Day: June 15, 2012

OREGON – Death Row Inmate Demands Execution – Gary D. Haugen

June 15, 2012 Source :

SALEM, Ore.  – A death row inmate sued Gov. John Kitzhaber in state court, demanding to be put to death. Kitzhaber “announced that he would refuse to permit any further executions to occur while he served as governor, Gary D. Haugen says in his complaint in Marion County Court. Kitzhaber issued a “temporary reprieve of plaintiff’s death sentence” in November and then imposed the moratorium.
Haugen, 50, seeks judicial intervention, calling his reprieve “invalid and ineffective” because he refuses to accept it. He claims that state law requires that the person receiving a reprieve accept it. “Plaintiff has rejected the reprieve and therefore it is legally ineffective to halt the execution of this sentence,” the complaint states.
Haugen also claims that the reprieve is “beyond the governor’s constitutional authority” because it does not last for a definite time.
He also questions the governor’s reasons for issuing the reprieve. Rather than suspending the death penalty because it is inhumane, Kitzhaber suspended it “because of defendant’s moral opposition,” Haugen says.
He claims that the Oregon Constitution “does not confer upon him [Kitzhaber] the power to suspend the operation of any Oregon law for the reason that he is opposed to it.”
Haugen claims that a governor may grant clemency, but it must be because it has been determined that the prisoner deserves mercy, which may come in the form of a pardon, a reduction in sentence or a reprieve based on the inhumanity or injustice of proceeding with the death penalty.
Kitzhaber has called the death penalty ineffective and “morally wrong,” and said he does not wish to “participate” in it.
Haugen quotes the governor as saying, “Oregon’s application of the death penalty is not fairly and consistently applied. [I do] not believe that state-sponsored executions bring justice.”
A death warrant hearing in September 2011 found Haugen competent to be executed. He accepted the finding and chose not to challenge it. He was scheduled to be executed on Dec. 6, 2011. Haugen asked the court to determine that the governor’s reprieve is unconstitutional, and that the court “would become legally obligated to conduct a death warrant hearing” and “to issue a death warrant directing the plaintiff’s sentence to be carried out.” The complaint does not mention the nature of Haugen’s crime, but Oregon media refer to him as a “two-time killer.”
The case resembles the famous case of Gary Gilmore, who demanded to be executed in Utah in 1977, and got his wish.  Haugen is represented by Harrison Latto of Portland.  

MISSOURI – 19 Missouri Death Row Inmates Awaiting High Court Ruling

June 15, 2012 Source :

St. LOUIS (KMOX) – Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is prodding the state supreme court to set some execution dates for 19 individuals.

Koster said  it’s been more than a year since Missouri carried out an execution, largely due to concerns over whether the old three drug system was cruel and unusual punishment.

We have a law in the state of Missouri, the death penalty law is very clear and our filing  was a recognition that the Supreme Court can not simply be silent on this issue.”

“It needs to answer these questions one way or another, and so the single drug protocol that has been developed by the department of corrections,  will probably come under scrutiny over the enxt several months but it is time to move this process forward and silence on this issue is really not an option.”

Last month, Missouri became the first state in the nation to adopt, Propofol, a surgical anesthetic as its execution drug. After Koster asked the high court to set execution dates, it filed orders in six cases, asking inmates to “show cause” why they shouldn’t be executed. They have until June 29 to respond.

Propofol,  is  the same anesthetic that caused the overdose death of pop star Michael Jackson.  Critics question how the state can guarantee a drug untested for lethal injection won’t cause pain and suffering for the condemned.

Propofol, made by AstraZeneca and marketed as Diprivan, gained notoriety following Jackson’s death in 2009. Spokespeople for AstraZeneca and its U.S. marketer, APP, declined comment on its use in executions. But Dieter questioned if enough research has been done.

“Any drug used for a new purpose on human subjects should certainly be tested very, very carefully,” Dieter said. “I can only imagine the things that might go wrong.”

Adding to the concern, some say, is Missouri’s written protocol which, like the one it replaced, does not require a physician to be part of the execution team. It states that a “physician, nurse, or pharmacist” prepares the chemicals, and a “physician, nurse or emergency medical technician … inserts intravenous lines, monitors the prisoner, and supervises the injection of lethal chemicals by nonmedical members of the execution team.”

Jonathan Groner, an Ohio State University surgeon who has studied lethal injection extensively, said propofol is typically administered by either an anesthesiologist, who is a physician, or a nurse anesthetist under the physician’s direct supervision. Improper administration could cause a burning sensation or pain at the injection site, he said.

Groner said high doses of propofol will kill by causing respiratory arrest. But the dosage must be accurate and the process must move swiftly because propofol typically wears off in just a few minutes.

“If they start breathing before the heart stops, they might not die,” Groner said. That would force the process to be restarted.

Critics also question the safety of the single-drug method. Missouri becomes the third state with a single-drug protocol, along with Arizona and Ohio. Three others — South Dakota, Idaho and Washingtonhave options for single- or multiple-drug executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. California and Kentucky are exploring a switch to the one-drug method.

CALIFORNIA – Cost of death penalty can be calculated

June 15, 2012 Source :

In his opinion piece (“Would repealing the death penalty really save money?,” June 10), Michael O’Reilley tells California voters that passing the SAFE (Savings Accountability Full Enforcement) California initiative on Nov. 6 would not result in any cost savings for the state.

Mr. O’Reilley relies on the same argument advanced by many proponents of the death penalty, which is that there is no reliable evidence that repealing the death penalty will save money because the “true cost” of the current system is “difficult to determine.”

For too many years, Californians have been kept in the dark about how much the state is spending on its broken death penalty system because, they were told, such a cost analysis was impossible to perform. That is simply not the case.

In our three-year-long, exhaustive investigation into the costs of California’s death penalty, Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcón and I reviewed every available source of cost data. Our mission was to tell voters the truth about what they are spending on the state’s current system — one that has been described as “dysfunctional” by both the former and current chief justices of the California Supreme Court.

Our research revealed that while there is, indeed, a lack of political will when it comes to tracking these costs, there is no question that California’s death penalty has cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the past 34 years. We relied on court records, state budgets, and other objectively reliable data to calculate the costs associated with each stage of process from trials through final appeals.

The findings in our report are supported by the Blue-Ribbon Panel convened by the state Senate, the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, which did a similar study and reported similar data in its Final Report published in 2008.

The following facts are undisputed:

• California taxpayers have funded roughly 2,000 death penalty trials over the past three decades;

• California houses more than 22 percent of the nation’s death row inmates, but has carried out no more than 1 percent of all executions nationwide in that time — 13 executions since 1978;

• The vast majority of condemned inmates die on death row before their sentences are ever carried out, which means that those inmates receive state-funded medical care for the entirety of their lives — an expense that Mr. O’Reilley argues (incorrectly) is incurred only under a life without possibility of parole (LWOP) sentence, but not under a sentence of death.

Voters must decide for themselves whether Mr. O’Reilley’s argument that the current system is a deterrent to violent crime that comes at no added cost to taxpayers rings true. Voters must also consider whether — when it comes to public safety — the current dysfunctional death penalty system is a good use of our state’s limited resources when more than 10,000 homicides committed over the past 10 years remain unsolved.

In the current economic climate, voters should not be satisfied with being told that it is impossible to calculate what the death penalty costs. Voters should demand to know the truth.

Mitchell is co-author (with Judge Arthur L. Alarcón) of “Executing the Will of the Voters? A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” and lives in Los Angeles.

ALABAMA – Prison chaplain questions death penalty value

June 14, 2012 Source :

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — In 1981, Philip Workman walked into a Wendy’s restaurant in Memphis, brandished a gun, and had the employees hand him the money out of the cash drawer.
Cornered moments later by police officers in a corner of the parking lot, Workman fired the gun. A police officer fell.

In 2007, Workman was executed for that homicide.

Trouble is, says the Rev. Joseph Ingle, who will speak in Huntsville Tuesday, Workman’s gun is not the one that killed that police officer.

The officer, according to forensic evidence analyzed after Workman’s ‘82 trial, was killed by the kind of bullet that is in police pistols, not Workman’s. The officer, in short, appears to have been killed by another officer’s shot.

Ingle’s latest book, “The Inferno: A Southern Morality Tale,” chronicles what happened between that moment in the parking lot and Workman’s execution by lethal injection 26 years later.

“It was pretty much a nightmare,” Ingle said this week from his home office in Nashville. “If you ever think the issue of capital punishment and our criminal justice system aren’t politically fraught, you need to take another look. It is beyond appalling.”

Ingle himself never had taken a look until his senior year in seminary. That’s when, to satisfy a requirement, he began volunteering in a jail in Harlem for 20 hours a week for a year.

“Meeting those men just changed my life,” Ingle said.

It also changed his ministry. Rather than take a United Church of Christcongregation, Ingle chose to become a self-supporting prison chaplain. He volunteers in Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville. From 1974 until 1983, he was the executive director of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons, a multi-state organization that sought to abolish the death penalty.

Abolishing the penalty makes sense not only to avoid executing people for crimes they didn’t commit, but also in simple dollars and cents.

“Nationally, there is a move away from capital punishment,” Ingle said, “but you don’t see that in the South. Since 1977, more than 93 percent of the executions in the U.S. have been in the South.”

And patterns for those executions follow disturbingly familiar paths of racial discrimination.

“If you kill a white person, you are 11 times more likely to die for that crime than if you kill a black person,” Ingle said. “And it’s even worse if you’re a black person and you kill a white person. Then you are 22 times more likely to die.”

Ingle said that the current mood in the U.S. of distrusting government should extend to this issue.

“Think about it,” Ingle said. “We don’t trust the state with our taxes, and we’re going to trust the state to say who lives or dies?”