FEATURED POST

America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

Image
With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Closed-door inquiry resumes in bungled Oklahoma executions

A grand jury looking into drug mix-ups during the last 2 scheduled lethal injections in Oklahoma resumed its closed-door investigation Tuesday and could issue a final report as early as this week.

The multicounty grand jury directed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office is scheduled to meet through Thursday in Oklahoma City. Grand jury proceedings are secret, and those subpoenaed to appear are admonished not to publicly discuss their testimony.

The panel is looking into how the wrong drug was used to execute an inmate in January 2015 and then delivered again to death row for a scheduled lethal injection in September that was halted just before the inmate was to die.

Pruitt said he won't request any execution dates for the 5 people so far on death row who have exhausted their appeals until at least 5 months after the grand jury investigation is complete and the results are made public.

Since Pruitt launched the investigation in October, three key state officials connected to Oklahoma's last several executions have resigned after showing up to testify - Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell, former Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton, and Gov. Mary Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins.

None have said their resignations were connected to the probe, and Pruitt declined to discuss the topic during an interview with The Associated Press this month.

"I think it's best just to let the grand jury process finish, and then if those matters need to be addressed in a grand jury report, then they will be addressed," Pruitt said then.

Internal Department of Corrections emails regarding Patton's resignation show the chairman of the agency's governing board, Kevin Gross, edited a news release announcing Patton's departure to remove any reference to the grand jury investigation. The emails, first reported by Buzzfeed News, show Gross told an agency spokesman in a December email to delete from the release a statement about Patton's resignation having nothing to do with the grand jury.

"We can talk about the grand jury," Gross wrote in the email. "But I don't think drawing attention to it will prevent them from coming to the conclusion."

The final version of the statement announcing Patton's resignation made no reference to the grand jury probe.

Oklahoma ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions carried out since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976. The drug mix-ups followed a botched lethal injection in 2014 that left inmate Clayton Lockett writhing on the gurney and mumbling in an execution that Patton tried unsuccessfully to halt before Lockett died 43 minutes after the procedure began. An investigation later noted a faulty insertion of the intravenous line and lack of training of the execution team.

Meanwhile, former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry announced this week that he will help lead a prominent group of Oklahomans in a comprehensive review over the next year on the state's use of the death penalty. Henry, a Democrat who oversaw dozens of executions during his 2 terms in office, will be joined as co-chair on the 12-member panel by retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Reta Strubhar and former U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Lester.

That group plans to issue a report in early 2017.

Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Texas: With a man's execution days away, his victims react with fury or forgiveness

Texas executes Christopher Young

Ohio executes Robert Van Hook

Saudi Arabia executes seven people in one day

Ex-Aum member Yoshihiro Inoue’s last words: ‘I didn’t expect things to turn out this way’

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

Execution date pushed back for Texas 7 escapee after paperwork error on death warrant

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejects clemency for Chris Young

Ohio Governor commutes one sentence, delays another

Iran: Man executed in Mashhad; billionaire to hang over embezzlement charges