2017-05-02 14:00:02 UTC
Sean Cody Model "Chase" Could Face Death Penalty in Murder Trial
A Sean Cody model who went by the name of "Chase" will be standing trial for a
murder in Kentucky. Should he be found guilty, the actor could face the death
Chase (legal name is James R. Huffman) was arrested 3 years ago after police
arrested him for the alleged murder of a student on New Year's Day in 2014, The
victim was apparently stabbed with a knife.
The trial was supposed to take place in April but there were issues with 2
witnesses (1 prosecution and 1 defense) that caused the judge to pause
scheduling through a continuance.
EKB, the local news outlet, reports the following:
"In Letcher Circuit Court this morning, the trial for James R. Huffman IV, who
was set to stand trial beginning today, was continued. The special judge in the
case told the jury pool, who was present in the courtroom, that an incident
occurred over the weekend that affected 2 witnesses in the case. The judge said
it would be impossible to go forward with Huffman's trial today. The judge said
he plans to have a phone conference with the attorneys in the case soon to
determine how to go forward.
Huffman and Patrick Smith are accused of stabbing Michael Hogg to death shortly
after the turn of the new year 2014. The trials for the 2 men, who are being
prosecuted separately, have been delayed several times."
Chase (Huffman) previously pleaded innocent to the murder of Michael Shane
Hogg, a 24 year old college man who was visiting home. According to reports, he
was on winter break from studies at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond,
"Chase" is accused of killing Hogg by stabbing him in the chest during an
altercation that took place in a parking lot. The Mountain Eagle reports two
other men were also stabbed during the incident. Both survived.
Local coverage suggests the victims of the stabbing had been celebrating New
Year's earlier in the evening at Streetside Grill and Bar. Cops haven't
released a motive yet for the stabbings.
Another Sean Cody model, David Meza, is currently standing trial in California
for the alleged murder of his alleged sugar daddy.
Still, this would be the 3rd Sean Cody model accused of murder in recent years,
counting Meza and Jason Andrews (Andrews was found guilty).
Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms Death Sentence For Premeditated Murder
The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed James Hawkins's premeditated murder
conviction and sentence of death for the 2008 murder of Charlene Gaither, Mr.
Hawkins's long-term girlfriend and the mother of his 3 children.
In February 2008, Hawkins stabbed Ms. Gaither, in the presence of their 12-year
daughter, in their Memphis apartment. Hawkins made his daughter help him hide
her mother's body in a freezer and clean the murder scene, threatening to kill
her if she refused. He purchased a power saw later that day, forced his
daughter to help him move her mother's body to a bathtub in the apartment, and
used the saw to remove Ms. Gaither's head, hands, and feet. Hawkins instructed
his daughter to help him return the body to the freezer. Later that night, he
and his daughter placed Ms. Gaither's body in her vehicle, drove it to
Mississippi, threw her body off a bridge, and disposed of her head, hands, and
feet along the route they drove.
About 3 days after the murder, Hawkins called the police and falsely reported
Ms. Gaither as missing. The next day, highway workers in Mississippi discovered
Ms. Gaither's dismembered body. DNA testing ultimately identified the body as
Ms. Gaither. Her head, hands, and feet were never recovered.
The proof at trial showed that Hawkins murdered Ms. Gaither because she was
threatening to call the police and report Hawkins for sexually abusing their
daughter. Their daughter testified at trial about the murder and the events
that followed it. She explained that Hawkins had sexually abused her for many
years, but she had not told anyone because she was afraid of him. Her brothers
also testified and corroborated their sister's testimony concerning the sexual
abuse and the events surrounding the murder. Other witnesses testified about
statements Ms. Gaither had made to them expressing her fear that Hawkins
planned to kill her and was sexually abusing their daughter. The jury convicted
Hawkins of premeditated murder, making a false report, and abuse of a corpse.
After a separate sentencing hearing on the first degree murder conviction, the
jury imposed the death sentence based on 2 statutory aggravating circumstances
- Hawkins' prior violent felony convictions and his mutilation of the victim's
body after death. Hawkins appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed
his convictions and sentences.
The Tennessee Supreme Court reviewed the case automatically, as required by
statute, and affirmed the convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court ruled
that, although Hawkins was illegally seized without a warrant, the admission
into evidence of the statement he gave while illegally held was harmless error
beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court also rejected Hawkins other
assignments of error, concluding that the trial court had not erred: (1) by
refusing to accept Hawkins' guilty pleas to the non-capital offenses at the
beginning of trial, after the jury had been sworn; (2) by admitting testimony
about the victim's threats to call the police and report Hawkins' sexual abuse
of their daughter; (3) by admitting statements made by the victim in her
application for an order of protection against Hawkins about her fear of
Hawkins and her suspicions that he was sexually abusing their daughter; or (4)
by allowing Hawkins' children to testify about his acts of violence and sexual
abuse of their sister. The Court also rejected the challenges based on the
prosecutor's closing argument, explaining that any impropriety had not deprived
Hawkins of a fair trial.
The Court also affirmed Hawkins's death sentence, concluding that it was not
arbitrary, that the evidence sufficiently supported the jury's findings that
the aggravating circumstances had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and
that the aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances beyond a
reasonable doubt. Finally, the Court held the death sentence was not
disproportionate to the death sentences imposed in other cases, considering the
nature of the crime and the defendant. Justice Sharon G. Lee filed a separate
opinion agreeing that the death sentence was neither excessive nor
disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the
nature of the crime and the defendant.
To read the majority opinion in State of Tennessee v. James Hawkins, authored
by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, and the concurring opinion, authored by Justice
Sharon G. Lee, go to the opinions section of TNCourts.gov.
(source: The Chattanoogan)
Arkansas senator calls for impeachment of judge after death-penalty protest
An Arkansas senator is calling for the impeachment of a judge whose
death-penalty protest in front of the governor's mansion ahead of executions
last month sparked a debate over ethics and impartiality.
The display came about an hour after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell
Griffen effectively halted the state's planned executions by ruling April 14
against the state over a paralytic used in lethal injections.
Griffen lay strapped to a cot in front of the governor's residence, The
Associated Press reported. The judge said he was portraying a crucified Jesus
and that his hat covered a "black leather bound King James Version of the
State Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said in a statement Monday that the
protest "reeks of bias," adding that Griffen "selfishly disregarded his duties
as a judge."
"The Arkansas legal system was on display for the world to see and
unfortunately one judge decided to use this attention to make a mockery of our
judicial process," the legislator wrote.
Griffen noted on his online blog that the ruling was about property ownership
related to 1 of 3 drugs used in the state's lethal injections. It was not about
capital punishment, the judge said.
Garner said that Griffen has a "long history of this kind of extreme and
reckless" behavior. He cited references to police officers as "terrorist" and
society as a system of "white supremacy" as examples.
The Republican lawmaker said he is now calling for the state House of
Representatives to bring an article of impeachment against Griffen.
"We as the General Assembly can remove the stain that Griffen has left on our
judicial integrity," the legislator concluded.
Griffen has called for an investigation into possible ethics violations
committed by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and the Arkansas Supreme
Court after he was stripped of his authority to hear death-penalty cases.
4 Arkansas inmates - Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams and Kenneth
Williams - were put to death over a 10-day period in April. 8 executions had
initially been scheduled.
Court denies Columbia man's attempt to throw out death penalty
A federal court has denied another attempt from a Columbia man to throw out his
Judge Greg Kays dismissed Ernest L. Johnson's petition in the Western District
of Missouri on Monday. It was the 2nd time since an appellate court sent
Johnson's case back to the district level that Judge Kays dismissed the issue.
Kays first dismissed Johnson's lawsuit in September without prejudice, which
allowed Johnson to file a new complaint.
The U.S. Supreme Court stopped Johnson's execution just hours before he was set
to die from lethal injection. Various courts have upheld the death penalty for
Johnson, convicted in 1995 for killing Mabel Scruggs, Fred Jones and Mary
Bratcher at a convenience store on the corner of Rice Road and Ballenger Lane.
Kays' decision said Johnson once more failed to meet the legal standard needed
to claim lethal injection would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Johnson's lawyers, Brian Gaddy and Jeremy Weis, once more relied on Dr. Joel
Zivot's analysis of Johnson's brain. A 2011 MRI showed scar tissue remaining
from the removal of a tumor 3 years earlier. Zivot said Johnson could suffer a
"significant" seizure when given pentobarbital, Missouri's drug used in
Kays wrote that the evidence presented still didn't show that it was "sure or
very likely" that Johnson would suffer a painful seizure during the injection.
"While a 'significant' risk is noteworthy, it does not mean the same thing as
'sure or very likely,'" Kays wrote.
The judge also denied the argument that "nitrogen-induced hypoxia" could be
used instead of pentobarbital. The method has never been used in the U.S., but
Missouri still allows use of lethal gas. Gaddy and Weis claimed it would be a
more "humane" method of execution, but Kays wrote that they did not meet the
legal standard that it was "capable of being readily implemented." The state
would need to develop new protocols, Kays said, and train Department of
Corrections staff in that method.
Kays dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning Johnson could file a new
petition to re-argue his case. However, the statute of limitations may bar him
from doing so. Inmates have 5 years from the time they become aware that an
execution would be "cruel and unusual" to ask a court to toss out the
particular method the state plans to use. For Johnson, that would be "at least"
2011, when the MRI was performed, according to Kays.
(source: ABC news)
Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Arizona Man----Prosecutors have filed a
notice seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing his ex-wife's
Prosecutors have filed a notice seeking the death penalty for a man accused of
killing his ex-wife's boyfriend.
The Casa Grande Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/2qlxX3j ) Friday that
prosecutors believe the killing of 25-year-old Cody Virgin was done in a "cold,
calculated" manner and warrants the death penalty.
The suspect, 26-year-old William Randolph, had been arrested in February on
suspicion of killing Virgin and then disposing of his burned body.
He is accused of using a fake Facebook page to message Virgin and lure him to
the area where he had been killed.
Randolph has been charged with 1st-degree murder for Virgin's death and
aggravated harassment after being accused of instructing family members to
harass his former wife while he is in jail.
(source: Associated Press)
Sierra Lamar Trial: Closing Arguments Tuesday----If convicted, the jury could
impose the death penalty on Antolin Garcia-Torres.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning in the trial of Antolin
Garcia-Torres, the 26-year-old man who Santa Clara County prosecutors allege
murdered 15-year-old Sierra LaMar in 2012. The trial is wrapping up after
almost 3 months of witness testimony, including discussion of the physical
evidence key to the no-body case, including DNA found in Garcia-Torres' car and
on her clothes, which were recovered in a field near her house outside Morgan
If convicted, the jury could impose the death penalty on Garcia-Torres, who has
two children and has been in custody since May 21, 2012. Garcia-Torres, who has
not spoken throughout the trial, confirmed with Santa Clara County Superior
Court Judge Vanessa Zecher this morning that he would not be testifying.
"Nothing has changed," Garcia-Torres said in court today.
Prosecutor David Boyd and defense attorney Al Lopez both called Santa Clara
County sheriff's Detective Doug Kubik, a digital evidence forensic examiner who
investigated Sierra's disappearance, as the final witness in the case this
In the days after Sierra disappeared, Kubik logged into Sierra's Gmail and
Yahoo email accounts and social media profiles and investigated her final
actions on her MacBook, including browsing on Tumblr and Twitter and snapping
selfies in Photo Booth, on March 16, 2012.
Kubik found digital evidence that Sierra tweeted for the last time at 6:29
a.m., logged into Tumblr on her MacBook at 6:45 a.m. and last used her computer
to take selfies at 7:12 a.m. She missed her school bus that morning and did not
show up for school that day. Lopez questioned Kubik about digital traces
indicating that Sierra had deleted emails from her Gmail and Yahoo accounts.
"She did delete her emails," Kubik said.
But in response to the implied suggestion that the deleted emails had something
to do with her disappearance, Boyd pointed out that a "prolific Twitterer" like
Sierra would have been flooded with social media notifications, which people
To make a point, Boyd asked Kubik whether he had ever deleted an email from his
"Hundreds of times? Thousands?" Boyd asked.
"Maybe more," Kubik said.
On Jan. 30, prosecutors showed the jury surveillance footage of Garcia-Torres'
distinctive 1998 red Volkswagen Jetta leaving the Maple Leaf RV Park where he
lived 8 miles south of Sierra's bus stop at 7 a.m. the day she went missing.
Garcia-Torres has previously testified that he left to visit a Bank of America
branch and then buy gas at the Valero station 3 miles north of his RV park on
Monterey Road. Kubik was unable to retrieve security footage from that gas
station, or from the Coyote Valley Resort and RV Park on Monterey Road about 1
mile north of Sierra's house because, he said in court today, both businesses'
security cameras record over their footage every 10 days or so.
Boyd asked Kubik if he knew why the gas station footage would have been
"remotely, possibly important to this investigation," to which the detective
said he didn't know.
But the street-facing footage that Kubik did see from the Coyote Valley Resort
and RV Park appeared that it would have been unusable even if he had extracted
it in time, he said. The quality of the footage was too poor to identify
motorists on Monterey Road, Kubik said, though cars may have been identifiable
in the daylight.
Kubik confirmed with Boyd that he was not aware of whether the camera had even
been functioning on March 16, 2012. Jurors received instruction on the next
phase of the trial this afternoon. Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m.
3rd trial begins for man who once sat on death row for 1981 murder in Newport
More than 3 decades after a 77-year-old man was found beaten and strangled in
his Newport Beach condo, trial began Monday for a man who once sat on death row
for the crime.
James Andrew Melton, 65, originally was convicted and sentenced to death in
Orange County in 1982 for killing and robbing Anthony Lial DeSousa. A federal
judge in 2007 tossed the conviction after finding that Melton was
over-medicated by jail staff and could not understand his trial.
Melton was plucked from Death Row and tried again in 2014, but the case ended
in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting him.
On Monday, Melton faced his third trial, in a case with many of the witnesses
Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy, in his opening statement, said
there is no doubt Melton is the killer.
"At the end of this case ... all the evidence is going to point to 1 person,"
McGreevy told the jury.
However, Deputy Public Defender Denise Gragg, Melton's attorney, said a key
witness lacked credibility and DNA from the crime scene was not Melton's. This
time, Melton faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty, partly because of the
McGreevy said Melton met his prison lover, Johnny Boyd, at the California Men's
Colony in San Luis Obispo in 1980. Boyd was behind bars for forgery, while
Melton was serving time for an assault in Oakland.
There, the 2 hatched a plan to meet rich, older men through ads in gay
magazines and then go to their homes and rob them, he said.
DeSousa, who lived in a 2-story condo on Bolero Way, came out as a gay man
after his wife died and began placing ads looking for men in gay magazines.
Boyd, after his release from prison, responded to one of DeSousa's ads in The
Advocate, and spent time in his home, McGreevy said.
Boyd, who was given immunity to testify, said he set up a dinner date between
DeSousa and Melton. Boyd testified that Melton admitted the killing to him and
that he had seen Melton wearing DeSousa's jewelry.
DeSousa's nude body was found in his bedroom in October 1981. He had been
strangled with a cord and his car was missing.
McGreevy said Melton was later arrested with several of the victim's belongings
including his car keys, a gold watch, a tan suitcase, a movie projector,
jewelry, and pawn shop slips.
Boyd died of AIDS in 1992, but the jury will hear evidence from his original
testimony, McGreevy said.
In her opening statement, Gragg painted Boyd as a spurned lover with a history
of lying, including lying under oath in the case.
"The only evidence of a so-called scheme in prison was the statements of Johnny
Boyd," she said.
Gragg said Boyd was in love with Melton, and felt angry and abandoned when
Melton chose to live with his girlfriend after he was released from prison.
DeSousa, she said, had an active sex life with men visiting his home at all
hours. His room and bathroom had "lots of DNA," she said.
When the technology became available, swabs from the crime scene were tested
for DNA evidence, she said, adding that none of the DNA was linked to Melton.
According to court records, Melton has a history of violent crime, including 2
rapes, robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. A prosecutor once contended
in court that he attacked and attempted to rape a woman in a Berkeley
synagogue, although he was never convicted of those crimes.
In 1982, the California Supreme Court upheld his murder conviction. But in a
federal appeal, he said that the medical staff at Orange County Jail gave him
psychiatric drugs, for mental-health issues, that impaired his ability to
understand his trial.
(source: Orange County Register)
Meet A. Jay Chapman, Whose Lethal Injection Recipe Has Helped Kill 1,200 People
On a chilly, overcast night in June 2014, police in Half Moon Bay, California,
responded to a call about an 18-year-old who suffered from mental illness and
was refusing to take her medication, her brother told the dispatcher. A police
officer arrived on the scene to find the teenager clenching a knife. Within
half a minute of arriving, the deputy fired his gun and killed Yanira
The following week, as activists protested the use of force against someone who
they said had special needs, authorities sent Serrano-Garcia's body to Dr. A.
Jay Chapman, a mostly retired forensic pathologist. While Chapman was tasked
with confirming the cause of death in this case, he's also considered largely
responsible for another 1,277 deaths, according to figures by the Death Penalty
Information Center, a nonprofit that tracks issues related to capital
punishment. That's because the pathologist devised the 1st form of lethal
injection, which since 1977 has informed the way prisons across the country
execute death row inmates, including recently in Arkansas.
Chapman is widely called the "father of the lethal injection." He even claimed
to have coined the term "lethal injection," according to Deborah Denno, a
professor at the Fordham University School of Law who interviewed Chapman for a
2007 Fordham Law Review paper (though, as she notes, the term appeared in a
1954 report on capital punishment). In the late 1970s, when Chapman was the
Oklahoma medical examiner, a state legislator named Bill Wiseman asked him to
help come up with a more humane way to kill prisoners than methods such as
hanging and the electric chair. At the time, the Supreme Court had just
reinstated the death penalty after a years-long ban, and murderer Gary Gilmore
had faced a firing squad.
"I got a call from one of the legislators, who was William Wiseman," says
Chapman, 78, who works out of his home, a single-level house set back from a
tree-lined street in Santa Rosa, California, when he's not at the morgue. "He
asked me if we had any ideas about how executions should be carried out."
Chapman initially felt he wasn't qualified. "[My] 1st response was that [I] was
an expert in dead bodies, but not an expert in getting them that way," he once
recalled to Denno. He also worried that getting involved with the issue could
have a negative impact on his medical career. But he says he had spoken with
colleagues in Oklahoma about the Gilmore case and the way he died. "We treated
animals more humanely than we did people," he remembers thinking. "So from that
idea was the idea of execution by some pharmaceutical agent."
To create the formula, he says he proposed a "method that was used commonly
every day around the world in inducing anesthesia for surgical procedures. So
all it entailed was just carrying that to the extreme by using toxic amounts of
the drugs involved." He and Wiseman drafted the language quickly on a notepad,
according to Denno.
In May 1977, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill based on Chapman and
Wiseman's proposal. The Chapman Protocol or the Oklahoma Protocol, as it became
known, involved 3 ingredients: sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic ("That's the
drug that would make an inmate unconscious," Denno says); pancuronium bromide,
a muscle relaxant ("It literally paralyzes the inmate," says Denno, who recalls
Chapman telling her it was used for the benefit of "the people watching the
execution...so the inmate doesn't jerk around or show signs of looking alive
when he's actually dying"); and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac
arrest. (He initially recommended only the first 2 ingredients; in 1981, he
recommended that 3rd ingredient also be used.)
States began adopting protocols similar to Oklahoma's. The accused murderer
Charlie Brooks Jr. was the 1st person executed by Chapman's lethal injection
method, in Texas in 1982. He died on a white-sheeted gurney mattress after
praying and telling his girlfriend, who was in the execution room, that he
loved her, according to reports. Lethal injections then went into increasingly
widespread use, accounting for 41 of the remaining 114 executions in the 1980s,
396 of the 478 executions in the 1990s and 839 of the 854 since 2000, according
to a Death Penalty Information Center database. (As of last November, 31 states
had the death penalty, according to the center. 4 have issued moratoria on the
penalty since 2011: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon.)
Chapman didn't foresee that the method he inspired would grow so popular. Nor
did he want it to do so. "I didn't submit it to be written in stone," he says.
'I Wish I Had Never Heard of It'
The 3-drug combination Chapman recommended was widely used until 2009, when the
manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the ingredient. Since then,
states have improvised. Death penalty opponents have criticized the use of 1
substitute - midazolam - because of its association with botched executions.
The state of Arkansas recently said its supply of that drug was expiring,
leading to its attempt to execute 8 inmates over 11 days. Starting on April 20,
the state executed 4 inmates over 8 days, and courts stayed the other planned
executions. Though prisons no longer use Chapman's exact "cocktail," Denno says
credit still belongs to the pathologist. Chapman says he doesn't feel bad that
he is responsible for so many deaths, echoing to Newsweek comments he has
previously made: "If I hadn't done it someone else probably would have. I was
asked my opinion. I gave it."
But he does have misgivings about capital punishment in general, because of
wrongful convictions. "The problem I see with the death penalty is the fact
that people who are responsible for carrying out their duties sometimes don't
do it in a fashion of integrity," he says.
As for botched executions, he says the blame lies with the individuals who
administer the injections, a warning he first gave just days after Oklahoma
passed the bill, according to a newspaper report from the time. Because of
botched incidents, lawsuits have alleged that lethal injections violate the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment." One alleged
that states copied the Oklahoma method without medical or scientific grounds.
But courts have upheld the method. In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that
it would not issue stays on 4 lethal injection executions scheduled in
Oklahoma, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, "Petitioners have
committed horrific crimes...but the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one
should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain
before death," and she condemned the court's "failure to act."
What Chapman does regret is that of all the work he has done over his decades
in medicine, history will remember him most for the lethal injection. "I wish I
had never heard of it," he says, referring to the lethal injection issue. "The
thing that I was there to do [in Oklahoma] was to establish a medical examiner
system, which we did.... But no one remembers that. They only remember that I
once gave this opinion as to how an execution could be carried out." He adds,
sighing, "I wish I had never been asked for my opinion."
History almost didn't remember him for it. It wasn't until the mid-2000s,
around the time that the Supreme Court was hearing a case about the lethal
injection method, that Chapman's name began appearing in news reports and
literature. Wiseman, the former state representative who enlisted Chapman's
help, mentioned his name in a letter to The New York Times in 2004. 2 years
later, Chapman spoke to the Times for a front-page article about the problems
with some lethal injections, and he appeared in The New York Times Magazine the
following year. His name has been seen more widely in the past decade.
"He's a troubling, troubling creator of this 3-drug method," says Denno, who
reviewed Chapman'a scribbled handwritten notes from the 1970s. She views
Chapman's nearly accidental involvement in the death penalty issue as
emblematic of a failure to lock down an appropriate way of handling death row
in the United States. "When we start talking about execution methods, this has
been a hodgepodge, off-the-cuff effort," she says. "This is one big mess of a
Wiseman reportedly had more regrets than Chapman does, telling a local news
station in 2005 that the thought of how many people he had helped kill kept him
up at night. "I made the wrong mistake," he said. "It make me kind of sick and
pretty disgusted with myself." After serving as a state representative, he went
on to become an Episcopal priest. He died in 2007 when he crashed a small plane
he was piloting.
Such thoughts don't keep Chapman up at night. "I haven't thought about it," he
says. He now does consulting and has a contract working with the Sonoma County
Sheriff's Office, doing medical examinations on people whose causes of death
are unknown. He likes to garden, practice photography and travel. He recently
drove cross-country to Maine and in 2016 traveled on the Trans-Siberian
Railway, going from Tokyo to St. Petersburg.
His passion for traveling has also taken him to Nepal, where he spent about a
decade teaching at a medical school in Kathmandu until around 2007. Now he
keeps a somewhat morbid memento from those years in his living room, by the
fireplace - a human skull covered in silver that he purchased at a Kathmandu
market. He was told it was a real skull that had been used in religious
rituals. It's a fitting home decoration for a man whose career is so tied to
The pathologist says he isn't convinced the skull is real: "I've never cut into
it to be sure."
The Overwhelming Evidence Against the Death Penalty---Arkansas' recent,
gruesome executions are further proof that we'll never find a humane way to put
people to death.
The continuing controversy surrounding America's reliance on lethal injection
for capital punishment was vividly on display in the 4 executions Arkansas
carried out last week. 2 of those executions were marked by serious problems.
Last Monday, it took almost an hour to find a vein and complete the execution
of Jack Jones. And a witness to Thursday night's execution of Kenneth Williams
said the condemned man was "coughing, convulsing, lurching, (and) jerking"
after the administration of midazolam, which was supposed to make him
unconscious and insensate.
But most commentary about those specific mishaps has ignored the fact that the
difficulties with lethal injection can neither be attributed solely to the use
or misuse of a single drug nor solved by any combination of drugs. Those
problems are variations of the same problems that have beset every execution
method that, over the last century and more, America has tried in the hopes of
putting people to death in a safe, reliable, and humane manner.
Since the earliest recorded execution in the United States in 1608, our country
has put to death approximately 16,000 men and women. Throughout most of that
time, we relied on hanging to carry out executions. However, from the end of
the nineteenth century to the present day, the U.S. has sought new ways to
impose death without unnecessary pain. The continuing search for an execution
method that would prove unfailingly humane and civilized has successfully
assuaged the sensibilities of the American public, but utterly failed to set
capital punishment apart from the heinous crimes it is used to punish.
Through successive changes in methods of execution - from hanging to
electrocution, gas chamber to lethal injection - the U.S. has struggled to make
the practice of capital punishment appear peaceful and precise and transform
execution from dramatic spectacle to a cool, bureaucratic operation. But this
struggle has never borne fruit. In recent research, I and my collaborators
examined all American executions from 1890-2010. We found that 3 % of those
executions were botched in one way or another.
Each of America's methods of execution has come with its own distinctive set of
problems which have, in time, fueled the search for alternatives.
Hanging was abandoned after a long record of blunders. When a hanging went
wrong, instead of a quick severing of the spinal column, it resulted in the
condemned either slowly strangling to death or being decapitated.
The 2 popular alternatives to the noose - the electric chair and the gas
chamber - were advertised to be foolproof and much more reliable than hanging,
but also had their share of problems. More than 4,000 people were put to death
by electrocution. Approximately 2 % of them were botched, some of them when the
condemned caught on fire and filled the death chamber with smoke and the smell
of burning flesh. The gas chamber, first used in 1922, proved to be even less
reliable. More than 5 % of executions in the gas chamber were botched when the
gas did not produce rapid loss of consciousness and witnesses watched as the
condemned suffered an agonizingly slow asphyxiation.
The firing squad, which has been used very infrequently as a method of
execution, showed itself to be gory and troubling. Indeed, in one of its first
uses, the condemned stiffened up in the chair in which he had been placed,
which caused the bullets to miss his heart. He died 27 minutes later, having
bled to death.
Lethal injection was adopted in 1977, with great fanfare, by the state of
Oklahoma as its method of execution, and was 1st used in Texas in 1982. 2 of
its leading proponents, Oklahoma legislators Bill Wiseman and Bill Dawson, said
that it offered an alternative to the "inhumanity, visceral brutality, and
cost" of earlier methods. Here, again, practice betrayed the promise. In fact,
executions by lethal injection are botched at a higher rate than any of the
other methods employed since the late nineteenth century: 7 %.
Over the last several years, several well-publicized botched lethal injections
- in Oklahoma, Ohio, Arizona, Alabama, and now in Arkansas - have commanded the
nation's attention. Lethal injection is a complicated procedure, requiring a
precise combination of skills in locating useable veins, setting intravenous
injection lines, and administering the right dosages of lethal chemicals.
Despite the clinical, hospital-like appearance of death by lethal injection,
the condemned suffer dramatically from mishaps - even when it's not apparent to
witnesses. As Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan put it in an opinion 2 years
ago, in such circumstances lethal injection can be "the chemical equivalent of
being burned alive."
The history of botched executions in the United States shows that we have tried
earnestly to find a technological magic bullet to put people to death without
turning it into a gruesome spectacle. It also shows that we haven't succeeded
in this regard and that we're unlikely to do so in the future. Given more than
2 centuries of ghastly, overwhelming evidence, it is time to stop fooling
ourselves and renounce capital punishment for good.
(source: Austin Sarat is Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson
Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College and
author of Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death
Penalty----The New Republic)
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