Arizona

Arizona

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."

SUPREME COURT: Justices to Consider Whether Death Penalty Appeals Can Continue When Defendant Is Incompetent

On October 9, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider cases from Arizona and Ohio questioning whether death penalty appeals can continue if the defendant is mentally incompetent. Under the Court's prior rulings in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), capital defendants cannot be executed if they are incompetent or intellectually disabled (mentally retarded). In the upcoming cases, Ryan v. Gonzalez and Tibbals v. Carter, the Court will determine whether mentally incompetent inmates are entitled to a stay of federal habeas proceedings because they cannot assist their counsel. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Sixth Circuits, respectively, held that the defendants' competency was necessary, thus staying the proceedings indefinitely. The states that asked the Court to review this question asserted that the appeals should go forward, since no new information will be considered. The American Psychiatric Association submitted an amicus brief recommending "that post-conviction proceedings initiated by a capital prisoner should be suspended when a mental disorder or disability prevents the prisoner from understanding his situation or communicating with his counsel, and when such communication would be necessary to the fair adjudication of that prisoner’s legal challenges to his conviction or sentence."

EXECUTIONS: The U.S. in Mid-Year 2012

In the first half of 2012, eight states carried out 23 executions. In the same period last year, there were 25 executions in 9 states. The annual number of executions has declined significantly from its peak in 1999, when 98 people were executed. There were 43 executions in 2011.  Sixteen of this year's executions (70%) have been in the South, with nearly half in just two states - Texas and Mississippi. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases resulting in executions this year involved a murder with a white victim, even though generally whites are victims of murder less than 50% of the time in the U.S. Inmates executed so far this year spent an average of just over 18 years on death row prior to execution.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average time between sentencing and execution for those executed in 2010 was 15 years, the longest period for any single year.  States have continued to alter their execution protocols due to ongoing shortages of certain execution drugs. All executions in 2012 have been by lethal injection.  This year Arizona and Idaho joined Ohio and Washington in using a one-drug lethal injection procedure.  All executions this year have used pentobarbital, a drug not used in executions prior to December 2010.

Federal Court Overturns FDA's Approval of Foreign Shipments of Lethal Injection Drugs

Judge Richard LeonOn March 27, a federal District Court held that foreign-manufactured sodium thiopental was improperly approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in executions.  Judge Richard Leon (pictured) of the District Court of the District of Columbia ordered any correctional departments in possession of the drug to return it to the FDA. The ruling granted summary judgment in favor of a lawsuit filed by death row inmates in Arizona, California, and Tennessee against the FDA. Those states, along with several others, had obtained sodium thiopental, an anesthetic used in lethal injections, from foreign sources after the sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production. The inmates contended "that unapproved foreign thiopental will fail to anesthetize plaintiffs properly during execution, causing conscious suffocation, pain, and cardiac arrest." According to Judge Leon, the foreign sodium thiopental "is a misbranded drug and an unapproved new drug" and "the FDA neither approved nor reviewed thiopental for safety and effectiveness." A January 2011 statement released by the FDA said "[r]eviewing substances imported or used for the purpose of state-authorized lethal injection clearly falls outside of FDA's explicit public health role." The judge disagreed, saying "the FDA appears to be simply wrapping itself in the flag of law enforcement discretion to justify its authority and masquerade an otherwise seemingly callous indifference to the health consequences of those imminently facing the executioner's needle."

Supreme Court to Address Consequences of Mental Incompetency During Death Penalty Appeals

The U.S. Supreme Court granted review in two cases from Arizona and Ohio to explore whether death penalty appeals can continue if the defendant is mentally incompetent.  Under the Court's prior rulings in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), defendants cannot be executed if they are insane or intellectually disabled (mentally retarded).  The new cases, Ryan v. Gonzalez and Tibbals v. Carter, will decide whether mentally incompetent death row inmates are entitled to a stay of federal habeas proceedings because they cannot assist their counsel.  The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Sixth Circuits, respectively, found that the defendants' competency was necessary during federal habeas review, thus staying the proceedings indefinitely. The states that asked the Court to review this question asserted that the appeals can go forward, despite the defendants inability to participate. The cases will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in its next term beginning in October.

UPCOMING EXECUTIONS: Arizona to Execute Defendant with History of Mental Problems

On February 29, Arizona is scheduled to execute Robert Moorman, who was sentenced to death for a 1984 murder. Moorman's representatives have said the crime was committed after years of sexual abuse by the defendant’s adoptive mother, whom he then killed and dismembered her body.  Moorman was diagnosed with mental retardation and attended special education classes while in public school. His first stay at a mental institution occurred when he was 13. At a recent clemency hearing, Moorman said he did not remember the details of the murder. His health has slowly deteriorated while in prison. He had a stroke in 2007 and underwent a quintuple bypass last November. Moorman was born to a 15-year-old girl who drank heavily and engaged in prostitution, according to court records and testimony at his clemency hearing. His father abandoned him and his mother died at age 17.  He then went to live with his maternal grandparents until he was put up for adoption because of his grandfather’s alcohol abuse. UPDATE: Moorman was executed on Feb. 29.

DPIC RESOURCES: New State Pages Now Available

DPIC is pleased to announce the completion of our State Information Pages for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  These state profiles provide historical and current information on the death penalty for each state, including famous cases, past legislative actions, and links to key organizations and state officials.  For frequently updated information, such as execution totals, the size of death row, or the number of exonerations, see our State-by-State Database.  Readers are encouraged to send additional information, pictures, and links to organizations in their state.  You can reach the State Information Pages through the "State by State" button at the top of every page on our website or under the "Resources" tab in our main menu.

NEW RESOURCES: Five New States Added to State Information Pages

DPIC is pleased to announce the addition of five more states to our State Information Pages.  Information is now available for 25 states, including the latest entries:  Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York.  These pages provide historical and current information on the death penalty for each state (regardless of whether it currently has the death penalty), including famous cases, past legislative actions, and links to key organizations.  For frequently-updated information, such as execution totals, the size of death row, or the number of exonerations, see our State-by-State Database. The remaining state  pages will be made available soon, especially as residents send information, pictures, and links to organizations.  You can reach the State Information Pages through the "State by State" button at the top of every page on our website or under the "Resources" tab in our main menu.

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