2017-11-06 14:54:27 UTC
The death penalty doesn't make us safer
Charles Davenport argues that we need the death penalty to preserve an orderly
society (column, Oct. 15). The only problem is, there is no evidence to support
his claim. Here are the facts:
The murder rate in states without the death penalty is lower than in states
with capital punishment. Over the past decade, the average murder rate in
non-death-penalty states has been 20 to 40 % lower.
In North Carolina, our last execution was in 2006, and juries are sending fewer
people each year to death row. If the death penalty were key to our safety,
murders would have soared. Instead, the murder rate in 2015 (the most recent
year for which the SBI provides statistics) was 5.8 per 100,000 people. That's
37 % lower than it was in 2006.
As a person of faith, I am against the death penalty in any form. I believe
that forgiveness is far more healing than taking a life. As a community, we
must work to protect citizens from violence and crime. The death penalty does
not advance these goals.
The Rev. Willard Bass
(source: Letter to the Editor, News & Record)
Republicans join effort to abolish death penalty in Ohio
With another execution looming next week in Ohio, a Democratic lawmaker is
pushing a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in the Buckeye State.
Although similar tries in 3 previous legislative sessions have gone nowhere,
this time some Republicans are on board.
House Bill 389, sponsored by Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, would replace
capital punishment with a life sentence without parole.
"The consideration of death by the state would be off the table. ... This
doesn't mean they aren't prosecuted to the fullest extent by the law," Antonio
Support for the death penalty is the lowest it has been in more than 4 decades,
a 2016 Pew Research Center study shows. Nearly 1/2 of Americans, 49 %, favor
the death penalty for those convicted of murder while 42 % oppose it. The
Gallup Poll shows the same trend.
A 2015 CBS News Poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Republicans, 73 %,
favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Democrats were more
split on the issue, with 44 % favoring the death penalty and 46 % opposing it.
The surveys indicate Americans are increasingly concerned about innocent people
on death row and racial disparities in sentencing. But proposed changes in
Ohio's death-penalty procedures by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor have made
Antonio's bill has bipartisan support. Reps. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, and
Craig Riedel, R-Defiance, are co-sponsors.
"It's a life issue," Antani said.
He says the ability to put someone to death is "way too big of a power" for the
As a Roman Catholic, Riedel opposes capital punishment.
"It's my faith that has led me to believe to not support the death penalty,"
Riedel said. "Mankind is not in charge of natural death."
This is not the 1st legislative effort that has tried to put an end to capital
punishment in Ohio. In fact, this is the 4th time Antonio has introduced the
same bill to the General Assembly.
"We are not saying do not punish the criminal," Antonio said. "Punish the
criminal through a sentence of life without parole."
Capital punishment is legal in 31 states, including Ohio.
The next execution is scheduled for Nov. 15. Alva Campbell, 69, is set to die
that day by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. He was
sentenced to death for the 1997 aggravated murder of 18-year-old Charles Dials
after taking a deputy's gun, escaping custody and car-jacking Dials' vehicle
near the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus.
The Ohio Parole Board has recommended Gov. John Kasich deny clemency to
This would be Ohio's 3rd execution in 4 months, after a lengthy delay until the
U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state's lethal-injection protocol. Gary Otte was
executed Sept. 13 using 3 lethal drugs, and Ronald Phillips was executed July
"I've visited death row inmates and they don't like my bill," Antonio said.
She said they view the death penalty as a way to put them out of their misery.
"Ohio is an outlier" when it comes to executions, said Kevin Werner, executive
director of Ohioans to Stop Executions.
Currently, 27 men are scheduled to be executed in Ohio, including Campbell.
"There's no state in the country that has that many executions lined up that
far in advance," Werner said.
Almost 140 prisoners were on death row in Ohio as of Oct. 2, according to the
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Some people are put on death row only to be later found not guilty, Antonio
"I would think that no one would want to sentence any innocent person to
death," Antonio said.
Despite the shift in public attitudes, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys
Association continues to support capital punishment, said John Murphy,
"We would oppose a bill to abolish the death penalty," Murphy said.
The association has maintained opposition to the repeal of the death penalty,
said Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson, president of the group.
"We believe it's a deterrent factor of the most serious crimes," Dobson said.
Ark. judge dismisses bid to halt killer's execution
An Arkansas judge dismissed an effort Friday to halt this week's planned
execution of a convicted killer despite his attorneys' arguments that he's not
The ruling came shortly after Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was unlikely to grant
clemency to Jack Greene, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday night. Greene
was convicted in the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of
hominy, stabbed and later shot.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis dismissed a lawsuit filed by
Greene's attorneys challenging an Arkansas law that gives the state's top
prisons official authority to determine an inmate's mental competency. Dennis
ruled that the state Supreme Court had already upheld the law as
constitutional. Dennis also said she did not have the authority to halt
Greene's attorneys plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. They argue that
Greene suffers from psychotic delusions and believes prison officials and his
attorneys are conspiring to cover up injuries he believes corrections officers
inflicted on him.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly found that severely mentally ill death row
prisoners like Mr. Greene must have access to competency hearings presided over
by neutral decision makers in order to prevent unconstitutional execution,"
Scott Braden, an assistant federal defender representing Greene, said in a
The state said it was prepared to defend its plan to execute Greene.
"The attorney general continues to believe the execution will occur as
scheduled, but is prepared to respond to any and all challenges from inmate
Greene in the days leading up to the execution," said Judd Deere, a spokesman
for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
If carried out, Greene's execution would be the 1st since Arkansas put 4
inmates to death over an 8-day period in April. Arkansas originally planned to
put 8 inmates to death over an 11-day period, scheduling the executions before
its supply of a lethal injection drug expired, but 4 of the executions were
blocked by the courts.
Hutchinson scheduled Greene's execution in August after the state obtained a
new supply of midazolam, the expired drug. The Arkansas Supreme Court on
Thursday ordered the state to identify the manufacturer of the drug, saying the
information was not protected by an execution drug secrecy measure.
The ruling, which requires a lower court to determine what information on the
drug's label other than the manufacturer can be withheld, doesn't directly
address Greene's execution and will take effect early next week.
Hutchinson earlier Friday said he was unlikely to halt Greene's execution. The
state Parole Board last month recommended Hutchinson not grant clemency,
rejecting Greene's argument that he was not mentally competent. Hutchinson said
he believed Greene was mentally competent based on U.S. Supreme Court
standards, and didn't plan on granting clemency.
"I've seen nothing that causes me concern in proceeding forth at this point,"
Hutchinson told reporters. "Obviously, we will continue to receive any
information, continue to evaluate that, but at this point the execution is
still scheduled and will remain on schedule."
(source: Associated Press)
Analysis: Secrecy lingers over Arkansas' next execution
As Arkansas prepares to restart its death chamber several months after the
state carried out its 1st executions in nearly 12 years, an order from the
state's highest court to release more information about lethal injection drugs
could throw an obstacle in its path. At the minimum, it may raise a new round
of uncomfortable questions about how the state obtains its execution drugs.
The state Supreme Court ruled last week that a 2015 law keeping secret the
source of Arkansas' execution drugs doesn't extend to manufacturers, a decision
that could force the state to release drug labels for its supply of a lethal
injection drug early this week. It could undermine an approach Arkansas and at
least a dozen other states have used to repel legal challenges by keeping
secret how and where they obtain their drugs.
The ruling came a week before the scheduled execution of Jack Greene, a
convicted murderer scheduled to die Thursday. A state judge dismissed Greene's
attempt to halt his execution on Friday, but the inmate's attorneys said
they're appealing to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Greene was convicted for the
1991 killing of Sidney Jethro Burnett after Burnett and his wife had accused
Greene of arson. Gov. Asa Hutchinson last week said he's seen nothing in
Greene's case file so far that would prompt him to halt the killer's execution.
If put to death, Greene will be Arkansas' 1st execution since the state put 4
men to death over 8 days in April. The state had originally planned to execute
8 men over 11 days before its supply of midazolam, 1 of the 3 drugs it uses in
lethal injections, expired. 4 scheduled executions were halted by the courts.
The Supreme Court ruling revives a familiar issue: the secrecy surrounding the
source of Arkansas' lethal injection drugs. A 2015 state law keeps the drug
source a secret, a move Arkansas officials have said is needed to ensure it can
"Public pressure from anti-death-penalty advocates likely would lead
manufacturers to implement even more distribution controls that would, as a
practical matter, make it impossible for the state to acquire the drugs in its
lethal-injection protocol," the state argued in court filings last month.
Justices, however, dismissed that argument and said doesn't protect the drug
"The evidence presented in this case demonstrated that many manufacturers of
lethal injection drugs already prohibit the use of these drugs in executions
and that these manufacturers often have contracts in place with their
distributors that prevent the downstream sale of the drugs to prison
officials," Justice Courtney Goodson wrote in the court's ruling last week. "It
is therefore the confidentiality of the sellers and suppliers of these drugs to
the (Correction Department) that the confidentiality provisions were intended
The state had previously released photos of its execution drugs with the
manufacturers' names blacked out, but stopped doing so after The Associated
Press was able to use those labels to identity the drug makers. A separate
lawsuit seeking the same information about the state's 2 other lethal injection
drugs is also pending before the high court. Both lawsuits were filed by the
same attorney, Steven Shults, who has been seeking the labels.
Hutchinson in August scheduled Greene's execution after prison officials said
they'd obtained a new supply of midazolam. The department said it paid $250 in
cash for enough of the drug to conduct 2 executions.
2 drug makers unsuccessfully sought to prevent their drugs from being used in
Arkansas' executions in April, and a case is still pending before the state
Supreme Court over a medical supply company's claims that the state
misleadingly obtained 1 of the drugs.
Details about the maker of the latest midazolam supply could open the door for
new challenges. The ruling, which takes effect early this week, orders a lower
court to determine what information other than the manufacturer must be
withheld from the drug labels released.
With a narrow window until Thursday night, the biggest question remaining is
how much of an impact - if any - the decision to release those labels could
have on efforts to spare Greene's life.
(source: Times Record)
$3.15 million paid to former Oklahoma death row inmates, civil attorneys who
sued after convictions overturned
2 former death row inmates and their civil attorneys have been paid $3.15
million to dismiss federal lawsuits against a former prosecutor and the state
Almost 1/4 of the settlement payments came from state funds. The rest came from
the former prosecutor's liability insurance company.
Yancy L. Douglas, 43, and Paris Lapriest Powell, 44, filed separate lawsuits in
Oklahoma City federal court in 2010 after their murder convictions were
The cost to the state and the insurance company could have been much more if
the cases had gone to trial. Each was seeking $32 million.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the convictions in 2009 after
concluding the prosecutor, Brad Miller,
(source: The Oklahoman)
Appellate attorney fired for making statements on death penalty case that were
'harmful' to Weber County's reputation, officials say
An appellate attorney is out of a job after speaking publicly about a lack of
funding in a death penalty case - comments that Weber County officials deemed
"harmful to the county's reputation."
Defense attorney Samuel Newton had been representing Douglas Lovell, who was
sentenced in 2015 to be executed for killing 39-year-old Joyce Yost in 1985 to
keep her from testifying that he had previously raped her.
Newton, who is based in Montana, had a contract with Weber County to represent
the death row inmate in his appeal and was contracted to handle all of the
other appeals for indigent criminal defendants in the county.
He withdrew from Lovell's case in September, saying payment issues were causing
stress-related medical issues, as well as a conflict of interest.
Newton said at that time that a conflict was created after the payment dispute
left him feeling like he "had to choose" between supporting his family
financially and zealously representing his client.
Now, Newton said he also has lost his contract to handle other appeals for
Weber County defendants who can not afford their own attorney - a contract
which he has had for about 7 years and makes up the bulk of his law practice.
In a letter to Newton dated Oct. 26, Weber County Commissioner James Harvey
wrote that county officials are terminating Newton's contract to handle those
appeals, effective Jan. 31.
"While we have appreciated your hard work and dedication," Harvey wrote, "this
past year you have made various representations to the media and to the court
that have been untruthful and harmful to the county's reputation."
Harvey echoed those sentiments in a Friday interview, but he declined to
elaborate on specific untruthful statements he believes Newton has made.
Harvey said he felt Newton was spending too much time trying to create
relationships with his clients in prison, when "all the state wants to know is
if the appropriate decision has been made" in a conviction.
"I very much care about the character of Weber County and very much want to be
fiduciarily responsible for taxpayer funds and how they're spent," Harvey said.
"I don't agree with giving a guy an open checkbook because he wants to create a
relationship with a convicted felon on the taxpayers' dime."
Newton has expressed concerns over payment both in court and in recent Salt
Lake Tribune news articles. He also penned a commentary about how the capital
punishment system is unfair to defendants and attorneys that was published in
The Tribune op-ed section.
The funding dispute centered around a now-delayed multiday evidentiary hearing,
where witnesses were to be questioned about what work Lovell's trial attorney
did on the case - and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
interfered with the trial by limiting what bishops who worked with Lovell at
the prison could say on the stand during the penalty phase of trial.
Lovell is currently appealing his conviction to the Utah Supreme Court, which
had sent the case back to the district court for the evidentiary hearing.
Newton had argued in court papers that the hearing would require hundreds of
hours of investigation and preparation, which he estimated would cost more than
$37,000. The county, however, had authorized additional payment of only
$15,000. The attorney said concerns about inadequate pay on Lovell's case and
another death penalty appeal was causing him stress-related heart problems.
County officials have disagreed with Newton's assertions, saying that a "soft
cap" for funding was in place, but Newton could have asked for more money if he
could show it was needed.
"We had never given him a firm amount, saying, 'We won't pay you anymore than
this,'" said Deputy Weber County Attorney Bryan Baron, who works in the
county's civil division and handles contracts.
In a June email to Newton, Baron wrote that the commissioners were concerned
that Newton was overbilling in Lovell's case and questioned why he was
communicating with the defendant so often.
"The consensus from the meeting was that unless significant changes are made to
the invoices and future billing practices, the county needs to look for another
attorney for future appeals," Baron wrote in the email, which was filed among
court papers. "Again, they don't have a problem with the quality of your work.
Their concern is with the amounts that you are billing and the items that you
are billing them for."
Based on this email, Newton said this week that it was not entirely unexpected
that the county decided to pull the plug on his contract for other appellate
'I'm disappointed that the county terminated my contract, where I have had no
performance issues," Newton said. "I never believed I said anything untrue and
was only zealously representing my client and fighting for the resources he
needed to defend his life."
Weber County has hired a new attorney, Colleen Coebergh, to take over Lovell's
appeal. The county contracted a "soft cap" of $100,000 for Coebergh, according
to Commission minutes. Newton's cap had been $75,000, according to court
Anyone who is charged with a crime that includes the possibility of jail time -
in Utah, that is anything more serious than an infraction - is entitled to an
attorney, even if they can't afford one. For death penalty cases, those
attorneys must be experienced and qualified under court rules.
Utah is 1 of 2 states in the nation that delegates the responsibility to
provide defense lawyers to individual counties and cities.
Most counties in Utah pay into a state-managed fund for death penalty cases, a
sort of insurance policy from which officials can request money if they have a
death penalty-eligible case in their county.
Weber County, however, is 1 of 5 counties that does not participate in this
fund - instead, it uses its own money to contract with individual attorneys.
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Capital punishment system unfair to defendants and attorneys
When asked if I would be willing to represent a Utah death-sentenced inmate,
Floyd Maestas, I said absolutely not. I was well aware of the emotional,
physical and financial toll the representation would place on me and on my
practice. Yet I eventually agreed because I believe those on death row deserve
Floyd insisted he was not there during the murder, even though at trial 2
eyewitnesses placed him there, his fingerprint was at the scene and there was
DNA under the victim???s fingernails. But I took my charge seriously and worked
feverishly to find evidence of innocence.
The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that post-conviction
lawyers must diligently scour the evidence, investigate the case for innocence,
and search for any evidence that could "mitigate" or reduce a defendant's death
sentence. These efforts have resulted in the reversal of death sentences around
the nation, where innocent people have been exonerated.
Given a shoe-string budget of $30,000, our investigators discovered serious
evidence to support Floyd's innocence. This included a letter from 1 of the
eyewitnesses, saying he and his friend framed Floyd and that his friend was the
real murderer. The DNA "match" was not a match at all, but a Y-chromosome test
that would match 421 of 591 Hispanics, Floyd's race. Our fingerprint expert
also believed there were serious problems with the fingerprint identification.
We discovered a very traumatic family history. Floyd was raised in the ghetto
in a cardboard house with no running water. His father froze to death from
alcoholism and 2 of his siblings were murdered. As a boy, Floyd held his dying
sister in the living room after her boyfriend stabbed her. A few days after
Christmas, police found 13-year-old Floyd passed out on the street from extreme
Before his trial, all but one expert concluded Floyd was intellectually
disabled, a finding that prohibits his execution. While the judge sided with
the one expert at trial, even that expert has now indicated that under newer
diagnostic criteria, he also believes Floyd is intellectually disabled.
But we were out of money and time. I had exhausted our limited budget. My
investigators had fronted $17,000 of their own money for evidence and the court
would not reimburse them. They told me that they could no longer work on the
case. I still had not read all Floyd???s file given its enormity and asked the
court for more time. The request was denied.
The court denied funding for almost all of my work, resulting in around
$100,000 of losses. My co-counsel has never been paid for hundreds of hours of
donated time. I had to put my expenses on credit cards and my wife took a 2nd
job. The stress culminated when I woke in the night feeling chest pain and
ended up in urgent care. My doctors believed the heart stress was related to
the case and asked me to withdraw. I asked the court to let me off and was
denied. In desperation, I reached out to the American Bar Association, who
located a large firm who was willing to assist on the case on a pro bono basis.
In capital cases, states provide counsel to the lowest bidder and encourage
attorneys to do little work and then get out. And courts don't fix the problems
either. They have refused to find that a defendant was deprived an effective
attorney, even if he sleeps or is drunk during trial. In my case, the state
believes my client has no right to an effective attorney at all and that he
should be grateful they even gave him someone.
The system is full of errors. Since 1976, we have executed 1,452 nationally but
exonerated 159, a shocking number for so serious a penalty. An astonishing 47
of 100 death sentences are reversed at some point. These reversals happen
because of good lawyering, but this safety net is often lacking. Nationwide,
public defenders work under enormous pressure, with massive caseloads and have
seen little sign of reprieve.
Our capital punishment system is a charade. We provide a "defense lawyer" but
either give someone with no experience or refuse to give the necessary
resources to experienced attorneys. In Utah, a state with one of the lowest
death penalty populations in the United States, which has not executed a
defendant since 2010, almost every attorney to take a death penalty case has
suffered extreme personal loss. The result is a crisis-level lack of qualified
attorneys willing or able to take on capital cases.
If we have the death penalty, we must commit to protecting the innocent from
execution. We must also commit to adequately support the attorneys who are
called upon to perform these difficult tasks.
(source: Commentary; Samuel Newton has been a criminal defense attorney since
2003. He has worked as a public defender in Salt Lake City, a professor of
criminal justice at Weber State University and as a private practitioner
focusing on criminal appeals and capital litigation----Salt Lake Tribune)
S won't extradite American charged with murder to Tonga
An American charged with murder in Tonga in connection with his wife's death
has been released from prison in Hawaii after the U.S. State Department refused
to extradite him because of concerns he would not have received a fair trial.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exercised his discretion in denying the
Kingdom of Tonga's request to extradite Dean Jay Fletcher for trial in the
South Pacific archipelago nation, according to a letter to U.S. prosecutors
from the State Department.
A U.S. judge in Hawaii on Wednesday ordered Fletcher's immediate release from
the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, where he had been held for nearly a
Fletcher was indicted on murder and other charges in Tonga in the July 2016
death of his Canadian wife, Patricia Linne Kearney.
Earlier this year, a U.S. judge in Honolulu ruled that Fletcher could be
But a letter Tuesday from the State Department expressed concern that Fletcher
would have faced a death sentence or life in prison and that he would not have
received a defense attorney for free.
If he had been convicted and sentenced to death, Fletcher would have been
hanged and would have been the 1st person executed in Tonga since 1981.
Fletcher's lawyer, Melinda Yamaga, declined comment on where Fletcher went
following his release and said he did not want to speak with journalists about
3 diving operators saw Fletcher assaulting his wife on a dinghy after she
picked him up at a Tonga port, according to provisional arrest documents filed
in federal court in Honolulu.
Fletcher kept kicking and punching Kearney as the couple arrived at another
boat named the Sea Oak, Tonga officials told U.S. prosecutors.
One witness reported seeing Fletcher grab his wife's head while she was in the
dinghy, "slam his knee into her neck and punch her in the head," the documents
The next day, Fletcher went to police to report his wife had died when she
slipped and fell down stairs on their yacht.
Fletcher allegedly told an acquaintance that his wife had a nerve disease and
had been drunk. The person reported seeing a blood-stained bed sheet in the
dinghy, and another person said Fletcher dropped the sheet into the sea, the
While in police custody, Fletcher asked a detective for permission to use the
toilet then ran out of a cell in a police station and was caught after a brief
foot chase, authorities said.
The records say officers could not catch him when he fled a police station cell
again in September 2016 and was last seen sailing away in a boat.
He traveled about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north to American Samoa, where he
U.S. marshals escorted him to Honolulu because American Samoa does not have a
Tonga Acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu told The Associated Press Thursday
the decision to free Fletcher was a disappointment.
He said he told U.S. officials it would be very unlikely that the death penalty
would have been imposed. No one in Tonga receives free legal representation,
and the case against Fletcher was solid, he said.
"We have very strong circumstantial evidence," he said.
The charges against Fletcher remain active, and the country could seek
Fletcher's extradition if he travels to other countries, Kefu said. "We believe
he's committed a crime here in Tonga, and we won't stop until we're able to
bring him to justice," he said.
Yamaga declined to comment on the Tonga charges and said she had raised
concerns with the State Department based on humanitarian issues, she said.
Allen S. Weiner, the director of the Stanford Program in International and
Comparative Law, called the case "a little unusual" because the U.S. has an
extradition treaty with Tonga.
Countries usually avoid signing extradition treaties when they have doubts
about legal systems, he said.
Fletcher's case is also unusual because it is usually other countries that do
not want to extradite their citizens to the United States when the death
penalty is a possibility, Weiner said.
(source: Associated Press)
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