2017-11-17 14:10:32 UTC
Pfizer warns Nebraska to return any lethal injection drugs it has manufactured
that state may have
A major pharmaceutical company demanded in a letter a month ago that the State
of Nebraska return any lethal injection drugs it might have that were
manufactured by the company or its affiliate.
Pfizer adopted a policy in 2016 banning the use of its products in an execution
as a "misuse" of drugs intended to save lives.
"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we
serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its
products as lethal injections for capital punishment," stated the Oct. 4
letter, signed by Robert Jones, a public relations director at Pfizer.
Officials with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and the office
of Gov. Pete Ricketts declined to say Thursday if the state had obtained any
"We are not disclosing the identity of the supplier at this time," said
Corrections spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith.
But Smith said the state spent $10,500 on the 4 lethal injection drugs
purchased last month.
This comes 2 years after Nebraska spent $54,000 on similar drugs that it never
A week ago, the state informed a death row inmate that it had obtained the
substances it planned to use in carrying out the inmate's death sentence.
3 of the drugs are on Pfizers list of substances it prohibits for use in
If Nebraska obtained drugs made by Pfizer, it risks a lawsuit from the company
or one of its distributors claiming that it violated the company's ban on using
drugs on its list of "restricted products" for a lethal injection, according to
a national authority on the death penalty.
"The question is: Is there someone who is violating their contract with
Pfizer?" asked Robert Dunham of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty
Information Center on Thursday. "Or is a distributor being misled about the use
of the drug?"
Dunham said Pfizer typically doesn't send such "demand" letters unless it
suspects that a state has obtained drugs manufactured by it.
The Pfizer letter was among several documents released by Corrections this week
in response to public records requests from The World-Herald and the ACLU of
Nebraska. The newspaper and the civil rights group each independently requested
information about the state's efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs.
The records show that the state on Sept. 19 received federal approval, if
necessary, to import controlled substances. On Oct. 12, records indicated that
4 lethal injection drugs were being stored at a prison in Lincoln.
The documents also list expiration dates for the drugs. 2 of the drugs expire
in July and August 2018.
That raises doubts about whether Nebraska could set an execution date before
the drugs expire, according to a leading death penalty opponent, State Sen.
Ernie Chambers of Omaha.
While the state has declined to identify the source of the 4 drugs, Smith, the
Corrections spokeswoman, said last week that they came from a source in the
Dunham said the information released so far seems to indicate two possible
sources: either a private compounding pharmacy or a distributor that handles
The records released by the state indicated that at least 2 of the drugs had
been sent to a laboratory in Minnesota for testing. Such testing is required by
state law before the drugs can be used in an execution, Smith said.
The 4 drugs that the state obtained included 3 on Pfizer's list of 13
"restricted products" the company has said cannot be used in lethal injections.
The 3 are diazepam, fentanyl citrate and potassium chloride. A 4th drug
obtained by the state, cisatracurium besylate, is not manufactured by Pfizer, a
company spokesman said Thursday.
The Pfizer letter said the company would reimburse the state for any drugs it
returned that were made by Pfizer or Hospira, a Pfizer company. A company
spokesman declined to say if Nebraska had returned any drugs, referring
questions to state officials.
Nebraska, as well as several other states, have scrambled to obtain lethal
injection drugs in recent years, in part because companies like Pfizer have
banned their use for executions.
Some documents released to the ACLU illustrated that. Included were pleas from
officials in Nevada and Mississippi who were seeking help to obtain lethal
injection drugs for their states.
Danielle Conrad, who heads the ACLU of Nebraska, said Thursday that the
information released to the ACLU raises more questions than it answers.
"Every attempt to tinker with the machinery of death doesn't bring us any
closer to an execution," Conrad said. "It just raises a new set of questions."
Almost 1/2 of the records request by the group produced a state response that
"no records" exist. Conrad, a former state senator, said the ACLU is reviewing
whether its request was fully complied with, adding that she expects more to be
released next week.
Nebraska has yet to seek an execution warrant for the inmate, Jose Sandoval,
who was sentenced to die for his role in the murders of 5 people inside a
Norfolk bank in 2002. Last week's notice was a required step before an
execution date is requested.
There has not been an execution in Nebraska for 20 years, since the electric
chair was in use. Electrocution was ruled unconstitutional as cruel and unusual
punishment by the Nebraska Supreme Court, so the state switched to lethal
But the state has stumbled in past attempts to obtain the drugs.
In 2011, a Swiss manufacturer demanded the return of a lethal injection drug
purchased through a broker in India, saying it had been improperly obtained by
the broker. 2 years ago, Nebraska spent $54,000 through the same broker, Chris
Harris, for drugs it never received. That shipment was blocked by federal
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
Death penalty hearing for Anthony Garcia will be delayed until March
A 3-judge panel will hear, during a 2-day hearing in March, whether Anthony
Garcia deserves the death penalty.
Day 1: March 12.
Day 2: March 13, the 10-year anniversary of the day Garcia invaded a stately
Dundee home and knifed to death an 11-year-old boy, Thomas Hunter, and a
57-year-old grandma, Shirlee Sherman.
"It's fitting," said Jeff Sherman, Sherman's son.
Brad Waite, Sherman's brother, said the panel needn't look much farther than
the carnage Garcia left behind nearly 10 years ago - a 6th-grader just home
from school and a woman on the verge of leaving her cleaning job to pick up her
"It'd be nice if they'd announce the sentence on that day," said Brad Waite,
The judges won't. In fact, Judges Gary Randall, Russell Bowie and Ricky
Schreiner likely will spend that day listening to Garcia's defense team rattle
off their reasons Garcia shouldn't receive the death penalty.
Judge Randall granted the delay Thursday in order to give Garcia???s new
attorneys a chance to get up to speed on the voluminous case. His former
attorneys - Robert Motta Sr. and Jr. of Chicago - officially left the case Aug.
It's just the latest delay in a murder case that has dominated headlines over
the past decade.
After a man wearing a dark suit killed Hunter and Sherman in the middle of a
spring afternoon, the case went unsolved. Then, in May 2013, the killer struck
again - murdering Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary at their home near 114th
and Pacific Streets.
Garcia, 44, killed the 4 as revenge for his 2001 termination from Creighton
University Medical Center. Dr. Roger Brumback and Dr. William Hunter, Thomas's
father, fired Garcia after several incidents of misbehavior.
Douglas County prosecutors brought charges against Garcia in July 2013.
After numerous delays - most of them defense-related - he was convicted in
October 2016, 1,200 days after his arrest.
March 12 will be the 1,700th day of the court case against Garcia. And Thursday
provided a further question: Will Garcia even bother to attend his own hearing?
He didn't show up Thursday - the 2nd time he has refused to come out of his
After a correctional officer showed up to take him to a transport van, Garcia
asked why. The officer handed him a judge's order for the hearing. Garcia read
it twice, the officer said. Garcia then pulled the covers over his head and
laid back down on his bunk.
"Did he have something else to do?" an attorney asked.
Garcia's new defense team has been busy. Jeff Pickens, Garcia's attorney and
the head of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, said he and commission
attorneys have been getting up to speed on all the documents, including 7,000
pages of presentence investigative reports, 1,900 pages of jail notes and 258
recordings of Garcia's phone calls.
Another reason for the delay: Pickens said Garcia's former attorneys haven't
turned over the discovery file of police reports and have stopped responding to
requests to do so.
The commission also has filed more than 50 pages of motions challenging
Nebraska's death penalty. Todd Lancaster, an attorney for the commission, asked
the judge to declare it unconstitutional. Among other arguments, the commission
says the decision on who gets the death penalty is arbitrary, the imposition of
the death penalty is unequal across the state and nation and that a defendant
has a right to have a jury, not judges, decide whether a death sentence should
A 3rd attorney, Sarah Newell, pointed out Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' "intense
involvement" in donating to and helping lead the charge to put Nebraska's death
penalty back on the ballot after the Legislature had repealed it.
Said Newell: "The crux of (the argument) is the governor, by his intense
involvement in the referendum process, has violated the separation of powers
Sherman's family lamented the delay.
"It's ridiculous," Waite said. "It's been over a year since conviction - and
here we are, still waiting. If I ran my business the way they're doing this,
I'd have been in bankruptcy a long time ago ... It's just on and on. It
disrupts our lives - everybody in the whole family."
(source: Omaha World-Herald)
Will the U of U shooting suspect face the death penalty?
The man suspected of shooting and killing a University of Utah student is
expected to be officially charged in Salt Lake County Thursday.
24-year-old Austin Boutain will most likely be charged with murder. If he is
charged with aggravated murder he will be eligible for the death penalty.
In aggravated murder prosecutors have to show there was another crime on top of
the murder. Police say that was the attempted carjacking of Chen Wei Guo which
ultimately ended in Guo's death.
Boutain's wife Kathleen may also be charged. She was originally arrested on
drug charges, but both of them have a history of violence.
An affidavit ABC4 first reported Wednesday shows that Austin confessed to
killing a man at a Colorado RV park because he was making sexual advances
toward his wife. He confessed to stealing the victim's pickup and admitted,
when he was finally caught in Salt Lake City, he was wearing the dead man's
clothes. The probable cause statement filed by police in Salt Lake says Austin
confessed to murdering Guo as well.
ARIZONA----new death sentence:
Ame Deal update: John Allen gets death penalty in murder of 10-year-old girl
A Phoenix man was sentenced to death Thursday in the 2011 death of a
10-year-old girl who was locked in a storage box in sweltering summer heat.
Jurors in Maricopa County Superior Court deliberated for only a few hours
before deciding that John Allen should get the death penalty.
The jury previously determined that Ame Deal's death was especially cruel or
Allen, 29, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and child abuse on Nov. 8.
His 28-year-old wife, Sammantha Allen, was a cousin of Deal's and was convicted
of murder in the girl's death in June. She's now the 3rd woman on Arizona's
Prosecutors said the couple forced Ame into the small, plastic box as
punishment for stealing ice pops. They went to sleep and the girl was found
dead the next morning.
Defense attorney Robert Reinhardt had argued that John Allen, a father of 4
young children, did not intend for the girl to die and that the other adults in
the home created the abusive environment.
But County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Thursday that the Allens "received the
only proportionate penalty that could rightly be imposed for the torture and
pain they put Ame through. Ame deserved so much more from the adults
responsible for her care."
Ame's death was the culmination of a shocking history of abuse at the hands of
relatives who were charged with caring for her.
Authorities said the girl was forced to eat dog feces, crush aluminum cans
barefoot, consume hot sauce and get in the storage box on other occasions.
She also was kicked in the face, beaten with a wooden paddle and forcibly
dunked after being thrown in a cold swimming pool, according to police
Adults at the home originally claimed Ame hid during a late-night game of
hide-and-seek and wasn't found until hours later.
3 other relatives are in prison serving sentences for abusing Ame.
David Deal, who is listed as the girl's father on her birth certificate, is
serving a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.
Ame's legal guardian at the time of her death was her aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann,
who is serving a 24-year prison sentence for a child abuse conviction. Ame's
grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving 10 years for child abuse.
Authorities said Ame's mother left the family years earlier after suffering
abuse from relatives and moved to Kansas without her daughter.
(source: Associated Press)
Cost of death penalty case keeps climbing
The cost of a Bullhead City murder suspect's death penalty case could exceed
more than $1 million by the time it goes to trial.
Justin James Rector, 29, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child
abuse and abandonment of a dead body for the Sept. 2, 2014, death of 8-year-old
The total cost for Rector's defense including the 2017-18 fiscal year is now
$582,579. That dates to the 2014-15 fiscal year. The cost includes $409,822 for
all of Rector's defense attorneys and $172,007 for investigative services for
the last 4 fiscal years, indigent defense services director Blake Schritter
So far, this current fiscal year, his attorney fees are $31,056 and the
investigative services are $20,415. During the 2016-17 fiscal year, his
attorney bill was $199,290 and the investigative services cost $129,777. In the
2015-16 fiscal year, attorney fees were $121,725 and the investigative services
were $13,578, Schritter added.
Rector's next hearing before Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen is scheduled for
today. Vacated several times, Rector's trial has not been scheduled and the
length of the trial is not known but could last a month or longer.
Quinn Jolly made his 1st appearance as 1st chair on Rector's death penalty
murder case in September. Julia Cassels, who was assigned to the case in July
2016, is the 2nd counsel in the murder case. 2 death penalty qualified
attorneys are required in a capital murder case.
Rector's previous attorney took the case in March 2015 but withdrew in July.
The public defender's office withdrew from the case in March 2015.
(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)
Nevada seeks to use untried execution drugs including opioid
For Nevada's 1st execution in more than a decade, state officials are turning
to a never-before-tried combination of drugs, including a powerful painkiller
that is fueling much of the opioid epidemic and a paralyzing drug that could
mask any signs of trouble.
If the state's highest court approves the plan and it works without
complications, the system could offer an alternative execution method to other
states seeking hard-to-obtain drugs for lethal injections. But the drugs also
carry serious risks, and their use in an execution could invite new shortages
of medication used for surgery and pain relief.
"It's an experiment," said Deborah Denno, a law professor and lethal injection
expert at Fordham University in New York. "It sounds like a high-risk venture.
Even trained people can't claim to know what's going to happen."
None of the drugs - the sedative diazepam, the painkiller fentanyl and the
paralytic cisatracurium - has been used in executions before.
Fentanyl has been at the center of the opioid crisis, with thousands of
overdose deaths blamed on heroin laced with the synthetic opioid that often
enters the U.S. from China and other countries. A fentanyl overdose killed
Prince in 2016.
An execution using diazepam, commonly known as Valium, along with high doses of
fentanyl, could risk complications such as vomiting, which is common in people
experiencing fentanyl overdoses.
"It could be ugly," said Jonathan Groner, a Columbus, Ohio, surgeon and lethal
Using fentanyl for an execution could also spur drugmakers in the U.S. and
abroad to pull the legal version of the drug from the market in protest, Groner
said, which could cut the supply for other legitimate purposes.
A similar scenario occurred several years ago after Missouri announced a plan
to become the first state to put an inmate to death using propofol, the
powerful anesthetic blamed for the 2009 death of Michael Jackson. An outcry
from the medical community helped scrap that approach.
Using a paralytic as a 3rd drug could prevent body movements and disguise any
suffering the condemned inmate might experience, Groner said.
The paralytic agent "pretty much ensures that if an execution is botched, we
won't know it," he said.
The Nevada judge who delayed the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier cited
concerns about "masking" pain and suffering when she balked at letting Nevada
prison officials use cisatracurium.
Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti said the state could go
forward with the execution but only with diazepam and fentanyl.
An attorney representing state Attorney General Adam Laxalt rejected that idea
and said state officials would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, despite the
wishes of Dozier, a 46-year-old twice convicted of murder. He has volunteered
to die and said in court that he does not care if he suffers.
A stay of execution was filed Tuesday, the same day Dozier's death had been
scheduled. Written arguments have not yet been submitted to the seven-member
state high court, and a court spokesman said Thursday it wasn't immediately
known if justices would hold hearings or make a ruling based on court filings.
The Nevada execution protocol was developed by a state chief medical officer,
an anesthesiologist, who resigned 2 weeks ago but said his departure had
nothing to do with the execution.
If it goes according to plan, the diazepam will put Dozier to sleep, followed
by the fentanyl, which will depress his breathing enough to kill him. Then the
cisatracurium is supposed to make death a certainty.
But an expert medical witness testified that if anything goes wrong with the
1st 2 drugs, and Dozier is still alive when the paralytic is administered, he
could be left aware, unable to move and suffering "air hunger" until he
If Dozier experiences awareness, "it would be a horrific experience," said Dr.
David Waisel, a Harvard University anesthesiology professor presented as an
expert witness by federal public defenders challenging Nevada's 3-drug
Some other death-penalty states are already following Nevada's lead in the
hopes that the drug combination might provide a new execution method without
the difficulty of obtaining drugs made by European companies opposed to the
Nebraska last week proposed using the same three drugs along with potassium
chloride - to stop the heart - for a yet-to-be scheduled execution next year.
The 31 states in the U.S. with the death penalty have wrestled with finding
lethal injection drugs since pharmaceutical manufacturers stopped making some
products available. Some executions using substitute drugs resulted in slow,
apparently agonizing deaths.
Executions in Arizona were placed on hold after convicted killer Joseph Rudolph
Wood took nearly 2 hours to die in 2014 after receiving a 2-drug combination -
the anesthetic midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.
Most death-penalty states are reaching for untried options, said Robert Dunham,
executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that
charts how states carry out executions.
"Sometimes they're guessing, and sometimes they're just desperate," Dunham
"Sometimes you can guess and get lucky," he added. "But we're in a position
where everyone is just holding their breath hoping it doesn't go wrong."
(source: Associated Press)
Addressing false assumptions about the death penalty
The claim that the death penalty has "no deterrent effect" is false on its
Earlier this month, a panel made up of death penalty abolitionists gathered
together at the University of Utah to defend the indefensible - murder and
rape. Advocating on behalf of monsters, the panel presented a largely
fallacious and emotionally charge argument against the death penalty, an
argument they plan to take to the Utah State Legislature in the 2018
legislative session. The panel, hosted by Young Americans for Liberty, made 4
basic arguments: 1. It's too expensive; 2. It unfairly targets minorities; 3.
It's too risky and; 4. It's too arbitrary. Arguments centered on the basic
premise that there is "no deterrent effect" and that these murderers and
rapists are victims of an unfair or mean system.
The claim that there is "no deterrent effect" is false on its face. If, as the
panel claimed, there is no deterrent effect, then during the moratorium on the
death penalty in the United States from 1972-76, the murder rate should not
have significantly risen. However, according to the Bureau of Criminal Justice,
in 1960 there were 56 executions carried out and 9,140 murders committed that
year. By 1964 there were only 15 executions carried out and the murder rate
started to rise to 9,250 murders committed that year. From 1969-76 there were
zero executions in the United States and only 2 executions from 1976-80.
However, the murder rate skyrocketed from 9,960 in 1969 to 23,040 in 1980 - a
131 % increase in just 10 years.
Regular executions resumed in the 1990s and from 1995-00 we averaged 71
executions per year in the United States - a 21,000 percent increase in
executions over the 1966-80 time period. Spoiler alert, the murder rate dropped
from a high of 10.2 per 100,000 in 1980 to 5.7 per 100,000 in 1999 - a 44
percent reduction in the rate of murder. In light of these numbers, even if we
ignore that just as many appeals are available for persons sentenced to life or
that they'll be housed for decades longer, the fact that it is expensive seems
worth it considering the number of lives saved by a 44 % decrease in murder
As for the claim that the death penalty unfairly targets minorities or is
somehow otherwise arbitrary, let's look at the numbers. According to the Rand
Corporation, white murderers receive the death penalty 32 % of the time while
nonwhite murderers receive the death penalty 27 % of the time. The perceived
arbitrary nature of the application of the death penalty, by people with no
legal experience or direct knowledge of the murder cases for which they speak
in the abstract, has more to do with what prosecutors think they can prove than
their whim. In fact, what some outsider may deem arbitrary may actually be
proof of the penalty's judicious use, reserved only for the most heinous or
most obvious cases. And there is simply no evidence that a wrongly convicted
person has ever been put to death in the United States.
In summation, the argument that life in prison is just as good - "the other
death sentence" - ignores the fact that these monsters can still paint, sing
songs, hear birds chirp, read books, form relationships, feel love or pride,
etc. They can do many meaningful human things that they permanently denied
As Edward Koch put it: "It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of
human life that we affirm the highest value of human life." Just some things
for the death penalty abolitionists to consider.
(source: Op-Ed; Michael Miller holds a Masters of Public Administration and
works for the U.S. Department of Defense----Deseret News)
Death penalty possible in La Placita case
Federal prosecutors can pursue the death penalty against 5 suspects accused of
taking part in the March 17 robbery of La Placita market that led to the death
of Jose Cruz.
A federal grand jury indicted Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar, Jonny Alexander
Relles-Martinez, Jose Adan Mejia Varela, Lilian Yamileth Duron and Estrellita
Soto on Wednesday.
The 5 have been charged formally with murder through use of a firearm during a
crime of violence and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.
Relles-Martinez, 28, made his initial appearance in court last month from a
Kansas prison where he had been held.
He will be brought to U.S. District Court in Bowling Green for an arraignment
Monday. The remaining co-defendants will be arraigned Nov. 29.
Federal court documents accuse the 5 of taking part in a scheme to rob the
business at 710 Morgantown Road.
Caballero-Melgar, Duron and Soto set the incident in motion by conducting
surveillance of the store and making wire transfers there prior to the robbery,
according to the indictment.
The 3 are accused of executing 5 wire transfers totaling $6,460 to people in
Mexico and Honduras, knowing that the store would be robbed later and that
"While at the market, Soto telephoned Melgar and gave him information about the
market, including where money was kept and customers and employees in the
market," the indictment states.
After Caballero-Melgar, Duron and Soto left La Placita, Relles-Martinez and
Varela entered the store at 2:58 p.m. March 17 to rob it, with Caballero-Melgar
serving as a lookout, court records show.
Cruz, 31, of Bowling Green, had come to the store to pick up his son from his
Kim Quintanilla, a daughter of the store owner, told the Daily News in March
that Cruz called the store when he found the door locked.
The ringing phone startled the robbers, and Cruz was shot when he attempted to
intervene, later dying at a local hospital.
After the incident, Caballero-Melgar, Relles-Martinez and Varela fled to
Tennessee, where they divided the $12,000 obtained from the robbery, according
to the indictment.
A federal criminal complaint sworn by FBI Special Agent William B. Kurtz stated
that Relles-Martinez admitted to law enforcement that he fired the shot that
He told investigators that Caballero-Melgar had assisted him in illegally
entering the United States and that he was expected to repay Caballero-Melgar
the money he spent to get Relles-Martinez into the country.
Caballero-Melgar told Relles-Martinez he could repay his debt by committing
robberies, the complaint stated.
Court records indicate Caballero-Melgar provided Relles-Martinez with an
identification card in the name of Agustin Flores upon Relles-Martinez' entry
into the U.S.
Relles-Martinez told investigators he dropped his cellphone during the fight
The robbery and homicide were investigated initially by the Bowling Green
Police Department, under the lead of Detective Mike Nade.
City police obtained a search warrant for a phone recovered at La Placita,
learning from records obtained through a grand jury subpoena that the phone???s
subscriber was Agustin Flores.
In addition to BGPD, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies investigated
this and other related crimes, with a criminal complaint tying the five
co-defendants to robberies that targeted Hispanic-owned stores in Kentucky,
Tennessee and North Carolina.
The murder charge is punishable by death, a term of life imprisonment or any
number of years, while the conspiracy charge has a maximum penalty of 20 years.
(source: Bowling Green Daily News)
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