[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, GA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Sep 20 16:01:40 CDT 2011
Ex-Army Recruiter To Die For Fort Worth Murder
A former Army recruiter set to die Tuesday evening for the rape-slaying of a
woman in Fort Worth nearly a decade ago looked to the U.S. Supreme Court to
stop his scheduled execution for a third time this year.
Cleve Foster, 47, was spared by the high court in January and again in April
shortly before he was to receive lethal injection.
In January, just before the start of a six-hour window when Foster could be
strapped to the death chamber gurney for injection, he won a reprieve so the
justices could further review an appeal in his case. Then in April, the high
court again halted his execution when lawyers sought a rehearing on arguments
he was innocent and had poor legal help at his trial and in early stages of his
His lawyers returned to the court with similar arguments he was innocent and
had previous deficient legal help, specifically asking the court to decide
whether prisoners like Foster had a constitutional guarantee for a competent
lawyer when he first raised claims in a state appeals court. State lawyers said
the issues had been resolved by the courts, that the Supreme Court has ruled
there’s no constitutional right to a competent state-provided lawyer for
appeals, and the last-day appeal was just another attempt to delay Foster’s
Foster would be the 11th Texas prisoner executed this year and the 1st of 2 to
die this week. On Wednesday, Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was set to die for
participating in the notorious dragging death case in Jasper in East Texas.
Brewer was 1 of 2 white men condemned for the death of a black man, James Byrd
Jr., more than 13 years ago, in a hate crime that shocked the nation for its
Foster was 1 of 2 men convicted and sent to death row for fatally shooting
30-year-old Nyaneur Pal, whose body was found in a ditch by pipeline workers on
Valentine’s Day 2002.
“I didn’t do this,” he said recently from outside his cell on death row. “I’ll
fight it to the end.”
Foster’s execution would be the 11th this year in Texas, the nation’s most
active death penalty state.
Foster and a companion, Sheldon Ward, were convicted of fatally shooting Pal,
who came to the U.S. from Sudan and was known as Mary. Pal, who worked at a
country club, was seen talking with Foster and Ward at a Fort Worth bar.
Evidence showed she had been shot once in the head and raped.
A gun identified as the murder weapon was found in a motel room where Foster
and Ward were living. Authorities determined the same gun was used 2 months
earlier to kill another woman, 22-year-old Rachel Urnosky, at her Fort Worth
apartment. She also had been raped.
Foster and Ward were implicated but never tried in her slaying.
Foster blamed Pal’s death on Ward, who was one of his Army recruits.
Prosecutors said evidence showed Foster actively participated in the woman’s
killing, offered no credible explanations, lied and gave contradictory stories
about his sexual activities with Pal.
Her blood and tissue were found on the weapon and DNA evidence showed both men
had sex with her. Ward said the sex was consensual. Foster said he was passed
out from sleeping pills at the time Pal would have been murdered.
Ward died of cancer last year while on death row.
Foster also denied any involvement in Urnosky’s slaying in December 2001. He
told detectives he and Ward were at her apartment but they left when she
refused to have sex with them. The Texas Tech honors graduate was found dead in
her bed after she failed to show up for work.
Rex Barnett, one of Foster’s trial lawyers, said he didn’t believe the evidence
to convict Foster was legally sufficient.
“We did get Ward’s statement in, that he took all the blame for it,” Barnett
A Tarrant County jury, however, didn’t buy it and convicted Foster.
In appeals, attorneys referred to Ward’s several statements claiming sole
responsibility for Pal’s murder.
“The most striking feature of Ward’s `confessions’ is that they are
incompatible with each other,” state lawyers said in their responses to the
Foster grew up in Henderson, Ky., and spent nearly two decades in the Army,
reaching the rank of sergeant first class. He was deployed to the Middle East
during Desert Storm and was assigned to Fort Worth as a recruiter. Records
showed court martial proceedings were started against him after allegations he
gave alcohol to underage students as a recruiter and had sex with an underage
potential recruit. He was denied re-enlistment in the Army and had been out of
the service only a short time when the slayings occurred.
(source: Associated Press)
Troy Davis execution: Georgia pardons board denies plea for clemency----Georgia
man who insists he was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989
set to be executed on Wednesday
One of the most hotly contested death row cases in recent years looks set to go
ahead with the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia on Wednesday.
Davis lost his final bid for clemency despite overwhelming evidence indicating
that his conviction for murder is unreliable.
He will be put on a gurney at the state prison in Jackson and administered a
cocktail of lethal drugs at 7pm local time on Wednesday, barring a last-minute
intervention by the US supreme court which few observers expect to take place.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which alone has power within the
state to commute Davis's death sentence, denied to grant him clemency
having heard e hours of testimony on Monday casting deep doubts on his
Davis, 42, was put on death row 20 years ago for the 1989 murder of a police
officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah following a fight with a homeless man over
a bottle of beer. Since then 7 out of the 9 key witnesses who implicated him
have recanted their evidence, several saying they were cajoled by police into
giving false eye-witness statements.
Another 10 have come forward to point the finger at a separate man present at
the scene of the murder, Sylvester Coles.
Meanwhile, no forensic or DNA evidence linking Davis to the shooting has ever
been found, and nor has the murder weapon.
The denial of clemency by the parole board prompted an outpouring of anger and
despair from hundreds of Twitter users and several celebrity supporters of
Davis's campaign. The prisoner's lawyer, Brian Kammer, said he was "shocked and
disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a
miscarriage of justice".
Amnesty International's US branch, that has championed the case, said:
"Allowing a man to be sent to death under an enormous cloud of doubt about his
guilt is an outrageous affront to justice. The case against Davis unraveled
The public figures who have leant their names to the "Too much doubt" campaign
to have Davis's execution commuted include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former
president Jimmy Carter, the former director of the FBI William Sessions, 51
members of the US Congress and the actor Mia Farrow.
Bianca Jagger, who acts as the Council of Europe's ambassador on the death
penalty, said: "to execute Troy Davis in these circumstances would be a
travesty. Executing an innocent man is a state-sanctioned murder."
The parole board heard from one of the jurors who originally recommended the
death penalty for Davis. Brenda Forrest told the panel she no longer trusted
the verdict or sentence: "I feel, emphatically, that Mr Davis cannot be
executed under these circumstances," she said, according to the Atlanta
The board also heard from Quiana Glover, who testified she had heard Coles
confess in June 2009 to having been the killer, at a party where he had been
But the family of the murdered police officer have consistently expressed their
desire to see Davis executed, saying they have no doubts about his guilt. "A
future was taken from me. The death penalty is the correct form of justice,"
Madison MacPhail, the victim's daughter, said before the parole board
announced its decision.
Over the past 2 decades the Davis case has been subject to an exceptional
number of appeals and hearings reaching to the top of the US justice system.
Numerous court hearings have dismissed the enormous mound of evidence casting
doubt on Davis's conviction as inconclusive.
But the exhaustive nature of previous appeals leads observers to doubt that an
eleventh-hour reprieve will be forthcoming.
(source: The Guardian)
Statement from Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles Troy Davis clemency ruling
This morning, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued its decision
denying clemency for Troy Anthony Davis.
The Board members have not taken their responsibility lightly and certainly
understand the emotions attached to a death penalty case.
Since 2000, the Board has commuted 3 death penalty cases. In considering
clemency in such cases, the Board weighs each case on its own merit.
The Board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case
and thoroughly deliberated on it, after which the Board’s decision was to deny
(source: Savannah Now)
Death Penalty Activism
Barring some miracle, it appears that the state will kill Troy Davis. My
feelings on the death penalty are quite clear, and remain the same in this case
also. You can get more on the legal questions behind denying Davis a retrial
from Andrew Cohen.
But I thought it important to share another story that was brought to my
attention which dove-tails with our conversation last week about personal
activism, and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement.
I refer to the robbery and killing of James C. Anderson at the hands of racist
Mr. Anderson, 48, died shortly after 5 a.m. on June 26. He had been leaving a
motel, and had either lost his keys or locked them in his truck, the police
said. Images from a security video show two carloads of teenagers driving into
the parking lot. Some of them jumped out and approached Mr. Anderson, who was
beaten and robbed. As Mr. Anderson staggered along a grassy strip at the edge
of a parking lot, a teenager driving a Ford pickup truck backed up and then
accelerated forward, running over and killing him, the investigators said.
The lawsuit makes public for the 1st time the names of all 7 people who had
piled into the 2 vehicles that night, charging that while some were directly
responsible for assaulting and killing Mr. Anderson, others were negligent
because they acted as lookouts and did not try to help Mr. Anderson.
One of the people yelled "white power" during the attack, and others used a
racial slur and bragged about the killing, according to the investigators.
Anderson's family is suing the group of young men accused in the killing.
(Anderson was also gay. Mississippi law forbids his partner, with who he was
raising a four-year old girl, from joining in on the suit.)
Here is what Anderson's family is also doing:
The sister of James C. Anderson is asking the district attorney to not seek the
death penalty in her brother's killing -- an alleged hate crime. "Those
responsible for James' death not only ended the life of a talented and
wonderful man," Barbara Anderson Young wrote in her letter.
"They also have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will
not be lessened by the state taking the life of another." She quoted Coretta
Scott King in explaining her opposition to capital punishment: "An evil deed is
not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the
taking of human life...."
Young wrote that the family's opposition to the death penalty is "deeply rooted
in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James' life as well. Our
Savior Jesus Christ rejected the old way of an eye for an eye and taught us
instead to turn the other cheek. He died that we might have everlasting life
and, in doing so, asked that the lives of the two common criminals nailed to
the crosses beside him be spared. We can do no less."
Young said the family also oppose any execution "because it historically has
been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for
killing whites. Executing James' killers will not help to balance the scales.
But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the
elimination of capital punishment."
Indeed. I know many of us are upset right now. I hope this brings some light to
a dark day.
This, too, is activism.
(source: Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, where he writes
about culture, politics, and social issues for TheAtlantic.com and the
A Day of Shame for the State of Georgia and the Justice System
The execution of Troy Davis is nothing less than state-sanctioned murder.
Today, the 20th of September 2011, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and
Paroles refused clemency to Troy Davis, giving the green light to his execution
by lethal injection tomorrow, at 7pm. If Troy Davis's execution is carried out,
it will shame both Georgia, and the US justice system. Executive clemency is
meant to be a fail-safe where the courts have been unwilling, or unable to act.
Larry Cox, head of Amnesty International USA, called it "unconscionable" that
the board denied Davis relief, adding that Davis was "to be sent to death under
an enormous cloud of doubt about his guilt... an outrageous affront to
justice." It is vital that the State of Georgia grant clemency to Troy Davis
and halt a wrongful execution. Otherwise, tomorrow, he will be killed. The US
judicial system has failed to establish Mr Davis's guilt beyond reasonable
I appeal to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider their decision.
I urge Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to intervene, and call
for a withdrawal of Troy Davis' death warrant without delay.
To execute Troy Davis, an innocent man, under these circumstances, would be
Work With the Death Penalty
I have witnessed the state machinery of death at work, selectively killing
people because they are poor, a minority and cannot afford adequate legal
counsel. In 2000 I witnessed the execution of Gary Graham, an innocent man, who
was a juvenile when he was sentenced to death in Texas. I am sickened by the
thought that another innocent man is going to be executed. The similarities
between Gary Graham's and Troy Davis's cases are shocking.
For nearly three decades I have campaigned for justice and human rights
throughout the world. I have called for the abolition of the death penalty
worldwide because I believe that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" in the name of justice as
stipulated in Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The
death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, a premeditated and cold
blooded killing of a human being by the state. I have spoken on behalf of
numerous prisoners on death row; many among them have already been executed. In
2003, I was appointed Council of Europe's Goodwill Ambassador "for the
abolition of the death penalty.' Through the Bianca Jagger Human Rights
Foundation, I continue to advocate and campaign on behalf of prisoners on death
Troy Davis's Case
Troy Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of off-duty police
officer Mark Allen MacPhail, who was shot dead outside a Burger King in
Savannah, Georgia in 1989. Officer MacPhail was intervening on behalf of Larry
Young, a homeless man, who was being harassed in the parking lot of the Burger
King. Officer Mark Allen MacPhail was killed while off duty, during an act of
bravery, while trying to keep the peace. His murder was a terrible crime and a
tragedy. His family and friends have my deepest sympathy. The murderer of
Officer MacPhail must be brought to justice. However, justice will not be
served by executing Troy Davis, an innocent man.
Mr Davis's case presents extremely disturbing facts that should not be
•No physical evidence directly links him to the murder.
•No murder weapon was ever found.
•The case against him primarily rested on witness testimony, which contained
inconsistencies even at the time of the trial.
•Since his trial, seven of nine key witnesses have recanted or changed their
testimony, some alleging police coercion.
•Throughout the trial and subsequent appeals, Troy Davis has maintained his
The dubious nature of the evidence in this case is cause for grave concern. The
Board of Pardons and Paroles has recognized this in the past: In 2007 Troy
Davis was less than 24 hours from execution when the Georgia Board of Pardons
and Paroles issued a stay. The Board said that it would not allow an execution
to go ahead "unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt
as to the guilt of the accused". Since then Troy Davis has faced two more
execution dates, both in 2008, which were stayed by the courts. How can the
Board of Pardons and Paroles deny him clemency, when so much doubt surrounding
his guilt persists?
According to Amnesty International, "1 of the 2 witnesses who has not recanted
his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles -- the principle alternative suspect,
according to the defence, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as
the gunman. Ten individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester
One of the witnesses who appeared at a June 2010 evidentiary hearing was
Benjamin Gordon, who, at the 2008 hearing, had signed a statement that an
alternative suspect had told him that he had shot Officer MacPhail. At the
hearing, Benjamin Gordon asserted for the first time that he had actually seen
this individual shoot the police officer. Benjamin Gordon, who had just turned
16 at the time of the crime, again alleged that he had been coerced by police
into signing a statement implicating Davis. He said that he had not come
forward sooner with the assertion about seeing who shot the officer out of
fear, and that he had decided to "come in today and just let the truth be
known." Judge Moore, however, concluded that Benjamin Gordon was "not a
Another 7 witnesses have also recanted their testimony, and spoken out over the
course of the appeals for Troy Davis, adamant that he is innocent.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one witness, Jeffrey Sapp, gave
an account of how "police awakened him late one night and took him in for
questioning. He said one officer was yelling at him in one ear, another officer
was yelling in his other ear and another was yelling at him from behind."
"I was so scared I told them anything they wanted to hear," he testified. "They
kept saying, 'Just say Troy told you. Just say Troy told you.'" Another
witness, Kevin McQueen, also testified at trial that Davis told him he shot and
killed MacPhail. At a later appeal, he said this had not happened. He had been
trying to get back at Davis for a dispute. "There's no truth to it," McQueen
said at the appeal. When asked by one of Davis' lawyers, Philip Horton, if he
had anything to gain by testifying now, McQueen replied, "Peace of mind."
Troy Davis's case has been through the appeals process, and serious doubt over
his guilt remains. Much of the evidence has been recanted, and it is far from
conclusive. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments require proof "beyond a
reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he
is charged." This condition has not been met in the case of Troy Davis. The US
judicial system has failed to establish Mr Davis's guilt. There are serious
questions as to Troy Davis's criminal liability. To execute him under these
circumstances would be an egregious travesty of justice. The many doubts
surrounding his guilt make Mr Davis the ideal candidate for clemency. The State
Board of Pardons and Paroles has failed in its duty, today.
Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm can right this appalling
injustice, and call for a withdrawal of Troy Davis' death warrant without
Execution of the Innocent
The number of prisoners executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty
in 1976, is 1267. Last year 46 were executed. Thirty five states still have the
death penalty. These state sanctioned murders have no place in 21st century
society. Only when it gets its own house in order can America claim to stand
for freedom and justice. According to the Death Penalty Information Center,
since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1973, 138 people have been
released from death row in 26 states with evidence of their innocence. From
1973-1999, there was an average of 3.1 exonerations per year. From 2000-2007,
there has been an average of 5 exonerations per year.
They were the fortunate ones that got away before it was too late, sometimes
within minutes of being killed, but no one knows how many innocents have been
executed. At least 39 executions are claimed to have been carried out in the
U.S. in the face of evidence of innocence or serious doubt about guilt.
Newly-available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration and release of more
than 15 death row inmates since 1992, but DNA evidence is available in only a
fraction of capital cases. There is too much doubt, and too much potential for
error for the State to justify the irrevocable, final step of taking a life. In
Troy Davis's case, the inconsistencies are glaring, and deeply troubling. As
Larry Cox, head of Amnesty International USA, said today, "Should Troy Davis be
executed, Georgia may well have executed an innocent man and in so doing
discredited the justice system".
It is impossible to ensure that innocent people are not executed. During his
first presidential campaign President George W. Bush said "I am confident that
every person that has been put to death in Texas on my watch has been guilty of
the crime charged and had full access to the courts." However it was during his
tenure as Governor that I witnessed the execution of a man I believe to have
been innocent: Gary Graham. One of the most serious arguments against the death
penalty is that our legal systems are not infallible. Miscarriages of justice
occur far more often than most people realize. When the state executes an
innocent person it is a state sanctioned murder. I dread that Troy Davis will
become another victim.
Application of the death penalty is disturbingly arbitrary. Stays of execution
and reprieve are granted erratically, according to Judge Boyce Martin, Jr. who
described the current application of the death penalty in the US as: "[T]he
dysfunctional patchwork of stays and executions going on in this country... In
some instances stays are granted, while in others they are not and the
defendants are executed, with no principled distinction to justify such a
A system that claims to be just according to American law should not have death
sentences concentrated in only one region. However, studies in the USA show
that whether a person receives the death penalty depends heavily on where the
crime was committed. As the Death Penalty Information Center states, "the 2009
FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The
South accounts for over 80% of executions." The death penalty is unfair,
arbitrary and capricious, often based on jurisprudence fraught with racial
discrimination and judicial bias.
Arbitrary Clemency in the United States
Clemency should have a proper role in correcting legal mistakes in an imperfect
system. In a decision written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in Herrera
v. Collins, the Supreme Court said that clemency "is the historic remedy for
preventing miscarriages of justice where judicial process has been exhausted."
January 25, 1993 The Court further stated that "it is an unalterable fact that
our judicial system, like the human beings who administer it, is fallible." In
essence, the people must and should have a last recourse through the executive
branch when the courts have failed. Deplorably, in the United Stated there is a
lack of meaningful appellate review in commutation proceedings. Defendants have
poor access to executive clemency and too often the States fails to recognize
the defendant's capacity for change, rehabilitation and remorse. Those who are
executed are rarely those who have committed the worst crimes; the death
penalty is a Russian roulette.
A system of jurisprudence based on arbitrariness and whim cannot be deemed a
justice system. The application of the death penalty is erratic, unwarranted
and 'dysfunctional.' The US cannot continue to execute its citizens under such
loose, bungling mechanisms. Yet this 'dysfunctional' system has been given
executive power to take Troy Davis's life tomorrow.
Every measure possible must be taken to ensure that Troy Davis is not murdered
at the hands of the state tomorrow evening. I have watched an innocent man
executed by lethal injection. It was a devastating experience. Whether the
person tied to the gurney awaiting execution is guilty or innocent, it is
wrong, and barbaric.
In June 2000, I witnessed the execution of Gary Graham, who asked that he be
known as Shaka Sankofa. People throughout the world believed Gary Graham to be
innocent. I am convinced that he was. Gary Graham was 17, a minor when he was
sentenced to death. He spent 19 years on death row for a crime he time and
again denied that he committed. He was sentenced to death based on the strength
of one eyewitness testimony. Evidence, subsequently uncovered, calls into
question this witness identification. Six other witnesses signed affidavits
stating that the killer was not Gary Graham. He could have been saved by The
State Board of Pardons and Parole and yet they denied clemency. Gary Graham was
executed on 22 June 2000.
I cannot put into words my feelings on that day. Gazing through a Plexiglas
window, I could see Gary Graham tied to a hospital trolley and about to be
killed. It reminded me of a modern-day cross. I was terrified at the thought of
witnessing another human being killed.
His forehead was in held in restraint by a leather strap and he had to strain
his head to look at us. His look was intense. Suddenly, he began to speak. He
knew they would be his last words on earth: "I'm an innocent black man that is
being murdered. What is happening here is an outrage for any civilized
country." It was at that point that I broke down. We told him we loved him. I
put my hands and face on the glass. I was just four feet away.
I was in Texas, in the United States of America, a country that proclaims
itself to be the world's most progressive force on human rights. But we were
witnessing the execution of a man about whose alleged crime there were many
disturbing doubts. His last words were a chilling reminder of the racial
prejudice and bitter injustice that pervades the American judicial system. It
is a place where life, liberty and happiness are all too often replaced by the
pursuit of death, imprisonment and hatred.
We thought that they would begin the execution procedure when he stopped making
his last statement, but they had been killing him as he was talking to us. He
called me by name before he died.
The similarities between Gary Graham and Troy Davis are uncanny. Both have been
convicted for crimes over which there are many disturbing doubts. Both
maintained their innocence for almost two decades. Their convictions both rest
predominantly on witnesses testimony, most of which has been recanted. Both are
African American men accused of killing a white man, struggling for clemency in
a southern American state.
Camus has said that "Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders."
There is no excuse for any country in the world, in the twenty first century,
to continue to execute their citizens. Some nations have applied this barbaric
practice for centuries at an unthinkable cost. That cost is both ethical and
financial, but most of all it is a horrendous cost of human life, and of
innocent lives. As long as the US continues to be a bastion of the death
penalty, it cannot claim to be a beacon of democracy.
However, whether one supports or opposes the death penalty, a central tenet of
the American justice system is that those who receive the government's harshest
punishment must have been proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Too many
disturbing doubts remain in the case of Troy Davis.
Troy Davis's execution would only serve to complete the cycle of violence. By
reconsidering their decision, the Board of Pardons and Paroles would
demonstrate Georgia's commitment to upholding the law, and the principles of
fairness and justice. Nothing can undermine public faith in a criminal justice
system faster than an execution when there are still serious doubts about
guilt. Georgia cannot afford to make such a mistake.
I once more appeal to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider their
I urge Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to intervene, and call
for a withdrawal of Troy Davis's death warrant without delay.
I urge you to do everything in your power to prevent this injustice from taking
If Troy Davis is executed tomorrow it will be a day of shame for Georgia, and
for the US justice system.
(source: Bianca Jagger is a Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador to Abolish
the Death Penalty and a Member of the Executive Director's Leadership Council,
Amnesty International USA; Huffington Post)
Troy Davis execution: repeated trips to death chamber 'amount to torture'--Troy
Davis has come close to being executed four times – and human rights
campaigners describe effects of multiple exposure to imminent judicial death as
Should the execuction of Troy Davis go ahead on Wednesday night as expected, it
would be the 4th occasion he has come within a short time of being administered
with lethal drugs in as many years.
On 23 September 2008, Davis came within 90 minutes of execution. He was taken
off the gurney after the US supreme court intervened.
That was his second execution date. On 16 July 2007 he was granted a stay just
one day before he was due to die, and on 24 October 2008, at the 3rd attempt to
kill him, he was spared temporarily three days before his execution date.
Experts in death row and its psychological impact on prisoners say that such
multiple exposure to imminent judicial death is tantamount to a form of
torture. It can induce post-traumatic stress disorder, and human rights
campaigners say it should be classified as cruel and unnatural treatment that
should be banned, irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner.
Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist with extensive experience of treating death row
inmates, has had patients who came within hours of death but were later proven
to have been innocent. "I have watched what happens to them, and the effects
are horrendous. People suffer immeasurably."
One of his patients came close to being executed on the electric chair. "The
image of burning up in the chair stayed with him for years afterwards."
Brian Evans, a death row specialist with the US branch of Amnesty, pointed out
that under international law, mock executions were considered to be a form of
torture. "Troy Davis's treatment was not a mock execution, but it has had the
same effect. Especially when he has come within hours of death, and said his
final goodbyes – that is certainly similar to torture."
Evans added that the process was also unbearable for the families of victims.
"The constant waiting, the many false promises – that's abusive of their rights
For many death row prisoners, the prospect of walking the line, possibly
several times, proves to be too much. A 2004 study by John Blume of Cornell law
school found that 106 of the 822 executions that had then been carried out in
the modern era in America involved prisoners who had voluntarily gone to their
deaths, eschewing all appeals.
Some see that as a form of judicial suicide.
In the most gruesome cases, prisoners have actually had their executions called
In May 1946, Willie Francis, a black boy then aged 17, was put on the electric
chair in Louisiana for murdering his white employer the year before. The
instrument of death was improperly set up by a drunk prison guard, and Francis
screamed out from behind his leather hood: "I'm n-not dying!"
He was taken back to his cell, then executed back on the same electric chair a
On 15 September 2009, Romell Broom was strapped to a gurney awaiting death by
lethal injection in Ohio. Executioners struggled to find a useable vein into
which to inject the lethal drugs. Broom was reported to wince and grimace, and
at one point appeared to be sobbing.
After 2 hours, the then governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, called the execution
off. Broom was returned to death row, where he remains today.
(source: The Guardian)
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