[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----KY., CALIF., N.C., IOWA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Jan 26 17:33:50 UTC 2007
Lethal injection faces new challenge ----Doctors can't attend, but drug
3 killers on Kentucky's death row have raised a new challenge to execution
by lethal injection in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.
They argue that the process violates federal law because 1 of the 3 drugs
used to anesthetize, paralyze and stop the heart of the inmate is a
controlled drug and can't be used without physician involvement.
Kentucky law prohibits a physician from participating in an execution, and
physicians in all other 37 states with the death penalty are barred from
involvement by ethical guidelines.
This apparently is the first challenge arguing that the use of the drug
sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, violates federal law if a physician does
not prescribe or administer it.
"This is now a new wrinkle," said Richard Dieter, executive director of
the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
It comes as lethal injection is getting renewed attention following a
botched execution in Florida in December that caused Gov. Jeb Bush to
suspend all executions. Executioners missed the inmate's veins and
injected the drug into his flesh, prolonging the execution to 34 minutes.
The challenge was filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort by public
defenders on behalf of Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey
It comes after the state Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the
procedure in November, upholding a ruling by Franklin Circuit Judge Roger
Crittenden saying that it was neither cruel nor unusual punishment.
Baze was convicted of fatally shooting Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett
and deputy Arthur Briscoe in 1992 when they tried to arrest him. Bowling
was convicted of the 1990 murders of a Lexington couple, Edward and Tina
Earley; and Leonard of the 1983 murder of a Louisville woman, Esther
Rose Bennett, who was married to Steve Bennett and was Briscoe's sister,
said she was disappointed to hear Baze has raised a new issue in another
"He had a fair trial, and he did get the death penalty," she said. "I want
to see justice done for the two law officers he killed. One was my husband
and the other was my brother."
Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Stumbo, whose office
represents the state in all three cases, yesterday declined to comment,
citing the "ongoing litigation."
Bowling and Baze have exhausted most appeals; Leonard has the right to
seek a U.S. Supreme Court review of his case, their suit said.
Dieter said the question becomes how states can humanely execute people if
courts were to find a doctor must either prescribe or administer at least
one of the drugs used in lethal injection -- and doctors are barred from
"By and large, doctors do not want to participate," he said.
Rebecca DiLoreto, with the Department of Public Advocacy, which filed the
lawsuit, acknowledged if the inmates prevail it would make it almost
impossible to carry out any executions by lethal injection in Kentucky.
"This lawsuit really does exemplify the absurdity of how we've tried to
construct an execution," she said.
Dieter said lethal injection is under court review in eight to 10 states
and believes the matter will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I think it's all headed for some sort of resolution," he said.
N.C. is 11th state to halt lethal injections----A judge blocks 2
executions until procedures are changed.
A judge Thursday blocked two executions in North Carolina, creating a de
facto moratorium on capital punishment in the state until it changes its
lethal injection procedure.
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Donald W. Stephens in Raleigh means
that 11 states, including California, have now halted executions stemming
from challenges to lethal injection.
Thursday's decision is perhaps the strongest example of the complications
that have arisen from attempts by prison officials around the country to
"medicalize" the execution procedure, said Fordham University law
professor Deborah Denno.
North Carolina, like 36 other states, uses a three-drug combination to
execute inmates who are strapped to a gurney. A North Carolina law
mandates that a doctor be present at executions in part to make sure that
the condemned person is fully anesthetized before being put to death. But
professional medical associations and ethics boards nationally and in many
states, including North Carolina, have strongly advised physicians not to
participate in executions.
Physicians, until recently, helped monitor a patient's vital signs at the
execution chamber at Central Prison in Raleigh.
Last week, however, the state medical board said that although a doctor
could be present, any other participation violated its ethics policy. On
Wednesday, state corrections officials attempted to get around that
problem by telling Judge Stephens that the doctor would be present but
would not supervise or participate in the injection of any drugs or the
monitoring of the prisoner's medical condition. They said the key roles
would be played by a registered nurse and an emergency medical technician.
But Stephens, a former prosecutor, ruled that the state's "current
position is different" than the one it has taken in past executions. "This
current procedure and protocol eliminates the physician's participation in
an execution," and consequently it violates state law, the judge ruled. He
said prison officials could not simply change the protocol for executions
without the approval of the governor and other state officials.
Stephens' ruling came one day before the state was to execute Marcus R.
Robinson and 2 days after 30 North Carolina legislators asked Gov. Mike
Easley to declare a death penalty moratorium until the state thoroughly
reviewed its lethal injection procedure. Easley had no immediate comment.
"The court's decision is sensible, as well as consistent with recent
rulings placing the responsibility for protocol changes in the hands of
the governor which is where such decisions should take place," said
Denno, the law professor who has studied lethal injection cases.
Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper, said
the state had no immediate plans to appeal the judge's decision. "Our
attorneys will consult with the Department of Corrections and the
governor's office to determine the appropriate steps to take," Talley
The decision was hailed by Robert Zaytoun, attorney for James E. Thomas,
who was scheduled to be executed Feb. 2 and was the other plaintiff in the
suit before Stephens.
"The court said today that the warden can't change the rules as he goes
along. You can't just have a doctor sitting there like a potted plant and
say the statute is satisfied," Zaytoun said in a telephone interview.
In a technical sense, Stephens' ruling applies only to Robinson and
Thomas. But the attorney for James A. Campbell, who is scheduled to be
executed Feb. 9, said he would ask Stephens to block that execution.
Campbell also is a plaintiff in a separate challenge to the state's lethal
injection procedures that is pending in federal court.
The situation in North Carolina is a prime example of the "Hippocratic
paradox" that has become increasingly important in capital punishment,
said Dr. Jonathan Groner, an Ohio State University professor and
pediatrician who is a death penalty critic.
"On the one hand, a physician needs to be present in order to ensure
humane treatment of a prisoner in the course of an execution," where three
drugs are administered through IV lines, Groner said. "On the other hand,
physicians are forbidden from participating in an execution because of
their medical ethics. It's an irresolvable conflict inherent in the method
of the execution."
Denno said that an examination of doctors' role in executions "is new
ground" for judges and that revelations about problems with lethal
injections has "required courts to get involved in a way they haven't
Illinois and New Jersey have a formal moratorium on all executions while
the viability of the death penalty is considered. In mid-December, Florida
Gov. Jeb Bush ordered a halt on executions until the state thoroughly
reviewed its lethal injection procedure.
In 7 other states California, Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri,
Ohio and South Dakota almost all executions are being stayed as courts
grapple with lawsuits asserting that lethal injection procedures violate
the constitutional bar on cruel and unusual punishment.
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Do death penalty right----N.C. should suspend executions and fix the
North Carolina's system of charging, trying and executing murderers is
unworthy of a state that values the fair and orderly administration of
justice. Numerous prominent and respected citizens have urged the General
Assembly to halt executions, study that system and do what's necessary to
make it a model for the nation. The need for a better system was
demonstrated again Thursday when a judge in Raleigh postponed any
executions after finding one aspect of the process failed to follow state
The most recent national controversy involves whether the most commonly
used method of execution, lethal injections, violates the U.S.
Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." A recent execution
in Florida offered a grisly extreme example: The executioner botched the
procedure and took a half hour and two injections to do the job. Florida
Gov. Jeb Bush declared a moratorium on executions while that state
reconsiders its system.
A Superior Court judge in Raleigh imposed a temporary ban Thursday after
this series of events involving another issue.
N.C. law says a physician must be present at all executions. In the past,
doctors have monitored the offender's heart rate and consciousness. But
the N.C. Medical Board recently approved a policy prohibiting physicians
from participating in executions, saying doctors who do so violate the
profession's ethics and could lose their license to practice.
Then an attorney with the N.C. attorney general's office said the doctor
needn't take part in the execution but could just sign the death
That won't do, ruled Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens. He
cited a 1909 law saying any change in the execution procedure had to be
approved by the governor and other top officials who make up the Council
of State. He blocked 2 executions scheduled for the next few days until
that approval is given.
Polls show most North Carolinians favor the death penalty. But no one
wants an innocent person executed, or a system in which some people get
the death penalty and others don't even though their crimes are
A large, bipartisan group of citizens -- some of them opponents and some
supporters of the death penalty -- have called for a 2-year moratorium on
executions and a study to make our system as fair and accurate as humanly
possible. The General Assembly should approve legislation to do that.
What would a moratorium do? Offenders already sentenced to death would
still face that penalty, and courts could still impose it, but no one
would be executed until the 2-year study was completed. Among moratorium
supporters are 2 former state chief justices -- Jim Exum, a Democrat, and
Rhoda Billings, a Republican.
The issue is urgent. The present system has sentenced at least 5 people to
death who later were determined to be innocent. North Carolina can do
better. In the interest of justice, it should.
(source: Opinion, The Charlotte Observer)
District attorney plans to seek death penalty in murder case----Man
accused of killing father, Catawba woman in July.
A man accused in the murder of his father could face the death penalty.
The district attorneys office announced the decision during a hearing
William Edward Adams Jr. was charged July 25, 2006, with the murder of his
father, William Edward Adams Sr., 43, and his dads girlfriend, Lori
Abernethy Chamberlain, 45, of Catawba.
Adams Jr. was in court with his defense team Thursday. Since the
prosecution is seeking the death penalty, the defendant is allowed two
attorneys. Lisa Dubs and Robert Campbell will represent Adams.
Adams Jr. sat at the defense table and listened to the state as it
declared it would be a capital case. Assistant District Attorney Sean
McGinnis cited monetary gain as an aggravating factor to seek the death
About a dozen people were in the courtroom to hear the district attorneys
office decision. A few left the court after the hearing with tears in
The murders happened July 25 at Adams Sr.s home on Burton Drive in the
outskirts of Maiden. The victims were found shot to death in a bedroom.
Sheriffs investigators say Adams Jr. made the 911 call reporting he found
the bodies around 9 a.m. He remained on the scene with investigators until
his 2 p.m. arrest.
Adams Jr. has remained in the Catawba County Detention Center since his
An administrative court hearing was set for the week of April 2.
(source: Hickory Daily Record)
Judge puts hold on 2 executions----He says statewide office holders must
approve new protocol
Citing a century-old law, a judge put a pair of executions on hold
Thursday as North Carolina struggles with the role doctors should play in
carrying out the death penalty.
The immediate impact of the ruling issued by Wake County Superior Court
Judge Donald Stephens is to stay the executions of Marcus Reymond
Robinson, 33, who was scheduled to die at 2 a.m. today, and James Edward
Thomas, 51, set to die next week.
But the ruling further complicates the ongoing debate over whether the
state can carry out executions without a physician's assistance. State law
requires a doctor's presence, but the N.C. Medical Board decided last week
that a physician's participation violated medical ethics.
In trying to sort out that dilemma, the state decided a nurse and medical
technician -- instead of a doctor -- would monitor inmates' vital signs. A
doctor would only observe and later sign a death certificate. If a problem
arose requiring the doctor, officials would stop the execution and
reschedule it, so the physician could take part without violating the
But Stephens said such a change in the state's process for imposing a
death sentence requires, under a law passed in 1909, the approval of the
governor and the nine other statewide office holders.
The law was originally enacted when the state changed its method of
execution from hanging to electrocution, which no longer is used. State
attorney Tom Pitman said the law was in essence a technicality, written to
ensure corrections officials didn't spend more than $1,000 on the new
(source: Charlotte Observer)
Officials must weigh lethal injection----A 1909 law means Easley and the
Council of State must decide how executions can happen without a doctor's
help, judge rules
A Wake Superior Court judge Thursday stopped two executions, making North
Carolina -- at least temporarily -- the latest state where lethal
injections have been derailed.
Senior Resident Judge Donald W. Stephens said top state officials must
approve changes to a doctor's role in lethal injections. The changes were
prompted by the N.C. Medical Board's refusal to allow doctors to
Stephens' ruling meant that Marcus Robinson, who was to die at 2 a.m.
today, would live to see this morning. The ruling also halted the Feb. 2
execution of James Thomas, who with Robinson filed the lawsuit that landed
in Stephens' courtroom. The ruling also may affect the Feb. 9 execution of
James Campbell, whose lawyers plan to file a similar lawsuit today.
Death penalty opponents and lawyers said Stephens' ruling is significant.
"North Carolina joins a growing list of states finally coming to grips
with the fact that lethal injection is symbolic of the lack of
accountability and incompetence that plagues the death penalty system,"
said David Elliot, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the
California and Florida are among the states that have halted executions
over the issue of whether drugs are administered in a way that does not
cause condemned inmates to suffer.
Moral and legal issue
Stephens said in court that he was grappling with a moral and legal
question: "Whether or not this state wants to execute a person without the
presence of a supervising physician."
Questions about lethal injection have been asked in several North Carolina
courts over several years.
In April, a federal judge asked prison officials to ensure inmates are
sedated before fatal drugs flow in. Prison officials bought a brain-wave
"The court is satisfied by the State's plan to use a licensed registered
nurse and a licensed physician to monitor the level of consciousness,"
U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard wrote.
But last week, the N.C. Medical Board passed an ethics policy stating that
doctors can be present at executions but cannot assist, even by monitoring
vital signs. Prison officials said they would have a doctor there but that
a nurse and a paramedic would monitor the medical equipment.
The inmates' lawyers sued in state court, arguing to Stephens that only a
doctor can decide whether an inmate has been sedated. If a doctor isn't
involved, they argue, that could result in cruel and unusual punishment.
Stephens, however, did not resolve that question.
When the court hearing began Wednesday, Stephens caught lawyers off guard
by asking whether the new procedures were properly approved. He cited a
1909 state law that requires Gov. Mike Easley and the Council of State,
composed of 9 statewide elected officials, to approve "qualified
personnel" involved in executions.
He asked them to return with an answer.
On Thursday, Thomas Pitman, a special deputy attorney general, told the
judge he didn't have one. However, Pitman argued that the law was passed
in 1909 to ensure $1,000 was provided to buy an electric chair. He added
that Stephens was wrong to interpret the law as requiring approval of
Stephens ruled that having the doctor stand aside was an important change.
"If there is a significant change in the execution protocol, it's not up
to the warden and the secretary of correction to make that decision," he
said. "In order to carry out these executions in these circumstances, the
governor and Council of State should review that protocol and approve it."
The news of that responsibility surprised some council members but pleased
at least one.
Considering the cost
"I welcome the opportunity to take a new look at the protocol for handling
executions," State Auditor Les Merritt said in a statement. "This may
provide an opportunity to examine the total cost of North Carolina's
system of delivering capital punishment."
Merritt's spokesman, Chris Mears, said later that the auditor was not
commenting on the merits of the death penalty system but saying that
consideration of finances should guide any decision.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who heard the news while speaking
to a livestock group in Wilson, never knew this could be part of his job.
"It's a new obligation or responsibility that I imagine most of the
council previously was unaware of," said Brian Long, Troxler's spokesman.
Easley leads the council's monthly meetings. The next is scheduled Feb. 6.
Prison officials will not immediately appeal Stephens' ruling but confer
with Easley on what to do next.
Raleigh lawyer Don Beskind, who represents a North Carolina inmate in
federal litigation about lethal injection, said: "It's a pause -- a pause
in 3 successive executions. It allows the legislature to consider a
moratorium. It allows the governor to consider what he thinks is
appropriate. It allows everyone to take a deep breath and think about the
mechanism of death in North Carolina."
Those who see the death penalty as justice were not pleased to hear about
Stephens' ruling. Former Craven County Sheriff Pete Bland was planning to
witness James Thomas' execution. In 1986, Thomas murdered Bland's niece,
Teresa West, a manager at a Raleigh boardinghouse.
"We thought we were getting pretty close to this being over. We hope the
state Supreme Court will overturn this judge's decision and get this thing
back on track," he said. "We feel like this man has had adequate justice."
(source: The News & Observer)
Johnson's appeal to be heard to be heard
Oral arguments in the appeal of an Iowa woman on federal death row for the
1993 drug-related slayings of 5 people near Mason City will be heard Feb.
14 by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Angela Johnson, 42, and her boyfriend, Dustin Honken, were convicted of
planning and carrying out the slayings of 3 adults and 2 children. Both
were sentenced to death, becoming the 1st Iowans to received the death
penalty in more than 40 years.
Court officials said Thursday that Johnson's case is 1 of 4 being heard on
Each side, Johnson's defense attorneys and government prosecutors, will be
given a half hour to argue.
Johnson's attorneys, Dean Stowers of Des Moines and Pat Barrigan of Kansas
City, will present their arguments first. After both sides present
arguments, Johnson's attorneys will be given an additional half-hour for
rebuttal of the government's arguments.
Johnson's attorneys are challenging the denial of a change-of-venue
request, jury selection and the connection between drug trafficking and
The court will issue a written ruling in the case.
"There are no time restrictions," said Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J.
Williams, who prosecuted the case and will present the government's
"Typically, the judges release a written ruling in a period between 90 and
120 days. But in more complex cases like this one, they can take longer,"
Honken, 38, and Johnson were convicted of killing two federal drug
informants who once peddled methamphetamine produced by Honken. One of the
informants, Greg Nicholson of Mason City, disappeared in June 1993 along
with his girlfriend, Lori Duncan, also of Mason City, and her two
daughters, Kandace Duncan, 10, and Amber Duncan, 6.
The other informant, Terry DeGeus of Britt, disappeared months later.
Their bodies were discovered in 2 graves outside of Mason City in 2000
after Johnson gave information about the locations of the graves to a
Iowa does not have the death penalty, but federal prosecutors sought the
death penalty due to the heinous nature of the crimes and the killing of
The appeals process in death sentence cases normally takes from 7 to 10
Johnson is in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas. Honken is in federal
prison in Terre Haute, Ind. His appeal is pending.
(source: Sioux City Journal)
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