2017-11-17 14:08:58 UTC
Flawed evidence is why the death penalty must go
After leading the nation for decades in recommending death sentences, juries in
Dallas County and Harris County have apparently cooled to the idea. In Dallas,
prosecutors have asked juries to condemn a murderer to death just 2 times since
2014, and in both cases the juries declined. That's good news for anyone
concerned about how justice is meted out in Texas.
While there are crimes that probably deserve death, the defining characteristic
of an execution is its irreversibility. Once carried out, there is no
possibility for mistakes to be corrected. That's a problem for a criminal
justice system whose mistakes are being brought to light more often than ever
by advances in science and technology.
This basic incompatibility has helped soften support for the death penalty.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has sought the death penalty in
only 2 cases since taking office, which we hope suggests an increasingly high
bar for executions in general. The 1st of them, however, was upended last week
when new information about defendant Antonio Cochran's intellectual disability
made him ineligible for execution, thanks to the Supreme Court's narrowing
interpretation of when the Constitution permits the death penalty. But it's a
case out of Bell County not even involving a capital crime that best explains
why our system of justice is fundamentally incompatible with the death penalty.
When jurors convicted George Powell of a Killeen robbery in 2009, it looked
solid enough. A camera recorded the robber leaving the 7-Eleven, where he had
put a handgun on the counter and told the terrified cashier to give him the
cash and some cigarettes. The cashier told police the robber had been about
5-foot-6, according to a story published last week by Brandi Grissom, The
Morning News' Austin bureau chief, but the clerk and a manager later testified
that Powell, who is 6-foot-3, was the robber.
Eyewitness testimony has a lousy track record. And in this case, it was
disputed by the manager of another store that had been robbed 12 days before
when she testified that she recognized Powell and he was definitely not the one
who robbed her.
But prosecutors pointed to the video. And introduced an informant who told
jurors that Powell had confessed while they were in jail.
Now, however, both the video and the snitch's testimony have been contradicted.
The inmate says he lied to curry favor in his own case. And the video? An
expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission has concluded it is
impossible that the man in the video was taller than 5-foot-9.
Powell remains in jail serving 28 years. An appeals court will have to decide
whether all this means he's innocent. Lawmakers ought to ponder whether new
standards for analysis of video evidence are needed, as the commission has
But whatever happens, we know that since he's still alive any mistakes in
Powell's case can still be corrected. That's not possible for those who've been
That's precisely why the death penalty remains fundamentally incompatible with
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
Court will not reconsider Oviedo killer's death sentence----The Florida Supreme
Court heard arguments to throw out Andrew Allred death sentence in the 2007
Oviedo double homicide. Asst. FL. Attorney General Stacey Kircher argues that
he was not in a "disassociative" mental state when he committed the crimes.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's decision not to
reconsider the sentence of an Oviedo man on death row, documents show.
Andrew Allred, 31, was convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing his best
friend and his ex-girlfriend in 2007, following a public break-up during his
21st birthday party. He was sentenced to death for both murders in 2010.
He was appealing the Seminole County Circuit Court's decision to deny his
initial post-conviction motion in 2016, where he claimed he was assigned an
In January 2017, Allred filed an appeal to the initial motion, which was also
denied by the lower court because he voluntarily waived his right to a jury
during the sentencing hearings.
"Allred is among those defendants who validly waived the right to a penalty
phase jury, and his arguments do not compel departing from our precedent," the
According to court records, on Aug. 25, 2007, Allred's girlfriend at the time -
Tiffany Barwick, 19, - broke up with him at his birthday party. During the next
few days, he used photos of her for target practice and later sent her pictures
of those images with bullet holes.
After Allred discovered Barwick was seeing his best friend, Michael Ruschak,
22, he sent both of them threatening messages.
About a month later, he drove to Ruschak's home in Oviedo, where he rammed into
his ex-girlfriend's car several times. He barged into the home and shot Ruschak
4 times, killing him. He then went into the bathroom, where Barwick was hiding,
and shot her 6 times.
Allred pleaded guilty to both murders and later waived his right to a jury and
his right to be in court during his sentencing hearings, according to court
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Supreme Court grants new sentence in throat-slashing death of elderly
A 49-year-old Jacksonville man on death row for killing an 82-year-old disabled
man 20 years ago had his sentence vacated by the Florida Supreme Court on
The court did not throw out Raymond Morrison's 1998 guilty conviction, just his
sentence. Now it is up to the State Attorney's Office to review the case and
determine if it wants to empanel a new jury to once again seek the death
penalty. If not, Morrison will be automatically sentenced to a life behind bars
for killing Albert Dwelle.
In its ruling the Supreme Court found that a lawyer for Morrison failed to
properly investigate his mental health and background - potential mitigating
factors that could have swayed a jury when deciding if Morrison should be
condemned to die.
In 1998 Morrison was found guilty of robbing and killing Dwelle, a neighbor of
his girlfriend's. Dwelle's throat was slashed and he had been robbed. His body
was discovered the following morning by a delivery driver for Meals on Wheels.
Dwelle was disabled for many years after suffering a stroke when he was a
child. He could not use his left arm and hand and could hardly stand. Dwelle
needed assistance to bathe, dress and cook.
2 years ago Circuit Court Judge Henry Davis ruled that 1 of Morrison's lawyers
did an ineffective job representing him in the case that ended with the jury
voting 12-0 for a death sentence.
The lower court judge found that there were several people willing to testify
that Morrison was somewhere else around the time that Dwelle was killed but
none were called to the witness stand.
Davis said attorney Refik Eler did not adequately investigate or prepare an
alibi for his client. 2 years ago the Times-Union reported that an examination
of Morrison's brain after he was placed on death row revealed that he had
abnormal brain metabolism, something typically found with one who has a serious
Morrison confessed to the crime after a detective told him to make everything
right with God. It was later learned that Morrison had smoked crack cocaine
hours before his arrest, which should have been used by his lawyers to explain
the various contradicting stories he told police.
A number of people said Morrison took responsibilities for crimes that he did
not commit. The lower court found that Eler never investigated that or brought
it up at trial. Eler had been Jacksonville's chief assistant public defender
and the office's death-penalty director under former Public Defender Matt
Shirk. On several occasions over the years, courts have called his counsel
Davis found that had he or the jury known about Morrison's serious
mental-health issues, that would have been a major factor to determine if he
was telling the truth at the time of his confession.
After the lower court's decision to throw out the conviction, the then State
Attorney Angela Corey vowed to fight the matter at the Supreme Court. The court
came back with a unanimous decision to throw out the sentence but keep the
State Attorney Melissa Nelson could not be reached for comment.
Quadruple murder suspect Adam Matos faces death penalty if convicted of
murder----Matos claims self defense
The jury is expected to announce their verdict on Thursday in the trial for a
man accused of killing 4 people in Hudson in August 2014.
Matos faces 4 1st-Degree Murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death
penalty. If the jury recommends capital punishment, the jury must make a
On Wednesday, Matos took the stand in his own defense and claimed that
self-defense and "paranoia" led to the brutal quadruple-homicide.
During the trial, Matos calmly went over the day he killed his ex-girlfriend,
her parents, and her new boyfriend.
He said he loved Megan Brown, the mother of their son, and is disgusted by what
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it. Those memories. I
relive them every day."
Matos says the violence started when he was attacked by Megan's new boyfriend,
He told a Pasco County jury Wednesday that he feared for his life as Leonard
choked him and put a gun to his chest inside this Hudson home.
He also says Megan's father, Greg Brown, came in the room with a gun.
Matos admitted to stabbing Leonard with a knife during the fight.
Then he said he shot Brown because he thought Brown was going to kill him too.
He says he fired a gun near was Megan Brown was hiding, and the bullet
ricocheted, hitting her in the eye.
When he realized he'd killed Megan, he says he lost it.
He then went back finish off the injured Leonard with a hammer.
He said he used that same hammer to ambush Megan's mother Margaret Brown when
she came home from work.
"I hit her over the head a few times."
Matos says paranoia had taken over.
"I realize now that she probably wasn't trying to kill me I was just out of it,
so paranoid. In shock."
Prosecutors disputed the order of the killings, based in part on a witness who
Even the judge seemed confused over Matos' claiming self defense, specifically
in reference to Margaret Brown.
Over the days that followed, Matos stayed in the house with his 4-year-old son.
He attempted to clean up the bloody scene.
The 2 were eventually found at a Tampa hotel.
"I was so lost, I didn't know what to do. I was confused, I was sad. The world
was just turned upside down and I didn't have any plan."
The boy is living with family out of state.
During the closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Matos did
not act in self-defense claim and emphasized that he had plenty of time to
think about his decisions before making them.
The defense attorney focused on trying to convince the jury that the homicides
were crimes of passion and that they were not premeditated. If the jury decides
the homicides were crimes of passion, Matos could be convicted on Manslaughter
charges instead of Murder.
(source: ABC News)
Orleans DA will seek death penalty in murder of NOPD officer
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro says his office will pursue
the death penalty against accused cop killer Darren Bridges.
Cannizzaro's office on Thursday secured a 1st-degree murder indictment of
Bridges from an Orleans Parish grand jury.
Bridges is accused of fatally shooting New Orleans Police officer Marcus
McNeil, 29, in the 6800 block of Cindy Place on Oct. 13.
"From everything I know of Officer McNeil, he seemed to be very well-respected
and admired by his fellow officers," Cannizzaro said. "We're going to do our
best to see to it that Mr. Bridges is never in a position to ever hurt anyone
The 8-count grand jury indictment unsealed before Criminal District Judge Keva
Landrum-Johnson contains the following charges against Bridges:
Count 1 - 1st-degree murder of Marcus McNeil
Count 2 - Felon in possession of a firearm
Count 3 - Possession with intent to distribute Buprenorphine
Count 4 - Possession with intent to distribute cocaine
Count 5 - Possession with intent to distribute alprazolam
Count 6 - Possession with intent to distribute tramacol
Count 7 - Obstruction of justice in a 2nd-degree murder case
Count 8 - Aggravated assault with a firearm upon a police officer, Stephan
Judge Johnson set no bond for the first-degree murder charge. She set a
$250,000 bond for each of the other seven counts.
"Under Louisiana law, the penalty for 1st-degree murder can be death,"
Cannizzaro added. "At this time, that is how we will pursue it."
(source: Fox News)
Kasich says no execution changes needed in OhioM
A day after another failed execution in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich's office says
the state's capital-punishment protocol doesn't need to change.
Meanwhile, civil-rights advocates say the latest failure could be used as
evidence in future challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio's death-penalty
Kasich was forced to grant a reprieve for Alva Campbell on Wednesday when a
medical team in the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in
Lucasville determined that it couldn't find 2 suitable veins in his arms or
legs to carry out his lethal injection. Campbell, 69, had been strapped to a
gurney and poked and prodded for about 30 minutes when the team made the
The failure of the execution appears to be just the 3rd in modern U.S. history
- and the 2nd to occur in Ohio during the past decade.
Campbell's ill health presaged a difficult execution. But in 2009, the state
also was forced to halt the execution of a younger, healthier man, Romell
Broom, 53, after 2 hours of trying to find suitable veins.
And in 2014, another problem execution took place, when Dennis McGuire choked
and struggled for about 10 minutes before dying. The state stopped executions
until earlier this year, when it successfully executed Ronald Phillips in July.
It also successfully executed Gary Otte in September.
Then came the attempt to execute Campbell on Wednesday.
State law requires that the condemned be executed by lethal injection. The
state's execution protocol meticulously sets out how lethal injection is
In the wake of Wednesday's problems, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he
would want to see a full report on what happened before deciding whether the
state's protocol needs to be changed.
When asked Thursday whether Campbell's failed execution shows the need for
change, Kasich spokesman John Keeling simply said no.
In any case, there may be no better alternative, said Mike Brickner, senior
policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
Because of long years of sedentary living on death row, smoking and a possible
history of intravenous drug use, the veins of condemned people are likely to be
harder to locate than those of the population at large, Brickner said. And,
because professional associations for doctors and nurses oppose the death
penalty, the most-qualified medical professionals are unlikely to participate
in executions, he said. In addition, the death house doesn't have the medical
equipment that hospitals have to locate hard-to-find-veins.
Groups opposed to the death penalty say that taking convicts such as Campbell
and Broom to the death house a second time violates Eighth Amendment
protections against cruel and unusual punishment and even the Fifth Amendment
provision that no person "be subject for the same offense to twice be put in
jeopardy of life or limb."
"It's like tying someone to the stake (before a firing squad) and missing,"
said Abe Bonowitz, of Ohioans to Stop Executions. "It's like a mock execution."
Mock executions, Bonowitz said, are widely considered to be torture.
Broom's lawyers made the constitutional arguments to the Ohio Supreme Court,
which in 2012 rejected them. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case,
and Broom is now scheduled for execution on June 17, 2020.
But just because the high court declined to hear Broom's case doesn't mean it
will reject every future such case filed by an Ohio inmate, Brickner said. And,
he added, Campbell's failed execution Wednesday likely will be used as further
evidence in challenging Ohio's method.
Ironically, Brickner said, Ohio and other states moved to lethal injection
because concerns arose about the humanity of executing people by firing squad,
electrocution, hanging or in the gas chamber. Ohio's problems with the current
method point to a deeper problem, he said.
"There really is no humane way to kill a person," Brickner said.
No 2nd Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution
Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a 2nd
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display
Thursday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after
its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a 2nd execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal
standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials
during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was
denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the
dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's
death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with
serious ailments, including lung cancer, COPD and respiratory failure. Campbell
has had prostate cancer and a hip replacement. He needs daily oxygen
treatments, uses a walker and is tethered to a colostomy bag.
Ohio officials were so aware of Campbell's breathing problems that they
provided a wedge-shaped pillow to raise his head, so he could breathe more
easily as it set about to end his life.
Officials had been warned about the difficulty of finding a usable vein, and
the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had problems finding
Campbell's veins during a recent exam.
Nonetheless, the state went ahead with his execution.
On Wednesday, the execution team tried 4 different places in Campbell's arms
and right leg to insert the needle through which to administer lethal drugs.
After 30 minutes it stopped the execution and returned Campbell to death row.
Stopping an execution before it is completed is quite unusual, even if serious
problems occur during the procedure. Those serious problems are not rare:
Approximately 3 % of American executions were botched during the 20th century,
and 7 % of lethal injections have been botched since its 1st use in 1982.
But Campbell's was one of the very few executions to be halted since the
The 1st of those was Louisiana's botched electrocution of Willie Francis, in
which the current of electricity was not sufficient to kill him.
The 2nd time an execution was stopped in mid-course occurred in Ohio during the
2009 effort to put Romell Broom to death. The execution team could not find a
usable vein. After 2 hours of repeatedly poking and stabbing Broom's arms and
legs, they gave up.
In April 2014, when Oklahoma tried to execute Clayton Lockett, officials also
had problems finding a usable vein. They finally inserted the needle into a
vein in his groin. When the lethal drugs were administered, Lockett struggled
violently: The needle had dislodged from the vein into a muscle. Ultimately the
execution was stopped before Lockett was killed. Sometime later he died of a
heart attack while still strapped to the gurney.
William Morva's case shows why America shouldn't use the death penalty against
those who suffer from mental illness.
Lockett's death was one of the more gruesome in America's history of botched
executions, but it spared the state an ethical and legal question that faced
officials in the Francis and Broom cases, and now faces Ohio officials who
failed to execute Campbell. What should be done with him?
Should the state, having failed in its 1st execution attempt, be able to try
again? Are we well served when we force the condemned to undergo the
psychological torture of having to prepare to die, only to have to relive the
experience of execution a 2nd time?
The courts bent over backward to permit a 2nd execution in the Francis and
Broom cases. In the former, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the
state would only be barred from going through with a 2nd execution if it had
intentionally botched the 1st. Even if the state were careless or negligent in
its 1st execution attempt, the court said, it could still proceed with another.
The state of Louisiana went ahead and put Francis to death.
In March 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Broom to stop his
2nd execution. The court reaffirmed the Francis precedent and added that since
the lethal chemicals had not begun to flow when his execution was halted, his
"punishment" had not really begun. The United States Supreme Court refused to
hear his appeal that a 2nd execution would constitute double jeopardy and cruel
and unusual punishment. Broom awaits his execution date on Ohio's death row.
The fine legalisms of the Francis and Broom decisions give the state too much
room for error in the serious business of putting someone to death. If the
state is going to kill, it should have the burden of getting it right the first
time. The law should allow no 2nd chances.
I say this not out of sympathy for those whose heinous acts bring them to the
death chamber, but because how a society punishes reveals its true character.
Punishment tells us who we are.
When we punish cruelly we create "a class of punishers whose lives are wasted
and their characters depraved so that as citizens they become almost as
undesirable as the criminals they torture."
Those are the words of a playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and, as Ohio
considers what to do with Campbell, it should heed his warning. Ohio failed to
execute Alva Campbell, despite all the warning signs of the risk of failure
because of his weakened physical state. Now, Ohio's citizens and public
officials should be careful, lest in their eagerness to try a 2nd time, they
"become almost as undesirable" as the murderer they seek to execute.
(source: US News & World Report)
Ohio prisons botch 2 executions in less than 10 years
For the 2nd time in less than 10 years, an Ohio death row inmate survived the
1st attempt of execution after the process already started.
On Wednesday, the execution of 69-year-old condemned killer Alva Campbell was
called off after about 25 minutes because the Ohio execution team couldn't find
a vein to insert an IV for lethal injection.
The planned execution already drew criticism because of Campbell's health
conditions. The Ohio prison department accommodated Campbell with a
wedge-shaped pillow to help him breathe while he was being executed because he
suffers from an obstructive pulmonary disorder.
A new execution date for Campbell has been rescheduled for June 2019.
In 2009, convicted rapist and killer Romell Broom received 18 needle sticks
over the course of 2 hours while Ohio prison technicians attempted to find a
suitable vein for lethal injection.
Eventually, the execution was called off.
Broom, now 61, remains on death row with a new execution date set for 2020. He
has been arguing in court whether the state should be allowed a 2nd attempt at
After Campbell's failed execution, death penalty opponents are urging the state
to put an end to capital punishment.
"This is not justice, and this is not humane," said Mike Brickner of the Ohio
chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ohio Correction Director Gary Mohr said that the lethal injection team humanely
handled Campbell's attempt and that it was called off after talking with the
(source: WOIO news)
Experts: Failed execution attempt may cause legal challenges
Ohio's failure to execute a condemned killer with poor veins despite multiple
claims by the state that the veins were accessible will lead to new challenges
of the state lethal injection process, death penalty experts predict.
Each new problem with executions adds to the question of whether Ohio is
violating the constitutional rights of death-row prisoners, Mike Benza, a Case
Western Reserve University law professor who has represented death-row inmates,
Front and center is the state's protocol for conducting executions, he said.
"How can you write this, say, 'This is what we're going to do, we've trained
our people,' and then they don't do it?" Benza said.
Prisons director Gary Mohr called off Wednesday's execution of Alva Campbell
about 25 minutes after several unsuccessful attempts to insert an IV in
Campbell's arms and right leg.
"The veins were not good," Mohr said, explaining the decision.
Yet 3 times in 24 hours - 12:07 p.m. and 8:09 p.m. on Tuesday, and 9:56 a.m. on
Wednesday - the state said Campbell's veins appeared usable.
Campbell was sentenced to die for fatally shooting a teen in a 1997 carjacking.
Republican Gov. John Kasich set a new execution date in June 2019.
Ohio's next execution is Feb. 13, when the state plans to put to death Raymond
Tibbetts for fatally stabbing a man in Cincinnati in 1997.
Lawyers challenging Ohio's lethal injection system are still reviewing what
happened Wednesday, Allen Bohnert, a federal public defender, said Thursday.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which defends the lethal injection process,
declined to comment.
The failed execution is another reminder of fundamental flaws with lethal
injection, said Lori Shaw, a University of Dayton law professor.
"The state should not adopt a process that requires someone without the proper
training and expertise to perform a medical procedure," Shaw said.
The identities of Ohio executioners aren't known, but some have had experience
as paramedics, according to past court testimony.
In 2009, the state called off the execution of killer Romell Broom after 2
hours of unsuccessful attempts to find a vein. Broom is back on death row with
a new execution date in 2020.
In 2006, Ohio executioners needed more than an hour to put Joseph Clark to
death because of trouble with his veins.
On Wednesday, the execution team worked for about 25 minutes to find a vein in
Campbell's arms or his right lower leg as he lay on a gurney in the death
chamber. Team members used a locating device with an ultraviolet light while
comforting Campbell by patting him on the arm and shoulder.
Although it appeared the executioners had successfully inserted a needle in his
shin, the warden instructed the team to pull it out, said David Stebbins,
Campbell's public defender.
Stebbins said Campbell's poor veins and other health ills are problems that
won't go away anytime soon.
Death penalty opponents called for the state to put an end to the death
(source: Associated Press)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
DeathPenalty mailing list