[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ILL., FLA., USA, PENN., OHIO
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Sep 20 16:02:43 CDT 2011
ACLU of Illinois Celebrates Civil Unions and End of the Death Penalty at Dinner
Featuring Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
2 major legislative victories from the past year will be highlighted and
celebrated during the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois' annual Bill
of Rights Celebration, scheduled for Saturday, September 24, 2011, at the
Westin River North Hotel in Chicago. The event will honor all the legislators
who voted for the creation of civil unions for all couples in Illinois and the
end of the state's dysfunctional, arbitrary death penalty system. Governor Pat
Quinn later signed both measures into law.
The dinner also features keynote remarks by former United States Senator Russ
Feingold. Feingold, who currently is a visiting professor at Marquette
University Law School and founder of Progressives United, served in the United
States Senate from 1993 until 2011. In the Senate, Feingold was the only U.S.
Senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act, opposed the Defense of Marriage
Act, called early for a timetable to exit the war in Iraq and opposed a host of
efforts to limit reproductive freedom. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is
writing a forthcoming book "While America Sleeps," describing what America has
done wrong domestically and abroad since the terrorist attacks of September 11,
"We are so pleased to honor the legislators from both sides of the political
aisle who acted so courageously to extend basic protections and dignity through
civil unions and end the death penalty system that had embarrassed our states,"
said Colleen Connell, Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union
of Illinois. "It has been a remarkable year in Illinois with these two
advancements. Our members and supporters look forward to celebrating these
(source: ACLU of Illinois)
Lethal injection drug overcomes court challenges
How are prisoners on Florida’s death row and unwanted dogs and cats in a city
pound alike? They are put to death using the same medication. Last month, the
Florida Supreme Court ruled pentobarbital -- a barbiturate used most regularly
to euthanize unwanted animals -- can be part of the lethal cocktail used to
Manuel Valle, 61 years old and a 33-year resident of Florida’s death row, is
next in line to be put to death using pentobarbital.
Anti-death-penalty activists had hoped to stop Valle’s execution because they
claim the use of pentobarbital is “cruel and unusual punishment” when used in
lethal injections. They say that pentobarbital is unsafe and unreliable and
that using the drug as the first part of a 3-drug combination would risk
needless pain and suffering for the condemned.
Valle was convicted of killing a Miami police officer in 1978. Florida’s new
attorney general, Pam Bondi, is determined to see his sentence carried out.
Valle’s death warrant was the first signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott when he
took office in January.
Valle has had several stays of execution since August. His latest execution
date is set for Sept. 28.
Typically, lethal injections use a cocktail of drugs: sodium thiopental, a
barbiturate that puts the prisoner to sleep, followed by the muscle relaxant
pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
But when Hospira Inc., the sole manufacture of sodium thiopental, ran short of
the drug in 2010 and then stopped making it in 2011, states were forced to find
Pentobarbital is “the drug of the moment,” said Richard Dieter, executive
director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
In December, Oklahoma became the first state to propose using the drug, the
first state challenged in court and the first state to win the court case.
Similar challenges against pentobarbital have been made and overturned in
Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia.
Pentobarbital now has been used in 22 executions.
Florida could raise that count to 23.
Executions in Ohio are on hold while a federal district court decides if that
state can use only a single drug, pentobarbital, to execute prisoners, instead
of a 3-drug mixture.
The Georgia Supreme Court allowed that state to execute Roy Blankenship June 23
using pentobarbital, but eyewitnesses said Blankenship, though strapped down,
jerked his head throughout the procedure and muttered after the pentobarbital
As a result of the controversy, a judge in Georgia has ordered that executions
be videotaped because, he ruled, “we need an objective recording to eliminate
any dispute as to what transpires” during a lethal injection.
Pentobarbital is made by a Danish company, Lundbeck, to treat severe epilepsy.
Arguments against its use as a death penalty drug may be moot by the end of the
year, according to Dieter. He said the Danish manufacturer is writing clauses
into its wholesale contracts to prevent the use of pentobarbital for human
executions. Reportedly, there is also a looming shortage of the drug, and none
may be available by the end of the year.
34 U.S. states have the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty
Information Center, California has the largest death row population with 721
prisoners, followed by Florida with 398, Texas 321, Pennsylvania 219, and
Alabama 206. California and Pennsylvania have not had an execution in more than
The top 5 states with the most executions since 1976 are Texas with 473,
Virginia 109, Oklahoma 96, Florida 69, and Missouri 68.
Florida has exonerated more wrongly convicted death row prisoners than any
other state, with a total of 23 death row prisoners proven innocent since the
death penalty was reinstituted in 1976, according to the Death Penalty
Citing a 2000 study, the center says that “enforcing the death penalty costs
Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree
murderers with life in prison without parole.”
Florida death penalty opponents are hoping that Scott’s new chief of staff,
Steve MacNamara, will help influence the budget-minded governor and end
executions. MacNamara was instrumental in securing funding for the state
Innocence Commission, a court-ordered body mandated to study the causes of
wrongful convictions and make recommendations to prevent such convictions.
(source: National Catholic Reporter)
Breaking down the current state of the death penalty
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied clemency for death-row
inmate Troy Davis.
Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of Savannah, Georgia, police officer
Mark MacPhail. He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m.
Wednesday at a state prison in Jackson, Georgia.
Davis' case gained momentum with the support of Amnesty International,
ex-President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmong Tutu, among others, calling
for clemency to be granted.
However, the Georgia Parole board denied Davis clemency once before. And the
board has never changed its mind on any case in the past 33 years.
The high-profile case has again brought the death penalty back into the
spotlight. So we're taking a look at the current state of the death penalty,
the clemency process and specifically the statistics in Georgia.
Death penalty statistics:
– More than 3,200 inmates in 36 states are awaiting execution. The U.S.
government and U.S. military also have approximately 67 people awaiting
– As of September 18, 2011 – 1,267 people have been executed in the U.S. since
1976, when the death penalty was reinstated.
– Capital punishment is legal in 34 states.
– The legal methods of capital punishment are lethal injection and the electric
– 35 states use lethal injection. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in
2009; however, two prisoners remain on death row and will be executed by lethal
– The state of Nebraska used the electric chair as its sole method until
February 2008, when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that it was
– Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the
– 268 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976; 187 were in
– Over 75% of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white,
even though nationally only 50% of murder victims generally are white.
– A 2010 national poll of registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners
showed growing support for alternatives to the death penalty compared with
previous polls. A clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment
other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of
parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no
possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).
– Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence
of their innocence.
– Texas leads the way in executions with 474 total executions. In 2011 they
executed 10 people, in 2010 they executed 17 people and in 2009 they executed
24 people. Virginia comes in with the 2nd highest number of total executions at
109. In 2011 they executed 1 person, in 2010 and 2009 they executed 3 people
– In 16 states the governor has the sole authority to grant clemency: Alabama,
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia,
Washington and Wyoming.
In California the governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person
twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the state Supreme
Court, with at least four judges concurring. New York and New Jersey no longer
have the death penalty. New Mexico no longer has the death penalty for cases
after 2009, though two inmates still remain on death row.
– In 7 states the governor must have a recommendation of clemency from an
advisory group or board: Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
In Florida the governor must have recommendation of Board, on which he or she
– In 10 states the governor can get a non-binding recommendation for clemency
from an advisory group or board: Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland,
Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Tennessee.
Illinois no longer has the death penalty.
– In 5 states an advisory group or a board determines clemency: Connecticut,
Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada and Utah.
Georgia death penalty statistics:
– Georgia has executed 51 people since 1976.
– In 1972 the case Furman v. Georgia went to the Supreme Court along with two
other cases the looked at the constitutionality of the death sentence for rape
and murder convictions. The Supreme Court ruled to invalidate all then-existing
death penalty laws because it was deemed "cruel and unusual" effectively
suspending capital punishment. States then began rewriting their statutes to
comply with the Court's ruling.
The death penalty was re-enacted in Georgia in 1973. In 1976 the new law was
taken to the Supreme Court where they ruled that Georgia's new capital
punishment procedure were sufficient in reducing arbitrary imposition of the
– Prior to 1976, Georgia executed 950 people.
– Currently there are 103 people on death row in Georgia. One of them is a
– Georgia's most recent execution was of Andrew Grant DeYoung. He was the third
person executed in 2011 by Georgia. His case gained national attention because
the execution was videotaped.
– In Georgia, a defendant can get death for a felony where they are not
responsible for the murder.
– 5 innocent people have been freed from death row in Georgia.
– 7 clemencies have been granted. In Georgia, the State Board of Pardons has
exclusive authority to grant clemency. Georgia is one of five states that
operates this way.
(sources: CNN, U.S. State Department, Death Penalty Information Center)
Video-taping executions: Ethical dilemma or sensible practice?----Why would the
state, the defense, or a department of corrections want or need to video-tape
This past July at 8:04 pm, Andrew Grant DeYoung was executed for the murder of
his father, mother, and fourteen-year-old sister. While executions in the
United States are still fairly rare events, what made this incident unique was
the presence of a videographer who documented the completion of his sentence.
While the Georgia legal system approved the video-taping of DeYoung's
execution, a troubling and perhaps far more reaching question still remains —
is filming the execution of a condemned inmate ethical?
To begin to address this dilemma, a basic underlying question must be asked —
why? Why would the state, the defense, or a department of corrections want or
need to video-tape an execution? In a recent article, Greg Bluestein of the
Associated Press shared the thoughts of Fordham Law Professor Deborah Denno who
explained that recording these types of events "would help immensely in
detecting the many problems with the lethal injection process, especially if
the videotaping included all of the procedure from start to finish."
As a counter to this position, Georgia attorneys felt that allowing a video
crew access to the execution could both interfere with the heightened security
that routinely surrounds an inmate's final hours and potentially create a
situation where the video might be leaked to the general public.
In order to discuss the fundamental ethics of these dynamics, one must first
decide which ethical system you're going to use (there are many, but only 2
will be discussed here). An ethical system provides a foundation for moral
rules that lead to moral actions and as such, determining which ideology to use
1. Ethical formalism
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that good will (or motivation)
was, in the end, the only thing that is basically good. One's duty was
essential and because of this, he developed the concept of Categorical
Imperatives. For Kant, something would be considered a Categorical Imperative
when the basic elements are absolute (they are either right or wrong; good or
bad — there is no in-between), are based upon good will, and ultimately lead to
a sense of morality (as you'll remember from previous articles, morals are the
judgment of a behavior as right or wrong, while ethics is the study and
analysis of what constitutes good or bad conduct).
Ethical dilemma: Semantics is a primary problem with ethical formalism. There
is no consensus as to the advantages and disadvantages (the absolutes) of
video-taping an execution. Both sides believe their actions are based upon good
will and as such, both sides will argue the morality of documenting the event
should be judged as just.
Sensible practice: Defense attorneys will argue that video-taping an execution
meets all of Kant's criteria, and therefore is a sensible practice. The basic
elements are absolute (the desire for justice, the maintenance of rights,
etc.), the actions are based upon good will (the oversight and protection of
the condemned), and lead to a sense of morality (while not overtly stated in
Bluestein's article, this sense of morality in their mind is most likely the
elimination of the death penalty).
Corrections officials, however, will counter that not allowing the video-taping
is a sensible practice. The basic elements are absolute (the protection of the
inmate, the protection of the correctional officers and officials involved in
the execution, etc.), are based upon good will (the safety and security of the
facility and everyone and everything involved in the process), and ultimately
lead to a sense of morality in that they are protecting the sanctity of a very
serious and personal process.
The next ethical system to consider is Utilitarianism. Developed by famed
criminologist Jeremy Bentham, utilitarians believes the morality of your
actions depends on how much those actions contribute to the overall good of
society. In the end, that which creates the greatest benefit for the greatest
number of people is considered good.
Ethical dilemma: Corrections officials will argue that video-taping an
execution does not contribute to the overall good of society. It may benefit
attorneys who want to go over each aspect of the procedure in great detail, but
in doing so, they hold up the process of enforcing the orders of the court,
cost the taxpayers substantial amounts of money, and may, by giving the
condemned a false sense of hope that they'll "find something wrong," actually
cause additional anxiety and stress (that could, in and of itself be considered
cruel and unusual).
Sensible practice: Defense attorneys, however, will contend that archiving the
inmate's death does contribute to the overall good of society by insuring the
condemned are treated humanely and that if, as they believe, executions are
cruel and unusual punishment, that we, as a society, can elevate our standards
with respect to how we treat our fellow man. Their position will be that when
the treatment of a single inmate is improved through the analysis of these
videos, we as a society benefit because the system, acting on behalf of
society, condemned that individual.
In the end, we must come back to that fundamental question asked at the
beginning of the article — why? From the defense attorney's position, does
video-taping an execution give you something new to assist those who have been
condemned of a capital crime? From my standpoint, the answer is no.
Every execution is scrutinized by a number of individuals (attorneys, the
media, academics, etc.), the process is overseen by a multitude of people and
professions whose sole task is to insure the court's orders are carried out in
an efficient and humane manner, and as seen in the case of DeYoung, the court
ultimately sealed the video, making any analysis and review of its contents
extremely difficult — if not impossible.
>From a corrections perspective, why document an event when access to the video
(if allowed) is controlled by the court, not corrections. Why put the officers
and other correctional officials involved in the execution in harm's way should
the video ever become public (laws do change and what is sealed today may be
available through the Freedom of Information Act tomorrow)?
Executions that are ordered by the court are a serious matter and as such, are
taken seriously. Creating an archive that is ultimately designed to pursue a
political agenda (the elimination of the death penalty) is not an ethical
action. As supported by both ethical systems discussed in this article,
protecting the sanctity of taking a life and the safety of those charged with
carrying out this difficult task — is.
About the author
Dr. Bruce Bayley is a former Correctional Officer and Deputy Juvenile Probation
Officer. After retiring from duty-related injuries sustained in corrections,
Dr. Bayley currently works as an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at
Weber State University and adjunct instructor at the Weber State Police
Academy. Along with research in ethics and correctional special operations
teams, Dr. Bayley currently teaches courses in Ethics, Theories of Crime and
Delinquency, Corrections, and Criminal Justice.
Convicted cop killer Lesko asks for stay of execution
A Homestead man sitting on death row for murdering Apollo police Officer
Leonard Miller during a 1980 "kill for thrill" spree has asked a federal judge
to stay his execution while he appeals his death sentence.
John C. Lesko, 52, has been appealing his conviction and sentence since 1981,
but his state appeals ended in February when the state Supreme Court overturned
a lower court decision that he should receive a new trial. Lesko filed a
federal appeal in August and, at the same time, asked U.S. District Judge
Terrence McVerry to stay his execution while he pursues the appeal.
McVerry appointed a federal public defender to represent Lesko in the appeal
but denied his request for a stay because the state hadn't yet issued a death
warrant scheduling Lesko's execution. Gov. Tom Corbett signed Lesko's death
warrant on Thursday and scheduled his execution for Nov. 9. Lesko isn't
scheduled to file his argument for a new trial until Dec. 14.
Samuel J.B. Angell, a Philadelphia public defender who specializes in
death-sentence appeals, filed a request today for McVerry to grant a stay now
that the governor has scheduled Lesko's execution.
In addition to Miller, Lesko and co-defendant Michael Travaglia, 53, of
Washington Township killed three other people. Travaglia is also sitting on
death row, but no execution date has been set.
(source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Jury recommends death sentence for Dean
A Clark County jury has again recommended a death sentence for Jason Dean.
The jury returned the sentence recommendation Tuesday afternoon.
The judge will rule on the recommendation on Sept. 30.
Dean, 37, was found guilty last week of aggravated murder for his role in the
2005 death of Titus Arnold, a youth counselor who was shot in the head and
robbed of $6. He was also convicted of 13 other charges, including 6 counts of
attempted murder in which a 1-year-old and a pregnant Shanta Chilton were
“centimeters close” to being shot, according to witnesses.
Dean was previously convicted in 2006 and sentenced to death.
The Ohio Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2010, determining Clark
County Judge Douglas Rastatter made rulings and statements during the trial
that “demonstrated bias against Dean and his attorneys that prevented Dean from
receiving a fair trial.”
(source: Springfield News-Sun)
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