[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.J., KY., OHIO, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Aug 1 04:08:23 UTC 2006
Bishop calls for end to death penalty at N.J. commission hearing
Speaking for the Catholic bishops of New Jersey at the first New Jersey
Death Penalty Study Commission hearing July 19, Trenton Bishop John M.
Smith called for an end to capital punishment because all human life has
dignity and other means are available to punish heinous crimes.
Bishop Smith cited a 2005 statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops that said, "The death penalty diminishes all of us. Its use ought
to be abandoned not only for what it does to those who are executed, but
what it does to us as a society. We cannot teach respect for life by
According to a December 2004 Zogby International survey of 1,700 American
Catholics, only 48 percent support the death penalty, Bishop Smith said.
"When given a choice, the majority of New Jerseyans who regularly attend
religious services (54 percent) prefer life without parole over the death
penalty for murder," he added. "While I am encouraged by these poll
numbers, I believe that the trend against the imposition of the death
penalty will grow in our community as people learn and grow in their
understanding that the death penalty is inconsistent with standards of
Also testifying against the death penalty was Larry Peterson, who was
recently exonerated after spending 18 years in a New Jersey prison for a
murder he did not commit.
The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after a
three-year suspension. It was reinstated in New Jersey in 1982, but no one
has been executed by the state since 1963. There are 10 men on death row
in New Jersey, which uses lethal injection as the method of execution.
In January, then-Gov. Richard J. Codey signed legislation that ordered a
temporary moratorium on executions and created the commission to examine
the flaws in the death penalty system. The commission will hold another
public hearing Sept. 13, also in Trenton.
The commission must submit its recommendations to the Legislature and Gov.
Jon S. Corzine by Nov. 15.
Also July 19, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty released
a report chronicling the stories of 25 New Jersey residents, who, though
not on death row, were convicted of crimes they did not commit.
The report -- titled "Innocence Lost in New Jersey" "shows that mistakes
can and do happen in New Jersey and underscores why the state must replace
its outdated and fatally flawed death penalty system with the alternative
punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole," said
Celeste Fitzgerald, executive director of the anti-death penalty group.
"This is not about letting killers go free," she continued. "The debate
has shifted away from whether the death penalty is necessary in principle,
right or wrong. You can believe that someone deserves to die. It has
shifted to whether it is necessary in (terms of) what we give up to have
Other factors that should be considered in banning capital punishment,
Fitzgerald said, include: Only 1 % of murderers are sentenced to death and
the state spends an extra $11 million per year just to have the death
Since 1982, New Jersey has spent $253 million on the death penalty over
what would have spent on life sentences, according to a study released in
2005 by New Jersey Policy Perspective. According to several studies,
capital cases cost more to prosecute than those seeking a life sentence
for a defendant.
"The bottom line is what could we have done with the quarter-billion
dollars and what can we do with the $11 million? We can put more police in
the street, give them better tools, better processing labs to get better
convictions," Fitzgerald said.
"There is also a serious need for victim's services, especially for
victims of homicide, such as long-term counseling," she said.
Fitzgerald said she and her husband, Kelly, who are members of St. Patrick
Parish, Chatham, can empathize with those on both sides of the issue
because a relative of her husband was the victim of a homicide.
"Those of us who lost family members to murder know uniquely there is no
right way to feel when someone is murdered," she said. "We have had
wonderful and respectful conversations with people who have been in our
(source: Catholic News Service)
Jury Selection Begins in Death Penalty Trial in Lexington
2 years after a Lexington music store clerk was gunned down during a
robbery, the accused killer goes on trial.
Jury selection for Taquan Neblett began Monday morning and will continue
Neblett faces the death penalty if convicted of killing Derek Elam. He's
also accused of shooting Sami Habjibrahim, the owner of Sami's Music
Jury selection is expected to take 2 full days. The jury pool is larger
than normal because it is a death penalty trial.
Attorney's are still waiting to hear a ruling on a motion filed in a
previous hearing. The prosecution asked for Neblett's criminal history to
be presented as evidence. He was convicted of a Louisville murder when he
(source: WKYT News)
Health concern for death row Scot
Human rights campaigners have raised fears over the health of a Scot on
death row in the US. Amnesty International said Kenny Richey, who is
originally from Edinburgh, had heart surgery on Friday after complaining
of chest pains.
The 41-year-old was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of
murdering a two-year-old child in an arson attack in Ohio.
He is awaiting a final ruling on his conviction from the Supreme Court.
Richey has always denied any involvement and last year his conviction was
quashed by a US court of appeal.
That decision was later overturned by the US Supreme Court, crushing
Richey's hope of an imminent release.
The case has now gone back to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal, which is
expected to return its verdict in the next few months.
If the court upholds the previous verdict, then the authorities will have
to re-try Richey within 30 days or release him.
His ill health has prompted Amnesty International Scotland to press for
the ruling as soon as possible.
Spokeswoman Rosemary Burnett said: "We are concerned that the uncertainty
in which Kenny is being kept is contributing to his health problems.
"Keeping someone on death row for over 19 years is tantamount to mental
She went on: "Kenny has been living in legal limbo since his conviction
was overturned in January last year.
"We urge the British Government to continue to make representations to the
US authorities on Kenny's case.
"And we hope that the current legal processes see him released soon."
(source: BBC News)
Increasingly, Doctors Refuse to Do Harm
When Stanley "Tookie" Williams was strapped to a gurney awaiting his
execution last December, things did not go as planned. California
executioners had trouble finding a suitable vein in which to inject a
lethal combination of drugs.
What happened next, medical professionals say, was probably a botched job
that ultimately resulted in excessive and unnecessary pain for an
additional 12 minutes.
Williams' probable inhumane death, which would be in violation of the U.S.
constitution, was not the only one, according to doctors' groups and
rights organisations that have studied executions.
Death row inmates this year have challenged the humaneness of the lethal
series of drugs meant to kill them. Courts in California and Missouri have
ruled that without the presence and participation of a qualified medical
professional, the executions cannot proceed.
Doctors and anesthesiologists, however, increasingly are refusing to help
on the grounds that they have signed an oath prohibiting them from doing
"Much of medical science is guided by a principle to first do no harm,"
Dr. Jonathan I. Groner, a clinical associate professor of surgery at Ohio
State University's College of Medicine and Public Health, told IPS.
"Physicians have an obligation to heal when they can and to comfort when
The Hippocratic Oath, signed by all medical professionals in the U.S.,
reads, "I will not give a drug that is deadly to anyone if asked, nor will
I suggest the way to such a counsel." Without their help, however, the
state must find another way to humanely kill prisoners -- or abolish
"Lethal injection procedures cannot survive without the intervention of
medical professionals," said Dr. Groner, who has written extensively about
capital punishment and medical ethics. "It requires vascular access --
someone to infuse chemicals into the veins, which is a medical procedure."
Groner said doctors dedicated to the basic tenets of the Hippocratic Oath
are thrust into an ethical and moral dilemma: Can the professional sworn
to protect patients now work to ensure a painless death of those same
patients? Is it not in the best interest of the patient to die without
Medical science is ethically bound to distance itself from lethal
injections and capital punishment in general, but it is the only
establishment qualified to come up with a way to execute criminals that is
not cruel. Under the Constitution's Eight Amendment, cruel and unusual
punishment is illegal.
The Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association (AMA), the American
Nursing Association (ANA), and the American Society of Anesthesiologists
(ASA) strictly forbids members from participating in executions.
In 1977, an Oklahoma medical examiner with no expertise in pharmacology or
anesthesia developed the current procedure for executing prisoners in the
U.S. Some 35 other states quickly adopted the method. Only Nevada, whose
protocol remains secret, has not, according to an April report by Human
That group found that none of the states has consulted medical experts to
determine if another way could be found to reduce the pain and suffering
of the condemned. The report, titled "So Long as They Die: Lethal
Injections in the United States," found that the mistakes of poorly
trained execution officials have caused some lethal injection procedures
to exceed 30 minutes.
Logs from recent executions in California, and toxicology reports from
North Carolina, suggest prisoners may have been inadequately anesthetised
before being put to death, the report said. Prisoners executed by the
current three-drug sequence sometimes are not knocked out with the first
injection, but actually are conscious when the 2nd medication, a
paralysing agent, is administered and slowly starts to suffocate them.
They also feel "fiery pain" as the last medicine -- potassium chloride --
courses through their veins and kills them, the report says.
One reason corrections officials have chosen not to execute prisoners with
a single massive overdose of barbiturates -- even though that should
provide a painless death -- was because of time. Such a method would take
about 30 minutes longer for the prisoner's heart to stop beating, the
Further, it added, prison officials also have resisted eliminating the
pancuronium bromide -- the paralysing agent -- even though using it makes
it harder to tell if a prisoner is sufficiently anesthetised.
"The drug is not needed to kill the prisoner, nor does it protect him from
pain. It merely is intended to keep his body from twitching or convulsing
while dying. It also masks any pain the prisoner might be feeling, since
he cannot move, cry out, or even blink his eyes," the report said.
Medical professionals are not legally forbidden to participate in
executions and some have indeed participated in executions beyond the
basic requirement to determine or pronounce death. But professional
associations forbid it.
"The ethical opinion explicitly prohibits selecting injection sites for
executions by lethal injection, starting intravenous lines, prescribing,
administering, or supervising the use of lethal drugs, monitoring vital
signs, on site or remotely, and declaring death," according to a July 2006
statement by AMA president Dr. William G. Plested, III.
Still, according to the Human Rights Watch report, 28 states require a
physician to determine or declare death after the lethal injection
procedure. 9 other states require a physician's presence without stating
the physician's exact purpose.
As more medical professionals refuse to participate in the killing, more
prisoners' death sentences are being repealed. A California judge recently
granted Michael Morales, a prisoner convicted of raping and killing a
teenage girl in 1981, an indefinite stay of execution by default. Morales
was scheduled to die in February, but prison officials postponed his
execution after two anesthesiologists refused to participate.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that officials either had to find a
qualified doctor who would participate in the execution, or execute
Morales by administering an overdose of sedatives rather than infusing the
usual series of three lethal drugs. When prison officials chose the
overdose option, the judge required the injection to be administered by a
qualified medical professional.
A similar ruling by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. halted
executions by lethal injections in Missouri this spring. Judge Gaitan's
ruling requires an anesthesiologist to mix the lethal drugs, administer
them or oversee their administering, and monitor the inmate's level of
The Missouri ruling prompted the ASA to issue a statement reminding
members of their ethical obligations, Dr. Orin F. Guidry, president of the
ASA, told IPS.
"Once it became clear that Missouri was going to search for
anesthesiologists, I wanted to make it known to all our members," he said.
His statement read, in part, "Lethal injection was not anesthesiology's
idea... The legal system has painted itself into this corner and it is not
our obligation to get it out. This is a complex subject and anesthesiology
is being reluctantly thrust into the middle of it."
The recent challenges have raised the question of whether lethal
injections are at all possible without the aid of medical professionals.
Still, some death penalty opponents argue that the debate about whether
doctors and medical professionals have a professional obligation to make
lethal injections humane should include further scrutiny of the death
"There is a level of ambivalence about capital punishment," Dr. Groner
said. "As long as it looks clean and like a clinical, sanitary procedure,
the American public is more than willing to accept it."
(source: IPS News)
Execution Doctor Defends Record
A surgeon at the center of Missouri's debate over lethal injection
defended his medical record Monday and said he doubted the state can meet
a judge's order that an anesthesiologist help with executions.
In his 1st public interview, Dr. Alan Doerhoff of Jefferson City told The
Associated Press he has assisted in dozens of executions, saying he felt
obligated to help since he'd received his education from the state.
"If the state needs my assistance, I'm more than willing to help," said
Doerhoff, a self-described "country" surgeon who graduated from the
University of Missouri medical school in 1969.
Doerhoff's role in Missouri executions emerged in June when he testified
anonymously, and behind a screen, in a death penalty case challenging the
state's lethal injection procedures.
That month, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. stopped executions,
and ruled that the state needed a board-certified anesthesiologist to
ensure the procedure used posed no risk of unnecessary pain and suffering.
The judge expressed concerns that Doerhoff, who was not identified in
court papers, was dyslexic. The judge also said he worked under no written
protocol in mixing the lethal drugs and overseeing the executions, despite
his lack of training in anesthesiology.
Doerhoff, 62, now denies he is dyslexic, saying only that he sometimes
transposes long numbers.
On Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified Doerhoff, saying he'd
been sued for malpractice more than 20 times and was publicly reprimanded
by the Missouri Board of Healing Arts in 2003 for failing to disclose
malpractice suits to a Jefferson City hospital where he had staff
Doerhoff told the AP: "We're in a malpractice crisis where doctors are
sued lots of times. If you're working, you're going to get sued."
He said the omission of paperwork on his malpractice suits was an office
manager's error and not an attempt to falsify his record. He said the
reprimand did not affect his license and ability to practice medicine.
Healing Arts Executive Director Tina Steinman declined to address the
specifics of the case Monday, but said that any time a license is
disciplined, it is considered serious.
Doerhoff also doubts Missouri will find another doctor, much less a
board-certified anesthesiologist, to assist in future executions. The risk
of being identified is too great, he said, adding: "They won't want to be
on the front pages of the newspaper."
Doerhoff said he performed prison surgeries from 1974 to 1999, has made
medical trips to Latin America to help in poor communities, and currently
is medical director for a skin care clinic.
He said he's ready to return to work in small hospitals. But he said with
recent news coverage "nobody is going to hire me. It's poisoned my
(source: Associated Press)
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