In brief: January 2018

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In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich granted a reprieve to Raymond Tibbetts, who was scheduled to be executed next Tuesday for the 1997 murder of his wife, Judith Sue Crawford, and their landlord, Fred Hicks, in Cincinnati. Kasich’s action came in the wake of a letter sent by a juror in TIbbetts’ trial asking Gov. Kasich to commute his sentence to life without parole. Ross Allen Geiger says that during the penalty phase of the trial, the jury never heard about the abuse Tibbetts suffered as a child, nor about his opioid addition, in addition to other mitigating factors – he lists 10 in all — and if he had, he would never have voted for death. The reprieve was granted until October 17, 2018, to allow the Ohio Parole Board to hold a hearing to consider new evidence regarding the clemency request.

In Florida, lawyers for Eric Branch, who is scheduled to be executed on February 22, filed an appeal yesterday, asking for oral argument be held on “the new consensus in the scientific community that people 21 year old and younger are comparable to juveniles under 18 for the purpose of prohibiting their execution under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” Branch was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris. He was 21 at the time of the murder.

In Washington, KGW reports that a measure that would abolish the death penalty in that state passed the Senate Law and Justice Committee on a party line vote of 4-3 late last month, and now moves to the Rules Committee. Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a moratorium on the death penalty there in 2014.

In Alabama, a federal judge granted a stay of execution for Doyle Lee Hamm, the terminally ill 60-year old man who has been battling cranial and lymphatic cancer for almost four years. Hamm was scheduled to be executed February 22, but his attorney argued that because of previous drug use and his cancer, Hamm doesn’t have any viable veins to inject with a lethal drug cocktail. AL.com reports that U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre granted the stay, saying “I do think there are a lot of questions about Mr. Hamm’s current medical condition.”

Also, in Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court called off the execution of Vernon Madison 30 minutes before he was scheduled to die late last month. The 67-year-old Madison was convicted in 1985 of the murder of Mobile police Cp. Morris Schulte. AL.com reports that the stay will be in place until the Court decides whether to grant a review of the case. If review is denied, the stay will be lifted and a new execution date will be set. Equal Justice Initiative lawyers, who represent Madison, say he suffers from dementia and has no memory of the crime for which he would be executed.

In New Mexico, a legislative committee defeated a bill that would have reinstated the death penalty for murders involving children, police officers, and corrections officers. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the 3-2 vote “brought out some of the most visceral testimony yet of this year’s 30-day legislative session,” featuring testimony from an exoneree and a recounting of the murder of a 13-year-old boy. The state abolished the death penalty in 2009.

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