Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Execution Chaos: Witnesses Say Executions Are Botched as States Use Untested, Secret Drug Cocktails


    As drug companies refuse to let their products be used for the death penalty, states are using untested drug combinations that have resulted in deaths like that of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, where the state used an untested two-drug method despite warnings it might cause immense suffering. We speak with the reporter who witnessed the execution and with a lawyer for a man executed in Missouri with an entirely different lethal drug cocktail, made by a pharmacy the state refuses to name. Meanwhile, on Thursday Virginia lawmakers failed to pass a law that would let death row prisoners die in the electric chair now that the state has run out of the chemicals used to make up its three-drug execution cocktail, and is unable to locate more. The delayed vote could impose a temporary moratorium in Virginia, which executes more people than any other state besides Texas. The execution drugs’ scarcity stems from the refusal of manufacturers in Europe and the United States to let them be used to put people to death. We speak with Alan Johnson, reporter with The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, who witnessed McGuire’s execution and says he observed him gasping for air, and that he appeared to be choking. We are also joined by Cheryl Pilate, one of the lead attorneys for Herbert Smulls, who was executed Jan. 29 with a lethal dose of pentobarbital that was made by a compounding pharmacy the state refuses to name. Also joining us is Megan McCracken, attorney with the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s Death Penalty Clinic, where she is an expert on lethal injection methods.

  • Trial Begins in Case of Man Who Murdered Florida Teen Jordan Davis Over Loud Music


    We look at the tragic case of a Florida high school student named Jordan Davis who was shot dead in 2012 on the day after Thanksgiving over a dispute about loud music. The trial of his killer, Michael Dunn, began Thursday. Dunn claims he felt threatened by Davis and his three teenage friends in an SUV that pulled up next to him. According to his police interview, one of the teens in the car said something about "killing." Dunn said when Davis allegedly bent down in the car, he feared he was reaching for a weapon. Dunn then used his handgun to shoot four times into the SUV. When the teenagers started to retreat, Dunn chased their vehicle and shot four to five more shots. Jordan was fatally shot in the back seat. Dunn is expected to use the Stand Your Ground defense during his trial, in which he faces the same prosecutor who argued the Trayvon Martin case. We play excerpts from the trial’s opening arguments and speak with Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of, who has been closely following the case and has been in contact with Davis’ parents. He serves on the board of directors of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Skolnik also explains why he’s asked the rapper DMX not to fight George Zimmerman in a celebrity boxing match.

  • Affluenza Defense Lands Wealthy Teen in Rehab After He Kills 4 People in Drunk Driving Accident


    A wealthy teen who killed four people in a Texas drunk driving accident will not go to jail after a judge ruled this week that instead, he must attend an expensive rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The driver was 16-year-old Ethan Couch. He was speeding, with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. Couch has admitted to his crime, and in a case that went before a Texas judge, prosecutors sought a 20-year sentence. Instead, Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation after a psychologist claimed he had "affluenza," and testified that his cushy upbringing prevented him from connecting bad behavior with its consequences. We get response from Richard Alpert, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case against Couch. We are also joined by Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University professor and the founder of "" He recently wrote an article titled "Rich, White Kids Have 'Affluenza,' Poor, Black Kids Go to Prison."