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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Kasich to skip opening state fair to monitor Ronald Phillips' execution

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich will skip the opening of the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday so that he can monitor activities at the Death House as the state carries out the first execution in more than three years, his spokesman said.

Convicted child killer Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be executed Wednesday morning for the 1993 beating, rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.

The state has not carried out the death penalty since the execution of Dennis McGuire in January 2014 when Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction used a previously untested combination of lethal drugs. Witnesses said McGuire gasped and choked as the execution took 26 minutes.

Death penalty opponents, including 200 clergy, 17 former prison workers, and five men exonerated after serving time on Ohio’s Death Row, are pressing Kasich to not resume executions. They issued an open letter to the governor and held a Statehouse press conference this week.

Retired 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge James Brogan, who chaired an Ohio Supreme Court task force on the death penalty, said it’s troubling that executions are slated to resume when most of the task force’s 56 recommendations to the Legislature lay idle.

Death Row inmates filed legal challenges in federal court to Ohio’s lethal injection process. Phillips and two other inmates have asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a delay while their challenge to Ohio’s procedure continues.

Lawyers for the death row inmates argue the procedure’s first drug, the sedative midazolam, creates an unconstitutional risk of pain by not rendering prisoners deeply unconscious before two other drugs kick in.

Midazolam has been used in some executions that were problematic, including in Ohio, Arkansas and Arizona. The request for the delay was made to Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such appeals for Ohio.

There are 139 inmates on Ohio Death Row. Four are scheduled to be executed in 2017, 10 in 2018, nine in 2019 and four in 2020, according to the DRC website.

Source: Dayton Daily News, AP, Laura A. Bischoff, July 20, 2017


Ronald Phillips makes 2nd appeal to top court to stop execution


A condemned child killer in Ohio has made a second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his scheduled execution.

Ronald Phillips asked the high court Thursday for an emergency stay based on his age at the time of the murder. He was 19, older than the Supreme Court's cutoff of 18 for purposes of barring executions of juveniles. His request argues the age should be 21.

Also before the court is Phillips' request for an emergency stay based on an execution method he and other inmates have challenged.

Phillips is set to die July 26 in what would be Ohio's first execution in more than 3 years.

Phillips was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and killing of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.

Source: Associated Press, July 20, 2017


John Kasich Will Monitor Ohio's 1st Execution in 3 Years Next Week


Ohio Governor John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich
Ronald Phillips is slated to be executed by the state of Ohio next Wednesday, July 26. It would be the state's 1st execution in 3 years after a series of legal and governmental delays after the last execution, of Dennis McGuire, during which the state used an untested cocktail of drugs, including midazolam, and which led to what witnesses described as gasping and choking during the 26 minutes it took McGuire to die.

A federal judge in January declared the use of midazolam unconstitutional, but a federal appeals court ruled 8-6 last month that Ohio can use the sedative in the process. 

Lawyers for Phillips, who was convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in 1993, have asked the Supreme Court to delay the execution, noting that the divided ruling proves more debate is needed on the matter.

"What is happening in Ohio is a matter of great concern everywhere," attorney Mark Haddad said in a statement to Cleveland.com. "The record in the Ohio prisoners' case firmly establishes an intolerable risk of resuming executions under the midazolam 3-drug protocol."

Coalitions and advocacy groups, including former death row inmates who have since been exonerated, have pressed Ohio Governor John Kasich to postpone the execution. 

There are larger legal and moral issues at play here, to be sure, but as retired 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge James Brogan told the Dayton Daily News, the very idea that Ohio plans on resuming executions when a state Supreme Court task force's extensive recommendations on the use of the death penalty have been largely ignored is "troubling."

Kasich, for his part, hasn't acceded to pressure to delay Phillips's death, but the Associated Press and Dayton Daily News report that Kasich will skip the opening of next week's state fair to monitor the developments at what is charmingly referred to as the Death House.

Source: clevescene.com, July 20, 2017

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