Associated Press

Missouri AG says state may have to use gas chamber

By JIM SALTER Associated Press
Posted: 07/03/2013 01:31:24 PM PDT

ST. LOUIS—With drugs needed for lethal injection in short supply and courts wrangling over how to execute prisoners without them, Missouri’s attorney general is floating one possible solution: Bring back the gas chamber.

In court filings and interviews this week, Attorney General Chris Koster noted that Missouri statutes allow two options for executions: lethal injection and death by gas. Koster’s comments come amid his growing frustration over the Missouri Supreme Court’s refusal to set execution dates until lethal injection issues are resolved.

“The Missouri death penalty statute has been, in my opinion, unnecessarily entangled in the courts for over a decade,” Koster said Wednesday in an email exchange with The Associated Press.

Asked about concerns by some who say using lethal gas could violate condemned inmates’ constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, Koster responded: “The premeditated murder of an innocent Missourian is cruel and unusual punishment. The lawful implementation of the death penalty, following a fair and reasoned jury trial, is not.”

Missouri used gas to execute 38 men and one woman from 1938 to 1965. After a 24-year hiatus, the death penalty resumed in 1989. Since then, 68 men—all convicted murderers—have been executed in the state, all by lethal injection. But as concerns were raised in the courts about the lethal injection process, Missouri has carried out just two executions since 2005.

A return to lethal gas would create an expense because Missouri no longer has a gas chamber. Previous executions by gas took place at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. Prisoners were moved out of that prison a decade ago and it is now a tourist attraction—complete with tours of what used to be the gas chamber.

Like other states with the death penalty, Missouri for years used a three-drug mixture to execute inmates. But those drugs are no longer being made available for executions, leaving states to scramble for solutions.

Last year, Missouri announced plans to use propofol, the anesthetic blamed for pop star Michael Jackson’s 2009 death—even though the drug hasn’t been used to execute prisoners in the U.S. and its potential for lethal injection is under scrutiny by the courts.

A 2012 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City on behalf of 21 Missouri death row inmates claimed the use of propofol would be cruel and unusual punishment.

In an interview last week, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell said the court is “waiting for resolution” from the U.S. District Court.

Koster on Monday asked the Missouri Supreme Court to set execution dates for two long-serving inmates, arguing that time is running short to use a limited, nearly expired supply of propofol.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said a few other proposals have been made for states to use the gas chamber or the electric chair, but they’ve gone nowhere.

“It’s unlikely that states would go back to these older methods, and if they did I’m not sure they would be upheld” in the courts, he said.

Rita Linhardt, chairwoman of the board for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, questioned the practicality of the gas chamber.

“The gas chamber has been dismantled in Missouri, so from a practical point of view I don’t know how that could be done,” Linhardt said. “I would think that would be a considerable cost and expense for the state to rebuild the machinery of death.”

Update : Autumn Pasquale Murder: Two Brothers Charged In Killing Of 12 Year Old New Jersey Girl


Two brothers have been charged with murder in the death of 12 year old Autumn Pasquale.

According to Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton, the brothers, ages 15 and 17, face a number of charges including first-degree murder, theft, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. At this point, the names of the two teen suspects are not being released.

At an afternoon press conference, Dalton said the brothers lured the young girl to their Clayton, N.J., home. Authorities allegedly found Autumn’s BMX bike and backpack in the brothers’ home. According to The Associated Press, one of the brothers traded in BMX bike parts.

Dalton said the boys’ mother played an important role in the case. She came forward with information she had seen on her son’s Facebook account, which ultimately led police to the boys, he said.

Police said the brothers turned themselves in to authorities on Tuesday.

Autumn disappeared on Saturday while riding her bike. Her body was found Monday in a recycling bin near her home.

“There’s evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton,” the girl’s great-uncle, Paul Spadofora, told reporters after the discovery.

An autopsy performed earlier Tuesday revealed Autumn died from blunt force trauma and strangulation. There were no signs of sexual assault, police said.

Police have not yet commented on a possible motive.

According to Dalton, Autumn would have turned 13 next week.

“This is a very sad day for the Pasquale family,” Dalton said. “Our hearts go out to the family and to all the residents of Clayton who stood together in support of this young girl.”


A 12-year-old girl disappeared on Saturday while riding her bike, and several agencies have been working night and day to find her.

Autumn Pasquale, of Clayton, N.J., was last seen leaving her home on a white Odyssey BMX bike at around 12:30 p.m., the South Jersey Times reports. Her parents, upon realizing she didn’t make it to a friend’s house, reported her missing at about 9:30 p.m.


Autumn Pasquale Missing

She’s described by posters on a Facebook page set up to help find her as blonde, 5-foot-2 and weighing 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing navy blue shorts underneath navy blue sweatpants, a yellow T-shirt with “Clayton Soccer” on front, and bright blue high-top sneakers.

If you have any information on her whereabouts, please call the Clayton Police Department at 856-881-2300.


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Swiss Government Wants To End Death Penalty Everywhere

July 19 2012 AP- huffington Post

GENEVA — The Swiss government has reaffirmed its commitment toward seeking the abolition of the death penalty “throughout the world.”

A Foreign Ministry statement Thursday says Switzerland firmly opposes the death penalty “in any and all circumstances” anywhere on the planet.

The statement came in response to Hamas authorities hanging three Palestinians on Tuesday who were convicted of murder in different cases, the sixth such executions in the Gaza Strip this year.

Switzerland called for a moratorium on capital punishment in the Gaza Strip, calling the death penalty “a violation of the most fundamental of human rights.”

Switzerland outlawed capital punishment for civilians in 1942 and for the Swiss military in 1992. The country also belongs to the Council of Europe, which opposes the death penalty.


CONNECTICUT – AP Interview: Death row inmate says new law unfair – Daniel Webb

July 17, 2012 The associed Press : AJC 

SOMERS, Conn. — Daniel Webb is awaiting execution for the 1989 kidnapping and murder of a Connecticut bank executive, but he believes he is also paying a price for another, unrelated crime that has heavily influenced the state’s debate on capital punishment.

Webb told The Associated Press in a death row interview that he thinks there would be no capital punishment in the state if not for the public’s desire to execute the men responsible for the 2007 home-invasion slayings of a mother and her two daughters in suburban Cheshire. The only survivor of that crime, Dr. William Petit, lobbied to keep the death penalty for the men who killed his family, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky.

Dr. Petit is angry with them and with his anger he wants to kill all of us,” said Webb, who spoke by telephone from behind a glass window. “Now you are trying to increase my suffering and take away the little that I had because you want to make Komisarjevsky suffer. That’s not right.

Webb was sentenced to die for the slaying in Hartford of Diane Gellenbeck, a 37-year-old Connecticut National Bank vice president, who was taken from a downtown parking garage and shot to death near a local golf course as she ran from an attempted sexual assault.

The state legislature in April abolished capital punishment, but only for future crimes. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and key state lawmakers had insisted on that as a condition of their support for repeal in a long-running debate that focused on the Petit case.

“If you are going to abolish the death penalty, abolish the death penalty,” said Webb. “I don’t think you can have a law that has double standards. Abolish means abolish, doesn’t it?”

A spokesman for Malloy declined to comment on Webb’s assertion.

William Petit’s sister, Hanna Petit Chapman, said she does not care what Webb thinks. She compared him to her relatives’ killers for laying blame with others.

“His condemnation is a direct result of his choices and actions. His finger pointing and blaming others sounds very familiar to what we heard from Komisarjevsky and Hayes. He could have let her go, yet, chose to shoot her five times when she escaped. I am not sure how that translates to being my family’s fault,” she said.

The balding, bearded Webb also complained during the hour-long interview Friday that the conditions of his confinement are unbearable and amount to torture.

Death-row inmates at Northern Correctional Institution are kept isolated in 8-by-12 foot cells with almost no human contact, even with other death-row inmates. They are given an hour of recreation a day, alone in cell-sized cages in the prison yard.

Webb, 49, says he has no friends on death row. He can only communicate by shouting through his steel door or into an air vent, something he says makes conversations with other inmates almost impossible.

Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett described the conditions as humane and constitutional.

The mother of Webb’s victim is not sympathetic. Dorothy Gellenbeck, 86, said Webb deserves to live in the harshest conditions and to die for killing her daughter.

“I have had a lot of years to miss my girl,” Gellenbeck said from her home in Pennington, N.J. “I don’t care what the new Connecticut law is. He is guilty of murder and at the time of the murder the death penalty was in effect. And why should he live, when he killed someone?”

Connecticut’s only execution since 1960 came in 2005, after serial killer Michael Ross voluntarily gave up his appeals.

“I can now see what can push a man to that point,” said Webb. “I’d rather be dead than live like this.”

Webb said he attempted to hang himself in January, and later wrote a letter to court officials asking to give up his appeals and be executed. He has since rescinded that decision, saying lawyers and mental health professionals convinced him to wait and see how legal challenges to the death penalty are received.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane testified during public hearings this spring that he expects inmates to challenge the constitutionality of keeping them on death row by arguing the sentence is now unfairly applied based on the date of the crime.

Webb said he also has evolved and matured since 1989. Nobody, he said, should be held in isolation, just waiting to die.

“I’m still human,” he said. “People grow. Even people as despised as Joshua or Hayes, they can change over time.”

S. DAKOTA – S. Dakota death row inmate says justice will not be served until he is executed

June 18, 2012 :

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A convicted murderer said in a letter written from death row that the South Dakota Supreme Court owes it not only to him but to the family of the prison guard he killed to allow his execution to take place in a timely manner. It’s the only way, he said, the guard’s family can get justice.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2011, file photo Eric Robert appears during a hearing in Sioux Falls, S.D. Robert pleaded guilty to killing Ron Johnson during a botched prison escape at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and asked to be put to death. A judge determined in October that the crime merited the death sentence, and Robert was scheduled for execution the week of May 13 but the state Supreme Court postponed the date in February to allow more time for a mandatory review to make sure the death penalty was proper, even though Robert hadn't appealed the conviction or sentence. The review could take up to two years. (AP Photo/Argus Leader, Emily Spartz, File)

Eric Robert, 50, pleaded guilty to killing Ron Johnson during a botched prison escape at the South Dakota State Penitentiary and asked to be put to death. A judge determined in October that thecrime merited the death sentence, and Robert was scheduled for execution the week of May 13.

But the state Supreme Court postponed the date in February to allow more time for a mandatory review to make sure the death penalty was proper, even though Robert hadn’t appealed the conviction or sentence. The review could take up to two years.

In a three-page letter to The Associated Press, Robert detailed why he believes the death sentence is appropriate in his case and described his aggravation with the delay. The letter represented Robert’s first public comments since his October sentencing.

He said justice works differently in death penalty cases than in others.

“Victims of non-capital offenses receive their justice when the perpetrator is placed in custody. Victims in capital cases receive their justice when the perpetrator is executed. Give the Ron Johnson family their justice, they have been forced to wait too long. I finish where I started — I deserve to die,” he said, alluding to a statement he read during his trial that started with “I deserve to die.”

Robert, a chemist who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency before overseeing a city water treatment department, was serving an 80-year-sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he attempted to escape April 12, 2011, with inmate Rodney Berget.

Robert contends he was drunk and trying to rob an 18-year-old woman of $200, not sexually assault her, in the kidnapping case. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison and would not have been eligible for parole until he was 83. He focused obsessively on getting his sentence reduced, but his appeal was denied in 2009, leading to what the judge at his death penalty trial called an “internal war” that eventually left Johnson dead.

Johnson was working alone on the morning of his death — also his 63rd birthday — in a part of the prison known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, custom furniture and other projects. Prosecutors said after the inmates killed Johnson, Robert put on the guard’s uniform and tried to push a large box on a cart containing Berget to the prison gate. The inmates were apprehended before leaving the grounds.

In his letter, Robert noted that everyone agrees he is mentally competent.

“Yet, as recently as May 8, 2012, the (South Dakota Supreme Court) was still nosing around this issue. They just can’t seem to fathom that a defendant would accept a just fate,” he wrote, later adding he has a right to plead guilty and receive the death penalty. “I am free to admit my guilt, as well as acknowledge and accept society’s punishment just as I am free to proclaim innocence in defiance of a verdict. I believe that the sentence of death is justly deserved in any murder and should be carried out.”

Robert said the issue at hand is not about him wanting to die. Instead, it’s about the Legislature providing the South DakotaSupreme Court with adequate guidance on how to handle a sentence review when there’s no appeal.

In court briefs recently filed by his lawyer, Robert proposed the Legislature consider changes to the law, allowing death penalty proceedings to be given priority in the state Supreme Court or, absent an appeal, requiring the court to review the case in a set number of days before the execution date.

The briefs noted the state Supreme Court has reviewed numerous cases, including a civil dispute between actor Kevin Costner and an artist about whether sculptures were appropriately displayed at a Deadwood resort, while Robert’s case is still pending.

The justices noted in their February decision that unless a proper review is done before Robert is killed, the execution could be found unconstitutional under death penalty guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The other inmate who tried to escape, Berget, 50, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death, although he is now appealing both his conviction and sentence. A third inmate, Michael Nordman, 47, was given a life sentence for providing the plastic wrap and pipe used in the slaying.

The penitentiary boosted security after Johnson’s death, including adding officers, installing more security cameras and mandating body alarm “panic buttons” for staff.