National Roundup

Killer awaits word on final appeals ahead of execution

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned killer of two awaited word Monday on his final appeals ahead of his scheduled execution later this week.

Death row prisoner Gary Otte was sentenced to die for the Feb. 12, 1992, killing of Robert Wasikowski and the Feb. 13, 1992, killing of Sharon Kostura. Both slayings took place in Parma, in suburban Cleveland.

The state plans to execute Otte, 45, with a combination of three drugs.

The execution would be the second this year. Ronald Phillips was put to death by lethal injection in July for raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in Akron in 1993.

That was the first execution in Ohio since 2014, a delay caused by difficulties in finding drugs to use in capital punishment.

During that January 2014 execution, inmate Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.

Ohio abandoned the two-drug procedure it used on McGuire and then searched in vain for months for alternatives. Drugs traditionally used in executions have become harder for states to purchase as drugmakers make them off-limits for capital punishment.

In October, the state announced it had acquired supplies for a new three-drug combination. A secrecy law shields any information about the source of those drugs.

The first drug in McGuire’s execution, a sedative called midazolam, was also used in problematic executions in Arizona and Oklahoma.

But midazolam has also been used in executions without discernible problems, including in Phillips’ July execution.

Otte and other inmates continue to challenge the use of midazolam, saying it may not render prisoners so deeply unconscious that they avoid suffering serious pain when the last two drugs are administered.

Lawyers say observations by an expert witness showed Phillips’ executioners didn’t carry out a “sufficient consciousness check” after midazolam was administered.

A federal judge is expected to rule early this week.

The state argues there was no evidence that Phillips wasn’t properly anesthetized during his execution.

Phillips died about 10 minutes after giving his final statement. He showed no signs of distress. His chin dropped and his belly heaved slightly as the lethal drugs were administered.

In Otte’s criminal case, authorities said he asked to go inside Wasikowski’s apartment to use the phone and then shot the 61-year-old and stole about $400.

The next day, Otte forced his way into Kostura’s apartment in the same building, shot the 45-year-old and then stole $45 and her car keys.

New Jersey
Company pays $7.5M to settle kickback claims

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A biopharmaceutical firm will pay more than $7.5 million to resolve claims it paid kickbacks to doctors to persuade them to prescribe its fentanyl-based drug Abstral, federal prosecutors said.

The settlement with Galena Biopharma was announced Friday.

Prosecutors said the allegations arose from a whistleblower lawsuit. The person who filed the suit will receive more than $1.2 million from the settlement.

The kickbacks included more than 85 free meals to doctors and staff from a “high-prescribing” medical practice and paying various doctors a $5,000 honoraria and speakers $6,000 along with expenses to attend an “advisory board” that was planned and attended by the Galena sales staff, prosecutors said.

“This global, civil-only resolution represents the best possible outcome for Galena, with no exclusion from federal programs and no corporate integrity agreement obligations,” Gary Giampetruzzi, a lawyer for the company, said in a statement on Saturday. “Galena is able to move forward with a non-criminal resolution and focus on its mission of developing life-changing hematology and oncology therapeutics.”

Delayed lawsuit against Syngenta heads to trial

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A test lawsuit goes to trial in Minneapolis Monday against Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta for introducing a genetically-engineered corn variety before China approved it for imports.

The case alleges Viptera corn wrecked an important export market for U.S. corn and hurt prices. But Syngenta says the 2013 price drop resulted from larger market forces, not China’s rejection of Viptera.

The trial had been set for May. It would have been the first of tens of thousands of cases to go to trial. But the Minnesota trial got delayed, so a lawsuit in Kansas went first, resulting in a $218 million award to Kansas farmers. Syngenta is appealing. In a third case, an Ohio judge backed Syngenta.

The test cases are meant to provide guidance for resolving the complex litigation.

Prosecutor tells residents woman’s death ‘shouldn’t have happened’

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The prosecutor who will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against a Minnesota police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman who had called 911 says the shooting “shouldn’t have happened.”

The Star Tribune reports that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman met with Minneapolis residents Sunday afternoon who questioned him about the death of 40-year-old Justine Damond. She was fatally shot July 15 by Officer Mohamed Noor who was one of two officers responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home.

Freeman told residents Damond’s death “didn’t have to happen.”

Freeman also commented on another high-profile case — this one involving the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile. He says the jury was wrong in acquitting the officer who killed Castile.

North Carolina
Marine found guilty of sexually abusing a child

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — A decorated Marine colonel based in North Carolina has been found guilty of sexually abusing a child.

Local media outlets report 56-year-old Daniel Wilson of Mason, Washington, was found guilty of sexual abuse of a child, six counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman and absence without leave on Saturday.
He was sentenced Sunday at Camp Lejeune to 5 ½ years of confinement and was dismissed from service.

He was found not guilty of several additional charges, including the rape of a child and sexual assault.