Today’s Death Row News, November 7

  • ‘When Times Are Bad, People Feel it Will Help:’ Jimmy Berry has kept more than 50 convicted killers from the death chamber. He takes on cases few other lawyers would want. In this short Q&A, he discusses what it’s like to be a capital case defense attorney.

“I think people get a wrong perception about defense lawyers. It’s not to get people off. It’s to protect someone’s constitutional rights. If a person gets arrested, they’re going to want their constitutional rights protected. Otherwise, we’d be a police state — whoever gets arrested goes to jail without a trial.”

  • Judge OKs New Ohio Death Penalty Rules, Denies Appeal: U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost backed new death penalty practices enacted in Ohio in response to concerns over inconsistent practices. Frost’s decision clears the way for the upcoming execution of Reginald Brooks. Brooks was convicted of killing his three sons after being served divorce papers by his wife. Brooks was trying to stop his execution by challenging the state’s death penalty practices after Judge Frost ruled in July that Ohio’s execution rules were inconsistently enforced. Several other executions were stayed after the ruling, but the judge now thinks the issues have been remedied and has denied Brooks’s appeal. “With some caution, the court today reaches the conclusion that the state of Ohio has apparently learned the lessons of its prior embarrassments and corrected its course,” Frost wrote in his opinion.
  • Exoneration Is Not the End of the Story: The Innocence Project of Florida published a blog post this week detailing the difficulties faced by exonerees who manage to walk off of death row. It’s easy to think that walking out of prison is the happiest moment of their lives and it’s all downhill from there. But as many exonerees will detail, getting out is just the beginning. Many have to fight for any kind of compensation from the state, and if they have managed to get off death row in a plea deal, like the famous West Memphis Three in Arkansas, they are free but must bear the label of a convicted felon for the rest of their lives, putting a serious damper on any job opportunities. There was an excellent series of articles about the exonerees from Florida done a few years back that details their struggle: they live “modestly and anonymously, fearful that word of their past will get out, struggling to get back some of what they lost: marriages, self-respect, jobs, health, mental stability.” Read the main article and the profiles of the exonerees here:
  • Nebraska Has New Death Penalty Drug: The title of this article is a bit misleading. Nebraska doesn’t actually have a “new” drug, what it has is 485 grams of sodium thiopental, the drug used in most states for lethal injections. Prisons have been having a hard time getting their hands on the drug after several American and European companies stopped producing it in order to prevent its being used in executions. Nebraska had previously found an Indian supplier, but it was determined the supplier did not have proper licenses. Officials have now found a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland willing to sell them the drug and they intend to use it soon, with Nebraska’s attorney general asking the state Supreme Court to set an execution date for Michael Ryan.
  • Questionable Evidence for Deterrence: One of the popular reasons many cite for supporting the death penalty is the deterrence factor; the idea that having a death penalty reduces crime. Paul Heroux wrote a piece for the Huffington Post discussing some of the studies that examine the deterrence effect and attacks it as illogical and untrue, claiming the methods of studies that find evidence to support deterrence are scientifically flawed.
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