Lethal Injection

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

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

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

 

 

Ohio Planned to Import Death Penalty Drug Illegally


August 19, 2015

A letter from the FDA warned the state that importing the drug would break the law.

The state of Ohio planned to illegally import sodium thiopental, a drug used for executions, according to a Food and Drug Administration letter obtained byBuzzFeed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The June letter says that Ohio planned to “obtain bulk and finished dosage forms of sodium thiopental.” Since the drug is not available in the US, wrote Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA’s import operation, “we assume this product would be purchased from an oversees source.”

Veneziano reminded Ohio Director of Rehabilitation and Correction Gary C. Mohr that“there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States.”

According to BuzzFeed:

The prison Ohio carries out executions in registered for a DEA license to import the drug last year for a “law enforcement purpose,” but until now it was unknown if the state actually intended to use the license.

Ohio, like many other death penalty states, shrouds its execution drug suppliers in secrecy. States argue the secrecy protects their suppliers from intimidation and embarrassment, while death row inmates and open government advocates argue it removes an important check on state power.

When Nebraska received a similar letter from the FDA last year, it came out that the state paid an Indian dealer named Chris Harris more than $50,000 for enough sodium thiopental to execute hundreds of prisoners. (Nebraska has since abolished the death penalty completely.)

BuzzFeed followed up with Ohio corrections department to find out if Harris was the planned supplier for Ohio as well.

When approached by BuzzFeed News about Harris in June, Ohio DRC spokesperson JoEllen Smith said the department’s legal division would have to handle the matter. After spending weeks on the request, she only would say that Ohio had not communicated with Harris’s company, Harris Pharma, but did not specifically answer the question of if the state had purchased from him directly or indirectly. Smith did not respond to follow up questions.

Ohio’s last execution took place in January 2014, when the state gave inmateDennis McGuire 10 milligrams of midazolam, a controversial sedative whose use for lethal injections the Supreme Court recently upheld. Ohio plans a new series of executions beginning in 2016.

Many reputable drug manufacturers don’t want to be associated with the death penalty, much less the botched executions that have prevailed of late. The FDA-approved manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making the drug in 2011 so that it couldn’t be used for this purpose. When Missouri announced plans to use propofol, the drug found in Michael Jackson’s body at the time of his death, for executions, its German manufacturer expressed displeasure and threatened to get the European Union to stop exporting it the US completely. Many states are now struggling to find the drugs they need for executions.

This fact is compounded in Ohio, whose governor, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, signed a “secret executions” bill this winter that exempts anyone participating in a lethal injection from public records requests. Under the law, medical and nonmedical staff, companies transporting or preparing supplies or equipment used in executions, and providers of the drugs used in lethal injections are all protected from public records requests and do not need to reveal their identity or duties.

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS 2015, UPDATE


UPTADE AUGUST 29, 2015

Month State Inmate
August
13 TX Tracy Beatty – STAYED
18 TN David Miller – STAYED
26 TX Bernardo Tercero (foreign national) STAYED
27 MS Richard Jordan (date requested by Atty. Gen.; not final) EXECUTION HALTED
27 PA Maurice Patterson – STAY LIKELY
28 PA Hector Morales- STAY LIKELY
September
1 MO Roderick Nunley EXECUTED 9:09 PM
2 TX Joe Garza STAYED
3 PA Herbert Blakeney- STAY LIKELY
16 OK Richard Glossip
17 OH Angelo Fears – STAYED*
17 OH William Montgomery – STAYED^
29 TX Perry Williams
October
6 MO Kimber Edwards
6 TN Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman – STAYED
6 TX Juan Garcia
7 OK Benjamin Cole
14 TX Licho Escamilla
28 OK John Grant
28 TX Christopher Wilkins
November
3 TX Julius Murphy
10 TX
Gilmar Guevara
17 OH Cleveland R. Jackson – STAYED*
17 OH Robert Van Hook – STAYED^
17 TN Nicholas Sutton – STAYED
18 TX Raphael Holiday

Arkansas Buys Lethal Injection Drugs, Aims To End Execution Hiatus


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) – Arkansas has bought drugs it plans to use for lethal injections, officials said on Wednesday, as it looks to end a decade-long hiatus on executions that is the longest of any Southern U.S. state.
Arkansas law allows information on the drugs used in executions and the vendors supplying them to remain secret.
Local reports said the drugs included midazolam, a sedative death penalty opponents had challenged as inappropriate for executions, arguing it cannot even achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery.
On June 29, the Supreme Court found the drug did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, a ruling that provoked a caustic debate among the justices about the death penalty.
The Arkansas attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, acknowledged through a spokesman that the chemicals planned for use in Arkansas were on hand but declined further comment. The Arkansas Department of Correction did not return a call seeking comment.
Eight of the 35 men on Arkansas’s death row, 20 of whom are black, have exhausted all their appeals, according to Rutledge.
It is the attorney general’s responsibility to ask the governor to set execution dates, but Judd Deere, Rutledge’s press secretary, said she had “no timetable to offer on that at this time.”
Arkansas has not put to death a condemned inmate in 10 years. Appeals by death row prisoners and legal disputes over the constitutionality of drugs and procedures in capital cases have idled the Arkansas death chamber since 2005, when Eric Nance, 45, was put to death by lethal injection.
Earlier this year, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure giving prison officials the option of using a single large dose of barbiturate or a combination of three drugs to cause death.
Source: Reuters, August 13, 2015

 

Texas: Tracy Beatty wins stay of execution


(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) – A Smith County man who killed his 62-year-old mother, buried her in the backyard and used her credit cards and drained her bank accounts was set to be executed Thursday, but received a stay of execution Tuesday afternoon.
Tracy Beatty, 54, was convicted of kiling his mother Carolyn Ruth Clark in December 2003.
Evidence showed Beatty drained his mother’s bank accounts, stole her car and used the money to buy drugs after he buried her body in the back yard.
“He had been to the penitentiary and was out at one point in time, then he brutally assaulted her, his parole was revoked, and he was sent back to the penitentiary,” Smith County Sheriff’s Major Mike Lusk said at the time. “We have some indication that was part of his motive.”
On Tuesday the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the stay.
There was no indication as to why the court granted the stay.
Source: CBS19TV, August 11, 2015

 

TEXAS EXECUTION TODAY – Daniel Lee Lopez at 6 p.m EXECUTED 6:31 PM


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez got his wish Wednesday when he was executed for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase more than six years ago.

The lethal injection was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from his attorneys who disregarded both his desire to die and lower court rulings that Lopez was competent to make that decision.

“I hope this execution helps my family and also the victim’s family,” said Lopez, who spoke quietly and quickly. “This was never meant to be, sure beyond my power. I can only walk the path before me and make the best of it. I’m sorry for putting you all through this. I am sorry. I love you. I am ready. May we all go to heaven.”

As the drugs took effect, he took two deep breaths, then two shallower breaths. Then all movement stopped.

He was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m. CDT — 15 minutes after the lethal dose began.

Lopez, 27, became the 10th inmate put to death this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Nationally, he was the 19th prisoner to be executed.

Lopez’s “obvious and severe mental illness” was responsible for him wanting to use the legal system for suicide, illustrating his “well-documented history of irrational behavior and suicidal tendencies,” attorney David Dow, who represented Lopez, had told the high court. Dow also argued the March 2009 crime was not a capital murder because Lopez didn’t intend to kill Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander.

The officer’s widow, Vicky Alexander, and three friends who were witnesses with her prayed in the chamber before Lopez was pronounced dead by a doctor. Some people selected by Lopez as witnesses sang “Amazing Grace” from an adjacent witness area.

Alexander, 47, was standing in a grassy area on the side of a highway where he had put spike strips when he was struck by the sport utility vehicle Lopez was fleeing in.

Lopez, who also wrote letters to a federal judge and pleaded for his execution to move forward, said last week from death row that a Supreme Court reprieve would be “disappointing.”

“I’ve accepted my fate,” he said. “I’m just ready to move on.”

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka said Lopez showed “no regard for human life” when he fought with an officer during a traffic stop, then sped away, evading pursuing officers and striking Alexander, who had been on the police force for 20 years. Even when he finally was cornered by police cars, Lopez tried ramming his SUV to escape and didn’t stop until he was shot.

“He had no moral scruples, no nothing. It was always about Daniel Lopez, and it’s still about Daniel Lopez,” Skurka said Tuesday. “He’s a bad, bad guy.”

Lopez was properly examined by a psychologist, testified at a federal court hearing about his desire to drop appeals and was found to have no mental defects, state attorneys said in opposing delays to the punishment.

Deputies found a dozen packets of cocaine and a small scale in a false compartment in the console of the SUV.

Records showed Lopez was on probation at the time after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in Galveston County and was a registered sex offender. He had other arrests for assault.

Testimony at his trial showed he had at least five children by three women, and a sixth was born while he was jailed for Alexander’s death. Court records show Lopez had sex with girls as young as 14 and had a history of assaults and other trouble while in school, where he was a 10th-grade dropout.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

 

 

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez has been trying to speed up his execution since being sent to death row five years ago for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase.

On Wednesday, he’s hoping to get his wish.

The 27-year-old prisoner is set to die in Huntsville after getting court approval to drop his appeals. A second inmate scheduled to be executed this week in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state, won a court reprieve Tuesday.

Lopez is facing lethal injection for the 2009 death of Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander. The 47-year-old officer was standing in a grassy area on the side of a highway where he had put spike strips when he was struck by the sport utility vehicle Lopez was fleeing in.

Last week from death row Lopez said: “It’s a waste of time just sitting here. I just feel I need to get over with it.”

Attorneys representing Lopez refused to accept his intentions, questioning federal court findings that Lopez was mentally competent to volunteer for execution. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the punishment, arguing his crime was not a capital murder because he didn’t intend to kill the officer, and that Lopez had mental disabilities and was using the state to carry out long-standing desires to commit suicide.

“It is clear Lopez has been allowed to use the legal system in another attempt to take his own life,” attorney David Dow told the high court.

Lopez, who also wrote letters to a federal judge and pleaded for his execution to move forward, said a Supreme Court reprieve would be “disappointing.”

“It’s crazy they keep appealing, appealing,” he said last week of his lawyers’ efforts. “I’ve explained it to them many times. I guess they want to get paid for appealing.”

Lopez was properly examined by a psychologist, testified at a federal court hearing about his desire to drop appeals and was found to have no mental defects, state attorneys said in opposing delays in the punishment.

Alexander had been a police officer for 20 years. His death came during a chase that began just past midnight on March 11, 2009, after Lopez was pulled over by another officer for running a stop sign in a Corpus Christi neighborhood. Authorities say Lopez was driving around 60 mph.

Lopez struggled with the officer who made the stop and then fled. He rammed several patrol cars, drove at a high speed with his lights off and hit Alexander like “a bullet and a target,” said an officer who testified at Lopez’s 2010 trial.

When finally cornered by patrol cars, Lopez used his SUV as a battering ram trying to escape and wasn’t brought under control until he was shot, officers testified.

“It’s a horrible dream,” Lopez said from death row. “I’ve replayed it in my mind many times.”

Deputies found a dozen packets of cocaine and a small scale in a false compartment in the console of the SUV.

Records show Lopez was on probation at the time after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in Galveston County and was a registered sex offender. He had other arrests for assault.

Lopez would be the 10th inmate executed this year in Texas. Nationally, 18 prisoners have been put to death this year, with Texas accounting for 50 percent of them.

On Tuesday, another death row prisoner, Tracy Beatty, 54, received a reprieve from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He had been scheduled for lethal injection Thursday. He’s on death row for the 2003 slaying of his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, near Tyler in East Texas.

At least seven other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS Texas: Daniel Lee Lopez, Tracy Beatty set to die this week


Both death row inmates claim murder was not intentional.
Although Clifton Williams narrowly avoided execution July 16, 2 Texans are scheduled for the gurney next week. Both inmates maintain that they didn’t mean for the individuals they killed to die, though their opinions about their pending fates differ.
Daniel Lee Lopez
Daniel Lee Lopez
Corpus Christi native Daniel Lee Lopez is scheduled to die first; he’s currently slated to be strapped in at 6pm on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Lopez was driving 60 miles an hour through a neighborhood in March 2009 trying to evade cops and avoid arrest for outstanding warrants when he hit and killed 20-year veteran police officer Stuart Alexander as he was laying Stop Sticks near the highway. Lopez was eventually apprehended after being shot in the arm, neck, and chest. Then 21, he was indicted for 10 offenses, including the capital murder of Alexander. He initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed his stance. He was assigned to a psychologist, who reported that Lopez held an “increasingly firm” opinion that he’d rather a death sentence than live the rest of his life in prison. The state offered life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea, but Lopez pleaded not guilty and went to trial.
Central to the case was debate on whether or not Lopez intentionally ran over Lt. Alexander. At times, he told attorneys that he didn’t mean to do it, that his sight was affected by shots of pepper spray deployed by other officers. Yet, just prior to closing arguments, attorneys informed the judge that Lopez insisted on testifying that he did in fact mean to swerve and hit Alexander. The court rejected Lopez’s request, but the jury still found him guilty on all counts, including capital murder. Lopez waived his right to a state petition for habeas corpus in April 2012 and filed his federal papers that May. The brief, largely blank application asserted 1 solitary ground for relief: that the death penalty in Texas violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. He underwent a series of competency exams and hearings in 2013, and soon after received his right to waive appeal from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
His attorneys – James Rytting, David Dow, and Jeffrey Newberry – maintain that he should never have been found guilty of capital murder, as his testimony concerning his actions continuously flipped from intentional to unintentional. They thus contest that the district court erred in accepting Lopez’s waiver, as Lopez does not understand that the conduct to which he admits – an unintentional murder – does not fall within the definition of capital murder. Lopez, however, remains convinced he’s made the right call. In April, he told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that he accepts his punishment. “It wasn’t on purpose,” he said. “I killed a police officer because I tried escaping. And it was never intentional but I feel responsible.”
Tracy Beatty
Tracy Beatty
The 2nd individual, Tracy Beatty, goes to the gurney one day after Lopez. Beatty, 54, was arrested for the Nov. 25, 2003, murder of his mother, 62-year-old Carolyn Click. Beatty strangled, smothered, and/or suffocated Click during an argument at her home, and left her in the tub for 2 days before burying her in the ground beside her house and making off with her car and possessions. When questioned, he told authorities that a man named Junior Reynolds had actually killed his mother; that he then killed Reynolds and dumped him “in water” before returning to his mother’s house to ice her in the tub and eventually bury her by the house. But the investigation turned to Beatty. During his arrest, as he was being delivered from Henderson County to the Smith County Jail, he told authorities: “I really didn’t mean to kill her. I came in drunk. She started bitching at me, and I just started choking her. I didn’t even know she was dead until the next morning when I found her still laying on the living room floor.” He was indicted for capital murder the following May and found guilty on Aug. 9, 2004. Deemed a future threat because of 2 prior felony convictions – injury to a child in 1986 and a robbery in 1988 – he was sentenced to death on Aug. 10.
Attorney Jeff Haas argued in petitions for habeas corpus and appeals to the 5th Circuit that his client received ineffective assistance from counsel in two different forms: Trial counsel failed to discover and present mitigating evidence, and failed to properly present enough facts to prove Click’s “killing was a murder rather than capital murder.” Haas pointed to one instance in particular, unmentioned during trial, in which Click and an acquaintance had an argument that a witness indicated looked as though they would “rip each other’s heads off.” He attempted to use that testimony as evidence that Beatty had no intention to kill his mother when he showed up at her house; that a heated conversation escalated to that point. Efforts for relief, however, were denied, and in July 2014, the 5th Circuit denied his application for a certificate of appealability. The Supreme Court rejected his case in May.
Lopez is set to be the 10th Texan executed this year, with Beatty in line to be No. 11. Should both executions go through, the state will end the week having executed 529 people since reinstating the death penalty in 1976.
Source: Austin Chronicle, August 6, 2015

 

Nevada pursues death chamber, controversial drug


Monday, July 13, 2015

Nevada has no executions on the immediate horizon but is pushing ahead to build a new death chamber at Ely State Prison and would use a drug at the heart of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case to carry out lethal injections.
Brian Connett, deputy director at the Nevada Department of Corrections, said department lawyers were reviewing the June 29 decision over the use of midazolam in Oklahoma executions “to determine what, if any, impact it may have on Nevada.”
“Nevada would use the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone to administer a lethal injection and has an adequate supply of these drugs to carry out an execution if ordered,” he said in an email.
But death penalty watchdogs said use of the drug almost assuredly would spawn lawsuits after highly publicized incidents of botched executions.
Three Oklahoma death row inmates sued after that state first used midazolam last year in the execution of Clayton Lockett. Witnesses reported Lockett writhed, gasped and moaned. Prison officials tried to halt the execution process, but Lockett died after 43 minutes.
Midazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, is intended to put inmates in a comalike state before other drugs to bring about death are administered. Critics argue it does not guarantee unconsciousness to avoid pain from the subsequent drugs.
Similar prolonged executions using midazolam occurred in Ohio and Arizona in 2014.
LETHAL DRUG RULING
In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said the use of midazolam does not violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The majority also noted that midazolam had been used in other executions about a dozen times without complications.
About 10 days later, Oklahoma set new execution dates in September and October for the 3 inmates who challenged the use of the drug.
A 2-drug injection of midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, the same combination planned for use by Nevada, was 1st used for lethal injection by Ohio in January 2014. Witnesses said that it took about 25 minutes for condemned killer Dennis McGuire to die and that during the process he made loud snorting or choking noises while his midsection convulsed.
Rob Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit group, said the court’s decision doesn’t settle the question over midazolam’s use.
“That doesn’t mean that there will not be challenges to midazolam elsewhere,” he said.
Dunham said that while justices found the Oklahoma inmates didn’t meet their burden of proof to halt the use of the drug, “it doesn’t mean that midazolam is constitutional.”
He said a state “that is concerned about the execution process would have serious doubts about using midazolam.”
The last execution in Nevada was April 26, 2006, at the now-shuttered Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Daryl Mack was executed for the 1988 rape and murder of Betty Jane May in Reno.
Starting at least 11 years ago and up through Mack’s execution, Nevada used a combination of pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride in its execution protocol. But Nevada and other states have been pressed to find alternatives after death penalty opponents pressured manufacturers not to sell them for executions.
Nevada has executed 12 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. About 80 men are on Nevada’s death row.
NEW DEATH CHAMBER
Besides the issue of lethal drugs, Nevada is building a new death chamber at Ely State Prison after Nevada State Prison, where executions were conducted, closed in 2012.
Less than a week after Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a capital improvement bill on June 15 that included $860,000 to remodel a prison administrative building into a new death chamber, the state Public Works Board published a notice seeking statements of qualifications from architectural and engineering firms to perform the work.
The deadline for submitting those statements was Thursday, and it is unclear how many were submitted. The prison project was one of dozens of maintenance projects approved by state lawmakers for the next 2 years.
State lawmakers, who rejected funding for a new execution chamber in 2013, approved the expenditure this year despite reservations about the cost and lingering uncertainty over the death penalty.
San Quentin's brand new, costly - and still unused - death chamber
San Quentin’s brand new, costly – and still unused – death chamber
Critics have called the new execution chamber “an outrageous boondoggle.”
“This proposed new facility may sit unused forever, or it could require further remodeling if lethal injection is rejected in court,” Nancy Hart, president of the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, wrote in a May 27 opinion piece.
“Even if lethal injection is upheld, there are serious doubts about the availability of the lethal drugs needed for an execution,” they wrote.
Plans call for remodeling 1,900 square feet of visitation and courtroom areas of an administrative building at the Ely Prison to accommodate an execution chamber.
During legislative hearings, Chris Chimits, deputy administrator with the state Public Works Board, said the chamber would be modeled after California’s San Quentin State Prison execution facility, the construction of which was overseen by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Administration, said a design contract could be presented to the Board of Examiners for approval in November.
After that, the design, permitting and construction process is expected to take about a year.