Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Texas executes Donald Newbury

Donald Newbury
Already a three-time felon with a violent history, the convicted robber Donald Newbury was serving a 99-year prison term when he joined six fellow convicts in Texas’s biggest prison break ever in 2000.

Newbury was executed Wednesday for the shooting death of a suburban Dallas police officer during a sporting-goods store robbery the escaped fugitives carried out while at large.

Newbury was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m., almost 30 minutes after the procedure began. His last words were "I love you all" after he read a proverb as his last statement.

As the drugs began to take effect, Irving PD and other police officers revved their motorcycles.

Newbury, 52, becomes the third Texas prisoner to be put to death this year, and also the third of the notorious “Texas 7” gang to be executed for the slaying of 29-year-old Irving officer Aubrey Hawkins.

His attorneys had asked the US Supreme Court to keep him from lethal injection, arguing that previous lawyers were deficient and courts did not provide adequate money for a defense expert to illustrate how Newbury’s abusive childhood influenced his violent behavior.

The Texas attorney general’s office, in opposing the appeal, said Newbury had been given court reviews and court-authorized money and “has not pointed to any facts” that would prove he was innocent.

Newbury was spared from lethal injection three years ago by a Supreme Court reprieve.

Evidence showed the gang led by George Rivas, who was serving 17 life-in-prison terms, overpowered workers on 13 December 2000 at the Connally Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, about 60 miles south of San Antonio.

Eleven days later, on Christmas Eve, and after robberies as far away as Houston, Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over with a stolen SUV when he interrupted the gang’s holdup of a sporting goods store. The fugitives got away with $70,000, 44 firearms, ammunition and winter clothing. They also took jewelry and wallets from store employees who were closing up for the evening.

They were hunted down a month later in Colorado where one of them, Larry Harper, killed himself rather than surrender.

According to court records, 12 loaded firearms were found in the Holiday Inn room in Colorado Springs where Newbury was arrested with escapee Joseph Garcia.

Newbury contended he didn’t shoot to kill Hawkins and pointed his gun far above the officer’s head.

Prison records show Newbury had dozens of disciplinary cases since arriving on death row in 2002. Most were defined as major, such as assaulting corrections officers, possessing weapons and contraband and creating disturbances. At least one was a riot case.

“He really likes coming across as the bad outlaw,” said Toby Shook, the former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Newbury.

In a 2003 interview with The Associated Press, Newbury said he would still escape if he could do it all over again.

“I had 99 years,” he said, referring to his original sentence. “What did I have to lose?”

Gang leader Rivas, 41, was put to death three years ago. George Rodriguez, 45, was executed in 2008 after ordering all his appeals dropped.

Three remain on death row: Garcia, 43, Patrick Murphy Jr, 53, and Randy Halprin, 37.

Newbury becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 521st overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Newbury becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became Governor of Texas last month.

Newbury becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1401st overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Source: The Guardian, AP, Rick Halperin, February 4, 2015

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