[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, NEV., GA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Oct 14 15:58:10 CDT 2007
Jon Mark Beilue: Ministry often reunites judge, defendants----Justice
visits inmates through international program
Hugging is an important welcoming part for Kairos prison ministry team
members. It's not too accepted in the prison population, like the one at
the William Clements Unit.
It was maybe two years ago during a four-day gathering of Kairos and
Clements prisoners that Pat Pirtle cracked a joke about hugging to ease
the tension. He then asked inmate Johnny Ray to come forth. And they
shared an embrace.
They had been in the same room once before, a courtroom in the early 1990s
when Pirtle was a 251st District Judge, and Ray, along with his
court-appointed attorney, stood before him. Pirtle pronounced sentence
upon Ray that he was to die by lethal injection for capital murder. And
now they hugged.
"It was,'' Pirtle recalled, "a real special moment.''
Pirtle is now a justice on the 7th Court of Appeals. Ray is no longer on
death row, his conviction overturned because of the fraudulent testimony
of pathologist Ralph Erdmann. He plea bargained a life sentence.
Those are the unexpected moments that very few members of Kairos, an
international prison ministry, can experience. There are about 30 in the
Panhandle who meet with 42 prison inmates for four-day "retreats'' twice a
year and follow-ups the first Saturday of each month.
They are from all over the Panhandle - Silverton, Tulia, Hereford -
including a man in his late 70s from Wheeler. A couple are in law
enforcement. One is a heart surgeon. But there is only one judge.
Pirtle estimates out of the 4,000 or so prisoners at Clements, he has
issued sentences on hundreds of them in his 17 years as a district judge.
All kind of crimes and all kind of times.
Not to diminish the work or the challenge for other Kairos members, but
only one has that kind of uneasy connection with hardened criminals who
don't think real highly of Pirtle and his opinions. And now he comes face
to face with several of them again.
Why do it? Pirtle has a simple, matter-of-fact explanation.
"I'm a Christian first and foremost,'' he said. "I really separate my role
as a judge from my life as Christian.''
Pirtle's last Kairos time with the 42 inmates was Sept. 20-23. It wasn't
his 1st rodeo. He's been doing this for 10 years after he tentatively
accepted an invitation from a friend.
"I was not real comfortable with the idea, but I thought I'd at least try
it,'' he said. "But I was so moved by the experience that I just kept
Pirtle says he's never felt threatened or been threatened because he was a
judge, and he could have been the target on several occasions. He's been
in groups where prisoners, like Ray, were ones he sentenced. He's seen his
position as a judge have negative and positive effects on prisoners.
Motivated by love for Christ
"Some are so turned off by the fact that I'm a judge that nothing I can
say will ever influence them,'' Pirtle said. "They've made up their minds
they don't like me or trust me.
"Others are so moved that someone representing the system would care for
them that it gives me an opportunity to talk to them. It opens a door.''
Pirtle has to be aware of who he talks with and what they talk about. It
was possible that his former district court could have jurisdiction on an
offense committed by a prisoner while at Clements and have a case pending,
so contact with a defendant was an ethical violation. Pirtle had to check
the list of inmates to see if any had pending charges before he had
contact with them.
And when some found out he was a judge, they would often want some free
"That made me feel uncomfortable,'' he said. "I don't want to be rude and
cut them off, but I turn the conversation to the fact I'm not there to
talk about the fairness of their sentence, but to talk about the fairness
of God. That's uncomfortable trying to deflect that.''
Cynics might suggest that Pirtle is trying to soothe a conscience or
alleviate some guilt harbored by his legal decisions on prisoners, but
that would miss the mark of his motives.
"I certainly don't go out there to feel better about what I've done in the
courtroom,'' he said. "I'm motivated by my love for Christ. I was asked
the question once by an inmate if I'd ever been unfair to someone
appearing before me.
"It was a real piercing question. Most defendants or inmates don't ask
about the fairness, but about the legality of it and the appeals. It
caused me to examine the justice of my judicial decisions.
"I started crying. I know I'm imperfect. There's bound to have been a time
when my sentence was not just. But there's nothing I can do to change
that. That's part of being a judge. You just have to live with it.''
That stays with Pirtle, but so do other things. Like most Kairos members,
he talks of the things he receives: the love from his fellow workers, the
satisfaction of trying to walk the walk, and the grace he says he feels
"There's not that much that distinguishes those on the outside from the
inside,'' he said. "We're all sinners, and it makes me appreciate the
grace that God pours out on me.''
A judge and a defendant are often two lives passing on two different
planes, never to meet again after the sound of the gavel. And then Pirtle
comes along, interjecting himself along with others in what he calls
"sowers of seed.''
Last month, in the 3rd of 4 days at Clements, a team member came to Pirtle
and said an inmate, whom he had sentenced, wanted to speak with him.
Pirtle had not recognized him. So that Sunday, Sept. 23, the 2 sat down
for a conversation.
"He just wanted to thank me,'' said Pirtle, "thank me for treating him
like a human being.''
(source: Amarillo Globe-News)
Value of eyewitnesses unclear----Critics charge current procedures often
lead to flawed identifications
Though no way of identifying suspects has emerged as foolproof, scientists
have reached a few general conclusions:
The certainty of a witness ID is no measure of its accuracy.
People are more accurate at identifying suspects within their own race.
Witnesses are very vulnerable to inadvertent cues from people
administering a suspect lineup, who are usually police detectives.
Certain types of lineups or instructions can lead witnesses to make a
positive ID more frequently. For those who work on behalf of inmates who
loudly proclaim their innocence and ask for DNA testing to prove it the
faulty identification of Ronald Gene Taylor was no surprise. The great
majority of DNA exonerations have involved bad eyewitness IDs.
"Eyewitness ID reform is the No. 1 priority of people who want to reduce
the number of wrongful convictions," said Edwin Colfax, state program
director for the Justice Project, a criminal justice reform organization.
"It is the single most important thing we can do."
Colfax said erroneous eyewitness testimony was the key ingredient in 24 of
the 30 Texas cases that have been reversed after belated DNA testing. That
high percentage rings true with Nina Morrison, the Project Innocence
attorney who worked on Taylor's case.
"I've had 11 cases of people freed from prison, and in eight of those
cases eyewitness ID was the primary or only evidence used to convict,"
Morrison said. "It remains among the most powerful evidence the jury can
hear. It's very, very hard for jurors to disbelieve someone taking the
stand and pointing the finger at someone."
Wary of new methods
It is equally hard to shake the faith of prosecutors and police officers
in its reliability. The fallibility of eyewitness evidence has been
discussed and demonstrated for more than a century never more so than
today when science can conclusively prove it but authorities are
sometimes reluctant to back off even in the face of conflicting DNA
Eyewitness evidence has been the staple of investigations and prosecutions
for so long that efforts to change the way it is obtained often meet
resistance from authorities. Such was the case in Texas during the last
legislative session, when lawmakers objected to provisions in a bill
offered by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, that would have mandated the use
of new methods.
Those methods are based on several decades of study and experimentation by
social scientists. They have used all manner of subjects, from young
children to the very old, as they explored the tricky world of memories
and how the brain stores them.
Criminal justice reformers widely support a method known as "sequential
double-blind" lineups. The witness is shown individuals or photos one by
one instead of in a group. The person administering the test does not know
whether a potential suspect is in the group, and the witness is informed
Eyewitness evidence reforms, including sequential double-blind lineups,
were recommended in a report by the National Institute of Justice in 1969.
Ellis' bill ran into immediate opposition from law enforcement groups and
was amended to create a working group that would come up with
recommendations that were not binding. Even then, it never reached a floor
In Taylor's case, the only eyewitness was the 39-year-old victim. She
immediately gave police a basic description of her assailant, admitting
she did not see him well in the dark room and was relying on having felt
his face and body with her hands. 2 weeks later, she expanded her
description slightly in an interview. She attended a lineup at a police
station the next week and did not pick out any of those placed in it.
Taylor was not among that group.
The victim finally picked out Taylor from a videotaped lineup that she
viewed on her TV almost six weeks after the crime. After seeing the tape,
she said she had a sudden recollection her attacker had a tooth missing or
unusually large space between his teeth. The investigating officer said it
was common for victims' memories to improve in subsequent weeks.
Perhaps more disturbing was the victim's later recollection that the
attacker had bumped into her refrigerator while leaving her apartment,
giving her an opportunity to see him for several seconds in the light
coming through a nearby window.
"That raises enormous questions about how that piece of evidence came to
pass," Morrison said. "By that time they had a suspect but no physical
evidence linking him to the crime. If the original statement had stood and
the victim said she could not see him, the conviction could never have
stood. This new opportunity to see him in the light came up only after
Ronnie had become the main suspect."
Taylor's appellate attorney challenged the validity of the victim's
identification. The court stumbled on the issue, however, in part because
the brief did not include a copy of the videotaped lineup. The tape had
gotten lost, and a dozen years later it still has not surfaced.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Execution procedure revised after court rulings
The lethal injection table in the Nevada State Prison execution chamber is
shown in 2004 in Carson City, where Nevada death row inmate William
Castillo is scheduled for execution Monday night.
Under the state's new execution protocol, unless death row inmate William
Castillo files an appeal, he'll be required to take a sedative Monday
afternoon while waiting to be led into the execution chamber in the
Then, at 8:30 p.m., not 1 but 2 lethal doses of drugs will flow into his
veins, said Howard Skolnik, director of the Nevada Department of
Corrections. The new protocol was designed to ensure that the drugs do
their job quickly, he said.
"The old protocol was to have a backup, and if something happened with the
1st, we would go to the 2nd," Skolnik said. "Instead, we decided to run 2
doses simultaneously and have a 3rd as a backup to make sure the inmate is
rendered unconscious quickly and immediately.
"We wanted to minimize the likelihood that there will be any unnecessary
discomfort on the part of the inmate," he said.
The new mandatory sedative requirement and change in lethal dosage were
included in the new execution procedure released this week after the Reno
Gazette-Journal sued the Nevada Department of Corrections last year to
make public its lethal injection protocol.
Nevada was the only state in the nation to keep its execution protocol
The paper also filed suit in federal court asking a judge to require the
state to abide by a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling saying that
the curtains on the windows to the execution chamber must remain open
throughout the entire process.
Before the judge's order, prison officials would close the curtains to
witnesses and media while EMTs inserted the intravenous lines and attached
a heart-rate monitor.
After two judges ordered the changes, the Department of Corrections
released to the newspaper a copy of its "Confidential Execution Manual --
procedures for executing the death penalty," but portions of the document
were blacked out.
The department revised its protocol after the rulings and released this
week the new plan, which includes several changes -- including the
mandatory sedative 4 hours and again 1 hour before the execution is
scheduled to take place and the increase in dosage.
"We have always had the sedative as an option, and we've had a couple of
pretty uncomfortable situations which might have been better controlled if
the sedative had been required," Skolnik said.
Under this plan, Skolnik said, if Castillo does not accept the sedative,
the department would assume that he was not going forward and was
reinstating his appeal.
Castillo, 35, has given up his appeals and has said he is ready to die for
the 1995 killing of Isabelle Berndt, an 86-year-old Las Vegas teacher.
Castillo was working on her roof when he found a hidden house key. He and
a female companion burglarized Berndt's home, and he beat Berndt to death
with a tire iron.
The Sept. 25 announcement of his execution came on the same day that the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case to decide whether lethal
injection is constitutional. The case was filed by 2 death row inmates in
Kentucky who say lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
Nevada is one of 37 states that uses lethal injection to execute convicted
Nevada officials, including the governor's office, said the Supreme
Court's announcement would not change its plans for executions. It would
only make changes if the court orders changes, they said.
But on Thursday, the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty sent
letters to the state Pardons Board urging them to halt the execution until
the high court rules.
Under Nevada's execution procedure, medical services personnel will give
Castillo an oral sedative before his death, which is "intended to provide
a calming affect and shall not cause any lack of cognitive ability,
incoherency or incompetence," the protocol says.
Just before the set time, Castillo will be escorted into the death chamber
by a supervisor and three officers. He'll lie on the table and be strapped
down with restraints.
"The window shades inside the execution chamber will remain raised during
the execution procedure," the protocol said.
Medical personnel will come in and insert the needles into both arms and
secure them with tape. If a good vein can't be found in his arm, they'll
try his legs. A heart monitor also will be attached.
Three syringes containing sodium thiopental, Pavulon and potassium
chloride will be used in that order and will be released "at a rapid
rate." The medics will have 3 sets of these drugs available.
"Once started, the lethal injections will continue until all 3 syringes of
2 sets are administered and emptied," the protocol said. The 1st, 2nd and
3rd syringes in each set will be administered simultaneously, it said.
Once the drugs are gone, "the attending physician or designee and coroner"
will determine whether it was enough to cause death. If they failed, the
3rd set of drugs will be used.
After Castillo is pronounced dead, all witnesses and media will be led out
of the room and the unused drugs will be returned to the pharmacy to be
inventoried and disposed of, the protocol said.
(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)
Castillo's choice should be honored Monday
On Monday at 8:30 p.m., William Castillo - if he chooses - will die as
punishment for murdering a Clark County woman 10 years ago.
If he decides there is merit in arguments that lethal injection is cruel
and unusual punishment, he can choose to call off the execution and
proceed with the seemingly endless number of appeals that would keep him
alive for several more years.
That's a lot of choices for a person who gave Isabelle Berndt none. Is
there any chance her death by tire iron was kind and painless?
Anti-death penalty groups are off base on this one. Is it really
"unconscionable" to proceed with the execution that Castillo has asked
Does it really violate a right to life? Nevada law says if you commit
certain crimes, you no longer have that right.
The measures the state is taking should address any concerns that Castillo
is being executed against his will. He will be able to call off the
execution until 20 minutes before it begins. They're even doubling the
dose of the 3 drugs used in the execution in response to concerns that he
The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of lethal injection
will be important ... if there is truly a method that is not cruel and
unusual it should be in use in every state that allows the death penalty.
But in this case, Castillo has decided that is irrelevant. He wants to
die. All the legal muscle being brought to bear to prevent that would be
better spent helping victims of people like Castillo.
(source: Editorial, Nevada Appeal)
Scores rally for death row convict
Family members of death row inmate Troy Davis were joined Saturday
afternoon by more than 100 supporters during a "March for Justice."
Members of organizations such as the NAACP and Amnesty International
joined local supporters and people from as far away as Ohio in a march
from Bolton Street Baptist Church along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
to the entrance of the Chatham County Courthouse.
There, speakers such as exonerated former death row inmate Ronald Cotton
spoke in support of Davis, whose execution has been postponed pending a
Georgia Supreme Court review.
Other speakers included Martina Correia, sister of Troy Davis, and Sue
Gunawardena-Vaughn of Amnesty International.
Davis, 38, was convicted of killing Savannah police officer Mark Allen
MacPhail, who was shot twice after he rushed to help a homeless man who
had been assaulted.
The 1989 shooting occurred in a Burger King parking lot next to a
Greyhound Bus Terminal where MacPhail, 27, was working off-duty as a
March organizers said they chose Bolton Street Baptist as the starting
point because the first meeting of the civil rights movement in Savannah
took place there in 1960.
(source: Savannah Now)
About 100 march in support of death row inmate
About 100 people seeking a new trial for a man convicted of killing a
Savannah police officer in 1989 marched in support of Troy Davis on
Saturday because they think he was unjustly convicted.
The Georgia Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the case for Nov. 13.
Amnesty International and other Davis supporters believe Davis may be
innocent in the Aug. 19, 1999 murder of officer Mark MacPhail.
Supporters say Davis, who is black, was convicted of killing MacPhail, who
was white, without any physical evidence. They also say several witnesses
have implicated another man in the murder.
MacPhail was shot twice in a fast-food parking lot after he rushed to help
a homeless man who had been assaulted.
Davis, 38, has spent the last 16 years on death row.
His sister, Martina Correia, said the peaceful march would play a part in
the upcoming hearing before the state's highest court.
"What we're trying to show is that Troy Davis deserves a new trial," she
(source: Associated Press)
Dozens Come Out for Troy Davis March
Dozens of people are from all over the country are showing their support
for a Savannah man now on death row.
Troy Davis has spent the last 16 years on death row after he was convicted
of killing an off-duty police officer and today his supporters are
rallying his cause with a march in Savannah.
It looked like a civil rights march from the 60's in the Bolton Street
Baptist Church parking lot, where supporters for Troy Davis gathered.
They're here because they think injustice is being done to Troy Davis.
"This case shows what's wrong with the death penalty. You have coercion,
lack of evidence, witness recantation," said Davis' sister Martina
And that's why Martina Correia will not give up the fight for her brother,
Troy, who was accused of killing off duty cop Mark MacPhail. Davis has
been on death row for 16 years. Correia says from 1991-1996 Davis didn't
have an attorney. His family said they've been fighting a technicality for
evidence, in Davis' favor, to be heard. Davis was scheduled to be put to
death on July 17th, but the Georgia Parole Board saw enough reason to
order a 90 stay of execution. In August, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled
it would hear Davis' case but today's marchers felt they still needed to
Shareef Cousin is one of the marchers. He was convicted of first degree
murder in Louisiana and spent over 10 years on death row before he was
exonerated. He says in his case there was also a lack of physical
evidence. Community support helped set him free.
"I came to show people that I'm exonerated and it's because people
organized. So it does work," said Cousin.
Which is what Davis' sister would like to see happen here.
Correia says this peaceful march will play a part in Troy Davis' upcoming
hearing with the Georgia Supreme Court.
"What we're trying to show is that Troy Davis deserves a new trial," said
And it was this mission that pushed these marchers to the steps of the
Chatham County Courthouse.
"This was the place where the injustice of Troy Davis's conviction took
place and so this is where the liberation of Troy Davis should take
place," said Correia.
Davis' hearing is scheduled for November 13th at the Georgia Supreme Court
The MacPhail family says the past 18 years has been like living a long
nightmare and they just want closure soon.
(source: WTOC TV News)
Court's fairness to killer disputed----As execution looms, review shows
Georgia justices used faulty cases to affirm death sentence.
Georgia's Supreme Court has given no sign whether it will allow a Savannah
man to be executed this week without re-examining an apparently flawed
ruling by the court to uphold his death sentence.
The court affirmed killer Jack Alderman's death sentence in 1985 by
comparing it to punishment in 20 other cases that it deemed similar.
But research by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found 17 of those
sentences have been overturned including 10 that already had been
overturned at the time of the decision.
Fifteen of those defendants later got life sentences, and one was released
and never retried.
The Journal-Constitution reported last month that 80 % of the court's
rulings in death cases since 1982 have relied in part on reversed
The court's so-called "proportionality review" is meant to guard against
disproportionately severe death sentences. The review, required by state
law, was a key factor cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 when it
reinstated capital punishment in Georgia.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears has said the court is taking steps to
improve the process and taking a "very long, hard look" at its use of
overturned cases in proportionality reviews. But the court has not
corrected any case citations in the flawed sentence reviews.
Alderman, convicted of murdering his wife, Barbara, is scheduled to be
executed Friday by lethal injection.
New review urged
Some legal experts say the court should give Alderman another sentence
"Because this gentleman has been on death row for so long, one hesitates
to suggest additional time," said Ron Carlson, a University of Georgia law
professor. "However, it seems to me there should be additional court
review. I think it would instill more confidence in the process."
Tim Floyd, a Mercer University law professor, agreed.
"We don't have a fair death penalty without a proper review," said Floyd,
a member of an American Bar Association panel that has recommended
improvements in the court's proportionality review. "The promise, the
legal requirement under the law, is that the court will ensure that we do
not have an arbitrary and capricious death penalty."
Alderman's lawyers have not challenged the court's proportionality review.
They are seeking to delay his execution until the U.S. Supreme Court rules
on the constitutionality of lethal injection.
Russ Willard, a spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker,
said no additional review is necessary. He noted that Alderman had
demanded on multiple occasions that a "hit man" kill his wife, that
Alderman tackled her as she fled and then suffocated her and drowned her
in a bathtub. Alderman later tried to make her death look like an
accident, he added.
"Any argument that the sentence of death is constitutionally
disproportionate is laughable," Willard said.
The Georgia Supreme Court is not supposed to look at capital cases in
isolation. While the court must consider the nature of the crime and
killer, it is also supposed to determine whether a death sentence is
excessive when compared to similar cases.
Kay Levine, a criminal law professor at Emory University, said that
because 16 of the 20 cases cited in Alderman's review resulted in
sentences less than death, Alderman should get a new sentence review.
"It would make us all feel better about the integrity of the process,"
said Levine, a former prosecutor.
Stephen Bright, a lawyer who represents death-row inmates, said Alderman's
review is too flawed to be reliable.
"The review the Georgia Supreme Court did in the Alderman case is
absolutely valueless," Bright said. "It provides no basis for upholding
the death sentence in this case, and at the very least, the court must do
Bright also contended that the 3 valid death sentences cited in Alderman's
review came in cases that were not similar to his crime.
One involved a gang leader who, with 2 accomplices, kidnapped and shot an
11-year-old boy and his stepfather; the boy died. Another involved a man
who sexually abused and killed a 15-year-old girl. A 3rd man was condemned
for the beating death of a man with whom he had been smoking marijuana and
Alderman, with the help of a friend, John Arthur Brown, killed his wife
for life insurance proceeds, according to testimony. Barbara Alderman was
hit over the head with a crescent wrench, choked until she was unconscious
and submerged in the tub.
Brown was sentenced to death in 1975, but was resentenced 3 years later to
life in prison after his lawyers sought a new trial. He testified at
Alderman's retrial in 1984 and was paroled in 1987 on the condition he not
return to Georgia.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
State faces lethal injection flap
Late last month, condemned killers due to be executed in Alabama and Texas
received reprieves while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a Kentucky case
challenging lethal injection.
Like Georgia, those are conservative Southern states with a history of
strong support for the death penalty.
Unlike Alabama and Texas, however, Georgia is still planning two
executions during the next 2 weeks via lethal injection.
Absent any word to the contrary either from the courts or the state Board
of Pardons and Paroles, Georgia will carry out those death sentences this
Friday and the following Tuesday.
"What is the urgency?" state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, D-Decatur,
asked last week. "Why do these people have to be put to death now?
"Texas executes more people than anywhere in the country, and they're
putting their executions on hold."
But Georgia's determination to proceed isn't altogether surprising
considering the tough stand the state's political leaders typically take
toward capital punishment.
This year in the General Assembly, for example, lawmakers came close to
enacting a bill that would have allowed convicted murderers to be
sentenced to death on less-than-unanimous jury votes. The bill, inspired
by a Gwinnett County case, passed the House but didnt make it out of the
It would have allowed juries to recommend death sentences for capital
crimes, even if 1 or 2 members of a jury voted to spare the life of the
killer. The measure gave the final say in sentencing to judges.
The bill was strongly criticized by death penalty opponents. Among other
things, they cited a growing number of cases across the country in which
death row inmates are being exonerated through the use of DNA technology
that wasnt around when the crimes they were found guilty of were
Sara Totonchi, public policy director for the Atlanta-based Southern
Center for Human Rights, said that while wrongly convicted defendants can
be freed if they're still in prison, those who have been executed cant be
brought back to life.
"The death penalty is too permanent an option to use irresponsibly," she
Benfield said that's why she supports legislation introduced this year by
Sen. Preston Smith, R-Rome, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Smith's legislation, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly but died in
the House, would have made it easier for prosecutors to seek a sentence of
life in prison without parole for murder defendants.
Under current law, life without parole is only allowed as an alternative
in cases where the district attorney originally pushed for the death
Smith's bill would allow prosecutors who dont believe capital punishment
is appropriate in a given case to still seek life without parole. The
legislation was pitched in the Senate by conservative Republicans as a
get-tough measure, a way to make sure that criminals who cant be
rehabilitated are put behind bars for good.
But Benfield said it also would let prosecutors seek stiff sentences for
convicted murderers without killing them.
"We'll never have a perfect system," she said. "It's not perfect to the
point that I'm comfortable handing down the ultimate penalty."
However, the debate over lethal injection isn't about whether the person
charged with the crime is guilty.
In the Kentucky case, the plaintiffs are claiming that the three-drug
mixture used violates the constitutional prohibition against "cruel and
They argue that the 1st drug, a sedative, fails to render the condemned
fully unconscious, which causes excruciating pain when the 2nd and 3rd
drugs are administered.
However, the inmate is paralyzed and thus unable to communicate what's
happening, so the execution looks as if it's being carried out in a humane
Georgia and many other states use the same 3- drug mixture. The flap over
lethal injections points up the challenges states face in attempting to
carry out the death penalty.
Georgia switched to lethal injection early in this decade, joining a host
of other states, because of objections to electrocution. Opponents cited
numerous instances of botched executions using the electric chair. Now, at
least 13 states have put executions on hold due to concerns over lethal
injection, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
In Georgia, the Board of Pardons and Paroles is due to take up an appeal
of the 1st of the 2 planned executions on Monday.
Lawyers for Jack Alderman, convicted of murdering his 20-year-old wife in
Chatham County in 1974, also are asking the state Supreme Court to
"We're relying on the Georgia Supreme Court to do the right thing and stop
executions in Georgia, at least until the U.S. Supreme Court considers the
Kentucky case," Totonchi said.
(source: The Albany Herald)
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