In a 6-1 decision, the Florida Supreme Court in effect confirmed death sentences for nearly 200 prisoners, ruling those condemned before June 2002 are not eligible for lower sentences or re-hearings under a revamped death penalty law. The ruling paves the way for executions to begin again in Florida after an 11-month hiatus.
Federal Judge G. Murray Snow says witnesses must be able to see the condemned person enter the execution chamger and watch as drugs are being administered from another room. During the state’s last execution, Joseph Wood had 15 doses of drugs shot into him, when one was supposed to be fatal. Wood took nearly two hours to die.
In rare decision for Cleveland’s trial court, judge rejected the death penalty for Douglas Shine, Jr., 21. She says his “transient, non-nurturing and violent childhood” left him with the emotional maturity of a 5-year-old and outweighed the aggravating circumstances of a 2015 triple killing.
Federal jurors deliberated less than two hours. The same jury will return on Jan. 3 to consider whether Roof should be sentenced to death for killing nine black members of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.
Texas has executed by far the most people in the U.S. since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, but this year’s seven was a record low. Death sentences dropped to three, and the number has been low since life without parole became an alternative for juries in 2005.
Dylann Roof’s plan to discard experienced capital defense attorney David Bruck in the Charleston, S.C., church-shooting case could lead to years of appeals. For now, Bruck can try to raise a penalty-phase defense overtly or surreptitiously.
Justice Stephen Breyer asks his colleagues to review the constitutionality of the death penalty, but the court refuses to hear challenges from Ohio and Florida. “Individuals who are executed are not the ‘worst of the worst,’ ” Breyer says, “but…are individuals chosen at random…”
Ronald Smith coughed and heaved for 13 minutes at the beginning of his execution last week. His lawyers say the movements show he “was not anesthetized at any point during the agonizingly long procedure.” Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says the procedure was performed properly.