2017-09-13 11:21:39 UTC
Poorly executed----Inmate challenges state's lethal cocktail change
In its 201-year history, Indiana has used 3 methods of execution. Hanging was
the primary method until 1913, followed by electrocution. In 1995, the
Department of Correction began using lethal injec-tion - a protocol soon to be
reviewed by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Vacating a ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state's highest court
rightly will take up the question of whether the department has overstepped its
authority in changing its procedures for carrying out the death penalty. The
Supreme Court will independently review facts in a case challenging the
Department of Correction's 2014 decision to use a new 3-drug combination in
A lawsuit filed by a death row inmate argues the DOC can't change its execution
protocol without public notice or comment. The appeals court agreed in a
unanimous ruling and effectively halted executions in the state. They are
likely on hold while the Supreme Court reviews the case.
12 men are currently on death row in Indiana, and 1 woman is being held in Ohio
under Indiana's death penalty law. No executions are scheduled due to prior
court rulings or pending appeals. Joseph Corcoran, sentenced to death in 1999
for killing 4 people in a house on Bayer Avenue, is the only Allen County
inmate. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he has exhausted his appeals.
The appeals court decision challenging the Department of Correction was a
victory for Roy Ward and other death row prisoners who argue they should not be
executed with experimental drugs. The department unilaterally decided 2 years
ago to use a 3-drug combination of the barbiturate methohexital, followed by
pancuronium bromide, a paralytic, followed by potassium chloride to stop the
prisoner's heart. The combination allegedly has not been used in any other
execution in the United States.
The department claimed authority to change its lethal injection procedure as an
internal policy, but the appeals court agreed with the plaintiff that the
decision was an administrative rule with the effect of law, which must be
adopted under the guidelines of the Indiana Administrative Rules and Procedure
"(T)he public has a right to know what unelected bureaucrats at state agencies
are doing," said attorney David Frank, who represented Ward before the appeals
court. The decision doesn't mean Indiana cannot carry out executions, but it
brings what the state is doing "out of the shadows" and holds state officials
accountable, he said.
It is not known whether the state has a sufficient supply of each drug to carry
out an execution. The Indiana General Assembly, in the biennial budget bill,
authorized Gov. Eric Holcomb and the department to grant anonymity to
drugmakers that agree to supply the drugs. A nationwide shortage exists because
pharmaceutical companies, under pressure from death-penalty opponents, are
refusing to sell their drugs for execution purposes.
A federal appeals court cleared the way earlier this year for the state of Ohio
to use a 3-drug mixture in lethal injections, although death-penalty opponents
have said they will ask the Supreme Court to review that decision.
The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously criticized the
process of administering the death penalty as tinkering with "the machinery of
death." The decision before Indiana's highest court might well amount to
tinkering but - as the law of the land here and in 30 other states - it
deserves solemn and serious consideration.
(source: Editorial, Journal-Gazette)
5 retired judges will lead an inquiry into the death penalty case of Marcellus
5 retired judges will lead an inquiry into the death penalty case of Marcellus
Gov. Eric Greitens appointed the board of inquiry Tuesday to consider whether
Williams should be executed for the 1998 death of former St. Louis
Post-Dispatch reported Lisha Gayle. Greitens issued a stay of execution in
August just hours before Williams was to be executed.
The board members are Booker Shaw, who served on the Missouri Court of Appeals
and as a trial judge in St. Louis; Michael David, a former circuit court judge
in St. Louis; Peggy McGraw Fenner, a former circuit court judge in Jackson
County; Carol Jackson, who served on the U.S. District Court, Eastern District;
and Paul Spinden, who was on the Missouri Court of Appeals.
(source: Associated Press)
It's time for Utah to re-examine the death penalty
Debate and discourse in the public sphere is how we make better policy. We at
Utah Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty have heard from people
across the state that it's time for a more robust public debate about the death
penalty. Long gone are the days where the death penalty was a partisan issue.
Now, Utahns of every political background are expressing concerns about a death
penalty system that takes a great deal of time, energy and resources and gives
us little more than worry in return.
A close examination shows that the death penalty runs counter to many core
conservative ideals. We're thrilled to be able to unite conservatives who
oppose or question the death penalty. By raising the profile of this
life-and-death issue, we can help our state move toward better policy.
Over the last couple of years, we've had the opportunity to attend numerous
Republican Party conventions, Lincoln Day Dinners and other political and
community events. The supportive reception isn't surprising. This is an issue
that many conservatives have thought long and hard about and ultimately
concluded that it runs counter to their beliefs of limited government,
protecting innocent life and being fiscally responsible.
A poll we took earlier this year quantified what we've been experiencing in
these discussions: 64 % of Utahns, including 58 % of Republicans, supported
replacing the death penalty with life in prison. When the arguments are laid
out, it's not hard to see why.
As conservatives, we constantly rail against an ever-growing government. The
death penalty is about as big as the government gets. Can the government be
trusted to justly end a person's life? Nationally, since the late 1970s, almost
160 individuals have been exonerated from death row due to evidence of their
innocence. In that same time there have been around 1,500 executions. An error
rate of 10 % is 10 % too high when an innocent person's life hangs in the
Thanks to television shows like "CSI," people are under the impression that the
system is error-proof because of the rise in DNA evidence and testing. The
reality is that DNA evidence is only available in 5-10 % of these kinds of
cases. As conservatives, our belief in the sanctity of innocent life should
extend to death row. Justice can't ever be served when even 1 innocent person
is wrongfully executed.
The death penalty is consistently more expensive than life in prison because of
the additional preparations for a capital case, the separate sentencing phase
and post-conviction appeals. According to Utah's own Legislative Fiscal
Analyst's Office, it costs in excess of $1.6 million more to carry out a death
sentence than if the same person were sentenced to life and ultimately died in
Limited taxpayer resources could, and should, be spent in our criminal justice
system in much better ways. These resources could be spent on mental health
programs, rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders, rape kit testing or many
other criminal justice programs that would keep us much safer than the death
penalty does. Instead, we spend it on a punishment with no greater deterrent
effect than life imprisonment, which often takes 30 years or more to reach a
While capital cases slowly snake through the judicial process, there's more
than a fiscal cost - there's a human cost. Families of crime victims are
brought along for the decadeslong process. Instead of being able to move
forward with their lives, these families must wait through decades of
high-profile appeals, all while being forgotten as their loved one's murderer
becomes a household name. This is cruelty.
Utah Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty will continue having these
conversations with the public. Utah came very close to repealing the death
penalty during the 2016 legislative session, and we???re hoping that fight is
won during the 2018 session next year.
(source: Op-Ed; Darcy Van Orden is executive director of the Utah Justice
Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating the community on commonsense
reforms to the criminal justice system. Utah Conservatives Concerned About the
Death Penalty is a project of UJC----Deseret News)
Judge denies request to send death penalty case back to lower court
A district judge on Friday denied a request to send a potential death penalty
case back to a lower court for a man accused of breaking into his estranged
wife's house and shooting a man to death.
Phillip Cabrera, 38, of Meridian, is facing a charge of 1st-degree murder in
the shooting death of Andrew Shepard of Caldwell on April 28.
Cabrera's defense attorney, Scott Fouser, requested the case be sent back to
magistrate court for another preliminary hearing because he said Cabrera was
denied the benefit of 2 qualified lawyers during his original preliminary
hearing in June.
Fouser said defendants facing the death penalty require 2 qualified defenders
at hearings, and Cabrera had only 1 during his preliminary hearing in June.
Judge Thomas Ryan, who previously said in a hearing that "clearly delay is
prejudice," decided Friday to deny the request.
"There has been no showing of any error, let alone serious error committed by
defense counsel at the preliminary hearing," Ryan wrote. "This Court
specifically finds that Mr. Cabrera was afforded effective assistance of
counsel at the preliminary hearing."
Cabrera's pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21. A jury trial is
scheduled to begin Oct. 10.
Police said Cabrera admitted to kicking down the front door of his wife's home
in Nampa, then kicking down the home's master bathroom door before shooting
Shepard in the abdomen and head. He is also accused of firing several shots at
responding police officers.
Prosecutors say Cabrera killed Shepard in front of young children who were
hiding in the master bedroom with Shepard and Cabrera's wife.
A shrinking pool
Jurors who failed to pass muster on the 1st day of the Jonathan Renfro murder
trial walked from the Kootenai County Courthouse 1 at a time Monday as they
were released from jury duty.
About 80 of the more than 900 jurors who responded to a jury duty questionnaire
appeared in the morning at Coeur d'Alene's First District Court to begin the
weaning process that will result in 16 jurors, including four alternates.
More than 40 people were released from their jury duty before 10 a.m. after
being deemed by presiding First District Court Judge Lansing Haynes as
unsatisfactory candidates based on their answers to questions by attorneys.
That left approximately 40 potential jurors to be further scrutinized by
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and lead defense counsel Keith Roark,
who whittled the number of candidates down to about 20 by lunchtime.
The remaining candidates were questioned individually.
The same process will continue each day this week. Once 44 candidates are
chosen, attorneys will continue to winnow until they agree on 16 jurors, Jury
Commissioner Pete Barnes said.
Seating a fair and impartial jury could last 2 weeks, but attorneys and the
court have intimated a jury could be chosen sooner than that, Barnes said.
"I think that's the hope," he said.
Renfro, who is charged with 1st-degree murder for allegedly killing Coeur
d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, is expected to go to trial as soon as the
selection process is completed. The trial could last through September.
Jurors who make the final cut will participate in 2 phases of the upcoming
In the guilt phase, jurors must determine if Renfro, 29, is responsible for the
May 5, 2015, shooting death of Moore. Renfro is accused of shooting the officer
with a Glock pistol he had in his pocket when Moore confronted him after dark
in a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood where residents had reported burglaries and
If he's convicted, Renfro could face the death penalty. But it is not up to the
judge. Jurors must also determine during the trial's penalty phase whether
factors warrant a death sentence. By Monday, the penalty phase had already
resulted in the release of potential jurors including candidates who said they
morally opposed the death penalty, and those who thought the death penalty
should always be imposed.
One of the candidates at Monday's jury selection was released after telling the
court of his 3rd-party acquaintance with the Moore family, and that his friends
have K27 stickers on their cars. The stickers are a tribute to Moore.
Another candidate said because the shooting had occurred near his neighborhood,
he has closely followed media accounts.
A candidate who said many of his friends were police officers told the court he
felt an allegiance to law enforcement.
Haynes reiterated a juror's opinion was less important than whether he or she
could base their decision solely on the facts presented in court.
"In a case like this, unless you haven't been paying attention at all, everyone
comes into court with some opinion about the matter," Haynes said. "The issue
is whether you can follow the court's instruction ... and set aside that
Renfro, who appeared in court wearing slacks, a white shirt, tie and
black-framed glasses, quietly watched the proceedings surrounded by his team of
Once the trial begins, the court has opted to adjourn at noon each Wednesday,
taking Wednesday afternoons off, Haynes said.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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