Feb. 14


Indiana Supreme Court rules against death row inmate

Indiana's Supreme Court has ruled against death row inmate Roy Ward, stating that the process used to choose the state's new three-drug lethal injection cocktail complies with constitutional law.

Ward challenged the state's lethal injection process, arguing there is a lack of oversight in who picks what is in the "drug cocktail" that would be used to execute him.

The court ruled Tuesday that the Indiana Department of Correction can alter its lethal injection protocols without oversight because the internal procedures are "without the effect of law."

In a unanimous 9-page decision written by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff, the court held that Ward's "constitutional claims necessarily fail."

Goff was named to the court last June, replacing former Justice Robert Rucker.

Ward's Fort Wayne attorney, David Frank, was not immediately available for comment.

Goff pointed out that Ward did not raise an Eighth Amendment cruel-and-unusual punishment argument to the court.

"His Indiana and federal constitutional claims cited only due process violations, which hinged upon whether the Department???s lethal injection protocol amounted to a rule subject to ARPA (Indiana's Administrative Rules and Procedures Act.)"

In 2014, the Department of Correction chose a 3-drug cocktail - including a drug called Brevital - that has not been used in any state or federal execution.

The other two drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

During oral arguments in October, Indiana Attorney General Chief Counsel Stephen Creason told the court that the DOC would not be using Brevital to execute prisoners.

However, "the question going forward," Creason posed to the justices, "is what will the department need to do whenever it identifies a new execution procedure?"

Ward, who was convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County, is 1 of 11 people on death row in Indiana. And of those 11, none has a scheduled execution date.

The Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Ward in June, when the court ruled that the death penalty protocol adopted in May 2014 was unconstitutional and thus "void and without effect."

The Supreme Court unanimously decided in September 2017 to weigh in on the appeal.

Supreme Court Justices Steven H. David and Geoffrey Slaughter were skeptical of Ward's claim.

"The majority of states have not sided with your position," said Justice David to attorney David, referring to Ward's challenge to the process.

Justice Slaughter questioned whether it was appropriate for the court to even hear the case when there is no set date for Ward to be executed by the state.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush, however, said she wanted to look at legal precedent on the issue.

"I look at Court of Appeals opinions and (rulings in) other states," she said, subsequently questioning why there is no set rules on choosing death penalty methods.

She specifically wondered why the Department of Correction would have specific rules on such "mundane topics" as washing bed sheets, but not on the way it chooses a lethal injection drug.

But the issue clearly is not going away, nor is the desire for prosecutors to seek the ultimate punishment.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry seeks the death penalty against Jason Dane Brown.

Police say 28-year-old Brown was in an overturned vehicle in the 6600 block of South Madison Avenue in Homecroft on July 27 when he fired at Southport Police Officer Aaron Allan.

Brown fired more than a dozen shots at the 38-year-old Allan, striking him 11 times as he tried to crawl away, court documents say.

(source: Indianapolis Star)


Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Indiana Death Penalty Protocol----Unanimous ruling removes 1 roadblock to 1st execution since 2009, but state still needs a supplier for necessary chemicals

A legal roadblock to carrying out the death penalty in Indiana has been removed. But it's still not clear when any executions will take place.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in June that Indiana can't execute anyone by lethal injection, because a change in the 3-drug cocktail didn't go through the hearings and public comments required for new state regulations. A unanimous Supreme Court says the change is an internal policy that affects only department employees, so that process doesn't apply.

All but one of Indiana's 9 death row inmates are still pursuing appeals. The execution of the lone exception, Steuben County quadruple murderer Joseph Corcoran, was in limbo even before the Court of Appeals ruling. Corcoran exhausted his appeals nearly two years ago, but Attorney General Curtis Hill's office said last fall the state hasn't been able to acquire the necessary chemicals, even after legislators passed a law ensuring confidentiality for suppliers.

Indiana hasn't carried out an execution since 2009.

(source: WIBC news)


Capital punishment bill won't advance in Iowa Senate

An Iowa Senate bill to reinstate capital punishment in Iowa won't advance in the Legislature's 2018 session.

Senate Study Bill 3134 had been approved Monday by a Senate subcommittee on a 3-2 vote with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. But Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday the bill won't be debated again this week, which means it will fail to meet a key legislative deadline.

"I am going to go on record here on the death penalty: It is not going to be run; I am putting this to rest, " Zaun said. "I don't want to say more than that. I have decided it is not going to be on the agenda on Wednesday or Thursday, so it will not be eligible to move on unless someone wants to vote on it and do an amendment, which I can't control. But in Judiciary, it will not be run."

The Senate subcommittee had supported the reinstatement of capital punishment on Monday after an emotional debate. Supporters had argued for justice after heinous crimes, and opponents warned that executions have historically been racially biased and sometimes sent innocent people to their deaths.

The legislation would have applied to the murder of a law enforcement officer or to cases in which a child is the victim of multiple offenses of kidnap, rape and murder.

But even if the Iowa Senate had passed the death penalty bill this session, it's uncertain whether it could win approval in the House. House Public Safety Committee Chairman Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, recently said there is not enough support to advance expansive capital punishment legislation under House Study Bill 569.

Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965. Except for a passionate debate in the 1990s that followed the brutal killing of 2 workers at the Drake Diner in Des Moines, lawmakers have since generally accepted the idea that Iowa will not execute inmates. That's also meant that people convicted of 1st-degree murder and given life sentences in recent decades have rarely been granted clemency by the state's governors.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Monday showed continued strong support for capital punishment in Iowa, with 58 % in favor and 36 % opposed. The death penalty is especially supported by Republicans, with 72 % in favor. In contrast, Democratic support is less than 1/2, at 43 %, while independents are 58 % in favor.

(source: Des Moines Register)


Iowa death penalty debate laid to rest----Senate leader signals end

The 2018 legislative debate over reinstating the death penalty in Iowa proved to be short-lived.

One day after a sometimes-emotionally charged subcommittee discussion on a bill designed to provide a limited deterrent in situations where someone aged 18 or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor or separately kills a peace officer in the line of duty, a key senator pulled the plug on the topic.

"It's not going to be run. I'm putting it to rest," Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters after Tuesday's committee meeting.

"I don't want to say any more than that. I've decided that it's not going to go on the (Judiciary Committee) agenda either Wednesday or Thursday, so it will not be eligible to move on unless someone wants to do an amendment, which I can't control. But in Judiciary, it will not be run."

A 5-member subcommittee had voted 3-2 on Monday to advance Senate Study Bill 3134 to full committee but opponents wondered then if there would be enough votes to pass it in committee or on the Senate floor, especially in light of the fact that a death-penalty bill in the Iowa House had failed to clear the subcommittee level.

Friday marks the arrival of a self-imposed legislative deadline for non-money bills to clear a standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration this session. Zaun's decision to withhold SSB 3134 from committee consideration means it will fall victim to the "funnel" system and will be tabled for the 2018 session.

Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, who has introduced a limited death penalty bill since in each General Assembly since 1997, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome.

"That's too bad. I'll just keep reintroducing it and we'll see what happens. I still think it's appropriate. I think it's the right thing to do and that's the way the process works," Behn said. "Look, I've been doing this for years and you can't get mad, you just have to say if that's the current situation then the best I can do is bring it up again next year."

(source: The Gazette)


Prosecutors intend to seek death penalty in case of murdered Clinton officer

Missouri state prosecutors have announced that they intend to seek the death penalty for the man suspected of shooting and killing a Clinton police officer in August 2017.

Ian McCarthy is charged with 1 count of 1st-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action after Clinton police officer Gary Michael was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

Prosecutors say they intend to prove 5 statutory aggravating circumstances of the incident.

(source: KCTV news)


Death penalty trial may be delayed in slaying of 19-year-old Tulsa woman

The capital trial for a man charged in the March strangulation death of a 19-year-old woman in southeast Tulsa could be moved back while both sides continue to gather evidence.

Gregory Jerome Epperson, 42, could face the death penalty in the homicide of Kelsey Tennant, which occurred March 20 inside an apartment Tennant shared with her boyfriend, Riley Allen. Epperson also is charged with felony assault and battery related to allegations he tried to kill Allen during a physical struggle.

The case marks the 1st time the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office has asked for consideration of capital punishment since filing charges in the 2012 Good Friday shootings.

In a status hearing Monday afternoon, District Judge Doug Drummond said he wasn't yet going to officially move Epperson's trial, currently set for mid-May, to another date but wanted to set aside the 2 weeks beginning Aug. 27 as an alternative.

Drummond said he did not believe it would be realistic to start the trial in May due to outstanding evidence exchange obligations and also the need for both sides to argue over dozens of pretrial motions the defense filed Friday.

Lead defense attorney Shena Burgess said she intends to file additional motions leading up to the trial and noted she is still in need of several items of evidence related to prior criminal action against her client. Epperson was charged with murder in 2015, but the case was later dismissed, and prosecutors said Monday they will provide evidence in that case to the defense in anticipation of using it in the current case.

Drummond ordered the state to respond to the already-filed defense motions by March 22, and a hearing is set for March 29.

(source: Tulsa World)


Judge dismisses ACLU lawsuit filed over referendum on behalf of Nebraska death-row inmates

A Lancaster County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of death-row inmates challenging the referendum that reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska.

In a 14-page decision Monday, District Judge John Colborn agreed with attorneys for the state who argued that there was an equally serviceable remedy available to those inmates: post-conviction motions in their criminal cases.

The ACLU had filed the lawsuit in December, asking the court to block the state from carrying out executions for those whose death sentences were temporarily eliminated when lawmakers repealed Nebraska's death penalty in 2015.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson applauded Colborn's decision, saying the opinion did a thorough analysis of important case law supporting the dismissal of the ACLU's claims.

He said the lawsuit had asked the court to "override the will of the people expressed in the referendum." But those who have committed brutal murders were legally sentenced to death, and the Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld their sentences.

"This office is committed to our legal duty to enforce the death sentences ordered by Nebraska's Courts," Peterson said.

The Department of Correctional Services already has notified 2 of the men - Jose Sandoval and Carey Dean Moore - of the drugs that would be used to carry out the punishment given to them for their crimes, a necessary precursor to asking for a death warrant.

ACLU attorneys had alleged the ballot initiative violated the state constitution's separation of powers and should be invalidated because Ricketts was a driving force behind it.

They argued that state lawmakers effectively commuted the sentences of those on death row by repealing the death penalty and that Ricketts violated the separation of powers act when he used the referendum power reserved for the people of the state to reinstate it.

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office countered that the time to raise procedural questions about the referendum was before votes were cast, that death-row inmates could file more proper motions for post-conviction relief in their criminal cases, and that seven of the 10 men on death row already had pending proceedings in state court or open appeals to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Lawmakers will consider - again - whether to abolish the death penalty in Utah

After a push to end Utah's death penalty system failed two years ago, lawmakers will again consider whether to abolish capital punishment.

HB379 would prohibit Utah prosecutors from seeking the death penalty after May 8. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, still would allow for the nine men currently on death row to be executed. It also would allow prosecutors to continue to seek executions in current cases - so long as they file their intent to do so before the May deadline.

Utah legislators came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2016 - but the bill never reached the House floor before the midnight deadline on the last night of session. The issue was not considered during last year's session.

When asked for comment about the bill Tuesday, Froerer said he would hold a news conference about the legislation later this week.

Groups such as American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, Libertas Institute and Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty have voiced support for abolishing Utah's death penalty.

If legislators pass the bill, Utah would join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in outlawing capital punishment.

Lawmakers also are considering another death penalty-related bill, HB70, which would request that legislative auditors study the costs of capital punishment versus a life-without-parole sentence.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimated in 2012 that over a 20-year period, it costs an additional $1.6 million to handle appeals and costs of a death sentence.

But bill sponsor Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said that legislative study was "very brief" and did not include many of the costs incurred by state and county personnel.

Since 2010, Utah prosecutors have filed 119 aggravated murder cases, according to Utah court data. Such cases can result in punishments of 25 years to life, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.

Utah lawmaker wants extensive study of death penalty costs vs. life without parole sentence Utah lawmaker wants extensive study of death penalty costs vs. life without parole sentence

Another push to end Utah's death penalty is likely for the 2018 legislative session

2 death row inmates need new attorneys - but will anyone sign up? 2 death row inmates need new attorneys - but will anyone sign up?

Only 1 of those cases - a retrial of a 1993 case - resulted in a death sentence.

Of the 9 currently on Utah's death row, 2 were originally convicted as long ago as 1985. All but 1 of the rest were convicted before 1999, although 1 case was retried in 2015 and resulted in a 2nd death sentence. All 9 have ongoing appeals in state or federal court.

The last execution in Utah was carried out in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by firing squad for the 1984 murder of attorney Michael Burdell during Gardner's failed escape attempt from Salt Lake City's 3rd District courthouse.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


What one daughter of a Green River Killer victim says about death penalty

As the daughter of a murder victim, I urge Washington legislators to repeal the death penalty this month. Washington should join Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Mexico, which have all repealed the death penalty since 2007.

In 1990, when I was 16, my mother's body was discovered in a field along Highway 410 near Enumclaw months after her disappearance.

Her case languished as a cold case until 2003, when a suspect was finally named: Gary Ridgway.

As many residents of the Pacific Northwest know, Ridgway was dubbed the Green River Killer, and in 2003 was already in custody for several other murders in the greater Seattle area after being at large for 20 years.

Ridgway agreed to plead guilty to 48 counts of 1st-degree murder in exchange for providing information to law enforcement about the murders. As a result, he received a sentence of life without possibility of parole, which means he will die in prison. He is being held at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The Green River Task Force and the King County Prosecutor's Office were faced with a gargantuan amount of evidence in the murders Ridgway committed.

Their decision to offer Ridgway life without parole released my family from the painful lack of closure - of not knowing who killed our mother, 36-year-old Marti Reeves, and from the decades of appeals and uncertainty that go along with the death penalty.

Many family members of the victims of murder live with the reality that their case might never be solved.

Despite what Ridgway did to my mother, and the pain he wreaked on me, my family and our community, I have never, not even for a minute, wanted him to receive the death penalty. Retribution in the case of murder does absolutely nothing to undo the act.

Punishing my mother's murderer has absolutely nothing to do with her death; Ridgway's fate is separate from hers. His execution would never bring her back or take away the suffering.

If family members of murder victims want retribution, what is harder for the criminal: death or lifelong accountability? Execution is arguably an easier fate.

If Washington joins those in other states who have abolished the death penalty, the sentences of Washington's 8 death row inmates will be converted to life without parole, and they will die in prison.

One recent study by Seattle University found we would save millions of tax dollars by replacing the death penalty with life without parole - money we could spend improving the quality of life for victims and communities and solving more murders.

Each year in Washington, far too many homicides go unsolved due to a lack of resources. Having waited months before my mother's body was found, then over a decade for the killer to be identified, I know how difficult it is to wait for justice.

No family should ever have to go without it.

Law enforcement officials are faced with an immense challenge and they need more resources and training to solve more homicides, more quickly. Murder victims' families also have needs, including financial assistance for burials, grief counseling and medical care.

Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on carrying out the death penalty, we should improve victims' services and direct resources toward unsolved murder investigations and prisoner rehabilitation.

Victims deserve better than the hollow promise of another death. It's time for Washington to join the states working for solutions to violent crime, not perpetuating it with the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Nova Reeves, a San Francisco Bay Area resident, has been involved with California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the Northern California ACLU's campaign to end the death penalty----thenewstribune.com)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu

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