2017-11-14 15:00:53 UTC
Missouri judge faces rare chance to impose death penalty
A southwest Missouri jury's inability to decide whether a man should be put to
death for kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl sets up a rare situation
where a judge will make that decision.
Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy is scheduled to announce Jan. 11 whether Craig
Wood will get the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. Wood was
convicted of kidnapping and killing Hailey Owen in Springfield in February 2014
but the jury announced Monday that it couldn???t reach a unanimous decision on
Missouri and Indiana are the only states where a judge can impose a death
sentence, while other states follow the federal procedure that a defendant is
sentenced to life in prison if a jury can't reach a decision on the death
penalty. But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury, not a
judge, can make that decision.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information
Center, said a judge-imposed sentence might contradict the Supreme Court
ruling. He said if Mountjoy imposes the death penalty, the constitutionality of
the process will "unquestionably" be challenged by Wood's attorneys during the
But Wood's attorney Patrick Berrigan declined to comment on his legal strategy.
Berrigan, a public defender who handles only death penalty cases, said it's
been more than 20 years since he had a case where a judge imposed the death
Judge Mountjoy did not respond to requests asking if he has ever been in this
Dunham said Missouri jurors have not imposed a death sentence since 2013, but
the state's hung jury procedure allowed judges to sentence a few men to death
row in recent years. He did not have statistics on how many times that has
happened in Missouri.
"It raises very serious questions about circumventing the will of the public,"
Dunham said. "Especially in a state where no jury has sentenced anyone to death
for 5 years."
(source: Missouri Lawyers Weekly)
State follows voters' wishes with death penalty plans
The Ricketts administration is keeping the faith with Nebraska voters who in
2016 strongly supported reviving the death penalty.
The Department of Correctional Services announced Thursday that it plans to use
a new combination of 4 drugs to carry out the next execution. The previous,
3-drug protocol was replaced because the state could not legally obtain the
Jose Sandoval, considered the ring leader of the 2002 Norfolk bank robbery
murders, would be the 1st person executed using these drugs: diazepam, fentanyl
citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.
The state's next step is for Attorney General Doug Peterson to request a death
It's been a while. Nebraska last carried out the death penalty in 1997, when it
executed murderer and rapist Robert E. Williams.
Some members of the Legislature highlighted the delays in carrying out the
death penalty as a key reason for repealing it in 2015. They had watched the
state struggle to obtain the necessary drugs for lethal injection, and the
courts had already outlawed using Nebraska's previous method, the electric
A referendum revived capital punishment. Now voters frustrated with the pace of
the state's latest implementation of the death penalty will need to practice
patience. This new drug protocol, like others before it, will face legal
challenges. The appeals process exists to reduce the likelihood of an innocent
person being executed.
Death penalty opponents say they plan to question the unproven protocol,
although that might be an uphill legal battle. Opponents also continue to
appeal the legality of involving a 3-judge panel in Nebraska's sentencing
process for capital cases.
The incremental nature of the process was to be expected. The wheels of justice
typically turn slowly in capital cases.
But they are turning again, as sought by 61 % of the Nebraskans who voted to
restore the death penalty.
(source: Editorial, Omaha World-Herald)
Opponents of death penalty weighing options to block state execution
Opponents of the death penalty are weighing their options now that the state
has announced steps toward the 1st execution in Nebraska in 20 years.
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad says it's interesting the
Department of Correctional Services proposes a 4-drug lethal injection protocol
to execute Jose Sandoval.
"At first blush, it definitely appears that this is a novel approach taken by
the state of Nebraska and out of step with practices in other states," ACLU of
Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad tells Nebraska Radio Network.
States have traditionally used a 3-drug protocol for lethal injections, though
some have moved to a 1-drug protocol.
Nebraska state law requires the department to give the condemned inmate at
least 60 days' notice before the Attorney General requests an execution date
from the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Corrections officials say the state has secured diazepam, fentanyl citrate,
cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride; the drugs needed for lethal
Sandoval received a death sentence after being convicted on 5 counts of
1st-degree murder for the deaths of 5 people in the Norfolk bank robbery in
September of 2002. Prosecutors say Sandoval led a group of 4 men who attempted
to rob the bank. He shot and killed 3 of the victims.
Nebraska held its last execution in 1997.
Conrad says the ACLU is reviewing the protocol and is consulting with capital
"And a lot of people are really scratching their heads over this very
disappointing and strange approach," according to Conrad.
Why Nevada's new lethal injection is unethical
Nevada has temporarily called off its 1st inmate execution in 11 years. Scott
Dozier, sentenced for the 2002 murder of his 22-year-old drug associate,
Jeremiah Miller, was to be put to death on Nov. 14. Dozier instructed his
lawyer in August not to file any more appeals.
On Thursday, Nov. 9, however, Judge Jennifer Togliatti temporarily postponed
the execution. Judge Togliatti said she was "loath to stop" Dozier's execution,
but she did so because she was concerned about the untested and controversial
drug protocol that would be used to put him to death. She wanted to give the
state Supreme Court a chance to evaluate.
From my perspective as a scholar of capital punishment, Nevada's new drug
protocol sheds a glaring light on the troubled state of lethal injections in
the United States. It also raises some serious ethical questions.
The 1st lethal injection protocol was developed by Oklahoma's medical examiner,
Jay Chapman, in the late 1970s. Back then, Oklahoma was looking for an
alternative to electrocution, which was considered inhuman and brutal.
The protocol Chapman developed called for the use of 3 drugs: The 1st, sodium
thiopental, would anesthetize inmates and put them to sleep before the lethal
drugs were administered. The 2nd drug, pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant,
was meant to render the inmate unable to show pain. The 3rd drug, potassium
chloride, led to a cardiac arrest and eventual death. This protocol soon became
the standard and was adopted by all death penalty states - now numbering at 31.
However, by the start of this decade, pharmaceutical companies, "citing either
moral or business reasons," refused to allow their products to be used in
The difficulty of securing the drugs that had been part of the standard
protocol led death penalty states to experiment with many different drugs in
many different combinations.
States likes Alabama and Arkansas, for example, maintained the 3-drug protocol
but replaced sodium thiopental in the standard drug cocktail with midazolam or
pentobarbital, which doctors normally use as sedatives or for anesthesia. Other
states, including Arizona and Ohio, started using a 2-drug protocol, while a
few, such as Georgia, Missouri and South Dakota, adopted a single drug.
Nevada's new protocol involves a 3-drug combination - the sedative diazepam
(better known as Valium), the muscle relaxant and paralytic cisatracurium and
the opioid fentanyl.
My research on methods of execution reveals that this combination of drugs has
never been used in an execution.
Execution by a lethal injection, even when it follows the standard protocol, is
a surprisingly complicated procedure. Finding usable veins and getting the drug
dosages right has proved to be particularly difficult. As I found out, it has
often been an unreliable method of execution. Since its introduction, 7 % of
all lethal injections have been botched.
Those complications and difficulties increase when states try out new, untested
drugs or drug combinations. Convicts have taken a leading role in opposing such
experimentation. In February 2017, a death row inmate in Alabama appealed to
the United States Supreme Court saying that he preferred death by firing squad
to an injection of midazolam. While it recognized lethal injection's history of
problems, the majority held that since Alabama did not offer the firing squad
as an execution method, his preference could not be honored. In a dissenting
view, however, Justice Sonya Sotomayor called the use of new drugs in lethal
injection the "most cruel experiment yet."
Nevada's Dozier too has said that he is opposed to "the state's plan to kill
him using a drug protocol that has never been used in an execution."
There are other troubling issues as well. Using fentanyl, a drug that is
killing thousands of Americans annually during the current opioid crisis, is
horrifying, to say the least.
In addition, figuring out the right dosage of diazepam and fentanyl in Nevada's
new protocol will not be easy. And if this is not done correctly, Dozier could
even wake up in the middle of the execution, as Susi Vassallo, a New York
University professor of emergency medicine, has written on lethal injection
notes. In the words of Judge Togliatti, he could be "aware of pain" and
struggle to breathe.
Employing the powerful paralytic cisatracurium in this new drug protocol raises
other ethical concerns.
If the combination of diazepam and fentanyl fails to work, cisatracurium will
prevent Dozier from signaling to his executioners that they are botching the
execution even as it happens. As David Waisel, an anesthesiologist at Boston
Children???s Hospital, claimed, "Cisatracurium can hide signs of inadequate
anesthesia." That is its only purpose.
In other lethal injection protocols, the muscle relaxant was also designed to
stop the heart. Thus, those who conduct the execution and those who witness it
will not be able to see the visible signs of Dozier's suffering if it occurs.
In my view, if Nevada and other death penalty states insist on experimenting
with new drugs to keep the machinery of death running, citizens and government
officials alike need to take responsibility to prevent any cruelty.
Writing about the use of the guillotine in France more than half a century ago,
Albert Camus, philosopher, author and journalist, said,
"Society must display the executioner's hands on each occasion, and require the
most squeamish citizens to look at them, as well as those who, directly or
remotely, have supported the work of those hands from the first."
While lethal injection is different from the guillotine, in modern times the
imperative remains the same.
(source: Austin Sarat, Amherst College, The Conversation)
After saying he opposes death penalty, governor hopeful Sisolak now says it
would be appropriate in extreme cases
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak is walking back a previous
statement opposing the death penalty, saying he believes capital punishment
would still be appropriate in "very extreme" cases such as that of Las Vegas
mass shooting suspect Stephen Paddock.
Sisolak, a Clark County Commissioner and devout Catholic, staked out a strong
stance against executions in an interview with The Nevada Independent last
"I'm opposed to capital punishment," he said. "One, there's a cost factor
associated with it that's significant. Two, I think there have been cases where
it was proven that the wrong person was executed, and 3, that I don't think
that I should play God in terms of determining who dies and who lives."
But on Monday, his campaign sought to clarify that while Sisolak stands by his
quote, he thinks capital punishment might be warranted in certain cases such as
that of Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured more than 500 on the Las
Vegas Strip last month. The Paddock case is moot because the shooter killed
The campaign did not clarify what would constitute a "very extreme" case and
whether the defendant in a forthcoming execution would fit under that category,
and Sisolak himself didn't immediately respond to the question of how he would
define death penalty-worthy cases.
Debate about capital punishment has reemerged as Nevada prepares to carry out
the death penalty for the first time in 11 years. The execution of Scott
Dozier, a former methamphetamine dealer who has been convicted of murdering 2
drug associates and is now volunteering to die, is on hold pending an order of
the Nevada Supreme Court about a never-before-used lethal injection cocktail.
Governors play an outsized role in the death penalty in Nevada. They can put a
temporary hold on an execution, and as part of the Board of Pardons
Commissioners, hold the deciding vote on whether someone's sentence can be
reduced from death to life without parole and can decide whether the board
should even consider such a request.
The governor can also veto bills seeking to abolish the death penalty and the
future governor's position can determine Nevada's very status as a death
penalty state. Democratic lawmakers who supported a death penalty abolition
bill this spring abandoned their push after Gov. Brian Sandoval signaled he was
opposed to it.
The death penalty bill was not brought up for any votes in the
Democrat-controlled Legislature. Notably, the threat of a veto did not prevent
Democrats from passing other bills that Sandoval opposed out of the Legislature
and sending it to his desk, where he fulfilled the threat.
A poll conducted by The Nevada Independent in January found 66 % of voters
support the death penalty.
Sisolak's position to retain the death penalty as an option puts him in line
with 3 other Republicans contenders in the governor's race - Adam Laxalt, Dan
Schwartz and Jared Fisher. His Democratic primary opponent, Chris
Giunchigliani, opposes the death penalty.
Nevada is 1 of 31 states with the death penalty. It has executed 12 people
since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
(source: The Nevada Independent)
CLU To Deliver Death Penalty Petition Today
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada will deliver a petition to
Governor Brian Sandoval, asking him to help prevent the use of an untested
combination of lethal drugs to execute convicted killer Scott Dozier.
The Nevada Independent reports that the petition is part of a strategy to keep
Dozier from being executed, despite the fact that Dozier himself has asked the
state to carry out the execution.
The execution has been delayed over concerns about the drug combination
scheduled to be used, and as of now, the delay hangs on an order from the
Nevada Supreme Court, which has not given a date for its decision.
(source: KNPR news)
Mom's boyfriend 'liked torturing' Gabriel Fernandez, 8, prosecutor says at
A prosecutor, summing up the case Monday against a Palmdale resident charged in
the torture-murder of his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, called the defendant an
"evil" man who "liked torturing" the youngster.
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami began his closing argument by showing
a photo of Gabriel Fernandez' battered body lying on an autopsy table - covered
in head-to-toe injuries - as evidence of defendant Isauro Aguirre's intent to
kill the boy.
"You can't believe a person in our society would intentionally murder a child,"
Hatami said, comparing the abuse to that suffered by a prisoner of war.
"Believe it, because it happened. This was intentional murder by torture," he
told the jury. "Do not go back in the jury room and make excuses for the
defendant ... this had nothing to do with drugs ... this had nothing to do with
mental health issues."
Aguirre, 37, who worked as a security guard, is charged with murder, along with
a special circumstance allegation of murder involving the infliction of
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Aguirre and his girlfriend,
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 34, who will be tried separately for her son's May
Hatami said Gabriel was systematically tortured for months.
"He was being starved and punched and kicked and abused and beaten ... he was
belittled, bullied and called gay. His teeth were knocked out," Hatami said.
"He was tied up every night in a box ... Gabriel was dying."
The prosecutor said Aguirre is one of a small group of people who are "just bad
... There is evil in this room, and it is right over there."
He painted a picture of Aguirre sleeping in a comfortable bed night after night
while, in the same room, Gabriel was bound and gagged inside a small cabinet
with a "sock in his mouth, a shoelace (tying) up his hands, a bandanna over his
face" and his ankles handcuffed.
"To force a child to eat cat litter and cat feces, more than once, how does
somebody do that?" Hatami asked.
After the 6 foot, 2 inch, 270-pound defendant allegedly punched and kicked
Gabriel hard enough to dent the walls of the family's apartment and leave the
8-year-old unconscious, Aguirre and the boy's mother hid some of the child's
bloody clothing and moved a picture to cover up one of the biggest indentations
before calling 911, according to the prosecutor.
"There's no evidence that he was going to save Gabriel," Hatami said, telling
jurors that the defenant lied to the 911 dispatcher and paramedics who arrived
on the scene.
The defense was scheduled to present a closing argument this afternoon.
One of Aguirre's attorneys, John Alan, acknowledged during his opening
statement last month that his client committed "unspeakable acts of abuse"
against the boy before "exploding into a rage of anger." But the defense
contends that Aguirre never meant to kill the child.
Hatami sought to undercut that claim, telling jurors in his summation of the
case that Aguirre hated the boy. The couple only took him from his maternal
grandparents so that they could collect welfare payments for his care, the
"Gabriel was a gentler boy, a sweeter boy (than his brother) and the defendant
hated him because of that ... he believed Gabriel was gay," Hatami said. "This
stressful situation and rage thing is a lie ... because it's not supported by
the evidence. The defendant actually liked torturing Gabriel. He got off on it
... he is a murderer and he is a torturer."
Hatami recalled testimony about a medical excuse to explain Gabriel's absence
from school, which was allegedly forged by Aguirre and Fernandez. The
prosecutor said that documentation, along with the couple later telling the
school that the boy had moved to Texas, was evidence of their sophistication
He said text messages between the pair in the month the boy was beaten to death
included 1 from Aguirre telling Fernandez: "stop giving him atencion (sic) ...
"I told u I'll handle him." 2 days later, according to Hatami, Aguirre sent a
text saying he was "looking at murder cases."
Hatami showed jurors an earlier picture of Gabriel, sitting next to his brother
with a big smile on his face.
"The defendant took everything from him," the prosecutors told jurors, urging
them to "Hold him responsible. It ends here. It ends now."
During the trial, jurors heard testimony from 2 of the boy's siblings, with his
16-year-old brother telling jurors that the boy was forced to eat cat litter
and cat feces and was repeatedly beaten in the months leading up to his death.
The boy's sister testified that Aguirre shot her youngest brother with a BB gun
and put him in a cabinet that had handcuffs attached to it so he couldn't get
The boy's maternal grandfather described him as "like a son" and said he and
his wife had practically raised the tot before his daughter and Aguirre took
the child to live with them. Robert Fernandez cried as he recalled promising
the boy that he could come home and live with his grandparents after an
investigation by the county Department of Children and Family Services was
"Was he loved?" Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami asked.
"Always," the boy's grandfather responded.
The boy's 1st-grade teacher, Jennifer Garcia, told jurors that she called
authorities to report his account that he was being hit months before his death
and continued to call social workers at various times throughout the school
year about the boy, saying it was more calls than she had ever made in her
Garcia testified that she stopped sending home notes about behavioral concerns
because she was concerned that they were causing the youngster to get injured.
She also said she noticed that he had "various bruises in different stages of
healing" when he returned from being absent from school.
Jurors also heard emotional testimony from a registered nurse who saw the boy
on May 22, 2013, after he was brought by paramedics to Antelope Valley
Hospital's emergency room. Christine Estes described the boy's body as
"lifeless" with "bruising from head to toe," saying it was "literally worse
than any horror movie I've seen."
During the defense's portion of the case, jurors saw portions of a videotaped
interview in which Aguirre was crying as he was being interviewed by a Los
Angeles County sheriff's detective and saying that he wanted to go see the boy.
Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were called to the family's home
in the 200 block of East Avenue Q-10 in response to a call that Gabriel was not
breathing. He was declared brain dead that day, then taken off life support 2
Aguirre and the boy's mother have remained jailed without bail since being
charged in May 2013 with the boy's death. The 2 were subsequently indicted by a
Los Angeles County grand jury.
2 former Los Angeles County social workers - Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia
Clement - and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year
with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in
connection with the case.
(source: Los Angeles Daily News)
Palmdale abuse case: 'He had 8 months to save him,' prosecutor says in closing
Closing arguments began in downtown Los Angeles on Monday in the trial of the
man accused of beating and torturing to death his girlfriend's 8-year-old son
Gabriel Fernandez died from his injuries in 2013.
Isauro Aguirre is accused of repeatedly beating the boy and torturing him
because he believed the child was gay.
The jury that will be asked to decide the case against Aguirre heard testimony
from a senior deputy medical examiner who said that it took 2 days to finish
the autopsy on Gabriel.
The boy suffered burns, a fractured skull and broken ribs and was malnourished
when he died. Eight BBs were recovered from the boy's body after his death.
Aguirre, 37, is charged with murder, along with a special circumstance
allegation of murder involving the infliction of torture.
His lawyer admitted his client is guilty but said he doesn't deserve the death
Gabriel's mother is also charged with murder and will be tried separately.
During the closing arguments, the prosecutor told jurors that Aguirre never
tried to save Gabriel during his last moments. "He had 8 months to save him"
and didn't. The prosecutor added that although the boy's mother, Pearl
Fernandez, was not a good person, evidence shows that the most serious signs of
abuse came after Aguirre got in the family picture.
""None of this stuff started until that defendant showed up," the prosecutor
said as he pointed at Aguirre.
Aguirre and the boy's mother have remained jailed without bail since being
charged in May 2013 with the boy's death. The two were subsequently indicted by
a Los Angeles County grand jury.
2 former Los Angeles County social workers -- Stefanie Rodriguez and Patricia
Clement -- and supervisors Kevin Bom and Gregory Merritt were charged last year
with 1 felony count each of child abuse and falsifying public records in
connection with the case.
(source: ABC News)
The Skewed Politics of the Death Penalty
Alfred Dewayne Brown was condemned to death in 2005 after his conviction for
killing a Houston police officer and a store clerk in a botched robbery in
Texas. He spent a decade trying to prove his innocence, but it was only when an
attorney named Brian Stolarz took his case and helped uncover the records of a
phone call that proved he wasn't anywhere near the scene of the crime - records
that had been concealed from the grand jury - that Brown was finally exonerated
and released in 2015.
Stolarz' book about the case, Grace and Justice on Death Row (Skyhorse
Publishing), arrives at a time when the movement for abolishing the death
penalty continues to be stymied at the federal level - even as it has won more
support in the states. In a conversation with TCR's Julia Pagnamenta, Stolarz
discusses the outlook for the abolition of capital punishment in the U.S., how
the politics of electing judges makes death sentences more likely, and how his
Catholic faith influenced his own approach to the issue.
The Crime Report: Why write this book now?
Brian Stolarz: The death penalty debate in this country is trending towards
abolition. In a new Gallup poll, approval is the lowest it's been since the
70's. A Pew research poll had [the approval rate] below 50 %. It is my belief
that it will be abolished one day. And I hope that cases like Dewayne's shine a
light on why.
TCR: And yet in the current political climate, it doesn't seem like the death
penalty will be abolished on the federal level.
Brian Stolarz: I think the best way to attack the death penalty right now is
through the states. Nebraska was a good example of a traditionally red state
having that important debate. I think the federal death penalty will stay in
large part because of the make-up of the Supreme Court. Now, with [Neil]
Gorsuch taking Justice Antonin Scalia's seat, I think it will be a number of
years, if not decades, before the court shifts to a 5-4 for unconstitutionality
of the death penalty.
So the way to attack that is on the state level and to identify what is called
the "outlier counties." There are only certain counties in this country that
use it, and if there's pressure even in those states to narrow it, and get rid
of it, then maybe we can chip away at this brick by brick. If Nebraska is doing
it, then other states can too, and if we get it so that it's done only in a
couple of states, then it becomes even more unconstitutional, and you may even
have a federal challenge to it.
TCR: Let's talk a little about Dewayne's case: the prosecutor coerced Dewayne's
girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, into giving false testimony, and then hid the phone
record that would have exonerated him. How did this happen?
Brian Stolarz: This case was in our view a rush to judgment. You have a high-
profile case in which a black defendant is being charged in the murder of a
white police officer, and there is a sense that they want to get quick justice.
And so because there was never any science that connected Dewayne to the case,
(and) never will be, this case was based largely on the testimony of his
girlfriend Ericka Dockery.
Dewayne's alibi was incredibly straightforward: He was at Ericka's apartment at
the time of the murders, and made a phone call to where she worked. Ericka
testified that way in the grand jury.
The DA, and the grand jurors in particular, were badgering her, and in our view
threatening her, and they kept pressing on her. I've never seen anything like
the transcript in this case. But she held firm to Dewayne's alibi. And the DA -
and this is the moment where the case changed - decided that on his own, he
would charge her with perjury, and ask for a very high bail, and then she sat
in jail for 4 months. Her life fell apart. She lost her job, her kids ... and
so she said "fine, I'll say whatever you want."
But then we uncovered through our investigation that she testified about the
phone call occurring on the caller ID box. The DA, Dan Rizzo, subpoenaed the
phone company the day after she testified in the grand jury. The documents were
sent by the phone company to the police, and it showed that Dewayne paid (for)
that phone call, but they never turned the record over.
And that is still astonishing to me. The reason we got it was because the DA
who was in charge of the writ of appeal emailed us in May of 2013, and said
that the cop in charge of the investigation had recently spring-cleaned his
garage, and found a box of documents. He sent it to us, and in the middle of
the box was the phone record we had been looking for (over) 8 long years.
"It's easier to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent in this country":
TCR: You write about the lack of money and resources for public defenders,
especially compared to the funding and political backing prosecutors receive.
Brian Stolarz: Sadly, it's easier to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent
in this country, and it's always more popular to pay the prosecutor than to pay
a public defender. I hope that is going to change, because the Constitution is
only upheld and preserved and maintained if the process is fair for everybody.
In this case, Dewayne had a court-appointed lawyer, and the DA had all the
resources to investigate. I see that in cases I work on all the time, and it's
bothersome to me because if Dewayne had the law firm I worked at, K & L Gates,
that could have thrown a lot of resources at it, it might have been a different
result for him, and he might not have spent 12 years and 62 days in jail for
something he didn't do.
TCR: You worked pro bono nature on Dewayne's case. Is this a common practice
for private law firms?
Brian Stolarz: A strong public defender is always the first line of defense and
that should be where our resources go. You can't depend on large law firms to
pick up the slack on everything because there are only a few law firms that
will put the kind of resources that our firm put towards it.
TCR: How important to the capital punishment issue is the fact that judges
administering these cases are elected?
Brian Stolarz: There's a part in the book where I write that the Alabama
judicial system had a jury override function, that the jury could recommend
life, but then the judge could override that and give death. Well, in election
years, the judges would override the jury verdicts more. It's transparent to me
to why they did that: to get elected. To me, that's not justice, that???s
political gain; I think all judges across the country should be appointed by
their respective governors, or whatever bodies can do it. I think that when you
politicize law, you are making it such that certain things are valued over
other things, whether it's these tough-on-crime sentences, or whether it's a
judicial override, so that a person can say at a rally, I put 10 people to
death. Well that's not what I want my judge to be up there saying.
TCR: Your Catholic faith guided you through Dewayne's case, and informs your
opposition to the death penalty. And yet, in the book you recall how a
religious group outside of Dewayne's prison refused to serve you any food after
you told them you were defending a person on death row. How did that affect
There is a certain level of hypocrisy that I see when I speak in churches. When
I talked to this group, where they were all too happy to give a fish platter to
the guard but they wouldn't give one to me because I was defending someone in
there. They were all happy to advocate for this man's death. It just didn't
seem like the Christian way. Growing up Catholic, I was told that life was
life, beginning and end, no matter what you've done, and it's not the state's
role to kill anybody. Pope Francis has put a finer point on that now, and I
hope that that combined with the advocacy work of Sister Helen, we can finally
show that the Christian stance is that the death penalty should not happen.
TCR: Justice Scalia, also a practicing Catholic, supported the death penalty.
Brian Stolarz: Justice Scalia and I differed on our application of it even if
we both had a strong Catholic faith.
TCR: Well, maybe in his case it wasn't a Catholic interpretation, but a
Constitutional reading of the death penalty?
Brian Stolarz: Yeah, it had to be. That's what I read into it, but my faith has
told me it's not the right thing to do. If I were a judge I guess I would have
to think about it differently, but from where I sit right now, it's not the
right thing to do. The state shouldn't do this, and I hope Pope Francis\'s
message carries some weight.
TCR: There is currently an art exhibit, "Windows on Death Row" at Columbia Law
School. People on death row made the art, and Columbia hosted several events
this fall around the topic. At the 1st event, a Swiss representative who
introduced the discussion said a central tenet of Switzerland's foreign policy
was a universal abolition of the death penalty. It's also a European Union
foreign policy objective. Why is it that the United States is one of the only
countries in the Western world that still uses the death penalty?
Brian Stolarz: I spend a lot of time talking to folks in the European Union
(EU). I've been to a few conferences and people are still shocked that we have
it. We're on a list with countries like Iraq and Iran and China, countries we
don't normally want to be on a list with as far as human rights. You can't be a
member of the EU if you have the death penalty. EU companies are not allowing
drugs to be shipped here for this reason. Their advocacy is really important,
and I think with more pressure like that, it may begin to change how we all
The American frontier spirit, and the Old Testament "eye-for-an-eye" approach
has carried the narrative for us up to now. But I think that's changing given
the recent public opinion polls.
(source: Julia Pagnamenta is a news intern for The Crime
ACLU claims death by lethal injection inhumane, cruel and unusual
punishment----Media witness account says executions 'somewhat peaceful,' seems
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval
to halt the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier, 46. The state's branch of the
civil liberties organization objects to using a previously untested drug
cocktail on the condemned killer to deliver capital punishment at Dozier's
request, KNPR reported.
Dozier's execution by lethal injection was originally scheduled for today but
was postponed on November 9. Judge Jennifer Togliatti, Clark County District
Court pulled an untested paralytic from the lethal mix of drugs slated for the
Nevada murderer's execution injection.
The proposed lethal injection protocol included the paralytic cisatracurium, as
well as the sedative diazepam and the opioid fentanyl.
No state has ever used such a drug combination in carrying out a death
Once Judge Togliatti said no-go to the paralytic drug during execution. James
Dzurenda, Nevada's prisons chief, nixed Dozier's execution for now. A solicitor
for state Attorney General Adam Laxalt's office assured that the order will be
appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada, according to Time.
The drawback with administering a paralytic, according to experts, is that it
might also mask problems with the injection protocol and render Dozier
incapable of signaling distress and could lead him to suffocate to death. After
the state's high court rules on Nevada's proposed injection protocol, the
execution could still take place, Judge Togliatti stated.
The ACLU gave Governor Sandoval a petition yesterday that was reportedly signed
by an excess of 600 Nevada residents, asking him to call off the execution, the
Nevada Independent noted. Dozier not only murdered 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller,
he also dismembered him, shoved his torso in a suitcase, and tossed the
suitcase in a trash dumpster. He was convicted and sentenced to death. He also
murdered Jasen Green, 26, in Arizona and dumped his dismembered body in the
With Dozier voluntarily asking to have capital punishment exacted, and having
abandoned all appeals, his execution will represent an end to the 11-year break
Nevada took from carrying out the #death penalty against condemned killers.
When executed, Dozier will be the 1st death row inmate put to death in the
state's new $860,000 execution chamber.
Condemned killer's execution makes possible additional capital punishments
If Governor Sandoval does not grant a stay of execution and if the Nevada's
high court rules to allow Dozier's execution, and if Dozier stays the course,
(he assured Judge Togliatti that he very much wants his wishes to be
respected), then, there is much more at stake following his capital punishment.
Dozier's execution would open the possibility for additional capital
punishments to be carried out. The state will have established its death
Horror stories about executions' cruelty don???t stand up to media witness
While civil libertarians present strong opinions about why Dozier should not be
executed, falling back on the ever-ready claim that capital punishment is
inhumane and that execution is cruel and unusual punishment, there are
additional opinions that should not be slighted. Media witnesses have attended
the executions of death row inmates.
Most recent was the lethal injection of Patrick Charles Hannon in Florida on
November 9, the very date that Dozier's date with death was delayed in Nevada.
Greg Angel, a CBS news reporter, was one of the media witnesses. It was not his
first time watching a killer held accountable for taking people's lives.
Hannon's execution marked the third time Angel has witnessed capital punishment
imposed on a condemned killer.
Despite horror stories employed by death penalty opponents, it has been Angel's
observation that the condemned killers did not suffer as capital punishment was
carried out. Angel likened the executions to "watching someone fall asleep,"
the New Zealand Herald reported.
Executions missing pain and violence, 'somewhat peaceful'
Angel did as was expected in witnessing executions. He reported whether the
lethal injection protocol administered was done humanely. Killers going to
sleep permanently is entirely a lot less cruel than how they behaved toward
Among Angel's observations, pain and violence were missing from the executions.
According to the New Herald, he actually remarked, "It is silent and somewhat
peaceful." That's a far cry from what the ACLU and others would like Nevada's
governor to believe, in seeking to sway him to grant Dozier a stay of
State authorities are quite competent and capable of ensuring that justice is
not elusive and haunting crime victims' families and friends. When killers are
sentenced to die, maybe society needs to stop embracing the fear-baiting of
those, such as the ACLU, opposed to the death penalty.
2 US Navy SEALs suspected of killing an Army Green Beret could face the death
The 2 US Navy SEALs who authorities suspect killed US Army Staff Sgt. Logan
Melgar in a diplomatic compound in Bamako, Mali, may face the death penalty if
convicted, a legal expert told Business Insider.
Investigators have ruled Melgar's death a homicide by strangulation, and a
recent report in The Daily Beast cited 5 sources in the special-operations
community as saying the SEALs, who have not been publicly identified, killed
Melgar after he discovered they had illegally pocketed money used to pay
Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who's an expert on naval law, told
Business Insider that although the Navy had not executed a sailor in more than
150 years, this case was extraordinary.
"If the reported facts were established, the murder of Staff Sgt. Melgar would
be among the most aggravating factors and could justify referral to
courts-martial as capital cases," Brennan told Business Insider.
According to the law, "the death penalty is available in cases of pre-meditated
murder, as appears possible in this case," Brennan said.
Brennan said the SEALs could stand before the military equivalent of a grand
jury, where capital punishment would be on the table.
Melgar, a 34-year-old Texan, deployed to Afghanistan twice. He was assigned to
Mali with the 3rd Special Forces Group to help train locals and support
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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