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USA | Lethal Injection’s Dreadful Failures: How States Are Trying to Normalize Accidents

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Editor’s Note: This column is the product of a research collaboration with five Amherst College students, Mattea Denney, Nicolas Graber-Mitchell, Greene Ko, Rose Mroczka, and Lauren Pelosi. In a column last month, I argued that over the last decade the lethal injection paradigm decomposed as new drugs and drug cocktails were adopted in death penalty states. As this happened, the number of problems encountered during executions multiplied. Of all the techniques used to put people to death in the United States since the start of the twentieth century, by 2010 lethal injection already had shown itself to be the most problematic . Since then, things have only gotten worse As lethal injection mishaps multiplied, death penalty states did not sit idly by . Over the last decade, they responded in two ways . My research collaborators and I found that while some states modified their execution procedures to make mishaps less likely, others introduced greater ambiguity and discretion into their

USA | Tennessee Supreme Court upholds death sentence for man convicted of ex-girlfriend’s 1997 murder

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and death penalty of a man found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend at a Shelby County hotel. Michael Dale Rimmer’s first conviction in 1998 was overturned, but another Shelby County jury convicted him in 2016 of murdering Ricci Lynn Ellsworth. On Feb. 7, 1997, Ellsworth left home to go to work at the Memphis Inn. Investigators say Ellsworth disappeared, leaving behind her purse, her wedding band, her car and a chaotic and bloody crime scene. Her body was never found. Years before her disappearance, Ellsworth and Rimmer had a tumultuous romantic relationship,. He was convicted of raping her in 1989 after they broke up, and authorities say he told a fellow inmate he would kill her when he was released. When she disappeared, witnesses at the Memphis Inn described a man matching Rimmer’s description with blood on his hands putting something heavy, wrapped in a blanket, in the trunk of a maroon Honda. Accordin

USA | Gunman who killed 8 workers at Indianapolis FedEx site had been detained for mental illness

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The 19-year-old gunman who killed eight workers and himself at an Indianapolis FedEx center was a former employee who was placed under psychiatric detention last year after his mother reported concerns he might commit "suicide by cop," police and FBI said. Four members of the Sikh religious community - three women and a man - were among the dead in Thursday night's gun rampage, according to a local Sikh leader who said he had been briefed by the victims' families. Law enforcement officials said they had not immediately determined whether racial or ethnic hatred was behind the killings. But a Sikh civil rights advocacy group called for an investigation of any possible hate bias involved in the crime. The incident - the latest in a spate of at least seven deadly mass shootings in the United States over the past month - unfolded at a FedEx (FDX.N) operations center near Indianapolis International Airport after 11 p.m. local time, police said. It lasted only a couple of m

Singapore | High Court dismisses suit against A-G, deputy A-G and prosecutors by drug runner who escaped death penalty

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SINGAPORE - The High Court has dismissed a civil suit against the Attorney-General, a deputy attorney-general and five prosecutors by a Malaysian drug runner who was spared the death penalty last year. Justice Chua Lee Ming granted the defendants' application to strike out Gobi Avedian's suit on Thursday (April 15), saying his claim was unsustainable. The defendants are the office of the Attorney-General, current Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, and prosecutors Tan Zhongshan, Nicholas Wuan, Chin Jincheng and Chong Kee En. Gobi, through his then lawyer M. Ravi, had sued the defendants and Deputy Attorney-General Lionel Yee in November last year. The suit against Mr Yee was later dropped. Referring to the prosecution's actions in earlier court proceedings, including his initial trial in the High Court and the subsequent appeal by the prosecution to the Court of Appeal, Gobi allege

USA | Lethal injection drug bill voted down by Montana Senate

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A bill that would have allowed the state of Montana to resume executions via lethal injection was voted down in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. House Bill 244 brought by Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, proposed revising Montana’s death penalty law in an effort to comply with a 2015 district court ruling. That ruling halted the use of one drug the state used for executions. In 2015, Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled that pentobarbital, a drug used by the state in its lethal injection cocktail, did not meet the definition of "ultra-fast" identified in law because it takes several minutes to work. HB 244 proposed revising state law to remove mention of a specific drug, replacing it with a fast-acting substance “sufficient to cause death.” The legislation was endorsed by Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who told lawmakers the change would fix the legal issue identified by the court with language similar to that of legally tested laws in

Florida | Russell Tillis avoids death penalty for Joni Gunter’s murder

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A jury of 12 men and women on Thursday did not unanimously recommend the death penalty for Russell Tillis, the man convicted in the murder and dismemberment of Joni Gunter. That means, according to Florida law, he will receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. Before the decision was made, prosecutors argued that Tillis, 59, has a long history of victimizing women and therefore deserved to go to Death Row. Tillis’ defense argued that he had a violent and traumatic childhood, deserves mercy, and should be given life without parole. The jury, who convicted Tillis last week of first-degree murder, kidnapping and dismemberment in Gunter’s death, heard what was basically a miniature trial before being asked to recommend whether Tillis should be put to death for the crime or face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The jury began deliberations just after 2 p.m. and spent more than four hours in discussions. The majority of the jurors (9-3) voted

USA | Can The Death Penalty Be Fixed? These Republicans Think So

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A growing number of conservative lawmakers want to overhaul capital punishment, or end it. 2 years ago, a group of Republican lawmakers toured the death chamber in Oklahoma, which has been responsible for more executions per capita than any other state in the last half-century. They took in the jet-black gurney straps, the phone connected to the governor’s office and the microphone used for last words. “The hair rises on the back of your neck,” said state Rep. Kevin McDugle. “A few legislators couldn’t be in the room very long.” They continued on to death row to see Richard Glossip, who has spent more than 2 decades in solitary confinement, facing execution for a 1997 murder. Glossip says he had nothing to do with the crime, and a growing number of conservative lawmakers believe him. “I just remember putting my hand up on the glass,” McDugle recalled, “and he put his hand up, and I said, ‘You've got people fighting for you. Keep your head up, brother.’” As Oklahoma officials seek

UAE | Killer on death row pardoned by victim's family after he agreed to pay US$ 54,500 as "blood money"

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The Sharjah Court of Appeal has reduced a sentence of death issued against a 34-year-old Asian accused of killing his roommate to seven years in prison, Khaleej Times reported on 14 April 2021. The accused was also found guilty of attempting to murder the nephew of the victim as well as of consuming alcohol.  The court further ordered that he be deported after the completion of his term. The ruling came after the victim's family pardoned the accused after he agreed to pay Dh200,000 (US$54,500) as legal blood money to the deceased's heirs. According to the police investigation, the accused used a kitchen knife to kill the victim while he was asleep in his bed. He also assaulted the nephew of the victim violently, causing serious injuries that necessitated his transfer to the hospital for treatment. The Public Prosecution referred the accused to trial and charged him with premeditated murder for killing the victim and attempting to kill another person by assaulting him with a kni

USA | Arizona DoC Paid $1.5 Million for Execution Drugs While Facing a Budget Crisis

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At a time in which the Arizona Department of Corrections is facing criticism for crumbling infrastructure, substandard medical care, and understaffing, the department has spent $1.5 million to purchase the lethal-injection drug pentobarbital from an undisclosed source. The exorbitant price, experts say, is a function of the questionable use of the drug for non-medical purposes and the secretive nature of the transaction. Records obtained by The Guardian show that, in October 2020, Arizona ordered 1,000 vials of the barbiturate pentobarbital. Each one-gram vial cost the state $1,500, for what the newspaper described as a “jaw-dropping” total of $1.5 million. A heavily redacted invoice shows that the state ordered 4–8 “unlabeled” jars to be shipped in “Unmarked jars and boxes” to an Arizona location “to be determined.” The state’s execution protocol calls for five grams of the drug, so the vials would be enough for 200 executions in a state that has 119 people on death row. Assistant fe

USA | Don't Let Arizona Restart Executions

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On April 6, 2021, it was reported that State Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to issue execution warrants for two death-row inmates in what would be the state’s first executions in almost seven years. Arizona put executions on hold after the 2014 death of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours.  His attorney said the execution was botched.  In fact, Arizona has badly botched four executions in as many years.   To resume executions, while the majority of states have abandoned the death penalty in either law or practice, is in direct opposition to the evolving standards of decency in our country. Furthermore, it is important to note that Black people account for just 5.2 percent of the state’s population, but 16 percent of the state’s 116-person death row.  Arizona has sentenced nearly a quarter of all Native Americans facing the death penalty in the United States. ➤ Please sign this petition to let officials in Ar

USA | Execution warrant sought for Nevada death row inmate Zane Floyd

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Clark County prosecutors formally requested an execution warrant on Wednesday for Zane Floyd, convicted of fatally shooting four people inside a Las Vegas Albertsons nearly 22 years ago. The move came a day after the Nevada Assembly voted to abolish capital punishment and commute the sentences of those on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While the legislation faces another vote in the Senate, opponents have cited a need for the harshest penalty in heinous murder cases, like the killings for which a jury sentenced Floyd to die. Speaking on Tuesday on the floor of the Capitol, Assemblywoman Annie Black, R-Mesquite, relayed the gruesome details of June 3, 1999. “There is no doubt about Mr. Floyd’s guilt,” Black said before a 26-16 vote in favor of repeal. “He was given a fair trial and sentenced to death by a jury. Considering the circumstances, it was the right and proper sentence.” District Attorney Steve Wolfson called the timing “purely coincidental” and