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Justice Rebooted in Ohio

Alan Johnson reports for the Columbus Dispatch:

Ronald Phillips could not avoid his seventh execution date.

After six postponements, the 43-year-old Summit County man was executed Wednesday for a murder he committed 24 years ago, a week into Bill Clinton's first term as president. Phillips' victim was Sheila Marie Evans, the 3-year-old daughter of his then-girlfriend.

The time of Phillips' death was 10:43 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville.

The execution was completely calm with none of the complications or reactions of the last execution.
The last-minute legal maneuvering involved the three-drug protocol with midazolam as the first drug.  States have had to turn to this controversial method since the "guerrilla war against the death penalty" succeeding in cutting off the preferred barbiturates.  A Sixth Circuit panel originally upheld the district court's preliminary injunction against executions, but the full court reversed.

Every other court of appeals to consider that procedure has likewise upheld it, including most recently the Eighth Circuit, which rejected a nearly identical challenge in a procedural posture identical to the one here. See McGehee v. Hutchinson, 854 F.3d 488, 492 (8th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (per curiam), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 1275 (2017); Glossip, 135 S. Ct. at 2739-40 (collecting cases); Brooks v. Warden, 810 F.3d 812, 818-22 (11th Cir. 2016); cf. Jordan v. Fisher, 823 F.3d 805, 811-12 (5th Cir. 2016). Yet here the district court thought the same procedure is likely invalid. We respectfully disagree and reverse the court's grant of a preliminary injunction.
After the Arkansas decision noted above, Justice Sotomayor dissented from the Supreme Court's decision not to grant a stay because, she said, the courts of appeals were divided on the issue, citing the Sixth Circuit panel decision.  As I noted in this post, there was no split because the Sixth had already taken the case en banc, i.e., for decision by the full court.

Yesterday Justice Sotomayor dissented again, joined only by Justice Ginsburg.  No mention of a circuit split this time.  There still isn't one.

The solution for those who are genuinely concerned about the midazolam protocol is simple.  Open up importation of barbiturates from Asia.  A quite simple statutory change is all that is needed to abrogate a wrong D.C. Circuit decision and turn the flow back on.

Of course, if the hand-wringing about midazolam is a sham and the true agenda is to stop executions regardless of any potential for pain, then the same people would oppose any such change.

Continuing with the Columbus Dispatch story:

Had she lived, Sheila would have been 27 years old. She was just 3 when, over two or three days in January 1993, she was beaten, repeatedly raped anally, thrown against a wall, dragged by her hair, and punched so hard in the abdomen by Phillips that it killed her.

"This is a time to remember my little sister," Mundell said. "She was innocent and loving and trusting with the whole world. It took such a long time for the death of the man who took it all away from her."

While there was no doubt about Phillips' guilt -- he confessed to the crime after lying at first -- his legal appeals have extended for years.
We spend far too much in time and resources litigating issues that have nothing to do with guilt.  Where the underlying offense is one for which death is a just punishment, as this one surely is, then a trial, a direct appeal, and one collateral review in state court is all that is needed for the penalty phase of the case.  Any further reviews should be strictly limited to issues bearing on guilt.


Sotomayor's dissent is weak sauce. Very weak sauce.

~ May I suggest that those who enable appeals unrelated to guilt
demented scum.
Phillips raped and tortured the little girl; lawyers and judges tormented
her family, including her sister & aunt.

--> "And this is time, a long time waiting, to say goodbye to the man
who took it all away from us.
Please remember her, little Shiela Marie.
Now our family has had justice, and hopefully some closure...

It was too easy [his painless execution]. She suffered...
There was no reason our family had to wait 24 years.
We fought and we lived with it for 24 years."-
- Renee Mundell, 1/2 sister of 3-year-old rape & murder victim

~ http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/victims-family-emotional-after-ohio-child-killer-executed/

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