National Roundup

Prayer prompted lawyer’s recusal in high-profile murder case

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A lawyer says his prayers and conversations with God prompted him to quit the defense on a high-profile Delaware murder case nearly 20 years ago.

Defense attorney Joseph Hurley told The News Journal in Wilmington Friday that he had a moment of clarity while attending a funeral mass in 1998.

The prayer prompted him to quit as lead defense attorney for Thomas Capano, a former Delaware deputy attorney general who was accused of killing Anne Marie Fahey after a date.

Many people assumed Hurley quit after hearing Capano confess to the crime, but Hurley says he never asked Capano if he did it.

Hurley says he felt like representing Capano was pulling him into “an evil pit.”

Capano was convicted and died in prison in 2011.

Execution date set for inmate with condition

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday set a March execution date for Russell Bucklew, a convicted killer who narrowly escaped execution three years ago because of a rare medical condition that raised the possibility that the lethal drug could cause him to suffer.

Bucklew, 49, is scheduled to die by injection March 20 for killing a man in 1996 during a violent crime spree.

He was moments away from execution in May 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court halted it and sent the case back to a lower federal court amid concerns about Bucklew’s medical condition.

Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma, a rare ailment that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said Missouri’s execution method could cause Bucklew’s death to rise to the level of unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

“We believe that the setting of the date at this time is premature,” Pilate said in a statement.

The Missouri attorney general’s office did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

In April 2014, Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s vein collapsed, and he writhed on the gurney before dying of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the start of the procedure.

Adding to the uncertainty in Missouri is the secretive process the state uses to obtain its execution drug. Big drug manufacturers prohibit use of their drugs in executions, so it is believed that Missouri and other states have turned to compound pharmacies.
Missouri refuses to say how or where it gets the pentobarbital used in executions.

None of the 20 inmates executed since Missouri switched form a three-drug protocol to pentobarbital in 2013 have shown obvious signs of pain or suffering.

Still, death penalty opponents say the secrecy makes it impossible to ensure the drugs couldn’t cause an inmate to endure an agonizing death.

In March 1996, Bucklew was angry at his girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt, for leaving him and moving in with Michael Sanders of Cape Girardeau. Bucklew tracked Pruitt down at Sanders’ home and killed Sanders in front of Pruitt, her two daughters and Sanders’ two sons. He handcuffed and beat Pruitt, drove her to a secluded area and raped her.

After a state trooper spotted the car, Bucklew shot at the trooper but missed. Bucklew later escaped from jail, hid in the home of Pruitt’s mother and beat her with a hammer.

Terror convict: I was mentally incompetent, entrapped by FBI

CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio man serving 30 years in prison for plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group wants his plea and sentence thrown out, arguing that he was mentally incompetent and was entrapped by the FBI.

Christopher Lee Cornell, 23, of suburban Cincinnati recently asked a court to overturn his sentence. He filed the request from a federal prison in Fairton, New Jersey.

FBI agents arrested him in January 2015 after he bought guns and ammunition, which investigators said were to be used to attack during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Cornell claims in his request that he was lured into the plot and encouraged by an FBI informant. He says the FBI manufactured the case by taking advantage of his mental illness.

“This is one of the many cases where the FBI created and facilitated a phony terrorist plot to make it appear as though they are doing their job and winning the so-called ‘War on Terror,’” he says.

Cornell says his counsel should have pursued defenses of incompetency and entrapment. Martin Pinales, who was his lead attorney, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment because he hadn’t yet seen Cornell’s request.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment.

Cornell pleaded guilty in 2016 to three charges including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees.

His attorneys had raised questions about his mental state, but a federal judge ruled him competent to stand trial after hearing expert testimony.

At sentencing, Pinales scoffed at Cornell’s plan to carry a semi-automatic weapon into the Capitol and open fire on the president, members of Congress and others as “a magical plan” that resulted from Cornell’s distorted thinking being influenced by the confidential informant.

Prosecutors played a video of Cornell talking excitedly about the Capitol attack and other potential targets and said “lone wolf” terrorist plots have been carried out repeatedly.

A federal appeals court earlier this year dismissed Cornell’s bid to appeal the judge’s sentence, saying there was no evidence that he misunderstood his rights when he pleaded guilty.

Diary: Inmate got over-the-counter drugs before cancer death

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont inmate who died of cancer at a Pennsylvania prison wrote in a diary that he repeatedly asked for medical care but was denied and given ibuprofen and Tylenol for his pain.

Sixty-eight-year-old Roger Brown died Oct. 15 at the state prison in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is reviewing the death. The Vermont Department of Corrections will do the same.

In a diary obtained by The Associated Press, Brown wrote about burning pain in his rib cage, back and hip that prevented him from sleeping and became unbearable.

VTDigger first reported on the diary.

A Pennsylvania corrections spokeswoman says the department provides “the level of care needed no matter the inmate, no matter their condition.”