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Arkansas Judge Blocks State’s Plan To Execute Eight Inmates Over An 11-Day Period

A lethal injection drug is at the center of the capital punishment debate. 

A federal judge in Arkansas blocked the execution of eight inmates expected to be killed over a period of 11 days. The state is racing against the clock to beat the expiration date of a lethal injection drug, and planned to begin executions Monday (April 17), reports NBC News.

But U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued an injunction Saturday (April 15), amid arguments that the lethal injection cocktail may not work, and could therefore amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“The state of Arkansas does not intend to torture plaintiffs to death," Baker wrote in her 101-page decision. "However, the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is not limited to inherently barbaric punishments. A condemned prisoner can successfully challenge the method of his or her execution by showing that the state’s method 'creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain' and 'the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives.'"

READ: Why The Prison Health Care System Is Also A Danger To The Public

The inmates are challenging the planned execution method, and claim that the scheduling of back-to-back executions widen the probability of potential mistakes.

The anesthetic midazolam — which is used to render inmates unconscious before they are injected with vercuronium bromide to suppress breathing, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart — has botched executions before, defense lawyers pointed out.

The state’s drug supply is set to expire at the end of April. "The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture," said lawyer John C. Williams. ”We are calling on state officials to accept the federal court's decision, cancel the frantic execution schedule, and propose a legal and humane method to carry out its executions."

According to The Guardian, the condemned inmates have all been convicted of murder, with some suffering from intellectual disabilities, bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

READ: Why The Prison Health Care System Is Also A Danger To The Public

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is planning to appeal Baker’s decision. “It is unfortunate that a U.S. district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice," Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge said in a statement. "This decision is significantly out of step with precedent from the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court."

Baker’s ruling added to a list of roadblocks for the state, following a stay of execution of another inmate, 24 hours earlier. Additionally, Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order on forthcoming executions, after a drug supplier filed a complaint accusing the Arkansas Department of Corrections of failing to disclose the “intended purpose” upon purchasing 10 boxes of the drug, vecuronium bromide. The complaint was later dropped with the company noting that the restraining order was no longer needed after Baker’s order.

While the state hasn’t carried out an execution since 2005, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement that he was “fully aware” that scheduling the eight executions would “trigger both the individual clemency hearings and separate court reviews on varying claims by the death row inmates.”

"I understand how difficult this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review,” the Republican governor explained. “However, the last minute court reviews are all part of the difficult process of death penalty cases."

 

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WNBA Player Maya Moore Marries Wrongfully Convicted Man She Helped Get Out Of Prison

When WNBA star Maya Moore first met her now husband, Jonathan Irons, their relationship was strictly platonic. Things changed after she helped to get his wrongful conviction overturned, and the happy couple recently tied the knot.

“We wanted to announce today that we are super excited to continue the work that we are doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” Moore told Good Morning America on Wednesday (Sept. 16). “We got married a couple months ago and we're excited to just continue this new chapter of life together.”

Catch us tomorrow on @GMA with @RobinRoberts! #winwithjustice pic.twitter.com/0z1B1RRS2b

— Maya Moore (@MooreMaya) July 2, 2020

Irons was 16 years old when he was tried as an adult and falsely convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to 50 years for a burglary and shooting. He maintained his innocence throughout, but he would have never been convicted had the case been handled properly. Aside from being wrongfully identified in a lineup, fingerprint evidence that could have proved his innocence was withheld from his lawyers. After serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit, Irons' conviction was overturned in March.

Moore, 31, has known Irons, 40, since she was 18 years old. The two met through a prison ministry program and their relationship slowly transitioned from a friendship to romance. Irons confessed his love for Moore while incarcerated at Missouri's Jefferson City Correctional Center. “I wanted to marry her but at the same time protect her because being in a relationship with a man in prison, it's extremely difficult and painful. And I didn't want her to feel trapped and I wanted her to feel open and have the ability any time if this is too much for you, go and find somebody. Live your life. Because this is hard.”

He popped the question in their hotel room following his prison release. “It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, ‘will you marry me,’ she said, ‘yes.’”

Moore, a small forward for the Minnesota Lynx, is taking a break from basketball and has been working alongside her husband to encourage people to vote. The newlyweds also plant to advocate for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

See more on their love story in the video below.

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Louisville Reaches $12 Million Settlement With Family Of Breonna Taylor

It’s been six months since Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police officers while sleeping in her own home. The officers involved in her death, Jonathon Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, have yet to be arrested, but a monetary agreement has been reached to settle a civil lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family.

The city will pay Taylor’s family $12 million in addition to implementing policy reform measures, Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Tuesday (Sept. 15).

“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain,” Fischer said of Taylor’s mother, Tameka Palmer. “And I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death. Although these steps, including policy changes, do not change the past, I hope this brings some measure of peace.”

Fischer noted that Taylor’s death “ignited” a local and national movement “for racial justice sending thousands into our streets and in cities all across the country and the world — all crying for justice for Breonna.” Taylor’s death has “triggered a renewed commitment to addressing structural and systematic racism” in Louisville and around the country, said Fischer.

“Justice for Breonna means that we will continue to save lives in her honor,” said Taylor’s mother, Tameka Palmer. “No amount of money accomplishes that, but the police reform measures that we were able to get passed as a part of this settlement mean so much more to my family, our community, and to Breonna’s legacy. We know that there is much work still to be done and we look forward to continuing to work with community leaders, the mayor’s office, and other elected leaders to implement long-term sustainable change to fight systemic racism that is plaguing our communities.”

The multi-million dollar settlement is the latest step that Louisville has taken in wake of Taylor being killed by police. In June, the Louisville city council passed “Breonna’s Law” banning no-knock warrants, like the one used to violently raid Taylor’s home on March 13. Police claim that the raid stemmed from a drug investigation that reportedly involved Taylor’s ex-boyfriend who did not live at the residence and had already been arrested.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, called the $12 million settlement a step in the right direction. “This will bring progress and reform out of this tragedy to protect other Black lives,” he tweeted.

Today, we got some #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor! Along with a $12 million civil settlement, we secured comprehensive police reform in Louisville. This will bring progress and reform out of this tragedy to protect other Black lives. pic.twitter.com/DyilAkmWag

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 15, 2020

As part of the settlement, Louisville Metro Government agreed to a list of changes including community related policy programs, search warrant reforms, and police accountability reforms.

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Jacob Blake Handcuffed To Hospital Bed While Paralyzed, Father Says

Jacob Blake, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back by a Wisconsin police officer, is handcuffed to his hospital bed while recovering from shooting injuries.

“I hate it that he was laying in that bed with the handcuff onto the bed,” his father, Jacob Blake Sr., told the Chicago-Sun Times on Thursday (Aug. 27). “He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed? What was he arrested for?”

The Kenosha Police Department has yet to reveal why they handcuffed Blake to his hospital bed. The 29-year-old father of three was shot at close range by Kanoga police officer, Rusten Sheskey, last week. Blake has been celebrating his son's birthday and was “breaking up a fight between two women” when police confronted him, attorney Benjamin Crump said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice claims that officers were  responding to a call from a woman who reported that her boyfriend “was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.”

Officers attempted to arrest Blake during the incident. “Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake,” the Wisconsin DOJ said in an updated statement. “Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras.”

Blake’s children were in the car as Sheskey continued to shoot him. Although police didn't have body cameras, a witness captured the shooting on cell phone video.

Protests have continued throughout Kenosha in response to the shooting.

Kenosha County has since declared a state of emerged and announced a mandatory curfew.

⚠️CIVIL UNREST ADVISORY⚠️

Kenosha County has declared a State of Emergency curfew for 7PM tonight, August 26th. Citizens need to be off the streets for their safety. Curfew will be enforced.

— Kenosha Police Dept. (@KenoshaPolice) August 26, 2020

Two people were shot to death, and another injured, at a protest on Tuesday (Aug. 25). The shooter, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested and charged with felony counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, first degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and first-degree attempted homicide.

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