Posts tagged: death row
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to look beyond intelligence scores in cases of mental disability to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible for execution could have ramifications for at least one Idaho prisoner, KTVB-TV reports. The justices ruled Tuesday that Florida and a handful of other states, including Idaho, cannot rely solely on an IQ score above 70 to bar an inmate from claiming mental disability. Gerald Pizzuto Jr. has been on Idaho's death row since 1986. He appealed, saying that his IQ was below 70, making it illegal for the state to execute him; Pizzuto's IQ was measured at 72 when he was 29. A score of 70 is widely accepted as a marker of mental disability, but medical professionals say people who score as high as 75 can be considered intellectually disabled because of the test's margin of error. “The ruling is of great constitutional and practical significance,” said Sacramento-based attorney Joan Fisher, Pizzuto's attorney.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter issued this statement today on the execution of Paul Rhoades, Idaho's first execution in 17 years:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, the mother of Paul Ezra Rhoades and everyone who has been impacted by these crimes. Mr. Rhoades took full and unfettered advantage of his right to due process of law for more than 20 years. That process has run its course and Mr. Rhoades has been held accountable for his actions. The State of Idaho has done its best to fulfill this most solemn responsibility with respect, professionalism and most of all dignity for everyone involved.”
Tom Moss, who prosecuted Paul Ezra Rhoades in 1987 and later served as U.S. attorney for Idaho, said after this morning's execution, “Nothing brings total justice. They don't get their loved ones back. But it brings some satisfaction to them.” He said, “I've often said I don't think I will live to see anybody executed. So there's a certain amount of closure to see one of 'em get executed. … There is satisfaction to see finally the law comes to its conclusion, it's done. These families don't have to read any more in the paper about there's something going on with Paul Rhoades. … This case is closed.”
The media witnesses to Paul Ezra Rhoades' execution are now answering questions from other reporters about what they witnessed. “Perhaps the most noteworthy thing was Mr. Rhoades' final statement,” said AP reporter Rebecca Boone. “He apologized for the Michelbacher murder, but did not take responsibility for the other two murders.” Boone said Rhoades said to the families of his other two victims, “I can't help you guys, sorry.” She said, “He said, 'Mom, goodbye,' then he turned and faced the warden, Randy Blades, and said, 'You guys, I forgive you, I really do.'”
ABC Channel 6 reporter Mac King said, “The whole thing was incredibly sterile, with the exception of his statement. Everyone was really professional.” King said there were “some tears” from the victims' families.
Nate Green, reporter for the Idaho Press-Tribune, said, “It was very quiet and somber, it was silent throughout. One gentleman, apparently a friend of the Michelbacher family, said the devil had gone home.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said the last-minute delay in the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades this morning was prompted by a motion for a stay filed at 3 a.m. by an attorney from Mountain Home who had never previously represented Rhoades, and who didn't purport to be representing him now. “At about 8 o'clock this morning, 8:11, I believe … the administrative district judge in Ada County issued a denial of that stay,” Wasden said. The motion for stay charged that Rhoades' attorneys weren't properly qualified; they were appointed by the federal court to represent him in the capital case.
“I would say it was somewhat unexpected,” Wasden said.
Paul Ezra Rhoades has been executed; the time of death was 9:15. “The procedures are complete.” announced Corrections spokesman Jeff Ray. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
After just a brief holdup, today's scheduled execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades is now back on track, scheduled to occur 55 minutes later than originally planned. “Procedures have started again,” state Corrections spokesman Jeff Ray just announced. “Attorney General Wasden will be here after the completion of the procedures to explain what happened.”
Paul Ezra Rhoades' execution is on hold, due to a filing in 4th District Court, which is the state court here in the Boise area. “Right now the procedure has been delayed,” said state Corrections spokesman Jeff Ray. “Right now a judge is reviewing that,” Ray said, though there is no stay of the execution. As a result, Rhoades has remained in his isolation cell, and has not been brought into the execution chamber, though the procedure was scheduled to happen right now. Ray said at this point, if the go-ahead is given, the earliest the execution could begin is 9 a.m. Mountain time, an hour later than originally scheduled.
About 45 people gathered in a circle in the freezing darkness outside Idaho's state prison complex this morning to protest capital punishment, as the clock ticks toward Idaho's first execution in 17 years. “This is a heartbreaking morning,” said Mia Crosthwaite of Idahoans Against the Death Penalty. “It is good to be with other people.” The group prayed for condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades and his family, and for his victims and their families, prosecutors, police and more. Some held signs, with slogans including, “Life in prison=Justice, Killing=Vengeance,” “Cruel and unusual punishment” and “What would Jesus do?” Nearby, another group of seven people sat in a row in a silent vigil, facing the prison and the slowly lightening sky. At the circle, Crosthwaite told the group, “Today's execution is one more pain of so many.”
Across the road, the space set aside for pro-death penalty protesters was mostly empty. Tasha Wiegand, a former eastern Idaho resident, stood at one edge of it, but said she and her son weren't taking a position for or against the death penalty; they were just there to support the family and friends of the victims, whom they knew. “I think this is where we need to be,” Wiegand said.
Crosthaite said she and her group came out to the prison gate at 6 a.m. today to protest the execution. “We'll stay until it's over,” she said. “It is cold. I was expecting a handful, so I'm glad there's so many people standing up together, and I think we're going to see more people come as the morning progresses.”
Addressing the media in the chill of the press tent this morning, state Corrections Director Brent Reinke said, “The law requires and justice demands that Mr. Rhoades be held accountable. … Today we carry out the execution order.”
All Idaho state prisons, statewide, are on lockdown and high alert, Reinke said. In the execution chamber, there will be two phones: One red, connected to the governor's office, and one black, connected to the satellite office for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who is on site at the Idaho Maximum Security Prison. Reinke said his role includes picking up that black phone at 8:07 a.m. to inquire of the Attorney General if there are any last-minute legal impediments to the execution. If not, the order will be given to proceed, and the Attorney General will join the witnesses in the chamber.
Witnesses will include the sheriffs of both counties where Rhoades was convicted and sentenced to death, Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde and Bingham County Sheriff Dave Johnson; prosecutors from both counties; representatives of the victims' families; Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg, who will pronounce death; Idaho Maximum Security Institution Warden Randy Blades, who will read the death warrant; Reinke; relatives of the condemned; and four media witnesses, who just were chosen by random drawing: Nate Green of the Idaho Press-Tribune, Mac King from ABC Channel 6, Ruth Brown from the Post Register in Idaho Falls, and Rebecca Boone of the AP. Said Reinke, “We are all witnesses to justice as prescribed by law.”
Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke, asked about the demeanor this morning of condemned prisoner Paul Ezra Rhoades, said, “He's very serious. He understands what is about to happen. His spiritual adviser and his attorney have been with him throughout the night.”
Idaho state Corrections Director Brent Reinke will brief reporters momentarily on the preparations for this morning's execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades. The fog has lifted over the prison complex, and it's clear, cold, and 32 degrees. Click below for an AP report on the final preparations.
It's foggy and spooky out at Idaho's state prison complex this morning, where the first execution since 1994 is scheduled for 8 a.m. Space has been set aside for protesters both for and against the death penalty at the main entry gate to the prison complex on Pleasant Valley Road; inside the prison complex, the media is gathering at a “media center” that consists of a tent out in a dirt parking lot; the lights of the medium- and maximum-security prisons glow faintly in the fog.
Unlike the last person executed in Idaho, who dropped all appeals and asked to be put to death, condemned murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades has pursued every appeal possible, including another last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last night. None have worked. He admits his crimes, which terrorized an eastern Idaho community for three weeks in 1987 and left three people to die terrible deaths. His appeals have focused mostly on technicalities and on his abusive childhood and drug addiction; he says he's changed in his quarter-century in prison. Click below for a report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone on Rhoades' story.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press in Washington, D.C.: WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in the case of an Idaho inmate who is scheduled to be executed Friday for killing two women nearly a quarter-century ago. Paul Ezra Rhoades' lethal injection would be the first execution in Idaho in 17 years. Rhoades' lawyers asked the high court for time to challenge the state's lethal injection policy. They argue that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment that is barred by the Constitution. Lower courts have rejected their arguments, and late Thursday, the Supreme Court denied two requests for a stay. Rhoades was sentenced to death for killing newly married, 21-year-old Stacy Dawn Baldwin and 34-year-old Susan Michelbacher, a special education teacher. He received a term of life in prison for killing 20-year-old Nolan Haddon.
Late yesterday, condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades filed a petition for a rehearing en banc by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals of his bid for a stay of execution; today, the appellate court rejected that motion. He also filed an additional motion for a stay of execution, this time arguing that another pending federal court case could provide grounds for Rhoades to seek a stay based on ineffective assistance of counsel, because his lawyers didn't have him tested for brain damage. Today, the 9th Circuit denied that motion as well; you can read that decision here. Now, Rhoades has filed a petition and application for a stay with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Idaho Department of Correction says it will not allow media witnesses to view the entire execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, and two separate groups are protesting the policy, the Associated Press reports. Rhoades is scheduled to die by lethal injection Friday, making him the first person to be executed under Idaho's new lethal injection guidelines.
Prison officials say to maintain Rhoades' dignity, they won't allow witnesses to view him being restrained or having the IVs inserted. They also said changing the procedure now could be disruptive. But a group of Idaho news organizations say that policy conflicts with a 2002 federal court ruling that found the public, through the media, must be allowed to view executions in their entirety. The news organizations have asked the state to reconsider. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tonight rejected Paul Ezra Rhoades' last-minute bid for a stay of execution on grounds that Idaho's lethal injection method, if improperly administered, could cause him severe pain; a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court issued its decision the same day the state filed its response to Rhoades' 9th Circuit appeal, clearing the way for his scheduled execution on Friday.
“Death penalty cases are wrenchingly difficult to assess because of the superordinately high stakes for the prisoner whose execution is scheduled and for society which plans to take the prisoner’s life as a sanction for the murder of one or more of its citizens,” the appeals court wrote. “But the key rules that govern this appeal have already been set. The Supreme Court has approved of the death penalty as a continuing option for states that choose to invoke this supreme punishment. … Many, but not all, states have chosen to maintain the death penalty, including Idaho.”
The panel found that Rhoades didn't prove that the medical team that would be administering his lethal injection was unqualified or likely to botch it; instead, they wrote, each member of the team has at least 15 years professional experience, and the team leader is an experienced registered nurse. You can read the 9th Circuit decision here.
Bob Fick, former longtime Associated Press correspondent in Boise, witnessed Idaho's last execution in 1994, and shares his experience in an interview today with Boise State Public Radio's Samantha Wright; you can listen here. Fick said his lasting impression came from how quiet and antiseptic the proceeding was, compared to the crimes that Keith Eugene Wells had committed, beating two people to death with a baseball bat. “That's the thing I remember the most, is how antiseptic it was,” he told Wright. “If somebody … if their purpose was revenge, to get some measure, some pound of flesh as payback, I don't know that that method of execution would achieve that end.”
Attorneys for condemned Idaho inmate Paul Ezra Rhoades have filed an emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a stay of his execution while his legal challenge to Idaho's three-drug lethal injection method of execution proceeds in court. A U.S. District Court magistrate judge in Idaho rejected Rhoades' bid for a stay yesterday, concluding in part that a stay would not be in the public interest. Rhoades has exhausted all his appeals from the 1987 eastern Idaho murders for which he was convicted and sentenced to die; the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last one last month.
In their 33-page brief, Rhoades' attorneys wrote, “The strong public interest is in an orderly and deliberate decision of the important issues raised. If Idaho is to exact the ultimate penalty, it should only do so in a humane manner, without inflicting severe and unnecessary pain on the condemned inmate.” They argue that Idaho hasn't proven its team that will inject the lethal drugs is sufficiently trained to do so properly, and that improper administration could result in severe pain.
In other developments in the case, when U.S. Magistrate Judge Ron Bush yesterday rejected Rhoades' bid for a stay of execution, he also rejected another last-minute motion for a stay filed by Rhoades' attorneys on Sunday. Also, all sides in the litigation reached agreement today on one count in Rhoades' lawsuit: That he be permitted to have his attorney present at the execution. With that agreement, Rhoades dropped that count from the suit.
Meanwhile, KTVB-TV reports here that Rhoades is spending what likely are his final days in daily visits with his mother, watching TV, reading and doing some art work. He's also spending time with his spiritual advisor and his attorney. Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke told KTVB, “There's an anxiousness on Death Row,” and the warden at Idaho's maximum security prison has agreed to allow Death Row inmates to sign a card for Rhoades.
Attorneys for condemned killer Paul Ezra Rhoades have issued a statement saying they plan to file an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today seeking a stay of execution; Rhoades' execution is scheduled for Friday. “We remain dedicated to challenging Idaho's lethal injection protocol, as we maintain it could subject Mr. Rhoades to substantial risk of severe pain,” the attorneys wrote. You can read their full statement here.
They also said they're continuing to urge Gov. Butch Otter to grant Rhoades a reprieve until a clemency hearing can be held by the Idaho Board of Pardons & Parole; that board earlier rejected Rhoades' bid for a clemency hearing.