Amnesty International has released its compilation of global data on the use of capital punishment around the world, from sentencing to execution.  Read the report, entitled “Death Penalty in 2019: Facts and Figures,” here.

Among the findings from Amnesty International are:

  • during 2019, there were 657 executions in 20 countries;
  • last year saw the fewest executions that Amnesty International has recorded in “at least a decade”;
  • the top five countries carrying out executions in 2019 were ranked: China (1st), Iran (2nd), Saudi Arabia (3rd), Iraq (4th) and Egypt (5th); and
  • four countries were responsible for 86% of all reported executions: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

Of course, China’s figures are not considered reliable, as the country considers its death penalty information to be a state secret.  How many people died last year in China as a result of capital punishment is unknown.

For more on China’s history with the death penalty, read earlier discussions in:

 

Tomorrow, on May 13, 2020, from 2-2:30 pm EST, the Law & Crime network will be discussing the Markeith Loyd trial where the State of Florida is seeking the death penalty, and Terence Lenamon is defending.

Lenamon Joins with Law & Crime Network in Tomorrow’s Markeith Loyd Coverage

Terry Lenamon has accepted an invitation to join L&C tomorrow during its coverage of the Markeith Loyd proceedings.

Anyone interested in the death penalty and particularly this Florida prosecution seeking capital punishment, as well as hearing Mr. Lenamon’s discussion with the L&C commentators, is invited to watch.

The Law & Crime Network’s live coverage is available online here.  Law & Crime  is also available on the following services (go here for details):

 

This week, Terence Lenamon filed the following motion in the death penalty trial of Markeith Loyd and the full text has been made available as a public service in his Online Library:

Defendant’s Motion for Compensation of Jurors at Current Wage or Minimum Wage in Light of Recent Events Involving COVID-19 Which Have a Direct Impact of Whether Jurors Could Afford to Serve in a Lengthy Six Week Trial.

The defense motion asks for the jurors in the Loyd trial to be paid minimum wage, or current wage, in light of the Coronavirus Epidemic.

Read it here:

 

 

Florida Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary has denied Rod Ferrell his request for a reduction of his life sentence in a re-sentencing hearing where he was represented by Terence Lenamon.

The request was made in response to a SCOTUS ruling that dealt with juveniles who are found guilty of a criminal act and sentenced to life behind bars.  SCOTUS held that scientific evidence confirms that minors are not fully matured physically, with their brains still developing.  Accordingly, juvenile defendants cannot be automatically sentenced to life.

Rod Ferrell was 16 years old at the time of the murders for which he was convicted.  Terry Lenamon filed a request for a re-sentencing hearing where evidence could be presented to the court in line with the new SCOTUS precedent.

In his ruling, Judge Singeltary found Rod Ferrell “irreparably corrupt” and declined to change his sentencing.

For more details, read the coverage in “No break for ‘Vampire cult’ killer Rod Ferrell, life sentences stand,” written by Stephen Hudak and published by the Orlando Sentinel on April 20, 2020, and “‘Vampire Killer’ keeps his life sentence,” written by Frank Stanfield  and published by the Daily Commercial on April 11, 2020.

Also see:

 

The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused trials to be put on hold in Florida and elsewhere in the country, as efforts to “slow the spread” prohibit groups of people to enter courthouses either as jurors, defense attorneys, prosecutors, or judges.

For the Florida Supreme Court Order suspending criminal proceedings beginning March 16, 2020, including Terry Lenamon’s capital defense of Markeith Loyd, read our earlier discussion in “Coronavirus Continuances: Florida Supreme Court COVID-19 Emergency Order.

COVID-19 and Execution Schedules

Across the country, COVID-19 is also working to give more time to those facing execution as defense lawyers successfully argue that execution dates be pushed back.

 Courts are acknowledging that the risk of those involved in the execution process (participants and witnesses) would be at risk of exposure to the Coronavirus, and as a result delaying scheduled executions.

One example out of Texas is the delay of the March 25, 2020, execution of Texas Death Row inmate Tracy Beatty, because of Coronavirus exposure concerns.  This was the second execution rescheduled by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of COVID-19.  Read, “Texas Court Stays Execution of 2nd Inmate over Coronavirus,” written by Danielle Haynes and published by UPI on March 19, 2020.

Yesterday, the Tennessee Supreme Court rescheduled the execution date for Tennessee Death Row inmate Oscar Smith from June 4, 2020, to February 4, 2021.  See, “Tennessee Supreme Court Reschedules Oscar Smith Execution Due to COVID-19,” written by Steven Hale and published by the Nashville Scene on April 17, 2020.

For more, read:  “How Coronavirus is Disrupting the Death Penalty,” written by Keri Blakinger and Maurice Chammah and published by the Marshall Project on March 23, 2020, and “Prisoner Executions Are Put Off Because of Pandemic,” written by Jess Bravin and published by the Wall Street Journal on March 26, 2020.

Coronavirus and Prosecutors Seeking the Death Penalty

Of course, execution schedules and trial dockets are two different things.  Capital defense lawyers are well aware that in states where the death penalty can be sought in sentencing, prosecutors are free to file their notices of intent to pursue capital punishment in pending matters.

There is no barrier to the prosecution deciding to seek the death penalty because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, other than potential delays in investigation and preparation due to current quarantines, lockdowns, and/or stay-at-home orders.

For details here, read “Executions are on Hold, But States are Still Pushing for Death Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic,” written by Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith and published in the Intercept on April 5, 2020.

 

Lethal injection is the most common method of execution in the United States, albeit more and more alternative methods are being used as concerns grow over the use of intravenous drugs as a killing tool.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has shed a different kind of light on these lethal injection drugs, particularly the following:  midazolam; vecuronium bromide; rocuronium bromide; fentanyl; cisatracurium besylate; and etomidate.

University of Miami Professor Joins Doctors’ Request for Execution Drugs

On April 6, 2020, a joint letter signed by Kenneth W. Goodman, PhD, FACMI, FACE, University of Miami Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, and six fellow renowned medical professionals was sent to every state with a lethal injection drug inventory, asking for the release of the drugs for use in the care and treatment of COVID-19 victims.

Dr. Goodman is both (1) founder and director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy and (2) co-director of the University’s Ethics Programs. The Miller School of Medicine’s Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy is designated one of the ten (10) worldwide World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers in Ethics and Global Health Policy.

Joining University of Miami Professor Goodman as signatories are:

  • Joel B. Zivot, MD, FRCP(C), MA, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA;
  • Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., Professor of the Practice, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health;
  • Prashant Yadav, Ph.D., Lecturer, Harvard Medical School & Fellow, Center for Global Development;
  • Donald F. Downing, Clinical Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Washington;
  • Robert B. Greifinger, MD, Consultant on Public Health in Corrections; and
  • Leonidas George Koniaris, MD, Professor of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine.

Letter Urges That Execution Drugs Can Save Coronavirus Victims’ Lives

The full text of their letter can be read online here. Here is an excerpt (footnotes omitted):

“In this pandemic, it is increasingly clear that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States will die. Yet personal experience and medical knowledge demonstrate that patients in the ICU sickened by COVID‐19 are still able to survive this infection with proper medical care. Your stockpile could save the lives of hundreds of people; though this may be a small fraction of the total anticipated deaths, it is a central ethical directive that medicine values every life. Those who might be saved could include a colleague, a loved one, or even you.

“For years, pharmaceutical companies and health experts have warned that states’ pursuit of execution drugs create public health risks and “could result in the denial of medicines from patients who need them most.” In this time of crisis, these risks have never been more acute, and our health system has never more desperately needed the medicines you currently hold for use in executions. Every last vial of medicine could mean the difference between life and death.  

“We urgently ask you to send any execution drug supplies in your storerooms to hospitals where they are needed to treat critically ill COVID‐19 patients. At this crucial moment for our country, we must prioritize the needs and lives of patients above ending the lives of prisoners.”

For more, read “Death Penalty States Urged to Release Stockpiled Drugs for Covid-19 Patients,” written by Ed Pilkington and published by The Guardian on April 13, 2020.

Will the execution drugs be released for use in treating Coronavirus patients?

Each state must make its own decision in response to this request.  Of note, the letter references the Florida Department of Corrections has having rocuronium bromide inventories which the physicians opine could be used to intubate approximately 100 COVID‐19 patients.

For more about lethal injection method of execution, read:

Famed Wyoming attorney Gerry Spence founded the Trial Lawyers College several years ago, “… to help attorneys stand up for the rights of ordinary people and develop their skills as trial lawyers.”  The TLCis dedicated to training a new kind of attorney—one who is courageous enough to develop his or her own character first, and who then has the heart to seek justice on behalf of those who cannot seek it themselves.

Terence Lenamon has been sharing his knowledge and expertise as a member of the faculty at the Trial Lawyers College for awhile now.  We’ve shared more details in past posts, see:

This week, a new TLC podcast has been published where Rafe Foreman interviews Terry Lenamon, in a discussion focusing upon various aspects of death penalty defense and Terry’s approach to capital cases.

Click on the image below to listen (it’s 34 minutes long):

Mannie Ponoc of UK’s Alamo Pictures shared this recent documentary podcast with us where Professor Vivien Miller of the University of Nottingham discusses the history of capital punishment in America, using visuals from the BBC’s “Life and Death Row – The Mass Execution” as she delves into various aspects of the death penalty in our country today.

The British Perspective on US Death Penalty: UK Professor Documentary Podcast

For an idea of what is discussed here,  check out the list of time stamps provided by Alamo Pictures:

00:54 – The topic we are looking at today: capital punishment.
01:25 – Meeting our guest Dr Vivien Miller.
03:21 – The documentary that we are looking at today.
04:08 – Why Vivien chose this film.
05:08 – What the film is about.
07:22 – Our first clip, featuring Jeff Rosenzweig, the lawyer for three of the convicted inmates
10:40 – Why the death penalty is still prevalent in the US.
13:40 – Our second clip, where different people say why they support death penalty
15:58 – The reason some people stay on death row for such a long period of time.
18:37 – The issues with some of the inmates’ original trials.
20:55 – The racial discrimination that’s prevalent in death penalty sentencing.
22:22 – Why the death penalty is so prevalent in the South.
26:52 – The supply problems with some of the lethal injection drugs over the last 10 years.
29:53 – When lethal injections don’t work.
30:45 – The argument that lethal injections are a cruel and unusual punishment.
31:27 – Our final clip, showing the advocacy group for abolition of capital punishment.
35:02 – What the future of capital punishment will look like in the US.
37:55 – Why capital punishment increased so much at the beginning of the 20th century.
40:25 – Why the use of the death penalty decreased after 1940.

Watch the full podcast here:

 

On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court ordered “… [a]ll grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended during the period beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, through Friday, March 27, 2020, or as provided by subsequent order.”

  • Terry Lenamon reports there has been a continuance of the May 2020 trial setting in the Markieth Loyd case.  No new trial date as yet.

Other actions in response to the Coronavirus Outbreak are also included in the Order, addressing such issues as speedy trial time limits.

Click on the image below to read the Administrative Order of the Florida Supreme Court: