[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, MISS.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Fri Jan 6 09:25:45 CST 2012
Williamson County district attorney to seek death penalty in 2010 robbery,
The Williamson County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty
in the capital murder case of Bobby Ray Burks Jr., set to begin after a jury is
selected, District Attorney John Bradley said. Jury selection began Thursday.
Burks, 34, and his sisters-in-law, Veronica Evonne Ortiz, 26, and Isabel
Michelle Gonzales, 23, are charged with capital murder and two counts of
aggravated robbery in the death of Raul Vizveth-Torres, 19, on April 18, 2010.
The women met Vizveth-Torres and his friend Jorge Castaneda both of Austin, at
a club near East Riverside Drive on April 17, 2010, investigators said. Ortiz
and Gonzales asked the men for a ride home to Taylor early the next morning,
They asked the men to pull over about 4 a.m. just past the Travis County line
near FM 1660 and FM 973 after 1 of the women said she was sick, investigators
When the SUV stopped, Burks, who had been waiting, stole cash from the 2 men
and fired 2 shots, striking Vizveth-Torres, officials said. Ortiz and Gonzales
then left in Burks' car, officials said.
Castaneda drove Vizveth-Torres to St. David's South Medical Center, where he
was pronounced dead at 4:45 a.m., officials said.
Ortiz and Gonzales pleaded guilty in April to two counts of aggravated robbery
in exchange for testifying in Burks' trial and getting their capital murder
charges dropped , said Russell Hunt, Ortiz's attorney. They will be sentenced
after the trial and face up to 40 years in prison, Hunt said.
"Both girls were very contrite and very shocked when this happened, and they
never intended for anyone to get hurt," Hunt said. He said Burks is married to
another sister of Ortiz and Gonzales.
Bradley said he couldn't comment on the case because of the upcoming trial.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
US pharmaceutical firm Hospira under fire over use of its drugs in
executions----Doctors from around the world call on Illinois firm to impose
restrictions on sale of muscle relaxant for use in lethal injections
One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, the Illinois-based firm
Hospira, is coming under heavy pressure from the medical profession to tighten
up its procedures to prevent the use of its drugs in US executions.
25 prominent doctors from the UK, Italy, India and Australia have published an
open letter in the Lancet to Michael Ball, Hospira's chief executive. They urge
him to take a more rigorous approach to the use of Hospira's trademarked drug
Pancuronium in the triple cocktail of lethal injections used by many of the 34
states that still practise the death penalty.
"No responsible pharamceutical company should have anything to do with
executions," the doctors say. They add that it is time for the company to
impose restrictions on its disbribution system of the drug to prevent it ending
up in the hands of executioners.
Pancuronium is an extremely effective muscle relaxant used widely by
anaesthetists to prevent patients moving, for instance in the event of
abdominal surgery. In many US states it is also used as the 2nd of 3 lethal
drugs to be administered to condemned prisoners.
First, a barbiturate is used to put prisoners to sleep; then, the muscle
relaxant is given to stop them moving or screaming; finally, a third chemical,
potassium, is injected to stop their heart.
The doctors who signed the open letter, led by David Nicholl, a neurologist at
City Hospital in Birmingham, want to see Hospira following the example of
Lundbeck, the Danish manufacturer of a barbiturate called pentobarbital that
has been also used in US executions. Lundbeck last year introduced a strict
end-user agreement that prevents the product finding its way into death
chambers even via third parties.
Lundbeck recently sold pentobarbital, under the trade name Nembutal, to an
American company called Akorn. But it did so only on the condition that Akorn
continued the restricted distribution system.
In his response to the Lancet letter, Hospira's chief executive writes that he
shares the doctors' concern about the improper use of its drugs in US
executions. "We do not support the use of our products in lethal injections,"
Ball says. He adds that Hospira has written to every state to make clear the
But Nicholl said that words were not enough. "I don't think that stating their
opposition is satisfactory. There's more that they can do – they can follow
Lundbeck's example and impose an end-user agreement that will put a stop to
Lundbeck confirmed to the Guardian that it has offered to provide advice to all
other pharmaceutical companies, including Hospira, on how to set up an end-user
agreement that will effectively block use of medical drugs in killing
prisoners. "Hospira is, of course, welcome to contact us," a Lundbeck spokesman
This is the 2nd time that Hospira has come under fire for the use of its drugs
in judicial killings. A year ago it suspended all production in America of
sodium thiopental, a barbiturate widely used as the 1st stage of the lethal
cocktail, after it became clear that it could face penalties in Italy, where it
was also manufacturing the sedative.
Supplies of the key ingredients of the lethal injection are already running low
in several states, raising hopes among opponents of the death penalty that this
might lead to de facto abolition. Last month the European Commission imposed
Europe-wide restrictions on exports of key anaesthetics used to kill prisoners
in the US.
Nicholl said that the aim was to debunk the myth that the method of execution
was medically approved. "The myth has spread that lethal injections have the
involvement of doctors and are therefore kinder and more humane. There is no
evidence for that."
He added that Pancuronium is a powerful drug that should only be used by
practised anaethetists. "The idea that it is being safely used by some muppet
with 2 days' training is another myth," he said.
(source: The Guardian)
Death Of The Death Penalty?
Is America losing its thirst for the ultimate revenge?
Figures from the Death Penalty Information Centre show that the number of new
death sentences dropped dramatically in 2011, falling below 100 for the 1st
time in the modern era.
The group said developments “in a variety of states illustrated the growing
discomfort that many Americans have with the death penalty”.
It points to Illinois, which abolished the death penalty in 2011, Oregon, where
a moratorium on all executions was declared, and the national outcry around the
execution of Troy Davis in Georgia because of doubts about his guilt.
It has been noted, mostly recently in a Time magazine piece, that death penalty
is slowly being picked apart by local elected officials across the United
And the reason seems to be as much a matter or dollars and cents as any great
philosophical debate on the rights and wrongs of judicial killing.
California's top judge, who supports the death penalty, said recently it is
‘not effective’ and needs an overhaul that the state cannot afford.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the Los Angeles Times: "I don't think it
is working. It's not effective. We know that."
She said whether one supports capital punishment is not the issue: “I think the
greater question is its effectiveness and given the choices we face in
California, should we have a merit-based discussion on its effectiveness and
Cantil-Sakauye's comments come as signatures are being collected by the
coalition SAFE California for a proposed ballot measure to abolish the death
California has not executed anyone in nearly six years because of problems with
its old death chamber and then a shortage of one of the execution drugs.
The state has 720 inmates on its death row, the largest in the nation, and the
cost of keeping them there is a concern in the financially crippled state..
One recent study found that California had spent $4 billion dollars since 1978
to execute 13 prisoners. That works out at $308 million per execution.
Opinion polls show Americans are split pretty much down the middle on the death
The question is: can they afford it any more.
(source: Sky News)
Judges orders new sentence for death row inmate
The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered the Carroll County Circuit Court to
resentence Lawrence Branch to life without parole.
The justices acted Thursday after a federal judge threw out Branch's death
sentence in December. U.S. District Judge Michael Mills found Branch had met
each test of the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of mental retardation.
Branch was sentenced to death in 2002 in the beating and robbery of Dorothy
Broome Jorden of Coila. Jorden was found on her living room floor on Jan. 21,
2001. Authorities say she had been struck in the head at least 8 times.
The Supreme Court ordered Branch to be resentenced within 30 days.
(source: Associated Press)
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