death penalty

Execution warrant sought for Nevada death row inmate Zane Floyd


As lawmakers weigh the future of capital punishment in Nevada, Clark County prosecutors plan to seek a warrant of execution for a death row inmate.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, deputies from District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s appellate division could ask a judge to sign the paperwork for Zane Floyd in the coming weeks.

The 45-year-old Floyd was convicted of killing four people and wounding another inside a Las Vegas supermarket in June 1999.

The Review-Journal reports that Floyd’s federal appeals were exhausted last November. However, a bill introduced in the state Assembly would make Nevada the 24th state to abolish the death penalty and the sentences of 70 men on Death Row would be commuted to life in prison. 

Zane Floyd

Death penalty data might surprise you


April 13, 2021

For some, an “eye for an eye” is justice. To others, it makes the whole world blind.

Last month, Virginia became the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, and first to do so in the South — where four times more people are executed than the rest of the U.S. combined. That’s a big change for a state second only to Texas in executions since 1976.

American public opinion is increasingly turning against the death penalty.

A 2020 Gallup Poll found 55 percent of Americans support the death penalty in general, down from a peak of 80 percent in 1994. And for the first time, a majority (60 percent) say life imprisonment without parole is a better punishment for murder than execution.

Seventy percent of nations have ended the practice (although 60 percent of the world’s population live in death penalty nations), according to Amnesty International.

Unlike other issues, this doesn’t fall perfectly along party lines. While Democrats are less likely to support the death penalty over a life sentence, Gallup surveys show the percentage of Republicans who feel the same increased 10 points since 2016. Reasons for opposition are complicated, spanning generational, statistical, and moral grounds.

Fewer executions. According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2010 and 2020 death sentences imposed nationwide numbered fewer than half of the decade before. Some states such as California have it on the books, but rarely use it or have a moratorium now.

Generational shift. The death penalty is one of those issues with an age divide. Gallup polls indicate Americans between 18 and 34 support the death penalty at almost half the rate (24 percent) of their older peers (40 percent).

Racial justice. Young adults also tend to be more passionate about racial justice, especially when it’s so final. A 1990 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found defendants of any race who murdered white people were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered Black people.

Recent studies reported in the New York Times and The Monitor Weekly came to similar conclusions. Latinos, Native Americans and the poor are also disproportionately represented on death row. (A long history of race-dissimilar treatment in the justice system for other crimes was echoed in the oft-cited book, “The New Jim Crowe.”)

Debates in the legislature noted of nearly 1,400 people Virginia executed since 1608, it wasn’t until 1997 that a white man was executed for killing a Black man.

What if they’re innocent? Justice is earnest, but fallible. An average of four people on death row each year in the U.S. are exonerated. History has uncovered others who were exonerated too late. You don’t have to be young to feel the heartbreak in that.

Life in prison is cheaper. Because of high costs associated with capital trials and statutory appeals, life incarceration costs states less than execution. Virginia expects to save $4 million per year. Capital trials may also be more taxing on victims’ families, typically lasting up to four times longer than non-capital trials.

After two Idaho death-row inmates were released from prison in one year, Idaho’s bipartisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee studied cases between 1998 and 2013. Their 2014 report concluded Idaho death penalty trials take an average seven months longer than non-capital murder trials, and appeals took about 50 percent longer.

Of the 251 defendants charged with first-degree murder during that period, 16 percent faced the death penalty and less than 3 percent received it. Of 40 sentenced to death in Idaho since 1977, three have been executed (21 got a new sentence on appeal). The JLOC reported other states had results similar to Idaho’s.

“Pro-life” consistency. Some conservatives oppose capital punishment on religious or moral grounds. Republican legislators in red states such as Wyoming, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Missouri have sponsored legislation to abolish it. Pro-life, they reason, applies to every life, not just the innocent unborn. And as death can’t be undone, life’s too precious (or constitutionally protected) to risk a mistake, they say.

Still, Republican majorities remain strongly in favor. Supporters say the death penalty is a just punishment for murder. And while life in prison can feel like a kind of hell, execution is seen as the only way to ensure the convicted will never kill again.

Is it a deterrent? Logic would presume yes, but states with death penalties don’t have lower crime rates. FBI Uniform Crime Report data culled by Deathpenaltyinfo.org indicate murder rates per population in death penalty states were consistently higher than in non-death penalty states between 1990 (4 percent higher) and 2018 (30 percent higher).

Do victims’ families want it? Numbers aside, closure and healing for victims’ families is high priority. Individual circumstances make it hard to gauge. Some ask prosecutors not to seek the death penalty — including a group of victims’ families who lobbied the Virginia Legislature to abolish it. Yet others vehemently want it, saying it’s the only way they can feel closure.

A 2012 study of 40 families by the universities of Texas and Minnesota found families in life-without-parole cases reported being able to move on sooner than those in the death-sentence cases. The death penalty case families said they felt continually retraumatized by the longer process.

Psychological and sociological research on closure suggests the legal process in general isn’t a reliable source to achieve it either way. It can feel symbolic and reassuring to seek justice, but the law doesn’t allow much room for emotion (Bandes, 2008).

This shifting trend is yet another illustration of American society’s impassioned debate with itself. Maybe we aren’t so “hopelessly divided” as we are experiencing growing pains in a rapidly shifting world.

Governor Issues Reprieve For Three Ohio Death Row Inmates


April, 9 2021

Three Ohio death row inmates will not be executed this year as planned.

Governor Mike DeWine has issued a reprieve for Timothy Hoffner, John David Stumpf and Lawrence Landrum. The three were supposed to be executed on different dates this summer and fall.

But DeWine says he’s postponing them due to ongoing problems with getting the supply of drugs used for lethal injections. The three men’s execution dates are reset for the summer and fall of 2024.

OHIO – Death penalty stays on table for Bryant


March 21, 2021

Faces trial in murder of 4-year-old boy

A judge denied a defense request that possibility of the death penalty be removed from the aggravated murder charge Kimonie D. Bryant faces in the shooting death of Rowan Sweeney, 4.

Bryant also is charged in the attempted murder of four adults.

Attorneys for Bryant, 24, of Struthers, filed a motion seeking dismissal of the death penalty and made oral arguments during a hearing before Judge Anthony D’Apolito in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Bryant is accused of killing Rowan on Sept. 21, 2020, at the home Rowan shared with his mother and her boyfriend on Perry Street in Struthers. Bryant also is charged in the shootings of Rowan’s mother and three other adults who were there.

D’Apolito has been holding monthly hearings in the case and plans to continue to do so up to the Sept. 13 trial date.

He denied the defense’s request this week.

In their defense filing, attorneys for Bryant noted that this murder is “not a popular case” in that it involves the killing of a 4-year-old, which has prompted “Justice for Rowan” yard signs in Struthers and elsewhere.

“But the job of the lawyers and (judge) is the same in this and every case: to do the job effectively, objectively and without regard to personalities.”

It adds: “If someone else entered the home and did the shooting, as was testified to at the bindover hearing of Brandon Crump, then death would be an unjust penalty.”

Authorities have described Crump, 18, who is charged with aggravated robbery connected to the incidents that resulted in Rowan’s death, as a co-defendant of Bryant. He is not accused of shooting anyone.

Law enforcement officials have not specified how Crump’s alleged robbery is connected to the shootings, but Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said at the time Bryant was indicted that investigators believe about $5,000 in cash was in the home at the time of the shootings.

After Bryant is accused of fleeing from the home, the cash on the coffee table was gone, Gains said.

Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court has bound over Crump’s case to adult court, meaning he will be tried as an adult if a grand jury indicts him. Crump was originally charged in juvenile court because he was 17 at the time of Rowan’s death.

The filing says that when the death penalty was “reinvented” in the 1970s after being “invalidated” in most states in a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision, state legislatures sought to “rake in political capital that executing people yields.”

The filing called Ohio’s death penalty statute “vague and unconstitutional” and asked D’Apolito to remove the death penalty from Bryant’s indictment.

The filing argues that courts that have “rebuffed constitutional challenges to the death penalty have (strayed from) the concept of limited government ordained by the Constitution.”

Ohio’s death-penalty statute fails to genuinely narrow the class of individuals who are eligible for the death penalty, the filing states. “By failing to do so, the statute permits arbitrary and capricious imposition of the death penalty.”

#JusticeForPervisPayne: Tennessee man on death row was convicted using ‘racial stereotypes’, says Internet


March 17, 2021

Pervis Payne, who has an intellectual disability, has spent 32 years on death row in Tennessee.


                            #JusticeForPervisPayne: Tennessee man on death row was convicted using 'racial stereotypes', says Internet

On TikTok and Twitter, #JusticeForPervis has been trending in an attempt to raise awareness Pervis Payne’s innocence. Payne is scheduled to be executed on April 9 by the state of Tennessee.

Payne has been on death row for 32 years for the murder of Charisse Christopher and her two-year-old daughter in June 1987. Payne, as per the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted, has always maintained his innocence. Payne has consistently said he did not commit this crime and that he was an innocent bystander who happened to be at the crime scene and tried to help.

EXECUTION LIST 2020


DateNumber Since 1976StateNameAgeRaceVictim RaceMethodDrug ProtocolYears from Sentence to Execution
1/15/201513TXJohn Gardner64W1 White femaleLethal Injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)13
1/29/201514GADonnie Lance65W1 White male, 1 White femaleLethal Injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)21
2/6/201515TXAbel Ochoa47L2 Latinx femalesLethal Injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)17
2/20/201516TNNicholas Todd Sutton58W1 White maleElectrocutionN/A34
3/5/201517ALNathaniel Woods43B3 White malesLethal Injection3-drug (Midazolam)14
5/19/201518MOWalter Barton64W1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)26
7/8/201519TXBilly Joe Wardlow45W1 White maleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)25
7/14/201520FederalDaniel Lewis Lee47W1 White male, 2 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)21
7/16/201521FederalWesley Ira Purkey68W1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)17
7/17/201522FederalDustin Lee Honken52W2 White males, 3 White femalesLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)14
8/26/201523FederalLezmond Mitchell38NA2 Native American femalesLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)17
8/28/201524FederalKeith Dwayne Nelson45W1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)18
9/22/201525FederalWilliam Emmett LeCroy50W1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)16
9/24/201526FederalChristopher Andre Vialva40B1 White male, 1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)20
11/19/201527FederalOrlando Hall49B1 Black femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)25
12/10/201528FederalBrandon Bernard40B1 White male, 1 White femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)20
12/11/201529FederalAlfred Bourgeois56B1 Black femaleLethal injection1-drug (Pentobarbital)18

Newly discovered innocence cases show how old problems still haunt the N.C. death penalty


March 10, 2021

Last month two men were newly added to the list of innocent people who had been sentenced to death in North Carolina.

Anthony Carey was to be executed for a murder he took no part in, based entirely on the testimony of a 16-year-old who had made a deal with the police. The teen said that while he robbed and murdered a gas station attendant, Carey was a passenger in a getaway car parked blocks away. In exchange for that testimony, the prosecutor allowed the teen to plead guilty to second-degree murder while Carey went to death row.

John Thomas Alford was sent to death row for a shooting in an auto parts store, even though four people testified he’d been playing basketball with them at the time of the crime; even the co-defendant who carried out the murder said Alford wasn’t involved.

The district attorney withheld that last piece of evidence, saying he didn’t want to “confuse the jury” by showing them evidence of Alford’s innocence. Instead, he focused on a suspect lineup where four witnesses picked Alford. However, police polluted the lineup by showing witnesses Alford’s photo beforehand, a tactic that all but assured they would select him.

Both men were tried in Charlotte in the 1970s and had their convictions overturned after spending about a year on death row. Their exonerations had been lost to time until the national Death Penalty Information Center discovered them in the course of researching a new report. Nationwide, DPIC uncovered eleven new death row exonerations, bringing the total to 185 — one for every eight executions that have been carried out in the United States.

With the addition of these cases, North Carolina has sentenced 12 innocent men to death since 1973. They spent a total of 157 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

Both Carey and Alford are Black men who were accused of killing white people — once again bearing out the truth that Black men are more likely to be wrongly convicted , especially in cases with white victims. Of North Carolina’s 12 exonerees, 10 are Black, one is Latino and only one is white. Seven of the cases involved white victims.

Though these exonerations happened close to 50 years ago, many of the systemic flaws they exposed play a role in current death row cases.

For instance, several people on North Carolina’s death row were implicated by unreliable witnesses or co-defendants who were seeking deals in their own cases. Others were convicted with the help of tainted eyewitness identifications, which are a frequent cause of wrongful convictions. And under North Carolina’s felony murder rule, people can still be sentenced to death for killings they did not personally carry out, or for which they were not even present.

News stories from the time also noted that Alford had an all-white jury, which discounted the testimony of four Black witnesses who provided him an alibi. “To hear those four tell it, all they did was play basketball,” one juror told the Charlotte Post. “They didn’t work. How could you believe somebody who doesn’t work?”

The exclusion of Black jurors remains a pressing problem across North Carolina. Recently, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that almost everyone on death row should be allowed to present evidence of systemic discrimination in jury selection under the Racial Justice Act.

These cases are also a reminder that every wrongful conviction harms not just the person who receives the death sentence but their family and community.

Carey’s brother Albert was sentenced to death alongside him, as the alleged driver of the getaway car, and he was never exonerated. Instead, he was resentenced to life and spent three decades in prison because of a 16-year-old’s allegation.

According to interviews in the Charlotte Post, Alford’s mother took a second mortgage on her home to pay for his defense. His stepfather had to work a second job at night to pay it off. And hundreds of community members contributed to his legal defense fund for a second trial. His mother said she asked herself during the ordeal, “Why is this happening to us? Are we being punished? What’s the use of trying to live a good, decent life?”

A system as error-prone as the death penalty breeds distrust that can last for generations and creates harm that can never be healed, no matter how many people we exonerate.

Nevada should abolish the death penalty


March 9, Over the past few years many Nevadans have sought to pursue a better future by seriously reckoning with the state’s history of racial discrimination. Radio programs and public forums have held critical discussions surrounding the legacies of “sundown towns” in Northern Nevada and the problem of police brutality in Clark County’s recent past, alongside debates over the presence of Confederate symbols in a state once called the “Mississippi of the West.” 

Because of the efforts of scholars and activists throughout Nevada, state legislators have instituted a number of reforms to address issues of structural inequality and under representation, ranging from police reforms in 2012 and 2014, to the recent renaming of the Las Vegas airport in honor of the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as the airport’s previous namesake, “Pat McCarran,” held a documented history of bigotry and antisemitism. Though these efforts are laudable, citizens of Nevada must be honest in realizing the state still uses a practice linked to a deeply troubling era of America’s past: the death penalty.

Questions surrounding the use of the death penalty in the 21st Century continue to grip the United States, and as Nevada is one of 27 states that still allows capital punishment, it is relevant to current discourses about the state’s social and political trajectory. Many opponents of capital punishment appropriately cite its significant cost to taxpayers by arguing that it is actually more expensive to pursue a death sentence than it is to keep someone in prison in perpetuity. In doing so, they are attempting to court fiscal conservatives by using an argument rooted in economics and financial responsibility. But there is a moral argument for ending the death penalty that is just as compelling, if not more so: the practice is intimately tied to violent structures of racism that permeated the legal structures in America’s past and that remain omnipresent in the current justice system.

Researchers from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Marshall Project have noted the deep racial disparities in and among those who are sentenced to the death penalty, suggesting that capital punishment continues, in many ways, the legacy of lynching that plagued the United States for nearly eight decades (1870s-1950s). Lynchings were used most frequently in the Jim Crow South against Black men to spread racist terrorism and enforce a social hierarchy predicated on white supremacy. These lynchings, though often condoned by local law enforcement, were “extrajudicial” murders conducted by white vigilantes who deemed themselves judge, jury, and executioner. The nearly 4,000 Black people lynched throughout the South were never given due process — and no white person was ever convicted for involvement in the ritualized murders throughout those years.

Though this brand of terror reigned for multiple generations, lynchings waned in number by the mid-twentieth century. However, many African Americans observed that the rise of capital punishment in the country’s legal apparatus did no more than clothe extra-judicial murder within racist court processes. As historian William B. Gravely notes, Black people and their allies viewed the capital punishment system as simply a “legal lynching” — and recent discoveries do highlight some troubling comparisons. 

Though the condemned go through a form of due process, researchers from EJI found that widespread systemic racism is exposed by the disproportionate representation of Black men on death row, including inadequate counsel, lack of representation on juries, and racist stereotypes that lead to the harsher sentencing of African Americans in the criminal justice system. For many unfamiliar with these racial disparities, the legality of capital punishment provides a façade that suggests a more just approach to the state-sanctioned execution of incarcerated people, but institutional racism ensures that Black men, particularly those innocent of the crime, are over represented in death sentences.

Nevada now has a chance to join other states in challenging this disturbing legacy. Similar discussions are currently being held in Virginia, as its Legislature voted to abolish the death penalty in February, setting a course to eliminate the practice and become the first southern state to do so. Given that Virginia once held the capital city of the Confederacy and displayed the most Confederate monuments in the country as recently as 2020, this should remind progressive-minded Nevadans that change is possible. In believing structural change is achievable and enacting legislation to dismantle practices that are rooted in racism, we can set our state’s future on a better course. Abolishing the death penalty is a necessary step in this process.

Wyoming considering repeal of death penalty


The state has had only one execution in 55 years.

March 9, Wyoming may become the next state to outlaw capital punishment.

bill was introduced in the state Senate last week by Republican Sen. Brian Boner that would end the death penalty as potential punishment for a murder conviction. Boner told ABC News that the current law, in effect since 1976, is antiquated and costs taxpayers over $750,000 a year.

In the last 55 years, the state has only held one execution, back in 1992, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks death row inmates.

“We are dealing with a significant budget crisis, and we’re looking at old rules that don’t work,” Boner told ABC News. “It’s time to get rid of it.”

The bill passed the state Senate’s revenue committee with a 4-1 vote on March 4 and will move on to a full vote. The legislative session ends April 2.

If the bill passes and is signed into law, Wyoming would become the 24th state to abolish the death penalty since the federal government allowed it in 1973.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, testified at the committee hearing. He told ABC News that Wyoming is following a similar path to one seen across the country, with fewer juries and judges giving out death penalty sentences. That decrease has garnered the attention of politicians on both sides of the aisle, Dunham added.

“We have seen an abolition in practice follow by an abolishing in the law,” Dunham said.

Dunham added that there is an increased sense of morality when it comes to executions because, on average, there has been one exoneration for every eight executions.

“It is no longer debatable that innocent people are going to be sentenced to death. It is no longer debatable that innocent people have been executed,” he said. “That’s given legislators of all political and philosophical beliefs great pause.”

Boner agreed and said that eliminating the death penalty in Wyoming would create a “more efficient criminal justice system.” Two years ago, a similar measure passed in the Wyoming House but failed in the Senate with a vote of 18-12. Boner said a lot has changed since then, particularly during the pandemic.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon told legislators last summer that he was “very seriously” considering imposing a moratorium on the use of capital punishment, claiming it is “a luxury that we cannot afford.”

Dunham said that there will likely be a bigger push from advocates to repeal the law and more pressure on other states to re-examine their policies. Last month, Virginia’s Legislature passed a bill to end death penalty in the state.

“Regardless of what the outcome is,” Dunham added, “what we are seeing in Wyoming is the declining support of capital punishment across all demographic groups.”

Convicted murderer Joseph Duncan, on death row, facing aggressive brain cancer


Appellate Court Overturns Duncan's Death Penalty

March 8 – Convicted murderer and sexual predator Joseph Duncan may not see the death penalty after all because he is now facing aggressive brain cancer.

According to our partners at The Spokesman-review, Duncan has stage 4 glioblastoma and doctors are giving him six to 12 months to live.

Doctors gave the life expectancy on November 20 which puts Duncan four months into the timeframe.

Duncan was sentenced to the death penalty in 2005. He is convicted of killing Brenda Groene, her boyfriend and her 13-year-old son inside their home near Coeur d’Alene. He kidnapped Groene’s two other children Shasta, 8, and Dylan, 9.

Duncan tortured and abused the children, eventually killing Dylan.

Shasta was rescued seven weeks later when a waitress at the Coeur d’Alene Denny’s recognized the little girl and Duncan inside the restaurant.