In brief: January 2018


In Nevada, 48-year-old Scott Dozier apparently died by suicide on death row at Ely State Prison last Friday. The Huffington Post reports that Dozier apparently died by hanging. Dozier had been on death row since 2008 for the murders of Jeremiah Miller, who was killed in 2002, and Jasen Green, whose body was found in an Arizona desert in 2001. Dozier had given up all appeals, and had requested that his execution go forward. He had been scheduled to be killed twice, once in July of this year, and once in 2017, but both were canceled because of problems obtaining lethal injection drugs.

In Florida, Jose Antonio Jiminez was executed last month for the 1992 killing of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas, whose apartment he was burglarizing. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Jimenez was the 28th prisoner executed in Florida since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, “the most of any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.”

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker ruled that Mumia Abu-Jamal can appeal his conviction for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. WHYY Radio reports that Judge Tucker found that Abu-Jamal’s claim of bias “is worthy of consideration.” Abu-Jamal’s lawyers argued that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille should not have presided over Abu-Jamal’s appeals for a new trial because when he was the Philadelphia district attorney his office had been responsible for keeping him in prison. Castille repeatedly refused to recuse himself from Abu-Jamal’s case. Abu-Jamal had been on death row from 1982 until 2011, when he was re-sentenced to life in prison.

In Texas, the Dallas News reports that legislators are expected to draft a report in the next months recommending changes to the state’s death penalty as it applies to defendants with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. The impetus for the report is the case of Bobby Moore, who has been on death row for 36 years, and is severely intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court sent Moore’s case back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals earlier this year, finding that the state relied on outdated and erroneous information in determining intellectual disability, but the CCA subsequently affirmed his death sentence again in June. Moore’s attorneys are now asking the high Court to vacate the ruling for a second time.

In California, the Sacramento Bee reports that a jury in the capital trial of a Modoc County man convicted of killing Modoc County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Hopkins in October 2016, opted not to recommend the death penalty and instead voted for a life sentence. Jack Breiner, whose trial was moved from Modoc County to Sacramento, was convicted of killing Hopkins and the attempted murder of Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter. The prosecution had sought the death penalty, but even though the jury found Breiner was sane at the time of the killing, jurors still voted for life in prison.

In Oklahoma, Tulsa World reports that it’s been nearly four years since the state has gone without executing anyone. And, the paper says, it’s not clear when any of the 18 prisoners on death row will be scheduled to die since, “state officials are virtually silent on the issue.” In March of last year, Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said the state would begin executing prisoners with nitrogen gas, but the paper quotes a department spokesman as saying officials are still working “to develop a protocol.”

In Georgia, the director of the state’s Bureau of Investigations retired last week, and in a farewell interview with 11Alive News said, “I’ve never believed in the death penalty.” Vernon Keenan, who has run the independent state agency that provides assistance to the state’s criminal justice system since 2011, also predicted that Georgia will eventually do away with its death penalty because public opinion is turning away from capital punishment and lawmakers will have no choice.

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