August 11


Oklahoma Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty for Texas Man

An Oklahoma prosecutor has filed court documents saying he will seek the death penalty for a Texas man in the stomping death of an acquaintance.

Court records show Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed a bill of particulars Aug. 1 against 29-year-old Joseph Alliniece of Missouri City, Texas.

Alliniece is charged with 1st-degree murder in the April death of 27-year-old Brittany Young at Young's apartment in Norman.

In court documents, Alliniece says he has no recollection of what happened the day Young died.

Mashburn's filing says the crime "was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," that Alliniece has a prior felony conviction for violence, is a continuing threat to society and that he knowingly created a great risk of death to more than 1 person.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA----(new) execution date

South Dakota sets execution for man in prison guard's death

A man who pleaded guilty to the 2011 killing of a South Dakota prison guard is set to be executed in the fall, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement that Rodney Berget, 56, is scheduled to be executed between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3. Jackley's office said the warden of the state penitentiary will choose the specific time and date, which will be announced within 48 hours of the execution.

Circuit Court Judge Bradley Zell issued a warrant of execution for Berget, who would be the 1st person put to death in South Dakota in roughly 6 years.

"We will be ready to carry out the order of the court," Department of Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk said in a statement.

Berget pleaded guilty in April 2012 to killing Ronald "R.J." Johnson in a failed prison escape attempt in April 2011 along with fellow inmate Eric Robert, who was executed in 2012.

An attorney for Berget wasn't immediately available to comment to The Associated Press. Berget's mental status and death penalty eligibility have played a key role in court delays.

Berget in 2016 appealed his death sentence, but later asked to withdraw the appeal against the advice of his lawyers, the Argus Leader reported.

"I want this to be the last day I appear in court," Berget said at a September 2016 hearing.

The last execution in South Dakota was the lethal injection of Donald Moeller on Oct. 30, 2012, for the killing of Becky O'Connell.

State Department of Corrections policy says lethal injections involve 1 to 3 drugs, depending on drug availability and the date of the prisoner's conviction. State law makes a drug supplier confidential.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers have distribution policies that prohibit the sale of their medicines for non-therapeutic uses. The "secrecy" provision in South Dakota law raises serious questions about how the drugs are obtained, Dunham said.

"The big problem is that with secrecy we can't have any assurances," Dunham said. "Given the history of behavior of many of the states that have carried out executions, 'Trust me I'm the government,' is not a satisfactory explanation."

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA----impending execution

Judge won't stop Carey Dean Moore execution set for Tuesday

The execution of Carey Dean Moore will go forward Tuesday after the decision of a federal judge on Friday afternoon.

Anti-death penalty supporters had hope, but U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf dashed that hope by rejecting drug manufacturer Fresenius Kabi's request to at least temporarily stop the use of two drugs the company believes the state intends to use Tuesday.

The company immediately appealed Kopf's decision to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is standing by and will not be surprised by the appeal, said attorney Mark Christensen, of the law firm Cline Williams and representing Fresenius Kabi.

Kopf said although Moore was not a party to the lawsuit, filed this week, he was at the center of it, and common decency required that he not be forgotten. He has made his wishes to go ahead with the execution known by no longer fighting it and asking his attorneys not to interfere.

He also took into account the public interest, the judge said, saying that weighed heavily in favor of the state.

"Many people of good faith object to the death penalty," Kopf said. "However, the electoral processes of Nebraska have worked as they were intended."

Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post had argued Fresenius Kabi failed to show irreparable harm to its company, its reputation and business relationships.

The judge said he did not believe the company's reputation would be irreparably harmed if the execution proceeds using the drugs cisatracurium and potassium chloride, which the company believes is from its supplies. Kopf called the harm to Fresenius Kabi if he rejected the temporary restraining order "vanishingly small to none at all."

But the state of Nebraska would be "greatly and irreparably harmed," he said, if he stopped the execution.

"Sure, the plaintiff just might, although it is very doubtful, suffer harm to its reputation," he said. "But the public interest is far broader than corporate self-interest. In this case, it has everything to do with the functioning of a democracy."

He concluded there was no evidence that the cisatracurium to be used was manufactured or distributed by the company, although the state has not denied it.

Department of Corrections Director Scott Frakes said in an affidavit the drugs were obtained from a licensed pharmacy in the United States, and the department did not circumvent Fresenius Kabi's distribution controls. They were not obtained through fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, he said.

He also said the state has no other way to buy lethal injection drugs that comply with state law and the department's execution protocol.

Frakes said he had tried to purchase additional execution drugs from the supplier of the current substances and that supplier is unwilling to provide them.

The department's supply of potassium chloride will expire Aug. 31. Frakes said he has no other source or supplier for the drugs to be used next week or any time in the future.

It is unknown how that would affect any potential execution of Jose Sandoval, convicted of killing five people inside a Norfolk U.S. Bank branch, and who has also been notified the same drugs would be used to put him to death. No execution date has been set in his case.

The drug company said in court documents that stopping the use of its drugs would not negate the state's death penalty. Alternative methods do exist.

Fresenius Kabi also argued Frakes' authority to procure drugs for lethal injection does not give him a license to violate the rights of others.

The department has not revealed the sources of its lethal injection drugs, despite a district court order, which it has appealed.

State inventories of the drug show the potassium chloride, which could be used to stop Moore's heart, are in 30-milliliter vials. The company alleged it is the only one with vials of the drug distributed in that size.

Christensen said it should be no surprise, after multiple communications, that Fresenius Kabi objected to the use of its drugs and was ready to take legal action to prevent the use of its drugs.

"If the (state) had been upfront and honest about their intentions, this lawsuit would have been filed months ago and the case decided without a pending execution that makes everything more dire and urgent," Christensen said.

Steve Helgeland, the youngest son of Maynard Helgeland, 1 of Moore's victims, lauded the judge's decision.

"We are grateful the judge ruled the way he did," he said. "We are hopeful it will allow us to move on and close this chapter."

Helgeland and his older brother Kenny, both of whom live in South Dakota, will be in Lincoln on Tuesday. Kenny said he plans to be a witness and will be wearing a T-shirt that says, "Happy Cab 63," on the front. That was the company their father worked for and the number of the cab he was driving when Moore killed him.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Nebraska commended Fresenius Kabi for taking action to ensure its products were not obtained illegally or used for illicit purposes.

"Had the Nebraska Department of Corrections conducted their grave business in compliance with our strong tradition of open government, this action may have been avoided," said Executive Director Danielle Conrad.

She said the organization will continue its work to oppose the death penalty on all fronts, including "defending Nebraska???s proud tradition of open government as the state seeks to carry out its ... grave and irrevocable function."

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Judge Rejects Drugmaker's Attempt to Block Nebraska Execution

A federal judge on Friday refused to block the State of Nebraska from carrying out its 1st lethal injection despite a German pharmaceutical company's lawsuit that says the state illicitly obtained its drugs.

The judge, Richard G. Kopf of the District of Nebraska, denied the company's request to temporarily block state prison officials from executing Carey Dean Moore, one of the nation's longest-serving death row inmates. Mr. Moore is scheduled to die Tuesday in Nebraska's 1st execution since 1997 with a combination of drugs that has never been tried.

Mr. Moore, 60, who was convicted of killing 2 cabdrivers 5 days apart in 1979, has stopped fighting the state's efforts to execute him. Judge Kopf said granting the drug company's request would "frustrate the will of the people," referring to the 61 % of Nebraska voters who chose to reinstate capital punishment in 2016 after lawmakers abolished it.

"I will not allow the plaintiff to frustrate the wishes of Mr. Moore and the laws of the state of Nebraska," Judge Kopf said during the hearing.

Lawyers for the drug company, Fresenius Kabi, filed a lawsuit this week arguing that state officials improperly obtained at least 1 of the company's drugs. Mark Christensen, 1 of the lawyers, said the company planned to appeal.

In Nevada, a judge indefinitely postponed an execution last month after the drugmaker Alvogen filed a similar lawsuit over one of its products.

Mr. Moore is scheduled to be executed with a combination of 4 drugs: the sedative diazepam, commonly known as Valium, to render him unconscious; fentanyl citrate, a powerful synthetic opioid; cisatracurium besylate to induce paralysis and halt his breathing; and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Fresenius Kabi argues that it manufactured the state's supply of potassium chloride and possibly the cisatracurium. Nebraska state officials have refused to identify the source of their execution drugs.

Fresenius Kabi said Nebraska's use of its drugs would damage its reputation and business relationships. The company said it takes no position on capital punishment, but strongly opposes the use of its products for use in executions.

(source: Associated Press)


National Anti-Death Penalty Advocate Speaks Out Against Moore Execution

A national anti-death penalty advocate is questioning Gov. Pete Rickett's ability to be a 'moral leader' by continuing to support the upcoming execution of Carey Dean Moore.

Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known advocate against the death penalty, is known best as the spiritual advisor for Patrick Sonnier, a Louisiana inmate who was executed in 1984 after being convicted of killing 2 teenagers.

Prejean went on to write a novel about her experience with Sonnier and Louisiana's execution process in "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty." The book was later adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

Prejean is familiar with the controversies surrounding Nebraska's death penalty, ranging from Rickett's personal efforts to override a 2015 repeal of the death penalty to a lack of transparency regarding where the lethal drugs being used in Moore's upcoming execution are coming from.

"In all my time working with the death penalty in the United States, I don't think I've ever seen a governor like Ricketts go to such extreme costs or trouble to have a human being executed," Prejean said.

Prejean highlighted a 2016 study by Creighton economist Ernest Goss, which found that Nebraska's maintenance of the death penalty cost the state $14.6 million annually, with each additional death penalty arraignment costing the state around $1.5 million.

"...It baffles me, it just really baffles me," she said.

Prejean has also been outspoken in the lack of transparency regarding the drugs to be used in Moore's upcoming execution. A lack of transparency and unwillingness from state officials to identify the source of the drugs to be used in the upcoming execution has led a German pharmaceutical company to file a lawsuit against the state and the Department of Correctional Services.

The company, Fresenius Kabi, suspects the Nebraska State Penitentiary pharmacy is in possession of 2 of the company's drugs, potassium chloride and cisatracurium. The company questions whether the drugs were acquired legally.

A federal judge ruled Friday afternoon the state could proceed with plans to execute Moore Tuesday, despite objections from a German drug manufacturer their drug was obtained improperly. The state denies that allegation.

Prejean said she questions whether Nebraska can be viewed as a "pro-life" state in the midst of controversy surrounding the Moore execution.

"What does it mean for our morality if we say we're pro-life that you could have the life of a human being hanging on such a fine point of a legality around a drug," Prejean said.

Prejean likened the controversy surrounding Moore's execution to a 2015 incident in Oklahoma, where a death row inmate was issued a stay of execution due to last-minute questions by the state's governor regarding the chemicals being used for lethal injection.

"We have a terrible problem in the United States where we have a Supreme Court that is allowing states to experiment with different drugs to kill people and there is hardly any transparency in that," Prejean said.

Ultimately, Prejean said she questions the benefits and importance of the upcoming execution, and whether the people of the state will actually be safer.

"'An important tool,' Gov. Ricketts calls it," Prejean said. "A tool for what? To show that we're capable as a state of imitating the worst possible violence under the worst possible conditions, the most pre-meditated death of a human being you can imagine?"

"What's going to happen after the execution, after Tuesday, is anybody really safer? Has it really helped the state? All these things come to mind when I think of this and what's about to happen in Nebraska," she said. "Nothing will be accomplished by it, and that's hardly what you call pro-life"

NET News tried to reach Gov. Ricketts for comment, but our emails were not answered immediately.



DNA links Nevada prisoner to multiple 1984 cold case murders, including 3 family members, authorities say

Authorities have used DNA to link four cold case murders from 1984 in Colorado to a man already serving time for attempted murder and deadly assault charges in Nevada.

Prosecutors from Arphahoe and Jefferson Counties as well as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper announced Friday that investigators used DNA matching to connect four brutal murders in the state -- including a home invasion that left three family members dead -- to 57-year-old Alexander Christoper Ewing, who is currently in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Authorities were able to obtain DNA from Ewing after a change to a Nevada state law that previously prohibited it, Camper said in a news conference.

On Jan. 10, 1984, a man entered the home of 50-year-old Patricia Louise Smith in Lakewood, Colorado, and sexually assaulted and bludgeoned her to death, The Denver Post reported.

6 days later, a man armed with a hammer and a knife entered the Aurora home of Bruce and Debra Bennett and bludgeoned the entire family, killing 3 members, according to The Post.

The killer also sliced Bruce Bennett's neck, raped Debra Bennett and the couple's 7-year-old daughter, Melissa Bennett, The Post reported. The couple's youngest daughter, 3-year-old Vanessa, was beaten in the head and face but survived. Bruce Bennett's mother, Connie Bennett, stumbled upon the gruesome scene the next day and found her granddaughter alive, according to The Post.

The family had just celebrated Melissa Bennett's birthday, The Post reported.

DNA evidence from the scene of the Bennett case was first uploaded into a database in 2001, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said. Almost a decade later, in 2010, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was able to develop a DNA profile from Smith's murder and found that it matched the DNA in the Bennett case, Brauchler said.

A few weeks ago, the state of Nevada uploaded Ewing's DNA to the FBI's national database, and a match with the Smith and Bennett cases came the next day, Camper said.

Smith faces 3 counts of felony murder and 2 counts of violent crime in Jefferson County in connection with Smith's death, Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir said Friday. Formal charges are expected to be filed next week.

"Justice has been delayed, but justice is not going to be denied," Weir said, adding that it's possible that Ewing could face the death penalty in Smith's murder.

Former Arapahoe County District Attorney Jim Peters had obtained an arrest warrant for a John Doe in the Bennetts' murder cases based on the DNA, charging the unknown killer with 18 counts related to the massacre, including six counts of first-degree murder, Brauchler said. It is unclear when authorities will reach a resolution in the Bennett case, Brauchler said.

The prosecutors will file paperwork asking Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to extradite Ewing from Nevada.

The state of Colorado is urging all states to pass laws to obtain DNA from incarcerated inmates to help solve cold cases, authorities said.

"Every state has unsolved cases," Brauchler said. "... Do this for the victims that have gaping holes of crimes that have not been solved."

Ewing is already serving a 40-year prison term in Nevada for 2 counts of attempted murder and 2 counts of assault with a daily weapon, according to The Post.

Several months after the Colorado murders, Ewing entered a home in Kingman, Arizona, through an open door and attacked a man nearly to death with a 20-pound boulder, The Post reported.

Ewing was later arrested by Kingman police on charges of attempted murder, and on Aug. 9, 1984, while being transferred for a trial hearing, he escaped the jail van when it stopped at a gas station for a restroom break, according to The Post.

Ewing then ran into a K-Mart and changed clothes and later that night entered a home in Henderson, Nevada, armed with an ax handle and attacked the couple living there, The Post reported.

Ewing was eventually captured 2 days later after a massive helicopter and foot search, according to The Post. He was convicted by the 8th District Court in Las Vegas in 1985 and is being housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, prison records show.

(source: ABC News)


11 states that have the death penalty haven't used it in more than a decade

Tennessee carried out its first execution since 2009 this month and Nebraska soon may carry out its 1st since 1997. The 2 states underscore the fact that while a majority of jurisdictions in the United States have capital punishment on the books, a considerably smaller number of them use it regularly.

Most states have the death penalty, but significantly fewer use it regularlyOverall, 31 states, the federal government and the U.S. military authorize the death penalty, while 19 states and the District of Columbia do not, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an information clearinghouse that has been critical of capital punishment. But 11 of the states that allow executions - along with the federal government and the U.S. military - haven't had one in at least a decade.

Nebraska, in fact, is among 7 states that have the death penalty but haven't carried out an execution in at least 15 years. New Hampshire hasn't executed an inmate since 1939; the other states in this category are Kansas (last execution in 1965), Wyoming (1992), Colorado and Oregon (both 1997), and Pennsylvania (1999). Executions have occurred somewhat more recently - though still more than a decade ago - in California, Montana, Nevada and North Carolina (all in 2006).

The last federal execution also took place more than 15 years ago, in March 2003. While the U.S. military retains its own authority to carry out executions, it hasn't done so since 1961.

All 11 states that have the death penalty but haven't used it in at least a decade have inmates on death row, as do the federal government and U.S. military. The size of these death row populations ranges from just one inmate each in New Hampshire and Wyoming to 744 in California, which has by far the largest death row in the nation.

California's death row population has increased by nearly 1/3 since 2000California's death row has grown by nearly 100 inmates, or 15%, since January 2006, when it carried out its last execution, and by nearly 30% since 2000, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which tracks death row populations for all states. The increase reflects the fact that California juries have continued to sentence convicted defendants to death even as executions themselves have been on hold in recent years amid legal and political disputes.

One stark reflection of the longtime suspension of capital punishment in California is that executions now rank behind natural causes and suicide as the third most common cause of death for those on death row there, according to data from the state's corrections department. Just 15 of the 128 California death row inmates who have died since 1978 were executed.

The federal government's death row has also grown substantially since the last federal execution. There are currently 63 federal inmates sentenced to death, up from 26 in January 2003 (just before the federal government's most recent execution).

The increases in the number of people on death row in California and at the federal level are notable because they run counter to the national trend. Nationwide, the number of inmates on death row fell 24% between 2000 and 2017, from 3,682 to 2,792, according to the NAACP's figures.

A variety of factors explain this decrease. For one thing, 867 executions were carried out between 2000 and 2017, including 346 in Texas alone, according to a database compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. Many other death row prisoners have died of other causes. Another 78 were removed from death row between 2000 and 2017 because they were exonerated, whether by acquittal, dropped charges or pardons. And the number of new defendants sentenced to death has declined sharply, from 223 in 2000 to just 39 last year.

Legal and political factors have played a prominent role in several of the states that have the death penalty but have not carried out an execution for 10 years or more. In California, for example, courts struck down the state's lethal injection protocol in 2006 and the state did not propose a replacement method until years later. In 2016, California voters approved a ballot initiative intended to speed up the death penalty process.

In Nebraska, the state legislature abolished capital punishment in 2015, only for voters to reinstate it at the ballot box in 2016. That has paved the way for the planned execution of Carey Dean Moore, who was convicted of murdering 2 men in 1979. The execution still may be postponed, however, due to a late court challenge over how the state acquired its lethal injection drugs.

Nebraska's Catholic governor, Pete Ricketts, is a supporter of capital punishment and has vowed to move forward with executions in the state despite Pope Francis' announcement earlier this month that the Catholic Church would oppose the death penalty in all circumstances.


A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law

DeathPenalty mailing list

Reply via email to