Saturday, March 19, 2011

What's New? Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Scott Turow

Watch for more news items on Marietta Jaeger Lane from her various appearances in North Carolina...and hopefully we will soon be able to connect her with the amazing WINNING songwriter who was inspired by her story! (See one report on her story in the post just below)


NEW VOICES: Some Prosecutors and Judges Welcome End of Death Penalty
Posted: March 18, 2011

Illinois: Potential Benefits to Justice System
Following the repeal of the death penalty in Illinois, some state prosecutors and judges have pointed to potential benefits to the criminal justice system. Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon recently said that abolishing the death penalty meant that murder trials in the county could come to a conclusion more quicly. McMahon said, “To the extent that we can bring these cases to resolution sooner, and help the families of the victims get some measure of closure and allow the healing process to begin sooner, [it] will be helpful.” Judge Keith Brown, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, said that the lack of the death penalty will ease some of the burden of allocating additional resources to murder trials. Judge Brown noted that, “prosecuting murders should become less time consuming and less expensive, as the county and the state will no longer need to pay additional attorney’s fees for defendants, pay to bring in additional juries or pay staff and court costs for extended trials.”

LETHAL INJECTION: Texas Switches to New Drug as Next Execution Approaches
Posted: March 17, 2011

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) announced on March 16 that it will switch to pentobarbital as part of its three-drug lethal injection protocol for the upcoming execution of Cleve Foster on April 5. The short notice has drawn concerns from Foster's defense attorneys and lethal injection experts. Maurie Levin, a professor at the University of Texas who represents Foster, said, “Prison officials are not medical professionals. They cannot be trusted to change a medical procedure in the dark of night without public scrutiny, especially when there is such a minimal track record on the use of pentobarbital in lethal injections." Prof. Deborah Denno of Fordham Law School, one of the nation’s leading experts on the lethal injection, said that the “Texas decision was not about making executions more humane but was meant to make the process more feasible.” She also pointed to the fact that the problems with the earlier methods of lethal injection arose because one state blindly followed another, without careful review: "This lemming-effect has created a decades-long pattern of lethal injection botches in which department of corrections try to remain one step ahead of lawsuits."

LETHAL INJECTION: Federal Agency Seizes Georgia Execution Drug
Posted: March 16, 2011

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has seized Georgia's foreign supply of sodium thiopental, saying it will hold the drug while it investigates whether the Department of Corrections imported the drug legally. In February, attorneys representing Georgia death row inmate Andrew DeYoung sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder alleging that Georgia had violated the federal Controlled Substances Act "by failing to register as an importer of the controlled substance" sodium thiopental. Georgia reportedly obtained its supply of sodium thiopental from a small pharmaceutical company, Dream Pharma, in Great Britain. Five other states also acquired a supply of the drug in England.

NEW VOICES: "The Conservative Argument to Abolish the Death Penalty"
Posted: March 15, 2011

In a recent op-ed in the Chicago Tribune following Illinois's abolition of the death penalty, author and attorney Scott Turow (pictured) outlined three major conservative reasons for opposing capital punishment: it is a failed government program, it is a waste of money, and it doesn't fit with the idea of limited government. Turow served on former Governor George Ryan's Commission on Capital Punishment, which found numerous problems with the state's death penalty. In highlighting the failures of the system, Turow said, "For conservatives who believe government is too large, too inefficient and too unwieldy to deliver health care, or even the mail for that matter, it should come as no surprise that government efforts to justly select those worthy of death has been a moral disaster." On the issue of costs, he addressed the high cost of death penalty trials and appeals and the lack of deterrent effect, saying, "if the death penalty clearly served a practical purpose like saving lives, these increased costs might be worth it. But in Illinois we have experienced a steady decline in our murder rate since Gov. Ryan first declared the moratorium on executions." Turow closed by noting that some of our European allies abolished the death penalty as a reaction to the horrors of World War II. "The conservative-libertarian view that says that the powers of government must be strictly limited supports drawing a clear line prohibiting a democratic government from ever lawfully killing any of the citizens from whom it draws power. That way a regime that vanished its political enemies or executed despised minorities would mark itself, whatever the legal rigamorole, as an outlaw."

Judge Dismisses Capital Murder Charges After Finding State Report "Intentionally Misleading" North Carolina Innocence/Justice issues
Posted: March 14, 2011

On March 10, a North Carolina superior court judge released his opinion throwing out murder charges against Derrick Michael Allen, who was accused in the 1998 death and sexual assault of a 2-year-old girl. Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the case after finding that a State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) report was prepared in an "inaccurate, incomplete and intentionally misleading manner.” Judge Hudson also found that an SBI agent (now suspended) and a former assistant district attorney working on the case “decided to stop further testing of items for DNA testing because they believed further testing of physical evidence of the case would not prove inculpatory to the defendant Derrick Allen and could possibly inculpate others." He wrote that Allen was coerced into entering an Alford plea (a plea in which the defendant accepts that the weight of the evidence points to his guilt but without admitting actual guilt) after being threatened with the death penalty. An autopsy showed that the girl died of shaken baby syndrome. Allen spent more than 10 years in prison. Allen’s case was among 200 cases that an outside audit discovered were mishandled by the SBI. The audit revealed that agents failed to report correct evidence in a number of cases. Because evidence has been destroyed or is missing since Allen’s case started, Judge Hudson noted, “It is no longer possible for Mr. Allen to ever receive a fair trial.”

LETHAL INJECTION: Ohio Carries Out First Pentobarbital-Only Execution
Posted: March 11, 2011
On March 10, the execution of Johnnie Baston (pictured) in Ohio marked the first time any state carried out a death sentence with a single dose of the barbituate pentobarbital. The use of pentobarbital, more commonly employed in euthanizing animals, raised concerns among some death penalty experts. Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno warned, "Ohio is gambling blindly in its rush to execute. There is no reason why Ohio cannot take the time to devise a constitutionally acceptable execution procedure in the way so many experts have recommended." H. Lundbeck, the U.S. distributor of pentobarbital, condemned the use of the drug in executions in a statement: "It's against everything we stand for. We invent and develop medicine with the aim of alleviating people's burden. This is the direct opposite of that."

All the above found at Death Penalty Information Center here

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