2017-04-27 16:09:21 UTC
Court agrees to rehear lethal injection case in win for Ohio
The state on Tuesday won a round in its efforts to restart executions in Ohio,
though in the short term a court???s ruling will likely delay efforts to put a
condemned child killer to death.
At issue are arguments about Ohio's proposed use in executions of a contested
sedative called midazolam and a debate over what a previous U.S. Supreme Court
ruling said about the constitutionality of the drug.
In January, federal Magistrate Judge Michael Merz said the state's 3-drug
protocol, beginning with midazolam, "creates a substantial risk of serious
Earlier this month, a 3-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Cincinnati agreed with the judge and kept his order against the execution
process in place.
The state appealed, asking the full 6th Circuit to rehear the case in the hopes
it would come to a different conclusion. On Tuesday, the court agreed and set
arguments for June 14. The court lists 14 full-time judges and several senior
Ohio argues that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in 2015 in
a case out of Oklahoma.
The appeals court ruling means at least 2 executions are now uncertain. On May
10, the prisons agency is set to put Ronald Phillips to death for raping and
killing the 3-year-old daughter of his girlfriend in Akron in 1993.
Phillips' execution has been delayed multiple times over the years.
On June 13, the day before the appeals court arguments, Ohio plans to execute
Gary Otte for shooting 2 people to death in back-to-back robberies over two
days in Parma, in suburban Cleveland, in 1992.
Republican Gov. John Kasich's office said it was trying to determine the impact
of the ruling on the executions. The Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction was also reviewing the decision.
The agency "remains committed to carrying out court-ordered executions in a
lawful and humane manner," said spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.
Lawyers challenging Ohio's execution process said they believe the full appeals
court will also be convinced that the state's current method is
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. The same drug was involved in a problematic execution later that
year in Arizona.
(source: Associated Press)
Indiana Supreme Court denies death penalty statute appeal
The Indiana Supreme Court has turned down the request of a Gary man accused of
slaying seven women to look at the constitutionality of the state's death
penalty statute before he goes to trial.
The Post-Tribune reports the court denied 46-year-old Darren Deon Vann's
request Thursday, following suit with rulings in previous challenges in other
Vann argued the statute possibly violates the 8th Amendment prohibition on
cruel and unusual punishment. His defense attorneys argued the issue should be
addressed before a trial is set to save time and money.
The defense says the decision impacts not only Vann but "every other pending
death penalty case in Indiana."
Vann has a status hearing Friday in Lake County to discuss pending matters in
his case. (source: tribstar.com)
Sixth Circuit denies AG's request to rehear death row case decision
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has declined to reconsider
a decision in favor of Tennessee death row inmate Andrew Thomas in the case of
the fatal 1997 shooting of armored truck guard James Day in Memphis.
The denial follows a decision by panel of judges in February that the state
violated Thomas' due process rights when the prosecution failed to disclose to
him that a witness had received $750 from the federal government before the
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, Solicitor General Andree Blumstein
and Associate Solicitor General Jennifer Smith had petitioned for a rehearing
of the decision. Thomas' attorney, Robert Hutton, argued neither a rehearing by
the panel of judges who issued the decision or review by the full court is
No judge requested a vote on the suggestion to rehear the case before the full
en banc court, resulting in a decision last week to deny the attorney general's
request, according to court records. Judge Julia Gibbons, wife of former Shelby
County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, recused herself from
participating in the court's ruling.
With last week's ruling, both a rehearing by the panel of judges and by the
full court have now been denied.
The victim in the case was a Loomis Fargo armored car courier who was shot at
lunchtime on April 21, 1997, at a Walgreens in the 4500 block of Summer. Day
survived the shooting but died 2 years later on Oct. 2, 1999.
The Safe Streets Task Force, a multiagency group of federal and state law
enforcement, investigated and assisted in the federal trial of Thomas, and a
member of the task force, Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Sanders, requested the $750
payment that was made to a witness, Thomas' former girlfriend Angela Jackson,
according to court records.
After Thomas' federal trial, Thomas was tried for the murder of Day in state
court, and the task force investigated and assisted with that trial also.
Jackson also testified in the state death penalty trial, but neither Thomas nor
defense lawyers were informed of the $750 payment.
Jackson testified she wasn't paid, and Shelby County District Attorney General
Amy Weirich has said she didn't know about the payment.
The attorney general's office has until mid-July to ask for review by the U.S.
Supreme Court. Inmates are typically not moved until court proceedings have
concluded, said attorney Robert Hutton.
(source: The Commercial Appeal)
Arkansas Continues Aggressive Death Penalty Push----Arkansas, which had not
held an execution in 12 years until this month, has put three inmates to death
since April 20.
Arkansas plans to end its series of April executions by putting to death on
Thursday an inmate convicted of murdering a cheerleader and who escaped from
prison and killed 2 other people before being captured again.
Arkansas, which had not held an execution in 12 years until this month, has put
3 inmates to death since April 20. It plans to execute Kenneth Williams, 38, by
lethal injection at 7 p.m. CDT at its death chamber in its Cummins Unit prison.
Arkansas originally had planned to execute 8 inmates in 11 days in April, the
most of any state in as short a period since the death penalty was reinstated
in 1976. 4 of the executions were put on hold by courts due to mental
competency issues for 2 inmates, to consider a clemency recommendation by a
state board for another, and for DNA testing for 1 inmate who has maintained
The unprecedented schedule, set because 1 of the drugs in the state's execution
mix expires at the end of April, prompted criticism that Arkansas was acting
recklessly. It also set off a series of legal filings that raised questions
about U.S. death chamber protocols, troubled prosecutions and difficulties in
obtaining lethal injection drugs.
Williams was transferred to the Cummins Unit on Wednesday, the same day the
Arkansas Supreme Court denied a request from his lawyers to halt the execution.
They argued there were problems with jury proceedings, that Williams is
intellectually disabled and should be spared, and that he was convicted of
capital murder without a unanimous verdict on the charge that made him eligible
for the death penalty.
"We've been waiting a long, long time for this," Genie Boren, the widow of one
of the murder victims, was quoted as saying by local TV broadcaster Fox 16.
Williams, sentenced to life without parole for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old
college cheerleader Dominique Hurd, broke out of a maximum-security prison in
He murdered Cecil Boren, 57 at his farmhouse, shooting him multiple times.
Williams then stole Boren's pickup truck and fled to Missouri, where he slammed
his vehicle into one driven by delivery man Michael Greenwood, 24, killing him.
In 2005, Williams sent a letter to a local Arkansas paper where he confessed to
killing Jerrell Jenkins on the same day as the cheerleader.
Williams was sentenced to death for Boren's murder.
(source: US News & World Report)
Kenneth Williams set to die
The Arkansas Supreme Court and a federal judge Wednesday denied motions to stay
the execution of Kenneth Williams, who is scheduled to be put to death by
lethal injection at 7 p.m. today at the Cummins Unit. Also Wednesday, the
European Union urged Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call off Williams' execution.
Without comment, the state Supreme Court denied a motion by Williams???
attorneys that argued the jury at his trial failed to consider mitigating
evidence including childhood domestic abuse and limited intellectual function.
U.S. District Judge Jodi Dennis denied a motion by Williams' attorneys that
argued he is intellectually disabled and therefore his death sentence is
illegal. The judge said the attorneys did not establish probable cause to halt
the execution. Williams, 38, was serving a life sentence for the 1998 killing
of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader Dominique Hurd when he
escaped from the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County in 1999.
He shot and killed Cecil Boren, 57, at Boren's nearby home, stole Boren's truck
and was captured after a high-speed chase in Missouri during which he crashed
into a vehicle and killed the driver, Michael Greenwood, 24, of Springfield,
Missouri. Williams is scheduled to die for Boren's killing. He also is serving
3 sentences of life without parole, 1 for aggravated robbery and 2 for capital
In a 2005 letter to the Commercial, Williams said he had become a born-again
Christian and confessed to killing 36-year-old Jerrell Jenkins on Dec. 13,
1998, the same day he fatally shot Hurd after kidnapping and robbing her and a
friend outside the Bonanza Steakhouse on Olive Street. Hutchinson initially
scheduled 8 executions over an 11-day span this month, seeking to make use of a
key drug before it expires at the end of April. 4 of the executions have been
stayed by courts, but the state did execute Ledell Lee last week and Jack
Harold Jones and Marcel Williams on Monday.
David O'Sullivan, the European Union's ambassador to the United States, said
Wednesday in a letter to Hutchinson the European Union opposes capital
punishment and urges him to commute Williams' sentence. O'Sullivan said
evidence that Williams may be intellectually disabled should be heard and that
the compressed execution schedule and the way the state acquired its executions
drugs are concerns.
"This unprecedented pace of carrying out those sentences has been justified by
the urge to use some of the execution drugs before their expiry date,"
O'Sullivan said in the letter. "We also note with concern that other drugs used
for executions were reportedly acquired by circumventing the policies of the
company who sold them. Proceeding with Mr. Williams' execution would therefore
be a very concerning precedent."
Terri Grimes, Boren's niece, told the Warren Eagle-Democrat that she plans to
witness tonight's execution. Boren had been an assistant superintendent at
Cummins at one time. He later worked for the federal prison at Texarkana and
returned to Cummins for a short time. Hurd's relatives and friends have said
they are unsure if they will be attending the execution; the Greenwood and
Jenkins' families also have not confirmed whether they will be there.
Meanwhile, Greenwood's family bought plane tickets so Williams' daughter and
granddaughter could visit before his scheduled execution Thursday. Michael
Greenwood's daughter, Kayla Greenwood, told the Springfield News-Leader that
she learned a few days ago that Williams has a 21-year-old daughter, Jasmine,
whom he hasn't seen for 17 years and a 3-year-old granddaughter he's never met.
Greenwood said her mother bought plane tickets for Williams' daughter and
granddaughter to fly from Washington state to Arkansas so they could see
Williams on Wednesday, a day before his execution.
(source: The (Pine Bluff) Commercial)
Arkansas Judge Pulled From Death Penalty Cases Seeks Probe----An Arkansas judge
who blocked the state's executions the same day he participated in an
anti-death penalty demonstration is asking 2 state panels to investigate
officials who sanctioned him.
An Arkansas judge who blocked the state's executions the same day he
participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration is asking 2 state panels to
investigate the attorney general's office and the state Supreme Court for his
removal from considering any capital punishment cases.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Wednesday accused Attorney
General Leslie Rutledge and the court of violating ethics rules, saying neither
gave him a chance to respond to efforts to disqualify him from death penalty
cases in last week's order. Griffen issued an order blocking Arkansas from
using a lethal injection drug, then was seen laying on a cot outside the
governor's mansion during a death penalty protest.
The court lifted Griffen's order the same day it prohibited him from handling
(source: The Associated Press)
Arkansas and America's long dance with death
["Jessica Brand is the legal director for the Fair Punishment Project, a joint
initiative of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race
& Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute, The Accountable Justice
Collaborative (at Tides Foundation), and The Bronx Defenders. Formerly she
worked at the Texas Defender Service and in the appellate division of the
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. The views expressed in
this commentary are solely those of the author."]
When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty 40 years ago, it imposed an
important limitation on its use. Because an execution is "unique in its
severity and irrevocability," it must be reserved for the worst of the worst --
society's most morally blameworthy defendants.
Over the years, the court has periodically provided guidance on the type of
person who cannot "be classified among the worst offenders." The court has
barred the death penalty for the intellectually disabled and juvenile
defendants, finding that because of their impairments limiting judgment and
control, they "do not act with the level of moral culpability that
characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct." Justice Anthony Kennedy
has written that killing those with reduced moral culpability "violates his or
her inherent dignity as a human being."
After decades, however, it's clear the court's attempts to regulate the death
penalty have failed, and the eight cases Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson set for
rapid execution this month show it. These men are not society's worst of the
worst; rather, they are among our most vulnerable and impaired. Three of the
men set to die before the state's supply of a drug used for lethal injection
expires -- Jack Jones, Marcell Williams, and Ledell Lee -- have already been
put to death.
Arkansas is a microcosm of what occurs in the very few remaining places that
still utilize the death penalty. 3 men, including Lee, are (or were) at least
borderline intellectually disabled. One, Kenneth Williams, has an IQ of 70.
Another, Bruce Ward, is likely legally insane; he thinks there are "little
resurrected dogs" running around the prison and that "evil or demonic forces"
are harassing him. Several of these men have (or in the case of Jack Jones,
had) a debilitating mental illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar
disorder; others have brain damage.
As children, these men were raped and had parents who violently abused them.
One poured boiling water on her son, another tar. Jason McGehee's father slit
the throats of 2 pet dogs for sport. McGehee eventually got another dog,
"Dusty," who he made his constant companion. He dressed the dog up, put the
dog's birthday on his calendar, and had the dog sleep on his bed nightly. His
stepfather kicked it to death, forcing McGehee to watch. Marcel Williams,
executed earlier this week, had a mother who pimped him out for food stamps and
lodging starting when he was 9. Like intellectual impairments or severe mental
illness, this kind of childhood trauma has profound effects on brain
development, functioning and judgment.
If it "violates" "inherent dignity" to execute men who suffer from an
intellectual disability or are juveniles, as Kennedy has said, the same must be
true of the searing childhood trauma, intellectual impairments, and mental
illnesses these men endured, which undermined their capacity for reasoning and
judgment just as severely as an intellectual disability could.
With impairments this severe, how did these men end up on death row in the
first place? The answer is simple: Most had lawyers who failed to uncover or
present this powerful evidence at trial. Court and clemency filings by at least
five of the defendants -- all the executed men, along with Jason McGehee and
Don Davis -- make this clear. Lee, who Arkansas executed Thursday night,
provides the most striking example.
According to state and federal court pleadings that Lee's lawyers filed just
before his execution, Lee's trial lawyers begged the trial judge -- who at the
time was having an affair with the trial prosecutor -- to let them off the case
over a conflict. So did Lee himself. The judge denied their requests. These
lawyers conducted no investigation into Lee's life. His state post-conviction
attorney abused substances during the hearing and literally uttered the words
"blah blah blah" in court.
Eventually, a federal district court suggested that Lee receive a new attorney
and a new appeal, and the Arkansas Supreme Court obliged. But his new lawyers
fared no better. They missed a filing deadline and had 2 briefs returned for
failure to comport with court rules. The Arkansas Supreme Court referred one
attorney to the Committee on Professional Conduct. Lee's federal
post-conviction team initially included the drunk lawyer, and later, a man who
last year surrendered his law license to "prevent possible harm to clients"
because he suffered from bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
What no jury or court ever heard is that Lee likely had an intellectual
disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, and significant brain damage. Lawyers first
discovered this devastating information this month, just before Lee's
execution, when the American Civil Liberties Union intervened and finally
looked into Lee's life history.
But Lee is hardly the only defendant who received inadequate representation at
trial. A lawyer for the recently executed Marcel Williams described his case as
"the first capital murder case I'd ever been involved in." The defense team did
not even look for mitigating evidence -- life history stories about trauma,
mental illness and developmental impairments. "We had no idea what that meant."
Even as sentences fall to an all-time low, with juries sentencing just 30
people to death in 2016, lawyers continue to fail their clients in breathtaking
fashion. Our reporting shows that lawyers abound who almost never visit their
clients (and therefore never learn their life story), conduct little to no
additional investigation, and file almost no motions. And across the country,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 60% of those
executed in 2016 had a significant mental impairment, including mental illness,
brain impairments, and low intellectual functioning.
If the justices of the Supreme Court were previously unaware of the state of
the American death penalty, they can no longer claim ignorance. In Oklahoma,
after a yearlong review of the state's death penalty system, the Oklahoma Death
Penalty Review Commission recognized that the state failed to execute only "the
worst of the worst" and on Tuesday recommended a continued moratorium in the
Ledell Lee's case -- and the others in Arkansas still set for execution this
month -- laid bare all that is rotten in America's long dance with death. This
continued failure to intervene on behalf of the most vulnerable and least
represented erodes the legitimacy of the court itself.
How a Daughter's Search for Her Biological Father Led Her to an Execution in
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Gina Grimm always wondered who her biological
parents were. "You know, you go to the supermarket and think, 'That lady kinda
has my nose.' Or, you know, 'That man kinda has a resemblance to my face.'" Her
adoptive parents never discouraged her from acting on her curiosity. "I made
very clear since I was young that eventually one day I would find them," she
says. That day arrived in 2010, after Grimm filed a petition with a probate
court to have her birth certificate released. It came with contact information
for her biological mother. Grimm called her - and that's when she found out
that her father was Jack Jones Jr., a man on Arkansas's death row.
His crimes were the stuff of nightmares. In 1995, in the small town of Bald
Knob, Arkansas, Jones had beaten, strangled, and raped a woman named Mary
Phillips inside the county tax office where she worked. Jones also viciously
attacked her 11-year-old daughter, Lacy, who miraculously survived. After Jones
was convicted, his DNA was found to match evidence from another murder that had
gone unsolved, of a woman named Lorraine Anne Barrett, killed in Florida while
on vacation in 1991. Jones was tried for that crime while on death row in
Arkansas. He was sentenced to life, in addition to his existing death sentence.
Grimm had no way to process what she had learned. She was dizzy with shock,
guilt, and confusion about the man who gave her life. "I had a lot to think
about," she recalls. "It truly opened a can of worms." Grimm had grown up
comfortable, even sheltered, with no real contact with the criminal justice
system. While reeling from the revelation about her father, she began to feel
grateful that she had been raised in a family better equipped to take care of
her. Whatever led her father to such a dark and violent place, Grimm felt
compelled to let him know that he had done the right thing by putting her up
for adoption. She thought he should know that his daughter had turned out OK.
Grimm wrote this to Jones in a letter, which she sent to his P.O. Box address
at the Varner Unit in Grady, Arkansas. He responded immediately. Before long,
Grimm had boxes of letters from him, along with paintings he made for her 2
young children. "We just built a very intense bond," she said. Whoever her
father had been when he committed his crimes, Grimm was seeing a different side
of him now. She believed he belonged in prison. But she also believed he had
changed. Then, this past February, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that
after almost 12 years without any executions in the state, he had signed death
warrants for 8 men whose appeals had run out. The state's stash of midazolam -
the 1st of 3 drugs chosen by the state to carry out executions - was set to
expire at the end of April. So officials would move fast, killing them in 2s,
beginning on April 17 and ending on April 27. Jones was one of them, set to die
on April 24.
On Monday night, Grimm stood outside the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas
Department of Corrections, which houses the state's execution chamber. The sun
was beating down, although it was after 6 p.m. Her father had been moved to a
cell adjacent to the room where he was set to die. He had eaten his last meal,
dutifully disclosed by prison officials as "3 pieces of fried chicken, potato
logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, 3 Butterfinger bars, one chocolate
milkshake with Butterfinger pieces and fruit punch." The details stood in
contrast to basic information about how the state planned to kill Jones: The
source of the execution drugs was officially secret, as were the identities of
the executioners. Asked whether the same prison staffers would be placing the
intravenous lines and administering the lethal injections for both Jones and
Marcel Williams, who was also set to die that night, public information officer
Solomon Graves declined to answer, citing Arkansas law.
Security was heavy that evening. In a field outside the prison, a protest area
had been designated using caution tape. Cars were searched upon entering; some
people were frisked. A police helicopter sat nearby, facing the area, for
reasons that were not completely clear. (That information was secret too.) A
mobile command unit towered over a fleet of cop cars. Across the field, a
separate area was designated for supporters of the executions. There, members
of the Phillips family were gathered, with a small child in tow. One man held a
sign that said "Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth."
Grimm's trip to Arkansas had come together quickly, thanks in large part to
Abraham Bonowitz, a veteran anti-death penalty activist from Ohio and founder
of Death Penalty Action. Accompanied by Randy Gardner, whose brother was
executed by firing squad in Utah in 2010, Bonowitz has raised funds and helped
organize the effort to push back against the execution spree in Arkansas. With
his assistance - and with the help of her mother, who donated airline miles -
Grimm had arrived in Little Rock in time to visit her father the day before,
staying in a cheap hotel in the nearby town of Pine Bluff. It would be the 1st
and last time she saw her father in person. The 2 held hands and tried to keep
things lighthearted, she said. "We forgave each other for any things that we
ever said that was hurtful. We talked about the day I was born." At one point,
he took off his wedding ring and gave it to Grimm, who now wore it on a chain
around her neck.
Grimm is 32, with dyed red hair and a silver nose ring. A large tattoo on her
arm reads "Daddy's girl," not a tribute to Jones, but rather to the man who
raised her. ("Family is everything," she says.) A single mom, she has chosen to
be honest with her kids about their biological grandfather. "They're very aware
that he's done terrible things. But he doesn't deserve this. And I'm raising
them to know that this isn't right. It's not OK." As we spoke, seeking shade in
the grass between 2 parked cars outside the protest area, a police officer
ordered us to get behind the yellow caution tape. Grimm responded that her
father was one of the men set to die that night and respectfully asked for 5
more minutes to cool off.
Unlike other states, Arkansas does not allow relatives to witness executions.
Jones's sister, Lynn Scott, had fought for weeks to be allowed to view the
execution, pleading with officials to no avail. Grimm, too, said she would have
been a witness in a heartbeat. "It might sound very dark to some people, and it
is," she said. "But the people that are gonna kill my dad are gonna have
hateful eyes on him, in my opinion." She had no desire to see her father
killed, but it would have been worth it just for him to have someone there who
There was another reason to want to see the execution, although it was harder
to talk about. Attorneys and advocates had warned for weeks of the dangers
posed by the double execution: Not only was midazolam, a sedative never meant
for executions, linked to numerous executions gone awry, but the health
problems suffered by both Jones and Williams made the procedure riskier still.
Both men were obese, which would likely make it hard to find a vein. Jones had
diabetes and was on medication; 1 of his legs had been amputated years before.
As the execution hour approached, protesters huddled together. Around 7 p.m.,
with the execution understood to be underway, protesters took turns ringing a
loud, mournful bell, as Bonowitz spoke iconic words by the poet John Donne:
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind," he said.
"Don't ask for whom the bells tolls. It tolls for thee."
At 7:23, a TV reporter in a bright blue dress got a phone call, approaching
Bonowitz. "It's done," he said. The state set the time of death at 7:20 p.m.,
with everything appearing to go smoothly. Through tears, Grimm expressed
relief. She hugged the activists who brought her there and prayed with a group
of Episcopal priests. They prayed for Jones, for the Phillips and Barrett
families, for the prison guards, for the governor, and for the state of
Arkansas. In this Monday, April 24, 2017 photo, an Arkansas State Police
Command post outside the Varner Unit as executions take place near Varner, Ark.
Jack Jones and Marcel Williams received lethal injections on the same gurney
Monday night, just about three hours apart. It was the 1st double execution in
the United States since 2000.
There were 18 official witnesses at the execution of Jack Jones Jr., according
to the state. Three were from the media. 4 were relatives of the Phillips
family. Among the rest was Chris Raff, who prosecuted Jones back in White
County in 1996. Raff, who retired 2 years ago, was the longest serving district
attorney in Arkansas history. The murder of Mary Phillips was one of just a
handful of cases in which he chose to seek the death penalty over the course of
his career. "I always tried to look at the likelihood that that defendant was
truly dangerous, very likely to offend in a homicidal manner again," he said
over the phone last month. He also let the victim's feelings factor in some, he
added. "Some victims don't want the death penalty. And I always valued that
The Phillips family wanted the death penalty. The jury complied. The brutality
had just been unmistakable. Raff, who visited the crime scene, recalled the
harrowing moment police realized that Lacy Phillips was still alive. "They were
taking photographs of the crime scene," he said, "and they noticed blood coming
from the bathroom." There, they found Lacy, tied up and badly beaten. When the
crime scene photographer began to take her photo, her eyes opened. Raff still
has the picture, he said.
Yet the portrait of Jones was more complex than his grisly crimes. There were
aspects of his life that pointed to severe mental health problems dating back
to when he was young, which jurors never heard about before they sentenced him
to die. A report by the Harvard-based Fair Punishment Project sheds light on
some of them. Jones had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a history
of depression. According to an amicus brief authored by the project's director,
Rob Smith, Jones had hallucinations of "bugs, ants and spiders" attacking him.
When he was older, Jones "tried to commit suicide in 1989 and again in 1991,
when he jumped off a bridge. Only then did he receive psychiatric attention."
Before the murder of Mary Phillips, Jones "committed himself to the hospital,
again reporting suicidal ideation. It is then that he finally received his
bipolar diagnosis." Mental illness often gets worse on death row, exacerbated
by long bouts of isolation. While Jones seemed to be able to function well
enough to relate to his relatives, his physical condition had significantly
deteriorated. On the night of his execution, prison staff planned to wheel him
into the chamber in a restraint chair.
Raff had no desire to watch Jones's death, he said. But he felt an obligation
to the Phillips family. He was aware of the arguments being made about the
state's protocol; when I asked him if he feared anything would go wrong, he
said that in the past, "I was absolutely not concerned." But he added, "To be
honest with you, I'm just not sure now." He expressed relief that there were
people scrutinizing the protocol, to make sure it would work as planned.
Afterward, Raff said everything had appeared to go smoothly. He praised the
prison staff as calm and professional, which he called "kind of amazing" given
the stress they must have felt at the back-to-back executions. Nothing seemed
amiss with the procedure, he said. "From what I saw - and understanding I don't
have medical training to recognize anything specific - I didn't recognize
anything out of the ordinary or see anything that indicated any problems." Raff
did notice that Jones's lips kept moving once the prison staff cut off the
sound from his microphone, which had captured a lengthy final statement, but he
could not tell what it meant. He did not know when, exactly, Jones had been
given the midazolam.
Raff pointed out that the Department of Corrections captures the execution on
videotape. He didn't know if the videos were stored or not, he said, but if one
really wanted to know if things went smoothly, "it would be better than witness
statements." But he acknowledged that the state was not likely to release it.
Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, left, embraces Gina Grimm, daughter
of inmate Jack Jones, outside the Varner Unit on Monday, April 24, 2017 near
Varner, Ark. Jack Jones and Marcel Williams received lethal injections on the
same gurney Monday night, just about 3 hours apart. It was the 1st double
execution in the United States since 2000.
Grimm was doing OK, relatively speaking, as she stood outside the prison
following her dad's execution. As she and other protesters waited to hear if
the execution of Marcel Williams would move forward, emails and tweets began to
circulate suggesting that all had not gone smoothly with Jones after all. In an
emergency motion filed shortly after 8 p.m., attorneys tried to block the state
from proceeding with Williams's execution, reporting that "infirmary staff
tried unsuccessfully to place a central line in Mr. Jones's neck for 45 minutes
before placing 1 elsewhere on his body." The same motion cited unnamed
witnesses who reportedly saw Jones had "moved his lips and gulped for air"
after the midazolam should have rendered him unconscious.
Grimm was not looking at her phone. She was still holding the sense of relief
that her father had not suffered. It would be short-lived. Shortly before 9:30,
loud wailing broke through the quiet conversation outside the prison. A
reporter had called Lynn Scott, asking her to respond to the news that her
brother had shown signs of suffering. "I knew it!" she cried, sobbing
uncontrollably. Grimm was stunned, letting the information sink in. "It was the
one thing," she said, trailing off.
Arkansas officials immediately rejected the claims in the motion, accusing
defense attorneys of having authored it beforehand. The state conceded that
staff had tried and failed to put a central line in Jones's neck for 45 minutes
but said they had done so with his consent, given his physical condition.
Besides, the state does not count the placing of IV lines as part of the
official execution timeline. It happens out of the view of witnesses. At the
prison, J.R. Davis, a spokesperson for Gov. Hutchinson, described the execution
On Twitter, media witnesses pushed back against the claim that Jones gulped for
air, while acknowledging that they had seen him move his mouth. But in reality,
no one knows exactly what happened on the gurney. The 2nd drug in the 3-drug
protocol paralyzed Jones, making it impossible to know whether the anesthetic
had worked as fully intended.
Marcel Williams was already on the gurney as courts considered the challenge
brought by the emergency motion. It was eventually denied. After a short break,
during which he was allowed back in his holding cell, and allowed to use the
bathroom, his execution proceeded. Williams was declared dead at 10:33 p.m.
The next day, media witness Jacob Rosenberg described what he saw when the
curtains went up. "Light from fluorescent bulbs cast a strange yellow glow in
the room in front. Marcel Williams's eyes looked right up at the ceiling. He
was on a gurney, tied down. His head was locked in place and the right side of
his body was facing us, the viewers. He said no final words."
Rosenberg, a reporter for the Arkansas Times, described the difficulty
following the procedure. "No one announced that a drug was being given. The
process simply moved along." He saw Williams's eyes droop and close, although
"the right one lingered slightly open throughout." Eventually, "his breaths
became deep and heavy. His back arched off the gurney as he sucked in air. I
could not count the number of times his body moved in such a way, rising off
In an email to Bonowitz, trauma surgeon Jonathan Groner shared his own
disturbing impression. "Sounds like tonight's Arkansas execution was botched,"
he wrote. "No one would try to place a central line in the neck of a 400 pound
man without ultrasound guidance and a lot of previous experience. Who was
placing the line? Central lines are typically inserted by physicians who have
specific training. If the line was not in correct position in the soft tissues
of the neck instead of in the vein, the drugs would take effect very slowly and
lead to a tortuous death."
An display outside the Cummins Unit, featuring original work by photographer
Scott Langley, whose Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project chronicles
capital punishment as carried out in the United States.
The morning after her father's execution, Grimm woke up early and went down to
the lobby of her hotel, picking up a newspaper from a stack outside the
breakfast area. Her dad's face was on the front page, with the headline, "2
Killers Executed Hours Apart." In front of the free eggs and coffee, Grimm
broke down crying.
A hotel employee comforted her. She told Grimm that her own husband died some
years earlier while imprisoned at the Varner Unit, a result of medical neglect.
In Pine Bluff, everyone seems to know people behind the prison walls, either
behind bars or working. In some families, there are both.
On the road to Little Rock later that day, Grimm felt a pressure in her chest,
a deep-seated anxiety she could not shake. She was glad she came to Arkansas to
say goodbye to her father. More unexpected, she now had friends who were part
of an activist community she had never known existed. Yet as texts flooded her
phone, with friends and family checking in on her, even the support felt
overwhelming. She wished her evening flight back home was earlier. She just
wanted to see her kids and her dogs, Grimm said, and try to begin to mourn,
whatever that might look like.
"I just need to be somewhere normal," she said.
(source: The Intercept)
Drug manufacturer demands the removal of its drugs from criminal
executions----A leading drug company in the United States requests for the
state of Arkansas to cease using its medications during criminal executions
In a series of documents acquired by the Associated Press, a prominent #Drug
Manufacturer has requested that authorities in the #State Of Arkansas cease in
purchasing its medications. The proposal indicates that the state only bought
its products for the sole purpose of executing prison inmates. This situation
comes several months before the state plans to receive potassium chloride from
a 3rd-party contributor as 1/3 of the medications intended for utilization in
Arkansas' lethal injections.
Fresenius calls out the state of Arkansas
Fresenius Kabi USA got in touch with Wendy Kelly, the Director of the state's
#Department Of Corrections last year in July.
The drug company indicated that the organization knew Arkansas intended to
purchase medications to conduct executions. Fresenius requests that the cease
in damaging contracted agreements with them and other pharmaceutical companies
affiliated with them that prohibit merchants from providing their drugs for use
in the death penalty.
Fresenius distinguished itself as the most conceivable producer of Arkansas'
potassium chloride inventory. The Department of Corrections recently affirmed
that they received the product by meeting and anonymous merchant in an
undisclosed area. When their director advised the distributor about the drug's
billing procedures, they proceeded to make it a charitable contribution to
refrain from creating any records that would document the purchase.
Pharmacy law specialists noted the strategic methods that Arkansas implemented
to acquire the drugs heighten worries about the state's regards for agreements
they obtain between independent organizations. The state is trying to get
midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride to continue conducting
their capital punishment laws with their 1st set of death penalty executions
Arkansas executed a death row inmate on Thursday, utilizing the medications
after the state's Supreme Court dismissed the request of a district court judge
that halted vecuronium bromide from being used in the state. The decision
resulted from a claim that was deemed unprecedented from the McKesson
McKesson's civil suit
The lawsuit asserted that local authorities misdirected its organization
several months ago while acquiring its vecuronium bromide stock after utilizing
a permit from a doctor inferring that the medication was intended solely for
purposes that were of medical necessity.
Arkansas originally wanted the pharmaceuticals so it could use them in four
sets of multiple executions spanning over 11 days this month. The total of 8
lethal injections would have been the most executions conducted by any state in
the U.S. within a compacted time since the U.S.
Supreme Court reestablished capital punishment back in 1976.
Arkansas mentioned that they should've performed their criminal sentences
before their supply of midazolam lapsed on April 30. 3 of the state's planned
executions were thrown out due to multiple rulings from the courts after
several judges decided that the death penalty was a criminal prosecution
reviewed with uncertainty when it came to the overall justification intended
for each case.
State officials declined to comment on any inquiries regarding the
pharmaceutical manufacturers. They also chose not to answer any interrogations
concerning whether the Department of Correction possessed and written requests
from Fresenius letters, HIPAA laws are allowed to keep all medication sources
strictly confidential whether there's a request made for them to or not.
Be that as it may, during the briefing in court on McKesson's claim, the
company's department executive, Rory Griffin, noted that he affirmed to one
their sales consultants what Arkansas intentions were for using their
McKesson's primary spokesperson in question failed to provide an immediate
Agents for Fresenius as well as Hikma Pharmaceuticals stated that they are
currently unaware of whether Arkansas utilized any of their drug supply since
local authorities within the state refuse to respond to any of their inquiries.
Hikma is the founding organization for West-Ward and the original manufacturer
to provide the state of Arkansas with midazolam.
Their spokesperson, Brooke Clarke, penned in the message to the Associated
Press, "If Arkansas could acquire any of our medications fabricated in the U.S.
for utilization in capital punishment despite these restrictions, be aware that
the drugs did not come from us. If they did, it was without our insight. Our
company has provided its complaints regarding the abuse of our drugs in lethal
injections. They are knowledgeable to all government representatives and
correctional departments in all states that approve carrying out the death
The letter from the drug company
In Fresenius' letter back in July 2016, the company documented that the
utilization of its medications in criminal executions might bring about heavier
restrictions being enforced by Europe. The nation's union forbids exporting
pharmaceuticals utilized in death penalties. Matt Kuhn, another representative
for the company, affirmed that his President and Chief executive officer John
Ducker composed the document in 2016 and additionally provided another a few
Kuhn stated during an Associated Press conference, "Each of us might want the
Corrections Department within the state of Arkansas to eliminate or send back
any our medications that they may have." The spokesman noted that Fresenius has
no intentions of pursuing any more immediate legal actions towards the state.
However, the courts reported that Hikma additionally composed memorandums to
the state's Department of Corrections a year ago. The company was looking for
the Department to send back their medications back to them as well.
The drug corporation stated in their letter back in December, "This company
worries that continuing to enforce any further confinements on the dispersion
of our drugs to halt any misleading users might eventually have a few negative
results. For example, it could affect our chances to provide it to licensed
healthcare professionals so they could distribute it to their patients who have
a legitimate medical necessity for our medications."
An official chief for the Death Penalty Information Center announced McKesson's
lawsuit denoted the 1st occurrence where drug manufacturer straightforwardly
requested that a court prevents its medications from being utilized.
Robert Dunham further stated on the litigation, "The McKesson claim shows that
there's a regulation sworn to secrecy that isn't intended to secure wholesalers
or producers. The restrictive law aims to keep them unaware that the state
illegally acquired the medications." Dunham engages in a non-profit
organization that stands against any forms of capital punishment.
Be that as it may, the courts continue to maintain Arkansas' mystery law along
with other secrecy laws like theirs upheld in several other different states.
Professor, Students Show Support For Men On Death Row
Across the state, the 8 men previously sentenced to death before the end of
April are known as murderers. To a UA English professor, a couple of those men
are friends whom he met 1 year ago through the NWA Prison Stories Project.
English professor David Jolliffe wants the men on death row to be viewed as
humans again, not as numbers or animals, he said. While volunteering as a
writing mentor with the project, he read thoughtful reflections from inmates
Stacey Johnson, Kenneth Williams and Don Davis.
The quality of writing surprised him, Jolliffe said, noting the level of detail
included when recounting their dark pasts. He only knew Davis through his
writing but met personally with Johnson and Williams once a month for 6 months,
beginning in May 2016.
"I got to know them as wonderful writers and thoughtful human beings," Jolliffe
said. "I don't want to overlook the fact that most of these men committed
horrible crimes earlier in their lives - they committed heinous crimes. But
they committed these crimes in different lives. They committed them 2 decades
ago in various stages of dysfunctional families and dysfunctional lives."
Monday night Arkansas executed inmates Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, marking
the 1st double execution in the United States since 2000.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) originally signed orders in February for the 8 men
convicted of murder to be executed over an 11-day period - an unprecedented
pace since the death penalty's reauthorization in 1976, according to the
"A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the
solemn pledge I made to uphold the law," Hutchinson said in a statement
released after Jones' execution.
Court decisions spared the lives of Bruce Ward, Davis and Johnson last week,
whose executions were scheduled for April 17 and 20.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied the stay of execution for inmate Ledell Lee,
convicted of beating and killing his neighbor Debra Reese in 1993, in a 5-4
majority ruling April 20. Lee died at 11:56 p.m. as the 1st inmate to die by
the death penalty in Arkansas since 2005.
STUDENTS TAKE ACTION
Freshman Emily Moseley, president of the LIFE club, said she sought to ignite
conversation about various issues of life and death, from abortion to the death
penalty. With the help of like-minded students striving to "support life in its
many forms," she revamped former Registered Student Organization Students for
Life and created Life Is For Everyone, or LIFE club.
"No one wants to talk about the issues that we're bringing up, because they're
uncomfortable," Moseley said.
Nearly 30 people attended their 1st event "Celebrating the Forgotten" Feb. 22,
LIFE club secretary sophomore Jacob Maestri said. The RSO email list includes
nearly 70 people.
Those who attended wrote letters to juvenile inmates, discussed the dignity of
prisoners and heard from Jolliffe about the project. When Hutchinson announced
the upcoming executions, LIFE club members took action by creating a video to
voice their disapproval, writing a letter to the governor and obtaining
approximately 220 signatures on their petition.
"We support the death row inmates, but we don't support what they did," Moseley
said. "We weren't celebrating their actions; we were celebrating the fact that
they can still be rehabilitated, change and realize they have some purpose
here. They don't need to die.
Moseley said she hopes the governor remembers when they first met and will take
the club's work to heart. They met after she gave a speech at the March for
Life, and as she left the stage, Hutchinson congratulated her and said to
contact him if ever in need.
"He may never see that letter and hear the words in the video, but it's more
about showing the people on campus that we are with these men, and we are with
the victims and their families as well," Moseley said. "I believe both sides
Hutchinson declined to comment on the petition.
METHOD OF EXECUTION
The urgent pace of executions has been attributed to the expiration date of the
state's supply of midazolam. Midazolam, one of three drugs involved in the
lethal injection, has been linked to botched executions in states including
Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Suppliers claimed that the state obtained its drugs by misleading companies,
and that using them for lethal injections poses a public health threat,
according to the AP. An Arkansas Supreme Court ruling allowed use of the drugs
Associate law professor Laurent Sacharoff said the combined controversies
result in "a method of execution that is vulnerable to attack on many levels."
"The other big takeaway is that when you do things quickly and rushed like this
- potentially eight executions in a short span of time - that makes courts
nervous, because they don''t have time to review the concerns," Sacharoff said.
"Those concerns may, in the end, prove invalid, but executing somebody is
Sacharoff said he thinks Hutchinson considered these risks but "unfortunately
has pressed ahead in a way that is meeting resistance from state and federal
Hutchinson said in a statement that executing the convicted inmates is
necessary to fulfill the law and bring closure to the victims' families.
The moral argument in favor of the death penalty presents a "symmetry that's
appealing to people," Sacharoff said. If someone kills, they shall be killed -
"an eye for an eye."
However, the high cost of lethal injections and possibility of executing an
innocent person make up a practical argument against the death penalty,
Sacharoff said. Arkansas, 1 of 31 states with the death penalty, shows movement
away from the national trend to execute less people or abolish the death
"If closure means that the person who did this is executed, then obviously
execution is, for those people, the only thing that will bring closure,"
Executions of inmates Kenneth Williams and Jason McGehee are scheduled for
Thursday with McGehee maintaining a stay of execution, according to the DPIC.
THE END DRAWS NEAR
Toward the end of the project, mentors compiled inmates' writing and entrusted
it to a local playwright who created "On the Row," a staged reading performed
last fall at the prison, on the UofA campus, at St. Paul's church in January
and in Bentonville March 31. "On the Row' will also be performed at a
conference in Boulder, Colorado in October.
Jolliffe thinks it sensible that the victims' families desire justice, but he
questions views of the Christian governor, arguing that Jesus responds to the
Old Testament line, "an eye for an eye," with statements that oppose the death
"Jesus says 'no,' that's not the case," Jolliffe said. '"Let he who is without
sin, cast the first stone. Turn the other cheek.' The idea is not that we kill
because people have been killed."
Johnson maintains his innocence while Williams admitted to killing 3 people.
Williams experienced a religious conversion in prison and honors the victims'
families, Jolliffe said.
From his conversations with the inmates, Jolliffe said he thinks his friends
are at peace.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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