-year-old Charles Pray at Low Cost Market in Yuma.

Former inmates on death row sentenced out of Yuma who were re-sentenced to life in prison include Bobby Lee Tankersley, 62, and Fred Robinson, 73.

-- Tankersley had initially been convicted and sentenced to death in 1993 for the Nov. 17, 1991, rape and murder of 65-year-old Thelma Younkin in her hotel room. His conviction was overturned in 2004 based on new evidence, and he was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Andrew Gould to a statutory term of life in prison, which makes him eligible for parole in 2016 after serving 25 years.

Since Tankersley will be 64-years-old when he becomes eligible for parole, and there are no victims in the case still living, the state attorney general's office - which prosecuted the case - has agreed not to argue against parole when hearings begin.

-- Robinson had initially been convicted and sentenced to death, along with Washington. On appeal, he received a reduced sentence of life in prison, and is currently serving out his time at Arizona State Prison Complex - Lewis.

Less than .02 % of inmates awaiting execution on death row in Arizona were sentenced out of Yuma County.

Of the 119 Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) inmates currently on death row, only 2 were sentenced in Yuma. The 2 men, Theodore Washington and Alvie "Copie" Kiles, were initially sentenced to death after being convicted of separate murders on Jan. 13, 1988, and March 28, 1990, respectively.

Theodore Washington murdered Sterleen Hill and seriously wounded Ralph Hill Sr. with a shotgun in their Yuma home on June 8, 1987.

According to court records, Washington had traveled to Yuma with Fred Robinson and Jimmy Mathers earlier that day. Robinson was in town to convince his common law wife, Susan Hill, to return with him to their Banning, Calif., home. Robinson and Susan had three children together, and had been involved in a tumultuous relationship she was trying to escape.

Robinson was convinced Susan was at her father Ralph's home in Yuma, although she was actually living without his knowledge with relatives elsewhere in California, and was not at the Hill home when Robinson arrived there with Washington.

At about 11:30 p.m., Sterleen heard sounds outside her home and asked her teenage son, LeSean, to investigate. He saw no one, but at about 11:45 p.m., someone knocked on the door. When LeSean opened the door, a man with a deep voice identified himself as "James" and told LeSean he had money for Ralph.

When LeSean opened the door to accept the money, the man attempted to grab LeSean. LeSean pulled away, ran through the house past his parents' bedroom, and escaped through another door. Ralph and Sterleen emerged from the bedroom as a result of the commotion and heard voices shout, "we're narcotics agents! We want the dope and the money!"

The 2 intruders forced Ralph and Sterleen to return to their bedroom and lie face down on the floor. An African American man with a red bandanna and a moustache then "screwed" a handgun into Ralph's ear before ransacking the couples' drawers and closet while a second person stood watch.

The couple were then tied up and Ralph was rendered unconscious.

After fleeing, LeSean telephoned the police from a neighbor's house. As he and the neighbor returned to the Hill home, they observed a tan Chevette driven by Robinson speeding away from the vicinity, pursued by a sheriff's deputy in a marked police vehicle.

Deputies entered the Hill home and found Ralph and Sterleen had been shot at close range with a .12-gauge shotgun. Ralph survived, although he suffered massive injuries, including the loss of an eye. Sterleen died as a result of blood loss from the shotgun wound.

Robinson, who was alone in the Chevette, was eventually pulled over and arrested. During a search of his vehicle, deputies found an empty shotgun shell box, a red bandanna, clothing, sheets and Mathers' duffle bag. The shotgun used in the murder was found discarded nearby the Hill home. Investigators later determined it was owned by Robinson.

Mathers left Arizona, but was arrested by police near Coachella, Calif., the following day. Washington traveled by bus back to Banning and was also later arrested.

Washington, Robinson, and Mathers were tried jointly and each received the death penalty.

On appeal, Robinson received a reduced sentence of life in prison, and is currently serving out his time at Arizona State Prison Complex -- Lewis.

Also on appeal, the state supreme court reversed Mathers' conviction, finding insufficient evidence to support the jury verdict. He was acquitted in 1990.

On Feb. 9, 1989, Kiles murdered 26-year-old Valerie Gunnell with a tire iron in her Yuma apartment following an argument about him stealing her food stamps to purchase cocaine. Kiles then killed Gunnell's 2 daughters - 5-year-old Shemaeah and 9-month-old Lecresha - because they were "crying and hollering and screaming" after seeing their mother murdered.

Lecresha's body was later found floating in a canal in Mexico. Shemaeah's body was never found.

Kiles was convicted on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in 1989 and sentenced to death, but Yuma County Superior Court eventually vacated the charges and sentence after ruling he received inadequate counsel. At a retrial in 2000, a jury convicted Kiles on the murder charges but could not agree on the death sentence, so he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2006, a jury in Maricopa County discovered aggravating factors in the case and sentenced Kiles to death, which he and his attorneys immediately appealed.

Kiles' next appeal made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, where he admitted to the murders but claimed the death penalty should not apply in his case because premeditation was impossible since he was intoxicated when he committed the crimes. It was rejected in 2009.

When Kiles received the death sentence in 2006, it restarted the appeals process from the beginning, which means, unless something significant changes, it will take at least another 15 years before he faces execution, according to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

(source: Yuma Sun)

CALIFORNIA:

California capital punishment ban offers opportunity for Christians

Capital punishment in the State of California was ruled unconstitutional on Wednesday, July 16. Thursday, a Fox News piece on the ruling showed this was no typical political decision to appease the most liberal state in the nation.

There are several compelling reasons that this ruling by a George W. Bush-appointed judge should be lauded by more than just anti-capital punishment advocates among Californians or even just Catholics among Christians. In fact, it is narrow enough that even conservatives should approve of the ruling.

It does not indict the death penalty in principle, just California's management. An LA Times editorial Friday detailed the broken system that has resulted in just 13 executions since 1978 - about 1.4 % of prisoners sent to death row, requiring weekly executions for 14 years to clear.

Judge Cormac J. Carney stated in his ruling that not only did the exhaustive delays causing the felon to face their death multiple times constitute cruel and unusual punishment, but took any deterrent of executions away. (Statistics suggesting it is no deterrent at all fail to fully consider its effects as prosecutor leverage.) In fact, death row became more desirable than life without parole because of better accommodations since most prisoners would die of natural causes anyway.

Capital punishment is losing steam in states far more conservative than California. The lengthy appeals process and higher security for inmates with nothing to lose has always made death row more costly. Recent issues with lethal doses have halted executions around the nation.

Thus, it is unlikely California will see another execution. In a state with anti-capital punishment Attorney General Kamala Harris and a Democrat-controlled executive and legislative branch with 48 % of the state saying they are willing to scrap the death penalty for life without parole (arguably worse punishment anyway), there is not likely to be the political or financial capital to fix a broken system so executions can start again.

Yet the larger issue for Christians should be capital punishment in general. Right now, Catholics are the only major Christian faith denouncing state-sanctioned executions.

Yes, the Bible says "an eye for an eye" in Leviticus 24:20. That was also an old covenant rule governing the maximum punishment for nomadic Israel to keep victims from escalating conflicts, not meant as a minimum requirement. There are scores of scriptures about the sanctity of life that was even more a focus in the new covenant of Jesus Christ.

Above all else, true Christianity is a pro-life faith that believes in redemption. We are called to try to convert everyone and that includes giving murderers until God takes them to repent.

This ruling offers Christians a chance to reach these lost souls. It also gives Christianity an opportunity to reach many others that see the compassion of Christ instead of the judgment of religion. The best evangelism might be standing against injustice.

For one thing, the death penalty is not applied equally. Not only are disproportionate percentages of crimes by minorities designated for capital punishment, but disproportionate percentages of those crimes were perpetrated on white victims.

Finally, Christians valuing life should recoil at the risk an innocent person being executed. This happens less frequently with better DNA science (something the pro-life but anti-science fringes of Christianity might want to remember), but still is a reality because death sentences do not require higher burdens of proof and often DNA evidence is not available in murder trials.

It is time for Christians to take charge on the death penalty across the world. At the very least, nobody willing to plead guilty and save the state a trial should be on death row, capital punishment must be applied fairly and the burden of proof needs to be much higher than for non-capital offenses to ensure no innocent person is executed.

(source: The Examiner)

********************

LINE IN THE SAND

'Cruel and unusual punishment': For victim or killer?--Exclusive: Ann-Marie Murrell opposes judge's decision to overturn man's death penalty

This week U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled against the death penalty, citing the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." The ruling was based on a petition for death-row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly 20 years ago.

The main reason cited for Judge Carney's decision was the "dysfunctional" death penalty system in California, which causes inmates to have to wait an "inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution." Carney said that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

In other words, Judge Carney believes it is too cruel and too emotionally distressful for Ernest Dewayne Jones (and potentially others on death row) to have to wait for their executions.

Carney needs to re-examine exactly what "cruel and unusual punishment" is really all about - and if he needs a little help understanding, there are many people available to explain, including Ernest Dewayne Jones' 1st victim, "Kim J."

On May 28, 1984, Kim J. attended a barbecue party given by the sister of Ernest Dewayne Jones. After the party, Ernest went home with Kim, who reportedly considered him to be "like a brother." When she suggested it was time for him to leave, he grabbed her by the throat, told her he would kill her if she screamed, and then raped her at knifepoint. Kim later called the police and testified against him at a preliminary hearing but dropped the charges because she had believed he needed a "2nd chance."

Ernest's "2nd chance" led to his 2nd victim.

Approximately 10 months after raping Kim J., Ernest lived with his girlfriend Glynnis and their infant son in a garage behind the home of Glynnis' mother, Dorothea. In early March 1985, the couple broke up and Ernest moved out.

According to court documents, on March 29, 1985, around 6:30 a.m., Dorothea heard the gate to her backyard rattle and then heard a window break. She found Ernest standing in her hallway. He told her not to scream, then took Dorothea into her bedroom. He bound her arms and legs then raped and sodomized her. When he was finished raping her, he reportedly told her he was not going to kill her because, as a teacher, she would be able to take care of the baby financially.

Ernest Dewayne Jones was sentenced to 12 years in state prison for 1st-degree burglary, residential robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, rape and sodomy. He was released after 6 years.

Again, almost 10 months after his release, Jones repeated his previous offenses almost verbatim, only this time he followed through with murder.

Ernest and his girlfriend Pamela Miller lived with her parents, Julia and Chester Miller. On Aug. 25, 1992, Ernest tied up 50-year-old Julia with a telephone cord and a purse strap. He used rags to gag her and cover her face. After brutally raping her, he stabbed Julia 14 times in her abdomen and once in her vagina. The fatal stab wound, which penetrated to the spine, was in the middle of her chest. He left 2 kitchen knives stuck in her neck.

Shortly after midnight, husband Chester returned home from work and found his wife of 30 years lying dead at the foot of their bed. He died 8 months later at age 53.

At Jones' penalty hearing, Pamela Miller screamed, "I have no mother and father because of that sorry (SOB)! I don't have a family because of him. That bastard needs to be sentenced to death." Pamela believed her father "grieved himself to death."

By overturning Ernest Dewayne Jones' sentence, Judge Carney is potentially opening the floodgates in overturning other death sentences in California. Some of them include:

Scott Peterson, 41, used cement anchors to bind his wife, Laci, pregnant with their son, Connor, and drowned them in the bay.

Richard Allen Davis, 60. After spending most of his life in jail for (among other things) sexual assault and kidnapping, Davis broke into the home of Marc and Eve Klaas and kidnapped their 12-year-old daughter, Polly. Polly's strangled corpse was found with her skirt pulled up and her legs spread.

Serial killer Chester Dewayne Turner, a pizza deliveryman, raped and strangled at least 10 women in South Los Angeles.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Long Beach gang member and former youth pastor, was sentenced to death for his role in murdering Thomas and Jackie Hawks in November 2004. The couple was forced to sign sales documents to their yacht before they were tied to an anchor and thrown overboard while they were still alive.

Theodore Shove was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murders of 81-year-old Hubert Souther and his 79-year-old wife, Elizabeth. The Southers, who had been married more than 50 years, were found dead in their bed having been bludgeoned with a tire iron.

Gene Estel McCurdy, who in 1995 molested and suffocated 8-year-old Maria Piceno.

Alejandro Avila, who kidnapped 5-year-old Samantha Runion, sexually assaulted her, beat her and suffocated her.

Steven Allen Brown, who raped and sodomized 11-year-old April Holley and then drowned her in a bathtub.

There are many others, each convicted of brutal, inhumane crimes.

In addition to Carney, other federal judges have also tried to put California's death penalty on hold. One judge felt that lethal injections would cause the inmate "to suffer extreme pain" while being executed and deemed the injection chamber "too cramped, too dark and too old."

It's a shame Judge Carney and others like him aren't able to hear the victims' thoughts about what "cruel and unusual punishment" is really all about; perhaps then they would have 2nd thoughts about caring for the comfort of their murderers.

Jones' case is expected to be appealed by prosecutors to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

(source: wnd.com)

********************

The Triumph of Dubious Death Penalty Appeals

A - all bow - federal judge has ruled that California's death penalty is unconstitutional because the state's "dysfunctional administration" has meted out the punishment to more than 900 murderers but imposed it on "only 13" since 1978. That's too arbitrary, wrote U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney of Santa Ana. Besides, "the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after (killer Ernest Dewayne Jones) was 1st sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

And: A "death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

It doesn't bother Carney that death row inmates' lawyers have created that preposterous sentence - remote possibility of death - by slowing the wheels of justice with dubious time-sucking appeals. If appellate attorneys think delays are too painful for their clients, maybe they should curb their appeals.

It doesn't matter to the judge that Californians have upheld the state's capital punishment law three times since 1972. In 2012, a majority of voters rejected the well-funded, celebrity-endorsed Proposition 34, which would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole. Clearly, voters think it is rational to hang on to a death penalty that is admittedly too slow and obscenely pricey because it makes less sense to allow capital punishment opponents to subvert the rule of law.

It doesn't bother Carney that another federal judge, Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, effectively stopped the death penalty in California when he ruled in 2006 that the state's three-drug lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional.

Nor does it bother the judge that the court did not correct Fogel's outlier ruling in 2008 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Kentucky's 3-drug death penalty concoction passes constitutional muster.

You may be wondering what Jones did to earn a cell on death row. Though Carney's opinion included no shortage of political arguments, he neglected to document the ugly details of Jones' 1992 crime. He failed to mention Julia Miller - the mother of Jones' girlfriend - who was found bound, stripped to the waist and dead from multiple knife wounds. Carney didn't use the word "rape" or "stab." He didn't mention that, as the Los Angeles Times reported, investigators found Jones' semen and DNA at the scene or that Jones admitted to killing Miller on the stand, although he denied planning it.

Carney, however, did find room to reject any notion that endless frivolous appeals cause the delays. The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that Jones' attorneys have submitted hundreds of pages of legal briefs with a host of complaints. Ergo the delays. The strongest legal argument - the one that moved Carney to vacate Jones' death sentence - was the creative claim that the "psychological impact" of legal delays is cruel and unusual.

Kent Scheidegger of the tough-on-crime Criminal Justice Legal Foundation faults a system that nonsensically pays lawyers to undermine the law. A criminal attorney, argued Scheidegger, doesn't go to court to argue that it is unconstitutional to imprison a rapist, but the Habeas Corpus Resource Center sees its job as doing "everything it can do to stop the death penalty."

Guilt is irrelevant.

"For a law to work," Scheidegger added, "people in the trenches have to take it seriously to implement it."

Some federal judges also apparently think it's their job to stop the death penalty. They are not restrained by Supreme Court precedent; they are political actors trying to pretend they are not political actors.

In upholding Kentucky's death penalty, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, "It is not a little ironic - and telling - that lethal injection, hailed just a few years ago as the humane alternative in light of which every other method of execution was deemed an unconstitutional relic of the past," became subject to a constitutional challenge on the grounds that it may induce pain. When that fails, he noted, in "an exercise of raw judicial power," opponents choose the next best option, "never-ending litigation."

Now a federal judge has ruled essentially that "never-ending litigation" produces unconstitutional psychic pain to convicted killers.

Cheap date.

(source: Column, Debra Saunders, Townhall.com)

******************************

Times are changing for California's death penalty

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney's recent ruling on California's death penalty validated what those in opposition have known for decades: The process is unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The arbitrary implementation and delay of California's death penalty system led Carney to opine that it was a sentence that "no rational jury or legislature could impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

What was once unimaginable is methodically making its way toward mainstream orthodoxy. There has not been an execution in California since 2006, which has provided ample time to lessen the cacophony of support on which capital punishment depends.

Since 1978, of the more than 900 individuals who have received the death sentence, California has executed 13. Roughly 40 % of California's 748 death row inmates have served at least 19 years.

Death penalty advocates have responded by calling for a reduction in the appeals process, which diminishes due process and increases the likelihood of executing an innocent person.

Whenever capital punishment is placed under the light of judicious scrutiny it is seen for what it is, a barbaric emotion-based policy that is unable to deliver on any of its promises.

For several decades the death penalty served as the tough-on-crime litmus test. It was nearly impossible for anyone to win statewide office in California without unbridled allegiance.

It was widely accepted that the death penalty saved lives, was a deterrent, cost effective and provided the victims' surviving family members closure.

Studies claiming that executions save lives typically use a mathematical formula to conclude that for every execution, 3 to 18 murders are prevented. Those studies fail to show how life without the possibility of parole would be any less effective. Myriad reports indicate capital punishment is more expensive than life without parole.

As for it being a tool that brings closure, former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, back in 2011, wrote:

"Many of these victims were happy when my office sought the death penalty, and if the jury returned a death verdict, a result that never came quickly. It was unusual for a capital case to be resolved within a year from the date of the original crime, 2 to 3 years was not uncommon. The living victims of a particular crime might think that a death verdict provides closure, but for most, there was no such closure."

Capital punishment has long been the Teflon issue in California that fed on the toxins of ambitious politicians and public titillation; it was impervious to logic and reason.

So fevered was the collective support for the death penalty that little time was given in the public discourse to address a simple question: What error percentage would be acceptable for people remain comfortable with capital punishment?

If every other human endeavor carries some measure of imperfection, would it not stand to reason that the death penalty would not be immune?

Grappling seriously with a comfortable error percentage would also lead to examining the death penalty's unequal application, based in particular on one's economic status.

In this context, the taxpayers of California assumed the role of ancient Rome symbolically gesturing a thumbs up or down as to who is worthy of death.

Carney's ruling is expected to be appealed. But in the words of Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin'!" Carney's ruling raises an additional question: How strong is the public mood to maintain a system that beyond appealing to the primordial thirst for revenge has been ineffective by every measure it set?

Carney's decision could create a ripple effect for similar arguments to be made in death penalty appeals nationwide. Hopefully, California and the rest of the nation will reach the age of enlightenment by joining the fraternity of countries like Angola, Mozambique, and Rwanda that see the death penalty for what it is - an abject failure.

(source: Column, Byron Williams, Contra Costa Times)

SINGAPORE:

Death Penalty - resumes executions

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty Statement on executions carried out on the 18th of July 2014.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty deeply regrets, and is gravely disappointed at the executions of 2 individuals that took place today, 18th of July 2014. Inmates Foong Chee Peng, 48, and Tang Hai Liang, 36, were hanged at dawn this morning. Both men were convicted of drug trafficking.

These 2 executions brings to an end the moratorium that has been in place since July 2011, when the government commenced an internal review of the mandatory death penalty laws. This review took place without any public consultation nor has it been made available for public scrutiny. Subsequently, the changes were passed by Parliament in the exact form proposed by the government in July 2012, despite various warnings about their potential problems.

We also wish to highlight that there is an ongoing application filed by another drug offender before the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act because it violates Article 12 of our Constitution. The hearing is fixed before the Court of Appeal on the 18th of August later this year.

Given the fact that the constitutional challenge to the amendments could have a potential bearing on the lawfulness of Foong and Tang's executions, it was deeply unjust to have executed them before the constitutional challenge was decided.

The injustice is compounded by the fact that we had written to the President and the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday to highlight this situation and urged for an urgent stay of execution until our courts have decided on this constitutional challenge at the very least.

Finally, the executions are a regrettable step backwards for Singapore. The death penalty has not been proven to be a more useful deterrent against crime than alternative forms of punishment. Moreover, once carried out, miscarriages of justice cannot be remedied.

We therefore reiterate our calls for the government to impose a moratorium on all executions and move towards the abolition of capital punishment in Singapore.

We believe in Second Chances

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign

Think Centre

(source: Asian Human Rights Commission)

IRELAND:

End of the rope: last man to hang The last killer to be executed in Ireland might have fallen through the trapdoor 60 years ago, but the death penalty wasn't abolished until 1990. How times have changed...

The lever-operated trapdoor opened and the prisoner fell nearly 8 feet with the hangman's noose tied around his neck. Convicted murderer John Toole dropped, the rope tightened, and at 8am on March 7 he was executed at Dublin's Mountjoy Prison. He had slit the throat of his lover, Elizabeth Brennan, as she'd slept. Outside, a crowd of around 500 heard the prison bell toll and a black flag rose slowly to signal the passing of the prisoner.

In the execution chamber or hang house as it's become known, I pull back the lever to open the door beneath as the executioners had done across 6 decades during the last century.

It was here that prisoners such as Kevin Barry took their last few steps before the double-doors below opened. Glass panels above would have provided their last glimpse of the skies outside.

Few have been allowed back into this building, which for decades was locked and off-limits. It remains as it was left in the middle of the last century save for a bricked-up doorway leading to the condemned cells.

Curator at the Mountjoy Museum Sean Reynolds, who worked here as an officer for 34 years, tells me the hangings were carried out quickly.

"From the moment the condemned entered the hang house to the moment they died took no more than 10 seconds - often less," he says.

"The executioners became experts at planning the hangings, estimating how much rope to give based on the prisoner's height and weight and ensuring the killings were as close to instant as possible." In the museum I hold nooses used to kill prisoners and a hood to cover their faces.

In all, 163 people were executed in the Republic of Ireland in the last century - 49 of them here in Mountjoy and many during the various wars linked to the republican struggle, most notably the execution of the Easter Rising leaders in 1916.

But between 1924 and 1954, the State executed 31 people. 2 of these were killed by firing squad in Portlaoise Prison - Richard Goss in 1941 for shooting at Free State forces, and IRA member George Plant a year later for murdering a suspected informer.

Women too fell foul of the dreaded hangman's noose.

In January 1903, Mary Daly was executed in Tullamore the day after the execution of her lover Joseph Taylor in Kilkenny for the murder of John Daly, Mary's husband. The lovers were convicted largely on the evidence of Mary's 11-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

22 years later, a similar tragic tale unfolded when Annie Walsh of Limerick was hanged for the murder of her husband. His nephew, Michael Talbot, was hanged about 15 minutes before her. Walsh and Talbot had been having an affair.

It has been 50 years since the death penalty was abolished in Ireland (1964) for all crimes but the murder of gardai, diplomats and prison officers. Amazingly, it was not until 1990 that it was abolished for these remaining offences.

The last state execution took place in 1954 when 25-year old Michael Manning from Limerick was hanged after he was found guilty of the rape and murder of Catherine Cooper, a 65-year-old nurse.

Manning's execution was carried out in Mountjoy by Albert Pierrepoint, who had travelled from Britain. Pierrepoint executed at least 400 people in his career as a hangman - 13 of those in Mountjoy.

Albert's Uncle Tom carried out the majority of executions from 1923 to 1944 in Ireland. Included in his list of victims was Charlie Kerins, who was executed on December 1, 1944, for the murder of detective sergeant Denis O'Brien at his home in Rathfarnham. Though Kerins was an IRA member, the Taoiseach of the day, Eamon de Valera, was determined to make an example of him by executing him as a regular criminal. So instead of facing a firing squad, like other IRA men, Kerins was hanged at Mountjoy.

The youngest person to be executed in the last century in Ireland was 18-year-old Gerard Toal. The chauffeur was convicted of the murder of housekeeper Mary Callan (36) in Faughart, Co Louth, in the summer of 1927. Toal confessed that he had strangled her after a quarrel and then thrown her body into a water-filled quarry. He was hanged by Thomas Pierrepoint in Mountjoy on August 29 1928.

Also executed, in 1941, was Harry Gleeson, who was hanged for the murder of his neighbour Mary "Moll" McCarthy, a mother-of-7 in Tipperary. Last November, the then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, ordered a review into the case. Mr Gleeson found Moll McCarthy's body but denied her murder. Between 1954, when the last prisoner was executed by the State, and 1990, when the death penalty was abolished entirely, 11 people were handed death sentences but none were executed.

In 1976 Noel and Marie Murray were convicted of the murder of Garda Michael Reynolds following a bank robbery in Killester. The off duty garda had chased the criminals into St. Anne's park in Raheny but was shot in the head as he attempted to stop them from fleeing with their loot of 7,000 pounds. They were sentenced to death, but as the garda was not in uniform or on-duty, the Supreme Court overturned the punishment. It sent shock waves throughout the country, but Noel and Marie Murray were instead sentenced to life in prison and were both released in 1992.

The Dail finally abolished the death penalty completely in 1990 and replaced it with a 40-year minimum prison term for exceptional murders.

The death penalty: Alive and well

While it's been 6 decades since the last execution was carried out here there are still 21 countries across the globe which continue to use the ultimate punishment tool.

Among those nations that still execute prisoners are China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan and, of course, the US.In those US states that continue to use capital punishment, the method of execution varies from hanging to lethal injection, firing squad, electric chair and gas chamber.

Between 2007 and 2012, it's thought that thousands of people were executed in China, making it the world leader in the gruesome act.

In 2nd place was Iran with 1,663 executions, followed by Saudi Arabia (423), Iraq (256) and the US (220).

And just earlier this year, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death after an 8-minute trial following the coup in the country.

In August 2011, a survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in the UK showed that 65pc of Britons supported reinstating the death penalty for murder.

Closer to home, the outgoing Mayor of Limerick Kevin Kiely advocated in 2010 that the death penalty should be given to "anyone involved in the planning and premeditation of a murder".

(source: The Independent)

INDONESIA:

33 Indonesians currently on death row

A senior Indonesian diplomat called for "intensified efforts and closer coordination" with Saudi officials to save the lives of domestic workers currently on death row in Saudi Arabia.

Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir said here Saturday that "there are 33 death row inmates, mainly Indonesian maids, currently languishing in different Saudi jails across the Kingdom as of today."

"The embassy has stepped up efforts to save the housemaids, who have been handed down death penalty in the Kingdom," said Fachir, while making an appeal to work in unison to resolve the cases. The envoy also contradicted reports about the large number of death row cases and said that "there are only 2 critical cases out of the 33 cases."

In many cases, we have challenged the lower court judgments in higher courts, asked for judicial review and even made appeals in courts, as well as appeals for royal clemency, he added.

The number of death row inmates fluctuates periodically with new convictions, royal pardon, appellate decisions and sentence commutations. Asked about the developments in the much-publicized case of Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad, the ambassador said: "The victim's family has accepted the blood money ... we are waiting for the case to be closed on the Saudi government side."

Satinah, 40, who worked as a housemaid, was sentenced to death in 2011 after she reportedly admitted to killing her 70-year-old female employer and stealing approximately $10,000.

Satinah claimed that this was an act of self-defense, as her boss had tried to attack her at the time. She had been facing execution unless the victim's family received $1.8 million in financial compensation, known as diya or "blood money." Ambassador Fachir thanked the Saudi officials and the members of the victim's family, who have been helping to secure the release and speedy repatriation of Satinah to Indonesia.

The embassy has been trying to help the workers with all kinds of support, including legal aid, said the envoy. Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

A report released by the Jakarta government said that the embassy, as well as the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Task Force constituted by the Indonesian president, have taken several initiatives to rescue workers in distress.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately managed to walk free because of the efforts undertaken by the task force. In Saudi Arabia alone, 37 workers managed to avoid execution during the last few years, said the report, adding that efforts to improve communications with the leaders of the countries where workers were employed had also helped the workers receive lighter sentences.

(source: Arab News)

**************

Indonesia makes efforts to save its nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to save 33 of its nationals, mainly maids, on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to Arab News Sunday.

Among the death penalty cases, there are only two serious ones, while the embassy has asked for judicial review, made appeals in courts, and appealed for royal clemency, Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately have managed to walk free under the efforts of Indonesian government.

(source: Global Post)

MALAYSIA:

Man faces gallows in Malaysia 'drug bust', Delhi Police smell a racket

A 24-year-old from Dehradun is facing the death penalty in Malaysia over charges of drug peddling, but his father claims he was the victim of a drug-smuggling racket functioning near the Delhi airport.

Sanjay Chauhan is in jail and on trial after getting caught with drugs at the Kuala Lumpur airport. He told his father, Tikam Singh, who visited him recently, that he had been set up.

In May, Singh approached the Delhi Police, who suspect Chauhan may have, without his knowledge, been used as a drug carrier by a gang. They also suspect the gang of trapping at least 12 other young professionals for similar purposes.

Singh told the police he didn't have the money to fight his son's case and urged the government to help them.

The police said they were doing their best to bust the 'racket' and get an investigation report from their Malaysian counterparts. This, however, required the intervention of the ministry of external affairs.

"We have written a Letters Rogatory (LR) - used to obtain judicial assistance from foreign countries - to the Malaysian government. So far, we have Chauhan's letter to his father and the father's version of the case. We are constantly reminding MEA to intervene," said a senior Delhi Police official.

Chauhan was offered a job last September by a company based at the Delhi airport. "He was sent to Malaysia on September 28, after the family paid the company "50,000 in 2 installments," said Anand Chauhan, the 24-year-old's uncle.

He was given a briefcase, to be delivered at the company's Malaysia office," the uncle added.

The bag was checked by Chauhan but nothing suspicious was found since the drugs were hidden inside a false cavity in the suitcase, the family said. Nothing was picked up during the baggage screening at Delhi airport either. "We got to know about the drugs when my nephew wrote to us from jail," said Arjun Singh, Chauhan's uncle.

In the letter - written in Garhwali language - Chauhan expressed his helplessness. Claiming innocence, he urged his father to arrange for the lawyer's fee. "We don't have money to fight the case as the fee for a lawyer is Rs. 8 lakh. We expect the government to help us," Tikam Singh said.

The police are also trying to identify the gang and find other victims of the ring. "We have interrogated Danish, who was named in the letter. Danish is cooperating with the investigation and had arranged Chauhan's meeting with the person who sent him to Malaysia. But we haven't been able to trace the person concerned, whose office was in Mahipalpur," the police official added.

(source: Hindustan Times)

JULY 19, 2014:

TEXAS:

Harlem Lewis guilty in slaying of Bellaire police officer

The question prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over in court Friday was: What happened in the minute before a Bellaire police officer was shot to death?

Prosecutors said Harlem Harold Lewis III executed the veteran officer 2 years ago as he was trying to pull Lewis out of his car and arrest him.

"You knew you had that gun, and you went for it," assistant Harris County District Attorney Anna Emmons told Lewis when cross-examining him.

Defense attorneys said the 23-year-old had not meant to kill Jimmie Norman. Lewis testified that the gun "went off" as he was struggling with the corporal.

"What matters is what happened in that car in those few moments of struggle," defense attorney Pat McCann told jurors.

After 2 hours of deliberating, jurors sided with prosecutors, finding Lewis guilty of capital murder in the deaths of Norman and businessman Terry Taylor in the Christmas Eve 2012 shootings.

Lewis showed little emotion as the jury verdict was announced about 3:40 p.m.

Moments earlier, district Judge Mark Kent Ellis warned the gallery in the packed courtroom not to react. A classmate of Lewis' waited with her hands clasped as the jurors filed into the courtroom after deliberating.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who presented closing arguments, has declined to comment. She had said earlier that she would personally try the case, fulfilling a promise her late husband made when he was the DA to personally prosecute accused cop killers.

McCann said that Lewis was in shock after the verdict. McCann also said he hoped to avoid a death penalty in the sentencing phase of the trial, set to begin Monday.

"There doesn't need to be another death in this tragedy," he said.

Began with traffic stop

Closing arguments earlier Friday from both prosecutors and defense attorneys lasted just more than 30 minutes.

"What kind of man puts a gun to the head of a uniformed police officer and pulls the trigger?" asked Anderson, her voice quavering slightly as she described the risks police officers deal with every day.

"Every time they pull a car over ... they know they could die. And they take that on," she said.

Shortly after Anderson finished speaking, a Bellaire police officer left the courtroom in tears.

McCann and Tyrone Moncriffe, another of Lewis' lawyers, said their client panicked when he was being pulled over because he had been raised to fear police.

The day of the shooting, Lewis was driving in a residential area of Bellaire when Norman tried to stop him.

After fleeing and rear-ending a white pickup, Lewis pulled in at Taylor's body shop. Norman approached the car and wrestled with Lewis for about a minute in an attempt to get him out of the vehicle and place him in cuffs.

Then, Norman was fatally shot in the head.

Tracked by blood trail

Witnesses testified Taylor came out to see what was going on and to try to help Norman, a 24-year law-enforcement veteran. But Lewis, who had stepped out of his car, also shot him, witnesses said, then pointed his gun at the driver of the pickup, who had followed him until he stopped at Taylor's Maaco body shop.

Other officers arrived in the middle of the confrontation and shot at a fleeing Lewis 23 times, hitting him twice. Police followed a trail of blood to find him hiding under a truck about a block away.

Lewis appeared in court dressed in slacks and a light-blue dress shirt and tie, with a combed-out Afro. He spoke quietly, in succinct "yes ma'am" or "no sir" responses to questions, but contradicted himself repeatedly.

When questioned by his defense team, he told them that the gun "went off" as he and Norman wrestled. But later, Emmons, the prosecutor, asked him if he'd "executed" the police officer, to which he replied, "Yes ma'am."

McCann explained the testimony by saying that Lewis had difficulty communicating and had a low IQ.

"He's easy to trap, it's why we were reluctant to put him up (on the stand), but if we didn't, no one would understand what happened in that vehicle," he said.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

VIRGINIA:

Morva can't lead his own death penalty appeal, judge rules

William Charles Morva, a former Blacksburg man convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy in the New River Valley in 2006, learned Friday he won't be permitted to manage his own federal death-penalty appeal.

Morva sought to dismiss his court-appointed attorneys, criticizing their honesty and legal work, but U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski ruled otherwise in a 2-hour hearing, with Morva participating through 2-way video from prison.

Urbanski said the technicalities of a federal appeal are too complex for a lay person to manage. Urbanski also denied Morva's request for new attorneys. The judge said the condemned donít get to choose their publicly funded lawyers, and that the attorneys Morva has been furnished are capable and doing their best.

The case, pending in Roanoke federal court, is scheduled to delve deeper into the main issues this fall. The warden of Sussex I State Prison south of Petersburg, where Morva is being held, has asked that the judge dismiss the federal appeal and lift an earlier postponement of Morva's execution.

When it was his turn to speak, Morva extensively criticized his legal team, led by Fairfax-based Jonathan Sheldon, and its filing that initiated his federal appeal.

"I was horrified by the contents," declared Morva, who spoke in a loud and assertive tone and who wore an enormous beard and hair descending below his shoulders.

Urbanski told Morva that, if the filing was incomplete, that was partly because Morva declined to undergo an evaluation to probe his mental health as a possible appeal issue.

"You're the one that caused the problem," the judge told Morva.

In August 2006, when he was 24, Morva was jailed in Montgomery County on burglary and attempted robbery and other charges, but he escaped on a trip for medical care at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

The incident began with Morva beating a sheriff's deputy in a hospital restroom and taking his gun, with which he shot and killed an unarmed hospital security guard. After initially eluding police, Morva shot and killed a deputy who had joined the manhunt the next day.

Morva was caught a short time later, convicted of multiple counts of capital murder and sentenced to death. The Virginia Supreme Court has affirmed his conviction and sentence.

The federal appeal filed on Morva's behalf argues, among other things, that an earlier attorney team mishandled Morva's defense at trial. They failed to adequately investigate his background, didn't sufficiently challenge the evidence and made other errors including allowing Morva to be restrained in the courtroom in a fashion seen by some jurors, the filing said.

After listening in silence as Morva criticized him and his legal work, Morva's lead defense lawyer asked Urbanski to declare Morva incompetent and have him evaluated and treated.

Sheldon said he predicted Morva would be found to have a serious mental health disorder and added that such a finding at an earlier stage in the case could have resulted in a different outcome. For that reason, it could be significant in the appeal case, Sheldon said.

In addition, if treated, Morva would be more likely to help with his own defense, Sheldon said.

The judge ordered a mental health evaluation of Morva, for starters, saying he will rule on Morva's competence later. His mother, Elizabeth Morva, said in a statement filed in court that she has suspected her son is mentally ill for 15 years and that, these days, he mistrusts everybody including her.

Sheldon also asked to investigate the conditions under which Morva was being held at Montgomery County Jail when he escaped. Morva told Urbanski police beat him to get information about drug trafficking in Montgomery County.

Alice Armstrong, with the office of the Virginia attorney general, said the Virginia Supreme Court already ruled that no matter what the conditions in jail were, they didn't justify Morva killing 2 people to escape.

(source: roanoke.com)

FLORIDA:

Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Murder Case

It took less than 1 hour for jurors to come back with a 10 to 2 vote recommending the death penalty for 29-year-old Kevin Jeffries.

Prosecutors listed 4 aggravating circumstances to justify the death penalty.

"This capital crime was heinous, atrocious and cruel," said Larry Basford, Prosecutor.

Prosecutors say Jeffries, his cousin 28-year old David Ian Challender and his fiance 29-year old Nicole Griffin, broke into 90-year old Wallace Scott's Lynn Haven home in April 2013, planning to rob him.

They say Jeffries and Challender beat and tortured Scott for 3 hours trying to get the pin to his atm card. Scott died of strangulation.

"What we intend to do is enlighten you a little bit about his background. You have sort of a taste of it where he discusses growing up hard," said Walter Smith, Defendant.

Defense attorneys attempted to argue that Jeffries was tricked into the situation.

Jurors heard testimony from six people during Friday's penalty phase.

"The boy that I knew was a very loving, beautiful baby boy. I think he was poisoned from his mother. He never knew love," said Verna Christopherson, Jeffries Aunt.

But Jeffries mother Mary Goldsmith says otherwise.

"Have you demonstrated this love for him, his entire life? Yes," said Mary Goldsmith, Jeffries Mother.

Others including Bay County Sheriff's deputy Chad King, Morris Spense from the Inn Paradise and stepfather Darrel Goldsmith took the stand.

Finally, Sherri Mercer, Jeffries aunt came out to speak.

She's accused of motivating the robbery at Scott's home.

She's serving jail time for grand theft of Scott's credit cards.

Jeffries decided not speaks on his own behalf.

The attorney's addressed the jury one last time before they began deliberations.

The juror's recommendation is not final. It's up to the judge.

Judge Brantley Clark has scheduled a Spencer hearing for august 29th, when he'll sentence Jeffries on amid robbery and armed burglary, and decide if Jeffries will get life in prison or the death penalty.

Griffin has already cut a deal with the state, pleading guilty to 2nd-degree murder in exchange for her testimony and a 20 year sentence.

Challender is scheduled to go on trial in September.

(source: WJHG news)

TENNESSEE:

Victims' rights groups opposed to retaining TN Supreme Court judges

For the 1st time in state history there is organized opposition to retaining state Supreme Court judges.

Many groups are lining up to retain the judges, but many victims' rights groups believe the three judges in question are hurting victims with their rulings.

The victims' groups are creating Facebook pages and holding meetings. They have decided that Justices Sharon Lee, Cornelia Clark and Gary Wade must go because they have damaged victims' rights.

Longtime victims' rights advocate Verna Wyatt says the 3 judges tend to form an opinion block, 3/5 of the court, a majority, and often, she says, against victims.

"Many times, what they're doing in these opinions, they're narrowing the rights of victims. Victims don't have very many rights, and the ones that they do, now are being narrowed," Wyatt said.

Victims and support groups met in Knoxville on Wednesday to urge the public to vote the judges out. They point to the death penalty cases that have been sent back to trial and say DUI suspects now have more rights.

Perhaps their biggest complaint, though, are the decisions that have limited victims to show photographs of murdered loved ones.

"If somebody has murdered your child, that's going to be emotional. But we have judges now who say when you give your victim impact statement, if you're emotional, we might stop you right there in your tracks and won't let you finish," Wyatt said.

Justice Clark suggested that victims' families should not be allowed to show too much emotion and give only a brief glimpse of the victim.

"Where does it say in the law that you only give a brief glimpse? I didn't read that anywhere. That's the opinion of our Supreme Court justice. And now, it's not just an opinion, it's a rule," Wyatt said.

The Tennessee Bar Association supports retaining Wade, Lee and Clark, saying their decisions are being taken out of context.

"I think it sets a dangerous precedent to pick one particular opinion out of the thousands of opinions the Supreme Court does and focus on that and fight to have someone removed because of that," said defense attorney Jim Todd.

(source: WSMV news)

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Likelihood of innocence too great to allow executions

Oklahoma's heinously botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April of this year has engendered considerable debate about government's ability to implement capital punishment in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution. Unfortunately, however, lost amid the discussion about the manner in which we execute the condemned has been a far more important question: Can government even be trusted to identify the perpetrators of heinous crimes correctly?

Although government has never been quick to acknowledge its own mistakes, the sheer number of innocent people who have been wrongfully sentenced to death in the United States is staggering. Since 1973 alone, 144 people - including 3 here in Tennessee - have been released from death row after being proven innocent. According to a recent study published in the highly prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "A conservative estimate of the proportion of erroneous convictions of defendants sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 (is) 4.1 %." If true, this would mean that we have identified only about half of the innocent people who have been sentenced to death since 1973, and that perhaps 125 more innocent people are still sitting on death row today waiting to be executed for a crime that somebody else committed.

In total, for every 9 people who have been executed in the United States, 1 death row inmate has been fully exonerated. Many of these exonerees also spent several decades on death row challenging their convictions, rendering the growing criticisms of the "frivolous" appeals that lead to a lengthy appellate process in capital cases both misguided and extremely dangerous.

Sadly, however, despite the rash of recent exonerations in other states and here at home, all three branches of Tennessee government have been delinquent in addressing the problem. Gov. Bill Haslam - whose prosecutors have been caught suppressing evidence with alarming frequency - has consistently deflected the issue. The Tennessee Supreme Court, for its part, has also contributed to the problem, recently electing to "punish" a Memphis prosecutor who openly admitted that he had withheld evidence in a capital case with "a rebuke and a warning to the attorney (that) does not affect the attorney's ability to practice law." Similarly, most of the General Assembly has done nothing but call for blood, eschewing much-needed reform efforts in favor of injecting inflammatory sound bites such as: "It's not our job to judge. That's God's job to judge. Our job is to arrange the meeting."

According to the authors of the PNAS study: "With an error rate at trial over 4 %, it is all but certain that several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent." Even for those of us who support the death penalty in theory, that's a terribly unsettling realization. With an error rate in capital cases of more than 1 in 25, at what point do we as a society finally acknowledge the grim reality that our government is simply too incompetent to be trusted with the power to carry out the ultimate, irreversible punishment? Given that our leaders refuse to address the problem, when do we finally begin demanding that our government stop executing our fellow citizens in our name?

(source: Daniel Horwitz is an attorney in Nashville and a former judicial law clerk for Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon G. Lee; The Tennessean)

MISSOURI:

State seeking death penalty in Sedalia homicide

The state will seek the death penalty against Joseph Arbeiter, the man charged for 1st degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 35-year-old Mandy Black earlier this year.

Black's remains were found in a trailer park south of Sedalia in early May.

Joseph Arbeiter confessed to law enforcement that he stabbed Mandy Black several times in the chest in January, but did not dismember her body until spring.

The case was sent to Clay County for trial, and the Pettis County Prosecutor filed a notice of aggravating circumstances.

In order to impose the death penalty, there must be supporting evidence of at least 1 other aggravating circumstance, among other facts.

The state's notice alleges that Arbeiter committed murder in St. Louis in 1963 and sexual assault in Pettis County on April 30. The sexual assault case is a separate case to be tried in Clay County.

The state said "the murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind."

(source: KMIZ news)

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Ruling Against California Executions Could Be Used in Missouri Cases

A federal judge in California has ruled that state's death penalty takes so long to be carried out it breaks the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling could have an impact on cases in Missouri.

The judge ruled that delays of 25 years or more for appeals and the rarely carrying out of executions by California mean that state's death penalty has become arbitrary and pointless.

Washington University Law Professor Peter Joy says the ruling could come up in Missouri cases.

"Any lawyer representing somebody on death row who's been on death row for a lengthy period of time should raise this argument now because there is this decision out there," says Joy.

About 40 % of California's death row inmates have been there more than 19 years. 3 Missouri inmates have been awaiting execution for 25 years, and about 22 % of condemned Missouri inmates have been waiting 19 years or more.

Not all the delays cited by the judge stem from appeals.

Joy says also noted were, "delays [related to] the system itself, and have nothing to do with the person filing a lot of appeals."

"Out in California," says Joy, "There's a much lengthier time before the court finds someone to appoint as a lawyer to represent people that have been convicted in their appeals and post-conviction relief. There isn't that lengthy a time here in Missouri but there are still issues with the way the process works that take a long time."

The issue could be raised by attorneys for Michael Shane Worthington, who Missouri is scheduled to execute August 6 and who has been awaiting execution for 15 years.

(source: ozarksfirst.com)

NEBRASKA:

Judge: Nikko Jenkins not competent for death penalty phase

A judge has ruled Nikko Jenkins is not competent for the death penalty phase of his case.

The decision comes after at least 2 incidents of self-mutilation in the past 2 months.

There were some key factors on the judge's decision this time.

One was Jenkins' deteriorating mental health.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon said he weighed the testimony of 7 doctors, 2 of which testified at the last 2 competency hearings, regarding Jenkins' mental state.

"This Court must be satisfied that the Defendant is competent to proceed with the sentencing phase of a death penalty case. The fact that this is a death penalty case heightens the concern and consideration of this Court. Therefore, based upon evidence before the Court and the recent deterioration of the Defendant, this Court does not find that the Defendant is competent to proceed further," Batailon wrote in his ruling.

The judge said, in the end, 2 doctors said he was malingering, while 5 others said he has a severe mental illness.

The most common diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

Bataillon also had concerns because the 2 psychiatrists who said jenkins was competent also said he had no major illness, leading him to think that could be in error.

Jenkins will have to be treated before he has his death penalty hearing.

"I have no doubt that he is competent right now. That's obvioulsy the evidence we put forward. That evidence hasn't changed. In fact, I think it only improved in the 2nd hearing," said Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle.

Beadle said a hearing with a 3-judge panel for the death penalty phase previously scheduled for Aug. 11 will have to be pushed back.

The ruling also noted Jenkins' competency to stand trial was valid and the change in competency reflects a dramatic deterioration in his mental condition in just the past few months.

(source: KMTV news)

COLORADO:

Judge Refuses Sanctions in Mass-Murder Case

The judge in the case of accused mass murderer James Holmes has denied the defense's call for sanctions against the prosecution, finding no evidence that prosecutors interfered with the defense.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 criminal counts, including murder, in the July 20, 2012 massacre at an Aurora, movie theater midnight premiere of a Batman movie. 12 people were killed and dozens more were injured.

Prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty.

The defense in late June filed a motion in Arapahoe County District Court, claiming the prosecution was interfering with the defense's investigation by telling witnesses not to talk to any member of the defense team. They claimed they had proof, including an email from Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Teesch-Maguire which the defense claimed "contains significant factual and legal misrepresentation, clearly discourages victim-witnesses from speaking with the defense, and constitutes a serious violation of several legal and ethical rules," the defense motion stated.

The prosecution fired back 2 weeks later, claiming they had sent that email because members of the defense team were emotionally overwhelming victims while trying to communicate with them.

On Wednesday, Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour published an order denying the defense calls for sanctions.

"The defendant now asks for severe sanctions, contending that he 'has documented evidence that the prosecution ... has interfered with defense preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of the defense, impeded and obstructed defense counsel's investigation through improper influence, and ... compromised [the prosecution's role] as an impartial advocate for justice,'" the 37-page order states. "The defendant asks the Court to preclude the death penalty as a sanction. In the alternative, the defendant requests that the Court either prohibit victim impact evidence at any capital sentencing hearing or disqualify the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office from this case.

"The Court concluded that none of the drastic sanctions requested is warranted. The email on which the defendant relies does not establish that the prosecution has compromised its role as an impartial advocate for justice, interfered with the defense's preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of defense counsel, or impeded and obstructed defense counsel's investigation through improper influence. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, to address a concern raised by the defendant, the Court requires the prosecution to send a clarifying email in accordance with this order."

This is not the 1st time the defense accused prosecutors of interfering. Last year, Holmes' attorney filed a similar motion that was dismissed without prejudice because it could not provide a specific example of interference.

There will be 2 hearings, on July 22 and 23, for a pretrial status conference and to address several other motions.

Also on Wednesday, Samour pushed back the trial date to December. In compliance with a pretrial publicity order, neither side is available to comment on the case.

(source: Courthouse News Service)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Appeals court considers whether to delay execution in Arizona

A federal appeals court on Friday began considering whether to grant a reprieve in the upcoming execution of an Arizona inmate after his lawyer sought information about the 2-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The request came during a hearing in the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Wood is set to be executed on Wednesday after being convicted in the deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father nearly 25 years ago.

Wood contends his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to reveal the drugmakers and other details. An attorney for the state argued that Wood has no right to the information he is seeking.

The arguments by Wood's attorneys reflect a legal tactic being used in a number of death penalty cases as states face problems getting lethal-injection drugs.

In the past, states used the same 3-drug combination and didn't have problems getting access to the drugs until the maker of a sedative used in executions decided not to make it anymore. States then started to shield the identity of the drugmakers.

Robin Konrad, an attorney for Wood, said the access to executions that the public and journalists have received in the past extends to information connected to the procedure. She also said the information on the drugs is needed as part of an informed public debate about capital punishment.

"It is not a stretch to ask for the limited information that Mr. Wood has asked for about the process," Konrad said.

Jeffrey L. Sparks, an attorney for the state, was asked by a judge why Arizona opposes the release of the information.

"Experience has shown that when this type of information becomes public, it becomes almost impossible for the state to obtain the drugs it needs," Sparks said.

It's unclear when the 3-judge panel will issue a ruling.

Concerns about the death penalty have mounted after a botched April 29 execution of an Oklahoma inmate and an incident in January in which an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

Arizona prison officials intend to administer the same drugs - the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone - used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Wood, 55, is scheduled to be executed in Florence for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Fiancee of slain Manhattan Beach police officer Martin Ganz recoils at death penalty ruling

Pam Schultz didn't know what to say July 16 when a caller told her a federal judge declared the California death penalty unconstitutional in overturning a 1995 case.

She fell silent for a moment, then stammered as she tried to put her thoughts together, clearly rattled that her fiance's killer might not ever face the punishment jurors recommended for him in 1998.

"I've always been a firm believer in our justice system, and especially the jury system and a jury verdict, and what the conclusion that 12 people come to is a just punishment. And it saddens me that that can change," Schultz said.

She said she never really was sure Roger Hoan Brady would be put to death for killing her fiance, 29-year-old Manhattan Beach police Officer Martin Ganz, on Dec. 27, 1993. Brady, a convicted bank robber who was preparing to rob the Ralphs store on Sepulveda Boulevard, shot Ganz to death when the officer pulled him over for a traffic violation at the entrance to the Manhattan Village parking lot. After the wounded officer retreated, Brady chased after him, stood over him and fired the fatal shots.

In 1998, a Torrance jury that had found Brady guilty recommended that Judge Stephen O'Neil sentence Brady to death. O'Neil did just that in 1999. Since then, the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 2010, but Brady isn't close to being executed more than 20 years after he killed Ganz.

Delays are partly why U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney ruled the California death penalty unconstitutional. Calling it dysfunctional and arbitrary, Carney wrote that the sentence carries a promise with it that it will be carried out, but it is an empty promise for citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones, as well as the inmates on death row.

Schultz said the decision is "almost like a victory on Brady's part, even though he's not involved in this."

"It's tough because I work for the courts and there's a common-sense part of me that always knew that even when Brady got the death penalty, he would probably outlive most of us, just because of the way the system is set up," Schultz said. "I never really took solace in the fact he was going to die, but I think it just gave me some little bit of solace that he got the death penalty."

Schultz said the people of California voted for the death penalty, and it should be the people who vote to change it. 1 person, she said, should not make the decision for all of California.

"There has to be a way to make it fair for everyone," she said. "Make it fair for the convict, make it fair for the victim, make it fair for the families. Death is never fair."

If the state appeals Carney's ruling through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and that court affirms the ruling, the ruling would apply throughout the state, according to former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti. If the state does not appeal, the ruling only applies to Jones' case.

(source: The Beach Reporter)

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California's death penalty isn't really about death at all

When I was young I opposed the death penalty because I believed that everyone - even the most brutal killers - had a flicker of humanity that shouldn't be extinguished.

I'm not so sure about that anymore.

In 3 decades as a reporter I've encountered criminal depravity that's impossible to forgive, and met families whose lives were ruined by patently evil deeds. I understand the instinct for vengeance that pain and horror breed.

But I'm still against the death penalty - for reasons more practical and less naive.

That's why I'm heartened by this week's ruling by an Orange County federal judge, who declared California's death penalty system so dysfunctional, it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Cormac J. Carney overturned the death sentence of a Los Angeles man who has been on death row for almost 20 years for raping and murdering the mother of his girlfriend. The delays and uncertainty the inmate has endured on the path to execution constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Carney ruled.

The judge's ruling applies to just that case, and will almost certainly be appealed. But Carney's detailed dissection of the state's death penalty system makes its failures clear:

Capital punishment in California has become mired in legal challenges that the state mandates but doesn't manage properly. That's made death by execution so random and rare, it's little more than an empty threat.

The system has become such a charade that convicted killers are asking juries to sentence them to death; the cells are bigger, the privileges are better and death row prisoners are more likely to die of natural causes than from an executioner's lethal injection.

Since 1978, when California voters approved the death penalty, more than 900 individuals have been sent to death row. But only 13 have been executed in those 36 years.

Most are still slogging through an appeals process that takes about 25 years to complete. That's twice as long as the national average and has given California the country's largest death row population - nearly 750 inmates.

We'd have to kill someone every week for the next 14 years just to clear death row of its current detainees.

California hasn't put anyone to death since 2006, when a federal judge ordered executions halted until the state reforms its lethal injection protocol. That's stalled and could take years.

In the meantime, public support for the practice seems to be fading. For decades, polls showed that 2/3 of Californians supported capital punishment. But in a 2012 election almost 1/2 the state's voters - 48% - were willing to scrap the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

Economics undoubtedly drive some of that shift. Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978. That translates to $308 million for every execution.

The ruling stated that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Let's look forward to November. There's suppose to be a prop to speed up the process to put these criminals to death faster. That's what the state needs. Not the hand-wringing by Banks and other Libs.

The state's tab for security and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year. It would cost an extra $85 million annually to remedy the delays cited in Carney's ruling.

California law requires death sentences be automatically reviewed by the state Supreme Court; inmates can also file appeals in other state and federal courts. But they often wait years to be assigned an attorney. Public defenders are overloaded and there aren't enough private lawyers prepared to handle high-stakes appeals.

That's transformed a death sentence "into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose," Carney wrote. "Life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

That makes a mockery of a penalty that the U.S. Supreme Court declared a righteous "expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct."

Exhibit A is serial killer Richard Ramirez, who raped, murdered and mutilated 13 people during the months-long Night Stalker rampage that terrorized Southern California in the mid-1980s. Ramirez mocked his victims and crowed about his crimes in the courtroom. He was sentenced to death in 1989.

It took 17 years for his initial appeal to reach the court. He died in June 2013 - from cancer, not lethal injection - 24 years into his death row stint, with legal challenges still pending.

The appeals aren't the problem. In fact, they are a moral necessity. In more than half the California cases reviewed by federal courts, inmates' death sentences were voided.

Dozens of death row inmates across the country have been freed because evidence supported their innocence. For others, that evidence surfaced too late, after they'd been put to death.

That's what grounds my opposition to executions. Our justice system is not perfect; it's tilted against the poor, riddled with racial bias, dependent on the judgment of fallible human beings. The death penalty, even long-delayed, leaves no room for human error.

Yes, California voters approved it. But they also voted to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry and undocumented children the right to attend public schools.

Sometimes we need to reconsider our ballot box decisions. It's time to give up the pretense; we're not executing anyone. A sentence of life without parole would be more honest and less expensive.

We've created a system that's not just unconstitutionally arbitrary and cruel to inmates. It's an insult to jurors who sit through heart-wrenching testimony and agonize over their verdicts; to victims who rely on the finality of punishment for moral and emotional closure; to taxpayers who've invested billions in a system that's fundamentally broken.

We don't have a death penalty in California. We only have a death row. Is that really what we want?

(source: Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times)

OREGON:

Is Oregon's death penalty as 'cruel and unusual' as California's?

Oregon death penalty foes found a lot to like in a federal court decision handed down this week in California.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, condemned to death on April 7, 1995, ruling that capital punishment in California violates the constitutional right of prisoners not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Carney's Wednesday ruling noted that more than 900 prisoners have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

"For the rest," Carney wrote, "the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

Jeff Ellis, a criminal defense attorney on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, boiled the order down in a dozen words:

"California has nothing on Oregon. Our death penalty system is even worse."

Ellis noted that Oregon has executed just 2 men - both volunteers, both executed in the late 1990s after waiving their appeals - since the latest incarnation of capital punishment was passed into state law.

"Of the individuals currently under a death sentence in Oregon, 8 have been on death row for over 25 years," Ellis wrote. "The last person to die on death row was Gary Zweigert in 2013. He died of natural causes.

"In reality, Oregon pays for the most expensive version of life in prison imaginable. It is the opposite of being smart on crime."

Death penalty advocates also find fault in Oregon's law, blaming sloth by the state Supreme Court and Gov. John Kitzhaber's moratorium on capital punishment for the delays.

No matter where you stand on capital punishment, it will be interesting to see if judges in the U.S. District of Oregon find themselves poring through the appeals of prisoners arguing the Eighth Amendment points raised by Ernest Dewayne Jones.

(source: The Oregonian)

USA:

The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity

I have wondered countless times over the past 30 years whether I would live to see the end of the death penalty in the United States. I now know that day will come, and I believe that the current Supreme Court will be its architect.

In its ruling in Hall v. Florida in May, the court - with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the helm - reminded us that the core value animating the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishments clause is the preservation of human dignity against the affront of unnecessarily harsh punishment. Hall, which prohibited a rigid test in use in Florida for gauging whether a defendant is intellectually disabled, was the most recent in a series of opinions in which the court has juxtaposed retribution - the idea of vengeance for a wrongdoing, which serves as the chief justification for the death penalty - with a recognition of our hopelessly complex and fallible human nature.

What was important about Hall is the way Kennedy described the logic behind exempting intellectually disabled individuals from execution: "to impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being" because the "diminished capacity of the intellectually disabled lessens moral culpability and hence the retributive value of the punishment." Though the court previously barred imposition of the death penalty upon intellectually disabled people, as well as juvenile offenders, Hall marked the 1st time that it went so far as to claim that imposing the death penalty upon offenders with these kinds of functional impairments serves "no legitimate penological purpose."

This is why I see an end coming to the death penalty in this country. The overwhelming majority of those facing execution today have what the court termed in Hall to be diminished culpability. Severe functional deficits are the rule, not the exception, among the individuals who populate the nation's death rows. A new study by Robert J. Smith, Sophie Cull and Zoe Robinson, published in Hastings Law Journal, of the social histories of 100 people executed during 2012 and 2013 showed that the vast majority of executed offenders suffered from one or more significant cognitive and behavioral deficits.

1/3 of the offenders had intellectual disabilities, borderline intellectual function or traumatic brain injuries, a similarly debilitating impairment. For example, the Texas Department of Corrections determined that Elroy Chester had an IQ of 69. He attended special education classes throughout school and never functioned at a higher level than 3rd grade. The state had previously enrolled Chester into its Mentally Retarded Offenders Program. Despite these findings, Texas executed him on June 12, 2013.

More than 1/2 of the 100 had a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis. For example, for more than 40 years, Florida's own psychiatrists found that John Ferguson suffered from severe mental illness. Ferguson had a fixed delusion that he was the "Prince of God" who could not be killed and would rise up after his execution and fight alongside Jesus to save the United States from a communist plot. When Ferguson was executed on Aug. 5, 2013, his last words were: "I just want everyone to know that I am the Prince of God and I will rise again." A Florida court had called Mr. Ferguson's delusions "normal Christian beliefs."

Many other executed offenders endured unspeakable abuse as children. Consider Daniel Cook, whose mother drank alcohol and abused drugs while she was pregnant with him. His mother and grandparents molested him as a young child, and his father physically abused him by, for example, lighting a cigarette and using it to burn Daniel's genitals. Eventually the state placed Daniel in foster care, but the abuse didn't stop. A foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a 1-way mirror. The prosecutor responsible for Cook's death sentence stood behind him during the clemency process, telling authorities that he would have taken the death penalty off of the table had he known of his torturous childhood. Arizona refused to commute Cook's sentence, however, and he died by lethal injection on Aug. 8, 2012.

As the execution of Elroy Chester, John Ferguson, Daniel Cook and many more like them illustrates, barring the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile offenders did not solve the death penalty's dignity problem. Rather, those cases gave us cause to look more closely at the people whom we execute. And when you look closely, what you find is that the practice of the death penalty and the commitment to human dignity are not compatible.

(source: Opinion; Charles J. Ogletree Jr. is a professor at Harvard Law School----Washington Post)

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Here's Why 2014 Has Been a Big Year for the Death Penalty Debate

Capital punishment remains a controversial practice, but one that remains in the U.S. despite its removal in other nations. That said, public opinion has changed over the last few decades, and while there's still a majority in support of capital punishment, the numbers are dropping. Pew Research put approval at 78 % in 1996 and 55 % in 2013, and Gallup was slightly higher with 80 % approval in 1994 and 60 % in 2013.

However, 2014 has seen major attention drawing legal efforts on behalf of death penalty cases. The most recent ruling highlights one of the biggest systematic problems with our death penalty process - and it's no longer about public opinion, at least in California. It's back to the basics of cruel and unusual punishment, but instead of focusing on the method of execution, the California District Court case is instead looking at the wait time - the delay before death rather than death itself.

The case was brought by petitioner Ernest Dewayne Jones who, in 1995, was sentenced to death. Jones is still being held in wait, with no idea if or when his execution will take place. The order, from Judge Cormac J. Carney, finding California's death penalty system unconstitutional, noted that 900 people have been sentenced to death since 1978 and only 13 of those 900 have been put to death. More inmates on death row have died from suicide or other natural causes than have been executed as per their sentencing. "Systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death," write Carney.

Based on the Condemned Inmate Summary List as of June 2014, the court finds that 40 % of inmates awaiting execution - Jones being one of them - have been waiting for more than 19 years, and as the size grows, the wait time and delays are exacerbated. Elisabeth A. Semel, director of the death penalty clinic at Berkley University of California law school, told The New York Times that the case would likely be referenced in cases to follow, both in California and in other U.S. states. She said Carney's decision is "a stunningly important and unprecedented ruling," and calls the opinion both "factually dense" and "well-reasoned." Even so, she believes the ruling is almost certainly going to see state appeal at the Ninth Circuit level.

A botched lethal injection earlier this year also drew national attention to the issue of capital punishment, specifically on the drugs being administered today. Clayton Lockett, the inmate in question, survived 43 minutes longer than the drugs should have allowed him to, and died after convulsions of a heart attack. Madeline Cohen, an Oklahoma assistant federal public defender, said that people feel little need to give people like Lockett "a human death when they didn't give their victim a humane death," but that "states have turned to secrecy in the face of drug shortages," according to Tulsa World.

Drug shortages are in part a result of the fact that overseas drug companies are hesitant to ship drugs to the U.S. with the knowledge that said drug might be used for executions. Sodium thiopental - the drug used to render the person unconscious before pancuronium bromide stops their breathing and potassium chloride is administered to stop their heart - is no longer produced in the U.S., with American companies concerned that business with European companies might suffer as a result. However, lawsuits on that front have not yielded the sort of ruling for systematic change as we see in Carney's decision.

Whether the ruling will actually survive an appeal to a higher court is arguable, and Semel admits, according to Time, that "prosecutors will argue that the order does not have the effect of 'automatically' invalidating the death penalty in the ceases of other individuals who have been sentenced to death or who are facing capital prosecution." Even so, should it stand, the ruling would be a major weapon in anti-death-penalty arsenals, or at the very least will demand reform to the present system. This is a positive step towards prison reform, but arguably will push systematic improvements in one area, potentially at the cost of other areas needing attention and affecting much larger groups of inmates. Reallocation of resources and funds in the already taxed correctional system will be necessary. Even so, the ruling may spark change within the system that has been a long time and coming, even if it doesn't change the status of capital punishment within the United States as some might hope.

(source: Wallstcheatsheet.com)

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Life in Prison, With the Remote Possibility of Death

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that California's use of capital punishment was unconstitutional because the system was excessively arbitrary.

The arbitrariness that United States District Court Judge Cormac Carney highlighted is not that too many prisoners are being executed with insufficient due process, but that prisoners on death row are rarely executed, and when executions do occur, it is only after a lengthy and unpredictable delay.

This is unconstitutional, he argues, because a system "where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed" is so arbitrary as to violate the Eighth Amendment's protections against "cruel and unusual punishments."

Judge Carney's ruling calls into question a delicate political equilibrium that allows the public both to demand that their lawmakers pledge fealty to the death penalty when running for election, while not actually having to stomach the enormous number of executions that a systematic program of capital punishment would entail. The result is that death penalty statutes remain on the books in most states as death row continues to expand, yet relatively few are actually executed.

An Excessively Arbitrary Punishment? Prisoners on death row are rarely executed. Many die of natural causes while waiting.

Some numbers put all this in perspective. The F.B.I. reports there were 14,827 cases of homicide or non-negligent manslaughter in 2012, of which 11,298 occurred in jurisdictions that have the death penalty. Research indicates that around one-fifth to a quarter of these homicides were for capital-eligible crimes, suggesting there were around 2,500 capital-eligible homicides in 2012, which is both high by global standards and much lower than in previous decades.

Yet there were only 45 executions last year. When fewer than one in 50 capital-eligible homicides leads to the death chamber, it is clear that capital punishment is rare.

Capital punishment is not only rare, but it's also an extraordinarily long and drawn-out process. In total, there were 3,033 prisoners on death row at the end of 2012. The fact that so many receive death sentences but so few are killed tells us that many prisoners are living decades on death row.

A simple thought experiment makes the point: If a death sentence puts you at the back of the queue of 3,000 prisoners to be executed, and only 50 people are executed each year, then it would take you, on average, 60 years to reach the front of the line. Not surprisingly, many die of natural causes while waiting their turn.

The rate of executions is sufficiently low relative to the number of death sentences handed out that the economists Lawrence Katz, Steven Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich have calculated that "the execution rate on death row is only twice the death rate from accidents and violence among all American men." Once you take account of the violent life circumstances of many murderers, they argue, death row may actually be safer than life on the street.

The numbers are particularly striking in California, where over 900 people have been sentenced to death since 1978, with only 13 executions. 94 of these prisoners have died of other causes (suicide or natural causes), while 39 others were released from death row.

Although California is a particularly striking example, it's by no means an exception. Pennsylvania has 185 prisoners on death row but hasn't executed any since 1999.

Even in the states with active death chambers, the pattern isn't that different. Florida had 403 prisoners on death row in 2012 but executed only 3 of them. Although Texas is the most active executioner, it still only executed 15 of the 290 people on death row. The closest we have to exceptions are Oklahoma and Mississippi, which each executed 6 prisoners, from relatively small death row populations of 55 and 49. In a typical year, fewer than a dozen of the 32 states with active death penalty statutes will perform any executions.

And so we continue with our odd political compromise of sending people to death row, but rarely executing them. The result, as Judge Carney observed, is that in the United States, the death sentence is effectively a sentence of "life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

(source: Op-Ed; Justin Wolfers is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan----New York Times)

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Does America Execute the Innocent? You Decide

Every day now, myths about the death penalty explode.

Glenn Ford's exoneration in March, after 30 years on Louisiana's death row, gave the lie to 2 urban legends: There are no innocent people on death row, and if a death-row prisoner were innocent, we would set him free right away and compensate him generously for his lost years.

In April, Oklahoma's gruesomely induced heart attack on a sentient and terrified Clayton Lockett did in another myth: When we execute bad guys, it's quick and painless.

Then there's the whopper that the Supreme Court exposed in May: The nation no longer executes mentally disabled inmates. Florida, it turns out, continues to do exactly that.

A June Washington Post/ABC News poll brought down another shibboleth: The public supports the death penalty. In fact, a majority prefer life without parole to executions.

Still, one seemingly soothing claim about the death penalty persists. Yes, some capital-defense lawyers are obviously incompetent, and their clients are seriously mentally challenged. Yes, prosecutors sometimes hide evidence of innocence. Yes, some defendants are put on death row by erroneous eyewitness identifications. And, yes, every so often, a death-row inmate turns out to be innocent. But, because of painstaking appeals and clemency reviews, no innocent person is ever executed.

A few years ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia proclaimed this assurance "from the rooftops," and it still stands today.

But before accepting Scalia's guarantee, consider Carlos DeLuna, the subject of The Wrong Carlos, a book colleagues and I recently published following an exhaustive investigation of his criminal case and subsequent execution.

Texas sentenced Carlos DeLuna to die for the murder of a convenience-store clerk in 1983. DeLuna's attorney had never before tried a felony case, and he got no help from DeLuna, who was too mentally disabled to have made it through the 8th grade.

The key evidence against DeLuna was an identification by an Anglo eyewitness who later said he couldn't tell one Hispanic person from another. The witness admitted he was only 50 % sure when police brought him face-to-face with DeLuna in a dark parking lot at night, but, terrified, he ID'd DeLuna as the killer anyway.

DeLuna testified that he had seen another Carlos - Carlos Hernandez - wrestling with the victim moments before she died. But DeLuna was violating parole for an earlier crime, so he ran away when he heard police sirens, only to be swept up in the manhunt that followed. Prosecutors told the jury that they looked high and low for Carlos Hernandez and determined that DeLuna had invented him. As DeLuna's case raced through the appellate and clemency process, state attorneys also assured the judge and governor that Carlos Hernandez didn't exist.

But he did exist. As the homicide detective and a prosecutor in DeLuna's case knew, Hernandez had already knifed one woman to death, and he later confessed to doing the same to another woman, though he never was convicted of either crime. Only months before DeLuna was executed, Hernandez came within an inch of killing a neighbor with a knife.

All these victims - including the convenience-store clerk Carlos DeLuna was executed for killing - were poor, young, Hispanic women whom Hernandez had romantically pursued.

Immediately after the clerk's murder, and for years afterwards, Hernandez told family and friends that he had killed her and let his "tocayo" - his twin - "take the rap." The 2 Carloses were the same height and weight. Relatives described them as dead "ringers" for each other and repeatedly mistook pictures of 1 for the other.

With Carlos Hernandez still prowling the streets of Corpus Christi, Carlos DeLuna was executed on Dec. 7, 1989. Several minutes into his "lethal injection" - long after he was supposed to be unconscious and unfeeling, and as a painful, heart-attack-inducing drug began flowing into his veins - DeLuna sat up. Just as Clayton Lockett did in April, DeLuna fearfully looked an attending witness in the eye.

Informed of the Columbia investigation, the district attorney in DeLuna's case wrote in the Houston Chronicle that he had come "face to face with the hard truth" that he had been "involved in the execution of a man who may well have been innocent."

No innocent person is ever executed. Don't take my word for whether this last remaining assurance about the death penalty is the biggest lie of all. Our book about DeLuna just presents the facts. Every claim made is supported by primary sources linked on our website, where you can read them for yourself.

You decide.

(source: James S. Liebman; Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia Law School----Huffington Post)

US MILITARY:

Airman charged with killing AFN broadcaster could face death

The American airman accused of killing Petty Officer 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov could face the death penalty if his case goes to trial, military officials said Friday.

Staff Sgt. Sean M. Oliver is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly strangling Chepusov, an American Forces Network broadcaster and Oliver's colleague, with his hands at the house of another AFN airman in December. Chepusov's body was found in the passenger seat of Oliver's car early in the morning of Dec. 14, after German police pulled Oliver over for driving erratically in Kaiserslautern.

Oliver, who worked as a broadcast engineer at AFN and had been romantically linked to Chepusov's wife, appeared in court Friday at Ramstein for an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury. He was charged in March.

Investigating officer Lt. Col. Christopher Leavey, who presided over the hearing and heard more than 6 hours of testimony Friday, will recommend whether Oliver should face a court-martial, on what specific charges and whether the death penalty should be sought. The convening authority, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, will make the final decision, lawyers for the government said.

In addition to murder, Oliver is charged with making 2 false official statements, aggravated assault and 2 counts of obstructing justice.

Another AFN broadcast engineer, Army Spc. Cody A. Kramer, could also be tried for his alleged involvement in Chepusov's death. Prosecutors alleged at Kramer's Article 32 hearing in April that he helped Oliver plan and carry out the murder and assisted Oliver in trying to cover it up.

Kramer did not testify Friday.

Leavey heard testimony from Maj. Dori Mitchell Franco, an Army pathologist and the Armed Forces regional medical director.

Franco performed an autopsy on Chepusov's body on Dec. 20, after German medical examiners had conducted an initial autopsy. Franco concluded Chepusov died from injuries to the head and neck "consistent with strangulation."

But she testified that the procedure was hindered by German authorities' decision not to turn over a part of Chepusov's throat. She also said she was not able to collect any DNA evidence because her autopsy was conducted a week after Chepusov's death.

On the night that he died, Chepusov was at Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Skinkle's apartment in Kaiserslautern with Skinkle, Oliver, Kramer and Air Force Staff Sgt. Shao-Lung Ping. Skinkle and Ping also worked at the AFN office on Ramstein.

The group had been drinking at a downtown bar before going to Skinkle's house to celebrate Skinkle's birthday.

Oliver changed his story twice about what happened that night, according to testimony. He initially said he put Chepusov in his car after finding him walking "like a zombie" around Kaiserslautern and that he did not know that he was dead when he was stopped by German authorities. He later said he pushed Chepusov at Skinkle's and that Chepusov hit his head and was knocked out, according to the lead investigator on the case, Deric Hiscock of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Oliver, according to Hisock, said that he put Chepusov in the bathroom and that when he went back to get him, Chepusov attacked him, so Oliver strangled him to try and subdue him. Oliver told Hiscock that he felt Chepusov was still alive when he put him into the car, Hiscock testified.

Ping testified that he saw Chepusov lying limp on the kitchen floor while Oliver kicked him twice in the side like a soccer ball. He later left the apartment; he didn't see Chepusov again and didn't ask Oliver about him.

Ping didn't disclose he was at the apartment that night until three weeks later, when military investigators contacted him.

Leavey asked him why he didn't come forward after learning the next day that Chepusov was dead.

"I was afraid," Ping said.

"What were you afraid of?" Leavey asked.

"Reprisals. Getting in trouble because I was there," he said.

Chepusov's wife, Karla Alejandra Zolezzi, who now lives in Brownsville, Texas, testified that Chepusov had asked for a divorce and that he consented to her relationship with Oliver.

She said she didn't recall who said "wouldn't you want Dmitry to be in an accident?" while dining with Skinkle, Kramer and Oliver days before Chepusov's death.

(source: Stars & Stripes)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

FNC debates counter-terror draft law behind closed doors; A person need only threaten, incite or plan any terrorist act to face penalty of perpetrators

Called back from its summer recess for an extraordinary session, the Federal National Council will discuss behind closed doors tomorrow (Monday) a draft law stepping up the fight against terrorism.

Convicted terrorists will face capital punishment, life imprisonment and fines of up to Dh100 million, according to a new legislation.

The 70-article bill establishes "terrorist" capital offences which result in the death of a victim including attacks on a head of state or his family or a representative or officer of a state; coerced recruitment of individuals into a "terrorist" organisation; hijacking; hostage-taking; infringement of diplomatic or consular premises in committing a "terrorist" act; use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and assaulting security forces.

For equal criminal acts, offenders with terrorist intent will receive much greater penalty than those without.

A person need only threaten, incite or plan any terrorist act to be prosecuted as a terrorist and punished with the same penalty for perpetrators of these acts, states the bill, fast-tracked by the government.

Sources said the UAE, a signatory to 13 international treaties on terrorism, is revising its counter-terrorism law, issued in 2004, to better combat evolving threats.

Signing up to a terrorist organisation will be punished with the death penalty, while an attempt to join any such organisation will cost the offender a life imprisonment, states the draft law, of which a copy has been obtained by Gulf News.

Capital punishment or life imprisonment is the penalty for a person who commissions or runs a training centre for terrorist operations.

"Whoever seeks or communicates with a foreign state, terrorist organisation or with anyone who works for their interests, to commit any terrorist act shall be punished with imprisonment for life while the death penalty will be imposed if the terrorist act has been carried out," the bill suggests.

The draft law states that an attempt on the life of the president of the State, the vice-president, members of the Supreme Council, crown princes, deputy rulers or members of their families will be punishable with the death sentence.

The same penalty will be inflicted on those convicted of committing an attempt on the lif