Executions

DPIC'S YEAR END REPORT: What the Media Are Saying

DPIC's recent 2012 Year End Report received extensive media coverage in the U.S. and internationally. Coverage included pieces by the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, CNN, and hundreds of other outlets. National broadcast outlets such as NPR, MSNBC, and CBS Radio also ran pieces. Many papers editorialized about the themes highlighted in the Report, including the continuing decline in the use of the death penalty around the country, the geographic clustering of sentences and executions in just a few states, and reasons why people are changing their minds about capital punishment. An editorial in the Virginian-Pilot said state statistics from the report indicated the death penalty had reached a "turning point" and called for ending it: "Multiple studies have shown the death penalty does not reduce crime. The money could be better spent preventing crime and solving unsolved cases." The Amarillo Globe News  in Texas raised concerns about costs; the Anniston Star in Alabama called the death penalty "barbaric;" and the New York Times said it "should be abolished." An editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram encouraged Texans to reconsider the death penalty, noting, “At a time when much of the nation is rethinking the issue of capital punishment, it's worth Texans considering whether continuing to be first on the death penalty is something to brag about… Debate about the death penalty - its legal, moral, fiscal and practical considerations - should go on, especially considering the flaws that continue to be exposed in the justice system."

NEW RESOURCES: Death Row USA Fall 2012 Report Now Available

The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Death Row USA showed a decrease of 43 inmates under sentence of death from January 1 to October 1, 2012. Over the last decade, the total population of state and federal death rows has decreased significantly, from 3,703 inmates in 2000 to 3,146 inmates as of October 2012. California continues to have the largest death row population (724), followed by Florida (411), Texas (304), Pennsylvania (204), and Alabama (202). Neither California nor Pennsylvania has carried out an execution in the past seven years. The report also contains information on executions. Nearly 77% of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution since 1976 were white. However, nationally, about 50% of murder victims are black. The report also contains an overview of recent legal developments related to capital punishment.

California Chief Justice Says No Executions Likely for Three Years

The Chief Justice of California's Supreme Court, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, said recently that she does not expect executions in California to resume for at least three years because of problems with the lethal injection process. California has already not carried out an execution in seven years. Justice Cantil-Sakauye said major structural changes to the state's death penalty are unlikely, and that a proposal by the former Chief Justice to speed death penalty appeals is "dead." That proposal would have had state appellate courts, rather than the California Supreme Court, handle appeals in capital cases.  Such a change would require a constitutional amendment and greater funding for appellate courts. Those proposals have failed in the past. Californians narrowly defeated (52-48%) a ballot initiative to repeal the death penalty and put some of the money saved into solving cold cases. The state is spending an estimated $180 million per year on the death penalty.

ARBITRARINESS: Arizona Inmate to be Executed Dec. 5, Accomplice Was Released in 2011

Richard Stokley (pictured) is scheduled to be executed in Arizona on December 5 for rape and murder. Stokley's accomplice, Randy Brazeal, was released from prison in 2011, despite DNA testing showing he was likely guilty of the same crime as Stokley. In 1991, Brazeal turned himself in to authorities and claimed that Stokley had held him hostage while committing the crime. However, subsequent DNA testing revealed that Brazeal likely participated in the crime and raped one of the victims. At the time of the crime, DNA testing had only recently become possible, and authorities made a deal with Brazeal to avoid delays that would result from such testing. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. When the DNA testing was later completed, it revealed Brazeal's DNA inside one of the victims. Rod Rothrock, the detective who led the investigation, said, "It is my opinion that Mr. Brazeal is no less guilty than Mr. Stokley, and I believe that DNA test proves that."

INTERNATIONAL: U.N. Death Penalty Resolution Backed by Record Number of Countries

On November 19, 110 countries voted for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty. The vote marked record support for the resolution compared to previous years. Among the countries supporting the resolution were the European Union nations, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Israel. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries opposing the non-binding resolution in the Assembly's Third Committee, which addresses human rights issues. Thirty-six countries abstained. Recently, France launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would also be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure. Around the world, about 141 are abolitionist in law or in practice, while 57 countries retain the death penalty.

LETHAL INJECTIONS: Pennsylvania Planning Execution with Drugs from Questionable Source

UPDATE: Execution stayed by federal court on Nov. 8 to allow time for appeal.  Pennsylvania is planning to use drugs in an upcoming execution that are not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration but rather are made to order by a compounding pharmacy. A compounding pharmacy has been implicated in the deadly meningitis outbreak in the U.S. caused by contaminated drugs. In Missouri, the Pharmacy Board tested claimed drug dosages from compounding pharmacies from 2006 to 2009 and found that the pharmacies failed 1 out 5 times, with dosages ranging from zero to many times of what was prescribed. Compounding pharmacies in Texas failed to deliver drugs of the proper dosage in one-third of tests done there. This is crucial because an improper dosage could subject the inmate to excruciating pain. The state fought hard to keep the source of its drugs out of court, snubbing two federal court orders to divulge the information, finally complying at the last minute after the threat of sanctions.  A federal class action suit has been filed challenging Pennsylvania's execution protocol. The suit could affect the execution of Hubert Michael, Jr., scheduled for November 8. 

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS: Mentally Ill Oklahoma Inmate To Die Nov. 6

Garry Allen is scheduled for execution in Oklahoma on November 6, the third date set for him this year. Allen's execution has been stayed repeatedly due to questions about his mental competence. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia as well as dementia caused by seizures, drug abuse, and a gunshot wound to his head sustained during his arrest. In 2008, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended that his death sentence be commuted by a 4-1 vote. Governor Mary Fallin granted a stay in order to consider the Board's recommendation, but denied clemency.  Allen murdered his wife 26 years ago, after she had left him and taken their two children.

Family of Man Executed in Texas Seeks Posthumous Pardon

The family of Cameron Todd Willingham announced they will petition the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant him a posthumous pardon based on new evidence that has emerged since his execution in 2004. Willingham was sentenced to death for the murder of his three children in a housefire in 1991. At his trial, investigators testified that Willingham had intentionally set the fire, but later developments in the science of fire investigation have led experts to believe the fire was accidental. The other evidence presented at Willingham's trial included the testimony of a jailhouse informant who later recanted his statement that Willingham admitted to the crime. The family's petition states, "[S]ince his trial, scientific advances have shattered every assumption underlying the testimony of the two fire investigators who declared to the jury and the court that Willingham had set the fire that killed his children. In fact, today, no credible arson expert would make such a declaration." In a statement, Willingham's family said, "It was Todd's last wish that we help clear his name. It's time for the state of Texas to own up to its mistake and give Todd the justice he deserves." The Innocence Project in New York has taken the lead in working for Willingham's exoneration.

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