Twenty-four executions in 2023
The most executions in the U.S. since 2018. Also: Crow and Leo subpoenas authorized. And: Meta sues to hobble the FTC.
With Oklahoma’s execution of Phillip Hancock on Thursday, which was carried out against the recommendation of the state’s pardon board, there have been 24 executions in the U.S. this year — four of them carried out by Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended, on a 3-2 vote on Nov. 8, that Gov. Kevin Stitt grant clemency to Hancock, who claimed self-defense in the 2001 double-murder for which he was executed.
According to The Oklahoman, “The execution was set to begin at 10 a.m. It did not start on time because the Oklahoma Department of Corrections was waiting on a [clemency] decision from the governor.”
In other words, despite the three weeks between the board’s recommendation and the scheduled execution, Stitt did not act until, essentially, the moment Hancock was to be killed.
I just want to highlight this because this means that all of the state’s processes for carrying out an execution under its protocol were going forward — from staffing matters to having journalists and other witnesses on site to the preparations Hancock had to undergo — regardless of what Stitt decided.
But, Stitt rejected the board’s clemency recommendation — allowing the state to kill Hancock.
His time of death was 11:29 a.m., The Oklahoman reported.
Shawn Nolan, one of Hancock’s lawyers, took umbrage at Stitt’s rejection of clemency.
“The state of Oklahoma unlawfully killed Phillip Hancock today in spite of a recommendation for clemency from the Board. Governor Stitt unconscionably declined to stop the execution, ignoring the unwavering support of many of his allies including Republican State Representatives Kevin McDugle and Justin ‘JJ’ Humphrey and State Senator David Bullard,” he said in a statement. “We are profoundly sad that Oklahoma executed Phil for protecting himself from a violent attack. This was a clear case of self-defense and the Governor and the state ignored a wealth of evidence showing that Phil was fighting for his life.“
Hancock’s was the final execution scheduled in 2023. In addition to Oklahoma, Texas killed 8 people, Florida killed 6 people, Missouri killed 4 people, and Alabama killed 2 people.
The execution means 2023 was the deadliest year for executions in the past five years, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.
It is notable, though, that the number of states carrying out executions remained low this year. In 2018, those 25 executions took place in eight states. A decade ago, in 2013, nine states carried out 39 executions. Even last year, the 18 executions took place in six different states.
This year, only five states carried out executions.
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Crow, Leo to be subpoenaed
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-0 on Thursday to authorize the issuance of subpoenas against Harlan Crow, of Pro Publica fame, and Leonard Leo, of the Federalist Society, in conjunction with the committee’s investigation into the Supreme Court’s ethics practices.
The committee’s Republicans used a rarely invoked “two-hour rule” and a number of delay tactics to try — unsuccessfully — to flummox the Democrats’ effort to issue the long-awaited subpoenas at this week’s meeting.
Of course, the subpoenas themselves are only being sought because of Crow and Leo’s refusal to cooperate with the committee’s investigation.
After failing to halt the vote, the Republicans left after the vote had begun (and after Sen. Lindsey Graham, the ranking Republican, made one last effort to delay the vote).
Leo responded with a statement reported by Law360’s Katie Buehler asserting that he is not subject to the rule of law when he doesn’t like it.
Refusal to comply could lead to a contempt referral and criminal trial — as has happened recently on the House side with Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro.
Meta wants to hobble the FTC
Picking up where oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court left off Wednesday, Meta filed a lawsuit later Wednesday seeking to hobble the Federal Trade Commission and — given the scope of its arguments — much of the administrative enforcement ability of the federal government.
From its lawsuit:
More on this lawsuit from Politico, and I’ll be following up here at Law Dork as the case proceeds.