BREAKING NEWS: (7/23). Another Botched Execution: The execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona took 2 hours, during which the inmate was gasping and moving. Arizona injected him with midazolam, a drug also used in botched executions in Oklahoma and Ohio earlier this year. Both states initiated reviews of their lethal injection process and have not carried out an execution since then. See Lethal Injection.
EARLIER: (7/22). The US SUPREME COURT overturned the stay of execution for Joseph Wood, scheduled for July 23. EARLIER: (7/21). The full (en banc) U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the preliminary injunction and stay of execution granted earlier by the panel. EARLIER: (7/19) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted a preliminary injunction against the scheduled execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on July 23 unless the state reveals the source of its lethal injection drugs and the training of those carrying out the execution. Read the opinion.
(7/16) Federal judge in California rules state's death penalty unconstitutional: "[T]he system that has been created to administer [the death penalty] to Mr. Jones and the hundreds of other individuals currently on Death Row....almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment." (Jones v. Chappell, U.S. Dist. Ct, July 16, 2014).
NEW BOOK SAYS TEXAS EXECUTED AN INNOCENT MAN
On July 7 Columbia University Press published an important new book demonstrating for the first time in contemporary America that an almost certainly innocent man was was executed for a crime he did not commit. The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution by Prof. James Liebman (l.) explains in gripping detail how a perfect storm of errors occurred in a case everyone thought was open and shut, and an innocent man was condemned and killed.
The book, which has been called both "chilling" and "wrenching," describes how the only eyewitness to a fatal knifing mistook Carlos DeLuna, a mentally disabled twenty-year-old, for a look-alike named Carlos Hernandez who had murdered before; how ill-prepared lawyers and inattentive law enforcement led jurors and judges to believe that Hernandez did not even exist; and how on December 7, 1989, DeLuna was executed in Texas, the leading death penalty state in the country.
The facts revealed in this book were so compelling that even the District Attorney in DeLuna’s case said he found himself “face to face with the hard truth” that he had been “involved in the execution of a man who may well have been innocent.”
See the online companion to the book for crime-scene photos, law enforcement and court records, newspaper and TV coverage, and videotaped interviews. See Information about ordering the book and discounts.
BROADER IMPLICATIONS OF SUPREME COURT'S RULING
On May 27, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court held (5-4) in Hall v. Florida that states must generally consider more than IQ scores in determining intellectual disability as an exemption from the death penalty. As Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, "Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number."
However, Justice Kennedy and the concurring Justices went further in describing the importance of the Eighth Amendment, the risks of the death penalty, and our responsibility as a leader in the civilized world:
"The Eighth Amendment’s protection of dignity reflects the Nation we have been, the Nation we are, and the Nation we aspire to be. This is to affirm that the Nation’s constant, unyielding purpose must be to transmit the Constitution so that its precepts and guarantees retain their meaning and force."
And later concluding:
"The death penalty is the gravest sentence our society may impose. Persons facing that most severe sanction must have a fair opportunity to show that the Constitution prohibits their execution. Florida’s law contravenes our Nation’s commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world. The States are laboratories for experimentation, but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects."
NEW RESOURCE: Listen to DPIC's new podcast on recent changes to lethal injection protocols, lethal injection secrecy, and related issues.