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On March 9, 2011, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed SB 3539, abolishing capital punishment in Illinois and commuting the sentences of all 15 people on death row to life in prison. The abolition bill reallocates funds used for the implementation of the death penalty toward services for victims’ families and law enforcement. Illinois now joins New Jersey and New Mexico, both of which abolished the death penalty during the last three years.
The Project is currently seeking counsel for a mentally ill 31-year-old Salvadoran national, “HM”, who is on death row in Texas. HM was convicted of killing his two children in what was intended to be a murder-suicide. After shooting his children, HM shot himself, an injury he survived after spending a week in a hospital.
As of March 1, 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court has set execution dates for ten prisoners this year. If all 10 executions in 2011 occur as scheduled, Ohio will again set a state record for the execution of the most prisoners in a single year.
On January 21, 2011, the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, Hospira Inc., announced that it will no longer produce that anesthetic. In order to work around the shortage of sodium thiopental, some states, such as Ohio and Texas, are changing their protocol and using pentobarbital instead. Due to the lack of studies for the use of pentobarbital in executions, there are concerns about its efficacy.
On February 10th, 2011 in North Carolina, Forsyth County Superior Court Judge William Z. Wood rejected a challenge to the Racial Justice Act (RJA), signed into law in August 2009. The law allows defendants who may receive or have received a death sentence to avoid execution due to racial bias in sentencing.