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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.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
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…

Judge allows Dylann Roof flip-flop on lawyers in guilt phase of death penalty trial

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A federal judge has approved the request of the alleged Charleston church shooter to bring back his lawyers, one week after he asked to have them dismissed.

In a handwritten request filed on Sunday, 22-year-old Dylann Roof asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to bring his defense team back on board for the guilt phase of his federal death penalty trial, which begins next week in Charleston.

Roof will be allowed to go back to representing himself for the penalty phase. Gergel agreed Monday, but warned Roof that he can’t change his mind again.

Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty. Such cases are split into two parts: the guilt phase, and then a separate portion that focuses on whether the defendant will be sentenced to death, or life in prison.

The request came a week after a federal judge allowed Roof to represent himself in the June 2015 slayings at Emanuel AME Church. CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC-TV had reported that Roof, facing 33 charges including hate crime and murder, told Judge Gergel that he had reviewed the order that declared him competent to stand trial, and that he felt ready to represent himself.

Gergel told Roof in court that he felt the decision to be “strategically unwise,” but he ultimately granted Roof permission to represent himself at trial.

Ever since then, his high-powered legal team has sought to play a larger role in his defense, saying late last week they feared Roof wouldn’t introduce evidence that could possibly spare his life.

Authorities have said Roof killed the parishioners in a racially motivated attack at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. After an hour of Bible study and prayer, authorities say Roof hurled racial slurs during the shooting and left three people alive so they could tell the world the killings were because he hated black people.

Final jury selection and opening statements in Roof’s federal trial on dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion, are scheduled to begin Wednesday. He also faces a death penalty trial on state murder charges.

Source: CBS News, December 5, 2016

Prosecutors say they need 7 days in church case


CHARLESTON, S.C. — Prosecutors estimate it will take about seven days to present their case against Dylann Roof, who is charged with hate crimes in the fatal shooting of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last year.

Roof’s lawyers were put back on the case Monday by the judge after Roof requested it. They said they wouldn’t need much time to prepare for the guilt phase of Roof’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Roof, meaning there will be a second, penalty phase of the trial if he’s found guilty. For that part, Roof wants to go back to being his own lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel also ruled Monday that Roof’s parents, grandmother and grandfather can remain in the courtroom during the trial even though they’re potential witnesses. All other witnesses must stay out until they testify. Roof’s grandfather is a lawyer.

Source: Associated Press, December 5, 2016

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