FEATURED POST

No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

Image
Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Texas: Tilon Carter set for execution - again

Recreation yard, Polunsky Unit. Texas
Recreation yard, Polunsky Unit. Click here to see recent photographs
of the living conditions of confinement on Texas' Death Row.
For the 2nd time this year, Tilon Carter faces execution - this time, he's set for Huntsville's gurney next Tuesday, May 16. 

Carter was convicted of capital murder in 2006 in Tarrant County, for the robbery and suffocation of 89-year-old James Eldon Tomlin. 

He received a stay in January based on a technicality involving the filing of his death warrant, so the Court of Criminal Appeals ordered the lower court to reset Carter's execution date. 

Carter has exhausted his appeals, but maintains that Tomlin's death was accidental. Robin Norris, his attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.

The resetting of execution dates combined with last-minute stays is one of several injustices highlighted in "Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas' Death Row," a recent report from the Human Rights Clinic at the UT School of Law. 

The yearlong study focused on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's repeated resetting of execution dates, inmates' limited access to religious services, and - most significantly - the Polunsky Unit's use of solitary confinement.

Texas has been dubbed the Capital of Capital Punishment. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed 542 people. (Carter would bump that to 543.) Oklahoma and Virginia have the 2nd and 3rd most deadly death rows, each with 112 executions. 

Texas' death row inmates spend 22-24 hours a day in solitary. Though the TDCJ allows inmates up to 2 hours of "recreation" time daily, the report notes: "In practice, death row inmates often do not receive outdoor [time]." And even outside, the so-called "yard" is a slightly larger cell closed off by high concrete walls and caging over the top, which limits natural light. It's typical for death row inmates to spend more than a decade living in these conditions prior to their execution.

Mandatory confinement has been required since the men's death row was transferred from Huntsville to the Polunsky Unit in nearby West Livingston in 1999.  All human contact has been banned as well. 

"Window" of a typical Polunsky Unit death row cell.
"Window" of a typical Polunsky Unit death row cell.
The TDCJ's severe use of solitary and isolation has been called inhumane by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of American States, and the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The UT report states the use of solitary, to such a degree, is incredibly detrimental to inmates' mental health - most noticeably those already suffering from mental illness.

In what is dubbed "death row syndrome," prisoners report experiencing severe depression, memory loss, suicidal tendencies, and more. The study summarizes, they're "effectively subject to a severe form of psychological torture every day of their lives."

Asked for a response to the study, Jason Clark, the TDCJ's director of public information, told us: "Offenders on death row are individuals who've been convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the law. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately."

According to Ariel Dulitzky, a UT Law professor and the director of the Human Rights Clinic, TDCJ declined to meet with the clinic over the course of the study, and has yet to respond to a follow-up request made earlier this month. However, Dulitzky said the clinic hopes this report will secure a "complete ban" of mandatory solitary confinement. 

In the interim, the clinic is advocating for the prohibition of confinement for all inmates with mental health problems, for the implementation of "physical contact visits with families and attorneys, communal religious services," and for improvements to health care.

Source: Austin Chronicle, May 11, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Comments

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Ohio: Alva Campbell execution delayed indefinitely

Here's as Crazy a Death Penalty Story as You'll Find

Nevada releases detailed manual on how it plans to execute death row inmate

A Travelling Executioner

No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

Ohio: Alva Campbell will get wedge-shaped pillow for execution; his death could become a “spectacle”

Nevada death row inmate placed on suicide watch

Too Old and Too Sick to Execute? No Such Thing in Ohio.

Arizona: Man sentenced to death in 2011 death of 10-year-old locked in storage box

Ohio transfers sick inmate to death house ahead of execution