Juror Concerns Prompt Ohio Execution Delay

Ohio murderer Raymond Tibbetts will get a second chance to avoid execution because one of the jurors from his trial is having second thoughts about his death sentence. Tibbetts, who was scheduled to die Tuesday by lethal injection, got a reprieve from Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The state parole board will consider a juror’s concern that the jury did not get to hear evidence about Tibbetts’ life and history.

Ohio murderer Raymond Tibbetts will get a second chance to avoid execution because one of the jurors from his trial is having second thoughts about his death sentence, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Tibbetts, who was scheduled to die Tuesday by lethal injection, got a reprieve Thursday from Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich said he wanted to give Tibbetts another hearing before the Ohio Parole Board to consider whether the juror’s concerns justify sparing his life. Kasich moved Tibbetts’ execution date to Oct. 17 to give the board more time. The juror, Ross Geiger, said jurors did not get to hear evidence about Tibbetts’ life and history that could have changed their decision to recommend the death penalty. At his clemency hearing last year, Tibbetts’ lawyers argued that he suffered abuse, neglect and abandonment as a child.

“I had faith in the system in which I made my vote for death, but Ohio’s criminal justice system failed me and Mr. Tibbetts,” Geiger wrote in a column published this week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I urge Gov. Kasich to show mercy by exercising his power of clemency to commute Mr. Tibbetts’ sentence of death.” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, whose office sought a death sentence for Tibbetts, said he understands the governor’s decision to delay, but he believes the original sentence should stand. “It’s pretty serious business when you’re going to execute someone,” Deters said. “It’s frustrating for a lot of people, but the reality is this: If the governor has questions, it’s his job to stop it. Tibbetts was convicted of killing his wife and landlord in 1997.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Execution Is 2018’s Third in State, Nation

After nearly four hours of delays prompted by last-minute claims of dated injection drugs and botched executions, John Battaglia of Dallas was put to death for killing his two daughters.

After nearly four hours of delays prompted by last-minute claims of dated injection drugs and botched executions, John Battaglia of Dallas was put to death on Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reports. Battaglia, 62, had fatally shot his daughters, 9 and 6. Battaglia’s was the third execution of the year, both in Texas and across the nation. Last year, amid a long-term decline in capital punishment, Texas put to death seven prisoners, the most of any state.

Battaglia’s attorneys said he didn’t have a rational understanding of his execution. The state said that he did. In a related claim turned down Thursday by a federal appeals court, Battaglia’s lawyers alleged that he was wrongly denied funding to investigate his competency claims. Just four hours before he was scheduled to die, defense counsel asked for a reprieve in light of fresh claims about the state’s last two lethal injections, including one where witnesses said the prisoner appeared to be jerking in pain, and another where the inmate said the drug burned. “This is nothing more than legal maneuvering,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark, pointing out that both men received more than twice the lethal dose of death drugs and were pronounced dead after 13 minutes. “The executions took place without incident. To claim otherwise is not factual.” Battaglia’s lawyers alleged that the state’s supplies of the lethal barbiturate sodium pentobarbital are too old and should have been tossed close to a year ago. Federal courts did not agree, rejecting his appeals.

from https://thecrimereport.org

TX Executes Dallas Man Who Murdered Two Women

Another execution is scheduled Thursday in Texas, which would mark the third in the state this year. Tuesday’s lethal injection was delayed two hours by Supreme Court appeals.

A Dallas man who was on parole for the murder of his estranged wife when he stabbed and strangled his ex-girlfriend in 1999 was executed last night, the Houston Chronicle reports. The execution of William Earl Rayford, which took 13 minutes to carry out, was delayed more than two hours by a pair of pending Supreme Court appeals, including claims that racially biased testimony tainted his sentencing. With another execution on the calendar for Thursday, this week could be the first time in five years that Texas has seen back-to-back executions so close together. John David Battaglia is scheduled to be put to death. He was convicted of killing his two daughters in 2001 while narrating the slayings to his estranged wife on the other end of the phone.

Two weeks ago, Texas carried out the nation’s first execution of 2018 with the lethal injection of Houston-area serial killer Anthony Shore. Rayford was sent to death row 17 years ago, following the gruesome slaying of Carol Hall. The crime eerily echoed a 1986 killing that netted him a 23-year prison sentence. In the earlier killing, the former glass cutter had stabbed his ex-wife Gail Rayford 16 times, just after she won a temporary restraining order against him. Rayford spent eight years behind bars for the crime, but was released on mandatory supervision under a law that has since changed. In 1999, Rayford slipped into the home of Hall, his ex-girlfriend, stabbed her 12-year-old son and chased the terrified mother down the street.

from https://thecrimereport.org

CA Moves Closer to Resuming Executions, Lacks Drugs

The state with the nation’s largest death row unveiled a single-drug method of execution, but the drugs that could be used in the process are difficult for states to obtain.

California moved a step closer to resuming lethal injections this week but still faces significant hurdles before inmates can be executed, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation unveiled a revised single-drug method of execution, allowing the state to use either pentobarbital or thiopental in a single infusion to put condemned inmates to death. The barbiturates are extremely difficult to obtain, lawyers on both sides of the death penalty debate said, and their lack of availability could eventually doom plans to restart the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the import of thiopental, and the manufacturer of pentobarbital has prohibited the drug from being used in executions. “The state cannot lawfully procure either of those drugs through a reputable channel,” said Ana Zamora of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The protocol allows for compounding pharmacies to make the drugs, but the state would need to import the necessary ingredients, said Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. “That is a problem.” Several states have had to place holds on executions because of the difficulty of obtaining the needed drugs. California has the largest death row in the nation, with nearly 750 condemned inmates.

from https://thecrimereport.org

High Court Stops AL Execution on ‘Judicial Override’ Issue

Vernon Madison argued that his scheduled execution for killing a police officer should be halted because he was sentenced to death by a judge who overrode a jury’s conclusion that he should serve a life term. Alabama was the last state to allow judges to overrule juries’ decisions in such cases.

Vernon Madison, one of the longest serving inmates on Alabama’s death row, was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday, but 30 minutes before that, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay, reports Al.com. Madison, 67, has been on death row for over 30 years after his 1985 conviction for killing Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte. Madison was 34 when he was charged Schulte’s death, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. He also was charged with shooting the woman he lived with at the time, 37-year-old Cheryl Ann Greene. She survived.

A state appellate court overturned his first conviction for a violation involving race-based jury selection. At his second trial, in 1990, defense attorneys again argued that Madison suffered from a mental illness. They did not dispute the fact that Madison shot Schulte, but said he did not know that Schulte – dressed in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police cruiser – was a police officer. An appellate court ordered another trial because of improper testimony from an expert witness for the prosecution. In 1994, he was convicted again, but the jury recommended a life sentence. Mobile County Circuit Judge Ferrill McRae sentenced Madison to death, overriding the jury’s recommendation. Last year, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law that says juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty. That law officially ended Alabama’s judicial override policy, as Alabama was the last state to allow it. On Wednesday, Madison’s attorneys argued to the Supreme Court that because he was sentenced to death under the judicial override statue, he is entitled to a stay and a review of his case.

from https://thecrimereport.org

TN to Resume Executions After 9-Year Lapse

The state obtained the necessary drugs for lethal injections and has scheduled executions for May, August and November.

Three Tennessee death row inmates are set to die in 2018, setting up what would be the first executions in the state since 2009, The Tennessean reports. The executions are scheduled to start in May. Neysa Taylor, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, said the state “has the drugs necessary to carry out execution by lethal injection.” Two of the inmates have additional avenues for appeal, while the third, who has spent more than three decades on death row, has fewer remaining paths to avert execution this year.

James Hawkins, a 41-year-old man convicted in 2011 of killing the mother of his three children, is scheduled to die May 9. Billy Ray Irick, 59, who was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, is set to be executed Aug. 9. Sedrick Clayton, a 34-year-old man convicted of a triple murder in 2014, is scheduled to die Nov. 28. Advocates and inmates have tried unsuccessfully to win a legal battle arguing against the use of lethal injection and the death penalty. Last March, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against dozens of death row inmates who’d filed suit against the practice. At the time, the state lacked the drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection.

from https://thecrimereport.org

First 2018 Execution in U.S. Is Scheduled Tonight In Texas

Anthony Shore, 55, is a confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders went unsolved in the 1980s and 1990s. With no pending appeals, his execution is expected to be the first under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat who has said she doesn’t see the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.

The first execution of 2018 in Texas and the nation is expected to take place Thursday evening for Houston’s “Tourniquet Killer.” reports the Texas Tribune. Anthony Shore, 55, is a confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders went unsolved in the 1980s and 1990s. With no pending appeals, his execution is expected to be the first under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat who took office last January and has said she doesn’t see the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. She has said the punishment is appropriate for Shore, deeming him “the worst of the worst.”

Shore wasn’t arrested until 2003, when his DNA was matched to the 1992 murder of 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada. His DNA had been on file since 1998, when he pleaded no-contest to charges of sexually molesting his two daughters. After his arrest, he confessed to the murders of four young women and girls, including Estrada. Though he doesn’t argue that his client is innocent or undeserving of punishment, Shore’s lawyer, Knox Nunnally, was surprised Ogg continued to pursue the death penalty for Shore based on her previous statements on capital punishment. In two major death penalty cases that made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ogg opted for reduced punishments. Shore’s execution was originally set for October, but Ogg postponed it after Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon requested a delay from her and Gov. Greg Abbott. Ligon was concerned that Shore might falsely confess another murder, potentially disrupting the existing death sentence for the man already convicted in that case.

from https://thecrimereport.org

High Court Issue: When Can Lawyer Concede Client Guilt?

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether Robert McCoy of Louisiana should get a new trial because it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to concede a client’s guilt against the client’s wishes.

Over repeated objections from defendant Robert McCoy, who insisted on his innocence, defense lawyer Larry English told a Louisiana jury that McCoy was “crazy” and had killed three people. The jury’s verdict was death. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether McCoy should get a new trial because it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to concede a client’s guilt against the client’s wishes, The New York Times reports. English was hired after McCoy fired his public defenders and was seeking to represent himself. He had been charged with killing his mother-in-law, her husband, and her grandson.

English told McCoy that the case was unwinnable because of the evidence the prosecution had, including that when McCoy was discovered, the gun used in the killings was under a seat of the vehicle he was traveling in. English urged McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. McCoy wanted to mount a defense that he was out of town during the murders and was framed by  police because he knew they were running a drug trafficking ring. English told McCoy he was going to admit that McCoy was guilty because maintaining credibility with the jury was the best chance to keep him alive. English saw saving McCoy’s life as part of a larger struggle against injustice. “The criminal justice system in this country is so racked by racism and classism that there is no way the death penalty can be implemented in a way that’s constitutional,” he said. Lawrence Fox of Yale Law School, who filed a brief for McCoy, argues that as long as a client is not asking the lawyer to do anything illegal, and unless the client has been declared incompetent, the lawyer must heed the client regarding the admission of guilt.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sessions’ DOJ Is Seeking More Death Penalties

Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Billy Arnold for killing two rival gang members in Detroit. In December, the AG cleared prosecutors in Orlando to seek a death sentence against Jarvis Wayne Madison, who is charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife. DOJ also is also considering seeking death sentences against Sayfullo Saipov, accused of killing eight people in November by driving a truck onto a Manhattan bike lane, and against two defendants in the 2016 slaying of two teenage girls by MS-13 gang members on Long Island.

The Justice Department will seek the federal death penalty in at least two murder cases, in what officials say is the first sign of a heightened effort under Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use capital punishment to crack down on violent crime, reports the Wall Street Journal. Sessions authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Billy Arnold, who is charged with killing two rival gang members in Detroit. The decision followed the first death-penalty authorization under Sessions, made public Dec. 19, when he cleared prosecutors in Orlando to seek a death sentence against Jarvis Wayne Madison, who is charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife in 2016. DOJ also is also considering seeking death sentences against Sayfullo Saipov, accused of killing eight people in November by driving a truck onto a Manhattan bike lane, and against two defendants in the 2016 slaying of two teenage girls by MS-13 gang members on Long Island, outside of New York City.

Sessions views the death penalty as a “valuable tool in the tool belt,” according to a senior Justice Department official. The official said the death penalty isn’t only a deterrent, but also a “punishment for the most heinous crimes prohibited under federal law.” The Justice Department under President Trump expects to authorize more death penalty cases than the Obama administration did. In 2017, state and federal juries handed down 39 death sentences, the second lowest since 1972, says the Death Penalty Information Center. Eight states carried out 23 executions last year, the second lowest total since the early 1990s. The last federal execution was in 2003. Since 1963, three federal defendants have been executed. The federal government has obtained 25 death sentences since 2007, down from 45 death sentences between 1996 and 2006.

from https://thecrimereport.org

High Court Orders Review In Capital Case Alleging Bias

The Supreme Court, voting 6 to 3, ordered a lower court review of an appeal by Georgia death row inmate Keith Tharpe because a juror said Tharpe “wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the review was unwarranted and “callously delays justice” for the victim.

A divided Supreme Court on Monday ordered lower courts to consider Georgia death row inmate Keith Tharpe’s petitition to review his conviction because one member of a juror who found him guilty was biased against Tharpe because he is black. An unsigned opinion by six Justices said that a white juror said he believed “there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers,” that Tharpe, “who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did.” The court majority said that based on the “unusual facts” of the case, an appeals court should not have ruled that it was indisputable that the white juror’s service did not prejudice Tharpe.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for himself and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said that the majority’s “unusual disposition of this case callously delays justice for Jaquelin Freeman, the black woman who was brutally murdered by Tharpe 27 years ago. Because this Court should not be in the business of ceremonial handwringing, I respectfully dissent.” According to Thomas’ summary of the case, after Tharpe’s wife, Migrisus, left him in 1990, despite a no-contact order, Tharpe called her and told her that if she wanted to “‘play dirty’” he would show her “‘what dirty was.’” The next morning, Tharpe ambushed his wife and Freeman, her sister, as they drove to work, shot Freeman, rolled her body into a ditch, reloaded, and shot her again, killing her. After murdering Freeman, Tharpe kidnapped and raped his wife, leaving Freeman’s body lying in the ditch.

from https://thecrimereport.org