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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Ohio: Alva Campbell will get wedge-shaped pillow for execution; his death could become a “spectacle”

Alva Campbell
Ohio death row inmate Alva Campbell will get wedge-shaped pillow for execution. Campbell wanted firing squad, not lethal injection.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio will provide a wedge-shaped pillow to help a condemned inmate breathe as he’s being executed this week, among other accommodations the state is considering.

Death row prisoner Alva Campbell, who has said he is too ill for lethal injection, became mildly agitated when officials tried lowering him to a normal execution position, according to a medical review by a physician contractor for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Dr. James McWeeney noted there were no objective findings such as increased pulse rate or breathing to corroborate Campbell’s anxiety. Nevertheless, he recommended allowing Campbell to lie “in a semi-recumbent position” during the execution.

The same exam failed to find veins suitable for inserting an IV on either of Campbell’s arms.

Campbell, 69, has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder as the result of a decades-long two-pack-a-day smoking habit, the doctor said.

The prisoner’s attorneys say he uses a walker, relies on a colostomy bag, requires four breathing treatments a day and may have lung cancer. They have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Wednesday’s execution, because of his poor health, a motion opposed by the state.

A "spectacle"


The attorneys have warned that Campbell’s death could become a “spectacle” if guards are unable to find suitable veins in the sick inmate’s arms.

Earlier this month Campbell lost a bid to be executed by firing squad after a federal judge questioned whether lawmakers would enact the bill needed to allow the method.

Prisons department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Monday that Campbell’s “medical condition and history are being assessed and considered in order to identify any necessary accommodations or contingencies for his execution.”

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien calls Campbell “the poster child for the death penalty.”

"Ohio's planned execution of Alva Campbell is an international embarrassment. Alva is very ill. He is suffering with cancer, COPD, emphysema, and a whole host of other ailments. Over the past two years, Alva's prostate and colon have been surgically removed due to infections and his hip was replaced after another prisoner knocked him over. He is not able to walk or breathe without assistance. Prison officials have worked hard to come up with makeshift "accommodations" for Alva's physical limitations. He will be rolled into the death chamber in a wheelchair and propped up by a special pillow in a seated position during the lethal injection process. There's also the fact that Alva is allergic to midazolam, the first drug in Ohio's killing cocktail. The state plans to use it anyway. Governor John Kasich: You have the power to stop this barbarism. Please use it." - Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking"

Prosecutors say his health claims are ironic given he faked paralysis to escape court custody the day he killed a teenager during a carjacking.

Campbell was paroled in 1992 after serving 20 years for killing a man in a Cleveland bar. On April 2, 1997, Campbell was in a wheelchair when he overpowered a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy on the way to a court hearing on several armed robbery charges, records show.

Campbell took the deputy’s gun, carjacked 18-year-old Charles Dials and drove around with him for several hours before shooting him twice in the head as Dials crouched in the footwell of his own truck, according to court records.

Campbell was regularly beaten, sexually abused and tortured as a child, his attorneys have argued in court filings and before the Ohio Parole Board.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected mercy for Campbell last week.

Source: The Associated Press, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, November 13, 2017


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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