[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----GA., UTAH., MO., NEV., N.C., CALIF., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Oct 19 00:58:47 CDT 2007
GEORGIA----stay of impending execution
Ga. Supreme Court stays Alderman execution
The Georgia Supreme Court has stayed the scheduled execution for condemned
wife killer Jack Alderman because the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to
decided the constitutionality of lethal injection, the method used in
Georgia and 37 other states.
Alderman was scheduled to be executed Friday evening for his wife's 1974
murder. His attorneys argued his death should be delayed at least until
the justices in Washington decide on a Kentucky case that raised concerns
that inmates could suffer excruciating pain under lethal injection,
violating their Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual
Georgia's justices decided Thursday that Alderman's execution should be
put on hold at least until the U.S. Supreme Court rules, which is expected
to be some time next year.
Georgia is the 2nd state is 2 days to have an execution stopped because of
the fight over lethal injection.
Alderman was convicted of killing his 20-year-old wife, Barbara Jean,
because he wanted a divorce but feared it would ruin him financially, and
because he hoped to collect on a life insurance policy that would pay
$20,000 if her death was determined accidental.
The deceit of capital punishment----What I learned when I witnessed the
brutality of an execution
It's too bad Albert Camus isn't alive and visiting Atlanta. The great
French thinker would understand precisely what is going on when Georgia
officials proclaim that it's just dandy to kill murderers Jack Alderman
and Curtis Osborne this month -- even though the U.S. Supreme Court is
considering whether the method of dispatching the miscreants is
Russ Willard, spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, declared that
the executions are de rigueur because there are "no judicially entered
stays prohibiting" them. Interpreted: Kill 'em all, and let God sort out
whether the state murders were constitutional.
"People write of capital punishment as if they were whispering," Camus
told us a half-century ago. I'd add that some folks, such as Willard,
substitute the obfuscation of bureaucratese for the hushed tones Camus
decried. For me, I'll side with Camus, who proclaimed, "It is my intention
to talk about it crudely."
That's why this column includes a very crude photograph. Allen Lee "Tiny"
Davis a loathsome man who brutally murdered a Jacksonville mom and her
two daughters was the last person executed in Florida's "Old Sparky"
electric chair. Florida had secretly photographed executions for years,
and this picture became public only when state Supreme Court Justice
Leander Shaw, an ardent death-penalty foe who is now retired, attached it
to an opinion.
As a witness to the 1999 event, I watched Davis' head cook and heard him
bellow twice in agony as he died. I sat stunned as blood oozed from under
the leather mask that choked and partially asphyxiated the condemned man,
and I saw more blood erupt on his chest after 2,300 volts began to sizzle
through his twitching body. I recoiled in horrific nausea as he continued
to breathe for several minutes after the current was turned off.
Florida officials, like Georgia's, always maintained that the electric
chair was humane. It's not as though they didn't know about Old Sparky.
Florida for decades had been famous for its sandy beaches, sunny skies and
flaming-head executions. After Davis' demise, officials sought a nicer way
to kill people. Georgia followed suit.
Proponents of the death penalty should acknowledge that there is no
justification for the gruesome spectacles. We're not delivering justice;
we're descending to the moral level of killers, and quite likely murdering
a few innocent people. When the condemned dies, each of us becomes a
version of Tiny Davis because the state represents us.
Death-penalty states in 2005 had a 46 percent higher murder rate than
states that have banned legal homicide. That spread has increased
steadily. In 1990, death penalty states' murder rate was only 4 % greater
than no-execution states. So, claims of "deterrence" are dangerously
Some so-called Christian fundamentalists in the Atlanta area seriously
advocate a return to stoning and burning for not only murder but also for
"crimes" such as being gay. They can't point to any message from Jesus
that sanctions his followers to kill their fellows. The ultimate irony is
that Christ was history's most famous victim of capital punishment. I can
certainly see Satan pushing the poison plunger, flipping the switch or
dropping the trapdoor I can't see Jesus doing the same. Did God execute
Cain? No, he spared him.
Reason and religion aside, let's not forget that 124 condemned prisoners
in 25 states have escaped the executioner after proof of their innocence
materialized. In August, Troy Davis who was sentenced to death despite an
appalling lack of hard evidence just barely escaped Georgia's death
chamber, at least temporarily.
Officials across the nation have adopted poisoning, also known as "lethal
injection." It is said to be painless, although anyone who could give
authoritative testimony on that point is beyond conversation. Critics
contend that the chemicals likely cause extreme agony. But, since one of
the trio of lethal drugs injected into the condemned induces paralysis,
the awful pain is undetectable to everyone except, of course, the guest of
So we can understand why Camus' wisdom would be so applicable in Georgia
today. He wrote: "If people are shown the machine, made to touch the wood
and steel and to hear the sound of a head falling, then public
imagination, suddenly awakened, will repudiate ... the penalty."
Do you get it? The problem with executions is public relations. It's not
whether we torture or whether that torture is constitutional; it's the
public perception that counts. Speak softly about executions, remove them
from the town square to hidden chambers, paralyze the condemned to project
an illusion of peaceful passing and citizens don't have to confront the
awful brutality that they, by proxy, have committed.
But then we have these annoying "activist" judges who spoil the fun. The
U.S. Supreme Court has decided to rule on the constitutionality of
poisoning criminals. A number of states including execution-record-holder
Texas have called moratoriums on the death penalty until the justices
rule. But not Georgia.
That outrage follows an incredible series in the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution last month that exposed bias and unpredictability in
the application of the death penalty. The series also revealed that the
Georgia Supreme Court often uses overturned cases to justify upholding
death sentences. That's "justice"?
Georgia's Republican leadership, and many Democrats, needn't be dismayed.
If poisoning is declared verboten, there are many other means. Sure,
they'll be equally cruel, but it will take the courts a few years to rule.
Here are some suggestions, ripped from the rich history of executions:
stoning, clubbing, "pressing" with heaving stones, stretching on the rack,
breaking on the wheel, drawing and quartering la Braveheart.
There's also drowning, shredding, starving. Almost certainly
unconstitutional, but a heck of a lot of fun: impalement.
We could boil, al dente in water, or fry extra crispy in oil. Or slowly
roast. Flaying would allow the condemned to ponder his sins for a day or
Beheading? Absolutely a contender. A cheer for the French doctor Joseph
Ignace Guillotin. Garroting and hanging. Gassing and the firing squad are
OK, you've guessed my point. There is no humane way to kill someone.
Politicians know that. But we're talking about winning elections. And the
Grim Reaper is a great vote-getter.
A Georgia case reinstated the death penalty in America. Read about it at:
Amnesty USA: "30th Anniversary of Gregg vs. Georgia: The beginning of the
modern era of America's Death Penalty"
A federal profile of condemned prisoners is at: U.S. Department of
Justice: Capital Punishment Statistics
And a Georgia study is at: Georgia Department of Corrections Study
(source: Creative Loafing)
Desperate appeal: State needs to grease wheels of justice
Convicted killer Ralph Leroy Menzies doesn't have a lawyer, which probably
suits him fine. After all, he can't be executed without one.
Like most of the men on Utah's death row, Menzies can't afford legal
counsel. And judging by Utah's paltry $37,500 cap on payments to defense
attorneys handling post-conviction appeals in death penalty cases, it
seems as if the state can't afford a lawyer, either. As a result, Menzies'
case, and the wheels of justice, have ground to a halt.
Last December, Menzies won the right to reopen his appeal on the grounds
of inadequate legal representation by his initial appeals attorney.
However, the attorney who successfully argued that Menzies can seek a
retrial or a new sentencing hearing was forced to withdraw due to a
conflict of interest, and the state, despite shopping the case to
qualified lawyers in four states, can't come up with a replacement.
Unless the state increases the pay for defense attorneys handling
post-sentence appeals, or finds a lawyer willing to work for popcorn,
Menzies and other death-row inmates may die of natural causes.
Capital murder cases are complex, and fewer than 10 attorneys in Utah meet
the stringent requirements to handle appeals proceedings. With such a
small pool, legal counsel is not cheap.
Lawyers, if they do their client justice, can spend up to 2,000 hours on a
single case. So it's little wonder that they balk at Utah's $37,500 offer,
which authorizes partial payments as appeals progress. An attorney
representing death-row inmate Douglas Stewart Carter says he's made $9.88
an hour to date. He too wants off the case, and who can blame him?
There's a simple solution to this problem: Outlaw capital punishment.
Acknowledge that the death penalty is capriciously applied; that it
doesn't serve as a deterrent; that taking a human life is wrong and 2
wrongs don't make a right. But here, in the reddest of states, that's not
likely to happen.
Which makes us wonder why the state won't pay the going rate and break
what amounts to a moratorium on executions? Utah's last execution was in
1999 and 9 men remain on death row without an execution date.
By enabling convicted killers to receive the representation to which they
are legally entitled, state officials would more quickly obtain the
justice they seek. If the state wants murderers to pay the highest price,
it must be willing to do the same.
(source: Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune)
St. Louis prosecutor to seek the death penalty against Gregory Bowman
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch will seek the death penalty
for Gregory Bowman, who was once convicted of killing 2 young Belleville
women, if he is convicted of killing a teenager in Missouri.
"The motion was filed today. We intend to seek the death penalty," said
spokesman Don Schneider in reference to the document listing aggravating
circumstances necessary to seek execution. A judge must approve the
Schneider said that an aggravating circumstance would be the commission of
another felony during the murder.
Bowman, 56, is being held for the 1977 murder of 16-year-old Velda Joy
Rumfelt whose body was found near Eureka, Mo. DNA taken from the victim's
underwear were matched to Bowman's genetic profile, police have said. The
match was 5 trillion to 1.
Bowman pleaded guilty to the 1978 murders of Elizabeth West, 14, and Ruth
Ann Jany, 21, who were kidnapped from Belleville streets.
The joke's on who?
Convicted of murder in 1996, William Castillo was set to die by lethal
injection Monday evening in Nevada. Unlike most convicts on death row,
Castillo never appealed his sentence and did not take any action on his
own to delay or halt the execution. Yet after consuming what he believed
to be his last meal, William Castillo was given the news that he would be
occupying his cell for a little while longer. The Nevada chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union made it possible for the condemned man to
breathe easier, or perhaps not easier, for at least the next few weeks.
Arguing that lethal injection is not as efficient or fast moving as
proponents of the drug cocktail originally thought it to be, 2 Kentucky
death row inmates brought the case to the attention of the United States
Supreme Court, who declared Sept. 25 they would review the method. So with
over 2 weeks to follow suit of the other nine states, including New
Jersey, that have halted their executions awaiting the legal ruling, why
did Nevada wait until 90 minutes before Castillo's scheduled time of death
to make this decision?
Lethal injection is supposedly straining the limits of the Eighth
Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. With its
anesthesia, muscle paralyzer and potassium chloride to stop the heart, the
injection has arguably affected prisoners to the point where they are
experiencing extreme pain but no longer have the capacity to express
themselves. There are further issues with painful mistakes during the
lethal injection process because of the difficulty finding a properly
suited vein in convicts who have experimented with intravenous drugs.
William Castillo may not have died, but he is certainly still being
severely punished. While the mental health of death row inmates may not be
anyone's top priority, this vicious prank against Castillo may in itself
be construed as "cruel and unusual." In any event, the quick halt to his
injection was dramatic, unnecessary and embarrassing for the state of
Not only did the state government have plenty of time to make a ruling
prior to this particular man's time of death, but seeing as he was
prepared to go, they also had every opportunity to refrain from a decision
until after 8:30 pm on Monday night. 28 other states have continued to use
lethal injection in spite of the pending case at the Supreme Court. Nevada
had no obligation to arrest the process where they did.
To protect the integrity of its justice system, Nevada certainly should
have acted differently. It was not a matter of ethical urgency surrounding
the lethal injection debate if it took so long for the state to make a
ruling in the first place. The poor judgment on the part of the governor
and his constituents is readily apparent under the circumstances.
Preventing William Castillo from facing the moment he has waited over a
decade for was certainly a questionable decision.
When done correctly and without unnecessary pain, lethal injection may be
the best way to carry out death sentences. But with such potential for
error, there is no harm having the federal court system review the
process. To some degree, with the trauma involved, all capital punishment
may be argued as cruel and unusual. Yet it may be saying something when
doctors refuse to be affiliated with the process because of the contention
that it is against medical ethics.
If a death sentence wasn't enough, 34-year-old William Castillo has now
been the target of a serious and unwarranted cosmic joke, very few
individuals will ever be so ill fated to experience.
(source: The Daily Targum)
Doctors to appeal N.C. execution ruling
The N.C. Medical Board plans to appeal a judge's ruling over the role of
doctors in lethal injections, saying it will stand up for the principle
that physicians should not take an active role in executions.
In the ruling last month, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said that
the medical board had overstepped its authority when it adopted an ethics
policy that prohibited doctors from participating in executions. An
execution, Stephens said, is not a "medical event."
The board decided Wednesday to appeal the ruling.
"After thoughtful deliberation, the board determined that the principle
that physicians should not take an active role in judicial executions is a
principle that should not be abandoned," the board said in a statement
Dr. Arthur Finn, a professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of
Medicine, said the language in Stephens' ruling put the board in a
position where it needed to appeal to maintain some sense of autonomy.
"Once a judge starts ruling medically, you just never know where it's
going to go," Finn said. "You just can't let one person without total,
adequate information make decisions like that."
Dr. Ross McKinney, director of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities
and History of Medicine at Duke University, said the battle over the
board's authority is yet another unfortunate entanglement between the law
Doctors and medical boards have long had to make careful decisions about
what battles to fight. McKinney cited clashes over abortion rights and
insurance as examples of contentious issues between law and medicine.
"I think they will be weighing the cost of taking it to court versus the
impact on the profession," McKinney said.
Dr. Charles van der Horst, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases
at UNC-CH, disagreed with Stephens' ruling and wanted the medical board to
"I think people are worried because this could be a slippery slope," van
der Horst said. "First they rule that this isn't a medical procedure. What
are they going to do next?"
In a letter to the medical board after the ruling, van der Horst urged the
medical board to stand firm and defend its principles.
"We are required to provide care to those in front of us without regard to
race, religion, past behavior, gender, insurance status, and a whole
litany of characteristics," he wrote. "This has become increasingly
difficult as insurers, attorneys, and others tell us what we can and can
"But at all times we should at least aim for the moral high ground. When
we make life easier for those who try to change us by caving in to their
demands prematurely, we compromise our ethics and give up some of our
Stephens made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Department of
Correction against the medical board. The board's ethics policy made it
impossible for correction officials to find a doctor to attend scheduled
Judge: law first
Stephens said the board overstepped its authority in its policy and cannot
trump state law, which requires the presence of a doctor. His ruling also
said an execution is not a "medical event" and therefore doesn't fall
under the oath.
At the same time, though, Stephens said the law requires doctors to
participate because of their medical expertise.
Van der Horst disputed the finding that an execution is not a medical
"While I have the utmost respect for Judge Stephens' legal abilities, he
is not a physician and consequently not the proper person to determine
what a medical procedure is," van der Horst said in his letter to the
He argued that executions are medical procedures and bolstered his
argument by citing the medical terminology used to describe the procedure
as well as the equipment used, including injections, EKG machines and
In an affidavit this year, Warden Marvin Polk describes how lethal
injection is administered. He says a registered nurse is present to
monitor the prisoner's brain waves on a machine typically used in
hospitals during surgery.
Polk's affidavit describes the role of an emergency medical technician,
who is there to monitor heart rhythms on an EKG. He says a medical doctor
is required only to be present and to certify death. However, Polk also
says that he expects anyone who sees something amiss during an execution
to alert him so he can stop the procedure.
Dr. John Faulkner, who has a family practice in Raleigh, sides with
Stephens, saying the law requiring a doctor's attendance at executions was
clear and should be the ruling factor.
"I think the medical board overreached in its ethics policy, and the
conclusion Stephens came to was a common-sense conclusion," Faulkner said.
"When the Hurricanes have a hockey game, they have the paramedics there
not to just watch the game, but they are there to act and to be called
upon to use their skills and training and tools."
Faulkner said doctors should make their own decisions about participation
in administering the death penalty.
"I respect anyone's opinion, but I think it depends on one's personal
belief, their religious background and how they interpret the Hippocratic
oath," Faulkner said. "I see the condemned individuals as people who are
dying, and I put them in the same boat as end-stage lung, liver and heart
patients who I want to assist to an end."
Mary Johnson, an Asheboro physician who writes about medical issues,
disagrees with Faulkner and Stephens.
After Stephens' ruling in September, she wrote that medical ethics had
"gone out of the window."
No surprise to her
"I am not at all surprised," Johnson wrote about Stephens' ruling. "Many,
many good-ole-boys in Raleigh want executions to get moving again -- no
matter what, no matter how. If the lawyers that actually run the Medical
Board have any [courage] at all, they will appeal the ruling."
Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who
has been watching North Carolina's handling of the death penalty, said
decisions about medical ethics should be made within the medical
"This is a debate about professional ethics," Caplan said, "and not what
the public wants or any third parties dictating what ethics are."
(source: Charlotte News & Observer)
Legal advocates blast Schwarzenegger for vetoing three justice
bills----EFFORT TO REDUCE FALSE CONVICTIONS BLOCKED
Former trial and appellate lawyer Laurie Levenson answered reader
questions about the investigation's findings.
Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp blasted law
enforcement groups and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday for
blocking legislation aimed at protecting defendants from convictions for
crimes they did not commit.
"I'm embarrassed for the law enforcement community," Van de Kamp said
before convening a public hearing on criminal justice reforms at Santa
Speakers included Rick Walker of East Palo Alto, who spent 12 years in
prison for a murder he didn't do. Walker, who recently obtained a $2.75
million settlement in a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against Santa Clara
County, said he is starting a non-profit group to help exonerated
prisoners rebuild their lives.
"When I make a mistake, I pay for it," he said. "When the state of
California made a mistake, they made my attorney jump through hoops to get
Earlier this year, a commission chaired by Van de Kamp sponsored 3 bills
that would have set tighter rules for police and prosecutors by requiring
corroboration of testimony by jailhouse informants, electronic recording
of police interrogations in violent crimes and the creation of new
guidelines for lineups and photo arrays.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, created
by the Legislature to propose legal reforms, is made up of judges, police,
defense attorneys and prosecutors. But the legislation was opposed by
statewide groups representing police and district attorneys.
The governor vetoed all 3 measures last weekend, saying they were too
broad and would unnecessarily tie the hands of investigators and
"This bill would enact a broad solution to a perceived problem that arises
in very few criminal cases," Schwarzenegger said in a statement rejecting
the bill requiring corroborating evidence to back up testimony by
Scott Thorpe, a spokesman for the state district attorney's association,
said the bill was unnecessary because juries are already given
instructions on how to evaluate such testimony.
But supporters of the measure, including the ACLU and state Senate
Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, cited numerous cases of
defendants wrongly convicted after inmates gave false testimony in
exchange for lenient treatment in their own cases.
Van de Kamp, a Democrat and former Los Angeles County district attorney,
said he was especially disappointed because the commission had modified
its proposals to meet law enforcement concerns.
Panelist and retired Santa Clara County district attorney George Kennedy
"I think it's good that he gives great weight to the views of law
enforcement," Kennedy said of the governor. "But these bills were good
bills and they were very reasonable."
Local police are already adopting similar policies, added Kennedy, who
predicted the trend will continue but said it would be better to have
consistent rules statewide.
The commission, which is also studying attorney misconduct, the death
penalty and other subjects, heard testimony Wednesday about legal
obstacles faced by people who are wrongly convicted.
California used to provide funding for groups like the Northern California
Innocence Project, based at Santa Clara University's Law School, but now
such groups rely entirely on private donations.
A single case can cost the Innocence Project hundreds of thousands of
dollars to re-examine evidence and pursue appeals, said project director
Kathleen Ridolfi, a Santa Clara law professor. She said her staff rejects
hundreds of applications for every person they agree to help.
Walker, whose conviction was overturned after a family friend dug up new
evidence and brought it to Kennedy's office, said people who are wrongly
convicted suffer mentally and physically in prison. But unlike parolees,
who receive counseling and other state services, he said exonerated
inmates get virtually no support when released.
"We should at least give them the same services that we afford people who
did something wrong," he said.
(source: Mercury News)
Lethal injection moratorium inches closer
The U.S. Supreme Courts decision last month to hear a challenge to lethal
injection has had a chilling effect on executions across the country, as
governors and state and federal courts have delayed death sentences.
Sept. 25: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Baze v. Rees, a challenge
to lethal injection brought by 2 Kentucky death-row prisoners who argue
that the procedure is cruel and unusual punishment.
Sept. 25: Texas proceeds with the lethal injection of death-row inmate
Michael Richard; the U.S. Supreme Court allows the execution to proceed.
Sept. 27: Inmates scheduled for execution in Alabama and Texas win stays.
Gov. Bob Riley (R) issues a stay for Thomas Arthur in Alabama; the U.S.
Supreme Court issues a stay for Carlton Turner in Texas.
Oct. 3: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stays the execution of
Oct. 11: The Arizona Supreme Court stays the execution of Jeffrey
Oct. 11: The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stays the execution of
Arkansas inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr.
Oct. 15: The Nevada Supreme Court issues a last-minute stay of execution
for William Castillo, though Castillo himself does not appeal his
punishment. The challenge is filed by the American Civil Liberties Union
Oct. 16: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the stay of execution for Arkansas
inmate Jones. Justice Antonin Scalia dissents and cautions against a
nationwide moratorium on lethal injection.
Oct. 17: The U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay of execution for Virginia
inmate Christopher Scott Emmett, hours before he is scheduled to die.
Oct. 19: Jack Alderman is scheduled for execution by lethal injection in
Oct. 23: Curtis Osborne is scheduled for execution by lethal injection in
Oct. 25: Daniel Siebert is scheduled for execution by lethal injection in
Alabama, though the governor has granted a stay to Arthur.
Oct. 30: Earl Wesley Berry is scheduled for execution by lethal injection
[sources: Death Penalty Information Center, Stateline.org reporting]
What was scheduled to be a busy week in the nations death chambers instead
has offered growing evidence that a moratorium on lethal injection is
materializing across the country even as a U.S. Supreme Court justice
suggested that some executions should go on.
Virginia last night (Oct. 17) became the 16th state where executions by
lethal injection effectively are on hold. The U.S. Supreme Court, without
giving a reason, granted a stay to convicted murderer Christopher Scott
Emmett 4 hours before he was scheduled to die at the Greensville
Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.
It was the second time this week that a court delayed a lethal injection
with little time to spare. On Monday (Oct. 15), the Nevada Supreme Court
granted a stay to killer William Castillo 90 minutes before he was set to
die, even though Castillo himself did not appeal the punishment and later
expressed disappointment that he was not put to death. The American Civil
Liberties Union of Nevada brought the case.
Arkansas, Ohio and Georgia also were scheduled to execute prisoners using
lethal injection this week, but only the execution in Georgia set for 7
p.m. Friday (Oct. 19) remains a possibility, as earlier court decisions
delayed the other executions.
The flurry of activity follows the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Sept.
25 to hear Baze v. Rees, a case brought by 2 Kentucky prisoners who argue
that lethal injection as it is carried out by 36 states amounts to cruel
and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See related
story: Lethal injection goes on trial, but goes on)
The high courts decision last month to enter the debate over lethal
injection has had an immediate chilling effect across the country, as
lawyers for death-row prisoners have argued that states should not carry
out death sentences using a method that may be ruled unconstitutional.
Executions in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas and Texas were suspended after
the Supreme Court took up the Kentucky prisoners challenge, and Nevada and
Virginia joined those states this week.
Speaking directly to the possibility of a nationwide moratorium on lethal
injection, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday (Oct. 16)
cautioned that stopping all executions by that method wasn't the high
court's intention when it agreed to hear Baze v. Rees. Just because the
justices agreed to take on the case, Scalia said, doesn't necessarily mean
that a moratorium should ensue.
Overall, 16 states now have governor-imposed or court-ordered holds on
lethal injection: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware,
Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina,
Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.
Lethal injection was placed on hold in 10 of those states before the
Supreme Court agreed to hear Baze v. Rees, underscoring the legal
uncertainty that has surrounded the procedure for much of the past 2
Meanwhile, only 2 states where lethal injections are not on hold Georgia
and Mississippi have set execution dates for prisoners before next
spring, when the Supreme Court is expected to rule in Baze v. Rees,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which maintains an
updated list of upcoming executions.
After Georgia's scheduled execution on Friday and another in that state
set for Oct. 23 Mississippi is scheduled to execute Earl Wesley Berry on
On Tuesday, Scalia disagreed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's
decision to stay the execution of Arkansas death-row inmate Jack Harold
Jones Jr., who was scheduled to die that day.
Scalia, dissenting from the Supreme Court majority, wrote that the circuit
court's opinion was "based on the mistaken premise that our grant of
certiorari in Baze v. Rees calls for the stay of every execution in which
an individual raises an Eighth Amendment challenge to the lethal injection
Granting certiorari means the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case.
"The grant of certiorari in a single case does not alter the application
of normal rules of procedure," Scalia wrote.
Legal experts said Scalias statement gave a good indication of his
personal views, but did not necessarily signal that a national moratorium
would be averted.
"The fact that it's a dissent says more than anything. It suggests that a
majority of the court disagrees with that perspective," said Bryan
Stevenson, a law professor at New York University and executive director
of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal clinic.
In the meantime, lower courts already have begun to issue stays of
execution on their own, Stevenson said, pointing to the Nevada Supreme
Courts decision this week, as well as a decision by the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals earlier this month.
Attention now remains focused on Georgia, where state officials have vowed
to move ahead with the execution Friday of killer Jack Alderman, as well
as the scheduled execution by lethal injection on Oct. 23 of Curtis
The Georgia Supreme Court this week rejected Alderman's request for a
stay, arguing as Scalia did that the U.S. Supreme Court "has not yet
indicated that, in cases in this posture, all executions by lethal
injection should be stayed," according to the Georgia courts opinion.
But Michael Siem, one of the lawyers working on a stay for Alderman, told
Stateline.org that the precedent already has been set at least for now.
"Our position is this: Every state but Virginia and Georgia has stayed
executions [scheduled since the court agreed to hear Baze v. Rees]," Siem
said before last night's stay in Virginia. "If that isn't a direct
indication to the states what they should be doing, I don't know what is."
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