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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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Ex-Cop Pleads To Manslaughter After Leaving Toddler In Hot Car To Have Sex

Former Mississippi cop Cassie Baker may spend 20 years behind bars for leaving her toddler in the backseat of a police cruiser while she had sex with her supervisor.

Little Cheyenne's body temperature rose to a scorching 107 degrees before she died on Sept. 30, 2016. When Baker returned to the vehicle four hours later, Cheyenne was unresponsive. Baker, 29, pled guilty to manslaughter in a reduced plea deal Monday. (March 18) It's unclear if she intentionally left her 3-year-old in the backseat of the car.

“I don’t know what I could ever do to you that could be worse than what you’ve already experienced,” Harrison County Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois told her. “You will forever be entombed in a prison of your own mind.”

Cheyenne's father says he's still tormented by his daughter's death and often pictures her final moments.

“Every time I close my eyes, I picture her suffering, and then I picture her laying in this coffin,” Ryan Hyer said Monday. “I still see her smiling and laughing in my head, and I would assume that smile and laughter turned to pain and suffering in that instance.”

Baker and her supervisor Clark Ladner were fired days later. While speaking with the Associated Press, he was able to avoid charges after telling authorities he was unaware Baker's daughter was in the car. Judge Bourgeois will consider the prosecution recommendation at Baker's April 1 sentencing.

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8-Year-Old Nigerian Chess Champion's Big Win Helps His Family Out Of Homelessness

An 8-year-old Nigerian chess prodigy is helping his family out of homelessness. Tanitoluwa “ Tani” Adewumi, won the New York State Scholastic Chess Championship last week, beating out more than 70 of the state’s top young chess players, all while living in a homeless shelter.

Tani, who was recently profiled in the New York Times, and his family fled Nigeria in 2017, reportedly out of fear of being targeted by Boko Haram. The family applied for asylum, and have since been living in a New York shelter.

The third grader learned to play chess a year ago at his elementary school, P.S. 116. Tani’s coach, Russell Makofsky marveled at his ability to learn chess so quickly. "His intellect, his aptitude, his capacity to learn chess is off the charts,” Makofsky said. “From not playing to beating the best of the best in one year is unheard of, all while living in a homeless shelter.”

Tani has been getting a lot of attention for his big win. A GoFundMe page launched on March 15 with a goal of raising $50,000 to help Tani’s family “secure a home where he can continue his journey,” has raised more than $182,000. An attorney has also agreed to work on the family’s asylum case for free, CBS News reports.

The family now plans to move into an apartment, and posted an update on the GoFundMe page Tuesday (March 19) sharing their gratitude for the donations, Tani’s chess coach, and the media for publicizing the story. “Our big shout out to the whole WORLD for all your support financially, morally, spiritually and many more can't [be] mentioned. You are all awesome. God bless you all.”

According to the post, proceeds from the crowdfunding effort will be donated to a new foundation that the family will be starting in Tani's name.

See more on his story below.

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Connecticut School Employee Resigns After Racist Grocery Store Video Goes Viral

A  Connecticut resident has resigned from her position at the Hamden Public School District after a video posted to Facebook shows her using racial slurs and spitting on two black people while at a local Shop Rite.

According to The New Haven Register, Corinne Terrone who was a clerk in the district's central office, is seen with her two children when the confrontation erupts. Terrone uses the N-Word three times and spits at a black man and black woman. It's unclear how the clash begins.

After Terrone's first use of the slur, the man on video rushes toward Terrone as she attempts to take her phone out and record. “Put your hands on me, come on!” she says. He then slaps the phone out of her hand. That's the only physical encounter between the two caught on video.

The Facebook post, which has received more than 180,000 views, overwhelmingly supported the black man and woman. A spokesman for the school wrote on the district's website that Terrone "has been separated from employment effective immediately.”

“While it appears as though this happened after work hours on Friday evening, the Human Resource Director contacted the employee and arranged an investigatory meeting with her. Shortly after final arrangements were made for the investigatory meeting, the employee rendered her resignation effective immediately.”

Due to the fact that Terrone's children were present during the verbal assault, the district filed a report with DCF services.

Republican State Sen. Len Fasano and state Rep. Joseph Zullo released a joint statement condemning Terrone's language and behavior.

“What we saw in this video is repulsive and deeply offensive and does not represent the people of East Haven or our values. The behavior is shocking and upsetting and has no place anywhere, including in our community,” Fasano and Zullo said in the statement. “We understand Hamden Public Schools has acted quickly to seek this employee’s resignation. East Haven police are also seeking more information and urging any potential victims or witnesses involved to come forward. Hate speech and violence will not be tolerated in our community.”

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