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News Scan

Ohio Death Penalty Law Challenged:  An Ohio man facing his second sentencing hearing for the brutal murder of a 19-year-old girl claims that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.  Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press reports that attorneys for Maurice Mason argue that the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 ruling in Hurst v. Florida invalidates the Ohio law because Ohio juries are not required to determine each fact needed to sentence someone to death.  The state argues that the Florida law only required a majority of jurors to agree that the aggravating factors related to a murder outweighed any mitigating factors.  Ohio requires a unanimous jury and is much more strict about what jurors must specify to recommend a death sentence.  The case is before the Ohio Supreme Court.  Facts reported in the Ohio Supreme Court's 1998 ruling in State v. Mason indicate that on February 8, 1993, Mason raped Robin McDuffie, the wife of a friend, then beat her to death with a board with nails protruding from it.  Substantial evidence including a DNA match and several witnesses convinced the jury of Mason's guilt.

Alabama Cop Killer's Execution Today:  A habitual criminal who shot and killed a veteran Alabama police officer in 1985, faces execution tonight.  Lawrence Specker of al.com reports that Mobile Police Cpl. Julius Schulte was responding to a domestic violence call when Vernon Madison shot him twice in the head, and shot and wounded Schulte's partner.  Officer Schulte survived on life support for a week.  The Associated Press reports that in 2016, the 11th Circuit ruled Madison was not competent for execution seven hours before his sentence was to be carried out.  The ruling was based on his attorneys claim that after several strokes, Madison could not remember his crime.  The state disputed that finding and last November SCOTUS overturned the lower court's ruling.

Update:  Fox News reports that the U.S. Supreme Court granted a temporary stay halting last night's scheduled execution of cop-killer Vernon Madison.

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