BREAKING: Supreme Court Rejects Warren Hill Petition

Warren Hill

Warren Hill

Georgia authorities continue to pursue the execution of Warren Hill despite the fact that:

  • The victim’s family opposes the execution
  • Several jurors from the trial now object to the execution
  • All 7 doctors who have examined him now agree that Hill is intellectually disabled
  • The U.S. Supreme Court banned execution of the intellectually disabled in 2002

With an assist from the U.S. Supreme Court, which today rejected Warren Hill’s petition for relief, Georgia may get its way.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Mental Illness, Politics and Florida’s Death Penalty

(Photo Credit: Allen Hailey).

(Photo Credit: Allen Hailey).

Marshall Gore is scheduled to be put to death in Florida on October 1. It is his fourth execution date this year. As arguments about his serious mental illness have come and gone, his execution has three times been moved back. According to Amnesty International’s Urgent Action on the case, a federal judge

…noted that there was a “reasonable basis” for asserting that Marshall Gore might be incompetent for execution, given the various “delusional” statements he had made. The judge noted that Marshall Gore had indicated a belief that his execution was set for his ‘death and organ harvesting/to be a human sacrifice or both,’ that his then execution date of June 24 added up to 6-6-6 and that “because of his virgin innocence of murder, he is a target of Satan Worshipers who have threatened that date by mail for years.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

U.S. Death Penalty: Botched Executions And Suicide Attempts

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Back in 2010, the cruelty – and absurdity – of the death penalty was on full display when Brandon Rhode tried to commit suicide just days before he was to be executed by the state of Georgia. The state rushed him to the hospital and saved his life – only to execute him a week later.

The suicide attempt reportedly left Rhode brain damaged. He was shackled to a restraint chair for the next 7 days, and then the execution proceeded. The lethal injection may have been botched, as Rhode’s eyes remained open the entire time.

This weekend, Billy Slagle was found hanged in his cell on Ohio’s death row. Slagle died three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has promised a “complete investigation.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Cruel And Pointless Effort To Execute John Ferguson

Despite several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and even though the Supreme Court has declared executing the severely mentally ill unconstitutional, John Ferguson is scheduled to be executed in Florida on August 5th (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

Despite several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and even though the Supreme Court has declared executing the severely mentally ill unconstitutional, John Ferguson is scheduled to be executed in Florida on August 5th (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

John Ferguson, a 65-year-old man with a long history of mental illness, including several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia by prison doctors, and who refers to himself as the “Prince of God,” is set to be executed in Florida on August 5th. His crimes were horrific, no question. Ferguson was convicted of a total of eight murders committed near Miami, earning him a total of eight death sentences.

But executing the severely mentally ill, or “the insane,” has been unconstitutional since 1986 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled so in Ford v. Wainwright (a Florida case, as it turns out). In its decision, the Court, led by Thurgood Marshall, reasoned that it is cruel and pointless to put prisoners to death who don’t understand why (or in some cases even that) they are being killed.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Warren Hill Execution Stay Extended

Warren Hill

Warren Hill

A challenge to Georgia’s “Lethal Injection Secrecy Act has led the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta to extend Warren Hill’s stay of execution. An appeal from the state of Georgia won’t be filed in time and his execution warrant will expire.

The secrecy law, which went into effect July 1, allows the state to withhold from the courts information about the drugs they intend to use in executions. This, of course, makes it impossible for the courts to determine if said drugs will be effective enough to prevent excessive pain and suffering that would render the execution a “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the constitution.

There is also a “separation of powers” question: can the executive and legislative branches of government set up a system that keeps the judicial branch in the dark about the most awesome and extreme power the state can wield? In other words, is it OK that the public and the courts are denied information they need to ensure that the law is upheld and that human rights and constitutional rights are protected?

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Texas’ 500th Execution Highlights Need for Change

The Wynne Unit in Huntsville, one of the seven prison units in Walker County, Texas. Texas is preparing to execute its 500 convict since the death penalty was restored in 1976, a record in a country where capital punishment is elsewhere in decline. (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/GettyImages).

The Wynne Unit in Huntsville, one of the seven prison units in Walker County, Texas. Texas is preparing to execute its 500 convict since the death penalty was restored in 1976, a record in a country where capital punishment is elsewhere in decline. (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/GettyImages).

By MbaLuka Michael Mutinda, Youth Activist and AIUSA Ladis Kristof Fellow.

On Wednesday, Kimberly McCarthy may eat her last meal. Barring a last-minute stay, she will be led down the hallways of Huntsville Penitentiary, make a last statement, and be given a lethal injection that will stop first her breathing and then her heart. She will be Texas’ 500th execution.

The death penalty is emblematic of the many problems still prevalent, not only in the American justice system, but in society as a whole. Capital punishment is racially and economically biased. It places more value on some victims over others. Since 1976, 260 black defendants have been executed for murdering white victims, but only 20 white defendants have received the same sentence for murdering black victims. Death sentences also depend more on geography than the severity of a crime.

And yet, death sentences can be wrong. In the last 40 years, 142 death row inmates have had their innocence proven. This margin of error alone should awaken us to the deep flaws in the system. You cannot have absolute punishment without absolute certainty.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Harmful Errors: Texas Approaches Its 500th Execution

A cemetery for prisoners in Huntsville, Texas. Grave markers with an "X" or the word "Executed" indicate the prisoner was put to death (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images).

A cemetery for prisoners in Huntsville, Texas. Grave markers with an “X” or the word “Executed” indicate the prisoner was put to death (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images).

On July 30, 1964, the state of Texas executed Joseph Johnson Jr. He was one of the 21 African-Americans put to death in the Lone Star State in the 1960s, out of 29 executions overall. But his was also to be the last execution in Texas for 18 years.

In the late 1960s, executions in the United States dwindled and in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all U.S. death penalty laws. New death penalty laws were permitted in 1976 and executions resumed the next year. However, it was not until late 1982, more than 18 years after Johnson’s execution, that Texas would restart its machinery of death.

Since then, Texas has been responsible for, by far, more executions than any other state. On June 26, Texas is scheduled to put Kimberly McCarthy to death – in the process carrying out its 500th execution since reinstatement.

The continued high use of the death penalty in Texas (though at a lower rate than in the so-called “zero tolerance” (1990s), flies in the face of the overall U.S. trend, which has seen death sentences, executions, and public support for capital punishment dropping steadily. Texas itself is not immune from that trend, as death sentences in the Lone Star State are now at historic lows.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

10 Reasons Death Penalty Abolition is Coming

Today is the 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty, an annual October 10 event created by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty of which Amnesty International is a founding member. Since that first World Day on Oct. 10, 2003, executions are on the wane both here in the U.S. and around the world.

Here are 10 reasons to celebrate 10 years of progress this World Day:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Age 19 + No Prior Record + Sloppy Lawyers = Death Sentence

Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes, a 19-year-old at the time of the crime with no prior criminal history, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on October 18.

As noted in this space previously, there were serious issues of racial bias in his case (African American defendant, 11 white jurors, judge cleaning guns during jury selection). There were also bad lawyers and a possibly coerced confession. Despite this, the state of Texas is prepared to put this man to death for a crime he committed as a teenager under the influence of crystal meth.

Two days before Haynes fatally shot Kent Kincaid, an off-duty police officer, a friend of the family had given him crystal meth. It was Haynes’ first experience with the drug. The same friend wrote in a sworn statement that during those two days Haynes began “talking crazy,” saying he had been unable to sleep for days and thought someone was following him. When Sergeant Kincaid approached Haynes’ car, Haynes’ drug-induced paranoia really kicked in – he believed he would be dragged from the car. He shot and killed Officer Kincaid.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

300th Person Exonerated By DNA Evidence in US

Damon Thibodeaux

Damon Thibodeaux, released after 15 years on death row.

After 15 years of solitary confinement on Louisiana’s death row, Damon Thibodeaux became the 300th person exonerated based on DNA evidence. He had been wrongfully convicted of raping and strangling his 14-year-old step-cousin Crystal Champagne, largely based on a coerced confession.

Five years ago, the Innocence Project and the office of Jefferson Parish DA Paul Connick reopened the investigation into his case and last Friday revealed compelling DNA evidence that was used to exonerate him.

At a halfway house called Resurrection After Exoneration, Thibodeaux observed:

It’s a surreal walk. It’s not something you can prepare yourself for because you’ve been in those (death row) conditions so long.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST