Death Penalty

Ken Piorkowski/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For years, Texas has led the nation in the number of executions, but the state's death chamber has been idle since April, and there have been several high-profile stays of execution. 

Could this be a sign of something broader going on when it comes to the death penalty in Texas?

 

 


SaveJeffWood.com

From Texas Standard:

Jeff Wood was supposed to die this week.

He was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of a convenience store clerk, even though it's been well established that he never killed anyone. A friend of his killed a Kerrville gas station clerk in a botched robbery and Wood was waiting in a truck outside the store.

He was still held accountable for the crime under the Texas' law of parties. Similar to laws of accomplice liability in other states, Texas law says that anyone who "solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense" is criminally liable as well.

But on Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Wood's execution. The court ordered that his case should be re-tried – not because of any issue with the law of parties, but because of potentially flawed testimony from a psychiatrist nicknamed Dr. Death.

 


Execution Halted For Jeff Wood, Who Never Killed Anyone

Aug 19, 2016
TDCJ via Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Jeff Wood — a man who never killed anyone — six days before he was set to die by lethal injection.

SaveJeffWood.com

From Texas Standard:

Much has been said of Texas' top rank when it comes to the administration of the death penalty. Notwithstanding the state's record, the state still reserves the ultimate punishment for what most of us would consider the worst of the worst crimes. One man set to die this month in Texas killed a correctional officer while he was behind bars for murder. Another was the trigger man in a murder-for-hire.

But the third man actually didn't kill anyone. Jeff Wood pulled no trigger and had not even planned to commit a crime that morning – and yet, he's scheduled to die later this month.

 


America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

Image via Flickr/Allan Foster (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Back in July, Texas and Arizona were caught illegally importing a lethal injection drug compound as the product was passing through an airport in Houston. The federal Food and Drug Administration, responsible for food and drug regulation in the United States, has said in the past that importing the drug is illegal.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the Dallas Morning News that the department had a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration saying the state could import the drug.

 


Image via Pixabay/WerbeFabrik (CC0 1.0)

From Texas Standard:

There is an execution scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma – but Texas is tied to the case.

According to a court filing, the lawyer for an Oklahoma death row inmate is claiming that his client shouldn't have to use an alternative to pentobarbital, one of the chemicals in the lethal injection cocktail. The filing argues that Texas is compounding its own pentobarbital and has sold the lethal injection drug to at least one other death penalty state: Virginia.


Calif. Dep. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the three-drug combination used in Oklahoma executions.

At issue is whether the use of one of the drugs, Midazolam, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, since it is not proven to prevent the person being executed from feeling pain.

The largest pharmacist association in the country has voted to discourage its members from participating in executions.

The move could make executions harder for states that have been ordering their drugs from compounding pharmacies. As we've reported, some states like Texas turned to the pharmacies after big pharmaceutical companies — under pressure from death penalty opponents — decided to stop selling their drugs to U.S. prisons.

Mark Britain/flickr

One of the men involved in the biggest prison break in Texas history is set to be put to death today for the murder of 29-year-old Aubrey Hawkins, an Irving police officer, in December 2000.

Update: Newbury was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Donald Newbury, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Huntsville today after 6 p.m., was one of the “Texas 7,” the inmate gang that escaped from a South Texas prison and went on a six-week crime spree 14 years ago.

Second Execution of the Year Set for Thursday

Jan 29, 2015

Texas' second execution of 2015 is set for today at 6 p.m. in Huntsville. Robert Ladd was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a Tyler, Tex., woman in 1996.

Ladd has spent 17 years on death row; he is 57 now.

The sexual assault and murder for which he's condemned occurred during a burglary at the home of the 38-year-old victim. Ladd was out on parole for another murder when he committed the 1996 murder.

Texas' First Execution of the Year Set for Wednesday

Jan 21, 2015
Andres Rueda/via Flickr

The first Texas execution of 2015 is scheduled to happen today sometime after 6 p.m.

Arnold Prieto, 41, will be put to death for the murder and robbery of three people in 1993 in Bexar County. Two of the victims were Prieto's own great-aunt and great-uncle. No late appeals were filed to try to stop the execution from taking place.

Not only is this the first execution of the year, it is the first execution to happen under the governorship of Greg Abbott. 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off the execution of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who has maintained that his rare congenital medical condition would make the lethal injection procedure excessively painful.

Update at 4:57 p.m. ET. Federal Court Halts Execution:

With just hours to go, a federal court has halted the execution of Texas inmate Robert Campbell.

The execution would have been the first since Oklahoma botched one in April.

The ruling has nothing to do with the drug shortage that's dominated the narrative over the death penalty in the country. Instead, Campbell's lawyers argued that the state knew that Campbell was intellectually disabled but did not let his defense team know that.

Update: After Tuesday night's botched execution in Oklahoma, Texas corrections officials say they have no plans to use midazolam in future executions. Midazolam was the first component of a three-drug cocktail administered to death row inmate Clayton Lockett yesterday. Read more about the execution here.

As KUT first reported in February, the state has supplies of midazolam on hand. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says in a statement that it "has no plans to change our procedures. Texas does not use the same drugs as Oklahoma as we use a single lethal dose of pentobarbital and we have done so since 2012.” 

Attorneys for death row inmates in Texas have unsuccessfully tried to find out who is selling compounded pentobarbital to the state. They're suing in civil court and making a case to the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General that TDCJ should disclose its source. 

The botched execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett on Tuesday in Oklahoma is sparking a reassessment of lethal injection.

Update at 8:19 p.m. ET. Execution Fails:

According to reporters tweeting from inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, the execution of Clayton D. Lockett has failed. Lockett died of a heart attack after the execution was aborted.

The execution of Charles Warner, which was supposed to take place at 9 p.m. ET., was stayed by Corrections Director Robert Patton.

According to the AP reporter on the scene, about 34 minutes after the execution was scheduled to begin, Lockett was still conscious.

Calif. Dep. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

This week, Oklahoma's Supreme Court stopped the executions of two convicted murderers. At issue: where the state gets its execution drugs. The state does not want to reveal its source.  

Texas also has long kept its lethal drug suppliers secret, although Attorney General Greg Abbott recently issued an opinion stating it's time to go public.  But as death penalty opponents increase the pressure to expose suppliers and to disrupt the supply of the drug, some states are reviewing their options on capital punishment.

Texas Tribune

A federal judge in Houston on Wednesday blocked two Texas executions, deciding that the state prison system’s refusal to disclose detailed information about drugs that will be used to kill them violates the inmates' constitutional rights.

U.S. Judge Vanessa Gilmore issued a preliminary injunction that effectively blocked the Thursday execution of Tommy Lynn Sells and the execution of Ramiro Hernadez Llanas, which was scheduled for April 9.

The Attorney General’s office notified the inmates' attorneys and the court that the state's attorneys will appeal Gilmore’s decision.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The owner of a compounding pharmacy outside Houston says he was told it was "unlikely" that his business would be revealed as the source of the state's lethal injection drug, pentobarbital.

Now that his Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy is known to be manufacturer of the drug intended for use in this week's scheduled execution and beyond, Jasper Lovoi has sent a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), demanding the drug's return.

Lovoi's letter says he finds himself "in the middle of a firestorm" that he "was not advised of and did not bargain for." The identities of Lovoi and his pharmacy were originally revealed by the Associated Press, which obtained the information through an Open Records Request for its story on the new source of pentobarbital.

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