TIME Laws

More States Considering Right-to-Die Laws After Brittany Maynard

Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli—AP

California legislators just introduced a bill to let the terminally ill end their own lives

After Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year, she decided to move from California, where she was born and raised, to Oregon. She chose it because Oregon was one of just five states in the nation that allowed Maynard to obtain medication to end her own life.

Since Maynard’s death in November, four states and Washington, D.C., have introduced so-called right-to-die legislation, including the one she chose to leave.

“The fact that Brittany Maynard was a Californian suffering from an incurable, irreversible illness who then had to leave the state to ease her suffering was simply appalling, simply unacceptable,” says California Senator Lois Wolk, who along with Senator Bill Monning, both Democrats, have co-authored a bill giving terminally ill patients with six months to live the ability to obtain life-ending medication.

(MORE: See Which States Allow End-of-Life Treatment)

The bill, which would require two independent physicians to determine that patients are mentally competent to make an end-of-life decision, is largely modeled after Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity law, which was the first state measure to allow terminal patients to end their lives. That law has become a template for other states considering similar legislation. According to the Oregon Public Health Division, 1,173 people have had end-of-life medication prescribed to them as of 2013; 752 have actually chosen to ingest it.

Only two other states have passed right-to-die legislation — Washington and Vermont — while judges in New Mexico and Montana have effectively legalized it by saying there is nothing barring doctors from prescribing life-ending medication.

For years, the so-called right-to-die movement was most associated with Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan physician known as Dr. Death for participating in dozens of physician-assisted suicides, one of which led to a conviction of second-degree murder. Maynard offered a far more sympathetic face for the movement. A 29-year-old newlywed who was diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 1, 2014, Maynard used her story to advocate for so-called death-with-dignity laws while publicly discussing her symptoms and plans for her last few weeks. She died Nov. 1 after taking doctor-prescribed barbiturates.

Since then, legislators from 14 states have either introduced or pledged to put forward right-to-die bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a national organization advocating death with dignity. The group says it conducted surveys showing that two-thirds of Californians support end-of-life legislation.

“The case of Brittany Maynard has brought this into focus for many Californians,” Monning says. “There’s a changed public attitude and increased awareness, and we think the time is right for California.”

(MORE: Death Is Not Only for the Dying)

Wolk acknowledges that actually getting the bill passed, however, will be a “heavy lift.” The measure could find support among some Democrats and libertarian-leaning conservatives, who often favor letting individuals make their own end-of-life decisions. But resistance will be strong from social conservatives in both parties. The Catholic Church, in particular, has long led the fight against similar measures around the nation. The church has already hired a lobbying firm from Sacramento to fight the bill, according to the Los Angeles Times. The American Medical Association, which believes that doctors shouldn’t be involved in life-ending treatment, could provide another obstacle.

Wolk expects the bill will make it out of committee and reach the Senate floor, but will have a tough time passing both houses of the legislature. It’s also unclear whether Governor Jerry Brown would sign it if it reached his desk. The onetime Jesuit seminarian has not publicly addressed the issue, according to the San Jose Mercury News. During his first stint as governor in 1976, Brown signed a law that gave terminally ill patients the right to end life-sustaining treatment if their death was imminent, the first of its kind in the nation

If the bill doesn’t pass, however, the issue will likely make its way directly to California voters. Compassion & Choices is already laying the groundwork to get it on the 2016 ballot as a referendum.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of states that have introduced legislation since Maynard’s death. Four states have introduced end-of-life bills, including Washington, D.C.

TIME cities

Maybe Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Cities After All

Suburban street
Barbara Fischer—Getty Images

Two-thirds want to own a home in the suburbs, study says

The accepted wisdom about millennials is that they shun the suburbs for the cities. They want to be in urban cores next to easily accessible public transportation options that allow them to seamlessly hit up bars, restaurants and any space with wi-fi.

But any blanket statement about a group that’s roughly 80 million strong will have holes, and a new survey appears to run against that common perception. The poll, released Wednesday by the National Association of Home Builders, shows that Americans in their 20s and mid-30s actually would rather settle down in the suburbs than in city centers.

(MORE: Millennials Will Overtake Baby Boomers to Become Biggest Generation)

According to NAHB’s study, 66% of respondents who were born in 1977 or later said they would prefer to buy a home in an outlying suburb or close to a suburb, while only 24% preferred buying a house in a rural area and 10% would rather have a home in the center of a city.

(MORE: Turns Out Millennials Do Want to Own Cars)

Those numbers seem to show that while millennials may love living in urban cores while they’re young and largely childless, they realize that it may be too expensive in the long-term to buy. It also may signal that apartment living is taking its toll as millennials get older. More than 80% said they wanted to live in a home with three or more bedrooms.

TIME cities

The 5 U.S. Cities Bouncing Back Strongest From the Recession

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas Murat Taner—Getty Images

Metro areas in the South and the West are flourishing

U.S. cities in the South and West are more likely to have recovered from the recession while metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast have largely struggled, according to a new report.

The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five.

(MORE: Oklahoma Shakes—Is Fracking to Blame?)

The report, released Thursday, tracks how cities around the world have fared since the recession. Globally, the main metropolitan drivers are found in developing countries, especially China and Turkey.

In the U.S., the cities with the strongest GDP growth and employment levels since the Great Recession are generally found in the south and west, largely due to the growth of the energy sector.

“Those places are the epicenter of what has been the shale energy boom that’s been occurring in the U.S.,” says Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst and lead author of the Global MetroMonitor report.

(MORE: The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America)

Cities in Texas and Oklahoma have especially benefited from the expanded production in oil and gas thanks to an increase in fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from shale.

The cities that have seen the least progress are largely clustered in the Midwest and Northeast in areas that are historically industrial and manufacturing hubs. Most of those cities—like Kansas City, Mo., Allentown, Pa., and Dayton, Ohio—have only partially recovered or not recovered at all, according to Brookings.

As the U.S. continues to see good economic numbers, many of which were touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, most cities are still struggling to rebound from the recession. More than half of U.S. metropolitan areas either have not recovered from 2007 GDP per capita levels or have not fully seen a rebound in employment.

TIME Laws

24/7 Bars in Nebraska? A New Bill Would Allow It

Beers
Getty Images

No more last calls in the Cornhusker State, if bill passes

A Nebraska state senator introduced legislation Thursday that would allow bars in the state to stay open all night.

State and local laws generally require Nebraska’s bars to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, state law requires bars to close at 1 a.m., but local governments can extend those hours to 2 a.m. through a supermajority vote.

But Sen. Tyson Larson, who introduced the bill, wants to change all that. The state senator told the Journal Star that getting rid of last call would prevent bars from “dumping too many people in the street all at once” while saying the move aligned with the “concept of free market.”

If the bill passes, Nebraska would join Louisiana and Nevada, two states that don’t require bars to have last call.

(READ NEXT: The History of Poisoned Alcohol Includes an Unlikely Culprit: the U.S. Government)

TIME Crime

Michigan Governor Vetoes Gun Bill Over Domestic Violence Concerns

Rick Snyder
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder addresses the media during a news conference in Detroit, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Gov. Snyder vetoed two gun bills Thursday over concerns they could lead to domestic violence. Carlos Osorio—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Would have allowed the subjects of personal protection orders to carry concealed weapons

Citing domestic violence concerns, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed two bills on Thursday that would have allowed people subject to personal protection orders the ability to obtain a concealed weapon permit.

The bill included some measures that the Republican governor supports, including doing away with county concealed weapon licensing boards and moving those responsibilities to police departments and county clerks.

But in a letter explaining his veto, Gov. Snyder said that the measures would do away with current law that automatically denies concealed carry permits to the subjects of personal protection orders. These civil orders are issued by courts to protect people threatened or harmed by another person, and are often used in domestic abuse cases.

“Victims of domestic abuse may not know to ask the court for a specific restriction on the subject’s ability to purchase and possess firearms,” Gov. Snyder wrote, adding that one of the Senate bills would remove blanket protection in cases where court-ordered protection does not specifically address firearms.

(Read next: The 1919 Theory That Explains Why Police Officers Need Their Guns)

TIME Crime

These Are the Worst States for Drunk Driving Prevention

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Montana and Rhode Island could be doing a lot more to combat drunk driving.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which ranks states by their attempts to crack down on people who drive under the influence.

The report finds that both Montana and Rhode Island have made little progress in requiring vehicles to be equipped with ignition interlocks for convicted drunk-driving offenders, setting up sobriety checkpoints, revoking licenses for previous offenders and issuing warrants for those who refuse to submit to a blood test or Breathalyzer.

(MORE: Why Police Aren’t Catching Drunk Drivers)

The only area where MADD found some progress in Montana and Rhode Island, both of which only received one star out of the group’s five-star system rating of state prevention measures, was in child endangerment laws that allow for additional penalties for drunk drivers who have a child as a passenger.

Thirteen states received five stars from MADD, many of which were in the South and Midwest.

Read the full report here

TIME Crime

Oklahoma Executes First Inmate Since Botched Lethal Injection in April

Oklahoma Execution
The gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla., Oct. 9, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

Thursday's execution came shortly after the Supreme Court rejected his legal team's appeal

Charles Warner was executed on Thursday night after the Supreme Court declined in a 5-4 ruling to intervene, making him the first death-row inmate to be put to death there since a botched lethal injection in April forced the state to reform its execution standards.

The execution of Warner, who was convicted for the 1997 sexual assault and murder of an 11-month-old, had been set for 6 p.m. CST, but was delayed while officials could learn the court’s ruling. After that came in, the Associated Press reports, prison officials said he was declared dead at 7:28 p.m., local time.

Warner’s execution had originally been scheduled after that of Clayton Lockett, who was convicted of kidnapping and burying alive Stephanie Neiman in 1999. But officials scrapped it after Lockett’s lethal injection went awry.

Executioners took 51 minutes to locate one of Lockett’s veins and then failed to insert the IVs properly, allowing drugs to leak into the inmate’s surrounding tissues. According to witness accounts, Lockett writhed on the gurney for roughly 45 minutes. An autopsy showed he died of a heart attack.

MORE: Oklahoma Inmate Felt ‘Liquid Fire’ During Execution, Doctor Says

Lockett’s execution triggered a moratorium on lethal injections in Oklahoma. The state instituted changes to its drug protocol, increased training for executioners and remodeled its execution chamber.

For Warner’s lethal injection, state executioners will be using new equipment that will help prevent improper IV placement. Prison officials are also allowed to postpone an execution if there are problems in the first hour. And the dosage of midazolam, one of the drugs used that has been routinely criticized as not strong enough to adequately put an inmate to sleep, has been increased.

Warner’s legal team went to the high court for a last-minute stay after a federal court in Oklahoma City rejected the appeal, and then a federal appeals court in Denver did the same. An execution in Florida that used the same method occurred just before Warner’s following a temporary hold due to a similar case mulled by the justices.

Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in Thursday’s ruling, with the latter writing:

I am deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that midazolam cannot constitutionally be used as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection protocol. It is true that we give deference to the district courts. But at some point we must question their findings of fact, unless we are to abdicate our role of ensuring that no clear error has been committed. We should review such findings with added care when what is at issue is the risk of the need- less infliction of severe pain. Here, given the evidence before the District Court, I struggle to see how its decision to credit the testimony of a single purported expert can be supported given the substantial body of conflicting empirical and anecdotal evidence.

I believe that we should have granted petitioners’ application for stay. The questions before us are especially important now, given States’ increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution. Petitioners have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished. But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death. I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions.

Read next: 25 Secret Minutes Inside Oklahoma’s Execution Chamber

TIME Crime

How Body Cams on Cops Brought a Murder Charge in New Mexico

James Boyd, Keith Sandy
In this photo taken from a video on March 16, 2014 James Boyd is shown during a standoff with officers in the Sandia foothills in Albuquerque, N.M., before police fatally shot him. AP

It could be the first of many

In March 2014, two Albuquerque cops shot and killed a homeless man following a prolonged standoff in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains. It was an incident that could have easily become another instance of a police-related death without enough evidence to bring about formal charges against the cops involved. But a police body camera caught the entire confrontation on video, providing prosecutors the evidence needed to file formal charges—and perhaps launching a new era of increased prosecutions against cops thanks to the growth of wearable cameras nationwide.

Kari Brandenburg, the district attorney for New Mexico’s Bernalillo County, filed murder charges Monday against Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez, the two Albuquerque officers who were involved in the death of James Boyd, a homeless man with a history of mental illness who was camping in the mountain’s foothills. It was an open murder charge against both officers, which will let prosecutors decide whether to pursue manslaughter, first- or second-degree convictions.

MORE 2 Albuquerque Officers Charged With Murder in Shooting of Homeless Man

In video released last spring by the Albuquerque Police Department and recorded with a helmet cam used by one of the officers, Boyd is first shown arguing with police before a flashbang goes off. Officers then fire at Boyd as he appears to turn away from police. Boyd, who was carrying two knives, can be heard wheezing on the video as he’s being apprehended before he died. An autopsy later showed that Boyd had been shot twice.

“The video is instrumental in pointing out some of the issues in the investigation,” Brandenburg says, adding that the recording provides prosecutors with probable cause in a case that otherwise wouldn’t have it.

Advocates of body cameras often argue that recordings of officers on duty provide more transparency regarding police behavior and could even alter that behavior because officers know they’re being recorded. In Rialto, Calif., for instance, the police department began using body-worn cameras a few years ago, and its police chief often touts numbers showing that use-of-force complaints have decreased since officers began using them.

But experts say cameras might have an additional side effect: more prosecutions of cops involved in civilian deaths.

“Body cams should increase the number of criminal cases brought against police officers,” says Paul Butler, a Georgetown law professor and former federal prosecutor.

Oftentimes one of the barriers to prosecuting officers, Butler says, is that trials turn into “credibility contests” between police officers and civilians. But video evidence can go a long way to clearing up discrepancies about what happened while giving prosecutors additional evidence to move forward in a case.

MORE ‘Ferguson’ is 2014’s Name of the Year

“When there is doubt, people believe the police over civilians, especially when the civilians are suspects in some kind of criminal conduct,” Butler says. “Knowing this, prosecutors are often reluctant to bring charges against police officers, even when the prosecutors themselves believe the officers are guilty.

Many police departments around the U.S. have started using body worn cameras following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed last year by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. No video recording of that incident exists, and witnesses disagreed on the circumstances surrounding the confrontation between Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. Brown’s parents have been advocating for police departments to adopt cameras nationwide, believing that video recording of their son’s encounter with Wilson could’ve helped bring grand jury charges against the officer.

But cameras have their limitations. The fatal confrontation between Eric Garner and New York City officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed the Staten Island man in a chokehold in July, was all caught on video by a bystander. Yet a grand jury still decided against bringing murder charges against the officer.

“The increased use of cameras both by agencies and by citizens will make it easier for prosecutors and defense lawyers to get a sense of what happened in a fraught encounter,” says Columbia University law professor Dan Richman. “The cases brought against officers may be stronger and the decisions not to charge may be easier. Still, the controversy surrounding the death of Eric Garner highlights how filmed encounters can be deeply contested.”

Justin Hansford, a Saint Louis University law professor, says he doesn’t believe more body cameras will necessarily equal more prosecutions because the definition of what constitutes use of force in most states are still weighted heavily in favor of police officers.

“The problems we’ve seen in places like Ferguson are not with the amount of evidence but with the laws themselves,” Hansford says. “When you think hard about use of force standards, officers have so much leeway that you have only a few outliers in terms of cases where prosecutions can go forward because of the laws really going above and beyond what is reasonable.”

Hansford argues that an increase in police prosecutions could come from a change in those standards, not in more body cameras.

“The harm of the body cam is that people think it solves everything,” he says.

TIME Crime

New York Cops Sometimes Use Chokeholds First, Report Says

NYC Mayor Police Graduation
New recruits bow their heads for a moment of silence during a New York Police Academy graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Dec. 29, 2014. John Minchillo—AP

Police agency frequently declined to discipline officers

A new report on chokehold incidents involving NYPD officers has found that the department routinely declined to discipline officers who used the banned maneuver even though it was the first act of physical force used in several instances.

The report, the first since the death of Eric Garner in July—who died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer—reviewed 10 chokehold cases involving NYPD officers between 2009 and 2014. According to the report issued by the NYPD’s inspector general’s office, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates complaints against officers, recommended discipline that could’ve led to a loss of vacation days or even termination for officers involved in all 10 cases. But Raymond Kelly, who was police commissioner during six of those incidents, imposed a less severe penalty or declined to discipline the officers involved.

(MORE: Bill de Blasio’s Wife on Police Relations)

“There was no indication from the records reviewed that NYPD seriously contemplated CCRB’s disciplinary recommendations or that CCRB’s input added any value to the disciplinary process,” the report says.

In several cases, the inspector general found that NYPD officers used neck grabs, headlocks or other physical acts involving contact with a suspect’s neck or throat—all prohibited by the department’s guidelines—as a “first act of physical force in response to verbal resistance, as opposed to first attempting to defuse the situation.”

(MORE: Bill Clinton Says Eric Garner ‘Didn’t Deserve to Die’)

The report stated that the inspector general’s office plans to look at use-of-force cases more broadly to help determine how prevalent chokeholds are across the agency.

TIME Crime

Ohio Abandons Controversial Execution Drug Cocktail

The death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, in 2005.
Kiichiro Sato—AP

The state is dropping a controversial drug while delaying executions

Ohio announced Thursday that it would stop using a 2-drug combination for lethal injections that has proved troublesome since the state began using the method last January.

The state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections told a U.S. district judge Thursday that it would revise its two-drug method of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller, and instead add sodium thiopental, a drug Ohio used from 1999 to 2011.

(MORE: Ohio Ups Lethal-Injection Dosages After Controversial Execution)

The move was announced shortly after Ohio said that its supply of midazolam would expire April 1, putting future executions in jeopardy. The state also postponed the upcoming Feb. 11 execution of Ronald Phillips, who was convicted of raping and murdering a 3-year-old girl. Others may also be delayed due to the changes.

Midazolam has come under scrutiny by anesthesiologists and lethal injection experts, who say it inadequately sedates inmates during executions. The drug was first used last January in the lethal injection of Dennis McGuire, who was convicted of raping and killing Joy Stewart in 1989. In the roughly 25-minute execution, McGuire reportedly snored and snorted on the gurney table, leading to a moratorium on executions in the state and a review of its lethal injection protocol.

In April, Ohio announced that it was increasing the dosage of both midazolam and hydromorphone given to inmates while insisting that the McGuire execution was conducted in a constitutional manner.

The executions of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Joseph Wood in Arizona, both widely considered botched, also used midazolam.

(MORE: Ohio’s Grisly Execution History)

Ohio is often a first mover in how lethal injections are performed in the U.S., and states frequently follow its lead. Ohio was the first to use sodium thiopental in a one-drug protocol in 2009, the first to use pentobarbital in 2011 and the first to use midazolam last year. Now, other states may follow in its footsteps in using sodium thiopental.

One thing that remains unclear, however, is where Ohio plans to get the drug, which it stopped using in 2011 when Hospira, a Lake Forest, Ill.-based pharmaceutical company, stopped making it. But officials may believe that they’ll be able to attain it from compounding pharmacies that are now shielded by a bill signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in December that allows pharmaceutical companies to supply drugs anonymously.

Sodium thiopental now joins pentobarbital, both barbiturates that can depress the central nervous system and be used as sedatives, as the two drugs permitted during lethal injections.

 

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