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

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…

Judge rejects Houston serial killer's claims he's too ill to be executed

Texas' death chamber
"In the end, the Constitution does not guarantee a painless death." -- Judge Kenneth Hoyt

A federal judge this week rejected a Houston serial killer's argument that he should get a stay because he's in such bad health he can't be executed.

Danny Bible is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday, but in recent weeks his attorneys have said the aging quadruple murderer has such bad veins that any attempts to execute him could end in a gruesomely botched procedure.

But federal judge on Thursday deemed his claims "speculative" and "hypothetical" and faulted the defense for not raising such concerns sooner. Any difficulty finding a usable vein would fall into the category of an "isolated mishap" that wouldn't rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment, the court said.

"In the end, the Constitution does not guarantee a painless death," Judge Kenneth Hoyt wrote. "Bible surely shows that his execution will result in discomfort and some level of pain. The pain he describes, however, does not rise to the level requiring this Court to take the drastic step of intruding into the execution process."

After the federal district court denied his legal claim, Bible on Thursday filed a notice of appeal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 66-year-old also still has an appeal pending in state court, where he's arguing that his lawyers in 2003 should have demanded a new trial after he was severely disabled in a head-on car wreck on the way to prison. That crash, his current lawyers argue, left Bible in a wheelchair and made him no longer a future danger - one of the requirements for a death sentence in Texas.

The death row inmate is also waiting on word regarding a clemency petition filed with the state's parole board. In the 27-page plea for reprieve, Bible argues that he's a changed man, one who's found God, feels remorse and is no longer capable of posing a threat. He also delves into his abusive childhood, psychological problems, a past suicide attempt and current medical problems, including everything from Parkinson's to diabetes to chronic necrotizing pancreatitis.

Bible was sentenced to death in 2003, after he confessed to the 1979 slaying of Inez Deaton. The young mother had been stabbed 11 times with an ice pick and left along the slope of a Houston bayou.

For two decades, the murder went unsolved, but Bible's violent streak continued.

In 1984, he was sent to prison for killing his sister-in-law Tracy Powers and her infant son Justin. Then, he killed her roommate, Pam Hudgins, and left the woman's body hanging from a roadside fence.

He was released after eight years behind bars, and went on to rape and molest multiple young relatives, including a 5-year-old. In 1998, he raped a woman in a Louisiana motel room, then stuffed her in a duffel bag before she broke free and called for help.

Bible was eventually caught in Florida, and freely confessed to his crimes under questioning.

Texas has already executed six men this year, including another Houston serial killer, Anthony Shore. Aside from Bible's, there are seven other death dates on the calendar in Texas.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Keri Blakinger, June 22, 2018

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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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