[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----IND., ALA., CALIF., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Apr 27 14:44:49 UTC 2007
Indiana death row inmate appeals to U.S. Supreme Court
Attorneys for an Indiana inmate sentenced to die by lethal injection next
week asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to block the execution,
challenging the state Supreme Court's method of determining whether he is
David Leon Woods, 42, is scheduled to die early May 4 for the 1984 slaying
of his neighbor, Juan Placencia, in the northeastern Indiana town of
Garrett. The state Parole Board voted Monday against recommending clemency
"Indiana's refusal to articulate its own uniform definition of mental
retardation makes it impossible for persons to know what standard they
must meet in order to establish that they belong to the classification of
people who are exempt from executions," said the petition filed with the
high court Wednesday.
William Van Der Pol Jr., one of Woods' attorneys, said in a telephone
interview Wednesday that the problem is the Indiana Supreme Court keeps
changing the definition of how to measure mental retardation.
Woods attorneys contend that in finding Tommy Pruitt of Martinsville
competent to be executed, the state court said in 2005 that standardized
test scores were not enough. It said the IQ tests should be considered in
conjunction with "other evidence of intellectual functioning."
But Woods attorneys said the Indiana Supreme Court refused to consider
other evidence in Woods' case, claiming "nearly every examiner found
evidence of serious brain damage, brain dysfunction, or at a minimum, a
Woods has tested both above and below the generally accepted level of
mental retardation, just as Pruitt had, said Van Der Pol, who represents
"I don't think there's any question the Indiana Supreme Court is making
some sort of distinction between Pruitt and Woods under identical
circumstances. I just can't figure out what in the world the differences
are," Van Der Pol said.
Staci Schneider, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office,
declined to comment on Woods' new appeal.
Also Wednesday, Woods asked U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney for the
right to appeal the judge's ruling last week that he had no jurisdiction
to hear arguments in the case because it was a "successive" petition.
Woods' attorneys argue that at the time of his first petition in 1999, the
U.S. Supreme Court had not ruled that executing the retarded is
unconstitutional. That 2002 ruling left it to the states to define
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Young is scheduled to hear Woods'
request for a preliminary injunction to stop the scheduled execution
because he contends the state's lethal injection method constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment.
Woods contends the method "creates a substantial and unnecessary risk that
Wood will be fully conscious and in agonizing pain for the duration of the
The state, however, contends that Woods did not first exhaust his
administrative remedies and that he filed his request for preliminary
injunction too late.
(source: Associated Press)
Appeal to block May 3 execution in Alabama before 11th Circuit
State Attorney General Troy King asked a federal appeals court Wednesday
not to block next week's scheduled execution of Aaron Lee Jones, one of
the longest-serving death row inmates in Alabama.
Jones, 54, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 3 at Holman
Prison for the gruesome slayings of a couple and attacks on other family
members more than 28 years ago during a home robbery.
After drinking rum and beer, Jones and cohort Arthur Lee Giles, also on
death row, shot and stabbed 3 children, their parents and their
grandmother in rural Blount County, a farming area northeast of
The parents, Willene and Carl Nelson, died as a result of injuries in the
Nov. 10, 1978 attack.
King's motion before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, opposing a
stay of execution, says Jones has waited too late to challenge use of
lethal injection when he could have raised the issue years ago without
needing a stay of execution.
The constitutionality of Alabama's method of execution by lethal injection
has never been decided by any court.
"This is not an `eve-of-execution' case like others where stays were
denied," said Jones' pro-bono attorney Heather K. McDevitt of the New York
firm White & Case.
The state requested an execution date for Jones in December and he filed
the motion for a stay more than 2 months later. McDevitt contends the
lethal injection challenge, filed Nov. 1, was done in plenty of time for
Jones' case to be heard on the merits.
"We have been trying to have the case heard but have been blocked by the
state which refused to provide crucial discovery," McDevitt said by e-mail
McDevitt accused the state of delaying tactics in blocking her attempts to
question the prison's execution team about lethal injection. That request
was denied by the state, which offered to produce only Holman's warden.
McDevitt had sought a hearing to offer evidence on Alabama's execution
procedures and the effects of lethal injection.
But King's motion accused Jones of using the approaching execution date as
"leverage" in the courts. It said the claim that the state has not
provided discovery in a timely manner is untrue and a red herring.
"It was Jones who failed to bring his civil lawsuit at a time that would
have allowed full consideration of his claims," the state's motion says.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery denied a bid
to block the execution. Thompson said Jones' challenge "is dilatory."
Jones' attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the state's use of
lethal injection, saying it poses an unjustifiable risk of extreme pain.
They appealed Thompson's ruling to the 11th Circuit, which gave no
indication when it would rule.
The Jones filing before the 11th Circuit was sealed because it discussed
details of Alabama's method of execution protocol which are subject to a
highly restrictive protective order, according to McDevitt.
The Department of Corrections has a security interest in not letting out
information about where personnel are located during an execution.
The attorney general's filing says Jones' brief contains much information
about various lethal injection challenges in other states. It raises
"nearly identical" allegations to numerous other challenges dating to
2004, the AG says, another indication the Jones complaint could have been
Jones was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death - first in
1979 and then in a retrial in 1982.
"Whatever reasons exist for there being a span of almost 30 years between
crime and punishment, the span is appropriately considered when the court
balances the equities and considers the interests of the state and victims
of crime in the enforcement of criminal judgments," the attorney general's
Jones, and Giles, 47, are among the longest-serving inmates on Alabama's
death row. Only 2 out of the 199 inmates on death row have been there
longer, according to Department of Corrections records.
On the Net: List of death row inmates at:
(source: Associated Press)
Judge orders killer back to Quentin's death row----James Karis Jr., who
kept evidence of his abusive childhood from jurors, will get his wish.
A Sacramento judge on Wednesday ordered a convicted killer and rapist
returned to death row, where the defendant had urged the judge and jurors
to send him.
"James Leslie Karis Jr. ... you shall suffer the death penalty,"
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Trena Burger-Plavan told Karis as she
ordered him sent to San Quentin State Prison.
Last week, a Sacramento jury quickly reached a verdict of death for Karis,
who in July 1981 kidnapped 2 El Dorado County workers on their morning
break. He raped one woman and killed Peggy Pennington.
Jurors heard evidence about the horrors of that crime and other
kidnappings and sexual assaults committed by Karis, including testimony
from his victims.
What they didn't hear -- because Karis didn't want them to -- was the
evidence of Karis' nightmarish childhood that persuaded a federal judge in
1998 to take the rare step of overturning Karis' original 1982 death
sentence for the Placerville crimes.
Lawyers spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars gathering and
preparing that evidence, first for the appeal court and then for the
retrial of the penalty phase.
But Karis refused to allow his defense lawyers to present it. Instead, on
the first morning of trial, he took over his own defense and offered no
evidence that might have spared him the death penalty.
Evidence of his abusive background didn't "amount to a hill of beans," he
told the judge. He also said he didn't want to "cheapen the emotions" of
his victims or hear testimony about traumas he had lived through.
Instead, he urged jurors to send him back to death row and told the judge
he wanted to get back to San Quentin.
Burger-Plavan urged Karis to let his lawyers present the evidence that
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton -- and later the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals -- had found so compelling.
Karlton ruled that jurors in Karis' 1st penalty-phase trial should have
heard the mitigating evidence.
Norman Hile, a partner in the Sacramento office of corporate law firm
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, led the federal appeal. In 1989 he
volunteered to represent Karis. He and his staff spent 6 years fighting in
court and uncovering a history of family violence, sexual abuse,
alcoholism and mental illness stretching back for generations on both
sides of Karis' family.
"Everywhere we investigated we found evidence of just a horrific
childhood," Hile said.
Karis and his mother were both the victims of regular beatings by Karis's
father -- James Leslie Karis Sr. -- who had "tyrannical control" over the
family, Hile wrote in appeal court papers.
After his parents divorced, Karis' mother married another man who was
equally brutal to her and even worse to Karis.
For Karis -- whom teachers and others described as a quiet, thoughtful and
well-behaved child -- there was no escape.
As a teen, Karis began to drink and take drugs to ward off anxiety and
depression, Hile wrote.
His later drug use and mental illness, including severe depression,
affected his behavior, especially around the time of the Placerville
attack, according to Hile.
"While in a state of acute methamphetamine intoxication or withdrawal,"
Karis' actions were "often the result of psychotic thought processes,
rather than a deliberative or reasoned plan," the lawyer wrote.
Hile said Karis was intelligent and an accomplished artist and musician.
At his 2nd penalty-phase trial, Karis' lawyers, Michael Bigelow and Steven
Bailey, were prepared to offer evidence in an effort to get Karis a
sentence of life in prison without parole. But Karis' move to represent
himself short-circuited their plans.
El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Joseph Alexander said that Karis
couldn't stand not to be in control of a situation, even in court. Having
lawyers representing him was too much, Alexander said.
Alexander also said he believed Karis wanted to return to his cell in San
Quentin, which he had to himself along with other privileges afforded
An appeal of Karis' sentence to the California Supreme Court is automatic.
That and other appeals in his case could take years.
(source: Sacramento Bee)
Study: Lethal Injection Violates Eighth Amendment
New research into capital punishment by lethal injection has determined
that method of execution to be not nearly as humane as once believed.
According to the authors of the study, the conventional view of lethal
injection leading to an invariably peaceful and painless death is
questionable. The study was published in the current issue of the journal
Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine. According to the journals
editors, "The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel
and unusual punishment. The results of this paper suggest that current
protocols used for lethal injection in the U.S. probably violate this
The report, which was led by Dr. Leonidas G. Koniaris of the University of
Miami Miller School of Medicine, concluded, "our findings suggest that
current lethal injection protocols may not reliably effect death through
the mechanisms intended, indicating a failure of design and
implementation." The problem relates to the particular combination of
drugs used in current lethal-injection protocols: the barbiturate
thiopental, the neuromuscular blocker pancuronium bromide, and the
electrolyte potassium chloride.
Researchers studied executions in North Carolina, California, and
Virginia, 3 of the 37 states (in addition to the military and federal
government) that can legally impose lethal injection. They determined that
"thiopental might not be fatal and might be insufficient to induce
surgical anesthesia for the duration of the execution" and that potassium
chloride in lethal injection does not reliably induce cardiac arrest."
"If thiopental and potassium chloride fail to cause anesthesia and cardiac
arrest," the authors write, "potentially aware inmates could die through
pancuronium-induced asphyxiation," an incredibly painful process. "Because
thiopental has no analgesic effects (in fact, it can be antianalgesic),
and because pancuronium would prevent movement in response to the
sensations of suffocation and potassium-induced burning, a continuous
surgical plane of anesthesia is necessary to prevent extreme suffering in
In an accompanying editorial, the journal's editors write, "The
acceptability of lethal injection under the U.S. Constitution's Eighth
Amendment ban on inhumane punishment has never been established; the data
presented by Koniaris and colleagues adds to the evidence that lethal
injection is simply the latest in a long line of execution methods that
have been found to be inhumane. It is time for the U.S. to join the
majority of countries worldwide in recognizing that there is no humane way
of forcibly killing someone."
The editors note that "execution predominantly by lethal injection is
still practiced in many countries. During 2005 at least 2,148 people were
executed in 22 countries in cases recorded by Amnesty International; the
actual numbers were certainly higher. The majority of these executions
took place in China, where fleets of mobile execution vans have been
deployed to facilitate prompt, low-profile executions by lethal injection.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. together with China accounted for 94
percent of executions in 2005."
Clearly, this is not company that Americans should be proud to be in.
There were a total of 53 executions in the United States last year, 52 of
which were conducted by lethal injection. However, several states are
currently reassessing their protocols for death by injection in response
to a growing number of injections that have been mishandled or proven to
be ineffective (ie. creating an agonizing demise for the victim). A few
states have put a hold on executions until further research is done. A
U.S. District Court in California recently ruled that Californias lethal
injection protocol was unconstitutional.
"Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care
such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same
relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery," the
editors write. "Nonetheless, there is a need for greater openness in
public discussion and consideration of the death penalty, including its
It is important to note that the American Medical Association, the
American Nurses Association, the Society of Correctional Physicians, and a
slate of state medical boards have each banned any participation by
medical professionals in executions, calling it unethical. However, this
only means that the large majority of executioners are medically untrained
and likely incompetent.
"Each of the editors of PLoS Medicine opposes the death penalty," says the
editorial. "It is not our intention to encourage further research to
'improve' lethal injection protocols. As editors of a medical journal, we
must ensure that research is ethical, and there is no ethical way to
establish the humaneness of procedures for killing people who do not wish
"The new data in PLoS Medicine will further strengthen the constitutional
case for the abandonment of execution in the U.S. As a moral society, the
U.S. should take a leading role in the abandonment of executions
The Inhumanely Inefficient Injection
Executions in the United States are supposed to be quick and painless, but
the reality is that it isn't always necessarily so. Take for example, the
case of death by lethal injection.
It had been, till recently, accepted in 37 American states on the grounds
that it is cost effective and more humane when compared to other methods
of execution such as the gas chamber or electrocution. However, a recent
review reveals that this type of killing is often very slow and very
painful, thus contravening the norms set out by the Constitution.
In the instance of Angel Diaz, for example, the 55 year old convicted
murderer took 34 minutes to die and finally did so only after 2 prescribed
amounts of the injection were administered. Questions were raised about
whether the dose was administered correctly and prompted those considering
it 'a botched execution' to call for the abolition of the death penalty in
Investigations have revealed that even when dispensed correctly this
method of execution does not work satisfactorily. Rather than sedating the
person in question and then stopping the heart, the injection which is
comprised of 3 drugs, an anesthetic, thiopental, muscle paralyzer and
nerve blocker pancuronium bromide, and the heart stopper, potassium
chloride, seems to cause him to suffocate while he is still conscious.
The authors of the study, the report of which is published online in the
April issue of the journal PLoS Medicine, have reiterated that death by
lethal injection has never been confirmed as humane.
They also argue that key factors such as an inmate's weight should be
taken into consideration while preparing the injection. Instances of when
the dosage was too low or of the anesthetic wearing off too early have
Biologist, and leader of the study, Teresa Zimmers argues that it would
not be possible to kill even a pig at the University of Miami in such a
Calling for the abolition of the death penalty the authors aver, "There is
no humane way of forcibly killing someone."
Following objections against it on the grounds of it being cruel and
ineffectual, eleven of the above mentioned 37 states have now suspended
the use of lethal injection as a means of execution.
The same authors had previously written a review in 2005 but the
controversial review came under scrutiny for its methodology as it used
the blood samples of inmates who had been executed earlier on.
This time round, the new review focused on the putting to death of 40
North Carolina convicted inmates from 1984 to 2006, 12 inmates from
California and other statistics from Virginia and Florida. It reports that
in 33 of the executions in North Carolina the final drug did not always
prove to be immediately fatal as intended and the average death time was
drawn out from ten to fourteen minutes. With regard to the California
executions at least 3 prisoners had to be administered supplementary doses
for their executions to be completed.
Although Columbia University Medical Center's Doctor Mark Heath did not
agree with all the conclusions of the investigators he did cede that
apprehensions about the current method of administering lethal injection
Death-penalty supporters, however, rejected the findings saying they were
founded on incorrect conjectures, and Jay Chapman, developer of the lethal
injection protocol says the method works if done properly.
(source: Respective Author)
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