Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

The Power to Kill

"Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather super storms or spiritual super storm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike." ~ Maya Angelou

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were violently murdered by the savage edict of Jokowi. The bullets tore into their hearts as they sang praises to God while facing their killers with a clear conscience. This terrible ritual shows the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. The boys exemplified the inner goodness that we all have to draw on when faced with the harshest of circumstances. Jokowi and his killers exemplified the worst kind of humanity for they killed without mercy. While the news out of Indonesia seems to indicate that the noise we created about Joko’s use of his killing power has indeed slowed their killings down it has not stopped the rhetoric of their intention to continue the use of the death penalty.

The Iraqi Justice Minister disclosed that 20 death sentences were carried out on the 6th of March and another 65 to 70 other executions only await the final approval of the judicial authorities.

In the USA we find the bills to repeal the use of the death penalty fell short in Utah and in Kentucky.

Oklahoma is anxious to get back to killing in their state as soon as the investigation in the botched executions is complete. 

Virginia is so determined to be able to kill they will resort to frying the brains of their convicts in the electric chair. All that is stopping them is the Governor signing the bill sent to him by the legislature. 

I find the Ohio Supreme Court decision to allow the state to attempt to execute Romell Broom a second time very disconcerting. The state authorities botched Mr. Broom’s 2009 execution. They tried 18 times for a vein to administer the deadly drugs. Those trying to establish the lines tried for two hours, until the execution was stopped. In the attempt to get this ritual of vengeance accomplished the prisoner was not only subjected to being taken to the death chamber and adjust his mind that his life was over, but was probed and poked even the jabbing of the bone in his arm. He was in tears and those involved were traumatized. Now after seven years the court denies his claim of double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment. So they can try again to kill him, maybe not immediately but he must go through it all again. The ruling was a 4-3 decision with a scathing dissent by two of the justices.

A dissent authored by Justice Judith French argued there should, at least, be an evidentiary hearing.

“The evidence in the record, if believed, would establish that the state has repeatedly and predictably had problems establishing and maintaining access to inmates’ veins, that these problems are the result of medical incompetence on the part of the execution team members responsible for inserting IV catheters, and that the incompetence of the execution staff makes it more than likely that these problems will recur in future executions,” she wrote.

In another dissent, Justice William O’Neill wrote that the “description of the state’s first attempt to put Broom to death chills me to the core. It is not only the rights of the defendant that are in play here. There are state employees who have tragically endured the personal trauma of unsuccessfully attempting to execute a fellow human being. And now we, as a society, are telling them, ‘Do it again.’” ~ Chris McDaniel

“Broom's case is unique in Ohio's capital-punishment history and is one of only two known cases nationally in which an execution was halted after it began. The other one was Willie Francis, a 17-year-old killer who died in Louisiana's electric chair on May 9, 1947, having survived a botched execution a year earlier.” ~ Alan Johnson, March 16, 2016

We can see that the US states have not had a problem in implementing the death penalty even on those convicted as juveniles. So we may get all puffed up and protest the horrific deaths planned by the Saudis for three juvenile offenders, but right here in the United States the state prosecutors still hang the death penalty upon juvenile offenders. 

News from Montana shows that a Wyoming teen will face the death penalty if found guilty of killing two good Samaritans. From the Charlotte Observer I find our public prosecutors every bit as barbaric as the Saudis or Iranians.

Prosecutors announced Monday that they will seek the death penalty against a Burke County teen and ISIS supporter accused of robbing and killing his neighbor to get an assault rifle so he could commit mass murder.

Justin Nojan Sullivan, 19, was arrested last June and is accused of plotting to kill up to 1,000 people in support of ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization.


Source: Op-ed by Bob Turner, March 17, 2016

Also by Bob Turner:
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