California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Oklahoma executes Johnny Dale Black

Johnny Dale Black
Johnny Dale Black
OKLAHOMA CITY, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Oklahoma executed by lethal injection on Tuesday a 48-year-old man convicted of stabbing and beating a horse trainer to death in a case of mistaken identity.

Johnny Dale Black was pronounced dead at 6:08 p.m. Central Time at a state prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, state Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massey said.

At a hearing before the state Pardon and Parole Board last month, Black begged forgiveness for his actions. But he insisted that he was merely trying to defend his brother, Jimmy Black, from Pogue. The brothers had approached Pogue and Lewis after mistaking their car for that of someone else they had been searching for.

"I deserve to be punished for what I did, but not for defending my family," Johnny Black told the board in November.

About 15 minutes before the execution, fellow death row inmates began banging the doors of their cells in a tribute to the condemned man.

Witnesses to the execution included Black's mother, his attorney and a spiritual adviser. Four members of the victim's family also attended.

Before the lethal drugs were administered, Black, who was lying on a gurney with needles attached to both arms, made eye contact with his mother, and both shook their heads affirmatively.

"This isn't accomplishing anything," Black said. "It's just another death, another family destroyed." Black did not apologize to the victim's family or acknowledge the crime he was convicted of.

Looking at his mother, Black said, "I love everybody. I love you. You can count on that, Momma."

As the lethal drugs were administered, Black took several deep breaths as his mother wept.

The victim's family did not make a statement after the execution. But Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Black was sentenced to death by a jury of his peers "for the murder of an innocent grandfather and upstanding member of the community."

Pogue's relatives and friends had petitioned the board last month to carry out the execution instead of commuting Black's death sentence to life in prison without parole.

"What will bring justice in this tragic case? How can atonement be made for this hideous murder?" wrote Pogue's widow, Lonnetta. "No mercy was shown to Bill on that fateful night. He got no second chances at life.

"I ask you, board members, to let justice be done," she wrote.

Lewis related the mental anguish and survivor's guilt he's experienced since 1998.

"Tell me how, as the only surviving victim, that I can explain the feeling of being the one that survived," Lewis said. "Tell me how to explain to my son — who was 18 days old when this happened

Black was convicted of first-degree murder and battery in the 1998 killing of Bill Pogue, 54, a horse trainer from Ringling, Oklahoma. He had been looking for someone else, according to court documents.

Black was one of five men who went out hunting for a man who had threatened one of the five because he had been having an affair with the man's soon to be ex-wife, according to court documents.

The group was looking for the man's black sport-utility vehicle and instead encountered Pogue, who had gone to a convenience store with his son-in-law, Richard Lewis, to buy chewing tobacco and was driving home in a black SUV.

The group of five men stopped their compact car in front of the SUV and attacked Pogue and Lewis, beating them and stabbing them more than 10 times each, according to court documents.

Pogue died later from his wounds, while Lewis survived the roadside attack, according to court documents.

The morning after the fight, Black fled to Texas, where he was later arrested and confessed to the crime, according to court documents. Black said he did not remember stabbing Lewis and said he was afraid for his brothers, who were part of the group in the fight, and did not intend to kill Pogue.

Black was also convicted of manslaughter in 1984 in the shooting death of Cecil Martin.

Black becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 108th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Only Texas (506) and Missorui (110) have carried out more executions since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Black becomes the 39th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1359th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

The number of executions in the United States has been on a decline overall since 1999, when 98 people were executed. 

Source: Reuters, Associated Press, Rick Halperin, December 17, 2013

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