2017-07-08 13:31:19 UTC
Executions court-approved to resume this month for Ohio's death row
inmates----Condemned child killer Ronald Phillips has a date slated with the
Ronald Phillips, age 43, has his third date with death. He is, now, scheduled
for execution by lethal injection on July 26. On Wednesday, the United States
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit gave the state of Ohio thumbs-up for its
lethal injection protocol. The state can resume executing inmates on death row
with a 3-drug injection mixture. Phillips is slated to die for having raped and
murdered his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993 in Akron, OH.
The court's July 5 opinion - an 8-6 conservative-liberal split - overrides the
preliminary injunction that was rendered in January by Judge Michael Merz. As
well, the decision reverses an April 3-judge appellate panel determination that
upheld the injunction.
Prior death injection drug cocktail stirred court challenges
Using midazolam in the recipe for delivering death led to the higher court's
decision-making and eventual opinion early this week. Judge Merz, in Dayton,
opined that the drug, only 1 of 3, poses the substantial risk of "serious
harm." In countering the lower court's contention, Judge Raymond Kethledge
penned the majority opinion for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He states
that "some" risk of pain goes hand-in-hand with "any" execution protocol,
regardless of how humane. He additionally noted that the anti-death penalty
advocate-plaintiffs did not definitely meet the criterion whether the drug
cocktail does or is "very likely" to cause serious pain.
Not since January 2014 has Ohio delivered death to condemned inmates on the
state's death row.
The last to die when the death sentence was carried out was Dennis McGuire.
Witnesses alleged that McGuire snorted, gasped, and seemed to make snorting
sounds when the midazolam cocktail was administered.
The effect of McGuire's execution reportedly going haywire led to a legal
challenge presented on Phillips' behalf, as well as for death row inmates
Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte. In response, the state ceased performing
executions, like McGuire's, that were administered with a previously "unused"
drug cocktail protocol.
Ohio introduced new lethal combo to overcome court setbacks
Not to be dissuaded from exacting the death sentence on the condemned, Ohio
created a new drug recipe which it proposed in response to legal challenges.
The new and, it is hoped, improved protocol delivers a heart-stopping,
paralytic combination: midazolam along with potassium chloride.
With the higher court's ruling this week, Ohio is going over its mandated
checklist in preparation for Phillips' upcoming death date.
While the state declined to release checklist documents to The Associated
Press, it did verify that the state is compliant with all the required steps
for the execution protocol.
Target for execution uses age appealing for mercy
July 26 will mark Phillips' 3rd time in 2017 that he received an appointment
with the death chamber. He received previous reprieves while legal arguments
central to the injection protocol were decided In the lower courts.
Most probably, attorneys will appeal Wednesday's court opinion to the U.S.
Supreme Court for its determination that will affect life or death in Ohio for
Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte. Apart from the additional duo of death row
inmates, Phillips has an appeal pending that draws his age into the picture for
the court to consider.
Though now age 43, he endeavors to have his age at the time of his crime
weighed on whether his life should be spared. His appeal states that he should
be a candidate for mercy since he was 19-years-old when he murdered his, then,
girlfriend's toddler. Previously, the nation's highest court has banned
executions of people under age 18.
Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is steadfast in its resolve
to carry out court-mandated executions in a "dignified manner," according to
Lawyers to assess Griffen, justices
Independent attorneys have been hired to look into cross complaints against
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen and the Arkansas Supreme Court,
the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced late Friday.
The attorneys, Rachel Michel of Mississippi and J. Brent Standridge of Benton,
were chosen by the 9-member commission after both of the agency's full-time
lawyers recused from the cases in May.
The cases assigned to the independent counsel revolve around competing
complaints filed by both Griffen and the high court against each other in
April, when Griffen was sanctioned from hearing any cases involving the death
penalty in response to his outspokenness on the subject.
Griffen has defended his actions, saying they are examples of freedom of speech
and the exercise of religion, even as they coincided with his unsuccessful
judicial order to halt a series of planned executions.
In his own complaint against the 7 justices of the Supreme Court, Griffen
alleges he was not given a chance to respond to allegations before being
sanctioned by the court.
Michel and Standridge will each take on one side of the complaints, according
to Commission Counsel Marie-Bernarde Miller, but it hasn't been decided yet who
will take on which side.
According to a news release issued Friday, Michel is a senior staff attorney
for the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, which Miller likened to
the Arkansas commission's counterpart in the Magnolia State.
Standridge formerly served as the chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Saline,
Grant and Hot Spring counties, according to the news release. He also has been
appointed three times to serve as a special associate justice to the Arkansas
Both attorneys were asked and agreed to work pro bono, Miller said. The
commission agreed to provide 1 of its attorneys to Mississippi should a similar
conflict in the state require outside counsel in the future, she added.
In May, David Sachar, the executive director of the Arkansas commission, and
Deputy Director Emily White both recused after former Supreme Court Chief
Justice Howard Brill advised in a letter that their participation in the cases
would likely present a conflict of interest.
Brill noted that as chief justice, he was a part of frequent communication with
the commission regarding active cases involving state judges, and that
Griffen's complaint named the entire Supreme Court bench.
The former top judge is now a law professor at the University of Arkansas,
Fayetteville specializing in legal ethics.
"It is my belief that both of you are caught in an unacceptable dilemma with
these allegations," Brill wrote in his 3-page letter.
While Michel and Standridge will not be paid for their work, they will each
have access to a $4,000 stipend to use to investigate or prosecute their cases,
They will have 18 months to gather facts, conduct interviews and conclude their
investigations, Miller said.
Following their investigation, either attorney can dismiss the case, negotiate
an agreement or recommend charges be brought before the 9-member commission for
Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have already
expressed a desire to see Griffen impeached if they find the commission does
not impose an acceptable punishment.
The ire of lawmakers reached a peak shortly after Griffen participated in an
anti-death penalty protest in April, the same day he issued his order blocking
the state from using 1 of its execution drugs.
Griffen's order was later reversed by the state Supreme Court, and Arkansas
ended up carrying out 4 of 8 planned executions.
Griffen also has continued to push back against the Legislature, attending a
rally organized to defend him on the steps of the state Capitol last month.
Brad Scott Compher back in court for case status----Compher charged with 2004
murder of Nori Jones
The man charged with killing a Pocatello woman in 2004 was back in court Friday
for a status update on the case.
Brad Scott Compher is charged with first-degree murder in the death of
25-year-old Nori Jones.
Jones was found dead in her home on Pole Line Road in Sept. 2004. She had been
stabbed dozens of times and had several defensive wounds.
Compher was originally named as a suspect in 2004 but it was when advanced DNA
technology came about that Compher was arrested. He was arrested and charged in
Sept. 2014, very near the ten-year anniversary of Jones' death.
In Compher's original preliminary hearing, details emerged showing that
Compher's fingerprints were found on a back doorknob of Jones' house, as well
as on a window sill. That window screen had been sliced open and that is where
police determined Jones' killer had entered the house. Prosecutors also said
Compher's DNA was found on multiple parts of Jones' body.
Compher was first scheduled to go to trial in April 2016. That trial was pushed
back three times for various delays.
Prosecutor for the case, Zachary Parris, said the biggest delay in the case has
been with how much discovery, or evidence, comes into play for the case. He
said the evidence is pretty much all scientific, no eyewitness accounts.
Science takes a long time to prove or to argue.
In court Friday, a motion was discussed that is currently on the table. The
defense is asking the court to reconsider certain DNA evidence. Parris said
because it is an open case, he cannot comment on the specifics of that. But in
court, the defense did say that motion is waiting on a decision from the Idaho
Attorney General's Office, which could take some time.
The defense also requested more time to gather its expert witnesses for trial,
including DNA experts. Judge Stephen Dunn said he wants to get this case moving
forward and get Jones justice. But he understands the need to be extremely
prepared and thorough, especially in a death penalty case. However, he did give
the defense 90 days to gather their expert opinions and send those to the
State. The State would then be given sufficient time to gather its own experts
to argue the case at trial.
There is another status conference scheduled for October. Right now, it does
not seem likely that Compher will face a jury until 2018.
Another previous delay in getting the case to trial was finding another judge.
In Nov. 2016, the judge assigned to the case, Judge David Nye, disqualified
himself. He had just been nominated for Idaho's U.S. District Court.
The state is seeking the death penalty for Compher. He is charged with 1 count
of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of enhancement with a deadly weapon. He is
being held at the Bannock County Jail.
(source: KIDK news)
Let's Save Lives, Not End Them
Stigma. Discrimination. Civil Rights. Human Rights. These are all terms we use
in the mental health advocacy community to describe the challenges we face and
the goals we strive for. Today, in the wake of the state of Virginia's
execution of William Morva, a man with a long history of mental illness, we
talk about human rights.
There is so much we don't understand about disorders of the brain, and our
gravest mistake is pretending we know what we don't know. In Mr. Morva's case,
questions about his mental health history were raised over and over again, and
reports from various experts continuously contradicted one another. What we do
know is that this man struggled with severe symptoms of mental illness for many
decades. The evidence of this was strong enough that two experts from the
United Nations urged Governor McAuliffe not to execute Morva, more than 34,000
people signed petitions backing clemency, and 28 state legislators and 3
members of Congress expressed support for clemency. So how and why did this
happen? Especially in this state where our broken mental health system has led
to such such tragedy in recent years - from a senator's son dying from mental
illness due to inability to access care, to the Virginia Tech shooting - where
is the awareness? Where are the solutions?
In what other area of medicine do we have this type of massive disagreement and
ambiguity? Ideally, we'd have a test that could have definitively determined
Morva's brain health. This raises a much broader issue: our failure to
prioritize and fund brain research, which is due, at least in part, to the
stigma around mental health. This stigma is evident everywhere - so much so
that we often fail to see it at all.
Just this past week mental health was used, in a very public way, as the basis
for name-calling and personal attacks, when Donald Trump called Joe Scarborough
of Morning Joe, "Psycho Joe." I think we can all agree this type of
name-calling is not what we'd hope for from our Commander-in-Chief, but for a
person in President Trump's position to be using such discriminatory language
sets a particularly bad example.
His language is somewhat ironic, given that many are asking questions about
Donald Trump's own mental health and its influence on his fitness to hold the
highest office of the United States. Where is the science? Where are the tests
to determine competency to hold, arguably, the most powerful position in the
world? And in the horrific tragedy of this week, to determine life or death for
a man who had decades of symptoms of serious mental illness?
Until we start changing attitudes we won't see the hope that's possible and
lives will continue to be lost. We recently spoke with Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, a
thought leader in psychology who just came out with a book with the goal of
more educated awareness around mental health. Another Kind of Madness blends
his early experiences of being completely shielded from his father's serious
mental disorder with commentary on the need to change attitudes and enhance
access to care. He explained it this way: stigma is when prejudice and negative
stereotypes leads to the dehumanization of certain groups. As long as we live
in a culture in which barely an eyebrow is raised when the President of the
United States throws around terms like "nut job" and "psycho" when describing
the mental health of his colleagues we'll keep failing to take our individual
brain health seriously and we'll continue to deprioritize brain research and
dehumanize those with these challenges.
And this brings us back to Mr. Morva, a case of dehumanization to the end. This
chilling Facebook Live video of the press conference after his execution speaks
volumes. Does revenge really help anybody? Does it advance the cause? Does it
stop the violence? As Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking says,
the death penalty is more about us than anything else. This case makes it
clear: we as a society view mental illness as a moral failure, and this
misguided belief is what allows us to justify punishing people who have a
Stigma, discrimination, and stereotypes persist, blocking us from pursuing
preventative care, keeping individuals in need from getting treatment, and
keeping much-needed funds out of brain research. The debate over President
Trump's mental health and our inability to test it, the President's own
consistent use of language that stereotypes and dehumanizes, and the execution
of a man who showed clear signs of a severe brain disorder: it's all connected.
In many ways, we remain in the dark ages when it comes to brain health, in our
attitudes as well as our understanding of brain disorders and their impact on
human behavior and cognitive functioning.
Tragic cases like William Morva's need to serve as impetus to take action now.
Despite heroic efforts, his life wasn't able to be spared. Let's work to make
sure that we as a society are never in the position of deciding someone's fate
ever again. Let's leave saving lives to the medical community - they're best
equipped for that responsibility. The responsibility of ending them, however,
belongs to none of us.
(source: Commentary; Janine Francolini, Contributor Founder of the Flawless
Foundation, Huffington Post)
19 States Have Outlawed the Death Penalty
Capital punishment is currently illegal in 19 states plus the District of
During Election 2016, voters in 3 states showed support for the death penalty:
California. Voters rejected Proposition 62, which would have repealed the
state's death penalty. This was the 2nd time in 4 years that California voters
decided to keep the death penalty on the books.
In Nebraska, voters overturned an earlier decision by the state legislature to
abolish capital punishment. Referendum 426 preserved the death penalty by
repealing the legislature's 2015 motion to abolish capital punishment.
In Oklahoma, where capital punishment was already legal, voters approved State
Question 776, which constitutionalized the death penalty.
Michigan was the 1st state to outlaw the death penalty, and they did so back in
1846. By 1911, only 3 other states had followed suit (Maine, Minnesota, and
Wisconsin). No other states abolished the practice until 1957.
Since that time, there have been 3 waves of state bans on capital punishment. 5
states acted between 1957 and 1965 (Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Iowa, and West
Virginia), 3 more states plus the District of Columbia followed suit between
1973 and 1984 (North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island), and 7 more
joined the list in the past decade (New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois,
Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware). The Delaware Supreme Court struck down
capital punishment as unconstitutional in August 2016.
4 states technically allow the death penalty, but their governors have imposed
a moratorium on the practice (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington).
Scott Rasmussen's Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday,
Scott Rasmussen's Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics
at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.
(source: Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at
the King's College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the
Encyclopedia of American Politics----newsmax.com)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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