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Texas: Rodney Reed granted indefinite stay of execution

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Stay of execution came just hours after parole board unanimously recommended 120-day reprieve
The Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed was granted a stay of execution on Friday, 5 days before he was scheduled to be put to death for a murder he insists he did not commit.
The Texas court of criminal appeals blocked the execution indefinitely and sent the case back to the trial court in Bastrop county, where Reed was sentenced in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites two years earlier.
The court had previously rejected multiple appeals, but Reed’s lawyers argued that fresh evidence bolstered his claim of innocence. 
They said in a statement that they “are extremely relieved and thankful … this opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr Reed’s innocence”.
Millions of people, including a clutch of celebrities, have rallied behind Reed’s cause, helping to generate momentum and public attention as the execution date of 20 November loomed an…

Ohio: Doctor approves of ill inmate sitting up during execution

Alva Campbell
Allowing a condemned killer with health problems to partially sit up during his execution next month would be a "reasonable" accommodation, according to a doctor working for Ohio's prison system.

Death row inmate Alva Campbell became mildly agitated when officials tried lowering him to a normal execution position in an Oct. 19 test, according to a medical review by Dr. James McWeeney, a contractor for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

McWeeney noted there were no objective findings such as increased pulse rate or breathing to corroborate Campbell's anxiety.

"Nevertheless, given the events observed at this examination and the patient's underlying pulmonary and mental health disorders, it would be reasonable to make an accommodation for the patient during the execution process that would permit him to lay in a semi-recumbent position," the doctor wrote.

McWeeney also said he couldn't find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of Campbell's arms.

In 2009, problems placing an IV in the arms of death row inmate Romell Broom led to the cancellation of the execution after almost 2 hours and 18 needle sticks. Broom remains on death row, arguing in court the state shouldn't be allowed a 2nd attempt to execute him.

Campbell is scheduled to die Nov. 15 for fatally shooting teenager Charles Dials during a 1997 carjacking.

Campbell, 69, has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder as the result of a decadeslong 2-pack-a-day smoking habit that finally stopped 9 years ago, the doctor said.

Campbell's attorneys also say he uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy bag, requires 4 breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer.

Campbell's health problems "could create a spectacle of a terminally ill man, with tourniquets on his arms and legs, being stabbed repeatedly to no avail,' defense attorney David Stebbins said Monday.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it "has taken Campbell's medical conditions under consideration for planning of possible accommodations for his execution."

Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, Stebbins and other attorneys argued in court filings and before the Ohio Parole Board.

The board rejected Campbell's request for mercy earlier this month. Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has spared some inmates while rejecting clemency for others, has the final say.

Prosecutors say Campbell's health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed Dials.

Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff's deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show.

Campbell took the deputy's gun, carjacked the 18-year-old Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien calls Campbell "the poster child for the death penalty."

Source: The Republic, October 31, 2017


Spare people with severe mental illness


Mental illness
American courts long have held that the death penalty is unjust for people who weren't adults or were developmentally disabled when they committed their crimes. Execution is no fairer for people who commit crimes while they are severely mentally ill.

House Bill 81 would give lawyers for a small subset of the most severely mentally ill defendants a chance to argue that their clients should be exempt from execution. This reasonable law has been parked in the House Criminal Justice Committee since May. It deserves consideration.

Taking the death penalty off the table for those with severe mental illness was a key recommendation of the Ohio Supreme Court's Death Penalty Task Force, a panel of judges, lawyers and policymakers who spent hundreds of hours examining the fairness of Ohio's death penalty. Only a handful of the 56 recommendations, issued in 2014, have been carried out. That reflects poorly on lawmakers who are more concerned with looking tough on crime than ensuring justice.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and Democrat Nickie Antonio of Lakewood, actually is a compromise from the task force's report. While the report called for banning such executions outright, the bill would require the defendant's attorney to convince a judge that the defendant qualifies, and gives prosecutors the chance for rebuttal.

It would allow only 5 diagnoses, narrowly defined, to qualify for exclusion from execution: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and delusional disorder.

Opponents, which include the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, claim that passing the bill would unleash a tide of petitions from death-row inmates claiming mental illness to have their sentences overturned. But of 26 people currently sentenced to death in Ohio, only 2 would qualify to even apply.

Disqualifying severely mentally ill people from execution doesn't excuse them from punishment; they can be imprisoned for life with no chance of parole.

While the most important argument in favor of H.B. 81 is the moral one, it has practical benefits, as well. Trying death-penalty cases is expensive, involving years of appeals. Cases with defendants who are mentally ill would be especially subject to post-conviction litigation. Dispensing with the issue early in the trial would be especially helpful to small counties with smaller court budgets.

But mostly it's about justness and decency. Public fear of mental illness persists, despite efforts by advocates to end the stigma. While current law allows a defense lawyer to point to a defendant's mental illness as a mitigating factor in sentencing - a reason to consider sparing execution - a study by the University of Cincinnati showed that a defendant's mental illness actually makes juries more likely to recommend death, not less.

Nothing in H.B. 81 excuses people with mental illness from responsibility for their crimes. Those convicted and sentenced to life in prison will pose no danger to the public. Nor does it take away the availability of the death penalty for offenders who aren't mentally ill. Public debate about the death penalty overall will continue.

No matter how that debate proceeds, Ohio should take an enlightened stand and end the execution of people too sick to comprehend their crimes.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, Editorial, October 31, 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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