Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Death Penalty Update

I stopped doing these because they were depressing and it was like banging your head up against the wall. The Death Penalty is second only to politics in being able to demonstrate the idiocy of the human species.

But we have two, not one, but two, stories that make you want to howl at the moon.

The first story comes from Texas (where else?). Remember Charles Hood? If not, that’s the guy I wrote about in August of 2008. Hood was convicted of murder and sentenced to be executed despite the fact that the judge and prosecuting attorney were having an affair during his trial. This was in clear violation of the Texas Constitution which prohibits a judge from sitting on a case that has either “affinity or consanguinity” with any of the parties.

A district court judge agreed that this potentially jeopardized the fairness of Hood’s trial. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal ruled 6-3 that Hood can’t have a new trial because he should have raised the argument that the love affair tainted his trial in earlier appeals!

What planet do you suppose that the people in Texas associated with the criminal justice system come from? How about the planet of let’s look for a nice dry legal issue to order a new trial and push the dirty sex laundry under the table? While turning down this appeal the court agreed to consider an appeal on the same case related to issues with jury instructions.

This smacks of politics and politics don’t belong in the courtroom although we all know it has a place of honor there. We all remember Bush v. Gore don’t we?

While the Texas fiasco has all the earmarks of a poorly scripted comedy, the story from Ohio would make the worst Hollywood horror flick look tame.

Romell Broom was scheduled to be executed at 10 AM on September 15. That’s bad enough, but what followed was a litany of confusion that resulted in multiple botched attempts at carrying out the execution while the intended victim was left quivering and not knowing what hour would be his last.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has put together a timeline of the events.

5:08 a.m.: Broom awakens for the day.
5:51 a.m.: Broom is escorted to the shower.
6:27 a.m.: Broom eats breakfast of cereal.
8:07 a.m.: The chemicals used in Ohio executions -- thiopental sodium, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride -- are delivered to the death house.
9:31 a.m.: Execution preparations put on hold while the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals weighs a last-minute appeal request.
12:28 p.m.: Broom eats a lunch of creamed chicken, biscuits, green beans, mashed potatoes, salad and grape drink.
12:48 p.m.: The 6th Circuit says it will not review the appeal. Execution scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
1:24 p.m.: First round of lethal drugs is destroyed.
1:31 p.m.: Replacement drugs are delivered to the death house.
2:01 p.m.: Medical team enters holding cell and begins trying to insert IVs.
2:30 p.m.: Unable to find a usable vein, team leaves the cell to take a break.
2:42 p.m.: Team members back in cell trying again.
2:44 p.m.: Prisons director Terry Collins tells the medical team to take another break.
2:49 p.m.: Broom wipes his face with a tissue, appears to be crying.
2:57 p.m.: Broom asks that his attorney, Adele Shank, be allowed to watch. Around 3 p.m.: Tim Sweeney, a Cleveland attorney also representing Broom, sends a letter to Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer asking the court to stop the execution on the grounds that Broom is suffering cruel and unusual punishment.
3:04 p.m.: Shank speaks with prisons lawyer Austin Stout, who informs her execution policy doesn't allow lawyers to have contact with inmates after the execution process has started.
3:11 p.m.: Execution team members say they are having problems keeping a vein open because of Broom's past drug use.
3:33 p.m.: Shank is taken to the witness viewing area.
4:07 p.m.: Collins consults with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio attorney general's office.
4:24 p.m.: Strickland issues one-week reprieve.
5:59 p.m.: Broom eats a dinner of veggie nuggets, lima beans, bread, cookies and juice.

According to the AP, after an hour of failing to locate a vein for the IV by the medical staff, Broom himself tried to help!

“…the correctional officers encountered so much difficulty in finding a suitable vein for the lethal injection that, after an hour, Broom attempted to assist them by moving on his side, sliding the rubber tubing up and down his arm, and flexing his fingers…The executioners attempted to use the veins in his legs and he grimaced. One of the team patted him on his back. Finally, the executions gave up their attempts, indicating they needed a break.”

They needed a break? They needed a break!!!

Ok, look, Broom is very likely a really bad dude and he did some really bad stuff, but right now he’s totally helpless. No human being should have to go through this kind of crap.

The U.S. District Court has issued a restraining order until midnight September 28th. The District court has also scheduled a hearing at 9 AM that same day to hear additional arguments from Broom’s defense attorneys. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the State of Ohio “decided not to oppose the delay to give prisons officials more time to ‘review the unique circumstances in this case’ and offer recommendations on how to proceed.”

There have been 38 executions in 2009. That is already one greater than the 37 in 2008. 18 of those executions have been in Texas. 36 of the executions have been in the South. The only state outside of the South that has executed anyone in 2009 has been Ohio, the state that just botched the Broom execution.

There have been 1,174 executions since the Death Penalty was re-instated in 1978. 969 of those executions have been in the South, 134 in the Midwest, 67 in the West and 4 in the Northeast. 440 of those executions have been in Texas.

Uzbekistan and Kosovo eliminated capital punishment in 2008.

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