In brief: September 2023



South Carolina

In Tennessee, the only woman on the state’s death row is asking to have her death sentence vacated. Christa Pike was 18 when she was sentenced in 1996, the youngest woman to be sent to death row in the United States since 1972. Her lawyers argue that last year’s ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court in State v. Booker that mandatory life sentences for juveniles in homicide cases are unconstitutional, applies to all young defendants, not just those under the age of 18. Pike was 18 when she and two others were convicted of the murder of Colleen Slemmer. Her co-defendant,s Tadaryl Shipp was 17, and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 25 years, and 19-year-old Shadolla Peterson, 19 years old the time, who turned state’s evidence, received probation. 

In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 

In Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

In Louisiana, BR Proud reports. 

In Indiana, the man sentenced to death last month for killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, is now imprisoned at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, CBS News reported. Forty-six-year-old Robert Bowers was the first person to be sentenced to death during the Biden administration. The decision by the Department of Justice to seek death surprised many since President Biden campaigned on a promise to abolish federal capital punishment, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions. There are 42 men on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 

In Oklahoma, the Department of Corrections has no plans to start using nitrogen hypoxia in its state killings, DOC Director Steven Harpe said in an interview with KOSU. Alabama announced late last month that it had asked the state Supreme Court to set an execution date for Kenneth Smith and allow corrections officials to use nitrogen hypoxia to kill him. Harpe told KOSU that he’ll wait and see how the new method works in Alabama before deciding to adopt the protocol. Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama are the only states authorized to use nitrogen hypoxia in its executions. 

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