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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Ohio death row inmate wants firing squad instead of lethal injection

Alva Campbell
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A condemned inmate scheduled to die this month for the slaying of a teenage boy said officials should execute him by firing squad because his breathing problems and poor veins make him too ill to be killed by lethal injection.

Ohio lawmakers could quickly approve legislation allowing the firing squad to be used as an alternative execution method for the first time in the state, attorneys for death row inmate Alva Campbell said in a court filing late last month.

Campbell’s attorneys argued that the method would not require access to his veins, which is important given that last month a prison nurse failed to find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of his arms.

Campbell also indicated an allergy to the first drug used in the state’s three-drug injection process, his attorneys said.

Death by firing squad is a “known, feasible, readily implemented and available alternative execution method and procedure” that substantially reduces the risk that Campbell would suffer serious harm by injection, his lawyers said.

Federal Judge Michael Merz rejected the argument for a firing squad execution on Tuesday, noting Campbell didn’t offer evidence in support of the method during a recent weeklong hearing. He also questioned whether lawmakers would pass a law allowing it.

In 2015, Republican Gov. John Kasich ruled out the firing squad as an option in Ohio.

At least two U.S. states allow the firing squad, including Oklahoma, which permits it if other methods aren’t available.

Last week, Merz also rejected Campbell’s overall claims that Ohio’s lethal injection process raises an unconstitutional risk of serious harm because the first drug may not render inmates completely unconscious.

Merz previously rejected similar arguments by Raymond Tibbetts, scheduled to die Feb. 13 for fatally stabbing a man in Cincinnati in 1997.

Ohio's death chamber
While “surgeries should be pain-free, there is no constitutional requirement that executions be painless,” Merz said in last week’s ruling.

Campbell’s attorneys are deciding whether to appeal.

“We are disappointed with today’s decision, particularly in light of the disturbing evidence from recent executions using midazolam conducted in Ohio and other states,” they said.

Campbell uses a walker, relies on an external colostomy bag, requires four breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer, according to his lawyers and court records.

He was also regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, his attorneys said.

The Ohio Parole Board rejected Campbell’s request for mercy last month. Kasich, who has spared some inmates while rejecting clemency for others, will have the final say.

Prosecutors said Campbell’s health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed 18-year-old Charles Dials.

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 Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as he 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 Associated Press, October 3, 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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