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Nevada Supreme Court Clears State To Perform First Execution In Over A Decade

The decision follows questions over the lethal injection cocktail to be used in the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier. 

Nevada will carry out its first execution in more than a decade following a unanimous vote by the state’s Supreme Court Thursday (May 10). The court decision overturned a District Court ruling stalling the execution of 47-year-old Scott Raymond Dozier, amid questions over the use of an experimental lethal injection cocktail.

The drug mixture -- which contains the sedative diazepam (commonly known as valium), the popular opioid fentanyl, and the paralytic cisatracurium -- has never been used before. A federal public defender for Dozier argued that cisatracurium could cause him unnecessary suffering.

Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union described the execution as potentially “torturous” and raised questions last year, over Nevada prison officials' refusal to release details of its execution protocol, including dosage amounts.

Furthermore, the ACLU questioned prison staff's preparedness to administer the lethal injection cocktail, and whether Dozier will be be awake or sedated as he is being “paralyzed to death.”

“The state’s admission in court that it plans to use a paralytic drug to kill an inmate for the first time in the U.S. takes ‘unusual punishment’ to a new level. And with so much secrecy around the execution plan, which has not been finalized, how can Nevadans even know simple facts such as whether the prison staff will be adequately trained to implement this experimental execution cocktail in a constitutional manner?” ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose said in a statement last fall, ahead of Dozier’s planned execution, which was halted by court order.

Dozier, who was convicted of two murders in Nevada and Arizona, waved his right to an appeal in hopes of speeding up his execution. He has been on death row for over a decade.

The first conviction came for the 2002 murder of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller whose body was found chopped up inside of a suitcase in an apartment dumpster in Las Vegas. Dozier killed Miller and robbed him of $12,000 after luring him to a motel under the pretense that he would help him buy ingredients to make methamphetamine.

Dozier was also linked to the 2001 murder of 22-year-old Jasen Green whose remains were found in a plastic container in the north Phoenix desert. Dozier denies killing Green.

In an interview with The Marshall Project published in January, Dozier said that he doesn’t “want to die” but would “rather be dead” than in prison. He's also not looking for sympathy. “Nevada said stop behaving this way or we will kill you, and I kept behaving that way,” he said.

Nevada has executed a dozen people in the last 40 years, the last of which was Daryl Linnie Mack, a convicting murderer and rapist. Mack was the first black man to be executed by the state since the U.S. granted capital punishment in 1976.

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SNAP Changes Place Nearly 700,000 People At Risk Of Losing Food Stamps

In a report by USA TODAY, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assisted over 40 million Americans in 2017. Two years later, the program faces changes that may result in the loss of food stamps for 688,000 people. According to NBC News, the Trump administration will revamp the mandate that recipients work a certain amount of hours to be eligible for food assistance.

Those within the age range of 18 to 49 and have no children or are able-bodied were previously mandated to work no less than 20 hours a week in order to qualify. Now, as states were once allowed to excuse this requirement due to increased unemployment rates in certain states, the Trump administration will no longer allow states to practice this method. NPR notes Americans within that age range tallied at four million in 2016. The new mandate will only allow states to waiver a recipient's unemployment situation if that state's unemployment rate is six percent.

"We're taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program," Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary, said. "Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That's the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life."

Analysts state the government could save close to $5 billion through this new legislation. Out of the 2.9 million adults that fall into this category that utilize SNAP, 2.1 million are unemployed.

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Cory Booker Outlines $100 Billion Plan To Support HBCUs

In an effort to continue the support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), revealed a plan to do just that. According to The Hill, Booker shared on Tuesday (Dec. 3) a $100 billion investment agenda that'll focus its funds on the education departments in the form of grants, revamp infrastructure, and stand at the forefront of pushing policies that'll combat climate change.

"I am here today because of the power of these institutions to uplift and bring about opportunity to Black Americans," Booker said. "As president, I will redouble our efforts to support and invest in HBCUs across the country—my mother and father wouldn't have it any other way." His parents attended Fisk University and North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Part of the proposal also aims to bolster HBCUs' Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs and support the Debt-Free College Act. The legislation has the potential to allow students at HBCUs, MSIs (minority-serving institutions), or public colleges to receive a higher education debt-free through public funding.

Another point of the plan aims to "provide $30 billion in grants to upgrade infrastructure, including facilities and technology, at HBCUs and MSIs to ensure all students have access to a world-class education in world-class facilities."

Read more of the plan's points here.

As the son of two proud HBCU grads (@FISK1866 and @NCCU!), I'm proud to announce that today my campaign is proposing the boldest-ever plan to invest in HBCUs: https://t.co/j7kpKmGRjV

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019

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Texas Appeals Court Grants Stay Of Execution For Rodney Reed Stay

A Texas Criminal Appeals Court granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution on Friday (Nov. 15). The decision came hours after the state’s parole board recommended that Reed’s lethal injection be delayed by 120-days.

Reed was scheduled to be lethally injected on Nov. 20. Although the court decision means that he no longer has an execution date, the parole board failed to approve a request to commute Reed's sentence to life in prison, the Washington Post reports.

The 51-year-old Texas native has spent that last two decades on death row for the1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Reed has filed numerous appeals over the years but his story only recently went viral catching the attention of lawmakers and celebrities including Rihanna, Oprah, Beyonce, T.I., Kim Kardashian West, the latter of whom was visiting with Reed when his execution was delayed.

Reed, who has long maintained his innocence, says Stite's was killed by her fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Fennell’s lawyer Robert Phillips “laughed off” Reed’s allegations, according to numerous reports.

Fennell served 10 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping and rape of another woman while working as a police officer in 2007. He was briefly suspected in Stite’s murder. Authorities turned their attention to Reed after his DNA was found inside Stites, from what he contends was a consensual relationship. Reed, who is black, believes that race played a part in the case because Stites was a white woman. He was convicted by an all-white jury.

Reed’s legal team has also provided evidence to prove his innocence, including new witnesses.

"We’re happy that we’re going to have an opportunity to present the compelling evidence that Rodney Reed didn’t commit the crime," Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, who took on Reed’s case, told The Texas Tribune. "The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the substance of this case and the need for a special hearing where all the evidence can be considered."

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