Jerusalem – The dozens of deaths and about 3 thousand people wounded during the Palestinian protests organized at the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel could have been avoided “if non-lethal tools had been used by the Israeli forces”. The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land are pointing their finger at the Israeli army, who yesterday, Tuesday, May 15, issued a statement about the tragic events that bring bloodshed to the land where Jesus Christ was born, died and resurrected. In their message, released through the official channels of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and also sent to Agenzia Fides, the Ordinary Catholic Bishops’ Assembly of the Holy Land calls to end the siege imposed on about two million Palestinians in Gaza Strip as soon as possible.
The Catholic Bishops add that the relocation of the US Embassy in the State of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, like any other unilateral moves and decisions about the Holy City of Jerusalem, “does not contribute to advancing the long awaited peace between Israelis and Palestinians”. And they also refer to the need, insistently referred to by the Holy See, to make Jerusalem “a city open to all peoples, the religious heart of the three monotheistic religions”, avoiding unilateral measures that could alter the profile of the Holy City. “We believe”, say the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land, “that there is no reason that could prevent the City from being the capital of Israel and Palestine,”, adding that this should be done through “negotiation and mutual respect”.
The Assembly of ordinary Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land gathers all the Bishops of the Catholic Churches – Latin, Greek Melkite, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic – present in that region, together with the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. On Tuesday, May 15, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also invited “all priests, religious men and women, seminarians, all the faithful of Jerusalem and those who wish “to take part in the prayer vigil for peace that will be celebrated in the afternoon of next Saturday, on the eve of Pentecost, in the church of Sant’Etienne.
Since March 30, when Palestinian demonstrations started along the Israeli border line, at least 110 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed and more than 3,000 have been wounded in the Gaza Strip.
What follows is the definition of a political A-hole trying to save his skin by “looking” tough and undermining the democratic process!
lllinois Governor Bruce Rauner has conditionally vetoed a gun-control initiative unless the legislature agrees to reinstate capital punishment in the state. Exercising an amendatory veto—a power some governors are granted that permits them to amend legislation in lieu of an outright veto—Rauner called for making the killing of a police officer or any murder in which more than one person was killed a new crime of “death penalty murder.” In a May 14, 2018 news conference at the Illinois State Police forensic laboratory in Chicago, Rauner said “individuals who commit mass murder, individuals who choose to murder a law enforcement officer, they deserve to have their life taken.” He attached his death-penalty plan and several other gun-control amendments to a bill that would have established a 72-hour waiting period for the purchase of assault rifles in Illinois. Legislative leaders and major Illinois newspapers blasted the action as diversionary political gamesmanship by a weakened governor facing a difficult re-election campaign, and said the death-penalty plan had little chance of enactment. Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, the gun-control bill’s sponsor, said the governor had not consulted him about possible changes and had “hijacked my bill and put politics ahead of policy.” Senate President John Cullerton said: “The death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda. Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions. That’s why we had bipartisan support to abolish capital punishment.” Thomas Sullivan, the co-chair of Commission on Capital Punishment in Illinois appointed by Republican Gov. George Ryan, said Rauner’s plan was a “lousy idea.” He called the death penalty expensive and time-consuming, and said, “It doesn’t reduce crime.” The Chicago Tribune editorial board characterized Rauner’s amendatory veto as “cynical” and a “death penalty ploy” that the paper said was intended “to re-establish [Rauner’s] bona fides with disgruntled conservative Republicans.” A Chicago Sun-Times editorial said the governor knew he was “load[ing] up the bill with so many major new provisions that there is no way” the state legislature would approve it, enabling Rauner to claim he “didn’t technically kill the cooling off period … without strictly telling a lie.” In 2000, after a series of death-row exonerations, Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois and appointed the commission, and in 2003 commuted the sentences of everyone on the state’s death row. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to abolish the state’s death penalty in 2011. The Tribune editorial said: “The death penalty issue in Illinois was examined and debated for years in light of notorious incidents of wrongly convicted defendants sent to death row. In Illinois, the legitimate sentiment of many that certain heinous criminals should be put to death was weighed against the risk of errors, and the decision was made to end capital punishment. … [N]othing has changed to make Rauner’s [May 14] announcement worthy of consideration.”
Rauner’s plan would mandate the death penalty upon conviction of “death penalty murder.” A conviction would require proof “beyond all doubt” and appeals courts would conduct an independent review of the evidence without deferring to the jury’s judgment. Although the jury would be told a death sentence would be imposed upon conviction, there would be a separate hearing before a judge in which the defendant would present mitigating circumstances in an attempt to spare his or her life. Mandatory death sentences and falsely instructing juries about the law both violate the constitution, and the judicial factfinding provision may violate a capital defendant’s right to a jury trial.
A Death Penalty Information Center analysis of U.S. murder data from 1987 through 2015 has found no evidence that the death penalty deters murder or protects police. Instead, the evidence shows that murder rates, including murders of police officers, are consistently higher in death-penalty states than in states that have abolished capital punishment. The data showed that 18 of the 20 states that have the highest rate of officer victimization are death-penalty states, while 8 of the 9 safest states for police officers do not have the death penalty. The study hypothesized that if the death penalty contributed to the safety of police officers, death penalty states would experience comparatively fewer killings of police officers as a percentage of all murders. But the data showed no such effects, and states without the death penalty—including Illinois—comprised 9 of the 10 states with the smallest percentage of homicides involving law-enforcement victims.
(Kim Geiger, Monique Garcia, and Dan Hinkel, Rauner proposes reinstating death penalty in Illinois, which outlawed it earlier this decade, Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2018; John O’Connor, Gov. Rauner seeks to reinstate death penalty, Associated Press, May 14, 2018; Editorial: Rauner’s death penalty ploy, Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2018; EDITORIAL: Bruce Rauner plays pure politics with death penalty and guns, Chicago Sun-Times, May 14, 2018.) Read Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto message. See Editorials and Recent Legislative Activity.
Read this – don’t instantly discount or believe – read.
Faced with doubts about prosecutorial misconduct and the accuracy of forensic evidence, the Ohio Parole Board has recommended that Governor John Kasich grant executive clemency to William T. Montgomery (pictured), scheduled to be executed on April 11. Montgomery was convicted and sentence to death in 1986 for two murders he has long maintained he did not commit. An Ohio federal district court, affirmed by a federal appeals court panel, overturned his conviction in 2007 because prosecutors had suppressed evidence and witness statements that undermined its version of how the crime occurred, but with five judges dissenting, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reinstated the conviction. Montgomery’s supporters argued to the parole board that there was too much doubt about his guilt to risk executing a potentially innocent man. Prosecutors argued at trial that Montgomery murdered Debra Ogle and then killed her roommate, Cynthia Tincher to prevent her from testifying against him, then dumped Ms. Ogle’s body in the woods where it was not discovered for four days. However, prosecutors withheld from the defense evidence that multiple witnesses had seen Ms. Ogle alive four days after she supposedly had been killed and an independent review of the autopsy report showed that Ms. Ogle’s body likely had been discovered within hours of her death. The report noted that a body left in the woods for four days in above-freezing temperatures would have shown signs of decomposition, insect infestation, and animal predation, none of which were present, and the body’s state of lividity indicated death had occurred within twelve hours of its discovery. Adding to the doubt in the case, Montgomery’s co-defendant, Glover Heard told police five different stories before settling on a version of events that fit the prosecution’s theory and, instead of facing the death penalty, was sentenced to a term of years with eligibility for parole. Montgomery’s lawyers also presented the parole board with affidavits that undermined its confidence in the jury verdict, including one from a juror who was confused as to what the law required, another from a juror who had doubts about Montgomery’s guilt, and a third juror whose psychiatric behavior raised questions about her ability to serve. The Board majority cited both the State’s failure to disclose the witness reports that Ms. Ogle was alive after the State claimed she had been killed and the jurors’ affidavits as reasons for recommending commutation. Four Board members opposed commutation, arguing that the information presented was insufficient to overturn the jury verdict and finding no “manifest injustice” in the case that they believed warranted clemency. In an op-ed in the Toledo Blade, Phyllis Crocker, Dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and a former member of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, wrote: “At best, Montgomery was convicted on a false set of facts and at worst, he may be actually innocent. In death penalty cases there must be no doubt whatsoever. There is too much doubt to allow this execution.” Montgomery’s lawyer, Jon Oebker, reiterated that his client’s assertion of innocence and said the defense plans to “explore every avenue we can.” Governor Kasich must issue a decision on the pardons board’s recommendation before the April 11 execution date.
(Jim Provance, Parole board recommends clemency for William T. Montgomery, Toledo Blade, March 16, 2018; Phyllis L. Crocker, Op-Ed: Next Ohio execution raises too much doubt, Toledo Blade, March 10, 2018; Jim Provance, Death row inmate William T. Montgomery seeks new trial, Toledo Blade, March 3, 2018; Jim Provance, Forensic experts question prosecution’s theories, Toledo Blade, March 8, 2018.) Read William Montgomery’s application for clemency here and the Ohio Parole Board’s clemency recommendation here. See Clemency, Innocence, and Prosecutorial Misconduct.
Tax dodging secret cash payments!
BuzzFeed News investigation has disclosed that Missouri carried out seventeen executions between 2014 and 2017 using supplies of the drug pentobarbital it secretly obtained from a pharmacy the Food and Drug Administration had classified as “high risk” because of repeated serious health violations. The February 20 exposé describes a complex system of clandestine meetings, code names, and undocumented cash payments that Missouri employed to conceal the identity of Foundation Care, a suburban St. Louis compounding pharmacy that reporter Chris McDaniel discovered “has been repeatedly found to engage in hazardous pharmaceutical procedures.” Foundation Care—which was reportedly paid more than $135,000 for execution drugs—is alleged to have engaged in illegal practices, medicare fraud, and numerous manufacturing improprieties and, McDaniel reports, its cofounder has been accused of “regularly ordering prescription medications for himself without a doctor’s prescription.” Two former senior employees of the company—including the head of pharmacy operations—have alleged in a lawsuit that Foundation Care violated government regulations by reselling drugs returned by patients, intentionally omitting the names of ingredients in drugs it prepared, and failing to notify other states about a $300,000 settlement with Kansas over allegations of Medicaid fraud. Another suit by a former employee alleges that she was fired after complaining to her supervisors and the Missouri Board of Pharmacy about “serious operational violations.” Missouri switched to Foundation Care after reporters discovered the identifty of the state’s prior secret supplier of execution drugs—an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy called The Apothecary Shoppe. Reporters learned that The Apothecary Shoppe was not licensed to sell drugs in Missouri and had admitted to nearly 2,000 health and safety violations. Foundation Care first came to the attention of FDA investigators after a doctor complained to the agency that a patient he was treating had developed “a ‘life threatening’ illness” after taking a drug that had been prepared by the pharmacy. At that time, the investigators found that the pharmacy had shipped drugs to patients without conducting tests for sterility and bacteria, and a lab sample revealed drugs that had been contaminated with bacteria. In 2013, the FDA designated Foundation Care as a “high-risk” compounding pharmacy, and cited it as an example as to why greater federal oversight of compounders was necessary. A second inspection of the company that year found “multiple examples” of practices that could lead to contamination, and that Foundation Care had failed to “assure that drug products conform to appropriate standards of identity, strength, quality and purity.” In a February 2014 letter to the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, the FDA warned that the pharmacy’s practices “could lead to contamination of drugs, potentially putting patients at risk.” The possibility of drug contamination is one of the centerpieces of prisoner challenges to Missouri’s execution process, and experts in the case have indicated that contamination could create a “substantial risk of pain and suffering.” However, in a deposition in the Missouri prisoners’ legal challenge, state officials refused to say whether they were aware of any problems with their drug manufacturer, and lawyers for the state have affirmatively used Missouri’s secrecy provisions to deny prisoners’ access to information about its drug supplier and the company’s safety record, while at the same time arguing the prisoners have not proven that the execution may be unconstitutionally cruel. Foundation Care was acquired by AcariaHealth, a subsidiary of health-care giant Centene Corporation, in October 2017. After McDaniel’s report was published, the company issued a statement that, “[u]nder Centene’s ownership, Foundation Care has never supplied, and will never supply any pharmaceutical product to any state for the purpose of effectuating executions.”
Compounding pharmacies are drug producers that mix small batches of medications to meet the specialized needs of patients for whom mass produced medicines are not available. Regulated primarily by states, their drugs are reported to have a significantly higher failure rate than drugs produced by FDA-regulated manufacturers. An estimated twenty percent of drugs created by Missouri compounding pharmacies failed to meet Missouri Board of Pharmacy standards.
(Chris McDaniel, Missouri Fought For Years To Hide Where It Got Its Execution Drugs. Now We Know What They Were Hiding.,” BuzzFeed News, February 20, 2018; Samantha Liss, Centene says subsidiary will no longer provide drugs for Missouri executions, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2018; Will Schmitt, The identity of Missouri’s execution drug dealer, long a state secret, reportedly unmasked, Springfield News-Leader, February 20, 2018). See Lethal Injection and Missouri.