In brief: October 2018

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In North Carolina, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation released a report, “Unequal Justice: How Obsolete Laws and Unfair Trials Created North Carolina’s Outsized Death Row,” that found that approximately three quarters of the men and women on the state’s death row were convicted under obsolete laws before numerous reforms were enacted to ensure fairness and prevent wrongful convictions. North Carolina has the sixth largest death row in the nation, with 142 prisoners. The report found that 73 percent of them were tried before 2001, when the first in a series of reforms took effect. Most were sentenced in the 1990s, when the state was sentencing between 25 and 35 people to death every year. North Carolina’s last execution was 12 years ago.

In Nevada, the Review Journal reports that District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has issued an order prohibiting corrections officials from using midazolam in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail they planned to use to execute Scott Dozier. The Review Journal reports that Gonzalez’s 43-page order, issued late last month, stated that the corrections department had obtained the Alvogen-manufactured midazolam through “subterfuge.” Prison director James Dzurenda admitted, according to the paper, that he “disregarded letters from three drug manufacturers who did not want their medication used in an execution.” The drug was acquired through a third party, and Alvogen had requested that it be returned. Dozier, who has waived his appeals, was scheduled to be executed in July, but after Alvogen sued the prison system the execution was postponed.

In Pennsylvania, the Abolitionist Law Center reports that Philadelphia County has more prisoners “serving life without parole sentences (LWOP) than any other county in the U.S., and more than any other country in the world.” The report, “A Way Out: Abolishing Death by Incarceration in Pennsylvania,” says 2,694 people are serving life without parole sentences in Philadelphia County, and 5,346 prisoners are serving LWOP in the state. Only Florida, which has twice the population, has more LWOP prisoners than Pennsylvania. Among its other findings: most LWOP prisoners were convicted and sentenced when they were 25 or younger; and African-American prisoners are serving life without parole sentences at a rate “more than 18 times higher than that of their white counterparts.” The report refers to life without parole as “death by incarceration,” and notes that it is “a failed policy predicated upon the fallacy that the trajectory of a person’s life – including their capacity for rehabilitation, transformation, and redemption – can be accurately predicted at the time of sentencing.”

In New York, federal prosecutors announced late last month that the man accused of using a truck to kill eight people on a bike path in October of last year will be facing the death penalty. The New York Times reports that Sayfullo Saipov is accused of killing eight people, and injuring 11. Saipov, a legal immigrant from Uzbekistan, told authorities after his arrest that he was inspired by ISIS videos. The Times reports that Saipov’s lawyers had told the judge overseeing the case that their client would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but the Justice Department refused the plea bargain. The trial is scheduled to start in October of next year.

In Texas, KWTX reported that the state executed two men in two days late last month. On Wednesday, September 26th, 51-year-old Troy Clark, was executed for the 1998 slaying of his former roommate, Christina Muse. Officials say Clark was a drug dealer and killed Muse out of fear she would turn him in to police. The following day, September 27, Daniel Acker was executed for the March 2000 murder of his girlfriend, Marquetta George, in  2000, in a fit of jealousy, according to prosecutors.

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