An Oklahoma death row prisoner has died of a heart attack after a botched execution Tuesday night. Clayton Lockett was injected with an untested cocktail of lethal drugs. After struggling violently on the gurney, doctors halted the killing 13 minutes in when discovering Lockett was still conscious and trying to speak. Doctors say he suffered a ruptured vein, interrupting the flow of the lethal drugs. About 30 minutes after that point, Lockett died of a heart attack when the drugs had spread through his body. The botched killing forced officials to cancel the execution of another prisoner, Charles Warner. Both Lockett and Warner initially won a stay of execution earlier this month after challenging the secrecy of their execution drugs. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the decision last week after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin objected and state lawmakers threatened the judges’ removal from the bench. Warner’s execution has now been delayed for 14 days pending a review of execution procedures. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce emissions of dangerous chemicals from power plants nationwide. The EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule sharply limits emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at plants in 28 states. The EPA has estimated the rules could save up to 34,000 lives per year and result in tens of billions of dollars in health benefits. But after a major push by utilities and corporate groups, an appeals court ruled in 2012 the regulations exceed the EPA’s authority. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overruled the lower court in a six-to-two decision. In a statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council praised the ruling, saying: “The EPA safeguards follow the simple principle that giant utility companies shouldn’t be allowed to dump their dirty emissions onto residents of downwind states.”
The death toll from tornadoes in the Midwest and South has risen to at least 34. The storms have caused deaths in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, Oklahoma and the worst-hit state, Arkansas. President Obama has declared Arkansas a major disaster area. More than 200 people have been wounded and more than 2,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Strong thunderstorms are now battering the region today, hampering the recovery effort and threatening more damage.
The National Basketball Association has issued a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling over the racist comments that ignited a national controversy. A leaked recording captured Sterling berating his girlfriend for associating with African Americans in public. After a two-day investigation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Sterling is banned for life and will be pressured to sell the team.
Adam Silver: “Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers facility. And he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. … As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do everything in my power to ensure that that happens.”
Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, the maximum under league rules. He is the first sports owner ever to receive a lifetime ban from his league. The NBA will need approval from two-thirds of owners to force a sale. Several teams have already signed on to voting for Sterling’s expulsion.
The NBA commissioner’s move followed an outcry led by players past and present. In what would have marked a historic display of protest, the NBA Player’s Union has confirmed players were prepared to boycott Tuesday night’s three playoff games if Sterling did not receive the maximum punishment. NBA union Vice President Roger Mason Jr. said players now want an exact timetable for when owners will vote on Sterling’s forced sale.
Roger Mason Jr.: “I reached out to other players around the league and made it clear that the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action was not something that Adam Silver felt was necessary. I’m happy to come here today and say that, as players, we’re very happy with the decision, but we’re not content yet. We want immediate action. We want a timetable from the owners as far as when this vote’s going to happen.”
While Sterling’s comments sparked national outrage, the case has drawn attention to how previous allegations of racial discrimination went largely unnoticed. In 2009, Sterling paid more than $2.7 million to settle federal allegations of driving out people of color from apartment buildings he owns. A former Clippers general manager also sued Sterling for racial bias, but lost in court.
Iraq is holding nationwide elections today, the first since U.S. forces withdrew in late 2011. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking a new term in what is expected to be a tight race. The voting takes place amidst Iraq’s worst violence since the sectarian conflict of 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands were killed.
Pro-Russian separatists have seized new areas of eastern Ukraine as the central government in Kiev loses further control. On Tuesday, hundreds of people stormed a government building in Luhansk without resistance and later fired on the local police headquarters. By taking the city, the pro-Russian militants now control two provincial capitals in eastern Ukraine. Earlier today, the separatists also seized government buildings in the town of Horlivka. Ukraine’s interim government said today it is “helpless” to quell the unrest.
The United States has failed to meet Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline for a framework accord on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Obama administration had hoped to reach an agreement on the broad outlines of an eventual final settlement. But the talks have repeatedly broken down over Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. A new report from the Israeli group Peace Now says Israel has laid plans for building nearly 14,000 settlement homes since resuming talks with the PA last July. Peace Now’s Lior Amichai said Israel has sought to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Lior Amichai: “The report that we, the Peace Now movement in Israel, issued today shows all that the government of Israel did in the past nine months or since the negotiation period between Israel and the Palestinians began. It shows that Israel promoted almost 14,000 different housing units in the West Bank settlements, if by publishing new tenders or by promoting them through the different planning procedures of the West Bank settlements. To us, it shows that the government, the current government of Israel, does not have any intention of reaching a two-state solution, but rather did all it can in order to prevent such a thing.”
On Tuesday, Israel carried out new demolitions in the West Bank, destroying a mosque and three homes. The United Nations says Israeli demolitions have displaced more than 400 Palestinians so far this year.
A federal judge has struck down Wisconsin’s voter identification law, saying it targets the poor and people of color. The law requires all voters to present photo ID at the polls, a provision that would exclude anyone without a birth certificate. In her ruling, District Judge Lynn Adelman said the law mitigates “the effects of past or present discrimination,” burdening those less likely to have photo ID. In a move that could spur challenges in other states, Judge Adelman cited Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting practices that disproportionately impact people of color. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling “a warning to other states that are trying to make it harder for citizens to vote.” The Wisconsin law is the latest voter ID law to be struck down, following similar measures in Arkansas last week and in Pennsylvania in January.
The White House has unveiled a new set of guidelines to address the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. A new task force report urges colleges to conduct anonymous surveys and adopt proven strategies for combating assault. Speaking at the White House, Vice President Joe Biden said campuses nationwide are failing to protect female students.
Vice President Joe Biden: “We all know that many of our schools just aren’t safe. We know the numbers. One in five of every one of those young women who’s dropped off that first day of school, before they finish school, will be assaulted — will be assaulted in her college years. We have to do everything in our power to protect them. These are our children. These are our wives, our daughters, our sisters. These are — these people are you. I’m really proud that now you all have a report with very clear recommendations.”
The task force says the official rate of one in five female student victims is likely too low because many do not report the crimes against them. The report follows a rash of high-profile cases where schools across the country, from Brown to Florida State University, have been accused of mishandling sexual assault.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill allowing mothers to face potential jail time if they use drugs during pregnancy. The measure says women can be criminally charged if their babies are born dependent on drugs. The bill sparked a national outcry from medical experts and reproductive health advocates who say it could discourage women from seeking help for addiction. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said: “The Tennessee governor has made it a crime to carry a pregnancy to term if you struggle with addiction or substance abuse.”
A gunman wounded six people at a FedEx facility in Georgia on Tuesday before taking his own life. Two of the victims are in critical condition. The shooting comes days after Georgia enacted a law that massively expands weapons permits in public places.
Federal prosecutors are reportedly preparing criminal charges against two large French banks. Credit Suisse is being targeted for offering tax shelters to Americans, while BNP Paribas faces prosecution for doing business with countries targeted by U.S. sanctions. The New York Times reports the cases “could produce the first guilty plea from a major bank in more than two decades.”