Recently in Death Penalty Category
A drug trafficker who placed a pipe bomb in a gift-wrapped microwave oven in a plot to kill two potential murder witnesses was executed Wednesday for the 1992 death of a Florida highway trooper who became the unintended victim.
Paul Augustus Howell, 48, was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. following a lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Stark, the office of Gov. Rick Scott said in an email.
"We've changed several aspects of just the comfort level for the inmate while lying on the gurney," he said. "Maybe we put sponges under the hand or padding under the hands to make it more comfortable, changed the pillow, the angle of things, just to try to make it a little more comfortable, more humane and more dignified as we move along."This morning Reuters had this story on the upcoming execution of Michael Taylor in Missouri and the issues with obtaining the needed drugs.
"We don't torture people, but that doesn't mean we have to make sure the pillows are fluffed," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims' advocacy group. "The attorneys try to make it all about the inmate. We really should be focused on the crime."The quote is accurate, but I thought I'd clarify where the "pillow" reference comes from.
As I have noted several times on this blog, the main problem in death penalty polling is that the questions often fail to distinguish between the penalty for the typical murder, which most people agree should be life in prison, and the penalty for the worst murders, which is the actual point of debate.
The generic question in death penalty polls, which Gallup has been asking since the 30s, goes something like Question 40 in this poll, "Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" This question understates actual support for the death penalty for the worst murders, merely asking about murder generally. Even phrased that way, however, the death penalty is favored by more than a 2-to-1 margin, 68-26. The death penalty is heavily favored in every political affiliation, both sexes, and every age group.
So what does the heading of the press release say? "Voters Divided on Death Penalty"
To get "divided," it is necessary to skew the question to the max in favor of the anti side.
"What I saw tonight was a very sterile, very antiseptic, very unremarkable procedure as Juan Carlos Chavez drifted off to sleep, essentially forever as he was executed for the murder of Jimmy Ryce," said Nelson.Why stick with the three-drug procedure instead of the single-drug? With pentobarbital, if you can get it, there is no reason. If you can't, though, the longer time to die and the noises that the unconscious inmate makes in the process may create the false impression he is suffering, as happened in the Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire (see this post), so the choice is not as clear-cut as we may have thought.
Florida does have a consciousness check between the first and second drugs, the safeguard the dissenting justices found lacking in the former Kentucky procedure at issue in Baze v. Rees. According to Nelson's report, the warden shook Chavez and called his name, and there was no response. He was out cold.
Statement of Don Ryce:
Nineteen years ago, Juan Carlos Chavez was faced with a choice. He kidnapped my son Jimmy, he sexually assaulted him and [then] it was time to decide would he let him live or would he take his life. We know what he decided to do and the choice he made.Statement of Ted Ryce:
As a result of that choice, he died today. This choice unfortunately will come up in the future in other cases when someone has committed a crime against a child, molested one, raped one or kidnapped one. They also will be faced with the same kind of choice that Chavez was faced with so long ago.
When they do, when they're processing what they think they want to do, I hope they will remember that it will be burned in their mind, four words: Don't kill the child, don't kill the child, because if they do people will not forget, they will not forgive, we will hunt you down and we will put you to death.
Many people have asked why I decided to come today. I did not come today to celebrate Juan Carlos's execution. In fact, I did not want to come. So why did I come? I came here to represent my brother Jimmy Ryce. I came here for my sister Martha and my mother, Claudine. I came here today because I believe in the justice that has been served on this day. I am here to support that belief.This is why we do what we do.
I'm also here today as a symbol of strength to show you that in spite of all the terrible tragedies we've been through, my father and I still stand strong and strength is something that is sorely lacking in our country today. Many people did not believe that Juan Carlos Chavez should be put to death for his horrible crime of raping and murdering my brother Jimmy Ryce. I believe this comes from a place of weakness, not strength. It comes from not being able to face the atrociousness of some men's actions and punish them on a level commensurate with their crime.
But we must be strong. We must do what it takes to send a clear message to other child predators that if they go after children, if they kill children, that they will die at the executioner's hands. Today will bring no closure for my family. As my father has stated, 'Closure does not exist,' but the justice served this day after a painful 19 years will end the chapter on this part of our life and now we look forward to moving on. Thank you.
But with the killer's scheduled execution set for Wednesday, Don Ryce said the death of Juan Carlos Chavez will finally bring some measure of justice. Barring a successful last-minute appeal, Chavez is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke.Update: Mission accomplished at 8:17 EST.* * *"People sometimes say that will bring you closure. There is no such thing as closure, hate that word. It doesn't resolve everything for you. My child will not suddenly come back if Chavez is executed," said Ryce, a 70-year-old retired labor lawyer. "But it's important to close that chapter out in my life and to feel like justice has finally been done for my son."* * *Ryce said he blames Chavez not only for Jimmy's death, but also the 2009 death of his wife from a heart attack at age 66 and the suicide last year of his 35-year-old daughter. He still has another son, 37-year-old Ted Ryce, who lives in the Miami area.Chavez abducted Jimmy at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on Sept. 11, 1995, in rural southwestern Miami-Dade County. Trial testimony showed Chavez, who worked on a local ranch, raped the boy and then shot him when he tried to escape, dismembering his body and putting the parts in planters that were then covered in concrete.* * *
"So many of my family members are dead, directly or indirectly because of Chavez, and he's still living. That does not feel right. It is not right," Ryce said.
Now comes Washington Governor Jay Inslee, announcing he will impose a moratorium, granting reprieves so that no one is executed while he is governor. He conveniently omitted any mention of an intent to would do that while campaigning for the office, so as to allow the people of Washington to decide if they wanted a governor who would clear-cut justice in this manner. (Campaign website here.) The election was reasonably close at 51.5 - 48.5, so it is quite possible he would not be governor if he had announced his intentions in advance of the election, which, of course, is precisely why he did not. If anyone reading believes that he has had a change of heart based on recent study and soul-searching, I would like to sell you a bridge. This action is one more in a series of Profiles in Cowardice that we have seen in multiple states. Get elected first, then drop the bomb.
Inslee's claimed reasons for this action are here. Let's see if a single one actually supports failure to carry out Gentry's thoroughly deserved and thoroughly reviewed punishment.
DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTORY AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Gives state appellate courts jurisdiction over death penalty appeals, before consideration by California Supreme Court. Changes procedures governing state court petitions challenging death penalty convictions and sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Imposes time limits on state court death penalty review. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Authorizes death row inmate transfers among California state prisons. States death row inmates are required to work and pay victim restitution. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state costs potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually for several years related to direct appeals and habeas corpus proceedings, with the fiscal impact on such costs being unknown in the long run. Potential state correctional savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually. (13-0055.)
A pretty fair summary of the initiative overall, given the constraint of putting it in 100 words.
The last two sentences, in bold, come from the fiscal analysis by the Legislative Analyst Office, and I think the LAO overstates costs and understates savings. Yes, the initiative will increase annual budgets in the first couple of years as the backlog is cleared out, but this is mostly moving up expenses that would be incurred anyway. The savings are understated. The initiative will eliminate successive state habeas petitions in most cases (those with no question of actual innocence or ineligibility, which is the vast majority). Long-term, we will eliminate the costs of a long period of incarceration and the skyrocketing cost of health care for aging inmates.
The campaign website is here. Every contribution helps.
More pols are coming out in favor of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to seek the death penalty against accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- breaking with many of the Bay State's hand-wringing Democrats as Congress prepares to release an exhaustive report on the Boston Marathon bombings.
"He should get the death penalty if found guilty," former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown told the Herald yesterday. Brown joins Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch and most of the voters in calling for Tsarnaev's life if he is convicted in the dual bloody bombings that killed three and injured hundreds, as well as the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
But there are a few. As noted in today's News Scan, Suzanne Basso was executed in Texas yesterday, and rightly so. After the break, I have copied an excerpt from the opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal.