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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…

Ohio death penalty opponents urge Gov. John Kasich to postpone executions

Ohio: 27,503 signatures
27,503 signatures. Photo Ohioans to Stop Executions (via Facebook)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Death penalty opponents on Wednesday called on Gov. John Kasich not to resume executions next week after a 3 1/2-year hiatus.

Ohioans to Stop Executions delivered 27,503 signatures to Kasich's office, urging the Republican governor to postpone the state's 27 scheduled executions.

The petition calls for better safeguards to prevent innocent people from being sentenced to death, including 2014 recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court's death penalty task force.

Retired Dayton-area Judge James Brogan, who chaired the task force, said executions should not resume before state legislators consider the 56 recommendations from the panel.

"This lack of action is disconcerting and will enable the core problems we identified to continue and potentially lead to wrongful death penalty convictions," Brogan said in a statement.

Executions have been on hold since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die using a new and untried lethal-injection cocktail involving midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative.

State officials have had difficulty getting lethal injection drugs because European pharmaceutical companies have barred their sale for the purpose of executions.

But they said earlier this year they have enough of the new three-drug combo to carry out several executions.

Ronald Phillips
Ronald Phillips
Convicted Akron killer Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die July 26. Phillips was convicted in 1993 of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. The Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for Phillips in December, calling his crime "among the worst of the worst." The young victim's half-sister and aunt asked state officials to move forward with the execution to bring the family closure.

Phillips' execution has been delayed several times as death row inmates and death penalty opponents have challenged the state's untried protocol. Phillips' attorneys made a plea this week to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the next three executions while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

In a separate letter to Kasich, 17 former corrections officials and administrators, including three from Ohio, warned of possible errors with the use of midazolam, which has been used in problematic executions in Ohio, Arizona and Alabama. The group warned a disturbing execution could traumatize corrections officials carrying it out.

Rex Zent, a former Ohio prison warden and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction official, said execution team members often deal with stress and anxiety from carrying out routine executions.

"Think of the psychological damage when something does go wrong or when they think of the men who have been exonerated from death row," Zent said at a Wednesday news conference.

Source: cleveland.com, Jackie Borchardt, July 19, 2017

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