Month: March 2014

Texas executes Anthony Doyle


march 27, 2014

Last Statement:

This offender declined to make a last statement.

Texas executes Anthony Doyle

(Reuters) – Texas executed a convicted murderer on Thursday for beating a delivery woman to death with baseball bat, and stuffing her body in a dumpster, a Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said.

The 37-year-old was beaten with a baseball bat, then robbed of her car, cellphone and credit cards.

Evidence showed Doyle ordered the doughnuts and breakfast tacos that Cho delivered. He shared the food with friends after stuffing Cho’s body in a neighbor’s trash can in an alley behind the home in Rowlett, east of Dallas.

Doyle shook his head and said nothing inside the death chamber in Huntsville when a warden asked if he had a statement to make. The prisoner’s eyes closed as the sedative pentobarbital was injected. He took a few breaths, then began to snore quietly. Soon, he stopped moving.

No one from Cho’s family attended the execution, but two witnesses picked by Doyle — a friend and a spiritual adviser — watched as he was put to death.

Anthony Doyle, 29, was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m. CDT (2349 GMT) at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville after receiving a lethal injection.

Doyle became the fourth Texas inmate executed this year and the last before the state — the nation’s most active when it comes to capital punishment — begins using a new batch of pentobarbital obtained through a different pharmacy.

Prison officials have refused to reveal the source of the replenished stockpile, arguing the information must be kept secret to protect the supplier’s safety. But a judge Thursday ordered them to disclose the supplier to attorneys for two inmates set to be executed next month. The attorneys filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking an emergency order requiring state authorities to identify the drug provider and results of tests of its potency and purity.

The prison agency plans to appeal the judge’s order.

About two hours before Doyle was put to death, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal to block his execution. Doyle’s attorney had called for his execution to be delayed, but not over the drug issue. The lawyer said Doyle deserved a new punishment hearing because jurors at his 2004 capital murder trial were given unknowingly false evidence about Doyle’s inability to be rehabilitated while he was confined at a juvenile detention facility for his delinquent behavior years before Cho’s slaying.

(Sources: Reuters, AP

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FLORIDA -Robert L. Henry executed 6.16 pm


march 20, 2014

 

A South Florida man convicted of killing two women by beating them with a hammer and setting them on fire during a robbery has been executed.

Robert L. Henry was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. after a lethal injection at the Florida State Prison.

He was convicted of the Nov. 2, 1987, murders of Phyllis Harris, 53, and Janet Thermidor, 35, his co-workers at Cloth World in Deerfield Beach.

Henry at first told authorities the crime was committed by an unknown assailant. But Thermidor lived for hours after being attacked and identified Henry to investigators.

Authorities said Henry stole $1,269 from the fabric store.

Robert Lavern Henry, who viciously beat and burned his co-workers in order to steal $1,269.26, was put to death by lethal injection Thursday at Florida State Prison.

Janet Cox Thermidor, 35, and Phyllis Harris, 53, lost their lives in the sadistic crime more than 26 years ago.

Minutes before he died, Henry apologized, then philosophized against the death penalty.

“Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, this society shall truly evolve in its law and practice, in that if we are not a society who are comfortable with castrating and raping a rapist, and we do not chop off the hands of thieves,” he read from a statement, “well then, why would we continue to be murderers to those who have murdered?”

He went on as the family members of those he killed sat feet away, watching through a wide window.

Us – EXECUTIONS 2014 (UPDATE)


Last updated on March 20, 2014
(Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals.)

 

 

Month

State

Inmate

March

 

 

19

OH

Gregory Lott – Stayed

20

FL

Robert Henry EXECUTED

20

OK

Clayton Lockett – EXECUTED (APRIL 29)

26

MO

Jeffrey Ferguson EXECUTED

26

MS

Charles Crawford Stayed as execution date had not been affirmed by state court.

27

OK

Charles Warner – Update – stay was lifted and rescheduled for April 29.

27

TX

Anthony Doyle EXECUTED

27

MS

Michelle Byrom STAYED

April

 

 

3

TX

Tommy Sells EXECUTED

9

TX

Ramiro Hernandez (Foreign National) EXECUTED

16

TX

Jose Villegas EXECUTED

16

PA

Stephen Edmiston – STAYED

22

TN

Nikolus Johnson STAYED

23

FL

Robert Hendrix EXECUTED

May

 

 

13

TX

Robert Campbell

21

TX

Robert Pruett

28

OH

Arthur Tyler

29

TX

Edgardo Cubas (Foreign National) – STAYED

August

 

 

6

OH

William Montgomery

October

 

 

7

TN

Billy Irick

15

OH

Raymond Tibbetts

November

 

 

26

IN

William Gibson – STAY LIKELY

December

 

 

9

TN

Ed Zagorski

Florida’s gruesome execution theater


march 19, 2014

In the decades he spent filing stories from Jacksonville after visits to Florida’s execution chamber, former AP reporter Ron Word saw a lot that still lingers in the back of his mind. There are the images from the old days of the electric chair: The executioner’s black hood, only visible through a slit in the wall; or the electrician’s thick rubber gloves, worn in the event of mechanical problems. And there are the dramatic episodes: the execution of Ted Bundy; electrocutions in which “there were flames coming off the inmates’ heads”; the botched, bloody death of Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis in 1999, in a special electric chair built for his 344-pound body, then never used again.

There were the times the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) tried to alter the narrative. Once, Word remembers, in the early days of lethal injection, he got a call from prison officials telling him, “You’re gonna’ have to change the times in your story. They don’t agree with our times.” Word refused. Another time, after the agonizing 34-minute death of Angel Diaz — executioners pushed the IV needles into his flesh instead of his veins — Word says the DOC “pretty much lied to us that night.” Prison officials claimed Diaz had some sort of liver problem, “but as it turned out there was nothing wrong with his liver. It was because of the procedure they used.”

That happened around Christmas of 2006. Afterward, Florida temporarily halted executions and revised its protocol. And that’s when they brought in the moon suits.

“At all Florida lethal injections, a man in a purple moon suit leans over the dying inmate to listen for a heartbeat and feel for a pulse,” Word reported in the summer of 2007. “After a few seconds, he nods, and the witnesses are informed that the death sentence has been duly carried out. The man is a doctor, and the gear shields his identity — not just from the prisoner’s family and friends, but from the American Medical Association, whose code of ethics bars members from participating in executions.”

The moon suits still stick out in Word’s memories. “It kind of surprised me when they first showed up. It was kind of bizarre.” Regardless, he says, “after two or three executions they quit using them.” The moon suits appeared to attract rather than deflect attention. Other states had developed less theatrical ways of hiding the identities of doctors who helped them kill prisoners.

Word was laid off in 2009, after witnessing some 60 executions. Speaking over the phone from Jacksonville, he says that most of them blend together in his mind. Whether they used the electric chair or lethal injection, state officials aimed to make the procedure bear as little resemblance as possible to what was actually happening — the taking of a human life. “The result was the same,” he says, and both involved practiced rituals and procedures that “made it as sanitized as possible.” But Word adds, “I think it used to be more open than it is now. More transparent.” From what he could tell, “lethal injection was kind of a learning exercise.”

A learning curve for killing

“Learning exercise” is a pretty good way to describe Florida’s approach to lethal injection these days. On Thursday, the state plans to execute 55-year-old Robert Henry for a gruesome double murder committed in 1987. To kill him, prison officials will use a new protocol implemented last fall, which introduced the sedative midazolam into the state’s lethal drug mix. Commonly used for a variety of medical purposes, including patients undergoing surgery, midazolam had never before been used in executions until Florida adopted it. It’s also unclear how the state, which is now killing prisoners at a brisk pace, came up with the idea to use the drug in the first place.

Nevertheless, in a letter to Governor Rick Scott last September, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews provided lofty assurances that the new procedure “is compatible with evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society, the concepts of the dignity of man, and advances in science, research, pharmacology, and technology.”

“The foremost objective of the lethal injection process,” Crews wrote, “is a humane and dignified death.”

But the first Florida prisoner executed with the new method, William Happ, died last October “in what seemed like a labored process,” according to a reporter for the Sun Sentinel. “At times his eyes fluttered, he swallowed hard, his head twitched, his chest heaved.” An AP report said “it appeared Happ remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed . . . under the old formula.”

But a circuit court judge later concluded there was “no credible evidence” that Happ had suffered. So Florida stuck with the new process. Barring a last-minute stay of execution, tomorrow Robert Henry will be the fifth prisoner killed in this manner.

In the 2008 case Baze v. Rees, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the three-drug lethal injection protocol that had been used for years by most death penalty states. Ironically, a couple years after, many states began moving away from it. Shortages of the drugs used in that protocol have since forced states find new ways to kill prisoners. Those shortages are in part due to a campaign by the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve. The group has enormous success convincing overseas companies to bar their drugs from export to the U.S. for use in executions. “Pharmaceutical companies make medicine to cure people,” Reprieve founder Clive Stafford Smith recently wrote, “so they object to their drugs being used to kill.”

What has followed is chaos, controversy and improvisation, all played out on the bodies of prisoners. States are now choosing new drugs based more on their availability than on medical science. State prison officials have been inventing protocols as they go along and conducting what amount to experimental executions.

The trend began in 2010, when diminishing supplies of sodium thiopental—the first drug in the three-drug “cocktail” upheld by the Court in Rees—prompted death penalty states to get creative in their search for execution drugs. In 2011, I wrote an article for The Nation describing the consequences in Georgia, where two inmates had recently died with their eyes open—a grim indication that the sodium thiopental had not worked as intended, and that the men had likely suffered agonizing deaths. There was also evidence that the drugs had been used past their expiration dates. Lawyers for death row inmates traced source of the drugs overseas to a sketchy pharmaceutical wholesaler named Dream Pharma, which advertised that it could discreetly sell “discontinued” and “hard to find” drugs.

Death penalty states have since given up on getting sodium thiopental — its U.S. manufacturer no longer makes the drug, and European makers are now banned from exporting it for executions — but the scattered, secretive searches have continued. Today, unregulated compounding pharmacies are increasingly the go-to source (despite few guarantees about the effectiveness of the drugs they sell) and pentobarbital — a barbituate like sodium thiopental — has become the go-to drug (despite no guarantees about how it functions in an execution). These changes have come quickly, quietly, and secretively. After Ohio became the first to use a single lethal dose of pentobarbital to kill a prisoner in March 2011, Texas swiftly announced that it would do the same. Lawyers for Cleve Foster, the next in line to die, protested the complete lack of transparency with which the drug had been adopted (which also happened to violate state law). As Foster’s attorney, Maurie Levin, told me the day before his scheduled execution in April 2011, pentobarbital “has not been vetted. It certainly hasn’t been vetted in Texas.” (After several stays from the Supreme Court, Foster was executed in September 2012.) Nevertheless, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), fourteen states now plan to use pentobarbital to kill prisoners—and five more plan to use it going forward.

No state has been more eager to experiment than Ohio, which boasts a number of lethal injection “firsts,” according to the DPIC. On January 16, the state killed Dennis McGuire using the unprecedented combination of midazolam and the pain medication hydromorphone. The execution was so dramatically botched that it made international headlines. Horrified witnesses watched as the 253-lb McGuire “repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back” and appeared to “writhe in pain,” according to a subsequent lawsuit filed by his family. Making matters worse, state officials had been warned in advance that the use of the untested drugs put McGuire at risk of a horrific, suffocating death. They went ahead with the execution anyway.

As Florida’s execution of Robert Henry approaches, his attorneys warn that he, too, is likely to suffer. At an evidentiary hearing on March 10, Emory University anesthesiologist Dr. Joel Zivot — a vocal critic of this form of lethal injection—said that “science is being misused and misunderstood” in his case. Zivot testified that Henry’s combined health problems—including hypertension, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease—provide a “high degree of certainty” he will suffer a heart attack on the gurney. The Florida Supreme Court rejected that argument. In response, Henry’s supporters denounced the ruling, pointing out that the court had relied on the testimony of “the Government’s go-to doctor for death,” Dr. Mark Dershwitz. Dershwitz has lent his medical expertise to reassure states of the soundness of their killing protocols in dozens of cases, including the experiments that led to Ohio’s disastrous execution of Dennis McGuire.

 

State secrets

Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a hearing in which Florida DOC officials explained what precautions they take to ensure that inmates experience “a humane and dignified death.” But instead of discussing why and how the state chose what drugs it uses, the hearing was a farcical discussion of minutia. As A.P. journalist Tamara Lush reported, DOC Assistant Secretary Timothy Cannon testified that DOC officials had come up with a new way of performing a “consciousness check” on a prisoner. In his capacity as the execution “team leader,” Cannon testified that whereas he previously used what he called a “shake and shout”—grabbing an inmate’s shoulders and yelling his name—he now relies on the more subtle “trapezoid pinch,” or squeezing the flesh between a prisoner’s neck and shoulder.

Cannon also explained that as part of their training, members of the execution team would take turns playing the role of the condemned. That practice, he said, generated some helpful feedback. “We’ve changed several aspects of just the comfort level for the inmate while lying on the gurney,” he testified. “Maybe we put sponges under the hand or padding under the hands to make it more comfortable, changed the pillow, the angle of things, just to try to make it a little more comfortable, more humane and more dignified as we move along.”

So while Florida DOC officials proved they have pondered the ways in which gurneys can be turned into a cozier death beds, they provided no answers regarding the efficacy, origin or humaneness of the methods they are using to kill people. In fact, a spokesperson told the National Journal last fall that the official DOC policy is to refuse “to go into any detail about how or why the protocol was designed. Those decisions are exempt from public record because they could impact the safety and security of inmates and officers who are involved in that process.”

But Florida isn’t alone in its secrecy. The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen has written at length about how “state officials all over the nation have sought to protect this information from public disclosure.” In Missouri, the only state that still carries out executions at midnight, state officials are embroiled in an ugly, ongoing battle to deny inmates any information about the drugs that will be used to kill them. In Georgia, where the federal Drug Enforcement Administration ultimately raided the Department of Correction in 2011 to seize the supply of sodium thiopental the state got from Dream Pharma, lawmakers have responded by pushing legislation that would make the origins and procurement of lethal injection drugs a “confidential state secret.” Other states whose supplies were also raided by the DEA have responded similarly. In Tennessee, which intends to execute ten prisoners beginning later this year, officials waited for such a secrecy law to pass the state legislature before announcing the parade of executions. The DPIC estimates that seven states have passed similar laws.

If today’s executions truly represented the heights of moral advancement suggested by Secretary Crews in his letter to Rick Scott last fall, it may seem odd that state governments would go to such lengths to keep the public from knowing anything about them. Of course, part of that is likely due to the success of groups like Reprieve. If states don’t reveal what drugs they’re using, Reprieve can’t pressure the drugs’ makers to refuse to sell the drugs for executions.

But today’s fight over transparency and lack of concern over botched executions are good reminders of the fundamental lie at the heart of lethal injection: It is a punishment that, by its very design, has always been rooted in secrecy rather than medical science. Never mind the rhetoric about “humane and dignified death.” However brutish the electric chair or gas chamber might appear by comparison, the only thing that truly sets lethal injection apart is that it was devised to mask what it was doing to its victims. As states have been forced to abandon that original design, lethal injection has been exposed for what it actually is: an experimental, unscientific form of premeditated killing.

 

“To hell with them. Let’s do this.”

Perhaps the best illustration of just how little consideration went into the design of lethal injection is the story behind the development of the protocol later used by most death penalty states and eventually approved by the Supreme Court in Rees. In a 2007 article for the Fordham Law Review, law professor Deborah Denno explained how Oklahoma first came up with the idea in 1977.

Like much criminal justice policy, it was based more on hunches and gut reactions than science and empirical data. “At each step in the political process,” Denno wrote, “concerns about cost, speed, aesthetics, and legislative marketability trumped any medical interest that the procedure would ensure a humane execution.” Although government-appointed commissions in both the U.S. and U.K. had by then studied and rejected lethal injection — with the latter finding “a lack of ‘reasonable certainty’ that lethal injections could be performed ‘quickly, painlessly and decently’”— Oklahoma legislators resurrected the idea after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty with Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. “Seemingly oblivious to prior concerns, American lawmakers emphasized that lethal injection appeared more humane and visually palatable relative to other methods,” Denno wrote.

That the method be “visually palatable” was of particular importance. In Oklahoma, two politicians led the push for lethal injection: State Rep. Bill Wiseman and state Sen. Bill Dawson. Wiseman was disturbed by the ugliness of electrocutions, later telling the Tulsa World they were “kind of a combination of Barnum & Bailey and reform.” Describing himself as a reluctant supporter of executions, he wrote a bill in 1977 to replace the electric chair with lethal injection, which he was convinced would be more humane. According to the World, he then ‘placed on every legislator’s desk an envelope containing two pictures of a man who had been electrocuted. ‘It looked like seared meat,’ he said. ‘Some people just didn’t like it.’”

As Denno explains, Wiseman was eventually told by his own physician, who was also the head of the Oklahoma Medical Association, that the organization wanted no involvement in his lethal injection project. Anxious to give the process even the thinnest medical veneer, Wiseman and Dawson settled on the help of the state’s chief medical examiner, Jay Chapman, who candidly admitted that he was more of “an expert in dead bodies” than “an expert in getting them that way.” Still, he was eager to help. When the lawmakers expressed concerns over what it could mean for his reputation within the medical community, Chapman was cavalier. “To hell with them,” he said. “Let’s do this.”

Despite his lacking credentials, Chapman devised the famed “three-drug cocktail” that would become the established protocol for the rest of the country for years. The first drug (generally sodium thiopental) anesthetized the prisoner. The second (pancuronium bromide) caused paralysis, including of the muscles used for respiration. And the third (potassium chloride) stopped the heart.

In combination, the drugs created the impression of a peaceful and humane process — the pancuronium bromide masked any ugly outward signs of what may have been happening in the prisoners’ bodies. But the states would later discover that if the anesthetic failed to work properly, the inmates would suffocate, and fall into cardiac arrest. They would experience an excruciating death, but the paralytic would prevent inmates from crying out or exhibiting obvious signs of distress. The risk of such suffering was particularly senseless given the lack of evidence that the paralyzing drug played anything other than a cosmetic role in the process. As a Tennessee judge wrote in 2003, pancuronium bromide serves “no legitimate purpose” aside from providing the “false impression of serenity to viewers, making punishment by death more palatable and acceptable to society.” Indeed, as Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times that year, the “American Veterinary Medical Association condemns pancuronium bromide” for euthanizing animals, “because, an association report in 2000 said, ‘the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized.’”

In its ruling in Baze v. Rees years later, the Supreme Court dismissed the AVMA’s position, along with the risks inherent in the use of pancuronium bromide, concluding that the drug played a legitimate role in providing a “quick, certain death.” But by then, even Chapman himself — who has expressed disgust at the way his lethal injection protocol has been bungled by “complete idiots” — had acknowledged that the paralyzing agent may have been a mistake. Asked by CNN in 2007 why he included it in the first place, he said, “It’s a good question. If I were doing it now, I would probably eliminate it.”

Given that many states are now doing just that as they move onto other lethal injection protocols, the use of pancuronium bromide has become a mostly moot point. Still, its removal from the process could have one important, if unintended effect: It could make killing look like killing. As Mike Brickner of the ACLU of Ohio told me after Dennis McGuire’s harrowing death, “Now that we’re using drug combinations where there’s no paralytic, maybe we’re seeing inmates die in ways that were always ‘botched’ — except that their body could not physically show it.”

Such bad optics were precisely what Chapman always wished to avoid. (He has called it “ludicrous,” for instance, to allow witnesses to watch as execution teams, “feeling nervous and fiddling around,” look for an inmate’s vein.) As the ongoing controversy over lethal injection continues, Chapman’s legacy as patriarch of the killing cocktail exposes our quest for “humane executions” for what it really is. It’s less about finding a dignified way for prisoners to die, and more about finding a way to kill them that preserves the humanity of the prison staff, the medical professionals, and a public largely indifferent to the Constitutional requirement that prisoners be spared from “torture or lingering death.”

Chapman himself once reflected that indifference in an exasperated email to Denno, “Perhaps hemlock is the answer for all the bleeding hearts who forget about the victims—and their suffering—Socrates style . . . the things that I have seen that have been done to victims [are] beyond belief . . . And we should worry that these horses’ patoots should have a bit of pain, awareness of anything — give me a break.”

One could perhaps understand Chapman’s perspective, given the time he spent up close with the corpses of murder victims. But the law does demand a humane death. The initial decision to turn to a man who doesn’t believe in that principle to devise a method of execution was exceptionally cynical. That Chapman’s lethal injection experiment was then replicated across the country for decades, despite it’s fundamental flaws, is a shameful history.

Worse, we seem to have learned very little from it. As the anesthesiologist Joel Zivot wrote last December, these states are “usurping the tools and arts of the medical trade and propagating a fiction.” The state of Florida plans to kill Robert Henry tomorrow by using a drug designed, tested, and sold for healing. We don’t know its effects when it’s used for killing. To borrow from Zivot, when it comes to the death penalty, “What appears as humane is theater alone.”

(washingtonpost)

 

Mississippi death row inmate drops lawsuit after info provided on execution drug


march 20, 2014

JACKSON, Mississippi — The Mississippi Department of Corrections and attorneys for a death row inmate have agreed to dismiss a lawsuit over release of information on execution drugs and suppliers.

The decision to dismiss was made after the attorney general’s office and the agency provided information sought about the drugs, attorneys for Michelle Byrom said in a statement.

Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Barnes said in court documents filed this week that the Corrections Department erred in not providing the information sought by Byrom and has now done so.

Byrom and her attorneys had asked Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary to hold the agency in violation of Mississippi’s public records law for failing to provide information on whether the drugs are safe and reliable or whether they may have been tainted, expired, counterfeited or compromised in some way.

Barnes said the Corrections Department has now provided essentially everything requested except for the drugmaker’s identity. Corrections officials had no immediate comment.

Byrom was sentenced to death in 2000 in Tishomingo County in the shooting death of her husband, Edward “Eddie” Byrom Sr., at their home in Iuka.

Attorney General Jim Hood has asked the state Supreme Court to set a March 27 execution date for Byrom. Byrom’s lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to allow her to continue her appeals. The court has not yet ruled on either motion.

Vanessa Carroll, an attorney with the New Orleans office of the MacArthur Justice Center, said the center has determined the Corrections Department is buying the lethal injection drugs from a compounding pharmacy in the state and that the center has determined the identity of the pharmacy.

The Corrections Department has said it uses pentobarbital, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride in executions.

Carroll said in Thursday’s news release that the Corrections Department’s use of a compounding pharmacy raises concerns.

“We have no assurance that this compounded pentobarbital is sufficiently potent and effective. This is an enormous concern because pentobarbital is the first drug administered during a lethal injection, and if it fails to work properly, the prisoner will be suffocated to death by the paralytic agent that is given next, and may be conscious during the excruciating pain caused by the third drug, which causes death by cardiac arrest,” said Carroll.

Compounding pharmacies make customized drugs not scrutinized by the Federal Drug Administration. It’s hard to tell exactly how many states have used or are planning to use compounding pharmacies for execution drugs because states frequently resist disclosing the source of the drugs.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, six states have either used or announced an intention to use compounding pharmacies to obtain the drugs for lethal injection.

South Dakota carried out 2 executions in 2012 using drugs from compounders. Georgia obtained drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy for the planned execution of Warren Hill in 2013, but the execution was stayed. Pennsylvania obtained drugs from a compounder, but has not used them. Colorado sent out inquiries to compounding pharmacies for lethal injection drugs, but all executions are on hold. Missouri used pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the 2013 execution of Joseph Franklin.

Texas and Ohio announced plans to obtain drugs from compounding pharmacies in October 2013. Documents released in January show that Louisiana had contacted a compounding pharmacy regarding execution drugs, but it is unclear whether the drugs were obtained there.

Washington D.C.-based DPIC is a nonprofit organization that tracks information on issues concerning capital punishment.

Idaho death penalty cost report finds limited data


mars 20, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A new report from Idaho’s state auditors shows that sentencing a defendant to life in prison without parole is less expensive than imposing the death penalty.

But the Office of Performance Evaluations also found that the state’s criminal justice agencies don’t collect enough data to determine the total cost of the death penalty. The report was presented to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Wednesday by Hannah Crumrine and Tony Grange.

Idaho is one of 32 states with the death penalty, but two of those states — Oregon and Washington — have moratoriums on executions. Idaho has executed 29 people since 1864, but only three since 1977. Keith Eugene Wells was executed in 1944, Paul Ezra Rhoades was executed in 2011 and Richard Leavitt was executed in 2012.

It’s difficult to determine just how much imposing the death penalty costs, Crumrine told the committee, in part because most of the needed data is unavailable. Law enforcement agencies typically don’t differentiate between the costs of investigating death penalty murder cases and non-death penalty murder cases, and jail and prison staffers don’t track the transport costs to bring a condemned prisoner to court cases versus a regular prisoner.

The researchers were able to determine some costs, however: Eleven counties have been reimbursed more than $4.1 million for capital defense costs since 1998, and the state appellate public defender’s office has spent nearly half a million dollars on death penalty cases between 2004 and 2013.

The Idaho Department of Correction spent more than $102,000 on executing Leavitt and Rhoades.

In any case, it’s clear that death penalty cases cost more than sentencing an offender to life without parole, according to the report, in part because it takes longer for the appeal process to come to an end in death penalty cases.d

And the ultimate penalty is seldom imposed: The report found that of the 251 first-degree murder cases filed from 1998 to 2013, prosecutors sought the death penalty in 42 and it was imposed in just seven cases.

Of the 40 people sentenced to death in Idaho since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, 21 have had their sentences overturned on appeal or are no longer sentenced to death for other reasons, 12 are still appealing their cases and four died in prison. Just three were executed during that time span.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter wrote a letter responding to the report, stating that he believes state agencies have been diligent in accounting for and containing costs. Otter wrote that though the report raises the question of whether tax dollars are spent wisely on capital punishment, he continues to support the death penalty laws.

“The Idaho Department of Correction in particular has been exemplary in its duty to responsibly carry out death sentences,” Otter wrote. “… And while your report raises and then leaves open the policy questions of whether tax dollars are wisely spent on death penalty cases, let me leave no doubt about my own continuing support for our existing laws and procedures.”

 

Texas obtains new supply of execution drugs from source kept secret


march 19, 2014

Texas has obtained a new batch of the drugs it uses to execute death row inmates, allowing the state to continue carrying out death sentences once its existing supply expires at the end of the month.

But correction officials will not say where they bought the drugs, arguing that information must be kept secret to protect the safety of its new supplier. In interviews with the Associated Press, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also refused to say whether providing anonymity to its new supplier of the sedative pentobarbital was a condition of its purchase.

The decision to keep details about the drugs and their source secret puts the agency at odds with past rulings of the state attorney general’s office, which has said the state’s open records law requires the agency to disclose specifics about the drugs it uses to carry out lethal injections.

“We are not disclosing the identity of the pharmacy because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided drugs used in the lethal injection process,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.

The dispute in the state that executes more inmates than any other comes as major drugmakers, many based in Europe, have stopped selling pentobarbital and other substances used in lethal injections to US corrections agencies because they oppose the death penalty.

Until obtaining its new supply from the unknown provider, Texas only had enough pentobarbital to continue carrying out executions through the end of March. The announcement comes a day after Oklahoma postponed two executions for a month because it had run out of its own supply of drugs.

Such legal challenges have grown more common as the drug shortages have forced several states to change their execution protocols and buy drugs from alternate suppliers, including compounding pharmacies that are not as heavily regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration as more conventional pharmacies.

Texas prison records examined by the AP show the state also has a supply of the painkiller hydromorphone and sedative midazolam, the drugs chosen earlier this year by Ohio to conduct its executions when they lost access to pentobarbital.

But in their first use in January, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire made gasp-like snoring sounds for several minutes during his 26-minute execution. His family later sued, alleging their use was cruel and inhuman.

Alan Futrell, an attorney for convicted murderer Tommy Sells, whose scheduled 3 April execution would make him the first to be put to death with Texas’ new drug supply, said the issue could become fodder for legal attempts to delay his client’s sentence. “This might be good stuff,” he said. “And the roads are getting very short here.”

But Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington DC-based Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment organization, said it was doubtful that Texas would get to a point where a lack of drugs led officials to fully suspend capital punishment. “There are a lot of drugs, and Texas can be creative in finding some,” he said.

Texas’ current inventory of pentobarbital, the sedative it has used in lethal injections since 2012, will expire 1 April. The state has scheduled executions for six inmates, including one set for Wednesday evening and another next week.

Those two will be put to death with the previous stockpile purchased last year from a suburban Houston compounding pharmacy, Clark said. The new batch of drugs presumably would be used for three Texas inmates set to die in April, including Sells, and one in May.

Sixteen convicted killers were executed in Texas last year, more than in any other state. Two inmates already have been executed this year, bringing the total to 510 since capital punishment in Texas resumed in 1982. The total accounts for nearly one-third of all the executions in the US since a 1976 supreme court ruling allowed capital punishment to resume.

The AP filed an open records request in February seeking details about the drugs Texas planned to use to carry out executions. The AP received the documents on Tuesday, but in following up with Clark about their contents, he said they were moot as the state had secured the new batch of pentobarbital.

Clark then refused to provide more details about the drugs, including how much the state has purchased and from where, and when the new drugs expire. He also refused to say whether the drugs would need to be returned if the attorney general’s office rules the provider must be disclosed. “I’m unable to discuss any of the specifics. Other states have kept that information confidential,” he said.

Policies in some states, like Missouri and Oklahoma, keep the identities of drug suppliers secret, citing privacy concerns.

Clark, in refusing AP’s request to answer any specific questions about the new batch of drugs, said after prison officials identified the suburban Houston compounding pharmacy that provided its existing supply of pentobarbital, that pharmacy was targeted for protests by death penalty opponents. It sought to have Texas return the pentobarbital it manufactured, and prison officials refused.

Texas law does not specifically spell out whether officials can refuse to make the name of drug suppliers public, but Texas attorney general Greg Abbott’s office has on three occasions rejected arguments by the agency that disclosing that information would put the drug supply and manufacturers at risk.

In a 2012 opinion, his office rejected the argument that disclosing the inventory would allow others to figure out the state’s suppliers, dismissing the same kind of security concerns raised this week.

“Upon review, while we acknowledge the department’s concerns, we find you have not established disclosure of the responsive information would create a substantial threat of physical harm to any individual,” assistant attorney general Sean Opperman wrote.

Clark said the prison agency planned to ask Abbott to reconsider the issue. “We’re not in conflict with the law,” Clark said. “We plan to seek an AG’s opinion, which is appropriate in a situation like this, and the AG’s office will determine whether it’s releasable.”

When contacted by the AP and made aware of prisons department’s refusal to name the drug supplier, Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said the attorney general would consider the request once it’s received.

(theguardian)

I want to share with u this comment, read and share if u can


Dominik Kocher A9147CX
HMP Altcourse L9 7LH Liverpool, 20/03/14

Hi,

Dominik Kocher my husband of 16 years and father of our 3 children, has been convicted & sentenced to life with a minimum of 22 years for Christophe Borgye’s. We’ll make appeal of this conviction as
Dominik Kocher is INNOCENT
He has been convicted on circumstantial suspicions (explained by Dominik himself during the trial).
There was no DNA, forensic evidences, fingerprints etc…as my husband was not there when the crime has been committed.He was not living in the murder house but in our family house!
The murder of Christophe Borgye has been committed by Sebastien Bendou who confessed the crime to the police in May 2013 and pleaded guilty. Unfortunately for the police, Sebastien was taken to a mental hospital after his confession.

We tried twice to transfer the legal aid from BDH Solicitors in Ellesmere Port whom didn’t work seriously on my husband’s case & incompetent to reliable, efficient solicitors, but we have been refused 2 times by the judge in August 2013 & January 2014.

My husband health is at his worse and his cardiac health is very concerning.

There are a lot of issues in my husband’s case since the start of the police investigation (blackmail, threats & lies etc…).

My husband has been put in prison for something he didn’t do.

Please help us, get my husband out of prison and come back to us, his family where he belongs, before it is too late.

TEXAS – EXECUTION RAY JASPER – March 19, 2014 at 6 PM CDT EXECUTED 6.31 PM


Officials announced Jasper dead at 6:31 Wednesday, after a lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected into his system.

exExecution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT

No one from Jasper’s family was in Huntsville Wednesday to witness the execution. No one from the Alejandro family, who are against the death penalty, attended either. They instead opted to spend the evening together in San Antonio.

March 19, 2014

CORRECTS DATE TO MARCH 19 - This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Ray Jasper III. Jasper, convicted in the 1998 murder of David Alejandro, is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening, March 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)  uncredited

HUNTSVILLE — San Antonio rap musician Ray Jasper has never disputed his involvement in an attack and robbery more than 15 years ago that left a 33-year-old recording studio owner dead.

But Jasper testified at his capital murder trial that although he cut the throat of David Alejandro, a partner was responsible for the victim’s fatal stab wounds.

A Bexar County jury wasn’t convinced and deliberated only 15 minutes at Jasper’s January 2000 trial before convicting him. The panel then took less than two hours to decide he should be put to death.

Jasper’s lethal injection with a dose of pentobarbital was set for this evening.

Jasper, 33, would be the third Texas inmate put to death this year and among at least five scheduled to die over the next five weeks in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.

Lawyers for Jasper, who is black, argued that the punishment should be stopped to examine whether prosecutors had improperly removed a black man from possibly serving on his trial jury. San Antonio-based U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery rejected that appeal on Tuesday.

Jasper was 18 at the time of the November 1998 attack. Records showed he had a criminal past beginning about age 15.

Evidence at his trial showed he’d been expelled from school for marijuana possession, then was expelled from an alternative school. Authorities said he also had attacked an off-duty police officer who tried to stop him during an attempted burglary and led police on a high-speed chase.

Jasper had previous sessions with Alejandro, who was the lead singer of a San Antonio Christian-based music group in addition to running his recording studio. At his trial, Jasper described Alejandro as “one of the nicest people I ever met in my life.”

“I’m not a killer and I didn’t do it,” he testified during the punishment phase of his trial.

He refused interview requests from The Associated Press as his execution date neared, but reiterated his claim of innocence in a letter published on the Gawker website.

Jeff Mulliner, one of the prosecutors at Jasper’s trial, said it was undisputed that Jasper organized and participated in the most premeditated murder he’d seen.

Testimony showed that a week before the attack, Jasper purchased large bags he intended to use to hold stolen studio gear. He recruited two friends, Steven Russell and Doug Williams, brought two vans to the studio and reserved time under the pretense of a rap recording session.

“This was not a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Mulliner said.

As their session was ending, Jasper approached Alejandro from behind and slashed his throat from ear to ear with a kitchen knife he’d hidden in his jacket.

“Anybody on the planet that looks, presently or past, at the photos of David Alejandro’s corpse and saw the gash to his neck, it would be impossible to cut someone that deep and that badly across the entire path of the neck without having specific intent to cause his death,” Mulliner said. “He just didn’t quite get it done.”

Mulliner said Jasper then held Alejandro while Russell stabbed him some two dozen times, leaving the knife buried to its hilt in their victim’s body.

Evidence showed Jasper used a black sheet he brought from home to cover Alejandro, then began loading recording equipment worth as much as $30,000 into the vans.

When an off-duty officer unexpectedly showed up and questioned the activity, Jasper fled on foot. He was arrested a few days later and confessed to planning the crime and recruiting two accomplices. Court documents showed his confession was corroborated by his girlfriend, who testified he’d told her days earlier that he planned to steal the equipment and kill Alejandro.

DNA evidence and fingerprints also tied Jasper to the slaying scene. The gear they’d hoped to sell was left behind.

Williams, now 35, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Russell, 34, also is serving life after taking a plea deal.

Next week, a Dallas-area man, Anthony Doyle, 29, is set for execution for the robbery and beating death of a woman who was delivering food to his home.

Read Ray Jasper’s final letter here.

From Ray Jasper’s book called Walking in the Rain

THE CHAMBER

some want to live
some want to die

blood drips
like sweat from a forehead

voices scream for justice

hired for murder

merciless people

their apologies were no good
your ears would not hear
your heart would not love

death
death is all you love

the grave is your mistress
death is all you love

death is all you love

The victim’s brother, Steven Alejandro, wrote a letter back to Gawker about the incident claiming Jasper was not repentant and still did not take blame for the death. 

Read Steven Alejandro’s letter in full below:

“Previously, a post from Hamilton Nolan on Gawker shared a statement from a Texas Death Row inmate named Ray Jasper. The letter from Jasper is touted as the last statement Jasper may make on earth. Huffpo has it as a must read. Jasper is on Death Row for his involvement in a stabbing murder committed during a robbery in November of 1998. I’m about to comment on Jasper’s statement without having read it. In fact more than likely I will never read it. I imagine it is not much more than the statement he made in court to my family. My name is Steven Alejandro, and it is our brother, son, grandchild and cousin, the forever 33 year old, David Mendoza Alejandro who was killed by Jasper and his two accomplices.

The facts of the case are readily available on the internet, but allow me to plainly restate them here. David was killed on November 29 1998. It was roughly seven to ten days before this date when, unbeknownst to him, David received his death sentence. Jasper, according to his testimony, needed money so that he could move out of his parents house and into an apartment with the mother of his child, his girlfriend. Jasper decided to rob David.

Jasper was an aspiring rapper who had been recording music at David’s self owned recording studio. (An important note here is that Jasper was not a business partner of David’s as has been claimed elsewhere.) This was a self-made independently owned recording studio, by the way. David had leased an old apartment complex office, and with his own hands, and the help of our father, fashioned it into a affordable space for struggling local musicians. He offered low rates for artists who, much like himself, could not afford more spacious digs. My brother had no apartment of his own; he would crash on a couch at our parents house or, more often, sleep on a makeshift bed on the floor in the studio. He eschewed nicer living quarters so that he could pour his available money into the studio.

Ray Jasper knew well that he could not rob David’s studio equipment without being fingered to the police by him later. So it was, seven to ten days prior, Jasper made the decision to end David’s life. He enlisted the help of two others. That night (and this is all from on-the-record courtroom testimony and statements he gave police in his confession) the three men made the recording appointment. They were there for roughly two hours working, recording, David sitting at the control console. Jasper admits to then grabbing David by his hair, yanking his head back and pulling the kitchen knife he brought with him across David’s throat, slicing it open. David jumped up and grabbed at his own throat from which blood was flowing. He began to fight for his life. At this point Jasper called to one of his accomplices who rushed into the room with another knife. His accomplice then stabbed David Mendoza Alejandro 25 times. David collapsed, already dead or dying—we will never know. The final stab wound was at the back of David’s neck; the knife plunged in and left there.

He was then covered with a sheet and the three men proceeded to tear out as much equipment as they could and load it all into the van they drove there. As they were loading they were spotted by an off-duty Sheriff who called out to them. They took off running, and were eventually caught. The evidence was overwhelming; DNA, fingerprints, confessions. This is and was an open and shut case, as they say in all the cheesy TV murder investigation shows. One defendant was offered the choice of a trial by jury, which could end in a death sentence, or he could avoid the death penalty by admitting his guilt. He chose to admit his guilt. Jasper, given the same choice, apparently decided to take his chance with a jury trial.

During the trial, testimony from the Medical Examiner revealed that it was not technically Jasper’s injury to David that caused death, but the subsequent 25 stab wounds. Jasper’s defense team seized upon this as a defense tactic against a murder charge, and Jasper joined that opinion. Never mind that Jasper delivered the first attack. At one point while he was on the stand testifying, he asked to speak to us— David’s family members. He looked us square in the eye and exclaimed “I didn’t kill your son. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met, but I did not kill him.” Jasper’s reasoning was that since the M.E. cited the 25 stab wounds as the cause of death and not the throat slit committed by Jasper, he was technically not guilty of murder. You can make of that what you will, but it seems any reasonable person would hold Jasper as culpable in the murder as the other defendant who finished off David. So the long and short is this final statement is based in a fantasy that Jasper has convinced himself of. All evidence to the contrary, it seems he denies he is a murderer and therefore he feels he should not be executed for the crime.

And now to the Death Penalty issue. I must stress that I speak only for myself here and for no other family member. Our extended family is much like the rest of the United States. We are a large American family. There are Liberals and there are Conservatives in our midst. There are pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty folks in our tree as well. I am one of those opposed to the death penalty. As far as I can remember I have been in opposition to it. My brother David was not opposed to the implementation of the death penalty. We used to debate the topic often. Sometimes vigorously. During the trial the prosecutors in the case decided to use me on the witness stand in an effort to give David a voice. David was one year older than me. We had been roommates the whole time we lived with our parents. I was the Best Man at his wedding. I hesitate to say I was happy to testify, since it remains the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I willingly agreed to testify on David’s behalf. At the trial, the first thing the prosecution wanted to do was to introduce David to the Jury through my words, so I was the first witness called.

After I was sworn in and sat in the chair, the prosecutor handed me a picture of David. It was a postmortem picture. It was a close up of David’s face from the neck up. His eyes still open. The gash from Jasper’s knife visible. I let out a gasp and when the Prosecutor asked me what the picture was of I told him, “it’s my brother, David.” Through tearful testimony, I tried my best to bring my brother back to life in that courtroom. When I got off the stand I reached for my father’s embrace and sobbed as I had never before and have not since.

As I wrote earlier, this was an open and shut case and the jury did not take long to return a guilty verdict. All that was left was the punishment. During the punishment phase the prosecutor outlines the State’s case for the death penalty and, of course, the defense argues for the sparing of the defendant’s life. I’m sure if you asked, under the Freedom Of Information Act, you would be able to wade through the trial documents; the prosecutor’s case was convincing for a death penalty verdict from the jury. Ray Jasper did not grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, he came from a family wherein his father, a career military man, and his mother were still happily married. Jasper was not defended by a court appointed lawyer; his defense was comprised of a well paid for and well known private practice firm. Jasper had a history of arrests and in fact was out on bail when he participated in the murder of David. He had, weeks before, assaulted an off-duty police officer who had stumbled upon Jasper attempting to break into a house.

During the trial somehow, apparently, the defense team got the idea that some of our family might be opposed to the death penalty and called my father to the stand. Nothing my father said could help their defense. When they called me to the stand the defense attorney asked me what my thoughts on the death penalty were. I knew what he was doing. He was hoping I would confess my opposition to the death penalty, thus maybe sparing Ray Jasper’s life. And I could not assist him in good conscience. I’ve thought often in the years since If I did the right thing. If, when push came to shove, I suppressed my own true thoughts in an effort to avenge David’s murder. This is what happened. The defense asked me what my opinion of the death penalty was. And I said, “I don’t think it’s relevant what my opinion is.” And I paused. And I don’t know where it came from, but I then said, “but I can tell you what David thought of the death penalty.” And the defense attorney asked me, “what was David’s opinion?” And I said, “he always told me that if there was no question of the guilt of a murder defendant, that the death penalty was a just punishment.” I’ll never know for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet David’s words uttered through me sealed Ray Jasper’s fate.

After everything, I’m still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper’s execution but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that’s for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper’s ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more. Those thoughts are more important to me than anything else. Certainly more important than any last statement from Ray Jasper. Though I purposefully skipped reading Jasper’s statement, I did read through the comments. I have to say to my fellow death penalty opponent friends: Keep up your fight. It is an honorable one. But do not use this man, Ray Jasper, as your spokesperson, as your example of why the death penalty should be abolished. The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being. Not because a Medical Examiner said your knife wound did not cause immediate death. Ray Jasper is not worthy of your good and kind hearts. He has never accepted culpability or expressed remorse. He is responsible for viciously ending the life of “the nicest man he ever met.” Responsible for ending the life of the nicest man my family ever met, David Mendoza Alejandro