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    1. #1
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      Oct 2010

      Idaho Capital Punishment News

      BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The state of Idaho is arguing that a jury's finding of aggravating circumstances in a death penalty case meets a U.S. Supreme Court standard that juries must decide capital cases.

      Arguing before the Idaho Supreme Court on Friday, deputy attorney general LaMont Anderson said that the jury in Darrell Payne's 2002 trial found the same aggravating circumstance needed for the death penalty as did Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville when he sentenced Payne to death.

      Neville later set aside Payne's death sentence to comply with the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling.

      Payne was convicted of the July 2000 rape and murder of Samantha Maher of Boise.

      His defense lawyer, Paula Swenson of Idaho's public defender's office, told the justices that members of the jury weren't "death qualified" because they weren't questioned during jury selection about their feelings on the death penalty.

      She says jury members also did not weigh mitigation evidence which might have persuaded them to spare Payne's life. That is now required under Idaho law.

    2. #2
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      Oct 2010
      BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Supreme Court has denied requests from six death row inmates who said they were entitled to new trials because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made after their convictions called on juries, not judges, to impose the death penalty.

      All the inmates argued that the state violated their Sixth Amendment rights because they were sentenced to death by a judge instead of by a jury, as required under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

      But in a unanimous ruling handed down Friday, the Idaho Supreme Court noted that their cases were all appealed and the judgments made final before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling was issued - and the Idaho justices said the 2002 ruling can't be retroactively applied to the Idaho inmates' cases.


    3. #3
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      Oct 2010
      Legal complexities stall executions of Idaho killers

      Paul Blomberg is a man of faith.

      It is his Christian faith that kept him from drifting into despair after his 22-year-old daughter Samantha Maher was abducted, raped and killed by a stranger in 2000.

      Blomberg’s faith allowed him to endure weeks of horrifying testimony during a jury trial and two sentencing hearings — seven years apart — for Darrell Payne, the man sentenced to death two separate times for his crimes.

      What Blomberg does not have much faith in, however, is an Idaho legal system that does not execute Death Row prisoners.

      Since the Idaho death penalty was reinstated in 1979, more Death Row inmates (three) have been freed than have been executed (one). More than half of the 40 people given the death penalty have had their sentences changed and are no longer candidates for execution.

      That could change Friday. Convicted killer Paul Rhoades is scheduled to die at 8:10 a.m. His lawyers have challenged Idaho’s lethal injection protocol as unconstitutional and asked for a stay of execution; U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush is expected to rule Monday. On Thursday, Bush said he has some doubts the Idaho Department of Correction is ready to execute Rhoades.

      If Rhoades’ death proceeds as scheduled, he will be the first Death Row inmate executed against his will since 1957. Keith Wells, a convicted murderer, waived his appeals and was executed in 1994.

      “It would be a positive thing for the justice system if it actually happens,” Blomberg said last week. “Even then, why did it take (24) years for this to happen?”


      Blomberg wouldn’t be surprised by another delay.

      A year ago, he told the Statesman this story about a conversation he’d had a year before with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

      “I sat across from Lawrence Wasden and asked him, point blank, if Idaho will ever execute anyone. He told me no,” Blomberg said.

      “We believe the death penalty is just. We think it is appropriate (for Payne). But if the state of Idaho is going to have a death penalty and never enforce it ... why have one in the first place? Victims have no idea what they are in for.”

      A spokesman for Wasden says the AG remembers the conversation differently and did not say no one will be ever be executed, but understands Blomberg’s frustration.

      The biggest challenge Wasden’s staff says it faces in death penalty cases is getting them through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

      The AG’s office said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has the longest average decision time of any of the 13 circuits in the United States. The Los Angeles Times found it takes an average of 16.3 months for 9th Circuit panels to issue opinions, compared with an average of 11.7 months for all other circuits, citing data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (the number are for all appeals, not just death penalty cases, which can take longer).

      If you ask defense attorneys and other experts, they say the answer is not that simple.

      When the death sentence is at stake, legal issues are vetted with great care. Death penalty cases are scrutinized at such an intense level, these lawyers say, that finding errors is almost inevitable — and some lawyers dispute the idea that the 9th Circuit is that much more of a roadblock.

      “If somebody asked me why we haven’t had executions, the simple answer would be that these cases are just so very complex,” said Teresa Hampton, an Idaho federal public defender who represents several of Idaho’s Death Row inmates in federal court — including Rhoades.

      In fact, a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court upheld Rhoades’ Idaho death sentence in July 2010, paving the way for his Nov. 18 execution.


      Rhoades was sentenced to death in 1988 for the rape and murder of Idaho Falls teacher Susan Michelbacher, 34, and the kidnapping and murder of Blackfoot convenience store clerk Stacy Dawn Baldwin, 21.

      Rhoades also is serving a life sentence for the shooting death of Nolan Haddon, 21, of Blackfoot at an Idaho Falls convenience store. The murders happened in February and March 1987.

      Rhoades has been close to death before — in 1991 and 1993 — but his execution was stayed after appeals to U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. District Court. Now, however, all Rhoades’ legal appeals have been heard and rejected.

      If Bush rejects Rhoades’ request for a stay Monday, Rhoades still can try to get the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his case.

      Nolan Haddon’s brother recently told the Post-Register in Idaho Falls that his family wants to see Rhoades executed.

      “He’s lived so long now I’m sick and tired of hearing about it,” Wes Haddon said. “It keeps going on and on.”


      In Idaho, a death sentence is subject to an automatic review by the Idaho Supreme Court. If the court rejects the case, the conviction can be appealed to the U.S. District Court in Idaho, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court. Cases that get bounced back to the state courts can go through all those courts again.

      Of the 40 inmates given the death penalty since 1979, eight have had their death sentences reversed by the Idaho Supreme Court, according the Idaho attorney general’s office. Ten cases are pending in the U.S. District Court in Idaho or the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

      Three cases were reversed or settled by negotiation in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the death sentence of convicted killer Bryan Lankford.

      Three inmates have died while in prison.

      Three inmates — Donald Paradis, Thomas Gibson and Charles Fain — have been freed because of new evidence.

      The remainder are death sentences issued over the past decade — including those for Payne, Azad Abdullah and Erick Hall (both 2005) — all of which have appeals making their way through the state courts.


      By all accounts, it is hard to get a death penalty case upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

      Just this year, the court determined that Lacey Sivak — on Idaho’s Death Row since 1981 — needs a new sentencing hearing. The 9th Circuit ruled that while Sivak’s conviction on first-degree murder charges is appropriate, the outcome of his sentencing hearing might have been different if Ada County prosecutors hadn’t knowingly presented the testimony of an inmate who had perjured himself. That case is 30 years old.

      Assessing the 9th Circuit’s role is “complicated,” says Shaun P. Martin, a law professor at University of San Diego School of Law who studies the appeals court.

      “But my strong view is that while the 9th Circuit makes it relatively difficult to execute people, it’s definitely still possible,” he said, “and plenty of states in the 9th Circuit have successfully executed murderers at much higher rates than Idaho has been able to pull over.”

      He does note that other circuits, such as the 4th (based in Virginia and including the Carolinas and Maryland) and the 5th in Texas (including Louisiana and Mississippi) “are more pro-death penalty.” “As a result,” Martin said, “Virginia ends up executing around two-thirds of people who are sentenced to death and Texas executes around half. ... So it’s true that it’s harder to execute people in the 9th Circuit than in some other circuits.”

      But Idaho has to share the blame, he said. States in the 9th Circuit have executed more inmates, such as Montana (three of 10) and Nevada (about 10 percent) since the late 1970s.

      “It’s a fair piece higher than Idaho’s execution rates,” Martin said.

      Idaho’s few executions could be a statistical anomaly, Martin said. Or, he said, “Idaho prosecutors aren’t as good at arguing in the 9th Circuit and/or capital prosecutions in Idaho are relatively more flawed than in other states — perhaps because those other states have more experience in capital prosecutions.”


    4. #4
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      Oct 2010
      Another Idaho Execution Might Be Scheduled in Spring

      Brent Reinke, Idaho Department of Correction director, told members of the House Health and Welfare Committee this afternoon that Idaho could see another death row inmate scheduled for execution as early as this spring.

      Thirteen men and one woman currently sit on Idaho's death row.

      Reinke was briefing lawmakers on how his department, the third-largest in the state, is holding up in the wake of budget constraints while continuing to see growth of its inmate population. Additionally, Reinke and his staff had to manage the Nov. 18 execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, the first instance of Idaho putting an inmate to death since 1994 and only the second since 1957.

      IDOC said the cost of the execution totaled $53,411. Of the total, $25,583 went to employee overtime and $27,828 went to operational expenses, including medical supplies, equipment rentals and meals.

      Reinke said today that his department would have some new recommendations concerning execution procedures that he would present to lawmakers in the coming months.


    5. #5
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      Oct 2010
      Another execution this year?

      When the state of Idaho executed double murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades last November, he was only the second inmate from death row to be put to death over the past three decades — and the only one to be executed against his will since 1957.

      Keith Wells, a convicted murderer, waived his appeals and was executed in 1994. Rhoades was executed in November after exhausting all his legal options.

      Fourteen prisoners remain on death row. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke told the Legislature this winter that “it’s entirely possible” another execution could happen before July 1, according to the Idaho Falls Post Register.

      What officials can’t say is which inmate it would be. Five inmates have been on death row since the 1980s — Gene Stuart (1982), Thomas Creech (1983), Richard Leavitt (1985), Gerald Pizzuto Jr. (1986) and David Card (1989).

      All five have some sort of appeal pending in federal courts. Leavitt’s case seems to be the farthest along: His appeal is now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

      LaMont Anderson, a senior deputy with the Idaho attorney general’s office who is the lead counsel on death penalty cases, said “it’s impossible to tell” because any judicial ruling on those cases can radically change the time line.

      Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that new evidence found in Pizzuto’s case isn’t enough to give him another chance at overturning his murder conviction for beating 58-year-old Berta Herndon and her adult nephew Delbert Dean Herndon to death in 1986. Anderson pointed out it took the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals about a year to issue that decision.

      That would seemingly move that case forward, but attorneys for Pizzuto are still appealing his conviction in U.S. District Court on a different appeal. They say Pizzuto’s conviction and sentence should be dismissed because his low IQ disqualifies him from the death penalty.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    6. #6
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      Oct 2010
      4 death row inmates sue over Idaho's newest lethal injection procedures

      Four inmates on Idaho's death row are suing the state, contending Idaho's new execution procedures give too much power to prison officials, create a risk of severe pain and would allow unqualified workers to carry out medical procedures. The lawsuit, filed in Boise's U.S. District Court late last week, asks a judge to stop all executions until the problems are fixed.

      The lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Correction's Director Brent Reinke, Operations Division Chief Kevin Kempf and other department officials comes as the men prepare for the possibility of an execution sometime in late spring or early summer. Richard Leavitt, convicted of the brutal 1984 stabbing death of Danette Jean Elg in Blackfoot, is waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will consider his case. If the high court refuses, Leavitt could be the next inmate to enter the lethal injection chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.

      Leavitt is joined in the lawsuit by fellow condemned inmates Thomas Creech, James Hairston and Gene Stuart. All four men are represented by the Federal Public Defender's office.

      In the 37-page lawsuit, the inmates take issue with Idaho's newest version of the execution policy, adopted by the department earlier this year.

      The new policy allows the state to use either a three-drug mixture for lethal injections, or to opt to use just one drug. It also changed the name of the team that administers the lethal injection from "injection team" to "medical team" and limited the legal ramifications for health professionals involved with executions.

      It also can be changed at any time, under the sole discretion of one of two IDOC officials, without any notice to death row inmates or their attorneys. If unforeseen developments occur during an execution, Director Brent Reinke or Idaho Maximum Security Institution Warden Randy Blades can determine how to respond without any constraints on their discretion.

      That gives too much power to the IDOC officials, the inmates contend, and violates the inmates' right to due process.

      "Executing any plaintiff without notice of the procedures to be used denies each plaintiff the right to a reasonable opportunity to review and to be heard, in violation of the right to due process," attorney Oliver Loewy wrote on behalf of inmates in the lawsuit.

      The lawsuit also takes issue with the way Idaho officials might obtain the drugs used in lethal injection execution, with the inmates contending that the drugs would likely be illegally obtained or adulterated in some way.

      The new protocol doesn't require that members of the medical team have current professional experience inserting or maintaining IVs on a regular basis, the inmates claim, nor does it require that they have any experience or training in preparing chemicals for injection.

      That creates the possibility of error, and extreme pain for the condemned, the inmates claim.

      The state has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    7. #7
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      Jun 2011
      Now these type stories are the ones that really irk me, DR inmates are sentenced to death for the worst kinds of murders, yet they feel they have a right to sue, because they are afraid it might hurt.....

    8. #8
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      Oct 2010
      Idaho Opts For 1 Drug Only In Execution Policy

      Idaho's corrections chief says the agency is switching to a one-drug lethal injection for future executions of death row inmates.

      Idaho Department of Corrections Director Brent Reinke said Friday execution teams will administer a single, lethal dose of the surgical sedative pentobarbital.

      That's a change from the execution carried out by the agency last fall, when the condemned inmate was injected with three-drug mixture, which included pentobarbital.

      Reinke says the change was driven by difficulties in obtaining the other two chemicals used to kill Paul Ezra Rhoades in November.

      The decision makes Idaho the latest death penalty state to switch to using only pentobarbital in its lethal injection.

      Reinke says the one-drug protocol will be used in the June 12 execution of convicted murderer Richard Leavitt.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    9. #9
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      Oct 2010
      AP, news groups sue Idaho over execution access

      The Associated Press and 16 other organizations sued the state of Idaho on Tuesday to force officials to let witnesses watch executions from start to finish, arguing that the media has a First Amendment right to view all steps of a lethal injection execution.

      The group asked a U.S. District Court judge to require the state to increase witness access to its executions, starting with the upcoming execution of Richard A. Leavitt, a convicted killer scheduled to be put to death on June 12.

      The AP was joined in the lawsuit by the Idaho Press Club, Idahoans for Openness in Government, the Idaho Statesman, The Times-News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News and The Spokesman-Review.

      Also joining was Pioneer Newspapers, which owns several newspapers including the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Idaho State Journal, the Rexburg Standard Journal and others.

      Idaho, like most states with lethal injection, bars witnesses from watching as a condemned inmate is brought into the execution chamber, strapped to the table and has IVs inserted into his or her arms. The news organizations say reporters must be able to view executions from start to finish so they can accurately report the events - and any complications that may emerge - to the public.

      Some death row inmates have challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection executions in court, contending that the insertion of the IVs can be easily botched, causing severe pain for the condemned.

      "This lawsuit is really all about obtaining access to the entire execution process for viewing purposes. It's very important in a society such as ours to have full transparency in regards to the exercise of government authority," said Chuck Brown, the attorney representing the news organizations.

      The states that grant access to part of the death penalty process say they do so to protect the anonymity of the execution team. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said the department had not yet had a chance to review the lawsuit, and that the state's attorneys would respond to the claims in court.

      The lawsuit relies heavily on a 2002 San Francisco-based federal appeals court ruling that found that witnesses should be allowed to view executions from the moment the condemned enters the death chamber until their final heartbeat.

      Since the ruling, only one state under the court's nine-state jurisdiction is following it: California, where the case arose. Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Montana and Nevada have all barred witnesses from the first half of lethal injection executions.

      Most states nationwide do the same. Of the 27 states that have lethal injection outside of the circuit's jurisdiction, only Ohio and Georgia allow witnesses to see the entire process.

      The lawsuit comes at a time when questions have been raised about whether the lethal cocktail of drugs used in the procedure is effective and whether the execution staff is properly trained.

      The Idaho organizations decided to sue after state officials limited access to the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades. Put to death in November, Rhoades was the first person to be executed in the state in 17 years, and only the second in the last half-century. Media interest in the event was intense, and the department selected four journalists to view the proceedings.

      But none of the witnesses were allowed to watch as Rhoades entered the death chamber, was strapped to the execution table and had IVs inserted in his arms.

      That portion was of particular interest because in the weeks preceding his death, Rhoades had argued in federal court that those initial steps were the most likely to go awry. His lawyers said an improperly inserted IV could cause him extreme pain.

      At the time, Idaho Department of Correction officials maintained that the first steps of the execution had to be kept private to protect the anonymity of the execution team.

      The 2002 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case was brought by the California First Amendment Coalition against California Department of Correction officials. The court found that preventing reporters - and through them, the public - from viewing all aspects of executions is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

      The news media must be allowed to witness executions in their entirety so that the public can have an informed debate about whether execution by lethal injection meets the evolving standards of decency present in a maturing society, the court found.

      "To determine whether lethal injection executions are fairly and humanely administered, or whether they ever can be, citizens must have reliable information about the 'initial procedures' which are invasive, possibly painful and may give rise to serious complications," Judge Raymond Fisher wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel that heard the case.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    10. #10
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      Oct 2010
      Idaho officials answer lawsuit, say executioner anonymity outweighs expanded public access

      Idaho prison officials said their efforts to protect the identity of execution team members and the privacy of the condemned inmate outweigh any reason to allow witnesses to view lethal injections from start to finish.

      Officials defended the policy in a court filing late Tuesday, responding to a federal lawsuit filed this month by more than a dozen Idaho news groups challenging the limitations on viewing executions.

      Like most states with lethal injection, Idaho pulls the curtain back during the first few steps of an execution, including the insertion of IV needles into the condemned inmate.

      The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations say reporters — and by extension the public — should view all phases of the execution to accurately report the events or any complications that emerge.

      Prison officials say expanding access simply invites too many risks.

      Even if executioners are covered in surgical gear and masks, a chance remains they could be identified, making it even more difficult to recruit and retain team members, according to the brief.

      The state Department of Correction also has an interest in "shielding the medical team from possible anxiety and stress of performing an ordinary medical procedure before an audience knowing that a delay or mishap will be reported," Deputy Attorney General Michael Gilmore wrote.

      The chance of complications arising is a primary reason the news groups are pressing for expanded access, arguing the First Amendment gives media and the public the right to view executions in their entirety.

      In recent years, several high-profile cases have raised questions about how states conduct lethal injections, including two cases in Ohio — a state that allows full access — when execution staff couldn't immediately find the inmate's vein. In one of those cases, officials halted the execution and the inmate remains on death row.

      The lawsuit filed by the news groups relies heavily on a 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruling on a 2002 California case. The court rejected the state's argument that allowing witnesses throughout the execution would compromise efforts to keep secret the identity of the execution team.

      "Independent public scrutiny — made possible by the public and media witnesses to an execution — plays a significant role in the proper functioning of capital punishment," the judges ruled.

      Idaho officials spelled out their legal defense in advance of court-ordered mediation, which begins Thursday under the supervision of Magistrate Judge Candy Dale.

      The legal challenge also comes weeks before the June 12 execution of Richard Leavitt, who was convicted of the 1984 stabbing murder of Blackfoot resident Danette Elg.

      The state also argues there are other reasons for limiting access, including shielding family and friends of the condemned inmate from any public suffering that might occur during a delay and preserving the dignity and privacy of the inmate.

      The organizations joining the AP include The Idaho Statesman, Boise Weekly, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, The Idaho Press Club, Idahoans for Openess in Government, The Times-News, Spokesman-Review and the Pioneer Newspaper group, including The Idaho Press-Tribune and Idaho State Journal.

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

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