Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Punishment


We’re Finally Stepping Up to the Plate

We’ve advocated Human Rights for years, starting with the Carter Administration, and only now are we beginning to account to the international community regarding our own violations.

The best that can be said is “it’s a start”

Holding America Accountable at International Human Rights Review

Source: ( by Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona

This Friday, and for the first time ever, the United States will submit to a peer review of its human rights record as part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is taking place this week in Geneva.

I’m in Geneva as a member of the ACLU delegation to observe these proceedings. Panama and Mongolia were reviewed on Tuesday; dozens of countries submitted questions and recommendations on how well these two democratic nations were promoting and protecting human rights within their borders.

Delegates from Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal commended Mongolia forissuing a moratorium against the death penalty earlier this year, but they urged the Mongolian government to take it a step further and immediately commute all death sentences. While most countries consider the application of the death penalty a gross violation of international human right norms, the United States continues to apply it in 35 states throughout the country. Just last week,Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan using a drug imported from England(according to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard) and despite lingering doubts surrounding his guilt.

The death penalty is a topic that will surely come up on Friday morning when the United States submits to its review. And given the controversy over S.B. 1070, there’s no doubt that questions regarding racial profiling and immigration enforcement also will be raised during the U.S. review — topics that hit close to home. Although some of the most dangerous provisions of S.B. 1070 were blocked by a federal court judge, federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities continue to thrive in Arizona despite concerns over racial profiling and unlawful detentions of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. A recent study based on Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network found that these programs target low-level offenders who pose little public safety threats (PDF) and wrongly identified about 5,880 people who turned out to be United States citizens.

In between the country reviews, I attended one of several “side events” held throughout the weeklong UPR session. One side event was organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights and focused on sexual and reproductive health care for marginalized populations in the U.S. Another side event sponsored by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty addressed the lack of adequate housing in United States and the amazing efforts of nongovernmental organizations — or NGOs — in stepping in to address the housing needs of communities across the country especially in the midst of the economic crisis.

These first few days of my weeklong trip to Geneva have been extremely inspirational. I’ve had the opportunity to meet advocates from other NGOs who are working tirelessly to incorporate the human rights principles that are being discussed here in Geneva back home. We oftentimes forget that while we’re among the largest, wealthiest country in the world, we also continue to tolerate and condone violations of international human rights norms. The question is: will the U.S. live to its promise to lead by example and take the UPR recommendations seriously? Let’s hope so!




Texas: Execution Drugs Should Be “State Secret”

I think Justice Ismail Mahomed sums up Capitol Punishment very simply:


The burning of the house of the offender is not a permissible punishment for arson. The rape of the offender is not a permissible punishment of a rapist. Why should murder be a permissible punishment for murder?

– Justice Ismail Mahomed, S v Makwanyane, 6 June 1995


The article of Interest: Texas: Execution Drugs Should Be “State Secret”

Tired of taking a back seat to Arizona in death penalty zeal, Texas today upped the ante in the high stakes game of keeping secrets from the public in whose name they are enthusiastically killing prisoners.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, a lawyer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has asked Texas’ Attorney General to declare information on lethal injection drugs to be a “state secret.”

A letter requesting this designation says in part:

“We submit that the release of any of the information would be akin to a local DPS office providing a requestor (a potential terrorist) with how much ammunition was stored in the office.”

That’s right, death penalty opponents are “akin” to terrorists.  And if they were to get information on the drugs Texas uses in executions, this could somehow lead to all sorts of unspecified mayhem.  Or something.

The TDCJ’s letter was in response to efforts by the Austin paper to get information on Texas’ current supply of sodium thiopental (there is a national shortage).  I don’t need to tell you how dire the consequences would be if the paper succeeded in its nefarious efforts to provide the public with information on the functioning of a state agency.  TDCJ’s explanation says it all:

“If the (American-Statesman) published how much sodium thiopental we currently have and when it expires, this would operate to inflame an already volatile situation. People could get seriously injured or killed.”

It is true that ten years ago, during the execution of Gary Graham, there were protesters carrying AK-47s outside the Huntsville death house. But of course, that’s perfectly legal in Texas – and there were death penalty supporting Ku Klux Klan members there too.  No one was seriously injured or killed then, and nothing remotely like that has happened in over a decade.

And how an increased knowledge ot sodium thiopental quantities would have inflamed that, or any other situation, is not exactly clear.

As is the case with all such “state secret” requests, the demands go beyond what could even dubiously be justified on security grounds.  TDCJ is also asking that information on the cost of execution drugs be concealed from the public (aka taxpayers).

Meanwhile, in Arizona, a Federal court has ordered the state to reveal its source for sodium thiopental, or to at least explain why its source should remain a secret.

Source: ( Human Rights Now – Amnesty International USA Blog



Court Allows Arizona to Kill Prisoner with Secret Drugs

The old saying “And Justice for All”, again holds true!

Secretly trafficking and then openly using unapproved drugs is now A-OK.  That’s the message sent out yesterday by the Arizona Supreme Court, which allowed state officials to conceal their source for sodium thiopental (we know only that it’s NOTHospira, the one FDA-approved supplier), and to continue with plans to execute Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26.

It is already well known that the death penalty compromises the integrity of the medical profession.  Doctors, nurses, and EMTs are all bound by an oath to “do no harm” but all are involved, in a variety of ways, in the deliberate killing of prisoners.  Now, it appears that our zeal for capital punishment is undermining the integrity of efforts to control and regulate powerful drugs.

Normally, if you acquired a controlled substance from a non-FDA approved source and announced your intention to use it for a non-FDA approved purpose, you would expect some sort of legal trouble.  But, apparently, as long as that non-FDA approved purpose is putting someone to death, the normal rules don’t apply.  Instead, you get to keep the source of your drug supply a secret, and you get to use those drugs however you want.

As for Jeffrey Landrigan, some DNA testing litigation in his case continues, and there is a clemency hearing on Friday.  Landrigan’s case is sadly typical, in that his trial lawyer failed miserably to present mitigating evidence, and in that no federal appeals court has cared enough to hold a hearing on that issue.  It is a bit unusual in that the judge who sentenced him to death now says she would not have done so, had she been aware of information that lawyer failed to present.

So while it appears the Arizona officials can kill Jeffrey Landrigan with a drug it got from God knows where, there is still a chance to convince them that they shouldn’t.

Source: ( – Death PenaltyUnited States | Posted by: Brian Evans, October 21, 2010 at 1:49 PM



Are States Breaking the Law to Get Execution Drugs?

In many countries selling drugs is punishable by death??

As discussed previouslyhere, the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental has been in short supply, and states have been running out.  Its manufacturer, Hospira, won’t be able to make more until at least early next year. Yet some states have mysteriously been able to get new supplies.  Oklahoma carried out an execution last night with drugs they may have obtained illegally from Arkansas.  The sudden appearance of a new batch of sodium thiopental in California has raised questions about whether they may have acquired it from overseas, and, like California, Arizona is refusing to reveal where it got its recent supply of the drug.

All this so states can continue to kill prisoners.

Hospira’s plea for states to stop using their product in executionsmay have fallen on deaf ears, but there could legal ramifications if states are acquiring FDA regulated drugs illegally.  According to the Daily Beast, citing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, “Oklahoma did not consult a DEA registrant in obtaining the drug from Arkansas and filed no paperwork recording the transaction,” as is required by Federal law.

California’s new batch of sodium thiopental expires in 2014.  Hospira’s spokesman Dainel Rosenberg to the Arizona Republic, “The expiration dates for lots last manufactured by Hospira are for 2011. Therefore, product with an expiration date of 2014 cannot be Hospira product.”  Since Hospira is the only FDA approved manufacturer of this drug, what is it that California has?

Arizona is scheduled to execute Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26, but is also concealing where or how it acquired the sodium thiopental it plans to us, telling the Arizona paper only “The Department has lawfully obtained the necessary chemicals under its current written protocol ( . . . ) in sufficient quantity for an execution.”

We have a right to know how our states are carrying out this most extreme act of punishment.  Treating the acquisition of lethal injection drugs as if it were some big national security secret is not only suspicious.  It is an insult to the public in whose name these states are zealously trying to kill people.

Source: ( from Human Rights Now – Amnesty International USA Blog by Brian Evans


Fighting Crime Without the Death Penalty

Consider the money spent on the courts time hearing the numerous appeals and the special conditions provided to inmates on death row – for what?  I have to agree with AI in its entirety.



This was the answer given by Former Detective Superintendent Bob Denmark of Lancashire, England when asked what people in the UK thought about the execution ofTeresa Lewis. “[People] are no safer now than we were before her death,” added Ronald Hampton, a former D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Community Relations Officer and past Executive Director of the National Black Police Association.

Denmark, who has investigated over 100 homicides in the U.K. as well as genocide in Africa, and Hampton were joined by Police Chief James Abbott of West Orange, New Jersey and Senior Portuguese Public Prosecutor Antonio Cluny at the National Press Club yesterday to share European and American law enforcement perspectives on fighting crime with and without the death penalty.  They discussed whether the death penalty helps or hurts in keeping citizens safe, healing victims, and using crime-fighting resources efficiently.

The short answer to those questions: no. We are no safer because the death penalty is enforced, victims are not healed due to the long and drawn-out process of the death penalty, and our financial resources are not being used effectively. They should be used to train and educate police forces and communities, instead of for “deterrent” purposes.

We are inundated with facts and statistics that tell us the death penalty serves no deterrent function.  What is more powerful, though, is listening to a man who has investigated over 100 homicide cases tell you that he thinks the deterrence argument for the death penalty is “ridiculous.” A child molester, Denmark elaborated, is not deterred from his crimes by the fact that a homicidal terrorist is on death row for his murders. Offenders don’t premeditate getting caught.

But we’ve heard the deterrence argument before, and the obsolete nature of the death penalty goes far beyond its uselessness in preventing crime. Cluny noted that in Portugal, where the death penalty was abolished in 1864, violent crime rates are significantly lower than in other countries, including retentionist countries. Yes, murder still occurs in Portugal, but no one has tried to reintroduce the death penalty. “The first human right,” Cluny said, “is the right to live.”

Source: ( Alex Trimble contributed to this post.


California Spent 4 Million Dollars Trying to Kill Prisoner

Amazing the lengths we go through to kill

One would assume that a state facing a significant financial crisis would choose to spend its resources on practical policies and beneficial projects. Why, then, did California waste $4 million in order to accomplish… nothing? Perhaps that’s unfair; the state did have a goal in mind while spending this money – executing Albert Brown.  Not an admirable goal, and, thankfully, Albert Brown is still alive and in prison.

Timeline of the Death Penalty

Capitol Punishment: a Time for Judgment

Both during the Primary and General Elections, I pushed not just President Obama and Senator McCain, but all the candidates I could contact regarding their views on “Capitol Punishment”.  Needless to say, never a response on this issue was given; where today we have one in one-hundred fellow citizens behind prison bars (not all for execution).

Capitol Punishment is an important issue, since I’m a firm believer in the “rule of Law”, meaning we, at one time (before Bush) had the fairest and most just legal systems in the world.  But our legal system needs updating!

Not necessarily the laws, but more so the technological aspects of the system.  With the advent of DNA testing and the results that have been surprisingly uncovered; just in the last five years, our country has unlocked the cell doors of dozens of convicted individuals that were found to be wrongly imprisoned.

A moratorium, as what happened in 1969, should be established, until, in not all cases, but cases where DNA testing can be implemented to insure proper judgment, based on DNA results the existing facts of the case in question are reestablished.

Personally, I’m for capitol punishment in some cases, which are:

  • Treason
  • Desertion in battle, at the time of war
  • Genocide
  • Serial murders

Other than the aforementioned four, no, I’m not in favor of the death sentence.

So, what brought this to my attention again?  An online article published by entitled: “The Tide Shifting Against the Death Penalty” authored by Richard Lacayo.  Below are excerpts from this article, which I have high lighted, and feel are of interest:

If there were such a thing as a golden age of capital punishment in America, it peaked in 1999. There were 98 executions in the U.S. that year, the highest number since 1976, when the Supreme Court, which had overturned all death penalty laws in 1972, began approving them again.

A decade later, capital punishment has a lot less life in it. Last year saw just 37 executions in the U.S., with only 111 death sentences handed down. Though 36 states and the federal government still have death penalty laws on the books, the practice of actually carrying out executions is limited almost entirely to the south, the region where all but two of last year’s executions took place. (The exceptions were both in Ohio.) Even in Texas, still the state leader in annual executions, only 10 men and one woman were sentenced to death last year, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Even more significantly, where states once hurried to adopt death penalty laws, the pendulum now appears to be swinging in the other direction. In 2007 New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish its death penalty. In that same year repeal bills were narrowly defeated in Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico, all of which are revisiting the issue this year. And now the focus is on Maryland. After years of failed attempts by death penalty opponents to bring a repeal bill to a vote in the state legislature, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is personally sponsoring this year’s version, promising he will fight to have the legislature pass it during its current 90-day session.

Death penalty opponents say the use of DNA evidence, which has led to a number of prisoners being released from death row, is a big part of the reason for the decline in executions generally. “That’s had a ripple effect,” says Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based advocacy group. “The whole legal system has become more cautious about the death penalty. Prosecutors are not seeking it as much. Juries are returning more life sentences. And judges are granting more stays of execution. Last year there were over 40.”

Last year, after months of public hearings, a state commission on the death penalty voted 13-9 to recommend that it should be abolished. In its final report the commission, which had been headed by former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, cited the usual objections to capital punishment — cost, racial and jurisdictional disparities in sentencing, its ineffectiveness as a deterrent against crime and the possibility that innocent people might be put to death. One of the commission’s members was Kirk Bloodsworth, who had been on death row in Maryland for two years in the mid-1980s before he was cleared by DNA evidence.

Update 21 Feb 09:

Ex-death row inmate’s DNA not found on evidence
from AP Top Headlines At Noon EDT by By ROSE FRENCH

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — DNA from key evidence in a Tennessee woman’s slaying does not match the man who spent more than two decades on death row for killing her, according to new FBI lab tests….

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