Louisiana

Shreveport man freed from death row files suit in hopes ‘injustice never happens again’


December 5, 2017

SHREVEPORT — The lawsuit filed by former death row inmate Rodricus Crawford is about more than justice for Crawford; it’s about getting Caddo Parish officials to change their death-penalty-dealing ways, one of the now-freed man’s attorneys said during a recent interview.

“Rodricus seeks justice not only for himself and for all that he lost, but also for people who might – God forbid – face similar circumstances,” Crawford’s attorney David J. Utter, counsel with The Claiborne Firm in Savannah, Georgia, said during a Louisiana Record email interview. “This lawsuit provides parish and city officials do the right thing by examining what went wrong in Rodricus’ case, and instituting checks and balances to ensure such an injustice never happens again.”

Those checks and balances were severely lacking when a Caddo District Court jury handed down the capital punishment sentence the following year against the Shreveport man in the 2012 death of his 1-year-old son Roderius “Bobo” Lott, according to Crawford’s lawsuit.

“Mr. Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death based upon false evidence as a result of the failure of Defendants to conduct an unbiased autopsy based on professional standards of practice, and to properly train and supervise prosecutors in Caddo Parish,” said the lawsuit filed Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court for Louisiana’s Western District.

“Because of the lack of training and supervision and adherence to professional standards, the prosecution was illegally based upon both race and religion, and a complete indifference to the evidence. In addition, Mr. Crawford raises state law negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; but for the reckless and willful conduct of defendants, Mr. Crawford would not have been prosecuted let alone convicted of capital murder.”

In his lawsuit filed on behalf of himself and his minor daughter, Crawford claims he did not receive his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial. Named defendants in the case include Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office, Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office, Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart, former Caddo Parish District Attorney Dale Cox, Shreveport Fire Department and Coroner James Traylor. Crawford’s lawsuit asks for a jury trial.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office did not respond to a Louisiana Record request for comment.

“Defendants knowingly participated in the investigation, arrest and capital prosecution driven by Caddo Parish, Louisiana’s well-known history of racism and the arbitrary application of the death penalty,” Crawford’s lawsuit said. “But for Defendants’ actions, no prosecution and conviction of Mr. Crawford would have occurred.”

Crawford was taken into custody after bruises and other injuries were discovered on the child’s body. Crawford reportedly told police his son had fallen in the bathroom and Crawford consistently maintained that he had never harmed his son.

His attorneys also consistently maintained that the jury relied on bad forensic science, and pointed to strong medical evidence that the child was suffering from pneumonia and died of sepsis.

“The conduct of the officials in this case, particularly the coroner Dr. Traylor and the prosecutor, were particularly egregious, outside the norm of a mistake or error,” Utter said. “There was intentional misconduct.”

By the time Crawford’s conviction was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court in November 2016, Caddo Parish juries were widely noted for having sentenced five people to death in six years, 38 percent of the state’s total death sentences.

The state’s highest court ordered a new trial for Crawford after finding serious issues with the case, including unconstitutional exclusion of black jurors. Louisiana prosecutors dropped charges against Crawford this past April and he was freed soon after that.

“As the result of Defendants’ unconstitutional, negligent and intentional acts, Mr. Crawford spent 4 years, 9 months, and 6 days illegally in custody,” Crawford’s lawsuit said.

Utter credited Baton Rouge lawyer Cecilia Trenticosta Kappel, his co-counsel in Crawford’s lawsuit who is active with the Capital Appeals Project and the Promise of Justice Initiative, for much of the work done to exonerate Crawford.

“Cecelia is the real hero amongst the lawyers on the case,” Utter said.

Crawford’s lawsuit is necessary to get defendants and others to do the right thing, Utter said.

“Unfortunately, many innocent people who spent time in jail or prison have to file a lawsuit before officials will do what is right,” Utter said, referring to the overturned murder conviction of Sabein Burgess in Maryland.

“Rodricus only filed because the officials responsible for this miscarriage of justice failed to apologize and offer to discuss a settlement that provided justice to him, his family and ensure something like this never happens again in Shreveport,” Utter said.

Death row inmate in ‘Angola 5’ case wants Louisiana Supreme Court justice recused over death penalty comments


November  21,2017

Update, 2 p.m. Tuesday

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton recused himself on Tuesday from the pending appeal of death row inmate David Brown in the “Angola 5” prison-guard murder case. Read the latest here. 

Original story

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton has proven a popular guest on local talk radio in his native Shreveport, frequenting the airwaves with his views on hot-button legal issues since long before he reached the state’s highest bench three years ago.

But his on-air defense last month of capital punishment has spurred attorneys for death-row inmate David Brown to call for Crichton to be sidelined for Brown’s pending appeal in the “Angola 5” prison-guard murder case.

Crichton, a former Caddo Parish prosecutor and district judge, mentioned the Angola 5 case on the KEEL morning show on Oct. 23 to illustrate his view that the death penalty can be a valuable deterrent. He agreed with a show host that “if you’re in for life, you have nothing to lose” without it.

Brown was serving a life sentence for a different murder when Capt. David Knapps was killed inside a bathroom at the state penitentiary.

In a 24-page motion filed late Monday, his attorneys argue that Crichton’s mention of the Angola 5 case alone warrants his recusal. Crichton went further, however, and Brown’s attorneys argue that his other on-air remarks reveal at least the appearance of bias in Brown’s case, and perhaps in any capital case that reaches the court.

n the Oct. 23 show, Crichton first acknowledged that he “can talk about anything other than a pending case before the Louisiana Supreme Court,” then mentioned the Angola 5 case. He went on to lament the lengthy appeals process in death-penalty cases and argued for well-publicized executions.

“If it’s carried out and the public knows about it, I believe it’s truly a deterrent,” he said. “What really boggles my mind is the inmate who has committed capital murder who is on death row who is begging for his life. Think about the fact that the victim gets no due process.”

Crichton suggested a workaround to problems many states have had in acquiring one of three drugs in a commonly used “cocktail” for state killings — a shortage he blamed on drug companies being “harassed and stalked” by death-penalty opponents.

Crichton said he favors giving condemned inmates a choice in their death: the cocktail; a new method using a single drug, nitrogen hypoxia; or another, time-tested execution method.

“Firing squad is one,” he said.

Brown had joined other prisoners in an escape attempt but claimed he wasn’t there when Knapps was killed inside an employee restroom in the prison’s Camp D building on Dec. 28, 1999. Brown helped drag Knapps there and got the victim’s blood on his prison garb, but said he’d left before other inmates killed Knapp.

The state never accused him of striking Knapps but argued he had joined in a plot with a specific intent to kill. A West Feliciana Parish jury convicted Brown and sentenced him to death in 2011. Jeffrey Clark, the other Angola 5 member sentenced to death, lost his appeal before the Louisiana Supreme Court last year.

Crichton was among the majority in a Supreme Court decision last year that reinstated the death penalty for Brown. The court upheld an appeals court’s reversal of a decision by retired Judge Jerome Winsberg to scrap Brown’s death sentence but not his conviction.

Winsberg cited a statement from another inmate that Brown’s trial attorneys never received. Inmate Richard Domingue claimed that Barry Edge, who also was accused in the murder, had confessed that he and Clark alone decided to kill the guard.

The withheld statement left a “reasonable probability that the jury’s verdict would have been different had the evidence not been suppressed,” Winsberg ruled. But the Supreme Court found that Domingue’s statement “provides no additional evidence as to who actually killed Capt. Knapps” and “simply does not exculpate Brown.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last year declined to hear Brown’s case. His direct state appeal, a different legal phase, landed with the Louisiana Supreme Court in May. One of Brown’s lawyers, Billy Sothern, wrote that he plans to raise several issues in an appeal brief due next month that Crichton alluded to on the radio. Among them: Whether a death sentence is disproportionate to Brown’s role in the killing, and the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Brown’s attorneys solicited an affidavit from a Northwestern University law professor, agreeing that Crichton should recuse himself. Professor Steven Lubet, who co-authored a 2013 text called Judicial Conduct and Ethics, said Crichton’s “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” over his mention of the Angola 5 case, and when he said about the death penalty, “If we’re gonna have it, use it.”

The other six justices would rule on the request if Crichton decides not to recuse himself. Crichton could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

STUDIES: Racial Bias in Jury Selection


A new study of trials in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, revealed that potential jurors who were black were much more likely to be struck from juries than non-blacks. The results were consistent with findings from Alabama, North Carolina, and other parts of Louisiana, highlighting an issue that will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. In Caddo Parish, an area known for its many death sentences, prosecutors used peremptory strikes against 46% of black jurors, but only 15% of other jurors, according to the study by Reprieve Australia. The racial composition of the juries appeared to make a difference in the ultimate outcome of the cases. The study found that no defendants were acquitted by juries with 2 or fewer black jurors, but 19% were acquitted when 5 or more jurors were black. In an Alabama study, prosecutors used peremptory strikes to remove 82% of eligible black potential jurors from trials in which the death penalty was imposed. A study of death penalty cases in North Carolina found that prosecutors struck 53% of black potential jurors but only 26% of others.

 

In the death penalty case from Georgia that will be heard by the Supreme Court, Foster v. Chatman, all black prospective jurors were excluded from the jury. Prosecutors marked the names of black prospective jurors with a B and highlighted those names in green. Whenever such potential jurors had noted their race on questionnaires, prosecutors circled the word “black.”

 

Exclusion of Blacks From Juries Raises Renewed Scrutiny,” New York Times, August 16, 2015; U. Noye, “Blackstrikes: A Study of the Racially Disparate Use of Peremptory Challenges by the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office,” Reprieve Australia, August, 2015)

LOUISIANA – Child killer’s formal death sentencing set May 28 – Brian Horn


april 9, 2014

MANSFIELD — Recently convicted child killer Brian Horn will be formally sentenced to death at 9 a.m. May 28.

District Judge Robert Burgess set the sentencing date Wednesday. It falls a few days after the 45-day window he initially envisioned Saturday after a jury voted unanimously to sentence Horn to death.

Even though the sentence is a given because of the jury vote, Burgess said he is required by the Louisiana Supreme Court to prepare a uniform capital sentence report. It likely will be dozens of pages in length to give a comprehensive overview of Horn and aspects of his trial.

For example, the report will include information such as the makeup of Horn’s family, his education level, any expert witnesses who testified at the penalty phase, work history, criminal history, details of the crime and victim, acknowledgment of the defense counsel and their years of experience and general information about the trial, including jury selection.

Also added will be a listing of previous first-degree murder cases, not restricted to capital cases, on dockets of the 42nd Judicial District, formerly the 11th Judicial District.

“It is a lot of work. It not only includes the name of the case but the facts of the case,” Burgess said.

Additionally, the sentencing order requires the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Division of Probation and Parole to perform a complete capital sentence investigation report, with that information attached to Burgess’ report.

Horn, 37, of Keachi was convicted April 2 of first-degree murder in the March 30, 2010 death of Justin M. Bloxom, 12, of Stonewall. The twice-convicted sex offender used text messages, portraying himself as a teenage girl, to lure Bloxom away from a friend’s home.

Horn picked up Bloxom in his Action Taxi cab. He ran out of gas on U.S. Highway 171 near Stonewall’s southern limits. And that’s where he smothered Bloxom to death, leaving his body in a small depression of water across the highway fence row.

Horn’s defense team conceded his guilt from the start. However, they contended Bloxom’s death was accidental so they asked for a lesser sentence – one that would have sent Horn to prison for life.

The jury of East Baton Rouge Parish residents took less than an hour to convict Horn after listening to three and a half days of testimony. That moved the trial into the penalty phase, and after two and a half days of additional testimony, the same jury again was again on the same page in deciding Horn should die for the crime.

During the penalty phase, members of Bloxom’s family were able to express to the jury how devastating his death has been for them. At the sentencing, family members will be able to address Horn directly.

LOUISIANA -Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row – Glenn Ford


A case involving a black man convicted by an all-white jury in Louisiana decades ago may be reopened.

march 11, 2014

UPDATE: Glenn Ford was indeed released from prison late Tuesday afternoon local time. The same judge who denied him relief in 2009 was the one who signed the order authorizing his release.

ORIGINAL STORY: Glenn Ford, a black man wrongfully convicted of murder by an all-white jury in Louisiana in 1984, a man who has spent the last 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit following a trial filled with constitutional violations, is on the verge of being set free. Once that happens (and it could happen as soon as tomorrow after a hearing in the case) he will become one of the longest-serving death row inmates in modern American history to be exonerated and released.

Ford’s dogged lawyers and enlightened parish prosecutors in Shreveport both filed motions late last week informing a state trial judge that the time has come now to vacate Ford’s murder conviction and death sentence. Why? Because prosecutors now say that they learned, late last year, of “credible evidence” that Ford “was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder” of the victim in his case, a man named Isadore Rozeman.

Prosecutors believe the recent account of a confidential informant who claims that one of other four original co-defendants in the case, arrested long ago along with Ford, was actually the person who shot and killed Rozeman. This is not news to Ford. For three decades, stuck in inhumane conditions on death row in the state’s notorious Angola prison, he has insisted that he had nothing to do with the murder and that he was involved in the case only after the fact.

Any exoneration is remarkable, of course. Any act of justice after decades of injustice is laudable. It is never too late to put to right a wrong. But what also is striking about this case is how weak it always was, how frequently Ford’s constitutional rights were denied, and yet how determined Louisiana’s judges were over decades to defend an indefensible result.

Isadore Rozeman, an elderly white man with cataracts, a man fearful of crime in his neighborhood, was murdered in his small jewelry and watch repair shop in Shreveport on November 5, 1983. Ford had done yard work for Rozeman and several witnesses placed him near the scene of the crime on the day of the murder. When he learned that the police were looking for him he went to the police station where, for days, for months, he cooperated with the investigation.

Ford told the police, for example, that a man he identified as “O.B.” had given him jewelry hoping that he, Ford, could pawn it. The police would later discover that this jewelry was similar to merchandise taken from Rozeman’s store. Ford identified one possible suspect in Rozeman’s murder, a man named Jake Robinson, and later suggested that “O.B.” was Robinson’s brother, Henry, who also may also have been up to no good.

With all signs pointing to the Robinsons, and with police under the impression that the one or both of the brothers still possessed the murder weapon, Ford was not immediately charged with Rozeman’s murder. He and the two Robinsons were instead charged three months later—only after Jake Robinson’s girlfriend, Marvella Brown, incriminated them by telling the police that Ford was with the Robinsons, and in the possession of a firearm, on the day of Rozeman’s murder.

Louisiana also relied on “experts” to build its case. The first, the parish coroner who had not personally examined Rozeman’s body, testified about the time of death and the fact that the shooter was left-handed. The second expert found a few particles unique to or characteristic of gunshot residue on Ford’s hands. The third, a police officer not certified as a fingerprint expert, concluded that a “whorl” pattern on Ford’s fingers was consistent with a single partial fingerprint lifted from a bag the police believed was used in the murder.

There was no murder weapon found. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. There were legitimate reasons why Ford would have been around Rozeman’s store. The primary witness against Ford was a person, Brown, whose credibility and reliability were immediately challenged. Expert opinions were not definitive. The police had reason to believe that one of the Robinsons had killed Rozeman. And most of all Ford had not acted suspiciously in any way.

Ford’s murder trial was constitutionally flawed in almost every way. The two attorneys he was assigned were utterly unprepared for the job. The lead attorney was an oil and gas attorney who have never tried a case—criminal or civil—to a jury. The second attorney, two years out of law school, was working at an insurance defense firm on slip-and-fall cases. Both attorneys were selected from an alphabetical listing of lawyers at the local bar association.

During jury selection, prosecutors used their peremptory strikes to keep blacks off the jury. The reasons they gave for precluding these men and women from sitting in judgment of Ford were insulting and absurd. And leading up to and during the trial Louisiana did not share with the defense all evidence favorable to it as they were required to do under the United States Supreme Court’s constitutional command in Brady v. Maryland.

The prosecution’s case was based largely on the testimony of Brown, the girlfriend. Under cross-examination, however, she told jurors that the police had helped her make up the story she had told about Ford. When Ford’s attorneys later called her to the witness stand, she told jurors that a bullet left from an old gunshot wound to her head had affected her thinking. “I did lie to the Court… I lied about it all,” she said in court (remember, it was Brown’s story that led to Ford’s arrest).fter Brown’s credibility imploded on the stand, prosecutors turned to their “experts.” It was a case that cried out for rebuttal experts to make simple and obvious points. A coroner who did not examine the body could not accurately determine time of death or whether the shooter was left-handed. That sort of thing. But no experts testified for the defense. Why? Because Ford’s lawyers believed, mistakenly, that they would have to pay for the costs of these experts.* (Many years later, in a post-trial hearing, the experts Ford’s finally did hire profoundly undermined the conclusions reached by Louisiana’s trial experts.)

Ford was quickly convicted. At the sentencing phase of his trial, the lack of competent defense counsel again played a factor. The best mitigation witnesses who might have testified for him lived out of state—but Ford’s lawyers were unsure about the process for subpoenaing them to testify in Louisiana. It took that all-white jury less than three hours to recommend a sentence of death for the man they believed murdered Isadore Rozeman.

As it is in most capital cases, the appellate history of the case is tortuous. All through the years, in both explicit and implicit ways, the Louisiana appellate courts expressed their unease with the results of Ford’s trial. But no court, ever, reversed the conviction and sentence against him and ordered a new trial. This is so even though the first court to review the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court itself, concluded it had “serious questions” about the result.

Most people believe that ineffective assistance of counsel only occurs at trial. That’s not true. In these cases the incompetence that occurs at or before trial often is compounded by poor appellate work and that initially happened here— the same system, in other words, that can tolerate an oil and gas man handling a capital murder case can tolerate giving a convicted murderer an appellate lawyer who also doesn’t know what the hell he is doing.

But the fair trial issues Ford raised were so strong that in many respects he got lucky. For example, the justices in Washington ordered a hearing on his claims about race bias in jury selection– only to see the Louisiana courts back up the preposterous claims of prosecutors that there were neutral reasons for the jurors they selected and rejected. Only black juror was rejected, for example, because a prosecutor said he felt “uneasy” about her and thus did not look her in the eye.

And the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a hearing on his claims about ineffective assistance of counsel and the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence– only to see the trial court again back up prosecutors by interpreting precedent in a way that renders meaningless the right to counsel and the Brady rule. (The irony here is profound; we now know, from the prosecution’s filing this week, that there is additional evidence that would have decided the outcome of the case.)

It was this ruling, in October 2009, that perhaps best illustrates the farce this case was. Yes, a Louisiana judge conceded, Ford would have been benefited from having those California witnesses testify for him during the mitigation phase of his trial. Yes, he would have benefited had his lawyers hired their own experts. But none of this constituted “ineffective assistance.” The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a two-word order, accepted this dreadful interpretation of law.

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys are providing much public detail about the circumstances surrounding this “confidential informant” and why the case has turned so suddenly after all these years. My sense is that prosecutors in particular want to keep things quiet now to ensure they properly proceed against the person(s) they now believe murdered Isadore Rozeman. But soon, I hope, they will have to answer all the new questions this twist raises.

Like whether the murder weapon, never found in 1983 or anytime thereafter, was in the possession of one or both of the Robinsons at the time of Rozeman’s death. And whether the “credible” evidence prosecutors have just discovered was discoverable 30 years ago. What took so long for this information to come to light? Why did it come to light now? What is so credible about this new witness? What do old-time Shreveport law enforcement officials think about all this?

In the next few weeks, as this story spreads, the focus naturally will be on the ending of it—Ford’s first steps toward freedom. What few will focus upon, sadly, is why it took 30 years for justice to shine through here or why anyone (in or out of Louisiana) ought to have any confidence in a judicial system that so mightily defends verdicts like this one. Sure, a judge here and there piped up. Hearings were held. But precisely what good did it do Ford?

This is a sad story with a happy ending. But it’s a story I’ve written before. And it raises the inescapable question of how many other condemned men and woman are sitting on death row in the nation’s prisons, after sham trials like this, after feckless appellate review, waiting for lightning to strike them the way it has Glenn Ford. How many men, that is, who have not yet been executed despite being innocent of murder.

Until the very end what happened here was neither law nor order. It was instead something arbitrary and capricious, like the application of the death penalty itself. For Glenn Ford, the man Louisiana now says is innocent of murder, once faced a death warrant—on February 28, 1991. Had that warrant been executed who exactly would have known of the injustice of that act? Twenty-six other Louisiana death row inmates were killed during his decades on death row—eight by lethal injection, 18 by the electric chair.

What a waste—of a man’s life, of million of dollars in prison costs, of thousands upon thousands of hours of work by lawyers and judges and investigators and experts, all because the criminal justice system failed 30 years ago to provide to Ford with even a remotely fair trial. Soon it will be the first day of the rest of Glenn Ford’s life. He’ll try to make the best of it. Which is about all you can say, too, about the men and women responsible for Louisiana’s justice system.

(theatlantic.com)

LOUSIANA – Upcoming execution Christopher Sepulvado-February 5,2014 STAYED


UPDATE FEBRUARY 3. 2014  from Helen Prejean
We’ve just received the news that Christopher Sepulvado’s execution will not proceed on Wednesday. Instead, a trial on the constitutionality of Louisiana’s hastily change execution protocol will take place on April 7. The vigil scheduled for tomorrow has also been cancelled. This is good news, at least for the moment, and more great work by the lawyers.
SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA

NO. 93-KA-2692
FACTS
On Thursday, March 5, 1992, defendant married the victim’s mother, Yvonne. The next day,Friday, the victim came home from school, having defecated in his pants. Yvonne spanked him and refused to give him supper. Defendant returned home from work at approximately 9:00 p.m. That night, the victim was not allowed to change his clothes and was made to sleep on a trunk at the foot of his bed. On Saturday, the victim was not allowed to eat and was again made to sleep on the trunk in his soiled clothes.
At around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, defendant and the victim were in the bathroom, preparing to attend church services. Defendant instructed the victim to wash out his soiled underwear in the toilet and then take a bath. When the victim hesitated to do so,defendant hit him over the head with the handle of a screwdriver several times with enough force to render him unconscious.
There after, the victim was immersed in the bathtub which was filled with scalding hot water.
Approximately three hours later, at around 1:50 p.m.,defendant and his wife brought the victim to the emergency room at the hospital. At that time the victim was not breathing, had no pulse, and probably had been dead for approximately thirty to sixty minutes. All attempts to revive the victim were futile. The cause of death was attributed to the scald burns covering 60% of the victim’s body, primarily on his backside. There were third degree burns over 58% of the body and second degree burns on the remaining 2%.
The scalding was so severe that the victim’s skin had been burned away. In addition to the burns, medical examination revealed that the victim had been severely beaten. The victim’s
scalp had separated from his skull due to hemorrhaging and bruising. Also, there were deep bruises on the victim’s buttocks.
full opinion click here

APPEAL OF MEXICAN NATIONAL ON TEXAS DEATH ROW IS REJECTED BY 5TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS


By ExecutionWatch.com
LIVINGSTON, Texas – A Mexican national on Texas death row has lost an appeal in which he claims he is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s opinion that Ramiro Hernandez is not retarded, despite expert testimony that he suffers from mood and thought disorders and has received IQ scores ranging from the 50s to the 80s.

In its ruling Friday, the panel also rejected Hernandez’s request to expand his appeal to include claims that his lawyer was both ineffective and biased and that the trial court wrongly admitted evidence of previous convictions in Mexico.

Hernandez was sentenced to death in the 1997 slaying in Kerrville of a rancher who employed him as a hired hand. He is being held in the Polunsky Unit, home of the Texas death row for men.

The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit is one of 12 regional U.S. appeals courts that hear cases that have run out of state-level appeals. It hears cases out of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/12/12-70006.0.wpd.pdf

Louisiana releases execution protocol; inmate’s lawyer calls it ‘inadequate’


Louisiana corrections officials have released the state’s execution protocol after a lawsuit brought by two death row inmates called for more transparency into the procedure. But the inmates’ lawyers say details released by the state are spotty at best, and that the use of a new lethal drug is not fully explained.

Until this month, the state’s execution protocol was inaccessible by the public, including inmates and their attorneys. The protocol, obtained by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Friday, was released after 2 death row inmates filed suit against the state Corrections Department and Louisiana State Penitentiary, or Angola, to make public the documents.

But, Michael Rubenstein, lawyer for inmate Jessie Hoffman, said the nearly 60-page document he received last week is “woefully inadequate.” While it confirms previous court admissions that the state plans to switch to using a single drug in its lethal injections, it leaves out important details, he said.

“The lethal injection protocol released by the Louisiana Department of Corrections this week fails to provide the most basic information about how it intends to carry out executions,” Rubenstein said Friday.

He pointed to gaps in how lethal drugs will be stored, overseen and administered, and who will have ultimate responsibility over the drugs. He also expressed concerns about the state’s decision to switch from a 3-drug cocktail to just 1 drug.

“We still do not know whether any medical authorities were consulted regarding the incorporation of (pentobarbital); the original source or expiration date of the new drug; how the drug is to be administered; or the training of personnel who will implement the new procedure for the 1st time,” Rubenstein said.

Pentobarbital is a drug primarily used to treat seizures and insomnia. In large doses — such as the 5 grams administered during execution — the drug is lethal. Formerly, it was used primarily in euthanizing animals.

When pentobarbital first began being used in cases of capital punishment, in Oklahoma in 2010, inmate advocacy groups expressed concerns with it being largely untested in large doses. Ohio was the 1st state to use it alone in March 2011, triggering an outcry from advocates.

Louisiana has not yet used the single-drug formula. The last inmate to be executed in the state was in 2010, when the 3-drug cocktail was still in use. The state decided to make the switch after supplies of sodium thiopental — the starter drug in the cocktail — began to run out.

While Hoffman’s execution is not yet scheduled, the other plaintiff in the case, Christopher Sepulvado, was scheduled to be executed on Ash Wednesday this year. But after he joined Hoffman’s suit, the court ordered the state to delay his execution until the protocol was released.

It is unclear whether the state will proceed with Sepulvado’s execution now that the protocol has been released. Part of the attorneys’ argument was based on concerns about the use of pentobarbital, its 3-year expiration date, and who would be monitoring its storage — 3 pieces of information not fully elucidated in the execution protocol.

Pam LaBorde, public information officer for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, would not comment on the case Friday, citing “pending death penalty-related issues before the courts.”

In response, Rubenstein said he and his colleagues will “engage in a robust discovery process to uncover the truth” that begins with additional interrogations and documents requests.

Hoffman was sentenced to death for the 1996 kidnapping, rape and killing of Mary “Molly” Elliott, an advertising executive in St. Tammany Parish. Sepulvado was convicted of the beating and fatal scalding of his 6-year-old stepson in Mansfield in 1992.

Source: The New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 29, 2013

stay of executions january-august 2013


Stays of Execution 2013

 


 

Date of  Scheduled Execution  State  Inmate Reason for Stay
January
8 PA Mark Spotz Stayed to allow time for appeals.
16 OH Ronald Post Commuted to a sentence of life without parole.
29 TX Kimberly McCarthy Stayed until 4/SR3/2013 after attorneys raised claims of racial bias.
February
13 LA Christopher Sepulvado Stayed due to issues with lethal injection protocol in the state of Louisiana.
19 GA Warren Hill Stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to examine the issue of Hill’s mental retardation.
20 TX Britt Ripkowski Stayed by a district court which found the defendant legally incompetent.
21 GA Andrew Cook Stayed on lethal injection grounds by the Georgia Court of Appeals.  Update – Stay was lifted and Cook was executed as scheduled.
26 FL Augustus Howell Stayed to allow time for appeals.
27 TX Larry Swearingen Stayed to allow time for DNA testing.
March
5 PA Freeman May Stayed to allow time for appeals.
6 PA Orlando Maisonet Stayed to allow time for appeals.
6 AZ Edward Schad Stayed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow time for appeals.
7 PA Abraham Sanchez Stayed to allow time for appeals.
21 TX Michael Gonzales Stayed to allow time for appeals.
April
3 TX Kimberly McCarthy Stayed due to proposed legislation that would address racial discrimination in the death penalty.
10 TX Rigoberto Avila Stayed by 41st District Judge Anna Perez who ruled additional time is necessary to allow Avila’s defense attorneys to explore possible new evidence of Avila’s innocence.
21 PA Borgela Philistin Stayed to allow time for appeals.
24 TX Elroy Chester Stayed to allow time to clarify legal issues.
25 PA Michael Travaglia Stayed to allow time for appeals.
May
7 MS Willie Manning Stayed by Mississippi Supreme Court to allow further review of the case.
21 TX Robert Pruett 60-day stay to allow for DNA testing.
August
18-24 CO Nathan Dunlap Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order granting a temporary reprieve.

 

“Volunteer” refers to inmates who have voluntarily waived their normal appeals (not necessarily that they have volunteered for execution).

 

 

Katrina evacuee on Texas death row gets life term – Roosevelt Smith Jr.


November 7, 2012 http://www.chron.com

DALLAS  — A Louisiana man’s death sentence in Texas has been reduced to life in prison without parole in the killing of a woman who helped him when he relocated after Hurricane Katrina.

Attorneys for 50-year-old Roosevelt Smith Jr. contended he’s mentally impaired and ineligible for execution under Supreme Court guidelines.

A state-appointed psychologist determined Smith was impaired. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday agreed.

Smith, who was from Napoleonville, La., was condemned for beating and strangling 77-year-old Betty Blair in October 2005 at her home in Pasadena, just east of Houston. She’d been helping evacuees at a church and hired Smith and others to do odd jobs. He earlier had several burglary convictions and prison stints in Louisiana