In brief: April 2023


In Texas, a district court judge withdrew the April 26 execution date for Ivan Cantu. CBS Texas reports that the postponement was granted to give more time to review Cantu’s claims that he was convicted in 2001 based on false testimony and questionable evidence. Cantu was sentenced to death for the 2000 killings of his cousin, 27-year-old James Mosqueda, and his cousin’s girlfriend, 22-year-old Amy Kitchen, during a robbery. 

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine postponed three upcoming executions, citing the state’s continued inability to obtain lethal injection drugs, reports. All three were moved to Fall 2026. James O’Neal, scheduled to be killed on August 16; Jerome Henderson, scheduled to be killed on September 14; and Melvin Bonnell, scheduled for execution on October 18, were granted reprieves. DeWine, a Republican, began postponing state killings in  2020 when he announced that unless the legislature chooses an alternative method to lethal injection, he has no choice but to order reprieves.

In Pennsylvania, jury selection in the federal death penalty trial of Robert Bowers, accused of killing 11 congregants at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, got underway last week. Victims’ families have split on whether they support a plea deal in which Bowers would be sentenced to life without parole or want prosecutors to seek death. A motion by the defense challenging the federal death penalty, arguing it is unconstitutional because it is pursued arbitrarily, is still pending, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared his opposition to the death penalty, stating that “The death penalty is so final. When you make a mistake, you cant get it back. And we know that mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death.” Bel Edwards said late last month in a talk at Loyola University,   the Advocate reported. Weeks later, in his State of the State address, Bel Edwards urged the state legislature to pass a bill, authored by Democratic Rep. Kyle Green, that would abolish the death penalty, reports. Edwards’ second term ends this year; his leading opponent, Attorney General Jeff Landry, is a vocal supporter of state killing. And, the Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate make passage of the bill unlikely. Louisiana’s last execution was in 2010, when Gerald Bordelon was killed. 

In North Carolina, 300 faith leaders from around the state, representing a wide range of faith traditions, called on Gov. Roy Cooper to commute the sentences of the 137 people on the state’s death row before he leaves office next year, North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty announced in a press release. North Carolina is one of a few states where the governor has the authority to commute death sentences.

In Florida, the state Supreme Court unanimously granted a motion by Randy Tundidor, sentenced to death in 2020, to disqualify Judge Elizabeth Scherer from presiding over his post-conviction proceedings. Tundidor objected to Scherer’s actions in the aftermath of the life sentence verdict in the case of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz last year. After Cruz’s jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict of death, Scherer issued a life sentence, then left the bench, in her judicial robe, to hug victims’ family members and members of the prosecution team, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

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