Ohio to Resume Executions?

April 20, 2007

News Update 4.20.07

North Carolina

A new documentary from students at Elon University profiles the Religious Left – Christian churches that take a different approach to social issues like the death penalty.


In California, Governor Schwarzenegger spends over $300,000 (without legislative approval) to build a shiny new death chamber, despite the fact that California’s lethal injection protocol has been declared unconstitutional.

In Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland has denied clemency to James Filiaggi and seems prepared to let his execution go forward. More from the Ohio Death Penalty Information blog.

Worldwide, 94% of executions carried out in 2005 were performed in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. In 2006, the “top four” were China, Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq.

A Busy Day at the General Assembly

April 19, 2007

News Update 4.19.07

North Carolina

Among the 269 bills filed yesterday in the General Assembly (the last day to file new bills this session) were several of interest to this blog.
* H1625 – improve procedures for eyewitness identifications
* H1626 – require all interrogations of suspects to be recorded
* H1691 – two year moratorium on the death penalty

Other legislation to keep an eye on
* H1291 – reduce the effect of racial discrimination on the death penalty
* H1526 – limit circumstances under which a person can be sentenced to death
* H1500 – preserve DNA evidence


In Georgia, judge comes to shocking conclusion that part-time prosecutor should not also serve as capital defense counsel.

In South Dakota, jury votes to spare life of woman who would have become the first deaf person on death row.

You can read the transcript of the oral arguments in Panetti v. Quarterman here. A little too much focus on jurisdiction for my taste.

Some initial reactions to Panetti:
* Karl Keys from Capital Defense Weekly
* Miscellaneous news links

Lessons (un)Learned

April 18, 2007

News Update 4.18.07

North Carolina

Durham County DA’s whine that it’s too much trouble to audiotape interviews, so they’re just going to talk to fewer witnesses. Because not conducting a thorough investigation has never gotten them in trouble before…

On May 3rd, Elizabeth Beck will be speaking at the Regulator Bookshop (720 9th Street in Durham, 7 PM) about her new book In the Shadow of Death: Restorative Justice and Death Row Families.


The Houston Chronicle wonders why Harris County has so few exonerations, and concludes that it might be related to the fact that police have been throwing away key evidence.

Information on today’s oral arguments in the Panetti (mental illness) case, care of Stand Down Texas. Includes links to print and radio media, as well as a site where a transcript of the arguments will be posted when available.

Shout Outs

Thanks to Brian Russell and Gregory Korte for the links.

Lethal Injection Update

April 17, 2007

Click here to view a brief filed on behalf of five North Carolina death row inmates (Jerry Conner, James Campbell, Archie Billings, Marcus Robinson, and James Thomas).

A little background. You may recall that the whole execution train got derailed back in January when it was determined that the State’s lethal injection protocol was never properly approved by the Council of State. The Council of State quickly OK’d said protocol. The problem? Administrative agencies like the Council are required by law to follow certain procedures, including holding public hearings about proposed rule changes, with which the Council failed to comply. Since then, the attorneys for a number of death row inmates have filed suit in the Office of Administrative Hearings to demand that the Council do things right. The Council responded by filing a motion to dismiss the suit, saying that they don’t have to follow the procedures. Above is the response of the inmates to that motion. Included are several appendices related to attempts made by the attorneys to gain access to the Council of State and prior litigation regarding the lethal injection protocol.

I will grant you that administrative law is not the most exciting thing in the world. Here is why this matters – the hearing that the Council of State should have held would have been the only opportunity for public comment on and revision of the flawed lethal injection protocol. The Council refused to hear from anyone other than the State’s attorneys and ignored evidence that the protocol puts inmates at an unconstitutional and unconscionable risk of dying an agonizing death. The people of North Carolina have been denied any input into this ultimate punishment to be carried out on their behalf.

The Department of Corrections is immune from administrative law regulations. Up until recently, they’ve been pretty much free to make up the execution protocol as they go along. For a while, the DOC was administering half of the barbiturate after the drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart – when the inmate was already dead, and long after the anesthetic could have served its intended purpose. Jonas Salk they’re not. There are aspects of the current lethal injection protocol that are similarly nonsensical. Someone with a hand in designing the protocol ought to have some idea what they’re doing. Quite simply, the Council of State needs to be fully informed before it makes its decision.

Given that not following the rules is what got them into this mess in the first place, you would think the State would be a little more careful. It’s clear that the State just wants these men dead, by any means necessary. Having a lethal injection protocol that doesn’t inflict unnecessary torture on the condemned is not about giving undue dignity to cold-blooded killers. It’s about maintaining our own dignity, lest we become cold-blooded killers ourselves.

A New Book, a Hunger Strike, and a Supreme Court Tapdance

April 17, 2007

News Update 4.17.07

North Carolina

There is a remarkable new book out, written based on the experiences of Jo Ann North Goetz, about a teacher’s faith in her former student’s innocence and the struggle that eventually set him free. That student was Darryl Hunt. The book is available for purchase here.


In Connecticut, death row inmates on hunger strike to protest prison conditions, including 23-hour lockdown and total denial of human contact.

In Idaho, state wastes taxpayer money by seeking death penalty against man who is already on death row.

For the law geeks out there, all of the briefs in the Panetti (constitutionality of executing the mentally ill) case are online here. An interesting wrinkle in the case emerged last week when the Supreme Court asked the parties to brief an additional (jurisdiction) issue. Some believe that the Court will use the technical jurisdiction issue to avoid deciding the more substantive Eighth Amendment claim. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments tomorrow.

Death row inmates aren’t the only ones who have to worry about anesthesia failing to do its job. Click here to hear from a woman who found herself fully conscious yet unable to move during surgery to remove her right eye.

More from The Dallas Morning News (favoring life without parole over capital punishment and suggesting next steps for the legislature) and The Cincinnati Enquirer (on deadly mistakes made by defense attorneys in capital cases).

Newspapers Across the South Advocate for Change

April 16, 2007

News Update 4.16.07

North Carolina

The News and Observer challenges the General Assembly to stop pushing doctors and nurses around and have the courage to vote for a moratorium.

At the end of this article, note that the Attorney General’s Office has not always been so willing to drop the charges against innocent defendants.


The Birmingham News calls on Alabama to provide counsel for inmates on death row. Alabama and New Hampshire (which has no one on death row) are the only states that do not provide attorneys to help inmates with their complicated post-conviction appeals.

The California Supreme Court takes a new approach to determining whether defendants are mentally retarded for purposes of death penalty eligibility. Court considers multiple measurements of IQ, not just the defendant’s full-scale IQ score.

The Dallas Morning News comes out against capital punishment – reversing its position after more than 100 years. After cases highlighting innocence among the convicted and possibly even the executed, “We do not believe that any legal system devised by inherently flawed human beings can determine with moral certainty the guilt of every defendant convicted of murder. That is why we believe the state of Texas should abandon the death penalty – because we cannot reconcile the fact that it is both imperfect and irreversible.”

The federal government is continuing its death march across states without capital punishment, this time in Hawai’i.

In the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, it doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong, it matters who the judges are. Study shows that justices appointed by Republican presidents vote to deny relief in capital cases 85% of the time while Democrats grant some kind of relief in 75% of cases.

News Update 4.13.07

April 13, 2007

North Carolina

Change for North Carolina’s district attorneys?


In Pennsylvania, exonerated death row inmates call for a moratorium.

A preview of the Texas death penalty cases to be decided by the Supreme Court this term.

For your reading list.

News Update 4.12.07

April 12, 2007

North Carolina

What the Duke lacrosse defendants owe to a former death row inmate.

NC Policy Watch poll finds that a majority of North Carolinians do not support executing the severely mentally ill. Go us.


Nebraska considers limiting the death penalty to those most likely to kill again.

News Update 4.11.07

April 11, 2007

North Carolina

N.C. Board of Nursing to consider ban on nurse participation in executions. (See prior post for more information.)

Exoneree Darryl Hunt spoke yesterday at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Nothing to report. Explore my blogroll!

News Update 4.10.07

April 10, 2007

North Carolina

Nothing to report.


In Florida, girl says boyfriend killed her dad while she waited outside. Girl was sentenced to life. Now boy is facing the death penalty – and girl says it was her all along.

In Rome, an Easter death penalty protest.

Last night, Anderson Cooper 360 questioned whether an innocent man was executed in Texas. (See 4/9 entry.) Learn more about Cameron Todd Willingham from Stand Down Texas and the Abolish the Death Penalty blog.


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