Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekly roundup

The state of New Jersey will be voting in the coming weeks to abolish the death penalty and we are expecting it to pass. I know this because last Friday the New Jersey Assembly speaker, Joe Roberts held a press conference with Sister Helen Prejean announcing his support of the bill. If you happen to watch too much C-Span and news as I do, you'll know that the Speaker never holds a press conference on an issue unless he is sure that he has enough votes to get the bill passed (video here).

Karl Keys of Capital Defense Weekly has more details about the situation in New Jersey.

Austin American-Statesman
has a story about changes to the Sharon Keller lawsuit by wife of Michael Richard.

"I also want the jury to be able to walk into the Court of Criminal Appeals and see where that phone call came in," Kallinen said. He said the change also allowed him to beef up portions of the suit dealing with judicial immunity, the lawsuit's highest hurdle. Judges are immune from lawsuits dealing with their judicial actions, but can under limited conditions be sued over administrative decisions.

Kallinen said he withdrew the lawsuit Thursday and mailed the new version to the Austin federal court, where he anticipates it will be filed Tuesday.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a front page article in their Sunday's paper regarding the case of Troy David. News Week has an article titled, "Injection of Reflection" that discusses the lethal injection debate and the diminishing support for the Death Penalty among those who are involved in the process, such as juries, Judges, wardens, and state governors.

The new reluctance to punish by killing is part of a historical trend. There was a time when death and torture were spectator sports, when crowds flocked to see prisoners drawn and quartered or beheaded. In some parts of the world, flogging and stoning are still public spectacles. But in the 19th century, supposedly "enlightened" states began looking for more-humane ways to serve final justice—to kill people without causing too much suffering to either the victims or their executioners. The authorities tried hanging, firing squads, electrocutions, gas chambers and, more recently, lethal injection. Each method was supposed to be an improvement over the last...

Jurors and prosecutors are steering away from the death penalty because they are both more and less afraid: more apprehensive about killing the innocent and less fearful of crime. Over the past decade, the use of DNA testing on wrongly convicted criminals has overturned prison sentences for at least 200 inmates nationwide (about 15 of them sentenced to death). In 2000, Illinois declared a moratorium on executions after 13 death-row inmates were exonerated. Back in the '80s, when violent crime was surging along with crack-cocaine addiction in cities, Americans demanded retributive justice. But as crime rates fell in the '90s and the first few years of the new century, jurors became more lenient in capital cases.

At the same time, prosecutors began to be wary of seeking the death penalty. A series of court decisions required that more states provide competent lawyers for the criminally accused in death-penalty cases. Better defense lawyers could stall and maneuver, running up the cost to the state of bringing a capital case. The more-clever lawyers have been especially good at introducing "mitigating circumstances" into these cases, arguing that the abuse suffered by the killer as a child helps to explain the horrible crime he or she committed. Since 1982, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank, the state has spent more than $250 million on the death penalty, or about $11 million a year—without executing a single prisoner. With legal costs soaring in death cases, states are finding it cheaper to pay for lifetime prison sentences.

Tyler Morning Telegraph has a story about a presentation by Dr. William Girard of University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston about lethal injections.
“There are many instances … difficulty finding a vein, equipment failing, choking and heaving, the needle becoming lodged, or is pointed in the wrong direction,” Girard said, “definitely (allowing for) the possibility of agony or suffocation during a period of time before death.”

In May, prison officials in Ohio stuck Christopher Newton at least 10 times with needles, delaying his execution more than an hour, as they struggled to place shunts in his arms to administer the fatal doses.

While lethal injection protocol varies by state, the American Veterinary Medicine Association issues and frequently updates a 39-page guideline for euthanasia.

The most encouraged form of euthanasia involves one ingredient: a long-acting anesthetic called sodium pentobarbital.

The animal is given a high dose which pushes them past loss of consciousness into apnea and then into cardiac arrest.

Using an anesthetic assures vets that the animal is completely asleep when its heart stops.

But, lethal injections used on inmates contain a short-acting anesthetic called thiopental, Girard said.

And unlike lethal injections, vet guidelines discourage the use of a paralyzing agent, saying it could lead to death by asphyxiation which isn’t even appropriate once an animal is unconscious.

“I concluded that the paralyzing agent is used in lethal injection for the benefit of the viewers, to keep the inmate from squirming if the anesthesia isn’t adequate,” Girard said.


dudleysharp said...

REPORT: NJ Death Penalty Commission Made Significant Errors
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below



The New Jersey Death Penalty Commission made significant errors within their findings. The evidence, contrary to the Commissions findings, was so easy to obtain that it appears either willful ignorance or deception guided their report.

A brief review.

Below, are the 7 points made within the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report, January, 2007. The RUBUTTAL presents the obvious points avoided by the Commission and discussed by this author, a death penalty expert.

I was invited to be a presenter, before the NJDPSC, but my time didn't fit their schedule.

1) There is no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent.


- The reason that 81% of Americans found that Timothy McVeigh should be executed was justice - the most profound concept in criminal justice, as in many other aspects of life. It is the same reason that New Jersey citizens, 12 jurors, put all those on death row.

- Although the Commission and the NJ Supreme Court both attempt to discount deterrence, logically, they cannot.

First, all prospects for a negative outcome deter some. This is not, logically or historically rebutted. It cannot be. Secondly, those studies which don't find for deterrence, do not say that it doesn't exist, only that their study didn't find it. Those studies which find for deterrence did. 10 recent studies do.

- The Commission had ample opportunity and, more importantly, the responsibility to read and contact the authors of those many studies which have, recently, found for deterrence. There seems to be no evidence that they did so. On such an important factor as saving innocent lives, why didn't they? The testimony before the Commission, critical of those studies, would not withstand a review by the authors of those studies. That should be an important issue that the Commission should have investigated, but did not.

- LIFE WITHOU PAROLE: The Commission considered the risk of innocents executed and concluded that it wasn't worth the risk and that a life sentence would serve sufficiently without that risk to innocents.

Again, the Commission avoided both fact and reason. The risk to innocents is greater with a life sentence than with the death penalty.

First, we all know that living murderers, in prison, after escape or after improper release, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers - an obvious truism ignored by the Commission.

Secondly, no knowledgeable party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law. Therefore, it is logically conclusive, that actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

Thirdly, there has been a recent explosion of studies finding for death penalty deterrence. The knowledgeable criticism of those studies has, itself, been rebutted.

- Therefore, in choosing a life without parole and calling for the end of the death penalty, the Commission has made the choice to put more innocents at risk - the opposite of their stated rationale.

2) The costs of the death penalty are greater than the costs of life in prison without parole, but it is not possible to measure these costs with any degree of precision.


- For the amount of time and resources allegedly expended by the Commission, this section of their review was unconscionable in its lack of responsibility to the Commission's directive.

- The Commission concludes that the current system in New Jersey is very expensive, without noting the obvious ways in which those issues can be addressed to lessen those costs. Why?

One example, they find that proportionality review cost $93, 000 per case. Why didn't the Commission recommend doing away with proportionality review? There is no reason, legally, to have it and it has been a disaster, cost wise, with no benefit.

Secondly, the Commission states: "Nevertheless, consistent with the Commission's findings, recent studies in states such as Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, Florida and North Carolina have all concluded that the costs associated with death penalty cases are significantly higher than those associated with life without parole cases. These studies can be accessed through the Death Penalty Information Center." (Report, page 33).

On many topics the Death Penalty Information Center has been one of the most deceptive or one sided anti death penalty groups in the country. While it is not surprising that the Commission would give them as a reference, multiple times, it doesn't speak well of the Commission.

Did the Commission read any of the studies referenced by the DPIC? It appears doubtful, or the Commission would not have referenced them.

For example, let's look at the North Carolina (Duke University) study. That cost study compared the cost of only a twenty year "life sentence" to the death penalty. Based upon that study, a true life without parole sentence would be more costly than the death penalty. Somehow the Commission missed that rather important fact.

These types of irresponsible and misleading references by the Commission do nothing to inspire any confidence in their findings, but do reinforce the opinion that their conclusions were predetermined.

Please see "Cost Comparisons: Death Penalty Cases Vs Equivalent Life Sentence Cases", to follow.

3) There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.


The Commission uses several references to prove their point. None of them succeeded.

- The first was based upon polling in New Jersey. The data showed strong support for executions in NJ, except when asking those polled to choose between a life sentence or a death sentence, for which life gets greater support. The major problem with this long standing and misleading polling question is that it has nothing to do with the legal reality of sentencing. Secondly, that poll shows broad support for BOTH sanctions, not a call to abandon either. The Commission, somehow, overlooked that obvious point.

Jurors have the choice of both sentences in states with the death penalty and life without parole. Therefore, a proper polling question for NJ would be,

A) should we eliminate the death penalty and ONLY have life without parole? or
B) should we give jurors the OPTION of choosing life or death in capital murder cases?

Based upon other polls, I suspect B would be the resounding winner of this poll in NJ.

Secondly, your polling speaker avoided the most obvious and reliable polling question on this topic - asking about the punishment for a specific crime, just as jurors have to decide. For example, 81% of Americans supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh. 85% of Connecticut citizens polled supported the execution of serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross.

Thirdly, poll New Jersey citizens with the following questions. Is life without parole or the death penalty the most appropriate punishment for those who rape and murder children? Or should NJ remove the death penalty as a jury option for those who rape and murder children?

- Two religious speakers spoke against execution. Both are easily rebutted by religious scholars holding different views.

- Another alleged example of this evolving standard is based upon the fact there has been a reduction in death sentences. Such reduction is easily explained by a number of factors, other than some imagined "evolving standard of decency".

Murders have dropped some 40%, capital murders have likely dropped by even a greater number, based upon other factors. This, by itself, explains the overwhelming percentage of the drop in death sentences.

In addition, many prosecutors, such as those in NJ, know that their courts will not allow executions, leading to prosecutorial frustration as a contributing factor in any reduction - not an evolving standard of decency, but an evolving and increasing frustration.

Please review: "Why the reduction in death sentences?", to follow.

4) The available data do not support a finding of invidious racial bias in the application of the death penalty in New Jersey.


In fact, there is no data to support any racial bias, invidious or otherwise. The Commission must have read the series of NJ studies.

5) Abolition of the death penalty will eliminate the risk of disproportionality in capital sentencing.


Yes, Commission, the abolition of all criminal sentences will eliminate the risk of disproportionality in all sentences, as well. This is hardly a rational reason to get rid of any sentence. Get rid of the expensive and unnecessary proportionality review.

6) The penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible error.


- The risk to innocents is greater with life without parole than with the death penalty. See (1), above LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE.

7) The alternative of Life imprisonment in a maximum security institution without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of the families of murder victims.


This Commission statement is quite simply, false.

- Life imprisonment puts more innocents at risk than does the death penalty.

- Justice, just punishment, retribution and/or saving innocent lives, among others, are all legitimate social and penological interests all served by the death penalty.

- 81% of Americans supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh. 85% of Connecticut citizens polled supported the execution of serial, rapist/murderer Michael Ross.

The overwhelming majority of those polled did not have family members murdered.

Is the Commission trying to tell us that a poll of NJ murder victim survivors would show a majority opposed to the death penalty? Of course not, that would be as absurd as the Commissions conclusions in this section.


Almost without exception, The Commission accepted the standard anti death penalty position, without presenting the easily accessible rebuttal to that position.

Enough said.


NJ Death Penalty Study Commission

It is alleged that the Commission had fair hearings, with both sides adequately presented.

Alleged fair hearings mean nothing, if decisions are predetermined, as this one was.

11 of the 13 committee members were either known or leaning anti death penalty. The contempt for and discounting of pro death penalty positions in both the hearings and final report confirm that.

All the prosecutors on the Commission were up for reappointment - by the staunchly anti death penalty Governor. Would any of them sacrifice their livelihood to fight for the death penalty? Of course not and they did not.

One committee member - one - was confirmable as pro death penalty.

Most, if not all, of Committee Chairman Rev. Howard's previous affiliations were anti death penalty.

Rev. Howard's fairness is best shown by the Commission's final report, which was laughable in its exclusion of pro death penalty positions, positions which would have either overwhelmed or neutralized the anti death penalty, predetermined conclusions of the panel, had those pro death penalty positions been given a fair showing in that report - which they weren't.

The Commission hearings and final report were, as all show trials, a farce.

copyright 2007 Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, C-Span, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, BBC and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites


www(dot) (Sweden)

dudleysharp said...

That wasn't quite the full story of the veterinary euthenasis vs lethal injection.

Veterinary Claims a Distortion of Reality: Human Lethal Injection
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below

Within the death penalty debate, there is an allegation that veterinarians are prohibited from using pancuronium bromide or Pavulon, the paralyzing agent used in human lethal injection, because it may cause and/or mask pain to the animals, within the euthanasia process.

It is also stated that vets are prohibited from using potassium chloride, the heart stooping drug, used thirdly, in the three drug human lethal injection protocol.
In turn, this is used as a new anti death penalty sound bite -  "It is too cruel for animals, but we use it on people."

First, the The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommendations of 2000 (1) , inadvertently, support the human lethal injection protocol -- the opposite of what the detractors have been claiming.

AVMA: "When used alone, these drugs (paralytics) all cause respiratory arrest before loss of consciousness, so the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized." (2)  

Obviously,  no state, which practices human lethal injection, uses a paralytic without an anaesthetic --  EVER. The anesthesia is always used first. It appears that these absurd claims, falsely attributed to veterinary literature,  have been a bald faced lie by anti death penalty activists. 
To claim that paralytics are condemned in veterinary euthanasia, without mentioning the specific context, is an intentional deception. (The AVMA does not mention the specific paralytic used in lethal injection for humans).
Secondly, if properly anesthetized, as in human lethal injection, there would be no pain experienced when using Pavulon.  That is also well known.

Thirdly, the AVMA, similarly, prohibits the use of potassium chloride, "WHEN USED ALONE". (3) (my capitalization for emphasis). Of course, human lethal injection uses the two previously mentioned drugs, prior to injection of the potassium chloride. This is well known, as well, thereby revealing more deceptions by the anti death penalty cabal.
Fourth,, the AVMA, specifically, cautions (4):
"1. The guidelines in this report are in no way intended to be used for human lethal injection.
2. The application of a barbiturate, paralyzing agent, and potassium chloride delivered in separate
syringes or stages (the common method used for human lethal injection) is not cited in the report.
3. The report never mentions pancuronium bromide or Pavulon, the paralyzing agent used in human
lethal injection."

Obviously, the AVMA is saying DON'T use our report to draw any inferences with regard to the human lethal injection protocol.  Of course, death penalty opponents decided to ignore that responsible request.
The AVMA continues:

"Before referring to the 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, please contact the AVMA to ensure the association's position is stated correctly. Please contact Michael San Filippo, media relations assistant at the AVMA, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell) or msanfilippo(at)  for more information or to set up an interview with a veterinary expert." (4)

Death penalty opponents ignored that request, as well.
Based upon this literature, it is clear that this veterinary nonsense was another anti death penalty fraud, which, sadly and often, escaped media fact checking, but not media repetition.
The AVMA approves of  "potassium chloride in conjunction with prior general anesthesia" (5) for animals --  this is the drug protocol used within most lethal injection protocols, with the exception of the paralytic used in between. 
This actually shows support for the human lethal injection protocol, however unintended.

First, this two drug protocol is approved by AVMA, for animals. 

Secondly,  a disadvantage listed by AVMA for potassium chloride is "clonic spams" (6)  --  rapid and violent jerking of muscles soon after injection of the potassium. The paralytic drug, used second, within the human lethal injection protocol, helps to reduce, or eliminate, this effect.
In other words, a review of the AVMA literature finds much support, however inadvertent, for the human lethal injection protocol and nothing that conflicts with or condemns it.
Hopefully, this newest, blatant distortion by the anti death penalty crowd will soon fade.
Veterinary use of sodium pentobarbital
"Pentobarbital is a barbiturate that is available as both a free acid and a sodium salt, the former of which is only slightly soluble in water and ethanol." (7)  (NOTE -- I don't believe this is used for human lethal injection).
"Veterinary medicine
In veterinary medicine sodium pentobarbital—traded under names such as Sagatal—is used as an anaesthetic.UBC Committee on Animal Care (2005). Euthanasia. SOP 009E1 - euthanasia - overdose with pentobarbital. The University of British Columbia. URL accessed on 4 October, 2005. Pentobarbital is an ingredient in Equithesin." (7)
"Veterinary Euthanasia
It is used by itself, or more often in combination with complementary agents such as phenytoin, in commercial animal euthanasia (2003). ANESTHESIA AND ANALGESIA. Animal Use Protocols. University of Virginia. URL accessed on 4 October, 2005. injectable solutions. Trade names include Euthasol, Euthatal, Beuthanasia-D and Fatal Plus. "(7)
1)  www(dot)
   Appendix 1, page 693
2)    www(dot)
          Appendix 4, page 696

3)  www(dot)
         Page 681
4)   www(dot)
         Cover Page
5)   www(dot)
         Page 680
6)    www(dot)
         Page 681

copyright 2005-2007 Dudley Sharp
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites 


www(dot)  (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document is approved as long as it is distributed in its entirety, without changes, inclusive of this statement.

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of those that pretend the repeal of the death penalty -in some way- are involved in the crime.
They have committed and commit murder -in the sense of the psychoanalytic concept- of incestuous nature and repeatedly.
By Carlos Norberto Mugrabi