"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 7, 2015

Brian Keith Terrell again challenges Georgia's execution drug

Brian Keith Terrell
Brian Keith Terrell
A lawyer for condemned murderer Brian Keith Terrell is again raising questions about the compounded lethal injection drug that Georgia uses in executions.

Terrell is scheduled to die on Tuesday. He was originally slated for execution on March 10, 1 week after the scheduled execution of female death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner.

Both of those executions were put on hold temporarily when the compounded lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, turned cloudy. But Gissendaner was eventually executed in September after the state decided the drug's cloudiness was caused by how it was stored, not how it was made.

Now, in an appeal filed Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court, Terrell's attorney argues the Georgia Department of Corrections never truly discovered what caused the problem, so the agency continues to insist cold temperatures caused clumps to form in the pentobarbital.

Terrell's lawyer, Bo King, wrote in the appeal that information obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act indicate there were problems with 2 batches of pentobarbital, not just 1, suggesting the cloudiness might not be an isolated incident.

"It is only a matter of time before the drugs - compounded by an unknown pharmacy using unknown ingredients in unknown circumstances - become defective again," King wrote.

The attorney also wrote that the defense team's expert on compounding drugs reviewed state records but was limited by Georgia's secrecy law. The drug expert, Michael Jay, decided other circumstances could have caused the problem with the pentobarbital.

Jay, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences and bio-medical engineering at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, wrote in a document attached to Terrell's appeal that if officials had not noticed a problem with the drug and had used it as intended in March, Gissendaner - and later Terrell - would have suffered excruciating pain.

Jay wrote that he suspects the compounding pharmacist who made those batches of drugs used the wrong active ingredient - pentobarbital rather than pentobarbital sodium. Either that, or the pH solution in the compounded drug was incorrect.

If those executions had been carried out using the drugs, Jay wrote, it's possible that particulate matter in the pentobarbital would have lodged in blood vessels or the lungs. It would be akin to being injected with "very small pieces of glass," Jay wrote.

The sources of Georgia's lethal injection drug, and the state secrecy shrouding that information, is an issue that has been raised several times in appeals. Repeatedly the courts have upheld the use of pentobarbital and have ruled that Georgia can keep secret its drug sources to protect pharmacists from public pressure.

Terrell is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the 1992 murder of John Watson, his mother's friend. Terrell stole about $8,700 from the 70-year-old man by stealing blank checks. Watson told Terrell's mother he wouldn't press charges if Terrell returned most of the money. 2 days later, Terrell attacked Watson as he left his Newton County house for a dialysis appointment.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville will hold a hearing Monday on Terrell's latest appeal. At the same time, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles will hear his petition for clemency.

Source: myajc.com, December 7, 2015


Death row inmate's lawyers say Georgia hasn't resolved problem with its execution drug

Lawyers for a Georgia death row inmate say the drug the state plans to use for his execution Tuesday risks violating his constitutional rights.

In a court filing Thursday, lawyers for Brian Keith Terrell say the state still doesn't know what caused clumps to appear in its compounded pentobarbital earlier this year. They say that means problems could arise again and cause serious harm to their client.

Terrell is scheduled to die Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson.

Terrell was on parole in June 1992 when he stole and forged checks belonging to a friend of his mother, 70-year-old John Watson. Prosecutors say Terrell was supposed to return the money but instead shot Watson multiple times and then severely beat him.

Source: Associated Press, December 7, 2015


State Lawyers Reject Arguments Raised by Death Row Inmate

Lawyers for Georgia filed court papers Monday rejecting arguments by an inmate set to be executed this week that prosecutors had used false and misleading testimony to convict him.

Brian Keith Terrell, 47, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of the June 1992 killing of John Watson, a friend of his mother.

Terrell's lawyers argued in a court filing Friday that no physical evidence links Terrell to the slaying of the man from Covington, east of Atlanta. They also said Terrell's cousin, whose testimony prosecutors relied on, has since said he lied to save himself.

Lawyers for the state countered Monday that the courts have already heard and rejected the issues raised by Terrell's lawyers.

Terrell was on parole when he stole and forged checks belonging to Watson, who reported the theft but asked police not to pursue charges if Terrell returned most of the money. On the day Terrell was to return the money, he had his cousin drive him to Watson's house, where he shot the 70-year-old man several times and severely beat him, lawyers for the state have said.

Terrell's cousin, Jermaine Johnson, was his co-defendant and had been in jail for more than a year with the threat of the death penalty hanging over him when he agreed to a deal with prosecutors to testify against Terrell. Johnson was allowed to plead guilty to a robbery charge, receiving a 5-year prison sentence. In a sworn statement submitted Friday by Terrell's lawyers, defense investigator Melanie Goodwill wrote that Johnson has told her and defense attorney Gerald King that he was 18 and facing the death penalty and was pressured by police and the prosecutor to testify against his cousin. He told Goodwill and King he would like to give a sworn statement telling the truth but is afraid he might be arrested and put in prison for perjury if he does, Goodwill wrote.

Johnson has consistently testified under oath that Terrell admitted to killing Watson, state lawyers wrote. The hearsay statement given by the defense investigator does not meet the legal bar for new consideration, they wrote.

Prosecutors also misleadingly presented the testimony of a neighbor of Watson's as having said she saw Terrell at the scene, but the woman said Terrell is not the one she saw and prosecutors never asked her to identify him in court, Terrell's lawyers wrote.

State lawyers argued in their filing Monday that Terrell's attorneys already argued in previous court proceedings that prosecutors knowingly presented false testimony by Johnson and misleadingly presented the neighbor's testimony. Those arguments have already been reviewed and rejected by courts, state lawyers argued.

In a separate state court filing, Terrell's lawyers have challenged the safety and effectiveness of the drug the state plans to use to execute Terrell. They withdrew that challenge Monday but filed a similar complaint in federal court and asked a judge to halt his execution.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only state entity authorized to commute a death sentence, scheduled a clemency hearing for Terrell on Monday. It didn't immediately release a decision.

Source: Associated Press, December 7, 2015


Condemned man drops state court appeal so can turn to federal courts

Attorneys for condemned murderer Brian Keith Terrell today withdrew an appeal filed last week in Fulton Superior Court because, they said, the issue was better suited for federal court.

While the court appeal is pending, Terrell's mother and family and friends turned to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to ask for clemency.

Terrell is scheduled to die on Tuesday at 7 p.m. He was originally slated for execution on March 10, one week after the scheduled execution of female death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner, but both lethal injections were called off because of a problem with the lethal injection drugs.

In his appeals, Terrell's lawyer is again raising questions about the compounded lethal injection drug that Georgia uses in executions.

And the petition to the Parole Board says witnesses who testified against him were wrong about what happened on June 22, 1992, when 70-year-old John Watson was shot and beaten to death moments after leaving his Newton County house for a dialysis appointment.

In the clemency petition, Terrell's lawyer writes that Jermaine Johnson, Terrell's cousin and the prosecution's key witness, lied when he testified and the neighbor who said she saw Terrell at Watson's house actually saw someone else.

According to testimony, Terrell, just out of prison, stole 10 blank checks from Watson, his mother's friend. He wrote checks, some to himself, for a total of $8,700. When Watson discovered the theft, he told Terrell's mother he wouldn't press charges if her son returned most of the money. 2 days later, Terrell killed Watson.

In the court appeal filed last week, attorney Bo King focused on the compounded lethal injection drug, pentobarbital made by an unknown pharmacist. He said the problem with the drug earlier this year was never fully explained.

Both of those executions were put on hold temporarily when the compounded lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, turned cloudy and clumps formed in the liquid.

Gissendaner was executed in September and Terrell's was rescheduled for Tuesday after the Department of Corrections determined the problem with the drugs could be blamed on cold storage. But King's lawyer argues that the Georgia Department of Corrections never truly discovered what caused the problem, and continues to insist cold temperatures were to blame even though the agency could not recreate the problem.

King wrote in the appeal that information obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act indicated there were problems with 2 batches of pentobarbital, not just 1, suggesting the cloudiness might not be an isolated incident.

King says there is no way to determine the problem because of the state law that keeps most of that information secret.

"It is only a matter of time before the drugs - compounded by an unknown pharmacy using unknown ingredients in unknown circumstances - become defective again," King wrote.

The sources of Georgia's lethal injection drug and the state secrecy shrouding that information, are issues that have been raised several times in appeals if other condemned killers. Repeatedly the courts have upheld the use of pentobarbital and have ruled that Georgia can keep secret its drug sources to protect pharmacists from public pressure.

Source: ajc.com, December 7, 2015

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