In brief: April 2022


In Missouri, Carman Deck is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday for the 1996 killings of James and Zelma Long. Deck’s 1998 death sentence had been overturned three times, before a three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored his death sentence, KHQA reports. Supporters of Deck, including the Missouri ACLU, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and two state legislators, one Democrat and one Republican, have called on Gov. Mike Parson to stay the execution, or grant clemency.

In Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal by Rodney Reed, who has been on death row since 1998. Reed is appealing a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in May that found that the statute of limitations on getting DNA testing in his case had run out, the New York Times reports. Reed was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, a woman with whom he was having an affair. He believes she was killed by her fiancé, former police officer, Jimmy Fennell, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2008 for kidnapping and assaulting a woman while on duty. Reed is asking that the belt used to strangle Stites be tested for DNA. Reed was scheduled to be executed in 2019, but the Court of Criminal Appeals suspended his death sentence indefinitely and ordered the trial court to look at new evidence in the case, according to the Times.

Also in Texas, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez withdrew a death warrant for a man scheduled to be executed on October 5 because of his “firm belief that the death penalty is unethical and should be not be imposed on Mr. [John Henry] Ramirez or any other person.” The New York Times reports that Ramirez’s office had requested the October date without consulting him. Ramirez had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to have his pastor pray with him and lay hands on him in the execution chamber, and the court granted his appeal in March. The judge who set his execution date will have to approve Gonzalez’s motion.

In Louisiana last week, a state senate committee defeated a bill to abolish the death penalty. The Daily Advertiser reports that SB 294, which would have abolished the death penalty for crimes committed after August 1, 2022, was defeated by the Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee by a 5-1 vote. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Katrina Jackson, who said she introduced it because of her moral opposition to capital punishment, the lack of need for a death penalty, and the cost of administering it.

In Arizona, the state Supreme Court granted an execution warrant for Clarence Dixon, opening the door for the state to kill him on May 11, despite a motion filed by his attorneys challenging the lethal injection drug the state plans to use, and arguing that Dixon’s “well-documented history of paranoid schizophrenia . . . prevent[s] him from reaching a rational understanding of the reason for his execution.” According to the Patch, Dixon’s lawyers argue that his execution would violate both the Eighth Amendment and Arizona law, prohibiting the execution of a person with severe mental illness. 

In Pennsylvania, Samuel Randolph was released after spending 20 years on death row for a double homicide, PennLive reports. Randolph was sentenced to death for the killings of Thomas Easter and Anthony Burton in Harrisburg in 2001. After an appeals court affirmed a 2020 decision by a district judge who had overturned Randolph’s conviction and ordered a new trial, saying Randolph had been denied his constitutional right to a lawyer of his choice, Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo dismissed the case. He stressed that Randolph hasn’t been exonerated, but it would be too challenging to present witnesses and evidence at a new trial because of the number of years since the crime occurred.

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