[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----CALIF., ALA., FLA., USA, VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 7 01:04:01 CST 2007
Federal judge delays even further Calif's stalled death penalty
A federal judge canceled plans to tour California's new execution chamber
later this month and temporarily halted proceedings in a lawsuit
challenging the state's death penalty.
U.S. District Court Jeremy Fogel in San Jose delayed litigation in the
federal lawsuit filed by condemned killer Michael Morales because a state
court judge on Oct. 31 invalidated the state's death penalty on
The U.S. Supreme Court has also been halting executions nationwide while
it considers a challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection execution method.
Fogel ordered lawyers to return to his courtroom in Jan. 17 to consider
the next steps.
(source: Associated Press)
Ala. Inmate With Cancer Loses Appeal
A death row inmate who wants his cancer to kill him before the state can
lost an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, but he still won't be
executed "for months or years," a prosecutor said.
Quadruple murderer Daniel Lee Siebert, 53, has had pancreatic cancer since
at least June, according to court documents; that form of cancer can
spread quickly and cause death within weeks. He has been fighting in court
to die naturally.
Alabama courts had ruled that Siebert missed a deadline for challenging
his conviction at the state level in the 1986 killing of Linda Ann Jarman.
Alabama officials argued the missed deadline barred him from filing a
petition in federal court as well, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals sided with Siebert.
In the unsigned decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Siebert was not
entitled to file in the federal courts since he missed the state deadline.
Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
In a separate case, Siebert came within a day of dying last month for the
strangulation of Jarman's next-door neighbor, Sherri Weathers, and
Weathers' 2 young sons in Talladega on Feb. 19, 1986, the same night
Jarman was killed.
Siebert argued that the chemicals used during an execution could mix with
his pain medication and inflict unnecessary pain. The 11th Circuit ruled
Oct. 24, the day before Siebert was to have been executed, that he could
not be put to death in that case until the Supreme Court resolves a
challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection method, which is similar to the
one used in most states.
Siebert has other appeal options in the Jarman case, so the state won't
immediately seek an execution date, prosecutor Clay Crenshaw said. "The
process could go on for months or years," Crenshaw said.
Siebert's attorney, Tommy Goggans, did not return a message seeking
Esther Brown, executive secretary of Project Hope to Abolish the Death
Penalty, said Siebert has declined treatment, other than taking pain
medication. She said that his cancer is terminal, but that she doesn't
know how much time he might have left.
"He's a very sick man, but I can't spell it out in days or months," she
(source: Associated Press)
Inmates seek rehearing on execution method----The men ask the state
Supreme Court to review their challenges to lethal injection
2 death row inmates asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday to rehear
their challenges to the state's lethal injection procedure.
The justices last week unanimously rejected arguments that the procedure
is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. That cleared the way for
the Nov. 15 execution of Mark Dean Schwab for the 1991 rape and murder of
11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez in Brevard County.
Monday's rehearing requests were filed on behalf of Schwab and Ian Deco
Lightbourne, who has not yet been scheduled for execution. Lightbourne
killed Nancy O'Farrell after breaking into her Marion County home in 1981.
The state responded that Lightbourne's rehearing request should be
rejected because it "does nothing more than quarrel with this court's
A response to Schwab's request was not immediately filed.
Schwab and Lightbourne challenged the lethal injection procedure based on
problems that caused the execution of Angel Diaz to take 34 minutes -
twice as long as normal - in December.
Following Diaz's death, executions were suspended in Florida until Gov.
Charlie Crist signed Schwab's death warrant in July after the Corrections
Department revised its procedures.
The state justices have not yet ruled on Schwab's motion for a stay of
execution pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a challenge to Kentucky's
lethal injection procedure. Kentucky, Florida and other states with lethal
injection rely on the same 3-chemical cocktail.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in appeals from Schwab and Lightbourne
that the revised procedure eliminates the risk of pain from the last
chemical injected, potassium chloride, which causes the heart to stop.
The revisions include additional training and a pause after the first
chemical, the anesthetic sodium thiopental, is injected to make sure the
inmate is unconscious before the remaining drugs are administered.
Lightbourne's rehearing motion argues in part that the pause is
insufficient protection because prison officials rather than trained
medical personnel check for consciousness. Another argument is the
justices erroneously concluded that Lightbourne did not explicitly
challenge the three-drug combination.
Schwab's motion contends he did expressly challenge the 3-drug regimen,
yet the high court turned that argument aside by citing its ruling in
Lightbourne's case. He had challenged the use of the 3rd chemical,
pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis and prevents the inmate from
showing signs of pain.
(source: Associated Press)
The life or death challenge of the Supreme Court
This contribution is not about trying to convince the reader whether the
death penalty is right or wrong. Personal opinion on this topic is so
strong that it is virtually futile to try to "convert" an individual from
one position to another. This blog is about whether the prevalent form of
execution in the United States should be considered "cruel and unusual
There are 38 states that still have the death penalty, and all but one use
lethal injection. The exception is Nebraska which still uses the electric
chair. More on old sparky later. Lethal injection consists of
administering a so-called "cocktail" of 3 ingredients into the bloodstream
via a needle. The first of a trio of drugs renders the convict
unconscious; the second ingredient paralyzes the muscles; the third stops
Those of us who have undergone major surgery might well ask, "What's the
big deal?" You start counting backwards from 100 or some given number, and
the next thing you know, you wake up in the recovery room. Any pain or
discomfort begins then, and is associated with the surgery. But death
penalty opponents (and, incidentally, more and more death row inmates)
contend that the procedure, even when properly administered, is
exceptionally painful - so much so that it violates the inmate's
The last time the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of a
particular form of execution was more than 100 years ago. In 1878 the
court upheld the firing squad as an acceptable means of administering the
death penalty. The fact that the court is now going to consider the
legality of lethal injection has resulted in a de facto moratorium on all
executions nationwide. The ruling is scheduled for early 2008, with a
decision probably sometime in the middle of the year.
The Supreme Court ruled against the death penalty in 1972 because the
judges thought it was administered in an "arbitrary and capricious"
manner. It was reinstated 4 years later and since then, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center, there have been more than a thousand
executions. Lethal injection was used in 927 instances, 154 were by
electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 2 by firing squad.
It remains unclear as to why the Supreme Court has decided to hear the
lethal injection issue now. Just seven years ago, the court ruled against
hearing an appeal that the electric chair was a form of cruel and unusual
punishment. Indeed, old sparky has been responsible for a number of
botched executions which can best be described as horrifying. Officials
and spectators observed these clumsy incidents involving the electric
chair, and were convinced that the inmate suffered unnecessary pain. Yet
the electric chair remains in use in Nebraska.
Why, then, has lethal injection come under the Supreme Court's attention
recently? No inmate has returned from the dead to testify that he or she
suffered unbearable pain. Witnesses to executions by lethal injection have
observed that the inmate "twitched" of "grimaced," and in some cases, this
was interpreted by the witnesses as suffering. As a result, more and more
death row inmates are beginning to challenge their imminent executions on
this narrowly-defined issue.
State and federal courts have begun to interpret the Supreme Court's
decision to rule on these challenges as a signal that all executions
should be put on hold. Thus, many death row inmates who have postponed
their executions by 20 years or more by appealing their convictions and
the method of carrying out the sentence, may end up with life sentences
instead. In some cases they might even appeal the life sentence, arguing
that it was not the original or intended punishment. Over the span of a
couple of decades, they might contend, they have become rehabilitated and
eligible for parole.
So the Supreme Court's decision to rule on the constitutionality of lethal
injection is like the proverbial peeling of an onion - one layer is
removed, only to discover that many more remain. If the ruling is that
lethal injection does violate the constitution because of the suffering
involved, it does not rule out execution, only the method used. The
ingredients of the "cocktail" can then be changed to make it more
acceptable. Predictably, prisoners could argue that waiting all these
years to be put to death was in itself cruel and unusual punishment.
One of the onion layers will also involve the personal interpretation of
the constitution by each of the judges. At the time the constitution was
written, cruel and unusual punishment often referred to the type of pain
one would not inflict on a dog, a horse or a farm animal. Another onion
layer is the intrusion of intellectual elitism of an individual judge. As
a recent article by William F. Buckley in Real Clear Politics pointed out,
"When the death penalty was eliminated in Great Britain, 70 % of the
British population wanted to continue to impose death sentences for
capital crimes. How do we register our commitment to safeguarding the
innocent, if not by bringing on death to the killer?"
A number of the murderers on death row have committed crimes so
unspeakable that the court transcripts have to be read, so to speak,
through spread fingers. There are the mass murderers, those who tortured
before killing; those who molested and raped young boys and girls before
killing; those who left families, friends, and relatives with a lifetime
of nightmares and awful images to live with for the rest of their lives.
Can the cruel and unusual punishment they inflicted on others be compared
to the discomfort of an injection?
If the justices of the Supreme Court ever reach the final layer of the
onion, it might read something like this: we have a contract and a solemn
agreement to obey certain fundamental laws if society is to survive. The
government, in turn, has a contract with us, including protection against
those who would harm us. When the government fails to honor its end of the
contract, and we or our loved ones are slain, the only redemption is to
protect posthumously the dignity of the victims - by taking the lives of
those who took theirs.
(source: Blogger News Network)
WHERE IS THE PUNISHMENT IN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?
>From the United States Supreme Court came good news on September 25, 2007.
The Court will consider whether Kentuckys lethal injection protocol
creates intractable pain during execution.
Good news may travel fast but it did not travel fast enough to reach the
Texas Court of Appeals by quitting time on September 25. Richard Michael's
appeal did not arrive in time either; thanks to a computer glitch it got
there 8 minutes late. Mr. Michael was executed by lethal injection,
painful or not, 3 hours later.
There have been no executions in the United States since then. There is
now a de facto moratorium on lethal injections until the Court rules in
Baze vs. Rees. A decision is expected in June 2008.
A ruling in Mr. Baze's favor will not end capital punishment in the US. At
most, it will probably call for revised execution protocols. A decision
for the state will allow executions to resume. Some states may even pick
up the pace of executions to make up for lost time.
The fact that the Supreme Court is willing even to consider the question
in Baze vs. Rees is important, however. It should invite us all to reflect
on a broader question: Is death a punishment at all?
Death penalty supporters would reply, "Of course it is. What could
possibly be worse? You're dead. At last, a killer's victims have been
avenged. Survivors now have closure. Justice has been served. The rule of
law has prevailed. And we have sent a message to future criminals: 'an eye
for an eye'. Good riddance."
Fair enough, although constructs like vengeance, closure, the rule of law,
and even justice are our own theoretical societal inventions. They do not
exist in nature; we created them for ourselves to describe our feelings
and to bring order to our societies.
Death is not theoretical; death is real and final. So for capital
punishment to have any justification at all, we must accept the notion
that death that state of non-existence in which all of us spend just
about all of eternity is actually a punishment. If it's not, then why
else would we put people to death?
If we execute criminals only to make ourselves feel better, then we should
find another outlet for our passions. That reason is not good enough.
When a criminal is condemned to death, three events will overtake him:
incarceration, execution, and death. First he will be imprisoned, usually
in solitary confinement for many years, while his appeals creep through
the courts. The average time between sentencing and execution in the US is
now more than 12 years an all-time high. For many, the wait and
uncertainty of this bleak and solitary existence drag on for decades.
At length, if the inmate is unsuccessful in his appeals, he is executed.
We in 21st century America have opted for executions that are fast,
private, unheralded, sanitary, and painless. We prefer our barbarism to be
dignified and, as Baze suggests, non-punishing.
And then the criminal is dead. At the moment his life ceases his
punishment ceases too. He is beyond punishment; he is no more. So he shall
remain for all of eternity. There cannot be anything punishing about that,
unless you believe that your late ancestors and loved ones are undergoing
some sort of eternal torment at this very moment.
This is not to say there is no punishment after death, if that is your
belief. But that refers to punishment of the soul. If one's soul is to be
punished, I believe it will happen in its own time. Give the Almighty some
credit: if anything, He has a mighty long memory for who deserves what
rewards in the hereafter.
In the here and now, being dead is not a punishment that is why dozens of
condemned prisoners have volunteered for it. The execution process must
not be a punishment the whole point of Baze is to make certain that
executions are not punishing. So where else could the punishment lie? It
must lie in the incarceration; there is no other choice.
The real punishment of life in solitary confinement, without parole, is
the absence of all hope that any of a mans tomorrows will be any better or
different than his miserable today. True punishment will deny death to
that man for as long as nature allows; it will not do him the favor of
releasing him early from the fate of a long, hopeless existence.
Death penalty opponents have argued for an end to capital punishment. They
point out that it costs too much, takes too long, and does not deter
crime. Many also say it is not our place as moral beings to kill our
fellow humans. I agree with those viewpoints and offer just one more
reason: there is no punishment in capital punishment.
(source: Op-Ed News; Rick Wise is is a consultant in New England)
ALWAYS POLITICAL, SOMETIMES CORRECT, RARELY POLITICALLY CORRECT: What
constitutes cruel and unusual?
The Supreme Court threw its hat into the ring of debate surrounding lethal
injection recently by staying the execution of a Mississippi prisoner last
Tuesday - just moments before he was slated to die - and, earlier, by
granting certiorari last month to a pair of Kentucky death row inmates
headed for the same fate.
The issue at bar is not the constitutionality of the death penalty per se,
rather, if the drugs employed by every state - except Nebraska - that
utilizes capital punishment, cause unnecessary pain and suffering,
rendering the method unconstitutional.
The usual suspects, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, dissented,
though with only five votes needed to grant a stay of execution.
With neither the dissent nor the majority explaining the reasoning behind
their positions, it is difficult to gauge exactly where most of the Court
stands on the matter. What is clear is that, even without a written
opinion, the Court in effect has issued a de facto moratorium on the 37
states that do use lethal injection until an appeal filed by the 2
Kentucky death row inmates is argued and decided in the spring.
Upon reading about the stay of execution granted to Earl W. Berry, the
Mississippi man who filed his last minute, "Hail Mary" appeal -
challenging the method of his execution - 19 years and several denied
claims after he was sentenced to death for killing a woman 20 years ago, I
had mixed feelings.
The lethal injection debate has been a growing cause of confusion not only
for state and federal courts having to decide on the matter, but for the
average citizen such as myself.
Granted, my confusion stems from the more specific debate of what
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, or whether the death penalty is
a pragmatic answer to murder, whereas this debate focuses primarily on the
arbitrary matter of which drugs most likely cause needless suffering. And
I can't help but wonder, why is the method and not the act of execution up
After playing referee to the angels and demons battling over the issue in
my mind, I was granted some insight as to why America is so apt to wrestle
with things arbitrary in nature, rather than get down to the nitty gritty
Although most Americans may not suffer from the bipolarity of thought that
I do, the subject of violent crime elicits opinions that seemed to have
shaped both the methods of and the reasoning for capital punishment
throughout the course of American history.
Let me explain. Suppose, for instance, I was faced with a killer convicted
of murdering any member of my family.
It would not be the death penalty I would seek so much as a locked room,
an uninterrupted hour of time, a baseball bat, perhaps a pair of handcuffs
and said murderer.
Once the hour was up, and the walls stained crimson with the perpetrator's
blood, my idea of further punishment for the offender would not be lethal
injection, but rather a lifetime of solitary confinement and sensory
These are the ways in which my Draconian demons battle with my egalitarian
These are also the reasons why sentencing should not be decided by
victims, victims' families, or even the general public, but by a
blindfolded lady justice capable of doling out objective, rather than
My mad meanderings notwithstanding, the matter at bar before the Court
beguiles the real issue at hand, and will only serve to either uphold a
tenuous manner of execution or institute a mandate for a new, perhaps
equally constitutionally questionable form of capital punishment.
It does nothing to address the inherent or fundamental meaning of the
Eighth Amendment or whether murder is the solution to . well, murder.
For the record, I am opposed to the death penalty, but not for the
forgiveness-oriented reasons of others, but rather because it's
unpragmatic, costly and ineffective at achieving preventative results.
Someday, maybe the virtues of justice will rule on this matter, for the
time being - I'm glad the decision is not up to me.
(source: Daily Titan (California)
'Correction' needed, not punishment
One does not have to be a liberal to believe that the death penalty is a
misguided answer to capital crime and long overdue for retirement.
Dale Carnegie, in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People,"
observed that most criminals believe themselves to have been incarcerated
unjustly, that they had perfectly justifiable reasons for doing what they
did and that being in prison is simply not their fault.
More recently, studies have shown that punishment, including capital
punishment, is of at least questionable value as a deterrent, if in fact
it has any value at all. In other words, punishment by peers simply
We are so ingrained with the crime and punishment mentality that any other
approach, to conservatives and liberals alike, is virtually unthinkable.
Well, here's a shot at the unthinkable, one that is both conservative and
The conservative aspect is that anyone who, through basically the same
process as is presently in place, is found to have committed an offense
against society would be automatically, and without restriction, detained
in an appropriate correctional facility. Appropriate means fitting the
offense, and correctional means just that, not imprisonment.
The liberal aspect is that once detained the person is not treated as a
criminal but as a person who needs help in understanding how a proper
citizen behaves in a civilized society.
Once the appropriate help is given and a proper response is realized, the
person is released back into society with no record or any other stigma
attached that would prevent the person from being accepted as a proper
contributor to a proper society.
Obviously, the key to this is "the appropriate help ... and a proper
response," both of which would take a considerable expenditure in
achieving sufficient knowledge of human psychology, much more than we have
achieved presently. And even with that, it is equally obvious that
detention time would vary according to the extent that we have gained that
knowledge and the nature of the offense.
Some offenders, pencil thieves for example, would probably only need a day
or 2 of correction whereas other offenders, those who may have a mental
deficiency that simply can't be cured, such as pedophiles, would spend the
rest of their lives in an appropriate detention center. Detention time
would be a function of an adequate degree of positive response to
This is obviously a "blue sky" idea and many details would have to be
worked out. But consider the advantages. We would be learning where and
how anti-social behavior begins and be able to return that information to
society at the place where it would do the most to prevent it from
starting in the 1st place.
At present, we are largely ignoring that opportunity and even destroying
the possible source of valuable data. Over time, many, if not most,
problems would be discovered and solved before they became problems for
society as a whole to deal with.
Instead of the "crime and punishment" industry becoming larger and larger
and commensurately more expensive, an "offense and correction" system
should diminish in size and expense over time and eventually more or less
stabilize. Would it be perfect? Of course not. Nothing human is perfect.
But would it be better? How could it not?
And this cannot be left unsaid: Are we or are we not a Judeo-Christian
nation? Do we or do we not love our neighbor? People tend to respond
positively to loving, caring attention to their needs, and conversely,
negatively to peer punishment. Isn't it about time we started acting more
like Judeo-Christians toward our fellow human beings instead of as their
judges, imprisoners and executioners? Are we even willing to consider it,
or is it just too unthinkable?
(source: David A. Paul; Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Execution date set for Pittsylvania County woman
A Pittsylvania County woman now has a date with the execution chamber. But
there is a good chance it will be delayed as the case makes its way
through federal courts.
Teresa Lewis is scheduled to die by lethal injection November 15. She
pleaded guilty in 2002 to hiring 2 men to kill her husband and stepson.
Lewis became the first woman on Virginia's death row since capital
punishment was reinstated in 1976.
No woman has been executed in Virginia since 1912.
(source: WDBJ News)
More information about the DeathPenalty