USA | States Continue to Oppose DNA Testing in Death Penalty Appeals, Attorneys Ask Why Don’t They Want to Learn the Truth?

The last 3 men scheduled for execution in Georgia said they did not commit the killing and that DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial could prove it. In 2 of the cases, victim family members supported the request for testing. Prosecutors opposed the requests, and the courts refused to allow the testing. 2 of the 3 men were executed, with doubts still swirling as to their guilt.
Shawn Nolan, a federal defender who represented Georgia prisoner Ray “Jeff” Cromartie, summed up the sentiments of the prisoners, families, and defense attorneys in these cases. “I’d like to know what the state is so scared of,” he said. “Why are they afraid of the truth? This is sad and so disturbing.”
“We have the capability of testing a wide range of forensic evidence that we couldn’t test in the past,” said Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham. “It is a powerful tool to get to the truth and to get important answers as to whether the criminal legal system has b…

Ohio: Federal Court Lifts Kenneth Biros' Stay of Execution

A federal court has lifted the stay of execution in the case of Kenneth Biros, who is now due to be put to death in Ohio on 8 December under the state’s new lethal injection procedures. The Ohio parole board has voted against clemency, but this vote is not binding on the governor.

On 25 November, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay of execution that had been imposed on 19 October by a District Court judge in the context of ongoing litigation on Ohio’s lethal injection protocol.

On 13 November, the Ohio authorities announced that they had decided to change the execution procedure, from a three-drug process to one using a large dose of one chemical, thiopental sodium, an anesthetic. The state also revealed that it had developed a “back-up procedure” for cases when a suitable vein could not be found in a condemned inmate, as happened in the case of Romell Broom in September (see UA 245/09, and update). This back-up procedure would involve injecting a combination of two chemicals, midazolam and hydromorphone, into a large muscle of the prisoner, such as the thigh.

The state argued to the Sixth Circuit that Kenneth Biros’ stay of execution should be lifted as the new lethal injection protocol rendered the District Court order moot. The Sixth Circuit agreed. It stated that “In granting a stay of execution, the district court based its reasoning on concerns related to the old procedure. Because the old procedure will not be utilized on Biros, no basis exists for continuing the stay previously in effect.” The Court of Appeals added that “whether a stay is warranted under the new protocol is not before us at this time”. If Kenneth Biros were to challenge the new protocol, it added, “the district court and we can consider whether he has met the requirements for granting a stay”.

Another six Ohio inmates are also currently scheduled for execution: Abdullah Sharif Kaazim Mahdi (7 January 2010); Mark Brown (4 February); Lawrence Reynolds (9 March); Darryl Durr (20 April); Michael Beuke (15 May); and Richard Nields (10 June).

Source: Amnesty International, Nov. 27, 2009

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