Death Penalty

In the Execution Business, Missouri Is Surging


Defense lawyers call it a crisis; the state says it’s just doing its job.
Since Texas carried out the country’s 1st lethal injection in 1982, the state has performed far more executions than any other state. To date, 528 men and women have been put to death in Texas, more than the total in the next 8 states combined.
But viewed from a slightly different angle, Texas has lost its place as the epicenter of the American death penalty, at least for the moment.
Since November 2013, when Missouri began performing executions at a rate of almost 1 per month, the state has outstripped Texas in terms of the execution rate per capita. In 2014, both states executed 10 people, but Texas has more than 4 times the population of Missouri. This year, the difference is not quite as stark (Texas: 10, Missouri: 5) but Missouri still ranks number 1. The state that has become the center of so many conversations about criminal justice through the courts and cops of Ferguson is now the center of one more.
Why?
The politicians, judges and prosecutors who keep the system running at full steam simply say the death penalty is a good thing and the pace of executions is a sign that nothing is gumming up the pipes of justice. Defense attorneys are more eager to talk about the reasons for the current situation. They tend to use the word “crisis.”
The Drugs
The most important reason for the rise in Missouri’s rate of execution is also the most mysterious. As other states have dealt with a nationwide shortage in lethal-injection drugs by turning to new and experimental combinations – leading to grisly botched executions (Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, and Joseph Wood in Arizona) and lawsuits that have slowed down the pace of executions – Missouri has managed to get a steady supply of pentobarbital, a common execution drug.
Like their counterparts in all death-penalty states, Missouri officials are pushing in court to keep the source of their pentobarbital a secret. Texas has also exclusively used pentobarbital for executions in recent years, but has struggled to find a compounding pharmacy that will produce it. In Missouri, corrections officials had also struggled, but now have managed to stockpile the drug.
“We’re the only state in the union with no trouble getting pentobarbital,” says Cheryl Pilate, a Kansas City attorney who has represented death-row inmates. The pentobarbital made by small, generally unregulated compounding pharmacies – the choice in Texas – does not have a long shelf-life, leading Pilate and her colleagues to wonder whether Missouri officials are getting the drug from a veterinary supplier (the drug is often used to euthanize animals) or a manufacturer from overseas. Attorney General Chris Koster recently said in a court filing, quoted by BuzzFeed, that “Missouri uses pentobarbital as the lethal chemical in its execution process, but does not admit nor deny the chemical now used is compounded as opposed to manufactured.”
The Governor and the Attorney General
Attorney General Koster, as well as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, are both Democrats and both outspoken supporters of the death penalty. Nixon himself was the attorney general before Koster, so both have overseen the state’s side in fighting the appeals of death-row inmates, pushing them along toward execution. Koster has suggested that the state set up a laboratory to make its own supply of lethal-injection drugs.
Nixon has the power to commute death sentences to life in prison, but he has done so once in his 6 1/2 years as governor, and he provided no explanation for why. Many political commentators have speculated that Nixon and Koster, as Democrats in a primarily conservative state – where the electoral votes went to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election – use executions to establish their tough-on-crime bonafides. “As a Democrat in public office, you would lose a lot of votes by not being enthusiastically in support of the death penalty,” says Joseph Luby, an attorney with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City.
Nixon and Koster’s support for the death penalty fits a historical pattern of death-penalty support among blue governors in red states. In the 1990s, Texas Governor Ann Richards never commuted a death sentence and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton famously flew home from the presidential campaign trail to preside over an execution of a man missing part of his brain. (Nixon had his own similar case earlier this year.) At the same time, Republicans in states near Missouri – Governor John Kasich in Ohio and former Governor Mike Huckabee in Arkansas – have regularly granted clemency to death-row inmates.
Nixon’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the politics of the death penalty, while Koster’s press secretary, Nanci Gonder, replied that he “has consistently supported the death penalty for the most serious murder convictions” and “1 of the duties of the Attorney General is to ensure that legal punishments for violating Missouri’s criminal laws are carried out.”
The Courts
Sean O’Brien, a professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, spent much of his career defending death-row inmates and recalled a case in which the judges at the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the prosecution. In 2003, the court ruled in favor of a man who committed a murder before turning 18, a decision that was later ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court and became the basis for a nationwide ban on the execution of juveniles.
Missouri Supreme Court judges are appointed by the governor, and in 2013 Governor Nixon selected Judge Mary Russell to be chief justice, overseeing the setting of execution dates. Her court set up the 1-a-month schedule in November of that year. When she stepped down in July this year, she told several reporters that the pace of executions picked up because they had been on hold during the lethal-injection drug shortage. Once the state had the drugs, she said, “there were a number of people who had been backlogged whose appeals were exhausted.”
“It’s required by law that the Supreme Court shall set execution dates,” she added. “It’s not that we agree or disagree with the death penalty.”
The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has final say over death cases in Missouri, rarely stops executions, according to O’Brien, the law professor. “We’ve got a situation where all 3” – the governor, attorney general, and supreme court – “are lickety-split gung-ho on this, and the federal courts aren’t stopping them.”
The Defense Bar
During a short phone interview last week, the Missouri capital-defense attorneys Cheryl Pilate and Lindsay Runnels used the words “crisis,” “disaster,” “horrific” and “overwhelming” as they described their “extremely small and embattled defense bar.” They see their cohort’s rushed work and missed deadlines and paltry resources as signs of broader problems with public defense in the state. Missouri was ranked 49th by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in per-capita spending on indigent defense in 2009.
My colleague Ken Armstrong has chronicled the experience of one overburdened defense lawyer who dealt with the executions of 2 clients over 2 months at the end of 2013. In a March 2015 letter to the Missouri Supreme Court, members of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Assessment Team wrote, “The current pace of executions is preventing counsel for the condemned from performing competently.”
“You live in a perpetual state of tension,” Pilate said, “thinking your client could be next.”
This state of affairs may not last. A pending lawsuit over the secrecy of the lethal injection drugs might force the state to divulge its source, allowing for more litigation that could lead to a slow-down. The Missouri Supreme Court will soon have a new chief justice. A future Republican governor or attorney general could follow the lead of Kasich or Huckabee. The defense bar may get more help from national anti-death penalty groups now that the state is ground zero. For now, though, as the death penalty declines nationally, Missouri is headed in the other direction.
Source: themarshallproject.org, August 31, 2015
Advertisements

Largest Dutch pension fund exits Mylan over death penalty concerns


The Dutch public employees’ pension fund, the world’s third largest, has sold all its shares in pharmaceuticals maker Mylan after it emerged that one of the company’s products is in stock at a U.S. prison where death sentences are carried out.
The move comes amid increasing pressure from European countries over continuing use of capital punishment in the United States.
European companies are barred from selling drugs for use in executions, forcing states that still impose the death penalty to scrabble for alternative substances, some of which have led to widely publicized and gruesome botched executions.
The move by ABP, which had $416 billion in assets in 2014 according to consultancy Towers Watson, is thought to have been followed by other Dutch pension funds. The Netherlands has the world’s largest pool of pension assets per capita, worth $1.2 trillion in 2012.
Harmen Geers, a spokesman for ABP, said the decision came after a nine-month dialog with the company failed to achieve a satisfactory result.
“As the Dutch government and Dutch society as a whole renounced the death penalty a long time ago, we do not want Dutch pension money to be involved in that,” he said.
The U.S.-based but Dutch-registered company has a declaration on its website saying its products are not designed or intended for use in executions, but Geers said Mylan could do more to police their use.
The U.S. state of Virginia confirmed in response to a freedom of information request in July that it held stocks of Rocuronium Bromide, a Mylan-made drug that can be used to kill people.
Geers said it was this information that led to the decision to sell its Mylan holdings in full. “We thought we have only one step left to show our disapproval,” he said.
ABP, the largest Dutch pension fund, held 9 million euros ($10 million) in the company before the divestment, down from 25 million euros last year when it first approached Mylan with its concerns.
Calls to Mylan were not immediately returned.
– Contact Mylan
Source: Reuters, August 31, 2015

Missouri executes Roderick Nunley 9:09 p.m


BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) – Missouri executed Tuesday evening Roderick Nunley for the kidnapping, rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in 1989.

Nunley was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m., according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Roderick Nunley

9:09 p.m.

A man who spent nearly 25 years on Missouri’s death row has been executed for the kidnapping, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.

Fifty-year-old Roderick Nunley died by injection Tuesday night. Of 20 executions nationally in 2015, 10 have been in Texas and six in Missouri.

Ann Harrison was waiting for a school bus on her driveway, 20 yards from her front door, on March 22, 1989. Nunley and Michael Taylor drove by in a stolen car and abducted her. They took her to the home of Nunley’s mother where she was raped, sodomized and then fatally stabbed.

The girl’s body was found in the trunk of the abandoned car three days later.

Both men were sentenced to death in 1991. Taylor was executed last year.

___

5:30 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court says it won’t stop the scheduled execution of a man convicted in the 1989 kidnapping, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old girl in Kansas City.

The justices issued orders Tuesday evening denying a stay of execution for 50-year-old Roderick Nunley. He’s set to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday for the death of Ann Harrison.

Investigators say the girl was randomly targeted as she waited outside her home for the school bus. She was taken to a home, raped and fatally stabbed.

Nunley’s attorney had three appeals pending before the Supreme Court. One questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty Another argued Nunley should’ve been sentenced by a jury, not a judge.

A third took issue with Missouri’s process of secretly acquiring its execution drug.

___

1 a.m.

Missouri prison officials are preparing to execute a man convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl more than two decades ago in Kansas City.

Fifty-year-old Roderick Nunley is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday for the kidnapping, rape and stabbing death of Ann Harrison. Investigators say the girl was randomly targeted while waiting in her driveway for the school bus on the morning of March 22, 1989.

Nunley’s co-defendant, Michael Taylor, also was convicted of first-degree murder. He was executed last year.

Nunley’s attorney has three appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. One questions the constitutionality of the death penalty, while another argues that Nunley should’ve been sentenced by a jury, not a judge. An appeal filed Monday takes issues with Missouri’s process of secretly acquiring its execution drug.

Gov. Jay Nixon is also weighing a clemency petition.

___

 

Susan Sarandon Reads Richard Glossip’s Statement (via Sister Helen Prejean) on The Dr. Phil Show


Actress Susan Sarandon read this message from Richard Glossip on The Dr. Phil Show on Monday, August 31, 2015:

Mr. Van Treese’s death was a horrible thing, and something no family should have to go through. But I did not murder him. And yet that’s what the State of Oklahoma is going to do to me. I have to ask: How does murdering another innocent man make things better? I also have a family who should not have to suffer through that; they should not have to see their father, their brother, their uncle killed. That is not justice.

I have been fighting for my innocence for 18 years. I now understand how important my fight is, not just for myself but for everyone facing the death penalty for something they didn’t do. I’m not doing this for myself alone. I hope and pray that my eventual exoneration will help others, and that this country will finally realize just how broken our system is, and how easy it is to make mistakes. Let me be clear, I do not want to be a martyr — I want to live — but if the worst happens, I want my death not to be in vain. If my execution ensured no other innocent man was sent to the death chamber, I am prepared to die for that cause.

I have never been in trouble with the law in my life. I have worked hard. Paid my taxes. I was a good citizen and always tried to help others. Now I have gone from doing everything right to fighting for my life. I’m asking everyone to stand up and let their voices be heard. Go torichardeglossip.com and join this fight. Call Governor Fallin. We have to stand together to make a difference.

God bless you all, please know that I’m praying for you all.

Richard Glossip

http://drphil.com/shows/page/14006_GlossipStatement/

Susan Sarandon Fights To Save Death Row Inmate’s Life Days Before Execution


Just days before a death row inmate’s scheduled execution, Susan Sarandon makes an impassioned plea on Monday’s episode of Dr. Phil to save the life of Richard Glossip, who has been on Oklahoma’s death row for 17 years.

“I’m heartbroken for the state of our judicial system as much as I’m heartbroken for this man,” says the Academy Award®-winning actress. “Because of the color of your skin or how much money you have, you can’t get a decent shake. It shouldn’t be that way. This is America — we’re better than that.”

Glossip, 51, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, September 16, was convicted in 1998 of first-degree murder of his boss, Barry Van Treese. Glossip maintains his innocence despite being convicted and sentenced to death by two juries.

Glossip’s Life Has Been Spared Before

When Dr. Phil asks Sarandon how she will feel if Glossip is not granted a stay of execution, Sarandon responds: “I’ll feel ashamed and sad for us all. Not just for him. I mean, it’s hard to even put an animal down, but to put a man down? It’s just not the way we should be living our lives. It’s just wrong.”

If Glossip is executed as planned, he’ll leave behind four children and two grandchildren.

Sarandon is joined on the show by Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip’s spiritual adviser and the author of Dead Man Walking, whose character was played by Sarandon in the 1995 film. Prejean and Sarandon are appealing to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to grant a stay of execution based on what they call the mishandling of Glossip’s case and poor legal representation.

Prejean tells Dr. Phil about one of her conversations with Glossip earlier this year: “He goes, ‘Sister Helen, I hope you don’t mind … but I want to ask you to be with me if I’m executed.’ And I will not just walk with that man, and be his spiritual adviser and hold his hand while he dies. His dying is wrong. The totally inadequate defense and no forensic evidence — and on that Richard Glossip is sitting on death row.”

Dr. Phil responds: “Well, we know in the American legal system, there are different standards of proof … To deprive someone of their liberty in America, to deprive someone of their life in America, is and should be the highest standard you can possibly imagine. Where 12 people go in a room and there is nothing that reasonable people could disagree about. There’s no possible way they could say there’s an alternative explanation that could even be considered. And in this case, the two of you, just in the few minutes that I’m talking to you here, have presented half a dozen alternative explanations, motives, for why [the man who claimed that Glossip hired him to commit the murder] would say what he’s doing. The absence of proof that would at least be a shred of doubt. Is that not violating the moral code of beyond a reasonable doubt for taking a man’s liberty and life? Is that not?”

Prejean answers, “Of course, I wish you had been Richard’s lawyer.”

Tune in to this episode of Dr. Phil on Monday, August 31 to see why Sarandon is moved to tears by Glossip’s exclusive statement from death row about his impending execution

Missouri: Court denies motions from man set to be executed Tuesday


The Missouri Supreme Court has denied the latest legal challenges from a man scheduled to be executed Tuesday for raping and killing a 15-year-old Kansas City girl in 1989.
The judges ruled Friday to overrule a motion that sought a stay of execution for Roderick Nunley.
The court also rejected his request for a writ of habeas corpus, which allows prisoners to challenge their convictions on constitutional grounds.
Nunley was 1 of 2 men who pleaded guilty and received the death penalty in the death of Ann Harrison.
   Michael Taylor (left), Roderick Nunley (right)    She was waiting for a school bus in front of her home when she was abducted.
Michael Taylor was executed for the same crime in 2014.
Source: Associated Press, August 30, 2015

What’s the Future of the Death Penalty in America?


Two recent high-profile cases have once again highlighted America’s complex relationship with the death penalty. In Colorado, a jury declined to impose the death penalty on theater shooter James Holmes. And in Connecticut, whose legislature had recently abolished capital punishment prospectively, the state supreme court held that the Connecticut constitution barred the execution of those whose offenses had preceded that legislative change.
Both cases contributed to the ongoing national capital punishment debate. Some openly wondered whether the availability of the death penalty in Colorado still has any practical meaning, if jurors couldn’t be convinced to impose it on someone like Holmes. And the Connecticut court’s opinion included an extensive discussion of the various trends taking shape across the country. It’s clear that the question of the future of capital punishment in America remains a lively one. (Full disclosure: I’m a criminal defense attorney, and my practice includes capital cases, including one that is currently pending.)
It’s not hard to understand why this debate generates such strong feelings on both sides. Although my work has been on the defense side, anyone involved in the justice system gets a first-hand look at the heinous nature of violent crime. Crime scene and autopsy photos, and the visible emotions on the faces of the family members who attend every hearing, are constant reminders of the horrific harms that human beings can inflict on one another and the irreparable damage caused to those left behind.
On the other hand, some believe that regardless of the circumstances it’s simply unacceptable for the state to take the life of one of its citizens. Others who can accept capital punishment in theory question whether our existing system is sufficiently reliable to support that penalty (a concern I’ve come to share based on my time in that system).
With such powerful motivations on both sides and the highest of stakes involved, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is such a passionate debate. And one development that’s significantly affected the course of capital punishment in America is the fact that death penalty opponents have been extremely effective in making it increasingly difficult to actually secure and impose a death sentence.
First, they’ve devoted an extraordinary amount of effort and resources to training defense lawyers at the trial level to avoid death sentences for their clients. (Colorado, where the Holmes trial took place, is a national center for this type of education; the “Colorado Method” of jury selection is a staple of capital defense training.)
And of course, an initial death penalty determination doesn’t end the matter. There are several layers of appellate review through a series of courts, and cases involving death sentences get extra appellate scrutiny. The actual legal rules are more demanding, and those rules may be applied in an especially exacting way–particularly if some of the judges along the way have their own reservations about capital punishment. The result is that death-penalty cases are regularly reversed and sent back for new trials or sentencing proceedings. For example, in Oregon, where my practice is based, the State is about to take its fourth shot at securing a death sentence for serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers; Rogers was convicted back in 1989 and has been sentenced to death 3 times, with the Oregon Supreme Court ordering resentencing each time.
Finally, even if a death sentence survives all of this review, it still has to be imposed, and this is no mere formality–again, partly because of the efforts of abolitionists, who have made it difficult for companies to supply the chemicals needed for executions. The result is that even some states with large numbers of prisoners on death row virtually never actually execute anyone. In recent years, several governors have gone as far as declaring moratoria on executions in their states, in some cases formalizing what had already been the rule in practice.
All this means that it takes a lot of political will to actually carry the process to its end and execute someone–a point illustrated by some intriguing facts cited in the Connecticut court’s opinion. Apparently, the vast majority of American executions are concentrated within a small band of states–in 2014, for example, Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma collectively accounted for approximately 90 % of the nation’s 35 executions, and similar concentrations within small subsets of states appear across broader time periods. Presumably, these are the states where legislators, prosecutors and others not only believe strongly in the death penalty themselves, but understand that their constituencies share that belief and will support them in the face of vigorous opposition.
So what’s the future of the death penalty in America? I don’t see it going away at the national level. Abolitionists have fought for decades to have the Supreme Court declare capital punishment categorically unconstitutional, but although they’ve come close at times and clearly have the ears of some current justices, I don’t expect that the Court will ever go that far–at least not anytime soon. So I expect that capital punishment will remain constitutionally permissible, and that those states with steadfast support will continue imposing it.
Meanwhile, those states whose residents are more ambivalent about the death penalty may increasingly reconsider whether a capital punishment regime is worth the immense costs, burdens and endless litigation required to keep it in place–especially given the increasingly significant possibility that even a defendant sentenced to death may never actually be executed. These questions may be mulled over by legislatures, governors, prosecutors, and others. (A judge in Kentucky, for example, recently forbade the state from seeking the death penalty in a murder case based on her apparent conclusion that that penalty would never actually be imposed, so that the enormously increased costs and burdens compared to a non-capital case would end up being wasted.) And through it all, Americans of goodwill will continue to debate the questions of whether and when the ultimate penalty should be imposed.
Source: Huffington Post, Kevin Sali, August 29, 2015. Mr. Sali is a criminal defense attorney in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Nebraska death penalty repeal on hold


Supporters of retaining the death penalty in Nebraska turned in thousands more signatures than necessary on Wednesday to suspend the repeal and place the issue before voters.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty turned in petitions containing 166,692 signatures. Leaders of the group called that a surprisingly large number and said it signaled that voters in the 2016 general election will retain the ultimate penalty for the most heinous murders, reversing the repeal enacted by the State Legislature this spring.
A lot of senators will find out that their constituents have a different view, I really believe that,” said State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, a death penalty supporter who circulated petitions.
Opponents of the death penalty, meanwhile, said that they expect Nebraska voters to come to the same conclusion as 30 of the state’s 49 state lawmakers. Voters will learn that the risks of executing innocent people, the “tremendous waste” of taxpayer dollars and the hurdles in obtaining the necessary drugs have made the death penalty immoral, unjust and unworkable, said the Rev. Stephen Griffith of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
“Just like the legislators they elected, we believe the more Nebraskans learn about the failures of capital punishment, the more they will be inclined to get rid of it,” said Griffith, the group’s new executive director.
The pro-death penalty group formed in June and launched its petition drive just after state lawmakers overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto and repealed the death penalty.
The vote drew national attention as Nebraska became the first conservative state since North Dakota in 1973 to do away with the death penalty. Currently, 31 states have capital punishment.
But the victory by death penalty opponents in Nebraska now appears to be in jeopardy.
The pro-capital punishment group turned in nearly 3 times as many signatures as is necessary to place the issue on the ballot: 5 % of the state’s registered voters, about 57,000 signatures. The drive must also meet that 5 % threshold in 38 of the state’s 93 counties.
But Nebraskans for the Death Penalty also appears to have a comfortable cushion to suspend the repeal of the death penalty until voters decide its fate at the ballot box.
To do that, the drive needed to submit valid signatures of 10 percent of the state’s voters, or about 114,000 signatures.
Typically, 15 % to 25 % of signatures are invalidated, either because a signer wasn’t registered to vote or for other technical reasons. Even if 25 % of the signatures were disqualified, the drive would still have 125,000 valid signatures, more than enough to suspend the repeal.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg, a former attorney general who was an honorary co-chairman of the pro-death penalty group, said there was “a lot of significance” to collecting so many signatures.
“It’s reflective of the tremendous support that Nebraskans have in keeping the death penalty,” Stenberg said.
He was one of several supporters of capital punishment who spoke at an afternoon press conference, staged in front of an 8-foot-high wall of boxes holding petitions gathered by the group’s nearly 600 paid and volunteer circulators. Signatures were collected in all 93 counties.
Officials in the counties are expected to take more than a month to count and validate the signatures.
Stenberg, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, both said the signatures are presumed valid when they are turned in, until the count proves otherwise.
So, they said, the repeal of the death penalty – which was scheduled to go into effect on Sunday – is on hold until the count is completed.
“There will be some uncertainty in the law,” Stenberg said. But, he added, “It’s not unusual to have uncertainty in the law.”
Nebraska lacks the necessary drugs to carry out an execution via its only legal means, lethal injection. But Stenberg, who as attorney general presided over the state’s last 3 executions in the 1990s, said that if the state obtains the necessary drugs, there’s nothing preventing current Attorney General Doug Peterson from asking for execution dates for the 10 men on death row.
Peterson, on Wednesday, said he was reviewing the cases.
The State Supreme Court would have to approve any requests for execution dates. It’s unclear if the court would do that while a referendum on the issue is pending and after the Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty.
One of the senators who voted for the repeal, Bob Krist of Omaha, said death penalty supporters will need a lot more support to overturn the repeal in the 2016 election.
He said the referendum should not be about vengeance but “justice and fiscal conservatism.” Krist said the state has spent millions and only executed 3 people in the last 6 decades.
He also questioned if the drive collected most of its signatures from Omaha and Lincoln, or from areas like Norfolk and Falls City, where there have been horrible murders and support for capital punishment is higher.
“So here we go. Game on,” Krist said.
Officials with Nebraskans for the Death Penalty said they collected enough signatures to qualify the issue for the ballot in the 1st month, then used a last-minute push to qualify the measure in the necessary 38 counties.
Chris Peterson, the drive’s spokesman, said the group expects to spend about $800,000 to $900,000 on its petition-gathering effort, which included hiring hundreds of paid circulators and an Arizona consulting company.
That spending, he said, is comparable to what a group spent last year to get an initiative petition on the ballot to increase the state’s minimum wage. Nebraskans for Better Wages turned in 134,899 signatures after a 60-day drive.
Ricketts and his family were among the prime financiers for the pro-death penalty drive. The Republican governor contributed $200,000 in the first 2 months, and his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, gave $100,000.
Officials with the pro-death penalty group said that petition signers overwhelmingly said they deserved a chance to vote on the issue.
“It’s too important of an issue to be left to the give-and-take of politics,” said Groene.
Vivian Tuttle of Ewing, whose daughter Evonne was 1 of 5 people slain during an attempted robbery at a Norfolk bank in 2002, said she put 8,000 miles on her car seeking support for the referendum drive.
“Wherever I went, people said ‘I want to help do this,'” Tuttle said.
The last time a referendum petition appeared on the ballot was in 2006, when voters were asked whether to overturn a law mandating the consolidation of Class I school districts.
Source: lexch.com, August 29, 2015

Virginia relaxes restrictions on death row inmates


Virginia prison officials have relaxed the restrictive conditions under which death row inmates live and are in talks to settle a lawsuit over those prisoners’ near constant placement in solitary confinement — a signal that state authorities are willing to at least modify the incarceration practice that is facing increasing criticism across the country.
State officials revealed in a recent court filing that Virginia’s eight death row inmates are allowed weekly contact visits with family members and more opportunity for showers and recreation — including daily sessions in which they are allowed to mingle in person with up to three others slated to die.
Victor M. Glasberg, an attorney for four inmates in Virginia who are suing over their placement in solitary confinement, said the contact visits with family members, in particular, are “decidedly huge” for the inmates. But he said he is working to understand how the other changes have been implemented and whether the inmates are still forced to spend nearly 23 hours a day alone.
“The issue of the hours spent in solitary is a huge, outstanding issue,” Glasberg said. “They’ve said they want to negotiate in good faith, and I’m going to accept that.”
The four death row inmates represented by Glasberg alleged in a lawsuit late last year that being forced to spend so much time in solitary confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment, causing them severe mental distress while they waited to be executed. The issue is one that is being examined across the country; Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for example, mused in June that it might be time for the high court to take a look at the use of solitary confinement.
Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold W. Clarke said in an affidavit submitted in the case that, as part of a review of its policies and procedures for those slated to die, the department decided to provide more privileges to death row inmates who follow the rules.
Clarke said in his affidavit that death row inmates would be given an hour and a half of outdoor recreation time five days a week, an opportunity for “in-pod” recreation with three of their peers for an hour every day and the opportunity for daily showers. (Inmates had alleged that they were allowed just an hour of outdoor recreation time five times a week and thrice-weekly showers.)
Clarke also said death row inmates could have weekly contact visits with family members, and prison officials were working to construct facilities for them — including a covered recreation yard with a basketball court and stationary exercise equipment, and a multipurpose day room where they could purchase books and movies, make calls and send e-mails, play cards, and watch TV. Both areas, Clarke said, were expected to be finished by October.
Source: The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, August 29, 2015

EXECUTIONS SCHEDULED 2016-2017-2018


August 30, 2015


Month State Inmate
January
20 TX Richard Masterson
21 OH  Ronald Phillips
21 OH Jeffery Wogenstahl – STAYED^
27 TX James Freeman
February
16 TX Gustavo Garcia
19 OH Raymond Tibbetts
March
23 OH Alva Campbell – STAYED^
April
20 OH Gregory Lott
May
18 OH Angelo Fears
June
22 OH Warren Henness
July
20 OH Cleveland R. Jackson
August
15 OH William Montgomery
September
21 OH Kareem Jackson
October
19 OH Robert Van Hook
November
16 OH Jeffery Wogenstahl

Executions Scheduled for 2017


Month State Inmate
January
12 OH James Hanna
October
18 OH Melvin Bonnell

Executions Scheduled for 2018


Month State Inmate
January
3 OH John Stumpf
March
14 OH Douglas Coley
May
30 OH Stanley Fitzpatrick