In brief: March 2018


In Ohio, Alva Campbell was found dead in his cell at Chillicothe Correctional Institution last Saturday, four months after he was removed from the state’s execution chamber because the execution team couldn’t find a viable vein in which to inject its lethal drugs. Campbell was 69.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that a spokesperson for the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction said “there was no evidence of foul play and nothing suspicious about his death.” After his execution was halted, Gov. John Kasich had set a new execution date for June 2019.

In Arkansas, the state Supreme Court lifted stays of execution for two condemned men who had been scheduled to die in April 2017, two of eight the state planned to execute in an 11-day period. (The state ultimately executed four in eight days.) However, Arkansasonline reports that “Even as the high court’s ruling came down, one of the three drugs used in Arkansas’ execution protocol was due to expire Thursday.” The Court ruled separately that Bruce Earl Ward and Don Davis were not entitled to new sentencing hearings based on their mental competence. Ward has a separate case pending challenging whether the prisons director is qualified to determine whether he is currently sane enough to be executed.

In Tennessee, which hasn’t put anyone to death since 2009, state officials say they are hoping to execute eight people before June 1, because lethal injection drugs may not be available after that date. The Nashville Scene reports that the plan was announced even though corrections officials were warned in January, in emails from a person outside the government who was helping the state acquire the drugs, that its new cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium, and potassium chloride, could cause the prisoners “to feel pain” from the latter two drugs because midazolam “does not elicit strong analgesic effects.” If lethal injection drugs are not available, the state does have the option of using the electric chair.

In Virginia, a federal judge ordered the state to continue allowing its condemned prisoners to use indoor and outdoor recreation spaces, shower once a day, and not be restricted to solitary confinement. The Washington Post reports that the state modified its treatment of prisoners in 2015 as the result of a lawsuit, but refused to commit to making the changes permanent. But the Post reports, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said “. . . the years-long isolation that the pre-2015 conditions of confinement forced on plaintiffs created, at the least, a significant risk of substantial psychological and emotional harm.”

In New Jersey, legislators have introduced five separate bills or constitutional amendments that would restore the state’s death penalty, which was abolished in 2007. reports that “Democrats who control the Senate and Assembly haven’t shown an interest in allowing the bills to receive consideration” but that the Republican legislators who have introduced bills are determined to have a debate on the issue.

You might also be interested in...

Federal judge finds Scott Panetti unfit to be executed by Texas

Scott Panetti, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia 35 years ago, was convicted of killing his wife’s parents in 1992 and sentenced...
Read More

Death penalty states may have difficulty finding lethal injection medical equipment

The Intercept reports that four companies that manufacture medical equipment, including Baxter International Inc., B. Braun Medical Inc., Fresenius Kabi,...
Read More

While we’re on the subject . . .

“Under the Eighth Amendment, execution by nitrogen is surely unusual because it has never been used as a method of...
Read More