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Capital Punishment

Alabama Executes America’s Second Death Row Inmate of 2019

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Alabama has executed Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray for the 1995 slaying of a 15-year-old Selma girl, after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a federal appeals court stay based on the inmate’s request to have his Muslim spiritual adviser at his side when he dies.

Ray’s execution by lethal injection was set for 6 p.m. CT at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, AL. The U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stay about 8 p.m. CT, and the execution began at 9:44 p.m. CT.

The curtains to the viewing room closed at 10:05 p.m. CT.

His death sentence comes 20 years after being put on death row, and also while he’s also serving time for the killings of two teenage boys who were slain the year before Tiffany Harville was fatally stabbed. For those killings, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Ray’s final words were in Arabic. He made a hand signal consisting of a closed fist with his index finger pointed and looked towards the viewing room where his attorneys and spiritual adviser were sitting, along with members of the media.

Capital Punishment

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

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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

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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

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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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