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News Scan

Federal Court Considers Lethal Injection FDA Case: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit court heard argument in Cook v. FDA today. Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers had this pre-argument article. In the lawsuit, death-row inmates from multiple states argue that the FDA's importing of lethal-injection drug sodium thiopental for executions is not part of the approved uses of the drug. The lawsuit was initially filed by torture killer Daniel Wayne Cook of Arizona, who sexually assaulted and murdered two men. Cook was executed last August. At one time, 35 states nationwide and the federal government, had the anesthetic drug included as part of a three-drug protocol to carry out the death penalty. Since 2009, several states stopped using the drug, and began using a single-drug protocol, when domestic manufacturing ceased. California is still considering switching to single-drug executions. Discussed by CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger here.  Mike Scarcella has this post at BLT on the argument.  "[District Judge] Leon ordered the three states to return unused thiopental. The states, however, were not a part of the litigation in the trial court. In court today, [Circuit Judge] Sentelle questioned whether Leon had the authority to force the states to return their supplies of the drug."

GA Prison Gang Violence Becomes More Deadly:  Rhonda Cook of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports gang-related violence is on the rise in the Georgia prison system. In less than 11 months, 12 inmates and a guard were fatally stabbed in state prisons. The numbers represent a violent upward trend from nine deaths last year, seven inmate homicides in 2010 and 2011, and four in 2009. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, seven of the deaths last year were related to prison gang activity. Lax security in GA prisons is cited as part of the problem. Also, cell phones being smuggled into prisons are helping gangs coordinate assaults. So far, three homicides have occurred in 2013.

Federal Judge Rules Against Mental Evaluation of WY Death Row Inmate:  The Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne ruled against a request from Wyoming to examine Dale Wayne Eaton's mental status. The lawyer for the state argued what is relevant to the case is Eaton's mental health at the time of the state court trial, not a current evaluation. Eaton, 59, is disputing his death sentence for the 1988 rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell, 18, of Montana. Eaton's legal team had argued his trial lawyer failed to note his mental issues. A federal appeal is the only thing in the way of his lethal injection. A multi-week hearing on the evidence is set for July.

West Virginia Delegate Wants to Reinstate Death Penalty:  David Gutman of the Associated Press reports that Del. John Overington has introduced a bill to reinstate West Virginia's death penalty, his 27th consecutive attempt. Overington cites West Virginia as the only state in its region without the death penalty, aside from Maryland, as an enticement for dangerous criminals. He points out that if his state had the death penalty, convicted killer Ron Williams would not have been able to take more lives. Williams escaped after four years of incarceration. He killed a police officer in 1975 and another person in 1981. The state's last execution was carried out in 1959, and the death penalty was abolished in 1965.

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