2017-04-28 13:54:19 UTC
Document filed for death penalty in Oklahoma deputy slaying
An Oklahoma prosecutor has filed formal notice that the state will seek the
death penalty for a man charged in the killing of a deputy sheriff.
District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas filed the bill of particulars Thursday
stating 45-year-old Nathan Aaron LeForce should be put to death if he's
convicted of a 1st-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Logan County
Deputy David Wade.
LeForce remains jailed and court documents don't list an attorney to speak for
The document notes that Wade was a law officer, that the shooting was
"especially heinous, atrocious and cruel" and that LeForce would continue to be
a threat to society.
Prosecutors say LeForce fatally shot Wade as the deputy served an eviction
notice in Mulhall, about 50 miles north of Oklahoma City.
(source: Associated Press)
California and capital punishment: Why this blue state keeps voting for the
California's turbulent history with the death penalty reached another landmark
in November when voters approved a proposition to expedite death row appeals
and rejected a proposition to repeal capital punishment.
Proposition 62, which was defeated, would have repealed the death penalty and
replaced existing death sentences with life without the possibility of parole.
Proposition 66, which voters approved, could expedite death row processes by
limiting the amount of time available for appeals.
Although favor for capital punishment in the U.S. generally aligns with those
on the political right, California has now broken from leftist death penalty
propositions twice since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978; Proposition
34 was defeated with 52 % against in 2012, and last fall, Proposition 62 was
defeated with 53.15 % against, according to Ballotpedia. Both those
propositions would have repealed the death penalty and replaced it with a life
sentence without parole.
"I don't remember how I voted for [Proposition 66]," Rochelle Goins, a
California voter, said in an interview. "I have the feeling that I might have
voted to expedite [the death penalty]."
While Goins believes there are certain crimes for which the offender does not
deserve to live, she says the current death penalty process does not deliver
justice. The death penalty "has been abused, and it has been unfairly
distributed, and it has been targeting minorities," she believes, and that's
why she says she voted "yes" on Proposition 62.
To both abolitionists and those who are pro-capital punishment, California's
death row may not be working. Since 1978, the state has executed only 13
people, while 749 inmates remain on death row.
Abolitionists who reasoned that implementing Proposition 66 would be better
than keeping the death penalty as-is may have effectively voted against repeal.
While it was not made explicitly clear on the ballot, Proposition 62 and 66
were competing initiatives. If they had both passed, whichever initiative
passed by a greater margin would have been the one implemented.
Ron Briggs was in favor of the death penalty. Briggs' father led the successful
campaign for the Death Penalty Act in 1978.
But since then, Briggs has become an abolitionist because he believes the
system is not financially viable, the appeals process prolongs the suffering of
victims' families and he could not reconcile capital punishment with his
Last fall, Briggs led the campaign for Proposition 62 and blames the ballot
outcome on what he says was the campaign's inability to get its message across.
"The late entry of Prop. 66 had the effect that its proponents wanted: it
confused the voters," Briggs said. "We didn't get the message out properly. I
mean, fundamentally, we can blame this any way you want to go, but the fact is
that our campaign didn't do a good enough job."
This ballot issue is not isolated to death penalty initiatives, according to
Santa Clara Law Professor Ellen Kreitzberg. "Whenever you have 2 competing
initiatives like this one - you have one which abolishes it and one which
expedites it - there's always a danger of voter confusion," she said.
Alternatively, voters may have kept the death penalty because of a perception
of high crime rates. Stanford Law Professor John Donohue says when crime rates
increase, so does the support for the death penalty - despite the lack of
evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent for violent crime.
Crime rates are actually lower than in past decades, according to Pew Research
Center. The rhetoric during President Donald Trump's presidential campaign may
have contributed toward inflating the public's perception of crime rates. "When
people are fearful, they are more likely to support more draconian measures,"
The week following its approval, Briggs and former California Attorney General
John Van de Kamp litigated Proposition 66. The California Supreme Court is
expected to rule by August on challenges to Proposition 66, leaving the death
row process' future in uncertainty.
(source: Peninsula Press)
The death penalty has long divided Americans. Here's why those who oppose it
A series of executions in Arkansas has reignited the longstanding battle over
the death penalty.
Beginning last week, the state tried to put eight men to death over 11 days
before the drugs it uses in executions expired. After legal challenges, half of
the executions were blocked in court.
Yet, despite the high-profile executions in Arkansas - including the 1st
double-execution in the nation in nearly 17 years - the use and support of the
death penalty in the United States has steeply declined to levels unheard of in
Capital punishment is still legal in most states. But, while activists and
experts say it is farfetched to expect it to be banned nationwide anytime soon,
they say the momentum against it is strong.
"Practically speaking, the death penalty is in its last days. But like any
disease that's rendered obsolete by modern medicine, it has a few flareups
before the end," said Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University.
"The long-term trend toward its extinction is pretty clear and pronounced."
Fewer people are being executed by fewer states
The number of executions in the U.S. annually hit a high of 98 in 1999. Last
year, the number of people executed was 20. The last time the number was that
low was in 1991, when 14 people were put to death.
If all the scheduled executions this year are carried out, 25 Americans will be
put to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The
Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization advocates against the death
7 states have or are scheduled to carry out executions, according to the
center: Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama.
"It is a phenomenon now of a few counties in a few states," said Freedman. "The
vast majority of the country is living in counties where there hasn't been an
execution for decades."
Public support is at its lowest level in 40 years
More Americans support the death penalty than those who are against it. But
surveys over the years show that opposition is increasing and support is
According to the most recent Pew Research Center poll, 49% of Americans support
the death penalty for people found guilty of murder. At the same time, 42% of
Americans are against it. The gap between Americans in part depends on
political party. Only 34% of Democrats favor the death penalty, compared with
72% of Republicans.
Experts say the decline can be attributed to a variety of factors, including
well-publicized cases of people who were sentenced to death and then
One recent such case was in Delaware in January, when Isaiah McCoy, a
29-year-old on death row for murder, was released from prison after being found
not guilty in a 2nd trial.
"When people find out real people are sentenced to death even though they are
not guilty, people start struggling to support executions," said Rob Smith, the
Director of Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project. The Fair Punishment
Project has argued against the Arkansas executions, saying the trials of the
men on death row were full of "legal deficiencies."
Prosecutors are less willing to seek the death penalty - and jurors are less
friendly to it
It's not just that fewer people are being executed. Generally speaking, fewer
people are being sentenced to death.
Death sentences hit a high in 1996, when 315 Americans were condemned to die,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The decline has been steady
since. Last year, 30 people were sentenced to death.
"The vast majority of prosecutors these days will never even seek the death
penalty," Smith said. One reason, he said, is that jurors are less likely to be
sold on it. Life sentences without parole, Smith said, are seen as better
Some district attorneys and state attorneys general have gone a step further,
promising to not push for death sentences.
One of them is Dist. Atty. Aramis Ayala of Orlando, Fla., who vowed last month
to not seek the death penalty in her cases.
"I am prohibited from making the severity of my sentences the index of my
effectiveness," she said in a statement. "What has become abundantly clear
through this process is while I currently do have discretion to pursue death
sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interests of this
community, or in the best interest of justice."
Governors of several states, including Washington, Oregon and Colorado, have
also imposed moratoriums on the death penalty while they are in office.
Controversial drugs are in short supply and pharmaceutical companies are taking
The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, defended the state's
string of planned executions this month by saying it needed to carry them out
before the drugs it uses expired.
"It is uncertain as to whether another drug can be obtained," Hutchinson said
in a statement.
1 of the drugs in question is midazolam, a sedative that's part of a 3-drug
cocktail the state uses in lethal injections. The controversial drug has been
tied to several faulty executions, including those in Oklahoma, and expires at
the end of April.
Another drug used in the state is vecuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer.
McKesson Corp., a medical supplier that sold the drug to Arkansas, took the
state to court over it. The company says Arkansas purchased the drug, which
McKesson says is only intended for medical use, under false pretenses.
The controversy over drugs goes beyond Arkansas and extends to the federal
In 1 example, the Texas prison system filed suit this month against the Food
and Drug Administration, which seized 1,000 vials of an execution drug whose
importation was banned in 2015. The state purchased the drug, sodium
thiopental, from India, and the FDA wants it shipped back or destroyed. The
Texas Department of Criminal Justice argues that law enforcement agencies are
exempt from the ban.
Major court cases loom as states reexamine policies
Outside of Arkansas and Texas, several other court cases over the death penalty
In Cincinnati, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled in June to
have the full court consider whether the state's use of a 3-drug cocktail in
lethal injections is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. Earlier, a
3-judge panel in the appeals court had upheld a stay that kept the state using
the procedure in executions.
In California, the Supreme Court is expected to decide this summer on
challenges to a voter-approved proposition that reduces the time allowed for
appeals of death sentences. The new rule was intended to speed up executions in
the state, where there are nearly 750 people on death row. The state is
considered a "symbolic" death penalty state because capital punishment is legal
but has not been used since 2006.
States are also reconsidering their use of the death penalty.
In Oklahoma, a state commission said this week that a moratorium on the death
penalty should be extended until the system for carrying out sentences is
changed so that innocent people do not die.
"Ultimately we found that there are many serious systemic flaws in Oklahoma's
death penalty process that obviously can and have led to innocent people being
convicted and put on death row," former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, who is on the
Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, said in a statement. Henry was
governor for 2 terms during dozens of executions between 2003 and 2011.
The state had been under scrutiny since a series of botched executions, and it
imposed a moratorium in 2015 after the wrong drug was used in one. In a
high-profile 2014 execution, inmate Clayton Locket was alive and struggling for
43 minutes on the gurney after a lethal injection.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
House moves bill making it easier to seek death penalty for cop killers
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed legislation that would make it
easier to impose the death penalty against anyone who kills a law enforcement
officer or first responder.
The Thin Blue Line Act, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., would make the
victim's job as a police officer, firefighter or other first responder an
"aggravating" factor that would factor into death penalty decisions.
There have been 39 law enforcement deaths in 2017 so far, according to the
Officer Down Memorial Page.
"Congress should do all it can to protect our police officers and first
responders," Buchanan said ahead of Thursday's vote. "My bill makes sure that
anyone who targets law enforcement officers is held accountable."
The committee passed the resolution 19-12, in the face of opposition from
Democrats, the ACLU and NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. It now goes to the House
floor for a vote.
According to Monique Dixon of the Legal Defense Fund, the legislation
"needlessly duplicates federal and state laws that already impose serious
penalties on persons convicted of crimes against law enforcement. At a time
when public support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in decades,
Congress should reject this unnecessary bill and focus on substantive policing
However, a number of national law enforcement organizations support the
legislation, including the National Association of Police Officers, National
Fraternal Order of Police, Major Counties Sheriffs of America and the American
Federation of Government Employees.
(source: Washington Examiner)
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