2017-04-08 12:44:31 UTC
TEXAS----stay of impending execution
Texas court halts execution after parents seek mercy for their son's killer
Texas' top criminal court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of Paul
Storey after the parents of the man he killed said they did not want him to
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Storey's case back to a lower court
for review and halted his execution, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.
Paul Storey was convicted of the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry during a robbery
at a Hurst putt-putt golf park. His accomplice, Dewayne Porter, pleaded guilty
and received a life sentence.
Storey was offered the same plea deal as Porter, but he chose to go to trial
and was sentenced to death. His lawyers, in an appeal filed Friday, contend
that Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that the Cherry family wanted
Storey to be executed, despite knowing they opposed the death penalty.
In a video released this week, Judith and Glenn Cherry pleaded with prosecutors
and Gov. Greg Abbott to stop Storey's execution.
"It pains us to think that due to our son's death, another person will be
purposefully put to death," Judith Cherry said in the video. "Also motivating
us is that we do not want Paul Storey's family, especially his mother and
grandmother, if she is still alive, to witness the purposeful execution of
their son. They are innocent of his deeds."
The Cherrys asked state officials to commute Storey's sentence to life without
At least 1 juror who served during Storey's trial told defense lawyers that he
would have refused to vote for the death penalty had he known the Cherrys did
not want it.
"I would have held out for a life without the possibility parole for as long as
it took," juror Sven Berger wrote in an affidavit.
Because prosecutors gave the jury false information, Storey's lawyers contend
in their latest appeal that he should be granted a new trial to determine his
The Court of Criminal Appeals asked a lower court to review Storey's claims and
make recommendations about whether he should receive a new trial to determine
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Texas court halts execution of man amid claims of false evidence----The Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Paul Storey Friday afternoon,
which was set for next Wednesday.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Paul Storey,
which was set for Wednesday.
In a 3-page order Friday afternoon, the court sent the case back to the Tarrant
County trial court to review claims regarding the prosecution presenting false
evidence at Storey's trial.
In 2008, Storey, 32, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Jonas Cherry
during a robbery of a miniature golf course where Cherry worked in Hurst, near
Fort Worth. At the trial, the prosecution said that Cherry's parents wanted the
"It should go without saying that all of Jonas [Cherry's] family and everyone
who loved him believe the death penalty was appropriate,' the prosecution said
during the penalty phase of the trial, according to Storey's appeal.
Storey and Cherry's parents, Glenn and Judith, say that's not true. The Cherrys
wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Paroles in February,
asking for a life sentence for Storey. The Cherrys said they never wanted the
death penalty and made that clear to the prosecution, according to Storey's
"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to
suffer through losing a child and family member ... due to our ethical and
spiritual values we are opposed to the death penalty," the Cherrys said in
Sven Berger, a juror in Storey's trial who recently asked Texas legislators to
change jury instructions in capital cases, also wrote an affidavit for Storey's
recent appeal. In his affidavit, Berger said had he known the Cherrys didn't
want death, he would have "held out for a [sentence of] life without the
possibility of parole for as long as it took."
Now, the trial court has been ordered to determine whether the fact that the
Cherrys opposed the death penalty could have been discovered by appellate
attorneys earlier. Generally in death penalty cases, if evidence could have
been raised at an earlier appeal and wasn't, it is not allowed to be used in
future appeals. This evidence was brought forth to the courts less than 2 weeks
before his execution.
The appeal claims the evidence of the Cherrys' disapproval of the sentence was
learned only in the past 90 days. But the Court of Criminal Appeals said it's
not yet clear whether his previous state appellate attorney could have learned
about the Cherrys' beliefs.
"The trial court is ordered to make findings of fact and conclusions of law
regarding whether the factual basis of these claims was ascertainable through
the exercise of reasonable diligence on or before the date the initial
application was filed," the order states. "If the court determines that the
factual basis of the claims was not ascertainable through the exercise of
reasonable diligence on or before the date the initial application was filed,
then it will proceed to review the merits of the claims."
Storey's appeal said the evidence of false claims warrants him a new punishment
hearing, where he either could be sentenced to death again or receive a life
sentence without the possibility of parole.
(source: Texas Tribune)
Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----24
Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----542
Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #
25---------May 16-------------------Tilon Carter----------543
26---------May 24-------------------Juan Castillo----------544
27---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------545
28---------July 19-----------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane---546
29---------July 27-----------------Taichin Preyor---------547
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Clemency petition filed on behalf of man set to be executed this month in
Lawyers for condemned murder-for-hire killer Ivan Teleguz are asking Gov. Terry
McAuliffe to stop his execution, set for April 25, in a clemency petition
The petition contends the jurors who convicted and sentenced Teleguz to death
relied on testimony since proved false and recanted. "Significant information
has emerged since Teleguz's trial suggesting he is innocent," his lawyers said
in a statement Friday.
"In this case - where new evidence jurors never had a chance to consider shows
that Mr. Teleguz's conviction and death sentence are based on false testimony -
Governor McAuliffe should protect the integrity of the ultimate sanction and
grant clemency to ensure that Virginia does not execute an innocent man," said
Elizabeth Peiffer, Teleguz lawyer said.
Asked for comment Friday, Marsha L. Garst the commonwealth's attorney for
Rockingham County, wrote in an email that, "All the issues have been very
thoroughly tried and decided in local, state and federal courts. I feel at this
stage that since the case is being handled by the Attorney General's Office
that they should address any questions."
A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office referred inquiries to the
governor's office which did not immediately respond to a request for comment
Friday. Governors generally have not commented on pending clemency requests.
Teleguz, 38, was sentenced to death for the 2001 capital murder of Stephanie
Yvonne Sipe, the mother of their 23-month-old son. Sipe was stabbed to death in
her Harrisonburg apartment. Trial evidence showed that Teleguz was angry that
he had been ordered to pay child support.
He hired 2 men to kill Sipe for $2,000 and drove them from Pennsylvania, where
Teleguz had moved. Sipe suffered defensive wounds and 3 other knife wounds - 1
wound went from the left side of her neck to the right side. The body was
discovered by a neighbor who also found her son, unharmed, in a bathtub full of
The unanimous 3-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals rejected a stay request and a related matter last month.
However, Teleguz's lawyers argue that the new evidence pointing to his
innocence has never been fully examined by the courts. They said 2 prosecution
witnesses admitted, "that they testified falsely in exchange for leniency in
their own cases, and have no reason to think Teleguz was involved in the
1 of the witnesses has been deported and the other told he would lose his
release date set for next year if they went back on his testimony.
Teleguz also says that jurors relied on false testimony that he was involved in
an additional murder in Pennsylvania. Investigation since trial by both law
enforcement and the defense has confirmed that the murder never happened.
His lawyers contend the only evidence remaining against Teleguz is the
testimony of Michael Hetrick, the actual killer who was spared the death
penalty. His lawyers said the clemency petition details why his testimony is
not credible or reliable.
Among other things, his lawyers said the petition is supported by an expert on
clemency and former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., who oversaw two
executions as governor there from 2003 to 2007.
A Change.org petition in support of clemency has been signed by more than
113,000 people and Teleguz has also submitted written requests for clemency
from thousands of supporters.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
FLORIDA----female to face death penalty
State seeks death penalty for Arcadia woman accused of killing 3 children
The State Attorney's office announced this week they will seek the death
penalty for an Arcadia woman who allegedly set her boyfriends house on fire
killing his 3 grandchildren.
49 year old Marian Williams was charged back in March with 3 counts of homicide
and arson. According to police, 2 adults and 3 children were inside the house
at the time of the fire. The 3 children, ages 4, 8 and 10, were found dead in
the home. The 2 adults were able to get out of the burning building.
Williams is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
Judge upholds death sentence in 1981 murder case
Ian Lightbourne, 57, will remain on death row after 5th Circuit Judge Robert
Hodges denied his motion Thursday to vacate his death sentence.
Lightbourne, who has been challenging his death sentence for 3 decades, does
not meet the requirements for a resentencing under Florida's new death penalty
regulation, Hodges wrote in his decision.
Defense Attorneys Jessica Houston and Suzanna Keffer, of Capital Collateral
Regional Counsel, argued at a March 30 hearing that since there was no jury
vote count, it could not be determined whether the jury's decision to sentence
Lightbourne to death was a unanimous one, which is now required.
Hodges doesn't agree. On all claims brought before him by the defense, Hodges
ruled Lightbourne is not entitled to relief and a resentencing. Lightbourne has
30 days to appeal Hodges' ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.
His track record, though, with appeals is not a favorable one. In his order,
Hodges summarized the history of Lightbourne's case and all his appeals. He
appealed his original conviction to the Florida Supreme Court, which affirmed
it. He then appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was denied
Including that appeal, Lightbourne has challenged the decision in his case 8
times, all of which have been denied at one stage of the appeal process or
another, according to Hodges' order.
Houston did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lightbourne was convicted in April 1981 of 1st-degree murder in the death of
Nancy O'Farrell, 41, a member of the family that pioneered Ocala's thoroughbred
horse breeding industry. He was a former employee of the family's Ocala Stud
Lightbourne, then 21, surprised O'Farrell when she came out of the shower. He
raped her and then shot her in the head with a .25-caliber pistol and left her
to bleed to death. His trial lasted 5 days. He was sentenced to death in May
He and his defense attorneys were hoping to get him a new sentencing based on
the new unanimous jury decision precedent put in place by Hurst v. State in
2016 and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March of this year.
The regulation is retroactive for defendants who were sentenced to death after
June 24, 2002, a date determined by another U.S. Supreme Court case.
Lightbourne's defense attorneys argued that since he had a hearing about his
case before the Florida Supreme Court in October 2002, the new regulation
should apply to him as well. The state argued, and Hodges agreed, that
Lightbourne's case was final in 1984, falling outside of the retroactivity
Lightbourne is 1 of 8 Marion County murderers on death row. In January, the
Florida Supreme Court overturned Renaldo McGirth's death sentence, ordering he
undergo a resentencing. McGirth was sentenced to death with an 11-1 jury vote
in 2008 for the murder of The Villages resident Diana Miller.
e Attorney Aramis Ayala removed from another case----Governor issues executive
order after court's decision
Gov. Rick Scott has removed Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala
from another death penalty case.
The Orlando Sentinel reports the governor signed an executive order Thursday
after the Florida Supreme Court overturned the non-unanimous death sentence of
Abdool was convicted in 2008 of murdering his girlfriend, Amelia Sookedo, then
setting her remains on fire.
The decision means Abdool will have to be re-sentenced. It comes after the
Florida Supreme Court ruled juries in death cases must be unanimous.
Ayala has not commented on the latest removal.
Scott recently removed Ayala from dozens of other death penalty cases after she
said she would not seek the death penalty on any cases brought to her office.
The office of State Attorney Brad King, which covers another district in
Central Florida, will prosecute the cases.
Florida Prosecutor's Moral Case for Renouncing the Death Penalty
In recent months, a Florida state attorney carefully reviewed the death penalty
with a particular focus on the goals of criminal justice: promoting public
safety, serving the needs of murder victims' families, and using public dollars
in a wise and effective manner.
On all these measures, Aramis Ayala judged that the death penalty proves
ineffective and morally indefensible, and for those reasons, she announced that
she would not seek death sentences in the future.
Sadly, on April 3, Florida Gov. Rick Scott took 21 more 1st-degree murder cases
away from the Orange-Osceola state attorney.
For some Florida officials, it seems, the death penalty can do no wrong. They
back death penalty statutes even if warned they will get struck down, which
Scott and the Florida Legislature did when supporting last year's ill-fated
death penalty fix. And they continue to back Florida's death penalty no matter
how many innocent people end up on death row, how much it costs and what it
puts murder victims' families through.
Ayala described Florida's death penalty "as the cause of considerable legal
chaos, uncertainty and turmoil." It is difficult to argue with that assessment.
Florida's death penalty has been struck down as unconstitutional 3 times in its
history, and twice last year alone.
The purpose of law enforcement is to protect the public and save lives. But, as
Ayala pointed out in her statement, the "death penalty has no public safety
benefit. There is no evidence that death sentences actually protect the
Indeed, a comprehensive analysis of deterrence studies by the National Academy
of Sciences found no evidence that the death penalty impacts murder rates in
either direction. Ayala emphasized that her office pursues evidence-based
practices, not policies such as the death penalty whose deterrent effect rests
on faith alone.
Despite the oft-repeated claim that the death penalty delivers justice to
murder victims' families, Ayala recognized that that's not true in reality.
"I've learned that the death penalty traps many victims' families in a
decades-long cycle of uncertainty," said Ayala. "I cannot, in good faith, look
a victim's family in the face and promise that a death sentence handed down in
our court will ever result in execution."
We have an obligation to victims' families to ensure that criminal justice
policies are honest and help them rather than hinder them in healing. Florida's
death penalty utterly fails in these goals, given the frequent delays and
reversals in capital cases, which keep families stuck in the legal process.
Finally, Ayala noted the high cost of death sentences, which run hundreds of
thousands and sometimes millions of dollars more than incarcerating someone for
life. Some say that a policy's cost is not a moral issue, but I beg to differ.
Where you spend your money shows where your priorities lie. Budgets are always
moral documents. When there are so many pressing community needs, it is
irresponsible to spend resources on ineffective policies like the death
"By not pursuing death sentences in a handful of cases," Ayala rightly argued,
"we can spend time pursuing justice in many more cases."
Ayala makes a powerful argument that the death penalty embodies mistaken
priorities for the Orlando community she represents. In its push to carry out
the ultimate punishment, Florida has harmed victims??? families and wasted
valuable resources that could have enhanced public safety.
These arguments strike a personal note with me, a former pastor and now a
Florida-based author and networker among clergy nationwide. A few months ago,
some friends and I spent a weekend with Christian activist Shane Claiborne,
author of Executing Grace, a book on the death penalty. Since 1976, Claiborne
explained, about 1-in-9 death row inmates has been exonerated. Shane asked us
to imagine what would happen if a medicine killed 1 out of 9 patients.
"It would be outlawed immediately!" we replied.
We then visited with Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice
Initiative in Alabama. Stevenson helped us understand the history of the death
penalty in the U.S. and then introduced us to one of his employees, Anthony Ray
Hinton. Anthony told us his personal story of spending nearly 30 years on
Alabama's death row. In 2015, he was exonerated and freed.
When I heard of State Attorney Ayala's decision to stop seeking death against
people in Florida, I couldn't help but think of Anthony's heart-wrenching story
and Shane's sobering statistic.
That's why I believe Ayala is right. She is leading Florida out of a legal and
moral mess and into a better future.
If Scott and others who oppose her will consider with open minds and hearts the
compelling legal and moral reasons for her decision, they will come around ...
or they will remain stuck on the wrong side of history, wisdom, and morality.
Death sentence vacated for Brevard County man accused of killing 5-year-old
The Florida Supreme Court threw out the death sentence for a Brevard County man
who was convicted of killing a family of 3.
It's one of the latest death sentences vacated since the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that a jury's death recommendation must be unanimous.
The state has made no decision on whether it will seek the death penalty again
in the case, but the office said it would thoroughly review the available
evidence, seek input from family members and law enforcement officials and then
determine how to move forward.
More than 7 years after the murder of 5-year-old Ivory Hamilton in which Justin
Heyne was sent to death row, Florida's Supreme Court has vacated his sentence.
But the court upheld the conviction for the girl's murder, along with the
convictions for the murders of her parents, Benjamin Hamilton and Sarah
Heyne is serving life sentences in their deaths.
"The family really doesn't want to go through another trial again. We will, if
we need to, (but) we really don't want to" said Sarah Buckoski???s father, Dave
On March 30, 2006, Sarah Buckoski returned to her Titusville home with Ivory,
to find the girl's father and Heyne in an argument over a debt.
Heyne had been staying with the couple.
Heyne felt disrespected, and when he heard Hamilton cock a 9mm gun, he
retrieved his own weapon.
When Hamilton saw his daughter, he dropped his weapon and told his daughter to
Heyne first shot Hamilton, then Buckoski and then their little girl.
"And truthfully, we really don't care what happens to Justin.
Whatever's going to happen is going to happen. We've turned it over to God,"
said Dave Buckoski. "God's going to take care of it."
The State Attorney's Office said it will continue to receive cases in which the
convictions are affirmed, but the death sentences are vacated.
The cases will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
(source: WFTV news)
Grand jury issues 1st degree murder indictment against Brad Davidson in death
of Alisa Kinsaul
A Bay County Grand Jury has issued an indictment charging John Bradley Davidson
with 1st-degree felony murder and burglary of a dwelling in the stabbing death
of Alisa Kinsaul.
Kinsaul, 46, was found in her Cove-area home on January 17th. Police responded
after receiving a call from one of Kinsaul's neighbors, saying Kinsaul had run
to her house and asked her to call police in the moments before her death.
Davidson, 47, was quickly deemed a suspect and was found the next morning by
Bay County Sheriff's Deputies in the area of Deer Point Lake.
Davidson and Kinsaul had been linked romantically, but the relationship had
During a court appearance last month, Davidson sat silently in a wheelchair
while in front of a judge for his arraignment. Following the January incident,
Davidson was hospitalized for a number of days with unspecified injuries.
The 1st-degree murder indictment opens the door for prosecutors to seek the
death penalty in the case. The state attorney's office told WJHG/WECP on
Thursday that a formal decision hasn't been made on whether to pursue the death
(source: WJHG news)
Ohio Must End Death Penalty, Torture
The last time the state of Ohio ended a life with capital punishment, Dennis
McGuire choked, gasped for air and writhed in agony for 26 minutes before
finally dying. Unable to procure reliable lethal execution drugs - the Danish
company that produces them now refuses to sell to the U.S. government - Ohio
decided to experiment with an untested drug cocktail that had never been used
in an execution. Doctors told state officials that McGuire might suffocate to
death; they decided to run the risk and suffocated him anyway.
As the old adage goes, "2 wrongs don't make a right." McGuire's crime - raping
and murdering a pregnant woman - was horrific, but so was the state of Ohio's.
Torturing someone to death violates fundamental moral standards at its most
basic level. What the state government did to McGuire was an obvious case of
"cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Outrageously, Ohio is now preparing to engage in this criminal undertaking
again. What's even more sickening is that the state will claim to do it in our
name, on our behalf, as the people of Ohio. This evil practice stains us all.
Since the state still cannot procure reliable execution drugs, it is trying to
experiment again for several executions scheduled in May. Fortunately, a
federal court rejected the state's plans yesterday, upholding a January 26
ruling that the state's proposed drug cocktail "creates a substantial risk of
serious harm." However, the state looks set to appeal. Shame on Governor
Kasich, who drapes himself in Christian moralism when politically convenient
and casts it aside when it's not.
Even if Ohio could kill incarcerated people without torture, applying the death
penalty would still be a travesty. In Ohio's history of executions, nine people
have been found innocent while sitting on death row, begging the question: How
many innocent people has our government killed?
Aside from extreme - and extremely rare - cases of self defense, killing is
obviously wrong. If our society believes in that principle, instead of just
paying it lip service, then the death penalty is an absurdity. Killing someone
because they killed someone else makes no sense. It's the "they-started-it"
argument that kindergarten teachers reject every day in the schoolyard. The
death penalty is revenge dressed in the guise of justice, and people of moral
conscious should reject it. Not only is the death penalty a moral atrocity,
it's an act of financial idiocy as well. Since the state brought back the death
penalty in 1981, less than 20 % of those sentenced to death have been executed,
according to Attorney General Mike DeWine's 2016 volume of "Capital Crimes
Annual Report," published last Friday. More prisoners have been exonerated or
have had their sentences reduced than have been executed in that time. This
exorbitant legal wrangling costs the state far more than housing prisoners
The death penalty is a revolt against moral law and basic logic. Ohio's
practice of torturing prisoners to death verges on the kind of depravity that
would, in a just world, end with state officials in the docket at the
International Criminal Court in the Hague. In Ohio and across the country, let
the death penalty get the death penalty.
(source: Editorial Board, Oberlin Review)
Yellow Springs murder suspect could face the death penalty
1 of the 2 brothers accused of murdering 2 people in Yellow Springs was
arraigned on Friday.
Bret Merrick was arraigned on 8 counts, pleading not guilty to all 8 charges. A
judge set his pretrial date for April 11th. Merrick was denied bond.
At Friday's arraignment, Bret Merrick notified the judge of his intention to
change counsel before his next hearing.
The judge confirmed this would be a capital case, meaning Merrick could face
the death penalty.
Bret's brother Dustin Merrick was set to be arraigned at 10:30 a.m. on Friday
in Greene County Common Pleas Court.
A Greene County Grand Jury indicted the brothers in connection to a double
homicide in Yellow Springs.
They're accused of killing William "Skip" Brown and Sherri Mendenhall on
Dustin Merrick was indicted for 2 counts of murder, 2 counts of aggravated
murder, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, felonious assault, tampering with
evidence and obstructing justice.
Bret Merrick was indicted for 2 counts of murder, 2 counts of aggravated
murder, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, felonious assault and tampering with
Both men could face the death penalty, if convicted.
(source: WDTN news)
Court denies AG's request to rehear decision in Tennessee death row case
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit this week declined to rehear its
decision in favor of death row inmate Andrew Thomas in the fatal 1997 shooting
of armored truck guard James Day in Memphis.
The court decided in February that the state violated Thomas' due process
rights when the prosecution failed to disclose to him that a witness had
received $750 from the federal government before the trial.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, Solicitor General Andree Blumstein
and Associate Solicitor General Jennifer Smith petitioned for a rehearing of
the decision, while Thomas' attorney, Robert Hutton, argued neither a rehearing
by the panel of judges who issued the decision or review by the full court is
A rehearing before the panel was denied Tuesday. The petition will then be
circulated to the full en banc court, and the judges have 14 days to request a
"A petition for rehearing en banc is an extraordinary procedure intended to
bring to the attention of the entire court a precedent-setting error of
exceptional public importance or an opinion that directly conflicts with
Supreme Court or Sixth Circuit precedent," according to the 6th Circuit's
If no one requests a vote, the petition is denied at the end of the 2 weeks. If
a vote is requested, it would take the majority of the judges in active service
who have not recused themselves to grant a rehearing before the full court.
The victim was a Loomis-Fargo armored car courier who was shot at lunchtime on
April 21, 1997, at a Walgreens in the 4500 block of Summer. Day survived the
shooting but died 2 years later on Oct. 2, 1999.
Thomas was tried and convicted in both the federal and state systems.
The Safe Streets Task Force, a multiagency group of federal and state law
enforcement, investigated and assisted in the federal trial of Thomas, and a
member of the task force, Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Sanders, requested the $750
payment that was made to Thomas' former girlfriend, Angela Jackson, according
to court records.
After Thomas' federal trial, Thomas was tried for the murder of Day in state
court, and the task force investigated and assisted with that trial also.
Jackson also testified in the state death penalty trial, but neither Thomas nor
defense lawyers were informed of the $750 payment.
Jackson testified she wasn't paid, and Shelby County District Attorney General
Amy Weirich has said she didn't know about the payment.
(source: Commercial Appeal)
With lethal injection drugs expiring, Arkansas plans unprecedented 7 executions
in 11 days
Arkansas is preparing to execute 7 death row inmates in 11 days this month
before the state's deadly drugs expire, an unprecedented number of lethal
injections in such a narrow window.
The hurried schedule has prompted unease from the state's Republican governor,
lawsuits from the condemned inmates, and criticism from an array of former
corrections officials nationwide.
Though the death penalty has been dormant in Arkansas - these would be the
first executions there in 12 years - the lethal injections have put the state
at the center of the debate about capital punishment as it becomes less common
in the United States. Fewer states are putting condemned inmates to death,
public support for executions is declining and authorities are struggling to
find the drugs used in lethal injections amid a shortage spurred in part by
drugmakers' objections to the death penalty.
Advocates for capital punishment argue that the delays in Arkansas amount to
justice denied for the families of the victims. Civil liberties advocates worry
that the rush in Arkansas could lead to "torture and injustice," in particular
because corrections officials are being tasked with executing 2 men a day.
Arkansas officials blame the packed April execution schedule on the drug
shortage, which has sent states scrambling for replacement chemicals and, in
some cases, has caused them to contemplate other methods of execution. After
the lengthy lull in executions - owing to legal challenges and the drug
shortage - Arkansas state authorities say the lethal injections scheduled
between April 17 and April 27 are overdue.
But Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who set the dates, admitted to feeling uneasy
about being caught between needing to schedule them and the looming expiration
of the state's stock of midazolam, a controversial sedative that will be 1 of 3
drugs used in the lethal injections.
"It's not my choice," Hutchinson said at a news conference. "I would love to
have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that's not
the circumstances that I find myself in."
The state's midazolam supply is set to expire at the end of April, officials
say. And with no clear answer about whether the state will be able to obtain a
new set of drugs, Hutchinson said he had little choice but to set the dates.
"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.
Drug manufacturers are required by law to put an expiration date on drugs in
the United States, and after that date they cannot guarantee the drug's
effectiveness or safety. A state corrections department spokesman declined to
answer questions about the state's decision to act before the expiration date.
Arkansas acquired its midazolam in 2015, according to documents the state
provided to The Washington Post. The drug prompted controversy after it was
used in a bungled execution in Oklahoma and in lethal injections that were
prolonged and included inmates gasping for breath in Ohio, Arizona and, most
recently, in Alabama in December. According to the Arkansas documents, the
state got its midazolam just days after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use
of the drug in Oklahoma's lethal injections.
Citing the state's secrecy law, the Corrections Department declined to say when
all the drugs expire, where they were obtained, how much they cost and how much
the state has in stock. The documents also show that Arkansas obtained
vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, in 2016, and potassium chloride, which stops
the heart, in March, the week after Hutchinson set the execution dates.
Hutchinson originally scheduled 8 executions in an 11-day span, but a judge on
Thursday blocked 1 of them because the state's parole board said it would
recommend commuting that inmate's sentence to life in prison without parole, a
process that will extend beyond the drug expiration date.
The 7 inmates still facing execution all were convicted of capital murder. All
are men; 4 are black and 3 are white. They all received their sentences by the
year 2000, and some of them have been on death row for a quarter-century or
longer. In a recent report, the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School
said it found concerns with the Arkansas cases, saying that some of the inmates
appear to suffer from intellectual impairment and outlining qualms about the
legal representation the men have had.
Executions are a rarity in Arkansas, trailing more active death-penalty states
including Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated
capital punishment in 1976, there have been 1,448 executions nationwide,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Arkansas has executed 27
inmates in the past 4 decades. Texas has carried out more executions - 34 -
since the beginning of 2014.
Arkansas also is not among the country's leaders in death-row populations. For
every death row inmate in Arkansas, there are 20 in California. If the 7
executions in Arkansas are carried out, the state would eliminate 1/5 of its
entire death row population.
While executions in the United States have been rapidly declining - falling to
20 last year, the fewest in a quarter-century - states still hoping to carry
out executions have tried to obtain drugs in the wake of a years-long shortage.
European officials and companies, objecting to their chemicals being used to
kill people, have spurred states to begin adapting new and untested
combinations of drugs.
Lethal injection remains the country's primary method of execution, but due to
the shortage, states have also been looking to other methods. Utah, Tennessee
and Oklahoma added or broadened their abilities to use a firing squad, electric
chair or nitrogen gas, respectively. Others have sought to shroud their drug
suppliers in secrecy to protect them from political or public pressure;
Virginia passed such a law last year.
Most executions are carried out with little public notice, but the scheduling
in Arkansas has drawn remarkable national scrutiny and criticism for the
executions being scheduled back-to-back on 4 days in an 11-day span.
"We've never seen anything close to that," said Robert Dunham, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit
Dunham said his group has tracked just 10 back-to-back executions on a single
day, and none since 2000, though he noted that in the 1990s, Arkansas twice
executed 3 inmates in 1 day. Texas once executed 6 prisoners in a 10-day span
on 2 different occasions, but the Arkansas schedule would surpass that, Dunham
"We know that the state is aware of how to do this in a more orderly and less
unseemly way," Dunham said. "They've simply chosen to carry them out in 11 days
because they won't be able to use their execution drug a week later."
Arkansas officials have defended their execution scheduling as needed to help
families find justice and closure.
"The victims' families have waited far too long to see justice for their loved
ones," a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) said in a
statement Thursday after one of the executions was called off. Rutledge would
"respond to any and all challenges that might occur between now and the
executions as the prisoners continue to use all available means to delay their
For some relatives of the victims, though, they have been down this road
"I won't really believe it's going to happen until it happens," said Genie
Boren, whose husband Cecil Boren was shot and killed by Kenneth Williams and
has been waiting more than a decade for his death sentence to be carried out.
Williams, whose execution is scheduled for April 27 and is the last one this
month in Arkansas, was serving a life sentence when he escaped prison by hiding
in a garbage truck. He then traveled to the Boren house near Grady, about 70
miles from Little Rock, according to court summaries of his case.
When Williams got there, Genie Boren was at church, but he found Cecil Boren
working on his car, the court records state. Williams then shot and killed
Cecil Boren, dragged his body to a bayou and took the car. Williams was
captured after a car chase that killed another driver. In 2000, he was
sentenced to death for killing Boren.
"We'd like for it to happen before all of us die ourselves," said Genie Boren,
73. "You know, you wait that many years, you're just waiting and waiting and
waiting. I'm not sitting around thinking it's going to happen for sure, but
this is closer than we've ever gotten."
Boren said she still lives in the same house where her husband was killed, not
far from where Williams is being held. While she had originally planned not to
attend the execution because she did not want to see someone die, Boren said
she changed her mind.
"I don't know if I will get anything from that," Boren said. "But you know, I
live 2 miles from the prison. ... I always look over that way, because I know
he's there," she said. "And once he's gone, I'll know he's gone."
Attorneys for the inmates have filed challenges questioning the scheduled pace
and the particular drugs used. But the rush of work is "overwhelming," said
Julie Vandiver, an assistant federal public defender in Little Rock, who is
representing some of the inmates.
"This is not the way that it should go," Vandiver said. "The end stage of
litigation is very important, and when an execution warrant is signed, there
are all kinds of processes that start up."
She pointed to clemency petitions, which can only be contemplated after an
execution date is set. She dismissed the state's argument that it has a
deadline approaching, calling the deadline "manufactured" and noting that the
state has gotten drugs before and can get them again.
Vandiver said the schedule "creates an impossible situation for all the people
involved," including the corrections officials who "are going to have to
execute these people."
Corrections officials have raised similar concerns. In a letter to Hutchinson
last month, 2 dozen such officials pleaded with him to change the pace, warning
that "performing so many executions in so little time will impose extraordinary
and unnecessary stress and trauma" on the corrections officials.
"Even under less demanding circumstances, carrying out an execution can take a
severe toll on corrections officers' wellbeing," they wrote.
Jerry Givens, who signed the letter and spent 17 years as Virginia's chief
executioner, said corrections officers are already under enough pressure before
taking on the added weight of multiple executions.
"How can you expect them to do something of this magnitude? It's rough,"
Givens, who executed 62 people and now opposes the death penalty, said Friday.
"I know the effect it can have on you when you participate in executions ... It
takes a while to really come out of that."
Wendy Kelley, director of corrections in Arkansas, declined an interview
request. A spokesman, Solomon Graves, said Thursday that the corrections
department rolled out training for the executions and that it would make
counseling available to any staff members who participate in an execution.
Givens and the other corrections officials also worry that the pace "will
increase the chance" of a mistake. They pointed to the last state that intended
to carry out 2 executions in 1 night: Oklahoma, which bungled the execution of
Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, in 2014.
Lockett grimaced, writhed and appeared to be in pain during the process,
witnesses said, dying a short time after the execution was called off. In a
state review, authorities wrote that the execution team placed the IV
incorrectly and that officials involved described a feeling of extra stress and
urgency because a second execution was scheduled for the same night.
The 2nd execution was postponed, and when it was carried out in January 2015,
Oklahoma officials used the wrong drug. The state has not carried out an
execution since, though it came close later that year.
Executions are regularly halted in the United States. In some cases, it is
because a court intervenes, but executions also have been called off recently
for other reasons. Oklahoma abruptly called off another execution in 2015 when
state officials realized they had again obtained the wrong drug. The same year,
Georgia twice called off the execution of the state's only female death row
inmate, 1st because of a winter storm and then because the drugs looked
"cloudy." Officials later said they determined the drugs were just too cold,
and they executed her months later.
(source: Washington Post)
Death Penalty Sentences Rushed in Arkansas
33 men are currently imprisoned on Arkansas' death row and the state planned to
execute 8 of them by the end of April because Arkansas' supply of Midazolam
will expire at the end of Apr. 2017. Midazolam is 1 of 3 drugs used in the
state's lethal injection cocktail and Arkansas currently has enough to execute
Pharmaceutical companies are no longer manufacturing drugs used for lethal
injections, including Midazolam, due to pressure from those who oppose the
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson stated, "In order to fulfill my duty as
Governor, which is to carry out the lawful sentence imposed by a jury, it is
necessary to schedule the executions prior to the expiration of that drug." He
elaborated that it is "important to bring closure to the victim's families who
have lived with the court appeals and uncertainty for a very long time... [I]t
is uncertain as to whether another drug can be obtained [after Apr. 30], and
the families of the victims do not need to live with continued uncertainty
after decades of review."
The 8 inmates, all sentenced to death between 1990 and 2000, were scheduled for
execution within 10 days - Apr. 17-27 - with 2 men being executed per day:
Bruce Ward and Don Davis on Apr. 17; Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee on Apr. 20;
Marcel Williams and Jack Jones on Apr. 24; Jason McGehee and Kenneth Williams
on Apr. 27.
However, the execution of McGehee has been blocked by a federal judge because
the state's schedule does not allow enough time for the clemency petition to go
through the system. The judge stated that he may also rule to stop the
execution of Jack Jones if his clemency petition is approved by the Parole
Board on Friday, Apr. 7. Attorneys have gone to federal court to stop all of
the executions, saying the "frantic pace" of the executions increases the
likelihood of error.
An inmate has not been executed in Arkansas since Nov. 29, 2005 as a result of
legal challenges to the state's lethal injection procedures. Further problems
have plagued the planned April 10-day schedule. A report from the Fair
Punishment Project states that "at least 5 of the 8 cases involve a person who
appears to suffer from a serious mental illness or intellectual impairment."
The state also is having trouble finding enough witnesses for the executions.
According to state law, at least 6 and no more than 12 people who are
21-years-old or older, do not have felony convictions, are not related to the
inmate or victim(s), and are Arkansas residents must be present for each
If Arkansas goes through with the current execution schedule of 7 men, the
state will have executed more people in 10 days than any state executed in all
of 2016, except Georgia, which executed 9 men, and Texas, which executed 7 men.
Alabama executed 2 men, and Florida and Missouri 1 man each, for a total of 20
men executed in 2016. This year, 6 men have been executed in the United States
as of Apr. 2017.
Arkansas is 1 of 32 states that currently have the death penalty, while 18
states ban the practice.
With the Death Penalty Debate, It's Back to Arkansas Again
When the governor of Arkansas announced his highly controversial plan to
enforce capital punishment in the state, the timing of the decision appeared
suspect. There was an unseemliness to the pronouncement, a sense of something
ulterior. Was there political gain in the offing? The execution plan seemed
unduly controversial, and everyone was asking the same question: Why now? The
courts have spoken, the governor said, and the rights of the victims need to be
That governor was Bill Clinton, and in January 1992 he had flown back to
Arkansas in the middle of a presidential campaign to attend to any last second
details that might arise in the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. At the time,
Clinton was under pressure to differentiate himself from other presidential
hopefuls. He sought to make crime one of his hot button issues, declaring from
the campaign trail that Democrats should "no longer feel guilty about
protecting the innocent." It's notable that this was just 4 years after
Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis was asked in a presidential debate whether
he would support the death penalty if his wife was raped and murdered and he
answered no, prompting outrage from the public. The Rector execution provided a
counter-narrative for Clinton - no soft bleeding heart Democrat he.
But Rector was hardly a poster boy for the law and order crowd, either. After
shooting and killing 2 men, including a police officer, he had aimed the gun at
his left temple and pulled the trigger, turning himself into a barely
functioning human being. Years later, Clinton defended his decision to allow
the execution to go forward by pointing out that Rector's brain hadn't been
injured at the time he committed the crimes; but no one could claim Rector had
the remotest sense of what was about to happen to him in the run-up to the
execution. "I'm gonna vote for him, I'm gonna vote for Clinton," he mumbled
shortly after the governor had denied him clemency. When they took him to be
executed, he put his dessert aside for later as he always did, not
understanding that he wasn't coming back to his cell to finish his meal. But
the execution of Ricky Ray Rector was hardly the first use of capital
punishment as a cudgel for political gain, and there is no doubt it wasn't the
Now comes Governor Asa Hutchinson and his own highly controversial plan to
execute 8 inmates, 2 at a time, over a 10 day period - the days themselves are
not important, as long as all of the executions are completed by the last day
of April. You might wonder if the 30th of April is the last day to meet some
bizarre quota demanded by the grim reaper; and in a way it is, for it is the
date Arkansas's stock of the drug midazolam expires. Thus we have an urgency,
born of an expiration date, to execute 8 men in a state that hasn't executed 1
in almost 12 years.
Thus we have an urgency, born of an expiration date, to execute 8 men in a
state that hasn't executed one in almost 12 years.
Is midazolam a wonder drug that merits such urgency? Hardly. Indeed, the drug
has been involved in virtually every botched state killing over the past
several years, including the last attempted double execution in the United
States. In April 2014, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin decided to carry out death
sentences against Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner on the same night, but a
doctor and a paramedic were unable to properly set intravenous lines in
Lockett's veins. 10 minutes after he received midazolam he was declared
unconscious, but soon after that he awoke, and writhed in agony for the next 20
minutes before ultimately dying of a heart attack while still in the execution
chamber. The gruesome failure to execute Lockett "peacefully" forced Fallin to
cancel the 2nd execution via a phone call from the Oklahoma Thunder basketball
game. Botched executions have been documented in Alabama and Ohio due to
midazolam, and 1 in Arizona in 2014 caused the Arizona Department of
Corrections to declare that it would never use midazolam in an execution again.
If there is a rush to use that drug, it surely isn't due to its efficacy.
Lethal injection has not proven the panacea for death penalty proponents.
Lethal injection has not proven the panacea for death penalty proponents. The
states could change their methods of execution, of course - the firing squad is
a failsafe method of killing. But state legislatures have shown very little
willingness to travel this path, which would be less peaceful and less quiet,
and would reveal the violent underbelly of what the late Justice Harry Blackmun
referred to as the "machinery of death." Blackmun began his Supreme Court
tenure in favor of capital punishment, but across 2 1/2 decades he came to
understand the faults inherent in the policy, and when he decided that the
death penalty was beyond repair, in the case of Callins v. Collins, he began
his famous dissent describing lethal injection without euphemism:
On February 23, 1994, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Bruce Edwin Callins will be
executed by the State of Texas. Intravenous tubes attached to his arms will
carry the instrument of death, a toxic fluid designed specifically for the
purpose of killing human beings.
Even Blackmun's very personal decision to recognize the failure of our death
penalty experiment was met with animosity, however, and by a fellow justice, no
less. Antonin Scalia condemned Blackmun's conclusion, claiming that lethal
injection would look "pretty desirable" next to an actual street murder. Then,
as was his wont, Justice Scalia went 1 step further. Accusing Blackmun of
selecting a less heinous murder for his proclamation than the Court often saw
in capital cases, Scalia suggested instead the horrendous rape-murder of an
11-year-old girl allegedly at the hands of a pair of half brothers, Henry
McCollum and Leon Brown, in the case of McCollum v. North Carolina. McCollum
and Brown, then teenagers, were sentenced to death. "How enviable a quiet death
by lethal injection compared with that!" Scalia exclaimed.
There was only 1 problem with his example, and it didn't surface for another 20
years - no one actually died from lethal injection in the McCollum case, nor is
anyone likely to. The half brothers, who were both intellectually disabled,
were coerced into confessing to a brutal crime they did not commit, and without
legal representation present. For years, their lawyers had been requesting DNA
tests, which eventually exonerated McCollum and Brown, and identified the
actual killer, Roscoe Artis, as well. Artis was first sentenced to death row
for a different murder case, but then resentenced to life in prison, where he
remains incarcerated. He has never been arrested for the rape-murder for which
McCollum and Brown paid such a heavy price.
There's a final irony in the Arkansas story. A state law mandates that a
minimum of 6 people observe every execution, and the Department of Correction
has struggled to meet that requirement, seeking help from the Little Rock
Rotary Club to drum up some volunteers. Imagine the trouble the department
would have recruiting viewers to witness a firing squad.
But let's assume the Rotary Club comes through. What the witnesses will see
isn't going to be pretty, nor is it going to be necessary. At a time when death
sentences and executions are at an all-time low, Asa Hutchinson is racing
against the clock to achieve an unprecedented and ghastly series of executions.
It's impossible not to imagine his effort as a last gasp to prop up a failed
policy, though. Time is running out on midazolam, and on executions in the
(source: Commentary; Marc Bookman is the Director of the Atlantic Center for
Capital Representation. He has written about criminal justice issues for The
Atlantic, Mother Jones and VICE----tcf.org)
Lethal drug bill protects suppliers, avoids transparency
Capital punishment is a costly and controversial process that has been
compounded lately by a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic
included in a 3-drug cocktail Nebraska uses for lethal injections.
A bill introduced this session in the Nebraska Legislature would protect the
identities of lethal drug suppliers. After the state's vote in November to
reinstate the death penalty, the Department of Corrections revised its lethal
injection protocol. Originally, the revised protocol authorized the lethal drug
supplier to remain confidential, but that was removed after a public hearing in
which opponents criticized the secrecy of the process.
LB 661, introduced by Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn, seeks to reinstate that
confidentiality provision by amending the state's public records law. This
legislation would make the identity of anyone who manufactures, supplies,
compounds or prescribes substances, medical supplies or equipment used to
perform lethal injections confidential.
Residents of Nebraska have a right to know the source of the drugs that will be
used for executions. If the Department of Correctional Services is acting on
behalf of the people, they have a right to know how it is being done. Only 15
of the 31 states that use capital punishment have similar shield laws.
Nebraskans have good reason to oppose this bill. In 2015, the Department of
Correctional Services spent $54,000 on lethal injection drugs from a broker in
India with no pharmaceutical experience and questionable connections to
manufacturers. The federal government blocked the shipment because it lacked
import approval from the Federal Drug Administration, so the drugs were never
Also, lethal injection has not yet been used in an execution in Nebraska. The
state has executed just 3 people since 1994. The last was 20 years ago, and an
electric chair was used.
Supporters of LB 661 say the identities of lethal drug makers should be
shielded because death penalty opponents may pressure those drug suppliers. FBI
records show that states' claims that lethal drug supplies have been subject to
threats from activitsts are largely unsubstantiated and exaggerated.
An economist and professor at Creighton University estimates that Nebraska's
maintenance of the death penalty costs the state, in 2015 dollars,
approximately $14.6 million per year. Each additional death penalty arraignment
costs the state nearly $1.5 million.
If Nebraska is going to continue to allow the death penalty and incur those
costs, taxpayers have a right to know where that money is going. The state has
10 people on death row. If they are going to die, every effort should be taken
to maintain transparency.
The desperate search for lethal drug manufacturers and suppliers doesn't
warrant secrecy in the process.
(source: Editorial, Post-Tribune & Enterprise)
Death penalty to be sought against 2 slaying suspects
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against 2 defendants in the
alleged murder for hire of a Rapid City woman 2 years ago, should those
suspects be convicted.
27-year-old Jonathon Klinetobe and 36-year-old Richard Hirth are charged with
multiple felonies including 1st-degree murder in the May 2015 stabbing death of
22-year-old Jessica Rehfeld. Her body was found in a remote grave near
Rockerville last summer.
Rehfeld was the ex-girlfriend of Klinetobe. He and Hirth both have pleaded not
2 other people have pleaded guilty in the case to being accessories, and
25-year-old David Schneider pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in January.
(source: Associated Press)
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