Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 20, 2006 19:28:23 GMT -5
In Helena, convicted murderer David Dawson asked the Montana Supreme Court to let him die, saying those trying to suspend executions in the state are disregarding his personal wishes.
Dawson is scheduled to be executed on August 11th.
A group led by the A-C-L-U recently asked the state Supreme Court to suspend his execution, and any others, until a court can decide whether lethal injection is humane.
The Supreme Court has decided to make a speedy decision on the request.
Dawson says he is not privy to any information that there has ever been any problems with lethal injection, as carried out by the state of Montana. He says, quote, "this is going to sleep, don't wake up."
Dawson has fought in courts, and against his own attorney, for years in his quest to be executed.
He was convicted in 1987 of killing 3 members of a family he took captive in a Billings motel, and is scheduled to be the 1st person executed in Montana since 1998.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 20, 2006 19:52:38 GMT -5
The last thing inmate David Dawson will see before he's put to death next month will be the white tiled ceiling in an aging 12-foot-by-48-foot, metal-sided house trailer.
The structure is formally known as "the death chamber." It's been used only twice since the state bought it in 1981 and converted the singlewide trailer into the site of Montana's executions. Before, it had been outfitted as a home.
Carl Nelson, the prison's maintenance manager, said he doesn't know how old the trailer is or if anyone lived in it before the state bought it.
A metal placard on the side of the structure - which has since been painted light beige and installed 2 steps from the back door of the prison's maximum security building - said the electrical work in the trailer met the safety standards in effect in 1963.
The chamber was the somber highlight of a press tour led by prison officials here Tuesday, in preparation of Dawson's scheduled Aug. 11 execution.
A group of churches, the Montana American Civil Liberties Union and lawmakers have asked the state's high court to postpone Dawson's execution until an investigation can determine if the 3 drugs Montana uses in killing the condemned are really as humane as first thought.
Still, said Montana State Prison Warden Mike Mahoney, the prison is proceeding as though the execution is on.
Mahoney has already chosen the individual who will act as the official executioner. To protect the person's privacy, Mahoney would not say anything that might identify the person, including the person's gender and whether they live in Montana.
Dawson kidnapped four members of a Billings family in 1986 at a hotel in the Billings Heights. He eventually killed three members of the family by strangling them. Only the family's daughter was unharmed. Police found her in the hotel room bathtub.
2 years ago, Dawson asked for all of his appeals to end and said he would no longer fight his capital punishment.
Montana doesn't have a death row, per se, Mahoney said. Instead, all four men currently awaiting the death sentence are housed in the prison's maximum security unit, known as "Max."
The building is set apart from the rest of the prison. It is a sturdy concrete structure with narrow windows and cell blocks fanning at regular angles away from a fortified central control chamber.
Dawson lives on D Block, a 2-story selection of individual cells. Like all the blocks in Max, the cells are cinder-block painted a shiny white. The cells face a common "day room," which consists of a punching bag and 2 metal tables screwed to the concrete floor.
Dawson has lived in Max since 1987, when he was first sent to prison. Inmates in Max spend most of their lives alone in their cells. They eat in their cells and are allowed out of their cells for only a few hours each week.
Max inmates may go to the outside "yard" for 5 hours a week, said Dan Chaludek, the manager of Max. The yard is an outdoor enclosed cage, surrounded by concrete walls. The only outside view is straight up into the sky. Max inmates are also allowed an hour-and-a-half each day in the day room, where they can exercise by running up and down the stairs or hitting the punching bag.
Dawson often exercised, Chaludek said.
Dawson has not been allowed to interact with other inmates since his execution order came down in May.
He was an ordinary inmate, Mahoney said, and the impending death sentence has not changed Dawson's demeanor.
"I don't anticipate him having a change of heart," he said.
Dawson's entire execution will cost the state about $38,000.
A lot of that is extra staff at the prison to quell any jitters the other inmates may have, extra staff at the execution chamber, and mental-health professionals to talk to any prison employee or inmate upset about the execution. The money also buys Dawson's last meal and the drugs administered to kill him.
Dawson is scheduled to die early in the morning on Aug. 11, Mahoney said.
At some point a day or two before the execution, Dawson will be moved into a special holding cell. The warden will speak with Dawson and walk him through the protocols and answer any questions he has, Mahoney said.
The night before the execution, Dawson will have his final meal. He will be shackled and walked into the trailer, where he will be latched to a gurney and people with medical training will install 2 intravenous needles and tubes into both his arms.
Plastic tubes leading away from the needles will be threaded through a special hole in the wall behind Dawson and into the room where the executioner stands.
That room has special red lights so the 12 official witnesses to the execution cannot discern the executioner's identity through the two-way mirror through which the executioner watches the death.
After Dawson is ready, the witnesses are brought in. They will sit in the same room as Dawson, only feet from his gurney, separated by a low, wooden divider.
The 3 drugs will be pre-measured into syringes, which the executioner will push into the IV line. After several minutes, Dawson will be dead.
The moments before the death are very quiet.
"You can hear people breathing," Mahoney said.
The prison is still working through the details with Dawson's family about what will happen to Dawson's body. The prison has its own graveyard where Dawson can be buried if the family does not want the body, Mahoney said.
Part of Mahoney's job is to sit next to Dawson during the execution. Asked about his personal reaction to each death, Mahoney said, "It's a long couple of days. It's tough.
"It's without question the most difficult task performed by any administrator in state government."
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 26, 2006 8:01:50 GMT -5
State files arguments saying execution should go ahead
The state of Montana says that civil liberties groups lack the standing to intervene in an effort to stop the execution of death row inmate David Dawson.
That's what the state's lawyers argued in legal papers submitted to the Montana Supreme Court Monday.
Dawson is slated for execution August 11th.
A group led by the American Civil Liberties Union recently asked the state Supreme Court to suspend his execution, and any others in Montana, until a court can decide whether lethal injection is humane.
The state argues that Dawson has fired his attorneys, and also has expressed his desire to be executed, so the civil liberties groups don't have standing in the case.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 26, 2006 8:04:52 GMT -5
ACLU fights Dawson death penalty
The detailed procedure that is to be used to put convicted killer David Dawson to death next month isn't detailed enough, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which reviewed it this week.
The ACLU is among a number of groups seeking to halt executions by lethal injection the method that will be used to kill Dawson until the state Supreme Court determines if the procedure is constitutional. ACLU attorney Betsy Griffing said Friday that when the group filed its suit last week, contending that the lethal injection can cause "excruciating" pain, the group still had not seen the procedures, or protocol.
The corrections agency's lethal injection process, the ACLU said, is the "same protocol held unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment in other state and federal courts."
"When we got the protocol, indeed I looked at it and thought, 'Wow. We're right,'" Griffing said.
The Department of Corrections supplied the protocol at the request of state Rep. Paul Clark, D-Trout Creek, who is among 10 legislators involved in the suit.
"I'm not comfortable with the protocols. They don't answer certain questions I think are critical," Clark said Friday.
The qualifications for an executioner are among his chief concerns.
The protocol states that "the person administering the injection need not be a physician, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse."
Though the lack of such qualifications has been cited as a concern by those opposing the execution, ethics standards keep medical professionals from performing that duty.
In fact, American Medical Association ethical guidelines advise doctors not to participate in executions, directly or as assistants, according to that group's Web site.
Earlier this week, Montana Department of Corrections officials said they couldn't give details of the executioner's background, saying it would violate privacy restrictions.
"Whether (withholding that information) is a violation of the public's right to know is for the court to decide," Corrections spokesman Bob Anez said Friday. "It wasn't a matter of refusing; it was deciding we were not going to break the law."
Dawson, who is scheduled to be executed Aug. 11, kidnapped a family of 4 in Billings in 1986, and killed 3 of the family members. He has asked repeatedly, most recently on Tuesday, to be allowed to die as scheduled.
Assistant Attorney General Pam Collins said that office will file its response to the lawsuit by the ACLU, faith groups, the lawmakers and retired judges on Monday, as required by the Supreme Court. Attorney General Mike McGrath has already said he doesn't believe the groups have standing to file the case because Dawson fired his attorneys and has expressed his desire to be executed.
He has fought for 2 years with courts and his attorneys to end his appeals and have his sentence carried out.
Earlier this week, Dawson filed his own brief in the case, saying he wanted to be put to death and asked the high court to disregard the ACLU's argument.
"This is not being tied to a bumper of a car and drug until dead, this is go to sleep, don't wake up," he wrote in a typed brief to the court, referring to himself as the movant in the case. "Movant is therefore unconcerned with the method of execution and shouldn't be forced to linger until an 'appropriate' method, one more suitable to the public taste can be found."
In Montana, as in many other states, lethal injection is a 3-part process. The condemned person is injected first with a sedative, then with a paralyzing drug, and finally with sodium chloride to induce a massive heart attack. In Montana's two previous executions by lethal injection, in 1995 and 1998, that process took between five and seven minutes, corrections officials said.
Among the potential problems cited by the lawsuit: The sedative might not put an inmate completely to sleep and the paralyzing drug could leave the inmate unable to indicate if he or she were feeling a burning pain from the sodium chloride. That's why it's so important to know the qualifications of the person administering the drugs, Griffing said.
"What if you went into surgery and they said, 'We've got somebody out here to give you these shots to make sure you're ready for surgery, but we aren't going to tell you who?'" she asked.
If the court refuses to hear the case, the ACLU will consider taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 26, 2006 20:22:47 GMT -5
State says ACLU has no standing in Dawson case
Civil liberties groups have no legal standing to try to stop the execution of death row inmate David Dawson, and have provided no evidence to support their claims that lethal injection could constitute cruel and unusual punishment, the state contends in documents filed Monday with the Montana Supreme Court.
The arguments, written by Assistant Attorney General Pamela Collins, are included in the state's response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others trying to stop Dawson's scheduled Aug. 11 execution.
Helena attorney Ron Waterman, representing the groups who asked the Supreme Court to intervene, said Monday that the state's response doesn't address the qualifications or background of the people who prepare and administer the fatal drugs.
"Not only do you have to give drugs in the right proportion and use the right types of drugs, but they have to be administered correctly," Waterman said. "That's the source of the risk that exposes individuals to cruel and unusual punishment."
State law says the identity of the executioner must remain anonymous. The person, chosen by the warden, must be trained to administer a lethal injection, but doesn't have to be a physician or a nurse.
Dawson, convicted of murdering three members of a family in a Billings motel in 1986, successfully won the right to dismiss his attorneys, end his appeals and move forward with the execution. The civil liberties groups, however, filed a lawsuit earlier this month asking the state Supreme Court to suspend the execution, and any others in Montana, until a court can decide whether lethal injection is humane.
In the state's 25-page response, Collins said the Supreme Court should reject the groups' request outright, because "Dawson has specifically informed this court that he does not desire to participate in this lawsuit, and that he desires that his execution proceed as scheduled," Collins wrote.
In his own response to the lawsuit last week, Dawson said those trying to suspend the execution "totally disregard" his "personal feelings and wishes."
Waterman argued the groups do have standing in the suit because they are trying to make sure the state is acting in accordance with the constitution.
Even if the justices were to decide the groups have standing to sue, Collins said their request still should be rejected for failing to provide evidence to back up claims that Dawson's rights would be violated if executed by lethal injection.
The state has "affirmatively established that the likelihood of a condemned inmate in Montana suffering excruciating pain from the manner in which Montana intends to carry out the sentence is so remote as to be nonexistent," Collins wrote.
The plaintiffs, on the other hand, have provided only a "speculative claim" that lethal injection would cause undue pain, Collins wrote.
The state's response included a declaration from Dr. Mark Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist associated with the University of Massachusetts, who argues that Montana's current lethal injection method does not involve "torture or lingering death."
The U.S. Supreme Court recently made it easier for death row inmates to contest lethal injections used for executions, allowing the legal claims that chemicals used in such executions are too painful.
In his declaration, Dershwitz said he had examined Montana's protocols and found that lethal injection administered by the state would "result in the rapid and painless death of the condemned inmate."
Waterman said the ACLU, which only recently received access to the state's lethal injection protocol, has other experts that see problems with the protocol.
Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 27, 2006 19:52:37 GMT -5
Court clears way for execution
By GWEN FLORIO, Great Falls Tribune
HELENA - David Dawson should be executed as scheduled in 16 days, the Montana Supreme Court ordered Tuesday
"Mr. Dawson's execution date remains in full force and effect," the court said in dismissing an attempt by civil liberty and faith groups to delay Dawson's killing, even though Dawson has asked repeatedly to be executed.
Those groups contend that lethal injection could cause an "excruciating" death and asked the court to decide whether that method could be so painful as to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Tuesday, a day after the court's deadline for responses in the case, the justices found Dawson's wish to be executed paramount.
"We will not 'undo' years of efforts by Mr. Dawson in attempting to stop further delays in the imposition of his death sentence," the court said. Dawson has asked repeatedly to be executed.
"I'm somewhat disappointed but not particularly surprised," said Ron Waterman, the Helena attorney who filed the petition on behalf of the groups. He said they're evaluating their next step.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mike McGrath said that "it has been the state's position all along that it's the state's plan to carry out the court's order (of a death sentence) on Aug. 11."
Montana State Prison Warden Mike Mahoney hand-delivered a copy of the order to Dawson late Tuesday afternoon, said Corrections Department spokesman Bob Anez.
Dawson, who strangled three members of a family in 1986 in a Billings motel, asked about the effects of the decision.
"As of today, Aug. 11 is still a go," Mahoney told him.
Anez said the court's action doesn't change preparations by the Corrections Department, which is in the process of rehearsing procedures that will be followed during the execution.
Although five other justices signed Tuesday's opinion by Chief Justice Karla Gray, a separate opinion raised the specter of further wrangling over the issue.
The order "ignores the elephant in the room," wrote Justice James C. Nelson, in an opinion signed by Justice Patricia Cotter.
Nelson wrote that he agreed that Dawson's wishes should be respected, but added, "this issue is simply not going to go away." Noting that federal and state courts around the country are grappling with the constitutionality of lethal injection, he wrote:
"Montana's courts and Legislature can be pro-active in this issue, or we can wait for a federal court to instruct us what to do and what not to do."
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Montana Catholic Conference, the Montana Association of Churches, the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, members of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, several legislators and two former judges had tried to stop the execution until the court rendered an opinion on the constitutionality of lethal injection.
In his concurrent opinion Tuesday, Nelson dealt both with that issue, and the court's finding that Dawson's wishes should be a deciding factor.
"The manner of execution is not purely the capital defendant's issue," he wrote. "It is an issue that is owned by every adult in this State."
Nelson also wrote that the public has a stake in Montana's constitutional requirement - more stringent than that of the U.S. Constitution - that executions be humane.
"I think the opinion certainly invites us to re-file," Waterman said. "I think Justice Nelson was looking for someone to do this sooner rather than later, rather than waiting until we have another execution looming."
Three other Montana inmates face death sentences, but those executions have not been scheduled.
On Tuesday morning, just hours before the court issued its order, Waterman filed a statement by an anesthesiologist detailing potential problems with lethal injection.
"Montana's lethal injection protocol creates medically unacceptable risks of inflicting excruciating pain and suffering on inmates while the lethal injection is administered," Columbia University physician Mark Heath wrote in that motion. "There exists an unacceptable likelihood that a prisoner will have some level of consciousness during his execution."
Heath's opinion, rendered moot by the court's decision, contradicted an affidavit filed a day earlier by the Attorney General's Office, in which Massachusetts anesthesiologist Mark Dershwitz said Montana's lethal injection procedures posed an "exceedingly small" risk of pain. Both anesthesiologists have testified in other court cases on lethal injection.