Tag Archives: execution

Dylann Roof sentenced to death

A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

Attorney general statement on the sentencing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He did so because of their race.  And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.

The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.  They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.

We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;

Susie Jackson, 87;

Ethel Lance, 70;

Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;

Tywanza Sanders, 26;

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;

and Myra Thompson, 59.

Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.

And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand.  But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.

We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.


StageQ revives a death-row play about remaining human

It’s practically unheard of for a new play to open at one theater and be remounted by another less than a year later, especially in Madison.

Yet Finding Human has achieved it and in impressive fashion. The morning after his play’s world premiere at Broom Street Theater in January, playwright Dan Myers received a short text: “StageQ wants this show.”

So Finding Human will open for the second time in 2015 — on Nov. 13 at the Bartell Theatre, StageQ’s home base. Their production brings back the original cast and crew in full, including Myers as the director. It’s an indication of how much the company enjoyed the original run. 

“I personally really, really love the piece,” says Michael Bruno, StageQ president. “Our board really liked the play (too), and thought that it speaks to our mission of producing challenging LGBT theater and encouraging local voices.”

Bruno also knew that the play would benefit greatly from word-of-mouth and, even after a three-week run at Broom Street, there were still many potential audience members disappointed to miss it.

“My feeling was that we could bring it over and find a whole new audience,” he says.

Myers, an actor and Milwaukee native who’s written four produced works and co-written a musical since moving to Madison, says the name of his play can be considered shorthand for “finding humanity” or, better, “finding how to remain human.” It shows the last week in the life of a priest-killer on death row (played by Bob Moore) who never explained his motives, and how those around him struggle to find the answer.

“Essentially what the show is about is: How do you begin to heal after the worst has happened to you?” says Myers. “This is a very difficult story to tell because it touches people in places we don’t want to be touched.”

Finding Human found its origin in Myers’ own anger. “One of the things that ticked me off was — I’m from Milwaukee, and I heard about what was happening with the clergy assault cases, and essentially how the Milwaukee diocese kind of skated out of having to pay all the victims of sexual assault by its clergy there,” says Myers.

It stuck with him, he says, but “it was one of those things where you’re sure you’re angry about it but you’re not sure what to do about it.”

Many of Myers’ characters have stories that develop in counterpoint to his death row character’s. One of them is fellow inmate Bill Shaw, played by Donnovan Moen, a veteran of both Broom Street and StageQ.

“(Bill) had some tragedy that caused him to sort of derail from his life in a fashion that he became homeless and destitute,” Moen says of his role. “He thought prison would be an answer to simplify his life, and get his daily needs taken care of: food and shelter and whatnot. Through the process of the show he discovers a lot about himself.”

Remounting the show, especially so soon, allows the cast freedom to explore their roles, Moen says. Because they know the material so well, “the nuances in the interactions of the characters, as well as the depth of your connection and knowledge about the character, is so much deeper that it allows for reality to really take hold,” he says. “What I think people are going to see is that the show has evolved to an even more dynamic and real level.”

While Moen prefers to build his portrayals organically, he can identify with his character’s pain. While in his 20s, the actor struggled with his sexuality. It was a time of turmoil that included arrests for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

“That internal struggle that stresses you out — you don’t know how to deal with it, you don’t have any resources with which to deal with it, you don’t know how to find the resources — and it was causing me financial hardship,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what it meant for me, for my future.”

Moen says he attempted suicide, but “as I was lying there, starting to drift away, I called my family and was rushed to the hospital, and the rest is history,” he says. “Facing the tragedy in (Bill’s) life, I could see him contemplating that very same thing, which he gets close to. So it kind of drives a bit of what I’m doing.”

Though Finding Human is a show with a message, “I don’t really like to preach,” says Myers. “Obviously I have an opinion, I have a spin that I want to put on it, but for the most part I like to lay it out there. I believe that audiences are intelligent. I want them to make their own decisions about what they are seeing.”


StageQ’s production of Finding Human runs Nov. 13-28, at the Bartell Theatre, 113 E, Mifflin St., Madison. Tickets are $20, $15 for matinees, and can be purchased at bartelltheatre.org or 608-661-9696.


New coalition forms to push for end to capital punishment

With the country’s final executions of 2014 are scheduled to take place in Georgia, Missouri and Texas this week, a new coalition has launched a campaign to push for an end to capital punishment.

The goal — to mobilize the 90 million Americans who support ending capital punishment — was announced early on Dec. 9 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The coalition includes civil rights, religious, human rights and libertarian organizations and the movement is called the “90 Million Strong Campaign.”

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is coordinating the effort. An announcement said the coalition is responding “to a shockingly high number of death row exonerations, botched executions and an increase in government secrecy surrounding the practice.”

The campaign also “comes at a time when the nation is still grappling with significant questions about fairness, particularly when it comes to race, in the criminal justice system.”

In the last decade, six states have abolished capital punishment. Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia either don’t have the death penalty or have not carried out executions in at least five years.

Since 1973, including last month’s freeing of the longest-serving innocent prisoner, 149 people have been exonerated from Death Row.

Oklahoma governor: no executions without new rules

New procedures to improve Oklahoma’s execution process must be implemented before the state resumes putting prisoners to death by lethal injection, Gov. Mary Fallin said after investigators presented their findings about an April case in which the inmate writhed and moaned on the gurney.

In its report released Sept. 4 about the troubled April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett  —  who was declared dead 43 minutes after his execution began  —  the state Department of Public Safety made 11 recommendations include more training for medical personnel and having additional supplies of lethal drugs and equipment on hand.

Corrections Director Robert Patton is reviewing the guidelines, Fallin said, adding that she expects the department to implement them before executions resume. Three executions have been set for November and December, the first on Nov. 13.

The governor said she still believes the death penalty is a just punishment for those guilty of the most heinous crimes, but that the state must make sure it’s carried out effectively.

“If I am assured as governor that those protocols are in place … then we can look forward to returning to executions. But until all of those protocols have been put in place, we won’t be having executions,” Fallin said.

Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Patton had no immediate comment. But Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, echoed Fallin.

“The last thing we want to do is rush this and have an issue come up where we’re not prepared for an execution,” Thompson said.

Fallin said the report verified what authorities had believed: “There were significant complications establishing an IV line in Clayton Lockett.” The report blamed Lockett’s flawed lethal injection on poor placement of intravenous lines. The medical team could not find suitable veins in Lockett’s arms, legs, neck and feet, leading them to insert it in his groin, the report said.

Out of modesty, no one monitored the intravenous line, a job that is the normal duty of Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammel, who decided to cover Lockett’s body  —  and the IV  —  with a sheet. When it became apparent the execution wasn’t progressing normally, the execution team pulled back the sheet and noticed a swelling larger than a golf ball near the injection site.

“Those involved with the execution stated that they could have noticed the problem earlier if they had been monitoring the insertion site during that time,” lead investigator Capt. Jason Holt said.

Oklahoma also used the sedative midazolam for the first time in Lockett’s execution, but Thompson said all three drugs  —  midazolam, vercuronium bromide and potassium chloride  —  worked as planned.

Midazolam was also used in lengthy attempts to execute an Ohio inmate in January and an Arizona prisoner last month. Each time, witnesses said the inmates appeared to gasp after their executions began and labored for air before being pronounced dead.

Thompson said no single person was to blame for the problems in the execution and no charges are being considered, leading critics to charge that the report does not address accountability.

“It protects the chain of command,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, an attorney who represents 21 death row inmates who have sued the state Department of Corrections to block their executions.

“Once the execution was clearly going wrong, it should have been stopped, but it wasn’t,” Baich said in a statement. “Whoever allowed the execution to continue needs to be held accountable.”

Patton, who had halted the execution, had said Lockett died of a heart attack, but autopsy results released last week said he died from the drugs.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, 19, with a sawed — off shotgun and watching as two accomplices buried her alive in 1999.

Amnesty: Botched execution underscores need for moratorium in U.S.

Amnesty International says the “botched” execution in Oklahoma on April 30 provides another stark reason why U.S. authorities should impose a moratorium on judicial killing and work to abolish the death penalty.

Witnesses have said that Clayton Lockett began to gasp and writhe after the first drugs were administered. About 16 minutes after the lethal injection process began, officials drew a curtain across the viewing window, preventing witnesses from seeing what was happening. Almost half an hour later, Lockett was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

A second execution scheduled for the same evening, of Charles Warner, was stayed. 

“What happened … to Clayton Lockett is shocking in anyone’s book. But this is far from the first ‘botched execution’ in the USA, whether by electrocution, asphyxiation, or lethal injection using the ‘traditional’ three-drug protocol,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International researcher on the USA. He cited more than three dozen executions reported to have gone awry.

The sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, one of the drugs traditionally used in U.S. lethal injections, withdrew from the market in early 2011 and the European Commission tightened its regulations on the trade of such substances for use in capital punishment. As a result, the nation’s death penalty states have sought alternative sources for lethal injections drugs and have amended their execution protocols. 

“If the sort of tenacity shown by authorities pursuing the death penalty were to be turned to bringing their country into line with the global abolitionist trend, then we would see rapid progress on this fundamental human rights issue in the USA,” Freer said. “Instead, the ugly history of US executions has continued well into the 21st century even as country after country has stopped this practice.”

Lockett and Warner had unsuccessfully challenged an Oklahoma state law that blocks officials from revealing the identities of those involved in administering executions as well as of those who supply the drugs or equipment used.

Lockett, 38, was convicted of killing 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman in 1999. She was shot and buried alive. Lockett also was convicted of raping Neiman’s friend in the home invasion.

Warner, 46, was convicted of raping and killing 11-month-old Adrianna Waller in 1997. He lived with the child’s mother.

Anti-gay evangelical in federal court, faces persecution complaint

A federal judge heard arguments Jan. 7 on whether to keep alive a case alleging that Massachusetts evangelical Scott Lively’s anti-gay efforts in Uganda constitute persecution under federal and international law.

Sexual Minorities Uganda is the plaintiff in the complaint filed by Center for Constitutional Rights, based in the United States.

Lively worked with Ugandan government officials and religious leaders on anti-LGBT policies and legislation, specifically the bill that proposed the execution of gays.

The complaint before the district court alleges that Lively sought to deprive LGBT people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based on identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and a crime against humanity.

U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue U.S. citizens for crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute.

A leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Pepe Julian Onziema, said on Jan. 7, “Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop.”

Lively has a reputation at home and abroad for anti-LGBT efforts. He is the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child.”

For more than a decade, he has traveled to Uganda, Latvia, Moldova and other countries to consult with political leaders on anti-gay efforts and legislation.

In the federal court case, the Liberty Counsel, the legal defense associated with Jerry Falwell’s right-wing Liberty University, is representing Lively.

The counsel wants the case dismissed because the First Amendment protects Lively’s work.

It’s this motion that the judge in Springfield, Mass., must decide before the civil trial can proceed.

Report: 12 gay men face execution by Libyan militia

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is monitoring a report from Libya, where 12 men said to be gay may face execution.

GLAAD’s website, referring to a post from the Gay Star News, said a militia in Libya has taken into custody the dozen men who attended a private party in Ain Zara, a suburb of Tripoli, on Nov. 22.

The militia’s “special deterrence unit” posted a photograph of the men, along with threats to mutiliate and kill the men, on a Facebook page that was created on Nov. 20. Comments on the page are encouraging violence but at least one, from Human Rights Watch Libya, urges the militia to turn the men over to civil authorities.

The militia, according to GSN, appears to be a group of extreme Salafists.

Uganda issues statement against anti-gay harassment

Responding to growing international criticism of anti-gay efforts in Uganda, the government said in a statement on June 22 that it does not discriminate against people “of a different sexual orientation.”

“No government official is (supposed) to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others,” the statement said.

It was signed by Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, the official accused by gay activists of orchestrating a hate campaign that includes breaking up gay conferences and threatening to expel civil society groups he says promote homosexuality in the conservative east African country.

This is the first time the government is making a statement that appears to recognize the rights of gay people in Uganda, where most gays remain closeted for fear of attacks, and it seemed to take even the activists by surprise.

“I think we’ve really challenged Lokodo now, as this statement shows,” said Frank Mugisha, a prominent gay activist. “He’s facing the pressure.”

Homosexuality is already illegal under Uganda’s penal code, and in 2009 a lawmaker with Uganda’s ruling party introduced a bill that proposed the death penalty for what he called “aggravated homosexuality.”

Parliamentarian David Bahati said at the time that gays deserved to die for recruiting young, impoverished children into gay culture by luring them with money and the promise of a better life.

The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.”

But the bill is highly popular among local Anglican and Pentecostal clerics. Some recently petitioned the authorities to quickly pass it. Bahati said he had been “assured” that the bill would be passed one day.

Uganda’s ethics ministers over the years have been noted for strong anti-gay stances, but gay activists and even some government officials say Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, had gone too far. He is accused of ordering police to break up two gay conferences this year, and on a talk show he said recently that he had compiled a list of nearly 40 foreign civil society groups he wants expelled for allegedly promoting homosexuality in Uganda.

A government official said Lokodo had been forced to “own” the statement issued after a meeting in which he was officially asked to tone down anti-gay rhetoric.

“He was going into issues of morality and he was giving unnecessary interviews,” the official said of Lokodo. The official was interviewed on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal for frankly discussing the behind-the-scenes actions.

Lokodo is now the subject of court case brought by lawyers and activists who say he violated the right of Ugandans to assemble when he had police break up a gay meeting in February. This week, Lokodo and the police were accused of disrupting another gay meeting in Kampala, an act condemned by rights groups including Amnesty International.

“We are seeking a declaration that his acts were illegal,” said Francis Onyango, the lawyer who filed the case on behalf of Uganda’s gay community.

Defendant: Distributing anti-gay leaflet was a duty

One of the five men on trial in the U.K. for distributing leaflets calling for the execution of gays has said that he was duty-bound to share the information.

The men – Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hussain, 45, Umar Javed, 38, Razwan Javed, 27, and Kabir Ahmed, 28 – are charged under a new law that makes distributing hate material a hate crime.

The flyers they distributed were titled “The Death Penalty,” depicted a noose and said gay people would be punished. Two other leaflets were used to publicize a protest against a gay pride march in the central English city of Derby in 2010.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has said the trial is the first prosecution for stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation since the law that took effect in March 2010.

Ahmed this week said he distributed the leaflets not to spread hatred but to do his duty:

“My intention was to do my duty as a Muslim, to inform people of God’s word and to give the message on what God says about homosexuality.

“My duty is not just to better myself but to try and better the society I live in.

“We believe we can’t just stand by and watch somebody commit a sin. We must try and advise them to stay away from sin.”

If convicted, the maximum penalty for the five men would be seven years in jail.