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USA | It Is Time to End the Lethal Injection Mess

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On June 23, amidst all furor over its gun rights and abortion decisions, the Supreme Court handed down a little noticed death penalty decision, Nance v Ward . In that case, a five-Justice majority ruled that death row inmates could file suits using 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, a federal law that authorizes citizens to sue in federal court for the deprivation of rights, to bring suit alleging that an execution method violated the Eighth Amendment. Michael Nance, who was sentenced to death in 2002, will now be able to proceed with his suit contesting Georgia’s plan to execute him by lethal injection. Nance suffers from medical conditions that have compromised his veins. To use lethal injection, the only execution method now authorized by state law, prison authorities would have to “cut his neck” to establish an intravenous execution line. He also claims that his long-time use of a drug for back pain would diminish the effect of the sedative used in Georgia’s drug cocktail. Nance alleges that

Matthew Eric Wrinkles executed for 1994 triple murder

MICHIGAN CITY | With no last-minute appeals to save his life, and without resistance, convicted triple-murderer Matthew Eric Wrinkles (left) died by lethal injection at 12:39 a.m. Friday at Indiana State Prison.

Wrinkles was sentenced to death row after a Vanderburgh County jury convicted him of the 1994 killings of his estranged wife, her brother and her sister-in-law: 31-year-old Debra Wrinkles, 28-year-old Tony Fulkerson and 26-year-old Natalie Fulkerson.

"I am not proud of the man I was. But I am know longer that man," the 49-year-old Wrinkles wrote in a statement released following his death. "In the past 15 years I have come to grips with the extent of the harm I caused.

"Although tonight I pay for my actions with my life, it has been the last 15 years that had been the true punishment."

Indiana Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Garrison said that when asked, Wrinkles offered as his last words," Not at this time. Let's get it done. Let's lock and load ... it's plagiarized but what the hell."

Garrison said Wrinkles complied with staff and did not physically resist the execution process, which began shortly after midnight.

A statement provided by Lindsay Christmas, Wrinkles' daughter who witnessed her mother's murder, said she had found peace with her father.

"Regardless of what my dad had done, he's still me dad. Having to re-live this ordeal is tragic."

Outside Indiana's death row, the Duneland Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty set up shop with signs, drums and a public address system to protest what they see as an inhumane punishment.

With temperatures already in the teens, about a half dozen or so members of the group braved the wind and the cold, and holding candles and lights, one by one they stood behind a microphone to offer testimony to their opposition to the death penalty.

As the group's size increased and decreased throughout the night, members marched up and down Hitchcock Street to keep warm, while keeping a beat on a variety of drums that inmates could hear.

One of the group's members, Chesterton resident Marti Pizzini, said she has been coming to execution-night vigils for more than 17 years.

A social worker, nurse and teacher, Pizzini calmly and systematically recites arguments against capital punishment, from both a moral and a pragmatic perspective.

"There's a lot of things we can do to stop crime and spending $1 million to put someone to death isn't one of them," Pizzini said. "We do a disservice to think the world is safer because we killed a killer."

Frank Lennon, 65, of Hammond, read a passage from Bible and said he had found that it makes sense to learn something about the condemned before coming to a protest.

"If nothing else, it gives me a little passion," said Lennon, who was one of four coalition members to remain outside the prison awaiting word of Wrinkle's death.

Wrinkles received a fatal combination of sodium pentathol, procurium bromide and potassium chloride, which caused him to fall asleep, paralyzed his lungs and stopped his heart. He is Indiana's 92nd inmate to be put to death, and the first in more than two years.

Wrinkles ate his "special meal" Tuesday: prime rib with a loaded baked potato, pork chops with steak fries and two salads with ranch dressing and rolls from an unidentified Michigan City restaurant.

In the hours leading up to midnight, Wrinkles met with family, his attorneys and members of the clergy, said Garrison, who estimated the inmate had less than 15 visitors and called it a "well-connected" time with family.

Wrinkles also made a "good number" of phone calls, including calls to the Netherlands to some people he had corresponded with, Garrison said.

At 4 p.m., Wrinkles' visitors left the prison, he showered and then met with members of the clergy, who stayed until 11 p.m., Garrison said. Wrinkles spent the last hour of his life with a pair of correctional officers, he said.

State law prevents DOC officials from identifying visitors or those present for the execution.

This week Deacon Malcolm Lunsford, of Merrillville's SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, and the Rev. Thomas McNally, of the Congregation of Holy Cross in South Bend, told The Times they would administer Wrinkles' final sacraments.

And attorney Joe Cleary told The Associated Press that Wrinkles had invited two spiritual advisers to witness his death, but wasn't sure whether any family members would be present.

State law provides for the condemned to have five friends or family members present for the execution, and for the victims to have eight members of the immediate family present.

Indiana Department of Correction spokeswoman Pamela James said the exact number of witnesses present, and their identities, are withheld per state law.

Mary Winnecke, the 65-year-old mother of Natalie Fulkerson, told The Associated Press she planned to attend a prayer vigil at her church in Evansville, and would not be at the prison. Mae McIntire, the 79-year-old adoptive mother of Debra Wrinkles, had planned to attend the execution but had heart surgery in April and now plans to stay home.

While Winnecke has been able to find some measure of forgiveness, and led a letter-writing campaign to Gov. Mitch Daniels pleading for clemency for her daughter's killer, McIntire has not.

"It's just sad that my daughter had met somebody like him when she was such a good person," she said. "I don't like to see nobody die, but when they do something like he did, I don't see why he should live."

Wrinkles' death is Indiana's first since June 2007, when the state executed Michael Lambert after a 1991 conviction for fatally shooting Muncie police Officer Gregg Winters in the back of the head.

Indiana has 16 prisoners on death row, and all but one are housed at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.

Debra Denise Brown, who was convicted in 1986 of killing a 7-year-old in Gary, remains housed in Ohio and sentenced to death in Indiana, which lacks facilities for female death row inmates.

Source: Associated Press, December 11, 2009

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