'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Ohio executes William L. Garner

A Cincinnati man who set an apartment fire that snuffed out the lives of 5 children was executed this morning.

William L. Garner (left), 37, was lethally injected at 10:38 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

Rod Mack, the lone survivor of the Jan. 26, 1992, smoky blaze at 1969 Knob Ct. in Cincinnati, was 1 of 9 witnesses who watched Garner's execution. Because there were so many witnesses, some watched in person in the Death House, while others saw him die on closed-circuit television in a nearby room at the prison.

The parents of several of the victims also witnessed.

The children, all of whom died of smoke inhalation, were: Deondra Freeman, 10; Richard Gaines, 11; Markeca and Mykkila Mason, 11 and 8, respectively; and Denitra Satterwhite, 12.

Records show Garner found a purse belonging to Addie F. Mack in the emergency room of a Cincinnati hospital. While Mack (whom Garner did not know) was being treated, Garner rummaged through her purse, finding food stamps, her keys and her address.

Garner took a cab to the apartment where he was surprised to find 4 girls in one bedroom and two boys in another. He talked briefly to one of the girls and gave her a drink of water.

After stealing Mack's television, VCR, telephone and boom box, Garner tried to cover his tracks by setting fire to the couch and 2 other spots in the apartment. He later told police that he didn't intend to kill the children, but expected they would smell the smoke and get out of the apartment.

Instead, 5 of the children died; Rod Mack, 13 at the time, was able to escape by jumping out a window. Garner becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be executed in Ohio this year and the 39th overall since capital punishment resumed in 1999.

Garner becomes the 31st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1219th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Columbus Dispatch & Rick Halperin, July 13, 2010

Man executed after saying he's 'heartily sorry'

An Ohio man said he was "heartily sorry" before he was executed this morning for the murders of 5 children in a 1992 Cincinnati apartment fire he set in an attempt to destroy evidence of a burglary.

William Garner, 37, died by lethal injection at 10:38 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

As he lay on the execution table, Garner held a dreadlock of hair from a female friend and read a lengthy final statement from notebook paper held by the execution team leader, thanking several people as well as the state of Ohio.

"God bless everyone who has been robbed in this procedure," he said. "I thought I'd never be free, but I'm free now."

In the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 26, 1992, Garner gained access to Addie Mack’s apartment after stealing keys from her purse while she received care in a hospital emergency room. 6 children, ages 8 to 13, were at the apartment alone, and Garner knew they were there when he threw a lit match onto a couch.

Garner has admitted setting the fire but said he thought the children would escape. Only one, 13-year-old Rod Mack, made it out alive. Mack watched the execution quietly with several others.

So many people wanted to witness the execution on behalf of the young victims that the prison opened a 2nd viewing room, prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn said. Mack and 5 others were accommodated in the witness room facing the execution chamber, and another 3 watched on closed-circuit TV in the spillover room, she said.

Garner spent his final hours watching television and talking on the telephone with a friend and his twin brother. He visited with his mother and other relatives, as well as with spiritual advisers and his legal team, and took Holy Communion about an hour and a half before the start of his execution.

Garner had said a secondary motivation for setting the fire was to draw attention to the children's squalid living conditions. He told police that he had noticed the bedroom "full of girls" and that one of them had asked him for water, which he provided, according to a report by the Ohio Parole Board. He also said he had been in another bedroom where the 2 boys slept.

His lawyers had argued that the death sentences be set aside because Garner had developmental disabilities, a limited IQ and a violent, abusive upbringing that caused him to function on the level of a 14-year-old at the time of the deaths.

Garner is the 6th person executed in Ohio this year and the 39th put to death by the state since it resumed the practice in 1999.

Source: Northcoastnow, July 13, 2010

Garner goes quietly for killing 5

William Garner glanced over at his niece, a soft smile breaking his face as the 1st of the 5 syringes of a lethal drug were pumped into his arm at 10:21 a.m. Tuesday in the Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Garner, 37, who grew up with the name “Peewee,” was the 382nd person to be executed in Ohio since the state began executions in 1803.

The state has an execution scheduled each month through November.

Garner has spent nearly half his life on death row after killing 5 children in an English Woods townhouse on Jan. 26, 1992, when he set three fires to cover up a burglary.

Garner was not pronounced dead until 10:38 a.m., 10 minutes after the curtain closed - generally a sign that the inmate has died.

A coroner told the warden he detected what he thought was a faint heartbeat shortly after the curtain closed. The coroner then must wait 5 minutes and then check again for a heart beat.

None was detected the 2nd time, said Ernie Moore, the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Moore, who just took over the post in February, seemed subdued throughout the day and spoke briefly that he was following the law in executing Garner.

Garner, however, appeared at peace with his condemnation.

If he was scared, he showed no sign. He turned his head to the left, staring into the eyes of his niece Martisha Ross for long periods.

While strapped to a wooden gurney, Garner held a dreadlock of hair from a friend in his left hand and read from a hand-written note held up by an official. He apologized to the 6 family members of victims who were there to witness the execution, separated from the killer by about four feet and a glass window.

"If this will give you closure, I hope it will," he said.

Garner thanked the state of Ohio, his spiritual advisers and friend Stacy Evans who gave him a clipping of her dreadlock to hold as he died.

Garner's voice cracked once as he said his goodbyes, but he never lost his composure.

"I thought I'd never be free, but I am free now," he said.

No one spoke as he was dying until the warden broke the silence. "Time of death, 10:38 a.m.," Warden Donald Morgan called out when the curtain opened at 10:39 a.m.

The people in the 3 witness rooms remained silent as they were ushered out.

Garner was sentenced to death for killing the children in the home of Addie Mack after he stole her purse from a phone booth at University Hospital and broke into her apartment.

During the 40 minutes inside the witness rooms, Mack, who lost 3 daughters in the fire, turned a few times to look at her son, Rod Mack, the only one to survive the fire.

About 10 anti-death penalty advocates stood in the drizzling rain during the execution.

Up to the moment of his death, Garner, who has an IQ of 76 and was considered borderline retarded, maintained he never intended for the children to die, and was only trying to cover up the fact that he stole a television set, a VCR, a boom box and phone from the home.

Rod Mack jumped from the window and was found shivering in the snow when emergency crews arrived. He told the police he heard his sisters screaming.

The girls died huddled together.

Garner took a cab from the apartment to a United Dairy Farmers where he bought Hawaiian Punch, a jelly cake and candy.

Garner declined the standard prison breakfast Tuesday morning, as well as a sedative, in the hours before his death.

He spent the early morning hours with his mother, Patricia Garner, his sister Lisa Ross, his friend Evans, spiritual leaders, the defense counsel and his niece – the only person to witness his death on his behalf.

"He is finally at peace and that was very important," his older sister Ross said after his death. She said she hoped the family members of sisters Denitra Satterwhite, 12, Deondra Freeman, 10, Mykia Mack, 8; the girls’ cousin Markeca Mason, 11, and neighbor Richard Gaines, also 11, could one day forgive him.

Marshandra Jackson, who lost her daughter Markeca, quietly wept during the 40-minute process that started with prep-work and the insertion of 2 shunts while Garner was in his holding cell. The preparations were broadcast into the witness rooms through video monitors.

He then took 17 steps into the death chamber and climbed on the gurney.

Garner arrived in Lucasville on Monday, a place where he 1st was admitted to death row all those years ago when the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility sent people to death by the electric chair. The prison at the time was the only one in the state to house death row inmates.

Much has changed since then.

The electric chair has since been replaced first with a lethal cocktail of drugs and then more recently to the sole drug Thiopental Sodium.

Garner, who sentenced shortly after he turned 20, had been housed at the Mansfield Correctional Facility since 1995, where he lived alone in a 94-square-foot cell.

When not in trouble, he was permitted out of his cell for up to 2½ hours a day.

Garner found trouble, though. Reports from the correction department say he was cited 13 times for infractions ranging from having sex with inmates to throwing fluids on workers to violent outbursts and fighting.

Garner and his twin Willie, who were born on Sept. 26, 1972, went by the names Peewee and Pappy, respectively.

Garner suffered abuse and got into trouble early, court records show.

At the age of 5, he kicked a teacher and threw temper tantrums.

Garner was beaten by his mother and her boyfriends, as well as by a brother who had sexually assaulted him, according to court records.

That brother was picked up on a warrant Tuesday as he stood outside the prison walls before the execution. The infraction was that he allegedly failed to register as a sex offender in Hamilton County.

Garner started getting in trouble with the law at the age of 10. He failed the second-, fourth- and sixth-grades, court records say.

There were theft charges, criminal trespass and another theft charge all before his 11th birthday. Many followed ranging from breaking and entering, to assault to disorderly conduct.

"He was ready. Peewee had been ready," Ross said of her brother's execution Tuesday. "… Through the years, we prepared for this day."

Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, July 13, 2010 - Photo: Holding cell, Death House at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

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