2017-06-11 13:53:52 UTC
Don't execute people with intellectual disabilities
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the opportunity in the case of Bobby
James Moore, a death row inmate with severe intellectual disability, to bring
the state's capital punishment standards in line with those established by the
U.S. Supreme Court, which kicked Moore's case back to the appeals court.
The Gospel compels Christians to speak for those without a voice and to
advocate for society's most vulnerable members, including those with
intellectual disability. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out on
behalf of Bobby James Moore, an individual with documented lifelong
intellectual disability who has spent the past 37 years on Texas' death row.
While Christians have varying views on the death penalty, hopefully we can all
agree no person with intellectual disability should be executed. As the U.S.
Supreme Court recognized more than 15 years ago, "no legitimate penological
purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability" because
such persons "do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes
the most serious adult criminal conduct."
While the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been reticent to heed this
message, it has both the legal and moral duty to do so now. And it should take
an important 1st step here by reforming Moore's death sentence to life
As a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week,
the months of the year, telling time and the concept that subtraction is the
reverse of addition. He failed the 1st grade twice and every grade after that
before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. At age 14, his father - after
subjecting Moore to years of severe mental and physical abuse - threw him out
of the house because Moore still did not know how to read. Moore lived on the
streets, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in a pool hall. He survived
largely due to the kindness of strangers.
Then, at age 20, Moore was involved in a bungled grocery store robbery, in
which he shot and killed a grocery store clerk. He has spent nearly 40 years on
death row for that crime, which we all condemn.
In 2014, a Harris County district court judge held a two-day hearing. After
carefully listening to experts and witnesses, Judge Susan Brown applied current
medical standards and determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and
therefore exempt from the death penalty. She noted that Moore has an average IQ
score of 70.66, which is well within the range of intellectual disability. And
she found in her lengthy fact-finding that Moore's serious mental and social
difficulties were very clear from early childhood.
The judge's determination that Moore is intellectually disabled and exempt from
the death penalty should have been the end of the matter. Instead, in 2015, the
Court of Criminal Appeals said that the lower court erred in applying current
medical standards in making its determination that Moore was intellectually
disabled. Applying nonclinical and outdated medical standards, it decided that
Moore was not intellectually disabled and could be executed.
In March, in Moore vs. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically reversed the
appeals court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court carefully reviewed the record.
It emphasized that Moore's IQ score is clearly within the range of
intellectually disabled and that the evidence just as clearly supported that he
had significant mental and social difficulties from an early age. The U.S.
Supreme Court also strongly endorsed Brown's application of current medical
standards in concluding that Moore is intellectually disabled. Moore's case is
back before the Court of Criminal Appeals.
This case presents not only a legal issue but also a moral one. In Moore's
case, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned why Texas applies current medical
standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, "yet clings
to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake." The appeals
court now has the opportunity to chart a new course for how Texas handles
intellectual disability claims and ensure that no person with intellectually
disability is executed.
Moore is not the worst of the worst, but due to his significant intellectual
deficits, he is certainly among the most vulnerable. He is worthy of God's love
and our fair and humane treatment. There is a path forward that affirms Moore's
innate dignity as a human being, while still ensuring that justice is done. The
Court of Criminal Appeals should follow this path and reform Moore's death
sentence to life imprisonment.
(source: Commentary; Steve Wells is pastor of South Main Baptist Church in
Houston----San Antonio Express-News)
Judge tosses death sentence in double murder, orders new hearing
A Pennsylvania judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed on 1 of 2
brothers convicted in a 1998 double murder and ordered a new sentencing
The York Daily Record reports that the York County judge denied a new trial to
54-year-old Milton Montalvo but found flaws in the penalty phase, citing
ineffective counsel and remarks by the prosecutor and judge.
Montalvo was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the April 1998 slayings of his
former girlfriend, 44-year-old Miriam Asencio, and 37-year-old Manual Ramirez
Montalvo's brother, Noel, was convicted in a separate trial and also sentenced
to death. His appeal was revived in 2015.
(source: Associated Press)
SAO discusses rationale in former death row case----After a hearing for Emilia
Carr's appeal of her sentence, the State Attorney's Office announced it would
not continue to seek the death penalty.
The inmate who once held the title of Marion County's only female death row
resident was resentenced to life because the State Attorney's Office did not
believe it could get the proper vote for the death penalty a 2nd time around.
Emilia Carr, 32, was found guilty in 2010 of kidnapping and murdering
26-year-old Heather Strong. Carr and her boyfriend, co-defendant Joshua
Fulgham, 35, lured his estranged wife, Strong, to a storage trailer in Boardman
in north Marion County. There they suffocated Strong and left her body to be
found 4 days later.
A Marion County jury recommended the death sentence for Carr with a vote of
Last month, after an evidentiary hearing for Carr's appeal of her sentence due
to ineffectiveness of her lawyers, the State Attorney's Office announced it
would not continue to seek the death penalty.
"Given the original jury vote was 7-5, and the other circumstances of the case,
I did not believe it likely to achieve a unanimous recommendation for death,'
5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King wrote in an email.
Carr's resentencing places her on the same level of her co-defendant Fulgham,
who was sentenced to life in 2012 with a vote of 8-4.
"We are relieved that the state decided not to seek death and that Emilia???s
punishment is no longer disparate" of Fulgham's, said Maria DeLiberato, with
Capital Collateral Regional Counsel's Middle district.
Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Willard Pope denied Carr's appeal, but her
attorneys still have some time to appeal his decision. DeLiberato said the
attorneys are discussing their next course of action.
Carr spent a little more than 6 years on death row. She fought her sentence
from the start.
Her 1st appeal raised issues including possible errors by the trial judge and
proportionality of the death sentence. But the Florida Supreme Court affirmed
her death sentence in 2015.
"This case involves a love triangle between the victim, Heather Strong, her
estranged husband, Joshua Fulgham, and the defendant, Emilia Carr, that ended
when Carr and Fulgham carried out their plan to murder Strong," the high court
wrote in its decision.
She then restarted the appeal process claiming ineffective counsel.
King did not respond to a question about whether Carr's situation would
influence the state in other appeals from death row inmates. Of the 7 convicted
Marion County murderers on death row, 1 is arguing for a reduced sentence of
life on an intellectual disability claim, 2 were granted resentencing by the
Florida Supreme Court, the other 4 are still fighting their sentences with
Dates for the 2 resentencings have not yet been set, according to court
Florida now requires a unanimous jury vote to impose the death sentence.
8 Marion County defendants await sentencing in death penalty-eligible cases.
Kelvin Coleman is scheduled to be the 1st local defendant to put the state's
new death penalty ruling to the test. Jury selection for the penalty phase of
his trial starts Aug. 21. Coleman was convicted in October 2016 of 2 counts of
Not the worst of the worst, or why Ohio should spare from execution those with
severe mental illness
Evelyn Lundberg Stratton recently reminded state lawmakers about the "evolving
standards of decency" when it comes to the death penalty. The former Ohio
Supreme Court justice noted that the execution of juveniles has been barred.
The same applies to those with intellectual disabilities. She supports House
Bill 81 that would exempt from the death penalty those diagnosed with severe
mental illness at the time of the capital offense.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Seitz, reflects the work of a task
force formed by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. The panel of highly regarded
and representative stakeholders looked for ways to improve the conduct of
capital punishment. 3 years have passed since it put forward 56
recommendations. Some have been enacted. Too many have not.
One that received strong panel approval was the exemption for severe mental
illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
In testimony before the House Criminal Justice Committee last month, Evelyn
Stratton stressed the absence of a deterrent value when an offender has
"diminished impulse control and planning abilities." In that way, the offender
hardly qualifies as the worst of the worst, the common measure of deserving
On Tuesday, John Murphy, the executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting
Attorneys Association, presented a rebuttal. He argued the system already
protects against a death sentence falling on those with mental illness. He
cited standards for competence to stand trial and the option to plead not
guilty by reason of insanity.
Murphy added that jurors may see mental illness as a mitigating factor in
weighing whether to apply the death penalty.
The problem, as discussed at the hearing by state Rep. Seitz, is that such
protections do not go precisely to the state of mind when the crime is
committed. In addition, David Niven of the University of Cincinnati explained
that jurors often view severe mental illness as an aggravating factor. Thus,
without the exemption, such defendants remain more likely to receive a death
Seitz and the task force recognized the need to define carefully what qualifies
as a severe mental illness. That is especially so in view of the bill rightly
following precedent and permitting those currently on death row to seek to
resentencing and life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors warn about a flood of requests, even suggesting the effective end
of the death penalty. Actually, as Evelyn Stratton pointed out, just 10 % to 15
% would qualify to make an application. The bill places the burden on the
defense to show that the defendant suffered from severe mental illness.
The worry about abuse of the exemption is curious, the hard line suggesting:
Better to execute an offender who was ill at the time than open the door to
another somehow gaming the system. The legislation isn't about leniency. The
punishment remains most tough. Rather, the bill goes to how Ohioans define
capital punishment, and what it says about our sense of decency.
The task force examined fully the death penalty and recommended it would be
improved by the exemption for severe mental illness. Now the Ohio House should
do its part and move quickly to approve the legislation.
(source: Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board)
A chance to talk about the death penalty
How would you react to the rape and killing of a young girl across the width of
a driveway from your home by a neighbor? What would you do after learning of
this horror and tragedy? This is the situation Caryn Saxon faced in the
aftermath of the abduction and murder of Hailey Owens in 2014. Saxon was the
neighbor to Craig Wood, charged in the death. She teaches in the Criminology
and Criminal Justice Program at Missouri State University.
Linda Taylor has a unique view on punishment, having seen the justice system
from 2 very different sides. She was the sister of a murder victim and the
mother of a son who received the death penalty. He was executed by Missouri in
Both of these women will share their experiences with you at 1:30 p.m. June 24
at the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, 627 N. Glenstone Ave. The program is
titled "The Death Penalty - A Public Program on Victimization."
This is a portion of an annual meeting of Missourians for an Alternative to the
Death Penalty. For more information, visit www.madpmo.org. In considering the
suffering of 10-year-old Hailey, Saxon also reflected on the man who had been
her neighbor: "All the things I saw in Craig even from a neighbor distance -
his ideas, beliefs, smile, friendliness and kindness to his puppy - were real.
I am not willing to believe those things no longer exist because this horrible
act tipped the scales so dramatically as to erase them. Even though it might
make sense to kill the person who killed Hailey, we would be killing all the
good along with the bad."
And Taylor on the murder of her brother: "The pain is real serious of losing
someone you love through murder. I know that pain. I know that scream that my
Mama let out when we viewed Ronnie's body. It went through me. It stabbed me. I
can feel it today." She also experienced being harassed and shunned by
co-workers and members of her church after her son Michael's arrest. Taylor
realized she was being punished, too.
These are just 2 of the voices collected by Kate Siska, a mitigation specialist
who has worked on state and federal capital defense teams. She has advocated
for sentences other than death by understanding the client's story from life
records, lay witnesses and expert evaluations. Siska worked on the Voices
project, a booklet featuring people whose lives have felt the impact of
violence and the death penalty but oppose this extreme punishment.
If you have concerns about Missouri's use of the death penalty, if you question
its effectiveness as a deterrent or whether the excessive costs involved are
funds well spent, then join us for this program. You will have an opportunity
to listen, question and consider.
(source: Don Underwood is a member of the Springfield chapter of Missourians
for an Alternative to the Death Penalty----Springfield News-Leader)
Board finds no Arkansas doctors aided execution-drug purchase, ends inquiry
The Arkansas State Medical Board on Thursday ended its investigation into how
lethal-injection drugs were acquired by the state prison system, after
determining no licensed doctors in Arkansas were involved.
The monthlong look into the procurement of execution drugs began after one
supplier, the McKesson Corp., argued in court that its salesman had been duped
into providing drugs without knowing their intended purpose.
The board's attorney, Kevin O'Dwyer, said he examined records of sales between
the Department of Correction and drug suppliers and spoke with attorneys for
involved parties to determine whether any of the board's licensees had
"fraudulently" obtained execution drugs.
O'Dwyer told a reporter Thursday that he found no such misconduct or any
doctors who were involved.
Without receiving a written report, the Medical Board voted to take O'Dwyer's
conclusions "as information," effectively halting the investigation.
"Unless we receive additional information, our investigation is finished,"
Had evidence of violations been found, O'Dwyer said, the board would have held
a hearing to determine whether to issue a reprimand, strip or suspend a
doctor's license, or drop the case.
The board does not have the authority to investigate the Department of
Correction or its officials, only licensed doctors, O'Dwyer said.
Among McKesson's claims were that prison officials used the medical license of
an Arkansas physician who had a contract with the department.
"The information that we saw, in not just documents but speaking to several
people that were involved, he did not have any involvement in procuring
[drugs]," O'Dwyer said.
Those drugs were used in the execution of 4 inmates at the Cummins prison in
April. Another four condemned prisoners were spared by court stays.
McKesson had tried to halt all the executions, and its drug from being used, by
requesting a restraining order in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The order was
issued, but ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court.
Officials with the Department of Correction, in turn, denied invoking the
doctor's license to purchase the drugs.
A spokesman with the Department of Correction declined to comment on the
Medical Board's decision Thursday.
Court records submitted in April identified the licensee on a purchase order
for vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in state executions, as Dr.
Robert Allen Floss, an assistant regional medical director for Correct Care
The Nashville, Tenn., company is the private provider of the Department of
Correction's health care services. The company has denied that Floss or any of
its workers were involved in the purchase of execution drugs.
On Thursday, Correct Care spokesman Jim Cheney declined to comment in an email,
saying he would let the board's decision "speak for itself."
O'Dwyer said he did not talk to Floss directly, but spoke with his lawyers. The
Medical Board attorney declined to say who else he spoke with during his
A representative for McKesson Corp. could not be reached Thursday for comment.
According to years of purchase orders obtained from the Department of
Correction through the Freedom of Information Act, Floss' medical license was
used to purchase drugs for prisons dating back to at least 2013.
Citing exemptions from public-disclosure laws written into the state's Method
of Execution Act, the department has declined requests to release purchase
orders for its execution drugs.
In addition to McKesson, the pharmaceutical companies Fresenius Kabi USA and
West-Ward Pharmaceuticals have in court briefs accused Arkansas' prison system
of skirting company rules to obtain execution drugs.
Drugmakers and suppliers across the U.S. and Europe have enacted such controls
to prevent their drugs from being used in executions, making it difficult for
states, including Arkansas, to maintain supplies of lethal-injection drugs.
April's executions were the 1st time the state had carried out its highest
punishment in more than a decade.
They were scheduled to be carried out in quick succession, in part, because the
state's supply of midazolam, a sedative used in executions, expired at the end
The state has not announced the acquisition of a new supply.
North Dakota's history with the death penalty
A recent letter to the editor from Shaun Moser published June 7 questions why
Ashley Hunter isn't facing a death sentence. I would like to try and explain a
few things about North Dakota's history with the death penalty.
First of all, no one has been executed in North Dakota since a murderer by the
name of John Rooney was hanged here in Cass County on Oct. 17, 1905. From my
perspective, North Dakota doesn't have the death penalty, most likely because
of both the costs involved, and the fact that there hasn't been a murder case
that would be considered eligible for the death penalty tried under state law
since at least 1914.
North Dakota has only carried out eight judicially-ordered executions between
statehood in 1889 and 1905. All eight of the executions were the hangings of
condemned murderers. The executions took place in the county in which the
inmates were convicted, with the county sheriff presiding over the hangings. If
I understand the history correctly, each of these hangings were public
However, the Rooney execution was the only execution in state history that was
carried out inside of a state prison. Not in public. I wasn't aware that at one
time, Cass County had a state prison, but the execution is mentioned on the
North Dakota state courts website as having taken place at the Cass County
North Dakota had a death penalty on the books until it was struck down with all
death penalty laws across the country in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision of
the U.S. Supreme Court. Accordingly, the North Dakota Legislature repealed the
last vestiges of the death penalty during its 1973 regular session.
At the time, the only death penalty eligible crime was when a prisoner either
killed another person while in the custody of the state penitentiary, or when a
prisoner escaped from the penitentiary and killed someone outside of the
prison. This was a law under which no one had been sentenced to death.
There have been bills to reinstate the death penalty introduced on a number of
occasions since the death penalty was repealed in 1973. All of them failed to
Yes, North Dakota is regarded as a "red" or ultra-conservative,
Republican-dominated state; yet it does not have the death penalty. It doesn't
seem there is any hurry to reinstate capital punishment in this state.
(source: Rick Olson, inforum.com)
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