"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pakistan's Bid to Hang a Disabled Man

Gallows at an unidentified Pakistani prison
Gallows at an unidentified Pakistani prison
For 31 years, I have been a witness to various governments' efforts to execute people in a variety of ways. The bizarre nature of this barbaric debate continued apace on Monday, as a judge in Pakistan faced the government's demand for a date on the gallows for Abdul Basit, a condemned man rendered paraplegic some years ago when the prison failed to provide him with treatment for tubercular meningitis.

The judge appeared sympathetic to the argument that it would be simply barbaric to hang a man in a wheelchair, but the prosecution lawyer was vehement in his desire that Abdul Basit should swing. If a man in a wheelchair killed a score of people, he demanded, would he be spared the noose? (Conveniently, he ignored the fact that Abdul Basit was put into his wheelchair by the very prison authorities who were charged with treating him humanely.)

Faced with a barrage of venom, the judge turned to the prison authorities: precisely how, he demanded, did they plan to hang Abdul Basit? The jailers muttered and stuttered, but eventually conceded that they had not yet figured this one out. The judge ordered them to return within 24 hours with a plan. None was forthcoming.

One might think that the most vengeful of governments would accept that Abdul Basit has suffered enough, whether he committed the crime or not. While he has been on death row for a decade (itself a dreadful punishment), he has come within hours of execution twice already this summer (which verges on torture), and his volunteer lawyers have had no time to investigate any claims of innocence, given the arguments over how the noose should be applied.

In the meantime he has been paralysed from the waist down, with creeping loss of his upper body movement. He has lost all sphincter control. He cannot walk even a brief distance. He cannot climb the steps to the gallows. He cannot stand on the trapdoor, with the noose around his neck, to await his death.

Back in the day - when Britain killed people who we thought had killed people to show that killing people was wrong - the notorious hangman Albert Pierrepoint would come in to measure the condemned man's neck, and weigh him, to calculate the distance of a final drop that would break his neck without wrenching the head from the torso. It was a strange and sickening science that ultimately led Pierrepoint to declare his opposition to capital punishment.

It is rather chilling to imagine what will be taking place in the coming days, as Pierrepoint's Pakistani descendants ponder how best to kill this man. They will presumably be pulling out their paraplegia charts, factoring in the weight of his wheelchair, and wondering how best to roll Abdul Basit into place, all in the name of justice. Let us hope that sanity prevails.

Source: Clive Stafford Smith; US lawyer and the founder and director of human rights organization Reprieve, Sept. 3, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty for Dylann Roof in Charleston Shootings

Dylann S. Roof
Dylann S. Roof
State prosecutors have said in court documents that they will seek the death penalty for Dylann S. Roof, who is charged with the racially motivated murders of nine people in a church in Charleston, S.C., The Associated Press reported Thursday.

After the June 17 massacre of black ministers and parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, it emerged that the suspect, Mr. Roof, 21, who is white, had expressed white supremacist views and hatred of black people.

Mr. Roof has been indicted twice for the killings, in state court and in federal court, and each of those cases carries a possible death sentence. Until the court filing Thursday by Scarlett A. Wilson, the South Carolina state solicitor overseeing the case, neither set of prosecutors had said publicly whether they would seek to have him executed, but state officials, including Gov. Nikki R. Haley, have said emphatically that the case warrants the death penalty.

The documents said prosecutors would pursue the death penalty because more than two people were killed, and that others’ lives were put at risk, The A.P. reported.

According to the report, prosecutors said they intended to present evidence on Mr. Roof’s mental state, adult and juvenile criminal record and other conduct, as well as his apparent lack of remorse for the killings.

A lone gunman walked into the historic church in downtown Charleston, and sat in a Bible study session for almost an hour before drawing a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, and shooting people ranging in age from 26 to 87.

The slaughter drew international attention, prompting debate about race and guns — all the more so for taking place in a city that was the center of the American slave trade and the flash point of the Civil War, and in a church closely identified with the abolition and civil rights movements.

Published pictures of Mr. Roof, 21, posing with the Confederate battle flag, also renewed debates about the use of that flag and other symbols of the Old South, and within days, both chambers of the South Carolina General Assembly voted to remove the banner from the State House grounds.

Mr. Roof indicated in federal court on July 31 that he wanted to plead guilty, but his lawyers said he could not make such a plea without knowing whether it could bring on the death penalty.


Source: The New York Times, Ricahrd Pérez-Peñan Sept. 3, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

For one Missouri lawyer, 8 clients executed in 18 months

At a time when other states in the US are backing away from the death penalty, Missouri has done the opposite. It is currently executing its death row inmates faster than any other state in the country, at a rate of about one per month.

At 21:09 local time on Tuesday evening, Roderick Nunley became the 6th death row inmate executed by the state of Missouri in 2015. He was convicted of the 1989 kidnapping, rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Kansas City. His was the latest in a string of executions by the state since 2013.

In May 2015, Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. A federal appeals court in California is currently considering the constitutionality of capital punishment. Difficulty procuring the drugs necessary for lethal injections has halted the process in some places.

But while executions have slowed elsewhere, Missouri is ramping up, ever since it secured a new, secret source for the execution drug pentobarbital.

Lawyer Jennifer Herndon's caseload is a testament to that fact. Of the last 18 men executed by Missouri, eight of them were her clients. Nunley was her final capital case.

No one in Missouri has had more executed clients in the last 2 years. In part because of this, she was profiled by The Marshall Project in an article entitled "The Burnout". In the story, Herndon - known once as a dedicated lawyer who won a landmark decision that said individuals who committed their crimes while juveniles can not be executed - said she no longer wanted to represent death row inmates. At the time, Nunley and another man named Richard Strong were still alive. Strong was subsequently executed in June this year.

"I'm not doing anybody any good," Herndon told the news outlet."There's no joy in it whatsoever. They execute people no matter what."

Missouri capital defence attorneys Lindsay Runnels and Jennifer Merrigan were shocked by what they read about Herndon in the story. They did not realise that her law licence had been suspended for a time in 2013 because she was delinquent on her taxes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

The article also went into depth about her 2nd job as a business coach and online marketer. In the days leading up to Nunley's execution, they tried to convince the Missouri Supreme Court that Herndon did not fulfil her legal obligations to him by failing to find his original trial files and by commenting to media that only a "miracle" could save him.

They say the problem is systemic.

"It's the same lawyers over and over and over again, Ms Herndon among them. We are involved in every execution," says Runnels. "We're outgunned and out-resourced. And then there is competency problems with some of the bar."

Merrigan - who helped Herndon back in 2010 with Nunley's case - has defended several death row clients, and says Herndon's caseload coupled with her tax trouble show a lawyer not able to devote significant time to clients whose lives hang in the balance.

Merrigan says working on even a single execution case is a tremendously draining experience for capital defence lawyers.

"Even for a person who is not in serious financial trouble, who has not taken another full-time job, it is still extremely stressful," she says. "To say that somebody has had 8 executions over the past 18 months, that means they've spent approximately 6 months in this type of crisis litigation. It's completely unreasonable to believe anyone could operate that way."

Together, Runnels and Merrigan filed affidavits last week with the Missouri Supreme Court and a motion asking it to halt the execution so that Nunley could be properly represented. They had many concerns beyond the ones revealed in the Marshall Project article, including the fact that Herndon allegedly never tracked down Nunley's original trial file.

According to her affidavit, Runnels says Herndon told her it was stolen, then later admitted she "didn't ever check with the trial attorneys" for the files.

"Mr Nunley received mental health treatment as early as 1978...Mr Nunley was 'never the same' after his brother died suddenly as a child...he had suffered at least 2 gunshot wounds," wrote Runnels in her affidavit. "These red flags and potential lines of humanising and mitigating information were never developed. Additionally, no life history chronology has ever been completed for Mr Nunley nor has any in-depth social history ever been done."

These types of investigations are crucial, says Sean O'Brien, associate law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in order to show "a unique and complex human being who deserves mercy".

That, he says, is the "heart and soul" of the work of capital defence lawyers trying to convince a jury to hand down a life sentence instead of death. He says it takes a huge amount of time and is accomplished mostly pro bono after funding dries up over the years it takes for death penalty cases to be resolved.

"A good lawyer wouldn't find herself appointed on seven death cases," he says. "No lawyer could do that. No lawyer could financially survive that."

The Missouri Supreme Court overruled Runnels and Merrigan's motion. A half hour before his execution would be allowed to proceed, final appeals to the US Supreme Court sent by Herndon were denied, and Runnels and Merrigan submitted their final writ to the US Supreme Court.

"Ms Herndon appears to lack the time and capacity to competently represent Mr Nunley," they wrote. "She also claims to no longer want to do capital defence work and claims to not be able to conduct the work her clients require."

Herndon declined BBC's interview request on Tuesday. "I'm busy with my client," she wrote in an email.

O'Brien says with the tiny defence bar, the wave of executions and the pro-death penalty politicians in power in Missouri, there is a "perfect storm" raging in the state.

In March of this year, 4 lawyers who served on the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Assessment Team wrote that the Missouri Supreme Court should only allow lawyers to have a client facing execution once every six months. One of them was the group's co-chair, University of Missouri School of Law associate dean Paul Litton.

"It is obviously increasing the chances of due process denials," he says of the pace of executions. "We're talking about a time where we're seeing not just fewer executions in general, we're seeing fewer juries sentencing people to death every year."

Litton's recommendations were not taken up by the Missouri Supreme Court and the executions have continued at roughly the same pace.

Shynise Nunley Spencer, Nunley's daughter, also submitted an affidavit to the Missouri Supreme Court on behalf of her father before he was executed.

"Despite the ongoing, close relationship that my father and I share, I have never, not once, spoken with Jennifer Herndon. She has never called me. She has never returned my calls," Spencer wrote. "The simple truth is that I love my father and talk to him almost everyday. My children love my father. His death will be devastating for me and for them."

After the US Supreme Court denied the final petition, Roderick Nunley was given a lethal injection at 20:58 and died 11 minutes later. He gave no final statement. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon reminded the public of Nunley's crime in a press release announcing he had denied Nunley clemency.

"On the morning of March 22, 1989, 15-year-old Ann Harrison was waiting for the school bus at the end of the driveway of her Raytown home when she was abducted, raped, and then stabbed to death by Roderick Nunley and Michael Taylor. The capital punishment sentence given to Taylor for his role in these brutal crimes was carried out last year," Nixon's statement reads. "Nunley also pleaded guilty to these heinous crimes and was sentenced to death. My decision today upholds this appropriate sentence."

Herndon did not respond to subsequent interview questions about whether she will ever represent a capital client again.

Another execution is scheduled in Missouri for next month.

Source: BBC news, Sept. 3, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Iran: Ten executions, one in public; business as usual

Public execution in Bandar Abbas on Sept. 1, 2015
Public execution in Bandar Abbas on Sept. 1, 2015
The mullahs' regime in Iran on Wednesday hanged 5 prisoners collectively in the Central Prison of Karaj, north-west of Tehran.

The 5 prisoners, hanged at dawn on Wednesday (September 2), were between the ages of 28 and 30.

4 of them were identified as Mostafa Akhundzadeh, Hossein Jalali, Majid Rezai, and Hamid Farji.

The 5th prisoner was not identified. Iran's fundamentalist regime on Tuesday also hanged 4 prisoners in the north-western city of Tabriz and the western city of Sanandaj. Another prisoner was hanged in public in the southern city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

Iran on Tuesday hanged 4 prisoners in the north-western city of Tabriz and the western city of Sanandaj. A 5th prisoner was hanged in public in the southern city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

Zahed Hedayati and Jamal Jaafari were hanged in Sanandaj Prison.

Mostajab Pour Mohammad and Davoud Emazadeh were hanged in Tabriz Prison.

A young man, whose name was not given, was hanged in public near Barq Square in Bandar Abbas on Monday.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."

Source: NCR-Iran, Sept. 3, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Alabama: Drug company named in lethal injection case

Firm says use of drug in death penalty against its policies

Add another drug company to the list of potential sources of Alabama's death penalty drugs - a list state officials have long tried to keep secret.

Court documents filed last month in the case of death row inmate Tommy Arthur suggest New Jersey pharmaceutical manufacturer Becton Dickinson could be a maker of the midazolam Alabama uses as the 1st element of its 3-drug execution protocol.

The company, in a written statement, said its drugs are not intended for sale to U.S. prisons, and that its distributors have been warned of that fact. The company will take an "appropriate course of action" against any distributor found selling midazolam to prisons, according to the statement.

The new documents are not the 1st time lawyers have dropped the name of a drugmaker in court, though state officials have long declined to publicly name the sources of their lethal injection drugs.

"A company that's not involved in lethal injection would be very concerned about the potential unfair damage done to them by their association with executions," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit which studies the death penalty. "A company that is involved would be rightly concerned about the consequences of being known to be involved."

Alabama hasn't executed an inmate in more than two years. Drugs once used for lethal injection have become scarce as major drug companies - particularly those headquartered in Europe, where there's strong opposition to capital punishment - have backed away from providing those drugs to prison systems.

Several inmates have challenged the constitutionality of the state's current execution drug protocol, which consists of midazolam to kill pain, rocuronium to relax the muscles, and finally, potassium chloride to stop the heart. Inmates claim midazolam doesn't kill the pain of execution and thus violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

For the past 2 years, lawmakers have proposed bills to make the names of Alabama's lethal injection drug suppliers secret. Those bills didn't pass, but state officials still decline to name the sources of their drugs, citing a gag order in Arthur's case. Many of the documents in that case are sealed, and many non-sealed documents contain redacted passages.

Earlier this year, however, state officials included a "package insert" - essentially manufacturer's instructions - for midazolam produced by Illinois-based Akorn Pharmaceuticals as an exhibit in the case. The company denied selling any midazolam directly to the state.

More recent court documents refer to a similar package insert from Becton Dickinson. In a court order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins ruled that Arthur's lawyers could conduct depositions to find out which company's insert best applies to the drugs used in Alabama's executions.

Consequences

When Akorn's package insert surfaced in court documents earlier this year, the company said it "strongly objects" to use of its drugs in executions. Akorn later announced it would restrict sale of midazolam to wholesalers who "use their best efforts" to prevent sale of the drug to prisons.

Becton Dickinson took a similar position in its Tuesday statement, sent by public relations director Troy Kirkpatrick.

"All of our distributor partners have previously received formal notification ... that our products are not intended for use in U.S. prisons including state and federal penitentiaries," the statement read.

Becton Dickinson did $163,905 in direct business with the state so far this year, and $156,162 in fiscal 2014, but all those sales appear to have been to the Department of Public Health, not the Department of Corrections.

Dunham said it's possible for a drugmaker's products to be used in an execution without the company knowing it. But association with lethal injection is increasingly problematic for companies both ethically and from a marketing standpoint, he said.

"A company's good name is worth a fortune," Dunham said.

He cited the example of Mylan, a producer of rocuronium bromide, one of the drugs Alabama uses for lethal injection. According to Reuters, a Dutch public employees' pension fund last week divested itself of stock in Mylan. Mylan has said its drugs are not intended for use in capital punishment, but according to Reuters, pension fund managers thought the company wasn't doing enough to control use of its drugs.

Changing tactics

The judge's order comes as Arthur and other death row inmates search for a new defense in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the use of midazolam in executions.

An Oklahoma inmate, citing a botched 2014 execution which took more than half an hour, argued that midazolam shouldn't be used to kill inmates. The high court disagreed.

"The prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the opening lines of the majority opinion. The death penalty itself hasn't been ruled unconstitutional, Alito wrote, and there must therefore be a constitutional way to carry it out.

Lawyers for Arthur, who was convicted in the 1980s murder-for-hire of a Muscle Shoals man, have since argued that Alabama does have alternatives, including the firing squad.

"Execution by firing squad, if implemented properly, would result in a substantially lesser risk of harm than the state's continued use of the d-drug protocol involving midazolam," wrote Suhana Han, attorney for condemned inmate Tommy Arthur, in a court motion.

Arthur has also argued that the state could buy sodium thiopental - once the 1st drug in Alabama's execution protocol - from a drugmaker in India, or could hire a compounding pharmacist to mix the drug pentobarbital in small batches.

Pentobarbital, too, was once used by the state to kill inmates. Arthur challenged the constitutionality of that drug in his original 2011 suit against the state.

"Arthur cannot pretend that he has never adopted the position ... that pentobarbital violates the Eighth Amendment because it will cause him to have a heart attack and suffer a painful death before its anesthetic effects are achieved," lawyers for the attorney general's office wrote in a motion for summary judgment. Attempts to reach a spokesman for Arthur's legal team were unsuccessful Tuesday. Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the office would not comment further on the case.

The judge's Friday order blocks Arthur from directly seeking information about the sources of the state's drugs, their expiration dates and any effort by the state to adopt an alternate form of execution.

Discovery in the case must be completed by Nov. 15, Watkins ordered.

Source: Anniston Star, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

California Agrees to Overhaul Use of Solitary Confinement

LOS ANGELES — California has agreed to an overhaul of the use of solitary confinement in its prisons, including strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates, as part of a landmark legal settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday.

The settlement is expected to sharply reduce the number of inmates held in the state’s isolation units, where nearly 3,000 inmates are often kept alone for more than 22 hours a day in cells that sometimes have no windows, and cap the length of time prisoners can spend there. Prison reform advocates say they hope the settlement will serve as a model for other states.

Prison officials have used solitary confinement to separate prisoners who they say are too dangerous to house with the general population, either because they have been violent in prison or because they have been identified as gang members. Many such prisoners are left in solitary confinement indefinitely, with severe psychological effects; over the years, hundreds have spent more than a decade in isolation.

But President Obama, who in July became the first president to visit a federal prison, has questioned solitary confinement, as has Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the Supreme Court. Craig Haney, a psychologist who studied the effects of isolation on prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California — the prisoners at the heart of this settlement — used the term “social death” to describe the impact on their psyche.

A number of corrections officials across the country are also coming to see locking up inmates for years at a time as ineffective. Some human rights groups have assailed it as torture, and tens of thousands of inmates across California have participated in hunger strikes since 2011 to protest the state’s use of solitary confinement.

“This brings California in line with more modern national prison practices,” said Jules Lobel, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who was the lead lawyer for the inmates in their suit against the state. “People have been kept in solitary confinement for outrageously long periods of time. That’s one of the problems in the U.S. — people are warehoused in these places, and now that’s going to change.”

Under the settlement, prisoners will no longer be sent to isolation indefinitely. And gang members will no longer be sent to solitary confinement based solely on their gang affiliation; only inmates found guilty of serious prison infractions like violence, weapons, narcotics possession or escape will be sent to isolation.


Source: The New York Times, Ian Lovett, Sept. 1, 2015


Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life

Few social scientists question that isolation can have harmful effects. Research over the last half-century has demonstrated that it can worsen mental illness and produce symptoms even in prisoners who start out psychologically robust.

But most studies have focused on laboratory volunteers or prison inmates who have been isolated for relatively short periods. Dr. Haney’s interviews offer the first systematic look at inmates isolated from normal human contact for much of their adult lives and the profound losses that such confinement appears to produce.

The interviews, conducted over the last two years as part of a lawsuit over prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, have not yet been written up as a formal study or reviewed by other researchers. But Dr. Haney’s work provides a vivid portrait of men so severely isolated that, to use Dr. Haney’s term, they have undergone a “social death.”

Sealed for years in a hermetic environment — one inmate likened the prison’s solitary confinement unit to “a weapons lab or a place for human experiments” — prisoners recounted struggling daily to maintain their sanity. They spoke of longing to catch sight of a tree or a bird. Many responded to their isolation by shutting down their emotions and withdrawing even further, shunning even the meager human conversation and company they were afforded.

“If you put a parakeet in a cage for years and you take it out, it will die,” one older prisoner said. “So I stay in my cage.”


Source: The New York Times, Erica Goode, August 3, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Amnesty backs Indian law panel's findings on death penalty

Amnesty International India on Tuesday urged the government to accept the findings of the Law Commission on death penalty and immediately abolish it for all crimes.

In a statement, it said the Centre "must heed the findings of a Law Commission report on the unfairness of the death penalty" and immediately abolish it for all crimes.

"The Law Commission points out that in nearly a quarter of the cases in which the Supreme Court has recently given the death penalty, it has done so in error," Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said adding the report is a "vital step" forward in the debate around the death penalty in India. He said the Commission debunks many of the "myths surrounding death penalty".

"Although the report stops short of recommending complete abolition, Parliament must seize this opportunity to show political leadership and abolish capital punishment for all crimes," he said.

"As the report says, the government has the power to lead public opinion, and indeed an obligation to do so on issues of human dignity and equality. India's gamble with this lethal lottery needs to stop now," he said.

The 20th Law Commission, in its report submitted on Monday, said the administration of the death penalty in India is "fallible, vulnerable to misapplication, and disproportionately" used against socially and economically marginalised people. The Commission recommended that the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war and hoped that the movement towards absolute abolition will be "swift and irreversible".

Source: Deccan Herald, Sept. 2, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

LHC dismisses plea against execution of disabled person

Abdul Basit
Abdul Basit
A Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench Tuesday dismissed a petition against the execution of a disabled death row prisoner.

The division bench comprising Justice Anwaarul Haq and Justice Erum Sajad Gull heard the petition, which was filed by Nusrat Parveen against the execution of her disabled son, Abdul Basit.

During the hearing, the petitioner's counsel submitted that Basit was paralysed from the waist down and used a wheelchair as a result of an illness, which he contracted in prison.

Basit's lawyer contended that he has already suffered unusual punishment, and to try to execute him now would be a form of "double punishment", prohibited under Pakistani law.

The counsel further submitted that jail manual gave no instructions on how to execute disabled prisoners and the court could intervene if law was ambiguous.

However, on behalf of the home department, a provincial law officer submitted that disabled person could be hanged under Sub-Section 2 of Sections 350 and 356 of jail rules.

He pointed out that such a matter was raised before Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court but the execution was not stopped.

He said that a disabled person could be hanged by using their wheel chair.

The bench after hearing detailed arguments from both parties dismissed the petition.

It is pertinent to mention that the court had stayed the execution of Basit which was scheduled for last month, Abdul Basit (43), was convicted and sentenced to death for a murder in 2009.

Source: Pakistan Today, Sept. 2, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Missouri executes Roderick Nunley

Roderick Nunley
Roderick Nunley
BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - Missouri executed Tuesday evening Roderick Nunley, 50, for the kidnapping, rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in 1989.

Nunley was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m., according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Nunlley becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 86th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989; only Texas (528), Oklahoma (112), Virginia (110), and Florida (90) have executed more individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Nunley becomes the 20th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1414th overall since the nation resumed executions on january 17, 1977.

Nunley was sentenced to death for the 1989 kidnapping, rape and murder of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in Kansas City. He was charged along with Michael Taylor, who was executed last year.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday denied a clemency request for Nunley, filed by death penalty opponents, asserting that racial bias played a role in the case because a prosecutor refused a plea deal that would have given Nunley life in prison without parole.

Nunley was black, as was Taylor, while the victim was white.

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, denied several appeals from Nunley's attorney, including one claiming that the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Retired Kansas City detective Pete Edlund said the only thing cruel and unusual was how long Nunley and Taylor remained on death row.

"They just take forever to do the deed," Edlund told The Associated Press. "The delay in executing these 2 is just nuts because it didn't have anything to do with their guilt. It was legal mumbo jumbo nonsense." 

"Despite openly admitting his guilt to the court, it has taken 25 years to get him to the execution chamber," Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement. "Nunley's case offers a textbook example showing why society is so frustrated with a system that has become too cumbersome."

According to police reports and court documents, Nunley and Taylor had been using cocaine the night of March 21, 1989, and then stole a car during the early morning hours of March 22.

They saw Ann Harrison standing in her driveway waiting on a school bus. When they pulled up to her, Taylor grabbed her, pulling her inside the car.

Nunley then drove to his mother’s house in Grandview, a suburb of Kansas City, where Harrison was taken blindfolded into the basement. He said in court that Taylor raped Harrison while he did nothing to prevent it, and that they both later agreed to kill her to prevent her from testifying against them in court.

Harrison was stabbed multiple times and left in the trunk of the stolen car to die. Both the car and her body were discovered three days later in a nearby neighborhood.

Nunley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1991, in the hopes of receiving a life sentence, but after a three-day sentencing hearing he was sentenced to death.

In 1994, Nunley filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which was rejected. His attorneys had argued that he suffered from a “dependent personality disorder” and that his judgment was impaired due to his cocaine use when Harrison was murdered. They also accused the Jackson County prosecutor’s office of having a track record of racial discrimination when pursuing the death penalty in cases where the defendant was African American and the victim was white.

Late Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected Nunley’s request to withdraw the execution warrant, and a motion on Monday to reconsider that decision was also rejected.

Meanwhile, Nunley’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, has filed another appeal based on the state’s refusal to disclose where it gets its execution drug, although that maneuver failed to halt other executions carried out in Missouri this year.

The Marshall Project, which has put forth several articles critical of the death penalty, recently had an article that was critical of Herndon.

Sources: KCUR.org, Marshall Griffin, AP, DPN, Rick Halperin, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Iran: Inmate Hanged in Public in Bandar Abbas

Public execution in Bandar Abbas, Iran on Sept. 1, 2015
Public execution in Bandar Abbas, Iran on Sept. 1, 2015
One prisoner on death row allegedly charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and rape was executed in public in the city of Bandar Abbas.

Iran Human Rights, Tuesday September 1 2015: One prisoner on death row who was allegedly charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and rape was executed in public in the city of Bandar Abbas. 

According to the Press Department of Hormozgan's Judiciary, the prisoner's initials are "A.Gh."

The report mentions the prisoner's brothers, identified as "V.Gh." and "A.Gh.", for allegedly assisting in the crime, but did not mention whether they are on death row.

Source: Iran Human Rights, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Arkansas Attorney General asks governor to set executions for 8 inmates

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has officially asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set execution dates for 8 death-row inmates who have exhausted all appeals.

The request Tuesday came after a 10-year hiatus on executions in the state because of legal challenges to the state's death-penalty procedures.

The last execution - Eric Nance, convicted of murdering 18-year-old Julie Heath of Malvern in 1993 - was carried out in November 2005 by using a 3-drug cocktail of phenobarbital, a paralytic agent and potassium chloride.

The Arkansas Department of Correction recently obtained the execution drugs, 1 of which was midazolam.

The use of the drug was challenged in federal court after a handful of botched executions. 

Death-penalty opponents claimed that the drug does not induce a complete level of unconsciousness, which allows the inmate to feel pain.

Source: arkansasonline.com, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Taiwan court acquits man after controversial death penalty case

A defendant in a controversial death penalty case was declared innocent after his 9th appeal yesterday, exactly 20 years after his alleged crime.

Hsu Tzu-chiang is 1 of 3 men sentenced to death in 2000 for the murder of a real estate businessman on Sept. 1, 1995.

Activists and Hsu's lawyers criticized the ruling on grounds that the sentence had been based on the confessions of his co-defendants.

The Taiwan High Court yesterday overturned Hsu's seven death sentences and two life sentences, declaring him not guilty.

The case had already gone through 8 appeals on repeated retrials.

Hsu, in disbelief, turned to a nearby friend after the announcement and asked, "Is it not guilty?" Upon confirming the verdict, the defendant embraced his tearful mother.

"I have waited for 20 years," he said to a crowd of supporters waiting outside the high court. The sentence can still be appealed.

Hsu and 2 other men were sentenced to death for the alleged murder of real-estate businessman Huang Chun-shu in 1995.

The victim was kidnapped outside his home; after his murder, his disfigured body was abandoned in New Taipei City, and then Taipei County.

During the trial, defendants Huang Chun-chi and Chen Yi-lung were sentenced based on forensic evidence, while Hsu was convicted based on their testimony.

A 4th defendant had escaped to Thailand, where he died.

Activists have criticized Hsu's sentence and said that there was security footage proving he was elsewhere during the events.

The Judicial Reform Foundation has called the case deeply flawed, saying it demonstrates the need to implement a jury system in Taiwan to reduce judicial bias.

After the initial sentencing, 1 of the 2 defendants said he had accused Hsu as a way of getting revenge and that Hsu was innocent.

In 2001, Taiwan's Control Yuan released a report on Hsu's conviction that condemned the sentencing.

Hsu's case is one of the longest-running murder cases in Taiwan's history, and his acquittal falls exactly 20 years after the alleged murder. Huang Chun-chi and Chen Yi-lung remain on death row.

Source: The China Post, September 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Ricketts: 'One step at a time' on death penalty

Gov. Pete Ricketts says his administration will wait until death penalty petition signatures are verified before deciding whether to proceed with executions.

"I think it's important to take this one step at a time," Ricketts said Tuesday. "There's a process in place here I think we need to follow."

Death penalty supporters last week turned in 166,692 petition signatures from Nebraska voters calling for capital punishment to be reinstated and for the issue to be put to a public vote in November 2016.

If verified, that's more than enough to stop the death penalty repeal passed by the Legislature over Ricketts' veto in May.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needs about 57,000 verified signatures -- 5 percent of the state's registered voters — to put the issue to a vote and about 114,000 — 10 percent of registered voters — to stop the repeal from going into effect.

The state still does not have the means to carry out an execution of any of the 10 men on death row.

Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes is trying to import two of the three drugs in the state’s lethal injection protocol, but has not been able to get the sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide from a broker in India into the country. The department has a supply of the third drug, potassium chloride.

Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have been reported as the largest individual financial contributors to the campaign to restore the death penalty, which had raised $652,000 by the end of July, as reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. At the last filing with the commission, the governor and his father had contributed at least $300,000.

Source: JournalStar.com, Zach Pluacek, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Supremacist convicted of killing 3 at Kansas Jewish sites

Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.
Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.
The man who admitted killing 3 people at 2 suburban Kansas City Jewish sites gave jurors a Nazi salute Monday after they convicted him of murder and other charges for the shootings, which he said would allow him to "die a martyr."

It took the jury of 7 men and 5 women just over 2 hours to find Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. guilty of 1 count of capital murder, 3 counts of attempted murder and assault and weapons charges.

After the verdict was announced, Miller, 74, of Aurora, Missouri, said: "The fat lady just sang" and he raised his right arm in the Nazi salute. As jurors were filing out of the courtroom later, he told them: "You probably won't sleep tonight."

The judge reminded Miller that the same jury will decide his sentence. He could get the death penalty. The sentencing proceedings were expected to begin Tuesday.

During the prosecution's closing, District Attorney Steve Howe cited a "mountain of evidence" against Miller, who is charged with capital murder in the April 2014 shootings at 2 Jewish sites in Overland Park, Kansas. Although he has admitted to killing the three people, he has pleaded not guilty, saying it was his duty to stop genocide against the white race. None of the victims was Jewish.

"He wants to be the one who decides who lives and dies," Howe said of Miller.

The Passover eve shootings killed William Corporon, 69, and Corporon's 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center.

During his closing, Miller said he had been "floating on a cloud" since the killings. Earlier, he objected when Howe alleged he wanted to kill as many people as possible. Miller interjected: "I wanted to kill Jews, not people."

Miller, who also was known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., urged jurors to "show great courage" and find him not guilty.

"You have the power in your hands to inspire the world," he said. "You can become a man or woman your forefathers will be proud of for your bravery."

The proceedings were marked with frequent outbursts from Miller, who objected repeatedly while jurors were out of the courtroom during discussions about what instructions should guide deliberations. At one point, he said, "I object to everything on the grounds of George Washington, our founding father."

The objections became so heated that Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan temporarily ejected Miller from the courtroom when Miller said he didn't respect the process and used an anti-Semitic comment to criticize the court system. Ryan told Miller that if there were further outbursts, he would permanently eject him or declare a mistrial.

Miller groused before finally agreeing, "I will take it under advisement and try to improve."

Miller is a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party. He also ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.

Source: Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Family of Filipina on death row going to Dubai

The family of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from this city who is facing death penalty in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after being convicted last May of killing her employer will finally meet with her in the next few days.

Rahima Dalquez, mother of convicted OFW Jennifer, said Tuesday they are set to leave for the UAE anytime this week to visit her daughter at the Al Ain jail and help in the ongoing appeals for her case.

Rahima will be joined by her husband Abdulhamid and another family member in the trip, which is being facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

"We're happy that Allah is giving us this chance to see her and we're very thankful to the government for making this happen," she said in the vernacular in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

Jennifer Dalquez, 28, who hails from Barangay Labangal here, was sentenced to death by a court in Al Ain, UAE last May 20 for stabbing her employer to death on Dec. 7, 2014.

During trial, she said the act was in self-defense after her Emirati employer had tried to rape her.

Ebrahim Zailon, acting head of the DFA regional consular office here, said the agency had assigned a lawyer to handle Dalquez' case, especially her appeal.

A hearing for her appeal was set on Sept. 3 in Al Ain, UAE.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz visited Dalquez in jail last June 18 and expressed "high hopes" that the appeal would be successful.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration had provided assistance to Dalquez' family, especially her 2 children.

Jennifer's father Abdulhamid believes her daughter's conviction would be overturned as she only acted in self-defense.

"She's innocent so we're very hopeful with her appeal," he said.

Rahima, on the other hand, advised relatives of other OFWs who are facing various sentences overseas "not to lose hope."

"We're also hoping that we will be joined by Jennifer when we return home," she added.

Source: mindanews.com, Sept. 1, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Attorneys For Oklahoma Death Row Inmate Richard Glossip Say They Have New Information In His Case

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
OKLAHOMA CITY - Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip will release new information in the case that they say jurors never saw.

This on the same day supporters go on Dr. Phil to make an emotional plea to save his life.

In an hour-long episode of Dr. Phil Monday, actress Susan Sarandon and anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean laid out the case of why they believe Richard Glossip should not be executed on September 16.

At the center of their concerns is the testimony of Justin Sneed. Sneed is the one who actually killed Barry Van Treese, but testified Glossip was the mastermind behind the murder in a deal to avoid the death penalty for himself.

“It was solely on the word of this man, Justin Sneed, who was 19-years-old, under pressure and he finally gives them what they want to hear,” said Prejean on the Dr. Phil show.

“They’ve got about eight distinct and separate stories that he has told,” said Don Knight, one of Glossip’s attorneys.

Monday, Knight and Glossip's other attorney's released a 43-page document of the statements Sneed made to the police, at trial, and to relatives.

“When you see all these other stories you realize even if one of them is somehow true, this man has told lies at least seven other times,” Knight said.

Yet, Glossip's supporters and attorneys say Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death solely on Sneed's testimony.

“To hear all the conflicting things and then say you going to believe on the word of this man? That he hired him? The one aggravating circumstance in getting the death penalty,” Prejean said.

Gov. Mary Fallin says she would reconsider her decision not to grant a 60 day stay to Glossip if new evidence came forward, but at this point, Glossip's attorney's haven't filed anything new with the courts.

Source: News 9, Dana Hertneky, Sept. 1, 2015


Documents reveal snitch told police numerous stories about 1997 killing

Homicide detectives pressured killer into implicating death row inmate Glossip

OKLAHOMA CITY – Convicted killer Justin Sneed told Oklahoma City homicide detectives several different stories before settling on a version they liked in connection with a 1997 killing, according to documents obtained for this Red Dirt Report exclusive.

Summary of Justin Sneed's stories

Over the course of two murder trials and seven years, Sneed’s stories changed or were embellished as he testified against former co-worker Richard Glossip who is scheduled to die by lethal injection Sept. 16 for the death of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese.

Sneed, a maintenance man at the Best Budget Inn, pleaded guilty to beating Van Treese with a baseball bat and is now serving a sentence of life in prison without parole. According to police interview transcripts, however, Sneed, then 19, was convinced by detectives to implicate Glossip, who for the past 18 years has maintained his innocence. Sneed told two sets of jurors Glossip, the motel’s night manager, promised to pay him if he killed Van Treese.

According to Glossip’s appellate attorneys, homicide detective Bob Bemo pressured Sneed, a drug user with an eighth-grade education and low self-esteem, into blaming Glossip.

When eight is enough

During a Jan. 14, 1997, police interview Bemo told Sneed, “The thing about it is, Justin, we think --- we know that this involves more than just you, okay? We’ve got witnesses and we’ve got other people and we most likely have physical evidence. You know what I am saying on this thing. And right now the best thing you can do is just be straightforward and talk to us about this thing and tell us what really happened and who all was involved, because I personally don’t think you’re the only one. Everybody that we talked to they’re putting it on you, okay? They’re putting the whole thing on you and they’re going to leave you holding the bag.”

The physical evidence Bemo referred to was almost non-existent at the trials. The baseball bat was never found and Glossip’s fingerprints were nowhere at the crime scene, which was Room 102 at the motel.

Bemo later told Sneed, “In other words, if you just said you don’t want to talk to us and you want to talk to an attorney we would march you down to the jail and we would book you in for this charge and you would be facing this thing on your own. And I don’t think it’s just you.”

According to Don Knight, one of Glossip’s appellate attorneys, the detectives continually lied to Sneed by telling him multiple people were blaming him for the murder. In truth, no one other than Glossip had mentioned Sneed’s name, the documents show.

Sneed initially told the detectives he didn’t know what to say about the killing. At one point during the police interview, Sneed is unable to tell the detectives Glossip’s last name.

Later, Bemo tells Sneed, “You know Rich is under arrest don’t you?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” Sneed replied.

A few seconds later, Bemo said, “So, he’s the one --- he’s putting it on you the worst. Now I think there’s more to this than just yourself and I would like for you to tell me what --- how this got started and what happened.”

Sneed talked about a fake robbery idea his brother, Wes Taylor, conjured up but never acted on. However, the detectives began insinuating to Sneed that it was Glossip’s idea to rob Van Treese and kill him.

In the same interview, Sneed’s story changed to “I didn’t kill Barry Van Treese,” causing Bemo and his partner, Jim Cook, to turn up the heat with their questions and comments.

“Well, that ain’t going to get it. They’re putting it all off on you. That’s what I am trying to tell you,” Bemo said.

Later in the interview, Cook tells Sneed, “You’re going to have to get straight with us, you’re going to have to get straight with yourself, and mainly, you have to get straight with the Almighty.”

Incredibly, Sneed later told the detectives “I just meant to knock him out.” He also told detectives Glossip promised to split $7,000 with him after Van Treese was dead.

In yet another story told by Sneed, the convicted killer told police, “Actually, Rich asked me to kill Barry, so he could run the motel.”

Apparently, that version satisfied detectives Bemo and Cook, who told Sneed this particular story would save him from the death penalty.

According to the police interview transcript, Sneed asked the detectives, “So, is this going to help me out at all telling you of this?”

Cook replied, “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. This is definitely going to be better for you this way than it would be if you didn’t say anything.”

About a minute later, Bemo told Sneed, “I’m going to tell you this, your old bud, Rich, was planning on letting you hang for this.”

“I ain’t going to hang by myself. I’m telling you all the truth,” Sneed replied.

Prosecutors claimed in the two trials that Van Treese noticed motel receipts were missing and that he planned to confront Glossip. Prosecutors also argued in both trials that Glossip arranged the killing to keep his job as night manager.

Evidence shows the two detectives escorted Sneed away from the interview room and continued to talk with him about the killing. Those conversations were not recorded, according to the documents obtained by Red Dirt Report.

In May 1998, shortly before the start of Glossip’s first trial, Sneed made his deal with prosecutors to testify against Glossip in exchange for his sentence of life in prison without parole.

Knight claims too many versions of the killing and the circumstances surrounding Van Treese’s death should have been red flags for the two juries. Instead, the juries found Glossip guilty both times. However, the first conviction in 1998 was overturned because of ineffective counsel. Glossip was found guilty a second time in 2004.

As many as eight different stories have been told by Sneed to police and prosecutors, leaving Glossip’s defense team to shake their heads wondering where the truth lies.

Earlier this month, an investigator with Glossip’s defense team talked to Sneed’s mother. In the interview, Sneed’s mother said in January 1997, a few days after her son was arrested, he wrote a letter from jail. Sneed reportedly wrote that others were involved, and then added, “You won’t believe who!”

Sneed’s mother asked the investigator, “How high up does this go?” She also told the investigator she continues to believe there were other people involved in the murder.

Source: Red Dirt Report, Tim Farley, August 31, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

In the Execution Business, Missouri Is Surging

Missouri Death Chamber
Missouri Death Chamber
Defense lawyers call it a crisis; the state says it's just doing its job.

Since Texas carried out the country's 1st lethal injection in 1982, the state has performed far more executions than any other state. To date, 528 men and women have been put to death in Texas, more than the total in the next 8 states combined.

But viewed from a slightly different angle, Texas has lost its place as the epicenter of the American death penalty, at least for the moment.

Since November 2013, when Missouri began performing executions at a rate of almost 1 per month, the state has outstripped Texas in terms of the execution rate per capita. In 2014, both states executed 10 people, but Texas has more than 4 times the population of Missouri. This year, the difference is not quite as stark (Texas: 10, Missouri: 5) but Missouri still ranks number 1. The state that has become the center of so many conversations about criminal justice through the courts and cops of Ferguson is now the center of one more.

Why?

The politicians, judges and prosecutors who keep the system running at full steam simply say the death penalty is a good thing and the pace of executions is a sign that nothing is gumming up the pipes of justice. Defense attorneys are more eager to talk about the reasons for the current situation. They tend to use the word "crisis."

The Drugs

The most important reason for the rise in Missouri's rate of execution is also the most mysterious. As other states have dealt with a nationwide shortage in lethal-injection drugs by turning to new and experimental combinations - leading to grisly botched executions (Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, and Joseph Wood in Arizona) and lawsuits that have slowed down the pace of executions - Missouri has managed to get a steady supply of pentobarbital, a common execution drug.

Like their counterparts in all death-penalty states, Missouri officials are pushing in court to keep the source of their pentobarbital a secret. Texas has also exclusively used pentobarbital for executions in recent years, but has struggled to find a compounding pharmacy that will produce it. In Missouri, corrections officials had also struggled, but now have managed to stockpile the drug.

"We're the only state in the union with no trouble getting pentobarbital," says Cheryl Pilate, a Kansas City attorney who has represented death-row inmates. The pentobarbital made by small, generally unregulated compounding pharmacies - the choice in Texas - does not have a long shelf-life, leading Pilate and her colleagues to wonder whether Missouri officials are getting the drug from a veterinary supplier (the drug is often used to euthanize animals) or a manufacturer from overseas. Attorney General Chris Koster recently said in a court filing, quoted by BuzzFeed, that "Missouri uses pentobarbital as the lethal chemical in its execution process, but does not admit nor deny the chemical now used is compounded as opposed to manufactured."

The Governor and the Attorney General

Attorney General Koster, as well as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, are both Democrats and both outspoken supporters of the death penalty. Nixon himself was the attorney general before Koster, so both have overseen the state's side in fighting the appeals of death-row inmates, pushing them along toward execution. Koster has suggested that the state set up a laboratory to make its own supply of lethal-injection drugs.

Nixon has the power to commute death sentences to life in prison, but he has done so once in his 6 1/2 years as governor, and he provided no explanation for why. Many political commentators have speculated that Nixon and Koster, as Democrats in a primarily conservative state - where the electoral votes went to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election - use executions to establish their tough-on-crime bonafides. "As a Democrat in public office, you would lose a lot of votes by not being enthusiastically in support of the death penalty," says Joseph Luby, an attorney with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City.

Nixon and Koster's support for the death penalty fits a historical pattern of death-penalty support among blue governors in red states. In the 1990s, Texas Governor Ann Richards never commuted a death sentence and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton famously flew home from the presidential campaign trail to preside over an execution of a man missing part of his brain. (Nixon had his own similar case earlier this year.) At the same time, Republicans in states near Missouri - Governor John Kasich in Ohio and former Governor Mike Huckabee in Arkansas - have regularly granted clemency to death-row inmates.

Nixon's office did not respond to a request for comment on the politics of the death penalty, while Koster's press secretary, Nanci Gonder, replied that he "has consistently supported the death penalty for the most serious murder convictions" and "1 of the duties of the Attorney General is to ensure that legal punishments for violating Missouri's criminal laws are carried out."

The Courts

Sean O'Brien, a professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, spent much of his career defending death-row inmates and recalled a case in which the judges at the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the prosecution. In 2003, the court ruled in favor of a man who committed a murder before turning 18, a decision that was later ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court and became the basis for a nationwide ban on the execution of juveniles.

Missouri Supreme Court judges are appointed by the governor, and in 2013 Governor Nixon selected Judge Mary Russell to be chief justice, overseeing the setting of execution dates. Her court set up the 1-a-month schedule in November of that year. When she stepped down in July this year, she told several reporters that the pace of executions picked up because they had been on hold during the lethal-injection drug shortage. Once the state had the drugs, she said, "there were a number of people who had been backlogged whose appeals were exhausted."

"It's required by law that the Supreme Court shall set execution dates," she added. "It's not that we agree or disagree with the death penalty."

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has final say over death cases in Missouri, rarely stops executions, according to O'Brien, the law professor. "We've got a situation where all 3" - the governor, attorney general, and supreme court - "are lickety-split gung-ho on this, and the federal courts aren't stopping them."

The Defense Bar

During a short phone interview last week, the Missouri capital-defense attorneys Cheryl Pilate and Lindsay Runnels used the words "crisis," "disaster," "horrific" and "overwhelming" as they described their "extremely small and embattled defense bar." They see their cohort's rushed work and missed deadlines and paltry resources as signs of broader problems with public defense in the state. Missouri was ranked 49th by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in per-capita spending on indigent defense in 2009.

My colleague Ken Armstrong has chronicled the experience of one overburdened defense lawyer who dealt with the executions of 2 clients over 2 months at the end of 2013. In a March 2015 letter to the Missouri Supreme Court, members of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Assessment Team wrote, "The current pace of executions is preventing counsel for the condemned from performing competently."

"You live in a perpetual state of tension," Pilate said, "thinking your client could be next."

This state of affairs may not last. A pending lawsuit over the secrecy of the lethal injection drugs might force the state to divulge its source, allowing for more litigation that could lead to a slow-down. The Missouri Supreme Court will soon have a new chief justice. A future Republican governor or attorney general could follow the lead of Kasich or Huckabee. The defense bar may get more help from national anti-death penalty groups now that the state is ground zero. For now, though, as the death penalty declines nationally, Missouri is headed in the other direction.

Source: themarshallproject.org, August 31, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

California Defends Its Review Process in Appeal to Preserve Death Penalty

Brand new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison
New lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison, CA
California on Monday asked a federal appeals panel to overturn a 2014 court ruling that — unless it is reversed — could bring a reprieve to the more than 740 inmates on death row in the state.

The ruling, by a federal district judge, held that judicial reviews of death sentences were so prolonged — and executions so rare and seemingly random — that prisoners were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. If that ruling is allowed to stand, it could have repercussions for capital punishment across the country.

At Monday’s hearing, a lawyer from the state attorney general’s office argued that the 2014 decision violated legal procedures and mislabeled as a sign of dysfunction what were actually the state’s careful efforts to protect the rights of those sentenced to death, such as appointing well-qualified defense lawyers.

“We do not believe that there is any evidence that the system is arbitrary or random,” said Michael J. Mongan, a deputy solicitor general.

But a lawyer for a condemned inmate responded that the contested ruling had rested on sound legal ground and that California’s postconviction review process, which commonly lasts two decades or more, had become agonizingly slow and arbitrary because the state did not provide enough funds for defense lawyers.

The disputed ruling was considered startling when it was issued in July 2014. In it, Judge Cormac J. Carney of Federal District Court in Santa Ana said the way death sentences were reviewed and carried out was arbitrary. Of more than 900 people sentenced to death in the state since 1978, Judge Carney noted, only 13 had been executed.

The “random few” who are put to death, he said, “will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

Defending Judge Carney’s decision, a lawyer for Mr. Jones on Monday cited a major Supreme Court decision in 1972, Furman v. Georgia, which brought death sentences to a temporary halt across the country because the justices were concerned that such sentences were being given out arbitrarily.


Source: The New York Times, Erik Eckholm, August 31, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com