Tag Archive: Death Penalty

2 Men Awarded $750,000 for Wrongful Convictions in 1983 Murder

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From The New York Times

DURHAM, N.C. — One year to the day after a North Carolina judge threw out their wrongful murder convictions, a state commission awarded $750,000 each as compensation to two half-brothers who spent three decades in prison, much of it on death row.

Patrick M. Megaro, the recently hired lawyer for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 51, and Leon Brown, 47, announced the settlement. Mr. Megaro also filed a federal lawsuit against government and law enforcement officials of Robeson County, N.C., for obtaining their convictions through “fraud, perjury, coercion, the willful failure or refusal to investigate exculpatory evidence.”

A pardon by Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina in June made each man eligible for $50,000 a year in compensation from the state, up to $750,000 each. (Without a cap, the compensation for their full 31 years in prison would be more than double that amount.) The maximum was granted to each man on Wednesday by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees workers’ compensation and tort claims. (more…)

The Death Penalty Is Cruel. But So Is Life Without Parole.

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From The New Republic / By Stephen Lurie

Prison cells don’t attract many spectators, but executions have always drawn crowds. Paradoxically, the names and identities of death row inmates only come to matter when their execution had been scheduled: from impending death we take a sudden interest in life.

Despite the incongruity, this isn’t all that surprising. Twenty-first century America is still susceptible to the time-honored spectacle of state-sanctioned death, even if much of the attention now scrutinizes, rather than cheers, the practice. Recently, there have been many stories typical of the current fascination with American capital punishment, most notably Ben Crair’s piece in this magazine and Jeffrey Stern’s in The Atlantic. Like other recent examinations of the death penalty, both accounts focus specifically on the act of execution by lethal injection; each covers botched executions and the question of cruel and unusual punishment in the death chamber itself. Stern’s story centers on the act and ramifications of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s execution: A paramedic—and later, a physician—fail to find a vein in a dozen stabs into Lockett’s flesh so the execution can proceed. (Which it does, equally gruesomely.) Crair’s investigation deals with the national execution drug shortage—including Lockett’s experience along with many others—and highlights Ohio prisoner Joseph Wood’s story; his execution was so mishandled that he “gasped and snorted for one hour and 57 minutes… the longest execution in modern history.”

For Stern and Crair, as well as many human rights-minded activists and advocates, the death chamber is a potent and useful example of inhumanity. Other, newer abolitionists—like the legislators in Nebraska that voted to abolish the death penalty there last month—focus on the act of execution as well. While the death chamber is itself horrific, abolitionists would be remiss to ignore the more common punishment: the immense cruelty of a prisoner’s long wait for execution. The “death row phenomenon” and associated prison conditions cause significant psychological and physical harm; a so-called “death before dying” is both internationally condemned and domestically pervasive. If the end to capital punishment in the U.S. is based on concern for human beings—whether in a religious or moral sense—the reform movement must be concerned with the prison conditions left when death is not on the table. (more…)

The Final Straw: Hunger Strike at OSP Youngstown nears 30th day

Pirate_radio_station_5417.jpgFrom Asheville FM

Streaming at AshevilleFM from 3am EST on April 13th through April 19th, 2015, then podcasting at radio4all.net. Also airing this week on KOWA-LPFM in Olympia, WA, KWTF in Bodega Bay, CA, KXCF in Marshall, CA, and WCRS-LP Columbus Community Radio 98.3 and 102.1 FM. The show will later be archived at TheFinalStrawRadio.NoBlogs.Org. Drop us a line at thefinalstrawradio(aT)riseup(dooot)net for suggestions or comments.

This week we’re joined by Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of 6 prisoners who are almost a month into a solidarity hunger strike at Ohio State Prison in Youngstown to press the Warden about current conditions at the prison. Among the issues the hunger strike is protesting include the inability of all new/incoming prisoners to OSP and those currently on the highest level of security (5B) to attend congregational religious activities, also poor quality of food presented by Aramark (the company contracted to provide meals at OSP, and who’s food services sparked the hunger strike in January of 2014 at Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana) a lack of access to outside recreation for the prisoners and more. You may recall Hasan from a prior interview we did with him on the anniversary of the 1993 Lucasville Prisoner uprising which began because of some of the same issues and for which Hasan is facing the death penalty as an organizer of the beginning of the protest sparking the uprising as well as helping to organize the end of that uprising. The 1993 uprising resulted in the deaths of 9 prisoners (accused of being snitches) and one prison guard. To hear our interview with Hasan from October of 2013, click here.

Also, Sean Swain speaks about the hunger strike at OSP, where he was formerly incarcerated, and the harsh realities of lack of access to human interaction, direct sunlight and the out doors. (more…)

Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

A death-row jail cell in Huntsville, Tex. The design of such quarters has raised questions.

From The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with lawsuits and a growing mountain of damning research, New York City officials decided last month to ban solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger. Just a few weeks earlier, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary-confinement cells and death chambers.

“It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Helene Combs Dreiling, the institute’s former president, told me. She said she put together a special panel that reviewed the plea. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.”

What are the ethical boundaries for architecture? Architecture is one of the learned professions, like medicine or law. It requires a license, giving architects a monopoly over their practices, in return for a minimal promise that buildings won’t fall down. Raphael Sperry, the Bay Area architect who spearheaded the petition to the institute, thinks the public deserves more in return for that monopoly. (more…)

Pharmacy won’t provide lethal drug for Missouri execution

Revamped lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison supplied by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Revamped lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison supplied by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

From RT

An Oklahoma pharmacy has agreed not to supply compounded pentobarbital for an upcoming execution in Missouri, following a lawsuit filed by the convict arguing the substance is likely to cause “ultimately inhumane pain.”

The lawsuit was filed by Michael Taylor, whose execution is scheduled for February 26 and who alleged that Missouri could obtain the lethal drug – pentobarbital – from the Apothecary Shoppe of Tulsa.

A federal judge ruled last week that the pharmacy must suspend the supply of the drug to Missouri until further review. The Apothecary Shoppe chose to settle the case out of court.

The Apothecary Shoppe has agreed that it will not prepare or provide pentobarbital or any other drug for use in the execution of Michael Taylor,” Carrie Apfel, Taylor’s attorney, said in a written statement, according to St Louis Public Radio. She also said the pharmacy had not sold any drugs to the Department of Corrections for this execution yet.

The settlement comes as US states which implement capital punishment face a growing shortage of lethal substances, following the 2011 decision by the EU to stop altogether the sale and export to the US of drugs that could potentially be used for executions. (more…)

Hasan of the Lucasville Prisoner Uprising

lucasville1from AshevilleFM

This week, we spoke with Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan who is facing the death penalty for his role as a negotiator during the prisoner uprising at the SOCF facility in Lucasville in April of 1993. Hasan, as well as 4 other prisoners, are facing the death penalty for participation as “leaders” in the uprising. 4 of them are charged with the death of a prison guard by the name of Bobby Vallandingham as well as 9 inmates considered to be snitches.

The riot began as negotiations between Sunni prisoners, of which Hasan was one of the leaders, took guards hostage in hopes of bringing state attention to the problems at the prison. In particular among their concerns was the imposition of a TB test that was in contradiction to their religious beliefs and for which an alternative was readily available. Soon, other prisoners began to take space and control. Fearing a bloody outcome like was seen at Attica in New York, representatives of the Sunni community, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Black Gangster Disciplanes at Lucasville began negotiations with the state to bring a peaceful resolution to the uprising. Graffiti displayed within the prison began speaking of “Convict Race” and “Black and White Unity”.

After the end of the uprising, the state, under pressure from Vallandingham’s family, railroaded the five. The call for blood was great, but since the Lucasville Disturbance, so have been the calls for justice in the case of the prisoners punished in relation to the Lucasville Disturbance. (more…)

The Texas Death Row Occupy Movement

by Tony Egbuna Ford

Polunsky Unit/Death Row, Livingstion, TX

November 1993 was the beginning of what could be called “The Texas Death Row Occupy Movement.” A plan of action was planned for years by myself and other Texas Death Row inmates to protest an execution date if one was set for certain individuals, namely John “Jazz” Barefield Bey, Sam Miguel, Emerson “Young Lion” Rudd and Ponchai “Kamau” Wilkerson.

Schooled in the revolutionary teaching of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, all of us were committed to protesting an execution in the way deemed best for us as we saw it. Any action taken by us in protest would be justifiable self-defense. After all, the State of Texas would literally be trying to kill us! However, before any one of us received an execution date, another inmate would take the vanguard and protest his execution. He would be gassed. A team of guards would forcibly extract him from his cell. Beat him. Then take him to the death house in Huntsville, Texas. The name of the first was Desmond “Lil’ Dez” Jennings and he wouldn’t be the last. This happened in the mid-90s. (more…)

The SAFE California Act: ‘No Thank You’

By Kevin Cooper

I have been asked what I think about “The SAFE California Act,” which is being pushed as a real alternative to this state’s death penalty. I have been asked by activists, death row inmates, and certain family members of death row inmates. I have also asked myself this same question. After all, it is our future which is being voted on by the people of California in November 2012.

I must add this. At no time was I, or to my knowledge, any man or woman who resides on death row within this state asked our opinion about the SAFE California Act by the sponsors of this initiative, the people who bank rolled it, or the people who collected signatures in support of it. I wonder why that is? I am personally against this initiative, and I do not support it for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, this ‘Act’ is just another version of the death penalty. We who will be affected by it will still be living in inhumane conditions. We who are on death row will also lose our legal habeas and habeas appeal process that we have and are currently entitled to under the law. So we are in fact taking a step backwards in our ability to challenge our convictions. We are also having to take our fight for our collective human rights to another level. What I mean by this is, Level IV prisons within the State of California are some of the worst prisons in the world! They are worse than death row in the violence that takes place, in the lack of programs, including educational programs, they stay on lockdown, and many families cannot get to these isolated prisons to visit their loved ones. I also look at this through the historical eyes of how people of African descent have been continually locked up within this country. For example, those of us who know the truth about this country’s history, and acknowledge this truth have to admit the following . . . (more…)

Lucasville Hunger Strike Ends in Victory!

According to the Lucasville Five supporters, Bomani Shakur, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, and Jason Robb  have all ended their hunger strike in response to prison officials agreeing to meet virtually all of the demands set out.  This came on the heels of a public rally outside Ohio’s Supermax Prison.

The full details of the agreement will be released soon.  In the meantime, the three are recovering from nearly two weeks without food.  As one supporter put it,

“this time they were fighting about their conditions of confinement but now they begin the fight for their lives. They were wrongfully convicted of complicity in 1993 murders in Lucasville prison and have faced retribution because they refused to provide snitch testimony against others who actually committed those murders. Now, because of Ohio’s (and other states’) application of the death penalty, they still face execution at a future date. Ohio is today exceeded only by Texas in its enthusiasm for applying the death penalty. We need to take some of this energy that was created around the hunger strike to help these men fight for their lives.”

Support the Lucasville Five Hunger Strike!

The Lucasville Uprising was a historic prison uprising in which black and white prisoners united in protest over inhumane prison conditions.  Out of that five prisoners were framed for murders of prisoners that took place during the rebellion.  They were all sentenced to death and have been kept in solitary confinement and denied even the most basic of rights typically afforded death row inmates.

Four of the five are now engaged in a hunger strike in hopes of winning the few rights they are due before they are executed.

People can keep up with the hunger strike and join in the campaign to support the Lucasville Five by doing the following.

  • Join the Facebook Support Page
  • Sign the online petition
  • Email lucasvillefreedom(at)gmail.com to get connected with the campaign
  • Call or write Gary Moore, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
    770 West Broad Street
    Columbus, OH 43222
    614-752-1159

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