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News Scan

Blagojevich Jury Deadlocked:  The Chicago Tribune reports that the jury in the case of former Governor Rod Blagojevich has reached a verdict for two counts but is deadlocked on the rest.  Blagojevich is on trial in federal court for 24 counts, ranging from rackteering to wire fraud.  The jury, today on their 12th day of deliberations, also told the judge they have not yet voted on the 11 wire fraud counts.  U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel instructed the jury to continue deliberations.

CA Death Row Inmate Dies of Natural Causes:  Robert Rubane Diaz, a former nurse sentenced to death in 1981 for killing 12 patients, died yesterday of natural causes reports the AP.  Diaz had been on California's death row since 1984.  51 California death row inmates have died from natural causes since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1978.  13 have been executed.

Arizona Supreme Court Overturns Death Sentence:  The Arizona Republic reports that the state's high court this week overturned the death sentence of Gary Snelling, who strangled 66-year-old Adele Curtis with a lamp cord in 1996.  Snelling was convicted of first-degree murder and in 2008, a jury decided on a sentence of death after finding that the murder was especially cruel.  The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that it was unlikely Curtis suffered mental anguish or physical pain because Snelling strangled her quickly and by surprise.

Federal Death Penalty Sought in Ohio Fire:  Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in their case against Antun Lewis, who is charged with setting a Cleveland house on fire resulting in the deaths of eight children and three adults, reports the AP.  Federal prosecutors argue that, because the damaged home was rented with the help of a federal Section 8 rent subsidy, the house was a part of interstate commerce.  The feds therefore have jurisdiction to seek the death penalty because the fatalities were caused by the alleged arson of government property.  Since the 1960s, only three federal defendants have been executed.


It takes a while to strangle someone. It is a cruel death.

Agreed. But, at least in Arizona, "[s]trangulations are not per se physically cruel absent specific evidence that the victim consciously suffered physical pain." (Arizona v. Snelling, at 15.) And since the state didn't present evidence of physical pain (even though common sense would lead one to ASSUME the victim suffered pain - she was choked to death with a lamp cord!), there was no evidence of an aggravating factor required for a death sentence.

I am a little hazy on my evidence, but I think that a reasonable jury could conclude (not assume) that a strangulation with a lampcord hurts . . . . a lot.

It takes a while to strangle someone to death. That the Ariz. Supreme Court doesn't seem to understand that reality is curious. Strangulation is not a "quick" death. By the way, hanging is done a certain way so as to avoid strangulation, as that would be "torture". Funny how that term works only one way.

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