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A Breakdown of Tonight’s Double Execution in Oklahoma

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. For the most current updates, see this blog’s Twitter feed.

UPDATE: The execution of Clayton Lockett has been ‘botched’ according to his attorney and the execution of Charles Warner has been stayed. For the latest, see “Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

After weeks of legal wrangling and confusion in the courts, the way has been cleared for the Oklahoma Corrections Department to execute not one, but two men tonight, in what will be the first double execution in 14 years and and the first in Oklahoma since 1937. The last time two inmates were put to death in the same state in the same day was in Texas in 2000.

Thirty-eight-year-old Clayton Lockett was convicted in the shooting death of Stephanie Neiman in 1999. According to the Tulsa World, “Lockett shot Neiman twice with a shotgun before having an accomplice, Shawn Mathis, bury her alive.” Forty-six-year-old Charles Warner “was convicted in the 1997 death of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter,” according to NBC News.

The state slated Lockett for execution at 6 p.m. central time, followed by Warner two hours later at 8 p.m. Lockett made a last meal request but it was denied because it exceeded the $15 dollar price limit. The warden offered him a steak dinner from Western Sizzlin instead, but Lockett declined.

The unusual double execution, as well as the heated legal scuffling, has provoked concern and criticism both locally and nationwide. Accordingly, a group of protestors rallied outside the Governor’s mansion at the time of the first execution.

protest
Photo by Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The issue in the legal back and forth was not the inmates’ innocence, but rather over the secrecy surrounding the source of the drugs that would be used to execute them. Lawyers for both men argued that they had a right to know the manufacturer of the chemicals that will be used in their injections.

The drugs used in lethal injections have become the latest front in the fight against executions and the death penalty. Most execution drugs are made in Europe, and many European drug makers don’t like the idea of their products being used in executions. Others have had to face criticism from groups such as Reprieve, which actively seeks out information on who makes the drugs and makes that information public. This has caused many European drug makers to cease producing the drugs and/or refuse to sell them to prisons. So prisons and corrections departments are increasingly searching for new sources for the chemicals, or resort to compounding pharmacies, which according to The Guardian are less well regulated than traditional drug manufacturers. Corrections departments have also begun to create policies to protect the anonymity of the drug makers, presumably so the company won’t face the same public outcry the European companies faced.

(For a breakdown of the specific drugs at issue in Oklahoma, Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer has an excellent review here.)

These changes have caused concern among defense attorneys, who argue that without knowing the source of the drugs, there is a greater possibility that the chemicals are contaminated or expired, which would cause unnecessary suffering, which is unconstitutional under the eighth amendment.  Charges like this have been filed in other states, such as Texas and Missouri (those claims were all rejected) but in Oklahoma, they provoked a whole new level of controversy, exposing “long-running tension among Oklahoma’s three branches of government,” according to Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy.

Andrew Cohen breaks down why things are so tense the best, so I’ll defer to him:

Things got complicated because there are two high courts in Oklahoma — one that focuses on “criminal” matters and one that focuses on “civil” matters. The criminal court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, said it had no jurisdiction to look at the injection secrecy matter. The civil court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, said that the Court of Criminal Appeals did have jurisdiction.

There was open conflict between the courts. The state Supreme Court criticized the Court of Criminal Appeals for not accepting the appeal and for not halting the executions. The criminal appeals court criticized the state Supreme Court for intruding upon what its judges considered the purely “criminal” matter of execution protocols.

The open warfare within the state judiciary — unseemly, in particular, in the context of capital cases — surely contributed to the chaos that came next.

Here’s my attempt at reconstructing a timeline of the back and forth. It gets a little weird, so try to keep up and if you spot any errors, shout them out in the comments.

  • March: Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish rules that the secrecy of the drug source violates the inmates’ rights under the state constitution.
  • Friday, April 18: The state appeals that ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, saying the ruling is “an ‘overbroad interpretation’ of the right to access,” according to The Guardian.
  • The Oklahoma Supreme Court said they do not have the authority to stay the executions, and transferred the matter to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
  • The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, saying THEY don’t have the authority to stay the executions, because the inmates challenged the execution procedures in civil court, not criminal. Their ruling also called out the state supreme court, as detailed by Jurist columnist Adam R. Banner: “As if it were not enough to defy the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s supposed ‘final’ determination of jurisdiction, the Court of Criminal Appeals held that the Supreme Court did ‘not have the power to supersede a statute and manufacture jurisdiction.’ “
  • Monday, April 21: The State Supreme Court decides they now must say something, and after a 5-4 vote, issues a stay for Clayton Lockett, who was originally set for execution on April 22. “The ‘rule of necessity’ now demands that we step forward,” the Court’s opinion says. “We can deny jurisdiction, or we can leave the appellants with no access to the courts for resolution of their ‘grave’ constitutional claims….As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts, their constitutionally guaranteed measure.” The stay also puts Charles Warner’s execution on hold.
  • Monday, April 21: From Andrew Cohen: “Just hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court halted the executions, the Republican governor of the state, Mary Fallin, proclaimed that the executive branch would not honor the judicial stay preventing the executions. The Supreme Court’s ‘attempted stay of execution is outside the constitutional authority of that body,’ she declared, so ‘I cannot give effect to the order by that honorable court.’ “
  • Tuesday, April 22: From Andrew Cohen: Republican state lawmaker Rep. Mike Christian, introduced impeachment proceedings against the five state Supreme Court justices who had voted for the stays of execution.
  • Tuesday, April 22: From the Associated Press: “In a development reflecting the rising tension between the executive and judicial branches of state government, Gov. Mary Fallin granted a one-week stay of execution to Lockett on Tuesday afternoon, saying the Oklahoma Supreme Court overstepped its authority when it issued a separate stay. Fallin issued an executive order delaying Lockett’s execution until April 29. Fallin claims in her order that the stay issued by the state’s high court is ‘outside the constitutional authority of that body.’ “
  • Wednesday, April 23: The State Supreme Court reject the lower court’s decision that preventing Lockett and Warner from knowing the source of the drugs used in their lethal injections will violate their constitutional rights, clearing the way for the executions to proceed.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, released a statement today in advance of her client’s execution, writing “tonight, in a climate of secrecy and political posturing, Oklahoma intends to kill two death row prisoners using an experimental new drug protocol, including a paralytic, making it impossible to know whether the executions will comport with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual suffering. Because the issue of secrecy in lethal injection has not been substantively addressed by the courts, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner will be executed without basic information about the experimental combination of drugs used in their deaths.”

Related Reading: 

3 Letters to the Editor on Tonight’s Double Execution

Tension Grows Among Oklahoma Courts, Legislature

Oklahoma to Proceed With Lethal Injection Amid Confusion Within Courts

Death Row Inmates Won’t Be Told the Source of the Drugs Used to Kill Them

 

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Tonight’s Execution: Robert Hendrix

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Florida carried out its fifth lethal injection of 2014 with tonight’s scheduled execution of 47-year-old Robert Hendrix.

Hendrix was convicted of the 1990 death of his cousin, Elmer Scott, and Elmer’s wife, Susan Michelle Scott. Prosecutors say Hendrix killed Scott to prevent him from testifying against Hendrix in an upcoming burglary case. According to case documents, Hendrix told several friends about his plans, and discussed it with his live-in girlfriend at the time. The day before his court date, Hendrix shot, stabbed and beat Scott with the gun, as well as shooting and slashing the throat of Susan Michelle, prosecutors say.

Hendrix spent his final morning visiting with his parents and a Catholic spiritual adviser, according to Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.

Hendrix’s time of death was 6:21 p.m. and according to Orlando Sentinel reporter Susan Jacobson he made no final statement. His execution is the 16th in Florida since Gov. Rick Scott took office.

According to the Associated Press, Hendrix sought a last-minute stay, “as his lawyer argues that two witnesses for the prosecution were unreliable and that no forensic evidence links him to the crimes.” From the AP:

Brody [Hendrix’s attorney] said the two main witnesses against Hendrix, Turbyville and Roger LaForce, who claimed Hendrix told him details about the murders while they shared a cell in the Lake County Jail, are unreliable. According to Brody, both had a self-interest in testifying for prosecutors.

His attorney also claimed the judge had a conflict of interest, that Hendrix being shackled during the trial gave jurors a biased impression of him and that during sentencing, Hendrix’s attorneys failed to call mitigating witnesses who could have testified to problems with drugs and abuse by his father.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal, allowing the execution to proceed as planned. The execution is the 85th in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

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Tonight’s Execution: Elmer Carroll, Florida

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Correction: This story was mistakenly autopublished a day early. Elmer Carroll is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, May 29, not Tuesday, May 28.

Update: Elmer Carroll has been executed.

Tonight Florida carried out the first of three scheduled executions in the next six weeks, with the lethal injection of Elmer Leon Carroll.

According to the case summary, Carroll, 56, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan. From the summary:

“Robert Rank attempted to wake his stepdaughter, Christine McGowan, on the morning of 10/30/90 and, when she did not answer his calls, Rank went to McGowan’s room.  He noticed her door, which was open the night before, was closed.  Upon entering the room, Rank discovered McGowan face down on the bed.  She had blood between her legs and her body was cold to the touch.  Rank then noticed that the front door was slightly open and his construction truck was missing.  Police investigators at the scene determined that McGowan had been raped and strangled to death, and issued a bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck.

Upon hearing a radio bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck, Debbie Hyatt notified police that she remembered seeing the abandoned truck and a man, later identified as Elmer Carroll, walking easterly away from the truck.  As a result of Hyatt’s tip, Carroll was arrested.  When law enforcement officers searched Carroll for weapons, they found a box cutter and the keys to the stolen construction truck.

Information presented at trial revealed that Carroll was a resident of the halfway house located next door to the victim’s home and that Carroll had remarked to other residents about the “cute” girl next door.  DNA evidence recovered from the scene matched Carroll’s saliva, semen and pubic hair.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, McGowan’s mother and step-father both plan to attend the execution, as well as Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton, one of the two prosecutors on the case.

“Elmer Carroll’s a monster, and he always will be,” Ashton told the Sentinel. “To feel no compassion or pity of any kind for this child, that is the very definition of a monster in my mind.”

Carroll’s attorneys filed an appeal to stop the execution, arguing that:

1) he was mentally ill,

2) that the nature of Florida’s death penalty was unconstitutional under the 8th amendment,

3) that his execution would be unconstitutional under the 8th amendment because of the “inordinate length of time that Mr. Carroll has spend on death row” and

4) that his clemency process was applied in “an arbitrary and capricious manner.”

However, the appeal was denied by the Florida Supreme Court, who affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the claims were without merit on May 15. His attorneys then took the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on Wednesday the Court denied Carroll’s appeal, in which his lawyers argued that he should have been considered mentally ill at the time of the crime. Carroll was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. ET at Florida State Prison in Starke.

According to the Associated Press, Carroll spend his final hours with two visitors, neither of whom was family. He visited with a Catholic priest and a mitigation specialist.

Carroll’s final meal was served at 10 a.m. and consisted of eggs, bacon, biscuits, a whole sliced tomato, a fruit salad with strawberries, papaya, peaches, pineapple and tropical fruit, an avocado and a can of Carnation milk.

Carroll declined to make a final statement, and the execution began promptly at 6:01 p.m. local time. He was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m.

Related Reading:

Execution Looms For Felon Who Raped, Killed Girl, 10

Child-Killer Rapist Fails In Appeal, Faces Death May 29

US Supreme Court Denies Stay Of Execution For Florida Man

Killer Has Bacon And Eggs For Last Meal

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Tonight’s Execution: Larry Eugene Mann, Florida

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

UPDATE: Larry Mann has been executed

Florida prison officials carried out the first execution of 2013 tonight, with the lethal injection of 59-year-old Larry Eugene Mann at Florida State Prison in Starke. Mann was convicted of the Nov. 1980 abduction and killing of a 10-year-old girl.

According to the case summary from the Florida Commission on Capital Cases, Elisa Nelson was riding her bike to school around 10:30 a.m. on November 4, 1980 after a dentist appointment earlier that morning. Her bike was found later in the day in a ditch about a mile from her school. A day later, her body was found.

The summary said that “Elisa died from a skull fracture possibly caused by a single blow to the head. A cement-encased steel pipe was found lying next to the body. There were two lacerations approximately 3.5 and 4.5 inches along the girl’s neck. The medical examiner could not discern if the lacerations were made before or after the child’s death, but they were not the cause of death. There were no signs of molestation on the body.”

The same day Nelson disappeared, police were called to Larry Mann’s home following a suicide attempt in which Mann had slashed his wrists with a razor blade. When the authorities arrived, Mann told them he had “done something stupid and needed help.”

Four days later, on November 8, Mann’s wife was getting his glasses from his truck when she found a note Nelson’s mother had written to excuse her for being late to school. The note was stained with both Nelson and Mann’s blood. Mrs. Mann told a friend, who reported the discovery to the police.

Mann had a history of pedophilia, psychotic depressions and suicide attempts, according to court documents. In an article for the Tampa Bay Times reporter Dan Sullivan writes:

Prosecutors theorized that Mann abducted Elisa with the intention of molesting her, but he was able to resist and abandoned his efforts. When Elisa tried to get away, Mann killed her. He cut her throat and hit her in the head with a pipe. An autopsy showed no signs of molestation.

It wasn’t the first time Mann had been accused of a sexually motivated crime. As a child, he was charged with taking a 7-year-old girl from a church parking lot and sexually assaulting her. At his murder trial in 1981, a woman from Mann’s native Mississippi testified about an incident from eight years earlier in which Mann broke into her apartment, where she was babysitting a 1-year-old boy. He grabbed her by the neck and threatened to harm the boy if she didn’t “give me what I want.” He forced the woman into a sex act.

His attorneys, Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer and Maria E. DeLiberato of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, appealed the warrant, saying that Mann has been a model prisoner, shows remorse and is a changed man. “Mann is a truly devout student of the Christian Bible and has generated deep friendships with prison guards and others around the world.” they wrote in the appeal.

His attorneys also challenged the jury’s 9-3 vote for death, writing:

“Florida’s outlier status in not requiring unanimous verdicts renders Mr. Mann’s death sentence, which was imposed after a 9 to 3 vote, unconstitutional. In no other state in the country would Mr. Mann have been sentenced to death.”

However, the state Supreme Court did not agree and on Tuesday, April 2 they declined hearing any aspect of the appeal.

Mann had survived at least one execution date, having been slated for execution by electric chair on Feb. 4, 1986. He was the 7th execution of 2013 nationally and the 75th in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

His time of death was 7:19 p.m. ET.

Related Reading: 

Gov. Rick Scott Signs Death Warrant for Larry Mann

Appeal Denied for Larry Mann, Slated for Execution Next Week

Man who Killed Palm Harbor Girl to be Executed This Week

Invitation to an Execution

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Tonight’s Execution: Rickey Lynn Lewis, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Rickey Lewis has been executed.

Photo from the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

Photo from the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

In one of 12 scheduled executions over the next few months, Texas carried out its 2nd lethal injection of 2013 tonight as it enforced the death sentence handed down to 50-year-old Rickey Lynn Lewis.

According to a story by Michael Graczyk for the Associated Press, “six months after he was paroled in early 1990 from a 25-year term for a third burglary conviction, Lewis was arrested for shooting and killing 45-year-old George Newman, raping Newman’s fiancée and stealing her truck after breaking into the couple’s home about 90 miles east of Dallas in Smith County.”

Two other men were involved in the attack but were never identified or arrested.

An execution date was previously set for 2003, but it was stayed to consider a mental impairment claim. However, according to The Austin Chronicle, “Lewis was granted an evidentiary hearing in district court, where a state district judge concluded that Lewis had not demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence that he is deficient; in November 2012, the Fifth U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals agreed.”

Lewis was denied clemency last Friday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case on Monday, April 1.

“I think at this point we’re out of options,” Lewis’ attorney, Seth Kretzer, told the Associated Press

Newman’s fiancée, who survived the attack, told AP reporter Michael Graczyk that she will be in Huntsville tonight but has not yet decided if she will witness the execution.

“I’m not looking forward to it,” Hilton said of Lewis’ lethal injection. “I was there when George was killed. … It’s not something you want to remember. But I’m looking forward to a final decision, putting an end to that, to the appeal process.

“It’s been going on 23 years. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Every couple years something comes up and you’re constantly reminded of it.”

There are three more executions scheduled in Texas this month and an additional eight set through July. Lewis was the 494th inmate executed in the Lone Star state.

 

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Tonight’s Execution: Andrew Cook, Georgia

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Update #3:  Andrew Cook has been executed by the state of Georgia.

Update #2: The execution will proceed, as the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution. 

Update: The execution of Andrew Cook is on hold, awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on a last-minute appeal.

After a delay of more than four hours, Georgia carried out the second lethal injection of the evening (the first was in Texas), with an execution that has been off and on throughout the past few days.

Andy Cook, 38, was convicted in the 1995 killings of two Mercer University students, Grant Patrick Hendrickson and Michele Lee Cartagena. The pair were shot multiple times Jan. 3, 1995 while they sat in a car at Lake Julette in Monroe County. Cook did not know the victims and authorities say the killings were random.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Cook confessed to his father, a Macon FBI agent who ended up testifying at his son’s trial.”

The execution was put on hold Wednesday evening, but this afternoon news broke that it was back on for tonight, after the state Supreme Court denied a motion to delay it.

The Telegraph‘s Joe Kovac Jr. has an-easy-to-follow outline of the legal twists and turns Cook’s case has taken, so I’ll let him lay it out.

Earlier Thursday, the state Supreme Court took Cook’s case and that of Warren Lee Hill back from the state Court of Appeals.

Defense lawyers had contended that both executions should be stopped because the lethal injection drug pentobarbital was being dispensed without a prescription.

Lawyers for Cook and Hill, another prisoner slated for execution earlier this week, had filed appeals contending that the state is breaking the law by using pentobarbital during executions without a prescription. The Georgia Court of Appeals delayed both executions to review that challenge.

On Thursday, however, the state Supreme Court issued an order saying that it was taking the case back and would consider the requests to postpone the executions.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Cook’s bid for clemency Wednesday, and his lawyers continued their legal fight to keep him from being put to death Thursday night.

Wednesday evening, the Georgia Court of Appeals temporarily halted his scheduled execution.

Word of that move came hours after Cook, 38, was denied clemency by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Following the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling to deny Cook’s motion, Court Public Information Officer Jane Hansen told WGXA the motion was dismissed because it was not first filed and denied in the Monroe County Superior Court where Cook was originally sentenced.

His attorneys then asked justices to look at a different appeal, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. From their article: “Now his lawyers are asking the justices to look at an appeal directly related to his execution, a different issue. They are asking for mercy because, they say, the 38-year-old Cook has changed and is remorseful for shooting to death Grant Patrick Hendrickson and his girlfriend, Michele Cartagena.” That appeal was ultimately denied.

Cook was scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. It looked like the execution might proceed as planned, as a federal judge decided against blocking the execution.

However, a last-minute stay filed at 6 p.m. halted the execution until 10:30 p.m., as the U.S. Supreme Court mulled a stay of execution.

There were no other appeals pending or filed, and the execution was cleared to proceed.

The execution began at 11:08 p.m. Cook was declared dead at 11:22 p.m.

For his last meal, Cook requested steak, baked potato and potato wedges, fried shrimp, lemon meringue pie and soda.

On a related note, an article from Ed Pilkinton for The Guardian points out that Georgia will soon face a shortage of execution drugs, and in fact were scrambling to use some before their entire stock expires on March 1. The state has 17 vials of pentobarbital, enough for 6 executions, but will be unable to use all of it before it expires. From his report:

Georgia confirmed to the Guardian that its entire supply of pentobarbital expires on 1 March. The expiration date leaves the state in a quandary: it still has 94 men and one woman on death row, including Hill and Cook, but with no obvious means by which to execute them.

A spokeswoman for the department of corrections insisted that it anticipated “it will be able to obtain sufficient supplies of the drugs necessary to carry out the court ordered lethal injection process.” But just how that could be done is not obvious.

Georgia’s problem is not a unique one. Across the U.S., states have had to alter their lethal injection procedures after the makers of the drugs stopped producing them, saying they didn’t want their drugs used for executions. However, altering their procedures means having to write new protocols and get them approved, a lengthy process that often opens up avenues for death row inmates to file appeals contesting the injection procedures, thus delaying executions further.

For more on that, check out this Associated Press story.

Related Reading:

Cook’s Execution Back on After Georgia Supreme Court Denies Motion

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Tonight’s Execution: Manuel Pardo, Florida

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Update: Manuel Pardo has been executed.

Florida has carried out its last execution of 2012 with the lethal injection of former police officer Manuel Pardo Jr. for the 1986 killings of nine people in Miami.

About an hour before the execution was scheduled to begin, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal for a stay of execution for Pardo. There was a delay in the execution as the U.S. Supreme Court examined the lower court’s ruling, but an hour after the scheduled execution time, the high court also declined that appeal.

Pardo’s previous appeals, which claimed that he was insane at the time of the crimes, that the state was withholding public records regarding the lethal injection procedure, and that the use of a new drug could cause a painful death, violating the Eight Amendment, were all been denied by various courts.

Pardo was the first inmate executed in the state using vecuronium bromide. Presumably the switch is due to difficulties in securing sodium thiopental,  an anesthetic administered prior to the other two drugs. Back in January 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reported on the state’s problems in finding the drug after an Illinois drug company decided to stop making it.

“We do use that drug in our lethal-injection process,” then Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Sentinel at the time. “We are exploring other options. At this point, we’re looking at making changes to the procedure. If we change one drug, we might have to change another drug.”

Pardo spent his last hours visiting with eight relatives and friends, as well as meeting with a prison chaplain and Catholic bishop. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard described his demeanor as “calm.” For his last meal, he requested a Cuban-style meal of roasted pork chunks, white rice, red beans, fried plantains with tomato, avocado and olive oil, pumpkin pie and Cuban coffee.

Pardo’s execution was protested by the Catholic Bishops of Florida, who circulated a press release Monday saying, “Realizing that Manual Pardo, Jr. wrongfully killed instead of pursuing legal means to arrest persons violating the law, the Catholic Bishops of Florida continue to speak out against the violence of execution and plead for life in prison without possibility of parole for Mr. Pardo.

“While the Catholic Church recognizes that the state has the right to carry out the death penalty under certain circumstances, the modern penal institutions make this unnecessary as the public is protected from any further harm. We believe that even though all life may not be innocent, all life is sacred. State sanctioned killing diminishes all citizens when the State takes the life of the convicted in our name.”

The bishops held a prayer vigil Tuesday at 6 p.m., the time the execution was scheduled to start, at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami. There were also a few protesters outside the prison at 6 p.m.

Mark Elliot of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty was there and told the Miami Herald that about 45 people showed up.

“The death penalty costs Florida taxpayers $1 million a week,” Elliot said. “That money could be better used to help victims’ families or for more law enforcement.”

Pardo’s time of death was 7:47 p.m.ET, about 16 minutes after the procedure began. According to a media witness, his last words were unintelligible due to a malfunction in the death chamber’s sound system. Reporters worked with DOC employees to figure out what he said. Prison officials said his final words were, “Airborne forever. I love you, Michi baby,” referring to his daughter.

According to an Associated Press report by Tamara Lush, “Pardo also wrote a final statement that was distributed to the media, in which he claimed that he never killed any women, but ‘accepted full responsibility for killing six men.’ ”

From the statement:

“I never harmed those 3 women or any female. I took the blame as I knew I was doomed and it made no difference to me, at this time, having 6 or 9 death sentences. I don’t want this hanging over my head, especially these last few minutes of life, because my war was against men who were trafficing (sic) in narcotics and no one else!”

In another portion of the letter, he apologized to his family:

“You all are so loving and wonderful, not deserving of this nightmare….Remember Michi you are Airborne and hardcore…No tears!”

And in another section, Pardo talked about sports, including soccer and bullfighting:

“On a lighter note, as a New Yorker and loyal fan, I was happy to see my Yankees and Giants win so many championships during my lifetime.” According to the Associated Press, Pardo “said it was a lifelong dream to see Spain win the World Cup and urged the Spanish government to never stop bullfights because they are ‘a part of our culture and heritage.’ ”

Following the execution, the nephew of victim Fara Quintero gave a statement. Frank Judd expressed his thanks that Florida brought closure to his family, and said Manuel Pardo “is no soldier but rather a disturbed man whose hatred of mankind knew no mercy.”

Pardo was the third execution of 2012 in Florida and the youngest inmate executed under Governor Rick Scott.

Related Reading:

Slated for Execution, Ex-Sweetwater Cop Enjoys Cuban-Style Last Meal

Manuel Pardo Inches Closer to Execution in Florida

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Today’s Execution: Richard Stokley, Arizona

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Richard Stokley has been executed.

In an execution critics are saying shows the arbitrary nature of the death penalty, Arizona carried out the lethal injection of Richard Stokley, 60, today at 10 a.m. local time.

Stokley, along with his co-defendant Randy Brazeal, was convicted of the murders of 13-year-olds Mandy Meyers and Mary Snyder in 1991. The girls were raped and killed after leaving a weekend campout. However, while Stokley is facing death, Brazeal, 41, is a free man living in Arkansas.

Michael Kiefer’s report for The Republic does a fantastic job of detailing the case, so rather than try to outdo him, I’ll simply quote his article liberally as he explains the disparate sentences in the case:

Brazeal got a plea deal, ostensibly because the Cochise County attorney said that the constitutional time limit for a speedy trial would run out before DNA results could be finalized.

“They presented (the plea deal) as if there wasn’t much alternative,” said Matthew Borowiec, the judge in both men’s cases, who is now retired from the Cochise County Superior Court bench. “I didn’t have a feeling that one was less culpable than the other.”

Brazeal said Stokley raped and killed both girls, but by the time Stokley went to trial in 1992, the DNA and other physical evidence had been finalized and clearly showed that the two men participated equally in the crime. Stokley confessed. Brazeal refused to testify at Stokley’s trial.

“Everything that Richard Stokley told (police) that night was the truth, and everything Randy Brazeal said was a lie,” said Patty Hancock, the mother of one of the murdered girls. “To this day, they have more evidence on Randy Brazeal than they ever had on Richard Stokley.”

When reached by phone at his home in Arkansas and asked to comment on Stokley’s imminent execution, Brazeal said, “I have no comment. Good riddance to him.”

According to Kiefer’s report, which is well worth reading, this was the third time in 2012 that an Arizona inmate has been executed while his co-defendant and accomplice is out of prison.

Stokley had filed several appeals in the past, claiming his trial attorneys were ineffective, but those were all denied. Recently he filed appeals based on the disparate sentencing in the case, but on Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court denied those, declining without comment to block the execution.

Stokley decided not to ask the state clemency board for a reprieve, telling board members in a letter that they were not interested in either clemency or mercy. You can read the full text of his letter here. In it, Stokely says, “I have made grave and irreversible errors, and although I believe that my life is worth saving, this Board in its current mindset nad philosophical leanings will never agree with me, or any death row prisoner.”

He apologized for his crimes later in the letter, writing, “I am also sorry I was mixed up in those awful events that brought me to this. I have been sorry for the victims and the victims’ families. But no one wants to hear of my miserable sorrow, they just want for me to get dead, which is vengeance. They think it will bring ‘closure.’ But there is no healing in that. Ever.

“I have decided to decline a clemency hearing. I don’t want to put anyone through that, especially since I’m convinced that, as things stand now, it’s pointless. I reckon I know how to die, and if it’s my time, I’ll go without fanfare. And if it ain’t, I won’t. God’s will be done.”

Stokley also wrote a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for help, although it is unclear if this was written before or after his letter to the clemency board. In the request to SCOTUS, Stokley outlines the issues he has had with his attorney and his case, telling the Court “This state plans to kill me, and soon. But this whole affair reeks—from the ‘trial’ right on up through to the present. I am still trying to be a prudent man, and trying to save my own life. I know that I’m not irredeemable. I’m not done yet…I need help. Please.”

For his last meal, which was served at 6 p.m. Tuesday night, Stokley requested porterhouse steak, medium rare, with french fries; a salad of lettuce, cabbage and cherry tomatoes; cauliflower; a wedge of cheddar cheese; a dinner roll or flaky biscuit; a large cream soda with ice; a red delicious apple, a peach and a banana; and chocolate or Neapolitan ice cream.

The execution began prepping the injection lines this morning at 10 a.m., but due to difficulties in finding a suitable vein, had to use the femoral vein in Stokley’s leg, cutting into the artery at the top of his groin area to set the line.

According to a report in The Republic, “Witnesses watching on closed-circuit TV said that Stokley joked with the execution team and was heard saying, ‘I do wish I could die doing something meaningful. You know, this seems such a waste.’ ”

Stokley had no last words when asked for a last statement, and did not look at the witnesses in the viewing room.  He was pronounced dead at 11:12 a.m.Stokley was the sixth execution in Arizona this year.

Related Reading:

1 of 2 Men in ’91 Killings Set to Die

Death Row Inmate Makes Final Appeal

Convict to be Executed for Girls’ Murders

Justices Deny Appeals to Block Arizona Execution

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Tonight’s Execution: George Ochoa, Oklahoma

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATED: George Ochoa has been executed.

Oklahoma death row inmate George Ochoa, 38, was executed tonight at the state prison in McAlester for the 1993 shooting deaths of a couple in Oklahoma City.

Members of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty protest George Ochoa's execution.

Members of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty protest George Ochoa’s execution.

Ochoa was convicted, along with Osbaldo Torres, in the deaths of Francisco Morales and Maria Yanez, who were shot to death in their bed during a home invasion on July 12, 1993.

Torres, a Mexican citizen, was also sentenced to death, however, his sentence was commuted to life without parole in 2004 by then-Governor Brad Henry, after the Mexican government raised concerns that he was not allowed to speak with the Mexican consulate after his arrest.

Ochoa’s attorney had argued that he is insane and should not be executed. According to a Chicago Tribune article, Ochoa’s lawyer, James Hankins, “has said in court documents that Ochoa has become so irrational that he can no longer communicate with him.”

The U.S. 10th Circuit of Appeals denied Ochoa’s claim that his mental health should prevent him from being executed and on Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court also denied his appeal.

Ochoa maintained his innocence in the crimes and asked the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to grant him clemency. The board rejected his request by a vote of 4-1.

From a story by Sean Murphy in The Oklahoman: ” ‘I didn’t kill those people,’ Ochoa told the board via video conference from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester during the Nov. 16 hearing. Ochoa also claimed he was being ‘shocked’ and ‘tortured’ by one of his victims, a claim that prosecutors say may be an attempt to feign incompetence. He made similar allegations of being tortured and burned in a handwritten letter last month to the 10th Circuit Court.”

For his last meal, Ochoa requested a meat lover’s pizza and a large Coke. According to an account of the execution in the McAlester News-Capital, Ochoa used his final statement to proclaim his innocence. From the story:

OSP Deputy Warden Art Lightle asked Ochoa if he had any last words.

“I’m innocent,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa spoke no other words than those.

At 6:02 p.m. Lightle said, “Let the execution begin.”

He was pronounced dead at 6:07 p.m. CST.

Ochoa was the 6th execution in the state in 2012 and the 41st in the United States. The execution was protested by members of the Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Related Reading:

Oklahoma to Execute Inmate for 1993 Home-Invasion Killings

Okla. Man Set to Die for Couple’s Shooting Deaths

OSP Death Row Inmate George Ochoa Set for Execution Today

Courts Reject Oklahoma Inmate’s Try to Stop Execution

Oklahoma Executes George Ochoa for the 1993 Shooting Deaths of Couple While Children at Home

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This Morning’s Execution: Brett Hartman, OH

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Editor’s note: There are multiple spellings of Hartman/Hartmann’s last name, with little indication of which one is correct. I’ve chosen to go with what is listed on the Ohio Dept. of Corrections website.

This morning at 10 a.m. ET, Ohio carried out the execution of Brett Hartman, 38, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Winda Snipes in September 1997.

According to a story in The Columbus Dispatch, “Brett Hartman says he had sex with Winda Snipes early on the morning of Sept. 9, 1997, at her Akron apartment. He also says he went back to Snipes’ apartment later that day, found her mutilated body and panicked, trying to clean up the mess before calling 911.

“What Hartman says he didn’t do is kill Snipes, who was stabbed 138 times, had her throat slit and her hands cut off. Numerous courts over the years have rejected Hartman’s claim.”

His version of the case can be found here; a Cleveland Scene article on the issues surrounding his case can be found here.

Letters From Death Row: Brett Hartman

Brett Hartman’s letter to Gawker editor Hamilton Nolan

Hartman’s requests for clemency were rejected three times by the Ohio Parole Board and Ohio governor John Kasich also denied him clemency last week.

Hartman’s last pending appeal was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court late Monday night. He had asked the court to allow renewed arguments that his trial attorneys were ineffective and did not present evidence that could have persuaded a jury to spare him the death penalty.

Hartman had long proclaimed his innocence, and his attorneys argued that there was evidence from the crime scene that had never been tested, including fingerprints. His attorneys also claimed he should be spared because of his tumultuous childhood, during which he was abandoned by his mother, and because he has been a model prisoner.

“Of course I do not want to die but I am tired and feel they should give me the new trial I deserve or just kill me! I am not interested in anything in between.”

In May, Hamilton Nolan, an editor for Gawker, decided to write to every death row inmate sentenced to die in 2012. Hartman was one of the inmates who replied, and told Nolan about his case, his daily routine and his ideas on the death penalty in the U.S.

“Of course I do not want to die but I am tired and feel they should give me the new trial I deserve or just kill me! I am not interested in anything in between,” Hartman wrote.

“Something broke in me after surviving my last date.”

Hartman survived two previous executions dates. The first was in 2009 and was stayed by federal courts to allow him to pursue a claim of innocence. The second was in 2011, but it was put off due to a federal lawsuit over the state’s execution procedures.

Hartman arrived at the state’s death house Monday morning and was described by prison spokesperson JoEllen Smith as ‘calm and cooperative.’ According to a local news source, prison staffers checked his veins twice on Monday to make certain they were accessible for Tuesday’s execution and Hartman took two doses of an anti-anxiety drug Monday shortly after 12 p.m.

He was served his last meal after his visiting hours concluded on Monday. His meal included steak with sautéed mushrooms, fried shrimp, macaroni and cheese, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, vanilla ice cream with nuts, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Honey Comb cereal with milk.

He also took time Monday night to do a 25-minute phone interview with a Beacon Journal reporter. From that story:

“It’s the road I got to walk,” he said. “It’s my time. It’s hard, especially for my family. But it’s not overwhelming for me. I’ve just never had any luck.”

He said he had no desire to spend the rest of his life in prison and was hoping to win a second trial and secure additional DNA testing. He said his family knows he is innocent, and he hopes the search for Snipes’ true killer continues.

“I think we’re lucky on death row because we have an out,” Hartmann said. “It’s a harsh structure in prison, but at least we’re not in for 50 to 60 years. Death row is its own little enigma. We are in our own little world.

“But being locked up and away from family, it’s tough. I’m tired of fighting and no one listening. I’m tired of begging for money [and tired] of prison. So, there’s some relief.”

This morning he declined breakfast and spent his morning hours visiting with an aunt, a sister and a friend.

Hartman was executed at 10:34 a.m. Before, he smiled at his sister Diane Morretti, who witnessed the execution. He also addressed Warden Donald Morgan a few minutes into the procedure, telling him “this is not going to defeat me,” according to the Associated Press.

Related Reading:

Death Row Inmate Brett Hartmann Says He Can Prove His Innocence, if the Governor Will Just Give Him a Little More Time

Ohio Prepares to Execute Convicted Killer

Brett Hartman’s personal website

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Appeal for OH Killer

Hartman Execution: The Special Meal Featured

Letters From Death Row: Brett Hartmann, Ohio Inmate 357-869

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