Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ohio fights FDA to import execution drugs

Ohio prison officials think they have found a way to potentially import an execution drug without running afoul of the federal Food and Drug Administration, reported the Columbus Dispatch.

In a letter sent today to the FDA, Stephen Gray, chief counsel of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, argued that if the state meets a series of five criteria, including that the drug, sodium thiopental, is from an FDA-registered source, then it is legal to import.

Ohio has not executed an inmate since Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs being used for the first time anywhere in the U.S.

The FDA in June warned state prison officials that the agency learned the state was trying to obtain bulk dosages of sodium thiopental, which is not available in the United States.

“Please note that there is no FDA-approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States,” the FDA wrote.

The state did not follow through with a foreign drug purchase, and state officials responded today arguing that there is a legal way to import the drug under a 2012 court ruling.

“The responsibility to carry out lawful and humane executions when called upon by the courts to do so is enormous, and it is the responsibility that ODRC does not take lightly,” Gray wrote. “ To that end, ODRC has no intention of attempting to procure drugs for legal injection in a manner that would violate a proper interpretation of the (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act).”

Gray wrote that he wants to start talks with the FDA to determine how to legally procure drugs for lethal injection.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

GateHouse: Crime-free zones do more harm than good

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
October 9, 2015
Officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, are considering whether to create “public safety zones,” areas within the city where people with past convictions, and merely arrests, would be restricted from entering.

Charlotte is not the first city to pursue such restrictions. In 2011, North Arlington, Texas, home of Cowboy Stadium, made the neighborhoods around the stadium prostitution-free zones before and during Super Bowl XLV.

In 1992, Portland, Oregon, was the first jurisdiction to create drug and prostitution exclusion zones. Some crimes, such as prostitution, easily fit into zones where all such activity is closely monitored and aggressively pursued.

Fifteen years later, former Portland Mayor Tom Potter abolished the zones, saying they just moved criminal activity to new areas and that African-Americans were being disproportionately excluded from the designated areas.

This is not Charlotte’s first foray into unusual attempts to curb crime. In 2005 the city created “prostitution-free zones” that later expired after three years, having made no real impact on crime. Two years ago, in another crime fighting innovation, according to the Charlotte Observer, the city was granted an injunction that barred gang members from the Hidden Valley Kings from associating with one another.

One obvious problem with public safety zones is the wide net they cast. An individual with an arrest, not just a conviction, may be prohibited from entering a safety zone. This limits a former offender, or a non-offender for that matter, access to employment, accommodations, medical treatment and other essential services and recreational activities.

The other problem with public safety zones is that people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. As a result, minority and low-income neighborhoods will be disproportionately affected by public safety zones.

Research by the Justice Policy Institute conducted in Massachusetts and Connecticut supports the notion that urban communities of color are disproportionately impacted by prohibited zones, and that enforcement of the laws have little or nothing to do with protecting the public. Research also suggests that there may be sharp disparities in the way crime-free zone laws are enforced.

Under Charlotte’s controversial proposal, the police chief could designate a high-crime area as a safety zone in response to crimes such as drug sales or discharging guns on public property.

Someone who has been arrested for crimes in the area could be issued a notice that they are no longer allowed to enter, for as long as the safety zone is in effect. Entering the zone after being prohibited would result in a misdemeanor charge.

According to Justice Strategies, a Brooklyn based nonprofit research organization, a stunning 96 percent of New Jersey prisoners sentenced under the state’s drug-free zone laws were African-American or Hispanic. In Connecticut, majority nonwhite cities had ten times more zones per square mile than cities where less than 10 percent of residents were African-American or Hispanic.

Charlotte City Council member Al Austin told the Observer, “We were looking for additional tools that could address some of the criminal behavior. … We want something more flexible.” There is some urgency to finding new solutions. Violent crimes — including homicides — are up this year in Charlotte compared with 2014.

“Truthfully, I don’t know if they will do any good,” said city council member Claire Fallon, who chairs the public safety committee. “If someone doesn’t obey the law, do you think a safety zone will impress them?”

The uses of crime-free zones as proposed in Charlotte have the potential to do more harm than good. Stigmatizing former offenders and alienating individuals who are under court ordered supervision may make neighborhoods less safe and citizens more vulnerable.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. 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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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Texas executes gang member who killed a man for $8

The 23rd Execution of 2015
Juan Martin Garcia, a teenage Houston gang member who spent his entire adulthood on Texas' death row, was executed on October 6, 2015 for the 1998 robbery murder of one-time Mexican missionary Hugo Solano.
According to the Houston Chronicle, although Garcia's lawyers fought to save him by asserting that he was mentally impaired, and thus ineligible for execution, and that the punishment phase of his trial was tainted by a psychologist's racially tinged testimony, state and federal courts declined to act in his favor. Garcia's last hope ended when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-2 not to recommend clemency.
Garcia, 35, administered a massive dose of sodium pentobarbital, was the 11th Texas killer executed this year. Three others currently are scheduled to be put to death by year's end.
Solano, 36, the father of two young children, was shot four times in the head and neck on Sept. 17, 1998 as he was accosted in an apartment complex parking lot in the 17000 block of Cali by Garcia and three other men. He was robbed of $8.
Lynn Hardaway, chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Post-Conviction Writ Division, said the robbery was part of a crime spree, which included nine additional aggravated robberies and the shooting of two other individuals.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DOJ: Use-of-Force Data is Vital for Transparency and Accountability

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch called for national, consistent data on law enforcement interactions with the communities they serve, especially data collection on the use-of-force.  The Attorney General noted that the department has already taken steps to improve the accuracy and consistency of use-of-force data from law enforcement.
“The department’s position and the administration’s position has consistently been that we need to have national, consistent data,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “This information is useful because it helps us see trends, it helps us promote accountability and transparency,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “We’re also going further in developing standards for publishing information about deaths in custody as well, because transparency and accountability are helped by this kind of national data.”
Currently, federal authorities publish annual figures on the number of “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement.  But this reporting is voluntary and not all police departments participate, causing the figures to be incomplete.  That’s why the Justice Department and the Obama Administration are taking steps to work with law enforcement to improve the process.
“This data is not only vital – we are working closely with law enforcement to develop national consistent standards for collecting this kind of information,” Attorney General Lynch added.
The FBI recently announced that the Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (UCR) will begin to collect data on non-fatal shootings between law enforcement and civilians.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

California passes racial profiling law, police aren't happy

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation mandating that law enforcement agencies in the state collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police, The Los Angeles Times says that for civil rights activists, the measure is a big step toward protecting minorities from racial profiling. For many in law enforcement, it creates a massive new bureaucratic headache that will do little to illuminate the question of whether police treat minority groups fairly.
"It's a terrible piece of legislation," said Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Assosication and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police. The law will require officers to collect data on anyone they stop, including "perceived" race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and whether arrests were made.
The Crime Report posted, law enforcement organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police and the 65,000-member Peace Officers Research Association of California, had asked Brown to veto the bill, arguing that its reporting requirements would be burdensome to police and costly to taxpayers. Said James: "We have contact with the public all the time that requires no documentation, no paperwork. Now, the amount of time we have to spend doing documentation and paperwork has gone up. The time doing menial tasks has gone up."\
James contended that there is no racial profiling but rather "criminal profiling" by police. That position would be a hard sell to the bill's supporters, who cited studies showing that unarmed black men are many times more likely to die by police gunfire than unarmed white men.
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Supreme Court rules request for stay "moot" after execution

Last week, the Supreme Court issued a posthumous response to Alfredo Prieto, a serial killer on Virginia's death row whose lawyers had petitioned the court several times to put his execution on hold, according to The Huffington Post.
In the short, unsigned order, the justices dismissed Prieto's request "as moot" -- meaning neither a grant nor a denial of a stay of execution would have helped him. Prieto was executed on October 1, 2015.
The day before, the court had denied two other petitions from Prieto's attorneys, who were hoping legal challenges over Virginia's drug protocol would sway the justices to temporarily delay their client's execution.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oklahoma tries to squeeze out an execution with unauthorized drug

Oklahoma officials considered improvising once again during an execution when they realized they had a drug not legally approved for use in Oklahoma lethal injections, sources told The Frontier.
Officials “briefly considered” using potassium acetate for the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip last week, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said. The drug is not part of Oklahoma’s legally approved protocol.
Now three scheduled executions will be stayed indefinitely as state officials say they’re investigating what went wrong this time, so Oklahoma “can properly and lawfully administer the sentence of death.”
Two hours before Glossip’s scheduled execution, Department of Corrections officials said, prison staff opened a sealed box of drugs that had arrived hours earlier to find that it contained potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride.
After a request from the Attorney General’s office, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued indefinite stays for Glossip and two other inmates scheduled to die in October.
State officials repeatedly used the phrase “legal ambiguity” Thursday in reference to questions about whether the state considered substituting potassium acetate at the last minute for Glossip’s execution.
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