The Republic: NC Supreme Court rules that state officials acted properly in setting new execution rules

The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that state officials acted properly when approving new capital punishment guidelines four years ago.

In a ruling published Friday, the court found that the Council of State did nothing wrong in 2007 when it signed off on a new protocol for lethal injection developed by the Department of Correction.

Lawyers for five death row inmates had argued the council, which consists of statewide elected officeholders, violated a law regulating the way state agencies approve policies.

David Weiss of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation says the court’s ruling is unlikely to mean that executions will immediately resume in North Carolina. Weiss says other court challenges to capital punishment are pending.

No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006

Available here: NC Supreme Court rules that state officials acted properly in setting new exectution rules

Winston-Salem Journal: Judge was right to order officials to revise protocol for executions

“An administrative law judge was right to order North Carolina’s statewide elected officials to revise the protocol for the execution of prisoners on death row, according to attorneys who are preparing to make that case to the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The state’s top court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case involving five death-row inmates that has partly contributed to an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina. A ruling in those inmates’ favor wouldn’t overturn the death penalty or immediately force revised protocols for carrying it out but would send the case to a lower court for review.

The case essentially centers on whether Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison had sufficient jurisdiction to order the Council of State, which consists of North Carolina’s 10 statewide elected officials, to revise the protocol governing the death penalty.

The council argued that Morrison’s 2007 ruling lacked that force. A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled in the council’s favor, and now attorneys for the death-row inmates are asking the Supreme Court to settle the issue.

“The Council of State’s role, as outlined in the North Carolina statutes, is an important one that allows for transparent review before the execution is actually implemented,” said Durham lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt, who represents death-row inmate Jerry Conner.

The inmates’ attorneys argue that the council essentially failed to fulfill its duties in that role when it signed off on new execution procedures in February 2007. The new procedures had been announced by the state Department of Corrections about two weeks earlier, but a judge almost immediately entered a stay on several executions, citing a 100-year-old law requiring the council to approve any new death-penalty protocols.”

 

Judge was right to order officials to revise protocol for executions

 

“An administrative law judge was right to order North Carolina’s statewide elected officials to revise the protocol for the execution of prisoners on death row, according to lawyers who are preparing to make that case to the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The state’s top court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case involving five death row inmates that has partly contributed to an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina. A ruling in those inmates’ favor wouldn’t overturn the death penalty or immediately force revised protocols for carrying it out, but would send the case to a lower court for review.

The case essentially centers on whether Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison had sufficient jurisdiction to order the Council of State, which consists of North Carolina’s 10 statewide elected officials, to revise the protocol governing the death penalty.

The council argued that Morrison’s 2007 ruling lacked that force. A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled in the council’s favor, and now lawyers for the death row inmates are asking the Supreme Court to settle the issue.

“The Council of State’s role, as outlined in the North Carolina statutes, is an important one that allows for transparent review before the execution is actually implemented,” said Durham lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt, who represents death row inmate Jerry Conner.

The inmates’ lawyers argue that the council essentially failed to fulfill its duties in that role, when it signed off on new execution procedures in February 2007. The new procedures had been announced by the state Department of Corrections about two weeks earlier, but a judge almost immediately entered a stay on several executions, citing a 100-year-old law requiring the council to approve any new death penalty protocols.

The inmates contend that the council then hastily approved the protocol without hearing from those representing condemned prisoners, and Morrison agreed.

“The legislature intended that there be some public scrutiny and review about executions and the method of executions in the state in part to ensure it was not done in a tortuous manner,” said Ken Rose, a lawyer with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation who also represents Conner.

“Our contention is there has not been that type of review, and the Council of State has not satisfied the statute,” he said.”

North Carolina Supreme Court will hear arguments to determine future of state’s death penalty



NC high court to hear case on death penalty process

Raleigh, NC — An administrative law judge was right to order North Carolina’s statewide elected officials to revise the protocol for the execution of prisoners on death row, according to lawyers who are preparing to make that case to the state Supreme Court on Monday.

The state’s top court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case involving five death row inmates that has partly contributed to an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment in North Carolina. A ruling in those inmates’ favor wouldn’t overturn the death penalty or immediately force revised protocols for carrying it out, but would send the case to a lower court for review.

The case essentially centers on whether Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison had sufficient jurisdiction to order the Council of State, which consists of North Carolina’s 10 statewide elected officials, to revise the protocol governing the death penalty.

Read more here.

N.C. runs out of key lethal injection drug

North Carolina is among other states that have run out of a key lethal injection drug.

An Associated Press review shows that the drug called Sodium Thiopental has become scarce over the past year, so much so that a few states have had to postpone executions.

However North Carolina does not have any executions scheduled. But the delays could become more widespread across the country because of a decision last week to stop producing it. Some states have begun casting about for a substitute. Switching to another drug will take more than just a stroke of a pen in most places. Several states have lengthy regulatory and review processes.

Thirty-five states have capital punishment.

Video at the link: N.C. runs out of key lethal injection drug

Life in prison worse than death sentence for Cecil New, judge says

Interesting case in Kentucky…I guess the death penalty is now reserved for the middle or second to worst offenders…

From Jason Riley at Courier-Journal

“Saying the death penalty was not a harsh enough punishment for kidnapping and murdering a 4-year-old boy, a Jefferson Circuit judge ordered Cecil New II to serve the rest of his life in prison, surrounded by “bigger, meaner men who have nothing to lose.”

Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman sentenced Cecil New II to life in prison without parole. (Kylene Lloyd, The Courier-Journal) December 17, 2010

“He will fear for his life every day,” Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman told the family of 4-year-old Ivan Aguilar-Cano, who disappeared while playing outside his home near Churchill Downs in 2007 and was murdered by New.

“He will wish this court had put him on death row.”

New, a 49-year-old registered sex offender who lived only a few blocks from his victim, looked on dispassionately, saying nothing, as McDonald-Burkman handed down her decision on whether he should live or die.

Death is undoubtedly justified for you,” McDonald-Burkman told him. “There’s not one cell in your body, Cecil New, that can be rehabilitated, not one. But is a death sentence justice?”

Ivan’s family, including his mother, who listened to the sentencing through an interpreter, left through a back hallway afterward but said through a spokesman, activist Christopher 2X, that while they understood the judge’s decision, they felt that “a life for a life should be the appropriate penalty.”

Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman.

Since a November hearing in which prosecutors asked that New be sentenced to death, McDonald-Burkman said she had investigated the differences between the life of a death-row inmate and one serving a life sentence.

On death row, she said, inmates are segregated from other prisoners and can have meals sent to their cell without ever having to be around anyone else, and typically an execution is not scheduled

for at least 20 years. With the life sentence, New will have to congregate with other prisoners and “is never truly isolated.”

The unusually frank language from McDonald-Burkman included scenarios on how New’s life would play out in living in prison, without the possibility for parole.

“Death is easy,” she said. “Living outside of death row, in general population, in fear of prison justice every day is a hell more suited to you, Mr. New, than living under the protective guise of death row.”

Full article here: Life in prison worse than death sentence for Cecil New, Judge says

The New York Times weighs in

Two years ago, when a splintered Supreme Court approved lethal injection as a means of execution in Baze v. Rees, Justice John Paul Stevens made a prophecy. Instead of ending the controversy, he said, the ruling would raise questions “about the justification for the death penalty itself.” Since then, evidence has continued to mount, showing the huge injustice of the death penalty — and the particular barbarism of this form of execution.

To read the rest, click here.

BBC World Service: Audio: The Iranian Lawyer who has saved 50 people from execution

Iranian lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei. Photo Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images

“If a person commits a crime you have to go look at the roots, see what the roots are, you have to analyze the personality and analyze the situation.  It was my personal analysis of the situation that lead me to believe death penalty, capital punishment is not the answer”

A fantastic interview with Mohammad Mostafaei, who is currently exiled in Norway, facing prison at home in Iran for his high profile campaign against the death penalty.  He has saved 50 people from stoning and hanging execution sentences, including a dozen children under the age of 18.  He discusses the biases and even unlawful behavior in the Iranian judicial system.

Full audio interview here: Fighting Iran’s stoning sentence

Wall Street Journal: Death Penalty’s Latest Challenge: A Scarcity of Drugs

“The death penalty has been challenged from many different angles in recent years. But who could have imagined that executions would be delayed in some states due to the shortage of a drug used in lethal injections?

Albert Greenwood Brown Jr. was scheduled to die today in California, which has not had an execution in nearly five years. The execution date was set for Thursday in part because California’s supply of thiopental sodium, one of the three drugs used in lethal injections, is due to expire tomorrow.

But legal challenges have halted the Brown execution meaning California may be one drug short of the cocktail needed to resume executions.”

Full article: Death Penalty’s Latest Challenge: A Scarcity of Drugs

Debate on erasing the death penalty in N.C. continues

“With several legal questions surrounding the state’s execution methods still fresh in people’s minds, some questions are being raised as to whether or not the Death Penalty is still appropriate for North Carolina. Yet another contention arose this week as appeals poured in this week from death row inmates saying they don’t deserve to be executed because of the Racial Justice Act. This left experts asking if this will cause another delay in carrying out death row sentences.

As of next Wednesday, it will be four years since the state has executed anyone. In that time, there have been multiple legal challenges to the state’s executions. First from the Medical Board, who was concerned about doctors being present at executions, because they took an oath not to kill. That was defeated. Then two questions are still in the court system about the actual type of execution. One case surrounds whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual, and the other asks if the state followed the proper procedures to determine the type of execution used.”

Video in the link

«Debate on erasing the death penalty in N.C. continues

Video: Execution Tour of NC Death Row

A 2007 death penalty documentary short film by Scott Langley with an in-depth tour of North Carolina execution facilities in Raleigh and final hour preparations before an execution.

It is interesting to note that like in the Utah firing range, one of the three executioners on hand that deliver the lethal chemicals is unknowingly given a harmless chemical dosage to deliver.  The state has recognized that, like the blank conscience round in Utah, this diffuses the responsibility of the death amongst the executioners; for their mental well-being as they participate in this medically declared “homicide.”