"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oklahoma: "State was 'blindsided by the DOC's failures' regarding execution drugs"

Oklahoma death chamber
Oklahoma death chamber
A little after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oklahoma Department of Corrections staff told Richard Glossip he was about to enter the Oklahoma State Penitentiary's death chamber area to await his death by lethal injection.

Glossip, who had already given the state his possessions and the evening before had eaten what he thought would be his final meal, was in an adjacent cell. A few minutes later, prison workers learned that there was no word from the U.S. Supreme Court about Glossip's appeals, so they told him the process was on hold.

He said he eventually covered himself with a sheet and got on the floor to wait for the Supreme Court's decision. The ruling denying his stay requests came down at 2:56 p.m., but he was never notified of it.

No one inside the facility talked to Glossip until just before 4 p.m. He was supposed to have been dead at that point by a combination of midazolam, a sedative; rocuronium bromide, a paralytic; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

The shock came when Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order granting him a 37-day stay. However, it had nothing to do with Glossip's claims of innocence. Fallin's order stated the Department of Corrections had obtained potassium acetate rather than potassium chloride for the lethal injection.

Although potassium acetate is, according to medical professionals questioned by the state, medically interchangeable with potassium chloride, the fact that it is not listed in the Department of Corrections' 3-drug protocol created a "legal ambiguity," Fallin said.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday to issue an indefinite stay of execution for Glossip, as well as for Benjamin Cole and John Grant, who were scheduled to die this month. The court unanimously decided to grant that request Friday and ordered the state to file a status report every 30 days about the case until the stay is dissolved.

Pruitt's office has opened an inquiry into the handling of Wednesday's scheduled execution. But the answers are limited as to how the Department of Corrections landed in a situation where it must again defend its execution policies.

State 'briefly considered' moving forward with execution

Fallin said Thursday that her office first received word of a possible issue with the lethal-injection drugs early Wednesday afternoon and that officials there discussed whether the DOC would be able to obtain the drug described in the protocol. Because the DOC reported that it was unable to do so in time, the governor eventually announced a stay "out of an abundance of caution."

But Alex Weintz, Fallin's spokesman, said a medical professional told DOC personnel that the drugs were identical in function and that the agency could therefore proceed with the execution.

"Given that advice, the state did briefly consider moving forward," Weintz said Friday. "The distinction between potassium chloride and potassium acetate is not important for any medical or scientific reason."

Its relevance, he said, is because of the "litigious nature" of the death penalty and the fact that DOC protocol specifically calls for potassium chloride. Weintz maintained the DOC followed protocol and notified other officials as soon as personnel realized there was an issue.

DOC Director Robert Patton told reporters Thursday that an execution team member discovered that the supplier had provided potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride when the sealed box containing drugs for Glossip's execution was opened about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

He said lethal-injection drugs must be delivered to the prison on the day of an execution because the DOC does not have a DEA license to store drugs. However, the DEA has only 1 of the 3 drugs - midazolam - classified as a controlled substance.

Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, told the Tulsa World that if the DOC wants to keep a controlled substance on site outside of a prescription for an inmate, state and federal law would require that the agency obtain a license from his department as well as from the DEA. No DOC facility at this time has a license from his bureau for storing such a substance, he said.

"They do not need a license from OBN or DEA for (storing) the other 2 non-CDS drugs," Woodward said via email.

When asked about that issue Friday, DOC spokesman Alex Gerszewski said that "all of the drugs are brought to the facility at the same time for security purposes" and that the DOC does not obtain parts of the drug protocol separately.

An Aug. 11 letter from the Attorney General's office to Glossip's federal public defenders states that the office had confirmed with the DOC that it had obtained the necessary drugs for Glossip's, Cole's and Grant's executions. Gerszewski said that letter meant the supplier confirmed that it had the drugs, not that the DOC actually had them in its possession.

However, Dale Baich, one of Glossip's federal attorneys, disputed that claim and called it "an attempt to rewrite history." Baich is representing Glossip in the Glossip v. Gross case, which challenges the use of midazolam in executions.

"The attorney general wrote that the drugs 'have been obtained,'" Baich said of the letter. "He went on to write that the drugs were 'manufactured' and that 'none of the drugs will expire prior to the current execution dates.' How could those representations be made if the DOC did not have the drugs?"

As for Weintz's statement indicating the state considered allowing Glossip's execution to proceed, Baich said it was "shocking" to learn that there was discussion about violating the protocol.

"The public is asked to take DOC at its word that it will follow the protocol when carrying out the ultimate punishment by the state," he said. "In light of previous statements by the state, how can the DOC be trusted?"

As of last week, potassium chloride is listed by the FDA as being in short supply in the United States. Patton said Thursday that the supplier had not notified the DOC beforehand that it was sending potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, a practice he said is acceptable in the medicine industry.

As of Sunday, the DOC could not confirm whether the supplier's decision to provide an alternative drug is a result of the potassium chloride shortage.

The drugs intended for Wednesday's execution were turned over to the state Medical Examiner's Office, which will provide them to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for destruction, Gerszewski said.

Secrecy leads to mistakes, attorney and expert say

In 2011, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a law banning the release of information about participants in executions, including executioners and drug suppliers. Evidence of purchasing drugs and other equipment needed to carry out executions is also secret under the law, and petty cash is used to pay medical workers to further protect their identities.

But Baich and a death-penalty researcher told the Tulsa World such statutes take away the public's ability to prevent mistakes.

"It wasn't just Glossip and his lawyers and the public who were kept in the dark," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "The Attorney General's Office was blindsided by the DOC's failures. And the AG's Office in fact had made representations to the federal court on at least 2 occasions that potassium chloride was going to be used and there was going to be no deviation from the protocol."

The DOC's execution policy states that Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell will ensure that "execution inventory and equipment checks" are completed 2 days ahead of an execution. The policy also requires the department to notify inmates 10 days in advance about which protocol will be used for their executions, though the policy also indicates that Patton has the discretion to modify the protocol.

When asked what the execution inventory entails, Gerszewski said Trammell makes sure items such as syringes are at the facility and that all other items required to carry out the execution are on hand.

Fallin's office issued a question-and-answer handout to media Thursday stating that same-day delivery of execution drugs does not violate protocol, because no timeline for obtaining chemicals and equipment is listed in the policy.

Dunham said potassium acetate has never been used in a U.S. execution and that the DOC's inability to store the drugs and test their quality beforehand is an "administrative failure."

"If you are going to be carrying out an execution, you have to have administrative procedures and protocols in place that will assure that you can examine what drugs you have, determine the right drugs and, if they are the right drugs, determine they are of sufficient purity and quality and efficacy that they won't produce a torturous execution," Dunham said.

Patton said during Thursday's news conference that he, not Trammell, is responsible for upholding the execution drug protocol and policy. Gerszewski said the H Unit section chief, who is tasked with applying approved procedures for death-row inmates on execution day, did his or her job as outlined.

When asked Thursday about efforts to obtain potassium chloride, Patton said the DOC will continue to search for a supply, but he added, "As of right now, I don't believe we have it."

Dunham said Wednesday's events provide "additional ammunition" to critics of the death penalty who allege states are incapable of carrying it out properly.

"There's no instance that I am aware of in which a state has waited so long and been so unprepared that it did not notice it had the wrong drugs until it was time to administer them," he said. "There's no clearer example I can think of of a state getting it wrong than Oklahoma not knowing until the execution is about to occur that it doesn't even have the right drugs."

Pruitt's office declined to comment further on the matter Friday but emphasized that his office will continue to look into the events leading up to Glossip's stay.

"The state owes it to the people of Oklahoma to ensure that, on their behalf, it can properly and lawfully administer the sentence of death imposed by juries for the most heinous crimes," he has said.

Source: Tulsa World, October 4, 2015

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Nebraska: Death penalty verification process delayed

Gathering signatures against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
Gathering signatures against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
Incorrectly redirected death penalty petitions are delaying the signature verification process, the Nebraska Secretary of State's Office said Friday night.

An "unusually high number of petitions" were returned to the Secretary of State's Office and redirected to other counties, according to a release.

Laura Strimple, communications director with the Secretary of State's Office, said it's "not uncommon" for petition pages to be mailed to the wrong counties when stacked together. Approximately 60 counties are getting the wrong petition pages, she said, delaying the process.

The Secretary of State's Office released preliminary totals in early September for petition signatures verified by county officials, indicating that the petition drive to overturn the repeal of the state's death penalty had met the threshold to get the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

As of Friday, officials at the county level had verified 142,703 of the 167,724 signatures turned in by petition organizers.

County officials had thus far rejected 22,619 of signatures reviewed.

The number of registered voters in Nebraska at the petition deadline was 1,138,825, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Organizers needed signatures from 5 percent of the state's registered voters, or 56,942 verified signatures, to put the issue on the ballot.

Reaching 10 % of registered voters, or 113,883 valid signatures, would prevent the legislation from going into effect until it can be voted on.

Both thresholds further require that the 5 % or 10 % mark be met in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties.

Strimple said at least 38 counties certified their numbers to meet the 5 % threshold, but not yet the 10 % threshold.

In Lancaster County, Friday's report showed, 20,128 of 23,907 signatures gathered were verified, with 3,598 rejected.

Douglas County signatures totaled 38,346, with 32,233 of those verified.

Signatures and information are checked against voter registration records.

Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively said his staff has a lot of leeway on verifying those signatures, even when they are hard to read or have missing or wrong information.

"It's our responsibility to prove that they're not registered, not that they are registered," he said.

The Secretary of State's Office has not certified any of the count totals released Friday. Some counties are still verifying signatures, Strimple said.

Nebraska's death penalty was repealed by the Legislature in May with the passage of LB268. Lawmakers then voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of the bill.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, October 4, 2015

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The Biggest Questions Awaiting the Supreme Court

The court’s new term, which starts Monday, will jump right back into high-profile constitutional battles like voting rights, affirmative action and the death penalty, as well as a new attack on public-sector labor unions. 

And the justices may well agree to take up issues of abortion and contraception again, in cases that could further strip away reproductive rights.

The decisions last term showed a court willing to take into account the effects of the law on individual lives. This term, the justices have many opportunities to show that same type of awareness.

Crime and punishment

Last term, in the case of Glossip v. Gross, which upheld Oklahoma’s lethal-injection drug protocol, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in dissent that the death penalty, as it is applied today, “likely” violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Until a majority of justices come around to Justice Breyer’s view, however, the court continues to tinker with state-sponsored killing. In a handful of cases this month, the justices will consider whether death sentences in several states violate the Constitution.

In one, a prosecutor is accused of having intentionally removed all potential black jurors from the capital murder trial of a black defendant, in violation of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a fair jury trial. Another challenges a Florida rule that requires judges, not juries, to find facts that would subject a defendant to a death sentence — a practice the Supreme Court has already banned.

The justices will also decide whether their 2012 decision that banned mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles should apply to the more than 2,000 inmates who were sentenced before that case. Clearly, as a matter of basic fairness and legal coherence, it should.

Source: The New York Times, Editorial, October 5, 2015

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Japan: Okunishi Masaru dies after 46 years on death row

Okunishi Masaru
Okunishi Masaru
The death in prison of a Japanese man who spent more than 46 years facing execution, after a conviction based on a forced “confession”, underlines the urgent need for a review of all similar cases, Amnesty International said today.

Okunishi Masaru passed away at Hachioji Medical Prison on Sunday, aged 89. He maintained his innocence and was determined to seek a retrial. Eight previous requests for a retrial were rejected. He was moved to the medical prison from Nagoya Detention Centre in 2012 after his health deteriorated.

“Okunishi Masaru may not have gone to the gallows, but Japan’s justice system totally failed him. It is outrageous he was denied the retrial his case unquestionably merited and instead was left to languish on death row for more than 46 years,” said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

“It is too late for Okunishi Masaru but others remain on death row convicted primarily on the basis of forced “confessions”. The Japanese authorities must urgently review their cases to ensure that time does not run out for them to see justice.”

Okunishi Masaru had been on death row since 1969, after being convicted of the murders of five women. He “confessed” to the crime after being interrogated by police for many hours over five days and with no lawyer present.

During his first trial he retracted his “confession” and was acquitted due to lack of evidence. However, a higher court reversed the verdict and sentenced him to death.

For more than four decades, he lived in constant fear that each day could be his last. Death row inmates in Japan are only informed hours ahead of their execution, which takes place in secret. Like most prisoners facing execution, he spent nearly all his time locked up in solitary confinement.

Hakamada Iwao

Hakamada Iwao
Hakamada Iwao
One of the most pressing cases that demands a retrial is that of Hakamada Iwao, 79, who also spent more than four decades on death row. In March 2014, a court ordered his immediate release and a retrial. However, prosecutors immediately appealed the court decision to grant a retrial and a decision is pending.

“Prosecutors should allow Hakamada’s retrial to proceed before it is too late. By further delaying his quest for justice, prosecutors are only adding to the decades of psychological torture Hakamada and his family have endured,” said Hiroka Shoji.

Following an unfair trial, Hakamada was convicted of the murder of his boss, his boss’s wife and their two children. Hakamada “confessed” after 20 days of interrogation by police. He retracted the “confession” during the trial and told the court that the police had beaten and threatened him.

According to Hakamada’s lawyers, recent forensic tests results show no match between Hakamada’s DNA and samples taken from clothing the prosecution alleges were worn by the murderer. One of the three judges who convicted Hakamada in 1966 has publicly stated he believes him to be innocent.

Hakamada developed a mental disability as a result of the decades he has spent in isolation.

Tortured to confess

The Japanese justice system continues to rely heavily on “confessions” obtained through torture or other ill-treatment. There are no clear limits on the length of interrogations, which are not fully recorded and which lawyers are not permitted to attend.

Twelve people have been executed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012. The number of death row inmates, at 128, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century. Amnesty International has called on the Japanese government to introduce a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty, and for reforms of Japan’s justice system in line with international standards.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, October 4, 2015

Inmate who had many proclaiming his innocence dies in prison after 43 years on death row

An 89-year-old man who spent 43 years on death row over a controversial case involving the deaths of five women with poisoned wine has died of pneumonia in prison.

Masaru Okunishi was the second-longest serving convict on death row in Japan.

He was accused of the fatal poisoning in 1961 and died in a Tokyo prison on Oct. 4, according to his lawyers and government officials.

Okunishi was acquitted in 1964, but then found guilty of the murder five years later. Although his plea for a retrial was granted in 2005, it was later canceled. His death came while his ninth request for the retrial was being processed.

Okunishi was supported by many people who believed he was innocent, including his 85-year-old sister.

Journalist Shoko Egawa, who wrote a book about the case, criticized the nation's courts for rejecting retrials unless a review of DNA testing is involved.

"(Okunishi's) trial should have been conducted again when the decision for a retrial was made in 2005," she said. "I think he was kept alive by his strong belief that he could not die unless he had his name cleared of a wrongful conviction."

The Japanese branch of Amnesty International criticized legal authorities, saying they were as if waiting for Okunishi's death.

Okunishi had been bedridden and was on a respirator. He had been in critical condition since May 2013. He was moved from the Nagoya Detention Center to the prison in Hachioji, western Tokyo, in June 2012 for treatment of pneumonia.

He was arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder after five women who drank wine laced with pesticide died in Nabari, Mie Prefecture, in 1961. Among the dead were his wife and his girlfriend. A further 12 women fell sick but survived.

Okunishi was charged with murder after he was said to have confessed to the poisoning during police questioning. He was reported to have wanted to end a love triangle.

But he later denied the charges, claiming he was falsely accused.

The Tsu District Court in Mie Prefecture acquitted him in 1964. But after prosecutors appealed the case, the Nagoya High Court found him guilty of the murder, sentencing him to death in 1969.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal, finalizing his conviction and death penalty in 1972.

After Okunishi’s death, the number of inmates on death row is 129, according to the Justice Ministry. Of these, 93 were seeking a retrial as of Aug. 27.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, October 5, 2015

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Japan: 2 ex-justice ministers join anti-death penalty rally

Opposed to capital punishment (file photo)
Opposed to capital punishment (file photo) 
TOKYO — Ahead of the Oct 10 World Day against the Death Penalty, around 200 people gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to seek the abolition of capital punishment, with two former justice ministers joining them to share their experience of having the power to issue execution orders.

At the meeting Seiken Sugiura, who served as justice minister from 2005 to 2006 under a Liberal Democratic Party government, said: “After becoming justice minister in October 2005, I seriously thought about capital punishment, and I could not come up with an answer about why we dare to claim lives of death-row inmates, even if they committed heinous crimes.”

Sugiura did not issue any execution orders during his tenure, and since withdrawing from politics, the lawyer has been involved in debates within the Japan Federation of Bar Associations about the death penalty.

“Through research at home as well as abroad with the JFBA panel, I am now convinced that we should create a society without the death penalty” at a time when about 70 percent of nations around the world have abolished it by law or in practice, he said.

The JFBA urged the government in 2011 to immediately start a public debate on its abolition, and to suspend executions while discussions are going on.

Sugiura told the meeting, which was organized by a civic group opposed to capital punishment, that he expects the lawyers’ organization to clearly declare its opposition to the death penalty in the near future.

Hideo Hiraoka, a justice minister under a former Democratic Party of Japan government, also said at the meeting, “I was not an abolitionist when I assumed the portfolio in September 2011.”

But Hiraoka also did not order executions during his tenure through January 2012.

“I examined documents of some death row inmates to ask myself if I could issue orders to hang them, and I found I could not go ahead,” he said.

While a justice minister is authorized to issue the order, “It is the top leader of the country who can clear the way for debate on the death penalty system,” Hiraoka said.

“To persuade the leader, ordinary citizens must be sufficiently informed of the situation surrounding the death penalty, including the fact that many countries in the world have already terminated it,” he added.

The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has been criticized at home and abroad, with neither death row inmates nor their lawyers and families given advance notice of hangings. It also remains unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding when inmates are to be executed.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee urged Japan last year to “give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty.”

However, the government hanged a death-row inmate in June, bringing the total number of executions under the second administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, launched in December 2012, to 12.

Among countries maintaining the death penalty, only 22, including Japan, executed inmates in 2014.

Source: Japan Today, October 4, 2015

Death row inmates write about their feelings ahead of hangman's noose

Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
One convicted murderer, a former gang boss, wrote about his fear of climbing the scaffold and dropping through the trapdoor with a noose around his neck to his death.

And a remorseful former United Red Army terrorist, also under sentence of death, expressed repentance.

These are among replies from more than 70 death row inmates about their current states of mind to a questionnaire sent by citizens group seeking the abolition of capital punishment.

The group, “Shikei Haishi Kokusai Joyaku no Hijun wo Motomeru Forum 90” (Forum 90 that seeks ratification of international treaty for abolition of death penalty), recently compiled the results of the survey and published them in a book.

“We hope that the results will be used as a cue to think about the pros and cons of the capital punishment system,” the group said.

It conducted similar surveys in 2008 and 2011.

As of May, there were 130 people on death row whose rulings had been finalized. The civic group contacted 127 of them from May, along with Mizuho Fukushima, an Upper House lawmaker and former chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party.

Three death row inmates were excluded from the survey.

One of them was Masaru Okunishi, 89, who was seeking a retrial over his conviction for killing five people with poisoned wine in Nabari, Mie Prefecture, in 1961.

The group explained that it refrained from sending a questionnaire to Okunishi because of his poor health condition.

Of the 127 death row inmates who received the questionnaire, 73 replied by July. One was Hiroshi Sakaguchi, 68, who was a member of the United Red Army and involved in murder cases committed by the terrorist group.

Sakaguchi, whose request for retrial was turned down in 2013, wrote in the questionnaire, “Even after the rulings were finalized, our lives as humans do not end (immediately).”

He added, “I am living my life seriously by looking squarely at the crimes I committed, thinking about the causes of my misconduct and hoping to break away from my past.”

A former executive of a gangster organization wrote about his anxieties when it comes to be executed.

“After my death sentence was finalized, I felt fearful about being hanged. When I imagined climbing onto the execution platform and being hanged, I got scared.”

Another death row inmate sounded apologetic that he was still breathing after having committed such a heinous crime.

“In spite of the fact that I committed a big crime, I am still allowed to live even today. What a big crime and an impermissible thing it is for me to continue to live even now!”

The results of the survey were published by Impact Shuppankai under the title of “Nenpo, Shikei Haishi 2015--Shikeishu Kanbo kara” (Year book, Abolition of death penalty 2015--From cells of death row inmates).

Source: The Asahi Shimbun, Motoki Kaneko, October 4, 2015

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Malaysia: Iranian Woman, Mother Sentenced to Death for Drug Trafficking

Tayebeh Abbasali Najafi, 36, and Parvin Yousef Ilanlou, 57
Tayebeh Abbasali Najafi and Parvin Yousef Ilanlou
September 30, 2015: An Iranian woman and her mother were sentenced to death by the High Court in Malaysia for trafficking in 2.5kg of methamphetamine, three years ago.

Tayebeh Abbasali Najafi, 36, and Parvin Yousef Ilanlou, 57, were found guilty by Justice Datuk Ghazali Cha of the offence involving 1297.5g and 1245.6g, respectively.

They committed the crime at the Customs Inspection exit of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on September 25, 2012.

The prosecution, represented by Selangor deputy public prosecutor Siti Noorbaya Jamil, called five witnesses, while the defence, represented by counsel Muhammad Zaim Azfar Jalaludin, called two during the trial. 

Sources: Bernama, September 30, 2015

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Egypt rejects UN resolution to prohibit the death penalty

Egypt has objected to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on prohibiting the death penalty, Egypt's permanent delegate to the UN said on Saturday.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the resolution which was submitted by Belgium on Thursday, with 26 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions.

According to state news agency MENA, Amr Ramadan, Egypt's delegate to the UN in Geneva, expressed Egypt's deep concern over the use of economic sanctions and conditions to development aid to shape the choices of developing countries over the use of the death penalty.

These practices are "unethical" and are "wholly rejected," he said, in his word before the council.

Last year, 15 executions took place in Egypt, according to a review by Amnesty International, making it the seventh biggest executioner in the world.

Ramadan says there is a "deep divide" in talks inisde the UN over the death penalty, especially since the international human rights law is not binding on this matter.

He said the opposition front to the resolution includes Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Yet, the UN has for years been urging states and adopting resolution to end capital punishment.

According to the office of the UN's high commissioner for human rights, "82 per cent [of countries] have either introduced moratoria by law or in practice or have abolished it [the death penalty]." This means that 160 states with various cultures and religions have either abolished or are no longer using it.

But the review released by Amnesty International in March of this year shows that "an alarming number of countries used the death penalty to tackle real or perceived threats to state security linked to terrorism, crime or internal instability in 2014."

According to the report, at least 2,466 people in 55 countries were sentenced to death last year, a 28 percent increase on 2013.

The report attributed the main cause of the increase to a spike in death sentences issued in Egypt and Nigeria.

Egyptian courts handed death sentences to hundreds of defendants in different trials, most of whom are believed to be supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, accused of committing acts of murder, attempted murder and other charges.

However none of these sentences are final, and some were appealed in higher courts and nullified.

Even former president Mohamed Mursi, who hails from the Brotherhood has been sentenced to death,but his sentence is still appealable.

Although death sentences issued worldwide spiked last year, executions fell by 22 percent, Amnesty said.

Similarly, the watchdog confirmed at least 491 executions in eight countries in the Middle East alone, which is a 23 percent decrease from the previous year's figure.

Source: albawaba.news, October 4, 2015

Egypt: 16 Jihadists Sentenced to Death for Killing Police

October 1, 2015: An Egyptian court sentenced 16 jihadists to death in a retrial on charges of killing 25 policemen in the Sinai Peninsula two years ago, a court official said.

Members of the group were first convicted at the end of last year and sentenced either to death or to lengthy prison terms, but the Court of Cassation annulled the convictions and ordered a retrial.

The latest verdict will be sent to Egypt's mufti, the country's highest Islamic religious authority, for a non-binding review.

The final verdicts will be announced on November 14, at which time the death sentences will be upheld or commuted to prison terms.

The case stems from an August 2013 rocket attack on two minibuses carrying police in the northern Sinai.

Islamist militants have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, ushering in a crackdown on his supporters.

Most of the attacks have been in the sparsely populated north of the Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Last year, militants in Sinai pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Source: Agence France-Presse, October 1, 2015

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Death penalty: ‘This is how it’s supposed to work’

Kansas is one of 31 states that have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976 – the year the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment nationwide after striking it down four years earlier – 1,416 people have been executed nationwide.

In Kansas, death is a possible punishment for capital murder. Prosecutors decide whether to seek it, but its imposition must be unanimously recommended by a jury. If it isn’t, the defendant is sentenced to prison.

Every death sentence receives an automatic review by the Kansas Supreme Court.

The legal issues that have halted Kansas from carrying out an execution under its third incarnation of a capital punishment law started not long after the first capital murder case was appealed. Since then, decisions in at least three other capital murder cases have influenced or changed the way death penalty trials are handled in Kansas.

Gary Kleypas received a death sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Pittsburg State University student Carrie Williams. His appeal was heard and decided in 2001.

The question that arose from the Kleypas case centers on the same issue that has plagued most other death penalty cases in Kansas so far: whether the equation juries used to determine whether to recommend execution violated cruel and unusual punishment protections afforded under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Kansas Supreme Court, in reviewing the Kleypas case, ruled 4-3 that the equation was flawed because it gave an unfair advantage to prosecutors, rather than favoring the defendant. They threw out his death sentence.

Death penalty cases essentially require two trials for a defendant.

In the first, a jury decides whether the defendant is guilty of capital murder.

In the second, called the penalty phase, jurors are asked to weigh evidence for and against a death sentence. Evidence in support of death is called aggravating factors. Evidence that calls for leniency is called mitigating factors.

Jackson, the law professor, explained that in the Kleypas decision, “the big problem was over this weighing equation, because, in a tie, you get death.”

“And it wasn’t entirely clear whether or not that was constitutional.”

The court suggested the remedy would be giving juries different instructions rather than rewriting the death penalty law. It sent Kleypas’ case back to Crawford County District Court for a new sentencing proceeding.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, followed the court’s direction and changed the instructions given to juries, Jackson said.

In 2008, Kleypas was again sentenced to death. He’s now awaiting another appeal.

‘Marathon, not a sprint’

Three years after the Kleypas decision, the Kansas Supreme Court scrutinized the weighing equation again – this time in an appeal of the death penalty case of Michael Marsh.

Marsh was convicted of fatally shooting a friend’s wife and then setting a fire that also killed her toddler in 1996. It was a Sedgwick County case.

In a 4-3 decision delivered in 2004, the Kansas Supreme Court said its ruling in Kleypas had been wrong. State legislators should have rewritten the state death penalty law, it said, rather than the courts giving juries different instructions.

The death penalty in Kansas was struck down.

“You had a situation then where you know all of a sudden all of the death penalty cases were theoretically not valid,” Jackson said.

The state attorney general’s office, in response, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

In the meantime, appeals in other death penalty cases stopped, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, Amy Renee Leiker, October 3, 2015

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Oklahoma halted execution questions answered

Friends and supporters protesting Richard Glossip's execution.
Friends and supporters protesting Richard Glossip's execution.
Oklahoma's protocols called for potassium chloride to be used in the scheduled execution of death row inmate Richard Glossip, but the state received potassium acetate instead. The state's attorney general has asked a court to delay Glossip's rescheduled execution and others that have been set while a review is done on why the wrong drug came.

Here are some questions and answers about the drugs and Oklahoma's execution process:


A: According to the National Institutes of Health, potassium acetate and potassium chloride can each be used in medical settings to treat low levels of potassium, restoring appropriate heart rhythms, blood pressure and kidney function. NIH does not describe the drugs' use in death penalty cases. Executioners use potassium chloride to stop an inmate's heart.

Dr. Alice Chen, an internal medicine specialist and executive director of Doctors for America, says the 2 drugs are not interchangeable.

"As with any other drug, people react to them in different ways," Chen said. "We're not certain what the dose should be, how different people would react to it in the cocktail."

But Robert Patton, Oklahoma's prisons director, told reporters Thursday that the state's drug supplier believed one drug could be swapped with the other. He refused to say who supplied the drug; state law keeps the information a secret.

"Contact was immediately made to the provider, whose professional opinion was that potassium acetate is medically interchangeable with potassium chloride at the same quantity," Patton said. "However, by the provider supplying us with potassium acetate, a legal ambiguity was created that needed to be cleared up before moving forward."


A: No, according to Jen Moreno, a staff attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the at the University of California's Berkeley Law School.

"It's never been used, and actually doctors and pharmacologists we're talking to aren't super familiar with it," Moreno said. "It's not a very common drug it seems."


A: Oklahoma has some leeway in the drugs it uses in lethal injections, giving Patton discretion as to which chemicals are used. The protocols include dosage guidelines for single-drug lethal injections of pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, along with dosages for a 3-drug protocol of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The protocols also allow for rocuronium or pancuronium bromide to be substituted for the 2nd drug. The protocols do not list an alternate for potassium chloride, which is the 3rd drug used.

Much attention has been paid to midazolam, a sedative that Oklahoma first used in the April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett. That execution - which lasted more than 40 minutes - led to a lawsuit that ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the use of midazolam is constitutional.

The protocol says the state must notify the inmate within 10 days of the execution which drugs will be used. In an Aug. 11 letter to Glossip's attorneys, the state said it planned to use midazolam, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride in Glossip's execution and that the drugs "have been obtained." No explanation has been offered for why potassium acetate was made available instead. Patton on Thursday blamed the vendor.


A: Patton said a sealed box from the drug supplier was opened about 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday, two hours before Glossip's scheduled execution. He said the prison system immediately reached out to the supplier and was told potassium acetate was a suitable substitute.

Patton said the department tried to obtain potassium chloride but determined it wouldn't have been able to obtain it in time to carry out Glossip's execution on Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court, asked to rule on Glossip's appeal for more time to prove his claim of innocence, issued its denial shortly before Glossip's scheduled execution time of 3 p.m. CDT. Fallin issued her emergency stay around 3:45 p.m.

Source: Associated Press, October 3, 2015

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Texas, top state for executions, may go a year without a death penalty conviction

Texas may end 2015 without imposing a sentence of capital punishment, a milestone that parallels declining public support for capital punishment in a state that had been sending the most prisoners to the death chamber.

So far this year, the state's courts have sentenced no defendant to execution. Even if all 3 capital cases still on the docket end with the death penalty, this would be Texas' lowest number for any year since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, according to public defenders.

The last time the state imposed no death sentences was 1974, when a national moratorium was in effect. Since then, Texas has led the United States in the number of convicts put to death at 528, or about 37 percent of the national total.

The state's Republican leaders have said the death penalty is an appropriate way to punish offenders whose crimes have caused enormous pain for the families of murder victims, and surveys show that the majority of Texans still support this punishment.

"Folks support the death penalty for the same reason they support all sanctions - justice," said Dudley Sharp, a death penalty advocate from Houston.

But in Texas and the rest of the United States, executions and death penalty convictions have been dropping for years.

Even so, the high cost of prosecuting capital cases, with years of appeals, has caused cash-strapped prosecutors to proceed with caution in seeking the death penalty. Legislation that makes life in prison without the possibility of parole an alternative has also influenced sentencing decisions.

"You let people know about the option of life in prison without parole, and death sentences drop," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. While the group opposes the death penalty, both sides on the debate use its data.

Across the United States, new death sentences hit a 40-year-low in 2014, and the 35 executions were the fewest in 20 years, it said.

Texas has allowed for life in prison as a sentencing option since 2005. Previously, capital murder convicts were eligible for parole after 40 years.

"It really boils down to public safety," said Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which specializes in defending those facing capital punishment. "If you can lock somebody up for life and know that they are not going to get parole, why wouldn't you do that?"


Under former Governor Rick Perry and with the support of the state's Republican-controlled legislature, Texas enacted a series of reforms designed to level the playing field in the courtroom. The state increased support for public defenders for murder defendants and provided greater oversight of prosecutors.

This piece of legislation and other laws came after years of complaints from capital punishment opponents, who said some of court-appointed defense lawyers were incompetent, drunk or indifferent, or that a few prosecutors hid evidence that could vindicate the accused.

The state was also prompted to move by the 2011 exoneration of Michael Morton, who spent a quarter-century in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing his wife.

From 2005, when life without parole became a sentencing option, through last year, Texas averaged 10.5 new death penalty sentences. That is down from 48 in 1999, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The death row population has dropped to its current size of 253 inmates from 460 in 1999, the group said.

Meanwhile, the number of inmates serving sentences of life without parole nearly tripled to 96 last year from 34 in 2007.

Surveys show that public support for the death penalty among Texans has declined even in traditional bastions.

In Harris County, which produced the most death sentences in the nation, support has dropped from 75 % in 1993 to 56 % in 2015, according to surveys conducted by Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Kase, of the Texas Defender Service, said life without parole was both cheaper and more palatable to juries.

"If you make a mistake, we can undo it," she said. "You can't do that with the death penalty."

Source: Reuters, October 2, 2015

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Media rights group condemns jail sentence for Iranian Facebook user

Soheil Arabi
Soheil Arabi's new sentence is "medieval"
Reporters Without Borders said on Friday that is appalled to learn that Soheil Arabi, an Iranian Facebook user whose death sentence was quashed by the Iranian regime’s supreme court, has been given a new sentence of seven and a half years in prison starting with two years under observation, during which he must prove he has repented to avoid reimposition of the death sentence.

Detained since December 2013, Soheil Arabi received the new sentence on September 6 when he was retried by a Tehran assizes court, RSF said in a statement.

“During the next two years, Arabi is required to seek answers to his religious doubts by reading 13 books on theology and Islam, writing summaries of them and writing an essay on theology and religion. He must conduct regular written correspondence with the Imam Khomeini Centre for Religious Research, copies of which will be submitted to the court. He must also write quarterly reports to the court with the aim of proving his repentance and renewed faith. If he fails, the death sentence could be reimposed,” RSF said.

“Soheil Arabi has been spared immediate execution but this new sentence is medieval,” said Reza Moini, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Iran/Afghanistan desk.

“A defendant who repeatedly said he did not want to offend religion is being subjected to a form of arbitrary torture because the Ali Khamenei-controlled judicial system wants to scare Internet users. This sentence is tantamount to forced labour, which is banned by international and Iranian law. We call on the UN special rapporteurs to intercede to get it quashed.”

A photographer and father who was 31 when arrested by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) on December 27, 2013, he was incarcerated in Security Section 2a of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where “he was subjected to solitary confinement for two months and was mistreated with the aim of getting him to confess to his role in creating a Facebook network that blasphemed Islam and criticized the government,” RSF said. Prosecutors then used this confession against him.

At the end of an unfair trial in March 2014, a Tehran court sentenced him to three years in prison, a fine of 500,000 tomans and 30 lashes on charges of anti-government propaganda, “insulting what is sacred” and insulting regime officials and the mullahs’ Supreme Leader. The regime’s court of appeal in Tehran confirmed the sentence.

“However, as a result of Revolutionary Guard pressure, Arabi was brought before an assizes court on 19 August 2014 on new charges of ‘insulting the Prophet of Islam, the Shiite Holy Imams and the Koran,’ and the court sentenced him to death under article 262 of Iran’s Islamic penal code,” RSF said.

“The court ignored his lawyer’s claims that his offences were not deliberate and that he was not the only person posting on these Facebook pages. In fact, although Arabi supervised several Facebook pages, most of the posts were made by other Facebook users or administrators.”

The regime’s supreme court upheld Arabi’s death sentence on November 23, 2014.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on December 2, 2014 voicing alarm about Arabi’s fate and urging him to “intercede as quickly as possible with the Iranian authorities in order to prevent his execution and to request the overturning of his conviction and his release.”

Source: NCRI, October 2, 2015

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Oklahoma Appellate Court Stays Execution for 3 Inmates

HOUSTON — An Oklahoma appellate court agreed with state officials on Friday to postpone the executions of three inmates in October and November after the scheduled execution of one of the inmates was stopped on Wednesday because of a problem with one of the lethal-injection drugs.

The order by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted an indefinite stay for the three inmates, and it came the day after Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, asked the court to delay the executions while his office investigated what went wrong this week. The scheduled execution of Richard E. Glossip on Wednesday at a state prison in McAlester, Okla., was halted by Gov. Mary Fallin after prison officials realized that a supplier had sent them the wrong drug.

Potassium chloride, which stops the heart, was supposed to be used by the state Department of Corrections as part of its three-drug protocol, but the execution team instead received potassium acetate from the drug supplier, which the officials did not identify. The sealed box arrived the day of the execution, and officials did not notice the mistake until they opened it two hours before Mr. Glossip was set to die.

Mr. Pruitt said in a statement that the families of the inmates’ victims “deserve to know, and all Oklahomans need to know, with certainty, that the system is working as intended.”

Mr. Glossip’s execution had been rescheduled for Nov. 6, but the court’s decision on Friday will postpone it indefinitely, and also postpone the Oct. 7 execution of Benjamin R. Cole and the Oct. 28 execution of John M. Grant. The court instructed the state to file status reports every 30 days while the stay remains in effect.

Source: The New York Times, Manny Fernandez, October 2, 2015

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John Kasich on How to Reduce Mass Shootings: More Death Penalty

Governor John Kasich
Governor John Kasich
But most shooters kill themselves.

Ohio Governor John Kasich told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday that he considers the death penalty and long prison sentences a better approach than gun control when it comes to reducing the number of mass shootings.

Kasich, who voted for a federal assault weapons ban as a Republican congressman two decades ago, demurred when asked what steps Washington should take in the wake of the Thursday massacre at Umpquah Community College in Oregon that left 10 people dead. "I don’t believe that gun control would stop this," he told a scrum of journalists after a town hall in Goffstown, during which the subject did not come up.

Kasich continued:

I think they have very tough gun laws in that state. The fact is that more and more people believe that they should be able to defend themselves. And if take guns away from people who are law-abiding the people who are going to cause these horrible things are still gonna have them. I don’t agree with that. That is not—you know I favor, in Ohio, the death penalty. I favor long prison sentences.That’s the way I would go.

When a reporter asked him what specifically he would do to curb mass shootings as president, Kasich said it wouldn't be his responsibility. "I don’t think any president can stop mass shootings," he said. "And again I think that all of these places that are soft targets need to be hardened. My own state, as I’ve said, it’s frustrating to see some school districts not taking it seriously. These are terrible tragedies and we need to find out more about who this person is. If this person’s had mental illness they should never have had a weapon. That’s the rules."

In an earlier interview with NBC News, Kasich offered a clearer idea of what he means by hardening "soft targets." He said he wants all schools, including universities, to implement warning systems that would allow them to go into "lockdown" mode if there is a campus threat.

Kasich's emphasis on the death penalty is curious given that more than half of the perpetrators of mass shootings over the last three decades took their own lives. The number goes up if you count "suicide by cop"—that is, those instances when a shooter was killed by law enforcement.

Source: Mother Jones, Tim Murphy, October 2, 2015

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Missouri Governor Commutes Kimber Edwards' Death Sentence to Life

Kimber Edwards
Kimber Edwards
On Friday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who has helped set a record pace of executions in the state, commuted the death sentence of a man facing execution next week.

Kimber Edwards was sentenced to death for hiring a hit man to kill his ex-wife in 2000. 

The case relied on the testimony of the killer, who has since recanted his story that Edwards hired him, as well as a confession from Edwards himself.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the killer said he framed Edwards to help himself avoid the death penalty.

Edwards’ lawyers claim that police coerced his confession, and that Edwards has a form of autism.

“After a thorough review of the facts surrounding the murder of Kimberly Cantrell, I am convinced the evidence supports the jury’s decision to convict Kimber Edwards of first-degree murder,” Nixon said in a statement Friday.

“At the same time, however, I am using my authority under the Missouri Constitution to commute Edwards’ sentence to life without the possibility of parole,” Nixon continued. “This is a step not taken lightly, and only after significant consideration of the totality of the circumstances. With this decision, Kimber Edwards will remain in prison for the remainder of his life for this murder.”

The move is unusual for Nixon, who during his time in office has overseen the executions of 79 inmates — 20 during his tenure as governor and 59 during his 16-year tenure as attorney general.

Source: BuzzFeed News, Chris McDaniel, October 2, 2015

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Virginia executes Alfredo Prieto

Alfredo Prieto
Alfredo Prieto
Alfredo Prieto, convicted of 2 1988 Fairfax County murders after a DNA hit found him on California's death row, was executed by injection Thursday night at Greensville Correctional Center.

Prieto was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m. His execution came after a rush of last-minute appeals, including one that contested the circumstances surrounding Virginia obtaining 1 of the injection drugs from Texas, and the potential quality of the substance.

His lawyers had also argued he was too intellectually disabled to be executed.

Wearing glasses, sandals and blue prison denim, Prieto was led into the execution area at 8:53 p.m. He looked around but displayed no emotion.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, who prosecuted Prieto, sat directly in front of him in the witness area. Also attending was Brian J. Moran, the state secretary of public safety.

Prieto was quickly strapped down on a gurney, and a curtain was drawn to block the view from the witness area as intravenous lines were inserted into each arm.

At 9:08 p.m., the curtain was opened, and Prieto was asked if he wished to make a last statement. The 1st of the 3 drugs was then administered, and Prieto appeared to take a couple of deep breaths.

After a few minutes, an execution team member removed Prieto's sandals and appeared to pinch his feet, testing to make sure he had been rendered unconscious so the next 2 drugs could be administered. Prieto showed no reaction.

Warden Eddie Pearson announced the death sentence had been carried out at 9:17 p.m.

Prieto's spiritual adviser, the Rev. Richard Mooney, a Catholic priest, entered the execution room with the inmate. "He was very much at peace," Mooney said.

Prieto had these final words: "I would like to say thanks to all my lawyers, all my supporters and all my family members. Get this over with."

A U.S. district judge refused to block the execution earlier in the evening, but lawyers for Prieto filed a late appeal over the drug issue to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state's response was filed at 8:25 p.m., according to a spokesman for the attorney general's office, who then announced about 9 p.m. that the appeal had been denied.

Earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Virginia Supreme Court also turned down bids from lawyers for Prieto.

"Tonight, the commonwealth executed a man without knowing whether he has intellectual disability or not, using drugs that are far beyond their approved date of use," said Robert Lee of the Virginia Capital Representation Center.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled against Prieto in a 13-page opinion after a hearing in which lawyers for the condemned man pressed their case to stop the execution because of concerns over 1 of the lethal injection drugs, pentobarbital, which Virginia had obtained from Texas.

Hudson said the arguments failed to establish that the drug could be faulty or lead to Prieto suffering cruel and unusual punishment. Prieto had been convicted of or linked to a total of 4 murders in Virginia and 5 in California, and Hudson noted the scope of his crimes in his opinion.

"This is not an instance where there are any questions as to innocence or sufficiency of due process of an individual set to be executed," Hudson said. He added that Prieto could have raised questions earlier about the drugs but did not.

"At this point, the state and the victims of crime can expect the moral judgment of the state to be carried out without delay," Hudson's opinion said. "To unsettle these expectations is to inflict a profound injury to the powerful and legitimate interest in punishing the guilty, an interest shared by the state and the victims of the crime alike. These harms are magnified here by the appalling number of people that Prieto has killed, raped or otherwise injured."

In their appeal to the 4th Circuit, Prieto lawyers Lee and Elizabeth Peiffer argued that the Texas drug had been compounded rather than manufactured, and was too old to use safely.

"The risk of harm Prieto stands to suffer from the use of an adulterated or ineffective compounded anesthetic is grave," the lawyers said. "If the pentobarbital does not work, his execution would be undeniably cruel because he would be conscious, albeit paralyzed, while being slowly suffocated and injected with a caustic substance which will ultimately cause cardiac arrest."

The lawyers also said that Prieto only learned Sept. 22 that the compounded drug would be used, so his claim late in the process was legitimate.

The nation's high court turned down Prieto, 49, without comment in its orders.

In the Virginia Supreme Court case, the justices said that Prieto failed in his argument that he should be returned west because his prosecution here had ended.

"By waiving extradition, Prieto also waived any independent right he may have had to force his return to California," Virginia's high court said.

Prieto's lawyers filed their complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court, asking the execution be blocked until it could be determined if the pentobarbital could properly and adequately render the condemned man unconscious before the 2nd drug, which stops breathing, and the 3rd drug, which stops the heart, are administered.

Because of a national shortage of execution drugs, Virginia in August obtained 3 vials of pentobarbital that was compounded at a pharmacy in April rather than made by a manufacturer. A certificate of analysis from Texas rated its potency at 94.6 percent in April. His lawyers, however, said the drug was beyond an accepted use date of 45 days.

In its response, the attorney general's office said, "Prieto has failed to demonstrate that he is entitled to the extraordinary equitable relief he seeks." The state contended that the drug is good for 6 months past the scheduled date of the execution, and that the "fulcrum of Prieto's claim" was that the compounded drug the state wished to use "might not be good enough."

Hudson held a 2-hour, 10-minute hearing over the pentobarbital complaint. Peiffer told Hudson there was concern the pentobarbital obtained from Texas was not potent enough or otherwise capable of properly sedating Prieto, leading to pain or suffering that could violate his right against cruel and unusual punishment.

"If the 1st drug does not work, the lethal injection procedure in Virginia will be unconstitutional," she argued.

The Virginia Attorney General's Office said Texas has used compounded pentobarbital in 24 executions over the past 2 years. Texas uses only a lethal dose of pentobarbital in its procedure instead of other drugs.

State officials also said that after the pentobarbital is administered, it tests the inmates to make sure they are unconscious before proceeding with the other chemicals.

Margaret Hoel O'Shea of the attorney general's office told Hudson that it has been 27 years since the bodies of Rachael A. Raver and Warren H. Fulton III "were found in that cold field in Fairfax County. ... It's time for this to end."

Prieto was on death row at California's San Quentin State Prison in 2005 for the 1990 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl when DNA linked him to the Raver and Fulton slayings. Raver was raped, and both victims were shot. Their bodies were found about 100 feet apart in a field south of the Dulles Toll Road on Dec. 6, 1988.

As the time for the scheduled execution drew near, several people were stationed near the correctional center on the rainy evening.

Robert Sweeting of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., was among 3 men who went to the correctional center in support of the families of Raver and Fulton, who both were 22.

Sweeting, who was Raver's friend and had attended the hearing before Hudson, said it's not up to him to judge what would happen to Prieto in the afterlife, but added that it was time for him to face God's judgment.

"Let justice be served," Sweeting said. "Let him cry and whimper for his life like he made all his victims. ... I hope he's crying in his cell right now."

Jonathan Shapiro, who had served as 1 of Prieto's defense attorneys in Fairfax, sat in his car nearby.

"I just felt the need to be here," Shapiro said. "It's hard to explain. Even though I'm not in there with him, I just felt that he needed companionship here. It's, to me, horrendous that the state does this ritualized killing."

Sweeting said of Prieto, "I don't think he ever asked Rachael Raver or his other victims if they were suffering before he killed them."

In a prepared statement, DeDe Raver, a sister of Rachael, wrote: "Today ends a long and painful ordeal for my family that has haunted us for over 26 years. I speak on behalf of my sister, Rachael Angelica, who will have the last word after all.

"Prieto terrorized Rachael and her companion during their last moments on Earth. His selfish and hateful crimes against Rachael and others left a trail of unimaginable destruction and pain to last a lifetime. To this day, Prieto has not shown any regret or remorse for being a serial killer, because Prieto is a sociopath who will continue to harm others for the rest of his life," Raver said.

Raver, who lives in New York and attended the execution along with other members of Rachael Raver's family, said: "As we never gave up hope, as the detectives never quit trying to match DNA evidence and the prosecutors sought justice, we remember and we do not forget."

Prieto becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 111th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982; only Texas (528) and Oklahoma (112) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.

Prieto becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1416th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. Last year at this time, there had been 30 executions across the country. There are currently 8 more executions scheduled in the USA this month,, including 3 next week; 5more are set for November and 2 currently set for December.

Sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch & Rick Halperin, October 2, 2015

The execution of Alfredo Prieto: Witnessing a serial killer’s final moments

Missouri death chamber
Missouri death chamber and gurney
[T]he state of Virginia handles the execution of convicted murderers in a precise and professional way. Similarly, serial killer Alfredo R. Prieto lived the final moments of his life with his own version of professionalism, maintaining the same passive look he held through his three long trials in Fairfax, and defiantly refusing to show any remorse or regret as he issued a rehearsed final statement similar to a pro athlete being interviewed after a game. He thanked his “supporters” and then snapped, “Get it over with.”

They did. He entered the death chamber at 8:52 p.m. Thursday, and was dead by 9:17 p.m. A diverse crowd of witnesses watched every moment intently, some in the chamber with him, some victims’ family members and friends in a room peering through one-way glass, and then about 18 more people — lawyers, corrections officials, and four reporters including me — facing him straight on from another room. We watched what appeared to be an utterly painless death for a man who brutally killed nine people and devastated nine families, and here is how it unfolded:

3 p.m.: Six hours before Prieto’s scheduled execution, there is a court order in place postponing it, and no one knows whether the execution will happen. In Richmond, lawyers are arguing about whether the first drug used in Virginia’s lethal injection process will cause undue pain to Prieto. When they are done, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson doesn’t immediately issue a ruling. The execution remains in limbo.

At Greensville Correctional Center in southern Virginia, visitor logs show that Prieto is visited by his mother, Teodora Alvarado, his sister Yolanda Loucel, his brother Guillermo Prieto, all from Pomona, Calif.; and a Catholic prison chaplain, the Rev. Richard Mooney from Petersburg. It’s not clear whether Prieto’s family stayed for the execution. Mooney would come in and take a seat in the main witness room minutes before the execution started, but would not say whether Prieto asked to be absolved of his sins.

6 p.m.: Judge Hudson lifts the stay on the execution, ruling that Prieto’s lawyers had not shown that the drug pentobarbital would cause him pain. One of the lawyers who argued his case in Richmond, Kimberly Peiffer, also joins us in the witness room, sitting next to Mooney.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Washington Post, Tom Jackman, October 2, 2015

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