Headlines From Death Row

Virginia Attorney General Supports Bennett Barbour Exoneration: It has been two years since DNA testing cleared Virginia man Bennett Barbour of a 1978 rape and implicated the real perpetrator, but the fight to clear his name continues. On Tuesday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli urged the State’s Supreme Court Justices to expedite a writ of actual innocence for Barbour, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Convicted Killer Hangs Himself on California’s Death Row: A convicted killer sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a 13-year-old boy has hanged himself on California’s death row, months before voters in the state are due to decide whether to abolish the death penalty, prison officials said on Tuesday.

Three Percent of U.S. Executions Since 1900 Were Botched, Study Finds: Since the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated 3 percent of all executions in the United States were “botched,” according to Amherst College Professor Austin Sarat and a team of undergraduate researchers. The group found that, of approximately 9,000 capital punishments that took place in the country from 1900 to 2011, 270 of them involved some problem in carrying out the death penalty.

Two Brothers Sentenced to Execution in Separate States: Rodney Berget lives in a single cell on South Dakota’s death row, rarely leaving the tiny room where he awaits execution for bludgeoning a prison guard to death with a pipe during an attempted escape. For Berget’s family, his fate is familiar – he is the second member of the clan to be sentenced to death.

Recent Exonerations Reducing Death Penalties: Death penalties have become a rarity from juries in some parts of Texas in the wake of a string of prison inmates—including some on death row—who have been exonerated by DNA and other new evidence.

Missouri’s New Execution Drug: Propofol, the Anesthetic That Killed Michael Jackson: The same anesthetic that caused the overdose death of pop star Michael Jackson is now the drug of choice for executions in Missouri, causing a stir among critics who question how the state can guarantee a drug untested for lethal injection won’t cause pain and suffering for the condemned.

States Urge Feds to Help Import Lethal Injection Drugs A nationwide shortage of a commonly used imported drug used in capital punishment has prompted 15 states on Monday to urge the U.S. Justice Department to intervene. Led by Oklahoma officials, the move comes as the 33 states with the death penalty—all of whom use lethal injection as the primary execution method—struggle to preserve existing stock or search for legally acceptable chemical alternatives.

Never-Issued Opinion Would Have Exonerated Cameron Todd Willingham: A Texas judge who reviewed the controversial 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham planned to posthumously exonerate the father who was put to death for killing his three daughters in a house fire. District Court Judge Charlie Baird’s intended order never came to light because the court of appeals criticized his handling of the case and prevented him from resuming work on it before he left the bench at the end of 2010 after choosing not to seek re-election. No one asked him for it after the court of appeals blocked him, he said.

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