Day: May 26, 2012

IDAHO – UPDATE – Richard Leavitt – Execution June 12 – 10:00 a.m EXECUTED

Richard Leavitt

Richard Leavitt, 53, was pronounced dead at 10:25 a.m. at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.

He offered no final statement, and the only time he spoke was to decline to have his head covered. 

JUNE 12 8.00 a.m 

BOISE — Idaho Dept. of Corrections Director Brent Reinke spoke to members of the media in a short briefing prior to convicted murderer Richard Leavitt’s Tuesday execution.

Reinke addressing those gathered outside the Idaho Maximum Security Institution just after 8 a.m.

Idaho’s top prison official began by emphasizing the serious nature of the execution, saying prison staff “take no joy in this duty.”

Reinke went on to explain that preparations for the State’s second execution in the last seven months have seen few changes since the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades in November 2011.

The prison chief also took several questions from reporters.

Reinke described Leavitt’s current mood as “resolved,” and said the convicted murderer had been meeting with family members throughout Monday night.

Reinke said Leavitt did not meet with a spiritual adviser.

Reinke also explained that Leavitt had been offered, and had subsequently taken several sedatives in preparation for his 10 a.m. execution.

Leavitt is also actively meeting with his attorney, and will continue to do so until the final minutes of his life, according to Reinke.


6 a.m. — Demonstration areas open

9:35 a.m. — Witnesses enter viewing rooms

10 a.m. — Warden reads death warrant to Leavitt and witnesses

10:03 a.m. — Warden asks Leavitt if he wishes to make final statement

10:10 a.m. — Lethal injection begins

10:35 a.m. — Warden declares execution complete

– Source: Idaho Department of Correction

June 11, 2012 Source :

BOISEIdaho — Convicted killer Richard Leavitt was calm and spending what was expected to be his last full day alive meeting with his team of lawyers and a handful of approved visitors at his cell on Idaho’s death row, prison officials said Monday.

Leavitt, 53, is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday morning by lethal injection at Idaho Maximum Security Institution, south of Boise. He was convicted in 1985 for the brutal stabbing death of Danette Elg, a 31-year-old woman from Blackfoot.

Leavitt, along with members of his family, insists he didn’t commit the crime. But barring any last-minute reprieve from federal judges, Leavitt will be just the second Idaho inmate put to death in 17 years.

He was calm as he met with visitors and lawyers, state prisons spokesman Jeff Ray said.

Leavitt declined to disclose the identity of his approved visitors. Ray said Leavitt will have baked chicken, french fries and milk for his last meal.

Tuesday’s execution will be different in two ways from the execution last November of Paul Ezra Rhoades.

The state’s execution team will administer a single, lethal dose of pentobarbital, a drug used as a surgical sedative. Last fall, Rhoades was given a lethal injection of three chemicals.

If the execution goes forward, it will mark the first time state and media witnesses will view Idaho’s lethal injection process in its entirety. Last fall, witnesses were barred from seeing the execution team escort Rhoades into the chamber, strap him to a gurney and insert the IV catheters into his arms.

Prison officials had blocked that portion of the execution to protect the identity of the execution team members. But more than a dozen news organizations sued the state, alleging that the Idaho Department of Correction policy limiting access to an execution from start to finish violated the First Amendment and the public’s right to know.

The news groups, led by The Associated Press, sought to expand access to bring Idaho policies in line with a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on a 2002 case that the public has a right to view executions in their entirety. The portion of the execution process blocked by Idaho prison officials has been subject to legal challenges by death row inmates nationwide, claiming the insertion of the catheters can be botched in a way that causes pain, other medical complications and raises questions about the dignity of the process.

On Friday, a three-judge panel from the San Francisco-based court sided with the news groups and ordered IDOC to modify its policy.

The same federal appeals court on Monday rejected two requests by Leavitt’s team of lawyers to rehear appeals in his case.

Late Monday, they U.S. Supreme Court rejected a motion Leavitt filed Sunday seeking a stay of the execution.

June 10, 2012 Source :

36 Hours before his scheduled execution, Richard Leavitt maintains his innocence 

For more than a quarter century Richard Leavitt has called Death Row home.

Leavitt is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday morning for the brutal July 1984 murder of 31-year-old Danette Elg of Blackfoot.

A jury convicted Leavitt of stabbing Elg 15 times and cutting out her sexual organs.

Leavitt never confessed to the murder. And, he tells Today’s 6 News and FOX 9 News at 9:00, he is innocent.

“They [the State of Idaho] are killing an innocent man,” Leavitt said.

Police linked Leavitt to Elg’s murder after finding the condemned killer’s blood on her underwear. However, Leavitt claims he had a nose bleed and used Elg’s clothing to wipe the blood.

“It was dark,” Leavitt said. “I didn’t know what I was grabbing if it was panties or a T-Shirt or a blanket…”

Leavitt claims Thelma Wilkins, who he says was Danette’s lover, killed her.

Police and prosecutors argue Leavitt led them to Danette’s body. But, Leavitt says he was one of several people at Elg’s home when Blackfoot Police discovered her mutilated body.

“We were all there when they broke into the house, not just me,Leavitt said. “There were probably five or six or seven of us there. They called me back two or three hours later and asked if I could identify Danette. I wlaked into the house holding my breath, seen what I seen and said all I can say is that it looks like her hair.”

Over the decades, the Death Row inmate passed two polygraph tests.

But, every appeal at every level failed.

Leavitt’s execution is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Boise.

His attorneys are drafting one final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court which will be reviewed Monday.

June 8, 2012 Source :

Final preps underway for Leavitt execution

BOISE — On Tuesday, Richard Leavitt will be executed for the 1984 murder of Danette Elg in Blackfoot. The Idaho Department of Correction is making the final preparations for his death by lethal injection.

The maximum security prison is now in Incident Command Mode, which means heightened alert and heightened security. It will stay that way until after the execution.

Leavitt is in a cell in F Block, the same building that holds the execution chamber where he is scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday. He’s being monitored 24 hours a day by two officers.

“For an individual who’s looking at, what we’re looking at on Tuesday, he’s anxious but in fairly good spirits,” said Brent Reinke, the Director of the Department of Correction.

He says Leavitt has had regular visits from his attorney, but has not requested a spiritual advisor.

“Other than that, he’s been waiting and watching, and watching legal procedures, legal actions like we all have been,” said Reinke.

Leavitt is expected to have visitors through the night on Monday, his execution is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Reinke says he’s expecting members of the victim’s family and Leavitt’s family to be there, but can’t yet say who or how many might be witnesses to the execution. A handful of law enforcement and government officials and some media will be allowed to witness the execution.

Leavitt will be allowed to make a statement, then given a single lethal injection.

“As we move forward, it will be the one drug of pentobarbital,” said Reinke.

This new protocol is a departure from the three injections of three different chemicals used in the past. The other chemicals became harder to obtain, and according to one lawyer representing death row inmates, the one injection reduces the risk of excruciating pain for the prisoner.

Reinke is also expecting protesters.

“This is a very polarizing event. So we’ll be having both pros and cons,” said Reinke. “We have lots, areas set aside for individuals who want to come out and express their freedom of speech.”

But Reinke says no matter how you feel about this man or the process, his department has a job to do on Tuesday.

“We want to make sure that this is carried out with as much professionalism, dignity, and respect as we possibly can,” said Reinke.

After the execution, Leavitt’s body will be handed over to the Ada County coroner.

Reinke also says the escort and medical teams have been training for this day for months, and their mental well being is one of his biggest priorities.

June 7, 2012 Source : AP

News organizations appeal Idaho execution case

BOISE, Idaho  — A legal challenge seeking full viewing access to Idaho executions will go before a federal appeals court Thursday, with The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations saying the process is unconstitutionally restrictive.

The lawsuit comes as lethal injections have drawn greater scrutiny, from whether the drugs are effective to whether the execution personnel are properly trained.

The news organizations filed a federal lawsuit last month seeking to strike the portion of Idaho’s regulations that prevent witnesses — including reporters acting as representatives of the public — from viewing executions until after catheters have been inserted into the veins of death row inmates.

The news organizations also asked a judge to prevent next week’s execution of Richard Leavitt from moving forward without the changes, but a federal judge denied that request Tuesday.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge said that while the news organizations had presented a strong case in arguing that the execution limits run afoul of freedom of the press provisions, the timing of the claim fell too close to Leavitt’s execution date and could cause a delay.

Lodge didn’t rule on the merits of the lawsuit, only denying the request for a preliminary injunction. The news organizations now are want the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Lodge’s decision. The hearing is set for Thursday morning in Pasadena, Calif.

The hearing comes five days ahead of Leavitt’s scheduled execution. He was convicted of murder in the 1984 killing of Blackfoot resident Danette Elg.

In a brief filed in support their appeal, the news organizations argue the reasons given by the Idaho Department of Correction for closing a portion of the execution process do not pass constitutional muster.

The news organizations also took issue with Lodge’s finding that the lethal injection protocol could be altered in the future without harm to the parties involved.

Chuck Brown, an attorney for the news organizations, argued this represented a “profound event.”

“The lower court is essentially finding that a First Amendment right can be violated today as long as it is possible for First Amendment rights to be reasserted at some date in the future. Such a finding flies in the face of what our constitutional rights are all about,” Brown said in court documents.

Additionally, the news organizations targeted Lodge’s finding that their claim was filed too late and if granted could force a delay in Leavitt’s execution. The public has an interest in viewing the whole execution process, Lodge said, but it also has an interest in seeing the judgment enforced without disruption.

“Perhaps the department would need to reschedule the execution of Mr. Leavitt for a later date,” Brown said.

He added, “perhaps the department could simply draw open the curtains on the preparatory stage and proceed as scheduled with only minor adjustments.”

The news organizations have cited a 9th Circuit ruling in a 2002 California case that found every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses, from the moment the condemned enters the death chamber to the final heartbeat. The ruling established what was expected of the nine Western states within the court’s jurisdiction.

The news organizations filed their case after talks were unsuccessful with prison officials, who took the position that the 2002 ruling was based on facts unique to California, Brown said, citing letters from Idaho correction director Brent Reinke.

Deputy Attorney General Michael S. Gilmore, on behalf of state officials, has asked the 9th Circuit to affirm Lodge’s ruling.

Gilmore said in court documents that the lower court reviewed the case “under applicable procedural and substantive law. It engaged in a reasoned, record-based analysis that weighed competing factors for and against a preliminary injunction in a measured, articulate manner.”

June 4, 2012  Source :

The attorney for death row inmate Richard Leavitt argued for a stay of execution today before the state supreme court.

Attorney David Nevin says the courts have changed procedures in the past year in ways that affect this case, and there are still significant issues that need to be heard before Leavitt’s scheduled execution in just over a week. The state says it’s just a stalling tactic. Attorney David Nevin says Leavitt should get a stay because of significant blood evidence that wasn’t heard during the first trial.

He says that issue is important enough the state should hear it before allowing next Tuesday’s execution.
Nevin says evidence existed to counter the prosecution’s key argument that blood from Leavitt and Danette Elg were mixed indicating they were spilled at the same time.

“It was the last argument by the prosecution who said it was conclusive proof of leavett’s guilt. Well the defense was in posession of a report by an expert that said they weren’t mixed,” says Nevin.

Nevin says the report was witheld for tactical reasons because the expert witness might also have provided other evidence harmful to Leavitt’s case. The prosecution says all this is just a stalling tactic to allow all sorts of last minute appeals.

“This rule, if we interpret it the way counsel would like us to would allow for third party top come along minutes before an execution, file a motion to cause a review and then we have to start over,” says assistant Attorney General LaMont Anderson.

Decisions from the court can sometimes take weeks, but in this case will likely be expedited because of the execution timeline.
Leavitt was convicted of murder in 1984 and his case has been going through the appeals process for the past 28 years.

The 9th circuit court will hear an appeal this thursday on whether Leavitt’s original counsel was ineffective.

June 1, 2012 Source :

The Idaho Supreme Court has set oral arguments for Monday at 3 p.m. on a series of last-minute issues raised by condemned murderer Richard Leavitt, who is scheduled to be executed June 12. Late yesterday, the high court dismissed a major filing by Leavitt’s attorneys, a petition to vacate the death warrant and conduct a new hearing. The remaining issues, including a notice of appeal first filed May 21 in Bingham County, will be argued on Monday.

The Supreme Court has posted a link here on its website to all the last-minute filings in the capital murder case, which also include federal court filings; you can read its Thursday order here. Leavitt’s death warrant was issued May 17 for the July 1984 murder and mutilation of Danette Elg in Blackfoot; his final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected on May 14. Idaho completed its first execution in 17 years in November, putting triple murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades to death by lethal injection.

May 25, 2012 Source :

BOISE, Idaho  — The attorney representing a death row inmate scheduled to die in two weeks says he has passed a polygraph test that proves he’s innocent.

Richard Albert Leavitt was convicted of the 1984 stabbing murder of Blackfoot resident Danette Elg. Proseuctors said he stabbed her repeatedly and then cut out her sexual organs. He is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on June 12.

But Leavitt has long maintained his innocence in the case, and now his attorney, David Nevin, is asking the federal court to accept a polygraph test as proof of that claim. Polygraph tests are typically not admissible as evidence in court.

Nevin is also asking for the court to allow DNA testing on some evidence from the crime scene. The judge has previously turned down the request, saying he doubted the “proposed testing would bring favorable results.”

But Nevin contends that it’s not possible to know what, if anything, the DNA testing will reveal until it’s completed. If the blood of a third person were found at the scene, that would be exculpatory, Nevin said.

“The state is rushing headlong into executing an innocent man. Surely it is not too much to ask that important evidence in the case be tested at no expense and no risk to the state,” Nevin wrote to the court.

He also said a renowned polygraph expert, Boise State University psychology professor Charles Honts, examined Leavitt and found him to be truthful when he denied involvement in Elg’s murder.

Honts asked Leavitt three questions, according to court documents: “Did you stab Danette Elg?“, “Did you remove Danette Elg’s internal genitals?” and “Were you present when Danette Elg was stabbed?”

Leavitt answered “no” to all three, according to the filing. Honts also found that Leavitt’s breathing, heart rate and other physiological signals were consistent with those expected when someone is telling the truth. Honts concluded that Leavitt’s answers had a high statistical possibility of being truthful.

“Mr. Leavitt’s passing the polygraph examination provides eloquent confirmation that he is not Danette Elg’s killer, and that he is, on the contrary, innocent,” wrote Nevin.

Leavitt was arrested after authorities discovered Elg’s body in her blood-spattered bedroom four days after her June 18, 1984 murder. Just a day or two before her death, Elg called 911 and reported a prowler had tried to enter her home. When police arrived they found signs of attempted entry but nothing else, and Elg told them she suspected Leavitt was the culprit.

Prosecutors also say that during the four days between Elg’s murder and the discovery of her body, Leavitt was exceedingly interested in her whereabouts, finally getting permission to enter the home with police who discovered the body.

Additionally, Leavitt’s blood was found in the bedroom. He later claimed that he’d gotten a nosebleed while in the room several days before Elg’s death.

And prosecutors claimed that one of the strangest elements of the murder — that Elg’s internal sexual organs were removed in a way that would be difficult to accomplish without some knowledge of anatomy — were explained when Leavitt’s ex-wife testified that during a hunting trip she had once found Leavitt removing the female sexual organs of a deer and playing with them.

CALIFORNIA- California defies order to turn over one of three drugs used in executions

May 26, 2012 Source :

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California on Friday joined other states in defying a federal government order to turn over a key execution drug.

At issue is the drug sodium thiopental, one of three drugs California and dozens of other states use in lethal injections. It puts the inmate to sleep before fatal doses of two other drugs are delivered. California and others have been purchasing the drug oversees since the United States’ sole manufacturer ceased production of the anesthetic in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in March ruled that the Food and Drug Administration erred in allowing the prisons to import the foreign-made drug. The judge ordered the FDA to confiscate all foreign-made sodium thiopental and to warn prisons that it was now illegal to use the drug. The FDA followed the Washington D.C.-based judge’s order and sent demand letters to prisons. But beginning with Nebraska on April 20, more than a dozen states have refused to comply with the FDA order.

On Friday, California joined the protest in a letter sent to the FDA. With 725 Death Row inmates, California has the highest number of condemned prisoners.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation lawyer Benjamin Rice and the other states with foreign-bought sodium thiopental contend they aren’t bound by the ruling made by a federal judge in Washington D.C. They also argue that the judge was wrong and urged the FDA to appeal.

“The CDCR is unaware of any laws or imperative that would require it to return the thiopental in question,” Rice wrote Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA’s import operations. Rice wrote that subjecting lethal injection drugs to the same regulations designed to prevent illegal sales of controlled substances is a “strained interpretation” of the law.

FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess declined comment because the lawsuit at issue is still pending. The lawsuit was filed by death row inmates in three states

Local and state officials have been striving to restart executions in California since a judge blocked them in 2006 and ordered the state to overhaul its lethal injection process to ensure inmates don’t suffer cruel and unusual harm. The state’s efforts to resume executions in 2010 failed, in part, because its supply of sodium thiopental expired before it could lethally inject rapist-murderer Albert Brown. The state then turned to England-based pharmaceutical distributor Archimedes Pharma and purchased 521 grams of sodium thiopental.

Now, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley is trying to force the issue anew. Cooley asking a judge to order the executions of Mitchell Carleton Sims and Tiequon Aundray Cox, both of whom have been on death row for more than 25 years and have exhausted their appeals. A hearing set for Friday for a judge to hear arguments was postponed until July 13.

Cooley, who is retiring after three terms, is the first district attorney in California to make the request and his attempt comes just months before voters decide whether to abolish capital punishment.

Cooley argues that the state doesn’t need to use sodium thiopental and should scrap its three-drug cocktail. Instead, Cooley wants California to start using a single-drug method employed by other states. Gov. Jerry Brown recently ordered prison officials to explore that option.

Most single-drug states, including Texas, use pentobarbital. But last week Missouri said it would begin executing inmates with the drug propofol, the same drug that accidentally killed pop star Michael Jackson. Since adopting the one-drug protocol in 2009, Ohio has carried out 15 successful executions, according to court documents.

California has executed 13 inmates since it reinstated the death penalty in 1978.

Sims was sentenced to death in 1986 after being convicted of murdering a Glendale pizza deliveryman. Sims, 52, also faces a death sentence in South Carolina for murdering two co-workers.

Cox, 46, was a gang member who gunned down a grandmother, her daughter and two grandchildren in 1984. A 14-year-old boy hid in a closet, which authorities say saved his life.


ALABAMA- Appeals court upholds pair of death sentences

May 26, 2012 Source :

An Alabama appeals court on Friday denied the appeals of two death row inmates, one from Montgomery County and the other from Jefferson County.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the death sentence of 33-year-old Shonelle Andre Jackson in the 1997 slaying of Lefrick Moore during a carjacking in Montgomery.

Jackson was accused of shooting Moore after a traffic accident, and then two other men took Moore’s car.

In his appeal, Jackson claimed misconduct by jurors. The appeal cited one juror whom Jackson’s appeal claimed did not inform the court during jury selection that he owned two guns.

Jackson also cited that another juror did not say during jury selection that she had several friends in the Montgomery Police Department.

Jackson also said in his appeal that the trial judge erred in overturning the jury’s sentencing recommendation that Jackson be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also claimed that his attorney was ineffective in one phase of his trial.

The appellate court also upheld the death sentence given to 42-year-old Willie B. Smith III. Smith was convicted of the October 1991 slaying of Sharma Ruth Johnson, who was abducted while waiting to use a Birmingham ATM machine. She was later shot execution-style in a cemetery.

The court rejected Smith’s claims on appeal, including that he shouldn’t be executed because he is intellectually disabled and that his lawyers provided ineffective assistance at trial.

Both Smith and Jackson are on their second round of appeals.