2017-04-25 13:58:17 UTC
Time of death----Arkansas goes through with double execution despite
allegations that one inmate was "gulping for air"
For a few minutes Monday night, it seemed like the United States's 1st double
execution in more than a decade would not take place. After attorneys alleged
that Arkansas inmate Jack Jones suffered a "torturous and inhumane" execution
Monday evening, a federal judge briefly put what was to be the 2nd state
execution of the night on hold before ultimately allowing it to proceed.
Not long after Jones' execution, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a
stay of execution for inmate Marcel Williams, citing court filings arguing that
continuing with his execution would "demonstrate an ongoing constitutional
violation - cruel, unusual, and inhumane infliction of pain and suffering,"
because Jones remained partially conscious during his execution. Just an hour
later, she lifted the stay "for reasons stated in the Court's hearing on Mr.
William's emergency motion," according to her order.
Arkansas initially announced that it intended to carry out an unprecedented 8
executions in just 11 days because its supply of midazolam - a controversial
sedative that has led to botched lethal injections in states like Arizona,
Alabama and Oklahoma - was set to expire at the end of April. The plan was met
with several legal challenges, including claims that midazolam would likely
fail and result in inmates suffering inhumanely, and allegations that Arkansas'
Department of Correction was far from equipped to carry out such an arduous
string of executions.
According to the inmates' attorneys, that's exactly what happened in Jones's
"The infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully to place [an IV] central line in Mr.
Jones's neck for 45 minutes before placing one elsewhere on his body," the
motion, filed in U.S. district court, alleges. Minutes after midazolam had been
injected, "Mr. Jones was moving his lips and gulping for air. Mr. Jones's
movements after the midazolam was administered is evidence of continued
Attorneys for Jones and Williams, arguing against the death penalty, had said
that the two men had underlying medical conditions which were likely to make
execution more painful or impact the effectiveness of the three-drug lethal
The state of Arkansas contends that the attorneys' account of Jones's execution
is inaccurate, saying that although the Arkansas Department of Correction
officers did fail in their attempt to place an IV in Jones's neck, they were
ultimately successful in sedating him. "The claim that Jones was moving his
lips and gulping for air is unsupported by press accounts or the accounts of
other witnesses," an Arkansas filing reads. "The drugs were administered to
Jones at 7:06 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. There was no
constitutional violation in Jones' execution."
Williams was executed on the same gurney and pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m.
Jones was convicted in 1996 for raping and murdering a 34-year-old Mary
Phillips, and Williams was convicted in 1997 for the abduction, rape, and
murder of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson.
In a handwritten statement, Jones apologized for his crime and said he tried to
better himself on death row. "I want people to know that when I came to prison
I made up my mind that I would be a better person when I left than when I came
in. I had no doubt in my mind that I would make every effort to do this. I'd
like to think that I've accomplished this. I made every effort to be a good
person - I practiced Buddhism and studied physics. I met the right people and
did the right things. There are no words that would fully express my remorse
for the pain I've caused."
When asked for comment, the Arkansas Department of Correction told a VICE News
reporter to call back during normal business hours and hung up the phone.
Arkansas executes 2 inmates in 1 night, 1st state to do so since 2000
Arkansas executed 2 condemned murderers Monday night, becoming the 1st state in
17 years to carry out 2 death sentences in one day.
Marcel Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. Central Time, 17 minutes
after the procedure began at the Cummins Unit in southeastern Arkansas. Jack
Jones had been put to death more than 3 hours earlier.
Williams' execution had been delayed for 2 hours after a federal judge in
Little Rock issued an emergency stay over concerns about how Jones' execution
was carried out. Williams' attorneys claimed Jones gasped for air, an account
the state's attorney general denied, but the judge lifted her stay about an
Initially, Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled 4 double executions over an 11-day
period in April. The eight executions would have been the most by a state in
such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976. The state said the executions needed to be carried out before
its supply of one lethal injection drug expires on April 30.
The 1st 3 executions were canceled because of court decisions, then inmate
Ledell Lee was executed last week.
Arkansas' last double execution occurred in 1999.
Jones was sent to death row for the 1995 rape and killing of Mary Phillips. He
strangled her with the cord to a coffee pot.
He was also convicted of attempting to kill Phillips' 11-year-old daughter and
was convicted in another rape and killing in Florida.
Jones said earlier this month that he was ready for execution. He used a
wheelchair and he'd had a leg amputated in prison because of diabetes.
Williams' "morbid obesity makes it likely that either the IV line cannot be
placed or that it will be placed in error, thus causing substantial damage
(like a collapsed lung)," his attorneys wrote in an earlier court filing asking
justices to block the execution.
Both men were served last meals on Monday afternoon, Arkansas Department of
Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said.
In recent pleadings before state and federal courts, the inmates said the 3
drugs Arkansas uses to execute prisoners -- midazolam, vecuronium bromide and
potassium chloride -- could be ineffective because of their poor health.
Jones, 52, lost a leg to diabetes and was on insulin. Williams, 46, weighs 400
pounds, is diabetic and has concerns that the execution team might not be able
to find a suitable vein to support an intravenous line.
The poor health of both men, their lawyers claimed, could make it difficult for
them to respond during a consciousness check following a megadose of midazolam.
The state shouldn't risk giving them drugs to stop their lungs and hearts if
they aren't unconscious, they have told courts.
The last state to put more than 1 inmate to death on the same day was Texas,
which executed 2 killers in August 2000. Oklahoma planned a double execution in
2014 but scrapped plans for the 2nd one after the execution of Clayton Lockett
Arkansas executed 4 men in an 8-day period in 1960. The only quicker pace
included quadruple executions in 1926 and 1930.
Williams was sent to death row for the 1994 rape and killing of 22-year-old
Stacy Errickson, whom he kidnapped from a gas station in central Arkansas.
Authorities said Williams abducted and raped 2 other women in the days before
he was arrested in Errickson's death. Williams admitted responsibility to the
state Parole Board last month.
"I wish I could take it back, but I can't," Williams told the board.
"After more than 20 years, justice has prevailed for the family of Stacey
Errickson," Hutchinson said in a statement after Williams' death. "This is a
serious and reflective time in our state and it is important for the Errickson
family and all Arkansans to know that in this case our laws ended in justice."
In a letter earlier this month, Jones said he was ready to be killed by the
state. The letter, which his attorney read aloud at his clemency hearing, went
on to say: "I shall not ask to be forgiven, for I haven't the right."
After Jones was put to death, Hutchinson said in a statement that the "rule of
law had been upheld."
"A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the
solemn pledge I made to uphold the law," he added. "We hope this will help
bring closure to the Phillips family."
Including Jones and Williams, nine people have been executed in the United
States this year, 4 in Texas, 3 in Arkansas and 1 each in Missouri and
Virginia. Last year, 20 people were executed, down from 98 in 1999 and the
lowest number since 14 in 1991, according to the Death Penalty Information
(source: Fox News)
Harvard Project Outlines Pattern Of Attorney Failures In Arkansas Death Row
NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Jessica Brand of Harvard Law's Fair Punishment
Project about the chronic problem of bad lawyering on capital punishment cases.
All 8 death row cases in Arkansas had examples of attorney failures, including
drunk lawyers, a conflict of interest affair involving a judge, lawyers missing
deadlines, and failure to disclose mental disorders.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Arkansas has carried out 1 of 2 executions that were scheduled for tonight,
part of a series of executions the state wants to do this month before a key
drug expires. The courts have put most of the executions on hold, but last
week, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee for a 1993 murder. Lee maintained his
innocence to his death.
Earlier today, I spoke with Jessica Brand, legal director for the Fair
Punishment Project at Harvard Law School. She told me what happened to Lee is
part of a pattern of bad representation for defendants around the country. She
told me everything went wrong with the way lawyers handled Lee's case.
JESSICA BRAND: He had trial lawyers who begged to get off of his case because
they argued there was a conflict. He had a judge who was having an affair with
a prosecutor in the case. His 1st state post-conviction lawyer was drunk in
court and literally stated the words blah, blah, blah. His next post-conviction
lawyers missed filing deadlines. They had briefs sent back by the court. And
then he had a federal post-conviction lawyer who had his license suspended last
year because of a mental illness that caused him not to be able to represent
That's an incredible litany of things to happen in a case, and it meant that
only 2 weeks before his execution did someone finally investigate his life
history, his trauma, his mental illness and uncover that he may have had an
SHAPIRO: How can that many egregious things go wrong in a case where a person's
life is literally on the line without anyone flagging it until two weeks before
BRAND: I think what Ledell's case has shown is what happens in so many of these
cases. It's astounding. There is a complete lack of counsel from start to
finish in all of these cases. And there are a lot of reasons for them, one of
which is, this work is hard. It's grueling, and there aren't a lot of lawyers
who do it. And there aren't a lot of lawyers who can do it well. It costs a lot
of money to do this well. It costs a lot of time.
And I think Ledell Lee has - his case has really exposed what is the dirty
little secret in the death penalty world, which is, this happens all the time.
And it happened in the cases that are scheduled for execution tonight as well.
SHAPIRO: Well, I was going to ask about those 2 men, Marcel Williams and Jack
Jones. Is their history of representation as appalling as Ledell Lee, the man
who was executed last week?
BRAND: It is. Jack Jones - his case occurred in the '90s. For the 1st time in
2005, someone presented the extraordinary mental illness that he saw ants and
spiders as a child, that there was incredible daily physical abuse in his
house, sexual abuse in his house - that's decades after his trial - and the
same thing in Marcel Williams's case. No lawyer ever uncovered that his mother
was literally pimping him out for food stamps and shelter at the time he was 9
SHAPIRO: If we assume that the death penalty is not going away but that the
process can be fixed, what will it take to fix it?
BRAND: Well, the 1st thing I would say is, I don't think it can fix it. For 40
years in the modern era of the death penalty, the court has been trying to
issue procedural fixes. It's been trying to say intellectually disabled people
can't be executed. It's tried to say juveniles can't be executed. It said, you
really need a lawyer. And as much as the Supreme Court has tried to fix it, it
has completely failed. So I think rather than trying to fix it, it is time for
the Supreme Court to recognize its sort of complicity in this system where
people don't get counsel is calling into doubt the whole integrity of our
SHAPIRO: Is Arkansas much worse than other death penalty states, or is what
we're seeing in these cases pretty typical?
BRAND: It's pretty typical. I live in the state of Texas. We are known for our
death penalty here. And you see cases after case go up on appeal where the
trial lawyers just never did the most basic of investigations.
SHAPIRO: That's Jessica Brand, legal director of the Fair Punishment Project at
Harvard Law School. Thanks for joining us.
BRAND: Thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: And after we spoke with Brand, the state of Arkansas carried out the
execution of Jack Jones Jr.
Medical Director in Arkansas Could Lose License for Acquiring Execution Drug
As Arkansas plans to continue its execution blitzkrieg Monday, a lawsuit filed
by pharmaceutical distributor McKesson claims the Arkansas Department of
Corrections "leveraged" its medical director's medical license to purchase
vecuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant used in lethal injection.
While physicians have been active in executions as long as the United States
has employed capital punishment, the use of a medical director's license to
acquire the drug appears to be unprecedented. The identity of this person has
not been made public because sweeping state secrecy laws hide the identities of
those involved in executions, including employees of the Arkansas Department of
Corrections (ADC). Typically, if physicians participate, they don't work for
the state and could be any licensed medical practitioner.
Now that McKesson has revealed the role of the ADC's medical director, the
Arkansas Medical Board, whose regulations prohibit the prescription and
administration of drugs for anything other than "a legitimate medical purpose,"
could take action.
"It is something the medical board is keeping an eye on. We???re evaluating the
circumstances to decide what comes next," said Kevin O'Dwyer, an attorney
representing the medical board, which regulates the practice of medicine in the
state. When asked about the possible ramifications for ADC's medical director,
O'Dwyer said punishment could include license revocation.
The identity of ADC's medical director might be known to the board, said Dr.
Joel Zivot, an expert in bioethics who teaches surgery and anesthesiology at
Emory University. "I don't think anyone is really clear" about the limits of
secrecy laws, he said, which are "broadly encompassing."
While "it's clear the state has used these secrecy laws in a most disturbing
way," Zivot said, he warned that a confrontation could lead to a loss of
medical board oversight, because of the state's secrecy laws.
Doctors in Missouri, Georgia, and North Carolina have all admitted to
participating in executions. Those disclosures sparked outrage, and attempts
were made to discipline the doctors in each case. The North Carolina Medical
Board even brought charges against the state's department of corrections for
its use of physicians for lethal injections, but in 2009 the state's Supreme
Court ruled that a 1909 law that requires physicians to "certify the fact of
the execution" supersedes the medical board's authority.
Such rulings, said Zivot, coupled with secrecy laws mean that "the chief
physician of the state is no longer the medical board, it's the governor," who
signs the death warrants of condemned inmates and keeps the identities of
executioner-doctors secret. "This is very troubling."
The revelation that ADC's medical director used state credentials to obtain
controlled substances for lethal injection raises the question of how often
states are committing similar acts.
Jennifer Moreno, a staff attorney with the University of California -
Berkeley's Death Penalty Clinic, told The Intercept that it's difficult to know
exactly how frequently this occurs, but it appears states are increasingly
turning to doctors and pharmacies to acquire drugs. Obtaining medications used
for lethal injection has become more difficult over the past decade, thanks to
advocacy work that motivated pharmaceutical companies to place distribution
controls on their goods that prevent medications from being sold for
In response to these controls, many corrections departments turned to
third-party middle men such as willfully ignorant distribution companies or
international pharmaceutical companies. The Food and Drug Administration has
cracked down on these arrangements, however. On April 20, the same day Arkansas
executed Ledell Lee, the FDA settled a 2-year standoff with Texas and Arizona
by blocking their attempt to import the banned anesthetic sodium thiopental
from a shady middle-man based in India named Chris Harris. The FDA crackdown
has led states to purchase drugs using medical licenses to "nominally comply
with what the law requires to purchase drugs," Moreno said.
Hospitals and other legitimate purchasers of controlled substances must be
accredited by the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 2011, Texas was caught using
expired DEA accreditation from a hospital that was closed in 1983 to purchase
pentobarbital. Louisiana similarly used DEA forms to mislead Lake Charles
Memorial Hospital into selling 20 vials of hydromorphone in 2o14. The hospital
later said it assumed the drugs were needed for patients.
Compounding pharmacies, which historically produced made-to-order drugs for
patients who couldn't take commercially-made medications due to conditions like
allergies, also produce medications meant for lethal injection. At least 10
states have used these pharmacies to obtain lethal injection drugs, according
to the Death Penalty Information Center. Though many have been pressured to end
the practice, some compounding pharmacies continue to produce the drugs. There
are also examples of private physicians prescribing these drugs for inmates so
states could acquire them, Moreno said.
These actions fall into a legal gray zone. Even Texas, which allegedly violated
Federal drug laws by using expired DEA credentials, faced no repercussions. The
U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of lethal injection, and
states believe the ends justify the means. As Lee Short, Ledell Lee's former
attorney, told The Intercept last week, "you'd have to find a prosecutor that
would press charges."
Zivot believes lethal injection is at odds with the ethical obligations of a
physician. He cites numerous ethics recommendations, including those of the
American Medical Association, that say state-sanctioned executions cannot be
aided by licensed physicians.
Arkansas, Zivot said, "is trying to suck and blow at the same time. They're
claiming on the one hand to use licensed providers. On the other hand, they're
mocking these things. The license doesn't allow for these things to take
In Its Rush to Kill, Arkansas May Have Executed an Innocent Man
Ledell Lee's 1st hard-knock moment came even before he was born. His mom, 16
and on her 3rd pregnancy by a man years older than she was, drank and smoked
through his pregnancy. Because of her substance abuse, Ledell was born with a
fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, a medical condition that left him with brain
dysfunction and intellectual disability.
28 years later in 1993, Ledell Lee was arrested for the murder of Debra Reese.
And on Thursday night, just before midnight, the state of Arkansas killed
Ledell in a gross miscarriage of justice.
From the beginning, Ledell proclaimed his innocence and wrote to everyone he
could think of, beseeching lawyers to fight for him. His journey through the
legal system consisted of an unbroken chain of drunk, conflicted, and grossly
incompetent attorneys. No one who represented Ledell ever looked at the chasm
between the state's theory of guilt and the proof presented at trial. For
instance, the crime scene was drenched in blood, but the state witnesses who
put Ledell at the scene said he didn't have any blood on him. None of the
limited forensic evidence tested, like fingerprint analysis, at the time
matched him. Ledell has been asking for DNA testing for decades.
Until last week, when our team joined his defense and began to frantically
investigate the case, no defense lawyer had ever hired a psychologist to test
Ledell's intellectual disability. And no court had ever been troubled by the
one pertinent claim his former counsel had raised: that a member of the
prosecution team was having an affair with the trial judge at the time of
As a death penalty lawyer who handles death penalty cases exclusively, I am all
too familiar with the story of poor lawyering and court failures. That said,
the facts of Ledell's case stand out and are an indictment of the system that
put him to death. Serious questions of guilt, conflicts of interest by defense
counsel, a deeply biased judge, and never presented evidence of intellectual
disability: Any one of these bases should be enough to pause an execution. It
is profoundly disturbing that even taken together, they weren't enough to move
the courts or the governor to spare his life.
Gov. Hutchinson bears heavy blame for the wrongful killing of Ledell Lee.
Hutchinson arbitrarily set eight dates for execution - originally as 4 double
executions - based on the amount of midazolam, a lethal injection drug,
Arkansas had on hand. Worse still, he scheduled them within an incredibly short
period, so he could beat the drug's expiration date of April 30.
The facts of Ledell's case stand out and are an indictment of the system that
put him to death.
The practical consequences of this pace are profound. Every institution that
touches these capital cases is overtaxed and beleaguered. For example, when we
requested (but never received) Ledell's medical and mental records from the
prison, the lawyer for the prison told us the prison staff simply couldn't
respond in time because of the pressures of the fast-tracked multiple
executions. The medical records could well have contained previous IQ testing -
records that may well may have helped us save his life. State and federal court
staff are overwhelmed by the number of important and serious legal filings
arriving at a furious pace and are forced to work at a breakneck pace. This
pace jeopardizes the kind of careful consideration necessary for any capital
case, but especially one with a pending execution date. In the case of these 8
executions, the parole board actually had to curtail their internal clemency
policies and procedures to try to process so many applications in such a short
I got involved in the case 2 weeks before Ledell's execution after reading that
he was about to die without any lawyer ever having investigated the fact that
he might have an intellectual disability. I called a friend who is a life
history investigator in capital cases, and together we decided that we should
see if there was anything we could do to help Ledell. We knew we would be
running against strong headwinds: Courts are hostile to any claims close to an
execution date, and we were incredibly close. But we thought if there was a
small chance we could do something, we had to try. We made contact with
Ledell's Arkansas counsel, who had only been appointed months before, and who
readily welcomed our assistance.
More on Ledell Lee v. State of Arkansas
The life investigator flew down the next day, and we began the process that
typically takes years. We struggled to even obtain the full case files, and it
was challenging to find and interview critical witnesses who had never been
interviewed during the course of Ledell's trial or years of appeals. The
investigator met with Ledell for 2 long days and learned basic life history
information about him that no one had gathered previously. Ledell thanked her
for listening to what he had to say. He was grateful to have a team willing to
look into his innocence.
The more I learned about his case, the more troubled I felt. There were gross,
shocking abuses throughout. I discovered that Ledell???s relationship with his
lawyers had broken down over his insistence on defending his innocence. His
lawyers had requested to withdraw and stopped working on his case. The judge,
the same one having an affair with the prosecutor, wrote to the Arkansas
Supreme Court and opposed new counsel for Ledell. He did so while personally
disparaging him. The same judge then presided over Ledell's trial. This was not
normal, and far outside of the bounds of the kind of impartiality we expect
The history of Ledell's defense provided a tour of the worst our profession has
to offer, including a lawyer who was stumbling and slurring due to alcohol
consumption during his representation of Ledell and another who was sanctioned
by the bar for their terrible performance in his case.
A neuropsychologist finally tested Ledell for the 1st time the week before his
execution. The results showed that Ledell was likely ineligible to be executed:
He had significant intellectual deficits and disability. We would need more
time, however, to investigate Ledell's life history for the expert to make a
As the evidence of Ledell's unfair trial and appeals grew, so did my anxiety.
We had no time and an obstacle course of legal doctrinal hurdles to overcome
before any court would consider the evidence of intellectual disability or
innocence we wanted to bring. I knew I wouldn't be able to prepare and file all
of the things that needed to be filed with this evidence. It was now just a
week before his execution was scheduled, and I sent out a call for help.
Many answered this call. The more other people learned about the case, the more
joined. Knowing about its injustices moved people to action.
I asked a colleague in New York at the Innocence Project for the name of an
expert who could look at what we suspected were important DNA testing
possibilities. She jumped in and joined 2 lawyers who worked over Easter
weekend and around the clock to draft motions for testing the DNA in light of
the troubling questions about Ledell's guilt.
My ears rang with the low hum of adrenaline, a substitute for sleep and symptom
of the state of high alert that comes from profound fear.
Ledell's brothers and daughter wanted to know: Would we save him?
The night before Ledell's execution I tried to sleep for a few hours. I was
worried, but hopeful. Earlier that day, a trial court in Arkansas put in place
a stay of execution after a drug company had successfully won an order barring
the use of its drugs in executions because of evidence that Arkansas acquired
the drugs under false pretenses. We had filed claims in federal court and in
state court, pointing out Ledell's intellectual disability and the need for a
little more time so that we could fully develop and present that evidence and
prove that his execution was unconstitutional.
We had also filed a motion requesting a few weeks time to allow for DNA testing
that was very similar to the motion granted the day before by the state of
Arkansas in another capital case set for execution the same night as Ledell.
Our hope was misplaced.
We learned in the afternoon that the stay had been vacated for the wrongly
acquired drugs, and then slowly heard one by one that the courts were denying
our claims. The state characterized our serious legal challenges as just run of
the mill, last-minute filings of a kind that would oppose any execution. Gov.
Hutchinson's scheduling of mass executions had cast a shadow on Ledell's strong
legal claims, where they could be dismissed as nothing more than a delay tactic
to get beyond the April 30 drug expiration date.
Gov. Hutchinson made it worse by issuing a press statement after the courts
granted 3 stays of execution in the first 3 cases set, complaining that he had
expected 1 or 2 cases might get stopped by appeals - but not 3. He sent the
unmistakable message that he wanted an execution to go forward.
I can't shake the feeling that Ledell's execution was lost in the fray of the 8
scheduled executions and that his claims of innocence, for DNA testing, and of
intellectual disability were ignored because of it.
The truth is as clear now as it was before Ledell was executed this past
Friday. Ledell Lee deserved better. He deserved a through defense and a fair
trial. But conflicted and ineffectual lawyers failed him for years. The courts
failed him at the end. And Gov. Hutchinson failed us all by setting this
unprecedented and wrong execution schedule.
Ledell Lee's execution was shameful. Gov. Hutchinson and the Arkansas courts
should avoid compounding the injustice of his unfair execution. The only moral
course forward is to abandon the unfair and unjust execution schedule and
cancel the 2 executions scheduled for tonight and the 3rd for Thursday.
Carrying out these 3 executions on this schedule will violate the
individualized consideration that the Constitution and justice require and
further overstep the bounds of basic human dignity.
Prosecutors seeking death penalty against Jefferson City man
Prosecutors in Jefferson City will seek the death penalty against a man charged
with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.
According to online court records, a notice of intent to seek the death penalty
was filed Friday against Brandon Rapier. Rapier is charged in a double homicide
that took place in November 2016. He stabbed his ex-girlfriend, 27-year-old
Ciera Kolb, and another man, 27-year-old Micah Hall, in Cole County, the
charges allege. Both Kolb and Hall later died from their injuries.
(source: ABC news)
State's Death Penalty Review Expected Today
One day after the nation's 1st successful double execution in 17 years,
Oklahoma officials are scheduled to release their death penalty review, almost
2 years after the state put a hold on executions.
The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission is scheduled to announce its
findings at the Capitol this afternoon.
Back in 2014, Oklahoma was on track to be the 1st state to carry out 2
executions in 1 day since 2000 but the mismanaged execution of Clayton Lockett
changed that. Governor Mary Fallin then put a hold on executions in the state
in October 2015 after officials discovered a mix-up in 1 of the drugs in their
lethal injection cocktail.
This error granted death row inmate Richard Glossip his 3rd stay of execution.
A grand jury report from several counties criticized the handling of Glossip's
In response to the report, the State Department of Corrections is supposedly
revising its execution protocol. Other constitutional means of execution in the
state include a firing squad and gas chamber.
Bill for lethal injection confidentiality raises arguments
A bill to allow individuals or companies involved in the distribution or
manufacture of lethal injection drugs to be confidential continued for hours of
LB661, introduced by Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, is also known as a "shield
law" to protect anyone involved in the manufacturing of lethal injection drugs
from threats or persecution.
"Keeping the identity of manufacturers confidential to ensure access of these
drugs, to prevent further drugs from being removed from the market, to ensure
safe medication to all citizens, is the greater good," Kuehn said.
Other states with similar shield laws include Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri,
Georgia and Ohio. Many others, such as Oklahoma and South Carolina, have also
tried to implement this type of shield law.
According to the bill's proponents, states with the death penalty have
difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs from domestic suppliers. Suppliers
don't want the bad publicity of being associated with manufacturing and
distributing these drugs. This results in states having to shop around other
countries for the drugs.
Nebraska is known for buying a lethal injection drug in 2015 called sodium
thiopental, from Harris Pharma, a distributor in India. The Food and Drug
Administration said Nebraska could not legally import the drug and the shipment
never made it to the state.
Opponents of the bill said that confidentiality would inhibit accountability
for companies who make the drugs. Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha was particularly
against full anonymity for such companies.
Chambers is a well-known opponent of the death penalty in general and mostly
used his time to speak against the death penalty. However, he also spoke
against hiding the identity of lethal injection drug manufacturers.
"We all know good and well why it's important to know the source of something,"
Chambers said. "If these bad drugs continue to show up, you need to trace it
back and find the compounding pharmacy that's responsible."
Chambers was referring to the possibility of problems arising with a drug. If
the drug is proven cruel or ineffective, people would need to know where it
came from to hold that person or company responsible.
Nebraska voters decided last year to reinstate the death penalty after a repeal
of it the year before. Legislators in support of LB661, like Sen. Mike Groene
of North Platte, said the proposed shield legislation would let capital
punishment work for the Nebraskans who voted it back in.
"I believe in justice," Groene said. "I believe in punishing evil that exists
in this world."
Groene said anonymity would allow the state to be able to obtain, and if
necessary, use the death penalty drugs again.
Nebraska has not used capital punishment since 1997.
There was no vote or action taken on the bill.
(source: The Daily Nebraskan)
Week of hearings underway in county's 1st death penalty case in a decade
A man who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and a homeless man in
separate attacks is expected to be in court for most of the week.
Glenn Galloway faces the death penalty in the back-to-back murders of Janice
Nam and Marcus Anderson. They were murdered in May of 2016. Nam was shot to
death inside her home in the 6000 block of Miramont Street in Stetson Hills.
Anderson's body was found in a storage unit on N. Century Street, near the
intersection of N. Nevada Avenue and E. Fillmore Street. Police said Anderson
lived in the storage unit.
Lawyers on both sides argued motion after motion today as Galloway waived his
right to a speedy trial. Judge Gregory Werner set a trial date of January 2,
It's not clear yet whether Galloway will be tried simultaneously for both
murders or if there will be 2 separate trials.
The defense conceded that Galloway could be seen on surveillance video at the
scene of the Anderson murder. It is arguing self-defense in that death.
Galloway was also captured on surveillance video at Nam's home before her
death. The defense argued that video should not be permissible.
Twice during today's proceedings, Galloway failed to stand when the judge
entered the courtroom prompting the judge to quip "does the defendant have a
leg issue?" The defense responded, "we'll work on that."
(source:: KRDO news)
San Quentin executions could hinge on next pivotal months
California has long been what 1 expert calls a "symbolic death penalty state,"
1 of 12 that has capital punishment on the books but has not executed anyone in
more than a decade.
Prodded by voters and lawsuits, the nation's most populous state may now be
easing back toward allowing executions, though observers are split on how
quickly they will resume, if at all.
Corrections officials expect to meet a Wednesday deadline to submit revised
lethal injection rules to state regulators, trying again with technical changes
after the 1st attempt was rejected in December.
The California Supreme Court, meanwhile, is expected to rule by August on
challenges to a ballot initiative narrowly approved by voters in November that
would speed up executions by reducing the time allowed for appeals.
Still, it is a far cry from the situation in Arkansas, which carried out its
1st execution since 2005 last week after trying to put 8 inmates to death this
month in an unprecedented series of double executions. Courts have blocked 3 of
them. Legal rulings have put at least 1 other in doubt.
California could come close to resuming executions in the next year, said law
professor Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center,
though others say too many variables remain to make a prediction.
California has by far the nation's largest death row with nearly 750 inmates,
about double that of No. 2 Florida.
The state's proposed lethal injection regulations are patterned after a
single-drug process that already passed muster with the U.S. Supreme Court,
Corrections officials submitted the regulations only after they were forced to
act by a judge's ruling on behalf of crime victims angered at the state's
Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and an expert on
lethal injections, was among those who said recent revisions to the state's
proposed regulations still don't cure underlying problems that can lead to
For instance, the proposed rules now give executioners 10 minutes to administer
each round of lethal drugs. The 1st batch is supposed to kill, but if that
initial dose doesn't work, executioners would administer 4 more similar doses,
each with a 10-minute countdown clock to make sure the process doesn't drag on
for hours as critics said was a possibility under the original rules.
If the inmate is still alive after 5 massive doses, "the San Quentin Warden
shall stop the execution and summon medical assistance for the inmate."
The regulations still call for letting the warden at San Quentin State Prison
pick from among 4 powerful barbiturates, depending on which one is available as
manufacturers try to limit the use of their drugs for executions. Inmates could
also choose to die in the gas chamber.
The Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic, which opposes executions, says
amobarbital and secobarbital have never been used in executions. The clinic
said problems remain over how the drugs would be obtained and administered.
Officials in several other states with long-delayed executions have said their
efforts to carry out the death penalty have been thwarted by a lack of lethal
Arkansas was rushing to try to execute as many inmates as possible before its
supply of the controversial sedative midazolam expires at month's end.
Midazolam would not be used under California's regulations.
Denno said California's regulations would still conceal the identities,
training and experience of the execution team, crucial information since the
deadly drugs must be properly mixed and administered to ensure a painless
"It's a complicated process, and everything has to be going right, and it's so
easy in a prison context for everything not to go right," she said. She equated
it to letting amateurs provide anesthesia for surgery.
Denno and other experts said the new rules eventually will have to pass the
scrutiny of U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who halted executions in
the state in early 2006 and ordered prison officials to improve their lethal
California voters have eased penalties for many crimes in recent years but have
repeatedly rejected efforts to end the death penalty. They did so again in
November, when 51 % approved Proposition 66, designed to speed up death penalty
cases. 53 % of voters defeated a competing measure that would have abolished
the death penalty.
The state Supreme Court quickly blocked Proposition 66 while it considers
Appellate lawyer Kirk Jenkins, who studies the court, expects the justices will
reject the proposition's 5-year deadline for deciding death row appeals because
it violates the separation of powers.
(source: Marin Independent Journal)
Debate over the death penalty in the United States begins anew
Since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College to win the
presidency, and especially since Trump was sworn in, the news has been filled
with all manner of items, some of them silly, nit-picking and embarrassing for
the media, and others of varying degrees of importance and interest.
Among the actual news items was the choice of the excellent Judge Neil Gorsuch
to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the battle that ensued to confirm
him; the Syrian air base strike and the MOAB bombing of an ISIS tunnel/cave
installation in Afghanistan; and more recently the situation in Arkansas where
the state intended to execute 8 death row inmates in the 11 days remaining
before the end of April when 1 of the drugs used in executions reached its
This latter development produced quite a lot of comment, most of it negative
from opponents of the death penalty.
The death penalty is sanctioned through the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution, and each death row inmate had been convicted and had many years
to appeal their sentence or conviction, so why so much controversy? Many were
horrified not about the death penalty itself, but that Arkansas would conduct
so many executions in such a short period.
The death penalty is a matter of long, spirited debate, notwithstanding its
constitutional and Biblical validations.
The religious aspect is important in the United States, since among the volumes
of things former President Barack Obama misunderstands about America is its
still-strong religious nature. Of the 35,000 participants from all 50 states
polled in a 2014 Pew Research Center study of Religion and Public Life,
Christians accounted for 70 % of participants, and more than 75 % claimed some
While our government is not founded on any set of religious beliefs, people
with religious beliefs have been a major segment of the population since the
nation's founding, and their beliefs heavily influenced the founding
principles, and that influence still exists today.
Many Christians, along with people holding other religious beliefs, and still
others who do not cite religion at all, object to the death penalty on its
failure of compassion. "How can religious and other compassionate people
indulge in such a barbaric act?" the argument goes.
Steve Stephens, a 37-year-old man, was having trouble with his girlfriend, so
naturally he decided the solution was to randomly pick out someone to kill.
After mentioning the woman's name to 74 year-old Robert Godwin Sr., a man that
he came upon while searching for a victim, he shot and killed the unsuspecting
and totally innocent Godwin.
Stephens' stupid and vicious murder highlights this issue. Many believe that
someone who intentionally and deliberately murders another person and inflicts
shock and grief on that person's family and friends somehow is entitled to the
compassion the murderer sadistically denied the victim(s). One religious
argument against executions is that it denies the criminal the opportunity to
repent and even use his/her experience to try to turn others to religion and
away from crime.
Others believe, however, the condemned deserves no consideration or compassion
when his or her justice is rendered. "Should not that person suffer at least as
much as the victim and those close to the victim?" this argument goes.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1972 allowed the resumption of the
death penalty, its use has dropped off substantially.
While 31 states still legally allow executions, ten of them have executed no
one in the last 10 years, and 26 have executed no one in the last 5 years.
Several reasons are cited: the possibility of executing an innocent person;
botched executions; a decline in the crime rate; and the cost of fighting those
opposing the imposition of the death penalty in capital cases.
There are 5 legal methods of execution - firing squad, gas chamber, hanging,
electrocution, and lethal injection - and lethal injection is the hands-down
preferred method. Much of the opposition to the other 4 comes down to how
"unpleasant" each of those methods is to the condemned, with lethal injection
normally being the least uncomfortable. However, even lethal injections
sometimes cause suffering to the condemned.
There is an ongoing debate over whether the United States should have a death
penalty. Another debate centers on making the execution as easy on the
condemned as possible.
Perhaps this represents a true expression of compassion, or maybe it is one
more step toward making executions so difficult and expensive that eventually
it will be abandoned, in favor of keeping vicious criminals alive and
relatively comfortable in prison for the rest of their lives at a tremendous
cost to taxpayers.
As long as there is a death penalty, someone who is absolutely proven guilty of
committing a capital crime and sentenced to death should collect his or her
just reward in a reasonable amount of time (which will be in fewer than 10 or
20 years), as efficiently as possible, and as inexpensively as possible. If it
hurts a little, or a lot, too bad.
Of all factors involved, the concerns of the criminal come last.
(source: James H. "Smokey" Shott, Column, a resident of Bluefield Daily
Inmate could be put to death if convicted of slashing, beating correctional
After more than 4 years of waiting and pre-trial maneuvering, the capital
murder trial against Jessie Con-ui, who is accused of killing a correctional
officer, begins today.
Con-ui, already a convicted murderer, could be put to death if convicted of
viciously slashing and beating correctional officer Eric Williams, a Nanticoke
native, during an ambush at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan on Feb. 25, 2013.
Con-ui's attorneys have not disputed that he was responsible for the attack,
which was caught on video, but are working to spare him the death penalty by
arguing he snapped after being mistreated by guards.
The men and women who will decide if that reason is enough will be picked
starting today - although the process is extensive and expected to take several
The selection process actually began back in January, when about 750 people
were sent hardship questionnaires. Of those who made it through the
pre-screening process, 12 will be called to court per day to be questioned
about their knowledge of the case as well as any biases or conflicts they have.
Once at least 70 jurors have been qualified and accepted, the sides will have 2
days to review the panel and exercise up to 20 strikes each. The final panel
will consist of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.
Many trial observers don't expect a prolonged guilt phase - Con-ui's own
attorneys have acknowledged in court filings that there is "overwhelming
evidence of guilt" and that after viewing the surveillance footage "the jurors
will become eyewitnesses to the crime."
The real question is whether the jury will decide Con-ui should die for the
Prosecutors have described what jurors will see as a cold, calculated
assassination carried out because Con-ui was angered over a cell search the day
The video depicts Con-ui "lying in wait" on the 2nd floor of the cell block,
armed with shanks as he watches Williams approach a set of stairs, according to
prosecutors. Con-ui then casually walks toward the officer before kicking him
in the face and sending him down the stairs to initiate the 9-minute attack,
The inmate takes Williams' radio away and proceeds to repeatedly hit and stab
Williams in the face, head and upper body, cutting his own hand in the process,
according to prosecutors. Con-ui then walks over to a shower to wash the wound,
which he wraps in his own shirt before returning to continue attacking Williams
as he lay defenseless on the floor, prosecutors say.
When he finishes, Con-ui takes a piece of gum from Williams' pocket and sits
down to chew it before returning to his cell.
Court filings say Con-ui felt in danger after the attack, especially after an
officer who discovered the carnage threatened to "kill one of you" inmates. He
later surrendered, saying he felt disrespected by having his belongings tossed
in the cell search and that he had "overreacted" to the perceived slight, court
The defense is seeking to spare Con-ui a death sentence by putting forward
mitigating factors, including what they have termed "outrageous, clearly
inappropriate conduct" by guards in their treatment of inmates. His attorneys
maintain he was a respectful, well-mannered inmate who was so upset by what
happened that afterward he had "tears pouring down his face like dew."
But Williams' family supports the death penalty against Con-ui, who is already
serving 25 years to life at ADX Florence in Colorado for executing a gang
member in Phoenix as part of his initiation into the Arizona Mexican Mafia in
Among the reasons Con-ui should be put to death are that the crime was
committed in an "especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner" by a convicted
drug trafficker and murderer who has a history of violence - including against
law enforcement, according to prosecutors.
(source: The Citizens' Voice)
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