2017-06-01 15:17:21 UTC
Missouri's high court won't intervene in execution drug case
The Missouri Supreme Court won't review a lower court ruling that spares the
state's prison system from having to reveal where it gets drugs used in
executions, though attorneys pressing for the details plan more appeals using
Missouri's high court, without comment Tuesday, rejected a request to review
the case from the American Civil Liberties Union, the nonprofit Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press and other plaintiffs, including The
Associated Press. The appeal argued that the state's source of execution drugs
should be disclosed under Missouri's open-records laws.
An attorney for the media outlets, Bernie Rhodes, said Wednesday that they plan
to appeal to a circuit court where a judge sided with them last year, this time
arguing that news agencies have a right to the information under the U.S.
Constitution's free-press protections.
"The First Amendment is of no value if you can't get the information to
report," Rhodes said, acknowledging the appeals process could take time.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ordered the state in March 2016 to reveal
where it gets its pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate the state uses to
execute prisoners. But in February, a three-judge Missouri Court of Appeals
panel overturned Beetem's ruling, concluding that disclosing the identities of
"individuals essential to the execution process" could hinder Missouri's
ability to execute prisoners.
Corrections officials have refused to disclose who supplies the drug, saying
that source is shielded as part of its "execution team."
A message left Wednesday with a department spokesman was not immediately
returned. The department routinely has declined to publicly discuss the matter,
citing the unresolved litigation.
The sources of the drugs in Missouri and other death-penalty states are widely
believed to be compounding pharmacies, which make drugs tailored to a client's
specific needs. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or
testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies, which has spawned
lawsuits by watchdogs pressing for them to be publicly known and properly
Missouri, which has 26 condemned inmates, next is scheduled to execute
Marcellus Williams on Aug. 22 by injection for the 1998 stabbing death of a
former newspaper reporter during a suburban St. Louis burglary.
(source: Associated Press)
Nikko Jenkins was given a death sentence Tuesday for each of the 4 people he
But that doesn't mean he's anywhere near death's doorstep. Far from it, in
-- No one has been executed in Nebraska in 20 years. And in the past 58 years,
more death-row inmates have died of natural causes (6) than from capital
-- The state currently is working to obtain the lethal-injection drugs needed
to carry out an execution. That could take considerable time.
-- 10 death-row dwellers are in line in front of Jenkins - all have been
waiting at least 7 years.
In fact, Jenkins falls in line far behind three other Omaha defendants. Roy
Ellis, a convicted sex offender who kidnapped and killed 12-year-old Amber
Harris, has been on death row for 8 years. Arthur Lee Gales, who killed
7-year-old Lamar Chandler and 13-year-old Latara Chandler, has been on death
row for 16 years. And 59-year-old Carey Dean Moore, who killed Omaha fathers
and cab drivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland in 1979, has been on death
row for 37 years.
Add in this: All death-penalty cases are automatically appealed.
End result: Jenkins' day of reckoning, if it comes, is nowhere nigh.
That fact was not lost on the families of the 4 Omahans Jenkins killed during
his 10-day spree.
Michael-Ryan Kruger, widower of Andrea Kruger, said he is bewildered as to what
to tell his children, especially his 2 daughters, now 5 and 7, about the case
against the man who killed their mom.
"I'm glad he got the maximum punishment," Kruger said. "But what does a death
sentence really mean? Does that mean 5 years, 10 years, 15 years?
"That (timeline) might be swift compared to where the process actually is.
Right now, I don't think Nebraska even has the means to carry it out."
It appears it does not.
Asked Wednesday if prison officials have acquired lethal injection drugs,
Corrections Department spokeswoman Cara Wilwerding said in an email, "The
department continues to work on obtaining the substances needed to carry out
death penalty sentences."
Earlier this year, corrections officials changed the lethal injection protocol
with the intention of making executions easier. The former injection procedure,
for example, required officials to give the inmate 3 drugs in a strict
sequence. Under the new protocol, officials have the flexibility to use a
In February, Corrections Director Scott Frakes said he had just started the
process of trying to find supplies of lethal drugs, but he offered no
Obtaining suitable drugs has proven difficult in most states, including
Nebraska. Pharmaceutical companies don???t want their medications associated
with state-sanctioned executions, and federal regulations have made it
increasingly difficult to import certain drugs no longer made domestically.
Some states that have been able to carry out executions in recent years have
obtained their drugs from independent compounding pharmacies, leading to
predictions that Nebraska will try to do the same.
Most states carrying out executions also have laws that allow officials to hide
the identities of suppliers from the public. Nebraska lawmakers briefly debated
a similar proposal this year but did not take a vote on it.
The picture isn't much clearer in court, as the U.S. justice system continues
to scrutinize the legal process leading up to a death declaration.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Florida case calls into question
whether defendants have a constitutional right to choose to have a jury, rather
than three judges, decide their ultimate punishment.
In turn, 2 Nebraska death-row inmates, Jeffrey Hessler and John Lotter, have
filed appeals, saying Nebraska's process is similar to the one declared
unconstitutional in Florida. (Prosecutors argue that Nebraska's process has
significant differences and should be upheld.)
Whatever the lower courts decide, Lotter and Hessler's challenges will almost
certainly lead to additional appeals.
Interestingly, Jenkins may have less standing to try to claim that he should
have been allowed to have a jury decide his fate.
Jenkins, who pleaded no contest to the murders, not only waived his right to a
jury trial but also waived his right to have a jury decide aggravating factors
against him. That might make it hard for him to argue that he should have been
able to have a jury, instead of judges, decide whether he received a death
That said, Jenkins will be able to raise a slew of appellate issues, such as
whether he should have been allowed to represent himself and/or plead no
contest to the murder charges.
The initial appeal typically takes a year or 2. It is often followed by a
motion for postconviction relief - an appellate process that scrutinizes an
attorney's work on the case. Then comes a battery of appeals challenging the
death penalty itself.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he's confident that Jenkins' conviction
He's less assured about the prospects of imposing the death penalty any time
soon. Just last fall, Kleine called Nebraska's death penalty "a mess" - and
said state officials "have been inept at carrying out" the death penalty.
After securing Jenkins' death sentence Tuesday, Kleine said simply: "We've done
our job. Now it's up to the state to do theirs."
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
Death penalty request deadline extended in Aaron Saucedo murder case
Prosecutors have been given an additional 60 days to determine if they'll seek
the death penalty in the Aaron Saucedo murder case.
Court paperwork obtained by ABC15 shows that in the case involving murder
victim Raul Romero the deadline for prosecutors to file a "Notice of Intent to
seek the Death Penalty" has been extended for 60 days. The new deadline is
September 4, 2017.
On August 16, 2015, Romero was shot multiple times in the driveway of his home,
near 7th Street and Bethany Home Road, and died shortly after at a hospital.
There were no witnesses to the shooting itself, but police did find several 9mm
shell casings along with 2 projectiles.
Police determined that the weapon used in the murder was a Hi-point 9mm handgun
belonging to Saucedo.
While in custody for this murder, Saucedo has also been accused of being the
serial street shooter responsible for 26 felony counts of homicide, aggravated
assault and drive-by shooting for 12 shootings that took place between August
2015 and July 2016.
(source: ABC News)
'FREE SPEECH OR DIE!'-- Portland attack suspect Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35,
screams in court as he appears charged with murdering 2 men who defended a
Muslim woman against his racist rant
A US white supremacist suspect accused of killing 2 men during an anti-Muslim
rant against 2 girls on a train appeared in court shouting slogans and
defending his act as "patriotism".
Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, did not enter a plea as he faced charges including
2 counts of aggravated murder, which carry the death penalty.
Court Files Raise Question: Was Dylann Roof Competent to Defend Himself?
In early January, after a series of closed-court hearings, a federal judge in
Charleston allowed Dylann S. Roof to represent himself as prosecutors sought
his execution for a murderous 2015 rampage at a historic African-American
church. Determined to block exposure of his mental health history, the
22-year-old white supremacist sidelined his expert defense team and presented
no mitigating evidence. A jury took less than 3 hours to dispatch him to death
But the information that Mr. Roof worked so hard to suppress has now become
public, as Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court this month
finished unsealing thousands of pages of psychiatric reports and transcripts
from the November and January hearings. The documents provide, for the 1st
time, a multidimensional portrait of a withdrawn but strikingly intelligent
misfit whose tastes ran to Dostoyevsky, classical music and NPR but who said
his "dream job" would be working at an airport convenience store. He exhibited
disturbingly introverted behavior from an early age - playing alone, never
starting conversations - but received little treatment for what defense experts
later concluded was autism and severe social anxiety, with precursor symptoms
Although Mr. Roof's guilt was never in doubt, his trial left largely unanswered
how an awkward adolescent had progressed from reclusive consumer of internet
hate to ruthless and remorseless jihadist (his word). The evidence that went
unseen affords a rare glimpse of the back story of one of the country's most
horrific hate crimes. And it raises a life-or-death question: If the 12 jurors
had been allowed a full accounting, might at least one have been persuaded to
spare the young mass murderer from lethal injection?
Mr. Roof's former lead defense lawyer, David I. Bruck, declined to comment. But
Sean O'Brien, a law professor who advised him on mental health issues,
questioned the trial's ultimate fairness and predicted that Judge Gergel's
findings of competency would fuel the appeals that Mr. Roof hopes will extend
his life. "A thorough defense would have enabled a jury to see not only who
Dylann Roof is, but who Dylann Roof might have been in the absence of these
afflictions," said Mr. O'Brien, who teaches at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City. "The jury didn't have anything to weigh all of the pain
and suffering against, or even to give it context."
Despite its outcome, Mr. Roof's trial went largely as he wished. The Justice
Department had rejected his offer to plead guilty to 33 counts in exchange for
a life sentence. He did not see much difference between a life term and
execution. But it was imperative, he told his lawyers and psychiatric
examiners, that his trial not distort or dilute his purpose for gunning down
nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
His strategy, he told Dr. James C. Ballenger, a forensic psychiatrist appointed
by Judge Gergel, had been to mount the most outrageous assault imaginable in
order to foment a race war.
"I don't want anybody to think I did it because I have some kind of mental
problem," Mr. Roof, now 23, told the judge. "I wanted to increase racial
Mr. Roof also said it was important that he be seen as "a perfect specimen,"
unblemished by mental illness, reported Dr. Ballenger, a former chairman of
psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. Mr. Roof told another
examiner that he might then be rescued after a white nationalist takeover,
pardoned, and perhaps even installed as governor. With an autism diagnosis, he
told Dr. Ballenger, "everybody would think I am a weirdo."
The competency hearings, which were requested by Mr. Bruck, a noted death
penalty antagonist, revealed a surreal conflict. As Mr. Roof's court-appointed
lawyers fought to save his life by constructing a mental health defense, he did
anything he could to stymie them. The lawyers then argued that Mr. Roof's
rejection of his only route to survival was itself evidence of his incapacity.
In early November, Mr. Roof sabotaged them by sending a handwritten letter to
the prosecution, knowing it could be introduced as evidence: "What my lawyers
are planning to say in my defense is a lie." Judge Gergel took seriously enough
Mr. Roof's occasional threats to stab Mr. Bruck that he warned the lawyers
against placing pens within his reach.
All three experts retained by Mr. Bruck's team - a forensic psychiatrist, a
neuropsychologist and an autism specialist - concluded that Mr. Roof did not
meet the legal standard for competency: the capacity to understand trial
proceedings and assist in one's defense. But Dr. Ballenger, the court-appointed
psychiatrist, declared Mr. Roof competent, along with a consulting
The defense experts depicted a boy born into a strained marriage that ended
when he was 5, whose home and school shifted with his mother's relationships.
Dr. Rachel Loftin, the defense expert who first diagnosed Mr. Roof's autism
while he was in jail, wrote that his condition might have been exacerbated by
"a chaotic home environment, including exposure to domestic disputes and
possible violence." Mr. Roof performed well in elementary school, but began
smoking marijuana at age 13 and soon graduated to prescription drugs and
alcohol. His grades plummeted, and he dropped out in 10th grade.
Family members reported that for the next 5 years, Mr. Roof secluded himself in
his room, often online, rarely communicating or leaving the house. He never
dated. His older sister managed to lure him to a restaurant on his birthday
only by dangling a $40 bribe. He showed little initiative to work or become
independent. The one time he held a job, with a landscaping firm for 2 months,
he ate lunch apart from co-workers and rarely spoke. He wore a hoodie "like a
cocoon," his mother's boyfriend said.
Mr. Roof's compulsive obsessions, according to the lawyers and examiners, ran
from the brand of his acne wash to the fit and fabric of his clothing to a
delusion that his forehead was misshapen (he obscured it with his trademark
bowl haircut). He so feared being looked at that he begged his mother not to
pull up alongside other cars.
The psychiatrists characterized the slightly built Mr. Roof as both childlike
and grandiose, and noted his flat affect, incongruent jokes and dearth of
The news and stories that matter to Californians (and anyone else interested in
the state), delivered weekday mornings.
When his mother visited him in late December, her 1st trip to jail since
suffering a heart attack on the trial's opening day, he asked not about her
health, but incessantly about why she had not purchased the pants he wanted to
wear to court. At the close of another visit, Mr. Roof's teenage half sister
bade him farewell: "I love you, Dylann, even if you don't love me back."
"O.K.," he answered.
Records show that Mr. Roof's only contact with mental health providers came in
2009, when he made three visits to a clinic near Columbia, S.C., after
threatening suicide to his mother. He reported persistent anxiety when around
others and was given a prescription for an antidepressant, which he reportedly
declined to take.
The documents include references to racist talk by Mr. Roof's father, a house
contractor, but there is no suggestion it was fundamental to Mr. Roof's
upbringing. Rather, the competency evaluators accepted his assertion that,
spurred by the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, he searched Google for
"black-on-white crime," came across hate-purveying websites and experienced a
"Before he did this research, he said he always had uncomfortable feelings that
he could not explain," wrote Dr. Donna Maddox, the defense team's forensic
psychiatrist. "Afterwards he felt suddenly better."
Absent alternate influences, wrote Dr. Loftin, clinical director of the autism
center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, "Dylann pursued his
preoccupation with racism with an autistic intensity."
Dr. Ballenger, who was making his 1st competency determination, interviewed Mr.
Roof for 13 hours and reached a contrary conclusion.
His report noted that Mr. Roof's I.Q. of 125 placed him in the 95th percentile,
and that he spoke coherently and logically. Once you understood Mr. Roof's
priorities, he wrote, his thinking about self-representation made a certain
sense. Dr. Ballenger diagnosed several anxiety disorders, but not psychosis.
Judge Gergel, deeply concerned that the strongest mitigating evidence in a
capital case would be quashed, initially warned Mr. Roof he would not let him
"That is not, I believe, a proper defense in a situation like this, basically
to let the government present its case and the jury then decide," the judge
said at the close of the 1st hearing.
6 days later, he had reversed course. He told the lawyers he had thought about
Mr. Roof's performance in the hearings, in which he had cross-examined Dr.
Ballenger and persuaded him to alter a diagnosis. He had further studied the
pertinent Supreme Court precedent, Indiana v. Edwards, which allows judges to
require counsel for defendants who may be competent to stand trial but still
suffer from such "severe mental illness" that they cannot conduct a defense.
"My thought about his wisdom, or lack of wisdom, in deciding to self-represent
is not the issue," Judge Gergel said. "I watched him for 2 hearings. He has the
capacity to represent himself."
The judge accepted Dr. Ballenger's view that Mr. Roof's strategy arose from
political zealotry, not mental illness, and dismissed Mr. Bruck's warnings that
his intelligence masked deeply delusional thinking. "If this defendant were
incompetent to represent himself," he wrote, "almost no defendant would be
competent to represent himself."
For Mr. Roof, the decision meant that the jury would learn almost nothing about
him beyond the brutal heartlessness of his crime. In April, he was moved to the
United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., site of the federal death row.
Judge Gergel has appointed new lawyers for his appeals.
(source: New York Times)
Morals over Law
The death penalty, which has been around since the eighteenth century B.C., is
a very controversial topic among Americans today. Its scope, which includes all
of the cases that have been ruled upon having to do with the death penalty and
the argument of whether or not it is morally in good standing to put someone to
death, has long been the main arguing point for this topic. For many Americans
living in the South, there is a belief that the death penalty is constitutional
and should be used more than it already is. For example, in Texas, the death
penalty has been used more times than in any other state in the union.
On the other hand, there have been many movements to try to end the death
penalty. These efforts, which have taken place all over the United States, have
become so prevalent that many death penalty supporters are now worried that the
issue will reach the Supreme Court of the United States yet again and the 1879
decision in Wilkerson v. Utah, the 1st such case to be ruled upon by the
Supreme Court, will again be tested. The ruling states that execution does not
constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
As controversial as this topic is, and though there are many good people that
disagree with taking someone's life, the death penalty is constitutional and
should be used as much or even more than it is. These criminals that have
committed these crimes obviously have no moral code, and they should receive a
Although the death penalty is still legal, it can take years to carry out and
is not always used to its full potential. Many other laws and regulations make
it very difficult for the death penalty to be implemented. Those laws were
early additions to the elaborate legal superstructure that has been erected
around capital punishment. Since then, the courts have gradually "discovered"
additional capital-punishment-related constitutional requirements, including
exhaustive prescriptions for trials involving capital cases, performance
standards for defense attorneys representing those facing the death penalty,
and limits on who may face execution - not rapists, not minors, not those with
low IQs. Every case is now the subject of endless deliberation.
I am not saying that the law should be completely thrown out when it comes to
the death penalty; the law is the law. I am all for the law and the Supreme
Court's rulings being set in stone as the final say so when it comes to this
controversial issue. But, I think morality should be prevalent in a jury's mind
when it is contemplating sentencing someone to death. If these criminals have
committed an unspeakable capital crime, such as a gruesome murder, then they
deserve to be put to death.
The counterargument is that justice is often miscarried, due process lacking
and criminals and innocents alike being put to death wrongfully. That, say
death penalty opponents, renders it unconstitutional. Because it is so rarely
carried out, they argue, its application is inevitably incompatible with the
requirements of due process.
But it is illogical to say that because many of those eligible for and
deserving of the death penalty aren't executed, those who are actually put to
death with all the procedural safeguards in place have been subjected to
unlawful punishment or denied due process.
In all, an average capital case is likely to be reviewed by various courts and
judges 10 times, and that's not even counting the inevitable last-minute habeas
corpus filings that defenses file, keeping judges up late at night writing
opinions and signing documents. So much for the opposition's claim that these
criminals aren't properly defended or represented. Controversially, there are
plenty of instances of mistrials and hung juries, requiring the whole process
to start over.
The Constitution itself provides support for capital punishment. The Fifth
Amendment's requirement that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law" means the government may in fact deprive
you of your life, but only after you've been properly charged, tried, convicted
and sentenced to death, and then only after you have exhausted your legal
appeals. Upon ratification in 1868, the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause
extended that safeguard to the states.
To be sure, judges are duty-bound to scrutinize the application of capital
punishment in each and every case that comes before the bench. But the only way
to end the death penalty in its entirety, without changing the Constitution, is
through the political process.
There are imperfections with the death penalty. Some are technical problems,
such as the unavailability of certain drugs used to inflict capital punishment
through lethal injection. Outsourcing some of these drugs from other countries,
many of them European nations that long ago abandoned the use of capital
punishment, is making it more and more expensive for states to execute, and
drug manufacturers are increasingly wary of supplying drugs to kill rather than
heal because of the political cost.
The 1st drug in the lethal cocktail is supposed to be an anesthetic that
removes cruelty from the equation. But sometimes, this lethal cocktail of drugs
does not always do its job the way it is supposed to. There is no dispute that
prisoners suffer horrifically if the 1st drug wears off prematurely or does not
adequately induce and sustain unconsciousness. Despite this, several states
continue to find ways to execute people.
In the past 2 years, some states have selected the controversial sedative
midazolam as the 1st drug. In at least 3 executions, it failed to keep the
condemned unconscious despite the administration of high dosages, leading to
lengthy, excruciating delays in death's arrival.
The death penalty is one of the most controversial topics in our world today
and is one that will be hotly contested for generations to come. The law is the
law, but the immorality of the convicted should come into question.
(source: Guest Commentary; Campbell Mims is a senior at Wilson Hall. He is
editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Baron Bulletin. He plans to attend
University of South Carolina and major in journalism----The Item)
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