2017-04-12 14:37:24 UTC
7 executions in 11 days wouldn't allow due process, ABA president tells
ABA President Linda Klein has asked the governor of Arkansas to delay an
unprecedentedly accelerated series of executions scheduled for this month.
The state has not executed a single person in 12 years, but it plans to execute
seven men over an 11-day period beginning April 17, the Washington Post
reports. An eighth man, Jason McGehee, was also scheduled to die in these 11
days, but a judge has delayed that execution, the Post reported in an earlier
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said that he ordered the executions to be
scheduled in such a short time span because the state???s stock of lethal
injection drugs is set to expire. "It is uncertain as to whether another drug
can be obtained, and the families of the victims do not need to live with
continued uncertainty after decades of review," he said in a statement to the
"We are troubled that this current execution schedule ... prioritizes
expediency above due process," Klein said in her letter (PDF) to the governor.
"Because neither Arkansas decision-makers nor defense counsel currently have
adequate time to ensure that these executions are carried out with due process
of law, we simply ask that you modify the current execution schedule to allow
for adequate time between executions."
Klein says in her letter that the short notice for the condemned men has
overwhelmed their legal defense teams. The work that is done in the run-up to
an execution "can easily consume all of the available time and resources of an
attorney representing just one client with an approaching execution date; here,
several of the men facing execution are represented by the same attorneys,"
Klein wrote. "It simply is not possible for an attorney to do all that is
minimally required for multiple clients scheduled for execution only days
apart. Under such extraordinary constraints, any time and resources spent on
behalf of one client facing death will necessarily be at the expense of
another. This conflict of interest is simply untenable in matters of life and
The ABA holds no position about the death penalty in general, Klein says, but
"sufficient procedural safeguards to decrease the risks of injustice" should be
present. She urged the governor to delay the executions so that these
safeguards could be adhered to.
"Regardless of whether these men are put to death this month or on a more
measured schedule, the state will need either to locate new drugs or to develop
an alternative execution protocol for the remaining men on Arkansas' death
row," Klein concluded. "Given that these policy decisions will need to be made
soon, expediency need not, and should not, be placed above the Constitution's
due process protections."
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker of the Eastern District of Arkansas began
hearing arguments Monday to determine whether the state should be allowed to
proceed, in the 1st of 4 scheduled days for arguments, the Associated Press and
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette report. The next stop for either side to appeal her
ruling would be the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then
the U.S. Supreme Court.
The previous record for the number of executions in an 11-day period was set by
Texas, which executed 6 men in at 10-day span in both 1997 and 2000, the Post
Arkansas has never used midazolam, the sedative at center of execution
debate----Midazolam is the sedative at center of execution debate
At the heart of the federal court challenge to Arkansas's death penalty
protocol is a drug called "midazolam."
It's the latest battleground in the 50-year debate over capital punishment in
the United States. With Arkansas planning to execute seven inmates before its
supply of the sedative runs out at the end of April, the issue is moving the
state to the international stage.
"It's a central nervous system depressant," said Dr. Mike Martin, a medical
doctor and professor at University of Central Arkansas. "[Midazolam] is in the
same drug class as valium, and it's used primarily as a sedative in minor
surgeries like having your tooth extracted."
This drug designed for causing relaxation is the reason for a great tension.
Midazolam will be the 1st drug injected into the veins of condemned prisoners
in the Arkansas 3-drug "cocktail." 2 drugs after that stop the prisoners
breathing and then the heart.
"The cocktail is meant to do it as rapidly as possible," Martin said.
At least that's the plan.
But midazolam has never been used in Arkansas in executions, and no state has
ever successfully executed 2 inmates in 1 day using the sedative.
It's replacing a different class of drugs at the start of the process.
Anesthetics like sodium pentothal were first used, but they are now virtually
impossible for states to get for capital punishment.
So far, a handful of states have tried Midazolam, but in at least 4 cases, the
sedative proved less effective at rendering the inmate unconscious, which left
the prisoner feeling the pain of the other 2 drugs. The inmates slowly
suffocated and eventually died of heart attacks
"If the goal is to be as humane as possible, I think the sodium pentothal may
be a little more effective," said Martin.
That effectiveness and how much pain is endured are important legal questions,
and the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual
The most dramatic of the 4 botched midazolam cases came in Oklahoma.
Clayton Lockett took 2 hours to die, groaning and struggling as the midazolam
The case led to a later U.S. Supreme Court case and in 2015, the justices ruled
in a 5-4 decision that the pain caused in midazolam lethal injections was
Since 2013, there have been 17 midazolam executions, almost all in Florida,
which first began using midazolam with the 1st one among those considered
"botched" by anti-death penalty advocates. 3 states put executions on hold
after problems and are keeping the midazolam debate alive.
Different experts are delivering opinions before state and federal judges, and
so far, the science has failed to clearly decide the matter.
"I think pentothol may have a more anesthetic effect, but midazolam certainly
has an anesthetic effect as well," Martin said.
Arkansas has had at least 2 other modern-day lethal injection executions get
"botched." Both involved difficulty finding veins to attach the IV for the
drugs, not the drugs themselves.
(source: KTHV news)
Organization Reaches Out to Inmates on Death Row
In less than a week, the executions of 8 Arkansas death row inmates will begin.
On Tuesday, a silent vigil was held for the men sentenced to die. In attendance
was the president of an organization dedicated to reaching out to inmates.
Maya Porter,Vigil Organizer - "These coming executions have just been weighing
heavily on my mind and my heart. I thought I need to do something and I it
occurred to me that a vigil, just to stand as a witness to the anguish. There's
so much anguish for so many people around executions."
The Prison Story Project is a non-profit organization that started in 2012 to
reach out to inmates who were - for the most part - small time offenders. "We
go into the prison and we do creative writing story telling art. we enable
prisoners to tell their stories. we take those stories unedited and put them in
a script," Matt Henriksen said.
The organization then hires actors, who share the prisoners words with a live
audience. In most instances, for the entire prison population. When Prison
Story Project learned of the executions this month, the President of the Board
of Directors, Matt Henriksen, said it decided to do something it's never done
before: reach out to inmates on death row.
"It changed when we started working on death row because our mission is to
bridge the gap between the incarcerated and the communities they return to. We
didn't have that when we went to death row but what we did have was this ethic
that we believe no voice should be silenced. Which put us into an interesting
situation when we went to death row because these men had silenced voices
forever and we had a lot of pause and hesitation around doing that but we
followed that principle that no voice should be silenced."
Kenneth Williams, Stacey Johnson, and Northwest Arkansas native Don Davis, are
scheduled to be executed before the end of the month. All 3 men participated in
the Prison Story Project.
Henriksen said getting to know them on a personal level opened his eyes even
"A lot of them talking about going a decade before they described this sort of
break where they had to confront the reality of who they are and what they had
done and a lot of them had found very spiritual lives. We're all human, we can
pretend that somebody who is a drug dealer, or somebody who committed some sort
of felony robbery or murder isn't a human being but the fact is they are. They
are human beings and we want to confront that head reality as it is."
Henriksen said the goal of Prison Story Project is not to tell people whether
or not the death penalty is wrong, but to simply tell the inmates' stories.
"The thing that really convinced me that we were in the right place doing this
is that they wanted to give back to the world some of the goodness in spite of
the horrible things they had done."
The organization is making plans to see the inmates before the scheduled
executions. Don Davis, the Northwest Arkansas native, is one of the first 2 men
who will die my lethal injection on Monday.
Doctor Voices Concerns About Arkansas' Execution Plans
A doctor who specializes in anesthesiology and critical care testified in
federal court Monday that he has concerns about Arkansas' plan to execute 7
inmates this month using a 3-drug cocktail including the sedative midazolam.
"I'm concerned about the qualifications of the individuals that are to perform
these sorts of things, I'm concerned about the combination of the medications
and how they'll be prepared and how they'll be injected, I'm concerned about
the way that they'll be handled and mixed, and I have serious concerns that if
this is done as it's described that an inmate may not die, or death will be
part of a very painful experience for the inmate," Dr. Joel Zivot said via live
link from Atlanta.
Zivot, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, was the first person to
testify in a hearing that is expected to last through Thursday in U.S. District
Court in Little Rock. Judge Kristine Baker is considering a motion for a
preliminary injunction in a lawsuit by the inmates alleging that the state's
execution protocols and accelerated execution schedule will violate their
The state's execution protocols call for each inmate to be injected first with
midazolam, then with the paralytic vecuronium bromide, and finally with
potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
Midazolam has been used in executions in Oklahoma and Alabama during which
inmates appeared to struggle on the gurney. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the
use of the drug in executions in a 5-4 decision in 2015, but several states
have stopped using the drug because of the controversy surrounding it.
Zivot testified Monday that being injected with potassium chloride would be
"extremely painful" and that midazolam would not block the pain.
"It's not simply that it's painful. It's painful because it's destroying the
vein as it passes along its length," he said. "Midazolam will not prevent the
destruction of the vein by potassium, nor will it block the pain."
Zivot said an inmate may not be able to move if injected with a paralytic
before the potassium chloride, but he said that would not mean the inmate was
not experiencing everything that was happening.
Cross-examination of Zivot by the state is scheduled for Thursday.
Among the other witnesses testifying Monday were Jennie Lancaster, a former
North Carolina prison warden who talked about the stress that an execution
places on prison staff, and Carol Wright, an Ohio-based federal public
defender, who talked about the heavy workload involved in defending a client in
a death-penalty case.
The suit alleges that Arkansas' execution protocols are inadequate and will
subject the inmates to cruel and unusual punishment. It also alleges that the
accelerated execution schedule will create a high risk of accidents and deny
the inmates adequate access to counsel.
State Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky told Baker the inmates have not offered a
reasonable, readily available alternative to the state's planned execution
method that is certain not to inflict cruel and unusual punishment.
He also said the inmates' lawyers should be able to handle their workloads and
said the prison staff can handle carrying out 7 executions in a short space of
"Such stress is part of the job," he said.
Rudofsky noted that the inmates have been challenging the state's method of
execution since 2006.
"At some point, even death is at issue, enough really is enough," he said.
Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and
difficulty obtaining execution drugs. It is rushing to carry out executions
this month before its supply of 1 execution drug expires April 30.
The hearing is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
(source: Booneville Democrat)
Clemency denied for Jones
The Arkansas Parole Board unanimously decided Monday to deny recommending that
Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant executive clemency to Jack Harold Jones Jr.
Jones, 52, on death row at Varner Supermax prison in Grady for the 1995 rape
and murder of Mary Phillips in Bald Knob, awaits an April 24 execution date.
The hearing on his application for clemency submitted by his attorney Jeff
Rosenzweig of Little Rock was not attended by Jones on Friday. Instead, a
letter was read on his behalf denying that he ever wanted clemency.
Phillips, 34, died of strangulation and blunt-force trauma June 6, 1995, at the
hands of Jones. Her daughter Lacey, who was 11 at the time, also was thought to
be dead later that night when Arkansas State Police found her while
investigating the crime scene.
Lacey Phillips, now 32, said after learning Monday that Jones' clemency request
had been denied that she is ready for April 24.
"It makes me feel excited to put that chapter of my life behind me," Phillips
said. "And I'm sure it's going to give some of my family and mom's family and
friends some closure that they've needed for a long, long time.
"I think we're there. Now we just get to wait until the 24th. It's been a long
Bill Lindsey, who retired from the state police in 2008, was one of the
investigators at the crime scene. which was the accounting office in Bald Knob
where Mary Phillips worked. He recalled that night after hearing Monday that
clemency had not been recommended, saying that he remembers Lacey Phillips at
that crime scene because as he took photos, the camera's flash woke her up.
"I do remember the picture," he said. "It was really a shock. We knew [Mary]
was dead and we thought Lacey was too. I was doing the photographs." When the
flash went off on my camera, well, she looked up at me with that one eye.
"She was very young. I hope she's doing OK" and Mr. Phillips, too."
Phillips said she takes life day by day and although Jones' execution dates
have come and gone, it brings her "a bit of relief" to know that the day is
approaching and nothing has happened yet to stay it this time.
"Well, I think it should have happened a long time ago myself," Lindsey said.
"I don't think they should have waited this long to do the execution. It should
have been taken care of a long time ago."
The parole board cited "sentence not considered excessive" and the "nature and
seriousness of offense" as the reasons for not recommending the request.
"He had a pistol, latex gloves and wire," Chris Raff, then-prosecuting attorney
for the 17th Judicial District, said in 2011 about the crime. "He used wire
from a coffee pot to strangle Mary Phillips. This was a brutal and horrible
case. I was out there at the scene while Mary was still there, and from seeing
what he did to her and her daughter, I decided to seek the death penalty."
Lacey Phillips testified during the trial that Jones took her into a bathroom,
tied her to a chair, then left. He later returned to choke her until she passed
out and hit her at least eight times in the head with the barrel of a BB gun.
According to court records, in Jones' first appearance in court after his
arrest, he told White County Circuit Judge Robert Edwards, "I don't want a
lawyer. I did it."
Jones continued to implicate himself during the hearing, according to the
"There ain't no help for me," Jones said. "They just need to kill me. That's
it. Just get it over with."
Jones is among 8 death-row inmates Arkansas planned to execute -- 2 per day for
4 days -- over a 10-day period beginning April 17 before 1 of the drugs used
for lethal injections expires at the end of the month.
1 of the inmates, Jason McGehee, has been granted a stay based on the parole
board recommendation of clemency to the governor.
At his clemency hearing Friday, Jones said in his letter for the parole board,
"I shall not ask to be forgiven."
Saying that he never has nor ever will want clemency, Jones said, "There's no
way in hell I would spend another 20 years in this hellhole."
Arkansas Parole Board
What: Denied executive clemency for Jack Harold Jones Jr.
When: Monday following Friday hearing and victim impact portion of process
Why: Punishment not excessive; nature and seriousness of crime
(source: The Daily Caller)
Alleged Serial Killer Faces Death Penalty In Random SFV Shooting
Spree----Prosecutors will seek death for a man accused of killing 5 people in a
random killing spree across the San Fernando Valley.
The prosecution announced Tuesday that the death penalty will be sought for an
ex-con from Sylmar who's charged with killing 5 people in the San Fernando
Valley in 2014 -- 4 of them within less than a week.
Alexander Hernandez, 36, pleaded not guilty to the murders of Sergio Sanchez on
March 14, 2014; Gilardo Morales on Aug. 21, 2014; and Gloria Tovar, Michael
Planells and Mariana Franco on Aug. 24, 2014, along with the 11 attempted
murders -- the bulk of which occurred between Aug. 20-24, 2014.
The murder counts include the special circumstance allegations of multiple
murders and shooting from an occupied vehicle.
Hernandez is also facing 11 counts of attempted murder, 8 counts of shooting at
an occupied vehicle, 3 counts of cruelty to an animal, 2 counts of possession
of a firearm by a felon and 1 count each of discharge of a firearm with gross
negligence and possession of ammunition by a felon.
The criminal complaint alleges that Hernandez has four prior convictions dating
back to 2004, including possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of a
controlled substance with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Most of the victims were driving -- including home from prom or work, to church
and en route to a fishing trip with their kids on Father's Day -- when they
noticed a vehicle following them or pulling up alongside.
In most of the cases, the vehicle was Hernandez's tan Chevrolet Suburban,
Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee said last year at a hearing in which
the defendant was ordered to stand trial.
The SUV was identifiable by a hood that didn't close properly, stickers of "a
white skull" and "666" on the back of the vehicle, its custom 6- spoked rims
and other unique details, according to the prosecutor.
Housing for a side view mirror found at the Morales crime scene was matched to
the Suburban, according to the prosecution.
But more gruesome links were also found by crime scene investigators, including
"blood and bits of tissue" from Tovar's skull -- large enough to be "visible to
the naked eye" -- found in the Suburban, Hanisee told the judge.
Tovar, 59, was shot to death while in her car in Pacoima, waiting to pick up a
friend to go to church, according to the prosecutor.
Franco, 22, was driving with her parents when a gunman pulled up alongside in
an SUV and said in Spanish, "I am going to kill you," before shooting Franco in
the head. Her mother and father were also struck by bullets, but survived.
Planells, 29, was shot that same day while standing in a parking lot in Sylmar.
Video surveillance footage showed someone in a tan SUV "shoot Mr. Planells and
casually drive out of the parking lot," Hanisee said.
The animal cruelty charges involve 3 dogs -- 2 of which were killed -- at the
Pacoima home of a good Samaritan who testified that he had helped Hernandez
jump-start his SUV about 10 days earlier.
Hernandez was arrested on Aug. 24, 2014, after barricading himself inside a
Sylmar residence in the area of Polk Street and Kismet Avenue for about an
Other unsolved shootings were later tied to the defendant, including a May 14,
2014, drive-by attack that left a Chatsworth teenager paralyzed, according to
The teen had just dropped his girlfriend at home following their high school
prom and was waiting for a traffic light to change when a vehicle pulled
alongside and a man shot him. 1 of the bullets struck his spine, causing
paralysis, according to Hanisee.
At the start of the hearing last year in which Hernandez was ordered to stand
trial, a defense attorney told the judge that the case involved "significant
and complex mental state questions."
Hernandez is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for a pretrial
hearing June 27.
Federal death penalty retrial to stay in Rutland
A federal judge says the upcoming death penalty retrial of the man charged with
killing a Vermont supermarket worker in 2000 will be held in Rutland.
In his Monday order, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford rejected a
request by the defense team of Donald Fell to move the trial from Rutland
because of extensive pre-trial publicity.
In a separate order, Crawford ruled the jury would be chosen from 3,000 people
from across the state.
Fell's 2nd trial for the kidnapping and killing of 53-year-old Terry King, who
was abducted when she arrived for work and later killed, is scheduled to start
The trial was postponed from February.
Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005, but the verdict and sentence
were overturned due to juror misconduct.
(source: Associated Press)
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