Archive | Stay of execution

13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

5th Circuit Grants Stay of Execution to Robert Campbell

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit has just stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Robert Campbell.
 
The Court’s order is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRTdueVlpM2doVkE/edit?usp=sharing
 
Below is a statement from Robert C. Owen, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys:
 
“Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light.
 
‘The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public. Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.  Given the state’s own role in creating the regrettable circumstances that led to the Fifth Circuit’s decision today, the time is right for the State of Texas to let go of its efforts to execute Mr. Campbell, and resolve this case by reducing his sentence to life imprisonment.  State officials should choose the path of resolution rather than pursuing months or years of further proceedings.”  
 
-Robert C. Owen, Attorney for Robert Campbell, May 13, 2014

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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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31 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Competency Hearing for Marcus Druery

On October 30, 2013, in a unanimous decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that death row inmate Marcus Druery is entitled to a hearing to determine his mental competency to be executed.  Last year, the CCA granted Druery a stay just days before his scheduled execution on August 1, 2012; he was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of Skyler Browne in rural Brazos County.

On July 27, 2012, the CCA stayed his execution to consider his appeal for a hearing to determine whether his psychotic disorder renders him incompetent. The case is now remanded for competency proceedings to the 85th Judicial District Court in Brazos County.

Kate Black, attorney for Mr. Druery, issued the following statement in response:

“We are pleased that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found sufficient evidence of Marcus Druery’s severe mental illness to warrant competency proceedings. Much of the evidence of Mr. Druery’s mental illness comes from the State’s own mental health professionals, who have repeatedly diagnosed Mr. Druery as schizophrenic, paranoid and delusional. A full hearing is critically important to establish that Mr. Druery lacks a rational understanding of his execution. We are confident that the Brazos County District Court will give Mr. Druery’s case the thorough and fair consideration it deserves in order to ensure that Texas does not execute a severely psychotic man.”

 Kate Black, Attorney for Marcus Druery
October 30, 2013

View in-depth coverage of the ruling from KBTX.com in Bryan/College Station.

Previous posts on the case of Marcus Druery are available on the TCADP blog here, here,  here, and here.

Link to CCA Ruling:

http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/OPINIONS/HTMLOPINIONINFO.ASP?OPINIONID=24764

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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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10 May 2013 ~ Comments Off

State Agrees to 60-Day Reprieve for Robert Pruett

*Updated on May 15, 2013* A state district judge has formally withdrawn the May 21 execution date for Robert Pruett.  A hearing will take place on June 3 regarding the DNA testing and to set a new date.  Read more in the Austin Chronicle.

According to the Texas Tribune (“Execution for Prison Guard Murder Delayed for DNA Tests,” May 9, 2013), “State lawyers agreed Thursday to a 60-day reprieve for death row inmate Robert Pruett, who was scheduled for execution May 21, after the inmate filed a request for DNA testing, arguing it may prove his innocence in the 1999 stabbing of prison correctional officer Daniel Nagle.”  The focus of the DNA test is a palm print found on a disciplinary write-up that was torn up and spread near Nagel’s body.

Read more from the Texas Tribune, including an earlier article about the case.

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In other case developments, today’s Austin Chronicle includes an update on legal appeals on behalf of Jeffrey Williams, who is scheduled to be executed on May 15, 2012.  Read the article.  Thanks to Steve Hall at StandDown Texas for posting.

 

 

 

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02 April 2013 ~ Comments Off

Delay of Execution Granted to Rigoberto Avila, Jr.

State District Judge Anna Perez ruled this morning that more time is necessary for Rigoberto Avila, Jr.’s attorneys to explore new scientific evidence that might prove his innocence.  Judge Perez halted his execution, which had been scheduled to take place next week on April 10th; a new date has been set for July 10.

Mr. Avila was sentenced to death for the 2000 murder of 19-month-old Nicolas Macias in El Paso, who he was babysitting along with his four-year-old brother, Dylan Salinas. He has consistently maintained his innocence.

According to Mr. Avila’s current attorney, who was appointed to the case in February, newly discovered, previously unavailable scientific evidence calls into serious question the medical evidence that was presented at trial relating to cause of death. This evidence strongly suggests that the baby died not as a result of intentional acts by Mr. Avila, but because his four-year-old, 38-pound brother, mimicking “worldwide wrestlers” on television, slammed into his body, causing significant internal injuries that eventually led to the child’s death.

This is the second delay of execution for Mr. Avila.  His previous execution date of December 12, 2012 was withdrawn.

Read more from the El Paso Times.

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29 March 2013 ~ Comments Off

Dallas County District Attorney Agrees to Another Delay in Execution of Kimberly McCarthy

*Update* Judge Mitchell has ordered a modification of McCarthy’s execution date to June 26, 2013. Read more from the Dallas Morning News.

On March 29, 2013, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins asked State District Judge Larry Mitchell to modify the execution date of Kimberly McCarthy.  McCarthy had been scheduled to be executed next week on April 3, 2013 for the 1997 murder of Dorothy Booth in Dallas County.  According to the Dallas Morning News (“Dallas County DA Craig Watkins asks judge to temporarily delay woman’s execution while bills pending before legislature,” March 29, 2013), Watkins asked “for the delay to await whether the Texas legislature passes six bills that could impact the application of the death penalty in Texas,” including legislation aimed at addressing claims that racial bias might have been a factor in the decision to seek or impose a sentence of death.

Earlier this year, Judge Mitchell halted and rescheduled a January 29, 2013 execution date for Kimberly McCarthy in order to give her attorneys more time to pursue an appeal based on racial discrimination in the jury selection process.  According to attorney Maurie Levin, of the twelve jurors seated at trial, all were white, except one, and eligible non-white jurors were excluded from serving by the State.

A motion to move the execution date is still pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  According to the Dallas Morning News, “Mitchell said at the hearing that if the appellate court had not ruled by the end of the day Monday, he would issue and order moving the execution date” to June 26, 2013.

Read more from the Dallas Morning News.  Read earlier posts about Kimberly McCarthy here and here.

 

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