2017-05-16 14:03:43 UTC
J.W. Ledford's Bid for Firing Squad Rejected on Execution Eve
A federal appeals court has denied a stay of execution to a Georgia man who
argued a firing squad would be a more humane way to die than the lethal
injection the state has planned.
A few hours earlier, the state Parole Board rejected a bid for clemency for
J.W. "Boy" Ledford Jr., who is on death row for murdering the doctor who
delivered him into the world.
Ledford, 45, is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday at 7 p.m. His execution
would be the 1st this year in Georgia, which killed 9 prisoners last year.
Much of the debate about execution drugs across the nation has centered on
midazolam, a sedative that has been used in several lethal injections that did
not go as planned.
Georgia uses pentobarbital, seen as a more reliable drug, to induce
unconsciousness and then death. But Ledford's lawyers argued that because he
has been taking a prescription drug to treat nerve pain for years, the
pentobarbital won't work as intended.
"Accordingly, there is a substantial risk that Mr. Ledford will be aware and in
agony as the pentobarbital attacks his respiratory system, depriving his brain,
heart, and lungs of oxygen as he drowns in his own saliva," they wrote in court
Court rulings require prisoners challenging 1 execution method to offer an
alternative, and Ledford suggested a firing squad, even though Georgia law
doesn't include that as a method of execution.
The state offered analysis from its own expert, who said the amount of
pentobarbital in the injection "is more than sufficient" to cause death without
pain regardless of Ledford's past use of a nerve drug.
In his application for clemency, Ledford, 45, cited a horrific childhood in an
abusive home, early exposure to drugs and alcohol, an allegedly low IQ, and his
"He does not try to hide away from the harm he caused and is open with anyone
he knows about the pain and about his sadness for the family," his attorneys
"His son says that when he finally asked his father if he did what they said,
his father looked him straight in the eye and said, yes, and that he was sorry
and when you take a man's life you can never give it back."
Ledford killed Dr. Harry Johnston after the physician gave him a ride; the
victim was nearly decapitated. He then went to the doctor's home and tied up
and robbed his wife; she has since died.
"I've seen the pictures," Conasauga District Attorney Bert Poston, who
presented the state's case for execution to the parole board, told the Atlanta
"I've been doing this for 25 years and I've handled a lot of murder cases and I
can't think of many that come close."
(source: NBC news)
Alabama bill intended to streamline death-penalty appeals has 'serious
problems,' ABA says
Alabama legislation designed to streamline capital appeals increases the risk
that an innocent person will be executed, according to ABA President Linda A.
The May 12 letter (PDF), written on behalf of the ABA, says the legislation
known as the Fair Justice Act "suffers from serious problems." The bill, which
passed in the Alabama Senate on April 19, would require defendants to seek
post-conviction relief at the same time they are pursuing a direct appeal,
AL.com reported last month.
One version of the bill, in the Alabama House, requires capital defendants to
assert all post-conviction claims in an initial petition filed within 180 days
of the filing of the direct appeal, resulting in a "doubled up process," the
ABA letter says. The Senate version of the bill requires the initial petition
with all claims to be filed within a year of the filing of the direct appeal.
The deadline would "make Alabama an outlier" and would limit lawyers' ability
to conduct the post-conviction investigation, according to Klein. ABA
guidelines require post-conviction counsel to investigate the work of prior
lawyers in capital cases, including the work of lawyers on direct appeal.
Typically, lawyers need to review thousands of pages of trial records, witness
statements, police and medical documents and other evidence to adequately
"While the ABA respects the importance of finality and judicial efficiency,"
the letter says, "quicker resolution of cases where a life is at stake should
not take priority over ensuring fundamental fairness and accuracy of those
The bill's waiver provision could also have the unintended effect of increasing
the time to litigate post-conviction appeals, the letter says. The provision
tells courts to consider post-conviction claims to be waived if they are not
brought within the initial deadline.
"These waived claims will still necessitate subsequent review by state and
federal judges who will need to evaluate whether waiver was caused by
ineffective counsel and who could send the cases back to lower state courts for
additional review," the letter says.
(source: ABA Journal)
Bill to eliminate the death penalty heads to La. Senate
A bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana will hit the
Louisiana State Senate floor Monday afternoon.
The bill cleared a committee last month on a 6-1 vote and Monday the full
senate is expected to debate the death penalty at the Capitol.
The bill authored by Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor would eliminate the death
penalty as of August 1 of this year.
Capital punishment opponents argue the practice is too costly for the state.
Louisiana spent more than $90 million in the last 10 years defending capital
A post-conviction attorney told legislators that judges and juries do not
always reach the correct conclusion.
Data shows more than 80 % of death penalty cases were overturned in the last 4
But opponents think it could green light judges to overturn death penalty
sentences for convicts currently on death row.
Claitor said the bill is not designed to be used retroactively.
State Representative Terry Landry, (D) New Iberia said now is the time to make
"It is a bad act that has outlived its time economically, morally, and I think
it is time for us to turn a course," Landry said.
But death penalty supporters say there are times when it is the correct
"There are crimes that are so heinous that I submit to you the death penalty
may be the appropriate penalty,": said Ricky Babin, Ascension Parish District
Landry, a former superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, is sponsoring a
similar bill in the house.
(source: WVUE news)
Arizona Court Reinstates Death Sentence for 1993 Killing----An Arizona Supreme
Court ruling reinstates a man's death sentence for a 1993 killing in Phoenix.
An Arizona Supreme Court ruling reinstates a man's death sentence for a 1993
killing in Phoenix.
The unanimous ruling Monday says a Maricopa County Superior Court judge was
incorrect when he ruled that Darrel Peter Pandeli didn't receive effective
legal representation during a re-sentencing.
Pandeli was sentenced to death for the killing of Holly Iller, but his death
sentence was thrown out because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a procedural
issue that affected a number of death-penalty cases.
Pandeli then was re-sentenced to death, but a Maricopa County Superior Court
judge ruled that Pandeli's lawyers didn't handle his case adequately.
However, the Arizona Supreme Court ruling concludes otherwise and reinstates
Pandeli's death sentence.
Pandeli also got a 20-year term for a 1991 killing.
(source: Associated Press)
Sierra LaMar: Attorneys spar over rules for penalty phase
With jurors poised to hear arguments on whether the man convicted of killing
missing teen Sierra LaMar should get the death penalty or life without parole,
a song by the rock band Aerosmith came up as attorneys and the judge sparred
Monday over how much emotional imagery and testimony the panel can hear during
the penalty phase.
The exchange was one of several Monday aimed at laying the ground rules for
that phase of Antolin Garcia-Torres' trial, which is set to begin Tuesday. Also
among the other items at issue: whether the prosecution can have its forensic
psychologist subject Gracia-Torres to a psychological evaluation.
The courtroom music critiques were set up by dueling plans, by Santa Clara
County Deputy District Attorney David Boyd and defense attorneys Brian Matthews
and Al Lopez from the Alternate Defender's Office, to show jurors videos and
slideshows aimed at illustrating the vibrant personality of Sierra, and at
Matthews objected to the breadth and length of the prosecution's AV
presentation, including clips of Sierra lip-syncing a ballad.
"It's too much," he said, adding that it could lead to a jury to "rule on the
basis of emotion" rather than legal principles.
Judge Vanessa A. Zecher ordered Boyd to pare down the number of images of
Sierra that would be shown. But she also championed the still-missing Sierra in
reaffirming the prosecution's visual show.
"The victim has a voice here as well," Zecher said.
Zecher was also receptive to prosecutors' insistence that the defense
attorneys' plan to show a video compiled by Garcia-Torres' family be with muted
audio because of the "mood-altering music" of the video's soundtrack -
including an Aerosmith song.
The defense, Boyd said, has no more of a "right to eliciting jurors' emotions
than we do."
Hoping to persuade jurors to opt for life without parole rather than the death
penalty, the attorneys for Garcia-Torres also sought to bring in a psychologist
to describe his reportedly troubled childhood, including having to live with a
father now serving a life sentence for raping a female relative, starting when
she was 7 years old.
In response, prosecutors wanted an order from Zecher to retain a psychologist
of their own to test whether Garcia-Torres "truly has ineffective coping skills
or unresolved grief." In a motion filed last week, Boyd contended that by
having Dr. Gretchen White testify about the effects of Garcia-Torres'
childhood, "the defense is putting the defendant's mental state in issue,"
meaning making it fair game under case law.
But Matthews opposed Boyd's request to have his expert spend a total of eight
hours conducting clinical interviews with Garcia-Torres, a mental status exam
and associated psychological testing.
In a brief filed Monday morning, Matthews argued that the defense is not
claiming Garcia-Torres has a mental illness, and its expert will be testifying
only about his "psychosocial history" and "the impact salient aspects of that
history has on a person."
"The jury is being asked to make a reasoned decision," he said in court Monday.
"They need to consider this before sentencing a man to die."
Matthews also contended that the results of any testing by the prosecution's
expert would be unreliable because Garcia-Torres' "mental condition is weakened
by the fact of his conviction and the reality that he will, at least, spend the
rest of his life in prison."
The judge delayed her decision on the psychological issues until Wednesday
Garcia-Torres sat in court during the 2-hour hearing, silent except for some
whispers to his attorneys.
Boyd also sought to exclude another defense expert, Dr. Andres Lugo, from
testifying that Garcia-Torres suffered long-term exposure to pesticides,
perchlorates and possibly mercury, claiming among other arguments that the
doctor's testimony would be speculative. No decision was made Monday on whether
that testimony would be allowed.
Garcia-Torres. 26, was convicted last week of kidnapping and killing the
15-year-old Sierra, who was on her way to her school bus stop in a rural
community north of Morgan Hill when she vanished 5 years ago. Her body has not
been found despite a yearslong search by more than 750 volunteers from around
the Bay Area. The jury, which reached a verdict in 2 days after a 3-month
trial, also convicted him of attempting to kidnap 3 other women from Safeway
parking lots in Morgan Hill in 2009.
Zecher also questioned whether some of the dozen-plus victim-impact witnesses -
family and friends testifying on their loss from Sierra's presume death -
planned to speak on behalf of the prosecution were redundant. Boyd said
diminishing that portion of the proceedings would ostensibly "reward the
defendant for his conduct."
Man could face death penalty in Modesto store clerk stabbing
A 23-year-old man accused of stabbing to death a clerk at a south Modesto
convenience store made his 1st court appearance Monday afternoon.
Lester Antonio Portillo, of Modesto, is charged with murder in the death of
32-year-old Jagjeet Singh, 32, who was working as a clerk at Hatch Food & Gas
store. The charge includes a special circumstances allegation, accusing
Portillo of waiting for Singh before the stabbing.
The special circumstances allegation makes the case eligible for the death
penalty. Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris told the judge that the
Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office has not decided whether it will
seek the death penalty against Portillo.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Sonny Sandhu entered a not guilty on behalf of his
client, Portillo, and denied the special circumstances allegation and
enhancements alleging premeditation and the use of a deadly weapon in the
Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova scheduled the defendant to return to court
Friday for a pretrial hearing. Portillo remains in custody at the county jail.
The deadly stabbing occurred about 11:45 p.m. May 4 just outside the
convenience store on West Hatch Road, just west of Dallas Street. About 30
minutes earlier, a man came into the store and argued with Singh over the sale
of cigarettes, Modesto police has said.
The man left the store and drove away. Singh was stabbed outside the store as
he was closing the business. The clerk, an immigrant from India who had only
been in the U.S. for 18 months, was rushed to a local hospital where he died.
Our big announcement on the Trump-Russia scandal.----"This Isn't Science": We
Have No Idea How Much Pain Inmates Feel During Execution
Georgia is about to execute another man, and the result could be horrific.
Just weeks after Arkansas attempted to execute eight men in 11 days, lethal
injection in back in the news. On Tuesday, Georgia is scheduled to execute J.W.
Ledford for a 1992 murder. Texas was slated to put Tilon Carter to death on
Tuesday as well, but he received a stay last week after the state's court of
criminal appeals decided to hear his claims that the jury was misled.
Georgia will use a controversial 1-drug protocol - a heavy dose of
pentobarbital, an anesthetic that critics say can fail to render inmates fully
unconscious. On Monday, Ledford requested that Georgia execute him by firing
squad, instead. He argues that a pain medication he takes has altered his brain
chemistry so much that the pentobarbital may not work properly, leading to
excruciating pain. (Texas was planning to use pentobarbital to kill Carter, as
"What we have here is masquerade - something that pretends to be science and
pretends to be medicine but isn't."
Americans generally accept the claim that lethal injection is a humane and
painless way to kill convicted murderers. A 2014 Gallup poll found that 65 % of
Americans believe that lethal injection is the "most humane" form of capital
punishment. According to a 2015 YouGov poll, just 18 % of respondents described
lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment," which is prohibited by the
Eighth Amendment. But, despite its widespread use, there is virtually no
scientific data to suggest that lethal injection is humane. There's been very
little research done on the effects of lethal injections on humans at all - but
the science that is available suggest that inmates may actually experience
immense pain before dying.
On a recent episode of our Inquiring Minds podcast, Kishore Hari interviews
Teresa Zimmers, an associate professor of surgery at Indiana University School
of Medicine. Zimmers, who has spent years researching lethal injection, is
sharply critical to the ways in which states kill the condemned. "What we have
here is masquerade," says Zimmers. "Something that pretends to be science and
pretends to be medicine but isn't."
Prior to 1972, when the Supreme Court halted executions nationwide, states used
a variety methods to put inmates to death, including gas chambers and the
electric chair. After the court ruled in 1976 that the death penalty did not
constitute cruel and unusual punishment, an Oklahoma state legislator called
the state's medical examiner, Jay Chapman, and asked him if he could come up
with a new and humane way to execute prisoners. Chapman has said that he
initially thought he wasn't qualified for the task, but he nonetheless proposed
using fatal doses of pharmaceuticals that are typically used to put patients.
Chapman came up with a three-drug protocol: Sodium thiopental, an anesthetic to
put the inmate to sleep; pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis; and
potassium chloride to stop the heart. Other states soon adopted this protocol,
but there was never much scientific evidence showing it was truly humane.
"It's not at all clear that the protocol works as advertised," explains
In 2007, Zimmers was part of a team that analyzed execution records from
California and North Carolina and found that lethal injection might actually
lead to painful chemical asphyxiation. Zimmers' team suggested that the
thiopental dosages being uses might not be high enough to induce sleep and that
potassium chloride might not reliably stop the heart. The potential result: a
paralyzed inmate who remains aware while dying from the inability to breathe.
Zimmers' paper concluded:
[O]ur findings suggest that current lethal injection protocols may not reliably
effect death through the mechanisms intended, indicating a failure of design
and implementation. If thiopental and potassium chloride fail to cause
anesthesia and cardiac arrest, potentially aware inmates could die through
pancuronium-induced asphyxiation. Thus the conventional view of lethal
injection leading to an invariably peaceful and painless death is questionable.
Beginning around 2009, European pharmaceutical companies began refusing to sell
their drugs to American states that intended to use them to put inmates to
death. The shortages led to a rush to find different lethal injection methods,
such as replacing the sodium thiopental with a drug called midazolam or using a
single fatal dose of an anesthetic.
And just like with the original cocktail, these new lethal injection techniques
have been developed with little scientific rigor. "There's been a very active
substitution of drugs into this protocol with, of course, no corresponding
investigation," says Zimmers.
When Oklahoma used the 1-drug protocol of pentobarbital in the execution of
Michael Wilson in January 2014, the inmate's last words were, "I feel my whole
body burning." A few months later, the state tried to put Clayton Lockett to
death using a 3-drug protocol that included the anesthetic midazolam. Lockett
mumbled and writhed on the gurney, before dying of a massive heart attack about
40 minutes after the procedure began. Oklahoma's executions are now on hold.
Despite the controversy surrounding midazolam, last month Arkansas rushed to
execute eight men in 11 days when its supply of the drug was set to expire.
After a series of legal setbacks for the state, only 4 were put to death. The
last man to die, Kenneth Williams, reportedly convulsed, jerked, lurched, and
coughed for 10 to 20 seconds after prison officials administered midazolam.
Often, the debate over capital punishment centers around the morality of
government-sponsored killing or the potential for an innocent person to be
executed. But Zimmers suspects that for many people, support for the death
penalty relies on the notion that states are using compassionate,
scientifically validated method to kill inmates. That notion, Zimmers argues,
is simply wrong.
"They should understand that this isn't science," she says. "This is a pretense
(source: Mother Jones)
Lush Cosmetics Launches Campaign To Abolish Death Penalty; Benefit Death
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, with 200 shops in the United States and a robust
online business, in partnership with Death Penalty Focus (DPF), is launching a
national campaign calling for the abolition of the death penalty. The campaign
includes store events designed to raise awareness of the flaws in the death
penalty system and encourage community members to get involved in the national
effort calling for the abolition of capital punishment.
Lush Cosmetics and DPF are partnering with other organizations, such as the
National Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence, in the
campaign which will run from May 15 - 25, 2017, and events will take place in
major cities including Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Phoenix and West Des
"We are very pleased to partner with a company like Lush," says DPF President
Mike Farrell. "Not only is the company's business model based on ethical,
environmental, and socially conscious principles, but it brings awareness of
the death penalty and its flaws to a different segment of the population."
The events will feature speakers including exonerees, grassroots organizations,
and activists, who will share personal stories and experiences. For a limited
time, Lush will sell an exclusive bath bomb called "31 States," of which 100
percent of the purchase price will be donated to organizations mobilizing and
engaging the millions of Americans who believe it's time to band together and
abolish capital punishment. Through the sale of 31 States, Lush aims to raise
"In 2016, death sentences, executions and support for capital punishment were
at an historic low, making flaws and failures of the death penalty more
apparent than ever," said Carleen Pickard, Ethical Campaigns Specialist at Lush
Cosmetics. "The more people learn about the death penalty, the less they like
it, and we're excited to bring this important issue to our customers."
With more than 150,000 supporters, Death Penalty Focus is one of the world's
largest organizations solely dedicated to ending capital punishment. For nearly
3 decades, DPF has worked to raise public awareness, mobilize grassroots
activists, build coalitions, and educate policy makers about the death penalty
and its alternatives.
The partnership between Lush and DPF began last year when DPF became a
recipient of a Charity Pot grant. Lush donates 100% of the sales proceeds from
its Charity Pot hand and body lotions to nonprofits and charitable
organizations. Since launching the program in 2007, Lush has supported 850
grassroots organizations with more than $10 million in 42 countries.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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