Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guest blogging on Monte Allen Delk

Today we guest-blogged over at Executed Today, which my friend Jason runs.

Here's our entry:

Six years ago today the state of Texas executed an FBI agent, a state district judge, the president of Kenya and a war hero who commanded a nuclear-powered submarine during the Civil War. More aptly put, Texas executed a seriously mental ill inmate named Monty Allen Delk who, at varying times, believed he was all of these things.

Delk was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Gene “Bubba” Allen of Anderson County in East Texas. Although the state of Texas maintained that Delk was “malingering,” i.e., pretending to be mentally ill to stave off execution, the prison system’s former chief mental health officer stated that Delk suffered from a severe mental illness, one that had become progressive in nature since it was first noticed in 1989 –- years after Delk was tried and convicted.

A close examination of the Delk case reveals yet another significant flaw in the capital punishment system:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing severely mentally ill inmates violates the U.S. Constitution.

The court also has held that a death row inmate must be mentally competent in order to drop his appeals.

But the court has not directly addressed the issue of whether a death row inmate must be mentally competent in order to pursue his state and federal habeas appeals. In fact, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over death penalty cases in Texas, have ruled that prisoner competence during state and federal habeas proceedings is not constitutionally required.

The question is fundamental to due process. Habeas is the first, last and often only avenue of appeal for death row inmates whose sentences have been upheld on direct appeal by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. But because Delk was unable to assist his attorney through his habeas appeals, he could not answer simple questions that were key to his case -– questions such as, did he commit the crime? Did he think his trial was fair? Did he think his trial lawyers adequately represented him? Were there circumstances about the crime or about his personal history that mitigated against a death sentence?

The fact that Delk’s execution was allowed to proceed represented a three-pronged failure on the part of Texas’ death penalty system. The first failure must be attributed to the courts, which failed to order a psychiatric evaluation of Delk, despite repeated requests by Delk’s very able attorney, John Wright of Huntsville.

The second failure lies with Texas’ executive clemency system. Because of his mental illness, Delk’s sentence should have been commuted to life in prison. Yet the Board of Pardons and Paroles as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry did nothing. (It is important to note that four days before Delk’s execution, the Georgia Parole Board, acting in a similar case, commuted death row inmate Alexander Williams sentence to life in prison after pleas from human rights activists. Williams is a chronic paranoid schizophrenic who thinks Sigourney Weaver is God and that little green frogs are in his prison cell, staring at him.)

The third failure rested with the Texas media. While Williams’ case attracted comprehensive media coverage in Georgia and beyond, newspapers in Texas largely failed to investigate Delk’s case. Government -– including the criminal justice system –- works best under the glare of public scrutiny. Absent such scrutiny, abuses occur. In this case, no one outside Texas’ fervent anti-death penalty community took much notice of Delk’s execution.

The good news is Texas’ newspapers are beginning to sit up and take notice. If I am not mistaken, every major Texas newspaper has called either for abolition of the death penalty or for a moratorium on executions. The issue of capital punishment has advanced from the margins to the mainstream. In today’s climate, one wonders whether Texas officials could get away with executing a person as severely mentally ill as Delk.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to directly confront the issue of whether a death-sentenced prisoner need be mentally competent during his habeas appeals. Until that happens, we simply will have to ask ourselves a key question:

Is executing someone who is so severely mentally ill he does not know who he is not the very definition of an insane act?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'This is Tammany Hall, only 100 years later'

Newsweek magazine has taken a look at the strange goings-on inside the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office. This article is sooooo worth posting in its entirety:

Newsweek Web Exclusive Race, Justice, and Texas

Resignation doesn't end trouble for Houston's top prosecutor
By Gretel C. Kovach

In his 30-plus-year legal career in Harris County, Texas, Chuck Rosenthal has been no stranger to controversy. As a prosecutor he lit firecrackers in the stairwell of the district attorney's offices soon after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. (It was a prank, he said.) After he was elected DA in 2000 he called the death penalty a "biblical proposition" and lobbied unsuccessfully to maintain Texas's sodomy law. He defied a gag order to appear on "60 Minutes" in 2001 to defend his decision to seek the death penalty for Andrea Yates, the Houston housewife who drowned her five children.

Rosenthal is back in the headlines again. Last December, as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit into how justice is meted out in the county, he turned over the (partial) contents of his government e-mail account. And what a batch of e-mails it was. Black ministers called for the Republican to resign because of racist material, including a cartoon depicting an African-American suffering from a "fatal overdose" of watermelon and fried chicken. There were adult video clips and love notes from Rosenthal to his secretary, his mistress during a previous marriage. "I love you so much," Rosenthal says in one. "I want to kiss you behind your right ear," he says in another. "Go spend time with your family," she admonishes him back.

Now it appears that Rosenthal's on-the-job antics have done him in. In the wake of the e-mail revelations, local GOP leaders forced him to abort his re-election bid. Then, on Feb. 15, after Lloyd Kelley, the attorney in the civil rights case, brought a lawsuit accusing him of drinking on the job and "incompetence, or official misconduct," Rosenthal resigned. But his problems may not be over. As eye-opening as his e-mails were, it's the ones that disappeared that might cause him more trouble yet. Rosenthal deleted thousands of e-mails (even going so far as to delete them from the trash folder) that investigators in the civil rights case wanted; his actions could lead to obstruction of justice charges (the messages were destroyed after he had received a subpoena for them, he admitted in court). And during a contempt of court hearing earlier this month, Rosenthal appeared to contradict his sworn statements about the e-mails, leaving him open to perjury charges. The hearing was abruptly adjourned at the request of his lawyer and is scheduled to resume March 14. If found in contempt, the former top prosecutor could wind up in jail.

Neither Rosenthal nor his lawyers returned NEWSWEEK's calls for comment. In an earlier statement to the press about the content of the e-mails, Rosenthal said, "I deeply regret having said those things . This event has served as a wake-up call to me to get my house in order both literally and figuratively."
On Feb. 15, in response to the new lawsuit, he blamed a combination of prescription drugs for causing "some impairment" of his judgment.

Rosenthal's most recent troubles started in 2002, when brothers Sean and Erik Ibarra sued Harris County, saying they were falsely arrested and abused after they photographed sheriff's deputies searching a neighbor's home. Kelley, a former Houston comptroller who had campaigned for the DA job but lost to Rosenthal, took the case. He subpoenaed the e-mail traffic of his former political opponent, looking for evidence that Rosenthal had colluded with the county sheriff to "put the kibosh" on the civil rights case, he says. It took years of legal wrangling to get Rosenthal to turn over any e-mails.

Kelley says he bears no grudge against his former political nemesis. "Nobody should be allowed to destroy evidence," Kelley says. What was unearthed was bad enough, he says, "but this is less than a half, maybe a third of the total." In the lawsuits against the sheriff, Tommy Thomas, and Rosenthal, Kelley paints a picture of a county justice system off the rails. "You've got a good ol' boy system, so the last resort is a civil lawsuit," he says. "You've got a crooked system where they all feed on each other. There's no independent oversight. This is Tammany Hall, only a 100 years later."

There have long been complaints that the Harris County DA's office discriminates. Former prosecutors have said that other lawyers in the office referred to Hurricane Katrina evacuees as "NFLs," or "N------ From Louisiana."

In 2003 prosecutor Mike Trent sent an officewide message congratulating his colleagues on winning a case despite the presence of several "Canadians" on the jury. (He later said he was unaware that "Canadian" is sometimes used as a racial slur for a black person.) Jolanda Jones, a defense attorney and Houston city council member, has complained for years that minorities are unfairly stricken from juries and that punishment is administered more harshly for blacks. "There is absolutely an undercurrent of racism," she says. "The story is bigger than the district attorney's office. It's systemic. They're racist and classist. If you're poor or a minority, there is no justice."

But Joe Owmby, chief of the DA's integrity division and the highest-ranking black prosecutor in Harris County, says he's never felt as if he works in a racist atmosphere-and he defends Rosenthal for encouraging minority hiring.
Other black former prosecutors say they never heard racist comments either.

The jury of public opinion is divided on whether Rosenthal's e-mails amount to a handful of embarrassing private messages or evidence of racism and sexism tainting the justice system in the nation's fourth-largest city. Hundreds rallied before Rosenthal's contempt of court hearing earlier this month to call for his resignation. Deric Muhammad of the Millions More Movement told the crowd on the courthouse steps, "We have a systemic problem. It is not just Rosenthal that has to go-the whole toilet must be flushed."

Will the next Harris County DA bring about wholesale change? Rosenthal's doctor, Sam Siegler, sent Rosenthal racy messages, including a video clip of women having their clothes ripped off in public. Siegler's wife Kelly was one of Rosenthal's star prosecutors. Despite her husband's role in the controversy, Kelly Siegler wasted no time distancing herself from her boss's activities, and now she's campaigning like a "bulldog in a Chihuahua's body" for Rosenthal's job. But Siegler herself is hardly immune to controversy. She made an anti-Semitic comment to a jury 20 years ago (she later apologized) and, in court a few years ago, she straddled a fellow prosecutor strapped to a bed with neckties. She was trying to show that a wife couldn't have acted in self defense when she stabbed her husband, played by the prosecutor, to death.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Show trials at Guantanamo Bay?

This popped up over at Daily Kos. We reprint in its entirety:

This was very much how it was done in the bad old days of the Soviet Union:

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the legal treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes--and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

Now, as the murky, quasi-legal staging of the Bush Administration's military commissions unfolds, a key official has told The Nation that the trials are rigged from the start. According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal....

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. "[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals, we've got to have convictions.'"

Haynes was a legal adviser to Rumsfeld and Gates. Bush nominated him to a federal bench position, but his nomination was actually blocked by Republican Lindsey Graham because of Haynes involvement in developing the Pentagon's torture policies. He was bad enough for Lindsay Graham to block him, and he's in charge of the Gitmo trials.

The Gitmo detainees have no hope of a fair trial, and even if they should be acquitted (against the apparent rules the administration has imposed) the government has already said they can be held indefinitely because they've already been deemed "enemy combatants." Those who survive the show trials will never breathe free air if the Bush administration has anything to say about it.

To read the piece as it was originally blogged (and to see the many comments that have been left) go here.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Yesterday we guest-blogged over at

Check out our entry here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Will another death row exoneration be happening in Mississippi

From Radley Balko over at Hit & Run, Reason magazine's blog, a post boldly entitled Eddie Lee Howard: Mississippi's Next Exoneration?

Now that Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks have been freed, the Innocence Project is calling for a criminal investigation into Dr. Michael West. Peter Neufeld is asking that every case in which West has ever testified be reviewed. The linked article notes that there are 20 or more Mississippians in prison right now due at least in part to West's testimony.

West still stands by his testimony. He's now saying that even if Brooks and Brewer did not commit the two murders a third man has since confessed to committing, his testimony wasn't incorrect: Brewer and Brooks still bit those little girls. To believe West, you'd have to believe that in two cases that occurred at about the same time, two men living just miles apart coincidentally each repeatedly bit a little girl in their care just hours before a third man unknown to either of them abducted, raped, and killed said little girls.

Alternately, you could believe that Dr. West is a quack who makes shit up. I know which theory my money's on.

The next case involving the unholy triumvirate of West, Hayne, and District Attorney Forrest Allgood that may embarrass Mississippi is that of Eddie Lee Howard, currently on death row in Parchman for the gruesome murder of an elderly woman. The assailant stabbed the woman to death, then set her house on fire and left her to burn. Dr. Hayne testified at trial that the woman was also raped, though no semen or second-party blood or pubic hair showed up in the rape kit. Hayne did not find any bite marks. The victim was buried.

In a now-familiar pattern, Hayne then brought his buddy Dr. West onto the case. Three days later, the police detained Howard without a warrant, then immediately took him to Dr. West's dental practice, where West took an impression of Howard's teeth. Police then exhumed the victim, at which point West once again claimed to find bite marks no one else could see. He then noted there were similarities between Mr. Howard's dental impression and the bite marks he said he'd found on the burned body.

There was no biological evidence linking Howard to the crime scene. The sole evidence against him was West's testimony and the testimony of a police investigator who says Howard basically confessed to him, though the investigator never asked Howard to sign a statement of confession, nor is there any recording of it.

Eddie Lee Howard clearly has some psychological problems.

[Read the rest of Radley's piece here]

Go Radley Go!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A death row exoneration

from the Innocence Project

Two Mississippi men are cleared after 15 years


At hearings this morning in a packed Mississippi courthouse, two Innocence Project clients convicted of separate child murders in the same small town were cleared based on new evidence proving their innocence. This day comes after nearly 15 years behind bars for Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, who were joined in court this morning by more than 100 of their relatives.

(Above, left to right: Innocence Project Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin, Levon Brooks, Kennedy Brewer, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld. Macon Beacon Photo)

Brewer, who served much of his time on death row, was fully exonerated today after all pending charges against him were dropped. He is the first person exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing in Mississippi and the 213th nationwide.

Brooks was released this morning after his conviction was vacated, and will be fully exonerated when charges against him are dismissed, which we expect in the next few weeks.

More from the Innocence Project on this miracle

Breaking news, Part II

So it looks like our friend Steve Hall is having a busy day down in Texas. Now we get news that Chuck Rosenthal -- who has been the leading district attorney in the U.S. in terms of seeking and getting the death penalty -- has resigned from office.


We'll let this Houston Chronicle story speak for itself.

Rosenthal resigns as district attorney amid e-mail scandal

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Chuck Rosenthal resigned as district attorney today amid an e-mail scandal that recently forced him to abandon his re-election campaign and a lawsuit filed today that sought his removal from office.

Bill Delmore, chief of the D.A.'s legal services bureau, which oversees the general counsel's office, confirmed that Rosenthal issued a press release in which he says he contacted the Governor's office to tender his resignation.

"Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment," Rosenthal wrote in his resignation letter.

Rosenthal declined to comment.

His decision to resigns caps several weeks of intense scrutiny of the district's attorney's office and follows the filing of a lawsuit today against him and Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas.

That lawsuit, filed by attorney Lloyd Kelley, sought Rosenthal and Thomas'
removal from office. State law allows for an elected official on any of three grounds - official misconduct, incompetency or intoxication on or off duty - and Kelley says Rosenthal is guilty of all three.

The lawsuit accuses Thomas of incompetency and misconduct.

Sheriff's spokesman Capt. John Martin said Sheriff Tommy Thomas is not in the office today. "No one has seen the petition," he said, "and without knowing the allegations, it's hard to comment."

Rosenthal's decision to step down came just a short time after the filing of Kelley's lawsuit.

"My decision to retire from office was precipitated by a number of things, ''Rosenthal wrote. "The federal court's release of my private emails around Christmas of last year brought a lot to bear on my wife and children.''

"I am hopeful that, in my retirement, the media will accord my family the privacy we need to heal.''

Meanwhile, Sheriff's spokesman Capt. John Martin said Sheriff Tommy Thomas was not in the office today and could not comment on Kelley's lawsuit. "No one has seen the petition," he said, "and without knowing the allegations, it's hard to comment."

Attorney Lloyd Kelley's lawsuit requests jury trials to determine whether Rosenthal and Thomas should be forced out. State law allows for removing an elected official on any of three grounds - official misconduct, incompetency or intoxication on or off duty - and Kelley says Rosenthal is guilty of all three.

The lawsuit accuses Thomas of incompetency and misconduct. Kelley is also asking a judge to temporarily remove Rosenthal and Thomas pending the outcome of the trial. If a judge agrees, the judge would then appoint temporary replacements.

Kelley filed today's lawsuit on behalf of Erik Ibarra, one of two brothers Kelley represents in a federal lawsuit against Harris County, the sheriff and four deputies that led to the disclosure of Rosenthal's e-mails in late December. The scandal surrounding the e-mails - which contained racist comments, sexually explicit videos, love notes to his administrative assistant and re-election campaign materials - caused Rosenthal to end his political campaign.

The lawsuit states Rosenthal showed a "lack of judgment" through his e-mails and by giving his assistant, Kerry Stevens, an $11,000 raise last month. The lawsuit also alleges Rosenthal consumed alcohol at the office while performing his duties from 2001 to 2007 but doesn't cite specific instances.

The lawsuit alleges Thomas accepted benefits for his ranch from county vendors. Kelley says the sheriff took free or below-market price services from architects doing business with the county.

The lawsuit also says Thomas failed to investigate the crimes and civil rights violations reported by Erik and Sean Ibarra, who have accused his deputies of illegally arresting them and destroying their camera equipment after a 2002 drug raid at their neighbor's home.

The lawsuit states Thomas "gained special advantage" last year for his son Brent Thomas, who was arrested for possession of cocaine. Brent Thomas was given deferred adjudication and ordered to pay a $500 fine, the lawsuit states.

Kelley also is seeking to have Rosenthal held in contempt of court for deleting e-mails that had been subpoenaed in the federal lawsuit.

Last month, County Attorney Mike Stafford asked the Texas Attorney General to investigate Rosenthal's use of county computer equipment to conduct campaign business. That investigation is ongoing.
- - - - -
Chronicle reporter Allan Turner contributed to this story.

Breaking news, part one

Courtesy of Steve Hall from Stand Down Texas, we learn that John Penry, a mentally retarded person on Texas' death row, will not spend his life in prison instead of facing execution.

For those who have followed Penry's case up and down the courts -- including two successful Supreme Court rulings -- this is big and welcome news indeed. It means Texas is no longer actively trying to execute a person who believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, colors with crayons and looks at comic books he can't read. Of course, executing people with severe mental retardation runs afoul of U.S. Supreme Court edict that such executions violate the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Suddenly it is becoming quite clear....

On Jan. 20, 2006 we created a bit of a firestorm when we blogged about some newly issued guidelines from the U.S. Army. It seems that the U.S. Army had updated its execution protocol. Most of the changes were minor with one exception that seemed to stand out. The new protocol “allows other locations to be used for executions.”

(Previously, military executions took place in Leavenworth, Kansas, which is where military death row is located.)

You can see the original blog entry here. Reuters did a story on the development, and it was picked up by NPR and the Washington Post, among other outlets.

Anyways. So today I was scanning the national AP wire and this caught my eye.

Executions May Be Carried Out at Gitmo

Associated Press Writers

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- If six suspected terrorists are sentenced to death at Guantanamo Bay for the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. Army regulations that were quietly amended two years ago open the possibility of execution by lethal injection at the military base in Cuba, experts said Tuesday.

Any executions would probably add to international outrage over Guantanamo, since capital punishment is banned in 130 countries, including the 27-nation European Union.

Conducting the executions on U.S. soil could open the way for the detainees' lawyers to go to U.S. courts to fight the death sentences. But the updated regulations make it possible for the executions to be carried out at Guantanamo.

David Sheldon, an attorney and former member of the Navy's legal corps, said an execution chamber at Guantanamo would be largely beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

"I think that's the administration's idea, to try to use Guantanamo as a base to not be under the umbrella of the federal district courts," he said. "If one is detained in North Carolina or South Carolina in a Navy brig, one could conceivably file a petition of habeas corpus and because of where they're located, invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court."

The condemned men could even be buried at Guantanamo. A Muslim section of the cemetery at Guantanamo has been dedicated by an Islamic cultural adviser, said Bruce Lloyd, spokesman for the Guantanamo Naval Station. Among those buried elsewhere at the cemetery are U.S. servicemen.

"A small area of the cemetery has been fenced off and remains ready for the burial of any Muslim who may die here and not be repatriated to another country, for whatever reason," Lloyd told The Associated Press.

When two Saudis and a Yemeni committed suicide at Guantanamo in 2006, military officers said the men could be buried at the cemetery, but the remains were instead sent back to their homelands.

Up until recently, experts on military law said, it was understood that military regulations required executions to be carried out by lethal injection at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

But in January 2006, the Army changed its procedures for military executions, allowing "other locations" to be used. The new regulations say that only the president can approve an execution and that the secretary of the Army will authorize the location.

So, it appears folks are getting ready. Of course, issues such as guilt, innocence, habeas corpus, rules governing military tribunals, admissibility of evidence, etc., have yet to be resolved. One can only hope that the next administration and not this one will resolve them.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to see the U.S. Army's new guidelines, go here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I know the Geneva Convention is around here somewhere....

Those of you who saw today's New York Times or found yourself surfing through the blogosphere today may have heard the news:

Military prosecutors today issued the first charges relating to the September 11 attacks, saying they would seek the death penalty against six detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, including the alleged mastermind of the plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Department of Defence, which is leading the prosecution through a controversial and much-criticised process of military commissions, issued 169 charges against the men that include conspiracy, murder in violation of the law or war, attacking civilians, destruction of property and terrorism.

Even putting aside, for a moment, my consistent opposition to the death penalty, there are several things that I find quite odd about this development.

First, no military tribunals have been held in full so far. (One guy, from Australia, did plead out.) No one in Guantanamo Bay has even been convicted of jaywalking. So we're going to start with six capital murder prosecutions?

Second, two of the six people up for prosecution were, according to our government's own admission, subjected to waterboarding. The U.S. Department of Justice can say whatever it wants: Any American of sound value and good common sense knows that torture in any form violates our basic principles and tends to be counterproductive, since the person being tortured will say anything his captors want to hear. So, are these two detainees going to be convicted on the basis of information that was extracted from them while under torture?

Third, the very right of the U.S. military to hold these people for years and years has not been fully adjudicated. Do they have access to habeas corpus or don't they?

Fourth, the timing is quite interesting. Undoubtedly, the partisan Republicans in the White House want to make this an election issue. They are desperate to figure out how to inject national security into the ongoing McCain/Clinton/Obama debate. Good luck with that -- probably the best thing our side can do is not take the bait.

For more on this, go here.

In a nutshell....

Last Friday we brought you breaking news: Nebraska's Supreme Court ruled use of the electric chair unconstitutional. This leaves the state currently without an effective death penalty statute.

Here's the key quote from the judge who wrote the court's 6-1 majority opinion:

"We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer. But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it. Condemend prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes. And the evidence clearly proves that unconsciousness and death are not instantaneous for many condemned prisoners. These prisoners will, when electrocuted, consciously suffer the torture that high voltage electric current inflicts on the human body. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intense pain and agonizing suffering. Therefore, electrocution as a method of execution is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Nebraska Constitution."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Breaking news out of Nebraska

The Nebraska Supreme Court, in a sharply worded ruling, has struck down that state's use of the electric chair. Because Nebraska has no back-up method of execution, it is now left with no effective death penalty statute.

15 states down, 35 to go!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

And now, from the lighter side....

From time to time Abolish the Death Penalty has turned our readers attention to awards garnered by local activists associated with our state affiliates -- like when Jane Bohman, head of our Illinois affiliate, was honored by Chicago Business Magazine, or when Celeste Fitzgerald, head of our New Jersey affiliate, received similar recognition as a mover and shaker.

Today we bring you news in a similar vein, although perhaps not quite as deep.

It turns out that Isaac Kimes, newly hired organizer for the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, has been written up by the Nashville Scene, Nashville's alternative weekly. It seems that the Nashville Scene each year publishes a feature called the Lust List and Isaac made the cut.

Writes TCASK's blog:

TCASK's very own Isaac Kimes has made the Scene's annual Lust List. While we always knew he was a phenomenal field organizer and a passionate supporter of the movement, we had yet to fully recognize his "lusty" side. Thank goodness the Nashville Scene took notice and pointed out all of Isaac's shining characteristics. We are certainly lucky to have him here at TCASK--and in Nashville--not only because of his outgoing personality, enthusiasm, passion and talent but also, as we now know, because of his award winning good looks. Described as "attractive, altruistic and unattached" by the Scene, this "good-looking do-gooder" is an integral part of both the Nashville community and the TCASK family--let's take a moment and celebrate Isaac, Nashville's latest "cute and clever catch."

You can read the magazine's article here. We're pleased to see that the feature isn't all about looks -- you obviously have to have some talent and brains, too, to get on this list.

So, congrats, Isaac. Now get back to work!

Friday, February 01, 2008

There's a new blog in town

It belongs to InCASE, which stands for the Indiana Coalition Acting to Suspend Executions. You can find it here.