[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----S. DAK., OKLA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Aug 23 15:50:05 UTC 2006
Execution method challenge
While one death-row inmate voluntarily seeks execution by lethal
injection, another argues that South Dakota officials may have adopted an
illegal three-drug capital punishment regimen that violates constitutional
Donald Moeller, who raped and murdered 9-year-old Becky O'Connell of Sioux
Falls in 1990, has lodged that complaint with U.S. District Judge Lawrence
Piersol. Mark F. Marshall, Moeller's court-appointed lawyer, says the
state Corrections Department appears to have embraced a policy that adds a
3rd drug to the mix of 2 other drugs that are specified in state law as
the method to kill inmates.
Moeller's most recent claim centers on a June 12 U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that makes it easier for death-row inmates to contest lethal injections.
Condemned inmates may now make special federal court claims that chemicals
used in executions are so painful that they amount to cruel and unusual
punishment that is unconstitutional.
Citing a June 23 story in the New York Times, Marshall believes potassium
chloride will be used by South Dakota prison officials who are preparing
to execute Elijah Page sometime next week. Page, 24, has ended his appeals
and wants to be put to death for the brutal torture and slaying 6 years
ago of Chester Allan Poage, 19, of Spearfish.
State law specifically says executions must be carried out with a
combination of "an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a
chemical paralytic agent," Marshall says.
Potassium chloride, a compound that quickly stops the heart from beating,
falls outside that realm, Marshall says in written arguments that were
filed in addition to Moeller's continued appeal process. Marshall
acknowledges, however, that he does not know for sure whether the state
plans to use potassium chloride.
"A request for information about that protocol has fallen upon deaf ears,"
A Corrections Department official did not immediately answer Associated
Press queries by e-mail and phone about alleged use of the third drug, but
information provided to the general media Tuesday indicated that only a
barbiturate and paralytic agent would be used to inflict death.
Deputy attorney general Craig Eichstadt argues that Moeller's most recent
claim is not legitimate because the period in which he could raise new
claims has long expired. He also said that lethal injection has been
widely used for executions in many states.
"Lethal injection has not ever been found unconstitutional," Eichstadt
writes. "To this point, no court has held that lethal injection is
If Piersol agrees to consider Moeller's execution procedure challenge, it
will only serve to further delay his ultimate punishment, the state lawyer
argues. A death-row inmate has every reason to stall, he says.
"It is too late to make additional contentions before this court,"
An appendix to an Ohio State Law Journal article in 2002 on the death
penalty cited Michael Winder, public information officer in the South
Dakota Corrections Department, as reporting that potassium chloride is to
be used for executions - in addition to a lethal dose of the barbiturate
sodium thiopental as a sedative and paralytic agent pancuronium bromide,
which causes the lungs to collapse, Marshall says.
Potassium chloride is so painful that it is not used as the sole agent to
euthanize animals, Marshall told the federal judge. The drug should not be
used unless a person is first anesthetized, but South Dakota's execution
regimen does not provide for anesthesia, he says.
Sodium thiopental is not an anesthetic, Marshall says.
Potassium chloride hastens death and is used for the benefit of those who
must witness executions, he says.
If potassium chloride is used, it will violate the state law governing
executions in South Dakota, and that infringes on Moeller's constitutional
rights, Marshall argues.
"Lethal injection is the only authorized means of execution, and the state
has apparently attempted to vary the mandatory method of execution for the
benefit of the executioner and the witnesses without any statutory
authority to do so," he said.
Because the method of execution seems to have been altered, Moeller's
death sentence must be overturned, and he must be given a sentence of life
in prison, Marshall says. "The state does not enjoy the discretion to vary
mandatory death penalty procedures as established by the Legislature," he
"It would be ironic for a state to ban almost all abortions out of a
legislatively proclaimed respect for life, but approve a capital
punishment protocol that is inappropriate for stray cats and dogs,"
Capital punishment no easy issue for churchgoers
There is no religious consensus on the death penalty in America, say local
ministers whose Rapid City congregations are waiting to see if South
Dakota proceeds next week with its first scheduled execution in nearly 60
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in
the U.S., officially supports the use of the death penalty, according to
the Rev. Fred MacDonald, pastor at Westside Baptist Church in Rapid City.
"In the Southern Baptist Convention, the vast majority of members believe
the death penalty is appropriate and would support it in certain
circumstances," MacDonald said.
But there are also Southern Baptists who are passionately opposed to the
death penalty, he said, just as there are many Roman Catholics who support
it, even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wants to see
capital punishment abolished.
Some South Dakota religious leaders are speaking out against the death
penalty as the state prepares for the execution of Elijah Page, 24, next
week. Page and two others beat, tortured and killed Chester Poage of
Spearfish in 2000.
The Rev. Blase Cupich, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, said
capital punishment is wrong, and he has called on Gov. Mike Rounds to
commute Page's sentence to life imprisonment.
Many mainline Protestant churches, including Methodists, Episcopalians,
Presbyterians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have
official church positions calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ, an umbrella group of
mainline and liberal Christian churches, supports abolition of the death
The bishops of both Methodist and ELCA denominations in South Dakota have
called on their church members to oppose Page's execution.
Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, who leads the Dakotas Conference of the
United Methodist Church, said Christians can sometimes get stuck in the
Old Testament's "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" attitude. In the
New Testament, Jesus Christ calls for forgiveness, and his teachings help
people better understand what God is trying to explain, she said.
"We believe that all people are redeemable, and the death penalty -
capital punishment - takes away the possibility of transformation,
repentance and turning one's life around," Kiesey said.
Evangelical Christian denominations tend to support the death penalty,
said Bishop Lorenzo Kelly of Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Rapid
City. The National Assembly of Evangelicals supports its continued use,
but Kelly's own Pentecostal denomination is one of numerous exceptions to
"I don't believe in it," Kelly said of the death penalty. He has spent
more than 15 years as a jailhouse chaplain in Pennington County,
counseling, visiting and teaching jail inmates.
"I've met so many people that society would have preferred to put to
death," he said. "But God says all souls are mine. I believe that given
the right opportunity, anyone can repent and be saved, both spiritually
2/3 of Americans support the death penalty for people convicted of murder,
according to a July 2005 poll by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research
Center. Support for the death penalty has fallen from 74 % of Americans in
1999 to 68 percent in 2005, but the people sitting in the pews appear to
support capital punishment more than their own denominations do.
Cupich said support for the death penalty, especially among "pro-life"
advocates and Catholics, is dropping.
Past polls have put Catholics' support of the death penalty near 70 %, but
a December 2004 poll for American bishops showed that had dropped to 48 %.
But MacDonald said many Christians who support the death penalty consider
their position to be pro-life. For him, there is no contradiction between
opposing abortion and supporting the death penalty.
"Both show an appreciation for life, for how valuable and precious it is,"
he said. "We would consider the use of the death penalty to be a pro-life
Death-penalty opponents who cite one of the Ten Commandments - thou shalt
not kill - in their arguments need to read the rest of the Book of Exodus,
"If you read the remainder of the chapter, it says what happens to that
person who kills. They should give their life. You find out there's a
For MacDonald, the theological principle for supporting the death penalty
predates both Old Testament Jewish law and New Testament Christian
"In Genesis 9:6, God sets forth the principle that pre-dates the Jewish
law. It says 'Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood should be shed.'
God says they should give their own life, and he gives that role to
society as a whole. I think the death penalty is justifiable to protect
and defend life."
MacDonald admits that he worries about the fairness of the death penalty's
application and that he would like to see those systemic flaws addressed.
As a black man, Kelly sees race and poverty as reasons to end the use of
the death penalty. It is unfairly applied more often to poor people and
blacks who do not have the money to mount an effective legal defense, he
said. Wealth, not innocence, is often the most important thing to take
into an American courtroom, he said.
"Poor black men don't have the money to fight," he said. "And it's the
same with the Native American man out there. Justice is not the same for
all. I know sweet little Rapid City won't believe that, but it's the
(source for both: Rapid City Journal)
Death penalty sought for Okla. 'cannibal'
An Oklahoma district attorney will seek the death penalty for a
26-year-old man who confessed to killing a 10-year-old neighbor with plans
to eat her.
Kevin Underwood, 26, was ordered held in custody Tuesday by McClain County
Special Judge Gary Barger until his Sept. 20 formal arraignment in
Purcell, Okla, the Norman (Okla.) Transcript reported.
Underwood is charged with killing Jamie Rose Bolin on April 12 by
strangling, attempting to decapitate, sexually assault and later cut up
her body to eat, the report said.
However, an autopsy showed her throat had been cut from ear to ear, but
otherwise her nude body was intact, The Oklahoman reported.
FBI agent Craig Overby, at the preliminary hearing, said when he found the
girl's sweater in a sealed box in Underwood's apartment, Underwood said
"Go ahead and arrest me."
(source: United Press International)
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