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Capital Punishment

US Supreme Court Clears Way For Alabama To Execute Death Row Inmate



WHERE WE ARE NOW: The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for Alabama to proceed with Domineque Ray’s execution. This list summarizes the latest developments.

  • #Alabama has asked #SCOTUS to review the 11th Circuit stay, then filed a revised version of its appeal.
  • The state says it has changed its execution protocol to eliminate any religious presence in the execution chamber.
  • The #Alabama Department of Corrections is now reportedly refusing to let #DominequeRay have a Qur’an (Koran) in his pre-execution holding cell.
  • #DominequeRay has also sought a separate stay of execution from #SCOTUS based on #Alabama prosecutors’ suppression of evidence that the sole witness to implicate Ray had schizophrenia, was hallucinating in custody before his testimony, and was on psych meds at trial.
  • #SCOTUS is considering the state’s application to vacate the stay imposed by the 11th Circuit. If the application is granted, Alabama could carry out the execution of #DominequeRay tonight. Alabama’s execution warrant on Ray runs out at midnight tonight, if the Supreme Court rules against the State of Alabama.
  • The state of Alabama says a Muslim inmate has access to a Qur’an as he waits to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court will allow his lethal injection.
  • A court document says a copy of the Islamic holy book is available to 42-year-old Dominique Ray. It says Ray also was allowed to take a prayer mat into a holding cell.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for Alabama to proceed with the execution.
  • Justices on Thursday evening vacated a lower court’s stay with a 5-4 decision.
  • The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to carry out the execution of Dominique Ray on Thursday night.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay in the Thursday execution of Alabama death row inmate Domineque Ray, who sued the Alabama Department of Corrections to have his imam present during his execution.

Alabama is accused of violating the religious rights of a Muslim inmate set for execution by refusing to allow an imam at his death, a federal court said Wednesday in blocking the lethal injection.

The 11th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals granted an indefinite stay for Dominique Ray, 42, a day before he was scheduled to die for the slaying of a teenager more than two decades ago.

A three-judge panel of judges wrote that it was “exceedingly loath to substitute our judgment on prison procedures.” But, they added that it “looks substantially likely to us that Alabama has run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Read the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling below:

UPDATE: The State of Alabama has refiled an emergency motion to vacate the stay. Read the amended motion below.

UPDATE: Domineque Ray’s lawyers have filed an amended motion to respond to Alabama’s motion to vacate.

UPDATE: The state has responded to Ray’s opposition to vacate the execution stay.

UPDATE: State of Alabama has written opposition to Ray requesting writ of certiorari to SCOTUS.

UPDATE: Ray’s lawyers have filed a reply to the State of Alabama’s opposition to writ of certiorari.

UPDATE: The US Supreme Court denies certiorari in Domineque Ray’s case. The execution will proceed in Alabama tonight. Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor dissented.

Capital Punishment

New Hampshire Becomes The Latest US State To Repeal The Death Penalty, Overriding Governor’s Veto




CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is the latest state to repeal its death penalty, as the state Senate had enough votes to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto.

The repeal takes effect immediately.

The 16-8 vote Thursday was the necessary two-thirds majority to override. The House narrowly voted last week to override Sununu’s veto.

New Hampshire’s death penalty applied in only seven scenarios. The state hasn’t executed anyone since 1939, and there is only one inmate on death row. The repeal law does not apply retroactively to Michael Addison, who killed Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006, but capital punishment supporters argued that courts might interpret it differently.

Sununu vetoed the bill last month at a community center named in honor of Briggs.

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Capital Punishment

US Supreme Court Will Not Consider Tennessee Death Row Inmate’s Appeal, Execution Will Occur Thursday Evening




NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court won’t consider an appeal that could have delayed an upcoming Tennessee execution.

The appeal involves Tennessee’s midazolam-based lethal injection combination. Inmates claim in a lawsuit that the method causes excruciating pain.

The appeal doesn’t challenge lethal injection directly. Instead it challenges Tennessee secrecy laws surrounding the procurement of execution drugs. Inmates argue the laws prevented them from proving a more humane drug is available.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor agrees. In her dissent on Monday, she says the requirement that prisoners challenging one method of execution prove there is a better method available is “fundamentally wrong.” She adds that state secrecy laws compound the injustice.

Don Johnson is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 1984 murder of his wife, Connie Johnson.

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Capital Punishment

Texas State House OKs Death Penalty Ban For Severely Mentally Ill, Heads To Texas Senate




Interior of the Texas death chamber. Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Department of Criminal Justice

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Republican-controlled Texas House has voted to ban the execution of inmates who are severely mentally ill in the nation’s busiest death-penalty state.

No lawmaker spoke in opposition of the bill Thursday. The legislation would amount to a rare weakening of Texas’ tough stance on capital punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled mentally disabled people are ineligible for execution, but that prohibition does not include those who are mentally ill.

Democratic state Rep. Toni Rose’s bill would take the death penalty off the table for people who had a severe mental illness, including schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder, at the time of the crime.

The bill passed 77-66 but could face tougher opposition in the Senate.

Rose urged her Republican colleagues before the vote to “be pro-life from womb to the tomb.”

For the second time in two weeks, the Texas House moved to change death penalty law.

On Wednesday, the chamber tentatively passed a measure that would prohibit handing down a death sentence to someone with a severe mental illness, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. House Bill 1936 by state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, would let capital murder defendants present evidence at trial that they were severely mentally ill at the time of the crime. If the jury agrees, the defendant would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if found guilty.

“When those offenders are under an active psychosis, that makes them unable to understand or be rational about the offense, so they should not be subjected to the death penalty,” Rose said on the House floor Thursday.

Rose’s bill would allow defendants with mental illness to be ineligible for the death penalty if they had schizophrenia, a schizoaffective disorder, or a bipolar disorder, and, at the time of the crime, had active psychotic symptoms that impaired the defendant’s rationality or understanding of the consequences of their actions. Rose brought a similar bill to the Legislature in 2017, but it never made it to the House floor for debate.

Last Monday, the House moved to create a pretrial process for determining if a capital murder defendant had an intellectual disability and, therefore, would be constitutionally ineligible for execution. Another bill was passed last month to clarify juror instructions in death penalty cases. Neither of those bills have made it out of Senate committees yet.

There is currently no law that restricts issuing a death sentence for mentally ill defendants, but the U.S. Supreme Court has held that inmates must be able to understand that they are about to be put to death — and why — to actually carry out executions.

The most well-known inmate with mental illness is Scott Panetti, a diagnosed schizophrenic who killed his wife’s parents in 1992 and has lived on Texas’ death row for nearly a quarter century. At his trial, Panetti — who represented himself — dressed as a cowboy and tried to call witnesses such as the Pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ.

(Reporting by Associated Press and Texas Tribune)

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