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death penalty news----ARK., OKLA., CALIF.
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-06 13:56:18 UTC
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April 6



ARKANSAS:

Ark. parole board suggests mercy for 1 of 8 due to die----The board said the
governor should spare Jason McGehee's life, but did not offer a reason for the
recommendation


Arkansas' parole board on Wednesday recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson extend
mercy to 1 of 8 inmates scheduled to die in an unprecedented series of
double-executions this month.

Hutchinson, a Republican, is not bound by the board's recommendation. The
board, in a 6-1 vote, said Hutchinson should spare Jason McGehee's life, whose
execution is set for April 27 in the death of 15-year-old Johnny Melbourne Jr.

The board did not offer a reason for the recommendation, but former Department
of Correction Director Ray Hobbs spoke in favor of clemency for McGehee, 40, at
a hearing last week, saying he'd gotten to know the inmate while making his
rounds in prison.

"He has learned his lesson, and he still has value that can be given to others
if his life is spared," Hobbs said.

The board's chairman, John Felts, was the lone dissenting vote. He said
McGehee's death sentence wasn't excessive considering the inmate had directed
the torture and strangulation death of Melbourne, who had told police about a
northern Arkansas theft ring.

With a key lethal injection drug expiring at the end of the month, Arkansas
hopes to execute 8 men in a 10-day period beginning April 17. Only Texas has
executed that many inmates in a month, doing it twice in 1997. 7 executions in
a month would still be a record for Arkansas.

Co-defendants said McGehee did most of the beating when Melbourne was killed
Aug. 19, 1996. Several people beat and tortured the teenager at a house in
Harrison, then bound him and drove him to an abandoned farmhouse outside Omaha,
a town in northern Arkansas. He was later strangled while his hands were tied
with an electrical cord.

In a separate decision, the board says a petition by Kenneth Williams was
without merit. Williams was condemned after escaping and killing a man who
lived near the prison. Before his escape, he was serving a life term for
killing at University of Pine Bluff cheerleader.

(source: Associated Press)

*****************

Ark. Supreme Court Issues Stay in Execution Drug Info Legal Battle


The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a stay in a legal battle over packaging
information for lethal injection drugs that will be used to execute 8 death row
inmates before the end of April.

Last week, a Pulaski County judge ordered the Department of Correction to
release information about its supply of potassium chloride, one of the lethal
injection drugs. The state had not complied with the ruling, and a contempt of
court hearing had been set for Wednesday morning. However, the issue now
appears to be moot.

Attorneys for death row inmates were seeking un-redacted packaging information
for lethal injection drugs, arguing that citizens have the right to information
about drugs used to execute condemned inmates on their behalf.

Lawyers for the state argue a 2015 law passed by the legislature exempts the
information from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

If the information is made public, the state says the identities of drug
suppliers could be made public, thus jeopardizing the state's ability to
acquire drugs.

"If Arkansas has these drugs, more than likely they've acquired them in some
unethical and possibly illegal way, so the citizens of Arkansas need to know
that," Furonda Brasfield, with the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty, said.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendall Griffen set a 9:30 a.m. Tuesday
deadline for the state to produce drug information. The state failed to turn it
over and instead filed for a stay at the state Supreme Court.

That stay was granted late Tuesday afternoon meaning there will be no contempt
of court hearing.

The Supreme Court will now decide on the underlying issue of whether the
information should be released.

The 1st execution is set for April 17.

(source: nwahomepage.com)

*****************

Arkansas Races To Kill 8 Prisoners in 10 Days


see:


(source: aclu.org)

*******************

Capital punishment critics protest outside of the Governor's Mansion


Critics of capital punishment hope Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson hears their
message to stop the scheduled executions of the "Arkansas 8." If he is at home,
he might.

Members of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are staging a
daily rally outside the Governor's Mansion. They held signs, marched up and
down the block, and chanted for mercy Wednesday afternoon, for Jason McGehee,
and the rest of the Arkansas 8. McGehee became the 1st of the death row inmates
scheduled for execution later this month to earn a recommendation of clemency
from the Arkansas Parole Board.

"We support the Parole Board's decision to recommend clemency for Jason
McGehee," said Furonda Brasfield, Executive Director of the Arkansas Coalition
to Abolish the Death Penalty. "There are so many extenuating circumstances that
are in his case. And we hope that the governor will grant clemency to Jason
McGehee and to the rest of the 8 gentlemen that are on death row."

They began this daily protest a week and a half ago. Some days 20 people will
gather, while other days only 1 or 2 will show, depending on the weather. But
they believe that even a small presence, so long as it is consistent, will
force the governor to notice.

"If I were him, I wouldn't want this to be a legacy that my children and
grandchildren would remember me by,' said Caroline Stevenson. "And I hope that
he will take that to heart, too."

The protesters said they will continue to show up outside the Governor's
Mansion every afternoon until he stops the executions. If he allows them to
take place, the group will hold candlelight vigils each night, because the
executions are scheduled for nighttime.

The group also plans to hold a large rally on the steps of the State Capitol on
Friday, April 14, at 1:30 p.m.

(source: KHTV news)






OKLAHOMA:

Film on Richard Glossip questions if state is preparing to kill an innocent man


A soon-to-be released documentary questions if the state is preparing to kill
an innocent person.

The documentary, "Killing Richard Glossip," will be shown April 17 and 18 on
Discovery ID. The documentary was created and directed by Joe Berlinger, who
has focused on abuses in the criminal justice system.

A preview was held Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Glossip's execution has been put on hold 3 times pending problems with the
state's execution process.

An Oklahoma County jury convicted Glossip of 1st-degree murder in the death of
Barry Van Treese, who owned the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Glossip was
the resident manager.

Van Treese discovered that money was missing from the motel and was going to
confront Glossip about it, according to documents.

Prosecutors alleged that Glossip hired Justin Sneed, a friend, to kill Van
Treese. Sneed, 19 at the time, had performed maintenance work at the motel.

Van Treese was killed with a baseball bat at the motel on Jan. 7, 1997.

Sneed pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to life without
parole. He testified at the trial of Glossip, who got the death penalty.

Attorneys for Glossip have said Sneed acted alone.

The film prominently features Glossip, his defense attorney, Don Knight, and
Sister Helen Prejean, one of his loudest supporters. Prejean is the author of
"Dead Man Walking," a book about a death-row inmate that was made into a 1995
movie of the same name starring Sean Penn and Susan Saradon, who is also in the
Glossip documentary.

"I didn't have anything to do with it," Glossip said of the murder.

He said he was in a bad place at the wrong time, adding that there was no
murder-for-hire plot.

Glossip said the state doesn't want to admit it got the case wrong.

"Killing an innocent person - you can't get that back," he said.

Knight said Glossip has exhausted the traditional appeals process and clemency
has been denied. He said he didn't want viewers to forget that Van Treese died.
But he added that he didn't "want to compound that by killing an innocent man."

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's office was asked about the documentary.

"Given the fact that there has been and could potentially be litigation
involving Richard Glossip's case, the attorney general's office declines to
comment," said Terri Watkins, a Hunter spokeswoman.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater could not be reached for
comment.

(source: Tulsa World)

*************************

Richard Glossip documentary debuts in Oklahoma City


Oklahoma's death chamber has been shut down for more than 2 years. but the case
that exposed flaws in the process and led to the ongoing pause in executions is
once again making headlines.

It was September 30, 2015 when Don Knight waited outside the Oklahoma State
Penitentiary in McAlester. As he waited with the family of Richard Glossip, he
could not imagine what was really happening inside the walls of the state's
death chamber.

"It was a real powerful moment, a real powerful time for all of us to think
that Rich was being killed." Knight told FOX 25. "I think that was hard, it is
one thing to say that somebody has died, but to think that actually someone is
being killed that it is happening in real time."

Glossip did not die that day. It was the 3rd time his execution had been
delayed. That delay was caused by the state not having the correct drugs to
carry out an execution.

A grand jury investigation would reveal the governor's office attempted to
force the prison to proceed with an unapproved drug. It was the attorney
general's office which put the execution on hold in favor of upholding state
law. Executions have been on hold since then.

The unexpected delay gave Knight and Glossip what they really needed most,
time; time to do the investigation that was never done in 1997.

"For the most part what it showed us was how under represented or
misrepresented Rich was," Knight said of his investigation, "How little was
done. I think that was the thing that has really been driven home for us."

Knight said the documentary crew working for Investigation Discovery has
conducted its own investigation. He allowed them access to his work, but called
the work by the "Killing Richard Glossip crew an independent investigation by
investigative journalists.

"This is not a documentary about me or our search for new evidence it is about
the case and their search for new evidence," Knight said. "They did things that
we were not able to do."

One of the things the documentary was able to do was interview Justin Sneed.
Sneed beat Barry Van Treese to death in 1997. Prosecutors offered to spare his
life if he testified against Glossip. Sneed said Glossip pressured him and paid
him to commit the murder. Knight has found witnesses who said Sneed has
admitted to lying about Glossip in order to avoid the death penalty and secure
a spot in a less secure prison.

Glossip's case focused the world's attention on Oklahoma and the death penalty.
In 2015 there were supporters of capital punishment asked the state to re-think
Glossip's pending execution. The Governor's office denied any stays initially
based on the new evidence saying Glossip had appropriate access to justice and
was guilty of the murder-for-hire plot.

Glossip has always maintained he did not order or pay for the murder and at one
point turned down a plea deal that would have allowed him to be released some
day if he admitted to taking part in the crime.

While a new execution date has not been set, there is no timeline on when the
death chamber will be reactivated. It could be days or years.

"He's [Glossip] made it very clear," Knight said, "Don please I don't want to
have to go through that process again."

The process, Knight explained is the final weeks leading up to the execution.

"He goes upstairs to these 4 special cells and they put him in the one that is
furthest down the hall from the execution chamber and every few days they move
him to one that is closer to the execution chamber until he is right next to
the execution chamber. And the door can open and he can see inside the
execution chamber. They leave the light on for 24 hours, 7 days a week."

Still though, through all the executions dates that have come and gone, Knight
said Glossip remains positive.

"Hope is a tough commodity in death row, but somehow or another Rich finds a
way to keep it going."

After the problems with Glossip's attempted execution and the other publicized
failures of Oklahoma's ability to carry out capital punishment a bi-partisan
commission was formed to investigate the state's death penalty.

That group, led by former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, is planning to release
a report within the coming month on their findings.

(source: KOKH news)






CALIFORNIA:

Voters' attempt to speed executions should be quickly nullified


The California Supreme Court should grant review and conclude that Proposition
66, which seeks to speed up executions, is unconstitutional.

The initiative, which was narrowly approved by state voters in November 2016,
requires that all appeals and legal challenges of a death sentence in
California state courts be completed within 5 years. But this is unrealistic
given the lack of qualified attorneys to provide representation in death cases,
and it violates separation of powers by impermissibly intruding on the judicial
function to ensure fairness of all proceedings.

This is why a group of constitutional law scholars, including me, joined
together last week to ask the California Supreme Court to strike down Prop. 66.

Prop. 66 does not remove the major causes for the long delays in death penalty
cases in California.

There is a shortage of lawyers qualified to handle these matters, so capital
defendants often wait years for appointment of counsel.

Also, the unusual procedure for handling death penalty cases - they go right
from the trial court to the California Supreme Court without review in the
Court of Appeal - contributes greatly to the delay. The California Supreme
Court has a limited docket and does not have the benefit of an intermediate
appellate court's review. If Prop. 66 goes into effect, it is estimated that
the California Supreme Court will need to spend about 90 % of its time on death
penalty cases.

By attempting to expedite the death penalty appeals process no matter the
constitutional or human costs, Prop. 66 is a direct affront to the basic
constitutional principle of separation of powers.

First, Prop. 66 imposes unreasonable mandatory time limits on the judiciary.
Although the five-year limit might at first glance seem reasonable,
California's courts are already struggling to keep up with current caseloads -
and death penalty cases are some of the most complex cases they hear. The
courts are proceeding with these cases as expeditiously as possible under the
circumstances, and imposing mandatory deadlines on the courts will not address
the shortage of lawyers to argue them or judges to hear them.

Second, in addition to imposing these mandatory time limits on review in
California state courts, Prop. 66 micromanages how courts may adjudicate
capital cases. For example, the ballot measure imposes an unprecedented "duty
... in a capital case to expedite review of the case," which dramatically curbs
the ability of a court to grant extensions of time to file appellate briefs.

Under Prop. 66, if a court is not complying with the deadlines, either party or
any victim of the offense may seek relief by petition for writ of mandate,
which the court would be compelled to act on within 60 days of filing.
Exceptions are allowed only in very narrow circumstances.

Third, Prop. 66 requires courts to find appellate lawyers to represent a
death-sentenced defendant if there is a delay in the appointment of counsel,
even if such lawyers would not have been deemed sufficiently experienced to
handle these appeals in the past. Prop. 66 expands the pool of attorneys to
handle these cases by including those without any capital, or even defense,
experience, which may result in completely unqualified attorneys handling
cases. This necessarily will lead to further delays when errors are made and
discovered; or worse, will deprive capital defendants of their constitutional
rights to effective representation.

Prop. 66 is constitutionally infirm for another reason: The California
Constitution authorizes all state courts to hear habeas corpus petitions, the
time-honored way in which a person can argue that he or she has been wrongly
convicted or sentenced. The ballot measure greatly limits the ability of state
courts to hear these habeas corpus petitions, which deprives capital defendants
of their right to access the courts.

Although the legislature or the people may put reasonable restrictions upon the
functioning of the courts, such restrictions must be invalidated for violating
separation of powers principles when they "defeat or materially impair the
exercise of those functions."

The California Supreme Court should use this opportunity to invalidate Prop. 66
before its implementation erodes California's commitment to judicial
independence and risks the execution of individuals who are innocent.

(source: Opinion, Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Irvine School of
Law----Los Angeles Daily News)


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