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February 22, 2018

How many of the executions scheduled today in Alabama, Florida and Texas will be completed?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this Reuters article which begins, "Alabama, Florida and Texas plan to execute inmates on Thursday and if carried out, it would be the first time in eight years that three people on death row have been executed on the same day."  Here is more about what could be a busy day in both courts and execution chambers:

But in each state there are reasons why the executions could be halted, including an unprecedented clemency recommendation in Texas, where all three of this year’s U.S. executions have been carried out.

In Florida, questions were raised about holding an execution based on a majority, not unanimous, jury decision. In Alabama, lawyers have said the death row inmate is too ill to be executed.

Alabama plans to execute Doyle Hamm, 61, at 6 p.m. local time for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham.

Hamm’s lawyers have said he has terminal cancer, adding years of intravenous drug use, hepatitis C, and untreated lymphoma have made his veins unstable for a lethal injection. However, a court-appointed doctor examined Hamm on Feb. 15 and found he had “numerous accessible and usable veins in both his upper and lower extremities,” according to court filings.

Texas plans to execute Thomas Whitaker, 38, for masterminding a 2003 plot against his family in which his mother Tricia, 51, and brother Kevin, 19, were killed.  His father Kent Whitaker was shot in the chest and survived.  The father, 69, a devout Christian and retired executive, has said he forgives his son and his family does not want him to be executed. In a clemency petition, he said if the death penalty is implemented, it would make his pain worse.

On Tuesday, the Texas paroles board in a unanimous decision recommended clemency, largely based on the request of a victim’s forgiving family.  Republican Governor Greg Abbott has final say, and has not yet announced if he plans to halt the execution.

Florida plans to execute Eric Branch, 47, for the 1993 murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris. Lawyers for Branch appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on arguments including that the court has previously blocked a Florida provision that allows executions for a non-unanimous jury decision and it should do so again in this case.

February 22, 2018 at 12:41 PM | Permalink


Bets can be place on the latest events in the continuing "The Lottery" process better known as as our execution system.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 22, 2018 12:45:33 PM

As you know, I do not oppose execution. But it is absurd and distasteful to execute a person 31, 15 and 25 years after their crimes (unless he has evaded capture to that point).

Posted by: Bryan | Feb 22, 2018 12:45:43 PM

I oppose the ridiculous American death penalty. I support the far more intelligent Italian death penalty.

All of these condemned people should be returned to general population. A guard can then wave a carton of cigarettes. The resulting demises will be far more painful but without any more delay. They can be called suicides, as they are in Italy. Guy was depressed and stabbed himself 10 times, a couple of times in the back.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 22, 2018 1:12:19 PM

Since the 1990s, Justices Stevens and Breyer has led the way in arguing that it is constitutionally absurd and distasteful to execute people that many years after the fact. Foreign decisions applying legal rules comparable to ours was in part cited.

I believe these are sometimes known as "Lackey" arguments. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/94-8262.ZA.html

It is sometimes noted that litigants themselves to blame by their continual litigation but it has been shown that "blame" can be spread around here, including by executives and courts putting things on the backburner or repeatedly committing wrongdoing that delays. Also, some degree of delay is necessary or due process would be lacking. The proper balance there is tricky though this would not in itself likely stop all executions -- measures might be able to be set up to improve the situation and cut wait times.

Those against the death penalty have various arguments.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 22, 2018 1:46:39 PM

Gov. Gregg Abbott has commuted Thomas Whitaker's death sentence to a sentence of life without parole.

JUST IN: #SCOTUS denies a stay of execution for Eric Branch, due to be executed in Florida tonight.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 22, 2018 7:01:28 PM

@Joe Thank you for the timely update.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Feb 22, 2018 8:04:25 PM

BREAKING: #SCOTUS denies a stay of execution for Doyle Hamm, set to be executed tonight in Alabama. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor dissent. Again, Thomas solo dissent in 2A cases not quite the same.

Breyer appealed to his views regarding those on death row for decades. Ginsburg (with Sotomayor) made a method of execution argument.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 22, 2018 10:11:07 PM

[An update by Chris Geidner clarifies that Breyer does not technically "dissent" but "would reconsider
the constitutionality of the death penalty itself." He also notes that both executions proceeding tonight resulted from death sentences reached by non-unanimous jury recommendations.]

Posted by: Joe | Feb 22, 2018 10:37:42 PM

Joe. Delays are unseemly.

Appellants caused the delay.

Make up your mind, damn you. Delays are good or bad.

Delays serve the purpose of transferring $millions from hard working tax payers to enrich lawyers, on both sides, and in the middle, on the bench. Delays are fraudulent theft of tax money.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 23, 2018 1:32:24 AM

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