NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A Tennessee death row inmate died in prison on Friday, less than three months before his scheduled execution and less than a day after a fellow inmate was executed.
Charles Wright, 64, was pronounced dead of natural causes at 11:57 a.m. at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Wright was convicted in the 1984 shooting death of two men in a Nashville park during a drug deal. He was sentenced to death for killing Douglas Alexander and to life in prison for killing Gerald Mitchell.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry had unsuccessfully sought compassionate release for Wright, saying the inmate was dying of cancer.
“He desperately wanted to one day touch the grass and eat his sister’s cooking,” Henry wrote in an emailed statement on Friday afternoon.
Henry said Wright had a “large and loving family” that is heartbroken over the loss. She also said Wright had many friends on death row who took care of him after he became ill.
They included Don Johnson, who was pronounced dead Thursday night. Henry was one of the witnesses to Johnson’s execution. She said afterward that she believed gasping noises Johnson made during the execution indicated that the 68-year-old was suffering.
Autopsies are planned for both men.
Courts have rejected challenges to Tennessee’s midazolam-based lethal injection protocols, but Henry said claims about the pain the drugs cause are unrefuted. Two Tennessee inmates last year chose to die in the electric chair instead of by lethal injection, saying they believed it offered a quicker and less painful death.
Tennessee is scheduled to execute two more inmates later this year.
By Travis Loller
President Trump Slams California’s Governor for Ordering Pause on Executions
President Donald Trump slammed California Gov. Gavin Newsom after Newsom ordered all executions in the state paused until further notice.
Newsom made the unusual decision through an executive order.
Trump took to Twitter on March 13 to comment on what he sees as a poorly informed choice.
“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!” Trump wrote.
Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2019
Newsom was expected to hold a press conference March 13 outlining the rationale for his decision.
“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom said in a prepared statement obtained by news agencies. “In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”
“Our death penalty system has been—by any measure—a failure,” Newsom added. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.”
According to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation death row list, 737 inmates were slated to be executed prior to the executive order.
Among those waiting on death row is Luis Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant who killed two law enforcement officers and said in court, “The only thing I [expletive] regret is I only killed two;” and Alberto Hinojosa Medina, who stabbed 21-year-old UCLA student Andrea Del Vesco 19 times in her apartment in Westwood in 2015 before setting the apartment on fire.
Trump’s referral to defying voters was about two different attempts in the past six years to repeal the death penalty in California at the ballot box, both of which failed. One was Proposition 62, which was opposed by 53.1 percent of voters in 2016. Voters that year also favored fast-tracking the appeals process, which sped-up convicted killers’ time on death row, by approving Proposition 66.
Some people cheered the decision.
We commend #California Governor @GavinNewsom on this common sense step. CA has the largest death row in the country. Their system has had multiple innocence issues and is overrun with issues of racial and socioeconomic bias. https://t.co/1HZdJFa6vu
— CCATDP (@CCATDP) March 13, 2019
“We commend California Governor Gavin Newsom on this common-sense step. CA has the largest death row in the country. Their system has had multiple innocence issues and is overrun with issues of racial and socioeconomic bias,” said Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty in a statement.
Others said it was “an abuse of power.”
“He’s following in the footsteps of other governors who abused this power because they were frustrated by a law that they just personally disagreed with,” Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, told the Los Angeles Times.
Newsom’s declaration also included an order to close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and the withdrawal of a new execution protocol. Scheidegger said that Newsom can grant reprieves to condemned inmates but cannot order the closing of the death chamber or the halting of the effort to find a new lethal injection.
Because of a series of legal challenges to its method of lethal injection, California hasn’t executed a prisoner since 2006. Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, the state has executed 13 people. During that same time, 105 inmates have died from natural causes or suicide.
The death penalty spat was the latest between Newsom and Trump, who recently clashed over California wasting federal money on a high-speed rail project.
From NTD News