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The death penalty

Developments during 2006

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2006 developments:

bullet2006-JAN-06: VA: Virginia is to retest DNA of an executed man: Roger Keith Coleman was convicted of raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1982. He was executed in 1992 at the age of 33. Just before he was killed, he stated: "An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have."

Centurion Ministries and several newspapers attempted to force the state to have Coleman's DNA retested. The Virginia Supreme Court refused to order the testing. Centurion Ministries then asked Governor Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to intervene. Testing of blood type and DNA in the semen sample put put Colemen within a group consisting of 0.2% of the population. He failed a polygraph test. He had previously been convicted of attempted rape in an unrelated case. The semen sample will be sent to a laboratory in Toronto, Canada, for more precise testing. 1 It was later found to be a match to Coleman's DNA
bullet2006-JAN-30: GA: ABA team recommends death penalty moratorium:  An American Bar Association's death penalty assessment team has recommended a moratorium on executions and death penalty prosecutions in Alabama. They concluded:

"that Georgia cannot ensure fairness and accuracy in every capital case....Areas the team identified as in great need of reform include inadequate funding for defense counsel, failure to provide defense counsel in state habeas proceedings, lack of meaningful review of proportionality of sentences, inadequate pattern jury instructions addressing mitigation, continued existence of racial disparities in capital sentencing, and the unreasonably strict 'beyond a reasonable doubt' burden of proof required to prove mental retardation.

The team was made up of leaders of the legal community in Georgia. Georgia was the first state to be studied by the ABA. "Other assessments are being conducted in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia." 6,9

bullet2006-MAY-17: TX: Execution delayed pending court ruling:  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals blocked the execution of Derrick Sean O'Brien who was convicted of killing two teenage girls in 1993. His lawyers suggested that the drugs used in that state "unnecessarily create a risk that O'Brien will suffer excruciating excessive pain." If so, then this execution method might be unconstitutional because of the "cruel or unusual punishment" clause in the U.S. Constitution. The lawyers suggest that the painkiller sodium pentothal could wear off, causing pain, before a second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyses the inmate. A final injection of, potassium chloride is used to induce a fatal heart attack. 2
bullet2006-JUN-09: OK: Governors widen role of death penalty: Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma signed a bill to allow the death penalty for repeat child molesters. Anyone convicted for a second time of rape, forcible sodomy, lewd molestation or rape by instrumentation of a child under 14 years of age is now eligible for execution or life imprisonment without any chance of parole. Florida, Louisiana and Montana already have similar laws on the books. The governor of South Carolina signed a similar bill into law on the previous day. All of these laws would probably not survive a constitutional challenge. 3,4 More details.
bullet2006-JUN-11: AL: ABA recommends moratorium: An American Bar Association's death penalty assessment team has recommended a moratorium on the death penalty in Alabama. The team was headed by Daniel Filler, a University of Alabama law professor. The team of eight consists of both prosecuting and defense attorneys from Alabama. They analyzed the state's death penalty system for about 20 months before issuing their conclusions. They found: "...inadequate and inconsistent court-appointed representation, limited access to DNA testing, and no implementation of the US Supreme Court ruling against executing the mentally retarded." Troy King, the Attorney General of Alabama dismissed the report. He is reported as believing that the ABA team is biased against the death penalty and thus assembled a team with that bias. He said: "The A-B-A is a liberal, activist organization with an agenda they constantly push. That's why I'm not a member of the A-B-A." 5,6 Project Hope has a list of concerns about the implementation of the death penalty in Alabama. 7
bullet2006-JUN-11, week of: USA: U,S. Supreme Court rulings on death penalty: The Court issued two rulings:
bulletThey voted unanimously to hear a petition from Clarence Hill, an inmate on death row in Florida. In that. and 35 other states, executions are done by lethal injection. Typically three drugs are administered in sequence: the first is an anesthetic; the second paralyzes the inmate; the third one causes a heart attack. Hill's attorneys argued that the anesthetic is not sufficiently strong to stop blinding pain. However, the paralyzing drug prevents the inmate from demonstrating the pain that he does feel. They claimed that the method of execution violates the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
bulletThe second case involves Paul House, an inmate on Tennessee death row. During his trial, the prosecution strongly implied that he murdered a woman in 1985 and that it was partly motivated by a sexual assault. They reported that his semen was found on the woman. Since his trial, DNA measurements have become available. They prove that the semen came from the woman's husband. Also, new witnesses have come forward to testify that they had seen the woman and her husband fighting on the night of the murder. The court ordered a federal review of the case. 9
bullet2006-DEC-29: Iraq: Saddam Hussein executed: Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq was executed by hanging just before 6 AM local time on Saturday, DEC-30 (10 PM Friday DEC-29 ET). Details about world reaction to his execution.

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Charles Montaldo, "Virginia to Retest Executed Man's DNA," About.com, 2005-JAN-06, at: http://crime.about.com/
  2. "Killer's execution put on hold over 'cruel' claim," The Birmingham Post, 2006-MAY-17, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  3. "Governor Brad Henry Signs Bill Allowing Death Penalty For Repeat Child Molesters," Associated Press, 2006-JUN-09, at: http://www.kotv.com/
  4. Tim Talley, "Okla. Governor Approves Executing Molesters," 2006-JUN, at: http://www.enidnews.com/
  5. "ABA assessment team recommends Alabama execution moratorium," Associated Press, undated, at: http://www.wtvm.com/
  6. "Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems," American Bar Association, at: http://www.abavideonews.org/
  7. "Project Hope to abolish the death penalty: The blog," at: http://www.phadp.org/
  8. "Georgia cannot ensure fairness, accuracy in death penalty cases, says state legal team in ABA project," American Bar Association, 2006-JAN-30, at: http://www.abanews.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  9. "Who dies and how?: Court issues sensible death penalty rulings," Editorial, The Sacramento Bee, 2006-JUN-20. Online at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/

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Copyright © 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted:2006-JAN-08
Last updated: 2007-JAN=28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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