Dallas County has not recorded a death penalty since 2014, but new District Attorney Faith Johnson is seeking one against a mentally ill veteran accused of killing his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s daughter, his estranged wife, and his estranged wife’s daughter.
Alabama is the only state that allows judges to override sentences imposed by juries, a practice ruled out by the Supreme Court in Florida. Between 1978 and last year, 101 judicial overrides in Alabama changed a sentence from life in prison to death.
Duane Buck contends that his rights were violated when jurors were told by a defense expert witness that he was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. Chief Justice John Roberts says he is entitled to a hearing on that issue; two Justices dissented.
With two dissents, the high court said Alabama may reschedule the execution of Tommy Arthur, who has been on death row for three decades. Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have heard the appeal, saying Arthur presented evidence that the state’s lethal injection procedures “will result in intolerable and needless agony.”
Alabama is the only state that permits judges to overrule a jury’s recommendation and sentence a defendant to death, a practice sharply criticized by the Equal Justice Initiative, an advocacy group based in the state. After gaining bipartisan approval by a House committee, a proposal to end the overrides moves on to broader legislative consideration.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich delayed eight scheduled executions after a federal magistrate declared the state’s death penalty unconstitutional in a dispute over the drug protocol. Kasich believes Ohio will win an appeal.
John Henry Ramirez, 32, was to be put to death for a 2004 slaying during a robbery. A federal judge halted the scheduled execution, ruling that Ramirez’s previous lawyer left him “effectively without counsel.”
The Supreme Court nominee ruled against the estate of a man who was executed in despite mistakes in administering a lethal injection. Gorsuch and two other judges ruled that it was an “innocent misadventure” or an “isolated mishap,” but not cruel and unusual punishment.