Archive | lethal injection

09 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

Sixth Texas Execution of the Year Scheduled to Take Place Tonight

The execution of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas is likely to take place as scheduled tonight, April 9, 2014.  On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied his petition for clemency, while the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice does not have to reveal the source of its new supply of pentobarbital, the drug used in the lethal injection process.  According to the Associated Press, attorneys for Hernandez Llanas do not plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Justices rejected similar arguments in the case of Tommy Lynn Sells last week and allowed his execution to proceed despite concerns about the drug used to kill him.

Hernandez Llanas was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering his employer, Kerr County ranch owner Glen Lich, and sexually assaulting Lich’s wife in 1997. A Mexican national, Hernandez Llanas grew up next to a garbage dump, where his family collected and sold trash to survive. His trial, which was moved to Bandera County, lasted two days; the jury took five minutes to convict him. According to Amnesty International, his low IQ scores and evidence of his adaptive functioning deficits have been rejected by the courts, despite a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits the death penalty for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  The prosecution’s expert, who had never met Hernandez Llanas, asserted that his “adaptive behavior is in keeping with his cultural group.”

Read more about this case and about the victim, Glen Lich, from the San Antonio Express-News.

 

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04 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Tommy Lynn Sells After High Court Refuses to Intervene

The State of Texas carried out the execution of Tommy Lynn Sells this evening, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal.  Sells  was convicted of killing thirteen-year-old Kaylene Harris in an attack on her and a friend at a home near Del Rio in Val Verde County in 1999.  Eleven-year-old Krystal Surles survived and testified against him.

According to the Houston Chronicle:

The execution came despite last-minute litigation by attorneys for Sells and another death row inmate seeking to have the U.S. Supreme Court intervene because Texas prison officials have refused to disclose details about a new batch of lethal drugs.

The high court sent word that it would not stop the execution about an hour before it was scheduled to begin.

It was the fifth execution to take place in Texas this year, out of 14 nationwide.

Previous posts about the latest developments with the lethal injection protocol are available here and here.

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02 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

Federal Judge Stays Executions, Orders Release of Drug Supply Source to Attorneys; Case Now Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Update 4/3/14: Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must disclose the source of its new drug supply to attorneys for two inmates facing imminent execution.  The case now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.  Read more from the Houston Chronicle.

Earlier today, a federal judge temporarily halted the executions of Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas – scheduled for April 3 and April 9, respectively – “declaring that the state’s prison system must disclose to defense attorneys more information about the supplier of a new batch of lethal-injection drugs.” (“Judge halts Texas executions over drug secrecy,” Associated Press, April 2, 2014)

According to the AP, “[U.S. District Judge Vanessa] Gilmore ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide defense attorneys with information about the supplier and how the drug was tested.”   Officials with TDCJ have refused to identify the source of the newly obtained supply of pentobarbital, the sole drug now used in Texas’ lethal injection protocol.

The state reportedly plans to appeal Judge Gilmore’s ruling.

Here’s a statement from attorneys Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs (Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas):

“The District Court’s Order honors and reflects the crucial importance of transparency in the execution process.  We hope that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will finally decide to comply with the law, and cease attempting to shroud in secrecy one aspect of their job that, above all others, should be conducted in the light of day.  It is TDCJ’s attempt to manipulate the system and evade accountability and the rule of law that compelled this last minute litigation, and the need for a stay of execution to permit Plaintiffs and the courts to review the constitutionality of the means and methods by which Texas intends to carry out their execution.”

– Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs | April 2, 2014

Read more about today’s developments from the Associated Press (published in the Houston Chronicle) and the Austin American-Statesman.  Links courtesy of Steve Hall at StandDown Texas.

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02 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

TCADP April Alert: Executions Continue in Texas with New Drug Supply, More Secrecy

In This Edition:
Scheduled Executions
Death Penalty Developments
Featured Events
Calendar and Volunteer Opportunities

Executions
The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out three executions this month, using a newly obtained supply of pentobarbital. Late last week, a state judge ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to disclose the source of the new drug supply, rejecting arguments that such information should be kept secret because of “security concerns.” On Friday, however, the Texas Supreme Court blocked the judge’s order and stopped the release of information to attorneys for two inmates scheduled for execution in April. Further litigation and appeals are pending.

  • On April 3, Tommy Lynn Sells is scheduled to be put to death for attacking two young girls at a home near Del Rio in Val Verde County in 1999.  Thirteen-year-old Kaylene Harris, was killed; her 11-year-old friend, Krystal Surles, survived and testified against him. Sells is the only person convicted in Val Verde County on death row.
  •  Ramiro Hernandez Llanas is scheduled to be executed on April 9 for murdering his employer, Kerr County ranch owner Glen Lich, and sexually assaulting Lich’s wife in 1997. Hernandez Llanas is a Mexican national who grew up next to a garbage dump, where his family collected and sold trash to survive. His trial, which was moved to Bandera County, lasted two days; the jury took five minutes to convict him. According to Amnesty International, his low IQ scores and evidence of his adaptive functioning deficits have been rejected by the courts, despite a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits the death penalty for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  The prosecution’s expert, who had never met Hernandez Llanas, asserted that his “adaptive behavior is in keeping with his cultural group.”  Read more from Amnesty International and take action today.
  • On April 16, Jose Luis Villegas, Jr. is scheduled to be executed for stabbing to death three people – his ex-girlfriend, 24-year-old Erida Perez Salazar, her 3-year-old son, Jacob Salazar, and her 51-year-old mother, Alma Perez – in 2001 in Corpus Christi. He reportedly then stole from the family to buy drugs.

Stay tuned to TCADP for further developments on these cases and the lethal injection lawsuit. For a comprehensive look at the status of lethal injection challenges in other states, check out this article from USA Today.

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions. Information and updates on these cases will be available on our website and through Facebook and Twitter.

Recent Death Penalty Developments
Amnesty International releases annual report on worldwide executions.140 Countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Amnesty’s report highlights that Iran and Iraq caused a sharp global spike in the number of executions carried out in 2013, bucking the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty.

The USA was once again the only country to carry out executions in the Americas, although four fewer people (39) were put to death in 2013 compared with 2012. The state of Texas accounted for 41% of all executions. Meanwhile, Maryland became the 18th US state to abolish the death penalty. Several Greater Caribbean states reported empty death rows for the first time since Amnesty International began keeping records in 1980.

Despite the increase in executions in 2013, there has been a steady decline in the number of countries using the death penalty over the last 20 years, and there was progress in all regions last year.

Many countries who executed in 2012 did not implement any death sentences in 2013, including Gambia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, where authorities again suspended the use of the death penalty. Belarus also refrained from executions, meaning Europe and Central Asia were execution-free for the first time since 2009.

Twenty years ago, 37 countries actively implemented the death penalty. This number fell to 25 by 2004 and was at 22 last year. Only nine countries have carried out executions every year for the past five years.
More information and the full report can be found at the link.

Featured Events

“The Last 40 Miles” at Dallas International Film Festival
“The Last 40 Miles”, an innovative and compelling animated short film, will be shown during the Dallas International Film Festival.
  • Monday, April 7, 7:00 PM at the Angelika Film Center (5321 E Mockingbird Ln #230, Dallas)
  • Tuesday, April 8, 9:30 PM at the Angelika Film Center

In the film, Raymond, a condemned man, takes his last journey from his solitary cell on death row in Livingston to the execution chamber 40 miles away in Huntsville, Texas. During the journey – his third such trip to the death house – his memories, the unexpected warmth of the guard escorting him, and his ever-present hope keep him company. Watch the trailer here.

Buy tickets for one of the screenings here (tickets are $12 and can be picked up on site). The film will be shown as part of the Animated Shorts Competition. Please let us know if you attend a screening and what you think of the film. Invite your friends and family members to go with you! Visit http://diff2014.dallasfilm.org to learn more about the festival.

“Trial of Jesus” to be held at Manchaca United Methodist Church, Sunday, April 13 at 2:00pm.
In this powerful presentation, two Christian attorneys, Mark Osler and Jeanne Bishop, stage a mock death penalty trial of Jesus based on current Texas law. The unscripted courtroom drama features legal arguments and live witnesses testifying about whether Jesus should live or die. A judge presides and the audience is the jury.

Mark Osler is the author of Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment. A former federal prosecutor, he teaches criminal law and sentencing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

Jeanne Bishop is a felony trial attorney with the Office of the Cook County Public Defender in Chicago and an adjunct professor of Trial Advocacy at Northwestern University School of Law. She is also the sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who was murdered with her husband and their unborn child in 1990.

All are welcome.  For More Information call: 512-282-7274 www.ManchacaUMC.org  Download Flyer to Share.

Houston TCADP meeting features Dana Lynn Recer of GRACE
All Houston area supporters are invited to an evening meeting to be held Thursday, April 24 at Freed Montrose Library, 4100 Montrose, Houston, 6:00-8:00pm.  Dana Lynn Recer of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center (GRACE) will speak about death penalty trials and the work of GRACE. Download Flyer to Share.

Calendar and Volunteer Opportunities

April

3 Scheduled execution – Tommy Sells, 6:00pm. NEW Vigil on days of Executions – 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm, in front of the El Paso County Courthouse, 500 E. San Antonio, El Paso (downtown, on San Antonio, between Mesa and Campbell Streets)
5 TCADP information table at the Texas Junior State of America convention, Houston
7-8 “The Last 40 Miles” film showing at Angelika Theater in Dallas
9 Scheduled execution – Ramiro Hernandez, 6:00pm Act Now!
12 Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty information table at Young Americans for Liberty Texas Convention, Texas State University 9:00am-7:00pm.  *Volunteers needed to assist with table, please contact info@tcadp.org.
13 “Trial of Jesus” at Manchaca UMC, 2:00pm (Palm Sunday)
16 Scheduled execution – Jose Villegas, 6:00pm
24 Houston TCADP meeting at Freed Montrose Library, 4100 Montrose, Houston, 6:00-8:00pm.
29 El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty meeting at 7:00pm in the Mother Teresa Room of St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1050 N Clark St, El Paso.  elpaso@tcadp.org

TCADP encourages all members to attend a vigil in your community on the day of executions.

*For more information about these events or to volunteer to staff a table at an outreach event, email info@tcadp.org.

Support all of the programs and initiatives described here with a generous donation to TCADP today!

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20 March 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Ray Jasper; TDCJ Obtains New, Secret Supply of Lethal Drug

The State of Texas executed Ray Jasper last night, March 19, 2014, for the 1998 robbery and murder of recording studio owner David Alejandro in San Antonio. Jasper was 18 years old at the time of the crime.  His two co-defendants, both age 19 at the time of the crime, avoided the death penalty and received sentences of life in prison. If Jasper had been three months younger, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty – in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for juvenile offenders under age 18 (Roper v. Simmons).

In his final appeals, Jasper’s attorneys argued that prosecutors struck potential African American jurors on racially discriminatory grounds.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, “No one from Jasper’s family was in Huntsville Wednesday to witness the execution. No one from the Alejandro family, who are against the death penalty, attended either — instead opting to spend the evening together in San Antonio.”

Jasper was the third person put to death in Texas this year; eleven executions have been carried out nationwide in 2014.  Bexar County, which accounts for the third highest number of individuals sentenced to death in Texas (75), now accounts for 38 executions.  Sixteen individuals remain on death row from Bexar County – the county has not imposed any new death sentences since 2009.

Read more about Jasper’s case from CBSNews.

Also yesterday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) disclosed that it has obtained a new supply of pentobarbital, the single drug now used in the lethal injection process in Texas.  TDCJ refused to name the source of the new supply, citing security concerns.   Read more about this latest development from the Associated Press.

At this time, five inmates are scheduled to be executed in Texas.

 

 

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07 December 2013 ~ Comments Off

On this day in 1982…

Thirty-one years ago today, the State of Texas officially resumed executions, putting Charlie Brooks to death for the 1976 murder of David Gregory. That was also the nation’s first execution by lethal injection, a new method concocted by a legislator and former chief medical examiner in Oklahoma.

Rev Carroll Pickett at Joe Byrd Cemetery at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas

Reverend Carroll Pickett, who served as the chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, spent all day with Charlie Brooks and stood at the foot of the gurney as he was executed. In his memoir, Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain, he writes about the immediate aftermath of the execution: “All that remained was an air of stunned silence – testimony to the fact that none of those who had witnessed penal history being made had really been prepared for what they had seen.”
Earlier this year, Keith Brooks, the son of Charlie Brooks, Jr., spoke eloquently during the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee’s hearing on House Bill 1703, which called for repeal of the death penalty.  He told legislators, “I was very affected by the execution of my father… It is time to be Texas bold and stop the death penalty.  Senseless killing begets senseless killing….  We are more mature now. We are modern now. Why would we consider an archaic system?”
Since 1982, the State of Texas has executed 508 people; 269 of these executions have occurred during the administration of Governor Rick Perry, more than any other governor in U.S. history. This year, the State of Texas carried out 16 executions, a slight increase over last year and twice as many as any other state in the country.
Yet Texas – along with the rest of the nation – is moving away from the death penalty.  New death sentences remain at record-low levels, and death-qualified juries have rejected this punishment in more than 20 trials in the past six years.
Use of the death penalty has been relegated to a few jurisdictions statewide; in fact, just five counties account for 54% of new death sentences in the last six years. These trends and other developments in 2013 will appear in TCADP’s year-end report, which will be released later this month.
With your participation, TCADP is educating Texans about the fatal flaws of our state’s death penalty system and equipping our members to serve as powerful citizen advocates for abolition.
We are grateful for the contributions that so many of you have made already this year and ask for your additional support so that TCADP can continue to light the way to abolition.
Please join us in these efforts by making a special year-end, tax-deductible donation and hastening the day that we mark the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Texas.
Thank you for your generosity,
Kristin Houlé
TCADP Executive Director
p.s. Consider donating in memory or in honor of a friend or loved one. Go to www.tcadp.org/donate today to make a secure gift to TCADP.btn_donate

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09 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Michael Yowell Ask Supreme Court to Stay Execution

Update as of 7:00 PM: Despite serious questions about the compounded drugs obtained by Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to stop tonight’s scheduled execution of Michael Yowell.  Below is a statement from attorneys for Mr. Yowell.

The State of Texas executed Michael Yowell at 7:11 PM this evening.

Statement from Attorneys for Michael Yowell

“We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied Michael Yowell’s appeal asking that the public and the courts have meaningful access to information about how Texas plans to put him to death. In Mr. Yowell’s case, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not reveal information about the drug it intended to use for his execution until one week before tonight’s scheduled execution date.

‘In carrying out Mr. Yowell’s execution, Texas intends to use compounded penobarbital, for the first time.  This shift to compounded drugs is a dramatic change from prior practice – making the need for oversight – now and in the future – that much more important.

‘To permit the TDCJ to wait until the last minute to disclose such crucial information essentially shields them from any review, allowing it to make decisions about how to execute people without any accountability or transparency.  Surely this is not the way we want our government to carry out its most solemn duty.”

-Maurie Levin and Bobbie Stratton, October 9, 2013 

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This afternoon, attorneys for Michael Yowell, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas this evening, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay based on serious questions surrounding the drugs the State plans to use in tonight’s execution. Below is a statement from attorneys for Mr. Yowell.

Statement from Attorneys for Michael Yowell

“Today, we have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that our the public and the courts have meaningful access to relevant information regarding how the State of Texas plans to put to death our client, Michael Yowell. In this case, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not reveal information about the drug it intended to use for his execution until one week before the scheduled execution date.

‘In carrying out Mr. Yowell’s execution, the state of Texas intends to use compounded penobarbital, for the first time.  This shift to compounded drugs is a dramatic change from prior practice – making the need for oversight – now and in the future – that much more important.

‘To permit the TDCJ to wait until the last minute to disclose such crucial information essentially shields them from any review, allowing it to make decisions about how to execute people without any accountability or transparency.  Surely this is not the way we want our government to carry out its gravest duty.”

-Maurie Levin and Bobbie Stratton, October 9, 2013 

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Contact:

Maurie Levin, maurielevin@gmail.com

512-294-1540

Bobbie Stratton of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell

bstratton@bakerdonelson.com

713-650-9700

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07 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Pharmacy Asks Texas to Return Drugs Intended for Use in Execution

Last month, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) announced that although their current supply of pentobarbital had expired, they had no plans to change the lethal injection protocol. At the time, officials did not disclose the source of the drugs they now are using in executions in Texas.

It now has come to light that TDCJ obtained pentobarbital from a local compounding pharmacy, which has demanded its return.  Please see below for a press release issued today by the attorneys for three inmates who are suing for more information and who seek to halt the October 9 scheduled execution of Michael Yowell in order to permit time for review of Texas’ last-minute change to the use of compounded drugs.

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 7, 2013

Contact: Maurie Levin, maurielevin@gmail.com

512-294-1540

Bobbie Stratton or Brad Chambers of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell

bstratton@bakerdonelson.com

bchambers@bakerdonelson.com

713-650-9700

Pharmacy Asks Texas to Return Drugs Intended for Use in Wednesday Execution

Civil Rights Plaintiffs Appealing Judge’s Order; Assert that TDCJ’s Promise that the purchase of execution drugs would be kept on the “down low” is additional evidence of TDCJ’s continued effort to carry out executions without transparency or accountability

(Austin, TX, Monday, October 7, 2013) A Texas compounding pharmacy that recently sold compounded pentobarbital to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for use in executions is demanding that the state return the drugs scheduled to be used in an execution on Wednesday. An appeal with the Fifth Circuit will be filed this week asking the court to stay Michael Yowell’s execution to permit time for review of Texas’ last-minute change to the use of compounded drugs. This weekend, a letter from Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice came to light in lethal injection in federal court in Arizona.  The letter states in part:

“Based on the phone calls I had with Erica Minor of TDCJ regarding its request for these drugs, including statements that she made to me, it was my belief that this information would be kept on the ‘down low’ and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs.  Based on Ms. Minor’s requests, I took steps to ensure it would be private.  However, the State of Texas misrepresented this fact because my name and the name of my pharmacy are posted all over the internet.”

The letter concludes: “I must demand that TDCJ immediately return the vials of compounded pentobarbital in exchange for a refund.”

The letter was sent in the midst of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Texas prisoners seeking information about the drugs TDCJ intends to use to carry out executions. The letter was only discovered when it was filed in a lethal injection action in Arizona District Court sometime on Friday.  The attorneys for the inmates and for TDCJ were in Court Friday afternoon on a hearing on a request for a stay of Mr. Yowell’s scheduled execution in light of Texas’ efforts to keep information about how it intends to proceed with executions secret, and the risks inherent to compounded drugs – risks that have recently been the subject of Congressional hearings in the wake of the fungal meningitis outbreak.

Public records requests show that TDCJ has stockpiled a variety of drugs, none of which ever has been used in an execution. It was not until last Thursday that media discovered TDCJ plans to carry out upcoming executions using compounded pentobarbital purchased from Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, located in Houston.

Maurie Levin, one of the plaintiffs’s attorneys, said, “The letter from Woodlands Pharmacy is further evidence of TDCJ’s lack of good faith, reflected both in the way they’ve gone about  attempts to purchase lethal injection drugs, and in their misleading responses to requests for information about how they intend to carry out executions.  Both have thwarted true access to the courts.”

Bobbie Stratton, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs at the Houston office of Baker Donelson said, “At the heart of this lawsuit is the basic premise that governmental agencies owe us, the public, a duty of transparency, deliberation, and accountability – especially when they are carrying out the ultimate act – the taking of a human life.”

Background

The lawsuit at issue was filed last week by three death-sentenced prisoners in Texas.  It is a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), asserting that TDCJ has failed to disclose, in a timely and meaningful fashion, the drugs they will use to carry out executions and that this failure violates death row inmates’ constitutional rights.  The suit also alleges that known problems with compounded drugs amount to a substantial risk that inmates will suffer severe pain, or that that drug will be inadequate to accomplish an execution.

Documents revealed at the Friday hearing in federal district court Judge Hughes’ courtroom reflect that TDCJ (or Woodlands Pharmacy) asked Eagle Analytical Labs to test the compounded pentobarbital for purity.  Just three months ago an FDA inspection report listed numerous problems with the Lab, including problems with sterility, contamination, validation, test protocol, and staff training.  One note indicates that staff performing a certain test (bacterialendotoxin) were never training in the “principles and methodologies of the test.”

Eagle Analytical is a subsidiary of PCCA, or Professional Compounding Centers of America.  PCCA supplies ingredients to compounding pharmacies, including Woodlands.

Late Saturday afternoon, Judge Hughes denied Mr. Yowell’s request for a temporary restraining order, thus allowing the execution, scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, to proceed without meaningful review of the new drugs.  The Plaintiffs are appealing that order to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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