[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, CALIF., USA, MO. S.C.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Tue Feb 14 22:06:02 CST 2012
Texas executions threatened as stocks of death penalty drug run low----Most
prolific judicial killing state in America has only enough sedative for 6 more
executions – and could run out by June
Texas, the powerhouse of the death penalty in America which last year executed
more than twice the number of prisoners than any other state, is running out of
supplies of lethal drugs and may be incapable of carrying out further death
sentences beyond June.
The state prides itself on its robust approach to the death penalty, and last
year administered the ultimate punishment to 13 death row inmates. The nearest
competitor on the league table of judicial killings was Alabama, with 6.
Yet Texas has only sufficient quantities in its stores of pentobarbital – the
middle drug of the triple lethal injection – to serve in 6 more executions.
That number of executions are scheduled to take place on the state's books over
the next 4 months.
The dwindling supplies in the nation's most prolific death penalty state
underline the crisis that is sweeping the 34 states that still have the death
sentence on their books. Last summer, Lundbeck, the Danish company that makes
pentobarbital under the trademark Nembutal, placed strict restrictions on its
distribution to prevent it falling into the hands of US executioners.
Georgia, the state that caused outrage in September when it put to death Troy
Davis despite considerable doubts about his guilt, is also running low on
stocks of the drug it used to kill him. It has only enough pentobarbital to
kill four more prisoners – the same number of executions as it carried out in
The severity of America's lethal injection drought has been uncovered by the
human rights group Reprieve. Using freedom of information appeals, its
investigator Maya Foa has calculated the remaining stocks in Texas and Georgia
of pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to put prisoners to sleep before they are
administered a separate drug to stop their heart.
Her calculations show that Texas has 27 vials of Nembutal left in its stocks,
with each vial containing 2.5g of the sedative. The state needs 2 vials to
inject into each condemned prisoner, and a further 2 as a back-up in case of
problems with the first, as outlined in its official execution procedures.
That is sufficient for 6.75 executions.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to confirm how much
pentobarbital it had in its stores, saying it was seeking to keep the quantity
secret "for security reasons".
Similarly, Georgia has 17 vials of pentobarbital left, Reprieve has calculated
– just over four executions' worth.
"These shows that the restrictions on sale of medical drugs to US corrections
departments are starting to bite. States that practice the death penalty are
now reaching a desperate situation," Foa said.
"It's getting harder and harder for them to get hold of these drugs and
eventually they will be forced to recognise that medicines should not be used
to execute people."
Difficulties over lethal injections has already put a halt to executions in
several other states. California has a moratorium in place until at least 2013
as a result of legal wrangling over the procedure, while Ohio has also been
forced to put its executions on hold because it was found by the courts to be
straying from its own protocols in administering the drugs.
The question hanging over death rows across the country is what happens when
states like Texas run dry of pentobarbital. Will they move on to a new
alternative sedative in the hope of bypassing restrictions on sales of the
medicines, or will they try to procure Nembutal through circuitous routes?
Legitimate channels through which the drug can be obtained are fast closing. A
ban has been imposed since last December across the European Union on selling
the constituent parts of the lethal injection to US prisons.
The next execution in Texas is scheduled for 28 February, when Anthony Bartee
is set to die for murdering a 37-year-old man in 1996. Rick Perry, who has
presided over 238 executions since becoming governor of the state, wore that
record as a badge of pride during his presidential run for the Republican
nomination, telling a cheering debate audience that he had never struggled to
sleep at night by the idea that anyone might have been innocent.
(source: The Guardian)
Berlinale Behind Bars----Werner Herzog Looks for the Human Side of Death Row
Their crimes are monstrous. But renowned German filmmaker Werner Herzog seeks
to show that death row inmates in the US are not monsters. His new series of
documentaries, showing at the Berlin International Film Festival this week,
provides a different look at those up for execution.
James Barnes sits in his orange colored prison jumpsuit and talks about how
he's always been in trouble. As a youngster, he killed his family's cats, set
fires and committed other crimes. Now, Barnes is sitting on Florida's death row
awaiting execution for killing at least three women, including his wife, whom
he strangled and stuffed in a closet.
Barnes is 1 of 5 inmates featured in "Death Row," a film series directed by
legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The series is being shown at the
Berlin International Film Festival this week.
Barnes accepts full responsibility for his crimes and is repentant. In his
conversation with the German film director, the inmate does not appear to be a
monster at all. And that's just what Herzog wanted to show.
The purpose of the series is to humanize the murderers, not to excuse their
crimes, Herzog, 69, said in a statement released Monday. "The crimes of the
persons in the films are monstrous, but the perpetrators are not monsters."
'I Respectfully Disagree'
Herzog, a Munich native, is firmly against the death penalty, in line with the
overwhelming sentiment of his fellow Germans. "A State should not be allowed --
under any circumstance -- to execute anyone for any reason," Herzog said in the
He referred to the millions of innocent people killed by the Nazi government of
his native country during World War II. But the killing of innocents is a
secondary issue, he said. Government-sponsored executions are just wrong.
Still, says Herzog, his intent with his four-part series about death row, which
portrays five people awaiting executions in Texas and Florida, is not to tell
Americans what they should do about capital punishment.
"As a guest in the United States, and being German, I respectfully disagree
with the practice of capital punishment," he says. "I would be the last one to
tell the American people how to conduct their criminal justice."
Herzog doesn't excuse the crimes. He tells the story of Linda Carty, probably
the most revolting of the series. Carty is one of 10 women on death row in
Texas. She was convicted of masterminding a bogus home invasion on a
Mexican-American couple with the goal of stealing the family's newborn child.
The mother was found dead with duct tape over her nose and mouth and a plastic
bag tightly sealed over her head. Though Carty denies any involvement in the
gruesome and bizarre crime, there is overwhelming evidence supporting her
Reviewing the Death Penalty
Herzog, in a statement, denied there is any "activist's anger from my side" and
said he doesn't commiserate with the inmates or in any way befriend them.
"There is no false sentimentality," he said. But "there is a strong sense that
these individuals are human beings."
It is perhaps no coincidence that most of Herzog's portraits are of inmates in
Texas. The state has been responsible for by far the most executions in the
United States. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a
non-profit based in Washington, Texas has executed 478 inmates since 1976. The
number 2 spot goes to Virginia, with 109, followed by Oklahoma with 97 and
Florida with 71.
Herzog's film comes at a time in which many state governments in the US are
reviewing their death penalty statutes. Last year Illinois got rid of the death
penalty. In 2009, New Mexico voted to abolish the death penalty. It was
repealed in New York and New Jersey in 2007. In Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber
halted all executions last year, though the death penalty is still technically
legal. The next state likely to abolish the death penalty is Connecticut,
DPIC's executive director Richard Dieter said.
Dieter said popular films may have more of an effect, but documentaries are
becoming increasingly important and are attracting more moviegoers in the US.
"Anything that will increase the discussion will add to the possibilities of
getting rid of it," he said of the death penalty.
Still an overwhelming majority -- 34 of the 50 US States -- still has the death
penalty on the books. That disturbs not only Herzog, but many of his
The Human Side of Death Row
Last year German Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler rejected
US requests to provide a German-manufactured drug used in lethal injections to
US states facing shortages, despite requests from then-US Commerce Secretary
Gary Locke to help ease the shortage.
"I noted the request and declined," Rösler said at the time.
In September, Germany along with countries all over Europe, reacted with
protests to the execution of African American Troy Davis, who was put to death
in Georgia. Davis was convicted of killing a white police officer in 1989. He
maintained his innocence until the end and his supporters said there were
serious doubts about his guilt. Davis, 42, was executed by lethal injection.
Hank Skinner, another subject in the Herzog series, was luckier. The Texas
inmate was sentenced to death 18 years ago for the fatal stabbing of his
girlfriend and her two mentally impaired sons. His execution has been scheduled
three times -- the second time he got his reprieve only 23 minutes before his
Skinner, a vivid story teller, gives a harrowing account of his remaining
minutes before he thought he was going to die. It's just one of the film
series' many moments that shows viewers the human side of death row.
(source: Spiegel Online)
SAFE California Initiative seeks shift on death penalty
In 1978, California voters overwhelmingly approved the Briggs Death Penalty
Initiative that vastly expanded the number of crimes punishable by death. The
sponsors of the proposition argued that it would allow prosecutors to seek just
punishment for crimes of murder. Now, California's death row currently houses
more than 700 inmates, more than any state in the union.
Its supporters argued it would send a strong message to criminals – commit
murder in California and expect a quick trip to the gas chamber – but it hasn't
worked out that way. In the almost 35 years since it was approved, the state
has executed 13 convicted murderers. Now, the Briggs Family that sponsored the
1978 initiative supports the SAFE California Initiative that would replace the
death penalty in California with a sentence of life without parole.
Ron Briggs, member of the Board of Supervisors in El Dorado, CA. In 1978,
Briggs, his father, and his brother sought to expand the death penalty through
the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative.
(source: Southern California Public Radio)
USA NEW YORK)----federal death penalty
Waka Flocka Flame Associate Facing Death Penalty
An associate of rapper Waka Flocka Flame is facing the death penalty after he
was charged with 3 counts of murder in New York on Monday (13Feb12). Aspiring
hip-hop star Ra Diggs, real name Ronald Herron, was indicted in a Brooklyn
Federal Court for the slaying of Frederick Brooks in 2001, Richard Russo in
2008, and Victor Zapata in 2009 on Monday afternoon.
He was acquitted of the first killing after two witnesses refused to testify
against him, but he later bragged about getting away with murder on Twitter.com
and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly tells the New York Daily News, "His
Tweets were premature."
Herron has long been accused of being a gang leader of the drug enterprise
Gowanus Houses and now Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch is calling for
appropriate action, stating, "Ronald Herron and his gang terrorised a Brooklyn
community for more than a decade and he temporarily got away with murder by
threatening and intimidating witnesses only to return to the streets of
Brooklyn to kill and kill again."
Herron, who has been behind bars for 2 years on federal charges of running a
crack and heroin ring, faces the death penalty if convicted.
Many topics in the United States are put up for dispute every day. Capital
punishment is often the topic of much controversy. Many individuals believe
that the death penalty should be put into use, while others believe that it is
detrimental to society. However, there is no dispute in my eyes; capital
punishment is wrong. It is unconstitutional, immoral, has many imperfections,
is expensive, and does not reduce crime. First of all, the death penalty
violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibits cruel and
unusual punishments. In the case of Furman v. Georgia, the consequence of the
death penalty was deemed as a cruel and unusual punishment. Though Furman's
case was indeed a unique situation, we cannot repeatedly evaluate the
constitutionality of this same issue. If capital punishment is deemed
unconstitutional in one case, it must be deemed similarly in all cases.
However, constitutionality is not the only aspect that should be examined. The
case against the death penalty is even more valid when we examine class, race,
and gender prejudices. According to DeathPenaltyInfo.org, 42 % of death row
inmates are black. This is especially strange considering blacks only make up
12.6 % of the United States population. The numbers show that the criminal
justice system tends to put minorities on death row. This cannot be just. Don't
we stand for “liberty and justice for all”? How can a prejudiced system be
fair? Additionally, suspects who are in lower social classes cannot afford
better attorneys to defend them. Still others are wrongfully accused and
executed because of the flaws of the justice system. In the past 35 years
alone, 138 inmates were exonerated from death row after evidence of their
innocence was found. Though there may not be enough evidence at the time of
trial, jurors will oftentimes blame suspects out of pure prejudice.
Unfortunately, race and economic standing often skews a court's decision to put
a suspect on death row. In this way, the justice system can ruin the precious
lives of many.
Another significant reason why capital punishment should be abolished is
because it does not, in fact, reduce crime. Studies have shown that states that
enforce the death penalty have a higher crime rate than states that do not
enforce the death penalty. Though this may not have a concrete correlation to
deterring crime rates, it surely does not lessen the rate of violent crime.
Additionally, enforcing capital punishment is more expensive than keeping a
criminal in prison for life. This is money that our economy simply does not
have. As a nation that is trillions of dollars in debt, we cannot spare any
more money than is absolutely necessary. The money spent on the death penalty
is not a necessary expense. By getting rid of the death penalty, our nation can
save money and begin to rebuild our economy. Perhaps we can put this money to
better use in areas such as education or medical research.
Lastly, capital punishment is immoral. How can we, as fellow human beings, have
the right to execute another? After all, “an eye for an eye makes the whole
world blind.” If this is true, we cannot kill another just because we believe
we have the justification to do so. We cannot justify this gruesome act by
following Hammurabi's code. Our acts are accountable to whatever higher power
one believes in; we are not accountable to each other. It is not in our
authority to decide who lives and who dies. And, after all, isn't execution
just the murder of yet another individual?
The death penalty is wrong and dehumanizes our society. It is a cruel and
unusual punishment and wrongly accuses men and women annually. Because the
United States justice system makes many mistakes, innocent individuals will
continue to lose their lives to a flawed system. Furthermore, it is
discriminatory, does not reduce crime, and is too costly. From an ethical
standpoint, the death penalty is immoral and does not solve the problem at
hand. Unless we deter capital punishment in all fifty states, our nation will
not advance economically, socially, and ethically.
Goshen Central High School
Reggie Clemons is Troy Davis
The case of Reggie Clemons represents everything that is wrong with the death
penalty and the U.S. criminal justice system.
His case reminds us of Troy Davis, a black man who was executed by the state of
Georgia in September, despite strong evidence of innocence, no physical
evidence, another suspect and unreliable witnesses, not to mention worldwide
In 1993, Clemons was sentenced to death in St. Louis, Missouri as an accomplice
to the 1991 murder of Julie and Robin Kerry -- two white women who plunged to
their deaths off the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. He was
19 at the time of the killings, with a clean record.
He was beaten by police, denied a lawyer, and coerced into making a false
confession. As Amnesty International reported, there was no physical evidence
linking Clemons to the murders. Even the prosecution admitted that Clemons did
not murder the victims, nor did he plan the crime.
2 other young black men, Marlin Gray and Antonio Richardson, were sentenced to
death along with Clemons. Gray was executed, and Richardson had his sentence
reduced to life. Two sketchy eyewitnesses were essential to Clemons' death
conviction. Daniel Winfrey, a white co-defendant, pled guilty to a lesser
offense in exchange for his testimony against the black defendants. Winfrey
allegedly told a cellmate he would "say anything" to get a plea bargain, and
"no one is going to believe a bunch of niggers." He is now a free man on
Meanwhile, Thomas Cummins, the victims' cousin, originally confessed to killing
the women, which he told police stemmed from an argument after he tried to have
sex with Julie. Cummins also claimed he fell 90 feet off the bridge and swam to
safety, which was unlikely given that he was dry and unscathed. Despite the
inconsistencies in his statements, the charges against Cummins were dropped
after he identified Clemons and the other suspects. Cummins received a $150,000
settlement in a police brutality suit.
Meanwhile, Clemons and Gray both claimed police brutality and coercion but were
ignored. Clemons -- who had been beaten by police and was ordered hospitalized
by the judge at his arraignment -- was coerced into confessing to rape. He did
not confess to murder. And the audiotaped forced confession was admitted as
evidence of his guilt.
This is where the problems for Reggie Clemons were only just beginning. To sum
it up, he just couldn't win, and the system seemed to conspire against him. His
defense attorneys were unprepared for trial and neglectful, and the deck was
stacked against him, as was the jury. The prosecutor, Assistant Circuit
Attorney Nels Moss, who was disciplined by the court and had a pattern of
misconduct, disproportionately excluded black prospective jurors, leaving a
mostly white pro-death penalty jury in this heavily black city.
And then there was the rape kit and lab reports from one of the victims, buried
in police headquarters for years, and never revealed at trial. One could
reasonably assume that if that evidence had been helpful to his case, Moss
would not have hidden it.
Police torture and false testimony, crooked prosecutors and a stacked jury,
incompetent defense counsel and missing evidence. Let's not forget raw racism.
These are the key ingredients of a horrid dish called American justice. And
sadly, this is why Reggie Clemons is facing execution. This is a prime example
of what happens when criminal behavior in the police station and the courtroom
sends an innocent man to his death. But unlike Troy Davis in Georgia, Cameron
Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu, Carlos DeLuna, or Larry Griffin in Missouri,
Reggie Clemons is still alive.
There is still time to save him. We can fix this.
On the other hand, we cannot fix our system of capital punishment. According to
the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973, 140 innocent men and women
have been freed from death row in 26 states, each spending an average of nearly
10 years in prison awaiting execution.
David A. Love is the Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, a national
nonprofit organization that empowers exonerated death row prisoners and their
family members to become effective leaders in the movement to abolish the death
(source: Huffington Post)
Home invasions could carry death penalty under new bill
Home invasions are rare in Pickens and Anderson counties, officials say, but
when the crimes happen the victims are often traumatized.
A Westminster man, in Oconee County, was tied up at gunpoint Saturday in his
home and robbed, according to deputies. The perpetrator is still being sought.
Right now the assailant would likely be prosecuted for burglary but state
legislators have introduced bills that would create a new category, home
invasion, for such crimes.
The bill provides for punishments of 20 years or more for a home invasion and
would open the door to a death penalty case if someone dies during the
“It’s the new thing in the crime world,” said state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a
Charleston Democrat who introduced the House bill.
“It’s a fad,” he said. “It’s something criminals get from movies and music.
They want a bad rep so they kick down a door. We’re not going to stop it unless
we take a hard stance.”
He said the crime is growing in his area and victims have been tied up, raped
The bill has already struck out four times, said Jeff Moore, executive director
of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
He isn’t confident in the bill’s chances this year, although he supports it.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to tackle its version of the bill, the
Home Invasion Protection Act, on Tuesday but canceled its meeting and will
likely reschedule for next week, a committee clerk said.
Moore said the bill has strong opposition from members of the committee, who he
said have long opposed creating new laws when existing laws already punish the
crimes. State Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican and chairman of the
committee, did not respond to a request for comment.
Moore said those opposed to the bill believe it would be another statute that
could be covered by existing laws and approving it would run counter to a
sentencing reform movement from 2010.
20 years ago, he said, the “crime de jour” was carjacking and there was
opposition to adding carjacking statutes because auto theft and kidnapping
charges already existed.
Moore said that carjackings were rising fast at the time and extra penalties
were needed and the category of carjacking was eventually added.
Home invasions are similar to burglaries in many ways. Both crimes can involve
someone breaking into a house while armed to steal things.
The difference between the crimes is big, Gilliard said.
A successful burglary avoids any homeowners while a home invasion actively
targets them, often to terrorize them or for the criminal to bolster his street
reputation, he said.
Gilliard’s House bill includes drive-by-shootings alongside home invasions
while the Senate bill covers only home invasions.
“It’s still bullets flying into a house,” he said. “It’s no different than
someone coming into your house.”
Gilliard said he wants House leadership to take his bill out of subcommittee so
it can join with the similar Senate version.
Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said that home invasions are rare in
Anderson County. One recent and well-publicized case, in which several people
are accused of breaking into a home and later engaging in a shootout at McClure
Road in the county, would not meet the definitions of a home invasion.
There was nobody at the home when the accused burglars entered so it would be
considered a burglary case.
Skipper said that despite the rarity of the crime, he supports the bill.
“It gives us a bit more teeth in the law,” he said. “When you break in, knowing
people are there, the penalty should be more severe.”
Skipper said Tuesday, and told residents from around McClure Road in December,
that many, if not most, home invasions are not random acts and the perpetrator
knows the victim to some degree.
“With that said, it is still traumatic on those folks,” he said.
Pickens County Assistant Sheriff Tim Morgan agreed.
He said in one case about a year ago, possibly the most recent home invasion
case in the county, investigators determined that the perpetrators had bought
drugs from their victim the day before and went back armed and miffed.
He said home invasions are not a frequent problem in his county but he agrees
with the proposed extra layer of penalties for those targeting people who are
in their homes.
Moore said home invasions are one of the few crimes that he takes active
measures to prevent in his own life.
He locks his door each time he leaves, even when someone is home.
“Home invasions are fraught with violence,” he said. “I’ve seen too many
accounts of these crimes; they often end very tragically. So it certainly it is
something I pay attention to in my own life.”
(source: Anderson Independent Mail)
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