Archive | execution

17 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Lisa Coleman

The State of Texas executed Lisa Coleman this evening, September 17, 2014, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her request for a stay.  She was convicted a decade ago in Tarrant County in the starvation death of 9-year-old Davontae Williams. The boy’s mother, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life sentence.  She will be eligible for parole in 2044.

It was the ninth execution in Texas this year, out of 30 nationwide.  Coleman was the sixth woman put to death in Texas since 1982 and the second in 2014.  Read more from the Washington Post.

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16 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Federal court rejects appeal of Lisa Coleman

*Update as of 5:15 PM on September 17, 2014*  The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Lisa Coleman, allowing her execution to proceed.  Read more from the Washington Post:

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Lisa Ann Coleman on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Coleman was convicted a decade ago in Tarrant County in the starvation death of 9-year-old Davontae Williams. The boy’s mother, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life sentence.  She will be eligible for parole in 2044.

According to the Associated Press, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Coleman’s appeal earlier today.  The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined to commute her death sentence.  Attorneys contend that the kidnapping charge, which served as the aggravating factor that paved the way for prosecutors to charge Coleman with capital murder, should be reviewed by the courts.

If this execution proceeds, Coleman will be the sixth woman put to death in Texas since 1982.  It will be the ninth execution to date this year in the Lone Star State.

Read more about Coleman’s case, including interviews with her aunt and original defense attorney, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

and from NBC 5 Dallas- Fort Worth:

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10 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas executes Willie Trottie

This evening, September 10th, the State of Texas executed Willie Trottie. A Harris County jury sentenced him to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The execution took place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  According to the Associated Press, “attorneys for Trottie contended the dose of pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness date and could subject him to unconstitutional ‘tortuous’ pain.”  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

It was the first execution in Texas in four months and the state’s first since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.  Earlier in the day, the State of Missouri also carried out an execution, putting Earl Ringo, Jr. to death.  Both Texas and Missouri have executed eight people to date in 2014.

Harris County now accounts for 122 executions since 1982, more than any state in the country besides Texas and twice as many as any other county.

Harris County prosecutors have sentenced 294 people to death since 1976; there are approximately 100 inmates still on death row who were convicted in Harris County … more than one-­third of the current death row population. 

Read more about the case of Willie Trottie from the Associated Press and the Guardian.

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09 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas to Resume Executions on Wednesday with Secret Drug Supply

The State of Texas is scheduled to resume executions this Wednesday, September 10th, after an unusual four-month hiatus.  It if proceeds, the execution of Willie Trottie will be the first execution in Texas since April and the first here since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

This execution will take place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  In an appeal filed today with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for Trottie contend that the lethal injection drugs that will be used on him have expired.  Read more from the Texas Tribune.  Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice do not have to disclose information about the pharmacy or pharmacist now supplying the lethal injection drugs used in executions.  Read more from the Guardian.

A Harris County jury sentenced Willie Trottie to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The State of Missouri has also scheduled the execution of Earl Ringo for Wednesday.  Texas, Florida and Missouri  each have carried out seven executions to date this year.  Read more from the Associated Press.

We encourage all Texans to attend a vigil in your community.

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23 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

Another Botched Execution – This Time in Arizona

Today’s execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona took nearly two hours as he repeatedly gasped and snorted, according to witnesses.  Some reports say that Wood gasped more than 600 times during the process.  In coverage by CNNa media witness from KSAZ likened Wood’s breathing to a “fish gulping for air” and said it was difficult for everyone in the room to watch.

The events in Arizona come less than three months after the horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which reignited a national conversation about the secrecy now surrounding lethal injection protocols throughout the country.  Legal challenges in Wood’s case sought to force the state to disclose the source of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.  Unlike states like Texas that use a single dose of pentobarbital, Arizona now uses the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone.  This was the same combination of drugs used in a problematic execution in Ohio in January.

Statement from Attorney for Joseph Wood Re: Tonight’s Bungled Execution

The following is a statement from Dale Baich, one of Joseph Wood’s attorneys, regarding today’s execution:

“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes. We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution. The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

-Dale Baich

-July 23, 2014

Read coverage of today’s events and background on the case from the Associated Press and the Arizona Republic.

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22 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

Retired Judges Support Appeal of Rodney Reed

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Rodney Reed on January 14, 2015 for the 1996 murder and rape of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County. Since his initial trial in 1998, Reed has maintained his innocence, claiming that he had a consensual relationship with Stites and that he received poor representation from his original trial attorneys.

Reed’s execution was scheduled despite the fact that there are still DNA tests to be conducted. Both the defense and the prosecution agreed to further testing on several items, but the state refused to allow some additional items requested by the defense, including the murder weapon. Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, argued, “This is a case with very real questions. Given the troubled history and troubled past [of the case], additional DNA evidence can ultimately undermine the rest of the evidence.” According to Judge Doug Shaver, there will be ample time to evaluate the evidence before the execution date.

On July 21, 2014, eight retired federal and state judges urged the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Reed’s appeal. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. The judges are not taking a position on Reed’s innocence. They are instead focusing on the procedural errors of the appeals court that rejected Reed’s appeal in January. The judges believe that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not the proper setting for the decisions that took place.  In their amicus brief, the judges write that “trial courts are the appropriate venue for developing a factual record and resolving questions of fact.”

For more information, please refer to the following articles from The StandDown Texas Project:


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13 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

Preliminary Autopsy Results from Botched Execution in Oklahoma

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein at (202)

Oklahoma Execution Team Failed to Place IV in Clayton Lockett’s Vein, According to Preliminary Findings of Independent Autopsy

The Oklahoma execution team failed to set a properly functioning IV in Clayton Lockett’s femoral vein, according to preliminary findings released today of an independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph I. Cohen, M.D. The autopsy was performed in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 14, 2014, following the botched execution of Mr. Lockett in Oklahoma City on April 29, 2014. Dr. Cohen was retained by attorneys for Oklahoma death row prisoners. The preliminary findings can be accessed here: (

Despite the report’s findings that Mr. Lockett’s veins, both surface and deep, were in excellent shape “for the purpose of achieving venous access,” the execution team attempted to place the IV for the lethal injection execution into his femoral vein in the groin area, which is riskier, more difficult and more painful to place.

According to Dr. Cohen’s report, he found “skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas,” demonstrating that the execution team attempted to set IVs in both arms and both sides of Mr. Lockett’s groin. Dr. Cohen further found superficial and deep hemorrhages “indicative of attempted vascular access” and “the presence of vascular injury indicative of failed vascular catheter access.” The execution team’s attempts to insert the IV perforated the femoral vein.

Contrary to statements by the state, Mr. Lockett’s veins did not collapse or “blow out.” Rather, despite the excellent condition of Mr. Lockett’s veins, the execution team made numerous failed attempts to set an IV, eventually setting an improperly placed and ineffective IV in Mr. Lockett’s femoral vein. Dr. Cohen also notes the “unlikelihood” that dehydration could have played a role in compromising venous access.

There are serious questions about the training of the personnel who performed the execution. The Department of Corrections timeline states that the IV was set by a phlebotomist, which was confirmed by the Governor’s office, but when Tulsa World questioned the assertions, both state agencies reversed their positions and said it was an EMT, whose name has not been revealed.  ( Oklahoma’s execution protocol allows for a central line, such as an IV to a femoral vein, only if set by a physician, not a phlebotomist.

“The improper placement of the IV used in Mr. Lockett’s execution is just one factor that caused his prolonged and painful death,” said Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. “The three-drug protocol that was used exacerbated the pain and suffering that Mr. Lockett faced by needlessly paralyzing him and subjecting him to the pain of potassium chloride. Moreover, the state had no plan for contingencies in the event that the execution did not go as planned, as clearly happened here.”

“Lack of transparency is a pervasive problem with execution procedures,” Ms. McCracken commented. “During Mr. Lockett’s execution, the Department of Corrections closed the blinds to the execution chamber so that the witnesses and press could not see what was happening for the 24 minutes leading up to the announcement that Mr. Lockett had died. Nothing is known about what happened during this timeframe, and it is one of many questions Dr. Cohen seeks answers to in order to complete his independent autopsy.”

The additional information that Dr. Cohen seeks includes:

·       Documentation of tests and procedures performed by the State of Oklahoma’s Chief Medical Examiner’s office;

·       Autopsy, toxicology, histology and other reports generated by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office;

·       Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ policies and procedures pertaining to lethal injection executions;

·       Documentation pertaining to Mr. Lockett’s execution;

·       Mr. Lockett’s complete medical records and prison records;

·       Information about cell extraction, including use of physical restraint or use of electrical conductive devices.

·       Occurrence and treatment of injuries to Mr. Lockett prior to execution;

·       Records pertaining to the transport and storage of Mr. Lockett’s body following the execution.

“Dr. Cohen has begun a critically important inquiry into the botched execution of Clayton Lockett,” says Dr. Mark Heath, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Columbia University and expert in lethal injection executions. “However, to complete this inquiry, Dr. Cohen will need the state to provide extensive additional information beyond what the body itself revealed. I hope that Oklahoma provides everything he asks for so that we can all understand what went so terribly wrong in Mr. Lockett’s execution.”

More information about Dr. Cohen can be accessed here:

To speak with medical and other experts in lethal injection, please contact Laura Burstein at (202) 626-6868;


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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Just In: Challenge to Texas Lethal Injection Secrecy Filed with U.S. Supreme Court re Tonight’s Scheduled Execution

For more information, please contact Laura Burstein at: at or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).


Today, attorneys for Robert James Campbell, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CT tonight in Texas, filed a stay motion and an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to address the constitutionality of the secrecy surrounding Texas’ lethal injection drugs, particularly in light of the recent horrific botched execution in Oklahoma. Mr. Campbell seeks information about the source and testing of the drugs Texas plans to use in his lethal injection execution.  As the appeal notes, it was only recently, with its purchase of the most recent batch of lethal injection drugs, that Texas began to follow the path of secrecy shared by Oklahoma in the weeks leading up to Mr. Lockett’s horrific death.

A link to the appeal can be accessed here:

Maurie Levin, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, commented, “The extreme secrecy which surrounded lethal injection in Oklahoma prior to Mr. Lockett’s execution led directly to disastrous consequences. This is a crucial moment when the courts must recognize that death row prisoners can no longer rely on the State’s bald assertion that the events in Oklahoma won’t repeat themselves in Texas.  Unless the courts demand that Texas proceed with a commitment to transparency and accountability, there is an unacceptable risk that other prisoners will be subjected to the torturous death suffered by Mr. Lockett.”

An appeal filed yesterday with the Fifth Circuit was denied (, but had urged that court, as a federal judge did on Friday, to reconsider its jurisprudence regarding lethal injection and secrecy. That appeal noted that Mr. Campbell’s “8th Amendment rights can only be protected if he is provided the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution.”  The appeal also stated: “By depriving [Mr. Campbell] … of the means to determine whether his rights will be violated, Defendants are effectively nullifying those rights.” (p. 2).  The Fifth Circuit’s opinion allotted one page to the analysis of the issues presented, and did not mention the events in Oklahoma or Mr. Lockett’s botched execution.

The decision of the District Court on Friday, May 9, 2014 was far more contemplative in its ruling, writing:

“The horrific narrative of Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014 requires sober reflection on the manner in which this nation administers the ultimate punishment. While the law currently does not permit injunctive relief, this Court urges the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its jurisprudence that seems to shield crucial elements of the execution process from open inquiry.”

Texas’ lethal injection protocol calls for a single dose of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is no longer legally available in FDA-regulated form, but only from compounding pharmacies, which operate outside of FDA oversight, making it impossible to know if the drugs have been properly prepared and tested in order to ensure the execution will be carried out in a manner that comports with the Constitution. In addition, documents show that TDCJ is in possession in midazalom, the first drug used in the botched execution of Mr. Locket:

Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota that used compounded pentobarbital appeared to have had serious problems. On January 9, 2014, Oklahoma executed Michael Wilson, presumably also using compounded pentobarbital as the first drug in the three-drug formula. Prior to losing consciousness, Mr. Wilson cried out, “I feel my whole body burning.” Those were his last words. The State has refused to provide any information about what might have gone wrong in Mr. Wilson’s execution, but expert pharmacologist Larry D. Sasich, PharmD, MPH, FASHP, signed a sworn affidavit stating, “It is my opinion that Mr. Wilson’s reaction is consistent with contaminated pentobarbital sodium injection.”

Dr. Sasich’s affidavit is here:

The sworn statement of another anesthesiologist, Dr. Waisel, is here:

In October 2012, in South Dakota, Eric Robert was executed using compounded pentobarbital. Witnesses reported that he “appeared to clear his throat and gasp heavily, at which point his skin turned a blue-purplish hue. Mr. Robert opened his eyes and they remained open until his death, and his heart continued beating for 10 minutes after he ceased to breathe.”

On April 14, 2014, in Texas, Jose Villegas was executed with compounded pentobarbital.  “As a journalist witness wrote:  “Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, ‘It does kind of burn.  Goodbye.’  He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. (pp. 11-12 of the civil rights complaint: ).” Additionally, there have been multiple documented problematic executions in Texas via lethal injection, detailed on pp. 13-14 of the civil rights complaint.

Additionally, Mr. Campbell’s case contains other areas of concern including the fact that he is a person with intellectual disability, and that the state failed to disclose evidence of testing which showed his intellectual disability. The Arc, a national organization for individuals with intellectual and developmental disability, issued a letter yesterday condemning Mr. Campbell’s execution, which can be accessed here: A press release detailing more about Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disability is here:

For more information, including information about the Texas lethal injection protocol, drugs in the TDCJ’s possession, background on previous disputes between TDCJ and pharmacies, do not hesitate to contact counsel for Mr. Campbell, Maurie Levin at and (512) 294-1540.

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