[Deathpenalty] death penalty news---USA, ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 17 19:05:02 UTC 2007
Noose around our society the same as swings in Iraq
In case you haven't made the connection, the crowd that is botching the
official lynchings in Baghdad is the same government that more American
soldiers are being sent to prop up.
And if you're trying to draw some distinction between the gruesome scenes
at the death house in the Iraqi capital and what happens regularly on a
gurney at Huntsville in your name, don't strain. They are exactly the same
final, not to mention ultimate, step in a supposedly regular-order legal
Our death-penalty enthusiasts, with President Bush toward the head of the
pack, have sought to hide behind a veil of respectability on the really
bizarre belief that somehow a chemical cocktail fed through a needle is
more dignified even, get this, more humane than the scaffold along the
Tigris that seems incapable of shedding its medieval air.
It was sweet of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to fret, after the
fact, about the decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim, Saddam Hussein's half
brother and chief of the secret police.
"We were disappointed there was not greater dignity given to the accused
under these circumstances," Rice said.
"Dignity?" Who writes this stuff? Folks laid off from Mad TV? But Rice's
comment Monday followed the pallid example set by Bush when reporters
finally wrung a "personal reaction" from the president to the macabre
scene at Saddam's hanging late last year.
Getting a complete sentence out of Bush was like extracting an impacted
"I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had been done in a more dignified
way," Bush said almost a week after Saddam's execution. It seems clear
that if it had not been for the clandestine cell phone video from Saddam's
execution that Bush would have said nothing of the sort.
Oh, for a clandestine cell phone video of the botched death-by-injection
last month in Florida that prompted Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's
brother, to suspend executions in his state.
In that case, it took 34 minutes and a second injection to kill convicted
murderer Angel Nieves Diaz.
At the same time, across the country, a federal judge in California said
that state must revise its lethal-injection procedure. U.S. District Judge
Jeremy D. Fogel said that the "pervasive lack of professionalism"
surrounding California's form of execution "at the least is very
As David Elliot, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, said then: "This demonstrates that there is no happy and
kind and nice way to execute someone."
Tuesday, after the latest screw-up in Iraq, Elliot said, "The more we
learn ... , the more we understand how things can go horribly wrong."
It doesn't take a rope in Baghdad to turn an execution into a sideshow
According to Michael L. Radelet, a University of Colorado sociologist,
there have been at least 38 botched executions in the United States since
the death penalty was reinstituted following a 1976 Supreme Court ruling.
10 of those incidents were in Texas.
If you'd care to test your own sensibilities against these examples,
Radelet's list is available on the Web site of the Death Penalty
Information Center at www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.
It does not require a shred of sympathy for Saddam, his henchman, the
Florida convict or any of the people on Radelet's list to understand that
the death penalty represents the state descending to the level of the
Supposedly, as Elliot said, governments and their people, in sanctioning
the death penalty, even for those who commit the most heinous crimes, are
not "sentencing them to feel extraordinary pain."
That praiseworthy position might not stand up too well in a poll in Texas
or Florida or any of our nation's other leading execution venues. But it's
one of the tests that the Supreme Court clings to in its abiding, if
narrowing, defense of allowing some form of legal state-sponsored
execution to be cloaked by the rule of law.
The developments holding the most hope for removing this noose from the
neck of the nation are at the state level. And the latest bright ray comes
from New Jersey, where a legislative commission has recommended abolition
of the state's death penalty. The sole dissenter was the state senator who
sponsored the bill that reinstated New Jersey's death penalty law in 1982.
The commission found "no compelling evidence" that the state's death
penalty "rationally serves a legitimate penological intent."
"There is increasing evidence," the commission held, "that the death
penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency."
That is as true in Austin as it is in Trenton.
Until that fact is addressed nationally or on a state-by-state basis,
Americans are faced with the fact we remain atop the gallows with regimes
such as in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and, as we've been reminded
ghoulishly of late, Iraq.
(source: Cragg Hines is a Houston Chronicle columnist based in Washington,
D.C.; Houston Chronicle)
Death penalty: Lethal injection on trial
Executions were put on hold in 2006 in 12 of the 38 states to adopt
capital punishment since 1977 in 9 states because of questions over
Sparring over lethal injection resumes in courts and legislatures this
year as authorities grapple with tough questions about how much pain the
condemned feel as they die and what role, if any, medical professionals
should play in executions.
The battle over lethal injection is the latest strand in a long-running
debate over the ultimate punishment. The United States is among a handful
of industrialized countries that sanction capital punishment. China, a
totalitarian state, remains the leader, executing thousands of prisoners
New Jersey could become the 1st state to voluntarily abolish the death
penalty if state lawmakers heed a gubernatorial commission that concluded
Jan. 4 that the state's capital punishment system cannot be fixed. In
contrast, Wisconsin lawmakers will consider a nonbinding ballot measure
approved by voters last November in favor of restoring the death penalty
in cases where DNA evidence proves multiple counts of 1st-degree murder.
Of the more than 3,300 prisoners on death row in the United States, 53
were executed in 2006, the fewest number since 1996, when 45 prisoners
were put to death. Texas leads the nation with nearly 380 executions since
1976 and 24 executions in 2006.
Recent court rulings have narrowed the grounds for capital punishment, and
public support generally has slipped. The U.S. public still favors the
death penalty by a 65 %-to-30 % margin, according to USA Today/Gallup
polls over the last 3 years, but that is down from 80 % that supported
capital punishment in 1994.
Since capital punishment was reinstated three decades ago, nearly 900 of
the 1,056 U.S. executions carried out through 2006 were by lethal
injection. It is the primary or exclusive form of execution in 37 of the
38 states with capital punishment. (Nebraska uses the electric chair.)
But what was seen as a more humane alternative to the gas chamber,
electric chair, firing squad or gallows now faces serious challenges in
more than a dozen states and led to at least temporary halts to executions
in 2006 in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Maryland, Missouri and South Dakota.
The 3-drug lethal injection process works like this: First, a sedative is
administered through an IV, rendering the inmate unconscious, then a
paralyzing agent stops the breathing muscles and finally a shot of
potassium chloride stops the heart.
Those challenging the procedure say that if the first chemical is not
properly administered, an inmate may remain conscious and die an
excruciating death from the other two chemicals. Critics contend mistakes
are likely, because correctional officers, not medical practitioners,
administer the fatal dose in most states.
Just 2 weeks before leaving office on Jan. 2, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)
suspended all executions until at least March 1 while a state commission
reviews the state's lethal injection process. Bush formed the commission
after the Dec. 13 execution of Angel Diaz, 55, took 34 minutes twice the
normal time and required a second dose of lethal drugs because the 1st
needle was improperly inserted.
In South Dakota, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) last August gave a temporary
reprieve to Elijah Page, 24, so the state could update its lethal
injection procedure to include the "most modern and efficient" methods.
When rescheduled, Paige's execution would be the states 1st in 59 years.
California's lethal injection process was ruled unconstitutionally cruel
and unusual in December. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel suspended
executions until the state overhauls its lethal injection procedures. The
ruling came in an appeal by Michael Morales, sentenced to die for the 1981
rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl.
Postponing Morales' execution in February 2006, the judge cited a British
medical journal report that 21 inmates executed in Texas and Virginia had
such low levels of the anesthetic thiopental in their blood that they
probably were awake but unable to move or scream when the fatal potassium
chloride was injected. After 4 days of hearings and a visit to the
execution chamber in San Quentin, Fogel concluded it was impossible to
determine whether inmates executed in California were unconscious before
the fatal shot.
Maryland's highest court suspended executions in December, ruling the
states lethal injection procedures were improperly adopted without public
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, a nonprofit group that opposes capital punishment, said nearly
every state uses "the same protocol that's raising so many questions, so
it's a very important issue affecting virtually everyone on death row."
The U.S. Supreme Court hasnt taken any cases that test whether lethal
injection is cruel and unusual punishment outlawed by the U.S.
Constitution. But it has narrowed use of the death penalty in recent
years, banning executions of the severely retarded in 2002 and in 2005
prohibiting the execution of those under age 18 when they committed their
For reasons other than lethal injection, the death penalty also was on
hold in 2006 in New York, Illinois and New Jersey.
New York's capital punishment system was struck down by the state Supreme
Court in 2004 on procedural grounds. It could be reinstated if the state
Assembly rewrites sentencing rules, but lawmakers failed to do so in 2005
Illinois' death penalty moratorium followed a probe of police corruption
and racial bias that led to the freeing of a dozen men from death row.
In New Jersey, a one-year hiatus imposed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) ended in
December. Then fate of the death penalty in the state was thrown into
doubt in January by the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission's
recommendation that capital punishment be abolished. New Jersey has spent
$250 million to prosecute capital cases but has executed no one since
restoring the death penalty in 1982.
David Elliot, communications director for the National Coalition to
Abolish the Death Penalty, predicted that debate over capital punishment
will see a resurgence in state capitols this year. Lawmakers in Minnesota,
New York, North Dakota and Wisconsin served notice of plans to seek
restoration of capital punishment.
More than 15,000 people have been executed in the United States since
colonial days. In 1972, the Supreme Court invalidated all state death
penalty statutes as arbitrary and capricious, but four years later it
opened the door for states to put their death chambers back into use. Even
before recent moves to bar executions of juveniles and the severely
retarded, the high court in 1986 ruled out the death penalty for the
insane, and in 1977 it held that rape alone was not a crime punishable by
The current courts stance on whether someone can be executed for a crime
short of murder could be tested by recent laws in several states,
including Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma and South Carolina,
authorizing the execution of repeat child rapists and molesters. No one
yet has been executed under those laws, but one Louisiana man Patrick O.
Kennedy was sentenced to die in 2003 for raping an 8-yearold girl. His
case is being appealed in Louisiana courts.
Legislators in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and even Minnesota,
which doesn't have the death penalty, have said they will push this year
for similar laws.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 123 men and women in 25
states have been released from death row since 1973. The latest was
Florida inmate John Ballard in 2006. Ballard was convicted of bludgeoning
2 neighbors to death, but the Florida Supreme Court said the case against
him had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Capital punishment supporters say that nearly half of those exonerations
were due to prosecutorial misconduct or lack of evidence on retrial. They
say that there is no evidence an innocent person has ever been executed
and that states should be more concerned with making sure killers don't
get off scot-free because of faulty prosecution.
Death penalty critics were pleased when former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner
(D), in one of his final acts in 2005, ordered a posthumous review of DNA
evidence in the case of Roger K. Coleman, whose controversial execution in
May 1992 made headlines around the world. Coleman maintained to the end he
had not raped and murdered his teenage sister-in-law. But the DNA tests
showed Coleman was guilty as charged.
The declining number of death sentences follows a trend by lawmakers and
the judiciary over the past 30 years to narrow the scope of capital
punishment by tightening state sentencing statutes and banning the
execution of specific groups of people, including the mentally insane,
severely retarded, and juvenile defendants younger than 18.
Plummeting murder rates nationwide also account for part of the reduction
in death sentences. According to the Department of Justice, the number of
murders declined 31 % from 23,326 in 1995 to 16,137 in 2004. Allowing 1
year for trial and sentencing, death sentences decreased by 70 % from 318
in 1995 to an estimated 96 in 2005.
Significantly, the nation's murder rate has not changed much since 1999,
while executions and death sentences dropped at their fastest rates.
Experts point to other factors contributing to the waning of the death
penalty. Concerns over flaws in the way death sentences are carried out
caused Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) in 2000 to impose a statewide
moratorium on executions and then to commute the death sentences of all
167 prisoners on death row before leaving office in 2003. Ryan, later
convicted on unrelated corruption charges, cited state investigations that
uncovered police corruption and racial bias in the state's capital
punishment system that resulted in the exoneration and release of 12 death
The Illinois Legislature has passed several reforms intended to persuade
current Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich to lift the moratorium, but he has
said the system is far from fixed.
Modern DNA analysis also may be making it harder rather than easier for
prosecutors to secure the death penalty. Prosecutors have commented that
popular crime TV shows such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" have made
it harder to secure death sentences -- or even lesser convictions --
because juries now expect to see ironclad scientific evidence such as DNA
before voting for the ultimate punishment.
At the state and local level, many prosecutors, victims' advocates and
lawmakers remain staunch supporters of the death penalty, which they view
as a necessary and effective deterrent to crime.
Although there have been only three executions at the federal level, the
Clinton and Bush administrations greatly expanded the potential use of
capital punishment for some drug and terrorism crimes. Former U.S.
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft directed his prosecutors to seek the
death penalty in many cases, sometimes overruling local prosecutors who
had decided against it.
Constitutional experts say the current U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to
accept any cases seeking to overturn the death penalty system. However,
there are several legal challenges in state and federal courts that could
impact the way the death penalty is carried out. The Supreme Court
outlawed the execution of juveniles who committed crimes when below age 18
in March 2005, sparing the lives of 72 juvenile offenders waiting on death
row nationwide. This was the high court's 1st major decision on the death
penalty since 2002, when it banned the execution of the severely retarded.
2006 U.S. Supreme Court rulings:
Hill v. McDonough -- The court ruled in June that a death row inmate in
Florida could file a last-minute challenge to the state's lethal injection
procedures even though he had exhausted his regular appeals. The ruling
did not address the constitutionality of lethal injection but set the
stage for a test of the constitutionality of the procedure.
House v. Bell -- The court ruled in June that a Tennessee death row inmate
can get a new trial based on new DNA evidence.
Kansas v. Marsh The court reinstated Kansas' 1994 death penalty law,
which was struck down by the state's high court in 2004. The high court
ruled that during the death sentencing phase of a trial the state's
practice of imposing the death penalty in cases of a tied jury is not
Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty in murdered professor case
In Tucson, prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man
accused of killing a retired University of Arizona professor, then setting
his house on fire.
Court documents show prosecutors believe 4 aggravating factors justify
seeking the death penalty against 31-year-old Marco Antonio Chavez.
Prosecutors believe that not only was the murder of Mac Hadley committed
in a "cold and calculated manner," but Chavez killed Hadley for his
Prosecutors also allege Chavez's prior convictions and Hadley's age are
According to court documents, Chavez killed Hadley, ripped off more than
4,000 dollars worth of property, then set Hadley's house on fire and took
his car last November.
(source: Associated Press)
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