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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
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Alabama executes Christopher Brooks

Christopher Brooks
Christopher Brooks
A man who raped and bludgeoned a 23-year-old woman to death with a dumbbell in Alabama was executed on Thursday evening.

Christopher Eugene Brooks died at 6.38pm after the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.

In the hours leading up to his death, no one had attended a vigil area to support the prisoner before his death.

'I hope this brings closure to everybody,' Brooks said as the drugs began to overcome him.

'I will take you with me in my heart,' he said to friends who witnessed the execution, according to AL.com. 'I'll see you soon. Bye. I love you.'

Brooks was the first prisoner executed in Alabama for two years and the first in the state to use a new lethal drug combination including the sedative midazolam.

Brooks, now 43, sexually assaulted Jo Deann Campbell in her own apartment in Homewood on December 30, 1992, before killing her with an eight-pound dumbbell.

The pair had met working at a nearby summer camp but were not romantically involved, her sister Corinne told WWLP.

Miss Campbell let Brooks and his friend Robert Leeper stay at her place for the night, but the next day she did not show up for work.

Police found the young woman's body, naked from the waist down, stashed under her bed.

Brooks and Leeper were caught days later after they were tracked down using Miss Campbell's credit card.

A bloody fingerprint belonging to Brooks was found on the doorknob in Mrs Campbell's bedroom, his palm print was discovered on her ankle and semen found on her body matched his DNA.

Brooks was found guilty of murder, rape and robbery whereas Leeper was only found guilty of robbery as DNA did not link him to Miss Campbell's body.

Brooks' execution took place in the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. His victim's family attended the execution.

Alabama switched the sedative from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital after Hospira, the maker of sodium thiopental, discontinued its manufacture in the United States in 2011. The state acknowledged in early 2014 it had run out of pentobarbital. But in a filing with the Alabama Supreme Court in September, the Alabama Attorney General's office said it had secured midazolam hydrochloride as a sedative.

Florida has used midazolam in its executions since 2013, without reported incident. But the drug was present in executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona in 2014, where inmates took a lengthy time to die. In 2 cases, reporters said inmates appeared to be gasping or choking through the process.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in executions in a 5-4 decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said three Oklahoma inmates challenging its use had failed to prove it violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The court also ruled that the condemned had to suggest a more humane method of execution available to officials.

After administration of the sedative, the state protocol calls for the injection of rocuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles. The inmate would next receive potassium chloride, to stop the heart. The drugs are administered from a room outside the execution chamber. Under state law, Holman warden Carter Davenport administers the lethal injection.,P. Brooks was moved to a holding cell on Tuesday in advance of the execution. He was given a breakfast at 6:10 a.m., but did not eat it. Brooks saw friends and attorneys until 4:15 p.m. Thursday, according to Corrections officials.

There are 186 inmates on Alabama's death row. 5 have challenged the use of midazolam, saying it would not render them unconscious in time to avoid the pain from the other 2 drugs, which would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protections against "cruel and unusual punishment." The inmates also questioned whether Corrections officials consistently administer a consciousness test before administering the lethal drugs. Brooks filed a motion to join the case in November, and later to stay his execution.

"Midazolam will not anesthetize Brooks, and regardless of the dose, will not eliminate the risk that a condemned inmate will experience pain from the paralytic or potassium chloride," his brief said.

A district court allowed Brooks to join the lawsuit, known as the "Midazolam Litigation," but refused to grant a stay. A federal appeals court Tuesday refused to intervene, upholding the district judge's ruling that Brooks had not offered an alternative means of execution available to the Alabama Department of Corrections. The court also upheld the district court's ruling that Brooks had run out of time to intervene in the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Brooks' requests for a stay of the execution Thursday evening. The majority did not explain its reasons. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a brief dissent, saying the methods by which Brooks was sentenced resembled Florida's capital sentences, which the high court voted to strike down earlier this month in a case titled Hurst v. Florida. 

"The unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment," Breyer wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, wrote a separate concurrence in the denial. Sotomayor wrote that "procedural obstacles" prevented the court from granting the stay, but added that the majority's decision to deny the ruling was based on two cases that Hurst overturned.

The request for the stay of execution was made to Justice Clarence Thomas, according to AL.com.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with Thomas's decision to deny the stay.
But Justice Stephen Breyer dissented from the ruling.

'Christopher Eugene Brooks was sentenced to death in accordance with Alabama's procedures, which allow a jury to render an "advisory verdict" that "is not binding on the court",' the dissent states.

'Moreover, we have recognized that Alabama's sentencing scheme is 'much like' and 'based on Florida's sentencing scheme,' Breyer wrote.

The long pause between executions in Alabama was unusual, but not unprecedented. The state resumed executions in 1983, but did not schedule any for almost 3 years after, following the gruesome death of John Evans in the electric chair on April 22, 1983. There was a 2 1/2 year gap in executions in the state between 1992 and 1995.

Brooks' execution is the 7th to take place under Gov. Robert Bentley's administration.

Brooks becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabam and the 57th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Brooks becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1425th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. There is 1 more execution later this month, set for Jan. 27 in Texas. 

Sources: Mail Online, Montgomery Advertiser, Rick Halperin, January 21, 2016

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