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Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

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Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Supreme Court halts Missouri execution

Ernest Lee Johnson
Ernest Lee Johnson
The Supreme Court on Tuesday night halted a scheduled execution in Missouri, saying that the lethal injection should be delayed until after a lower court rules.

Ernest Lee Johnson was sentenced to death for killing 3 people with a claw hammer in 1994.

His attorneys wrote in filings asking the Supreme Court to stay the execution that Johnson had brain surgery in 2008 to remove a tumor, but that part of the tumor could not be removed.

Johnson is missing between 15 and 20 % of his brain, the attorneys wrote. As a result, Johnson has brain damage and a doctor cited as a medical expert believes he could suffer seizures due to the lethal injection, his attorneys said.

The office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster argued in court filings that the execution should proceed, writing that Johnson waited too long to make his argument.

In an unsigned order, the justices said they were granting the stay request pending an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The complaint from Johnson "alleges that Missouri's method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment as applied to a person with his particular medical condition," the justices wrote.

In the order, the justices continued:

A supporting affidavit by a medical expert states that "[a]s a result of Mr. Johnson's brain tumor, brain defect, and brain scar, a substantial risk of serious harm will occur during his execution as result of a violent seizure that may be induced by [the] Pentobarbital injection."

They went on to say that the appeals court will have to decide whether a complaint of Johnson's that was dismissed was properly dismissed or should have been allowed to progress.

Johnson was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. local time.

Source: Washington Post, November 3, 2015

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