Day: June 27, 2012

ARIZONA – Samuel Villegas Lopez – Executed 10:37 a.m June 27 2012

June 27, 2012 Source :

Samuel Lopez, who stabbed a Phoenix woman to death in 1986, was executed today at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence, three days before his 50th birthday.

Lopez had no last words.

No members of Lopez’s family were present, witnesses said. Eight members of the family of Estefana Holmes, his victim, spoke with reporters after the execution.

Victor Arguijo, Holmes’s brother, who traveled with other family members from Fort Worth, Texas, said, “We are not here to seek vengeance nor to avenge, but to seek justice for our family. This execution today will not bring our beloved Tefo back, but hopefully will bring closure.”

Lopez’s final meal consisted of one red chili con carne, one green chili con carne, Spanish rice, a jalapeño, an avocado, cottage cheese, French fries, a Coke, vanilla ice cream and pineapple.

The execution procedure began shortly before 10 a.m., as a group of six prison medical team members inserted intravenous catheters into Lopez’s arms. Lopez chatted with them and winced slightly, as government representatives, media, attorneys and Holmes’s family members watched on closed-circuit TV. Then prison officials opened the curtains between the death chamber and the witness area. The execution began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:37 a.m., taking more than twice as long as recent prior executions.

Lopez blinked, yawned, breathed rapidly, then his mouth dropped open, witnesses said.

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment his appeal for a stay. One aspect of Lopez’s death marked a departure from prior recent executions in Arizona, including three earlier this year, after extended legal disputes. For the first time, the Department of Corrections allowed witnesses to watch, via close-circuit cameras, as executioners inserted the intravenous catheters that deliver the fatal drug, pentobarbital, into the condemned man.

Previously, the department only allowed the curtain between observers and the inmate to be pulled back after the catheters were in place. Where and how the catheters were inserted in earlier executions led to legal accusations that the department was engaging in cruel and unusual punishment. Corrections officials have said that problems finding suitable veins in the condemned man’s arms or legs have forced them to insert catheters into the groin area.

As in past executions, Lopez was told by officials that his microphone would be cut off if he said anything offensive. In March, as convicted murder Robert Towery was being executed, officials refused his requests to speak with his attorney as medical staff repeatedly stuck him without being able to find a vein, eventually using his groin area. Towery communicated with his attorney by code during his last words.

Defense attorneys in Arizona have repeatedly brought these issues to court; the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that no part of an execution should be shielded from media witnesses.

Lopez was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Holmes in her apartment in central Phoenix in 1986. He stabbed the grandmother and seamstress more than 23 times and slashed her throat with her own kitchen knives after a fierce struggle. A few days later, while being interviewed by police investigating an unrelated sexual-assault incident, Lopez mentioned details of Holmes’ murder that hadn’t been released to the public, police said. His attorneys, on appeal of his 1987 conviction and death sentence, argued that those details had been common knowledge in the neighborhood.

Lopez’s attorney, Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender, criticized the execution and said Lopez was denied due process. “This broken process began at trial where untrained attorneys failed to raise crucial evidence about Sammy’s horrific and abusive family history. It continued up until this week as the courts refused to hear the merits of Sammy’s claims because of procedural barriers,” she said.

Lopez’s attorneys had sought stays in both state and federal courts. In state court, they argued that he couldn’t get a fair hearing before Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency, and that a majority of the five members had been improperly appointed as political cronies of Gov. Jan Brewer. In federal court, they argued that state courts hadn’t adequately considered factors that should have mitigated against a death sentence for Lopez, such as his brutal upbringing and a mental impairment caused by his childhood abuse of inhalants and other drugs.

On May 15, Arizona’s Supreme Court stayed his execution, originally set for that day, to allow a lower court to consider the argument that new clemency board members hadn’t received all the training required by state law. But last Friday, the court turned down his attorneys’ request for a second stay of execution, after a lower court ruled that there had been enough time for the training to be completed.

Also last Friday, Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency denied Lopez’s bid for a commutation to life without parole. More than a dozen members of Holmes’ extended family spoke at the board hearing in favor of his execution.

A small group of protesters braved the heat Wednesday to demonstrate against the death penalty, but were kept away from the prison by state troopers.

ARKANSAS – 10 killers manage to delay justice again

June 26, 2012 Source :

Arkansas can continue to sentence killers to death, but can’t execute them, thanks to a 5-2 state Supreme Court ruling Friday that declared the Arkansas Method of Execution Act was unconstitutional.

Executions haven’t been happening anyway. Arkansas hasn’t carried out a death sentence since 2005, when Eric Randall Nance paid the ultimate penalty for murdering an 18-year-old Malvern cheerleader in October 1993. An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article said Nance had come upon Julie Heath standing beside her broken-down car alongside U.S. 270.

He stabbed her in the throat with a box cutter. The state was kinder to him, using a lethal injection of sodium pentathol.

Since then the convicted killers on Arkansas’ Death Row, with the help of their lawyers, have managed to delay justice.

Their latest success came in a lawsuit filed jointly by 10 killers against the Arkansas Department of Correction challenging a 2009 law that had been passed by the General Assembly in an attempt to correct deficiencies cited in a previous lawsuit over the lethal injection process.

Five members of the court agreed that in the 2009 law the Legislature “abdicated its responsibility” by giving the Department of Correction too much discretion to decide how to carry out lethal injections, thus violating the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

The law specifies that the death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of “one or more chemicals, as determined in kind and amount in the discretion of the director of the Department of Correction.” The 10 killers offered a litany of other charges, just in case something else worked better, but that’s the one the court found most compelling.

One of the killer’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock, told a reporter that there was nothing in the law to prevent the director “from using rat poison or Drano or whatever to do an execution.”

He knows that’s a ludicrous suggestion because the U.S. Supreme Court would quickly rule rat poison to be “cruel and unusual.” Perhaps the state should go back to using the electric chair instead of messing with drugs, which seem to offer all sorts of avenues for delay.

In a well-reasoned dissent, Associate Justice Karen R. Baker pointed out that the “separation of powers” argument had previously been rejected in similar death penalty challenges in Texas, Delaware, Idaho and Florida, all of which had assigned responsibility for determining the procedures to the relevant administrative agency.

Separation of powers in American government is intended to prevent one branch from usurping the powers of another by establishing a series of checks and balances. There cannot and should not be a wall between the three branches. The state Supreme Court, for example, did not consider it a violation when ordering the Legislature to change its method of financing public schools.

While the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Jim Gunter specifically said the court was not suggesting “what modifications to the statute would pass constitutional muster,” the decision did just that. The Legislature clearly must specify what drugs will be used to carry out lethal injections administered to convicted killers.

Lest we forget, the guilt of these 10 men was not contested. Following, from court records and news reports, are their crimes.

Jack Harold Jones Jr., in 1995 raped and murdered a Bald Knob bookkeeper, Mary Phillips, and beat her 11-year-old daughter so severely that police first thought she was dead.

Jason Farrell McGehee was one of three men who kidnapped, tortured, beat, strangled and burned John Melbourne to death in 1996 after accusing the 15-year-old of snitching on them for stealing.

Bruce Earl Ward in 1989 attempted to rape and then strangled an 18-year-old Little Rock convenience store clerk, Rebecca Lynn Doss. He had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the 1977 strangulation of a woman in Pennsylvania.

Marcel Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, 22, after kidnapping her from a Jacksonville convenience store, where the mother of two had stopped to get gas.

Frank Williams Jr., fired by Clyde Spence in 1992 from a farm job , came back and killed Spence.

Terrick T. Nooner, while robbing a Little Rock laundromat in 1993, shot to death a college student, Scot Stobaugh, 23.

Kenneth Williams was convicted in 1999 of murdering a Lincoln County farmer, Cecil Boren, 57, after Williams escaped from the Cummins Unit prison. In 1998 he had kidnapped a couple from a restaurant where they had stopped for lunch after church. He robbed and shot both of them. Dominique Hurd, 19, a University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff cheerleader, died; her boyfriend survived.

Don W. Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 execution-style slaying of Jane Daniel, 62, of Rogers. He also stole various items, including jewelry, from her home and was first scheduled for execution in 1999.

Alvin Bernal Jackson, already in prison for the 1990 murder of Charles Colclasure and attempted killing of two other people, got the death penalty after stabbing prison guard Scott Grimes to death with a homemade knife in 1995.

Stacy Eugene Johnson in 1993 stripped, beat, strangled and slit the throat of Carol Jean Health, 26, at her De Queen apartment while her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son hid in a closet.

The Supreme Court justices need to figure out how to carry out the responsibilities of the judicial branch and administer justice to these men.