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ACLU -- Death Penalty News

Larry Flynt Allowed to Ask for Execution Records to be Unsealed

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 12:00am
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org   ST. LOUIS - Today, United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Publisher Larry Flynt has the right to intervene in a case challenging Missouri’s execution protocol. Flynt seeks to challenge the sealing of judicial records.

In November 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a motion on Flynt’s behalf. This was one of several efforts to gain information about the state’s execution protocol.

Flynt, who was paralyzed in 1978 by Joseph Franklin, had advocated that Franklin should be punished by spending the remainder of his life in prison, rather than be killed by the state and put out of his misery. Missouri executed Franklin Nov. 20, 2013. Missouri Press Association and several other media organizations filed friend of the court briefs in support of Flynt.

Court documents for Larry Flynt v. Lombardi can be found on the ACLU of Missouri website.  

"The public needs to know what is being done in its name and these judicial records will answer a lot of questions that we and members of the media have been asking," explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. 

"The ACLU plays a unique role by working through the courts to ensure the public has access to the information we need to be an effective check on government power," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. "A state’s execution protocol should never be hidden from the public by sealing court documents. When Missouri kills people in our name, the public must know if the manner is ethical, or cruel and unusual."

The ACLU of Missouri is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians guaranteed under the United States and Missouri Constitutions, through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. It is an affiliate of the national ACLU.

Categories: Prisoners Rights

Texas Executes Intellectually Disabled Man, Violating Constitution

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 8:15pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-266, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was executed tonight at 7:02 CT in Huntsville, Texas. His death violates the Supreme Court's rulings that the Eighth Amendment prohibits executing the intellectually disabled as cruel and unusual punishment. In any other state Mr. Ladd would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability.

Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project and Mr. Ladd's attorney, had this comment:

"Texas aggressively pursued Mr. Ladd's execution, despite the fact that our constitution categorically prohibits the use of capital punishment against persons with intellectual disability. Mr. Ladd, whose IQ was 67, was executed because Texas uses idiosyncratic standards, based on stereotypes rather than science, to determine intellectual disability. His death is yet another example of how capital punishment routinely defies the rule of law and human decency. 

"We are eager for a court to address the fact that Texas' unscientific standards can't be reconciled with the Supreme Court's decision in Hall v. Florida,mandating that states must use universal medical diagnostic practices rather than inaccurate and self-invented methods for determining intellectual disability. However, no future ruling can undo the unconscionable fact that tonight Texas ended the life of an intellectually disabled man who deserved the protection of the Constitution."

For more information about the case Ex Parte Ladd, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

For information about the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

Categories: Prisoners Rights

Texas Court Denies Death Penalty Appeal of Intellectually Disabled Man

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 5:15pm

Court Standards for Determining Intellectual Disability Drawn From Novella 'Of Mice and Men'

January 27, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-266, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was denied a stay of execution today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Although in any other state he would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability, Ladd doesn't meet the Texas courts' standards to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled, which were drawn in part on the character Lennie Small in "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. Ladd will be executed by the state of Texas at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, unless courts intervene.

"This case is indeed stranger than fiction. Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and Ladd's attorney. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

The Supreme Court has twice ruled to protect the intellectually disabled from capital punishment: Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and Hall v. Florida(2014). Those decisions should exempt Mr. Ladd from the death penalty, as he was labeled "fairly obviously retarded" at age 13 by the Texas Youth Commission in 1970. After the Atkins decision, the psychiatrist who had examined Mr. Ladd reviewed his notes and reaffirmed his initial diagnosis in an affidavit, stating his IQ test and "three separate interviews confirmed my diagnosis of mental retardation." At age 36, Mr. Ladd qualified for services at the Andrews Center in Tyler, Texas, which assists the intellectually disabled as well as the mentally ill.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," said Stull. "We will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution."

For more information about the case Ex Parte Ladd, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

For information about the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

Categories: Prisoners Rights

Eight Months After Botched Execution, Oklahoma Gambles with Same Faulty Drug

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 9:51am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – At 7:28 PM CT, the state of Oklahoma executed Charles Warner by lethal injection. This was the first execution in the state since Clayton Lockett’s botched execution in April 2014. Says Cassandra Stubbs, Director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project:

Despite the public outcry over Clayton Lockett’s horrifically botched execution, Oklahoma has just picked up where it left off. Prison officials used midazolam on Charles Warner, a drug that had failed during Lockett’s execution and that doctors say has no place in lethal injection. In every state that has used it, midazolam has failed to render the prisoner unconscious, and has led to botched and torturous executions. Due to the paralyzing effects of other drugs Warner received tonight, we will never know whether he experienced excruciating pain throughout the execution. What we do know is that Oklahoma’s willingness to risk that pain violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and international human rights.

For more on the human rights violations, see the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decision in response to an ACLU petition on Charles Warner's behalf: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/2014_may_20_resolucion_mc_177-14.pdf

Categories: Prisoners Rights