2017-04-09 13:58:27 UTC
Death penalty debate continues
Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said it may be premature for people
opposed to the death penalty to call it dead in Ohio.
"In Trumbull County, the system works and due process takes place daily with
judges and jurors doing their jobs every day," Watkins said. "Every poll in
Ohio and the U.S. since I have been prosecutor in 1984 ... shows a majority of
citizens supporting the death penalty in Ohio and most of the United States.
Some states have repealed the death penalty, but under the United States
Constitution, it is not cruel and unusual punishment to have and use the death
penalty for murders."
Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, disagrees,
saying, in part, an execution in Ohio hasn't been carried out in more than 3
years after the process was suspended because of legal challenges over how the
state puts people to death.
"Ohioans accept that capital punishment is coming to an end. Our state and
county coffers will welcome the cost savings and more sound public policy,"
Ohio suffered a blow Thursday when a federal appeals court rejected the state's
new 3-drug lethal injection process.
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found
the proposed use of a contested sedative - midazolam - unconstitutional. The
court also ruled Ohio's planned use of 2 other drugs the state abandoned years
ago prevents their reintroduction in a new execution system.
Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when inmate Dennis McGuire
took 26 minutes to die under a never-before-tried 2-drug method that began with
midazolam. Ohio announced its 3-drug method in October.
An appeal is likely. Options included asking the full appeals court to consider
the case or appealing straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Dan Tierney, a
spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General???s Office.
Said Werner, "The death penalty system in Ohio is collapsing in nearly every
measurable way. The trends we see are striking. Ohioans are choosing life
sentences as the appropriate punishment for these worst-of-the-worst crimes."
Indictments containing the possibility of death as punishment were down in Ohio
30 % in 2016 compared to the year before, according to a news release from the
anti-execution group. Information from the attorney general's office shows 4
new death sentences were added in Ohio, but three were removed for resentencing
Also, figures from the office show 6 counties with a high number of inmates on
death row - Trumbull, Mahoning, Hamilton, Lucas, Stark and Summit - did not
file a new death penalty case in 2016.
But in March, capital murder charges were filed against Nasser Hamad of
Howland, who is accused of killing 2 and wounding 3 others March 25 at his
In Mahoning County, capital defendant Robert Seman's trial, which has been
moved because of difficulties in seating an impartial jury, will start this
month in Portage County. Seman is accused of killing 3 while setting fire to a
Youngstown home. He was indicted in 2015.
There are 139 people on Ohio's death row, including 1 woman, Donna Roberts of
Trumbull County. 25 executions are scheduled in Ohio in the next 4 years,
including Mahoning County's John Drummond, who is scheduled to die Sept. 17,
2020. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for May 10.
Opponents say there are trends that show judges and juries are choosing options
other than death. Between 2012 and 2015, Ohio prosecutors sought the death
penalty in 122 cases, according to the Ohio Supreme Court's Capital Indictment
Table. While death penalty cases from this time period produced 9 new death
sentences, most concluded with alternative sentences.
Watkins, however, has another take on the numbers.
"Because we have individualized sentencing, no 2 defendants are ever treated
the same. This is as it should be. Therefore, results will vary as would be
expected," Watkins said.
Trumbull County statistics bear that out. There was an 11-year gap between
Roberts' sentence in 2003 and David Martin's death penalty conviction.
Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor LuWayne Annos said juries have recommended
the death sentence in 5 cases - Sean Carter, Stanley Adams, Nate Jackson,
Roberts and Martin - since the legislature gave an option of life without
parole in capital cases.
Since July 1, 1996, 6 capital murder defendants were sentenced to life without
parole after juries in Trumbull County were given the ability to make that
But, "the real question is how many more years will we tolerate the enormous
costs, the bias, and the risk of executing innocent people?" Werner said.
Watkins said he would rather look at an issue of fairness.
"Some would say that it would be unfair to execute 1 robber who was caught
leaving the scene of a murder when the accomplice got away and never was
caught," Watkins said. "I would say it is only unfair to the victim and society
that the other escaped justice."
(source: Warren tribune Chronicle)
Arkansas Plans to Execute 7 People This Month, Continuing Long Tradition of
On April 17, the state of Arkansas plans to kill Don Davis and Bruce Earl Ward,
2 men who have been on death row since the early 1990s. Neither has applied for
clemency. Both will die on the same gurney, back to back, if all goes according
to plan. Executioners will start by injecting them with a sedative called
midazolam, never before used by the state, but which is supposed to render them
unconscious for the 2 lethal drugs to follow. No one, apart from a handful of
officials, knows where the drugs will come from, or who exactly will do the
injecting. Those are secrets under the law. Most importantly, no one knows how
well the midazolam will work, if it works at all. After nearly 12 years without
a single execution, Arkansas is embarking on a kind of human experiment.
If there are risks to this plan, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison has wasted
little time contemplating them. 3 nights after the double execution, Ledelle
Lee and Stacey Johnson are scheduled to die the same way, on April 20, followed
by another 2 men, Marcel Williams and Jack Jones Jr., on April 24. Finally, if
all goes according to plan, Kenneth Williams will be executed on the 27th. An
8th man, Jason McGehee, was supposed to die with him, but this week he was
granted a reprieve. As it now stands, 7 men will die in the Arkansas death
house this month, over the course of 11 days.
The sudden rush to execute stems from a practical dilemma: Arkansas's supply of
midazolam is set to expire at the end of the month. If the governor lets that
happen, officials will have to find a new supply of drugs for lethal injection,
an increasingly challenging task that has kept executions on hold for years. In
the years since the state's last execution, officials seem to be getting rusty,
even when it comes to basic PR. Facing a shortage of necessary witnesses for
its upcoming executions, Department of Corrections Director Wendy Kelly asked
startled members of a Little Rock rotary club last month if anyone would be
willing to attend the executions. "It quickly became obvious that she was not
kidding," 1 man said.
If Arkansas officials now find themselves in uncharted waters, they are also
reviving an old local tradition. It was not so long ago that prisoners were
once executed two and three at a time, using techniques believed to be humane,
even cutting edge, despite signs to the contrary. As in other death penalty
states, generations of politicians in Arkansas have passed law after law
mandating experimental new killing tools hastily borrowed from other states,
while tasking others to implement them. Governors have ignored red flags,
insisting they are bound by law to set execution dates, regardless of
circumstance, then discovered things don't go according to plan.
Part of this history can be found at the Arkansas Studies Institute in downtown
Little Rock, a modern renovation of 2 historic buildings on President Clinton
Avenue. The vast collection includes boxes of old materials belonging to the
Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty: decades of prison mail,
meeting minutes, and a handful of correspondence with Hutchison's predecessors.
In 1 letter, from 1989, Governor Bill Clinton responds to a prominent activist
and longtime friend Freddie Nixon, who had urged him to intervene on behalf of
a black man on death row named Barry Lee Fairchild, whom many believed to be
innocent. "As you know our positions differ," Clinton wrote back, "and I ask
that you respect the prayer and deliberation on which mine is based."
Clinton restarted executions in 1990, ending a 26-year stretch without any
deaths in the Arkansas death chamber. A bloody era followed. In January 1994,
the state executed 2 men in a single night - a 1st in the country's so-called
"modern" death penalty period. A few months later, Nixon and her husband sent a
letter to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, with another urgent appeal. "Once again we are
writing to you to request that you grant clemency to persons on Arkansas' death
row," they wrote in July 1994. "The situation this time is even more
extraordinary than the last." The double execution had been "gruesome enough,"
they continued. "This time, 3 are scheduled to die and all for 1 crime. What
kind of justice requires three deaths? Please do not let Arkansas become
another 'Killing Field.' Grant clemency to Darryl Richley, Hoyt Clines and
The Nixons were not alone in seeking to halt the triple execution. The ACLU
decried "the horrifying and barbaric spectacle of Arkansas' 'final solution' to
crime. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund called it "disturbingly paradigmatic of an
era when African-Americans were too often the victims of mass lynchings."
Protests were held, and vigils organized at the governor's mansion.
Nevertheless, Governor Tucker denied clemency. Within a span of 2 1/2 hours on
the night of August 3, 1994, Richley, Clines, and Holmes were killed by lethal
injection at the Cummins Unit, less than 80 miles southeast of Little Rock.
Arkansas carried out another triple execution in 1997, under Governor Mike
This was the death penalty at its peak in the United States - it has been
declining ever since. Arkansas has not executed anyone since 2005, and much has
changed in meantime. While the U.S. Supreme Court has twice upheld lethal
injection in the past 10 years, a slew of botched executions across the country
have shown it to be inherently unreliable - no matter what drugs are used. In
2014, Oklahoma made international headlines after the horrifying execution of
Clayton Lockett; executioners had failed to properly insert the IV lines. In an
open letter last month, a group of former prison officials reminded Governor
Hutchison that a 2nd man had been scheduled to die that same night using
midazolam, before things went so horribly wrong. "We believe that performing so
many executions in so little time will impose extraordinary and unnecessary
stress and trauma on the staff responsible with carrying out the executions,"
"We haven't had an execution since this whole controversy over lethal injection
controversy came up," veteran Arkansas defense lawyer Jeff Rosenzweig told me
in Little Rock last month. Attorneys for the condemned have raised particular
alarm over the planned use of midazolam, which replaces a longtime anesthetic -
sodium thiopental - that became unavailable years ago. Midazolam has a short
but grisly track record; a complaint filed in federal court last month points
to several executions where the sedative appeared to fail, most recently in
Alabama, during the execution of Robert Bert Smith, who heaved and coughed as
he died. Today Rosenzweig is increasingly convinced lethal injection never
really worked as intended, even when sodium thiopental was in ample supply.
"Now, they're not even using that drug, but using a drug which has a history of
not working," he said.
Rosenzweig's office is littered with legal files, his desk barely visible under
his workload. On the day we met, one of his clients had just had his bid for
clemency rejected by the parole board. Now racing against the clock, Rosenzweig
is prepared to be a witness if the time comes. If something goes wrong, it will
not be the first time he has seen a botched execution in Arkansas.
Before Arkansas learned to love lethal injection, it first bought into the myth
of electrocution as a civilized alternative to hangings. The electric chair
would kill instantaneously, its promotors boasted in the late 1800s, with
medical experts echoing the claim in the press. Although the country's 1st
electrocution - carried out in New York in 1890 - was a grisly ordeal, it was
nonetheless seen as an advance, a reflection of a more enlightened age. Arguing
for a new execution law in 1913, Arkansas lawmakers said the technology would
discourage lynchings; executions would now be centralized, going from
individual counties across the state to a single death chamber at the state
penitentiary. "The substitution of the electric chair for the gallows in
Arkansas meets with the very general approval by all citizens," the St. Louis
Dispatch reported in 1913, adding that state sheriffs were "especially
pleased." Hanging convicts had been among their more "undesirable duties," the
paper reported, "and it has never been a good advertisement for a community.
Arkansas prison officials were under immediate pressure to adopt the new
technology. As the new law came closer to taking effect, the state attorney
general pushed it as "an emergency that must be met." Based in part on New
York's pioneering machinery, an electrician at the University of Arkansas built
a homemade electric chair, which was "successfully tested' on a large steer,
according to the Arkansas Democrat. A black man named Lee Simms, convicted of
raping a white woman, would have "the honor of officially testing the home-made
In addition to bringing executions behind prison walls - avoiding the unseemly
crowds that gathered at the gallows - Arkansas' new execution law also made it
a crime for newspapers to report on them. "No newspaper or person shall print
or publish the details of the execution of criminals under this act," it read.
"Only the fact that the criminal was executed shall be printed or published."
Yet reporters flouted the law for the Simms execution, while taking some
creative liberties. He was said to be unafraid, singing as his face was covered
by a leather mask before a 2,300-volt current would be sent through his body.
Assured he would die painlessly and with dignity, Simms supposedly expressed
satisfaction that he was making history. "I'se glad I am the first niggah to be
'lectrocuted," he said, according to an account in the Gazette. Afterward, the
paper approvingly reported that Simms had died "without the convulsions or
twitchings" seen at the gallows. "There is no doubt that executions by
electrocution are much less gruesome and horrible than those by hanging."
It did not take long for this lie to be dramatically exposed. 9 years after
killing Simms, Arkansas carried out one of the most grotesque executions the
country had ever seen. Following the departure of the longtime warden at the
state penitentiary, prison officials selected an unidentified "volunteer"
executioner - an English car salesman who had taken a correspondence course in
electricity, according to a 1922 article in the Arkansas Democrat - who flipped
the switch to kill an 18-year-old black man named James Wells. To the horror of
witnesses, most of whom fled minutes into the execution, Wells stayed alive
over repeated attempts to send lethal currents through his body. On the 12th
try, the young man finally died.
Newspapers decried the spectacle. The Democrat's editorial page called it a
"horrible and revolting disgrace on the state of Arkansas," calling for experts
to carry out executions, and exhorting the governor to ensure that "there are
no repetitions of this horrible human butchery." Yet less than a year later,
Arkansas carried out a quadruple execution, only to realize as officials
prepared to bury the 4 men, that 1 of them was still alive. This time, the
press was a bit more matter-of-fact. "He was taken from the coffin and again
placed in the electric chair," according to 1 report.
Despite such ghoulish mishaps, the electric chair prevailed for decades as the
country's preferred execution method, seen as reliable if used responsibly.
Arkansas went on to kill 168 people in the chair, sometimes four in the same
day. Courts provided legal legitimacy. In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court
considered the gruesome execution of a black teenager named Willie Francis in
Louisiana, who had been removed from the electric chair after repeated
unsuccessful attempts to kill him, then sent back a few days later to die. A
majority found no violation of the 8th amendment prohibition on cruel and
unusual punishment, calling the execution an "innocent misadventure."
In Arkansas, the notion that the electric chair was mostly humane survived well
into the 1990s. After the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty in
Gregg v. Georgia in 1976, state officials hired an electrical engineer named
Jay Wiechert to build a new and improved electric chair. "Of course, I didn't
know anything about how to do it at the time," Wiechert later told the Arkansas
Times, adding that he found the challenge "interesting." A new death chamber
was constructed from scratch, and a generator had to be installed at the
prison, after the Arkansas Power & Light Company said it would prefer not to
provide energy for electrocutions. After Bill Clinton set the execution date
for John Edward Swindler in 1990, the Arkansas Democrat sought to reacquaint
readers with the technology, quoting a university professor who said its
effects would be "like going to sleep."
Convicted before Arkansas officially adopted lethal injection, Swindler was
given the choice between electrocution and the gurney. He refused to choose,
and was electrocuted. It was the 1st and last time the state used Wiechert's
electric chair. The next man to die chose lethal injection.
Wiechert died last year, an obscure figure despite an auspicious legacy: the
man whose ad hoc electric chair design was replicated from Ohio to Tennessee.
In his last published interview, Wiechert recalled how he came to modernize the
"Back in the '70s, the state of Arkansas couldn't find anybody to build an
electric chair," Wiechert said - a state of affairs with parallels to the
difficulty states have obtaining the lethal injection cocktail these days.
"They called me and I said, 'Yeah! I'll build you an electric chair. How
difficult can that be?' In my business, the hard part is not electrocuting
somebody! Killing somebody is a piece of cake."
If lethal injection was supposed to launch executions into the modern age, in
reality it was a similarly slapdash invention. Fordham law professor Deborah
Denno, the foremost legal expert on the subject, has written extensively about
its origins at the hands of Oklahoma medical examiner Jay Chapman, whose
concoction spread swiftly despite old warnings against using lethal injection
to carry out executions. Government-led commissions in the U.S. and UK had
studied and rejected the method, over concerns that it could not be performed
efficiently or painlessly. Yet politicians ignored these concerns, emphasizing
that lethal injection "appeared more humane and visually palatable relative to
other methods," as Denno wrote in a 2007 article for the Fordham Law Review.
That the protocol be "visually palatable" was key. The Oklahoma state senator
who first pushed lethal injection in the 1970s found electrocutions gruesome,
telling the Tulsa World they were "kind of a combination of Barnum & Bailey and
reform." Showing graphic post-electrocution photos to fellow lawmakers, he
unsuccessfully sought the help of his own physician, who was the head of the
Oklahoma Medical Association, then turned to Chapman, asking if he might design
a lethal injection formula. As Denno recounts, Chapman admitted he did not know
much about how to kill people, although he had examined plenty of homicide
victims. "To hell with them," he said about members of the medical community
who might disapprove. "Let's do this."
How to implement Chapman's "3-drug cocktail" would be a matter largely decided
by Texas Department of Corrections director W.J. Estelle, whose state was the
first to adopt lethal injection. One AP report described how Estelle decided
prisoners should be strapped down on a hospital gurney, rather than the old
electric chair. (A prison chaplain who had seen 14 electrocutions wanted them
"carried out in a nice clean room, something that doesn't look like a prison.")
Guided by "unnamed consultants," Estelle was also given the choice of 3
different drugs to kick off the 3-drug protocol - 1 was a "muscle relaxant,"
another a "contact poison." Estelle chose sodium thiopental, a fast-acting
barbiturate used for general anesthesia. A prison spokesman said death would
come "within minutes."
A 40-year-old man named Charlie Brooks Jr. was the 1st to die by lethal
injection. One media witness described how he "gasped and wheezed," but no one
seemed to make much of it. The Texas model was replicated across the country:
the 1st drug (generally sodium thiopental) anesthetized the prisoner. The s2nd
(pancuronium bromide) caused paralysis, including of the muscles used for
respiration. And the third (potassium chloride) stopped the heart. The 2nd drug
was mostly cosmetic; Chapman had included it to conceal the effects of the
fatal doses on bodies of the condemned. But it also introduced a fatal flaw
that went undiscussed among prison officials, who had no grasp of the
properties of the drugs they were administering: If the anesthetic didn't work
as intended, its effect was to suffocate the person on the gurney; once the
third drug kicked in, the third drug would induce a heart attack. In all, the
experience would be agonizing - yet the paralytic would prevent him or her from
signaling their suffering.
It took Arkansas several years to implement lethal injection. In 1970, 4 years
after the state's last execution, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller had commuted
the death sentences of all 15 men on death row. But by 1977, Arkansas lawmakers
hoped to start killing again. Officials approved $75,000 to build a new
execution chamber, designed to accommodate both electrocution and lethal
injection, or "clinical death," as some put it. It would be built by prisoners.
The Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty explored a lawsuit to block
the project, in part by arguing that the use of convict labor was
unconstitutional, but were dissuaded by attorneys, who said it would be costly,
and sure to fail. Even if a willing plaintiff were found, "prisoners under
sentence can be required to work," 1 lawyer wrote. Besides, those constructing
the death chamber "are receiving benefit in the form of good time off of their
sentence at a rate of one day off for each day served."
In 1979, Thomas Carpenter of the Arkansas ACLU urged abolitionists to fight the
new method, even if it seemed more humane. "At first blush it may seem that
this is good legislation in that if the death penalty is to exist in this
state, then the least barbarous method should be used," he wrote. "However, if
the horror of killing people is removed in this method, it will become much
easier for most people to be complacent about killing people."
In 1990, a week after Bill Clinton presided over the execution of John Edward
Swindler in the electric chair, Ronald Gene Simmons became the first person in
Arkansas to die by lethal injection. A serial killer who murdered 16 people -
including more than a dozen members of his own family - Simmons was no poster
child for abolition. But anti-death penalty activists protested, making
arguments that remain familiar today. "Jeff Rosenzweig, a Little Rock lawyer
who represents numerous death row inmates ... said the death penalty is applied
unfairly," the Gazette reported prior to the Simmons execution, citing problems
of racial bias, poverty, and poor lawyering.
The Simmons execution did not go well. In a 2006 lawsuit invoking the state's
history of botched executions, witness accounts describe how he appeared to
"nod off" in the first couple minutes of his execution, but he then cried out
"Oh! Oh! and began to cough sporadically as though he might have difficulty
breathing." The gurney shook as Simmons coughed and heaved, according to
witnesses. He then became still, "after which his face and arm turned first
blue and then purple."
The next execution was worse. In 1992, Bill Clinton famously returned to
Arkansas during his campaign for president to preside over the death of Ricky
Ray Rector, a black man who was lobotomized after he shot himself in the head
after killing of a police officer. Rector was severely brain damaged; The New
Yorker would later recount how after eating his last meal of steak and fried
chicken, "he carefully set aside his helping of pecan pie," planning to finish
it after his execution. Rosenzweig was among the witnesses that night. "It was
obviously very political," he said about Clinton's decision to fly back to
Little Rock. "He didn't have to set the execution date then. But he did. And
then, obviously, in the middle of the campaign he wasn't going to back off. But
Rector was clearly not competent, in my opinion."
Rosenzweig recalled how staff struggled to inject Rector, due to his size and
"all the Dilantin he was on," referring to Rector's antipsychotic medication.
Rector moaned as prison staff were unable to find a suitable vein, puncturing
his skin over and over again as the medical director looked on. Once Rector
finally appeared to be unconscious, 1 witness heard him say, "I'm getting
dizzy," after which he appeared to draw rapid "shallow breaths," according to
the 2006 lawsuit.
Rosenzweig has seen five men die by lethal injection. Despite the obvious
problems with Rector's execution, the method remained mostly uncontroversial.
"We didn't understand the extent of the problem," he says. But like many death
penalty lawyers, Rosenzweig eventually realized that even when an IV was
perfectly placed, it did not guarantee the drugs would work as planned. "They
were using a substance which was understood at the time - sodium thiopental -
to cause you to be insensate to pain. Whether it did or not, at least that was
the understanding." But soon witnesses would report seeing sounds and movement
from the gurney that were not supposed to occur.
In 2005, The Lancet medical journal published a landmark research letter that
confirmed what many feared: lethal injection was not working the way people
thought. The authors had obtained records from Texas and Virginia - highly
active death penalty states - and found that "executioners had no anesthesia
training, drugs were administered remotely with no monitoring for anesthesia."
More alarming, "toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and
South Carolina showed that post-mortem concentrations of [sodium thiopental] in
the blood were lower than that required for surgery in 43 of 49 executed
inmates (88%); 21 (43%) inmates had concentrations consistent with awareness."
The conclusion was grim. "Without anesthesia, the condemned person would
experience asphyxiation, a severe burning sensation, massive muscle cramping,
and finally cardiac arrest." The next year, California tried to assign medical
monitors for the execution of Michael Morales, but the anesthesiologists backed
out at the last minute. Executions have remained stalled in the state since.
The findings in The Lancet would help pave the way for Baze v. Rees, the 2008
U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ultimately upheld the three-drug protocol used
across the country. Yet no sooner than the Court handed down Baze than the
longtime protocol become virtually obsolete, with supplies of sodium thiopental
drying up: the sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production and the activist group
Reprieve launched a campaign to keep foreign pharmaceutical companies from
sending drugs to be used in executions. In Arkansas, which carried out its last
execution the same year the Lancet study was released, officials were unable to
obtain a replacement for years, though they have certainly tried. In 2011,
Arkansas was forced to hand over a stash of sodium thiopental that had been
shipped to the U.S. from Dream Pharma, a sketchy pharmaceutical company
operated in the back of a London driving school. Not only was the shipment
imported in violation of federal law, there was evidence some batches of drugs
had expired, leading to botched executions in Georgia and Arizona. The Drug
Enforcement Administration seized several states' supplies. In Arkansas, then
Deputy Director of Corrections Wendy Kelly later explained she had searched far
and wide for drugs to carry out executions. "I went wherever they had them."
Forced to tinker with its protocol depending on the availability of drugs,
Arkansas ultimately adopted midazalom, first tested in Florida in 2013. Prison
officials there promised "a humane and dignified death," but its effectiveness
was in doubt from the start: the 1st man executed under the new protocol died
"in what seemed like a labored process," according to a reporter for the Sun
Sentinel. At times his eyes fluttered, he swallowed hard, his head twitched,
his chest heaved." Nonetheless, in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the drug
in Glossip v. Gross. That same year, Arkansas revised its own protocol, passing
a law that makes suppliers for lethal injection drugs a secret. With a new drug
at its disposal, and after setting several execution dates only to be blocked
by the courts, Governor Hutchison has been trying to move forward with
executions ever since.
For all the insistence from states and the courts that the drug is appropriate
for executions, the man who created midazolam is disturbed that his invention
has been adopted for lethal injection. "I didn't make it for that purpose," he
recently told the New York Times. Anesthesiologist David Lubarsky, one of the
original authors of the 2005 Lancet study, warns that the drug is "a very poor
choice" for lethal injection, since even its maximum effect falls short of
rendering a person completely unconscious. While states have upped the dosages
in an attempt to ensure its reliability, the drug's ceiling effect means it
will make no difference past a point. And in places where euthanasia is legal,
Lubarsky wrote via email, people have woken up even after receiving lethal
doses of midazolam. Finally, he stresses, as has been true since the invention
of lethal injection, in a 3-part execution protocol "the paralytic hides
evidence of the insufficient anesthesia."
Indeed, 40 years after inventing an execution method that transformed an act of
killing into a kind of medical theater, Jay Chapman has long since disavowed
his invention, admitting that the paralytic was probably a mistake. Besides, as
he said in 2007, it has been carried out by "complete idiots."
Whether this will be the case in Arkansas later this month in anybody's guess.
"It's unclear who's going to be doing what," says Rosenzweig. "But our
understanding is it's basically a whole new crew."
As wave of executions draws near, Catholics in Arkansas pray for an alternative
Even though legal options have run out, Catholics in Arkansas are still pushing
back against a wave of eight executions set to start on Easter Monday, April
"Though guilty of heinous crimes, these men nevertheless retain the God-given
dignity of any human life, which must be respected and defended from conception
to natural death," wrote Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock in a March 1
letter to Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson against the execution of the eight
men scheduled to be killed in April.
Beginning April 17 the state of Arkansas will execute 8 men in the span of 10
Their names and scheduled execution dates are Don Davis and Bruce Earl Ward
(April 17), Ledelle Lee and Stacey Johnson (April 20), Marcel Williams and Jack
Jones, Jr. (April 24), Jason McGehee and Kenneth Williams (April 27).
No death row inmate has been executed in Arkansas since 2005. There are 34
death row inmates in the state.
The executions were originally scheduled in October 2015 after the state
legislature passed a law legalizing the anonymity of the sources of a
three-drug cocktail of lethal injections that sedates, paralyzes, and stops the
heart of the person upon whom it is used. The men's attorney filed a lawsuit
alleging that concealing the drugs' sources could obfuscate whether or not the
inmates had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. After a stay was
granted and a county court ruled the law unconstitutional, the Arkansas Supreme
Court ruled in favor of the law. The United States Supreme Court opted not to
hear the case.
Hutchinson then rescheduled the executions. According to the Arkansas Catholic,
the state has spent $24,226.40 on the drugs used in the scheduled executions.
The 8 executions are taking place before the state's supply of midazolam, a
sedative used in the execution process, expires.
The state's supply of potassium chloride, used to stop the heart, expired Jan.
1, 2017. However, Hutchinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a Feb. 28
article that he was confident the state could procure more potassium chloride
in time for the executions.
The state also permits the use of a single-drug method of execution.
Catholic teaching has long permitted the state???s use of capital punishment as
an act of justice and to keep a community safe from a dangerous wrongdoer,
given that the gravity of the crime merits such a harsh response and that the
guilt of the inmate is certain.
While this teaching has not changed, writings by St. John Paul II and his
successors have critiqued the practice's use in the modern era. In his 1995
encyclical Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II wrote that "If bloodless means
are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public
order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such
Bishop Taylor referenced these papal critiques of the death penalty in his plea
that the state of Arkansas halt the executions.
"Since the penal system of our state is well equipped to keep them incarcerated
for the rest of their life (and thus protect society), we should limit
ourselves to non-lethal means - hence this appeal to you," the bishop argued.
The bishop also pointed out some practical arguments against the death
penalty's use in the state, including that the punishment is frequently applied
inconsistently, even among similar crimes; that the death penalty is more
costly than other sentences; and that more than 139 death row inmates from 36
states have been exonerated since 1973, after evidence showed their innocence.
He also pointed out that in an overwhelming majority of death row cases, no DNA
evidence exists to ensure the inmate's guilt, and the inmates are too poor to
afford their own attorney.
Bishop Taylor recognized Hutchinson's duty to execute the state's laws,
including that of the death penalty, but also reminded him that he is also
subject to a "higher law, the divine law."
"As governor you have the power to commute these sentences to life without
possibility of parole and so I appeal to you to do so - and not only out of
concern for these 8 men, but also out of concern for the damage that the death
penalty does to all of us as a society," the bishop wrote.
While the bishop's letter has not stopped the upcoming executions, Catholics in
the state are not halting their protests or prayers.
The Benedictine Sisters of the St. Scholastica Monastery will hold a novena for
the prisoners who will be executed and their clemency, and are inviting
Catholics to join them by coming to pray daily April 9-17 at the monastery's
In addition, on Good Friday, a non-partisan ecumenical group, the Arkansas
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, will host a rally in front of the state
capitol against the mass executions.
(source: Catholic News Agency)
Ready to refuse clemency
Jack Harold Jones Jr. did not show up for his executive clemency hearing Friday
before the Arkansas Parole Board in Grady. Instead, the death-row inmate sent a
letter to be read by his attorney saying if he were "miraculously" granted
clemency before his execution date April 24, he would refuse it.
"I shall not ask to be forgiven," Jones, 52, said concerning the 1995 rape and
murder of Mary Phillips in Bald Knob for which he was given the death penalty.
He has been on death row at the Varner Supermax prison in Grady since being
sentenced in 1996.
Saying that he never has nor ever will want clemency, Jones said, "There's no
way in hell I would spend another 20 years in this hellhole."
He criticized the media and accused them of saying he was "begging" for his
life, insisting he only signed the clemency application to present "solidarity"
among the other seven inmates set to die, including one who has been
recommended for clemency by the parole board.
Jeff Rosenzweig, a criminal defense attorney out of Little Rock, told the board
at the hearing that his client "is not here and he was not inclined to come
Rosenzweig explained that he did visit with Jones first to confirm this was a
"He knowingly and voluntarily declined to attend," he said.
Rosenzweig provided the board with a copy of the 3-inch thick stack of medical
history he described as "recent" describing Jones as an amputee in a wheelchair
with numerous medical conditions and having to take "a large number of
medications" -- including methadone -- for nerve pain, spinal problems, high
blood pressure and diabetes.
"It is difficult for him to get around," Rosenzweig said.
Before Jones' letter was read aloud, a lengthy video was played of an interview
with Jones' sister, who is a year younger than Jones, asking the board to spare
A letter, not read aloud but distributed to commissioners, from Jones'
half-sister also was provided to the board, but was not available to media in
Jones' sister on video said she was unable to travel from North Carolina on
four days' notice to attend the Friday morning hearing so she filmed the video
She described in length growing up with Jones and several siblings in a home
filled with various abuses, and she thought of Jones as her "protector."
He paints her pictures of birds in prison, she said, describing Jones as a
creative artist and a writer.
As kids, they were left alone for Thanksgiving while their parents were away
gambling in Las Vegas, she said, leaving them to fend for themselves. An older
half sister was abused more than the others, she said. Once told to go outside
to play and not allowed to come in when hungry, the kids were punished after
being found eating apple butter out of the garbage can. Jones' mother was
described as a "reactionary punisher," who always had long, red fingernails and
used them to scratch, grab and pinch.
Inside, the house encased sexual abuse, incest, physical and mental abuse, and
harsh punishments, including being tied to chairs to face each other when the
siblings had arguments. The mother would use a dirty dish cloth from the
kitchen to stifle the half sister when she laughed -- the mother didn't like
the way it sounded, according to Jones' sister.
She said he has never been given a shot by anyone, and if he had been properly
treated for mental issues before the crime occurred, she didn't believe he
would have done it.
Jones' letter, which also contained many apologies, focused on Lacey Phillips,
who was 11 when Jones choked her, beat her with the butt of a BB gun repeatedly
and left her for dead tied to a chair in a bathroom while he raped and killed
her 34-year-old mother in the next room in the accounting office where she
worked. He described a grainy, old black and white picture of Lacey Phillips he
kept on a "surgical table" and how he had written "YOU DID THIS" as a constant
"I kept it so I would never forget to remember," he said in the letter.
Lacey Phillips was present for the victim impact statement portion of the
hearing later Friday afternoon in Little rock. She has said that Jones has had
"too many" appearances before the parole board in the 21 years since being
sentenced to death, but she attended them all. The Phillips family hopes this
is the last parole hearing for Jones.
Lacey Phillips also has said she will be at the prison during Jones' execution
by lethal injection, but she isn't sure about watching it happen.
Jones' letter did not mention or address the rape and murder of Lorraine Anne
Barrett, for which Jones was convicted and sentenced to 30 years, in addition
to the death sentence he already had received, in 2005 after his DNA matched a
cold case. The Pennsylvania woman was 32 years old when she was strangled to
death in a Florida motel room in 1991. Officials matched his DNA to that taken
at the crime scene in 1995.
Arkansas Parole Board
What: Clemency hearing held for Jack Harold Jones Jr., 52
Why: Scheduled to be executed by lethal injection April 24 for 1995 rape and
murder in Bald Knob
(source: The Daily Citizen
Arkansas officials aim to push ahead with executions
The dates with death continue to loom over Arkansas.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is moving ahead with the state's plan to execute several
men in an 11-day window this month, even as a federal court has granted a
temporary reprieve to 1 of the condemned
The state's parole board this week recommended that Hutchinson commute the
death sentence of Jason McGehee, who had been among the 8 men scheduled to die
between April 17 and 27, to life in prison without parole. But before
Hutchinson could announce a decision, a federal judge ruled that McGehee's
execution should be put on hold for at least 30 days.
In an effort to act before the state's supply of midazolam, an anesthetic used
in the lethal injection cocktail, expires at the end of the month, Hutchinson
set the execution dates of McGehee - along with the 7 other men - during the
final 2 weeks of April. Now, with the ruling by the federal judge, McGehee's
reprieve expands into May and past the expiration date of the drug. The parole
board did not recommend that the sentences of any of the other men be commuted.
"We're pleased. It's an appropriate decision," John C. Williams, an assistant
federal public defender representing McGehee, said Saturday.
McGehee has been on death row since 1997.
In 1996, McGehee, 40, along with 2 other men, kidnapped and killed John
Melbourne Jr., 15, in Boone County, about 150 miles north of Little Rock.
Prosecutors said he was the leader, and McGehee was the only one of the group
sentenced to death.
This month, Josh Hendrix, Melbourne's younger brother, urged the parole board
not to spare McGehee's life.
"When you have a dog that attacks a child, you put the dog down," Hendrix said.
"I feel this man is an animal and he should be treated the way he did my
Even with McGehee's life spared for the moment, no state has executed 7 people
in such a short span since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in
1976. The closest was Texas, which executed 8 men in May and June 1997,
according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes
Opponents of the death penalty have assailed the executions as cruel and
unusual punishment and have said that the likelihood of a botched executions -
in which inmates take a long time to die - increases with so many in such a
short time span.
Hutchinson, who has said the executions are necessary in order to bring justice
to the victims' families, has faced strong pushback. Members of the Arkansas
ACLU and the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty have held vigils
outside his Little Rock mansion and urged people to sign petitions calling on
the governor to halt the executions.
"This many executions just creates a huge, huge risk for a botched execution,
which will lead to suffering," said Furonda Brasfield, executive director of
the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "It's truly unheard of for
a state to this."
Brasfield, whose group is planning protests this month at Cummins Unit, the
site of the lethal injection chamber, said the executions are placing a cloud
over the state.
"Arkansas' image will hurt because of these events," she said.
In a recent op-ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, titled "Bloody Arkansas,"
columnist Paul Greenberg suggested that Hutchinson serve as a witness to the
executions. Arkansas law requires that at least 6 citizens who don't know the
victim or the condemned witness each execution, but the state has had trouble
finding as many as 48 volunteers.
Even as Hutchinson has indicated the executions will move forward, the Supreme
Court at the last minute could intervene - a rare move by a court that tilts
Among the most recent stays by the Supreme Court came in November, when it
granted a reprieve to Tommy Arthur in Alabama. Arthur was convicted of killing
a man in 1982, but has maintained his innocence.
The men scheduled to die - among the 34 on death row in Arkansas - are Don
Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Ledell Lee, Bruce Ward, Kenneth Williams and
Marcel Williams. Arkansas has not executed a person since 2005, when it put to
death Eric Nance.
While each of those men have sought reprieves, Jones recently expressed a
desire to proceed with his execution April 24. He was convicted for the 1995
robbery, rape and murder of 34-year-old Mary Phillips and the attempted murder
of her daughter, Lacy.
Jones decided not to appear in person before the Arkansas parole board to ask
for clemency, but instead asked his attorney to read from a letter he had
written to Phillips' family.
"I am so very, very sorry," Jones' attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, read. "I haven't
wanted clemency ever. I have no interest in it."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
MISSOURI----female could face death penalty
Jurors to be brought in for Pamela Hupp murder trial
A suburban St. Louis woman accused of killing a disabled man to shift attention
away from her in another slaying will have a jury from another county decide
the case, which could result in the death penalty.
St. Charles County Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham on Friday sided with Pamela
Hupp's attorneys in ruling that jurors will be brought in from an unspecified
county for Hupp's murder trial, given the intense publicity the case has
received locally, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/2ojdV8k
). Prosecutors didn't oppose the request.
"The court recognized Mrs. Hupp's right to a fair and impartial jury. We
respect the Court's decision," said Nick Williams, one of Hupp's attorneys.
Hupp, 58, has pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder and armed
criminal action in last August's shooting death of 33-year-old Louis
Gumpenberger, a St. Charles man who was left physically and mentally impaired
after a 2005 car wreck.
According to prosecutors, Hupp lured Gumpenberger to her home, killed him and
tried to make it look like he had been trying to kidnap her and take $150,000
in insurance money she received after her friend, Betsy Faria, was killed in
2011. They allege that Hupp tried to make it look like Faria's husband, Russell
Faria, had sent Gumpenberger, and that Hupp did this to deflect attention from
her in the re-investigation of Betsy Faria's death.
Russell Faria had been convicted of killing his wife, but he was later
acquitted in a retrial. He believes Hupp should be investigated in his wife's
Hupp has denied any wrongdoing and hasn't been charged in Betsy Faria's death.
St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar is seeking the death penalty.
No women are among 26 Missouri inmates awaiting execution by injection. A woman
has not been executed in Missouri since 1953, but that was a federal case.
Bonnie Heady was sent to the gas chamber with lover Carl Hall for the
kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City.
arleton lecture focused on the American death penalty
Daniel LaChance '01, author and history professor at Emory University, will
present "A Lethal Mythology: The Old West and the Modern American Death
Penalty" on Wednesday, April 12 from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Gould Library
Athenaeum. LaChance will focus on the American death penalty, chronicling its
decline in the years following World War II, its revival in the 1970s, and its
subsequent use over the past 30 years.
LaChance is Assistant Professor of History and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Law
and the Humanities at Emory University. His work examines the sources, meaning,
and effects of the "punitive turn" in the United States, the ratcheting up of
incarceration and other forms of harsh punishment in the late 20th century. His
book, "Executing Freedom: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United
States" (University of Chicago Press, 2016) examines use of the death penalty
in the United States, arguing that shifting ideas about the nature of freedom
have reshaped the dominant meaning of capital punishment in America.
LaChance has also contributed to national discussions on the past and present
of the American death penalty through opinion pieces and news analyses
published by The New York Times, The New Republic, and Newsweek. Articles he
has written on this topic have appeared in the journals Law and Social Inquiry,
Punishment and Society, and Law, Culture, and the Humanities.
LaChance earned a BA in English from Carleton College and his PhD in American
Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
This event is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by the Carleton
College Department of American Studies. For more information, including
disability accommodations, call (507) 222-5248. The Gould Library is located
off College Street on the Carleton campus, and is also accessible via Highway
19 in Northfield.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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