Monday, January 26, 2015

Kentucky Senator seeks immunity from DUI charge

Kentucky state Senator Brandon Smith, arrested this month on a DUI charge, is making an effort to get the charge dismissed based on a 124-year-old law that says lawmakers are "privileged from arrest" during legislative sessions, according to Newsmax.

According to WKYT,  the law provides “The members of the General Assembly shall, in all cases except treason, felony, breach or surety of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance on the sessions of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House they shall not be questioned in any other place."

Smith was arrested Jan. 6, the first day of the legislative session.

Peter Voss, a political science professor,  told Lex 18 News legislative immunity was created because of problems between the crown and parliament. “It's safer to leave the people's elective representative in office voting and representing them, than it is to make it easy to lock them up," Voss said.

Questions have arisen as to whether the law would apply in Smith’s case. Although he was in session during the day, he was arrested on his way home from a friend’s house that night.

"The people who wrote the Constitution in 1891 did not intend to give blanket immunity to all legislators for any acts committed during the legislative session," Assistant Franklin County Attorney David Garnett told Lex 18. “Nobody is above the law."

To read more CLICK HERE 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court wary of the death penalty?

According to the USA Today, during the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has appeared increasingly wary of the death penalty, for a variety of reasons:
• In May, the justices blocked the execution of a Missouri murderer because his specific medical condition made it likely that he would suffer from a controversial lethal injection.
• Later that month, they ruled 5-4 that Florida must apply a margin of error to IQ tests, making it harder for states to execute those with borderline intellectual disabilities.
• In October, the court stopped the execution of yet another Missouri man over concerns that his lawyers were ineffective and had missed a deadline for an appeal. Last Monday, the justices sent his case back to Missouri for further consideration.
And, this past week the Court has agreed to again review lethal injection
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, January 24, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court to review lethal injection

In a case that could have broad implications for hundreds of death row inmates, the Supreme Court will consider whether a drug protocol used in recent lethal injections violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, reported the USA Today.
The justices agreed Friday to consider a case originally brought by four death-row inmates in Oklahoma -- one of whom was put to death last week, after the court refused to block his execution with a combination of three drugs that has caused some prisoners to writhe in pain.
Because the court's four liberal justices dissented from the decision to let that execution go forward, it presumably was their votes in private conference Friday that will give the issue a full hearing in open court. Only four votes are needed from the nine-member court to accept a case. It will be heard in late April and decided by late June.
Lawyers for Charles Warner and three other convicts set for execution in Oklahoma over the next six weeks sought the Supreme Court's intervention after two lower federal courts refused their pleas. While the court's conservatives refused to stop Warner's execution, the request for a full court hearing had been held for further consideration.
The lawyers claim that the sedative midazolam, the first drug used in the three-drug protocol, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a general anesthetic and is being used in state executions virtually on an experimental basis. They say Inmates may not be rendered unconscious and could suffer painfully as the other drugs in the protocol are administered.
That, they claim, was a factor in Oklahoma's botched execution last April of Clayton Lockett, who struggled, groaned and writhed in pain for 43 minutes before dying. A state investigation later blamed Lockett's ordeal on a failure by prison staff to realize that drugs had not been administered directly into his veins. The state has since changed its procedures and increased the dose of midazolam used.
"The time is right for the court to take a careful look at this important issue, particularly given the bungled executions that have occurred since states started using these novel and experimental drugs protocols," said Dale Baich, one of the lawyers representing the death-row inmates.
Warner's execution last Thursday was the first in Oklahoma since Lockett's. The execution lasted 18 minutes, during which Warner, 47, convicted in the murder and rape of an 11-month-old girl in 1997, said the injection "feels like acid" and "my body is on fire." Witnesses said they saw only slight twitching in Warner's neck for about seven minutes before he stopped breathing.
The prisoners' lawyers also blame the drug protocol for two other gruesome deaths -- the execution a year ago of Ohio's Dennis McGuire, who made snorting noises for 20 minutes before dying, and July's execution of Arizona's Joseph Wood, who appeared to gasp hundreds of times during a death that took nearly two hours.
However, Florida has had fewer issues with the same drug protocol. On the day Warner was executed, it used the same three-drug combination to execute Johnny Shane Kormondy, 42, who killed a man during a 1993 home invasion.
Lawyers for Oklahoma responded that there was no real evidence midazolam would not work as a general anesthetic. They noted that it had been used successfully in at least 10 previous executions.
"It is undisputed that Oklahoma's protocol, which is identical to Florida's protocol, has been used 10 times in executions without serious incident," the state argued in its brief. "Petitioners can only cite to executions that took place using different drug combinations, or the Oklahoma execution of offender Lockett, in which IV access was subsequently found to be insufficient and flawed."
The court's four liberal justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- voiced deep concern about the three-drug protocol in trying to block Warner's execution last week. They also dissented last September when the court rejected a stay application from a Missouri inmate executed with the same drug.
"The questions before us are especially important now, given states' increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution," Sotomayor wrote. "Petitioners have committed horrific crimes and should be punished. But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death."
Then, tellingly, she added, "I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions."
The number of executions in the USA peaked at 98 in 1999, then dropped to 35 by last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Four prisoners have been executed so far this year.
Although the death penalty remains on the books in 36 states, a half dozen of them account for nearly all the recent executions in the United States: Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona and Ohio. Texas and Missouri do not use midazolam.
The next three prisoners set for execution in Oklahoma are Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole. Now, presumably, their executions -- including one set for next Thursday -- will be blocked while the Supreme Court considers their case.
In recent years, states that regularly carry out executions have been scrambling to find the drugs needed to carry out the death penalty. The preferred first drug had been sodium thiopental, a fast-action barbiturate no longer in supply as drugmakers and pharmacies -- particularly in Europe, where the death penalty is widely opposed -- have cut off production. Some states, such as Texas and Missouri, use pentobarbital alone or in combination with other drugs.
States that substituted midazolam, a psychoactive drug used as an anti-seizure medication and for sedation, have run into the most problems. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least seven states rely on midazolam.
The justices ruled in 2008 that using three drugs in succession to kill an inmate does not violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The first drug would render the inmate unconscious, a second would paralyze him and a third would stop the heart. But at the time, the drug supply was more reliable.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, January 23, 2015

Texas executes man who killed three

The 4th Execution of 2015
A New Mexico man convicted for a drug-fueled triple murder in San Antonio in 1993 was executed on January 21, 2015, reported the Texas Tribune.   Arnold Prieto was the first Texas inmate put to death under Gov. Greg Abbott, who was sworn into office the day before.
Prieto, 41, was convicted and sentenced to death in the lethal stabbing deaths of three people: 72-year-old Rodolfo Rodriguez, his 62-year-old wife, Virginia, and their 90-year-old friend, Paula Moran. Prieto was arrested along with two co-defendants, the Rodriguezes' grandnephews, brothers Guadalupe and Jesse Hernandez.
The brothers had convinced Prieto to travel from Carrollton to San Antonio to rob their great uncle, who ran a check-cashing business out of his home. Prieto told police that he and the Hernandez brothers spent the day using cocaine before committing the murders. The trio made off with $300 and some jewelry.
Jesse Hernandez, who was 16 at the time of the killings, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. The charges were dropped against his brother Guadalupe because of insufficient evidence.
With no appeals pending in the courts, Prieto was put to death shortly after 6 p.m. Asked if he had any final words, Prieto replied: "There are no endings, only beginnings. Love y'all. See you soon," according to the Associated Press.
Next week, two more death row inmates, Garcia White and Robert Ladd, are scheduled to be executed.
To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

GateHouse: A call for independent investigation of officer-related shootings

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
January 21, 2014
This week, the nation commemorated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leading black members of Congress chose to remember Dr. King at an event hosted by the Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, Missouri.
The church is just blocks from where protesters gathered after the grand jury declined to indict the police office responsible for 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death.
The congressmen attempted to connect the non-violent efforts of Dr. King during the civil rights movement nearly 50 years ago to the fight for criminal justice reform today.
“Ferguson is the new Selma,” said Congressman Andre Carson, D-Ind.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said the group planned to push for reform, such as expanded police use of body cameras and independent investigations of fatal police shootings.
According to The Associated Press, Butterfield called the prolonged protests over recent deaths — including Michael Brown, Eric Garner in New York City and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland — a “turning point in race relations.” Garner died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer during an arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes; Rice was shot in a park while holding a pellet gun.
There is support for police body cameras. President Barack Obama has asked for $263 million in funding for police body cameras and training. The program would provide funding over three years to help pay for more than 50,000 cameras.
Independent investigations of fatal police shootings will not be so easy: There will be resistance. Recently, the Miami City Commission voted to have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement probe all Miami police related shootings.
Miami's police union president, Sgt. Javier Ortiz, blasted commissioners in a two-page letter: “Miami cops aren’t killing people,” Ortiz wrote. “Bad people in our community are killing our loved ones.”
In St. Paul, Minnesota, the NAACP is calling for an independent investigation of an officer-involved shooting. “The St. Paul NAACP said the man who was killed is a black man in his 20s. The group has called for an independent investigation possibly by someone from outside of Minnesota,” reported KSTP-TV.
Last year, Wisconsin passed a law that requires outside investigation when people die in police custody — the first of its kind in the nation. State Rep. Garey Bies, a former county sheriff's deputy, co-sponsored the bill. Bies said he was troubled by three recent police related deaths in his state.
“I just saw a strong need to have some openness and some credibility, to assure the public that police are there to protect and serve and be upfront and honest with them,” Bies told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I believe the majority of police are, but when these things come up, it leaves a real question in your mind of what took place.”
The new law requires a team of at least two investigators from an outside agency to lead reviews of in-custody deaths.
The law requires the investigators to release a report of all death related investigations throughout the state if criminal charges are not filed against the officers involved. Law enforcement officials must also inform the victims’ families of their options to pursue additional reviews through the U.S. attorney’s office or other state-level agencies.
New Jersey is considering legislation that would require independent investigation of officer-involved deaths. Under the proposed bill, deaths involving a local police officer must be investigated by at least two independent people who are employed by a county prosecutor's office in a county other than where the incident occurred.
The legislation was introduced last October, a day after NJ Advance Media published a five-month investigation into the 2008 death of Kenwin Garcia, of Newark, after a struggle with New Jersey State Police troopers on the side of an interstate.
There will be more legislation to come as lawmakers respond to the growing concern over officer-involved deaths.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thiel College-The Death Penalty

Thiel College-Comment Project No. 1

Why is there a death penalty?

Prison crisis: 17 states' prison population over capacity

State prisons and local jails are overcrowded, reported the Washington Post. The problem is especially acute in 17 states where the prison population is now higher than the capacity of the facilities designed to hold them.
Those states, still recovering from a recession that decimated budgets, have to decide whether to build facilities with more beds, turn to private contractors, relax release policies — or simply stuff more prisoners into smaller spaces.
At the end of 2013, Illinois was housing 48,653 prisoners, according to data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The state’s prison facilities are designed to hold just 32,075 prisoners, meaning the system is operating at 151 percent of capacity. North Dakota’s 1,571 prisoners live in space meant for 1,044 people, 150 percent of capacity.
Nebraska, Ohio, Delaware, Colorado, Iowa and Hawaii are all holding a prison population equal to more than 110 percent of capacity.
To read more CLICK HERE