Posts filed under 'Lethal Injection'

2018: Carey Dean Moore

1 comment August 14th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 2018, Nebraska executed Carey Dean Moore for killing two cab drivers all the way back in 1979 — 39 years earlier.

It had been over 20 years since Nebraska carried out any execution, but Moore’s real milestone was in the ongoing drug supply breakdown of the U.S. lethal injection system. Moore was the first U.S. prisoner executed using the opiate fentanyl — in his case, in combination with diazepam, cisatracurium, and potassium chloride. Nebraska’s supply of the last two of these stood within weeks of its labeled expiration.

The German pharmaceutical firm that manufactured some of Wilson’s lethal cocktail sued the Cornhusker state for its intent to use its product as a mankiller. U.S. judge Richard G. Kopf — who formerly blogged bench life at his site Hercules and the Umpiretartly rejected this appeal, finding that after four decades on death row it had become curiously essential to the majesty of justice that Moore be executed right now: “Any delay now is tantamount to nullifying Nebraska law, particularly given the rapidly approaching expiration of two of the drugs and the total absence of any feasible alternatives.”

Although the execution went ahead, it did not go smoothly. According to the Lincoln Journal Star,

Members of the media who witnessed Moore’s death Tuesday by lethal injection described reactions of Moore to the drugs that included rapid and heaving breaths, coughing, gradual reddening of the face and hands, and then a purple cast to the skin. 

But about 15 minutes into the procedure, about a minute after Moore’s eyelids appeared to open slightly, Corrections Director Scott Frakes, who was in the room with the condemned prisoner, said something into his radio and the curtains closed for the media witnesses.

The curtains did not open again for 14 minutes, six minutes after Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon pronounced Moore dead at 10:47 a.m., and 29 minutes after the first drug, diazepam, was administered at 10:24.

The curtain that shielded the four media witnesses from what happened during that time is significant, as they were not allowed to view everything that happened in the room. That hindered transparency and true reporting of the effects of the drugs, observers have said.

Don’t worry, we have the assurance of Frakes et al that everything worked fine and was done by the book while the curtain was down.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Nebraska,Ripped from the Headlines,USA

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1999: Eduardo Agbayani, omnishambles execution

Add comment June 25th, 2019 Headsman

At three in the afternoon this date in 1999, Eduardo Agbayani was put to death by lethal injection in the Philippines.

At that very same moment, President Joseph Estrada — an erratic populist who months ago had presided over the first execution since the Marcos dictatorship — was furiously, unsuccessfully, trying to dial the prison to halt the execution.

Initially intent on the condign punishment of a man who raped his own daughter, Estrada had his mind bent towards mercy by a silver-tongued Catholic bishop. With the lethal drugs imminent, he set about on his mission of grace only to find that the nation’s sovereign placing a life-and-death call runs into the same banal connectivity fails that you and I have trying to ring the motor vehicles department. The Economist described it thus:

According to the bishop, Mr Estrada later said he tried several times to telephone the prison, where the execution procedure had already begun, but he got an engaged or fax tone. Mr Estrada was not in the part of the presidential palace with the telephone linked by direct line to the prison — installed for the very purpose of calling off an execution at the last minute. As the seconds slipped by, an aide was dispatched to call on the direct line.

What happened next is unclear. Witnesses to the execution said that there was knocking on the door of the execution chamber and a voice could be heard, saying, “Hold! Hold!” The aide’s cries, according to an official, were at first thought to be a prank. The president’s spokesman later said that the aide’s call had got through at 12 minutes past three. Mr Agbayani had been pronounced dead a minute earlier.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Last Minute Reprieve,Lethal Injection,Pardons and Clemencies,Philippines,Rape,Reprieved Too Late

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2010: Melbert Ray Ford, abusive partner

2 comments June 9th, 2019 Headsman

Melbert Ray Ford was executed by lethal injection in Georgia on this date in 2010, for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her niece.

On tilt from when Martha Chapman Matich broke up with him several weeks prior to the March 1986 crime, Ford had menaced her repeatedly by phone while openly fantasizing to friends about murdering her execution-style after forcing her to beg for mercy. It did not require the benefit of hindsight to know that this was more than idle talk; Ford had a previous conviction (from 1978) for making terroristic threats and criminal trespass. He’d also been violently abusive to Matich during their relationship of more than a year.

On March 6, Ford hired an unemployed teenager to drive him to the Newton County grocery where Matich worked, just after closing. (That driver, Roger Turner, got a prison sentence and was paroled in 1991.) Matich was working alone there — another employee had gone home sick — accompanied only by her 11-year-old niece Lisa.

As the terrified woman sounded the store’s alarm, Ford blasted his way through the locked glass door, then shot his former lover thrice. As for the little girl, “Lisa was at the store playing with the minnows and crickets sold as bait and didn’t want to leave her aunt alone at the store. According to the March 23, 1986 edition of The Covington News, Turner confessed that ‘Ford described killing Lisa Chapman in the bathroom at the grocery. Turner said that Ford told him that she was crouched by the toilet staring at him, so he felt he had to shoot her.’ ‘She was begging him not to do it in the bathroom where she went to hide,” said [Lisa’s mother Cindy] Chapman-Griffeth.”

Ford fled the store with a sack of loot and left the scene with his confederate — the last night he would spend at liberty on this earth. Police responding to the store alarm rolled up minutes later, to find Martha Matich dead behind the counter and Lisa Chapman convulsing on the restroom floor with a mortal gunshot wound to the head.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Georgia,Lethal Injection,Murder,Theft,USA

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2011: Mao Ran, young drug lord

Add comment April 13th, 2019 Headsman

Mao Ran, a 25-year-old export/import employee with a heroin trafficking empire dating back to her university days, was executed in Xiamen on this date in 2011.

Not to be confused with manga assassin Ran Mao

According to Chinese reports, Mao Ran “began to get involved in drug trafficking after knowing her foreign boyfriend, OBI, who was also a drug lord and later ordered her to organize others to conduct illegal drug trafficking.”

Two women she recruited as couriers were seized by customs in separate 2008 and 2009 busts that netted over 3 kg of product between them.

Alarmed by the arrests, Mao ran (sorry) but was captured by police soon after.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Lethal Injection,Ripped from the Headlines,Women

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1984: James Hutchins

2 comments March 16th, 2019 Headsman

James W. Hutchins was gassedexecuted by lethal injection in North Carolina on this date in 1984.

Hutchins was “credited” with the largest one-day slaughter of North Carolina law enforcement officers in 1979. An altercation with his teenage daughter* led to a domestic disturbance call, which led eventually to three dead cops all killed in separate shootings.

Hutchins shot Captain Roy Huskey by ambush when he responded alone to the 911 call. Several minutes later, a deputy named Owen Messersmith rolled up to check on the situation since Huskey hadn’t checked in. Messersmith quickly realized the reason, but was shot through the window of his patrol car as he slammed into reverse and “the vehicle drifted backwards across the street and came to rest in a ditch with Messersmith’s body slumped over the steering wheel, causing the horn to blow without stop.” (Wikipedia) The third victim, state highway patrolman Robert L. Peterson, pulled Hutchins over for speeding as the latter fled in his car.

Only by this point did the garbled and chaotic communications flying through dispatch radios that day finally coalesce sufficiently to give cops on the scene a full picture of what was going on: Peterson, for instance, is thought to have been entirely innocent of the knowledge that a suspect in a double shooting was at large in the area.

At any rate, the ensuing manhunt brought Hutchins into custody and a postscript as a part of political lore: in a sort of Ricky Ray Rector play, Democratic Governor Jim Hunt theatrically staged Hutchins’s execution date and denial of clemency in the run-up to his 1984 Senate campaign. But Rector’s sacrifice at least had the excuse of success: not so Hutchins’s. No matter Hunt’s tough-on-crime credentials, he was still trounced at the polls by goggle-eyed racist Jesse Helms.

There’s an independent film about the events in this notorious murder spree, titled Damon’s Law.

* Hutchins was pissed that she spiked the punch for her high school graduation party with vodka.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,North Carolina,USA

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1985: Doyle Skillern, under the law of parties

Add comment January 16th, 2019 Headsman

A philosophical Doyle Skillern was executed in Texas on this date in 1985, one of the more galling victims of Texas’s controversial “Law of Parties” — in which all parties involved in a lesser felony (such as armed robbery) may be held liable for a greater felony (such as murder) committed by any of their number.

Skillern and a buddy named Charles Sanne were drug dealers being set up for arrest by a narcotics agent.

In the course of a buy, the suspicious Sanne got the officer, Patrick Randel, into his vehicle on the pretext of doing business elsewhere — intending in fact to rob Randel. While Skillern trailed in a different vehicle, Sanne shot Randel to death (and robbed him). By the accounts of both men the shooting wasn’t premeditated; Sanne said that Randel tried to pull a gun on him and a spontaneous fight ensued.

Textbook law of parties case, made more perverse by the fact that the actual shooter, Sanne, received a prison term and was approaching parole eligibility by the time his non-triggerman accomplice, Skillern, went to the gurney.

(In fairness to the great state of Texas we must observe that Skillern’s jury when considering factors to aggravate the crime found out that he had a previous murder on his record, that of his brother. Sanne’s previous record consisted only of petty crimes.)

Prison officials said that an emotionless Skillern mused upon learning of the rejection of his last appeals, “A lot of people will still have their troubles tomorrow and mine will be over.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Texas,Theft,USA

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2011: Leroy White

2 comments January 13th, 2019 Headsman

Leroy White received a lethal injection in the HuntsvilleAtmore, Alabama death chamber on this date in 2011.

White had fatally shotgunned his estranged wife but by now it’ll hardly be remembered beyond the people directly touched by this horror. Yet in its banality this case haas something to tell us about America’s shambolic death penalty system.

Although this rule changed in 2017, Alabama used to permit, and its elected judges very actively practice, overruling a jury life sentence recommendation with a harsher judgment from the bench. Something like a fifth of Alabama’s condemned prisoners were there on judge overrides.

White numbered among this misfortunate fifth, and the trial judge wasn’t the only authority in the process whose priors were stacked against Leroy White.

Post-conviction, a Maryland tax attorney who represented White pro bono withdrew from the case and neither he nor anyone else told White about it. That doesn’t even seem possible but attorneys who are overmatched, stretched thin, and even outright incentivized to screw their clients make up an essential component of the system. In this case, the secret withdrawal caused White to miss a deadline for filing an appeal.

The heroic Bryan Stevenson of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative took over the case once this damage was done, but his appeal for a mulligan on the missed deadline fell on deaf ears because he

didn’t have a persuasive argument on the key issue: given more time to appeal, could he win the appeal on the merits of his case?

Stevenson said about half of the roughly 200 prisoners on Alabama’s death row were represented by a lawyer who is not allowed to spend more than $1,000 on out-of-court time working on the case, unless given permission by the trial court under Alabama indigent defense rules. He said that inequity leads to problems with the quality of assistance defendants are getting.

“The death penalty is not just about do people deserve to die for the crimes they are accused of, the death penalty is also about do we deserve to kill,” Stevenson said. “If we don’t provide fair trials, fair review procedures, when we have executions that are unnecessarily cruel and distressing, or if we have a death penalty that is arbitrary or political or discriminatory, then we are all implicated.”

White still had one last hope: a clemency grant by outgoing governor Bob Riley. Riley’s term in office ended four days after this execution, and he has had no political career since. Did he, like predecessor George Wallace, find his conscience burdened by the executioner’s office? In this precious interval released from all political pressure or consequence did he make use of a free hit at the quality of mercy? Reader, he did not — spurning a plea by the surviving daughter of both victim and killer not to give her another dead family member to mourn.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Alabama,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,USA

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2010: John David Duty, the first pentobarbital execution in the U.S.

Add comment December 16th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 2010, John David Duty reclined on an Oklahoma gurney with an apology for his victim’s family on his lips, and became a milestone: the first U.S. inmate executed using pentobarbital in the lethal injection process.

Already sure to die in prison via sentences from his 1978 convictions for kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, and robbery, Duty spared himself some time by recruiting the state to assist in his suicide.

His means of doing so was the murder of his new 22-year-old cellmate Curtis Wise, which Duty tried to tell Wise’s mother all about in a taunting letter that was confiscated before it hit the post:

Mary Wise,

Well by the time you get this letter you will already know that your son is dead. I know now because I just killed him an hour ago. Gee you’d think I’d be feeling some remorse but I’m not. I’ve been planning since the day he moved in last Friday. Tonight I finally pulled it off. Would you like to know how I did it? Well I told him I wanted to use him as a hostage. Hell he went right for it, thinking he was gonna get some smokes out of the deal. Well I tied him up hands and feet, then I strangled him. It’s not like the movies, it took awhile. But I really did him a favor as he was too stupid to live. I mean he didn’t know me 5 days and he let me tie him up like that, Please! Besides he was young and dumb and would’ve just been in and out of prison his whole life.So I saved him all the torment. I’ve been in 24 years, wish someone would have done me the same favor back then. I guess you’re thinking I’ll be punished for this. Well not likely in this county. The DA’s here are weak bitches and don’t give a damn about deaths of inmates. We’re all just scum to them. Besides I’m doing 2 life sentences so they can’t hurt me. But you can call them and tell them about this letter, but it wouldn’t do you any good. Well I’m gonna close for now and I’ll tell police in the morning about Curtis.

Even though Mary Wise argued against it in court, this horrific gambit secured him his desired death sentence — with the help of Duty’s credible vows to kill again if he didn’t get what he wanted. Perhaps entertaining second thoughts, Duty did pursue his appeals, however, and that meant that the legal journey of his case did not reach its end until almost a decade later — a new era in American lethal injection, as it turned out.

Ever since lethal injection debuted in 1982 it had taken over as the go-to execution method around the United States. But by about 2010, it was increasingly difficult to come by the first drug in the standard lethal injection “cocktail”, sodium thiopental.

The system has been adapting ever since, including switches to a variety of alternative drug combinations that sometimes have ghastly results.

And Duty’s was the very first execution* to so adapt.

To kill him, Oklahoma sedated him first not with sodium thiopental, but with pentobarbital — the very first use of this drug, which has gone on to become one of the most frequently deployed substitutes for thiopental in death chambers around the country. Although Duty fought the chemical innovation on appeal (again contradicting his original suicidal intent) pentobarbital wasn’t exactly experimental: it had been used for animal and human euthanasia for years.

“There were no apparent issues” with the execution, a Department of Corrections spokesperson said afterwards.

* Ohio on December 8 of 2009 conducted an execution using only sodium thiopental, deviating from the three-drug protocol while still using one of its standard constituents. Pentobarbital itself has also subsequently been used in single-drug executions; consult the Death Penalty Information Center for up-to-date information on the still-shifting landscape of lethal injection protocols in the U.S.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Oklahoma,USA,Volunteers

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1982: Charles Brooks, Jr., the first by lethal injection

Add comment December 7th, 2018 Headsman

Besides being Pearl Harbor Day and Noam Chomsky Day, December 7 is a black-letter anniversary for capital punishment as the date in 1982 when the United States first executed a prisoner by means of lethal injection.

Charles Brooks, Jr. — who had by the time of his death converted to Islam and started going by Shareef Ahmad Abdul-Rahim — suffered the punishment in Texas for abducting and murdering a car lot mechanic. With an accomplice,* he had feigned interest in a test drive in order to steal the car, stuffing the mechanic in the trunk and then shooting him dead in a hotel room.

The “modern” U.S. death penalty era had just dawned with 1976’s Gregg v. Georgia decision affirming new procedures meant to reduce systemic arbitrariness — and the machinery was reawakening after a decade’s abeyance.

In the wake of the circus atmosphere surrounding the January 1977 firing squad execution of Gary Gilmore, the laboratories of democracy started casting about for killing technologies that were a little bit less … appalling.

“We had discussed what happened to Gary Gilmore,” former Oklahoma chief medical examiner Jay Chapman later recalled. “At that time we put animals to death more humanely than we did human beings — so the idea of using medical drugs seemed a much better alternative.”

This was not actually a new idea: proposals for a medicalized execution process had been floated as far back as the 1880s, when New York instead opted for a more Frankenstein vibe by inventing the electric chair. And the Third Reich ran a wholesale euthanasia program based on lethal injections.

But 1977 was the year that lethal injection was officially adopted as the lynchpin method for regular judicial executions. It happened in Oklahoma, and Chapman’s three-drug protocol — sodium thiopental (an anaesthetic), followed by pancuronium bromide (to stop breathing) and potassium chloride (to stop the heart) — became the standard execution procedure swiftly taken up by numerous other U.S. states in the ensuing years. As years have gone by, Chapman’s procedure has come under fire and supply bottlenecks have led various states to experiment with different drug cocktails; all the same, nearly 90% of modern U.S. executions have run through the needle.*

Texas was one early adopter, rolling in the gurney to displace its half-century-old electric chair. Its debut with Charlie Brooks was also Texas’s debut on the modern execution scene, and both novelties have had a lot of staying power since: every one of Texas’s many executions in the years since — 557 executions over 36 years as of this writing — has employed lethal injection.

* For up-to-date figures, check the Death Penalty Information Center’s executions database.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Texas,Theft,USA

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2009: Bobby Wayne Woods

1 comment December 3rd, 2018 Headsman

Bobby Wayne Woods was executed by lethal injection in Texas on this date in 2009.

A proud bearer of the classic middle name, Woods in 1997 broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home and kidnapped her two children, both of whom he did to what he thought was death. (11-year-old daughter Sarah Patterson, whom Woods also raped, did die; nine-year-old son Cody Patterson survived a savage beating, barely.)*

What distinguished Woods from a run-of-the-mill capital murder was his disputed competency — a product of what Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald aptly termed a “legal grey area.” A landmark 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case, Atkins v. Virginia, bars the execution of mentally disabled prisoners … but punts the definition of this protected class to the very states that are trying to execute them. Ah, federalism.

Woods was a barely-literate middle school dropout with I.Q. test scores ranging from 68 to 80; the commonplace threshold for mental disability is about I.Q. 70. He definitely did the crime, but was he entitled to protection under Atkins?

The case stuck in the judicial craw, scratching a scheduled 2008 execution and resulting in appeals that resolved only half an hour before Woods received the needle. The whole thing was essentially stalemated by dueling experts on retainer who made the arguments you’d expect them to make for their sides. And since the legal standard is whatever Texas feels like enforcing, that means the guy is not disabled.

* The victims’ mother, Schwana Patterson, was convicted of felony child neglect for failing to intervene in the abduction, out of fear of the assailant; she served eight years in prison for this.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Kidnapping,Lethal Injection,Murder,Rape,Texas,USA

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