"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 26, 2017

Six Nazi spies were executed in D.C. White supremacists gave them a memorial - on federal land.

Nazi spies memorial stone Washington DC
A team of power company workers was trudging through a seldom-visited thicket in Southwest Washington when they spotted something odd in a ditch.

Protruding from the grass was a rectangular slab of granite.

They looked closer, and an inscription on the surface came into focus. What they saw astonished them.

It was a memorial. In honor of Nazi spies. On U.S. government property.

"In memory of agents of the German Abwehr," the engraving began, "executed August 8, 1942."

Below that were 6 names, and below those was another cryptic line: "Donated by the N.S.W.P.P."

News of the unsettling discovery soon reached Jim Rosenstock, who worked in resource management for the National Park Service and also happened to be a local history buff. He was curious, but also skeptical. How could someone have planted such an item there? And why? And - above all - who?

Rosenstock needed to see it for himself, so he, too, made the hike into Blue Plains, a woody area known best for a wastewater treatment plant and an abundance of mosquitoes. And that's when he saw the stone.

"I kind of started doing a little bit of my own research," Rosenstock recalled of that day in 2006 when he began to help unravel an only-in-Washington mystery, complete with World War II espionage, nationwide panic, a mass electrocution, J. Edgar Hoover chicanery, white supremacists, classic federal bureaucracy and a U.S. Supreme Court case that played a significant role in America's modern war on terror.

For decades, very few people in Washington, or elsewhere, knew of the stone's existence. It wasn't a secret so much as something that just never got out - remarkable in a town famous for its leaks.

Only when a former Park Police detective mentioned it in passing to a Washington Post reporter, then provided photographic evidence, did anyone ask the Park Service about it.

A spokeswoman referred the Post to the now-retired Rosenstock, because perhaps no one has thought more about the 31-by-26-by-8-inch object than he has.

At the start of World War II, Rosenstock discovered when he began his research, Adolf Hitler had been determined to show the world just how susceptible America was to a Nazi attack, so he ordered his military to devise a plan.

The high command, according to a 2002 Post story, recruited 8 Germans for the mission. In teams of 4, the men were loaded onto a pair of U-boats, 1 destined for Jacksonville, Fla., and the other for a beach near the tip of Long Island.

On June 13, 1942, the New York group reached shore - and was almost immediately discovered by an unarmed Coast Guards member on foot patrol. The men escaped, but by morning, the Coast Guard had unearthed the Germans' buried supplies: fuses, pre-made bombs and 4 crates of TNT. That wouldn't have mattered to their leader, George John Dasch, who hadn't intended to wreak devastation on Hitler's behalf anyway. When the group reached New York City, he and a comrade decided to turn the others in, so Dasch phoned the FBI.

4 days later, he took the $82,000 he'd been given for the operation - more than $1 million in today's money - and boarded a train for Washington. There, he met with FBI agents, whom he expected to welcome him as a hero.

They didn't.

J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous head of the bureau, recognized an opportunity. In late June, with all 8 men caught, Hoover announced their capture in New York - and claimed credit for his agency.

He made no mention of Dasch.

"The country went wild," Francis Biddle, then attorney general, later wrote in a memoir.

Hundreds of German aliens were rounded up and others, suspected of spying, were arrested. The Justice Department banned German and Italian barbers, servers and busboys from Washington's hotels and restaurants because 3 of the would-be saboteurs had worked as waiters in America.

Ignoring due process, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered that the men be tried in secret before a military commission - a tactic, then backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that President George W. Bush would replicate 59 years later in his directive that Guantanamo Bay detainees be judged in a similar fashion.

In mid-summer 1942, 7 U.S. Army generals found all 8 men guilty but left their punishment to the president. He sentenced 6 to death and 2, including Dasch, to lengthy prison terms (both were deported after the war).

The electrocutions began at 12:01 p.m. on Aug. 8. By 1:04, all 6 were dead.

American Nazi Party members
3 days later, they were secretly buried amid a seldom-visited thicket of Southwest Washington known as Blue Plains.

Rosenstock quickly learned the backstory of the 6 Nazi spies listed on the stone, but another question remained: Who had placed it there?

The line at the bottom - referencing the "N.S.W.P.P." - offered a clue.

Until the mid-1960s, the National Socialist White People's Party had gone by a more familiar name: the American Nazi Party. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group's founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, had given it the new title shortly before his assassination in 1967.

By the 1970s, though, the group had begun to split apart and had lost much of its relevance, leading Rosenstock to believe the Nazi memorial dates back to that time.

The party didn't entirely cease to exist until 1983, the law center said, so the stone may had been carved more recently - though that still means it likely sat on Park Service land for more than 2 decades before the power company's discovery.

For Rosenstock and his colleagues, the memorial presented a conundrum. It was deplorable, and certainly not something that belonged on public property, but none of their handbooks suggested how to deal with a 200-plus pound monument to Nazis installed on public land by white supremacists.

Plus, the Park Service couldn't do anything until they were sure it hadn't been placed atop someone's bones.

What if, they wondered, the Nazis were buried beneath it?

The Park Service scoured World War II-era records for details on their bodies, but researchers could find nothing that provided a definitive answer. Old maps showed conflicting spots, including 1 beneath a building.

"The location is a little bit confusing," he said, "and I think deliberately so."

Rosenstock suspected that whoever disposed of the spies' bodies didn't want them found.

What he did learn, though, is that no one was buried beneath the stone because a creek had run through that area in the 1940s.

Still, the Park Service hadn't decided what should be done.

"It was an illegal monument," Rosenstock said. "And we certainly did not want to be hosting a site for midnight rituals on Hitler's birthday."

That was a legitimate concern. Rosenstock once found deer bones arranged atop the memorial. Others had found candles around it and noticed that it was regularly cleaned.

"At least 1 fellow in the Park Service suggested breaking it up with sledge hammers and throwing it in the river," he recalled. "It's not the argument that historic preservationists make."

The memorial remained intact.

In 2010, under the direction of a museum curator, a forklift exhumed the granite block and lowered it into a truck.

The stone, tagged OXCO-475, now spends its days beneath a protective blanket on a shelf at a storage facility in suburban Maryland. Park Service staff asked that The Post be no more specific than that because, though they didn't mind its long-unknown story being told, they'd prefer that its exact location remain a secret.

Source: The Washington Post, John Woodrow Cox, June 23, 2017

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Death-row inmate Tyrone Noling to ask Ohio Supreme Court to allow DNA testing of evidence

Tyrone Noling
Tyrone Noling
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Sentenced to death for murders he says he did not commit when he was 23, Tyrone Noling, now 45, and his attorneys believe one way to find "the actual perpetrator" is through state-of-the-art DNA testing.

For nearly 9 years, lower courts have blocked Noling's access to the DNA testing of evidence collected at the crime scene - including ring boxes and shell casings discovered in a tidy ranch in Atwater, about an hour outside of Cleveland. The bodies of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig were found there too, in the kitchen, shot with a .25- caliber handgun.

Though no physical evidence has ever linked Noling to the crime - no fingerprints, no hair, no murder weapon - he sits on Ohio's death row for being the triggerman who executed the longtime married couple based solely on the testimony of three alleged accomplices, all of whom have recanted their testimony, saying they lied after being coached and threatened by a prosecutor's investigator, two decades ago.

"I sold my soul that day," one of Noling's accusers now says.

Portage County prosecutors, who once built the case against Noling using the men's damning confessions, now dismiss what they have to say as fiction.

On Tuesday, Brian Howe, a lawyer for Noling, will argue in the Ohio Supreme Court that his client deserves to have DNA tests conducted on those crucial pieces of evidence - gathered by police 27 years ago - and that those tests be done at a lab with sophisticated enough technology to do such analysis.

Howe is also asking that any DNA tests already run by the state - on a cigarette butt retrieved from the Hartig's driveway - be turned over to Noling and his defense team.

Although prosecutors have provided Noling with a one-page summary of conclusions from a technician at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation - the state's crime lab - they have not forwarded the detailed results of the tests. Those details are important, Noling's defenders say, because they could conceivably point to the DNA profile of another killer (neither one of the Hartigs smoked) and demonstrate that the killer's DNA is also on the shell casings and the ring boxes. Noling and his co-defendants were excluded from the DNA found on the cigarette butt years ago.

(To read details of Noling's arguments, click here to access his Merit Brief filed with the Ohio Supreme court January 2017.)

Source: cleveland.com, The Plain Dealer, Andrea Simakis, June 20, 2017

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South Dakota: Defenders Seek $350,000 for South Dakota Death Penalty Case

SOUTH DAKOTA - The Pennington County Public Defender's Office is asking the county for about $350,000 to help defend a man facing the death penalty for the alleged murder of his ex-girlfriend.

The Rapid City Journal reports that the extra costs in Jonathon Klinetobe's case involve expert evaluations, travel expenses and witness fees.

The 27-year-old Klinetobe, of Sturgis, is charged with first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Jessica Rehfeld. 

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Klinetobe and Richard Hirth, an alleged accomplice.

Eric Whitcher, director of the public defender's office, says it's a complex issue and death penalty cases are "extremely expensive." 

He could not elaborate because of a judge's gag order.

Authorities say they believe Rehfeld's May 2015 death was a contract killing. 

Her body was discovered last summer.

Source: Associated Press, June 25, 2017

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European Union trying to block William Morva execution

Morva is Hungarian-American

The Hungarian Government and European Union are trying to stop the execution of a Virginia inmate.


Morva was convicted of killing Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy, Corporal Eric Sutphin, and security guard Derrick McFarland during a prison escape in 2006.

His lawyers filed a clemency petition Tuesday.

They said jurors did not know Morva suffered from a severe mental illness.

His attorneys want to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole.

Both Hungary and the European Union have reached out to Governor McAuliffe to stop the execution.

According to the Mercy for Morva Group, he is a Hungarian-American dual national.

Source: WSLS news, June 24, 2017


William Morva: "The trial experts lacked the complete picture," and that meant that the jury did, too


William Morva
William Morva
Morva was charged in 2005 in a series of botched robberies and burglaries.

In an attempted robbery, Morva, masked and carrying a shotgun, crept up to a convenience store, only to find the doors locked, then ran off and hid in woods - where police found him.

Jailed for a year while awaiting trial, Morva's mental health deteriorated. His mother did not bail him out, thinking that he would finally get psychological treatment.

Morva told his mother that he was dying, that someone was torturing him and intentionally withholding medical care - and with that mind-set, was convinced he had to flee.

"He believes anybody would have done exactly what he did," said Davison, the lawyer who has worked on Morva's appeals since 2009. The escape, she said, "was all part of this effort to save his life. He's incapable of seeing things any other way."

In August 2006, a deputy escorted Morva to the Montgomery Regional Hospital for minor injuries. In a bathroom, Morva knocked him unconscious and took his gun. Morva then shot McFarland, the unarmed hospital security guard, from 2 feet away as hospital colleagues watched in horror.

He killed Sutphin the next day as the deputy was on a wooded trail in the hunt for the fugitive. Morva shot Sutphin in the back of the head.

The jury that decided Morva's fate in 2008 heard from two doctors who diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder similar to schizophrenia. They noted his rigid thinking, odd behavior, and that Morva's maternal grandmother had been treated for schizophrenia in the 1950s. But the doctors told jurors that Morva was not delusional, an assessment his lawyers dispute - and a determination that later was rebutted by another doctor in what now is the key contention before McAuliffe.

Prosecutors portrayed Morva at trial as "extremely intelligent and extremely dangerous." The jury reviewed a letter Morva wrote to his mother 1 month after landing in jail, in which he promised to "kick an unarmed guard in the throat and then I will stomp him until he is as dead as I'll be."

Morva's lawyers acknowledged his horrible crimes but said Morva was "hurting the people that he thought would put him back in jail." The jury did not hear from Morva's mother, who said she wanted to testify to explain, not justify, his actions.

After 3 hours of deliberations, the jury imposed the death penalty.

Before the judge formally sentenced him to death, Morva, in his chance to address the court, called himself Nemo.

"I'm almost done. You may kill me, that's guaranteed. I can't fight. There's nothing more I can do. But there are others like me, and I hope you know that. And soon they're going to get together. They're going to sweep over your whole civilization and they're going to wipe these smiles off of your faces forever."

In the lengthy appeals process, a federal judge agreed to appoint a forensic psychiatrist to evaluate Morva.

By then, Davison and her colleagues had collected dozens of sworn statements. The trial experts, Davison said, had "lacked the complete picture," and that meant that the jury did, too.

High school classmates, roommates, relatives and co-workers swore to what they had observed up close and consistently in Morva during the years leading to the killings.

The new psychiatrist reviewed their statements and medical records and met with Morva in state prison in 2014.

She concluded that Morva's delusions began years before the murders and recommended antipsychotic medication.

Morva's appeals were restricted to narrow legal questions about his trial. The appeals courts could not take up the question of whether Morva was mentally ill when he killed McFarland and Sutphin.

"That's what the governor can do," Davison said. "The governor is his last hope."

It has been years since Morva accepted in-person visits from his lawyers and his mother.

He insists they are part of the conspiracy to kill him.

Long before Morva committed the murders, there were signs that he was not well. In his senior year at Blacksburg High School, Morva's parents moved back to the Richmond area, where his father had worked in engineering. Morva stayed behind but dropped out of school weeks before graduation.

In Blacksburg, he walked barefoot in winter and sometimes slept in the Jefferson National Forest, buried in piles of leaves. He was known at the local coffee shop for diatribes about politics and religion, and confided in family and close friends about what he said were special powers he possessed to fix the world's problems.

Morva's early encounters with police came in 2002 when he was 20. Friends say their free-spirited, compassionate classmate who had been active in Amnesty International became consumed by unusual eating patterns - large amounts of raw meat, nuts and pine cones - and spent hours in the bathroom.

In August 2002, Virginia Tech police found Morva after 9 p.m. half-naked on the floor of a women's bathroom on campus. Officers turned him over to the Blackburg police and called Elizabeth Morva.

"They said, 'Ma'am he's not normal.' I said, I'm beginning to realize that. And they said, 'Ma'am your son needs help.'"

Morva's mother, a classroom aide for special-education students, declined to be interviewed for this story. Her statements are drawn from transcripts of Morva's robbery trial and sworn written statements she submitted for her son's appeals.

At the time of his 2002 arrest, Morva's mother tried to get him help.

She asked police for a temporary detention order to force an evaluation.

But by then, Morva had calmed down and police said a detention order was not needed. Morva was instead charged with trespassing, released and banned from the university campus.

In the years that followed, Morva worked briefly at a hair salon, in construction and as a waiter. And at his father's funeral in early 2004, he showed up barefoot and disheveled.

At dinner with his mother soon after the funeral, Morva lectured loudly about the plight of indigenous people. He was in training, he told her, to live in the wild and fight on behalf of Native Americans.

Elizabeth Morva gently suggested her son see a therapist.

"His mind was not normal. His thoughts were not normal, they were disconnected," she said.

The next year, those undiagnosed, untreated problems landed Morva in jail, his supporters say.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, June 24, 2017


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Urgent Action

William Morva, a 35-year-old US-Hungarian national, is due to be executed in Virginia on 6 July. A psychiatrist has diagnosed him with delusional disorder, and concluded that this contributed to the crimes for which he was sentenced to death. The jury was not told that he had this serious mental disability.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling for commutation of William Morva’s death sentence and medical care for his mental disability;

* Noting the diagnosis of delusional disorder, but that the jurors were told he had a less serious mental disability and did not experience delusions, denying them a full picture of who they were being asked to sentence;

* Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of violent crime or its consequences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!






Contact below official by 6 July, 2017 (by 22 June if possible, in case of early decision):

Governor Terry McAuliffe,
Common Ground for Virginia
P.O. Box 1475, Richmond,
VA 23218, USA

Phone: +1 804-786-2211 | Fax: +1 804-371-6531
Twitter: @TerryMcAuliffe

Salutation: Dear Governor

Note: The Governor’s contact form requires a US-based address and telephone number in order to submit an appeal. We encourage you to use the comment form on their website, and if you are based outside of the US, to instead use AI USA’s New York contact details as your address/telephone number:

Amnesty International USA New York Office
5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY, 10001, USA
Phone: 212.633.4187


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Life imitates drama in corruption case, but is justice served by China's secrecy over the death penalty?

China TV Series
"The TV series corrupt officials can never escape the long reach of the law."
The execution of a former senior Chinese Communist Party official last month could have been lifted straight from the plot of "In the Name of the People", the hugely successful anti-corruption drama that is currently captivating mainland audiences.

Zhao Liping, the former Communist Party Secretary of the Public Security Department of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, had been convicted of murder, a charge which brought him the death penalty, as well as corruption and other charges. A short state media report on his execution received a flurry of positive reactions on social media. One popular post read, "Wow, this is the real life version of Qi Tongwei!" - a reference to the corrupt and scheming high-level police official in the TV series.

The blockbuster series has quickly become one of the most popular in Chinese television history, in part for its depictions of decadent corruption: senior officials hiding literally tons of cash in luxury villas, top judges sleeping with foreign sex workers, sons of high-ranking officials using political connections to build massive business empires, and networks of corrupt officials suppressing workers' rights by bending the law.

But - spoiler alert - in the TV series corrupt officials can never, ultimately, escape the long reach of the law. All corrupt officials and their family members eventually get lengthy prison terms, and one even gets a death sentence.

At the same time, anti-corruption agents come off as earnest and honest. They are depicted as dedicated in getting to the truth in investigations, no matter how many obstacles they face.

And the highest ranking Communist Party official in the drama, Provincial Party Secretary Sha Ruijin, in a not-so-subtle idealized version of President Xi Jinping, is as determined to crack down on corruption as he is to "Serve the People".

But if Zhao Liping's execution was seen by audiences as akin to the corrupt officials from "In the Name of the People" getting what they deserve, was the case actually as clear cut as the public was made to believe?

No state media reports mentioned the troubling issues raised by Zhao Liping's family and legal team: allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to extract a "confession" used to convict him, the fact that he spent 9 months in detention without ever seeing a lawyer, and evidence of conflicting witness testimonies.

3 witnesses to events in the case identified another suspect, but they were not called to give evidence at Zhao Liping's 1st trial. During the 2nd trial, only 1 witness was called, and he substantially changed his original testimony.

There is more than enough evidence to suggest that Zhao Liping did not receive a fair trial and at the very least should have been granted a retrial.

The fact that state media omitted such serious allegations shows the lengths the government is prepared to go to manipulate public opinion and ensure support for government policies, including those on corruption and the death penalty.

China claims it is making progress towards transparency in the criminal justice system but executions remain shrouded in almost absolute secrecy. The selected cases that receive national media attention almost always serve a political purpose.

As Zhao Liping's case shows, it is hard for the Chinese public to engage in an informed debate on the death penalty since they can only view a scatter shot of cases that make it to the media.

Judicial authorities have a duty to address claims about unfair trials, and especially so in death penalty cases since mistakes can not be rectified. Transparency in the legal process is an essential safeguard of fair trial but in many of these cases important concerns are air-brushed from government narratives.

The clear aim is to skew public opinion and avoid scrutiny of the defects of a judiciary that is not independent but led by the Communist Party.

An exhaustive Amnesty International investigation published in April showed that despite claims of progress towards transparency, China continued to enforce an elaborate secrecy system designed to obfuscate the extent and details of the thousands of executions taking place each year.

Only a fraction of the cases believed to have been conducted were included in the database, including several hundred cases that had been reported in state media.

And so while the public is led to believe that the fight against corruption is as simple as it appears on TV, the reality is very different. Sometimes even a police chief, as seems possible in the Zhao Liping case, is denied a fair trial and is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

If the government truly wants people to trust the law, it must end its reliance on fiction when it comes to how the justice system works - and how much it has to progress. Undertaking such transparency really would be "In The Name of the People".

Source: Hong Kong Free Press, June 24, 2017

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Alabama's execution drugs may be close to expiring

In the past year, two states have seen their lethal injection drugs expire — forcing state officials to search for new drugs or scrap executions altogether.

It’s possible Alabama could soon face a similar hurdle.

A number of factors — the pace of executions, new information about the state’s last purchase of the drugs and the shelf life of the state’s drugs — suggest that Alabama could be out of drugs in about a year, if it isn’t already.

Any estimate of the timetable requires guesswork, though, because the Alabama prison officials have been secretive about when and where they get the drugs used in executions.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said states aren’t trying to keep the drugs secret from the public, but rather from the makers of the drugs. 

What follows are questions and answers on the topic:

Can execution drugs really expire?


Yes. Two states, Arkansas and Florida, recently acknowledged that they could no longer use the drugs they’d acquired for executions because the drugs were past or near their expiration dates.

Obviously, expiration dates and other rules are meant for the safety of patients who are trying to heal, not convicts the state is trying to kill. Still, states are under pressure to follow federal rules for the use of drugs — particularly after Alabama and other states got into trouble with the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2011 for illegally obtaining its supply of an earlier execution drug, sodium thiopental.

Alabama may have already passed a drug expiration deadline once in the past. In 2014, after nearly a year without an execution, state officials acknowledged that they couldn’t execute more inmates because the state’s supply of execution drug pentobarbital had run out.

It’s unclear whether the state had used all its drugs or let its drugs expire.

Later that year, the state switched to a new drug, midazolam.

How hard can it be for a state government to get these drugs?


Pretty hard, actually. Opposition to the death penalty is strong in Europe, where many drug manufacturers are headquartered, and European drug companies years ago began shutting down sales of execution drugs to prison systems in the United States.

More recently, U.S. companies and distributors have joined in, partly because professional associations for doctors and pharmacists have expressed their opposition to members’ participation in executions.

In 2014, state prison officials campaigned for a bill that would make the names of drug suppliers a secret, in hopes of protecting suppliers from political pressure. That bill didn’t pass, but the state still refuses to release the names of its drug suppliers.

Manufacturers are genuinely skittish. When drugmaker Akorn was mentioned in an Alabama death penalty appeal in early 2015, the company quickly moved to declare it would never intentionally sell drugs for executions, and even asked for the state to return any drugs it had. When drugmaker Becton-Dickinson was mentioned in court documents later that year, that company also declared that its drugs weren’t meant for use by U.S. prison systems.

Earlier this month, the state prison system’s main drug supplier, Corizon Health, acknowledged that it had never supplier drugs for an execution either. Since then, The Star has also contacted drugmakers Baxter, Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward. All of them said they weren’t the suppliers of Alabama’s execution drugs.

So who’s really supplying the drugs?


It’s not 100 percent clear that either Akorn or Becton-Dickinson are the actual makers of the drugs Alabama has used in its most recent executions. State officials used technical information from both companies in their arguments in court, but it’s possible they were using that information as a stand-in for the technical specs from their actual drug supplier.

It’s equally possible that they bought drugs produced by either or both manufacturers, but got them from a third-party supplier against the wishes of Akorn and Becton-Dickinson.

When will the drugs expire?


Possibly as early as September. Maybe never. It all depends on how you read the timeline of events.

Here’s what we know: In September 2014, state officials said they had enough midazolam on hand to kill nine inmates. That means the oldest drugs in the inventory could be nearly three years old.

And here’s what we found out earlier this month: In an Arizona court case last year, lawyers asked Alabama officials to give depositions on their sources of execution drugs. Anne Hill, a lawyer for the Department of Corrections, declined to name the state’s drug suppliers, but did say that Alabama last bought midazolam in 2015.

That could mean one of two things.

If the state bought drugs in both 2014 and again in 2015, Alabama may have a secure supply of drugs — a seller they can go back to again and again.

But the 2015 purchase could have another meaning.

Akorn demanded a return of its drugs in March 2015. After that, Becton-Dickinson got more mentions in court documents, but the company didn’t announce its position on death penalty drug sales until September of that year.

If Alabama bought Akorn’s drugs in 2014 and returned or destroyed them months later, the state might have bought drugs made by Becton-Dickinson between March and September of 2015.

Becton-Dickinson’s midazolam has a shelf life of no more than two years, according to officials at Fresenius Kabi, the company that acquired Becton’s injectable midazolam operation in 2016. If the state has a batch of Becton-Dickinson’s midazolam, purchased between March and September 2015, those drugs could expire by September, or they could be out of date already.

Drugs by other manufacturers seem to have shelf lives that aren’t much longer.

Injectable midazolam in its powder form lasts for three years unopened, said Christopher McCurdy, pharmacy professor at the University of Florida and president-elect of the the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Officials of the Alabama attorney general’s office said they had no comment on the purchase or expiration dates of midazolam.

What evidence supports the soon-to-expire theory?


Within the last month, Alabama executed two inmates, Robert Melson and Tommy Arthur, just two weeks apart. But state officials tell The Anniston Star there are no future execution dates set.

That seems to mimic the recent execution schedule in Arkansas, where the state sought to execute eight inmates in rapid succession to beat the deadline on their execution drugs. Another state, Florida, saw its midazolam expire last year and has already switched to a new execution drug.


What evidence works against the soon-to-expire theory?


As any addict knows, there are lots of ways to get drugs for off-label use if you’re really determined. The state could be using an offshore supplier or transferring drugs from another state agency.

The state Department of Public Health buys millions of dollars’ worth of drugs every year, but both current director Tom Miller and past director Don Williamson told The Star the department hasn’t supplied midazolam to the prison system for executions

“We were never asked nor did we order it,” Williamson said.

The Department of Mental Health’s Chief of Staff Jerry Mitchell told The Star the department hasn’t supplied DOC with midazolam, either.

That eliminates two of the state’s biggest purchasers of drugs, but there’s always the chance the state could have picked up the drugs through a different state agency.

Alabama could even pay a compounding pharmacist — a specialist who mixes drugs in small batches —to make the drugs from scratch. Court documents show the state couldn’t find a single Alabama pharmacist who would take the job. But there’s always the possibility state officials have ordered drugs from an out-of-state supplier.

Source: The Anniston Star, Chelsea Jarvis and Tim Lockette, Star staff writers, June 24, 2017

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Will Morva faces execution July 6 for two 2006 killings. But his mental illness has set off a new death penalty battle.

Someone was trying to kill him. William C. Morva was certain of it.

He couldn’t breathe and he was withering away, he told his mother in a jailhouse call.

“Somebody wants me to die and I don’t know who it is,” he said. “They know my health is dwindling, okay?”

He sounded paranoid. His voice grew more frantic with each call over several months on the recorded lines.

“How much more time do you think my body has before it gives out?” he asked just months before he escaped from custody, killing an unarmed guard and later a sheriff’s deputy before his capture in woods near Virginia Tech’s campus.

Morva faces execution July 6 for the 2006 killings.

With the date looming, Morva’s family, friends and lawyers are pressing for clemency from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in what has become a broader national push to eliminate capital punishment for people with severe mental illnesses such as Morva’s delusional disorder.

Supporters say the jury at Morva’s trial was given inaccurate information about his mental health and are asking McAuliffe to commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Supreme Court in recent years has ruled that juveniles, whose brains are not fully developed, and people with intellectual disabilities are not eligible for the death penalty. Lawmakers in eight states, including Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana, have introduced bills that would expand the prohibition to people with severe mental illnesses.

A vote on an Ohio measure pending in the state legislature is expected this fall. It is backed by a coalition of providers of mental-health services, social justice groups, religious leaders, former state Supreme Court justices and former Republican governor Bob Taft.

The bills address punishment, not guilt or innocence. If lawmakers in Columbus sign off on the measure, Ohio would become the first state to pass an exclusion for severe mental illness among the 31 that retain the death penalty.

Bipartisan legislative efforts underscore shifting views of capital punishment, and about whether it can be applied consistently and fairly.

Advocates for reform say the penalty was not intended for people who are incapable of distinguishing between delusions and reality, and that jurors often misunderstand mental illness.

The reformers’ efforts have met with resistance mostly from prosecutors and law enforcement officials who say jurors already can factor in mental illness at sentencing and that the exemptions are too broad.

Morva, 35, exhausted his legal appeals when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up his case in February.

“It hurts me so much to know that there is nothing I can do to fix him,” Elizabeth Morva, his mother, said in an affidavit in support of her son.

Morva was 24 when he fatally shot a decorated sheriff’s deputy, Cpl. Eric Sutphin, and beloved hospital security guard Derrick McFarland. Each was married and the father of two children.

“If someone had intervened sooner, I truly believe William would never have killed those two men,” his mother wrote. “But I cannot change the past. I can only say that I am so sorry and ask that my son please be spared.”

Attorney Dawn Davison of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center says the jury in Morva’s 2008 trial did not consider his psychotic disorder because experts in that case did not have access to Morva’s complete history. Morva was under the influence of his delusions when he escaped and killed Sutphin and McFarland, she said in submitting Morva’s clemency application.


Source: The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, June 24, 2017


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Urgent Action

William Morva, a 35-year-old US-Hungarian national, is due to be executed in Virginia on 6 July. A psychiatrist has diagnosed him with delusional disorder, and concluded that this contributed to the crimes for which he was sentenced to death. The jury was not told that he had this serious mental disability.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling for commutation of William Morva’s death sentence and medical care for his mental disability;

* Noting the diagnosis of delusional disorder, but that the jurors were told he had a less serious mental disability and did not experience delusions, denying them a full picture of who they were being asked to sentence;

* Explaining that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of violent crime or its consequences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!






Contact below official by 6 July, 2017 (by 22 June if possible, in case of early decision):

Governor Terry McAuliffe,
Common Ground for Virginia
P.O. Box 1475, Richmond, VA 23218, USA

Phone: +1 804-786-2211 | Fax: +1 804-371-6531
Email (via website): https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/
Twitter: @TerryMcAuliffe

Salutation: Dear Governor

Note: The Governor’s contact form requires a US-based address and telephone number in order to submit an appeal. We encourage you to use the comment form on their website, and if you are based outside of the US, to instead use AI USA’s New York contact details as your address/telephone number:

Amnesty International USA New York Office
5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY, 10001, USA
Phone: 212.633.4187



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Kennedy considering retiring from Supreme Court: reports

Speculation is swirling that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could announce his retirement as early as this term, The Associated Press and CNN reported Saturday.

Kennedy is considered the most pivotal justice on the Supreme Court, often known for casting the tie-breaking vote in key decisions. 

While he's among the court's conservative justices, he has sided with his liberal colleagues at times, including on the court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, permitting same-sex marriage nationwide. 

But Kennedy, now 80, is said to be considering stepping down from the Supreme Court, according to CNN, though he has not publicly signaled he will do so in the next year.

Fueling such speculation is a reunion between Kennedy and his clerks happening over the weekend that was pushed up a year from its original date, according to the AP.

If Kennedy leaves the Supreme Court in the near future, it would pave the way for President Trump to further shape the court by nominating his replacement. 

Trump's first pick for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April.

Supreme Court nominations, however, have become increasingly political. 

Senate Republicans voted earlier this year to change the chamber's rules to require only 51 votes to confirm nominees to the high court, amid efforts by Democrats to block Gorsuch's confirmation. 

Source: The Hill, Max Greenwood, June 24, 2017

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

When I witnessed death by appointment

(CNN) - TV kliegs lit up live shots in one corner of the parking lot, where protesters prayed, preached and crowded onto the scene. Midnight, January 5, 1994, was coming fast.

I rushed to clear the first gate and head down the empty, well-lit walkway past B Block, a close supervision wing at the Idaho State Penitentiary. Prisoners screamed and banged on the steel security panels over their windows, and one voice howled. "You're going to see him die every night the rest of your life!"

Inside, I lined up with other reporters in the press pool to cover the execution of Keith Wells. The 31-year-old had beaten barmaid Brandi Rains and her friend John Justad to death with a baseball bat in 1990 while robbing the Rose Bar in Boise. Wells pleaded innocent at trial, was convicted and, a month before the execution, called a newspaper to confess. He ordered his attorneys to stop fighting the execution, and the state granted his wish to die.

America continues to grapple with the death penalty, most recently the controversy over Arkansas' trying to rush the executions of eight prisoners because the state's supply of a lethal injection drug was expiring.

As someone who has served as an official witness to an execution, the death penalty is no abstraction, but it's also no horror. My response, or lack thereof, makes me suspect we lack the moral acumen to carry out the death penalty.

The witness lottery


There is no smaller talk than the mumblings of reporters waiting to be picked to witness an execution. We shuffle around on the buffed linoleum floor of the family visitation room where a few plastic chairs are unstacked for us.

Our guide, a Department of Correction staffer, reviews the rules: Four reporters will join the families, lawyers and state officials in the death chamber. When Wells is dead, the lottery winners will come back to the cafeteria to conduct a press conference before filing their own stories.

Idaho hadn't executed anyone in 36 years, so the process and protocol are new to everyone there.

The first name is drawn.

"Yessss!" anchorman Bob Holland pumps his fist. Big ratings for KTVB, the local NBC affiliate, tonight. But as I'm sneering at his unseemly display, I am leaning forward, listening intently to see if the next name is mine.


On choosing to bear witness


Idaho's death chamber
Idaho's death chamber
I'm here to watch because I can, not because my editor insisted. I told myself I volunteered because I think attorneys and trial courts are fallible, while death is permanent. Also, it seemed, and still does, that if the state is going to kill killers, the public has an obligation to test its commitment to the law by personally observing and absorbing the moral impact: Do we like the reality as much as we like the theory?

It ought to be televised, I've said, playing devil's advocate with true-believer friends. Shut off all other programs and make everyone watch, I argued.

This drama of ethics, orchestrated by Wells and celebrated by hardline crime fighters, had begun to confirm my most comfortable prejudice: that we all lack the seriousness to make defensible life-and-death decisions in noncombat situations. It's one thing to see a threat and save a life by taking the life of an attacker. That's instinctual. But when the predator has already struck, what is gained by methodical state extermination?

In the industrialized world, only the United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan still execute criminals. The rest of the First World is retreating from it, according to data compiled by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: CNN, Dean Miller, June 22, 2017. Dean Miller is a career journalist, former director of the Stony Brook University Center for News Literacy and currently at work on several manuscripts, including a citizen's guide to finding reliable news.

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Les fant√īmes du quartier des condamn√©s √† mort

Click here to Google translate the following text into English (or into your own language).

« La guillotine rend tout d√©risoire. » - Robert Badinter

Les locaux de la Folie-Regnault, moins fr√©quent√©s que les abords de la Roquette un jour d'ex√©cution, n'en furent pas moins visit√©s √† de nombreuses reprises et par toutes sortes de personnes. Par des hommes d'√Čtat, des missions √©trang√®res venus se rendre compte de l'efficacit√© de la machine, ou par des visiteurs privil√©gi√©s que l'ex√©cuteur avait l'obligation de recevoir, bien qu'il d√©test√Ęt ce genre d'exhibition. Car il se trouve des gens que la recherche du grand frisson conduisit √† « toucher » les bois de justice, √† demander au bourreau de l'essayer sur les traditionnelles bottes de paille qui servaient √† tester l'aff√Ľtage du couperet. Lorsque la demande √©tait officielle, il √©tait oblig√© d'obtemp√©rer. Mais il arriva que Maman Clarence, en son absence, propose une visite √† l'int√©rieur de la remise, pour des inconnus de passage, aussi curieux d'√©motions fortes que reconnaissants d'avoir √©t√© secr√®tement accueillis. Une jeune Anglaise, un jour, voulut se coucher sur la bascule et passer la t√™te sous la lunette. Accroch√©s au-dessus de sa t√™te, quarante kilos de bois, de fonte et d'acier en suspension...

Il faut dire que la Veuve était impressionnante lorsqu'on l'avait dressée sur ses axes verticaux de quatre mètres cinquante, du haut desquels, à plus de vingt kilomètres à l'heure, la lame oblique dessinée par le docteur Louis tranchait une tête en deux centièmes de seconde ! Il existait deux guillotines : l'une, pesant cinq cent quatre-vingts kilos, ne servait qu'à Paris ; l'autre, plus légère et plus maniable, était transportée par voie de chemin de fer en province, et par deux fois elle passera les frontières.

Tel un jeu de construction, les aides du bourreau chargeaient dans le fourgon du p√®re M√©mi les √©l√©ments entrepos√©s dans le hangar de la Folie-Regnault d'abord, puis de la Sant√©, pour les conduire sur le lieu de l'ex√©cution. Chaque pi√®ce √©tait √† sa place, comme sur un √©tabli, marqu√©e √† la craie de sa silhouette encore innocente. La « notice » du docteur Louis, qui d√©crivait la guillotine par le menu pour en faciliter la construction et le montage, √©voquait d√©j√† la « machine √† Deibler », √† quelques d√©tails pr√®s. De la Bastille √† la Sant√©, elle √©tait rest√©e fid√®le √† la tradition r√©publicaine. Elle √©tait ainsi compos√©e, depuis plus d'un si√®cle, « de deux montants parall√®les, en bois de ch√™ne, de la hauteur de dix pieds, joints en haut par une traverse, et mont√©s solidement sur une robe avec des contrefiches de c√īt√© et par-derri√®re. Ces deux montants seront √† un pied de distance et auront six pouces d'√©paisseur. La face interne de ces montants aura une cannelure longitudinale, carr√©e, d'un pouce de profondeur, pour recevoir les oreillons d'un tranchoir. √Ä la partie sup√©rieure de chacun de ces montants, au-dessous de la traverse, et dans les √©paisseurs, sera plac√©e une poulie de cuivre. Le tranchoir, de bonne trempe, de la solidit√© des meilleurs couperets, fait par un habile taillandier, coupera par sa convexit√©. Cette lame tranchante aura huit pouces d'√©tendue traversable et six de hauteur. Le dos de cette lame coupante sera √©pais comme celui d'une hache. Sous ce dos seront, par le forgeron, pratiqu√©es des ouvertures pour pouvoir, avec des cerceaux de fer, fixer sur ce dos un poids de trente livres et plus. Le tranchoir devant glisser de haut en bas dans les rainures des deux montants, son dos aura un pied de travers plus deux oreillons carr√©s, d'un pouce de saillie, pour entrer dans ces rainures. Une corde, assez forte, et d'une longueur suffisante, passera dans l'anneau et soutiendra le tranchoir, sous la traverse sup√©rieure. Le billot de bois sur lequel doit √™tre pos√© le col du patient aura huit pouces de haut et quatre pouces d'√©paisseur... »

Depuis la R√©volution, la machine dont se servait Anatole Deibler n'avait donc pas beaucoup chang√©. Son allure g√©n√©rale √©tait la m√™me, √† l'exception de quelques perfectionnements notamment apport√©s par son p√®re, dont la pose, de chaque c√īt√© du mouton, de roulettes destin√©es √† l'acc√©l√©ration de la chute, et de ressorts dispos√©s au bas des montants pour en amortir l'arr√™t. Le bruit qui suit la lib√©ration du couperet dans les rainures de fer des montants verticaux, le son mat enfin, qui conclut le travail de la lame, rend « la mangeuse d'hommes » plus effrayante encore. Et le silence pesant qui r√®gne apr√®s la chute du couteau, plus terrible que la mort elle-m√™me.

Pour la monter, les aides du bourreau s'y prenaient une heure avant l'ex√©cution, bien qu'il leur fall√Ľt moins de temps pour la dresser dans des conditions normales ; car tout s'embo√ģte, se visse ou se boulonne pour √©viter le moindre bruit, le moindre indice qui puisse r√©veiller le condamn√© dans la cellule qu'il occupe, toujours √† proximit√© du lieu de l'ex√©cution. Ils commen√ßaient par disposer sur le sol un croisillon d'appui en forme de T, puis ils dressaient les deux montants qu'ils √©tayaient par quatre jambes de force. √Ä la Roquette, la structure reposait sur cinq dalles fich√©es dans le sol √† demeure, √† l'angle de la rue de la Croix-Faubin. Les deux montants, espac√©s de trente-sept centim√®tres, p√®sent pr√®s de cent quarante kilos ; ils sont reli√©s par un linteau appel√© « le chapeau », dans lequel prend place la pince qui retient le couteau surmont√© par le mouton. En face des montants, les aides mettaient alors en place un b√Ęti de bois sur lequel ils accrochaient la bascule, de la taille d'un homme. Une fois rabattue √† la perpendiculaire du couteau, cette planche mont√©e sur roulettes √©tait pouss√©e jusqu'aux montants, la t√™te du condamn√© reposant alors sur la partie inf√©rieure de la lunette. La partie sup√©rieure, qui est aussi en demi-lune, est fix√©e sur les montants verticaux, pr√™te √† s'abattre sur la nuque de celui qui √©tait pr√©cipit√© sur la bascule.

Enfin, il ne faut pas omettre une troisi√®me am√©lioration, plus fondamentale que les pr√©c√©dentes, et qui permettait √† l'ex√©cuteur d'acc√©l√©rer le d√©clenchement du couperet. Celui-ci, viss√© sur le mouton, est retenu par une fl√®che d'acier engag√©e dans une √©norme pince, elle-m√™me press√©e par un syst√®me de ressorts. Il suffisait alors d'√©carter ces ressorts au moyen d'une tringle pour que la pince s'ouvre aussit√īt : la fl√®che, qui n'est plus maintenue, tombe alors avec le couperet. C'est ce qui explique l'usage des deux manettes utilis√©es par le bourreau qui constitue l'am√©lioration technique la plus notable qu'ait invent√©e le dernier Deibler. « L'une des deux manettes, un simple bouton, explique Fran√ßois Foucart, abat la partie mobile du carcan et ce casse-t√™te se rabat violemment sous l'effet des ressorts. Dans le meilleur des cas, le condamn√© est assomm√©. Frapp√© √† la nuque, il s'imagine avoir √©t√© manqu√© par le couperet et tente de retirer sa t√™te, d'instinct. » L'effort ainsi fourni par le condamn√© est tel que la mort survient souvent en m√™me temps que la chute du couteau. « Toute l'habilet√© du bourreau, insiste Foucart, consiste √† manoeuvrer simultan√©ment le bouton qui, l√Ęchant un ressort, abat la partie sup√©rieure du casse-t√™te, puis la poign√©e qui d√©clenche la chute du couperet. Cette poign√©e de cuivre, us√©e, patin√©e, ressemble au bec-de-cane d'une honn√™te √©picerie de campagne... Ces deux gestes, en une seconde ou deux, c'√©tait toute l'habilet√© d'Anatole Deibler. Trop t√īt, c'est peut-√™tre la t√™te mal engag√©e ; trop tard, c'est prolonger le supplice. »

Quand il avait pris ses fonctions, Anatole Deibler s'√©tait fait un point d'honneur de les exercer dans les r√®gles et selon les instructions nettes et pr√©cises donn√©es au bourreau. Un texte, r√©dig√© √† son intention, exigeait de lui qu'il s'y conform√Ęt, auquel cas, disait d√©j√† le document du secr√©taire perp√©tuel de l'Acad√©mie de chirurgie de Paris sous la R√©volution : « S'il y avait quelques erreurs dans ces d√©tails, elles seraient faciles √† v√©rifier. » L'appareil devait √™tre « essay√© » apr√®s avoir √©t√© mont√©, puis le premier soin de l'ex√©cuteur en chef √©tait d'enlever la vis mobile qui arr√™tait le ressort de la lunette. Ensuite, il agissait de la fa√ßon suivante, √©dict√©e point par point par les fonctionnaires du minist√®re de la Justice :

« Il prendra en main la grosse corde munie d'un anneau en forme de huit. Cet anneau doit √™tre pass√© au crochet fixe du couperet. En tirant sur la corde, il montera le couperet jusque sous le chapiteau. Il constatera que le couperet n'est plus maintenu que par la double pince √† ressort. Il √©cartera les deux cordes, la grosse, la petite, et les fera passer dans les deux crochets d'acier dispos√©s √† cet effet le long du montant gauche. Il placera le grand panier parall√®lement √† la plate-forme et imm√©diatement au-dessous du plan inclin√©. Il s'assurera que le seau de zinc, en forme de baignoire, est derri√®re l'appareil. Il disposera autour du seau le paravent en bois qui est destin√© √† contenir les jets de sang et les √©claboussures. Il rel√®vera la lunette en la prenant de la main droite par la poign√©e de fer. La guillotine est ainsi appr√™t√©e... »

Extrait de : Anatole Deibler, l'homme qui trancha 400 têtes, Gérard A. Jaeger, Editions du Félin, 2001

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