[Deathpenalty] [POSSIBLE SPAM] death penalty news----TEXAS, ARIZ.. ARK., CALIF.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Aug 20 11:27:44 CDT 2011
New death penalty law could affect Wichita Falls law enforcement
Most citizens of Wichita Falls favor the new Texas law which makes anyone who
murders a child under age 10 eligible for the death penalty.
A man who works for the Wichita Falls AT&T office was surprised today
(Saturday) to learn that the previous law in Texas only applied the death
penalty to someone who murdered a child under age 6.
He said, "I personally think this will be a good change in the law. Anyone who
intentionally murders a child under 10 should be eligible for the death
A Wichita Falls lady said, "Anything that decreases the murder of children is a
good thing as far as I'm concerned. If this stops the murder of one child it's
a good law."
John Stride and Shannon Edmonds, of the Texas District and County Attorneys
Association, were recently in Wichita Falls to discuss changes in criminal laws
by the 82nd Texas Legislature which will affect Wichita Falls law enforcement.
(source: Wichita Falls Law Enforcement Examiner)
E-mails detail FDA's efforts to avoid responsibility regarding execution drug
In late September 2010, the Arizona Department of Corrections obtained the drug
sodium thiopental from a small pharmaceutical supply house in London to carry
out an execution by lethal injection in October.
The supply house was not registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
to export the drug, nor was the drug approved by FDA, but FDA officials in
Phoenix nonetheless allowed the drug into the country.
Though the Corrections Department fought hard in court to keep the source of
the drug secret, days before the October execution was carried out, The Arizona
Republic learned that it had been imported from England.
>From documents obtained this week from the FDA under the Freedom of Information
Act, The Republic has learned that the revelation touched off inquiries into
how the drug made it to Arizona and other states that had already been
importing it from England and elsewhere.
Then, the FDA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Customs
and Border Patrol all consulted with the White House to address questions about
the legality of the imports and to justify bending the rules to get it to
prisons for executions.
The documents released by the FDA offer an insider's view of an agency
struggling to keep itself from being dragged into the national legal debate
over drugs used in state executions. Some of the released documents were
supposed to be redacted to conceal certain details, but encryption failed.
Those e-mails show, among other things, that the FDA, with the approval of
unnamed persons at the White House, shifted responsibility for allowing the
drug's import to Customs. That was done to avoid legal liability and to shield
the FDA from any appearance of involvement with the death penalty.
One high-placed FDA official wrote on Nov. 2 that even if the agency issued a
statement that it had not reviewed the drugs for "safety, efficacy or quality .
. . it will insert FDA into the death-penalty cases because attorneys will try
to use the statement as a means to open proceedings on the safety of the
By the end of 2010, the FDA officially stated it would "continue to defer to
law enforcement on all matters involving lethal injection," and the e-mails
show that it had deferred approval of the drug imports to Customs.
When asked for comment, Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail
response, "This involves a matter in litigation and the agency does not comment
on matters of litigation."
Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix, one of the
plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to force the FDA to police the drug imports,
also received the FDA documents whose redactions were visible. He said he
declined to review them because of attorney ethical considerations.
"It is hard for me to say because I have not seen the documents," Baich said.
"But it appears that the FDA was concerned, as were we, about how Arizona
obtained the drugs. We have alleged the drugs were illegally imported and the
FDA fell short in its duty under the law. This information seems to support our
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is also suing the FDA
for information about thiopental imports, and this week's FOIA release was
partly spurred by the ACLU's requests.
The FDA meanwhile, asked the federal public defender, the ACLU and The Republic
to return the unredacted materials. The Republic declined.
By May 2010, sodium thiopental was scarce in the United States, and by late
September of that year, as Arizona was preparing to execute its first prisoner
in 2 years, the drug was virtually unavailable domestically because the only
U.S. manufacturer had ceased production. Arizona, like other states, scrambled
to find it overseas.
The 1st Arizona thiopental shipment cleared FDA approval on Sept. 28. In a
timeline prepared months later, the FDA representative in Phoenix told his
superiors that he "assumed entry would be legal."
But then the FDA representative found that Dream Pharma, the British supply
house, was not authorized to export it to the U.S. Subsequent e-mails confirmed
what Baich and others have said from the beginning: The drug was not approved
for use in the United States.
The flurry of intra-agency e-mails of concern began Oct. 27, the day after
Arizona executed death-row inmate Jeffrey Landrigan with British thiopental,
and 2 days after The Republic revealed the drug's country of origin. FDA
officials began tracking shipments to other states that had been allowed into
By Nov. 5, e-mails were referring to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg's
request to investigate how to "extricate FDA from the process." On Nov. 9, the
e-mails said the White House wanted the FDA to set up a conference to discuss
the matter, even while FDA officials were still trying to figure out how to
temporarily defuse the situation with Charles Flanagan, deputy director of the
Arizona Department of Corrections. Flanagan was reportedly "very upset" and
insisting that FDA personnel return his phone calls about further thiopental
shipments that had been detained.
By Nov. 16, the e-mails asked whether the problem could be deferred to the DEA,
and then by Nov. 22, the decision seemed made to "defer entirely to Customs."
Into mid-December, the White House was asking for a detailed description of the
FDA's plan to exercise enforcement discretion and not police thiopental
shipments to prisons.
Then the federal government was forced to curtail the imports for another
reason. According to one e-mail, the Georgia Department of Corrections asked
the DEA to check if that agency had been authorized to import thiopental. It
was not, and the DEA was forced to seize its supply of the drug in March. The
e-mail goes on to say that the drug might not have been seized had Georgia not
asked the question in the 1st place.
In late June, DEA officials told the Arizona Department of Corrections not to
use thiopental in its execution of inmate Donald Beaty. A different drug was
used instead and has been used since. It had almost been foretold in a March 16
memo from an FDA attorney.
"I am trying to test a hunch and that hunch is that between bad publicity,
lawsuits, and product seizures, there will be less of a desire to bring this
product in," he wrote.
(source: Arizona Republic)
Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas
The end, if it can be called that, came all of a sudden.
After nearly 2 decades in prison for the murder of 3 young boys, Damien Echols,
Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., commonly known as the West Memphis 3,
stood up in a courtroom here on Friday, proclaimed their innocence even as they
pleaded guilty, and, minutes later, walked out as free men.
The freeing of Mr. Echols, 36, was the highest-profile release of a death row
inmate in recent memory. Mr. Baldwin, 34, and Mr. Misskelley, 36, had been
serving life sentences.
In keeping with the tenor of this case since its first horrific hours, the
circumstances of the release were bizarre, divisive and bewildering even to
some of those who were directly involved.
Under the terms of a deal with prosecutors, Mr. Echols, Mr. Baldwin and Mr.
Misskelley leave as men who maintain their innocence yet who pleaded guilty to
murder, as men whom the state still considers to be child killers but whom the
state deemed safe enough to set free.
Despite a half-hour of esoteric legal procedure, the courtroom was charged with
raw feeling, and several of the relatives of the victims were ejected for their
outbursts. One told the judge he was opening a Pandora’s box in allowing this
deal; another shouted that the defendants were murderers and baby-killers.
The hearing was something of a reunion, with reporters, former defense lawyers,
family members and observers who have followed the case for 2 decades coming
together possibly for the last time. Families joyously anticipating homecomings
sat next to long-grieving fathers contemplating a dreaded turn of events they
had not thought possible days earlier.
At a news conference afterward, surrounded by lawyers and treated as
celebrities by their army of supporters, including the singer Eddie Vedder and
members of the Dixie Chicks, the men seemed, above all, exhausted.
“I’m just tired,” Mr. Echols said. “This has been going on for 18 years.”
It was May 1993 when the nude bodies of three 8-year-old boys, Christopher
Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore, were found in a drainage canal in Robin
Hood Hills, a wooded area in the poor Arkansas town of West Memphis. The bodies
appeared to have been mutilated, and their hands were tied to their feet.
The grotesque nature of the murders, coming in the midst of a nationwide
concern about satanic cult activity, especially among teenagers, led
investigators from the West Memphis Police Department to focus on Mr. Echols, a
troubled yet gifted 18-year-old who wore all black, listened to heavy metal
music and considered himself a Wiccan. Efforts to learn more about him through
a woman cooperating with the police led to Mr. Misskelley, a 17-year-old
acquaintance of Mr. Echols’s.
After a nearly 12-hour police interrogation, Mr. Misskelley confessed to the
murders and implicated Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin, who was 16 at the time,
though his confession diverged in significant details, like the time of the
murders, with the facts known by the police. Mr. Misskelley later recanted, but
on the strength of that confession he was convicted in February 1994.
Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin soon after were convicted of three counts of capital
murder in a separate trial in Jonesboro, where the proceedings had been moved
because of extensive publicity in West Memphis. The convictions were largely
based on the testimony of witnesses who said they heard the teenagers talk of
the murders, and on the prosecution’s argument that the defendants had been
motivated as members of a satanic cult. Mr. Misskelley’s confession was not
admitted at their trial, though recently a former lawyer for that jury’s
foreman filed an affidavit saying that the foreman, determined to convict, had
brought the confession up in deliberations to sway undecided jurors.
While many were convinced of the guilt of Mr. Echols, the alleged ringleader,
others were immediately skeptical, believing he was singled out for being an
outsider in a small town.
An award-winning documentary, “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood
Hills,” was released after their convictions, bringing them national attention.
Benefit concerts were held, books were written, a follow-up documentary was
made and a movement to free the “West Memphis Three” grew in size and
intensity, drawing those intrigued by the case and those who saw a kinship with
the men at the heart of it.
“I was kind of going through the same clothing style: long hair, dark clothes,”
said Mecinda Smith, 30, one of the hundreds of supporters who had come to the
courthouse, holding posters and wearing “Free the WM3” T-shirts.
“We were just trying to stand out and be different,” said Ms. Smith, who was 12
when the murders took place.
Many residents of West Memphis often resented, and still resent, the
presumption that outsiders knew the details of the horrific case better than
“It just goes to show you that he’s been manipulating,” said Steve Branch, the
father of one of the victims, referring to Mr. Echols. Mr. Branch was among
those ejected for an outburst at the hearing. “As far as I’m concerned, he was
going to pay for killing my son.”
But even some of the victims’ families began to doubt the men’s guilt,
including Stevie Branch’s mother, Pamela Hobbs, and John Mark Byers, the father
of Chris Byers. Both attended the hearing. “Three young men have had 18 years
of their lives taken away,” said Mr. Byers, who appeared in the original
documentary profanely condemning the men. “To see them get out and have a
normal life is a blessing from God.”
Over the years, appeals failed, as did post-conviction hearings, but the case
got new life in 2007 when defense lawyers representing Mr. Echols reported that
new forensic tests of evidence at the crime scene turned up no genetic material
belonging to any of the men — and even turned up some belonging to Stevie
Branch’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs was at the hearing, too.
Last November, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that there was enough evidence
to call a hearing to determine whether to have a new trial. The hearing was
scheduled for this December.
But it was less than three weeks ago that lawyers representing Mr. Echols began
working on a deal to offer to prosecutors that would free the men.
Under the seemingly contradictory deal, Judge David Laser vacated the previous
convictions, including the capital murder convictions for Mr. Echols and Mr.
Baldwin. After doing so, he ordered a new trial, something the prosecutors
agreed to if the men would enter so-called Alford guilty pleas. These pleas
allow people to maintain their innocence and admit frankly that they are
pleading guilty because they consider it in their best interest.
The 3 men did just that, standing in court and quietly proclaiming their
innocence but at the same time pleading guilty to charges of 1st- and
2nd-degree murder. The judge then sentenced them to 18 years and 78 days, the
amount of time they had served, and also levied a suspended sentence of 10
The prosecuting attorney, Scott Ellington, said in an interview that the state
still considered the men guilty and that, new DNA findings notwithstanding, he
knew of no current suspects.
“We don’t think that there is anybody else,” Mr. Ellington said, declaring the
Asked how he could free murderers if he believed they were guilty, he
acknowledged that the three would likely be acquitted if a new trial were held,
given the prominent lawyers now representing them, the fact that evidence has
decayed or disappeared over time and the death or change of heart of several
witnesses. He also expressed concern that if the men were exonerated at trial,
they could sue the state, possibly for millions.
“I believe that with all the circumstances that were facing the state in this
case, this resolution is one that is palatable and I think that after a period
of time it will be acceptable to the public as the right thing,” Mr. Ellington
Not all of the three welcomed the deal. During the 1994 trial, prosecutors
offered to reduce Mr. Baldwin’s sentence if he pleaded guilty and testified
against Mr. Echols. He refused then and initially resisted this deal, insisting
as a matter of principle that he would not plead guilty to something he did not
But, he said, his refusing this deal would have meant Mr. Echols stayed on
“This was not justice,” he said of the deal. “However, they’re trying to kill
The lawyers for the men said they would continue to pursue full exoneration.
Other than that, none of the men said they had any immediate plans.
(source: New York Times)
Death penalty foes applaud WM3 outcome
The Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, led by Christian Ruud, issued
this statement on today's action in the West Memphis Three case:
We mark the release of Damien Echols from death row and co-defendants Jessie
Misskelley and Jason Baldwin — both serving life terms — with a somber sense of
We are pleased that Damien Echols does not now face the prospect of an
execution for the murders of three 8-year-old boys.
We are somber in our gratitude because we know this is not over for the
families of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore. They have
endured this ordeal from that first tragic discovery in Robin Hood Hills to
this day when they find themselves no closer to justice.
And for that, we are deeply sorry.
Given what has happened here, we urge officials who have taken the laudable
step of releasing these young men to first determine what more they might be
able to do to support the Branch, Byers, and Moore families at this time.
We further urge them to take the next step of determining why it is that Echols
was sentenced to death and Misskelley and Baldwin to life sentences only to be
released these many years later while still maintaining their innocence.
Now is the time for a frank and open debate about whether there are adequate
protections in the law to prevent innocent people from being sentenced to death
and executed. We also have to ask ourselves some hard questions about whether,
given the difficult decisions that must be made when allocating limited
resources for law enforcement, education, and child protective services, it
makes sense to retain the death penalty as an expensive feature of our criminal
We believe that a fair and honest dialogue will lead policy makers and the
public to see that in the end — whether you support the death penalty or not —
as a practical matter, the system cannot be maintained. The extraordinary
protections and systems required to reduce the risk of a wrongful execution are
costly both in monetary terms and in the impact on law enforcement, court
personnel, and to the families of victims. Even with these costs, there are no
We urge you to join us in this discussion. You need give only a little of your
time and attention to make a big difference. Learn more at www.ACADP.org.
Damien Echols' statement on plea deal
Damien Echols, freed from death row in Friday's West Memphis 3 plea bargain,
released the following statement Friday:
To all my friends and family, my attorneys and advocates, and to those of you
from every corner of this earth who have stood beside us these long years,
please know that I will forever be indebted to all of you for helping me to
become a free man. Each and every day I was the beneficiary of acts of kindness
and humanity from people of all walks of life, of all ages, nationalities,
religions and political persuasions. The enormity of the support Lorri and I
received throughout this struggle is humbling.
I have now spent half my life on death row. It is a torturous environment that
no human being should have to endure, and it needed to end. I am innocent, as
are Jason and Jessie, but I made this decision because I did not want to spend
another day of my life behind those bars. I want to live and to continue to
fight for our innocence. Sometimes justice is neither pretty nor is it perfect,
but it was important to take this opportunity to be free.
I am not alone as there are tens of thousand of men and woman in this country
who have been wrongfully convicted, forced into a false confession, sentenced
to death or a lifetime in prison. I am hopeful that one day they too will be
able stand with their friends and family to declare their innocence.
This whole experience has taught me much about life, human nature, American
justice, survival and transcendence.
I will hopefully take those lessons with me as I embark on the next chapter in
my journey and along the way look forward to enjoying some of those simple
things in life like spending Christmastime, Halloween and my birthday with
those I love.
(source for both: Arkansas Times)
Man Could Face Death Penalty for Killing a Store Clerk
A man sentenced to die in Arizona for murdering a police officer should face
the death penalty in California for the killing of a store clerk in Blythe 16
years ago, Riverside County prosecutors said Friday.
Ernesto Salgado Martinez, 36, is defending himself against a charge of fatally
shooting the store clerk on the same day he murdered a peace officer in
Arizona. He has already been sentenced to death in Arizona for the Aug. 15,
1995, killing of Department of Public Safety Officer Robert Martin.
At a discovery hearing at the Larson Justice Center Friday, Riverside County
Deputy District Attorney Victoria Weiss told Superior Court Judge William S.
Lebov that prosecutors intend to seek capital punishment for Martinez in the
Blythe case, according to court records.
In August 1995, Martinez shot Martin four times during a traffic stop near
Phoenix and took the 57-year-old officer's weapon before speeding off. He was
brought to Riverside County last August to face a 1st-degree murder charge for
allegedly shooting 43-year-old Randip Singh, a convenience store clerk in
Blythe, several hours after Martin was killed.
Martinez -- who was convicted of Martin's murder in 1998 -- has exhausted all
of his appeals at the state level. One federal appeal remains before his
Arizona death sentence can be carried out, Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan
said in May.
Arizona authorities had asked Riverside County prosecutors to hold off seeking
the death penalty in California until the state-level appeals process was
completed in Arizona, said John Hall of the Riverside County District
Martinez is currently jailed without bail in Indio. He opted in March to
represent himself in the Blythe case and is due back in court Aug. 25 for a
felony settlement conference, which was rescheduled from Friday.
According to investigators, ballistics testing matched a shell casing found at
the Blythe store to the bullets in Martin's service weapon. When Martinez was
arrested in Indio, both the .38-caliber pistol used to kill Martin and Martin's
gun were recovered, authorities said.
(source: KPSP News)
More information about the DeathPenalty