Friday, January 21, 2011

Hospira To Stop Manufacturing Sodium Thiopental, the First Drug in the Three Drug Lethal Injection Protocols

According to the Associated Press, Hospira the sole US manufacturer of a key drug used in lethal injections will cease production because authorities in Italy, where the drug was to be made, wanted a guarantee that it wouldn't be used to put inmates to death. Here is Hospira's Statement Regarding Pentothal (sodium thiopental) market exit:
LAKE FOREST, ILL., Jan. 21, 2011 -- Hospira announced today it will exit the sodium thiopental market and no longer attempt to resume production of its product, Pentothal.
Hospira had intended to produce Pentothal at its Italian plant.  In the last month, we've had ongoing dialogue with the Italian authorities concerning the use of Pentothal in capital punishment procedures in the United States -- a use Hospira has never condoned.  Italy's intent is that we control the product all the way to the ultimate end user to prevent use in capital punishment.  These discussions and internal deliberation, as well as conversations with wholesalers -- the prmary distributors of the product to customers -- led us to believe we could not prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections for use in capital punishment procedures.
Based on this understanding, we cannot take the risk that we will be held liable by the Italian authorities if the product is diverted for use in capital punishment.  Exposing our employees or facilities to liability is not a risk we are prepared to take.
Given the issues surrounding the product, including the government's requirements and challenges bringing the drug back to the market, Hospira has decided to exit the market.  We regret that issues outside of our control forced Hospira's decision to exit the market, and that our many hospital customers who use the drug for its well-established medical benefits will not be able to obtain the product from Hospira.
The National Catholic Weekly has published an article which chronicles how Italian Catholics pulled the plug on US executions.

... But what's missing from today's reports is that behind the Italian Parliament's insistence is a lay Catholic movement dedicated -- among many other things - to the eradication of the death penalty around the world. The Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio had been engaged in discussions with Hospira's Italian subsidiary, Hospira SL, which led to meetings with the Foreign Affairs minister, Franco Frattini, and the Ministry of Health. The result of those meetings was an agreement that the production of the drug in Italy would have to be for strictly therapeutic purposes. The company has long deplored its use in executions, and said it regretted the need to cease production.
Hospira's choice to end production because it couldn't give that guarantee was described as "highly responsible" by Sant'Egidio's spokesman, Mario Marazziti, who said: "It highlights the point that therapeutic drugs and doctors should never be used to bring about death".
Sidium thiopental is already in short supply after the British government last November also banned the UK manufacture of the drug following a campaign by the British NGO Reprieve. According to the Wall Street Journal's law blog, Hospira's decision means the death penalty system in the US "is potentially thrown into turmoil". States can attempt to use another anaesthetic instead -- Oklahoma, for example, has switched to a drug used to euthanise cats and dogs -- but it involves seeking clearance from the courts, which is likely to delay executions.
There is a lesson here about globalization. It's not just the market that's gone global. It's civil society pressure, too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sharon Keller's Court of Criminal Appeals Says Hearing on Death Penalty Constitutionality Must End

From the Austin American-Statesman:
A Houston defendant cannot challenge the state’s death penalty laws as unconstitutional before his capital murder trial begins, the state’s highest court ruled today.

John Edward Green Jr., charged with robbing and killing a Houston woman in 2008, had challenged the Texas death penalty law because “its application has created a substantial risk that innocent people have been, and will be, convicted and executed.”

District Judge Kevin Fine held a Dec. 6 hearing on Green’s motion, hearing from defense experts who testified about 138 exonerations of U.S. death row inmates since 1978, including 12 in Texas.

At the urging of prosecutors, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the hearing the following day and requested briefings to determine if proceedings should continue.
Today, the court ruled 6-2 that Fine exceeded his authority and ordered him to dismiss Green’s challenge. Texas law does not allow judges to hold pretrial hearings on the constitutionality of a law, said the opinion by Judge Cathy Cochran.

In addition, until the death penalty statute is applied against Green, he does not have legal standing to challenge the law, the court ruled.

“One does not put the cart before the horse: a defendant has no claim of wrongful conviction or wrongful sentencing before he has even gone to trial,” Cochran wrote.

“It bears noting that no provision of the current (death penalty statute) has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or this Court, although that statute has been attacked many times,” Cochran added.

Judges Tom Price and Paul Womack dissented without submitting an opinion stating their reasons. Recently retired Judge Charlie Holcomb did not participate.

Fine made national news last spring when, in response to a motion from Green’s lawyers, he declared the Texas death penalty law unconstitutional. He later rescinded that ruling and ordered the December hearing, saying he should have heard evidence before reaching such a conclusion.

Ohio Death Row Hunger Strike Ends

This is a report about the rally held today outside of death row in Ohio in support of the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners' hunger strike over their conditions of extreme isolation. The Abolition Movement sent a message of solidarity to be read to the rally. It follows this report.


The rally at OSP was attended by a large crowd, including many members of the families of hunger strikers, despite the freezing weather. Family members met with the hunger strikers this morning and they reported that they were in high spirits on ending their hunger strike and winning their demands, but that they now had to turn their attention to their death sentences.

Statements of support came from all over the world and a small delegation of relatives, along with Alice Lynd, went to the prison and left a copy of our open letter for Warden David Bobby, signed by more than 1200 people including prominent people from Ohio and around the world. Warden Bobby was not there but a designated representative received the letter on his behalf with a promise that he would read it.

The crowd then proceeded to a church hall in downtown Youngstown for refreshments and some celebration over the good news. The organizers, especially Sharon Danann, and Alice and Staughton Lynd, want to thank everyone who supported these men for their contribution to this victory.

Our thoughts are with Bomani, Hasan, Jason, and Namir and we will remain at their sides.

Message to the Lucasville Uprising Hunger Strikers

January 15, 2011

The members of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement send our warmest solidarity to those brothers participating in the hunger strike in Ohio.  We know that your oppressive conditions of isolation are inhumane, unconstitutional, degrading, mentally damaging and just plain wrong. 

We applaud your strength in carrying out this hunger strike and bringing this important issue to the people of the world.  We have fought for a decade against the isolation that the 300+ men on death row in Texas are forced to live under.  We know that you, also, are enduring nothing short of torture and the Ohio prison system must end this NOW!!

Stay strong and know that all abolitionists in Texas are standing strong with you in this battle for human rights.  Your courage is an example to all of us. 

On to victory!

Abolish the Racist and Anti-Poor Death Penalty!

Njeri Shakur and Gloria Rubac

For the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
Houston, Texas

Dallas Morning News: "Lawmakers in Austin need to support a moratorium"

Crossposted from TMN.
The Dallas Morning News says in an editorial today that Texas needs a moratorium on executions. Texas Monthly endorsed a moratorium this month also. The Texas Legislature began its work in Austin on January 11. The highest priority for people interested in stopping executions in Texas should be to convince the Texas Legislature to enact a moratorium on executions.

Seeking a moratorium is the best strategy for stopping executions in Texas. It worked in Illinois, it can work in Texas.

From the Dallas Morning News today:
It's clear Texas law-enforcement officials and courts have gotten it terribly wrong at times, so much so that a moratorium is just as appropriate in Texas today as it was in Illinois in 2000.

Questions cry out for answers about whether flaws in Texas justice run so deep that the death chamber should be dismantled. This newspaper believes it's a system that cannot ever be fail-safe. While many Texans vehemently disagree, still others are conflicted over the matter. Experts and state officials must have the chance to address these issues without the death row conveyor belt moving in the background.

Lawmakers in Austin need to support a moratorium.
The full editorial can be read here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Breaking New: Illinois Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty

As the state of Texas gets ready to execute Cleve "Sarge" Foster tonight, the Illinois Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who must sign the legislation. More from Chicago Tribune:
By Todd Wilson and Ray Long at 11:05 a.m.; last updated at 3:16 p.m. with roll call links

SPRINGFIELD --- A historic measure to abolish the death penalty in Illinois passed the state Senate today after nearly two hours of impassioned debate.
The ban on executions goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who must sign the legislation for it to become law. During last fall's campaign, Quinn said he supports "capital punishment when applied carefully and fairly," but also backs the 10-year-old moratorium on executions. (See Question 4 here.)
The Senate voted 32-25 to approve the ban, with two members voting present. The measure passed the House last week.
You can see how your state senator voted today by clicking here. You can see how your House member voted last week by clicking here.
Sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, urged his colleagues to “join the civilized world” and end the death penalty in Illinois.

Raoul spoke of how authorities were certain when they prosecuted Jerry Hobbs and Kevin Fox for killing their own little girls. Both confessed under coercion and both were exonerated by DNA evidence. The senator spoke of is 10-year-old daughter and how he could not imagine what a wrongly accused father would go through.
Illinois “ought to be embarrassed” by its track record of wrongful convictions, Raoul said, “because if an execution were to take place, it takes place in the name of the people of Illinois.”
Sen. John Millner, R-Carol Stream, a former Elmhurst police chief with experience of interviewing more than 1,000 defendants, called for making more reforms to the system before eliminating the death penalty. He also called for more training of police officers, including how to avoid false confessions.

“I ask you all, please,” Millner said, to consider a crime victim’s families.

Sen. Willie Delgado, D-Chicago, a former parole agent, cited how he worked in the attorney general’s office when the wrongful convictions of Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were examined.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the system is broken,” Delgado said. He maintained “death is too good for some folks” and said they should be allowed to sit in prison for natural life, where they can “rot and think about what they have done.”
In Texas People opposed to the death penalty will gather today, Jan 11, at the Texas Capitol at 5:30 PM on the sidewalk at Congress and 11th for a protest of the first Texas execution of 2011 on the day the Texas
Legislature convenes for its first day in session. Today at 6:00 PM  Cleve "Sarge" Foster is scheduled to be executed in Huntsville by the state of Texas for a murder that his already executed co-defendant said Foster did not commit.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Former U.S. Army recruiter to be executed Jan. 11

Cleve "Sarge" Foster

By Elizabeth Ann Stein
Producer, Execution Watch

Tomorrow, the state controller will announce Texas' deficit, estimated by others at $15 billion to $25 billion. The following day, Jan. 11, Texas will put to death former Army recruiter Cleve "Sarge" Foster at a total cost of $2.3 million over life in prison.

Execution Watch will broadcast live coverage and analysis of Foster's execution.

Last year, Texas's highest-in-the-nation 17 executions represented a death-penalty surtax of nearly $40 million. What the cost to taxpayers will be for 2011, only time will tell.




Jan. 11, 2011, Tues., 6-7 pm CT
Tune in on KPFT's HD-2 channel, 90.1 FM Houston, or
Listen online: Go to www.executionwatch. org at 6 p.m. CT, click on “Listen.”

  CLEVE “SARGE” FOSTER, 47, a former Army recruiter condemned in the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth. Foster has maintained his innocence. Co-defendant Sheldon Ward, who claimed sole responsibility for the murder, cheated the executioner by dying of a brain tumor May 13, 2010, while on death row. Foster’s attempts to appeal his conviction reached as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. News reports indicate his sister and mother, who live in his native Kentucky, plan to witness Foster’s death-by-lethal-injection. His execution will be the first in Texas since Oct. 21. More background is at > Backpage on Cleve ‘Sarge’ Foster.

  Host: RAY HILL, an ex-convict who has lost a dozen friends to the death chamber. Ray’s civil rights activism has included shepherding several cases to the U.S. Supreme Court. He founded, and hosted for 30 years, KPFT’s Prison Show, .

  Legal Analyst: ROBERT ROSENBERG, a Houston attorney who has been handling death row cases since the 1980s. As a civil rights lawyer, he has represented clients on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union.

  Featured Interview: ROBIN M. MAHER, Director of the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project, which seeks to educate attorneys about the shortage of representation for death row inmates and to recruit and train volunteer attorneys to fill the need. The project also promotes systemic changes to ensure that defendants in capital cases are represented at all stages by competent counsel.

  Reporter, Death House, Huntsville: GLORIA RUBAC, leader of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and long-time activist against the death penalty, .

   Reporter, Vigil, Houston: DAVID ATWOOD, board member of Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

  On, Feb. 15, Texas plans to execute MICHAEL WAYNE HALL. If that happens, Execution Watch will broadcast. Details:

  PRODUCER: Elizabeth Ann Stein, eliza.tx.usa
  TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Otis Maclay, omaclay
  THEME: “Death by Texas,” Victoria Panetti,

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Experts to Testify to Forensic Science Commission Friday in Todd Willingham Case

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will devote the entire January 7, 2011 meeting to the case of Todd Willingham. They are scheduled to hear testimony from arson experts, including Craig Beyler. The hearing starts at 9:30 AM, but members of Texas Moratorium Network, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and others plan to be outside the building at 8:30 AM with signs.

The hearing is in the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Boulevard Room 402 in Austin. We will go inside before the hearing starts. RSVP on the Facebook event pageThe Innocence Project will show the meeting live on its website.
There will likely be a period devoted to receiving comments from the public. We invite members of the public to show up, bring signs and even make comments during the public comments period to let the Commission know that Texans Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed and that Texas should stop all executions through a moratorium on executions.
Before his execution, Todd Willingham said, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”  
More on the meeting from the Austin American-Statesman:
The Texas Forensic Science Commission will hear from four fire investigation experts Friday as it continues to examine the science used to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham.
The special meeting in Austin, postponed from November, was sought by the commission’s scientists to help them answer two key questions:
  1. What was the state of fire science, and what were fire investigators expected to know, in 1991 and 1992? That’s when two investigators used now-discredited techniques to conclude that Willingham intentionally set fire to his Corsicana home, killing his three young children.
  2. What responsibility did the state fire marshal’s office have to reopen its Willingham investigation, and similar arson cases, once the agency realized scientific advancements had vastly improved the practice of arson investigation?
According to the commission, these invited experts have committed to appear Friday:
  • Assistant State Fire Marshal Ed Salazar, second in command at the office that helps investigate suspicious fires statewide. One of the office’s investigators was instrumental in the 1992 conviction of Willingham, and the office recently stood by that investigation despite criticism from every modern, outside fire investigator to re-examine its conclusions.
  • John DeHaan, one of the nation’s leading fire experts who has spent more than 35 years investigating fires. DeHaan wrote five editions of “Kirk’s Fire Investigation,” the most widely used textbook in the field, and co-wrote a companion text, “Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction.” He is a frequent expert witness at arson trials, often testifying for the prosecution.
  • Craig Beyler, president of the International Association of Fire Safety Science, is also one of the nation’s top fire investigators. Beyler was hired by the commission to analyze the Willingham fire and wrote a 2009 report that disputed every conclusion used to rule the fire an arson.
  • Thomas Wood, a senior investigator with the Houston Fire Department. In a 2010 letter to the science commission, Wood said Willingham investigators could not be considered negligent because their arson conclusions were based on investigative standards common to that era.
The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in Room 402 of the Central Services Building, 1711 San Jacinto Blvd.
The Innocence Project will show the meeting live on its website.
The New York-based organization today criticized the commission’s decision not to invite two noted experts, Austin chemist Gerald Hurst and fire investigator John Lentini. Both men conducted outside examinations of the Willingham case and concluded that investigators based their arson finding on faulty science.
Hurst and Lentini testified during an October hearing before now-retired Austin District Judge Charlie Baird, who led an inquiry into whether Willingham was wrongfully executed. An appeals court halted the inquiry before Baird could issue a finding.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Support the Four Death Row Hunger Strikers in Ohio

On Jan. 3, four prisoners held in Ohio State Penitentiary, a super max prison, started a hunger strike to protest the highly restrictive conditions they have been subjected to since they were moved to the prison in 1998. These prisoners are Bomani Shakur aka Keith LaMar, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb and Namir Abdul Mateen aka James Were. 

They all received death sentences as the result of wrongful convictions on charges related to the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio. Hasan and Robb helped negotiate the settlement of the Lucasville uprising, preventing a massacre such as the one in Attica in 1971 which resulted in more than forty deaths.

In his statement of his reasons for the hunger strike Bomani states, "..we have undergone penalty on top of penalty, kept from fully participating in our appeals, from touching our friends and families, denied adequate medical treatment.we who have been sentenced to death must be granted the exact same privileges as other death-sentenced prisoners." ..To see Bomani's complete statement, go to

The four prisoners have been kept on the highest security designation, "Level 5" throughout their time at OSP. Their solitary confinement is conducted in such a way as to ensure no contact with other prisoners even during showering and "recreation". The doors to their cells are sealed to prevent sound transmission. During visits, they are shackled even while confined within a booth, separated from their visitor by bullet-proof glass, while other death-row prisoners can have contact with their visitors through an opening in the glass.

Please sign on to the online petition below to support the prisoners' right to have their security levels fairly evaluated and reclassified so that they may participate in the small privileges afforded to other death row prisoners. The harsh treatment of these prisoners violates their constitutional rights and is widely recognized as not only inhumane but as a form of torture.

The wrongful convictions which placed these men on death row must also be set aside. The charges must be dropped entirely or the men must receive new trials.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Hunger Strike of the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners – Monday, January 3, 2010

Dear family members, friends and supporters of the Lucasville uprising prisoners,

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Mateen (James Were) will start a hunger strike on Monday Jan. 3 to protest their 23-hour a day lock down for nearly 18 years. These four death-sentenced prisoners have been single-celled (in solitary) in conditions of confinement significantly more severe than the conditions experienced by the approximately 125 other death-sentenced prisoners at the supermax prison, Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. They are completely isolated from any direct human contact, even during “recreation”. They are restricted from certain kinds of good ordering including gold weather items for the almost unbearably cold conditions in the cells. They are denied access to computer databases they need in order to prepare their appeals. It has been made clear to them that the outcome of their annual “security level reviews” is predetermined, as one reads, “…regardless of your behavior while confined at OSP.”

Prisoners whose death sentences were for heinous crimes are able to win privileges based on good behavior, but not the death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners.

Meanwhile out in the world, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted additional due process rights to some of the Gauantanamo prisoners, some death-sentenced prisoners have been exonerated or had their sentences commuted, an evidentiary hearing was ordered for Troy Anthony Davis, and prisoners in Georgia are engaging in a non-violent strike for improvements in a wide range of conditions. So the four death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners have decided that being punished by the worst conditions allowable under the law has gone far enough, especially since their convictions were based on perjured testimony. They are innocent! They were wrongfully convicted! They are political prisoners. This farce has gone on far too long and their executions loom in the not too distant future. These brave men are ready to take another stand. We ask that you get ready to support them.

The hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Saturday, Jan. 15, we will be holding a press conference about the hunger strike and other issues pertaining to Ohio State Penitentiary. Details of time and location are being worked out. There will very likely be a brief rally near the gates of OSP, as we have in previous years to honor Dr. King, to protest the death penalty and to protest the farce of the Lucasville uprising convictions. There will probably be one or more vans and/or a car caravan to OSP for the event. Stay tuned for more information.

Please forward this email to other people you think would be interested, here in Ohio, around the country and around the world.

the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Dallas Morning News Editorial Board Names a Moratorium on Executions a Top Priority in 2011

The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board has named a moratorium on executions and a study commission one of their major goals of 2011.

Texas legislators gather in Austin in nine days. If ever there were a year for progress on some of this newspaper's goals for our city, region and state, this is it. We warned last year that the price continues to grow for the state and city as our leaders keep kicking major problems down the road. Texas and Dallas have a chance to find solutions this year. In fact, 2011 is the year for our leaders (and wannabes) to stand and deliver. You may recall the 1980s movie by that title, the one about crusading school principal Jaime Escalante. We see no reason the same couldn't be said for our legislators, council members and school trustees – and their constituents. Enough kicking the can. Stand and deliver.
Get it right on criminal justice
The goals
• Revamp rules for eyewitness evidence.
• Require digital recording of interrogations.
• Examine the appeals and pardons procedures.
• Create a reliable forensic science commission.
• Halt executions and appoint a panel to recommend changes to Texas' use of the death penalty.
The plan
Some of the sensible reforms that could have kept innocent people out of prison failed in the 2009 session to procedural motions. But after a year in which human error was exposed in the high-profile Anthony Graves case – on top of a foundation of doubt from years of DNA exonerations – the need for justice reform is too big to ignore.
That's why we will call on legislators to revamp and make uniform rules for dealing with eyewitness evidence. This most unreliable form of evidence cannot be left to the shaky methods of untrained investigators. We also will keep pushing the Legislature to mandate digital recording and archiving of interrogations. Likewise, legislators need to require that even confessions are verified by other evidence.
As they pursue those goals, lawmakers must examine the appeals and pardons process so the truth has a chance of coming to light. Texas' appeals process is myopically focused on legal maneuvers, leaving little room for claims of actual innocence.
Austin also needs to create a post-conviction forensic science commission with a sense of public purpose, unlike the current one, which is prone to political hijacking.
Finally, we will press legislators to halt executions in Texas and create a blue-ribbon panel of experts to make recommendations about the future of the nation's busiest death chamber.
Where other states have acted boldly, Texas has averted its eyes. That should change in 2011.