Updated: Mar 22, 2023

News Brief

Tennessee Sets Three Execution Dates for Most-in-Nation 5 Pending Executions in 2022

Mar 05, 2022

The Tennessee Supreme Court has issued death war­rants set­ting exe­cu­tion dates for three pris­on­ers, bring­ing to five — the nation’s‑high — the num­ber of exe­cu­tions pend­ing in the state in 2022. On February 22, 2022, the court set exe­cu­tion dates of August 18 for Byron Black, October 6 for Gary Sutton, and December 8 for Donald Middlebrooks. The court had pre­vi­ous­ly set exe­cu­tion dates of April 21 for Oscar Smith and June 9 for Harold Nichols.

Black has pre­sent­ed evi­dence that he is inel­i­gi­ble for the death penal­ty because of intel­lec­tu­al dis­abil­i­ty but had been pre­vent­ed from lit­i­gat­ing that issue because of a pro­ce­dur­al defect in Tennessee’s post-con­vic­tion process. The state enact­ed a new law ear­li­er cre­at­ing a legal mech­a­nism to review intel­lec­tu­al dis­abil­i­ty claims, and Black has a peti­tion pend­ing under that law. Middlebrooks’ lawyers argue that he is severe­ly men­tal­ly ill and incom­pe­tent to be exe­cut­ed. The Tennessee Supreme Court remand­ed his case to the Davidson County (Nashville) tri­al court for a deter­mi­na­tion of his com­pe­ten­cy. To ensure the deter­mi­na­tion of Mr. Middlebrooks’ com­pe­ten­cy to be exe­cut­ed occurs in close prox­im­i­ty to his sched­uled exe­cu­tion date, the court direct­ed Middlebrooks’ coun­sel to file his peti­tion alleg­ing incom­pe­ten­cy to be exe­cut­ed in the tri­al court no soon­er than October 3, 2022, and no lat­er than October 5, 2022.

As of March 4, eleven exe­cu­tion dates were pend­ing across the United States in 2022: five in Tennessee, four in Texas, and one each in Missouri and Ohio (click to enlarge graph­ic). Ten pre­vi­ous Ohio death war­rants that sched­uled exe­cu­tions for 2022 have been resched­uled or halt­ed by stays of exe­cu­tion, reprieves, or the death of the pris­on­er and the remain­ing exe­cu­tion date in Ohio is not expect­ed to go forward. 

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Two Death-Row Prisoners with Innocence Claims Die on Death Row, Two Days Apart.

Feb 26, 2022

Two death-row pris­on­ers who have long assert­ed their inno­cence, one in North Carolina and the oth­er in Alabama, have died of can­cer on their state’s death rows.

Carl Moseley, who was diag­nosed with stage 4 stom­ach can­cer in June 2021, died on February 17, 2022, after spend­ing 30 years on death row in North Carolina for the mur­ders of two women last seen at a Forsythe County dance club and bar. He was 56 years old. Earlier in the day, his lawyer, Christine Mumma of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, the state attor­ney general’s office, and local pros­e­cu­tors had filed a con­sent order for DNA test­ing in his case. Mumma said she would press for posthu­mous tes­ti­mo­ny to ful­fill Moseley’s wish to clear his name.

On February 19, 2022, William Kuenzel (pic­tured, left, with his appeal lawyer, David Kochman) died on Alabama’s death row after what his legal team described as a long bat­tle with can­cer.” He was 60 years old. Kuenzel spent 34 years on death row after being sen­tenced to death in 1988 for the mur­der of a store clerk in a tri­al that last­ed only 14 hours. The evi­dence pre­sent­ed against him con­sist­ed of tes­ti­mo­ny by a co-work­er, Harvey Venn, who impli­cat­ed Kuenzel only after being arrest­ed for the mur­der him­self, and a teenage eye­wit­ness who claimed to have seen Kuenzel and Venn in the store that night. The only phys­i­cal evi­dence of the crime was blood found on Venn’s pants.

Kuenzel had a cor­rob­o­rat­ed ali­bi that put him 25 miles away from the store at the time of the mur­der with no access to a car. His court-appoint­ed coun­sel con­duct­ed min­i­mal fac­tu­al inves­ti­ga­tion in the case. The pros­e­cu­tion with­held from the defense evi­dence that Venn had the same type of gun that was used in the mur­der and had bruis­es con­sis­tent with dam­age done to the victim’s body; that the teenage eye­wit­ness had told the grand jury in the case that she could not iden­ti­fy the men in the store that night; that Venn’s 13-year-old girl­friend told the police and the grand jury that she saw Venn that night and that he was alone; and that when Venn was first arrest­ed, he said that he was with a dif­fer­ent per­son the night of the mur­der, gave a descrip­tion of the man and his name and address, but the police nev­er tried to find the man. No court ever reviewed the evi­dence of Kuenzel’s inno­cence because his lawyers missed a fil­ing dead­line by five months. 

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Ohio Governor Issues Three More Reprieves, Reschedules Executions for 2025

Feb 19, 2022

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued reprieves of three more exe­cu­tions that had been set to occur in 2022, resched­ul­ing them for 2025. In exec­u­tive orders issued February 18, 2022, DeWine halt­ed the exe­cu­tions of Percy Hutton, Douglas Coley, and Cedric Carter, who had been sched­uled to be put to death June 22, July 20, and August 24, 2022, respec­tive­ly. The gov­er­nor resched­uled Hutton’s exe­cu­tion for June 18, 2025, Coley’s for September 24, 2025, and Carter’s for August 272025.

A news release from the gov­er­nor’s office said DeWine issued the reprieves in response to ongo­ing prob­lems involv­ing the will­ing­ness of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sup­pli­ers to pro­vide drugs” for use in exe­cu­tions with­out endan­ger­ing oth­er Ohioans.” Drug man­u­fac­tur­ers had informed the gov­er­nor that they would halt sell­ing med­i­cines to state facil­i­ties if Ohio divert­ed drugs that had been sold for med­ical use and instead used them in executions.

Ohio last car­ried out an exe­cu­tion in July 2018. Of the 68 exe­cu­tion dates set for August 2018 through the end of 2022, 45 have been resched­uled after being halt­ed by reprieves issued by for­mer Governor John Kasich or by Gov. DeWine, 9 have been stayed by the courts, 8 have been with­drawn or oth­er­wise resched­uled, one death sen­tence has been com­mut­ed, and 4 pris­on­ers have died of nat­ur­al caus­es on death row. It is expect­ed that Governor DeWine will issue anoth­er reprieve and resched­ule the pend­ing September 15, 2022 exe­cu­tion date for Kareem Jackson.

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Discussions With DPIC Podcast: The Becket Fund’s Daniel Chen on the Exercise of Religion in the Execution Chamber

Nov 15, 2021

In the November 2021 episode of Discussions with DPIC, Daniel Chen, coun­sel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, speaks with DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham about the Supreme Court case Ramirez v. Collier and death-row pris­on­ers’ rights to reli­gious free­dom. John Ramirez has chal­lenged Texas’ restric­tions on audi­ble prayer and phys­i­cal touch by his spir­i­tu­al advi­sor dur­ing his exe­cu­tion. Allowing such pas­toral com­fort in the exe­cu­tion cham­ber, Chen says, is about fun­da­men­tal human dignity.”

Interviewed a week before the Supreme Court oral argu­ment in Ramirez, Chen describes the Becket Fund’s involve­ment in that case and oth­ers involv­ing the free exer­cise of reli­gion in the exe­cu­tion cham­ber. Tracing the his­to­ry of audi­ble prayer and cler­gy touch dur­ing exe­cu­tions, Chen says Texas’ pol­i­cy is out of step with his­tor­i­cal prac­tices, includ­ing its own pre-2019 regulations. 

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Death-Row Exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth Receives Supplemental Compensation Under New Maryland Wrongful Imprisonment Statute

Oct 06, 2021

Kirk Bloodsworth, the first for­mer death-row pris­on­er to have been exon­er­at­ed by DNA test­ing, has become the first per­son to receive sup­ple­men­tal com­pen­sa­tion under a new Maryland wrong­ful impris­on­ment statute. 

Bloodsworth, who was wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death in 1984 on charges that he had raped and mur­dered 9‑year-old Dawn Hamilton, won a new tri­al as a result of pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al mis­con­duct but was wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed a sec­ond time and sen­tenced to life impris­on­ment. DNA test­ing in 1993 exclud­ed him as the killer and iden­ti­fied anoth­er man who was in prison for anoth­er sex­u­al assault com­mit­ted after he had raped and killed the young girl.

Maryland grant­ed Bloodsworth $300,000 in com­pen­sa­tion in 1994 for his wrong­ful con­vic­tion. A new law passed dur­ing Maryland’s 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion amend­ed the state’s com­pen­sa­tion law to autho­rize the pay­ment of com­pen­sa­tion for each year of wrong­ful incar­cer­a­tion at a rate equal to the aver­age of the state’s annu­al medi­an income, as cal­cu­lat­ed over the pre­ced­ing five years. The new statute also per­mit­ted exonerees who had received com­pen­sa­tion on or before July 1, 2005 to seek sup­ple­men­tal compensation.

The Maryland Board of Public Works deter­mined that Bloodsworth would be enti­tled to $721,237.40 in com­pen­sa­tion under the new for­mu­la. Subtracting the pri­or pay­ment Bloodsworth received in 1994, an admin­is­tra­tive law judge on October 6, 2021 approved pay­ment of $421,237.40 in sup­ple­men­tal compensation. 

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