Thursday, April 28, 2005

I was on a roll tonight, so I updated the side bar quote.

The last quote was a statement of Robert F. Kennedy, who - ironically - would later have his life taken unnecessarily in an attack of violence.

"Whenever any American life is taken by another unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law ... in an attack of violence or in response to violence - the whole nation is degraded."
Well gang, maybe something is working. Apparently, there were "only" 125 people sent to death row in 2004. That is the lowest number since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976. It is also the continuation of six years of consecutive annual decline. In 1998 there were 300. We are down 175 since then. At that rate, we only have 5-6 years to go before there are none.

Ok OK...don't bust my bubble just yet...It's a nice dream...I'd like to hang on to it for awhile.

Fewest Added To Death Row Since 1976

Mario Centobie - Alabama

Mario Centobie died at 6:22 this evening as the result of a lethal injection. The State of Alabama executed him only 12 years after he was considered a hero for saving lives during an Amtrak accident. The 39 year old Centobie had denied any remaining appeals and had prepared himself for his death. He was, for all intents and purposes, a "volunteer," and this was a state sponsored suicide. This situation is one of the only situations where one can commit suicide by murder. I can't think of another. So much for the "culture of life."

Centobie Executed

Bill Benefiel, Jr. - Indiana

The State of Indiana executed Bill Benefiel, Jr. during the early morning of April 21, 2005 (another one of those, we're-so-ashamed-of-it-we-do-it-in-the-middle-of-the-night killings). Benefiel had been on death row for almost eighteen years. According to his attorney, he was mentally ill and had refused to participate in the activities meant to prevent his death.

The mother of one of Benefiel's victims told the Associated Press how relieved she was that Benefiel's execution had finally come. She told the AP that she was going to try to put Benefiel as far behind her as possible. She was very much for Benefiel's murder. Its taken eighteen years for Indiana to kill Bill Benefiel. Again, I have to wonder, wouldn't it have been easier to just put him "as far behind you as possible" eighteen years ago by knowing that he was locked in a small box of a room for the rest of his days on earth? Does the fact that he's dead mean that she'll think of him less? I guess I hope so. At least that way, some small positive thing will come out of the execution.

Benefiel executed by chemical injection

Douglas Roberts - Texas

The Dominion of Texas executed Douglas Roberts on April 20th. Roberts 42, died shortly after 6:00 p.m. According to newspaper reports, he was upbeat and animated in the few minutes before the drugs were pumped in. Roberts had admitted to his crime, a murder that took place through a haze of drugs. At Roberts' instruction, his trial counsel called no defense witnesses and Roberts requested that his attorney pick a pro-death penalty jury. Those facts make this even more upsetting. Roberts' crime was horrible, but it was not the worst of the worst (isn't that what the theory of the death penalty claims it should be used for?). In fact, Roberts had apparent mitigating circumstances, but I doubt the jury heard them.

Texas Inmate Executed for 1996 Murder

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Richard Longworth - South Carolina

Thirty-six year old Richard Longworth died of a lethal injection at 6:14 p.m. on Friday April 15. The State of South Carolina killed him for his role in the shooting deaths of two men in 1991. Longworth apologized to the victims' families and his own family for his role in the shootings. Though he claimed that he did not pull the trigger (a concept echoed by prosecutors), he noted his shame and stated that he had tried to live the best life he could for the fourteen years he has served on death row. Longworth was only 22 years old at the time of the killings. He was the second man killed for these crimes. The first, David Rocheville, was executed in 1999. The families of the victims noted that, though the execution does not remove their pain, it helps to know that the process is finally over.

Spartanburg man executed for movie theater killings in 1991

Friday, April 15, 2005

Lethal Injection: Humane?

A recent study about the effects of lethal injection on the recipient showed that it is highly likely that individuals being executed by lethal injection are aware and feel themselves dying, despite the appearance of paralysis which prevents them from both moving and speaking up. NCADP issued a press release on this study, and David has blogged the press release on the NCADP blog. I will not duplicate the information therein. However, suffice it to say that this is a big deal. If, in fact, individuals feel themselves dying during the lethal injection process (which essentially pumps them full of poison until their hearts stop and they suffocate), lethal injection is officially as inhumane as hanging, the gas chamber, firing squads and even electrocution. For all but one of the 38 states which allow execution, lethal injection is the default method of execution (in some states the condemned can choose electrocution, hanging or a firing squad). Oh...and that's because, other than electrocution, the remaining options are all considered violative of the 8th Amendment provision against cruel and unusual punishment.

Here's a choice quote from the article below:

"An examination of 49 autopsies found that in 43 cases, the concentration of anesthetic in the bloodstream was less than what is required to numb a surgical patient before making an incision. In 21 cases, the concentration wasn't sufficient to prevent a patient from responding to a verbal command."

Lethal Injection

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New York State

Good news, gang. A committee of the New York State Assembly has voted not to send the proposed bill reinstating the New York State death penalty to the full House for consideration. For now, this has "killed" the bill. It is very unlikely that the full New York Assembly will consider the issue again this session.

New York State Assembly Kills Death Penalty Bill

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Vernon Lee Evans

If you haven't already checked it out, I encourage you to stop by the blog of Vernon Evans. Evans is serving on death row in Maryland and recently received a stay of execution from an April 18 death warrant. This is the first blog I am aware of for an individual on death row. The blog is ghost written by Virginia Simmons who sends Vernon questions through the mail and then posts his responses.

Meet Vernon

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Glen Ocha - Florida

I had a small hope that Florida wouldn't execute Glen Ocha. That hope was extinguished along with Glen Ocha early yesterday evening. Apparently, Governor Bush thought of postponing the execution out of respect for Pope John Paul II (who would have opposed the execution both because he opposed capital punishment and because he opposed suicide), but he did not state whether he ever considered a commutation. To clarify, Bush THOUGHT of postponing the execution out of respect for the Pope. I guess his respect for the pope wasn't all that strong after all...

Glen Ocha died shortly after 6:00 yesterday. He made an apology before receiving the lethal chemicals. Ocha was 47 at the time of his death. He had dropped all appeals and fired his lawyers. Ocha believed his punishment was just and asked to die. The State gave him his wish. Florida never seems to deny an inmate the right to suicide by governor.

Glen Ocha Executed For 1999 Murder
Well, I'm not sure whether to say "mea culpa" now, or wait for the legal process to play out. Apparently, a judge in California has found that former Alameda County deputy district attorney Jack Quatman lied when he testified that an Alameda County Superior Court judge instructed him to keep Jews off a capital jury. The court also found that Quatman was generally dishonest and unethical and that he had a motive to embarrass the Alameda County DA's office.

My post below on the question kind of tears into the justice system regarding this question. Some of my statements still apply even if Quatman lied about the Alameda County practice. However, if Quatman really did lie about Golde and the County's alleged practice of excluding Jews and black women from capital case juries, then I owe a huge mea culpa to my readers and to Alameda County.

Stay tuned...I'll update when I know more. I'm sure there will be more court hearings.

Ex-prosecutor lied about barring Jews from jury