Tennessee Star Supreme Court Justice Series: Major Opinions by Justice Holly Kirby

As Tennesseans prepare to head to the polls on August 4, where they will vote on whether to retain the state’s five Supreme Court justices, The Tennessee Star has completed a profile on each justice currently sitting on the bench.

Last week, The Star profiled Justice Holly Kirby. 

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Paul Gosar Introduces Legislation Aiming to Punish Fentanyl Distributors with Death Penalty

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04) recently introduced House Rule (HR) 8228, which aims to punish those who distribute fentanyl, resulting in death, with the death penalty or life in prison.

“One of the many deeply troubling consequences of Joe Biden’s open border policies is the deadly flow of fentanyl across the southern border. Since Biden assumed office in January 2021, more than 1,000,000 pounds of illegal drugs have been seized, including 7,700 pounds of fentanyl in just the first five months of 2022. The overwhelming majority of fentanyl is smuggled across the border from Mexico,” Gosar said in a press release.

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Ohio Governor Postpones Two Executions, Citing Problems with Pharmaceutical Suppliers

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued reprieves of execution on Friday to Antonio Sanchez Franklin and Stanley Fitzpatrick, citing “ongoing problems” with obtaining needed substances from pharmaceutical companies.

The now-43-year-old Franklin was scheduled to receive a lethal injection next January 12; his execution is now scheduled to take place next February 11. The convict murdered his grandparents, 71-year-old Ophelia and 76-year-old Ivory as well as his 38-year-old uncle Anthony in Dayton in 1997 and then set their house on fire when Antonio was 18.

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Rothman Proposal Would Make Death Penalty Likelier for Killings at Pennsylvania Schools, Certain Other Settings

Pennsylvania state Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Camp Hill) last week announced he intends to introduce a measure allowing courts to impose the death penalty for killings based on their taking place in some settings including schools.

Currently, a convict can receive a death sentence in the Keystone State if a court finds he or she committed a murder to which at least one of 18 statutorily defined “aggravating circumstances” and no “mitigating circumstances” apply. Aggravating circumstances include the victim having served as a police officer or other first responder, the defendant having committed the killing for hire or the killer having held the victim hostage. Mitigating circumstances include the perpetrator having no prior criminal history or the killer having committed his or her crime under “extreme duress.”

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Gov. Lee Suspends Executions Pending Independent Review of Lethal Injection Process

Tennessee has suspended executions for those on death row after an “oversight” in the lethal injection process of one prisoner caused the execution process to be halted in the prisoner’s final hours. 

During the suspension period, a review of the execution process will be conducted, according to Monday reports. 

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Arizona Moving Towards Resumption of Death Penalty

Mark Brnovich

After a process that took more than a year, Arizona’s attorney general is one step closer to resuming the use of the death penalty in the state. 

Friday reports said that Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) had requested execution warrants for convicted killer Clarence Dixon and Frank Atwood, but it’s a process that has been long in the making. 

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District Attorney Announces He Will Seek the Death Penalty Against the Clifton Man Charged with Murdering Hardin County Deputy Matthew Locke

Over the weekend, Hardin County Deputy Matthew Locke was shot and killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic violence call. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Todd Alan Stricklin, 48 from Clifton, has been charged with first-degree murder after shooting the deputy just after 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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Steven Wiggins Sentenced to Death for Killing Dickson County, Tennessee Sergeant Daniel Baker

Steven Wiggins Sentencing

On Thursday, a Dickson County, Tennessee jury sentenced Steven Wiggins to death for murdering Sergeant Daniel Baker.

Earlier that day, District Attorney General Ray Crouch and defense lawyer Luke Evans presented their closing arguments to jurors, who were tasked with deciding between the death penalty and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

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Steven Wiggins Found Guilty on All 10 Counts in Killing of Dickson County, Tennessee Sgt. Daniel Baker

A Dickson County, Tennessee jury Thursday found Steven Wiggins guilty of premeditated first-degree murder and nine other charges related to the 2018 shooting death of Sergeant Daniel Baker. 

“Some people obviously had some tears, but I had some sort of sense of relief,” Baker’s widow Lisa told reporters after the verdict was announced.

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Dickson County, Tennessee Jurors Shown Police Bodycam Footage in Steven Wiggins Trial

Approaching three days into the trial of Steven Wiggins for the 2018 shooting death of Dickson County, Tennessee Sergeant Daniel Baker, jurors were shown body camera footage of the sheriff deputy’s deadly encounter with the defendant.

Wiggins is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and other counts associated with Baker’s death.

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Agents Who Found Slain Dickson County, Tennessee Sergeant Baker Testify

On Tuesday, the second day of Steven Wiggins’s trial for killing 32-year-old Dickson County, Tennessee Sergeant Daniel Baker in 2018, jurors heard from the law-enforcement officers who found the slain sheriff’s deputy.

Drug Task Force (DTF) Agent Nathaniel Proctor of the 23rd Judicial District was the first to take the stand in the Charlotte courtroom, followed by his colleague Darren Adams.

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Steven Wiggins Trial Begins in Charlotte, Tennessee

Dickson County Courthouse in Tennessee

Trial officially commenced in Charlotte, Tennessee, Monday for Steven Wiggins who stands accused in the May 2018 shooting death of Dickson County Sergeant Daniel Baker.

Wiggins has pleaded not guilty to all charges, foremost among them premeditated first-degree murder.

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Georgia Spa Shooter Receives Four Life Sentences After Guilty Plea

The man who killed eight in a rampage against massage parlor employees in Georgia received four life sentences. 

Robert Aaron Long formalized his deal, agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for being spared the death penalty, in Cherokee County Tuesday morning, according to several reports. He received 35 years tacked onto the life sentences, and will not be eligible for parole. 

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Death Penalty Ban, Other Laws from Legislative Session Take Effect Thursday

Several laws from the Virginia legislature’s session will take effect Thursday, including one groundbreaking law abolishing the death penalty in the state. 

Virginia will be the first southern state to take such a measure. 

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Email Shows Biden Nominee Pushed Essay Comparing Police to KKK

Kristen Clarke

President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division circulated an essay from self-proclaimed Marxist poet Amiri Baraka defending cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and referring to police officers as members of the Ku Klux Klan, according an email from her days at Columbia University.

Kristen Clarke forwarded the Baraka essay in an email on June 25, 1999, to her mentor, the late historian Manning Marable.

She suggested that the essay, entitled “Mumia, ‘Lynch Law’ & Imperialism” be placed in a magazine Marable edited and used for a panel on the death penalty.

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Virginia Abolishes Death Penalty

Virginia became the first state in the south to abolish the death penalty when Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he signed twin death-penalty repeal bills introduced by Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) and Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). Virginia joins 22 other states that have also repealed the death penalty.

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House Passes Bill Mandating Death or Life Imprisonment Without Parole for First Degree Murder of Law Enforcement, First Responders

The Tennessee House passed a bill mandating death or life imprisonment without parole for the first degree murder of law enforcement and first responders. The bill would elevate the intentional targeting and murdering of first responders to an act of terrorism. It passed without opposition, 88 to 0. 

Two amendments moved to strengthen the language of the bill. One amendment noted that defendants who receive life sentence can’t be eligible for parole consideration until they’ve served 51 years. The other amendment added to the definitions of terrorism to offer further protections to law enforcement and first responders. Both amendments were adopted.

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Virginia Legislators Call for New Parole Board Investigation After More Details Leaked About Release of Man Convicted of Killing Police Officer

Legislators are calling for a new investigation into alleged misconduct by the Virginia Parole Board (VPB). Last summer, a leaked six-page report from the Office of the State Inspector General detailed how the VPB violated laws and policies when, in April 2020, it decided to parole Vincent Martin without giving his victims the required 50-day notice. Martin was serving a life sentence for killing police officer Michael Connors in 1979, and was released last June. But a new 13-page draft of the report leaked this week, first reported by WTVR, revealing more details about the alleged misconduct by the board and by former Chair Adrianne Bennett, who is now a judge.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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Chances for Ohio Death Penalty Repeal Appear to be Growing

The biggest-ever bipartisan coalition on Thursday announced a renewed effort to repeal the death penalty in Ohio.

State Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, hosted a virtual press conference to announce that they and three other Republican and four Democratic senators so far have said they will co-sponsor the repeal legislation. The measure also has bipartisan support in the House.

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Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

Virginia is one step closer to abolishing the death penalty after a bill to do so passed the Senate Thursday. 

SB 1165 passed by a vote of 21-17 along party lines, with one GOP Senator Bill Stanley (R-20th District) abstaining. Stanley originally co-sponsored the bill, but wanted to add a provision that would ensure murderers convicted of aggravated offenses would never be allowed out of prison. 

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Virginia Gov. Northam Supports Ending ‘Inequitable’ Death Penalty as House Bill Passes

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) showed his support Friday as a bill that would end the death penalty in the state passed through a subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“The use of capital punishment has been inequitable. The administration strongly supports HB 2263 and abolishing the death penalty. The Office of [Gov. Northam],” Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) said on Twitter, attributing the statement to Northam’s office. 

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Delegate Mullin Introduces HB 2263 to End Virginia’s Death Penalty

Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) has introduced HB 2263, which would abolish the death penalty in Virginia. The bill has attracted support from leading Democratic policy makers; co-patrons of the bill are House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), attorney general candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), gubernatorial candidate Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), and 40-year House member Delegate Ken Plum (D-Fairfax). In his 2021 State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam also advocated ending the death penalty.

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Legislation Abolishing Death Penalty Advanced by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.

Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Senate Bill 1165 was reported out of the committee by a vote of 10-4, mostly along party lines with Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), chief co-patron on the measure, the only Republican who voted in support.

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Jon Ossoff Calls for Abolishing Death Penalty in Response to Activists Calling to Protect Murderers

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff issued several statements supporting total eradication of the death penalty. Ossoff’s stance aligned with petitions to save violent murderers from execution.

“Abolish the death penalty,” Ossoff tweeted twice.

The candidate’s tweets occurred as part of the ongoing social media trend inspired by scheduled federal executions taking place. Users petitioned that the prisoners should be reprieved of their death sentence. Social media users and celebrities claimed that man executed Thursday, Brandon Bernard, was given an unfair sentence.

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Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty for Serial Killer

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentences of convicted serial killer Michael Madison last week. Madison, who was convicted of murdering three women after confessing to killing one, claimed that he did not recall killing the two others. The 2013 conviction was not without controversy however, as the defense took issue with several aspects of the prosecution including psychiatric reports, jury selection, and even the constitutionality of the death penalty.

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Ohio Conservatives Launch Branch of Organization That Aims to Repeal the Death Penalty

Ohio conservative leaders announced the launch of the Ohio branch of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP) at a press conference Tuesday. CCATDP is an organization that questions how its conservative values align with the death penalty.

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California Governor to Order Death Penalty Moratorium

The governor of the U.S. state of California plans to announce Wednesday a moratorium on carrying out death sentences. In prepared remarks seen by news organizations ahead of the official announcement, Governor Gavin Newsom says, “The intentional killing of another person is wrong.” He cites cases of innocent people being…

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China Faces U.S. Pressure to Contain Deadly Fentanyl Exports

by Joyce Huang   After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 meeting earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump praised China for considering imposing the death penalty on illicit producers of fentanyl – an opioid up to 100 times more potent than morphine with a lethal dose…

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