[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., USA, N.C., NEV.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Oct 11 00:54:51 CDT 2007
In Pa., we can't even kill people properly
AS IF Pennsylvania doesn't have enough to do to improve the care of its
citizens - crime prevention, road and bridge repair, legislative reform,
health-care reform, ethics reforms, tax reform and more - now comes word
we don't even do the death penalty right.
A state known for sorry-ass showings in national studies on multiple
topics shows up as downright awful in an American Bar Association
assessment of how we use capital punishment.
Basically, we have crappy procedures putting innocents at risk, we have
stupid juries, we're unfair to the poor and we're racist.
Sound about right?
The official finding: "Pennsylvania cannot ensure that fairness and
accuracy are the hallmark of every case in which the death penalty is
sought or imposed."
Which means innocents could die, but maybe that isn't all that unsettling
if you understand that we're not rushing to put people to death.
Pennsylvania has executed only 3 - all white - since its death penalty was
reinstated 30 years ago. The last was Philly torturer-killer Gary Heidnik
in '99, which I remember well. I was there as a media witness.
We have 228 on death row, 4th nationally behind California, Florida and
The ABA, which 10 years ago called for a national moratorium on the death
penalty, has done assessments of 8 states with large death rows;
Pennsylvania was the last.
Our assessment, honchoed by a Villanova law professor and former federal
prosecutor, Anne Bowen Poulin, was released yesterday.
Among its findings are strong suggestions of uneven and unfair use of the
death sentence, especially if you're African-American from Philly.
Findings include: Despite exonerating five death row inmates since the
mid-'70s, the state fails to tighten procedures to protect the innocent;
it doesn't keep biological evidence for the duration of imprisonment; it
has sloppy line-ups that can lead to false eyewitness IDs, and it doesn't
tape or record all capital-case interrogations.
The report also says the state fails to provide funding for lawyers for
the poor, relying solely on county funding, resulting in a lack of
"quality, uniform representation" for many; it provides little defense
against bad defense, and it denies adequate resources for experts and
The report blasts juries and, by implication, those who empanel and
instruct them. The "overwhelming majority" of capital- case jurors don't
understand their responsibilities in death-penalty cases.
On race, the ABA punts to a 1999 state Supreme Court committee on racial
and gender bias and its findings: though minorities make up just 11 % of
the state population, they make up 68 % of death row, well above the
national average and, in terms of blacks, 2nd only to Louisiana.
The committee also said that Philly blacks get the death penalty more than
nonblacks in similar cases: "The committee found that 1/3 of
African-American death-row inmates in Philadelphia County would have
received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been
Since that finding, little is changed. The ABA suggests further study.
When I ask ABA president-elect H. Thomas Wells Jr., of Birmingham, Ala.,
what the multistate assessments show most in common, he says it's poor
legal representation for the indigent.
So poor people don't get the best lawyers and black people get screwed.
When I suggest such is the case throughout the history of American
jurisprudence, and ask why nothing's ever done about it, he says, "Well,
that's a good question . . . at least we're drawing attention to it."
So I draw it to your attention. And I expect corrective change just as
soon as we get better crime prevention, health-care reform, legislative
reform, ethics reform . . . "
(source: Philadelphia Daily News)
Report: Flaws risk wrong execution----The American Bar Association urged
changes in the Pa. system to better guard against putting an innocent
person to death.
>From crime scene to courtroom to clemency, the flaws in Pennsylvania's
death-penalty system are so pervasive that the state risks executing an
innocent person, the American Bar Association said in a report released
The ABA urged changes that it said could reduce the likelihood of false
confessions, crime-lab errors, witness misidentification and racial
disparities. The report noted that since 1986, 3 inmates had been executed
in Pennsylvania, but that 5 had been exonerated and released from death
"The problems found in this assessment strike at the very heart of
Pennsylvania's justice system," said the ABA's president-elect, H. Thomas
Still, the 324-page study's authors - 5 prominent Philadelphia-area
lawyers, including a prosecutor and a judge - stopped short of calling for
a moratorium on executions.
Instead, they asked Gov. Rendell to order a more comprehensive state
study. Rendell's spokesman said the governor "will review the suggestions
and take them under consideration."
The dozen changes that the ABA said would improve the accuracy and
integrity of murder investigations included requiring police to videotape
interrogations and witness identifications and to preserve DNA evidence
The ABA also urged the state to adopt uniform standards for lawyers who
represent the poor, including the appointment of 2 qualified attorneys at
every stage of the process and salaries that match those paid to
The ABA, the nation's largest lawyers' association, conducted similar
studies in 7 other states, finding flaws there as well. The ABA said it
did not have an official position on capital punishment. However, since
1997 it has called for a moratorium on executions "until fairness and
accuracy - due process - are assured in death-penalty cases."
Ronald Eisenberg, the Philadelphia deputy district attorney in charge of
appeals, said the ABA's Pennsylvania report was tainted by a hidden bias.
"The ABA is against the death penalty, and they ought to be honest about
that," he said. "I don't think there's anything new in it for people who
are against the death penalty, but they have a big public-relations
budget, and they've obviously spent a lot of money to get their message
out. . . . This is part of a national campaign."
Gregory P. Miller, 1 of the 5 lawyers who conducted the study, said
Eisenberg's characterization of a stacked panel was unfair and wrong.
Miller, a former federal prosecutor, said he had not yet made up his mind
on capital punishment.
"The death penalty creates grave concerns for me, but I spent most of my
life as a prosecutor, so I can imagine cases where it's appropriate and
where it isn't," he said. "The thing that always sort of troubled me is
the trial representation. . . . The one thing we ought to be able to
provide at this time in our country is a good lawyer."
The others who produced the report were Villanova University law professor
Anne Bowen Poulin; Delaware County Judge Frank T. Hazel, a former district
attorney; Mary MacNeil Killinger, a Montgomery County deputy district
attorney; and David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor
and noted civil-rights lawyer.
The team could not compile all the data it needed, Poulin said, because it
lacked the authority to get them from certain counties and because other
counties kept poor or no records.
"If the governor were to order a thorough investigation, the governor's
authority would make sure there would be access," Poulin said.
Pennsylvania has 228 people on death row, but none is in immediate danger
of execution. All have appeals working their way through the state and
federal systems, and the U.S. Supreme Court has essentially halted
executions while it considers a Kentucky case about the constitutionality
of lethal injections.
All 3 inmates executed in Pennsylvania since capital punishment was
reinstated in 1978 were volunteers.
There have been several major studies of the state's death-penalty system,
including a massive 2003 study on race and gender commissioned by the
state Supreme Court. That study cited racial and geographic disparities
and concluded that Pennsylvania did not "operate in an even-handed
The study spurred few changes, the ABA said in yesterday's report.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery), chair of the Judiciary
Committee, said the Senate last year had created an advisory committee to
report on all wrongful convictions in the state - not just in
death-penalty cases - and recommend ways to prevent them.
Greenleaf also said he believed there should not be a moratorium on
executions because that would "change the nature of the debate, because
then we'd be talking about whether we should or should not have the death
penalty in Pennsylvania."
"The question now should be: Will we be able to pass these reforms to
justify the use of the death penalty?" Greenleaf said. "And if we don't,
then we can revisit that issue."
Nicholas Yarris, a Philadelphian who was exonerated and released from
Pennsylvania's death row in 2004, greeted the ABA report with a shrug. It
won't change much, he predicted.
"We've had more exonerations in Pennsylvania than people we've executed,"
he said. "The biggest disappointment to me since my release is that
nothing has changed. You'd think an innocent man is released from death
row and there would be outrage."
The American Bar Association Report Highlights from the report released
yesterday on Pennsylvania's death penalty system:
According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness error was a factor in 77 %
of the 208 cases nationwide in which DNA exonerated inmates. The ABA says
witness identification procedures in Pennsylvania police departments lack
uniform standards designed to reduce mistakes.
ABA recommendation: Standardize police lineup and photo-spread procedures
using modern procedures. Videotape witness identification sessions so that
jurors can see methods and measure a witness' original certainty and
Roughly 1/4 of the people exonerated by DNA evidence falsely confessed or
made deeply incriminating statements, the Innocence Project said.
ABA recommendation: Require police departments to videotape homicide
interrogations. Only two departments, Whitehall and Bethlehem, do so, the
ABA said, citing 2005 data.
The state has "taken some steps to explore the impact of race" but could
do more. One in 10 Pennsylvanians is African American, but 1/2 the state's
death-row inmates are black. A 1999 state Supreme Court study found that
African Americans in Philadelphia were sentenced at a significantly higher
rate than similarly situated nonblacks.
ABA recommendation: Implement some of the recommendations of the 1999
committee, including a more comprehensive study of race and the death
penalty. Remind jurors at trial that race is not a factor to be considered
when weighing the death penalty.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said the death penalty must be implemented in a
balanced manner. States must take care to avoid racial and geographic
disparities for people charged with similar crimes. In 1997, Pennsylvania
eliminated a tool called proportionality that other states use to compare
cases to ensure that each sentence is neither excessively severe nor
ABA recommendation: Create a statewide database of all trials in which a
defendant faced the death penalty, a system comparing similar murders that
analyzes who got life and who got death.
The governor cannot pardon or grant a commutation without the unanimous
agreement of the state pardon board, but the board won't review the guilt
or innocence of death-row inmates, saying responsibility lies with the
courts. The rules do not permit the accused to be at the hearing, at which
each side is given 30 minutes to argue. Witnesses can't testify under oath
and can't be cross-examined.
ABA recommendation: The clemency process shouldn't assume the courts have
considered every issue and should provide for a full public hearing. Any
factor, including an inmate's mental status and conduct while
incarcerated, should be relevant.
(source : Philadelphia Inquirer (For the American Bar Association report,
a list of people scheduled to be executed in Pennsylvania, and a look at
New Jersey and the death penalty, go to http://go.philly.com/aba)
Lawyers fault death penalty procedures
State Sen. Jim Ferlo hopes that a new report castigating Pennsylvania's
death penalty procedures will force a public hearing on his bill to impose
a 2-year moratorium on executions in the state. The American Bar
Association yesterday released a 2-year study that claims there are
"substantial shortcomings" in the way the state handles death penalty
cases, a situation that could increase the chances of "not adequately
protecting against the wrongful conviction of innocent people."
"This bar association report should be a major impetus to push my bill
along," said the Highland Park Democrat. "When a major pronouncement from
such a prestigious group of national and Pennsylvania trial lawyers comes
along, it should help garner support for the bill."
Mr. Ferlo's bill for a two-year moratorium on executions, Senate Bill 850,
has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee but so far there's been no
hearing. One reason could be that Gov. Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia
district attorney, doesn't support a moratorium. He has signed numerous
death warrants for convicted killers in his nearly five years as governor.
Mr. Rendell has said in the past that there hasn't been an execution in
Pennsylvania since 1999. That's when Gary Heidnik, a torture-killer from
Philadelphia, stopped appealing his conviction and was executed. With 8
years elapsing without an execution, he thinks Pennsylvania already has a
de facto moratorium.
Mr. Ferlo and Mr. Rendell are urban Democrats and generally agree on
policy issues, but not on the death penalty. "I would like to see the
governor change his position and take to heart the analysis of his own
peer group," meaning the bar association, Mr. Ferlo said.
Since 1997, the bar association has urged a halt to executions in the 50
states "until fairness and accuracy -- that is, due process -- are assured
in death penalty cases."
The new bar association report was done by a group of legal experts,
mostly from southeastern Pennsylvania. It was chaired by Villanova Law
School Professor Anne Bowen Poulin.
The report maintains that indigent defendants aren't assured by counties
or the state of funding for adequate legal representation; recommends that
the state change its policy of not providing funds for lawyers for
indigent defendants; and calls for police departments or coroners to stop
throwing away biological and DNA evidence that could help overturn a
The new bar association national president, H. Thomas Wells Jr. of
Alabama, urged Mr. Rendell to appoint his own panel of experts to study
whether murder defendants are treated equally and fairly by the criminal
justice system and whether many of them, especially poor, black, urban
males, wind up on death row because they can't afford to hire proper
counsel and investigators.
"The governor will review the suggestions and take them under
consideration,'' said Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Death penalty opponents hope for end to executions
Editor's Note: This story is the 2nd in a series examining the death
penalty from both opponents of and those in favor of lethal injection.
Every day, David Elliot goes to work, hoping that the next day he won't
have a job.
As spokesperson for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty,
Elliot fights every day to end the very thing that keeps food on his table
and a roof over his head.
"It's pretty ironic," Elliot said. "I think about it all the time. But it
is a problem I, we, wouldnt mind facing."
And it looks like, if for no more than a few months, Elliots wish may have
A de facto moratorium on executions in the U.S. has given a breath of
fresh air to activists who call the practice barbaric and unjust, and
opened a door to what they hope will be the end of executions in the
nation for good.
2 schools of thought
Dennis Longmire is on hand for nearly every execution that takes place at
the Huntsville "Walls" Unit with candle in hand and a heavy heart.
But, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case from
Kentucky questioning the constitutionality of lethal injection has put his
vigils on hold indefinitely, but more than likely only temporarily.
"There are a lot of people very happy right now because there's at least
been a pause," Longmire said. "How long it's going to be is unknown."
Within the anti-death penalty movement, Longmire said there are two
distinct "schools of thought" about the future of executions in the U.S.
The abolitionists, Longmire said, are celebrating now that there has been
an "indefinite pause" in the executions of inmates.
Among that group are Elliot and his organization, as well as NCADP's
sister organization, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
But the other "group," including Longmire, isn't so sure.
"The other perspective is until we start dealing with the bigger questions
having to do with the entire question of can we humanely take another
human's life, we're going to continue to deal with this issue in
technical, legal smart bombs.'"
One of those "smart bombs," Longmire acknowledges, is the current question
facing the nation's highest court: is the current procedure, used in 37 of
the 38 states that impose lethal injection upon condemned inmates, causing
pain that otherwise could be avoided.
"It's not about whether the death penalty is constitutional or whether the
process they use is constitutional," Longmire said. "It's about whether or
not the particular chemicals used should be replaced with ones that have
greater certainty that they dont cause any pain."
Primum non nocere
According to the American Medical Association, doctors who participate in
executions are violating oaths they take to become doctors.
But until recent years, doctors weren't necessarily a common occurrence at
executions, nor were they needed.
Executions by electrocution, cyanide gas, hanging and firing squad were
relatively immune to problems Longmire claims are created by lethal
"If we're going to use an injection-based method of execution then there
is always going to be that risk (that something will go wrong)," Longmire
said. "Unless we have anesthesiologists and medically trained personnel
there is always the risk the needle will go through the vein and it will
be going into the tissue."
As was the case in Florida in 2006, when the state executed Angel Diaz.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Diaz began to squirm
and grimace after the 1st round of drugs was administered. Executioners
administered a 2nd dose, and it took 34 minutes for Diaz to be declared
A Florida medical examiner said later an autopsy showed the needle went
through Diaz's vein and into the muscle tissue of his arm. Then Gov. Jeb
Bush called a halt to executions and ordered a commission "to consider the
humanity and constitutionality of lethal injections."
According to reports, "medically trained" staff of the prison system
inserted the catheters into Diaz, not doctors. As well, no official
reports of doctors participating in executions have been released, despite
some pressure from state legislatures and courts to have them present.
"I don't think there is very much question even among the medical
community that there is a possibility that the particular protocol being
used now could cause a long and lingering painful death," Longmire said.
"It requires a quasi-medical process (and) when it's not working somebody
needs to intervene and either stop it or expedite an alternative."
The hesitance of doctors or organizations that represent them is the
simple phrase that every medical student learns: the Latin "Primum non
nocere," or "first, do no harm."
"Unless the medical community gets on board ... there's the risk of pain
on the person receiving it," Longmire said. "And they don't appear to be."
The Kentucky case had originally included a question for the court
regarding the medical availability of personnel and equipment to revive a
condemned inmate midway through the process, but the court decided this
week not to hear that argument.
Ultimately, the Florida commission made recommendations and the state
continued on with executions.
Other similar problems have been encountered in other states, but even
with its overwhelming number of executions versus other states, problems
in Texas have been few and far between.
Many questions, few answers
And in the state with the most executions by far the question of how the
state achieves such raw efficiency and an apparent lack of problems is
even more important here than in any other, Longmire said.
And the questions may not be easy to answer.
"Certainly Texas has created a process that is relatively immune from
oversight because they maintain a great deal of security and a very closed
environment around the actual process and protocol," Longmire said.
In other states, execution protocols have been made public either through
a voluntary act of the state's corrections system or by legislative
mandate or a court investigation.
While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has made public the
chemicals used in the process, it has not made public the actual policies
and procedures that are followed during an execution, citing in the past
"As administrators, it is a very wise thing to do," Longmire said. "The
less 'formal' information we have the less susceptible (they) are to
challenges ... and we can't claim (the state) has done something
inappropriate or not followed a procedure."
The involvement of doctors is limited in Texas to declaring the inmate
dead. The doctor waits behind a closed door until signaled by the warden
and has no involvement with the execution, the agency has said.
According to a release from spokesperson Michelle Lyons, "a medically
trained individual inserts the intravenous catheters used to deliver the
A bigger question
While the Supreme Court decides the issue over the current procedure of
lethal injection, death penalty opponents hope that the pause in
executions will allow for a broader discussion of the death penalty in
"What we know is we're going to have an opportunity to go beyond the
questions raised in this particular case and discuss the death penalty in
a larger context," Elliot said. "Here's the deal: when you have a period
of time with no executions, it allows us to have a focused, rational and
sober discussion with the American public over the issue of capital
Longmire argues that "unusual" in the sense of the eighth amendment
applies not only to lethal injection but to executions in general.
"Can we issue capital sanctions fairly?" Longmire asked. "If we can't,
then we need to take a larger look at the unusualness, in respect to is it
being administered in a consistently fair manner against all subject
groups in our state."
Longmire claims it is not, citing socio-economic and racial prejudices.
"There are huge biases in the system," Longmire said. "Not intentional or
built in but just by the nature of the criminal justice process."
In the meantime, Elliot argues that a more just punishment is for
condemned murderers to spend their entire lives in jail, something he
calls "death by sentencing."
"The death penalty sends murder victims family members through a
horrendous, long, topsy-turvy rollercoaster ride of appeals with no
finality at the end," Elliot said. "Put them in a tiny cell for the rest
of their lives, throw away the key and lets call it death in prison."
Until the bigger problems are fixed, Longmire said that executions will
hardly be the punishment it is intended to be.
"The system needs to be reformed before we can begin doing executions with
any sense of pride," Longmire said.
"If we can ever do that."
(source: Huntsville Item)
No more Lethal Injections
The human right organization, Amnesty International is calling forward the
doctors and nurses of the world to refuse to execute prisoners using
lethal injections on the basis that the practice is a breach of their
In this process a lethal drug is injected into the prisoners body which
leads to his death; before giving this shot, the prison is anesthetized.
In a new report, Amnesty said some doctors have expressed concern that
prisoners can experience "excruciating" pain as they die if the anesthetic
wears off before their hearts stop.
"There is a global consensus within the medical profession that the
involvement of health professionals in carrying out an execution,
particularly by a method using the technology and knowledge of medicine,
is a breach of medical ethics, yet health professionals are participating
in such executions," said Jim Welsh, Amnesty's health and human rights
Since 1982, 919 people have been killed in the States using this method of
injecting the prisoner with a lethal drug. This number may be manifold
higher in China; a country where this practice is frequently used and no
official record is ever given out.
This report on the use of lethal drugs has come into focus after the US
Supreme Court, last week decided to hear the case of 2 men on death row
who argue that the procedure is unconstitutional. Amnesty cited the case
of double murderer Joseph Clark, executed in Ohio in the US last year,
whose execution took nearly 90 minutes. He cried out "it don't work, it
don't work" as technicians struggled to find a vein.
Amnesty International plans on using doctor's research and Joseph Clark's
execution to depict how inhumane the practice is and getting it abolished.
There main objective in the long run is to get death row eliminated from
the constitution all together.
Judge orders juror arrested during trial
Defense attorney David Sutton's accusations of prosecutorial misconduct on
Tuesday were overshadowed by the arrests of a juror and an audience member
in James Wesley Stallings' murder trial.
James Hamilton, 79, an alternate juror in the trial, and Evelyn
Strickland, 51, a Stallings supporter, were held in contempt of court
after admitting to Judge Toby Fitch that they had a conversation during a
break in the trial.
The conversation occurred moments after Fitch called for the break because
Hamilton had fallen asleep during testimony from a state witness.
The 2 were expected to be held in the Nash County jail overnight,
Before the arrests, Sutton had been trying to derail Assistant District
Attorney Keith Werner's case all day, attacking the state's witnesses who
Stallings, 46, of Nashville is accused of killing 45-year-old Freda M.
Medlin of Nashville in 2005. The 2 dated for several months before her
Sutton's defense is expected to revolve around Stallings' 25 years of
heavy drinking and alcoholism. Sutton said his client's blood alcohol
content on the night of the murder was 0.25, more than three times the
legal limit to drive in North Carolina.
But on Tuesday, Sutton accused Werner of conducting a "trial by ambush"
after testimony from SBI Agent Neal Morin and Dr. Harry Daugherty, the
medical examiner who performed Medlin's autopsy.
Sutton asked for a mistrial during Daugherty's testimony, and he asked for
a 2-week continuance during Morin's time on the witness stand. Fitch
denied both requests.
Sutton spent most of the morning trying to discredit Daugherty by accusing
him of changing his testimony after a phone conversation with Werner on
Friday. Daugherty denied any flip-flop in his medical findings that Medlin
was killed by a shotgun wound to the side.
The defense focused on four issues that arose during Daugherty's
testimony: the doctor's time of death estimate, his belief of whether
Medlin's hands were tied before or after she was killed, what kind of
expert he is and whether he handed over all his notes to the defense
during the discovery process.
"(Werner) got the doctor Friday afternoon to change his story," Sutton
said to Fitch. "And he changed his time of death, too.
"He also said he had notes that said the hands were tied before her death
and a 12-hour time of death window, but there's nothing in the autopsy
report that says this."
The autopsy report indicates the time of death was midnight Aug. 31, 2005,
but Daugherty testified that it could have been anywhere from 9 p.m. to 4
"My recollection is that Dr. Daugherty wasn't sure when the marks were
made - during, before or after," Werner countered. "He said right at the
time of death.
"I don't believe Mr. Sutton has been ambushed except in his own mind."
Then Sutton complained that Morin, a ballistics expert, shouldn't be
allowed to testify about Medlin's wounds because the only report generated
by the SBI was limited to the fact that the shotgun shell found at the
murder scene matched Stallings' shotgun.
"There was no way I could have known (Morin) was going to testify as an
expert in this area," Sutton said.
Werner acknowledged that he expanded Morin's questions to counteract the
damage done during Daugherty's testimony.
"Only in trying to clear up the mess that Mr. Sutton created this morning
did I approach Agent Morin about this line of questioning," the prosecutor
said. "(Sutton) created enough smoke and mirrors this morning that I had
to do it."
Sutton also keyed in on a memo to the SBI that indicated former Nash
County Investigator Carmine Guyette, evidence technician for the Medlin
investigation, was pushing for the case to "go capital."
"Do you still want my client dead?" Sutton asked Guyette at least 3 times
during his cross-examination of the witness.
Guyette denied that he wanted Stallings dead but did acknowledge he
supports the death penalty.
(source: Rocky Mount Telegram)
ACLU-Nevada Criticizes Plan To Move Ahead With Monday Execution
Nevada prison authorities are "wrongheaded" in scheduling an execution by
lethal injection Monday while the U.S. Supreme Court is considering
whether the injections are constitutional, the American Civil Liberties
Union of Nevada says.
The high court decided Sept. 25 to consider whether the injections amount
to cruel and unusual punishment, but prison officials have said there's no
reason to delay William Castillo's execution based on the high court's
move because Castillo wants to die.
Castillo, 34, who got a death sentence for beating a retired Las Vegas
teacher to death with a tire iron, has refused to file available appeals
that would halt his scheduled execution at the Nevada State Prison in
"Going ahead with executions in Nevada is wrongheaded and fundamentally at
odds with the rest of the country, which is taking very seriously the
claims that lethal injection is a cruel and unusual form of punishment,"
Lee Rowland, northern Nevada ACLU coordinator, said Tuesday.
The Supreme Court's review involves 2 death row inmates in Kentucky.
Rowland said many other states have stayed their executions pending the
court's final decision "and of course we are disappointed that Nevada has
not chosen to do the same."
Both the ACLU and the federal public defender's office are precluded from
going to court on Castillo's behalf without his consent absent a finding
that he's incompetent. However, Assistant Federal Defender Michael
Pescetta said Tuesday his office is ready to act immediately if Castillo
decides to appeal.
"All he has to do is say anything and it's off," Pescetta said.
Castillo met last week with a federal defender and repeated earlier
statements that he wouldn't appeal.
Castillo was sentenced to die for the 1995 killing of Isabelle Berndt, 86,
after working on a roofing job at her home and finding a hidden house key.
He and a woman companion returned, burglarized the home and murdered
Castillo set the home on fire to destroy evidence, but he later admitted
the murder to a co-worker and confessed to police.
His companion in the burglary and murder was Michelle Platou, now serving
a life term with the possibility of parole for 1st-degree murder.
If he's executed, Castillo will be the 13th man to get the death sentence
in Nevada since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for capital
punishment to resume in 1976.
All but one of the previous 12, Richard Moran, had refused to file appeals
that could have stopped their executions.
Moran, executed in 1996 for two killings in a Las Vegas bar while on a
drug and alcohol binge, didn't oppose legal efforts to keep him alive -
but said he was ready to die.
The last man to be executed in the state was Daryl Linnie Mack, who
received a lethal injection in April 2006.
Mack was convicted of the rape and murder of a Reno woman.
(source : KOLO 8 News Now
Anti-death penalty group asks Nevada not to execute Castillo
An anti-death penalty group based in Chicago has sent a letter asking Gov.
Jim Gibbons to call off the execution of William Castillo.
Castillo, 34, who beat an 86-year-old woman to death, has said he doesn't
want to pursue any further appeals. He is scheduled to die by lethal
injection next Monday.
"Even though Castillo has volunteered for this execution date, it would be
unconscionable to proceed with any lethal injection execution before the
U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on the constitutionality of current
protocols," said officials of Citizens Alert.
The letter signed by Elizabeth Benson also argued the execution would
violate the right to life "as declared in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and constitute the cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment."
Those arguments have been rejected by the Nevada Supreme Court in several
previous cases. The Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments over lethal
injection are new.
The court will review whether the manner in which lethal injection is
conducted is inhumane. Opponents in that Kentucky case argue the inmates
executed by injection are not unconscious but fully aware and suffered
They say they are simply paralyzed and unable to make their suffering
Nevada Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said there is no reason for
a delay and that Castillo has requested they proceed with the execution.
Castillo killed retired Las Vegas teacher Isabelle Berndt with a tire iron
during a robbery 10 years ago.
(source : Nevada Appeal)
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