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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…

Arkansas death-row inmate tries to drop appeal blocking execution; request denied

Arkansas' death chamberArkansas' Supreme Court justices, who in April stayed the execution of Don Davis, said Thursday that the condemned killer cannot fire his legal team and drop the appeal that has, for now, spared his life.

In a series of handwritten motions sent from prison over the past 2 months, Davis, 52, asked the high court to drop his case and remove the ongoing stay preventing his execution.

Davis did not explain his rationale. Each motion, on lined legal paper, contains just a few simple sentences in neatly written, curvy printed lettering.

Federal public defenders hired to represent Davis separately filed a reply, asking the court to only recognize arguments made by Davis' legal team, and to dismiss the prisoner's motions.

A response from the state attorney called Davis' letters a "dilatory tactic."

The Supreme Court, ruling on motions in dozens of cases Thursday, simply denied Davis' request without a written opinion.

Scott Braden, one of Davis' federal public defenders, said he had not spoken recently with his client -- one of several men he represents on death row -- and did not know why Davis sought to end the stay on his execution.

Asked if Davis wanted to die, Braden said, "He sure didn't in April."

Davis has lived in a solitary cell on death row since 1992, when he was convicted in the execution-style shooting of Jane Daniel, 62, after robbing her inside her Rogers home.

During his years long appeals process, Davis was appointed federal defenders by a U.S. district judge. Braden said it would be up to a federal judge to remove Davis' legal team.

The Arkansas Supreme Court "didn't appoint us, so they cannot be the one to unappoint us," Braden said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson set Davis' execution for April 17, part of the 1st pair in a series of 8 planned executions that brought international news crews -- and a traffic jam of lawsuits -- to Arkansas. 

Davis made it as far as the holding cell outside the execution chamber at the Cummins prison before his execution was called off at 11:45 p.m. that day.

Lawyers for Davis and Bruce Earl Ward, another inmate set to die April 17, successfully petitioned the Arkansas Supreme Court to delay the executions while the U.S. Supreme Court separately considered a case out of Alabama, where a condemned man sought access to an independent mental health examination presented at trial.

Courts ultimately blocked 4 of the 8 planned executions. The other 4 inmates were put to death.

By the times the U.S. high court ruled in favor of the Alabama prisoner in McWilliams v. Dunn, Arkansas' supply of a drug needed to conduct executions had expired. 

Davis' attorneys are now asking justices in Arkansas to apply the same right to independent mental health examinations to Davis and Ward, whose executions remain on hold.

The Arkansas Department of Correction announced in August that it has again obtained a supply of drugs to carry out lethal injections, and Hutchinson set a Nov. 9 execution date for Jack Gordon Greene, who was not among those set to die in April.

Stays remain in place for 3 of the men granted April reprieves, and Hutchinson has since granted clemency to a 4th condemned man.

Source: arkansasonline.com, September 16, 2017


Arkansas board to hear condemned killer's bid for clemency


The Arkansas Parole Board says it will hear a convicted murderer's bid for clemency just more than a month before he's scheduled to be executed.

The board said Friday it will hold a hearing Oct. 4 on Jack Greene's application for executive clemency. 

Greene was convicted of killing Sidney Jethro Burnett in 1991 after Burnett and his wife accused Greene of arson.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month scheduled Greene's execution for Nov. 9 after the state said it had a new supply of midazolam, 1 of 3 drugs the state uses for lethal injection.

In April, the state scheduled 8 executions before its previous supply of midazolam expired. 4 prisoners were put to death and 4 other men were spared by the courts.

Source: The Associated Press, Sept. 16, 2017


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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