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Federal Capital Punishment News
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  1. #1
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Federal Capital Punishment News

    December 23, 2010

    Obama administration readies first execution

    The Justice Department is making preparations for what could be the first federal execution under President Barack Obama, according to a new court filing.

    The Bureau of Prisons gave notice to a federal judge Wednesday that it intends to set an execution date for Jeffery Paul, 34. Paul was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to death for the robbery-murder of an 82-year-old retired National Park Service employee, Sherman Williams, on federal land in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1995.

    Plans for the execution were disclosed by Justice Department lawyers in a lawsuit pending in Washington over federal lethal injection procedures. Several federal death-row prisoners are covered by a stay entered in that suit, but Paul is not among them, since U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts denied Paul permission to join the case earlier this year, saying he had waited too long.

    "Paul is not a party to this suit nor has he received a stay barring his execution in another jurisdiction. Given this posture, the U.S. Department of Justice respectfully informs the court of its intent to set an execution date for Paul. ... Any date set for Paul’s execution will be at least 120 days after the filing of this notice," said the filing submitted by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen.

    Officials in the press offices at Justice Department headquarters and at the Bureau of Prisons said they had no additional information on preparations to execute Paul, who is on death row at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

    A lawyer for Paul, Robert McGlasson, also said he had no details on the government's plans to move forward with the death penalty for his client. "As for the immediacy of a possible execution date, we know nothing more than what you have seen in the government's filing," McGlasson said in an e-mail responding to a query from POLITICO.

    McGlasson said that Paul suffers from "severe mental illness" and that he should be permitted to join the suit brought by other federal death-row inmates. The lawyer noted that a motion asking Roberts to reconsider his ruling is pending.

    "We also believe, of course, that until this matter particularly, and the overall ... lawsuit, generally, are resolved, it is premature for the government to set an execution date on Mr. Paul," McGlasson wrote.

    Three executions took place in the federal system under President George W. Bush, including that of Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. The last execution was in March 2003. Before McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection, the federal government went almost four decades without carrying out an execution.

    The 120-day period before an execution is designed to allow for court challenges as well as the filing of a commutation petition with the president. McGlasson said no such petition has been filed at this point.

    Unlike his two most recent predecessors, Obama never had involvement before he became president with carrying out the death penalty or handing requests for clemency. However, he did work on reforms to state death penalty laws in Illinois while he was a state legislator there.

    While a candidate for president, Obama said he supported the death penalty in the case of "heinous" crimes. "I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances, for the most egregious of crimes,” Obama said when criticizing a Supreme Court decision that rejected death sentences for child rape.


  2. #2
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    July 29, 2011

    Feds plan changes to death penalty procedure

    By Josh Gerstein

    It's increasingly likely that President Barack Obama will serve out his entire first-term without presiding over the execution of a prisoner on federal death row, after the federal government decided to move forward with revisions to its death penalty procedures.

    The Justice Department informed a federal judge Thursday about its plans to revise the so-called protocol for executions. Government lawyers gave no reason for the changes, but they likely stem from a shortage of the key drug used in most lethal injection executions in recent decades, sodium thiopental.

    "The Federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to modify its lethal injection protocol but the protocol revisions have not yet been finalized," government lawyers wrote in a court filing in a case challenging the constitutionality of the federal execution process. The Justice Department offered no timeline for completing the new protocol, but offered to update the court monthly on the progress. A spokeswoman for the department said she had no information beyond the brief statement in the court filing.

    Federal executions have been effectively halted since 2006, when a judge blocked executions for three inmates. Three additional prisoners have been subsquently added to the injunction.

    "We're in the midst of this litigation and the judge was about to say looks like the protocol meets the standards, but now they're going to have to stop and go back and look at that again," said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.

    Since the Justice Department agrees that the prisoners who brought the challenge to the current protocol will be entitled to detailed information about the protocol and how it was developed, it seems likely that the legal process of green lighting it could extend through next fall's election.

    "They're going to need time just to see what's happening, then the judge will make a decision. Either side will appeal to the circuit court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. I think it will take a year at a minimum but it's hard to predict," Dieter said.

    Just last December, the Justice Department said it was ready to move forward with setting an execution date for Jeffrey Paul, who was convicted in 1997 of the shooting death of a retired, 82-year-old National Park Service employee, Sherman Williams. However, no execution date was ever set for Paul, who is not covered by the injunction.

    Most executions in the U.S. are carried out by the states, which handle most murder cases. There are currently 58 prisoners on federal death row, according to DPIC. The last federal executions were three under President George W. Bush, beginning with the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh in 2001. The last previous federal execution was in 1963.

    Unlike his two predecessors who had served as governors before coming to the White House, Obama has never presided over an execution or the question of whether to grant a reprieve to someone on death row. He does have some familiarity with the issue, though, since he pursued death penalty reform as a state legislator in Illinois.

    UPDATE: A Justice Department spokeswoman confirms that the planned changes to the federal death penalty protocol are the result of the shortage of the key drug. "BOP is currently in the process of modifying its protocol to address the issue of the lack of availability of sodium thiopental," spokeswoman Gina Talamona said Tuesday afternoon.

    Talamona said the drug shortage is what led to the department not following through with the plan it announced last December to proceed with Paul's execution. No executions are currently scheduled, she said.


  3. #3
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Who's on federal death row?

    The federal death penalty, overturned in 1972, was reinstated in 1988. Since then, 69 defendants have been sentenced to death and three have been executed, Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber and Juan Raul Garza, a drug trafficker convicted in the murders of three rivals, the two executed a week apart in 2001; and Louis Jones Jr., who raped and murdered his estranged wife, put to death in in 2003. (Seven others were removed from death row.)

    The 59 men and women on federal Death Row

    Johnson, Corey, VA, 1993 Sentenced to death for his participation in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Richard Tipton & James H. Roane, Jr.)

    Roane, Jr., James H., VA, 1993 Richmond gang member who participated in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Corey Johnson & Richard Tipton)

    Tipton, Richard, VA, 1993 Richmond gang member convicted for his role in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Corey Johnson & James H. Roane, Jr.)

    Webster, Bruce, TX, 1996 Charged with the abduction, sexual assault, and beating death of a 16-year-old female. (Co-defendant with Orlando Hall)

    Battle, Anthony, GA, 1997 Sentenced to death for the murder of a prison guard.

    Paul, Jeffrey Williams, AR, 1997 Robbed and murdered a retired National Park employee on federal land.

    Allen, Billy Jerome, MO, 1998 Fatally shot a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis. (Co-defendant with Norris Holder)

    Barnette, Marcivicci Aquilia, NC, 1998 Killed his ex-girlfriend and another man in a carjacking.

    Hammer, David Paul, PA 1998 Killed a fellow inmate in a federal prison in Penn.

    Holder, Norris , MO, 1998 Shot and killed a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis. (Co-defendant with Billie Jerome Allen)

    Purkey, Wesley, MO, 1998 Sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Kansas City teen.

    Bernard, Brandon, TX, 2000 Convicted at the age of 18 for carjacking and murdering a couple visting Texas. (Co-defendant with Christopher Vialva)

    Higgs, Dustin, MD, 2000 Murdered three women after arguing with one of them in his apartment.

    Ortiz, Arboleda, MO, 2000 Participated in the murder of a drug dealer. (Co-defendant with German Sinistera, who died on death row)

    Vialva, Christopher, TX, 2000 Took part in the murder of a couple visiting Texas; Was 19-years-old at the time of his arrest. (Co-defendant with Brandon Bernard)

    Jackson, Richard Allen, NC, 2001 Convicted of use of a firearm on federal property (Bend Creek Recreation Area) during a felony resulting in the death of the victim.

    LeCroy, Jr., William, GA, 2001 Sentenced to death for the carjacking and murder of a North Georgia woman.

    Gabrion, Marvin, MI, 2002 Sentenced to death for a 1997 murder in Michigan's Manistee National Forest. Death sentence overturned by 6th Circuit (Aug. 3, 2011); panel overruled by en banc 6th Cir. (Nov. 2011).

    Lee, Danny, AR, 2002 Carried out the triple murder of a gun dealer and his family.

    Nelson, Keith D., MO, 2002 Convicted of kidnapping a girl from her home in Kansas and murdering her.

    Robinson, Julius, TX, 2002 Killed two men in drug-related incidents in Ft. Worth

    Brown, Meier Jason, GA, 2003 Convicted of murdering a 48-year-old postal worker.

    Mitchell, Lezmond, AZ, 2003 Killed a woman and her nine-year-old son after getting a ride from them; stole the car and used it in an armed robbery.

    Sampson, Gary, MA 2003 Pled guilty to the carjacking and murder of two Massachusetts men during a weeklong crime spree. Death sentence overturned, Oct. 2011.

    Agofsky, Shannon, TX, 2004 Murder of an inmate at a federal prison in Texas.

    Basham, Brandon, SC, 2004 Kidnapped and murdered a 44-year-old woman during his co-defendant's escape from prison. (Co-defendant with Chadrick Fulks)

    Bourgeois, Alfred, TX, 2004 Murdered his daughter at the Corpus Christi (TX) Naval Air Station.

    Corly, Odell (Naish Ra'id), IN, 2004 Murdered two bank employees during a robbery attempt.

    Fields, Sherman Lamont, TX, 2004 Shot and killed his girlfriend after he escaped from a detention center where he was being held on a federal weapons charge.

    Fulks, Chadrick, SC, 2004 Kidnapped and killed a woman after escaping from a Kentucky jail. (Co-defendant with Branden Basham)

    Honken, Dustin, IA, 2004 Sentenced to death for the muder of two girls, ages 10 and 6 who were witnesses to the murder of their mother; Honken received a life sentence for the mother's murder. (Co-defendant with Angela Johnson)

    Barrett, Kenneth Eugene, OK, 2005 Murdered a state police officer during a drug crime.

    Davis, Len, LA, 2005 Ordered the murder of a young woman who witnessed his beating of a witness in an unrelated incident.

    Fell, Donald, VT, 2005 Convicted of carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death.

    Fields, Edward, OK, 2005 Former prison guard convicted of murdering two white campers while wearing a homemade sniper suit; may be mentally ill.

    Johnson, Angela IA 2005 Aided in four of the five murders by a drug kingpin. (Co-defendant with Dustin Honken). Death sentence overturned by Dist. Ct. because of ineffectiveness of counsel on Mar. 22, 2012. Awaiting further litigation.

    Lighty, Kenneth, MD, 2005 Kidnapped and murdered an alleged PCP dealer and son of a Washington, D.C. police lieutenant.

    Mikos, Ronald, IL, 2005 A Chicago podiatrist who shot and killed a former patient to prevent her from testifying in a federal probe of a Medicare fraud scheme.

    Bolden, Robert, MO, 2006 Killed a bank security guard during an attempted robbery in St. Louis

    Jackson, David Lee TX 2006 Killed a fellow inmate at the federal prison in Beaumont, TX. Jackson's death sentence was overturned in March 2013 in District Court.

    Lawrence, Daryl, OH, 2006 Murdered a police officer during an attempted bank robbery in Columbus.

    Rodriguez, Jr., Alfonso, ND, 2006 Convicted of the kidnapping and murder of a college student.

    Caro, Carlos, WV, 2007 Killed his cellmate; Both were reportedly members of a gang called the Texas Syndicate.

    Hager, Thomas, VA, 2007 Convicted of a drug-related murder.

    Hall, Orlando, TX, 2007 Abducted, raped, beat, and murdered a 16-year-old female in Ft. Worth. (Co-defendant with Bruce Webster)

    Kadamovas, Jurijus, CA, 2007 Convicted of murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. (Co-defendant with Iouri Mikhel)

    Mikhel, Iouri, CA, 2007 Took part in murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. (Co-defendant with Jurijus Kadamovas)

    Montgomery, Lisa, MO, 2007 Kidnapped and killed a woman and stole her unborn baby, claiming the baby was hers.

    Wilson, Ronell NY 2007 Killed 2 undercover police detectives in a drug crime

    Duncan. Joseph, ID, 2008 Pleaded guilty to ten federal charges, including the kidnapping and murders of a young boy and girl in 2005.

    Taylor, Rejon, TN, 2008 Convicted of carjacking, kidnapping, and murdering a businessman from Atlanta, GA.

    Ebron, Joseph, TX, 2009 Murdered a fellow inmate at a federal prison in Beaumont, TX.

    Runyon, David, VA, 2009 Shot and killed a Naval officer in a murder-for-hire plot in Newport News.

    Sanchez, Jr., Ricardo, FL, 2009 Murdered two children on the Florida Turnpike in 2006; Also received life sentences for murdering the children's parents. (Co-defendant with Daniel Troya)

    Troya, Daniel, FL, 2009 Killed two children, as well as their parents on the Florida Turnpike in 2006 allegedly because of a drug debt. (Co-defendant with Ricardo Sanchez, Jr.)

    Garcia, Edgar, TX, 2010 Murdered a fellow inmate; also stabbed and wounded two corrections officers. (Co-defendant with Mark Snarr)

    Snarr, Mark, TX, 2010 Killed a fellow inmate and stabbed and wounded two corrections officers at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont. (Co-defendant with Edgar Garcia)

    Umana, Alejandro, NC, 2010 MS-13 gang member who killed two brothers in a Greensboro restaurant.

    Aquart, Azibo, CT, 2012 A triple murder of multiple alleged rivals in the drug business by leaders of a Jamaican drug gang.

    Federal crimes that allow for the death penalty

    * Murder related to the smuggling of aliens
    * Destruction of aircraft, motor vehicles, or related facilities resulting in death
    * Murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting
    * Murder committed at an airport serving international civil aviation
    * Retaliatory murder of a member of the immediate family of law enforcement officials
    * Civil rights offenses resulting in death
    * Murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or a Supreme Court Justice
    * Espionage
    * Death resulting from offenses involving transportation of explosives, destruction of government property, or destruction of property related to foreign or interstate commerce
    * Murder committed by the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime
    * Murder committed in a Federal Government facility
    * Genocide
    * First-degree murder
    * Murder of a Federal judge or law enforcement official
    * Murder of a foreign official
    * Murder by a Federal prisoner
    * Murder of a US national in a foreign country
    * Murder by an escaped Federal prisoner already sentenced to life imprisonment
    * Murder of a State or local law enforcement official or other person aiding in a Federal investigation; murder of a State correctional officer
    * Murder during a kidnapping
    * Murder during a hostage taking
    * Murder of a court officer or juror
    * Murder with the intent of preventing testimony by a witness, victim, or informant
    * Retaliatory murder of a witness, victim, or informant
    * Mailing of injurious articles with intent to kill or resulting in death
    * Assassination or kidnapping resulting in the death of the President or Vice President
    * Murder for hire
    * Murder involved in a racketeering offense
    * Willful wrecking of a train resulting in death
    * Bank-robbery-related murder or kidnapping
    * Murder related to a carjacking
    * Murder related to rape or child molestation
    * Murder related to sexual exploitation of children
    * Murder committed during an offense against maritime navigation
    * Murder committed during an offense against a maritime fixed platform
    * Terrorist murder of a US national in another country
    * Murder by the use of a weapon of mass destruction
    * Murder involving torture
    * Treason
    * Murder related to a continuing criminal enterprise or related murder of a Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer
    * Death resulting from aircraft hijacking


  4. #4
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Death-penalty ruling goes against Justice Dept.

    In a nationwide ruling, a Bay Area federal judge has blocked the Justice Department from authorizing states to put their death penalty cases on a "fast track" once they reach federal court, with tight schedules for inmate appeals and judicial rulings.

    A 2005 federal law, which has never taken effect, allowed the Justice Department to approve fast-track authority for any state that appointed competent, adequately paid lawyers to represent condemned prisoners. But Chief U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken said Wednesday that the Obama administration's rules that were supposed to implement the law failed to require states to show the lawyers they provided were competent.

    A 1996 law that established the fast-track process gave federal judges, rather than the Justice Department, the power to decide whether a state had a system of competent legal representation for death row inmates. Judges have turned down every state that has applied for fast-track authority, including California in 2000.

    Wilken's injunction, in a suit by defense lawyers in California and Arizona, leave the 1996 law in effect.

    Prisoners whose convictions have been upheld in state court have the right to seek federal court review, which in capital cases can last anywhere from two years to a decade or more.

    The fast-track process would give a condemned prisoner six months, instead of the current one-year deadline, to file a federal appeal after the final decision in a state court. A federal judge would then have 15 months to rule on the appeal, and a federal appeals court would have a four-month deadline after receiving all written arguments.

    The current Justice Department proposal would set standards for experience and training of attorneys in federal death row cases, but would allow a state to appoint lawyers who didn't meet those standards if the state could "reasonably assure a level of proficiency" needed for such cases.

    Wilken said the proposal "provides no substantive criteria" for qualified lawyers and also fails to require a state to show it has complied with the law, shifting the burden to inmates and their attorneys to show that a state's procedures for appointing attorneys are inadequate.

    She also said the Justice Department's proposal would apply fast-track deadlines retroactively to the date that a state established its current system of appointing lawyers, potentially disqualifying some inmates from filing a federal appeal.

    There was no immediate comment from the Justice Department, which could appeal the ruling or rewrite its regulations. But the ruling was denounced by attorney Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, who filed arguments on behalf of Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Petaluma, who was kidnapped and strangled in 1993. Her convicted murderer, Richard Allen Davis, was sentenced to death in 1996.

    "Many states have done what Congress required and provided adequate counsel," but the law is still being delayed for no good reason, Scheidegger said.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  5. #5
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Justice Department Expands Review of Death-Penalty Procedures

    The Justice Department has launched a review of state-run executions of death-row inmates, after President Barack Obama raised concerns about a botched execution earlier this week in Oklahoma. A department spokesman said the agency would begin a review of state-run death-penalty programs, similar to one it has been conducting on federal capital punishment. Federal executions are rare, and there has been a moratorium in place since 2011 while the Justice Department reviews its policies. "The department is currently conducting a review of the federal protocol used by the Bureau of Prisons, and has a moratorium in place on federal executions in the meantime," said the spokesman, Brian Fallon. "At the president's direction, the department will expand this review to include a survey of state-level protocols and related policy issues."

    Mr. Obama, speaking at a news conference Friday after a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called the seemingly flawed execution "deeply troubling" and said he would discuss with Attorney General Eric Holder this particular case and an analysis of U.S. death penalty practices more broadly.

    The Oklahoma execution highlights some of the wider problems with U.S. death-penalty practices, he said. Mr. Obama supports the death penalty, and noted the Oklahoma inmate's "heinous" crime, but he has raised questions about it, including racial bias in the American justice system.


  6. #6
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Jolly proposes harsher federal penalty in police killings

    CLEARWATER — A local congressman is introducing legislation that would allow federal judges to consider harsher penalties for those involved in the killing of law enforcement officers.

    Rep. David Jolly, R-Seminole, held a news conference Monday outside the Clearwater Police Department to announce the legislation, named the “Blue Line Act.” If passed, the measure would make the slaying of an officer or first responder an aggravating factor, allowing more severe sanctions such as the death penalty - to be considered.

    Federal law gives this protection to high-ranking public officials, federal judges and at-risk groups such as the elderly and children, and the “Blue Line Act” would extend this to local law enforcement officers killed on federal lands as part of homegrown terrorism acts or as part of involvement in a multi-jurisdictional task force that receives federal funding.

    Passage of the bill will show first responders that “just as you have our back, we have your back as well,” Jolly said.

    Members of the Clearwater Police, St. Petersburg Police and Tarpon Springs Police were on hand during the announcement. On Dec. 21 Tarpon Springs Officer Charles Kondek was killed in the line of duty while responding to a noise complaint.

    “We lost one of our own recently, it was a tragic event for us,” said Chief Robert Kochen. “Although this bill would not apply in Officer Kondek’s situation, we do support any bill or any efforts that protect those who put their lives on the line every day serving their communities.”

    Federally funded task forces operate in the Tampa Bay area, such as the Human Trafficking Task Force, and Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said it’s important that his officers who serve alongside federal agencies are afforded protection.

    If any of his officers found themselves in a situation where they made the “ultimate sacrifice,” Slaughter said, he doesn’t want their families or their memories to receive “some type of watered down justice.”

    Jolly said similar legislation has been proposed before to include members of Congress and congressional staff, but those provisions were omitted from his bill.

    “The message is very simple. It says to an individual, ‘If you intend to cause harm and take the life of a local law enforcement officer, you will meet with swift and strong justice,”’ Jolly said.

    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  7. #7
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Obama Administration Steps Back From Effort to End Federal Death Penalty

    The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — For a moment last year, it looked as if the Obama administration was moving toward a history-making end to the federal death penalty.

    A botched execution in Oklahoma brought national attention to the issue, public opinion polls began to shift and President Obama, declaring that it was time to “ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions,” directed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to review capital punishment.

    At the Justice Department, a proposal soon began to take shape among Mr. Holder and senior officials: The administration could declare a formal moratorium on the federal death penalty because medical experts could not guarantee that the lethal drugs used did not cause terrible suffering. Such a declaration would have pressured states to do the same, the officials reasoned, and would bolster the legal argument that the death penalty is unconstitutionally cruel punishment.

    But the idea never gained traction, and Mr. Obama has seldom mentioned the death penalty review since. Now, as the Supreme Court considered arguments Wednesday over whether lethal injection, as currently administered, was unconstitutional, the obstacles the Obama administration faced provide vivid examples of just how politically difficult the debate remains.

    “It was a step in the right direction, but not enough of a step,” said Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard professor and a death penalty opponent who met with administration officials as part of the review. The Justice Department, he added, has been refusing to say what he thinks senior officials there believe: “We’ve had too many executions that didn’t work and killing somebody’s not the answer.”

    In remarks last May after a prisoner in Oklahoma regained consciousness and writhed and moaned during a lethal injection, Mr. Obama, who has supported the death penalty, seemed to raise expectations for a policy change. He lamented its racial disparities and the risk of executing innocent people. He referred the matter to Mr. Holder, a liberal stalwart who opposed capital punishment. But privately the White House was cautious, sending word to the Justice Department to keep its focus narrow, administration officials said.

    Mr. Obama called for the review at a time when there had not been a federal execution since 2003, when Louis Jones Jr. was killed for raping and murdering a 19-year-old female soldier. Since 2010, the federal government has effectively had a moratorium on executions — all are carried out by lethal injection — because manufacturers in Europe and the United States refused to sell the government the barbiturates used to render prisoners unconscious. States, however, found alternatives, including the sedative midazolam, which was used in the gruesome execution of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma last year.

    As the Justice Department sought advice from experts on both sides of the issue, opposition to the idea came from unexpected corners. Some of the most outspoken voices against the death penalty also urged the most caution, fearful that a federal announcement would actually do more harm than good.

    “From my view, we’re better off with things bubbling up in the states,” said Henderson Hill, the executive director of the Eighth Amendment Project and one of several people consulted by the administration last year. “I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about the executive branch’s role.” While 32 states allow the death penalty, many have their own moratoriums on executions and the number of people put to death is declining.

    Advocates in particular worried that having Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder as the faces of the anti-death penalty movement would stoke conservative support for capital punishment at a time when some libertarian-minded Republicans, Christian conservatives and liberal Democrats appeared to be finding common ground in opposition to it.

    “I’m not sure that what the administration would have to say would be inherently influential in Nebraska,” Mr. Hill said. Opposition to the death penalty was growing in Nebraska last year and lawmakers voted overwhelmingly this month to replace it with life in prison, setting up a veto fight with Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican.

    Advocates were further worried that if lethal injections were eliminated, states would bring back older methods of execution, a concern borne out in Utah, where officials said they would bring back firing squads if lethal drugs were not available. Other states are reviving plans to use the electric chair or gas chambers.

    Inside the Justice Department, some officials opposed a formal moratorium because it would eliminate the option for the death penalty in terrorism cases like the one against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who faces a possible death sentence for the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon. Others worried that eliminating the death penalty would make it harder to persuade Congress to move terrorist suspects from the island prison at Guantánamo Bay to the United States for trial.

    There were also logistical hurdles. Advocates and administration officials asked what would happen to the roughly five dozen people on federal death row. Would Mr. Obama, who has said the death penalty was appropriate in some cases, commute the sentences of men who raped and murdered people? There were no clear answers.

    In the end, the question never made it to Mr. Obama’s desk. Last fall, Mr. Holder announced plans to resign, and officials said it would be inappropriate to recommend a major policy change on his way out of office, then leave it up to his successor to carry it out. In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of three convicted murderers who challenged the lethal injection drugs. Now with the issue before the justices, the review at the Justice Department has come to a halt because any administration action could be seen as trying to influence the court.

    Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who was sworn in this week, told senators during her confirmation hearing that the death penalty “is an effective penalty.” But she did not elaborate. Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the review continued. “And we have, in effect, a moratorium in place on federal executions in the meantime.”

    Some advocates, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss conversations that were confidential, said they urged the Justice Department to focus on exposing racial inequities, problems with legal representation and the costs of capital punishment. Officials said that was likely to happen, regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court.

    “We keep having these moments where we’re very close,” Mr. Ogletree said.

    He said that the focus had simply moved to the Supreme Court, where he held out hope that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy would side with the more liberal members of the court and declare the lethal drugs unconstitutional.


  8. #8
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Toomey lobbies for bill expanding death penalty in law enforcement murders

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey came to Bethlehem Friday, to lobby for a new bill that would expand the death penalty in the killings of police officers, firefighters and EMS.

    Called the Thin Blue Line Act, the bill would allow federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty if a victim was killed, or was targeted, because they are a federal or state law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or firefighter.

    A similar bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives this past February by Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., but has been sitting in committee since.

    Toomey discussed the bill following a roundtable discussion with Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin and police chiefs from Bangor, Bethlehem, Catasauqua, Coplay, South Whitehall and Whitehall townships.

    It was one of a number of roundtables the Republican senator, who is seeking re-election this year, is holding across Pennsylvania.

    "Police work today is very dangerous. There appears to be an anti-police agenda across the country," Bethlehem police chief Mark DiLuzio said.

    Toomey said protesters have called for the murder of cops, leading to a "chilling" effect on law enforcement officers, most of whom are honest and hardworking.

    The senator said he proposed the bill because of "cold-blooded killers targeting law enforcement officers simply because they are law enforcement officers."

    Toomey brought up the case of Eric Frein as an example.

    Frein is accused of killing Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass in a shooting ambush Sept. 12, 2014 outside the state police's Blooming Grove barracks in Pike County.

    "Corporal Dickson was, in fact, murdered," Toomey said.

    Frein is being prosecuted at the county level and killing a member of law enforcement is already an aggravating factor for the death penalty in Pennsylvania, Martin said. Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin plans to seek the death penalty if Frein is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

    So far, there have been 95 police officers killed this year in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

    Earlier this month, The Guardian reported the United States was on track for 36 non-accidental, firearm-related police fatalities in 2015. It would be the lowest total in 25 years.

    Toomey referenced fatal police shootings of civilians that have led to nationwide protests.

    "If a police officer breaks the law, then that police officer needs to be prosecuted," he said.

    The Washington Post has been tracking fatal police shootings this year in the United States. As of Friday, the tally was 727.

    The Thin Blue Line Act was one of a number of law enforcement topics Toomey touched on during his visit.

    Toomey lambasted President Obama for restricting the transfer of federal surplus military equipment to local law enforcement.

    The president said, "It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message," to which Toomey said, "I couldn't disagree more."

    "It's time for us to show we stand with police officers," the senator said.

    Toomey said he also discussed the influx of cheap heroin into the Lehigh Valley.

    "It's a huge criminal justice problem," he said.


  9. #9
    Moderator Ryan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Newport, United Kingdom
    Obama considers clemency for 62 federal Death Row prisoners

    By Bob Egelko
    The San Francisco Chronicle

    President Obama told an interviewer last month that the death penalty in the United States is “deeply troubling” — plagued by long delays, some gruesome executions, and findings of innocence on Death Row — and he may take some executive action before leaving office.

    Obama didn’t say what he’s considering. But a plausible interpretation of his words foreshadows a dramatic end-of-term action: a grant of clemency to some or all of the 62 condemned federal prisoners. It is a step that has been taken at the state level in recent decades by a half-dozen governors but never by a U.S. president.

    The bulk of the more than 3,000 Death Row inmates nationwide, including nearly 750 in California, were sentenced under state law. They are beyond the president’s authority. But, by commuting federal prisoners’ sentences to life without the possibility of parole, Obama would stamp the issue as part of his legacy and take a bold action that no successor could overturn.

    It is “a quantitatively small gesture that could make the point he’d want to make,” said Stanford Law Professor Robert Weisberg, co-director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Center and a veteran death penalty lawyer. Like other commentators, he offered no prediction of what action Obama would take, but said the president would probably wait until after the November 2016 election, to avoid voter reaction against whoever the Democratic candidate is.

    Most prominent inmate

    A likely focus of any backlash against clemency would be the most prominent federal Death Row inmate, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted of murdering three people in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Most others are little known to the public.

    Hadar Aviram, a UC Hastings law professor and a death penalty opponent, said Obama might be spurred to act by the prospect that the issue will soon return to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued an opinion in June questioning the constitutionality of capital punishment, as now administered, and pro-death penalty Justice Antonin Scalia said recently he wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the court voted for abolition in the near future.

    “Having a principled position in the federal government against the death penalty is definitely something the Supreme Court will pay attention to,” Aviram said.

    In an interview posted Oct. 22 by Bill Keller of the Marshall Project, Obama said the death penalty was “something that I’ve struggled with for quite some time.”

    ‘It’s deeply troubling’

    Obama said he has never opposed capital punishment “in theory” because of society’s “need to express its outrage” at particularly horrible crimes. “But in practice it’s deeply troubling,” he said.

    “We know statistically that there’s a racial bias that’s been built into the death penalty,” he said, apparently referring to research indicating that convicted killers who are black and those of any race convicted of murdering a white person are disproportionately sentenced to death. “We know that it’s hugely inefficient, takes a long time” between sentence and execution, and that some recent lethal injections have “not been swift and painless but rather gruesome and clumsy. ... We know that there are people on Death Row who have been freed because later on it’s been proven that they were innocent.”

    Obama said he has asked the Justice Department and the White House counsel to “take a hard look at the facts of the (62) cases” and provide information he can use in an overall review of the fairness of the federal criminal justice system. The Justice Department has already released 6,000 federal prisoners whose sentences were reduced after the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency, shortened the guidelines judges use to impose sentences for many federal drug crimes.

    When Keller asked Obama what would happen if those legal offices concluded the federal government should stop executing prisoners, he said, “If a decision’s made about that, it’s gonna be something that I say.”

    Declining public support

    Obama spoke at a time of declining U.S. public approval for capital punishment. While opinion polls still show majority support for keeping death as a punishment — 56 percent in California, according to a September 2014 Field Poll — support drops below 50 percent in many states when respondents are asked to choose between death and life without parole. Eighteen states have abolished the death penalty, governors in four others have halted executions, and the issue could be back on the ballot next November in California, where voters rejected a repeal initiative by four percentage points in 2012.

    Among presidential candidates, Democrats Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley oppose the death penalty. O’Malley, as governor of Maryland, signed a repeal of the state’s death penalty law in 2013 and granted clemency to Maryland’s last four condemned inmates before leaving office 10 months ago.

    At a candidates forum Nov. 6, Hillary Rodham Clinton said she still supports death sentences for the most heinous crimes — she singled out the Boston Marathon bombing and the slaughter of nine black South Carolina churchgoers in June — but also said the sentence is imposed too frequently, often in a discriminatory way, and she would “breathe a sigh of relief” if the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

    No Republican candidate has come out against capital punishment. But Aviram said Republicans are no longer uniformly hard-liners on crime, noting support by Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz for conservative government-shrinking, money-saving proposals to reduce drug prosecutions and overall imprisonment.

    It was a Democratic president — Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton’s husband —who signed the 1994 law expanding the federal death penalty to cover virtually all first-degree murders, and a 1996 law severely limiting federal court appeals of state death sentences. The 62 condemned federal prisoners include two from California: Jurijus Kadamovas and Iouri Mikhel of Los Angeles, who were convicted of the ransom kidnappings and murders of four Russian immigrants and a U.S. businessman in 2001-02. The last federal execution was in 2003.

    Subject 'has less juice'

    Most of the inmates are little known to the general public apart from Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber. His federal prosecution, in a state that repealed its death penalty law in 1984, started while the Justice Department was headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.

    For death penalty supporters, Tsarnaev “would be their poster child” if Obama granted across-the-board clemency, said Stanford’s Weisberg. But he said the president shouldn’t be deterred, because “the subject has less juice than it used to.”


  10. #10
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Habeas Corpus "Fast Track" Is Back On Track

    By Kent Scheidegger

    This morning we won a major victory in the fight to have capital cases concluded within a reasonable time. In Habeas Corpus Resource Center v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, No. 14-16928, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken and put the "fast track" process back on track.

    The story goes back to the 1980s. A committee of the Judicial Conference chaired by retired Justice Lewis Powell found two big problems in the collateral review of capital cases. Some states did not provide lawyers for death row inmates on state collateral review. The Constitution requires state-paid lawyers for the first review of the case on the trial record (direct appeal) but not for the second round where new evidence can be brought in (habeas corpus or a substitute for it). The second problem was that a third review of the case in federal court -- federal habeas corpus -- was taking far two long.

    A prime example of pointless delay in federal habeas corpus can be seen in the case of Lawrence Bittaker. He kidnapped and murdered five teenage girls, raping and torturing most of them, and was convicted on 26 felony counts at all. If we are going to have capital punishment, this is most definitely the kind of case that deserves it. The judgment was affirmed by the California Supreme Court in 1989. The federal habeas corpus petition was filed in 1991. Briefing was completed in federal district court in 2005. Since then, the federal district judge has simply sat on the case, refusing to hold argument or issue a decision. It has been nearly 11 years.

    The Powell Committee decided to address both issues with one measure. In return for states providing qualified and adequately funded counsel on state collateral review (as most states were already doing), the states would receive certain benefits in federal habeas corpus to speed up review of the cases, i.e., the fast track.

    When Congress enacted the Powell Committee reforms as part of the habeas portion of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, it boosted the benefits to the states. In particular, it imposed time limits on the federal courts to resolve the cases. Federal district courts got a tight deadline of 180 days from the filing of a capital case case to final disposition.

    Horrified by this tight deadline, federal courts gave the requirements for qualification an extremely restrictive interpretation, and not a single state was held to qualify. The Supreme Court failed to review these dubious decisions.

    In 2006, Congress amended the law. It relaxed the deadline on district courts to 450 days (a year and 3 months). It also removed the decision on whether a state qualified from the courts that would be subject to the deadline (in light of their obvious bias and conflict of interest) and assigned it to the Attorney General with review by the D.C. Circuit. Finally, Congress directed the Attorney General to promulgate regulations to establish a certification procedure. Congress did not authorize the Attorney General to make regulations on the substantive requirements for certification. It expressly provided that the requirements in the statute itself are the only requirements.

    For the remaining two years of the Bush Administration, DOJ dragged its feet and only promulgated the regulations at the end of the term. The capital defense bar challenged them in federal district court, maneuvering the case before the very judge who had erroneously held that California did not qualify earlier, one of the judges that Congress had moved the decision to the Attorney General to get away from. Instead of appealing the erroneous injunction, the Obama DOJ rescinded the regulations and dragged its feet establishing new ones.

    Arizona finally got tired of waiting and applied for certification without regulations. Texas followed suit. When DOJ would not act, Arizona went to the D.C. Circuit with a petition. DOJ then belatedly promulgated the regulations, and Arizona dismissed its petition.

    Two taxpayer-funded legal organizations, the California Habeas Corpus Resource Center and the Federal Public Defender of Arizona filed suit in their own names, not on behalf of their death row clients, to enjoin implementation of the regulations. They maneuvered the case once again to Federal District Judge Claudia Wilken, and once again she ruled in their favor.

    DOJ did appeal, but it failed to ask for a stay of this erroneous judgment, so the fast track certification procedure has been stalled. CJLF filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals on behalf of two family members of murder victims, Marc Klaas of California and Edward Hardesty of Arizona.

    Today, two and a half years after the initial injunction, the Court of Appeals vacated the injunction and remanded the case with directions to dismiss. First, the attorney offices do not have standing. The "injury" to them is merely having to operate in an environment where the law does not fully answer all questions and they will have to make litigation decisions in an uncertain environment. Well, welcome to the profession, folks. "Assisting and counseling clients in the face of legal uncertainty is the role of lawyers ...."

    Second, and most importantly, it would not have mattered if they had brought the action in the name of their death row clients. Their challenge to the regulations is not "ripe" for review until they have been applied to a specific case.

    Both points are well established law. Judge Wilken's decision was clearly wrong out of the gate. This erroneous decision has delayed for an additional two and a half years a law that Congress enacted for the specific purpose of speeding things up.

    At the time AEDPA was enacted, the "fast track" was supposed to be the centerpiece of the reforms. Its implementation is long overdue. Now we can finally get moving.


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