Thursday, 31 May 2007

A Life Defending Lives


May 31, 2007

France

A Life Defending Lives

Julio Godoy, IPS News

PARIS - In 2000, when French journalist and publisher Michel Taube founded
'Ensemble contre la peine de mort' (Together against the death penalty), his
vision was that the group would become a world voice in the fight for the
universal abolition of capital punishment.

Few at that time shared his conviction. France had abolished the death
penalty back in 1981 and at that time capital punishment stirred only mild
controversy. Protests over death sentences and executions were often
sporadic and focused on far-away countries, such as China, Vietnam and the
United States.

Within seven years the association has become a major global force in the
campaign for death penalty abolition. It has organised three world
congresses, the latest in Paris in February attended by some 600 experts. It
counts among its members renowned international personalities, including the
former French minister of justice Robert Badinter, under whose moral
leadership France abolished capital punishment, and human rights activist
Bianca Jagger.

Since 2002, the world has celebrated World Day Against the Death Penalty on
Oct. 10. This is due to the initiative of the World Coalition Against the
Death Penalty, which Taube also heads. This coalition focuses global
attention on the death penalty issue, stimulating international debate and
supporting campaigners against capital punishment.

Taube, born in 1967 in the Alsatian city of Colmar, is also a presence at
conferences and discussions on capital punishment in Africa, Asia, and Latin
America. In mid-May, he took part in a symposium in Morocco, organised by
local human rights groups in association with Amnesty International,
pressing King Mohammed VI to finally abolish capital punishment.

"The decision of the Moroccan government to abolish the death penalty would
be a great step towards the consolidation of the democratic modernisation of
the country," Taube said in Rabat.

On that occasion, Taube noted that 31 African nations have already abolished
the death penalty -- well over half the countries on that continent. The
battle now was to see capital punishment banned in the rest.

Taube has been working as a journalist since the early 1990s, and directed a
publishing house in his native country between 1998 and 2002. But his main
call has always been the defence of human rights: He is member of the UNESCO
association of human rights and the International League against Racism and
Anti-Semitism and author of several books about his campaigns, including
"Open Letter to Americans for the Abolition of the Death Penalty".

"We want to promote the universal abolition of the death penalty through a
global political view, blending a humane conception of penal justice and the
defence of human rights," Taube said in an interview. "Our aim is to
universalise the validity of human rights."

His critics often accuse him of over-emphasising the rights of the offenders
while ignoring the suffering of the victims and their relatives. They say
his arguments dismissing execution as a preventive measure are academic and
do not match the real world.

Taube responds that among the most passionate opponents of the death penalty
in Europe are relatives of the victims of the gravest crimes. He also cites
statistics that show that the death penalty in the U.S. has not deterred
crime.

But his opposition to the death penalty goes beyond these arguments. It is
rooted in a philosophical stand on crime, punishment, and legal values in a
democratic society.

"European history shows that, paradoxically, it was the confrontation with
the worst political horrors and the most barbaric crimes that gave birth to
the reasons for abolishing the death penalty," Taube says. "In Central and
Eastern Europe, abolition became obvious and politically viable after the
demise of the communist totalitarian regimes. Similarly, the death penalty
disappeared from the legal horizon in Spain and Portugal after the end of
the right-wing dictatorships of (Francisco) Franco and (Antonio de Oliveira)
Salazar.

"Only a state which is able to control its own power, a democratic state, is
able to renounce the death penalty," he says.

"When a state condemns a person to death it is saying: it is enough to
punish a crime, the state does not need to bother with solving the reasons
for the crime. A death sentence is a confession to a failure of justice.
Justice becomes an instrument of vengeance, instead of a means to
re-establish a peaceful social order."

Taube also underlines that such arguments against the death penalty appear
to be gathering supporters worldwide over the last seven years. The number
of countries which have abolished the death penalty is steadily rising and
the cases of executions dramatically falling.

"When France abolished the death penalty in 1981, there were only other 36
countries around the globe which had done the same," Taube recalls. "Today,
25 years later, there are 97 countries which have officially banned the
death penalty from their penal systems and there are more than 20 other
countries which have ceased to apply it for more than 10 years."

As another illustration, Taube said that in the whole of Europe only Belarus
applies the death penalty. In Latin America only Cuba and Guatemala have not
yet abolished it. But capital punishment is applied massively in
undemocratic regimes in Asia and Africa.

But Taube does not forget that some democracies, such as Japan and the
United States, continue to apply the death penalty, impervious to arguments
and moral appeals from Europe.

"In Japan, executions are shrouded in the deepest of silence. Public opinion
there is also completely insensitive to the international debates on the
issue," Taube says.

On the other hand, the public perception of the death penalty in the U.S. is
changing for the better, he says.

"Now, there are better U.S. lawyers trained in the defence of people
condemned to death and there are fewer executions than a couple of years
ago," Taube says. "Even if the U.S. society continues to avoid discussing
the possibility of a general abolition, a quiet evolution has been taking
place in the courts and thus some lives have been saved."

But Taube admits that no such evolution has taken place in most of the Arab
and Muslim world. That is why, he says, that the celebration of the World
Day Against the Death Penalty this year, on Oct. 10, will focus on
supporting the campaign to abolish capital punishment in these regions of
the world.

---

Source : IPS News

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=37977

House keeps two death penalty bills going


NORTH CAROLINA:

House keeps two death penalty bills going


House lawmakers added funding to 2 death penalty bills Thursday to keep
them alive for the rest of the 2-year session.

One bill, House Bill 1691, would suspend executions for 2 years while
lawmakers study what changes need to made to the capital punishment
system.

"We're just asking to study this and not have any executions for two
years," said Rep. Beverly Earle, a Charlotte Democrat.

The other, House Bill 1526, would narrow the number of aggravating factors
that would qualify someone to receive the death penalty.

Both bills added provisions to spend $30,000 to study the cost of the
state's death penalty system.

The House subcommittee approved adding the funding provisions, which will
keep the bills alive, but did not debate the merits of the bills.

However, prosecutors oppose both bills.

"It's just another back door elimination of the death penalty," said
Branny Vickory, the district attorney for Greene, Lenoir, and Wayne
counties.

Right now, there is a de facto death penalty moratorium while litigation
settles questions about what role, if any, doctors should play in
executions. Prison officials have proposed doctors monitor inmates' vital
signs during executions.

But the N.C. Medical Board has issued a new ethics policy that prohibits
doctors from doing anything more than be present at an execution.

(source: News and Observer)

Italian inmates ask for execution


May 31, 2007

Italy

Italian inmates ask for execution

Catholic World News

Rome - Some 310 convicts serving life sentences in Italian prisons have
joined in a message to President Giorgio Napolitano, requesting that that
they be put to death.

"Mr. President, we are tired of dying little by little, day by day," the
inmates wrote. "We want to die only once. Therefore we request the death
penalty."

Italy has joined Germany in championing a proposal that the European Union
has put before the UN, calling for a worldwide moratorium on capital
punishment.

---

Source : Catholic World News

http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=51489

States Move to Enact Laws Allowing the Death Penalty for Pedophiles:


May 31, 2007

States Move to Enact Laws Allowing the Death Penalty for Pedophiles:
A Good Sign with Respect to Public Dedication to Protecting Children, But
Potentially Not the Most Effective Way to Do So

By MARCI HAMILTON, FindLaw

Last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the death penalty as applied
to a child abuser. Louisiana has led the way in passing laws to execute
pedophiles. However, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, and Montana also
have passed such laws, with Texas soon to follow when Gov. Rick Perry signs
such legislation.

A major impetus for the death penalty in child sex cases is the heinous
crime by a previously-convicte

d sex offender against Florida nine-year old
Jessica Lunsford, who suffered horrific abuse, including burial alive in a
shallow grave, where she eventually suffocated.

If there is a way to measure the temperature of public opinion against child
abuse, this is it, and it bodes well for children, even if it is not the
most effective way of protecting children.

Concerns with the Death Penalty Legislation, and Priorities in the Fight
Against Child Abuse

Some have expressed concern that if the penalty for pedophilia is raised to
death, children may be deterred from reporting abuse, especially when it is
committed by a relative. Yet such a small percentage of child sex abuse
victims report their abuse at this point - estimates run about 10% -- that
one has to wonder about the marginal effect of the death penalty. Kids
already are terrified to report, usually because they are threatened by
their abusers, so this shift in the law would seem to make little
difference.

My concern, however, is that pedophile-death-penalty laws are, in the end, a
distraction from what needs to be done to truly protect the most children
possible, the most effectively. It's important to remember that the
difference between a pedophile in jail and one put to death, from a child's
perspective, is negligible - in either case, children are safe from that
perpetrator.

Moreover, the main problem we currently have when it comes to pedophilia
(and this is an element in the huge and powerful response to Jessica
Lunsford's death) is that we are not succeeding in identifying many of the
perpetrators that are out there.

As I discussed in a previous column, legislative reform for children is not
hitting at the heart of the problem - the anonymity of the predators, which
is guaranteed by overly short statutes of limitations. Megan's Law created
public lists of sex offenders, but those lists are woefully short, because
the statute of limitations in the vast majority of child sex abuse cases
runs long before the victim has the ability to come forward to anyone, and
without a criminal conviction, an offender cannot be placed on any
state-maintained Megan's List. The result is that thousands upon thousands
of predators are out there, unidentified to unsuspecting families and
children.

Why Abolishing Criminal and Civil Statutes of Limitation Will Protect Far
More Children than the Pedophile Death Penalty Will

Column continues below ↓
As I have argued more than once, the key is to abolish the statutes of
limitation on childhood sexual abuse - both criminal and civil. Most states
are moving in a forward direction in this respect, in that they are at least
extending the statutes of limitations on childhood sexual abuse, with a few,
like Alaska and Maine, abolishing them outright. This was the right
decision: Surely the interests of the victims and society as a whole are
more valuable than the perpetrator's need to be free from concern about
prosecution or litigation.

In this area, abolition will eventually happen, because it is the only just
solution to an intractable social problem. The question is just how quickly,
and how many additional victims will suffer due to the delay.

Because of the Supreme Court's unfortunate 5-4 decision in Stogner v.
California, no legislature can abolish the criminal statutes of limitations
retroactively. Rather, they may only abolish criminal limitations with
respect to future cases. Importantly, however - because this restriction
comes from the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, which only applies to
criminal penalties -- the same is not true for civil statutes of
limitations. In many states, civil statutes of limitations many be abolished
not only prospectively, but also retroactively. If a civil statute of
limitations is eliminated, even for a "window" of a year or so, the public
learns more than it would ever know otherwise about the identity of the
dangerous child abusers in our communities.

In 2003, California abolished the statute of limitations on childhood sexual
abuse claims. As a result, over 800 victims came forward, and at least 300
perpetrators were named, of whom the public had previously been ignorant.
Before then, those 300 perpetrators were comfortably relying on the statute
of limitations to keep their crimes secret - and likely preying on new
victims, thanks to a cloak of anonymity. Luckily for us, California had the
foresight to pass a law that should be a model for the country.

Additional Recent Proposals to Abolish the Child Abuse Statute of
Limitations Are A Welcome Development

The grassroots movement to abolish the statute of limitations in childhood
sexual abuse cases is swelling, and it cannot be turned back. Over the past
year, legislative proposals to this effect have been made in numerous
states, including Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Hearings will be held on such legislation in Washington, DC this Friday,
June 1.

The story of statutes of limitation for childhood sexual abuse in the United
States is one of incremental, but constant reform. It is not unusual for a
given state to have amended its sex abuse statutes of limitation as often as
annually. The more we learn about how much we don't know about the predators
out there, the more legislators are persuaded that there must be more time
for victims to not only seek individual justice, but also bring this
information to the courts and the public.

Such reform should -- but doesn't always -- pass the first time around. That
is just the way the legislative process sometimes works, and fortunately,
given the fervor of those behind these reforms, they will be re-introduced
in those states where they have not yet been enacted. It is simply
inevitable.

Aiding abolition forces is the fact that their opposition has fast lost any
moral high ground it might have claimed- arguing in favor of those persons
and institutions who actively cover up child abuse and protect abusers, and
trumpeting the "rights" of the perpetrators to rest secure in the knowledge
that, after a certain amount of time has passed, they will never be
prosecuted.

On the other side of the issue, it's important to remember that this is an
area in which victims' delay in coming forward is profoundly understandable.
When a child suffers abuse, the profound psychological effects last a
lifetime. For a victim, coming forward typically means revisiting intense
pain, confronting misplaced but real feelings of shame, revealing a painful
incident to their families (including their own children), and having the
courage to confront their abuser - even though he or she was typically a
trusted adult, often an authority figure, and sometimes was freighted with
the intimidating religious authority a priest carries. No wonder it takes
years.

The only effect such reforms have, is on the date the victim may go to
court. They do not change the substantive law, nor the burdens of proof
borne by the defendants or victims. They literally do nothing but open the
previously locked courthouse door, telling victims that they should be
permitted their day in court, in order to prove to the world that they were
wronged in a most heinous way.

Perhaps there is one other effect - such laws are bound to make pedophiles
and all past or would-be child predators nervous. Couldn't happen to a nicer
group of people.

Before investing any more effort in choosing between prison and death for
known pedophiles, as a society we really need to focus on identifying the
silent and secret society of child predators that is now enjoying the
existing statutes of limitations. Revealing these existing predators is the
most effective way of protecting our children right now - before further
abuse occurs

---

Source : FindLaw (Professor Hamilton's book, God vs. the Gavel: Religion and
the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), will appear in paperback
in June 2007, and her next book, How to Deliver Us from Evil (Cambridge
University Press 2008) will appear in January 2008. Her email is
hamilton02@aol.com )

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hamilton/20070531.html

Condemned woman seeks reprieve based on new ways of analyzing baby's death

Condemned woman seeks reprieve based on new ways of analyzing baby's death

Cathy Lynn Henderson
Cathy Lynn Henderson gave an interview April 17 from Texas women's death row, where she awaits execution for the 1994 death of an infant in her care.

A Texas babysitter facing execution for killing an infant in her care says new scientific evidence supports her claim that she accidentally dropped the child and did not intentionally kill him, as prosecutors alleged in her trial.

Moreover, the medical examiner who helped send Cathy Lynn Henderson to death row for killing 3-month-old Brandon Baugh has said that, in light of the new evidence, he no longer stands by his original opinion that the child's death resulted from an intentional act on Henderson's part.

With less than three weeks before her scheduled execution, lawyers for Henderson filed an application last week asking that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals review Henderson's case based on new research using biomechanics in analyzing infant head injuries.

In the application, which also asks for a stay of her June 13 execution, her lawyers claim that new research in the field of infant head trauma shows that Brandon could have died from an accidental fall and not necessarily at Henderson's "murderous" hands.

Her lawyers argue that advancements in modern science have "eclipsed" the body of knowledge that was available to medical witnesses in Henderson's capital murder trial, and that jurors might not have convicted her if they had knowledge of the scientific evidence that now exists.

Since her arrest nearly 13 years ago for Brandon's murder, Henderson has maintained that the infant accidentally fell from her arms after she stepped on a toy while spinning him around. In a panic, Henderson claims, she fled her home with Brandon's body and buried him in a cardboard box before fleeing the state for Kansas City, Miss., where she was arrested one week later.

A Travis County jury convicted Henderson and sentenced her to death in 1995, based largely on the testimony of retired Travis County chief medical examiner Roberto Bayardo, who told jurors that Brandon sustained blunt-force trauma to the back of his head inconsistent with an accidental death.

Bayardo, who retired in 2006, testified in Henderson's trial that Brandon's injuries were too severe to have resulted from a "short-distance fall" out of Henderson's arms. The injuries Brandon sustained were consistent with force generated by falling from a two-story building or a car running over his head, Bayardo theorized.

After reading reports from forensic experts retained by Henderson's lawyers, Bayardo wrote in an affidavit submitted to the court that he was unable to stand by the opinion he offered during trial testimony.

"Had the new scientific information been available to me in 1995, I would not have been able to testify the way I did about the degree of force needed to cause Brandon Baugh's head injury," Bayardo wrote in an affidavit signed May 19. "I cannot determine with a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether Brandon Baugh's injuries resulted from an intentional act or an accidental fall."

Henderson's experts agree with Bayardo's conclusion at the autopsy that Brandon died of blunt-force trauma to the back of his head. But the experts point to recent studies and biomechanical analysis in dismissing Bayardo's claim that the injuries could not be attributed to a "drop" or a "short-distance fall" of four feet or less.

In four pages of physics and trigonometry equations incorporating the child's vital statistics with concepts of velocity and impact, Dr. Kenneth Monson attempted to determine the force with which Brandon's head might have hit the ground and compared that to common thresholds for infant brain damage.

Monson concluded that Henderson's version of the incident could not be ruled out, as did three other experts in the fields of forensic pathology who reviewed his report.

In affidavits submitted to the court, none of Henderson's experts faulted Bayardo for his findings because they said the research was unavailable at the time. Since Henderson's trial, the three doctors noted, mathematical calculations like those used in biomechanics had become an essential tool in forensic investigation.

Even so, the doctors remarked that none of the calculations could be used to look into the mind of a defendant and ascertain intent.

randon's injury and death was an accident. However, because of the new scientific information and analysis now available to scientifically evaluate Brandon's injury and death, neither may anyone prove that Ms. Henderson intentionally caused it," Dr. John Plunkett wrote in an affidavit submitted with Henderson's application. "It is impossible for any qualified scientist or physician to conclude, whether to a reasonable degree of medical certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt, that any intentional and deliberate act caused Brandon Baugh's death."

Henderson's execution is scheduled for June 13.


Previous 1 | 2

Letters From Hell


Robert "Gypsy" Comer, whose path to death by lethal injection was paved with bad intentions, sent a series of letters to New Times before his execution on the morning of Tuesday, May 22.

"I'm ready, and I've been ready," he wrote from his cell in Florence on April 29, "though I know there are some people out there who are going to fight me until they put the needle in my arm."

Comer was the first person executed in Arizona since November 2000.

Comer's missives remained consistent with what he had been telling attorneys, judges, confidants and New Times for years — that he wanted to waive any remaining appeals and be put to death as soon as possible.

Becoming a death penalty "volunteer" was far more of a legal ordeal than the 50-year-old killer originally envisioned. Along the way, Comer's toughest fight was against his court-appointed habeas lawyers, whose job it was to find legally compelling flaws in their client's trial and sentencing.

Those attorneys tried desperately to convince various state and federal courts ("Arizona's Worst Criminal," May 2, 2002) that Comer had been rendered mentally incompetent to make decisions about his life by his long incarceration at the Arizona Department of Corrections' SMU II unit, a super-maximum-security facility, where isolation from other inmates and other mind-twisting punishments are the norm.

But Comer had presented a credible case for his execution during a memorable March 2002 federal hearing in downtown Phoenix, telling U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver that "[this] has to do with me paying my debt to society. I ended a whole bunch of innocent people's lives, and changed their lives forever. I was sentenced to death. That's the legal sentence."

Silver concluded that Comer was competent, a key finding that moved the long-standing case ahead.

After years of other legal twists and turns, the infamous inmate finally landed on a gurney and poison coursed fatally through his veins, courtesy of the state of Arizona.

It is unlikely that those who weren't in Arizona back in early February 1987 can grasp the level of antipathy and horror that Comer's name conjured. It was then that the California native went on a reign of terror near remote Apache Lake, about 65 miles north of downtown Phoenix.

Then 30, a methamphetamine-fueled Comer shot a disabled camper in the head at close range, then cut his throat, and stole his possessions. He also killed the man's beagle. Later that night, Comer and a female companion (who would serve about six years in prison) came upon a young Chicago couple who were camping.

Comer raped the young woman after binding her boyfriend to the fender of his pickup truck. He left the boyfriend tied to the truck in the desert. He then kidnapped the woman in her vehicle (taking along his companion and her two young children). He continued to sexually assault the Chicago woman over the next several hours.

That vehicle ran out of gas north of Roosevelt Lake, and the young woman miraculously escaped into Tonto National Forest, practically naked. Bloody and bruised, she sought refuge for almost 24 hours, until passers-by found her along Arizona 188 near the little town of Punkin Center, about 40 miles north of Phoenix.

The next day, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies, aided by tracking dogs, arrested Comer and his companion at a campground in Gila County.

Television cameras recorded the end of the highly publicized manhunt, and the heavily tattooed, feral-looking career criminal reminded many of the infamous Charlie Manson, except that this guy did his own killing instead of leaving it to others.

During his trial, which Comer chose not to attend, the prosecutor called him the "reincarnation of the devil." An appellate court later characterized the statement as excessive but not necessarily inaccurate.

Jail officials rousted Comer from his cell before his sentencing with water from a pressurized fire hose (after he had tried to stick one of his captors with a shank), shackled him, covered with only a blanket and his underpants, to a wheelchair, and took him into court, where he told county Judge Ron Reinstein, "Let's get it on."

The crimes for which Comer went to death row in April 1988 included murder, kidnapping and rape.

Though long known to prison authorities as one of their most troublesome and dangerous inmates (Comer's weapon-making abilities are the stuff of legend among correctional officers), records show that his last infraction came August 30, 2001.

In his letters to New Times, Comer attributed his marked positive change in attitude to courteous corrections officers who treated him with respect and to attorneys Holly Gieszl and Mike Kimerer, who worked on his behalf to expedite the execution.

But he added a cautionary note in a 2002 letter, writing: "I am not Hannibal Lecter, but I'm not that far away from being him, either, under the right circumstances."

Comer adopted a more pensive tone in recent weeks, as the likelihood of his execution became apparent.

"Executions are creepy," he wrote. "Imposed death — violent or at the hands of the state is wrong. Murder is murder, no matter the name you give it . . . I don't believe in Jesus, have no urge to tell anyone to go to Hell (I'll be there soon enough), and telling the families I've destroyed that I'm sorry on my deathbed, no matter how sincere I am, would just be written off as a load of crap.

"So, they will either forgive me of their own accord, or hate me. Hopefully, if they hate me, they will channel that to helping other victims cope. Wish I could help stop the violence. In the end, it's all so very stupid."

In this final letter to New Times, received last week, Comer wrote a postscript to his terrible life.

"Just between you and me, I'm tortured in my mind, in my heart for all the wrong I've done," he wrote. "No matter what was done to me, I had no right to destroy anyone's peace, anyone's life. How could I hurt, destroy like that?"

Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune on LWoP


Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune on LWoP

Zorn is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On his Tribune blog, Change of Subject, he has a post, "Giving new life to debate on the death penalty."

Many people were angry recently when a lone juror spared the life of convicted Brown's Chicken killer Juan Luna. They felt he deserved the death penalty for his role in the methodical slaughter of seven restaurant workers, and they wrote and called to tell me so.

I responded with my usual reassurance:

Luna, 33, was sentenced to life in prison. We don't need to kill him, because he'll never get out. Of Illinois' 1,422 inmates now serving so-called "natural life" sentences, not one has been paroled.

Parole hasn't even been a possibility for anyone sentenced since 1978 when the legislature eliminated parole-eligible sentences.

But I've since learned of an effort that undermines my reassurance and that has divided local activists committed to abolishing the death penalty:

On one side are those who argue that life without parole is a merciless and wasteful sentence, better than the death penalty but not by much.

And some local flavor:

Tellingly, the prime opponents of an effort to add a life-without-parole sentencing option in execution-happy Texas several years ago were prosecutors, who said they feared it would harm their ability to get death sentences.

Lawyers there told me this week that, since the option was added, anecdotal evidence suggests prosecutors have become increasingly willing to offer life sentences in plea bargains.

NORTH CAROLINA: N.C.'s death penalty

NORTH CAROLINA: N.C.'s death penalty

Legislators, doctors await court's decision
Posted on Tue, May. 29, 2007
DAVID INGRAM
dingram@charlotteobserver.com

null

RALEIGH --
As North Carolina edges toward a full year with no executions, top state leaders aren't in a hurry to make changes that would reinstate the death penalty.

Five executions have been put on hold since a state judge in Wake County heard their cases earlier this year, as part of a national controversy over the role of doctors in executions.

Now, Democrats controlling the N.C. legislature say they are waiting for the court's decision before making any moves. Republican-backed legislation, which would allow doctors to participate without fear of discipline from the N.C. Medical Board, hadn't had a hearing in either the House or Senate by the time a key deadline for moving forward this year passed last week.

"We're waiting to hear what the court says," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Fayetteville. "We're not sure that the law we have is not right."

Republicans are questioning whether the inaction is part of a hidden agenda.

"The only conclusion that someone could draw is that the leadership wants a moratorium on the death penalty but doesn't want to vote on it," said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican.

Gov. Mike Easley, a two-term Democrat, is backing the Democratic leadership's position.

The state judge issued a de facto moratorium in January after the medical board declared that doctors couldn't participate in executions without violating medical ethics.

The most recent execution was on Aug. 18, when Samuel Flippen was executed for a murder in Forsyth County.

National debate

Similar debates about the role of doctors in executions have taken place across the country, in states such as Georgia, Maryland and Missouri.Not all states have required a doctor to participate in executions, and some have banned doctors from doing so.

The American Medical Association opposes doctors' participation. It makes a few exceptions, such as relieving suffering as an inmate awaits execution and certifying death after someone else has declared the inmate dead.

The medical board, which regulates doctors, declared in January that participation is "a departure from the ethics of the medical profession" and that "any physician who engages in any verbal or physical activity ... may be subject to disciplinary action."

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, said doctors are now more vocal on the subject because of an increased focus on the mechanics of lethal injection.

"If it were the electric chair, I don't know that doctors would be much involved in this debate. Clearly, this is a medical procedure," Dieter said. "The drugs were used in the operating room prior to them being used in executions."

The medical board's action created a potential conflict with the execution protocol of the N.C. Department of Corrections, which reads in part: "The doctor shall monitor the essential body functions of the condemned inmate and shall notify the warden immediately upon his or her determination that the inmate shows signs of undue pain or suffering."

The Department of Corrections has filed suit against the medical board, arguing that the board is keeping prison officials from carrying out lawful punishments.

The lawsuit argues that monitoring an execution is not a medical procedure and asks a judge to bar the medical board from disciplining doctors.

Inmates have used the dispute to seek stays in their executions, and Judge Donald Stephens of Wake Superior Court began halting executions in January. Five are on hold, including those of Archie Lee Billings, for a murder in Caldwell County, and of James Adolph Campbell, for a murder in Rowan County.

There is no timetable for when the legal matters will be resolved, and more could be held up because the appeals process is moving forward for the rest of North Carolina's death row, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

Political question

The de facto moratorium could create a political dilemma for Democrats, who control both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly.

They could line up behind Republican legislation that would strip the medical board and similar agencies of their power to discipline doctors, nurses and pharmacists who participate in executions.

That's the resolution the Department of Corrections seeks in its lawsuit, but a vote in the legislature could anger the most liberal of the Democrats' base.

Legislative leaders could wait for the courts to rule. That risks angering moderates and conservatives, who are more likely to support the death penalty.

In a statewide poll last month by the nonpartisan Elon University Poll, 58 percent of respondents said they support the death penalty for people found guilty of first-degree murder. Only 32 percent overall said they oppose it, but Democrats were split almost evenly and Republicans supported the death penalty by more than 4-to-1.

Support was weaker when respondents were asked the most appropriate punishment. Just under 50 percent volunteered the death penalty as an answer while 41 percent said life without parole.

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Asheville, chairs a committee where the Republican-backed legislation is sitting. He said he hesitates to challenge the authority of the medical board when there's little apparent cost to waiting.

"Nobody's going anywhere," he said. "Everybody's locked up."

Death Row in N.C.

1984

Year when N.C. restarted executions

43

Executions since then

5

Executions on hold

166

Men and women now on death row

4

Death-row inmates from Mecklenburg

SOURCE: N.C. Department of Corrections

Lethal injection drugs 'unreliable'


NewScientist.com news service

Michael Reilly

The three-drug cocktail used to execute prisoners in the US by pain-free lethal injection is inherently flawed and will not reliably anaesthetise inmates as they are put to death, a new study suggests.

The three drugs that make up the lethal-injection cocktail, which is used in most US states, are each thought to be lethal in their own right. However, Teresa Zimmers at the University of Miami in Florida, US, and colleagues found that the drug combination protocols used by executioners may not be reliable.

"Even if all the drugs are delivered intravenously in the quantities specified, they still may not produce death reliably," says Zimmers.

The researchers found that the average concentrations of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental varied enormously per kilogram of body weight, from 10 milligrams to 75 mg. In surgery, concentrations greater than 10 mg/kg are used for general anaesthesia.

Delayed death

Worse, execution logs showed that inmates' hearts continued beating 2 to 9 minutes after potassium chloride – the second drug in the cocktail – was administered.
"Potassium chloride usually causes instantaneous cardiac arrest once it reaches the heart," says Jonathan Groner at Ohio State University in the US. Groner suggests its effectiveness may be reduced somehow due to the combination of drugs used in the injection.

Lastly, pancuronium bromide is used to paralyse the muscles and stop breathing. Of the three drugs, it is the only one that Zimmers' team says is able to induce death reliably in the doses they examined. This means that even if executioners properly administer the entire course of drugs, there remains the possibility that the condemned may die of asphyxiation and be aware of it as it happens.

Reluctant advisor

Despite the new findings' potential impact on US policy regarding execution, Zimmers says she is opposed to offering any advice that may improve lethal injection methods.
"I think it's unethical to comment on how to improve lethal injection protocols," she says. "It's a perversion of everything we as physicians try to do."

The new study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that inmates may endure suffering during execution. Tales of gruesome deaths have largely led to electric chairs and gas chambers being abandoned in favour of a supposedly painless lethal injection, which is now used in 37 of the 38 states that sanction capital punishment.

Illegal executions?

In a previous study, in 2005, Zimmers' team investigated the effectiveness of the anaesthesia given to inmates prior to execution. They found that the levels of anaesthetic sodium thiopental in the blood of inmates were low enough that they may have experienced pain (The Lancet, vol 365, p 1412).

The researchers' findings, and evidence of ageing facilities and poorly trained executioners, led federal judge Jeremy Fogel to rule in February 2006 that California's injection programme was unconstitutional because it represented "cruel and unusual punishment".

There was no way to tell reliably whether inmates were unconscious before drugs were given to induce paralysis and cardiac arrest, he ruled, saying: "[California's] implementation of lethal injection is broken, but it can be fixed." Ten other states have also put injections on hold citing similar concerns.

Journal reference: PLoS Medicine (DOI: 101371/journal.pmed.0040156)


OHIO: Parole board rules against clemency for man in jail beating

OHIO: Parole board rules against clemency for man in jail beating

Associated Press

null
Clarence Carter

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Parole Board has recommended that Gov. Ted Strickland deny clemency to a man who beat and caused fatal injuries to a cellmate.

Clarence Carter, 45, is scheduled to die by lethal injection July 10.

Carter, of Cincinnati, was convicted of beating Johnny Allen at the Hamilton County Jail in 1988. Carter hit and kicked Allen numerous times over a 25-minute period.

Allen, who was taken to a hospital, died about two weeks later.

Carter was in the jail waiting to be sentenced on a prior conviction of aggravated murder in the shooting death of a police informant who was to testify against a friend of Carter's in a drug case, according to a parole board report.

In a statement to the board, Carter insisted that Allen initiated the confrontation by approaching his bed with a shank. A public defender also argued that Carter was convicted based on unreliable testimony of inmate witnesses.

The board, in a 6-3 vote Friday, said it found no evidence to suggest that Carter received poor legal representation at trial or during his appeals.

In their dissent, three parole board members said they were troubled by what appeared to be contradictory or inaccurate testimony by inmate witnesses.

Strickland can accept the recommendation or change Carter's sentence to life in prison without parole.

OHIO: Victim's relative sides with killer's kin

OHIO: Victim's relative sides with killer's kin

article published Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Witness says 2006 Clark execution was a violation of Constitution
By JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

null
Joseph Lewis Clark, left, was put to death for the murder of David Manning, brother of Michael Manning, at right.

COLUMBUS - A former Toledo man said yesterday he is cooperating with a federal lawsuit to be filed next month against the state by the family of the man executed last year for murdering his brother, saying the execution he personally witnessed was cruel and unusual punishment.

Michael Manning, a death-penalty supporter, said he also plans to ask Gov. Ted Strickland to enact a moratorium on Ohio executions until problems seen in the execution of Joseph Lewis Clark on May 2, 2006, and Christopher Newton, a Huron, Ohio, native, on Thursday are corrected. In both cases, the executions were delayed while prison personnel struggled to find usable veins through which the lethal cocktail of drugs could flow.

"What happened was cruel and unusual punishment, which is against the Constitution of the United States," said Mr. Manning, now living in Marion, Ohio. "We all heard [Clark] moaning and groaning. ... The executions should be temporarily halted until they come to grips with how to insert the needles for accuracy. I believe I counted 10 to 15 times that Clark was stuck with a needle, and I don't know how many times there were after the curtain was closed."

Mr. Manning's 23-year-old brother, David, was shot by Clark in 1984 during a robbery of a Toledo gas station, part of a drug-fueled, nine-day crime spree that also claimed the life of Donald B. Harris, 21. Clark received a separate life sentence for the Harris murder.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor has no plans to issue a moratorium.

"The governor's understanding regarding the Newton execution procedure is that it worked the way it was supposed to," he said. "Out of abundance of caution, as much time as was needed was taken before the execution to ensure there would not be problems similar to that of the Clark case."

On May 2, 2006, the execution team at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution at Lucasville struggled for 25 minutes to find usable veins in Clark, a 57-year-old Toledo native with a long history of intravenous drug use. After the execution process began, a previously calm Clark suddenly raised and shook his head, repeatedly insisting, "It don't work." The sole vein being used to deliver the drugs had apparently collapsed.

The execution team closed the curtain separating the chamber from witnesses, but witnesses could hear Clark moaning from behind the curtain for several minutes. After about 35 minutes, the curtain was reopened and the execution proceeded without another hitch.

The family of Clark plans to file a federal suit against the state next month.

"There are other witnesses who can confirm what he said," said Alan Konop, the Clarks' attorney.

"He's an important witness. I thought it was quite admirable that he took this position, considering his brother was one of the victims."

Mr. Manning said he didn't speak out immediately after the execution because the administrator of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Office of Victim Services had told the three Manning family witnesses to be consistent in their statements.

Karen Ho, the administrator, said yesterday her role was only to provide a path for family members to be heard through the clemency and execution processes, not to advise them what or what not to say.

"I stand by what I said at the time, that justice was served," said Mary Ellen (Manning) Gordon, who has remarried since her husband was murdered.

"They could improve the process to make sure the injection sites are clearer so that the drugs flow better, but I think Clark went more peacefully than David did," she said.

Scientific American Examines "The Mysteries of Anesthesia"

The latest issue of Scientific American contains an article about the science of anesthesiology, noting that "the medical specialty of anesthesiology has evolved into a sophisticated art form."

The magazine reports that the scientific understanding of how anesthetic drugs actually work and how to make them better has lagged behind most other areas of drug development, a shortcoming that has resulted in safety concerns.

Episodes of awareness during operations while under general anesthesia, even when administered by trained professionals, are reported by one or two of every 1,000 patients. The article notes that today's general anesthesics have a "fairly narrow margin of safety, which is the difference between the therapeutic dose and a dose that is toxic, even lethal."(B. Orser, "Lifting the Fog Around Anesthesia," Scientific American, June 2007).

Although the above article does not mention the death penalty, concerns about the efficacy and application of the anesthetic drug used in lethal injections have resulted in constitutional challenges in many states recently. The anesthesia is generally applied by correctional officers and the level of consciousness of the inmate is monitored by non-medical personnel.

DNA Evidence and the Death Penalty


JURIST Special Guest Columnist and former FBI Director William S. Sessions says that Governor Eliot Spitzer’s recent proposal to expand the New York DNA database and an Ohio Supreme Court ruling liberalizing DNA testing for inmates should be welcomed as necessary and overdue efforts to protect public safety while pursuing meaningful justice, especially for prisoners facing the prospect of capital punishment...

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer recently made headlines by announcing a plan to expand New York’s DNA database to include genetic samples from those convicted of all felonies and most misdemeanors. The Governor’s proposal – which would immediately increase the size of New York’s database by at least twenty percent – would also require that samples be taken from all New Yorkers in prison, on probation or parole, or registered as sex offenders. A significant provision of the proposal would greatly expand the ability of inmates to obtain DNA testing that might prove their innocence.

The Ohio Supreme Court addressed a similar issue this April when it struck down part of a state law that gave prosecutors control over which inmates were given DNA tests. Governor Spitzer’s proposal and the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision should both be welcomed as necessary and overdue efforts to protect public safety while pursuing meaningful justice.
When I became Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1987, few in the criminal justice system knew much about DNA, and nobody fully understood how it would revolutionize our work. Shortly after I became Director the FBI established a DNA laboratory we hoped could be used to verify that a suspect had indeed committed a crime. During my years as a U.S. Attorney and federal judge in Texas I had seen rapists and murderers walk free for lack of biological evidence; these were the cases I had in mind when we established the laboratory in Washington, D.C.One such case, half a country away from my Texas office, haunted even the most hardened prosecutors.

In the summer of 1973 Kathleen Ham was brutally raped at knifepoint in her Manhattan apartment. When a jury failed to convict her alleged attacker, her life was put on hold and her sense of justice forever diluted. At the FBI we hoped that DNA matching technology would allow us to solve cases like Ms. Ham’s and bring some justice to victims whose attackers were tried but never convicted. By October 1988 the FBI’s DNA lab had completed an analysis of biological evidence in 100 active cases. My colleagues and I anticipated that this federal initiative would enable local prosecutors to address questions that had previously been left unanswered. We were right, but not entirely in the manner we expected.

The results of those first 100 tests astonished me. In thirty percent of cases the DNA gathered during the investigation did not match the DNA of the suspect. In three out of ten cases not only did we have the wrong person, but the guilty person was still at large. In capital cases the stakes were unnervingly high: the prospect of executing an innocent person was only slightly more appalling than the prospect of murderers and rapists walking free, unidentified and dangerous. The statistics today are roughly the same as they were 19 years ago. In approximately 25 percent of cases the genetic evidence recovered during an investigation does not match the DNA of the suspect. Oftentimes this discrepancy is discovered before irreparable harm is done to either the investigation or the suspect; however, too often we learn of our mistake only after time, money, and sometimes lives have been wasted on empty pursuits.
DNA evidence has supported more than 30,000 prosecutions and has led to more than 200 exonerations, including those of fifteen death row inmates. This last group, Americans sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit, stands to gain the most from greater access to DNA evidence. Though most prosecutors are dedicated to the pursuit of justice, for years too many have hidden existing DNA evidence or denied reasonable requests for genetic testing.

Granting death row inmates access to DNA testing should be only one of many steps taken to confirm the guilt of suspects of capital crimes; the finality of the death penalty demands that our dedication to honest justice be absolute.

Governor Spitzer’s plan and the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision, both of which will allow more suspects and prisoners to obtain these genetic comparisons, should be welcomed by supporters and opponents of the death penalty alike. When more juries are able to consider genetic evidence that a suspect committed a crime, our neighborhoods will be safer places to live. When the wrongfully convicted are given every opportunity to exonerate themselves, our neighborhoods will be better and safer places to live.

Some have objected to Governor Spitzer’s plan and ones like it on the grounds that the storage and management of sensitive genetic information is too cumbersome a task to ensure the protection of an individual’s personal information. Others have rightly taken issue with Governor Spitzer’s proposed one-year limitation on challenges to convictions, except those based on newly-discovered evidence such as DNA.These concerns should not be used to arrest real progress.

They should, however, be addressed as states continue to improve public safety and allow the wrongly convicted to exonerate themselves. To enable the pursuit of justice, we must work to craft legislation that will protect sensitive genetic information and give all prisoners’ the right to challenge their convictions.I applaud both the New York proposal and the Ohio Supreme Court decision regarding DNA testing. However, much remains to be done to improve our country’s criminal justice system, especially in capital cases.

Reviews of state capital punishment systems have been ordered from the bench and governors’ mansions around the country, and with good reason. I encourage state legislators considering systemic reforms to consider the recommendations of the Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Committee, a bipartisan coalition of policy experts, legal scholars, and former government officials. The Committee includes opponents and supporters of capital punishment, and I have joined them in calling for substantive reform of how America tries and sentences suspects in capital cases. The delivery of justice also requires competent, well-trained, well-resourced lawyers for defendants in death penalty cases while simultaneously reserving capital punishment for only the most heinous of crimes.

It took more than thirty years for justice to be done in Kathleen Ham’s case. The same man the jury had failed to convict in 1973 was identified – in 2005 – by a persistent New York prosecutor who matched genetic material gathered during the original investigation to a sample in the FBI’s national database. But for every story like Kathleen Ham’s there is a story like Clarence Elkins’.

Last year, Elkins, who served six years in an Ohio prison, was exonerated after DNA analysis – testing he was denied in 2002 – revealed another man had committed the murder for which he was convicted.These stories and other like them should serve as potent reminders that justice and safety are mutually reinforcing. Only by pursuing justice to all ends will justice ultimately be served.



William S. Sessions is a partner at the Washington law firm of Holland & Knight LLP and a member of the Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Committee. Sessions previously served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas and as Chief Judge of the United States District Court for that district. He later served as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

May 30, 2007

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Death penalty: a panacea to serious and violent crime?

By Obert Chaurura Gutu

IT IS beyond debate that the death penalty is a controversial form of punishment. A certain school of thought passionately propounds the argument that the death penalty is a barbaric and anachronistic type of sentence carried over from the Dark Ages.

This particular school of thought argues, not without some justification, that the death penalty is a dangerous form of sentence particularly in countries with weak and fragmented legal systems.
It is further argued that there is a danger of an accused person being erroneously convicted and subsequently executed in a country with a weak legal system. Countries with weak legal systems usually don’t have advanced methods of proving guilt or innocence such as DNA.

Another argument is advanced to the effect that in some countries; poorly qualified lawyers represent people accused of committing serious offences such as murder and treason. In essence, the debate on whether or not the death penalty should be abolished is a complex jurisprudential subject.

Any debate pertaining to the death penalty will inevitably arouse a lot of different emotions from different people living in different parts of the world.

For instance, the death penalty is ruthlessly observed and enforced in countries that follow Sharia law. In such countries, there is really nothing to surprise anyone when convicted offenders are publicly executed; in some cases by firing squad.

In Zimbabwe, the death penalty has not been abolished; it is still in our statute books. It is a fact that the death penalty in Zimbabwe is a relic of our colonial past. During the colonial times, the death penalty was deliberately provided for to curtail the activities of the nationalist movements that were advocating and fighting for black majority rule.

It cannot be denied that the Rhodesian High Court was quick to condemn so-called terrorists to the death penalty. Of course, such actions were also meant to strike fear into the hearts of the generality of the black population so that they will be scared to actively participate in nationalist movements.

A case in point is the hanging of seven young black men in March 1968 after they had been convicted of murdering two members of the Rhodesian Army. These were Private Koroni and Corporal Davison. These seven young men had also been convicted of contravening the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) by illegally possessing weapons and assorted military material.
In 1968 alone, forty-nine people were convicted and sentenced to death for politically-motivated offences in the then Rhodesia.
The colonial system was brutally vicious and the death penalty was unashamedly resorted to with complete impunity. This was particularly the case during the state of emergency that was in place during the Ian Smith era. Lord Soames; the then Governor of Rhodesia, released 7671 political prisoners on January 6, 1980 when he lifted martial law and granted a general pardon to all those people convicted of politically motivated crimes.

It is sad to note that the present Public Order and Security Act (POSA) (Chapter 11:17), was an off shoot from the colonial Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA).

We all know how the present government in Zimbabwe has misused and abused POSA in its ruthless clampdown on the activities of opposition parties; particularly the MDC. Indeed, we should exorcise the ghost of LOMA out of POSA! It is particularly sad for a black administration to seek to employ repressive and draconian pieces of legislation such as those used by the die-hard racists and fascists of yesteryear. The modern ethos of democracy and good governance entail that legislation with a colonial hangover such as POSA should never find any place in our statute books.

Lest some readers misunderstand me; I am not at all advocating that we should not have any laws to safeguard public security and our national sovereignty. I am simply arguing that those provisions of POSA that smack of totalitarianism and fascism should be scraped off our statute books. For instance, does it make any democratic sense for organisers of any political meetings to seek clearance and approval from the police before holding any political gathering?

As I am writing this article, police in Zimbabwe have extended a three months ban against rallies and demonstrations in central Harare and in several townships in the capital. This was done purportedly "in the interest of preserving peace and public order". All right-thinking Zimbabweans know that this is absolute hogwash. The reality on the ground is that the ruling Zanu PF party is always free to hold rallies and demonstrations in Harare and indeed, wherever they want in Zimbabwe. POSA stinks!

Many countries in the world have abolished the death penalty. South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995 following the celebrated case decided by the Constitutional Court. This was the case of the State vs Makwanyane and Mchunu. This case was heard by the Constitutional Court from February 15-17 in 1995. Judgment was delivered by the eminent jurist, Justice Chaskalson, the then Chief Justice of South Africa, on June 6, 1995.

Justice Chaskalson made the following order: "In terms of section 98(5) of the Constitution; and with effect from the date of this order the provisions of paragraphs (a), (c), (d),(e), and (f) of section 277(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, and all corresponding provisions of other legislation sanctioning capital punishment which are in force in any part of the national territory in terms of section 229, are declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution and, accordingly, to be invalid.

“In terms of section 98(7) of the Constitution, and with effect from the date of this order; the State is and all its organs are forbidden to execute any person already sentenced to death under any of the provisions thus declared to be invalid; and all such persons will remain in custody under the sentences imposed on them, until such sentences have been set aside in accordance with the law and substituted by lawful punishments.”

This judgment marked a historic and defining moment in South African jurisprudence. It is worth noting that the last execution in South Africa took place on November 14, 1989. However, because of the serious crime rate in present day South Africa, of late, many people have been advocating for the death penalty to be re-introduced. Whether or not this will assist in lowering the rate of serious and violent crime in South Africa, I can not tell. This is a very emotional subject that only the South Africans themselves should be able to debate and perhaps decide through a referendum; whether or not the death penalty in their country should be re-introduced.

In Zimbabwe, there has been a very concerted effort by certain groups of people to advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty. I know that Amnesty International Zimbabwe Chapter is one of the strong protagonists against the death penalty.

For instance, it is argued that the right to life and the right to human dignity are absolute concepts; that no man has the right to terminate another person's life under any circumstances. It is also argued that the death penalty does not at all act as a deterrent to the commission of serious offences such as murder.

Further, it has been argued that the mental anguish suffered by convicted persons awaiting the death sentence is intolerable and is in its own right; primitive and dehumanising. A prolonged delay in the execution of a death sentence may cause the invalidation of a sentence of death that was lawfully imposed.

In Zimbabwe, India and Jamaica, where the death sentence is not unconstitutional, sentences of death have been set aside on these grounds.

For instance, in 1993 in the case of Catholic Commission For Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe vs Attorney General, Zimbabwe and Others 1993 (4) SA 239 (Zimbabwe Supreme Court), the then Chief Justice Gubbay, with the consent of the other Supreme Court judges sitting as a constitutional court, ruled that four individuals should have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment because the delay in carrying out their sentences of death violated the constitutional ban on inhumane and/or degrading punishment. Following upon this case; at least 28 other prisoners on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The death penalty is under serious attack from human rights activists. Human rights activists throughout the world have condemned the death penalty as shocking and inhuman. Although the death sentence has been abolished in South Africa, some leading South African jurists still regret its abolishment. As I have stated above; the crime rate in South Africa is shocking and indeed, some prophets of doom have even argued that this serious crime rate will be a major and almost insurmountable challenge facing the 2010 World Cup project.

For instance, according to a recent study conducted by the Medical Research Council's Gender and Health Group, the Division of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology from the University of Cape Town and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation; a woman is killed every six hours in South Africa by her intimate partner. South Africa has the highest rate of intimate femicide in the world. Recently, two judges at the Pretoria High Court sentenced two cold blooded murderers to life imprisonment. The two judges expressed doubt that the life sentences would have a deterrent effect on crime.

Acting Judge Piet van der Byl said: "This type of crime is taking on shocking proportions in our country. It is doubtful if the present minimum sentence prescribed by the legislature has the desired effect on crimes like these. “May be the time has come for the legislature to consider allowing courts to impose sentences that have a greater deterrent effect, for example to sentence the accused to imprisonment for the duration of their life.”

Judge Johan Els stated that citizens of South Africa no longer feel safe.
He said: "I am of the view that even life imprisonment is not a deterrent. These crimes occur daily and I would have felt that the only deterrent and fit sentence would be the death penalty.”

I must confess that I am in a dilemma as to whether or not the death penalty should be abolished in Zimbabwe. My heart says the death penalty should not be abolished whilst my head stubbornly argues that the death penalty is a barbaric form of punishment that should be abolished because it belongs to the Dark Ages!

The most recent executions in Zimbabwe were performed in 2003 when Steven Chidhumo, Elias Chauke and two others were executed at Harare Central Prison. Recently, I have heard that extra- judicial executions routinely take place in Zimbabwe. I am unable to submit that the death penalty is a panacea to serious and violent crime.

Obert Chaurura Gutu is a Zimbabwean lawyer writing from Harare and he can be contacted on: gutulaw@mweb.co.zw

Death by lethal injection



Not your typical breakfast variety subject, I know. But the last few days, I’ve covered three hearings that concern the death penalty.


When I covered Tyler Edmonds’ bond hearing, the issue of his sister, Kristi Fulgham, came up. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection early this year. Tyler will face a murder trial sometime later. He served four years for capital murder on a sentence of life in prison before the state Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence and ordered a new trial.
At one point, I talked to Joey Fulgham’s sister-in-law, whose husband found the body in the bed in Joey’s house with a fatal bullet wound to the head. She pointed out that in writing about Tyler, reporters alway write about a 13-year-old whose life was taken from him. “There are two other children who have had their lives taken from them, and nobody writes about them,” she reminded me.


Then, I’ve been sitting through the sentencing hearing for William Wilson. He admitted last week in open court, indeed, he pleaded guilty to beating a 2-year-old about the head until she died. Dr. Stephen Hayne, the state pathologist, said Mallory Conerly died because her brain shook around in her skull as it spun from the blows. Blood vessels popped and she bled in her brain, which also swelled up. Oh, Wilson also pleaded guilty to felony child abuse. He put Mallory in water so hot that it burned the tops and the sides of her feet. The water didn’t burn her soles because the tub kept the hot water off. He faces the death penalty. The child’s birth father watched from the front row of the courtroom. Judge Thomas Gardner III will have to make the call.


And, finally, Eddie Loden several years ago made what is, in effect, a “snuff film.” He videotaped himself sexually molesting and torturing a teenager. He even turns and looks at the camera as he does it. He pleaded guilty to capital murder. Now that he was handed the death penalty, Loden has told the state Supreme Court he pleaded because he thought he could get an appeal and possibly a new trial with a high court paradigm for the lower court to follow.


These are all sad, sad situations. Children without fathers. Parents without children. Someone’s life cut short by a violent act.


Here’s what I wonder: Why is the death penalty effective, if it is? What do we as a society gain from putting someone to death for killing someone else? What do we as individuals gain from wanting to put someone to death for killing someone else?


Justices Uphold Night Stalker Convictions, Death Sentence


The Associated Press

May 30, 2007

The Supreme Court refused to review the convictions and death sentence Tuesday for serial killer Richard Ramirez, the so-called Night Stalker who killed 13 people in California in the 1980s.

The justices declined without comment to act on Ramirez's appeal. His killing spree terrorized the Los Angeles area in 1984 and 1985. Satanic symbols were left at murder scenes and some victims were forced by the killer to "swear to Satan."

Ramirez, convicted in 1989, is not likely to be executed any time soon. He still has another round of federal appeals to pursue, and the state's death penalty has been on hold for the past 15 months on order of a federal judge.

The state recently proposed completing a new execution chamber and requiring more oversight of prison officials in an effort to persuade the judge to allow executions to resume. Northern District of California Judge Jeremy Fogel said the state's lethal injection procedures were cruel and unusual punishment and asked whether the three-drug formula used was the best option.

More than 650 people are awaiting execution in California, home to the nation's largest death row.

The case is Ramirez v. California, 06-9529.

Death penalty: Monstrous wrongs

May 30, 2007

FEDERAL jurors recommend execution of George “Porgy” Lecco and Valerie Friend for the ruthless murder of 33-year-old Carla Collins. Lecco, 57, of Red Jacket, Mingo County, sold drugs out of his pizzeria. He promised dope to Friend, 44, of North Matewan, for killing Collins, a federal drug informant.

During the trial, jurors learned that Friend shot and beat Collins in an abandoned trailer near Newtown. Collins was 33 and had three children. Her children described visiting the shallow grave where her body was found months after she disappeared.

This murder was heinous and horrifying. Naturally, it stirs the normal human desire for revenge and retaliation. But we never think that government should stoop to the level of killing in return. Government is supposed to represent the finest ideals of intelligent citizens, not become a killer itself.

Almost every other civilized country — along with many American states, including West Virginia — has abandoned the practice of putting people to death.

There are logical arguments for ending executions. Killing criminals does not restore their victims. It does not reform anyone. Worse, courts and police sometimes make mistakes. Investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, doctors, judges can all make errors leading to conviction of an innocent person. Death is an irreversible judgment.

In addition to all those reasons, retaliatory killing seems nearly as reprehensible as the original crime.
Unfortunately, society includes monstrous villains who are not good candidates for rehabilitation. Society must protect itself from such people. Locking them in steel cages until they die both protects the public and punishes the killers, without staining the rest of society with more blood.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Physician Participation in the Death Penalty


Statement by Physicians for Human Rights
Physician Participation in the Death Penalty

http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/investigations/death-penalty/

Society entrusts physicians to work for the benefit of their patients
and the public. When doctors use their medical skills to facilitate
state executions, they shatter this trust and violate their commitment
to relieve suffering.

Physicians in the United States, in direct conflict with ethical
standards, routinely participate in executions. More than two dozen
states use lethal injection that requires special medical skills and devices. State statutes or regulations require that a physician
"shall" or "must" be present at an execution and, according to some
interpretations, must be directly involved. Many states with death
penalty statutes require a physician to "pronounce" or "determine"
death.

Even this act of pronouncing death-as opposed to certifying it at a later time - raises serious concerns about physician complicity. In
Alabama, after officials electrocuted a condemned man in a 1989
execution, they called in two physicians to examine the inmate. Based
on their assessment that he was still alive, authorities administered
a second and fatal current.

PHR, along with the American College of Physicians, the National
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Human Rights Watch,
released the comprehensive report Breach of Trust - Physician
Participation in Executions in the United States, documenting
widespread physician involvement. The report includes case studies
obtained through interviews with witnesses and physicians; a review
of medical organizations' and state medical societies' responses; a
state-by-state summary of laws, regulations, and policies on execution; an analysis of the ethical foundations prohibiting participation; and recommendations against participation.

PHR supports health professionals who refuse to collaborate in
executions, and lauded the decision in 2006 by two California
anesthesiologists not to participate in a scheduled execution. PHR
opposes laws that mandate physician participation in execution, that
protect the anonymity of those who violate ethical standards, and recommends that state medical boards take action against violators.
PHR opposes capital punishment in all cases.

Toledo Attorney Angry Over Botched Executions


Toledo Attorney Angry Over Botched Executions

WTOL-TV in Toledo
May 25, 2007

http://tinyurl.com/2ut7o6

TOLEDO -- Toledo attorney Alan Konop says Thursday's execution of
Christopher Newton is an unfortunate repeat of what happened this time last
year to his client, Joe Clark.
Konop wants Governor Strickland to halt all executions until the Bureau of
Prisons figures out how to stop this from happening again. (See attached
story about Newton's execution.)
Toledo native Joe Clark was convicted of the 1984 murder of David Manning at
a gas station on Airport Highway. Last May, he was executed. But it took
almost 90 minutes, because they couldn't find the right veins in his arms.
"He actually got up and said, 'Stop it, you're not doing it right,' " Konop
said.
Family members told Konop what Clark went through on the gurney.
But should anyone, especially the victim's family, be expected to feel
sympathy for this convicted killer? A man who was also sentenced to life in
prison for killing another clerk the night before?
"I don't think there's any civilized society that feels that a person who's
been sentenced to death should be tortured to death," Konop argues.
The brother of murder victim David Manning told News 11 he firmly believes
in the death penalty, but actually agrees with Konop. Mike Manning said: "I
believe in the constitutionality of the death penalty. In other words, you
should not have to suffer because of the state."
Next month, Konop says he will file a civil lawsuit against the State of
Ohio for "cruel and unusual punishment" in how Clark was put to death.
"We hope that if the state sees that they can be liable for damages, that
they will take a new and fresh look at how they carry out executions," Konop
said.

Gabe's View: Time To Kill Death Penalty


Gabe's View: Time To Kill Death Penalty

Two botched executions in Ohio make it clear: it's time to end the death penalty. A civilized nation can do no less.In Ohio last week, Christopher Newton, an overweight inmate, was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Lucasville. The execution was delayed 90 minutes while prison medical workers tried desperately to find suitable veins in his arms.Last year, another prisoner, Joseph Clark, died 90 minutes after his scheduled execution in Ohio because the prisoner workers had difficulty finding a vein in his arm.

Botched executions are hardly the exception in the history of this barbaric practice that seems so much a part of American culture. Over the decades there have been failed executions involving electrocutions, lethal injections [the preferred method these days] and hangings. Capital punishment is a horror and, although many Americans, according to polls, still favor using it, this may be a case where a decent respect for humanity should make us ignore public opinion polls.There are lurid photographs of some of these botched executions on the Internet. It doesn't do us, as a nation, proud. The death penalty has society taking human life in the name of justice. It puts us as a nation on the same level as the most depraved criminal who has taken a life.Advocates of the death penalty say it deters crime. Opponents argue it does not. And, indeed, there is no convincing evidence that it does deter killers.In Ohio, at the prison where Christopher Newton was executed, an official told witnesses as the process dragged on: ‘‘we have told the team to take their time. His size is creating a problem.'' Newton was 6 feet tall and weighed 265 pounds.What a grotesque scene and an embarrassing moment for our society.No wonder that a group of Ohio inmates is suing the state, charging that the injection method is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Constitution. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all executions so a commission could examine the lethal injection method. The former Governor of Illinois, George Ryan, declared a moratorium on all executions because he was so concerned about the cruelty of the penalty and the process. In other states there have been suspensions of the death penalty, or moratoriums declared by Governors or judges.Capital punishment should be outlawed. Not for the sake of the killers but for ourselves. You don't have to be a deep believer to know that killing is wrong. And killings carried out in our name are abhorrent. The death penalty amounts to legal murder. And it's time to make it illegal.

N.C.'s death penalty lingers in legal limbo


Legislators, doctors await court's decision


DAVID INGRAM dingram@charlotteobserver.com

RALEIGH - As North Carolina edges toward a full year with no executions, top state leaders aren't in a hurry to make changes that would reinstate the death penalty.
Five executions have been put on hold since a state judge in Wake County heard their cases earlier this year, as part of a national controversy over the role of doctors in executions.

Now, Democrats controlling the N.C. legislature say they are waiting for the court's decision before making any moves. Republican-backed legislation, which would allow doctors to participate without fear of discipline from the N.C. Medical Board, hadn't had a hearing in either the House or Senate by the time a key deadline for moving forward this year passed last week.
"We're waiting to hear what the court says," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Fayetteville. "We're not sure that the law we have is not right."

Republicans are questioning whether the inaction is part of a hidden agenda.
"The only conclusion that someone could draw is that the leadership wants a moratorium on the death penalty but doesn't want to vote on it," said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican.

Gov. Mike Easley, a two-term Democrat, is backing the Democratic leadership's position.
The state judge issued a de facto moratorium in January after the medical board declared that doctors couldn't participate in executions without violating medical ethics.
The most recent execution was on Aug. 18, when Samuel Flippen was executed for a murder in Forsyth County.

National debate

Similar debates about the role of doctors in executions have taken place across the country, in states such as Georgia, Maryland and Missouri.Not all states have required a doctor to participate in executions, and some have banned doctors from doing so.
The American Medical Association opposes doctors' participation. It makes a few exceptions, such as relieving suffering as an inmate awaits execution and certifying death after someone else has declared the inmate dead.

The medical board, which regulates doctors, declared in January that participation is "a departure from the ethics of the medical profession" and that "any physician who engages in any verbal or physical activity ... may be subject to disciplinary action."
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, said doctors are now more vocal on the subject because of an increased focus on the mechanics of lethal injection.

"If it were the electric chair, I don't know that doctors would be much involved in this debate. Clearly, this is a medical procedure," Dieter said. "The drugs were used in the operating room prior to them being used in executions."

The medical board's action created a potential conflict with the execution protocol of the N.C. Department of Corrections, which reads in part: "The doctor shall monitor the essential body functions of the condemned inmate and shall notify the warden immediately upon his or her determination that the inmate shows signs of undue pain or suffering."

The Department of Corrections has filed suit against the medical board, arguing that the board is keeping prison officials from carrying out lawful punishments.
The lawsuit argues that monitoring an execution is not a medical procedure and asks a judge to bar the medical board from disciplining doctors.

Inmates have used the dispute to seek stays in their executions, and Judge Donald Stephens of Wake Superior Court began halting executions in January. Five are on hold, including those of Archie Lee Billings, for a murder in Caldwell County, and of James Adolph Campbell, for a murder in Rowan County.

There is no timetable for when the legal matters will be resolved, and more could be held up because the appeals process is moving forward for the rest of North Carolina's death row, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

Political question

The de facto moratorium could create a political dilemma for Democrats, who control both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly.
They could line up behind Republican legislation that would strip the medical board and similar agencies of their power to discipline doctors, nurses and pharmacists who participate in executions.

That's the resolution the Department of Corrections seeks in its lawsuit, but a vote in the legislature could anger the most liberal of the Democrats' base.
Legislative leaders could wait for the courts to rule. That risks angering moderates and conservatives, who are more likely to support the death penalty.

In a statewide poll last month by the nonpartisan Elon University Poll, 58 percent of respondents said they support the death penalty for people found guilty of first-degree murder. Only 32 percent overall said they oppose it, but Democrats were split almost evenly and Republicans supported the death penalty by more than 4-to-1.
Support was weaker when respondents were asked the most appropriate punishment. Just under 50 percent volunteered the death penalty as an answer while 41 percent said life without parole.

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Asheville, chairs a committee where the Republican-backed legislation is sitting. He said he hesitates to challenge the authority of the medical board when there's little apparent cost to waiting.
"Nobody's going anywhere," he said. "Everybody's locked up."


Death Row in N.C.

1984
Year when N.C. restarted executions

43
Executions since then

5
Executions on hold

166
Men and women now on death row

4
Death-row inmates from Mecklenburg


SOURCE: N.C. Department of Corrections


Monday, 28 May 2007

Was Arizona’s execution earlier this week botched too?



Was Arizona’s execution earlier this week botched too?

Attention has been riveted to the horribly botched “execution” of Christopher Newton. The execution team took over an hour to fine a vein to suitable enough to kill Newton. In the sixteen minutes he took to die “Newton’s stomach heaved, his chin quivered and twitched, and his body twice mildly convulsed within its restraints. Records show that other Ohio inmates died within an average of 7.5 minutes.” Ohio DoC is saying the execution was not a botch (and therefore will do no follow-up, such as an autopsy) , despite experts opinions to the contrary that it was likely a botch with at least the paralytic agent not having been delivered in sufficient dosage. [ODPI has more]

It appears that the Arizona execution of Robert Comer also experienced unanticipated problems, including a possible cut-down procedure. A poster was kind enough to note, despite very little press coverage:

[I]n Arizona, Comer’s execution may have been botched. They used a catheter in the groin, which is not described in the protocol, and which could have been the result of a painful medical “cut-down” procedure (where a prison guard, apparantly, cuts into the groin to gain access to femoral vein and then clamps a catheter onto the vein).

We won’t know the extent of the problems there, though, because Arizona — incredibly — lays a sheet over the inmate up to the neck before allowing the witnesses to see him. Comer could have been stuck as many times, and Arizona would have covered it up — literally.

The last lethal injection with a groin insertion that I recall is Benny Demps in Florida.

[see also HRW: So Long As They Die: Lethal Injection in the United States & this AP report]