California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Georgia: Death-row inmate says he should be executed by firing squad

Michael Wade Nance
“If he needs a firing squad, then let him have it,” district attorney says.

A condemned killer from Gwinnett County has sued Georgia’s prison system, saying he should be executed by firing squad because his veins are so narrow that an attempted lethal injection could cause him excruciating pain.

“Execution by firing squad is both swift and virtually painless,” said the federal lawsuit filed by death-row inmate Michael Wade Nance. “Evidence and recent experience strongly suggest that the firing squad is significantly more reliable than lethal injection.”

Nance was sentenced to death in 2002 by a Gwinnett jury for fatally shooting 43-year-old Gabor Balogh when Balogh resisted giving up his car to Nance. Nance had just robbed the Tucker Federal Savings and Loan in Lilburn and was looking for a getaway car to escape.

Nance’s appeals are in their final stages. He must submit filings to the U.S. Supreme Court by Feb. 12.

Georgia’s lethal injection procedure involves the intravenous application of pentobarbital.

Nance’s veins are “severely compromised” and extremely difficult to locate, the lawsuit said. If lethal injection is attempted, there is a substantial risk that Nance’s veins will lose their integrity, leading to leakage of the pentobarbital into the surrounding tissue, the suit said.

This would lead to a “prolonged execution that will produce excruciating pain,” the suit said.

In addition, Nance has, for several years, been taking increased dosages of a drug to relieve chronic back pain. This drug has altered Nance’s brain chemistry in such a way to compromise the effectiveness of the pentobarbital, causing an even greater chance of him being in great pain for an extended period of time, the suit said.

For those reasons, a firing squad would prevent Nance from enduring cruel and unusual punishment during his execution, the suit said.

Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter, when notified Friday, said nothing about the new lawsuit changes his position that Nance should be executed for his crimes.“If he needs a firing squad, then let him have it,” Porter said. “It’s certainly a unique request.”

Georgia once used firing squads to execute condemned inmates but that occurred no later than 1924, when the state began using the electric chair, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 

After the state Supreme Court ruled the chair unconstitutional in 2001, Georgia switched to lethal injection and has used it ever since.

The last execution by firing squad nationwide occurred in 2010 in Utah, which still allows that method of capital punishment.

In 2017, Georgia death-row inmate J.W. Ledford Jr. also asked for a firing squad because he’d used the same drug for his chronic back pain as Nance. But courts rejected his request and he was put to death by lethal injection.

When asked about Nance’s lawsuit, State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lori Benoit said her agency does not comment on pending litigation. 

Attempts to reach Nance’s lawyers were unsuccessful.

Source: ajc.com, Bill Rankin, January 10, 2020

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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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