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1,000 Faith Leaders Call for End to the Death Penalty

As the 1,000th execution approaches, over 1,000 religious leaders from more than a dozen religious faiths have issued an open letter calling for an end to capital punishment in the United States. The letter reaffirms the leaders’ moral opposition to the death penalty and reiterates the groups’ belief in the sacredness of life and the human capacity for change. The faith leaders called on public officials to reexamine capital punishment and to seek better ways to help communities heal from violence. The letter states:


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1000th Execution Approaches

The U.S. conducted the 1,000th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 on December 2. This is a somber milestone in the history of capital punishment, but it comes at a time when the use of the death penalty in this country is sharply declining. Death sentences, the size of death row, executions, and public support for the death penalty are all lower than they were five years ago.

This event presents an opportunity to reflect on the application of the death penalty over the past 30 years. The following are resources that may be helpful in such a review:

Other organizations' responses (including the letter from 1,000 religious leaders):
www.1000executions.org


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NEW VOICES: Originator of Lethal Injection Voices Regrets, Opposes Death Penalty

Bill Wiseman, the former Oklahoma legislator who introduced lethal injection as a method of execution in the U.S. in order to make death row inmates' deaths more humane, now regrets having pushed the concept into law. He notes that he introduced the measure in order to ease his shame for having voted to restore the death penalty in Oklahoma, stating, "I'm sorry for what I did. I hope someday to offset it by helping us realize that capital punishment is wrong and self-destructive." While discussing recent court challenges regarding lethal injection practices, Wiseman stated, "I'm aware of my responsibility. It keeps me tied to the problem. And the problem is that we're killing people. That's what's wrong, not how we're doing it." Wiseman is no longer an elected official and was recently ordained as an Episcopal priest.


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Executions by Lethal Injection Being Challenged around the Country

A number of states are grappling with the question of whether the lethal injection drug Pavulon, also known as pancuronium bromide, paralyzes a condemned inmate's muscles in a way that masks horrific pain felt during an execution, a side-effect that experts say could violate of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Tennessee Supreme Court heard arguments about this issue in a death row case in June 2005 and a similar case is expected to reach the Kentucky Supreme Court soon. In May 2005, a Missouri inmate was given a last minute stay so that the U.S. Supreme Court could review his death penalty procedure case. His claim was denied 5-4, and he was later executed.


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Nebraska Supreme Court to Hear Electric Chair Challenge

The Nebraska Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the state's use of the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment. The case, brought by death row inmate Carey Dean Moore, will be heard on May 5. Every other death penalty state has adopted lethal injection as an alternative method of execution. A bill to offer lethal injection in Nebraska remains stalled in the state's Senate Judiciary Committee.

Three people have been put to death in Nebraska since executions resumed in 1994. Coroner reports document that one of the men, John Joubert, suffered a 4-inch brain blister on the top of his head and blistering on both sides of his head above his ears. The reports note that another man, Robert Williams, had a "bubble blister" the size of a baseball on his left calf and had pronounced "charring" on both sides of a knee and the top of his head. A witness to Williams' execution reported seeing smoke coming from his head.

Moore's attorney, Alan Peterson, notes, "Now, no other state mandates that humans face the horror of death by internal burning and shock, with the well-known history of bungled, smoking failures of the century-old technique. [Electrocution] involves more than mere extinguishment of life and will subject defendant to needless agony, physical suffering, torture, mutilation, disfigurement, and degradation.... No longer can this state tolerate the form of punishment now almost universally recognized to be beyond the bounds of minimum human dignity, civility, and decency."  (Associated Press, April 19, 2005).
 


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Lethal Injection To Be Examined In Kentucky

A Franklin County, Kentucky, court will hear arguments beginning April 18 to determine whether the state's lethal injection procedures rise to the level of cruelty that is forbidden by the U.S. and state constitutions. In November 2004, the same court cited questions about the lethal injection process when it issued a stay of execution for Thomas Clyde Bowling, Jr. just days before his scheduled execution. Attorneys for Bowling and death row inmate Ralph Baze, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, now plan to present an anesthesiologist, a pharmacologist, and 18 other witnesses whose testimony will challenge the state's lethal injection procedures, the drugs used in these executions, and the training of the personnel who carry them out. Currently, Kentucky uses a series of three drugs during lethal injections that are designed to relax and put inmates to sleep before killing them. Bowling's attorney plans to present evidence that the first drugs do not get into the blood stream before the killing drugs are administered, leading to a "death that is pure torture." Among the evidence presented will be an autopsy report for Eddie Lee Harper, the state's first and only inmate to be executed by lethal injection.


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MEDICAL JOURNAL, THE LANCET: Inmates Probably Conscious During Lethal Injections

inmates affected A team of medical doctors reported in the British medical journal The Lancet that in 43 of 49 executed inmates (88%) studied, the anaesthetic administered during lethal injections was lower than that required for surgery.  Toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina revealed that post-mortem concentrations of thiopental in the blood were below typical surgery levels, and in 21 inmates (43%) the concentrations of thiopental in the blood were consistent with awareness.  Their investigation of lethal injection practices from several states found that the guidelines for delivering the essential anaesthesia drug thiopental are flawed and that some inmates might experience awareness and suffering during their execution. In Texas and Virginia, the researchers found that those administering thiopental during lethal injections had no training, and that the drug was administered remotely with no monitoring for anaesthesia. The study also found that in these states no records were kept regarding the administration of thiopental and no peer-review was done.  The report concludes, "Failures in protocol design, implementation, monitoring and review might have led to the unnecessary suffering of at least some of those executed. Because participation of doctors in protocol design or execution is ethically prohibited, adequate anaesthesia cannot be certain. Therefore, to prevent unnecessary cruelty and suffering, cessation and public review of lethal injection is warranted."  (The Lancet, Volume 365, Page 1412, April 16, 2005).  See Methods of Execution

 

 

 

 

 


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Kentucky to Conduct Hearing on Whether Lethal Injection Is Humane

In Kentucky, a Franklin Circuit Court judge will hear evidence for possibly five days in April on whether the state's method of executing prisoners is humane. Medical experts will testify about the drugs, dosage and training of the people who administer the 3-drug lethal-injection cocktail. Lawyers for condemned inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr. and Ralph Baze sued the state in August, saying Kentucky's method of execution violates a prisoner's Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Among the issues to be reviewed are the type of chemicals used in lethal injection, the dosage, and how much of the drugs make it into the body of the condemned. Kentucky has executed only one person, Eddie Lee Harper, by lethal injection, in 1999. In court papers, Baze and Bowling's lawyers have argued that there is more than a 50 percent chance that Harper was awake when the third drug was administered, meaning he could have felt pain. But because the state uses a drug called Pavulon, which paralyzes the muscles, Harper could not have communicated that he was in pain.


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9th Circuit Weighs Lethal Injection Challenge in California

Note: The Court of Appeals denied the challenge to California's lethal injection process. Just one week before the scheduled execution of California death row inmate Donald Beardslee, judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are considering a suit filed by the ACLU of California, Death Penalty Focus, and Beardslee's defense attorneys concerning the state's use of a paralyzing chemical called Pavulon in lethal injections. Beardslee's attorneys said that Pavulon could prevent an inmate from crying out in pain, and that it could mask suffering caused by asphyxiation and the searing sensation caused by the last administered chemical in the lethal injection process, potassium chloride. Some of the judges expressed concerns about the state's secretiveness and lack of detail regarding the chemical: "You're putting us in an awkward position," said Judge Sidney Thomas to the state's lawyer. "Some other states don't use it." Defense attorneys argued that the purpose of including Pavulon is to keep the public in the dark about whether the state's lethal injection method is inhumane. A ruling is still pending regarding this appeal, and a separate bid for clemency from the governor will be heard soon by the state's parole board. (Sacramento Bee, January 13, 2005). This would be the 11th execution in California since the death penalty was reinstated 30 years ago. There are 638 people on the state's death row.


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Executions in the United States in 2005
DATE NUMBER SINCE 1976 STATE NAME AGE RACE VICTIM RACE METHOD
1/04/05 945 TX James Porter* 33 W L Lethal Injection
1/19/05 946 CA Donald Beardslee 61 W 2W Lethal Injection
1/25/05 947 TX Troy Kunkle 38 W W Lethal Injection
1/25/05 948 GA Timothy Carr 34 W W Lethal Injection
2/17/05 949 TX Dennis Bagwell 41 W 4W Lethal Injection
3/01/05 950 GA Stephen Mobley 39 W W Lethal Injection
3/08/05 951 OH William H. Smith 47 B B Lethal Injection
3/08/05 952 TX George Hopper 50 W W Lethal Injection
3/10/05 953 IN Donald Wallace 47 W 4W Lethal Injection
3/11/05 954 NC William Powell 58 W W Lethal Injection
3/15/05 955 OK Jimmy Ray Slaughter 57 W 2W Lethal Injection
3/16/05 956 MO Stanley Hall 37 B W Lethal Injection
4/05/05 957 FL Glen Ocha* 47 W W Lethal Injection
4/15/05 958 SC Richard Longworth 36 W 2W Lethal Injection
4/20/05 959 TX Douglas Roberts 42 W L Lethal Injection
4/21/05 960 IN Bill J. Benefiel, Jr. 48 W W Lethal Injection
4/27/05 961 MO Donald Jones 38 B B Lethal Injection
4/28/05 962 AL Mario Centobie* 39 W W Lethal Injection
5/3/05 963 TX Lonnie Wayne Pursley 43 W W Lethal Injection
5/6/05 964 NC Earl J. Richmond, Jr. 43 B 4B Lethal Injection
5/12/05 965 OK George James Miller, Jr. 37 B W Lethal Injection
5/13/05 966 CT Michael Ross* 45 W 4W Lethal Injection
5/17/05 967 MO Vernon Brown 51 B 2B Lethal Injection
5/18/05 968 TX Bryan Wolfe 44 B B Lethal Injection
5/19/05 969 TX Richard Cartwright 31 W L Lethal Injection
5/25/05 970 IN Gregory Scott Johnson 40 W W Lethal Injection
6/2/05 971 AL Jerry Paul Henderson 58 W W Lethal Injection
6/7/05 972 TX Alexander Martinez* 28 L L Lethal Injection
7/12/05 973 GA Robert Dale Conklin 44 W W Lethal Injection
7/19/05 974 OK Michael L. Pennington 37 B W Lethal Injection
7/27/05 975 IN Kevin Conner 38 W 3W Lethal Injection
7/28/05 976 TX David Martinez 29 L W Lethal Injection
8/4/05 977 AL George Sibley 62 W W Lethal Injection
8/10/05 978 TX Gary Sterling 38 B W Lethal Injection
8/11/05 979 OK Kenneth Eugene Turrentine 52 B B Lethal Injection
8/23/05 980 TX Robert Alan Shields 30 W W Lethal Injection
8/31/05 981 MO Timothy Johnston 44 W W Lethal Injection
9/14/05 982 TX Frances Newton ( ƒ) 40 B 3B Lethal Injection
9/22/05 983 AL John W. Peoples Jr. 48 W 3W Lethal Injection
9/27/05 984 OH Herman Dale Ashworth* 32 W W Lethal Injection
9/28/05 985 IN Alan Matheney 54 W W Lethal Injection
10/6/05 986 TX Ronald Ray Howard 32 B W Lethal Injection
10/20/05 987 TX Luis Ramirez 42 L L Lethal Injection
10/25/05 988 OH William Williams, Jr. 48 B 4B Lethal Injection
10/26/05 989 MO Marlin Gray 38 B 2W Lethal Injection
11/3/05 990 TX Melvin White 55 W W Lethal Injection
11/4/05 991 DE Brian Steckel 36 W W Lethal Injection
11/4/05 992 SC Arthur Hastings Wise* 51 B 4W Lethal Injection
11/9/05 993 TX Charles Thacker 38 W W Lethal Injection
11/11/05 994 NC Steven Van McHone 35 W 2W Lethal Injection
11/15/05 995 TX Robert Rowell 50 W W, L Lethal Injection
11/16/05 996 TX Shannon Thomas 34 B 3L Lethal Injection
11/18/05 997 NC Elias Hanna Syriani 67 A A Lethal Injection
11/28/05 998 AR Eric Randall Nance 45 W W Lethal Injection
11/29/05 999 OH John R. Hicks 49 B 2B Lethal Injection
12/2/05 1000 NC Kenneth Lee Boyd 57 W 2W Lethal Injection
12/2/05 1001 SC Shawn Humphries 33 W W Lethal Injection
12/5/05 1002 MD Wesley E. Baker 47 B W Lethal Injection
12/13/05 1003 CA Stanley Williams 51 B 3A, W Lethal Injection
12/14/05 1004 MS John Nixon 77 W W Lethal Injection


ƒ female
* volunteer - an inmate who has given up his/her appeals and requested the earliest execution date

# juvenile at time of the crime
~foreign national
¥ white defendant executed for murder of black victim
**Race of defendant information supplied by NAACP Legal Defense Fund "Death Row USA"

Back to Lists of Individuals Executed Since 1976

General Execution and Death Row Information
-Compiled by Death Penalty Information Center
 
 

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