Arizona Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, June 13, 2008, 03:11:44 AM

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Lethal-drug shortage looms as Ariz. closes in on 4 executions
Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:43 PM

Four more Arizona death-row inmates are close to execution dates, but the state may have to scramble to get the drugs it needs to carry out the sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently turned away appeals in the four cases, putting the inmates near the end of the line.

A shortage of the single drug that the state uses may force officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections to find another drug or source because the only manufacturer of the drug pentobarbital has blocked sales for executions.

That leaves the department with few choices: A compounding pharmacy could mix up a batch of pentobarbital from its base ingredients, the state could buy it outside normal distribution channels, or it could switch to another drug or combinations of drugs, according to Dale Baich, who leads the unit of the Federal Public Defender's Office that represents inmates on death row.

Any of the choices could set off another round of legal challenges, based on what has happened in other states, Baich said. The source of compounding ingredients and their efficacy could be challenged, for instance.

Corrections spokesman Doug Nick said the state will follow the law. Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said the state is weighing its options and considering the timing of the executions.

Arizona has seen similar legal challenges about the drugs it uses in its executions.

The state switched to pentobarbital in 2011 after a shortage of sodium thiopental threatened to sideline executions.

Two inmates due for execution in October challenged the department's attempt to keep the name of the drug manufacturer secret.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver ordered the department to reveal the drugmaker and provide the expiration date of the drug that would be used.

The batch of pentobarbital that was used to execute Edward Schad and Robert Jones last month expires this month, and additional factory-made pentobarbital likely isn't available because of the manufacturer's sales ban.

The state has yet to ask the Arizona Supreme Court for a warrant of execution for the four inmates whose appeals have been exhausted. The four are Pete Rogovich, Roger Scott, Joe Wood and Kevin Miles.

Arizona death-row inmates whose appeals have been exhausted include (clockwise, from top left) Pete Rogovich, Roger Scott, Joe Wood and Kevin Miles.
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Convictions, sentence upheld in Mesa killings case
Posted on December 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and death sentence of a man found guilty of murdering five people in a Mesa home in 2006.

The ruling from the state's high court was released Friday in the case of William Craig Miller, who was seeking a new trial.

Miller was convicted in 2011 of killing an extended family as part of an arson-for-hire cover up.

Authorities say Miller fatally shot 30-year-old Steven Duffy and Duffy's girlfriend, 32-year-old Tammy Lovell.

Duffy and Lovell were former employees of Miller's. They were working as police informants against him in a 2005 arson case in which authorities say Miller enlisted Duffy to help him burn down his own home to collect insurance money.

Miller also killed Duffy's 18-year-old brother and Lovell's two children.

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Arizona court turns down death row inmate's appeal
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the convictions and death sentences of a man convicted of fatally stabbing his pregnant girlfriend.

Israel Joseph Naranjo, now 40 years old, was sentenced to death by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury for the March, 25, 2007 killings of Delia Rivera and her fetus.

Jurors ruled that Naranjo was eligible for the death sentences because he killed an unborn child in the womb, had a previous conviction for a serious offense and the murder of Rivera was especially cruel.

The jurors did not find defense arguments for sentencing leniency persuasive.
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Court resurrects Arizona death-row inmate's suit
August 11, 2014

PHOENIX -- An appeals court has resurrected a lawsuit by an Arizona death-row inmate who alleged a prison officer violated his constitutional rights by reading a letter he wrote to his lawyer.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in prisoner Scott D. Nordstrom's appeal that the Constitution doesn't let prison officers read outgoing letters between inmates and their lawyers.

The ruling revives Nordstrom's legal claims and sends his lawsuit back to a lower court, but it makes no changes to his convictions or death sentence.

Nordstrom, 46, was convicted of killing six people in two robberies in 1996 in Tucson. Two people were killed at a smoke shop in one robbery, while four others were killed during a holdup 14 days later at a social club. Nordstrom was sentenced to death. One of his accomplices was executed last year.

Nordstrom alleged a jail officer read his two-page letter in May 2011, refused his requests to stop viewing it and claimed he had the power to search mail for contraband and scan the contents to ensure they concerned legal matters. The prisoner claimed the experience forced him to stop relaying sensitive information about his case to his lawyer.

The appeals court ruled prison officials can inspect inmates' outgoing mail in their presence to ensure there are no escape plans, maps of prison yards and other suspicion features. But the court said the Constitution doesn't let prison officers read outgoing letters between inmates and their lawyers.

One of the three appellate judges wrote a dissent that said, in part, that prison officials aren't prevented from reading legal letters with an eye toward discovering illegal activity.
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Crap, he killed six innocent people and therefore it's more than ok that he got death and lost most of his rights, carry it out and he can't write letters anyway >:(
Born in Berlin, American at heart


Judge throws out death sentence for Phoenix killer
March 12, 2015

Darrel Pandeli killed and mutilated two prostitutes in Phoenix in 1993. He was sentenced to death twice for one of the murders and sentenced to 20 years for the other.

But in a ruling published Thursday, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge threw out the death sentence and ordered a new sentencing trial on the grounds that Pandeli's trial lawyers did not provide effective representation by failing to present evidence of Pandeli's brain damage and abusive upbringing during the sentencing phase of his trial.

"The judge is basically saying that Pandeli has impairments but (the original lawyers) did not articulate it properly, and they let the state's expert give an improper evaluation," said attorney Ken Countryman, who represented Pandeli in the current matter.

Neither the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which handled the appeal for the state, nor the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which will likely have to retry the case, provided comment on the ruling.

The ruling was officially handed down Feb. 27, but published Thursday.

Pandeli was arrested in 1993 for the murder of Holly Iler, a 43-year-old who was the daughter of a prominent family but had turned to prostitution to support a drug habit. Pandeli hired Iler for sex but became enraged when he could not perform, so he beat her, slashed her throat, mutilated her breasts and left her nude body near what is now Christown Spectrum Mall.

After his arrest, Pandeli confessed to the murder and mutilation of another prostitute. He was convicted of second-degree murder in that killing and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a term he has already completed.

In 1996, Pandeli was found guilty of killing Iler, and a judge sentenced him to death. But a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the Ring Decision mandated jury sentencing instead of judge sentencing in death-penalty cases, sending the case back to Maricopa County Superior Court for re-sentencing.

Pandeli went back on trial and in 2006 was sentenced to death again, this time by a jury. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed both the conviction and the death sentence.

But as happens in death-penalty cases, after the so-called direct appeal to the state Supreme Court, and sometimes after the U.S. Supreme Court turns down appeal, the case can return to Superior Court in what is called post-conviction relief. That is the first time that a defendant can raise appeal issues regarding a trial attorney's performance, referred to in legal parlance as "ineffective assistance of counsel."

Countryman argued that the original attorneys and mitigation expert did not adequately present the extensive abuse Pandeli had suffered as a child nor the existence of brain damage.

Judge Robert Gottsfield, in what was his last major ruling -- he retired March 6 after 35 years on the bench -- agreed and threw out the death sentence.

"Defendant, it is clear, suffers from a serious mental illness (cerebral dysfunction and impaired frontal lobes) but the jury was told he had an anti-social personality disorder and was a malingerer," Gottsfield wrote.

Gottsfield also cited federal case law requiring that defendants have a right to be sentenced on the basis of correct information.

Whether the prosecutor decides to settle with a life sentence or to stage a third trial remains to be seen.
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Arizona court reinstates death sentence for 1993 killing
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona Supreme Court ruling reinstates a man's death sentence for a 1993 killing in Phoenix.

The unanimous ruling Monday says a Maricopa County Superior Court judge was incorrect when he ruled that Darrel Peter Pandeli didn't receive effective legal representation during a re-sentencing.

Pandeli was sentenced to death for the killing of Holly Iller, but his death sentence was thrown out because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a procedural issue that affected a number of death-penalty cases.

Pandeli then was re-sentenced to death, but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that Pandeli's lawyers didn't handle his case adequately.

However, the Arizona Supreme Court ruling concludes otherwise and reinstates Pandeli's death sentence.

Pandeli also got a 20-year term for a 1991 killing.

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Condemned to Death -- And Solitary Confinement
Arizona is set to become the latest state to move away from automatic isolation for death row inmates.

Arizona death row inmate Scott Nordstrom lives alone in a room smaller than a parking space. He's allowed to leave his cell a few times each week to shower or exercise alone in a similarly-sized mesh cage and is forbidden from making physical contact with visitors from the outside.

But that is set to change this month as the Arizona Department of Corrections is expected to announce a major shift in housing for the state's 118 condemned inmates. Under current policy, death row inmates are automatically and indefinitely placed in solitary confinement until their execution dates, regardless of their behavior or risk to others. Soon, inmates with clear disciplinary records -- including Nordstrom -- will be moved to an area that allows for more out-of-cell time, visits in the same room with family and friends, outdoor group recreation and better job opportunities, according to a recent court settlement.

In 2015, Nordstrom, who was sentenced to death in 1998 for his role in six fatal shootings connected to a pair of robberies in Tucson, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Arizona's death row conditions violated his constitutional rights. The state settled the suit in March and was given 120 days to institute a new policy, although no changes have been announced to date. Arizona corrections officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Arizona will become the latest of several states to lift restrictions on death row inmates. In recent years, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have allowed condemned inmates to have more time out of their cells, and in some cases, eat meals and exercise with other inmates and hold jobs.

Still, the mandatory use of prolonged isolation for death row inmates is widespread in the U.S. Of the nation's 2,900 condemned inmates, 70 percent are automatically held alone in cells for more than 20 hours per day, according to a Marshall Project survey of state corrections officials. Sixty-five percent are held alone for more than 22 hours a day.

In Florida, where death row inmates are held alone in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, nine prisoners have filed a federal lawsuit challenging their housing conditions. A state corrections spokesperson said the department was reviewing the lawsuit.

Nordstrom's lawsuit argued that the mandatory use of solitary confinement on Arizona's death row violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. He also claimed that because the state didn't provide him with the chance to challenge his housing placement, his right to due process was infringed. The state's new policy "doesn't mandate softer treatment of death sentence inmates," said Sam Kooistra, staff counsel at the Arizona Capital Representation Project, which represented Nordstrom. "It just means they get treated more like non-death sentence inmates do."

Earlier this year at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, prison officials loosened the rules on death row one month before three condemned inmates filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming that conditions were in "severe denial of human fundamental needs." Starting in February, officials have allowed inmates four hours out of their cell per day -- two hours after breakfast and two after lunch -- as well as educational programming and group activities. Before, death row inmates were held alone in windowless cells for 23 hours per day and were allowed outside to exercise three times per week in unshaded "outdoor pens [that] resemble dog cages," the suit reads.

Louisiana Department of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick called the recent policy changes a "great success," saying there has been only one fight between condemned inmates since February.

Michael Taylor, a death row inmate who spent the past 16 years in solitary confinement at Angola, welcomed the new freedoms. "Emotionally, it was brutal. You lose a part of yourself -- your mannerisms being around another person," said Taylor, who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the 1999 shooting death of a Shreveport car salesman. "So far, it's been great just having fellowship, just being around people."

Betsy Ginsberg, one of the Angola inmates' lawyers, said the class action lawsuit will continue despite the recent improvements to ensure conditions are "constitutionally adequate, properly implemented, and permanent."

Virginia prison officials also lifted restrictions on death row in 2015 after a similar lawsuit. Condemned inmates now share an outdoor recreation unit, are allowed contact visits with approved visitors, and can congregate in small groups. Previously, condemned inmates spent about 23 hours a day alone in a small cell, were banned from recreation facilities used by other inmates, and were separated from visitors by a plexiglass wall. As in Louisiana, the Virginia death row inmates' suit continues because prison officials have not guaranteed that the previous policy will never be reinstated.

The use of solitary confinement has received increased scrutiny in recent years as mounting research points to its devastating impact on inmates' mental and physical health. One study found that those who spend time in solitary are seven times more likely to harm themselves than other inmates. In a 2015 opinion in a case involving a death row inmate, Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy raised concerns about the long-term use of solitary confinement, writing, "Years on end of near-total isolation exacts a terrible price."

On death row, many inmates languish in isolation for years, even decades, waiting for their execution dates through lengthy legal appeals and other delays.

In Texas, which has the largest death row in the country by far at 542 inmates, condemned prisoners spend up to 23 hours a day alone in an 8 x 12 foot cell with virtually no human contact or exposure to natural light. Some inmates are so desperate that several have even "volunteered" to be put to death -- they dropped their appeals in order to reach their execution date sooner, according to an April report from the University of Texas School of Law. The report concluded that the "harsh and inhumane" conditions on Texas' death row amount to a form of torture.

Until 1999, condemned inmates in Texas received treatment similar to other inmates. Prison officials instituted mandatory solitary confinement on death row after seven inmates attempted to escape their cells; one was successful.

Some corrections officials have defended the mandatory use of solitary confinement on death row as a necessary security measure to prevent escape attempts and to protect the prison from dangerous inmates who have little incentive to play by the rules. But inmate lawsuits have pointed to research showing that condemned inmates are no more violent than other prisoners.

Prison officials in at least two states that have ended automatic solitary on death row say the change in policy has improved security, if anything.

In North Carolina, which moved death row inmates into the general population more than a decade ago, officials say condemned inmates tend to have better behavioral records than other inmates, with rare incidents of violence, and that they have integrated well. "Part of the reason that works is that they are not isolated 23 hours each day," Kenneth Lassiter, the state director of prisons, told Yale researchers last year.

Similarly, in Missouri, two studies have shown that rates of prison violence went down after death row inmates were integrated into the general population more than 30 years ago. The state also reported a decrease in costs associated with death row housing.

Generally, holding inmates in solitary confinement is much more expensive than keeping them in the general population. In Illinois, for example, it costs $60,000 a year to house a prisoner in the state's only supermax facility compared to an average of $22,000 for inmates in other prisons, according to one estimate.

Other corrections officials remain convinced that the use of mandatory solitary confinement on death row is worth the cost. "Offenders on death row are individuals who have been convicted of heinous crimes and given the harshest sentence possible under the law," said Jason Clark, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in an email. "TDCJ will continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately."
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The article got it wrong. Texas doesn't have the largest death row. That dubious distinction would go to the great state of California.

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