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Messages - Amanda

Scheduled Executions / Re: Eric Branch - FL - 2/22/18
February 16, 2018, 02:59:46 PM
Florida Supreme Court denies Eric Branch's appeal; execution set for next week

Fri. Feb. 16, 2018

A final state appeal by death row inmate Eric Branch to stay his execution was denied by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday, paving the way for the execution to take place Feb. 22.

Branch, who is convicted of killing University of West Florida student Susan Morris in 1993, has been on death row since his conviction in 1994.

Circuit Judge Edward P. Nickinson, who also oversaw Branch's initial jury trial, denied his appeal earlier this month, and Branch then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The basis of the argument was the same in both courts: that Branch's nearly 25 years on death row constituted cruel and unusual punishment and that when he committed the crime at age 21, his cognitive development was still at the level of a juvenile offender and he should have been treated as such. The state Supreme Court denied both of those claims.

Branch kidnapped Morris as she was walking home from class one night in an otherwise empty parking lot. He then strangled and beat her, before burying her in a shallow grave near a nature trail where her body was found days later.

Branch was apprehended on his way back to Indiana.

Gov. Rick Scott signed Branch's death warrant in January, scheduling the execution for Feb. 22.

Since then, the state court and Branch's defense have been back and forth, filing motions and holding hearings as the defense attempts to raise arguments that might stay the execution and vacate the death sentence.

With Thursday's Florida Supreme Court opinion, Branch has exhausted all state-level appeals. A State Attorney's Office news release issued Wednesday states Branch will now most likely appeal to the federal courts. The execution still is scheduled to take place next week.
Alabama committee votes to allow nitrogen executions

Wed. Feb. 14, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama moved closer to allowing death row inmates to be executed with nitrogen gas, a method that has so far never been used. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Wednesday on an 11-1 vote. It now moves to the full Senate.
Sen. Trip Pittman, the bill sponsor, says nitrogen hypoxia could be a painless way to put a person to death that is more humane than lethal injection or electric chair. The Montrose Republican said Alabama needs another execution method as lethal injection methods face legal challenges. However, no state has used nitrogen gas in an execution. Only two states -- Oklahoma and Mississippi -- conditionally authorize the use of nitrogen gas as a back-up method of execution.
Scheduled Executions / Re: Doyle Lee Hamm - AL - 2/22/18
February 15, 2018, 07:45:54 AM
Court rules Alabama can execute man in Cullman murder case

Wed. Feb. 14, 2018

MONTGOMERY (AP) -- A federal appeals court says Alabama, at least for now, can proceed toward the execution of an inmate who argues that a lethal injection would be cruel because lymphoma and hepatitis C have damaged his veins.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a federal judge's stay of execution for Doyle Lee Hamm, who is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 22 for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham, 41, in Cullman.

The appellate court ruled that a judge prematurely stayed the execution, but agreed there are unsettled questions about Hamm's health.

The three-judge panel said an independent medical expert should review Hamm's condition immediately.


"Unsettled questions", huh? Well, here's one solution: allow Alabama to execute Hamm on Feb. 22 and then do an autopsy. Maybe that'll give some answers. He's been on death row long enough, since Sept. 1993. Enough dilly-dallying.
It looks like the triple execution day of Feb. 22 is back on!! Go, Texas, Alabama, and Florida!  :D
Raymond Tibbetts - execution scheduled for Feb. 13 pushed back to Oct. 17, 2018.

Ohio governor delays killer's execution over juror concerns

Thurs. Feb. 8, 2018

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday delayed the execution of a killer set to die next week, citing a letter he received from a juror who asked that the inmate be spared. The Republican Kasich issued a reprieve for Raymond Tibbetts that pushed his Feb. 13 execution forward to mid-October. [Oct. 17, actually]

Kasich wants the Ohio Parole Board to consider a letter written by ex-juror Ross Geiger, who has said jurors weren't given enough information about Tibbetts' tough childhood. The parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts.

In the Jan. 30 letter, Geiger said he believes he and other jurors were misled about the "truly terrible conditions" of Tibbetts' upbringing.

"After reviewing the material, from the perspective of an original juror, I have deep concerns about the trial and the way it transpired," Geiger wrote in a letter to the governor. "This is why I am asking you to be merciful."

Geiger, of suburban Cincinnati, said he was relieved the governor paid attention to such an important issue.

Since "the issue was important enough for me to send a letter, then it has to be important enough for me to follow through with the parole board if they ask," Geiger told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Tibbetts, 60, was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks' home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit. The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Hamilton County prosecutors have argued that Tibbetts' background doesn't outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he'd already beaten her to death, then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a "sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived," they told the parole board.

"In nearly every case this board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions," Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a 2017 filing. "The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders."

Jurors heard "mostly anecdotal stories" from a psychiatrist called on Tibbetts' behalf about his troubled childhood and poor foster care, Geiger told Kasich. Geiger said he was shocked last month reading testimony presented at Tibbetts' clemency hearing about the conditions Tibbetts and his siblings lived through in foster care.

At night, Tibbetts and his brothers were tied to a single bed at the foster home, weren't fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts' application for mercy last year.


Sigh. Another day, another delay granted to an inmate with a scheduled execution. Guess it's time to edit the title of this topic - again. :-\
Ooooh, good news! One less waste of space on our already-overcrowded death colony. It hasn't been a "death row" for decades. 1 down, 745 to go. Line them up. Free extra bedsheets for all. :P
Court overturns heat-index limit on Louisiana's death row

Originally published Feb. 1, 2018

A federal appeals court has overturned an order requiring Louisiana prison officials to keep the heat index on death row below 88 degrees for three ailing condemned killers.

Wednesday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest twist in a 2013 civil rights lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ruled Louisiana imposes unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment on the three death-row inmates once the heat index in their cells exceeds 88 degrees. His December 2016 order required officials at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to continue using new measures, including modified ice chests, to protect the inmates from extreme heat.

But the 5th Circuit panel concluded Jackson's ruling violated a previous order by the appeals court by incorporating a maximum heat index in his ruling. Heat index is a measure of temperature and humidity, and the indices on death row have routinely soared above 100 as temperatures and humidity levels rise during the summer.

In the panel's majority opinion, Judge Jerry Smith said a "temperature trigger" can be used for deciding when to implement heat-control measures. But the courts can't require the prison to maintain a "temperature ceiling" on death row, Smith wrote.

To read more, go to the above link.
California's new lethal injection plan already faces hurdles

Originally published Jan. 31, 2018

California moved a step closer to resuming lethal injections this week but still faces significant hurdles before inmates can be executed.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has unveiled a revised single-drug method of execution, allowing the state to use either pentobarbital or thiopental in a single infusion to put condemned inmates to death.

But the barbiturates are extremely difficult to obtain, lawyers on both sides of the death penalty debate said Tuesday, and their lack of availability could eventually doom plans to restart the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the import of thiopental, and the manufacturer of pentobarbital has prohibited the drug from being used in executions.

"The state cannot lawfully procure either of those drugs through a reputable channel," said Ana Zamora, criminal justice director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

The protocol allows for compounding pharmacies to make the drugs, but the state would need to import the necessary ingredients, said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. "That is a problem."

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said she couldn't comment on whether the drugs might be impossible to obtain.

"I can tell you that CDCR will comply with all applicable laws in the procurement of the lethal injection chemicals," she said.

Several states have had to place holds on executions because of the difficulty of obtaining the needed drugs.

The shortage stems in part from pressure placed by death penalty opponents on manufacturers to prevent their products from being used in executions.

A previous lethal injection protocol proposed by California would have allowed officials to choose one of four different drugs for executions. But the ACLU strongly opposed the use of two of them, arguing they had never been used in an execution.

The state later withdrew those two drugs from its proposed protocol, saying it was questionable whether the chemicals could be obtained in a form needed for lethal injection.

Scheidegger said that was a mistake. "Every drug has to have a first use," he said.

Even if compounding pharmacies could obtain the ingredients needed for the two drugs now permitted, there is no guarantee that the chemicals would be processed correctly, Zamora said.

She said drugs made by compounding pharmacies have led to botched executions in other states.

"Will they engage in a covert mission to swap drugs with other states?" she asked. "We have a lot of concerns about how they are going to legally procure these two drugs."

She said the new protocol was essentially the same one rejected last year by a state law office before Proposition 66 became final.

It "contains a lot of the same problems -- legal and practical problems -- that the courts have been pointing to for years and years," she said.

California has the largest death row in the nation, with nearly 750 condemned inmates.

Scheidegger and his group joined prosecutors in winning passage of Proposition 66 in 2016, which was intended to speed up executions. The measure was immediately challenged.

The California Supreme Court eventually upheld most of it, including a provision that exempted lethal injection protocols from a state administrative procedures law.

As a result, the new protocol should become final in a month or two, Scheidegger said.

The next step for death penalty supporters will be to try to remove court injunctions blocking executions.

Scheidegger's group has moved to end an injunction issued by a state court, arguing it was based on the law prior to Proposition 66. The measure, in fact, was written in part to get around that injunction.

He said efforts also are being made to end the federal injunction, issued in 2006 after a judge found the state's former three-drug method of execution unconstitutional.

"None of (the injunctions) have any legal basis, but it does take time to get these hurdles removed by the courts," Scheidegger said.

He said he was hopeful the injunctions could be removed by the end of the year.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg, an Obama appointee presiding over the Northern California lethal injection case, will eventually have to determine whether the new protocol violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

About 18 inmates have exhausted their appeals and could be executed relatively swiftly if the court battles were resolved and the state obtained the needed drugs.

Because of all the hurdles, though, Gov. Jerry Brown could leave office next year without having to preside over a single execution.

Brown is known to personally oppose capital punishment, but he took no position on ballot measures in recent years that would have ended the death penalty in California.

California's Constitution also limits his power to commute death sentences to life without parole.

He would need the support of four of seven justices on the California Supreme Court to commute death sentences of inmates who committed multiple felonies.

At least half of the state's death row inmates have multiple felonies on their records, lawyers said.

Ronald Reagan was the last California governor to commute a death sentence, deciding in 1967 to move Calvin Thomas off death row because Thomas had serious brain damage.

Former Gov. Pat Brown, Jerry Brown's father, commuted capital sentences of 20 inmates and oversaw the executions of 35 others.

The elder Brown tried to commute the death sentence of Caryl Chessman, whose case attracted sympathy worldwide. But the California Supreme Court refused to approve the commutation.


-Sigh-  Oh, California... My state gets points for trying, but it's not enough.  :-\
South Carolina lawmaker calls for firing squads to carry out death penalty

Posted Feb. 6, 2018

A South Carolina legislator is planning to refile a bill that calls for firing squads to help execute the state's death row inmates.

Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Anderson, said the inability to execute prisoners is creating issues the public doesn't understand, according to Fox Carolina.

"When we can't perform an execution, we have to go back through the resentencing process," he said in an interview with WSPA. "For all the victims and the families of the victim, going back through the trial, the court process, the resentencing, that is usually a very traumatizing experience for them."

The Associated Press reported 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe also has made a call for firing squads after a former death row inmate - who originally was sentenced to death for a 1998 murder - became the latest killer to get a reprieve.

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers considered several alternative methods of execution, including lethal gas and morphine. And in 2015, Putnam introduced a similar bill calling for firing squads.

There are 35 men on South Carolina's death row in Columbia, and since 2013, state officials have had no way of executing them.

There are no pending orders to execute an inmate. The majority of cases involving inmates slated for execution are in litigation. The last inmate to be executed in South Carolina was 36-year-old Jeffrey Motts in 2011.


Yeah, time to try a new method, South Carolina. Here's hoping Representative Putnam's bill goes farther than the times he's tried to pass it before.
Alabama attorney general will appeal death row inmate's stay of execution

Wed. Feb. 7, 2018

The Alabama Attorney General's Office is appealing a federal court's ruling that stayed the execution for a death row inmate.

Doyle Lee Hamm was granted a stay last week by U.S. Chief District Judge Karon O. Bowdre, and on Tuesday Bowdre issued a written order explaining her reasons for granting the stay. According to court records, AG Steve Marshall is planning to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and ask the court to overturn the stay and allow the state to go forward in the execution.

Hamm's scheduled execution date is February 22. Hamm, 60, has been on death row since 1987 after being convicted of killing Patrick Cunningham-- a Cullman motel clerk.
Court rejects appeal from British woman on Texas death row

Wed. Feb. 7, 2018

Texas' highest criminal court on Wednesday rejected the appeal of a condemned British national who was convicted of arranging the killing of a neighbor so she could take the woman's baby.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the ruling of a lower court, which rejected Linda Carty's arguments that prosecutors had coerced witnesses and improperly hidden information that could have affected the outcome of her capital murder trial.

Carty, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis and the only British woman on death row in the United States, was convicted in the 2001 suffocation of 20-year-old Joana Rodriguez.

Prosecutors said Carty, who had been living in Houston for about 20 years by the time of her trial, recruited three men to abduct Rodriguez and her newborn in the hopes of saving her relationship with her common-law husband by passing off the child as her own.

Rodriguez and her days-old son, Ray Cabrera, were abducted from their Houston apartment on May 16, 2001. The boy was found safe in a car that same day, but his mother was found suffocated in the trunk of another car. Her arms and legs were wrapped in duct tape, her mouth and nose also were taped and she had a plastic bag over her head.

The three men charged as Carty's accomplices received long prison terms. Carty was sentenced to death.

Carty's lawyer, Michael Goldberg, said Wednesday that he was unaware of the ruling and had no immediate comment.

The appeals court ruling supported the findings of District Judge David Garner, who decided in 2016 that Harris County prosecutors should have turned over some witness statements to Carty's trial lawyers, but that the evidence was overwhelming and wouldn't have changed the trial's outcome. Garner also determined that prosecutors didn't knowingly use perjured testimony or allow untrue testimony at the trial.

In a concurring opinion joined by two other appeals court judges, Judge Bert Richardson wrote that while Carty's lawyers contended that prosecutors committed "egregious misconduct," those claims weren't supported in the court record.

"None of the evidence eliminates her or even casts reasonable doubt on her role as a party to this offense," Richardson wrote.

When she was arrested, Carty was on probation for impersonating a federal agent and previously had been arrested for auto theft and drug charges.

She does not yet have an execution date.
His son tried to kill him. Now, father tries to stop his execution.

From Jan. 12, 2018

Thomas Whitaker is on Texas death row because he lured his family out to dinner so a friend could slip into their Sugar Land home to gun down his mother, father and brother when they returned.
Shot in the upper chest in the 2003 attack, Kent Whitaker barely survived the ambush, but only after hearing the first two bullets that killed his youngest, Kevin, a college sophomore, and wife Tricia, whose last sounds he heard were a series of weak, wet coughs as blood filled her lungs.

Now 38, Thomas Whitaker is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 22 for the crime.

His father, however, is making a last-ditch plea to spare his son's life despite the heartache and suffering he caused.

In a plea for clemency on the father's behalf, Austin lawyer Keith Hampton and Houston lawyer James Rytting asked Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a rarely granted 30-day reprieve and for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Abbott commute Thomas Whitaker's sentence to life in prison.

To read more, go to the above link.

Scheduled Executions / Re: Eric Branch - FL - 2/22/2018
February 08, 2018, 06:52:01 AM
Florida Supreme Court rejects appeal from death row inmate

Tues. Feb. 6, 2018

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected a request for a stay of the Feb. 22 execution of Death Row inmate Eric Scott Branch, who was convicted of murdering a University of West Florida student in 1993.

Branch's attorneys filed the request for a stay last week as they appealed an issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court did not detail its reasons for denying the stay in a one-sentence order.

Branch was sentenced to death in the sexual assault and murder of student Susan Morris. Gov. Rick Scott last month scheduled Branch's execution for Feb. 22.

The request for a stay involved an issue related to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002. That is when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida's death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

Branch and dozens of other Death Row inmates who were sentenced to death before the Ring decision argued that the new unanimity requirements should also apply retroactively to their cases. But the Florida Supreme Court has rejected those arguments.

In seeking the stay of execution, Branch's attorneys wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court "will be inundated in the coming months" with challenges to the Florida Supreme Court's refusal to apply the new sentencing requirements to inmates such as Branch.

Meanwhile, Branch's attorneys have sought a stay on other legal issues but were turned down last week by an Escambia County circuit judge. They appealed that decision Monday to the Florida Supreme Court.


Well at least 2/3 of the scheduled executions for Feb. 22 (Texas and Florida) look like they'll go ahead. It's not too late for another state to schedule an execution and join them.  :P
Stay lifted for Alabama death row inmate

Tues. Feb. 6, 2018

A federal judge says Alabama is free to execute death row inmate Jeffery Lynn Borden.

Court records filed Friday show U.S. Chief District Judge Keith Watkins denied Borden's attorney's request to reinstate the stay he originally issued hours before  Borden's scheduled in October.

Watkins, however, lifted the stay on Nov. 14 and Borden's attorneys immediately asked the judge to reconsider.

On Friday Watkins issued his order denying that request.

"The court is unpersuaded by Borden's argument that the court had no jurisdiction to consider Defendants' motion to lift the stay of execution. Defendants' argument carries the day," the order states.

Borden, 56, was granted a stay by Watkins just three hours before his scheduled execution on October 5, 2017.

After the stay was granted on October 5, Attorney General Steve Marshall issued this statement: "Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has already agreed to proceed with Mr. Borden's execution, the lower federal courts continue to place roadblocks in the victims' family's pursuit of justice.  Because there is insufficient time to lift the stay before midnight, we will seek a new execution date as soon as possible."

Borden is among the death row inmates in a consolidated case challenging Alabama's lethal injection method of execution as unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment.


Alright, Alabama, time to set a date. How about tomorrow? Lol. But seriously, I really hope Alabama sets a date not too far in the future. Maybe next month, or this month, even. He's had enough time on death row already.
Juror reaches out to Gov. Kasich to spare life of convicted killer

Monday, Feb. 5, 2018

A juror who recommended death for a Cincinnati killer who's set for execution next week now says he'd like the governor to spare that condemned man's life.
Ross Geiger of Loveland in southwest Ohio has only been on one jury - the August 1998 trial in Hamilton County of Raymond Tibbetts, accused of beating his wife Judith with a baseball bat and then repeatedly stabbing her and their landlord Fred Hicks in their Cincinnati apartment the year before.  "I would not wish for anybody to have to sit on a capital murder case and review all the horrific evidence and just hear the testimony about family members being brutally taken away from them."
Geiger says there was never a doubt that Tibbetts was guilty. And as a member of the jury, Geiger did recommend death for Tibbetts. "I don't have any particular regret about the decision I made at the time. My concern, and the reason I wrote the letter to the governor, is because after the fact and many years after the fact, there's information that was available but not presented to the jury in the sentencing phase."

To read more, go to the above link.


Other info pertaining to this case: The Ohio Board of Pardons and Paroles ruled against clemency in March 2017. Governor Kasich is said to be reviewing Tibbetts' case.
Scheduled Executions / Re: Doyle Lee Hamm - AL - 2/22/18
February 08, 2018, 06:31:18 AM
Federal judge stays Hamm execution

A federal judge has stayed the upcoming execution of an Alabama man in order to have an independent medical expert review claims that he is too sick to be executed.

Chief U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre made that ruling yesterday. A lawyer representing Doyle Lee Hamm argues lethal injection would be unconstitutionally cruel in Hamm's case because battles with lymphoma and hepatitis C have severely compromised his veins. The lawyer also argues it would be inhumane to execute someone suffering from terminal cancer.

Hamm had been scheduled to be executed February 22 for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham in Cullman, AL. The state of Alabama argues there is no evidence Hamm's condition has worsened to the point that he can't be humanely executed.

Judge Bowdre says the medical expert will determine that.


Sigh. Another Alabama execution off the calendar. First Vernon Madison, now Doyle Hamm.  :-\