In brief: August 2022


In Alabama, Joe Nathan James, Jr., was executed late last month in what a private autopsy indicates was a “long death.” The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Bruenig’s report provides a harrowing account of evidence of the execution team’s several botched attempts to insert catheters into James’s hands and arms, causing severe pain, in what the physician who conducted the autopsy said was “further evidence that the IV team was unqualified for the task in a most dramatic way.” This is not the first time an Alabama team has horribly botched an execution. In 2018, Doyle Lee Hamm was subjected to a horrific ordeal that his lawyer, Bernard Harcourt, described in a blog post as “torture,” that was finally called off after three hours. In the aftermath, Harcourt filed a civil rights suit, and the state entered into a confidential settlement with Hamm, “preventing any further execution attempts.” In addition, the state was forced to make public its previously secret lethal injection protocol and release its records relating to Hamm’s execution. Hamm died in December 2021 of cancer.

In Texas,41-year-old Kosoul Chanthakoummane was executed earlier this month after being convicted of the murder of Sarah Walker, a suburban Dallas real estate agent, in 2006, Newsweek reports. A Buddhist monk was with Chanthakoummane in the execution chamber and read a prayer from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. Chanthakoummane was executed over the objections of Waker’s father, a devout Catholic who opposed the death penalty. Chanthakoummane was the second person to be killed by Texas this year.

Also, in Texas, Clinton Young, whose conviction and death sentence were overturned in September last year, was indicted again earlier this month for the 2001 murder of Doyle Douglas, another victim in the same crime spree Young was accused of committing in the earlier case, NewsWest9 reports. Young’s death sentence was overturned because the prosecutor was secretly working as a law clerk to judges who presided over his trial and post-conviction appeals. In the recent case, a Harrison County special grand jury indicted Young for capital murder for the November 2001 shooting of Douglas.

In California, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Charles Ng, convicted of abducting and killing 11 people in Calaveras County in the 1980s, the Inquisitr reports. Ng was sentenced to death in 1999 after one of the state’s most protracted and most expensive trials in history. He had been extradited to the U.S. from Canada, where he had fled after the arrest of his accomplice, Leonard Lake. Lake died by suicide in 1985 after being arrested for shoplifting and never stood trial.

In Illinois, Marilyn Mulero, who spent almost 28 years in prison, five on death row, for a 1992 murder she didn’t commit, was released earlier this month in Chicago. New Herald News reports that Mulero was first sentenced to death —  without standing trial — before her sentence was reduced to life without parole. Mulero was among 30 people whose wrongful murder convictions were overturned due to misconduct by disgraced Chicago police detective Reynaldo Guevara. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Mulero is the 190th person and third woman to be exonerated from death row since 1973. 

In Pennsylvania, Washington County DA Jason Walsh, elected just ten months ago, is seeking the death penalty against eight people, CBS Pittsburgh reports. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015. There are 129 people currently on death row. 

Fierce Pharma reports that Pfizer “is in a tug of war” with several states, including Nevada and Nebraska, over their plans to use its drugs in executions. The company is asking the states to return their supplies of diazepam and fentanyl if they’re to be included in their lethal injection protocols. In an email to Fierce Pharma, Pfizer said it has communicated with 31 states informing them that it “strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment. We have asked all such states to return any Hospira or Pfizer manufactured Restricted Product in their possession and provided them with procedures to follow in return for a full refund.”

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