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death penalty news----ARK., NEB., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-04-14 16:51:18 UTC
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April 14




ARKANSAS----impending execution

7 Executions in 11 Days: EU Calls on the US to Stop Death Penalty


The European Union has criticized the US state of Arkansas for scheduled
executions for the period between 17 April and 27 April on the grounds that it
de-facto breaks the moratorium on capital punishment observed by Arkansas since
November 2005. The southern US state bordering the Mississippi River would
become the 1st state in the country to conduct 7 executions over an 11-day
period since the resumption of the use of death penalty in 1977 in the United
States.

Capital punishment is illegal in the 19 out of the 50 US states and the
District of Columbia. In 2016, the United States did not rank among the world's
5 biggest executioners for the 1st time since 2006 and only the 2nd time since
1991. Amnesty International reports that only 5 US states executed people in
2016: Alabama (2), Florida (1), Georgia (9), Missouri (1), Texas (7), with
Texas and Georgia, accounting for 80% of the country's executions in 2016. The
number of executions (20) has fallen to the record low in any year since 1991
and the number of executions has fallen every year since 2009 (except for 2012
when it stayed the same).

According to the EU, the executions in Arkansas, if carried out as planned,
would be a serious setback in this overall development. Europe has long
advocated that while capital punishment fails to act as a deterrent to crime,
it represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity and cannot
be justified under any circumstances. More than 140 countries in the world are
now abolitionist in law or practice. The EU has called on the Governor of
Arkansas to commute the sentences and grant the convicts relief from the death
penalty.

(source: eubulletin.com)

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

Arkansas death penalty opponents want mass protest before 'execution assembly
line' begins


Death penalty opponents hope to build on strong social media momentum and
attract hundreds of protestors to the Arkansas state capital on Good Friday in
a show of force against the slew of upcoming executions slated to take place
between Monday, April 17 and Thursday April 27.

In what the convicted inmates' defense attorneys have decried as an "execution
assembly line," Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled 7 executions to take
place over 11 days - 3 nights of double executions and 1 single one. Last week,
a judged stopped a planned 8th execution.

Of the original eight death row inmates, 7 are currently set to be executed by
lethal injection before the end of April.

Furonda Brasfield, executive director of Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, hopes that hundreds of demonstrators will descend on Little Rock
on Good Friday.

"Arkansas is known across the world for the Little Rock 9 and all of that
atrocity," Furonda said, referencing the landmark 1957 battle to desegregate
the state's high schools. "And now it's the Little Rock 8 in 10, and it paints
our state in such a horrible light."

(source: Deutsche Welle)

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

The Legal Battle Over Arkansas' Plan to Execute 7 Men in 10 Days


Arkansas has scheduled executions of 7 inmates in quick succession because the
state's supply of midazolam, 1 of the drugs used in its procedure, is set to
expire at the end of April. Hearings ended on Thursday in a lawsuit arguing
that the pace of the executions and the use of midazolam are unconstitutional.
A decision is expected before the 1st scheduled execution on Monday.

An Unprecedented Schedule

Since 1976, the year the death penalty was reinstated nationally, multiple
executions in one state on a single day have occurred only 10 times. The last
time was 17 years ago in Texas. Arkansas conducted double executions nearly a
year before that.

Arkansas is planning to carry out 7 executions in 10 days. No state has tried
to execute so many people in such a short period. Virginia is the only other
state with an execution scheduled this month.

The last attempt to carry out 2 executions in a day resulted in chaos. In April
2014 in Oklahoma, the inmate Clayton Lockett was awake and writhed in pain
during the administration of the lethal drugs, even though earlier a doctor had
announced that Mr. Lockett was unconscious. The state canceled a second
execution originally scheduled on that day.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety later recommended that executions be
at least 7 days apart, citing the botched execution and saying it was partly a
result of "extra stress" from having 2 executions planned on the same day.

The Missouri Supreme Court adopted a rule in 2016 that limited executions to 1
per month.

"Corrections officers are not hired executioners," states the Arkansas inmates'
federal complaint. It argues that the emotional toll of the job and the rushed
schedule greatly increase the risks of causing unnecessary pain and suffering
for the inmates, a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

A letter to the Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, from dozens of former
corrections officials and administrators also expressed concerns that the
schedule "will impose extraordinary and unnecessary stress and trauma on the
staff responsible with carrying out the executions."

"Multiple executions create rushed circumstance. Rushed circumstances risk
error," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, a nonprofit research group on capital punishment.

Mr. Dunham argued further that the only reason for such a compressed schedule
was the expiration date of the injection drugs, calling it "an arbitrary
kill-by date."

The Drug in Question: Midazolam

After other medications became unavailable, Arkansas turned to midazolam, a
common sedative that has become a drug of choice for executions in several
states.

The complaint filed by the Arkansas inmates argues that the use of midazolam is
unconstitutional because the lack of anesthetic potency of the drug is all but
certain to cause "excruciating suffering."

A number of pharmaceutical companies have restricted the use of their drugs in
executions, contending that their products are made to promote human health,
not for killing. Roche, a developer of midazolam, publicly stated in 2015 that
it "did not supply midazolam for death penalty use and would not knowingly
provide any of our medicines for this purpose."

Since midazolam's 1st use in an execution in October 2013, there have been at
least 4 botched executions involving the drug. After the execution team
administered midazolam and confirmed that the inmates were sedated, the
individuals awoke, struggled or convulsed while being injected with the
subsequent lethal drugs.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of midazolam did not violate the
constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But since then at least 3
states - Arizona, Kentucky and Florida - have abandoned the drug. A similar
case is still being argued in the appeals court in Ohio.

(source: New York Times)

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

Governor Hutchinson Says He's "Fairly Comfortable" Executions Will Go as
Planned


In a private meeting with the press Thursday morning, Governor Asa Hutchinson
spoke on the upcoming executions of 7 death row inmates.

Governor Hutchinson said he has not made a final clemency decision yet on any
inmate, but he did say he doesn't expect to rethink things.

He said he is "fairly confident" everything will go as according to schedule,
but as far as a possible last-minute commutation, Hutchinson added, "You have
to maintain that option until the end."

During the meeting, Hutchinson went through each case and read graphic details
of what the men did to their victims.

"Those are facts that we should remember and the history of how this began. It
didn't begin when I became governor," Hutchinson said.

He called these executions "the state's responsibility", and said they reflect
the severity of the crimes.

"I think the death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the most serious and
heinous crimes in our country," Hutchinson said.

He told the press he has listened to the victim's families, though we could not
confirm how many family members total he has met with. Hutchinson said he kept
the victims and their families and what they had endured over years in mind
when he set the execution dates.

"I know they need closure and they don't believe they have it," Hutchinson
said. "Until punishment is set and carried out, it's impossible to have
closure."

The governor said he believes there is "not any question of guilt in these
cases." He said he believes the men have been afforded good legal counsel and
due process.

After talking with the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) staff on
training and preparation, Hutchinson said he thought two executions in one
night was the maximum amount he felt comfortable with.

"I think it was the right judgment," Hutchinson said. As for the stress on the
officials carrying out the executions, Hutchinson said, "There's so much time
that goes into preparation. If you spread it out to four months, you'll have
four months of stress."

He said he met the personnel who will be carrying out the executions and
reviewed the entire process in detail twice in order to fully understand it. He
said the specifics of the protocol are confidential.

"I was satisfied that they know what they're doing and this protocol is what we
need to do to carry this out," Hutchinson said.

On the staff carrying out the execution, Hutchinson said, "They are
experienced... they practice it... they don't take it lightly. They know what
they're doing."

On the nights of the scheduled executions, Hutchinson said he will be at the
Governor's Mansion or at his office in the Capitol.

He noted that he felt he had to set politics aside in these specific cases,
"It's not something I have a choice in. It's something that was put in my lap.
The voters will hold me accountable."

Wednesday, the governor visited the Varner Unit, which included a trip to the
death chamber.

When he was questioned about the three-drug cocktail they plan to use, he said,
"The courts have approved these 3 drugs... to carry out the law, that is our
option. We can't say we're going to use a different drug."

He was further questioned about the controversial drug Midazolam, which was
used in the botched execution in Oklahoma.

"Midazolam is effective... it can be done right and that's what we're going to
do," Hutchinson said.

He added that he doesn't think Arkansas could have acquired the drug without
keeping it as confidential as they have.

Another pressing topic -- the drugs' expiration date, which is listed for the
end of this month. Though the expiration date on the current drugs is nearing
quickly, Hutchinson said obtaining additional supply of the drugs would be
difficult.

"The future in terms of drug supply is unknown... we understand the difficulty
of it," Hutchinson said. "We have no option but to do it in this fashion. We're
going to do it and learn from it, learn that it's successful and effective."

The governor said he is aware of the expiration date and he feels that he
developed a reasonable time frame for the executions.

When attorneys argued about what they felt was an unfair timeline, Hutchinson
said, "That's like arguing we're somehow surprised a date has been set."

He added that if anything about the drugs or the process were to be changed, it
would "delay everything for years."

When questioned about the possibility of going back to other means of
execution, the governor said he does not think that's wise.

"Part of my responsibility is to do this in the right way that satisfies any
question counsel may have," Hutchinson said.

The governor was asked for his stance on the abundance of national and
international attention these executions are receiving.

"If I were to speed out the executions over 5 months, would they be less
critical?" Hutchinson responded. "Remember, we have a federal death penalty...
this is a United States position. We get the criticism but I don't see any
consequence."

31 states in the U.S. allow the death penalty.

Hutchinson said this is not a desirable aspect of his job as governor, but it's
the role he was elected to do.

"There's really only one thing on my mind in the month of April. It's the
heaviest and most serious responsibility I will ever have as governor."

The 1st of the 7 imminent executions is scheduled for April 17.

(source: arkansasmatters.com)

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

Arkansas' Rushed Plan to Execute 7 Men----Botched Death Penalty Cases Should
Raise Red Flags


The US state of Arkansas plans to execute 7 men currently on death row in a
10-day span before the end of the month, in a flurry of state-sanctioned
killings unseen in the modern history of the US death penalty.

The executions - the 1st in Arkansas in 12 years - are being rushed through
before the expiration date in May for the state's supply of midazolam, a
controversial sedative that is 1 of 3 drugs used in lethal injections. State
officials do not know when they will be able to obtain a new supply of
midazolam.

Don Davis and Bruce Ward are scheduled to be put to death on April 17, Stacey
Johnson and Ledell Lee 3 days later, followed by Marcel Williams and Jack Jones
on April 24, and Kenneth Williams on April 27. The men make up 20 % of
Arkansas' entire death row population.

Lawyers for the inmates have a case before a federal judge seeking to block the
executions, contending that such hasty executions risk mistakes. History bears
them out: in April 2014, the last time a state tried to perform a double
execution on the same day, it ended in disaster, when Oklahoma botched the
execution of Clayton Locket. It took more than 40 minutes for him to die. Human
Rights Watch called that execution "nothing less than state-sanctioned
torture." Even under "normal" circumstances, midazolam has been linked to
botched executions in Alabama, Arizona, and Ohio.

19 US states have abolished the death penalty, including 7 in the past 7 years.
Another 12 have the death penalty on their books but haven't executed anyone in
at least a decade. Since 1973, 157 prisoners have been released from death rows
in the US after evidence was presented of their innocence, and at least 20
death-row inmates have been put to death, then later discovered to be likely
innocent. According to 1 study, 88 % of criminologists polled said the death
penalty was not a deterrent to murder.

The death penalty is widely rejected by rights-respecting democracies around
the world, including every country in Europe except for Belarus. Human Rights
Watch opposes capital punishment in all cases because of its inherent cruelty
and finality. It is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness,
prejudice, and error.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison should commute these planned executions and
instead push to abolish the death penalty in his state. Otherwise, he will risk
another botched execution from a controversial drug, and perpetuate a barbaric
policy that rejects the dignity of human life.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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

Innocence Project Asks Court to Grant DNA Testing In Ark. Death Row
Case----World's media focusing in on upcoming executions


The Innocence Project has asked an Arkansas circuit court to grant new DNA
testing to death row inmate Stacey Johnson. The inmate is 1 of 7 men set to be
executed in a 10-day span starting on April 17.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal organization that works to
exonerate those who may have been wrongly convicted. Their most famous case was
the original exoneration of Steven Avery, who served 18 years in prison for a
sexual assault he never committed.

In a press release, the group said newer DNA testing has "never been performed"
in Johnson's case and could potentially prove he is innocent of the crime he's
been charged with.

Johnson was convicted of the murder of Carol Heath in April of 1993. She was
found only wearing a t-shirt. The evidence shows she was stabbed in the throat
and raped. Johnson has maintained his innocence throughout his entire time in
prison.

"While opinions are divided on whether the death penalty is a reasonable form
of punishment, I hope we can all agree that no one should be put to death where
DNA testing could prove innocence," said Karen Thompson, a staff attorney with
the Innocence Project, "especially in situations like this one where
potentially probative evidence from the crime scene was never even submitted
for DNA testing despite a defense request."

Heath's purse was later on found at highway rest stop, where DNA tests proved
the purse was stained in her blood.

(source: WFMY news)






NEBRASKA:

Company: Nebraska shouldn't have gotten death penalty drug


A German pharmaceutical manufacturer whose drugs ended up in Nebraska's lethal
injection supply never intended for state officials to obtain them and tried
unsuccessfully to get the corrections department to return them, a company
spokesman said Thursday.

Nebraska's corrections department was only able to buy potassium chloride in
2015 because 1 of its U.S. distributors made a mistake, said Fresenius Kabi
spokesman Matt Kuhn.

His comments came after The Associated Press asked whether company officials
were aware that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services had bought
their product for use as a lethal injection drug. The AP identified the
manufacturer through an open records request, but a bill slated for debate in
the Legislature would allow the state to hide the identities of its suppliers.

"This was a case in 2015 where human error by the distributor resulted in the
Department of Corrections receiving our product," said Kuhn, who is based in
Illinois. "We expressed our concerns and the distributor requested the
(corrections department) return the product, which did not occur."

Kuhn said the company discovered the sale through an internal audit. While the
company takes no formal position on capital punishment, it requires
distributors to sign an agreement promising not sell certain drugs to state
corrections departments.

"Our products are developed and approved solely for patient care, and we
expressly restrict the sale of our products for use in lethal injection," he
said.

A Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman did not respond to a phone
call or follow-up questions sent by email after the records request.

Potassium chloride was the only lethal injection drug Nebraska prison officials
possessed before Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts approved a new protocol in
January. The new rules give state corrections director Scott Frakes broad
authority to decide which drugs to purchase, so he is no longer bound to use
potassium chloride.

Death penalty opponents said the company's statement shows the importance of
requiring the state to disclose its suppliers. The American Civil Liberties
Union of Nebraska, a leading critic of capital punishment, called on lawmakers
to reject the push for secrecy and launch an investigation.

"These shocking allegations are just the latest illustration of how Nebraska's
death penalty is broken beyond repair," said Danielle Conrad, the group's
executive director. The company's statement "underscores the need to honor
Nebraska's strong tradition of open government and the need to ensure
transparency in the death penalty process."

Death penalty supporters said companies shouldn't dictate how their products
are used once they're sold and blamed anti-death penalty activists for
pressuring companies to stop selling drugs with legitimate medical purposes.

"Once you sell something to someone, it becomes their property," said Sen. John
Kuehn of Heartwell. "Can you sell your car to someone and say, 'You can have
this car just as long as you never sell it to a teenager?'"

Kuehn, a veterinarian, said he has lost access to some of the best drugs to
treat animals because death penalty opposition has made them scarce. Kuehn has
introduced a bill that would let the department conceal the names of its
suppliers, saying it's critical for the state to proceed with executions.
Debate on the measure is slated to begin next Wednesday.

Voters signaled their support for the death penalty last year when they
overturned the Legislature's 2015 decision to abolish capital punishment. The
issue was placed on the ballot through a referendum partially financed by
Ricketts, who supports capital punishment.

Nebraska's original 3-drug protocol called for sodium thiopental to induce
unconsciousness, pancuronium bromide to paralyze an inmate's breathing and
muscles, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. The state's potassium
chloride supply from Fresenius Kabi expired in January, according to labels
obtained through the records request.

In February, Frakes told a legislative committee it would be "very difficult"
to acquire lethal injection drugs if the department was forced to identify its
suppliers. Of the 31 states with the death penalty, 15 have enacted similar
shield laws.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said
shield laws make it easier for corrections departments to mislead distributors
about how they will use the drugs and helps distributors violate their
contractual agreements not to sell drugs to prisons.

"It's difficult for companies to track, because there are legitimate sales to
departments of corrections for medicinal purposes," said Dunham, whose group
takes no stance on the death penalty but is critical of how it's administered.

Dunham said many pharmaceutical companies are worried about negative publicity
and economic consequences in addition to moral concerns about the death
penalty. In 2015, the Dutch public employees' pension fund sold off 25 million
euros worth of Mylan shares after fund managers learned the Virginia Department
of Corrections had obtained one of the pharmaceutical company's drugs for
executions.

Nebraska had a similar run-in with a drug manufacturer in 2012 when Naari AG, a
Swiss pharmaceutical company, issued a voluntary recall for sodium thiopental
held by state officials.

Naari AG said at the time that the drug had been "illegally diverted from the
company's supply chain," but state officials refused to return them and the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it wouldn't enforce the voluntary
recall. The Swiss company said the sodium thiopental Nebraska purchased through
an India-based middleman was a sample intended to be used as an anesthetic in
Zambia. Corrections officials under a previous administration insisted they had
purchased the drug in a legitimate matter.

(source: The Daily Journal)






CALIFORNIA:

Speed up death-penalty appeals, but add this safeguard


Speed up death-penalty appeals, but add safeguard

Re "Voters' attempt to speed executions should be quickly nullified" (Erwin
Chemerinsky, April 6).

While supporting Proposition 66, which limits the appeals process for death row
prisoners to 5 years, I also partly agree with columnist Erwin Chemerinsky that
there are conditions under which the law should be considered unconstitutional.

This exists when specific death row defendants have had their 5-year appeals
process expired and now are due for sentencing, yet it has been proven that
they did not receive a proper legal defense. In those specific cases, the
accused should be granted an extension of appeal time.

Instead of nullifying the law, there needs to be an amendment to Prop. 66,
granting an appeals extension when proven that the accused did not receive
proper legal representation.

Isadora Johnson, Seal Beach

(source: Letter to the Editor, Long Beach Press-Telegram)






USA:

Winnifred F. Sullivan talks capital punishment and its religious
influences----Sullivan: "It's not a legal, but an ethical, judgement."


Winnifred F. Sullivan spoke about the nuances of the death penalty and its
relationship with religion to a room of about 100 people on April 6 in Wrench
Auditorium.

"The death penalty is always relevant - the U.S. is the only developed nation
to have it, and also in the context of recent interest in prison reform and
criminal punishment, there seems to be interest in it," said Richard Callahan,
associate professor and chair of the religious studies department.

Sullivan's speech was the 9th annual Distinguished Lecture on Religion and
Public Life hosted by the department of religious studies, which hosts a
distinguished scholar each year for a "public talk of relevance to both
scholars of religion and the general public." She is a professor and chair of
the department of religious studies at Indiana University and affiliated
professor of law at the university's Maurer School of Law.

"I am not going to speak for or against the death penalty," Sullivan said at
the start of her speech.

Sullivan acknowledged that church and state has become an "old-fashioned topic"
that's shifted recently to church and politics. She said that though the death
penalty is currently used for less than 1 percent of cases that are brought to
trial, it still does "vital political work."

Sullivan discussed the role of the jury in a death trial. She said the jury is
the ultimate decider of the fate of the defendant.

"Jurors must take responsibility for their decision on whether [a] defendant
should live or die," Sullivan said.

The jury is not allowed access to any outside resources when they make the
decision, Sullivan said. The only information they are given is what is said in
the courtroom and the laws as they are told to them. "The jury is not allowed a
bible," Sullivan said.

"I thought this was interesting and I got started on this project to try to
figure out why that was," Sullivan said.

She also questioned former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's stance on the
death penalty. Scalia once said that "Christians aren't afraid to die" and that
they believe the government is exercising divine power.

He said there is a tight link between religion and the death penalty, and that
it fits with the broader narrative linking conservatism with religiosity,
claiming that a reason why it's still so popular in the U.S. is due to the fact
that Americans believe in free will.

Sullivan called this stance into question. "It's not clear that Scalia is
speaking for all Christians," she said. "Scalia gave himself the role of
speaking for all orthodox religion."

Sullivan said the use of the Bible in courtrooms is not uncommon, and the
meaning of the Bible changes as time passes and people interpret it in
different ways. She said that in 1880, there were already 2,000 different
versions of the Bible available to Americans.

Sullivan said a death penalty jury becomes isolated during the trial and
eventually starts to pressure a sole indecisive juror into a decision.

"The decision ends up being a distinctly accidental one," Sullivan said. "It's
not a legal but an ethical judgement."

(source: themaneater.com)


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