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Friday, January 17, 2014

After Slow Execution, Renewed Death Penalty Debate and Threat of Lawsuit

Dennis McGuire, 53, was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Associated Press.

A 53-year-old convicted killer’s unusually slow death while being executed with an untested combination of drugs in Ohio on Thursday has renewed the debate over lethal injection and the death penalty.

As my colleague Rick Lyman reported, witnesses offered similar accounts of Dennis McGuire struggling to die after he was administered the lethal injection.

Records examined Friday showed that it took more than 20 minutes for him to die, prompting one of his lawyers to call the execution a “failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.”

But concern expressed over his execution and the new drugs used in lethal injection has sparked outrage online against Mr. McGuire, who was convicted of raping and murdering Joy Stewart, a 22-year-old pregnant woman whose body was found with her throat slashed in 1989 by two hikers in a field.

The prosecutors and the family of Ms. Stewart said that the debate over how much Mr. McGuire gasped and struggled in his final minutes only reminded them of what she endured before she and her unborn baby were killed.

Carol Avery, a sister of the victim, told reporters that her sister suffered and was treated less humanely than Mr. McGuire was as a death row inmate.

In a statement after the execution, the Stewart family said:

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the drugs that are to be used in his execution, concern that he might feel terror, that he might suffer. As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her.

Since European manufacturers stopped selling drugs that were used for executions, such as pentobarbital and sodium thiopental, as my colleague Manny Fernandez reported last fall, corrections officials from Ohio, Texas and other states have been struggling to come up with a new formula.

Amber McGuire, left, recounted the execution of her father, Dennis McGuire, alongside her sister-in-law Missie McGuire at a news conference Friday in Dayton, Ohio.Kantele Franko/Associated Press Amber McGuire, left, recounted the execution of her father, Dennis McGuire, alongside her sister-in-law Missie McGuire at a news conference Friday in Dayton, Ohio.

Ohio used a new combination of drugs for the first time on Mr. McGuire

Allen Bohnert, one of McGuire’s federal public defenders, said that the people of Ohio “should be appalled by what was done in their name.”

In Dayton, Ohio, Jon Paul Rion, a lawyer for the family of Mr. McGuire, said at a news conference on Friday that he would file a federal lawsuit against the state, objecting to the troubled execution.

Both sides of the death penalty debate took to Twitter and social media to discuss the case including a nun, Sister Helen Prejean, whose work with death row inmates was featured in the film “Dead Man Walking.”

Alan Johnson, a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch who said he had witnessed 18 executions, was present at the state prison in Lucasville for Mr. McGuire’s execution. In his account for The Dispatch, he described Mr. McGuire’s death:

His body strained against the restraints around his body, and he repeatedly gasped for air, making snorting and choking sounds for about 10 minutes. His chest and stomach heaved; his left hand, which he had used minutes earlier to wave goodbye to his family, clenched in a fist.

While at the prison, Mr. Johnson also posted updates on Twitter during the execution.

Marine Corps Apologizes for Gunman Picture in Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Tweet

On Friday the official Twitter account of the Marine Corps Special Operation Command posted a joke about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., urging it's followers not to be a Twitter On Friday the official Twitter account of the Marine Corps Special Operation Command posted a joke about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., urging it’s followers not to be a “lone shooter” over the holiday weekend. Dr. King was assassinated by a gunman in 1968.

On Friday the official Twitter account of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command posted a picture and message that appeared to make light of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the start of the long holiday weekend to commemorate his birth.

The Tweet contained a picture of a gunman taking aim through what appeared to be an open window and a message that read, “Don’t be a lone shooter MLK weekend! Make sure you’ve got security â€" stay safe!”

The civil rights leader was assassinated by a gunman on April 4, 1968, as he stood on a balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. James Earl Ray confessed to the murder in March 1969 and spent the rest of his life in prison.

The Tweet was posted to Twitter at 10:52 a.m. Friday and subsequently deleted from the MARSOC official account, @MARSOCofficial, which is linked to the recruitment page of the Marine Corps website.

On Friday afternoon, the account tweeted an apology and explained that the original message was intended only to, “remind personnel to partner up when going out over the weekend and to look out for each other using military jargon.”

Twitter Suspends Hamas Accounts

Several Twitter accounts used by the military wing of Hamas have been suspended by the social network in recent days, angering the Islamist militants and delighting Israel’s military.

As The Lede reported in late 2012 during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the blockaded Palestinian territory ruled by Hamas, the Islamist militants used their now-suspended @AlqassamBrigade Twitter account to reply directly to messages from @IDFSpokesperson, the official account of the Israel Defense Forces.

Although those exchanges of insults and threats have disappeared from the social network with the suspension of that account and at least two more used by the militants, the Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf preserved a screenshot of one interaction that was posted on Twitter even as the two sides also traded rocket fire.

At the time, the online banter between the two enemies’ social-media teams led other Twitter users to suggest the warring parties might consider using the virtual space for peacebuilding.

The two sides, however, clearly took the rhetorical exchange much more seriously, and the banter continued until recently, as a cached dialogue from October between the militants and Peter Lerner, a British-Israeli spokesman for the military, suggested.

A screenshot of an exchange between an Israeli military spokesman and the military wing of Hamas on Twitter in October. A screenshot of an exchange between an Israeli military spokesman and the military wing of Hamas on Twitter in October.

Twitter’s policy on abusive behavior states that “Users may not make direct, specific threats of violence against others.” A statement from the Israel Defense Forces noted that Twitter’s terms of service say that the platform is not open to “a person barred from receiving services under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction.” Hamas has been on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.

A Twitter spokeswoman told The Lede in an email that the company does not comment on individual accounts “for security and privacy reasons,” but pointed to a page of Twitter Rules that “outline content boundaries on the platform.” Violations of those rules, the company explains, can lead to accounts being suspended or deleted.

While suspended accounts can be reactivated, deleted accounts are removed and the username becomes available to the public once again. The @AlqassamBrigade account has been suspended, not deleted, like with two new accounts with similar names that were apparently set up by the militants this week before quickly being shut down by the social network.

Using a fourth account that was still operating at time of publication, the militants blamed Israel for the suspension of their accounts and promised to continue using the platform to broadcast their message.

The battle for Twitter dominance has taken place as the political use of social media platforms seemed to spread even more broadly this week, when the acrimonious dispute over Ariel Sharon’s legacy moved onto the website Buzzfeed. A tribute to the late Israeli leader, written by a pro-Israel group, was posted on the site’s community platform on Tuesday under the headline, “9 Ways Ariel Sharon Earned The Nickname ‘Arik, King Of Israel.’”

The post celebrated Mr. Sharon’s career as a warrior in the site’s vernacular, with a list of achievements illustrated by clips from popular films and viral videos repurposed as animated GIFs. Among the most controversial items was the fifth entry, headlined “Sharon Was Directly Responsible for Creating the [sic] Israel’s First Dedicated Special Forces Unit,” which likened Mr. Sharon’s Unit 101, held responsible for killing dozens of Palestinian militants and civilians, to that of the anti-Nazi killers in Quentin Tarantino’s film fantasy “Inglorious Basterds.”

As Haaretz reported this week, Unit 101, established in 1953 by Mr. Sharon, “engaged in several controversial actions such as the attack on the Jordanian village of Qibya, in which innocent people were killed and which drew worldwide condemnation.”

The GIF used to illustrate the section of the Buzzfeed post on Unit 101 was made from a scene in Mr. Tarantino’s movie in which an anti-Nazi unit’s commander, played by Brad Pitt, addresses a group of Jewish-American soldiers whose mission it is to kill Nazis.

A scene from “Inglorious Basterds” repurposed in a pro-Israel group’s tribute to Ariel Sharon on Buzzfeed.

After commandos under Mr. Sharon’s command killed 69 Palestinians in the West Bank village of Qibya â€" which was then under Jordanian rule â€" in retaliation for a raid by Palestinian militants who came from a different area, officials insisted that the deaths had been accidental. Written orders to Mr. Sharon from his superiors however, obtained by the Israeli historian Benny Morris, stated that the point of the raid was “maximal killing and property damage in order to chase inhabitants of the village from their houses.”

A.P. Cameraman Released on Bail in Egypt

An Egyptian cameraman who was arrested this week while covering the constitutional referendum in Egypt for The Associated Press was released on bail on Friday, the news agency reported.

The journalist, Hassan Abdullah Hassan, was detained, along with his driver, after police officers saw his images being broadcast on an Al Jazeera channel and mistakenly concluded that he must work for the Qatari satellite network. Al Jazeera, like hundreds of Associated Press clients, pays the wire service to use video, photographs and text reports gathered by A.P. journalists. The driver was released on Thursday.

Authorities are still investigating Mr. Hassan despite the apparent misunderstanding that led to his arrest, according to Jon Gambrell, an A.P. correspondent in Cairo.

Since the Egyptian military forced Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood from the presidency in July, officials have pursued a relentless crackdown on Al Jazeera and other channels that broadcast sympathetic coverage of Islamist protesters killed or injured while demanding the reinstatement of the elected president. At least five journalists reporting from Egypt for the network have been jailed since August.

As my colleague Liam Stack reported, Egypt’s prosecutor general claimed in a statement released on Thursday that that some of the detained journalists had “confessed during the investigations that they had joined the terrorist group,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. That assertion was rejected out-of-hand by the Qatari network, as was the prosecution claim that a crew arrested last month had produced “reports fabricating the situation in Egypt to tarnish the country’s reputation and delude international public opinion by saying that a civil war is going on in Egypt.”

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.