[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ARK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 28 19:24:42 CST 2009
Man convicted in killing 4 people executed
Texas has executed a former Houston security guard for gunning down 4
people, including his ex-girlfriend and her 2 small children, during a
1996 shooting frenzy.
41-year-old Virgil Martinez was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m. Wednesday.
Martinez was condemned for the slayings of 27-year-old Veronica Fuentes;
her 5-year-old son, Joshua; 3-year-old daughter, Casandra; and an
18-year-old neighbor, John Gomez.
Lawyers for Martinez had hoped to get the punishment delayed, raising
questions he may be so mentally ill that he could be disqualified for
execution. A state court denied the request.
Martinez becomes the 4th Texas inmate executed this year and the 1st of 2
on consecutive nights this week in the nation's most active death penalty
state. He becomes the 427th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas
since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982, and the 188th
overall to be put to death since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.
Martinez becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1142nd overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977. There are 7 executions currently set to occur in the USA
in February, including 3 in Texas and 1 each in Tennessee, Alabama,
Virginia and South Carolina.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Lawyer: Ark. lethal injection policies unsound
Arkansas has yet to prove that its lethal injection procedures are
constitutional, as the state's policies allow for "the infliction of
hideous pain and suffering," court filings by a federal public defender
The filings to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis were on
behalf of four death-row inmates spared execution until the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled in a similar case from Kentucky. Now, the men's lawyers hope
to spare them again by asking the appeals court to allow a lawsuit
challenging the state's procedure to continue, even though the nation's
highest court found Kentucky's execution methods constitutional last year.
In court documents, federal public defender Julie Brain claimed the state
covers up the condemned's body with a sheet during lethal injection -
blocking executioners' view of intravenous lines. Executioners also might
use backup IV lines if something goes wrong without first readministering
the anesthetic used in the 3-drug cocktail, Brain wrote.
In both situations, the inmate would suffer "constitutionally
unacceptable" extreme pain, she wrote.
"The prisoner may then regain consciousness and he will then experience
the agonizing burning of the potassium chloride and the buried-alive
suffocation of the pancuronmium bromide," Brain wrote. State policy
"presents a substantial risk that precisely this terrible series of events
Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction, said the
condemned inmate's arms are clearly visible during the execution. Tyler
said Brain's assertion came only from a post-mortem photograph taken of an
executed prisoner. Tyler said guards pulled the sheet up over the inmate's
arms "out of respect."
As far as restarting the drug cocktail, Tyler said the dosage given to the
inmate is fatal by itself. Any trouble with the IV lines would be noticed
by either the executioners or guards in the death chamber, she said.
"After the 1st drug is administered, the condemned inmate is out," Tyler
said. "They will not wake up. They will not recover."
Brain also cited what he said was a history of "botched" executions
conducted in Arkansas, including the January 1992 execution of Rickey Ray
Rector. Rector, 40, could be heard groaning off and on for almost 20
minutes before workers pulled back the curtain shielding the execution
An autopsy conducted on Rector later found 10 puncture marks where the
execution team tried inserting IV lines. The report also shows
executioners likely used a cut-down procedure - cutting into muscle - on
part of the skin from his right arm to find a vein for the IV line.
While a state official has said executioners will not cut through muscle
to find an inmate's veins in the future, Brain said inmates could still
face the painful procedure.
Brain also questioned the layout of the execution chamber. Executioners
sit in a separate room, observing the inmate through glass and operating
the IV lines snaked through an opening. Syringes with the 3-drug cocktail
also are labeled only with numbers, not the names of the drugs inside,
Arkansas death-row inmates Don William Davis, Jack Harold Jones, Terrick
Nooner and Frank Williams Jr. are all parties in the suit before the 8th
Circuit. Brain asked the appeals court to overturn a decision by U.S.
District Judge Susan Webber Wright that dismissed the inmates' suit.
Wright found Arkansas' execution policies "substantially similar" to the
execution procedure in Kentucky, which was approved in a landmark Supreme
Court decision in April 2007. Arkansas prison officials updated the
state's lethal injection protocol after the Supreme Court case, setting
experience guidelines for execution. The policy also requires executioners
to check for fluttering eyelids and shake condemned inmates to ensure they
are unconscious before delivering the 2 final drugs.
All 4 inmates faced execution dates after Wright's rulling, but they
were later stopped by various legal challenges. A separate suit by
Williams over whether the state prison system should have notified the
public when changing its lethal-injection procedures has effectively
stopped executions in Arkansas.
(source: Associated Press)
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