In brief: June 2022

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In Texas, a state district judge rejected a request by Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez to cancel a death warrant for a man scheduled to be executed on October 5. Gonzales sought to cancel the execution of John Ramirez 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.” Gonzales says one of his employees mistakenly asked for the court to set the execution date. In a DPF webinar, “D.A.s and the Death Penalty,” that aired earlier this month, Gonzales explained how and why he became an abolitionist. His stance hasn’t hurt him politically — he was re-elected in 2020. Gonzales and Ramirez’s attorney plan to appeal the judge’s ruling to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Tribune reports.

Also in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially allowed the state Court of Criminal Appeals to defy its own ruling in 2020 in the death penalty case of Terence Andrus. Andrus was sentenced to death in 2008 after being convicted of two killings during a carjacking. Andrus suffered severe abuse as a child and spent years in solitary confinement in juvenile detention, all mitigating factors that his lawyer never presented during his trial. In 2020, the Court sent the case back to the CCA to review claims of ineffective counsel, but without hearing oral argument, the CCA ruled against Andrus. The case returned to the Supreme Court, which let the death sentence stand. The Court’s failure to act “is lamentable,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine postponed another execution — his fifth reprieve this year — due to the state’s inability to obtain lethal injection drugs. Cleveland.com reports that 51-year-old Quisi Bryan, who was scheduled to be killed in October, has a new execution date in January 2026. Currently, 11 men are scheduled for execution in Ohio next year, although state legislators have not come up with an alternative method of execution, making more reprieves likely. The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018.

In Pennsylvania, the youngest person ever executed in the state was exonerated 91 years after he was wrongfully convicted and executed at the age of 16. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Alexander McClay Williams, a Black teenager, was convicted by an all-white jury of the stabbing death of a matron at the Glen Mills School for Boys in 1931. This month, in the same courtroom where he was convicted, and with the assistance of the great-grandson of the lawyer who represented Williams at his trial, Williams was declared innocent, the victim of prosecutorial misconduct, coerced confession, and racism.

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