The Danish Medical Group Against the Death Penalty Dødsstraf


The Danish Medical Group Against the Death Penalty

The Danish Medical Group Against the Death Penalty has worked against the death penalty on an international scale since 1982. Being the only one of its kind, the group has had a great impact in several countries, putting pressure on authorities, medical associations and the pharma industry all over the world.

History of the group
Last minute USA Federal Law executions under Trump precidency.

Last minute USA Federal Law executions under Trump precidency.

Danish Medical Group Against the Death Penalty takes action against 3 death penalty executions in the last weeks og Trump presidency

Current Issues

Current Issues

Harris County DA Seeks to Vacate Sentence for Nation’s Longest-Serving Death-Row Prisoner

The Harris County District Attorney’s office has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the death sentence imposed on Raymond Riles (pictured), the nation’s longest-serving death-row prisoner.

Riles, who has a significant history of mental illness that prosecutors and defense lawyers alike have long agreed make him incompetent to be executed, was convicted and sentenced to death 45 years ago, on February 4, 1976. When Charles Foster, who was sentenced to death in Florida in 1975, died on December 30, 2020, Riles gained the notoriety of having been on death row longer than any other living prisoner in the United States.

Riles’ mental illness was already well-documented at the time of his trial but was deemed insufficient for him to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. A judge stated that he had committed about a half dozen members of Riles’ family to mental health facilities over the years before Riles’ trial. The trial was marked by several outbursts, including Riles tearing off a door jamb, jumping on the defense table, and attacking the judge. Mental health experts who have examined him have said he is delusional and “grossly psychotic.” In 1985, he attempted suicide by setting himself on fire. He came within two hours of execution in 1986 before a stay was granted to assess his mental competency.

At the time of Riles’ trial, however, the Harris County District Attorney now says, his jury did not have a mechanism to properly consider evidence that could have spared his life. In an extraordinary brief filed February 1, 2021 in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, District Attorney Kim Ogg joined Riles’ defense lawyers in asking the court to grant Riles a new sentencing hearing. “Death penalty law has evolved and now requires jurors to be able to meaningfully consider and weigh mitigation evidence about an offender such as childhood abuse and trauma,” Ogg said. “In 1976, Riles’ capital murder jury was not given this opportunity.”

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Pakistan: Supreme Court judgement bans executions of prisoners with mental disabilities

Responding to today’s landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of Pakistan commuting the death sentences of Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi, which places a ban on the death penalty being applied to those with mental disabilities, Rimmel Mohydin, Pakistan Campaigner at Amnesty International, said:

“This landmark judgment from Pakistan’s Supreme Court marks an important development not only for the death penalty, but also for mental health. Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi should have been taken off death row the moment their history of severe mental disabilities was brought to the fore. This historic precedent puts a stop to the execution of other prisoners with similar conditions, many of whom have yet to be diagnosed.

“However, ultimately the death penalty itself must be abolished, and we urge Pakistan to re-establish an official moratorium on all executions as a first step in that direction.”

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Lawyers Argue 79-Year-Old Ohio Death-Row Prisoner with Dementia is Incompetent to Be Executed

Lawyers for James Frazier (pictured), Ohio’s oldest death-row prisoner, have filed a motion to prevent his execution, arguing that he has severe vascular dementia that has rendered him unable to understand his punishment.

Legal papers filed in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in October 2020 assert that Frazier, now 79 years old, suffered a series of mini-strokes in 2017 that have caused serious physical, psychological, and cognitive impairments that make him incompetent to be executed. His lawyers say that he suffers from paranoia, incontinence, and confusion, believes the year is 1990, and thinks he is still awaiting trial.

“Mr. Frazier’s concept of reality is so impaired that he cannot grasp the execution’s meaning and purpose or the link between the crime and his punishment – not now and not ever,” his lawyer, Sharon Hicks, wrote.

A mental health report by Dr. Bhushan Agharkar, a psychiatrist who examined Frazier over the course of two years, stated that “Mr. Frazier is unable to rationally assist his counsel with his case because his deteriorating brain disease impairs his memory, ability to weigh and deliberate options and maintain a coherent conversation when discussing his case. He is easily confused and appears paranoid, the result of his dementia.” Frazier, the report says, “is clearly demented and lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and why the state wants to execute him.”

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright that the constitution prohibits states from executing individuals who lack a rational understanding of the fact that they will be executed or the reasons for their execution. In 2019, in Madison v. Alabama, the Supreme Court said that decision applied to cases in which the prisoner’s cognitive impairment was a product of dementia.

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Published Januar 2021 - LB

NPR Investigation of Lethal-Injection Autopsies Finds Executed Prisoners Experience Sensations of Suffocation and Drowning.

A new National Public Radio (NPR) analysis of more than 200 autopsies of death-row prisoners executed by lethal injection has found that 84% of those executed showed evidence of pulmonary edema, a condition in which a person’s lungs fill with fluid that creates the feeling of suffocation or drowning that experts have likened to waterboarding.

Published October 2020 - LB

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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Reverses Course, Takes A Second Foreign National with Intellectual Disability Off Death Row

For second time in eight days, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) has reversed course after initially rejecting a death-row prisoner’s claim of intellectual disability and has resentenced the prisoner to life. The decisions, both involving foreign nationals and both supported by local prosecutors, marked the sixth and seventh time that Texas courts have vacated death sentences imposed on intellectually disabled capital defendants since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 struck down the unconstitutionally restrictive definition of intellectual disability the state had been using.

Published October 2020 - LB

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Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has, for the second time, reversed a Philadelphia court’s denial of Russell Cox’s claim of intellectual disability and remanded for further consideration of his claim.

The trial court required Russell Cox to prove adaptive deficits through psychometric testing, disregarding the testimony of lay witnesses concerning his deficits. After surveying U.S. Supreme Court decisions on intellectual disability, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that state standards for assessing intellectual functioning and adaptive deficits “must rely heavily upon the current expressions and practices of the medical community, rather than upon politically created rules divorced from medical expertise.” Standardized tests are not “the sole means to ascertain a person’s adaptive behaviors,” the court said, returning the case to the trial court to review Cox’s claim under an appropriate standard.

Published November 2020 - LB

Work and Purpose

The work and purpose of the group

The groups raison d’être is the abolishment of the death penalty on a general level and preventing physicians and other health professionals from participating in the death penalty on a specific level. To achieve this goal the group works in a range of different ways, such as letter writing and raising media-awareness.

The methods and purpose of the group
Knowledge Bank

Country specific information

All over the world doctors and other health personnel participate in executions due to their profession-specific knowledge. This happens in as different countries as the US and Saudi Arabia, Japan and Uganda. 53 countries in the world have the death penalty. The Danish Medical Group has chosen to focus on a handful of these countries, and you can learn more about these countries in this section.

Knowledge bank of Countries
Declarations and policies

Declarations Against Capital Punishment

Resolutions and policies are the medical associations’ possibility to take a stand on a policy field. Over the years many national as well as international medical associations have chosen to do so in relation to capital punishment. On this site you will find some of the most important.

Overview of declarations and policies
The Medical Execution and Medical Assistance at Executions

The Medical Execution and Medical Assistance at Executions

In 1977, Oklahoma Medical Examiner, Dr. A. Jay Chapman, marched into the Oklahoma Statehouse and dictated the formula for a cocktail of three drugs to a lawmaker looking for a more humane way to execute prisoners.
As Chapman spoke, Rep. Bill Wiseman scribbled on a legal yellow pad. That afternoon, Wiseman introduced the bill that made Oklahoma the first state to adopt “lethal injection”, the medical execution killing prisoners with medicine.

The Medical Execution and Medical Assistance at Executions
Death Penalty and Mental Illness

Death Penalty and Mental Illness

Many countries have a Mental Health Law that includes a wide variety of legal topics and pertain to people with a diagnosis or possible diagnosis of mental illness. Laws relating to mental illness may include criminal laws, including laws governing fitness for trial or execution.

Death Penalty and Mental Illness
Contact info
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