[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MO., N.Y., N.C., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 6 18:10:17 UTC 2007
House OKs bill keeping secret who carries out Mo. executions
Legislation to keep secret the identities of people who carry out
executions in Missouri gained initial House approval Tuesday.
The bill makes it illegal for anyone including newspapers and other
publications to knowingly disclose the identity of those on a team that
carries out executions, which in Missouri are done by lethal injection.
Violators could face misdemeanor charges.
The identities also could not be disclosed through the legal discovery
process or subpoenas under the legislation. The states execution protocol
also would be a closed record, except for details on how the lethal
chemicals are administered.
Supporters say confidentiality is needed to protect such people from
retribution for doing their jobs.
"As long as this is the law of our state, whether people are for or
against the death penalty is not the question here. The question is
protection of our state employees who serve on the execution team," said
sponsoring Rep. Danie Moore, R-Fulton.
Opponents of the legislation, including the Missouri Catholic Conference,
say it cloaks the process in secrecy and prevents public oversight, even
by the judicial system.
"There needs to be public assurance that the execution is being carried
out in a competent, professional manner that respects the dignity of all
involved, the Catholic Conference said in a letter to lawmakers Monday.
The Catholic Conference opposes execution in general.
Also under the bill, members of the execution team could not be
reprimanded by professional licensing boards for their involvement in
carrying out the death penalty.
The director of the Department of Corrections would determine who is a
part of the execution team, and it could include prison employees and
doctors or other medical professionals involved in the process.
State executions have been on hold since last year, as a court fight
continues over an inmates claim that the lethal injection process is
unconstitutionally cruel. A federal appeals court heard arguments in the
case in January but has not ruled.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ordered specific reforms to
Missouris lethal injection procedures, including the use of a doctor
specializing in anesthesia.
The lawsuit by Michael Taylor, who was to be put to death for the 1989
slaying of a teenage girl in Kansas City, revealed that the physician in
charge surgeon Alan Doerhoff of Jefferson City decided to reduce the
amount of sedative given to condemned inmates.
Taylor was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 15-year-old
girl who was abducted while waiting for a school bus.
Doerhoff was first publicly identified in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch
article last summer as the doctor who has overseen Missouri executions for
Doerhoff, 62, had been reprimanded by the state Board of Healing Arts and
denied staff privileges by 2 state hospitals. In June, Doerhoff told a
federal judge that dyslexia caused him at times to confuse numbers and
call drugs by the wrong name. But he later denied it, saying only that he
sometimes transposes long numbers.
Lethal injection bill is HB820.
On the Net:----Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov
(source: Associated Press)
An appeal to Cuomo
District Attorney Richard Brown is waging a tough legal battle to secure
the death penalty for the driving force behind the massacre in 2000 of 5
employees of a Wendy's restaurant in Queens. It's an uphill fight, but
it's well worth the effort.
Brown has forged ahead despite a ruling by the state's highest court that
invalidated a key section of New York's capital punishment law. He has a
compelling argument that the ruling should not apply to Wendy's killer
John Taylor - and he should have the full legal firepower of the state
behind him. But he doesn't.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a death penalty opponent, has declined to
enter the case, explaining through a spokesman that he views the Court of
Appeals decision as the last word on capital punishment in New York. He is
wrong, because the issue will be settled when the court decides Brown's
The AG is obliged to defend the constitutionality of a statute whether he
likes the law or not. Cuomo's predecessor Eliot Spitzer argued against gay
marriage even though he believes homosexuals should be allowed to wed.
Here, Brown is saying the death penalty law was applied against Taylor
under conditions that comply with the state Constitution - a position that
cries out for support by the AG.
Setting out to rob the Wendy's, Taylor and accomplice Craig Godineaux
herded 7 workers into a refrigerator, bound, gagged and blindfolded them
and shot all 7 in the head at point-blank range. 2 survived. Taylor's
lawyers did not question his guilt, but they did seek to have his life
spared. The jury condemned him instead.
Subsequently, the Court of Appeals ruled in an unrelated case that the
sentencing section of the death penalty law was unconstitutional because
it, in effect, gave jurors only 2 options: Impose death or risk having a
heinous killer released on parole after 25 years. The court found that
such a risk might push jurors into voting for death.
But nothing like that took place in Taylor's case. There, anticipating
what the Court of Appeals might do, Justice Steven Fisher told the jurors
that if they didn't vote for death, it was "almost certain" he would
incarcerate Taylor for life.
Clearly, the jury was not cowed into the death penalty, and Taylor got a
fair, constitutional shot under the law as it was written. Boiled down to
its essence, that is Brown's argument. And it should be Cuomo's argument
The caption on the case is "People of the State of New York v. John
Taylor." No one represents the people more broadly than the attorney
general, regardless of his position on social issues.
(source: Editorial, New York Daily News)
Impasse puts N.C. executions on hold
For the foreseeable future, North Carolina's executioners will not be
scheduled for late-night shifts. Death penalty protesters will not be
planning 2 a.m. vigils outside Central Prison in Raleigh. At least 5
condemned killers' lives will be in limbo, and the death chamber will
Democrats, who control the legislature, are content to let the death
penalty impasse persist while lethal injection litigation winds through
the courts. Republicans are pushing for a legislative fix. It will likely
be years before a definitive ruling comes down from an appeals court,
making it unknown when North Carolina's death penalty could resume.
"We just can't know until these threads of litigation and legislative
action play out," said Durham lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt, who represents an
inmate involved in one of the many lawsuits.
Gov. Mike Easley and Democratic lawmakers say they have no plans to end
the execution standstill.
"The legislature isn't going to be able to move in any direction, really,
until it gets some final ruling from the federal and the state courts,"
Easley said this week.
That sentiment was echoed by leaders in the state House and Senate. Bill
Holmes, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Chapel Hill Democrat,
said, "His feeling was we could try to give a legislative fix but we don't
know what that fix should be until the courts are done with it." And
Schorr Johnson, spokesman for Senate leader Marc Basnight, a Manteo
Democrat, said in a statement, "This issue is complicated and Senator
Basnight thinks we must proceed carefully and with guidance from the
Theodis Beck, secretary of the Department of Correction, said in a
statement, "The Department of Correction does not support or oppose any
particular course of action to resolve the current death penalty gridlock.
Like others, we're watching and waiting to see how things will play out in
the courts and the legislature."
North Carolina is one of 11 states where the death penalty has been halted
because of questions about lethal injection. Inmates have raised
constitutional challenges to the three-drug cocktail used for lethal
injection, saying they may experience cruel and unusual punishment if they
are not fully sedated before being injected with paralyzing and
heart-stopping drugs. Currently, there are 166 defendants on North
Carolina's death row.
North Carolina law requires a doctor to be present at executions. Last
year, a federal judge allowed two executions to proceed on the condition
that a doctor monitor an inmate's consciousness on a brain-wave machine.
In January, the N.C. Medical Board passed a new ethics policy prohibiting
doctors from doing anything to assist an execution, which would violate
doctors' oath to save lives. Prison officials changed their procedures to
accommodate the new policy. A state judge ruled they needed approval from
Easley and a panel of top state elected leaders before they could proceed.
The governor and the Council of State gave approval but litigation abounds
in several courts.
Prison officials are suing the medical board, asking a judge to rule that
a doctor cannot be disciplined for participating in an execution. Four
death row inmates have lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of the
execution procedures. 2 inmates also filed a lawsuit challenging the
Council of State's approval of those procedures without public comment.
The morass doesn't stop there. Dr. Obi Umesi, who was present at the last
2 executions, said last week that he did not monitor the inmate's
consciousness, as a federal judge thought would be done. During a
deposition in November, Warden Marvin Polk conceded that the doctor's duty
was only to be present. And now those inmates' lawyers are considering
bringing prison officials back into court to explain to a federal judge
why they appear to have violated his order. Republican lawmakers reached
out to Easley after introducing legislation last month that would grant
immunity to doctors who participate in executions from discipline by the
House Minority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam, an Apex Republican, said, "Senator
[Phil] Berger and myself each asked the governor to provide some
direction, but we don't have to wait for him."
If the legislation is passed, Stam said, he is confident that a willing
doctor would volunteer. "If doctors were not being threatened by having
their license taken away," Stam said, "you could easily find a doctor who
would be present and look at the monitor and do whatever it is that the
federal court wants him to do."
On Tuesday, the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys endorsed the
legislation. "This is a straightforward means of dealing with that issue
and the legislature certainly could trump the medical board," said Garry
Frank, the conference president and district attorney in Alexander,
Davidson, Davie and Iredell counties.
Survivors want action
Relatives of murder victims are also pushing lawmakers to move on these
proposals. "We have certainly not been idle," said Mel Chilton, executive
director of the N.C. Victim Assistance Network. "We're continuing to lobby
our legislators to get some bills on the floor."
Chilton added that she hopes lawmakers or the courts move fast. "We have
some victims truly suffering," she said.
The unwillingness of Democratic political leaders to resolve the death
penalty quagmire doesn't surprise UNC-Charlotte political science
professor Ted Arrington. While Republican constituents generally support
capital punishment, Arrington said Democrats have constituents who both
favor and oppose the death penalty. "Politically, it's a hot potato for
the Democrats and an easy choice for the Republicans," Arrington said.
"They don't say, 'Let's get rid of the death penalty'." The most they say
is, "Let's have a pause.' "
Though lawmakers may be able to delay tackling the issue, they cannot
avoid it forever. "In the short term, a court is going to have to decide
the medical board case," said Raleigh lawyer Ann Groninger, who represents
an inmate whose execution has been delayed. "In the long term, I think
it's going to have to be addressed legislatively."
(source: News & Observer)
Hackney Hesitant of Considering Execution Change
House Speaker Joe Hackney is sounding hesitant to consider legislation
that attempts to resolve an impasse over the role of doctors during
Hackney said yesterday that Governor Easley's office has told him any
change could prolong the legal fight.
Several Republicans have filed bills that would take away the North
Carolina Medical Board's authority to punish doctors involved in capital
The medical board declared in January that any doctor who participates in
an execution violates medical ethics and could face sanction.
That threat has effectively shut down the death penalty in the state as
the conflict between state attorneys and the medical board is litigated.
The legal morass has led to an unofficial moratorium on executions with a
Wake County judge placing 5 scheduled executions on hold.
State law requires that a doctor only be present when an inmate is put to
death, but a federal judge allowed an execution to proceed last year only
after the state promised a physician would monitor the inmate to prevent
(source: ABC News)
90-day execution review unrealistic, inadequate, critics say
2 Tennessee attorneys with extensive experience in death penalty cases
criticized Gov. Phil Bredesen's executive order to have the Department of
Correction (DOC) review the state's lethal injection protocols, saying on
Thursday that the 90-day time frame Bredesen gave the department to fully
investigate the deficiencies in the lethal injection process is
The comments, made by Nashville Attorney Michael Passino and
Tennessee-based Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry, were aired
at the sole open forum designed to solicit public input as the DOC, under
Commissioner George Little, goes about recommending a new protocol for
lethal injections in Tennessee.
On Feb. 2, Bredesen ordered a 90-day halt to all lethal injections against
Tennessee's death row inmates, which he said would give the state time to
correct "sloppy cut and paste" execution proceedings that were "full of
deficiencies," as Bredesen described them.
But that time window, which will expire on May 2, is wholly inadequate,
said Passino and Henry, noting other states, such as Florida and
California, that have recently undertaken reviews of their own states
lethal injection procedures, did so over far lengthier time frames and
with a much more open process that included more public input and far more
expert medical testimony.
"It is neither responsible nor realistic for the governor to ask you to do
this within the next 30 days," Passino told Little, who was flanked by
Ricky Bell, warden of the Riverbend maximum security prison, where the
state's executions are carried out, as well as by members of his staff
working on the new protocol proposal.
Henry, too, directly criticized the timeframe, calling 90 days an
unrealistic window to fully address a process that has a documented
history of problems that have led to the agonizing deaths of multiple
inmates, notably Joseph Clark of Ohio and Angel Diaz of Florida.
During his "botched" execution that lasted over 40 minutes, Diaz received
no anesthesia, Henry recounted.
"Diaz was fully conscious when he felt what everyone agrees was the
searing and torturous pain of the lethal drug as he suffocated, unable to
cry out," Henry said.
"The experiences late last year with the Clark execution in Ohio and the
Diaz execution in Florida teach that the complaints brought on behalf of
death row inmates to the lethal injection procedures are not the mere
rantings of anti-death penalty lawyers," she continued. "To think now that
this horrible mess can be remedied in 90 days with one short public
comment period is nonsense."
Passino also told Little that 90 days was too short of a period to ensure
that the rights and psychological welfare of the correction workers
assigned to death penalty administration are addressed.
"The process has to ensure that those people doing those jobs
administering IVs, mixing chemicals feel confident in those jobs, and
that their psychological well being is protected," Passino said.
After the hearing, Little told reporters he was confident the 90 days
given to him by Bredesen was sufficient.
"We do plan to meet the timeframe thats laid out for us," Little said. "We
will provide not only our best efforts but a product that is adequate to
"We're looking at all the relevant information that is out there. As was
noted a number of jurisdictions are dealing with this issue as we speak,
and so we're drawing on that information," Little added.
Little, though, would not offer specifics about the new protocol he has
been charged with developing, saying it would not be unveiled until the
end of the 90-day timeframe.
"At that point we will share it with the appropriate policymakers, and it
will be their decision as to next steps," he said.
(source: Nashville City Paper)
Lawyers doubt quick fix for executions----State says it will be set to
kill Workman May 9
If California, Missouri and Florida can't get an execution right in 90
days, Tennessee won't be able to, either, defense attorneys told prison
"The reality is that 90 days is an unrealistic time frame to fix what was
broken," said Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender who spoke
at a public hearing on how Tennessee should put inmates to death.
In February, Gov. Phil Bredesen put a halt to all executions and ordered
the Tennessee Department of Correction to come up with new protocols by
Commissioner George Little insisted Thursday that the state will be ready
for an execution by that time.
Philip Workman, convicted in the slaying of a Memphis policeman in 1981,
is scheduled to die May 9.
Officials at the Department of Correction hosted the meeting to let people
talk about guidelines for executions.
Defense attorneys, doctors, pharmacologists and the public were invited.
Some speakers used the meeting to criticize capital punishment.
No doctors or pharmacologists spoke, and it wasn't clear if any attended
the meeting, which lasted less than an hour.
Bredesen's order came after flaws in the process came to light, including
that the guidelines didn't give dosage amounts for the 3 chemicals used in
a lethal injection.
The governor has insisted that the 2 executions carried out since 1960, in
2000 and in 2006, were done correctly.
The governor's order came on the heels of a problematic execution in
Florida in December that led to Gov. Jeb Bush ordering a moratorium.
Executions also have been halted in North Carolina, California and
Missouri because of concerns over lethal injections.
(source: The Tennessean)
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