In rush to find lethal injection drug, prison officials turned to a hospital

This was published in The Lens, on Aug. 6th 2014:
By Della Hasselle, Contributor

In January, as the date of Christopher Sepulvado’s execution approached, the Louisiana Department of Corrections did not have the drugs it needed to carry out his death sentence.

So the state turned to a supplier that uses hydromorphone to relieve patients’ suffering, not to kill them: Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

“We assumed the drug was for one of their patients, so we sent it. We did not realize what the focus was,” said Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, a board member for the private, nonprofit hospital and chief judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

“Had we known of the real use,” he said, “we never would have done it.”

The Department of Corrections bought 20 vials of the drug on Jan. 28, a week before Sepulvado’s scheduled execution, according to a document provided by the state in a lawsuit challenging its lethal-injection practice.

Until now, the source of those vials has not been publicly known.

Thibodeaux said it’s routine for hospital pharmacies to supply drugs to other pharmacies, including those run by the state, for their patients.

“We never inquire into the purpose for it. We assume it’s for legitimate and noble purposes,” Thibodeaux said. “We have assurances from our CEO, who is a very forthright guy, that this will not happen again.”

State officials with the Louisiana Department of Corrections did not respond to repeated requests to comment for this story. Sepulvado’s lawyers declined to comment.

Read the rest of this important finding by The Lens here and take appropriate action.

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Ohio man Dennis McGuire is executed using new drug

Please consider to protest the execution of Dennis McGuire
You may also send an email to the advisor of the Governor: kim.kutschbach@governor.ohio.gov

Reblogged from BBC

A man convicted of murder in the US state of Ohio has been executed using a new, never-before-tried lethal injection combination.

Dennis McGuire, 53, was killed on Thursday with a two-drug cocktail, after the maker of the previous execution drug refused to allow its use in capital punishment.

McGuire appeared to gasp and snort over the 15 minutes it took him to die.
He was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart.
Stewart was pregnant.

In recent years, US states have had increasing difficulty obtaining drugs for use in lethal injections, as their manufacturers have grown unwilling to provide them for that use.
Ohio officials elected to use intravenous doses of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone for McGuire’s execution.

Lawyers for McGuire had said the drugs placed him at risk of air hunger, a phenomenon which causes terror as the patient struggles to catch his breath.

During the procedure, McGuire gasped several times and his mouth repeatedly opened and closed, according to an Associated Press news agency reporter who witnessed the execution.

An Ohio federal judge had rejected a last-minute appeal to delay the execution after McGuire’s legal team argued a jury never heard details of his reportedly troubled childhood.

McGuire’s lawyers alleged he was abused, leading to impaired brain function that made him prone to impulsive actions.

Ohio Governor John Kasich also rejected McGuire’s efforts to become an organ donor, a legal manoeuvre that previously allowed another death row inmate an eight-month reprieve.

Ex-Virginia executioner becomes opponent of death penalty

This is from the Washington Post:

Feb 11th, 2013
By Justin Juvenal
Jerry Givens executed 62 people.
His routine and conviction never wavered. He’d shave the person’s head, lay his hand on the bald pate and ask for God’s forgiveness for the condemned. Then, he would strap the person into Virginia’s electric chair.
Givens was the state’s chief executioner for 17 years — at a time when the commonwealth put more people to death than any state besides Texas.
“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”
As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment.
His evolution underscores that of Virginia itself and the nation. Although polls show that the majority of state residents still support the death penalty, Virginia has experienced a sea change on capital punishment in recent years that is part of a national trend.
The state has had fewer death sentences over the past five years than any period since the 1970s. Robert Gleason, who was put to death Jan. 16, was the first execution in a year and a half. As recently as 1999, the state put 13 to death in a single year.
Nationwide, the number of death sentences was at record lows in 2011 and 2012, down 75 percent since 1996, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Five states have outlawed capital punishment in the past five years, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) affirmed plans to push for a moratorium there. Gallup polls show support for capital punishment ebbing.
Givens’s improbable journey to the death chamber and back did not come easily or quickly for the 60-year-old from Richmond. A searing murder spurred his interest in the work, but it was the innocent life he nearly took that led him to question the system. And he was changed for good when he found himself behind bars.
His story helps explain how a state closely associated with the death penalty for decades has entered a new era.
“From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot,” Givens said.
The first execution
Friends and strangers regularly ask Givens the essential question: What is it like to take another man’s life? In answering, he vividly recalls his first execution, in 1984.

Ex-Virginia executioner becomes opponent of death penalty

This comes from the Washington Post:

Feb 11th, 2013, By Justin Juvenal
Jerry Givens executed 62 people.
His routine and conviction never wavered. He’d shave the person’s head, lay his hand on the bald pate and ask for God’s forgiveness for the condemned. Then, he would strap the person into Virginia’s electric chair.
Givens was the state’s chief executioner for 17 years — at a time when the commonwealth put more people to death than any state besides Texas.
“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”
As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment.
His evolution underscores that of Virginia itself and the nation. Although polls show that the majority of state residents still support the death penalty, Virginia has experienced a sea change on capital punishment in recent years that is part of a national trend.
The state has had fewer death sentences over the past five years than any period since the 1970s. Robert Gleason, who was put to death Jan. 16, was the first execution in a year and a half. As recently as 1999, the state put 13 to death in a single year.
Nationwide, the number of death sentences was at record lows in 2011 and 2012, down 75 percent since 1996, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Five states have outlawed capital punishment in the past five years, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) affirmed plans to push for a moratorium there. Gallup polls show support for capital punishment ebbing.
Givens’s improbable journey to the death chamber and back did not come easily or quickly for the 60-year-old from Richmond. A searing murder spurred his interest in the work, but it was the innocent life he nearly took that led him to question the system. And he was changed for good when he found himself behind bars.
His story helps explain how a state closely associated with the death penalty for decades has entered a new era.
“From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot,” Givens said.
The first execution
Friends and strangers regularly ask Givens the essential question: What is it like to take another man’s life? In answering, he vividly recalls his first execution, in 1984.

Brett Hartman executed by the state of Ohio

This morning Brett Hartman was executed by the State of Ohio. We send our condolences to the family and friends of Brett, who have stood with him till the end. He has always remained he is innocent of the crime he was convicted for. There was no motive for this senseless killing, that Brett allegedly did. Why would he do what he was accused of doing and what he was condemned for?

That it was all politics is clear: there was the untested DNA, the change of the time of death of the victim, making Brett’s alibi’s not valid, the jailhouse snitch, who was paid to testify falsely, etc. The prosecutors made sure their story fitted the outcome they wanted. We know justice is not done: there is too much doubt, and to kill someone is always wrong, whether it is the State that carries out a killing or a lone gunman/woman. What if they did kill the wrong man? How are the killers going to face their conscience? Where is the “rehabilitation” in the death penalty?

Brett is free now, and those who have blood on their hands, have to one day explain their wrongdoings to higher instances than an Ohio court of law.

Ohio: Stop the execution of a possibly innocent man!

Received via Ohioans To Stop Executions group and added a letter which was sent earlier as sample:


Brett Hartmann is due to be executed by the State of Ohio on November 13th. Brett has evidence which has never been heard in court. He has evidence of innocence.

We cannot allow Ohio to kill a man with evidence of innocence. We cannot just sit back and do nothing to try to stop this.

Please see this site to see the evidence:


Then WRITE letters, emails and faxes to the addresses below, including the newspaper email addresses. Let ALL these people know that the world is watching. Tell them where in the world you are.

 Please also forward this message to your friends and groups.

 WE MUST TRY!!! 

 Thank you  
                                                                            Date: ….
Dear Governor Kasich,

My name is …, I am from …, and my concern is the upcoming execution of Brett Hartmann #357869 on November 13th
I have read Brett’s website, run by his sister, and there is also a YouTube film about his situation.

About the case:

          There was testimony by a jailhouse snitch involved, someone who will become better off when he lies on the stand.

          Much of Mr Hartmann’s case has not been able to be looked at on appeal because post- conviction attorneys missed crucial filing dates.

          Prosecution/police indicted Brett and then went to collect new-found evidence, thinking this would prove guilt. Even though  this “big break” turned out to be nothing, they had already indicted Brett and released it to the media, they then went ahead with his trial. So maybe it was to “save their faces?”

          When Brett went to trial he faced  a prosecutorwho was well known to be overzealous, and would try to win at all costs. She was also known to over- indict, violate disclosure rules, withhold evidence, and then target defense attorneys who opposed her.

          Mr Hartmann had a defense team that did little to nothing to defend him. Never asking or accepting Mr Hartmann’s side of events, saying that they preferred to let the evidence tell them what happened, and then relied on the “State’s  evidence” for trial.

          The crux of the state’s case relied on erroneous blood spatter-evidence in regard to Mr Hartmann’s t-shirt, and the testimony of a man who has misrepresented his credentials, who manipulated data,  is facing ethics charges, and under  suspicion due to  evidence that had been altered while in his chain of  custody.

          In addition to this, the state also cites the jail house snitch testimony as one of the key factors in Mr Hartmann’s conviction. His testimony at trial did not match the crime.  Yet, the state also cites this jail house snitch testimony as one of the key factors in Brett’s conviction.

          Brett’s alibi:At the time of the crime, Brett Hartmann was at home. There are phone records showing that he was there, making and receiving calls from his home during the time of the crime.
The person who he had been talking to on the phone testified in court to that effect.  A family member was able to testify that they witnessed him home at the time in question. Both of these testimonies were discredited at  trial when the coroner tailored his testimony about the time of death, which we now have the documents to show.

          Justice Pfeiffer stated, “The record does not contain proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a kidnapping occurred.”  “I would reverse the kidnapping conviction and felony murder conviction and vacate the sentence of death”.

While the court may agree that Brett Hartmann’s defense council made mistakes, they do not consider this “Gross Negligence”.  Yet Brett Hartmann may be executed due to these mistakes, many issues were not brought up on appeal because of  missed filing dates.

Brett Hartmann means a lot to me and many others. He has friends around the world who see his soul and who know he is gentle, friendly, humane, wise and very humble. Brett Hartmann, like every human being, needs to be kept alive.

Dear Governor, please do not have the execution take place. There is too much doubt, there are too many failures of the court and prosecution to make this case 100% certainly guilty. There is no way the death can ever be turned, it is absolute. No one will receive “relief,” or “closure.”  There is no justice in killing someone.

Please consider these arguments, and please use your conscience to decide. I am praying for you in this most difficult life-and-death decision. God be with you in guiding you. Life is everything. Please do not let anyone take it away.

Thank you for your time to read this and think about this.

Yours faithfully,
[name and address]

Website made by Brett Hartmann’s sister:
——— 
What you can do:
Send a similar letters to:
  
Governor John Kasich
 77 S. High St.
Columbus OH 43266-0601
Fax: 614-466-9354
  
Ohio’s Attorney General
 Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine
 State Office Tower
30 E. Broad St.
17th Floor
Columbus, Oh 43215-3428                       
Tel. (614) 466-4320           
Ohio State Senators:

 Sherrod Brown
455 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510                      
Tel.  (202) 224-2315          
Congressman Tim Ryan
Washington D.C. Office
1421 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone: 202-225-5261          
fax: 202-225-3719
Akron Beacon Journal
Send emails without attachments to:
vop@thebeaconjournal.com  
You must include your name, address and phone number to be considered for publication.

Youngstown Vindicator:
 Vindy.comletters@vindy.com

Cincinnati Herald
thecincinnatiherald@gmail.com

All columns and editorial submissions are due by Friday at 5 p.m., a week prior to publication, and sent to: newsthecincinnatiherald@yahoo.com
Website for Brett Hartman:

You can also sign the online petition:

Save Brett Hartmann! No vengeance! Brett is innocent!

We visited with Brett last year. He has many friends, from all over the world. The State of Ohio plans to kill this man. Why do we allow a killing to take place? Why this vengeance? There is NO justice in killing someone. There is NO closure. We have to change society. Brett summarized it well by saying that it all comes down to politics, not justice. And politics is often so corrupt…

Please Write to the governor NOW and ask him politely to stop the execution.

From: Youngstown Vindicator
Oct 15th 2012

COLUMBUS
An Akron man facing execution next month for the murder and dismemberment of a woman 15 years ago maintains his innocence, saying prosecutors and a jailhouse snitch lied about the crime and failed to test evidence that could exonerate him.
In an interview from death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Brett Hartmann told the Statehouse bureau of The Vindicator that phone records and hair and fingerprints taken from the scene could prove he didn’t stab 46-year-old Winda Snipes 138 times, slit her throat or cut off her hands.
The latter were never found.

“Whether people want to believe I’m innocent or not, you know, but ask why,” Hartmann said. “Why are they hiding? Why are they lying so much? … Why are they lying and hiding evidence like they do?”

Hartmann, 38, is scheduled for lethal injection Nov. 13 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Twice in recent years, the state parole board has recommended against clemency in the case, with a third decision from that panel expected in coming days after another hearing earlier this week.
In documents presented to the parole board, Snipes was described as a “thoughtful and caring person” who “dressed meticulously” and was “extremely close” to her family.

One day in September 1997, she picked up her paycheck, mailed a letter and stick of gum to her grandmother and was spotted crossing the street near her Highland Square neighborhood in Akron.
Police found her mutilated body tied to a bed in her apartment that evening after receiving several 9-1-1 calls from Hartmann, who admitted having sexual relations with the victim hours before she was murdered.
Police found Hartmann’s fingerprints on a bedspread and on the leg of a chair, and investigators later matched his DNA to the victim’s body.

They also found a wristwatch that purportedly belonged to Snipes and a bloody T-shirt at Hartmann’s apartment.

They also cited incriminating comments he made to a co-worker and a cellmate. The latter said Hartmann confessed the crime.

According to documents submitted by the prosecutor’s office to the state parole board, “… The evidence at trial (as well as recent DNA evidence) clearly establish that [Hartmann] tied Winda to her bed, had vaginal and anal intercourse with her, beat her, strangled her with a cord, stabbed her 138 times, slit her throat, and cut off her hands. The jury found [Hartmann] guilty of Winda’s murder and determined unanimously that [Hartmann’s] crimes warranted death. The jury’s verdict has been affirmed many times by state and federal courts. Subsequent DNA testing also confirmed [Hartmann’s] guilt. … [His] many claims of legal error have been carefully reviewed, considered and rejected.”

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh added in a released statement Friday, “The state has provided Mr. [Hartmann] with top-notch defense attorneys to argue his claims in state and federal courts for the past 14 years. No court — state or federal — has bought any of Mr. Hartman’s claims.”

Hartmann said he and Snipes had a casual sexual relationship, “hooking up” on occasion after drinking at a bar near her apartment. He admitted to police on the night that Snipes’ body was found that he had been with her early on the morning of the crime but that she was alive when he left.

“Clearly, no matter how intoxicated I was that morning, when I left her, she was well, alive and healthy, because she was seen alive later that day,” he said.

Hartmann said he did not murder Snipes; rather, he returned to her apartment for another “hookup” and found her dead on the floor. He said he panicked, grabbed anything that connected him to the crime scene and fled. He said he didn’t think about calling the police immediately to report the crime, only doing so later from a nearby pay phone.

“I lived on the streets with bikers and meth-heads,” he said. “I grew up on Indian reservations where you don’t call the police at all. … When I found her, the first thing that went through my head was two warrants out for my arrest for traffic violations and failure to pay fines. And the first thing that went through my head was if I call the police, they’re going to run my name, see I have warrants and arrest me and I’m going to lose my job.”

Hartmann said the watch police found at his apartment was common at the time and belonged to a married woman, one of many who he had sexual relations with and who left clothes or other belongings behind. And he said it doesn’t make sense, logically, that he would leave the watch and bloody T-shirt at his apartment for police to find but manage to hide the victim’s hands and other evidence.

“… I supposedly went and hid all these so well that police have never found them and yet come back to my apartment and these two pieces of evidence are just thrown right there in the middle of everything,” he said. “If I would have done something like this, common sense would dictate that you take everything if you’re going to hide it hide it altogether. You don’t hide some of this stuff and then throw some of the most critical evidence in the middle of your floor.”

Hartmann said phone records prove he was at home at the time the murder was committed. He said police and prosecutors failed to test fingerprints, hair and other evidence found at the crime scene that could prove someone else committed the murder. And he denied making incriminating statements to a co-worker or cellmate.

Hartmann said he does not support the death penalty, calling the process for determining capital punishment “totally flawed. … It has nothing to do with justice or the law or anything. It’s almost all politics.”

He said he and others on Ohio’s Death Row are changed people.

“Most people I know back here don’t even resemble the people they were when they first came,” he said. “I know no one will ever believe me, most of the public will never believe me when I tell them I’ve met better people on Death Row than I ever met out on the street. If I’m hungry, all I have to do is say so and there’s someone there to give me some food. If there’s ever something I need, there will be someone there to help me.”

Asked what he would say to the family and friends of Winda Snipes, Hartmann replied, “My heart goes out to them. I know losing anyone, especially family, is a very traumatizing experience. I recently lost my mom and my sister. And no one in the world deserves to lose a relative or anyone the way that Winda was taken, and my heart goes out to them. But I didn’t do it.”