Capital Punishment – Brain Ethics Mon, 21 Jun 2021 17:16:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Capital Punishment – Brain Ethics 32 32 South Carolina dilemma: how to organize a shooting team Mon, 21 Jun 2021 11:25:22 +0000

Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court blocked planned executions of two inmates by electrocution, saying they could not be put to death until they had a chance to choose between being electrocuted or being killed by a firing squad – an option that has never been offered in the state before, leaving many people wondering what such an execution would look like, reports the Associated Press.

The executions of the two detainees were scheduled for less than a month after the adoption of a new law, compel “inmates to choose the mode of their execution” if lethal injection drugs are not available.

South Carolina Department of Corrections prison officials have previously said they cannot access lethal injection drugs and have yet to build a group of individuals ready to be part of a firing squad, leaving the 109-year-old electric chair as the only possibility of carrying out death sentences, the Associated press reports.

Lawyers for the two men on death row pleaded legal deposits that the electric chair is “cruel and unusual”, noting that ffrom 1890 to 2010, 84 executions with the electric chair were botched.

Lawyers further noted that men have the right to die by lethal injection given that this is the method they both chose, and that the state of South Carolina has not exhausted all possible methods of obtaining lethal injection drugs, The Associated Press details.

Other states in the country have struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs in recent years as pharmaceutical companies have refused to offer the drugs to any prison system.

Additionally, other correctional facilities have completely stopped using lethal injection cocktails because the three-drug protocol may not render someone unconscious, resulting in excruciating death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a nonprofit advocacy group.

See also: Doubts over lethal injection drugs reignite debate over capital punishment

“The ministry is moving forward with the creation of policies and procedures for a firing squad”, Chrysti shain, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said Wednesday in a statement, quoted by The Associated Press. “We are looking to other states for guidance throughout this process.”

Shain concluded by saying, “We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

Visualize death by the firing squad

South Carolina is just one of four states to offer firing squad as a method of death for death row inmates. South Carolina is joined by Utah, Mississippi and Oklahoma, according to the DPIC.

Even though other states have firing squad, it is not exactly clear how the execution would be carried out in South Carolina. The State details.

Utah is the only state to have carried out executions by firing squad since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976, according to DPIC and The state.

Taking a few notes on how Utah applied this method of the death penalty, many are interested to see what rules and regulations South Carolina would implement.

In Utah, convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death in 2010 after choosing to die by firing squad. Gardner was tied to an execution chair, and a black hood slipped over his head, according to The state.

After Gardner could no longer see, a target was attached to his shirt to indicate the location of his heart. The chair was also surrounded by sandbags so that the fired bullets did not ricochet.

To perform the execution, State describes how five anonymous snipers – volunteers from the Department of Corrections or law enforcement – were armed with .30 caliber rifles. The men stood 25 feet behind a wall with a porthole. One of the shooters was given a rifle with a blank cartridge so no one would know who fired to kill Gardner, State Explain.

SC Corrections Department spokeswoman Shain said the department is still working on developing procedures for carrying out a firing squad execution.

This work can be complicated, Shain said, because “creating a new delivery method is multifaceted and requires deliberate and intentional work to ensure that policies, procedures and infrastructure are appropriate,” such as the city The state.

Shain also told the state that there are several challenges authorities are considering, primarily whether or not to build a whole new facility to safely conduct firing squad executions.

Shain said, however, that one thing is very clear: the team that would carry out the executions will be made up of volunteers from the Department of Corrections.

Further reading: The link between capital punishment, race and police brutality: report

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Death Row killers must be given the chance to fire Sun, 20 Jun 2021 15:17:09 +0000

  • A South Carolina court has blocked two executions, saying inmates should be given a choice of firing squad.
  • Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owen were scheduled to be executed by the electric chair this week.
  • The move comes amid a shortage of lethal injections and the state’s revised death penalty law.
  • Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.

Leading South Carolina court blocked two planned executions by electric chair this month, saying inmates cannot be put to death until they have a choice of firing squad.

The decision was made under the new revised state law on capital punishment, which states that the convict must choose between electrocution or firing squad if lethal injections are not available.

Brad Sigmon, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in 2002, was supposed to be killed on Friday in a 109-year-old electric chair named “Old Sparky.” The Times reported.

Read more: Trump’s barbarism is not only on display on Capitol Hill, he’s also killing the death penalty

The electric chair execution of Freddie Owens, another death row inmate, was scheduled for June 25. Owens was convicted of the murder of a convenience store employee in 1997 and confessed to killing another prisoner upon his conviction.

South Carolina recently amended its death penalty law to resume executions after an involuntary 10-year hiatus the state attributed to failure to obtain the lethal drugs to kill inmates.

It now forces death row inmates to choose between electrocution or firing squad if drugs are not available.

The Electric Chair from South Carolina

South Carolina’s electric chair in Columbia is pictured in this 2019 photo.

Kinard Lisbon / South Carolina Prison Department via AP

“The department is moving forward with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Chrysti Shain, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said in a statement. according to the Guardian.

“We are awaiting guidance from other states throughout this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions,” Shain said.

Lawyers for the two detainees said death from electrocution is cruel and that men should have the right to die by lethal injection. But state lawyers say prison authorities are only enforcing the law.

Prison activists say Sigmon is terrified of being electrocuted. Death Penalty Action’s Alli Sullivan, who spoke to him recently, said in a Facebook post: “He doesn’t know if [he] can take out the horror of [his] the spirit of being fried to death, ”The Times reported.

South Carolina is among eight other states, including Mississippi and Oklahoma, that still use the electric chair during executions, according to the Information Center on the Death Penalty. Three other states allow death by firing squad.

There are currently 37 prisoners awaiting the death penalty in South Carolina, which saw its last execution in 2011.

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JACKSON: Lack of staff prolongs the lives of death row inmates | Notice Sat, 19 Jun 2021 13:00:00 +0000

When we hear that companies cannot reopen or expand their services due to a shortage of candidates, it is not a good thing. Not for the business, economy, tax body or end user. This is not the case for a few guys in South Carolina. The lack of employees works in their favor.

Because the state of SC cannot hire the necessary workers, Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens will live a little longer. Both men are on death row and were due to be executed this month. But, the state cannot hire enough people to fill a firing squad.

The state recently reinstated the firing squad as a form of execution with electrocution and lethal injection. South Carolina’s highest court has ruled that their impending executions will be postponed until a firing squad is in place. The SC law provides that death row inmates must be given the opportunity to choose how they choose to be put to death.

The state is not in a position to put people to death by lethal injection because there is a shortage of drugs. There was no more drug in 2013. It is not conclusive that the shortage of lethal injection drugs is caused by pharmaceutical production or litigation. Executions in some states are suspended because the real ingredients of the drugs are not available to the public. Supporters of a gentler, more humane way of killing the state want to know the names of the drug producers and the chemicals used in order to avoid botched executions that could cause undue suffering to convicts. Some states keep this information secret from the public.

This drug shortage left SC with only one form of capital punishment available. Electrocution has been used by SC’s Corrections Department since 1912. This drug shortage, real or imagined, forced the state to reinstate the firing squad method last month.

Without lethal injection or the possibility of a firing squad, Brad Sigmon, a 63-year-old murderer who was convicted in 2001 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat, had his execution scheduled for June 18 delayed.

Freddie Owens, 43, was convicted of the 1997 murder of a convenience store clerk. His June 25 death date was also postponed due to the state’s no-option loophole. The two killers have exhausted all their remedies. The issue of delayed firing squad staffing also bodes well for the nearly 40 other death row inmates from 39 SC.

The time it will take to assemble a firing squad in SC is unknown. There isn’t a lot of information on how a death squad is formed. It must be assumed that each member is a qualified rifleman. They will at least have the ability to hit a target within 30 yards. How much psychological practice and training is available? And finally, what does compensation and benefits contain?

While the method of firing squad death has been characterized as outdated and even uncivilized, it has a distinct advantage over death by drugs, gas, or electricity. Those killed by a bullet to the heart may have quality vital organs that can be donated to save lives. There is no risk of contamination. If organ donation by executed convicts becomes a trend, death by hanging could also be an option.

Besides South Carolina, five other states use the firing squad method of execution: Utah, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Coincidentally, all six states have decided to end additional unemployment benefits this summer. Will the absence of the extra $ 300 per week of unemployment increase the pool of sniper candidates? Curious minds of death row inmates in firing squad states may want to know.

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Biden’s silence on capital punishment annoys fellow death penalty opponents Fri, 18 Jun 2021 11:51:21 +0000

Joe Biden, Merrick Garland Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

President Biden has campaigned as an opponent of the death penalty and he still opposes the death penalty, according to the White House. But you would be forgiven for not knowing that based on the actions – and lack of action – of his administration, The Associated Press Friday reports. “Biden has not said whether he would support a bill introduced by other Democrats to remove the death penalty from US laws. Nor has he repealed Trump-era protocols allowing the resumption of federal executions and allowing prisons to use firing squads if necessary. “

And on Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to restore the death penalty for Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arguing that a lower court was wrong to dismiss the sentence over selection concerns. jury and asking the high court to “put this case on the right track to a just conclusion.”

“Biden’s inaction is unreasonable,” said Ashley Kincaid Eve, lawyer and activist against the death penalty, tell PA. “This is the easiest campaign promise to keep, and his refusal to keep it … is political cowardice.”

Biden’s “hands-off approach” “adds to the turmoil around the death penalty nationwide as pressure increases in some conservative states to find ways to continue executions amid lethal injection drug shortages.” , PA reports. And some opponents of the death penalty fear its silence could give the appearance of tacit approval for reinstated state execution methods like gas chambers and firing squads.

Biden believes Justice Department “has independence over such decisions” like White House spokesman Tsarnaev’s motion Andrew Bates said PA, and he also believes “that the department should go back to its previous practice and not carry out executions.”

There are things Biden can do unilaterally, like commute all federal death sentences to life in prison, and he could tell the Department of Justice to stop scheduling executions while he’s president. But the initial sense of death row optimism about Biden’s presidency has dissipated, Rejon Taylor, an inmate at Terre Haute, Indiana, federal penitentiary, Told PA. “I will not say that skepticism has set in, but I will say that most no longer believe that immediate action will happen,” he said, adding that most inmates also do not believe that ‘they will be executed while Biden is president.

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Selection Process Begins for New Mexico Supreme Court Estate | Ap Fri, 18 Jun 2021 06:19:18 +0000

The selection process is In progress to fill a vacant position on the Supreme Court of New Mexico with the departure of Barbara Vigil at the end of June.

A bipartisan nominating committee is scheduled for Thursday to interview candidates for the High Court post. Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has the final say on who to nominate.

Candidates include Santa Fe District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington, who last year dismissed a Republican Party challenge over ballot monitoring.

Albuquerque Court of Appeals Judge Briana Zamora and Deming District Judge Jennifer DeLaney were previously appointed in 2020 and ignored by the governor.

State District Judge Victor Lopez is a former state workers’ compensation official whose wife was previously appointed to the State Senate by Lujan Grisham in 2019.

Retired Judge Vigil wrote the main majority opinion in 2019 which overturned the death penalty for the last two inmates awaiting execution a decade after the state’s repeal of the death penalty. She is also the author of recent opinions on the regulation of utilities as part of the state’s transition from coal-fired power plants.

Vigil’s successor is due to run for partisan elections in 2022. The winner of this election will face a retention vote in 2024.

In recent months, the Supreme Court has been the arbiter of the governor’s emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic, recently dismissing lawsuits seeking automatic compensation for companies affected by an aggressive pandemic restriction. A moratorium on housing evictions remains in place at the discretion of the court in response to the economic stress of the pandemic.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Biden frustrates death penalty opponents at Supreme Court request Thu, 17 Jun 2021 10:00:28 +0000

Opponents of the death penalty are expressing frustration at the Biden administration’s request this week that the Supreme Court reinstate the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Critics consider the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to be incompatible with President BidenJoe Biden Japan to potentially ease COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Olympics 14 Republicans vote against making June 19 a federal holiday China provides millions of doses of vaccine to developing countries in Asia MOREduring the election campaign to eliminate the death penalty.

The outright repeal of the federal death penalty would require legislation, which is unlikely to wipe out the current Congress given the deep partisan divide. But advocates say Biden could take action on his own to curtail executions by the federal government and renew his calls for him to do just that.

“This decision by the Department of Justice contravenes the president’s vow to work with Congress to abolish the federal death penalty,” said Kristina Roth, senior counsel for the Amnesty International USA criminal justice program. “Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling in this case, President Biden can and should commute all federal death sentences. “

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015, two years after he and his older brother, who has since died, used pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure 260 in an attack near the finish line of the Marathon de Boston. After a six-week federal trial, Tsarnaev was found guilty of 30 counts, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction.

But last year, a federal appeals court overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The Boston-based United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that the trial court had improperly selected jurors for possible bias and erred in excluding evidence that Tsarnaev had been influenced by his older brother.

Tsarnaev, 27, will serve multiple life sentences in federal prison if he ultimately escapes the death penalty.

Former President TrumpDonald Trump North Carolina Senate passes trio of electoral measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Governors of border states rebel against Biden immigration chaos MORE asked the Supreme Court in October to overturn the appeal court’s decision and reimpose the death penalty on Tsarnaev, and judges agreed in March to take up the government’s appeal.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden sharply criticized Trump for his decision to resume federal executions in July 2019 after a 17-year moratorium.

“Since 1973, more than 160 people in this country have been sentenced to death and subsequently cleared,” Biden tweeted after the Trump administration announced it would resume the death penalty. “Because we cannot guarantee that these cases are resolved correctly every time, we must eliminate the death penalty. “

Under Trump, the US government carried out 13 executions at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, 10 of them last year. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, last year marked the first time the federal government carried out more executions than all the states combined, although the group noted that part of the disparity was due to the delay. legal proceedings due to the pandemic.

States are free to establish their own death penalty policies as long as they comply with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and other federal limits. To date, 23 states and Washington, DC, have abolished the death penalty, and the governors of three other states have imposed moratoria, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Tsarnaev affair was seen as a first test of whether the Biden administration would break with Trump and follow through on the president’s declared opposition to the death penalty, a position that made Biden the first U.S. president to act. ‘publicly oppose this practice.

Opponents of the death penalty were encouraged when Merrick garlandMerrick Garland Senate Judicial Democrats demand that DOJ deliver Trump Garland obstruction note overturn Trump-era asylum decisions What Happened to Merrick Garland? AFTER, during his confirmation hearings this year for the attorney general, expressed doubts about the death penalty and its disparate impact on people of color.

“I had a big hiatus from the death penalty,” Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. “I expect the president to give direction in this area and if so, I think it is not at all unlikely that we will revert to the previous policy.”

But some supporters of the repeal said this week’s request to the Supreme Court highlighted the growing mismatch between Biden’s rhetoric and the actions of his administration.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) capital punishment project, has expressed frustration that the White House has not imposed a moratorium on capital prosecutions.

“When Merrick Garland was asked about a moratorium on the death penalty during his confirmation hearing, he provided guidance from the White House on a moratorium policy on death penalty cases,” she said. declared. “Unfortunately, to date there have been no such directives despite President Biden’s campaign pledge to work to end the federal death penalty. “

In the DOJ’s brief to the Supreme Court on Monday, the department made it clear that Biden would maintain his predecessor’s support for the reinstatement of the death penalty against Tsarnaev.

“The jury carefully considered each of the respondent’s crimes and determined that the death penalty was justified for the horrors he personally inflicted – planting a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a promising child and young student, and sending many more to a life of unimaginable suffering, ”reads the 48-page brief from the Department of Justice.

“This determination of 12 conscientious jurors deserves the respect and reinstatement by this Court,” he adds.

A White House spokesman told The Hill that “the president believes the department should go back to its previous practice and not carry out executions.” However, the spokesperson also added that the DOJ “has independence regarding such decisions”.

The DOJ declined to comment.

The administration’s current position has disappointed some opponents of the death penalty.

“While the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Justice Department, the president’s influence carries a lot of weight in helping the department make the right decision,” said Sakira Cook, senior director of the reform program. of Justice at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“President Biden can do more to end this cruel, ineffective and irreversible punishment once and for all,” she said. “The president has the power to keep his campaign promises and to effect progressive political change in this area through executive action. ”

Some death penalty policy experts have said they believe the issue remains a priority for the Biden administration, but is taking a back seat to bigger concerns like the coronavirus pandemic and dealing with the economic recovery.

Changing the US approach to the death penalty could also have political consequences for Biden.

After Trump eroded the traditional firewall between the White House and the DOJ, the Biden administration sought to restore it, including giving the DOJ the independence necessary to take legal positions unpopular with some Democrats.

It would also be “politically dangerous” for Biden to name a high profile defendant like Tsarnaev or Charleston Church gunman Dylann Roof to take a stand against the death penalty, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. .

Yet at the same time, the United States could show moral leadership and reaffirm its commitment to human rights by putting into practice Biden’s repudiation of the death penalty, he added.

“President Biden seems very interested in assuring American allies that America is back. … Our European allies universally regard the death penalty as a violation of human rights, ”said Dunham. “So keeping the president’s campaign promise would be an important step in assuring American allies around the world that America is in fact back.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the next quarter in the case, United States v Tsarnaev, n ° 20-443.

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Mentally ill and condemned to death Wed, 16 Jun 2021 13:11:08 +0000

This article was produced through the NPR Next generation /Texas Watcher The Print Scholars Program, a new collaboration designed to provide mentorship and hands-on training to student journalists and recent graduates interested in a career in investigative journalism.

Jennifer Toon is used to sharing intimate glimpses of difficult experiences with Texas lawmakers. A member of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Toon frequently visits the Legislature to support bills that address the intersections between mental health and criminal justice. But talking about Bill 140, which deals with capital punishment and people with mental illness, was different. “Boy, I think testifying on HB 140 has been the most nervous of all the bills I have testified about,” she says, recounting her experience this spring. “It’s hard – because of that stigma and that cultural understanding of mental health – to go out there and say, I’m a person with a mental health problem. “

HB 140 was the the third bill of his kind go through the House committee in four years. It would exempt from the death penalty a person with proven schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder if he was in the midst of a crisis when he committed his offense. In short: it would prevent Texas from executing critically ill defendants convicted of a capital felony. Although the measure was passed by State House this session, it was not the subject of a Senate committee hearing.

Toon, who suffers from borderline personality disorder, has been incarcerated twice for a total of 19 years for offenses committed while suffering mental health crises. Since her release in 2018, she says she feels the need to share her lived experience and humanize the dialogue within the legislative process. Despite her nerves, she got up from her chair at the Capitol in April, ran a hand over the back of her dress shirt to make sure the gray fabric was still tucked into her brown leather belt and blue jeans. , and approached the stand.

“I felt really personal about it,” she says of her testimony. “I know what it’s like to be out of my mind. … I might not be on death row and it wasn’t part of my criminal justice experience, but, you know, who can say it wouldn’t have been if my seizures weren’t hadn’t been worse? “

Jennifer Toon in the Texas State Capitol. Courtesy of Jennifer Toon

Texas executed 33 people since 2017 – more than any other state – and has a long the story of conviction people with serious mental illnesses to death. Advocates and organizations fighting for criminal justice reform say legislative loopholes make it more likely that a defendant’s mental illness will not be fully reflected in jury deliberations.

The American Bar Association condemned execute defendants who were mentally ill at the time of their offense. The Supreme Court of the United States has argued that the accused should not be executed if they do not understand the context of their death, and in 2002 not allowed the execution people who had an “intellectual disability” at the time of their offense. But the Supreme Court does not have clearly define what constitutes reasonable understanding or intellectual disability, and states, such as Texas, Indiana and Tennessee, continue to send mentally disturbed defendants to death row. Bills similar to HB 140 were introduced in Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and South Dakota, but only Ohio adopted a to prohibit.


Scott panetti started showing symptoms of mental illness in his late teens. “His family were very worried about him,” said Jim Marcus, a lawyer well versed in capital affairs and a former colleague of one of Panetti’s lawyers. In the 13 years preceding his arrest for capital murder, Panetti ride a bike inside and outside mental hospitals in Texas and Wisconsin. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. His symptoms included the development of a military alter ego named Sergeant Ranahan. “It was in Sergeant Ranahan that, you know, he committed the crime,” Marcus said. “It’s a product of his mental illness.”

The story of Panetti is a often cited drawing from Texas’ say again failure recognize the presence of serious mental illness in criminal cases, brought to life by the Kerr County Court’s decision to allow Panetti to represent himself at trial, and his subsequent arrival in a cowboy hat. Despite Panetti’s diagnosis and attempts to subpoena the Pope and John F. Kennedy at his trial, the court declared him competent to stand trial and sentenced him to death. The states say again attempts to execute him have led to multiple stays and, to this day, he remains on death row despite his belief that his execution is the product of a conspiracy.

As is the case with many defendants with serious mental illness, Panetti’s lawyers were unable to subsequently prove a defense of madness because he appeared to have moments of clarity and prosecutors argued that he was faking his illness. An insanity defense, which questions whether the defendant understands the difference between right and wrong, relies on a defendant’s intellectual capacity rather than their mental state. Because individuals whose crime arose as a result of a severe mental crisis often recognize the details of the crime they committed after their psychosis is resolved, an insanity defense rarely succeeds.

“You can intellectually understand that something is against the law and not have the ability to control it or control the way you think,” explains Toon. “It’s kind of like saying to a person with diabetes while going through insulin shock, ‘Well, you know, control it.’ Well, yeah, it doesn’t work that way.

HB 140 would have created a law recognizing “diminished capacity” during the sentencing phase; an accused would, if convicted of a capital offense, be sentenced to life without parole. “What HB 140 recognizes is that there are the Scott Panettis of the world who are gravely mentally ill,” Marcus said.

Without legislation, the inclusion of an individual’s mental illness in court proceedings is done on a case-by-case basis. Coincidentally, the testimony for HB 140 took place less than a week after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled to change Raymond Riles ‘death sentence to life imprisonment for Riles’ schizophrenia. Marcus is one of Riles’ attorneys, who had lingered on death row for more than 45 years. He was first convicted in 1976, two years in the Supreme Court ruled that juries should consider mitigating evidence– like serious mental illness – in their deliberations. During his trial, defense attorneys for Riles argued for an insanity defense, but the prosecution insisted he was faking his symptoms. His case then entered a lengthy appeal process that locked him in solitary confinement on death row for decades.

On June 9, just days after the legislative session ended with HB 140 still blocked in the Senate, Riles was sentenced to life in prison.

If a bill like HB 140 had been law when Riles was first convicted, Marcus says, Riles would likely have been sentenced to life without parole in the original trial. “In theory, not all murders are murder punishable by death,” says Marcus. “It’s completely discretionary.” A prosecutor must determine whether he wants to charge murder as aggravated assault, murder or capital murder – the latter opens the door to the death penalty, which is also generally more expensive. “The prosecutor has to decide that it’s really worth it. It’s worth spending an extra million dollars in this case to give this guy a lethal injection rather than putting him in jail for the rest of his natural life.

But Texas has historically been “tough on crime” and changing the narrative around punishment, Toon says, is easier said than done. Greg Hansch, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas, has assembled a coalition of criminal justice, mental health and faith advocates to support HB 140 and similar measures. He says these bills have been blocked largely because “there is a feeling in our legislature – a strong feeling – that policymakers and others should support blue.” Those registered in opposition to HB 140 this session are primarily law enforcement entities: Smith County District Attorney’s Office, Tarrant County District Attorney, Dallas Police Association, Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU), the Texas Municipal Police Association, and the Game Warden Peace Officers Association.

Asked for comment, the Tarrant County DA office said their opposition stems from a feeling that capital cases already consider reduced capacity in trials, and that HB 140 has allegedly created an undue defense. Ray Hunt, of the HPOU, said he respects juries and trusts the current system. Still, Marcus says juries are assigned to death penalty caseswho need additional screeningtender to be skeptical of mental illness as a mitigating factor when considering the crime.

Hansch is optimistic that a bill like HB 140 will eventually pass. The intention behind the death penalty, Toon notes, is to create a sense of justice for the victim and to hold the person who committed the crime to account. “People with severe mental illness,” she says, “can die without ever knowing what happened, what they did. So where is the justice in this? I don’t believe this is fairness.

This program is made possible by donations from Roxanne Elder in memory of her mother, journalist and journalism professor Virginia Stephenson Elder, Vincent LoVoi in honor of Jim Marston and Annette LoVoi, and other generous donors.

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Biden administration calls for death sentence on Boston Marathon bomber Tue, 15 Jun 2021 15:11:00 +0000

BOSTON (Reuters) – The US Department of Justice has urged the Supreme Court to restore the death penalty to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, despite President Joe Biden’s declared opposition to capital punishment.

FILE PHOTO: Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this file photo presented as evidence by the US Attorney’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts, March 23, 2015. US Attorney’s Office in Boston / Document via Reuters / Files

The department, in a 48-page brief filed Monday evening, argued that a lower court wrongly overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence and ordered a new trial to determine the sentence he deserved for committing with his brother. elder attack which killed three people and injured over 260 others.

The filing marked the latest gap between the political views of Biden, a Democrat who has said he wants to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and the Justice Department, whose independence he has pledged to promote.

“The jury carefully considered each of the respondent’s crimes and determined that the death penalty was justified for the horrors he personally inflicted,” Acting General Counsel Elizabeth Prelogar said in the Department of Justice brief. Justice.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the Justice Department “had independence over such decisions,” but added that Biden believed the federal government should not carry out executions.

“President Biden has made it clear that he is deeply concerned about the consistency of the death penalty with the core values ​​of our sense of justice and fairness,” Bates added.

In overturning Tsarnaev’s death sentence, the Boston-based 1st US Court of Appeals ruled in July 2020 that the trial judge “failed” in the selection of jurors for potential bias as a result. the ubiquitous media coverage of the bombing. He ordered a new trial on the sentence he should receive for the crimes carrying the death penalty for which he was convicted.

Tsarnaev is an American citizen born in Kyrgyzstan.

David Patton, Tsarnaev’s lawyer, argued that the US government should allow his client to serve life in prison. Patton did not respond to a request for comment.

Former Republican President Donald Trump’s Justice Department launched the government’s appeal against the 1st Circuit decision, and the Supreme Court agreed in March to take up the case. He will hear arguments and render a decision during his next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2022.

Tsarnaev, now 27, and his brother, Tamerlan, precipitated five days of panic in Boston when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013 – tearing the compact crowd apart and causing many people to lose legs – then tried to flee the city.

In the following days, they also killed a policeman, Sean Collier. Tsarnaev’s brother died after a shootout with the police.

In 2015, jurors found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved to be executed for a bomb he planted that killed 8-year-old Martin Richard. and Lingzi Lu, 23, Chinese exchange student. Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was also killed.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham

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Tennessee should follow in Virginia’s footsteps by abolishing the death penalty Mon, 14 Jun 2021 23:00:27 +0000

Recently, the governor of Virginia signed a law approved by the Virginia legislature that abolished the death penalty in Virginia.

This event made me reflect on his experience with the death penalty.

In 2011, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun, visited Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville for a weekend. Following his presentations, I read his two books, “Dead Man Walking” and “The Death of Innocence”, started researching first degree murder and the death penalty and started visiting on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

This article is only intended for adults convicted of first degree murder since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.

I have identified over 3,000 people who have been convicted of first degree murder in Tennessee. 2,836 are adults. 193 people were sentenced to death. Only 87 people were sentenced to death.

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Federal judge won’t stop next executions in South Carolina Sun, 13 Jun 2021 17:50:41 +0000


FILE – This March 2019 file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections, shows the state’s electric chair in Columbia, SC Members of South Carolina may soon be debating whether to restart the state’s stuck death penalty with the electric chair and the opportunity to add a firing squad to the methods of execution. The State House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 approved a bill that would allow sentenced inmates to choose death by being shot in the heart by several snipers. (Kinard Lisbon / South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, file)

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – A federal judge on Friday refused to stop the upcoming executions of two South Carolina prisoners who are expected to die later this month under the state’s recently revised death penalty law .

U.S. District Judge Bryan Harwell has ruled to let the executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens continue after their lawyers argued in court that the state had not exhausted all methods of procuring drugs through lethal injection.

Their executions were slated for less than a month after the passage of a new law requiring convicts to choose between electrocution or firing squads if lethal injecting drugs are not available. The law aims to resume executions after an involuntary 10-year hiatus that the state attributes to an inability to procure the drugs.

Prison officials say they still can’t get hold of lethal injection drugs and have yet to form a firing squad, meaning Sigmon and Owens would die in the electric chair. State, 109 years old.

Lawyers for the two have argued that death from electrocution is cruel and unusual, saying the new law pushes the state toward less humane methods of execution.

In his Friday order, the judge wrote that the men had not clearly demonstrated that the electrocution violated the Eighth Amendment, citing more than a century of federal court precedents. Additionally, they failed to show that lethal injection death using a single dose of the drug pentobarbital “would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain,” Harwell wrote.

Harwell’s refusal marks a second blow against the inmates in their legal attempts to obtain a stay. A state judge evaluating a trial over the new death penalty law also refused to stop executions earlier this week. The prisoners are also asking the South Carolina Supreme Court for stays.

Lawyers for the state have argued that the US Supreme Court has never ruled electrocution unconstitutional. State prosecutors said the federal challenge duplicated similar claims made in a lawsuit in state court and that prisoners could not continue to repeatedly delay their executions through lawsuits.

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Sigmon and Owens have both run out of traditional appeals in recent months, leaving the state Supreme Court to fix and then suspend their executions after the prison agency said it still had no injecting drugs. lethal.

The South Carolina Supreme Court reset Sigmon’s execution to June 18 after prison officials indicated the state’s electric chair was ready for use. The court predicted Owens’ death a week later, on June 25.

Sigmon, 63, was convicted in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in Greenville County.

Owens, 43, was first sentenced to death in 1999 for the shooting murder two years earlier of a convenience store clerk in an armed robbery, also in Greenville County. He changed his legal name to Khalil Divine Black Sun Allah in 2015, according to court documents.

South Carolina is one of eight states to still use the electric chair and four to allow a firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Prison officials have not given a timeline for when the firing squad will be operational, although they said they were studying how other states are handling their squads.

The last execution in South Carolina was in 2011, and its deadly injection drug consignment expired two years later. There are 37 prisoners awaiting death in South Carolina, all of them male.

© Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved

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