The New Hampshire legislature this spring passed S. 593, a bill to abolish the state’s death penalty, and, effective at the start of next year, replace it with mandatory life imprisonment without parole. On June 21, Gov. Christopher Sununu (R) vetoed the measure. Sununu’s veto message defended his state’s restraint with the death penalty: only…

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Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Director of Corrections Joe Allbaugh on March 14 jointly announced the state plans to adopt an execution method never before used in the United States: asphyxiation by nitrogen gas. In 1977, Oklahoma’s medical examiner devised a multi-drug lethal injection protocol, as an alternative to electrocution or hanging. The state…

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The Death Penalty Information Center has released a report highlighting significant changes in the number of executions in the United States in 2016. According to the report, there were 20 executions in the U.S. during calendar year 2016 – the lowest number in 25 years. Additionally, juries imposed fewer death sentences than in any year…

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By Prison Legal News

As previously reported in PLN, on November 22, 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber imposed a moratorium on the death penalty for the remainder of his term in office. In doing so he canceled the scheduled execution of Gary Haugen, 50, who had waived his appeals and asked to be put to death. [See: PLN, Dec. 2012, p.47].

Haugen initially praised Governor Kitzhaber’s decision, saying the news was especially gratifying given that he had repeatedly criticized, at court appearances and in letters, some of the same flaws in capital punishment that Kitzhaber cited when imposing the moratorium, which the governor said was arbitrary, costly and “fails to meet basic standards of justice.”

Upon further reflection, however, Haugen’s praise and gratitude turned to spite. “I feel he’s a paper cowboy. He couldn’t pull the trigger,” Haugen said. Governor Kitzhaber “basically pulled a coward’s move” in granting the reprieve, he stated.

While Haugen said he agreed with the moratorium, he criticized the governor’s decision to temporarily stop executions without implementing reforms. “You’re not going to execute people, but you’re going to continue to allow people to litigate in a broken system?” he asked, referring to the 37 other prisoners who remain on Oregon’s death row, pursuing their appeals.

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By Christopher Zoukis

On May 2, 2013, Maryland became the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty, and the 18th state – along with the District of Columbia – that has rejected capital punishment. Maryland is the first Southern state to forgo executions in nearly half a century, joining West Virginia, with its 1964 repeal, as the only states below the Mason-Dixon Line without capital punishment on the books. 

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who has been fighting the state’s death penalty with legislative efforts since 2007, and who signed the repeal bill, said in a press release, “Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work. Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole.” He added, “Furthermore, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death.”

The death penalty repeal, which goes into effect on October 1, 2013, does not explicitly apply to the five men currently on Maryland’s death row. The state’s last execution took place in 2005 when Governor Robert Ehrlich was in office. Present law allows the governor to commute the condemned prisoners’ sentences to life without parole, and O’Malley has said he will consider doing so on a case-by-case basis.

Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man who was the first person in the U.S. to be freed from death row based on DNA evidence, attended the signing ceremony for the repeal bill. “Twenty-eight years ago I was sitting in a death row cell, and it became clear to me that we could execute an innocent man,” he stated. Bloodsworth, who was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a 9-year-old girl, said at a news conference, “No innocent person will ever be executed in this state again.”

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