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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Order for Alabama to unveil lethal injection process may not reveal one execution secret

Alabama's death chamber
An order issued yesterday by a federal judge is a step in the right direction for bringing public oversight to Alabama's capital punishment method, the director of a national death penalty group said.

But, will the records released under Wednesday's order answer the question of who makes the drugs used in the state's lethal injections? Most likely not.

According to Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, protocol releases typically include which drugs the state will use, but not where the state gets the drugs or the manufacturers.

Several states who have released their protocols in the past include information regarding how many people are involved in the lethal injection process and what happens in the days leading up to the execution.

An order issued Wednesday by U.S. Chief District Judge Karon O Bowdre said state officials must release information about the Department of Corrections' lethal injection procedure. She wrote the public has a "common law right of access" to the sealed records relating how the state executes death row inmates. The judge said any identification or names of low-level prison employees involved in executions, the court's independent medical examiner, and other confidential security measures can be kept secret.

"In this case, [the state] will keep the lethal injection protocol secret from the public unless the court unseals it. And the court's vague summary of portions of the lethal injection protocol and its gaps cannot truly substitute for the document itself. The court concludes that this factor weighs in favor of unsealing the documents," Bowdre wrote in an opinion, also filed yesterday.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office has not said whether it will appeal Bowdre's ruling. "The Attorney General's Office is currently reviewing the order to determine our next steps," Attorney General Communications Director Mike Lewis told AL.com.

The unsealing of the documents came after AL.com's parent company, Alabama Media Group, along with the Associated Press and the Montgomery Advertiser filed a request asking the records be unsealed under the common-law rights of access.

The judge wrote, "Public discussion is not the same as public scandal. The public needs to know how the State administers its laws; without such knowledge, the public cannot form an educated opinion on this very important topic. And the fact that the [media who asked for the unsealing] may take a position about the death penalty does not make their intent to publish factual matter about how Alabama conducts its executions 'scandalous.'"

"The fact that the death penalty may be a hotly contested issue does not lessen the public's presumptive right of access to court documents--to the contrary, it increases that presumptive right of access," she wrote.

The order was filed in the case of Doyle Lee Hamm, a death row inmate who was scheduled to be executed on February 22. After several hours of attempting to insert a catheter for the lethal drugs in Hamm's veins, the execution was called off.

Hamm's lawyer Bernard Harcourt said after the execution attempt that ADOC staff tried to use Hamm's peripheral veins on his lower extremities, as a previous court order directed them to, but they couldn't find a vein on either leg or either ankle. After those attempts failed, medical personnel moved on to try a central venous line in Hamm's right groin--where, days earlier, an independent doctor who evaluated Hamm said there were abnormal lymph nodes.

During the procedure, Harcourt said Hamm experienced severe pain and bleeding.

Harcourt argued in the weeks preceding the execution that Hamm's veins would be inaccessible to the staff preparing him for execution because of his lymphatic cancer and previous drug use.

Harcourt declined to comment for this story.

Source: AL.com,  Ivana Hrynkiw, May 31, 2018


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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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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?