Nebraska Executes Carey Dean Moore, First State Execution Since 1997

The execution of Carey Dean Moore went forward on Tuesday after a federal appeals court denied a drug company’s request to halt the lethal injection over concerns about whether the drugs were obtained improperly by the state.

Nebraska executed Carey Dean Moore on Tuesday. It was the state’s first execution since 1997 and the first by lethal injection, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The execution went forward after a federal appeals court denied a drug company’s request to halt the lethal injection over concerns about whether the drugs were obtained improperly by the state, NPR reports.

Moore’s execution was scheduled to be the first time the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was used in a U.S. lethal injection. Moore, who has been in prison since 1980 after he was convicted of two first degree murders, has not challenged the execution protocol. He’s had seven other execution dates before this one.

The primary legal challenge was from German pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi, which makes potassium chloride and cisatracurium besylate, two of the four drugs in the protocol. An increasing number of pharmaceutical companies have taken legal action against states using their products in executions, which has made it difficult for states to obtain the drugs.

The state has not disclosed its supplier. Fresenius Kabi said it has “grounds to believe” that Nebraska is using their drugs. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf said the company’s claim that the drug’s use would cause it “irreparable injury” was “far too speculative.”

Nebraska said it contacted at least forty potential suppliers and six other states to find the drugs used in the execution.

An unidentified supplier was the only one willing to sell Nebraska the drugs. One of the substances expires on Aug. 31. Nebraska had argued that any delay could render it unable to carry out executions indefinitely.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Drug Firm Still Trying to Block Nebraska Execution

A federal judge in Nebraska refused to block Tuesday’s execution of Carey Dean Moore, rejecting the Fresenius Kabi pharmaceutical company’s claims that using its drugs in a lethal injection will harm its business interests. The company is asking an appeals court to halt the execution.

A federal judge in Nebraska refused to block Tuesday’s execution of Carey Dean Moore, rejecting the Fresenius Kabi pharmaceutical company’s claims that using its drugs in a lethal injection will harm its business interests, reports the Omaha World-Herald. The firm will appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf sided with attorneys for the state, who insisted that prison officials legally obtained the drugs from a licensed pharmacy and are almost out of time to carry out the execution before one of the drugs expires. The judge said he did not want to “frustrate the wishes of Carey Dean Moore,” who has said he wants to die after 38 years on death row. Kopf discussed at length how 61 percent of Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty in 2016, after it had been repealed by legislators.

“Decades have slipped by since Mr. Moore was sentenced to death,” Kopf said. “The people of Nebraska have spoken. Any delay now is tantamount to nullifying Nebraska law.” Unless the decision is quickly overturned on appeal, Moore will become the first inmate put to death by lethal injection in Nebraska. He is scheduled to be executed for the slayings of Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland five days apart in 1979. Nebraska’s last execution took place in 1997, when the state used the electric chair. Lethal injection was adopted in 2009. Moore, 60, did not join the drug company’s lawsuit. There have been seven previous stays of Moore’s execution. The Germany-based pharmaceutical company contended that it would suffer losses in sales and business reputation if its products were used to kill an inmate. The company alleged that prison officials either improperly or illegally obtained a drug that should have never been sold for an execution.

from https://thecrimereport.org

TN Executes Inmate After Sotomayor Seeks Delay

Murderer Billy Ray Irick was put to death in Tennessee after the Supreme Court refused to stop the execution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the U.S. had “stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissenting from an execution order on Thursday, said if the law allowed Tennessee inmate Billy Ray Irick to die despite evidence of “horrific” pain during the process, the U.S. has “stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism,” the National Law Journal reports. Irick was put to death Thursday evening. Sotomayor criticized an unsigned order that denied a stay of execution to Irick, who challenged the three-drug cocktail the state used. He argued the drugs would result in excruciating torture before killing him. Experts testified that the drug cocktail would cause “sensations of drowning, suffocating, and being burned alive from the inside out,” Sotomayor said. “In theory, the first drug in the three-drug protocol, midazolam, is supposed to render a person unable to feel pain during an execution. But the medical experts who testified here explained that midazolam would not work, and the trial court credited that testimony.”

Because of the “rushed context” of Irick’s emergency application for a stay, the trial record was not before the justices. Sotomayor said she would grant Irick’s stay request to allow the state courts more time to consider his claims. Irick was sentenced to death for raping and killing 7-year-old Paula Dyer. A lower-court judge ruled against Irick and 32 other inmates challenging the drug protocol after finding Irick had not proved that a less painful method of executing him was available to the state and that, even assuming an alternative was available, the U.S. Supreme Court would not find the three-drug cocktail sufficiently cruel to violate the Eighth Amendment. The “less painful alternative” was a requirement imposed by the high court in a 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Sotomayor described the requirement as “perverse” in making inmates offer alternative methods for killing themselves.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Despite the Pope, Nebraska Gov. To Execute Murderer

Catholic Gov. Pete Ricketts, who helped fund a drive to restore capital punishment in his state, says he will proceed with the execution of Carey Dean Moore on Aug. 14 despite the pope’s opposition to capital punishment.

When Nebraska lawmakers repealed the death penalty three years ago over the strong objections of Gov. Pete Ricketts, the governor–a Roman Catholic Republican–used his family fortune to help bankroll a referendum to reinstate capital punishment. After a contentious battle, voters restored the death penalty in 2016. This month, Nebraska is scheduled to execute convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore in what would be the state’s first execution in 21 years,the New York Times reports.

Protesters have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion to oppose  Moore’s execution. Pope Francis this week declared that executions are unacceptable in all cases, a shift from earlier church doctrine that had accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives. Coming only days before the Aug. 14 execution here, the pope’s stance seemed to create an awkward position for Ricketts, who is favored to win a bid for re-election this fall. Ricketts, who has said that he viewed his position on the death penalty as compatible with Catholicism, said on Thursday that, “While I respect the pope’s perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the state of Nebraska. It is an important tool to protect our corrections officers and public safety. The state continues to carry out the sentences ordered by the court.” Nebraska’s Catholic bishops urged people to contact state officials to stop the scheduled execution of Moore and cited the pope. “Simply put, the death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska,” the bishops wrote.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Execution Reporter Graczyk to Continue Post-Retirement

Michael Graczyk is retiring as an Associated Press correspondent but will continue to observe executions. After writing about 429 in Texas, the AP says, “his reporting has shaped how lawyers, politicians and citizens think about the death penalty.”

Michael Graczyk watches people die for a living. Year after year, when the state of Texas would strap an inmate to the gurney in the Huntsville death chamber, Graczyk was there to pay witness. After 45 years and 429, he is retiring from his full-time job as an Associated Press correspondent. He is not giving up the work of witnessing death. Graczyk has asked, and the AP has agreed, to let him continue covering executions, the Dallas Morning News reports. The work is too important to stop, Graczyk said Tuesday in Dallas’ AP bureau. “I can’t think of any greater authority that the government has than the power to take your life or my life,” he said. “If they’re going to do that and there’s a law that says they can, then it’s up to people like me to see if it’s being done properly.”

Graczyk, 68, believes he is uniquely qualified to be a watchdog over the process from start to finish. “If there is a botched execution, I think it’s important for someone like me to be there and explain ‘Here’s what happened,’ ” he said. “There was one week when they did four. You have to be so conscious of getting the right names, the right facts and circumstances.” Noreen Gillespie, the AP’s deputy managing editor for U.S. news, called Graczyk “an institution.” She added, “Mike’s reporting is how much of the world knows about, and understands, the death penalty in America. Often, he was the only, or one of the only, reporters to be there as an execution happened. He has done so much more than bear witness to the conclusion of criminal cases – his reporting has shaped how lawyers, politicians and citizens think about the death penalty.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Tennessee Judge Rejects Challenge to Execution Drugs

The ruling by Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle is a blow to 33 death row inmates who had challenged the state’s lethal injection protocol, saying it led to cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Billy Ray Irick’s execution is scheduled Aug. 9.

Tennessee can use controversial drugs to execute inmates on death row despite concerns from defense attorneys and experts that doing so is “akin to burning someone alive,” a Nashville judge has ruled, The Tennessean reports. The ruling is a blow to 33 death row inmates who had challenged the state’s lethal injection protocol, saying it led to cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Among them is Billy Ray Irick, who is scheduled to be executed Aug. 9. The inmates will appeal. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle said inmates failed to meet two critical bars necessary to overturn an execution method: that there is a different, readily available and less painful means to carry out the execution, and that the drugs the state plans to use would cause the inmate to be tortured to death.

Lyle said the inmates proved neither during a two-week trial that ended closed Tuesday. “Although dreadful and grim, it is the law that while surgeries should be pain-free, there is no constitutional requirement for that with executions,” Lyle wrote. Lethal injection is the primary means of carrying out the death penalty in Tennessee, although the electric chair is also legal. The state had used pentobarbital, a barbiturate, but manufacturers have largely stopped selling the drug to anyone using it for executions. In January, the state adopted a new lethal injection protocol that called for a three-drug cocktail. Lyle conceded that “the inmate being executed may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs.” A defense lawyer cited a U.S. Supreme Court case in which Chief Justice John Roberts held that if an inmate was able to feel the effects of these two drugs, the method of execution violates the Constitution.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Federal Death Penalty Prosecutors Accuse Each Other

Federal prosecutors charged with promoting “consistency and fairness” in death penalty cases has been making accusations against one another, from neglecting boxes of evidence to destroying interview notes. Defense attorneys want to know why this is the first they’re hearing about the alleged misconduct.

A team of federal prosecutors charged with promoting “consistency and fairness” in death penalty cases has been hurling on-the-record accusations against one another — from neglecting boxes of evidence to destroying interview notes — and defense attorneys want to know why this is the first they’re hearing about the alleged misconduct, The Intercept reports. A recent internal dispute and civil lawsuit prompted some members of the Capital Case Section to speak up about serious misconduct in some death penalty cases. In 2016, federal prosecutor Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss sued the Justice Department, alleging supervisors in the Capital Case Section discriminated against her and retaliated when she filed a complaint. A judge tossed out her lawsuit in June, but she intends to appeal.

Defense attorneys are questioning the capital case unit’s overall integrity. “It is safe to assume that if Ms. Rodriguez-Coss had never filed her gender-discrimination suit, the government never would have disclosed even the limited information it has now provided,” defense attorneys wrote to a judge. James Peterson, who still works on the death penalty team, allegedly destroyed interview notes he took as part of an ongoing murder case in Indiana. The defendant’s attorney would have never known that the interviews happened in the first place — much less about the possibility of destroyed evidence — if it weren’t for Amanda Haines, who retired from the team in 2017 and submitted a sworn statement in support of Rodriguez-Coss’s lawsuit. In an affidavit, Haines, who worked for the Justice Department for about two decades, said she brought concerns to her supervisors about the way some of her male colleagues handled cases, but they did nothing.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Ohio Conducts Its First Execution in 2018

Convicted of the horrific murder of a Cincinnati man, Robert Van Hook died by lethal injection in Ohio’s first execution in more than 10 months. Van Hook, 58, served a violence-plagued 32 years in prison after a death-penalty conviction for what now could be considered a hate crime.

Convicted of the horrific murder of a Cincinnati man, Robert Van Hook died by lethal injection on Wednesday in Ohio’s first execution in more than 10 months, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Van Hook, 58, served a violence-plagued 32 years in prison after a death-penalty conviction for what now could be considered a hate crime. In 1985, Van Hook met David Self in a gay bar in downtown Cincinnati and went home with him. He lured Self into a vulnerable position and strangled him into unconsciousness. “He then took a paring knife from the kitchen and stabbed the victim behind the right ear, aiming the thrust upward toward the brain, accompanied by a blade-twisting movement,” said a report on possible clemency for Van Hook.

Van Hook raised the defense that he was in a “homosexual panic” when he committed the crime, but prosecutors rejected the notion. Illinois and California have outlawed the defense. In their unsuccessful bid for clemency, Van Hook’s attorneys cited his difficult childhood. “From the time of his birth until his arrest, Robert Van Hook lived in an environment that can only be described as chaos,” their report said. His mother, who had a history of mental illness, abused alcohol and drugs and became enmeshed in repeated, mutually abusive relationships. His father also drank heavily, beat Van Hook and was a virulent homophobe, the lawyers wrote. In decades in prison, Van Hook amassed a lengthy disciplinary record. It includes more than two dozen incidents, including stabbing another inmate in the face and chest and threatening to kill corrections officers. Van Hook’s execution was the first in Ohio in 2018. He was the 56th man to be executed in Ohio since 1999. Two more executions are scheduled for later this year. A total of 137 people remain under death sentences.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texan Complains Of Secretive Process Before Execution

Before his execution Tuesday, convicted murderer Chris Young targeted Texas’ secretive clemency process. He had sued the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, charging that it rejected his clemency petition because he is black.

In his final fight before his execution Tuesday, Chris Young targeted Texas’ secretive clemency process. On Friday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously rejected Young’s clemency petition. Hours later, Young’s lawyers filed suit against the board members, claiming that they likely voted against a recommendation to reduce his sentence or halt his execution because he is black, reports the Texas Tribune. The appeal was a long shot, and one he ultimately lost in federal court before the state put him to death for the 2004 robbery and murder of Hasmukh Patel at Patel’s San Antonio store.

Though unsuccessful, the late filing highlighted a long-established criticism of Texas clemency: the reasoning for the board’s decision is unknown to the public, and members usually cast their votes remotely without comment or a hearing. Though members must certify that they do not cast their votes because of the inmate’s race, they also don’t have to give any reason for their decision. The state noted in its response to the filing that the appeal doesn’t point to any specific evidence of racial discrimination. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison reluctantly rejected the filing, expressing frustration with his inability to allow for further examination of potential racial bias. “Those engaging in race discrimination seldom announce their motivations,” Ellison wrote. “It is no small tragedy that in this case neither Plaintiff nor Defendants will ever know what role, if any, racial bias has played.” Young was 21 when he entered Patel’s San Antonio store in 2004 and fatally shot Patel during an attempted robbery. He was sentenced to death in 2006.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mental Issues Surround TN Man Due for Execution

Tennessee plans to kill Billy Ray Irick next month by lethal injection. The jury never heard much evidence of his mental illness, which did not emerge until years after his conviction.

Tennessee plans to kill Billy Ray Irick next month by lethal injection. If the execution goes through on August 9, a few weeks before his 60th birthday, he will be the seventh person put to death in the state since 2000, The Intercept reports.  On death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, near Nashville, Irick has faced at least three previous execution dates, most recently in 2014. But there is an urgency this time, his longtime attorney, Gene Shiles, says. “This one feels much more ominous.” Irick was convicted in 1986 of raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl. He was arrested and confessed soon after the crime. Irick had stayed with the child’s family for two years before the murder. , according to court filings; defense attorneys “attempted to create reasonable doubt about the identity of the perpetrator” during the guilt phase of the trial, yet called “no witnesses.”

The Nashville Scene described Irick’s harrowing upbringing — as a child, he said his mother tied him with a rope and beat him — along with compelling evidence that he suffered from severe mental illness. A picture of Irick’s profound mental problems did not come out until years after his conviction, Shiles explains, when an investigator working for his attorneys went to Knoxville and “discovered some hugely important facts that came from the victim’s family — that he was hallucinating and having psychotic episodes at the time that this occurred.” In affidavits, members of the family described Irick “hearing voices” and “talking with the devil.” The jury never heard this evidence. If they had, there’s reason to believe that the outcome of the case could have been different. As Hale writes, the same psychologist who examined Irick before his trial “stated in an affidavit that he no longer had confidence in his initial evaluation, which had been used to argue against an insanity defense.”

from https://thecrimereport.org