This is America: 9 out of 10 public schools now hold mass shooting drills for students

How "active shooter" drills became normal for a generation of American schoolchildren.
"Are you kids good at running and screaming?" a police officer asks a class of elementary school kids in Akron, Ohio.
His friendly tone then turns serious.
“What I don’t want you to do is hide in the corner if a bad guy comes in the room,” he says. "You gotta get moving."
This training session — shared online by the ALICE Training Institute, a civilian safety training company — reflects the new normal at American public schools. As armed shooters continue their deadly rampages, and while Washington remains stuck on gun control, a new generation of American students have learned to lock and barricade their classroom doors the same way they learn to drop and roll in case of a fire.
The training session is a stark reminder of how American schools have changed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting. School administrators and state lawmakers have realized that a mass shoot…

Thomas Whitaker 'given new life' after death penalty commuted, his dad says

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- The Sugar Land man, who was within an hour of execution when the call came for clemency, is now off death row.
Bart Whitaker has been moved to an inmate processing facility in Huntsville, a day after his death sentence was commuted.
Gov. Greg Abbott commuted the death sentence of the 38-year-old Thursday after considering the pleas of Whitaker's father, Kent, who insisted he would have been victimized again should his only remaining immediate family member be executed.
Patricia and Kevin Whitaker were killed in the ambush orchestrated by Bart Whitaker on Dec. 10, 2003. Kent Whitaker was also shot but survived. It was a failed attempt by Bart Whitaker, prosecutors say, to secure an expected inheritance of more than $1 million if his entire family had been killed.
"It's a new day", said Kent Whitaker on Friday.
He hasn't yet been allowed to speak with his son yet.
"He's been given basically a new life, and I hope that he will f…

Does Parkland shooter, a ‘broken child,’ deserve death? The legal battle looms

When, just two days after the 17 killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz's legal team offered to plead him guilty, right then and there, if prosecutors would waive the death penalty, that giant gasp you heard was the breath of South Florida defense attorneys.
Publicly admitting your client did it is not exactly conventional defense strategy, especially when the “it” is 17 counts of murder. And if the bold public attempt at a plea bargain gets turned down — as most legal observers expect — some attorneys think it may damage Cruz’s defense.
“In a case this serious, nothing should be waived or agreed to at such an early stage,” said Miami defense lawyer Philip Reizenstein. “Admitting he committed the act is one step removed from saying he 'knowingly' killed those children. And that would damage an insanity defense.”
But longtime Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who offered the plea deal, says he’s just being realistic.

On Execution Day, Three Killers in Different States Meet Different Fates

They were three killers — each set to be executed on Thursday night in different states. But by the end of the day, each had met a different fate.
In Texas, the governor granted a rare death row commutation for Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. Shortly after 6 p.m., after Eric Scott Branch’s last-ditch appeals were denied, Florida put him to death. And in Alabama, the state delayed the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm because medical officials were unable to access a vein before a midnight deadline.
Had all three men been put to death, it would have been the first time in more than eight years that three people had been executed on the same day in the United States.
But less than an hour before Mr. Whitaker’s scheduled execution on Thursday night, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas spared the man’s life. He accepted the unanimous recommendation of the state’s Board of Pardons to change the death sentence of Mr. Whitaker, who in 2003 orchestrated the killing of his mother and brother near Houston, to life …

Execution of Alabama inmate Doyle Lee Hamm called off

Doyle Lee Hamm survived his date with the executioner Thursday, as Alabama was unable to begin the procedure before the death warrant expired at midnight.
Hamm, 61, was convicted of killing Cullman hotel clerk Patrick Cunningham in January 1987. Recent appeals in his case involved the question of whether cancer had left him healthy enough to be executed without excessive suffering.
Thursday night's execution originally was set for 6 p.m. A temporary stay from the U.S. Supreme Court was lifted at about 9 p.m., leaving the state clear to proceed. But from that point, things moved slowly. It was 10 p.m. before media observers and other witnesses were transferred to Holman Correctional Facility.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in lifting stay and consideration of certiorari - or review of the case. Justice Breyer respected denial but says "rather than develop a "constitutional jurisprudence that focuses upon the special circumstances of the aged,&…

Florida executes Eric Branch

FLORIDA -- The state executed a man for the 1993 rape and murder of a Florida college student Thursday.

Authorities say 47-year-old Eric Scott Branch was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Thursday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison.
Eric Scott Branch, 46, was found guilty for the 1993 rape and murder of Susan Morris in Pensacola. 
Authorities said Branch attacked Susan Morris in January of 1993 as she walked to her car at the University of West Florida. 
Branch dragged Morris into a nearby wooded area, where he beat, strangled, and sexually battered her. 
Branch then left Morris' body in a shallow grave and stole her car to flee the state. 
Branch was previously convicted for the 1991 sexual battery and beating of a 14-year-old girl in Indiana.
He was also convicted in Bay County, Florida for another sexual battery. 
His execution was put on hold at 6 p.m., pending final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court rejected the appeals without comment.

Branch becomes the…

Texas: Man who plotted his family's murder will not be executed, governor says

The governor of Texas decided today to spare the life of a convicted killer who carried out a plot to kill his parents and his brother.
About 40 minutes before the scheduled execution, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would grant clemency to 38-year-old Thomas "Bart" Whitaker. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare recommendation, voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the "lesser penalty" of commuting Whitaker's death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
“In just over three years as governor, I have allowed 30 executions. I have not granted a commutation of a death sentence until now," Abbott said in a statement. “The murders of Mr. Whitaker’s mother and brother are reprehensible. The crime deserves severe punishment for the criminals who killed them. The recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and my action on it, ensures Mr. Whitaker will never be released from prison."
Bart Whitaker was co…

Texas: Governor Abbott commutes death sentence of Thomas Whitaker

BREAKING: Governor Abbott has commuted the death sentence of #ThomasWhitaker, accepting the unanimous decision by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Whitaker will now serve life in prison.

Related content: Texas: Man who plotted his family's murder will not be executed, governor says

Source: Twitter feed, February 22, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Texas Governor Weighs Parole Board's Advice on Thomas Whitaker's Fate

The fate of a convicted Texas killer nearing execution is in Gov. Greg Abbott's hands after the state parole board made the rare recommendation that the prisoner's life be spared.
HOUSTON (AP) — The fate of a convicted Texas killer was in Gov. Greg Abbott's hands Wednesday after the state parole board recommended sparing the prisoner's life at the urging of his father, who survived the attack.
Thomas "Bart" Whitaker is scheduled for lethal injection Thursday for arranging the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003. Whitaker's father, Kent, also was shot but survived and has led the effort to save his 38-year-old son from execution.
The seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor, made the unanimous recommendation Tuesday that Abbott commute Whitaker's death sentence.
Abbott's options appeared to be accepting the recommendation, rejecting it or doing nothing.…

Thomas Whitaker awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's life or death decision ahead of execution

As a death row inmate waits for the Texas governor to decide if he should live or die, he gets a final visit with his father, who survived his son's murder plot and later pleaded for his son's life.
Thomas Whitaker’s life is in the governor’s hands as the clock ticks toward his Thursday night execution.
Whitaker, 38, is set to die after 6 p.m. for the 2003 murders of his mother and brother in Fort Bend County. But Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could spare him by approving the state parole board’s rare and unanimous recommendation for clemency.
While Abbott weighed his decision, Whitaker met with his father, Kent, for his final scheduled visitation Thursday morning. If Abbott doesn't stop the execution, Kent Whitaker plans to stand behind a glass panel that peers into the state's death chamber and watch his son die, according to Keith Hampton, Whitaker's lawyer.
All seven members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles suggested on Tuesday that Abbott change Whitak…