[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----KY., CALIF., N.Y.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Apr 21 02:07:03 CDT 2005
Kentucky lethal injections could be agonizing, expert testifies
Kentucky's drugs and procedures for lethal injection could produce an
agonizing death that even trained personnel might not recognize, an expert
witness testified Wednesday.
Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in
New York, said the combination of a short-acting barbiturate, along with a
paralyzing drug before one that causes the heart to stop might actually
produce a patient who is awake and aware, but paralyzed and unable to show
"I'm not sure if pain is the right word. It would cause agony," Heath
said. "Along with that would be terror."
Two inmates, including one facing execution within days, filed suit to
challenge the way Kentucky conducts its lethal injection punishment,
claiming it amounted to unconstitutional cruelty. Franklin County Circuit
Judge Roger Crittenden stayed the execution of Thomas Clyde Bowling in
November to resolve the lawsuit and execution issues.
Kentucky executed Eddie Lee Harper in 1999 using lethal injection, the
only other inmate put to death by that method. Since then, the procedure
has changed, though officials said the new guidelines should actually work
to better ensure a humane execution by increasing a drug dosage.
The state uses a series of three drugs, designed to put the inmate to
sleep, paralyze him and then stop his heart.
Heath testified that any 1 of the 3 drugs would eventually cause death.
The unknown factor is something called conscious paralysis or anesthesia
Carol Weihrer testified that she was undergoing eye surgery in 1998 and
given a paralyzing drug, but could feel and hear everything going on
around her. "I was screaming at the top of my lungs, but I knew no sound
was coming out," Weihrer said.
She has since created a nonprofit organization that teaches doctors and
others about the phenomenon.
Heath said the clues that a person might be conscious but paralyzed on an
operating table are subtle, even for medical personnel. Clues might be
involuntary symptoms such as a tear, elevated heart rate or blood pressure
Kentucky has only a heart monitor attached to inmates who are being
executed and the person watching that is in another room. Only 2 prison
officers are generally in the death chamber during an execution.
Someone given the first 2 drugs on Kentucky's list might "appear serene
and tranquil and peaceful and comfortable," Heath said. In the meantime,
the state would be injecting potassium chloride, which he said is an
"extremely painful way of stopping the heart."
Heath, who has testified for other inmates in challenges to lethal
injection procedures in other states, said he was first intrigued by the
topic when he saw the drugs used to execute Timothy McVeigh, who was
convicted of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
Heath said the paralyzing drug can mask problems if the painkilling drug
is not working properly. Such procedures are actually prohibited in
euthanasia for animals, a University of Tennessee veterinary professor
"Paralyzing an animal without anesthesia is actually criminal," Heath
said. "Certainly, nobody would ever do that on purpose unless they wanted
to be cruel to the animal."
Crittenden has scheduled hearings this month and next. His ruling will
almost certainly be appealed.
(source: Associated Press)
CALIFORNIA----new death sentence
L.A. Gang Member Sentenced to Die
Facing a death sentence Wednesday, a defiant Los Angeles street gang
member told the judge they would meet "in hell" before he was sentenced to
die for multiple murder.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said Oswaldo
Amezcua, 30 killed "for sport" before sentencing him and a codefendant,
Joseph Flores, 34.
"See you in hell," Amezcua said, ending a rambling statement he delivered
when Perry asked if he had anything to say before sentencing.
The judge said the 2 killed in a way that showed "extreme indifference and
callous disregard for human life."
They were punished for murdering four people in 2000 in a crime spree that
ended as they took 15 people hostage and wounded 3 police officers in a
shootout over the Independence Day weekend on the Santa Monica Pier.
"They want this death sentence," said Deputy Los Angeles County District
Attorney Darren Levine, who prosecuted the case. "They wanted the
notoriety of going to death row."
"The defendants have said in statements that they wanted the death
penalty, they wanted to go down known as notorious gang members. This to
them, unfortunately, is like a reward."
The 2 were released from prison in April, 2000, after serving sentences
for armed robbery. Levine said they went on a 3-month crime spree in which
they killed indiscriminately.
(source: KTLA News)
For Republicans, Albany Reforms Go Just So Far
Republicans in the State Assembly had a rare chance on Tuesday to flex
some political muscle, taking advantage of legislative reforms this winter
to try to do what they were elected to do: actually make laws.
Yet this new burst of power had its limits. The Republicans had hoped to
debate the bills in the full Assembly, but Democrats defeated the proposed
legislation by voting not to consider the bills.
With only 45 Republicans in the 150-member Assembly, the minority is used
to having its will frustrated. But under the reforms, they had gained
greater ability to move bills out of committee to be debated and voted
upon by the Assembly.
This month, the Republicans had singled out seven bills for action, filing
motions to discharge each of the bills from committee. Democrats
essentially killed 5 of the motions, saying the committees had already
acted on the bills.
These included a bill to restore the death penalty, which Democrats on the
Assembly Codes Committee defeated last week, and which, by their
interpretation of the rules, had nullified it for at least a year.
Republican legislators said 2 of their bills remained alive, and they
sought discharge and passage of both. On Tuesday evening, the Assembly
considered a bill to apply criminal penalties for producing
methamphetamines in the state.
In the end, though, 68 lawmakers voted to discharge the bill from
committee to allow a full Assembly debate, while 72 voted no.
"Obviously it's a disappointment that the Democrats don't see the value of
letting the full Assembly vote on criminalizing methamphetamine
production," said Kelly Cummings, a spokeswoman for Assemblyman Charles H.
Nesbitt, the minority leader.
The Republicans will try again on Wednesday, when they seek a vote on
legislation to renew the state's law on locating power plants.
"It's important that the minority party have an ability to get them to the
floor where everyone can have a say," Ms. Cummings said of the bills.
(source: New York Times)
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