[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----N.C., USA, OKLA., PENN., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 23 00:41:30 CDT 2007
Doctors appeal ruling on executions----A North Carolina judge had said the
state medical board can't bar members' involvement.
North Carolina doctors reasserted their opposition to participating in the
executions of condemned criminals this week, appealing a judge's ruling
that the state medical board cannot prohibit doctors from taking part in
The appeal focused renewed attention on doctors' roles during executions.
The U.S. Supreme Court and several other states are also considering
whether executions by lethal injection cause excessive pain.
There has been considerable debate about whether doctors should be present
during lethal injections, a conflict sometimes described by doctors as
"The Hippocratic Paradox." On one hand, doctors may be needed to carry out
a lethal injection execution so that it is consistent with 8th Amendment
prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. But others say the
Hippocratic oath to preserve life rules out their involvement.
Condemned inmates' lawyers have argued that lethal injection has
"medicalized" the death penalty, since such executions utilize drugs,
intravenous lines, and sometimes electrocardiogram machines and brain
North Carolina, which has 185 people on death row and has executed 43
individuals in the last 3 decades, has a statute requiring that a
physician be present during an execution.
The current controversy was stirred when U.S. District Judge Malcolm J.
Howard blocked an April 2006 execution at the prison in Raleigh after
defense lawyers raised concerns that condemned inmates were experiencing
an excessive level of pain during lethal injections.
North Carolina, like 36 other states, uses a three-drug protocol. The
first drug is designed to anesthetize; the second drug paralyzes; and the
third causes cardiac arrest. Lawyers here, as in other states, have
asserted that, on some occasions, the inmate has not been sufficiently
anesthetized by the 1st drug and experiences a brutal death but is unable
to scream because the inmate is paralyzed.
Then, Howard reversed course, ruling that the execution could go forward,
after prison officials said they would use a bispectral index monitor,
which the state said could track the inmate's level of consciousness.
The ruling required that medical personnel be present to ensure that the
condemned inmate was unconscious before the 2nd and 3rd drugs were
Charles van der Horst, professor of medicine at the University of North
Carolina Medical School, and Arthur Finn, a retired doctor, were concerned
that doctors would be asked to play a larger role in lethal injections.
Last year, they and other physicians urged the medical board to take a
firm stand against any doctor participation in executions, saying it
violated the Hippocratic oath.
In mid-January, the board adopted that position. The board acknowledged
the state law about a doctor being "present," but emphasized that any
physician who engaged in such activities as prescribing or administering
medication, monitoring vital signs or rendering technical advice would be
in violation of the American Medical Assn.'s code of ethics.
In March, the state corrections department sued the board, asserting that
it had prevented the state from finding physicians to be present at
Last month, state court JudgeDonald W. Stephens ruled that the board had
overstepped its bounds. He said the state law requiring a doctor to
"attend and provide professional medical assessment" during executions
overrode the board's position.
The judge said executions should not be categorized as a "medical
procedure or medical event" even though doctors were called on for medical
tasks, including "ensuring that the condemned inmate is not subjected to
unnecessary and excessive pain," and determining whether the inmate was
As soon as Stephens' decision became public, Van der Horst urged the board
to appeal, saying he was particularly troubled by the judge's conclusion
that executions cannot be categorized as a "medical procedure or 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 wrote in a Sept. 26 letter to
2 experts on medical ethics said Friday that they thought that lethal
injection was clearly a "medical procedure" and that they hoped the appeal
would clarify the issue.
The judge's decision "is patently wrong on its face," said Arthur Caplan,
chairman of the medical ethics department at the University of
Pennsylvania Medical School.
The reason that prison officials want doctors present at executions is
"for their medical expertise," Caplan said.
Dr. Ross McKinney Jr., director of the Trent Center for Bioethics,
Humanities and History of Medicine at Duke University, said that the
intravenous administration of drugs clearly has the trappings of a medical
procedure. "It is hard for me to imagine someone saying that a doctor
being there and contributing to someone's death is not a medical procedure
that violates the Hippocratic oath," he said.
"On the other hand," he said, "I can understand a physician saying the
death penalty was justified for some people, thinking lethal injection is
more humane than other forms of execution and therefore be willing to
participate. . . . To some degree it becomes a political decision, and it
gets wrapped up in the entire debate over the death penalty."
(source: Los Angeles Times)
Cruel intentions----The US supreme court is examing the legality of death
by lethal injection. But that doesn't mean America has come to its senses
about capital punishment.
This week the US supreme court began lifting what's been called "the
chemical veil" that has covered the ugly face of capital punishment in
this country. It seems the country's ultimate justices are about to have a
long, hard look at just how executions are practiced in the US.
Christopher Emmett remains alive in his Virginia cell because on Wednesday
the court stepped in to halt proceedings just four hours before he was due
to be executed. Emmett, 36, beat a co-worker to death with a brass lamp in
2001. On Thursday, the Georgia supreme court took the cue from their
federal superiors and blocked the execution this week of Jack Alderman.
"I think this is a de facto moratorium," Douglas Berman, a sentencing
expert at Ohio State University, told the Washington Post. "You'll see
that very few states want to be outliers when the court seems ready to
step in and stop" the planned executions.
The moratorium is taking hold because the supreme court announced last
month it would finally wrestle with the issue of death by lethal
injection, by hearing an appeal on a Kentucky murder case. That hearing
will consider whether lethal injections amount to "cruel and unusual
punishment" - something banned by the US constitution - but won't begin
until next year. In the meantime courts and governors around the country
are reluctant to push ahead with their execution programmes. For once,
justice delayed is justice applied.
Evidence of just how horrible death by lethal injection can be has been
mounting for some years now. It's long past time the court investigated.
Of the 38 states that carry the death penalty, 37 use a lethal injection
made up of three drugs. It was supposed to be a humane replacement for
electrocution. Florida switched from electricity to drugs, for example,
after the 1997 electrocution of Pedro Medina, when flames shot from the
dying man's skull and the smell of burning flesh filled the witness
But lethal injections have been far from a raging success. In December
last year, federal judge Jeremy Fogel in California ruled that that
state's execution methods did indeed amount to "cruel and unusual
punishment". In at least six of the state's 13 executions by lethal
injection, he found, inmates may have been conscious, and so in agony,
when injected with the heart-stopping drugs.
Dr Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist and researcher at Columbia University
who reviewed California's execution logs and did "many hundreds of hours
of research" into the state's execution methods, has concluded: "It is my
opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the lethal
injection procedures selected for use in California and used elsewhere
subject the prisoner to an increased and unnecessary risk of experiencing
excruciating pain in the course of execution."
The three-drug cocktail contains an anesthetic, a paralyzing drug and a
killing drug. The main criticism is that sometimes the anesthetic, sodium
thiopental, doesn't work, and the inmate experiences an excruciatingly
painful death as the killing drug, potassium chloride, burns up the veins
on its way to stopping the heart.
Heath declared: "My research into executions by lethal injection strongly
indicates that executions have occurred where the full dose of sodium
thiopental was not fully and properly administered. If an inmate does not
receive the full dose of sodium thiopental because of errors or problems
in administering the drug, the inmate might not be rendered unconscious
and unable to feel pain, or alternatively might, because of the
short-acting nature of sodium thiopental, regain consciousness during the
The paralyzing drug, pancuronium bromide, however, freezes the inmates'
muscles and facial expressions, making it impossible for them to show
their agony. Hence the term, coined by Dr Heath, of the "chemical veil"
that hides just how horrendous death by lethal injection can be.
The kicker of his testimony comes near the end: "All of these problems
could easily be addressed, and indeed have been addressed for the
euthanasia of dogs and cats."
But if you read these stories with a glimmer of hope that America, or at
least the supreme court, has come to its senses and accepted the thorough,
logical, duplicated studies conducted worldwide that for years have shown
that capital punishment does not deter, is prohibitively expensive and
more than occasionally kills the innocent, then think again. You might as
well believe they teach evolution in the heart of Kansas.
The number of people executed in the US this year is likely to stay below
50 for the first time since 1996, but there's no reason to think that
won't shoot back up whenever the court finally rules. Even if this formula
of drugs is banned, there are others.
Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the Emmett decision, saying appeal
courts might mistakenly assume that the decision to hear the Kentucky case
amounted to a supreme court-imposed stay. Kent Scheidegger, legal director
for the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation immediately
fretted that any moratorium, de facto or otherwise, would dilute
deterrence and "cause more innocent people to die".
It is, of course, beyond the realm of ridiculous to think that criminals
who have until now been reining in their murderous impulses, will have
read the court's ruling and, with a sigh of relief, decided they can now
go on killing sprees. You can almost hear them: "Phew, now it's only life
imprisonment. Where are our guns?"
This idiotic line of thought is a glimpse of just how irrationally wed
Americans still are to the death penalty. Even here on America's "left
coast", just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco at the
infamous San Quentin prison, state lawmakers are planning a new $330m
death row. There are already 622 inmates waiting for their lethal
injection at San Quentin, but the new facility allows for growth, with
plans for 768 cells.
For all the debate and opposition, there seems little likelihood of
change. It's hardly at the top of the agenda for the presidential
candidates. Heck, it's hardly on the agenda at all.
Still, I've never understood why the US, and the American right in
particular, is so enamoured of the death penalty. The country will fall
back on liberty as its core business, its unswerving goal, then decide
that not even throwing away the key is sufficient punishment for
murderers. The religious right will preach repentance, then whip out the
syringe whether the inmate has made his peace with God, or not. The
economic right will rail against government stepping into an individual's
life to raise taxes, but it will support a government that steps in to
take that individual's life.
As I say, there's no reason to believe change is in the air. But surely,
surely, all these inconsistencies must one day unravel. Don't expect it
soon, but as the brutality of lethal injection is revealed, and that
execution method becomes as repellent as beheading or hanging, there must
come a time when Americans realize there is no good, clean way to kill
your fellow citizens.
Capital Punishment at Crossroads in US
Stop executions for a while and perhaps they can be stopped forever. That
calculation has been part of the strategy of capital punishment opponents
The Supreme Court-inspired slowdown in executions offers the first
nationwide opportunity in 20-plus years to test whether the absence of
regularly scheduled executions will lead some states to abandon the death
penalty and change public attitudes about capital punishment.
Recent decisions by judges and elected officials have made clear that most
executions will not proceed until the Supreme Court rules in a challenge
by two death row inmates to the lethal injection procedures used by
Kentucky. The inmates say Kentucky's method creates the risk of pain
severe enough to be cruel and unusual punishment, banned by the Eighth
Similar procedures are used by Texas, the far-and-away leader in lethal
injections, and the 16 other states that have executed prisoners in the
past 2 years.
It is clear the high court will not go so far as to outlaw the use of
lethal injections. That issue is not even before the court in the Kentucky
Rather, the justices could decide whether Kentucky's procedures violate
the Constitution and what standard the courts should use to evaluate the
risk a prisoner will feel pain as he is put to death.
No matter how the court rules, it appears there will be few, if any,
prisoners executed before the court rules, probably by late June.
"We're probably looking at delaying executions, not preventing them," said
Ronald Tabak, a New York-based lawyer with the Skadden Arps firm who has
represented death row inmates.
Tabak said states with the death penalty now have a chance to review
capital punishment procedures. The American Bar Association has for the
past 10 years called for such a freeze and review.
"The ABA's position is unless you have fair practices, executions should
not resume," said Tabak, who has worked with the lawyers' organization on
But Douglas Berman, a sentencing expert at the Ohio State University law
school, said the possibility exists for more dramatic action.
"The abolitionists will say if we have no executions for six months to a
year, and the universe is not imploding and murder rates are not going
through the roof ... it becomes easier to say, 'Why do we even need the
death penalty, let's just get rid of it,'" Berman said.
"Texas and other high-execution states aren't going to get there anytime
soon, but the argument against capital punishment gets even more force in
those states squeamish about the death penalty in the first instance,"
Questions about the administration of lethal injections are only part of
Death-penalty opponents also have pointed to doubts about the competence
of some court-appointed defense lawyers and the rise in the number of
exonerations through DNA evidence of people already convicted of crimes.
Polling has shown that the public increasingly believes that life in
prison without parole will keep the worst offenders off the streets. A
recent Associated Presss-Ipsos poll that asked what method of punishment
people prefer for murderers found only a slight preference for the death
penalty over life in prison - 52 % to 46 %.
"There is a deeper societal appreciation for life without the possibility
of parole. Ten to 15 years ago, no one thought they meant it," Berman
At the same time, there have been several studies, challenged by the
anti-death penalty camp, that have shown a deterrent effect in the use of
capital punishment. Also, public support for executions remains high. More
than two-thirds of those polled favor the death penalty for murderers when
the question does not include other possible punishments.
Then there is the example of the last time the country went without
executions for an extended period. There were no executions from June 1967
to January 1977.
The Supreme Court in 1972 struck down 40 state death penalty laws, but did
not ban capital punishment as cruel and unusual.
Some justices at the time thought their decision in Furman v. Georgia
would bring an end to the death penalty.
By 1976, though, in the midst of a "law-and-order" backlash to the court's
decisions in favor of the rights of criminal defendants, elected officials
in 35 states had adopted laws to comply with the death penalty ruling.
A more conservative court upheld some of those laws, and a half-year later
Nearly 1,100 people have been put to death since 1977 and more than 3,000
others are on death row.
On the Net:
* Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
* Criminal Justice Legal Foundation: http://www.cjlf.org
(source: Associated Press)
Faith In Action: Forum Held To Oppose Death Penalty
A religious group opposed to the death penalty held a forum featuring Bud
Welch whose daughter died in the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Helen Conway, mother of a murder victim also wanted to speak at the forum
to explain her side, but organizers denied her request, so she made a sign
Key note speaker, Bud Welch, told us he had a chance to speak with her.
Welch said Conway was a lovely woman, but he cautioned that revenge is not
part of the healing process.
(source: Today's THV)
Men are set to take back city's streets: Organizers of "A Call to Action"
are hopeful they will reach their goal tomorrow. Participants are to
patrol corners in crime-ridden areas.
Organizers of 10,000 Men: A Call to Action are optimistic about reaching
their goal of recruiting 10,000 men to serve as "peacekeepers" on the
streets of Philadelphia.
The "Call to Action," scheduled for noon tomorrow at the Liacouras Center
on North Broad Street, aims to enlist the men, especially African
Americans, to patrol corners in crime-ridden areas and serve as a visual
deterrent to crime.
"We've already been successful," said the music and movie producer Charles
"Charlie Mack" Alston, one of the organizers of the project, at a
recruiting rally this week at Broad Street and Erie Avenue.
The effort - believed to be the first in the country - comes amid a wave
of homicides over the last few years, mostly involving young black men. As
of 11:59 Thursday, there had been 321 homicides in the city this year.
Nate Jones, 46, a worker at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
who was present at the rally, signed up for the project.
"I want to help stop the violence," Jones said. "Too many black men are
getting killed. I work in an emergency room, so I see [the effects of]
violence coming and going."
Alston said that more than 4,000 people had registered for tomorrow's
gathering, which is being described as an "orientation event."
"Sunday is going to be a business meeting among black men about issues
that plague their community," said Alston. "We are not accepting any
excuses. Every issue will be addressed."
Organizers of 10,000 Men: A Call to Action said the project would be the
first large-scale effort of its kind in the country. Police Commissioner
Sylvester M. Johnson has said that cities and towns around the country
would be watching to gauge the success of the project.
"We think we are going to get 10,000 people," E. Steven Collins, an
executive with WRNB-FM (107.9), a spokesman for the project, said
yesterday. He said that people were being recruited at street-corner
rallies this week and that many had signed up online at
Norm Bond, another spokesman for the program, said of the recruiting
effort: "We're right about where we thought we'd be."
In addition to recruiting, Bond said tomorrow's gathering would offer
services to the men, including health screening, credit counseling, and
education counseling for those who want to complete high school, earn a
GED certificate or pursue college.
"We're going to have a public information session," Bond said. "This will
be the first chance to hear from the leaders" of the project.
The doors will open at noon, and the program is scheduled to start at 2
p.m. The event is expected to run about 21/2 hours, officials said.
Among the speakers will be some of the organizers, including Alston, the
music producer and entrepreneur Kenny Gamble, the businessman A. Bruce
Crawley, and the activist Bilal Qayyum, officials said.
Mayor Street, Johnson, and the scholar-activist Molefi K. Asante are also
scheduled to appear.
Community groups, labor unions, churches and fraternities will also be
participating in the program.
Collins said the program will be an informational session in which
long-term plans would be disclosed.
Collins said one part of the project would be a segment that would look at
the history of Philadelphia's black community and examine its prospects.
"We have a cross-section of leadership we have never seen before in this
city," Collins said.
He said orientation for the men would begin soon with the hope of
deploying volunteers to street corners in about a month.
Officials have said participants would patrol designated corners for three
hours a day and that police would back up each patrol.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Richey 'too full of anger and hate' to take stand at retrial
KENNY RICHEY has revealed he is unlikely to take the stand at his retrial
because he is too angry at the people who sentenced him to death.
Speaking from his cell at the Putnam County Jail, Richey, 43, admitted he
had "a lot of anger and hatred" towards the state which has kept him on
death row for 21 years.
Richey, who grew up in Edinburgh, was convicted of starting a fire in a
flat in 1986 that killed 2-year-old Cynthia Collins, but has always
protested his innocence.
His conviction was finally overturned by an appeals court in August, and
he has now been given the chance to prove his innocence in a retrial,
likely to take place in February next year.
Asked whether he would testify at the retrial, he said: "Probably not,
because I'm a very aggressive individual.
"I tend to speak my mind, not hold back.
"I let my mouth do the talking. I let my anger get the best of me. I've
got a lot of anger and a lot of hatred in me for the 21 years they stole
from me for a crime I didn't commit and they know I didn't commit."
His conviction was overturned after judges agreed that Richey had not
received a proper defence during his original trial, with none of the
forensic evidence even questioned by his lawyer at the time.
Ken Parsigian, who has been Richey's lawyer since 1993, had that evidence
re-examined by experts for the appeal and they concluded that there was no
reliable evidence of arson, something Richey believes the authorities knew
"The first time around, I never had any chance," said Richey. "They were
just looking for someone to convict.
"They didn't give a damn. They knew I was innocent. They didn't care."
Richey was accused of starting the blaze in the apartment home of his
former girlfriend Kandy Barchet because he was jealous of her.
However, he has insisted that if he had wanted to hurt her he would not
have tried to burn down her house.
The former marine said: "If I want to kill someone, I would take the
"If I've got a problem with someone, I'll take it to them. I've always
done that. I've always gone head on."
Richey also revealed he had turned down a plea bargain which would have
seen him moved to a Scottish jail 9 years ago and released, as long as he
admitted his guilt and agreed never to return to the US.
And he vowed that he would not stop fighting his case until he had proved
"If I was guilty I would've taken one of those deals," he said. "I'm not
guilty and I don't care who believes it.
"I don't care what people think about me.
"I'm going to prove my innocence or die trying."
Campaigners make case for a neutral venue
CAMPAIGNERS are fighting to have the retrial moved from the same Ohio
court where Richey was originally found guilty.
Richey's attorney, Ken Parsigian, has filed a motion asking to move the
case to Franklin County and Columbus, claiming the intense media coverage
over the past 20 years will prevent a fair trial in Putnam County.
Campaigner and Richey's former fiance, Karen Torley, who has spent years
fighting for his release, said: "We are focusing on getting the trial
moved, as too many people there have lived with this case for years, and
it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Kenny to receive a fair trial
"More than 500 people have already signed a petition and we are hopeful
that the authorities will realise it makes more sense to hold this case at
a neutral venue."
(source: Edinburgh Evening News)
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