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Arizona Executes Inmate for 1986 Murder: Bob Ortega and Michael Kiefer of The Arizona Republic report Samuel Lopez was executed by lethal injection in Arizona this morning for sexually assaulting and stabbing a woman to death in 1986. Estefana Holmes, a grandmother and seamstress, was stabbed more than 23 times and her throat was slashed with her own kitchen knives. For the first time, the state's Department of Corrections allowed witnesses to watch the executioners insert the intravenous catheters that deliver the single drug pentobarbital, via close-circuit TV. More than a dozen of Holmes' family members spoke at the Board of Executive Clemency hearing on Friday in favor of Lopez's execution. "We are not here to seek vengeance nor to avenge, but to seek justice for our family. This execution today will not bring our beloved Tefo back, but hopefully will bring closure," Holmes' brother said after the execution.

Prison Lawsuits Over Air-Conditioning, Food: Manny Fernandez of The New York Times reports a wrongful-death lawsuit was filed in federal court in Texas on Tuesday on behalf of the family of former prison inmate Larry Gene McCollum, who died last summer due to hyperthermia. The 345-poud McCollum, who also had hypertension, had a seizure and fell from his bunk bed while at the Hutchins State Jail outside Dallas. In 2008, former South Texas inmate Eugene Blackmon filed a lawsuit claiming the hot conditions inside his dormitory caused him to have headaches, blurred vision, and nausea. Blackmon was in prison during the summer of 2008 for a parole violation on a stolen-goods charge. The lawsuit claims 54 inmates were exposed to conditions in which the heat index topped 126 degrees for 10 days indoors. The lawsuit was denied by a lower court, and is waiting on a ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. John Marzulli of New York Daily News reports ex-Rikers Island inmate Michael Isolda is suing the city of New York for $80 million. Isolda previously underwent gastric bypass surgery, and says he needed more time than was allowed to chew and swallow food. Isolda claims the rushed eating caused him to vomit after every meal and eventually caused his stomach to become separated from his intestine. As a note, the article contains some unsightly photos of Isolda.

Arkansas Supreme Court and the Separation of Powers: Roy Ockert has this piece in Arkansas News regarding the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling Friday that declared the state's execution method unconstitutional. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by 10 condemned inmates against the Arkansas Department of Correction that challenged a 2009 law in which the Legislature gave the state's Department of Correction discretion in determining how to carry out lethal injections. The law was passed in an attempt to correct issues cited in a previous lawsuit regarding the state's lethal injection process. The Arkansas Supreme Court said the move violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. Associate Justice Karen R. Baker pointed out in his dissent that the "separation of powers" argument had been rejected in similar death penalty challenges in Texas, Delaware, Idaho and Florida. Those states had assigned the relevant administrative agency the responsibility for determining the execution procedures. "The Supreme Court justices need to figure out how to carry out the responsibilities of the judicial branch and administer justice to these men," Ockert says.

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