Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Medical Examiner: Arizona Injection lines placed correctly in inmate

PHOENIX — Intravenous lines were placed correctly during the execution of an Arizona inmate whose death with lethal drugs took more than 90 minutes, a medical examiner said Monday.

Incorrect placement of lines can inject drugs into soft tissue instead of the blood stream, but the drugs used to kill Joseph Woods went into the veins of his arms, said Gregory Hess of the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hess also told The Associated Press that he found no unexplained injuries or anything else out of the ordinary when he examined the body of Woods, who gasped and snorted Wednesday more than 600 times before he was pronounced dead.

An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Hess said he will certify the outcome of Woods' execution as death by intoxication from the two execution drugs — the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — if there is nothing unusual about whatever drugs are detected in Wood's system.

Hess' preliminary findings were reported previously by the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/1thLaFe). Toxicology results are expected in 4 to 6 weeks from an outside lab.

Hess is chief deputy medical examiner for Pima County, which conducts autopsies for Pinal County, where the prison is located.

Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 killings of his estranged girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, and her father, Gene Dietz.

Wood was the first Arizona prisoner to be killed with the drug combination. Anesthesiology experts have said they weren't surprised the drugs took so long to kill him.

Arizona and other death-penalty states have scrambled in recent years to find alternatives to drugs used previously for executions but are now in short supply due to opposition to capital punishment.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered the Corrections Department to conduct a review of the execution of Wood.

Source: The Associated Press, July 28, 2014

Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner insists on innocence as he weathers legal downturn in his case

Henry "Hank" Skinner: "My life is
on the line for a crime I didn't do."
LIVINGSTON - Every morning, convicted triple killer Henry Skinner awakes about 4 a.m. as breakfast is served at Texas' death row, deep within the concertina wire-girded Polunksy Unit 10 miles west of this East Texas hamlet. Around him are the furnishings of his 6-by-10-foot steel and concrete cell - a sink, toilet and bunk. For 22 hours a day, this austere place is Skinner's home.

It is here that Skinner, a onetime Pampa paralegal sentenced to die for one of the bloodiest killings in recent Texas Panhandle history, awaits his fate.

"My life is on the line for a crime I didn't do," Skinner, 52, said this week. "As far as the state is concerned, I'm expendable trash."

Skinner's case garnered international attention as he battled for more than a decade to obtain DNA testing of vaginal swabs, a bloody knife and dozens of other pieces of previously unexamined crime scene evidence. Twice Skinner's imminent execution was postponed to allow his lawyers to argue for the testing, which finally began in 2012.

Now, with mid-July's ruling by Pampa state District Judge Steven Emmert that the test results probably would not have altered the Skinner jury's guilty verdict, the killer's life again hangs in the balance.

Skinner was convicted of the 1993 New Year's Eve murders of his live-in lover, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons, Randy Busby and Elwin "Scooter" Caler. Twila Busby was strangled and bludgeoned with an ax handle; the men, stabbed.

Skinner repeated assertions that the killer was Twila Busby's uncle, Robert Donnell, "a mean drunk," who had sexually accosted her during a New Year's Eve party at a nearby residence. Six weeks before the killings, Skinner and Busby's sons arrived at the family home to find Donnell assaulting his niece, he said.

Suspicion first was cast on Donnell by Northwestern University journalism students who traveled to Texas in 2000 to investigate leads in the case. They encountered a witness who had seen the man cleaning his pickup with uncharacteristic fervor just days after the killings.

Donnell later was killed in an auto accident.

Skinner's legal team believes a blood-spattered windbreaker found at the crime scene may have belonged to Donnell. The jacket was lost while in the custody of Gray County authorities, and was not available for DNA testing.

None of Skinner's explanations gained traction with jurors or later appellate court judges.

Source: Houston Chroncile, Allan Turner, July 27, 2014

Why Wood's execution should trouble death penalty fans

Arizona Death Chamber
Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that it took the murderer Joseph Wood almost two hours to die, gasping for air during his execution.

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that Gov. Jan Brewer immediately promised a review of the procedure and simultaneously appeared to clear the Department of Corrections of any wrongdoing.

Shortly after Wood was declared dead Brewer's office sent out statement that read in part, "While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process. One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."

Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you that the governor directed the DOC to do an investigation of … the DOC.

Whether you agree or not with the governor's conclusion that Wood "did not suffer," it should bother you that she said as much before any investigation was conducted, something noted by Federal Judge Neil Wake when he was asked to stop the execution while it was ongoing.

Whether or not you believe a cold-blooded killer like Wood should suffer it should bother you that some people seem willing to toss out the U.S. Constitution's protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Because that applies to everyone who comes in contact with the justice system.

Source: Arizona Central, EJ Montini, July 28, 2014


Screenshot from RECTIFY opening sequence


This powerful, intelligent, sensistive, well-documented and gripping new American series follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young) who must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia's Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.

TV Series. Creator: Ray McKinnon (2013) with Aden Young, J. Smith-Cameron, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby, Abigail Spencer, Jake Austin, Walker Bruce McKinnon, Michael O'Neill, J.D. Evermore Johnny Ray Gill. Produced by Gran Via Productions, Zip Works. Distributed by Sundance Channel (2013-) (USA) (TV).

More information on the IMDB page here.

Agree/Disagree? Click here to comment.

South Korean student survivors recall horror of ferry disaster; captain, 3 senior officers could face death penalty

A passenger ferry, carrying more than 470 people, sunk
off the coast of South Korea, killing over 300 passengers.
All but one of the six students who testified in the Monday morning session of the criminal case appeared in the court room in the city of Ansan, just outside of Seoul, although they had been given the option of doing so via video link from a nearby room - a measure meant to make the experience less daunting.

One of the students, whose names were withheld to protect their privacy, recalled how they were instructed via the ferry's internal tannoy "over and over" to stay put in their cabins, until the vessel had listed severely to one side.

"The door was above our heads. We had our lifejackets on and the president of our class suggested we wait until we could float upwards and then escape," the student.

Help that never came

Another recalled seeing classmates swept back into the ferry as they were trying to escape.

"About 30 schoolmates stood in line in a corridor leading to an emergency exit, waiting for rescue. With no rescuers coming, one student after another jumped into the sea. After I jumped, a wave smashed the exit, keeping the remaining people from coming out," the student said.

Yet another said he had observed the crew floating in a Coast Guard dingy, within an arm's length of the ferry, but that they offered no assistance to those on board the stricken vessel and waiting to be rescued.
All indicated that many more could have been saved had they not been told to stay put. Only 75 of the students from Dawon High School in Ansan survived the disaster. A total of around 300 of the 476 people on board were killed.

The actually trial is being held in Gwangju, 265 kilometers (165 miles) south of Seoul, but the judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers traveled to Ansan, to hear the students' two days of testimony.

Death penalty possible

The captain of the Sewol ferry, Lee Joon-seok, and three other senior crew members are facing a number of charges including "homicide through wilful negligence." If found guilty, all four could face the death penalty.

Eleven other crew members are on trial on lesser charges.

Their testimony comes just days after the authorities announced that a body found in an orchard in the south of the country last month was that of Yoo Byun-eun, who owned the company that operated the ferry.

He had been on the run from police, who were seeking to question him on allegations of criminal negligence, embezzlement, and tax evasion.

Source: dpa, AFP, Reuters, July 28, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chemical mix and human error lead to controversial executions

Arizona spent 2 hours killing death row inmate Joseph Wood this week, an unusually long time for an execution. Wood's death has reopened the debate about capital punishment and lethal injection. Lethal injection is used in all 32 states that have the death penalty.

Some witnesses said Wood was gasping for breath and seemed to be in pain. Others said he was simply snoring. The state of Arizona said Wood didn't suffer. Either way, there are renewed concerns that executions, which are supposed to be quick and painless, are neither.

Typically executions are performed using 3 drugs in stages. The 1st drug is an anesthetic. The 2nd drug is called a paralytic and the 3rd drug is supposed to stop the heart.

For years, executioners used a drug called sodium thiopental as the 1st drug, the anesthetic, until the only U.S. producer of the drug stopped making it. Then the United States turned to European manufacturers, but they refused to sell the drug for use in executions.

Since sodium thiopental was taken off the market for executions, states have turned to a drug called midazolam for the anesthetic. But experts believe there have been problems with the drug in at least three executions. The problems described by witnesses included gasping, snorting or choking sounds and, in one execution, the inmate was described as speaking.

Wood was injected with midazolam on Wednesday, as well as hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller that, with an overdose, halts breathing and stops the heart from beating. It is one of the new combinations that states have tried, with some controversial results.

What would qualify as a botched execution? Michael Radelet, a professor of sociology and law, said an execution is botched when it looks like the inmate endured "prolonged suffering" for 20 minutes or more.

Whether they're "botched" or not, plenty of executions don't go by the book. Most of the executions listed here were compiled by Human Rights Watch.

Dennis McGuire, executed January 16, 2014, in Ohio. Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson said the execution process took 24 minutes, and that McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes. He had been injected with midazolam and hydromorphone, a 2-drug combination that hadn't been used before in the United States. McGuire, 53, was convicted in 1994 in the rape and murder of a 22-year-old pregnant woman.

Clayton Lockett, executed April 29, 2014, in Oklahoma. Lockett was injected with midazolam, but instead of becoming unconscious, he twitched, convulsed and spoke. The execution was halted, but Lockett died after 43 minutes. A team that prepared Lockett for execution failed to set a properly functioning IV in his leg, according to preliminary findings of an independent autopsy. Lockett was convicted in the 1999 death of an Oklahoma woman who was buried alive after she was raped and shot.

Jose High, executed November 7, 2001, in Georgia. This execution illustrates a common problem. The execution team had trouble finding a usable vein and spent 39 minutes looking before finally sticking a needle into High's hand. A 2nd needle was inserted between his neck and shoulder by a physician. 69 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead. High was convicted in a 1976 store robbery and the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old boy.

Claude Jones, executed December 7, 2000, in Texas. The execution team spent 30 minutes looking for a suitable vein, a difficult task because of Jones' history of drug abuse. He was convicted in the 1990 murder of a liquor store owner.

Joseph Cannon, executed April 23, 1998, in Texas. The needle popped out and Cannon said to witnesses, "It's come undone." The needle was reinserted and 15 minutes later a weeping Cannon made his second final statement. He was convicted of murder.

John Wayne Gacy, executed May 10, 1994, in Illinois. Lethal chemicals solidified and clogged in the IV tube leading to Gacy's arm. A new tube was installed and the execution proceeded. Gacy, one of America's most notorious killers, was convicted in 1980 of raping and killing 33 boys and young men he lured into his home.

Charles Walker, executed September 12, 1990, in Illinois. The execution was prolonged because a kink in the plastic tubing stopped the flow of chemicals into Walker's body and an intravenous needle pointed at Walker's fingers, instead of his heart, said a Missouri State Prison engineer hired to assist in the execution. Walker was convicted of 2 counts of murder.

Raymond Landry, executed December 13, 1988, in Texas. The catheter dislodged and flew through the air 1 minutes after injection of drugs into Landry's body. The execution team spent 14 minutes inserting it again and Landry was pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the gurney. He had been convicted of murder.

Source: CNN, July 26, 2014

DPN: This article fails to mention the ordeal of Ohio's death row inmate Romell Broom, who survived his execution by lethal injection.

Are US Executions Really Humane?

The Walls Unit, Huntsville, Texas
As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

There were only 3 people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears 3 hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of 10 lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of 4 men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history - 234. The numbers continues to grow.

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the 1st execution was bungled.

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

Source: Epoch Times, July 26, 2014. Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Epoch Times.

Most US people executed not evil: Study

A new study shows that prisoners put to death in the US are hardly ever the worst of the worst criminals.

The study, published in Hastings Law Journal, examined 100 executions carried out between 2012 and 2013, many of these people are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers.

"A lot of folks even familiar with criminal justice and the death penalty system thought that, by the time you executed somebody, you're really gonna get these people that the court describes as the worst of the worst," Robert Smith, the study's lead researcher and an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina, told The Huffington Post.

"It was surprising to us just how many of the people that we found had evidence in their record suggesting that there are real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed," Smith added.

One of the people studied as part of the research is Daniel Cook whose mom used alcoholic drinks as well as drugs while she was pregnant with him. Cook's mother and grandparents molested him and his dad abused him by burning his genitals with a cigarette.

Even later when he was placed in foster care, a "foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a 1-way mirror," said Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

The prosecutor who presented the death penalty case against Cook said he would never have done had he known about his brutal past. Nevertheless, he was put to death on August 8, 2012.

The US Supreme Court has found that executing inmates with an intellectual disability or severe mental illness can violate the Eighth Amendment, according to which cruel and unusual punishment are barred.

In addition, the court has found that severe childhood trauma can be a mitigating factor in a defendant's case, showed a press release accompanying the report.

Smith also noted that the courts had found, regardless of the heinousness of the crime, the prosecution must also prove the defendant is "morally culpable."

He further argued people ended up executed did not have a chance to receive adequate representation at the trial level. In other words, juries were often unaware of defendants' intellectual or mental health problems or their family history of extreme abuse.

He concluded that the reason why traumatic childhoods are raised is not necessarily aimed at making juries feel bad for the person on trial, but because of "decades of research" which shows these types of trauma can provoke the kinds of "functional deficits" that were visible in most of the cases studied in the report.

Source: Press TV, July 26, 2014

India: Would-be Executioners Line Up to Make a Killing as Wages Hiked

Hundreds of death row inmates are waiting for the hangman in prisons throughout India, but the country's judicial system is facing a shortage of executioners.

The hangmen's tribe have dwindled in recent years with executions becoming a rarity, while negligible remuneration and the ominous nature of the job have prevented newcomers to the profession.

However, all that is set to change at least in the southern state of Kerala, which has found a straightforward way to attract interest - raise the remuneration steeply.

According to report in a regional language daily, the wages for hangmen have gone up from a mere Rupees 500 (4.90, $8.33 pounds) to Rupees 200,000 (1,958, $3,330 pounds) per execution.

The sharp wage hike prompted hordes of aspirants to queue up for the job - in the hope of making a killing.

Apart from the office of the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi which published the report, the state's central jails and associated departments also received a flurry of enquiries from would-be hangmen. Some called, others wrote and some others came in person, hoping to land the lucrative position, the daily said in a subsequent report.

In all, there are 16 convicts on death row pending appeal and the state has to keep a hangman ready, reports the Hindustan Times.

Kerala's Kannur Central jail, which houses the largest number of convicts sentenced to death in the state, received at least 50 applications after the news broke, according to the Mathrubhumi.

Some of the applicants spoke boastfully about taking on the difficult task, while some others saw it as a great opportunity to become debt free.

One man even picked the prisoner he wanted to hang - a convict sentenced to death in a sensational rape and murder case that rocked the state a few years ago. Another called up the Mathrubhumi's office to plead that he be allowed to hang all 16 convicts at one go as it would help him escape the burden of debts he had incurred.

Jail officials had a tough time convincing them that there was no permanent positions open for the executioner's job and therefore they could not entertain requests for the same, the Malayalam daily reported.

The dearth of people to take up the grim job has been fodder for popular films in Kerala's thriving film industry. The convention has been to look for paid volunteers whenever an execution is confirmed by the country's highest court.

In India, death penalty is by hanging and awarded only in the 'rarest of rare cases' with the last reported high-profile hanging being that of Afzal Guru in February 2013 for his role in the 2001 attack on the country's parliament.

Unfortunately for the applicants, the 16 convicts sentenced to the gallows in Kerala could appeal to commute their death sentences. Only when their appeal is overturned by the higher courts including the Supreme Court, and their final petition of mercy rejected by the president of the country, will they actually be executed.

In short, for all those aspiring executioners in Kerala who dreams of a windfall, hope is hanging by a thread.

Source: Yahoo News, July 26, 2014

Pakistan: Acid attacker awarded death penalty

The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar. 

Anti Terrorism Court (ACT) Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad awarded death penalty on Friday to man convicted of attacking a woman with acid and killing her near Mansoorabad police station. 

Prosecution said 30-year-old woman Ayesha Zafar, a divorcee, was going on a motorbike with her nephew Zunair Sajid, 14, on June 10 when Waqas Zulfiqar, a property dealer, threw acid on her. 

The woman and her nephew were injured and taken to a hospital. Later, they were referred to Allied Hospital where the woman succumbed. 

The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar. The convict was also directed to pay Rs400,000 compensation or undergo imprisonment of 1.5 years. He was also fined Rs1 million. 

Source: The Express Tribune, July 26, 2014

Madhya Pradesh: Acid attacker given death sentence by court

Morena, Madhya Pradesh: In a significant judgement, a youth has been sentenced to death by a local court for throwing acid on a woman following which she died.

Additional Sessions Judge at Ambah in the district K C Gupta yesterday awarded capital punishment to Jogendra Tomar (28), who had thrown acid on the face of Ruby Rawat (24) last year at her house in Porsa town of Morena, after she rejected his demand to live with him. Ruby had later succumbed to her injuries.

The judge observed that the crime committed by Jogendra was heinous and that merely awarding him life imprisonment would not have been enough. "It is because of this that I have decided to give him the death sentence," he further observed.

Enraged over Ruby's refusal to live with him, Jogendra, who is married, went to her house in Porsa on July 21 last year and threw acid on her face while she was sleeping. He also threw acid on some family members who tried to rescue Ruby. They had also sustained injuries in the attack.

Tomar was later arrested following a complaint filed against him by the deceased's father, Dataram. Police had registered a case under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (a) (causing permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or by administering acid to that person) and 450 (house-trespass in order to commit offence).

Source: PTI, July 25, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Texas: Lawyers file complaint against prosecutor in Corsicana arson-murder case

The Willingham's family house soon after the blaze
that took the lives of their three young children.
Houston lawyers Friday filed a complaint against a former North Texas prosecutor, claiming he lied about cutting a deal with a witness that helped send a possibly innocent Corsicana auto mechanic to his execution.

The complaint against John Jackson was lodged with the State Bar of Texas to spotlight the former prosecutor's alleged perjury during a 2010 court of inquiry called to review the murder case. Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, was executed in 2004 for the December 1991 murder of his three young children in an arson fire at his Corsicana home.

Neal Mann, a lawyer with Susman Godfrey LLP, said Jackson cut a deal with a jailhouse informer whose testimony was key to Willingham's conviction, then hid it from the court.

Jackson has denied that he offered special consideration to the informer in return for testimony, but Willingham supporters said they have documentation that Jackson intervened for the man when he later was incarcerated in state prison.

Willingham's conviction and execution gained international notoriety when three expert reviews questioned the accuracy of state and local arson investigations in the case.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Allan Turner, July 25, 2014

The Beginning of the End of America’s Death-Penalty Experiment

San Quentin Prison's brand new execution chamber
Beginnings and endings are not always apparent when they occur. The modern death-penalty era began on July 2, 1976, when the Supreme Court decided the case of Gregg v. Georgia. But we did not actually know it had begun until Jan. 17, 1977, which was the date the State of Utah executed Gary Gilmore by firing squad.

The thing about the firing squad, though, and most all other methods of execution the States adopted—including hanging, the electric chair and the gas chamber—is that they are not the least bit subtle. When you shoot somebody, or hang him, you know you are killing him. The death penalty, however, is the sausage factory of America’s legal system: Nobody wants to know what is actually going on.

So the states eventually embraced lethal injection as the preferred method of killing condemned murderers. Now we could all pretend that the process was nothing more than a sterile implementation of proportional punishment. Sure, we were still killing somebody, but the actual act of killing the condemned looked like something you might see on the medical channel. People sometimes ask me what it is like to witness an execution, and I tell them the most powerful thing about it is walking outside the prison after it is over, into the bright light of day, and seeing that the State has just killed someone, and the citizens don’t have a clue.

We do know, however, when the end of the modern death-penalty era began: April 29, 2014. That was the day we could no longer remain willfully naive. It was the date Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett.

Lockett had murdered a young woman named Stephanie Neiman. He shot her and buried her alive, an unusually grisly crime. He was not exactly the sort of murderer abolitionists would choose as a poster boy. But he became one anyway. As the execution was proceeding, he woke up and began straining against the leather straps that held him to the gurney. So gruesome was the scene that prison officials pulled the curtain, preventing the witnesses from seeing him writhe and gasp for air any further. Forty-three minutes later, he died.

Source: Politico Magazine, David R. Dow, July 25, 2014. Mr. Dow, who represents death-row inmates, is the Cullen professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the Rorschach visiting professor of history at Rice University. His most recent book is Things I’ve Learned from Dying.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Troubled U.S. executions raise questions about doctors in death chamber

Arizona Death Chamber
Almost all of the 32 states that use the death penalty either require or permit a physician to attend executions, which often are carried out by lesser-trained medical personnel, but doctors who participate risk losing their license to practice medicine if they are discovered to have helped.

There was a doctor present at the execution in Oklahoma in April, where an IV popped out when rapist and murderer Clayton Lockett was being executed. Prison officials halted the execution, but Lockett died of a heart attack about 40 minutes after the procedure started.

Similarly in Arizona, a doctor was present on Wednesday when it took at least two doses of a lethal drug cocktail to execute double murderer Joseph Wood. The Arizona Department of Corrections said the IVs were properly placed, and that Wood was fully sedated throughout the procedure.

The typical protocol for states requires that a medically trained person - such as a paramedic, military corpsman or certified medical assistant - administer the IV. Names are kept secret, including of any doctor who may assist.

Under guidelines set by the American Medical Association, a physician can confirm the death of an executed inmate. But a physician cannot declare death, administer drugs, monitor vital signs, select injection sites, start an IV, supervise drug injections or consult with a person carrying out the injection.

"A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution," the AMA said.

Source: Reuters, July 25, 2015

Japanese man executed in China over stimulant drug smuggling

Chinese authorities executed Friday a Japanese man in his 50s who had been sentenced to death in connection with stimulant drug smuggling.

Commenting on the execution, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Kyodo News that China prudently applies the death penalty, and renders judgment based on strict legal procedures and reviews them. "The judicial branch also administers capital punishment based on normal procedures," Hong said.

Yang Yu, counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, voiced agreement with the execution, saying at a press conference Friday that drug-related offenses are considered serious crimes anywhere in the world.

"In China, the judicial branch independently hands down decisions based on the law, and all people whatever their nationality are treated equally and punished severely," he emphasized.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said China had notified Japan that the execution took place in the morning.

The man was sentenced to death in December 2012 and the ruling became final in August 2013, Japanese officials said, adding that he met his family on Thursday.

Since Tokyo and Beijing normalized diplomatic relations in 1972, the man, whose identity was not released, is the 5th Japanese to have been executed in China, according to the officials.

Kishida told a news conference in Tokyo that while it is up to China to decide what kind of penalty should be imposed on criminals, "We have conveyed to the Chinese side that we have taken a heightened interest in the death penalty handed down to Japanese nationals." In China, the smuggling of 50 grams or more of narcotics is an offense punishable by death. In 2010, four Japanese were executed in China for stimulant drug smuggling.

Amnesty International estimates that China executed thousands of people in 2013 under the death penalty, more than any other country in the world. China does not disclose how many executions it carries out each year.

A court in Dalian in northeastern China conveyed the information on the latest execution to the Japanese consular office in the city, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Source: Kyodo News International, July 25, 2014

Experts decry 'failed experiment' with new death penalty drug combinations

Leading experts on the use of medical drugs in capital punishment have accused death penalty states of conducting a “failed experiment” with new drug combinations following a recent run of drawn-out executions in which prisoners have shown signs of distress on the gurney.

“There have been two executions using midazolam and hydromorphone, and both have led to problems. That indicates that it's possible that the combination doesn't work. These are failed experiments with this drug combination,” said David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school who has acted as an expert defence witness in many capital cases. “Given the two recent events it seems irresponsible to continue trying this combination.”

Mark Heath, a Columbia University anaesthesiologist in New York, and also a lethal injection expert, pointed out that of the 12 executions in which midazolam has been deployed, “four did not really go as you'd expect or want”. He said: "The common theme is that in all of them the prisoner seems to go to sleep but keeps moving or breathing for long after you'd expect that to happen.” He added that the use of midazolam was “at this point clearly a failed experiment”.

It took so long for Wood to die on Wednesday that his lawyers even tried, one hour into the procedure, to persuade a judge to order it be stopped and Wood resuscitated. The transcript of the phone conversation between Wood's lawyer, a federal judge and Arizona state officials revealed both the primitive medical set-up inside the death chamber and the ignorance of officials about basic medical matters.

Jeffrey Zick, a lawyer with the Arizona attorney general's office, told Judge Neil Wake that “Mr Wood is effectively brain dead.” Asked by the judge whether the prisoner had probes attached to his head to prove that he was brain dead, Zick said no, but insisted that a medically trained individual had observed Wood to be in that condition.

But Waisel, the Harvard professor, told the Guardian that someone who is brain dead will stop breathing unless kept alive on a ventilator. “There is no way anyone could ever look at someone and make that kind of diagnosis. He was still breathing, so he was not brain dead. This is an example where they threw out a term that has a precise medical definition, but they didn't know what it means.”

Other independent experts agreed. “If you are taking breaths, you are not brain dead. Period,” said Dr Chitra Venkat, clinical associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. “That is not compatible with brain death, at all. In fact, it is not compatible with any form of death.”

Source: The Guardian, July 25, 2014

After troubled execution in Arizona, Ohio to use same drugs, dosage

Despite problems that plagued an Arizona execution, Ohio officials plan to use the same drugs in the same quantity during Ronald Phillips’ execution scheduled for Sept. 18.

Capital punishment in Ohio has been on hold for two months because of an order by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost in a lethal-injection case. Frost’s order expires on Aug. 15. Barring further legal action, the execution will proceed for Phillips, a Summit County child-killer who already has had two reprieves.

However, the troubled execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on Wednesday turned up the heat on a death-penalty debate that began on Jan. 16 when Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using a then-untested chemical combination.

While prison officials concluded that McGuire, 53, did not feel “pain or distress” during his execution, witnesses observed that he repeatedly gasped, choked, clenched his fists and appeared to struggle against his restraints for more than 10 minutes after the administration of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller. McGuire was executed for the murder of 22-year-old Joy Stewart in 1989.

It was the first time that those drugs were used in an execution in the United States.

Ohio officials said the dosage for the next execution will be 50 milligrams of midazolam, up from 10 milligrams, and 50 milligrams of hydromorphone, up from 40 milligrams. That is the same quantity used in Wood’s execution. Ohio will have a third syringe ready containing 60 milligrams of hydromorphone; other syringes will be prepared and available “if needed.”

Phillips, 40, was scheduled to be put to death last Nov. 14, but Gov. John Kasich postponed his execution by seven months to give the inmate the opportunity to make good on his desire to donate a kidneyto his ailing mother. Time ran out before arrangements could be finalized, and Phillips was scheduled to die on July 2. That date was postponed by Frost’s order.

Source: The Colombus Dispatch, July 25, 2014

Executed Killer Joseph Wood Died In Middle of Emergency Hearing

An Arizona judge was in the middle of an emergency telephone hearing on the execution of Joseph Wood when word came that the inmate had finally died after more than an hour of what witnesses have described as gasping.

A transcript of the hearing shows that 45 minutes after defense lawyers filed a motion asking that Wood's execution be stopped because he was still alive, no decision had been made.

The parties — U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, a lawyer from the state attorney general's office, and Wood's attorney — were discussing whether stopping the execution would cause pain when the question became moot.

"I just learned that the IV team leader has confirmed Mr. Wood's death," said Jeff Zick, an attorney for the state.

The process took nearly two hours, with a member of the medical team checking eight times to see if the double-murderer was still alive, state officials said.

Midway through the execution, Wood's legal team filed for an emergency stay of execution and asked the court to order prison officials to try to resuscitate him.

The judge was summoned from a meeting, and Wood's lawyer Robin Konrad told him by phone that since her client had been sedated at 1:57 p.m., "he has been gasping, snorting, and unable to breathe and not dying."

Source: NBC News, July 24, 2014

Arizona lawyers appeal for emergency stay during two-hour execution – read the court transcript

Transcript of the frantic telephone court session that took place during the execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on Wednesday. Wood's execution lasted for so long that lawyers filed a motion for an emergency stay some 90 minutes into the botched procedure. Wood died while the court hearing was still ongoing.

Click here to read the court transcript

Source: The Guardian, July 24, 2014

Two-hour long executions might not affect public opinion on the death penalty

Public support for the death penalty in the United States has declined, but it remains strong, with at least 60 percent of respondents in surveys saying that they favor capital punishment. Whether the public would support the kind of execution that the state of Arizona administered on Wednesday, in which a convicted murderer took two hours to die after a lethal injection, is another question, one that pollsters can't yet answer.

A poll conducted by CBS News found that support for capital punishment had declined by 5 percentage points between last year and this May. Polls conducted by Gallup and The Washington Post-ABC News found no change in public attitudes.

Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said he doubted that prolonged executions would alter public opinion. When supporters of the death penalty are asked why they are in favor, they tend to say condemned prisoners must pay for their crimes. "The fact that the killer suffered for one or two hours more at the end may not affect those underlying attitudes," Newport said. "That's the whole idea."

Source: The Washington Post, Wonkblog, Max Ehrenfreud, July 24, 2014

A Prolonged Execution in Arizona Leads to a Temporary Halt

Joseph Wood
PHOENIX — The Arizona attorney general on Thursday called a temporary halt to executions in the state, a day after the convicted killer Joseph R. Wood III died one hour and 57 minutes after his execution began. Death penalty experts said it was one of the longest times it has taken in the United States for drugs to kill a condemned man.

But Charles L. Ryan, the director of the state’s Department of Corrections rejected the notion that the execution was botched, despite the fact that the procedure of death by lethal injection usually takes about 15 minutes. He said in a statement that an autopsy by the Pima County medical examiner, concluded on Thursday, found that the intravenous lines were “perfectly placed,” “the catheters in each arm were completely within the veins” and “there was no leakage of any kind.”

“I am committed to a thorough, transparent and comprehensive review process,” Mr. Ryan said.

The execution of Mr. Wood was, by all accounts, an unusual one: Once a vein had been tapped, it took one hour and 52 minutes for the drugs pumped into him to do their work; the process dragged on long enough for Mr. Wood’s lawyers to file an emergency appeal to a Federal District Court to stop the execution.

Source: The New York Times, Fernanda Santos, John Scwartz, July 24, 2014