2017-03-30 13:02:18 UTC
Death penalty opponents depart for rally in Tallahassee
Tampa Bay residents opposed to the death penalty are heading to Tallahassee
Thursday to rally at the state capitol.
They're showing support for State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who announced earlier
this month that she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions in the 9th
Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties. That includes the
case of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing Orlando Police Lieutenant
Debra Clayton, and his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon.
Governor Rick Scott used an executive order to remove Ayala from the case after
she refused to recuse herself.
Ayala is receiving support from groups that believe the death penalty serves no
On Thursday, a coalition of civil rights groups and other organizations from
across the state will rally on the steps of the Florida capitol in what's being
called the "Ride for Aramis."
Organizers include the NAACP, Latino Justice, Florida Council of Churches,
Orange County Black Voice, the 8th Amendment Project, Color of Change, Equal
Justice USA, and Let Your Voice Be Heard Orlando. Scheduled speakers include
Civil Rights activists, faith leaders, legislators, a murder victim's family,
and an exonerated death row inmate.
(source: WFLA news)
Prosecutor: Cuts Over Florida Death Penalty Will Hurt Safety
The top prosecutor for the Orlando area says a proposal by Florida lawmakers to
cut her office's budget because she isn't seeking the death penalty anymore may
compromise public safety in the nation's most visited city.
State Attorney Aramis Ayala said Wednesday that budget cuts could severely
impact her office's ability to prosecute crimes.
House Republicans released spending recommendations on Monday that slashed $1.3
million and 21 jobs from Ayala's budget.
Ayala has come under fire after she announced she wouldn't seek the death
penalty in the case of Markeith Loyd or any other case.
Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant earlier this year,
and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala and reassigned it to
a neighboring prosecutor.
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty Relevancy----Panelists Discuss Death Penalty Relevancy And
Governor's Role In Recusal
Clergymen, legal counsel and community representatives partnered to discuss the
relevancy of the death penalty in society, in particular the purported death
penalty which will be sentenced for Markeith Loyd, who murdered his pregnant
girlfriend, Sade Dixon in December of last year and Orlando Police officer
Deborah Clayton on Jan.9 of this year.
The panel also discussed the recent removal of recently elected Orange-Osceola
County State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Ayala refused to seek the death penalty for Loyd, and Florida Governor Rick
Scott responded to the refusal by removing Ayala from this case, replacing her
with Lake County based State Attorney Brad King.
King has worked as a State Attorney since 1989.Questions have mounted
pertaining to Florida's death penalty law, slowed executions and the legality
of Scott's actions in removing the State Attorney.
"By inserting his personal politics into this case, Governor Scott's
unprecedented action is dangerous and could compromise the prosecution of
Markeith Loyd and threatens the integrity of Florida's judicial system," State
Attorney Aramis Ayala said.
"We will move forward to expose the Governor's action as unlawful and
unconstitutional in a way that does not compromise the successful prosecution
of Markeith Loyd," she said.
At present, there are 373 inmates on Florida's death row. The U.S. Supreme
Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty sentencing law
unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate
These topics were thrust to the forefront as forum participants convened at
Rejoice in the Lord Ministries in Apopka, FL.
The forum, titled, "What's Going On?" used the church as grounds to educate the
public on the status of the death penalty, its history within the Sunshine
state and its application in Ayala's refusal to recommend capital punishment in
the case of Markeith Loyd.
Speakers at the Thursday night panel were Father Jabriel Ballantine, who
Pastors St. Johns the Episcopal Church, retired Judge O.H. Eaton, Attorney
Roger Weeden, Attorney Cheney Mason, ACLU Central Florida Representative Brandi
Fliegelman and was moderated by Attorney Conti-Moore Smith, owner of Conti
Moore Law, PLLC.
"What we're looking at is fundamentally humanity's efforts to prove that they
can trump God's justice," said Father Jabriel Ballantine, in his opening
remarks on the panel.
"We are debating whether or not our justice or our determines of a person,
determines God's justice or determination of a person. We have a scripture
which says that God does not wish death but that man would repent and live."
The Orlando based clergyman also cited the economic, racial and social effects
that marked the origin of the capital punishment in America.
Thursday's forum was hosted by Color of Change and Live Free.
"The way it currently works in Florida is the prosecutor decides if the death
penalty is going to be an issue in the case," Retired Judge O.H. Eaton remarked
in response to the question of State Attorney Ayala's decision's not to
prosecute and how said decision weighs within Florida law. "If there are
aggravating circumstances to a 1st degree murder case, then the Prosecutor can
seek the death penalty."
Attorney Cheney Mason is skeptical of the Governor's actions. "I don't know
what kind of court we're going to have after this charade in Washington is
done," he said. "There's no telling what's going on. Apparently, we have a
governor that doesn't believe in constitutionality and apparently doesn't even
read the constitution."
In 1971, the United States declared the death penalty unconstitutional, and at
the time, every inmate that had a death sentence had their sentence reduced to
Additional History of the Death Penalty in Florida
1827 - 1st known execution in Florida, Benjamin Donica hung for murder.
1923 - A bill places all executions in Florida under state (rather than local)
jurisdiction, and substitutes hanging for the electric chair.
1972 - The Supreme Court strikes down the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia.
Florida subsequently passes a new capital punishment statute.
1976 - The Supreme Court reinstates the death penalty when it upholds Georgia's
statute in Gregg v. Georgia. In Proffitt v. Florida, the Court also upholds the
1979 - Florida is the 1st state to carry out a non-voluntary execution
post-Gregg when it executes John Spenkelink.
1990s - Florida botches the electric chair executions of Jesse Tafero, Pedro
Medina, and Allen Lee Davis and subsequently begins using lethal injection as
its execution method.
2002 - Aileen Wuornos, called the 1st female serial killer by the media, is
"Statistics have always shown that the death penalty does little to decrease
the murder of violent crime rate by state," Brandi Fliegelman said. In addition
to her duties as Central Florida representative of the ACLU, Fliegelman also
represents the LGBT task force.
The Florida Legislature was the 1st legislature to re-enact the death penalty
Florida's death penalty received new life on March 9 when Gov. Scott signed
into law Senate Bill 280. Passed unanimously, with a 37-0 vote, the bill
authorizes that a unanimous jury is the qualifier for death penalty sentences.
"This legislation ensures that our state has a constitutionally-compliant
system of justice in place for both the families of victims and the individuals
charged with serious crimes," Senator Randolph Bracy said.
Bracy, who authored Senate Bill 280 is Senator of Florida District 11.
"This important legislation removes ambiguity from our death penalty statute,
which will help reduce delays in due process for all parties involved in death
The corresponding House Bill 527 was passed in collaboration with the Senate
Bill, which passed on a 112-3 vote.
This legal alteration makes Alabama the only state in which a judge may impose
a death sentence based upon a non-unanimous jury recommendation. Judge Eaton
however contends that a life sentence already carries out the similar purpose
of the death penalty.
"Many say that a life sentence and death sentence in the state of Florida is
the same thing, because you???ll likely die in prison," Eaton said.
More than 150 prominent legal experts have signed a letter to Governor Rick
Scott urging him to reverse his decision to remove State Attorney Aramis Ayala
from the Markeith Loyd case.
(source: The Orlando Times)
'This bill will give us options': Mississippi on the verge of allowing
execution by firing squad
Mississippi is considering the use of firing squads as an option for capital
punishment as House Bill 638 makes its way to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, the
Hattiesburg American reports.
The bill, "To Revise The Methods By Which The Death Penalty May Be Carried Out;
And For Related Purposes," also includes lethal injection, nitrogen gas, and
electrocution as means of execution to be considered before firing squads, in a
line of succession if one is ruled unconstitutional.
The Senate adopted the bill on Tuesday and it is now in the process of being
passed along to the governor. When it was first introduced, the bill had listed
"firing squad" as the 3rd option, but was later removed by a Senate committee.
The Mississippi House reinstated it.
Execution by firing squad is a form of capital punishment often used by the
military at war. Its use in the military involves the detainee or prisoner
standing or sitting in front of a wall, as military personnel line up and aim
to shoot the individual in the heart.
Chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee, Andy Gipson said of the bill, "I
have a constituent whose daughter was raped and killed 25 years ago and the
person is still awaiting execution. If we want to have the death penalty, this
bill will give us options."
In an earlier debate on the bill, Gipson told Rep. Chris Bell (D), who is also
a Baptist minister, "I'm a big believer in mercy and grace. Unfortunately, the
death penalty is necessary for those who commit atrocious crimes."
According to the report, Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood have
expressed their approval of the bill.
Mississippi last executed a death row inmate in 2012. There are 47 remaining
inmates on death row.
3 Men on Death Row in Louisiana Sue Over Solitary Confinement
Marcus Hamilton, Winthrop Eaton and Michael Perry were each convicted of
1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in Louisiana more than 25 years ago.
But all 3 men are still alive. And all 3 have been living in solitary
confinement for a quarter century or more.
Lawyers representing the 3 men filed a federal class-action lawsuit this week
that seeks to overturn a prison policy that automatically and permanently
places prisoners sentenced to death in Louisiana in solitary confinement. They
are kept there for the length of their incarceration, a period that can stretch
on for decades.
There are currently 71 prisoners who have been sentenced to death in the state
and are being held in solitary confinement at the state penitentiary at Angola,
a former slave plantation. But Louisiana executes only a small minority of
death row inmates - fewer than 12 % over the last 30 years, Nicholas J.
Trenticosta, 1 of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said.
The death row inmates at Angola spend 23 hours a day in windowless concrete
cells that measure 8 by 10 feet. They are allowed to leave the cell for 1 hour
each day to shower, make phone calls or walk along the tiered walkway beside
their cells. Three times a week, they can use that hour to go outside to sit in
a small outdoor cage.
They cannot participate in the work or study programs that are open to other
prisoners. With the exception of prison personnel, they are not allowed to have
physical contact with another human being.
"Solitary confinement and these isolation conditions are cruel and unusual
punishment," Mr. Trenticosta said. "Our clients deserve to be treated better."
Betsy Ginsberg, the director of the civil rights clinic at the Benjamin N.
Cardozo School of Law in New York and another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said
that "a lot, if not most" of the states that have the death penalty house their
death row inmates in solitary confinement.
There are notable exceptions, she said, including California, which has one of
the largest prison systems and death row populations in the country, and
Missouri. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that more
than 3,000 death row inmates in 35 states were held in solitary confinement.
"We see Angola as a symbol of a nationwide problem," said Pieter Van Tol, one
of the plaintiffs lawyers. "This is not isolated to Angola. This is a stark
symbol and a well-known facility. We have a group of people there who are
really suffering, but this is nationwide in scope as far as the problem goes."
A lawsuit challenging those conditions has been filed in at least 1 other
state, Virginia, where last week a federal appeals court allowed it to go
forward despite recent improvements in the treatment of prisoners.
According to the Louisiana plaintiffs' lawyers, who filed the suit on
Wednesday, 56 of the 71 inmates currently on death row have been held in
solitary confinement for more than 10 years, 45 have been in solitary
confinement for more than 15 years and 20 have been held in solitary
confinement for more than 20 years.
As for the 3 named plaintiffs in the case, Mr. Hamilton has been held in
solitary confinement for 25 years, Mr. Eaton for 30 years and Mr. Perry for 31
Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Corrections,
declined to comment on the lawsuit or the department's policy on solitary
The damaging effects of prolonged solitary confinement on the mental and
physical health of prisoners have been well established. Craig Haney, a social
psychologist who conducted interviews with solitary confinement inmates as part
of a lawsuit against Pelican Bay State Prison in California, wrote in 2015 that
even those with no history of mental illness were engaged in a "constant,
ongoing struggle to maintain their sanity."
"These conditions predictably can impair the psychological functioning of the
prisoners who are subjected to them," he wrote. "For some prisoners, these
impairments can be permanent and life-threatening."
(source: New York Times)
Ohio Supreme Court considers death row inmate's claims
A man sentenced to Ohio's death row for the murder of a 10-year-old girl will
have his case reopened by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl was convicted in the 1991 murder of Amber Garrett of
Harrison, Ohio and dumping her body in a field near Bright, Indiana. He was
sentenced to death.
The Ohio Supreme Court will consider Wogenstahl's assertion that Ohio didn't
have jurisdiction to try him for murder.
The Supreme Court's decision to reopen the case was not welcomed news to
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters who in May 2016 filed a request for
recusal of Justice William M. O'Neill from hearing the Wogenstahl case due to
"his repeated comments in the Wogenstahl decision and numerous other cases that
he will not follow Ohio law and will never impose the death penalty," according
to a May 18, 2016, news release from the prosecutor's office.
"I am extremely troubled by the recent decisions from the Ohio Supreme Court,"
he said in the release.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said there's no further comment now.
The Hamilton County trial court sentenced Wogenstahl to death in early 1993
after a jury found him guilty of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and aggravated
burglary, according to the Supreme Court. To date, he has lost all his appeals
in state and federal court.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the State v. Wogenstahl and nine other
cases April 4 through April 6. The court's session will begin at 9 a.m. at the
Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus on Tuesday and Wednesday and
at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Morgan High School in McConnelsville. All arguments
will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live on The Ohio
Death penalty comes with high price tag-----State could be spending $8 - $10M
on the death penalty every year
Putting someone to death for their crimes is not something courts take lightly
and means the process gets enhanced at every stage; that includes enhanced
costs associated with a death sentence - both financial and human.
Not only does it cost more money to carry out a death sentence, but the impact
stretches to everyone involved, according to Ernie Lewis, executive director
for the National Association for Public Defense and former Kentucky public
advocate. That includes, but isn???t limited to, attorneys, judges, jurors and
the families of both the victim and defendant.
Should The Death Penalty Be Legal? Tennessee Upholds Lethal Injection
Tennessee's Supreme Court has upheld the state's lethal injection policy for
executing death row inmates. The ruling Wednesday quashed a legal debate that
officially began in 2013. In a unanimous opinion, the court ruled that lethal
injection did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
The state relies on injections of compounded pentobarbital to carry out the
death penalty. 30 inmates on death row were part of the case that alleged
lethal injections were unconstitutional due to the risk of pain and suffering
and "lingering death."
In 2015, the state put a moratorium on 4 executions scheduled to take place
until the court could weigh in. Following the Supreme Court's ruling, it's
likely those executions will be rescheduled.
However, death penalty drugs are notoriously hard to come by in the state, the
Tennessean reported earlier in March. Even if executions are resumed as a
result of the ruling, it may still be difficult to carry out lethal injections
if the drugs are unavailable.
As a backup, Tennessee allows for the death penalty to be carried out by
electric chair. Of the 31 states that still allow the death penalty, only
Tennessee and Oklahoma still permit use of the electric chair.
Tennessee has executed 6 people since 1976, though 335 inmates were executed in
previous years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The state
hasn't executed someone since 2009, but 61 inmates remain on death row,
according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
The use of lethal injection, like the death penalty itself, has been the source
of much debate. Certain manufacturers have declined to have their products
associated with the death penalty, leading to a short supply of the drugs. As a
result, certain pharmacies have begun mixing their own drugs to supply to
facilities, the Tennessean reported earlier in March. The state of Georgia
postponed an execution for 6 months in 2015 after it found that the dose of the
compounded pentobarbital it planned to use was "cloudy and didn't look right."
Executions May Resume After Tennessee Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty
Tennessee may resume executions following a decision by the state's Supreme
Court that single-dose lethal injection is not constitutionally prohibited.
Executions have been on hold since arguments in the case, initially filed by 33
death-row inmates in Davidson County Chancery Court, in October. Tennessee has
not executed a prisoner since 2009. 2 of the petitioners have since died in
The court's unanimous opinion, authored by Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins, says
the inmates failed to prove Tennessee's current lethal injection protocol - a
high-dose of pentobarbital - violates the United States and Tennessee
constitutions' prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The
plaintiffs had argued that the method could cause extreme pain or "lingering
death," though the court concluded the former was only likely in the case of
human error, which has been held by courts not to satisfy the Eighth Amendment
prohibition provided that such error is an "accident with no suggestion of
Further, past rulings have asserted that Eighth Amendment death penalty method
appeals must not only show evidence of high risk of pain or lingering death but
must also present an alternative method of execution, which the petitioners in
this case failed to do.
Tennessee's last execution was of Cecil Johnson in December 2009. Johnson was
convicted of killing 3 people during a robbery in 1980. The state has executed
6 people since 2000. The state did not execute anyone between 1961 and 2000.
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