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Editorial: In a civilized society, not even the most vicious crimes justify a death sentence

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It is soul-bruising to contemplate the torture that 10-year-old Anthony Avalos endured in his Lancaster home for more than a week before dying last year. Whippings with a looped cord and belt. Repeatedly held upside down then dropped on his head. Getting slammed into pieces of furniture and against the floor. Hot sauce poured on his face and mouth.
The road map of the abuse stretched from head to toe on his small malnourished body — bruises, abrasions, scabs and cuts visible on the outside. Traumatic brain injury and soft tissue damage on the inside. All allegedly perpetrated by his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
RELATED | California: Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Anthony Avalos torture case
If ever a set of circumstances called for the death penalty, this would be it. Few were surprised when Los Angeles County prosecutors said Wednesday that if the couple is convicted of the torture-murder, the jury will be asked to recommend a death sentence.
Such ca…

Missouri executes Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor
A Missouri man who abducted, raped and murdered a 15-year-old schoolgirl has been executed after the US Supreme Court dismissed a last-minute appeal.

Michael Taylor, 47, who admitted killing Ann Harrison in the Kansas City area in 1989, died by lethal injection.

His lawyers argued that the drugs used for the injection might subject him to a slow and tortuous death.

The execution comes amid controversy over the chemicals being used to give US death row inmates lethal injections.

Ann Harrison was waiting for the school bus near her home when she was abducted by Taylor and his accomplice, Roderick Nunley.

Though he was raised in a 2-parent, church-going home, Taylor fell into a pattern of petty crimes and drug use that landed him in trouble.

He and Nunley, who grew up in the same central Kansas City neighborhood, were cruising around in a car they had stolen the day before in Grandview when they randomly chose to drive down Ann's street in the early morning light.

The men put her in a car, took her to a home, raped her and stabbed her to death as she begged for her life.

They later told police that they had been binging on crack cocaine that morning. Both ultimately confessed, although each portrayed the other as the aggressor in the attack.

In his confession, Taylor said that they both raped her. His DNA was recovered. There was no physical evidence linking Nunley to the sexual assault, and he has always denied that he raped her.

After raping her, they debated whether to kill her. Nunley said Taylor insisted on it. Taylor said it was Nunley.

A prosecutor later said that it didn't matter, calling them a "sadistic tag team."

Nunley is also on death row.

Ann refused when they told her to get in the car trunk. She pleaded with them not to kill her and said her parents would pay them if they let her go. They pretended to go along with that idea and said they were going to drive her to a pay phone to call her parents.

Instead, they got knives from the kitchen and stabbed her to death.

They abandoned the car several blocks away.

Ann's father and two of her uncles witnessed Wednesday's execution.

Just hours beforehand, Taylor said in a phone conversation with the Kansas City Star that he had written a letter for Ann's parents expressing "my sincerest apology and heartfelt remorse".

He made no final statement, though he reportedly mouthed silent words to his parents.

Taylor was pronounced dead at 12:10 (06:10 GMT) in the state prison at Bonne Terre.

An Associated Press reporter who was present said there were no obvious signs of distress.

It was Missouri's fourth execution by lethal injection in as many months.

The state obtained the powerful sedative used in the execution, pentobarbital, from a compounding pharmacy, which prepares specific drugs to order. It chose to remain anonymous.

Such outlets are not regulated by the federal government, which means their safety and efficacy are unverified.

Another compounding pharmacy, in Oklahoma, last week agreed not to provide the execution drug after Taylor's lawyers sued.

Since European manufacturers stopped providing pentobarbital for executions, several US states are running low on execution chemicals and turning to new suppliers or products that have not been widely approved.

In addition to challenging the drug used, Taylor's lawyers objected to the state executing inmates before appeals were complete.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had rejected a clemency request for Taylor.

Taylor becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 72nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989.

Taylor becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1368th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: BBC News, Kansas City Star, Rick Halperin, Feb. 26, 2014

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