[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----ARK., OKLA., KAN., NEB.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Sep 4 23:15:07 CDT 2007
Death-Row Inmate Challenges Lethal Injection Execution
A death-row inmate scheduled for execution next month has requested a
stay, arguing that Arkansas' lethal injection procedure is
Jack Harold Jones Junior is sentenced to die for the 1995 slaying of a
Bald Knob bookkeeper. Jones' attorney filed a request Tuesday to stay
Jones has intervened in a lawsuit filed by death row inmate Terrick
Nooner, who faces a September 18th execution date. Nooner has also
requested a stay for his execution.
The suit challenges the Arkansas Department of Correction's execution
procedure, the lethal drugs that are used and the personnel who administer
the fatal shots.
In earlier filings, that state has said Arkansas uses the same 3
chemicals, sodium pentothal, panchromium bromide and potassium chloride,
as other death penalty states that have withstood constitutional
(source: KTHV news)
Appellate court rejects appeal of death row inmate
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has turned down the appeal of an
Oklahoma death row inmate convicted of murdering a Bixby woman during a
violent crime spree.
Steven Ray Thacker was sentenced to death for the December 1999 slaying of
Laci Dawn Hill. Authorities say Thacker was convicted of kidnapping,
raping and fatally stabbing ther 25-year-old Hill in a remote cabin in
Thacker appealed to the court on grounds of ineffective counsel, which
appeals court judges denied in an order issued on Friday.
Thacker was convicted of assaulting and killing Hill after responding to
an advertisement of a pool table for sale at her Tulsa County home.
After her death, he embarked on a multi-state crime spree in which he
allegedly killed a Tennessee tow truck driver and a Missouri man.
(source: Associated Press)
Attorneys argue over striking down death penalty law
Attorneys argued Tuesday about whether a single word in the state's
constitution -- "or" -- allows its highest court to strike down Kansas'
death penalty law again.
The Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the capital punishment law in
December 2004, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional in
The Kansas court is now considering the appeal of Gavin Scott. He was
sentenced to die by injection for the shootings of a couple, Doug and Beth
Brittain, in their rural Goddard farmhouse before ransacking it in
September 1996. An accomplice was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison.
Scott's attorney, Rebecca Woodman, told the justices that they could
invalidate the death penalty law over the same issue that was before the
U.S. Supreme Court when it ruled in 2006. She said that's because the
state constitution bans "cruel OR unusual" punishment and the federal
constitution prohibits "cruel AND unusual punishment."
The small difference in wording means the state constitution offers more
protection to defendants than the federal constitution, Woodman said.
"This court, in interpreting its own state constitutional provisions, is
not bound by the U.S. Supreme Court decision," said Woodman, a state
capital appellate defender. "If it were, the state's highest court, this
court, would simply forfeit its power to interpret its own constitution to
the federal judiciary."
But Stephen McAllister, the state's solicitor general, said the Kansas
court has said repeatedly in past rulings that the differences in the
state and federal constitutions' bans on cruel and unusual punishment
"There's no indication that the people at the time the constitution was
adopted would have thought that 'or' made any legal difference,"
McAllister said. "The problem in this case in part is, in essence I guess,
is a reluctance to accept what the Supreme Court of the United States
The Kansas Court is scheduled to release its next opinions Oct. 26, but
it's unlikely a decision in Scott's appeal will be ready, given the
complexity of the case.
The issue Woodman raised is what happens when jurors conclude the
circumstances in favor of imposing a death sentence are equal to the
circumstances for imposing a life sentence instead. Kansas law says a jury
must recommend death.
"If it's a tie, you die," Woodman said.
Kansas last executed convicted murderers by hanging in 1965. The state was
without a death penalty law from 1973 to 1994.
In its December 2004 ruling, the Kansas court said the law represented
cruel and unusual punishment and that the "tie" must go to the defendant.
But the U.S. Supreme Court's majority rejected the idea that the law
favors a "general presumption" for death sentences.
Both rulings interpreted the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual
punishment. Neither dealt with the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights,
banning cruel or unusual punishment.
Justice Carol Beier asked Woodman: "What's your position here? Is this
methodology -- is it cruel or is it unusual?"
Woodman answered: "I would say the court could find either cruel or
Woodman said the law could be considered cruel because of how jurors must
recommend death even if they think there is a "tie" as they weigh various
factors, such as the brutality of the crime or the defendant suffering
childhood abuse. It could be considered unusual because it is the only
death penalty law in the nation with such a provision, she said.
Scholars and advocates said Tuesday that repeated legal challenges aren't
unusual as states relatively new to the death penalty, such as Kansas,
have the courts settle issues surrounding their laws.
"The number of challenges to the death penalty are unlimited," said
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
As for individual cases, he said, "Every single one of those has to go to
the Kansas Supreme Court and probably several times."
The result typically is a long delay between a law's enactment and a
state's 1st execution.
New Jersey's law took effect in 1982, but the state hasn't executed
anyone, and lawmakers are considering repealing it. California's law dates
to 1974, but its 1st execution wasn't until 1992. Even Texas, which leads
the nation in executions, waited 9 years for an execution, from 1973 to
The length of the delay depends upon how a state's judges, both in the
state and federal court systems, view capital punishment, said Kent
Scheidegger. He is legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation, a Sacramento, Calif., victims' rights group that supports
"If there are minor defects in a statute, courts can either work around
them or exploit them to throw out the law," he said. "If a state court
wants to say that its state constitutional requirements are different,
they can do that."
The Kansas court has reviewed 2 capital cases. It ordered a resentencing
in Crawford County for Gary Kleypas, who killed a Pittsburg State
University student in March 1996 after trying to rape her. It ordered a
new trial for Michael Lee Marsh II, convicted of killing a Wichita woman
and her 19-month-old daughter.
Other cases are pending with the Supreme Court, with attorneys preparing
legal briefs. They include the appeals of convicted multiple murderers
John E. Robinson Sr. and Jonathan and Reginald Carr.
The case is State v. Gavin D. Scott, No. 83,801.
On the Net: Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.org
(source: Associated Press)
Death Penalty In High Court's Hands
The future of Nebraska's death penalty is now in the hands of the State
In a case involving the brutal murder of a young boy, the high court on
Monday heard arguments for and against the electric chair.
The attorney for Raymond Mata, the man convicted and sentenced to death
for killing a 3-year-old Scottsbluff boy and then cutting up the child's
body, believes the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment.
But Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning claims the state has every right
to use the electric chair, and says the United States Supreme Court has
never ruled any specific form of execution unconstitutional.
If the Nebraska Supreme Court finds the electric chair unconstitutional,
the State would be without any form of capitol punishment.
That could send the fight back to the Legislature, where lawmakers are
likely to look at other forms of execution including lethal injection. But
lethal injection has already been outlawed in several states.
Earlier this year convicted killer Carey Dean Moore, who shot and murdered
two Omaha cab drivers nearly 30 years ago, was scheduled to be executed.
However at the last minute the State's high court put Moore's execution,
and any other executions that might come up, on hold until the Mata case
It is not clear when the court will issue it's ruling.
(source: Action 3 News)
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