[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., FLA., CALIF., S. DAK., CONN.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Feb 15 22:49:59 CST 2012
Prisons running low on execution drugs again, but prison agency withholds
A new report surfaced on Tuesday that Texas again might be running out of a key
drug used to execute its condemned criminals, but state prison officials said
that they have enough to carry out the next 6 scheduled executions.
What happens after that might be anyone's guess, thanks to a new no-disclosure
policy imposed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on details about the
2 years ago, the prison system revealed its drug supplier and the amount of
drugs on hand after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion saying
it was public information. The prison system had sought to keep the information
secret, arguing that releasing details about the drug supply might trigger
violent protests outside the execution chamber or embolden death penalty
Prison system spokesman Jason Clark said Tuesday that the agency is seeking
another opinion from the attorney general on the execution drug information
"because the law has changed and due to changing circumstances."
Specifically, Clark said, a state Supreme Court ruling last July could have
changed the situation. The case, filed by the Austin American-Statesman and
other newspapers, sought travel vouchers for the governor's security detail
under the Texas Public Information Act.
In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, for the 1st time, that safety concerns
might trump laws mandating public disclosure of information that reveals how a
government spends taxpayer money.
Texas operates the busiest death chamber in the United States, executing more
than twice as many prisoners last year as any other state — 13 in all. Its
execution practices have made it a target of death penalty opponents for years.
The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported Tuesday that Texas has only enough
pentobarbital on hand to complete 6 executions "and may be incapable of
carrying out further death sentences after June."
The newspaper quoted Maya Foa, a London-based investigator for Reprieve, an
international group that opposes the death penalty.
Based on state inventory records from a year ago, she estimated that Texas
probably has 27 vials of pentobarbital, more commonly known by the brand name
Nembutal, left on hand — and the sole U.S. supplier of the powerful sedative
has blocked its availability for use in future executions.
Privately, some prison officials suggested Tuesday that Texas has enough
pentobarbital for more than 6 executions. But even so, other public documents
hint that Texas and other states face a new difficulty in obtaining
pentobarbital in the future.
In January 2011, the Danish pharmaceutical company H. Lundbeck A/S announced
that it would prohibit sales of Nembutal for use in executions. That
restriction was continued when the firm sold the trademark drug and 2 others to
Akorn Inc., an Illinois pharmaceutical firm, in December 2011, according to a
statement about the transaction.
Echoing previous sentiments from other death penalty opponents and open
government advocates, Foa said transparency in the process is a key.
"Given the recent controversies over execution drugs — illegal imports, botched
executions, faulty drugs, etc. — you'd think that a department of corrections
would be doing all it could to show that it was acting legitimately and
lawfully," she said in an e-mail from London.
Texas faced the same problem 13 months ago, when the sole U.S. manufacturer of
the sedative sodium thiopental permanently halted production after authorities
in Italy, where it was made, demanded a guarantee that it would not be used in
executions — a promise the company said it could not give.
At the time, Texas and 33 other states used sodium thiopental in executions. In
Texas, the drug was 1 of 3 used to sedate and paralyze a convict and then stop
Texas subsequently switched to pentobarbital. A barbiturate, it is commonly
used to euthanize animals — and other states, including Oklahoma and Georgia,
now use it in executions as a replacement for sodium thiopental.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Death penalty sought in Montco family’s slaying
Montgomery County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for an Upper Merion
man accused of fatally stabbing his parents and twin brother last year.
On Wednesday, Joseph McAndrew Jr., 24, entered not-guilty pleas to charges of
1st- and 3rd-degree murder, 5 months after a judge ruled him competent to stand
trial in the deaths of his family members.
"This horrible crime showed clear evidence of planning," said Assistant
District Attorney Tracey Potere. "The viciousness and brutality with which he
annihilated his own family is precisely the type of violent homicidal conduct
for which we reserve our most extreme and final punishment."
Potere would not say whether the decision to seek a death sentence against
McAndrew suggested that investigators doubted his claims of mental illness.
His attorney Stephen Heckman described their decision as "ill-advised."
"Given the facts in this case and the mental-health issues, I don't know if he
fully understands it," he said. "We hope we can convince prosecutors not to
seek the death penalty."
Since his arrest last spring, McAndrew has been held at Norristown State
Hospital, a facility used to house criminal suspects in need of mental health
Although prosecutors have argued that they have no record of his ever having
received a professional diagnosis before his incarceration, a judge has denied
their requests that McAndrew be returned to a prison cell.
Family friends maintain he has long struggled with what they believe to be
Upper Merion police found McAndrew on March 5 covered in blood and standing
outside his family's house in the Gulph Mills section of the township. Inside,
his father, Joseph Sr.; mother, Susan; and twin brother, James, lay stabbed and
bleeding alongside what detectives have described as an 18-inch "samurai-style"
During initial interviews with investigators, McAndrew called the deaths an
"extermination" of a "person named brother," "person named mother," and "person
named father," according to court documents.
McAndrew is set to take his case before a jury Oct. 4.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Twice Convicted Killer Executed At Starke
On Florida’s death row for more than 3 decades, a twice-convicted murderer was
executed Wednesday night for the rape and murder of a St. Petersburg woman.
Robert Waterhouse, 65, was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m., after claiming his
innocence one last time in the death chamber at Florida State Prison near
Starke. Waterhouse lingered on death row longer than any of the previous 276
people executed by the state, according to the Department of Corrections. He’s
spent more than 31 years mostly by himself in a 6-by-9-foot cell as his various
appeals worked their way through the courts.
The execution was scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., but was delayed for
several hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a last minute appeal, which
was rejected. A similar appeal was rejected earlier in the day.
Waterhouse, 65, met for 2 hours Tuesday morning with his wife Fran. They met
and married while he was behind bars.
Waterhouse was convicted in 1980 of murdering Deborah Kammerer of St.
Petersburg. Her body was found in the tidal flats of Tampa Bay. She’d been
beaten, raped and dragged into the bay.
Unable to identify her immediately, police turned to the public for help.
Neighbors identified Kammerer’s body, and an anonymous tipster led police to
Waterhouse, who was on parole for a New York killing.
He had pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder for killing a 77-year-old Long
Island woman during a 1966 burglary. He was sentenced to life but was paroled
after 8 years.
In the Kammerer case, a bartender had seen her and Waterhouse leave a St.
Petersburg bar together. Blood, hair and fibers in Waterhouse’s car were linked
to the victim. Waterhouse admitted having sex with Kammerer but denied killing
Waterhouse becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Florida and the 72nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in
1979. Only Texas (478), Virginia (109, and Oklahoma (97) have executed more
people in the USA since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.
Waterhouse becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 1281st overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17,
(sources: CBS News & Rick Halperin)
Florida's execution costs re-kindle death penalty debate
On Wednesday, Florida had scheduled the execution of 65-year-old Robert
Waterhouse, who was convicted in 1980 of murdering Deborah Kammerer of St.
She'd been beaten, raped, and dragged into Tampa Bay.
It took more than 30 years for Robert Waterhouse to even have a date with
death, sitting on death row as taxpayers spent millions on appeals, hearings,
It's just one reason why Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty, believes life without parole is a better,
less expensive alternative.
He says it's a policy that would save Florida an estimated $51 million per year
to spend on victim services programs and resources to solve some of Florida's
12,000 homicide cold cases.
"Those families have gotten no justice," said Elliott. "Those killers have
literally gotten away with murder."
He also points out that Florida leads the nation in the number of death row
inmates mistakenly convicted.
"In Florida, we've had more than 23 people exonerated off our death row," he
The financial numbers vary from state to state. Research shows in Virginia and
Delaware, for example, the process is faster and the death penalty actually
costs less on average.
But in most states, including Florida, where the time between sentencing and
execution is an average 13 years, death costs more.
However, the financial debate is tainted by emotion. Just last week, Cindy
Roberts, wife of slain Tampa Police Officer Mike Roberts, made that clear at
the sentencing for Humberto Delgado. "Killing a cop should be an automatic
death penalty," said Roberts, who told reporters she and her husband had
discussed the issue before his murder.
Still, the question of whether executions are a deterrent, whether they can
prevent such crimes, is also debatable. Even police chief Jane Castor sadly
expressed doubt after Delgado was sentenced to death.
"I hope that it would send a message, but I'm not sure that individuals that
would commit this type of a crime are open to that kind of a message," said
There are currently more than 270 people on Florida's death row.
(source: WTSP News)
Churches work to get death penalty initiative on ballot
In parishes across California, pastors are urging their parishioners to follow
the lead of the state’s Catholic bishops and help put a permanent stop to the
death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment without possibility of
To that end, parishioners are part of a cadre of 2,500 volunteers collecting
signatures to qualify the SAFE California (Savings, Accountability, and Full
Enforcement for California) Act for the state’s Nov. 6 ballot. If the
initiative passes, California would become the 17th state to do away with the
California’s Catholic bishops endorsed the initiative Jan. 10, saying, “As
Catholics we hold human life as sacred. In the exercise of justice, this
principle must prevail in the manner we treat one another, even those who have
done grave harm. ... We have long held that the use of the death penalty is no
This is only the second time in recent memory that the bishops have endorsed an
initiative prior to its qualifying for the ballot. “It’s fairly historic,” said
Carol Hogan, communications director for the California Catholic Conference.
Since the bishops released their statement, there has been a significant
upswing in parish and diocesan participation in the campaign.
Volunteers from the San Francisco archdiocese and the Oakland diocese obtained
hundreds of signatures during the Jan. 21 Walk for Life in San Francisco while
handing out informational flyers on why the initiative should be approved.
Additionally, several bishops have sent letters to pastors encouraging them to
speak out on the initiative and to authorize signature-gathering before and
after weekend Masses.
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of San Jose told pastors in a Jan. 12 letter that
signature-gathering on two February weekends “is not an optional activity.”
He emphasized that the signature collection must simultaneously include a 2nd
initiative effort endorsed by the bishops that would require a young girl, aged
12-17, to include her parents in a decision to secure an abortion.
Addressing the link between the two initiatives, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San
Bernardino emphasized “the common thread that runs through them -- our belief
as Roman Catholics that every human life is sacred, be it unborn or the
Catherine Huston, coordinator of the Catholic Campaign to End Use of the Death
Penalty for the San Francisco archdiocese, sees the effort as “the chance for
us to live our faith. We don’t kill people to teach people killing is wrong.”
Huston, who with her husband and son has gathered more than 1,000 signatures,
rode the Freedom Train from her Burlingame home to San Francisco for the Martin
Luther King celebration Jan. 16. On the train and at the rally she collected
signatures, finding very few who didn’t want to sign. But, she said, this
effort is just the 1st step in a longer campaign to educate citizens through a
“deeper conversation” about why capital punishment must be eliminated.
As the Catholic representative to the California People of Faith Working
against the Death Penalty coalition, Huston is helping steer the 1000
Congregations Campaign to get churches engaged in education and dialogue about
the death penalty.
She sees the bishops’ most recent statement as a challenge to lay Catholics.
“We can make a powerful difference,” she said. “The bishops have not changed
their stance [against capital punishment] for the past 30 years. Now it is up
to the laity to act on this.”
A June 2011 study by former death penalty prosecutor and federal Judge Arthur
Alarcón and law professor Paula Mitchell showed that California has spent $4
billion on the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1978. During that time,
the state executed 13 people at a cost of $308 million per execution.
By abolishing the death penalty, supporters say, the state can use the savings
for additional police to solve the 56 % of unsolved rape and 46 % of unsolved
murder cases. Additionally, money will be available to develop better crime
To ensure that the funds are used for these efforts, the initiative requires
that for three years the approximately $30 million in annual budget savings be
put into the SAFE California Fund to investigate current rape and murder cases.
It also specifies that convicted murderers must work to pay restitution into a
victims’ compensation fund.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the Los Angeles Times in
December that the death penalty is no longer effective in California and
requires “structural change.” The state doesn’t have the money “to create the
kind of change that is needed,” she said. “Everyone is laboring under a
Currently more than 700 convicted felons are on California’s death row, the
highest in the nation. If voters approve the SAFE California initiative, those
sentences would be converted to life imprisonment without parole.
The SAFE California campaign is sponsored by Taxpayers for Public Safety, a
coalition of faith, civil rights and legal groups as well as the families of
murder victims, people exonerated after wrongful conviction, and members of law
enforcement. Organizers estimate it will cost $1.5 million to qualify the
initiative for the ballot. Supporters have made donations ranging from $5 to
$500,000, according to Miriam Gerace, a campaign spokesperson. Hogan, the
bishops’ communications director, said the California Catholic Conference will
not be a financial contributor.
Endorsers of SAFE California include the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose,
the California Province of the Society of Jesus, the Office of Social Ministry
of the San Diego diocese, JustFaith Ministries, and Pax Christi USA.
(source: Monica Clark is an National Catholic Reporter West Coast
South Dakota House panel approves measure seeking limit on appeals by death-row
A South Dakota House committee endorsed a plan Wednesday aimed at preventing
death-row inmates from filing repeated appeals in an effort to delay their
Although the limits would apply to all serious criminal cases, Attorney General
Marty Jackley said the limits are especially needed in death penalty cases. 2
men convicted and sentenced to death two decades ago have avoided execution
because their appeals are still proceeding through the courts, he said.
Murder victims' families should not have to wait 20 years to see a death
sentence carried out, Jackley said.
"It doesn't end," Jackley said. "It's time to give a fair resolution, but a
timely resolution for victims."
People convicted of crimes in South Dakota can appeal their convictions to the
state Supreme Court.
Under the bill, convicts who lose a first direct appeal usually could file only
one secondary appeal. State law currently puts no limit on those secondary
appeals, called habeus corpus petitions. Those petitions generally argue that a
convict's constitutional rights were violated, and they often contend the
person's previous lawyers made mistakes.
The bill would limit convicts to one secondary appeal, unless new evidence is
discovered or an appeals court recognizes a new constitutional right that would
apply to the case. Those secondary appeals also would have to be filed within
two years of when the first direct appeal was decided or new evidence was
"At some point, there needs to be finality. I would suggest this would give it
fair and reasonable finality," Jackley said.
The bill would apply to all people convicted of serious crimes, but South
Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says the limits are particularly needed
in cases where murderers have been sentenced to death.
The attorney general said the bill's limits on secondary appeals are the same
as those applied in 31 other states and the federal court system. If those
limits were in place in South Dakota, an execution could probably take place
within five to 10 years after a conviction, he said.
Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, whose son Donnivan was killed during a 1992 burglary of
a Rapid City doughnut shop, told lawmakers to adopt the changes. Peggy
Schaeffer said the man convicted and sentenced to death for her son's murder,
Charles Russell Rhines, is using secondary appeals to manipulate the judicial
system and delay his execution.
"It's almost as if Donnivan never existed," she said. "Well, he did. This is
why we are here today, waiting for justice."
Jackley also noted that Donald Moeller was sentenced to death for the 1990 rape
and killing of 9-year-old Becky O'Connell of Sioux Falls, but Moeller's appeals
"There has been no justice for the death of that 9-year-old girl," Jackley
The House Judiciary Committee voted 10-3 to send the bill to the full House.
Rep. Mark Feinstein, D-Sioux Falls, voted against the bill, suggesting that the
state's legal costs would be lower if murderers were sentenced to life in
prison instead of death.
Supporters said the measure protects the rights of convicts but avoids
unnecessary repeated appeals.
"Families should not have to wait, and South Dakotans should not have to wait
for decades to see justice," said Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton.
(source: Associated Press)
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