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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
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The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Georgia executes Daniel Lucas

Daniel Anthony Lucas
Daniel Anthony Lucas
A man sent to death row for killing two children and their father in 1998 was executed in Georgia on Wednesday.

Daniel Anthony Lucas, 37, confessed to fatally shooting Bryan Moss, 11, near Macon on April 23, 1998, after the boy arrived home from school and found Lucas and Brandon Rhode burglarizing the house, according to court records.

Rhode next shot Bryan's sister, Kristin Moss, 15, and their father, Steven Moss, 37, when they arrived home, and Lucas then "shot all three victims again to make sure they were dead," Lucas' attorneys wrote in court papers.

Georgia executed Rhode for the murders in 2010. Lucas, who was convicted of the crimes in 1999, was put to death by lethal injection at 9:54 p.m. EDT at the state prison in Jackson. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Daniel Lucas’ request for a stay shortly before the execution. The court's response came about 2 hours after the originally scheduled 7 p.m. execution time had passed.

Earlier, the Superior Court of Butts County, followed by the Georgia Supreme Court, said no to halting Lucas' lethal injection.

The Georgia Supreme Court even expressed its displeasure that Lucas' lawyers filed their appeal a mere 31 hours before the slated hour of death:

"This Court notes that this successive habeas corpus proceeding was not initiated until the day before Lucas's scheduled execution. Despite this late filing, the Court has fully considered Lucas's application on the merits," the judges wrote.

Lucas becomes the fifth person executed this year in Georgia and the 13th in the United States, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

Lucas' lawyers described him as a changed man in a petition asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the inmate's sentence to life with parole, but the board denied the request late Tuesday.

"For the past 18 years he has devoted himself to learning and self improvement," the petition said. "He has been a model inmate. He has found faith."

After enduring an abusive childhood, Lucas became a "desperate alcoholic and addict, and he committed a horrible crime," his lawyers said, but is "not beyond redemption."

Lucas requested a last meal of meat pizza, steak and cheese calzone, stuffed Portobello mushroom, chef salad with ranch dressing and honey mustard dressing, and orange juice, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Lucas becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 65th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Lucas becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1435th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The next scheduled execution in the USA is set in Missouri for May 11. 

Source: Reuters, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rick Halperin, Twitter, April 27, 2016


What Daniel Lucas' Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty

"Almost all my [Death Penalty] clients should have been taken out of their
homes when they were children. They weren't. Nobody had any interest in
them, until as a result of nobody's interest in them, they became menaces,
at which point society did become interested, if only to kill them."
-- David R. Dow, Texas Public Defender Service attorney
Less than two weeks after executing Kenneth Fults, Georgia is getting ready to lethally inject its fifth death row inmate this year.

Daniel Anthony Lucas is scheduled to die Wednesday night for the fatal shootings of two children. He doesn’t dispute that he committed the crime. But his story demonstrates how early childhood trauma plays out on death rows across the country today. A substantial number of executions involve people who grew up around substance abuse or grew up in environments where violence and neglect was the norm.

Lucas was 19 years old when he killed three people during a 1998 house burglary. He first targeted an 11-year-old son who saw Lucas from outside the house and tried to stop him with a baseball bat. Lucas shot him several times. When the teenage sister walked into the house later on, Lucas and co-conspirator Brandon Joseph Rhode tied her to a chair and Lucas shot her point blank. Rhodes killed the father when he arrived at the house.

Lucas was arrested days later, waived his Miranda rights, and confessed. After that, Lucas and his defense team tried and failed to link the substance abuse to his traumatic upbringing.

In court, Lucas’ attorneys hinged their defense on drugs — Xanax and Darvocet — and alcohol in his system at the time of the murders. According to a psychiatrist who testified on Lucas’ behalf, the killings likely occurred because his judgment was impaired at the time. He explained that Lucas’ “recollection or reasoning, his impulsivity, everything was eroded, almost destroyed.”

Attorneys tried to make the case that Lucas’ substance abuse problem was the result of lasting childhood trauma. Family members testified that he was raised in a turbulent environment, and watched his parents use crack cocaine, smoke marijuana, and “[drink] excessively” when he was a small boy. The family lived in “abject poverty.” Often, he had to protect his sister when their parents were fighting. And there was sexual abuse in the household, although it is unclear who the victims were.

The jury was unconvinced, and state and federal appeals courts rejected the notion that Lucas was too intoxicated to know what he was doing.

But Lucas’ story is shared by many people sentenced to capital punishment throughout the country. They weren’t born hardened, brutal criminals, but made life choices colored by profound trauma.

“It’s…clear that not all criminality is the product of childhood abuse,” Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist and trauma expert, told the publication. “But these early adverse situations reduce the resilience of human biology and they change us in very fundamental ways. Our brains are altered. And that’s what this research is bearing out.”

"Through their upbringing, children learn how to treat the people around them," Ochberg explained. "If they are abused as kids, many normalize violence and resort to violence in the future."

Click here to read the full article

Source: ThinkProgress, Carimah Townes, April 27, 2016. The original title of this article is: "What The Next Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty"

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