[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, IND.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 10 16:29:38 UTC 2007
Capital punishment ----America turns its back on death penalty after
botched lethal injection of killer----Number of condemned at lowest point
for 30 years as opinion begins to change
It took Angel Nieves Diaz 34 minutes to die from the time the 2
executioners inserted the IV tubes into each arm and began pumping the
chemicals into his body. His eyes widened. His head rolled. He appeared to
speak. "It was my observation that he was in pain," Neal Dupree, a lawyer
for Diaz and a witness to the execution, wrote in an affidavit. The faint
signs of movement from the body strapped to the trolley continued for 24
minutes. "His face was contorted, and he grimaced on several occasions.
His Adam's apple bobbed up and down continually, and his jaw was
Diaz's execution in Florida on December 13 for the murder of the manager
of a topless bar was the last in the state for some months to come. Almost
immediately after his body was removed from the execution chamber, it
became clear that the execution had gone wrong.
The cocktail of 3 chemicals that was meant to have sent him to oblivion
within moments had led to a painful, lingering death. After a report from
the medical examiner found 12-inch-long chemical burns on Diaz's arms, the
state governor, Jeb Bush, opened an inquiry into his death and suspended
all executions, granting more than 370 people on Florida's death row at
least a temporary reprieve.
Although the brutality of Diaz's death merited attention across America,
what has gone almost unnoticed is that the death penalty, once an article
of faith for conservatives, is now in retreat.
The penalty remains the law in 38 states, but last year saw the lowest
number of executions in a decade - 53 including Diaz. The number of
condemned fell to the lowest level since the restoration of capital
punishment in 1976: 114, compared with 317 in 1996.
10 states have suspended executions, and for the first time last week, one
state - New Jersey - announced it was leaning towards abolition. "The
death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency," an
official commission reported. New Jersey would be the 1st to take such a
step since capital punishment was restored.
"The death penalty is on the defensive," said Richard Dieter, director of
the Death Penalty Information Centre in Washington DC. "Its flaws are much
more obvious now. If you are for the death penalty you are going to have
to say how are we going to avoid executing innocent people."
Mr Dieter attributes much of the declining taste for the death penalty to
science, with DNA and other new technologies used to establish innocence
in cases where a jury has chosen to convict. More than 120 people have
been freed from death row because of doubts about their conviction,
including at least a dozen because of DNA testing.
Such doubts led George Ryan, the conservative Republican governor of
Illinois, to impose a moratorium on executions 7 years ago after more than
a dozen wrongful convictions were overturned. His conversion came about
when journalism students at Northwestern University produced a taped
confession exonerating a man who had been on death row for 17 years. Other
inmates on death row were later cleared by DNA, and subsequent
"Juries make mistakes. Prosecutors make mistakes. If you are for the death
penalty you have to say we are going to lose innocent lives but it is
worth it," Mr Dieter said.
In Florida, executions are on hold because of public queasiness about
lethal injection following Diaz's botched execution. As the medical
examiner discovered, technicians missed the veins when they were inserting
the intravenous tubes into Diaz's arms, and it took a 2nd injection to
kill him. Death penalty opponents say such excruciating deaths are to be
expected in American prisons. According to Human Rights Watch, one of the
three chemicals in the mix of lethal injections has been banned for use on
animals because of fears that it masks, rather than relieves, pain.
In New Jersey, where there have been no executions since the state
restored the death penalty 25 years ago, the argument came down to the
high cost of legal appeals while keeping people on death row. An official
commission last week concluded it did not work. "There is no compelling
evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate
The judiciary has also turned against the death penalty, with the supreme
court barring the execution of the insane, people with learning
difficulties, or minors, and lower courts turning to alternative
sentences. 37 of the 38 states that retain the death penalty now have life
Death penalty opponents say that such lifelong prison terms make it
increasingly difficult to argue that the death penalty is the last defence
against a convicted killer going free. In the last few years, juries in
celebrated capital cases have balked at imposing the final punishment.
Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted last year over the September 11 attacks, got
life in a maximum security jail. So did Gary Ridgeway, the Green River
serial killer from Washington state, who admitted to murdering 48 people,
and received a life term with no parole. If one of the worst serial
killers in history does not deserve the death penalty, the argument goes,
Mr Dieter said: "There are indications of change even in places like Texas
and Virginia," the states that perform the most executions.
Those developments came too late for Diaz, as did the outrage over lethal
injection. But for Suzanne Keffer, of the Capital Collateral Regional
Counsel, his lawyer for the past 8 years, his suffering may produce some
good. "If you can look at it this way, that something good may come out of
this ... it certainly may be a benefit."
(source: The Guardian)
Federal judge won't block New Albany man's execution ---- Other appeals
still being pursued
A federal judge has refused to stop the Jan. 19 execution of Norman
Timberlake, a former New Albany man convicted of the 1993 murder of an
Indiana State Trooper.
Timberlake's lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Richard Young to stay
the execution so Young could hold a hearing on whether Timberlake is
insane, thus not eligible for the death penalty.
But Young refused yesterday. One of Timberlake's lawyers said the case
would be appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Attorney Brent Westerfeld said the defense also is continuing with its
challenge to Indiana's lethal injection method of execution, also before
Young, and with a clemency appeal before the Indiana Parole Board.
The Indiana Supreme Court denied Timberlake a sanity hearing last month
and set the execution date.
Young concluded that the state high court "was correct in observing that
at this point Timberlake is presumed to be competent to be executed."
The Indiana court ruled that Timberlake meets the U.S. Supreme Court's
definition of sanity because he understands that he is about to be
executed for the fatal shooting of Master Trooper Michael Greene on Feb.
5, 1993, during a traffic stop on Interstate 65 in Indianapolis.
The court acknowledged that Timberlake suffers from a "severe" mental
illness that leads him to believe prison officials are using a
computer-driven machine to torture him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Lawyers for Timberlake also contend that Indiana's method of lethal
injection is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual because it creates a
risk that he would feel excruciating pain during the execution.
That complaint cites a Florida case in which it took more than 30 minutes
to execute a prisoner last month.
(source: The Courier-Journal)
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