Texas: Rodney Reed granted indefinite stay of execution

Stay of execution came just hours after parole board unanimously recommended 120-day reprieve
The Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed was granted a stay of execution on Friday, 5 days before he was scheduled to be put to death for a murder he insists he did not commit.
The Texas court of criminal appeals blocked the execution indefinitely and sent the case back to the trial court in Bastrop county, where Reed was sentenced in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites two years earlier.
The court had previously rejected multiple appeals, but Reed’s lawyers argued that fresh evidence bolstered his claim of innocence. 
They said in a statement that they “are extremely relieved and thankful … this opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr Reed’s innocence”.
Millions of people, including a clutch of celebrities, have rallied behind Reed’s cause, helping to generate momentum and public attention as the execution date of 20 November loomed an…

Missouri executes William Rousan

William Rousan
BONNE TERRE, Mo. — Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday who was convicted of killing a farming couple in 1993 as part of a plot to steal their cows.

William Rousan's last words were, "My trials and transgressions have been many. But thanks be to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I have a new home in his heavenly kingdom."

Before he was killed, Rousan, 57, mouthed words to his brother-in-law and a minister he had invited to his execution. As the drug was administered, he breathed deeply twice and then was still. He was declared dead at 12:10 a.m., nine minutes after the procedure started.

Prosecutors say Rousan, his teenage son, Brent Rousan, and his brother, Robert Rousan, murdered Charlie and Grace Lewis on Sept. 21, 1993 as part of a plot to steal their cows. Brent Rousan is serving life in prison without parole, and Robert Rousan served seven years in prison before being released in 2001.

The slain couple's son and two daughters were among those who witnessed the execution, which took place only a few miles from where their parents were killed. Their son, Michael Lewis, spoke afterward.

"I draw no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan's incarceration or execution, for neither can replace or restore the moments lost with my parents or give my sons back the grandparents they never got to know," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Rousan's request to delay his execution.

Efforts to spare Rousan's life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts — concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.

Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another Missouri inmate, Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for execution on May 21.

Rousan becomes the 4th Missouri condemned inmate to be put to death this year and the 74th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (515), Oklahoma (110), Virginia (110) and Florida (85) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized in the US on July 2, 1976.

Rousan becomes the 18th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1377th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Source: The Kansas City Star/AP, April 22, 2014

Missouri inmate's lawyers call on Supreme Court to halt execution

William Rousan's attorneys say wall of secrecy around lethal injection drugs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment

Lawyers representing a death row inmate in Missouri who is scheduled to be put to death shortly after midnight tonight with a drug whose source is being kept secret are calling on the US supreme court to step in and stop the execution.

William Rousan's attorneys argue that the impenetrable wall of secrecy surrounding the lethal injection drugs that the state of Missouri intends to use amounts to a violation of his constitutional rights. The defence team, lead by Philip Horwitz, argues that in the absence of any information about the batch of pentobarbital the state intends to use to kill Rousan, or about where the drug was obtained, the prisoner could be subjected to a form of cruel and unusual punishment banned under the US constitution.

The call for a stay of execution for Rousan - who would be the 6th inmate to be put to death by Missouri in as many months - comes just 1 day after the supreme court of Oklahoma postponed 2 executions. Clayton Lockett, 38, and Charles Warner, 46, were temporarily spared the gurney after a state court found that the secrecy surrounding the procurement of lethal drugs was unconstitutional.

A district court judge, Patricia Parrish, ruled on 26 March that by withholding information on where it was obtaining the drugs, the state of Oklahoma was violating the prisoner's right to due process as set out in the 14th amendment of the US constitution. "I do not think that this is even a close call," she said.

With intense legal action in Missouri, hard on the heels of the stay of execution ordered in Oklahoma, the issue of state secrecy in death penalty states is now reaching boiling point. Courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have also expressed misgivings about the creeping spread of secrecy adopted by death penalty states as a way of skirting around a European-lead boycott of corrections departments in the supply of lethal drugs.

So far, the US supreme court has tried to stay out of the bitter legal struggle. But death penalty experts suspect that unless a consensus forms between states, the highest judicial panel in the nation will eventually be forced to intervene.

"The US supreme court really wants to avoid this issue, which it sees as a matter for individual states," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "But there are basic constitutional issues at play here of due process, and if there is a clear contradiction among the rulings handed out at state level, then the supreme court may have to step in."

Such a contradiction is most likely to be seen in Missouri, where the courts have so far shown no truck with the argument that secrecy is a violation of fundamental rights. The state has extended its definition of the execution team to include pharmacists and other suppliers that sell lethal drugs to the corrections department, thus throwing a cloak of total secrecy around the supply chain.

Such secrecy is desired by death penalty states, because where the identity of the pharmacist or manufacturer becomes known, the source frequently chooses to stop providing the drugs for fear of adverse public attention. Earlier this year it was revealed that a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based pharmacy had been compounding pentobarbital and shipping it to Missouri for use in executions.

But Missouri's cloak-and-dagger approach to its executions has already provoked sharp criticism from some senior judges. In February, Kermit Bye, a federal judge on the 8th circuit court of appeals, said caustically that "from the absolute dearth of information Missouri has disclosed to this court, the 'pharmacy' on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school chemistry class."

Barring a last-minute stay from the US supreme court or from the Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, Rousan, 57, will be executed at 12.01am tomorrow morning. He was convicted of the 1993 murder of a couple, Grace and Charles Lewis, on a farm outside Bonne Terre.

Source: The Guardian, April 21, 2014

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