Ohio Anesthesiologist testifies: “This was not a humane execution.”

Despite arguments that Dennis McGuire would experience agony and suffering due to the lethal injection protocol, the state of Ohio executed him on January 16, 2014. The execution took an abnormally long time and involved McGuire gasping throughout the process. An expert doctor is now testifying that Mr. McGuire did in fact suffer from the lethal injection process.

See the website of Ohioans to Stop Executions for a summary and links to more information.

Innocence Project Seeks Ethics Probe of Prosecutor in Willingham Case

The Innocence Project has asked the State Bar of Texas to investigate the prosecutor in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the deaths of his three children in a 1991 fire.

Jailhouse informant Johnny Webb had testified that Willingham told him he deliberately set the fatal fire, but Webb has varied since then on whether the testimony was true. Now Webb says he lied in exchange for efforts by the prosecutor to reduce Webb’s prison sentence . . . Read this and related articles: The ABA Journal

Thanks to the StandDown Texas Project for alerting us to this development.

Federal Review Stalled After Finding Forensic Errors by FBI Lab Unit Spanned Two Decades

By Spencer S. Hsu

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said. Click here to read the rest of the article, which includes links to related articles, in the Washington Post.

Three Death Row Inmates Granted Reprieves in Dorchester County

In the past year, three murderers sentenced by Dorchester County juries to die by lethal injection or electrocution have been granted reprieves – one commuted to life in prison and two others granted new sentencing hearings.  Read the article at the Post and Courier.

NOTE: There is a poll associated with the above article. Unfortunately it includes only three answers and will not allow you to say that the appeals process is deeply flawed, has resulted in the execution of innocent people, and harms the families of both the victims and the accused.
Also please note that the execution of people with mental disabilities is unconstitutional; see Atkins v Virginia

Botched Execution in Arizona / Please Vote in Post and Courier Poll

The Charleston Post and Courier published a story about the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood in Arizona, and as of Monday, July 28, there is still a poll about the death penalty associated with that story. Please go to the article and vote.

Update August 3: The poll has not been taken down and is therefore still taking votes, but they apparently aren’t counted any more. It is now at 50% against the death penalty. However, when it closed and the votes were recorded, it was at 38%.

Convicted Killer to Receive New Sentencing Hearing

John Edward Weik, 47, of Moncks Corner, was given a death sentence for murder and a life sentence for burglary after killing his ex-girlfriend in Knightsville in 1998.

But Wednesday’s ruling indicates Weik’s attorneys didn’t do enough to present jurors with mitigating circumstances that could have convinced them to forgo the death penalty. One of his attorneys, in fact, is now suspended from practicing law.

Read more: The Berkeley Independent

States Spend Less on Legal Defense for the Poor

By Joe Palazzolo

State spending on legal defense for the poor slumped in recent years, as court budgets felt the pinch from the financial crisis, according to a new study by the Justice Department’s research arm.

The $2.2 billion spent on indigent defense in fiscal 2012, the most recent year studied, was the lowest in five years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found. From 2011 to 2012, state spending declined by $45 million, or about 2%                                                                       Read more: the Wall Street Journal Law blog

California Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional

by Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana was limited to a single case and had no immediate impact on executions statewide, which have been halted by federal courts since 2006 because of multiple problems in lethal injection procedures.                  Read this article at SFGate.com

Related articles:

San Franciscans could make death penalty ruling stick, by Steven T. Jones, San Francisco Bay Guardian Politics blog, July 17.

Life in Prison, With the Remote Possibility of Death, by Justin Wolfers | @JustinWolfers | JULY 18, 2014 | New York Times Upshot blog

Is Oregon’s death penalty as ‘cruel and unusual’ as California’s? Oregon politics today
By Bryan Denson | bdenson@oregonian.com | July 18, 2014 | The Oregonian


Sister Helen Prejean on the Movement to End the Death Penalty

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean began a correspondence with 2 death row inmates in her home state of Louisiana. She eventually became the spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier and accompanied him to his execution in 1984. Prejean chronicled her experiences in Dead Man Walking, the best-selling book which has been adapted to a film (for which Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Prejean), play, and opera.

It’s been 30 years since Sonnier was executed, and Prejean is now well known as one of the leading advocates for ending the death penalty. For a recent interview with her, please go to US Catholic.org

CNN to Air More ‘Death Row Stories’

CNN’s original series “Death Row Stories” is set to return to the news channel on Sunday, July 13, with three new episodes debuting on successive Sundays.

Executive produced by Jigsaw Production’s Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “The Armstrong Lie”) and Sundance Production’s Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn, the CNN series focuses on inmates facing the death penalty and the legal process of defending them and attempting to ensure that justice prevails.

The new episodes, each narrated by Susan Sarandon, explore three cases from the 1980s and 1990s, two involving double murders and one involving a mass murder in a Chuck E. Cheese in Colorado. Several of the defendants or prosecutors involved in the case are interviewed for the first time, and in the Colorado-centered episode, Gov. John Hickenlooper as well as former Gov. Bill Ritter, Jr. and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo are all interviewed.

The series’s first five installments premiered in March and will be re-aired after the three new episodes. The March airings garnered CNN the top spot in the cable news demographic, according to Nielsen, and at the time, Gibney, Redford and Sarandon penned an opinion piece in Salon calling on Americans to reflect on the “systemic problems” of the American justice system.

CNN will air the three new “Death Row Stories” episodes at 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern. They will also be available as a simulcast through CNN’s iPad app, as well as on CNN’s website and other mobile applications.