Day: July 20, 2013

USA: Death Penalty Fast Facts

ere’s a look at what you need to know about the death penalty in the United States.


Capital punishment is legal in 32 U.S. states.

Approximately 3,125 inmates in 35 states are awaiting execution.

Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico have abolished the death penalty, but it is not retroactive. Prisoners on death row in those states will still be executed.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, 1,338 people have been executed. (as of July 2013)

Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty.

Federal Government:

The U.S. government and U.S. military have approximately 66 people awaiting execution. (as of January 2013)

The U.S. government has executed 3 people since 1976. (as of July 2013)


There are 61 women on death row in the United States. (as of January 2013)

13 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. (as of July 2013)


March 1, 2005 – Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juveniles is unconstitutional. This means that 16 and 17-year-olds are ineligible for execution.

22 juveniles between the ages of 16 and 17 were executed between 1976 and 2005.


Clemency Processes around the Country

273 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a pardon.


1834 – Pennsylvania becomes the 1st state to move executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions.

1838 – Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 – Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890 – William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 – 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 – The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s – Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 per year.

June 29, 1972 – Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 – Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 – A 10-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 – Oklahoma becomes the 1st state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

December 7, 1982 – Charles Brooks becomes the 1st person executed by lethal injection.

1984 – Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the 1st woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 – Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.

1987 – McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a constitutional violation of “equal protection of the law” unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 – Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.

1989 – Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age sixteen or seventeen.

1994 – President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.

1996 – The last hanging takes place in Delaware.

January 31, 2000 – A moratorium on executions is declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan. Since 1976, Illinois is the 1st state to block executions.

2002 – Atkins v. Virginia. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 2003 – Before leaving office, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois’s death row, due to the flawed process that led to the death sentences.

June 2004 – New York’s death penalty law is declared unconstitutional by the state’s high court.

March 1, 2005 – Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile killers is unconstitutional. The 5-4 decision tosses out the death sentence of a Missouri man who was 17-years-old when he murdered a St. Louis area woman in 1993.

December 2, 2005 – The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd in North Carolina marks the 1,000th time the death penalty has been carried out since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Boyd, 57, is executed for the 1988 murders of his wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and father-in-law, Thomas Dillard Curry.

June 12, 2006 – The Supreme Court rules that death row inmates can challenge the use of lethal injection as a method of execution.

December 15, 2006 – Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspends the death penalty after the execution of prisoner Angel Diaz. Diaz had to be given 2 injections, and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die.

December 15, 2006 – Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose rules that lethal injection in California violates the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

December 17, 2007 – Governor Jon Corzine signs legislation banning the death penalty in New Jersey. The death sentences of eight men are commuted to life terms.

September 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case of Baze and Bowling v. Rees, in which 2 Kentucky death row inmates challenged Kentucky’s use of a 3-drug mixture for death by lethal injection.

December 31, 2007 – Due to the de facto moratorium on executions, pending the Supreme Court’s ruling, only 42 people in the U.S. are executed in 2007. It is the lowest total in more than 10 years.

April 14, 2008 – In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upholds Kentucky’s use of lethal injection. Between September 2007, when the Court took on the case, and April 2008 no one was executed in the U.S.

March 18, 2009 – Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signs legislation repealing the death penalty in his state. His actions will not affect 2 prisoners currently on death row, Robert Fry, who killed a woman in 2000, and Tim Allen, who killed a 17-year-old girl in 1994.

November 13, 2009 – Ohio becomes the 1st state to switch to a method of lethal injection using a single drug, rather than the 3-drug method used by other states.

March 9, 2011 – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announces that he has signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in his state, more than 10 years after the state halted executions.

March 16, 2011 – The Drug Enforcement Agency seizes Georgia’s supply of thiopental, over questions of where the state obtained the drug. U.S. manufacturer Hospira stopped producing the drug in 2009. The countries that still produce the drug do not allow it to be exported to the U.S. for use in lethal injections.

May 20, 2011 – The Georgia Department of Corrections announces that pentobarbital will be substituted for sodium thiopental in the three-drug lethal injection process.

July 2011 – Lundbeck Inc., the company that makes pentobarbital (brand name Nembutal), the drug used in lethal injections, announces it will restrict the use of its product from prisons carrying out capital punishment. “After much consideration, we have determined that a restricted distribution system is the most meaningful means through which we can restrict the misuse of Nembutal. While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can’t make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons’ access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection.” Lundbeck also states that it “adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment.”

July 7, 2011 – Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr., a Mexican national, is executed by lethal injection, in Texas for the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of Adra Sauceda in San Antonio. Despite pleas from the U.S. State Department and the White House, Texas Governor Rick Perry does not grant clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court does not intervene.

November 22, 2011 – Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon grants a reprieve to Gary Haugen, who was scheduled to be executed December 6. Kitzhaber, a licensed physician, also puts a moratorium on all state executions for the remainder of his term in office.

April 25, 2012 – Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signs S.B. 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, into law. The law goes into effect immediately and replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. The law is not retroactive to those already on death row. June 22, 2012 – The Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down the state’s execution law, calling the form of lethal injection the state uses unconstitutional.

August 7, 2012 – The Supreme Court allows the execution of Marvin Wilson, 54, a Texas inmate with low IQ.

November 6, 2012 – A measure to repeal the death penalty in California fails.

May 2, 2013 – Maryland’s governor signs a bill repealing the death penalty. The legislation goes into effect October 1.

June 26, 2013 – Texas executes its 500th prisoner since 1982, Kimberly McCarthy, for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth. McCarthy is the 1st female executed in the U.S. since 2010.

(source: CNN)

Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago”

Watch the video  : click here

n some of his most extensive comments on U.S. race relations since entering the White House, President Obama on Friday gave a very personal perspective of the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman, offering an explanation for why the case has created so much anxiety within the African-American community.


“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could’ve been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Mr. Obama said in an unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room, where reporters were gathered to question White House spokesman Jay Carney. (Watch his full remarks in the video above)




“When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, it’s important to recognize the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”


After a Florida jury on Saturday acquitted Zimmerman of murder, Mr. Obama gave a decidedly muted response, noting that the Justice Department was reviewing the case. Some civil rights leaders called for more action from the administration of the nation’s first African-American president.



The president on Friday laid out a series of actions the government could take to help ease racial tensions at the community level, as well as foster a better environment for African-American boys. He also spoke about the sort of negative experiences that are common for young African-American men — some of which he said he has personally experienced — that have prompted the passionate reactions to the Zimmerman verdict.




“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store, and that includes me,” he said. He spoke about hearing the locks click on car doors while crossing the street — something Mr. Obama said he experienced before he was senator — or seeing a woman nervously clutch her purse while in an elevator with an African-American man.



“I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. It’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”


Mr. Obama said that government at all levels could help ease race relations by working with local law enforcement to create racial sensitivity training programs and best practices. As a state senator in Illinois, Mr. Obama helped pass racial profiling legislation that required training for officers on racial bias issues. He said that while police departments were initially resistant, it allowed them to build more trust with their communities.


Next, Mr. Obama said, “I think it’d be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kind of altercations and tragedies” that occurred in the Trayvon Martin case.




Obama calls for “soul-searching” in wake of Zimmerman verdict


The president acknowledged that Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law was not part of Zimmerman’s defense. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama said that kind of law does not necessarily send a positive message.


“If we’re sending a message in our societies … that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from the situation, is that really going to be contributing to the peace and order?” he asked. “For those who resist that idea, I’d just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? Do we actually think he would’ve been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman because he followed him in a car?”


Mr. Obama also said the nation should consider how to “bolster and reinforce our African-American boys.”


“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting negative reinforcement,” he said, adding there is “more we can do to give them a sense their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest them.”


Mr. Obama added that he is not “naive about the prospects of some new, grand program,” but that business leaders, clergy, athletes, celebrities and others could help “young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed.”


The president said that national dialogues on race are not typically productive because “they end up being stilted and politicized,” but that it’s worth having conversations among families or churches.


Finally, he said the nation shouldn’t lose sight of its progress on issues of race and equality.


“When I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are,” he said. “That’s true of every community that I’ve visited all across the country.”

The Reasons Behind the Slow Pace of Executions

Opponents of the death penalty have hit upon an effective tactic: Learn who is making the lethal drugs used in executions and publicly shame them. Now, death penalty states are fighting to make the names of the drugs a state secret.

States that impose the death penalty have been facing a crisis in recent years: They are short on the drugs used in executions.

In California, which has the country’s largest death row population, the chief justice of the state supreme court has said there are unlikely to be any executions for 3 years, in part due to the shortage of appropriate lethal drugs. As a result, state prosecutors are calling for a return of the gas chamber.

Ohio, which is 2nd only to Texas in the number of executions carried out since 2010, said it will run out of the drug it uses in executions, pentobarbital, on September 30. The state has 2 men scheduled for execution in November, and 8 more set to be killed after that. Every state’s supply of pentobarbital, which has been the principal execution drug, expires at the end of November.

The shortage has forced death penalty states to scramble on two fronts: They are hunting for new suppliers or different drugs to use, and enacting changes to public records laws to keep the names of suppliers and manufacturers of those alternative drugs secret.

The lack of lethal drugs, and the fight over keeping new ones secret, are partly the result of a remarkably effective campaign by opponents of the death penalty, who have, in effect, taken their efforts from the court room to the boardroom.

Each time a state has found a new source for a drug to use in executions, Reprieve, an anti-death penalty organization based in London, in collaboration with death penalty lawyers in the United States, has used freedom of information laws, the local news media, and the powers of persuasion to compel the drug’s manufacturer to cut off the supply.

“Who’s easier to persuade? The Supreme Court or a corporation that has financial interests?” said Clive Stafford Smith, a British-American, who was a death penalty lawyer in the South for many years before founding Reprieve. “You can make it not worth their while to allow their drugs in executions.”

The effectiveness of Reprieve’s campaign might well be behind the action taken last year by the state of Texas, which leads the nation in executions.

When a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, Mike Ward, using the state’s Public Information Act, sought information about the drugs used in executions, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice fiercely resisted.

Some death penalty states, looking to solve their drug supply problems in a more reliable way, switched drugs – opting for pentobarbital, an anesthetic commonly used in putting animals to sleep. In one legal filing, Patricia Fleming, the agency’s assistant general counsel, said revealing the information about the drugs and who made them would invite “financial intimidation and negative publicity,” as well as “intensive lobbying” and “unrestrained harassment.” Referring to death penalty opponents, Fleming asserted that “essential to their strategy is knowledge of the private companies” that supply the drugs used in lethal injections.

The state attorney general ruled against her, and the department disclosed that it had enough pentobarbital at the time for 23 executions, Ward reported.

Death penalty states are now taking measures to keep anti-death penalty activists, and journalists, from learning the identity of suppliers. A Georgia law enacted in March provides that any information about a “person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment” used in an execution shall be considered a “confidential state secret.” Already this year, at least 3 other states – Arkansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee – have amended their public records laws to exempt the names of suppliers from disclosure.

Lethal injection was first proposed as a method of execution in the 19th century by a New York doctor who argued it would be cheaper than hanging. It took 100 years or so for it to be used, but every state that set out to execute people eventually adopted it as the chosen method.

Generally, states have used a 3-drug protocol. The 1st was an anesthetic, sodium thiopental, intended to render the prisoner unconscious so that he or she does not experience the pain and suffering from the drugs to come. The 2nd drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the diaphragm and lungs, making it impossible for the condemned to breathe. Finally, potassium chloride is injected, causing death by cardiac arrest.

In 2008, the Supreme Court, in Baze v. Rees, held that lethal injection did not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment proscription on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

But the Court recognized care had to be taken in the killing, so that it wasn’t unconstitutionally “cruel.” The most critical drug, it emphasized, is the anesthetic.

“It is uncontested that, failing a proper dose of sodium thiopental that would render the prisoner unconscious, there is substantial, unconstitutionally unacceptable risk of suffocation from the administration of pancuronium bromide and pain from the injection of potassium chloride,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

The problems for death penalty states, and the opening for opponents of the death penalty arose when the only company that had governmental approval to make the anesthetic, Hospira, announced in 2011 that it was suspending production because of manufacturing problems at its plant in North Carolina.

Arizona, with 2 executions pending in late 2011, managed to find another source of sodium thiopental; but it didn’t want the public to know what it was or where it came from.

When lawyers for Jeffrey Landrigan, one of the men facing death, sought the name of the supplier, Arizona’s state attorney general refused to say. Ultimately, on the eve of Landrigan’s execution, the attorney general disclosed that the drug had come from Britain. He did so, he said, to allay fears that the drugs had been made in a Third World country and might be contaminated and unsafe.

Tennessee also acknowledged that one of its execution drugs had been made in Britain but refused to divulge the company’s name.

At Reprieve, Maya Foa, head of the lethal investigation project, searched through medical and pharmaceutical directories to identify British companies that made sodium thiopental.

The British company selling sodium thiopental to Arizona, Tennessee, and other states turned out to be a tiny wholesaler that operated out of the back of a driving school in a working class neighborhood in West London.

It was called Dream Pharma, and it was basically a 1-man operation. It also suddenly became more profitable, as states in America moved to improvise. Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, wrote a letter to Dream Pharma.

“You have played a significant role and hold responsibility for the potential deaths of many people in the United States,” he wrote.

Reprieve sent the letter, along with Dream Pharma’s address and phone number, to journalists, and articles appeared in British newspapers and on the BBC. Dream Pharma shut down. The company has declined to comment on its battles with Reprieve or the sale of drugs to the U.S. for executions.

Reprieve then successfully lobbied the British government to ban exports of any drugs to the U.S. for executions. Capital punishment for murder was abolished in Britain in the early 1960s even though polls showed the public supported it.

With Hospira out of the business, states had become fairly desperate. That urgency was captured in government emails and documents obtained by death penalty defense lawyers.

“I have been given a task to obtain some Sodium Pentothal by any means available,” the director of the pharmacy in the Nebraska department of corrections wrote to her counterparts in several states. “Does anyone know where I might start looking?”

She eventually found a small wholesaler in Mumbai, India, which operated out of 2 rooms on the ground floor of an apartment building; it had no air conditioning, raising doubts about the safety and efficacy of any drugs stored there.

Reprieve again went to work, alerting local reporters and holding a news conference in Mumbai. Officials from India’s food and drug administration raided the offices. The company was quickly out of business.

In California, prison officials turned to hospitals throughout the state in search of sodium thiopental, without success. The warden at San Quentin explored buying some in Pakistan.

In the end, Arizona officials solved California’s problems, supplying 12 grams of sodium thiopental from its limited supply, a happy exchange according to government emails unearthed by death penalty opponents.

“You guys in AZ are life savers,” a California corrections officer wrote to his Arizona counterpart. “Buy you a beer next time I get that way.”

Some death penalty states, looking to solve their drug supply problems in a more reliable way, switched drugs – opting for pentobarbital, an anesthetic commonly used in putting animals to sleep. The 1st state to use it for an execution was Oklahoma, in December 2010, and it quickly became 1 of the execution drugs of choice.

This time, however, Reprieve was not up against a small entity. Only one company had government approval to sell pentobarbital in the U.S., and it was a major international pharmaceutical company, Lundbeck Inc. Headquartered in Denmark, it had some 6,000 employees worldwide; its American plant was in Kansas.

When Reprieve approached Lundbeck, in early 2011, the company said it was “adamantly opposed” to its drugs being used in executions – its primary use is in the treatment of epilepsy – but it said it had no control over what happened after its products were sold to wholesalers or distributors.

Reprieve ratcheted up the pressure. Every time Lundbeck’s pentobarbital was used in an execution, it issued a press release.

Anti-death penalty activists campaigned against Lundbeck on Twitter and Facebook, shareholders raised questions at the company’s annual meeting, a pension fund sold its shares, and the company’s place on an annual ranking of Denmark’s best companies fell from 17 to 40.

Lundbeck then did what it had said it couldn’t do: It devised a distribution system that would keep its pentobarbital from the states that conducted executions.

In April, Hospira announced that it was putting controls in place so that 3 of its drugs – pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, and propofol – would not be used in executions.

Once again, that has left states trying to figure out what to do. In Colorado, a man who killed three teenagers and their boss in a pizza restaurant in 1993 is set to be executed in August. But the state does not have the proper drugs, causing the director of prisons to send an urgent plea to the state’s compounding pharmacies. At “compounding pharmacies,” pharmacists mix, or compound, the ingredients for drugs on site.

Last October, South Dakota became the 1st state to use a compound drug in an execution, and it did so twice.

Lawyers for one of the men to be executed, Robert Moeller, who had kidnapped, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old girl, filed a lawsuit to obtain information about the supplying pharmacy. The state resisted, and a federal judge sided with the state.

South Dakota was among the states to recently pass a law exempting the names of suppliers of lethal injection drugs from its public records law. The change was necessary, said South Dakota State Senator Jean Hunhoff, “because there’s been harassment that has occurred against non-protected manufacturers and pharmacists, thereby causing difficulty for the state in obtaining the necessary chemicals for the lethal injection.”

South Dakota’s law passed in the state senate without opposition, and the house by a lopsided 60-8.

(source: Pacific Standard Magazine)