Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

States look to the past for execution methods

The disarray surrounding lethal injection in the United States is beginning to steer states back toward methods of execution that many had long ago deemed less humane than the needle.

Tennessee jumped out front Thursday with a law that could essentially bring back the electric chair. In other states, lawmakers have been talking about reviving the firing squad and the gas chamber, methods largely abandoned a generation ago.

The reason: Lethal injection — the primary means of execution in all 32 states with capital punishment — is under fire as never before because of botched executions, drug shortages caused by a European-led boycott and lawsuits over the new chemicals that states are using instead.

The Tennessee legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday, would allow the state to use electrocution against any current or future death row inmate if lethal injection drugs become unavailable.

In truth, Tennessee never did abandon the electric chair; killers who committed their crimes before the state adopted lethal injection in 1999 have been given the choice of electrocution or the needle. But the new law could take that choice away from the inmates and make everyone on death row subject to the electric chair.

Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School who has studied executions for more than two decades, called Tennessee's law unprecedented.

"No state has gone backward, to go back in time to a prior method of execution," she said. "For over a century, they have all moved forward."

Some attorneys warned that changing the method of execution on inmates who were originally subject to lethal injection would be unconstitutional. Other experts noted that the legal and political attacks on lethal injection as cruel and unusual have had the unintended effect of driving states toward methods that are considered even worse.

Wyoming lawmakers are talking about changing the law to allow the firing squad, while their counterparts in Utah have proposed repealing a law that ended firing squads for prisoners convicted after 2004. Missouri law allows for the gas chamber, and politicians from both parties last year suggested rebuilding one.

During the electric chair debate in Tennessee, one lawmaker said he would support hanging and the firing squad, too. Another legislator, Republican Rep. Dennis Powers, the bill's House sponsor, shrugged off legal and ethical concerns about the measure.

"It's not our job to judge. That's God's job to judge," he said. "Our job is to arrange the meeting."

Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the new Tennessee law could be part of an effort to force death row inmates challenging lethal injection to back off.

"It might be the design that, 'Hey, if you fight against this hard enough and say we can't use lethal injection, fine. We'll strap your guy in the chair,' " Berman said.

Nashville defense attorney David Raybin, a former prosecutor who wrote Tennessee's death penalty statutes in 1976, warned that the switch could entangle the state in legal challenges that could prolong death row cases for many years.

Tennessee has no lethal injection drugs on hand, though officials insist they can obtain them when needed. There are 74 prisoners on the state's death row, and the next execution is scheduled for October.

The last time Tennessee used the electric chair was in 2007.

Raybin, who witnessed that execution, called it barbaric and inhumane and complained about the "carnival-like atmosphere." The whole process, he said, "lends no dignity to the judicial system, no dignity to the victim."

Comments
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 5 hours ago

boca ratonState lawmakerencourages Scott to remove sheriffA lawmaker is calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In a letter sent to ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Two airlinescut ties withNRA aftershootings

The National Rifle Association lashed out at corporations rushing to abandon it on Saturday, as companies from United Airlines to Best Western have cut ties with the gun lobby organization.Without context, twin announcements from Delta and United air...
Updated: 6 hours ago

‘Up to States’ to armteachers, Trump tweets

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appeared Saturday to begin refining his proposals for combatting school violence, tweeting that arming teachers as a deterrent against such often deadly violence — an idea he championed in recent days — is "Up to S...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria "without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded. U.N. humanitarian ch...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 7 hours ago
Call her more than just a survivor

Call her more than just a survivor

TAMPA — On the quiet morning of Oct. 8, 2011, a 30-ton freight truck ran a stop sign in the small town of Clinton, Conn.It ran over Colleen Kelly Alexander, who was riding a bicycle.The truck's front wheels crushed her, then spit her to the bac...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

TAMPA — Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that t...
Updated: 11 hours ago