death chamber

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.

 

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

Florida death row inmates receive ‘consciousness checks’ at execution – Paul Howell


february 20, 2014 (theguardian)

The state corrections official who stands beside condemned inmates as they take their last breaths in Florida’s death chamber recently pulled back the veil on what has largely been a very secretive execution process.

The testimony was given during a 11 February hearing in a lawsuit involving Paul Howell, a death row inmate scheduled to die by lethal injection 26 February. Howell is appealing his execution; his lawyers say the first of the injected drugs, midazolam, isn’t effective at preventing the pain of the subsequent drugs.

The Florida supreme court specifically asked the circuit court in Leon County to determine the efficacy of the so called “consciousness check” given to inmates by the execution team leader.

The testimony is notable because it shows that the Department of Corrections has changed its procedures since the state started using a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs. A shortage of execution drugs around the country is becoming worse as more pharmacies conclude that supplying the lethal chemicals is not worth the bad publicity or legal and ethical risks.

Timothy Cannon, who is the assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections and the team leader present at every execution, told a Leon County court that an additional inmate “consciousness check” is now given due to news media reports and other testimony stemming from the 15 October execution of William Happ.

Happ was the first inmate to receive the new lethal injection drug trio. An Associated Press reporter who had covered executions using the old drug cocktail wrote that Happ acted differently during the execution than those executed before him. It appeared Happ remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness.

Cannon said in his testimony that during Happ’s execution and the ones that came before it, he did two “consciousness checks” based on what he learned at training at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Indiana – a “shake and shout”, where he vigorously shakes the inmate’s shoulders and calls his name loudly, and also strokes the inmate’s eyelashes and eyelid.

After Happ’s execution, Cannon said the department decided to institute a “trapezoid pinch”, where he squeezes the muscle between an inmate’s neck and shoulder.

It was added “to ensure we were taking every precaution we could possibly do to ensure the person was, in fact, unconscious”, Cannon said. “To make sure that this process was humane and dignified”.

Lawyers for Howell say that they are concerned that the midazolam does not produce a deep enough level of unconsciousness to prevent the inmate from feeling the pain of the second and third injection and causes a death that makes the inmate feel as though he is being buried alive.

“Beyond just the fact that constitution requires a humane death, if we decided that we wanted perpetrators of crime to die in the same way that their victims did then we would rape rapists. And we don’t rape rapists,” said Sonya Rudenstine, a Gainesville attorney who represents Howell.

“We should not be engaging of the behavior that we have said to abhor. If we are going to kill people, we have to do it humanely. It’s often said the inmate doesn’t suffer nearly as much as the victim, and I believe that’s what keeps us civilized and humane.”

Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary said on Wednesday that the department “remains committed to doing everything it can to ensure a humane and dignified lethal injection process”.

Cannon explained in his testimony that each execution team member “has to serve in the role of the condemned during training at some point”.

“We’ve changed several aspects of just the comfort level for the inmate while lying on the gurney,” he said. “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.”

He said an inmate is first injected with two syringes of midazolam and a syringe of “flush”, a saline solution to get the drug into the body. Midazolam is a sedative.

Once the three syringes have been administered from an anonymous team of pharmacists and doctors in a back room, Cannon does the consciousness checks.

Meanwhile, the team in the back room watches the inmate’s face on a screen, which is captured by a video camera in the death chamber. The inmate is also hooked up to a heart monitor, Cannon said.

There are two executioners in the back room – the ones who deploy the drugs – along with an assistant team leader, three medical professionals, an independent monitor from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and two corrections employees who maintain an open line to the governor’s office.

If the team determines that the inmate is unconscious, the other two lethal drugs are administered.