Tag Archives: last words

Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

An Oklahoma inmate’s execution failed tonight after the delivery of the lethal injection drugs was botched and the inmate suffered a massive heart attack on the gurney.

Clayton Lockett, 38, was slated to be the first of two executions tonight in Oklahoma, in what was going to be the state’s first double execution since 1937 (more background on the crime and lead-up to the executions here). However, as reporters waited for confirmation of a time of death almost an hour after the injection was scheduled to proceed, it became clear that something had gone wrong.

Finally reporters were told that the execution had been halted about 20 minutes after the first drug was injected, when Lockett was still moving and mumbling on the gurney.

According to Associated Press reporter Bailey Elise McBride, whose Twitter feed is a blow-by-blow account of what the media was told following the procedure, “Lockett began breathing heavily, writhing on the gurney, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.”

“It was extremely difficult to watch,” Lockett’s attorney, David Autry, told the AP

More from McBride’s AP account:

“There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having that (desired) effect, and the doctor observed the line at that time and determined the line had blown,” Patton said at a news conference afterward, referring to Lockett’s vein rupturing.

After that, an official who was inside the death chamber lowered the blinds, preventing those in the viewing room from seeing what was happening.

Patton then made a series of phone calls before calling a halt to the execution.

KFOR in Oklahoma provided a timeline (which Andrew Cohen tidied up for his take for The Atlantic):

6:23 PM – Prison officials raise the blinds. Execution begins.

6:28 PM – Inmate shivering, sheet shaking.  Breathing deep.

6:29 PM – Inmate blinking and gritting his teeth.  Adjusts his head.

6:30 PM – Prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.  Doctor says, “He’s not unconscious.”  Inmate says “I’m not.”  Female prison official says, “Mr. Lockett is not unconscious.”

6:32 PM – Inmate’s breathing is normal, mouth open, eyes shut. For a second time, prison officials check to see if inmate is unconscious.

6:33 PM – Doctor says, “He is unconscious.” Prison official says “Mr. Lockett is unconscious.”

6:34 PM – Inmate’s mouth twitches.  No sign of breathing.

6:35 PM – Mouth movement.

6:36 PM – Inmate’s head moves from side to side, then lifts his head off the bed.

6:37 PM – Inmate lifts his head and feet slightly off the bed.  Inmate tries to say something, mumbles while moving body.

6:38 pm – More movement by the inmate. At this point the inmate is breathing heavily and appears to be struggling.

6:39 PM – Inmate tries to talk. Says “man” and appears to be trying to get up. Doctor checks on inmate. Female prison official says, “We are going to lower the blinds temporarily.” Prison phone rings. Director of Prisons Robert Patton answers the phone and leaves the room—taking three state officials with him.

Minutes later—the director of prisons comes back into the room and tells the eyewitnesses that there has been a vein failure. He says, “The chemical did not make it into the vein of the prisoner. Under my authority, we are issuing a stay of execution.”

Charles Warner, originally set to be the second execution of the night at 8 p.m., has had his execution postponed for 14 days while an investigation is conducted.

This sort of prolonged, failed execution is exactly what attorneys for both men were afraid of when they filed appeals asserting their client’s constitutional right to know the source of the drugs being used to execute them. The claims led to a heated back and forth over the past two weeks, exposing tensions in the state’s leadership.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, released a statement following the failed execution:

“After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight’s lethal injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death.

‘Without question, we must get complete answers about what went wrong. There must be an independent investigation conducted by a third-party entity, not the Department of Corrections. We also need an autopsy by an independent pathologist and full transparency about the results of its findings. Additionally, the state must disclose complete information about the drugs, including their purity, efficacy, source and the results of any testing. Until much more is known about tonight’s failed experiment of an execution, no execution can be permitted in Oklahoma.”

Related Reading:

A Breakdown of Tonight’s Double Execution in Oklahoma

Man Dies of Heart Attack After Botched Execution

Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched

What Happens to the Death Penalty When Lethal Injection Isn’t Quick and Painless?

How Oklahoma’s Botched Execution Affects the Death-Penalty Debate

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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.

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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Last Night’s Execution: John Quintanilla, Texas

Article from the Associated Press. Read the original here

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas man convicted of fatally shooting a retired sheriff’s deputy during the robbery of an amusement center more than a decade ago was put to death Tuesday.

John Manuel Quintanilla received lethal injection for gunning down 60-year-old Victor Billings at a game room in Victoria, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. The 2002 slaying came just a few months after Quintanilla had been released from prison after serving a sentence for several burglary convictions.

Asked to make a final statement before his execution, Quintanilla told his wife he loved her.

“Thank you for all the years of happiness,” he said.

He never acknowledged his victim’s friends or relatives, including two daughters, who watched through a window.

As the lethal drug began taking effect, he snored about a half dozen times, then stopped breathing. At 7:32 p.m. CDT – 15 minutes after being given the drug – he was pronounced dead.

Quintanilla’s wife, a German national who married him by proxy while he was in prison, watched through an adjacent window and sobbed.

Quintanilla, 36, became the ninth Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the 501st since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. His was the first of two executions set for this week; the other is planned for Thursday.

Quintanilla’s punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court refused two last-day appeals.

His lawyers contended his confession was coerced by authorities threatening to also charge one of his sisters and that the statement improperly was allowed into evidence at his trial in 2004. The lawyers obtained affidavits from two jurors who said the confession was a key to their decision to convict him.

“It is clear that Quintanilla would not have been convicted of capital murder if his confession had not been admitted – a fact confirmed by two of his jurors,” appeals lawyer David Dow told the high court.

The appeal also argued Quintanilla had deficient legal help during his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals, and that his case would give justices the opportunity to define filing rules in light of recent death penalty rulings from the court.

The Texas attorney general’s office said the appeal was without merit and improperly filed, and that the juror affidavits also were improper.

“There wasn’t any coercion whatsoever,” Dexter Eaves, the former Victoria County district attorney who was lead prosecutor at the trial, recalled last week. He also said that while the robbers, who fled with about $2,000, were masked, witnesses were able to “describe very clearly who the triggerman was.”

Court records show Billings, a retired chief deputy from nearby Edna in adjacent Jackson County, was at the game center with his wife on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002 when the gunmen came in through a back door. Billings approached one of them and grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle “so no one else was going to be hurt and paid for it dearly,” Eaves said.

He said Billings was shot three times, the last one fired while he was on his knees.

“A very cold killing,” Eaves said.

During questioning by detectives for an unrelated robbery some two months later, Quintanilla made references to the still unsolved Billings case, then led authorities to a canal where divers recovered items used in the holdup.

“They had the mask, the guns and his statements saying who did what,” Jim Beeler, Quintanilla’s lead trial lawyer, said. “He told them everything.”

Beeler said the trial judge overruled his objections and ruled the statements proper and admissible into evidence. He also said Quintanilla signed affidavits ordering that his defense team present no mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial, where jurors deciding his sentence could have considered he had virtually no parental supervision while growing up.

“You want to argue your case, completely and totally,” Beeler said. “In that situation, we’re not being allowed to present our case, based on our client.

“It’s extremely frustrating.”

Prosecutors bolstered their case for Quintanilla’s future dangerousness by presenting evidence he attacked a jailer with a homemade weapon while awaiting trial.

“He did not do himself any favors,” Eaves said.

Quintanilla’s accomplice, Jeffrey Bibb, 33, is serving 60 years for murder and 50 years for aggravated robbery.

On Thursday, another Texas inmate is set for lethal injection. Vaughn Ross, 41, is to be executed for a double slaying in Lubbock in 2001.


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The Last Words of William Van Poyck

Dear Sis, 
If you are reading this, I have gone the way of the earth, my atonement fulfilled.

William Van Poyck‘s sister has posted his final words, by way of two last letters he wrote her prior to his June 12 execution.

Here’s one from June 3rd, only a little more than a week away from his execution:

Dear Sis~

Ten days ’till departure time. You already know that they killed my neighbor, Elmer, 5 days ago. Then they moved me into his cell. After they execute someone they move the rest of us down one cell, working our way to cell#1, the launching pad to the gurney next door.  This is a bad luck cell; very few of us get out of here alive!  In two days I’ll go onto Phase II and they’ll move all  my property from my cell, and post a guard in front of my cell 24/7 to record everything I do.  These will be hectic days, freighted with emotion, all the final letters, all the final phone calls, final visits, final goodbyes.  Things have become even more regimented as “established procedures” increasingly take over.  More cell front visits from high ranking administration and DOC officials asking if everything is O.K., forms to fill out (cremation or burial?).  I declined the offer of a “last meal”.  I’m not interested in participating in that time-worn ritual, to feed some reporter’s breathless post-execution account.  Besides, material gratification will be the last thing on my mind as I prepare to cross over to the non-material planes.  Watching Elmer go through his final days really drove home how ritualized this whole process has become; the ritual aspect perhaps brings some numbing comfort – or sense of purpose – to those not really comfortable with this whole killing people scheme.  This is akin to participating in a play where the participants step to a rote cadence, acting out their parts in the script, with nobody pausing to question the underlying premise.  It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where you want to grab someone, shake them hard, and yell “Hey, wake up! Don’t you know what’s going on here?!!!”

My very accelerated appeal is before the Florida Supreme Court; my brief is due today, (Monday), the state’s brief tomorrow and oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday June 6th (D-Day Anniversary).  I expect an immediate ruling, or perhaps on Friday.  By the time you read this you’ll already know the result and since there’s no higher court to go to on this you’ll know if I live or die on June 12th.  I am not optimistic, Sis.  Although I have some substantial, compelling issues, as you know (e.g., my appointed direct appeal attorney who turned out to be a mentally ill, oft-hospitalized, crack head, convicted of cocaine possession and subsequently disbarred whose incompetence sabotaged my appeal) the law provides the courts with countless ways to deny a prisoner any appellate review of even the most meritorious claims.  I won’t turn this into a discourse on legal procedures; but many years of observation has taught me that once a death warrant is signed it’s near impossible to stop the  momentum of that train.  Issues that would normally offer you some relief, absent a warrant, suddenly become “meritless” under the tension of a looming execution date.  Nobody wants to be the one to stop an execution, it’s almost sacrilegious.

So many people are praying and fighting to save my life that I am loathe to express any pessimism, as if that’s a betrayal of those supporting me.  And, there is some hope, at least for a stay of execution.  But honestly my worst fear is a temporary stay of 20, 30 days.  Unless a stay results in my lawyers digging up some new, previously undiscovered substantial claim that will get me a new sentencing hearing, a stay simply postpones the inevitable.  What I don’t want is to be back here in the same position in 30 days, forcing you and all my loved ones to endure another heart-breaking cycle of final goodbyes.  I cannot ask that of them.  I’d rather just go on June 12th and get this over with.          This may be disappointing to those who are trying so hard to extend my life, even for a few days, but there it is.

Time – that surprisingly subjective, abstract concept – is becoming increasingly compressed for me.  I’m staying rooted in the here and now, not dwelling on the past or anxiously peering into the future, but inhabiting each unfolding moment as it arrives in my consciousness (F.Y.I., I highly recommend The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, for anyone facing imminent execution!)  I’m still able to see the beauty of this world, and value the kindness of the many beautiful souls who work tirelessly to make this a better place.  I am calm and very much at peace, Sis, so don’t worry about my welfare down here on death watch.  I will endure this without fear, and with as much grace as I can summon.  Whatever happens, it’s all good, it’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
Much Love,

Bill’s final letter, written on the day of his execution, is much more brief:

Dear Sis,
If you are reading this, I have gone the way of the earth, my atonement fulfilled. When your tears have dried—as they will—and you look up at the sky, allow yourself to smile when you think of me, free at last. Though I have departed my physical vehicle, know that my soul—timeless, boundless and eternal—soars joyfully among the stars.

Despite my many flaws on earth, I was blessed to be loved by so many special souls who saw past my feet of clay and into my heart. Know that in my final hours, it was that love which sustained my spirit and brought me peace. Love, like our souls, is eternal and forever binds us, and in due time it will surely draw us all back together again. Until then, Godspeed to you and all who have loved me!
Light & Love,


Related Reading:

Dispatches From Death Row: William Van Poyck

“I Have 21 Days Left To Live”: Counting Down To An Execution

Florida Executes William Van Poyck

Gov. Scott Signs Death Warrant for Florida Inmate William Van Poyck

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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: Richard Cobb, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Richard Cobb has been executed, according to Execution Watch reporter Gloria Rubac, who is outside the Walls Unit.

Richard Cobb was only 18 when he and his friend Beunka Adams, 19, were arrested for a crime spree that included robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault, and the shooting of three people. Tonight Texas executed Cobb for the crimes almost a year to the day after they executed Adams

On Sept. 2, 2002, 37-year-old Kenneth Vandever, who was mentally disabled, and two women were abducted from an East Texas convenience store and taken to a nearby field. One of the women was raped and then all three were shot. Vandever died from his wounds, but the women were able to play dead until their attackers left, when they managed to go get help. 

Cobb and Adams were arrested for the crimes a day later, after being turned in by Adams’ cousin.

According to court documents, at trial “Cobb admitted to participating in the robbery and kidnaping and to shooting Vandever. He testified, however, that Adams pressured him into committing the murder, threatening to kill Cobb if he refused to take part in killing the three hostages. The [S]tate cast doubt on this portion of Cobb’s testimony by getting him to admit on cross-examination that he did not mention any coercion by Adams when he first confessed to the authorities.”

Prosecutors also used the testimony of a jailhouse snitch to secure a sentence of death. From the Austin Chronicle

William Thomsen testified that while in jail awaiting trial Cobb bragged about his crimes, said he would commit additional crimes if he could, that he likely wouldn’t have been caught if he’d killed the two clerks, and that he got “like a rush” from shooting Vandever. (In a courtroom outburst, Cobb denied saying that.) Thomsen also testified that he was not given any deal or done any favors by the state in exchange for his testimony.

As it happened, that wasn’t entirely accurate: In January 2003, the prosecutor, Elmer Beckworth, penned a short letter to Thom­sen’s parole officer, advising that he would not seek to prosecute Thomsen on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The letter had been put into Adams’ file, but not Cobb’s; it was turned over a day before closing arguments, but the defense chose not to use it, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a May 2012 opinion. Two months after Cobb was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004, a prosecutor reviewing Adams’ file found another letter, this one from Thomsen, written in 2002, reminding Beckworth that during a meeting a week earlier the prosecutor had “agreed to completely clear” his pending weapons charge and to have a parole hold lifted so that Thom­sen could be released; in the letter Thomsen also offers additional details about what Cobb told him about the robbery and murder. Cobb then appealed, citing the failure of prosecutors to turn over this second letter. But each of Cobb’s appeals has been denied, and on Feb. 21 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the case.

Yesterday Cobb’s attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari and an application for stay of execution. However the U.S. Supreme Court denied that stay and the execution proceeded on schedule.

Cobb’s execution was the fourth execution in Texas this year, the third this month and the 496th since the death penalty was reinstated.

“There’s really nothing left to do,” Cobb told the Jacksonville Daily Progress recently in a jailhouse interview last month. “ … I accept it, you know what I mean? For what it is. There’s no getting away from it. At the same time I don’t want to die, but I’m ready to die.”

He also expressed remorse for his crimes and told the Progress reporter he has many regrets. 

“You survey ever single mistake you’ve ever made over and over again,” he said. “It doesn’t stop. Every day. There’s regret in the water. Regret every time you look in the mirror. That’s just part of life. There’s no escaping it…The damage, the regret, the remorse. I wish I could go back and make this never have happened. Just change it all.”

Cobb was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. CT at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.

In his final statement, Cobb said “Life is death, death is life. I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to and an end. Life is too short; I hope anyone that has negative energy towards me will resolve that. Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That’s it.”

Related Reading:

Last Interview: ‘I’m Ready to Die’

Killer in East Texas Slaying-Abductions Set to Die

Despite Prosecutor’s Deal With Snitch, Cobb Loses Appeals

Transcript of the interview with Death Row inmate Richard Cobb

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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: 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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