Friday, October 2, 2015

A Lethal Week in Review

A flurry of lethal activity this week, with more to come next week.

Early Wednesday morning, September 30, Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner, who was sentenced to death for recruiting Gregory Owen, a man with whom she was romantically involved, to murder her husband.  She was the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years.  Owen—the man who actually committed the murder (and made a deal with prosecutors)—will be eligible for parole in 8 years.  As reported by a witness to the execution, Gissendaner, who graduated from a theology program in prison, was “very, very emotional. . . . She was crying and then she was sobbing and then broke into [Amazing Grace] as well as into a number of apologies . . . . When she was not singing, she was praying.”

Also on Wednesday, Oklahoma’s governor granted a 37-day reprieve to Richard Glossip, who was scheduled to be executed that day for allegedly hiring another man, Justin Sneed, to murder his boss.  Sneed, the man who committed the murder, avoided the death penalty by making a deal with prosecutors.  Glossip maintains his innocence and claims he has new evidence to prove it.  On Friday, October 2, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued indefinite stays of execution for Richard Glossip and several others after the Oklahoma Department of Corrections revealed that it had received the wrong lethal injection drug.  From the Associated Press:  “Just hours before Glossip was set to die [on Wednesday], prison officials opened a box of lethal drugs and realized they received potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride, the third drug utilized in Oklahoma's lethal injection formula. . . . Oklahoma's execution protocols were overhauled after last year’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on a gurney and struggled against his restraints before being declared dead more than 40 minutes after the procedure began.”

As discussed in a prior post, Glossip’s case resulted in a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer upholding the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s drug protocol procedure and prompted a sweeping dissent by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty.

On Thursday, October 1, Virginia executed a Latino man, Alfredo Prieto, despite concerns that he may have an intellectual disability—and before the U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to decide whether to grant a stay on his challenge to Virginia's execution drugs.

Next Tuesday, Missouri plans to execute an African-American man, Kimber Edwards, who—like Gissendaner and Glossip—was sentenced to death while the person who actually committed the murder was spared.

Also next Tuesday, Texas plans to execute a Latino man, Juan Garcia, for a murder-robbery committed when he was 18.

And next Wednesday, Oklahoma plans to execute Benjamin Cole, a man believed to suffer from schizophrenia and brain damage.

Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Florida (and, I suppose, Georgia and Virginia)—these are the states that are defining “decency” for the rest of the country under the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.  But for how long?

For more, see the Washington Post article here.

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