death penalty news----UTAH, ARIZ., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-05-24 14:11:27 UTC
Raw Message
May 24


Utah government chooses firing squad over lethal injections

Lethal injection drugs are scarce, which means Utah will be using its second
choice, firing squads, to carry out the death penalty.

Hospira, the sole legal provider of the lethal injection drug, said its will no
longer make the drug because of a global campaign by death penalty opponents,
as stated in an E-newsletter this year from the Council of State Governments.
The shortage of lethal injections has caused many states to use firing squads
or to use their injections sparingly.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed bill HB11 2 years ago to allow execution by firing
squad if lethal injection was not available.

Mississippi and Oklahoma also have a firing squad as an execution option.
Whereas Utah uses firing squad as a 2nd choice, Mississippi and Oklahoma have
it as a 3rd choice.

"The best and most humane alternative to the injection is the firing squad, and
several states have the firing squad as a pending decision to their execution
options - for Utah, the firing squad a permanent solution," said Rep. Paul Ray,
R-Clearfield, the chief sponsor of HB11.

Ralph Dellapiana, who founded Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty in
2007, said there is no definition for what constitutes a "humane way to kill
another human being."

Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a group of multiple
organizations that oppose the death penalty and who "are dedicated to stopping
executions in our state," according to its website.

The death penalty has been repealed in 134 countries as well as in 15 states
since 2009.

Dellapiana said having a man's life in his hands moved him to act to repeal the
death penalty.

Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty went public to protest the
execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. Dellapiana said Gardner had not been
given a fair trial by both state and federal courts.

Dellapiana said Gardner's execution caused a widespread disturbance and
disapproval, and he suspects backlash will occur again with the reinstating of
the firing squad.

"The basic alternative to the death penalty is to have life without possibility
of parole be the maximum sentence for the most egregious murder cases,"
Dellapiana said. 'Notably, a recent poll shows that Utahans also favor this
option when given the choice."

(source: Hayden Wise writes for the Education and State policy beat on the BYU
Daily Universe)


7 county inmates on death row

Of 119 inmates currently sitting on Arizona's death row, 7 inmates are from
Mohave County.

At the May 15 supervisor meeting, Mohave County Attorney Smith told the board
about being with his office for 30 years and only 1 death row inmate from the
county, Daniel Wayne Cook, has been executed. Cook was put to death in August
2012 for killing a man and a 16-year-old boy in Lake Havasu City in July 1987.

Mohave County has 2 death penalty cases pending in Superior Court. The 2
capital cases are expected to go to trial in the next fiscal year, costing the
county an additional $400,000 in the 2017-18 fiscal year in indigent defense

Justin James Rector, 28, is charged with 1st-degree murder for the Sept. 2,
2014, death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella and leaving her body near
her Bullhead City home. A new trial date is expected to be set at a June 2

Darrell Bryant Ketchner, 59, also faces the death penalty for the July 4, 2009
murder of Ariel Allison, 18, in Kingman. His 1st conviction for 1st-degree
murder and burglary was overturned in December 2014.

There are 117 men and 2 women sitting on death row in Arizona. Of the 119 death
row inmates in the state, 67 are Caucasians, 26 are Mexican-Americans, 17 are
African-Americans, 1 is a Mexican national, 3 are Native Americans, 3 are Asian
and 2 are listed as other.

There are 7 inmates from Mohave County on death row awaiting execution. Brad
Lee Nelson, 46, is the most recent inmate sentenced to death in December 2009
for the June 2006 beating death of 13-year-old Amber Leann Graff of Golden

Charles David Ellison, 51, of Lake Havasu City was sentenced to death in
February 2004 for killing an elderly Kingman couple in February 1999.

Frank Anderson, 69, was sentenced to death in December of 2002 for killing 3
members of a Golden Valley family in August 1996. Anderson's co-defendant,
Bobby Poyson, 40, was also sentenced to death in September 1998 for murdering
the same family.

The oldest inmate, Graham Saunders Henry, 70, was convicted and sentenced in
February 1995 for kidnapping and killing an elderly Las Vegas man in a remote
desert about 40 miles north of Kingman in June 1986.

Danny L. Jones, 52, was sentenced to death in December 1993 for the baseball
bat murder of a Bullhead City man, his 74-year-old grandmother and his
7-year-old daughter in March 1992.

Roger W. Murray, 46, was sentenced to death in October 1992 for the May 1991
shotgun slaying of a Grasshopper Junction couple. His brother, Robert W. Murray
was also sentenced to death for the murders but he died in prison in June 2014.

Nelson and Anderson's cases are currently on appeal, Indigent Defense
Administrator Blake Schritter said.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Divided board hires new criminal law firm. How will it affect cases in Merced?

A divided Merced County Board of Supervisors awarded a $9.4 million legal
services contract to a Madera law firm on Tuesday, over the protests of
numerous Merced-area attorneys who warned that changing defense firms could
throw dozens of cases into limbo.

The 3-2 vote ended a 14-year relationship with a long-time Merced County
defense attorney and possibly opened the door for lengthy delays in dozens of
high-profile and felony cases currently pending in court. Several Merced-area
attorneys warned the supervisors of the possibility of a chain reaction of

Supervisors Lee Lor, Lloyd Pareira and Jerry O'Banion approved the $9.4 million
contract with Madera-based Ciummo & Associates. Supervisors Rodrigo Espinoza
and Daron McDaniel voted against the contract.

Merced Defense Associates, led by veteran attorney Tom Pfeiff, held the
contract for 14 years. Tuesday's vote extended MDA???s contract for 3 months
past its planned June expiration to allow for a transition period in Merced's
criminal justice system.

While the Public Defender's Office represents suspects who cannot afford to
hire private attorneys, cases are referred to MDA when the county public
defenders have a potential conflict of interest, such as representing a
co-defendant in a case.

Local prosecutors and defense attorneys have expressed concern about switching
vendors for defense services while coming off of a period where 90 people were
murdered in 3 years. Many of those cases are pending in Merced Superior Court.
MDA-contracted attorneys are handling more than 30 homicide cases, including 17
cases where their clients are facing a potential lifetime prison sentence.

The board vote came after more than 2 hours of public comment and supervisor
discussion. Local attorneys, including contractors with MDA and attorneys with
both the Merced County Public Defender's Office and District Attorney's Office,
urged the board to extend MDA's contract.

Chris Loethen, a deputy public defender, said about 10 years ago he turned down
a job offer from Ciummo because he was going to be assigned felony cases with
no prior experience. He urged the board to renew MDA's contract. "They fight
cases," he said. "They don't run from them."

Rob Carroll, chief deputy district attorney, also spoke in favor of MDA. "Our
big concern is we want to make sure homicide cases continue to get handled
professionally," he said. "MDA has done an excellent job. They've done a really
fantastic job."

Many members of the local NAACP also spoke in favor of MDA, including the
group's president Darryl Davis, who said their mission is to fight for equality
and justice for the poor people of Merced County.

Richard Ciummo, his partner and the future supervising attorney for the Merced
office also spoke, answering questions about the firm and describing their

"I am Mr. Ciummo, and I don't have horns and a tail," he said. "We have some
history and experience in doing this. I stand by the quality of our attorneys -
all of them."

Michael Fitzgerald, CEO of Ciummo & Associates, said any rumors about high
turnover at the firm are not true. "It's not a situation where we hire
attorneys fresh out of law school and cycle them out," he said. "That's just
not the case."

County staff requested bids for the service in August after O'Banion put the
suggestion to a vote by the board. 2 law firms responded - MDA and Ciummo &

The approved 5-year contract includes 7 staff attorneys, 2 staff investigators,
6 contract attorneys and additional contract investigators. Ciummo's attorneys
will handle all homicide cases and up to 2 death penalty cases a year, but not
more than 3 death penalty cases at a time.

Both Loethen and Public Defender Dave Elgin said Doug Foster, who will be the
supervising attorney at Ciummo's Merced office, has an outstanding reputation
in the legal community. "I'm excited about Doug Foster coming in and running
that office," Elgin said. "I think that can only be a positive thing for
indigent defendants in this county."

Ciummo said he Pfeiff met recently to begin discussing a transition. Ciummo
also reassured the supervisors that the firm intends to hire local attorneys,
even attorneys who have contracted with MDA.

"We've been expecting this," Pfeiff said. "Now it's time to make the transition
as smooth as possible. That's what I'm going to try to do."

"The court is confident that there will be a smooth transition with the parties
responsible for handling all pending cases," Presiding Judge Donald Proietti
said in a statement to the Sun-Star.

Before the vote, McDaniel said he believes the competition and accountability
presented through the contract renewal was healthy for the county.

"A lot of you folks elected me to not rubber stamp things," he said. "Because
we're having this discussion - this is fantastic. This is government. This is
what we're supposed to do."

The supervisors didn't elaborate on the reasons behind their votes, but
previously McDaniel and O'Banion said they wondered about a conflict of
interest for MDA since Pfeiff works with Cindy Morse, whose husband, Larry
Morse II, is the county's district attorney. However, the Fair Political
Practices Commission said in a letter to the county the relationship was not a

Pareira reminded MDA's contract attorneys that the board's decision isn't
personal. "If it's your livelihood at stake, this is crucial and vital to you,"
he said. "The board is not being asked to employ you or to manage people's
defenses. Don't think of this as a slight on you. It's not."

Espinoza, who voted against the contract, said he thought the board should
explore an in-house conflict program, which would be much cheaper. "I think we
should ask more questions," he said.

O'Banion said before the county contracted with MDA, conflict services were
dealt with through the public defender's office. But at this time, he was "not
interested" in going through the public defender's office for that service. He
said he'd consider it in the future.

Lor said the county should welcome new the new lawyers. "Should we choose the
outside firm, let???s give them a Merced County welcome," she said. "The
quality service we provide to the community is what matters."

(source: mercedsunstar.com)


Firing Squad: A botched execution is nearly impossible

The fine citizens of Arkansas killed 4 killers in 1 week last month. Like most
other states with a death penalty for heinous felonies, Arkansas executes its
murders by lethal injection. And therein lies the problem.

Last year, of course, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled our death penalty
unconstitutional in compliance with an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision
about how death-penalty sentencing occurs. Now, the House has approved a
complying death-penalty bill. It's now up to the Senate.

Lethal injection as an execution method is of fairly recent origin. Used to be,
back when almost all states had a death penalty, that the most common methods
were either electric chair or hanging. A few states had gas chambers. And a
couple states used firing squads. Utah still has that option. Delaware still
had hanging as an option until just a couple years ago.

The theory here was that lethal injection was more humane; that it satisfied
the constitutional requirement that punishment not be "cruel and unusual." The
"cruel" part has come to mean pain-free. Utterly pain-free. No discomfort

The other day, the New York Times (of all publications) published an op-ed that
advocated a return to public hangings and to the use of stocks for lesser
crimes. Note we said "public" hangings. These were common in colonial times and
were understood to be quite usual at the time of the 1787 Constitutional
Convention. Think about that for a second.

There are at least 2 issues here. One is the efficacy of the death penalty at
all. Progressives and many religious denominations, including mine, oppose the
death penalty in all its forms. The 2nd issue is the humanity of the method of
putting murderers to death.

Most states use a 3-drug cocktail for executions. One drug puts the convict to
sleep and incapable of experiencing pain. Another stops breathing. The 3rd
stops the heart. Interesting, isn't it, that we allow veterinarians and animal
shelters to put our dogs and cats to "sleep" using only 1 drug, and we don't
accuse the veterinarians of cruelty to animals. Why?

But now, the issue isn't so much all that, but rather the inability of states
to procure one or more of the drugs needed for the cocktail. Drug companies
resist selling to states for that purpose. Doctors refuse to participate based
on medical ethics requirements to "do no harm." One result is less-well-trained
medics inserting the intravenous drips required to inject the drugs. A handful
of problematic executions have resulted.

So let's just admit it. Lethal injection is too complicated a method of

Many years ago, my father witnessed an execution. My home state is Iowa, and
back then, the method was hanging. It seems that in my small, rural home
county, a man had come from Chicago tracking his wife. He found her in bed with
another man in our local motel. Boom, he offed her. And then headed back to
Chicago. The state police stopped him at the Illinois state line (the
Mississippi River).

My father was invited, indeed almost required, to go to Fort Madison, the
location of the Iowa State Penitentiary, as a witness because he was the editor
and publisher of the county's dominant newspaper. He went.

His report back to my mother and me the next day (I was in the single digits)
was that the prisoner was led into the prison's room, walked up the gallows and
had a hood placed over his head.

The hangman put the rope around his neck, and the warden pulled the lever,
releasing the door on the floor. The man was dead by the time the doctor
reached him a few seconds later. This method works; it works quickly. Because
hanging severs the spinal cord, it kills instantly.

Even more efficient is the firing squad. You arrange for 3 or more marksmen.
You give some of them bullets and the others blanks, although this may not be
necessary if you recruit your marksmen from volunteers. Most likely, there are
plenty of Army- or Marine Corps-trained marksmen who would be glad to pull the

A botched execution is nearly impossible in this scenario. An Army or Marine
Corps marksman at 25 feet won't miss the target over the heart. One or more
bullets through the heart results in instant death.

I have lived in a number of states as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and
military man. Iowa and New York have repealed their death penalties. Wisconsin
never had a death penalty. Texas, Georgia and Virginia, especially Texas, have
had busy death chambers.

Advocate for repeal if you wish. But if we don't in Delaware, then make it
sensible, simple, painless and quick. Most likely, that's more than the killer

(source: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin,
Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired----capegazette.com)


Dylann Roof to appeal death sentence

A white supremacist sentenced to death for killing 9 worshippers in a racist
attack at a Charleston church has petitioned an appeals court for mercy.

Attorneys for Dylann Roof filed notice Tuesday they were appealing his
conviction and sentence to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, the federal judge who presided over Roof's trial rejected
his 1st appeal, ruling the conviction and death sentence for the June 2015
massacre at Emanuel AME church should stand.

Roof argued his crime didn't fit the definition of interstate commerce needed
for a federal case. The judge ruled Roof used a telephone to call the church
and the bullets and gun were manufactured in a different state.

(source: Associated Press)


Women on death row: Female death row inmates in the U.S.----The dozens of women
on death row across the country have been sentenced for anything from hiring
hitmen to brutally torturing their victims. Click through to see women awaiting
the death penalty.


(source: abc15.com)

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