2017-04-21 13:39:30 UTC
Mother of Hailey Owens asks prosecutor to drop death penalty
The mother of Hailey Owens said this week she does not want to sit through a
The News-Leader reported earlier this year that Craig Wood - the man accused of
kidnapping, raping and murdering 10-year-old Hailey in 2014 - is willing to
spend the rest of his life in prison if, in exchange, the Greene County
prosecutor drops his pursuit of the death penalty.
Stacey Barfield, Hailey's mom, told the News-Leader on Tuesday she wants
prosecutors to take that deal.
"I don't want to go through the trial because I don't want to relive the
nightmare," Barfield said. "I'm never going to be over it, but just re-seeing
it is going to make it 10 times worse."
Wood is accused of snatching Hailey off the street in west Springfield on Feb.
18, 2014. Her body was allegedly found hours later wrapped up in his basement.
Sitting through even the routine pretrial court appearances over the last three
years has been tough for Barfield.
"It's hard enough to sit there and have to look at him," Barfield said. "He
doesn't have no emotion. He just sits there with a blank face."
Barfield sent a letter to Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson on April 1
asking him to accept a plea deal.
"I am writing to request your mercy," Barfield wrote. "Mercy for me, for my
family, and for the memory of my daughter, Hailey Owens."
"You have the power to end my suffering," she continued. "Please accept a plea
deal for life without the possibility of parole in Craig Wood's case. Then, I
can focus on rebuilding my life."
Barfield said Tuesday she had not heard back from Patterson on the letter.
Patterson has said ethics rules prohibit him from publicly discussing possible
He told the News-Leader in February he has a number of factors to weigh in
death penalty cases including input from the victim's family, the facts of the
case, the defendant and the interests of the community and the state.
Barfield had deferred to her husband Jeff to make public comments for much of
the last three years, but she is now taking on that role after separating from
Jeff - who was indicted in February on a federal child porn charge unrelated to
She said the state legislature is close to passing Hailey's Law, which would
streamline the Amber Alert process, and she expects to reach a settlement soon
in her civil lawsuit against Wood.
The criminal case, which is set for trial in October, is what gives Stacey
Barfield the most anxiety at this point.
Barfield said if Wood is sentenced to death, it would likely mean years of
appeals and more time spent in court, which is something she would rather
"I would be happy just to get justice for Hailey and just say 'OK, it's a done
deal' and I don't have to sit in court no more and look at him," Barfield said.
Asked what justice would mean, Barfield said: "I want Craig Wood to not be able
to see sunlight, to not be able to go out into public."
Barfield said she will never be able to forgive Wood, but she wants to focus on
the joy of Hailey's life instead of her tragic death.
Wood, 48, has been charged with kidnapping, rape and murder in connection with
Hailey's death on Feb. 18, 2014.
Springfield police say the girl's body was found wrapped in garbage bags in
Wood's basement, hours after witnesses saw someone matching Wood's description
grab Hailey off the street near her home.
A march and vigil for slain 10-year-old Hailey Owens drew thousands of people
4 days after Hailey's death, an estimated 10,000 people marched in a
candlelight vigil on Commercial Street in Springfield. The Jefferson Avenue
Footbridge, where the march ended, was illuminated in purple, Hailey's favorite
Many others in Springfield left their porch lights on in memory of Hailey and
donated to her memorial fund.
Wood took the stand briefly during a pretrial court appearance last year, and
during cross-examination, he said he was high on meth during the time frame in
which he is accused of abducting and killing Hailey.
Much of the recent court proceedings in the case have dealt with mental
evaluations for Wood, and what rights prosecutors have to see notes from
psychologists and to have their own psychologist interview Wood.
In Jefferson City, Stacey Barfield has teamed up with Wood's parents, Jim and
Regina Wood, to advocate for legislation that would speed up Missouri's Amber
Alerts, which are issued for abducted children.
(source: Springfield News-Leader)
State may seek death penalty for man accused of killing Logan Co. Deputy
The man accused of shooting and killing Logan County Deputy David Wade made his
1st court appearance Thursday, April 20, at 1:30 p.m.
According to the Logan County District Attorney Laura Thomas, that state may
seek the death penalty for Nathan Aaron Leforce.
Leforce, 45, is accused of shooting deputy Wade multiple times around 8:45 a.m.
on April 18 at a home near CR 66 and Midwest Boulevard while the deputy was
serving an eviction notice. Leforce then allegedly stole Wade's vehicle and
fled the scene.
Wade was airlifted to OU Medical Center following the shooting, where he later
Leforce was taken into custody just after 2 p.m. Tuesday in an outbuilding near
a residence close to the intersection of CR 76 and Jaxton Road.
Sheriff Devereaux says Leforce is currently being held in the Payne County Jail
Leforce is facing a charge of 1st-degree-murder.
Investigators have yet to find the gun used to kill deputy Wade, according to
the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. OSBI agents, Logan County Sheriff's
deputies, Payne County Sheriff's deputies, Cashion Police officers, ATF agents
and OHP troopers are scattered about the area of the incident Thursday morning
searching for the weapon.
Nebraska senators debate lethal injection secrecy bill
A proposal that would let Nebraska officials hide the identities of lethal
injection suppliers drew criticism Wednesday from death penalty opponents but
support from lawmakers who say the state needs it to resume executions.
It was unclear whether the bill had enough support to overcome a filibuster,
but the senator who introduced it said he believes he has a decent chance to
advance it through the Legislature.
Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell said the bill seeks to protect drug makers who
would otherwise face public harassment from death penalty opponents. Commonly
used lethal injection drugs have become scarce because many North American and
European pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell drugs for use in executions.
"I believe the harm created by this disclosure far outweighs any alleged
benefit," said Kuehn, a veterinarian who said he has faced drug shortages in
Lawmakers began debate on the bill Wednesday but adjourned for the day without
voting on it.
Kuehn said concealing the supplier's identity would allow Nebraska officials to
purchase drugs from a domestic supplier, such as a compounding pharmacy, to
circumvent the problems associated with importing overseas drugs.
Kuehn said he never wanted to deal with capital punishment when he ran for
office, but he views the loss of legitimate drugs as too great a problem. He
said the supplier's identity was irrelevant to the drugs' quality.
"I truly do believe this is an issue of social justice," he said.
Opponents said the state should keep its current transparent process that
requires the Department of Correctional Services to disclose its suppliers.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a staunch death penalty opponent, predicted the
bill would trigger new appeals and that the courts would make "mincemeat" out
of it. Chambers said death penalty supporters should blame themselves for the
"They took something that was wholesome, something designed to promote health,
and turned it into a killing substance," Chambers said.
Nebraska corrections director Scott Frakes has said he has already started to
look for drugs to carry out executions, but told a legislative committee in
February that it would be "very difficult" to acquire them if the department
was forced to identify its suppliers.
Of the 31 states with the death penalty, 15 have enacted similar shield laws.
Gov. Pete Ricketts approved a new lethal injection protocol in January that
gives the Department of Correctional Services greater flexibility to choose
which drugs are used in executions. An early draft of the protocol included a
secrecy provision, but Frakes said department officials removed it after
deciding they first needed legislative approval.
Voters signaled their support for the death penalty last year when they
overturned the Legislature's 2015 decision to abolish capital punishment. The
issue was placed on the ballot through a referendum partially financed by
Ricketts, who supports capital punishment.
Death penalty supporters portrayed the vote as a mandate for state officials to
resume executions. Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, using the
electric chair. The state has 10 men on death row, but has never carried out
the punishment with lethal injection.
"We do not have the right to obstruct justice, and that is what is happening
here," said Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte. Defendants sentenced to death
"are the worst of the worst of the human race. They chose their fate."
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Omaha, a death penalty opponent, said voters never
specified whether they supported concealing suppliers' identities.
(source: York News-Times)
California's death row turning into home for seniors
California's death row houses more senior citizens than most of the state's
90 California death-row inmates are at least 65 years old, corrections records
show. The number of seniors on death row has grown by nearly 500 % since early
2006, when the state housed 16 seniors.
California has not executed a prisoner since 2006, largely due to legal
challenges to its lethal injection protocol. California voters approved
Proposition 66 in November, demanding that the state speed up the death penalty
process. The implementation of Proposition 66 is on hold as the Supreme Court
rules on its constitutionality.
If California starts executing prisoners again, there is a strong chance that
it will kill several elderly inmates. Condemned inmates over 65 committed their
crimes an average of 31 years ago; a large number of their sentences have been
upheld by the California Supreme Court.
Executing the elderly rarely happens in the United States. Just 19 of the 1,448
U.S. executions that have taken place during the last 40 years have involved a
killer over the age of 65, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
California currently has - by a wide margin - the highest number of seniors on
death row. About 12 % of the state's 749 condemned inmates are at least 65. In
the 4 other states with the largest death rows - Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania
and Alabama - about 7 % of condemned inmates are at least 65.
The oldest person executed in the modern era was John Nixon, who was 77 when
Mississippi killed him in 2005. 5 condemned inmates in California are older
Is California ready for frequent executions?
There's 1 item on my reporting bucket list I never did check off - witnessing
an execution. I came very close once, even getting a tour of the gas chamber.
The condemned inmate was David Lawson, convicted of shooting Wayne Shinn in the
back of the head during a home break-in. I talked to Shinn's family and covered
Lawson's news conference when he blamed depression for driving him to murder
and urged other mentally ill people to get help. "I desperately want my death
to have meaning," he said. "I am no monster."
Lawson became a national story because he and TV talk show host Phil Donahue
wanted his execution to be the 1st one televised in the United States. So at
first, I was disappointed that another reporter was chosen as a witness.
But after what happened at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., in June 1994, I was
relieved. As the cyanide was pumped in, Lawson yelled, "I'm human, I'm human,"
and screamed for 5 minutes before convulsing, gasping and, finally, going
I've been thinking about that as I follow the news that Arkansas plans an
unusual spree of executions. Originally, it was 8 in 11 days, and was to have
started with 2 on Monday. After a frenzy of court rulings, it's now at least
four executions by the end of the month, with the 1st set for Thursday night,
barring more legal action.
Could it be a preview of what's to come in California?
Our state has had no executions since 2006, and only 13 since the death penalty
was reinstated in 1978. Meanwhile, death row has mushroomed to 749 prisoners,
twice as many as any other state.
But last November, voters called for speeding up executions. To completely
empty death row, it would take 1 execution a day, every day, for nearly 2
Are we really prepared for anything close to that?
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, says
he expects 1 or 2 executions a month, and doesn't expect any drop in public
support as a result.
I'm not so sure. After executions resumed in 1992, we've had them at least 2
months apart. And many Californians are ambivalent about the death penalty. The
message from recent statewide measures seems to be: Keep capital punishment on
the books, but don't actually execute anyone.
In November, a bare majority of 51 % approved Proposition 66, which is supposed
to speed executions by streamlining court appeals. (The state Supreme Court put
the measure on hold for now after death penalty opponents sued.)
Yet also in November, voters rejected Proposition 62 to repeal the death
penalty by a 53 % to 47 % margin, slightly more than the 52 % who opposed a
similar measure, Proposition 34, in 2012.
Especially in a few Southern California counties, voters are also electing
district attorneys who are putting more people on death row. Even as death
sentences have plummeted in recent years nationally, California has had the
most, with 14 of 49 death sentences in 2015 and 9 of 32 in 2016.
Public support for the death penalty is persistent despite studies that show it
is unfair and racially discriminatory. In California, very similar crimes can
lead to a death sentence in one county but not in another. Not to mention the
possibility of innocent people being executed; nationwide, more than 150 death
row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, according to the Death Penalty
What is happening in Arkansas drew so much attention because it would be so out
of the ordinary. The number of executions has been declining across America,
and a state hasn't executed multiple prisoners on the same day for 16 years.
Until now, Arkansas had executed only 27 inmates since 1976, nowhere near the
leading state, Texas with 542.
No question, the crimes committed by the condemned inmates in Arkansas are
horrible, and the families of their victims have been waiting a long time for
justice. Jack Jones, on death row for 22 years, was convicted of raping and
killing a bookkeeper and beating her daughter. Marcel Williams, sentenced 20
years ago, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 22-year-old mother
of 2. They???re both scheduled for execution on Monday.
But the reason for the sudden rush is that the state's supply of a lethal
injection drug expires at the end of the month. That is a strangely mundane
justification on something this momentous.
The drug in question, midazolam, has been linked to several botched executions.
The companies that make the others are suing to stop Arkansas from using their
drugs, and a judge sided with one on Wednesday.
Because of all the problems with lethal drugs, some states have brought back
the gas chamber, electric chair and even the firing squad. California is
proposing a new lethal injection protocol that gives the warden at San Quentin
the power to choose 1 of 4 barbiturates, including 2 that have never been used
before in the U.S.
States moved to lethal drugs in part because it would be more clinical, but it
hasn't always turned out that way. The last time a state sought to execute more
than 1 inmate in a day was in 2014 in Oklahoma. It canceled the 2nd one after
the 1st writhed in pain during the botched lethal injection and was left to die
of a heart attack.
In theory, finally carrying out sentences against evil people sounds appealing,
especially when you see and hear the loved ones of victims.
But in real life, executions can be gruesome. And no matter how common they
might become, it's killing in our name.
(source: Opinion, Foon Rhee----Sacramento Bee)
US regulators block Texas, Arizona over import of execution drug----Texas sued
in January for the drug's release, saying in its lawsuit that it was importing
the sodium thiopental for legal executions.
A US regulatory agency told Texas and Arizona that more than a thousand vials
of drugs they ordered for executions in their states from India in 2015, and
seized by US Customs, will not be released to them, an official said on
Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration notified the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice and the Arizona Department of Corrections that their
confiscated shipments of sodium thiopental have been refused on the basis that
the detained drugs appear to be unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs, FDA
press officer Lyndsay Meyer said.
Officials in Arizona were not immediately available for comment. "It has taken
almost 2 years for the Food and Drug Administration to reach a decision, which
we believe is flawed. TDCJ fully complied with the steps necessary to lawfully
import the shipment," the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a
statement. "We are exploring all options to remedy the unjustified seizure," it
said. Arizona officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Texas sued in January for the drug's release, saying in its lawsuit that it was
importing the sodium thiopental for legal executions. Sodium thiopental renders
a person unconscious and was a staple of lethal injection mixes but has not
been made in the United States for several years. "Texas appears to be trying
to carve out an exception for this 1 purpose (using the drug in a lethal
injection)," said Megan McCracken, an expert on lethal injection drugs and a
professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. About 6 years
ago, major pharmaceutical companies began imposing bans on sales of their
products for use in executions, which left death penalty states scrambling to
come up with new mixes and suppliers.
Many have turned to a less powerful, Valium-like sedative called midazolam to
render prisoners unconscious. It has been used in troubled executions in
Oklahoma and Arizona where inmates who were supposed to be insensate were seen
twisting in pain on death chamber gurneys. Nebraska, South Dakota, Ohio,
Arizona and Texas tried to import sodium thiopental from India between 2010 and
2015, according to court records and news media reports, but federal regulators
blocked the moves. Previous attempts to import the drug have also been blocked
by federal courts after challenges from death row inmates. The last major case
was decided in 2013.
In a civilized society the death penalty is an abomination
The obscene manner in which Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is racing towards what
observers call "conveyor belt executions" - putting 8 murderers to death in 10
days, 4 of them blacks in a state where African Americans are under 14 % of the
population - has drawn not just understandable condemnation but also has added
fuel to the fire of opposition to capital punishment.
Courts including the U.S. Supreme Court, have temporarily halted the
executions, 2 of which were scheduled for last Monday night, not because of
concerns for the imposition of the death penalty itself but because of the
manner in which it is being conducted.
The most common method is by injecting drugs into the veins of the condemned
person through a drug "cocktail." Arkansas is running out of the drugs to do
so, hence the haste, and they are partly stymied by lawsuits filed by
pharmaceutical companies that want their products to save lives, not take them.
Other cases focusing on the death penalty have challenged its constitutionality
- whether it is cruel and unusual. The U.S. Supreme Court, in fact, issued
rulings which, in 1972, effectively abolished capital punishment but reinstated
it in 1976. And while many exonerations have taken place because of racial bias
in convictions and sentencing, that in itself has not led to any ruling that
outlaws the death penalty. Of all the arguments against executions, the most
compelling is racial bias in the criminal justice system, regarded by some as a
direct legacy of slavery.
The Death Penalty Information Center reported that since 1976, 498 blacks were
put to death or 34.5 % of the total, although African Americans are only 13 %
of the population. In the same period, 807 whites were executed, or 55.6 %,
although whites are more than 70 % of the population.
The number of blacks awaiting execution is more than 1,215 or 41.67 % of the
total, compared with 1,226 whites or 42.23 %. Florida has the 2nd largest
number of death row inmates after California: 395, of whom 153 are blacks,
although blacks are less than 17% of the population.
In addition, the National Registry of Exonerations reported that: * Blacks are
7 times more likely than whites to be convicted of murder.
* Blacks convicted of murder are roughly 50 % more likely to be innocent than
This high rate of conviction is linked to the race of the victims: white.
Further, according to a New York Times report on Sept. 7, 1991, whites are
rarely executed for killing blacks: A white person convicted of killing a black
man was executed a day earlier - the 1st in at least 1,000 executions in more
than 50 years.
And the Guardian reported on Jan. 3, 2012, that, in Alabama, 80 % of death
sentences were handed down against blacks in the case of white victims.
Such statistics alone should be enough to abolish the death penalty Americans
have persisted in clinging to ever since George Kendall of the Jamestown colony
in Virginia became the 1st person executed in 1608. Down the years, people were
put to death even for petty crimes such as "stealing grapes, killing chickens
and trading with Indians," according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Imposition of the death penalty has long since become a matter for states and
it is used mostly in cases of murder; only a small number of offences come
under federal prosecution.
Nations' killing their subjects dates back to at least the 18th century B.C.,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and the practice came to the
United States with European settlers. Opposition arose not long afterwards.
Public support has been declining over years and today 19 states have abolished
the death penalty. The number of people sentenced to die and the number
executed have dropped sharply.
Still, all that has done is dropping the United States from 5th to 7th place in
the world among nations that execute their citizens - in the company of China,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt, according to Amnesty
Although 140 countries have abolished capital punishment, the U.S. has refused
to ratify any international treaty outlawing the death penalty and is the only
nation in the West and in the Americas to execute people.
Whatever the reasons for the decline, it is absolutely ridiculous for a
government to tell citizens not to kill and then turn around and kill those who
do. And it is totally impossible to conceive of a more barbaric spectacle than
a group of people gathered together to watch that happen.
(source: Opinion, Mohamed Hamaludin, South Florida Times)
Will a conservative Supreme Court give new life to the death penalty?
For years now, the death penalty's days have seemed numbered.
Death sentences and executions are in decline. And some current Supreme Court
justices have been pushing the court to revisit the constitutionality of
But with the election of President Donald Trump, the future of the court fell
into the hands of a man firmly in favor of the death penalty. Indeed, in 1989,
Trump took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times demanding blood
for blood. "Muggers and murderers should be forced to suffer and, when they
kill, they should be executed for their crimes," it read.
With the recent installation of conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme
Court and more opportunities for Trump to fill vacancies likely on the horizon,
the court now seems on the verge of a rightward political turn. It now seems
unlikely that it will end the death penalty anytime soon.
Has capital punishment in the United States been granted an indefinite stay?
Not necessarily. Even if the court veers right, states legislatures can still
decide to abandon the death penalty if lawmakers sense a sea change in public
Right now, such a change seems unlikely. Support for the death penalty has
waned in recent years, but it has not yet reached a tipping point. For example,
voters in liberal California recently declined to abolish that state's death
But the recent battle over same-sex marriage shows us that longstanding public
opinion on a contentious issue can swing dramatically in a short period of
So what might it take for the trickle of skepticism about the death penalty to
become a deluge?
Consensus against the death penalty might be achieved by making arguments that
validate, rather than attack, conservative values. In recent years, a new
strain of anti-death penalty conservatism - previously an oxymoron - has
emerged in American political life. Groups like Conservatives Concerned about
the Death Penalty make the case that capital punishment violates conservative
values by pointing to "the 3 i's" - inefficiency, inequity and inaccuracy.
Some longstanding death penalty opponents have also changed their tune, moving
from a humanitarian to a more pragmatic, fiscally conservative case against the
death penalty. When cash-strapped states buckled under the financial pressure
of the 2008 recession, abolitionists shrewdly began pointing to the enormous
cost of maintaining the death penalty when other alternatives are cheaper.
But as financial pressures ease, this kind of criticism may lose its edge.
Another conservative-minded approach may prove more effective in the years to
come, one that appeals to hearts rather than wallets.
To many supporters of capital punishment, the value of the death penalty lies
in the therapeutic closure an execution is thought to bring to those devastated
by the loss of a loved one to murder. The punishment is seen as cathartic.
Recently, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson cited the need to provide closure to
grieving family members in defense of his plan to execute eight inmates over
four days this month.
But since the 1970s, capital punishment has failed to deliver closure to
families in the vast majority of capital cases, as I write in my book on the
modern history of the death penalty. More than 8,000 people have been sentenced
to death since 1973. Of those, 1,448 have been executed. Rather than offering
the promise of certain justice, a death sentence launches a tortuous,
decade-long series of appeals. In 1 of the pending Arkansas cases, the daughter
of the murder victim has traveled to the state's prison on four separate
occasions to witness the execution of her mother's killer. Each time, the
promise of closure was stymied by last-minute stays.
Research reveals that victims' kin suffer needlessly as a result of such
uncertainty. For example, one study compared the experiences of grieving
families in Minnesota, where the offenders were sentenced to life without
parole, to those in Texas, where offenders were sentenced to death.
They found that grieving Minnesotans actually fared better than their Texan
counterparts. The appeals process in Minnesota took 2 years. Their grief
remained, but the resolution of the case meant that they could turn their
energies toward healing. Forced to spend years in a legal labyrinth, on the
other hand, Texans reported feelings of frustration, powerlessness and
In California, which has not had an execution in more than a decade, despite a
death row population of about 750, a similar feeling has been in the air. 8
years ago, a bipartisan commission found that the "families of murder victims
are cruelly deluded into believing that justice will be delivered with finality
in their lifetimes."
As it becomes apparent that numerous efforts to speed up executions have
failed, abolishing the death penalty may become a reasonable alternative for
the loved ones of murder victims seeking peace.
For years, many viewed those opposed to the death penalty as insensitive to the
needs of victims' family members. The value of life and the value of closure
became locked in a zero sum game: the longer the condemned remained alive, the
longer the grieving lived in limbo. As the front lines of the fight to abolish
the death penalty seem poised to move from the Supreme Court to the court of
public opinion, the most viable path forward for abolitionists may lie in an
effort to demonstrate to Americans that the opposite is true.
(source: Daniel LaChance, Emory University; mysanantonio.com)
Why are executions stopped? Death penalty questions answered
Expect another long day of legal wrangling Thursday over Arkansas' plan to
execute inmates in the coming week.
Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson were to be put to death Thursday night, but
Johnson's execution was at least temporarily halted and Arkansas' ability to
use 1 of its execution drugs was called into question. Lawyers for inmates
filed multiple legal challenges to derail a plan that originally called for 8
men to be put to death before April 30, when Arkansas' supply of a sedative
used in lethal injections expires.
On Monday, Don Davis won a reprieve from the state's top court a few hours
before his scheduled execution, then waited almost until midnight to learn the
Supreme Court would not allow the execution to proceed. While Davis had spent
the past quarter century on death row, lawyers filed multiple emergency appeals
at the 11th hour to try to spare his life.
WHY DO SUCH DELAYS TAKE PLACE?
Inmates can spend years, or even decades, appealing their convictions and death
sentences in state and federal courts. The average time between sentencing and
execution for prisoners executed in 2013 topped 15 years, according to the
federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
By the time an execution takes place or is stopped, often after the inmate has
been fed his intended final meal, 4 or more different courts are supposed to
have examined the trial record, legal issues, newly discovered evidence,
assertions of innocence and claims of constitutional violations.
And yet inmates plead with varying amounts of success that key elements of
their case have never been examined by a court. Lawyers for Arkansas inmate Lee
are working at both the state and federal level to get a court to block Lee's
execution, scheduled for Thursday. Lee claims blood and hair evidence from his
1993 trial has never been tested and could help prove his innocence. In federal
court, Lee said a string of incompetent lawyers failed to make the case that he
is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible to be executed.
New issues also arise late in the process, including questions about execution
drugs. On Wednesday, inmates asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case
challenging the use of a sedative used in flawed executions in other states and
1 of 3 drugs Arkansas plans to use in its executions. In 2015, justices upheld
Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug.
WHAT'S THE PROCESS?
The Supreme Court has the final say on almost every execution, and the justices
reject all but a few emergency appeals by inmates.
The justices and their clerks know well in advance when executions are
scheduled and where. A court official informally known as the death clerk keeps
everyone up to date and communicates often with lawyers for inmates and the
states as the date of execution nears.
As lawyers for condemned inmates press the case for delay in state and lower
federal courts, the Supreme Court receives information about developments and,
eventually, copies of those decisions.
Most often those lawyers press their arguments at the highest court in the
country in a final attempt to save their clients' lives. Less often, it's the
state that seeks permission to proceed after a lower court has blocked an
execution. That's what happened Monday in Arkansas.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE HIGH COURT?
When those appeals reach the Supreme Court, they go first to the justice who
oversees the state in which the execution is scheduled. But death penalty
appeals almost always are referred to the entire court.
The justices typically do not meet in person to discuss these cases, but confer
by phone, and sometimes through their law clerks, according to the court's
guide to emergency applications.
It takes 5 justices, a majority of the court, to issue a stay or lift one that
has been imposed in another court. The overwhelming number of last-minute
appeals are denied, and often without comment.
Occasionally, 1 or more justices will dissent from the decision to let the
execution take place. Even more rarely, a justice will explain why.
(source: Associated Press)
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