Day: May 8, 2012

CALIFORNIA – California Supreme Court upholds 1999 death sentence

May 7, 2012 Source :

The California Supreme Court Monday, May 7, upheld a death penalty sentence for a Mead Valley man sentenced in 1999 for his conviction of first-degree murder during a sexual assault on an 81-year-old woman who was a neighbor and long-time family friend.

The state high court voted 7-0 to uphold the death penalty for William Alfred Jones Jr, now 55, who was convicted by jurors for the attack that left Ruth Vernice Eddings dead.

Her nude body was found June 19, 1996, on the living room floor of her mobile home along Cajalco Road. Jones had torched the building to cover up the murder, and arson investigators discovered the body.

Jones admitted to sheriff’s investigators he had been drinking heavily when he went to Eddings’ mobile home to sexually attack her.

At the time, Jones was a parolee and registered sex offender living with his parents and working as a carpenter. He had been released from prison about 1 1/2 years earlier and had befriended Eddings, who had been his parents’ neighbor for many years.

Jones’ criminal past included several attacks on women and children, starting at age 15 when he stabbed a teacher. In 1990, he raped a 16-year-old girl, went to prison and was paroled.

Among the appeal items rejected Monday by the state Supreme Court was that the trial judge erred during the penalty phase by allowing the victim impact statement of the teacher, who was attacked in 1972.

NEVADA – Nevada court reviews death penalty sentence of convicted killer

May 7, 2012 Source

A convicted killer does not have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he does not deserve a death sentence, a defense lawyer says.

John R. Petty of the Washoe County public defender’s office told the Nevada Supreme Court that it should nullify the death penalty given murderer James Biela because a wrong instruction was given to the jury during the penalty phase of the trial in Reno.

But Terry McCarthy of the Washoe County district attorney’s office said each juror makes his or her own decision. And the death penalty should be upheld.

But Justice Kristina Pickering said there could be confusion in the jury instruction.

On Jan. 20, 2008, 19-year-old Brianna Dennison disappeared while sleeping on the couch of the home of a friend in Reno. Her body was found Feb. 15 in a field. She had been raped and strangled with a pair of thong panties.

Petty, the chief appeal deputy in the public defender’s office, said the jury was wrongly instructed that the mitigating circumstances must outweigh the aggravating circumstances to eliminate the possibility of the death penalty.

But Justice Michael Douglas noted the defense at the trial never objected to the jury instruction. Nor did the defense attorney argue against it in his closing argument.

But Petty said the court should either grant a new penalty hearing or reduce the death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney McCarthy told the court there was no requirement at trial that the death penalty be imposed. He said it was a moral judgment by the juror.

In his brief to the court, McCarthy quoted the instruction as saying, “If you find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one aggravating circumstance exists and each of you determines beyond a reasonable doubt that any mitigating circumstance do not outweigh the aggravating, the defendant is eligible for a death sentence.”

The court took the arguments under submission.

Biela is one of 82 men on death row in the state prison in Ely.

There has not been an execution by lethal injection in Nevada since Daryl Mack was put to death on April 26, 2006.

DELAWARE – How Delaware got rare execution drug

april 22 Source

DOVER — Just days before a manufacturer cracked down on the use of a key execution drug last year, Delaware was able to get a shipment of the sedative from one of the drugmaker’s suppliers through a complicated and secretive procurement process.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the process involved a state official with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry and was kept secret from all but a few Department of Correction officials as it unfolded. Even the attorney general was kept out of the loop for much of the process.

The documents offer a behind-the-scenes look at how Delaware officials navigated a procurement process that can be fraught with political and legal consequences. States have been scrambling during the past two years to revamp their execution procedures and find the sedatives needed to carry them out as manufacturers have sought to keep two key drugs out of execution chambers.

When the DOC needed to replenish its supply of lethal injection drugs last spring, it turned to a man who spent years cultivating contacts in the pharmaceutical industry: Delaware Economic Development Director Alan Levin. Like many other states, Delaware early last year began considering using pentobarbital after supplies of another execution mainstay, sodium thiopental, dwindled and its production was halted in the U.S.

At the time, however, there also was consternation over the use of pentobarbital. The Danish manufacturer of that drug had sought to curb its use in executions by sending letters to government authorities.

Before Levin’s involvement, DOC Commissioner Carl Danberg and his staff had tried other ways of getting execution drugs, including sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, without success. But with a single email, Levin, former head of the Happy Harry’s drugstore chain, was able to get the ball rolling, allowing the DOC to get the drugs it needed in time for an execution last July.

“Once Alan provided me with a contact, things fell into place,” Danberg said.

The department’s previous supplies of lethal injection drugs expired after the 2005 execution of Brian Steckel. The batch of drugs delivered last June was enough for several lethal injections, including that of convicted killer Shannon Johnson, who was executed Friday. The warden of the state prison in Smyrna that houses Delaware’s death row purchased a wine refrigerator to keep some of the drugs at the proper temperature.

Records obtained by the AP after it successfully appealed the DOC’s denial of a Freedom of Information Act request show that Danberg asked Levin last May for help in finding execution drugs.

Levin immediately sent an email to Mike Kaufmann, CEO of the pharmaceutical segment for Cardinal Health Inc., one of the largest wholesale distributors of prescription drugs in the United States. Cardinal also was a supplier for the manufacturer of pentobarbital, Denmark-based Lundbeck Inc., and would later become subject to Lundbeck’s restrictions on distributors providing pentobarbital for use in executions.

“While I know this is a bit of a political issue, since Cardinal is not located in Delaware I believed it may be easier for Cardinal to do this,” Levin wrote to Kaufmann.

“Is this something that Cardinal would be interested in selling to the state of Delaware? If not, do you have any recommendations who else we can pursue? While our need is not immediate, we do believe that we may need the drugs within the next 90 days.”

Three days later,Danberg received an email from Cardinal’s vice president of government accounts. During the next several weeks, Cardinal representatives worked with DOC employees to procure and ship quantities of pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

“I was happy to help facilitate it,” said Levin, explaining that Happy Harry’s, which he sold in 2006 to Walgreen Co., had done business with Cardinal for a decade or more.

“I understand the judicial system,” added Levin, a former prosecutor who noted that he believes in the death penalty.

A Cardinal spokeswoman said the company would not comment on Delaware’s procurement process and that it does not comment on specific interactions with customers.

But the emails show that DOC officials were aware of the sensitive nature of their purchase and they took pains to keep the process quiet.

“This is NOT for discussion or distribution to anyone, including your own staff until we get a chance to discuss,” Danberg wrote in a May 25 email to key lieutenants.

“Emphasize that I do not want this discussed yet. Certainly not until the drugs are on hand. I am not even telling the AG yet,” Danberg wrote.

Asked about the secrecy, Danberg noted that supplies of sodium thiopental — once a key execution drug for many states — dried up because of what he believes was public pressure on the supplier. Many states switched to pentobarbital after the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental said last year that it would not resume production.

“I did not want it getting outside the smallest number of people as possible how we were pursuing the chemicals because I wanted to make sure we had a supply of the chemicals first,” Danberg said. ” … I did not want the supplier of the chemicals to go public, to be publicly known, simply because I did not want that source to dry up.”

Danberg’s caution was understandable, given that Lundbeck had stated in January 2011 that pentobarbital was not intended for use in lethal injections. It also sent letters to corrections officials in the U.S. urging them to stop the practice.